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This year, singer/songwriter/band-leader extraordinaire, the hardest working musician in New England, Chandler Travis will be releasing three new albums, one from the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, another from the Chandler Travis Three-o and finally Variety Pak, all these being issued on his Iddy Biddy label. First up will be Variety Pak, currently set for a Summer release. Chandler has had a long and checkered career in the world of show biz, beginning in in the seventies when he and Steve Shook joined up as Travis Shook and the Club Wow and then in the 80’s with the Incredible Casuals. Thereafter his musical vehicles have been the nine-piece Philharmonic, the Three-o (a quartet - ?!) and the Catbirds. Here’s his explanation of Variety Pak:

“This album has cuts from all my major projects over the last 40 years or so. I guess a lot of folks would've waited for their 50th anniversary for such a retrospective, but it's not really a retrospective, because half of it is new (recorded by my constant companion and Minister of Beverages, the noted genius Ducky Carlisle, at Ice Station Zebra in Medford; either outtakes from the most recent Philharmonic, Catbirds, and Three-O albums or from the next Philharmonic album, also in progress) and the rest has only seen the light of day on very limited releases (mostly self-burnt special editions, like the RadioBall series we did in 2000; or, in the case of the Casuals, one cut is from a CMJ compilation that came out in 1990, and the other is from the Casual World Control comic and cassette release “I Smell a Vat” from 1996 -both very rare.)

“As for not waiting until my 50th, well, everyone does that -47th comes sooner and is way more fun. Plus, I might not make it to my 50th- I could easily, for instance, get hit by a bus -and I really like all this stuff, and wanna just make sure it gets done. No time like the present and all that.

[By the way, I'm thinking about adding some snippets from some minor projects, too, just to up the ante and keep things extra-zesty... don't know yet... not sure how much zest people will be able to stand.]

“And why bother at all, one might conceivably inquire, in which case I would reply that I'm immensely proud of the variety and range of material I've been fortunate enough to perform and record over the last few decades. I'm a voracious listener, into all kinds of screwball stuff, and range and variety has always been at the core of what I've tried to do over the years. It has been hard to get this point across; hopefully, this is my most concise and focused attempt yet.

“The earliest thing on here so far is a live Travis Shook song from the early seventies. I worked w Steve Shook in a duo from 1968 until the mid-eighties, when the little rock combo we'd founded with drummer Rikki Bates gradually kinda took over. As a duo (originally called Travis, Shook, & the Club Wow, we were lucky enough to have a pretty good following for a while in the northeast, and falling in with George Carlin was also a big break. We opened for him pretty much constantly from the early seventies through the early eighties -got to play every state in the union except (alas!) Hawaii and (what th'?) Delaware, plus Carnegie Hall, the Tonight Show, Dick Cavett, the Midnight Special -you know, a whole bunch of stuff. George was a wonderful patron, and a close friend, but after a while we found ourselves falling back on little satirical comedy bits and giving short shrift to the amazing original stuff Steve used to come up with, which in part led us to form the Casuals. (Another big part of it was finally finding a drummer that we really fell in love with in the person of Rikki Bates. We'd been looking forever, but really, where would you look for someone like Rikki? You can see why it took a while.)

“So then it was off to the races with the Incredible Casuals in the eighties, adding Johnny Spampinato and later (when Steve left), Aaron Spade. The first few years, we played everywhere, constantly, and again got a pretty good little following going. It was the early eighties, new wave and punk and ska were all still flowering; it was so long ago that there was still some vague hope of making a living at it -ha! We became the un-official house band at the Wellfleet Beachcomber out on the cape of cod, a gig so delightful that it pretty much soured us on playing anywhere else. We still do it occasionally, and it still totally hits the spot. So there's a couple of really obscure Casuals cuts; one, “Everyone Plays Guitar in the United States of America”, not only was one of my very favorite Casuals tracks ever, but is definitely the only Casuals track that references Leonard Bernstein.

 


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“In the nineties, I started to get “serious” about doing some solo stuff, starting with something called Bozo Presley & the Perfect Love Balloons from Hell before I gradually realized that having a lot of people calling me “Bozo” all the time might not be entirely fulfilling. So I put out a couple of solo albums, 1992's “writer-songsinger” and 1998's “Ivan in Paris”. The opening track on “Variety Pak”, “When She Smiles At Me” is an outtake from the latter (till now only available on RadioBall # 20, “You Must Come Over Tonight”, which was perhaps the slickest, most fully realized effort of the 22 CD RadioBall series, which was presented as a way of celebrating the millenium in the year 2000. I still think it's one of the best things I've ever done. The idea was to get every possible pop impulse into one track, and I was aided and abetted not only by my longtime pal and cohort, Bill Scheniman (who started as an NRBQ ruffian but who also twiddled the knobs for Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, and Chic, among many others), but by the young drummer he brought in, Abe Laborial Jr., who went on to make quite a name for himself the last decade or two with Paul McCartney. So, yeah, that was fun, too!

“And then it was on to the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, a band so large and so nuts that it could pretty much accommodate my every wreckless impulse. Eight amazing musicians, including horns, mandocello, accordion (my brother from another mother and co-founding member of the CTP, Dinty Child, handled those last two and more), keys, eventually singing valet, and (as always), Rikki. We dazzled ourselves so thoroughly that we felt we had to put out 20 CDs or so right away (the afore-mentioned RadioBall series, which we thought was the most amazing thing ever attempted, not realizing how far it was beyond the ken of the average reviewer or music director to take anywhere near that much in. Thus, a tragic mis-fire in retrospect that seemed to irrevocably confuse the issue, but nonetheless a mountain of work that I'm still extremely proud of, represented here by four tracks credited to four different artists: myself, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic Trombone Shout Band, Travis Shook, and Lester.

“Lester was my first shot at forming a band with my buddy Steve Wood, who is in my opinion, the hardest rockin' fellow of all the hard rockin' fellows, at least around these parts. And Lester was a big, noisy assault, and pretty damn glorious, though unfortunately short-lived. The Lester cut here is from RadioBall #22, wittily titled “Lester”, and features something you almost never hear on any of my records, which is me playing lead guitar on Steve's wondrous opus, “Human Man Beast”. Total blast, for me, anyway, and, really, isn't that what's important here?

“I suppose you could say Lester begat the Catbirds, years later -certainly we're like-minded, again happiest making an ungodly racket. This particular ungodly racket is an outtake from our debut album, “Catbirds Say Yeah”, that we all loved, but that I felt was too similar to one of the other tracks (and we had, as usual, way too much stuff, so it made sense save some good stuff for later- there's still plenty.)

“And then it's on to the gentler side, an extension of some of the quieter things I did with Travis Shook, solo, and most recently with the Chandler Travis Three-O. “How Can We Always Be So Far Apart” is an outtake from the Three-O's recent debut, “This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater”, while “Candle” is from my last solo record, “After She Left”. I like depressing stuff; I like romantic stuff. So sue me.

“And then there's the Christmas song, “Hoping For Christmas”, recorded at the session for the next Philharmonic record (as was “By the Way” and “Grand Rt. St. John”); and the bonus tracks, which bring up the thorniest of the thorny issues that I've had to face since seemingly the beginning of time: can humorous (not to mention completely idiotic) material co-exist happily with the not particularly humorous variety? And really, from the point of view of my entire career, and the general public's overwhelming reluctance to allow that a person could have such opposing impulses, I'd have to say, no.

“However, I am nothing if not an exceptionally stubborn old prick, so here's a little handful of ridiculousness as kind of a chaser. The first one is from my one and only comedy album, the self-burnt “Hi, I'm Lippy Blappinklappy” (still available as a download on my trusty website, .) “Drunk, Angry People Shut Up” was a digital single, so that's the reason you probably never heard of that. And the last one, “Where's My Glasses”, a live CTP selection, features repeated use of the word “fuck”; deal with it (or simply employ your CD player's most powerful feature, the ejection button, which is your friend, especially at times like these.)

“So proud that I've been able to play such a wide variety of music with so many wonderful musicians the last few decades -just thought it might be fun to lump some of the extremes together on one disc and see what happened. Hope no one explodes!

chandlertravis.com

   
 

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