November 20th, 1982

Polly Wog Stew CoverBefore the Berlin Wall fell, before Cookie Puss and Professor Booty. Before Return of the Jedi. Before Lost, Seinfeld, Moonlighting and Breaking Bad. Before the Challenger exploded. Before Full Metal Jacket, the Hubble Telescope, and Mullet Heads. Before The Clash broke up. Before I’d survived my first Wisconsin winter. Before the World Wide Web, Flash and MP3s. Before Mad Cow, Def Jam and Netty’s Girl. Before the Dust Brothers and the Chemical Brothers. Before Cheers closed. Before Jimmy James, Country Mike and the Nervous Assistant. Before Nintendo, Powerpoint and CD-ROM. Before Johnny Ryall, Brass Monkey, BS 2000, the Tibetan Freedom Concert, Grand Royal, and the prequels. Before Ad-Rock…

There was Polly Wog Stew.

Released on November 20th, 1982 on NYC’s Rat Cage Records. Listen here.

RIP MCA

Polly Wog Stew BackPolly Wog Stew Label

Album Write-up: Fever Tree’s 1968 Debut Album, Fever Tree

CoverSide 1

Phantom of the Opera meets the Wild West in this opening track to Fever Tree’s debut album. Vocalist Dennis Keller kicks in with his chain-smoked-laden-raspy-gnarls-of-enthusiasm as the rest of this hipped out mob feverishly (see what I did there?) jams along in the background. (As with most of these write-ups, I’m listening to the album as I write.) This album is beginning to show signs of being really far out, brother! Fever Tree’s brand of late 60’s psychedelia peaked at only 156 on the Billboard 200 Chart. Not difficult to imagine as 1968 brought us The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society and what is now known as The White Album, to name only a few.

Although subsequent albums provided higher charting numbers, Fever Tree’s only single came from this album; (Track 3’s) San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native).  Sitting in my office smothered by the year 2013 and all that has preceded it, I imagine a parallel between listening to this album now, and a Texas band in 1968 singing about long legs in the San Francisco bay. “Those San Francisco girls with their San Francisco ways.” Ok. No one ever sang a song about the pretty girls in Camden, NJ; at least not in 1968, and certainly not on Universal City Records.

This album jams, man! Prime rhythms with snake-like guitar solos accompanied by a sprinkle of organ for good measure, all under a forceful bed of scratchy lyrics. For me, however, the album really picks up on Track 5’s, Man Who Paints the Pictures. Like a locomotive overtaken by banditos and raging down the rails through open fields of flower potted children and face painting stereotypes, Man Who Paints the Pictures finds its abrupt end with the start of Filigree & Shadow (which plays like a song that could accompany a Shakespearean play at a Tech College in rural Wisconsin). It’s a shame William Shatner couldn’t have covered this track on his groundbreaking, The Transformed Man LP. It would have fit in perfectly. Side 1 has its moments, and Man Who Paints the Pictures is its peak.

End of Side 1

I bet these guys got laid a lot.Dennis Keller Look at those chops!

Being thicker than a $5 malt, I had no idea that the Fever tree was the name of an actual tree. The acacia xanthophloea to be exact, and apparently photosynthesis takes place in the tree’s bark, which supposedly is pretty rare. So, there you go. No need to attend your Dendrology class today (courtesy of The Prudent Groove).

Side 2 offers more of the same “good time Charlie” music. Like a soothing blanket on a brisk fall evening, the Fever Tree provides uplifting lyrics and whimsical melodies on The Sun Also Rises. Although that statement may be painfully obvious, its simplicity, however overlooked, provides a sense of comfort and optimism for what each new day can bring. It’s all about the love, man. You dig?

The Fever Tree try their hand at some Lennon / McCartney material on Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out. Nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s always interesting to hear a familiar song through a new perspective.

The majority of the second side is much more subdued in comparison to the jam-heavy first side. And that’s fine, it just creates a distinctive separation between the two sides. Perhaps this is done by design. If you’re in the mood to jam, side A is your friend. If you’re in the mood to go all the way, side B may just put her in the mood.

BackOverall, Fever Tree’s debut album provides over 34 minutes that capture a specific state of (reality deluded) mind; a sense of what I can only imagine as being daydreamy-Utopia towards what the potential future could bring. Unfortunately for Fever Tree and the rest of the hip cats and chicks in 1968, that time would prove to be short lived. But thankfully, bands like Fever Tree, with their obscure releases, can take us to a time we will never know, and leave us longing for another trip back.

End of side 2.

Mercury Records Thinks You’re An Unmitigated Muttonhead

Do you own records? Do you use them for flatware when all your dishes are dirty, then wonder why your favorite Yes song constantly skips? Are you lazy and order your kids to flip to the B-side of Moe Bandy’s Greatest Hits just after they’ve housed an entire box of Klondike Bars? Are you just not too fond of common sense? If you answer “yes” to any of these, you’re EXACTLY like me and are in desperate need of an easy to follow, step-by-step guide to help you best manage the quality of your record collection.

Thankfully, Mercury Records is there for us nitwits in our record neglecting times of need.

Your Records are Worth Caring for…

Mercury Records Logo

(Courtesy of Mercury Records)

You buy a record because you like it. Each time you add a record to your collection, you’re building up your personal library of musical favorites. Here’s how to make sure each record you own gives you maximum pleasure each time you play it.

Step 1

 

1. Avoid getting fingerprints or smudges on the playing surface. Handle the record by its edges, or by one edge and the center label.

Step 2

 

2. Hold the record jacket against you and buckle it when removing or replacing records.

 

Step 3

 

3. Remove surface dust before playing records. Do this by gently wiping the record with a slightly damp soft cloth or a specially treated record cloth available at your record dealer.

Step 4

 

4. Store record albums upright as you would books. Single records should be kept in a rack but may be staked or stored vertically with your albums.

Mercury Record - Caring

Album Review-ish: Calypso Holiday – The Norman Luboff Choir

C CoverThis playful little selection sounds exactly like one would imagine by the parrot-laden cover and a title that is about as on-the-nose as could be humanly conceived. Throwaway titles for this album could have been: Riding the Coattails of the Rising Star, Harry Belafonte and His Successful Calypso Sound and This is Calypso Music, You Narrow-Minded Yankee.

Ok, I’ll admit, the only other Calypso music I’ve been exposed to was indeed Harry Belafonte, so this write-up isn’t going to be anything near groundbreaking (not that there would be any worry of that to begin with).  So, that having been stated, here goes:

This is an exceptionally fun album! The singers, both male and female HAD to be sore with grinning stretch marks from the making of this album. It’s good-time music. Plain and simple. Did your dog just knock over his water dish for the 17th time during the last commercial break of Gentle Ben? This album will help cheer you up. Did you just find out that your spouse has been secretly cheating on you with your younger sibling and that the raised papules on your skin sustained while swimming in that lake in early June may in fact be Swimmer’s Itch? Calypso Holiday will free you from this and seemingly ANY First World trouble.

So, Wikipedia tells me that, ahem, “Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from African and European roots.” Being neither African nor European, I proceed to Google “Trinidad and Tobago. “ Well, Oxnard California this is not! The women are beautiful (and wearing next to nothing), and that has GOT to be some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen (Probably Photoshopped). I’ve never had any sizable itch to travel south of San Diego, but a Port of Spain vacation has just made my bucket list.

Focus track for side 1: Dance de Limbo (Track 6). I challenge any of you to listen to this song and NOT nod your head to the simple pleasures of the religiously pure Calypso sound. Think back about that pool of water on your kitchen floor… You are now getting thoughts of raiding the closet for a broom with which to start a Limbo. Get to the back of the line, buddy, and fix me another Flying Masturbator. (It Exists)

End of side 1

Back

The first track on side 2, Sound de Fire Alarm begins an awful lot like Belafonte’s Jump in the Line (Shake Senora). I’m going to be thinking of this song while the “several-times-daily” fire trucks roll by my window to the rescue of some poor cat stranded up in a tree. Do cats still climb trees on LA’s west side?

Columbia Records put out this release in 1957, just 1 year after RCA’s release of Belafonte’s appropriately, and also on-the-nose album titled simply, Calypso. That album, having been only Belafonte’s 3rd, went on to sell over a million copies and spent 99 weeks on the U.S. Billboard charts. So, Columbia Records, being nether based in Columbia NOR, seemingly, having a creative bone in their corporate skeleton, decided to cash in on Mr. Belafonte’s raging success. As I’d mentioned, Belafonte is the only other Calypso artist I know, but I can promise that you’ll only read his name 1 more time during this write-up. Belafonte.

Allmusic.com doesn’t rate Calypso Holiday, or even provide an album cover. What type of flabbergasting tomfoolery is this! Somebody should write a letter. Here is their address:

AMG Headquarters

1168 Oak Valley Drive

Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Mr. Luboff unfortunately met his demise in September of 1987. I was eight then, and it would be close to fifteen years until I would even hear the poor man’s name. Well, he was talented, so I doubt he was poor, just poor in the sense that he’s now dead. For all I know he may have wanted to die, which would mean his death wasn’t poor at all. He had lung cancer which, I imagine doesn’t feel like a dip in the Caribbean Sea. Maybe his death was something of a sweet Calypso melody, softly kissing the ears of another eager listener. His NYT Obituary can be found here, if you’re into that kind of thing: Obit

Well, now I feel bad, having ended such an uplifting album on a morose disposition.  The inevitable Yin to the Calypso Yang, I guess.

Quickly, the back cover suggests “Records sound best on Columbia phonographs.” So, remember that the next time you’re shopping for your next hi-fi home stereo system. Or don’t. I won’t know.

Jerry Lee Lewis vs. The Pirates

Anti-Piracy InsertI found this sleeve insert hiding inside a 1976 Mercury Records release of a Statler Brothers album. The story strives to inform the record owner of the hundreds of millions of dollars lost to 8-Track pirates. Bruce Meyer, who was apparently a UPI feature columnist, writes the story that still seems relevant some nearly four decades later. Jerry Lee Lewis makes a cameo.

Here is the story for your reading pleasure:

Buyers Bulletin

Tape Piracy… Everyone’s Problem

            Next time you’re out shopping for records or tape—watch for pirates. Not the kind with skull and crossbones and rusty cutlasses—watch for music pirates. There are plenty of them around and, like their 18th Century colleagues, they’re breaking the law, to the tune of $200 million a year.

The modern pirates’ racket is duplicating and selling sound recordings that don’t belong to them, usually as a tape cassette or an eight-track cartridge. Their income goes right into their own pockets.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Lewis One-Man Pirate Smasher

While many recording artists have actively engaged in promoting the fight against antipiracy by appearing before state legislatures and acting as witnesses in court cases, Jerry Lee Lewis has taken the bull by the horns.

John Polk, RIAA investigator based in Nashville, told a NARM antipiracy seminar, that Lewis recently pulled up to a gas station in the south and noticed a rack of pirate tapes in the station. He asked who owned the rack and when told that an unidentified man serviced it weekly from the truck of his car, Lewis took the rack outside the station and smashed it. When the station operator asked him what he should do when the route man came and asked what happened to his rack, Lewis replied: “Tell him ‘Killer’ was here.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________

A music pirate simply buys a record or tape and—without authorization from the company that released the original—makes copies of it. The copies are sold to wholesalers or retailers—or sometimes directly to the consumer.

The price of a pirate tape is usually lower than the original simply because the pirate can make huge profits at a lower retail price. He has none of the expenses of a legitimate recording company. The pirate picks only hit recordings, which means he supports none of the thousands of unknown artists legitimate companies carry at a loss in their search for the music the public wants to hear. The pirate pays no royalties to the performers whose work he steals and usually makes only token payments to music publishers to maintain a semblance of legitimacy.

Piracy flourished despite both federal and state laws against it. Recordings released before February 15, 1972, are protected under the laws of 26 states. Recordings made and releases since that date are covered by the Federal Copyright Law (as amended by Public Law 92-140).

Piracy hurts the record companies, of course. The $200 million that pirates pick up represents some 10 per cent of the total for the music industry and more than one-third of the legitimate industry’s tape sales. But it also hurts the artists, the unions, music publishers and honest retailers and wholesalers who refuse to handle pirated recordings. And in the long run, it’s bound to hurt you—the record buyer—because your money is going not to support the performers you enjoy, but to line the pockets of a criminal.

Watch for pirate recordings. The easiest way to spot them is the label.

IS THERE A PHOTOGRAPH?

Legitimate companies spend a great deal of money to make their products look attractive. Besides quality, multi-color printing, nearly all legitimate tapes and records have professional cover art. But pirate recordings usually have plain labels, often nothing more than a listing of title, artist and the names of the songs.

IS THERE MORE THAN ONE ARTIST ON THE SAME TAPE?

At times legitimate record companies put more than one artist on a record or tape, but it is rare. However, pirates frequently put together tapes composed of the current top hits, therefore many artists are represented. These tapes are often called “The Big Hits” or “Top 20” etc. Make sure you check these multi-artist tapes before purchasing.

WHAT IS THE PACKAGING LIKE?

Also record companies use distinctive cover art for each album and tape, generally depicting the artists in some way. Pirates seldom use photos or drawings of the artists and multicolor printing and art work is rare. Often just a list of tunes and artists appear on the cover and the same design can be used over and over with the titles changed to fit the piece of product. Even the shrink-wrap around an album or tape can tell the story. Legitimate product is professionally wrapped and fits tightly. Pirate tapes and albums usually fit loosely.

IS THERE A STATEMENT ON THE LABEL, something like “Copyright Law complied with” or “Fees and royalties paid”? If there is, it’s probably a pirate; legitimate companies have no need to put such statements on their labels.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU SPOT A PIRATE?

Contact your local police and describe to them exactly what you observed. (In most cities, music piracy is handles by the Bunko-Forgery Division). They will know which local, state, or federal laws may apply.

Alternatively, contact your local Phonogram distributor, the distributor for any legitimate recording company, or the local representative of the Recordings Industry Association of America (RIAA).

It’s up to those who are being injured by the pirates to stop them. That includes those in the records and tapes industry…. and you…

Story by Bruce Meyer UPI feature columnist.

8-tracks

So, Jerry Lee Lewis smashed a rack of 8-Track tapes. Ok, but who had to clean it up?