First Rays is a 1978 album by Ray Harlowe and Gyp Fox, independently released on Waterwheel Records. It’s popular with psych rock collectors and has even been reissued a couple times. It’s a treat for fans of Terrapin Station-era Dead, and Bobby Weir in general. You can find the whole album pretty easily on Youtube if that’s a description which fits your taste. The last track, “Gettin’ Keyed,” was featured on the bonus CD inside Enjoy the Experience: Homemade Records 1958-1992, a well-produced book which collects privately-pressed LP jackets of varying quality.

Our favorite is “Go Ahead and Dance,” which sort of reminds us of those underrated post-Morrison Doors albums. The whole album is uptempo, spacey and fun.

first rays

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“Go Ahead and Dance”

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“Gettin’ Keyed”

Some people are surprised when they discover Minnesota was sort of the private-pressing capital of the country for much of the period covered in Enjoy the Experience. There’s an independent attitude to Minnesota music in nearly every genre. Some of our independent music became famous, like “Surfin’ Bird,” but most of it is the sort of obscure stuff record collectors love. If you dig through the archives of the Hymie’s blog you’ll find lots of unusual and rare local records, from Music is a Bunch of Notes to a variety of free jazz and fusion.

This is all, of course, a dream to record collectors here in the Twin Cities — at least to the collectors who are interested in hearing new, original music, instead of just looking for a cleaner copy of some boring Led Zeppelin album. This next record is probably even more obscure than First Rays, and so far as we can tell its never been reissued.

ghostdance

What little we’ve found written about these records describes Ghostdance as an inferior followup to First Rays, but we don’t agree. They’re very different albums, and this second seems influenced by the Lou Reed records of the period. Ghostdance came out in 1980, the same year Reed recorded Growing up in Public. The songs are more hippy-themed than First Rays but the production is slicker. There is a quote from the Paiute prophet, Wovoka, whose visions led to the revival of the Ghost Dance in 1890: “You must not fight. Do no harm to anyone. Do right always.”

gyp fox, whose name is uncapitalized on this second album, shreds a little more on Ghostdance, which features some of the same band. He and co-leader James Dean trade off on lead vocals and guitar. We wonder if drummer Eric Berg is related to Bill Berg, who played drums with jazz fusion band Natural Life around the same time and was a regular at sessions at the Sound 80 studio in the seventies. That would be cool if they were drummin’ brothers.

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“Like a Vision”

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“Think About the Future”

We found this comment thread where Ray Harlowe said he had more music to release, but so far as we can tell there isn’t another album out there. Still Looking Records reissued First Rays in 2009. It was the first of about a dozen archival releases they put out, one of which was another rare Minnesota record, McDonald and Sherby. We posted about that one when a copy came through the shop a couple years ago. It looks like the label produced its reissues in fairly limited quantities, so they might be as rare as the originals.

As for James Dean and gyp fox, we can’t find them on another record anywhere. We’d love to hear more songs from any of the three, if there are any. gyp fox is sometimes mis-credited as the backing band (he does have a fairly unusual name), and obviously its kind of hard to search for a guy named James Dean and not find the other guy with that name.

 

We can’t explain why its so fun to us, but we love it when a band has a song that is also their name. This edition of our on-going playlist highlights bands who have a song which is their name which is on the album which is also their name. Of course, the awesome-est example of this is “Bad Company” by Bad Company on Bad Company.

bad co

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“Bad Company””Bad Company” by Bad Company

But there’s also these guys, who have a single which is their name which is on the record label which is their name…

corvettes

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“Corvette” by the Corvettes (on Corvette Records!)

wilco

Wilco’s self-titled album was met with mixed opinions from fans, but we like it okay. It has a festive camel on the cover. Our favorite song was this one…

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“Wilco (the song)” by Wilco

jamul LP

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“Sunrise over Jamul” by Jamul

It’s a good thing these country rock fellas made a song with their name on their self-titled album, because otherwise a lot of people might have called them “Ja-mule” instead of “Ha-mule,” ya know.

natural life

Here at Hymie’s we love local jazz fusion band Natural Life (first featuring a song by them here), who made a few records in the 70s. Members of the band also appeared on other Sound 80 recordings, including Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks (although they remain un-credited for their work in that case). Their first album, Natural Life, opens with this great extended jam, “Natural Life.”

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“Natural Life” by Natural Life

More bands with a song which is also their name can be found here and here.

Which started as a match between returning champion Buddy Rich and upstart John Mayall, until the sudden appearance of Johnny Rivers and Rita Coolidge…

 

lou reed

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“I Love You” by Lou Reed

Laura’s pretty excited because she ordered new roller skates for her birthday — and one of our favorite De La Soul songs came to mind. It’s from their second album, De La Soul is Dead.

And here’s proof we’re not vinyl purists — we pulled this off our CD of this great album, which has been on our shelves for at least fifteen years. De La Soul is the best! Saturdays, too!

de la soul

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“A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays'” by De La Soul featuring Q-Tip

Here is the next video in our after-hours series, which has been co-sponsored by the folks at Pabst Blue Ribbon. We were especially excited about filming this one because we think the Dead Pigeons are one of the awesomest Americana bands in the Twin Cities but they’ve never performed here before.

The song is “A Letter to a Saint,” and the video was filmed and edited by Lauren Josephine. The outstanding Brian Herb mixed the sound.

The Dead Pigeons have a couple shows at Hell’s Kitchen this month, including a Sunday brunch on the 22nd. They’ll be playing every Tuesday night in March at the 331 Club.

More Cowbell – Saturday Night Live from Dee Three on Vimeo.

“Don’t Feel the Reaper” was named ‘song of the year’ by Rolling Stone in 197something, but those of us born back then only knew it as one of those anonymous classic rock staples until it appeared in a Saturday Night Live sketch. Christopher Walken, always one of the show’s best guests, plays a record producer who is not Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden, and Will Ferrel plays an enthusiastic member of Blue Öyster Cult. He plays the hell out of that cowbell.

Exasperated when the band suggests he play more quietly, Ferrel’s character says, “The last time I checked we don’t have a lot of songs that feature the cowbell.” Membered of Blue Öyster Cult have said that until the television sketch they didn’t think much about the cowbell, but now they have to be sure to have it on stage when they play “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

The earliest cowbells found by archaeologists are from the Iron Age, around the same era as the creation of the Indian Vedas and the earliest parts of the Hebrew Bible. There is no cowbell in the Bible, but we assume Assyrian rock bands played them. If only they made records back then.

We have no idea who holds the honor of clanging the first cowbell on record, but we’re big fans of Dale Hawkins’ “Susie Q,” which was recorded at a radio station in Louisiana in 1957 with Ron Lewis playing the drums.

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“Susie Q” by Dale Hawkins

In the 70s it became a familiar hard rock gimmick, used by bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Mountain — leading to the instrument’s exalted status in heavy metal. There’s some pretty sweet cowbell on just about every classic Iron Maiden album, not to mention every other song on Appetite for Destruction. There is a cowbell in the first minute of Nightosaur’s Set Fire to the Mountain.

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“Mississippi Queen” by Mountain

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“The Wizard” by Black Sabbath

The cowbell is one of the most versatile instruments in the pop music oeuvre, fit as comfortably into country rock as into classic hip hop.

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“Stuck in the Middle with You” by Steeler’s Wheels

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“Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones

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“Stone Free” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

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“Rock the House” by Run DMC

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“Hey Ladies” by the Beastie Boys

The Electric Light Orchestra’s “Evil Woman” has one of the most popular cowbell parts of all time (you know you ‘air cowbell’ to this one whenever it comes on the radio) — in fact, the band has a history of cowbell jams going back to its earlier incarnation, the Move. Their original recording of “Do Ya” has a cowbell jam so prominent you’d think it was played by Ferrel himself.

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“Do Ya” by the Move

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“Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra

will-ferrell

What is the future of the cowbell?

Do you feel like you’re getting enough cowbell?

It’s okay to tell a band, “Hey, your set was great but it needed more cowbell.” It’s okay to play your own cowbell. Really explore the studio space this time.

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“Low Rider” by War

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