Compact Capsules for January 20, 2010
by Dan Ferguson
Late 2009 archival/historic collections from Brooklyn-based Norton Records chronicling the early works of Sun Ra and the on-the-fringe antics of Southern California music impresario Kim Fowley along with a highly charged compilation zeroing in on raw and rare post-WWII African-American gospel music occupy the spotlight this week.
Think of Sun Ra & His Arkestra and it's the freestyle jazz forays that likely spring to mind. Preceding that cosmic sojourn by nearly 20 years while feeling his oats in Chicago was a heavy dip into the Windy City vocal group world. Gathering material from the vaults of the El Saturn Research arm of the Sun Ra archives, the three volumes separately available on CD or LP showcase Sun Ra and his always changing Arkestra in a slew of settings from the classic Cosmic Rays' "Daddy's Gonna Tell You No Lie" to the mayhem of his collaborations with crazed R&B belter Yochanan. As with all Norton product, copious and colorful liner notes abound.
Anything but conventional when it came to music making, Kim Fowley had his fingers in a number of aspects from producer to songwriter to publisher to record label owner to musician. One Man's Garbage is Another Man's Gold is a very cool junkshop dose of Fowley's many splendored endeavors. Fowley's anything-goes approach more often than not defied commerciality. Over the course of the 32 tracks spanning the two volumes covering the 1959-69 period, you're treated to tastes of surf, garage, twang, pop, and even spoken word, all originally released on 45 RPM records. Sure there's a few throwaway novelties in the mix, but by and large Fowley's diversity in lo fi sounds of long ago are bound to ring refreshing to adventurous ears here in the digital age.
Flaming sacred sermons, guitar-driven fire & brimstone church rockers, off-kilter sanctified soul, the three-CD Fire In My Bones (Tompkins Square Records) is an incredibly diverse set of unvarnished gospel from locales far and wide made between 1944 and 2007. Beautifully packaged and very reasonably priced, every track is an adventure and nearly all on CD for the first time. Powerful stuff. (Visit www.nortonrecords.com and www.tompkinssquare.com)
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 - 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)