If you’re one of the millions of music lovers who’ve been waiting for the next Eabla release…you’ll have to wait a little longer. But in the meantime, you can solace your existence with a couple of astonishing self-released CDs by Tony Mason-Cox, offered exclusively through Eabla’s Rarities page.
The late Mr. Mason-Cox was an Australian insurance agent who believed himself to be the reincarnation of an African-American slave in the antebellum South. His vocal style is as heterogeneous and unexpected as the trajectory of his soul, and we think it’s safe to say that there’s no one quite like him. Whether he’s breathing a new, savage life into classics like “Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” or endangering bystanders with the white-hot emotional shrapnel of originals like “Black,” Tony Mason-Cox is not a performer to be taken lightly!
As Brent Clough of ABC Radio National, Australia says:
He is certainly an outsider, doing what he does without any sign of self-consciousness. Untrained, full on, unfashionable, incapable of compromise because there is no alternative. This is raw material, sung with vernacular grain in the language. Do this at the Opera House and the bourgeois in the front row would be shifting uncomfortably in their seats I’ll wager.
Tony made his live debut in 2008, when the American comedian Neil Hamburger invited him to be the opening act on a short Australian tour. Tragically, he died later that year. His surviving family members want his music to be heard, and have accordingly authorized us to make his CDs Heartfelt and I Must Sing…. available online while supplies last. When they’re gone, they’ll be gone for good, so we advise you to act now!
Please click on the links above for ordering information and song samples.
Things have been very hectic lately, so we haven’t had much time for blogging. However, we feel very confident that this exciting announcement will counteract whatever ill will we’ve earned by ignoring our public for months on end.
As most music fans know, the Zip Code Rapists were a talented young group comprising Gregg Turkington on vocals and John Singer on guitar. During their short but intense career, they inspired countless artists whose names we’re not allowed to divulge here for legal reasons, but you’d definitely know ‘em if you heard ‘em, believe me. They’re that good.
This lavish 36-song CD includes carefully remastered versions of Zip Code Rapists Sing and Play the Three Doctors and Other Sounds of Today (LP, 1992), The Man Can’t Bust Our Music (EP, 1993), and 94124 (EP, 1995), as well as previously unheard outtakes and compilation tracks, four songs from an incendiary 1993 show at CBGB, and a more relaxed and thoughtful performance from a 2006 reunion show.
But don’t take our word for it! Here’s the complete track listing:
- Touch Me
- Presidents Song
- The Best Never Rest
- Office Party
- The Three Doctors
- Tie A Yellow Ribbon
- Wicked Game
- Fuck A Duck
- Beverly Hills
- Good Ship Pablo Cruise
- #9 Dream
- Kick In The Heads
- Tuesday Street
- Old Folks At Home
- Darn It Duck
- Hotel One
- Listen To The Band
- The Look Of Love
- Zip Code Gentlemen
- Ranch Style Beans
- I Need Him
- Happy Like Larry (He Taught Me How To Die)
- Universal Time II
- Once Upon A Time There Was A Pretty Fly
- The Suet Trees / Why People Do Heroin
- Riders On The Storm
- Life’s Been Good
- Dancing In The Dark
- Beverly Hills 90210 / Bentsen-Quayle Debate / Summer Breeze
- He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands
With the exception of 94124, none of this seminal material has ever been released on CD. And none of it was ever released on good-quality vinyl after competent mastering, either, so even if you’re familiar with the original releases, you’ll be amazed by all the details you missed!
The 16-page booklet features extensive notes by journalist Will York — which situate the band firmly in the tradition of Lukácsian critical realism — as well as colorful photos, baffling drawings, and raw musicological data that are intended primarily to provide a firm epistemic foundation for later historians. You also get a free rub-on tattoo, which can be made comparatively permanent with an application of spar varnish.
For more details, and a handful of song samples, click here. And stay tuned for other ZCR-related giveaways and bonus tracks!
If you’re like most Americans, you voted for Gus Hall in the 1984 presidential election. And you’ve probably forgotten all about those few brave souls who truly challenged the status quo, by voting for Arthur J. “Ajay” Lowery of the United Sovereign Party.
It’s safe to assume that some of Lowery’s supporters shared the political ideals of this “outraged sovereign American,” which seem to have been pretty similar to those of other radical-right tax protesters. But I prefer to think that the majority of them were bowled over by the lapidary quality of his album I Will Not Be Swayed (Honor and Glory Records, 1982), and its terrific opening track Cut the Thievin’ Hands Off the IRS.
Whatever you think of the other candidates, you have to concede that none of them had any worthwhile songs to their credit (unless you count Ronald Reagan’s contribution to the first Minimal Man LP). Gus Hall’s solo album may’ve been lyrically radical, what with its constant, grueling references to Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, but musically, it was a flaccid, middle-of-the-road affair featuring David Paich, Steve Porcaro, and the Brecker Brothers. As for Mondale and Ferraro, they couldn’t even be bothered to write their own material; they simply released a lame cover version of “Stumblin’ In” by Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman. On Pickwick, no less.
Which meant that for those who cared — really cared — about the American popular song, Lowery was 1984′s only legitimate contender. You might not understand, let alone agree with, his plan to “amputate the Federal Reserve” and leave the Rothschilds “crying in their beer,” but only a tin-eared madman would deny that “Cut the Thievin’ Hands Off the IRS” is a catchy tune.
And it’s not the only one you’ll find on this album. As anti-war songs from 1982 go, The Gore of War may not be as powerful as Flipper’s “Sacrifice,” but it’s certainly better — and more focused — than anything on Combat Rock or Plastic Surgery Disasters. And although The Money Game isn’t quite as memorable as “Thievin’ Hands,” it does paint a suitably grim picture of an America that has been impoverished by “banksters” and “a scheme they call the Federal Reserve.”
Despite — or perhaps because of — his standing as a member of the American tax protest movement, Lowery was able to line up a fairly remarkable collection of backing musicians for this album. Guitarist Michael Spriggs played on Eddie Rabbit’s hits, and has also backed up Townes Van Zandt, Kenny Rogers, and Jessica Simpson. Keyboardist Tony Migliore worked closely with Chet Atkins and Don McLean. Drummer Clyde Brooks has played with everyone from Ted Nugent to Jimmy Swaggart to Tanya Tucker, and was the staff drummer on Dolly Parton’s TV show. Presumably, all of them were paid in gold for their labors here.
None of these talented men lists this album in his curriculum vitae, but you can bet every scrap of your worthless paper money that they’d all be boasting about their involvement if Lowery had actually won.
It would be interesting to know what Ajay Lowery thought of the Bush era. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1999. If there’s an anti-taxation, isolationist, country-rock Heaven, it’s entirely possible that they’ve got a hell of a band.
In their agitpop epic Understanding Marx, Red Shadow (The Economics Rock ‘n’ Roll Band) observes that “you can’t snowmobile your way down a forest trail to inner peace.”
The folks at Arctic Enterprises beg to differ. They’re so brimming over with inner peace that they declined to sue Al Stewart for stealing the title of their 1970 advertising jingle “Year of the Cat,” and using it, with malice aforethought, in a song that has no connection to snowmobiles, or indeed, to winter sports of any kind.
Year of the Cat strikes a nice balance between aggression (“this is the year to take winter and live it”) and a placidity that verges on defeatism (“it’s one dream that can come true”). Something about the string arrangements makes the song feel weirdly retrospective, as though the pleasures of the snowmobile were being considered from the comfort of a fireside, or a deathbed.
Shasta’s Take Your Time is an equally melancholy affair. Time flies, the grave yawns, life and love pass swiftly…but you can throw a spanner into the celestial clockwork by drinking Shasta more slowly.
Don’t just gulp it down; that’ll bring your death halfway to meet you. Savor it! Swish it around in your mouth, and let it trickle luxuriously down your gullet. Use an eyedropper, if you like. Or better yet, a disposable transfer pipet. Put it in a baby bottle and suck at it as feebly as a newborn kitten, while pretending you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.
The music complements this advice perfectly: right at the outset, a lively folk guitar is cut short by a suspended drone from the strings, in order to signify the state of pure being that commences when the flavor of Shasta overthrows what Meister Eckhart called “the very taint and smell of time,” and leaves us “simultaneously dead, resigned and lifted up.”
What’s striking about both songs is their tone of complaint. Arctic Enterprises acknowledges our past disappointments and failures, but suggests that if we set our sights a little lower, we might finally be able to start living; the whole thing has the feel of a New Year’s resolution that will be broken by 9 pm on January 1.
Shasta asks, “Why do the good things go by so fast? Why can’t the fun just go on and last?” Unlike Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which celebrate the boundlessness of the Life Force as relentlessly as a character out of D.H. Lawrence, Shasta wants to ration and conserve life…to put a tourniquet on the wound of time, as it were. Lord only knows what sort of inner peace you could attain, however briefly, by taking hummingbird sips of Shasta while hurtling through the wilderness in a snowmobile.
If you’re looking for a more reliable remedy for alienation and dread, perhaps you should consider working on the Great Big Rollin’ Railroad. This promotional song from Union Pacific is as relaxed and placid as the others, and offers its own antidote to time-sickness: your life may be a vapor that appeareth for a little while, and then passeth away, but Union Pacific will exist so long as there are recreational vehicles and pallets of soda to transport “‘cross the flats of Salt Lake City, on to Vegas and LA.”
Listen slowly, and make each second count, for these are moments of your life that you will never get back.
Since I can’t seem to find the album I’d intended to post today, here’s a consolation prize: A very rare 1956 single comprising Japanese and phonetic English versions of Sixteen Tons and Wagon Master. It’s by Kazuya Kosaka and the Wagon Masters, who are best known for inaugurating Japan’s rock ‘n’ roll era with a cover of “Heartbreak Hotel.”
After World War II — that great battle for racial and cultural purity — the Japanese and the Germans became fascinated with American country and folk music, which they adapted to their own culture much as oysters turn grains of sand into pearls. The cover of this single offers gorgeous visual evidence of this process.
“Sixteen Tons” may’ve already had a certain amount of resonance with Japanese audiences, thanks to the rather skeletal arrangement of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 1955 version, and the popularity of Tanko Bushi (“Coal-Miner’s Song”), an inescapable folk standard that deals with life and love in the famous Miike coal mine, on the southern island of Kyushu.
The history of the Miike mine suggests that there was plenty of room for cross-cultural understanding:
Work conditions were brutal, wages low–or nonexistent for convicts–and any tendencies toward unionism were stamped out with the help of such ultra-nationalist organizations as the Black Ocean Society, which put its thugs at the disposal of large employers in return for payoffs and political clout.
Richard B. Mellon, who said in 1937 that “you can’t mine coal without machine guns,” would surely have approved.
The Miike mine was essential to the Japanese war effort, and American POWs at the Fukuoka 17 camp were accordingly forced into the pits as slave labor. Survivors who returned to America were soon able to hear Merle Travis’s 1946 version of “Sixteen Tons,” the chorus of which incorporates quotes from a letter Travis received in 1945 from his brother John, which compared fighting in the Pacific to working in a coal mine. The song’s insufficiently respectful portrayal of the mining industry reportedly caused the FBI to investigate Travis as a communist sympathizer. (Oddly enough, the tune did eventually become very popular in the USSR!)
All of which makes Kosaka’s seemingly ludicrous Ernie Ford knock-off an inexhaustible object for meditation, in my opinion.
Since we’re on the subject, I’d better include this fine version of Tanko Bushi, which comes from a 1978 single released by Columbia. If you want to do the coal-mining dance that goes along with it, you can learn the steps here.
Although it’s slightly off-topic, I’ll throw in this classic version of Tokyo Ondo from the same record. The song was written in 1933 by Shinpei Nakayama, who was one of the first composers to “Westernize” Japanese popular songs, and reportedly learned music by playing along with military marches during the the Sino-Japanese war. Nowadays, fans of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows sing it when their team scores a run.
Of the many mysteries bequeathed by Soul Deep Records to an ungrateful posterity, few are more baffling than Frederick Michael St. Jude’s 1977 album Here Am I.
It’s hard to imagine the Soul Deep team tolerating Frederick Michael’s urban androgyny and lachrymose, Bowie-esque caterwauling, let alone aiding and abetting it.
Did they honestly like it? Or did they simply anticipate the Who’s warning that “music must change,” and select this overwrought oddball as their bridge to the future?
We’ll probably never know. All we can say with reasonable certainty is that Frederick Michael St. Jude is a veritable Vesuvius of talent, and no one who hears him will forget the experience anytime soon.
Soul Deep’s liner notes have captured Frederick Michael’s appeal in exquisite detail:
Frederick Michael St. Jude transmits high voltage electricity to everyone with which he comes in contact. He can “turn-on” an audience just by walking on stage. What’s more amazing is that he has the power to electrify musicians in a studio and spark them into creative frenzy, as he does on this album.
Frederick Michael St. Jude is an imponerable [sic] but highly visible force of nature, who produces light, heat and a billion megawatts of Rock N’ Roll power.
What else can you say, the man is a walking atomic power plant.
Two songs should suffice to convince the average Doubting Thomas or Gloomy Gus that we are in the presence of Genius Salient and Ululant. The anti-modernist anthem About Yesterday details the psychopathology of everyday life in the Big City, where “you hate everyone you meet,” and “you learn to grind your teeth.”
In addition to the insurmountable mope-rock couplet “left alone to die/pardon while I cry,” this track introduces St. Jude’s most formidable stylistic innovation: the use of multiple vowel sounds at the end of phrases (e.g., “we’re not supposed to know about yesterdayyyyyeeeeowwwwuhh”). Once you get used to it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!
Love You Anyway is even more startling. Over a robot-factory backing that’d be legendary if it had appeared on a Phew album, F.M. St. J. gnaws away at his own oversized soul like a dog trying to worry a mastodon bone. If you’ve read the booklet that comes with Joe E.’s Love Got In My Way, you’ll recall that Joe claims Soul Deep’s producers “worked pretty hard” to perfect his vocals. It’s exciting to consider the possibility that they took the same hands-on approach with the far more adventuresome and eccentric Fred Mike.
If you have any information about this artist (his real name, for instance), please drop us a line immediately!
Although Joe E. Neubauer gave up his performing career shortly after digging the master tapes for Love Got In My Way out of the Ft. Lauderdale dumpster to which his doomed label had consigned them, he never lost his love of singing.
Prior to signing with SRS International, Joe had resourcefully attempted to record an album by singing along with instrumental versions of popular hits. Many years later, the advent of affordable karaoke machines made this approach somewhat more viable…at least in logistical terms.
Joe set up one of these machines in his office a while back, and has since recorded about a dozen CDs comprising his unique take on songs that appealed to him, or to his family members. He generally gives these albums as gifts to family and friends, and hands them out to workers at his local VA office.
We’re pleased to say that Joe’s excitement over Eabla Record’s re-release of Love Got In My Way has inspired him to record several albums of new material in his makeshift home studio. Most of them highlight the “middle of the road” pop ballads he favors, along with a few of the country classics that his wife and son prefer.
We’ve selected three tracks from Joe’s homemade CDs to share with curious fans and well-wishers. While the instrumental tracks and backing vocals for these performances aren’t — and couldn’t possibly be — as compelling as the ones on his album, Joe transcends the limitations imposed by cheap technology, paint-by-numbers arrangements, and his own advancing age, and delivers heartfelt and imaginative interpretations of this material.
We hope that we’ll eventually be able to provide Joe with musicians and songs that are worthy of his talent. In the meantime, we think these tracks demonstrate that even though he’s been offstage for about thirty years, his voice is still strong and affecting!
Don’t(Photo of Joe E. in his home recording studio by Gregg Turkington, 2008.)
How Deep Is Your Love
True Love Ways