Sunday, March 26, 2017

Vinyl Review: "The Flesh Is Weak" by James Chance and the Contortions

The Flesh Is Weak
Here's something about me that many folks who read these pages may not realize...

I'm a big fan of etymology.

After having seen about what seems like a hundred broadway shows now, there's a phrase that always tends to stick out in my head, all that jazz.

(This might seem like it's totally random, but get inside my head, read the thoughts and then come back out and tell me if it's scatterbrained or totally ordered and logical.)

(HINT: It's totally number two.)

Jazz...that's something that was rebellious about 70 years before the Rolling Stones were rebellious about 50 years ago right? Well, rebellious music that's been out rebelled normally doesn't really resonate with me and both the Stones and Jazz seem like my grandfather's music at this point.

James Chance
So, it's difficult for me to really consider jazz as a current art form, much less an enjoyable one. Hopefully you don't think too ill of me after having heard what I think about these two things.

James Chance and The Contortions remind me a bit of both the Rolling Stones and Glenn Miller. (I'm going with Glenn Miller because...well I have no idea why.)

As someone whose tastes include extraordinarily minimalist groups like The Black Diamond Heavies, EARLY Black Keys, etc, it's hard to wrap my head around a band with about seventeen members.

Just from a logistical standpoint, the idea of a guitar/drummer combo seems lovely, because it's just two guys you gotta get in the same room at one time, but how do you get all these people in a room at one time to rehearse, let alone compose?

No idea.

Somehow though, James Chance and The Contortions have seemed to make this sister wives band work. It's still a little confusing how this project has ever gotten off of the ground, much less had their vinyl in my hands. 

Logistics are hard, man.

Now, let's give credit where credit is due, James Chance is not your typical (Name) and the (Blanks) frontman here. In this cacophony of sound, he not only leads the choir in voice, but also leads the band via public saxophone.

No really, not like what Jimi said about hearing public saxophones blowing, but speaking of guitars...

Tomas Doncker spits out some very nice Shaft style chord progressions. You know that chicka chicka wow wow sound that's also used in those movies I've never know the type.

Throughout both sides of this record, there are about 4 really wonderful guitar solos featuring that most devilish of all effects pedals, the wah wah. In fact it would be hard to find any of the guitar work without the sexy, up and down movement of the crybaby.

Now,  that's not to say the rest of the solos weren't memorable, when in fact they were. Chance himself took a goodly number of saxophone solos. He makes Lisa Simpson look like an 8 year old girl when he gets his mojo workin'.

Robert Aaron reminds us all of what we really love about the Hammond Organ. Mac Gallehon's trumpet and trombones up the sound as if Blue Lou himself were leading the horns.

Eric Klaastad's funky baselines keep this whole ship a float, because every body else is off making hay besides him and drummer Richard Dworkin. The rhythm section is sturdy enough to build a house on.

Pure Drama
This album is what happens when the Blues Brothers host a reality TV show where they're trying to decide between marrying The Rolling Stones, Glenn Miller, or Buster Poindexter. Pretty soon, I believe they'll be handing out their next rose....

This is our third album under the Super Secret Records imprint that we've reviewed and every time the quality of the LP itself has been TOP NOTCH. This one isn't 100% flat, there's a tiny amount of warp, but you'll only notice it with a level on the stylus.

Unlike the first two, this one isn't a double album, so no gatefold. It's a standard slipcover jacket. Like his brothers in this box, there was absolutely zero splitting. These records were packed down tight. Really, it would be hard to say enough nice things about the mailer here.

In 2016, True Groove Records released this one on CD and in 2017, Super Secret Records is giving it back to us on vinyl.

It's hard to love this album, unless you've actually listened to it. The quality of the music is top notch along with the actual disc and jacket.

The Flesh Is Weak is a strange record, but it's oh so satisfying. As for those of us who aren't big fans of this genre of music, just get past the first track, and it's all going to fall into place.

The first's really punk rock jazz which is a hard one to wrap your head around, but press on!

Release: 4/14/17
Genre: Punk Rock Jazz, but only after said Punk has aged out of punk proper.
Label: Super Secret Records/True Groove
Formats: LP/CD/Digital

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