Friday, August 29, 2014

Diesel Cats and the Jazz Explorers



"Diesel Cats and the Jazz Explorers departed from San Francisco Bay on May 17, 1990. Their 52-foot plywood ketch, The Blue Alembic, was equipped with twin diesel Cummins Marine engines, a collection of fine seaworthy microphones, and a state-of-the-art DAT recorder to capture the musical adventures they were intent on pursuing. Fourteen months later they sent me this chronicle of their year before the mast, their first long-playing cassette album In Search of Blue Treasure.

"The central and burning question that suffuses and drives this album is 'Who am I?' Cats and the Explorers throw themselves into this question time and time again, always surfacing with a new piece of the puzzle, a new shade of blue. Listen to the impending danger of 'Barified,' the jaunty hip-ocracy of 'Columbus Disrupts,' the suspended innocence of 'Typical '50's Night,' the dark yet hopeful mystery of 'For Joan's Dog;' delight and dance to the quirkily intimate 'Pirate Song' and the perkily buoyant 'Oregon Gumbo' and 'Fake African Cats;' there's plenty here to both provoke the mind ('Fidel' and 'Patriot Song') and soothe the soul ('Thar He Blows').

"The Jazz Explorers have been playing together as a unit for nearly 15 years. In spite of their name, they have yet to discover much jazz, but they bring a seasoned and sophisticated naivete to everything they play. And Diesel Cats, as captain and musical director, is a bricoleur extraordinaire, here combining flotsam and jetsam into a masterpiece of chamelionic syncretism. Despite the corporate sponsorship of the Blue Treasure Expedition/Tour (Budweiser and Miller were passed over for Friskies), Diesel Cats and the Jazz Explorers have completely spurned crass commercialism and bring to those whose tastes are most unusual and refined an album of rare beauty - by turns deep and mystical, then lite and playful, and yet always true and blue. In Search of Blue Treasure is an instant classic, whimsically metaphysical and spiritually uplifting, a tribute to the enduring values of the human soul."


-Cat Hentoff, Playtoy Magazine





Thursday, August 28, 2014

(The Truth Will Be) Barified



"From distant lands, even the seabirds could feel the clanking certainties of war in August, '90."

The moon fell hard on the sands of Arabia,
back home the low-riders slicked their hair for a night on the town.
And the white boys talk like they want some color in their blood,
and the new kid, Einstein, thinks the next bomb will be Muslim.
I got the small town jitters in a big-time way,
I can smell the whole thing comin' down.
And somewhere, someday,
one of these nights,
the truth will be barified.

And Joanie says, "Let's relax at Lois the Pie Queen's."
But I can't.
I just know, I can feel it,
comin' down behind the old six-two
down the up train south of town, yeah,
somewhere, someday,
one of these nights,
the truth will be barified.


Diesel "Mel" Cats - vocals
Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - electric guitar
Stu "Cats" Mulligatawny - baritone sax
Manx Ah-Moongus - bass
"Cat" Jones - drums


(The Truth Will Be) Barified © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Columbus Disrupts a Nation



"Our Ouija board said the score was Genocide 99, Tenth Commandment 1. We vowed respect and humility in all our travels."

Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - electric guitar

Fathead Cats - alto sax
Felonious Cat - keys
Manx Ah-Moongus - bass
"Cat" Jones - drums
Chano Gato - percussion

Columbus Disrupts a Nation © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pirate Song/Pirate Dance



"None of us knew what we'd be someday. The Dance is done bouncing on bent knees, swaying and rolling to the swells of the Sargasso Sea."


They asked me what I wanted to be
when I grew up, I said
I didn't know,
I thought I might screw up.
Who'd ever have thought I'd be a pirate.

I thought I might wear a dress some day,
I thought I might work for
very little pay.
I never would have thought in all my livin' days
that it would turn out quite this way.

I'm a pirate, you see,
livin' it up,
I take my fever right out to the sea,
I meet Jean Lafitte, and all those pretty boys sweet,
I dig the bullion treasure to the doo-dah . . .

A pig! I say,
"Oh I love this life."
I couldn't ever give it up now that I've had a taste
of the pirate's life:
sunrise, the sunset,
and every day's a little treasure,
that's the pirate's life!

Come on boys, let's play it . . .

Diesel "Mel" Cats - vocals, banana harp, carabao harp
Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - acoustic guitar
Fathead Cats - alto sax
Stu "Cats" Mulligatawny - baritone sax
Manx Ah-Moongus - bass
Chano Gato - percussion

Pirate Song/Pirate Dance © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Typical '50's Night



"Disoriented in a mid-Atlantic squall one night, we tried to re-create something familiar we'd all felt in our childhood."

Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - electric and acoustic guitars
Fathead Cats - alto sax
Stu "Cats" Mulligatawny - baritone sax
Manx Ah-Moongus - bass
"Cat" Jones - drums


A Typical '50's Night © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oregon Gumbo



"One of our many experiments combining black and white in the bosom of The Blue Alembic."

Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - acoustic guitars
Fathead Cats - alto sax
Manx Ah-Moongus - bass
"Cat" Jones - drums
Chano Gato - percussion


Oregon Gumbo © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thar He Blows



"We had occasional sightings of the mammalian Homo jazzbo. This one we caught on tape hard by the coast of Malabar."

Diesel "Mel" Cats - vocals
Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - acoustic guitars
Jeff Massanari - electric guitar
Fathead Cats - alto sax
Stu "Cats" Mulligatawny - baritone sax
David Matchett - trombone
Manx Ah-Moongus - bass
Chano Gato - percussion


Thar He Blows © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Star-Spangled Patriot Song



". . . there's a hole in the center, and a heart over-ripe . . ."

Run up the flag, the stars and the stripes
I cleaned up the carport with my best handi-wipes
Sun in the morning, the moon and a cloud
There's a hole in the center, and a heart over-ripe


Diesel "Mel" Cats - vocals
Felonious Cat - keyboards and sampling
Stu "Cats" Mulligatawny - baritone sax
"Cat" Jones - drums


The Star-Spangled Patriot Song © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Thursday, August 21, 2014

For Joan's Dog, Coltrane, Buried in Tunisia: Prelude & Tombeau



"Treat Africa well, for some of the deepest roots are there."

We was lookin' for somethin' like the root of a tree,
one of us black, and two white out of three.
In certain deep matters, no trace of a doubt
that our black dog Coltrane had reached mastery.

So we got into Tunis as hot as could be,
the shimmering desert was all mystery.
We'd come from a land, glutted and proud,
in need of a knowing that'd set our souls free.

So a man from the mountains with a gaze of maratabat
spied us and instantly saw what we sought.
He appeared as a mirage, or a shadow in a shroud,
we hadn't a chance for action or thought.

Lifting up Coltrane as if proffering a gift
he looked to the sun, and with only a shift
the dog disappeared and the man spoke out loud,
"The African sands have been too long bereft.

"The blood and the bones of the master returned,
look over your shoulders and see what you've earned -
that which is holy and can't be snuffed out,
though the body's been butchered and buried and burned.

"Return to your country and be brave and free,
listen for Coltrane in the waves and the breeze.
Friends you were once with all of you live,
and friends you are still and will ever be."

Now Coltrane, pure black dog of desire,
lies buried in Tunis, his heart still afire.
There's no way around it and there's no way out:
there's a soul in the center, and a heart that's for hire.


Prelude:
Diesel "Mel" Cats - vocals
Jeff Massanari - electric guitar
Max Ah-Moongus - bass
"Cat" Jones - drums

Tombeau:
Stu "Cats" Mulligatawny - baritone sax
Fathead Cats - alto sax
Jeff Massanari - electric guitar
Felonious Cat - piano
Manx Ah-Moongus - bass
"Cat" Jones - drums


For Joan's Dog, Coltrane, Buried in Tunisia: Prelude & Tombeau © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fake African Cats



"White boys love to try on blackness. It's good for the soul. We are one when we are blue."

Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - electric and acoustic guitars
Felonious Cat - keyboard
Graham Bruce - trumpet
Fathead Cats - alto sax
Alex Baum - bass
"Cat" Jones - drum
Chano Gato - percussion


Fake African Cats © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Meeting with Fidel



"A true story (a love story, actually, in disguise): a regular old song for all the old-time Cats fans."

I walked arm in arm with Fidel in Havana town.
He was a man of experience, and I of minor note.
He was troubled by the state of his Cuba,
I knew how time can turn things around. I said,

"Remember that time back in '62
when we buried our heads 'neath our desks?
Well now I know that you were not the enemy."

Just let go, Fidel,
give Havana back to the night.
Just let go, Fidel,
your home will be all right.

I was raised in a dream with my head buried deep in the sand.
I was a child of suburbia and all the world was white.
But when Fidel arrived he stayed up in Harlem.
He knew that he could turn things around.

And Dizzie and Angela and Alice and Malcolm,
they all had respect for Fidel.
It was a time when he was not the enemy.

Just let go, Fidel,
give Havana back to the night.
Just let go, Fidel,
your home will be all right.

I talked heart to heart with Fidel in Havana town,
"My deepest apologies for all my country's deeds.
But there's a darkness in the hearts of your Cubans,
they see how time has turned things around." I said,

"You've given your life to a great revolution
and done what you set out to do.
But now I feel that you've become the enemy."

Just let go, Fidel,
give Havana back to the night.
Just let go, Fidel,
your home will be all right.

Just let go, Fidel,
give Havana back to the night.
Just let go, Fidel,
your heart will be all right.


Diesel "Mel" Cats - vocals
Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - acoustic guitars
Felonious Cat - piano
Jeff Massanari - electric guitar
Fathead Cats - alto sax
Stu "Cats" Mulligatawny - baritone sax
David Matchett - trombone
Manx Ah-Moongus - bass
Chano Gato - percussion


My Meeting with Fidel © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blue Treasure



"At the end of the night, at the edge of the world . . ."

Franco "Cat-Man" Duwe - acoustic guitar


Blue Treasure © 1991 Dennis Criteser

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Diesel Cats was an amateur recording artist working out of his bedroom studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. He recorded eight albums between 1975 and 1993 using 4-track and 8-track tape recorders. History Club Minutes, his fifth, was praised by Page Smith and is very well liked by at least three other people.  Also check out album four and album eight online. 

All songs and lyrics © 1991 Dennis Criteser.  All rights reserved.

All illustrations © 1989 Joan Landsberg.

Very special thanks to Steve Kirk for mastering and transfer to digital files from DAT copies of the original analog masters.