Cinephile and music fan Terry Ork’s eponymous label existed from 1975 to 1979. This double album offers a generous selection from its varied roster of lastingly important cult heroes (Television, Richard Hell), a big star burning out (Alex Chilton) and those whose following was less cult than sect (Marbles).

Television’s ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ was Ork’s first release, a track that retains to this day its ability to excite and delight as it moves dizzyingly between its basic three-note riff, inspired improvisation and beautifully-constructed guitar solos, Tom Verlaine’s lyrics as compellingly strange as his voice.

Primal versions of three tracks from Verlaine’s early Television co-host Hell with his band the Voidoids are also included: ‘Blank Generation’, ‘Another World’ and ‘You Gotta Lose’. Released in the UK by Stiff but licensed in America by Ork, the first two are inferior to their incarnations on the ‘Blank Generation’ album. That said, the promise is clear: Robert Quine and Ivan Julian’s guitars are already terse and tart. Essentially these are tracks that sound like good demos but which happened to get officially released. As a pioneer independent label not blessed with a significant cash flow, many tracks were typically recorded in cheap studios, although a relatively primitive sound was also part of the aesthetic in reaction to 24-track desks and bands with similarly bloated budgets and ambitions.

The Feelies, best represented here by ‘Forces at Work’ (like Chuck Berry jamming with the Gang of Four), are one of the bands who give more of a sense of stretching the boundaries of rock as it was at that time, rather than those like The Idols, Prix, Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, who seem content to stay within them. Perhaps the impact of bands like Suicide and Pere Ubu (both featured on the ‘Max’s Kansas City’ album of 1976) and the confrontational experimentation of ‘No New York’ (1978) have in hindsight distorted the reality of what the New York scene was really like then. For the Ork artists the rock and roll and pop of the 1950s and 1960s were what they chiefly knew and either embraced or to varying degrees reacted against, so the label’s sweep from the orthodox to the out-there is probably a realistic reflection of the overall scene.

The Feelies moved on to Stiff, who had offered them an album deal. Another link with Stiff was Ork’s equally enthusiastic signing of oddities. Among the oddest are contributions from moonlighting rock critics Mick Farren and Lester Bangs. Farren’s are forgettable, apart from a semi-decent version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Play with Fire’. This was part of a projected tribute album which never saw the light of day, also represented by contributions from Alex Chilton and Television’s Richard Lloyd.

But Bangs’ ‘Let it Blurt’ and ‘Live’, despite his vocal slips into a ragged yowl, and other moments when he sounds like a young Iggy Pop (except drunk), have a real power. On one hand, he was able to assemble - at least for a short period - what constituted something of an all-star band from the local scene: Quine (whose feeling-suffused playing is once more outstanding), Patti Smith’s drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, and future Contortions Jody Harris and David Hofstra. On the other, despite his vocal limitations, the sincere passion that characterised Bangs’ best writing comes over, especially in the anti-nihilism plea to “Live!”

At least in some cases, the inclusion of more than one song by most of the artists prevents a rush to judgement. ‘Red Lights’ is pop so lightweight that you wonder if Ork had lost his Marbles in signing them, yet the same band’s ‘Fire and Smoke’ still has a melodic sensibility but is now allied with musicianship that at times evokes Television’s intensity.
However if anyone comes to this set but vaguely aware of Alex Chilton’s reputation without knowing its source, his eight tracks will do little to enlighten. In fact, his version of the Stones’ ‘The Singer Not the Song’ is the best of them, and even that is not exactly earth-shaking.

It’s valuable to have the story of this label, even if some of its characters belong to the footnotes rather than the pages of history. The packaging is exemplary, being a well-researched and illustrated CD-sized book which gives a comprehensive account of Terry Ork and his quixotic creation, that inevitably draws in other key figures such as Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye and venues like CBGB’s. One interesting claim is that film buff Ork, in staging a series of CBGB’s gigs, drew on his love of French cinema’s Nouvelle Vague to call it ‘The New Wave’. America and Britain always had different perspectives on what and who constituted punk, so this vaguer term came into vogue. But the best music here, which Ork helped to midwife, is his more important legacy, its earliest jewel still shining the brightest.
.







Related Links:

http://www.numerogroup.com/products/ork-records-new-york-new-york
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Ork
https://www.facebook.com/Ork-Records-149357165121494/


Commenting On: Profile - Ork Records








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last