Saturday, May 8, 2021

Derringer - Live In Cleveland (1979 us, tremendous hard guitar rock, 2009 edition)

‘Derringer Live In Cleveland’ was initially Rick Derringer’s ‘Official Bootleg’, which Blue Sky Records only meant to have sent to in-house personnel. It was not a finished product but captured the band’s vitality at Cleveland’s Agora Ballroom. The following year, the “official” live album was released. 

This is a killer collection. Derringer’s in-between schpiel is amusing and priceless. He knows how to get the audience super amped. His outgoing and fun personality shines through every second, whether he’s revving up the crowd or spilling out catchy lyrics. You can only imagine what the live performance was like when the recording is so stimulating. Overall, Derringer squeezes the guts out of every phrase and makes it all sound so easy.

‘Let Me In’ finds Derringer’s voice going from sweet to scratchy. The solo is exhilarating set against driving power chords. “Let me in, sweet mama, it’s your wandering boy,” he teases. ‘Teenage Love Affair’ starts right off so bold and uncompromising. The lyrics are reminiscent of early Who material. The dynamic solo is supported by a talented percussionist. 

‘Sailor’ is where he announces there will be “new songs, new people” and where he introduces Danny Johnson. This is psychedelia at its finest and at times Derringer’s voice sounds strangely operatic. The song goes back brilliantly to that glorious riff and he does some quasi-jazz licks, too. The song, vocally, is a gorgeous hybrid.

‘Beyond the Universe’ finds Derringer stating: “Here’s a real fast one.” What follows is a Hendrix-like fusion with wonderful movement. This is the most electrifying conversation you’ll ever over hear between a man and his beloved guitar. ‘Roll With Me’ has a suspenseful intro. and then some nuts and bolts rock ‘n ‘roll commences.

One version of ‘Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo’ is about thirteen minutes of sassy and creative deliciousness. Witness the crowd’s reaction. Their rapt silence speaks volumes. Who wouldn’t be speechless absorbing Derringer’s Zen concentration and clever antics? And when he references a certain classic British rock band, you’re so into it, you’re there. 

And the phrase “Lawdy, momma” will never hit you the same way twice. Of course, when Derringer shouts, “Did somebody say, ‘Keep on rocking?’” you’ve just been anointed by a holy spirit. 
by Lisa Torem, 6/ 4/2014 
1. Let Me In (Rick Derringer, Cynthia Weil) - 3:34
2. Teenage Love Affair (Rick Derringer) - 3:25
3. Sailor (Danny Johnson) - 5:29
4. Beyond The Universe (Rick Derringer) - 6:59
5. Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo (Rick Derringer) - 12:53
6. Roll With Me (Rick Derringer) - 4:58
7. Rebel Rebel (David Bowie) - 4:18

*Rick Derringer - Vocals, Guitar
*Danny Johnson - Guitar, Vocals
*Kenny Aaronson - Bass, Background Vocals
*Vinny Appice - Drums

Friday, May 7, 2021

Growl - Growl (1974 us, tough bluesy rock, 2007 remaster)

Protégés of Frank Zappa, Growl released a solitary album for his Descreet Records label in the mid-70s. Comprising Dennis Rodriguez (vocals), Richard Manup-Uti (vocals), Mick Small (guitar), Harry Brender ‘A’ Brandis (guitar), Geno Lucero (bass) and Danny McBride (drums), their street-level, eclectic rock sound and irreverent lyricism echoed Zappa’s own work. Well regarded by Zappa aficionados, Growl’s excellent debut otherwise remains an obscurity of the mid-70s rock period. 
1. Shake Your Money Maker (Paul Butterfield) - 3:19
2. Young And Crazy - 2:12
3. I Wonder - 3:25
4. Working Man (Richard Manuputi) - 4:30
5. Sadie - 3:25
6. Hound Dog (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 3:03
7. Take My Life - 2:55
8. Things Ain't Better - 3:13
9. Who's This Man - 3:19
10.I Just Want To Make Love To You (Willie Dixon) - 3:00
All songs by Dennis Rodriguez except where stated 

*Harry Brandis - Guitar, Vocals
*Gene Lucero - Bass 
*Danny McBride - Drums 
*Richard Manuputi - Vocals 
*Dennis Rodriguez - Vocals 
*Mick Small - Guitar

Related Act 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Mike Heron - Smiling Men With Bad Reputations (1971 uk, sensational folk classic rock, 2003 remaster)

Smiling Men With Bad Reputations is Heron's solo debut, released while he was still a member of the unique Incredible String Band (ISB). In one way, Smiling Men follows the path cut by previous ISB material in its presentation of world and folk sounds; yet Heron's solo outing also breaks new ground in that it exhibits strong rock influences, sounds that would inspire and influence future ISB releases. 

Heron's compositions on Smiling Men are original and fresh, rich with texture, eclecticism, and good musicianship. His lyrics are equally thoughtful and textured throughout -- the kind of lyrics that make one want to listen. Heron brings in John Cale as a major collaborator on four tracks. Cale provides brass and vocal arrangements for two cuts and adds viola, harmonium, piano, and bass to several others.

South African avant-garde saxophonist Dudu Pukwana wails heavily on the opener, "Call Me Diamond," an alto sax-driven swingin' little rocker. "Flowers of the Forest," an almost melancholy tune reminiscent of the Band, features Richard Thompson on lead guitar. Heron sings in the guise of Cat Stevens on "Feast of Stephen," another rock-influenced piece. And the Who (minus Daltrey), credited as Tommy and the Bijoux, join Heron on "Warm Heart Pastry," a full-blown heavy rock song. The tune, probably more suited to a Who album, stands stylistically apart from the rest of Heron's project, yet it adds to Smiling Men's eclectic quality.

Heron, like ISB, was prone to generating atmospheric, odd melodies, some of which were drawn from Celtic and Eastern sources. "Spirit Beautiful" is a fine example. Here, Heron creates an Indian folk song with assistance from Indian musicians on strings and percussion (veena, tambura, mridangam, moorsing). Other standouts include the mood-evoking "Brindaban" and the lengthy, awkward "Beautiful Stranger," a rocking Traffic-like piece with Tony Cox playing VCS3 and Cale on harmonium. Heron ends the set with an intimate solo performance, "No Turning Back," featuring sparse acoustic guitar and lamenting vocals.
by David Ross Smith
1. Call Me Diamond - 4:42
2. Flowers Of The Forest - 5:44
3. Audrey - 4:10
4. Brindaban - 3:53
5. Feast Of Stephen - 4:37
6. Spirit Beautiful - 5:19
7. Warm Heart Pastry - 6:02
8. Beautiful Stranger - 7:22
9. No Turning Back - 3:14
10.Make No Mistake - 3:07
11.Lady Wonder - 4:20
All Words and Music by Mike Heron
Bonus tracks 10-11

*Mike Heron - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica
*John Cale - Bass, Guitar, Vocals, Harmonium, Piano, Viola, Vocal Arrangement, Brass Arrangement 
*Dave Mattacks - Drums 
*Rose Simpson - Bass 
*Richard Thompson - Guitar 
*Steve Winwood - Organ 
*Pete Townshend - Guitar 
*Keith Moon - Drums 
*Ronnie Lane - Bass 
*Elton John - Piano 
*Jimmy Page – Guitar,  Slide Guitar 
*Simon Nicol - Guitar 
*Dave Pegg - Bass 
*Gerry Conway - Drums 
*Tony Cox - Vcs3 Synthesizer
*Pat Donaldson - Bass 
*Dr. Strangely Strange - Backing Vocals 
*Sue Glover - Vocals 
*Mike Kowalski - Drums 
*Sunny Leslie - Vocals 
*Dudu Pukwana - Saxophone, Piano, Horn Arrangement 
*Gerard Dott - Arrangement 
*Liza Strike - Vocals 
*Heather Wood - Vocals 
*Vemu Mukunda - Veena 
*Mohana Lakshmipathy - Veena 
*Vshailendra - Tambura 
*Pr Money – Mridangam, Morsing 
*Gordon Huntley - Steel Guitar 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Iain Matthews - Journeys From Gospel Oak (1974 uk, remarkable country folk rock, 2006 remaster and xpanded)

In 1972, several years after leaving both Fairport Convention and his own group, Matthews Southern Comfort, Iain Matthews was once again struck with a case of musical wanderlust and decided to pack in his solo career and form a new group, Plainsong. At the time, Matthews still owed an album to Vertigo Records, and rather than give them Plainsong's debut, he booked a studio for five days and cut a solo album dominated by covers of songs from American tunesmiths, with only two original songs appearing on the set. 

By all rights, the album that resulted should have been a tossed-off trifle (especially since Vertigo opted not to release it after all, eventually selling it to the independent Mooncrest label), but Journeys from Gospel Oak turned out to be one of Matthews' most satisfying solo efforts, a lovely fusion of airy country rock and pastoral British folk that captured some of Matthews' most beautiful and heartfelt vocal work. Matthews' two new songs, "Knowing the Game" and "Franklin Avenue," are fine tunes inspired by his experiences in the music business, but the covers he chose for the set are inspired; he manages to bring something fresh and affecting to well-worn numbers like "Do Right Woman" and "Sing Me Back Home," and lesser known compositions like "Bride 1945" and "Things You Gave Me" prove his interpretive instincts were to be reckoned with.

The compact band Matthews put together for the sessions is superb: Jerry Donahue's lead guitar is subtle but gently reinforces the country accents of the melodies, and bassist Pat Donaldson and drummer Timi Donald (who played on many of Richard Thompson's early solo sessions) give the tracks a rock-solid foundation. Journeys from Gospel Oak is a simple album, but there's something deeply satisfying in its elegance, and it captures a soulful and touching spirit that's found in Iain Matthews' best music. 
by Mark Deming
1. Knowing The Game (Iain Matthews) - 2:36      
2. Polly (Gene Clark) - 4:04      
3. Things You Gave Me (Glen Hardin) - 2:33      
4. Mobile Blue (Mickey Newbury) - 3:28      
5. Tribute to Hank Williams (Tim Hardin) - 2:48      
6. Met Her On A Plane (Jimmy Webb) - 3:35      
7. Bride 1945 (Paul Siebel) - 3:09      
8. Franklin Avenue (Iain Matthews) - 2:51      
9. Do Right Woman (Chips Moman, Dan Penn) - 3:36      
10.Sing Me Back Home (Merle Haggard) - 3:39      
11.Met Her On A Plane (Jimmy Webb) - 3:20      
12.Devil in Disguise (Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons) - 2:27      
13.Knowing the Game (Iain Matthews) - 3:50     
14.Polly (Gene Clark) - 3:56     
15.Franklin Avenue (Iain Matthews) - 3:05     
16.Tribute To Hank Williams (Tim Hardin) - 2:20     
17.Devil in Disguise (Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons) - 3:26 
Bonus Tracks 11-17

*Iain Matthews – Guitar, Vocals
*Jerry Donahue – Electric Guitar
*Jerry Donahue - Acoustic Guitar
*Andy Roberts – Acoustic Guitar on "Things You Gave Me"
*Pat Donaldson – Bass
*Timmy Donald – Drums

1971  Ian Matthews - Tigers Will Survive (2012 remaster)   

Monday, May 3, 2021

Various Artists - Steppin' Through An Empty Time Fairytales Can Come True Volume V (1965-71 europe, beat psych harmonies)

The fifth volume in the Fairytales Can Come True series -- another 20 slices of British & European pop psych confection. Some names may be familiar, others may not. Hopefully, you'll find some new aural thrills within as you groove to an Irish folk band gone decidedly trippy, an Italian-only release from a Bournemouth-based soul band, a lilting number from the son of a world famous painter, a band from Harrow who became Italy's top psych outfit, and the singer of The Cheynes going psychedelically solo.

Come cats, hesitate a while at the barbecue, smile sweetly and keep it cool! Compiled by legendary psych musician and Psychic Circle label-head, Nick Saloman (The Bevis Frond), featuring artists Sleepy, Francis Lai, Mec Op Singers, Rokes, Pattersons, Dorian & The Mackensies, Love Affair, Katch 22, Spacetrack, Dave Anthony's Moods, Rifkin, Crown's Clan, David McNeil, Merseys, Sound Network, Malcolm Holland, Rattles, Wishful Thinking, Keith Field, and Montanas. 
Artists - Tracks - Composer
1. Sleepy - Mrs. Bailey's Barbecue And Grill (Mike Fowle, Ian Wallace) - 3:33
2. Francis Lai - Keep It Cool (Francis Lai) - 2:00
3. Mec Op Singers - Stop The Machine (P. Vink) - 2:47
4. Rokes - Ride On (Shapiro) - 2:32
5. Pattersons - I Can Fly (Brian Japp) - 2:59
6. Dorian And The Mackensies - Stay With Me (J. Godefroy, J. P. Fasseau) - 2:28
7. Love Affair - She Smiled Sweetly (Mick Jagger, Keith Richard) - 2:29
8. Katch 22 - Baby Love (Tokenam Aw) - 2:08
9. Spacetrack - Steppin' Through An Empty Time (F. F. Hoeke) - 3:15
10.Dave Anthony's Moods - Fading Away (Tim Walker, Wavan) - 2:47
11.Rifkin - Contintental Hesitation (Rifkin) - 4:13
12.Crown's Clan - No Place For Our Minds (J. Kroon, W. Ras) - 2:14
13.David McNeil - My Love (David McNeil) - 2:28
14.Merseys - The Cat (Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway) - 2:58
15.Sound Network - How About Now (J. Stewart, N. Nichols) - 2:07
16.Malcolm Holland - Dawning Of The Day (Malcolm Holland) - 3:41
17.Rattles - Mister / Keep Your Hands Off My Sister (Herbert Hildebrandt-Winhauer) - 5:22
18.Wishful Thinking - She Belongs To The Night (Dave Morgan) - 2:53
19.Keith Field - The Day That War Broke Out (Mike D'Abo) - 3:07
20.Montanas - Hey Diddle Diddle (George Davis, John Elcock) - 2:27

other Psychic Circle compilations
1961-64  Phantom Guitars: A Cool Collection of Twangin' Instrumentals
1966-72  With The Sun In My Eyes
1968-72  White Lace And Strange
1968-72  The Room Of Loud Sounds
1964-69  Realistic Patterns Orchestrated Psychedelia
1965-69  Wednesday Morning Dew 
1965-70  The Electric Coffee House 
1965-70  The Golden Road The Electric Coffee House Vol.2
1966-72  We Can Fly
1969-73  Cosmarama
1969-74  Blow Your Cool: 20 Prog Psych Assaults
1969-74  Lovin’ Fire 20 Obscure Gems
1970-77  A Visit To The Spaceship Factory

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Steppenwolf ‎- Hour Of The Wolf (1975 canada / us, groovy fresh classic rock, 2018 remaster)

By this time Jerry Edmonton had taken over the art direction and started working with a photographer named Lori Sullivan. Together they created the “Hour Of The Wolf” album artwork. Andy Chapin replaced long time keyboardist Goldy McJohn on this album, and played a major role in bringing that added punch, fresh new sound to the band. 

Once again they recorded at John Kay's studio but the record was mixed by Roy Halee who had worked with John Kay during the days with “The Sparrow”. Roy, who is a renowned engineer, gave the album it’s full and varied sound. “Mr. Penny Pincher” and “Another’s Lifetime” were fine songs  also  “Someone Told A Lie”, while Mars Bonfire (of Born to be Wild fame) contributed a timely new tune called “Caroline, Are You Ready For The Outlaw World”. That track also featured Tom Scott playing a burning sax solo through a leslie. 

Overall the album was less raw and bluesy then some previous Wolf efforts but it showed some of our other musical sides to good advantage. Unfortunately label “Mums Records” folded just when this album was released and so it was more or less ignored by Epic who was Mums distributor.
1. Caroline (Are You Ready For The Outlaw World) (Mars Bonfire) - 4:51
2. Annie, Annie Over (Alan O'Day) - 4:10
3. Two For The Love Of One (George Biondo, Jerry Edmonton) - 3:44
4. Just For Tonight (Bobby Cochran, Jerry Edmonton) - 5:38
5. Hard Rock Road (Jerry Edmonton) - 3:30
6. Someone Told A Lie (Bobby Cochran, Jerry Edmonton, John Kay) - 5:04
7. Another's Lifetime (Wayne Berry) - 4:34
8. Mr. Penny Pincher (Van Dunson) - 6:14
9. Caroline (Are You Ready For The Outlaw World) (Mars Bonfire) - 3:22
10.Angeldrawers (Andy Chapin, George Biondo, Jerry Edmonton, John Kay) - 3:46
Bonus Tracks 9-10

*John Kay - Lead Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*Jerry Edmonton - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*George Biondo - Bass, Vocals
*Bobby Cochran - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Andy Chapin - Keyboards, Vocals
*Tom Scott - Horns

1969  Early Steppenwolf (1967 Live, Japan SHM mini lp)
1969  At Your Birthday Party (Japan SHM 2013 remaster)
1969  Monster (2013 japan SHM issue)
1970  Live (2013 Japan SHM edition)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Steppenwolf - Slow Flux (1974 canada / us, fine acid blues classic rock, 2018 remaster)

Few bands with as many hits to their name (eight gold albums, six US Top 40 singles) are as tied to a single song as Steppenwolf, who will be forever known for Born To Be Wild.

Here, however, are the band’s seventh studio albums, dating from 1974 respectively, and  first of three album produced in a brief flurry of activity between hiatuses. Slow Flux saw the group reconvene around a core of founder members, notably vocalist John Kay, whose unmistakably gritty tones give the album much of its character. 

It’s a strong, bluesy and nicely late 60s-sounding set, with several highlights including the Dylanesque Children Of Night and catchy single Straight Shootin’ Woman. Unavailable in its entirety for many years, it contains the Top 40 hit “Straight Shootin’ Woman,” as well as the foretelling “Children of Night,” and “Gang War Blues.” Clamored for by fans since it went out of print.
by William Pinfold, 06 September 2013
1. Gang War Blues (Goldy McJohn, Jerry Edmonton, John Kay, Kim Fowley) - 4:52
2. Children Of Night (John Kay) - 5:11
3. Justice Don't Be Slow (John Kay, Joseph B. Richie) - 5:00
4. Get Into The Wind (Bobby Cochran, Casey van Beek) - 3:00
5. Jeraboah (Jack Conrad) - 5:41
6. Straight Shootin' Woman (Jerry Edmonton) - 4:04
7. Smokey Factory Blues (Albert Hammond, Mike Hazlewood) - 4:09
8. Morning Blue (George Biondo) - 4:12
9. A Fool's Fantasy (Goldy McJohn) - 3:37
10.Fishin' In The Dark (John Kay) - 5:47

*John Kay - Guitar, Vocals
*Goldy McJohn - Keyboards
*Bobby Cochran - Guitar
*George Biondo - Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Jerry Edmonton - Drums
*Charles Black - Horns
*Don Ellis - Horns
*Gil Rathel - Horns, 
*John Rosenberg - Horns
*Sam Falzone - Horns
*Skip Konte - Chamberlin

1968  Steppenwolf (2013 japan SHM bonus tracks and 2014 SACD)
1969  Early Steppenwolf (1967 Live, Japan SHM mini lp)
1969  At Your Birthday Party (Japan SHM 2013 remaster)
1969  Monster (2013 japan SHM issue)
1970  Live (2013 Japan SHM edition)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Keith Allison - In Action The Complete Columbia Sides Plus! (1965-70 us, splendid folk beat psych rock, 2014 bonus tracks remaster)

Keith Allison is a talented guy who has worked with some of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll, but he owes his solo career to simple good luck. In 1965, Texas-born Allison was at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles hoping to get paid for a demo session he played on for Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart when someone spotted him and thought he'd look good on television. That of all things led to a regular gig on ABC-TV's rock music show Where the Action Is! and a record deal with Columbia. In Action: The Complete Columbia Sides Plus! features Allison's 1967 album In Action in its entirety, along with 12 bonus tracks from singles he cut for Columbia and Amy Records between 1966 and 1970. Allison was a fine singer, a solid guitarist, and a gifted songwriter, but he doesn't get much of a chance to show off the latter on his album; while he penned one of the best of its 11 songs, "Freeborn Man," in tandem with Mark Lindsay () - it's a country-flavored tune good enough that Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin both recorded it, the rest are covers that offer up a cross section of what was happening in pop at the time -- two Monkees covers, two Donovan tunes, several numbers about cars and girls, and a smattering of well-scrubbed R&B for seasoning. 

The arrangements are sharp and Allison's voice is clear and versatile, with his faint Texas accent adding a nice twist to the songs. However, it's the single sides that feature the most interesting material () - all in punchy mono that sounds tighter than the more spacious stereo mixes on the album; "Glitter and Gold" and "I Ain't Blamin' You" are teen pop with some real grit, "Look at Me" and "Everybody" give Allison room to show off his songwriting chops, and "Who Do You Love" and a medley of "Johnny B. Goode" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" demonstrate he had a firm command of rock & roll basics. A year after In Action was released, Allison joined Paul Revere & the Raiders, and since then he's worked with everyone from Harry Nilsson to Alice Cooper, but this disc shows Allison clearly had the goods for a solo career, even if his sales figures suggested otherwise. 
by Mark Deming

Keith Allison took listeners “where the action is” on his 1967 Columbia Records debut LP In Action, packing its grooves with tunes from Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart () - including “Action, Action, Action,” the theme to ABC-TV’s Where the Action Is, which featured Allison, Donovan, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles, and his future bandmates Paul Revere and the Raiders. On the album—produced by California music icon Gary Usher—Allison even introduced a future country-and-western staple in his own song “Freeborn Man,” co-written with the Raiders’ Mark Lindsay.  Real Gone Music’s first-ever compact disc reissue offers more action than before, adding twelve original mono single bonus tracks to the original eleven stereo pop nuggets.  

These diverse 45s—ten rarities from the Columbia vaults and two ultra-rare tracks from Bell Records’ Amy imprint—boast productions by the likes of Mark Lindsay, Terry Melcher and Larry Marks, and songs by Bo Diddley, Joe South, Tommy Roe, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and the legendary Brill Building team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil as well as Allison himself.  Like "Freeborn Man," a couple of these tracks () - South’s “Birds of a Feather” and Allison and Lindsay’s “Wednesday’s Child" would also get the full Raiders treatment on the band’s albums.  Taken together, the 23 tracks on In Action—The Complete Columbia Sides and More! show the many sides of this singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who, besides being  the late-period Raiders bassist, worked with the Monkees, Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper. Joe Marchese’s in-depth liner notes explore the Keith Allison legacy; Vic Anesini’s remastering lets the music shine.
1. Louise (Jesse Lee Kincaid) - 1:55
2. I'm A Believer (Neil Diamond) - 2:34
3. Freeborn Man (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) - 2:58
4. Lies (Beau Charles, Bobby Randell) - 2:47
5. I Wanna Be Free (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart) - 2:38
6. Colours (Donovan Leitch) - 2:45
7. Good Thing (Terry Melcher, Mark Lindsay) - 2:47
8. Action, Action, Action (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart) - 2:22
9. Catch The Wind (Donovan Leitch) - 3:33
10.Leave My Woman Alone (Ray Charles) - 3:12
11.Do It (Neil Diamond) - 2:12
12.Action, Action, Action (Mono Single Version) (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart) - 2:14
13.Glitter And Gold (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) - 2:15
14.I Ain't Blamin' You (Joe Brooks, Al Stillman) - 2:19
15.Look At Me (Keith Allison) - 2:52
16.Who Do You Love (Ellas McDaniel) - 2:23
17.I Don't Want Nobody But You (Keith Allison) - 2:36
18.Birds Of A Feather (Joe South) - 2:27
19.To Know Her Is To Love Her (Phil Spector) - 2:32
20.Johnny B. Good/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (Chuck Berry, Sunny David, David "Curly" Williams) - 3:18
21.Toad Jam Blues (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) - 5:28
22.Everybody (Single Version) (Keith Allison) - 3:00
23.Wednesday's Child (Single Version) (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay, Judy Allison) - 2:25

*Keith Allison - Vocals, Acoustic, Electric, 12 String Guitar, Piano, Bass, Keyboards

with Paul Revere And The Raiders
1965-69  Paul Revere And The Raiders - Hungry For Kicks, Singles And Choice Cuts (2009 release)
1969  Alias Pink Puzz (Sundazed remaster)
1969  Hard 'N' Heavy With Marshmallow (Sundazed issue)
1970-71  Indian Reservation / Collage (2009 remaster)
1971-74  Raiders - Country Wine...Plus (2010 remaster and expanded)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Boomerang - Boomerang (1971 us, solid heavy bluesy psych rock, 2015 release)

Boomerang- by definition, something that returns to the originator. Mark Stein may have been ahead of his time. As a founding member of Vanilla Fudge, largely remembered for the hit “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” Stein cultivated an organ rich sound that influenced other heavy organ rock bands, most notably, Deep Purple; Stein is credited as an originator of sounds that bridged psychedelia with what eventually became heavy metal.

I’m not sure that is an entirely accurate picture of the music at the time; there were lots of “heavy rock” bands in the era (think: Iron Butterfly) and Vanilla Fudge seemed to have more range and versatility than many, covering a wide variety of Beatles tunes, Donovan and even “The Look of Love.” The band’s biggest hit was an R & B number. Their catalog is certainly worth revisiting but I wouldn’t put them in one slot, musically, though they are definitely “of the period.”

By the time the rock music business (emphasis on business) reached full swing, Vanilla Fudge was history. (The band has reformed over the years, but Stein worked with a number of other artists, including Tommy Bolin, Alice Cooper and Dave Mason in the years that followed).

Boomerang was released by a band Stein formed in the immediate aftermath—and though it carries the thematic elements that made Vanilla Fudge influential—bombastic organ work, wailing vocals and driving hard rock guitar and drums—it never did much commercially.

What of Boomerang? Was it simply an attempt to seize on musical developments that Stein was partly responsible for setting in motion? Stein seems to have dismissed the album, (see Tice Interview at p.4) as something he did while trying to come to grips with the loss of Vanilla Fudge- he was on top of the world, and then—nothing. At the age of 23. Stein nonetheless admits that they did “some pretty cool things” on that album. Id.  

On its own merits, it’s a good album, and one that if not “lost,” certainly doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It pops up in the used bins in stores and at record shows— copies are neither difficult to source nor expensive.  It was released by RCA during the Dynaflex era which means very thin vinyI. However, I’ve never had an issue with the sound quality of such pressings, though they tend to warp if not stored properly.

“Juke” is a hard rocker with wailing vocals, driving guitars and all that comes with it, including that thick, rich organ sound.  “Fisherman” is a slower ballad, it’s melodic, kind of what would happen if you mixed Mountain with Three Dog Night. The drumming is good and Stein’s vocals are in the zone. “Hard Times” starts with some rattly strings and has a blues sound on the guitar, but the vocals soar and the chorus isn’t very bluesy sounding. Some nice slide parts, though. It’s an odd juxtaposition of blues with pop, not bad, just hard to nail down (which is OK). The first side finishes with “Mockingbird,” which takes us into hard rock territory again—a kind of jubilant boogie that’s got it all—gospel voices and nice drive on the organ and guitar. 

"Cynthia Fever”—another rollicking rocker—these guys have got the vocal chops and that’s what drew my attention, but the playing is solid. “Brother’s Comin’ Home” starts with a nice piano part and then strings! A solid slow ballad—the vocal part really carries this—and with this instrumentation, you can hear a very good recording—the piano sounds “right” to my ears. The bass and strings sounds are good too.  I’ve found most hard rock bands that recorded with an orchestra sounded like two different things playing at once, but the string arrangements work here as does the guitar playing with the string parts.  The lead vocal part is stunning here—it’s very soulful.

The album wraps with “The Peddler,” a hard-edged guitar led piece—its style is reminiscent of Steppenwolf but it’s far “cleaner” sounding (and the recording is better too, since most of Steppenwolf’s recorded output isn’t the best, sonically though they were such a great band in their heyday). The pace picks up midway through the piece and drives it home in the great tradition of all those bands that relied on the Hammond B-3 for that thick rich tone. Gee, I wonder where these (other) guys got that from?

Without the fame and talent of Stein—who was coming off a hugely successful and ultimately very influential run as Vanilla Fudge—any band that released this record would (and should) have been rightfully proud. Maybe that was the problem- Stein is really talented and it shows through here but it wasn’t enough to distinguish this record from the many others in the same vein released in this period.

With the vantage point of time and distance, we (and hopefully Stein himself) can appreciate this record for what it is.
by Bill Hart, Austin, TX. October, 2019
1. Juke (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 4:55
2. Fisherman (Mark Stein) - 3:36
3. Hard Times (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 4:10
4. Mockingbird (Inez Foxx, Charlie Foxx) - 4:01
5. Cynthia Fever (Brennen, James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 3:44
6. Brother's Comin' Home (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 4:44
7. The Peddler (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 5:18
8. Montreal Jail (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 3:01
Bonus Track 8

*Mark Stein - Organ, Piano, Vocals
*James Galluzi - Drums, Percussion
*Richard Ramirez - Lead, Rhythm, Acoustic Guitar
*Jo Casmir - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Billy Arnel - Strings

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Alan Wilson - The Blind Owl (1966-70 us, superb psych blues rock, 2013 double disc remaster)

Alan Wilson is widely remembered as a pioneer of blues-rock during its crucial development period of the 1960s. Wilson’s devoted fans considered him one of the most brilliant, innovative, and sadly under-recognized artists of his era. His recording career spanned only three years, cut short in 1970 by his untimely death. Despite this, he left behind a rich legacy of inspiration to fellow artists, music scholars, and listeners alike.

Born July 4, 1943, Wilson was the second child of Jack Wilson and Shirley Brigham Wilson. His parents divorced when he was four years old and he and his sister, Darrel, remained in their Arlington Massachusetts house with their father and their maternal grandmother, Julia Brigham. Jack married his second wife, Barbara. Barbara and Jack raised Alan and Darrell along with the three children they had together. Shirley also remarried and raised three daughters with her husband, Joe Konecny. In 1954 Shirley moved to New York State, and remained in contact with Alan, Darrell and the Wilson family, visiting back and forth over the years.

Alan’s exceptional intelligence was obvious at a young age. His musical inclinations became apparent when Barbara bought him a jazz record, and he immediately began analyzing what he heard. He learned to play the trombone and taught friends how to play the other instrumental parts of the arrangements.

As a teen, he played trombone in a jazz band he formed called Crescent City. It was the beginning of a lifetime of music scholarship and instrumental prowess. He shared his interest in jazz during summer visits with Joe and Shirley, bringing his favorite LPs to enjoy. Shirley and Joe both played piano and Joe taught vocal and instrumental music in the local school district.

Though his musical explorations began with the trombone and focused largely on instrumental jazz music, Wilson soon discovered the related genre of blues. The first blues record to move him deeply was a Muddy Waters LP, which he appreciated for the power and authenticity of the vocals as well as the slide guitar and harmonica. He began to teach himself both these instruments. Over the years he developed an interest in other genres, including Asian forms, African-American gospel, classical, rock, and pop music among others, but his own primary form of musical expression was the blues. Eventually he would give up trombone, and focus on the guitar and harmonica.

Although Alan’s unusual singing voice would be apparent in the unofficial theme song of the Woodstock Festival, “Going up Country,” some of his first singing attempts took place behind a closed bedroom door at home. When a family member overheard him, he was embarrassed. With a style that took its cue from high-pitched blues singer Skip James, Alan’s vocals would end up making Canned Heat’s hit songs instantly recognizable.

In 1961, Alan attended Boston University after graduating from high school. His academics earned him a National Merit Scholarship and a scholarship from the Town of Arlington. 

After a year and a half, anxious to play music rather than study it, he quit school. To make ends meet, he worked with his father as a bricklayer and occasionally gave guitar or harmonica lessons. It was an exciting time, for Alan was immersed in the fertile musical environment of the “folk revival” that was happening in local Cambridge, Massachusetts in the early 1960’s.

Around this time, Alan’s interest in the blues led to his participation in the revival of old blues artists and their music. When newly rediscovered bluesman Booker White played a series of Cambridge gigs, Wilson took the opportunity to interview him. From White, he learned that the seminal 1920s bluesman Son House, teacher to Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, was still alive. As a result of this interview, efforts to locate Son House were successful.

When Son House came to Cambridge, Alan helped resurrect guitar parts and songs that the elderly man hadn’t played in decades, due to his decline into alcoholism. Thanks in large part to Alan’s assistance and inspiration, House recorded a classic album for the Columbia record company and enjoyed a successful career playing for “blues revival” audiences. Alan would later appear on two of Houses’ albums, “Father of the Delta Blues” and “Delta Blues and Spirituals,” playing harmonica and guitar.

Another figure involved in this scene was the quirky, iconoclastic guitarist John Fahey, who had been involved in the rediscoveries of Skip James and Booker White. In later years, he would become known as a founder of the “American Primitive” guitar style. In 1965, Alan had been listening to Fahey’s records, and at a gig in Cambridge the two struck up a friendship that would change Alan’s life.

Fahey was attending UCLA and writing a thesis on Charlie Patton, who is nowadays known as the “father of the Delta blues.” Recognizing Alan’s interest and scholarship, he asked Alan to accompany him back to California to help him with music theory and notation for the thesis in exchange for room and board. Alan accepted the offer and moved to Los Angles with Fahey.

On the journey, the forgetful Alan Wilson left his eyeglasses in Massachusetts. Because of his poor vision, Fahey began calling him “Blind Al”, in the style of old-time blind musicians such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake, and so on. Eventually, because of Alan’s roundish facial features combined with his scholarly nature, the name became “Blind Owl”. In later years, it became Alan’s blues moniker with Canned Heat.

In Los Angeles, Fahey introduced Wilson to a record store manager named Bob Hite who had an encyclopedic knowledge of music, and a record collection that some have recalled as one of the world’s largest at the time. Hite sang the blues in a classic “belter” style comparable to that of Big Joe Turner. He was a natural musical complement for Alan. The two men could not have been more different, however, in terms of their personalities. Hite was loud and outgoing; Wilson was quiet and introverted. Alan was the meticulous creator of music; Bob was the over-the-top showman. Their partnership, though, provided an unlikely balance, and was the basic chemistry for Canned Heat.

Hite and Wilson decided to form a jug band along with Fahey. When someone proposed the idea of going electric, Fahey lost interest, and would be replaced by a short succession of electric guitarists culminating with Henry Vestine. With influences from Albert King, Albert Collins, B. B. King, and other masters, Vestine made his guitar speak a psychedelic blues language that fit perfectly with Wilson’s concept for the band and the music of the era.

The band decided to name themselves after an obscure record by 1920s-era bluesman Tommy Johnson. Thus, they were originally “The Canned Heat Blues Band”, but after discovering that local interest in blues was tepid at best, decided to shorten this to “Canned Heat.” With a lineup of Hite on vocals, Wilson on bottleneck, rhythm guitar, and harmonica, and Vestine on lead guitar, they were made complete by bassist Larry Taylor and drummer Frank Cook. In this incarnation, they played local fraternity events, private parties, and the like. Eventually they played a party where they caught the attention of Hollywood agent Skip Taylor, who became their manager.

In 1966, the band had recorded a batch of demos for R&B producer Johnny Otis. For the time being, the songs were shelved, and would eventually be released on Janus Records in 1970 as Vintage Heat. But their first official LP release came when Skip Taylor secured a recording contract with Liberty Records.

The album, Canned Heat, stayed true to the band’s blues roots, presenting material going back as far as the 1920s in a modern, electric band format. It included songs like “Big Road Blues”, “Catfish Blues”, and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”. The only item featuring Wilson’s vocals was a version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me”.

Canned Heat’s first nationwide tour included the historic Monterey International Pop Festival. The national tour was suspended briefly due to a drug bust in Denver. The arrests did not include Alan, who was outside collecting leaves while the other band members partied in their motel rooms with, unbeknownst to them, undercover drug agents.

This retreat into nature was not uncommon for Alan. It may have been his shyness and social awkwardness that made him feel more comfortable when surrounded by nature, or reading books on botany. He felt ill at ease with the rock and roll lifestyle, not knowing how to relate to women as his band mates so easily did.

Alan had a special love of trees, and now that he lived on the West coast, found a virtual heaven on earth in the ancient coastal redwood forests. In 1969, Bob Hite gave him a camper for his birthday, knowing how Alan would go off into the woods during his time off tour. He usually spent his nights outside in a sleeping bag, often cooking his dinner of brown rice over a portable stove. He also had an interest in yoga, and was known to practice yoga positions and breathing exercises often which he felt improved his harmonica playing.

In late 1967, drummer Frank Cook was replaced by Fito de la Parra, whose affinity to the blues would prove essential to the “classic” Canned Heat sound. This lineup recorded their third album in 1968, Boogie With Canned Heat, and released a single containing an unusual raga-like harmonica blues, “On the Road Again.” Alan not only sang the lyrics, but played a variety of instruments, layered in multiple tracks. This song expressed his deep interest in classical Indian music. Musicologically, it has certain key affinities with pentatonic blues, which Alan recognized and used to good effect here.

Surprising everyone and breaking out as a hit in Texas before spreading nationwide, “On the Road Again” peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, it reached number 8 on the singles charts, forecasting Canned Heat’s immense popularity there and in Europe. This was quite an achievement given the tunes unusual sound compared to other popular music of the era.

At this point, Wilson’s musical expertise was guiding the group’s musical direction. The 1969 album, Living the Blues, featured  “Going Up Country” which reached number 11 on the singles charts and would become the unofficial theme song of the Woodstock Festival movie soundtrack. For decades, it has been used in movie soundtracks, television commercials, and other media worldwide, and for many represents the “hippie” era of the 1960s. Other songs on the album showed the band’s interest in experimentation and psychedelia.

The success of the hit “Going Up Country” and the band’s previous performance at the Monterey Folk Festival no doubt secured the invitation of Canned Heat to appear at the Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York, in August 1969. Just prior to the event, lead guitarist Henry Vestine, whose performances had begun to suffer from drug and alcohol abuse, left the band and was replaced by Harvey Mandel, a Chicago guitarist noted for his innovative approach to blues and jazz-influenced rock. The  Harvey Mandel era of the band saw the release of the Future Blues album along with successful and lucrative tours across the US, UK, and Europe. 

Despite the band’s commercial success, on a personal level, Alan Wilson was suffering. An extremely sensitive individual, he had long been prone to depression, and struggled to interact with others on mundane social levels. An inability to find a suitable romantic partner also weighed upon him, and at various times he considered leaving Canned Heat.

To contribute something for the world of a nature he loved, which he saw increasingly endangered by pollution and urban sprawl, Alan decided to create a conservation fund. Music Mountain, as it was called, was an organization to raise money for the preservation of the coastal redwood, his favorite tree species. The liner notes for the album Future Blues, written by Wilson, celebrate the beauty of the redwood forest and beseech the reader to contribute to the Music Mountain cause.

By the time lead guitarist Henry Vestine returned to the band in 1970, Wilson had begun expressing suicidal thoughts. He sought help through a therapist, as well as inpatient treatment for a period in a psychiatric hospital. Though he was treated with some of the antidepressants of the time, he also continued to self-medicate a sleeping problem by using illicitly obtained barbiturates.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream for the band, Canned Heat teamed up with John Lee Hooker in May 1970 to record a double album. This also served as an effort to engage Wilson, providing him with some musical satisfaction and the accomplishment of recording with one of his artistic idols. The resulting album, Hooker N’ Heat, was critically acclaimed.

On September 2, 1970, Canned Heat was scheduled to leave for a European tour. Alan didn’t show up at the airport, which didn’t raise immediate alarm because he was often late and disorganized in the past. This time, however, he would not appear. On the morning of September 3, a group of friends found him dead in Bob Hite’s backyard. He was 27 years old.

The backyard of Bob’s home in Topanga Canyon had been one of Wilson’s regular haunts when the band was in Los Angeles, with a hillside covered in trees and bushes where he liked to sleep. It was there that he was found in his sleeping bag. In his pants pocket were a few of the barbiturates he habitually used to get to sleep. The Los Angeles coroner ruled his death “accidental acute barbiturate intoxication.” Some close to him felt that his death was no accident, recalling his recent depression and hospitalization. Others, like the coroner, thought that evidence of a suicide was insufficient, and that the circumstances point to a tragic accident.

We will never know what Alan Wilson was thinking that night, as he unrolled his sleeping bag and looked up at the stars one last time. What we do know is that he was a talented musician and musicologist who promoted the revival of early Delta blues and left his own permanent mark on the blues and the music of the late 1960s. He was an environmentalist at the beginning of the modern environmental movement. He struggled with emotional issues and social awkwardness, and his life was cut short either accidentally or recklessly as a result of drug use. We also know that he was and still is loved, remembered and missed by his living relatives, including Barbara, Shirley and Joe,  his sisters and brother, Darrell, Heidi, Lisa, Nicole, Sharon, David, Jayne, and all his nieces and nephews who never got to know him. We hope that this web site is a fitting tribute to his life.
Alan Wilson bio
Disc 1
1. On The Road Again (Alan Wilson, Floyd Jones) - 4:58
2. Help Me (Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon) - 3:11
3. An Owl Song - 2:34
4. Going Up The Country - 2:50
5. My Mistake - 3:19
6. Change My Ways - 2:50
7. Get Off My Back - 5:13
8. Time Was - 3:23
9. Do Not Enter - 2:51
10.Shake It And Break It - 2:31
11.Nebulosity / Rollin' 'n' Tumblin' / Five Owls (Alan Wilson, McKinley Morganfield) - 5:01
All songs by Alan Wilson except where noted
Disc 2
1. Alan's Intro - 1:26
2. My Time Ain't Long - 3:46
3. Skat - 2:40
4. London Blues - 5:26
5. Poor Moon - 3:23
6. Pulling Hair Blues - 9:28
7. Mean Old World (Walter Jacobs) - 3:26
8. Human Condition (Alan Wilson, Robert Hite Jr, Adolfo de la Parra, Henry Vestine, Tony de la Barreda) - 5:25
9. Childhood's End - 1:10
All songs by Alan Wilson except where stated

*Alan Wilson - Vocals, Rhythm, Bottleneck Guitar, Harmonica 
*Henry Vestine - Lead Guitar  
*Harvey Mandel - Lead Guitar 
*Larry Taylor - Bass 
*Tony de la Barreda - Bass 
*Adolfo de la Parra - Drums, Percussion 
*Frank Cook - Drums 
*Dr. John - Piano 

1967-73  Canned Heat - The Very Best Of