Meet the Drake

Meet The Drake

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Outsight brings to light non-mainstream music, film, books, art, ideas and opinions.

Published, somewhere, monthly since July 1991. Feel free to re-print this article.

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NEWS AND VIEWS **************************

A RE-INTRODUCTION TO NICK DRAKE

Nick Drake has an eerie, melancholy feel to his folk-pop. Each song could be
misted rays of hope breaking through from a recent cry. This moody atmosphere
combined with a history of reclusion and mental instability culminating in a
lethal antidepressant overdose, either suicide or accident, guaranteed
a cult following. Rykodisc helped foster that following with the 1994 compilation
Way to Blue: An Introduction to Nick Drake. This album compiles material
from the singer-songwriter’s three albums including the song “Pink Moon”. That
song’s appearance in a 2000 Volkswagen commercial gave the Drake songbook new
popularity. Universal Music Group is reissuing the
Way to Blue package along with each of the singer’s albums. These all came
out on Island originally and the reissues are part of the Universal
Chronicles
series. His debut album Five Leaves Left patented the
Drake sound and hopeless lyrics like “life is but a memory…happened long ago”.
This is from “Fruit Tree”, the poignant commentary on fame that also became
the name for the Drake box set. Bryter Layter is somewhat peppier. This
is mostly due to the rhythm section, some string arrangements and some tinkling
piano. In front of all this with his acoustic guitar, Drake is unchanged. The
final album in this trilogy is the stark Pink Moon. He recorded it unaccompanied
and dropped the tapes in the mail. It is quintessential Nick Drake, a beautiful
sadness that still resonates today…


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INNOVA INNOVATIONS

Innova is more than an amazing label of inventive,
modern music. It is the dynamic curator of America’s innovative composers, preserving
excellent music by pressing sophisticated and passionate experiments onto CD
regardless of commercial possibility. New on the label is George Cartwright’s
GloryLand PonyCat, made possible through underwriting through the American
Composers Forum’s Recording Assistance Program. (The two organizations are
closely affiliated.) This saxophone trio waxes and wanes between wild but not
unstructured free jazz and tight, melodic episodes. This is a cogent statement
of Cartwright’s “punk jazz,” a spirited approach to jazz. Cartwright
is the saxophonist in Curlew, for the record… The compilation Haunted America
is three world premiers from Jerome Kitzke, Michael Torke and Kimmo Hakola performed
by the Present Music ensemble. This large group is a small jazz orchestra. Kitzke’s
is the title piece and the orchestra members vocalize on the theme of a triumphant,
almost desperate answer to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America”. Ginsberg would have
appreciated Torke’s “Song of Isaiah”. Like the biblical prophet, Ginsberg fought
apparent social and moral decay with lamenting poems and utopian hope. As Barbara
Michelman says in her poem On the Death of Allen Ginsberg and Other Irrelevant
Events
, “He howled like Isaiah/into the wilderness,/Howled at the madness/spilling
across America”. The music of the Torke piece sounds neo-classical compared
to Kitzke with soprano Cheryl Bensman Rowe delivering the vocals in a modern,
post-operatic style. Kimmo Hakola conducts the ensemble through his Chamber
Concerto
through the rest of the CD. This is a moody, post-classical work, a
fitting background for musing upon the thoughts suggested by the first two pieces…
Gao Hong takes us around the world on Flying Dragon. This CD is mostly
instrumental duets of Gao on pipa, an Oriental lute, with sitar, flute
and shakuhachi…


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Gao
Hong from Amazon


SISTERS ARE DOIN’ IT FOR THEMSELVES

Singer-songwriter Rhonda Everitt has a warm, likeable voice that recalls Natalie
Merchant. She is the center of the band Rhe
and is heard, excellently framed by piano-based pop rock, on Fairy Tales and
Happy Endings
(Reach For The Sky)… Lisa Madison offers pop colored at times
with jazz and then blues and then rock and then something else on the solid
and very professional Kiss The Sun (Rhombus
Records
). This includes a reggae-touched version of “Imagine”. This is a
Microsoft HDCD recording and as such has peerless sound quality… Vanessa
Renée
recalls Tori Amos and Kate Bush in her own vocal-oriented piano songs.
You can hear her rich trove of song on Stones (Rising Siren Records)…
Natalie Flanagan entertains with intimate, personally delivered songs on the
simply titled Let (One Way
Productions
). Her AAA path is fringed with the rambling roses of country
rock for an unornamented but rooted style, plain and direct. Anny
Celsi
has a great pulp fiction theme in the packaging and liner notes to
Little Black Dress & Other Stories (Ragazza Music). However, the aesthetic
quality of the music is of a much higher quality: that is, hit material folk
pop. There is an especially bright string of memorable songs in the title track,
“Summer Fling” and “Day After Tomorrow”… Bonnie
Hayes
wrote songs for Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, David Crosby, Booker T.
& The MG’s and more. Hear her performing her own, full, upbeat pop-country songs
on Love in the Ruins (Bondage Records)…
EG Kight is a potent blues vocalist and
guitar player that will win over fans of Bonnie Raitt. Her CD Southern Comfort
(Blue South Records) is mostly swinging, upbeat electric blues. It waxes especially
poignant on her moving rendition of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery”… Kat
Terran
has a highly varied album of acoustic and electric pop rock with
stringed instruments in support (cello, violin, upright bass). This excellent
collection of songs is called Lion & Blue (Little Roar Records)… Either
Ani DiFranco has had that big of an impact on the singer-songwriter scene, or
she has had that big of an impact on me. Either way, I hear a new compelling
artist each month that brings Ani to mind. This month, it is Allison
Tartalia
. Allison is much more than an occasionally funky, hip neo-folk
artist with a snappy vocal delivery though. She also can sing in rich, pop-blues
style and adds a jazzy touch to her music with horns. Check out her album called
Ready (Make Haste! Records)…


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TWISTED SISTER REUNITES FOR USO, U.S AND EUROPE TOUR

Twisted Sister is officially reuniting after more than 16 years apart. The classic
lineup revisiting the stage is lead vocalist Dee Snider, co-lead guitarist/vocalist
Jay Jay French, co-lead guitarist/vocalist Eddie Ojeda, bass guitarist/vocalist
Mark “The Animal” Mendoza and drummer/vocalist A.J. Pero. Having concluded USO
shows in South Korea this May, there are now select headlining dates in the United
States and Europe this summer. A DVD from the summer shows, along with behind-the-scenes
and heritage footage, is being planned for a fall release. Several record labels
have approached Twisted Sister about making a studio album, but right now there
are no plans to release a new one.

The set list for the tour will feature all the hits and fan favorites like “We’re
Not Gonna Take It,” “I Wanna Rock,” “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “I Am (I’m
Me)” and “Under the Blade” from the albums Under
the Blade
, You
Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll
, Stay
Hungry
and Come
Out and Play
. Twisted Sister has sold more than 10 million records worldwide,
earning the band 33 gold and platinum certifications from across the globe.

Since disbanding in 1987 after 15 years together, Twisted Sister had only performed
together once. This was when the group headlined the NY Steel benefit concert
in November 2001 for firefighters and police officers after the tragic terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001. French was amazed at both the response of the
fans at that show and how well Twisted Sister played after just three rehearsals.
Then, over the next 18 months, momentum had started to build regarding an official
reunion. Phil Carson, Twisted Sister’s longtime friend, manager and record company
executive, came to French with a proposal for a tour this summer. Twisted Sister
will headline an Independence Day weekend celebration on Saturday, July 5 at
Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ. A special guest appearance with Alice
Cooper and Def Leppard is scheduled for Friday, July 18 at the Chippewa Falls
Music Festival in Chippewa Falls, WI. Other U.S. headlining dates will follow.
Twisted Sister then returns to Europe for more headline dates, commencing with
a festival in Spain on Friday, August 29.

DVD REVIEWS ****************************

Wesley Willis
The Daddy of Rock ‘n’ Roll
MVD

This video documentary could be titled A Day in the Life of Wesley Willis.
We follow Willis around on his various duties as he consigns CDs, records songs
(at an optimum 2:50 length), tests the patience of Kinko’s staff and patrons,
hangs out with his friends/support network and rocks the crowd from the stage.
Willis’ eccentricity and scatological/cartoon/commercial-influenced hard rock
shouted shorts are legendary. Plenty of this music is in the DVD along with
the entertaining look at what Willis does with his time and thus how he functions.
Very energetic, Willis seems to talk continuously through the flick and often
waxes autobiographical, explaining the genesis of his own mental condition
seems to be a favorite topic. His frequent use of profanity on mass transit
and in public places gets him into a lot less trouble than one might think but
it becomes part of the show in the non-stop fiasco on this entertaining
glimpse into someone that needs to rock, for his own well-being. Special
features include an interview with Steve Albini (one of Willis’ many song subjects)
along with deleted scenes, an animated short and more. (3.5)

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on the DVD from Amazon.com


Too Short
T*tty City
Shoot II Films/ MVD

This hour-long Too Short video is an X-rated cable production touring the world
of Atlanta topless clubs and the decadent excess enjoyed by Too Short and his
extended crew. There are plenty of exposed breasts (and more), and that is the
main point here. For instance, the few live clips of Too Short do not even have
good production. Other celebrities here from the Georgia rap scene and beyond
include Scarface, Lil Jon, Petey Pablo, Slim Calhoun and more. Extras on this
wild, “off the chain” DVD include trailers for pimp documentaries The Game
and Pimpology. (3)

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Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart)
Some YoYo Stuff
MVD

This is Anton Corbijn’s short (13 minutes) black-and-white film from 1993. It
is a personal and revealing looking at the former master of Dadaist rock. Through
the cryptic answers and strange metaphors, the man sounds so broken and old-beyond-his-years
that it can be difficult to take in, as if this were too personal and revealing
to be enjoyed from a DVD. Still, it is one of the few windows (if even only
a keyhole) allowed into the life of Don Van Vliet since his 1982 retirement
from music. Don’s mother introduces the film and filmmaker David Lynch makes
a running appearance as the questioner. (4)

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on the DVD from Amazon.com


Long John Baldry
Live in Concert
Inakustik/ MVD

This 1993 German concert from the tall bluesman with the deep voice comes in
between the two Stony Plain albums It Still Ain’t Easy (1991) and On
Stage Tonight: Baldry’s Out
(1993). It makes a nice companion piece to these two
CDs, because of the similar arrangements and some of the same material, like
“Shake that Thing”, “Everyday I Have the Blues”, “Insane Asylum” and “Do You
Wanna Dance?”. The powerful rendition of Dixon’s “Insane Asylum” is the first
song in the set featuring Kathi McDonald. She really belts out this song with
feeling and power, recalling how her long collaboration with Baldry has made
her integral to some of his best material. She shows her softer side on “I’d
Rather Go Blind”. Baldry and McDonald duet excellently on “A Thrill’s A Thrill”
and the folk-blues styled “Black Girl”. (4.5)

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on the DVD from Amazon.com


Noam Chomsky
Distorted Morality
Silent Films/Epitaph

Noam Chomsky is an insightful and lucid academic with a worthy message from
the rational left. However, Chomsky delivers his worthy message in a dry monotone.
The documentary Manufacturing Consent battled the Chomsky boredom aura
with interesting visuals. However, this videotaped college talk has none of
that eye-catching collage. Still, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the whole
thing and get some non-mainstream background on the “War on Terror.” Chomsky’s
talk was titled “War on Terrorism?” Note the question mark. Chomsky uses basic
principles of logic and such respected sources as The New York Times
to draw his conclusion that the American activity in the Middle East, before
and after 9/11, is itself terrorism based on the U.S. Army’s own definition
of that approach to applied violence. Fortunately, the DVD features an hour-long
question and answer period that goes deeper on key points and finds Chomsky
much more animated, now that he is off his script. Unfortunately, there is no
way to let this Q&A period run as an uninterrupted feature. Each question must
be entered manually through the DVD’s menu. (4)

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Slaughter & The Dogs
Cranked up Really High
Cherry Red Films

Slaughter & The Dogs began releasing punk rock records in the late ’70s. This
puts the group in the very first wave of the genre and indeed they started by
supporting The Sex Pistols. However, the name Slaughter & The Dogs does not
often come up when thinking of the architects of the genre, like The Sex Pistols,
The Damned, etc. Beside the fact the group had only one internationally released
LP (Bite Back, 1980), Slaughter & The Dogs espoused a heavier angrier
sound that had more to do with the birth of Oi than the more accessible even
pop-influenced punk strain that achieved predominance. This DVD is the group
in performance at the 1996 Holidays in the Sun festival in Blackpool, England
and includes interviews. (3.5)

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on the DVD from Amazon.com


Demented Are Go
Sick! Sick! Sick!/Call of the Wired
Cherry Red Films

At the very forefront of the psychobilly movement, Demented Are Go began releasing
records in the mid-’80s. Thanks to the (hopefully) typified dementia by Mark
“Sparky” Phillips, the lead vocalist of this slap bass-based quartet, this may
be the most demented of the genre. (Phillips is notoriously difficult to work
with and thus the only constant member to the group.) Apparently, the group
members’ wild off-stage behavior matches their crazy on-stage personae and after
watching these two concerts, you may want to scour the Internet where it is
easy to find the morbid tales. The two concerts here, each previously released,
were recorded in 1987 and 1994. This DVD brings them together on one recording.
As such, this is a vivid document of this unique blend of Gothic rockabilly
punk. (3.5)


VINYL REVIEWS ****************************

Bassholes
Out in the Treetops
Dead Canary Records

One could call donuts the “missing centers” to describe them by what they are
lacking. So the garage and blues guitars/drums duo Bassholes is named after
the typical rock combo instrument it lacks. Bassholes reaches back to the primitive
blues duo combination used by such artists as Lightning Hopkins in the personnel
arrangement. Bassholes take us back to the juke joint days with their take on
“Stack O Lee” on this set of two 33 RPM 7″ records. The group spans the distance
between Hopkins’ generation and today’s electric alt-blues powerhouses, like
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. This recording set also resonates with the early
days of ’60s power blues rock and Bassholes shows their affinity for that style
with clamorous covers of “Tattoo” (The Who) and “Raw Power” (The Stooges). Two
additional musicians flesh out the punk-styled rendition of “Raw Power” out.
(4)


Lyres
“Tear You Up” b/w “Felice Noddydod”
D.U.I. Records

Jeff “Monoman” Connolly continues to keep the first wave of garage revival alive
with his post-DMZ project Lyres. Wonderfully loose and inexact, this seven-inch
is an organ-fueled frenzy of sloppy rock for pure fun. On the B-side the group
renames itself Thee Headkotexes and uses soundbites taking the pure fun of the
A-Side up another notch for an irate phone conversation set to a smiling rock
instrumental. This song, “Felice Noddydod” is the garage rock analogue to Beastie
Boy’s “Cooky Puss”. (4.5)


CD REVIEWS ****************************

The Black Keys
Thickfreakness
Fat Possum

Just in case you thought Bassholes, Flat Duo Jets and The White Stripes were
alone in the guitar and drums duo combination, here is The Black Keys. Like
the other groups, the spare combo arrangement guides the sound toward a rugged,
post-blues rock primitivism. This group does have an alt-blues sound and pays
homage to the latest of the masters of basic groove trance blues by covering
Junior Kimbrough’s “Everywhere I Go”. (4)


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Fleshies
The Sicilian
Alternative Tentacles

This is the sophomore full-length from The Fleshies. The Sicilian, produced
by Alex Newport (Fudgetunnel, Theory Of Ruin, Ratos De Porao), finds the group
getting leaner, meaner and more aggro. Strain to make out the lyrics, or strain
to read the faint print of them in the CD booklet and you will see the group
is both intelligent and boasts a sense of humor. Guitars on over-drive and
an occasional comical falsetto combined with socially aware and witty lyrics
summons to mind NoMeansNo. (4)


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Baby Woodrose
Money for Soul
Bad Afro

This power soul trio has a psychedelic rock style with vocals out front and
crystalline in a blue-eyed R&B style. The Danish band performs
with two guitars and no bass. The guitars play with extra fuzz, adding sufficient
emphasis to the drummer’s rhythm so that no bass playing is required. This is very
much in the ’60s psych tradition. This is a new album from a very fresh band,
released just 18 months after the group’s inception. Already things gel very
well, as these guys are all obviously reading from the same record collection.
That collection includes Them, ? and the Mysterians and Iron Butterfly. Fans
of the Dionysus and Estrus rosters will appreciate this and the rest of Bad
Afro. (4)


Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Fever to Tell
Universal Music/Interscope

Siren vocalist Karen O leads her rock deconstructionist trio with squealing
delight. The punk-styled sexual energy makes the group sound like a cross between
the earliest incarnations of Blondie and The Runaways. Their instruments could
be trashcans and junkyard guitars, the rock is so rugged on Fever to Tell.
The Brooklyn trio has no need of bass and makes due with a single guitar in
their unadorned punk rock that has hints of darkish Goth rock like the rugged
Australian punks bands The Birthday Party and such. There’s more to this band
then Karen O’s hip dresses and sexy bangs. Check out the music, because it is
all there. (4.5)


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Rubber City Rebels
Pierce My Brain
Smog Veil Records, 316 California Ave., #207, Reno, NV 89509

The title track here is the sort of cutting cynicism delivered with American
punk rock that makes this band worth turning off CNN for. If you get a chuckle
from Sloppy Seconds, you will know what I mean. “Pierce My Brain” pokes fun
at the tackle-box people that looked like they stuck their face in one. “Grip
of Fear” takes on all the fear motivators in our current alarmist society. Rubber
City Rebels even offer self-deprecating humor in “I Don’t Wanna be a Punk no
More”. Similar as the group is to Dead Boys, it offers the suitable eulogy “Dead
Boy (Eulogy for Stiv)”. (4)


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Mötley Crüe
Greatest Hits
Mötley Records/Hip-O Records

This is the first greatest hits package from the long-lived, popular metal act
Mötley Crüe. The group really later descended into a pale imitation of itself,
but this CD captures the highlights “Shout at the Devil ’97”, “Looks that Kill”
and Crüe’s take on “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”. Most heavily represented are
the band’s MTV-era tracks from the albums Girls Girls Girls and Dr.
Feelgood
when Mötley Crüe was leading the spandex assault. Hearing this album
and looking back on it all, one is brought to ask, “After this, we still needed
Guns & Roses?” (3)


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The Chains
On Top of Things!
Get Hip

This Montreal band has got a big backbeat and exquisite songs with a harmonica-playing
lead vocalist. The band has a tight, focused, song-oriented style but with a
basic, unadorned garage rock delivery. There are hints of R&B and an easy, swinging
style to this music. That makes the album a real time capsule, but production
is top-notch, so it is modern where it counts. (3.5)


The Deadly Snakes
Ode to Joy
In The Red Records

This In The Red band has a similar sound to another label on that roster: Dan
Melchior and the Broke Revue. The guitar band offers a very melodic, song-oriented
sound compared to many of their neo-garage and alt-blues peers. Horns and an
organ add Stax soul as well as an upbeat, party atmosphere. There are a half-dozen
Canadians on this record, playing all those instruments in this Toronto large ensemble
throwback to the ’60s. Much of the fully fleshed-out music is ripe for fueling
an all-night keg party. Such an example of premium frat rock is the anthemic
“Oh my Bride”. (4)


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U.S. Bombs
Covert Action
Hellcat Records

West coast punk legend Duane Peters leads his band through rousing street punk
songs that beg a sing-along. It is amazing how after so many years U.S. Bombs
can continue to create such great, old school punk. The group is also political,
but covering topics most other political bands are not at the moment, as evidenced
by “Croatia Breaks” and the inflammatory Oklahoma City bombing song “Framed”.
(4)


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Gossip
Movement
Kill Rock Stars

The second release from Gossip is a stunning gospel-soul-blues-punk ruckus.
Full of driving rhythm and undeniable energy this is as impressive a sophomore
effort as any. Movement is party music for when you don’t care if something
gets broke and something gets spilled. Put this in your CD player and press
play, and you open a whole can of fiery blooze punk with a mean, primitive bottom
end. (4)


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