Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes. Right under the nose of a twisting metropolis, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti has become Los Angeles's great band. They've lived on the fringes for awhile, but their new release brings everything into bright focus. Ariel Pink is swinging for the heavens, and Haunted Graffiti are supplying the steam. Add them to past pioneers like Love, the Doors, Mothers of Invention, the Magic Band, the Seeds, the Leaves, the Byrds, Spirit, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Little Feat, Sheiks of Shake, Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo, Shuggie Otis, X, Beck and, hell, even Ohio transplants Devo. That's just for starters, too.
Pink himself is a good ol' Bevery Hills boy who felt the confines of a social system not even remotely his style, and took about as big a detour as a young man could take. He became a cultural sponge and pushed the boundaries of rock on a trio of albums that, while they made a name for the man, probably scared just as many listeners away. The boy wouldn't behave. Mature Themes doesn't back down for a moment, but also shows a growth in Pink's writing that is nothing short of stunning. Everything fits into a cosmic view still skewered but also deeply etched by someone searching for a way to make the non-sensical make sense. Good luck there. But anyone who can write a love song as sharp as "Only in My Dreams" needs to be heard.
Just to stem cries of meglomania, maybe, Ariel Pink and Haunted Graffiti cover Donnie and Joe Emerson's "Baby" at the end of the album, showing solidarity with a totally unheard-of duo from Washington state whose lost 1979 album is now shining once again. The sweet soul vibe of the song points to a whole new possible path for Pink, proving this musician has one of the biggest antennas in town. What he pulls out of the ether in the City of Angels is something for the ages, and barring the Big One he could become the latest in a long line of L.A. heroes.
Bobby Keys with Bill Ditenhafer, Every Night's a Saturday Night. There are certain musical figures, not always in the spotlight, who carry their own weight and then some. They often end up in unique predicaments and with the right talent and tenacity get to stay there against all odds. That's Bobby Keys, the Rolling Stones' tenor saxophonist for over 40 years who became Keith Richards running buddy early on (they were born on the same day) and Mick Jagger's sometimes nemesis (he saw big trouble whenever the pair got together). Keys can always be counted on to step up to the microphone and blow solos that capture the crazy heart of rock and roll.
The west Texas wildman is like a cat with several lives, and has lived them to the fullest. After a close brush with Buddy Holly in the '50s, Keys played with Buddy "Party Doll" Knox before finding his way to L.A. and the legendary Delaney & Bonnie band of Southern soulsters. His trajectory of the circuitous trail from them to (almost) Derek & the Dominos and then George Harrison is worthy of a documentary in itself. The big jump into the Rolling Stones now looks like fate, and that's really where the tale goes into third gear. Bobby Keys is a born storyteller with no need to always make himself the good guy. The man can take a punch.
From the sax man's earliest Stones sessions, including the toe-curling solo on "Brown Sugar," right up to today is a true tale of inspired lunacy and down and dirty grooves. Bobby Keys has been on many of the greatest recordings of our time and always has an insight into what made them that way. So many are laugh-out-loud and shake-the-head real, and appear to defy gravity. Don't forget — this is the man who quit the Rolling Stones but somehow got back in. That has only happened once, and don't think Bobby Keys doesn't know just how lucky he is. And while today he may look more like a golf pro on the senior circuit, deep down no one has ever loved rock and roll more, and known exactly how to play it better. It's our good fortune this Texan actually remembers those times, and cares enough to write it all down. Keith Richards rightly calls him "an antidote for the blues." Blow your horn, Bobby Keys.
Sir Douglas Quintet, Border Wave. For just about his entire career, Doug Sahm would play the Sir Douglas Quintet card whenever things got slow on the home front. For a band that began in 1964 and had their monster hit "She's About a Mover" the next year, it's amazing how their appeal stayed strong pretty much forever. It's easy to hear why — the Quintet's organist Augie Meyers perfected the roller rink/rhythm and blues hybrid sound, pushing his Vox keyboard into an unending revelry of hi-fi hijinks, and Sahm's happy shoutout "Play it Augie" became an integral part of the group's lore. It's no fluke that when Bob Dylan was asked who he was digging in 1965, he said "the Sir Douglas Quintet."
For this 1981 edition of the band, recorded not long after the Knack's tidal new wave hit "My Sharona" dominated the record charts, Sir Douglas put some skinny ties on his musicians and cranked the 2/4 beat to the max, probably hoping to grab onto whatever glory the contemporary sound could provide. Originals like "It Was Fun While It Lasted," "Old Habits Die Hard" and "Sheila Tequila" pound and pump like some demented take on border town grooveosity. But it wouldn't be a Sir Douglas album without some righteous covers, and the 13th Floor Elevators' "You're Gonna Miss Me," Butch Hancock's "I Keep Wishing for You" and the Kinks' "Who'll Be the Next in Line" are promptly set on fire.
An album ringer arrives from guitarist-fiddler Alvin Crow on "Tonite Tonite." Crow is a true blue West Texas homeboy, and for years has led the Pleasant Valley Boys in Austin. When he joined the Quintet, Sahm found his perfect Lone Star foil, and got Crow to turn up the wild prairie rush on a song that could have been a lost Buddy Holly and the Crickets treasure. Of course, Sir Douglas rides the crest of that fun wave with Crow and blends it right into one of his very best albums. There was no fencing in Doug Sahm, and countless producers bit the dust trying. Here all concerned set him loose and watched the whirlwind spin ten songs into his own private tornado, and this reissue is a five-star alert.