Bo Diddley – The Black Gladiator

by admin  16th Jun 2012 Comments [2252]

(Future Days) CD

Recorded and released in 1970, The Black Gladiator was Bo Diddley’s first album of all new material since 1965’s 500% More Man. In the intervening half-decade the music scene had been through some pretty radical changes, and the astute and forward-thinking Diddley wasn’t about to be left behind. “I just decided to do somethin’ different,” he told biographer George R White. “Everybody was wearin’ funny lookin’ crap—Isaac Hayes had come out with chains an’ stuff on, an’ it was kinda flowin’ in that area at that particular time—so I got me some belts an’ stuff, an’ said I was The Black Gladiator.”

The resultant album is one of the overlooked gems in the Diddley catalog, showcasing a freakier, funkier sound that was in step with the times, while retaining the raunch and swagger that defined his earlier work. Bo goes balls-out on the very first track, “Elephant Man,” whipping up a torrid, wall-shaking guitar riff over which he hollers some of his craziest rhymes yet, about how he constructed this bizarre animal, called the elephant (maybe you’ve heard of it?), piece by piece, naming its various body parts, then letting out a blood-curdling scream every time he gets around to not quite mentioning its ass. Such profundity was in short supply at the time.

The album never quite scales the elephantine heights of its monster opening number, but there’s still much to enjoy. The backing band cooks throughout—plenty of wailing organ, rattling tambourines and crisp, funky drumming—and Bo is clearly having a ball with this new, different sound. “Black Soul,” “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Funky Fly” all boast tough, memorable grooves as well as plenty of muscular guitar work. “You, Bo Diddley” is one of Bo’s archetypal self-tributes, as is “Power House,” a virile boast built around his trusty “I’m a Man” riff, while the strange but wonderful “I Don’t Like You” is one of Bo’s trademark signifying pieces in the tradition of “Say Man,” with Bo trading insults with backing singer Cornelia Redmond (a.k.a. Cookie Vee) and also showing off his abilities as an opera singer—was there no end to this man’s talents?

There’s been a vinyl boot doing the rounds, but this digipak CD with liners by Scott Schindler is a legit, from the masters, reissue on Light in the Attic’s new Future Days imprint. (MS)

(Originally published in Ugly Things #33, Spring/Summer 2012)


The Attack: An Interview with Richard Shirman

by admin  15th Jun 2012 Comments [181]

By Mike Stax

 

Inhabiting a region of the sonic solar system somewhere between the Creation and the Small Faces, the Attack languished in comparative obscurity back in their day, only to be recognized decades later as one of the most exciting bands of the era.

That none of the band’s four singles for Decca cracked the charts was more down to bad luck and record company incompetence than any shortcomings on the band’s part. Their first effort, in January 1967, was a sharp version of the Ohio Express/Standells nugget “Try It,” backed with the great, Hammond-drenched mover “We Don’t Know.” Composed by singer Richard Shirman and lead guitarist Davy O’List, the song was nominally based on an obscure soul single, Mona Lisa’s “They Don’t Know,” with new, sarcastic social comment lyrics, including the opening salvo: “We don’t know about the H-Bomb / We don’t know about drugs / We don’t know what is going on / They say that we are thugs.”

The Attack, 1967. L to R: Richard Shirman, Barney Barnfield, Davy O’List, Gerry Henderson, Bob Hodges (glasses). (Photo courtesy Phil Smee)

While “Try It” failed to click with the record buying public, the band felt they were onto a sure thing with their next release, “Hi Ho Silver Lining,” but they were beaten to the bunch by Jeff Beck who romped into the charts with his Mickie Most-produced version after the Attack’s record was delayed at the pressing plant. The B-side was a cracker too. Based on a blistering guitar hook by O’List, “Any More Than I Do” was the Attack at their most incendiary, and still thrills every time. Totally disillusioned by the failure of “Hi Ho Silver Lining,” this lineup folded shortly afterwards, with O’List going on to the Nice.

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Robin Gibb 1949-2012

by admin  5th Jun 2012 Comments [2078]

By Collin Makamson

By the general populace the Bee Gees are known as little more than disco fadsters, but all good boys know the brothers Gibb carried much more weight than all that. In mid-’60s Australia they racked up hits as an Everly Brothers-styled singing group and made the leap to England in the midst of all its technicolor glory, there creating some of the most monumental album-sized statements of the period. As group member and solo artist Robin made grand moves in his late teens many grown men never aspire to, with a catalogue of pathos-drenched, near-strained, soulful vocals that laced hits and deep album cuts alike. He was the wit, dry humor and heart of the Bee Gees; akin to the Monkees’ Nesmith or Beatles’ Lennon. Recently cancer that was long-battled shuffled him off to join his two passed brothers (fraternal twin Maurice and younger brother Andy), aged 62, but like the man said himself:

“Art is about forever, beauty and immortality. I don’t think of death. That’s for other people.”

Below Collin Makamson ruminates on the importance of Robin and sermonizes on the mathematics of artistic repeat-returns…

(jeremy nobody, esq.)

 

In my opinion, the success of any work of art is not measured by the amount of pretty words and blue ribbons which one can neatly hang upon it, but rather upon the number of return trips it inspires ‘to the sources.’ That’s what good art does: that’s its function. That’s what good music does as well. It inspires a missionary zeal compounded with a cartographer’s hate of blank spaces on a map. It invites obsession inside as a guest and sets an empty plate, sustaining itself solely on the deep resonance of the initial aesthetic shockwave. That’s what Robin Gibb’s music does and continues to do in me and thousands of others and, as such, this is not an obituary, a eulogy, a bike or a pipebomb. It’s a signpost and a sermon.

Other things this is not. NOT an ephemeral by-the-numbers bio-piece. NOT a condescending blow-by-blow discographical romp or even an anatomical celebration of Robin’s heartbreaking voice: the most benign throat-lump inducer this side of Roy Orbison.

Rather, it is a sticking to my original thesis and guns. Fine if you forgot it already. The best art and the best music compels one to track down and follow its influences, wind its tributaries, know its hidden places, swallow its bread-crumbs, know its markings. Like Lewis & Clarke or Columbus in reverse. However, the Beaux-arts also teach one to remain mindful of similar ripples, dispersions and fellow traveling waves dominoeing outward that, in turn, may carry new influences and sediment to add to the original.

Perhaps the best piece of news of all for pilgrims set out upon these trails is that despite rumors of the frontier’s closure or hints that the promontory-peak of the sublime melting glacier of humanity’s divine input might already have been summited, take comfort in the fact that there always remains more to digest and explore.

And don’t take my word for it; take the words of another great artist whose works are still moving.

“It is not down in any map. True places never are.”

Robin Gibb will be missed. Here are some places that his music took me, both new and old.

 

Roots, fruits and CM’s self-designated finest vocal by Robin follow. Use the arrow button on the lower-right portion of the YouTube box to scroll through the selections, or listen to them continuously by pressing play.

Also find below an Ugly Things exclusive of Skooshny covering Robin’s “Saved by the Bell” which at this time goes unreleased.