Crampsploitation – Lux and Ivy’s Good for Nothin’ Tunes

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Not the first Lux and Ivy compilation reviewed by The Reprobate, nor likely the last, but this does feel like there’s a smidgen of exploitation present. It’s ten years since Lux Interior died, his band The Cramps now being somewhat overshadowed by image appropriation. Perhaps this is no more the case than it ever was, but to release a new double CD of tracks purporting to be beloved of both Lux and his other half seems fanciful to the point of annoying. Equally galling is the surprisingly haphazard nature of this set’s track selection – it feels not so much as a random selection picked from a large record collection as tracks which were available. Fun for a party perhaps, where no-one is awaiting the next song but to listen to from start to finish feels oddly unsatisfying.

The first disc starts in a rather pedestrian manner with a perfunctory harmonica botherer, Don’t Cut Out On Me by Tender Slim, snoozes through track two and only begins to prick the ears on David Hill’s All Shook Up – the first recorded version, several weeks before Elvis hijacked it. Learned readers will recognise that David Hill is the pseudonym of David Hess, songwriter, singer and actor in some of cinema’s most gruelling horror films. Much more in keeping with the Lux and Ivy empire of compilations is Bettye LaVette’s Witchcraft in the Air, though the bubbling cauldron effects can’t mask what is a standard R&B chug-a-thon. It takes two of the most famous names on this set – Eartha Kitt and Bobby Bare, with I’d Rather Be Burned as a Witch and Vampira respectively, to light the fuse, at which point you begin to wonder whether you should have just put together your own mix-tape.

Of course, there are some bona fide gems. J.J. Jackson & The Jackels’ Oo Ma Liddi is a gasping hip-thruster (though cynics even greater than I might point to Norton releases already championing it); The Argentine Orchestra and Singers’ Party Bolero does genuinely feel like a jumble sale oddity you’d pick up for pennies and The Poets’ Dead is an unusual entry in the Fifties horror pop avalanche, clumsy in the way it tries with questionable success to squeeze in lyrics where they clearly don’t fit but creepier than many. Disc one concludes with the immortal Brother Theodore and Berenice (part one), a great advert to explore more of his potty world but jarring in the flow of a compilation.

Disc two is similarly patchworked, the country twang of Jimmy Dawson’s It Took an Older Woman having an endearingly naïve talent show entry quality; Glenn and Christy’s Wombat Twist entertainingly reaching the end of the road with words that you can put before ‘twist’ and Jack Parr’s Blue Wiggle pairing a Ken Nordine-ish baritone with a whistling jauntiness. The Revels’ Dead Man’s Stroll is great, funereal-paced doo-wop, paired with pleasing effect with the almost sub-sonic The Fuzz by Grady Martin. It is two spoken word pieces which stand-out – Milton Feher’s bizarre Walking Without Effort, a guide to, yes, walking and the mighty Ken Nordine himself with Hunger is From, his fridge-raiding masterpiece.

In all, an odd collection in both its original intention and its unthoughtful curation, one can’t help but feel these tracks fit better under separate releases under an entirely different umbrella.

DAZ LAWRENCE

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3 comments

  1. Worth remembering and noting that this series is NOT approved in any way at any time by either Lux, Ivy or any other member of the Cramps, living or dead. (See previous comments and stuff all over the interweb regarding Koogar etc etc..) Not sure how they are allowed to use the Cramps name to promote this either…it’s also the usual out of copyright rules so no doubt the original artists don’t receive a single penny piece for their work too. Some absolutely killer music for sure but there’s something distinctly skanky and underhand about this whole series. Had to be said…

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    1. Yes, no more legit that the Lux n Ivy Favourites series that was at least available to download free. The question is: who is in control of the Cramps name, and is she (assuming that it will be Ivy) likely to resurface to enforce it? I assume these projects take a calculated gamble with the idea that the answer to that will be ‘no’.

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      1. The ‘Favourites’ series was ‘by fans for fans’ and was a true labour of love which involved no small amount of legwork and research….and as you mention it was entirely free. This series – as detailed elsewhere several times – simply rips off ‘Favourites’ without even any acknowledgement. It’s shoddy too as the lack of any informative sleeve notes is a joke (no excuse for this unless they just can’t be bothered…or simply don’t know the facts). OK, as we all know ever since the first Cramps interviews when they hipped folks to their good taste people have been hunting for those very same platters/movies and fer sure many many dubious releases have come down the pike. What galls most about these ones is that they use the actual names of Lux/Ivy/the Cramps to promote them – and I’m kinda 100% sure without ever having gotten any sort of permission. That’s what you’d expect from bootleggers but not from a supposedly legit record company….storm in a cup o’drano perhaps – but when labels like Norton/Ace/Bear Family do this sorta thing properly – and pay royalties ta boot – there’s simply no excuse. Take the money and run…some things never change.

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