Here at Compact Capsules Central we gets lots of CDs in the mail. Few incoming packages excite as much as those with the Norton Records return address. The year 2006 marks 20 years in the business for the Brooklyn-based operation whose motto is “Where the loud sound abounds”. A label where the big beat lives, Norton Records is home to the music of cats ranging from the late Hasil Adkins and Link Wray to the Flamin’ Groovies and Sonics to Andre Williams and Esquerita. Perhaps the coolest thing about the label, aside from its meaty and highly entertaining catalogue, is the fact that it continues to put out as many of its releases on vinyl, both the seven and 12-inch variety, as it does on compact disc. We play catch-up this week by looking at a slew of the most recent offerings from the label some of which date back to late last year. Let’s dig it.
The artist who got the whole Norton Records she-bang going? Why a one man racket squad from deep in the wilds of rural West Virginia named Hasil Adkins. A fellow who dug his commodity meats and fried chicken as much as he did belting out deranged rockabilly-styled tunes in manic fashion while banging on his guitar, the LP was Out to Hunch and it featured a crazed batch of cool 1950s and ’60s primitive rockers from this late and legendary cat. Adkins, whose passing in the Spring of 2005 is still enshrouded in mystery, continues to fittingly receive the reissue treatment from the Norton brass. Two beauts from those early days of the Norton empire, Peanut Butter Rock and Roll (Norton CED-216) and Moon Over Madison (Norton CED-217), see release for the first time on CD as expanded editions of the original albums. Remastered from original home recordings with four previously unissued tracks added to each disc and featuring liner notes from noted scribe Nick Tosches, these circa-1958-63 home recordings are the bomb where the Haze is concerned. At 20 tracks, Peanut Butter Rock and Roll is full throttle, wall-rattling romp and stomp fully capable of striking fear in neighbors and small children. Hear Haze work his unfettered magic on such classics as “Blue Suede Shoes” and “If You Wanna Be My Baby” paired with such original classics as “Chicken Twist” and “The Slop”. If there is such a thing as an after-hours Hasil Adkins album, it is Moon Over Madison. Equally essential, it’s sort of the backwoods soul side of the Haze crooning country odes, 20 in all, to wet the eyes and parch the soul.
Perhaps nobody describes the need to add some Hasil Adkins to the music collection better than Tosches in the liner notes to Peanut Butter Rock and Roll where he states, “Like the Bible and toilet paper, the music of Hasil Adkins belongs in every household, and none is a home without it.” I’ll second that one!
If there is such a thing as a Norton Records house band, it would have to be The A-Bones. What with a couple of its members, that being drummer Miriam Linna and singer Billy Miller, doing double duty as Norton head ramrods it’d be tough to argue such a designation. In the true spirit of the label, mayhem from the garage rock & roll perspective has always been The A-Bones coda. Go back to 1992 where in addition to performing the original soundtrack the band had a starring role in the “B” horror flick I Was a Teenage Mummy. In conjunction with the recent reissue of the film on DVD, along comes the reissue of the accompanying soundtrack with oodles of A-Bones bonus material. The CD reissue of I Was a Teenage Mummy (Norton CED-224) combines the complete original soundtrack with the entirety of The A-Bones classic Free Beer for Life mini LP, the Tempo Tantrum EP, three previously unissued crazies from the band, and a couple of I Was a Teenage Mummy radio spots to round things out. In all some 24 tracks, this collection is A-Bones deluxe, not to mention a guaranteed party starter.
Vintage rock ‘n’ roll from the Chicano barrio of East L.A. in all its pounding urgency defines the collection In Thee Midnight Hour!!! (Norton CED-315) from mid-1960s West Coast king pins Thee Midniters. Spanning the 1964-67 prime time for the band, In Thee Midnight Hour!!! gathers all of the band’s original recordings made for its own Whittier label onto a collection for the first time. It kicks off appropriately with the band’s grabber of an instrumental “Whittier Blvd”. A garage rock & roll tour de force that scored big on the local charts, this frenzied 1965 hitmaker is jam packed with molten guitar riffs, smashing tambourine and drums, sinister organ, and honking sax. Along with bands like Cannibal & the Headhunters (“Land of a Thousand Dances”) and The Premiers (“Farmer John”), Thee Midniters ruled the East L.A. teen roost. Featuring a meaty 19 tracks (including a cover of the requisite “Gloria” that gets thumbs up from this camp), In Thee Midnight Hour!!! attacks the lobes and barely gives you time to catch your breath which in the rock & roll scheme of things is pure satisfaction. Recommended.
Once upon a time in a land far away, make that Cleveland, there was a band called The Alarm Clocks. Like all good American garage bands of the mid 1960s, they had a single nugget to show for their feel-your-oats, teenage years. That song was “No Reason to Complain” and it was a pure reckless abandon, testosterone -a-comin’ charged-up garage rocker. That was 1966. Move ahead 40 years to March of 2006 and the Beachland Ballroom – now there’s a cool name for a club – in Cleveland. On stage a reunited version of The Alarm Clocks for two sold-out nights. It was enough to get the juices flowing and so much so that eight months later The Alarm Clocks are in the digital age with the release of The Time Has Come (Norton CED-321). Does it rock? You bet your ass it does, and all 14 tracks. Is it worthy of your hard earned money? You bet your ass it is. Just call them The “Seasoned” Alarm Clocks.
The Kicksville series from Norton Records is dedicated to insanely rare and oft-times unissued acetates from yesteryear. The latest in the series, Kicksville Volume 4 (Norton CED-320), is an ultra-special Dallas edition that focuses Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps-inspired sides from the rockabilly side of the Big D scene. Grabbed from original late 1950s and early ’60s acetates, the listener is treated to shakers and movers from such Big D bop cats as Gene Rambo & the Flames, Vince Murphy & the Catalinas, Star Combo, and Carl Canida & the Flames, not to mention Vincent’s original demo of “Say Mama” with the late Blonde Bomber himself, Ronnie Dawson, burnin’ the guitar strings.
Keeping the jalopy in vintage rock & roll gear, the various artists collection Rampage! (Atomic Passion Records 1959) brings together 17 ripping rockers circa-1950s. Available on LP only, non-household names like Carl Newman & His Night Hawks, Steve Alaimo & the Red Coats, Guitar Jeff & the Creoles, and Linc Jeffries with the Missing Links are just a handful of the artists represented on this mauler which puts the pedal to the metal and pegs it there. This one is meant for playing LOUD!
Soul lovers should make tracks to the compilation Get In The Groove (Norton CED-317). Recorded live and in the flesh in 2003 at Brooklyn haunt Southpaw, this spectacular of an evening brought together an all-star bunch of titans of soul to duke it out including Motor City legends Andre Williams (backed by The Fabulous Soul Shakers) and Nathaniel Mayer, soul queen Bettye LaVette, King Coleman, The Mighty Hannibal, Beantown shouter Barrance Whitfield, bad boy Rudy Ray Moore (a.k.a. Dolemite) and sax wailer Lonnie Youngblood.
Arguably the world leader in 45 RPM reissues – y’all probably thought there wasn’t even such a beast anymore – Norton Records closes out 2006 in fine style with a half-dozen molten nuggets that ought to have 7-inch fans of vintage garage, R&B slop, and general music mayhem foaming at the mouths to lay out the green stuff. They include 7-inch slabs from the likes of pre-Love Arthur Lee with his American Four unit, R&B shouter Bunker Hill, Jersey maulers Figures of Light, Twin Cities guitar band Jades, Alarm Clocks and The Sonics. Check the Norton web site at www.nortonrecords.com for the complete skinny on each of these.
Norton also continues its 45 RPM Rolling Stones covers series. The latest batch in this split singles series teams The Dirtbombs (“No Expectations”) with The Love Supremes (“Sing This Song Together”), Sky Saxon & the Seeds (“The Singer Not The Song”) with Lairds (“Something Happened To Me Yesterday”), and The King Khan & BBQ Show (“Flight 505”) with The Flakes (“Stupid Girl”).
(For information on Norton Records including their fabulous catalogue, write to them at Norton Records, Box 646 Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276 or check them out on the web at www.nortonrecords.com.)
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected])