Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lesley Duncan - Everything Changes (1973 uk, marvelous folk soft rock, vinyl edition)

Lesley Duncan, was one of Britain's first female singer-songwriters. Her songs had an astonishing emotional depth and her voice a rare combination of warmth and clarity, bringing an intimacy to the experience of listening to her records. For those who discovered her music in the early 1970s, she stood out from all the other pop and rock of the era.

Her big break came when Elton John recorded her Love Song as a duet with her for his album Tumbleweed Connection (1970). Love Song – "a little song I'd knocked up as a suitable B-side," said Lesley – went on to be covered by more than 150 artists, including Olivia Newton-John, David Bowie and Barry White. In 1977, Topol and Najah Salam recorded it in Hebrew and Arabic to commemorate the peace meeting between Egypt's president, Anwar Sadat, and Israel's, Menachem Begin.

Born in Stockton-on-Tees, Lesley had an unpromising background, leaving school just before her 15th birthday and home soon after. In 1962, while she was working in a London coffee bar, she and her brother Jimmy (soon to become manager of the Pretty Things) took some songs to a leading Tin Pan Alley music publisher. Jimmy was signed with a weekly retainer of £10, and Lesley with £7, on the grounds that she had fewer songs, no guitar and was a girl. Within a year, she had an EMI recording contract and had appeared in the film What a Crazy World (1963), with Joe Brown, Marty Wilde and Susan Maughan.

She released a dozen singles from 1963 to 1970, while continuing to write songs for other performers, including the Walker Brothers. She was also in great demand as a session singer, contributing backing vocals to Dusty Springfield's singles from 1964 up to her See All Her Faces album in 1972; Springfield returned the favour, doing backing vocals on Lesley's singles.

By the late 60s, Lesley's songwriting was changing in style from girl-pop to more reflective writing. Her first album, Sing Children Sing (1971), was produced by Jimmy Horowitz, whom Lesley married in 1970 (they later divorced). It was followed by Earth Mother (1972); the title track, dedicated to Friends of the Earth, is one of the first, and finest, eco-songs.

Throughout the 70s, Lesley sang backing vocals for Donovan, Long John Baldry, Kiki Dee, Ringo Starr and many others, and also sang on the Jesus Christ, Superstar album, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and the Alan Parsons Project's Eve (1979).

Her first two solo albums were critically acclaimed but, despite a lot of radio play, neither sold well. Her next two, Everything Changes (1974) and Moon Bathing (1975), again failed to break through. Her last album, Maybe It's Lost (1977), was a conscious attempt to hit the popular market; when it didn't, she decided to call it a day.

She moved to Cornwall and, in 1978, married her second husband, the record producer Tony Cox; they later moved to Oxfordshire and, in 1996, to Mull, in the Inner Hebrides. She contributed both her time and her music to causes she believed in, including releasing a new version of her song Sing Children Sing for the Year of the Child in 1978. Lesley Duncan, passed away on 12 March 2010.
by David Barrett
1. My Soul - 3:25
2. Broken Old Doll - 3:50
3. The Serf - 3:54
4. Hold On - 3:30
5. Everything Changes - 3:43
6. Love Melts Away (Lesley Duncan, Jimmy Horowitz) - 3:40
7. Sam - 2:55
8. You - 4:23
9. Watch The Tears (Lesley Duncan, Jimmy Horowitz) - 4:20
10.We'll Get By - 4:43
All songs by Lesley Duncan except where stated

*Lesley Duncan - Vocals, Guitar
*Jim Ryan - Guitar
*Bob Cohen - Guitars
*Larry Steele - Bass
*Jimmy Horowitz - Piano
*Barry De Sousa - Drums
*Lisa Strike - Vocals
*Sue Glover - Vocals
*Peter Frampton - Guitar
*Andy Bown - Bass

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Unison - Unison (1976 us, great heavy blues psych rock)

Original private pressing LP out of Upstate NY,  This is pretty good mid to late 70's style dual guitar hard rock stoner, in the vein similar to Truth and Janey, but more psychedelic and more wasted!"

"Dryewater run into Truth and Janey after a really nasty relationship breakdown. Essentially a concept LP about a relationship gone wrong, each song being a different aspect of how “his chick done him wrong”. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? But it is pretty good, with tracks like "Borderline" delivering that seventies chunk fuzz with insane lyrics and "Cookin’ for you" having so much phasing it could be Marcus 
1. Borderline - 3:16
2. Blow Me Away - 3:07
3. Flesh And Blood - 3:42
4. Cookin 'For You - 3:15
5. Again - 4:31
6. Second Chance - 4:45
7. Running Out - 4:07
8. So Many Miles - 7:33

The Unison
*Bruce C. Van Iderstine - Vocals, Congas, Harmonica
*Guy D. Van Iderstine - Electric Six Twelve String Guitars
*Mark A. Tuberdyke - Lead Guitar
*John N. Vasey - Bass
*David Richmond - Drums, Vocals

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Bodine - Bodine (1969 us, exceptional country rural rock funky soulful psych)

Bodine is as solid as it gets, loaded with tunes as good as anything played on classic rock radio today. You would think that stations would be interested in expanding their content with picks from the vast piles of unknown classics (Bodine included), but it’s still the same old hits, recycled day after day, some 40 years later. In any case, this little lost gem, produced by Bill Cowsill, is a strong promise from a band that would disappear after just one release.

The sound is influenced by country rock, with rural acoustic guitar driving back seat to funk bass lines and stabbing double tracked guitars. But the song structures have Ray Davies-ian 3-part movements and a strong Beatles influence, especially on the bouncy Statues Of Clay. Apart from this review, I think the vocal harmonies are cool, the backups strangely adding “eee’s” to the excellent Easy To See and trading vocal leads easily standing next to groups like Blood Sweat and Tears. It’s nice to find a record with a lotta soul made by some kids with seriously blue eyes.

I find it amazing a band so unknown could have such powerfully memorable songs, though not everything has aged wonderfully. Take It Back satisfies but teeters near television theme schmaltz. But the boys do manage to approach Jim Ford’s country funk on clear winners like Keep Lookin’ Through Your Window. If you give it a chance, you’ll find there really are no throwaways on Bodine’s only album.
by Brendan McGrath 
1. Short Time Woman (Eric Karl) - 3:44
2. Oakland (Kerry Magness) - 3:19
3. Into My Life (Eric Karl) - 2:55
4. Travelogue (Steve Lalor) - 3:07
5. It's Just My Way (Eric Karl) - 5:41
6. Easy To See (Steve Lalor) - 2:51
7. Take It Back (Eric Karl) - 3:22
8. Keep Lookin' Through Your Window (Eric Karl) - 3:47
9. Statues Of Clay (Steve Lalor) - 2:44
10.Long Way Just To Go Home (Eric Karl) - 2:56
11.Between The Lines (Steve Lalor) - 3:33
12.Disaster (Eric Karl) - 3:09

The Bodine
*Kerry Magness - Bass
*Jon Keliehor – Drums
*Eric Karl – Guitar
*David Brooks - Keyboards
*Steve Lalor – Guitar

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Bunky And Jake - Bunky And Jake (1968 us, wondrous shiny baroque folk, 2007 issue)

Andrea "Bunky" Skinner and Allan "Jake" Jacobs were fixtures on the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early '60s, but they also had a taste for sophisticated pop/rock (Jacobs played guitar with the Magicians of "Invitation to Cry" fame for a while), and the duo's 1968 debut album is an engagingly eclectic set of folk-leaning pop tunes buoyed by Skinner and Jacobs' harmonies and the latter's strong guitar work. Skinner and Jacobs wrote all 11 songs on Bunky & Jake, and their thematic range stretches from the acoustic calm of "I'll Follow You" and the pastoral beauty of "Country Girl" to the '50s rock & roll vibe of "The Candy Store" and "Daphne Plum," and while the arrangements seem a bit overdone on a few cuts and the mix favors Jacobs' guitar a bit more than is needed, the melodies thankfully win out most of the time. 

If Bunky and Jake has a flaw, its that the album never sets down in one style long enough to find a comfortable groove; Skinner and Jacobs supposedly submitted these songs looking for a deal as songwriters rather than performers, and while Skinner's voice is more than strong enough to carry the material, in a bid to show how much they could do they forgot to define their individual sound along the way. While Bunky and Jake exists in a strange netherworld somewhere between sunshine pop, Baroque rock and latter-day folk-rock, the material is rich and satisfying, though the duo would have better luck (creatively, anyway) with their next album, the 1969 cult favorite LAMF.
by Mark Deming
1. I'll Follow You - 2:00
2. It Happens Again - 2:36
3. Daphne Plum - 2:42
4. Country Girl - 2:14
5. Hey Buckaroo - 2:25
6. Taxicab - 2:38
7. As You Go By - 2:37
8. Big Car, Shiny Ring - 1:57
9. Mongoose - 1:25
10.Cheerio - 2:25
11.The Candy Store - 3:50
All songs by Andrea "Bunky" Skinner, Allan "Jake" Jacobs

*Andrea "Bunky" Skinner - Guitar, Vocals
*Allan "Jake" Jacobs - Guitar, Vocals

1969  Bunky And Jake - L.A.M.F. (Japan issue)

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Cain - A Pound Of Flesh (1975-78 us, good hard rock with some glam and prog shades, 2009 bonus tracks remaster)

Cain's musical passport to classic rock obscurity, then posterity, was stamped by their first album, A Pound of Flesh, which would be roundly ignored by the world beyond the upper Midwest at the time of its release -- only to resurface nearly 30 years later on CD, transforming the band into collectors' darlings. Recorded in 1975, A Pound of Flesh reflected a half-decade's worth of hard graft for the band, and a wide gamut of influences that simultaneously intrigued and confused listeners lucky enough to secure one of the original vinyl copies.

On the other hand, one could say there was something here for everyone. For one thing, Cain's lengthy experience playing blue collar clubs peppered all the way from the Twin Cities to Chicago made it second nature for them to wheel out handfuls of no-fuss, heavy blues workouts like "Heed the Call," "South Side Queen," and "If the Right One Don't Get You (The Left One Will)" -- all of which stood in sharp contrast to their occasional flights into rarefied art rock, via the anthemic but ponderously bloated signature ballad "Katy," the eight-minute "All My Life" (a convergence of Deep Purple's "Highway Star" with any number of mid-'70s Rush efforts), and the slow-strutting "Badside," earmarked by multi-tracked choired vocals reminiscent of Queen and the rising Styx (with whom Cain shared many a stage). 

In fact, Cain singer Jiggs Lee possessed the same knowing sneer in his gravelly voice as Styx's James Young, although he was also capable of intoning a caramel-sweet croon so as not to scare away the little girls in the audience. Back to the songs at hand, however, perhaps the only unqualified winner by most any definition was rampaging opener "Queen of the Night," which coalesced both the intellectual highs and visceral lows of the band's creative aspirations, before wrapping them into a perfectly balanced package of power, class, and hooks. Needless to say, though, a single world-beater does not a hard rock classic make; and although it would be extremely convenient to blame all of Cain's woes on their hapless record label, ASI, the honest truth is that A Pound of Flesh was a very solid but not spectacular album, worthy of appreciation but not immortality.

In this reissue of A Pound of Flesh featured three additional demo tracks from 1978 that were originally intended for Cain's third album, prior to the band's breakup. All three suggested that Cain were moving steadily away from their hard rock bread and butter, especially with the rather forced funk-rocker "All Wound Up," and the AOR-coiffed single, "Take a Little Time."
by Eduardo Rivadavia 
1. Queen Of The Night (Kevin DeRemer, Dave Elmeer) - 3:08
2. Katy (Chas Carlson) - 6:34
3. Southside Queen (Dave Elmeer) - 3:18
4. Badside (Dave Elmeer) - 5:54
5. Born On The Wind (Dave Elmeer, Jiggs Lee) - 3:13
6. Heed The Call (Dave Elmeer) - 3:51
7. If The Right Don't Get You The Left One Will (Jiggs Lee) - 3:47
8. All My Life (Dave Elmeer) - 8:05
9. Love Is Gonna Come (Dave Elmeer) - 3:52
10.All Wound Up (Kevin DeRemer) - 2:33
11.Hard Life (Dave Elmeer, B. Schuessler) - 3:48
12.Take A Little Time (Dave Elmeer) - 3:19
Bonus Tracks 9-12

The Cain
*Jiggs Lee - Vocals, Percussion
*Dave Elmeer - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards
*Al Dworsky - Keyboards
*Lloyd Forsberg - Guitar
*Kevin Deremer - Drums

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Bunky And Jake - L.A.M.F. (1969 us, magnificent folk jazzy blues psych, japan issue)

If you're looking for a group that embodies that mid-'60s hippy vibe, then you should find the eclectic Bunky & Jake right up your aural alley.   For goodness sakes, how much more counter culture can you get than a young Jewish singer/guitarist teaming with a young, attractive, streetwise African-American woman; the pair deciding to name their second album "L.A.M.F" 

Allan Jacobs (aka Jake) and Andrea Skinner (aka Bunky) met in 1962 when the pair were attending New York's School of Visual Arts.   Discovering a common interest in music (they'd both sung in New York doo-wop groups), the pair started playing on the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit, attracting local attention.   In 1965 Jacobs joined The Magicians who recorded a couple of singes before calling it quits.    Following a brief turn with a late-inning line up of The Fugs in 1968 he resumed his partnership with Skinner.   Later that year the pair auditioned some of their material for former Magicians managers Art Polhemus and Bob Wyld who signed on as their managers. With the addition of  bassist  Douglas Rauch and drummer Michael Rosa, in 1968 the group was signed by Mercury Records.

Co-produced by Polhemus and Wyld, 1969's "L.A. M.F." was clearly influenced by their doo-wop and folk music roots, but was far more eclectic than what you would have expected from a bunch of New York-based folkies.   Interestingly, while Jacobs and Skinner both had decent voices (the former occasionally sounding a bit like a dry version of John Sebastian), with the exception of 'I Am the Light' their voices didn't pair all that well.  The good news was their vocals were so energetic and the arrangements so goofy, that it made up for whatever other shortcomings they exhibited.  Musically the set was all over the place, giving the album a very contemporary "Ameicana" feel.  Tracks like 'Big Boy Pete' highlighted their doo-wop roots,  but the pair were equally comfortable with gospel ('I Was a Champion'), and more commercial pop and rock numbers like 'Uncle Henry's Basement' and a blazing cover of Chuck Berry's '(Slow Down Little Jaguar) County Line'.  About all I can say is the results are disjointed, but fascinating.

In 2004 the duo released a children's album Oo-Wee Little Children, on their own B'n'J Music label. Andrea Skinner died on Sunday, March 20, 2011 after a brief illness. In October 2012, Jacobs released a new collection of songs on a 16-song CD entitled A Lick and a Promise by Jake and the Rest of the Jewels.
1. Uncle Henry's Basement (Allan Jacobs) - 2:09
2. If I Had A Dream (Allan Jacobs, Andrea Skinner) - 2:29
3. (Slow Down Little Jaguar) County Line (Chuck Berry) - 3:06
4. Girl From France (Allan Jacobs)  - 2:39
5. You Two (Chuck Berry) - 1:36
6. Big Boy Pete (D. Terry Jr., D. Harris) - 2:24
7. "Oh" Pearl (Allan Jacobs) - 4:29
8. Bump In My Groove (Allan Jacobs) - 3:34
9. I Am The Light (Gary Davis, Allan Jacobs, Andrea Skinner) - 3:59
10.Cadillac Bleu (Andrea Skinner)  - 3:22
11.One More Cowboy (Allan Jacobs, Andrea Skinner) - 3:15
12.I Was A Champion (Allan Jacobs, Andrea Skinner) - 4:05

*Andrea Skinner (Aka Bunky) - Vocals, Guitar
*Allan Jacobs - Vocals, Lead Guitar
*Douglas Rauch - Bass
*Michael Rosa - Drums, Percussion
*Ray Barretto - Congas
*Charlie Chin - Sax
*Ernie Hayes - Piano
*Buzzy Linhart - Vibes
*Mike Matthews - Organ
*Felix Pappalardi - Bass
*Chuck Rainey - Bass
*Perry Robinson - Clarinet

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Little Feat - Dixie Chicken (1973 us, exceptional multicolored southern rock, 2007 japan remaster)

Dixie Chicken (1973) is when Little Feat came up with their signature sound.  Many fans cite this as the group’s best LP.  I’ve always thought their debut was one of the best albums from the time (Sailin’ Shoes is also superb), so I’m not really sure which side of the fence I stand on.

Dixie Chicken is a more produced (rich, full sound), laid back affair when compared to the raw eccentricity of those first two albums.   Most of the tracks are Lowell George originals but to give you an idea of the influences at work here, the group covers Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down.”  This means there’s a strong New Orleans aroma throughout Dixie Chicken.  Classics like the title track and “Two Trains Running” while great songs, feature soulful backup vocalists, which make them sound a bit more produced than the group’s earlier efforts.  That being said, this is certainly one hell of an album – one of the defining roots rock discs.  

On Dixie Chicken, the group incorporated funky, almost danceable rhythms within many of the song structures while other tunes such as the excellent “Kiss It Off,” replete with ominous synth or “Juliette,” feature dark, intense vibes.  Dixie Chicken is also notable for featuring one of Little Feat’s greatest songs, the much loved “Fat Man In The Bathtub.”

Impassioned vocals, great lyrics, piano, slide guitar and a rock steady beat make this track one of classic rock’s great legends – there’s nothing like it.  My picks are the acoustic (and slide guitar) piece “Roll Um Easy” and the jumpin’ “Fool Yourself.”  Both songs have the feel and style of Little Feat’s earlier triumphs.  All told, Little Feat came up with their third masterpiece in as many years. Essential.
by Jason Nardelli
1. Dixie Chicken (Lowell George, Fred Martin) - 3:56
2. Two Trains - 3:06
3. Roll Um Easy - 2:31
4. On Your Way Down (Allen Toussaint) - 5:35
5. Kiss It Off - 2:59
6. Fool Yourself (Fred Tackett) - 3:15
7. Walkin All Night (Paul Barrère, Bill Payne) - 3:39
8. Fat Man In The Bathtub - 4:30
9. Juliette - 3:34
10.Lafayette Railroad (Instrumental) (Lowell George, Bill Payne) - 3:36
All songs by Lowell George except where stated

The Little Feat
*Paul Barrere - Guitar, Vocals
*Sam Clayton - Congas
*Lowell George - Vocals, Guitar, Cowbell, Flute
*Kenny Gradney - Bass
*Richie Hayward - Drums, Backing Vocals
*Bill Payne - Keyboards, Synthesizer, Vocals
Additional Musicians
*Bonnie Bramlett - Backing Vocals
*Malcolm Cecil - Synthesizer
*Tret Fure - Backing Vocals
*Danny Hutton - Backing Vocals
*Milt Holland - Tabla
*Gloria Jones - Backing Vocals
*Debbie Lindsey - Backing Vocals
*Bonnie Raitt - Backing Vocals
*Stephanie Spurville - Backing Vocals
*Fred Tackett - Guitar

1971  Little Feat - Little Feat (2007 japan remaster)
1972  Little Feat - Sailin' Shoes (2007 japan SHM remaster)

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Grail - Grail (1970 uk, fine prog folk rock)

The production/recording arrangements of Rod Stewart give a three-dimensional folk-rock-arranged feeling. Grail were a British psychedelic group based in London. Their sound goes from subtle folk to acid rock and hard rock with good changes in rhythm, powerful contrasts, with additional arrangements for better contrasts with piano, a touch of organ and two tracks with an acid rock sitar lead. 

They did their best to make the music a real ‘grail’, a powerful sound, with some good songs too, with a late 60s-based progressive look as result. A really good album, which was only released in France and Germany for whatever reasons. Maybe therefore it was also overlooked over here. About time to pick it up and check it out again.
1. Power (Terry Spencer) - 7:24
2. Bleek Wind High (Stan Decker, Chris Williams) - 4:35
3. Day After Day (Dave Blake) - 3:30
4. Grail (Dave Blake) - 4:48
5. Camel Dung (Dave Blake) - 5:09
6. Sunday Morning (Terry Spencer) - 3:34
7. Czechers (Dave Blake, Terry Spencer, Chris Williams) - 6:22
8. The Square (Paul Barrett, Chris Williams) - 4:53

The Grail
*Chris Williams - Lead Vocals, Autoharp
*Paul Barrett - Guitar, Clarinet, Vocals
*Dave Blake - Cello, Sitar, Flute, Vocals
*Terry Spencer - Guitar
*Chris Perry - Drums, Percussion
*Stan Decker - Bass, Guitar, Keyboards

Related Act
1971  Abacus - Abacus
1972/71  Abacus - Everything You Need / Midway

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Big Star - Keep An Eye On The Sky (1968-75 us, fantastic compilation with alternative versions, demos, outtakes and live recording, 2009 four discs box set)

In the wonderful booklet that comes with Keep An Eye On The Sky, the most comprehensive compilation of the semiminal (though often overlooked) Big Star, there’s an in-depth article where Bob Mehr gathers comments from fans, friends and famous supporters of the group.

Among them there’s Peter Holsapple, dB's former composer and guitarist, who credits much of his success to Big Star: “I used to test my potential girlfriends with Radio City,” says Holsapple. He adds he was once told by one of this “candidates” that Big Star were like “America with too much high frequencies”: the girl responsible for this profanation was immediately “dismissed”, because cults – whether big or small – must always be guarded, cherished and respected.

Cults promote the sense of being part of something and help fight loneliness. And Big Star are the quintessential cult-band. Although Big Star only released two albums during their brief existence, they are now considered milestones and reference points for thousands of artists. The albums have fallen in and out of print over the years, including a third album (Third/Sister Lovers) released some eleven years after the group broke up.

Formed in Memphis, Tennessee by two songwriters, Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. Chilton had already enjoyed success with The Box Tops, singing the 1967 #1 hit, The Letter at the tender age of 16. Chris Bell was an anglophile who had fallen in love with the Fab Four and was scraping a living as technician in the Ardent Studios. They met by chance, when Chilton wanted to record something new while Bell introduced him to Andy Hummel (bass) and Jody Stephens (drums). Together they spent many nights playing the songs of The Yardbirds and The Who.

According to Peter Buck (R.E.M.), in the mid-1970s the only ones who knew Big Star were music critics and record store employees. “No one I knew had ever seen them play. I think I’d read that one of the guys had been in the Box Tops — which made no sense either. Information was scarce. So these records they’d put out, they were simply artifacts. It was like seeing the heads of Easter Island or the Great Pyramids or something. You didn’t know what they were or how they’d gotten there. The band was a mystery. Nowadays you get a computer and look for them in Google, but back then there were just the albums. Nobody I knew had ever seen them playing live. It was probably the first group to embody the idea of beautiful loser. Before them, the Velvet Underground had issued four albums and toured everywhere in the States. You could find Stooges’ albums in stores: they were not popular, but they were available. Big Star forced you to wonder whether their career was actually real. It looked like one of those weird American mythologies: these guys had done some excellent works, they were ignored and so they disappeared”.

Keep An Eye On The Sky is the parameter required for anybody - believers or not - to enter the Big Star church and become its ministers. It’s a cult object itself, a ray of light in the darkness so that nobody can ever say “I wasn’t there” or “I didn’t know” about an adventure that has been canonized by time and by Eliott Smith, Wilco, The Walkabouts, Nada Surf, Teenage Fanclub, The Replacements, Primal Scream, and Whiskeytown , just to name a few artists who have performed the songs of Big Star.

In other words, Keep An Eye On The Sky is based on the “cult status” of Big Star and not on their “career”, because the latter day offshoots spanning from the live “reunion” album, Columbia: Live at Missouri University (1993) to the last studio album, In Space (2005) released are wisely ignored: first of all because they are not very good, but secondly, and more importantly, because the crystal-clear eloquence of myths don’t allow for appendices.

With Big Star a new language was born where the Mercybeat of The Beatles and Kinks merged with Southern soul, romantic teenage fantasies, and coming of age tales. Sometimes we wonder: are we talking about the same authors when listening to the childlike images of Thirteen (“Won’t you let me walk you home from school / won’t you let me meet you at the pool / Maybe Friday I can / get tickets for the dance / and I’ll take you”) and Back Of A Car (“Sitting in the back of a car / Music so loud can’t tell a thing / Thinkin’ ‘bout what to say / And I can’t find the lines”) and then to the sorrowful gloomy Holocaust (“You’re mother’s dead / You’re on your own / She’s in her bed / Everybody goes / As far as they can / They don’t just care / You’re a wasted face / You’re a sad-eyed lie / You’re a holocaust”)?

In 1972 Ardent has just signed a distribution contract with Stax to promote works recorded in its studios. The label founder and studio owner, John Fry – the genius sound engineer –offered an unlimited amount of recording hours. Big Star were given freedom to play and experiment in the studio supervised by Terry Manning, Jim Dickinson and Fry himself. #1 Record really invents “power-pop” by mixing Beatles-like melodies and soft harmony-vocals with killing riffs, rootsy rough tunings, hyperbolic drumming and nervous bursts of organ and winds.

Bell is responsible for the softer, poppier, side of the group, whereas Chilton provides rock’n’roll urgency. Even though the songs are mostly co-written, #1 Record belongs mainly to Bell, who’s able to inflate his pop gems with the obscure depth the emotional distress of Soul, while Chilton sharpens his rock’n’roll edges and brings an r&b groove to the songs.

Accustomed to the public’s sudden changes in taste, Chilton bore the commercial flop without striking a blow, but Bell went off the rails with his drug addiction, spending most of 1973 in a rehab centre. Briefly Bell relocated to Europe, but he eventually returned to Tennessee to manage the family-run fast food chain until 1978 when he tragically died in a car accident. Over a decade after his passing, the superb I Am The Cosmos (his lone solo release) was released, and is worth the best pages of Big Star’s songbook (the box contains some of the solo demos).

Tragedy is part of the show and, with a Shakespearian solemnity, after two albums - #1 Record (1972) and Radio City (1974) – full of promises, unforgettable melodies and youthful exuberance Big Star fell apart in the grand collapse of Third/Sister Lovers. Alex Chilton and Jody Stevens entered the Ardent studio once again, but this time without Chris Bell or Andy Hummel. Using an array of local Memphis musicians, Chilton attempted a third Big Star album.

The lyrics of Nightime (“Get me out of here / I hate it here”) sound like an epitaph in the too short career of such a great band. The new recordings, full of feedback lashes, dark-folk and classic strings, don’t even have a name: the tiny label PVC provides it – with just a little imagination - and in 1985 issues what they considers the definitive tracks under the title Third/Sister Lovers, while Jody Stephens becomes the new manager of Ardent.

What comes next is recent history and it’s not very interesting. What’s really interesting, though, is the fact that Keep An Eye On The Sky outlines the box-set state of the art: it contains nearly all of Big Star’s studio output, featuring original tracks, alternative versions, demos, covers and unreleased tracks (spanning a period from 1968 to 1975) along with a kick-ass live album recorded when Big Star opened for Archie Bell & The Drells at the Lafayette's Music Room in Memphis. Fifty-two songs (out of ninty-eight) have never been issued before. Well done.

Keep An Eye On The Sky is like a mirror game where it’s exciting to get lost. The folkie confession of The India Song (here sung by Hummel alone) merges the Led Zeppelin[esque heavy rock of Feel and Don't Lie To Me with the anthemic roots of The Ballad Of El Goodo, the country-based soul of Country Morn and Watch The Sunrise with the acoustic interpretation of Loudon Wainwright’s Motel Blues.

Radio City’s garage-oriented pop-rock stands out in the second album, along with the only full-length record ever released by Chris Bell (starring the epic, dynamic pop of I Am The Cosmos and You And Your Sister), some lo-fi demos that became part of Third/Sister Lovers, and a multilingual version of the Velvet’s Femme Fatale. It’s a triumph of ballads and pop-rock that foreshadows the whole artistic career of Posies, Raspberries, Fountains Of Wayne or Gin Blossoms, who are all included in the crazy r’n’r of I Got Kinda Lost and Back Of A Car, in Way Out West’s (new) latin percussions, in O My Soul’s (new) Booker T.-styled keyboards and in the immortal ramshackle hymn of September Gurls.

The third CD lines up the existential (and musical) disorientation of Third/Sister Lovers (the album that modern rock critics praise the most). There are fewer unreleased tracks but the unplugged versions of Jesus Christ, Downs, Holocaust and Lovely Day along with the amazing Till The End Of The Day (Kinks) and the standard Nature Boy (with the photographer William Eggleston on piano) are enough to spice it up.

No words could express the overwhelming live album found at the end of the box. The concert highlights the explosive heap of energetic, powerful, rowdy and restless roots-rock of She's A Mover, the bluesy Try Again, the disorienting guitar and drums solos of ST 100/6 and the unpredictable covers including Hot Burrito #2 by Flying Burrito Brothers, Baby Strange by T. Rex, and the pop-prog classic, Slut by Rundgren.

We know that each monotheist religion is in danger because of its own dogmatisms, but the consubstantiation taking place in Keep An Eye On The Sky is something close to a miracle. It shows all the enthusiasm of a band ready to conquer the world, all the influences coming from a whole youth spent listening to every record they could come across, all the shadows of the overhanging disaster and all the darkness deriving from human and creative failures that will mark all the coming years.

The glue is, as always, rock’n’roll and Keep An Eye On The Sky is the closest thing I could imagine to a monument to all its beauty, all its dreams and all its poetry.
by Gianfranco Callieri
Disc 1
1. Chris Bell - Psychedelic Stuff (Original Mix) (Chris Bell) - 3:04
2. Icewater - All I See Is You (Chris Bell, Steve Rhea) - 3:29
3. Alex Chilton - Every Day As We Grow Closer (Original Mix) (Alex Chilton) - 2:27
4. Rock City - Try Again (Early Version) - 3:37
5. Feel - 3:32
6. The Ballad Of El Goodo - 4:18
7. In The Street (Alternate Mix) - 2:54 
8. Thirteen (Alternate Mix) - 2:36
9. Don't Lie To Me - 3:07
10.The India Song (Alternate Mix) (Andy Hummel) - 2:23
11.When My Baby's Beside Me (Alternate Mix) - 3:27
12.My Life Is Right (Alternate Mix) (Chris Bell, Tom Eubanks) - 3:16
13.Give Me Another Chance (Alternate Mix) - 3:27
14.Try Again - 3:32
15.Gone With The Light (Chris Bell) -2:44 
16.Watch The Sunrise (Single Version) - 3:10
17.ST 100/6 (Alternate Mix) - 0:54
18.Rock City - The Preacher (Excerpt) (Chris Bell, Tom Eubanks) - 0:56
19.In The Street (Alternate Single Mix) - 3:00
20.Feel (Alternate Mix) - 3:32
21.The Ballad Of El Goodo (Alternate Lyrics) - 4:29
22.The India Song (Alternate Version) (Andy Hummel) -2:09 
23.Country Morn (Chris Bell) - 3:12
24.I Got Kinda Lost (Demo) (Chris Bell) - 3:34
25.Back Of A Car (Demo) (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel) -3:16 
26.Motel Blues (Demo) (Loudon Wainwright III) - 3:03
All Songs by Chris Bell, Alex Chilton except where stated
Disc 2
1. There Was A Light (Demo) (Chris Bell) - 3:43
2. Life Is White (Demo) (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel) - 3:16
3. What's Going Ahn (Demo) (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel) - 2:13
4. O My Soul - 5:38
5. Life Is White (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel) - 3:18
6. Way Out West (Andy Hummel) - 2:50
7. What's Going Ahn (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel) - 2:41
8. You Get What You Deserve - 3:05
9. Mod Lang (Alternate Mix) (Alex Chilton, Richad Rosebrough) - 2:47
10.Back Of A Car (Alternate Mix) (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel) - 2:47
11.Daisy Glaze (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel, Jody Stephens) - 3:49
12.She's A Mover - 3:13
13.September Gurls - 2:48
14.Morpha Too (Alternate Mix) - 1:27
15.I'm In Love With A Girl - 1:48
16.O My Soul (Alternate Version) - 5:09
17.She's A Mover (Alternate Version) - 3:16
18.Daisy Glaze (Rehearsal Version) (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel, Jody Stephens) - 3:52
19.Chris Bell - I Am The Cosmos (Chris Bell) - 3:42
20.Chris Bell - You And Your Sister (Chris Bell) - 3:10
21.Blue Moon (Demo) - 2:08
22.Femme Fatale (Demo) (Lou Reed) - 2:48
23.Thank You Friends (Demo) - 2:46
24.Nightime (Demo) - 2:13
25.Take Care (Demo) - 1:35
26.You Get What You Deserve (Demo) - 3:20
All Songs by Alex Chilton except where stated
Disc 3
1. Lovely Day (Demo) - 1:50
2. Downs (Demo) (Alex Chilton, Lesa Aldridge) - 1:25
3. Jesus Christ (Demo) - 2:28
4. Holocaust (Demo) - 3:34
5. Big Black Car (Alternate Demo) (Alex Chilton, Chris Cage) - 4:39
6. Manana - 0:46
7. Jesus Christ - 2:20 
8. Femme Fatale (Lou Reed) - 3:28
9. O, Dana - 2:35
10.Kizza Me - 2:43
11.You Can't Have Me - 3:18 
12.Nightime - 2:52
13.Dream Lover - 3:33
14.Big Black Car (Alex Chilton, Chris Cage) - 3:37
15.Blue Moon - 2:06
16.Holocaust - 3:48
17.Stroke It Noel - 2:06 
18.For You (Jody Stephens) - 2:42 
19.Downs (Alex Chilton, Lesa Aldridge) - 1:51
20.Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (Davis Curly Williams) - 3:23
21.Kanga Roo - 3:45
22.Thank You Friends - 3:04
23.Take Care - 2:47
24.Lovely Day - 2:07
25.Till The End Of The Day (Alternate Mix) (Ray Davies) - 2:13
26.Nature Boy (Alternate Mix) (Eden Ahbez) - 2:38
All Songs by Alex Chilton except where indicated
Disc 4 - Live At Lafayette's Music Room, Memphis, TN, January 1973
1. When My Baby's Beside Me (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 3:28
2. My Life Is Right (Chris Bell, Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 3:23
3. She's A Mover (Alex Chilton) - 4:06
4. Way Out West (Andy Hummel) - 2:41
5. The Ballad Of El Goodo (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 4:20
6. In The Street (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 2:50
7. Back Of A Car (Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel) - 2:40
8. Thirteen (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 3:01
9. The India Song (Andy Hummel) - 2:24
10.Try Again (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 3:18
11.Watch The Sunrise (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 4:01
12.Don't Lie To Me (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 4:09
13.Hot Burrito (Chris Ethridge, Gram Parsons) - 3:49
14.I Got Kinda Lost (Chris Bell) - 2:56
15.Baby Strange (Marc Bolan) - 4:09
16.Slut (Todd Rundgren) - 3:34
17.There Was A Light (Chris Bell) - 3:24
18.ST 100/6 (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 3:55
19.Come On Now (Ray Davies) - 1:53
20.O My Soul (Alex Chilton) - 5:40

The Big Star
*Alex Chilton - Guitars, Vocals (1971-1974)
*Jody Stephens - Drums, Vocals (1971-1974)
*Chris Bell - Guitars, Vocals (1971-1972)
*Andy Hummel - Bass, Vocals (1971-1973)
*Thomas Dean Eubanks - Bass, Vocals
*Richad Rosebrough - Drums
*John Lightman - Bass, Backing Vocals
*Wayne Jackson, Andrew Love - Horns
*Terry Manning - Vocals
*Danny Jones - Bass
*Ken Woodley - Bass
*Bill Cunningham - Strings Arrangement
*Jim Dickinson - Guitar, Keyboards
*Lee Baker - Guitar
*Steve Cropper - Guitar
*Tommy Cathay - Bass
*Tommy McClure - Bass
*William Murphy - Bass
*Tarp Tarrant - Drums
*Lesa Aldridge - Vocals
*Noel Gilbert - Violin
*Peter Spurbeck - Cello
*Carl Mash - Reeds, Woodwinds, Synthesizer, Strings Arrangement

Related Acts
1967-69  The Box Tops - The Original Albums ( four albums two disc set, 2015 issue)
1967-70  The Box Tops - The Best Of Box Tops
1970  Alex Chilton - Free Again: The 1970 Sessions (2012 release)
1985  Alex Chilton – Feudalist Tarts (Vinyl edition)
1972-76  Chris Bell - I'm The Cosmos (two discs set)  

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Little Feat - Sailin' Shoes (1972 us, sensational blend of southern country blues rock, 2007 japan SHM remaster)

Now, here's a band with a mission. Little Feat is hewn from the same piece of oak as the Byrds, the Band, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Like those three great (or once-great) groups, Little Feat is preoccupied with American myths and folklore, though in its own peculiar way. This preoccupation is evocatively evident in the group's two albums, Little Feat (one of the three or four best of 1970), and the new record, Sailin' Shoes. Because of the thematic consistency of Little Feat's recorded work, the two albums must be looked upon as a continuum; there may be more piano on the first and more guitar on the second, but the body of concerns is the same.

And the group's approach to its mythic interests follows the same pattern on both LPs. Rather than telling stories in a literal sense, Little Feat's songs flash a myriad of fleeting, haunting images, appearing with all the vivid suddenness of floodlit roadside billboards zooming past an open car window.

These albums are virtual treasure chests of haunting associations, sketches, and scenarios. It isn't merely the words, of course, but also the proud, powerful way they're driven across. Lowell George and Bill Payne don't stop at being the writers of virile, touching songs–they're also masterful musicians. Payne plays a cool, elegant piano and a hot, whirring organ. George makes his slide guitar howl and roar like a tractor trailer in the midst of a steep, mountainous descent. George illustrates the muscular mating of men and their machines, while Payne celebrates it. Together with former Mother Roy Estrada on bass and Richard Hayward on drums, they compose one super rock 'n' roll band. Little Feat can play steaming hot, iron-ore heavy, over-easy light, or non-stop speedy, as the occasion demands. They never sound pretty, but there's an unmissable beauty about their rough-around-the-edges designs.

Vividly representative of what Little Feat is about is "Willin'," a song so fine they did it twice, once on each album. On the first album, they made the song, written by George, a heroic depiction of the long-distance trucker, a dark, solemn expression of purpose. George sang in his deepest, most tired voice, and the band left the track virtually empty, with only the strumming of a lonely acoustic guitar, until the last section, when Ry Cooder's razor-sharp slide guitar sliced through the emptiness like highbeams on a flat, empty highway. This time, however, they've dressed it up in bright, heroic colors, with George using his high, urgent voice to play the trucker's part, and rich harmonies flapping like banners over the song's most celebratory passages: "Just give me ... weed, whites, and wine,/And show me a sign, And I'll be willin' to be movin'." That Lowell George must've done some driving in his time–or dreamed of it. At any rate, it's a proud, wonderful song, encapsulating a wealth of mythic-heroic elements, from Duke Wayne way back past the Indian Scout and the pathfinder.

But it's primarily contemporary myths Little Feat is involved with–and living folklore. Sailin' Shoes, interweaving its big trucks, seedy hotels, and greasy spoons with songs about rock 'n' roll, seeks to incorporate this special music into the raw, vibrant, and vast setting of mythic America. The band forcefully shows how well this music, with its mixture of the primitive and the technological, fits into the scheme of things. And they do it with a vengeance, playing like bloody murder, brutalizing but at the same time exalting their equipment, in much the same way the trucker both batters and romanticizes his machine. Each knows his machine helps make him what he is–completes him.
by Bud Scoppa

1. Easy To Slip (Lowell George, Fred Martin) - 3:19
2. Cold, Cold, Cold - 3:58
3. Trouble - 2:15
4. Tripe Face Boogie - 3:14
5. Willin' (Richie Hayward, Bill Payne) - 2:54
6. A Apolitical Blues - 3:25
7. Sailin' Shoes - 2:49
8. Teenage Nervous Breakdown - 2:10
9. Got No Shadow (Bill Payne) - 5:05
10.Cat Fever (Bill Payne) - 4:35
11.Texas Rose Cafe - 3:43
All songs by Lowell George, except where noted.

Little Feat
*Lowell George - Lead, Rhythm, Slide Guitars, Lead, Backing Vocals, Harmonica, Baritone Saxophone, Drum Machine
*Bill Payne - Keyboards, Lead, Backing Vocals, Piano, Accordion
*Roy Estrada - Bass, Backing Vocals
*Richard Hayward - Drums, Backing Vocals
Guests Musicians
*Milt Holland - Percussion
*Sneaky Pete Kleinow - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Debbie Lindsey - Backing Vocals
*Ron Elliott - Rhythm Guitar

1971  Little Feat - Little Feat (2007 japan remaster)

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