Thursday

WELCOME TO BLITZ MAGAZINE'S WEB SITE!


IT'S GONNA BE ALRIGHT: In his two most recent books, author PETER CHECKSFIELD chronicles the legacies of the British Invasion and the classic Shindig! television series. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look in the Book Reviews column.  Click on the Book Reviews link under the Previous Posts heading at right for the full story. (Click on the above image to enlarge).

WELCOME TO THE INTERET HOME
FOR BLITZ MAGAZINE
SINCE 1975 -
THE ROCK AND ROLL MAGAZINE
FOR THINKING PEOPLE

Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.

Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com.


Michael McDowell
Editor/Publisher
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

E-Mail us at BlitzMcD@aol.com for a list of available back issues.


Be sure to follow Blitz on Twitter:
@BlitzMagazine
and
on Facebook at:
Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

AUDREY'S MUSICAL JOURNEY:

Follow the fascinating and unfolding tale (through her favorite music) of the life and times of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell, as told by her husband, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell. A Facebook exclusive! "Like" us on Facebook at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and watch for further installments.

IN THE BITS AND PIECES COLUMN:

The July 2021 RECORD STORE DAY celebration has brought forth a renewed optimism in the industry in the wake of the setbacks endured by the pandemic in 2020. Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell conducts a guided tour through some of the day's highlights at leading retailers across the nation, as well as a closer look at some of the best new commemorative album releases. 

DEBBIE GIBSON has the faithful in anticipation at near fever pitch in the wake of the release of One Step Closer, the latest single from her forthcoming Stargirl label album, The Body Remembers.

The abrupt cancellation after five acclaimed seasons of CBC's sitcom, Kim's Convenience has drawn fire from the faithful and cast alike, including series stat Paul Sun-Hyung Lee.

In a free standing interview, Mutants alumnus and REARRANGEMENTS co-founder Patrick "Pasadena" Supina discusses the final days of the Mutants, along with the formation of his new  supergroup with the Plugs' Jeff Shoemaker, as well as the band's debut album.

IN THE REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

The music produced throughout the greater San Diego area during rock and roll's most creative period finally gets proper recognition via the magnificent new Relampago-go label anthology, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958 - 1973

Roger Maglio's Gear Fab label has added to its acclaimed Psychedelic States series with one of its most solid offerings yet: West Virginia In The '60s.

Rock N' Roll School For Girls is the first career spanning look at the work of the veteran band, the CATHOLIC GIRLS.

The 7a label continues its impressive series of the finest Monkees-related releases with Cosmic Partners, the landmark 1973 live concert at McCabe's Guitar Shop by MICHAEL NESMITH AND RED RHODES.

IN THE NEW RELEASES SECTION OF
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME COLUMN:

The ambitious quintet, the ALCHEMY SOUND PROJECT has taken the torch of modern jazz and run with it in their latest collection of originals, Afrika Love.

Veteran rockers FRIJID PINK have returned to form with one of their most solid collections of original material in recent years with their latest Dynasty Records release, Hot Pink.

Verve Records has released the highly anticipated final album in the long and extraordinary career of jazz visionary and keyboard man, DAVE BRUBECK. Lullabies was recorded as a blessing for his grandchildren, and includes a wealth of standards and duly inspired originals. \\

Veteran Southern California synth band BERLIN has returned with Strings Attached, a new look at their classic catalog with symphonic embellishments.

Her remarkable ability to bring out elements of relentless optimism in the face of despair is but one of the many attributes evidenced in Bright Shining Stars, the new Vizztone label release by the Boston-based composer, guitarist and vocalist DANIELLE MIRAGLIA

Room Full Of Blues cofounder and Fabulous Thunderbirds veteran DUKE ROBILLARD tackles a series of chestnuts by Roy Milton, Ike Turner, Dave Bartholomew, Helen Humes and others in Blues Bash!, his latest release for Stony Plain Records. 

Tuesday

BOOK REVIEWS


IT'S GOTTA LAST FOREVER: Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas, Herman's Hermits, Gerry And The Pacemakers, the Dave Clark Five, the Yardbirds, Lulu, the Kinks and the Downliners Sect are among the many great artists profiled in author PETER CHECKSFIELD's two latest books. Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look below.  (Click on above image to enlarge).

HAVING A RAVE UP -
Peter Checksfield
(peterchecksfield.com)

SHINDIG!
Peter Checksfield
(peterchecksfield.com)

By Michael McDowell

Among other things, the advent of the so-called punk / new wave movement in the mid to late 1970s raised the bar for the DIY ethic in a number of fields. 

In the wake of the countless self-produced singles and albums that surfaced as the disenfranchised rallied to rescue music from the protracted aesthetic slump in which it found itself at the time, endeavors in related fields availed themselves accordingly. Most prominent among them were the independently produced music periodicals, of which Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People remains the lone active survivor. 

Concurrently, the record collectors and musicologists who were inspired by the movement often contributed by putting the knowledge gained from the study of their recorded archives and personal research into book form. The resultant titles, such as Minnesota Rocked In The 1960s and Peace Record Guide often succeeded by virtue of enthusiasm as much as they did by helping to meet (if not fulfill) a great need.

However, in that pre-internet era, research was often spotty and limited to the resources at hand for the individual author. But as communications increased exponentially over the next several decades, the sharing of information online brought much to light that had been overlooked in even the best of those well intended early efforts. 

In this digital age, those ambitious early outings often seem quaint and / or passe, as well as limited by definition in their usefulness as reference works. But in light of an increase in the return to basics perspective in the wake of the isolation borne of the 2020 pandemic, the DIY ethic seems to once again be gaining momentum.

Musically speaking, legendary artists such as Debbie Gibson have raised anticipation levels to near fever pitch among the faithful with her forthcoming DIY One Step Closer single (scheduled for 16 July release) and her The Body Remembers album, both for her own Stargirl label. In turn, alumni of such respected veteran bands as the Mutants and the Plugs have joined forces as the Rearragements, whose independently recorded, produced and released debut album, At Sixes And Sevens is one of the best new offerings of 2021 to date.

In terms of publications, UK author and musicologist Peter Checksfield has championed the return to basics perspective in an encouraging way, via the release of a series of books that chronicle major movements and landmarks from rock and roll's most productive period.

Checksfield's two most recent releases, while true to the spirit of those aforementioned earliest works at the onset of the movement, nonetheless take the essential step of upgrades in terms of journalistic acumen and physical layout. The first of these is a chronicle of the much missed ABC television series, Shindig! Hosted by the late Jimmy O'Neil (who was once interviewed at length in Blitz Magazine) and featuring recording artists Donna Loren, the Blossoms, Bobby Sherman and Carol Shelyne as regular cast members, Shindig! was the most prominent among a series of like minded series that included Swingin' Time, Hullaballoo, Malibu U, The Lloyd Thaxton Show, Shivaree, Shebang, Top Of The Pops, Let's Go, Where The Action Is, Hollywood A Go Go and others.

In his book, Checksfield chronicles each episode of the 1964 - 1966 series individually, including all musical performances, augmented with visuals from each episode. A supplementary discography details subsequent availability on vinyl, CD, VHS and DVD. 

Checksfield's second work is the more ambitious of the two, chronicling as it does the highlights of the most impacting musical movement of the era. Having A Rave Up! includes all related releases by the front runners of the so-called British Invasion, including Herman's Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, Billy J. Kramer And The Dakotas, the Fortunes, Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders, Lulu, the Kinks, the Pretty Things, the Downliners Sect and many, many others. While individual commentary is often limited to the most basic attributes of each artist's respective legacy, given the sheer volume of talent at hand, such brevity is arguably borne of necessity.

To be certain, Checksfield's books serve as much as reference volumes as they do narratives on their respective subjects (and perhaps even more so). But, if nothing else, those who lament the presumed "lack of warmth" of the internet once again have at their disposal the fruits of independent labors, such as the aforementioned independent CD and vinyl releases. And for those times of reflection and independent study, a bit of recreational reading (if not enlightenment, at least on the part of the hardcore faithful), augmented by a well stocked library of recordings most assuredly qualifies as both a Shindig and a Rave Up in its own right.

REARRANGEMENTS / PASADENA INTERVIEW



SO AMERICAN: When alumni of such proven bands as the Mutants, Plugs and Weasels join forces to form a new band, the results can be nothing less than remarkable. True to form, the REARRANGEMENTS have lived up to that promise with their debut album, At Sixes And Sevens. In the following exchange with Blitz Magazine Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell, Mutants alumnus and Rearrangements co-founder Patrick "Pasadena" Supina discusses the final days of his much missed Mutants, while at the same time bringing to the table great promise with his tales behind the creation of the the Rearrangements' debut (Back cover pictured above).  (Click on the above image to enlarge).

HAPPY WEASELS:
A CONVERSATION WITH
THE REARRANGEMENTS'
(AND MUTANTS ALUMNUS)
PASADENA
By Michael McDowell
There were no two ways about it. The protracted aesthetic slump in which mainstream music found itself throughout the early to mid 1970s set the stage out of necessity for a rescue mission of epic proportions.

To that effect, with the advent of the so-called punk / new wave movement in the mid to late 1970s, there was once again hope for the future of music. As a result, regional scenes sprang up across the country in short order. 

The greater Detroit, Michigan area was no exception. Independent releases were the order of the day, supported by a flourishing retail market. Blitz Magazine was there in the thick of it all, covering these and other bands of similar intent with each succeeding issue.

Before long, front runners began to emerge. Among them were the Romantics, the Ivories, Cinecyde, the Reruns, Flirt, the Rushlow King Combo and the Mutants.  

Of those bands, the Mutants in particular drew attention for their unique brand of humor. Comprised of lead vocalist Art Lyzak, lead guitarist Tom Morwatts, guitarist / keyboard man Patrick "Pasadena" Supina, bassist John Kordosh and drummer Steve Sortor, the Mutants brought their trademark cavalier approach to such acclaimed singles as So American and I Say Yeah, both for their FTM label. In 1980, So American was included in Blitz Magazine's once per decade Blitz Awards as one of the Best Singles of the 1970s. After years of toiling within the club circuit (most notably at Lili's in suburban Hamtramck), the Mutants went on hiatus in 1985. 

After a promising reunion in 1996, the Mutants again went their separate ways. Lead vocalist Lyzak subsequently relocated to Southern California, while Pasadena remained in the Detroit area to chart his future musical course. Sadly, Morwatts, Kordosh and Sortor are all deceased. 

"After the Mutants reunion, my son Jeff and I ended up playing in 1999 and 2000 with a reformed Elvis Hitler", said Pasadena.

"I played bass and Jeff played drums. He was eighteen at the time. It was just a three piece, with Jim Leedy on guitar and vocals. 

"It kind of happened by accident. We ended up working for the same company and just ran into each other. Neither of us were doing anything at the time. So with both of us having the itch to play, that new lineup of Elvis Hitler came together".

However, by definition, such a venture was destined to be short lived.

"After that broke up in late 2000, I really had no definite plans", said Pasadena.

"But I knew that I still wanted to play". 

Thankfully, good things come to those who wait. Especially in a musical community where collaborations are an ongoing and frequent attribute.

"Several years later, my current drummer, Jim Bialk and I ended up rehearsing on and off with Rich Cole and Wally Palmar from the Romantics", said Pasadena.

"While we weren't doing any original songs, we were picking pretty obscure tunes that you don't hear anyone else playing. Album cuts by bands like the Small Faces, the Pretty Things, the Move and the Blues Magoos; stuff that we all liked.

"It looked like we might play an occasional local gig when the Romantics had time off. But nothing ever came of it. After that, Jim and I tried to decide what we were going to do".

Once again, the collaboration factor came into play.

One of the many promising bands that sprang up in the latter stages of the area's forward momentum in the late 1970s was an ambitious quintet called the Plugs. The band, which was also covered at length in Blitz Magazine at the time, released an acclaimed single, I Like My Dad

The Plugs were led by Jeff Shoemaker, who concurrently worked at a record store in suburban Royal Oak. That vantage point gave Shoemaker an inside track to both the burgeoning collectors market, as well as direct access to the many area musicians who frequented the store.

"Jeff Shoemaker was still on Facebook at the time", said Pasadena.

"So out of the blue I asked him if he wanted to get a band together. He said he was interested. So he started coming over. We were just going over Mutants and Plugs songs, with Jeff playing bass".

But once again, an unexpected blessing availed itself. This time it came via the celebration of an annual area gala of sorts. 

"One Paczki day in Hamtramck, Gerry (Paz), who is now our bass player, approached me while we were listening to the Polish Muslims", said Pasadena.

"I didn't know him, but he knew me. He said that one of his old bands, the Weasels had opened for the Mutants more than once. 

"I had no memory of that! But I asked him if he was interested in playing bass with us. He said he was".

Happily, Paz's inclusion came full circle with an endorsement from Shoemaker.

"I was amazed that Jeff and Gerry knew each other from years earlier", said Pasadena.

"So now Gerry was on bass and Jeff Shoemaker switched to rhythm guitar. We played three shows as the Blackouts, performing Mutants and Plugs songs. 

"We even did a gig on Mackinac Island, playing three sets a night for two nights. So we included a lot of the covers that Jim and I had rehearsed with Rich and Wally".

But after a season of reliving one another's individual triumphs, it inevitably became obvious to all concerned that a vision with an eye towards establishing and building upon a collective legacy was a more feasible goal.

"After playing another gig at the Loving Touch with See Dick Run, still playing Mutants and Plugs songs, we decided that we wanted to be our own band and start writing new material", said Pasadena.

"Jeff Shoemaker had been writing all along. So we had material to work with right away".

To be certain, the resultant At Sixes And Sevens is one of the highlights of the decade to date. Comprised of eleven solid originals, the album is the first release under the band's current name, the Rearrangements. 

"One song on our album called Tears In The Ocean was a Shoemaker song that he wrote for his '90s band, the Figure Four", said Pasadena.

"They played it almost as a soft ballad. Jeff asked if we wanted to use it, since it was his song. I told him that if we do it, we are going to have to rock it up a little.

"So I came up with the arrangement that is on the album. In fact, a lot of the songs that Shoemaker brought to rehearsal I helped rearrange. It's no coincidence that the band is called the Rearrangements!"

Their name may indeed be the Rearrangements. But Pasadena's notion of rocking it up is as much of a factor in accomplishing that goal. Indeed, the Mutants and the Plugs both rose to prominence at a time when albums rife with full bodied arrangements with solid execution (augmented by sympathetic production) were an integral part of the proceedings. The results could be found in everything from the works of Huey Lewis And The News and the Producers to the Plimsouls and the Tremblers. 

And while incorporating such attributes into a given work might have meant that an endeavor such as the one at hand may well have been lost in the shuffle at that time, in the modern day setting, such an approach is indeed a breath of fresh air. As such, At Sixes And Sevens follows suit, with strong original material that draws from a rich variety of inspirations. 

"We all have a love of good pop songs, and I think that shows on the album", said Pasadena.

"We also all love the '60s style garage band Nuggets type tunes. I think we captured that pretty well on the two songs where I play the Vox organ on the album". 

The band also received an unexpected and most welcome profile boost from the early 2020 release of the Hold Fast label's two LP compilation, End Of The Night (1976 - 1983), which features rare and previously unreleased tracks by the Mutants, Plugs, Cinecyde, Ivories, Flirt, Reruns, Seatbelts, Ramrods and other area front runners from the dawn of the movement. That limited edition collection was a U.K. Record Store Day exclusive in April 2020, and an instant sellout in its initial pressing.

"Of course there was going to be some high energy, guitar dominated Detroit style rock and roll", said Pasadena.

"I think Invincible gets that point across. To me, it sounds like something that would have fit on the MC5's High Time album or the Stooges' Raw Power album".

Thankfully, songwriting adheres to democratic principles within the band, thereby allowing for the creative juices to flow from all concerned. In the process, the need to rely upon previous individual triumphs is eased somewhat, although not eliminated altogether.

"(Jeff Shoemaker composed) everything except Snow Files and I Just Wanna Be Seen", said Pasadena.

"Jeff and I co-wrote Wish That Girl Was Mine"

Elsewhere on the album, the notion of a collaboration takes on a slightly different approach.

"The song on the album called Ghost is interesting. The Plugs used to do a cover of the Mutants' song, Machine, using that music, but keeping the Amore lyrics", said Pasadena, in reference to Kordosh's John Amore stage persona. 

"To me, that one sounds like it could have come from an early Alice Cooper album. Black Ju Ju (from 1971's Love It To Death) comes to mind".

For Pasadena, a significant portion of the gratification came from the recording process itself.

"The new songs are all in the same vein", he said.

"Some pop, some garage and some Detroit style high energy rock and roll. I've never had so much fun with a band. I think the chemistry shows on this first album".

To be certain, some of that chemistry is borne of their adherence to the aforementioned democratic process.

"Jeff does sing lead vocals most of the time", Pasadena affirmed.

"But the songs that Gerry writes, he sings lead. I simply wrote music for some of the songs, and Gerry or Jeff will write lyrics. For instance, I wrote the music for Snow Flies, and Gerry wrote the lyrics".

Inevitably, the material occasionally takes on a personal perspective.

"The song is actually about some difficult times that his daughter was going through", said Pasadena.

"But she persevered and came out of it in great shape. 

"With the new songs, it's the same. The ones I wrote, I simply came up with the music and riffs. Jeff Shoemaker wrote lyrics. I am really excited about one song called Upside Down World. I think it's a hit single, with a riff that is somewhere between (the Monkees') Last Train To Clarksville and (the Beatles') Paperback Writer."

Like the Monkees and the Beatles, being a self-contained band has worked out quite well for the Rearrangements in the studio.

"On the album, I did the lead guitar work, the Vox Continental organ parts and a few backup vocals", said Pasadena.

"Jeff played rhythm. Gerry played bass and did a lot of the backup vocals. My son Jeff, who is an exceptional drummer, helped with some of the backup vocals and percussion, (including tambourine and castanets)".

In fact, Pasadena kept the process largely a family affair by bringing it full circle in the studio.

"My other son Mike, who was the shredding guitar player in A Wilhelm Scream, engineered and recorded the album", he said.

"He also mixed and produced it. He is a big reason why it sounds so good. The album was recorded in my house".

But while home recording has become the order of the day out of necessity during the pandemic era, the Rearrangements have proven that sonic quality need not be compromised in the process.

"Mike is extremely fussy when it comes to recording", said Pasadena.

"(He does) things like comparing the drum sound over and over after just moving a microphone a half inch closer or father from a particular drum. Same when recording the guitars. Microphone placement has to be just right.

"He also sets up open air mics to get just what he is looking for. The effects on the vocals on some songs and on the guitars were his idea. And he recorded us on his laptop!"

All of which makes At Sixes And Sevens a most promising debut.

"We are all really happy with the way that the album turned out", said Pasadena.

"We plan on putting Mike back to work soon to record the new material".

In fact, with their debut barely realized at this point, the Rearrangements have already taken decisive steps towards the completion of their follow up effort.

"Rehearsals continue, and we now have several new songs fully realized for the next album", said Pasadena. 

"There are more written that just have to be rehearsed".

Albeit with one key difference from their first outing.

"Whereas Jeff wrote most of the songs on the first album, the new material is more spread out among Jeff, Gerry and myself. I wrote three of the new ones, Gerry wrote two, and Jeff wrote two of the ones that we now have rehearsed".

All of which, to draw from a maxim that is frequently invoked within Gospel music circles, makes for a joyful noise.

"The band is stoked (with) the new songs we are rehearsing", said Pasadena.

"One of them would have fit on the first or second Monkees album. But I am getting ahead of myself. I am having a blast with this band! And so are the other guys". 

Given the principles involved, all of those elements should combine to make a democratically executed musical celebration. And that, in the words of the Mutants, is a tried and true method for success that is, among other things, So American.



Saturday

BITS AND PIECES - NEWS ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS By Michael McDowell


RED CARPET READY: Anticipation among the faithful has been at near fever pitch for the August release of The Body Remembers, the all new studio album by DEBBIE GIBSON on her own Stargirl label.  Meanwhile, on the eve of Record Store Day, Gibson has dropped the album's lead track, One Step Closer as a digital single.  Editor / Publisher Michael McDowell shares the details of this extraordinary forthcoming release below.  (Click on above image to enlarge).

SO GOES LOVE:
RECORD STORE DAY
CELEBRATION
BRINGS OUT THE BEST

"I saw the Ramones live seven times".

That observation was conveyed by Blitz Magazine this morning to a teenaged Ramones enthusiast and her sixty year old father, eliciting squeals of obvious delight from the former in the process. Father and daughter were waiting in line in the early morning hours of Saturday the seventeenth of July for the opening of their favorite record retailer in the hopes of acquiring a copy of the Ramones' limited edition live album, Triple J Live At The Wireless, which has been released in tandem with the Summer 2021 Record Store Day celebration. 

As it turned out, that Ramones fan not only found a copy of that live album, but she then passed a desired second copy to her father, so that he could bypass the "one copy per person" restriction and purchase a backup copy for his daughter. That act of familial altruism also reaped benefits for her father, who acquired Record Store Day deluxe vinyl editions of the Rolling Stones' Hot Rocks compilation and Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young's 1970 Deja Vu album for himself in the process.

Positive developments such as these seemed to characterize the overall mood of the July 2021 edition of Record Store Day. It marks the first completely open celebration of the ad hoc holiday since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. The faithful responded with almost as much relentless optimism as that which is typically found at a Lou Bega concert.

Indeed, the lines were long well before opening time at such venerable institutions as Dearborn Music in suburban Detroit, as well as Solo Records in the city's northern suburbs. With pedestrian and auto traffic reaching near capacity levels before their 8:00AM opening time, Dearborn Music took the astute and proactive step of distributing lists of Record Store Day exclusive releases to those waiting in line, with the promise to have their team members pull the desired items from stock and then text the buyer that their order is ready. In both cases, that kept foot traffic flowing, despite near capacity crowds at opening time. 

An eye towards that relentless optimism (combined with a thorough understanding of their fiercely loyal customer bases) also enabled things to flow smoothly at some of the nation's most respected retailers. Bob Say, founder of the venerable Freak Beat Records in the San Fernando Valley kept all factions of his considerable client base content by both emphasizing that the online option remained in place, as well as encouraging the continuation of the pandemic protocol that defined the retail experience at large in the previous year. This of course allowed for a smoother brick and mortar experience, heightened by Freak Beat's long standing policy of emphasizing an inventory that specializes in the hard to find for the most discerning of collectors and musicologists.

In turn, Amoeba Music at its new location in Hollywood is testing the waters after moving from their long standing location at Sunset and Cahuenga Boulevards. Adhering to their regular hours and promoting a vigorous mail order campaign via e-mail seems to have successfully placated all concerned.

Meanwhile, the immensely popular Fingerprints Records in Long Beach, California has opted to take advantage of the sharp rise in pre-orders in recent months. To that effect, orders there for the forthcoming The Body Remembers album by Debbie Gibson (which is slated for August release) were brisk and noteworthy enough among the so-called Deb Heads alone to generate across the board enthusiasm for that highly anticipated album.

True to form, Blitz Magazine opted to make the Record Store Holiday a "working holiday" of sorts, and took full advantage of the tremendous selection available. Among the vintage releases added to Blitz Magazine's archives were classic albums by the Dave Clark Five, Spanky And Our Gang, the Bus Boys, the Newbeats and the James Gang, along with one of the Sire label's acclaimed History Of British Rock compilations. Vintage CD acquisitions included a pair of solo albums by Dream Syndicate co-founder Steve Wynn, plus a hit collection by Tanya Tucker, an "extracurricular" double live album by the legendary Blasters, a double anthology set by White Whale Records alumni John's Children, and a backup copy of Debbie Gibson's essential Anything Is Possible album. The Record Store Day exclusive vinyl releases were also very much to Blitz Magazine's liking, including a Gene Clark 45, plus Canned Heat's double album, Living The Blues, all three volumes of the Monkees' crucial rarities series, Missing Links, and the aforementioned live Ramones album.

With retail operations pretty much in full swing for the moment across the continental United States, the cause for celebration has brought out the best in the world of record collecting on this extraordinary Record Store Day. Many retailers were also offering deep discounts for the occasion, with most promising to extend the courtesy over the next several days. To be certain, as that avid Ramones enthusiast learned this morning, such delights can put an entirely new perspective on the band's classic observation, We're A Happy Family.

ONE STEP CLOSER:
DEBBIE GIBSON DROPS
THIRD SINGLE FROM
FORTHCOMING STUDIO ALBUM

Record Store Day may never be the same again.

Created in part to generate and renew support for physical releases and brick and mortar retail outlets during the height of the digital era, Record Store Day has also brought into the forefront the competitive nature that has long persisted among musicologists and record collectors. 

To wit, the rise of the independent release as a dominant format during the so-called punk / new wave movement of the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s caused artist, label and observer alike to rethink the notion of the standard A and B side of a single being the be all and end all of the format. In a somewhat unlikely partnership with the concurrent disco movement (where twelve-inch vinyl singles featuring various incarnations of a single track held center stage), the punk / new wave releases brought into the process such heretofore peripheral variations as the Club Mix, Dub Mix, Radio Mix and the like. In the process, those extras provided an open door for the now essential bonus track, which was an integral part of the rise to prominence of the Compact Disc format in the 1980s.  

Procuring each and every variant became a matter of not just necessity, but (to a degree) pride amongst the hardcore faithful. It was at that point that the notion of record collecting as a competitive sport became a dominant trait within the movement. 

Interestingly enough, the baseball card industry followed suit in 1988 with the debut of the technically groundbreaking Upper Deck brand. Their near-immediate dominance of an industry long believed to be the exclusive domain of the venerable Topps brand gave birth to that industry's own version of bonus tracks and various mixes in the form of the chase card, which enticed the most ardent devotees with limited edition runs of cards featuring snippets of uniforms, game used bats and the like. 

However, the impact of the pandemic in 2020 affected the ad hoc Record Store Day holiday adversely, to the degree that some of its key attributes (most notably the celebration of new releases) were forced to ride out the storm online. While nearly all concerned acquiesced out of necessity, the more discerning artists and labels soon discovered and embraced the notion of an all encompassing approach that would feature the best of both worlds. 

Perhaps chief among the visionaries in terms of the artists themselves has been the beloved five-tool player (vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger), Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson. When the onset of the pandemic in early 2020 abruptly derailed the momentum of her highly acclaimed Girls Night Out single, her endearing attributes of genius and relentless optimism kicked in to provide an ongoing series of highlights throughout that most challenging of eras.

Among those highlights were the creation in her home studio (whose focal point is a grand piano once owned by the late, charismatic and highly influential keyboard virtuoso, Wladziu "Lee" Liberace) of several inspired musical performances that approach masterwork status even in the rudimentary state in which they remain for the moment. They include a sublime answer song of sorts to Girls Night Out in the form of the wry social commentary, Girls Night In, as well as a playful cover of Cockeyed Optimist from the 1958 Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, and (most notably) a gorgeous, sublime, original piano instrumental, French Carousel, which arguably holds its own among the catalogs of such absolute masters as Leroy Anderson and Ron Goodwin. 

Despite those triumphs in the works, Gibson (whose many attributes include multi-tasking; evidenced in part by the fact that she is presently on location in Illinois, filming the forthcoming motion picture, The Class, in which she will co-star with Anthony Michael Hall) has devoted much of the past year to the creation of her forthcoming new album, The Body Remembers

Slated for August release on her own Stargirl label, The Body Remembers will include one of several existing mixes of Girls Night Out, as well as her recently released remake of her 1989 Atlantic label Lost In Your Eyes single as a duet with Joey McIntyre. The remainder of the fifteen track album (which is slated for digital, vinyl and CD release) is comprised of new original material that promises to make The Body Remembers one of the highlights of the decade to date. The remaining selections include the title track, as well as Runaway, Love Don't Care, Strings, Legendary, Freedom, Dance 4U, What Are We Gonna Do?, Luv U2 Much, Red Carpet Ready, Tell Me Love and the highly anticipated Me Not Loving You.

Most fittingly, on the eve of Record Store Day, Gibson is dropping the album's lead track, One Step Closer as a single; initially in the digital format. Interestingly enough, there are those among the most hardcore of musicologists within the world of record collecting who might take exception to singling this development out for notoriety. Some have contended that such practices are now standard within the industry, and as such not deserving of such accolades. 

However, the justification comes from Gibson's hardcore devotees themselves. Anticipation among the faithful (affectionately known as Deb Heads) has been at near fever pitch, with online celebrations planned upon the single's official release at 9:00PM PDT on Thursday the fifteenth of July. 

Almost without exception, those high levels of anticipation have been warranted for all such previous endeavors. And with respect to One Step Closer, perhaps Gibson herself best illustrates the reasoning behind it.

"Ever had someone try to diminish you, but instead it lit you up?", she asked. 

"Then this is your song!"

Indeed, with such lyrical bravado as, "Bet you're missin' it; This, keep kissin' it" to underscore her resolve in that respect, One Step Closer may well take its place among such absolute masterpieces as the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' You're Gonna Miss Me (if not Rick Nelson's Garden Party) as one of the great vengeance anthems of the ages. To be certain, in the words of one of Gibson's classic signature Atlantic era singles, "It's electric!"

"OKAY, SEE YOU"
KIM'S CONVENIENCE FAREWELL DRAWS
FIRE FROM BOTH CAST AND FAITHFUL

Be careful what you love. It may well leave you.

That perhaps not so cynical observation seems to have applied in abundance to network television programming over the past year. 

In early 2020, Blitz Magazine published its once per decade Blitz Awards, saluting the best of the decade of the 2010s. In the Best Network Television Series category, a number of acclaimed programs that were still in production at that time have nonetheless since been canceled, including Frankie Drake Mysteries, Stumptown, Superstore, and NBC's utterly stupendous Perfect Harmony, with the CW's beloved Supergirl and CBS' game changing sitcom/drama hybrid, Mom scheduled to follow suit later this year.

But while such developments seem to fly in the face of each series' strong viewer support, perhaps no such finale has come with greater surprise than that of CBC's magnificent Kim's Convenience. Starring Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Toronto, Ontario convenience store proprietor Appa Kim, Jean Yoon as his wife Umma Kim, Andrea Bang as their aspiring photographer daughter Janet, Simu Liu as their estranged son Jung, Andrew Phung as Jung's friend and Handy Rental Car exec, Arnold "Kimchee" Han, and Nicole Power as Jung and Kimchee's boss, Shannon Ross, Kim's Convenience debuted in 2016. Despite ongoing accolades throughout its five season run for its warmer than average portrayal of the Kim's family's adventures, CBC announced that the show was ceasing production due to the decision of its creators, Ins Choi and Kevin White to, "pursue other projects".

But reaction from the cast itself has inferred that such a cut and dry finale may not exactly have been the case.

In an appearance on CBC's nightly news program, The National on 13 April following the airing of the series finale earlier that evening, Lee said he was "blindsided" by the decision.

"They are my family", said Lee of his fellow cast members, underscoring the point via both emotional testimony and by wearing a cap that sported the word, "Bitter".

Replacements were initially sought for Choi and White. However, it was ultimately decided that production could not continue at optimum level without their input. 

As such, Appa Kim's trademark benediction of, "Okay, see you" will have to sustain the faithful, as the beloved series continues for the time being in reruns. Meanwhile, a salute to one of the most magnificent casts in sitcom history: Job well done.



Wednesday

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (REISSUES AND ANTHOLOGIES) By Michael McDowell



WATCH YOUR STEP: The music of the greater San Diego area that was produced throughout rock and roll's most fertile period at last gets its due via this magnificent Relampago-go label anthology, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958 - 1973.  Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look below at this landmark collection. (Click on above image to enlarge).

 CD AND LP REISSUES / ANTHOLOGIES
(REVIEWS ARE POSTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY ARTIST)

ROCK N' ROLL SCHOOL FOR GIRLS - 
The Catholic Girls (JSP)

Among other things, the study of the legacy of the Catholic Girls is a study of the reassessment of priorities.

Prior to the advent of the so-called punk / new wave era in the mid - 1970s, the belief of many a band and solo artist was that their success was best reflected in statistics, as well as being embraced by the mainstream media. Such optimistic (yet ultimately futile) reasoning was articulated throughout the decades via such memorable singles as Bobby Bare's The All American Boy, the Byrds' So You Want To Be A Rock 'N Roll Star and the Raspberries' Overnight Sensation.

Thankfully, the rise of the so-called independent music press (of which Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People remains the lone still-active publication) in tandem with the aforementioned punk / new wave movement called out such aspirations for what they ultimately were: an exercise in futility. But given the short shelf life afforded the vast majority of those who managed to crack that glass ceiling, the long term loyalty afforded the proven artist in the indie press was a welcome relief for those who opted to stay the course for the long run.

In the case of New Jersey's Catholic Girls, that reality check came about in short order. Their professed musical mission statement was countered on all fronts at the onset by the mainstream media over concerns regarding periphery that the band had not even taken into consideration, let alone incorporated into their vision. 

Thankfully and true to form, various factions within the indie press contingent came forward and welcomed the Catholic Girls with open arms. The band reciprocated by amassing a recorded legacy that consistently showcased the strength of their material via the consistent incorporation of a variety of attributes into the mix.

Put another way, the Catholic Girls did not consistently defer to the basics of songwriting (a solid verse, chorus and bridge template) to sustain their momentum. Like the late visionary genius Michael Holliday (who amassed an impressive legacy via his years ahead of its time technical acumen, augmented by a deliberately understated delivery that invariably drew the listener into the proceedings), the Catholic Girls often opted to tell their tale in near stream of consciousness manner, deferring to the consistence of the high drama element in their delivery (which worked particularly well in live settings) to sustain their momentum. It was an attribute that was also found in the works of the Des Moines, Iowa-based Luxury (particularly in their acclaimed 1979 Green Hearts single), and one that has long been used with resounding success in network television's so-called daytime serials. 

It is the best of the Catholic Girls' accomplishments in that respect that are gathered in this career spanning two CD collection. Compiled and remixed by Vincent Mazella and John H. Haley (who also provided a detailed account of the sessions in the accompanying booklet), the proceedings herein are equally divided between previously available material and various alternate takes and heretofore unissued demos. 

Within the latter group, there are signs of individuality from the onset. To wit, Private School incorporates snippets of landmark moments from earlier works by the Shangri-Las, Whyte Boots and Pleasure Seekers into a high drama setting that set a precedent for later works by the duly inspired On The Air and Dragster Barbie. In turn, Summer Boy (Summer Vacation) takes a Gene Pitney-like crescendo approach to paint a vivid portrait of a familiar yet captivating study in pathos. The brief instrumental workout in the final moments underscores the point quite succinctly. 

Meanwhile, amongst other things, the second disc celebrates the band's debut album for MCA. Subsequent studio sweetening was kept to a minimum, as the original 1982 sessions were well recorded to begin with, in keeping with MCA's unwavering standards in that respect. To be certain, the material in Catholic Girls was designed to be best appreciated in a live setting. The band took decisive steps to bring that concept to fruition at the time via various appearances with the Kinks, Martha And The Vandellas' Martha Reeves, Tom Petty and others. 

Ongoing support from Long Beach's KNAC-FM and Pasadena's KROQ-FM also helped, as did consistent accolades in the indie press. Nonetheless, the band and MCA eventually parted ways. Undaunted, the Catholic Girls pressed ahead, albeit despite occasional personnel changes. To that effect, lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Gail Petersen, lead guitarist Roxy Andersen, bassist Joanne Holland and drummers Kyd Ellsworth and Doreen Holmes have been among the most consistent presences within their ranks. Their subsequent endeavors are well represented in Disc One via the inclusion of such memorable fare as If No One Fell In Love and It Doesn't Become You.

As a testament to their resilience, the Catholic Girls have persevered to the present day. And with hope currently springing eternal for an eventual return to live appearances, the time was most fortuitous to revisit their remarkable catalog in a commemorative manner. Most assuredly, this Rock N' Roll School For Girls has produced ongoing results on a grad school level.

THE LOST BERLIN TAPES  -
Ella Fitzgerald (Verve)

"That was an attention getter".

The late Jackie Gleason invoked that prototypical expression of understatement while apprehending a suspect in his role as Sheriff Buford T. Justice in the classic 1977 motion picture, Smokey And The Bandit. To underscore his displeasure, Sheriff Justice administered the proverbial kick in the pants to the perpetrator. 

That said, displeasure in and of itself is most assuredly the antithesis of the proceedings at hand. Even so, the inevitable reaction is as attention getting as would be Gleason's method of discipline. 

Founded in 1956 by Norman Granz to provide a consistent label home for the extraordinary artist showcased here, Verve Records went on to become one of music's leading lights in short order. Among the top drawer artists to have been a part of the Verve roster were Rick Nelson, Cal Tjader, Wes Montgomery, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Smith, the Righteous Brothers, Walter Wanderley, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, the Mothers Of Invention, Dizzy Gillespie, the Velvet Underground and Hank Williams Junior in his Bocephus alter ego, as well as such visionaries as the Hombres, Janis Ian, the Blues Project, the Paupers and Friend And Lover on the company's affiliate Verve Forecast label. 

In her earlier recordings for Decca, Newport News, Virginia native Ella Jane Fitzgerald was all over the musical map. Her vast and vaunted catalog includes collaborations with such fellow visionaries as the Ink Spots, Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Louis Jordan, Buddy Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Chick Webb, Buddy Rich, the Delta Rhythm Boys, Eddie Heywood and others. 

In the majority of those projects, all concerned inspired one another to greater heights. Not surprisingly, the result was a disproportionately higher percentage of top drawer material. 

However, upon occasion (primarily during solo projects during her tenure with Decca), Fitzgerald would opt for the so-called mood piece. And while such ventures were invariably well executed, they did to some listeners lean towards the anti-climactic, especially to those who favored her more spirited and upbeat approach.

Which is exactly why The Lost Berlin Tapes is indeed an attention getter.

Recorded at the Sportpalast on 25 March 1962, The Lost Berlin Tapes stems from high quality stereo recordings found in Grantz's extensive archives. Herein, Fitzgerald is accompanied by pianist Paul Smith, bassist Wilfred Middlebrooks and drummer Stan Levey, all of whom inspire her to unprecedented heights.

Indeed, from the opening rendition of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' 1935 Irving Berlin-penned Cheek To Cheek, Fitzgerald absolutely soars like never before. She gains even greater momentum via her interpretation of Matt Monro's My Kind Of Girl as He's My Kind Of Boy, invoking everyone from Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Harry Belafonte to Perry Como, Count Basie and Billy Eckstine in the process. 

The momentum continues to build as Fitzgerald glides decisively through the likes of Benny Goodman's Jersey Bounce, Ray Charles' Hallelujah I Love Her (Him) So, and Gordon MacRae's Cole Porter-penned C'est Magnifique. She even invokes a moment of self-realization and good natured self-depreciation during the prerequisite ballad arrangement of George Gershwin's often-covered Summertime.

By the set's end, as Fitzgerald tears into the Bobby Darin / Louis Armstrong standard, Mack The Knife, the audience is literally eating out of her hand and responds with near deafening applause. As such, the set closer, Joe Turner's Wee Baby Blues becomes as much a bid from the stage for a return to decorum among the audience members to allow for a gracious and timely exit as it does a showcase for genre diversity. 

Although she was blessed with a remarkable career that spanned nearly six decades, Fitzgerald sadly succumbed to complications from diabetes in June 1996. However, as a fitting testimony to her God given abilities, The Lost Berlin Tapes may well take its place in the upper echelons of her overall recorded legacy. And that, to be certain, is an attention getter of the highest order.

COSMIC PARTNERS:
THE McCABE's TAPES - 
Michael Nesmith And Red Rhodes (7a)

Orville J. "Red" Rhodes was definitely a man whose reputation had preceded him.

In the early 1980s, Blitz Magazine paid a visit to Rhodes at his Hollywood, California-based guitar shop. In the wake of the dissolution of the First National Band several years earlier, Rhodes had opted to apply his considerable acumen as a steel guitar virtuoso and all around master of stringed instruments at large to a different career path.

Rhodes had established a formidable reputation via a series of solo recordings for the vaunted Crown and Somerset labels, followed by an acclaimed live album (recorded at the Palomino in North Hollywood) with the Detours for Era Records' affiliate Happy Tiger label. In 1969, he reached his career pinnacle by cofounding the supergroup, the First National Band with ace drummer John Ware, Monkees lead guitarist and resident visionary Michael Nesmith, and bassist extraordinaire John London (who had been an integral part of the legendary Lewis And Clarke Expedition, whose 1967 signature single. I Feel Good (I Feel Bad) featured Nesmith on backing vocals). 

Blitz Magazine had in its archives at the time a Gibson Les Paul copy electric guitar, which was in rather poor condition. However, the general consensus in the Southern California music community was that if any such instrument could be restored to fighting shape, Rhodes was the man for the job. With that, the somewhat battered guitar was brought to him for consideration.

"Sure, I'll see what I can do", Rhodes said, with a slight grin suggesting amusement at the notion of that much interest in a knock off model.

"I'll give you a call when it's ready".

True to his word, Rhodes phoned several days later to advise that the job had been completed. And in keeping with his legacy, that Les Paul copy model had been upgraded to the degree that it could have held its own with a Gibson original.

At that point, in addition to thanking him for his extraordinary work, Blitz Magazine took the opportunity to compliment Rhodes on his formidable legacy with the First National Band. The quartet's early 1970s albums and singles for RCA Victor pretty much set the standard of excellence in the country rock genre, with their 1970 Magnetic South album finishing in second place (behind Dave Edmunds' 1977 Get It! album for Swan Song) in Blitz Magazine's picks for Best Albums Of The 1970s.

With those words of praise, a slight smile of both pleasure and gratitude came over Rhodes' face.

"Come on back here", Rhodes said, gesturing towards the back room of his shop.

"I think you'll like this"

.In that back room was a well used steel guitar. Rhodes sat down in front of it and proceeded to play a magnificent version of The Crippled Lion from the Magnetic South album that brought his visitor to the brink of tears. 

Such is the power of absolute masters in their element.

As such, while it took the collective and considerable musical muscle of Ware, London and Rhodes to bring Nesmith's extraordinary musical vision to fruition, the notion of reproducing any of it in a live setting would have been inconceivable without at least the presence of Rhodes. 

All of which is evidenced in abundance in the 7a label's Cosmic Partners. Recorded live on 18 August 1973 at the Santa Monica-based McCabe's Guitar Shop (whose most recent musical guests include the legendary and beloved composer and vocalist, Evie Sands), Cosmic Partners is a rare intimate glimpse of giants in transition. By that time, the First National Band and spinoff Second National Band had run their respective courses, with Nesmith and Rhodes persevering as a duo for RCA Victor for a brief season. 

In place of Ware and London for this live date were bassist Colin Cameron and drummer Danny Lane, who, while supremely competent in those roles, nonetheless astutely held back here just enough to let the light duly shine on Nesmith and Rhodes. And shine they did, in a set that offered a sublime mix of the highlights of the First and Second National Band's brief but most formidable legacy.

Interspersed among Nesmith's trademark tales of the musician's life are some of the most compelling examples of the genre ever committed to record, from Tomorrow And Me, The Crippled Lion and Some Of Shelley's Blues (which had been covered by both the Stone Poneys and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) to the classic singles Silver Moon, Joanne and Propinquity (which had been a staple of the live set of veteran rockers the Chantays for much of the 1980s). To their considerable credit, Nesmith and Rhodes also offered up that evening a spot on rendition of their sublime cover of Bobby Garrett's Rose City Chimes, which had initially been issued as the B-side of the First National Band's Little Red Rider at the end of 1969.

Sadly, only Michael Nesmith and John Ware survive from that classic First National Band line up. Red Rhodes passed away in August 1995 at age 65, while the great John London died in his home state of Texas in February 2000 at age 58. 

With John Ware retired from live performances, Nesmith has in recent years has revisited his First National Band legacy with a revised group that he calls the First National Band Redux. He and beloved drummer Micky Dolenz likewise continue to soldier on as the Monkees in the wake of the tragic passing of band co-founder and bassist/keyboardsman Peter Tork in February 2019, with a series of live dates scheduled throughout 2020. The Monkees of course also turned out one of the twenty-first century's definitive masterpieces to date with their 2016 fiftieth anniversary album, Good Times! for Rhino Records.

And in keeping with their mission statement of releasing the finest of Monkees solo and related projects, Cosmic Partners comes with a highly detailed 24 page book, as well as being available as a picture disc in the vinyl album configuration. And, in the words of one of the standout tracks from the First National Band's Loose Salute album, Thanx For The Ride.

PSYCHEDELIC STATES:
WEST VIRGINIA IN THE '60s -
Various Artists 
(Gear Fab)

Sometimes it's all a matter of perspective.

With respect to the state of West Virginia, how a visitor approaches the state may well have a direct impact on how that visitor ultimately perceives it. For example, the area known as the state's Northern Panhandle is a relatively narrow stretch of land, which measures approximately thirteen miles from west to east. It can be accessed by car via Ohio from the west, or by Pennsylvania from the east. 

During that thirteen mile stretch, the visitor will encounter multiple truck stops. Among the most prominent attractions there is the acclaimed Eat And Park restaurant chain. 

But the landmark of note within that relatively brief drive is the city of Wheeling. The seat of Ohio County, Wheeling is known primarily for the West Virginia Independence Hall, which presently serves as a museum of early American history. The city also boasts a number of above average antique shops and thrift stores.

However, if a brief journey through the Northern Panhandle becomes the visitor's total experience of the state of West Virginia, they will have based their assessment solely on a visit to an area that comprises less than five percent of the state overall. 

Or to paraphrase the late Ellas "Bo Diddley" McDaniel, sometimes you can't judge a pan by its handle.

In the latest installment of his acclaimed Psychedelic States CD reissue series, Gear Fab Records founder and CEO Roger Maglio underscores that analogy quite decisively. West Virginia In The '60s features twenty-nine tracks which irrefutably demonstrate that the state could more than hold its own in the first generation garage rock movement with the best of them.

To underscore the point, in the project's sizeable and painstakingly detailed accompanying essay, Maglio within the first sentence refers to West Virginia as the Great Mountain State. The reasoning behind the emphasis becomes apparent in short order, with the biographical accounts of each artist denoting a level of vision and originality that supersedes the presumptive opinion.

To be certain, many an exponent of first generation garage rock has relied upon familiar cover material. In some respects, that proved to be counter productive to the movement at large. 

However, the artists herein show themselves to be worthy of accolades by instead contributing strong and reasonably diverse original material. Witness Disappointed In You by Al's Dynamics, or the Mojos' haunting What She's Done (with high drama atmosphere that was seemingly inspired by Bobby Jameson's I'm Lonely). In turn, the Plastic Menagerie draws from period devices (the "watery" Leslie sound) for maximum effect in Hold Your Baby Close. 

Conversely, the Evil Enc. Group's Hey You and the Satisfied Minds' I Can't Take It stick to the basics, with optimum results. Strong showings are also made by the Mysterians (Walking Home), the Scarlets (If I Had A Girl) and the Blue Crowd's Barry McGuire-ish Need A Friend.

But as further testimony to some of the artists' resolve to strive for originality, several of the tracks herein take decisive leaps forward into sparsely charted territory. The Fantastic Emanons do so in tongue in cheek manner with Duh, a unique hybrid of the Blendells' La La and the Driving Stupid's Horror Asparagus Stories.

Meanwhile, the Sabres' Need Your Lovin' sports a strong horn chart with pertinent changes in dynamics, a la the Mauds. J.T. And The Trolls' I Can't Believe It takes that concept a step further with a decisive Northern Soul flavor, while Royal (also known as the Royals Band) make a decisive leap forward into funk with their stereo cut, Star Goddess.

The one group herein to venture into both realms with equal success are the Long Brothers. Their Lonely Time evokes the New Colony Six's I Lie Awake (complete with horn charts), while its flip side, Dream Girl falls somewhere in between Sonny And Cher's Little Man and the Music Explosion's Little Black Egg.

Interestingly enough, with one exception (the aforementioned Long Brothers, whose pair of contributions here were originally released on Jubilee Records), each and every single in this gem of a collection initially appeared on the most basic of indie labels, which typifies the spirit of the genre at its best. Not that either option irrefutably factors into the outcome of the respective performances. But it does reiterate that each of these bands opted to not be deterred by their seeming geographic isolation. 

Rather, all concerned used their circumstances to strive for originality and delivered solidly on their own terms in the process. Perhaps the Flys' September 1966 Myskatonic label single defined the collective mission statement best: Be What You Is.

LOOK OUT!
THE SAN DIEGO SCENE 1958 - 1973 --
Various Artists 
(Relampago-go)

Curiously, one issue that musical developments have in common in the states of California and Michigan is a peripheral one: geography.

Throughout each state, various genres came to fruition and were celebrated accordingly within their respective home bases. In the case of Michigan, much of that was due to the liability of provincialism, in which undue emphasis is placed on a perceived "home town" focal point. Almost invariably, that relegates the likes of musical merit to secondary concern. 

Nonetheless, three highly productive scenes developed there during rock and roll's most fertile and creative period. In the western part of Michigan's lower peninsula, such first generation garage rock greats as the Kingtones, the Sheffields, Me And Dem Guys, the Five Emprees and the Quests made their mark decisively. 

Meanwhile, to the Northeast in the midsection of the lower peninsula (an area that encompasses Bay City, Saginaw and the surrounding communities, including Flint), the Bossmen, the Cherry Slush, Question Mark And The Mysterians and Terry Knight And The Pack all joined forces to take first generation garage rock to the next level. All but the Cherry Slush (who were recruited by the Chicago-based USA label) found a sympathetic home at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Cameo / Parkway family of labels, which at the time, under the oversight of Neil Bogart in terms of artist development became one of the world's front runners in that capacity.

And to the south, greater Detroit was showcasing what was arguably first generation garage rock's most productive movement ever. The wealth of top drawer protagonists of the movement speaks for itself: Bob Seger And The Last Heard, the Rationals, the Unrelated Segments, the Tidal Waves, Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels, the Underdogs, the Woolies, the Human Beings, the Young Men, the Scot Richard Case, Tim Tam And The Turn-Ons, the Thyme, the Shy Guys, the Pleasure Seekers, the Capreez, the Torquays, the Lazy Eggs and the Wanted, to name but a few. The concurrent quantum leaps being made there in Northern Soul via the Motown empire and such forward thinking labels as Revilot, Golden World, Ric-Tic and Groovesville served to make a phenomenal movement even more so.

However, as evidence of the aforementioned liability of provincialism, these three musical movements operated largely independently of one another, despite being separated by at most 150 miles. As such, artists who flourished within their home bases were often unknown just a two hour drive up the road. Not surprisingly, the attention spans of the rank and file were short lived, as their attention was eventually diverted by whatever "next big things" would assuage their jingoistic leanings.

Conversely, in California, the sheer vast size of the state enabled three individual movements to grow and flourish, while the proximity of the entertainment industry afforded all concerned the prerequisite exposure on a national and international level. 

The Bay Area earned the lion's share of attention through such venues as the late Tom Donahue's Autumn label, the recording home of the Vejtables, the Tikis (later Harpers Bizarre), the Mojo Men and the Beau Brummels. In turn, bands such as the Charlatans and the Great Society brought a wealth of diverse inspirations into the mix, paving the way for the over the top game changing success of Big Brother And The Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane and others. 

And a five hour drive to the south, in the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles continued to lead the way. Artists including Jan And Dean, the Standells, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, Love, the Palace Guard, the Leaves, the Yellow Balloon, the Byrds, the Doors and the Mamas And Papas each contributed exponentially to assure Los Angeles' decisive dominance in that respect. 

Meanwhile, just a two hour drive south of Los Angeles, yet another highly productive musical movement was flourishing. But as was the case with the aforementioned dichotomy concurrently happening in Michigan, it was one that went largely unnoticed in its two counterparts to the north.

Situated near the border with Baja California, San Diego and its suburbs were a home to military bases, a successful manufacturing industry and certainly as much musical talent as that which its northern neighbors boasted. Yet despite the occasional inroads made by John Gummoe's Cascades and the Lyrics (both represented here), it was a development that for all practical purposes was the area's best kept secret.

For the past few decades, Tell-Tale Hearts co-founder and Ugly Things Magazine editor, Mike Stax has been a tireless crusader for his home town cause. Having released several acclaimed projects chronicling the area's musical developments on his own label, he now lends his considerable acumen in that respect to this, the most comprehensive such project to date.

"I just helped out with liner notes, and now distribution", said Stax, with characteristic understatement.

In reality, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958-1973 makes a stronger case for the defense than any other such project to date. While first generation garage rock is represented in copious amounts among the more than two dozen tracks included here, Look Out! also takes into consideration the area's noteworthy developments in rockabilly, R&B and frat rock.

The collection opens with 1958's That Crazy Little House On The Hill. Composed by beloved Federal label era-Platters alumnus and co-author of the Penguins' signature single, Earth Angel, Gaynel Hodge, That Crazy Little House On The Hill made for a most rambunctious outing in the hands of rockabilly great Gene Lamarr and his Blue Flames. It is followed by the Strangers' wonderful 1959 single, The Caterpillar Crawl, best described as a hybrid of John Zacherle's Dinner With Drac and the Chargers' The Large Charge.

From there, the proceedings diversify in short order. Highlights include Ervin "Big Boy" Groves' cryptic 1962 Bucket Of Blood single (which owes more to Gradie O'Neal's Turkey Neck Stretch than either artist may have realized), the Nomads' 1963 James Brown-inspired Let's Do The Freeze, the Imperialites' 1964 take on Richard Berry's Have Love Will Travel (which showcases the piece's inherent Louie, Louie leanings more so than does the version by the Sonics), the Lyrics' Era label garage rocker, So What!! (which stands in marked contrast to their subsequent R&B leanings in their later work for GNP Crescendo), Steve And The Holidays' magnificent (and timeless) lament, Unemployment, Ervin Rucker's 1965 She's Alright (best described as variations on a theme by Bobby Bland), the aforementioned Cascades' lavishly arranged, psych-tinged I Bet You Won't Stay, the Five Pound Grin's wonderfully screwy Not This Time and Anita May And Interstate 5's haunting period piece, When It's Dark.

In keeping with the precedent set by industry front runners Gear Fab, Rare Rockin' Records and other labels which specialize in the reissue of archival material, the National City-based Ralampago-go label has taken decisive steps to assure a first class production. Not just in terms of the cleanest mastering possible (invariably a challenge when dealing with diverse source material), but with detailed session data and copious amounts of rare photographs. True to form, Mike Stax fills in the gaps magnificently via his painstakingly detailed essays on each track.

In the process, Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958-1973 makes a significant step forward in terms of bringing the level of recognition for the region's musical accomplishments closer to that long enjoyed by its two counterparts to the north. As the Mixed Grill cautions herein, it's essential. Don't Throw It Away.

THE VISCAYNES AND FRIENDS -
The Viscaynes (Org Music)

More often than not, the term "budget label" has proven to be somewhat of an oxymoron.

From the late 1950s, throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, the bargain bins at many a record retail outlet were well stocked with releases on labels such as Spin-O-Rama, Design, Hit, Tops, Sutton, Springboard, Trip, Avon, Crown, Grand Prix, Carnaby, Arc, Coronet and others of similar intent. Generally priced somewhat below the standard $3.98 stereo and $2.98 monaural of the day, the so-called budget albums tended to be overlooked by some who presumed that price and presentation suggested a lower standard.

In reality, the opposite has been very much the case. Generally, the labels covered a wide variety of concepts, formats and artists, from spot on covers of current releases (Hit, Carnaby), to thematic releases inspired by other artists (Design's 1967 Tijuana Christmas by the Border Brass, as well as Spin-O-Rama's over the top brilliant pair of David Seville-influenced albums by Eddie Maynard and the Grasshoppers). Others such as Design and Springboard devoted much of their catalog to Various Artists collections which showcased some of the best in music, with artists such as the Five Satins, Wilbert Harrison, Faye Adams, the Soul Survivors, the Turtles, the Trashmen and the Fendermen among those who were represented in their numerous releases.

One other approach common to many of those labels was to highlight worthwhile material by up and coming artists that was either heretofore unreleased or which had seen limited accessibility on other labels. Early catalog gems by Ronnie Dove, Bobby Rydell, Paul Revere And The Raiders and Tommy Roe were all given a second chance in this manner, as was the Beach Nuts' monster classic, Cycle Annie.

It was through one such project that the work of an extraordinarily gifted Northern California group was allotted the larger scale exposure that their earlier single releases, as great as they were, did not afford them up to that point.

In 1963, Sutton Records issued a multi-artist collection entitled Jumpin! With Pop Hits Of Tomorrow. Issued in both the stereo and monaural configurations, the album featured recent recordings by a promising group of artists that included the Sparkplugs, Dal Cory, the Sims Sisters and Diane Coley. 

As great as each of their contributions were, one track on that album stood so far above the rest that its appearance on a so-called budget label compilation instead of on a hugely successful 45 RPM single simply defied logic.

That track was You're My Only Love, recorded in 1961 and unreleased up to that point. The group responsible for it was the Viscaynes, a supremely talented six member group from Vallejo, California.

Comprised of Frank Arellano, Maria Boldway, Charlene Imhoff, Sylvester Stewart and brothers Charles and Vernon Gebhardt, the Viscaynes met and got together in due course while all were students at Franklin Junior High School and Vallejo High School. The Gebhardt brothers' father was the football coach at a nearby college, and the siblings were active in various sports programs at their high school. The Gebhardts also participated in school plays, as did neighbors Imhoff (who also kept score for the school's baseball team), Arellano and Boldway. 

It was at that point that each learned of one another's passion for singing. At Arellano's behest, they soon joined forces with Stewart, who was a member of the school's basketball program and gave lessons in both tennis and piano to other students. Active as a musician in his church for years at that point, Stewart also brought into the vocal mix a gift for arranging that would serve the Viscaynes well.

The group rehearsed diligently several days per week in the Gebhardts' home. They initially called themselves the Viscounts, but had to acquiesce when the instrumental group of the same name from New Jersey scored with their classic single, Harlem Nocturne on Madison in 1959 (and again in November 1965 with a reissue on Bell's affiliate Amy label). Determined to persevere with a "V" name, the group decided to parlay their affinity for Chevrolet's Biscayne model into a viable solution by becoming the Viscaynes. 

The Viscaynes participated in numerous talent shows, almost invariably taking top honors. An appearance on Dick Stewart's Dance Party television program also earned the group the grand prize, as well as the attention of producer George Motola. Having irrefutably established his acumen in that respect with the legendary Jesse Belvin's 1956 Modern label signature single, Goodnight My Love, Motola took the Viscaynes into the studio and captured their sublime vocal blend on a number of great sides. 

One of them, Yellow Moon took the mission statement of such like minded vocal greats as the Demensions a step further, and became a fair sized success for the VPM label in 1961. A fitting showcase for their impeccable vocal blend, Yellow Moon was nonetheless ultimately eclipsed in impact by its flip side, Uncle Sam Needs You. Backed by the Continental Band, Uncle Sam Needs You was a prototype of things to come (alongside such like minded efforts as Wilbert Harrison's 1960 for the Fury label), expressing as it does with Olympics-inspired humor the group's collective disillusion with the notion of cumpulsory military service. 

As if Yellow Moon and Uncle Sam Needs You were not sufficient enough evidence, the Viscaynes managed to cut several more sides that irrefutably demonstrated their formidable acumen as one of the most adept and capable vocal groups ever. Help Me With My Broken Heart was a Bert Berns-flavored masterpiece of high drama in the Gene McDaniels, Roy Hamilton and Ben E. King vein, while the otherworldly and sublime vocal harmonies of Imhoff and Boldway found in You've Forgotten Me set the stage for what is arguably one of Stewart's most commanding ever lead vocals. Likewise the sublime doo wop ballad A Long Time Alone, which saw release on the Hollywood-based Luke label as a solo Sylvester Stewart single under the name Danny Stewart. 

With a formidable repertoire in place and a consistent demand for live appearances, the stage seemed to be set for large scale acclaim for the Viscaynes. However, high school graduation found them instead going in separate directions, and the group sadly splintered without realizing their full potential. 

True to the tale told in their Uncle Sam Needs You single, Frank Arellano joined the United States Air Force, while the Gebhardt brothers went on to play college football. In fact, outside commitments often took Vernon Gebhardt away from the Viscaynes to such an extent that by 1961, his role in the group was assumed by Mike Stevens.

Meanwhile, Charlene Imhoff married and started a family soon after the group disbanded. Maria Boldway went on to become Miss Solano County and eventually the runner up for the title of Miss California in 1963. Sadly, Boldway is now deceased.

Not surprisingly (given his well developed skills at that point as a five tool player), Sylvester Stewart was recruited by the late Tom Donahue as a staff producer for his vaunted Autumn label, the recording home of such giants as Bobby Freeman, the Mojo Men, the Beau Brummels, the Tikis, the Vejtables, the Great Society, the Chosen Few and Rico And The Ravens. Stewart himself also recorded a pair of singles for Autumn, including Buttermilk under the name Sly. Interestingly enough, Stewart's sister, Rose went on to become musical director for the vocal group Newsong, one of the house vocal groups at Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California. 

For decades, the most accessible touchstone with respect to the Viscaynes' legacy was through the appearance of You're My Only Love on the aforementioned Sutton label compilation. Irrespective of the subsequent accomplishments of the group's alumni, with its utterly stupendous vocal harmonies and soaring lead vocal by Stewart, You're My Only Love eventually became widely recognized as one of vocal harmony's definitive masterpieces.

Thankfully, Org Music's long overdue vinyl release of the aforementioned Viscaynes sides with The Viscaynes And Friends at last makes You're My Only Love and the other essential components of the group's legacy once again available on a wide scale, along with three other George Motola productions by the Precisions and the Individuals. Blessed with a superb essay on the group's history by Rickey Vincent, the cover also sports a fine array of rare group photographs and press clippings.

To be certain, as the catalogs of the so-called budget labels served to underscore, the wealth of music that they and other companies championed is so vast that it is still being unearthed, researched, chronicled and celebrated more than a half century after the fact. And in the case of the Viscaynes, A Long Time Alone coming in terms of recognition will now reap exponential dividends in terms of accolades with this most essential compilation. A solid contender for best reissue of the year.