Graham Reid | | 10 min read
In a previous column I wrote with some embarrassment about 10 odd unplayed albums which had sat on my shelves for many, many years. Decades in some instances. And many of them never even getting close to being played.
They were my adopted but unloved children.
Some had arrived in my halfway house between pressing and trashing on the strength of their weird cover ( I have addressed that failing here) but most had just somehow weaseled their way into my collection and hidden there unnoticed.
It was time to drag them out and give them a spin.
Some were good, some were dispatched back to the shelf immediately.
But while putting them back other such albums made strange and sudden appearances.
So I offer here 10 more odd but previously unplayed albums.
A discovery for me. . . .
Perhaps a consumer warning for you? I'll let you know if you can listen to -- or avoid these -- these on Spotify.
Maxwell Plumm; We Can Work It Out (1975)
It was the trousers really. And the Sweet-styled Seventies hair. And the terrific back cover which had head shots of the six band members with their names, details, likes, dislikes, favourite colour (that old Sixties pop magazine question) and . . . weight?
Oh, and they mostly cited Lennon-McCartney/the Beatles (and Yes) as among their favourite musicians. Which explains their wah-wah treatment of the title track and the inclusion of McCartney's Helen Wheels.
Between the cover songs (Bread's Make It With You, Fleetwood Mac's Albatross, Bowie's Man Who Sold the World, the soul standard I'm Stone in Love With You and Kris Kristofferson's For the Good Times, so they were catholic in their taste) there are a few originals. Lead singer Alan Humber offers the bluesy Girl From the Isle of Wight.
This was the second of three albums from this band from the Midlands who took their name from a New York restaurant (and added that extra M) and played four consecutive seasons at Camber Sands holiday park . . . which tells you why all the covers.
They were “popular entertainers” and played cabaret, and apparently singer Humber would pepper in some stand-up comedy, a career he pursued when he quit the band in '79.
And I have this because . . ?
It really was the trousers.
Addrisi Brothers; Addrisi Brothers (1977)
It was the tans really. And that it was on Buddah, the bubblegum pop label . . . but was recorded in Nashville although the cover fairly shouts LA.
But a little background research informed that they were part of the family acrobatic group (hence the “Flying Addrisi's”) t-shirt on Don. Or is it Dick?
By the time of this album – which is pretty good – they had been in music for two decades and they wrote Never My Love which was a huge hit for the Association and became a pop standard and covered by dozens of pop and jazz artists. They also had a minor hit with it when they included it on this album, but mostly here they opt for the dancefloor (Does She Do It Like She Dances, which are just about all the lyrics too).
Slow Dancin' Don't Turn Me On (“somebody play some rock'n'roll") almost sounds like an anti-disco song and went to number 20 on the US charts.
Sometimes buying by the cover can be an amusing folly, but in this instance I was pleased to pull this off the shelf and give it another play. Only its second bout on the turntable actually, but I can confidently say it will come out again in another decade or so to be enjoyed anew.
Sarah Hickman; Equal Scary People (1989)
It was the cover really. That's what put me off playing it from the time it arrived until the other day for the purposes of this article. It just looked terrifyingly good natured and right up until I dropped the needle on it I had presumed Hickman -- who recorded this debut album in Texas -- was some kind of wacky comedienne. The Carmen Miranda-on-acid cover lead me to that conclusion.
Turns out she's a rather good singer-songwriter who has something to say (the Joni-like Song for my Father, the title track) who also covers James Brown's It's a Man's World in a brooding, broken and soulful treatment.
The song Why Don't You is a nice piece of confusion and yearning ("all the other boys can appreciate that what I offer isn't second rate, why don't you?") and there's enough here -- located between Paul Simon's slick economy and Suzanne Vega -- to be rather impressive.
Hickman went on to a considerable career, always had a political conscience (she has done Good Works and been acknowledged by many orgaisations) and also sung for children and ad agencies.
And it all began on this fine debut for Elektra . . . . which I have discovered a mere 27 years later. She's smart, so she's on Spotify with this and other albums.
Insulin Reaction; What's the Point (1988)
This fatalistic duo of Tracy Lee and Angela M Garcia (with helpers) simply gave up if the album title is anything to go by. They couldn't even be bothered putting in the question mark.
They were industrial Goths who recorded this in California for the Bobok label out of Tucson and sound hugely influenced by the Cure and Joy Division.
Seems they did a few albums and cassettes, and the real point of interest is they deployed two basses and no guitar.
It a tough call and very dated (and despite two basses sounds very thin.)
Cannot begin to imagine how it ended up at my place, but it is going quickly back onto the shelf and I doubt it will come out again until well after I've played the Addrisi Brothers again. Somewhat surprisingly this is on Spotify.
Detective; It Takes One to Know One (1977)
Oddly enough I have both studio albums by the American band Detective (on Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label), and I know exactly why I bought them. (Other than they were in a three-for-$10 bin).
The lead singer was English actor (and former husband of groupie Pamela De Barres) Michael Des Barres, and I first saw him an episode of the television show WKRP in Cincinnati where he played the lead singer of a British punk band called Scum of the Earth . . . which was kinda funny because later he would be in a band with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols.
Des Barres had a lot of big and small screentime (he was in To Sir With Love in '67) and you could catch him in Roseanne, Seinfeld, MacGyver, Frasier and others. He's very distinctive looking (that's him on the left of the cover of this, their second album.)
Detective were a pretty solid, raunchy rock'n'roll band and Des Barres was a more than decent singer.
But they lacked the killer punch (hit singles) and despite opening for Kiss and having a good reputation they folded after recording a third album. But I've never seen it and it may have even gone unreleased.
Des Barres carried on with other bands and solo albums but was also making a decent whack out of his screen appearances.
I'm quite certain I played both of my Detective albums once. Now I've played them twice. But still can't remember a single damn song off either. (Yep, they wanted to be commercial so this is on Spotify)
The Thinking Fellers Union Local 282; Tangle (1989)
Because of the circumstances of its purchase I know exactly why this one is on the shelf . . . and I'd read their name often in the late Eighties and laughed aloud each time. But all I knew was that they were fairly out-there and came from California (San Francisco as it turned out).
I bought this secondhand in the States within a few weeks of its release (not a good sign) but when I came home it just went into the stack along with a bunch of other records I'd picked up.
After that it went onto a shelf to languish.
By the time they achieved a measure of fame beyond the cult I had been reading about – they signed to Matador shortly after this album – others back home were talking about them.
I remember seeing a CD, but never heard that either.
Yet when I dropped the needle on this one, their second album, the first song Sister Hell was immediately familiar with its Eraserhead bass and gloom and shouty “Every time I look at you, you look away”.
There's a lot of “experimental noise” after that with samples, distortion, trash and thrash rhythms, guitar abuse . . .
It's rather good. But, as they in the boardroom, “I can't hear a single”.
Spotify seemed to reject this in a search.
Mood jga jga; Mood jga jga (1975)
And out of Canada they came . . . and went after just two albums, this their first.
Bought secondhand obviously and some time after they had long disappeared judging by its battered appearance, this one goes perilously close to jazz-rock as imagined by Elton John in his country-funk mode (pianist Hermann Fruehm gets plenty of space but there are bass solos and such).
Real attention should however alight in the excellent guitarist Greg Leskiw who had previously been in Guess Who (which I didn't know until I hauled this out and checked out their credentials).
They were certainly ambitious musically (Daybreak nudges into prog, there's some dreamscape stuff on Kill the Hangman, Come and See Me is close-harmony folk-rock with cello) and they were in a safe pair of hands with producer Phil Ramone in New York.
On the evidence of this – which of course has dated a little – they might have been contenders and a minor discovery if you appreciate good musicianship.
I feel I've let them down by only getting around to playing this 41 years after it was released.
Still, a decade after Pet Sounds they posed for a photo with a donkey so . . .
Trotsky Icepick; El Kabong (1989)
For many years – in fact even quite recently – I would throw this US band's name into conversations when people were talking about obscure artists. I don't think they were particular unknown – they did quite a few albums – but so few people in New Zealand have heard of them that it stops things dead and you can collect your thoughts.
This was one of the many albums which turned up from SST when I was corresponding with them in the late Eighties/early Nineties. And not only did I love the band name (it's a dark one if you know your Soviet history) but also the album title: It's the name of Quick Draw McGraw's Zorro-like vigilante alias in the cartoon series.
So between band name and album title they had both darkness and light.
It shames me then to confess that only now – more than 25 years after it landed on my desk – have I listened to it . . . to discover?
An excellent band of that era which has some of the staccato and brittle funk of Talking Heads and the menace of Britain's Magazine (whose Light Pours Out of Me they cover). They also manage a serviceable guitar pop-rock song (the strange story of Unbuttoned).
Seems Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr Bungle etc) played bass for them briefly.
Good band, good record, good belated discovery. (And didya get the Clash reference on the cover?) Pleased to note it's on Spotify.
Big Lucky, Big Amos, Don Hines: River Town Blues (1970)
Because I was in a famous record shop in Memphis I had to buy something, but not just anything. It had to be . . . not "cool" but a record that looked like I knew what I was doing there. And so, because this was a blues compilation of local artists I'd never heard of but was on the famous Al Green/Willie Mitchell label Hi Records, this had to be the one. I think I also bought this Irma Thomas collection for the car . . . and at least I played that.
This collection came home and got filed alongside blues album I have played dozens of times. It's passable but hardly exciting and Big Lucky Carter gets half of the 12 tracks, but Don Hines' two tracks -- a fine Stormy Monday Blues and the r'n'b pop of Please Accept My Love -- are among the best.
It's mostly timeless, small band blues but Big Amos Patton's Going to Vietnam puts it in that period. And he has a gutsy sound on I'm Gone.
I'm glad I bought it (because the old guy behind the counter nodded approvingly) but it's just going back on the shelf. Probably won't play it again.
The Creepshow; Fu Man Chu (1984)
And there is nothing to be said here, move on folks. For reasons beyond explanation -- the cover perhaps? -- I had this reducto-surf punk/Swinging Chick From Transylvania nonsense (from Reading in the UK on Criminal Damage Records) buried between great American blues artists.
It's an EP . . . . but even at just four songs a side at 45rpm it seems very-very-very long.
Surfing With Satan lacks either surf or Satanism, and I Keep on Ringing -- which is an almost comedic-punk rewrite of Keep on Knocking -- outstays its welcome.
I hope they all managed to get jobs after the band folded, as it must have.
We would hope so.
Still. I bought it. $4 secondhand absolute tops.
Mercifully, no one from the band -- Bluto, Kingy, Will and Pete, sensibly not annnoucing their surnames to save their long-suffering parents further embarrassment -- was encouraged to continue a career.
Geez, I hope not!
What a way to go out on this trawl through the unplayed . . .
There was maybe a divine purpose at work?