Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kit Ream: All That I Am

The old man that we called 'Lung Player (LP) Louie' deftly navigated his massive record collection, pulled out a well-worn album from one of the many stacks of vinyl slabs littering his two room 'studio apartment' (as he called it), and placed it on the turntable.  As he sat down with a weathered cough, he tossed the album cover onto my lap and laughed.  

"You think that last one was weird, Stevie?  Check this one out..."

- Kit Ream, All That I Am (Front), 1978 - Creative Records #MW001

"I have not said I'm better, and I have not said I'm worse - but I have an idea concerning the universe. The wheelchair general with his head on wrong - or the long haired singer with his wine and song.  To say that I love you with a bomb - or to sing that I hate you: that ain't wrong.  I know better than what you give.  All I ask is a chance to live; my way or your way it's all the same. 'Cause if no one's hurt, there's none to blame. No... I've not said I'm better, and I've not said I'm worse - but I do have an idea concerning the universe.  Always in hell, as I'm sure you can tell.  I see you are blind, so I'll take the time... to teach. You must keep in tune just as the moon, which is never too late or never too soon. Here, there, and everywhere you people be real.  We must congeal and strip the seal.  I'm not saying I'm better and I'm not saying I'm worse - but I have the idea concerning the universe.  I really do... now you hear it through."

- Introuniversal Jam

And so I was introduced to Kit Ream.  

In my previous post on Gary Wilson's 'You Think You Really Know Me', I mentioned a half-hearted comparison to Kit Ream's 'All That I Am' album.  
It might seem a stretch - considering the different types of subject matter that Wilson and Ream specialized in.  However, an underlying sense of paranoia, uneasiness, and individualism unites both.  

While Wilson's jazz-based work would veer into the avant-garde with a touch of early electronica, Ream's work has been described as 'cocktail-by-the-pool crazy'; a compelling mix of soft jazz and new-age hippy philosophy, spiced by a menacingly stoned lounge singer who may or may not have been heir to the Nabisco Cookie fortune.

And who, after the recording of this album, may or may not have murdered his best friend after experiencing a psychotic break.

- All That I Am (Back)

And surely that is the biggest difference between Ream and Wilson:  

Gary Wilson, I would like to think, doesn't actually talk to mannequins named Cindy and Linda during his spare time.  Sure... he is probably an odd duck - but aren't we all?  
The 'Gary Wilson' persona is a gimmick.  A good one, mind you - but still a gimmick.

Kit Ream?  Look at that face on the album cover again and tell me his was a put-on.  

All That I Am is far from a masterpiece.  

But if you subscribe to the theory that art must challenge the viewer - or in this case, the listener, then surely Kit Ream's opus is artistic.  

Let's catch Trout.  
Have a meal in our stomach and then we can bout.  
And laugh about.
Maybe with a friend.  Have a good old honest burp.  And then slurp some more down.  
Because we can't get what's really on our mind.  
And that's... 
Woman!  Woman!  Female!  Hey Hey, Say Hey... Woman! 

- Funk

Some choice cuts...

* 'Don't Be So Holy Poly Over My Souly'

After nominating Black Randy's 'Pass the Dust, I Think I'm Bowie' as the greatest album title of all time, I'm throwing in my vote for 'Don't Be So Holy Poly Over My Souly' as greatest song.
I mean... come on!  

John Lennon would have killed for a song title like that.  
And then turned around and sold 10 million units.

* The 8:44 long 'Wines'.  
The cut pretty much sums up All That Kit Ream Is: Dueling female scat singers for the duration, a hot jazz backing, and Ream drunkenly riffing on wino Jason Slash, the old rugged cross searching for a crown, and changing skins with... 
I don't have a clue, actually - but I'm sure Kit must have. 

* The refreshing, 'Cool Water' - a startlingly straight song in which the lovely Mina Judd handles vocal duties.  

* Track 7, the fantastic 'Funk', features some inspired playing by Ream's backing players.  Funky flutes?  Harry Connick Jr. could only hope to feature funky flutes.  
The vocals... well, let's just say we can guess what ol' Kit was doing during Miss Judd's session.   He was producing, alright.  Producing vials of differing substances, I'll bet.  

Listening to Kit slur his way through the speech-song, I am reminded of my equally plastered father's late-night diatribes.  Slipping from exuberance to despair to anger and then back again in the same sentence, I never quite knew which emotional vibe to hang on to.
After awhile, you deaden yourself and learn to just go for the ride.    

* The final cut, 'The End' is flat-out spooky.  And it is a great one. 
A droning synth chord backs Ream's disturbing ramble, until creeping toward an implosion of such new-age, Johnny Guru stickiness, the whole kit and kaboodle threatens to come down around it.

I continually come out of the deal feeling a bit dirty.  Much like I do after reading a Lovecraft ditty.      

Or watching reality television.

Links of Interest:

* All That I Am (@320 kbps)
* Waxidermy - An excellent article on Ream; a fantastic site - highly recommended!

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