Local Customs: Cavern Sound

Local Customs: Cavern Sound


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While many folks believe that the D.I.Y. phenomenon began with the rise of punk and new wave in the '70s, years before that bands were putting their own music on vinyl with their own dime, albeit without an allegiance to a hipster philosophy. Based in Independence, Missouri, Cavern Sound were one of dozens of independent recording studios across the country who would not only record your band for a reasonable fee (at Cavern, just $40 an hour in 1967), they could also broker a deal to turn your session tapes into records (mastering and pressing 500 45s would set you back $175). And if you liked, Cavern could add one of their in-house labels to make it look like you'd actually scored some sort of a deal. (Cavern's labels included logos for Pearce, Cave, and Rock Records.) Adding to the bargain, the folks at Cavern had an acoustically unique studio located in a former limestone mine, and the engineers knew how to deliver strong recordings without dawdling. The archivists at the Numero Group, who specialize in unearthing unique sounds and scenes of the past, pay homage to Cavern Sounds and the self-motivated musicians who recorded there with the collection Local Custom: Cavern Sound, featuring 24 songs from 18 different acts who cut records at Cavern. While there are a few examples of private-press eccentricity here (such as A.J. Rowe's fusion of redneck storytelling and minimalist funk "Smoke My Pipe" and Bulbous Creation's languid but nervous psych exercise "End of the Page"), most of the bands represented here either sound like enlightened amateurs or budding professionals, such as polished horn rockers American Sound Ltd., pop-psych harmonizers Fraight, moody folk-rockers Larry Sands & the Sound Affair, energetic and Jefferson Airplane-inspired Morningstar, gnarly hard rock belters Pretty, and sullen but inspired teen punks the Montaris. Mulligan's "Think Before You Leave" features Chris Nunley of Snoopy-rock titans the Royal Guardsmen, and Greg Gucker of the Burlington Express would later play in a band called White Clover, which after his departure evolved into arena rockers Kansas. Most of the acts that appear on Local Custom: Cavern Sound had little to show for their years in music besides the records they paid for, but this set preserves some unique talents with big dreams, and there's enough here that's worthwhile to make a convincing case that the Kansas rock scene had more talent and imagination than anyone might have guessed in the late '60s and early '70s.

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