Fricke's Picks: Cosimo Matassa, Husker Du's Greg Norton and Hawkwind

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Engineering New Orleans
Born in a city where music and food are not just staples but religions, the legendary New Orleans engineer Cosimo Matassa founded his first studio in the closest thing to a church minus the Mass: his family's French Quarter grocery. By the time of the 1951 singles by Smiley Lewis and Dave Bartholomew that open the British-import box The Cosimo Matassa Story (Proper), Matassa was churning out heaven on a daily basis, with a self-taught expertise for getting perfect takes under near-party conditions. Over the six years and 120 tracks here, Matassa engineered virtually every great local R&B and early rock & roll session, from seminal dates by Fats Domino and Little Richard to swinging footnotes by Ernest Kador (the future Ernie K-Doe) and Art Neville, later of the Meters. Matassa, now eighty-one, retired from music in the Eighties, returning to the food business. But you can live on this cuisine indefinitely.

A Hüsker's Return
When Minneapolis punks Hüsker Dü broke up in 1988, guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart went solo. Bassist Greg Norton quit music, becoming a chef. The Gang Font is his first band in two decades (founded with drummer Dave King of power-jazz trio the Bad Plus), and they are as hardcore as the Hüskers in their instrumental frenzy. The Gang Font Feat. Interloper (Thirsty Ear) was cut in a day, and the enthusiastic haste shows in the Font's knot-rock zoom and free-form blowouts.

Live Hawkwind Ritual
In 1972, British stargazers Hawkwind threw the bread from their U.K. hit "Silver Machine" into a multimedia road show and lavish live album, Space Ritual (EMI). Thirty-five years later, Hawkwind's spaced howl and vicious terra firma drive on this two-CD reissue -- with a pre-Mötorhead Lemmy on bass and a bonus DVD of the original stage freakout -- still make most current inner-space rock sound like prep-school drone.