Mission Improbable

“Good Morning, Agent PoOp’007 – It has come to PoOp Central’s attention that several Pop Stars have gone missing and have been replaced by suspicious soundalikes and look-alikes. Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to evaluate the replacements and report back with your Top 10..."

The first suspicious singer we come upon is named Amy Winehouse. At first we suspected that she was Mary Coughlan in disguise, and indeed the Winehouse songs about love’s trials and tribulations could have been secretly written by Coughlan, but, we decided that Winehouse’s soul vocals and ska covers are too much of a leap from Coughlan’s Billie Holliday-with-a-brogue vocals to indicate a switch, not to mention the messiness and substance abuse far in excess of anything Coughlan has ever come up with. When last seen coming out of Rehab by the singer Stew (a former Negro Problem soon to be a Broadway show), she was very very very very very very very very very very optimistic.

The second character under examination is a singer and rapper known as MIA, who we suspect is really Neneh Cherry. The name MIA looks suspiciously like a clue – could it mean “missing in action”? MIA claims to be a Tamil Tiger, but we feel that her speed rapping, frenetic beats and Modern Lovers samples could just as easily come from the mixing desk that produced the Cherie lady’s raps and Steppenwolf samples, even though Cherry claimed to be a Black American Swede. Our verdict is that the Buffalo Stance lady, though a better vocalist, was MIA, and the Paper Planes lady is good enough to make the list.

The late Western Swing legend Bob Wills was missing from the Bearsville Theater gig by Bob Wills’s Texas Playboys in June, but the band played a wonderful show nevertheless, the liveliest and most fun dance concert of the year even though the youngest of the bunch was probably in his fifties. PoOpster Raissa St. Pierre was the emcee, done up in her Elly Mae finest.

Likewise, the late New York street musician Moondog was missing from the Moondog Rising festival on the upper east side, but his spirit was there in the form of trimba player Stefan Lakatos, former Some Velvet Sidewalk cellist Robin Boomer, Irwin Chusid, one of Moondog’s nephews (looked just like Moondog) and grandsons (didn’t). The music was expertly played, and including the music of some of Moondog’s contemporaries like Charles Ives was a brilliant stroke. As was the puppet show. Robert Scotto’s Moondog book was not that great, but he did thorough research and thus the book can be used as a reference for somebody to retell the story some day. But we found some interesting clues from Moondog: an exact replica of his first LP has been making the grey market rounds, and the album he did with Julie Andrews shows up on a CD documenting her early career. Also, an actor playing Moondog surfaces in Todd Haynes’s “I’m Not There” – for one second!

Next we have Adrian Sherwood, missing in action. He claims that he has been working on a Lee Perry album for the last year, but isn’t that an excuse that we’ve heard before? It is suspected that he came down with a disease called EMI, but he has since been seen accompanying The Slits on their Shoplifting expeditions at Selfridge’s. In his place, we have several cleverly disguised albums by the likes of Dubblestandart and Noise Shaper, or the cleverest one yet, the Warrior Charge album from his old co-conspirator, Wayne Nunes. The attempt by Ivy League professor Cornel West to jump into the slot left by Sherwood cohort Mark Stewart is pretty good, and we’ll give him a spot on the chart for his efforts.

We suspect that the enigmatic German band Kraftwerk has been kidnapped and replaced with a vintage 8-bit video game system. The 8-bit musician DJ Scotch Egg even recorded a Moondog cover, but that’s a false clue, as was comedian Bill Bailey’s motorik version of the Hokey Cokey on YouTube. On the off chance that the title Minimum Maximum provided a link, we investigated Maximum Cowbell, but the cowbells really were cowbells, and not electric drum pads, even though the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women was missing. Fortunately, Kraftwerk resurfaced, with some Hot Chip remixes, but no cowbells.

The English, veddy English, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band attempted a comeback without their leader Vivian Stanshall, and although some veddy English comedians attempted to take his place, the live album was better seen (on last year’s 40th Anniversary DVD) than heard, and the comeback album was too middle of the road for my taste. Former Neil Innes collaborator Eric Idle premiered his highly amusing “Not The Messiah” at Caramoor in July, a re-telling of the Life of Brian in oratorio form. Bravo!

Sanity was missing at the Felice Brothers’s appearance in July at the Rosendale Street Fair, but their music and infectious camaraderie more than made up for any injuries that they may have sustained when they lept from the stage. Their appearance at Bearsville in November was just as infectious.

Finally, the last and least of our missing singers is the notorious Steve Weber of the Holy Modal Rounders. Steve is the embodiment of hedonism that Keith Richards wishes he could be. After co-starring in the sometimes hilarious documentary, Bound to Lose, he has gone underground, occasionally threatening to sue to prevent the film’s distribution, for which he’s too late, while his erstwhile partner Peter Stampfel has been effervescently gigging around Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the west coast, in collusion with such gangsters as Gary Lucas, New Lost City Rambler John Cohen, Jeffrey Lewis, Sam Shepard and others. Not to forget Snock and Hank Plank and the 2 X 4’s. And didn’t Gary Lucas do a good show at Bearsville in October?

With our research completed, we have cracked the code, and we now present our list:

The TOP 10
1. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black – Deluxe 2CD Edition
2. MIA - Kala
3. Robert Wyatt – Comicopera
4. Efterklang - Parades
5. Peter Stampfel – Antonia’s 11 (or Antonia’s Dozen, depending)
6. Ballads of the Book: A Joint Effort – Mike Heron, Vashti Bunyan et al.
7. Shed – Need More Sources
8. Warrior Charge: No Foundation, No House
9. Cornel West & BMWMB – Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations
10. Maximum Cowbell (mooorrrrre coowbellllll !)

Dave Van Ronk - The Mayor of MacDougal Street

Antonia Bear Suit Follies: The Songs and Stories of Antonia

Michael Veal - Dub Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in JA Music

Lloyd Bradley - Bass Culture –the best book about reggae

J.K.Rowling - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Robert Scotto - Moondog: The Viking of Sixth Avenue

Extensive Runner-up PICKS
Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (shoulda been on 2006 list)
8-Bit Operators - Kraftwerk Performed on Vintage 8-Bit Video Game Systems
Kraftwerk – Aerodynamik remixed by Hot Chip
Adam Sky vs. Mark Stewart – We Are All Prostitutes (gotta love it – ugh!)
Noiseshaper – Reel to Reel
Dubblestandart – Immigration Dub
Box of Dub – Dubstep and Future Dub
Twisted Sister – Twisted Christmas
Bonzo Dog Band – Pour L’Amour Des Chiens
Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta (tho not as lively as last year’s Gypsy Punks CD)
Seu Jorge – The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions (Bowie covers a la Tropicalismo)
The Lemonheads (gotta love “Poughkeepsie”)
Michael Hurley – Ancestral Swamp
Joanna Newsome & The Ys Street Band (turning into the female Robin Williamson)
Robert Ashley & Walter Marchetti – Oct. 25, 2001 Merkin Concert Hall NYC (best comedy album)

Top Reissues
Jim Pepper – Pepper’s Pow Wow
Pylon – Gyrate Plus
Bim Sherman – Tribulation
The Revolutionaries – Drum Sound
Lee Perry – Ape-ology & Baffling Smoke Signals
Nico – Frozen Borderline
John Cale – Paris 1919 Sketches + Roughs
Karen Dalton – Cotton Eyed Joe – The Loop Tapes 1962
Taj Mahal – Oooh So Good N’Blues (with the Pointer Sisters)
Vashti Bunyan – Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind
Dr. Strangely Strange – Halcyon Days
Peter Ivers Band – Knights of the Blue Communion
A Pre-History of the Bonzos - Songs the Bonzo Dog Band Taught Us
Julie Andrews – Once Upon A Time (with Moondog)
Moondog – Moondog and His Friends 2006
Moondog - Snaketime Series (1956 LP replica)
Bill Haley – The Story of Rock Around the Clock (64 versions of the song!)
The Chiffons – Sweet Talkin’ Girls

Extensive Ambient PICKS
K. Leimer – Flaws & Lesser Epitomes
Gregory Taylor – Amalgam: Aluminum / Hydrogen
Pauline Oliveros – Accordion & Voice
Pauline Oliveros - The Wanderer
Stars of the Lid – And Their Refinement of the Decline
Fennesz Sakamoto - Cendre
Gonzalez – Solo Piano
Harold Budd – Perhaps
Fripp & Eno – Beyond Even
Colleen – Colleen et Les Ondes Silencieuses
White Rainbow – Prism of the Eternal Now
Thomas Fehlmann – Honigpumpe
Jozef Van Wissem – Stations of the Cross
Jozef Van Wissem - A Rose By Any Other Name
Maurizio Bianchi – Platinzeitalter
Pop Ambient 2007