Friday, August 10, 2018

Skip Battin ‎– Topanga Skyline (1973 us, excellent folk country soft rock, 2010 remaster)

It took a while longer to appear than expected, but Skip Battin’s second solo album has finally surfaced on CD after thirty-nine years. The explanations for its shelving in 1973 include, depending on whom you read and believe, (a) the vinyl shortage resulting from the oil embargo following the Yom Kippur War, (b) the cancellation of the fall-of-‘73 national tour featuring Skip, Gene Parsons, Gram Parsons, Clarence White and Country Gazette through various city fathers vetoing the presence of “longhairs”, or (c) loss of heart in the recording project following the death of Clarence. Following Skip’s own passing in 2009, his son Brent negotiated with California’s Sierra Records to issue the “lost” album posthumously in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Skip’s first appearance with the Byrds. Three years further on, we finally have it, and it’s been worth the wait despite the sad circumstances of its gestation and publication.

Clarence was killed on July 15, 1973, three days before recording was due to begin, but the sessions went ahead nevertheless. In place of the various Byrds alumni who backed Skip on his eponymous debut set, he received the services of members of the redoubtable Country Gazette and assorted friends: Bob Beeman and Herb Pedersen (acoustic guitars), Chris Etheridge (RIP April 23, 2012 – bass), Byron Berline (fiddle), Alan Munde (banjo), Roland White (brother of Clarence – mandolin) and Mike Bowden (drums), and in Clarence’s place came Al Perkins from the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band on electric guitar, pedal steel and Dobro. A more capable combo could not have been wished for, and the album resonates with their flawless musicianship behind Skip’s down-home Dylanish vocal and piano. If there was an atmosphere of sadness and loss in the studio, it doesn’t show in the music, which is relentlessly upbeat and powerful on the fast tunes and warm and sympathetic on the ballads. The bluegrass players shine both ensemble and as soloists, and Perkins’s contributions are remarkably assured given his last-minute drafting. Production by Skip’s longtime writing and recording partner Kim Fowley is exemplary, as you’d expect.

The CD package as released by UK imprint Floating World on licence from Sierra includes the nine original studio tracks completed before the decision to abandon. These are split between typically idiosyncratic Battin/Fowley country-rock originals – “Bolts Of Blue”, “Don’t Go Down The Drain”, “Stoned Sober” – and supercharged bluegrass covers – the Morris Brothers’ “Salty Dog Blues”,  A.P. Carter’s “Foggy Mountain Top”, the traditional ”Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” – plus a truly inspired reworking of the old 1959 Olympics hit “Hully Gully”. In addition to these there are several bonuses. “Willow In The Wind” and “China Moon” are taken from Skip’s 1981 album “Navigator”, an Italian-only release featuring Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel. The ghost of Clarence walks on an alternative version of “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and on “Old Mountain Dew”, two rehearsal tapings which are thought to be the last recorded work Clarence ever laid down. Rounding the package out is a short mpeg of a clean-cut Elvis-quiffed Skip performing solo on a 1965 Californian TV show similar to Ready Steady Go on which he lip-synchs a couple of pre-British Invasion teenypop songs, “Searchin’” and “She Acts Like We Never Have Met”. 
by Len Liechti
1. Salty Dog Blues - 2:54
2. Bolts Of Blue - 2:55
3. Stoned Sober - 3:10
4. Relax With Me - 4:22
5. Willow In The Wind - 2:56
6. Don't Go Down The Drain - 4:14
7. Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms 1, 2 (Traditional) - 4:19
8. Hully Gully - 3:15
9. Foggy Mountain Top - 2:44
10.Wintergreen - 3:11
11.1.China Moon - 4:27
11.2.Old Mountain Dew (Unlisted) - 1:55
All songs by Skip Battin, Kim Fowley except where noted

*Skip Battin - Lead Vocals, Piano
*Alan Munde - Banjo
*Chris Ethridge - Bass
*Mike Bowden - Drums
*Byron Berline - Fiddle
*Bob Beeman - Guitar
*Herb Pedersen - Guitar, Vocals
*Roland White – Mandolin, Vocals
*Al Perkins – Pedal Steel Guitar, Dobro
*Clarence White - Guitar

1972  Skip Battin - Skip (2003 issue) 
With The Byrds
1971  The Byrds - Live At Royal Albert Hall (2008 issue) 
1971  The Byrds - Byrdmaniax (2013 japan Blu Spec edition) 

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hapshash And The Coloured Coat - Featuring The Human Host And The Heavy Metal Kids (1967 uk, great experimental psychedelia, 2002 issue)

This album has acquired a bit of status as a minor legend over the moons, and it's not too hard on balance to hear why; besides the grandiose spirit-of-1967 group and album name, this brief but interesting record has a lot of descendants, though whether that was intentionally the case or not is up in the air. The English trio that made up Hapshash & the Coloured Coat for its original incarnation was composed of art designers and DJs by trade; this, their sole release together, is a classic situation of lightning in a bottle. The emphasis is on blunt but entrancing rhythm throughout -- pounding drums and bongos, rolling piano (sometimes practically barrelhouse), and chunky guitar parts that are proto-funk as much as steady, straightforward crunch. 

Combine that with vocals that appear then disappear as needed and an air of ragged partying, and it's not too off balance to consider this album as a fine equivalent to what the Velvet Underground were starting to cook up. Certainly it sounds like the original Amon Düül had this spinning when creating their own freak-outs a couple of years later, what with the chanting and fractured acid folk guitar here and there ("The New Messiah Coming 1985" is particularly gone). 

Even the shorter songs, like "A Mind Blown Is a Mind Shown" and the mostly a cappella chanting of "Aoum," sound like excerpts from much longer efforts. "H-O-P-P-Why?" kicks everything off with the right blend of things, but it's the monstrous, bell-laden "Empires of the Sun" that's the winner, with some great parts where the (at points elsewhere, orgasmic) vocalists sound like mariachi singers. Credit as well to member Guy Stevens' excellent production, which is much more lively and detailed than many recordings of the time; he went on to work as a house producer for Island Records, and it's easily clear why.
by Ned Raggett
1. H-O-P-P-Why? - 7:36
2. A Mind Blown Is A Mind Shown - 2:26
3. The New Messiah Coning 1985 - 7:08
4. Aoum - 3:26
5. Empires Of The Sun - 15:51
All compositions by Guy Stevens, Nigel Waymouth, MIchael English 

Hapshash And The Coloured Coat
*Nigel Waymouth
*MIchael English
*Guy Stevens

1969  Hapshash And The Coloured Coat - Western Flier (2013 remaster) 

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Spirit - It Shall Be-Ode And Epic Recordings (1968-72 us, superb psychedelic fusion rock, 2018 five disc box set remaster with extra tracks)

After RC’s recent Roots Of US Progressive Rock feature, by far the most positive feedback came for Spirit, the fabled LA band who first appeared 50 years ago spearheading Columbia’s Rock Machine campaign. This definitive package built around the first five albums, confirms that, when it came to mashing diverse musical styles in a psych blender with supernatural chops, Spirit were light years ahead of 1968’s illustrious pack, even eclipsing more vaunted contemporaries like The Band for alchemical trail-blazing.

“The trouble was, our reputation as an idiosyncratic psychedelic jazz group meant we were influential rather than successful,” says bassist Mark Andes in the sleevenotes. Spirit sounded like seasoned veterans, but only 4year-old drummer Ed Cassidy, who’d played with jazz greats earlier in life, boasted that distinction. When they came together in 1967 as a rebooted version of the earlier Red Roosters, they also included Cassidy’s 16-year-old guitarist step-son Randy Wolfe, renamed Randy California by Hendrix when both were playing Greenwich Village’s Café Wha? the previous year. (Then-schoolboy Randy was famously prevented by his parents from accompanying Jimi to the UK). Spectrally soulful vocalist Jay Ferguson and mercurial keyboardist John Locke completed the band, who named themselves from shortening the title of Khalil Gibran’s story Spirits Rebellious, signed to Lou Adler’s Columbia-distributed Ode and recorded their self-titled first album.

With tracks like the Latin-flavoured Fresh Garbage and grippingly dramatic Mechanical World hot-wired by California’s serpentine guitar, Cassidy’s feather light propulsion and Locke’s mercurial keyboards, Spirit still sounds like a band out of time; maturely progressive and prone to leaping into jazzy solo stretches that get their own field on Elijah (and the gentle Taurus makes you wonder how innate magpies Led Zep ever won the 2016 court case accusing them of heisting the track for Stairway To Heaven).

December 1968’s The Family That Plays Together toughened the sound while retaining the idiosyncratic edge on tracks like Aren’t You Glad?, giving Spirit their only hit single with I’ve Got A Line On You before they were commissioned to write the soundtrack for French director Jacques Demy’s movie Model Shop. For anyone not familiar with its tracks on 1991’s Time Circle collection or Sundazed’s 2005 full release, the soundtrack’s resonant position between Spirit’s second and third albums will be a minor revelation as they push their envelope into cosmic jazz on The Moving Van and Mellow Fellow. Second album outtakes such as Fog in all its baroque, shimmering glory joined pieces soon expanded (and re-titled) on October 1969’s Clear (including its pastoral title track and glacial Ice), ultimately making Model Shop a phantasmagorical bridge between the two.

With Clear also nodding at blues-rock and 1984 released as a foreboding 45, Spirit forged their masterpiece with 1970’s The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus, a psychedelic social comment concept work named after William Castle’s 1961 horror film. Produced by David Bryant (at Neil Young’s suggestion) and elevated by the band’s stellar telepathic progression, Spirit up the passion and precision on the cutting Animal Zoo, heartbreaking Soldier and vertiginous TFTPT outtake Space Child, along with showcasing Randy’s blossoming song-writing on Nature’s Way and Why Can’t I Be Free?

Sadly, Spirit’s original line-up soon dispersed, leaving Cassidy and Locke joined by brothers Al and John Staehely to record 1972’s Feedback, which saw jazz impulses replaced by Southern rock flavours. By 1973, California was back leading Spirit with his step-dad until drowning near Hawaii in 1997 (Cassidy died in 2012, aged 89).

It Shall Be will remain the definitive monument for this vital band, bolstered by outtakes, singles, alternative Time Circle mixes and first album’s original mono mix making its CD debut; much of it still sounding as evocatively beautiful and astonishingly ground-breaking as it did half a century ago. We should be glad indeed for such marvels.
by Kris Needs
Disc 1
Spirit 1968
1. Fresh Garbage (Jay Ferguson) - 3:11
2. Uncle Jack (Jay Ferguson) - 2:43
3. Mechanical World (Jay Ferguson, Mark Andes) - 5:15
4. Taurus (Randy California) - 2:37
5. Girl In Your Eye (Jay Ferguson) - 3:15
6. Straight Arrow (Jay Ferguson) - 2:50
7. Topanga Windows (Jay Ferguson) - 3:36
8. Gramophone Man (Ed Cassidy, Jay Ferguson) - 3:49
9. Water Woman (Jay Ferguson) - 2:11
10.The Great Canyon Fire In General (Jay Ferguson) - 2:46
11.Elijah (John Locke) - 10:42
The Family That Plays Together 1968
12.I Got A Line On You (Randy California) - 2:35
13.It Shall Be (John Locke, Randy California) - 3:02
14.Poor Richard (Jay Ferguson) - 2:28
15.Silky Sam (Jay Ferguson) - 3:48
16.Drunkard (Jay Ferguson) - 2:26
17.Darlin' If (Randy California) - 3:38
18.All The Same (Ed Cassidy, Randy California) - 4:46
19.Jewish (Randy California) - 2:46
20.Dream Within A Dream (Jay Ferguson) - 3:00
21.She Smiled (Jay Ferguson) - 2:22
22.Aren't You Glad (Jay Ferguson) - 5:34
Disc 2
The Model Shop 1968-69
1. The Moving Van (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 1:56
2. Mellow Fellow (Ed Cassidy, John Locke) - 2:50
3. Now Or Anywhere (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 4:39
4. Fog (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 2:24
5. Green Gorilla (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 2:13
6. Model Shop I (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 2:02
7. Model Shop II (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 4:07
8. The Rehearsal Theme (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 1:11
9. Song For Lola (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 5:47
10.Eventide (John Locke) - 3:56
11.Coral (John Locke) - 4:22
12.Aren't You Glad (Demo) (Jay Ferguson) - 5:26
Clear 1969
13.Dark Eyed Woman (Randy California, Jay Ferguson) - 3:06
14.Apple Orchard (Mark Andes, Randy California, Ed Cassidy) - 4:03
15.So Little Time To Fly (Randy California, John Locke) - 2:47
16.Ground Hog (Jay Ferguson) - 3:02
17.Cold Wind (Jay Ferguson) - 3:23
18.Policeman's Ball (Jay Ferguson) - 2:21
19.Ice (John Locke) - 5:47
20.Give A Life, Take A Life (Lou Adler, Randy California) - 3:20
21.I'm Truckin' (Jay Ferguson) - 2:24
22.Clear (Randy California, Jay Ferguson) - 4:07
23.Caught (John Locke) - 3:11
24.New Dope In Town (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 4:23
Disc 3
Twelve Dreams Of Doctor Sardonicus 1970
01. Prelude – Nothing To Hide (Randy California) - 3:43
02. Nature's Way (Randy California) - 2:40
03. Animal Zoo (Jay Ferguson) - 3:10
04. Love Has Found A Way (Randy California, Jay Ferguson) - 2:42
05. Why Can't I Be Free? (Randy California) - 1:05
06. Mr. Skin (Jay Ferguson) - 4:00
07. Space Child (John Locke) - 3:25
08. When I Touch You (Jay Ferguson) - 5:37
09. Street Worm (Jay Ferguson) - 3:42
10.Life Has Just Begun (Randy California) - 3:29
11.Morning Will Come (Randy California) - 2:50
12.Soldier (Randy California) - 2:43
Recorded In 1970 During Sessions For "Twelve Dreams Of Doctor Sardonicus"
13.Rougher Road (Randy California) - 3:16
Feedback 1972
14.Chelsea Girls (Al Staehely) - 3:28
15.Cadillac Cowboys (Al Staehely) - 3:37
16.Puesta Del Scam (John Locke) - 2:02
17.Ripe And Ready (Al Staehely) - 3:50
18.Darkness (John Locke) - 4:46
19.Earth Shaker (Al Staehely) - 3:53
20.Mellow Morning (Al Staehely, Mark Andes) - 2:21
21.Right On Time (Al Staehely) - 2:46
22.Trancas Fog-Out (John Locke) - 2:37
23.Witch (Al Staehely) - 5:20
Disc 4
Spirit (Mono) 1968
1. Fresh Garbage (Jay Ferguson) - 3:12
2. Uncle Jack (Jay Ferguson) - 2:44
3. Mechanical World (Jay Ferguson, Mark Andes) - 5:13
4. Taurus (Randy California) - 2:35
5. Girl In Your Eye (Jay Ferguson) - 3:06
6. Straight Arrow (Jay Ferguson) - 2:46
7. Topanga Windows (Jay Ferguson) - 3:31
8. Gramophone Man (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 3:51
9. Water Woman (Jay Ferguson) - 2:09
10.The Great Canyon Fire In General (Jay Ferguson) - 2:47
11.Elijah (John Locke) - 10:39
Recorded In 1968 During Sessions For "Spirit"
12.Veruska (Randy California) - 2:50
13.Free Spirit (John Locke) - 4:26
14.If I Had A Woman (Randy California) - 3:11
15.Elijah (Alternate Take 2) (John Locke) - 9:41
Taken From The 1991 Compilation "Time Circle"
16.I Got A Line On You (Randy California) - 2:47
17.It Shall Be (Randy California, John Locke) - 3:28
18.Poor Richard (Jay Ferguson) - 2:29
19.Silky Sam (Jay Ferguson) - 4:12
Disc 5
Taken From The 1991 Compilation "Time Circle"
1. Scherozode (John Locke) - 2:12
2. All The Same (Marty Paich, Randy California, Ed Cassidy, Helmut Bredigkeit, Angela Poethig, Richard Gramer) - 4:40
3. A Dream Within A Dream (Marty Paich, Jay Ferguson) - 3:01
4. Aren't You Glad (Jay Ferguson) - 5:34
5. Eventide (John Locke) - 4:21
6. Model Shop Theme (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 2:57
7. Green Gorilla (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 2:18
8. Rehearsal Theme (Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Randy California, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy) - 1:12
Recorded In 1968 During Sessions For "The Family That Plays Together"
9. Fog (Randy California, John Locke) - 2:25
10.So Little To Say (Jay Ferguson) - 2:59
11.Mellow Fellow (John Locke) - 3:48
12.Now Or Anywhere (Jay Ferguson) - 4:21
13.Space Chile (John Locke) - 6:24
Recorded In 1969 During Sessions For "Clear"
14.Fuller Brush Man (Jay Ferguson) - 3:19
15.Coral (Ed Cassidy, John Locke) - 2:02
A And B-Sides Of Single (Released In 1970)
16.1984 (Randy California) - 3:37
17.Sweet Stella Baby (Jay Ferguson) - 2:56
A And B-Sides Of Single (Released In 1970)
18.Animal Zoo (Mono Single Version) (Randy California) - 3:03
19.Red Light Roll On (Randy California) - 5:42
Recorded And Mixed In 1970
20.Morning Will Come (Randy California) - 2:50

*Randy California - Guitar, Vocals
*Ed Cassidy - Drums
*John Locke - Keyboards
*Mark Andes - Bass
*Jay Ferguson - Vocals, Percussion
*Al Staehely - Bass, Vocals (Disc 3, Tracks 14-23)
*Chris Staehely - Guitar, Backup Vocals (Disc 3, Tracks 14-23)

1971  Spirit - Feedback
Related Acts
1972-74  Jo Jo Gunne - Jo Jo Gunne / Bite Down Hard / Jumpin' the Gun / So... Where's the Show? (double disc 2011 issue) 
1976-78  Firefall - Firefall / Luna Sea / Elan (2016 double disc set)

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Dave Mason - Dave Mason / Split Coconut (1974-75 uk, wonderful blend of folk soft classic guitar rock, 2008 remaster)

Using his touring band, which included keyboard player Mike Finnigan and guitarist Jim Krueger, Dave Mason turned in a strong pop/rock collection on his second, self-titled Columbia album. "Show Me Some Affection" was one of those songs that should have been a hit single, Mason recut a fuller version of "Every Woman," originally heard on It's Like You Never Left, and the album also included Mason's version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," in an arrangement patterned after the one by Jimi Hendrix, on which Mason had played six years earlier.
by William Ruhlmann

Split Coconut is Mason's first successful attempt to diversify that style; the result is a mixed bag of fine, listenable rock.While Mason's singing hasn't changed much over the years, remaining pleasantly untrained and unaffected, he demonstrates here that his is continuing to experiment and grow as a guitarist.

While a couple of the songs display the fluid, comfortable style he's mastered over the years ("Sweet Music," "You Can Lose It"), others are more innovative. "Split Coconut" is an irrepressible disco stomp and "Save Your Love" has a funky Lee Michaels flavor with some effective use of the wah-wah pedal. Other novelties include "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," which omits the guitars altogether and substitutes marimbas, a guest appearance by Manhattan Transfer and the use of organ on a light calypso number, and "Two Guitar Lovers," in which Mason and second guitarist Jim Krueger swap effective leads.

Split Coconut also boasts David Crosby and Graham Nash on backing vocals, but unfortunately they're so lost in the mix as to be almost inaudible. Still, this is for the most part a very entertaining LP.
by Alan Niester, Rolling Stone, 12/4/75 
1. Show Me Some Affection (Dave Mason) - 4:23
2. Get Ahold On Love (Dave Mason) - 2:47
3. Every Woman (Dave Mason) - 3:04
4. It Can't Make Any Difference To Me (Lane Tietgen) - 2:19
5. All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan) - 4:06
6. Bring It On Home To Me (Sam Cooke) - 2:58
7. Harmony & Melody (Dave Mason) - 3:39
8. Relation Ships (Dave Mason) - 5:06
9. You Can't Take It When You Go (Dave Mason) - 4:10
10.Split Coconut (Dave Mason) - 3:41
11.Crying, Waiting, Hoping (Buddy Holly) - 2:46
12.You Can Lose It (Dave Mason, Jim Kreuger) - 3:07
13.She's A Friend (Dave Mason) - 2:57
14.Save Your Love (Dave Mason) - 4:19
15.Give Me A Reason Why (Dave Mason) - 5:03
16.Two Guitar Lovers (Maureen Grey) - 3:35
17.Sweet Music (Dave Mason) - 3:22
18.Long Lost Friend (Dave Mason) - 4:28

1974  Dave Mason
*Dave Mason - Guitar, Lead Vocals, Horns Arrangements
*Mike Finnigan - Keyboards, Vocals
*Bob Glaub - Bass
*Rick Jaeger - Drums
*Jim Krueger - Guitar (Lead Solo On 04,06,07), Vocals
*Richard Bennett - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Gary Barone, Jerry Jumonville, Jock Ellis, Sal Marquez - Horn Section
*Tim Weisberg - Flute
*Mike Finnigan - Horns Arrangements
*Nick DeCaro - Strings Arrangements
1975  Split Coconut
*Dave Mason - Vocals, Guitar, Slide Guitar
*David Crosby - Vocals, Background Vocals
*Graham Nash - Guitar, Background Vocals
*Rick Jaeger - Drums
*Gerald Johnson - Bass
*Mark T. Jordan - Organ, Keyboards, Clavinet
*Jim Krueger - Guitar
*The Manhattan Transfer - Vocals, Background Vocals
*Emil Richards - Percussion, Marimba
*Jai Winding - Organ, Synthesizer, Piano, Keyboards

1970  Dave Mason - Alone Together (Japan remaster) 
1971  Dave Mason And Cass Elliot (2008 remaster)
1972  Dave Mason - Headkeeper (Japan SHM-CD 2010 remaster) 
1973  Dave Mason - It's Like You Never Left  
1976-77  Dave Mason - Certified Live / Let It Flow (2011 double disc edition)  
With Traffic
1969  Traffic - Last Exit (SHM remaster)
1971  Traffic - Welcome To The Canteen (SHM remaster)
1973  Traffic - On The Road (SHM remaster)

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Lily And Maria - Lily And Maria (1968 us, gorgeous psych folk rock, 2008 bonus tracks remaster)

Born in Germany, but raised in the Bronx by a pair of Holocaust survivors, Lily Fishman studied theater in her teens. By the mid-1960s she was performing on Off Broadway where, together with friend Marie Neumann, the pair somehow attracted the attention of Columbia Records. Signed to a recording contract, 1968's the cleverly titled "Lily & Marie" teamed the pair with producers Garry Sherman and Stanley Kahan.  In terms of credits, Neumann wrote most of the material and seems to have handled most of vocals. 

'Subway Thoughts' bounced all over the map.  It started out with some wayward, pseudo-jazzy moves before morphing into a stark, pained ballad featuring Neumann and acoustic guitar.  About a minute into the track it exploded into a more conventional rock segment (complete with keyboard and fuzz guitar) that was actually pretty good.  It then moved back and forth between the softer passages and the up-tempo rock segments.  I missed it the first time around, but the song had two things going for it; the women were actually surprisingly good harmony singers and the song had  a very tasty acoustic guitar solo.

A stark, acoustic ballad, 'Everybody Knows' was pretty much a downer through and through.  I'm sure it was very profound, but stuff like 'I knew the shape of thirsty flowers' simply didn't cut it for me.  That said, the song's pathos and literary images should appeal to English majors everywhere.

'Aftermath' started out another hyper-sensitive, fragile ballad, but improved when the first chorus kicked in and the song began to pick up some speed and a full band arrangement.  Not great, but at least there was a recognizable melody to this one and I'll admit their harmony vocals weren't bad.

Opening with a nice bass pattern and some cool acoustic guitar, 'Melt Me' was actually the album's most commercial and mainstream performance.  Framed by a full band arrangement, on this one Fishman and Neuman turned in a performance that was actually memorable and enjoyable - imagine a precursor to something Kate Bush might have recorded.

Fourteen After One' found the pair pulling a page from the 'Eleanor Rigby' catalog.  Lyrically it didn't have a great deal to say - how many times can you point out that getting old sucks?  That said, driven along by a nice organ, this one had a pretty melody and on this one they showcased some very nice harmony vocals.
1. Subdway Thoughts (Maria Neumann) - 1:29
2. Everybody Knows (Maria Neumann) - 4:35
3. I Was (Maria Neumann) - 4:00
4. Ismene-Jasmine (Liz Fiszman) - 1:46
5. There'll Be No Clowns Tonight (Maria Neumann) - 6:43
6. Aftermath (Maria Neumann) - 3:21
7. Morning Glory Morning (Maria Neumann) - 3:15
8. Melt Me (Maria Neumann) - 5:27
9. Fourteen After One (Liz Fiszman, Maria Neumann) - 3:22
10.Everybody Knows (Mono) (Maria Neumann) - 3:28
11.Morning Glory Morning (Mono) (Maria Neumann) - 3:17

*Liz Fiszman - Vocals, Guitar
*Maria Neumann - Vocals, Guitar
*Charlie Brown - Guitar
*Steve Kreider - Guitar
*Lou Hemsey - Guitar
*Willard Snyker - Guitar
*Lou Marro - Bass
*Paul Griffin - Organ, Piano
*Gary Chester - Organ, Viber
*Bernie Berger - Flute
*Hank Freeman - Flute, Clarinet
*Gary Chester - Drums
*Harold and the Gang - Kohon String Quartet

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Kingdom - Kingdom (1970 us, sensational hard blues psych rock, 2011 remaster)

A California hard rock band with a sound somewhat reminiscent of vintage Cream, Kingdom released a single album (also called Kingdom) on Specialty Records in 1970, and the rarity of that original release has given the band a kind of cache among record collectors.

Kingdom was a solid rock band sporting impressive dual lead guitars, deep organ washes, a solid sense of dynamics, and appropriately gruff, John Kay-like lead vocals from frontman Jim Potkey. All the group really lacked was a set of striking songs, and while the opener, "Waiting, Hesitating," the hard-rocking and bucolic "Back to the Farm," and the ambitious, endlessly shifting eight-minute closing track, "Morning Swallow," all show promise, little else here lingers in the mind after the last note fades.

Still, the playing is impressive, particularly the dual lead guitar sound, which was still somewhat innovative in hard rock circles at the time. It would have been interesting to hear what this outfit might have come up with for a second album, but alas, a second go-round in the studio was not to be. 
by Steve Leggett
1. Waiting, Hesitating - 2:22
2. Everybody's Had The Blues - 3:28
3. Back To The Farm - 3:06
4. Seven Fathoms Deep - 3:49
5. If I Never Was To See Her Again - 4:06
6. Seasons (Ed Nelson) - 2:28
7. Prelude - 3:09
8. No Time Spent - 3:25
9. Have You Seen The Lady - 2:51
10.Morning Swallow - 8:08
All songs by Jim Potkey except where stated

The Kingdom
*Ed Nelson - Bass, Vocals
*Gary Varga - Drums
*John Toyne - Guitar, Vocals
*Jim Potkey - Lead Vocals, Organ, Guitar

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Stud - The SWF Session (1972 ireland / uk, exceptional folk prog rock, 2009 release)

When Jim Cregan, Richard Mc Cracken and John Wilson got together in the fall of 1970 to form Stud, British music magazines ought to have hailed the advent of a super group. After all, bassist Mc Cracken and drummer Wilson were the rhythm group of Rory Gallagher’s first class band Taste, and Jim Cregan was one of two guitarists of Blossom Toes, a band generally esteemed for its high musical potential. But the band’s take off was scarcely noticed by British music magazines, as was the release of their first album in April 1971, in spite of the many positive reviews they received. This is why the band never made it beyond the status of an insider’s tip in Great Britain. However, in Germany Stud was a very popular live act; they played on many large festivals and toured the German clubs, which helped spur the sales of their first album and made for a reasonable living. Stud, and particularly manager and producer Eddie Kennedy, blamed the local record company Decca for the lack of success in the UK and demanded a better marketing. The dispute left Stud without a record company.

The band saw their chance in Germany, where they were successful and had many fans due to their frequent gigs. In 1970, BASF, originally known as a label for classic and jazz and as manufacturer of audio and cassette tapes, had established a rock label of the same name ( as well as the sub label Pilz), and gave Stud a contract. After the release of their first album, John Weider (guitar, violin, piano, vocals) joined Stud as a permanent member. He had already played as guest musician on the first album. The albums “September”, released in early 1972, and “Goodbye, Live at Command” were recorded with the participation of Weider. When “Goodbye..” was released in the summer of 1973 – the recordings had been done live during a session in London’s Command Studios in May 1972 – Stud had ceased to exist. Cracken had been the first to leave the band to join the newly formed Spencer Davis Group. John Weider had formed Moonrider, together with Keith West, and Jim Cregan had joined Family and played on their last album “It’s only a movie”. 

The band was retired for good when John Wilson’s attempt to carry on Stud with former East of Eden bassist Andrew Sneddon and guitarist Snowie White failed. Even though Stud was perhaps no more than a footnote in the history of British rock music and was never as important as the bands its members had played in before, the group is still very popular with music lovers. These recordings made in the SWF studio U1 represent a cross section of all three studio albums and are an impressive prove of the band’s musical bandwidth and the band members’ excellent technical skills.
by Manfred Steinheuer, August 2009
1. Good Things (John Weider) - 6:57
2. Samurai (Piano Version) (Jim Cregan) - 2:42
3. Horizon (Jim Cregan, John Wilson, Richard McCracken) - 12:47
4. Make Me High (Jim Cregan) - 6:38
5. Ocean Boogie (Jim Cregan) - 3:36
6. Samurai (Guitar Version) (Jim Cregan) - 3:01

The Stud
*Jim Cregan - Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals
*John Weider - Guitar, Piano, Violin, Vocals
*Richard "Charlie" McCracken - Bass
*John Wilson - Drums, Percussion

1971  Stud - Stud (2008 Esoteric remaster) 
1972-73 Stud - September/ Goodbye (Live At Command) 
Related Acts
1966-68  Eric Burdon And The Animals - Roadrunners! Rare Live And Studio Recordings
1967  Eric Burdon And The Animals - Winds of Change (2013 japan SHM double disc remaster)
1968  Eric Burdon And The Animals - The Twain Shall Meet (2013 japan SHM remaster)
1968  Blossom Toes - We Are Ever So Clean (Japan remaster)
1968  Tomorrow - Tomorow
1970  Taste - On The Boards (Japan SHM remaster)
1970  Taste - What's Going On Isle Of Wight Festival (2015 extra tracks remaster)
1971  Taste - Live At Isle Of Wight
1969-73  Family - In Their Own Time (two disc set)
1970  Family - Anyway (bonus tracks edition)
1970  Family - A Song For Me (2004 japan remaster and expanded)
1972  Roger Morris - First Album (korean remaster with extra tracks)
1973-75  Moonrider - Moonrider (2011 remaster and expanded)

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Stud - September/ Goodbye (Live At Command) (1972-73 ireland / uk, excellent bluesy folkish classic rock, 2001 edition)

The combination of poor sales and rising disagreements between Deram and manager Eddie Kennedy saw the band dropped by Deram Records.  Luckily extensive touring in Germany paid off in terms of the trio finding a new sponsor with the German BASF label.   In addition, prior to recording their sophomore LP the trio added former Animals and Family multi-instrumentalist John Wider to the lineup.   Recorded in London's Command Studio with Billy Kennedy again producing, musically "September" was quite different from their debut. 

Tracks like the mid-tempo rocker 'Good Things' and the ballads 'Corner', 'Samurai', and 'Five To Mid- Day' largely abandoned the debut's folk and jazz-rock leanings in favor of a far more commercial endeavor (though I'll admit Weider's violins were a source of irritation to my ears).  As on the debut, as the band's lead singer Cregan remained a hit-or-miss proposition.  His limited and fragile range was sorely tested on the ballads like 'God Knows', but he did better on the up-tempo and bluesy numbers.  A big part of the difference this time out was clearly attributable to the addition of Weider who contributed five of the ten songs, including the standout bluesy rocker 'Life without Music'.  Not perfect (the country number 'Red Wine' was hideous), but far better than the debut which for some reason remains the one collectors seek out and throw big money at.  Go for this one since it's far better and more affordable.

Apparently under considerable pressure to fulfill a contractual obligation to BASF Records,  Jim Cregan, Richard McCracken, John Weider, and John Wilson  regrouped long enough to complete what was billed as a live in-the-studio set.  Recorded in front of a select audience at London's Command Studio, 1973's "Goodbye Live At Command" found the band pulling together a mixture of five tracks; two pulled from each of the earlier studio sets and one new effort  John Weider's solo instrumental 'Big Bill's Banjo Band'. 
September 1972
1. Good Things (John Weider) - 4:00
2. God Knows (Jim Cregan, Richard McCracken) - 6:03
3. Corner (Richard McCracken) - 1:50
4. Life Without Music (John Weider) - 7:22
5. Samurai (Jim Cregan) - 2:21
6. Five To Mid-Day (Jim Cregan) - 6:05
7. Prelude (Instrumental) (John Weider) - 3:10
8. Bad Handling (Instrumental) (John Weider) - 3:30
9. Ocean Boogie (Jim Cregan) - 3:25
10.Red Wine (John Weider) - 4:23
Goodbye (Live At Command) 1973
11.Samurai (Jim Cregan) - 2:52
12.Big Bill's Banjo Band (Instrumental) (John Weider) - 1:17
13.Horizon No.2 (Jim Cregan, Richard McCracken, John Wilson) - 18:51
14.Ocean Boogie (Jim Cregan) - 3:44
15.Harpo's Head No.2 (Jim Cregan, Richard McCracken, John Wilson) - 9:59

The Stud
*Jim Cregan - Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Richard McCracken - Bass, Acoustic Guitar
*John Wilson - Drums, Percussion
*John Weider - Guitar, Piano, Violin

1971  Stud - Stud (2008 Esoteric remaster)  
Related Acts
1966-68  Eric Burdon And The Animals - Roadrunners! Rare Live And Studio Recordings
1967  Eric Burdon And The Animals - Winds of Change (2013 japan SHM double disc remaster)
1968  Eric Burdon And The Animals - The Twain Shall Meet (2013 japan SHM remaster)
1968  Blossom Toes - We Are Ever So Clean (Japan remaster)
1968  Tomorrow - Tomorow
1970  Taste - On The Boards (Japan SHM remaster)
1970  Taste - What's Going On Isle Of Wight Festival (2015 extra tracks remaster) 
1971  Taste - Live At Isle Of Wight
1969-73  Family - In Their Own Time (two disc set)
1970  Family - Anyway (bonus tracks edition)
1970  Family - A Song For Me (2004 japan remaster and expanded)
1972  Roger Morris - First Album (korean remaster with extra tracks)
1973-75  Moonrider - Moonrider (2011 remaster and expanded) 

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Friday, July 27, 2018

Supersister - To The Highest Bidder (1971 holland, spectacular canterbury prog rock, 2008 extra tracks remaster)

Supersister's unique group sound truly flourished on their second LP. Keyboardist Robert Jan Stips had taken control of all the songwriting and managed to work out the obvious influences -- for instance, exit the organ lines too reminiscent of the Canterbury scene. At this point, the group is not borrowing ideas from others, it is developing its own ideas alongside the big progressive rock acts. To the Highest Bidder doesn't sound like this or that; it is pure Supersister, namely in "A Girl Named You," the group's first true classic. Stips' composition combines elements of rock and jazz with a circular me-and-you message that brings to mind early Gong (the way he handles the melody also evokes Daevid Allen).

Everybody gets a technical workout, yet the piece unfolds gracefully, striking a balance between the melodicism of Italian progressive rock and the witty character of the Canterbury flavor of the genre. This balance is what will set apart this album and the next one. The ballad "No Tree Will Grow (On Too High a Mountain)" is a brilliant fluke -- witness the collective burst of laughter at the end if you thought the guys were serious about this progressified '60s pop pastiche. By then the group's longest composition, the 15-minute "Energy (Out of Future)" tries to do too many things at once, with very difficult passages tied together by comical vocal episodes. A bit excessive, it still has its share of fine moments that are fun and clever, but what it mostly accomplishes is to exorcise the group's interest in studio experimentation, paving the way for more focused songwriting on the next LP. 
by François Couture
1. A Girl Named You (Robert Jan Stips) - 10:06
2. No Tree Will Grow (On Too High A Mountain (Robert Jan Stips) - 7:40
3. Energy (Out Of Future) (Robert Jan Stips) - 14:56
4. Higher (Robert Jan Stips) - 2:52
5. A Girl Named You (Single Version) (Robert Jan Stips) - 3:19
6. Missing Link (Supersister) - 2:57
7. No Tree Will Grow (On Too High A Mountain) (Single Version) (Robert Jan Stips) - 4:27
8. The Groupies Of The Band (Supersister) - 4:34

The Supersister
*Robert Jan Stips - Keyboards, Vocals, Vibraphone
*Sacha van Geest - Flute, Vocals
*Ron van Eck - Bass Guitar, Fuzz Bass
*Marco Vrolijk - Drums, Percussion, Vocals

1970  Supersister - Present From Nancy (2008 remaster and expanded) 

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Supersister - Present From Nancy (1970 holland, extraordinary canterbury style prog rock, 2008 remaster and expanded)

There are few bands who have managed to record such a strong, fully developed first album after only two years of existence. Supersister's debut effort remains one of Holland's best progressive rock albums and a classic of the genre worldwide, even though the group garnered only fringe interest outside of Europe. All the elements of the group's sound are already firmly in place: Sacha VanGeest's soothing flute lines, Robert Jan Stips' far-out keyboard sounds, and the group's wacky humor. 

The recipe has yet to reach its full, unique potential -- one too easily detects specific influences, mostly that of Soft Machine (the fuzz bass in "Metamorphosis"), Caravan ("Memories Are New" and the multi-part, suite-like structure of some songs), and the Mothers of Invention (the comic relief 90 seconds of "Corporation Combo Boys," concluding with the following lyric sung in four-part harmony: "We listen with attention to the Mothers of Invention"). 

The title track is the jazziest song of the set and features one of VanGeest's most memorable flute lines. "Memories Are New" and "Metamorphosis" are both Canterbury-esque prog rockers, with Dave Sinclair-like organ sounds, complex rhythms, and dry English humor. One thinks of Egg's first album or Caravan circa If I Could Do It All Over Again.... With its choral organ/vibes theme, "Dona Nobis Pacem" illustrates a more classically inclined side of the band. After the raucous experiments and craziness of the previous tracks, this delicate, carefully built piece can seem slightly out of character -- at least until Stips breaks out into a circus-like calliope motive, reaffirming one last time that Supersister shall be known for their serious lack of seriousness. 
by François Couture
1. Introduction (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 2:56
2. Present from Nancy (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 5:13
3. Memories Are New (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 3:46
4. 11/8 (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 3:15
5. Dreaming Wheelwhile (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 2:52
6. Corporaton Combo Boys (Robert Jan Stips) - 1:21
7. Mexico (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 4:20
8. Metamorphosis (Robert Jan Stips) - 3:26
9. Eight Miles High (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 0:22
10.Dona Nobis Pacem (Hans Van Oosterhout, Supersister) - 8:34
11.She Was Naked (Robert Jan Stips) - 3:45
12.Spiral Staircase (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 3:06
13.Fancy Nancy (Hans Van Oosterhout, Supersister) - 1:48
14.Gonna Take Easy (Ron Van Eck, Robert Jan Stips) - 2:42

The Supersister
*Robert Jan Stips - Keyboards, Vocals, Vibraphone
*Sacha van Geest - Flute, Vocals
*Ron van Eck - Bass Guitar, Fuzz Bass
*Marco Vrolijk - Drums, Percussion, Vocals

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