Sunday, March 25, 2007

You Don't Have To Go To Mother's To Hear Peter Gunn

Peter Gunn Theme

Peter Gunn

The title character (played by Craig Stevens) is a private investigator in the classic film noir tradition, which was a popular genre on American TV in the late 1950s. However, a few traits differentiate him from the standard hard-boiled detectives, such as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. Gunn was a sophisticated "hipster", a dapper dresser who loved cool jazz; where other gumshoes were often coarse, Peter Gunn was portrayed as the epitome of "cool". He operated in a nameless waterfront city, and was a regular patron of Mother's, a wharfside club; his girlfriend, Edie Hart (Lola Albright), was a sultry singer employed there. Herschel Bernardi played Lieutenant Jacoby, a police detective.

The show's use of modern jazz music, at a time when most television shows used a generic, uninspired orchestra for the background, was another distinctive touch that set the standard for many years to come. Innovative jazz themes seemed to accompany every move Gunn made, ably rendered by Henry Mancini and his orchestra (which at that time included John Williams), lending the character even more of an air of suave sophistication. Most memorable of all was the show's opening (and closing) theme, composed and performed by Mancini. A hip, bluesy, brassy number with an insistent piano-and-bass line, the song became an instant hit for Mancini, earning him an Emmy Award and two Grammys, and became as associated with crime fiction as Monty Norman's theme to the James Bond films is associated with espionage. The harmonies fit the mood of the show, which was a key to success. The Peter Gunn Theme has been covered by numerous jazz, blues, and rock artists since, including Ray Anthony, the Blues Brothers, Brian Setzer, The Cramps, Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, ELP, Pulp and many, many others. A version by Art of Noise, with guest artist Duane Eddy on twang guitar (taking the piano riff) earned a Grammy Award in 1987. Furthermore, the riff has been incorporated into many blues and jazz songs. The theme is also used as the background music for the 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter. Today, many people with no knowledge of the original show still can identify the theme.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Do The Mombo!

Ultra Lounge, Vol 2: Mombo Fever


by Richie Unterberger
When Latin bandleaders popularized mambo in the early 1950s, this set many pop and big band acts scrambling to get in on the action. Mambo Fever, part two of Capitol's Ultra-Lounge series, takes 18 such examples from the vaults, spanning the mid-'50s to the early '60s. Yma Sumac (an exotica singer, not a bandleader) and Billy May are the only readily recognizable names on this compilation, which is akin to hearing competent, somewhat Whited-out derivations of Perez Prado. There are odd touches like Sumac's high-frequency warbles, John Buzon's roller-rink organ runs, and the sheer silliness of Chuy Reyes' "Oink, Oink Mambo." But the results are oddly similar, on one level, to hearing some White bands try to play the blues—in comparison to the most genuine article, it's somewhat sanitized for broader consumption. That's not to deny its considerable fun (if lightweight) qualities; this usually works up respectable heat, in addition to evoking the slightly kitschy '50s mentality that is a necessary ingredient of the space age pop revival.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Guana Batz

Guana Batz

The Very Best of The Guana Batz


by Steve Huey
The Guana Batz were part of a British wave of psychobilly that sprang up in the early '80s, around the same time that bands like the Cramps were gaining underground prominence in America, and more straightforward rockabilly revivalists like the Stray Cats and the Polecats were hitting the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The group was formed in the English town of Feltham, in Middlesex, in 1983, with a lineup featuring vocalist Pip Hancox, guitarist Stuart Osbourne, bassist Mick White (also of the similar Meteors), and drummer Dave Turner; White, an electric bassist, was soon replaced by stand-up acoustic player Sam Sardi. Playing hopped-up rockabilly with the speed and aggression of punk rock, the Guana Batz fit nicely into the British psychobilly scene epitomized by the Meteors, the Stingrays, the Caravans, and other bands who played at the good-naturedly rough Klub Foot in London. As such, the Batz landed a deal relatively quickly, releasing their debut EP, You're So Fine, on Big Beat Records by the end of 1983. An appearance on the Stompin' at the Klub Foot compilation netted them a better deal with ABC/ID, which released their full-length debut, Held Down...At Last! (aka Held Down to Vinyl...At Last!), in 1985. A follow-up, Loan Sharks, appeared a year later, and proved an even bigger underground hit (at least in the U.K.) than its predecessor. Live in London (recorded at the Klub Foot) followed in 1987, and Rough Edges continued the group's annual release schedule in 1988. Following that album, drummer Turner was replaced by Johnny Bowler, who debuted on 1990's Electra Glide in Blue (recorded for new label World Service). While the band continued to tour the U.K. and Europe (with new bassist Mark Pennington), their initial recording career ended there, and they disbanded during the '90s. Hancox and Bowler both moved to California, where they settled and started families. The Guana Batz reunited in late 1998, however, and recorded the all-covers album Undercover the following year. The compilation Can't Take the Pressure was released in 2000, with a competing best-of, The Very Best of the Guana Batz, appearing in 2001.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Never Mind The Bolshevicks: The Best of The Space Cossacks

Since this Washington, D.C.-based surf collective only released two albums in its relatively brief existence (from 1996-2000), a best-of collection would seem to be unnecessary. But both of those discs were out of print, at least on CD, as of this compilation's appearance in 2005, so Never Mind the Bolsheviks is now the Space Cossacks' only legacy. And it serves them well. The 24 tracks squeezed into 70 minutes cherry-pick the best from their minimal catalog and add a pair of live tunes as well as some rare singles and unreleased nuggets for the collectors. While there was nothing particularly unique about the Cossacks' retro Dick Dale/Ventures approach, the instrumental quartet is a better than average contemporary surf combo with a deep understanding of its genre. But, thankfully, that didn't prevent the band from writing originals that can proudly stand next to the few classics they cover. The '50s sci-fi space themes are highlighted by song titles such as "Solaris Stomp" and "Transylvanian Orbit," as the reverb and vibrato are cranked up to 11. It's all good, trashy fun and, based on these caffeinated tunes, it seems that lead guitarist Ivan Pongracic is one of the great lost instrumental guitarists of the '90s.** See note in comments regarding Ivan's whereabouts. His lines are propulsive and jittery, with just enough flamenco, Middle Eastern, and punk influences to bring intriguing twists to a genre not known for them. Liner notes from label owner Art Bourasseau and other fans provide relevant history, but the lack of detailed track information explaining which album and/or year each song was recorded is surprising. Regardless, the album brims with raucous, rocking music and is a fitting final testament to a band that sadly surfed too far under the radar.

1 The Space Victory Theme
2 Red Sunrise
3 Solaris Stomp
4 Bombora
5 Transylvanian Orbit
6 Metsakukkia
7 The Defector
8 The Jewel of Duende
9 Tsunami Tsurprise
10 Space Probe
11 Exolumina
12 The Apes of Wrath
13 Black Sand
14 Penetration
15 Transatlantic Orbit
16 Cossack Rocket Patrol
17 Escape from Gulag 17
18 Planet of the Apes
19 Mir Rescue
20 Gunmetal Express
21 Hava Nagila [#]
22 Tsar Wars
23 Moroccan Adventures [live/#]
24 Red Sunrise [live/#]

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Hope It's Getting Warmer Where You Are

Duke Kahanamoku Presents a Beachboy Party

Last month my good friend Reggaexx at Destinctly Jamaican Sounds ( brought us the warm sounds of the Jamaican sands to ward off the chilly weather. This month were making a stop to the other side of the earth, Hawaii. While I don't think Duke Kahanamoku, the Father of Modern Surfing, reallly had much to do with album, he is the "presenter" of this offering of Hawaiian standards. So get this one, mix up a tropical drink and sit back with your muckluks on and enjoy the soothing sounds of this tropical songfest. Aloha!