Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Jess Roden - The Best Of (1974-80 uk, remarkable blues funky classic rock, 2009 remaster)

Jess Roden was a journeyman British rock singer who caught lots of breaks, it's just that none of them were particularly lucky. He sang background in the studios and fronted various bands before playing with Keef Hartley, yet never went anywhere; sang for Robbie Krieger and John Densmore's post-Doors project the Butts Band, which also stalled; then he had a solo career on Island which is compiled on this quite good 2009 Lemon collection. 

Equal parts Rod Stewart and Paul Rodgers, Roden had a powerful bluesy growl made for rockers like "The Ballad of Big Sally" - and his cover of Randy Newman's "You Can Leave Your Hat On" trumps Joe Cocker's latter-day version - but he also sounds just as comfortable on softer material like "Blowin'" and the terrific Boz Scaggs-styled soft rock of "In Me Tonight." That track is an indication of how Roden got softer, slicker, and also somewhat funkier - if funk is nothing but loping basslines and wah-wah guitars - as the '70s came to the close. He still negotiated these turns quite well, and these are good, period soft rock, but Roden sounds alive on the earliest cuts, when he still had the chance of breaking through toward the blues-rock big time. 
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
1. Ballad Of Big Sally (Bruce Roberts, John Cartwright) - 5:44
2. Blowin' (Jess Roden, John Cartwright) - 3:28
3. You Can Leave Your Hat On (Randy Newman) - 4:05
4. Stonechaser (Jess Roden, Steve Webb) - 5:34
5. Reason To Change (Jess Roden) - 3:05
6. Woman Across The Water (Jess Roden) - 4:13
7. In A Circle (John Cartwright, Steve Webb) - 5:34
8. Trouble In The Mind (Jess Roden) - 4:08
9. Me And Crystal Eye (Jess Roden) - 4:14
10.In Me Tonight (Jess Roden) - 4:37
11.Can't Get Next To You (Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield) - 7:00
12.What The Hell (Jess Roden) - 4:57
13.I'm On A Winner With You (Jess Roden, Steve Webb) - 3:20
14.Deeper In Love - 2:59
15.Lonely Avenue (Doc Pomus) - 3:38
16.If You Change Your Mind (John Cartwright) - 3:18
17.Jump Mama (Jess Roden) - 4:02
18.All Night Long (Jess Roden) - 3:34

 *Jess Roden - Vocals, Guitar

Related Acts
1970-71 Bronco - Country Home / Ace Of Sunlight (2010 remaster)
1965-67  The Alan Bown Set - Emergency 999 
1969  The Alan Bown! - The Alan Bown! (2010 Esoteric remaster)
1972 Keef Hartley - Lancashire Hustler (2009 esoteric remaster)

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Rabbit - Dark Saloon / Broken Arrows (1973-74 us excellent mix of soul funk prog and art rock, 2008 remsaster)

2008 release containing two early '70s albums from the Rock keyboardist on one CD. Considering John 'Rabbit' Bundrick's reputation and high profile career, playing keyboards with everyone from Free and Bob Marley right up to The Who, it's amazing that his solo work still remains largely unrecognized. After Free split in early 1973, Rabbit continued his association with Island Records and, as well as recording innumerable sessions for them, made two excellent solo albums. Broken Arrows from 1973, and Dark Saloon from 1974, were Rabbit putting his songwriting talents to good use. ('Salt Annie Ginger Tree' was later covered by Johnny Nash.) On Dark Saloon Rabbit was joined by string arranger Marty Ford, ABBA's Swedish musicians and his Texas friends Terry Wilson and Tony Braunagel along with repeat appearances from Snuffy Walden and Al Roberts from Stray Dog (also on Broken Arrows) and even Free's Tetsu turns up to play some bass. 
Ork Records

"Considering John 'Rabbit' Bundrick's reputation and high profile career, playing keyboards with everyone from Free and Bob Marley right up to The Who, it's amazing that his solo work still remains largely unrecognized. After Free split in early 1973, Rabbit continued his association with Island Records and, as well as recording innumerable sessions for them, made two excellent solo albums which Ork Records is proud to release on CD for the first time. Broken Arrows from 1973, and Dark Saloon from 1974, were Rabbit putting his songwriting talents to good use ('Salt Annie Ginger Tree' was later covered by Johnny Nash). On Dark Saloon, Rabbit was joined by string arranger Marty Ford, ABBA's Swedish musicians and his Texas friends Terry Wilson and Tony Braunagel (soon to be in Paul Kossoff's Back Street Crawler) along with repeat appearances from Snuffy Walden and Al Roberts from Stray Dog (also on Broken Arrows) and even Free's Tetsu turns up to play some bass! Rabbit was so busy with sessions, he didn't have time to promote these albums, hence them lying under the radar ever since. Rabbit himself, however, retains a high profile due to his ongoing tenure with The Who, and now-reissued work with Free. Thus these underrated releases stand a better chance this time around, not least with Rabbit assisting on the project."
1. Don't You Leave Me Babe - 3:23
2. Dig It Johnny Walker - 3:29
3. Dark Saloon - 2:41
4. '43 Revolution - 4:17
5. Special Woman - 3:19
6. Devil Run - 3:44
7. Cheat on Me - 3:32
8. Hall of Love - 3:44
9. I Believe In You - 3:20
10.Magical Fountain - 3:00
11.I Love Life and Peace - 2:16
12.Broken Arrows - 2:27
13.I Don't Mind - 4:03
14.Ergot - 3:07
15.Blues My Guitar - 2:54
16.Music Is the Answer - 3:52
17.Salt Annie Ginger Tree - 2:23
18.London Town - 2:47
19.You're There Somewhere - 2:51
20.Boll Weevil Blues - 2:50
All songs written by John "Rabbit" Bundrick

*John "Rabbit" Bundrick - Vocals , Keyboards, Drums
*Janne Scheaffer - Guitar
*Ola Brunkert - Drums
*Rebop Kwaku Baah - Congas
*Tetsu Yamauchi - Bass
*Snuffy Walden - Guitar
*Junior Hanson - Wah-Wah Guitar
*Richard Reeves - Acoustic Guitar
*Terry Wilson - Bass 
*Tony Braunagle - Drums
*Dave Keeley - Guitar
*George Larnyoh - Horns, Percussions
*Eddie Quansah - Horns, Percussions
*Pete Vanderpurge - Horns, Percussions
*Chris Laurence - Acoustic Bass, Cello
*Gerri Masters - Bass
*Jim Capaldi - Drums
*Pete Carr - Guitar
*Simon Kirke - Drums
*Conrad Isadore, - Drums
*Alan Gerri - Electric Guitar, Bass

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Blues Magoos - Never Goin' Back To Georgia (1969 us, mighty psych blues rock with jazz elements, Vinyl edition)

Never Goin' Back to Georgia shows real evolution, their chops far more impressive than on Electric Comic Book, but this adventure certainly alienated their fan base, and as latter-day bands cloned the sound these guys implemented with Psychedelic Lollipop, what was the point of doing Willie Dixon with Santana overtones? The beautiful blue sky cover looks like the Allman Brothers, and only Emil "Peppy" Thielhelm remains to lead new members Eric-Justin Kaz on keyboard, trumpet, harp, vocals, John Liello on vibes, Roger Eaton on bass, Herb Lavelle on drums, Dean Evanson on flute, as well as an alto and two conga players. 

Peppy Thielhelm only contributes two originals, "I Can Feel It" (Feelin' Time) and "Georgia Breakdown," and even though it was always his band, the original 1966 hit single was written by the departed keyboard, bassist, and lead guitarist. What is here is not the Blues Magoos that we knew and loved, but excellent musicians playing a keyboard heavy neo Latin blues with some jazz licks thrown in for good measure. "Gettin' Off is a tasty track.
by Joe Viglione
1. Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley, Mae Boren Axton, Tommy Durden) - 4:10
2. Heart Attack (Willie Dixon) - 4:14
3. The Hunter (Al Jackson Jr., Booker T. Jones, Carl Wells, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve Cropper) - 4:15
4. Feelin' Time (I Can Feel It) (Emil Thielhelm, Eric Kaz) - 3:57
5. Gettin' Off (John Liello) - 5:27
6. Never Goin' Back To Georgia (El Pito) (Joe Cuba, Jamie Sabater) - 7:19
7. Broke Down Piece Of Man (Joe Shamwell, Steve Cropper) - 6:17
8. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out (Jimmy Cox) - 5:18
9. Georgia Breakdown (Emil Thielhelm, Eric Kaz, John Liello, Roger Eaton) - 6:47

Blues Magoos
*Peppy Thielheim - Guitar, Vocals
*Richie Dickon - Conga
*Roger Eaton - Bass, Vocals
*Dean Evenson - Flute
*Eric Kaz - Harmonica, Keyboards, Trumpet, Vocals
*John Liello - Vibes, Vocals
*Herb Lovelle - Drums
*Soto - Alto Saxophone
*Tito - Conga

1966  Psychedelic Lollipop (expanded issue)
1967  Electric Comic Book (expanded issue)
1968  Blues Magoos - Basic Blues Magoos (2004 expanded edition)

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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Byzantium - Live And Studio (1972 uk, remarkable prog rock, 2001 release)

Byzantium released a trio of albums across 1972-1973, and the double Live and Studio was the group's last. Fans considered it their best set, but as it was self-released, few were actually in a position to know. Now all that has changed. Unusually, the quartet's influences rarely came from their compatriots (although the indomitable Beatles tinge a bit of their sound); instead, the band looked mostly to the U.S. for inspiration. Across four sides of vinyl and 12 songs, Byzantium explored the vagaries of contemporary American rock, from the rich harmonies of the Byrds through the spacier sounds of the West Coast.

The guitarists are the band's fulcrum, giving free rein to rocking riffs and fiery leads as well as moodier 12-string passages, with songs sliding from atmospheric musing to rip-roaring boogying that leans toward the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Thoroughly eclectic, the set merrily bounds from pop-flecked numbers to soaring majestic tracks, from downbeat ballads to country-twanged rockers. Contrary to the album's title, however, none of the songs were recorded live in the modern sense of on-stage, but were instead captured live in the studio, which certainly gives the entire set a sense of immediacy that could otherwise be lacking. Incidentally, the album also boasts a surprising punk connection via future Blockhead Chas Jankel, whose presence on lead guitar, piano, and vocals boosts the set to even greater heights. A quite spectacular finale that deserved a much greater audience, and now finally has the chance to find one. 
by Jo-Ann Greene
1. Flashing Silver Hope - 9:39
2. Cowboy Song - 3:27
3. Feel It - 4:30
4. What a Coincidence - 3:57
5. Something You Said - 6:23
6. I Can See You - 6:12
7. Morning - 8:26
8. I'll Just Take My Time - 4:43
9. Surely Peace Will Come to Those Who Try - 3:11
10.If You Wanna Be My Girl - 2:35
11.Oh Darling - 3:08
12.Move With My Time - 3:59
All compositions by Byzantium

*Chas Jankel - Piano, Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Robin Lamble - Vocals, Bass
*Mick Barakan - Vocals, Guitar
*Jamie Rubinstein - Vocal, 12 String Guitar
*Steve Corduner - Drums
*David Hentschel - Synthesizer
*Robin Sylvester - Synthesizer

1972  Byzantium - Byzantium (2013 reissue) 
Related Act
1969  Ora - Ora (2016 double disc edition)

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Bronco - Country Home / Ace Of Sunlight (1970-71 uk, stunning country classic rock, 2010 remaster)

British country rock sounds about as likely and as authentic as British blues, but both were forces to be reckoned with in late sixties and early seventies rock respectively. Whilst the UK country rock vein certainly aped its US counterpart rather than actually kickstarting it as its blues predecessor had done, a number of artists from this side of the Pond found moderate success working in the form back across the water as well as at home. One of these was Bronco, whose early work compared favourably in its low-key ensemble construction with such luminaries as Neil Young’s Crazy Horse and The Band.

Vocalist Jess Roden had been featured frontman for the Alan Bown Set, one of London’s foremost live soul and R’n’B outfits during the late sixties. When the Bown train began to roll in a more psychedelic direction, Roden re-teamed up with guitarist Kevyn Gammond and bassist John Pasternak from his earlier blues combo Shakedown Sound. Gammond recommended second guitarist Robbie Blunt and drummer Pete Robinson from his own previous Band Of Joy – which had also featured a certain Robert Plant – and Bronco was ready to start buckin’. 

Happy to change direction yet again and clearly inspired by the likes of The Band, Bronco became one of the first British groups to take a punt at the upcoming country rock form. Widely regarded even then as “Britain’s finest unknown singer”, Roden had no trouble bagging a recording contract at the mighty Island Records, and Country Home and a leadoff single “Lazy Now” (not on the album) appeared rapidly. Roden and Co. toured it extensively on both sides of the Atlantic – I recall seeing them supporting fellow Island labelmates Traffic at Bristol University Union during the autumn of 1970 – to favourable responses which unfortunately failed to translate to record sales.

Composed principally by Roden but with input from all band members plus close friend, future schlock-folk singer/songwriter Clifford T Ward, the album exudes rough charm with its low-key, live-sounding recording. The first five of its seven tracks ride mainly on acoustic rhythm guitars with clean countrified electric licks from Blunt and rather more pentatonic input from Gammond plus occasional restrained piano from guest Jeff Bannister, Roden’s former colleague in the Bown set, and bluesy harmonica from drummer Robinson. The harmonies are endearingly rough-edged throughout with a distinct Band vibe. My favourite tracks are “Civil Of You Stranger” with its rolling rhythm, E-string twang and funky modulation, the jugbandish “Misfit On Your Stair” recalling the Lovin’ Spoonful and “Home” with its simple two-chord motif decorated by distant wailing cross-harp and a soulful piano solo. The last two tracks see the band “man-up” with a saw-toothed twin-electric guitar attack that certainly recalls Young’s and Danny Whitten’s partnership or perhaps Free’s slower, funkier material.

Despite the failure of Country Home to sell in droves, a second album Ace Of Sunlight appeared the following year. This featured considerably more composer input from Ward and songwriter Suzy Worth plus a lot more instrumental arrangement and studio gloss, and consequently sounds much more urban mainstream soft-rock, lacking the rough rural edges that had made Country Home such a charmer. When this too failed to set the charts alight Roden saddled up for the States to team up briefly with ex-Doors Robby Krieger and John Densmore as the Butts Band. Blunt and Gammond would work extensively again with Robert Plant post-Zeppelin, whilst Roden finally embarked on an uneven solo career producing a body of work that confirmed him as “Britain’s finest unknown singer” until a total change of direction saw him become a graphic artist in the mid-eighties. Country Home and Ace Of Sunlight are available as a two-disc anthology of Roden’s solo work, reflecting the high regard in which a small but discerning cognoscenti still hold him.
by Len Liechti 
Country Home 1970
1. Civil Of You Stranger (Robbie Blunt) - 3:56
2. Love (Jess Roden) - 4:29
3. Misfit On Your Stair (Clifford T. Ward, Kevyn Gammond) - 3:12
4. Bumpers West (Suzy Worth) - 5:51
5. Home (Jess Roden) - 4:11
6. Well Anyhow (Jess Roden, Kevyn Gammond, Robbie Blunt, John Pasternak, Pete Robinson) - 7:03
7. Time (So Long Between) (Jess Roden, Robbie Blunt) - 5:21
Ace Of Sunlight 1971
8. Amber Moon (Jess Roden, Suzy Worth) - 4:05
9. Time Slips Away(Robbie Blunt) - 6:39
10.Some Uncertainty(Clifford T. Ward, Kevyn Gammond) - 3:48
11.Woman (Clifford T. Ward, Kevyn Gammond) - 4:18
12.New Day Avenue (Jess Roden, Suzy Worth) - 6:24
13.Discernible (Kevyn Gammond, Suzy Worth) - 3:45
14.Sudden Street (Jess Roden) - 6:24
15.Joys And Fears (Jess Roden, Suzy Worth) - 3:45

*Jess Roden - Guitar, Harmonica, Percussion, Piano, Vocals
*Kevin Gammond - Guitar, Vocals
*Robbie Blunt - Guitar, Vocals
*John Pasternak - Bass, Vocals
*Peter Robinson - Drums, Conga
*Jeff Bannister - Piano (Country Home)
*Clifford T. Ward - Vocals (Country Home) 
*Terry Allen - Organ (Ace Of Sunlight)
*Paul Bennett - Vocals (Ace Of Sunlight)
*Paul Davenport - Piano (Ace Of Sunlight)
*Ian Hunter - Piano (Ace Of Sunlight)
*Trevor Lucas - Vocals (Ace Of Sunlight)
*Mick Ralphs - Organ (Ace Of Sunlight)

Related Acts
1965-67  The Alan Bown Set - Emergency 999 
1969  The Alan Bown! - The Alan Bown! (2010 Esoteric remaster)
1972 Keef Hartley - Lancashire Hustler (2009 esoteric remaster)

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Friday, January 3, 2020

Graham Parker And The Rumour ‎- Live At Trent Poly Sports Hall Nottingham (1977 uk, awesome pub rock roots 'n' roll, 2019 remastered)

Graham Parker was born in Hackney East London in 1950. In the summer of '75 Parker joined ex-members of three British Pub-Rock bands to form Graham Parker And The Rumour. They began in the British Pub-Rock scene, often augmented at times by a four man Horn section known as The Rumour Horns.

He appeared (along with the Rumour) on BBC television's Top of the Pops in 1977, performing their version of the Trammps "Hold Back The Night", from the "Pink Parker" EP, a top 30 in March 1977. This concert was recorded at Nottingham Poly Sports Hall, 25th March 1977, by John Moon assisted by Geoff Woodward.
CD Liner Notes
1. Lady Doctor – 2:58
2. Heat Treatment – 3:52
3. (Let Me Get) Sweet On You – 2:36
4. Silly Thing – 3:03
5. Fool's Gold – 4:22
6. Howlin' Wind – 4:22
7. Pourin' It All Out – 3:32
8. Gypsy Blood – 5:22
9. Back To Schooldays – 2:49
10.Don't Ask Me Questions – 5:25
11.Not If It Pleases Me – 3:50
12.New York Shuffle – 3:10
13.Soul Shoes – 3:53
14.Hold Back The Night (Allan Felder, Earl Young, Norman Harris, Ron Baker) - 4:16
15.Kansas City (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 3:48
All song by Graham Parker except where noted

The Rumour
*Graham Parker - Vocals, Guitar
*Andrew Bodnar - Bass
*Steve Goulding - Drums
*Martin Belmont - Guitar
*Bob Andrews - Organ, Piano
*Brinsley Schwarz – Guitar

1976  Graham Parker And The Rumour - Howlin Wind (bonus track edition) 
Related Act
1967-69  Kippington Lodge - Shy Boy / The Complete Recordings (2011 release) 

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Ora - Ora (1969 uk, wondrous psych folk with a jazzy mood, 2016 double disc edition)

This is an amazing folk-with-popsike-jazz-and-even-bossa UK band! Originally released on the Tangerine label, the Ora LP was also issued in the German Metronome label as "Knick Knacks", but gets its first vinyl reissue since it first came out on this 2LP set. Record 1 will feature the original Ora LP as it was first issued back in 1969, while record 2 is made up of previously unreleased in vinyl format top quality material by the band and will include tracks never issued before in any format that original band member James Rubinstein had in his personal archive. 25 must-have songs for anyone interested in UK folk/pop/psych ! !

It is an album of incredible beauty, recorded by some talented young artists, Here is an extract from the original 1969 press release:Jamie Rubinstein, 18, leader, lead vocalist and guitarist with the group called ORA, wrote all the songs on their new LP. He arranged most of them. While making the album Jamie was studing for his GCE A Levels. This is the group's first release, a single is being planned.

Jamie and Robin Sylvester, 18, who plays bass guitar, piano, organ, and is co-arranger, are the main-stays of the four-piece group. The others, lead guitarist Jon Weiss and drummer Julian Diggle, are "floating" members. Jamie, Robin, and Julian had met at UCS (University College School) in Hampstead. James Rubinstein soon after formed the legendary progressive rock group Byzantium.
Disc One
1. Seashore - 2:51
2. About You - 2:41
3. Deborah - 3:06
4. Whitch - 6:24
5. Venetia II - 2:09
6. You - 2:45
7. Fly - 3:44
8. Ladyfriend - 2:19
9. Are You Seeing - 2:55
10.Emma’s Sage - 2:37
11.The Morning After The Night Before - 2:19
12.The Seagull And The Sailor - 3:18
Disc Two
1. Ooo - 1:17
2. What Is Happening - 4:17
3. I Love You - 3:07
4. Deborah - 3:01
5. I Am A Stranger To My Life - 4:56
6. Fly - 3:46
7. It Was An Easy Legend - 2:39
8. Seashore - 4:11
9. No More Love - 3:20
10.Pomme (Chloe Walters) - 2:39
11.Morning Love - 3:17
12.This Time I Won’t Let You Go - 3:45
13.Thank God - 4:44
All songs written by James Rubenstein except where noted

*Mark Barakan - Guitar
*Julian Diggle - Drums
*James Rubenstein - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Robin Sylvester - Bass, Keyboards, Guitar
*Chloe Walters - Guitar
*Jon Weiss - Lead Guitar

Related Act
1972  Byzantium - Byzantium (2013 reissue) 

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Byzantium - Byzantium (1972 uk, splendid melodic folk prog rock, 2013 reissue)

Formed as a school band at UCS, Hampstead, London the original lineup included Nico Ramsden, Robin Lamble & Stevie Corduner who were soon joined by Chas Jankel. Robin Sylvester and Jamie Rubinstein, who were both also studying at UCS were both contributors at this time, Jamie by way of songwriting and Robin in his role of recording engineer, arranger and later joint producer.

Co-produced and arranged by Stuart Taylor and long-time friend and band associate Robin Sylvester, 1972's "Byzantium" is one of those album that leaves me on the fence.  As a naturally sucker for pretty melodies and sweet harmonies, the collection was swimming with those ingredients.  Tracks like 'I Am a Stranger To My Life', 'Come Fair One' and 'Into the Country' were great examples of the band's knack for writing highly melodic material that showcased their sweet harmonies.  I'll also readily admit to adoring several of these songs. 

I wasn't expecting something as funky and rocking at 'What Is Happening?'.   Nah, it wasn't George Clinton and Funkadelic, but for four pale London-based Englishmen who are often slapped with a progressive label, the track had considerable energy.  At the same time, the song served to underscore their tight harmony vocals. While I can appreciate the pretty melody and the thoughtful lyrics, 'I Am a Stranger' also underscored why so many reviewers slam the album as being forgettable ...   While I liked the unexpected mid-song  jazzy interlude, this one certainly won't appeal to everyone. Ear candy for folks who loved vocals hamonies. 

Opening up with a wall of acoustic guitars and those sweet harmonies, 'Come Fair One' was a song that should have sent acoustic music fans into spasms of ecstacy.  The song got even better when the electric instrumentation kicked in. Lamble's lone contribution, the acoustic ballad 'Trade Wind' was certainly pretty.  To my ears the intricate harmonies, the arrangement (and the topic), bore more than a passing resemblance to Crosby, Stills and Nash.  Very pretty.  Easy to see why Al Stewart was interested in having Lamble join his band. 

Shortly after the recordings sessions a personnel shake-up saw original guitarist Nico Ramsden replaced by Rubenstein and Mick Barakan (aka Shane Fonayne).
1. What Is Happening? - 5:20 
2. I Am A Stranger To My Life - 4:47
3. Come Fair One - 5:54
4. Baby I Can Hear You Calling Me - 5:20 
5. Trade Wind (Robin Lamble) - 2:56
6. Into The Country - 4:12
7. Lady Friend - 4:39
8. Why Or Maybe It's Because (Chas Jankel) - 10:14
All compositions by Jamie Rubenstein except where indicated

*Robin Lamble - Vocals, Bass, Violin
*Chas Jankel - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
*Nico Ramsden - Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Organ, Steel Guitar, Percussion
*Stephen Corduner - Drums, Percussion
*Jamie Rubinstein - Guitar
*Alan Skidmore - Tenor Saxophone
*Frank Riccotti - Timpani
*Derek Wadsworth - Brass
*Roy Young's Brass Section - Brass

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Shaun Harris - Shaun Harris (1973 us, remarkable orchestrated sunny folk, 2005 remaster)

Though best known for his stint as bassist with the legendary psychedelic outfit West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Shaun Harris also cut a cult-classic solo LP for Capitol in 1973. Born in Colorado Springs, CO, in 1946, Harris was the oldest son of symphonic composer Roy Harris; the family relocated to Los Angeles in 1962, and a year later Shaun and his younger brother Danny joined the Kim Fowley-produced rock combo the Snowmen. While attending Hollywood Professional School, the Harris brothers befriended Michael Lloyd, leader of rival band the Rogues; Shaun eventually assumed bass duties in the Rogues, and in 1965 he also recorded a solo single, "Wanted: Dead or Alive," for Fowley's Living Legend label. With recording equipment borrowed from their father, the Harris brothers and Lloyd next began cutting the demos that would ultimately comprise the first WCPAEB album (later issued on Fifo); with the addition of Svengali Bob Markley and drummer John Ware, the group began regularly appearing on the Sunset Strip club circuit, eventually signing to Reprise and releasing a series of underground psychedelic classics.

In 1968 Harris briefly left WCPAEB to tour and record with his band the California Spectrum; after the 1970 LP Markley, a Group, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band split for good, and the following year Harris signed a solo deal with Verve, recording under the alias Brigadune. The lone Brigadune single, "I'll Cry Out from My Grave (God I'm Sorry)," is a minor classic, documenting the sunshine pop sound at its most mordant -- as of this writing, it's most easily found on the excellent Soft Sounds for Gentle People compilation. In 1973 Harris signed to Capitol, issuing a self-titled LP boasting a country-rock sound unlike any of his previous efforts. Despite contributions from Beach Boy Bruce Johnston along with session aces Jim Gordon and Larry Knetchel, the record hit stores the exact same day as another Capitol release, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, and quickly fell off the label's radar. Harris subsequently reunited with Michael Lloyd and brother Danny on a handful of little-remembered projects like the Grand Concourse and Rockit, also serving for a time as president of Barry Manilow's publishing company before retiring to Oregon and writing a play based on his life. The British reissue imprint Rev-Ola resurrected Shaun Harris on CD in the fall of 2005. 

Light years removed from the expansive psychedelia of his work with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Shaun Harris' lone solo LP remains a compelling curio of the singer/songwriter boom of the early '70s -- while its lush country-pop sensibility sits squarely in the mainstream, the record's melodies and arrangements are atypically complex and its lyrics are profoundly introspective, exploring themes of melancholy, self-doubt, and even suicide with uncommon candor. Recorded with members of L.A.'s famed studio team the Wrecking Crew and featuring string arrangements by the artist's father, the esteemed symphonic composer Roy Harris, Shaun Harris captures the fear and resignation of an artist in the twilight of his career -- "Nothing to write that hasn't been written/What's the real point of livin'?" Harris asks in the record's emotional centerpiece, "Today's the Day," his most direct confrontation of the despair that spreads like cancer across otherwise slick, sun-kissed productions like "Empty Without You" and "I'll Cry Out." Harris revels in such contradictions, capturing with nuance and insight the sunset of West Coast pop's seemingly endless summer. 
by Jason Ankeny
1. Empty Without You - 2:47
2. I'll Cry Out - 3:00
3. Underachiever - 2:36
4. Color Of Your Eyes - 2:57
5. Canadian Ships - 3:53
6. Today's A Day - 3:09
7. Highest Dreams - 2:16
8. Misty Morning - 3:24
9. Love Has Gone Away - 3:07
10.Rock And Roll Idol - 2:36
11.I'll Cry Out (Mono Single Mix) - 2:58
All Music and Lyrics by Shaun Harris

*Shaun Harris - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Ben Benay - Guitar
*Hal Blaine - Drums
*Joe Foster - Synthesizer
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*John Guerin - Drums
*Dan Harris - Guitar, Vocals
*Johanna Harris - Keyboards
*Roy Harris - Orchestration
*Bruce Johnson - Vocals
*Bruce Johnston - Vocals
*Carol Kaye - Bass, Keyboards
*Larry Knechtel - Keyboards
*Michael Omartian - Keyboards
*Joe Osborn - Bass, Keyboards
*Dean Parks - Guitar
*Bob Phillips - Guitar
*Nick Robbins - Synthesizer

Related Acts
1965-67   Volume One
1967  Part One
1967  Volume Two
1968  Volume Three
1960-71  Companion
1969  Markley - A Group

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Monday, December 23, 2019

The Winkies - The Winkies (1974 canada / uk, great pub rock with some glam shades, 2013 remaster)

Of all the songwriters and performers who were thrown into the spotlight during the early to mid-'70s, yet never attained more than a modicum of mainstream success, few proved as accomplished as Phil Rambow. Author of such modern classics as "Night Out" and "Young Lust" (for Ellen Foley) and "There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" with Kirsty MacColl, Rambow himself also emerged as a major player on two of the most important underground scenes of the era: the British pub rock boom of the early to mid-'70s and near-concurrent the New York proto-punk explosion.

His group, the Winkies, meanwhile, were integral to Brian Eno's plans following his departure from Roxy Music, while the band's own recordings so expertly straddle the preoccupations of the time that it would be no exaggeration to describe them as one of '70s rock's greatest lost opportunities. They really were that good.

Canadian-born Rambow arrived in London in 1973, following stints with the New York-based band Saturday Night. Forming the Winkies with ex-Holy Rollers guitarist Guy Humphreys and the rhythm section of Brian Torrington and Mike Desmaris, his outrageous stage persona immediately attracted attention -- a pub rock band in glam rock clothing, the Winkies were everything that their compatriots on the bar scene weren't: blatant, theatrical, and flashy as hell. 

It was this which drew the interest of Eno, as he prepared to launch his first solo album, Here Come the Warm Jets onto a public which still regarded him in terms of his achievements with Roxy Music -- a conception which the album itself was not likely to disavow them of. Impressed by the Winkies' performance, he adopted them as his backing band and, in February 1974, launched out on his first (and, as it transpired, only) solo tour. The outing ended after just five shows, after Eno was rushed to the hospital suffering from a collapsed lung -- the only surviving evidence of the collaboration is a BBC radio session taped for John Peel in March 1974 and featuring distinctive versions of Eno's own "Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch" and "Baby's on Fire," plus the Peggy Lee standard "Fever."

The brevity of the union notwithstanding, the Winkies time with Eno slammed them into the limelight; by late spring, the band had signed with Chrysalis and was recording their debut album with producer Leo Lyons of Ten Years After. His bandmate Chick Churchill guested on the record, while Eno also put in an appearance on one track. Sadly, the album was never completed; instead, the Winkies began work on another set, this time with maverick Guy Stevens at the helm. The Winkies finally appeared in spring, 1975.

Unfortunately, much of the fervor surrounding the group had dissipated. The record did nothing and by early summer, the Winkies had disbanded. Desmaris soon reappeared in the Tyla Gang and Rambow cut a solo single for Chrysalis, but was soon back in New York, performing under his own name and preparing the city for the firestorms of punk which were just around the corner. Evidence of his own contributions to the movement can be found on the period compilations Bionic Gold and Live at Max's, Vol. 2. 

The Winkies were probably six months late in cutting and releasing their debut album -- six months, and one set of sessions. The news, earlier in 1974, that they were in the studio with Brian Eno was greeted with wild enthusiasm and anticipation; the collapse of those sessions, and Eno's replacement with Guy Stevens, somewhat less so. Far from the maverick icon which his posthumous reputation canonizes, Stevens' mid-1970s reputation owed more to his unreliability than his knob-twiddling skills, and it was no surprise whatsoever when The Winkies finally arrived, bearing more in common with the pre-fame Mott the Hoople (of course, Stevens' last major project) than the glorious glam pub hybrid which the band had hitherto nurtured. 

But time has done The Winkies considerably more favors than contemporary critics ever did. It does still sound like vintage Mott, but that's something to be celebrated now -- imagine if Ian Hunter and Co. had not gone off with Bowie following 1971's madcap Brain Capers album, but if Ariel Bender had joined the group regardless. The Winkies is edgy urban rock, as distinctly Dylan influenced as its role model (there's even a cover of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh"), but shot through with Philip Rambow's chiming, scything guitars and strained, emotional vocals. There're hints of the Heavy Metal Kids in the mix, and that's a grand thing as well -- side by side, their debut and The Winkies illuminate the future direction of British street rock as brightly as any other period albums you could name.

True to the pub rock template, there are occasional glances towards beery country ("North to Alaska"), and a nod towards heartland Americana (Bob Seger's "Long Song Comin'"). But the heart of The Winkies is carved out between Rambow's slow-burning "Red Dog" and Guy Humphreys' "Put Out The Light," tough blues stompers with a Stones-y grind and an enviably dissolute lurch. And then there's "Davey's Blowtorch," a Rambow cut which swaggers like the New York Dolls and caused rampant confusion in the archaeological ranks when it was selected to represent the Winkies on the Naughty Rhythms pub rock anthology. While everyone else was doing the greasy boogie shuffle, here come the Winkies sounding sexy as your sister. In a way, the mid-1970s critics were right. The Winkies isn't the album it could have been; may not be the record it should have been. But all that really means is, the band didn't trot obediently off down the path they were meant to and looked instead to their own needs and instincts. The future would thank them for their indulgence. 
by Dave Thompson
1. Trust In Dick (Guy Humphreys) - 3:38
2. Mailman It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (Bob Dylan, Ruth Roberts, Stanley Clayton, Bill Katz) - 4:10
3. Put Out The Light (Guy Humphreys) - 4:56
4. Twilight Masquerade (Philip Rambow) - 5:43
5. North To Alaska (Mike Phillips) - 2:57
6. Out On The Run (Guy Humphreys) - 4:31
7. Wild Open Spaces (Guy Humphreys) - 3:44
8. Long Song Coming (Bob Seger) - 4:12
9. Davey's Blowtorch (Philip Rambow) - 3:24
10.Red Dog (Philip Rambow) - 5:02

The Winkies
*Michael Desmarais - Drums
*Guy Humphrys - Guitars, Vocals
*Philip Rambow - Guitars, Vocals
*Brian Turrington - Banjo, Bass, Vocals 

Related Act
1976-79  Tyla Gang - Pool Hall Punks / The Complete Recordings (2016 three disc box set remaster)