KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Mummies, the – “Death By Unga Bunga!! ” – [Estrus Records]

Max Level   12/28/2005   A Library, CD

A collection of greatest hits and rarities by local trash-rock legends, destroyers of countless rock clubs and pizza parlors in the late ’80s – mid ’90s. Theirs was a majestic garage sound, blending the sneering ’60s fuzz-rock of The Seeds and The Music Machine with rockabilly guitar stomp and pure punk chaos. They also managed to slip some Sam The Sham-style humor into their 2-minute masterpieces. There’s a menacing Iggy vibe at the beginning of Track 6, and Track 19 (Mummies classic “Planet of the Apes”) is not only hilarious but also rocks like nobody’s business. Consistently awful sound quality adds to the fun. What are you waiting for? Slap this sucker on!

Leprechaun Catering – Kumquats and Lychees – [Heresee & Ehse] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/28/2005   12-inch, A Library

Baltimore’s Leprechaun Catering is comprised of Jason Willett, Tom Boram and a shitload of electronic devices. And they live together! Just like The Monkees! This album was released in early 2004. Only 300 were made, but we managed to get one.

The album starts out with a semi-normal funky guitar rhythm. A synth joins in, and before long everything is dismantled. Electrons are ripped from their atoms like wings from a fly. The nuclei that remain are pulverized into quarks. Inside the quarks are multidimensional vibrating superstrings. The question becomes How does one mic subatomic particles?

The music is cacophonous in a humorous, good way. Synthesized sounds and samples are looped and set against each other. Then the whole thing is left alone to work itself out. It’s the electronic music version of intelligent design. If the music thing doesn’t work out, these guys could make a fortune selling cell phone ring tones.

Inside the album is a lyrics sheet, even though there is no language on this (except for a few words at the end of the Kumquat side). Feel free to declaim the lyrics in a loud voice as you play this, but make sure the microphone is off.

Scientists believe that in approximately 20,000 years humans will have evolved the ability to understand and appreciate this music. It will be several tens of millennia more before humans have the physical capability of dancing to it.

–Hunter Gatherer

Brunn, Benjamin – Music Under Pin – [Bine Music] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/28/2005   12-inch, A Library

Released in June 2005 by prolific electronic musician and trained civil engineer Benjamin Brunn, this is one of at least three releases from him this year. The album has 4 new tracks on side A and on the other side 4 tracks from his previous album Konig und Drache remixed by friends and labelmates Move D, Scanner, Thomas Touzimsky, and Wendt.

Mr. Brunn is definitely of the ‘less is more? school of music. The songs slowly build by adding electronic squiggles and beats that fill in various frequency ranges. It sounds deceptively simple. A little glitchy and not very dancy, the music is sort of like being bathed in warm radiation that raises your cognitive abilities as well as leaves you with a nice tan.

The remixes on side B are busier than the tracks on side A but retain the warm feel. Tarmac gets a nice groove going. Cool Ist Hier is my favorite track because of its shimmering beauty.

This is our first Binemusic addition to the library. I hope that we can add more soon.

–Hunter Gatherer

Theus, Fats – Black Out – [CTI Records] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/28/2005   12-inch, Jazz

This is the first release by tenor sax player Fats Theus. Originally released in 1970 on Creed Taylor‘s CTI label, this album was quite hard to find until it was re-released in 2000. Mr. Taylor also produced this album.

Session players include Grant Green, who plays some excellent guitar, Hilton Felton and Clarence Palmer on organ, Jimmy Lewis and Chuck Rainey on bass, Idris Muhammad on drums, and Eddie Moore, who plays a saw solo(!) on Bed Of Nails.

This album is all about soul-jazz. It’s heavily blues and soul influenced. If Booker T and the M.G.s went to jazz camp every summer in their youth, this is what they might have come up with.

The various players have opted for a smooth and mellow sound rather than cutting loose. The over all feeling is restrained and even respectful, sort of like music played when a talk show breaks for commercial. I found myself wishing that they would throw down at least a little.

All instrumental.

–Hunter Gatherer

Bey, Faruq Z. W/Northwoods – “Rwanda ” – [Qbico]

Max Level   12/28/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Gorgeous, earthy, unhurried Mother Africa jazz here, deep and dark, mysterious yet reassuring. Sax/flute master Bey leads a superb group of like-minded story-tellers; together they bring forth a kind of ancient knowledge I can’t begin to understand. Long journeys unfold before us? our guides are bass, drums, saxes, flutes, bass clarinet, and vibraphone/marimba. Along the way we meet shenhai, zola phone, and bone guitar. Night comes in and spirits visit and we are at peace.

Fragments – “S/T ” – [Self Release]

Max Level   12/28/2005   CD, Jazz

Reviewing a self-released advance promo CD here. One of those “which library should it go in'” releases. I opted for the jazz section, since all three players bring solid jazz credentials, but the pieces herein might be better described as chamber-jazz-post-improv-modern-composition hybrids. Scott Hill is on clarinets and soprano sax, the up-and-coming Roberta Piket is on piano, and Eric Clark plays violin. It’s interesting how similar the tonal ranges of these particular instruments can be; sometimes for example it sounds like the clarinet is poking its head up when it’s actually the violin, and vice versa, and things like that. There is also a guest contributing flute and piccolo. Track 1 is a strong leadoff, with clarinet and violin lines merging and diverging, and Piket pounding out a dense Cecil Taylor-style racket. The final track is tricky: it’s listed as 8 minutes, but the CD time-counter shows nearly 17 minutes. It’s actually 8 minutes of music, then 40 seconds of silence, then a hidden 8 minute track. Fragments (the group) puts together outstanding music -intelligent, not easily classifiable.

Rogers, Lee – Sock Some Love Power To Me – [Soul-Tay-Shus Recordings] – (33 rpm)

Hunter Gatherer   12/27/2005   12-inch, Soul

Lee Rogers (1939-1990) is a soul singer from Detroit who never strayed far from his gospel roots. (Don’t confuse him with KSFO morning man Lee Rodgers.) Soul-Tay-Shus Records (part of Tuff City Records) has re-released 14 of his tracks that were originally released on 45s.

The majority of his career is covered in this compilation. The earliest tracks ’64-’66 were released on D-Town records. Later releases (’66-’69) came out on Wheelsville and Premium Stuff. On the back of this release I indicated the labels, date, and which side the track was on as best I could find out.

Proud of his roots as a gospel singer, Mr. Rogers said in an interview that the only difference between the singing he did in church and the singing he does on his records is that he wears a more expensive suit when he sings on his records.

These songs have a much rougher production than the tracks of a certain other Detroit-based label, and the sound is much more authentic as a result. On some of the D-Town singles, the instrumentals were recorded ahead of time and when Mr. Rogers would come in from touring he would record the vocal tracks separately. The instrumental track would be played over the loud speakers (no headphones in Detroit?), which would bleed through the mic as he sang. It gives these tracks a muddy sound, particularly noticeable at the end of You’re the Cream of the Crop (A4). These tracks clearly weren’t recorded with posterity in mind.

The highest charting single here is I Want You To Have Everything, which hit #16 in Jan ’65 on the R&B chart. This is the slickest track on the album. I prefer the more raw sounding Love For A Love (A3) and How Are You Fixed For Love (B1) and in particular the horns on ‘I’m A Practical Guy (A1). All tracks are short; the longest one is 3:02.

–Hunter Gatherer

Prince Far I – Silver & Gold: 1973-1979 – [Blood and Fire]

Hunter Gatherer   12/26/2005   A Library, CD

Prince Far I, a.k.a. Prince Cry Cry, a.k.a The Voice of Thunder, a.k.a. Michael James William, is an important roots reggae figure who has worked as a bouncer, security guard, car sprayer, and DJ.

Around 1970 he got a chance to record when someone didn’t show up, so they let him be on the record. From that chance start, he became a singer/preacher who would sing about religion, war, oppression in Jamaica, and cricket. His murder in 1983 cut short a career that was going strong.

This collection by Blood and Fire, a reggae re-issue label (that was co-founded by Simply Red‘s Mick Hucknall) of his career conveniently brings together 19 of his tracks ranging from scarce as hens teeth to impossible to find. Released in October 2005, a majority of the tracks are from his label, Cry Tuff.

Prince Far I has a wonderful gravelly voice, and he doesn’t use it to exactly sing or exactly toast. It’s more like the rantings of a prophet or maybe a proto-rap. Some lines are punctuated with a heia or a yeeah. Listen to his voice and you can hear its influence on hip hop. Some songs are followed by a ‘Version? which is a dubbish version of the previous track.

The Slickers‘s Johnny Too Bad shows up here as Johnny Got Worse (1). And Dawn Penn‘s You Don’t Love Me (No No No) shows up here as Yes Yes Yes‘sung by Errol Holt‘with the lyrics You don’t love Jah.

–Hunter Gatherer

Wolfe, Julia – “String Quartets, the ” – [Cantaloupe Music]

Max Level   12/25/2005   A Library, CD

When she’s not busy running the Bang On A Can music festival/organization, Ms. Wolfe composes for orchestras, chamber ensembles, brass groups, etc. She claims influences ranging from “the old masters” to Steve Reich to Led Zeppelin to the car horns and construction sounds of her home base New York City. Here are three compositions, each played by a different string quartet. Track 1, originally commissioned for Kronos, has a dark, abrasive motif throughout. Track 2 is less percussive; to my ears it has a sort of boat-on-the-water feel to it – leaning first one way and then the other. Track 3 is the most interesting; it has more contrast between darkness and light, and is more highly developed. It comes back down to earth with a full minute of quiet afterglow. Everything here is modern, strange, and good.

Harris, Eddie – “Electrifying Eddie Harris, the ” – [4 Men with Beards]

Max Level   12/25/2005   12-inch, Jazz

Tenor saxman Harris (1934-1996) and his classic 1966 Atlantic instrumental date, reissued in 2001 by 4 Men With Beards/Rhino. “Electrifying” refers to his pioneering use of electronic devices to enhance the sound of his instrument. But the enhancement is fairly subtle by today’s standards; just a thickening of the tone, no wah wahs and crap like that. That came later. Here the band is funky, in that familiar ’60s soul/jazz/groove/cowbell-boppin’ way, on “Sham Time” and the hit “Listen Here”. The two “Theme” tracks are slow and pretty. “Spanish Bull” is a stab at Coltrane’s new modalism. Harris produced a handful of popular things in about a 10-year stretch and didn’t do a whole lot afterward. So what? This record is cool and it’s good to have it back.

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