Once again your rockin’ reviewer felt the need to resurrect his old “Listen Again” series. For those of you just joining us, the “Listen Again” series is a series in which we revisit albums that for one reason or another perhaps didn’t receive the attention or acclaim they deserved when they were originally released. Whether it was the recording was ahead of its time, broke away from the artist’s usual style, was poorly publicized or initially misunderstood, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to listen again. This time we revisit John Tabacco’s It Wuz And Still Iz Late Octobra.
For those of you who missed previous pieces on the artist, John Tabacco is a multi-talented New York-based performer with an experimental L.A. attitude. He is a composer, a recording engineer, a graphic artist, a multi instrumentalist, a producer and a singer. He is also CEO of It Iz What It Iz Music Publishing and specializes in the genres of alternative, experimental and pop music.
While it may not yet be “late Octobra” it will be soon enough. So what better time than now to rediscover It Wuz And Still Iz Late Octobra? Originally meant to be the first disc in a double CD diary of sorts, this recording was meant to be paired with his inspired album Rubber Solstice. (Gotta love the winter reference and—of course—The Beatles thing.) Unfortunately, when Tabacco went to market the music he discovered that “at the time it was too complicated to release it that way due to digital retailer restrictions.”
The 16-track 2005 release opens on “Call Me In The Morning”. This seems like just a friendly pop song with fun vocal harmonies at first. Then Tabacco bluntly croons about a gruesome dog licking his genitalia. (Not sure that is totally clear but-hey-not sure it matters in this case.)
The second selection is “If Ya Wanna Have Fun” with some slightly odd underlying instrumentation and vocals by guest artist Nicole Placco. Perhaps it is misplaced on the playlist though and should have been at the end of the CD. After all, if you listen to the lyrics you will soon discover that it’s actually a “bone-us” track. (If you don’t get it, listen again.)
“Phone Demos And Studio Complaints” is pretty self-explanatory. This slightly jazz-tinged tune focusing on Tabacco’s trials and tribulations while working is –like much of the music here-reminiscent of material by Frank Zappa. In fact, Zappa was one of his earliest, significant sources of inspiration.
Tabacco elaborates: “I decided one day in 1975, downstairs in my old house in St. James, NY, after listening to Frank Zappa’s mini opera, Billy The Mountain, that the creation of music was what I wanted to do full time.”
The following song is “Chaos Is Calling”. The message here: “We all need surprises from time to time/Pass up the expected-let worlds collide”. Your all too often penned-in penman can vouch for that!
“Piss Clam Charlie” is a slightly nautical number that focuses on one of Tabacco’s original cast of characters. Don’t we all least know a guy like this? Don’t we all have some rather different uncle who does and says things that dads simply are not permitted to do and say? It’s also great the way this track literally flows into the next number named “Follow The Fold”.
“Follow The Fold” focuses on a “stealth” cross-dressing dyke named Lucy Loop. Songs like these almost always work. Just ask Lou Reed or The Kinks or Elton John. This one is no exception to that rule.
Tabacco says that “Girl’s Got Patience” is based on yet another true story. This one is about Jennifer X who is yet another member of his rockin’ roll call. The fan favorite “I’ve Known You Before I Met You” follows and was co-written with Natalie Pierro.
“20 Years Pass” includes an interesting accapella intro. The title comes from this cut as well. It is perhaps too soon forgotten however after one hears another fan favorite “Seeking That Bitter Clown” which has a rap/hip-hop feel to it and includes a great “Mumbo jumbo rap”. It certainly has its own identity as do many of Tabacco’s best bits.
Perhaps the hit here though is “Hit Man From Hicksville”. This tuneful tale of tunesmith turned assassin, this one is based on an idea from Tabacco’s artistic associate Nigey Lennon and features what one online critic called “a Sicilian spin”. None other than Marci Geller appears here assisting with background vocals.
“Stop The War / Smokey Lee Webster Gives It Up” proves that Tabacco knows what late former Beatle George Harrison knew. You can write a song on a serious even depressing subject and still keep it upbeat or pleasant-sounding. In fact, doing it this way is actually more of a challenge since research has more recently proven that sad songs written in minor keys are easier to market.
One of the best cuts here is “Good Night New York/Now You’re On The Inside”. It features refreshing lead vocals by Letty Fores. Tabacco elaborates: “‘Goodnight New York’ is a variation of the Julie Gold song ‘Goodnight New York’, mashed up with a piece I wrote-‘Now You’re On The Inside’.”
“Don’t Fall Silent” falls next on the playlist and harkens back to one of life’s less than perfect moments quieting things down a bit in another tuneful team-up with Lennon. “The Day I Die” is further proof that Tabacco was a king of college music years ago. This is another fairly slow piece around a dark and (ahem) electric subject. The closing cut is the contemporary “A Tree Is A Beautiful Thing” as Tabacco ends on a perhaps slightly philosophical note.
It Wuz & Still Iz Late Octobra on / ƒ / x Records is essentially another song-filled slice of life revealing nearly three decades of Tabacco’s musical moods and harmonious humor. While Tabacco may seem to some to be an acquired taste the truth is he is more real than many major recording artists out there today.
Perhaps Tabacco himself shed a little light on his viewpoint when he said: “It Wuz & Still Iz Late Octobra and its sister disc Rubber Solstice, are yet more economic musical visions from a recording artist who has no regard for the music business. That’s me!” If you’ve never listened to John Tabacco’s It Wuz & Still Iz Late Octobra, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it . . . listen again.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.