Tuesday, May 31, 2005

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An obscure band that has nonetheless attracted attention from record collectors (more for the fact of their obscurity than any other reason), Agape was a hippie-era psychedelic hard rock act that used the music of youth rebellion to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Fred Caban was a young guitarist from Azusa, CA, who became a born-again Christian shortly after graduating from high school in 1968. In an effort to help evangelize his peers, Caban formed the band with bassist John Peckhart and drummer Mike Jungkman. They were one of the earliest Christian rock bands, established in a time when the music they played was still being shunned by established churches (the few they approached for concerts rejected the loud music they played, despite the message). Agape performed wherever they could, on beaches, in schools, and in parks, and released their debut album (Gospel Hard Rock) in 1971. Their sound was typical of the era, blues-based hard rock in the tradition of Cream, though the group's garage band level abilities lent the music a raw, clumsy appeal that nicely matched their lyrical sincerity. The band added keyboardist Jim Hess and released Victims of Tradition in 1972, which featured a more progressive approach, as well as a front cover that pictured the group performing in a graveyard. Several lineup changes occurred as the years progressed, but Caban kept Agape going in one form or another throughout the decade. Original copies of Agape albums are very rare today, and can fetch as much as 300 dollars from collectors due to the unique appeal of their "hippies at Sunday school" vibe. In 1996, Hidden Vision Records released a CD, called The Problem Is Sin: Live and Unreleased, that compiles demos for an unfinished third album, live performances taken from a promotional eight-track cassette that was distributed to local radio stations in 1973, and a brand new instrumental track performed by a reconstituted version of the band. Fred Beldin

Gospel Hard Rock

This early attempt to fuse the popular sounds of artists like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience with an evangelistic Christian message comes off as ham-fisted and na├»ve, but undeniably genuine. Agape doesn't quite live up to the "hard rock" portion of their album's title, filling most of the tracks on this debut with watery blues, lightweight guitar textures, and clumsy, half-spoken vocals. Still, they do find a few excuses to freak out on side two; "Freedom" contains some lengthy, double-tracked fuzz guitar solos and "Choose" features a thick, galloping Grand Funk Railroad-style approach during the instrumental sections. The album's closer, "Rejoice," begins as a disturbing reading from Revelations set to eerie psychedelia — all discordant strings scrape over a slinky, sinister vamp, eventually bursting into heavy riffing and a rousing chorus of "Read your Bible!" Singer/songwriter/guitarist Fred Caban was definitely preaching to the converted, delivering frankly simplistic testimony and borrowed Biblical passages stitched together with awkward sincerity. In the turbulent era that Gospel Hard Rock was recorded, it might have helped the group's cause to directly address some of the spiritual crises that their youthful audience was facing rather than just parroting doctrine and language that hippies had already decided they couldn't accept. Perhaps because of this veneer of innocence, original copies of Agape's albums are highly sought after by record collectors, sometimes commanding up to 300 dollars apiece from entirely secular fans. Fred Beldin

See also: Hidden Vision: Agape

Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday, May 13, 2005

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Looking out the window, a pair of homeless-by-choice post-teens. A big, baby-faced thug with a shaved head pushing a shopping cart full of pillows and clothes. Perched atop is the most beautiful girl he'll ever be with, a filthy former cheerleader who just woke up in the park, stoned and barefoot with a stylish cigarette in one hand, riding like royalty and having the time of her life. Her loyal subject looks tired, but exhilarated.

Monday, May 09, 2005

"The war will wage in my guts
Til the devil bites the dust
I never saw him losing a race, but I think he must."

We got Heart Food by Judee Sill this weekend ... quite stunning. Think the best of Joni Mitchell without all the ostentatious trills and jangle, a somber female late-career Phil Ochs, a dark set of songs with glimmering redemption just a few feet out of reach. Former prostitute, oscillating junkie, only two albums completed in her lifetime which were (obviously) too heavy for the marketplace of the early 1970s, then dead of a Mexican overdose at age 34.

There's some good unreleased demos & such you can check out here if that sounds good at all. Do it, I sez.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Softcore Pornography.
OK, til I give enough of a damn to fix 'em, I'm wiping the comments feature off altogether. I'll have to reinstall eventually, at my leisure.

Saw the film ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, it's gonna be the hot indie sensation of the summer so brace yourself for Miranda July. It's as good as the hype, and next week or so I get to interview Ms. July, so I'll let you know if she's a phony.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Garage Hangover

I dare you to download "What A Way To Die" and not suddenly want to get totally drunk. Do it, now.