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PLEASURE TRIP : Some Well-Known Roots-Rock Barons Have Another Go at Touring and Frivolity

March 11, 1993|MIKE BOEHM | Mike Boehm c overs pop music for The Times Orange County Edition.

"Double your pleasure, double your fun" seems to be the operating strategy for the Pleasure Barons as they return to court the sophomore jinx, staging another large-ensemble revue of rock, roots music and ribaldry.

Or maybe they're just going by that old baseball adage, "You never can have too much pitching."

In any case, where the first version of the Pleasure Barons was fronted by three well-known Southern California roots-rockers of varying degrees of serious musical intent, the featured Barons and Baronesses now number six.

Returning from the band that barnstormed four years ago are hot guitarist Dave Alvin and screwball singers Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana. The new additions are X's bassist, John Doe, and the fine country-rock singers Rosie Flores and Katy Moffatt.

The supporting cast includes guitarist Joey Harris, a member of Country Dick's full-time band, the Beat Farmers; drummer Mike Middleton from Nixon's band, the Toadliquors; keyboards player Rick Solem, from Alvin's band; trombone/steel guitar man Tim Cook, and sax player Johnny Viau.

They play Friday, March 12, at the Rhythm Cafe in Santa Ana.

The first edition of the Barons actually encountered the freshman jinx: Part way through the tour, Alvin contracted meningitis and wound up in the hospital--a setback he attributes to having shared a drink backstage with the wrong person.

Maybe it's the experience of having lost a key player the last time out that prompted the Pleasure Barons to enlarge their starting rotation.

Moffatt says Alvin, an old friend, called to recruit her--and to caution her about the risks of Baronial living.

"He gave me all the appropriate warnings," Moffatt recalled. "He said this could possibly ruin your career, and other things, too. I don't know (what those other things are) because I didn't ask. It just sounded like too much fun to resist, so I'm on."

The tour will encompass 17 concerts in the West today through March 29.

HighTone Records recently released "Live in Las Vegas," a concert album documenting the Pleasure Barons' first go-round. Alvin, the ex-Blaster and highly respected songwriter, is the more or less straight man, leading the Barons through zesty blues and rockin' country numbers. Country Dick sings low-down like Johnny Cash, only with a salacious streak.

True dementia sets in when Nixon takes over, singing, as is his wont, like a refugee from a Crazy Eddie commercial. This would-be ayatollah of pop can be heard proclaiming the central tenet of his personal faith: "Elvis Is Everywhere," or leveling claims against famous singers he can't stand: "Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child" and "Don Henley Must Die."

Nonsense aside, there is some pretty sharp playing throughout the album. The Pleasure Barons may be about musical slumming, but not at the sacrifice of musical self-respect.

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