Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Crosby Stills And Nash - Crosby Stills And Nash (1977 us / uk, marvelous folk rock, 2013 24k gold audio fidelity)

The times had certainly changed since Déjà Vu's release in 1970. Nevertheless, there was a hunger in audiences for a return to the harmony-soaked idealism with which the trio had been catapulted to popularity, and CSN consequently reached number two on the charts, behind Fleetwood Mac's megasuccessful Rumours. The music here is very good, though probably not up to the hard-to-match level of Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu. 

Still, the songs showed a great deal of lyrical maturity and compositional complexity compared to those earlier albums (from a far more innocent time). "Just a Song Before I Go" was the latest of Graham Nash's radio-friendly acoustic numbers, and a Top Ten single. "See the Changes" and "Dark Star" ranked with the best of Stephen Stills' work, while David Crosby contributed three classics from his distinctive oeuvre: "Shadow Captain," "Anything at All," and the beautiful "In My Dreams." 

Nash's multi-part "Cathedral," a recollection of an acid trip taken in Winchester Cathedral on his 32nd birthday, became a staple of the group's live repertoire. CSN was the trio's last fully realized album, and also the last recording on which the three principals handled all the vocal parts without the sweetening of additional voices. It has held up remarkably well, both as a memento of its time and as a thoroughly enjoyable musical work. 
by Jim Newsom 
1. Shadow Captain (David Crosby, Craig Doerge) - 4:33
2. See The Changes (Stephen Stills) - 2:59
3. Carried Away (Graham Nash) - 2:33
4. Fair Game (Stephen Stills) - 3:31
5. Anything At All (David Crosby) - 3:05
6. Cathedral (Graham Nash) - 5:26
7. Dark Star (Stephen Stills) - 4:45
8. Just A Song Before I Go (Graham Nash) - 2:14
9. Run from Tears (Stephen Stills) - 4:02
10.Cold Rain (Graham Nash) - 2:34
11.In My Dreams (David Crosby) - 5:11
12.I Give You Give Blind (Stephen Stills) - 3:23

*David Crosby - Vocals, Rhythm, Acoustic Guitar, String Arrangements
*Stephen Stills - Vocals, Guitars, Electric Piano, Piano, String Arrangements
*Graham Nash - Vocals, Piano, Harmonica, String Arrangements
*Joe Vitale – Drums, Organ, Electric Piano, Percussion, Flute, Tympani, Vibraphone
*Craig Doerge – Piano, Electric Piano
*Mike Finnigan - Organ
*George "Chocolate" Perry - Bass
*Jimmy Haslip - Bass
*Tim Drummond - Bass
*Gerald Johnson - Bass
*Russ Kunkel - Drums, Congas, Percussion
*Ray Barretto - Congas
*Mike Lewis - String Arrangements
*Joel Bernstein - String Arrangements

1970  Crosby Stills Nash And Young - Deja Vu (2008 japan SHM remaster)
1971  Crosby Stills Nash And Young - 4 Way Street (2016 japan double disc remaster) 
1974  Crosby Stills Nash And Young - Live (2013 four discs box set)
1972  Graham Nash David Crosby - Graham Nash David Crosby (2008 remaster)
1964  The Byrds - Preflyte (2012 double disc edition)
1973  Byrds (Reunion Album, 2004 issue) 
1971  Graham Nash - Songs For Beginners (2008 digipak remaster)
1973  Graham Nash - Wild Tales
1968  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (2014 Hybrid Multichannel SACD 24/88)
1970  Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills (debut album, 2008 japan SHM remaster)
1972  Stephen Stills - Manassas (2006 HDCD)
1971-73  Manassas - Pieces (2009 release)
1973  Stephen Stills And Manassas - Down The Road (Japan issue)
1975-76/78  Stephen Stills - Stills / Illegal Stills / Thoroughfare Gap
1976  The Stills Young Band - Long May You Run

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Crosby Stills Nash And Young - Deja Vu (1970 uk / canada / us, folk rock masteripiece, 2008 japan SHM remaster)

One of the most hotly awaited second albums in history -- right up there with those by the Beatles and the Band -- Déjà Vu lived up to its expectations and rose to number one on the charts. Those achievements are all the more astonishing given the fact that the group barely held together through the estimated 800 hours it took to record Déjà Vu and scarcely functioned as a group for most of that time. Déjà Vu worked as an album, a product of four potent musical talents who were all ascending to the top of their game coupled with some very skilled production, engineering, and editing. 

There were also some obvious virtues in evidence -- the addition of Neil Young to the Crosby, Stills & Nash lineup added to the level of virtuosity, with Young and Stephen Stills rising to new levels of complexity and volume on their guitars. Young's presence also ratcheted up the range of available voices one notch and added a uniquely idiosyncratic songwriter to the fold, though most of Young's contributions in this area were confined to the second side of the LP. Most of the music, apart from the quartet's version of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," was done as individual sessions by each of the members when they turned up (which was seldom together), contributing whatever was needed that could be agreed upon. "Carry On" worked as the album's opener when Stills "sacrificed" another copyright, "Questions," which comprised the second half of the track and made it more substantial. "Woodstock" and "Carry On" represented the group as a whole, while the rest of the record was a showcase for the individual members.

David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair" was a piece of high-energy hippie-era paranoia not too far removed in subject from the Byrds' "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man," only angrier in mood and texture (especially amid the pumping organ and slashing guitars); the title track, also by Crosby, took 100 hours to work out and was a better-received successor to such experimental works as "Mind Gardens," out of his earlier career with the Byrds, showing his occasional abandonment of a rock beat, or any fixed rhythm at all, in favor of washing over the listener with tones and moods. "Teach Your Children," the major hit off the album, was a reflection of the hippie-era idealism that still filled Graham Nash's life, while "Our House" was his stylistic paean to the late-era Beatles and "4+20" was a gorgeous Stephen Stills blues excursion that was a precursor to the material he would explore on the solo album that followed.

And then there were Neil Young's pieces, the exquisitely harmonized "Helpless" (which took many hours to get to the slow version finally used) and the roaring country-ish rockers that ended side two, which underwent a lot of tinkering by Young -- even his seeming throwaway finale, "Everybody I Love You," was a bone thrown to longtime fans as perhaps the greatest Buffalo Springfield song that they didn't record. All of this variety made Déjà Vu a rich musical banquet for the most serious and personal listeners, while mass audiences reveled in the glorious harmonies and the thundering electric guitars, which were presented in even more dramatic and expansive fashion on the tour that followed. 
by Bruce Eder
1. Carry On (Stephen Stills) - 4:25
2. Teach Your Children (Graham Nash) - 2:53
3. Almost Cut My Hair (David Crosby) - 4:25
4. Helpless (Neil Young) - 3:30
5. Woodstock (Joni Mitchell) - 3:52
6. Déjà Vu (David Crosby) - 4:10
7. Our House (Graham Nash) - 2:59
8. 4 + 20 (Stephen Stills) - 1:55
9. Country Girl: Whiskey Boot Hill/Down, Down, Down/"Country Girl" (I Think You Are Pretty) (Neil Young) - 5:05
10.Everybody I Love You (Stephen Stills, Neil Young) - 2:20

*David Crosby - Guitar, Various Instruments, Vocals
*Graham Nash - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Stephen Stills - Bass, Composer, Guitar, Keyboards, Member of Attributed Artist, Performer, Producer, Various Instruments, Vocals
*Neil Young - Guitar, Harmonica, Keyboards, Piano, Various Instruments, Vocals
*Greg Reeves - Bass, Percussion
*Dallas Taylor - Drums, Percussion
*Jerry Garcia - Steel Guitar, Slide Guitar
*John Sebastian - Autoharp, Harmonica

1971  Crosby Stills Nash And Young - 4 Way Street (2016 japan double disc remaster) 
1974  Crosby Stills Nash And Young - Live (2013 four discs box set)
1972  Graham Nash David Crosby - Graham Nash David Crosby (2008 remaster)
1964  The Byrds - Preflyte (2012 double disc edition)
1973  Byrds (Reunion Album, 2004 issue) 
1971  Graham Nash - Songs For Beginners (2008 digipak remaster)
1973  Graham Nash - Wild Tales
1968  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (2014 Hybrid Multichannel SACD 24/88)
1970  Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills (debut album, 2008 japan SHM remaster)
1972  Stephen Stills - Manassas (2006 HDCD)
1971-73  Manassas - Pieces (2009 release)
1973  Stephen Stills And Manassas - Down The Road (Japan issue)
1975-76/78  Stephen Stills - Stills / Illegal Stills / Thoroughfare Gap
1976  The Stills Young Band - Long May You Run

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Barclay James Harvest - Live (1974 uk, spectacular soft prog rock, 2005 edition)

Having been dropped by Harvest due to poor record sales and spiralling costs (they insisted on touring with an orchestra) they signed with Polydor Records in January 1974. To support their latest album Everybody Is Everybody Else (a prog classic if ever there was one) a UK tour was set in motion with the Liverpool Stadium and London’s Theatre Royal shows earmarked for recording their first live album. The Liverpool gig was cancelled on the eleventh hour when the bands road crew discovered that the venues electrical system was in a potentially lethal state. The 30th June London gig on the other hand got off to a resounding start but sadly the performance was blighted by the less than trusty Mellotron which failed to co-operate during the show.

A rescheduled Liverpool Stadium performance went ahead on 31st August 1974 but the pressure was on to have the live album in the shops before Christmas. As a result Barclay James Harvest Live released in November 1974 was taken mainly from the London recordings with some minimal studio overdubs plus the occasional song from Liverpool to replace those that couldn’t be salvaged from the London tapes. Whilst several songs remain in the bands set list to this day, some like guitarist John Lees’ epic Summer Soldier (from their final Harvest album Baby James Harvest) were living on borrowed time. A pity because it provides a magisterial opening to the show and it’s also one of the songs that first attracted me to the band. Melody wise it’s reminiscent of the bands popular Hymn but more ambitious drawing on the symphonic grandeur of earlier classics like After The Day. The band is clearly on top form from the outset, especially the late Mel Pritchard who gives a powerhouse performance throughout. Only keyboardist Stuart ‘Woolly’ Wolstenholme’s ever present Mellotron lets the side down sounding a tad muddy despite the post production tinkering.

Summer Soldier segues into Medicine Man which is basically an excuse for the band to indulge in some rare and lengthy soloing. This includes some very Yes like moments especially Woolly’s manic synth break and Les Holroyd’s thunderous bass workout. Crazy City sounds as tuneful as ever and reveals Holroyd’s love of US west coat music including some neat harmonies in the vein of The Eagles. Following the obligatory band introductions from Wolstenholme they launch into After The Day where the keyboardist also provides the vocals. This song remains the bands crowning glory in my humble opinion although the slightly ragged sound here doesn’t match the quality of the version that can be found on 2007’s Legacy DVD. Lees’ guitar work however is as stirring as ever and there is also a sneaky reference to The Moody Blues’ Nights In White Satin.

The poignant The Great 1974 Mining Disaster is treated to a fine performance with superb harmonies from Lees and Holroyd and once again drummer Pritchard provides a master class in technique. A beautiful rendition of the exquisite Galadriel leads into the uncharacteristic (for BJH) sounding Negative Earth, a pleasant if not outstanding tune and probably the weakest from the then latest album despite the Pink Floydish coda. It’s no surprise that it quickly disappeared from the bands set list after this tour. She Said is more like it, taken from the bands second album it’s full of pomp and splendour with Lees’ rousing guitar solo going into overdrive. Paper Wings is another tuneful but fairly average song from Holroyd and even the lively instrumental break sounds a little contrived by BJH’s usual standards.

For No One is another standout song from Everybody Is Everybody Else with the memorable chorus providing the albums title. Lees’ soling over the backdrop of Mellotron strings is archetypal Barclay James Harvest. Unsurprisingly the bands signature tune Mockingbird provides the encore and as prog rock classics go this is the genuine article. Furthermore this is quite possibly the definitive version with a stunning performance from the band interlocking brilliantly during the instrumental section. Even the Melly behaved itself on this occasion sounding suitably grand. 
by GeoffF Feakes
1. Summer Soldier (John Lees) - 10:19
2. Medicine Man (John Lees) - 10:27
3. Crazy City (Les Holroyd) - 4:59
4. After The Day (John Lees) - 7:11
5. The Great 1974 Mining Disaster (John Lees) - 6:32
6. Galadriel (John Lees) - 3:09
7. Negative Earth (Les Holroyd, Mel Pritchard) - 6:20
8. She Said (Les Holroyd) - 8:33
9. Paper Wings (Les Holroyd, Mel Pritchard) - 4:19
10.For No One (John Lees) - 5:51
11.Mockingbird (John Lees) - 7:41
Recorded Live at the Theatre Royal, London and at the Stadium, Liverpool in 29-30/June 1974

Barclay James Harvest
*John Lees - Lead Guitar, Recorder, Vocals
*Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme - Mellotron, Electric Piano, Moog, Vocals
*Les Holroyd - Bass Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Mel Pritchard - Drums

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Friday, March 15, 2019

Stretch - The Best Of Stretch Why Did You Do It (1975-78 uk, tremendous hard groovy funky boogie rock, 2007 release)

Without question Stretch was one of rock music’s hardest working and finest groups and they remain vastly under-rated in spite of an outstanding hit single ‘Why Did You Do It?’, originally released in 1975 and later revitalized in the award-winning movie Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

In an era when Bad Company and Rainbow were storming the charts and the stages, Stretch was right up there giving them a run for their money. For a period in the mid 70s it seemed that they would be amongst the biggest names of them all with their thrilling spill of hooks and hard rock. Yet despite instant chart success the group had disappeared by the end of the decade. It remains one of the greatest universal mysteries why Stretch was not massive because their high quality tasteful music should have ensured far greater commercial success.

30 years after their last gig as Stretch, the band returned to the stage with great success in 2007 playing sold-out shows supporting The Jeff Healey Band. These appearances coincided with the release of Why Did You Do It? (The Best of Stretch) on Repertoire Records and much of the live material was drawn from that amazing compilation CD. There was considerable fresh interest in the group in Classic Rock magazine and The Best of Stretch was featured as their “Blues Album of the Month”.

Stretch showcases the brilliant vocal talents of Elmer Gantry and blistering guitar work of Kirby Gregory. In unison the versatile duo were, and remain, a dynamite combination of craft, intelligence and imagination. Elmer started his singing career as David Terry. He was given the nom-de-plume Elmer Gantry by his Velvet Opera band-matesin 1967 and it stuck. Lifted from the movie and scathing satirical book of the same name, Sinclair Lewis’s novel tells the story of a young roughneck who abandons his early ambition to become a lawyer. The fictional character embarks on a career as a hell-raising preacher in the ministry, crusading against all his previous vices including alcohol and prostitution.

Rock and Roll’s Elmer Gantry gave up his job as an apprentice printer in London to embark on a determined musical crusade. At 17 years of age he feverishly pursued his youthful ambition to sing the blues, playing with The Southbeats, The Impacts, The Union and The Five Proud Walkers. Gantry has also sat in with Long John Baldry, The Downliners Sect, Freddie Mac and John Renbourn and during a flirtation with the folk-blues scene rubbed shoulders with Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, Al Stewart and blues legend Jesse Fuller. 

A couple of years later, having returned to amplified music, Elmer recorded a ground-breaking psychedelic album as the leader and focal point of Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera. The group had a top 30 UK hit with Elmer’s composition ‘Flames’, a song that many acts took to and played, including the famous dance band led by Joe Loss. In 2003, during the London launch of the Led Zeppelin DVD Collection at The Empire cinema in Leicester Square, Zep vocalist Robert Plant told Elmer that in the early days of the band, ‘Flames’ was the only non-Zeppelin track that they used to play. Robert even sang a verse in the Empire’s foyer to surrounding family and friends! 

Being in the middle of the seething 60s music scene where jamming was a regular relaxation, Elmer got the opportunity to play with individuals who became genuine rock icons including Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck. Following his split from Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera at the end of the 60s, he formed The Elmer Gantry Band which included bassist Paul Martinez from The Downliners Sect. Elmer then sat out his CBS recording contract in the Glasgow and London stage productions of the highly controversial rock musical HAIR where, amongst others, he formed friendships with the wonderful Alex Harvey and outrageous Richard O Brien.

Guitarist Kirby Gregory meanwhile moved from Berkshire via the West Country to London and in 1970 joined jazz-rock outfit Armada, an off-shoot of late 60s band The Open Mind. Armada accommodated various renowned musicians including Terry Schindler, Gary Windo, world famous clarinet player Sammy Rimington and bass player Rik Kenton, later of Roxy Music. Kirby introduced future Stretch bassist Steve Emery to Armada and Elmer joined the group as replacement vocalist for Schindler in 1971. Although Armada was a very popular live act, sadly, they never released any recorded material and commercial success eluded them. Nonetheless, a crucial connection between Gantry and Gregory had been made.

Kirby left Armada to join progressive rockers Curved Air in 1972 and appeared with Sonja Kristina and Eddie Jobson on their excellent fourth album Air Cut in the following year. Through Kirby’s tenure in Curved Air, their manager Clifford Davis (who was also known as Cliff Adams) helped Elmer and Kirby cut a vastly under-rated Warner Brothers single as Legs. Clifford also managed blues legends Fleetwood Mac, so when one of their American tours was halted in crisis in 1973, Davis suggested to drummer Mick Fleetwood that Gantry and Kirby would be ideal talents to be part of a new formation of the group. Fleetwood visited the boys at their home in Tooting and discussed details for an upcoming tour, including the possible lineup and the material to be played. Mick asked that he be excused rehearsals, as he was going through heavy personal relationship issues, but that he would join the boys at the start of the tour. In the event, Mick never arrived in America to join them and  the episode became one of the strangest and most controversial chapters in music history and the baffling debacle led to bitter disputes between Clifford Davis and the original members of Fleetwood Mac, both in and out of court. 

Battered and bruised, Elmer and Kirby formed their own band - Stretch. They recruited ex-Curved Air drummer Jim Russell and former Elmer Gantry Band and Hackensack bassist Paul Martinez. Stretch joined fledgling British label Anchor Records and stalwartly delivered some of the best rock and blues ever produced. Their sensational 1975 single ‘Why Did You Do It?’ cleverly referenced the Fleetwood Mac saga and tore into the UK charts reaching #16. It soared even higher in some international charts including the Top 5 in Holland and Israel and #2 on London’s Capital Radio chart.

‘Why Did You Do It?’ was taken from Stretch’s debut LP Elastique, a wonderfully eclectic collection of songs that encompassed funk, blues, hard rock, country-folk and ballads. The album offered a truly unique and refreshing listening experience but seemingly confused audiences who expected Stretch to play in the funky style of their hit single all the time. Kirby reflects that Elastique sounded like three completely different bands. The musicians thought that this was an artistic asset until ‘Why Did You Do It?’ became such a great success and live audiences expected everything they played to mirror their hit single. 

Engaging former Ross and Armada bassist Steve Emery and youthful drummer Jeff Rich as replacement members for Martinez and Russell, the band recorded their next album You Can’t Beat Your Brain for Entertainment, moving in a new musical direction that was more rock and boogie based. The record’s memorable title was provided by Elmer’s friend, Richard O’Brien - actor, theatre performer, TV presenter and writer of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Stretch’s second LP featured ‘That’s the Way the Wind Blows’, a sure-fire hit single that inexplicably missed the charts as well as exceptional versions of Bukka White’s ‘Fixin’ to Die’ and ‘Feelin’ Sad’, a classic ballad that had been covered by one of Elmer’s heroes, Ray Charles.

To promote their second album Elmer and Kirby secured a support slot with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow on their 1976 Rainbow Rising UK tour. Stretch surprised British crowds and attracted praise and plaudits on this sojourn, not least at London’s Hammersmith Odeon where critics were forced to acknowledge that Rainbow was blown aside by the support band’s powerful R&B. After multiple encores at both London gigs, it was unsurprising that Stretch was “not required” for Rainbow’s subsequent European tour dates where AC/DC became the replacement support act.

Stretch’s third album, Lifeblood, contained some of their finest songs including ‘Take You Down’, ‘Knives in their Backs’ and ‘Jonah and the Whale’. They continued to display their musical influences proudly with unique versions of Peter Green’s ‘Showbiz Blues’, Freddie King’s ‘Living on the Highway’ and Rick Derringer’s ‘Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo’. Stretch always interpreted other writers’ material with total panache, adding to and often surpassing the originals. Their treatment of Derringer’s classic was a case in point. Stretch’s red-hot version was lauded by legendary DJ John Peel, who risked upsetting Johnny Winter devotees by describing Stretch’s ‘Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo’ as the finest ever recorded when he introduced the track on his BBC radio programme. 

One album review remarked on Kirby's guitar assault being worth the price of admission by itself, as he played both Johnny Winter’s and Rick Derringer's original guitar parts with absolute aplomb. Tragically, the lack of commercial recognition took its toll on Stretch. Elmer quit in frustration and later formed groups named The Backroom Boys and Gantry. Jeff Rich joined Judie Tzuke, Climax Blues Band and then Status Quo. Steve Emery played bass with Major Blues Band, The Graham Foster Band, Los Lunaticos and The Rockets in Spain where he became resident. Kirby produced a solo album and another Stretch LP - Forget the Past - with a new expanded line-up, but this formation did not last. Reflecting on this period Kirby is the first to acknowledge that, “Stretch is not really Stretch without Elmer!” The duo did re-unite briefly in 1982 and recorded with Sweet drummer Mick Tucker and bass player Nigel Ross-Scott but the session tapes were shelved.  

Kirby believes that Stretch gave everything in terms of recording and touring but eventually the band felt as though they we were heading backwards. The success of ‘Why Did You Do It?’ and their live performances meant that early expectations were very high for the group. They remained determined in their efforts and were having fun but they could not maintain momentum and became frustrated at the lack of support. Elmer and Kirby admit in retrospect that they should have persevered and turned their anger outwards rather than inwards but, eventually their frustration became destructive and Stretch split. 

The spirit of the band survived with successful 80s re-issues of ‘Why Did You Do It?’ across Europe and the inclusion of their biggest hit in the 1998 movie Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Elmer also appeared as guest vocalist on several albums post-Stretch including Turn of a Friendly Card and Eye in the Sky by The Alan Parsons Project, Cozy Powell’s Tilt and Before I Forget by John Lord. Gantry also sang with Munkfish and sat in with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Over the years Kirby has recorded with David Essex, Danny Kirwan, Noel Janus, Joan Armatrading, Cozy Powell, Graham Bonnett and post-punk rockers Gloria Mundi. The guitarist also formed Blue Murder, a very fine 80s trio with Sensational Alex Harvey Band drummer Ted McKenna. 
1. Miss Jones (Elmer Gantry, Gregory Kirby) - 3:04
2. Knives In Their Backs (Gregory Kirby) - 3:55
3. Jonah And The Whale (Gregory Kirby) - 4:50
4. Why Did You Do It? (Gregory Kirby) - 3:30
5. Take You Down (Gregory Kirby) - 3:59
6. Feelin' Sad (Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones) - 5:25
7. Can’t Judge A Book (Willie Dixon) - 6:12
8. Hold Up The Light (Elmer Gantry, Gregory Kirby) - 3:22
9. That’s The Way The Wind Blows (Elmer Gantry, Gregory Kirby) - 3:45
10.If The Cap Fits (Elmer Gantry) - 3:26
11.The Way Life Is (Gregory Kirby) - 4:03
12.Hold On (Elmer Gantry, Gregory Kirby) - 3:23
13.Living On The Highway (Don Nix, Leon Russell) - 3:08
14.Miss Dizzy (Elmer Gantry) - 4:00
15.Fixin’ To Die (Bukka Wyatt) - 3:36
16.You Can’t Beat Your Brain For Entertainment (Elmer Gantry) - 3:09
17.Buzz Fly (Elmer Gantry) - 1:54
18.Rock And Roll Hoochie Coo (Rick Derringer) - 3:09
19.Write Me A Note (Elmer Gantry) - 4:37
20.Tomorrow’s Another Day (Elmer Gantry) - 4:51

*Elmer Gantry (Dave Terry) - Vocals, Guitar
*Kirby Gregory (Graham Gregory) - Guitar, Vocals
*Paul Martinez - Bass (1974-75)
*Craig Collinge - Drums (1974)
*John Wilkinson - Keyboards (1974)
*Jim Russell - Drums (1974-76)
*Hiroshi Kato - Guitar (1974)
*John Cook - Keyboards (1975)
*Dave Evans - Bass (1975-76)
*Steve Emery - Bass (1976-79)
*Jeff Rich - Drums (1976-78)
*Nicko Mcbrain - Drums (1978-79)

Related Acts
1967-69  Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera - Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera (Japan issue)
1969  Velvet Opera - Ride A Hustler's Dream
1969-72  Hackensack - Give It Some

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Humble Pie - Thunderbox (1974 uk, awesome hard boogie glam rock, 2011 japan SHM remaster)

This incredible album was, the pinnacle of Humble Pie's career. A clean crisp production coupled with Steve Marriot's voice at the top of his game makes for a true masterpiece of 70's blues rock. There's not a weak track on the record. From the moment it starts with the powerful "Thunderbox" until the end with "Oh La De Da", the album motors through with emotion, grace and swagger. While the boys do a few interesting covers on this record, like "Can't Stand the Rain", "Drift Away" and "No Money Down", it's the originals, like "Every Single Day", Ninety-Nine Pounds", "Rally with Ali" "No Way" and the aforementioned "Thunderbox" that really make the album move. "Groovin with Jesus" and "Dont Worry, Be Happy" are two other funky tunes that seem to jam on the same backbeat. One almost seems like a reprise of the other.

Overall, if you are interested in picking up a great, well produced and fun effort by the Pie, you can not go wrong with this collection. 
by T. DaPrato
1. Thunderbox (Steve Marriott, Dave Clempson)
2. Groovin' with Jesus (Steve Marriott)
3. I Can't Stand the Rain (Ann Peebles, Bernard Miller, Don Bryant)
4. Anna (Go to Him) (Arthur Alexander)
5. No Way (Steve Marriott, Greg Ridley)
6. Rally with Ali (Steve Marriott, Dave Clempson, Greg Ridley, Shirley)
7. Don't Worry, be Happy (Steve Marriott, Dave Clempson, Greg Ridley, Jerry Shirley)
8. Ninety-Nine Pounds (Don Bryant)
9. Every Single Day (Dave Clempson)
10.No Money Down (Chuck Berry)
11.Drift Away (Mentor Williams)
12.Oh La-De-Da (Phillip Mitchell)

Humble Pie
*Greg Ridley - Bass, Vocals
*Jerry Shirley - Vocals, Drums
*Steve Marriott - Guitar, Harmonica, Keyboards, Vocals
*Dave "Clem" Clempson - Guitar
*Mel Collins - Horn
*Carlena Williams -Vocals
*Venetta Fields - Vocals
*Billie Barnum - Vocals

1969  Humble Pie - As Safe As Yesterday Is (Japan edition)
1969  Humble Pie - Town and Country (2007 remaster and expanded)
1970  Humble Pie (Japan edition)
1971  Humble Pie - Rock On
1971  Humble Pie - Performance, Rockin’ The Fillmore (2013 issue, 4 discs set)
1972  Humble Pie - Smoikin' (Japan edition)
1973  Humble Pie - Eat It (Japan edition)
1973  Humble Pie - In Concert / King Biscuit Flower Hour
Related Act 
1967  Small Faces - Green Circles / First Immediate Album 
1968  The Small Faces - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (3 discs set)
1965-69  Small Faces - The Immediate Years (four discs box, 1st edition)

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mike McGear - Woman (1972 uk, great soft prog rock with jazz elements, 2009 japan SHM remaster)

Michael McGear—nee McCartney—has a pretty amazing big brother, and surprisingly, his musical career has been low-key and somewhat anonymous. He could have exploited his surname, but chose not to; standing on his own merits is a commendable act; thus, when his comedy troupe Scaffold had a hit in 1967 with the single “Thank U Very Much,” many people were surprised to learn that the handsome fellow was the brother of a Beatle. Scaffold would run its course, yet McGear was still interested in pursuing a singing career, soon gaining a solo record deal with EMI. With this opportunity, he wanted to make a more serious, straightforward record, and thus was borne Woman.

In many regards, Woman is a fairly typical debut album from a new artist. It’s not unified or dominated by one particular sound or style, save for the to-be-expected moments of levity that recall The Scaffold, thanks in part to the inclusion of his collaborator, Roger McGough, who co-wrote several songs on here. The whimsical heartbreak of “Bored As Butterscotch”—a melancholy melody tempered with a delightfully amusing metaphor and a drop-dead gorgeous arrangement, complete with gospel choir harmonies—is pure McGough, and sounds positively Rutlesesque. Yet opening song “Woman,” is another co-write, and instead finds McGear giving Brian Wilson a run for his money, a beautiful, hushed ballad that only grows more beautiful with the slow-rising harmonies. Listen once, and you’ll like it; play it again, and you’ll become more enthralled with this simple yet heartfelt song.

But Woman is the sound of exploration, and there’s one name that keeps coming to mind: Elton John. Piano is at the forte for most of these songs, and McGear’s voice is similar; it doesn’t hurt that both shared a love of British music hall and gospel; thus, numbers like the gospel joy of “Sister” and funky “Young Young Man” are earnest, and without the comedic element, it shows that McGear was an impressive young talent who didn’t need the shtick to write a good song. And there are one or two curveballs you might not expect; “Uptowndowntown” is pure Acid Rock—and what’s more, it borrows quite liberally (intentionally or not) from Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band’s “Why?,” but then turns into a great little blues rocker on its own, while the closing, eight minute medley of “Black Beauty/Tiger/Strawberry Jam” is a stark boogie-woogie rock number that shimmers and burns quite nicely, showing that if there were any familial predilection for light, fluffy McCartney-esque pop, McGear wasn’t going to completely indulge it this time round.

Unsurprisingly, EMI didn’t know what to make of Woman; they had expected a record more akin to the Scaffold hits. Thus, a stalemate took place, and the label refused to release it; Island Records came to the rescue, buying out the record, and though it did see release, it made only a minor impact. Shortly after its release, Scaffold would reunite, and McGear would go on to release one more solo album proper, 1974’s superb and underrated McGear—a masterpiece on its own, and one deserving of its own reissue. Though he hasn’t released much since, save for a handful of singles, he does still perform on occasion, and has enjoyed a quiet family life in his hometown of Liverpool.

Considering what McGear wanted to accomplish with this solo turn, one might be tempted to make comparisons to…well, you know. Don’t, please, because that’s an unfair comparison, and one that might handicap your listening experience, because Woman is a delightful record.
by Joseph Kyle, May 31, 2017 
1. Woman - 3:04
2. Witness - 4:06
3. Jolly Good Show - 3:08
4. Roamin A Road (Mike McGear) - 2:22
5. Sister (Mike McGear) - 3:13
6. Wishin - 3:24
7. Young Young Man (Five Years Ago) - 0:59
8. Young Young Man (Five Years Later) - 2:50
9. Edward Heath (Mike McGear) - 0:57
10.Bored As Butterscotch (Mike McGear, Roger McGough, Friends) - 2:51
11.Uptowndowntown (Mike McGear) - 3:29
12.Tiger / Strawberry Jam - 7:26
All songs by Mike McGear, Roger McGough, except where stated

*Mike McGear - Vocals
*Roger McGough - Guitars
*Andy Roberts - Guitars
*Roger Bunn - Bass Guitar
*Dave Richards - Bass Guitar
*Zoot Money - Piano, Keyboards
*John Megginson - Organ
*Brian Auger - Keyboards
*Norman Yardley - Harmonica
*Gerry Conway - Drums, Percussion
*Ginger Johnson - Percussion
*Michael Rosen - Horns
*Roger Ball - Horns
*Cecil Moss - Horns
*Chris Pyne - Horns
*Malcolm Duncan - Horns
*Paul Korda - Backing Vocals
*Steve Gould - Backing Vocals
*Alan Gorrie - Backing Vocals
*Centipede - Strings
*Tony Coe - Saxophones

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Birds Of A Feather ‎– The Page One Recordings (1970 uk, beautiful blue eyed soul sunny pop, 2017 remaster with bonus tracks)

First time reissue for the self-titled Birds Of A Feather album from 1970, plus the two sides of the Blacksmith Blues single that preceded it….Ian Canty sees another example of Elton John’s impressive early 70s work-rate and the offerings of the talented Chanter brood from Fulham…..

Firstly, don’t run away, it’s nothing to do with that sitcom! Doreen and Irene Chanter grew up in a musical South West London household and during the 60s joined with their male siblings Alex and Charlie (providing guitar and drums respectively) to launch their own band. Dubbed logically enough the Chanters, they entered and won an edition of the X Factor prototype Opportunity Knocks.

After that television exposure they were duly signed by CBS in 1966 and put out four singles over the next couple of years. The sisters’ soulful vocals came to the fore as they progressed, but their time at the label was not successful or particularly happy, so in 1969 the band moved over to Troggs’ manager Larry Page’s Page One imprint. After the successful audition for Page, a new name was sought for the band and the title bestowed on them was Birds Of A Feather. This audition took place at the DJM studios, which was to bring them into the orbit of one Reginald Dwight aka Elton John.

Though happy to be away from the clutches of CBS, their relationship with their new label wasn’t without its bumpy moments. Page One made it clear that they only wanted the sisters as part of the deal. Doreen and Irene were pretty annoyed at this, taking to the pages of the music press to announce they were not a duo, but a four piece band.

Despite tensions they went through with recording the album without their brothers, a Caleb Quaye led-band featuring keyboard wiz Rick Wakeman among others replacing them. For these sessions they were produced by future studio hotshot Stuart Epps. Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who had befriended the sisters, provided four songs into the bargain (keeping things “in house” with Elton being on Page One’s sister label DJM, also it was envisaged this would help his and Taupin’s profile as “songsmiths for hire”). Not to be outdone, Doreen was a composer of no small merit too and apart from the Elton songs and Blues/R&B standards, she wrote half of the album herself.

To be honest, though they album tracks are well put together and faultlessly arranged, the big band settings do threaten to swamp the sisters on occasion (like on opening track Take Me To The Pilot, though it’s a pleasant enough listening). When they lock in their dual vocals sometimes they sound like backing singers on their own record, which is unfair as individually they had really good voices and were real talents. One wonders if perhaps the simpler approach with their brothers would have brought forth more satisfying results. The quality of the two pre-LP bonus single tracks seem to add weight to the argument, with both songs being catchy and enjoyable. They got the balance just right here between music and vocals too.

Nevertheless the Birds fly on some of the album and the sisters don’t turn anything other than classy vocal performances throughout. They actually ended up on Top Of The Pops with the Bluesy rave-up All God’s Children Got Soul – this publicity and some great freaky guitar failed to push BOAF along to further success, even though the TV appearance was timed to coincide with the album’s release. The Doreen-penned Funk influenced Leaving The Ghetto was a highpoint of the LP, neat Hammond organ, great vocals and a solid pre-Disco thump, very danceable. What Is Life shows how well the sisters could deal with a Soul ballad and Get It Together has some pumping piano that compliments the Funky treatment of the song well.

As to why this record wasn’t successful, I can only speculate. Perhaps truncating the Chanters band to ostensibly a duo lost focus and didn’t give the general public much of an image to buy into. Though family bands were seldom “cool” they at least had a dynamic that Birds Of A Feather could have used, because with their low profile and many cover versions it was perhaps difficult for the general public to get a handle on exactly where they were coming from? For whatever reasons, the album or single didn’t make much of a mark, despite the touches of quality.

After the album struggled the sisters put out 3 further singles on DJM and also one under the pseudonym of the Electric Dolls. When these offerings also flopped they moved onto a successful career as backing vocalists, singing with Roxy Music and Pink Floyd among many others. Doreen kept her songwriting hand in, penning the hit Star for Kiki Dee in the 80s. Ironically this was also used as the theme to a relaunched version of Opportunity Knocks, which had featured the Chanters all those years before.

Putting all concerns aside for a moment, the album consists of elegantly produced, beautifully sung Gospel-influenced Pop. For a band born and raised in Fulham, Birds Of A Feather could knock out quality R & B and stand shoulder to shoulder with their US counterparts. That their efforts remained unloved by the general public could be put down to a number of reasons, some of which I have explored above, but it wasn’t due to any failings on their part. Including their one album along with the great Blacksmith’s Blues single, there’s plenty of diverting work on show on the Page One Recordings.
by Ian Canty, 12 October, 2017
1. Take Me To The Pilot (Elton John, Bernie Taupin) - 3:14
2. Get It Together (Doreen Chanter) - 2:27
3. One More Time (Sam Cooke) - 3:41
4. Border Song (Elton John, Bernie Taupin) - 3:29
5. All God's Children Got Soul (Booker T. Jones, William Bell) - 2:58
6. What Is Life (Doreen Chanter) - 2:05
7. Take The World (Doreen Chanter) - 3:05
8. Bad Side Of The Moon (Elton John, Bernie Taupin) - 2:42
9. Baby Don't You Bring Me Down (Doreen Chanter) - 2:31
10.Gimme Shelter (Mick Jagger, Keith Richard) - 2:42
11.Leaving The Ghetto (Doreen Chanter) - 2:22
12.Country Comfort (Elton John, Bernie Taupin) - 3:09
13.Blacksmith Blues (Jack Holmes) - 3:35
14.Sing My Song And Pray (Doreen Chanter, Irene Chanter) - 2:34
Bonus tracks 13-14

*Doreen Chanter - Vocals
*Irene Chanter - Vocals
*Alex Chanter - Guitar
*Charlie Chanter - Drums
*Elton John - Piano
*Caleb Quaye - Guitar
*Rick Wakeman - Keyboards

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Swampwater - Swampwater (1970 us, great country swamp rock)

Swampwater’s 1970 debut stands alongside Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Guilded Palace of Sin, Poco’s debut, the Everly Brothers’ Roots and Bradley’s Barn as one of the best country-rock records ever.

Founder, Gib Guilbeau had a strong Bakersfield resume prior to forming Swampwater. Guilbeau and Gene Parsons had released a few early country-rock singles in the late 60’s as well as an album which eventually saw light of day in 1970 (although recorded in 1968-). The two recruited Clarence White in 1968 to record the legendary Nashville West album. This album has a good live feel and is highlighted by some of Clarence White’s best playing which was always breathtaking and revolutionary.

Eventually Swampwater formed and started out as Linda Ronstadt’s backing group in the late 60’s. Eric White, Clarence’s brother was also in the band and prior to forming Swampwater had been in the excellent Kentucky Colonels. Swampwater made two distinct albums in the early 70’s without Linda Ronstadt’s involvement. The above album was different than many notable country rock acts of the time for adding cajun and swamprock elements. The album opens and closes with two certified country-rock classics, Louisiana Woman and Big Bayou. Guilbeau had recorded the classy Louisiana Woman with both Nashville West and on his 1970 album with Parsons, though the version heard on Swampwater is the best. Big Bayou is a hard rocking, white hot country song with pretty fiddle that has been covered by many popular artists inlcuding Rod Stewart. Other songs like the acoustic flavored Man From New Orleans are highlighted by beautiful harmonies and a tear in your beer ambience.

Swampwater’s musicianship is high caliber and Guilbeau’s lyrics are always first-rate and thoughtful. Great songs like Kathleen, Desperation’s Back Again (supposedly an Everly Brothers homage with great down and out lyrics) and River People are beautifully arranged and display superior craftsmanship. It’s really a wall of greatness, with each song just as good as the next.

Swampwater mastered all the rural styles from cajun to folk-rock but just never received the breaks they so justly deserved. Their members were slugging it out in bars playing this sort of music years before anyone else had thought to do so. This album is a masterpiece and recommended to any true country fan.
by Jason Nardelli
1. Louisiana Woman - 2:20
2. Workin’ On A Tugboat - 2:11
3. Desparations Back Again - 2:05
4. It’s Your Game Mary Jane - 3:06
5. River People - 2:19
6. Man From New Orleans (John Beland) - 3:05
7. Take A City Bride - 1:53
8. Kathleen (John Beland) - 2:35
9. Nashville Lady (John Beland) - 3:32
10.Look Out Your Window - 2:56
11.Big Bayou - 2:43
All songs by Gib Guilbeau except where stated

The Swampwater
*John Beland – Guitar, Resonator Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Gib Guilbeau - Fiddle, Guitar, Vocals
*Thad Maxwell - Bass, Vocals
*Stan Pratt - Drums
*Roger Jannotta - Strings

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Cowboy - Reach For The Sky (1970 us, fine country southern rock)

While not exactly the house band for Phil Walden's Macon, GA-based Capricorn Records label, the members of the acoustic aggregate Cowboy -- consisting of Scott Boyer (guitars / violin / vocals), Tommy Talton (guitars / vocals), Bill Pillmore (piano / guitar / fiddle / vocals), Tomm Wynn (drums / percussion), George Clark (bass), and Pete Kowalke (guitars / vocals /d rums) -- could be found on recordings by the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman (whom they regularly supported), Alex Taylor, and Bonnie Bramlett. 

Their debut Reach for the Sky (1971) amply shows off their rural whimsy and substantial acoustic capacities. While their country-rock leanings are comparable to the Hearts & Flowers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, or Pure Prairie League, they rely on their solid original material rather than adaptations and variations on traditional works and standards from the genre. However, as the mini-hoedown "Honey Ain't Nowhere" proves, they dew drop in for some unquestionably bluegrass-inspired pickin'. 

The succinct "Amelia's Earache" and "Pick Your Nose" are both off-the-wall indulgences that nicely balance out the stunning "Beautiful Friend" and the mid-tempo rocker "Stick Together," which bears all the earmarks of an early-'70s Allman Brothers side. Similarly, "Rip & Snort" features a strong repetitive rhythm that is accentuated by the guitarists in a tandem lead similar to that of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. Another recommended spin is the languid and laid-back "It's Time," as it wafts into a vibe reminiscent of Neil Young circa After the Gold Rush (1970). Reach for the Sky (1971) is full of pleasurable, if not slightly pastoral, music that is recommended for inclined ears who likewise favor Southern rock. 
by Lindsay Planer
1. Opening (Bill Pillmore, Pete Kowalke) - 1:55
2. Livin' In The Country (Bill Pillmore, Scott Boyer) - 3:10
3. Song Of Love And Peace (Scott Boyer) - 2:39
4. Amelia's Earache (Tommy Talton) - 0:42
5. Pick Your Nose (Bill Pillmore) - 1:53
6. Pretty Friend (Tommy Talton) - 4:16
7. Everything Here (Tommy Talton) - 5:34
8. Stick Together (Scott Boyer) - 2:43
9. Use Your Situation (Scott Boyer) - 3:12
10.It's Time (Scott Boyer) - 4:28
11.Honey Ain't Nowhere (Scott Boyer) - 1:57
12.Rip And Snort (Scott Boyer) - 4:13
13.Josephine, Beyond Compare (Tommy Talton) - 4:27

*Scott Boyer - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Violin, Lead Vocals
*Tommy Talton - Acoustic Guitar, Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals
*Bill Pillmore - Piano, Acoustic Guitar, Fiddle, Vocals
*George Clark - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Pete Kowalke - Acoustic Guitar, Lead Guitar, Vocals, Drums

1971  Cowboy - 5'll Getcha Ten (2014 remaster)
Related Acts
1968  The 31st Of February - The 31st Of February
1974  Gregg Allman - The Gregg Allman Tour (2008 japan SHM remaster)

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Monday, March 4, 2019

Cowboy - 5'll Getcha Ten (1971 us, wonderful southern country soft rock, 2014 remaster)

One of Southern rock's best-kept secrets during its golden age in the 1970s, Cowboy were formed by songwriters Tommy Talton and Scott Boyer in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969. Playing a kind of acoustic country-rock similar to contemporaries Pure Prairie League, Cowboy had their own twist on the formula, thanks to Talton and Boyer's sharp, focused songwriting and a distinguishable Muscle Shoals flair.

After hearing the band, Duane Allman passed the word along to Phil Walden at Macon, Georgia's Capricorn Records, who offered the group a recording contract. The band's membership was pretty fluid during this time, other than Talton and Boyer, both of whom became de facto members of the Capricorn house band, playing with the Allman Brothers, Gregg Allman, Alex Taylor, and Bonnie Bramlett, among others. In all, four albums were released under the Cowboy name on Capricorn Records, 1970's Reach for the Sky and 1971's 5'll Getcha Ten.

Talton and Boyer put Cowboy back together in 2007, recording tracks at Sandlin's Duck Tape Studio in Decatur, Alabama, although none of those tracks were released at the time. After battling peripheral artery disease, Scott Boyer died in Muscle Shoals in February 2018; he was 70 years old. 
by Steve Leggett

Full of laid-back Southern charm, 5'll Getcha Ten finds Cowboy further exploring the wonders of back-porch music. Strong songwriting and beautiful harmonies abound here, and cuts like the title track, "All My Friends," "Innocence Song," and "Please Be with Me" -- the latter of which features Duane Allman on Dobro and caught the ear of Eric Clapton, who included his own rendition of the tune on 461 Ocean Boulevard -- all sport fine musicianship. A great album to kick back and relax to. 
by James Chrispell
1. She Carries A Child (Scott Boyer) - 3:40
2. Hey There Babe (Tommy Talton) - 3:18
3. 5'll Getcha Ten (Tommy Talton) - 4:55
4. The Wonder (John McKenze) - 3:52
5. Shoestrings (Scott Boyer, Bill Pillmore) - 3:20
6. Lookin' For You (Scott Boyer) - 4:06
7. Seven Four Tune (Bill Pillmore) - 2:40
8. Right On Friend (Scott Boyer) - 3:36
9. All My Friends (Scott Boyer) - 4:50
10.Innocence Song (Scott Boyer, Bill Pillmore) - 1:53
11.Please Be With Me (Scott Boyer) - 3:40
12.What I Want Is You (Peter Kowalke) - 3:25

*Scott Boyer - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Violin, Lead Vocals
*Tommy Talton - Acoustic Guitar, Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals
*Bill Pillmore - Piano, Acoustic Guitar, Fiddle, Vocals
*George Clark - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Pete Kowalke - Acoustic Guitar, Lead Guitar, Vocals, Drums
*Tom Wynn - Drums, Percussion
*Chuck Leavell - Piano
*Duane Allman - Dobro

Related Acts
1968  The 31st Of February - The 31st Of February
1974  Gregg Allman - The Gregg Allman Tour (2008 japan SHM remaster)

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