Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Various Artists - WKTK Presents Baltimore's Best Rock (1978)


Another day, another interesting collection of Baltimore obscurities. This post marks the second installment of Vintage Baltimore Music Week.

Before we get to the subject at hand, I want to talk about speed. No, not the drug, but the rotations per minute that a record plays. I've heard a few songs from this record online and noticed that they run at too fast a speed. The tracks I ripped from this album are at the correct speed and I don't want people who heard the online versions to think it's my turntable's speed that's the problem. My Technics turntable is accurate. As with all of my rips, what you hear here is what you get on the record.

Now onto the topic at hand. Yesterday we presented a 1978 collection of mostly hard rock music from the ever-popular Baltimore radio station 98 Rock. Today brings another collection from '78, but this one is from a long-defunct station, WKTK. The selection on this record is a bit more eclectic, which is surprising since the two albums share a song (Kashmir's "Texas City") and have three other bands in common (Climbadonkey, Basement Floor, and Springwind).

For whatever reason, the artists on this LP come off as more quirky than on the 98 Rock album. Maybe it's the old school synthesizers they use. Or maybe the radio station that put this out went for groups that were more Top 40-oriented, so the musicians adjusted their sound accordingly and turned up the keyboards. Either way, hearing these songs now makes for pretty amusing listening. You can find cover groups playing hard rock any night of the week, but nothing sounds like this album anymore.

As I mentioned last post, the Baltimore scene was not nearly as nationally-renowned back then as it is today. Bands had their local fans but that's usually as far as it went. So the music here should be totally unfamiliar to almost everyone. Also, Baltimore was a city that didn't much take to edgy genres at the time. So despite it being from 1978, what you get here is more classic rock than punk rock.

For instance, dig those groovy "Grand Illusion" synthesizer leads on the opener, "Traveler" by Taurus, a band totally unfamiliar to me. Anyone know anything about these guys? Similar synth sounds turn up on the second cut, Basement Floor's "Hideaway," which recalls the pop-prog that Kansas used to play.

Springwind's "The Land" is a sort of magnum opus about ecology and builds to an impressive climax. Oho's philosophical "Seldom Bought" recalls the arrangements of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. All of these songs are pretty catchy and both exemplify the wide range of styles on this LP.

Another ear-grabber is Climbadonkey's "Golden Throat," which has the kind of bawdy, double entendre humor you just don't hear in mainstream rock anymore. I guess this type of humor is now considered politically incorrect and probably would no longer go over with women. And speaking of women, the fact that there don't seem to be any at all on these past two collections shows how much our culture has changed. Can you imagine a set of regional rock tunes being released today without any female performers on it?

The only bum note here is Kashmir's "Texas City." That's not necessarily because of the song itself (although their journeyman hard rock isn't my cup of Nugent), but because the tune also appeared on the 98 Rock collection. I wish they'd submitted a different song. I wonder if they got ribbed for being like that group in Ron Howard's "Cotton Candy," which only ever played one song.

Yes, that previous sentence was an excuse to mention that obscure 1978 movie, which tells of the travails of a nerdy high school rock band trying to be popular and has become a cult favorite. But if you want to get a feel for what that year was like, I'd suggest you follow that link and check out the film. And then listen to this record.

Related:
Various Artists - The 98 Rock Album (1978)
Young Caucasians - Pop Quiz (1983)

Track list:
1. Taurus - Traveler
2. Basement Floor - Hideaway
3. Both Worlds - Fish Bait
4. Kashmir - Texas City
5. Danon Wright - Down and Out
6. Appaloosa - All Night My Friend
7. Hollins Ferry - Turn Your Back
8. Oho - Seldom Bought
9. Springwood - For the Land
10. John Seay/Alan Dawson - One Way Ticket
11. Climbadonkey - Golden Throat

4 comments:

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  2. The Jim Sellers Band was short lived. They released one self titled album (which I have on vinyl). After the band broke up frontman Jim Allison formed the BBC Band, which featured Bill Kirchen on guitar. They became the house band at a Baltimore country music club. Kirchen went on to become a legend but I have no idea what became of Allison.

    I have a "six degrees" thing with several other musicians on this record. John Seay was in my class in high school. He now works as a producer. Chuck Ansell of Appaloosa was in my class in college. He is still playing with Appaloosa after all of these years. Rob Fahey of Hollins Ferry and I grew up in the same neighborhood. He went on to form The Ravyns (with Kyf Brewer of Climbadonkey and Bobby Hird who is now playing with Crack The Sky). Rob is still playing regularly with his current band The Pieces.

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