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Album Review

STIR FRIED
ElectraFried
Last of the Blue Diamond Miners

Man, you gotta love summer. Sun, surf (if you're lucky enough to live on the coast), and skin. It is freedom personified and while I loved it in my youth, I learned to love it even more in the late 60s and early 70s--- for the music. Back in those days you got the so-called summer anthems, the best of Brit pop, and radio like I've not heard since. And there were the concerts. Sometimes pre-planned, many times impromptu, bands set up anywhere and everywhere allowed, or so it seemed. When that happened, music was free for the taking and a lot of us took it in huge quantities (along with nefarious herbal substances which shall remain nameless for the purposes of this review).

I myself heard rock music outside for the first time at the Eugene Pop Festival in the summer of 1969, watching the likes of a very early Alice Cooper, a somewhat unknown Rockin' Foo, Peter & the Wolves (purported to be the basis of a later J. Geils Band, though I have never heard confirmation) and the Doors fronted by an overweight and pompous Jim Morrison, who responded to music fans outside the gate asking to be let in (the Doors played last) with a “Fuck 'em. Let 'em pay.” It was a beautiful Summer day and despite a lack of names (The Byrds, the biggest pull, canceled at the last minute and a portion of the fans opted for a refund), the music rang true. Alice Cooper astounded everyone with a bizarre set which included props (Cooper shredded a pillow and sang through the bars on a door evidently representing a cell door), Peter & the Wolves played some excellent blues-rooted rock, Rockin' Foo was ignored (though I personally loved the unique guitar and organ sound and ended up buying their album a few months later at a White Front in Tacoma), and the Doors--- well, at least they showed.

It was an experience I will never forget, not for the names but for the sound. I can only liken it to the ambiance of a baseball game--- smelling the hot dogs, hearing the crowd noise and the crack of a bat. There is nothing quite like it.

Stir Fried's Electrafried conjures up the feeling of what I assume an outdoor Grateful Dead concert must have been like, the flow of the music equaling and controlling the flow of the crowd. It is music up, down and all around, though mostly up. Kicking off with a 25+ minute medley of two originals plus Hey Pocky Way, the tone is set. The choogling and freewheelin' Summer, with the vocals ghosting a duo of Leon Russell minus the gospel and Grace Slick, gives way to the rhythmic funk of Jones and the jamming begins. The horns, used sparingly, are a great exclamation point to the jam, having very much the sense of White Elephant, a loose cadre of jazz musicians in New York's very early 70s--- check them out as well. Hey Pocky Way ain't the Meters and it ain't the Nevilles, but it's spot on for this medley. Throw in a couple of great violin solos by Vassar Clements and rhythms that just won't stop and it just doesn't get better than this. If it don't have you dancing, it should have you moving in your seat (or at least slugging down the brew a bit faster). From there, it is a smooth segue to the Stones' Dead Flowers, the classic Walkin' the Dog, two fine originals (Get the Money and Steel Cage Serenade) and a great closer, Turn On Your Love Light, which highlights the smokin' pipes of one Joanne Lediger, hot solos by Buddy Cage (pedal steel) and Vassar Clements, and the power rhythm section of Vincent Lorenzo (percussion), James Alvin Harrison (bass), Chris Lacinak (drums), not to mention--- though I will--- the tasty horns of Don Harris (trumpet) and Bill Harris (sax). If the Blues Brothers had been a bit less Stax and a little more West Coast, they would have sounded like this.

Hey, did I mention that Electrafried was recorded live? And on a really good night at Images Night Club in Pearl River NY. No matter that it was 1996. Music this good is timeless.

Fast forward a few years to 2000 and we find Last of the Blue Diamond Miners, Stir Fried in the studio. More of the same, you ask? Yes and no. A little less jam and a little more structured, the music still has the punch, especially with a lineup including Tony Trischka, Vassar Clements, Dr. John and Bernie Worrell. It is not, however, the guests who make the album. Stir Fried, in and of themselves, are the core of the sound and the energy and it shows track after track. The sessions were an anomaly, according to Buddy Cage, who writes in the liner notes, “As I recall, 11 tracks were laid down at I.I.W.I.I. Studios in 2 days! Live tracks! Incredibly, for any group of musicians to get this body of tunes 80% complete with this fantastic energy is magic, in my experience.” Buddy knows. There's a a lot of rocking, choogling, funkin' and jammin' going on here.

The treat for the fans of Thomas Jefferson Kaye is the inclusion of two Kaye-penned tracks--- C'est La Bonne Rue (piggy-backed with Blood Brother) and The Door Is Still Open. Kaye is related to Stir Fried in more ways than one and I leave it to you to find out on your own. Hey, I can't be expected to do all the work on my own, can I? If interested, check it out on Stir Fried's own officially sanctioned and bona-fide website. You're welcome.

I had to beg Falbo Records for copies of these albums. I would pay, but General Motors would go bankrupt buying all the albums I want. Wait. They did! I think I'm in better shape, though. Broke though I may be, I have Stir Fried to listen to when I hit a downturn. The idiots at General Motors probably put their money into derivatives. Morons!

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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