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Paging Dr. Rick

13 Feb

This evening I’m tucking into a somewhat queasy-making care package, lovingly curated by a man not unfamiliar with the nauseating end of 20th century cultural production, Dr. Rick. It’s two DVD-Rs, one long CD-R, and a cryptic Chinese fortune sans cookie asserting “society prepares the crime; the criminal commits it.” Perhaps, but let me be the judge of that. The evidence is as follows:

PANAMA RED DVD (1976) Z-budget snoozer about a Venice Beach dumbshit who is faced with the herculean task of peddling 500 kg. of primo pot in a matter of days. Over the course of 80 minutes, we’re privy to scenes of hairy guys with names like Bobo and Cheech breaking down “keys” into “lids”; our limpdick hero urging his very pregnant wife to have sex, thus eliciting her very uncomfortable response (“please, be careful”); and a surprise meeting with none other than MOTHERS OF INVENTION drummer Jimmy Carl Black, sneaking a toke away from the watchful eye of ol’ Frank Zappa. I’ll conceed the soundtrack by Jim Wingert is amusing in a 70’s softrock-cum-pornofunk sorta way. But the cliches-up-the-butt dialogue, dead end plot, and acting bested by the cast in Dave Markey’s Desperate Teenage Lovedolls are unforgivable. And for a movie about weed, this flick was oddly devoid of I Love You, Alice B. Tolkas-like barbiturate dislocation. The way these dudes treat their product, they might as well be pushing girlscout cookies! I’m now trying to remember how much a lid of pot actually was . . . an old hippie once told me “it’s all the dope that’ll fit in the lid of a coffeecan!” but I suspect she was pulling my leg.

SWAP MEET DVD (1979) Juvenile comedy that follows a rivalry between two groups of car-crazy flea market dealers. Much of this was filmed at The Roadium real life swap in Torrance, CA – hence you’re privy to the most location shots of the South Bay this side of the original Gone In 60 Seconds car chase. The soundtrack by somebody called HEMLOCK delivers over the top whiteboy disco with a giddiness that speaks of too much cocaine use. Yet while the director might’ve been going for some kind teen romp ala Porky’s, the cornball jokes, fake east coast accents, and hokey dialogue conspire to make it more like an R-rated episode of Krofft Superstars’ Wonderbug. So despite Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman popping up in early career roles, this movie is thin stuff indeed. Heck, the Germans felt they had to crib imagery from Over The Edge for the DVD reissue to lure hapless Bavarians into buying the thing. Certainly, Swap Meet coulda done with a little of that Matt Dillon teen angst – or better still, a cameo by actual SoCal swap meet rat, Don Bolles.

VARIOUS ARTISTSTake It Easy 2 CD (1970-1979) If ever I wanted some thinly produced, bottom-rung jazz/soft pop topped with flat vocals and sappy lyrics, I’ve now got a grip of it, and all in one place. Given the dodgy aesthetic sense of this bunch, highlights are necessarily gonna be relative. But I reckon they include: MILL SUPPLY’s sturdy “Ezmerelda” which sounds like it coulda been a hit for THE LOOKING GLASS; ERASMO CARLOS’ samba pop “Sorrisa Della” which is truly sublime, thus begging the question as to why it was included here at all; JIM SULLIVAN’s countripolitan “UFO” which contains the immortal refrain checkin’ out the show with a glassy eye/ lookin’ at the sun dancing through the sky/ here he comes, by UFO; and of course MERRELL FANKHAUSER’s joyous “I Saw Your Photograph” which I just might have introduced to Dr Rick back in the 90’s. To think that, in some small way, I might be responsible for all this!

But the lowpoints, oh man, are they ever legion. SHADE go crazy with the fusionoid chord changes on “Recently” cluttering up an otherwise “Midnight at the Oasis”-like travesty. The SHAMROCK cut sounds like the tax-loss it was no doubt meant to be. LO BORGES’ Spanish-language pop tinkle may or may not be ripping off TODD RUNDGREN’s “Hello, It’s Me”. And folks like the warbly HOWDY MOON and the creepy NICK DE CARO just need to be smacked really, really hard. Yes there is a real people charm to much of this, but when it all shakes down, shit will be shit – and this be some stinky doody.

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Society might well have prepared these particular musical/visual crimes, but anyone fool enough to commit them does indeed deserve banishment from our collective entertainment libraries. Still, I can’t not be happy that the perverse among us have sought to dig it all back up, shoving it in our faces once more. Cheers, Dr. Rick!

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Aural Enemas

11 Aug

The following post I dedicate to Dr. Rick, recently married and now living & practicing medicine somewhere in Philadelphia. In a former life, the good doctor wasn’t a doctor at all, but an ex-burnout who stood shoulder to shoulder with me cleaning records, watching out for shoplifters, and taking shit at the Record Recycler in Hollywood in the mid-90’s. Whether I wanted to hear about it or not, he’d talk my ear off about things like the mighty local rockin’ of NEBULA, the godliness of DIO’s Holy Diver LP, and the not unsubstantial merits of VAN HALEN’s debut record. Between colorful visits from local homeless drifter “Milkman” Dave and celebs like BECK and THE BLACK EYED PEAS, we eventually we bonded over the subtle beauty that was SLOVENLY.

The records below were ones spun as a way to balance our unhealthy diet of too much CAPTAIN BEYOND, STEVE REID AND THE LEGENDARY MASTER BROTHERHOOD, and MALO on an hourly basis. These particular records were played to run off irritating shoppers, “keep it real”, and/or piss each other off, depending on the context – during long, boring, hot afternoons. I’ll never forget em; I don’t think Rick has, either.

1. KENNY RANKINSilver Morning (1975) – One featherweight record if ever there was one, and the logical extreme to which jazzy, 70’s sap pop could be taken. I musta sold a dozen a copies of this to international dealers for resell purposes – Japanese folks consider this one an integral part of what they refer to as “free soul”. Here Kenny covers tracks by the Lennon/McCartney, Gordon Lightfoot, Antonio Carlos Jobim, even Curtis Mayfield for christs sake – all in that signature safe/soft vocal jazz style of his that’ll have you swooning or holding your buttcheeks as you run for the nearest toilet. Think David Crosby without the drugs, Elton John without the camp, Billy Joel without the, uh, angst. This LP is so archetypally 70’s and painstakingly perfected with all it’s warm bossanovas and cozy earthtone harmonies, I’d almost believe this slab wasn’t vinyl at all, but formica. Great for clearing out the smellier/hairier non-patrons who’d sit for hours listening to records on the demo turntables, but never buying a frickin’ thing.

2. STEELY DANRoyal Scam (1976) – Lots of people consider this a classic – hell you might, too – but make no mistake: this ain’t classic rock but classic hi-colonic aural treatment, guaranteed to leave no intestinal fold unirrigated. Yes, these studiohounds wrote lyrics that could be cynically biting (as in their ode to Owsley Stanley III, “Kid Charlemagne”) or absurdly humourous (“The Fez”) but musically speaking, this is so ultraglossy, so antisepticwhite, so fascistically overcontrolled I don’t think it was ever actually living. I can’t call this hackwork – I mean, hell, they were going for this kinda sound – but you can never, ever make me enjoy it. Some of these session dudes actually turned up on the Joe Sample record I’ve written about below – it was a small, airless world for chops-out-the-ass hired guns in them days. Honestly, I don’t think I ever willingly spun this one, but Dr. Rick? Oh yes – and with much glee.

3. JOE SAMPLERainbow Chaser (1978) – A founding member of THE CRUSADERS goes solo and mines yep! you guessed it! a WEATHER REPORT/ BRECKER BROTHERS vein for chart-topping effect. This kinda sound has since been co-opted as incidental music behind tv news reports and in wine bars the world over, but so what. Hey this was the late 70’s, and at that point it signaled a whole generation of boomer types moving one step up the corporate ladder and another away from the ideals they’d held dear a decade before. To paraphrase the song: everybody wanted to be bourgie, bourgie. That said . . . dare I defend it and point out it’s got an R&B core that’s sadly missing from the STEELY DAN rec written about above, making this appealing when it’s not kind of appalling. Again, the Japanese seemed to like this one, so it got alot of play.

4. SISTER SLEDGEWe Are Family (1979) – While every aboriginal white wanna-be DJ in LA was wetting themselves over late 60’s acid jazz and early 70’s hard funk . . . me, well, I was caught in the thrall of the late 70’s discoball. Disco – the 4-on-the-floor, symphonically fueled, diva-driven kind – was so joyful, so beautifully arranged, and so goddamn glamourous, I couldn’t resist it if I tried. And this record is the fucking disco pinnacle. Like Diana Ross’ Diana LP, this is a CHIC record in every way but name. Bernard Edwards’ bubbling bass and Nile Rogers’ chanka-chanka gtr are crawling all over this, and the songs (particularly “Lost in Music”, “He’s the Greatest Dancer”, and the ecstatic “Thinking of You”) are some of the very best this hit factory would ever produce. Rick thought I’d turned gay when I started trotting this one out on a regular basis, but I was confident: real men knew what the fuck I was cottoning on to.

5. ISLEY BROTHERS3+3 (1973) – Nothing embarrassing about this, nothing at all. Kelly, Rudy and Ronnie are here joined by Ernie, Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper to make it an even six ISLEYS, kicking out the very best jams of their career. It’s funky fr sure but it’s got a solid gospel/soul foundation that gets me thinking not FUNKADELIC but AL GREEN and CURTIS MAYFIELD, which is the end of the R&B spectrum I’m always drawn to anyway. And while gtrist Ernie Isley ain’t no JIMI HENDRIX, give him some slack – he was still really young and probably relying too heavily on his effects pedals. That don’t mean he doesn’t soar high on their defining cover of “Summer Breeze”, included herein. He deserves your props, as does this entire record. Though spinning this one could create problems in record stores re: clueless novice DJ types fainting due to the perceived funkiness to it all.

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Anyway: it all brings back good memories, Dr. Rick. Indeed. Now what the hell did I do with that bitchen DIO record anyway?