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Wild Beasts, Kidnapped, and More

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Album Review

Anyone interested in the early history of the Club Foot Orchestra can hardly do better than to snap up this CD. Included are all tracks from their first two hard-to-find Ralph Records releases, plus a pair of tracks that only appeared on a very obscure sampler of bands that played the avant-garde Club Foot in San Francisco. The first and last track are from the compilation, and both are bit raw thanks to the widely varying skill levels within the band, but nevertheless they're exciting and show the potential of the group. The tracks from Wild Beasts are numbers two through eight, and they show the band energetically mixing swing, post-bop, lounge music, and dashes of rock. On most tracks the brass creates a melody and counter-melody, with unorthodox percussion and minimal guitar. The guitarist in this case is Snakefinger, so what guitar listeners do hear is elegantly played, but while he shapes some of the tunes unobtrusively, he's not a featured player here. The best track from those sessions, "Suerte de la Noche," mixes mariachi-style trumpet playing, Cuban percussion, klezmer saxophones, and ties it all together with a martial-sounding theme. It's an unimaginable combination that works perfectly, and it's captivating. The tracks from Kidnapped have slightly different personnel and a bit more rock in the mix, though it's a rather twisted sort of rock. There are even vocals on a few tracks, such as the whimsical Latin/ska fusion of "They Say Over There." Snakefinger died suddenly just before this album was recorded, so two other musicians played his guitar parts. They're both good and work well within the framework of this ensemble. The pairing of Wild Beasts and Kidnapped on one CD is very apt, as after these releases the Club Foot Orchestra became more focused on music for silent films, which demanded a more melodramatic, fractured style. Wild Beasts, Kidnapped, and More documents a band with a unique style and intriguing harmonic ideas, and it's well worth seeking out.

Wild Beasts, Kidnapped, and More, Club Foot Orchestra
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