Sunday, July 10, 2011

V.A.- Impossible But True :The Kim Fowley Story


The Kim Fowley story is one of the most interesting in rock, and the exhaustive liner notes to Impossible but True do a fine job of telling it. Producer, songwriter, manager, promoter, scenester, performer -- Fowley was omnipresent on the wild and seedy fringes of rock & roll in L.A. and London in the '60s and '70s. 


The 32 tracks that make up the musical portion of the package are comprised of tracks Fowley released in the '60s under his own name, songs he wrote or co-wrote, and songs he produced or at least had a hand in. Impossible but True: The Kim Fowley Story is a trip through an alternate history of rock in the '60s. Fowley had an ear for a great song and a weird streak a mile wide that kept things very interesting at all times. The disc kicks off with two Fowley performances from 1968: the beastly and rude hard rock of "Animal Man" and the hard rock, acid bubblegum of "Bubblegum." His unique vocal technique is best taken in small doses, and these (along with "The Trip," his hilarious psychedelic parody that is also included) are his best and best-known tracks. The rest of the disc bounces from style to style and from year to year. While most of the tracks Fowley did were pretty obscure, he did have a hand in some actual hits: he played on 1960's "Alley-Oop" by the Hollywood Argyles, discovered the Rivingtons (their "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" from 1962 is an R&B classic), released the classic instrumental "Nut Rocker" by B. Bumble & the Stingers on his Del Rio label in 1962, and he produced the girl group classic "Popsicles & Icicles" by the Murmaids from 1963. He also wrote a songs for Cat Stevens ("Portobello Road"), Paul Revere & the Raiders ("Like Long Hair"), and the Seeds (the wild "Fallin' off the Edge of My Mind") and produced Gene Vincent (1968's "Rainbow at Midnight") and the Soft Machine ("Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin'"). The rest of the disc is made up of the aforementioned obscure but excellent tracks like the hard-rocking garage track "Gloria's Dream" by the Belfast Gypsies (basically a Van Morrison-less Them), the British R&B of the 'N Betweens' (who later became Slade) cover of "Security," the snotty, spacy, and hilarious version of "Wild Thing" by Cathy Rich, and the folk-rock sweetness of "Daydreaming of You" by the Hellions. Fowley was always looking to wedge his way into every trend that came along, so there are stops made at folk-rock (the sweet "Daydreaming of You" by the Hellions), instrumental rock ("Charge!" by the Renegades), doo wop ("No More" by Little Victor & the Vistas), vocal pop ("Honest I Do" by the Innocents), cornball easy listening (his own wildly amusing "Space Odyssey" from 1968), and blues rock ("Louisiana Teardrops" by Elfstone). He also seemed to have invented at least one very specialized genre, ski rock. The songs by the Alpines ("Shush-Boomer") and the Snowmen ("Ski Storm, Pt. 1") are basically surf tunes with lyrics about skiing. Impossible but True is a fascinating historical document and a blast to listen to from beginning to end. Ace did a damn fine job putting it all together; it is a picture-perfect example of everything a good collection should be.


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