HOLGER CZUKAY – “MOVIES” (1980)
“Holger Czukay’s first post-Can solo album finds the bass player exploring prog rock jams with varied instrumentation, song-oriented lyrics, and media samples from film, television, and short-wave. It was the samples that put Czukay in the same category as David Byrne and Brian Eno: an art rocker exploring the early days concurrently with early hip-hop pioneers (or alternately, a white man exploiting the culture of the third world, depending on who you read). On ‘Persian Love,’ Czukay backs up clips of an Iranian singer recorded off the short-wave with lilting guitar and keyboard riffs that sparkle like light. The album is all pleasant, playful textures, with little of the darkness that Can dallied with.”
The main difference between “Movies” and “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” (the Eno/Bryne album the above review references) is that “Movies” only has four tracks, and three of them are quite extended jams that can get tiresome if you’re not completely in tune with them from the start. For this reason, if you’re only gonna choose one track, I’d go with “Cool In The Pool”, which, while being completely retarded, is fun and catchy.
STEVEN JESSE BERNSTEIN – “PRISON” (1992)
As Joseph Larkin said in his essay “Requiem For A Punk Poet”, “What really sets Bernstein apart from most poets is the fact that he was actually good.” Steven Jesse Bernstein was the Raymond Carver of the post-Beat poetry world, mixing insane grueling minutiae with the alien funk of words colliding dangerously. “Prison”, his only spoken word album, was only half-completed when he took his own life at the age of 40; producer Steve Fisk posthumously finished the musical backing tracks, and while occasionally the beats and bleats are on the mark, at times the lackluster music is distracting. This, however, takes nothing away from the power of Bernstein’s thoughts and inflections. Trouser Press sez:
“Seattle performance poet Steven Jesse Bernstein brought his own despairing misery and emotional violence to the grimy disgust of William Burroughs’ familiar vistas; the landscape of his personal experience and vision produced a hellish text of sex, drugs, shit, disease, decadence, shame, incarceration, noise and crushing alienation…[a]s Bernstein recites his gruesome fantasies (?) and sardonic treatises, Fisk responds to both mood and content, latching onto and enfolding the words in diverse music and concrete sounds-screeching saw noises and techno beats for ‘The Sport (Part One),’ a ’60s super-agent soundtrack that gives way to a merry jingle and then an unsettling roil in ‘No No Man (Part One)’; a soulful groove for ‘Party Balloon’; boho bongo jazz for ‘The Clouded Heart.’ At times, the album manages the illusion of Bernstein-who spoke these pieces alone â€” fighting to be heard above the din, yet Fisk has the artistic insight and control to add nothing more than distant thunder to sanctify the traumatic ‘Face,’ an epic and appalling ‘fictional’ reminiscence.”
HAWKWIND – “QUARK, STRANGENESS AND CHARM” (1977)
I’ve always found Hawkwind’s giant catalogue (which, like the Fall, is littered with endless live albums and overlapping compilation discs) waaaaaaaay too confusing to dive into without knowing someone who could point me in the right direction. Lucky for me, I recently was schooled by Sean Carnage, who books the Monday nigh rock parties at Pehrspace here in Los Angeles. He simply told me that “Quark” was the ONLY way to start.
I really enjoy Hawkwind’s long, endless space jams, but it’s “Quark” that I keep returning to again and again, mostly due to the album’s first two tracks, “Spirit Of The Age” and “Damnation Alley”. “Spirit” reminds me a lot of Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army material from the period, while “Damnation Alley”is a true balls-out rocker with an absolute killer riff anchoring its nine minutes. Vocal and lyric duties for the “Quark” album lied with the late Bob Calvert, the best, brightest and most well-suited of all the intermittent Hawkwind frontmen.
THE PHARAOHS – “AWAKENING”/”IN THE BASEMENT” (1971/72)
“The Pharaohs were one of the forgotten treasures of ’70s R&B, a freewheeling jazz-funk congregation heavily influenced by Chicago’s jazz avant-garde as well as on-the-one funk and African motifs. Unfortunately, they recorded only one album before Earth, Wind & Fire frontman Maurice White (who played in an early version of the Pharaohs) hired several of its members to form the Phenix Horns, the justly celebrated horn section for Earth, Wind & Fire during the ’70s…Though the album’s astonishing fusion of funk, jazz, and Afro-beat earned them an assortment of die-hard fans and critics, the group’s abstract inclinations hardly geared them for commercial success…The Pharaohs soldiered on until 1973, but called it quits without recording another studio album.”
The crowning achievement of the Pharaohs was the 15-minute track, “Great House”, which never fails as a party uplifter (DJs, take note!). Ubiquity’s re-issue of this album is now very much out-of-print, which was a complete shock to me, as something this good really shouldn’t pass unnoticed a second time around. Also included here is a ’72 live set, also released on Luv ‘N Haight as “In The Basement”, also now out-of-print. Also-also, many regrets — the download of the “Awakening” LP is missing one track.