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Tucson Weekly Rhythm and Views

JUNE 14, 1999: 

Television The Blow-Up (ROIR)

ORIGINALLY RELEASED IN 1982 as a cassette-only live album, The Blow-Up is a bootleg quality, punk-spawning new wave masterpiece of loud, chiming guitars, noirish lyrics and long, psychedelic-inspired jams. Fronted by the twin guitar subterfuge of main songwriter Tom Verlaine and reckless showman Richard Lloyd, Television ruled over post-hippie CBGB's scene, as documented here by incendiary live sets recorded at various v group imploded). Obvious affections that helped shape the Television experience are presented in vivid audio Technicolor, including the Stones ("Satisfaction"), Coltrane, Dylan ("Knockin' On Heaven's Door"), 13th Floor Elevators ("Rollercoaster") and Velvet Underground.

This newly edited, digitally remastered (though a prevalent tape hiss remains throughout) double-disc set glorifies 85 minutes of the group's intricate riff swapping and improvisational jamming with an angular fortitude Garcia and Weir would've killed for at the height of their collaborative efforts. The 15-minute guitar opus "Little Johnny Jewel" echoes Coltrane's use of repetition and punctuation as Verlaine plucks a simple, incessant three-chord rhythm that clashes against the strangled notes from Lloyd's battered Stratocaster.

It's an experiment matched only by the frenetic, noisy intensity of the Velvets' dual guitar/viola battles. Verlaine's harsh, adenoidal articulation and the palpable tension between guitars set Television apart from the rest of the then-evolving art-punk/new wave scene. "Marquee Moon" is a magnificent shelling of howitzer guitars, with the granite-solid rhythm of bassist Fred Smith and drummer Billy Ficca harnessing the raw, garage beat to perfection. "Satisfaction" is a perfunctory showstopper, as Verlaine's patented, staccato howl erupts and the band adopts a loose party vibe, clearly abandoning their uptight, poetic personas. Listen up, guitar lovers.

--Ron Bally

GINGER BAKER & THE DJQ20 Coward Of The County (Atlantic)

THE BAND'S ABBREVIATED title means Denver Jazz Quintet To Octet, referring to a Colorado-based jazz ensemble featuring trumpeter Ron Miles and bassist Artie Moore, heard by drummer Baker in 1995. Anyone expecting music leaning toward Baker's work with Cream will definitely be disappointed, and even those who fondly recall previous jazz albums with players like Bill Frisell, Sonny Sharrock and Bill Laswell should take heed: Baker seems to grow more conservative with each new release. Coward is damn near Republican jazz, compared to 1987's No Material album--but the changes have tempered the heavy-handed playing that tarnished 1996's Falling Off The Roof. Six of the eight tunes were written by Ron Miles, making the outing almost more his album than Baker's. This is certainly not Baker's best effort.

--Dave McElfresh

VARIOUS ARTISTS Delphonic Sounds Today! (Del-Fi)

FORTY YEARS AGO, Del-Fi label founder/weirdo Bob Keane recorded pretty much any twisted three-chord rocker and doofus songwriter who managed to stumble into his studio. The reactivated label here releases a self-tribute album featuring contemporary misfits (The Negro Problem, Los Straitjackets, The Brian Jonestown Massacre), who pay homage to their Del-Fi mentors. Remakes of Del-Fi goofiness like Yo Yo Hashi's "Yo Yo's Pad" (covered here by Man Or Astroman?) and The Romancers' adolescent-simple "The Slauson's Shuffle" (covered by The Tiki Tones) turn out to be as off-kilter and garage-primitive as the original versions. These Del-Fi disciples keep rock as vulgar and rough as it was meant to be. In fact, an alternative title to this disc could have been The Unsightly Underbelly Of Pop: Del-Fi, 1958-1968, Revisited. (It's worth the bucks just to hear the honkin' remake of Frank Zappa's pre-Mothers, early '60s movie theme, "The World's Greatest Sinner.") If these tribute recordings are weird-sounding now, imagine how they must have come across 30 years ago.

--Dave McElfresh

GOV'T MULE Live...With A Little Help From Our Friends (Capricorn)

HOLY SHIT! THIS one's for all us unreconstructed early '70s rockers. The fact that the record's format--a double live album--also once went the way of the dinosaurs just makes it sweeter; the rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated...but I digress. When virtuoso guitarist Warren Haynes was unceremoniously shown the door by the Allman Brothers, despite his having a major hand in their '90s resurrection and ostensibly because of the egregious sin of signing his side project Gov't Mule to Capricorn (run by Allmans' arch nemesis Phil Walden), he didn't have to look back.

The Mule quickly established itself as one of the premiere U.S. jam bands, no small feat for a power trio. Convening last New Year's Eve in Hot'lanta with a stellar crew of guests including Chuck Leavell, Bernie Worrell and Derek Trucks, Haynes & Co. spent over four marathon hours torching the Roxy Theatre.

The Mule originals are spectacular in their own right, each clocking in between nine and 18 minutes and displaying a sense of musical exploration that owes as much to the free jazz of Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman as it does to vintage rock ensembles like Cream and Mountain. (The Leavell and Worrell keyboards really help flesh out the arrangements.)

But it's the selection of covers that pushes the set over the top. Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," Humble Pie's "30 Days In The Hole" and Free's "Mr. Big" are power blooze at their down 'n' dirtiest (ex-Black Crowes Marc Ford pitches in on second guitar for the latter two), while Elmore James' "Look On Yonder Wall" snatches a bit of the Allmans' old "Statesboro Blues" magic. Dave Mason's (by way of Traffic) "Sad And Deep As You" is a spooky, smoldering ballad that fits nicely alongside Neil Young's elegantly mournful "Cortez The Killer"--both are given over to extended, 14-minute readings. And with a half-hour to explore, dissect and reassemble Mongo Santamaria's eternal jazz standard "Afro Blue," Gov't Mule (joined by keys, percussion, two extra guitars and a sax) pushes all reasonable rock 'n' roll envelopes to create a thrilling, neck-hairs-on-end leap into uncharted dimensions.

--Fred Mills

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