Bobby Conn & the Glass Gypsies
Live Classics Vol. 1
Why does someone issue a live album?
1) Economy: If you have been playing live for a while and have a reasonably tight stage presence, a club with a PA and and output jack to a recorder will theoretically pay you to play, as opposed to studios, which hardly ever dip into their own pockets for the pleasure of your company.
2) Hubris: Musicians, like all artists, subscribe to the bullshit megalomania that we have a personal connection with our audience, and that our songs or paintings are a merely a conduit for that connection, so the obvious way to best allow the lumpen to "get us" is to be in the same room with us and hear the exists among the vibrations that were somehow generated by us.
3) Keepin it real: Opening an unmediated experience to the listener. To not create with our documents by to simply document with them. It's the Steve Albini thing: to not be a producer but a recordist, or something like that. Its a noble goal, but more often or not, those studio effects are for a reason. Finally there is
4) Awesomeness: You are so awesome that no cage can hold you, and the only way to experience your true awesomeness is in the wild, in your natural habitat.
Bobby Conn and the Glass Gypsies have touches of all four here on Live Classics Vol. 1, but truly fall into the Awesomeness category, with other 2 cool 4 school punk-meets-Otis-Redding soul mashups like The Make-Up or the sadly defunct Delta 72 - where a spinal cord groove is married with punk urgency and faux-flower power peace ecstaticism. Where Conn deviates from this is that he brings in a healthy dose of both classic disco and wiggy Krautrock soul, birthing this nuanced funky album recorded live in front of a very cool studio audience.
The club mystique is dispensed with in the intro when Conn asks the audience to react as if they have witnessed the best song they have ever heard, and they erupt in applause getting this game of charades going with the band harmonizing "Success!" at the onset of "We Come in Peace." Its a romping delicious review, a deconstructed musical number, lying somewhere between camp and Up With People. Bobby enthuse from the stage like a cult leader on College Recruitment Day, and I imagine it would be rather tempting to drop out of school, put on a robe and join up. The delicious soul epic "Axis '67, pt 2" demonstrates how Can is the post-rock Santana, embodying their spaceship funk and the finest electric violin work since Poindexter won the Greek week competition for the Lambda Lambda Lambdas some twenty years ago. I jest, but this is truly joyous awesome stuff.
The lid continues to be blown off the box with organ grind and guitar sheets in "Winners" and the rump-shaker "Cashing Objections." A beautiful synth interlude, like many on the album (including a self-explanatory track "Guitar Solo") fall in between the tracks, giving this album some extra depth, before dropping into brilliant "Style I Need" which serves as the centerpiece of the album.
Or maybe its the epic tale of being a loser musician "Baby Man" and its excellent reprise. Or perhaps the show-stopper "No Revolution." This album is full, there are no weak gaps in the high energy glam explosion to be found. There are great disco moments, great proggy arty moments, great classic rock guitar shred , often all in the same song like in "White Bread," the only song to ever cycle through Jean-Luc Ponty to Judas Priest to Meat Loaf to Fugazi a number of times in under three times.
Toward the end, on "Never Get Ahead" Conn reprises his opening gag by asking the audience to react as if they've just heard the worst song they've ever heard, there is a moment of silence where they have to pick up the reserve and jadedness that was shorn from them over the previous hour so that can respond with a half-hearted wave of "you sucks." Any band that can do that to a cadre of 150 uber-hipsters cool enough to make it for this recording is a force to be reckoned with. "Angels" takes you out with a hp thrust and releases your funk fortified soul back into polite society. Despite the style-jumping, the ironic camp references, here Bobby Conn & the Glass Gypsies are simply awesome, and I hope their medicine show makes out down to the swampy hinterlands so I can get his connection first hand.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com
March sees a greatly expanded reissue of Elliott Smith's most critically acclaimed album Either/Or