Recent Ace Records Releases by Ian Johnston – June 2013

Here are a few more vital recent releases from Ace, probably one of the best reissue labels in the world. By Ian Ian Johnston.

The Cramps Look Mom No Head! Ace Records.1. The Cramps – Look Mom, No Head!

Featuring the sterling work of ace drummer Jim Sclavunos (8 Eyed Spy, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Grinderman), who left the band before the record was released, Look Mom, No Head! is a mid period Cramps classic album that receives a most welcome reissue on Big Beat glorious vinyl. Gum-chewing bass player Candy Del Mar and their veteran dapper drummer Nick Knox had left the group, but this 1991 album demonstrated that Lux and Ivy hadn’t lost their rock ‘n’ roll fever.

The band’s harder and more direct rock sound – to some extent influenced by Lux and Ivy listening to a lot of 60’s biker and hot rod groups – infected new Cramped anthems such as ‘Blow Up Your Mind’, ‘Dames, Booze, Chains and Boots’, ‘Bend Over, I’ll Drive’ (“Is this the way Jayne Mansfield died?”) and the manic ‘Alligator Stomp’, based on a real Cleveland dance craze, the Gator, in which dancers would lay on the floor and roll over the top of each other.
Other highlights include a smouldering cover of Captain Beefheart’s theme for the Paul Schrader 1978 movie Blue Collar, ‘Hard Workin’ Man’, a duet between Lux and living legend Iggy Pop on a version of ‘Miniskirt Blues’ by The Flower Children, a rollicking report of The Sparkles 60s garage punk masterpiece ‘Hipsville 29 B.C. (I Need Help)’ and a eerie slow rendition of The Runabouts’ ‘When I Get The Blues (The Strangeness In Me)’.

The Seeds Future Ace Records2. The Seeds – Future.

Alec Palao continues his excellent work producing deluxe editions of The Seeds’ seminal albums, with a double disc CD of their troubled third 1967 album, Future. Assembled, comprehensively researched and diligently noted by Palao, this set really illuminates the better musical qualities contained within what could be seen as the influential 60s garage punk bands worst album.

As Palao relates in the accompanying booklet, The Seeds, and lead singer Sky Saxon and English manager “Lord Tim’ Hudson in particular, instigated the whole West Coast ‘flower power’ movement. Unfortunately Saxon’s success with the group, coupled with his obviously prodigious consumption of LSD, inflated his ego and pushed his lyrical musings from a childlike wonder to out and out proto hippie infantilism. Regrettably Saxon’s cringe worthy lyrics on ‘Intro/March Of The Flower Children’, ‘Travel With Your Mind’ and ‘Where Is The Entrance Way To Play’ (containing endless references to castles in the sky, days of old, peace, love and shrubbery) were compounded with unnecessary overdubs of various extraneous instruments.

Yet Future does contain tracks that retain the garage punk clout that fuelled their previous classic albums, The Seeds and A Web Of Sound. These include the incensed ‘Out Of The Question’, the menacing ‘Now A Man’, the paranoia of ‘Two Fingers Pointing On You’ (which anticipates The Doors’ Soft Parade) and the tripped out ‘Fallin’’.
Palao highlights the best qualities of The Seeds by including a raft of bonus mono mixes of tunes from Future (without the overdubs) and a whole disc (Contact High: the Future Sessions) of different takes, superior alternative mixes, previously unreleased versions of their definitive rocker ‘Satisfy You’ and ‘Gypsy Plays His Drums’ (foreseeing Public Image Ltd) and a whacked out, 9 minute version of their 1968 single, ‘900 Million People Daily All Making Love’.

For the committed Seeds aficionado, Future is a real treat.

Various Artists – Bluesin’ By The Bayou. Ace Records3. Various Artists – Bluesin’ By The Bayou.

The forth edition in Ace’s excellent ‘By The Bayou’ series is arguably the best yet. As the title establishes, this CD concentrates on wonderfully tight-fisted, grubby and oily blues music from South Louisiana, with a pinch of Zydeco thrown in for good measure. All the amazing 28 tracks featured here were the product of the studios of Eddie Shuler in Lake Charles and J.D. Miller in Crowley, recorded in the late 50s and early 60s, but amazingly half were never issued.

Compiled and noted with real authority by Ian Saddler, Bluesin’ By The Bayou is a veritable cornucopia of lowdown and wayward blues masterworks, tall tales of machismo and bitter heartbreak, fuelled by fractured guitars, harmonicas and hooch.

Highlights? The whole damn thing: the jump boogie of Silas Hogan’s ‘Just Give Me A Chance’, the legendary swamp blues harmonica king Slim Harpo’s buoyant ‘That’s Alright’ (featuring a blistering guitar solo, possibly by Guitar Gable), harmonica ace Lazy Lester’s weary ‘Late In The Evening’, Chifton Chenier’s and Thaddeus Declouet’s Zydeco flavoured numbers ‘Worried Life Blues’ and ‘Catch The Morning Train’, Lightnin’ Slim’s joyous ‘Big Fat Woman’ and the pensive ‘Stranger In Your Town’, the mysterious Mr. Mojo’s downbeat ‘They Say The World Loves A Lover’…. And so it goes.

Essential stuff. – a real deal blues treasure.

Various Artists - Sweet Dreams - Where Country Meets Soul Vol 2 Ace Records4. Various Artists – Sweet Dreams – Where Country Meets Soul Vol 2.

Once again compiled and noted by Tony Rounce, this is another excellent Ace compilation that amply illustrates that the line that separates the genres of country and soul music has always been an extremely thin one. It is obvious that over many decades there has always been a constant exchange of strong repertoire and influences between the two major genres of American popular music. Blues was always conversant with hillbilly music, while country music, in the segregated South of the 1930’s and 1940’s, dominated the radio that many black performers grew up listening to, hence their drawing creative inspiration from that style.

Sweet Dreams- Where Country Meets Soul Vol 2 possesses all the style, sophistication and unlimited soul of its marvellous predecessor, Behind Closed Doors. The Sweet Inspirations, the gifted family gospel/R&B group who worked extensively with Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin, present a beautiful 1969 version of Kenny Rogers and the First Edition’s 1968 number ‘But You Know I Love You’, Clarence Carter has funky fun with ‘Bad News’ (John D Loudermilk’s bad ass tune, popularised by Johnny Cash in 1964), R&B veteran Hank Ballard leads Kris Kristofferson’s classic ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ to gospel church, Otis Redding reinvents the Cowboy Copas’ 1947 standard ‘Tennessee Waltz’, while the late, great Isaac Hayes takes Hank Williams’ 1951 composition ‘I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)’ all the way to Soulsville in an epic 1971 rendition.

Together with Johnnie Taylor’s groovy 1967 makeover of Merle Travis’ 1946 working man’s anthem ‘Sixteen Tons’ (made a huge hit by Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1956), Bobby Bland’s 1975 reading of Ronnie Milsap’s 1973 version of the Lenny Daniels/Dan Penn song ‘I Hate You’ and the Don Was project, the Orquestra Was featuring Sweet Pea Atkinson, remarkable 1996 R&B remake/remodel of the very obscure 1951 Hank Williams tune ‘Forever’s A Long, Long Time’, combine to make Sweet Dreams- Where Country Meets Soul Vol 2 a very special disc.

The Cramps A Date With Elvis Ace Records5. The Cramps – A Date With Elvis.

Yes, another Cramps reissue on Big Beat coloured vinyl – their 1986 opus, A Date With Elvis. Made by a three-piece version of the band (Lux, Ivy playing guitar and bass, with the redoubtable Nick Knox on the skins), featuring the classic, quizzical Cramps singles ‘Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?’ [that received the notable accolade of being Playboy’s single of the year 1985) and ‘What’s Inside A Girl?’, A Date With Elvis is a deservedly treasured favourite with critics, fans and the band themselves – available once again as nature intended.

The Cramps’ rude retort to the supposedly altruistic endeavours of wealthy rock stars who threw self-congratulatory charitable ventures in the mid-eighties, A Date With Elvis brought rock ‘n’ roll back to its primary concerns of sex and violence. During the libidinous ‘Cornfed Dames’ Lux sings, “Whip that cream baby till the butter comes”, while on ‘How Far Can Too Far Go?’, he shouts, “If I had a hammer, I’d show you some tricks.”

With fine Cramps compositions ‘Kizmias’ (which bizarrely sounds not unlike early Cockney Rebel on psychotropic drugs),’The Hot Pearl Snatch’ (title and content taken from an early 60s sexploitation flick) and the rousing misanthropic anthem ‘People Ain’t No Good’, together with spirited covers of The Spark Plugs’ version of ‘Chicken’ and Charlie Feathers’ rendition of the emotionally overwrought country ballad ‘It’s Just That Song’, A Date With Elvis – though not as dark and immediate as some of their earlier recordings – forever captures The Cramps at the height of their popularity and powers.

All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.

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