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Phonography (Home Recordings 1970-1975)

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Album Review

One of the most unique albums of the 1970s, R. Stevie Moore's debut long-player is an uncategorizable mess that somehow keeps from falling apart completely, kind of like a one-man band version of the Beatles' White Album cross-pollinated with late-1960s Frank Zappa at his most antic. Yet just as the album seems hopelessly self-indulgent and bizarre, Moore suddenly veers into some of the sweetest and catchiest pop songs of the pre-punk '70s. That dichotomy is what makes Phonography special. Recorded in bits and pieces over the course of two years of living room sessions, with Moore playing and singing every part, barring the tambourine on the Soft Machine-like opening instrumental "Melbourne," the album shares much with such one-man band predecessors as McCartney, Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything?, and Roy Wood's Boulders. However, having been made on a cheap four-track with one microphone, a borrowed guitar, and no mixing deck, Phonography also has a funky lo-fi charm that anticipates post-grunge D.I.Y. savants like Guided By Voices and Pavement. (Also, the wordless vocals and skittering analogue synths in the middle section of the lovely closing track, "Moons," sound uncannily like Stereolab would over a decade and a half later.) The album is split down the middle between quirky but capable pop songs and strange interludes. Of the former, "Goodbye Piano," a falsetto music hall ditty that suggests a major Bonzo Dog Band fixation, is among Moore's most famous tracks, but it's the more serious tunes, like the beautiful Brian Wilson-inspired ballad "I've Begun to Fall in Love," the bouncily Beatlesque "I Want You In My Life" and the trippy "Showing Shadows," that are more indicative of the artist's estimable skills as a songsmith. The spoken word interludes are uniformly surreal, with the Harold Pinter-like talk show parody "The Lariat Wressed Posing Hour" a particular highlight, but the album is organized to such an off-the-wall blueprint that it's impossible to imagine it without even its most inexplicable elements. Originally released in 1976 in an edition of 100 copies, Phonography was reissued in 1978 and again in 1998 on a limited-edition CD featuring eight bonus tracks recorded during the same 1974-76 sessions.

Customer Reviews

How did I miss this one

How in the hell did I ever miss this album, and this artist until just now. This is the most entertaining material I've heard in a long long time. I have to thank the great Philadelphia band Dr. Dog for bringing this guy to my attention. Kudos Robert! I'll be devouring your immense discography when I get paid.

masterpiece of home recording

this album is true piece of organic art. worth every penny!

Masterful and very fun

Aside from R. Stevie Moore's penchant for excellent pop songs, he sounds like he is having the time of his life while recording these tracks. On the second track, he introduces himself to the listener while seemingly urinating. The album remains at this level of absurdity throughout.

But the songs are also extremely listenable. They are truly the work of a pop genius. For someone recording on a four-track, Moore makes it sound effortless. He simply does not need anything more. And he's also very technically skilled in most instruments, and most instruments do appear on here.

If you're an Ariel Pink fan, or really a fan of any DIY music, this is a must have. Absolutely perfect.

And the best part is that there's Moore where this came from.

Biography

Born: January 18, 1952 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most difficult to categorize musicians in rock, R. Stevie Moore is a true original. Bypassing the traditional recording industry more thoroughly than just about any internationally known singer/songwriter ever has, Moore has self-released literally thousands of songs through the R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club (online at www.rsteviemoore.com), an ongoing mail-order operation that has hundreds of individually dubbed cassettes and CD-Rs in its catalog. The handful of traditional LPs and CDs...
Full Bio