Thursday, July 9, 2020

Grahame Bond - Love Is The Law (1968 uk, magnificent bluesy psych rock, 2004 extra tracks remaster)

Love Is the Law is the first of the two LPs Graham Bond recorded for the Pulsar label in the late '60s after his move to the United States, and is the better of the pair by a wide margin. That doesn't mean, it should be cautioned, that it's that great, and it's considerably below the standard of the discs he cut in the U.K. in the mid-'60s as the leader of the Graham Bond Organisation. That might not only be because he was missing musicians of the extremely high caliber of his supporting players in the Organisation; it might also be due to him having played everything himself on the LP, with the exception of drums (by Hal Blaine) and some soulful female backup vocals. Yet there's still substantial pleasure -- if that's the right word to use for a musician with such a demonic vocal, instrumental, and compositional flavor -- to be had from Bond's consistently spooky blues-rock organ and Mellotron.

If his vocals are a bit croaky, and his lyrics (where odes to free love dovetail with dread and the occult) a bit creepy, that's part of the reason the music stands out even from the eclectic palette of late-'60s rock; there's nothing else quite like it, even if it might not be his best work. The title track and "The World Will Soon Be Free" are certainly among the absolute highlights of his post-Organisation discography, and if the remake of "Our Love Will Come Shining Through" isn't up to the level of the great obscure mid-'60s U.K. 45 on which he first issued the song, it's still pretty good. If some of the lyrics seem a bit awkward and confused in their confluence of na├»ve romanticism and ominous foreboding, they're made up for by some quite groovy blues-jazz organ riffs. Overall, it sounds like the songwriting could have done with some polish and the arrangements with some fleshing out, but Bond fans will still find it worthwhile to seek out this rare LP. 
by Richie Unterberger
1. Love Is The Law - 3:25
2. Moving Towards The Light - 4:29
3. Our Love Will Come Shining Through - 3:03
4. I Couldn't Stand It Anymore - 4:10
5. Sun Dance - 2:24
6. Crossroads Time - 2:33
7. Bad News Blues - 2:50
8. Strange Times, Sad Times - 3:57
9. The Naz - 3:30
10.The World Will Soon Be Free - 3:55
11.Long Tall Shorty (Don Covay, Herb Abramson) - 2:21
12.Long Legged Lady - 2:17
13.Tell Me (John Group) - 2:50
14.Love Come Shining Through (John Group) - 2:02
15.Lease On Love (Mike Banwell, Rick Minas) - 2:46
16.My Heart's In Little Pieces - 3:22
17.St. James Infirmary (Joe Primrose) - 3:39
18.Soul Tango - 3:09
All songs by Billy Gamble except where stated
Tracks 1-10 Originally released in 1967 on Pulsar Records
Tracks 11-18 singles originally released between 1964 and 1966

*Graham Bond - Organ, Mellotron, Alto Saxophone, Vocals
*Hal Blaine - Drums
*Dave Sheehan - Drums, Percussion
*Diane Stewart - Vocals

1962-72  Graham Bond - Live At BBC And Other Stories (2015 four discs box set)
1965  The Graham Bond Organisation - The Sound Of '65 / There's A Bond Between Us
1970  Graham Bond - Holy Magick (2006 remastered and expanded)
1972  Bond And Brown - Two Heads Are Better Than One (2009 remaster)
1970  Graham Bond - Solid Bond (2004 extra tracks remaster) 

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Hot City / The Unreleased Album (1974 uk, great glam hard rock, 2009 release)

Famously binned by SAHB and their management after bidding farewell to producer Shel Talmy in a London pub in 1974, the longawaited official release of Hot City arrives as the great missing piece in the SAHB jigsaw. Originally titled Can’t Get Enough and recorded with Shel Talmy calling the shots, Hot City is in many ways a fascinating dry run for what would later become The Impossible Dream, the album SAHB would embark upon after deciding that the material they had fell some way short of what they were shooting for.

Of the album’s nine tracks only the curiously retro-sounding Ace In The Hole is previously unreleased in any form. The others include Vambo, Man In The Jar, Long Hair Music, Sergeant Fury, Tomahawk Kid, Weights Made Of Lead and, making its initial appearance as Last Train, Anthem, which later resurfaced after varying degrees of fine-tuning on The Impossible Dream. No hap-hazard rag-bag of inconsequential studio cast-offs, this is the sound of SAHB on the cusp of their all conquering mid-70s pomp.
by Grahame Bent

1. Vambo - 4:46
2. Man In The Jar - 5:06
3. Hey You - 0:43
4. Long Haired Music - 5:05
5. Sergeant Fury - 3:38
6. Tomahawk Kid - 6:22
7. Ace In The Hole - 2:36
8. Weights Made Of Lead - 2:36
9. Last Train - 9:49

The Senstational Alex Harvey Band
*Alex Harvey - Lead Vocals
*Zal Cleminson - Lead Guitar
*Hugh McKenna - Electric Piano
*Chris Glen - Bass Guitar
*Eddie McKenna - Drums
*Vicky Silva - Vocals
*Big Bud's Brass - Brass Section
*London Scottish Pipers - Pipe

1972-73  The Senstational Alex Harvey Band - Framed / Next (2002 remaster and 2014 japan SHM)
1976  The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - British Tour '76 (2004 remaster)
Related Act
1971 Tear Gas - Tear Gas (2019 remaster)

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Budgie - Never Turn Your Back On A Friend / In For The Kill! / Bandolier (1973-75 uk, raw power and energy heavy rock, 2016 three disc clamshell box remaster and 2004 expanded editions)

Welsh rockers Budgie may not have ever been the multi-million selling, stadium filling, mega stars like Black Sabbath (although they did headline the Reading Rock Festival in 1982), but the newly re-issued classic three albums between 1973 to 1975 – Never Turn Your Back on a Friend, In for the Kill, Bandolier – would go on to inspire many metal superstars of future decades. The impressive list who have namechecked or covered songs by this unassuming three-piece are Van Halen, Soundgarden, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Queens of the Stone Age. But the band associated with enlightening Budgie to a younger generation of metalheads is Metallica and their cover of ‘Crash Course in Brain Surgery’ on The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited, released in 1987 to bed in the newly appointed bassist Jason Newsted, the replacement to the late Cliff Burton after the tragic coach crash whilst the band were touring Europe. They also went on to cover ‘Breadfan’ for the B side of single ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ the following year.

Originally formed in 1967, Burke Shelley (vocals, bass), Tony Bourge (guitar), and Ray Phillips (drums) under the name Six Ton Budgie before shelving the first two words to the shorter and snappier Budgie in 1968. A name of a small, seed eating bird is the antithesis to the band’s big compact amplified riff heavy assault sound. After releasing two albums, the self-titled debut (1971) and second album Squawk (1972), both of which are also worth exploring, it is with third album Never Turn Your Back on a Friend, released in 1973, that the accolades which followed mainly began here. The opening track alone, ‘Breadfan’, has one of the most colossal and memorable riff’s born outside of Tony Iommi. It also captures the many elements of the Budgie sound; the aforementioned jaw dropping riff and the quieter gentler acoustic section, which Budgie could interchange between so effortlessly and to such good effect.

‘Breadfan’ is the classic starting place to hear Budgie, but delve deeper and there is so much more to this band. Sandwiched in-between the harder metal edge of Black Sabbath, and the progressive explorations of Rush, they could wring emotion unlike many of their contemporaries, combining Burke Shelley’s glorious high shrieked wail and Tony Bourge’s guitar licks and riffs backed by a tight and very effective rhythm section. This they demonstrate on the breath taking and poignant ‘Parents’ from the said 1973 album.

Prior to the recording of their fourth album In for the Kill original drummer Ray Phillips left and was replaced by Pete Boot. An album which arguably could be their best turned out to be their most commercially successful, claiming a top 40 album chart entry peaking at number 29 in the U.K. charts. It elevates the harder rocking edge of their sound kicking in with the guitar squealing intro title track, plus the riff heavy driving force of ‘Crash Course in Brain Surgery’, and ‘Zoom Club’, all are fully charged proto-metal romps and leaves no surprises why they are name checked by so many metal bands.

The in 1975 released, and second highest album chart position at number 36, Bandolier, boasts riffy rockers ‘Breaking All the House Rules’, and ‘I Can’t See My Feelings’, the catchy defiant singalong of ‘I Ain’t No Mountain’, while the closing track ‘Napoleon Bona, Pts 1 & 2’ has an opening acoustic gentle sway before turning into a metal chugging powerhouse classic.

Also, they have their own distinctive bird fronted album cover illustrations in which Squawk and Never Turn Your Back on a Friend were designed by iconic artist Roger Dean (Yes, Uriah Heap, and more recently Black Moth’s second album Condemned to Hope), to set them visually apart and handy to the purchaser while flicking through stacks of bulking record shelves (oh, those were the days). Another vital element is the original, and in some cases, intriguing song titles for example, the eye-brows raising, wince inducing erotica of ‘In the Grip of a Tyrefitter’s Hand’, and the equally odd and squirming simile ‘Hot As a Docker’s Armpit’, as well as ‘You Are the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk’, the wonderful imaginative imagery of ‘Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman’ along with the first track on the self-titled debut album ‘Guts’, are my particular favourites.

Yes, there are a few standard bluesy rock tracks which prop up here and there, but remember this was in the early 70’s. But as they carried on into the 1980’s with John Thomas (who sadly passed away earlier this year) replacing Rob Kendrick (ex-Trapeze) in 1979, who had in turn succeeded Tony Bourges in 1978, it was their influential heavier side the band relied on in a live setting in which I saw them deliver a fantastic set of their classic hard rock/metal repertoire in the mid/late 1980’s at Hammersmith’s Clarendon before splitting in 1988. The band continued to reform and part ways several times after in the proceeding decades. So, anyone interested in hard rock of this said period or metallers who want to explore the roots or more importantly, just want to enjoy a fine huge slab of hard rock and heavy metal should invest in, or at least check out, these influential albums by a very inspirational band. 
by Andy Little, 2016
Disc 1 Never Turn Your Back On A Friend 1973
1. Breadfan - 6:06
2. Baby Please Don't Go (Big Joe Williams) - 5:26
3. You Know I'll Always Love You - 2:09
4. You're The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk - 8:46
5. In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand - 6:23
6. Riding My Nightmare - 2:39
7. Parents - 10:21
8. Breadfan (2003 version) - 5:27
9. Parents (2004 Acoustic version) - 5:37
10.Breadfan (Live 1973) - 6:05
All songs by Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge, Ray Phillips, except where indicated
Bonus Tracks 8-10 for 2004 Noteworthy edition
Track 8 recorded in summer 2003 by Burke Shelley, Steve Williams and Simon Lees
Track 9 Acoustic version recorded in summer 2004 by Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge
Track 10 recorded live for BBCTV's "The Old Whistle Test" in 1975
Disc 2 In For The Kill! 1974
1. In For The Kill - 6:28
2. Crash Course In Brain Surgery (Tony Bourge, Burke Shelley, Ray Phillips) - 2:37
3. Wondering What Everyone Knows - 2:53
4. Zoom Club - 9:52
5. Hammer And Tongs - 6:55
6. Running From My Soul - 3:36
7. Living On Your Own - 8:52
8. Zoom Club (Single Edit) - 3:25
9. In For The Kill (2003 Version) - 3:31
10.Crash Course In Brain Surgery (2003 Version) (Tony Bourge, Burke Shelley, Ray Phillips) - 2:41
11.Zoom Club (2003 Version) - 6:03
All songs Tony Bourge, Burke Shelley, except where noted
Bonus Tracks 8-11
Tracks 9-11 recorded in summer 2003 by Burke Shelley, Steve Williams and Simon Lees
Disc 3 Bandolier 1975
1. Breaking All The House Rules - 7:22
2. Slipaway - 3:58
3. Who Do You Want For Your Love? - 6:08
4. I Can't See My Feelings - 5:51
5. I Ain't No Mountain (Andy Fairweather Low) - 3:35
6. Napoleon Bona (Part One) - 6:12
7. Napoleon Bona (Part Two) - 1:03
All songs by Tony Bourge, Burke Shelley, except where steted

*Burke Shelley - Bass, Vocals
*Tony Bourge - Guitars, Vocals, Harmonica
*Ray Phillips - Drums (Disc 1)
*Pete Boot - Drums (Disc 2)
*Steve Williams – Drums (Disc 3)

1971  Budgie - Budgie (2004 bonus tracks remaster)
1972  Budgie - Squawk (2004 remaster and expanded)

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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Budgie - Squawk (1972 uk, a second dose of abrasive, forceful heavy rock, 2004 remaster and expanded)

Second album Squawk featured the first sleeve illustration by Roger Dean, who developed the band’s Budgie figure into something of a Planet Of The Apes-style, armed-to-the-teeth hybrid. Burke Shelley felt it lost the humour of the original David Sparling illustration, which, curiously, another band had had first dibs over: it had been commissioned by Hawkwind and, having been rejected by them, had the head of the hawk horserider replaced by that of a budgie.

Standout track from Squawk was Hot As A Docker’s Armpit, a title Shelley picked up from something Humble Pie’s Steve Marriott once said in an interview: “You can just hear it in Cockney, can’t you?” Other highlights included Whiskey River, released as a single, which featured a double bass drum reminiscent of Ginger Baker. “When we played it live,” recalled Bourge with no little approval, “it sounded a lot heavier than on record… monstrous.”

As for the crazy song names, self-confessed “book person” Burke remained unrepentant. “If you get a working title for a song before it’s finished – like Paul McCartney’s Yesterday was Scrambled Eggs, as everyone knows – all I can say is we had a lot of scrambled eggs in our band…”

Sales of Squawk, released in 1972, were encouraging enough for MCA to sign the trio directly to the label.
by Michael ‘Bandolier’ Heatley
1. Whiskey River - 3:23
2. Rocking Man - 5:25
3. Rolling Home Again - 1:43
4. Make Me Happy - 2:37
5. Hot as a Docker's Armpit - 5:51
6. Drugstore Woman - 3:14
7. Bottled - 1:52
8. Young Is a World - 8:07
9. Stranded - 6:17
10.Whiskey River (Single Version) - 2:39
11.Stranded (Alternate Mix) - 6:19
12.Whiskey River (2003 Version) - 3:20
13.Rolling Home Again (2004 Version) - 1:38
All songs by Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge, Ray Phillips
Bonus Tracks 10-13
Track 12 recorded in summer 2003 by Burke Shelley, Steve Williams and Simon Lees
Track 13 recorded in summer 2004 by Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge

*Burke Shelley - Vocals, Bass, Mellotron, Piano
*Tony Bourge - Guitar
*Ray Phillips - Drums

1971  Budgie - Budgie (2004 bonus tracks remaster) 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Budgie - Budgie (1971 uk, heavy rock development, bombastic treasures, 2004 bonus tracks remaster)

Formed in 1968, Budgie had busted their way out of South Wales with barely a backward glance. Bourge remembers: “We were going for it – so much so that we’d even have arguments with agents over money. A lot of bands wouldn’t stand their ground, thinking they didn’t want to blow gigs, but we’d go for their throat and tell them to stuff their clubs, we could get our own gigs. And we did.

“Everything was a challenge to us; we were totally dedicated. Like the Three Musketeers. One hundred per cent full on. A bit like the punks in attitude. We wanted to do well, we wanted to make albums. We had no back seat about that. We knew we’d get into a studio at some time, it was just a question of when.”

The man to help them take that step was Rodger Bain, Black Sabbath’s first producer, who later also discovered Judas Priest. He was down at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, South Wales, on a talent spotting mission when Shelley was tipped off by an agent: “They said go there, do your best but do not play any of that stuff you’ve written. Play all the hits, Yummy Yummy Yummy [a 1968 bubblegum-pop hit for Ohio Express] or whatever. So we said: ‘Yeah, yeah’. And when the others asked what we were gonna play I said: ‘All our own stuff!’”

Curiously, a fresh-faced David ‘Kid’ Jensen was the first DJ to be attracted by Budgie’s charms. “Radio Luxembourg launched us,” Shelley confirms. “Kid heard our first album, thought it was fantastic and played it and played it. He had us over there and the album took off. He was the kid with all the money, taking his mates to the fairground. That’s when I went on one of those cylinder things: you start spinning around and they take the floor away. You gotta watch it, though, when it slows down.”

Throughout the 70s, the unfashionable Budgie were as oddball as their name. Although specialising in heads-down, no-nonsense riffage, their albums all included acoustic interludes and softer songs which, by accident or design, made everything else sound even heavier. Additionally, they wrote the most ridiculous song titles ever. (Don’t waste your time looking for a better trio than You’re The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk, In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter’s Hand, and their debut's Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman).

Frontman Burke Shelley (hair and bass, a template for Maiden’s Steve Harris, aviator spectacles rarely copied) sang in a higher-than-average register but better than Geddy Lee, with whom he is often unfairly compared. Alongside him the band’s other unique selling point was Tony Bourge, an exceptional guitarist of many stripes but seemingly happiest inventing riffs that have inspired everyone from nascent NWOBHM heroes to Josh Homme.

Lovingly covered by Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth and Soundgarden, these three Cardiff scruffbags riffed as hard as any band in metal’s early years. Perhaps their cerebral eccentricity, silly name and stylistic versatility mitigated against worldwide megastardom, but for generations Budgie have remained Cymru’s most universally respected rock band. 

The debut album, released in June 1971 has become something of a classic. As AllMusic say, "For those seriously interested in metal's development, bombastic treasures like Homicidal Suicidal, and Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman are essential listening." 
by Classic Rock, October 16, 2018
1. Guts - 4:20
2. Everything In My Heart - 1:00
3. The Author - 6:25
4. Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman - 8:30
5. Rape Of The Locks - 6:10
6. All Night Petrol - 6:00
7. You And I - 1:45
8. Homicidal Suicidal - 6:30
9. Crash Course In Brain Surgery (Alternate Mix) - 2:36
10.Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman (Single Edit) - 4:08
11.Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman (2003 Version) - 3:45
12.Guts (2003 Version) - 3:53
All songs by by Burke Shelley, Tony Bourge, Ray Phillips
Bonus Tracks 9-12
Tracks 11-12 performed by Simon Lees, Steve Williams

*Tony Bourge - Guitar
*Burke Shelley - Bass, Vocals, Mellotron
*Ray Phillips - Drums, Percussion

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Heartsfield – The Wonder Of It All (1974 us, great country rock, 2007 remaster)

Heartsfield's second album was recorded as the band was touring like mad. The boys rented a house in a small Illinois town and moved into an average 1973 American middle-class neighborhood—what a surprise for everybody.

Perry Jordan, the band's leader says, "Here come 12 long-haired musicians, cooks, roadies, and producers with a small army of trucks, motorcycles, stereos and women making for a grand new addition to local population. One thing for sure, the only distractions were at the band house—guess that was the idea.

"On top of that the studio was a great one for sure but of all things specialized in Christian music. The title track, 'The Wonder Of It All,' won a mention in jazz music journal Down Beat Magazine as having a great jazz feel in the song."

This is when Heartsfield started to make more use of different instrumentation such as keyboards, synthesizers, harmonica, horns, banjo, pedal steel, and anything else they could find. This was also the first time they carried a vegetarian cook on the crew, and every night you could find a bunch of wild-eyed fellers at the local burger joint a couple of hours after dinner.
1. The Wonder Of It All (J.C. Heartsfield) - 4:13
2. House of Living (Perry Jordan) - 4:29
3. Pass Me By (Phil Lucafo) - 3:23
4. Shine On (Art Baldacci, Fred Dobbs) - 3:38
5. Eight Hours Time (Fred Dobbs) - 3:38
6. I’ve Just Fallen (Art Baldacci, Fred Dobbs) - 3:27
7. Racin’ The Sun (Perry Jordan) - 8:40
8. Lafayette County (J.C. Hartsfield) - 2:38

*Art Baldacci – Drums, Percussion, Piano, Melloton, Osi
*Greg “Ziggy” Biela – Bass
*Freddie Dobbs – Guitar, Banjo, Harmonica
*J.C. Hartsfield – Acoustic Guitar, Fiddle
*Perry Jordan – Guitar, Lead Tambourine
*Phil Lucafo – Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar
*Jack Kramer – Trumpet
*Bill Dinwiddie – Trombone
*Brandon Leavitt – Percussion

1973  Heartsfield - Heartsfield (2007 remaster) 

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Heartsfield - Heartsfield (1973 us, remarkable country southern classic rock, 2007 remaster with extra tracks)

Heartsfield was formed in the very beginning of the 1970s. They were born when JC Hartsfield, who was doing some writing and playing at that time with Perry Jordan, joined forces with another band that Perry was playing with at that time, Liquid Heart.  Now you know where the name came from.

They never really did play the bar scene. From day one, they joined as songwriters, did some demos and did a few shows. The response was great right from the beginning and soon the labels were looking at them. Believe me, that’s the short version, but you get the idea.

In 1973, the band released their first album, called simply Heartsfield, it was released on the Mercury label. 

The album kicks off with Perry Jordan’s “I’m Coming Home,” this song would go on to be the band’s show closer for many a year.  Three different lead vocalists and six way harmonies highlight the track.  Freddie Dobbs’ “Hush-a Bye” was another that would always be on the live playlist, and another that was one of my favorites. Phil Lucafo would give us his guitar driven blues rocker, “Gypsy Rider.” “Music Eyes” would probably be considered the bands number one track.  

Perry’s “Just that Wind” is one of the jam band genres earliest classics.  Some long drawn our guitar solos are featured throughout. Another one of the bands classic numbers was the sing along “The Only Time I’m Sober is when You’re Gone.” It was written by Perry and Phil. Phil brings out the pedal steel guitar for this one.

Perry Jordan has always had a great love for our animal friends and also our surroundings.  He shares some of that sentiment here with the great, “Please Save Her Life.” This was a track that was rarely played live. That’s a shame, it’s a fantastic tune! We get a tease of J.C.’s great piece “The Wonder of It All” as the album ends. This is where the story continues in Act Two as it will be the title cut on the follow up a short 12 months later.

Heartsfield was produced by Tom Geving and the band themselves. Tom added piano as well. This version of Heartsfield disbanded in 1982.
by Larry Carta

Founding member and long-time Heartsfield songwriter, singer, and guitarist Perry Jordan has died at 62 on June 29, 2011.

Jerry "J.C." Hartsfield, 71, of South Haven, MI passed away Thursday, July 17, 2014 at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI, due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident July 3rd, 2014.  He was born March 4, 1943 to James A. and Dorothy M. (Ganger) Hartsfield in Delay, Mississippi. 
1. I'm Coming Home (Perry Jordan) - 3:45
2. Hush - A - Bye (Fred Dobbs) - 5:43
3. Gypsy Rider (Phil Lucafo) - 4:56
4. Music Eyes (Perry Jordan) - 6:29
5. Understandin' Woman (Fred Dobbs) - 5:01
6. Just That Wind (Perry Jordan) - 5:39
7. The Only Time I'm Sober (Perry Jordan, Phil Lucafo) - 3:21
8. Please Save Her Life (Jason Jordan, Perry Jordan) - 6:36
9. The Wonder Of It All (Jerry "J.C." Hartsfield) - 1:16
10.I'm Coming Home (Perry Jordan) - 3:26
11.The Only Time I'm Sober (Perry Jordan, Phil Lucafo) - 3:24
12.House Of Living (Perry Jordan) - 4:45
13.The Wonder Of It All (Jerry "J.C." Hartsfield) - 2:53
14.Love That Rock N Roll (Perry Jordan) - 2:48
Tracks 10-14 Live recordings

*J.C. Hartsfield - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Perry Jordan - Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitar, Vocals
*Art Baldacci - Drums, Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar, Congas, Piano
*Greg Biela - Bass, Backing Vocals
*Freddie Dobbs - Electric Guitar, Bottleneck Guitar, Vocals
*Phil Lucafo - Bass, Electric Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Vocals
*Felix “Flaco” Falcon - Congas
*Beth Reynolds - Backing Vocals
*Tom Geving - Piano

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Widowmaker ‎- Running Free The Jet Recordings (1976-77 uk, exceptional hard classic rock, 2017 double disc remaster)

Widowmaker was formed in late 1975 by ex-Spooky Tooth and Mott The Hoople guitarist Luther Grosvenor, at the time known as Ariel Bender, as a means of recording songs he had written, something he had been unable to do since Mott The Hoople’s recordings were dominated by Ian Hunter penned tunes. Grosvenor was joined by ex-Lindisfarne drummer Paul Nichols and former Mungo Jerry and Chicken Shack bassist Bob Daisley. The trio became of the nucleus of the new band, with Grosvenor handling all the vocals.

The band decided that a lead vocalist would improve the band’s sound and as a result, Steve Ellis, formerly of Love Affair, was added, after his name was given to Grosvenor by Bobby Tench and Roger Chapman. At first Ellis wasn’t excited at the prospect of joining the band, but with some coaxing he took the job. Adding a keyboard was considered by the quartet, but in the end, guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton completed the original lineup of the quintet, which took the name Widowmaker, although no one in the band can really remember why, and Grosvenor says he never liked the name.

The band’s first gig was a 24 February 1976 appearance on the BBC’s “Old Grey Whistle” when they performed the Grosvenor/Ellis/Nichols penned “On The Road” and the Grosvenor/Ellis composition “Ain’t Telling You Nothing” both of which appeared on the groups debut LP. Catching the eye and ear of Roger Daltrey, Widowmaker opened for The Who at three gigs in May and June of 1976.

The band signed with Don Arden’s Jet Records with Arden becoming their manager. Soon the group entered De Lane Lea Studios in Wembley and began work on their self-produced and self-titled debut LP. Among the album’s ten tracks are five which Grosvenor had a part in writing, including the hot rocking “Running Free.” The band was aided by keyboardist Zoot Money, and backing vocals were supplied by Bobby Tench, Roger Chapman, Julie Driscoll and Sam Brown. With Jet making changes in distribution the album made a late appearance in the US and reached only #196 on the Billboard charts, disappointing to the band and certainly not an indication of the quality of material recorded.

Undeterred the band toured with Jet label mates ELO, as well as Uriah Heep and Nazareth. However, musical differences, home sickness and a falling out with manager Arden resulted in Ellis exiting the band. At the recommendation of Lloyd-Langton lead vocals were taken over by John Butler and the band entered Olympic Studio to record its second LP “Too Late To Cry” with Chris Kimsey and the band coproducing. The album, smoother sounding, but lacking the raw sound of the band’s debut reached only #150 on the Billboard charts in the US. Although containing four guitar driven tracks co-written by Grosvenor, the highlights of the anthology for me, it had a smoother sound, but didn’t rock as hard as the debut and proved to be the final album by the group.

Widowmaker toured with Ted Nugent, Aerosmith and Mahogany Rush, among others, in support of “Too Late To Cry” but bassist Daisley departed to become part of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. In addition, Grosvenor was unhappy, and although the band’s albums were much better than average and the group could have gone on for another year or two at the least, the members decided to call it a day and Widowmaker was no more.

Running Free: The Jet Recordings 1976-1977 marks the first time both Widowmaker albums have been reissued on CD in their entirety. Three tracks from “Too Late To Cry” make their debut on the anthology and are joined by another Grosvenor co-penned, previously unreleased track “Talk To Me.” The Esoteric Recordings reissue, compiled, conceived and coordinated by Mark Powell, with assistance from his wife Vicky, has the band sounding better than ever thanks to the 24-bit remastering job by Ben Wisessman at Broadlake Studios and the 16-page full color booklet includes an informative essay by Malcolm Dome and is filled with photos of the band, album artwork, posters, and other memorabilia, making “Running Free” the unquestionably definitive Widowmaker anthology. The collection will be appreciated by fans of hard rock and the incredible guitar work of Luther Grosvenor alike. Many thanks to the Powells and the folks at Esoteric Recordings for making this fine collection available.
by Kevin Rathert, August 29, 2017
Disc 1
1. Such A Shame (Bob Daisley) - 3:20
2. Pin A Rose On Me (Bob Daisley, Luther Grosvenor, Steve Ellis) - 5:02
3. On The Road (Luther Grosvenor, Paul Nicholls, Steve Ellis) - 3:08
4. Straight Faced Fighter (Steve Ellis) - 3:27
5. Ain't Telling You Nothing (Luther Grosvenor, Steve Ellis) - 4:52
6. When I Met You (Luther Grosvenor) - 3:52
7. Leave The Kids Alone (Steve Ellis) - 4:39
8. Shine A Light On Me (Luther Grosvenor) - 4:42
9. Running Free (John Farnham, Luther Grosvenor) - 3:39
10.Got A Dream (Huw Lloyd-Langton) - 3:03
Tracks 1-10 taken from the album 'Widowmaker' - released as Jet Records 2310 432 in 1976
Disc 2
1. Too Late To Cry (Bob Daisley) - 3:54
2. The Hustler (Bob Daisley, Luther Grosvenor) - 4:04
3. What A Way To Fall (Bob Daisley) - 3:52
4. Here Comes The Queen (Luther Grosvenor) - 4:10
5. Mean What You Say (Huw Lloyd-Langton, John Butler) - 3:21
6. Something I Can Do Without (Bob Daisley, Luther Grosvenor) - 4:11
7. Sign The Papers (Bob Daisley, John Butler) - 5:08
8. Pushin' And Pullin' (John Farnham) - 4:50
9. Sky Blues (Bob Daisley, John Butler, Luther Grosvenor, Paul Nicholls) - 5:40
10.Talk To Me (Bob Daisley, John Butler, Luther Grosvenor, Paul Nicholls) - 4:17
Tracks 1-9 taken from the album 'Too Late To Cry' released as Jet Records UAG 30038 in 1977
Track 10 recorded at Olympic Studios in January 1977 previously unreleased.

*Steve Ellis - Vocals
*Ariel Bender AKA Luther Grosvenor - Guitar
*Huw Lloyd-Langton - Guitar
*Bob Daisley - Bass
*Paul Nicholls - Drums
*John Butler - Lead Vocals, Harmony Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica
*Zoot Money - Keyboards
*Miguel Barradas - Steel Drums

Related Acts
1966-68  Deep Feeling - Pretty Colours
1965-67  The V.I.P's - The Complete V.I.P's (2006 Double Disc)
1966  The V.I.P's - Beat Crazy
1967  Art - Supernatural Fairy Tales (2002)
1968  Spooky Tooth - It's All About (2010 japan SHM)
1969  Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two (2010 japan SHM expanded)
1967-69  Love Affair - The Everlasting Love Affair (2005 bonus tracks)
1970  Love Affair - New Day (2008 bonus tracks)
1971  Kahvas Jute - Wide Open / Live At The Basement
1972-73  Ellis - Riding on the Crest of a Slump / Why Not? (2006 remaster)
1973  Chicken Shack - Unlucky Boy (2013 edition)
1974  Mott The Hoople - Hoople (2006 remaster)

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Plastic Penny - Everything I Am The Complete Plastic Penny (1967-70 uk, remarkable organ drivin' groovy psych rock, 2019 three disc clamshell box)

Subtitled “The Complete Plastic Penny”, this new collection brings together everything recorded under the name, including all surviving BBC sessions and two albums in Two Sides Of A Penny and Currency, the former in both mono and stereo forms……LTW’s Ian Canty finds a band that were conjured almost out of thin air to promote the surprise success of Everything I Am…..

Plastic Penny were originally conceived as a classic “Tin Pan Alley” ruse, constructed by Page One label head and manager extraordinaire Larry Page. The ex-Kinks/Troggs kingpin had identified Everything I Am as a song with potential, finding it on the flipside to the Box Tops’ Neon Rainbow, the follow up to their smash hit The Letter. He decided that session singer Brian O’Shea (soon to be renamed Brian Keith) was just the man to replicate Alex Chilton’s vocal style and with backing from other members of the session scene the track was completed. A composition by Brian Keith and keyboardist Paul Raymond (later of UFO), entitled No Pleasure Without Pain My Love, was also taped and provided the b side.

This single was duly released on Page One Records late in 1967 under the name Plastic Penny. 9 times out of 10 back then these type of things disappeared without trace, but Page was shrewd cookie and the song got good airplay and made the charts, climbing as high as number 6. This success presented its own problem: how do you promote a record rising rapidly up the charts without a band? Thus the first real line-up of Plastic Penny was quickly thrown together, with Keith and Raymond joined by the Sunderland-based duo of drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Mick Grabham, with Tony Murray (who was a member of Universals along with Keith and Raymond) completing things on bass.

The quintet promoted the single on its journey to the UK Top 10 and were entrusted with playing on, if not actually writing, the follow-up. This point in time was pretty much make or break for Plastic Penny, so Nobody Knows It was sourced from the sure-handed pairing of Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. These two had been behind many a hit and had recently won the Eurovision Song Contest with Sandie Shaw, so the catchy number they provided seemed a sure bet. The band managed to render the song with some nice organ swirls that pushed it close to “flavour of the month” Procul Harum in terms of sound. Another hit could have seen them establish a run in the charts, but sadly it was not to be, as the record did not trouble the Top 50. Even so, they pushed on with completing their debut album.

In truth Two Sides of A Penny was an uneven LP and somewhat aptly named. As far as I’m concerned, the better material is mainly situated on the second side and the stereo version carries a little more zing than the mono take, but that is a closer call. Although the hit (that most of the band never played on) was a nice bit of ornate late 60s Pop, the attempts to follow in the same style with Keith at the helm are a bit lumpy. Plastic Penny were generally a better outfit when they were given something more to get their teeth into, which they did on side two.

I Want You has drummer Olsson taking the microphone on an excellent tough fast rocker, but Mrs Grundy is the album’s real highlight, a fine piece of Psychedelic storytelling with some great instrumental touches. Take Me Back has a nice fresh feel to it and It’s A Good Thing is busting out with Pop/Soul goodness. They also have a dart at the Fabs’ Strawberry Fields Forever, which is ok but doesn’t add a great deal to the original (apart from grafting on a bit of Hello Goodbye). Both sides of their first two singles feature as bonus tracks on this disc, along with a couple of Italian language reworkings of the a sides.

The second disc, which houses the stereo version of the debut album, has a marvellous bonus in 14 BBC session tracks. For the most part the songs put down for the Beeb don’t differ vastly from the released versions, but do have some great Brian Matthew intros and outros (these recordings are taken from transcription discs, so Brian appears all over the place, even if the tracks were originally set down for other DJs’ shows), which give them a lovely “period” feel. There are a few Plastic Penny songs here which never saw official release though. Turning Night Into Day is a Baroque Pop treat, lots of strings and a soulful vocal – really nice stuff and the Killing Floor shows their tougher, more R&B influenced side. In addition Penny reunited with Brian Keith (see below) for an early version of his solo effort The Shelter Of Your Arms. Overall this part of the boxset is probably the most interesting and exciting section.

After the album was released came the inevitable split between the band and Keith – they had been effectively pulling in different directions for a while and Keith opted for a solo career. A brand new record heralded Penny’s next phase, the excellent Your Way To Tell Me To Go/Baby You’re Not To Blame single. Though again not a hit, this was for me probably their best release. The A side is a real winner, thunderous playing more in the style of the Move and the Who and the flipside is no slouch either, with a rolling bass line, cool piano and a great build to the chorus. Both have some excellent guitar work adorning them. Unfortunately the following Hound Dog single is a bit “of its time”, slowed down jamming covers were all the rage, but this was still a bit naff. More positively Currency, which occupied the other side, is a smart instrumental goodie.

On the whole you would have hoped that the good showing on 3 out of 4 of the single sides would augured well for their second album, also entitled Currency. Unfortunately it again feels to me like it isn’t quite the LP they truly had in them. Part of the problem is the amount of outside material, with four out of the nine selections being covers. I can understand why they did MacArthur Park in the grandstanding style of the Nice, it was all the rage at the time these types of things, but all these years on it feels like it is just banging up the running time. Elton John was circling the band at the time, but his and Taupin’s Turn To Me isn’t one of their best.

The sad thing is their own material is by far the best stuff on the whole album. Give Me Money is really top quality, they had played this one a while before Currency was cut (it is on disc 2 in its BBC session form), but it is still good to hear more than once. A wonderful, punchy and catchy uptempo piece of Power Pop that would certainly have given Roy Wood or Pete Townshend a run for their money. The aforementioned Your Way To Tell Me To Go, Baby You’re Not To Blame and Currency are all superb and Sour Suite is an effective jam which gives the band a chance to show their chops. On the positive side, this LP represented an improvement on their debut, but time was not on their side. You also have to factor in that even their better material would have seemed dated by 1969 (but with the elapsing of so much time, it sounds right on the money now).

In fact the band virtually folded after the record, with Raymond and Murray dropping out. Mick Grabham and Olsson put together a final line up, being joined by Stewart Brown on vocals and Freddy Gandy on bass. Even Olsson had scarpered by the time the final Plastic Penny single was released She Does/Genevieve. Despite the much changed personnel, this was another cool single, with the topside’s joyous vitality proving infectious and early song Genevieve being given a good dose of late-Psych vim. Still, it was too late in the day for Plastic Penny and soon after they were no more. The final three singles, plus rarity Celebrity Ball, which only was previously available on the obscure Heads I Win – Tails You Lose (Page One weren’t going to give up on the coin-related puns easily!) Plastic Penny compilation make up the bonuses here. The pick is She Does, a great single which really deserved much better.

Despite some reservations, Everything I Am: The Complete Plastic Penny is an excellent and thorough compilation of Plastic Penny’s recording career with an in depth sleeve note that tells the band’s convoluted story very well. Though people might only remember them for that single if at all, they were far better when they were given a chance to be a “proper” band rather than puppets fronting a record they didn’t record. That hit didn’t do them many favours, but on the evidence here Plastic Penny had more to offer, including some great songs of their own in Give Me Money and Your Way To Tell Me To Go. It was a shame that they were never given their chance to produce a whole album of their own material, but this collection has a few powerful 60s Pop gems to be gleaned. Another sterling effort by the Grapefruit imprint.
by Ian Canty, February 20, 2019
Disc 1 "Two Sides Of A Penny" 1968 (Mono)
1. Everything I Am (Dan Penn, Dewey Lindon Oldham Jr.) - 2:22
2. Wake Me Up (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 3:08
3. Never My Love (Dick Addrisi, Don Addrisi) - 2:22
4. Genevieve (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:08
5. No Pleasure Without Pain My Love (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:44
6. So Much Older Now (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:36
7. Mrs. Grundy (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 5:14
8. Take Me Back (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:20
9. I Want You (Jack Bruce, Graham Bond) - 3:23
10.It's A Good Thing (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:46
11.Strawberry Fields Forever (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 4:23
12.Everything I Am (Dan Penn, Dewey Lindon Oldham Jr.) - 2:27
13.No Pleasure Without Pain My Love (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:41
14.Nobody Knows It (Bill Martin, Phil Coulter) - 2:31
15.Happy Just To Be With You (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:54
16.Guarda Nel Cielo (Nobody Knows It) (Bill Martin, Phil Coulter, Giovanni Sanjust) - 2:28
17.Tutto Quel Che Ho (Everything I Am) (Dan Penn, Dewey Lindon Oldham Jr., Giovanni Sanjust) - 2:27
Tracks (1-11) The album Two Sides Of A Penny, mono, Page One POL 005, released April 1968
Tracks (11-13) Single, Page One POF 051, released December 1967
Tracks (14-15) Single, Page One POF 062, released March 1968
Tracks (16-17) Italian single, Ricordi International SIR 20.067, released May 1968
Disc 2 "Two Sides Of A Penny" (Stereo) 1968
1. Everything I Am (Dan Penn, Dewey Lindon Oldham Jr.) - 2:28
2. Wake Me Up (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 3:08
3. Never My Love (Dick Addrisi, Don Addrisi) - 2:22
4. Genevieve (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:07
5. No Pleasure Without Pain My Love (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:43
6. So Much Older Now (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:37
7. Mrs. Grundy (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 5:14
8. Take Me Back (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:21
9. I Want You (Jack Bruce, Graham Bond) - 3:24
10.It's A Good Thing (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:47
11.Strawberry Fields Forever (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 4:25
12.Turning Night Into Day (Tony Murray) - 2:39
13.Everything I Am (Dan Penn, Dewey Lindon Oldham Jr.) - 2:25
14.Take Me Back (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:26
15.Everything I Am (Dan Penn, Dewey Lindon Oldham Jr.) - 2:29
16.No Pleasure Without Pain My Love (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:55
17.It's A Good Thing (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:35
18.It's A Good Thing (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:34
19.Nobody Knows It (Bill Martin, Phil Coulter) - 2:40
20.So Much Older Now (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:25
21.Your Way To Tell Me Go (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:49
22.The Shelter Of Your Arms (Brian Keith, Paul Raymond) - 2:43
23.Give Me Money (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:24
24.Killing Floor (Chester Burnett) - 4:02
25.Strawberry Fields Forever (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 3:56
Tracks (1-11) The album Two Sides Of A Penny, stereo, Page One POLS 005, released April 1968
Tracks (12-14) BBC session for Top Gear, recorded 10 January 1968, first broadcast 14 January
Tracks (15-17) BBC session for David Symonds, recorded 22 January 1968, first broadcast 29 February
Tracks (18-20) BBC session for David Symonds, recorded 19 March 1968, first broadcast 25 March
Tracks (22-23) BBC session for David Symonds, recorded 12 July 1968, first broadcast 22 July
Tracks (24-25) BBC session for Dave Cash, recorded 17 February 1969, first broadcast 1 March
Disc 3 "Currency" 1969
1. Your Way To Tell Me Go (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:49
2. Hound Dog (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 2:48
3. Currency (Mick Grabham, Nigel Olsson, Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 3:39
4. Caledonian Mission (Robbie Robertson) - 2:59
5. MacArthur Park (Jimmy Webb) - 7:35
6. Turn To Me (Elton John, Bernie Taupin) - 2:45
7. Baby You're Not To Blame (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:53
8. Give Me Money (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:59
9. Sour Suite (Mick Grabham, Nigel Olsson, Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 8:12
10.Your Way To Tell Me Go (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:49
11.Baby You're Not To Blame (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:52
12.Hound Dog (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 2:47
13.Currency (Mick Grabham, Nigel Olsson, Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 3:39
14.Celebrity Ball (Alan Gordon, Garry Bonner) - 2:42
15.She Does (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 3:07
16.Genevieve (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 3:00
Tracks (1-9) The album Currency, Page One POLS 014, released February 1969
Tracks (10-11) Single, Page One POF 079, released July 1968
Tracks (11-13) Single, Page One POF 107, released November 1968
Track (14) Mid-1969 outtake, first release on the compilation album Heads I Win - Tails You Lose, Page One POS 611, released April 1970
Tracks (15-16) Single, Page One POF 146, released July 1969

Plastic Penny
*Brian Keith  - Vocals
*Michael Graham - Guitar
*Tony Murray - Bass
*Nigel Olsson - Drums
*Paul Raymond - Organ, Piano

1968  Plastic Penny - Two Sides Of Penny 
1969  Plastic Penny - Currency

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Clouds - Watercolour Days (1971 uk, impressive prog rock, bonus tracks edition)

A significant advance from their debut album, Watercolour Days shows Clouds plunging straight into virtuoso-style progressive rock, shedding any of their lingering psychedelic playfulness in favor of a much more brooding, serious sound. Billy Ritchie's keyboards are the dominant instrument, even with some overdubbed orchestral accompaniment, and their more aggressive sound suits Ritchie's and lead singer/bassist Ian Ellis's vocal capabilities. 

The album's overall sound is a mix of organ-centered art rock with some of the heavy hard rock sound one expected from Deep Purple, and it holds together amazingly well on numbers such as "Cold Sweat" and the title track. The guitar sound -- which was evident in small doses on their first album -- is missed sometimes, as it was in concert as well, but Ellis' bass work and Ritchie's powerful keyboard playing more than fill the gap. Indeed, hearing this album anew nearly 40 years on, it's even more difficult to understand how this trio didn't find more success than they did, especially given their reviews of the period. 
by Bruce Eder
1. Watercolour Days - 5:30
2. Cold Sweat (Billy Ritchie, Ian Ellis) - 3:38
3. Lighthouse (Ian Ellis) - 5:05
4. Long Time (Billy Ritchie, Ian Ellis) - 4:37
5. Mind Of A Child (Billy Ritchie, Harry Hughes, Ian Ellis) - 2:52
6. I Know Better Than You (Billy Ritchie, Harry Hughes, Ian Ellis) - 4:55
7. Leavin' - 3:25
8. Get Off My Farm - 3:28
9. I Am The Melody - 2:41
10.Why Is There No Magic - 2:43
11.Shadows - 2:40
12.A Day Of Rain - 3:42
13.Clockwork Soldier - 5:06
All songs by Billy Ritchie except where stated
Bonus Tracks 10-13

The Clouds
*Ian Ellis - Organ, Guitar Acoustic, Bass, Vocals
*Harry Hughes  - Drums, Vocals
*Billy Ritchie - Organ, Guitar, Piano, Bass, Harp, Organ  Hammond, Vocals

1966-71  Clouds - Up Above Our Heads (2010 double disc extra tracks edition) 
1968/71  Clouds - Scrapbook / Watercolour Days