DANVILLE, ILLINOIS IS not a town that necessarily brings to mind images of reckless rock'n'roll abandon, but in such nondescript locales the fiercest noise is often created. In the case of this sleepy, economically depressed burg in the flats of eastern Illinois, two hundred miles south of Chicago, rock'n'roll ground zero was a wooden town house nestled in a secluded lane-.-a venue that was, for a few years at least, the site of intense and retrospectively mind-boggling activity. The homespun recordings emanating from the Midnite Sound studio are amongst some of the most bizarre and intriguing of the mid-1960s.
It was our great honour a couple of years ago to showcase the unheralded rock'n'roll genius of Dean Carter on the Big Beat anthology "Call Of the Wild!" (CDWIKD 213). That particular release has become a firm favourite with fans across the globe that have a penchant for the wildest, most unselfconsciously extreme vintage rock. Carter was partners with Arlie Miller in the Midnite Sound studio (and Milky Way label), and it was in their marvellous lo-tech facility that the singer waxed his off-the-dial blend of rockabilly and garage rock. Carter and Miller also produced other local acts in a similar fashion, and these are the sounds that populate the tracklisting on "The Midnite Sound Of The Milky Way". Suffice to say, if you liked Dean Carter, you're gonna love this collection.
Previously only known only to a handful of collectors, Milky Way's release schedule was small and, through commercial necessity, populated with corny country as much as rockin' excess-.-therefore the bulk of this CD consists of material that has not previously been released. It chronicles a strange and unique catalogue, balanced between crazy retro 50s-styled rock and instrumentals, and blistering teen punk and folk-rock. In the latter categories, we have fine state-of-the-art garage from the Four A While and Grapes Of Wrath, as well as Danville's 12-year-old sensations the Cobras, who actually made the local charts with their plaintive Try. There's also the intriguing Willie & The Travelaires, the world's first (only?) Amish garage band, whose Fiery Stomp is a classic of hayseed rock. George Jacks turns in some somber folk-punk and the 12th Knight are featured on the bone-chilling fuzz instrumental Death Row.
However, the true star of "The Midnite Sound Of The Milky Way" is one Kookie Cook, second only to Dean Carter as a rock screamer of no small dementia. Kookie was a drummer and played in local bands with Carter and Miller, before cutting a bizarre version of Roy Orbison's Sun-era rocker Ooby Dooby in late 1965. The following year he returned to Midnite Sound to lay down a batch of self-penned material brimming with feverish excitement and reckless abandon, every song punctuated by thumping drums, piercing guitar and tortured screams. One listen to stupendous selections like Workin' Man, Misery and the bloodcurdling Revenge should make a gibbering convert of any non-believer.
Full liner notes from Eric Welsch of the Cobras and Arlie Miller himself detail the story of this odd and captivating chapter in garage rock history. For fans of both 1960s punk and over-the-top vintage rock.
By Alec Palao