Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blonde on Blonde – Contrasts (1969 uk, bright psych with fuzz guitar and progressive drops, 2010 Esoteric bonus tracks issue)

A popular support act for some of the biggest names in the underground music scene of the late 1960s, Blonde on Blonde were no shrinking violets when it came to holding their own beneath the staccato glare of the polychromatic liquid lights.

Signed to Pye Records, they released their debut Contrasts in 1969 – a collection of psychedelic proto-prog songs, with a couple of souped up cover versions thrown in for good measure.In doing so, they perfected a blend of guitars, sitars, abstract percussion, flute and the ever-faithful keyboard contingent.

‘Ride with Captain Max’ is a powerful start to Contrasts with breakneck guitars and a rhythm section playing as though the devil’s at its heels; giving way to mellow lyrical passages of acid-infused ponderings on “flying high”. This is quickly followed by the flute and sitar-charged, kaleidoscopic playground that is ‘Spinning Wheel’, a lysergic single malt distilled into a bottle of less than three minutes. And that’s just for starters.

Want more? Then the third track is a bracing version of the Incredible String Band’s ‘No Sleep Blues’. Yes, you read that right, the dreaded ISB. It seems that if you remove their tuneless whine and slapdash playing from the equation, there’s a half-decent song just screaming to be set free. But this is neither the time nor place for Incredible String Band bashing, there’s plenty of that elsewhere on HFoS. Blonde on Blonde’s rendering is hearty stuff and one of the highlights of Contrasts.

There’s also a cover version of The Beatles’ hymn of loneliness, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, on hand, substituting the orchestral accompaniment of the original for a stirring horn section. The Elizabethan-style olde-worlde psych of ‘Island on an Island’ is another notable example of the many pleasures that Contrasts has to offer.

Blonde on Blonde would jump ship to the Ember label and released two more albums of a more progressive nature, but it’s their debut that offers the most memorable moments and as such is a fine addition to the psych/proto-prog stylings that were doing the rounds as the 60s conceded defeat to the 70s.

Oh, and did I mention that the band took their name from the 1966 album of the same name by Bob Dylan? No? Ah well.
by Nick James, Head Full Of Snow
1. Ride With Captain Max (Ralph Denyer, Les Hicks, Richard Hopkins, Gareth Johnson) - 5:23
2. Spinning Wheel (Gareth Johnson) - 2:48
3. No Sleep Blues (Robin Williamson) - 3:23
4. Goodbye (John Godfrey, Barry Murray) - 2:13
5. I Need My Friend (Ralph Denyer) - 3:14
6. Mother Earth (Gareth Johnson) - 5:04
7. Eleanor Rigby (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 3:19
8. Conversationally Making the Grade (Ralph Denyer) - 4:15
9. Regency (Richard Hopkins, Gareth Johnson) - 1:58
10.Island On an Island (Gareth Johnson) - 3:03
11.Don't Be Too Long (Ralph Denyer) - 2:38
12.Jeanette Isabella (Ralph Denyer) - 3:56
13.All Day, All Night (Simon Lawrence) - 3:36
14.Country Life (John Godfrey, Barry Murray) - 3:37

Blonde On Blonde
*Gareth Johnson - Lead Guitar, Sitar, Lute, Electronic Effects
*Ralph Denyer - Vocals, Guitar
*Richard Hopkins  - Bass, Keyboards
*Les Hicks - Drums, Percussion

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  1. New, British, Esoteric remastered edition of the company is sensational, the debut album of this British formations addition, two bonuses of rare single. . Fantastic, but in an era sadly underrated album. Every fan of music from the late 60's something for everyone: afterdamp guitar, psychedelic with sitar, beatels melodies, acoustic atmospheres and folkujące typically progressive, instrumental passages.
    Music that emerged in this particular 1969 is quite rewarding subject to different considerations, in this and next year 1970, as in a lens focused all that is best in popular music.
    Blonde On Blonde LP 'Contrasts' released by Pye Records. For me, this album is perfect. One of these, which enthralled me from the first hearing, although the fact the team did not offer anything insightful. But as it is wonderfully played. In addition, clear production highlights the colors of all the recordings, although sparingly arranged, they have almost artistic richness of colors and shades. All this time is filled with the delicate, psychedelic atmosphere, so typical of contemporary British musical underground.

    From the little folk songs like 'Do not Be Too Long', and draws on the early music 'Island On An Island'. Through fragments of saturated elements of Eastern music as 'Spinning Wheel'. For heavier sounds ending, the most important piece of this fantastic album seems to be the beginning album 'Ride With Captain Max ".
    Album can be divided into three segments. Introduction and conclusion - that is dynamic, hard-rock theme with amazing guitar feats directly on the background as the perfect riff. Two sung with the accompaniment of acoustic guitar interludes. However, in the central part of the team proposed a captivating interlude in which there were Hammond organ, forming together with acute type dwugłosu electric guitar. It's all within five minutes. Truly brilliant.
    At times it just seems to me that the team creating 'Ride With Captain Max "was under the influence of the first part of' Oh Well 'Fleetwood Mac. This suggests a distribution of acoustic and electric, and their way of performing. But maybe I'm exaggerating?

  2. The debut LP group often sought inspiration for his work in folk music. These influences can be heard on several tracks included on the album. Even in that 'Island On An Island' enriched sounds of fife. But also the only sung to the accompaniment of classical guitar 'Do not Be Too Long'. In the introduction to this piosnki made the announcement coming from the speakers lotnieczego port. Also topping album beautiful, mesmerizing melodies wonderful rock ballad 'Jeanette Isabella' was created with the express fascination with the folk scene.

    Acoustic sound of 'Contrasts' even dominate.
    Even a surprising version of 'Eleanor Rigby' by The Beatles styled Spanish music. Points out, of course, flamenco guitar playing and distinctive parts of the trumpet. It is in this version actually receiving something, even though we know - the original najnormalniej eminent in the world can not be beat. But the group managed to get out of this task for a medal.

    Also intriguing and somewhat dark 'Mother Earth' is the assimilation of the troubled, acoustic atmospheres of massive inputs of Hammond organs and sharp electric guitar and full of drama, sublime singing. Here we have a clearly progressive inclinations.

    The 'Spinning Wheel' is played at a fast pace song adorned with the disturbing sounds of the sitar. It is worth noting that, instead of the usual in these circumstances, tabla, drums beat poking fun. The composition of the party enriched transverse flute.
    Perhaps not entirely successful, although admittedly sympathetic, she was processing Incredible String Band song "No Sleep Blues" - derived from the second LP '5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion '- in the interpretation of Blonde On Blonde bearing the features of country music. Lively and light verse is contrasted with a dreamy, unreal chorus.

    A very good example that can pop-psychedelic pop song was developed with the help of a harpsichord 'Goodbye'. While 'I Need My Friend' is now playing for the whole psychedelic. Excellent hard guitar overdrive and hard knock, simple rhythm plus hidden in the background sounds of the piano. It seems obvious, but the quartet has created here an interesting and gloomy atmosphere.

    I am not a connoisseur of classical music, but be prepared on the harpsichord and classical guitar 'Regency' creative inspirations can be heard by Johann Sebastian Bach.

    So it was not perhaps an innovative music, and even I would say that at times it seems that the slightly longer valid, but the spirit of everything that was in rock music has causes that have received strong and interesting material. As the punch line to add, guitarist of the band after recording 'Contrasts' went and took up the project Aquila. A group in a small, but significant change in composition yet recorded two albums, which have already released for another label 'Rebirth' of 1970 is considered by many to be the best to this quartet.

    Thanks so much, Marios!

  3. Blonde on Blonde, taking their name from the then-new Bob Dylan album of that title, were spawned in 1967 out of a Welsh blues-rock band called the Cellar Set. Gareth Johnson played the guitar, sitar, and lute, while Richard Hopkins handled the bass, piano, harpsichord, cornet, celeste, and whistle, and Les Hicks played the drums. The addition of Ralph Denyer made them into a quartet with vocals; and Simon Lawrence, an alumnus of Roy Harper's and Al Stewart's early recordings, was with them briefly, as well, on 12-string guitar. The group took part in the Middle Earth Club's Magical Mystery Tour, which brought them an initial splash of press exposure. They were also fortunate enough to open for the Jefferson Airplane on the latter group's British tour. All of this activity led to an approach by Pye Records producer Barry Murray, who got them signed to the label, and through whom they released their debut single "All Day, All Night" b/w "Country Life." Though decidedly guitar-based in their sound, the band's music also used psychedelic pop arrangements that gave it an almost orchestral majesty which, when coupled with Johnson's sitar and lute embellishments and Hopkins' harpsichord and other unusual keyboards -- with Hicks getting into the act on the tabla -- gave them an appealingly exotic sound. Their live performances were frequently divided, à la Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, into acoustic and electric sets, in order to show off their full range.

  4. Beautifull but Rebirth is the best! Thanks Marios

  5. Really digging this one, as for which is better remains to be heard. Thanks Marios for posting this.

  6. Thanks for this ESOTERIC remaster.Superb album...

  7. Ride With Captain Max is such a superb song!!!!

  8. Thanks Alot I Haven't Heard This In Years

  9. Thank you for sharing this splendid album Marios.

    Please could you make the Reflections On A Life Album available again ?

    When you click on the hyperlink, a note on the page says " Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist ".

    As always, many thanks in advance.


    Saturday 28th February 2015 22.28pm GMT

  10. Patrick see here:

  11. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction Marios.


    Sunday 1st March 2015 11.40am GMT