I live on a quiet street in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, a block away and parallel to the overhyped foodie hub that is Smith Street. Aside from the tedious home-furnishings boutiques and toddler-apparel emporia pushing up through the concrete like so many weeds, Smith is also home to an absurd proliferation of restaurants—most with prices calibrated to the wallets of the ex-Manhattanites bestriding the neighborhood like new-world conquerers. But it wasn't always this way. A dozen years ago, the site of Brooklyn's future "restaurant row" was still just a dusty backwater boasting cat-piss-smelling bodegas, murky social clubs and dingy junk shops on every block.
And it was in several of those airless storefronts that I used to do some of my best crate diving for oddball records. Back behind the piles of chipped tableware and as-is electronics in one particular haunt—the place had no name—I could always count on having a semi-moldy box of vinyl to flip through. Typically, I could expect to find at least one item worth a buck or two every visit, but one particular day, I encountered a carton containing many dozens of sealed copies of a single peculiar vanity pressing. Its cover featuring a blissed-out dashiki-wearer, a diminutive
urbanite in a Superman costume, and a photocollage of
lethargic-looking zoo animals. Of course I bought a copy, but I've been kicking myself ever since for not having scooped up the entire cache.
Credited only to "Your Exotic PRINCE" on the dust jacket, this record is my all-time favorite Smith Street find, and I'm pleased to share it here in its entirety. As outrageous as the cover is, the music is even more so. It comprises six tunes, each one essentially a nonstop caterwauling of horns, accordion, banjo (or is that a ukelele?), wah-wah guitar and drums. The musicians, if you can call them that, sound for all the world like a combination of Sun Ra's Arkestra, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and your local junior-high stage band rolled into one. Even stranger are the bizarrely cut-off endings to each track. Just as the songs are clearly coming to a close, the sound stops, mid-din, as if the tape just ran out on the four-track. Sounds weird, right?! Check it out for yourself:
If anyone has a clue as to the origins of this recording, I've been dying to know more for ages.