Sunday, March 11, 2007
Fred Lane (Ron Pates) - Radio Car Jerome + From the One That Cut You, 1983 & 1986
"If jazz is dead, it’s because Fred Lane personally killed it."
"As a radio station music director in the late 80’s, a record came across my desk that changed my life. It was called “Car Radio Jerome” by Rev. Fred Lane & His Hittite Hotshots. I simply didn’t know what to make of it, but I knew that I liked it and had never heard anything quite like it before.
The album ran the gamut of styles I wasn’t expecting to hear, from Sinatra-ish big band swinging (White Woman, Upper Lip Of A Nostril Man), to spaghetti western soundtrack anthems (The Man With The Foldback Ears), to depressing country ballads (Pneumatic Eyes), and even something that sounded like a kids record but for kids with demented parents (The French Toast Man). The artwork, the band musicians' names, and even the technical description of the album’s pressing included on the cover all led me to blissful confusion. I wasn’t sure if it was a comedy album, and if so, just who did Fred Lane think his audience was? This was comedy that was sure to go over most peoples heads. I wasn’t even sure if I “got it”. But at the same time, these were very well-written and arranged songs, played with a lot of feeling by what sounded like a group of questionably-competent musicians. In fact, some of the playing is so hysterically bad on the album, that I couldn’t believe anyone would seriously release it. I’m no stranger to music that’s “so bad it’s good”, but this was something different - this WAS good... period.
Not long after, another Fred Lane album showed up on my desk, “From The One That Cut You”, this time released under the name Fred Lane with Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs. This album was even stranger than the other one, with song titles like Fun In The Fundas, Danger Is My Beer, I Talk To My Haircut and Meat Clamp Conduit. According to the album’s liner notes, the music came from a live musical stage production, a promo poster from which was tucked inside the jacket sleeve."
"The music itself is mostly swing but draws upon ridiculous modern country, fifties rock, hokey children’s records, and Mancini “spy” music, too – all sprinkled with some of the wildest free improvisation ever preserved on tape. In this case it’s a weirder combination than usual considering most serious disciples of the freer stuff (which applies for members of the Hotshots and Lane’s former backup band, Ron ‘Pate and the Debonairs) are typically rooted in bebop and the European avant-garde, maybe even rock, but they don’t normally go for swing. It’s too cheesy, too sleazy and schmaltzy compared to the sincere spiritual journeys of a John Coltrane or an Albert Ayler. Perfect for Fred Lane, though, and that’s why his songs are so original anyway. “I like to think of them as something I stained my shirt with,” Lane said. You stick to what’s acceptable listening in your scene, what you’re told to like by critic jerks like me, and you end up making the same old (new) music. Obeying the conventions of Free Jazz – imagine that!"