Friday, October 31, 2014

"The Basement Tapes Complete" To Be Released November 4

Next Tuesday, Columbia will release the 11th volume of its Bob Dylan Bootleg Series: The Basement Tapes Complete. Six CDs - 139 songs! - of music from Dylan and The Band at Big Pink in West Saugerties, New York, during the summer of 1967, presented in as close to chronological order as is known. (A two-CD set of 38 songs will also be available.)

The Basement Tapes, a double album of songs released in 1975, purported to be from those informal sessions, but many of the songs featured overdubs added years later, and there were eight songs recorded at a later date by The Band without Dylan.

There have been collections of these songs available as bootlegs for decades, most notably on the superb A Tree With Roots. However, this new 6-CD set includes thirty uncirculating tracks.

A number of songs have been posted online as pre-release teasers. Here they are:

Odds And Ends (Alternate Version)

Dress It Up, Better Have It All

Don't Ya Tell Henry

Lo and Behold (Take 1)

Yea! Heavy And A Bottle Of Bread


Ain't No More Cane (Take 2)

900 Miles From My Home

I Shall Be Released

NPR is streaming 12 tracks:
Edge Of The Ocean (Disc 1, Track 1)
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere (Take 1) (Disc 3, Track 17)
I Shall Be Released (Take 1) (Disc 3, Track 19)
Quinn The Eskimo (Take 1) (Disc 4, Track 4)
This Wheel's On Fire (Disc 3, Track 21)
Johnny Todd (Disc 2, Track 1)
Don't Ya Tell Henry (Disc 4, Track 21)
I Don't Hurt Anymore (Disc 2, Track 19)
Silent Weekend (Disc 5, Track 12)
Crash On The Levee (Take 1) (Disc 3, Track 10)
One Too Many Mornings (Disc 5, Track 2)
I'm Your Teenage Prayer (Disc 2, Track 8)
And, finally, Pono has 30-second samples of all the songs on the six discs.

For more on the Basement tapes, check out Greil Marcus's Invisible Republic (later retitled The Old, Weird America) and Sid Griffin's Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, The Band, and The Basement Tapes. Griffin wrote the liner notes to the upcoming Columbia box.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Death Merchant #7: The Castro File

In Death Merchant #7, Richard Camellion - supreme master of disguise, deception, and death - is sent to Cuba to prevent the assassination of Fidel Castro. The Russians want Castro to assist them in overthrowing existing governments in South America, but Castro, feeling the need to throw off Soviet influence, is unwilling. So the Russians plan to assassinate him and substitute a lookalike in his place, and gain complete control of Cuba.

Camellion travels to Cuba with a Canadian passport in the name of Milton F. Sessions, a left-wing sympathizer who works for The Voice of the People, a radical newspaper operated by the CIA in Toronto (!). We learn a bit more about the mysterious man known as the Death Merchant. He is described as "ruggedly handsome" and is an "agnostic". He hates bugs and has an "absolute horror" about rats. His love of raisins is mentioned twice.

Rosenbegrer describes Camellion as "a man with a computer for a mind .. a man with nerves of pure ice who killed more efficiently than most men could spit on the sidewalk." He is a "dealer in instant oblivion", a "one-man circus of Death and Destruction", and a "vendor of mayhem and violence".

Camellion is ambushed on his fourth day in Havana, and realizes there is probably a spy within the Cuban Revolutionary Council who outed him to the government. He kills all eight of the Army intelligence agents sent to capture him and escapes to a safe house. But the spy has also tipped off the DIER agents about the safe house and so there is a big shootout, with Camellion escaping through a tunnel in the floor of a back room.

He ends up high in the Sancti Spiritus Mountains, where the CRC has its headquarters. A plan is hatched to kidnap two Russian officers who frequent a Havana whorehouse. Under threat of torture, the officers reveal that the Castro double is due to arrive by ship in a few days. The Death Merchant and CIA agent Vallie West attack the cargo ship - Camellion disguises himself as a Russian military officer to gain access to the ship - and grab the double, thus foiling the Russians' plan. They end up hijacking an armoured car outside of an arena where Castro is speaking, then drive straight into the arena and dump the drugged double's body near Castro's box.

At one point, Rosenberger has Castro reflect on the differences between Cuba and the U.S.:
He was very proud of what he had accomplished. Unemployment was nonexistent in Cuba. Illiteracy had practically vanished. Schools and medical care were free, and rents were fixed at no more than a tenth of one's income. Hunger had been vanquished, and children with bloated bellies were now impossible to find.

Castro's jaw knotted in determination. Let the Yankee imperialists call him a brute! Let the wealthy pigs call him a communist! The world still defined his achievements by the schools, roads, housing projects and hospitals that had already established Cuba's preeminence in Latin America for mass delivery of social services. That's more than the Yankee imperialists could say for the United States, where five million were unemployed, eighteen million were on welfare, and the average worker couldn't afford to be sick!
When the mission has been completed, someone thanks Camellion and the U.S. government for its help. This gives the Death Merchant a chance to rant about
the idiots who occupy very high places in Washington ... peanut-minded men who should be running filling stations. Instead, they're governing the United States. This explains why Billy Graham leads the White House in prayer to a 'God' who applauds napalm, and why Washington leads us in worship of a corporate self whose body we do not perceive!"
When told he sounds bitter and is asked "don't you love your country?", he replies:
If I didn't, I wouldn't give a damn! I wouldn't criticize Washington's crazy politics! But I don't like living in a blind tribe led by Lilliputians who stupidly mistake power for greatness and mechanical aptitude for holiness!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Death Merchant #19: Armageddon, USA!

It's only a few weeks since his adventure in Algeria, and Richard Camellion (aka the Death Merchant) is in Missouri, attempting to break into the seemingly impenetrable compound of the Sons & Daughters of the Stars and Stripes, a right-wing organization funded by pharmaceutical millionaire Harrison Garfield Motts and dedicated to overthrowing the U.S. government.

Camellion is also worried about a shadowy group calling itself the George Washington Brigade, which is demanding the president and vice-president resign - with a GWB member taking control of the US - or it will set off atomic bombs in three American cities. The group has already exploded an A-bomb deep in the Gulf of Mexico to demonstrate its seriousness.

Armageddon, USA! (published in November 1976, the sixth DM book published that year) is somewhat different in that early in the story Camellion runs down two dead ends in which he gains no valuable intel or makes any headway in the case. He first goes to the SDSS building disguised in a beard and shoulder-length blond hair ("both as false as the Communist Manifesto"). He pole vaults over the eight-foot high barbed-wire fencing in the rain and blasts his way in. However, Camellion is unable to get any information on the A-bomb locations because a code is needed to open the safe in which the info is likely kept. (Wouldn't he have realized any safe would be locked before attacking?) Then the Death Merchant and a CIA agent try to reach Motts's mansion but come under heavy gunfire while on the estate and have to retreat.

It turns out that SDSS is indeed behind the bomb threats, but it's by pure chance that the group was singled out by the US Government out of hundreds of fanatical and/or possibly terrorist groups. So why was the FBI suspicious of SDSS? Because the group doesn't do much of anything - its members take some target practice at their main building and criticize the government in their newsletter - so Camellion and others assume they might be simply laying low and planning something big!

Eventually, Camellion et al. kidnap one of Motts's executives and threaten him (1984-style) with snakes, and he blabs about everything. Once again, our heroes are on the water (Puget Sound) and like two other DM books (#s 8 and 15), Camellion has his boat move up alongside the other one so he can leap aboard the enemy vessel and attack. This time, there are only four goons to deal with.

In the end, the locations of the bombs are learned and they are dismantled. Everyone is glad the threat has passed, but Camellion, in his usual Mr. Know-It-All tone, reminds them that this is only "round one".
[E]ven now the American people are sitting squarely on a nuclear time-bomb. At the present time there are sixty nuclear plants operating in the United States. Each plant produces several hundred pounds of plutonium yearly, along with the same amount of enriched uranium. Yet as far back as 1971 the Atomic Energy Commission admitted that one percent of its plutonium was missing; and only a few months ago the Nuclear Materials Enrichment Corporation said it could not account for  percent of the fissonable materials it handled over a six-year period. All of this amounts to thousands of pounds of nuclear materials, enough to make hundreds of bombs. Sooner or later, another nut group will come along and make itself a thermonuclear bomb, and we'll have to go through the same hunt-and-find business all over again.
In at least two previous books, Rosenberger mentioned that Camellion (about whom we have little biographical information) grew up in St. Louis. And yet, in Armageddon, USA!, even though Camellion sets up his base of operations in St. Louis - the SDSS compound is located outside the city - Rosenberger never mentions that Camellion has returned to his home town. It's truly bizarre. Did Rosenberger simply forget? (The narrator does note that St. Louis "had become a jungle" thanks to various Supreme Court cases that had delivered the city into the hands of "two-legged scum" and other types of "human garbage".)

Rosenberger also includes his first real instance of gun porn - a staple of many action-adventure books - when he stops describing a shootout and devotes two long paragraphs about how a certain gun works:
The Death Merchant dropped the C.O.P. into his pocket and reloaded his twin Auto Mags. This was the first time he had used the tiny C.O.P. and was pleased with the smooth operation of the weapon which had been designed around the century old pepperbox style multi-barrel concept. Of all steel construction and boasting double action lockwork, the Compact-Off-duty Police weapon was only 5 1/2 inches long and weighed only 25 ounces. The gun had four barrels and "broke open" like an old-fashioned revolver, this tip-up being accomplished by first unlatching the spring-loaded locking lug. As the barrels were manually tipped up, an automatic extractor lifted hulls or loaded rounds far enough out of the chambers for easy withdrawal.

The trigger was double-action only Each time the trigger was pulled it cammed the striker assembly 90 degrees to line up on and strike one of the four firing pins in a clockwise sequence. The system was very dependable. Should a misfire occur, the shooter simply pulled the trigger again to line up a fresh cartridge in the next chamber. The striker assembly was always locked in the rebound position until the trigger reached its rearmost point of travel. Yeah, the C.O.P. was a very damn good hide-away gun.
And then it's right back to the action! During one gun fight, we learn a little bit about anatomy, as one slug "cut[s] through the long saphenous vein" and another bullet "lodged in the Quadratus femoris muscle".

In addition to Camellion's usual anti-religion rants, a CIA associate, George McAulay, gets several pages to vent about Catholics, abortion, and income inequality in the U.S. When another agent notes that "there aren't any religious wars in the U.S.", McAulay goes off:
The antiabortion people, that small but loud-mouthed group of morons who want to take away women's rights - that's who I'm talking about. Since Roman Catholic groups are leading the fight for the antiabortion amendment to the Constitution, I say it's nothing more than a Catholic attempt to enshrine its own religious doctrine in the Constitution, where it would be safe from attack even from the U.S. Supreme Court. ... Catholics have a right to their beliefs, just like any other religious group, but they don't have a right to force their beliefs on the rest of the United States.
And later in the conversation:
Let's take the two sanctimonious candidates running for president! What kind of program does either one offer for old people? Have you heard either candidate go into detail about some kind of National Health Insurance, or making the rich pay their fair share of taxes. You haven't, and you won't, because this is a rich man's country; and anyone who votes for either idiot is a damn fool, because it doesn't really make any difference who's president. It's the rich who run and control the U.S., and no matter who the president is, the poor will always become poorer and the rich will always get richer.
The evil Motts is also anti-Catholic. At one point, he rattles off a series of bullet points, showing how the U.S. government wastes millions of taxpayers dollars. And like the DM, he's not all that keen on Israel, either.

All of this is fairly interesting to read in this type of book, even though the conversations spring up out of nowhere and come off as incredibly stilted. It makes me very curious about Rosenberger, who I had read was pretty conservative. Camellion and the other characters state these opinions as facts - and there have been negative comments about Nixon and the Vietnam War in several DM books - and Rosenberger doesn't have anyone refute them, or even argue against them all that much.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Death Merchant #18: Nightmare In Algeria

Richard Camellion (the Death Merchant) is undercover in Algeria as "Christopher Landsdowe", a missle guidance expert wanted by the US for sedition. He's meeting with members of the Black Avengers, who have formed an alliance with the Blood Sons of Allah , a Palestinian terrorist organization. The groups are plotting to kill the U.S. President and Secretary of State, and the President of Egypt. The Death Merchant's mission is to wipe out both Algerian groups.

Camellion's cover is blown when he is recognized by Russian spy Irina Golbov, who has infiltrated the Avengers. (Golbov previously appeared in DM #5: Satan Strike. When she is asked later how she knew who Camellion was, she lies and says she was at the Mountains of the Moon, from DM #15: Vengeance of the Golden Hawk.) The Death Merchant escapes a wild shootout and retreats back to the house of Israeli agent Roger Chauvel and his wife.

Nightmare in Algeria is the fifth of six (!) Death Merchant books that Rosenberger published through Pinnacle in 1976. The hectic pace of banging out these adventure novels must have been exhausting, and Rosenberger makes several obvious errors. Only Dr. Umari knows Golbov's true identity; the Black Avengers know her as Leila Shukairy. However, in a strategy meeting with the Avengers, Umari calls her "Irina" four different times over two pages. Late in the book, Camellion has someone who has been quite dramatically shot to death about 12 pages earlier return to life and appear in a different scene. Rosenberger usually refers to the Sons of Allah is S.O.A., but sometimes he uses O.A.S.

Rosenberger is amusingly transparent when it comes to giving information to the reader:
"Then I'll have to go to the Casbah [dressed] as an Arab, perhaps as an old Berber," Camellion countered slyly.

"No, not as a Berber," Marie said softly, "since the name Berber is derived from the Latin barbari, which means 'barbarians.'"

"Very well, then as an Imazighen, the Berbers' own name for themselves. I believe the name means 'man of noble origin.'"
Later, Major Mohamet Arida explains "his master plan" to the terrorist group:
As all of you already know, the missles will be carried by trailer. From here, we shall proceed to the ruins of Timgad. As you already know, this ancient Roman city is on the coast, between Algiers and Oran.
Additional information is provided when various members ask Arida a few leading questions.

And when Camellion arrives at an olive oil processing plant to attack a meeting of the Sons of Allah, Rosenberger shares some of his extensive research with us:
The olive itself is a small, pretty evergreen tree. Growing between twenty-five and forty feet tall, the tree has white flowers and a small, shiny fruit that is purplish-black when ripe. But some olives are picked before they are ripe, or when they have developed a dull or yellowish green color; these olives are treated with special preparations and are sometimes pickled. To obtain the olive oil, unripe olives are pressed by a machine, the result a clear, yellowish oil that has many values. Not only is the oil used as a dressing for salads and for cooking, but many medicines contain olive oil, which is valuable as a laxative. It is also used in making soaps and dyes.
Camellion (as usual) is not shy about his anti-religion views. When a compatriot says, "God had better be with us", Camellion sneers:
God? Do you mean the Old Testament God, who garnered such an impressive list of atrocities - the God who demanded and sanctioned human sacrifices? As I recall, Jehovah himself was fond of directly exterminating large numbers of people, usually through pestilence or famine, and often for unusual offenses. ... No, my friend. We don't need the help of any cosmic Adolf Hitler!
The Death Merchant states he is fighting this mission "only for money", not to benefit Israel, which he calls "a nation of pious thieves who go about stealing Arab lands in the name of ridiculous superstition".

When asked if he is afraid of dying, Camellion says, "There is no such thing as death. Dying is only a brief illusion in a universe full of life, a universe of constant transition. Most things are illusion. What was reality only a moment ago is now obsolete." (He's deep, man.)

Odds and Ends:

Poetic, if slightly ungrammatical:
A tried red sun, preparing for sleep, chinned itself on the horizon, its feeble light falling on Algiers. In the daytime, the white buildings of the beautiful city which lay in a green amphitheater of hills, with the blue Mediterranean washing its shores, glitters [sic] in the bright sunlight. ... The Old Quarter, which centers on the Casbah, or citadel, is on a large hill and its "streets" are frequently stairs. Here are old houses with nail-studded doors and latticed balconies overlooking the narrow lanes.
A bizarre mention of Richard Nixon, whom Rosenberger/Camellion hates:
... his chances for life were less than those of Richard Nixon's being elected pope of the Hazy Hexagon Church of Homely Homosexuals!
Rosenberger name-drops Mack Bolan, Don Pendleton's action-adventure hero!
Poor Shafik Jamil had neither the reflexes nor the experience of Richard Camellion. With the exception of Mack Bolan, another deadly crime fighter known as The Executioner, very few men had.
Then, on the next page, Camellion is described as a "killmaster", the name of yet another action series (Nick Carter). Rosenberger actually wrote one of the Carter books: #125, Thunderstrike in Syria, in 1979.

One character tells another: "Don't get your balls in an uproar". According to The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, this phrase dates back to 1961 and is of Canadian military origin.