Dead man, I only hear a rattle when you breathe …
I’m in retro heaven folks, thanks to those groovy guys and crazy cats from Numero Group Records. Last year, courtesy of Mr HMO*, I was introduced to them via the wonderful Nuggets-style hard rock collection Warfaring Strangers: The Darkscorch Canticles, which was a very beautiful item indeed, so beautiful it went on to win the Jack Bruce Memorial Award for the ‘best-looking and put together LP’ in 2014.
Numero Group have a great reputation for putting out lovingly researched and packaged reissues of small soul labels, documenting certain scenes and eras, as well as dealing with and distributing the back catalogues of the likes of Codeine and Bedhead. Their stuff really does go that extra mile in terms of research and delivery, just go and have a mooch about on their website and drool. I had a close look at their rock reissues last year and was intrigued by their small, but select, umm, selection:
Josefus Dead Man. Texan proto heavy psych merchants, they used to play with ZZ Top and 13th Floor Elevators in tiny clubs and in 1970 they borrowed money from their families, roadtripped out to Phoenix and cut this album. Contains a heavy version of the Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’ and the brilliant, tripped out, rocked out 17 minute title track, which sounds exactly how Iron Butterfly should have done. Plus it has a grinning skull on the cover, come on people! I only got this last week and I’m really loving it, you don’t hear them touted as rock forefathers because of lousy bad luck, rather than any dearth of talent. Perfect in-the-dark-with-candles music, as demonstrated here:
Wicked Lester You Are Doomed. A double 7″ with interesting liner notes about the travails of a bunch of Cleveland high school students who picked up the baton of using Kiss’ original name in 1979 and fuelled by ‘girls, drugs, sports and jock rivalry’ cut a few blistering tracks at a local studio on the wrong side of the city, releasing their sole 7″ in 1981. They also appear to have stolen Van Halen’s logo, somewhere along the line! I love the churning, punk because-they-can’t-play-so-great-yet quality of these four tracks. Despite its overly macho adolescent title ‘Woman You’re Gonna Pay For This’ is excellent, real fizzy.
Circuit Rider‘s self-titled LP from 1981 was apparently once voted in the Top 10 albums ‘most likely to be owned by a serial killer’. I can think of no higher, or more appropriate accolade. No, really. I only got this album this morning and I’ve played it twice and I’m starting to feel uneasy being left in a room alone with me. This is one of the strangest, bike-exhaust, gin and sweat-stinking psychotic blues hoe-down LP’s in my whole collection. It was apparently all the work of one Thorn Oehrig, who insisted that the front cover showed a lizard worshipping a snake nailed to a cross – good job he got in there before One Direction did.
Medusa First Step Beyond, was the LP that the Chicago band never managed to make during their lifetime. This 1976-ish session was a perfect amalgam of gnarly old riff hoes like Sabbath and Pentagram. You have to have no soul/sold it already, not to dig tunes like ‘Strangulation’ and ‘Temptress’, let alone the jazz-inflicted ‘Black Wizard’. Best non-musical thing about this LP is the fact that (Gulp) the sleeve is made of faux-velvet, oh yes – this is a Satanic fuzzy felt beauty like no other in my collection. Sometimes I just stroke my cheek with it when I’m alone**.
Apart from showing the fact that I’ve spent far too much on new (to me) music over the last few months, I think this all shows just how damn well Numero Group are picking and packaging the past for us. I’ve never really been a label geekoid, but I’m very fast becoming one here.
Dead man, you could have been living if you tried …
I promise that once I come down from my retro-induced state of euphoria I’ll review everything in a suitably dispassionate manner …. that plush, though.
535 Down (Still)
*Bring back the squirrel, dude.
**maybe I just shared too much. Sorry.