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THE AFRIKA KORPS
Music to Kill By (Gulcher Records) $10

Julie Burchill, New Musical Express, 3 December 1977: "This merger of The Slickee Boys, The Gizmos, The Look, The Teenage Boys, O. Rex, and The Kaiser's Kittens has thrown up (how punky!) the best album of the year. Twenty-two (yes! 22!) songs about all the things that bother you--your complexion . . . your boys . . . your mental health . . . and your girls. Every gem is short and sweet . . . each one a nursery rhyme that's been sneaking looks at teen magazines . . . pure, unsullied, untouched by recording contract rock and roll. Every verse is a reprise, every song a chrous with a harmonious soundmix nothing like the usual Heavy Metal row most 'punks' employ. Despite their threats about slapping your pretty face and ripping your pretty lace, they're sweet kids. Real innocence always tries to be tough."

Back in 1973, teenage fanzine writer Ken Highland first traveled from his small-town home in upstate New York to Brooklyn, New York, to jam with pen-pal Solomon Gruberger and his younger brother Jay in their living-room rock band O. Rex. Three years later, in early '76, Ken recorded the first infamous Gizmos EP in Bloomington, Indiana--and then joined the United States Marine Corps! Finding himself stationed in Maryland, near Washington, D.C., he quickly found his way into the burgeoning D.C. punk scene. He became friends with the Slickee Boys, and began writing songs on guard duty. Some of these became later Gizmos tunes, but the main project was a new band with the O. Rex brothers called The Afrika Korps. With help from Slickee Boys Kim Kane and Martha Hull, and the addition of multi-talented drummer Ken Kaiser, they recorded the music on this LP in the first few months of 1977. The recordings became free-for-all punk-rock "super sessions"--with various other Slickee Boys members, D.C. scenesters, rock writers, etc. joining in on the fun. The resulting LP still stands as one of the most spontaneous and least trendy things to come out of the early Amerikan punk scene. This CD includes the classick LP plus eight studio outtakes and four live tracks, and comes with a 16-page booklet featuring mostly unpublished photos and a detailed history of the Afrika Korps.

--Eddie Flowers
THE AFRIKA KORPS
Live at Cantone's 1977 (Gulcher Records) $10

All right! It's time to put on yer O. Rex T-shirt and stock up on non-diet sodas, 'cause Gulcher Records is bringin' y'all the legendary Afrika Korps LIVE!! in 1977 at Cantone's in Boss-Town, Massachusetts. Kenne Highland, Solomon Gruberger, Jay Gruberger, and Kenny Kaiser rip through a set of twenty tunes in front of an audience celebrating PFC Highland's marriage to Boston Groupie News editor Miss Lyn. From the Afrika Korps' Music To Kill By LP, the boys do "N.Y. Punk," "You're A Tease Baby," "I Want You Everyday," "Crazy Jill," "Ellen No," "Jailbait Janet," "Refrigerator Rappin'," "Juvenile Delinquent," "Make Her Know," and "Fox Lane." They also pull off killer version of Kenne's "Califawnia Gurls" and Solomon's "My Head's In '73," songs from the ultra-rare maxi-single by O. Rex (pre-A. Korps group with the Grubergers and Kenne). We also get to hear band versions of "Only Real People" and "Winner By Elimination," which would be recorded the following year as the Korps (no Afrika) by the duo of Kenne and Kenny. There's a never-recorded Solomon tune, "Slow And Easy," another of his horndog anthems. Slickee Boys vocalist Martha Hull, who appeared on Music To Kill By, shows up to sing the Yardbirds' "Heart Full Of Soul." And ex-Gizmo Rich Coffee does the lead vocal on a version of Kenne's Gizmos song "Amerika First." As a tribute to Kenne's new Boston hometown, they also perform songs by local faves Willie Loco Alexander ("Hit Her Wid De Axe," "At The Rat") and Thundertrain ("Hot For Teacher"). Yep, this is the real thing: punk without the pose, raw rockin' by dudes who were breathin' deep back when the air still vibrated with R&R. Rock on!

--Eddie Flowers
[*gulch*]
ANGEL CORPUS CHRISTI
Accordion Pop, Vol. 1 (Gulcher Records) $10

Come on in. Sit down and have a cup o' sweet with Angel. This is uncut stuff from circa mid-80s--nothin' but accordion, no vocals, a little reverb, and I heard some whitegurl fingerpoppin' on "Beast of Burden." Yes, the Stones song. There's another one too: "As Tears Go By." But don't cry, even though this disc's mostly sadhappy in that special way Ms. Corpus Christi does so well. She also angel-kisses the soft white melodic underbelly of the Monkees ("I'm a Believer"), the Velvets ("Femme Fatale"), the Beatles together (only version of "Hey Jude" you ever need to hear) and apart ("Imagine" as part of a medley with yet another Stones tune, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"). Yes, it does sound good. Where else can you hear Santo & Johnny's "Sleep Walk," Roger Miller's "King of the Road," and the Beach Boys' "Surfer Girl" done to (non-)perfection as solo-accordion (non-)pop? Ponder that while I get myself another cup o' "T." Heh-heh. Plus: "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (Phil "We-Love-Him-No-Matter-What" Spector's Teddy Bears), "Love Me Tender" (do I have to say Elvis?), "Jennifer Juniper" (Donovan), "Downtown" (Pet Clark), "Singin' the Blues" (I'd like to dream that Angel's version was based on Black Oak's version of the Guy Mitchell/Marty Robbins hit), and more more more!!! This Gulcher CD of ACCORDION POP is a reissue of the 1985 cassette originally released by Stim Records. You should already know that Angel has been making records for the past 20+ years, and is a long-time associate of the legendary Hoosier/San Fran avant-rock combo MX-80. Her most recent album of new material, DIVINE HEALER, was released by Gulcher earlier in 2003. But you already know all that, right? Okay then, I'm gonna take a nap while I listen again to Angel pump away at "Denise" by Randy & the Rainbows (never mind Blondie's version).

--Eddie Flowers
ANGEL CORPUS CHRISTI
The 80's (Gulcher Records) $10

Originally self-released on CD in 1990, THE 80'S collects ten tracks recorded from 1984 to 1989 by accordion-pop anti-diva Angel Corpus Christi. This Gulcher reissue comes in a brand new package with hot Angel pix of 80's vintage. Four of the selections from THE 80'S originally appeared on I LOVE NEW YORK, a 12-inch released in 1985: Bernard Herrmann's theme for Martin Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER, complete with Travis Bickel's inner thoughts spoken by Angel; Richard Hell's "Blank Generation," featuring a rippin' solo from MX-80 guitarist Bruce Anderson; Suicide's Alan Vega sharing the vocals on a groovy cover of Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream"; and Lou Reed's "The Day John Kennedy Died." Songwriter Don Ciccone's "Never Too Late For Linda" was originally released on 1986's WAKE UP AND CRY 12-inch. From the same period (but unreleased till '90) is another cool Ciccone tune, "King Of Los Alamos." Ciccone plays guitar on both of his songs. The remaining tracks were all new to the 1990 CD. Written by Angel with hubby/MX-80 singer Rich Stim, "Way Out West" is a moody pop/rock ballad, like a really sparse Ray Davies thing circa '69. "John Cassavetes" is Angel's loving tribute to a deceased hero, and a real gem that should've been a big indie-rock hit 14 years ago. Rich Stim's "Hell" sounds like it could've been an MX-80 song, with all the deadpan humor of their best song stuff. And Angel adds her accordion-rock vision to a cover of the Alice Cooper anthem "18." MX-80 drummer Dave Mahoney plays on three of the tracks, and Rich Stim appears throughout playing guitar, bass, horn, etc. Besides accordion, Angel plays bass and keyboards. Plus contributions from Dean Leto and Dave Wellhausen.

--Eddie Flowers
ANGEL CORPUS CHRISTI
Divine Healer (Gulcher Records) $10

For the past twenty years or so, singer-songwriter-accordionist Angel Corpus Christi has been producing her unique sad-funny avant-pop sounds in San Francisco. Angel (a.k.a. Andrea Ross) and collaborator-husband Rich Stim moved from Bloomington, Indiana, to S.F. in 1978, along with Rich's band MX-80 Sound. Angel has contributed lyrics to various MX-80 projects since the late 70s. And MX-80's Dave Mahoney shows up as drummer on Divine Healer. This is Angel's first full-length release since her sadly overlooked major-label disc in 1995, White Courtesy Phone (on Herb Alpert's Almo label). The core band of Angel (vocals, accordion, harmonica), Rich Stim (guitar, bass, piano), Dave Mahoney (drums), and George Earth (guitar, bass) is augmented by contributions from songwriter Don Ciccone, Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500 and Luna), bass player Nancy Kravitz, and behind the mixing board, Craig Leon (Ramones, Blondie, etc.), Mark Bingham (MX-80, Social Climbers, etc.), and Dave Nelson. A couple Angel faves are resurrected for all the ears who missed 'em the first time: "Pull Girl" is a tasty piece of mutant bubblegum, like Veronica Lodge fronting Suicide, and "Candy" is even sweeter. The Ross/Stim songwriting team also give us "You," "Rock & Roll Shoes," "Sadder," "Sleepwalker," and with help from Don Ciccone, "I'll Say Goodbye" and "She Said." Another MX-80 connection is made with a version of Bruce Anderson's "Clown Sex," proving this Angel don't need no lyrics to fly. Also covered are "Eve of Destruction" (P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri/Barry McGuire), "Hurdy Gurdy Man" (Donovan), "Home Sweet Home" (Motley Crue!?), "I Want Everything" (original by Angel collaborator Dean Wareham's band Luna), and "Brown Wheat" (Friedman and Recht/El Destroyo). Tasty stuff for healing hearts and caved-in brains.

--Eddie Flowers