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R. STEVIE MOORE

by Ira Robbins Trouser Press

Phonography (Vital) 1976 (HP Music) 1978
Four from Phonography (HP Music) 1978
Stance EP (HP Music) 1978
Delicate Tension (HP Music) 1978
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About R. Stevie Moore but Were Afraid to Ask (Fr. New Rose) 1984
What's the Point?!! (Cuneiform) 1984
Verve (Hamster) 1985
Glad Music (Fr. New Rose) 1986
R. Stevie Moore (1952-19??) (Cordelia) 1987
Teenage Spectacular (Fr. New Rose) 1987
Warning: R. Stevie Moore (Fr. New Rose) 1988
Has-Beens and Never-Weres (Heliotrope) 1990
Greatesttits (Fr. Fan Club) 1990

The son of a top Nashville session bassist, R. Stevie Moore began doing his own one-man home recordings in the early '70s. Over the course of years spent perfecting his technical and conceptual skills, Moore's individualistic, wry pop and musique concrŠte excursions have developed into an awesome — and seemingly bottomless — world of talent just waiting to be unleashed on the masses. In recent years, Moore (now living in New Jersey) has self-released dozens of cassettes of his work via mail order; the two 1984 albums partly draw their contents from those tapes. Suffice to say, if you like what you hear on the discs, there's plenty more of equal quality where that came from.

Phonography (issued twice with different artwork) consists of his very early efforts, done between 1974 and 1976. Some of it is fairly rudimentary, but the Bonzo Dog Band-like "Goodbye Piano" displays Moore's incipient brilliance, and a massed-guitars rendition of the Andy Griffith Show theme is classic.

Stance is a three-song 12-inch, running time around fifteen minutes. Recorded in '76 and '77, top-to-bottom improvement is obvious, from the moody, mostly instrumental "Ist or Mas" — an interpretation of awakening (theme for a ballet perhaps?) — to "Manufacturers," a rollicking jazzy rocker.

Delicate Tension is excellent: great songs of astonishing variety, all tied together by his idiosyncratic, gentle perceptions of life and smooth, versatile voice. There are hints of Zappa, Rundgren, Townshend, McCartney and countless others; Moore's limitations, if indeed he has any, have yet to be encountered.

Moore's tape club's issue is staggering in sheer volume, variety and consistency of quality. (His catalogue includes well over 150 titles!) More like eclectic radio shows than straight collections of music, he includes anything and everything on the tapes, and they collectively provide an in-depth self-portrait of a truly prodigious talent. Everything You Always Wanted to Know is a two-record compilation of tracks — with historical liner notes (in English) purportedly by Robert Christgau — sampling a decade's worth of discs and tapes with originals, covers ("Mama Weer All Crazee Now," "Chantilly Lace"), strange experiments and sublime successes. Although disjointed in spite of Moore's skillful efforts to compile it in some rational fashion, the album provides proof positive of the man's remarkable gift to do virtually any type of music and do it extremely well.

More concise and better conceived, the American one-disc What's the Point?!! provides an ideal introduction to Moore, with such gems as "Part of the Problem," "Puttin' Up the Groceries," "Bloody Knuckles" and "World's Fair." (The last three also appear on Everything.)

Released by a small UK label, the erratic but gem-strewn Verve compilation (early-'80s tracks — including an in-concert live recording from '83 — chosen by the artist) quickly became a rarity; Glad Music, a proper studio album recorded in late 1985, reprises "Part of the Problem" and adds a dozen more examples of Moore at the top of his creative powers. There's real C&W played with mock-seriousness ("I Love You So Much It Hurts"), an unnervingly precise synth-flavored version of the Association's "Along Comes Mary" and witty, hand-clapping rock'n'roll ("Shakin' in the Sixties"). Delightful!

(1952-19??) is yet another career-spanning compilation, this one a hodgepodge assembly of 21 tracks from as early as 1973 and as late as 1986, with stops along the way for "Delicate Tension," "Goodbye Piano" and "Satisfaction." Some of the items are tossed-off fragments, others excellent achievements with full-fledged arrangements in a wide variety of styles. The punky "Jesus Rocks" ('78) and the reflectively acoustic "Back in Time" ('86) are among the album's previously unvinylized treasures.

Teenage Spectacular includes covers of Dr. Hook ("The Cover of 'Rolling Stone'," half of it performed a cappella) and Dr. Dylan (the anti-boxing classic "Who Killed Davey Moore?" given an ironically upbeat folk reading) amidst the original pop musings, witty balladeering and brief mind-altering tape experiments ("Non Sequitur I — V"). The simple musical constructions on guitars, keyboards and drums reveal traces of Moore's many influences — from the Beatles to Todd Rundgren to the Bonzo Dog Band to XTC and back again — and huge chunks of his monumental creative grasp. "On the Spot" is satiric big band bar-room sleaze in the key of G sharp; "Blues for Cathy Taylor" is a delightful love song of a different sort; "Baby on Board" castigates childless drivers with those yellow stickers on their car windows.

A collection of recent ('86-'87) home and studio productions, Warning includes remakes of several RSM oldies (e.g., "Manufacturers") as well as a rendition of the Beatles' "Getting Better." Has-Beens and Never-Weres samples a decade of Moore music, beginning in the mid-'70s and including a tribute to the Residents, "What's the Point?" (not from the album of the that name) and a song entitled "Bonus Track (LP Only)."

Building on Everything You Always Wanted to Know, the CD-only Greatesttits is a monumental 24-track retrospective of Moore's most appealing pop originals ("Why Can't I Write a Hit?," "Debbie," "U R True") and covers ("Chantilly Lace," "Along Comes Mary," "The Cover of 'Rolling Stone'") — a perfect introduction to his wonderful world. The American record industry's failure to recognize and promote the unique gifts of this giant talent is a case of criminal neglect.

-----------IAR 1990


R. STEVIE MOORE REDUX 2004

Roger Ferguson and Ethos EP7" (Basic Sounds) 1973
Phonography (Vital) 1976 (HP Music) 1978 (Flamingo) 1998
Four From Phonography EP7" (HP Music) 1978
Stance EP (HP Music) 1978 + 1998
Delicate Tension (HP Music) 1978 + 1998
The North (self-released) 1978 + 1999
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About R. Stevie Moore but Were Afraid to Ask (Fr. New Rose) 1984
What's the Point?!! (Cuneiform) 1984
Verve (UK Hamster) 1985
Glad Music (Fr. New Rose) 1986
R. Stevie Moore (1952-19??) (UK Cordelia) 1987
Teenage Spectacular (Fr. New Rose) 1987
Warning: R. Stevie Moore (Fr. New Rose) 1988
Has-Beens and Never-Weres (UK Heliotrope) 1990
Greatesttits (Fr. Fan Club) 1990
Contact Risk (Fruit of the Tune) 1993
Revolve (Ger. Pink Lemon) 1995
The Future Is Worse Than the Past (Ger. Pink/Megaphon) 1999
Sings on WRVU, Vanderbilt, Nashville (self-released) 1999
Live at the Sutler, Nashville (self-released) 1999
Mercury Lounge Lizard (self-released) 1999
Concert at Darress Theater (self-released) 1999
Maxwell's Y2K (self-released) 2000
Love Compartment (self-released) 2000
The Jinx (self-released) 2001
Midi-Brain Piano Rolls (self-released) 2001
Colliding Circles EP (self-released) 2001
Horse in Striped Pajamas EP (self-released) 2002
Maxwell's IPO (self-released) 2002
Hundreds of Hiding Places (Ger. Pink Lemon) 2002
Outsider Music Fair, Fez, NYC (self-released) 2003
Report Card (self-released) 2003
Hobbies Galore (His Best Twenty-Four) (self-released) 2003
Nevertheless Optimistic (Innova) 2003
Live on WFMU, With Kenny G (self-released) 2003
Lie at Maxwell's (self-released) 2003
Tra La La La Phooey! (Comfort Stand) 2004
Conscientious Objector (self-released) 2004
Far Out (self-released) 2004
YUNG & MOORE
Objectivity EP (Ger. Jar Music) 1997
R. STEVIE MOORE WITH DAVE GREGORY
Dates (self-released) 1999
R. STEVIE MOORE AND JAD FAIR
Fairmoore (Old Gold) 2001

The son of top Nashville session bassist Bob Moore, R. Stevie Moore began doing his own one-man home recordings as a teenager. Over the course of three decades spent perfecting his technical, musical, lyrical and conceptual skills, Moore's omnivorous, individualistic pop blender has dug into his awesome — and seemingly bottomless — well of talent and produced, since 1981, several hundred (!!!) tapes of his original work, self-released and sold exclusively via mail-order from the author's home studio in New Jersey. Since the early '80s, his scattered stream of vinyl and CD releases (all but two are imports) have nearly all been assembled, with little overlap, from his cassette-club tapes. Suffice to say, aficionados of fertile pop imagination, resourceful home studio technique and more stylistic diversity than most record stores can offer are highly recommended to get with Stevie. Start anywhere, and be assured that if you like what you hear on any of the discs, there are countless hours more of equal quality where that came from. (To not overstate the case, it should be acknowledged that the albums favor the cream of the cassette crop, omitting the more esoteric ramblings, personal indulgences, sonic experiments and radio-show elements that find their way into Moore's handmade missives.) "Unsung hero" only touches on the injustice of obscurity for this wry, heartfelt artist whose limber genius, vitality and productivity make him a far more profound cultural asset than any number of next-big-things with maybe two good albums in 'em. Why no major label has ever signed him is one of the modern era's mysteries.

Moore's unveiling to the music world came via Phonography, a rudimentary but obviously brilliant overture. Stance is a much-improved three-song 12-inch; Delicate Tension is astonishing in its varied expositions of Moore's idiosyncratic perceptions of life and smooth, versatile voice. There are hints of Zappa, Rundgren, Townshend, McCartney, Wilson, Chilton, Stanshall and countless others. With that, Moore began concentrating on making cassettes and didn't record another full studio LP for commercial release for the better part of a decade.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know is a disjointed two-record compilation sampling a decade's worth of back catalogue with originals, covers (of Slade and the Big Bopper), strange experiments and sublime successes. The more concise and better conceived What's the Point?!! is an ideal introduction, containing such gems as "Part of the Problem," "Puttin' Up the Groceries," "Bloody Knuckles" and "World's Fair," the last three of which are also on Everything; the erratic but gem-strewn Verve is a compilation of early-'80s tracks.

Glad Music, a proper studio album recorded in 1985, reprises "Part of the Problem" and adds a dozen more examples of Moore at the top of his creative powers. There's real C&W played with mock-seriousness ("I Love You So Much It Hurts"), an unnervingly precise synth-flavored version of the Association's "Along Comes Mary" and witty, hand-clapping rock'n'roll ("Shakin' in the Sixties"). Yet another anthology, (1952-19??) assembles 21 tracks recorded between 1973 and 1986, including such Moore classics as "Delicate Tension," "Goodbye Piano" and "Satisfaction." Some of the items are tossed-off fragments, others excellent achievements with full-fledged arrangements. The punky "Jesus Rocks" and the reflectively acoustic "Back in Time" are among the previously unvinylized treasures.

Teenage Spectacular includes covers of Dr. Hook and Dr. Dylan amidst original pop musings, witty balladeering and brief mind-altering tape experiments. The simple musical constructions on guitars, keyboards and drums reveal traces of Moore's many influences and a sense of his monumental creative grasp. Warning, containing tracks of 1986-87 vintage, includes remakes of RSM oldies ("Manufacturers") as well as the Beatles' "Getting Better." Has-Beens and Never-Weres, which samples a decade of Moore music going back to the mid-'70s, includes a tribute to the Residents and a song entitled, with typical industry-taunting wit, "Bonus Track (LP Only)." Despite the dumb humor of the title, Greatesttits is an important 24-track CD retrospective of Moore's most appealing originals and covers — another brilliant doorway to his wonderful world.

Moore's prodigious output slowed for a time; cassette titles like Unpopular Singer (which contains "Why Do You Hate Me So Much?" and "Fuckin' Idiots Everywhere") and the despairing liner note in the Contact Risk compilation ("If you don't like this, I quit") allude to why. Cult stardom can evidently be a lonely and frustrating state.

Although it was assembled in 1993, there's nothing more current than two band tracks from the fall of '90 on Contact Risk; amazingly, except for a hissy, weird dose of 1968 pathos, the 1975-87 material sounds relatively contemporary and would be impossible to audibly segregate by decade without the artist's detailed production information. A typically spectacular hodgepodge, the set caroms around perfect popcraft ("Under the Light," "Play Myself Some Music"), bizarre poetry (three installments of "I Could Be Your Lover"), goofy country ("Elation Damnation"), sultry loveman funk ("Times Have Changed"), radio fund-raising ("Pledge Your Money"), kinetic falsetto gimcrackery ("You Can't Write a Song") and echoey acoustic folk ("Hours of Delight"). For all the inconsistency in audio quality, Moore's melodic powers never falter, and the hour floats and swoops by with the delightful, unpredictable grace of a kite.

----------IAR 1994

Copyright © 2002,2003 Ira Robbins

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