Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Troyes - Rainbow Chaser Complete Recordings (1966-68 us, stunning garage psych rock, 2014 release)

The inexplicably named Troyes were a short-lived, Battle Creek, Michigan-based garage band that was quite active locally in the mid-sixties, led by lead vocalist, songwriter and farfisa organist Lee Koteles along with four of his high school buddies. Performing an enervating mix of covers and originals at local teen hangouts and dance halls like Eddy’s and Teens Inc. they were soon signed to bandleader Ray Anthony’s just launched rock label, Space Records (a Capitol Records subsidiary), and scored a regional smash right out of the box with their rousing “Rainbow Chaser,” that rose to number three on the Top 40 in September of 1966—just ahead of the Four Tops with “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” and the Supremes with “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Anthony (of Peter Gunn and Dragnet-theme fame) had big plans for the combo and insisted they record enough material for an album—nearly two deck’s worth were recorded at Detroit’s United Sound studios in late 1966 and early 1967. But, unluckily, only two singles were ever issued, with the remainder in limbo. 

This 24 track compilation contains them all—including three versions of “Rainbow” and two of its also catchy flip side, the moody ballad “Why.” The rest of the hook-laden efforts range from way-out psychedelia to totally manic fuzz and farfisa garage to irascibly haunting sonancy. Favorites, mostly in a downbeat romantic, Seeds-ian vein, encompass the likes of “Someday You’ll See My Side,” “I Know Different,” both sides of that second Space single (“Love Comes, Love Dies” and “Help Me Find Myself”) and the band’s final recording, an arresting commentary on their hometown, Battle Creek, where the Kellogg’s cereal corporation was headquartered. An enclosed booklet of rare photos, newspaper articles and Troyes ephemera rounds things out nicely. Well worth tracking down.
by Gary von Tersch
1. Rainbow Chaser (Unedited Version) (Lee Koteles) - 3:03
2. The Good Night (Lee Koteles) - 3:50
3. Morning Of The Rain (Lee Koteles) - 2:54
4. Tomorrow (Fred Dummer) - 2:10
5. I Don't Need You (Fred Dummer) - 2:07
6. Someday You'll See My Side (Gary Linke, Lee Koteles) - 2:45
7. Love Comes Love Dies (Lee Koteles) - 2:54
8. Blanket Of My Love (Lee Koteles) - 3:55
9. Mari (Lee Koteles) - 2:14
10.I'm Gone (Lee Koteles) - 3:02
11.Turn Around (Lee Koteles) - 4:01
12.Jezebel (Wayne Shanklin) - 3:12
13.Help Me Find Myself (Lee Koteles) - 2:08
14.Rainbow Chaser (Alternate Version) (Lee Koteles) - 2:13
15.Why (45 Version) (Fred Dummer) - 2:30
16.I Don't Need You (Backing Track) (Fred Dummer) - 2:04
17.You Mind Is Showing (Lee Koteles) - 2:14
18.Tomorrow (Demo Version) (Fred Dummer) - 2:18
19.Change About (Fred Dummer, Lee Koteles) - 2:36
20.I Know Different (Fred Dummer) - 2:33
21.She Said To Me (Lee Koteles) - 2:47
22.Why (Alternate Version) (Fred Dummer) - 2:33
23.Rainbow Chaser (45 Version) (Lee Koteles) - 2:34
24.Corn Flake (Lee Koteles) - 4:52

The Toyes
*Lee Koteles - Organ, Lead Vocals
*Gary Linke  - Rhythm Guitar
*Bill Hirakis - Drums
*Brent Flathou - Lead Guitar (Track 24)
*Fred Dummer - Lead Guitar (Tracks 1-23)
*Jerry Younglove - Bass (Tracks 1-23)
*John Stange - Bass (Track 24)

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Clap - Have You Reached Yet? (1972 us, fine rough garage rock proto punk, 2004 issue)

If you ever wondered what the New York Dolls would have sounded like if they were sun-stroked So-Cal surfers, The Clap would have been the answer to that query. Self-deception is a vital skill, especially if your itch is collecting dead wax by guys who never sold a damn. Yes sir, failure-rock fixation leads us all to some pretty wide suspensions of disbelief. …like the Flamin Groovies’ should’ve outsold Bad Company or that Elliot Murphy (or Garland Jeffreys) run circles around Springsteen (and in better wheels to boot). Yup, speculation shore is the most – most of all when it comes to a record you feel you’ve got the curtain closed on: a rotating, black vinyl Sutter’s Mill - your own private tip-for-the-top! …and, of course, it helps if the record and artistes in question are any good. In Clap’s case, they’re practically Nietzschean (good-bad, no evil). 

Cursed by birth, too late for the garage scene and too early for the punk revolution, were the band from Manhattan Beach, California known as Clap. While it would have been easy and cool in the early seventies (which is as close as we can determine for the original LP release date) to turn up the amps and blast out "Aimless Lady", "Iron Man" or some variation thereof, Clap followed a different muse, fully embracing the snot and swagger of Exile-era Glimmer Twins with amateur enthusiasm - ten originals of chicks, attitude, and chicks with attitudes. Although there’s a certain lo-fi malaise that permeates the album’s ten tracks, it doesn’t interfere with the quality of the tunes, and can likely be chalked up to a shitty studio and even shittier engineer. Slow strutters like, “Middle Of The Road”, carry a snotty Stones charm, while darker rockers such as the opening, “Out Of The Shadows”, and later, “Get It While You Can” are smoky puffs of Alice Cooper pageantry with a healthy dose of juvenile delinquency to up the ante.

A prime example of proto-punk, this LP nods towards the eventual change in underground rock n’ roll. (singer Steve Morrison’s vocals are uncannily similar to a Born Innocent-era Jeff McDonald – or should I say that the other way around?) It’s the perfect addition to the completist’s library, not to mention several hundred dollars cheaper than scarcer-than-hens’-pubes original. 
1. Out of The Shadows (Keith Till, Steve Morrison) - 3:39
2. My Imagination (Steve Morrison) - 4:01
3. Middle of the Road (Dave Aurit, Steve Morrison) - 3:27
4. Get It While You Can (Dave Aurit) - 3:25
5. Have You Reached Yet? (Keith Till, Steve Morrison) - 3:55
6. Sweet Smell of Success (Steve Morrison) - 4:01
7. Stop Torturing Me (Steve Morrison) - 2:53
8. Bluff 'em All (Steve Morrison) - 2:55
9. Only Just An Act (Steve Morrison) - 3:08
10.Mornin' Thought (Keith Till) - 3:08

*Les Hurst - Drums
*Scott Mercier - Drums
*Keith Till - Guitar, Vocals
*Steve Morrison - Lead Vocals, Harp
*Dave Aurit - Lead Guitar, Saxophone
*Jim Morrison - Bass, Vocals

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Puzzle - Puzzle (1973 us, spectacular funk brass rock, Vinyl edition)

Chicago-born John LiVigni (aka John Valenti) started to play drums and sings with Larry Klimas at clubs in Chicago and Detroit as "The Outfit", when he was a teen-ager. They scudded to be signed with Motown and released 2 albums under the name of "Puzzle" in early 70's.

Puzzle's  same titled debut album is an amalgam of brass jazz funk rock and a bit of British prog bands from the same era. Most songs written by John LiVigni, great guitar parts from Robert Villalobos with psychedelic splashes. Excellent also the rest of the band.
1. On With The Show (John Livigni) - 2:44
2. Lady (John Livigni) - 3:37
3. You Make Me Happy (John Livigni) - 3:22
4. Never Gonna Leave Again (John Livigni, Joseph Spinazola) - 5:00
5. The Grosso (John Livigni, Larry Klimas) - 5:46
6. Brand New World (John Livigni) - 4:08
7. Suite Delirium (Anthony Siciliano, Bobby Villalobos, John Livigni, Joseph Spinazola, Larry Klimas, Ralf Richert) - 7:02
8. It's Not The Last Time (John Livigni, Larry Klimas) - 4:52
9. Don't Know Where I'm Gonna Be Today (John Livigni) - 2:38

*John Livigni "John Valenti" - Vocals, Drums, Percussion
*Anthony Siciliano - Bass
*Bobby Villalobos - Guitar
*Ralf Richert - Guitar, Trumpet
*Joseph Spinazola - Organ, Piano
*Larry Klimas - Saxophone, Flute
*Bob Williams - Trumpet

1974  Puzzle - The Second Album (2018 korean remaster) 

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ed Askew - Ask the Unicorn (1968 us, splendid psychedelic acoustic folk rock)

Little is known about the reclusive folksinger Ed Askew. During the late ‘60s he recorded the psychedelic folk masterpiece “Ask the Unicorn” – his only album which has been released commercially until recent reissues – with only his ten stringed tiple accompanying himself. Little happened when it was released in 1968 by ultra-noncommercial ESP-Disk, the label which was best known for its free jazz releases and which is considered to be one of the most legendary independent labels of the ‘60s. Receiving barely any attention at all the record soon descended into obscurity even among the best informed enthusiasts of the in-crowd.

This in itself is not a unique story. It happens all the time. What makes this story worthwhile telling however is the fact that during all those years after its release its fire was kept alive solely by its unmatched and overwhelming urgency. His music proved so powerful that even time could not take it down. Slowly but surely more and more people started discovering the album. Word got around very gradually. It stole the hearts of listeners one by one. Something within this record made people fall for it like nothing before.

These are the kind of stories that should be told. Songwriters who are largely unknown to the public but have managed to find their place in the history of music, changing its landscape indefinitely and inspiring other artists for many decades without ever getting the deserved recognition. This small series of posts is dedicated to my favourite songwriters who were undeservedly forgotten.

Ed Askew grew up in Stanford, Connecticut after which he moved to nearby New Haven to attend Yale University in the early 60s. After having earned his art degree as a painter he briefly taught art at a high school in New York. It was then when he sent a demo tape to Bernard Stollman of ESP-Disk who quickly invited him to record his first record which would become known as “Ask the Unicorn”. The album received practically no promotion from the label – which was already plagued by financial difficulties – and quickly disappeared from circulation. The second album which Ed Askew recorded for ESP-Disk was never released – due to the eventual bankruptcy of ESP-Disk in 1974 – until the limited vinyl-only release on De Stijl in 2003.

When you talk about independent record labels you automatically talk about ESP-Disk. A New York-based record label, founded in 1966 by Bernard Stollman who was known for his almost spartanesque production methods and a strict no-retakes policy. With the motto: “The artists alone decide what you will hear on their ESP-Disk”; the label opened the door to a wide range of wildly creative sounds including Albert Ayler’s “Spiritual Unity” and is considered to be the most important exponent of free jazz. It is probably no coincidence that it took such a label to discover Ed Askew’s talents. And with our current discussion about independent music and its role in our musical landscape there could be no better example than Ed Askew’s “Ask the Unicorn”.

“Ask the Unicorn” contains a certain urgency. Like the recording of it was an act of desperation. The moment he starts singing and you hear his uniquely strained voice you immediately feel that he is frantically trying to tell you something extremely important. Part of this comes from a less romantic and more practical situation. The instrument which he is using, the ten stringed tiple, is notoriously difficult to master and takes so much pressure to keep it under control that you can actually hear his continuing struggles in his singing. The tiple – which he describes as an instrument shaped like a baritone ukulele – offers stunning arrangements to his harrowing psychedelic folk songs and challenges conventional structure.

“Little Eyes” was recorded immediately following the poorly selling debut. The record shares a similarity with “Ask the Unicorn” when it comes to his strained vocals and his use of the tiple but it also shows his newfound interest in the piano. And again all the songs were recorded in one continuous take.
Lyrically, Ed Askew manages to create emotionally engaging images with tripped out, dreamlike lyrics which effortlessly seem to flow from him. Often abstract and abruptly shifting, his lyrics possess a certain timelessness. He addresses still difficult topics in a way that was well ahead of its time, managing to strip down his songs to the pure and beautiful essence with poetic elegance.

After more than 40 years Ed Askew’s music is more relevant than ever, still able to mesmerize its audience. As David Shirley once truthfully wrote: “This is music that will endure.”
1. Fancy Than - 4:52
2. Peter And David - 5:05
3. Marigolds - 2:47
4. Mr. Dream - 4:42
5. Red Woman / Letter To England - 3:32
6. The Garden - 3:30
7. May Blossoms Be Praised - 7:04
8. 9-Song - 4:49
9. Love Is Everyone - 3:54
10.Ask The Unicorn - 2:52
All compositions by Ed Askew.

*Ed Askew - Vocals, Guitar

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Friday, July 6, 2018

The Running Man - The Running Man (1972 uk, magnificent prog rock, 2000 issue)

Ray Russell has had quite the glittering career. Setting off at age 15 with the John Berry Seven, the guitarist went on to play with the Graham Bond Organisation and then Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames. Eventually, Russell would lend his talents on-stage and/or in the studio to a plethora of performers, from Tina Turner to Lulu, the Bee Gees to Phil Collins, and branching out in the '70s to compose for the small screen. Amidst this busy career, Russell also put together the odd band, like the Running Man, whose sole, eponymous album was released with little fanfare in 1972. The core trio of Russell on both guitar and bass, vocalist/organist Alan Greed, and vocalist/drummer Alan Rushton was supplemented by Harry Beckett on trumpet and fl├╝gelhorn and the late Gary Windo on tenor sax.

The album sold poorly, guaranteeing its rare status today, and one listen to this reissue makes clear why, even at the proggy heights of 1972, this set made little attempt at accessibility or commercial appeal. And then there's its eclectic sound. "Higher and Higher" bristles with the sound of Space Oddity-era Bowie, before swooping into the synthscapes of the '80s. "Another," too, is far ahead of its time, a power ballad that slides into almost ELP-like pomposity, then dramatically alters course down an upbeat, jazzy byway. "Hope Place," in utter contrast, rings of late-'60s experimentation, with the funky bassline colliding with proggy guitar, while Windo's sax screams overhead -- think Cream in a particularly pugnacious mood. 

The title track, too, is Cream-flavored, with a thundering slab of a riff that pummels its way across the grooves, its chant-along chorus suggesting this was meant to be the group's anthem. "Look and Turn" turns to R&B, but in extreme fashion, with Russell's searing guitar lead and pumping bassline the focus. "Spirit" is a soulful howler, its agitating bassline and screaming guitar further rent by Greed's shout-to-the-rafters vocals. This reissue adds a bonus track, again titled "Spirit," but this is less an alternate version than a prolonged experimental outro to the original number. Defying easy description, The Running Man is deliberately unfocused, defiantly experimental, and in its own dizzying way, a grandiloquent excursion into the deepest recesses of early-'70s rock. 
by Jo-Ann Greene
1. Higher And Higher (Alan Greed) - 1:37
2. Hope Place (Ray Russell) - 5:44
3. Nicholas (Alan Greed, Ray Russell) - 1:38
4. Another (Alan Greed, Ray Russell) - 10:11
5. Find Yourself (Ray Russell) - 2:50
6. Look And Turn (Ray Russell) - 3:25
7. If You Like (Alan Greed) - 2:32
8. Spirit (Ray Russell) - 7:51
9. Children (Ray Russell) - 1:46
10.Running Man (Ray Russell) - 3:16

The Running Man
*Ray Russell - Guitar, Bass, Piano, Vocals
*Alan Greed - Vocals, Piano, Organ, Bass
*Alan Rushton - Drums
*Harry Beckett - Flugelhorn, Trumpet
*Gary Windo - Tenor Saxophone
*Roy Cameron - Vocals

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Beauregard Ajax - Deaf Priscilla (1968 us, exceptional acid psych rock, 2006 release)

Ah, we can hear you out there saying “I’ve never ever heard of Beauregard Ajax!” Of course you haven’t, and now we’re going to tell you why.

Let’s set the scene. OK, it’s the summer of 1967 and there’s this band of teenagers who hail from Oxnard, California, a city 65 miles north of Los Angeles and 35 miles south of Santa Barbara. They’re all from basically the same neighborhood, ages 16 and 17 at the time: David Ferguson (lead guitar/vocals) and John Boutell (rhythm guitar) and a schoolmate of David’s, bassist Dennis Margeson, had formed the beginnings of the band a year earlier, calling themselves The Poets, but they were mostly jamming in garages in these early stages.

By the beginning of 1967, Margeson was out, to be replaced by Clint Williams (bass), and soon they were adding Charlie Hendricks (vocals, pipe recorder), who had previously played in bands with Clint. Ferguson (who is their de-facto leader) and Hendricks soon began writing songs together, but there was a reason they weren’t able to play any shows just yet: they needed a drummer, as most rock bands do, and were soon were introduced to Leo Hartshorn (drums), who had gone to the same high school, Hueneme High, as Ferguson.

Finally, now that finals were over and they’d all graduated from high school, they had to time to focus on getting a few gigs (mostly teen clubs up in the lush coastal communities in Ventura County), and maybe, just maybe, they thought they might be able to get themselves a recording contract. At some point in ’67, the band’s friend, Patrick Landreville, introduced them to concert promoter named Jim Salzer, who was suitably impressed with the band’s sound and appearance and he soon began booking them as an opening act at his concerts as well as at his nightclub, the Starlight Lounge.

By this time Charlie had persuaded the band to change the name of the band from the Poets to the Dumplings. Meanwhile, Mike Cullen, another local musician with a band of his own, had approached Ferguson with the idea of playing shows together on a double bill, and Ferguson was receptive to the idea, so Cullen secured several performances at local venues. It was at one of these shows that Barbara Haskell, the wife of famed music arranger Jimmy Haskell, saw the Dumplings and, liking what she heard, she offered to introduce the band to one of her husband’s associates in the music industry, a man named Bob Keane, who had a record company called Del-fi Records.

Now, Keane was kind of a legendary figure by this point, having released recordings on several record labels he’d owned from the late 50s to the mid-sixties — some of his better known artists included Ritchie Valens and The Bobby Fuller Four (on his Mustang label imprint) and he’d also released albums by a lot of surf bands, including The Lively Ones.

Keane called Landreville, saying he had gotten a glowing recommendation from the Haskells’ concerning the Dumplings and he was indeed interested in hearing the band for himself. A meeting was set up, and so, at the beginning of the summer of ’67, the Dumplings soon found themselves driving down to Los Angeles, to Hollywood, actually, where they met with Keane at his offices in a two-story pink granite building, located at 6277 Selma Ave., just a few blocks from the “Record Row” near the intersection of Hollywood & Vine, and just down the street from the familiar Capitol Records tower.

The first thing the band noticed when they arrived at their destination was a new company name stenciled on the glass door — the gold and black lettering was spelling out “Stereo-Fi Records.” They climbed the stairs, leading up to offices that are actually above a Security Pacific Bank, where they meet Keane for the first time. They liked him immediately — he was an affable, handsome guy in his mid-forties, with Brylcreemed dark hair and a square jaw like a telegenic TV news anchor — and they learn during their first conversation that he’s a former musician himself — a clarinet player — and he’d performed all around Southern California with his own big band.

Keane discovers that these teenage musicians have never set foot inside in a professional recording studio, so he escorts them down the hall to a small room which turns out to be a brand-new state-of-the-art recording studio, with a transistorized mixing board, and transistorized three-and eight-track tape decks. Stereo-Fi’s studio is, in fact, one of the first L.A. studios to use a mixing board utilizing transistors instead of tubes, designed by electronic genius/recording engineer John Stevens, who had helped design the mixing board used up the street at Capitol Records’ Studio B.

It seems appropriate to mention here that Dumplings’ sound is really unlike anything Keane has ever released before, and seems to be on the very crest of a new wave of sounds that he’s been hearing, sounding like a mixture of Southern California electric folk-rock (still a relatively new genre in 1967), along with familiar touches of garage rock, psychedelic rock, with a little Beatles-inspired electric sitar-mysticism thrown in. Ferguson writes all the band’s songs, incidentally, with the exception of two which he co-wrote with singer Charlie Hendricks. He also plays all the lead guitar parts, and he and Hendricks share the vocals, with Ferguson occasionally affecting a phony Euro-mod accent. Neither have a particularly strong vocal talent, but it doesn’t seem to matter as their lilting vocals fit these songs perfectly.

After their audition, a recording contract is offered to the band, and over the next week or so the details are ironed out between Averill C. Pasarow, the band’s attorney, and Jay Cooper, Keane’s attorney. Keane tells the Dumplings he’d like to produce their band, and tells them he’d like to record a full album, not just 45s, because, after all, we’re now in the album era by mid-1967, and it’s important to get all of their original recordings down on tape so they can decide later which songs should to be singled out for radio airplay, etcetera.

And so, from that day forward, these same five teens make this same trek down to Stereo-Fi’s recording studio, each week for the next several months. As Hartshorn later recalls, there was “a lot of layering of instruments and voices, experimenting with electronic sounds, late night sessions with numerous takes in different sound rooms.” Sometimes the band members came into Stereo-Fi’s studio excited about something they’d heard, like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had just been released around this same time, June 1, 1967. The album inspired them to write and record even better songs, and helped to foster a lot of interesting ideas about what they wanted to do for their own recordings. Keane, meanwhile, tells them that all producer George Martin has done is bounce tapes from one four-track recorder to another, it’s something he’s done before himself. But now his eight-track transistor studio is even more state-of-the-art than what the Beatles are using. Keane rolls tape and produces the songs at each session, recommending a backwards guitar part here, a sitar part there, a recorder solo…

During this same time, the Dumplings begin playing shows in L.A., nearly every weekend. After winning the second place prize in the Ventura County Battle of the Bands, sponsored by Jim Salzer, they’re added to the line-up, opening up for The Byrds, in Santa Barbara, at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. They also play shows for the Hell’s Angels and other biker groups out in the desert too, and Hartshorn says they also played at the Troubadour, and several clubs on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, during this time.

Keane, meanwhile, decides to test the waters and release one of their songs — “Feather In A Bottle” – as a single, but he asks them to come up with a new name for the 45 release. It’s at this point the band decide to call themselves Beauregard Ajax. Keane actually prefers another name they suggest, Sleep, because it’s what he thinks their moody folk-rock sounds like to him. He even writes it on one of their master tapes in his skittery handwriting, thinking it’s a name they’ll come around to. Some of the band like it, some of them don’t. Ferguson prefers Beauregard Ajax, and that’s their name.

At some point, the band learns that Keane’s Stereo-Fi record company is struggling to stay alive in a very competitive music landscape that seems to be changing each and every day, and the new company name (and the creation of Bronco, Mustang and other imprints under that new company) is reflective of a new financial partnership between Keane and his silent-partner Larry Nunes, who has infused the operation with cash, hoping for a big payoff down the line. Nunes was, at the time, the co-owner of Record Service, a “rackjobber” business that controlled record sales on racks in stores for the eleven western states, with thirteen offices from Seattle, Washington to Texas. Around this time, Nunes is selling a large percentage of all records sold in the west by all record companies. He also owns Privilege record distributors, as well as several record stores in the L.A. area.

We now fast-forward to 1968, and Keane takes the band’s mostly 8-track masters to Western Sound Recorders for a mix-down session (the date on the tape box is April 11, 1968). The Beauregard Ajax album (no album title yet) is just about finished, but there are still a few overdubs needed, a few tracks that probably need to be re-recorded, and Ferguson isn’t happy with some of his  vocal tracks either. On one tape, Keane, always trying to think of new ways to enhance a recording he’s producing, actually writes the words “needs Sitar?” where he imagines a sitar might work nicely. Hartshorn later reveals that some of the tracks were recorded on Keane’s Scully Dictaphone eight-track machine which at the time was state of the art (remember, most recordings at this time are still being done on four-track machines —  eight-track machines did not become standard until the early 1970s and were shortly replaced by sixteen and twenty-four track machines).

It’s my understanding that the band were undergoing some turmoil of their own during these final recording sessions, and towards the end, Charlie Hendricks reportedly left the band and was replaced by someone named Bruce (no one can recall his surname), who David Ferguson had met while attending L.A. City College.

It’s also around this same time that the members of Beauregard Ajax travel down to Hollywood one weekend in late April only to find that the front door of Stereo-Fi Records has a rather large iron chain and padlock on the front door. They peer through the darkened glass door and don’t see anyone inside. The lights are off, nobody’s home. They’re stunned, as you can imagine. They sit down on the curb on Selma Ave. and suddenly realize the gravity of the situation as it all begins sinking in. They don’t have any way to get in touch with Bob Keane — no home phone number or address. Perhaps more importantly, they don’t even have a copy of their own album tracks that they’ve been recording for the past nine or ten months. They really don’t know what to do. The band virtually begins to break up on their long drive back home to Oxnard.

Now let’s jump forward to 1996 or ’97 (I forget which year, it’s all a blur to me now). Let me just digress here to describe how I, your humble author, ended up working at Del-Fi Records, which had come alive again after a very long period of dormancy. The owner, Bob Keane, had resurfaced again and started up his Del-Fi label, and I’d begun working at the label shortly after that, in August 1995. We began reissuing CDs of recordings that the Del-Fi and Stereo-Fi companies had put out from early ’59 until about 1967 or so. I wrote liner notes, worked in production and did publicity and marketing related stuff for the label.

One day, one of the other employees at the Del-Fi label was going through Keane’s master tapes and trying to catalog the Del-Fi discography in order to figure out what we could actually reissue on CD, and he found a segued master tape marked “Beauregard Ajax.” It was also marked (with a grease pencil) “Sleep.” We knew one was an album title, and one was an artist name, but we didn’t know which was which. He took the tape home, where he made a cassette copy of the unfinished album master, and the next day he brought in a DAT and a cassette for us to listen to, and we all agree, it’s a great album, and it doesn’t sound like anything that Del-Fi has eveer released. We’re excited about the prospect of putting it out on CD, but we know absolutely nothing about the band and Keane can’t remember anything either (he’s in his mid-70s at this point). He didn’t have anything in his vintage file cabinet. No contracts. No photos. Nada.

Unfortunately, David didn’t really want to deal with Keane again, and we couldn’t come to any kind of royalty agreement and a contract anyway, all of which is understandable, but Ferguson also wanted to re-record a few things because there were pitch problems on some of the vocals, which he felt were too embarrassing, and there were mixing issues. He really didn’t want one track, “Happy Brontosaurus,” to come out at all, telling us it was just something they’d come up with with while they were joking around. Not only that, but everyone in the band that we came in contact with felt that it was best if the album was never released. It should remain a relic of the past, a buried treasure from 1968.

Fast-forward again. In 2005, a vinyl and CD reissue label out of Germany got a hold of one of the cassette tapes I’d sent out to one of those garage rock fans, and much to my surprise, they decided to release Beauregard Ajax’s album, calling it Deaf Priscilla (after one of the LP tracks — not the name I would have chosen for the album, though). Drummer Leo Hartshorn and Guitarist John Boutell each provided a brief paragraph for the skimpy CD liner notes, mostly regarding their roots in Oxnard, California and, according to one review I’ve read, “the different, seemingly less exciting musical projects they all went on to do.”

The thing about the ownership of this particular record is that is sort of exists in a state of limbo: when Rhino purchased the Del-Fi and Stereo-Fi master tapes in 2002, the Beauregard Ajax tapes seemed to have disappeared. In some cases like these, ownership of the masters would have reverted back to the band, but in this case, there are no tapes to return and there is no band to return them to. When the subject of royalties come up, well, there have been no album sales to generate royalties to begin with, no advances given to recoup, and no contracts to refer back to, nothing whatsoever in the files — so the album doesn’t truly exist because it never came out, and yet…if you’re interested, you can probably track down copies of Deaf Priscilla. I think I’ve seen them on Ebay. The vinyl pressing was apparently limited to 350 copies. Not sure about the CD copies, but if you can find one today, buy it.

Listening to Beauregard Ajax won’t change anyone’s life, we realize that, but they were a great little garage band who were pretty good, and getting better. Their career was cut short, through no real fault of their own. We don’t even know how unique their story is, but we still think the tale deserves to be told — and their music still deserves to be heard, forty years later. Unfortunately, they probably had the worse case of bad luck of any band I’ve ever worked with before — their great album failed to come out not once in their lifetime, but twice, and no one really knows their story until they read about it on the internet, in blogs like this one. You can find scads of glowing reviews about the Shadoks CD and LP release, and lots of praise for a band that very few can remember even seeing live. Ask around.
by Bryan Thomas
1. Loneliness Is A Sometime Thing - 2:16
2. Goodbye Again - 2:28
3. I Will Be Looking Away - 1:54
4. Dr. Jebediah Webb - 3:07
5. Is Tomorrow Thursday - 2:27
6. Dead Woman Blues - 2:14
7. Blue Violins - 3:31
8. Things Will Work Out Fine - 2:40
9 .Happy Brontosaurus - 1:59
10.Deaf Priscilla - 2:23
11.Feather In A Bottle - 2:04
12.Take You Far Away - 2:02
13.Love Is A Prize - 2:02
14.Kaleidoscope - 2:27
15.Blue Violins (Version 2) - 3:32
16.Dead Woman Blues (Version 2) - 2:14
17.Goodbye Again (Version 2) - 2:28
18.I Will Be Looking Away (Version 2) - 1:52
All songs by David Ferguson, Charles Hendricks

Beauregard Ajax
*David Ferguson - Vocals, Guitar
*Charlie Hendricks - Vocals, Pipe, Recorder
*Clint Williams - Electric Bass
*John Boutell - Vocals, Guitars
*Leo Hartshorn - Drums

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Tonton Macoute - Tonton Macoute / Revisited Edition (1971/2016 uk, superb inspired psych prog jazz rock, 2017 blu spec double disc set)

Tonton Macoute, is a British progressive rock band, founded in 1970 in the County of Berkshire. The saxophonist and vocalist Dave Knowles the bassist and guitarist Chris Gavin had already played in various bands in Berkshire County when they met the organist Paul French and the drummer Nigel Reveler, who had a similar career as musicians in the north of England , The quartet received a record deal from Neon Records, a sub label of RCA, which relocated especially in Progressive Rock.

The debut album by Tonton Macoute came out in 1971, it remained the only original release of the band. The music of Tonton Macoute is strongly influenced by jazz, so the band could simply regarded as a progressive rock band as well as a jazz rock band.

Among the highlights are 'Just Like A Stone', that has some rocking piano and backbeat drums. 'Don't Make Me Cry' is a real jazz fusion odyssey, while the spooky 'Dreams' is laden with vibraphone textures. The swinging 'You Make My Jelly Roll' has young French singing in Frank Sinatra mode. Twin extended performances 'Natural High Parts 1 & 2' explore classical, rock and blues themes in a style that epitomises the band's musical sophistication.

Paul went on to form Voyager who charted in 1979 with a song entitled Halfway Hotel. They released 3 albums too, before disbanding in 1982. They have recently reformed to release the album Eyecontact. He performs regularly at The Piano, 106 Kensington High St. Dave formed his own band Turbo in the 70s and now lives in Cornwall. Gavin went on to practice fine art and photography, but still plays regularly in the Newbury area. Nigel has a successful career within the record industry and currently runs a distribution company Active Media.

In the recent decade, Paul French has been to reform Tonton Macoute to produce more material. His thinking in producing a new depiction of this album, was to imagine how the band would have sounded in the modern age and with more time to perfect the original tracks.

Unfortunately Dave Knowles passed away in 2015 before it all came to fruition, but his contribution is acknowledged here and in the music itself. The remaining three members and Dave's successors are very much behing this new album.
Original Disc 1971
1. Just Like Stone - 6:33
2. Don't Make Me Cry - 8:50
3. Flying South In Winter - 6:28
4. Dreams (Dave Knowles) - 4:00
5. You Make My Jelly Roll (Dave Knowles) - 8:00
6. Natural High (Part 1) (Paul French) - 6:58
7. Natural High (Part 2) (Paul French) - 3:56
All songs by Nigel Reveler, Paul French, Chris Gavin, Dave Knowles except where stated
Disc 2 Revisited 2016
1. Don't - 5:53 
2. Dreamy - 5:15 
3. Slow Down - 5:50 
4. Fly South - 5:08 
5. Naturally - 5:20
6. I Said "Don't" - 4:18 
7. Don't Make Me Laugh (Paul French) - 4:59
8. Stoned - 4:46 
9. Summer Of Our Love (Paul French, Dave Knowles) - 5:09 
10.No I Didn't - 4:15
All songs by Nigel Reveler, Paul French, Chris Gavin, Dave Knowles except where indicated

Tonton Macoute
*Paul French - Acoustic, Electric Pianos, Organ, Vibes, Vocals
*Chris Gavin - Bass, Acoustic, Electric Guitars
*Dave Knowles - Alto, Tenor Saxes, Flute, Clarinet, Vocals
*Nigel Reveler - Drums, Percussion

Monday, July 2, 2018

Thunderhead - Thunderhead (1975-76 us, awesome hard southern rock, 2009 reissue)

In the early seventies O.T. Ware, Ronnie Dobbs and I  were the core members of a popular New Orleans cover band “Paper Steamboat.” At that time, Bobby "T" Torello was the drummer for  David and the Giants, a Laurel, Mississippi cover band, played many of the same venues and "T" began jamming with "Steamboat." The desire to form a powerful original band is what drove the three Steamboat members to ask Bobby "T" to be part of the new project. We all agreed and set out to find a second guitarist and after trying Billy Gregory of “It’s A Beautiful Day” and two other local New Orleans musicians, Pat Rush was asked to join the band and Thunderhead was formed in late 1973. We rehearsed for 2 weeks, took a week vacation and then opened up at “The Flying Dutchman “in Charleston, S.C.

We were signed by Paragon Agency out of Macon Georgia (The Allman Brothers agency) and began touring small venues. Johnny Winter, who from time to time jammed with the Steamboat and then the new Thunderhead Band, asked us to join his tour.  We opened for Johnny at several venues around the South. We then embarked on a tour that took us to Louisville, Kentucky, Knoxville, Tenn., Ashville, North Carolina, Atlanta, Ga., and Lansing, Michigan where we opened for ZZ Top.

Interesting side story: When we took the stage in Louisville at a club called “The Beggars Banquet”  we were arrested for grand larceny and put in jail. It seems our manager at the time paid a judge to swear out fugitive warrants on us for “Stealing” our own P.A. We were released the next morning when we presented the lease agreement we had for the equipment to the judge. A few Days later on April 14, 1974 we opened for "Kiss" a relatively unknown band at the time.    

After the concert with ZZ Top, Thunderhead received a call from our friend Greggo Howard who was working with Johnny Winter and suggested we record our first album and that Johnny would produce it. We immediately went back to Bogalusa where “The Studio In the Country” was just finishing up an album with “Kansas”, and we began recording several tunes with Johnny producing and playing on several cuts and Edgar singing back up vocals and playing piano. Bill “Bleu” Evans studio owner and builder did the engineering. The album was shopped around and well received, but ABC was the only major label that made an offer. But, it was a very disappointing offer for the band, because they wanted us to record the entire album with a different producer. (John Haeny) 

Back in those days there were no options, as there are today,( to release the album independently) so we took the deal despite our disagreement about the album we had done with Johnny. We recorded the album and were sent out on the road and never asked to be there for the final mix. We also never saw the cover or liner notes. I found out the album was released by phone. A local record store owner, who was a fan, called me and told me it was out. I think I had to buy the first one. I remember doing one major showcase after that to push the album. It was in Atlanta at “Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom” and that was it. We did our usual gigs waiting for a tour that never came about. At one point I was told that there was a chance of touring with “Fleetwood Mac” but they did not want us on the tour, because we were “too High Energy” and would wear out the crowd. 

We hung around New Orleans and played as opening act for many of the big bands at “The Warehouse” and all the major concert venues. Joe Cocker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elvin Bishop, Dr. John, Edgar Winter, Peter Frampton and many more, but no tour. It seems that the support for the tour was dropped because the President of ABC killed himself and the new regime had an eye towards “Disco” and did not want to spend the money to promote the album. We set out to New York, where we were duped into believing that we would get some help from Teddy Slatus and maybe a tour. It never happened. Now we had no management, a record sitting on the shelves and no tour. Disco came along about then and we literally died on the vine. Broke up in October 1976.
by Mike Dagger
1. Busted In Georgia (Mike Daggar, O.T. Ware, Ronnie Dobbs, Pat Rush) - 3:43
2. Lay It On The Line (Ronnie Dobbs) - 3:38
3. Got To Get Away (Mike Daggar, Ronnie Dobbs, O.T. Ware) - 3:51
4. Showdown (David Craig) - 3:16
5. Hit and Run Driver (Mike Daggar, H. Garrick) - 4:48
6. Breaux Bridge Rag (David Craig) - 3:17
7. Juliette (L. Georger) - 3:00
8. Armed Robbery (Mike Daggar, Pat Rush) - 3:40
9. More Than I Can Chew (Mike Daggar) - 4:26
10.Rock Me, Roll Me (Gary Nunn) - 4:12
11.Roll Up the Hill (Mike Daggar) - 4:16
12.Make Your Own Good News (Mike Daggar) - 4:09
13.Apathy (Instrumental) (Mike Daggar) - 3:46
14.Stop the Madness (Mike Daggar) - 4:05
15.Space Saver (Mike Daggar) - 7:16
16.Home (Mike Daggar) - 4:24

*Mike Dagger - Flute, Percussion, Vocals
*Pat Rush - Guitars
*Ronnie Dobbs - Guitars
*Otho T. Ware - Bass
*Bobby Torello - Drums

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Sunday, July 1, 2018

New Riders Of The Purple Sage - Gypsy Cowboy (1972 us, remarkable country folk bluesy psych rock, 2007 remaster and expanded)

Gypsy Cowboy was the New Riders of the Purple Sage's second album of 1972, released only seven months after its predecessor, Powerglide, and was also the group's third album in 15 months, which may help explain why the original material, written separately by John Dawson and Dave Torbert, was not impressive. Dawson as usual contributed some twangy country-pop including romantic tributes and reminiscences about the Gold Rush and bootleg whiskey, but nothing really memorable. 

(His eight-minute "Death and Destruction" provided opportunities for David Nelson to play some stinging electric guitar leads, even if it was essentially a rewrite of Neil Young & Crazy Horse's "Down by the River.") Torbert's contributions were even slighter, from his spacy title song ("Let's roll another number") to the by-the-numbers rocker "Groupie." And the New Riders continued to seem like inferior interpreters of others' songs, as their take on "Long Black Veil" was generic country-rock. 

The band had almost completely spun off from the Grateful Dead by now; the only contribution from the parent act was the appearance of Dead singer Donna Jean Godchaux on backup vocals on a couple of tunes. Gypsy Cowboy did not demonstrate that they couldn't ride alone, but it did suggest that they ought to pause and come up with some first-rate original material before entering the recording studio again, something they proved unable to do. [The 2007 reissue of the album by Wounded Bird Records added four previously released live versions of the songs, three of them culled from the 1974 LP Home, Home on the Road, produced by Jerry Garcia.] 
by William Ruhlmann
1. Gypsy Cowboy (Dave Torbert) - 4:18
2. Whiskey (John Dawson) - 3:33
3. Groupie (Dave Torbert) - 2:40
4. Sutter's Mill (John Dawson) - 1:52
5. Death And Destruction (John Dawson) - 8:39
6. Linda (John Dawson) - 3:03
7. On My Way Back Home (Dave Torbert) - 3:29
8. Superman (John Dawson) - 3:09
9. She's No Angel (Wanda Ballman) - 2:51
10.Long Black Veil (Danny Dill, Marijohn Wilkin) - 3:56
11.Sailin' (John Dawson) - 2:49
12.Groupie (Dave Torbert) – 2:46
13.Sutter's Mill (John Dawson) – 2:13
14.Superman (John Dawson) – 4:05
15.She's No Angel (Wanda Ballman) – 3:10
Bonus tracks 12-15 Live versions

New Riders Of The Purple Sage
*John Dawson - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
*David Nelson - Lead Guitar, Vocals, Dobro, Mandolin, Bagpipes
*Dave Torbert - Bass, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Buddy Cage - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Spencer Dryden - Drums, Percussion
Additional Musicians
*Richard Greene - Violin
*Mark Naftalin - Piano
*Jack Schoer - Horns
*Darlene Didomenico - Vocals
*Donna Godchaux - Vocals

1971-72  New Riders Of The Purple Sage - New Riders Of The Purple Sage / Powerglide (2002 double disc remaster) 
Related Act
1969  Grateful Dead - Live/Dead 
1971  Grateful Dead - Skull and Roses (2001 HDCD bonus tracks edition)
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Friday, June 29, 2018

Henry Paul Band - Grey Ghost (1979 us, excellent southern boogie rock)

Henry Paul was a rhythm guitarist and vocalist for the Outlaws. He left the group in 1977 after its third album. He formed the Henry Paul Band in 1978 and signed to Atlantic later that year. Grey Ghost is the band's debut, and it is drenched in Southern rock influences as well as those of '70s West Coast bands such as the Eagles. The opening cut, "So Long," combines folk, country-rock, and the over the top guitar punch of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, while "Crossfire" sounds like the Joe Walsh-era Eagles jamming with the Pure Prairie League and "Foolin'" has the Byrds' signature all over it. But to say that Paul and his band merely copied what was out there wouldn't be fair. 

Grey Ghost is a fine album; the songcraft is tight and crisp, the lead and harmony vocals are crystalline, and the production is unobtrusive. But those twin guitar leads that sound like they come from the Allmans' "Ramblin' Man" are a bit derivative sounding. The title track is the best thing on the record. Written in 1977, it is an uncredited but undisguised tribute to the late Ronnie VanZant of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who had perished two years earlier in a plane crash: "And the autumn wind whispers through the tall and lonely pines/And the hour of fate is drawing close at hand/A free bird falling from the sky/Brings an end to another Southern man.

Despite the close harmonies and softer edges of the first half of the disc, the second half entrenches itself more in the raw Southern boogie and hard honky tonk rock that defines the genre, from "I Don't Need You No More" to "Lonely Dreamer," the crunchy "You Really Know (What I Mean)," and the closer, which reverts back to the more airy sound of side one with added percussion by ace Joe Lala, who guests. The only loser is the idiotic "One Night Stands." A hard rocker, even at the end of the 1970s they should have known better than this. Still, it's a small mark against one of the more obscure but worthy albums from the era. Wounded Bird Records has issued the band's four Atlantic recordings on CDs with excellent sound. 
by Thom Jurek
1. So Long (Henry Paul) - 5:08
2. Crossfire (Max Paul Schwennsen) - 3:12
3. Foolin' (Dallas Moore, Henry Paul) - 2:52
4. Wood Wind (Henry Paul, Jim Fish) - 0:49
5. Grey Ghost (Barry Rapp, Henry Paul) - 6:48
6. I Don't Need You No More (Bill HoFfman, Billy Crain) - 2:42
7. Lonely Dreamer (Henry Paul, Jim Fish, Wally Dentz) - 3:55
8. One-Night Stands (Billy Crain) - 2:49
9. You Really Know (What I Mean) (Jim Fish) - 4:05
10.All I Need (Barry Rapp) - 4:10

The Henry Paul Band
*Henry Paul - Guitar, Vocals
*Barry Rapp - Keyboards, Vocals
*Billy Crain - Lead Guitar
*Wally Dentz - Bass, Harmonica, Vocals
*Jim Fish - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Bill Hoffman - Drums
*Joe Lala - Percussion

Related Act
1973-81  Outlaws – Anthology / Live 'n' Rare (2012 four disc set release) 
1975  The Outlaws - The Outlaws (2001 remaster) 

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