Local songs from the end of the century.
Jonny Mogambo's Colorado Golden, on Hapi Skratch Records, is slick but mostly enjoyable blues rock. Mogambo is a skilled guitarist whose occasional hippie-isms don't put the brakes on the propulsive ditties "Victoria," "Sorry State of Affairs" and "Melanoma Superstar," and if the time he reportedly spent playing for tourists in Europe and the Virgin Islands means that he often skates by on glibness, at least he knows how to hold an audience's attention. Hapi Skratch's usual clean, crisp production doesn't hurt matters, either (available in area music stores). Don't accuse Chris Daniels & the Kings of trend-hopping: Since they've been playing jump-blues-based music for ages, they hardly need to apologize for attempting to cash in on the swing movement. Louie Louie, their beautifully packaged entry into the field, is loaded with archival material that goes for cheekiness over Big Bad Voodoo Daddy-style propulsion. "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You" is plenty saucy, but it's also truer to the era from which it sprang than most neo-swing these days. That may limit its appeal to teen swingers, but folks who were into this stuff before it started turning up in Gap ads should approve (available in area music stores).
Sci-Fi Uterus is a fine name for a band, and the act's CD, Into the Bloodbath Into the Dream, is every bit as odd as its moniker. The music is infused with sensibilities culled from the new-wave era: The spacy vocals are pure B-52s, and the keyboards on hand were likely made by Casio. The lyrics, meanwhile, are frequently scatological dada: Witness "Smokin' (A Vagina in China)," which features the lines "Blowin' a hole that's fina/Than a lofty wench, than a bullet rip/Than a little peep at a virgin kick!" and a hook that goes "Fuckee-suckee G.I." But the tongue-in-cheek artsiness of numbers such as "On Colfax" ("A head beaten on a sidewalk is no longer a head") helps overcome the bargain-basement production. Different can be good--and Sci-Fi Uterus is different (www.grantrproductions.com). En Tu Oblivion's self-titled disc is a long way from the cutting edge--I'm betting that no musicians were harmed during its making. Lead singer Marla Downer has a voice midway between a folkie's and a metal maiden's, and she applies it to middling rockers such as "Telling Secrets to the Night" and "Radical Moment of Clarity," the fake Fleetwood Mac of "Family" and the shiver-inspiring "What If," a power ballad distinctly lacking in the former. I'm gonna go lie down for a while (available in area music stores).
You Keep Me Dreamin' is a collection of wannabe show tunes and cabaret ditties from the pen of area songwriter Victor Harrison. A team of vocalists that includes Dwayne Carrington, Chris Keener and Walker Williams do their best with the Leon Redbone-esque title cut, "Getting Drunk," the smoochy "Fine Day" and "Who Are Our Heroes," a well-intentioned effort that had me grimacing before the end of the first couplet. The disc as a whole is so chipper and eager to please that sometimes it actually does--but not often enough (Glasstone Music, glasstone Isn't It Romantic?--Songs by Porter & Rodgers, guitarist Al Ferguson sticks to the style he established on the editions that preceded it. He and a quartet featuring violinist Daniel Flick, guitarist Mark Kalgstad and bassist David Crowe swing gently through the vernacular of American pop-music masters--in this case, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers. Ferguson insists upon singing a tune every now and then, and on "This Can't Be Love," he's not bad--just ordinary, like a lot of us who know better than to venture in front of a microphone unless we're plastered. Elsewhere, the arrangements of "Easy to Love" and "People Will Say We're in Love" are spritely but subtle; this is dinner music that tries not to call too much attention to itself. Try the brie--it's delicious (Top Hat Productions, 1743 Marion Street, Denver, CO 80210).
No Goin Back, by the Woodies, is rock done the old-school way--with roiling keyboard rhythms, ringing guitars and singing by Rick Bradeen and Mike Engel that isn't exactly sonorous; most of the notes they try to hit receive no more than glancing blows. They seem like nice fellas, and every once in a while they come up with a decent (if less than wholly original) tune; an example is "Uravan," which owes a debt and a half to the Band. But unless you're a member of the players' immediate families, you probably won't be able to get too revved up about it (The Woodies, P.O. Box 370584, Denver, CO 80237). The folks behind Hank & the Hankstirs included some nice items in the package that accompanied their new CD, Hank & the Hankstirs, Vol. 2: It Doesn't Matter: a desk clock, a daytimer and three personalized pens, to be precise. But at the risk of seeming ungrateful, I must confess that the disc didn't do much for me. The tunes are relentlessly mid-tempo and all but indistinguishable from one another: Only "H.B. Reprise," an extended coda to "Hankstir Blues," works up much instrumental passion--and it's less than a minute long. Otherwise, the album is filled with gentle strumming, scratchy vocals and a truckload of sincerity that's all dressed up with nowhere to go. Nice pens, though (Hank & the Hankstirs, 810 Hoyt, Lakewood, CO 80215).
As far as I can tell, Phineas Gage is the sole province of Patrick Porter, a multi-instrumentalist who demonstrates a jones for slow-moving tunes of the druggy sort on his latest demo, cleverly dubbed Phineas Gage Demo. "Saturn," "Adopt a Highway," "Moth on the Dashboard" and "My Role in the Beating" decorate delicate melodies with echoey guitar (marked by the occasional smidgen of feedback) and hushed, drony warbling by Porter. The songs are refreshingly free of bombast, but they're a bit too unassuming for their own good; instead of building, several of them simply meander until they run out of gas. But he's got good ideas that have the potential of becoming better ones (Patrick Porter, 10450 West 8th Avenue #4, Lakewood, CO 80215). Digarail's demo tape, Three, is highlighted by a lot of hiss and a trio of relaxed stoner cuts ("Wednesday," "Soulman" and "Shale") that slipped my mind as soon as they ended. That doesn't mean that they're crummy--or does it? For the life of me, I can't remember (303-442-6326). "Nowhere to Run," a cassette single from Casper, Wyoming's Mad Dog Express, was tougher to forget. The song is a dopey, energetic raveup that sounds like a gazillion Sixties/Seventies FM staples--which makes sense, since the act specializes in covers of stuff like "Born to Be Wild" and "Sweet Home Alabama." The key to avoiding plagiarism charges is to rip off tons of people simultaneously (1-307-265-0018).
The self-titled tape by the Jules Verne Speedway came with a note that reads in part, "Please play this as loud as you can stand--it will come close to the live show we may never have." It would be too bad if this last prediction came true: Bailey, Colorado's John Nichols and Van Leavenworth may not be not be geniuses, but their self-titled demo cassette is more listenable than a lot of what I've heard lately. The boys wisely put their best song ("Save Me Some") first and provided hummable pop-friendly melodies to "My 24," "Poolhall" and a decent percentage of their other twelve compositions. Rock on, dudes (Jules Verne Speedway, 460 Park County Road, Bailey, CO 80421). The members of Buckner Funken Jazz, who sent me their demo tape, committed a cardinal sin: They didn't bother to list the songs--which makes it mighty difficult for me to refer to them by name, doesn't it? What is clear from the recording, however, is that the six musicians playing under the direction of trumpeter/keyboardist/vocalist Roderick W. Buckner have a terrific command of their instruments and are adept at whipping up a good-time brew of jazzy, Seventies-style funk that doesn't leave a fusion aftertaste. In short, I enjoyed the recording a great deal. If I could tell you more about it, I would, but my hands are tied (303-754-9296).
Those of you who are still pissed at ZZ Top for fiddling with synthesizers fifteen years ago will be cheered by Altitude Is Everything, an old-style slab of hairy-chested biker boogie from the Red Rock Roosters. The presence of guitarist/vocalist Bobby Barth, formerly of Axe, explains the hints of corporate rock that turn up on "Circuit Rider" and a couple of other songs. But "Red Rock Rooster" and "Bad Sometimes" are tunes to get falling-down drunk to, and the rest will hit the spot with people who are happy to remain in a time warp. As for folks who don't fit this description, just keep moving; there's nothing to see (NEH Records, 7915 Oxford Road, Niwot, CO 80503). Motion, by Ron Lucas, is rock that sticks to the middle of the road: I found myself thinking of Bryan Adams fronting Journey. (Sorry if that scared you.) Singer-guitarist Lucas is a bighearted sort who's pledging half of his CD profits to various charity organizations, but the music is awfully sticky, and lyrics like "A friend's hand is close in touch/When with people who mean so much/ You feel secure you're not alone/You have friends and trust and faith and love" (from "The Closed Door") might not even make the grade at Hallmark. Care enough to give the very best (ronaldlucas Its latest signee, the New Rob Robbies, hails from the far-off land of Bowling Green, Ohio. Pure Whore, the band's CD, deserves praise for being something more than a standard-issue punk platter. "Pot Au Fue" will keep headbangers happy, but "It's Your Drinking, Damnit" and "Naked & Different" exhibit a Minutemen-like quality; "Leaving the Nest" is something of a twisted hoedown; and "All Grown Up" is an excursion into psychedelic pop that's wonderfully sloppy. Recommended (Owned & Operated Recordings, P.O. Box 36, Fort Collins, CO 80522). Sounds True, a Boulder music firm, goes even further afield with Zaghareed: Music From the Palestinian Holy Land, by El-Funoun, an act that has a sizable following in the Arab world. The name of the album translates to "ululations," and a great many vocal effects of this type can be heard on the recording, which attempts to tell the tale of a traditional Palestinian wedding. "Initiation of Ecstasy," "Farewell to Bachelor Days," "Adornment of the Bride" and the other chapters from this tale are presented with little thought to commercial crossovers: Western influences are virtually nonexistent. But open-minded listeners will likely be fascinated by this introduction to a ceremony marked by spirituality and joy (Sounds True, P.O. Box 8010, Boulder, CO 80306).
On 1995's A Matter of Indulgence, Ireland native Damien McCarron (then known as Damien Promise) presented listeners with a spare, authentic slab of Emerald Isle melancholy. However, his current band, the Indulgers, is intent on crossing over, as the CD In Like Flynn makes clear. There's no squeezing the Irish out of McCarron's throaty voice, and there are plenty of Celtic touches in the music as well. But the band itself is basically a straightahead acoustic-rock ensemble that ups the music's accessibility substantially. "In Like Flynn," "Diddly Day," "Always" and the jaunty "So Fine" are dandy tunes, and while I wish there were at least a couple of tracks on which McCarron was crying in his beer without so much company around him, the disc as a whole is the kind of compromise that doesn't feel much like one (Celtic Club Records, 303-235-8004). A lot of noteworthy Denver musicians turn up on Anna Kim Aleris's Dreamworld--Clay Kirkland, Jeremy Lawton, Celeste Krenz and Lionel Young among them. But although the arrangements are generally laudable throughout, the songs are a spotty lot. "No One Left" has a nice hook, and both "Elements of Wisdom" and "The Road Home" are not totally lacking in catchiness, but the lyrics of "Untameable" (in which a woman is likened to a wild horse) are typical of the generally uninspired imagery. In addition, the balladry is weak, and Aleris's consistently affected singing wears thin really fast. Dreamworld isn't a horrible place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there (Anna Kim Aleris, 98 Wadsworth Boulevard, Suite 127-252, Lakewood, CO 80226).
And now, a handful of items pertaining to last week's Feedback co-stars, Howard Stern and Marilyn Manson.
Stern is still being pilloried for comments he made following the April 20 Columbine High shootings. Dusty Saunders, the Rocky Mountain News media critic, has been leading the onslaught, going so far as to begin one column with the phone and fax numbers of KXPK-FM/96.5 (the Peak), which broadcasts Stern in Denver, for the convenience of those wanting to vent. Perhaps recognizing that Saunders's jihad was getting out of control, the Rocky decision-makers allowed entertainment specialist Mike Pearson to write a May 2 column calling for the "censure, not censor" of Stern. The piece certainly had its timorous moments: Although Pearson admits to listening to Stern for thirty minutes each day on his way to work, he insists that he's not a "rabid fan." (Guess that means he no longer has a Private Parts poster on his bedroom wall.) But it represented a teensy step in the right direction.
The same can't be said for talk stations owned by Jacor Broadcasting, which has the most to gain if Stern is run out of town (and may well have secretly fed the information about his failed witticisms to Saunders). The outlets have kept up a steady "get Stern" drumbeat, all the while insisting, weakly, that their assaults have nothing to do with business. During a show on KOA-AM/850 featuring Dave Logan, one of the most vigorous Stern bashers, area Jacor chief Lee Larson actually claimed that if his minions didn't talk about the story, they could be accused of favoritism toward a "fellow broadcaster." If you want to burst out laughing, now would be a good time.
Judging by his April 29 "Dear Valued Advertiser" letter, increasingly harried Peak general manager Bob Visotcky doesn't find the situation very amusing. In the missive, Visotcky takes Jacor to task for its decision to "continually air the short segment of Howard's comments, serving to shift the focus away from the tragic nature of the event and the community's need to grieve. To compound the situation, some of these stations broadcast the names of our advertisers, encouraging their listeners to call you and complain, when in reality those listeners were not provided with all the facts." Visotcky also notes that "several entities, including the Colorado legislature, reacted to this situation without contacting me to check the facts or get my comments."
Thus far, Visotcky's words haven't had the desired effect. Several prominent advertisers, including Coors, have stopped buying commercials on the Peak, and politicos at the Colorado House of Representatives and the state Senate gave their overwhelming support to resolutions demanding that the station drop Stern's program. Given the hysterical environment, Senator Bill Thiebaut, a Pueblo Democrat, deserves special commendation: Although he said that he was disgusted by Stern's statements, he turned thumbs down on the measure because of First Amendment concerns--making him the only one of 35 senators on hand with enough of a backbone to do so. Anybody who can vote for this guy should do so immediately. Stern, meanwhile, hasn't exactly cleaned up his act: On his April 30 show, he and his chortling sidekicks called 7-Elevens in White Plains, New York ("It should be called 'Black Plains,'" Stern said) to see if there were any "Americans" working there. We free-speech advocates are behind you, Howard, but you don't always make it easy.
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As for Manson, whose April 30 Red Rocks appearance was scrapped in Columbine's wake, he canceled the last five dates on his current tour reportedly out of respect for the shooting victims--and his final date, on April 28 before a crowd of less than 5,000 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, ended on a suitably surreal note. According to press reports, Manson stalked off the stage early because someone had affixed a two-foot yellow smiley face to one of his props. A spokesperson for Manson's label, Interscope Records, says that his exit was just one song early, but his decision so upset a group of attendees that they attacked his tour bus, resulting in 23 arrests. Obviously, this is a man who needs some cheering up.
Finally, there's this from Rock & Rap Confidential: Young Guns, a country group whose members hail from a handful of Southern states, has announced that it will change its name because of the events at Columbine. So be warned: Folks looking for someone to blame for future tragedies won't be able to pin anything on them. Maybe if Manson begins calling himself, say, Eleanor Roosevelt, he'll be let off the hook, too.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@westword.com.