Sunday, June 30, 2013

Caravan - If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You (1970 uk, brilliant canterbury progressive jazz rock, SHM remaster with bonus tracks)

 'If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You' was Caravan's second album. Their self-titled first LP, for Verve (home of Bird, Ella and the Velvets, natch) had held some promise, but was underproduced and underpowered: some great songs ('Place Of My Own', 'Love Song With Flute') and a lot of filler*.

A move to Decca two years later brought a much more assured and distinctive sound, however. Indeed, this record perfectly bridges that awkward gap between psych and prog, being every bit as much of a muso-fest as their more illustrious (and dull) Melody Maker poll winning rivals could boast, but - and it's a big but - full of good, old fashioned, acid-fuelled SONGS WITH TUNES. And what tunes. I wanna elect Pye Hastings as the great lost English songsmith of our time. But I digress.

The title track starts proceedings. And a catchier little ditty is impossible to find. One of those songs where one hearing alone lodges itself into your brain for life. I bet there are people out there who may have heard that 'Who - do - you - think you are - do - you - think you are' refrain on Top Gear or similar back in 1970, have never heard it since, and could sing it from memory even now.

It's got a well-weird time signature a la the grossest excesses of Messrs Emerson and Greenslade (and a keyboard solo likewise) but, like the best Canterbury tunes, you can't fail to move to it. In an ideal world this would have knocked Mungo Jerry and the sodding Archies into the remainder bins straight away, and would be a perennial feelgood oldie 45. It was a single, by the way. It sold, by my conservative estimate, two copies.

Then things move up...nah, they rocket ten miles high. 'And I Wish I Were Stoned' is a cracking example of the aforementioned songwriting genius. On first impressions, a simple, repeating upward verse (sung in the rustic tenor of Richard Sinclair) with a corresponding decending chorus (sung in the charmingly strained alto of the mighty Pye), it follows the first song in avoiding 4/4 altogether, not so's you'd notice though. Okay, this one might take TWO hearings this time, but then I'd defy you to not be singing it the next morning.

The only thing that might stop you is the fact that the segued 'Don't Worry' that follows is THE MOST WONDERFUL TUNE EVER WRITTEN IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. Well, since Schubert's Rosamunde Overture anyway. There is no justice in this world that this perfect song hasn't been covered a hundred times since and earned its composers a fortune. Just hear it, please. The two tracks together constitute the best eight minutes of psych-tinged rock that my stylus has ever ploughed.

After such an early peak, things have to go downhill, but not far. A phased, stereo-panned drum sequence leads into the deadly slow 'As I Feel I Die' where "everything's going a slight shade of purple" and the downers take hold. Not for long though. Another fatally catchy (and blatantly jazz-based) riff forms the basis of the remainder of the song, and, as on every track before and after, Dave Sinclair takes over with an organ solo that tells Ray Manzarek the news.

And the side ends with the 'With An Ear To The Ground You Can Make It' sequence, another blisteringly tuneful epic with the best keyboard sequence of the whole album three minutes in. The slower, flute-accompanied reprise of the main tune is pure delight, before the piece ends with what sounds like Rick Wright falling asleep at Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert.

Side Two starts with two short, nice-but-inessential tracks in 'Hello Hello' and 'Asforteri', the former being the better of the two and Richard Sinclair's only real vocal spotlight on the album (he was to have a much greater showcase on the excellent 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink' album twelve months later). But his name is immortalised on the longest and most famous (in Caravan and Canterbury terms, you understand) track on the record that comes next. 'For Richard' starts slowly, quietly, and menacingly, not a million miles away from the Floyd's 'Careful With That Axe, Eugene' epic on 'Ummagumma', but with another otherwise tender, melodic vocal with flute obligato.

Then, like 'Eugene', the intensity slowly increases, until, 3'40" in, comes...THE RIFF. And here, more than at any point on the record, Caravan rocks. The track palls a little as the solos progress (and god, do they progress) but comes to life again in the guitar-driven coda that emerges after ten minutes or so. The album ends with the pointless half-song that is 'Limits'. Never mind.

The 14 minutes that comprise 'For Richard' have become the staple of every Caravan live set to this day, but that track is a muso-fest only as far as I'm concerned. The real meat and two veg of Caravan's second album is the almost faultless sequence of SONGS that comprise Side One, essential listening for anyone with an interest in the latter days of sixties drugrock.
by Fitter Stoke
1. If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You - 3:07
2. And I Wish I Were Stoned - Don't Worry - 8:21
3. As I Feel I Die - 5:17
4. With An Ear To The Ground You Can Make It / Martinian / Only Cox / Reprise - 9:56
5. Hello Hello - 3:46
6. Asforteri 25 - 1:21
7. Can't Be Long Now / Francoise / For Richard / Warlock - 14:18
8. Limits - 1:34
9. A Day In The Life Of Maurice Haylett - 5:40
10.Why? - And I Wish I Were Stoned - 4:22
11.Clipping The 8th - Hello Hello - 3:13
12.As I Feel I Die - 4:39
All songs by Richard Coughlan, Pye Hastings, Richard Sinclair and Dave Sinclair.

*Richard Coughlan - Drums, Congas, Bongos, Maracas, Finger Cymbals
*Pye Hastings - Vocals, Guitars, Claves
*David Sinclair - Keyboards
*Richard Sinclair - Vocals, Bass, Tambourine
*Brother James - Sax, Flute

1968  Caravan (japan SHM-CD remaster)

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Child - Child (1968 us, stunning heavy psych, 2001 edition)

 Short lived band released this one and only album in the late sixties. The sound is close to Vanilla Fudge heavy psych with floods of organ tight rhythm section and dramatically vocals.
1 Hold On I'm Coming (David Porter, Isaac Hayes) - 5:05
2 Little Light (Mike Lewis) - 3:52
3 Aunt Millie (The Child) - 3:15
4 You'll Never Walk Alone (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein) - 3:15
5 Soft Rocks (The Child) - 4:05
6 Exodus (Ernest Gold, Pat Boone) - 4:30
7 A Child Begins to Cry (The Child) - 3:37
8 Ol' Man River (O. Hammerstein, Jerome Kern) - 6:34

*Teddy Graybill - Lead Vocals
*Paul Alagna - Lead Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*Frances "Chick" Rizzo - Bass
*Thomas "Tommy" Cruz - Drums, Percussion
*Joseph "Joey" Merone - Organ, Piano, Chimes

Friday, June 28, 2013

Love - Love (1966 us, amazing garage acid psych folk rock, remaster and expanded)

 One of the best West Coast folk-rock/psychedelic bands, Love may have also been the first widely acclaimed cult/underground group. During their brief heyday -- lasting all of three albums -- they drew from Byrds-ish folk-rock, Stones-ish hard rock, blues, jazz, flamenco, and even light orchestral pop to create a heady stew of their own.

They were also one of the first integrated rock groups, led by genius singer/songwriter Arthur Lee, one of the most idiosyncratic and enigmatic talents of the '60s. Stars in their native Los Angeles and an early inspiration to the Doors, they perversely refused to tour until well past their peak. This ensured their failure to land a hit single or album, though in truth the band's vision may have been too elusive to attract mass success anyway.

Love was formed by Lee in the mid-'60s in Los Angeles. Although only 20 at the time, Lee had already scuffled around the fringes of the rock and soul business for a couple of years. In addition to recording some flop singles with his own bands, he wrote and produced a single for Rosa Lee Brooks that Jimi Hendrix played on as session guitarist. Originally calling his outfit the Grass Roots, Lee changed the name to Love after another Los Angeles group called the Grass Roots began recording for Dunhill. Love's repertoire would be largely penned by Lee, with a few contributions by guitarist Bryan MacLean.

Inspired by British Invasion bands and local peers the Byrds, Love built up a strong following in hip L.A. clubs. Soon they were signed by Elektra, the noted folk label that was just starting to get its feet wet in rock (it had recorded material by early versions of the Byrds and the Lovin' Spoonful, and had just released the first LP by Paul Butterfield). Their self-titled debut album (1966) introduced their marriage of the Byrds and the Stones on a set of mostly original material and contained a small hit, their punk-ish adaptation of Bacharach/David's "My Little Red Book."
by Richie Unterberger
1. My Little Red Book (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) - 2:41
2. Can't Explain (Lee, John Echols, John Fleckenstein) - 3:15
3. A Message To Pretty - 2:09
4. My Flash On You - 2:53
5. Softly To Me (Bryan MacLean) - 2:47
6. No Matter What You Do - 2:07
7. Emotions (Lee, John Echols) - 2:27
8. You I'll Be Following - 2:43
9. Gazing - 2:43
10.Hey Joe (Billy Roberts) - 2:49
11.Signed D.C. - 2:00
12.Colored Balls Falling - 2:41
13.Mushroom Clouds (Lee, John Echols, Ken Forssi, Bryan MacLean) - 3:04
14.And More (Lee, Bryan MacLean) - 2:33
15.My Little Red Book (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) - 2:41
16.Can't Explain (Lee, John Echols, John Fleckenstein) - 3:14
17.A Message To Pretty - 2:10
18.My Flash On You - 2:58 
19.Softly On Me (Bryan MacLean) - 2:47
20.No Matter What You Do - 2:02
21.Emotions (Lee, John Echols) - 2:26
22.You'll Be Following - 2:26
23.Gazing - 2:42 
24.Hey Joe (Billy Roberts) - 2:42
25.Signed D.C. - 2:47
26.Colored Balls Falling - 1:56
27.Mushroom Clouds (Lee, John Echols, Ken Forssi, Bryan MacLean) - 2:26
28.And More (Lee, Bryan MacLean) - 3:05 
29.Number 14 - 1:47 
30.Signed D.C. (Alternate Version, Previously Unissued) - 2:50
All songs by Artur Lee unless as else written.
Tracks 1-14 Mono Mix
Tracks 15-28 Stereo Mix
Bonus Tracks 29-30

*Arthur Lee - Guitar, Vocals, Producer
*John Echols - Guitar
*Ken Forssi - Bass
*Bryan MacLean - Guitar, Vocals
*Alban Pfisterer - Drums

related Act
1966-82  Bryan MacLean - Ifyoubelievein

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rory Gallagher - Irish Tour (1974 ireland, excellent classic live blues rock, 2018 remaster)

 Perfectly capturing the live connection between the audience and performer, ‘Irish Tour’ is not the only one of Rory Gallagher’s best loved albums but is surely one of his greatest live albums ever released. Recorded in 1973 at Belfast’s Ulster Hall, Dublin’s Carlton Cinema and Cork’s City Hall the album shows Rory putting in performances of awe inspiring power, that after 30 plus years still make you yearn to be there, in the audience.
In 1974 the ‘troubles’, as they were known, were tearing Northern Ireland apart. Most artists refused to play Belfast, concerned about the all too frequent violence that could erupt. Rory was one of the few performers who could bring both sides together, unifying the crowd through his music. A recent article in a Belfast daily newspaper stated “Rory Gallagher never forgot Northern Ireland, he returned throughout the 70’s when few other artists of his caliber dared not come near the place”.
The tour was filmed by Tony Palmer, first envisaged as a TV film, it soon became clear Palmer had a movie with mass appeal. When released in 1974 the film played extensively in the U.K. then spread to Europe, eventually touring along side Rory in America.
The songs featured on ‘Irish Tour’ are mainly chosen from Rory’s previous releases. However the album does feature some cover versions of songs by artists such as J.B. Hutto, Tony Joe White and Muddy Waters, who Rory had worked with previously that year. The band live-up for the tour consisted of Rod De’Ath (drums) Lou Martin (keyboards) and Gerry McAvoy (bass).
Rory was renowned as a live performer, anyone who saw him play or who’d brought the 1972 ‘Live In Europe’ album knew his reputation was justified. He enjoyed success with his previous five releases, constant touring and plaudits from the press. On ‘Irish Tour’ the maturity forged by his musical development and the belief in his own abilities is palpable. Each member of the band shared the passion and understanding for the music they played, anticipating Rory’s mood and flow perfectly.
Throughout ‘Irish Tour’ the guitar tome is outstanding, colourful and hard-hitting, while maintaining a controlled sensitivity. Rory constantly demonstrates his incredible guitar technique. It’s worth mentioning his skilful backing chord work, volume control and his switching of tone, which deepen the musical expression of the album.
by Shu Tomioka
1. Cradle Rock (Rory Gallagher) - 7:38
2. I Wonder Who (Morganfield) - 7:52
3. Tattoo'd Lady (Rory Gallagher) - 5:04
4. Too Much Alcohol (J. B. Hutto) - 8:30
5. As The Crow Flies (Tony Joe White) - 6:02
6. Million Miles Away (Rory Gallagher) - 9:29
7. Walk on Hot Coals (Rory Gallagher) - 11:13
8. Who's That Coming? (Rory Gallagher) - 10:05
9. Back on My Stompin' Ground (After Hours) (Rory Gallagher) - 5:18
10.Maritime (Rory Gallagher) - 0:33

*Rory Gallagher - Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*Gerry McAvoy - Bass Guitar
*Lou Martin - Keyboards
*Rod de'Ath - Drums, Percussion
1971  Rory Gallagher (Japan Mini Lp replica)
1971  Deuce (Japan Mini Lp replica)
1972  Live In Europe
1973  Blueprint (Japan Mini Lp replica)
1973  Tattoo (2012 promo copy, high audio quality)
with Taste
1970  On The Boards (Japan SHM edition)

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chicken Shack - Accept (1970 uk, splendid blues rock, 2005 japan remaster and expanded)

 Chicken Shack was the product of eccentric guitarist Stan Webb, vetera of several R 'n' B outfits including the Blue 4, Sound Five and The Shades Of Blue. The latter active between 1964 and 1965 included Webb, Christin Perfect (Piano, Vocals) and Andy Silvester (Bass), as well the future Traffic saxophonost Chris Wood. Webb and Silvester formed the core of the original Chicken Shack, who enjoyed a lond residency at Hamburg's famed Star Club before returning to England in 1967.

Perfect then rejoined the line-up which was augmented by several drummers until the arrival of Londoner Dave Bidwell. Producer Mike Vernon then signed the quartet to his Blue Horizon Records label.

 Their fourth and last album with Blue Horizon, and the last with Paul Raymond, Andy Silvester and Dave Bidwell was Accept, released in July 1970. It certainly showed a further marked change in style, probably reflecting the fact that quite a few of the tracks were joint Webb/Raymond compositions.  Interestingly Blue Horizon publicity material for Accept ran the slogan "If you think Chicken Shack just plays the blues you haven't been paying attention."
1. Diary Of Your Life - 3:06
2. Pocket (S. Webb, P. Raymond) - 3:24
3. Never Ever (S. Webb, P. Raymond) - 2:43
4. Sad Clown (S. Webb, P. Raymond) - 2:44
5. Maudie (S. Webb, P. Raymond) - 2:53
6. Telling Your Fortune - 4:25
7. Tired Eyes - 2:11
8. Some Other Time - 3:04
9. Going Round (S. Webb, P. Raymond) - 2:36
10.Andalucian Blues (S. Webb, P. Raymond) - 2:19
11.You Know You Did You Did - 6:32
12.She Didn t Use Her Loaf (S. Webb, P. Raymond) - 4:07
13.Apple Tart - 3:08
14.Hideaway (Instrumental, Bonus Track) (F. King, S. Thompson) - 5:07
All material written by Stan Webb except where indicated

Chicken Shack
*Stan Webb – Guitar, Vocals
*Paul Raymond – Keyboards, Vocals
*Andy Sylvester – Bass Guitar
*Dave Bidwell – Drums
Chicken Shack
1968  40 Blue Fingers, Freshly Packed And Ready To Serve
1972  Imagination Lady
1974  Go Live "Goodbye Chicken Shack" 

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Ashra - Blackouts (1978 germany, inspiring progressive experimental space rock)

 Right from the beginning of Track One 77 Slightly Delayed you just know that this is going to be something special, Manuel wastes no time in setting up a great syncopated backing. Then the guitar comes in - and what guitar! Clean, precise and wonderfully effected. OK, yes I am a fan and have been for over twenty years. So its a joy to pull this album from the shelves in order to write this review.
Manuel manages to mesh his rhythm and lead playing so well, the rhythm being one of those classic and perfect sounds. This isn't one of those guitar improv work-outs, the listener is left in no doubt that Manuel meant to play every note he played.
Track Two Midnight On Mars, ah - my favourite ASHRA track EVER. It's "Midnight on Mars" and I'm there right alongside him. Again Manuel sets up the lead line perfectly with his mix of synths, drum machine (wasn't it the classic EKO Rhythm Computer?) and wicked guitar. This particular melody has lived in my brain since the first moment I heard it, twenty plus years ago. In fact, everyone.  I've ever played this track to has commented on it. Manuel should be praised for creating one of the most sublime guitar moments ever to be recorded. I think I'm gushing here. Still what the hell, this track is worth it.
Track Three Don’t Trust The Kids isn't letting up, a bass sequence brings in the piece. This is soon joined by subtle percussion and a very well-crafted rhythm guitar. Manuel certainly gets an amazing rhythmic feel. The lead line isn't far behind, this time two guitars playing in harmony. I've never been really sure whether or not that's a guitar synth. It's the right time for the early Roland GR500 and I believe Edgar Froese was using one at about this time as well.
The lead is given over to a nicely distorting guitar, again Manuel really means every note he's playing. A superb bit of programming moves the whole piece into double-time, and Track Four Blackouts. He isn't even breaking into a sweat, this is fantastic guitar.
Track Five Shuttle Cock again shows off the rhythm playing and what a groove he sets up. The piece just lopes along with some great interplay between the guitars and the sequencers.
Track Six Lotus Part I-IV continues the lesson in setting up a groove, Manuel actually gets a bit discordant here for a while before pulling it all back for the typical ASHRA sound, namely babbling sequencers, the minimum of percussion and smartly effected arpeggios. This track shows his ability to generate a flowing piece of music that takes the listener with it, wherever the end of the journey may be.
The Bottom Line: Buy it, buy it, buy it. Couldn't be clearer really, could it? Beware there is a subliminal message hidden in that last sentence.
The wording on the old LP sums it up quite nicely really, "Manuel Göttsching plays Sequencer, Keyboards and a lot of Guitar". He sure does.
by Andy Bloyce
1. 77 Slightly Delayed - 6:40
2. Midnight On Mars - 6:51
3. Don't Trust The Kids - 3:16
4. Blackouts - 4:38
5. Shuttle Cock - 8:27
6. Lotus-Part I - IV - 17:05
All compositions by Manuel Göttsching.

*Manuel Göttsching - Guitar, Keyboards, Sequencer

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Victoria - Victoria (1971 us, great west coast psych, 2005 reissue)

 Though initially recorded in the late '60s and early '70s, the tracks that make up Victoria's sole release didn't see wide release until nearly 30 years later, seeing a further re-release on Shadoks in 2005.
Consisting of a small limited-edition album and a variety of further cuts from tape and acetate, Victoria's appeal lies perhaps most in the sextet's ability to get a lot out of limited resources.
Opening cut "Peace" is almost surprisingly lush and detailed, triumphant brass parts mixing in with the exultant rock & roll from the band.
From there the 15 songs on the CD wend their way, ranging from gentle contemplation to fuller-bodied affairs, less fried psychedelia than the kind of widescreen pop that coexisted with it.
The exact lineup of the band is unclear -- only four people are credited, not all of whom appear to have performed at the same time -- but one Greg Ruban was the core songwriter and arranger, and it's his ability to capture his band surprisingly well that ensures Victoria is more than simply a rare curio.
In ways he simply reflects his time -- "Gevaro" sounds like a lost cut by contemporary Santana, while the proto-prog of "Village of Etaf (Prelude and Overture)" goes on a touch too long in the end.
Throughout, singers Maureen Deidelbaum, Cherryl Simpson, and Sharon Barton -- or some combination of them -- acquit themselves well enough. One of their best efforts is one of the quietly wittiest -- "Never Knew Blues," the title of which is both somewhat descriptive (the descending blues influence is mostly heard in the verses) and an apt section of lyric.
Intriguingly, some of the best tunes never made the original LP release -- "Mister Let Me Go" is a lovely piano-led country song a la the Band, while the autoharp-led "Wheels" feels almost like a cousin to the third Velvet Underground album thanks to the murky rhythm section and steady rumbling pace
by Ned Raggett
1. Peace - 2:44
2. Cumberland - 4:41
3. Gevaro - 4:11
4. Ride a Rainbow - 2:50
5. Never Knew Blues - 4:58
6. Down to the Park (Earth Day Park) - 2:57
7. Village of Etaf (Prelude and Overture) - 12:23
8. Core of the Apple - 8:09
9. Mister Let Me Go - 3:37
10.Johny and Lisa - 3:02
11.Peace - 2:52
12.Cumberland - 2:51
13.Child of Princess - 3:07
14.Sundance - 1:46
15.Wheels - 2:02

*Greg Ruban
*Maureen Deidelbaum
*Cherryl Simpson
*Sharon Barton

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Focus - Focus III (1972 holland, extraordinary experimental prog rock with folk shades, japan mini lp release)

 Riding on the success of their hit single "Hocus Pocus" from the revolutionary Moving Waves album, Focus got to work on this, their third LP in four years. While the debut album featured a style not too dissimilar to the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Focus' second LP, Moving Waves, was purely instrumental and wholly serious-minded.

Focus III kept this same sound, but approached it with a jollier, more accessible tone. As with its predecessor, Focus III featured only one tune that would have a chance of being a hit single. The enjoyable rhythm of "Sylvia," partnered with Jan Akkerman's victorious guitar solo, some of Van Leer's finest organ work, Bert Ruiter's tight basslines, and Pierre Van Der Linden's mellow drumming, assured the track classic status. "Sylvia" found worldwide success and gained the band valuable radio and press exposure.

The song remains one of the most loved and best remembered songs from Focus' catalog. The consistency in musical quality throughout Focus III is enough to merit any listeners' respect. To be frank, this LP has it all: diverse songs, astounding musicianship, one of the finest singles ever released -- Focus III should unquestionably be ranked alongside the likes of Revolver, Dark Side of the Moon, and any others of rock's greatest.
by Ben Davies
1. Round Goes The Gossip..(Virgil AENEIDOS LIBER IV) (Thijs Van Leer)  - 5:16
2. Love Remembered (Jan Akkerman) - 2:49
3. Sylvia (Van Leer) - 3:32
4. Carnival Fugue (Van Leer) - 6:02
5. Focus III (Van Leer) - 6:07
6. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (Akkerman, Bert Ruiter) - 14:03
7. Anonymus II (Part 1) (Van Leer, Akkerman, Ruiter, Pierre Van Der Linden) - 19:28
8. Anonymus II (Conclusion) (Van Leer, Akkerman, Ruiter, Van Der Linden) - 7:30
9. Elspeth Of Nottingham (Akkerman) - 3:15
10.House Of The King (Akkerman) - 2:23

*Thijs Van Leer – Vocals, Piano, Organ, Alto Flute Piccolo, Harpsichord
*Jan Akkerman – Electric, Acoustic Guitar
*Bert Ruiter – Bass Guitar
*Pierre Van Der Linden – Drums

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Marsupilami - Marsupilami (1970 uk, magnificent progressive rock, 2008 Eosteric remaster)


The band Marsupliami borrowed its name from the Belgian cartoonist André Franquin who created this comic character in 1952. Marsupilami was a cross between a monkey and a cat, yellow with black spots; cute, resourceful and anti-authority. Perhaps not an obvious choice, but the progenitors of the group, the Hasson brothers Fred (Vocals and Harmonica) and Leary (Organ), with their Anglo-French upbringing, had grown up with comic characters like Tin-Tin and Les Pieds Nicklés. Pre-empting Prince by several decades, the idea was to use the symbol rather than the name. When Transatlantic Record boss, Nat Joseph, wrote to seek permission, he neglected to mention this and so clearance was given for the name only. At that point a name change was suggested, but Nat Joseph said the name was cool and so it remained.
The idea for Marsupilami began in 1968 following a tour of Southern Spain, organised by Leary for his school r&b band, 'Levitation.' At the last minute Fred, who had sung in the school choir, was drafted in as a replacement for the absent lead singer. Returning to the UK the band secured a gig in its home town metropolis of Taunton, backing the Joe Cocker Band. Fred and Leary were completely smitten with what playing live offered but none of the other members of Levitation could make the commitment. The band had to reform going through numerous iterations, including a short period when a bassoon was featured.
The eventual line up for this eponymous first album was largely recruited through poaching musicians from local bands. The rhythm section of Mike Fouracre (drums) and Ricky Hicks (bass guitar) came from local blues outfit Justin's Timepiece and Dave Laverock (guitar) came from a semi-pro band, the Sabres. Leary's flute playing, art student girlfriend, Jessica Stanley Clarke (now Jecka McVicar, Britain's foremost organic herb grower) completed the line up.
Marsupilami were popular on the Continent and especially at Paradiso in Amsterdam and the AMVJ in Rotterdam. The band also appeared at the 1970 Hamburg Easter Festival alongside Alexis Corner, Chicken Shack and Renaissance. Waiting all day to play, the band finally went on at 5 a.m, only to have the plug pulled by the riot police 30 minutes into the set. This debacle guaranteed the band the first slot the next day - they brought the house down with the only music not written by them, a jam session of Spoonful - the finale of every Marsupilami set.
This first Marsupilami album (originally released at Transatlantic TRA 213) was recorded in June 1969 at the Sound Techniques Recording Studios, just off London's King's Road, and released in April 1970. The studio, which was converted from an old dairy and now replaced by flats, was just being fitted out with some new gizmo's called Dolby's. It is famous for the rosta of artists
recorded there by Joe Boyd: Nick Drake, Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention but Joe was reputedly not enamoured with the Marsupilami sound. The engineer was John Wood.
All five tracks were done in a handful of takes, virtually live. The music is really unique and distinctive; hard to categorise and never emulated. There are more sublime melodies packed into a single track than most bands of the period muster in an entire album. Time sequence changes, stylistic shifts and ruptures of mood follow one another: passages move from light jazzy ensembles, driving guitar and organ rock pumped up by the rhythm section, to slow ethereal dream sequences featuring flute, organ and chanting.
The content of the album can only be described as apocalyptic, even misanthropic at times and the titles penned by Dave (Facilis Descensus Averni [It's easy to go to Hell!] and The eagle chased the dove to its ruin) contain some especially gloomy lyrics to accompany the affecting guitar. The only instrumental on the album, Leary's Ab Initio ad Finem is a musical interpretation of an Old Testament style sermon, recounting man's demise through a recent cataclysm.
1. Dorian Deep - 7:34
2. Born To Be Free - 5:42
3. And The Eagle Chased The Dove To Its Ruin - 6:36
4. Ab Initio Ad Finem (The Opera) - 10:48
5. Facilis Descencus Averni - 9:34

*Mike Fouracre - Drums
*Fred Hasson - Vocals, Harmonica
*Leary Hasson - Keyboards
*Richard Lathan Hicks - Bass
*Dave Laverock - Guitar
*Jessica Stanley Clarke - Flute, Vocals

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sea Level - Cats On The Coast (1977 us, bright jazz fusion with southern flavor)

The cover photo of Sea Level's sophomore album, 1977's Cats on the Coast, depicts nearly twice the number of musicians as the cover photo of the band's eponymous debut album released earlier that same year. There's a lot of promise on display, and the music largely fulfills expectations.

In addition to the quartet introduced on Sea Level -- keyboardist/vocalist Chuck Leavell, drummer/percussionist Jaimoe, bassist Lamar Williams, and guitarist Jimmy Nalls -- the band now includes singer/songwriter and saxophonist Randall Bramblett, guitarist Davis Causey, and drummer George Weaver (the latter featured prominently since Jaimoe only plays congas, and only on three tracks).

This lineup bears remarkable similarity to the then-disbanded Allman Brothers, from whom Leavell, Jaimoe, and Williams had departed: two guitarists, two percussionists (well, sometimes), a bassist, a keyboardist -- and, importantly, Bramblett, a proven session man, saxophonist, and singer/songwriter with two acclaimed but underappreciated solo albums (1975's That Other Mile and 1976's Light of the Night) under his belt. Cats on the Coast wastes no time introducing the new singer with the Bramblett/Causey co-written leadoff track "That's Your Secret," building from pure Southern R&B/soul/funk into dual-guitar fireworks (Causey in one channel; Nalls in the other) that any Southern rock fan could appreciate.

Bramblett's somewhat oblique lyrics may lack the emotional immediacy his writing often possesses, but Sea Level clearly weren't about to introduce the singer with anything remotely approaching a downer ("This Could Be the Worst" could wait for the next album, On the Edge).

Leavell takes over the mike on the soul shouter "It Hurts to Want It So Bad," featuring the Muscle Shoals Horns, and Bramblett and Leavell trade off verses on the down-n-dirty Louisiana swamp blues-funk of "Had to Fall," which collapses into utterly unhinged howling derangement at the end. The mood is far calmer in "Every Little Thing," Bramblett's "let's-talk-it-over" display of sensitivity later in the track list. But Sea Level's instrumental skill was the main attraction on the debut, and here they arguably up the ante.

Leavell's "Storm Warning" stands with his best jazz-rock fusion numbers, but with stinging dual lead guitars the likes of which hadn't emerged from a Capricorn studio date since the Allmans left their blues at home on Idlewild South. Bramblett's soprano sax here, and his soulful alto on Neil Larsen's "Midnight Pass," add even stronger jazziness to the band's palette. Best of all is the two-part instrumental title track, with Nalls' slide approaching Duane Allman territory and Bramblett's soprano answering him in a stunning call and response; after a full-band climax, Jaimoe and Weaver take the track out under a flurry of simulated seagull cries.

The album then concludes with the brief "Song for Amy," a lovely and unexpected coda featuring Leavell on piano accompanied by a string quartet. Some great music from Sea Level was still to come, but the best moments of Cats on the Coast wouldn't be topped.
by Dave Lynch
1. That's Your Secret (Randall Bramblett, Davis Causey) - 5:15
2. It Hurts To Want It So Bad (Charles Feldman, Tim Smith, Steve Smith) - 3:38
3. Storm Warning (Chuck Leavell) - 5:23
4. Had To Fall (Randall Bramblett, Jimmy Nalls, Lamar Williams) - 4:35
5. Midnight Pass (Neil Larson) - 6:30
6. Every Little Thing (Randall Bramblett) - 4:40
7. Cats On The Coast (Davis Causey) - 5:38
8. Song For Amy (Chuck Leavell) - 1:40

Sea Level
*Randall Bramblett - Organ, Alto, Soprano Sax. Vocals, Percussion
*Davis Causey - Guitar, Vocals
*Jai Johanny Johanson - Congas
*Chuck Leavell - Piano, Organ, Electric Piano, Arp Odyssey, Clavinet, Percussion, Vocals
*Jimmy Nalls - Guitar, Background Vocals
*George Weaver - Drums
*Lamar Williams - Bass

1977  Sea Level

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sea Level - Sea Level (1977 us, classy southern rock jammed with funky jazz tones)

 Keyboardist Chuck Leavell formed the Sea Level quartet in 1976 in the aftermath of the Allman Brothers' first breakup of their post-Duane Allman years, and since two other Sea Level members had also been in the Allmans -- bassist Lamar Williams and original Allmans drummer Jaimoe -- it was tempting to regard the band as an Allman Brothers spinoff, but that wasn't exactly the full story.

Jaimoe and Williams had played together before the Allmans formed, and Sea Level guitarist Jimmy Nalls had been part of Alex Taylor's band -- which also included Leavell -- before both Leavell and Williams had joined the Allmans in the wake of the deaths of Duane and original Allmans bassist Berry Oakley, so the four musicians of Sea Level might be seen as simpatico even outside the Allman Brothers narrative. Of course, the Allmans sound was a major touchstone for Sea Level; certainly, Leavell's pianism had reached its largest audience ever with his solo break on "Jessica," and he would bring similar stylings to his quartet's 1977 eponymous debut album. But Sea Level didn't need to stand in the shadow of any other group, as the debut made clear.

The opening track, the Leavell-penned "Rain in Spain," is as driving and melodic as any Allman Brothers instrumental but also possesses a jazzy harmonic sophistication beyond what the Allmans might have attempted in the lead-in to their first breakup, and the same goes for other instrumental tracks like Leavell's "Tidal Wave," the Neil Larsen composition "Grand Larceny," and certainly the moody, sensitive read of Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair." Leavell also wrote the swampy, funky "Nothing Matters But the Fever," with wah-wah slide guitar from Nalls, woozy, disorienting effects on the piano, and a fine vocal turn from Leavell as well, a bluesy cry from the soul that never crosses the line into histrionics.

Another pleasure of this album derives from Jaimoe's role as sole drummer/percussionist; for those who had only heard him as half of the Allman Brothers' powerful drum tandem with Butch Trucks, his inventiveness, drawing from jazz, blues, rock, soul, and funk idioms, stood out on Sea Level in a way that was revelatory for many listeners. Sea Level was a fine debut from a killer quartet, and with the addition of singer/songwriter and saxophonist Randall Bramblett, guitarist Davis Causey, and drummer George Weaver to the lineup for the recording of the sophomore album Cats on the Coast, it did not seem unreasonable to surmise that this band's future possibilities were nearly without limits.
by Dave Lynch
1. The Rain In Spain 6:47
2. Shake A Leg (Edward Hoerner) 3:53
3. Tidal Wave 5:40
4. Country Fool 3:39
5. Nothing Matters But The Fever 7:20
6. Grand Larceny (Neil Larsen) 5:22
7. Scarborough Fair (P. Simon, A.  Garfunkel) 5:32
8. Just A Good Feeling 3:01
All Songs written by Chuck Leavell except where noted.

Sea Level
*Chuck Leavell - Keyboards, Lead Vocals
*Jimmy Nalls - Guitars, Vocals
*Lamar Williams - Bass, Vocals
*Jai Johanny Johanson - Drums, Percussion
*Rudolf Carter, Charles Fairley, Earl Ford - Horns
*Leo LaBranche, Donald McClure - Horns

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Matt Taylor - Straight As A Die (1973 aussie, debut solo album, excellent blues rock)

 Matt had been writing songs with an environmental theme so when he heard of Fred Robinson, he became interested in alternative lifestyles. Fairly soon Matt was living on a commune near Beechworth Victoria growing his own food and baking his own bread. After 9 months Matt decided to fast. He lasted 2 weeks on just water. A few days later with a clear mind he thought “I'll tell you, when I was young the world had just begun”, he tuned up his one remaining guitar, sung a melody and wrote down a few words with his gardening pen. The next day he wrote ‘I Remember When I Was Young’.

Matt and his then girlfriend Gillian sold up again and moved to a farm near Frankston. Michael Gudinski visited the farm and asked Matt if he wanted to record for his new label ‘Mushroom Records’. Not ready to record in the city Matt asked if the recording studio could be bought to him. So a few days before the Sunbury Music Festival, Matt and his old Chain mates plus ‘Carson’ guitarist Sleepy Greg Lawrie recorded ‘ I Remember when I was Young’ in a paddock .

'I Remember when I was Young' fought with ‘Sweets’ ‘Ballroom Blitz’ for the No1 spot each in turn. Matt ended up recording three albums for Mushroom and toured with Muddy Waters, Willy Dixon, Jethro Tull and did shows with BB King, Sonny and Brownie, Freddy King, John Mayall and many more before some old friends told Matt and Gillian about Fred Robinsons commune in Western Australia, so they sold up once again and ventured west.
1. Mother Nature - 4:48
2. Brisbane to Beechworth - 6:12
3. Simple Decision - 4:45
4. Well Never Be the Same Again - 4:51
5. Chickens - 5:59
6. Hall of Fame - 4:14
7. Krishna Love You Too - 7:12
8. Dance - 3:45
9. I Remember When I Was Young - 3:58
All songs by Matt Taylor

*Matt Taylor - Vocals, Harmonica
*Phil Manning - Lead Guitar
*Greg 'Sleepy' Lawrie - Guitar
*Barry Harvey - Drums
*Barry Sullivan - Bass
*Ian Winter - Guitar
*Jibon D.Mandall - Tabla

1975  Old New Intuitive
with Chain
1971  Toward The Blues
more Chain
1969-70  Live
1973  Two Of A Kind

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Neil Merryweather And Lynn Carey - Vaccum Cleaner (1971 us, fine blues rock melted with soul funky vibes, 2008 RDI edition)

 After leaving Bruce Cockburn's group, The Flying Circus in March 1968, Neil Lillie (born in Winnipeg on December 27,1945) reunited with keyboard player Ed Roth (bom in Toronto on February 16,1947) and singer Jimmy Livingstone (bom in Toronto on February 28, 1938) to form a new band. They had worked together previously in The Just Us, The Tripp and Livingstone's Tripp (which Roth and Livingston had renamed Livingstone's Journey following Lillie's departure to join Rick James briefly in the final version of The Mynah Byrds in May 1967).

Adding guitarist David Kindred and drummer Gary Hall, the new group, initially called New King Boiler began rehearsing in Lillie's grandmother's basement in May 1968. Kindred was quickly replaced by ex-Fraser Loveman Group guitarist Dave Burt (bom in Hamilton, Ontario on September 19,1948). (Apparently, Gary Hall drank so much coffee that Lillie's grandmother called him 'Coffee', and the band started to call him 'Coffi').

Renamed Heather Merryweather after a song the band performed whose lyrics were written by a band friend, June Nelson, the group soon shortened it to simply Merryweather. After recording a lone unreleased track "Heather Merryweather" in the autumn, the band drove down to Los Angeles but Livingstone dropped out before the band signed to Capitol Records in the spring of 1968.

Merryweather performed at Thee Experience in Los Angeles on September 21-23,1969 and appeared at Balboa Stadium, San Diego with Country Joe & The Fish, Poco, Chicago and Framework on October 12,1969, after which Burt, followed by Hall and Roth, left to join forces with Rick James in a group called Salt and Pepper. ' Shortly before the release of the band's eponymous debut, produced by John Gross, Lillie changed his name to Merryweather.

The group's second (double album), "Word of Mouth" (released in September 1969) was recorded in Los Angeles with the same basic line-up of Merryweather, Roth, Hall and Burt, plus Steve Miller, Barry Goldberg, Charlie Musselwhite, Dave Mason, Howard Roberts and Bobby Notkoff. Although the album was reasonably successful, the group still fragmented, with Burt, Hall and Roth hooking up with Ricky James Matthews in a new group called Salt 'N' Pepper.

Merryweather flew back to Toronto to recruit replacements, then returned with them to record an interesting album for the important blues label, Kent in early 1970. The resulting album, credited to Merryweather, ex-Ugly Ducklings drummer Robin Boers, guitarist John Richardson from Nucleus (and before that Lords of London) and ex-49th Parallel member JJ Velker attracted only limited interest, as did a follow-up album for RCA, "Ivar Avenue Reunion", featuring the same basic group plus Goldberg, Musselwhite and Neil's new girlfriend, ex-CK Strong singer Lynn Carey.

Neil Merryweather and Lynn Carey, using a pool of musicians, recorded the "Vacuum Cleaner" LP for RCA, then came out with a more permanent unit, Mama Lion, which recorded two albums.
CD Liner-notes
1.Livin’ In The USA (Steve Miller) - 3:10
2.Let It Shine (Merryweather, Carey) - 4:42
3.So Fine (Johnny Otis) - 2:52
4.Few and Far Between (Merryweather, Carey) - 2:04
5.No Worries (Carey, Merryweather) - 4:35
6.If I Were You (Merryweather, Carey) - 2:36
7.Introduction by Kim Fowley - 0:35
8.Shop Around (B. Gordy, S. Richardson) - 2:59
9.Sugar Man (Carey, Merryweather) - 3:52
10.Can I Get A Witness (Holland, Dozier, Holland) - 3:01
11.Five Days on the Trail (Merryweather, Carey) - 4:05
12.Captain Terrific (Carey, Merryweather) - 3:53
13.Get Straight With Your Brother (Merryweather, Carey) - 3:37

*Neil Merryweather – Vocals, Bass
*Lynn Carey – Vocals
*Kal David – Guitar
*John Richardson – Guitar
*Edward M. Roth – Piano, Organ, Clavinet
*Huey Sullivan – Organ, Piano
*J.J. Velker – Organ
*Coffi Hall – Drums, Percussion
*Robin Boers – Drums
*Sidney George - Saxophone

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Matt Taylor - Old New Intuitive (1975 aussie, glorious classy bluesy rock)


 An Australian blues legend, Matt Taylor has been playing his brand of Australian-twinged blues music since the mid-'60s. His first band, the Bay City Union, was formed in March 1966 and was one of Australia's first traditional Chicago blues bands. They issued one single, "Mo'reen"/"Mary Mary," in April 1968 before breaking up in July 1968 due to a general lack of interest in blues bands.
Taylor briefly sang with the Wild Cherries before forming the Horse, and then briefly stepped in as lead singer with Cam-Pact for a two-week tour of Sydney during early 1970. He then joined blues band Genesis in February, who released a collaborative single with Carson County Band, titled "Bad Luck Feeling"/"Back Home" under the banner the Meating. They toured until August 1970 when Taylor left to join Chain; the move proved fruitful with the hit single "Black and Blue"/"Lightning Ground" (March 1971) and the groundbreaking album Toward the Blues (September).
Taylor left Chain in October 1971 and spent the next year living on a farm in Beechworth, Victoria. In January, Taylor performed at the 1973 Sunbury festival and the track "From Brisbane to Beechworth" appeared on Mushroom's triple live album set The Great Australian Rock Festival Sunbury 1973. Another live performance, "Roberta" (recorded June 1973), appeared on the album Garrison the Final Blow Unit 2, and his performance with Chain on "Grab a Snatch and Hold It" also made it on the album.
His debut solo album, Straight as a Die, was released at the end of 1973. The single "I Remember When I Was Young"/"Krishna Loves You, Too," which had been recorded in an open paddock at Kingston Park Farm, hit the Top Ten in Melbourne. The album reached number 15 on the national charts and Taylor toured the country, performing at Sunbury 1974; the live track "We'll Never Do the Same Again" appeared on the various artists album Highlights of Sunbury '74 Part 2.
His second album, Music, was released in August 1974 and he supported Jethro Tull on their Australian tour in August 1975. His third solo album, Old, New, Intuitive, was released in September 1975, before Taylor once again retired to a commune, this time at Balingup, Western Australia. He formed a new band, Western Flyer, in 1977 and played with them until August 1979. He then formed the Matt Taylor Band with legendary slide guitarist Dave Hole and they toured Australia during the next year.
In December 1980, Taylor and Phil Manning formed the Matt Taylor Phil Manning Band, which issued the Oz Blues album in June 1981 and the single "Spring Hill"/"The Line." They supported U.S. guitarist Roy Buchanan on his Australian tour before disbanding in December 1981. In January 1982, Chain re-formed for the Mushroom Evolution Concert to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Mushroom Records. Taylor then re-formed the Matt Taylor Band which released the album Always Land on Your Feet (February 1983). The Matt Taylor Band broke up in December 1983, and Chain re-formed yet again. Chain would tour on and off until 1995.
In April 1991, Taylor and Manning toured the country with other Australian blues legends before Taylor flew to Germany in 1993 to tour with a band called the Booze Brothers. He then played in the U.K., followed by the U.S., where he supported the John Heussenstenn Band and Walter Trout Band.
Taylor's fourth solo album, Pyramids and Spirals, was released in March 1995 followed by his fifth solo album, The Awakening, in 1997. Again working with Chain after its release, the band recorded a new album, The First 30 Years, and toured during 1988. A new Chain album, Mix Up the Oils, was released in July 1999.
by Brendan Swift
1. Bendigo - 4:03
2. Hound Dog Dust Bust - 3:58
3. The Beast - 5:04
4. Good Advice - 3:49
5. Hope - 4:09
6. This Story Must Have No End - 5:48
7. Watch Out - 4:55
8. Somebody Stole My Hair - 3:37
9. My My My - 6:09
All songs by Matt Taylor

*Matt Taylor - Vocals, Harmonica
*Greg 'Sleepy' Lawrie - Lead Guitar
*Graham Morgan - Drums
*Barry Sullivan - Bass

with Chain
1971  Toward The Blues
more Chain
1969-70  Live
1973  Two Of A Kind

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rory Gallagher - Live In Europe (1972 ireland, incredible hard blues rock, 2018 remaster)

 ‘Live in Europe’ was compiled from live performance recorded throughout Europe during February and March 1972. It has gone on to become one of the best live albums of all time, serving as a massive influence on budding musicians such as The Edge and Adam Clayton of U2, who both cite this album as the recording that made them want to learn guitar and play in a band.
For some Rory had wanted to capture the adrenaline and excitement of his live performance. Whilst touring extensively in Europe he decided to record his shows, the results were little short of phenomenal and Live In Europe earned Rory much acclaim, including his first solo Top Ten album and 1972’s Melody Maker ‘Top Musician Of The Year’ award.
Rory Gallagher-official
1. Messin' With The Kid (London) - 6:25
2. Laundromat (Gallagher) - 5:12
3. I Could've Had Religion (Traditional arr. by Gallagher) - 8:35
4. Pistol Slapper Blues (Fulton Allen) - 2:54
5. Going To My Hometown (Gallagher) - 5:46
6. In Your Town (Gallagher) - 10:03
7. What In The World (Traditional arr. by Gallagher) - 7:57
8. Hoodoo Man  (Traditional arr. by Gallagher) - 5:56
9. Bullfrog Blues (Traditional arr. by Gallagher) - 6:47

*Rory Gallagher - Guitar, Harmonica, Mandolin, Vocals
*Gerry McAvoy - Bass
*Wilgar Campbell - Drums

1971  Rory Gallagher (Japan Mini Lp replica)
1971  Deuce (Japan Mini Lp replica)
with Taste
1970  On The Boards (Japan SHM edition)

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Quicksilver Messenger Service - Quicksliver (1971 us, fantastic, classic west coast psych, Audiophile Vinyl replica)

One of the group's better albums, despite coming so late in their history that it was ignored by almost everyone. "Hope," "Fire Brothers," and "Don't Cry for My Lady Love" are among the best songs the group ever cut, and "I Found Love" is one of the prettiest, most upbeat songs ever to come from any classic San Francisco band.

Some of the rest is self-indulgent, but that's what this era of music was about -- the guitar pyrotechnics of "Song for Frisco" and "Play My Guitar" make them both more entertaining than their somewhat bland melodies; the latter song, in particular, sounds like a Marty Balin/Jefferson Airplane outtake that would have been right on target about four years before the release date of this album. The whole record feels that way, a throwback to the psychedelic era circa late 1967.

It's also very much a folk-rock record, with a rich acoustic guitar texture on many of the songs. For the record, since the CD reissue has no personnel information, the band at this point was Dino Valenti (guitar, vocals), Greg Elmore (drums), Gary Duncan (vocals, guitar), Mark Ryan (bass), Mark Naftalin (keyboards), and Chuck Steaks (keyboards). If you ever wondered what the Airplane might have done as a follow-up to Surrealistic Pillow with Marty Balin still singing lead, this is it.
by Bruce Eder
1. Hope - 3:01
2. I Found Love (Duncan) - 3:56
3. Song For Frisco - 4:58
4. Play My Guitar - 4:38
5. Rebel (Traditional arr. by Valenti) - 2:02
6. Fire Brothers (Duncan) – 3:12
7. Out Of My Mind - 4:34
8. Don't Cry My Lady Love - 5:12
9. "The Truth - 6:58
All songs by Dino Valenti excpet where indicated

Quicksilver Messenger Service
*Dino Valenti – Vocals, Guitar, Flute, Percussion
*Gary Duncan - Vocals, Guitar
*Mark Ryan – Bass
*Greg Elmore – Drums, Percussion
*Chuck Steaks – Piano, Organ
*Mark Naftalin - Keyboards

1967-68  Lost Silver And Gold 1968  Quicksilver Messenger Service (Japan remaster)
1970  Just For Love (Japan remaster)
1970  What About Me
1975  Solid Silver
1969-70  Castles In The Sand

1964-70  Dino Valenti - Get Together The Lost Recordings
1968  Dino Valente

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Lost Gold And Silver (1967-68 us, magnificent west coast psych, double disc issue)

In the late 1960s, Quicksilver Messenger Service occupied an unusual position in the pantheon of major San Francisco Bay Area psychedelic bands.  Not that most of those acts weren't unusual, even in relation to each other.  Part of what set Quicksilver apart from their peers, though, was that they were not so much singer-songwriters as they were virtuoso players and creative interpreters and stylists.  They were not the greatest of vocalists or composers, although they did pen some sturdy folk-rock tunes.   Their strengths lay in the ziplocked tightness of their playing and arrangements; their ability to whip up a psychedelic brew from a diverse pool of sources encompassing folk, blues, improvisational jazz, and even Spanish and classical guitar; and their inventive rearrangements of unexpected, even left-field, blues, R&B, folk, and jazz classics.

Leading the way was the inimitable, immediately identifiable quaver of John Cipollina's sustain-fueled lead guitar.  He was complemented by the support of Gary Duncan, less a rhythm guitarist than a repository of resourceful counterpoint riffs of his own, and one of the most skilled and underrated second guitarists in rock history.  Together with the rhythm section of David Freiberg on bass and Greg Elmore on drums, they comprised the Quicksilver lineup that played on the band's first two Capitol albums, Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968) and Happy Trails (1969)--albums that, by virtual consensus, represent the best work that any configuration of Quicksilver released.

As popular as those records are, they convey an incomplete picture of the band as they sounded at their peak.  Tapes of numerous Quicksilver concerts from the sixties, some from as early as 1966, circulate among collectors as testaments to the musicians' onstage force, also containing several songs, particularly blues and R&B covers, never released by the band on their early records.  Quicksilver also did quite a bit of studio work in this era that never saw the light of day, including alternate versions (sometimes multiple alternates) of songs from their self-titled debut, and an assortment of covers (again mostly of blues/R&B tunes). 

In addition to an early demo session for Vanguard, the band cut quite a bit of unused material circa 1967, around the time they were preparing their debut Capitol LP. The Unreleased Quicksilver Messenger Service: Lost Gold and Silver finally allows us to hear about two hours of previously unreleased live and studio recordings from Quicksilver's golden era, along with four studio cuts of the period that eluded those first two albums, surfacing on a soundtrack album and a 1968 non-LP single.

The bulk of this collection is devoted to the previously unissued live Quicksilver recordings, taken from 1968 performances, that comprise the first disc of this package.  Considering that these were not taped with official release in mind, the fidelity is astoundingly good.  Indeed it's about on par with the sound of the live material on Happy Trails, and the song selection is arguably superior to what was chosen for that record.  Unquestionably it reflects a wider slice of the band's repertoire than Happy Trails does, with the addition of several blues classics that the band did not include on their first two albums, and live versions of songs from the Quicksilver Messenger Service LP.

It's the blues that kicks this CD off, as the band sinks their claws into Howlin' Wolf's "Back Door Man."  This was covered by several groups in the 1960s, most notably the Doors, who chose it to lead off the second side of their earthshaking debut album.  When tackling blues standards such as these, Quicksilver did not have the kind of vocal firepower that could compete with the likes of Jim Morrison or Mick Jagger.  Their interpretive stamp was most visible in the guitar arrangements, and the group's crunching axework turns "Back Door Man" into a stomping rocker with start-stop rhythms that shows more of their garage band roots than were audible on their proper studio releases.  Howlin' Wolf also gets the psychedelic blues treatment with their extended workout on "Smokestack Lightning," a tune sixties rock groups loved to improvise upon from the time the Yardbirds recorded their live version with Eric Clapton on lead in 1964.

If the blues was one major pillar of the Quicksilver sound, folk music was another, particularly via the influence of David Freiberg, who had played folk music before joining the band, and folksinger Dino Valenti, who might have been a founder member of Quicksilver had he not been busted before he had a chance to rehearse with them in the group's embryonic phase.  Folk, blues, and hard rock meet head on with the band's interpretation of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Codine," done (surprisingly, considering its overt drug references) by a number of mid-sixties folk-rock bands, including one of Quicksilver's San Franciscan psychedelic neighbors, the Charlatans.  The band would put a studio version of the song on the Revolution soundtrack (see disc two).  This live rendition gives full vent to the anguished vocals and guitar that changed the song from a stark folkie lament to a wrenching blast.  The foursome adopt a nastier, punkier edge than many would have believed possible given their reputation as a hippie outfit.

Quicksilver do four of the six songs that comprised the Quicksilver Messenger Service album on the live portion of this disc, omitting only "Pride of Man" and "Too Long."  The live passes through "Gold and Silver," "Light Your Windows," "Dino's Song," and "The Fool" are similar to the studio takes, proving how capable the band were at replicating the exacting arrangements of the first LP onstage, adding an oh-so-slightly rawer, more spontaneous feel.  "Light Your Windows" and "Dino's Song" are outstanding illustrations of the group's overlooked knack for melodic and tender harmonized folk-rockers.  "Dino's Song" was written by Dino Valenti, by this time out of jail and pursuing a solo career; in 1970 he finally did join Quicksilver Messenger Service for real, in so doing greatly influencing their shift to a more laid-back, singer-songwriter-oriented style.

"Gold and Silver," the instrumental based around a riff lifted from Dave Brubeck's jazz hit "Take Five," does differ from the Quicksilver Messenger Service version with the insertion of a lengthy drum solo by Greg Elmore.  "The Fool," early Quicksilver's lengthiest and most complex (not to mention most lyrically cosmic) original composition, is a bit heavier on the electric guitar parts than its studio counterpart.  Dogs and cats shall scurry from the room during the vocal section when it is attempted, without total success, to reach the piercingly high note of the "heavens above" lyric.  As compensation, Cipollina uncurls some stratospheric vibrato sustain as the song reaches its majestic conclusion.

Happy Trails is most famed for its elastic transmogrifications of "Mona" and "Who Do You Love," in which these Bo Diddley warhorses were stretched almost beyond recognition into psychedelic jams.  The band treated these not as straight R&B covers, but as very loose templates upon which to hang long instrumental guitar improvisations, the tempo and the melody of the original tune all but disappearing for lengthy passages.  New concert performances of both songs appear here, although "Who Do You Love," which clocked in at a whopping 25 minutes on Happy Trails, is halved in length (and quartered on the studio version that appears on this anthology's second disc).  "Mona," which weaves in and out of the more abstract Gary Duncan composition "Maiden of the Cancer Moon," holds some of the band's more inventive guitar duels, prefaced by some eerily high-pitched distortion at the very beginning of the track.

As a bonus to the live 1968 material, The Unreleased Quicksilver Messenger Service: Lost Gold and Silver also includes an entire disc of previously unreleased and rare studio tracks, all recorded circa 1967-68.  The eight previously unissued songs probably all date from 1967, when the band did quite a bit of recording in advance of the release of Quicksilver Messenger Service, as demonstrated by the existence of alternate versions of all six of its songs on various bootlegs.

Only two of the studio cuts included here, however, would be redone for the first album.  The early version of "Dino's Song," also titled "I Don't Want to Spoil Your Party" (as it was when the Byrds did an unreleased cover of the tune in 1965), was recorded on November 13, 1967, boasting an arrangement that was pretty close to the one used on the LP.  That wasn't the case, however, with the take of "Gold and Silver" (at that time titled "Acapulco Gold and Silver") that was recorded the same day.  It features a prominent harpsichord part that was entirely discarded in the released take, adding to the quasi-classical vibe of the melody.  And get a load of that Ennio Morricone-styled whistling throughout, another idea that ended up on the cutting room floor, to be replaced by glistening Cipollina leads.

The six additional unreleased studio tracks do include two songs that made it onto Happy Trails in radically different, lengthier versions.  "Who Do You Love" gets compressed into six minutes in its studio incarnation, offering a far more concise and conventional interpretation (including harmonica) of the number than would be heard on the famous 25-minute sprawl that took up the entire first side of the Happy Trails LP.  The Gary Duncan-composed "Calvary" is a real standout, gaining in impact and pungency in its reduction from the 13-minute Happy Trails version to the six-minute one (probably unfinished, judging from the occasional sudden pauses) presented here. 

It's an outstanding example of how interesting Quicksilver could be when they strayed outside blues-rock boundaries.  Its mysterious tinkles and hollow, haunted wordless vocals embellish a tune that owes more to Spanish folk guitar than rock'n'roll, evoking the Old West in its barren, windswept glory.

The riveting "I Hear You Knockin'," a minor-keyed R&B number, was a notable loss from the first album, decorated by some superbly sly and menacing Cipollina licks.  This is not the famous New Orleans R&B classic that was first sung by Smiley Lewis and taken to the Top Five by Dave Edmunds in 1971, but an entirely different tune, thought by Freiberg and Duncan to have probably been based on a version by Ray Charles.  It and "Back Door Man" have horn charts reminiscent of the brassy arrangements employed by the Electric Flag at the time, an approach that was largely dropped on the Quicksilver Messenger Service album (with the exception of "Pride of Man").  A hornless version of "I Hear You Knockin'," probably from the same era, did finally appear on Rhino's Sons of Mercury Quicksilver compilation in 1991.

There's also a straightforward rock cover of Robert Johnson's "Walkin' Blues," whose arrangement is not too different from the one the Paul Butterfield Blues Band had offered on their 1966 East West album.  "Your Time Will Come" was originally done by Mose Allison as the far jauntier "If You Live"; like "I Hear You Knockin'," it's indicative of the band's taste for mixing blues and melancholy melodies.  The harmonica on "Your Time Will Come" and "Who Do You Love" indicates that those tracks might have been recorded with Jim Murray, a founding member of Quicksilver who sang and played harp with the band until leaving sometime in 1967.

Our tour through the Quicksilver vaults ends with four studio tracks that did not appear on Quicksilver Messenger Service or Happy Trails, although they feature the same personnel that played on those records.  "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" (originally by Erik Darling) and the studio version of "Codine" were recorded in one day for the Revolution movie, whose soundtrack also included material by two other emerging Bay Area acts, the Steve Miller Band and Mother Earth.  Both of these folk songs entered Quicksilver's repertoire via Freiberg, and the band do an excellent job of adapting them into lean, devious, acid-tinged folk-rockers.

"Stand By Me" and "Bears" were issued as a single in 1968, exhibiting a lighter side of Quicksilver than was apparent on any other of their early outings.  "Bears," learned by Freiberg from folkie Roger Perkins, is undoubtedly the most atypical song early Quicksilver attempted, and more like a goofy kiddie singalong than a rock tune.  Duncan, in fact, told writer John Barthel that "Bears" came about because "we wanted to do something for our little kids"; that's Electric Flag singer Nick Gravenites doing the bear noises.  The more serious "Stand By Me" was written by the erstwhile Dino Valenti, its laid-back folk-rock ambience anticipating the mellower path Quicksilver would take after completing their Happy Trails.

Quicksilver would continue to enjoy some popularity in the early seventies, as the arrival of keyboardist Nicky Hopkins and then singer-guitarist Dino Valenti altered the band's vision toward more pastoral territory.  They were most innovative, however, when Cipollina and Duncan wove their guitars together in some of the finest psychedelic rock ever laid down, and the band managed to take some of the best elements from an array of disparate influences to create something new and intoxicating.   The Unreleased Quicksilver Messenger Service: Lost Gold and Silver, which approximately doubles the size of the 1967-68-era Quicksilver's discography, goes a long way towards documenting the band's prime with the justice they deserve.
by Richie Unterberger

Disc 1 Live
1. Back Door Man - 4:15
2. Codine - 6:13
3. Gold & Silver - 12:02
4. Smokestack Lightning - 10:14
5. Light Your Windows - 3:05
6. Dino's Song - 3:32
7. The Fool - 13:14
8. Who Do You Love - 12:21
9. Mona/Maiden of the Cancer Moon/Mona - 11:34

Disc 2 Studio
1. I Don't Want to Spoil Your Party (Dino's Song) - 3:06
2. Acapulco Gold and Silver (Gold and Silver) - 2:37
3. I Hear You Knockin' - 3:11
4. Back Door Man - 4:00
5. Your Time Will Come - 3:09
6. Who Do You Love (Part 1) - 5:58
7. Walkin' Blues - 3:07
8. Calvary - 6:31
9. Codine - 5:21
10.Babe I'm Gonna Leave You - 5:06
11.Stand by Me - 3:35
12.The Bears - 2:10

Quicksilver Messenger Service
*Dino Valenti - Vocals
*David Freiberg - Bass, Viola, Vocals
*John Cipollina - Guitar
*Greg Elmore - Drums
*Gary Duncan - Guitar, Vocals

1968  Quicksilver Messenger Service (Japan remaster)
1970  Just For Love (Japan remaster)
1970  What About Me
1975  Solid Silver
1969-70  Castles In The Sand

1964-70  Dino Valenti - Get Together The Lost Recordings
1968  Dino Valente

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