45's and 7's
Bonerz
Brazilian
Comedy
Country / Blues
DIY / Outsider
Electronic
European
Folk
Folkways
Gospel
Hip Hop
Indian / Asian
Jazz
Library
New Age
Pop / Rock
Psych / Prog
Risque
Soul / Funk
Soundtracks
Spoken Word
Tapes
Various Artists
World Jazz

Kit Ream – All That I Am

I’m finishing this up at about 3:30 AM Pacific standard time, a perfect middle-of-the-night moment to finalize my thoughts on the infamous Kit Ream – All That I Am LP on Creative Records from 1978. Catalog number MW001. A “Waxidermist’s” wet dream.

What started for me a few years ago as yet another late afternoon work-break thrift pull became something much more significant. After flipping through some stagnant church donation stacks, I spotted the LP and assumed it was another boring Xian solo record. Upon closer inspection, Kit’s fateful gaze stared me down and successfully convinced me into throwing down the dollar and change it cost to take this slightly water damaged, deranged looking fella on the LP home. My compadre Norm Hopper left empty handed that afternoon, but little did we suspect the boon that would soon follow.

Throwing the LP on the platter, I wasn’t sure if Kit was a joke or a genius. The man has a knack for making the dryest, worst lyrics edible and delicious. His jokey ramblings range from grunts, to angry nonchalant disses to the ladies passing through his life, to almost mocking cheese-jazz type scat singing about whatever’s on his mind. Don’t let this description frighten you, this is truly a fine feast of new age inspired ranting coupled with fusion and new age influenced jazz. Further listening draws out the genius of this LP by the supposed heir of the Nabisco cookie fortune. Obviously a victim of intense acid use and mental instability, the man drew from his psychosis translated his newfound “enlightenment” into artwork: personal drawings (that appear as floating images on the cover), lyrics, and the music, which he somehow convinced a group of musicians to help him play and perform. The LP sounds primarily live, as if the studio only did one or two takes. These rough tracks add character and show the improvisational nature of Kit’s art.

Kit’s solo track “Introuniversal Jam” opens the LP (The following “verse” is spoken over a bare cymbal being tapped, along with a lot of subtle background noises: a random bass drum, upright bass, and even a tambourine played off beat and out of sync. As the verse progresses, the tapping and sounds increase. A triangle comes in at the end as the tape seems to be echoed out and cut off on a 2″ recorder.): “I have not said I’m better, and I have not said I’m worse. I have an idea concerning the universe. The wheelchair general with his head on wrong, or the long haired singer with his winding song, to say that I love you with a bomb, or to sing that I hate you, that ain’t wrong, I know better than what you give, all I ask is a chance to live, my way or your way it’s all the same. ‘cos if no one’s hurt there’s none to blame. No I’ve not said I’m better, and I’ve not said I’m worse, but I do have an idea concerning the universe. Always in hell as I’m sure you can tell, I see you are blind, so I’ll take the time, to teach. You must keep in tune just as the moon, which is never too late or never too soon. Here there and everywhere you people be real, you must congeal and strip the seal. I’m not saying I’m better and I’m not saying I’m worse, but I have the idea concerning the universe, I really do, now you hear it through.”

Some might compare his inward looking, emotional work as the long lost cousin of Gary Wilson‘s school of lament. Unlike Gary, Kit’s content is broader, and his musicianship is clearly not polished nor rock influenced. Often Kit allows his ramblings on his cult ideologies to disintegrate into a goofy SNL Will Ferrell Robert Goulet-like impersonator voice: drunken, delusional, gutteral, and menacing. One track about a wino titled “Wines” is set over cheesy lounge jazz runs for 8:40. Yes, almost 9 minutes of Kit rambling about the transformation of humans into elements into “one.” Towards the end of the track his singing devolves into babbling along with a female babble-scat accompanyment as the drumming and saxophones intensifies and borders on amateur free jazz. I believe the same woman appears as the only singer over the folky soulful track “Cool Water” which Kit does not appear on, but it sounds as if his style has influenced this song’s lyrics. Similar to Gary Wilson, Kit does express his inner feelings at times in almost a scat-like, confessional/reactionary sing/song fashion. At times the music picks up and grabs onto a a late 70’s soul jazz/funky jazz sound, and especially on the track enitlted “Funk.” Towards the end of the track, Kit raps about catching trout in his stomach and then having a “good old honest burp” with his friend, which he explains is only a substitute for a lack of a ladyfriend! Okay, maybe Gary and Kit do have a lot in common. Ultimately, throughout the LP it sounds as if Kit is trying to compensate for his lack of singing talent as the engineer is telling him his time is up in the recording studio. I have no doubt that if Kit were much younger he would have appeared and gained fame as an early goof contestant on American Idol or even the Gong show.

After discussing the LP with a couple older collectors, I was suprised to learn the LP had been a long running joke amongst the record collecting cogniscenti. Those who knew of it (word to Anthony Pearson) gave and received it as a “hah hah you so crazy” type of joke find. From what I can tell, the LP is an acquired taste since it’s mostly spoken word and half sung ranting. Jello Biafra, a man who is a spoken word giant in his own right has been quoted describing the LP as “The most deranged ‘rich person do-it-yourself’ album”, and at the end of the day, the LP is literally all that Kit is. A truly unique and personal find that I will no doubt retain in my collection. If you happen upon the LP, I urge you to give it a proper listen before you trade or hock it.

Interestingly, Kit’s “Institute for Creative Living” still exists, and the site can be found here: http://www.instituteforcreativeliving.org/ In it’s current incarnation, the “cult” seems to have transformed into a new age self-help group. It seems the group and its ideologies have survived and will continue well beyond the memory of Kit and his ingeneous LP.

21 Comments

  • kit ream deserves some comments, or at least some clown, batches.

  • Great review Mark. Good read…

  • Word to you M— for hooking me up with a copy. I really like this record and think your review more than explains why it’s better than the “incredibly strange” tag implies. I dig the free associative poetry over anonymous studio jamming formula. David Bowie should have made a record like this! Wouldn’t call this new age though.

    Really wish someone would find this guy and get the whole story; I’m sick of hearing what Jello Biafra said repeated ad nauseum (no disrespect to Jello), but that’s all you find when you google this. Where are you now, Kit Ream?

  • saying we need a salma appearance of a family member or someone who played on this album… maybe Mina Judd, who sang vocals on “Cool Water”?

    I think it has touches of a new age type of message/music at times. Not quite a full on new age synth attack but it’s more subtle. Just my thoughts on it.

  • any audio on this? A cover only goes so far

  • patrick the lama

    Not everyone is blown away by this, a renowned Incredibly Strange aficionado recently proclaimed that it was “strange in the wrong way”… I like it quite a bit though, mainly because Ream’s madness takes such an unusual form, cocktail-by-the-pool crazy… there aren’t that many of those. Thanks…

  • This lives up to hype. Thanks, Mark!

  • Yeah, this is a weird one. Just to add some detail to the sad Kit Ream story. A short while after this LP was released, Kit – no joke – murdered a friend of his on his father’s yacht. Apparently, Kit stopped taking his medication. The victim’s family successfully sued Kit’s psychologists. The reason I came across this info, was that my copy of this LP came with information on the case, psychological pamphlets, etc – I believe this copy was actually used during the trial, as evidence…yeesh!

  • awesome.

  • Wouldn’t know where I could fetch me CD copy would ya?

  • im not to sure how often this is checked by mr mylatency but i am kits son… i was going to try to make him a myspace.. im 22.. and my dad is still alive u guys kinda talk like hes dead.. but hes alive and i was also going to put a whole bunch of art my dad did in his day… its really wierd how much info. you guys know about my dad but if u wanna check out his myspace go ahead its under construction at http://www.myspace.com/reammus1c
    if u just wanna email me for a copy of the cd or art you can at reammus1c@yahoo.com..

  • oh one other thing i had made one a while ago under http://www.myspace.com/kitream but i forgot the password and email but suprisingly enough alot of people checked it out … well if u have any questions you can email me or go on myspace i check it regularly now so that you can add or comment.. my dad kinda thinks im building him a website myspace was best i could do..

  • The myspace links no longer function.I can help if you want.Let me know.

  • Good review. But i’d like to hear audio version.

  • Hmmm…I found the audio link to “Introuniversal Jam/Don’t Be So Holy Poly Over My Soul-y” from The 365 Days Project web site…

    http://www.ubu.com/outsiders/365/2003/043.shtml

    …and my natural curiousity about everything led me here with a Google search. I’ve never heard of Kit Ream before, but he kinda sounds like Ken Nordine’s hippie kid brother on the “Don’t Be So Holy Poly…” track. Well worth the time to sample it. The lyrics are still far out after all these years…

  • Great Post. I recently found a painting of Kit Ream on Flickr. Cool Stuff.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/21171463@N05/2071365558/

  • Discovered this gem several years ago through an eccentric (big surprise). One of the oddest ducks in the musical pond, yet also one of the more interesting.
    You listen to something like ‘Don’t Be So Holy Poly Over My Souly’ and you want to immediately dismiss the album as a joke. However, a track like ‘The End’ reveals that Ream was as serious as can be.
    Unsettling.

    I’ve often wondered about this cat. Heir to the Nabisco fortune, eh? Is that so, Jello?

    Does anyone know if this is true?

  • This is too fun..I work for Nabisco for 26 years now and I am copying this for the next picnic or whatever to give to the front office big shits who will not be impressed I’m sure,lol.

  • Incredibly Strange, Outsider, Real People…is what I am most into and I feel Kit Ream is strange in the “right” way. This music is not meant as a joke or to be funny but is totally raw and sincere making it an essential Real People Lp along the lines of Dave Bixby, Billy R. Couvson or Gary Wilson.

  • email me for the kickstarter page!! krispygreen22@yahoo.com