Recent Articles and Reviews
The New York Times, August 8th, 2004
by Brian Turner of WFMU 91.1FM
... Led since 1969 by the guitarist and vocalist Robert Kidney, the band offers
an off-kilter take on the blues somewhere between the styles of Captain Beefheart
and Fred McDowell. "Jimmy Bell's Still in Town" (Hearthan) is a reissue of a 1975
live set that the band, still relatively unknown, performed while opening for Bob
Marley in Cleveland. The group could have attracted more attention by emulating
more avant-minded Midwesterners like Pere Ubu (whose David Thomas was behing this
reissue), but sometimes the best-kept secrets take a while to filter out.
Village Voice, July 6th, 2004 11:50 AM,
go to Village Voice,
by George Smith. Review of "Jimmy Bell's Still in Town"
They've Got Blisters on Their Fingers, Which Are on Your Throat...
The blues have me by the throat, and the fingers are a man's who lives in a cemetery.
That's Robert Kidney's bio in the notes of Jimmy Bell's Still in Town by "The Numbers"
(a/k/a 15-60-75), the chap's band. It's a come-on that hooks me - Chris Youlden of
Savoy Brown, for example, was claimed to live near a graveyard. And it's been the
experience that musos who actually profess to live in shacks on the grounds of the
dead pack more grave-ity than many of their modern colleagues who dress like ghouls.
The Numbers' recording is live, restored from the '70s, the record of a relentless
jam band taking cues from Kidney's hip-man vocals. The band is tight, turns on a dime,
and sounds like the J. Geils Band if J. and everyone else eighty-sixed Peter Wolf and
went off into King Crimson-land circa Earthbound.
(And that ain't prog-it was the Crimson album in which Boz and the drummer had Fripp
doing rancid-buttered r&b.)
The Numbers, one gathers, were the very definition of unpopular but committed;
liner notes allege that one sissy girl, a Bob Marley fan, felt they hurt her ears.
The Ohio group dress natty, and while much of their story could be mythology,
it's a great one when backed up by their funky saxes-and-guitars sound.
The Eugene Weekly, May 20th, 2004,
go to the Eugene Weekly,
15-60-75 (The Numbers), Jimmy Bell's Still In Town,
REISSUED BY HEARTHAN RECORDS/MORPHIUS ARCHIVES 2004. By Sean Campanella
It's time to move, brothers and sisters. Climb in your car and travel back to mid-1970s
Cleveland, Ohio, courtesy of blues innovators The Numbers. Shadow the sidewalk-dealers
and boozers, sleep in the all-night movie theaters, peel off the greenbacks and jiggle
your loose change. Jimmy Bell's Still In Town is urban Robert Kidney's gritty yet
abstract expression of street-lit vitality and finger-snapping determination. Propelled
by unflagging guitar and drum, swaggering vocals, blues harp, plenty of straight-ahead
sax and maracas, the momentum builds throughout the album and peaks on the 11-minute
track, "Jimmy Bell." The Numbers' big sound makes for driving-music par excellence
and the pace is at times furious, but always under control. Pure, unbeatable rock-n-roll,
both otherworldly and forthright, without pause or pretense. The spiritual dimension of
Kidney's story is best exemplified by his confrontation with a heroin pusher on "Thief."
Boiled down, the Numbers' message is this: Those who keep moving persevere.
David Thomas of Pere Ubu called Jimmy Bell's Still In Town "one of the great moments of
our culture." Recorded live in 1975.
Rolling Stone, April 15th, 2004
by David Fricke. Review of "Jimmy Bell's Still in Town"
It wasn't all steel-mill Stooges action in 1970s Ohio. While Pere Ubu and Devo were
in the early stages of mutation, 15.60.75 - a.ka. the Numbers Band - terrorized local
saloons with a future blues of Sun Ra-style sax honk, raga-guitar spinout and funky
"Sister Ray" surge: Bonnaroo in a bottle, way ahead of schedule. They recorded this
album live in '75, while opening for Bob Marley in Cleveland. Go back and do the math.
The LA Weekly, April 2nd, 2004,
go to LA Weekly,
by John Payne. Review of "Jimmy Bell's Still in Town"
15.60.75, Jimmy Bell¹s Still in Town (Hearpen Records) With liner notes by
David Thomas, the Pere Ubu guy. It seems that 15.60.75 is a "blues" band
who¹ve been around since 1970, lineup intact, pumping it out at little
shithole bars in a place called Kent, Ohio. Undaunted, true to their
"vision," they see the blues as an evolutionary form, not an incessantly
samey set of formulas and phraseologies, but something to dissect and obsess
over and wildly wrench the stock constituent parts of - in the sweatiest
way, of course. Sax sections bleating, guitars a-whirling, extending,
dizzily trancing and you¹re seeing circles crashing in your eyes. This is
where "blues" is more like jazz or in fact rock, with their original intent
intact and thriving: liberation by obliteration of the form itself. Now,
that makes it a true blues, according to my opinion, ¹cause it sounds
nothing like a beer commercial, concedes its whiteness but makes no issue of
it, pummels/cacophonizes/believes the blues like that nice weirdo down the
street who adds four stories onto his classic midcentury bungalow, paints
each one some gross shade of pink and builds a scale replica of same for all
the birds - it looks terrible, but he did it and no one else did.
Review of "Numbers Blues" by Joe Cushley, Blues Matters Oct - Nov 2003 Issue
Don't Step on My Nu-Blues Shoes...
The nu, alt, avant - whatever-you-call-it-blues, had its origin in the 1960s, when
white artists, such as John Fahey and Captain Beefheart started to take liberties with
the idiom, and made it anew in the process. One outfit you probably won't have heard of,
but who are massively important in the development of this strand of blues history are,
15 60 75, otherwise known as The Numbers Band. They've been playing their gutsy,
organically geometric take on the blues for over thirty years; lead by the indefatigable
Robert Kidney, backed by brother Jack on astringent harp and Chrissie Hynde's sibling,
Terry, on sax. Numbers Blues does exactly what it says on the cover. Bar a trio of
Kidney compositions, the contents are reworkings of classic blues songs - Bo Diddley's
You Don't Love Me, is mesmerically jittery, while Robert Johnson's Walkin Blues is given
an off-kilter refit which captures the forlorn, gut-gripping existential dread of the
Ur-version; whereas previous, dire Brit-blues interpretations have made it sound like
a song about hiking... if you like your blues with a dusting of heartfelt art-rock,
The Numbers Band add up. The Kidney Brothers also go out as a duo. Their supberb album,
Coal Tattoo, remains unreleased. Any interested record companies out there?
"Disastodrome!" 2003 Online Reviews (The Kidneys Brothers performed Friday evening,
and Robert & Jack Kidney performed in Satrurday's production of "Mirror Man"):
CityPages.Com, Real Life Top 10, 6/4/03 by Greil Marcus.
"David Lynch was the missing actor, if he really was missing. When on the first night
Robert Kidney held the stage like a bad dream, he could have been Dennis Hopper's
"well-dressed man" from Blue Velvet. "Look for me down at One-Eyed Jacks," he said,
gesturing toward the whorehouse in Twin Peaks. Kidney wore a dark suit, dark shirt,
dark tie, a fedora pulled down over his face so that all you could see of his features
was that they were creased and old; he sang in a mellifluous, weirdly unaged voice, his
guitar stopping the rhythm inside the likes of Robert Johnson's nearly seventy-year-old
blues "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" and turning the tunes into fables: "Nobody really wants
to hear the blues, because it's too slow, it's boring, it's tedious--like life,
like my life." For an encore he and his brother played Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love,"
and it squirmed the way Roy Orbison songs squirm in Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive,
changing as it twisted: "Tell me hoodoo you love."
The Daily Bruin, UCLA Publication preview, "Masters of Disaster!", 2/20/03 by Andrew Lee.
The Daily Bruin, UCLA Publication review, "David Thomas' ensemble concert no Disasto"
2/24/03 by Andrew Lee and Dan Crossen.
"The Kidney Brothers played an arresting set of blues with the use of two guitars and
the occasional harmonica solo. It's not often an opening act plays an encore performance,
but such was the case with the crowd pleasing duo."
The Lookout review, Santa Monica, CA daily, "Freudian Hip: The Varied Sounds of David Thomas", 2/25/03 by Tomm Carroll.
"Not so middle act the Kidney Brothers (an abstract blues duo from the Kent, Ohio band 15-60-75) who inspired Thomas
and whom he compared favorably to Captain Beefheart in his introduction. The intense vocals (and teeth-clacking!)
and aggressive lead guitar of Robert Kidney, accompanied by the expressive harmonica and second guitar of brother
Jack, conjured a kind of psycho-noir blues that was simply astounding.
Original songs alternated with reconstructed standards like Robert Johnson's "Last Fair Deal Gone Down"
and Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love." The Kidneys stole the show."
The L. A. Times review and preview, "Thomas triumphs at Disastodrome" and
"Bracing for Disastodrome; Music festival will be an excursion into the mind of an avant-rock visionary"
were published around 2/25/03 and are now part of the Times archives.
More reviews for the CD Release of "Jimmys Bell's Still In Town"
Jimmy Bell is part of the Platomania top 30 Charts. These charts are
carrying the favourite albums by the buyers and personnel of the Plato
retail chain, with stores in the major cities of Holland. They are aired
weekly, in a special program on KINK FM, Belgium...
"We haven't got a clue who Robert Kidney is (except that he is
indispensible). The CD is called "Jimmy Bell's Still in Town",
contains six tracks and is absolutely fantastic..
Next week more tracks???"
Real Life Rock Top 10, Salon.Com, 6.7.2000 by Greil Marcus:
Cat-Iron was a blues singer from Natchez, Miss. In 1958 Frederic
Ramsey Jr. recorded him and wrote him up in the prestigious Saturday Review.
All through Ramsey's interesting piece -- the liner notes to the original
Folkways release, included on the custom cassettes or CDs you can now order
through Smithsonian Folkways -- run the lyrics of "Jimmy Bell," Cat-Iron's
signature number. Otherwise second- or thirdhand, here Cat-Iron's guitar
takes on its own voice, stating no theme, only dropping hints, pulling you
closer; as he sings, he seems less to be telling a story than promising
he'll tell you later. No wonder: Jimmy Bell, with "greenbacks enough to
make a man a suit," has come to drive the women from the church.
"All you need," he tells his sister, "is not to shout." The sense of some
enormous transformation is in the air. What it is you can't tell.
In 1975, opening for Bob Marley, singer-guitarist Robert Kidney took his
seven-piece, three-sax band from Kent, Ohio, onto the stage of the Agora
in Cleveland. "Jimmy Bell" was the Numbers' wipeout piece, as much Bobby
Darin's "Mack the Knife" as Cat-Iron's cryptic crusader. Picking up on the
bare syncopation in the Cat-Iron version, the Numbers press the rhythm
right away, the bass slithering over the beat like a snake, then rhythm
guitar, then Kidney's thin voice, insisting on that greenback suit
until you can see it walking down the street as his lead guitar picks
up the bass's theme and flails it like a whip. Across nearly 11 minutes,
the performance is all play and menace, all here and now, all origins
erased, a reach beyond the story to the willfulness in which it begins,
a willfulness only a long, mean solo will turn up. By the time Kidney
returns to words Jimmy Bell has come and gone and come back again,
and you're on the next train out. "Up the road I'm going,"
Jimmy Bell tells his wife. "She said," Kidney shouts for her in terror,
"She said, 'What road?'"
Heaven Magazine Jan/Feb 2001, Netherlands
Special pagefilling feature as 'Forgotten Classic':
by Harry Prenger
This is not musicians playing, it's madness kept barely under
Saxophone players Tim Maglione and Terry Hynde blow
mesmerizing wild lines. Jack Kidney punishes his harmonica with a
potion of dirty, feverish blues. And truly inescapable is the
performance of Robert Kidney. The singer/ guitarist works up his
band like a high priest at a ritual gathering. His presence cuts the
room like a knife - a knife that does not need sharpening. In spite of
the crowded playing, the music seemingly follows a slow euhoric
groove, which amazes more with every extra spin. And when
finally, the euphoric playing and the razorsharp knife have closed
their pact, all words become superfluous. Even after 25 years.
OOR Magazine - 11 November 2000, Netherlands
by Bert van der Kamp
"(..) Pere Ubu's David Thomas, who has a solid love for the
hyperbole, speaks of 'One of the great moments of our Culture'.
Quite frankly, I can't really see that. (..) However, here is a
inspiration at work, that is becoming extremely rare these days.
Singer Robert Kidney sings:"I'm crazy, I'm a Madman' (Thief) in a
way one does not dare to contradict him, while his brother Jack
wails away at his harp, and Terry Hynde's (Chrissie's brother)
saxophone growls and weeps. Bluesy and soulful, even 25 years
after its creation.
Playlist Stripped - KINK FM - October 22, 2000
15-60-75 - Jimmy Bell
"We really have no idea who Robert Kidney is, but everyone
should own this record. The CD is called "Jimmy Bell's Still In
Town", contains six tracks and is wonderful beyond description".
Platomania magazine (free magazine, available at Plato retail chain)
Genuine Rhythm 'n' Blues and a large potion of free jazz by ex-
Golden Palomino Robert Kidney, featuring slightly Captain
Beefheart-like eccentricity. Frighteningly intense, and released on
David Thomas' Hearthan Label. (...) This is one of those records
that will probably never sell, but will secretly carry its genius
among all those other CD's that were overlooked by the public.
Except if you take this review seriously ofcourse. A timeless
"TAKE A NUMBER" from SONICNET.COM
Review of "Jimmy Bell's Still In Town" CD release.
By Jeff Jackson, 7.21.00
It was one of those moments in which it seemed music history
would be made. The Agora Theater, Cleveland, June 16, 1975.
15-60-75, a seven-piece group, popularly known throughout
Northeast Ohio as the Numbers Band, took to the stage and
recorded a debut live album. Their gigs were already legendary;
powerful local radio stations had promised prominent airplay. It
seemed like the start of something big.
Yet, for reasons too numerous to recount, everything fell apart,
and the 50-minute set that became the album Jimmy Bell Is Still
in Town slipped into utter obscurity, unfashionable in the era
of glam-rock and too early for a nascent punk audience that
might have appreciated the group's genre-defying blend of blues,
trance, and free jazz. Though the Numbers Band continued on
and are still active today, the remarkable lineup that recorded
Jimmy Bell split shortly after its release. Their moment had
passed them by.
Now available on CD, finally, Jimmy Bell Is Still in
Town remains a vital document of a truly unique
group that still deserves to be heard, almost 25
years later. "Animal Speaks About the Eye
Game" (RealAudio excerpt), the 10-minute
lead cut, encapsulates the best elements of
their sound: Guitarist and lead vocalist Robert
Kidney chants a winning monotone as drummer
David Robinson locks into a propulsive minimalist
groove, effortlessly breaking down the song and
building it up again. Halfway through, Kidney and
Michael Stacey's guitars spark and catch fire as
the alto and tenor saxophones riff and skronk,
including some great blowing from Terry Hynde
(Pretender Chrissie Hynde's brother).
"Jimmy Bell" (RealAudio excerpt), a radically
revamped version of a song by obscure blues
artist Cat Iron, chronicles the story of a
traveling preacher more concerned with
collecting money with than saving souls. During
this snaking and sinister blues cut, built around
a rattling maraca and polyrhythmic drum
pattern, Kidney does his best imitation of a
circuit-riding minister, hissing, "Sisters, there's
no need to shout/ If you pay your dues, the
Deacon won't throw you out." Through it all, he
remains subdued and in control, letting the
saxophones and guitars wail in tongues around
"Narrow Road" begins with an infectious funk
beat, adding Jack Kidney's hypnotic conga
drums and bluesy harmonica playing. The band
vamps and uses a repetitive beat, in the tradition of the Velvet
Underground, to ground some adventurous guitar excursions.
They veer into jazz territory with "About Leaving Day"
(RealAudio excrpt), punctuated by the horn section's off-kilter
riff and a spiraling sax solo by Tim Maglione. The song surges,
crests and falls, again and again. "Some people been telling you
it's easy," Robert Kidney shouts against the swirling tide of the
music, "So I'll tell you it's hard." Those words could serve as the
band's unintended motto.
Despite their blazing performance, the crowd remained subdued.
More than anything else, the group probably baffled the
audience, not really surprising, as most of them had shown up
that night to see the headlining act, reggae giant Bob Marley.
Heard today, the Numbers Band's music suggests a marriage of
Stereolab and a bluesy bar band whose horn section has studied
with Ornette Coleman.
The Numbers Band's insistence on minimalist rhythms, innovative
use of brass and the ability to make disparate genres feel like
natural relations, has kept their music sounding fresh, perhaps
even visionary. David Thomas, of Pere Ubu, has gone so far as
to call Jimmy Bell Is Still in Town "the only good album ever
recorded by anyone."
Jimmy Bell is available directly, and solely, from Reedurban
Records (www.numbersband.com). As is often the case with
unearthing hidden musical treasures, making the effort to hear it
is part of the resulting pleasure.
Live performance review of 15 60 75 in London, 2000:
The Independent (London, England)
Review of "Outro" concert, Royal Festival Hall.
By Nick Hasted, 9.29.00
First are 15-60-75, the most respected of Ubu's
contemporaries on the early Seventies Cleveland, Ohio punk
scene, never seen in the UK before. Their songs contain
flashes of the rebellious absurdity that's also a Pere Ubu
trademark packing clothes in a matchbox, hearing angels
whisper on the telephone. Frontman Robert Kidney is poised
and charismatic, and when his guitar is amped until it sounds
like three, or a harmonica pierces the air, this is starkly
Live performance of 15 60 75 at the Rock Hall, 2000:
"Bands gets Rock Hall series of concerts off to a sound start..."
Review of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance.
by John Soeder, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6.8.00
The Numbers Band went on first with a riviting set
that mixed rock, jazz and blues noir. Standout songs
such as "Hotwire" and "And So It Goes" found
Robert Kidney playing a mean guitar and
half-singing, half-speaking beatnik lyrics. His
sax-playing brother Jack handled lead vocals on
"Somebody Shot Him", a hard-hitting tale of life and
death in the big city.
Terry Hynde (brother of the Pretenders' Chrissie
Hynde) furnished numerous sax freakouts, most
notably during the opening number "Sucker Punch."
The quintet also put it's own cool spin on the cover of
the Jerry Lee Lewis hit "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."
Also available, reviews from 1970s...1980s...1990s.