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Music Review: Various Artists – Dirty Water 2: More Of The Birth Of Punk Attitude

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When former Zigzag editor Kris Needs assembled the first Dirty Water: The Birth Of Punk Attitude collection late last year I was all for it. His eclectic taste had always been one of the hallmarks of the magazine. It also helped in assembling one of the more interesting mix-tapes featuring the artists and songs who paved the way for punk.

The line connecting garage-rock classics such as “Dirty Water” by The Standells, or “Psychotic Reaction” by The Count Five to songs like “No Fun” by The Stooges is pretty direct. And when the Sex Pistols themselves covered “No Fun,” the point was made crystal clear. “Punk” was just the latest name for a long history of rebellious music. What I enjoyed the most about the first edition of Dirty Water were Needs’ offbeat choices. Putting The Last Poets, The Silver Apples, and Sun Ra in the company of the MC5, The New York Dolls, and The Seeds was inspired.

So when it came time for Dirty Water 2: More Birth Of Punk Attitude, my expectations were for basically more of the same. Maybe it was the passing of Needs’ idol Captain Beefheart (to whom the set is dedicated) during the compilation process. But volume two is far more adventurous than the original was.

Fittingly, the opening track is “Zig Zag Wanderer” by the good Captain and his Magic Band. This is a monster blues track, from Safe As Milk (1967). We then take a journey straight down the rabbit hole of Kris Needs’ all-encompassing taste. Some names are quite familiar, such as The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, and Big Star. On the other hand, The Edgar Broughton Band, The Misunderstood, and Kilburn & The High Roads are going to be pretty unfamiliar to U.S. listeners – but their tracks are some of the strongest on the set.

What I cherish here are the extremes. While I would never doubt the rebelliousness of a guy like Dizzy Gillespie, the inclusion of his “Bebop” in a punk collection definitely pushes the envelope. The same holds true with Parliament, represented by “Oh Lord, Why Lord” from Osmium (1970). Placing these “unconventional” tunes next to surefire winners as “Suffragette City” by David Bowie or “Summertime Blues” by Blue Cheer takes no small amount of balls.

I like how Eddie Cochran (who wrote “Summertime Blues”) is here with his classic “C’mon Everybody,” which itself was covered by Sid Vicious in 1979. Another cool nod is given to Junior Marvin late in disc two, with his original version of “Police And Thieves.” The Clash did a magnificent job covering this on their debut, but it is nice to hear what inspired them.

Like the first Dirty Water, this is a two-disc set containing 39 songs in total. With Dirty Water 2, the once fairly obvious links between one punk era to another were not hard to follow. As previously stated, however, Needs has dug much deeper this time around. Two more names that I did not expect to find, yet cannot argue with are those of Woody Guthrie and Albert Ayler.

Without getting too “Dean of Rock Journalism” on y’all – Woody Guthrie’s leftist folk songs have pretty much been accepted as the “original” protest tunes. As we all know, Bob Dylan famously modeled himself after Woody, and that whole A Mighty Wind world can be debated ad infinitum as for its (real or imagined) rebelliousness.

There is no doubt that Albert Ayler belongs here though. Remember those honking saxes on the first two Stooges LPs? They were a direct result of Ayler’s influence (and probably Coltrane’s too). It is nice to see Ayler get some recognition, he was making some of the wildest music in any genre before his (still unsolved) death in 1970.

Kris Needs spells it all out in the 76-page book included with the set. I recommend it for a number of reasons, but maybe the biggest is the opportunity for discovery – I mean really, where else are you going to hear “Man Enough To Be A Woman” by Jayne County?

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