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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #2

Posted: June 10th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted February 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

So dig this – I’m sitting back in the Wil-crib, grinding up my new batch of Tylonel 3 for a quick snort, when I get an urgent e-mail from Diskant content producer, Simon Minter, saying he needs a new diskant column “now, as in ‘pronto’ fuckface!” Apparently the theme for all the columns this month is “the ten best releases this year.” (Or maybe it was “five best” or “hundred best” .whatever, I’m doing ten.) Now right off the bat, that conflicts with the general concept of my column which is to review obscure record classics that have ended up in the used bins of record stores.

Obviously, one year is too short a time for someone to release a record and have it end up in the bargain slots (unless they’re Meatloaf) so I plaintively pleaded with Simon to give me some leeway – “What if I reviewed the ten best used albums I purchased this past year? Is that good enough for you?” Well, ol’ Simon demurely let it pass and I set out to gather my trophies.

Did I actually buy all these albums in the past year? Hell, I dunno. I can barely remember last week. But I could have, and that’s what’s important!

Now when you’re talking about used records, “best” is a subjective term, Granted, a lot of the albums I picked up this year, really were good. I mean, they sounded good, they had good lyrics, they conveyed whatever immutable quality it is we ascribe to music that we call “good.” But some of these albums were “good” in the sense they were bad. I mean, really fucking bad. If you look at some of my choices below you’ll see what I mean. Do I really think “Oral Roberts: On Country Roads” was a good album? Hell no, I think it’s a piece of crap and I’ll probably never listen to it again. But as a testament to the absolute ludicrousness of decades past, “Oral Robert: On Country Roads” seriously blasts the competition. As such, I tried to include a little of both kinds of “good” in this list – I’ll let you figure out which is which.

Ultimate Spinach – Ultimate Spinach III
Let’s be honest, part of the fun of getting into a band named “Ultimate Spinach” is that you can go around saying, “Hey, man. have you heard Ultimate Spinach?” or “Dude, you’ve got to check out Ultimate Spinach.” or “Wow, this Ultimate Spinach is really tripping me out!” A couple months ago I picked up a copy of the third album by these controversial masters of late sixties psychedelia and wasn’t sure what to expect. At the point this album was released, more than half the original band had quit (or been fired) and replaced by members of other bands and studio hacks. However, I was pleasantly surprised. while certainly devoid of the groovy psychedelia that powered the first two Spinach albums, U.S. III was actually a pretty decent blues rock record with some stellar guitar playing by a young Jeff Baxter,(who would later go on to Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers.) The record was also an interesting historical footnote as it highlighted that brief period when garage and psychedelic rock were transformed into the dirty blues of the early seventies.

Randy Newman – Little Criminals
Booyaaaa! You remember how I was saying some of these albums were good in a kitschy, jokey sort of way, and some were good in a “good” way. Little Criminals is one of the “good” ones – no, fuck that – it’s one of the GREAT ones. Newman came out of the same mid seventies, “California mellow” period that produced the Eagles and Tom Waits. This album catches him at his best: sardonic lyrics, catchy songwriting and a mournful sense of cool that simultaneously brings a smile to your face and a tear to your eye.

Oral Roberts – On Country Roads: Music from the Oral Roberts TV Special
Well, hell, everybody likes country music, right? But nobody does country music like Oral Roberts. In the late eighties, Christian televangelist Oral Roberts made a name for himself by claiming God would “call him home” unless he raised an exorbinant amount of money for his ministry. The money wasn’t raised, and God, unfortunately, didn’t lift a finger against Oral. The whole debacle became an example of the corruption of organized religion and was enough to make even the softhearted have nothing but angry thoughts towards Oral. But that feeling disappears the minute you hear this peach of an album from the early seventies. Oral leads his entourage of wholesome American youth through a medley of John Denver classics (“Country Roads”), spirituals (“Swing Low”) and folk rock (“Fire and Rain”). It gets even better when famed banjo picker Buck Owens stops by for some country cheer and a chance to spread the good word. If nothing else, Oral R and his posses remind us that even in these days of agnostic alterna-country, religion and folk music, for better or worse, go hand in hand.

Andy Summers and Robert Fripp – I Advanced Masked
This is the album my dad’s new wife literally begged me to turn off. Andy Summers of the Police and King Crimson’s Robert Fripp got together in 1982 to produce this. well, what the fuck is it really? Sort of a weird combo of free form jazz, horror film scores, tribal rhythms and oriental guitar passages. As much as people knock the eighties for being a sterile period in music, albums like this easily challenge any of the experimental rock that’s arrived since.

Gilda Radner – Live From New York.
When this album was released in 1979, Gilda Radner was at the top of the world. She was starring in the best American sketch comedy television show (Saturday Night Live) while it was it was at its most iconoclastic and in its peak. Later she’d go on to marry Gene Wilder, and then escape that marriage by dying of cancer. (Heh, I kid Gene, but he’s a beautiful man and there’s nothin’ I wouldn’t do for him.) Live in New York was a combination of humorous songs and comedy monologues that showcased Gilda’s wide range of skills. The humor’s great, but, interestingly enough, the musical sections are pretty damn good too! Even if the songs didn’t feature lyrics like, “Go tell a chicken to ‘suck my dicken’ and give me chicken pox” (from “Let’s Talk Dirty To The Animals”) they’d still be very listenable tunes. Just look at the musicians to see why! Paul Schaffer on keyboards! Howard Shore (now a big time movie composer) on sax and organ! G.E. Smith (from Hall and Oats and the Sat. Night Live Band) on guitar! That’s some serious mojo.. On top of all that, the final song, “Touch Me (With My Clothes On),” isn’t a joke at all, but a genuinely moving tribute to teenage love. Gilda, bless her soul, knew something very few comedians knew: You don’t have to be funny all the time.

Thin Lizzy – Black Rose
Some people will claim that Thin Lizzy typified the worst parts of heavy rock – harmonized guitars, leather pants and vacuous lyrics – but, repeat after me: “THOSE PEOPLE ARE QUEERS!” If only for the fact that Lizzy frontman, Phil Lynott, practically predicts his own heroin overdose in “Got to Give it Up,” “Black Rose” shows Lizzy to be a band of considerable substance and dynamics. Guitarist Gary Moore would go on to record a number of masturbatory solo albums, but as a team player he definitely shined on tunes like “Waiting For an Alibi” and the Irish jig section of “Rosin Dubh”

Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper – “Frenzy”
As early as 1986 people were starting to complain about MTV. But only Mojo Nixon was doing something about it, by writing such tunes as “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin,” a R-rated tribute to MTV DJ, Martha Quinn’s genitalia. (Years later MTV would pay him back by refusing to air the video for his song, “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with My Two Headed Love Child.”) The rest of the album is a combination of free form rants, agro-folk music, and punk/country/rockabilly.

White Sister – Self Titled
I picked up a copy of this album simply because it looked good for a laugh. Though I’d never heard of them, White Sister seemed to be one of the dirge or mid eighties hard rock bands that insisted on wearing aerobics clothing and singing songs like “Breaking All the Rules.” I listened to it a couple times, had some chuckles and threw it off in the corner. Then one day, on a whim, I thought, “I wonder if there’s anything on the web about these guys?” Well, sweet Jesus, there’s a www.whitesister.com where these guys go on as if they were the biggest thing since 180 proof alcohol! Not only that, but this piece of shit album has just been re-released on another record label. Sometimes even I don’t understand rock and roll.

Alice Cooper – Alice Cooper Goes to Hell.
Christ, he should’ve stayed there. Normally, I love Cooper (I think “Billion Dollar Babies” is a vital rock album) but this dirge is tedious and limp. You might ask what it’s doing in my ten best albums of the year, and mainly, it’s because I really wanted to use that “Christ, he should’ve stayed there” line.

Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews – My Fair Lady
I spent all my summers growing up at my Dad’s place in Montana, and for years, after dinner we’d usually sit around listening to show tunes. While most kids of my generation were forced to put up with their parents hippie drivel, I was listening to Doris Day, Carol Channing and the songs off “My Fair Lady.” This stuff was so integrated into our family culture that when my cousin and I got stuck on a dead motorboat in the middle of a lake one night, we announced our presence by loudly singing this songs from this classic stage production. And sure enough, we were rescued. The moral is, if you don’t buy “My Fair Lady,” you’ll starve to death.

Wil Forbis

Wil writes for the delectable Acid Logic webzine, as well as for this crackin' outfit here. He's also an obvious habitual liar, going on how he describes himself in his other writings. Truth is, Wil is a two foot tall computerised metal monster who likes nothing better than to CRUSH, CRUSH and CRUSH humanity to within an ounce of its puny life. When he's not CRUSHING, he enjoys tennis and jogging.


1 Response to diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #2

  1. Jason

    am loving these, I don’t appear to have ever read them before. it makes me want to go out and listen to bad records and extract gold