Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tinkerbell's Fairydust - Tinkerbell's Fairydust (1965-69 uk, wonderful sunny beat psychedelia, 2009 bonus tracks remaster issue)

At the beginning of the 1960's, brothers Gerald 'Ged' Wade (guitar) and Charlie 'Chaz' Wade ("tea chest" bass) formed a skiffle group in Barking, Essex, called The Moonrakers with Bob Holding on vocals. The Moonrakers became The Ramrods/The Ramrod Combo with Chris Howell and Pete Hole on guitars and Fred Gamage on bass. In 1963, they changed their name to The Ricochets and Dave Hunter became their lead singer. When Tommy Bishop became lead singer, they called themselves Tommy Bishop and The Ricochets and then Tommy Bishop's Ricochets.

By this time, the group included local resident Dennis 'Ned' Smith on keyboards and saxophone player Steve Salfield from Derby. Their manager, Alvin Roy, who had a jazz band, obtained work for the group in Germany and Spain. Alvin Roy also secured them a deal with Decca, leading to the release of "I Should Have Known" b/w "On the Other Hand".
After a year of gigs in the UK and Europe, the work dried up and Ged was asked to act as bassist for Upminster band Easy Come Easy Go (previously known as Dave and The Strollers) with Stuart Attride, Barry Creasey and future Grapefruit member John Perry. Chaz Wade then followed his brother into this grouping as a second singer. (Prior to the Wade brothers joining Easy Come Easy Go, Gene Latter's cover of The Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper" featured Easy Come Easy Go as the backing band.)

In early 1967, they evolved into The Rush with members Barry Attride (stage name of Stuart Jefferson) on guitar, keyboards and vocals; Pete Hole on keyboards and guitar; Ged Wade on bass guitar and vocals and Chaz Wade on drums and vocals. Promoter Alan Eisenberg took an interest in The Rush and the group attracted the attention of manager/entrepreneur Don Arden. Arden had recently parted company with the Small Faces and was looking for a replacement band.
A deal was arranged with the Don Arden Agency and the group obtained a three year deal with Decca. "Happy' b/w "Once Again" recorded at West Hampstead studios, with Marc Wildey as producer and Vic Smith as engineer received frequent airplay on Radio Caroline and Radio London, but did not chart. Shortly afterwards, Pete Hole emigrated to Australia and new guitarist Steve Maher (formerly Doughnuts, Shades of Blue and The Circle) from Witham near Chelmsford was recruited into the group. The following week, "Make Mine Music" b/w "Enjoy It" was recorded and its release led to an appearance on Granada's TV series "The Firstimers" performing "Happy" and Make Mine Music".

The Wade brothers father owned a music shop called The Gearbox and a clothing shop, the Gearbox Group-tique in Ripple Road, Barking. As a result, the band were able to rehearse in the music shop and borrow the best equipment for gigs and recordings and wear the latest Carnaby Street fashions from stock sold in the clothing shop. In late 1967, Chaz Wade joined The Symbols just after the release of "(The Best Part of) Breaking Up" and ex-Stollers drummer Barry Creasey (aka Barry Naill) was brought in as his replacement.
Decca in-house producer Vic Smith was working closely with the group and decided to name them Tinkerbell's Fairydust for studio projects while the group continued to gig as The Rush. The band obtained a residency at the Plough & Harrow in Leytonstone, run by the infamous Jacob brothers and this was followed by a residency for two years at the Queens Arms every Thursday with another at The Empire, Edmonton on Saturdays and Sundays.

A cover of Spanky and Our Gang's "Lazy Day" was chosen for the first release under the Tinkerbell's Fairydust name backed by a Vic Smith original "In My Magic Garden". Soon after, various band members reunited with Tommy Bishop for a one-off single as the Rock 'N' Revival Show. A second Tinkerbell's Fairydust single, "Twenty Ten" b/w "Walking My Baby" failed to nudge the UK charts but "Twenty Ten" climbed to number two in Japan's International Charts, only be held off the top spot by The Beatles' "Hey Jude".
With the addition of another ex-Stroller, Dave Church, on lead vocals, "Sheila's Back in Town" was released and it also entered the Japanese Top 10 chart. The song was recorded the day of Halloween and, after the backing track was produced, at around 8 P.M. approximately 30 people from other Decca sessions filed into the control room to add the party-like atmosphere. Jeff Lynne's "Follow Me Follow" from The Idle Race's "The Birthday Party" album was chosen for the B-side.

For unknown reasons, Decca chose to assemble an album (possibly for the Japanese market), that received finished labels and sleeves, but only reached the test pressing stage. In mint condition, it is arguably the most valuable LP ever made in Britain, according to the website of Cherry Red Records. The Rush continued to gig for four more years in the London clubs and Chaz Wade rejoined as frontman for a while during this period.
Manchester born Eileen Woodman (formerly She Trinity, British Maid and Gilded Cage and future The Humblebums, Pete Brown's Flying Tigers and Bitch), assisted The Rush for a period of time as their Hammond organist. With the rising prominence of the Canadian band Rush, the group became J.J.Foote and continued to gig under this name until they split in 1981.

1. Twenty Ten (Hill, Cochrane) - 2:42
2. Marjorine (Cocker, Stainton, Ramigan, Myles) - 2:46
3. The Worst That Could Happen (Webb) - 3:20
4. In My Magic Garden (Smith) - 2:35
5. Never My Love (D. D. Addrisi) - 2:48
6. You Keep Me Hangin' On (Mire, Allen) - 6:03
7. Lazy Day (Powers, Fischoff) - 2:58
8. Every Minute Every Day (Wade) - 2:26
9. Sheila's Back in Town (Rabbitt) - 2:19
10.Jeff's Boogie (Beck) - 1:36
11.They Didn't Believe Me (Kurn, Rourke) - 2:12
12.Whole World (Bonner) - 3:05
13.Happy (Gorman, Michaels) - 2:09
14.Tommy Bishop's Ricochets - I Should Have Known (Lawrence, Davies) - 2:35
15.Tommy Bishop's Ricochets - On The Other Hand (Bishop, Wade) - 2:22
16.The Rush - Once Again (Attride, Wade) - 2:41
17.The Rush - Make Mine Music (Wade) - 2:03
18.The Rush - Enjoy It (English) - 2:19
19.Walking My Baby (Hare) - 2:17
20.Follow Me Follow (Lynne) - 3:21
21.Follow Me Follow (Lynne) - 3:23
22.Good Day (Unknown) - 2:51
Bonus Tracks 14-22

Tinkerbell's Fairydust
*Stuart Attride - Guitar, Keys, Vocals
*Gerry Wade - Bass, Vocals
*Steve Maher - Guitar, Vocals
*Barry Creasy - Drums, Vocals
*Chas Wade - Drums, Vocals
*Eileen Woodman - Hammond, Vocals
*Dave Church - Vocals
*Pete Hole - Guitar, Vocals

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Blues Magoos - Basic Blues Magoos (1968 us, impressive garage psych, 2004 Repertoire expanded edition)

Basic Blues Magoos (1968) is the final long-player with the lineup of Ralph Scala (keyboards), Ronnie Gilbert (bass), Emil "Peppy" Thielheim (guitar), Mike Esposito (lead guitar) and Geoffrey Daking (drums) -- is arguably their best and easily most progressive outing. Perhaps this can partially be credited to the combo's retreat from creating in the comparatively uninspired environs of a studio. Instead, they essentially cocooned themselves into their legendary Bronx, New York digs, which at one time had been inhabited by none other than Gram Parsons.
The autonomy paid off, as did their sizable influence from the U.K.-derived mod and freakbeat scenes, kick-started no doubt by a recent tour with the Who. Nowhere is that more evident than the cover of the Move's "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" or the similarly spirited original light psych opener "Sybil Green (Of the In Between)" and the propulsive "There She Goes." "All the Better to See You With" and "Chicken Wire Lady" provide a harder edge and sit well beside the notable Brit pop vibe of "I Wanna Be There." "I Can Move a Mountain" is a long lost jangle pop side tinged in a darkness recalling "Love Seems Doomed" from the Magoos' debut, Psychedelic Lollipop (1967), especially the insidious vocal arrangement.
On the other side of the spectrum is the affective baroque-tinged "Yellow Rose." The refined acoustic ballad is unlike the majority of the album's aggressive amplified excursions. As the title might suggest, "Presidential Council on Psychedelic Fitness" is a bit of an indulgence, as is "Subliminal Sonic Laxative," the latter being nothing more than a minute and change of a sole subsonic frequency -- a 'D' note. Collectors and enthusiasts should be aware of the highly recommended and significantly expanded Basic Blues Magoos [Bonus Tracks] (2004) from Repertoire, tacking on monaural 45 rpm versions of "I Wanna Be There," "There She Goes," "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" and "Yellow Rose."
Also included is the rare single "Let Your Love Ride" b/w Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love," issued prior to the Magoos' late-'60s reformation with only Emil "Peppy" Thielheim. Sadly, Basic Blues Magoos failed to join their earlier LPs on the charts, as it is debatably their most solid effort.
by Lindsay Planer
1. Sybil Green (Of the in Between) (Gilbert, Scala, Theilhelm) - 2:41
2. I Can Hear the Grass Grow (Wood) - 2:18
3. All the Better to See You With (Gilbert, Scala) - 2:19
4. Yellow Rose (Gilbert, Theilhelm) - 2:30
5. I Wanna Be There (Theilhelm, Scala) - 2:57
6. I Can Move a Mountain (Theilhelm, Kelly) - 3:49
7. President's Council on Psychedelic Fitness (Gilbert, Scala) - 2:44
8. Scarecrow's Love Affair (Gilbert, Theilhelm) - 4:01
9. There She Goes (Gilbert, Scala, Esposito, Theilhelm) - 2:50
10.Accidental Meditation (Esposito) - 1:42
11.You're Getting Old (Gilbert, Theilhelm) - 4:15
12.Subliminal Sonic Laxitive (Blues Magoos) - 1:05
13.Chicken Wire Lady (Gilbert, Theilhelm) - 4:07
14.I Wanna Be There (Theilhelm, Scala) - 2:57
15.There She Goes (Gilbert, Scala, Esposito, Theilhelm) - 2:50
16.I Can Hear the Grass Grow (Wood) - 2:18
17.Yellow Rose (Gilbert, Theilhelm) - 2:30
18.Let Your Love Ride (Ted Munda) - 2:36
19.Who Do You Love (E. McDaniels) - 3:16
Tracks 1-13 Original Album release 1968
Tracks 14-19 Single releases between 1967-69

The Blues Magoos
*Ralph Scala - Keyboards, Vocals
*Emil "Peppy" Thielhelm - Guitar, Vocals
*Ron Gilbert - Bass
*Mike Esposito - Guitar
*Geoff Daking – Drums, Percussion

1966  Psychedelic Lollipop (expanded issue)
1967  Electric Comic Book (expanded issue)

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Blues Magoos - Electric Comic Book (1967 us, tremendous garage psych, 2004 Repertoire expanded issue)

The Blues Magoos' second long-player, Electric Comic Book (1967), has been significantly expanded with ten 45 RPM-only titles otherwise unavailable on CD. The quintet was formed by Bronx, New York school chums Ralph Scala (keyboards), Ronnie Gilbert (bass) and Emil "Peppy" Thielheim (guitar).
They found Mike Esposito (lead guitar) -- who was several years older -- performing at the infamous Night Owl Café in Greenwich Village, and with him came the addition of Geoffrey Daking (drums). Their first album Psychedelic Lollipop (1966) yielded the Top Five punk/garage entry "We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet." While Electric Comic Book submits edgier rockers and strong acidic-tinged originals, the offering likewise infuses the Magoos' quirky wit.
Tracks such as the brisk yet agile "Life Is Just a Cher O' Bowlies" -- sporting deft fretwork from Esposito -- or the 'pause for the cause' "Intermission" practically define the light-hearted head humor of the era. The flip side of all the sonic chicanery are a few equally adept numbers, primarily the suitably trippy "There's a Chance We Can Make It," a ballsy proto-metallic "Rush Hour," the propulsive "Albert Common Is Dead" and a six-minute excursion on Van Morrison's "Gloria."
The supplements are arguably more fascinating than the feature presentation, especially for collectors who can retire their well-worn 45s. "So I'm Wrong and You Are Right" -- which is in stereo on the final cut of this anthology -- b/w "The People Had No Faces" represents the Magoos' debut single on the Verve/Forecast label. The tunes actually pre-date Psychedelic Lollipop, reflecting the folkie and authentic blues inherent in their Greenwich Village influences. Among the other extras are mono mixes of "Pipe Dream," "There's a Chance We Can Make It," "Summer Is the Man," "Life Is Just a Cher O' Bowlies," the far-out and suitably-named "Dante's Inferno," and a remix of "One by One."
The latter initially surfaced on Psychedelic Lollipop and was overhauled in a last-ditch effort to find a suitable follow-up to "We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet." Concluding the collection is a blue-eyed soul rave on the seasonal "Jingle Bells," which was b/w a comparatively off-the-cuff "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." The eight-page liner notes contain an essay from Ugly Things fanzine guru Mike Stax. Plus, a four-panel replica of the coloring book insert/advert that came with early pressings of Electric Comic Book is also included.
by Lindsay Planer
1. Pipe Dream (Gilbert, Scala) - 2:26
2. There's A Chance We Can Make It (Gilbert, Scala) - 2:14
3. Life Is Just A Cher O'bowlies (Gilbert, Scala) - 2:35
4. Gloria (Van Morrison) - 6:02
5. Intermission (Esposito) - 1:05
6. Albert Common Is Dead (Gilbert, Scala) - 1:48
7. Summer Is The Man (Esposito, Scala) - 2:59
8. Baby, I Want You (Gilbert, Theilhelm) - 2:42
9. Let's Get Together (Reed) - 3:06
10.Take My Love (Gilbert, Scala) - 1:50
11.Rush Hour (Daking, Gilbert, Esposito) - 2:35
12.That's All Folks (Blues Magoos) - 0:08
13.So I'm Wrong And You Are Right (Shorter, Lewis) - 2:25
14.The People Had No Faces (Shorter) - 2:50
15.Pipe Dream (Gilbert, Scala) - 2:25
16.There's A Chance We Can Make It (Gilbert, Scala) - 2:14
17.One By One (Gilbert, Theilhelm) - 2:45
18.Dante's Inferno (Gilbert, Scala, Theilhelm, Esposito, Daking) - 3:26
19.Summer Is The Man (Gilbert, Esposito) - 2:59
20.Life Is Just A Cher O'bowlies (Gilbert, Scala, Theilhelm) - 2:35
21.Jingle Bells (Adapted by Blues Magoos) - 2:35
22.Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (H. Gillespie, J. F. Coats) - 1:25
23.So I'm Wrong And You Are Right (Alternative Stereo Mix) (Shorter, Lewis) - 2:25

The Blues Magoos
*Ralph Scala - Keyboards, Vocals
*Emil "Peppy" Theilhelm – Guitar, Vocals
*Ron Gilbert – Bass, Vocals
*Mike Esposito – Guitar
*Geoff Daking – Drums, Percussion

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blues Magoos - Psychedelic Lollipop (1966 us, splendid bluesy garage psych, 2005 Repertoire expanded digi pack)

 Masterminded by singer Peppy Castro (born Emil Thielhelm) and organ-grinder Ralph Scala, the Bloos Magoos, as they initially called themselves, were formed around 1964 in the New York Bronx. Other members were Mike Esposito (guitar), Ronnie Gilbert (bass) and drummer Geoff Daking. They played their bluesy bits with traces of folkrock in Greenwich Village, especially at the Cafe Wha and the Night Owl Cafe.

The Magoos' first singles were released on Verve ("So I'm Wrong And You Are Right'T'People Had No Faces") and the Small Ganim Label ("Who Do You Love"l"Let Your Love Ride"), both of which are soughtafter collectors' items now.

In 1966 they got signed by Mercury, and changed their image immediately, with sort of electric clothes flashing off and on while on stage. For the first time the word "psychedelic" appeared in the title of their debut album - see discography. Furthermore there were other signs in songs like "Love Seems Doomed" and "Albert Common Is Dead" who first letters spelt LSD and Acid.

During 1966/67 three singles made the charts: "(We Ain't Got) Nothing Yet" (No. 5), "Pipe Dream" (No. 60), and its flipside "There's A Chance We Can Make It", (No. 81), and "One By One" (No. 71). Other 45's sank without a trace, for instance "Summer Is The Man", "Life Is Just A Cher O'Bowlies", "Jingle Bells" and, in 1968, "/ Can Hear The Grass Grow" of Move fame.

Both their first albums were critically acclaimed, reaching the charts at No. 21 ("Psychedelic Lollipop") and No. 74. respectively ("Electric Comic Book"). In 1968 the Magoos released "Basic Blues Magoos" recorded at their home in New York's University Avenue. In the meantime their straight psychedelic sound had gone lost in favour of mediocre flower power banalities, thus the disc flopped saleswise, and the band's line-up changed dramatically in 1969.

With only Castro/Thielhelm left, it comprised new members Roger Eaton (b), Eric-Justin Kay. (kb), John Liello (vib), Herb Lovelle (dr) and hornplayers Dean Evanson and Ritchie Dickon. One album was cut until Lovelle, Eaton and Evanson were replaced by Pee Wee Ellis, Cooker Capresti and Jim Payne. After the Magoos' final LP (with lots of electronics) the group broke up for good. Founder member Peppy/Emil joined the Broadway cast of "Hair", and later on formed Barnaby Bye with Alessi Brothers Billy and Bobby (two albums for Atlantic, "Room To Glow"/1973, and "Touch"/1974).

In 1976 Peppy founded Wiggy Bits (one eponymous LP). Five years later he established Balance with Doug Katsaros and Dennis Feldman, whose "Breaking Away" reached the charts at No. 22 in 1981 (two albums were tracked down for the Portrait label, "Balance"/!981, and "InForTheCount'71982).
by Bernd Malheja
1. (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet (Esposito, Gilbert, Scala) – 2:18
2. Love Seems Doomed (Esposito, Gilbert, Scala) – 3:02
3. Tobacco Road (John D. Loudermilk) – 4:42
4. Queen of My Nights (Blue) – 3:05
5. I'll Go Crazy(James Brown) – 2:03
6. Gotta Get Away (Adams, Gordon) – 2:42
7. Sometimes I Think About (Esposito, Gilbert, Scala) – 4:13
8. One by One (Gilbert, Theilhelm) – 2:53
9. Worried Life Blues (Big Maceo Merriweather) – 3:45
10.She's Coming Hom (Atkins, Miller) – 2:43.  .
11.Tobacco Road (John D. Loudermilk) – 4:42
12.Sometimes I Think About (Esposito, Gilbert, Scala) – 4:13
13.(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet (Esposito, Gilbert, Scala) – 3:02
14.Gotta Get Away (Adams, Gordon) – 2:41

Blues Magoos
*Ralph Scala - Keyboards, Vocals
*Emil “Peppy” Theilhelm – Guitar, Vocals
*Ron Gilbert – Bass, Vocals
*Mike Esposito – Guitar
*Geoff Daking – Drums, Percussion

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Juan De La Cruz Band - Up In Arms (1971 philippines, very good psych prog brass hard rock, 2001 reissue)


 The Juan De La Cruz Band is one of the few less commercial electronic bands in the Philippines which claims to have more Western-orientated musician per square mile than any other country in the world. The impact of the group in the local hard and mellow rock scene is tremendous considering it was organized only 2 years ago. In December 1970, the band was featured in the first open-field rock festival in the Philippines, the "Antipolo Rock Festival."
 The bands popularity gained terrific momentum in September of 1971 when it reaped a singular honor in backing-up the "Jesus Christ, Superstar" rock opera production at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Then in December of the same year, the band garnered its crowning glory when again, for the first time in the Philippines, a rock group on its own, backed by a full symphony orchestra (the National Philharmonic) was presented in concert at the prestigious CCP.
No other group in the Philippines gained so much greater heights of success in relatively a very short span of time. This album debut is a monumental testimony. It is the first venture of it/s kind in this part of the musical globe. The Juan De La Cruz Band now reaches for a wider audience.
by O. Salazar, Billboard Magazine, Philippines 1971
Tracks 7 - 12 are not from the original album. They're released only as a very rare livetape in 1974 and the tracks are from either their second album Mascara or third album Himig Natin , and some where unreleased tracks too.

On Mascara and Himig Natin the band had menbers of the Japanese band Speed Glue and Chinki. On those albums Mike Hanopol joined the band who also made several famouse and rare solo albums. Wally Gonzales, the guitarist of "Up In Arms" and all other Juan De La Cruz Band albums released also the very rare solo album On The Road.

This album "Up In Arms"  was found so far only ones by a collector and the value of it would be something like $ 3000 or more, if a few more copies turned up. The later albums Mascara and Himig Natin have both a value of $ 1000,- and are very hard to find in nice condition. The same price and quality problem goes for Wally Gonzales and Mike Hanapol/s solo albums. Nothing realy survived from way back then in the Philippines. There was also a close relation between bands from Japan and the Philippines, but the musical influence is USA. Most releases go in the direction of heavy Psychrock with an Progressive touch. Juan De La Cruz was really a liveband (which you can hear on the extra tracks on this CD). They/ve played big audiences in the Philippines because not many Western band made it over there (maybe for political reasons).
1. Justice (Where Are You) - 6:46
2. Stranger In A Strange Land - 5:52
3. Mystery Roach - 2:33
4. Requiem For A Head - 5:59
5. Love Of A Woman - 5:21
6. Lady In White Satin - 5:49
7. Love Of A Woman - 3:48
8. Kagatan - 2:40
9. Balong Malalim - 4:27
10.Beep Beep - 2:05
11.Langit - 10:03
12.Sarap Ng Buhay - 5:07
Bonus tracks 7-12 live recordings

Juan De La Cruz Band
*Wally Gonzales - Lead guitar, Vocals
*Clifford Ho - Bass, vocals
*Rene Sogueco - Piano, Organ, Vocals
*Romy SAntos - Alto, Baritone Sax, Flute, Clarinet
*Bobot Guerrero - Drums

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Country Lane - Substratum (1973 swiss, blazing heavy prog rock)

 Country Lane were a band from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, hailing from La Chaux-De-Fonds in the Neuchatel district. The band was formed in October 1970 by guitarist Raymond Amey, keyboardist Olivier Maire and rhythm guitarist Freddy Von Kaenel. The next year, after several personnel changes, a rhythm section was added to the original trio: between July and October 1971, bassist GianCarlo Duella and drummer Jean-Francois Donze completed the line-up that was responsible for the band's only album, called "Substratum".
Olivier Maire was always aiming at perfection as an instrumentalist. He was born in Bienne on the first of September 1951. Intending to be a doctor in the first place, he nevertheless made rime to learn piano, guitar and organ. His first band experience was with a group called Structures, going on with Country Lane. Tragically, he died in a motorbike accident on a Greek road, a few years after the release of "Substratum'". Raymond Amey was born on the 20th of November 1952 in La Chaux-De- Fonds. An accomplished musician, he was an outstanding performer on both six and twelve-string electric guitars, besides playing synthesizers and kazoo. Furthermore, he proved to be an honest singer and a gifted composer. A photographer in civilian life, he made his musical debut with Rhinos and Next Time, two local bands who achieved some success wav back in the early Seventies.
A childhood friend of the aforementioned and a former member of Golden Birds, Freddy Von Kaenel was born in the same town, the same year, yet on the 16th of March. Of course, he played the same instrument... Nevertheless, he soon developed his own style, playing essentially acoustic or twelve-string electric rhythm guitar. He describes himself not without humour as being... '' To Country Lane what wheat flour is to bechamel sauce. ", meaning that he was an efficient binder between the different musical tendencies at work within the band. I Ic also was an established high-level economics. GianCarlo Duella is also a native of La Chaux-De-Fonds. Actually, he was born one year after his buddies, on the 7th of March 1953. He started playing bass quite by chance, shortly before joining Country Lane. Yet, he quickly made great progress, establishing himself as an extremely talented musician who wasn't afraid to call his skills into question.
Having music and exhausting high-technology studies on the go at the rime, he usually hides his shyness behind reserve. Born April 16th 1952, Jean-Francois Donze was a self-taught percussionist, who started his drumming career on... Kitchen utensils !!! This happened quite unaffectedly at a rather hectic party together with some close friends. Forever bitten by the percussive bug, he discovered that he was cut out for drumming. He made his debut with Open Road before landing up in Country Lane. He describes himself as a very pleasant human being, who wouldn't be as powerful a performer except for what he calls mischievkmsly " Small outbursts of madness... ". A graphic arts student (He designed the album's inside cover drawing.) and a lover of surrealistic painting and Frank Zappa's music, Jean-Francois Donze is most of all a tireless creative person.
As soon as January 1972, Country Lane sorted to compose an original repertoire. The result of a relatively simple collective process, the group's music was created by all five bandmembers, beginning from a basical idea put forward by one of them. As soon as someone's tune sketches were approved by the other four, the themes were fleshed out and embellished into a conclusive song by the band. As for the lyrics, they were written exclusively in Shakespeare's language.
Not content with offering an almost perfect performance at each of their gigs, Country Lane indulged themselves in an unfailing relaxed attitude when on stage. The equipment at their disposal was intentionally overabundant, in order to guarantee the quintet all possible means to express their adventurous musical ideas. Prefering to emphasize the music above all, the band gave up the idea of using a wealthy light show or any stage histrionics, contrary to Pink Floyd with whom Country Lane were often compared. The band quickly obtained national recognition, thanks notably to their rock-opera "The Story Of Alan And Pearl", lasting for almost one hour and a half. Let's also point out a memorable gig in their home town of I .a Chaux- De-Fonds on the 10th of June 1972, when they opened the show for Daevid Allen’s Gong and several outstanding performances in Geneva.
During one of their stays there, Country Lane won second prize at a bands' contest held at the Black Bird club. The competition, organized over a period of one month by the club's manager Eliane Pade, gathered about thirty acts whose respective values were judged by several record companies' executives. Country Lane were presented the budget necessary to record an album by a well-known Swiss television broadcaster, Marius Berger, together with invitations to perform at noted festivals all over Switzerland. The most expensive Swiss long playing of its era, "Substratum" was eventually recorded at La Chaux-De-Fonds' Soundcraft Studio on the 9th of November 1972, under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Louvin and Chris Penycate.
The album was released on the 16th of May 1973, op the Splendid Records label. The band were resolutely opposed to any classification of their work. In their own terms: " Basically, we play the music we love, the genre we feel the most confident within ourselves. " With more straight rock stylings scattered through its songs, the album brings out an anguished lyrical nucleus around which vocals and guitars create an escapist, dreamy climate.
The musicians' creativity seems to be constandy stimulated, showcasing their talents and own style to the best advantage. As an attempt to characterize their music, one could speak of a perfect assimilation of the heavy English school made famous by Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, together with the best Anglo- Saxon Progressive Rock, the results sometimes recalling the songs of their Belgian colleagues Waterloo.
The album met with favourable reviews from the French-speaking Swiss press. The band were often compared to such different artists as Nektar (Yet in a less experimental manner...), Fairport Convention or Soft Machine. Even if the critics pointed out, albeit with indulgence, at the lack of maturity of some compositions and the band's relative lack of experience, they appreciated Country Lane's artistic qualities and overall freshness, predicting good prospects for them. Sadly, "Substratum" remained the band's only effort, leaving much promises without realisation.
Firstly, the album's release coincided with financial problems at Splendid Records, resulting in an obvious lack of energy to promote the record. Moreover, personal differences arose, preventing the band, who were conscious of their slight amateurism, to gig regularly and promote their work by themselves. Gradually, this situation led to the end of their career.
A quarter of a century later, the four surviving members of Country Lane have found themselves with various destinies. Most of them have settled down, are family men and, perhaps a sign of the times, have done well in business and their professional undertakings, whereas they held the decadence of the establishment up to ridicule in the distant Seventies. Nevertheless, their intractable spirit has remained in some way: besides being the manager of a computer firm, Raymond Amey has never ceased to write songs. In 1997, he eventually decided to reform a rock group with former local musicians, among whom is his old chum Freddy Von Kaenel himself, nowadays the manager of a foodstuffs firm. Due to Belgian Philippe Collingon and Music Emporium's passion, "Substratum" was first released in CD format some years ago.
This one being available no more, Musea gives you a chance to get the remixed version now. Made in a Toulouse studio, the operation let the two meet again with GianCarlo Duella, now a computer engineer living on the shores of the Geneva lake, after spending several months studying in the United States of America. Jean-Francois Donze sadly couldn't attend the reunion, suffering from multiple sclerosis. A divorced and childless man, he creates his own models of (Swiss !) watches for reputed trademarks. Some twenty-seven years after its only album release, Country Lane remains a good example of those little known, yet multitalented bands, swarming all over Europe in the Seventies and often displaying fresh ideas and enthusiasm far beyond their financial means.
As for Country Lane  their effort looks all the more remarkable since Switzerland wasn't overflowing with Progressive bands at the time. Welcome wouldn't emerge before two or three years, whilst keyboards wizzard Patrick Moraz essentially made a name for himself in the United Kingdom and abroad. From this point of view, Raymond Amey, reveals a lesser known side of the Progressive Rock history, outof- the-way for most listeners a too long time.
by Jean-Pierre Louvin, Freddy Von Kaenel and Raymond Amey
1. With A Sweet Whistle To My Ears - 6:21
2. It's Only Your Memory Playing Just The Thought Of A First Love - 2:36
3. Substratum - 1:47
4. In The Morning Sun - 3:26
5. Good Old Time - 2:36
6. The Disgusting Story Of The Captain Bloom Part1 - Song To Ivan - 7:00
7. The Disgusting Story Of The Captain Bloom Part2 - Letter To A Friend - 7:39
8. The Disgusting Story Of The Captain Bloom Part3 - Captain Bloom - 2:39
9. The Disgusting Story Of The Captain Bloom Part4 - Lilliput's Safari - 2:16
All compositions by Country Lane

Country Lane
*Raymond Amey - Guitars, Synthesizers, Vocals
*Olivier Maire - Organ, Piano, Spinet, Vocals
*Jean-Francois Donze - Drums
*Giancarlo Duella - Bass
*Freddy Von Kaenel - Rhythm Guitar, Banjo

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High Tide - Precious Cargo (1970 uk, hauntingly beautiful slices of progressive rock, Akarma release)

 A group that may have been too clever by half to succeed in England, High Tide never received more than a minimal amount of acceptance in their own country, but found a cult audience on the European continent.

Formed in 1969, they played progressive rock with some folk and pop influences. Tony Hill was the singer and guitarist, Simon House played violin and keyboards, Peter Pavli handled the bass, and Roger Hadden played the drums. They were signed to Liberty Records' U.K. division in 1969 and released two albums over the next year -- Sea Shanties and a self-titled second album -- both of which featured dazzling guitar work by Hill and occasional striking interplay between his instrument and House's violin.

The group never really found an audience however, splitting up in 1970. Simon House later became a member of Hawkwind, played with David Bowie, and joined members of the Third Ear Band to perform on the soundtrack of Roman Polanski's movie Macbeth. Pavli later joined in recording with House and several other Hawkwind expatriates.

Hill and House have also recorded together in more recent years. The group also backed Denver Gerrard on his 1970 solo album
by Bruce Eder
1. Blood Lagoon - 5:59
2. Quest - 5:45
3. Inflight - 5:44
4. Ice Age - 3:28
5. Movie Madness - 4:06
6. Exploration - 9:07
7. Rock Me on Your Wave - 7:41
All songs by High Tide

High Tide
*Tony Hill - Vocals, Guitar
*Simon House - Violin, Keyboards
*Peter Pavli - Bass
*Roger Hadden - Drums

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Second Hand - Reality (1968 uk, poetic psych with heavy episodes and progressive structures is inventive, Sunbeam remaster)

 Second Hand’s Reality is rarely mentioned when collectors compile their lists of best ever UK psych albums.  That’s a shame, because Reality is probably better than most of the well-known psych classics.

Second Hand was originally known as The Next Collection, a Clapham/Balham/Streatham group who, early on, were structured around the guitar talents of Bob Gibbons (Gibbons would eventually quit the band due to depression).  The Next Collection were heavily influenced by the sounds of the Who, the Creation and the Small Faces, utilizing feedback and charging arrangements in many of their early tunes. 

The axis of the group would eventually become keyboard player Kenny Elliot and drummer Kieran O’Connor.  This group would change their name to the Moving Finger as psychedelia became the new trend and some time later, they’d eventually settle on Second Hand.  Early copies of their debut, released in 1968, are in fact credited to the Moving Finger.  The group changed their name to Second Hand because another group called the Moving Finger had just released a 45 on Mercury.

Lots of people comment that the album’s one weak point is Kenny Elliot’s vocals.  This reviewer feels his vocals fit the music appropriately and do not take anything away from the album’s greatness.  Some tracks such as “A Fairy Tale” and “Good Old ’59″ are appealingly twee while others hit much harder, like the stoner rock of ‘Rhubarb!”  There’s lots of mellotron and cool studio tricks throughout Reality. 

The album’s one certified classic, “The World Will End Yesterday” has swirling backward tapes, crashing drums and heavy guitar – a psych masterpiece!  A few of the longer cuts have led some people to unfairly label this disc prog.  Reality is pure psychedelia but more experimental and challenging than most.  Two sad drug OD songs (“MainLiner” and “The Bath Song”) hit really low, downer moods but are truly brilliant.  An album that can be played from beginning to end, without skipping thru any tracks.  One of the great unknown LPs from 1968.

Second Hand would issue their second album in 1971.  This disc, titled May Death Be Your Santa Claus, is another standout effort from the early progressive era, full of great ideas and eccentric music.
by Jason Nardelli
1. A Fairy Tale - 3:19
2. Rhubarb! (Elliott, Gibbons) - 3:47
3. Denis James the Clown (Kitchener) - 2:21
4. Steam Tugs - 3:14
5. Good Old '59 (We Are Slowly Gettin' Older) - 2:19
6. The World Will End Yesterday (Elliott, Gibbons) - 3:50
7. Denis James (Ode to D.J.) - 3:15
8. Mainliner (Elliott, Kitchener) - 6:17
9. Reality (Gibbons) - 8:31
10.The Bath Song - 3:11
11.A Fairy Tale - 2:13
12.Steam Tugs - 5:32
13.James in the Basement (Couldry) - 2:48
14.I Am Nearly There (Couldry, Wills) - 3:17
All compositions by Ken Elliott except where noted

Second Hand
*Ken Elliott - Keyboards, Vocals
*Bob Gibbons - Guitar
*Arthur Kitchener - Bass
*Kieran O'Connor - Drums, Percussion
*Nick South - Bass
*Christopher Williams - Cello, Flute, Saxophone

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Group 1850 - Agemo's Trip To Mother Earth (1968 holland, astonishing psychedelic rock with experimental mood)

 Group 1850 was formed in The Hague, in November 1964, by Peter Sjardin. He was, in turn, discovered by Hugo Gordijn when he was playing with a band called The Klits in the basement of a bowling alley in Scheveningen. Says Gordijn: "The Klits played funny and different kind of music, very good in a comical sort of way."

When The Klits decided to work with Hugo as their manager, the band's name was changed to Groep 1850. Their first gig in March 1966 at the Scheveningen Casino impressed the crowd, the band's name immediately became known on the underground scene. Sjardin copies members of bands such as The Move and The Who by mutilating his keyboard on stage. Their music of that period is best described as avant-garde rock with psychedelic influences, and a comparison with The Mothers of Invention would definitely be in order.

Paul Acket released the first single on his Yep label, entitled, "Misty Night"; it sounded not unlike Q65 and the Pretty Things.  Radio Caroline gave the song lots of airplay, hence the band garnered even more attention in Holland. As a result, Hans van Hemert offered the band a contract. At the end of 1967, "Mother No-Head" was released; it became a hit song. A little detail: Van Hemert did the vocal part on this one!

This success landed the band their first tour of Germany. Sjardin remained the only member of the band to stay until the breakup in 1975. At a certain moment, something happened that caused the collapse of the band. Jaques Senf, Freddie Haayen, Beer Klaasse, Ruud van Buuren and Dean van Bergen were invited to join other bands. Beer went on to Q65 and Ruud joined Long Tall Ernie and the Shakers.  Martin van Duynhoven (drums) Dave Duba (guitar), Dolf Geldof (bass) joined Groep 1850 in their stead, while Dean van Bergen came back.

Group 1850 emerged from the renowned Dutch group Klits (short for 'clitoris') from The Hague. The line-up in 1965 consisted of: Peter Sjardin (vocals), Trevor Dirksen (guitar), Caspar Kiebert (drums), Chris Zieck (bass) & Jacques de Jong (guitar). On 1st January, 1966, the group renamed itself into Groep 1850. Their progressive music immediately revealed that the group was far ahead of its time!

In 1966, the line-up changed to: Peter Sjardin (vocals, flute, organ), Ruud van Buuren (bass, in 1969 to Livin' Blues), Daniel van Bergen (guitar & piano), Beer Klaasse (drums, ex-Kick & Defenders; in 1969 to Q65) & Rob de Rijke (bass, flute; ex-Subterraneans). In September 1967 they played at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, opening for the Mothers of Invention. The LP "Agemo's Trip To Mother Earth" was the first Dutch concept LP featuring works of poet Hans Wesseling (1968).

In 1968, the group disbanded for almost a year and then chose Amsterdam as the home base for their reunion. The new line-up consisted of: Peter and Daniel (who'd played with the Boots in the meantime) and some new members: Dave Duba (g, ex-Burning Sun), Dolf Geldof (bass, ex-Burning Sun) and jazz drummer Martin van Duynhoven (a.o. ex-Hans Dulfer). From 1971 onwards, Groep 1850 worked on and off.

In 1974 Groep 1850 disbanded once again, after working on the "Orange Upstairs" project. Two years later, a live LP was released by the ever-active Peter, with cooperation of Hessel de Vries, Neppy Noya, Arthur Ebeling (guitar) & Paul van Wageningen (drums).

After a call for autographs through the "Basta" magazine in 1979, the LP "Paradise Now" (earlier released by V&D) was re-released.  Soon thereafter, Peter formed a new group: S.T.S. (Sjardin's Terrible Surprise). Line-up: Ella Elbersen (v, to Herman Brood), Robbie Smit (v, to Herman Brood), Axel Westerduin (b, ex-Stock, replaced in 1980 Kees van Vooren, who went to Just Like Eddie), Mike Willis (g, ex-Eyes, replaced in 1980 Wouter Planteijdt, ex-Door Mekaar, to Herman Brood) and Wilfred Versnellens (dr). In 1981, the group name was changed into S.I.X. (Sjardin's Invisible X-factor). In 1982 an LP by Sjardin's Terrible Surprise was "posthumously" released.
by Adri Verhoef
1. Steel Sings - 3:02
2. Little Fly - 4:17
3. I Put My Hands On Your Shoulder - 13:36
4. You Did It Too Hard - 2:10
5. A Point In This Life - 5:03
6. Refound - 3:02
7. Reborn - 3:11
8. I Know (La Pensée) - 3:12
9. I Want More (Fingertips) (P. Sjardin) - 2:04
10. Mother No-Head (H.V. Hemert, P. Sjardin) - 3:25
11. Ever Ever Green (P. Sjardin, H.V. Hemert) - 3:17
12. Zero - 3:29
13. Frozen Mind - 3:40
14. We Love Life - 4:29
15. Mother No-Head (French Version) (H.V. Hemert, P. Sjardin) - 3:25
16. Mother No-Head (Instrumental) (H.V. Hemert, P. Sjardin) - 3:25
All songs by Daniel van Bergen and Peter Sjardin unless as else written.

Group 1850
*Peter Sjardin - Flute, Organ, Vocals
*Daniel van Bergen - Guitar, Piano
*Ruud van Buuren - Bass
*Beer Klaasse - Drums

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sweet Pain - Sweet Pain (1969 uk, stunning blues rock)


The now highly sought after Sweet Pain sessions (1969) featured the precursor line-up to the Bluesblasters and Mainsqueeze, representing a truly fundamental collaboration of musical protagonists.
Members of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers assembled to record some impromptu blues sessions, released on Mercury.
The Melody Maker summarised Sweet Pain as simply a, “Hot and heavy blues set from British musicians Dick Heckstall-Smith, John O’Leary, Keith Tillman and Annette Brox.”
An air of competence pervaded the LP and reviews received, but the consensus was undoubtedly that these aficionado blues musicians at this stage lacked a degree of commercial appeal, utilising rather raw and ‘primitive’ rhythms.
Like an experienced vintage the line-up continued under further guises, evolving to The Famous Bluesblasters, whom provided Dick with a semi- professional unit playing as he recalls mainly at weekends, thus caught in the rather lack lustre cultural climate of the time towards cutting edge blues
1. The Steamer (Annette Brox) - 2.27
2. Changin´ Your Mind (John O´Leary, Keith Tilman, Stuart Cowell, Annette Brox) - 2.25
3. Rubbin´ And Scrapin´ (John O´Leary, Keith Tilman, Stuart Cowell, Annette Brox) - 5.40
4. Sick And Tired (Annette Brox) - 2:50
5. The Rooster Crows At Midnight (Annette Brox) - 2.28
6. Troubles Trouble (Annette Brox) - 3.52
7. Don´T Break Down (John O´Leary, Keith Tilman, Stuart Cowell, Annette Brox) - 5.17
8. It´S A Woman´S Way (Annette Brox) - 2.52
9. General Smit (John O´Leary, Keith Tilman, Stuart Cowell, Annette Brox) - 6.44
10.Trouble In Mind (Richard M. Jones) - 5.27
11.Song Of The Medusa (Brian Shepherd) - 1.40

Sweet Pain
*Annette Brox - Vocals
*Stuart Cowell - Guitar
*Sam Crozier - Perc, Vocals, Keyboards, Trumpet
*Junior Dunn - Drums
*Alan Greed - Vocals
*Dick Heckstall-Smith - Sax
*John O'leary - Harmonica
*Keith Tillman - Bass

Monday, July 15, 2013

John St. Field - Control (1971 uk, beautiful acid psych folk rock)


Born in 1950 into a Romany (Roma) family, Jackie Leven spent his childhood and teenage years clearly marked out as an outsider in the clannish, insular world that was Fife, Scotland at that time. Although Scottish himself, neither of his parents were from the area - his father was an Irish Cockney, his mother was from a large Northumberland (Geordie) family, and adapting to existing cultural norms was a hard, if not formidable task for such incomers.
This seems to have formed the start of an independence of mind in the young Leven, hopelessly wayward at school (although outstanding at English and essay writing), with few friends, and those mostly considered 'oddball'. His attendance at school was woeful, but those truanting times spent alone in glens and hills and by rivers still form the basis of his songs' imagery to this day.
Things started to change in his early teens. His mother, unusually for the time and the place, was a lover of American black blues music, and although Jackie was used to coming in the door from school to the strains of 'I got the blues in the bottle, but the stopcork in my hand' by Lightnin' Hopkins, it was a source of fascination to school friends whose own homes resonated to the sound of Wooden Heart by Elvis Presley.
Soon he was playing in local bands - the first real electric scene at this time in this part of the world, but also playing his own blues songs in local folk clubs, such as the Elbow Room in Kirkcaldy, where he was encouraged by stalwarts of the scene like Archie Fisher and Hamish Imlach, and passing singers like Doris Henderson, with whom he played a few shows as guitarist.
However, such activity also brought him to the attention of local gangs, one in particular starting a baseless vendetta against him, and he was duly obliged to leave Fife, and indeed Scotland. This precipitated years of rootless wandering, sleeping rough, living hand to mouth, including a four month stint living in corners of the South Bank Centre, London, where he busked for a living. This was during the late sixties when there was much less of the (relatively) ready acceptance of street musicians that now exists in the capital.
He also lived variously in County Kerry, Ireland, Berlin and Madrid, where he had a record released, “Control” (1971) By John St Field (his stage name of the time) - now considered to be a psychedelic underground classic. He started to live in squatted accommodation in different locations in the UK where he began to encounter people with real and sometimes serious mental illness and psychic disorder. He often quotes the American poet Theodore Roethke's great line - 'for what is madness but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?'.
1. Soft Lowland Tongue - 4:14
2. Ruins - 3:41
3. The Problem - 10:45
4. Dune Voices - 3:15
5. Raerona - 6:06
6. I'm Always A Prinlaws Boy - 4:13
7. Mansion Tension - 3:27
8. Dog Star - 5:19
9. Sleeping In Bracken - 1:24
Words and Music by Jackie Leven

*John Haines - Drums
*Joe Kuccer - Flute, Baritone Sax
*Jackie Leven - Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Vocals
*Phil Ryan - Organ, Moog
*Alex Atterson - Piano
*Jesse Ballard, Juliet Lawson - Vocals

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Caravan - For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night (1973 uk, exceptional progressive rock, japan SHM extra tracks issue)

 After Waterloo Lily, Caravan returned with their most inspired recording since In the Land of the Grey and Pink. The splendidly titled For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night is several steps ahead in terms of fresh musical ideas that wholly incorporate the band's trademark humor within the otherwise serious and challenging sonic structures.

Two of the more dominant reasons for the change in Caravan's sound were the return of keyboardist Dave Sinclair and the addition of violist Peter Geoffrey Richardson. Die-hard fans gladly welcomed Sinclair back, however, Richardson was met with heckles from enthusiasts during live appearances. They were soon silenced as his place on For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night easily ranks among Caravan's watershed moments.

There are perhaps none better than the mesmerizing counterpoint melodies he weaves during the "L'Auberge Du Sanglier" suite. While not completely abandoning their jazz leanings, For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night is considerably focused back into the rock genre. Ironically, the album also features some rather elaborate orchestration. In context, it is quite effective in creating emphasis -- especially on the leadoff track "Memory Lain, Hugh," as well as the dreamy mid-tempo "The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again."

The remastered CD also includes five additional tracks. The first four are demos featuring the band without orchestra and with some notable differences, such as the distinct lead guitar opening to "Memory Lain, Hugh." "Derek's Long Thing" is another instrumental piece penned by keyboardist Derek Austin -- one of the two transitional Caravan members chosen to replace Steve Miller. A must-own for inclined parties.
by Lindsay Planer
1. Memory Lain, Hugh/Headloss - 9:19
2. Hoedown - 3:10
3. Surprise, Surprise - 3:45
4. C'thlu Thlu - 6:10
5. The Dog, The Dog, He’s At It Again - 5:53
6. Be Alright/Chance Of A Lifetime - 6:38
7. L'auberge Du Sanglier/A Hunting We Shall Go/Pengola/Backwards/A Hunting We Shall Go (Reprise) (P. Hastings, John G. Perry, Mike Ratledge) - 9:46
8. Memory Lain, Hugh/Headloss - Us Mix - 9:18
9. No! - "Be Alright"/Waffle - "Chance Of A Lifetime" - 5:10
10.He Who Smelt It Dealt It - "Memory Lain, Hugh" - 4:43
11.Surprise, Surprise - 3:15
12.Derek's Long Thing (Richard Coughlan, Pye Hastings) - 11:00
All compositions by Pye Hastings except where indicated

*Pye Hastings – Singer, Vocals, Guitar
*Geoff Richardson – Viola
*David Sinclair – Organ, Piano, Electric Piano, Davoli Synthesizer, A.R.P. Synthesizer
*John G. Perry – Bass Guitar, Vocals, Percussion
*Richard Coughlan – Drums, Percussion, Timpani
Additional personnel
*Rupert Hine – A.R.P. Synthesizer
*Frank Ricotti – Congas
*Jimmy Hastings – Flute
*Paul Buckmaster – Electric Cello
*Tony Coe – Clarinet, Tenor Sax
*Pete King – Flute, Alto Sax
*Harry Klein – Clarinet, Baritone Sax
*Henry Lowther – Trumpet
*Jill Pryor – Voice
*Chris Pyne – Trombone
*Barry Robinson – Piccolo
*Tom Whittle – Clarinet, Tenor Sax
*Orchestra Arranged By John Bell And Martyn Ford, Conducted By Martyn Ford
the journey of Caravan
1968  Caravan (Japan SHM remaster)
1970  If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You (Japan SHM remaster)
1971  In The Land Of Grey And Pink (Japan SHM remaster)
1972  Waterloo Lily (Japan Mini LP)

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Elephant's Memory - Elephant's Memory (1969 us, marvelous psych jazz brass rock with avant garde tinges)

 An elephant's memory is legendarily large, and so was the size and scope of the New York band that went by the same name. Unlike some other horn-rock ensembles of the late-'60s that took advantage of the freedom to expand rock's size and sound, however, Elephants Memory weren't merely a rock band with jazz overtones. There was plenty of pile-driving rock'n'roll, and a good deal of jazz of both the free and big band varieties.

But there was also soul, spaced-out psychedelia, and pop -- not just over the course of the entire album, but sometimes within the space of a single song -- and what can only be described as downright strange lyrics about hot dog men, yogurt, love as a jungle gym, and "Old Man Willow." Some of it was written by the guy who'd go on to produce David Bowie, some of it would end up on the soundtrack to the classic movie Midnight Cowboy, and the whole shebang was produced by the guy who'd go on to produce the Partridge Family. If Elephants Memory were a strange band, they were certainly no stranger than their surroundings, with second-degree-separations between the careers of not only Bowie, Midnight Cowboy star Dustin Hoffman, and the Partridge Family, but also the Beatles and Carly Simon.

The foundation of Elephants Memory in the late 1960s has been attributed to singer, saxophonist, flautist, and clarinetist Stan Bronstein and drummer Rick Frank; singer Michal Shapiro's understanding was that bassist/trombonist Myron Yules, who'd played in big bands with Bronstein, was also an original member.

Carly Simon briefly passed through the lineup on the way to her solo career. But by the time they recorded their first album for Buddah, she'd left and, as Shapiro recalls, "they had just blown out the pipes of a very good singer named Martha Velez." Shapiro took Simon's old spot as vocalist, and the septet -- now ranging in age from their early twenties to mid-thirties -- was filled out with keyboardist Richard Sussman and guitarists John Ward and Chester Ayres.

By 1969 large rock bands with horn sections were becoming far more commonplace with the emergence of Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Sly & the Family Stone, the Ides of March, and the Mothers of Invention. Elephants Memory would fall much closer to the avant-garde, at times absurdist, rock of the late-'60s Mothers than to the commercial likes of Blood, Sweat & Tears. Shapiro says, though, that it wasn't the conscious intention of the band to be different by virtue of bigger and more unusual arrangements -- "the band members just thought that there was an opportunity to use their talents in the rock sphere," and Bronstein and Yules would use electric soprano sax and electric trombone respectively in their transition to the rock world.

Even by the standards of the late 1960s, which saw some of the strangest and most genre-bending rock albums ever, Elephants Memory is a strange animal. The songs were as likely to mine a furious soul-rock groove as they were to explore ethereal psychedelic balladry with Doorsy organ. Even the relatively straightforward R&B-soaked tunes were apt to take weird left turns, like the guttural nonsense chanting and siren-like scatting that interrupt "Don't Put Me on Trial No More"; the "baby you're an animal, and I guess I'm just a cannibal" refrain of "Jungle Gym at the Zoo"; the low moans on "Takin' a Walk" that sounded like the mating of a vacuum cleaner with an actual elephant; and the hippie marching-band anthem ethos of "Band of Love." And there was "Hot Dog Man," where actual street conversations between the band and hot dog vendors were interlaced with hot funk licks and cheerleading-like chants from the band mimicking the hot dog men's sales pitch.

Bronstein rather than Shapiro tended to take a lot of the "R'n'B-ish" vocals, recalls Michal, as "I was never that much of a screamer. I inherited arrangements of songs that Carly Simon had worked up with the band. Eventually I developed my own repertoire, but that took a while, and is not reflected in that LP. The band had a very eclectic sensibility; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. ['Hot Dog Man'] was much more cohesive when we performed it live; the version on the LP doesn't give the tune much room to grow. I had reservations towards all those lyrics about food [also heard in 'Yogurt Song'], but they were part of the repertoire I inherited."

The more soul-soaked cuts were actually outshone by some of the more melodic, psychedelic outings, particularly the seven-minute "Old Man Willow," the album's highlight. Starting with swirling ominous organ and decorated by guitar riffs that sounded as if they were being blown through a fishbowl, it was the best showcase for Shapiro's high and haunting upper vocal range, also embellished by wily horn lines and a waltz-time bridge. "That song really was the reason I wanted to join the band," says Michal, one of the tune's co-writers. "I thought the music was very beautiful, and an indicator of what I might be able to absorb as a musician in the company of those players." Briefer but similarly beguiling jazzy numbers that made good use of Shapiro's otherworldly scat vocals were "R.I.P." and "Brief Encounter," the latter of which had a Santana-like Latin-funk bed and snake-charming horn interjections.

While most of the band got in on the songwriting action in various combinations, a couple of non-members also pitched in material. The husband-wife team of Tony and Siegrid Visconti (who'd done a couple of obscure flop singles as a duo) penned "Hot Dog Man," and also contributed to "Band of Love." With Bronstein, Tony Visconti co-wrote the album's most unusual track, "Mr. Heep," which evolved from free jazz-ish instrumental clamor to a surrealistic verse (rather on the order of Neil Young/Buffalo Springfield's "Mr. Soul"), a jibing, Zappa-esque chorus, and a bad-trip bridge with circus-of-the-damned organ, throwing in a bit of Soft Machine-like keyboard frenzy and what could have passed for an actual circus fanfare near the end.

The Brooklyn-born Visconti was by the late '60s already in the process of establishing himself as a top producer in Britain, becoming famed for his work with David Bowie and T. Rex in particular. "When he was in New York he would make a point of visiting with the band," remembers Shapiro. "He was talking about David Bowie quite a bit then, and played us some tapes he had produced. I particularly remember a very interesting song with a nice cello arrangement that he played for us, with the line 'wear the dress your mother wore.'" That was "Let Me Sleep Beside You," a track Visconti had produced for Bowie in September 1967; as it wasn't released until 1970, Elephants Memory were likely among the first people to hear it.

The LP boasted a for-the-time controversial sleeve in which the band posed in front of an elephant nude, albeit obscured to some degree in body paint. That, combined with a stage show that in early 1969 incorporated inflatable stage sets (including a large inflatable plastic jungle), gave Elephants Memory's image a visual flamboyance, though Shapiro points out, "We were NEVER a theatrical band. We were a hard rocking New York band that was very good live, just playing our music. Wes decided that wasn't enough and hired someone to give us all these props, which we tried to use for a few performances, but it worked out like Spinal Tap's Stonehenge...even more surreal, actually.

While we were in L.A. we  did a film of all of us and Ultra Violet [the Andy Warhol-affiliated actress and artist who had a bit part in Midnight Cowboy] sending the damned plastic creatures out to sea."

Any controversy the cover might have attracted didn't help the album become a commercial hit, as it topped out at a heartbreaking #200 on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart. It did find greater chart success by proxy, however, when two of its songs ("Jungle Gym Zoo" and "Old Man Willow") were used in the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy, which made #19 in late 1969.
by Richie Unterberger
1.Don't Put Me On Trial No More (S. Bronstein, R. Sussman) - 2:50
2.Crossroads Of The Stepping Stones (M. Shapiro, S. Bronstein) - 2:54
3.Jungle Gym At The Zoo (R. Sussman, R. Frank, S. Bronstein) - 2:13
4.Super Heep (T. Visconti, S. Bronstein) - 5:29
5.R.I.P. (S. Bronstein, R. Sussman) - 1:40
6.Band Of Love (S. Bronstein, M. Yules, T. Visconti, S. Visconti) - 4:08
7.Takin' A Walk (R. Sussman, R. Frank, M. Shapiro, M. Yules, S. Bronstein) - 3:47
8.Hot Dog Man (T. Visconti, S. Visconti) - 3:31
9.Old Man Willow (R. Sussman, M. Shapiro, M. Yules, S. Bronstein) - 7:04
10.Yogurt Song (R. Sussman, R. Frank) - 2:54
11.Brief Encounter (R. Sussman) - 4:37

Elephant's Memory
*Michal Shapiro - Vocals
*Stan Bronstein - Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Vocals
*Rick Frank - Drums
*John Ward - Bass
*Chester Ayers - Guitar
*Myron Yules - Bass, Trombone
*Richard Sussman - Piano, Organ
*Leonard Allcock - Harmonica
*Guy Peritore - Guitar, Vocals
*David Cohen - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Baby Grandmothers - Baby Grandmothers (1967-68 sweden, raw fuzzed psych jam)

 The standout band from this long-sunk ship of fools is Baby Grandmothers, who are graced with an appearance on side one abut are given their own eponymous release. Compared to much of the cultural mishmash on this compilation, baby Grandmothers come off as rather straight until you let this unearthed masterpiece roll undeterred by expectation. "Somebody Keeps Calling My Name" is a powerhouse slow-burn.

The shit is all groove and solo, and perfect for it. "Being More than Life" is the single and frankly the root of the record. It's a Sabbath doom lament that will leave amp residue on your brain after you are done with it. If you have managed to get over you tired indie-rock aversion to guitar solos, each record on Baby Grandmothers will be balm to your ears. "Bergakungen" is a 16-minute stretch-out of much of themes unearthed in "Being More than life" almost like watching the track on slow motion. My guess is you have time to kill in the Finnish winters, since this is flowed by a 19-minute "Being More than Life 2" taken form a live performance.

I'd say the band was set on eclipsing the sun with this monster, but they don't exactly get much sun up there, do they? This is followed up by a power gird breakdown number "St. George's Dragon" sounding like the wave motion gun from the Space Battleship Yamato leaving you, the listener, sapped for energy after its effect has passed. All you have left is the Ragnarok death-boogie of "Raw Diamond" offering the coldest of comfort.
1. Somebody Keeps Calling My Name - 9:14
2. Being Is More Than Life I - 5:40
3. Bergakungen - 16:19
4. Being Is More Than Life II (Hakansson) - 19:44
5. St. George's Dragon I - 7:03
6. St. George's Dragon II - 0:57
7. Raw Diamond - 1:30
All tracks by Hakansson, Linnarsson, Ekman except where noted

Baby Grandmothers
*Pelle Ekman - Drums
*Bengt Linnarsson - Bass
*Kenny Hakansson - Guitar, Vocals

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