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JON SAVAGE/MOJO

    
    Painstaking research traces the story of the Boulder and Denver punk scenes (most famous alumnus: Eric Boucher, aka Jello Biafra). It's a fascinating snapshot: very few of these groups ever made a record - not even an independent 45 - and so are represented by lo-fi home-recorded tapes. It feels like a field recording: a lost moment of folk art. All styles du jour are represented, from punk to new wave to powerpop and primitive electronica and pro-fem agitprop. The most affecting songs - like Radio Pete's (Just A) Patsy and Dancing Assholes' Hate Your World - come from that brief, chaotic period when energy was all, before standardisation by marketing and self-censorship. Recommended to all fans of the era. (Jon Savage)


BYRON COLEY & THURSTON MOORE/BULL TONGUE

     If you held a gun to our heads and yelled, “Quick! Think of a great whiskey!” We’d have no problem rolling out a list that would make you weak in the knees. If, however, instead of whiskey, you asked for a list of great Colorado punk bands, the list would peter out in an embarrassingly short time, even if we stuttered a lot. Consequently, it’s no lie to say we were shocked (SHOCKED!) by the amazing contents of Rocky Mountain Low (Hyperpycnal). This 2 LP set is an insanely great insider’s view of the Colorado underground scene of the late ’70s. We’d never even heard rumors about half the bands here, but Joseph Pope (of Angst “fame”) was an active participant, and along with Dalton Rasmussen, he pulled together a great set of unreleased nuggets from demos, rehearsal tapes & whatnot. Like lotsa scenes in their early days, the sounds here are heterogenous — ’60s style pop, hard garage, weird experimentalism and Brit-damaged lunge are all part of the mix, just as they were in the day. The book/zine included is a great blend of history, attitude, crappy-looking fliers and the best picture of Jello Biafra you will ever see in this lifetime (or any other) (although this one is good, too). Every town deserves this kind of deep investigation. Superb shit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      (Byron Coley & Thurston Moore)


HENRY ROLLINS

    Dalton Lawrence Rasmussen and Joseph Pope, with great care, dedication and patience, have excavated, extracted and brought to light a batch of songs from the Colorado underground music scene of the late '70s that not only fills in a missing chapter in American music history but also makes for a damn good listen. What a great compilation release! Not only is the music rockin' but when you consider what it took to put Rocky Mountain Low together, it's clear that all this music could have easily disappeared into the mists of time forever. Brave bands who dared to think differently and push back against the considerable repressive bleakness of Colorado, great music, heroic effort on behalf of Rasmussen and Pope -- this is a great surprise and a necessary listen. (Henry Rollins)


JOE CARDUCCI

    I thought I knew that Colorado (Denver/Boulder) sucks as a music scene, so I naturally assumed it always had sucked. I went to D.U. for a year and half, '73-'74, stopped in at Wax Trax in early '79 when Systematic was getting going in Portland and there were no local Colo releases to check out. That makes this compilation a real surprise. Colorado did have an unusually good Punk scene in the seventies. According to the extensive liner notes and bios, only four of these bands hit vinyl before 1980, but there sure was a lot of recording going on. And in that pre-New Wave/pre-Hardcore/pre-digital era the bands each had their own sounds, built from all kinds of Rock and Pop influences going back to the fifties. Plus Colo had TWO all-girl Punk bands! On this evidence Colo was once, for a brief moment, behind only L.A., New York, and San Francisco as a music scene. That is news to me... (Joe Carducci)


JELLO BIAFRA

    This is what happens when you combine a picturesque cultural desert, music in the stranglehold of Cocaine Cowboys, wanky Scientology Jazz Fusion and clueless arrogant bar owners with an unwanted generation of outcasts who hated the fuck out of the '70s and wanted to destroy it all in any way possible. This is the dawn of Punk in the middle of nowhere before anyone had a firm grip on what it was. This is raw art rebellion before all the rules, genres and fashion put the blinders back on. It was also the first time many of us felt we were truly alive. I should know. I was there. (Jello Biafra)


TERMINAL BOREDOM

    History, often, is a reflection of which stories are repeated with the most frequency and authority. Such tales tend to spin the history of punk rock as consisting of scenes in the big three US cities or their proper British cousin. Spain, Colombia, Yugoslavia, and Colorado, for instance, rarely make it into the narrative despite fertile scenes full of bands as original and exciting as anywhere else. Rocky Mountain Low makes the case for Colorado; in its extensive documentation — 31 songs by 17 bands — this compilation presents a thriving panorama of 1970s underground “punk” in the truest, best sense. The bands were not all of the same mold, but were each against the sonic grain from their peers and in their diversity they remind us that “punk” was once an elastic term. Some tracks rely on melody, plenty are amateurish three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust rockers, a couple just on this side of the hard rock/punk rock divide, some are just brilliantly bizarre outsider jams (I’m talking Dancing Assholes here, whose tracks are classic KBD material a la Screamin’ Mee-Mees), and there’s even some early Jello Biafra spoken word (really, sort of). In all, the album is both enjoyable and overwhelming. Accompanied by a 24 page booklet weaving together the stories of the bands to relate the account of a forgotten locale; there is plenty to take in. The compilers’ level of dedication to preserve their local history is beyond commendable. The sound quality is stellar throughout despite, presumably, old tapes and varying sources and, packaged as a double LP with a nice looking booklet, the end result is impressive. The history of punk as told through the eyes of four cities needs to be reevaluated; punk rock was and is a global phenomenon with tentacles in every region of the world. Obviously, I adore this release and hope that it can serve as the inspiration for others to do likewise for their town. (Dave Hyde)


ROCTOBER

     Dear Lord this is an amazing compilation! While plenty of cities had bigger, and in many ways, better, punk scenes in the late 70s, few scenes on earth - especially one as small as this, consisting of less than twenty bands - have ever been as thoroughly and lovingly documented as the Centennial State's has been in this glorious collection of lo-fi recordings, blurry photos, and painstaking, detail-ridden research. Denver and Boulder, and a few places I never heard of, had some interesting action, with diverse sounding, vital bands who gravitated around Wax Trax and Trade-A-Tape and recorded, made zines, and challenged their conservative and hippie surroundings. Best yet, the music is killer! My fave song is a chaotic noise rock tribute to Jackie and John's unfortunate Dallas drive by Radio Pete, a re-located Chicago rocker, a one time Mysterian, and the originator of the name Dead Kennedys (Jello's early Colorado audio endeavors are included). Continuing the songs that will get you an FBI file is a Dylan-esque ode to Presidential assassination by Dancing Assholes. The poppy girl group Guys deliver awesome slices of Brit-punk influenced magic. And predicting the eventual arrival of the World Series silver medalists Colorado Rockies, new wavers Transistors pitch an excellent ode to gay baseball lust titled "Baseball and Rock n Roll." Most exciting for our readers are ace tunes by the only band here that I had seriously heard of but not seriously heard, Jonny III, featured in the Roctober history of Wax Trax. You are stupid if you don't buy this.


BLOG TO COMM

    The letter I got that accompanied the envelope containing all of the above unmentionables (condensed into one compact disque...dunno what happened to the other one promised in the letter) said that "this may not be entirely to your liking" almost as if the gentleman who had sent the thing was APOLOGIZING for the contents to be found therein. Sheesh, what kinda way is that to sell your hard-worked/hard-edged labor of love to a cynical and over-the-top/hill rockblogger like myself anyway? If you ask me, a good hunkin' portion of this late-seventies Colorado underground rock "sampler" is to my liking, for this is punk before it became punque and a pretty (hopefully?) representative documentary of yet another facet of that brave DIY scene that birthed an uncountable number of great groups as well as astronomical bids in record auctions ever since! If you want to save millions just like those old tee-vee record collection commercials would tell us you'd do yourself proud by snatching up a copy of Rocky Mountain Low and have a time to be had just like back in the late-eighties when all of those KILLED BY DEATHs were thrilling you out of more'n just your trust fund monies!
    Hokay, so maybe late-seventies punkisms aren't quite thrilling me the same way the same stuff of an early/mid-seventies vintage does these days, but it still fills the bill more than, say, the 1987 Chuck Eddy playlist so why should I knock it anyway? And believe it or not (this is not some overactive imagination hyperbole for a disque that will be soon forgotten) but I also gotta say that just about every track on Rocky Mountain Low is worth your while, and true you could say that a sizable portion may be derivative of the big guns just like you'd find ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE PLANET but it's still high quality rock & roll especially when it hits its low quality best. I find these excursions into the punk realm a whole lot more adventurous, more thrilling in a suburban squat kinda way than I would various other attempts at aping the New York and London sounds handed down to us via ROCK SCENE perhaps because of this isolated scene being able to develop without too much interference from outside...I think.
    Waywayway too many items to mention here so I'll just blab about a few of my faves, like Radio Pete's early ('76) low-fi Barrettesque paens to John F. Kennedy as well as the Guy's all-gal snot rock to forgetting my faves of the batch, the Dancing Assholes who put the Flintstone Flop into their already garage-level recordings to the point where you wonder if the Urinals haven't been listening in and taking notes. You get it all, punk, proto-hardcore, post-garage, Phil Gammage before he went to New York and even the enclosed booklet sports a snap of a long-haired, wire-rimmed and unshaven Eric Boucher hanging out with Joey Ramone! So what else were you looking for???


THE PUNK VAULT

    When you think about punk rock in the late 1970s one of the last places that would come to mind would be the Denver/Boulder region of Colorado. The same could also be said about Chicago. Back in the late 70s, all the punk rock that got any kind of attention came from New York, California, or the UK despite the fact that places like Denver and Chicago had scenes of their own going on.
    Colorado did have a small little punk/new wave scene back in those days that very few people outside that will likely have heard of, especially if you weren’t there at the time. Only the most rabid of historians would be able to enlighten you to this obscure little scene that happened 30 years ago and a pair of them got together to put together this package known as Rocky Mountain Low.
    Unlike similar compilations that either try to document a single type of sound or increase the value of some bootlegger’s record collection (ie: the KBD series), Rocky Mountain Low attempts and succeeds in documenting an entire scene from the late 1970s in the Denver/Boulder area. I can think of no other examples of anyone who even attempted such a daunting task. What’s even more impressive is the fact that they succeeded in their quest.
    There are two parts to the Rocky Mountain Low package: a booklet and a compilation album. The booklet gives not only a great history lesson on how the little punk rock scene in Colorado came to be, but also a detailed band history of every band in that scene. I learned so much from reading those 24 pages of small print that I almost feel like I was there at the time, it was that detailed! It would seem that the scene centered around a couple of records stores, the most prominent being a store called Wax Trax which was started by a couple of guys named Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher. Sound familiar? Those Pied Pipers of punk rock did the same thing in Chicago after they left Colorado!
    The book took me quite some time to read despite only containing 24 pages because it is crammed with information and uses a small font, so they packed as much as possible in there along with some great old photos of the bands. As a huge fan of old punk rock and music in general it was a very fascinating read and extremely well-researched. The booklet alone easily is worth more than half the price of the package, it’s that good.
    The compilation (in the form of two vinyl LPs) features 32 songs from nearly every band covered in the booklet; I say nearly because one band wouldn’t allow their recordings to be used and a couple of others simply had no recordings of any kind known to exist. The music is mostly of the 70s punk style and some power-pop too. You can liken this in a way to the Dangerhouse comps in the way that most of the bands sounded different from each other and drew their sounds from different influences but still fit well together in the bigger picture. Some of the real standouts on the compilation include Ravers, Front, Jonny III (my favorite track on this comp is by them), DefeX, Lilly Rose & the Thorns, and Healers (which featured a pre-Dead Kennedys Jello Biafra!). The comp is a treasure chest of rare recordings, many of which should have been released as 7"s. Speaking of which, thanks to this compilation my want list has grown by a few records now after hearing this compilation and reading the booklet.
    The sound quality of the various recordings range from really rough (one song), to good, to excellent, with most falling in the very good to excellent category. The material provided for this compilation came from a variety of different sources and was painstakingly cleaned up and restored to the best of the ability of modern technology. A lot of time and money was spent on this project and the results are excellent.
    Any fan of old punk rock who is also a music history buff needs to have this in his/her collection as does any fan of 1970s punk rock/new wave rock and roll. The people behind this release deserve to be supported for spending so much time and money to put out something documenting a scene so obscure that most people didn’t know it existed. I’m a huge fan of these type of historical documents and these guys went above and beyond the call of duty in producing this one.
    A completely thorough historical document of a small musical scene that contains some wonderful recordings and an incredible booklet.
    Rating:4.5 Stars


WIRE (UK)

    Punk in the UK arguably became more exciting and diverse after the initial wave, which burned itself out in the process of razing the ground for the more extended experiments of post-punk. But the Americans did it ass-backwards, with pre-punk, pre-dating first wave UK punk, the most creative and formally radical phase of the new DIY ethic, as the wasteland of the early 1970s gave way to Television, The Ramones, Pere Ubu and an eventual deluge of groups caught between 60s and 70s garage modes.
    Of course it took it even longer to make it through to places like the Denver/Boulder area of Colorado. Rocky Mountain Low, a double LP retrospective of the late 1970s underground that gave the world the mixed blessing of Jello Biafra, captures a moment of flux and confusion that makes for some great listening. The set comes with a glossy booklet complete with in-depth artist histories and reproductions of memorabilia of the time. Just scanning the group pictures gives you a feel for how diverse and nascent the underground was at this point, with Dancing Assholes looking like a bunch of art-hippies, Driver like AC/DC, Guys like The Runaways and only the suitably named Dirty Dogs anything like punks-as-punks. Dirty Dogs actually have more of a James Williamson/Stooges guitar hero edge to them, while Dancing Assholes are a much more primitive proposition than their mugshot would suggest, with a sociopathic homemade edge that could almost pass for something from Bruce Cole’s Screamin’ Mee-Mees. Dancing Assholes have all sorts of interesting countercultural connections (as well as a drummer called Total Beatoff) with later member R. Anthony Flea aka Geoffrey Fourmile a collaborator with John Fahey and a star of Fahey’s cryptic Voice Of The Turtle sleevenotes. Biafra takes lead vocals on Healers’ “School Bus”, more of a rant than a rocker but with a nicely fucked-up and formless feel. Ravers were the first group in Colorado to describe themselves as punk and they came out of The Ramones’ school of crude amphetamine takes on 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll, as does Radio Pete, another 60s garage obsessive.
    Indeed, many of the groups documented here have an umbilical link to rock ‘n’ roll and the rumours of punk, alongside a visit by The Ramones, seemed to have functioned more as a reconnection to the source than any kind of overthrowing of previous musical standards. Still, it liberated people to put on their own shows, to record singles in their bedroom and press them up themselves and to re-christen themselves things like Rikki Retardo and Connie Clit. Rocky Mountain Low does a good job of capturing the feel of punk as it played out in the more isolated corners of the map. (David Keenan)


JERSEY BEAT

     You learn something new every day. Prior to listening to this simply astonishing 31 song various artists compilation, I had absolutely no idea that Colorado had anything remotely resembling an insanely rich, diverse and hoppin’ underground punk music scene in the late 70s. Well, that particular state sure had one hell of an amazing punk movement goin’ down in the late 70's. The fiercely crunchy’n’punchy tracks featured herein offer everything you love about lowdown gritty straight-up ballsy and sneering vintage punk: snarly vocals, angry lyrics, churning basslines, topical subject matter (Radio Pete’s poignant “Jackie’s Song” deals with President John F. Kennedy’s assassination), fabulously raw’n’rippin’ guitar riffs, snappy tempos, hard-grinding beats, and, most importantly, a properly bitter and defiant “fuck you!” attitude. Some of the songs are hysterically irreverent (“Let’s Kill the President” by the wonderfully named Dancing Assholes), others neatly prefigure the 90's riot girl trend (the jaunty “Hey Look” by the Guys, the bitter “Always Better Than Me” by the Profalactics), several rock out with galvanizing go-for-it furious aplomb (the supremely savage shredder “Sorority Girl” by the Dirty Dogs), some songs are just plain strange (the truly odd troika of “School Bus,” “Cruisin’,” and “Obey the Law” by the offbeat experimental outfit the Healers), a few are incredibly catchy (the rousing “All Cried Out” by the Immortal Nightflames, the bouncy “Fun” by Lilly Rose & the Thorns), all certainly smoke on one way or another. Granted, the audio quality of these recordings is very basic and rough around the edges, but that kind of gloriously ragged and scrappy unpolished stuff is what real punks is all about, baby! A first-rate compilation. (Joe Wawzyrniak)


ONION/DECIDER

    One of the worst things about nostalgia is the crotchety implication that things aren't as good as they used to be. Punk-rock anthologies are particularly prone to this grumpy-old-man syndrome—which is partly why Rocky Mountain Low is such an essential and compelling fossil. A veritable dinosaur skeleton pieced together out of lo-fi recordings—most of them previously unreleased—by Denver/Boulder punk bands of the late '70s, the disc doesn't whitewash or mythologize the young, clumsy, and at times totally misguided bands that comprised that small and mostly unknown scene. Granted, some of the musicians featured—including a young Eric "Jello Biafra" Boucher, who appears here with his early and hilariously creepy Boulder-based experimental project The Healers—went on to find some measure of success, including one of the comp's creators, Joseph Pope, whose scrappy Denver punk outfit The Instants is featured here. (Pope would later record for SST and Sub Pop with his California band Angst). Granted, almost all of those who made a small name for themselves did so after leaving Colorado—and therein lies the inherent humbleness of Rocky Mountain Low. As spelled out in a massive, lavish booklet detailing the tiny and insular Colorado scene of the pre-hardcore, pre-Reagan era, bands like the synth-heavy Cells and the art-damaged Dancing Assholes were mostly making things up as they went along rather than locking into some prefabricated punk look or sound like the groups in less isolated parts of the country. Indeed, according to Low's booklet, half the bands on the disc seem to have either shunned the punk tag or hated the genre outright. Self-denial, self-loathing, and a healthy dose of self-destruction: That's what made the Colorado punk scene of the late '70s such a fleeting thing, and it's also why the songs on Rocky Mountain Low are perhaps the purest, most vital core sample of local music you could ever hope to hear. Decider rating: A+ (Jason Heller)


AQUARIUS RECORDS

    Every city in every state, every country, has its own little musical scene, one that has grown and changed over the years, bands playing gigs, recording records, breaking up, moving on to other gigs, finally getting real jobs and settling down and having families, those records and gigs and bands forgotten. But think about all the places, all the cities, all the years and decades, and how many bands and records that we've never heard or heard of must be lurking out there. Records that were given to friends, consigned at the local store, or just stashed in the garage or basement. Rare record reissues are nothing new, and there's enough that they can't all possibly be good. In fact it's gotten to the point where if a record is old, and nobody heard it, it suddenly becomes a rarity worth unearthing. Which is not always the case. But with all those records out there, all those forgotten bands, some with only a song or two legacy, it's worth digging though all the rest, on the off chance of stumbling on to something amazing. And scenes have always fed off themselves, often where there was one good band, there was two, and where there was two, there was a whole bunch. Which brings us to Rocky Mountain Low. A killer collection of seventies rock and punk rock and power pop from Colorado, which is a place we're pretty familiar with, at least from the eighties onward, but we didn't know a single band here, and some of these groups are amazing. AND, for such a sprawling varied collection, there's very little chaff. In fact, this could very well have been a Numero Group reissue, super well researched, incredible song selection, a totally unknown lost scene, a bunch of amazing bands, and tons of killer tracks, maybe a bit more punk rock and lo-fi, but then, that's fine with us.
    The Ravers are crunchy and jangly and sound like they're from Minneapolis, Radio Pete might be our favorite, effortlessly creating some gloriously rough edged reverb drenched garage pop, the sort of thing all those new groups are desperately emulating, sounds like Ariel Pink or the Oh Sees or Ty Segall if they were from the early seventies, the Front are snarly almost metallic sounding punk rock, Defex kick out the muddy murky bass heavy jams, all squiggly angular leads, wild drumming and killer pop hooks, the Cells are total Romantics style new wave power pop, the Profalactics are all yelpy Riot Grrl sounding lo-fi punk rock three chord lo-fi crunch, the Instant are woozy low fidelity punk pop psych, a lot of this reminds us of Guided By Voices too, that sort of British sound filtered through a US punk rock aesthetic, and it goes on and on. So many kick ass bands, so many amazing tracks, a double lp AND a cd, with a massive full color magazine sized booklet, jam packed with extensive liner notes on EVERY band here, cool stuff for sure, and an awesome glimpse of yet another lost and forgotten scene...


LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH

    CAVEAT: if you wanna hear this music, you’re gonna have to buy this LP. The folks behind it requested I do not share even one track. I’m gonna review it anyway because it is fuckin’ awesome.

    A great companion (precursor really) to the Local Anesthetic compilation from a few years ago, Rocky Mountain Low captures the early punk rock days of the Denver/Boulder scene and shares them for posterity. In fact, Rocky Mountain Low presents itself as an exhaustive representation. Every single band from the scene is represented on this recording and/or the accompanying booklet. You get the super rockabilly punko power of the Jonny III, the streetwise sounds of The Front, the new wave noise of The Cells and The Healers and the proto-Velvets power of The Corvairs and The Ravers (who went on the become The Nails). It’s pretty damn cool.

    Now these kind of comps can sometimes be hit or miss. They are usually created by folks who were a part of the scene they are documenting and oftentimes these folks are so enthusiastic to present their towns legacy that they are unable to have an objective viewpoint of the music. So being an ex-Denverite and supporter of the town in general, I was a little worried when I received this in the mail that it was gonna be chock full of terrible recordings of 5th rate bar bands playing bad new wave. After all, Jello Biafra, (then known as Eric Boucher aka “Occupant” aka “The Wicked Wizard”) fled the area early on and moved to San Francisco. Maybe he did this because the bands in the Rocky Mountain area sucked so bad?     Well, I am happy to report that this is not the case. In fact, let me echo Joe Carducci in stating that the breadth of good music that came out of the scene in Denver in the late 1970s is a big fuckin’ surprise to me. And not only were there a lot of great bands but these bands took it upon themselves to record their music on 4 tracks and off of mixing boards. So the end result with this comp is a really good set of well-recorded tunes (mostly) by a pretty diverse set of bands. Take for instance, Lilly Rose and the Thorns with their great song Fun. Try these lyrics on for size:

    I wanna rock-n-roll oh yes I do
    and I wanna have sex, I wanna have it with you
    and I wanna get high any way that I can
    yes I wanna rock-n-roll wont you be my man?

    The background music on this amazing little punk ditty sounds like the New York Dolls or something and Lilly is actually a dude. A trans-gendered dude. So let me ask you this….did it ever cross your mind that there would be a gender bending punk-n-roll band in Colorado in the late 1970s? Kinda like a Rocky Mountain Wayne County and the Electric Chairs? That seems pretty wild to me. I bet their shows were fucking CRAZY.

    Speaking of gender, there are also two all female punk bands in this set. The Guys play some cool punk-n-roll. The Profalactics on the other hand, from Boulder, predate Anti-Scrunti Faction with a more politicized and noisy approach. Like Bold Beginnings, the Louisville punk rock compilation on Noise Pollution from a few years ago, gender did not seem to be an issue to these bands and I think this is an important point. It’s easy to lose sight of it in today’s post-pop-punk world but there was a time when punk rock was, gasp….outsider music. People who played punk rock didn’t fit in. I know this is why it appealed to me. Cuz the cool kids used to try and take my lunch money.

    When I look at the photos of these first wave punk rock bands from the Denver/Boulder area what I see is a bunch of social misfits with nothing to lose. They were in the middle of nowhere and they didn’t expect anyone to hear what they were doing. They played their music because what else were they going to do? Go to Broncos games? Listen to John Denver? The fact that we are fortunate enough today to hear this music is pretty damn impressive.

    I just wish I could share a song or two!


UGLY THINGS

    This one reminds me of the compilations that Rhino put out in the late ‘70s, like Saturday Night Pogo, L.A. In, or Yes Nukes. To be precise, it reminds me of the good stuff found on those, not the Springsteen wannabes that were polluting the grooves between the Surf Punks and the Hebe Geebees. More like the ‘70s garage rock of the Droogs or the mock punk of the Low Numbers. But this wasn’t the work of a large team like Rhino’s, this was the result of one man’s tireless work (Dalton Rasmussen, take a bow).
This is a real labor of love: obscure material, mostly unreleased, painfully restored, a fancy, quite thick, informative and ‘iconically’ well put together booklet, and a CD version of the whole thing as a bonus to the double vinyl set (one song was left off the CD, an early and very different version of “California Uber Alles” that sounds more like Can that what the Dead Kennedys later made of it).
    Though I didn’t find any songs that would disturb my all-time favorite top 100 (if I had one), I’m pleased to report that many gave me that neat little buzz between the ears non-record collectors look for when they buy their sonic supplies. Only a couple of slightly too lo-fi tunes missed their target – out of 32, that’s a good score.
    Among the goodies, I was especially delighted by the stoogian rock of the Ravers’ “Goddess Of Love”, a great Syd Barrett-like DIY freaky folk punk by Radio Pete (Patsy), some Gizmos/Dickens type racket by the Dancing Assholes, the post-glam “Fun” by Lilly Rose & The Thorns (though the voice of the female lead singer is so manly, I first thought it was a gay punk song a la Raped), the Screamers-like weird punk of the Healers, the Gizmos-meet-Destroy-All-Monsters sound of the Instants or the Gizmos-meet-(early) Slits shambolic sound of the (all-girl) Profalactics. And no band here sounds more ‘Rhino Records’ than the Transistors; part Dickies, part Devo and totally novelty.
    I could list even more great/good tracks, but you get the picture. Colorado had a nice and healthy scene back then, and it’s sweet to now being able to share a bit of the pleasure. (Laurent Bigot)


OTHER MUSIC

     Wow, first that Local Anesthetic comp, and now this fantastic collection that goes even deeper into the Denver/Boulder, Colorado (and even Wyoming) punk rock scene of a couple years earlier. This LP includes some serious archival action along the lines of Eric Boucher (a/k/a Jello Biafra) and his group the Healers, and the Boulder-based band of misfits the Dancing Assholes, who obviously had a huge impact on the future Dead Kennedy. I'm sure that the Healers/Dancing Assholes rendition of "California Über Alles" might be considered a huge selling point in a lot of circles, but there's a ton of even better stuff here, and a lot of it is guns-a-blazin' punk rock like KBD stars DefeX, the fantastically dumb and to the point Lilly Rose & the Thorns, the X-tastic Transistors and more. There is also the rudimentary punk of the Profalactics and the aforementioned Dancing Assholes, and the tuff power-pop of Immortal Nightflames -- look for someone to cover "All Cried Out" in the next 24 hours or so. Rocky Mountain Low comes with an exhaustive 24-page book packed with photos and info that will keep you busy for some time, and all of the material except the Dirty Dogs tracks is previously unreleased. Action of the highest order! The LP version includes a bonus CD of almost the whole record (minus one song). [DMa]


MAXIMUMROCKNROLL

     A total knockout of a compilation. This double-LP is a loving documentation of the late-'70s Colorado underground/punk scene. Not all of the bands are gonna blow you away. A lot of the songs sound like they're straight-to-tape practice recordings (because they are). Still, for an area of the country generally under-represented in the annals of early punk history, Rocky Mountain Low is a treasure. Collectors, no doubt, know the DEFEX and maybe the RAVERS, but like any thriving scene there were plenty of bands around Colorado who never managed to put out a record. And like most scenes outside of the West and East Coasts, much of what passed as punk at the time sounds, to modern ears, more along the lines of killer, snarling, tough rock 'n' roll. Good enough for me! You get plenty of that here. The RAVERS kick off the compilation with their driving, stalker-like "Goddess of Love," plenty of low-end. DIRTY DOGS' "Sorority Girl" has the sneering vocals of punk, but a noodle-y, moody guitar solo smack in the middle of an otherwise brass-knuckle tough song. DANCING ASSHOLES brings up the simple / stripped down / political front, and CORVAIRS give us "TV," a killer, punchy, power-poppish number with a searing, fuzzed-out surf-like guitar part. If you know your punk history I'm sure you'll be on the lookout for an appearance by Eric Boucher (a.k.a. Jello Biafra). He makes an appearance in a band called HEALERS that generally noodled around in the experimental, improv direction. The HEALERS' John Greenway wrote the original lyrics to "California Uber Alles" (reprinted in the included zine and an early HEALERS version of the song appears at the very end of the comp). DEFEX delivers standard (but great) KBD fare. The GUYS and PROFALACTICS pull up the girl/women band front, with the TRANSISTORS doing an X-like guy/girl harmonizing vocal trade-off. Tons of bands, with each getting just two or three songs. Just enough. In addition to the two LPs of songs, there's a massive, full-color zine/booklet packed with dense text laying out the what's what on the history of Colorado's early punk scene. All in all, Rocky Mountain Low is not a record I'd pull out to listen to more than once every six weeks or so, but it's definitely something that's going in my collection. Top-notch work in putting this monster together. (Mark Murrmann)


FEAST OF HATE AND FEAR

     This is some document! Rocky Mountain Low is a compilation of late 70s Colorado underground rock music. It's a mix of punk, power pop, and new wave from all over that square state. Seventeen bands smashing you with thirty-two tracks of all nearly-unreleased tunes. Some of the highlights include The Cells, The Instants and The Profalactics with some brash punk, the psychotic swirl of Joey Vain & Scissors, the powerful power pop of Jonny III, the hard rock riffs of Dirty Dogs, the Los-Angeles-era-X meets new-wave quartet, The Transistors, and the closing track by The Ravers doing their best Lou Reed impression. But, let's face it... almost everyone who buys this will probably be after the tracks from one band, and that's The Healers, which features Eric Boucher on vocals, who is better known by the stage name he chose when he moved away to San Francisco, Jello Biafra (of the Dead Kennedys). Now I wrote: double 12" + CD, and that's what it is. Not a vinyl or plastic version, but both. You get two 12" slabs of wax (with an extra track of the pre-DK version of "California Über Alles"), an amazing color-covered, 24 paged booklet, and a CD - all for under $30! The booklet is great, too. It's so detailed, as it not only fills you in on Colorado's music of the time, as well as individual band history, it even lists what format type the bands recorded in. If you're a fan of punk there are more than a dozen reasons to buy this compilation, so get to it before it's gone.


THE BIG TAKEOVER

     Often with retrospective scene compilations, a few bands are the rulers of the roost (in this case the white hot RAVERS, later to become THE NAILS, punk teens THE FRONT, and the rock-o-billy JONNY III), the art damaged eccentrics (DANCING ASSHOLES, HEALERS, featuring a pre-SF JELLO BIAFRA, and PROFALACTICS), the peripheral instigators (DIRTY DOGS) and femme fatales (THE GUYS, LILLY ROSE & THE THORNS), and the cool indie-esque intelligentsia (THE INSTANTS, featuring the POPE BROTHERS, later of SST signess ANGST, and THE CELLS). This pattern exists here too. The difference however, is the absolute quality of the music across the board. There’s virtually no track worthy of the scan button. Even if you don’t prefer a certain track stylistically, something about its aura remains compelling, intriguing and memorable. (Josh Gabriel)


DENVER POST

     Few critics in their right minds would hail Colorado as a hotbed of early punk rock, but the vigor of our state's late-'70s punk and new wave scene should not be forgotten. Joseph Pope and Dalton Lawrence Rasmussen give it a proper salute with "Rocky Mountain Low", an exhaustive, lovingly assembled compilation on CD and double LP.
     Like countless music scenes of the time, we had our own versions of the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex and others. And while locals like the Healers, Ravers and the Cells offered barely tweaked versions of those bands, it's nice to hear the snotty DIY ethic alive in a region usually associated with country- rock and folk.
     Although small (about 20 bands total), the Denver/Boulder scene supported punk champs like Wax Trax Records (still kicking at East 13th Avenue and Washington Street) and fanzines like Not New Wave News. "Rocky Mountain Low" illustrates it with a glossy, 24-page booklet featuring fliers and classic photos, such as Joey Ramone and Boulder's Jello Biafra (later of the Dead Kennedys) hanging out backstage at Ebbets Field in 1977.
     Despite the wildly varying sound quality, the comp features an armload of legitimate gems, such as the Immortal Nightflames' Clash-flavored "All Cried Out," the Cells' epically tortured "You Give Me Nothing" and Profalactics' raw, punchy "Always Better Than Me." This is a must-have for Colorado music enthusiasts. (John Wenzel)


DAGGER ZINE

     Denver? Really?! Although a few faves have crawled out of Denver in recent decades (Apples in Stereo, Dressy Bessy, etc.) if you asked me anything about pre-1990 Denver, much less 1970’s Denver, I would have snorted “The Fluid and John Denver” and walked away. Lovingly put together by Dalton Rasmussen and some friends, we get to hear and read the story of Denver’s early days. In the fantastic/informative 24 page zine that come with the CD we find out that Wax Trax Records started here before moving to the Windy City and if course that this state spawned Jello Biafra (Eric Boucher to his parents and teachers, see if you can recognize the photo of long-haired Jello standing next to Joey Ramone in the mag). About the music? Well, it’s good to see that Denver, like any other major metropolitan city, had angry, frustrated kids who were fed up with AOR and MOR music they were hearing on the radio and decided to do something about it. What you get in Rocky Mountain Low is a collection of 31 songs that range from weirdo art punk (Joey Vain and the Scissors) to skinny tie power pop (Immortal Nightflames, etc.) to the Ramones-inspired punk of Johnny III . Elsewhere I wonder if the Dancing Assholes (great name!) got in any hot water for their version of “I Wanna Kill the President” and Dirty Dogs would have given the Dead Boys a run for their money had they been based in NYC. There’s plenty of other band you’ve never before heard but need to (Profalactics, Cells, Healers, etc.). Hopefully with this inspired collections other folks will document their lesser-known cities and give us all history lessons that we all deserve (and need).


KFJC 89.7

     Time capsule Colorado time crunch. JFK and Iggy worship and yeah Jello before he coagulated and migrated. Late 70’s era, when record stores walked the earth and served as a crossroads, spawning bands from index cards tacked up. Where articles about the Ramones and Television, or even older V.U. records ignited dreams. Lengthy liner notes give these soon senior citizens ample and detailed love. In part by Joe Pope of Angst (and on here with The Instants). Somewhere a man remembers his Sir Tacos days, and should be proud of his pinched punchy wailing as the mouth of the Dancing Assholes! The double-disc starts so well with the Ravers (bassline bobbing necks, fuzz chunk guitars). Radio Pete’s Lee Harvey Oswald ballad overshadows his Jackie O instro. Several power pop drops from Immortal Nightflames and Johnny III. Lilly Rose nails “stoopid” punk on “Fun.” Munster cheesiness on “TV.” Ladies get lumped together (apologies to Lilly, but she’s between worlds). All-girl The Guys, have an infectious yodel-y singer, but the Profalactics get a little closer to the grrrl, with an (overly?) earnest punk approach. The Transistors hit the target (with X-y harmonic overtones but goofy synth too) on “Bombs Bombs Bombs” but strike out on “Baseball.” Primordial version, pre-DK, of “California Uber Alles” that’s not Alles that. A lot of lyrics talk about “rock ‘n roll” like it something tangible, something to believe in. Ah, youth. Things to do in Denver when culture was dead? (Thurston Hunger)


OX-FANZINE (Germany)

     “Rocky Mountain High” – a terrible song from John Denver that became Colorado’s state song. The title of this compilation is appropriate, the subtitle being “the Colorado Musical Underground Of The Late 1970s” - and they document that what was in its time in Denver, Boulder and other places known as “high culture.”
    This appears/was produced as a double LP, and the songs are also in a CD, complete with a booklet in fanzine-format. Joseph Pope and Dalton Lawrence Rasmussen put together the over 30 songs and really did an excellent job – lovingly and detail-oriented, not a quickly put together deal, how many such compilations are. The comprehensive 24 page supplement with a lot of text about each band is outstanding – it’s clear how life in the US state for freaky kids was at its time – not much fun. And it becomes clear that despite the provincial seclusion of Colorado and especially the 2 cities of Denver and Boulder, that they had an astoundingly active scene that was seldom seen as true (outside of the area) – one looked toward L.A., San Francisco and New York.
    By the way, Boulder: from there comes a certain Eric Boucher who sang for the band the Healers when he was home for visits, and also played with the Dead Kennedys. Four songs from him are included here (one, the early version of “California Uber Alles” is the bonus, vinyl only track).
    An interesting compilation, not only for the local interest of those who were present at the time, but an exciting overview that between 1976 and 1979, was regarded as isolated from the big punk and also new wave scene. Aside from the HEALERS I especially like The CELLS, RAVERS, DANCING ASSHOLES, DIRTY DOGS, THE CORVAIRS, DEFEX, THE TRANSISTORS, and all the other (bands) worthy of posthumous consideration.(8/10) (Joachim Hiller)


RAZORCAKE

     If not for Denver, my hometown I dub a big city on training wheels, there would be no Dead Kennedys. It goes to show that although like many unhip places, Denver may be overshadowed by bigger cities with more vibrant music scenes. However, my town will never be completely overlooked by the punk scene. This is but a few of the historical and cultural nuggets unveiled in The Colorado Rocky Mountain Low. This effort of Joseph Pope and Dalton Lawrence is one part fanzine, one part music compilation, and one part painstaking labor-intensive love. And of the fine features of those endeavors showcased gracefully here, the authors contextually preserve the underground music scene and its contributing members of the RockyMountain region during the late ‘70s. Pope best summarizes what this zine is about: “What you are holding is an overview and recorded document of every band that was playing and performing underground music in Colorado in the late 1970s. Good? Maybe. Bad? Definitely. Ugly? You bet.” That’s what’s so appealing about The Colorado Rocky Mountain Low. It’s not some superficial “Best Of” punk re-hash music compilation limited in style and often flagellating in cultural do’s, don’ts and is and isn’t. This gives the reader an unabashedly honest and objective guidebook to this palpable music scene. Rasmussen encourages readers to capture their respective scenes in much the same way he and Pope have. Such artistic independence is a common motif. “I find it particularly interesting that most of the songs presented here were non-live (i.e., not recorded at a gig).” Rasmussen wrote. “Many of the bands exemplified a true do-it-yourself ethic, either recording themselves or having a friend with proper equipment record them, while a few of the bands were ambitious enough to pay for actual studio time.” For some, this compilation may be too much of an intellectual leap because of the apparent differences from band to band presented here and the whole historical duty may be lost on them. But for true music fans, this is a refreshing approach to learning about music because, beyond being stylistically segregated, this compilation is truly eclectic. This gives fans a chance to think for themselves in terms of what they like from that scene or not. With three hundred of these made, this is a wise investment and for Pope and Rasmussen. Bravo. (N.L. Dewart)


WESTWORD

     All backward-gazing compilations are exercises in nostalgia to some degree — but the best of the breed eschew sentimentality in favor of a more clear-eyed brand of affection. Exhibit A: Rocky Mountain Low, which captures the vitality, humor and exuberance of a punk and post-punk scene that flourished in the shadows. Viewed objectively, songs such as Dancing Assholes' "I Wanna Kill the President" aren't very good, and numbers by Front (featuring future Tommy Boy exec Steve Knutson) and Immortal Nightflames (co-starring blues axman Eddie Turner) hardly qualify as original. Yet like the strongest material here, including Cells' "Don't Change Your Mind" and Corvairs' "TV" (with its tribute to The Munsters), they contribute to an irresistible portrait of a period marked equally by alienation and naïveté.

Q&A with Dalton Rasmussen, co-curator of the Rocky Mountain Low comp - 8/19/2009

Movers and Shakers 2009 - Westword's Best Of The Year

     The title of this ambitious, lavishly annotated compilation pretty much speaks for itself - but it still doesn't quite capture the years of research, dedication and love that went into it. And the music itself? Alternately raw, polished, anarchic, ridiculous, sublime and bizarre. The songs by these mostly forgotten Colorado rock pioneers should serve as a lesson - in both ethics and aesthetics - for the Denver scene of today.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              (Jason Heller)


AVERSION

    These days, we're a live blog away from our favorite band's set list on the other side of the world, and seemingly everything ever done by any act, local or national, is blogged, recorded and discussed somewhere online. Music, information and connections with other fans are just a mouse click away.
     Because of that, it's almost strange to think of the goings on of any band, let alone a whole scene, disappearing down the rabbit hole of fuzzy memories and lost master tapes. But it's happened. And continues happening. Rocky Mountain Low stakes a claim on Denver's punk-era past before it's lost forever. A combo package of a print zine (remember those?) with band biographies and loose histories and a 31-track compilation of the Mile High City's completely ignored underground, the kit's a must-have for any Denver rock aficionado or punk-rock archeologist. Paired with Smooch Records' Local Anesthetic (2007), it's about as good of a look into a forgotten scene as anyone's going to find.
     As is usually the case with scene-anthologizing releases, Rocky Mountain Low is a mixed bag. There's a couple lost gems by The Ravers, who'd change their name to The Nails and find minor major-label fame in the '80s, with roughed-up pub rock sounds vaguely akin to Eddie and the Hotrods. A few basement recordings from Jello Biafra's first band, The Healers, surface, but they're so god-awful they're more of a novelty for Dead Kennedys fans than anything else. Immortal Nightflames, who made the trek down from Laramie, Wyo. often enough to be included in this collection, show off some greasy rock and power pop licks, and Corvairs' "TV" is a trashy pop number full of new wave wit. Defex, of course, contributes a couple tracks as well.
     Wading through a lot of the other tracks is more of a historical requirement than anything else. A pair of female-fronted bands, Guys and The Prophalactics, show off Denver's gender neutrality more than its musical abilities, and another flood of bands -- Lilly Rose and the Thorns, Dirty Dogs, Dancing Assholes -- don't seem too plugged into the spirit of punk as much as relishing the opportunity to get loud and naughty on stage.
     Those underground scenes of yesteryear are becoming ever more distant memories, but they're not lost yet. Let's hope more old-schoolers around the country look to Rocky Mountain Low as how to preserve them. Once those glory days are lost, they're lost forever, folks. Don't let it happen. (Matt Schild)


COLORADO SPRINGS INDEPENDENT

     Ben Gilbert, everyone's favorite rare-wax-peddling, cab-driving, socialist-hating, black-sock-wearing weirdo, surprised me with a copy of Rocky Mountain Low, an absurdly awesome double vinyl (with bonus CD!) set of rare late '70s Denver/Boulder punk rock. I've only even heard of two of the 17 featured bands: the retro-surf-wave Corvairs and the pre-Jello, pre-Dead, pre-Kennedys project, the Healers. With 31 cuts — including the first-ever recording of "California Uber Alles" as performed in the CU-Boulder campus Pizza Hut on Feb. 9, 1978, by the Healers vs. the Dancing Assholes (my new favorite band name of all time), two all-girl punk and power-pop groups (the Guys and the Profalactics) and a 24-page magazine insert — it's an absolute steal for $28. (Adam Leech)


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So there you have it. Not just us trying to convince you this is worthwhile, but lots of other folks telling you how
wonderful Rocky Mountain Low is as well.

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