Baroque Records Project

7:00 AM

Greetings art history denizens,

Recently, as we were researching the aristocratic Baroque in France, the Netherlands, and that tiny island nation, the students uncovered a treasure in an oversized Rubens monograph.

The book, Ruebens and the Rubenesque by Wilhem Gregorius Sprinklesleeves, actually functioned as a type of safe. Junior Missy Rosenthal sprung the book safe open by accidentally holding page three at 30 degree angle for 15 seconds.  The attendant BOING sound and Ms. Rosenthal's audible gasp caused a collective head-turn that witnessed a small hydraulic lift that raised nearly one foot above the open book. After the taking necessary safety precautions, we determined that the objects on the lift were long-playing records, those things known today as vinyl, wax, or platters.

Oddly, all of the records had covers that were paintings from the era, and there were as many albums as there were us, so we each took a record to explore. You can read the student findings over the next few days. Mine, dear reader, you can peruse below.

Dead Onion and Birds
The Anatomy Lesson 
1974 Ruysch Records
Creem Magazine Review by Bester Langs

In her younger days, Dead Onions and Birds frontwoman Jacoba van Heemskerck would sit on a milk crate at her parents' flower booth on Singel Street in Amsterdam and sing traditional Dutch folk songs to passerby. Early one fine spring morning several years ago, rock impresario Bill Graham was stumbling back to his hotel room at the Intercontinental Amstel when he heard Jacoba singing "Wees nu verblijd in 't mensen heelal" (roughly translated as "Now be happy in the human universe"). Graham dropped to his knees in front of her, produced a template contract he kept in his jacket and begged Jacoba to come to the recording studio immediately. When she demurred, he wrote her a check for 35,000 guilders.

Within a week, Graham had his girl,  a host of session musicians (Johnny Leyster, Bon Frelminum, and Pilly Vander Snal), and masters for Dead Onions and Birds breakout debut "Nightwatch." Jacoba's Dutch-eyed-soul carried a strange fusion of folk, jazz, and pop and was cut with Snal's singular backbeat, the fuzzed weirdness of Frelminum's lead guitar, and the ska-tinged off-beats of Leyster's bass explosion. The record simply exploded in the U.K. after an earth-shaking performance on Top of the Pops where the band, clad in 17th century breeches and collars, ripped through their first single "Steenasty" and a haunting cover of Velvet Underground's "Waiting on My Man." Arena tours followed and the record shot to #1 on the U.K. charts.

Tensions within the band were played out in shocking honesty on their second record "Syndics of the Draper's Guild." Each band member wrote two songs for album and they all recorded their own parts at the studio without the presence of the others. The proof, as they say, was in the pudding, as the record earned dreadful reviews, including the memorable Robert Christagau line "Syndics stinks like like dead onions and deader birds."

But now - but a year later - the band has returned to form with The Anatomy Lesson, a product of a long trip to Morocco, where they spent time with Paul and Jane Bowles, read a book on Maria Merian  (whose painting graces the album's cover) and put their petty jealousies aside. The new record has the greasy nastiness of T. Rex, forays into deep funk, Pet Sounds instrumentation and Jacoba's startling, sometimes staccato delivery.

 It's unconventional music for a politically turbulent time. Since Tricky Dick would not approve, we gladly do.


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