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Tucson Weekly Rhythm and Views

MARCH 1, 1999: 


S.F. Sorrow

(Snapper Music)

A PSYCHEDELIC masterwork on all levels, from the conceptual rock opera storyline (about the journey from birth to death) to the innovative musical arrangements, this U.K. artifact from 1968 has weathered cult status to become a stone classic of the era. The songs are terrific and never sound dated. Particular standouts include the propulsive proto-glam crunch of "Old Man Going," the Beatlesque baroque pop of "Trust" and the quirky fife-and-drum corps folk-rock groove of "Private Sorrow." And as with the rest of Snapper's remastered overhaul of the Pretties' back catalog, some choice bonus tracks and a thick booklet round out the package.

Cut to Abbey Road Studios three decades later. Convened before a select audience of fans are the five members of the Pretty Things, guest guitarist David Gilmour and "narrator" Arthur Brown, broadcasting, via the Internet, the first-ever live-in-its-entirety S.F. Sorrow. The limited-edition Resurrection documents the event, which is anything but some half-baked reunion of old men reliving past glories. While Brown's between-song recitations, designed to make the opera's narrative more literal, slow the momentum a bit, you can always play the original studio album if all you want is the music. Besides, the music not only gets a fresh airing here thanks to inspired rearrangements (nice electric and acoustic guitar interplay), the band sounds excited as hell--lead singer Phil May especially having lost nothing in the throat department and banging his tambourine like an excited teenager. In short, this rocks.

--Fred Mills



THIS STRIPPED-DOWN Detroit garage punk trio of social misfits (lifted straight from a casting call for the sequel to Revenge of the Nerds) reverberates as if they were stuck inside their parents' garage circa 1966, battering forth one insane three-chord racket. But this is a '90s band approaching the millennium that Mr. Question Mark and his Mysterians could admire and respect without having to utter the "retro" word. Pounding Farfisa organ from John Hentchmen (like Monoman of the Lyres during his prime), Mike Hentchmen's treble-heavy guitars gone amok (picture six-string savage Mariconda of the Raunch Hands) and slap-dash drumming courtesy of Tim Hentchmen (see Splat of the Drags) inject these primitive recordings with spine-tingling vigor. During the instrumental knockout punch of "Rat Bones," these unwelcome rejects from an Animal House panty raid stomp out a fuzz-drenched attack with all the lunacy of Link Wray fronting the Trashmen. These nerdy-looking Robert Carradine-admirers bash out organ-heavy garage butchery on "Polish Lady" (an ode of affection for their landlady, possibly?) that sounds meatier than a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew and tastes twice as nasty. These bass-less buffoons were once bespectacled and snot-nosed teenagers who've now blossomed into contact-sporting playboys of the underground garage punk circuit. Eight of these 17 scorching tracks were recorded live in the Motor City two years ago, and boy, do they smoke--like Monica puffin' up a storm on Bill's El Producto.

--Ron Bally


The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions

THIS FOUR-CD box set is as much a tribute to Davis' longtime producer Macero as it is to Miles. Back in 1970, hardly anyone knew that the fusion milestone Bitches Brew was constructed by Macero from a handful of Davis' lengthy, unstructured blowing sessions. The trumpeter couldn't be bothered with the editing process, leaving Macero to cut-and-paste segments recorded on different days. He did a hell of a job, as this collection of outtakes and reissued tracks prove. Fortunately Macero favored the funky stuff over the rambling impressionistic moods, but it's all worthwhile, and a must-have for any hardcore Davis fan.

--Dave McElfresh

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