FAME Review: I, Brute Force - Confections of Love
 
I, Brute Force - Confections of Love

Confections of Love

I, Brute Force

Bar None Records - BNRCD203

Available from Bar None Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker
(progdawg@hotmail.com).

I have a very large collection of LPs, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, even some 8-tracks, but if you would've asked me what LPs I'd have said would be the last anyone would have considered re-publishing from the lost annals of undeservedly obscure major label commodities, this would have been very very high on that list, maybe #1. Confections of Love was, when it was first debuted in 1967, an oddity when oddities were the norm. Like so many, I didn't pick it up then, as, despite some very weird song titles (Tapeworm of Love, f'rinstance), it appeared it might be some kind of strange reaction to Rod McKuen, and my disdain for McKuen was so visceral that I couldn't bear the thought even of a parody, no matter how savage it might possibly be. Hence, back it went into the bins, and my hand darted to a Blue Cheer or H.P. Lovecraft or Dave Clark 5 LP, I don't recall which.

Two decades later, I saw it again, reallllllly cheap, in the 29-cent racks at a well-known SoCal collector haunt in the nexus of Santa Monica, lower West L.A., and Culver City. Let me emphasize that: this was a collector's shop, not a high-tag boutique such as one sees in the Hollywood environs but a catch-all that catered to providing sonic art to people who knew their shit, erudite in the esoteric and evanescent. Nonetheless, even that hobbyist stratum didn't know what this LP was, else the price tag would've been $20. Stephen Friedland, stage-named 'I, Brute Force', had created a set of songs so off the wall and then packaged them under a cover so perplexing (a photo of an exec holding a bouquet amid bulldozed waste dirt) that it baffled even irony-hounds like me. When I finally heard it, though, I couldn't believe how damned good it was. I'd located a diamond amid the heap of a mega-quadzillion albums in that cool warehouse specialty shop.

I'm not sure who to refer you to in alluding to similar efforts—David Forman? Brian Protheroe? Col. Bruce Hampton? Sigmund Snopek III? Maybe Lewis Furey—but you might want to think of Friedlander as an Allan Sherman gone dauntingly mental, wickedly schizophrenic, an anarchically astute gent going for the jugular in the most obtuse ways, his twistedly brilliant vision beautifully cluttered with dazzlingly stymying oddments. Ah, but he wasn't really as unknown at the time as the LP's dismal sales history might make it seem, not quite. John Lennon loved his stuff, George Harrison helped him polish up a single (King of Fuh), and Apple privately pressed a couple thousand copies…which went absolutely nowhere. Who the hell was going to lend airwave time to a song talking about the Fuh King??? Even the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band knew such a move would be suicide. Still, Leonard Cohen dropped in for the Hello Moscow session, Al Kooper introduced him to Dylan, and Linda Eastman took snapshots of the guy, yet the management bluenoses at Capitol and EMI put the kibosh on, and one of music's great comedy LPs died a quiet death.

Expect a very strong period sound here, replete with orchestration, horn charts, and all the hitbound paraphernalia but with everything turned subtly on its head, especially when Friedlander purposely bungles the lyrics in Tierra del Fuego as sessioneers carry merrily on, seemingly innocent to the glorious mess-up. The Turtles, even in their Flo & Eddie identity, wish they could've been this cynical and faux innocent. I can just hear Root Boy Slim roaring and pounding the table upon hearing the disc, and even Lenny Bruce, who'd overdosed a year prior, would've been bowled over at the marvelously artistic temerity of the LP.

The promo lit for this treasure contends that Friedlander released a live album, Extemporaneous, a few years later, calling it "a bewildering concoction of bright tunes, comedy songs, political jabs, and absurd improvisations" which is precisely what Confections is (and more), but I've never heard of that release until now and would kill God to find a copy. Friedlander's still around, performing as a musical comedian, so look him up, but, better, lay hold of this completely unique release, 'cause it not only re-debuts that righteous initial album but includes 5 bonus cuts, including King of Fuh, which never made it to vinyl. When this goes out of print, don't expect it to be picked again any time soon. It's still too whacked out even for the 21st century. But brilliant? Oh man. I probably won't be doing a FAME Top 10/20 this year—I got way the hell too many great CDs for that, I'd only embarrass myself in trying to glean only 20 "bests"—but if I do, this will absolutely be on it, absofuckinglutely.

Track List:

  • In Jim's Garage
  • The Sad Sad World of Mothers and Fathers
  • Tierra del Fuego
  • No Olympian Height
  • Cudd'ly
  • To Sit on a Sandwich
  • Brute's Circus Metaphor
  • Brute's Party
  • As Long as my Song Lives
  • Tapeworm of Love
  • Making Faces at each Other
  • Hello Moscow (bonus cut)
  • Doughnut (bonus cut)
  • Conjugation (bonus cut)
  • Nobody Knows (bonus cut)
  • King of Fuh (bonus cut)

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

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Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
 
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