Ruby Vroom

Soul Coughing

1994: Stash/Warner Bros 9 45752-2

  1. Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago
  2. Sugar Free Jazz
  3. Casiotone Nation
  4. Blueeyed Devil
  5. Bus to Beelzebub
  6. True Dreams of Wichita
  7. Screenwriter’s Blues
  8. Moon Sammy
  9. Supra Genius
  10. City of Motors
  11. Uh, Zoom Zip
  12. Down to This
  13. Mr Bitterness
  14. Janine

It is 5 a.m. and I am listening to Los Angeles.

“Screenwriter’s Blues” is just about perfect. If it weren’t for the fact that M Doughty’s vocal delivery is so sneeringly snide, I would put this one track in my highest musical echelon. Even with the vocal, it’s a stream of firepower that leaves me gasping.

The first time I heard that track was at my local pub, where they’ve played various tracks from this album over the years although I didn’t know that’s what I was hearing. One night they played “Screenwriter’s Blues” in just perfect circumstances: I could hear it clearly, there were no distractions, and my book fell idle in my lap as I stared into space in front of me. I tried to block out the voice, thinking fervently “FUCK what I would give to have a 20-minute-long instrumental version of this!!!”

When I finally gave in and got myself a copy of the CD I had to concede that the vocals largely enhance the overall impression. For that one track, but not for the rest. Much as I wish I could more greatly appreciate this CD’s contents, my reaction to the rest of the tracks is about the same: “Excellent groove, almost unbearably good, pity about the vocals.” The uncredited sampled sources sour things more: this isn’t a case of “found art,” the sampler has swiped significant pieces of already-created music and is doing so without crediting the original artists, and in my book that’s petty thievery at best. When I first heard the fifth track from this CD I was horrified because they’d so fundamentally ripped off Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” with no acknowledgement whatsover. Creative sampling is great, but to do so without acknowledging the original artistry being tapped is inexcusable.

Still, the overall result is pretty fine…not perfect, not a pinnacle of art, but damned good and certainly remarkable, resulting in some fascinating emotional portraits.