Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Glitterhouse - Color Blind (1968 us, great psychedelic rock, Vinyl edition)

The Glitterhouse is best-known for the title song from the cult classic film Barbarella, but this is plainly an injustice. First, although featured as vocalists on that song and several others from the film’s soundtrack, the band does not play on the album and did not write any of the material. Second, and more importantly, the band released, at nearly the same time, a far superior album featuring their own playing and their own original material and it is that album—Color Blind—that is our subject here. It is one of the best American psych-pop albums of the ’60s and, other than Love’s Forever Changes, perhaps one of the few that really competes with the work of the great British psych bands.

Even among American psych bands, the Glitterhouse was unusual. For one thing, they were from New York City rather than California. For another, they were produced by a well-credentialed square, Bob Crewe, mastermind of the Four Seasons and the Godfather of easy listening. And finally, there were an interracial band—a plausible inspiration for the title of their sole LP, Color Blind.

The Glitterhouse story begins in 1965 in Great Neck, New York, where vocalist Mike Gayle, guitarist Hank Aberle and bassist Al Lax all met at a party and, shortly thereafter, formed a band called the Justice League. Signed to Epic in 1966, a single was released (“Rumplestiltskin” b/w “Ode to an Unknown Girl”), but credited—much to the band’s surprise—to the Pop Set. Later, keyboard player Moogy Klingman joined the band and, due mostly to management issues, Gayle got fed up and quit. After adding a new lead vocalist and releasing another failed single, the band broke up―but about six months later, in the fall of 1967, Gayle, Aberle, Lax and Klingman reformed, along with drummer Joel O’Brien, formerly of James Taylor’s formative band, the Flying Machine. Rolling with the tide of the Summer of Love, the group adopted the name the Glitterhouse and began playing the New York circuit.

Crewe discovered the band at a party (though he was, in fact, set up by Klingman’s father who arranged the gig as an ersatz audition) and signed them to a management and production contract. Taken into the studio almost immediately, the Glitterhouse and Crewe began work on both the Barbarella soundtrack and Color Blind. The songs sung by the Glitterhouse on Barbarella are just what who would expect: plastic, campy, easy-listening pseudo-psych. They are very enjoyable, however, with the title track especially lush and catchy.

Color Blind, though, is the real deal. The opening track, “Tinkerbell’s Mind” is the standout track on the album. A slow, descending chord progression in the verses is complemented by an ascending set-up, then a return to the descending pattern in the choruses. Swirling organ, melodic bass and great harmonies complete the track, while the lyrics are a lysergic projection into, well, the mind of Tinkerbell (the hook line: “Tinkerbells’s mind is a crazy machine at the best”). An absolute classic. “Princess of the Gingerland” opens with organ appreggios and a wordless vocal arrangement, followed by swelling organ and guitar crescendos and trippy lyrics recounting a royal morality tale (almost a trope in the genre). Again, all the vocals are excellent. “Sassafras and Cinnamon”—despite the bubblegum title—is a raga-driven pop tune that lands somewhere between the Herd and Spanky and Our Gang, though the arrangement is far more adventurous that any of the work by either of those bands. “Child of Darkness” opens with a fairly straight garage-psych feel, but gradually moves through a cycle of psychedelic musical ideas that are arranged like dominoes, never returning to the original verse or chorus material. The second side of Color Blind drops most of the psychedelic touches and offers more straightforward pop material. While not as impressive as the first side of the album, the songs, vocals, and arrangements are all excellent and, as sort of a bookend, the last track on the album, “Happy to Have You Here Again,” features two very psychedelic breaks near the end of the song.

Only one single was released from Color Blind: “Tinkerbell’s Mind” b/w “I Lost Me a Friend.” The single did fairly well in the New York area, but failed to create a stir nationally. Crewe and the Glitterhouse parted company and there were no more official releases (an unofficial comp featuring some reunion demos recorded in 1974 was released by Klingman in 2006). O’Brien went on to record sessions (including the James Taylor LP on Apple and Carole King’s Tapestry). He passed away in 2004 from liver cancer. Klingman was the original keyboardist in Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. He too has passed away, from bladder cancer in 2011. Aberle went on to become a recording engineer and luthier. Gayle participated in Glitterhouse reunions in 1974 and 2002, but then fell off the radar entirely.
by Peter Marston
1. Tinkerbell's Mind - 4:43
2. Princess of the Gingerland - 4:24
3. Sassafrass and Cinnamon - 4:16
4. Child of Darkness (Journey of a Child Traveler) - 4:22
5. I Lost Me a Friend - 4:19
6. Times Are Getting Hard - 3:50
7. Where Have You Been Hiding - 2:25
8. Hey Woman - 3:55
9. Happy To Have You Here Again - 3:25
All songs by Michael Gayle

The Glitterhouse
*Hank Aberle - Guitar, Violin, Vocals
*Michael Gayle - Guitar, Vocals
*Al Lax - Bass, Vocals
*Mark Moogy Klingman - Kyeboards
*Joel "Bishop" O'Brien - Drums, Percussion

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Robin Lent - Scarecrow's Journey (1971 cuba / us, wonderful acid folk rock)

Robin Lent is a Cuban born US citizen who moved to Netherlands where he recorded and relesead this solo effort in 1971, Robin later joined bands like "Robinson Cruiser" and Max'n Specs accompanied by dutch musicians. He also was part of the Dutch cast of the musical Hair. 

His solo effort "Scarecrow's Journey" is a barely played 1971 recorded on the very short lived UK nepentha record label, and it's an excellent super-rare psych-folk-prog album. 

Future Focus band members Thijs Van Leer and Jan Akkerman (also Brainbox member) play on this excellent rare album, which has become highly sought-after in collector’s circles and the music within is highly regarded by critics and fans alike.
1. Scarecrow's Journey - 3:10
2. My Father Was A Sailor - 3:55
3. Pushboat (Traditional) - 3:32
4. Leaving Since You Came - 2:46
5. Almitra (The Love That Became Us) - 4:41
6. The Sky Has Called Us Out To Dance - 2:46
7. Waiting For The Morning - 3:35
8. Ocean Liner Woman - 2:54
9. Sea Spray - 3:22
10.Speak Softly Now (Lyrics Edwin Shaw) - 1:45
All compositions by Robin Lent except where stated

*Robin Lent - Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
*Jan Akkerman - Electric Guitar
*Kees Kranenburg - Percussion
*Jan Hollestelle - Bass
*Tijs Van Leer - Piano, Flute

Related Acts
1969-70  Brainbox - Brainbox (2011 Esoteric expanded)
1970  Focus - In And Out Of Focus (Japan remaster)
1971  Focus - Moving Waves (Japan remaster)
1972  Focus III  (Japan mini lp release)
1973  Focus - Live At The Rainbow (japan remaster)
1974  Focus - Hamburger Concerto  (Japan remaster)
1975  Focus - Mother Focus (Japan remaster)
1976 Focus - Ship of Memories (japan remaster) 

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Poco - Pickin' Up The Pieces (1969 us, splendid country rock, 2013 SACD)

Poco came to fruition after the breakup of Buffalo Springfield. The late Buffalo Springfield masterpiece Kind of Woman (every bit the equal of Gram Parson’s Hickory Wind), written by Richie Furay, had already provided a template for Poco’s sound. Jim Messina (a late Buffalo Springfield addition) and Furay built a group around this new, emerging country-rock sound. The lineup that recorded the above debut was Richie Furay (guitar/vocals), Jim Messina (guitar/Vocals), Rusty Young (dobro/pedal steel/organ/vocals), Randy Meisner (bass/vocals) and George Grantham (drums/vocals).

Prior to the recording sessions Poco had worked on creating a live following, a clear vision, and a strong group identity. Song for song, this 1969 debut is one of the best buys in the country-rock genre. The playing is well above average, and because of the early release date and origins of this group, Poco’s importance was understood from the very beginning.

Many of these tracks are graced with beautiful hickory smoked harmonies and plenty of fine guitar playing. I have noticed that Poco is usually labeled as a good-time effort and while this is only partially true (due to the excellent Pickin’ Up The Pieces) there are plenty of country weepers and superb hard rockers. Tracks like Tomorrow and First Love capture the group in a reflective, mellow buzz mood and are highlighted by excellent lead vocals and great steel playing. Other stellar tracks like Short Changed and Calico Lady rock really hard and give the listener a solid dose of blistering fuzz guitar. The above mentioned Pickin’ Up The Pieces captures the genre’s essence and is one of the great country-rock classics. Another classic, Make Me Smile is one of the most heartbreaking love songs you’re likely to hear, with a great guitar oriented arrangement and plenty of unique twists and turns.

Poco had already developed into a first-rate group by the time of this recording, that’s a rare thing and it’s part of what makes these songs so great and fully realized. Also of note is the group’s strong, varied songwriting. Unlike many of their country-rock/country contemporaries Poco was able to deliver an album full of well written, fully formed originals. Poco would go on to record another 4 or 5 good albums but this is their finest and one of the seminal, early country-rock lps.
by Jason Nardelli
1. Foreword (Richie Furay, Kathy Johnson) - 0:50
2. What A Day (Rusty Young, Richie Furay) - 2:30
3. Nobody's Fool (Jim Messina, Richie Furay)3:30
4. Calico Lady (George Grantham, Skip Goodwin) - 3:05
5. First Love (George Grantham, Richie Furay) - 3:15
6. Make Me A Smile (Richie Furay) - 3:21
7. Short Changed (Richie Furay) - 3:25
8. Pickin' Up The Pieces (Richie Furay) - 3:15
9. Grand Junction (Rusty Young) - 2:55
10.Oh Yeah (Jim Messina, Richie Furay) - 4:28
11.Just In Case It Happens, Yes Indeed (Jim Messina, Richie Furay) - 2:45
12.Tomorrow (Richie Furay, Skip Goodwin) - 3:10
13.Consequently, So Long (Richie Furay, Skip Goodwin) - 3:50

*Richie Furay - 12 String  Guitar, Vocals
*George Grantham - Drums, Vocals
*Jim Messina - Guitar, Vocals
*Rusty Young - Banjo, Dobro, Pedal Steel Guitar, Organ, Piano, Vocals
*Randy Meisner - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Bobby Doyle - Piano
*Milt Holland - Percussion

Related Act
1967  The Poor - The Poor 

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

John Hammond - Can't Beat The Kid (1975 us, awesome electric acoustic blues)

Released in 1975 on the Capricorn label. John Hammond's career goes right back to the early '60s as part of the Greenwich Village Folk scene. On this slice of audio Blues bliss, Hammond covers songs by the likes of Lightnin' Slim, Willie Dixon, Sleepy John Estes and Blind Willie McTell.
1. Can't Beat The Kid (Eddie Hinton) - 2:19
2. It's Mighty Crazy (Otis Hicks, Jerry West) - 2:40
3. I Hate To See You Go (Walter Jacobs) - 3:01
4. It's Groovin' Time (Otis Redding, Steve Cropper) - 2:48
5. Diddley Daddy (Ellas McDaniel, Harvey Fuqua) - 3:34
6. Help Me (Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ralph Bass, Willie Dixon) - 2:18
7. Southbound Blues (W.R. Callaway, Clarence Williams) - 3:21
8. Statesboro Blues (William McTell) - 2:58
9. Terraplane Blues (Robert Johnson) - 4:44
10.Chattanooga Choo Choo (Harry Warren, Mack Gordon) - 2:12
11.Screamin' And Cryin' (Traditional) - 2:22
12.Rag Mama (Traditional) - 1:36
13.Drop Down Mama (Sleepy John Estes) - 3:26

*John Hammond - Vocals, Electric, Slide Guitar, Harmonica
*Eddie Hinton - Guitar, Piano
*Tommy Cogbill - Bass
*Kenny Buttrey - Drums
*Spooner Oldham (Dewey Lindon Oldham, Jr.) - Piano
*Roger Hawkins - Percussion
*Randall Bramlett - Piano

1965  John Hammond - So Many Roads (2005 remaster)
1967  John Hammond - I Can Tell (with bonus tracks)
1967  John Hammond, Jr. - Mirrors (2016 remaster) 
1968  John Hammond - Sooner Or Later 
1970-72  John Hammond - Source Point / I'm Satisfied (2007 remaster)
1973  Bloomfield, Hammond, Dr.John - Triumvirate (Japan expanded edition)

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Fabulous Rhinestones - Freewheelin' (1973 us, fascinating groovy blues jazz brass rock, 2011 japan remaster)

Produced by Bill Szymczyk on Lang's Just Sunshine label, 1973's "Freewheelin'" offered up a first-rate set.

With all three members contributing material, tracks like 'Down To the City', 'Go with Change' and 'What Becomes of Your Life' bore more than a passing resemblance to Robert Lamm, Terry Kath and Chicago. The Brecker Brothers were even there to provide horn arrangements.  That may not seem like a very promising comparison to some folks, but I'm talking about early career Chicago when they still knew how to craft a rock song.

Perhaps no surprise to learn that Grebb late went on to play with Chicago.   With the exception of the cocktail jazzy instrumental 'Whitecaps' virtually any one of these tracks would have made a decent 45, though Just Sunshine managed to pick what was probably the least appropriate song for a single - 'Freewheelin'' b/w 'Whitecaps' (Just Sunshine catalog number #509).  Given these guys weren't the best looking trio you've every heard it might not have been a total surprise to discover the album did sell squat.  

It’s to their credit that this group didn't reprise the first album here. Yes the Rhinestones have already developed a signature sound but they've brought in an A-team of guests to flesh out some more terrific songs and the result is another big winner. Some of the distinguished guests are David Sandborn {Alto Sax}, Randy Brecker{Trumpet}, Michael Brecker {Tenor Sax} and Barry Rogers {Trumpet}. Joe Walsh programs the Arps. Of notable interest is a nice piece of jazz fusion called "Whitecaps.", It's a perfect ending to a bright and very worthy record.
by Allan J Moore
1. Freewheelin' (Marty Grebb, Harvey Brooks, Kat McCord) - 3:07
2. Down To the City (Kal David, Marty Grebb) - 4:22 
3. Go with Change (Kal David, Marty Grebb, Harvey Brooks) - 3:55
4. What Becomes of Your Life (Marty Grebb) - 3:54
5. Vicious Circle (Kal David, Marty Grebb) - 4:46
6. Do It Like Ya Mean It (Marty Grebb, David Thomas) - 4:05
7. Roots With You Girl (Kal David, Marty Grebb, Harvey Brooks, Kat McCord) - 4:19
8. Hurt Somebody (Leon Russell) - 4:18
9. Whitecaps (Instrumental) (Marty Grebb, Harvey Brooks, Kal David, David Sanborn) - 5:30

The Fabulous Rhinestones
*Harvey Brooks - Bass, Acoustic Bass, Vocals
*Kal David - Vocals, Guitar
*Marty Grebb - Piano, Organ, Mellotron, Saxophone, Guitar, Vocals, Synthesizer
*Dave Sanborn - Alto Saxophone
*Kat McCord - Vocals
*Reinol Isaac "Dino" Andino - Congas
*Greg Thomas - Drums
*Dennis Whitted - Drums
*Jean "Toots" Thielemans - Harmonica
*Joe Walsh - Synthesizer
*Michael Brecker - Tenor Saxophone
*Tito Puente - Timbales
*Barry Rogers - Trombone
*Randy Brecker - Trumpet

1972  The Fabulous Rhinestones - The Fabulous Rhinestones (2011 japan)
1975  The Rhinestones - The Rhinestones (2011 korean remaster)
Related Acts
1968  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (2014 Hybrid Multichannel SACD 24/88)
1968  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (2003 remaster and expanded) 
1967  Electric Flag - The Trip
1968-69  Electric Flag - An American Music Band / A Long Time Comin'  
1968-72  The Electric Flag - Live

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Fabulous Rhinestones - The Fabulous Rhinestones (1972 us, marvelous blues jazz brass rock, 2011 japan extra track remaster)

In 1971 Woodstock promoter Michael Lang became interested in financing a band. The Fabulous Rhinestones carried a beefy set of blues rock numbers featuring lucid lead vocalist and guitarist Kal David. Marty Grebb on keyboards, vocal and sax, Harvey Brooks on bass, Greg Thomas on drums and Dino Andino on drowned out congas rounded out the group mixing more standards with their own original material.

The result is a cool carefree sophisticated album of first rate rock with a strong blues accent. This band has terrific chops. The rhythm section with Brooks and Greg Thomas percolates perfectly, and though Kal David's guitar solos are short they are top notch. Marty Grebb fills out the groups sound with distinctive keyboard work. Kal David's stylish vocals are truly memorable and it all adds up to a cheerful, laid back, very attractive record. 
by Allan J Moore
1. Nothing New (Kal David) - 5:04
2. Easy As You Make It (Kal David) - 3:36
3. Just Can't Turn My Back On You (Marty Grebb) - 3:42
4. Living On My Own Time (Kal David) - 3:26
5. Free (Harvey Brooks) - 4:15
6. What A Wonderful Thing We Have (Kal David, Marty Grebb) - 4:55
7. Live It Out To The End (Harvey Brooks, Marty Grebb) - 3:41
8. Harmonize (Harvey Brooks, Marty Grebb, Reinol 'Dino' Andino) - 3:12
9. Big Indian (Kal David) - 4:03
10.Positive Direction (Marty Grebb) - 5:12
11.What A Wonderful Thing We Have (Mono Mix Bonus Track) (Kal David, Marty Grebb) - 4:53

The Fabulous Rhinestones
*Harvey Brooks - Bass
*Kal David - Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar
*Marty Grebb - Keyboards, Vocals, Bass, Saxophone
*Greg Thomas - Drums
*Reinol 'Dino' Andino - Congas
*Bob Pritchard - Trombone
*Terrel Eaton - Saxophone, Flute
*Ben Keith - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Paul Butterfield - Harmonica
*Stan Shafrin - Trumpet
*Jean Eley - Violin
*Harry Lookofsky - Violin
*Lewis Eley - Violin, Viola
*Hilda Harris - Vocals
*Marvin Grafton - Vocals
*Maretha Stewart - Vocals

1975  The Rhinestones - The Rhinestones (2011 korean remaster)
Related Acts
1968  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (2014 Hybrid Multichannel SACD 24/88)
1968  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (2003 remaster and expanded) 
1967  Electric Flag - The Trip
1968-69  Electric Flag - An American Music Band / A Long Time Comin'  
1968-72  The Electric Flag - Live

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Monday, May 6, 2019

The Rhinestones - The Rhinestones (1975 us, delicate funky soul jazz rock, 2011 korean remaster)

The Fabulous Rhinestones were an R&B-based band formed in San Francisco in 1971 by ex-Illinois Speed Press guitarist/singer Kal David and ex-Electric Flag (and Bob Dylan, Al Kooper, and Miles Davis) bassist Harvey Brooks. They moved to Woodstock, NY, where they played with members of the Band and some of their own fellow Chicago bluesmen, including Paul Butterfield, and were signed by producer Michael Lang -- the co-producer of the Woodstock festival -- to his own Just Sunshine label. 

The group cut three LPs over the next three years, all of which received critical raves without selling in huge numbers -- they also got considerable exposure playing on the same bill with the Allman Brothers, Stevie Wonder, and the Doobie Brothers, but their most visible gig was probably playing a 1971 antiwar rally in New York with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They split up in the mid-'70s and David later played with Etta James, Al Kooper, and Johnny Rivers. The Fabulous Rhinestones' work has been compiled for reissue on CD in Japan in the 21st century. 
by Bruce Eder

In 1975 they dropped the Fabulous from their name but one can't remove it from their music. This is the funkiest album they made. They've stepped out of core group, did a few covers, and brought in some outside players. 

Among the many new contributers are Brian Auger [Organ], Eric Kaz [Arp String Ensemble] and Bill Curtis on congas. Kal David's vocals are super fine and the background vocals are flawless. This is just great stuff. If you like The Average White Band,Hall & Oats, or the music released on Philly International in the heyday of the 70's you are going to like this record. For the Rhinestones it's another one in the winners circle.
by Allan J Moore
1. One Time Love (Harvey Brooks, Kal David) - 3:39
2. Ridin' Thumb (Jim Seals, Dash Crofts) - 4:42
3. Party Music (David Wolfert, Melissa Manchester) - 3:02
4. Get It Up For Love (Ned Doheny) - 3:59
5. Love Jam (Harvey Brooks, Kal David, Bob Leinbach, Arti Funaro, Eric Parker) - 2:07 
6. Another Song For You (Harvey Brooks, Marty Grebb) - 3:04
7. Love On My Mind (Harvey Brooks) - 3:57
8. Crossroads Of My Life (Eric Kaz) - 3:07
9. This Devil In Me (Harvey Brooks, Kal David) - 5:18
10.All My Love (Renaldo Benson, Val Benson, Len Perry) - 4:11
11.Party Music (Alternate Mix Without Strings) (David Wolfert, Melissa Manchester) - 3:05

The  Rhinestones
*Harvey Brooks - Bass
*Kal David - Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar
*Bob Leinbach - Keyboards, Trombone, Vocals
*Arti Funaro - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Eric Parker - Drums
*Brian Auger - Organ
*Bill Curtis - Congas
*Marty Grebb - Melodica, Vocals
*Greg Thomas - Drums
*Daniel Ben Zebulon - Congas
*Richard Bell - Piano, Clavinet
*Paul Harris - Organ
*Billy Mundi - Drums
*Eric Kaz - ARP Strings Ensemble
*Jack Scarangella - Drums

Related Acts
1968  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (2014 Hybrid Multichannel SACD 24/88)
1968  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (2003 remaster and expanded) 
1967  Electric Flag - The Trip
1968-69  Electric Flag - An American Music Band / A Long Time Comin'  
1968-72  The Electric Flag - Live

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

The New Hobbits - Back From Middle Earth (1969 us, wonderful sunny psych)

Originally this album was to be released by Perception Records in 1969 but was shelved. It's a delightful example of orchestrated US 60's pop with a psychedelic edge very much in the mould of the other two Hobbits albums.

Back From Middle Earth, The Hobbits third and rarest psychedelic recording, appeared in 1969 on Hobbit-supremo Jimmy Curtiss¿ Perception label, an imprint that bizarrely was to include Dizzy Gillespie, Shirley Horn, Tyrone Washington, Johnny Hartman, Astrud Gilberto and even Jimmy Lunceford amongst its alumnists.

Although The Hobbits owed their name to the writings of Tolkien, there was little of The Shire about their music, which Curtiss described as ¿vocals with instrumental accompaniment¿, with the emphasis very much on sophisticated harmonies reminiscent of contemporaries such as The Cowsills and Jay And The Americans. Curtiss made his recording debut as Jimmy Curtiss & The Regents in the late ¿50s, but surprisingly Return To Middle Earth is a solid ¿60s pop album which highlights the vocal talents of Curtiss and session-singer Gini Eastwood and is completely free of any references to Curtiss¿ doowop past, as indeed are the three heavily psych-influenced 45s Curtiss produced (he also co-wrote two of the tracks) for Decca stable-mates The Bag in 1968. Exactly why The Hobbits changed their name to The New Hobbits is unclear, but this may, along with the album¿s release on Perception (the band¿s two previous efforts had both appeared on Decca) go some way to explaining why the album remained largely unknown (many Psych collectors have never seen a copy of the album), and consequently is so highly sought after today.
Blue Orchard Records
1. You Could Have Made It Easy - 3:09
2. Growin' Old - 2:53
3. I Could Hear The Grass Growin' - 2:50
4. Comin' Out - 2:14
5. The Devils Gonna Get Me - 2:08
6. Underground - 2:35
7. Love Can Set You Free - 2:59
8. Flora - 2:51
9. Woman So Worried - 2:05

*Jimmy Curtiss - Vocals

Friday, May 3, 2019

Van Morrison - Astral Weeks (1968 northern lights, folk jazz rock MASTERPIECE, 2015 remaster and expanded)

Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” has always seemed like a fluke. In November, 1968, the irascible songwriter from Belfast released a jazz-influenced acoustic song cycle that featured minimal percussion, an upright bass, flute, harpsichord, vibraphone, strings, and stream-of-consciousness lyrics about being transported to “another time” and “another place.” The album was recorded in three sessions, with the string arrangements overdubbed later. Many of the songs were captured on the first or second take. Morrison has called the sessions that produced the album “uncanny,” adding that “it was like an alchemical kind of situation.” A decade later, Lester Bangs called the album “a mystical document” and “a beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk.” Bruce Springsteen said that it gave him “a sense of the divine.” The critic Greil Marcus equated the album to Bob Beamon’s record-shattering long-jump performance at the Mexico City Olympics, a singular achievement that was “way outside of history.”

Ryan H. Walsh’s new book, “Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968,” takes up Morrison’s sui-generis masterpiece and unearths the largely forgotten context from which it emerged. Though the songs on “Astral Weeks” were recorded in New York and are full of references to Morrison’s childhood in Northern Ireland, they were, in Walsh’s words, “planned, shaped and rehearsed in Boston and Cambridge,” where Morrison lived and performed for much of 1968. In documenting the milieu out of which the album came, Walsh also argues for Boston as an underappreciated hub of late-sixties radicalism, artistic invention, and social experimentation. The result is a complex, inquisitive, and satisfying book that illuminates and explicates the origins of “Astral Weeks” without diminishing the album’s otherworldly aura.

What was Morrison doing in Boston? The short answer is that he was hiding out. Stymied but full of ambition, the twenty-two-year-old songwriter had come to New York, in 1967, burdened by an onerous recording contract with the Bang Records producer Bert Berns, who’d worked with Morrison’s band Them, and who had also produced Morrison’s hit single “Brown Eyed Girl.” When Berns died of a heart attack, in December, the contract came under the supervision of a mobster friend of Berns named Carmine (Wassel) DeNoia. One night, Morrison, whose immigration status was tenuous at best, got into a drunken argument with DeNoia, who ended the conversation by smashing an acoustic guitar over the singer’s head. Morrison promptly married his American girlfriend, Janet Rigsbee (a.k.a. Janet Planet), and escaped to Boston.

Boston was home to the other major figure in Walsh’s book, Mel Lyman, a musician who reinvented himself as the messianic leader of a commune in the Fort Hill area of Roxbury, where he and his followers, known as the Lyman “Family,” commandeered an entire neighborhood of houses. As Walsh notes, the Fort Hill Community “attracted followers of a pedigree far more impressive than that of your run-of-the-mill sixties commune,” including Jessie Benton, the daughter of Thomas Hart Benton; Mark Frechette, the star of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film “Zabriskie Point”; Paul Williams, the founder of the music magazine Crawdaddy; two children of the novelist Kay Boyle; and Owen deLong, a former speechwriter for Robert Kennedy. Lyman controlled every aspect of life in Fort Hill. Members who had trouble following the rules might be given an LSD trip, guided by Lyman himself, or subjected to a rigged astrological reading. Commune members were also expected, among other duties, to distribute the provocative biweekly underground newspaper Avatar. Lyman died in 1978, but his death was kept secret until the mid-eighties. The Fort Hill Community, unlike so many other sixties communes, still exists.

There’s no evidence that Morrison and Lyman ever met, but their trajectories through the book operate like melodic counterpoints. With his harmonica, Lyman serenaded mournful fans who were departing the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, after Bob Dylan’s scandalous electrified set. In “Astral Weeks,” Morrison abandoned the amplified sound of his earlier work in favor of acoustic instruments. Lyman was a charismatic leader able to create and sustain a community through the force of his character. Morrison was hotheaded and irritating to many of the musicians who played with him, and he exasperated a series of managers. Both men believed fiercely in the power of their own internal visions and were propelled by the tumult of the late sixties. Each has a legacy that endures half a century later.

Walsh fills out the book with a plethora of other figures, famous and obscure, who were living in or passing through Boston during that year. There was David Silver, a Tufts University Shakespeare scholar from England, who created the wildly experimental television show “What’s Happening, Mister Silver?” “It was the first TV show that spoke to the stoned generation,” Peter Simon, the younger brother of the singer-songwriter Carly Simon, said. There were the members of the Velvet Underground, who played at the Boston Tea Party, a local rock venue, fifteen times in 1968. (Lou Reed called it “our favorite place to play in the whole country.”) There was Peter Wolf, the future front man of the J. Geils Band, who worked as a late-night disk jockey on WBCN, a free-form station that Morrison liked to call in to. Wolf’s early band, the Hallucinations, played gigs with the Velvet Underground, Howlin’ Wolf, and other notable acts in Boston. Jonathan Richman, who would found the Modern Lovers, in 1970, was in the audience for some of those shows and serves as a source for Walsh.

This flourishing of countercultural activity was not accidental. Its foundations were laid a decade earlier. Walsh writes that “in the late fifties and early sixties, Boston and Cambridge served as ground zero for both the folk music revival and the origin of the American hallucinogenic revolution.” Boston was where Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert started the Harvard Psilocybin Project, under the auspices of which they conducted experiments on the effects of psychotropic drugs. Mel Lyman took LSD at Alpert’s house. Alpert later travelled to India, returning to Boston as a spiritual guru with the name Ram Dass. His best-selling book, “Be Here Now,” published in 1971, introduced many readers to Hindu spirituality and yoga. It also inspired the George Harrison song of the same title.

The common thread among the myriad personalities and communities profiled by Walsh is a yearning for transcendence and rebirth. These are also the central themes of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks.” Morrison’s route to the spiritual plane was through music, not drugs. (A notorious drunk during his time in Boston, he is said to have eschewed dope after “burning [his] brain on hash” when he was younger.) The singer seems to have been guided by his subconscious in creating “Astral Weeks.” Some of the songs emerged from dreams and reveries. Morrison was a student of the occult who believed in automatic writing.

Morrison spent the summer of 1968 playing rock clubs, roller rinks, high-school gyms, and amusement parks across New England with a group of local musicians, under the banner the Van Morrison Controversy. While Morrison was refining the songs that would become “Astral Weeks,” a Warner Brothers executive named Joe Smith, who’d seen Morrison perform in Boston, bought his Bang Records contract from the Mob with a bag full of cash. “He was a hateful little guy,” Smith said of Morrison, “but . . . I still think he’s the best rock ’n’ roll voice out there.” Smith dispatched the producer Lewis Merenstein to audition Morrison in Boston, in September of 1968. Upon hearing him perform “Astral Weeks,” Merenstein said, “What are we wasting time for? Let’s go make a record.”

So what magic happened during those three recording sessions on West Fifty-second Street? At Merenstein’s insistence, most of the band Morrison had been touring with that summer were not invited to the studio. Instead, the producer gathered an √©lite group of session musicians, featuring the bassist Richard Davis, who had performed with Sarah Vaughan and Oscar Peterson, and the guitarist Jay Berliner, who had recorded with Harry Belafonte and Charles Mingus. Perhaps intimidated by the company he was in, Morrison skulked to the vocal booth and kept his interactions with the musicians to a minimum. Davis recalls that Morrison strummed his songs once or twice for them and then let them improvise their parts as the tapes rolled. It hardly seems like a recipe for success, but it was very much in keeping with the unstructured and unorthodox temper of the time. Merenstein and the musicians were thrilled with the results, but Morrison, ever the contrarian, had a different opinion. “They ruined it,” he said later. “They added strings. I didn’t want the strings. And they sent it to me, it was all changed. That’s not ‘Astral Weeks’.”

For the rest of us, though, it very much is.
by Jon Michaud 
1. Astral Weeks - 7:04
2. Beside You - 5:14
3. Sweet Thing - 4:23
4. Cyprus Avenue - 6:57
5. The Way Young Lovers Do - 3:12
6. Madame George - 9:42
7. Ballerina - 7:00
8. Slim Slow Slider - 3:30
9. Beside You (Take 1) - 5:58
10.Madame George (Take 4) - 8:25
11.Ballerina (Long Version) - 8:03
12.Slim Slow Slider (Long Version) - 4:54
All selections written by Van Morrison
Bonus Tracks 9-12

*Van Morrison - Vocals, Guitar
*Jay Berliner - Guitar
*Richard Davis - Bass
*Connie Kay - Drums
*John Payne - Flute, Soprano Saxophone
*Warren Smith Jr – Percussion, Vibraphone

1967  Blowin' Your Mind! (extra tracks edition)
1971  Tupelo Honey (Japan SHM remaster)
1973  Van Morrison - Hard Nose The Highway
1974  It's Too Late To Stop Now (Japan SHM remaster)
1974  Veedon Fleece  (Japan SHM remaster)
with Them
1964-66  The Story Of Them (two discs set)

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Gonzalez - Our Only Weapon Is Our Music (1975 uk, wonderful funky jazz brass rock, 2009 japan remaster with bonus tracks)

The songs on this album, that comprise this horn dominated and tightly rhythmed outfit from England carry a pageful of impressive credits that surface in the music on the group's second release.

Soulful and smoothly energized Gonzalez selections are both punchy and lyrical, resulting in an optimistic tone and uplifting delivery pushed even further by the velvet vocal harmonies. 
1. Got My Eye On You (Bob Marshall, John Miles) - 3:23
2. Da Me La Cosa Caramba (Larry Steele, Roy Davies) - 4:41
3. The Love You've Given Me (Jerome Rimson) - 3:21
4. Ain't It Funny (Gordon Hunte) - 3:20
5. Rissoled (Gonzalez) - 3:27
6. Nothing Ever Comes That Easy (Mike Finesilver) - 3:56
7. Ahwai Five-O (Robert Ahwai) - 3:38
8. D.N.S. (Gordon Hunte, Lenny Zakatek) - 4:13
9. Love Me, Love Me Not (Gordon Hunte, Lenny Zakatek) - 3:40
10.Our Only Weapon Is Our Music (Chris Mercer) - 2:59
11.Just My Imaginations (Norman Whitfield, Barry Strong) - 5:59
12.Leave Old Dreams (Roy Davies) - 4:40
13.Neptune (E. Reid) - 5:51
14.Tribute To Puente (Gonzalez) - 6:04
15.Virgin Flight (Roy Davies) - 7:57

*Robert Ahwai - Guitar, Soloist
*Bud Beadle - Flute, Baritone, Soprano Sax
*Ron Carthy - Trumpet
*Roy Davies - Keyboards
*Mick Eve - Tenor Sax
*Ken Freeman - Synthesizer
*Steve Gregory - Flute, Alto Sax
*Malcolm Griffiths - Trombone
*Gordon Hunte - Guitar
*Glen Lefleur - Drums
*Godfrey McLean - Percussion
*Chris Mercer - Tenor Sax
*Allan Sharpe - Percussion
*Larry Steele - Bass, Vocals
*Bobby Stignac - Congas
*Viola Wills - Vocals
*Lenny Zakatek - Vocals

1974  Gonzalez - Gonzalez (2009 Japan extra tracks remaster) 

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Gonzalez - Gonzalez (1974 uk, magnificent funky latin jazz brass rock, 2009 japan remaster)

Gonzalez was a loosely knit, British-based aggregate with a revolving-door membership of anywhere from 10 to 30 players. Their specialty was a mostly instrumental melange of funk, jazz, soul, and (later) disco, though they did employ vocalists for selected tracks on most of their albums. Their core early membership consisted of saxophonists Mick Eve, Chris Mercer, and Geoffrey "Bud" Beadle, keyboardist Roy Davies, and guitarist Gordon Hunte; collectively, their previous credits included Georgie Fame's Blue Flames, Juicy Lucy, John Mayall, Keef Hartley, and the Night-Timers, among others. 

First convening in 1971, Gonzalez grew to include bassist DeLisle Harper, trumpeter Ron Carthy, saxophonist Steve Gregory, drummers Richard Bailey and Glen LeFleur, and vocalist George Chandler (among others) by the time they released their self-titled debut album on EMI-Capitol in 1974. Cuts like "Funky Frith Street" and the Latin-tinged "Saoco" later became popular among connoisseurs of obscure funk. The follow-up, Our Only Weapon Is Our Music, appeared in 1975 and featured new members in guitarist/vocalist Lenny Zakatek, trombonist Colin Jacas, guitarist Robert Ahwai, bassist Larry Steele, percussionist Bobby Stignac, and singer Viola Wells.
by Steve Huey
1. Pack It Up (George Chandler, Gonzalez) - 4:25
2. Clapham South (Steve Gregory) - 4:05
3. No Way (Michael Eve, Gonzalez) - 3:30
4. Adelanto Nightride (Chris Mercer) - 3:30
5. Underground Railroad (Lisle Harper) - 3:58
6. Gonzalez (Gonzalez) - 4:59
7. Together Forever (Roy Davis) - 5:40
8. Saoco (Ramon Paz) - 6:45
9. Funky Frith Street (Gonzalez) - 1:33
10.Closer To You (Colin Jacas) - 7:05
11.Cuidado (Zangolza, Michael Eve) - 7:02
12.Got It get It (E. Reid, R. taylor, T.J. Cansfield) - 5:06
13.Hey Ambeinte (Zangolza) - 3:32
14.I Believe In You (Keith Forsey, H. Faltermeier) - 5:16

*Michael Eve - Tenor Sax
*Chris Mercer - Tenor, Alto, Baritone, Electric Saxes
*Steve Gregory - Flute, Soprano, Alto, Tenor Saxes
*Roy Davis - Fender Piano, Clavinet, Piano
*Ron Carthy - Trumpet
*Colin Jacas - Vocals, Trombone
*Jeff Beadle - Flute, Soprano, Baritone Saxes
*Lisle Harper - Bass Guitar
*Larry Steele - Bass, Vocals
*John Giblin - Bass Guitar
*Gordon Hunte - Lead Guitar
*Robert Ahwai - Guitar
*Steve Waller - Guitar
*Glenn Lefleur - Drums
*Preston Heyman - Drums
*Alan Sharpe - Congas, Assorted Percussion
*Richard Bailey - Drums, Timbales
*Bobby John - Congas, Assorted Percussion
*Bobby Stignac - Congas, Timbales
*George Chandler - Vocals
*Lenny Zakatec - Vocals

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Roy Buchanan - Telemaster Live In '75 (1975 us, spectacular blues funky rock, 2017 remaster)

This is the third in a series of previously unreleased live gigs – and though it’s not all 1975 (the first six songs are from the year on the title card, the final two come from 1973, the band is largely the same for all) it is all great.

Worth it for Buchanan’s dazzle across signature pieces like I Used To Have A Woman and The Messiah Will Come Again.

Heck, even when he’s trotting out bar-room blues staples such as Further On Up The Road and Sweet Home Chicago, there’s real fire in his playing.

The version of Don Gibson’s Sweet Dreams (from ’73) is a sublime closer. Like Peter Green and really only one or two others Buchanan had something truly special in his touch, something utterly believable in his soul. He took the blues on his journey while always being respectful to the form.

It’s a solid crew behind him, road-tight and tested. With drummer Byrd Foster a sympathetic hand and bassist John Harrison capable as a vocalist when needed, since that wasn’t Roy’s thing.

Even when the band rocks things up a lot (Running Out, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On) it’s worth it for the way Buchanan paints himself into, and then straight out of, the corners of the tune. His attack on Running Out is tremendous, all scrambly and scratchy.

Also, these recordings are – sonically – wonderful. No patchiness, nothing lost. It’s a great live sound that’s been captured here. Probably it’s just for existing Roy fans. But his sad story was score by mesmerising music and so the legend lives on.
by Simon Sweetman
1. Can I Change My Mind (Barry Despenza, Carl Wolfolk) - 6:48
2. Running Out (Roy Buchanan, John Harrison) - 3:18
3. Further On Up The Road (Don Robey, Joe Veasey) - 3:40
4. I Used To Have A Woman (Roy Buchanan) - 7:23
5. Sweet Home Chicago (Robert Johnson) - 3:09
6. The Messiah Will Come Again (Roy Buchanan) - 7:24
7. Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (Sunny David, Dave Williams) - 3:35
8. Sweet Dreams (Don Gibson) - 4:00

*Roy Buchanan - Vocals, Guitar
*Byrd Foster - Drums
*John Harrison - Bass, Vocals
*Dick Heintze - Organ
*Malcolm Lukens - Organ, Piano

1969-71  Roy Buchanan - The Prophet
1969-78  Roy Buchanan - Sweet Dreams The Anthology
1972-73 Roy Buchanan - Roy Buchanan / Second Album
1974  Roy Buchanan - Live At Town Hall (2018 double disc set)
1977  Roy Buchanan - Loading Zone (2005 remaster)
1978  Roy Buchanan - Live In Japan (2003 remaster)

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Stillwater - I Reserve The Right (1978 us, good southern rock, 2007 remaster)

I Reserve the Right album features a naked man running down the main street of a major city, which is a little more appealing than the wardrobe this seven-piece group sports on the back cover. They look like they just got off work for the day at the farm, so you know without the image they'd better have some chops to warrant this record's release. Lead guitarist Rob Walker's "Alone on a Saturday Night" is a beautiful song, with drummer Sebie Lacey getting the honors for the lead vocal. It is the tune that stands out and grabs you on a decent outing produced by Stillwater and engineer Tad Bush for Buddy Buie Productions. 

The title track sounds like it is a cross between Duke & the Drivers meets Bachman Turner Overdrive sans Randy Bachman; it is truck-driving rock, the qualities of "Alone on a Saturday Night" or the other subdued highlight here, "Women (Beautiful Women)." With no Top 40 hit to their credit and not much of a cult for this genre of music, this fairly decent outing is one for the bargain bins. Having the Muscle Shoals Horns contribute is pretty neat, and there are some enjoyable moments here nonetheless. 
by Joe Viglione
1. I Reserve The Right (Buddy Buie, Jimmy Hall, Mike Causey, Rob Walker, Sebie Lacey) - 7:09
2. Women (Beautiful Woman) (Buddy Buie, Rob Walker, Sebie Lacey) - 4:25
3. Keeping Myself Alive (Buddy Buie, James B. Cobb Jr.) - 2:53
4. Kalifornia Kool (Allison Scarborough, Buddy Buie, Jimmy Hall, Rob Walker, Sebie Lacey) - 3:31
5. Sometimes Sunshine (Buddy Buie, James B. Cobb Jr., Mike Causey, Robert Nix) - 4:06
6. Fair Warning (Bobby Golden, Buddy Buie, Jimmy Hall, Mike Causey, Rob Walker) - 4:28
7. Alone On A Saturday Night (Rob Walker) - 2:09
8. Ain't We A Pair (Buddy Buie, Jimmy Hall, Mike Causey, Rob Walker) - 4:26

*Mike Causey - Guitar
*Bobby Golden - Guitar, Vocals
*Jimmy Hall - Percussion, Vocals
*Sebie Lacey - Drums, Vocals
*Allison Scarborough - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Spearman - Keyboards
*Robert Walker - Guitar, Vocals
*Steve Hulse - Strings

1977  Stillwater - Stillwater (Vinyl edition)  

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Stillwater - Stillwater (1977 us, fine southern rock, Vinyl edition)

Stillwater was an obscure multi-membered Southern rock band that featured the triple guitar team of Mike Causey (guitar), Bobby Golden (guitar, vocals), and Rob Walker (guitar), plus Jimmy Hall (vocals, percussion), Allison Scarborough (bass, vocals), Bob Spearman (keyboards, vocals), and Sebie Lacey (drums). Originally formed in Georgia during 1973, Stillwater issued a pair of albums during the late '70s -- 1977's self titled debut and 1979's I Reserve the Right! -- and narrowly missed scoring a Top 40 hit single with the track "Mind Bender." 

Between the near-hit single and steady opening gigs for the Atlanta Rhythm Section and the Charlie Daniels Band (the latter of which was riding high at the time with the monster crossover hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"), Stillwater seemed to be on the right track for breakthrough success. But when their record label, Capricorn Records, hit upon hard times, Stillwater found themselves without a label, and broke up soon thereafter. Several live tracks from 1978 were included on the 1997 Alive Down South multi-artist collection, which was followed by a Stillwater reunion the same year. A new album, Running Free, was released a year later, and the group began to play live shows once more.
by Greg Prato
1. Rock 'n' Roll Loser (Rob Walker) - 4:14
2. Out On A Limb (Bob Spearman, Jimmy Hall, Mike Causey, Rob Walker) - 3:57
3. Sunshine Blues (Bob Spearman, Bobby Golden, Buddy Buie, Jimmy Hall) - 3:37
4. Sam's Jam (Allison Scarborough, Bob Spearman, Bobby Golden, Buddy Buie, Jimmy Hall, Mike Causey, Sebie Lacey) - 9:36
5. Mindbender (Buddy Buie, Rob Walker) - 4:14
6. Universal Fool (Buddy Buie, Jimmy Hall, Rob Walker) - 6:58
7. April Love (Buddy Buie, Mike Causey, Rob Walker) - 4:08
8. Fantasy Park (Allison Scarborough, Buddy Buie, Jimmy Hall, Mike Causey, Rob Walker) - 4:07

*Mike Causey - Guitar
*Bobby Golden - Guitar
*Jimmy Hall - Percussion, Vocals
*Sebie Lacey - Drums, Vocals
*Allison Scarborough - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Spearman - Keyboards
*Robert Walker - Guitar, Vocals

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Roy Buchanan - Live At Town Hall (1974 us, fantastic blues rock with impressive guitar parts, 2018 double disc set)

Roy Buchanan is one of those artists who seemed to just excel in front of a live audience. A true guitarists’ guitarist, he never had a strong desire to be a studio maverick. Buchanan just wanted to play. While his early studio LPs are all certified classics, 30 years since his passing it is his live sound is what he will be remembered for.

Live Stock, his first official live album released in 1975, is a glimpse of what a typical Buchanan show might have been during his glory days. However, the album only features eight tracks and doesn’t really give the listener the full extent of a live performance.  Now over 40 years later, we can hear the whole thing. Live at Town Hall, offers the listener the complete Live Stock show.

Over the course of the double CD set, we can fully experience two full sets of Buchanan’s at the height of his career. It’s easy to picture a smoke-filled room reeking of stale beer and old sweat seeing ol’ stone faced Butch making his ’53 Telecaster squeal.

While Buchanan’s guitar prowess is at the peak of its powers, the music can suffer at times due to the occasionally trite singing, which can seem uninspired in parts. Billy Price, who provides the vocals here, sang on the majority of his ‘70s work but never quite had the power of Butch’s first singer, Chuck Tiley. Nevertheless, the ferocious guitar playing makes up for it. Tracks like “Too Many Drivers”, “Done Your Daddy Wrong” and most importantly “Roy’s Bluz” are pure brilliance.
by Ryan Sagadore
Disc 1 Early Set
1. Done Your Daddy Dirty (Roy Buchanan) - 3:17
2. Reelin' And Rockin' (Roy Milton) - 2:13
3. Hot Cha (Willie Woods) - 4:12
4. Further On Up The Road (Don Robey, Joe Medwick Veasey) - 3:39
5. Roy's Bluz (Roy Buchanan) - 8:01
6. Can I Change My Mind (Barry Despenza, Carl Wolfolk) - 5:47
7. Hey Joe (Billy Roberts) - 8:36
8. Too Many Drivers (Andrew Hogg) - 2:50
9. Down By The River (Neil Young) - 9:16
10.I'm A Ram (Al Green, Mabon "Teenie" Hodges) - 4:23
11.In The Beginning (Roy Buchanan) - 2:19
12.Driftin' And Driftin' (Charles Brown, Johnny Moore, Eddie Williams) - 7:45

Disc 2 Late Set
1. I'm Evil (Roy Buchanan) - 3:48
2. Too Many Drivers (Andrew Hogg) - 5:07
3. Done Your Daddy Dirty (Roy Buchanan) - 2:03
4. Roy's Bluz (Roy Buchanan) - 8:48
5. Further On Up The Road (Don Robey, Joe Medwick Veasey) - 3:56
6. Hey Joe (Billy Roberts) - 8:07
7. Can I Change My Mind (Barry Despenza, Carl Wolfolk) - 6:18
8. In The Beginning (Roy Buchanan) - 2:30
9. All Over Again (I've Got A Mind To Give Up Living) (Carl Adams, B.B. King) - 8:55

*Roy Buchanan - Guitar, Vocals
*Ron "Byrd" Foster - Drums
*John Harrison - Bass
*Malcolm Lukens - Keyboards
*Billy Price - Vocals

1969-71  Roy Buchanan - The Prophet
1969-78  Roy Buchanan - Sweet Dreams The Anthology
1972-73 Roy Buchanan - Roy Buchanan / Second Album
1977  Roy Buchanan - Loading Zone (2005 remaster)
1978  Roy Buchanan - Live In Japan (2003 remaster)

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Barclay James Harvest - Once Again (1971 uk, remarkable prog rock with orchestrated arrangements, 2011 remaster and expanded)

The British progressive rock band Barclay James Harvest were founded in Saddleworth, Yorkshire (UK) in September 1966 by John Lees (guitar, vocals), Les Holroyd (bass guitar, vocals), the deceased Mel Pritchard (drums) and keyboardist Stuart 'Woolly' Wolstenholme, who passed away in December 2010. After signing with EMI's Parlophone record label in 1968 for one single, they moved to EMI's Harvest-label that was more specialized in progressive rock. BJH released their eponymous debut album in the summer of 1970. It got very positive reviews, but few sales. Their second album Once Again gained more favourable reviews followed by a tour with a classical orchestra conducted by Robert John Godfrey (The Enid).

Generally Once Again is regarded as being one of the strongest efforts by BJH featuring powerful, epic tracks as Song For Dying, She Said and the classic piece Mocking Bird, one of their best known songs. John Lees wrote Mocking Bird in 1968 while he was living with the parents of his future wife Olwen. The song is based on a musical phrase from Pools Of Blue, which he wrote around the same time. It can be found on the CD-version of the debut album as one of the bonus tracks. Another classic BJH-piece is Galadriel on which John Lees played on John Lennon's Epiphone Casino guitar that stood in a corner of the Abbey Road Studios. Later on he wrote a melancholic song about this event called John Lennon's Guitar that appeared on the album Welcome To The Show (1990).

Early 2011, EMI released the 40th anniversary edition of Once Again. The two-disc set comprises a CD with a remastered stereo version of the album, five previously unreleased bonus tracks plus a DVD audio disc with the original album in 5.1 Dolby surround and high resolution stereo. After listening again to this album after such a long time I could only conclude that BJH must have been in great shape in those days. The eight compositions are of a very high level. Recording a radio-friendly hit wasn't something they had in mind, unlike several years later. 

All songs are pure and honestly written right from the heart with power and passion. They got complete artistic freedom and could experiment with whatever they would like to create. So they used a Mellotron and asked a classical orchestra to support them which was something bands hardly did at the time. You can hear the orchestra on Mocking Bird and Galadriel. Versions of these songs without the orchestra have been added to this release as bonus tracks. They still sound very strong thanks to the intense Mellotron parts. There has also been added an unreleased version of Mocking Bird as it was recorded in May 1970. It doesn't sound very different from the version that made it to the album. Other previously unreleased songs you can enjoy are the first take of Happy Old World and the full u nedited version of Song For Dying. A special addition is the short piece Introduction- White Sails (A Seascape). Here we can hear the orchestra in full splendour.
by Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
1. She Said (John Lees) - 8:21
2. Happy Old World (Woolly Wolstenholme) - 4:41
3. Song For Dying - 5:02
4. Galadriel (John Lees) - 3:14
5. Mocking Bird - 6:39
6. Vanessa Simmons (John Lees) - 3:46
7. Ball And Chain - 4:49
8. Lady Loves - 4:01
9. Mocking Bird (May 1970 Version) - 6:17
10.Introduction - White Sails (A Seascape) (Woolly Wolstenholme) - 1:43
11.Too Much On Your Plate - 5:31
12.Galadriel (Non Orchestral Version) (John Lees) - 3:12
13.Happy Old World (Take One) (Woolly Wolstenholme) - 4:40
14.Song For Dying (Full Un-edited Version) - 7:02
15.Mocking Bird (Extended Non-orchestral Version) - 8:01
All compositions by Les Holroyd, John Lees, Mel Pritchard, Woolly Wolstenholme except where indicated
Bonus Tracks 9-15

Barclay James Harvest
*John Lees - Vocals, Guitars, Recorder
*Les Holroyd - Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards
*Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme - Vocals, Mellotron, Keyboards
*Mel Pritchard - Drums, Percussion
*Alan Parsons - Jaw Harp (On Lady Loves)

1974  Barclay James Harvest - Live (2005 edition) 

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Three Man Army - A Third Of A Lifetime (1971 uk, stunning power hard guitar rock, bonus tracks remaster)

A Third Of A Lifetime by Three Man Army was one of the first LPs I bought, around 1972 from a cut-out bin in a dodgy independent supermarket, run by a local chancer and located at the rear of a cattle market. Ah…the smell of fresh vinyl and cow shit, I remember it well. As with all those other bargain LPs by obscure bands it shared the rack with, some of which now change hands for large sums, it was bought (or not) on the strength of its cover design, and the look of the band from the photos on the inner sleeve. The cover is a rather clever amalgam of a gun, based around a machine head and a drumstick. It was no doubt a reference to the band’s previous incarnation as much as it tied in with the new and militaristic band name. I am glad I bought it, as it has remained a favourite over all those years. When I saw Esoteric were reissuing this lost gem I just had to take up the scribbling duties, so here goes…

The coming together of Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton in 1966 as Cream not only saw the first instance of what swiftly became known as a supergroup, but it was also the first widely popular rock power trio, beating the likes of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Taste by a matter of weeks. The power trio would prove to be a format that would become increasingly popular in the years that followed, with bands like Groundhogs – who actually existed before Cream – Blue Cheer, Budgie, Beck Bogert & Appice, ZZ Top and many, many others taking the format on into the ’70s and beyond.

One such trio was UK psychedelic hard rock band Gun, formed in 1967 by guitarist Paul Gurvitz (then known as Curtis), who previous to their 1968 worldwide hit Race With The Devil and subsequent two albums were a larger unit, once famously and briefly including Jon Anderson in the line up. The Yes connection continued, as Gun’s self-titled debut album was illustrated by Roger Dean’s first foray into LP cover art. The version of the band that released records was whittled down to a trio, with Paul Gurvitz on bass guitar, joined by his brother Adrian on lead and rhythm guitar and Louie Farrell on drums.

Gun disbanded after unsuccessful attempts to follow up the hit single, and the brothers briefly went their own ways before reconvening in 1971 as Three Man Army, initially a studio-only project due to other commitments, and ironically without a permanent drummer, rather giving the lie to the name! The punchy band name was reflected in the music, which saw a stylistic shift into the then nascent hard rock sound, as exemplified by contemporaries Budgie, but sweetened by a pop sensibility. The psychedelic embellishments of yore were trimmed right down but not completely shorn, as evidenced by the kaleidoscopic ending to Another Day, probably my favourite track from A Third Of A Lifetime. Largely though, the paisley was replaced by denim, the band pursuing a melodic yet tough rocking sound.

In the post-Gun period Adrian had worked with Buddy Miles, and he appears as a guest drummer on the opening track, offering a typically muscular backing. Buddy Miles also contributes organ to the laid back funk rock of Midnight and bass to the fearsome wah-fest of Nice One. Mike Kellie, on a short sabbatical from Spooky Tooth, who seven or so years later turned up on the drum stool for the fabulous post-punk band The Only Ones is the drummer for the rest of the album, and his percussive flair shines through on Another Day and on Midnight, the gloriously clear mix of this particularly fine remaster highlighting every subtlety of Kellie’s highly musical style.

As with Gun, Adrian Gurvitz writes almost everything for Three Man Army and A Third Of A Lifetime opens with Butter Queen, a song that nails the brothers’ new sound to the floor, it being a fast paced hard rocker that rattles the ornaments in exemplary fashion. Butter Queen, along with the Groundhogs-like sleazy wah-funk of Nice One and the dramatic rhythmic syncopations of See What I Took are ’70s rock classics…I wonder if he wrote them in an attic*?

It’s not all hard rockin’, they did slower songs too, in my humble opinion better than their Welsh contemporaries Budgie, leaders of the UK pack in early ’70s power trio hard rock, but a band whose slow songs sound like the album fillers they were. The romantic instrumental title track here includes a neat string arrangement presaging Adrian’s later forays into the pop market. The pop arrangements Adrian has a knack for are also highlighted on the band anthem Three Man Army, and on Agent Man which both come across as a combination of Slade balladry and early ELO with added guitar wizardry, and both written before either of those bands had got into their stride. Closing with the reflective and latterly joyously charging and symphonic Together, hinting at the musical changes that were afoot in 1971, this is a fine album that does not trap itself into a corner of patchouli scented leather jacketed rocking, as was the case with a lot of similarly structured bands of the time, which is maybe why it didn’t sell in the quantities it certainly deserved to.

Three Man Army eventually became a proper touring band a year or so after this debut, when Adrian’s previous commitments with Buddy Miles had been fulfilled, with renowned tub thumper Tony Newman moving into the drum seat. They recorded two more albums – a third album of unreleased material came out in 2005 – and went on to have moderate success in Europe, and Germany in particular, but the gap between the first album to becoming a touring band meant that impetus was lost here in the UK and they never amounted to anything in their homeland. This was a shame as I consider them to have been at least on a par with their contemporaries, and it took Adrian’s meeting up with Ginger Baker while in the States with Buddy Miles prior to the recording of A Third Of A Lifetime, a meeting that would eventually lead to the formation of the Baker Gurvitz Army, for the brothers to achieve the albeit short-lived level of success that their undoubted talents deserved.
by Roger Trenwith
1. Butter Queen (Adrian Gurvitz, Keith Ellis) - 5:23
2. Daze (Adrian Curtis, Lou Reizner) - 4:02
3. Another Day - 6:49
4. A Third Of A Lifetime - 4:29
5. Nice One - 4:10
6. Three Man Army - 5:05
7. Agent Man - 5:36
8. See What I Took - 3:31
9. Midnight - 5:23
10.Together - 6:34
11.What's Your Name (Single Version) (Adrian Gurvitz, Lee Baxter Hayes) - 3:31
12.Travellin' - 4:00
13.What's Your Name (Previously Unreleased)  (Adrian Gurvitz, Lee Baxter Hayes) - 4:36
All songs by Adrian Gurvitz except where stated
Bonus Tracks 11-13

Three Man Army
*Adrian Gurvitz - Guitar, Vocals, Organ, Mellotron
*Paul Gurvitz - Bass, Vocals
*Mike Kelly - Drums
*Buddy Miles - Drums (Track 1), Bass (Track 5), Organ (Track 9)

1974  Three Man Army - Two (Japan SHM remaster)
Related Acts
1965-67 The Knack - Time Time Time (2007 release)
1968  Gun - Gun
1969  Gun - Gunsight (Japan 2008 remaster)
1971-72  Parrish And Gurvitz - The Parrish And Gurvitz Band (2006 remaster)

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