Wednesday, April 05, 2006

All Kinds of Cats

Black Merda, The Folks From Mother's Mixer, Funky Delicacies

This eagerly awaited release combines two rare recordings, 1970's Black Merda and 1972's Long Burn the Fire ("The Folks From Mother's Mixer" comes from the latter). Formed in Detroit in the mid-60s, the sharp-dressed quartet combined psych-rock with soul and blues. They got their start by backing Edwin Starr and the Temptations before striking off on their own. Instead of Westbound or Motown, they signed to Chess, then later Janus. Hence, they're frequently compared to Hendrix and fellow Motor City denizens Funkadelic ("Over and Over" could be a Maggot Brain outtake). I also hear the Chambers Brothers in their gospel-tinged harmonies, War in their propulsive chants, and Taj Mahal in their laidback country-blues numbers, like "Reality." (Can you say eclectic?) As with the Chambers, they were a "brother" band, as well, with Anthony (lead guitar) and Charles (guitar) Hawkins joined by VC L. Veasey (bass) and Tyrone Hite (drums). Bob Crowder replaced Hite on the second album, by which point they were calling themselves Mer-Da. The Folks From Mother's Mixer is an essential addition to the funk fanatic's collection. It isn't as hard as I was expecting, but it's definitely got the groove.

Cougars, Pillow Talk, Go Kart

There are eight members in Cougars. And they're a rock band. According to the CD booklet, the instrumental line-up on their Steve Albini-produced third record breaks down like this: vocals, drums, guitar, guitar, bass, synthesizer, saxophone, and trumpet. So it's loud and it's noisy, but at least they aren't all shouting in unison. It's just one angsty fellow (Matthew Irie) yelling his throat raw over the roiling waves of sound. The press notes compare the Chicago octet--there, I got to say it!--to Rocket From the Crypt, and I can hear that, but mostly they return me to those halcyon Chi-town and Minneapolis days of yore, specifically the Touch & Go/Amrep stable of the 1980s and 1990s, i.e. the Jesus Lizard, the Laughing Hyenas, and Halo of Flies. The use of trumpet almost makes 'em sound like a ska band at times, but for the most part, Cougars are rawk. And the song titles are something else: "There's No 'High' in Team," "Someone Out There Has My Boner Picture," etc. Near as I can tell, all the lyrics are about sex: "She likes to take control," "Wrap yourself around my face and hips," "My God what a mouth you sport," et al. I like it, I don't like it. If this were 1991, I'd probably like it a lot more than I do right now.

Note: This year, Touch & Go celebrates its 25th (!) anniversary. Biographical information on Black Merda from the CD liner notes by James Porter and Dan Nishimoto. Incidentally, the AMG supplies different release dates: 1967 for the debut, 1971 for the follow-up. Cover image from Amazon.

No comments: