gullbuy music review

Stark Reality




Stones Throw


Stark Reality CD coverStone Throw does wonders by reissuing this ultra rare, ultra far-out Stark Reality double lp album from 1970. Now includes the bulk of the Stark Reality Discovers Hoagy Carmichael's Music Shop album and is without a doubt the most tripped out children's record ever, and just for that it should be out on cd to be listened to by the masses. And while it's definitely worthy of any underground hype it's received over the years, my final conclusion is that it is a failed masterpiece.

The idea behind the album is an incredible combination that includes a multi-racial jazz-funk outfit, working on some classic Hoagy Carmichael songs in a funked out psych jazz way. This kind of thing could have only occurred as the decades turned from the 60s into the 1970s. A time when Miles Davis was laying down Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix riffs, and Sesame Street was using chaotic jazz "numbers" to help kids to count numbers (I'm serious, they still play that song, and it's a crazy damn tune).

Vibraphonist Monty Stark had worked on the music for the local program Say Brother (the theme song of which is included here as a bonus track, and is a catchy jazzy number) on local station WGBH. For this project he was approached by Hoagy Carmichael's son, Hoagy Bix Carmichael and asked to put some of his father's music into the modern age. And the end results: songs like Thirty Days Hath September have never sounded this far-out! Thanks to the distorted vibes, fuzzed out guitars and syncopated bass and drums here, it's like a cross between Soft Machine and Randy California's Kapt Kopter & (Fabulous) Twirly Birds. The vocals are sing songy but psychedelic in a down home sort of way, which just makes things sound weirder, thanks to the free form background. Songs like Junkman's Song, Cooking, Rocket Ship (a far-out fave of mine!) and Thirty Days Hath September combine the great original tunes of Hoagy Carmichael with this fuzzed out concoction. They definitely live up to any underground hype.

Sadly there are two things wrong with this cd. Stones Throw has in fact not included the entire album on this cd reissue. Instead they included a handful of Monty Stark originals which had gone unissued, and frankly should have stayed unissued, because they are dreadful. I have no way of knowing if the tracks from the original LP which were not included would be better than what they did include, but hell I'd love to give them a shot. The first 7 tracks (all from the LP) are great! The 8th track (from the LP and a Monty Stark original), as well as tracks 9 through 12 stink. The Say Brother theme, the final bonus cut is a soulful tune worth checking out.

It's too bad that Stones Throw blew a good chance, by unearthing the unissued tracks and including them here. I think the LP would have worked wonders on its own. That's not to say that the first 7 tracks (and Say Brother) aren't reason enough to check this disc out. By all means, this is a treasure trove of fine funky music, with just those tracks alone. Oh, and what about the kids? This actually might be an interesting album for older kids (hungry for new sounds), but it's way too weird for the young kids.

---Patrick, July 1, 2003