Boneyard Media


Archive for January, 2008

The Point (1971): The Rock Man sets it straight

Monday, January 28th, 2008

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You can get The Point on DVD now, and if you grew up in the seventies, you’ll probably find watching it to be a cozy experience. It’s got animation by Fred Wolf (the same man who did, among other things, Free to Be You and Me as well as Tony the Tiger and Jolly Green Giant ads), music by Harry Nilsson (the whole thing was his idea in the first place), narration by Ringo Starr, and little Bobby Brady (Mike Lookinland) as Oblio. What especially hit the spot this time around was the Rock Man scene (a giant stone mountain with mouth and eyes), in which some ace mimic invokes the long departed voice of Lord Buckley.

The Rock Man sets it straight, from The Point

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Have a Cigar, Boys: Checking in with Kendell Kardt of Rig

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

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Rig – Rig (1970)

Not long ago I found this album by a group called Rig at an east Texas thrift shop – I saw it was a Capitol release and recognized the name of Elliott Mazer (of Neil Young’s Harvest fame) who was listed as a co-producer. It had obviously been listened to many times over, and because I’m instantly drawn to mysterious records that appear to have served some kind of purpose to someone, I took it home.

What I heard was an appealing batch of early seventies Americana-rock songs dressed in piano and pedal steel and featuring lyrics that placed the album (released in 1970) right in step with an era that also gave us Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, The Band LP, and Jesse Winchester’s debut. I especially responded to the songwriting of pianist/vocalist Kendell Kardt. At once evocative and playful, his songs had a way of sticking in my head. My favorite is “Have a Cigar” (give it a listen at the end of this post) which opens up the album and zeroes in on cigar-smoking as a time-honored ritual accompanying the act of conquest. You can take it literally or figuratively – it pleases either way, and musically, it’s got a latin-tinged instrumental refrain that’s hard not to love.

My curiosity got the best of me, so through a bit of sleuthing and good luck, I was able to get in touch with Kardt, who’s currently working as a professional pianist in the New Jersey/New York area (when we first talked on the phone he was driving to his regular rehearsal gig with the New Jersey Ballet Company). He was gracious enough to field my questions, and here are some of the things I found out: The group’s deal with Capitol happened after a label scout caught them at New York’s legendary Electric Circus. This happy turn of events got them into the good graces of promoter Bill Graham and landed them high profile spots at Fillmore East. The group’s core lineup at this point was Kardt, guitarist Artie Richards, and bassist Don Kerr (who wrote the album’s beautiful closer, “Last Time Around”). With its eye-catching cover art featuring the trio’s profiles, the final product has the look and feel of a true group effort.

But this “group” aspect was as much of a “too many cooks” hindrance as it was a help, Kardt feels, because the band members and producers weren’t able to agree on a unifying purpose during the recording sessions. A shame, he says, because the group did have a true essence that never translated over onto tape. And the label’s own vision of how Rig should sound hardly made things any easier. “Internal friction is finally what caused the band to fall apart,” says Kardt, who was presented with the option of working on a second Rig album with a line up of his own choosing, or going off on his own to make a solo album. He didn’t feel it was fair to appropriate the group’s name, so he chose the latter. (Kardt, incidentally, is still in touch with Richards, although neither of them have been able to locate Kerr.)

Capitol, then, recognizing Kardt’s own prolific songwriting talent as an asset, flew him to California to record a new set of songs as a solo album. Having access to members of the Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage, Kardt was able to enlist their help and finished up the album to his liking. But in classic music biz fashion, particularly in the volatile early 70s, personnel changes and priority shifts led to the album’s unceremonious shelving. “It was that common situation where the artist is trying to accomplish something, but the business pressure makes it almost impossible,” he says.

By the early 80s, Kardt quit working as a solo performing songwriter in favor of the workhorse piano gigs he’s taking to this day. But ever the artist, Kardt does continue writing and recording in his home studio, even though he feels, as most any artist would, that “it really helps to get even the smallest sense that someone’s listening.” So add Kendell Kart’s LP to your list of Great Lost Albums to keep an eye out for, and let’s hope that that – along with other unreleased material from both his past and present – will see the light of day sometime soon. I, for one, will be listening.

(I’m posting two versions of “Have a Cigar” here. The first one is taken directly from the Rig LP, but the second one is a later demo version I’ve received from Kendell and which he’s given me permission to post. It’s a live take from 1971 that he recorded as a publishing demo for some of the artists Bill Graham was managing. I really love its spontaneous, energetic vibe. He was a solo artist at this point, so you can get a sense of how his other work might have sounded.)

Rig – “Have a Cigar” (1970)

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Kendell Kardt – “Have a Cigar (demo) (1971)

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posted by Kim Simpson

 

Song ID: The Beau Brummels – “God Help the Teenagers Tonight” (1965)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

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A prayer for our times. The Beau Brummels offered up this track in the mid-sixties, then promptly tossed it into the discard bin. The group, incidentally, has one of the most generously endowed discard bins in rock. It finally did show up for the first time on Rhino’s 2005 limited edition Magic Hollow box set, which is now out of print but mandatory, along with Sundazed’s San Fran Sessions (also out of print) if you have any interest in getting a truthful overview of the Brummels. See here for my dream “Best of the BBs” compilation.

R.I.P.: Beau Brummels drummer John Peterson passed away November 11, 2007.

The Beau Brummels – “God Help the Teenagers Tonight” (1965)

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Suzi Quatro Phase I: The Pleasure Seekers

Friday, January 18th, 2008

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When Suzi Q. showed up on Happy Days as Pinky Tuscadero’s bass-thumping sister Leather, that’s the first most Americans had heard of her. For those of you keeping track of the nation’s shortcomings, the fact that Suzi never made the Top 40 here before 1979 (the regrettable “Stumblin’ In” with Chris Norman) certainly ought to make the list. Little did Happy Days viewers know that she’d long been reigning supreme on the British charts in the early seventies with insanely great singles like “Can the Can,” “48 Crash,” “Daytona Demon” and “Devil Gate Drive.” But I wonder how many who might have already known this bit of info also knew that she’d played in a blistering Detroit fab fivesome along with her sisters Patti and Arlene in the late sixties? I knew nothing of these early years until my friend Jim recently got me all up to speed and sent me some fine pics of the girls looking like Shangri-La cousins. Best of all, he let me hear their debut 1967 single: the moody “Never Thought You’d Leave Me” backed with what must be the original and ultimate bad girl rock and roll anthem, “What a Way to Die.” Have a listen yourself.

(Suzi’s the one in the group photo above drummer Darline, who’s sitting on the floor.)

The Pleasure Seekers – “Never Thought You’d Leave Me” (1967)

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The Pleasure Seekers – “What a Way to Die” (1967)

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Pocket Pet Sounds

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

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Jim Fusilli, Pet Sounds (2005)

I’d love it even more if they’d do a book about the Osmonds (I actually sent in a proposal once) or Bay City Rollers, but Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of little books about influential albums has still been a lot of fun. Their Pet Sounds volume was written by novelist and Wall Street Journal arts columnist Jim Fusilli, and you’ve got to admire his willingness to take on a subject so many have already written about. He’s got a right to, and that’s pretty much the point of his book, that Pet Sounds is such a deeply personal expression that’s presented in such a universally appealing way that it still has the power, after all these years, to touch individual listeners deeply and make them feel as though it were written just for them. The Pet Sounds of Charles Granata, Kingsley Abbot, David Leaf and Brian Wilson himself is the same album with the same unchangeable history, but its contents are so rich and its influence so expansive that it gives Fusilli and you and me all kinds of room to call it our own and maybe even publish something about why.

The book is definitely a “think piece” – there are no clear reasons why Fusilli’s divided the chapters the way he has, so it ends up feeling like a little book of pocket Pet Sounds meditations that you’re more inclined to dip into rather than read cover to cover. I do wish that the “personal meaning” aspect of his book would have compelled Fusilli to interact with the album even more on a personal level than he does in the book. I really love his introduction, where he talks about growing up in Hoboken and illustrating just how lifeguard-like the Beach Boys were to him as a doggie-paddling 1960s adolescent. It gives the book a Boys of Summer aura, and I, for one, was disappointed that he opted not to continue in such an aggressively first-person fashion. The book really crackles at the all too infrequent points when he does, though. (I think this approach is harder to pull off than it seems, although Ron Schaumburg did an especially fine job with his Growing Up with the Beatles back in the seventies.)

posted by Kim Simpson

Bozo’s Songs About Good Manners (1954)

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

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The old 1940s Bozo records appeared in the grand fashion of the day – two 78s and a book tucked inside what might nowadays be mistaken as an antique photo album. You could read along with the dialogue and take in the glorious full color illustrations until Bozo said it was “time to turn the page in your picture book.” When I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time at the house of a friend of mine who was the youngest of nine. His parents had started buying kids’ records in the fifties, so there was a lot of vintage stuff around. I fell deeply in love with their tattered copy of Bozo Under the Sea, which my friend actually ended up giving me. (I’ve still got it and I’m still thanking him for it after several decades.) Nowadays you can download at least four of these full albums (including Under the Sea), complete with book, at Kiddie Records Weekly. Last weekend I was going through some stuff and found a 45 version of Bozo’s Songs About Good Manners which I didn’t know I had. So here it is. Sorry ’bout those Rice Krispies in the background. I did what I could.

By the way, there’s been some controversy about Bozo’s origins. It turns out that the Bozo on Capitol Records – on these records I’m talking about – was officially the first one. Pinto Colvig, also the voice of Disney’s Goofy, did Bozo and many of the other voices on the records. The Bozo we know from The Bozo Show and elsewhere, however, developed a popular persona quite independent from the Capitol version. (Alas, another early 80’s cable flashback – remember when WGN used to show that? He’d say things like “ridicle-docle” for “ridiculous.”)

“Bozo’s Songs About Good Manners” (1954)

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