Dr. Dog

The Psychedelic Swamp


DrDogDr. Dog has pulled a hallucinogenic surf-country-rock-pop rabbit out of their hat with “The Psychedelic Swamp,” a hi-fi reimagining of the Philadelphia band’s 2001 low-fi debut.

The not-so-nutshell backstory, from a 2010 Detroit Metro Times interview with member Scott McMicken:

“Dr. Dog didn’t make ‘The Psychedelic Swamp.’ It was sent to us by a character named Phrases, who … escaped Earth and … all his woes to go to the psychedelic swamp as a means of release. …

“Then he gets there and at first he’s really excited and … amazed at the lack of logic and … order to the universe. … Shortly thereafter (he) realizes that the same issues … persist. …

“He starts to get desperate … but at the same time (realizes) he’s … losing perspective on how to communicate with his former self and … former world. … So the record becomes … more and more incoherent. … He has this strong message that he really wants to spread to people, so he chooses Dr. Dog to be the band to … translate this mess into an American pop context.”

The never-officially-released original “Swamp” of 15 years ago has been distilled from its rumored 35 tracks (a 28-song version exists deep in the Internet) to 13 tracks, with just enough psychedelia intact — “Swampadelic Pop,” for example, features keyboard solos that inspire thoughts of a surreal “Palisades Park” or “Crocodile Rock.”

“Golden Hind” hands over the vocal reins to former member Doug O’Donnell, on a tune that sounds eerily like Johnny Cash hanging ten on a Southern California beach.

But the centerpiece is “Bring My Baby Back,” a lost-love ballad juxtaposing good ol’ piano and organ with synthesizer and processed drums.

Other highlights include the incorporation of synthesized whistling into “Holes in My Back,” the Neil Young and Crazy Horse-style feedback on “Engineer Says” and the Ray Davies/Marc Bolan vibrato vocals that propel “Good Grief.”

Peppered throughout the album are reasonable facsimiles of various vintage video-game sound effects. A few spoken-word interludes by Phrases, à la Frank Zappa’s Central Scrutinizer narrator from “Joe Garage,” tie together some of the tracks.

It all adds up to an enjoyable listening experience that’s at once offbeat and mainstream — psychedelic music for the masses!gnm_end_bug

1. Golden Hind
2. Dead Record Player
3. Swampadelic Pop
4. Bring My Baby Back
5. Holes In My Back
6. Fire On My Back
7. Swamp Descent
8. Engineer Says
9. In Love
10. (swamp inflammation)
11. Badvertise
12. Good Grief
13. Swamp Is On

Total time: 39:02

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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Los Straitjackets

Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits!!!!!!

Yep Roc

dickersonIt’s like amplifying the experience of hearing Lorne Greene sing the theme to “Bonanza” after only having known it as an instrumental.

Instrumentals have fallen out of fashion over the decades yet fans remain. But the vocal instrumental subgenre is about as esoteric as it gets. And Dickerson — a rockabilly, hillbilly-jazz and surf artist who also collects music outside the norm and beyond — wants to share it via renditions of a few choice examples, with the help of instrumental combo Los Straitjackets.

“Most famous instrumental hits either started out as vocal songs, or — even better — were written as instrumentals, became hits, and then some knucklehead came along and wrote lyrics for them after the fact,” Dickerson explains in the album’s press release.

Songs here originally composed with lyrics are “Theme From a Summer Place,” “Perfidia” and “Misirlou,” given Beach Boys, ska and exotica arrangements, respectively.

The rest are instrumentals that had “knucklehead”-penned lyrics added later. Some of the best are Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk” (Doggett himself put out the vocal version as a follow-up single to the instrumental); the Shadows’ “Apache” (uniting disco, hip-hop, surf and country);  “You Can Count on Me” (sung to the tune of the theme from “Hawaii 5-O” and sourced from Sammy Davis Jr.’s 1976 version); and “Popcorn” (the Gershon Kingsley moog classic popularized by Hot Butter and later performed with vocals by French band Anarchic System).

Dickerson limits his guitar work to electric sitar on “Misirlou” but takes his singing seriously. “When I was recording the vocals,” he recalls in the press release, “I kept thinking of the classic Bill Murray ‘Saturday Night Live’ lounge singer bit, and I quickly realized, that’s my role here: I’m here to interpret these familiar melodies in a recognizable fashion, and to embrace the absurdity beneath it all.”

And just as Murray’s Nick Winters pines for “those Star Wars” and pleads, “Don’t let ’em end,” so, too, might listeners of this album of reverently irreverent modifications of long-buried treasure be left wishing for a “Vol. 2” from impresario Dickerson and his lucha libre mask-wearing sidekicks. gnm_end_bug

1. Fury
2. Honky Tonk
3. Magic Star
4. Theme From A Summer Place
5. Perfidia
6. Apache
7. Misirlou
8. Kawanga
9. Wild Weekend
10. You Can Count On Me
11. Walk Don’t Run
12. Popcorn
13. Sleepwalk
14. Pipeline

Total time: 38:30

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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The Fleshtones ♦ Southern Culture on the Skids ♦ Los Straitjackets

Mondo Zombie Boogaloo

Yep Roc

mondoGathering up three like-minded purveyors of ’60s-style garage/surf/rockabilly artists from its roster, Yep Roc pulls off an A1 celebration of a musically overlooked time of year: Halloween. Amid the parade of  Christmas albums that seemingly starts earlier each year, “Mondo Zombie Boogaloo” is a refreshing jolt of originals and standards that’ll bring anyone’s monster to life.

Perhaps because of Jack Marshall’s theme song for mid-’60s TV comedy “The Munsters,” guitar-driven rock in a twang/surf vein has always been easily associated with creepy goings-on. Six of the tracks on “Mondo” are instrumentals that admirably follow in the large footsteps of that show’s catchy theme, and five of  those are by Lucha Libre-masked instrumentalists Los Straitjackets — including the themes from “Young Frankenstein” and “Halloween.” But Southern Culture on the Skids give the Straitjackets a run for their money with “La Marcha de los Cabarones,” a SCOTS original.

Other highlights are “Tingler Blues,” a tribute by SCOTS to that great 1959 Vincent Price flick; “Que Monstruos Son,” a Spanish-language version of “The Monster Mash” by all three bands; and the Fleshtones’ “Haunted Hipster,” complete with with understated slide guitar and harmonica.gnm_end_bug

1. It’s Monster Surfing Time – Los Straitjackets
2. Ghoulman Confidential – The Fleshtones
3. Goo Goo Muck – Southern Culture On The Skids
4. Que Monstruos Son – Los Straitjackets featuring The Fleshtones and Southern Culture On The Skids
5. Haunted Hipster – The Fleshtones
6. The Loneliest Ghost In Town – Southern Culture On The Skids
7. Theme From Young Frankenstein – Los Straitjackets
8. (Sock It To Me Baby) In The House Of Shock – The Fleshtones
9. Theme From Halloween – Los Straitjackets
10. Tingler Blues – Southern Culture on the Skids
11. Ghoul On A Hill – Los Straitjackets
12. La Marcha De Los Cabarones – Southern Culture On The Skids
13. Ghostbusters – Los Straitjackets
14. Dracula A GoGo – The Fleshtones
15. Demon Death – Southern Culture On The Skids

Total time: 44:48

External links
Yep Roc’s Fleshtones page
Southern Culture on the Skids’ site
Los Straitjackets’ site
iTunes Store

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Brian Setzer

Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!


The Stray Cat takes another break from his namesake swing-revival orchestra, this time to create something he’s been hinting at for a while: an all-instrumental, cross-genre outing.

From the first Brian Setzer Orchestra album in 1994 to the 11th in 2010, he’s nearly always included an instrumental: “Sleepwalk,” “Caravan,” “The Nutcracker Suite,” “James Bond Theme,” “Honky Tonk,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Mr. Jazzer Goes Surfin’,” “Mr. Surfer Goes Jazzin’,” “Batman” — he’s even featured instrumentals on the occasional solo album and CD single. The eighth BSO album, “Wolfgang’s Big Night Out,” puts a swingin’ twist on classical standards and contains just two tracks with vocals.

Mixing covers with originals, “Instru-MENTAL!” is a heavenly gumbo of multitracked guitar picking and strumming, accompanied only by upright bass and drums (with the exception of vibraphone on the perky and appropriately sequenced ditty “Intermission”).

Setzer deftly traverses rockabilly, rock and roll, country, jazz, surf and bluegrass, often combining more than one style within a song. “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” for instance, boasts rockabilly picking on top of jazz strumming. In an interview with Guitar Player magazine, the guitarist revealed he was “copping Elvis’ version of the song, not Bill Monroe’s.”

“Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown” is another number that exemplifies “-MENTAL’s” maniacal musical melange. Speed-flatpicking in the vein of Jimmy Bryant, Joe Maphis or Merle Travis and jazz stylings not unlike latter-era Hank Garland are but a few of the ideas Setzer pieced together for this Frankenstein’s monster of a song.

Other highlights include possibly the first instrumental version of Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula”; a rare Setzer banjo workout on Earl Scruggs’ “Earl’s Breakdown”; and two surf-style selections: “Hot Love” and “Go-Go Godzilla.”

The album’s final two covers are Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” and an early white blues song from the 1920s that evolved into a jazz standard: Gene Austin and Nathaniel Shilkret’s “Lonesome Road.”

1. Blue Moon Of Kentucky
2. Cherokee
3. Be-Bop-A-Lula
4. Earl’s Breakdown
5. Far Noir East
6. Intermission
7. Go-Go Godzilla
8. Lonesome Road
9. Hillbilly Jazz Meltdown
10. Hot Love
11. Pickpocket

Total time: 34:39

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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