Friday, 9 October 2015

Garbage, Lady.

The GTOs (not to be confused with the male group who recorded for Parkway and scored a hit with a cover of the Beach Boys’ Girl From New York City) were a six or seven-piece girl ‘group’ consisting of Miss Pamela (Pamela Ann Miller, later to become better known as supergroupie Pamela Des Barres and author of the memoir I'm with the Band), Miss Sparky (Linda Sue Parker who, in 1976, would sing on Zappa’s Zoot Allures album), Miss Christine (Christine Frka, who would appear on the cover of Zappa’s Hot Rats album, was Moon Unit Zappa’s babysitter, helped boyfriend Vince Furnier become Alice Cooper  and who died tragically young after overdosing on prescription painkillers), Miss Sandra (Sandra Lynn Rowe, later Sandra Leano, who died of cancer in 1991), Miss Mercy (Judy Peters), Miss Lucy (Lucy Offerall, later Lucy McLaren), and Miss Cynderella (Cynthia Wells, later Cynthia Cale-Binion, at one point married to the Velvet Undrground’s John Cale and who died in 1997). Legend has it that the ladies were given their nicknames by Tiny Tim, who had a penchant for addressing all of the women he met (and the three he wed) as Miss something-or-other.

Although it is usually claimed that their acronym stands for Girls Together Outrageously (and indeed, that’s how it appears on the cover of their one and only album), according to Sid Hochman’s 1972 book Readings in Psychology, (which discusses the girls’ bisexual community and quotes several members of the commune), the GTOs began as ‘a community of seven girls between 18 and 21’ called Girls Together Only, living together in Frank Zappa’s Laurel Canyon log cabin. Miss Lucy (who does not perform on the album but who appeared in Zappa’s movie 200 Motels and sadly died in 1991 of an AIDS-related illness) stated in a filmed interview that Girls Together Only was their correct name.

Originally calling themselves the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company (and, for a short time, adopting the name of the legendarily awful, turn of the century vaudeville act The Cherry Sisters) the girls signed a contract with Zappa, who kept them on a retainer of $35 a week each. The GTOs toured with Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, appearing on stage as dancers and performing covers of songs as perverse as Getting to Know You from The King and I. According to Des Barres they ‘only played a few gigs, maybe four or five’, however, as well as appearing with Zappa and the Mothers they also performed with other Zappa-related acts including Alice Cooper and Wild Man Fisher.

Their only album, the Zappa-produced Permanent Damage, was released in 1969. And what a record it is.

Featuring contributions from Frank Zappa, Nicky Hopkins, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Lowell George, Russ Titleman, Ry Cooder and Monkee Davy Jones (who co-wrote the album’s closing track I'm In Love With The Ooo-Ooo Man and the Beefheart–inspired The Captain's Fat Theresa Shoes), Permanent Damage is in parts naïve, charming and thoroughly horrible. Songs are mixed in with conversations between the members of the group, their friends, and other ‘stars’ including the infamous Cynthia Plaster Caster and Rodney Bingenheimer, known as the Mayor of the Sunset Strip and one of Davy Jones’ stand-ins on The Monkees.

Some of you will love this, some will hate it. Personally although I can see the charm, I find the voices grating and the humour stilted. I’m not a Zappa fan, although I have a lot of time for many of the projects and acts he was involved with. I appreciate him for his boundary pushing and for challenging censorship, but I’ve always found him a bit too clever for his own good. Does humour belong in music? You be the judge.

It’s telling that Frank famously eschewed drugs (apart from caffeine, nicotine and a moderate amount of alcohol), yet members of the GTO’s – and other musicians involved in Permanent Damage - have freely admitted that they were often out of their heads, and this album screams acid trip. “We only lasted a short time because of the drug use,” Miss Mercy told interviewer Steve Olsen of Juice magazine in 2008. “Frank was very anti-drugs, and because of our drug use, he had to get rid of the GTOs.”

Miss Pamela has claimed that Lowell George was fired by Zappa for smoking marijuana (on leaving the Mothers of Invention George formed Little Feat: he died of a heroin overdose in 1979). Zappa himself died of prostate cancer in 1993; he dismissed the idea that it was in any way linked to his smoking. “To me, a cigarette is food,” He observed. “Tobacco is my favourite vegetable.” Frank’s wife, Gail, died earlier this week after a long battle with lung cancer.

Here are three of the songs from Permanent Damage: the album's opener The Eureka Springs Garbage Lady, its closing track I'm In Love With The Ooo-Ooo Man and the ode to Captain Beefheart, The Captain's Fat Theresa Shoes. 


Friday, 25 September 2015

Hector's House

No Post next week – I’m taking a well-deserved week off – so here’s a bumper bundle of badness to tide you over until I return.

I love 60s French pop music – the freakbeat stylings of Jacques Dutronc, the genius pop of France Gall’s Poupee du Cire and the nutso pairing of Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg for example – but why on earth would the world need a French Screaming Lord Sutch (or Screaming Jay Hawkins for that matter)?

Yet that’s exactly what it got in 1963 when Jean-Pierre Kalfon, better known under his stage name Hector, released a handful of records via Philips France.

Not to be confused with the French actor of the same birth name (that particular Monsieur Kalfon is eight years older than our Hector and would launch his own singing career later) our Jean-Pierre was born in 1946 and was only 15 years’ old when he became Hector, the flamboyant singer of the beat combo Les Mediators (which translates as The Picks). Stealing liberally from both Hawkins and Sutch – he used to emerge on stage from a coffin just as Hawkins (and later Sutch) had done – Hector would appear in white tie, tails and cape (as Sutch often did) accompanied (in a nod to James Brown) by his faithful valet Jerome. He was also known to emulate Sutch’s caveman look from time to time. His incredibly (for the time) long, bushy hair earned him the nickname The Chopin of Twist.

Hector et Les Mediators released one 45 single and two EPs (the preferred medium in France at the time) in 1963, including covers of such rock ‘n roll standards as Peggy Sue, Whole Lotta Shaking Going On and Something Else alongside material written specifically for him, including the diabolically awful Hawkins rip-off Je Vous Déteste (I Hate You). During his wild stage show, when he wasn’t imitating Sutch (who would later be photographed with Hector, holding his famous fake axe to the Frenchman’s neck) he would take off other stars of the day… including the Singing Nun! Like Sutch he was publicity-hungry, even going so far as to try and fry an egg on the flame at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

After a heated disagreement with Philips over the reissue of a brace of his old 50s covers on a then-current EP he left the company, and Les Mediators - Marc Schleck (lead guitar), Serge Mosiniak (bass), Gilbert Krantz (rhythm guitar) and William ‘Atomic Bill’ Roudil (drums) - behind him. Hector continued as a solo act for a couple of years, issuing EPs in 1964 for Ducaret Thompson (via Pathé Marconi) - Alligator/Mon Copain Johny//La Femme De Ma Vie/Hong Kong - and Polydor (Abab L’Arab [a cover of the Ray Stevens/Jimmy Savile novelty hit Ahab the Arab]/Il Faut Seulement Une Petite Fille//Le Gamin Couché [a cover of the Monkees-related US hit The Gamma Goochee]/A La Fin De La Semelle [a dire French language version of Otis Redding’s I've Been Loving You Too Long]).

After recording an (unreleased) cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ The Whammy he left France in 1967 and moved to Canada, where he dabbled in artist management and rubbed shoulders with Tony Roman, the man behind Mme St Onge, before returning to Paris and re-emerging in 1970 as part of the trio Hector, Tom et Jerry with the one-off 45 Un P’tit Beaujolais/La Societie. Tom et Jerry had previously recorded as a duo for RCA.

And that was that. No more releases. He became artistic director at Barclay Records and at Pathé Marconi before becoming an actor, appearing in Gomina (1973) and Marriage (The Wedding) (1975) with Jeane Manson. In 1983 Hector bought a packaging machine manufacturing plant in Seine-et-Marne, which he sold on four years later; the following year Philips issued Je Vous Déteste, a mini-album compilation of the six sides he recorded for the company. In more recent years he has made a living out of touring the French r’n’r revival scene.

Last year (2014) Hector resurfaced with several members of Les Mediators at the unveiling of a plaque to mark the Golf Drouot – a club where many of France’s top performers (including Hector et les Mediators) performed between 1955 and 1981.

Anyway, here’s a handful of Hector’s finest. Enjoy!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Jefferson, I Think We're Lost

I’ve been reading about – and listening to a lot of – R.E.M recently; reacquainting myself with one of the finest bands this world has ever seen. It doesn’t really matter if you like them or not, but take my word for it: even if you never got on with their records they were – quite simply – one of the best live acts I’ve ever been fortunate enough to see. I cannot count the number of times I saw that band live, from a pub in London (when they used the pseudonym Bingo Hand Job) to a TV studio in Paris: from a rugby stadium in Wales to the Hammersmith Odeon and a Victorian theatre in Dublin. When R.E.M played live it was a magical, cathartic experience. And I miss them. Although in my humble opinion they should have called it quits a few years before they did, and Around the Sun High Speed Train aside) is bollocks.

Anyway…to the point.

Issued in 1988 on his own Dog Gone Records label, the five track 12” EP Come On In Here If You Want To may be credited to Vibrating Egg but is actually a vanity project from former R.E.M manager Jefferson Holt.

Holt, who was with the band from its earliest days, was dismissed as manager of the world’s biggest act in 1996 – around the same time that they signed with Warners for what was one of the largest deals in recording history at the time: reportedly $80 million for five albums. Both camps have resolutely refused to talk about why he went – in fact the terms of the financial package means that they cannot legally discuss why he was booted out after 15 years’ service, but according to the Los Angeles Times (June 1996)  ‘Holt was asked to leave after members of the group investigated allegations that he sexually harassed a female employee at [their] tiny Athens, Ga., office.

The 42-year-old manager officially left the R.E.M. organization last week after receiving a hefty severance package, sources said. In a phone interview, Holt denied he had ever sexually harassed anyone and said that the decision to part ways with R.E.M. was mutual.

"I've agreed to keep the terms of my agreement with R.E.M. confidential," Holt said. "However, 15 years is a long time, and as time passed, our friendships have changed. I think we found as time passed that we have less and less in common. I've become more interested in other things in life and wanted to spend more time pursuing those interests. I'm happier than I have been in a long time."

Representatives for R.E.M. refused to comment, but released a statement Thursday that said the band and Holt terminated their relationship by mutual agreement. According to the statement, "the reasons for this decision and terms of the termination are private and confidential, and no further discussion of these matters will be made by any of the parties."

Band members were "shocked" when a female employee complained four months ago about Holt's alleged behaviour, one source said. The employee did not file a lawsuit nor register a claim with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, but complained to the band that Holt had harassed her with lewd remarks and demanded sexual favours, sources said.

Band members questioned Holt and then spent about three months investigating the allegations, sources said. In May, the band called a meeting and asked Holt to leave the organization, sources said.’ This same story has been repeated in other media, including the New York Times, but Peter Buck, R.E.M’s guitarist, strongly denied that anyone connected with R.E.M had planted the sexual harassment story. Whatever happened, Holt was quickly erased from R.E.M history. Two songs mention him – Little America and Can’t Get There From Here – however whenever they performed Little America live after his departure they changed the lyrics to avoid referencing him.
Reviewed by Trouser Press in 1988, Ira Robbins had this to say about Come On In Here If You Want To: ‘A 12-inch of five cool covers by an unknown band on an indie label would normally rate little notice, but Georgia's Vibrating Egg has more than just the good sense to dedicate its record to Leonard Cohen and Viv Stanshall. Raoul Duplott, the unsteady vocalist on these amiable renditions of Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale, Roky Erickson's Bermuda, an old spiritual and two of Alice Cooper's finest, is none other than Jefferson Holt, then-manager of R.E.M. and founder of the Dog Gone label, surrounded by a host of pseudonymous players. (Hmm...) Good fun, but Holt had best keep his day job.’  

‘Amiable renditions’? A Whiter Shade of Pale is eight and a half minutes of torture, with Holt’s pointless, artless prose followed by Keith Reid’s equally pointless and tortuous lyrics. Bermuda later turned up on the same Roky Erickson tribute album (Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye) that featured R.E.M’s version of I Walked With a Zombie. The two Alice Cooper covers - Be My Lover and Under My Wheels – even with their rewritten lyrics are plain awful. As far as I am aware, the only member of R.E.M who plays (and adds backing vocals) on the disc is bassist Mike Mills. Holt used the pseudonym Raoul Duplott for the project; Mills appears as William B Carr.

Long out of print, here are all five tracks from Come On In Here If You Want To – the aforementioned A Whiter Shade of Pale, Bermuda, Be My Lover and Under My Wheels, plus Particularly Zeke, a spiritual previously covered by Elvis Presley as Swing Down Sweet Chariot on his gospel album His Hand In Mine.


Friday, 11 September 2015

So Who Likes Gary Glitter?

So, who likes gary Glitter?

Ahh, the early 70s; a more simple time when our pop stars were not paedophiles and when the disc jockeys on the nation’s number one radio station were not scared that the next person to knock on the front door  would be a policeman.

Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart – born Edward Mainwaring in 1941 - is a British DJ and television presenter, best known for his years working for BBC Radio 1 between 1967 and 1980 (particularly Junior Choice) and BBC Radio 2 (1980-1983 and 1991-2006) and as one of the many presenters of Top of the Pops and Crackerjack on BBC Television. For many years he was also associated with the children’s TV magazine Look-In.

Although he began his broadcasting career with radio Hong Kong in 1961, he’s most closely associated with the BBC. Ed has had an often tempestuous relationship with them: in 1983, he was ousted – along with other old favourites including Pete Murray – by the controller of Radio 2 Bryan Marriott with the rather vicious remark: ‘I am not prepared to let the network stagnate. It is time to inject new blood into our programming, and there is no room for Ed Stewart.’ Ed was ‘shocked and disappointed’ at the sacking. ‘I don’t think I’m any more old hat than anyone else in the network’, he said. His replacement was Gloria Hunniford… 54 weeks older than him.

He had a rather outré private life, meeting his wife to be - ‘I arrived (at her parents) at 7pm and was greeted at the door by what I can only describe as a 13 year old apparition! She was simply stunning’ - when she was barely a teenager (and starting to date her at that age, according to his own autobiography, even though he was 30 at the time) and continuing to live with her after they divorced and she moved her lover in to their house.

But anyway, back to the music. Today’s cuts come from a prime slice of ham entitled Stewpot’s Pop Party, one of a number of albums released under Ed’s name during the 70s. As he was most closely associated with radio and TV shows aimed at children, most of Ed’s recordings feature him narrating (or attempting to sing) kid’s songs and nursery rhymes – his debut was the 1968 45 I Like My Toys, performed with the Save The Children Fund Choir, a cover version of the Jeff Lynne/Idle Race song.

Stewpot’s Pop Party is a kind of precursor to the awful Mini-Pops: in other words the album mostly consists of children singing pop songs of the day in the hope of appealing to other children and failing miserably. Pulled together as a kind of instant kids party - the album is awash with the background noise of laughing, squealing children; the gatefold cover features recipes and games and there’s even an insert with pre-printed party invitation. The record includes four tracks by TRex and one by the Move alongside several songs performed by ‘The Children’ and Stewart’s own inane narration…which, as you’ll hear, includes several references to well-known child molester Gary Glitter.

It’s a period piece from a more innocent age. And it’s truly rotten.


Friday, 4 September 2015

Absolute Insanity

Brian Wilson – 100% certified genius. The man behind some of the most beautiful pop music of all time. He wrote God Only Knows, easily one of the greatest songs of all time. His reputation should be unassailable.

But he also wrote Smart Girls… a song I would have all but forgotten about if I hadn’t been recording a podcast with The Squire recently.

Brian is a troubled soul; his mid-60s meltdown caused the abandonment of the Beach Boys’ Smile project (an approximation of this missing album finally surfaced in 2011 as part of the essential Smile Sessions box set), signalled the end of the Beach Boys as a major chart act and would lead to decades of pain for him and his family, years of substance abuse, and periods of virtual house arrest from his controversial therapist Eugene Landy before he finally re-emerged in 1988 with the rather wonderful Brian Wilson album an its’ hit single Love and Mercy. He’s since toured the world – both solo and with the band he founded – to great acclaim and released several albums of new and re-worked material.

Following the release of Brian Wilson he set to work on a second solo alum, originally to be titled Brian. He has said that the master tapes from the project – later titled Sweet Insanity - were stolen, although the songs were prepared for release (cassette promos exist) and have since appeared on numerous bootlegs. Five of the songs from the sessions were rerecorded and released on his 2004 album Gettin' in Over My Head, and one - The Spirit of Rock and Roll - which featured Bob Dylan on vocals, eventually turned up on the hard-to-find 2006 Beach Boys album Songs from Here & Back. However several of the songs remain officially unreleased to this day including the track I present for you here, Brian’s misjudged attempt at rap, Smart Girls. I’m breaking with tradition slightly by bringing you a recording that hasn’t officially seen the light of day, but I thought you’d enjoy it anyway.

Smart Girls – with a co-writer credit to Landy - was produced by Matt Dike, the co-founder of Delicious Vinyl and part of the production team behind hits by Tone Loc and Young MC, who chose to sample bits of earlier Beach Boys hits and sprinkle them liberally throughout the song. Wilson played the song on the air during an interview on Dr. Demento's show in 1992.

"Sweet Insanity was never really released,” Wilson said in an interview earlier this year. “You’ve got bootlegs, but it was never released. And I thought some of the stuff was pretty good. It wasn’t the best album I ever wrote. We just didn’t think it was good enough. They were just like demos. We recorded about 10-12 songs, and we decided not to put it because we thought that maybe people wouldn’t like it, so we junked it."

Good choice, Brian. The interviewer, Dave Herrera of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, asked Brian about Smart Girls: “Was that just you fooling around and having a good time?”

“Yeah, we were just having a good time,” Brian answered. “It was fun. We were just kidding. I felt like I was going in the right direction. I thought if I added a little bit more harmony, that people would like (that). Harmony is something that people love.”


Friday, 28 August 2015

She's A Little Lighthouse

In 1920 one of the most iconic masterpieces in cinema history, Robert Wiene's Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, shook filmgoers worldwide. This expressionist, minimalist horror film introduced the world to Conrad Veidt, playing the terrifying Cesare a somnambulist that can seemingly predict the future, and his ‘keeper’, the awful Doctor Caligari… and changed the direction of movies forever.

Hans Walter Conrad Veidt was born in Tieckstrasse, Berlin in January 1893 (many biographies incorrectly state that he was born in Potsdam). he was a poor student, leaving school in 1912 without his diploma, yet within a year he was appearing on stage - in Shaw's The Doctor at the prestigious Deutsches Theatre. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, he was conscripted into the German Army and sent to the Eastern Front as a non-commissioned officer, where he took part in the Battle of Warsaw. Contracting jaundice and pneumonia, Veidt was evacuated to a hospital; while recuperating, the army allowed him to join another thetaer troupe, this time entertaining the troops at the front.

Deemed unfit for service, he was given a full discharge in January 1917 and returned to Berlin to pursue his acting career. Although he rejoined the Deutsches Theatre he soon moved in to movies, attracted by the larger salaries paid to film actors. Signing first with Deutsch Bioscop, and later moving to the more famous Universum Film Ag (or Ufa), he would go on to appear in more than 100 films, including The Hands of Orlac (1924) and The Man Who Laughs (1928), based on Victor Hugo's novel in which the son of a lord is punished for his father's disrespect to the king by having his face carved into a permanent grin (providing the inspiration for The Joker. Veidt also appeared in the pioneering gay rights film Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others, 1919) which was a huge influence on the Dirk Bogarde film Victim.

He had a leading role in Germany's first talking picture, Das Land ohne Frauen (Land Without Women, 1929), but an early attempt to break Hollywood failed due to his thick, almost impenetrable accent. Then, in 1932 he starred in F.P 1 Does Not Answer, a bizarre science fiction epic about a future trans-Atlantic air service where planes land and refuel on a series of mid-ocean Floating Platforms. Like many talking pictures of the time, multi-lingual versions of F.P 1 were made (several Laurel and Hardy films were made in Spanish, French and German). The German version starred Hans Albers, the French version Charles Boyer and the British starred Veidt - all of whom were compelled to 'sing' a singularly inappropriate ballad about lost love in a lighthouse - When The Lighthouse Shines Across the Bay. 

Soon after the Nazi Party took power in Germany Joseph Goebbels purged the film industry of liberals and Jews, and copies of Anders als die Andern were destroyed (it only exists now in fragments). In 1933, a week after Veidt married Illona Prager, a Jew, the couple emigrated to Britain. He improved his English and starred in the title role of the original version of Jew Süss (1934). Fervently opposed the Nazi regime, he donated most of his personal fortune to Britain to assist in the war effort and became a British citizen in 1938. While in England he made three of his best-known films - The Spy in Black (1939), the Powell and Pressburger film Contraband and The Thief of Baghdad (both 1940).

In 1941, he and Ilona moved to Hollywood, principally to assist in the British effort in making  films that might help persuade the US to come to Britain's aid against the Nazis. Realising that Hollywood would most likely typecast him in Nazi roles, he had it written in to his contract that if he were to play Nazis then they must always be villains. He starred in a few films, most notably A Woman's Face (1941) with Joan Crawford and Casablanca (1942), but in 1943, at the age of fifty, he died of a massive heart attack while playing golf. 55 years later, in 1998, his ashes were interred at the Golders Green Crematorium in London.

But back to Conrad Veidt’s one stab at musical greatness... for it is his version of When The Lighthouse Shines Across the Bay, originally issued on a 10” 78 in the UK in 1933 (backed with The Airman's Song, not performed by Veidt) I present for you today.

Veidt's song seems to have been cut from the British release of the movie, but was put out on an HMV 78, and subsequently reissued – not once, but twice - in 1980 after it had been unearthed by disc jockey Terry Wogan. Veidt's sinister delivery of Donovan Parson's awkward lyrics is one of the most unsettling things I have ever heard.

Unfortunately I have been unable to track down a recording of The Airman’s Song, but here’s Conrad Veidt in all his glory, plus the two tracks that appeared on the two separate 7” reissues (both confusingly given the same catalogue number): I Liked His Little Black Moustache by Binnie Barnes, and Me And My Dog by Frances Day.


Friday, 21 August 2015

One More River

The youngest son of Grace and Robert Wauhob Sr., Ted Wauhob was taught how to play banjo by his father, a guitarist who also served as a minister at the World of Gospel Temple in Sioux City, Iowa.

There were a lot of Wauhobs: Grace and Robert had six sons and a daughter. Sadly their baby girl and one brother, Daniel, died in infancy. With the addition of Ted’s brother Thomas (on drums) and, occasional, their older brother Robert Jr. (who fancied himself as a vocalist), the Wauhobs began performing primitive, almost Shaggs-like gospel music at the World of Gospel Temple: it’s still there, on South Irene Street. 

Ted’s big dream was to make the Wauhob's music available to the world. So, in the early 1980s the group - Ted, Thomas, momma Grace (also a singer) and their father (nicknamed ‘Pop’) – started rehearsals in the basement recording studio of local music store Flood Music.

"At a time when everybody was playing big hair music, the Wauhobs were playing music that would have even been out of step 50 years before, yet alone in the 1980s," Tom Kingsbury, longtime owner of Flood Music, told Earl Horlyk of the Sioux City Journal in 2012.

"They were just dripping in kindness," he recalled. In no time at all the Wauhob Family recorded enough material for four self-produced albums of gospel standards, although only one appears to have seen the light of day. In 1984 the family issued Country Style Revival; Bob Darden, the gospel music editor for Billboard magazine, reviewed the album for the satirical Christian magazine Wittenburg Door. Here’s that review in full:

‘Once in a generation, an artist or band comes along that totally disrupts the fabric of the popular music universe: a band confident enough, gutsy enough to shatter preconceptions, artificial restraints and arbitrary rules. Such a group is, thus, able to extend harmonic boundaries for all time. Beethoven was such an artist; Stockhausen was another; Coltrane and Charlie Parker two more.

In the contemporary Christian music constellation, let me add one more such star, the Wauhob family of Sioux City, Iowa (apparently an undiscovered hotbed of avant garde music and free-form jazz). What makes the Wauhobs so amazing - so revolutionary - is that they work in a previously unmined context for serious jazz explorations: Southern Gospel music. Using, as a starting point, a startling array of old-fashioned, almost over-familiar Gospel tunes, the Wauhobs turn the melodies inside out, distort the tempos, and sometimes abandon the melody line altogether. This is adventuresome, cutting edge stuff: discordant, abrasive, and absolutely brilliant in application.

The heart of the band is vocalist/banjo player Ted Wauhob. Ted fiercely makes every song his own, reducing even the most difficult melody line to a monotone, setting up a hypnotic drone not unlike a Hindu mantra. Ted slurs the words and sometimes, as is the case on Put Your Hand In The Hand, improvises the lyrics altogether - thereby freeing himself from the tyranny of conventional rhyme, meter, and iambic pentameter.

Ted is a master of the rare, one-chord banjo, methodically strumming the instrument at the same tempo, generally on the same chord, during every song. It's an instinctive feat of audacious minimalism, recalling the droning electronic pulses of Robert Wilson, John Cage and Brian Eno. Pay particular attention to the inspired modal improvisations on Put Your Hand In The Hand.

The solos for the Wauhobs are, generally, provided by the patriarch of this awesome musical aggregation - Robert Wauhob, Sr. The elder Wauhob plays a variety of electric guitars in a bewildering array of obscure tunings and keys - sometimes on the same song. Robert listens intently to music he hears only in his head and, generally, ranges freely across the musical spectrum with every tune. His thick, oblique chords are closer to tape loops than recognizable progressions; he uses them for emphasis against the lighter banjo chords of son Ted. On something like One More River, he fights a snarling one-man duel with the rest of the band. This is dangerous stuff. Be sure to listen for the wickedly inventive chords on their anthemic version of Andre Crouch's Through It All.

The band is centered around the expressive drumming of Thomas Wauhob, a wildly original percussionist in the mode of an Elvin Jones, a Billy Cobham or a John Candy. Thomas thumps along at a deceptively slow beat, alternating between the snare drum and the floor tom-tom until you think he's lost the beat altogether. Then, suddenly, in a burst of spastic, unchanneled energy he forges ahead, catches the beat, and makes up for lost time by double-timing the tempo. All of this in a space of a single bar, no less. Incredible! Be sure and listen to his urgent stop and start rhythms on One More River, as he uses the flashy ploy of dropping a drumstick and fearlessly starting over (seemingly oblivious to the beat).

That brings us to the soul of the Wauhob family, mother Grace Wauhob. Mrs. Wauhob's influences are obvious throughout Country Style Revival. Here's a snatch of Yoko Ono and other Primal Scream therapists; there's a snippet from the Bee Gee School of Heavenly Castrati. She launches her high-pitched, harmony vocals into the stratosphere on many cho-ruses, setting up an unearthly keening that owes much to the ritual Wailing Wall tradition of certain Jewish widows. Her tour-de-force and, indeed, the entire album's highlight, is a boldly expressive version of Build My Mansion Next Door To Jesus, wherein the entire band tears into a magnificent array of varying tempos, keys, pitches and chord changes - soloing all at the same time. It's a powerful cathartic moment, unlike anything in recent memory from Christian music.

The Wauhob Family's Country Style Revial. It's music you've never heard before - nor are you likely to hear again.’

Darden originally thought that Country Style Revial was a joke. "I assumed it was someone's idea of being ironic," he said. "Then I came to realise no, this was a real family who may have been naively confident in their abilities but were true believers in their music. As a gospel music critic, I'd receive dozens of recording that I didn't want to listen to once. But with the Wauhobs, I actually wanted to listen to them over and over again."

The Wauhobs embarked on a concert tour which included bookings at Disneyland, but success proved short-lived and the family returned home to Sioux City. "The Wauhob Family didn't record music to become stars," Kingsbury told Earl Horlyk. "They recorded to share their faith and preserve their music."

Robert Wauhob Sr. died in 1996 and Grace joined him on December 29, 1998 after a long illness. The brothers continued to perform music sporadically, with Ted juggling his stage career with his day job: he spent 44 years working as a hospital dishwasher, retiring in 2012.

Here are a couple of tracks from the brilliant Country Style Revival: He Looked Beyond My Fault, and The Baptism of Jesse Taylor. If you like this, the whole album is available at Mr Weird and Wacky


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