Thursday, June 27, 2002
X More Fun In The New World
Ain''t Love Grand
See How We Are
Play to the same 200/500/1,000 people year in and year out and eventually, even the most stalwart of cult acts makes a stab at broadening their audience. X-the quintessential American West Coast punk band-was doing just that on these three discs, the latter three in their Elektra/Slash canon.
Having barely cracked the margins of success upon jumping to a major in 1982, the original quartet made its first baby steps and stabs at busting out on More Fun In The New World in 1983. The furious tempos gave way to different tempos and feels, on the (sort-of) title cut, they played a nifty little shuffle as guitarist Billy Zoom decorated the number with a little melody from "Happy Trails to You." That, plus a little Western swing on the Brit-o-phobic protest number "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts," a little dance clubbery on "True Love Part II" and the revved-up cover of Jerry Lee Lewis'' "Breathless" and you have a great compilation of realized musical expansion.
Which gave way to a disaster, as More Fun didn''t sell bupkes. Ain''t Love Grand and See How We Are recast the band as an LA hair metal ensemble on the former and with John and Exene as John and Jane Cougar Mellencamp on the roots-rock latter. The first disc drowns in digital reverb and rotten songs and on this expanded reissue, a pair of great songs, the Small Faces'' "All or Nothing" and the Replacements'' "I Will Dare" (bass and drum machine only!) makes it a decent purchase. The second disc is vastly better, courtesy of Dave Alvin''s classic "4th of July" as well as a plangent title track, but by then, master guitarist Billy Zoom and their punk roots were long, long gone.
Originals they are and were and even if the first three (also re-issued on Rhino) are where the really phenomenal stuff was, there''s enough here to merit the pickup. But buy them in order!
Dub It To The Top 1976-1979
Blood and Fire
Dub reggae is the basis of almost everything played in a club or on late night Contemporary Hit Radio now. Think about it: The extended remix, the added rapping to a pop track, the jump cuts and quick edits, all were born in the studios of Kingston in the late ''60s to late ''70s.
Vivian "Yabby You" Jackson, protege of the greatest dub prophet of them all, King Tubby, is represented on this disc not as the soul singer he began his musical career with as the leader of the Prophets, but as another melody atop these electronically-enhanced tracks. Synth-drums, rapid-echo and the expert ministrations of Sly and Robbie make this a dub-lover''s dream, but to overlook Yabby''s "lover''s rock" crooning, buried in the mix as it is, would be a mistake.
"Dub It To The Top", "Rock With Me Dub" and "Turn Me Loose Dub" are loose and linear, freed from the constraints of verse-chorus and also clear and clean, as opposed to the first dub discs (like King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown) which sound positively mud-filled by comparison.
Although Dub would become less and less song- and hook-oriented as Dancehall took hold in the ''80s, this Jamaican variation on electro-funk of the late ''70s source is a must. Tuneful and lulling, it''s the perfect accompaniment to a late night coast drive, with a cool breeze blowing and the bass rattling speakers and brain. Don''t pass this one by.
The Soul and the Edge:
The Best of Johnny Paycheck
Best known as the man that sang (but didn''t write) "Take This Job and Shove It," Johnny Paycheck had a long career prior to his "theme" song and a not-quite-so-long one after it. A former rockabilly artist under the name Donny Young, and a songwriter of merit (he penned Tammy Wynette''s first hit "Apartment #9"), as well as a huge influence vocally upon the twin pillars of old school Country (Merle Haggard and George Jones), Paycheck should be known for more than his 1979 hit and his lengthy prison stretch in the ''80s and ''90s, but he isn''t-yet.
This collection runs the gamut of trad C&W, from honky-tonk blues like "11 Months and 29 Days" to tear-jerkers like "Someone to Give My Love To" to brutally honest and funny ruminations, especially "Colorado Cool-Aid," a long talking blues about the wonder of Coors beer and a bar fight that resulted in a poor sucker having a Van Gogh done on him and holding a brew in one hand and the severed organ in a box in the other.
Paycheck''s gruff growl is indeed very Haggard-like on his hits and is employed on the multi-chorused and strangely modulating Merle-ish tune "I''m the Only Hell ( My Mama Ever Raised)," and he''s rather George Jones-ish also on the total Jones cop "The Feminine Touch." It might be his chameleonic nature that has been his undoing-Haggard and Jones own their respective turfs and even if it''s Paycheck''s phrasing techniques that have been incorporated into their styles, they ran farther and harder with it than he did.
Great stuff, even if it''s marred by producer Billy Sherrill''s ''70s/''80s slickness and forays into funk bass and phased guitars. And it really proves there''s a whole lot more to the brawling baritone than "Take This Job"-so go get it!