Saturday, May 31, 2014

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - "Part One" (1967) Reprise Records

I offer up here for your idle contemplation one of the gems of my LP collection, the first proper album release by the mysterious, obscure and oh-so-entertaining 1960s psychedelic pop legend known as The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Never heard of em? There's a reason!

Our backstory: At some point in the mid 1980s I became infatuated with 1960s psychedelic music and was looking for something a bit more "extreme" in nature than the Beatles, Byrds, King Crimson and other better known names from that post-"Sgt. Pepper's" era. I even turned to the Monkees for a while and believe it or not they made some pretty trippy stuff. No, really.

But I wanted something authentic, steeped in the aura of the California sunshine and windowpane acid mystique, and Captain Beefheart had yet to be re-discovered. One day found me wandering into Desertshore Records on the SU hill (upstairs in the Marshall St. location, if that helps date when this occurred) quite stoned on some decent enough bud to have this record seize my imagination. Like literally, as in halfway through their showstopper "Help I'm A Rock" I announced to the rotund proprietor that I absolutely f*cking HAD to have this album, name your price. Boy was he pissed off, whining about how he had just gotten it in, but he sold it to me.

For what was then the rather pricy sum of $9.99 for a used record (CDs had just been introduced and you could get a mint used double LP of "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" for $5) I got to take home a genuine bonafide mystery on 33rpm. An impenetrable, completely bizarre record that my music collection had not the likes of.

Reverse cover, will work on getting some better pix once daylight returns to Syracuse. I can say with certainty that my pothead beer swilling buddies actually took to this as quickly as I did, as many of the compositions are almost cartoon like in their display of the latest cutting edge 1966/1967 psychedelic production techniques. Weirdly processed vocals, channel-shifting instruments, echoing reverb and a startlingly open and honest attitude about the point of the record, which was to freak its listeners out. Period.

Recorded in 1966, mixed and finally pressed by Warner Bros. Reprise Records in 1967. No clue as to how many they manufactured but the album now runs in the $40 - $75 range online, with my example's cover and disc both being a bit worn & thus likely valued at the lower end of that spectrum. Not that I'd ever part with it! I struggled through this album many times while under the influence of various recipes, determined to figure out what the deal with it was. To my eternal joy some of my conclusions have been borne out by historical research by others, but for the most part one would listen to this album in awe rather than out of enjoyment for whatever particular skein of pop music it purports to represent. I never figured it out, really, and that's why it's managed to deliver the goods all over again now 30 years on.

Side one, with the timeless cover of Frank Zappa's "Help I'm a Rock" and the dementedly masterful "1906", which is about anything but the earthquake. "Shifting Sands" has a forlorn plaintive nature to it that literally brought me to tears at least once while dosed out of my skull, while "I Won't Hurt You" and "Will You Walk With Me" both evoke the gentler side of the band's original namesake, Lou Reed's Velvet Underground which pop artist Andy Warhol unleashed on the world as part of his Exploding Plastic Inevitable touring art happening shebang. Insightful researchers have opined that the band's guru Bob Markley managed to catch the EPI during a west coast booking and its influence eventually found form in the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.

Side two. In the good old days "Transparent Day" was always my favorite cut from the LP, sounding remarkably Byrds-like and ripe for a mind game in responding verbally during playings "You can see right through it." Nobody got it, and these days "Here's Where You Belong" is the more favorable of the two on my ears, likewise aping the early 12 string dominated sound of the Byrds. Either one could have been a decently charting single (they went with "1906" and it flopped). "If You Want This Love" was another cut that always got to me, has a unique timbre and use of minor/major chord changes that is strangely evocative of emotions which sometimes one would rather not have touched on acid trips. "Scuse Me Miss Rose" is a 50s style rocker that was almost a relief from the sense of doubt, and "High Coin" became a mix tape favorite with it's rollicking hillbilly fingerpicking and spoken word intro, which seems to refer to nothing. Perfect.

But my favorite cut from the LP these days? "Leiyla" with it's seemingly unique blend of Bo Diddly electric guitars, a classical passage literally dropped into the middle of the mix as a sort of stylistic non-sequitor, and a genuinely disturbing take on Big Bopper-esque quasi-spoken word yowlings which for years gave me nothing short of the creeps. What is the point of it all? A question which still continues to elude an answer from me other than it was free-form art rock before the term existed. The only thing I could ever think to compare it to was "Pushing Too Hard" by the Seeds -- a group that WCPAEB shared live billings with more than once -- but even that isn't quite right. That's a song, this is sonic mayhem and for my money is likely the closest approximation on record of what they may have sounded like live. Maybe.

The madness that is "Leiyla" on YouTube.

Liner sleeve with all those hip Reprise releases from late 1966 when the LP was produced.

That original $9.99 price tag from Desertshore. Something tells me that to a real collector this sleeve may be worth more than the record or cover. Dunno, and you'd have to pry it from my cold dead fingers before we'd find out.

And the current West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band collection, still in heavy rotation listening three months on with "Part One" and followup albums "Vol. 2" and "A Child's Guide to Good and Evil" on CD remasters by 1960s oddities specialist label Sundazed. I also had their CD of the first WCPAEB release "Vol. 1" but along with my Sundazed CD of the Zakary Thaks (Texas' finest 1960s garage band) it disappeared between apartment moves. Hoping it turns up in an old box of clothes or something, even though I do recall being decidedly non-plussed by it.

"Tracy Had a Hard Day Sunday", with Bob Markley on bongo drums. Tells the story of an acquaintance who burnt the candle at both ends & started flipping out on Monday.

The three Sundazed CDs flipped open with their marvelous design artwork. There's also two subsequent releases, 1969's "Where's My Daddy?" and the gloriously titled "Markley: A Group" which I've been saving my lunch money for, plus a sampler of relics related to the group's members that is apparently more entertaining than any of the standard album releases. Have them in my Amazon shopping basket and hoping some week to come up enough on top to be able to afford them. Until then there's always YouTube.

"A Child's Guide to Good & Evil"

Onondoga Art Guild 50th Anniversary Show @ The Tech Garden, Syracuse NY May 29 2014

The Tech Garden
235 Harrison St.
Syracuse NY 13202

Thursday saw us convening at The Tech Garden in Syracuse once again for a massive group exhibit by the Onondoga Art Guild for their 50th anniversary exhibit. Curated once again by my homegirl Kristina Starowitz, my favorite aspect of the show was what a totally different crowd it was onhand, almost none of whom were acquaintances. I like encountering new scenes!

Susi Buschbacher

Kathryn Wehrung

Kathryn Wehrung

And the artiste, with her work. Excellent!

Judy Hand

Judy Hand

Maureen Barcza

Geraldine Greig, and my favorite piece from the exhibit!

Geraldine Greig

Geraldine Greig, and the study for the piece above.

Mary Beth Sorber

Carol Adamec

Susan Murphy

Maria Rizzo


Carol Adamec

Angela Arrey-Wastavino

Linda Abbey

Maureen Barcza -- Knockout oil on canvas work, with such a marvelously glossy sheen to its surface that an oblique angle was needed to cut down on light reflections. Superb work!!

Adriana Meiss, marvelous plein air pastel drawing.

And the artiste with her work! Adriana was once a student of my father's at SUNY ESF here at Syracuse and recognized me from the grapevine, wanted to know if it was the same Nyland family. Small world somedays!

The ladies from WRVO, who helped sponsor the exhibit.

Working the sales table! they offed a few, nice work ladies.

Stylin the summer eyewear fashion with curator Kristina. Keep em coming!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Maria Rizzo & Kristina Starowitz @ The Art Store, Syracuse NY May 22 2014

Kept mom busy on Thursday! and bless her heart she had no clue as to why I wanted to go to The Art Store aka Commercial Art Supply and went in hot to shop for materials. Goooooo Flora!

(Picture courtesy of The Art Store.)

Ladies!  ;D Kristina and Maria with their impeccably curated show in The Art Store's upstairs gallery space. Backstory on these two is that Maria was one of the Syracuse area painters who helped coax me out of my shell in the glorious spring/summer of 2012. Was inspired by the precision of her painting and the sheer professionalism of her approach to being an artist. Maria also served as Artist In Residence & Curator at favored Syracuse venue The Tech Garden for 2013 and was kind enough to include me in a couple of her group exhibits  ;D

Kristina was one of the talents running the nearby Westcott Community Gallery in Syracuse and we encountered each other at one of their exhibits. And it turned out that I'd been studying her paintings all along while volunteering at a shopping mall art gallery in Dewitt, NY. Kristina returned the compliment by attending some of my shows and we've kept in touch as she assumed the role of Artist In Residence & Curator at The Tech Garden for 2014. It's all about who you know, and when!

Maria Rizzo's impeccable card design with a favorite of her tree series.

With my new friend Mel! A musician & artist who was there shopping for a sketchbook when we stopped by. Made the unmistakeable universal hand-signal for "I love the blue hair!" and we've been besties ever since. Best karma on the career in England, my dear!

Kristina Starowitz

Kristina Starowitz

Kristina Starowitz

Kristina Starowitz

Kristina Starowitz

Archival prints by Kristina Starowitz.

Mom's probably saying "He does this all the time ..." With charcoal drawings by Kristina Starowitz.

And paintings by Maria Rizzo. I was actually hosting the BC reception while this event was in prime force but with a couple babes like this onhand you got a party whenever. Yo!

Maria Rizzo

Maria Rizzo

Maria Rizzo

Maria Rizzo

Archival prints by Maria Rizzo.

Maria Rizzo

Maria Rizzo

Commercial Art Supply, Syracuse NY.

Turned around to show something to Flora and there she is shopping pastel pencils. That's mom! focused on her artmaking and she told me this was her first shopping trip for supplies since the mid 1980s. Stood back and let her rip.

The ladies from the Art Store preparing surfaces for a class using a mouth-watering assortment of Golden's acrylic mediums.

Lost my trusty Princeton #8 short handled filbert brush and at a loss as to which series it was from!

Princeton 4250 series liner brushes, my preferred weapon for detail work.

Ampersand boards! My heart was filled with glee that she'd wanted some of these instead of canvas.

Mom impressed by the wide range of Golden's products carried by The Art Store. I think she finally understands that "Those Goldens you go to visit" and the Golden's paints are the same people.

Mmm-hmm, Golden's High Flow acrylics. She wants some, will look into wrangling a sampler pack.

Impromptu demonstration of Golden's new QoR Watercolors line.

Yeah she knows. We want some.

Info sheet, use the link below to learn more.

... I want this.

Neo Color II Caran d'Ache water soluble crayons & pencils. To be honest most of my color these days is coming from Caran d'Ache with gel medium or better yet Clear Gel Tar as a fixing/mixing compound. A good tube of acrylic red will run you about $8 - $11, but a red Caran d'Ache crayon is $2.97.



The Art Store's ever patient staff indicating it was time to go home.

OMG I love my job. With artist/musician Caitlin McCaulife!

WHAT. With artist Cayetano Valenzuela.

YAY! with artist Kathryn Petrillo.

ARRRR. With Davin, a local music promoter & bon vivante. 

TEE-HEE. With my Art Store hugs supervisor, Leslie Barnett. Looking forward to working with Leslie on a June exhibit of artwork at their gallery exploring our cultural love/hate relationship with caffeine.

HEY! Angelic hat hair, with The Art Store's resident artist & my shotgun rider gal Ashley Marie.

OH! With artist Maria Rizzo, and as I like to say a guy can do worse than ending up in a picture with Maria Rizzo  <3

SMOOCH! With artist Kristina Starowitz, expect to hear more about this gal  ;>

Ladies!  ;D

GOODIEFEST. We got Golden's Carbon Black and Regular Gel (Gloss), some Ampersand boards (I get the Gessoboard) and Derwent ColorSoft pastel pencils ... Plus handouts on the Max Ginsburg show, Golden's High-Flow acrylics, and the 6x6x2014 at Rochester Contemporary Arts that I'm part of, opening Saturday June 7th. Hope to see you there!