Jon Tiven began his music life in my present estate: he was a lowly critic (in the late 60s). I recall reading his stuff and finding it passable, at times quite good. He appeared in Rolling Stone and other bourgeois venues and was the coordinator of the first and last Rock Writers Convention ever, a 1973 bash composed of goofy, fucked-up, assholey, and occasionally erudite scribbler idiots strutting about like the rock stars they unabashedly envied—as mistaken a venture as one could possibly expect but nonetheless interesting for its psycho-social implications regarding the "trade" (no imputation of which I'd argue, revealing why I tend to avoid "fellow" crits like the plague). The most fulsome approval of the semi-historic beer blast was phrased as "Rock Writers Convene, Find Each Other Absurd". Ouch! Heh, it's tough being on the receiving end of the critiquing game, ain't it, boys?
Tiven formed The Yankees and then the Jon Tiven Group, missing any form of true rock stardom by farflung planets but showed, at least in the latter case, he could write a song, and a damn good one at that. Wilson Pickett, Huey Lewis, Jeff Healey, B.B. King, and many others plundered the JTG's two albums rather nicely. The Yankees only LP was doomed to obscurity and reviews of it are few, far between, and tepid at best. A single listen reveals why (and, God, that hideous cover; it still gives me nightmares!). Nonetheless, Jon's true hand lay in production work and then song composition, not quite in playing per se. To that end, his list of credits is daunting, runs to a full damn closely packed page, and Shortcuts to Infinity / Yo Ma Ma: Symptomology is the latest effort, a duo with Steve Kalinich, also a composer-producer, most famously a lyricist for the Beach Boys.
The initial cut on the first disc, Infinity, is a VERY Stonesy song with elements of Iggy, as is much of the disc, a disarming anthology of extremely 60s-ish cuts rich in slop and druggy hedonism beside plentiful truckloads of sneer, smarm, and birdflip. It doesn't take too many cuts, though, before you fall in love with this quirky, nasty, boozy collection. It could never appear in any self-respecting forum or market—oh heavens no!—but that's why The Prime Mover invented the indies, which is where most of the good music, as odd and eclectic as it might be, presently resides.
I'm quite serious about the palatability of this rambling shambling mess, though. I mean, take a look at the sit-ins: Brian May (Queen), Chet Thompson (Genesis), Steve Cropper (Booker T & the MGs), Steve Ferrone (Average White Band), and others. They ain't there because this is the Archies, bubba. Lord, lord, lord, had John Lennon rose from the dead to join in, it wouldn't have surprised me one little bit…and parts of this aren't far from his days with Nilsson. So yeah, if yer a fan of the old era of The Faces and Stones as well as their outfall configurations (Wood's solo stuff, McLagan's, etc.), you sure as fuck can't go wrong with this 2-CD little goldmine, and I guarantee you're not going to find it's like much of anywhere else either, Hiram.
Track List: YO MA MA / SYMPTOMOLOGY DISC
Track List: SHORTCUTS TO INFINITY DISC
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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