Swim Through the Darkness: My Search for Craig Smith & the Mystery of Maitreya Kali

by admin  28th Jul 2016 Comments [210]

Published by Feral House on September 16, 2016.

Craig Smith was a 1960s golden boy – good looking, charismatic, outgoing; a preternaturally gifted musician and songwriter whose songs were recorded by some of the biggest names in entertainment – Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, the Monkees. Starting out his career on the Andy Williams Show as a member of the Good Time Singers, Smith next teamed up with Chris Ducey in the duo Chris & Craig, then the Penny Arkade, a talented group mentored and produced by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. Smith’s future success seemed assured, until an unexpected turn of events plunged him into a terrifying darkness. Clean-cut Craig Smith became Maitreya Kali, the self-proclaimed psychedelic Messiah. He laid out his poignant, disturbing schizophrenic vision on a sprawling self-released double-album before disappearing completely. Author Mike Stax spent fifteen years piecing together the mystery of Maitreya Kali, uncovering one of the strangest and most tragic untold stories of the 1960s and ‘70s.

 

Available now from Feral House, Amazon, Ugly Things Webstore and at all good book sellers.


Cleaning Up the Puke Stain: A Response to Rolling Stone’s Punk Top 40 List

by admin  20th Apr 2016 Comments [83]

By Doug Sheppard

 

Given the sheer volume of stupidity on the Internet, most of it should be taken with a grain of salt. And then there’s Rolling Stone’s “40 Greatest Punk Albums of All Time.”

Sure, you could laugh it off as the product of a magazine that’s had a tenuous relationship with real rock ’n’ roll—hence punk—throughout its history. Or you could just give Rolling Stone a pass based on the presence of David Fricke, whose command of music history and excellent writing are unparalleled. Or maybe the magazine could be excused based on its stellar political coverage—such as the 2008 exposé on John McCain and many insightful Matt Taibbi commentaries.

At least that was my first reaction. But it soon became apparent that the punk top 40 was more like your best friend puking on your carpet during a party: Sure, it’s funny when you’re all carousing, but by the next day there’s a smelly stain there. You gently admonish him in a text to get it off your chest and, ideally, he apologizes for taking too many Jägermeister shots.

Rolling Stone definitely left a puke stain with this one. Putting aside the complaints about what specifically is or isn’t on the list, the main issue is that most of the titles aren’t even punk. It’s the kind of rundown one would expect from a music theory professor, or perhaps on a “punk” compilation CD sold at Starbucks, but that bears little resemblance to the form.

Punk’s DIY ethos inspired many musical genres—everything from punk offshoots to postpunk to power pop to modern strains of metal. Punk itself, however, can be defined as modern rock ’n’ roll: fast, driving, angst-ridden rebellion with blazing guitar. The kind of music that makes you want to jump around the room, strain your veins singing along, clench your fist, grit your teeth and break shit up.

Or “Smash It Up,” as the Damned once famously sang. Rolling Stone did at least get that right: the Damned “just didn’t have that one perfect LP statement.” They had two: Damned Damned Damned and Machine Gun Etiquette.

Actually, like many other great bands, the Damned didn’t make the Rolling Stone list, which was apparently compiled by eight people—including Fricke, who I’m guessing had minimal input. In any event, lest it become a template for an impressionable teenager just discovering punk, I present a response in the form of a real Punk Rock Top 40—with emphasis on the rock. Yeah, it’s only my opinion, and I’m not so pretentious to call it definitive. But you know how musical opinions are: You’re always right and everyone else is an idiot.

The 40 are ranked in order, though after about 20 or so it got tougher to distinguish. Following my list, I commented on Rolling Stone’s choices, which should also explain most of my exclusions.

 stooges funhouse

1. THE STOOGES – Fun House (1970)

The album that laid the groundwork for everything that followed, particularly in the guitar sound and the vocal delivery. Miles Davis called them “the real shit.” Still sounds like rebellion 46 years later.

 

2. THE MC5 – High Time (1971)

Inspired the Stooges with their streetwise fusion of the British Invasion, R&B, blues and free jazz, and politically-charged lyrics that struck like lightning bolts. They fought the law and the law initially won, but their impact is still being felt today.

 

3. THE BUZZCOCKS – Singles Going Steady (1979)

Punk energy, pop hooks, teen angst and intelligence on one brilliant comp of eight of the greatest singles ever made.

 vibrators-puremania

4. THE VIBRATORS – Pure Mania (1977)

Glam band reinvents itself as punk and produces an unrelentingly catchy, energetic album with S&M lurking beneath the surface.

 

5. RADIO BIRDMAN – Radios Appear (worldwide version) (1978)

Featuring a Michigan transplant on guitar, these Aussies wore their Detroit high-energy rock ’n’ roll influences on their sleeves and combined them with the right dose of the 1960s, indigenous Australian rock, and Blue Öyster Cult. “New Race” alone leaves almost all competition in the dust.

 

6. THE DAMNED – Machine Gun Etiquette (1979)

Damned Damned Damned was power and rebellion; Machine Gun Etiquette is power, rebellion, pop hooks, experimentation and advanced lyrical themes in one terrific package.

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ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKS – Bali High / Crystal Voyager / Morning of the Earth (Anthology) CDs/LPs

by admin  4th Apr 2016 Comments [36]

Although all three of these releases are of a piece in that they were soundtracks to surf movies, leave your expectations behind. Forget the hot rods, Fender Jaguars and girls, girls, girls—the amped-up excitement of what most of us consider “surfing tunes” has no place on the other side of the world. Instead, these connect with the stonier, more cosmic side of the lifestyle that one would find in a place like Bali rather than Santa Monica (well, early-’60s Santa Monica, at least). In fact, the mystical pull of Bali plays a strong role throughout and, although the work of a single musician, the sprawling Bali High is the most frenetic and disjointed of the trio. Recorded by Hawaiian virtuoso Michael Sena, this epic double LP release was filmmaker Stephen Spaulding’s attempt to recreate the vibe of the unlicensed music of his ‘60s and ‘70s heroes that he used to cut the original film. Sena effortlessly reproduces the feel of Santana, the Stones, Marley and more, but with an early-’80s production that puts his guitar somewhere on the slightly more soulless Satriani/Zappa axis, with a slick fusion production. It’s diverse—and admirable—enough to merit a first listen, but doesn’t hold up as anything you’d want to return to.

The other two reissues are more of a piece, utilizing a consistent host of Australian rock and country artists. G Wayne Thomas, who only released one album under his own name in 1973, made his first appearance on 1972’s Morning Of The Earth soundtrack, giving an appropriately we-are-all-the-universe feel to the title track. Several other one-hit (or no-hit) wonders offer up singer-songwriter tracks that amble on pleasantly enough, but don’t justify the label hype of “psychedelic” music (with the rare exception being prog outfit Tamam Shud’s floaty and brilliant “Bali Waters,” which sounds like an outtake from Islands-era King Crimson).

Thomas handles all the songwriting chores on 1973’s Crystal Voyager, which is the most cohesive of the set. Given two full sides, he finds the stoned soul of the classic Eastern Hemisphere surf trip, leading a band that’s able to develop a buoyant, country rock/soft-sike stride and makes the LP feel like more of an actual album than a soundtrack. (Alex Stimmel)

 BaliHigh_ATOZ_12in_GATEFOLD