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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
April 2005

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

TONY MASON COX / Heartfelt (No Label)
Receiving this in the mail with a blurred photograph on the cover of a man undergoing some kind of open-heart surgery made me immediately suspect it was some kind of Cold Wave/Industrial action, but then looking on the back of the CD I was startled to see headshots of what looks like a late 50s/early 60s bespectacled middle class suit-type. That coupled with song titles like "Milk", "Dads", "If I Hurt You", "If You Hurt Me", and "Alabamy Jail" made me totally confused. And the liner notes certainly didn't help things. Tony Mason-Cox is an Australian insurance salesman whose notes verify that indeed, he refused a triple-bypass in favor of being operated on by a Philippine spiritual surgeon, while awake, in 1995 and the bloody mess on the cover was real. A firm believer in reincarnation, the surgeon was believed to be a God-chosen medium to help heal. If that isn't enough, Mason-Cox believes that he was the medium himself for an 1800's Negro slave from Alabama, who spoke through him as he sang a capella into a tape recorder booming hymns of picking cotton and being locked in jail; the a capella recordings were then backed by a jazz band on this CD. Phew. Mason-Cox's "originals" also are totally surreal, almost like Ivor Cutler gone smooth jazz, though Cutler charms and this distresses. File under "real people" I guess.

VARIOUS / Yellow Pills: Prefills (Numero )
I guess if there's a real testimonial to the influence of power-pop in this world, it's that it lives in a select few bands that carry the torch (did you see those GBV records on E-Bay for $1000?) This immaculately packaged 2CD anthology compiled for Numero by Jordan Oakes is a healthy slab of the 80s bands that slipped through the cracks. More Flamin' Groovies than Beatles, the Yellow Pills aesthetic started with Oakes' fanzine in 1990, growing into a series of CDs in the mid-90s that touched upon the greater and lesser known cornerstones of small town USA pop that thought big: 20/20, Shoes, the Plimsouls to name a few who should have grabbed AM radio glory but sadly did not. Here is a deeper exploration into Oakes' massive archive of collector-slobber-worthy obscuro pop nuggets thoughtfully presented. You get the neglected Speedies from NYC, produced by Blondie's Clem Burke with some Warhol nods, the Sparks-like LMNOP, the Tweeds, Trend, Luxury and more of the great Shoes. But the booklet in itself is of great value as well, sharing the true feeling of the buzz of plundering record bins to find stuff you just knew was good by how it looked, and discovering the unassuming that came out of nowhere to carry the torch of Badfinger, Raspberries, Big Star, etc. Great, great collection.

LITTLE HOWLIN' WOLF / Singles Collection (Heresee)
Baltimore noise junk mavens Nautical Almanac are behind this CDR issue of some stark, raw 45s from James Pobiega, a 6'9" Polish man from Chicago, whom in the 70s and 80s recorded and performed under the moniker Little Howlin' Wolf. While the inspiration for his namesake can clearly be heard in his gravelly voice and rib-sticking electric raw guitar lines, this stuff is all home-recorded, whatever-goes stabs at genres of all kinds from calypso to New Orleans funereal marches, sometimes overlapped in the same track while overdubbed monotonous drums patter away. Comparisons are even made to Albert Ayler (whose "Ghosts" can be ascertained in the melody lines quite often), but the drifting time signatures and overlapping ideas are purely in line with other primitive geniuses like Abner Jay (if Abner had access to a 4-track I think he would have sounded more like this).

JEAN-CLAUDE VANNIER / L'enfant Assassin Des Mouches (Finders Keepers)
Wow! What a killer record. Vannier was a David Axelrod-like French composer whose soundtrack and studio work was based on total intuition rather than academia; his years playing Algerian clubs exposed him to multiple genres of music and exotic instrumentation that he carried into his arrangements with assorted French pop stars, both mainstream and experimental. Vannier is well known for bringing Brigitte Fontaine into a sublime sound world, and it wasn't long until the master himself Serge Gainsbourg was collaborating. Their legendary "Histoire de Melody Nelson" became a fuzz-soaked funk template for DJs in the decades to come. This recording is a conceptual LP created around Gainsbourg's texts, and it breaks down all the barriers of pop, psychedelic rock and musique concrete melding them into a giant wad of brain-melting sound.

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