Kicking Off 2021
Kicking off 2021, we look at liner notes with Michael Buchmiller of Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra, encounter Strange Stage Stories with Allen Camp, Chris Collins of Mod Fun, Felissia Mae, Marie Haddad and Billy Tisch + and review albums from Sons of Edison, Claire Walding and Paul McCartney.
Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra / Liner Notes
Top robot / human duo, Professor B. Miller and SPO-20, aka Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra, is in the midst of releasing a series of 20 themed EPs. Each disc is a work of art, mixing cool tunes and collectable eye-catching packaging, and is pressed on limited-edition etched vinyl. Even amongst all that, a stand-out part of these releases is their liner notes, each curated to perfection by artist Michael Buchmiller (aka Prof. Miller).
“I’ve always loved liner notes… the niche art form of providing context around an album for the listener,” Buchmiller said. “Our debut box set was being taught at San Diego State University by Dr. William Nericcio, and for Experiments with Auto-Croon, I reached out and asked if he’d be willing to write the liner notes. He killed it. I love them so much. So, when I started the EP series, I knew I wanted to keep that going.”
Each release will feature a different writer. “I don’t plan on having people write multiple liner notes at this point,” he said. “I think it’s fun to get new takes on it each time, and so far they’ve all been really different but equally incredible.”
Contributors to date include Peter Jesperson, former manager of the Replacements, Twin/Tone Records co-founder, who penned the notes for Stop by the Supermarket. “Having a music industry insider like him lend some credibility to this strange robot band was amazing, and his piece was so fun and clever,” Buchmiller said. Others include Mr. Fab of WFMU and Music for Maniacs who wrote about Go Caroling and, most recently, John Peck who did the blurb for Lost at Sea. “He’s written some absolutely brilliant music-themed pieces for McSweeney’s like “What Your Favorite ’80s Band Says About You,” “Responsible Band Names,” and “Bandwiches.” If you haven’t read them, do yourself a favor and look them up. He did not disappoint with his nautical tall tale of us,” Buchmiller said good naturedly.
Buchmiller is particularly happy to have an early musical influence—Dr. Demento—write the notes for the EP #3 in the series Conjure the Paranormal. “I’ve been a fan of Dr. Demento’s since I first heard him as a kid,” he said. “Outsider music and novelty records rarely break through to the mainstream and back then he was the conduit to learning about all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. Over the years, he’s been kind enough to play our band on his show, so I knew he was aware of us and liked us enough to spin our tunes. I emailed him, and to my surprise he responded immediately and was thrilled to help out. Having him write the introduction to our record is unquestionably one of the highlights of being in a band for me.”
Strange Stage Stories
Allen Camp / Fuzz Huzzi: “One of the craziest things that ever happened on stage is when a homeless woman ran into the Spirit Club and jumped on the stage while we were playing and was not going to leave until she sang a song. So, the band decided to play 12-bar blues and she started singing and was really good; she had a rough but beautiful voice. She sang a song and after we ended the tune she walked out of the club. I appreciated her courage and not taking no for an answer.”
Chris Collins / Mod Fun: “During a show at The Dive in New York City, both Mick and Bob were doing more than their usual energetic gyrating, jumping around, and working the crowd into a frenzy. At one heated moment right in the middle of a song, the tiny stage in that venue suddenly wasn’t big enough for the two of them. Mick inadvertently slammed into Bob, knocking him off his feet and causing him to topple into my drum kit. He took out at least one cymbal stand and my floor tom and then got himself and his bass tangled up in my drum gear. It took him so long to get his footing and get back up that someone had time to snap a photo of his predicament. That photo ended up on the back of our Hangin’ Round EP and that story has always been a fave memory of ours.”
Marie Haddad: “Kenny G once came up on stage as I was finishing my set to talk to me and the audience.”
Felissia Mae: “The strangest thing that happened to me on stage was I forgot my lyrics and just made some lyrics up on the spot. I guess it worked out lol.”
Billy Tisch / True Stories: “I was blowing saxophone so hard at an Archway Lounge gig a few years ago that my pants broke and fell down. It didn’t stop me from playing and I didn’t skip a note. But I did start wearing suspenders after that…”
Paul McCartney – III (Capitol Records)
Ten songs recorded solo by McCartney, the third installment in a series that started back in 1970. All instruments are played by McCartney with the exception of the song “Deep Deep Feeling,” which includes guitar and drums from Rusty Anderson and Abe Laboriel respectively. Bottom line? The disc is a grower, displaying both of McCartney’s experimental and song-crafting sides, the end result firmly showing that McCartney’s way with an earworm is undiminished. Fans of McCartney’s demos or his White Album tracks will enjoy rock songs such as harpsichord and twin guitar tinged first single, “Find My Way,” which if slight of lyric, are packed with melodies that will stick with you for days. McCartney sounds like he’s having fun. Not everything is successful, the soulful midtempo riff-rocker, “Deep Down,” for example, is built on a single repetitive riff, a strong groove, but perhaps at 5:52 a little long. A minor quibble. At its best, McCartney III delivers hooks and sentiment in equal parts. Other highlights here include the charming solo acoustic track, “Winter Bird / When Winter Comes,” custom made for a campfire, and Wings-ish rocker “Slidin’.” While there is nothing on McCartney III as immediate as McCartney I’s “Every Night” or McCartney II’s “Coming Up,” the album is a welcome addition to his canon. Longtime fans will find this an essential addition to their collections, more casual fans will find this a worthwhile listen.
Sons of Edison – III (Fine Mess Publishing)
Twelve tracks from San Diego based combo Sons of Edison aka guitarist / vocalist Richard Livoni and bassist Michael Casinelli, with assist on various tracks from saxophonist John Rekevics, drummer Calvin Lakin and vocalist Laticia Carrington. If you are a fan of classic rock, blues rock, or well-produced pop rock, this album will quickly be a firm favorite, like finding a dozen lost gems. There are two cover tunes, a heavy bluesy take on evergreen “Tobacco Road” and a rock version of “California Dreamin’,” both really good, but both surpassed by Sons of Edison’s original songs. The album starts off strong with “Hard Luck in Love,” an acoustic guitar-driven rocker with an infectious chorus and a candidate for a single if ever there was one. The trend continues with a bit of power pop / power chord attitude in “I Don’t Wanna Know,” and really doesn’t let up. You can hear echoes of influence on certain recordings, such as “Get Down” (Deep Purple), “Eye of the Hurricane” (The Stones), and “Leavin’” (Springsteen), but these songs stand on their own, with solid hooks and top flight musicianship, particularly Livoni’s guitar work. For fans of any of the genres or bands mentioned this is an essential listen, and slots well against the classics.
Claire Walding – Encanto
Nine tracks from singer-songwriter Claire Walding, though three are brief, under-a-minute interludes. Opener “Welcome to Encanto” is a bit of intro fun with friends, but the album as a whole has a sentimental, melancholy feel, highlighted by lush, ethereal production, with the use of a haunting pedal steel guitar played by Ted Stern, an especially nice touch. Walding’s dreamy, emotion-laden vocals are full of melody, as heard on the album’s top track, “A Tribute to Daniel Johnston,” but these are strong songs full of introspection and contemplation, making Encanto a perfect rainy day or Sunday morning listen. If you’re a fan of Innocence Mission, Sam Phillips, or acoustic Kate Bush, you’ll find much to admire here. Walding is a developing artist well worth keeping an ear out for.