REVIEWS #81 - 90 


J W FARQUHAR     MODLIN & SCOTT

SAVAGES



Note: Some of the reviewed titles have not been reissued, while others are out of print. The availability stated reflects the status at the time of writing.


 


(Review #81)

J W FARQUHAR: The Formal Female (Brainblobru, 1972 /reissues) 

Rating: 7 out of 10

Sounds best on: Barbiturates

More info:

Availability: either of the two competing reissues should be findable



Divorce Rock was all the rage in the early 1970s, when realistic and mundane themes replaced the flashy party of the ‘60s. Bob Dylan revived his career via Blood On The Tracks, which many consider the ultimate divorce LP. At the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, like an omega to Dylan’s alpha, we find The Formal Female by J W Farquhar. A DIY kitchen sink project if ever there was one, Farquhar processed the end of a long marriage by shutting himself in his Philadelphia apartment, sealing all the windows with sound proofing foam, and recording home-made music via bouncing tracks on a Teac 4-track.

The end result is a startling assault of one-man-band idiosyncracy that has wowed even the most jaded private press collectors. There is a Dylan influence somewhere, but it’s buried underneath relentlessly wandering acid guitar figures, amateur bass lines, half-muttered vocals, and even an early use of a drum machine. The lyrics are obscure, surreal, and probably misogynistic. The title track is particularly arresting, with a near garage-psych sound and the most piercing harmonica solo you can imagine. As the album progresses, Farquhar’s mood gets more relaxed (and less interesting), while the anger at his ex-wife is gradually exorcised. Although it doesn’t really sound like him, fans of Peter Grudzien may find the desoriented urban folkrock despair of The Formal Female to their liking. Like many private press albums, half the appeal lies in the unique nature of the artist and the recording, but I believe at least the first side of Farquhar's post-divorce lament should appeal to any reasonably open-minded music-lover.

Some of the thick atmosphere of the 1972 pressing has been lost in the aurally cleaned up reissue, but on the other hand you get a full color version of the hallucinogenic front cover, which budget restraints originally limited to b & w.

 

- review by Patrick The Lama, previously published in Ugly Things #28


 

(Review #82)

MODLIN & SCOTT: The Train Don't Stop Here Anymore (700 West, US 1976) 

Rating: 8 out of 10

Sounds best on: boxcar moonshine & one tiny roach

More info: check out my interview

Availability: Vinyl-sourced bootleg reissue exists, originals are $350+

Originally released on the same Indianapolis 1970s label as the classic Zerfas album, Modlin & Scott were briefly mentioned as ‘bubbling under’ in my list of Top 20 Reissue Candidates back in Ugly Things #24. I have expressed some reservations towards this record, but much like Relatively Clean Rivers my resistance is being worn away over time. It is not that far removed from RCR style-wise, with the California desert clarity replaced by pastoral Midwestern brooding.

Carrying a strong literary-cinematic feel, The Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore is a concept album about hobo drifter culture, about the men and eras portrayed by Steinbeck and Kerouac. It is one of the purest expressions of rock music Americana you’re ever going to find. Musically it’s attractive and engaging; well-written 70s folkrock songs that recall the melodic side of Neil Young, moody male vocals, the appropriate guitar tapestries, some violin and banjo. It’s not country-rock, but an original combination of Southern and Western elements needed to tell the story.

The problem I had with it, and still feel on occasion, is that Modlin & Scott don’t quite know when to quit. So we get a barely intelligible interview with an old hobo between two tracks, and a few song passages where the boxcar realism succumbs to myth and swagger. But for each play of the record, this seems to bother me a little less. The ‘70s produced a number of great drifter movies (Bound For Glory; The Scarecrow; etc) to which this album would have been a perfect soundtrack. And as the recent success of Sean Penn’s Into The Wild shows, the theme may be timeless, contrary to the melancholic loss felt by Modlin & Scott.

- review by Patrick The Lama, previously published in Ugly Things #28




(Review #83)

SAVAGES: Black Scorpio (India, 1972?) 

Rating: 6 out of 10

Sounds best on: chicken tikka & charas

More info: 

Availability: almost unknown prior to Shadoks reissue

 

In their ongoing land-grab for obscure 1960s-70s LPs from all corners of the globe, the deluxe Shadoks label now bring us back to the rocking nation of India, whom they first visited with the Simla Beat 2-LP reissue some years back. Those familiar with that set’s basement mix of Creedence covers and freaky garage originals will nod in recognition upon hearing the Savages’ Black Scorpio, from the early ‘70s.

Like the various artist Simla Beat, the sound is oddly American, quite contrary to the British style one might expect from India’s historical heritage. Even when tackling John Mayall and Traffic numbers, the Savages come out sounding like a gritty club band from Michigan or Ohio. The style is primarily blues-rock, with no particular ambitions beyond having a good time, and as such reminiscent of yankee teenage outfits like American Blues Exchange or Catherine’s Wheel. There is some jazzy guitar jamming and occasional use of fuzz, but the mood is more subdued than the wild stuff heard on Simla Beat (a yearly competition that the Savages won in 1967).

The band claims to “do their thing while you do yours”, yet there are only two originals on board, opening each side. “I Want To Be Free” is a pretty good psych-flavored rocker, while “I” is a guitar jam on a riff similar to the Allman Bros’ “Whipping Post”. This is followed, somewhat amusingly, by an actual cover of “Whipping Post” with good dual guitar leads. The vocals here are surprisingly strong, and as often with Indian bands, sung in near perfect English. “Southern Man” follows in a jazz-rocky, surreal version, after which the the album ends on the wrong note with a misguided Carole King cover.

Perhaps sensing that the musical thrills of Black Scorpio are limited, Shadoks have equipped this reissue with an ultra-cool, thick, die-cut scorpion sleeve. Combined with the hip band photo on the back, this is an excellent LP to pull out when friends visit and demand to see something different. All over, it’s fun and unique, but music-wise needs to be approached with modest expectations.

- review by Patrick The Lama, previously published in Ugly Things #28

 


(Review #84)

To follow.
 

 

 


Patrick Lundborg 2000-2013

The Lama Reviews