fanny

Fanny is an unlikely candidate for rock ‘n roll obscurity. Formed by the Sacramento-via-Manila sister duo of June and Jean Millington along with drummer Alice de Buhr and guitarist Addie Clement, the group, barely out of high school, made a name for itself gigging around the West Coast as The Svelts and Wild Honey in a converted school bus in the late ’60s. They spent this time learning from Northern California bands like Cold Blood, and by watching the likes of Janis Joplin, the Dead, and a host of other psychedelic bands springing up around the Bay Area. Their tight live performances of Motown and R&B staples even snagged them a slot alongside Sly Stone. But the girls set their sights on Los Angeles with the classic ultimatum: get signed or go home. At an open mic night at The Troubadour, rumored to be the band’s last stop before calling it quits, Wild Honey caught the ear of producer Richard Perry’s secretary. Perry, who by that time had already produced Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk and God Bless Tiny Tim, saw the breakout potential in a hard rocking all-female band — especially one already formed and road-ready — and quickly convinced Reprise Records to sign the group.

During the preparation of its self-titled debut, the band — now a trio with the departure of Clement — met keyboardist Nickey Barclay (briefly a touring member of Joe Cocker’s band), who rounded out their sound, and changed its name to Fanny, leading to a cheeky marketing campaign from Reprise. 1970’s Fanny hinged on the raw live energy of the four-piece and debuted mostly self-penned material. But it also tackled an up-tempo cover of Cream’s “Badge” — fearlessly inviting head to head comparisons with Clapton, Bruce, and Baker — and did so with a spritely drive. Fanny marked the first major label rock LP exclusively played and sung by an all-female band, and the statement was clear: Fanny wasn’t here for the novelty, they were here to be a rock band’s rock band.


Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 11.26.34 AMFor decades, Merced, California’s Crystal Syphon were lost amongst the psychedelic lettering that graced the dayglo posters of the Fillmore and Avalon – just a mere opener on the heaviest of bills and a footnote in the countless tomes written about the Haight Ashbury music scene. That all changed in 2012 when Roaratorio Records released Family Evil a highly praised collection of studio and live cuts that proved there was still pure California gold to be mined. The deposit was not depleted and Roaratorio is back with a second compilation, Elephant Ball, of smokin’ early 1967 studio demos and a live November 1969 gig from the legendary Fillmore West.

Side one opens with the all too brief “Dawn Sermon”, whose jingle jangle will make the biggest Quicksilver Messenger Service and Byrds’ fans sweat what is missing after the one minute and twenty second mark. No need to fret, as the sweet yet dark vocal harmonies of “For All of My Life” and “Tell Her For Me” – paired with Jim Sander’s fuzzed minor key leads – move at a blinding lysergic pace as they slip into a live portion of the album. Featuring the last incarnation of the group, the title track begins with an eccentric percussion and bass jam unleashing a frenzy of swirling organ fills and crunchy riffs that pummel the listener like a herd of wild pachyderms. As the audience outwills the abrasive attack the band barrels at a break neck speed into “It’s Winter”. Closing with the Latin-tinged “There is Light There”, this release is further proof Crystal Syphon were an incendiary live group whose name should be mentioned in the same breath as other underappreciated Nor Cal luminaries (see: Kak, The New Tweedy Bros and Country Weather) while also being held in the highest esteem of the Quicksilvers, Airplanes and Grateful Deads who went on to find major label success.  words / d norsen

Crystal Syphon :: Elephant Ball

sweet breeze

B-side to Sweet Breeze’s 1972 “Slow Change-Up” 7″, via Willpower Records.

Sweet Breeze :: Good Thing

Sensations_FixOur weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 390: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Fats Domino – Lady Madonna ++ Blossom Dearie – That’s Just The Way I Want To Be ++ Mulatu Astatqe – Yekermo Sew ++ Eddie Ray – You Are Mine ++ Harumi – Fire by the River ++ Odetta – Don’t Think Twice, It’s all Right ++ Irma Thomas – Ruler of my Heart ++ Hawa Daisy Moore – Really Love Me ++ Africa – Here I Stand ++ Gal Costa – Baby ++ Darondo – Didn’t I ++ Allen Toussaint – Go Back Home ++ Eunice Collins – At the Hotel ++ Symphonic Four – Who Do You Think You’re Fooling (Part II) ++ The Trinikas – Remember Me ++ Deliverance Echoes – Heaven ++ Patsy Cline – Strange ++ Coleman Family – Peace on Earth ++ The Rolling Stones – Play with Fire ++ Miriam Makeba – Loves Tastes like Strawberries ++ The Anita Kerr Singers – The Sound of Silence ++ Ry Cooder – Maria Elena ++ Stockhausen – “We are Changed” / Sensations’ Fix – Cold Nose Part 3, 4th Movement ++ Mad Music, Inc. – Track 4 ++ Brian Eno – St. Elmo’s Fire ++ David Bowie – Always Crashing in the Same Car ++ Gary Numan – M.E. ++ Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band – Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles ++ Blue Rondos – Little Baby ++ Can – I’m So Green ++ Otis G. Johnson – Walk with Jesus ++ Wendell Stuart & The Downbeaters – My World is Empty without You ++ Doris Troy – Just One Look ++ Arthur Alexander – Anna ++ Little Ann – Deep Shadows ++ Johnita and Joyce Collins – One Morning Soon ++ Mosby Family Singers – The Lord is My Shepherd ++ Famous L. Renfroe – Why Not I ++ Brother and Sister W.B. Grate – Power is in the Heart of Man ++ Shirley Ann Lee – I Shall Not Be Moved ++ Nina Simone – No Fear ++ Nina Simone – Com’ By H’Yere Good Lord ++ Exuma – You Don’t Know What’s Going On ++ Fats Domino – Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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dolly-stretch

As promised, the much-anticipated return of Country Soul Sisters, celebrating the ladies that tamed the outlaws, took the reigns and subsequently changed the face of country music forever.

Aquarium Drunkard Presents: Country Soul Sisters II – A Mixtape

I don’t know about you, but some of the most moving and mindblowing music I heard last year was Lament For Epirus, a collection of late 1920s recordings by the Greek violinist Alexis Zoumbas. Beautifully remastered from ancient 78s by collector Christopher King, Zoumbas’ deeply emotional playing sent me down the rabbit hole in search of more traditional Greek sounds — Rebetika, Marika Papagika — as well as recent, Greek-inspired albums by Rhyton and Xylouris White.

Writer Amanda Petrusich (author of the 2014’s highly recommended Do Not Sell At Any Price) was also captivated by Zoumbas’ music, and last summer traveled with King to the violinist’s homeland in northwestern Greece, a trip that resulted in her fantastic New York Times travelogue “Hunting for the Source of the World’s Most Beguiling Folk Music.” While Petrusich was taking notes, King and his partner Jim Potts were recording — and now we can hear what they heard, via two recently released discs on JSP Records. They’re both wonderful, suggesting that the Epirotic tradition that Zoumbas drew from all those decades ago is thriving.

What is this music? It certainly conjures up another, long-past time — but still, it’s almost frighteningly alive. Human. The groups presented here consist of clarinet, violin, the eight-stringed laouto (similar to an oud) and a percussive tambourine-like instrument called the defi. There’s a definite structure to the playing, but there’s also plenty of room for improvisation; there are times it makes me think of the adventurous stylings of Eric Dolphy. Other listeners might hear the distant echo of Sandy Bull‘s eccentric explorations. The players occasionally get pretty “out,” while remaining deeply rooted in Epirus’ pastoral landscape. As with Zoumbas, there’s an heavy sense of sadness and longing in every note. It’s a transformative, healing kind of melancholy, however — above all, this is ultimately joyous, life-affirming music. Take a listen. words / t wilcox

Yiannis Chaldoupis & Moukliomos :: Mirologi and Pogonisio

dane

Late last year, you may have caught our coverage of Barbara Dane’s “When I was a Young Girl,” a somber cut off her 1962 album Anthology of American Folk Songs. With its nod to Harry Smith, that album was a time capsule (recorded in 1959), freezing in time the pre-Dylan coffeehouse songbook. Although folk was just beginning to cross the pop threshold, Dane’s readings of standards like “Silver Dagger”, “Who’s Going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot”, and even “Greensleeves” sound peculiarly low-key, more Grimm Fairytale than Hans Christian Andersen. In other words, this was not a hootenanny safe for the suburbs. There was still a willingness to tread the path of John Jacob Niles as opposed to the Weavers. To modern ears, the effect is disorienting. When I first heard Dane’s voice—on the soundtrack of the French film, “Love Like Poison” (Un Poison Violent)—it sounded back-to-front, like someone singing folk standards in light of Sibylle Baier’s minimalism and Nina Simone’s melancholy. Androgynous and deep, tough and sad, there was no way that this voice was coming out of the era of martini-shaker.

It might seem, at a glance, that there existed only a narrow range of vocal registers available to white folk singers in the early 60s. Most women, admittedly, found themselves falling somewhere between the quiet Appalachian of Jean Ritchie or the soapbox arias of Joan Baez. Following Odetta (either on stage or on record) was ill-advised—nobody else was going to match the history embedded in that voice or the majesty of the delivery. But Dane nevertheless seemed happy to draw, wildly and un-prettily, all over the ven diagram of jazz, blues, and folk. Listen to Barbara Dane Sings the Blues (1964) and ask yourself: what other white singer, pre-Janis Joplin, was leaning so heavily on the legacy of Bessie Smith? What other white singer, pre-Karen Dalton, was digging such a deep furrow between black jazz singers and folk-blues? (Incidentally, right now, they’re playing Bonnie Raitt where I’m writing this, and you can hear the same talky dips in phrasing that Dane was always throwing into her blues, making her voice go from roadhouse to dimly lit back room in a single word.)

dane_dylanThere is footage of Dane circa 1963 on a hilariously hokey TV special, Folk Songs and More Folk Songs!, sharing a bill with a baby-faced Dylan. But where Inside Llewyn Davis would have us believe that folk singers of the time were either authentic bohemians or simply jumping a bandwagon, Dane (and Dylan too, for that matter) poses a problem. She fits neither the Dave van Ronk nor The Mighty Wind mold. “Fare Thee Well” (aka “Dink’s Song”) acted as something of a motif throughout the Coen Brothers’ film, but I just kept wondering how well an earnest, Mumford-y interpretation would have stacked up against Dane’s raw, a capella version at the time. What would Llewyn Davis have made of her naked vibrato or the way she digs deep into the seductive-spiritual work song rhythms of the song? Would he (could he?) have heckled her off the stage at the close of the film?

Even more problematic to this black and white conception of an early-Sixties folk scene, is Dane’s versatility. Here was a folk singer, after all, who had come up through New Orleans Jazz, singing with George Lewis and Kid Ory. Sure she might appear with corny living room jug bands, but she was also a singer just as capable of sitting in on sessions with Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, and the Chambers Brothers. If you really want a sense of her range, however, you only need to listen to a single she recorded in 1960 for the short-lived Trey Records in Hollywood.

Barbara Dane :: I’m On My Way

This is Dane’s recording of the gospel standard “I’m On My Way to Canaan”. In her interpretation (she is credited with her own arrangement), Dane drops the Canaan and refashions the song as a soulful, gritty prowler—one that seems to look forward to everything from Martha and the Vandellas to Amy Winehouse. The beat is unabashed minor-key Popcorn, the piano strutting along with little R&B flourishes, as if Dane were playing them herself, filling the gaps between each vocal line with defiant punctuation. We’re swinging, but we’re also approaching funk. Less than two minutes into the song we get a Brubeckian bass solo that prematurely quiets the whole thing down. The bassist moans along with plonking strings, juicing as much beatnik cool out of them as possible. Then, just as we discern, of all things, the strumming of acoustic guitar, the song shifts again, walloping the listener with a meatier groove. A horn section springs to life, stoking the engine of this gospel train. The horns burn, spluttering raunchily, cinders flying (Is this a spy movie? Is this West Side Story?). Dane now has what she wants, what she’s been singing about this whole time—not a heavenly paradise on the horizon, but the autonomy to seek one out, to get there, to make it happen. It’s over and done in three minutes, and the only thing left to do is play it over again, to follow Dane’s liberating arc over and over again.

Again, just to make it clear, this was a singer who was about to record a downbeat album of folk standards, and here she is releasing a Soul single before Soul was even a category. In fact, ‘I’m on My Way’ was (surprisingly? unsurprisingly?) produced by Lee Hazlewood and Lester Sill, the very same year they took on Phil Spector as an apprentice.

The point, really, is that truly great singers don’t confine themselves to genre; they take their talent, their character, their soul and let these inform the music rather than the other way around. Whatever style you find Dane singing, her voice tells you that she’s not going to take any shit—as probably befits an artist who refused to sign a contract, started her own label, ran her own club, and eventually released an album titled I Hate the Capitalist System. All of which, if you think about it, was extraordinary for a time when most female artists (folk singers or not) were expected to keep it pretty. She was on her way indeed. words / dk o’hara

a0872409397_16While previous Daniel Bachman records have been great, River feels like the American Primitive guitarist’s first masterpiece. One might’ve expected that for his first LP on the adventurous Three Lobed label, Bachman might indulge some of his more experimental, psych-ier leanings (as heard on this freshly reissued platter from a few years back). Instead, he’s delivered a solo acoustic tour de force that can easily stand proud next to John Fahey’s Days America or Jack Rose’s Kensington Blues. It’s that good.

River leads off with the kaleidoscopic, 14-minute “Won’t You Cross Over To That Other Shore,” one of Bachman’s most ambitious works to date. But ambitious doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s getting flashy and overly complex; the earthy melodies, patient rhythms and resonating tones feel as natural and heartfelt as they come. Same goes for the album’s other lengthy piece, the two-part “Song For The Setting Sun,” a dazzler that features some breathtakingly beautiful playing to accompany its wistful mood.

As those lengthy numbers point towards the guitarist’s future, he also looks respectfully towards the past: River pays heartfelt tributes to two fellow Virginians and kindred musical souls — the aforementioned Jack Rose and 1920s bluesman William Moore.

All in all, the LP is confident and comfortable, while still maintaining the drive and energy of Bachman’s previous efforts. Where he’ll go from here is anyone’s guess. For now, we’ll just enjoy this River‘s flow. words / t wilcox

peru_bravo

Peru Bravo: a new 15 track compilation of funk, soul and psych caught in the grip of Peruvian General Juan Velasco Alvarado‘s unflinching military dictatorship between 1968-75. An underground aural tale of a culture in flux. Compiled by Martin Morales, Duncan Ballantyne (Ex-Soundway) & Andrés Tapia del Rio (Repsychled Records).

The Mad’s :: Aouh Aouh
Thee Image :: Outtasite