Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Judy Henske And Jerry Yester - Farewell Aldebaran (1969 us, elegant baroque psychedelia)

The rich, satured cover of Farewell Aldebaran, where a photo of Judy Henske and Jerry Yester, sitting with child and cat in a broken-down backyard is subjected to color solarization, suggests a carapace of psychedelia has been draped over the album. You should run with that instinct, but don’t be too reductive about it. The timing was right - Henske and Yester recorded and released the album in 1969, the former already recognized as a talented folk singer and the latter an ex-member of Lovin’ Spoonful and The Magic Ride - but ultimately Farewell Aldebaran is a stylistic index. The duo pushes bolshy, militant rock songs like “Snowblind” up against carnival tunes (“Horses on a Stick”) and melodramatic surrealism (“St Nicholas Hall”), and the arrangements gesture toward folk, Californian pop, hillbilly music and acid rock without settling into anything pro-forma.

The studio is the pop alchemist’s plaything, the space within which artists can unlock prodigious creativity and document it on quarter-inch tape. Accordingly, Farewell Aldebaran sounds ripe, borderline sumptuous at times and positively stuffed at others. It refuses to rest, scratching little details into the margins of each song, and the arrangements err on the polite side of overblown, full of grand sweeps of strings and arcs of pungent melody, with Henske’s voice moving from dulcet to amorous to acidic. When Yester joins her at the microphone, they twang nasally through “Raider” and feed themselves through primitive electronics on the closing title track, dislocating their physical presence. The whole thing is faintly alien in tone and psychedelic in the truest sense - opulent and temporally dislocating.
by Jon Dale
1. Snowblind (Judy Henske, Yester, Zal Yanovsky) - 3:02
2. Horses On A Stick - 2:12
3. Lullaby - 3:00
4. St. Nicholas Hall - 3:39
5. Three Ravens - 3:29
6. Raider - 5:12
7. One More Time - 2:18
8. Rapture - 4:09
9. Charity - 3:17
10. Farewell Aldebaran - 4:07
Lyrics by Judy Henske, Music by Jerry Yester, except track #1

*Judy Henske - Vocals
*Larry Beckett - Drums
*Ry Cooder - Mandolin
*John Forsha - 12 String Guitar
*Toxie French - Drums
*Eddie Hoh - Drums
*Bernie Krause - Moog Synthesizer Programming
*David Lindley - Bowed Banjo
*"David's Friend" (Solomon Feldthouse ?) - Hammer Dulcimer
*Joe Osborn - Bass
*Dick Rossmini - Guitar
*Jerry Scheff - Bass
*Zal Yanovsky – Bass, Guitar
*Jerry Yester - Vocals, Guitar, Piano , Harmonium, Toy Zither, Marxophone, Chamberlain Tape Organ, Orchestra , Organ, Banjo, Bass, Moog Synthesizer

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Denny Gerrard - Sinister Morning (1970 south africa, outstanding folk rock with psych shades, 2008 remaster)

It wasn't long after arriving in the U.K. that South African student Denny Gerrard began making his mark on the music scene. In 1965, Jimmy Page picked him to become one half of the duo the Fifth Avenue, while Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham brought him in as arranger for his project the Variations. Gerrard then linked up with Barry Younghusband, and as Warm Sounds they promptly unleashed the Top 30 hit "Birds and Bees." Swiftly bored with pop the duo soon split, and Gerrard moved into production, overseeing High Tide's critically acclaimed 1969 debut album, Sea Shanties. No surprise then, that when the South African began work on his own debut, self-produced, full-length, High Tide were by his side. However, the resulting album, Sinister Morning, was far more a reflection of Gerrard's vision than Tide's sound. 

Much of the set has a folkie feel, accentuated by the prolific use of Gerrard's acoustic guitar and harmonica. Only on "Native Sun" is the band given a real chance to rock out, with the rest of the set given over to more midtempo numbers. These gave Gerrard the opportunity to explore his roots and showcase his arrangement skills. His epiphany is found on the final track, a haunting, seven-plus minute instrumental, whose rich "Atmosphere" is conjured up by his acoustic guitar and Simon House's delicate organ and rich violin. J.J. Mackey provides the spoken word segments that, sadly, are virtually buried in the mix. 

The album's other epic track, "True Believer" takes folk to church, with House's hymnal organ juxtaposed against a rich, Americana tapestry. "Autumn Blewn," in contrast, counterpoints '60s R&B with C&W, with Gerrard's harmonica adding a folkie feel to the intricate piece. "Rough Stuff" also has an R&B bend, but a down-home, Southern rock tinge, while "Stop or Drop It" is even more rousing, as Gerrard plays his pusillanimous acoustic guitar off against Tony Hill's electric leads. Although kept on a tight leash, High Tide still bring an energy to the set, turning up the heat on virtually all the songs, particularly the poppy "Hole in My Shadow," which was probably intended for singledom. The production gives the entire album a warm sound, although on CD it comes across as a tad too pristine. 

The only flaw within is Gerrard's decision to overutilize layered vocals instead of true harmonies, and paying far less attention to his vocals than he did to the rest of the album's sound. Released on Decca's mid-price imprint Nova, the album surprisingly sank without a track, but swiftly became a much sought-after collector's item. Finally after all these years, Esoteric has now lovingly remastered and reissued this splendid album on CD. 
by Jo-Ann Greene
1. Native Sun - 3:55
2. True Believer - 7:06
3. Hole In My Shadow - 3:22
4. Last But One - 4:05
5. Rough Stuff - 3:00
6. Stop It Or Drop It - 2:52
7. Autumn Blewn - 2:53
8. Eye For Eye - 4:33
9. Atmosphere - 7:07
All songs by Denny Gerrard

Denny Gerrard - Guitar, Mouth Harp, Vocals
Roger Hadden - Drums
Tony Hill - Guitar, Vocals
Simon House - Keyboards, Violin
Peter Pavli - Bass
Lyn Husband, Sue Young - Vocals
J.J. Makey - Words, Reading

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1970  High Tide - Precious Cargo
1970  High Tide - High Tide (2010 Remaster)

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Joe Cocker - Stingray (1976 uk, fine jazzy soft rock)

“Stingray”  is Joe Cocker's  6th studio album, released in 1976 and ranks as a favorite among his musical peers. Joe turns in some unbelievable vocal performances on such tunes as "The Jealous Kind", "A Song For You", "She is My Lady" and "The Worrier" (which features Eric Clapton on guitar).

The soulful rhythm section is anchored by Joe's then backup band ‘Stuff’ with lead guitarist Eric Gale providing flawless guitar solo's throughout. Great backup vocals are provided by Patti Austin, Deniece Williams and Bonnie Bramlet.

Without question it ranks alongside the best rock albums ever made. Cocker's singing has enourmous emotional power and range and the song selection is exquisite.
by Anthony
1. The Jealous Kind (Bobby Charles) - 3:52
2. I Broke Down (Matthew Moore) - 3:29
3. You Came Along (Bobby Charles) - 3:50
4. Catfish (Bob Dylan, Jacques Levy) - 5:23
5. Moon Dew (Matthew Moore) - 5:54
6. The Man In Me (Bob Dylan) - 2:43
7. She Is My Lady (George Clinton) - 4:37
8. Worrier (Matthew Moore) - 3:16
9. Born Thru Indifference (Joe Cocker, Richard Tee) - 6:15
10.A Song For You (Leon Russell) - 6:27

*Joe Cocker - Lead Vocals, Guitar
*Eric Clapton - Guitar
*Cornell Dupree - Guitar
*Steve Gadd - Drums
*Eric Gale - Guitar, Arranger
*Albert Lee - Guitar
*Gordon Edwards - Bass
*Richard Tee - Keyboards, Organ, Arranger, Associate Producer
*Sam Rivers - Saxophone
*Felix "Flaco" Falcon - Conga, Percussion
*Patti Austin - Vocals
*Bonnie Bramlett - Vocals
*Lani Groves - Vocals
*Gwen Guthrie - Vocals
*Phyllis Lindsay - Vocals
*Brenda White - Vocals
*Maxine Willard - Vocals
*Deniece Williams - Vocals

1970  Joe Cocker - Mad Dogs And Englishmen (Deluxe Edition)

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National Head Band - Albert One (1971 uk, excellent smooth prog rock, 2008 remaster)

The National Head Band evolved from a group called The Business a quartet featuring Neil Ford (guitar, vocals), Dave Paull (bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals), Jan Schelhaas (keyboards) and John Skorsky (drums). After signing a management deal and changing their name they got a deal with Warner Brothers who, for some unfathomable reason, insisted that the group should have two drummers. Enter Lee Kerslake (drums, keyboards, vocals), fresh from recording the first Toe Fat album. However, no sooner had the band entered the studios than drummer Skorsky decided to quit! The remaining quartet had quite divisive musical tastes: Schelhaas was a soul fan, Ford was a bluesman, Paull was ostensibly a folkie and Kerslake was more into rock. Given the task of melding all these influences into a coherent album was Eddie Offord who had just completed work on The Yes Album. Offord was more than up to the task in hand and the results he achieved are admirable as elements of all of the individual members musical interests can be heard on the album, which fits neatly in with other albums released in the early seventies that are recognised as classics of the blooming progressive scene. Label incompetency, a mistimed and misplaced tour of Top Rank venues, and a whole batch of faulty album pressings did the band no favours who, unheralded, split later the same year.

Opening number Got No Time starts off with a riff that is vaguely similar to Day Tripper by The Beatles but the piano adds a bit of rhythm and blues to the proceedings. A nice heavier ending courtesy of a couple of electric guitars gives way to their acoustic counterparts in You which displays the groups talent for harmonising. The mixture of the acoustic six strings with the bold keyboard and the soulful vocals provides an interesting blend. The excellent Too Much Country Water is up next and again the harmony vocals add a lot to the number. Schelhaas provides jaunty piano and different guitar solos emanate from each speaker, before things ramp up for the ending. Lead Me Back is certainly a Beatles influenced number with the Moog being tapped for a wide range of brass band sounds. However, the song doesn't really evolve into anything that special and would have benefited from having an earlier fade out. Another Apple band, Badfinger, can be heard within the grooves of Listen To The Music and is almost up to the same standard as that masterful but ill-fated group.

Unusual for even progressive bands, the harmonium takes centre stage for Islington Farm, a more melancholy number. The guitar has a ton of echo applied to it which contrasts brightly with the layered vocals. Overall a strange little song that I'm not entirely convinced by but holds up well against other experimental numbers of the era. Paull's folk leanings are more on display during Try To Reach You with Ford's bottle neck guitar solo proves a standout moment. Leaving the country twang behind, Brand New World mixes bits of everything that has gone before. The abilities of Offord come to the fore as the blend of different voices, a fluid bass line, the organ, acoustic and electric guitars is absolutely perfect, a great song. The grand finale is provided by Mister Jesus which sets off at a blistering pace - like a distant cousin to Flight Of The Rat by Deep Purple. However, this only serves as an intro, for after two minutes the rock is replaced by the acoustic guitars, organ and harmony vocals. The ending of the song is quite masterful with initially a Beatles-type section and then a bit more up-tempo with wahwah guitar pulling things to a close. 

The National Head Band showed more than enough promise that they could have achieved far greater things. Instead Kerslake went off to join Uriah Heep, Schelhaas had stints in both Camel and Caravan (whom he rejoined a couple of years ago for their excellent The Unauthorised Breakfast Item album) and Paull joined the also excellent Jonesy. 
by Mark Hughes
1. Got No Time - 5:02          
2. You - 3:59                    
3. Too Much Country Water - 4:12
4. Lead Me Back - 4:02          
5. Listen To The Music - 6:30    
6. Islington Farm - 3:12          
7. Try To Reach You - 4:21      
8. Brand New World - 6:24        
9. Mister Jesus - 8:09
All compositions by National Head Band        

The National Head Band
*Neil Ford - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Lee Kerslake - Drums, Keyboards, Vocals
*David "Dave" Paull - Bass, Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
*Jan Schelhaas - Keyboards

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Joe Cocker - Mad Dogs And Englishmen (1970 uk, classic blues soul jazz rock, Deluxe 2005 two disc set)

The 1970 Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour was a late-in-the- day, hastily organized appendage to a longer tour Cocker was due to complete early in the year in support of his With A Little Help From My Friends and Joe Cocker! albums. Since late 1969, Cocker and his Grease Band, anchored by Chris Stainton, had been engaged in grueling promotional road work for the albums. At the end of the tour, Cocker and the Grease band parted on amiable terms, each to pursue other creative avenues.

Cocker arrived in Los Angeles on March 11th, 1970 for some rest and relaxation after the stressful and decadently excessive tour. While in LA, Cocker intended to spend his time hanging out and assembling a new band.

As legend has it, however, on March 12th, Cocker's manager Dee Anthony revealed other plans. Anthony announced that he had booked a seven-week (48 nights in 52 cities) tour set to commence in eight days. Anthony further explained that should Cocker not agree to the tour, the Musicians' Union, immigration authorities and concert promoters involved would be disinclined to allow him back into the States to tour in the future. Needless to say, Cocker was caught flat-footed, exhausted, and perhaps a bit burned out.

Seeing an opportunity to help his friend and promote his own growing front-man status, musician- composer- producer Leon Russell assembled a band comprised of Grease Band members and a group of talented studio wonks known to Russell through his already lengthy career.

In the bargain, Russell became the tour's musical director, lead guitarist, pianist and overall Svengali. After several 10-plus hour rehearsals with his new band (whose numbers were to increase over the life of the tour), Cocker and company hit the studio, recorded and released the single "The Letter"/"Space Captain and then took to the road, kicking off in Detroit, Michigan and finally ending up in San Bernardino, California two months later.

The importance of the releases from this tour cannot be overestimated. The essence of rock & roll music, warts and all, was captured in both audio and video formats. The tour was one of the principle catalysts in the tempering of the golden age of popular music that began in the mid-1950s and ultimately ended with the advent of disco. 

Deluxe editions may be one of the devices labels use to extract ever more money from a shrinking population ageing hippies, but they do have an upside. Previously unreleased music sees the light of day in a form more acceptable to the general listening public than complete documents like The Complete Fillmore East Concerts. Mad Dogs & Englishmen—The Deluxe Edition certainly fills the bill.

The set contains the entire original Mad Dogs & Englishmen album plus performances never before released. Added to this release and not on The Complete Fillmore East Concerts is a spurious jam containing a ragged "Under My Thumb that doubtlessly demonstrates how material was selected and practiced before the tour. Also included is the single release of "The Letter"/"Space Captain.

The sonics of the original are well scrubbed. This improvement in sound, coupled with the previously unreleased material, make this an acceptable set. In any event Mad Dogs & Englishmen— The Deluxe Edition is light years better than the original LP and CD releases. For the average Cocker fan, this deluxe edition will more than do. 
by C. Michael Bailey 
1. Honky Tonk Women (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 4:57
2. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 3:17
3. The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 5:57
4. Sticks And Stones (Titus Turner, Henry Glover) - 2:46
5. Bird On A Wire (Leonard Cohen) - 6:31
6. Cry Me A River (Arthur Hamilton) - 4:05
7. Superstar (Leon Russell, Bonnie Bramlett) - 4:59
8. Feelin' Alright (Dave Mason) - 5:47
9. Something (George Harrison) - 5:33
10.Darling Be Home Soon (John Sebastian) - 5:47
11.Let It Be (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 3:40
12.Further On Up The Road (Joe Medwick, Don Robey) - 4:00
Disc 2
1. Let's Go Get Stoned (Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson, Josephine Armstead) - 8:05
2. Space Captain (Matthew Moore) - 5:20
3. Hummingbird (Leon Russell) - 4:08
4. Dixie Lullaby (Leon Russell, Chris Stainton) - 2:58
5. The Letter (Wayne Carson Thompson) - 4:32
6. Delta Lady (Leon Russell) - 7:03
7. Give Peace A Chance (Leon Russell, Bonnie Bramlett) - 4:46
8. Blue Medley: I'll Drown In My Own Tears/ When Something Is Wrong With My Baby/ I've Been Loving You Too Long (Henry Glover, Isaac Hayes, David Porter, Otis Redding, Jerry Butler) - 12:37
9. With A Little Help From My Friends (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 8:40
10.Girl From The North Country (Bob Dylan) - 2:44
11.Warm-Up Jam Including Under My Thumb (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 5:45
12.The Letter (Studio Single Version) (Wayne Carson Thompson) - 4:13
13.Space Captain (Studio Single Version) (Matthew Moore) - 4:32
14.The Ballad Of Mad Dogs And Englishmen (Studio Version) (Leon Russell) - 3:59

*Joe Cocker - Vocals
*Leon Russell - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Don Preston - Guitar, Vocals,
*Bobby Keys - Tenor Saxophone
*Jim Price - Trumpet
*Chris Stainton - Piano, Organ
*Carl Radle - Bass Instrument
*Chuck Blackwell - Drums, Percussion
*Jim Keltner - Drums
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Bobby Torres - Congas
*Sanford Konikoff - Percussion
*Rita Coolidge, Donna Washburn, Claudia Lennear, Denny Cordell, Daniel Moore, Pamela Polland, Matthew Moore, Nicole Barclay - Vocals

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stained Glass - Aurora (1969 us, great psyc folk rock, 2007 reissue)

Second, and generally regarded as the better of the band’s 2 albumsrecorded for Capitol in the late ‘60s.Formed in 1966, Stained Glass began life as a Beatles cover bandperforming live in and around their native San Jose until an A&Rman from RCA signed them to the label later that year.

Four singles for RCA duly followed, but success stubbornly refused to dolikewise, although We Got A Long Way To Go (RCA 47-9166) , adriving rock song far removed from their more usual Merseybeatstyle, did provide the band with a small degree of fame when thesingle became a big hit in Southern California in 1967.

Disillusioned with life at RCA, the band decamped to Capitol in early1968, where they were to record three singles and two highlyacclaimedalbums which, despite attracting the critic’s plaudits,failed to make an impact causing the group to disband in November1969 with vocalist/bass player Jim McPherson going on to joinCopperhead.

While the band’s first album, Crazy Horse Roads (Capitol ST154) wasan eccentric amalgam of commercial tunes, fuzz guitar and psychtouches, their second effort, Aurora (Capitol ST242), with its looser,more jammy feel, is the one that the general consensus rates as thebetter of the two.
1. Gettin’ On’s Gettin’ Rough - 3:00
2. Jim Dandy (Lincoln Chase) - 3:15
3. A Common Thief - 5:21
4. The Kibitzer - 5:02
5. Inca Treasure - 3:37
6. Daddy’s Claim - 3:40
7. Sweetest Thing - 3:27
8. Mad Lynn Ball - 3:44
9. The Necromancer - 3:46
All songs by Jim McPherson, except where indicated.

Stained Glass
*Jim McPherson - Bass Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
*Dennis Carriasco - Drums
*Bob Rominger - Lead Guitar

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Stained Glass - Crazy Horse Roads (1969 us, blazing fuzz guitars and psych touches, 2007 xpanded edition)

Produced by John Gross and Max Hoch, 1968's "Crazy Horse Roads" is absolutely wonderful. Largely written by McPherson, at least to my ears, material such as 'Sing Your Song', 'Finger Painting' and 'Soap and Turkey' offers up a near perfect blend of instantly memorable melodies with great group harmonies and a wicked mix of blazing fuzz guitars and psych touches.

The material's highly commercial, but with more than enough muscle to appeal to folks who shun top-40 with a passion. The heavily orchestrated 'Twiddle My Thumbs' and ' 'Nightcap' were among the few missteps. The two songs were certainly pretty, but McPherson's atypical quivering falsetto delivery makes them sound like Bee Gees outtake (though both could've been hits had the latter released them).

Personal favorites - the blazing fuzz rocker 'Light Down Below' and the disconcerting last track 'Doomsday'. Elsewhere Capitol tapped the rocker 'Fahrenheit' b/w 'Twiddle My Thumbs' as a single (Capitol catalog number 2372). Well worth the investment if you can find a copy and the LP's rapidly gaining a following in collecting circles.
1. Sing Your Song - 2:05
2. Finger Painting (Jim McPherson, Bob Rominger) - 2:11
3. Soap and Turkey - 2:39
4. Twiddle My Thumbs - 2:40
5. Fahrenheit (Jim McPherson, Bob Rominger, Dennis Carriacsco) - 3:43
6. Nightcap - 2:55
7. Horse On Me - 2:18
8. Two Make One - 3:10
9. Light Down Below - 3:22
10.Piggy Back Ride and the Camel (Jim McPherson, Bob Rominger, Dennis Carriacsco)- 2:10
11.Doomsday - 4:23
12.If I Needed Someone - 2:06
13.How Do You Expect Me To Trust You? - 2:09
14.My Buddy Sin - 2:33
15.Vanity Fair - 2:50
16.We Got A Long Way To Go - 2:57
17.Corduroy Joy - 2:31
18.A Scene In Between - 2:28
19.Mediocre Me - 2:34
20.Lady In Lace - 2:41
All songs by Jim McPherson except where stated
Bonus Tracks 12-20

Stained Glass
*Jim McPherson - Bass Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
*Dennis Carriasco - Drums
*Bob Rominger -- Lead Guitar (1966-68)
*Tom Bryant - Lead Guitar (replaced Bob Rominger)

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Monday, December 22, 2014

McKay - Into You (1978 us, fantastic jam psych country rock)

McKay Into You was originally released in 1978. Our band was called Loos during the making of McKay but by the time the LP was completed the band no longer existed. The front jacket of the LPs read "McKay Into You" and the backs were blank. it took two years to complete and was first recorded at Blue Mountain Studio in Indianapolis with Bud Osborne engineering. Out of the ten recordings completed at Blue Mountain only four were used for McKay: Eleanor, Roll on Life, On He Goes and the beginning to The Wind. The rest were replaced or or rerecorded in my home studio on a four channel Teac reel to reel. Actually, it was a room with mattresses, dirty clothes, musical instruments, beer cans, paraphernalia, etc.

The musicians, Glen Pierle, Norm Preston, Steve Whaley and I would congregate and partake and dabble in multitrack recording. The vocals and lead guitars in some songs were dubbed later. While some of the songs are of a serious nature lyrically, the recordings or parties were a lot of fun as you can hear.

Most of the rhythm tracks with drums, rhythm guitar and bass were recorded live, some with one microphone, then leads and vocals were dubbed later.

Recording live together was short lived for us, though we're all still actively playing music today.

A really unusual set from the mid 70s underground – recorded by an obscure group in a tiny studio, but with a care and class that easily matches bigger records from the time! The guitar work is excellent – as tight as any heard on 70s AOR albums of the period, but much more relaxed, and not nearly as slick – so that the chromatic tunes really have a way of cascading out and illuminating the surprisingly sensitive lyrics of the tunes! 

The overall style is a bit hard to peg – might be roots or country-tinged, but not really – and with the intimacy of folk at times, but definitely an electric album all the way through. Whatever the case, it's a great lost treasure that has really held up over the years – if not grown even better! 
1. Know That I'm Not Alone (R. Pierle, N. Preston) - 5:33
2. Old Hill - 2:52
3. At My Home - 2:22
4. This Road - 3:11
5. Looking for a Way Out (R. Pierle, N. Preston) - 2:45
6. Eleanor - 2:59
7. Roll on Life - 2:13
8. On He Goes - 2:34
9. Lullaby (Into You) - 2:46
10.The Wind (R. Pierle, N. Preston) - 4:35
11.Child of Blue - 3:21
12.Take a Chance - 3:53
13.Grape Jam/The Ocean - 2:44
14.El Rancho - 2:36
15.Do You Don't You - 1:13
16.One of Many/On My Way/Helpless And Even Worse/Jelly Jam/Fly Fly/Hectic Game/In a Jam (R. Pierle, S. Whaley) - 10:36
17.Jazzo/Believe Me (R. Pierle, N. Preston) - 4:02
18.Doc's Melody - 1:28
All songs by Ray "McKay" Pierle ecept where noted

*Ray Pierle - Vocals, Guitars, Drums
*Glen Pierle - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Norm Preston - Guitars
*Steve Whaley - Bass, Guitars
*Jeff Cobb - Guitar
*Lynn Steffen - Vocals

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sunshine Company - The Sunshine Company (1967-68 us, wonderful sunny folk baroque psych)

The Sunshine Company's very name summons the spirit of the mini-genre of 1960s pop-rock that, long after its heyday, was named sunshine pop. So does their music, with the requisite exquisite multi-part male-female harmonies, buoyant optimism, and luxuriant late-1960s L.A. studio production. Look a little under the surface, though, and you find tinges of eccentric melancholy that set them apart from many of the frothy Mamas and the Papas-like groups of the period. Just as their music was more multi-dimensional than you might be led to believe by their trio of Top 100 hits, so was their story more complex than many would imagine. Could there have been any other band whose brief career whisked them through the orbits of the Carpenters, the Fifth Dimension, Jackson Browne, the Jefferson Airplane, Mary McCaslin, and John Davidson, ending at the even unlikelier destination of a pre-stardom Gregg Allman?

Like many of the Southern Californian pop harmony groups of the second half of the 1960s -- the Mamas and the Papas being the most famous example -- the Sunshine Company's roots were not in pop, but in folk. Guitarist/keyboardist Maury Manseau, guitarist Larry Sims, singer Mary Nance, and drummer Merle Brigante met as students hanging around the same cafeteria table at Los Angeles Harbor Junior College, where Maury and Mary sang in the choir. Manseau had sung in a folk duo with John Bettis (who later co-wrote Carpenters songs with Richard Carpenter) that often opened for Hoyt Axton. The future Sunshine Company members moved in a circle of acoustic-oriented singer-songwriters based a little south of L.A., in Orange County and beach towns like Huntington Beach. Jackson Browne, Tim Buckley, Steve Noonan, Pamela Polland, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Steve Gillette, all of whom went on to be recording artists with widely varying degrees of success, were some of their friends in this fertile SoCal scene.

After a club gig in Tustin, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band manager Bill McEuen (brother of the Dirt Band's John McEuen) went backstage and offered future Sunshine Company members a chance to record a song he had in mind. Though they had no recording aspirations, they gave it a go, putting their vocals on top of a track that had already been recorded for the tune. The song was "Up, Up and Away," and it would have been their first single had the Fifth Dimension not released their own version, which soared into the Top Ten in the summer of 1967.

The Sunshine Company's version came out on their first LP, but in the meantime McEuen brought them another song to record vocals onto, "Happy." "We didn't think anything about it, really," says Manseau. "It hadn't worked out the first time. Before we knew it, we had a phone call from Bill saying, you guys have just made the national charts" -- where "Happy" peaked at #50. They needed a name in a hurry to put on the single, and took a suggestion from another of their friends at the cafeteria table, who was eating crackers made by the Sunshine Company. Guitarist Red Mark, who'd been playing in a bar band with Brigante, came in to make the group a quintet. Their next single, a cover of Steve Gillette's "Back on the Street Again," became their biggest hit, making #36, and going a lot higher on L.A. radio charts. The characteristically lush George Tipton arrangement changed a solid folk song to an AM radio-ready single.

Gillette, says Manseau, was "the one artist that really got me involved in liking contemporary acoustic music," and the band would cover several of his songs. "I had broken up with the first real love of my life, and had written most of the song," remembers Gillette of "Back on the Street Again." "I was home for the Christmas holidays 1966 when John [Bettis] and Maury came in to hear me, and I sang 'Back on the Street Again' for them. As far as I know they had no tape, probably not even any written notes. It wasn't until later that I finalized the bridge. The version they recorded was based on partial memory and, I'm sure, some improvisation, aided by the amazing arrangement George Tipton did. I loved everything about it." The song also showed up on the second album by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys, with Ronstadt and Gillette duetting on the vocals.

Had they had their way in the studio, the Sunshine Company probably would have sounded more like the Stone Poneys themselves. Much of their material may have been pure sunny SoCal pop, such as "Just Beyond Your Smile," which was co-penned by Tony Asher (who had written with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys during the Pet Sounds era). But their real heart lay closer to rootsy singer-songwriter folk than the child-like naivete conveyed by their name and some of their songs. Such folk-rock tastes were reflected in some of the material they chose to cover, such as John and Terence Boylan's "Look, Here Comes the Sun," which made #56 in 1968; "Four in the Mornin'," done by Jesse Colin Young on his 1964 debut LP; the Steve Gillette-Tom Campbell collaboration "Darcy Farrow" (which had already been recorded by Ian & Sylvia); and George Harrison's "I Need You."

The last of those was based on an arrangement by then-unknown Mary McCaslin, who would achieve considerable fame on the folk circuit in the 1970s, in part for her imaginative recasting of Beatles songs into acoustic tunes. (McCaslin's own 1968 Capitol recording of "I Need You," unissued at the time, finally came out in 1999 on Rain -- The Lost Album.) On "Springtime Meadows," written by sometime Gillette collaborator Tom Campbell (who like Gillette had some of his songs covered by the Stone Poneys), they sounded not unlike early Fairport Convention, when Ian Matthews was in that band's lineup. In fact, Manseau says they hoped to cover Fairport Convention vocalist Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?," but never were able to do so for release.

"It was a struggle with Imperial, because they kind of wanted to carbon-copy 'Happy' over and over," confesses Manseau. "We didn't like a lot of the pop, bouncy material they brought us. Mostly they were things we couldn't reproduce on stage, and it wasn't really what we did well. Live we were doing Jackson Browne's material before he got known." Still, even in some happy-go-lucky cuts like "Children Could Help Us Find the Way," there was an undercurrent of sadness. "A Year of Jaine Time" had a melody that was not unlike Jackson Browne's "These Days" in parts, and a young Gregg Allman was responsible for penning the enchanting "Sunday Brought the Rain." If such folk-rock leanings are a surprise to Allman Brothers fans, it should be remembered that Allman himself would cover Browne's "These Days" on his first solo album. Manseau says he actually taught Allman "These Days," and confirms that Gregg "really liked folkie traditional and contemporary acoustic music. Gregg and Duane [Allman] and Larry -- we lived in the same apartment complex, we would sit around and trade material." The group's original songs also gave a stronger clue to their true direction, particularly the Manseau-Sims composition "I, To We, and Back Again," with its eerie decaying discord on the fade.

The juxtaposition of these sorts of songs with more innocuous, cheerful, slickly produced fare gave their albums a bit of a schizophrenic quality. Manseau recalls A-team Hollywood session vets like Joe Osborne, Jim Gordon, and Carol Kaye contributing to some dates, overseen by producer Joe Saraceno, most famous for handling the Ventures. "It reflects this ongoing fight we had with the record company," says Manseau of the odd balance in their repertoire. "We had to give a lot to get a few things on that we liked. Joe's point of view was, put strings on it, big production; always wanted to double vocals." Comments Saraceno, "I felt that folk [music] as they knew it wouldn't happen. I felt that with the Sunshine Company, as a producer, you had to launch them with sort of a gimmick record.  I said, 'Look, let's get a hit and then invite the public into your world after you're popular,' and they agreed to that. Then we started doing what they liked to do."

Saraceno, who calls them the "most talented group I've ever worked with or seen," puts a lot of blame on their failure to go further on the record company politics that had kiboshed the release of "Up, Up and Away" -- "they really got screwed." Maury admits to feeling caught between being a "semi-electric, semi-acoustic band," and Gillette amplifies, "There was a tension within the group. Red, and probably Larry and Merle, were anxious to get a little more heavy, while Maury and Mary fostered a more Ian & Sylvia delicate folk direction. The second Sunshine Company album shows some of the efforts to accommodate those diverse energies, but it was really Maury's connection with me that accounted for the presence of [my] songs."

The group did make some headway as a touring act, opening for the Jefferson Airplane for a couple weeks in 1968. Manseau recalls Bill Graham introducing the Sunshine Company at a San Francisco show at the Fillmore with the words, "I know that San Francisco audiences haven't really warmed to this group. But I think it's one of the few good things that ever came out of L.A." Yet their touring schedule was as much of a mismatch as some of their recorded material. The same year they toured with the Airplane, they also did six weeks opening for vapid variety star John Davidson, and almost ended up playing a show in a Chicago park during the 1968 Democratic convention before they decided to pass when rioting broke out.

A third album brought Dave Hodgkins aboard as additional guitarist, and the group was getting closer to being a self-contained unit calling their own shots. "Probably the first time we started sounding like a band was in summer of '68," says Manseau. The Hodgkins lineup reflected "more the kind of things that we were able to do that sounded more like the band." Still, there were diversions like "I Hate Pigeons." "We were bargaining all the time with Joe Saraceno," explains Manseau. "Novelty tunes, he always wanted us to do that. So we promised that, okay, we would do it. As you can hear on the record, we got to a certain point [with the song]...we just started kicking all the equipment around in the studio, the drums and stuff, you can actually hear that. And I guess to get back at us, he kept it and put it on the record."

A fourth album was started, but not finished, before the group decided to pack it up out of frustration, thinking, as Manseau recalls,  "We're not having a good time, we're not getting support we need." Manseau, Sims, Brigante, and guitarist Tippy Armstrong then put together an unnamed band with Gregg Allman as the focus. They recorded enough unreleased material (including an early version of "Whipping Post") for Liberty around late 1969 for an entire album, says Manseau, but it remained locked in the vaults when Gregg reteamed with his brother Duane to form the Allman Brothers. 
by Richie Unterberger
1. Up Up and Away (Jimmy Webb) - 2:14
2. I Need You (George Harrison) - 3:16
3. Just Beyond Your Smile (Tony Asher, Roger Nichols) - 2:18
4. Rain (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 2:42
5. Happy (Michaels, Gorman) - 1:58
6. I Just Want to Be Your Friend (Curt Boettcher) -2:25
7. A Year in Jaine Time (Maury Manseau) - 2:39
8. Back on the Street Again song review (Steve Gillette) - 2:29
9. Look, Here Comes the Sun (J. Boylan, T. Boylan) - 2:56
10.I Can't Help But Wonder (T. Michaels, V. Gorman) - 2:14
11.It's Sunday (Les Baxter) - 2:15
12.I, to We, and Back Again (Maury Manseau, Larry Sims) - 3:49
13.If You Only Knew (Curt Boettcher) - 2:54
14.Darcey Farrow (Steve Gillette) - 2:39
15.Without Really Thinking (Maury Manseau) - 3:41
16.On a Beautiful Day (Gene Stashuk) - 2:17
17.Let's Get Together (Dino Valenti) - 3:16
18.Willy Jean (Hoyt Axton) - 4:26
19.Springtime Meadows (Campbell) - 4:31
20.A Stitch in Time Saves None (P. Freed) - 2:50
21.Ways and Means (Maury Manseau, Larry Sims) - 2:31
22.Bolero (Maury Manseau, Larry Sims) - 2:32
23.I Hate Pigeons (Vic Millrose, Hess) - 1:14

The Sunshine Company
*Mary Nance - Tambourine, Vocals
*Maury Manseau - Rhythm Guitar, Autoharp, Piano, Vocals
*Larry Sims - Bass
*Doug Mark - Guitar
*Merel Bregant - Drums

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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Carolyn Hester Coalition - The Carolyn Hester Coalition (1968 us, beautiful folk sunny psych)

Anyone into Hester's earlier incarnation as a folk singer is likely to find her decision to turn to a more happenin'/commercial sound disappointing.  On the other hand, anyone into this late-1960s psych-oriented effort is liable to find her earlier folk albums trite and dull.

The thought of a folkie turning to psych is probably a major turnoff to many folks.  That's unfortunate since once you get over Hester's little girl lost voice, 1968's "The Carolyn Hester Coalition" is surprisingly enjoyable.   With excellent backing from The Coalition (bassist/keyboard player Dave Blume, drummer Skeeter Camera and lead guitarist Steve Wolfe), material such as "Magic Man", the fuzz guitar propelled "East Virginia" and "Half the World" offered up some excellent psych/rock numbers.  

Sure, Hester's folkie roots were occasionally on display ("Tomorrow When I Wake Up"), and on tracks like "Big City Street" she bore an uncomfortable resemblance to Lulu.  Luckily, those were the exceptions rather than the rule.   Besides, Hester deserved an extra star for the album cover's revealing blouse.  
1. Magic Man (Steve Wolf, Dave Blume) - 2:10
2. East Virginia (arranged by Carolyn Hester, Dave Blume) - 2:58
3. Tomorrow When I Wake Up (Carolyn Hester) - 2:27
4. Be Your Baby (Carolyn Hester, Dave Blume) - 2:32
5. Big City Street (Tom Moore, Carolyn Hester, Dave Blume) - 2:50
6. Half the World (Joan Maitland, John Scott) - 3:13
7. Let's get Together (Dino Valenti) - 2:38
8. Hey Jay (Jane Wagner, Diane Judge) - 2:46
9. Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream (Ed McCurdy) - 3:00
10.The Journey (Tom Moore, Carolyn Hester, Dave Blume) - 2:30
11.Buddha (Was Her Best Man) (Carolyn Hester) - 2:19

The Carolyn Hester Coalition 
*Dave Blume - Bass, Keyboards, Vibes
*Skeeter Camera - Drums, Percussion
*Carolyn Hester - Vocals, Guitar
*Steve Wolfe - Lead Guitar

1969  The Carolyn Hester Coalition - Magazine 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Michael Chapman - Window / Wrecked Again (1970-71 uk, fantastic folk rock with prog shades, 2005 double disc edition)

One of the most understated but spectrally beautiful of all Michael Chapman's albums, Window evidences just why producer Gus Dudgeon was in such demand during the early '70s, as he allows the idiosyncratic Chapman to weave each and every one of his musical moods through the sequence, without the record ever appearing to lose its grip. 

At the time of release, most attention was on the closing craziness of "She Came in Like the '6:15' and Made a Hole in the Wall," as performed (says the sleeve) by the Massed Voices of the Dean Teagarden Singers, featuring the Screaming Skull, the Bombay Banger, and Arthur Dogg. However, there are equal (if less lunatic) joys to be drawn from the reflective "An Old Man Remembers," while the opening "Lady on the Rocks/Song for September" pairing and the disused bookends of "First Lady Song" and "Last Lady Song" all rate among the young Chapman's most engaging works.
by Dave Thompson

Disc 1 Window
1. Lady On The Rocks / Song For September - 6:24
2. Last Lady Song - 5:49
3. Among The Trees - 4:41 
4. An Old Man Remembers - 3:02
5. In The Valley - 6:25
6. First Lady Song - 0:57 
7. Landships - 3:25 
8. A Scholarly Man - 5:38
9. She Came In Like The "6.15" And Made A Hole In The Wall - 3:32 
All songs by Michael Chapman
Michael Chapman has told more than one interviewer that he’s not really a folk guy. He may have played plenty of folk clubs in his life, often with just an acoustic guitar in hand, but he was just early on board the bandwagon of jamming econo. Chapman certainly didn’t frame himself as a folky for much of his recording career. Case in point: Wrecked Again.

Released in 1971, it’s the fourth and final record that he made for Harvest, and the third reissued in typically swanky fashion by Light In The Attic (Chapman’s disowned the third, Window, so I expect you’ll have to scour the used bins or blogosphere if you want to hear it). Certain key personnel from the first two albums reappear on Wrecked Again. Bassist Rick Kemp was Chapman’s most enduring partner for many years, and his melodic playing has a strong presence here, often toggling between keeping the groove and doubling Chapman’s vocal line. Also back on board were producer Gus Dudgeon and string arranger Paul Buckmaster, who after first working together on Chapman’s Rainmaker had become the architects of Elton John’s sound.

There are definite similarities in approach here; dense horns and lush, cello-heavy strings bulk up several songs, generally in ways that amp up their emotional impact without hobbling the sound of the core band, which was rounded out by lead guitarist Ray Martinez and drummer Pique Withers (both of mellotron rockers Spring -- Withers would go on to drum for Dire Straits). Martinez is a pro, capable of playing whatever the music requires and a little bit more, but he doesn’t match Mick Ronson’s playing on Fully Qualified Survivor. And while Chapman plays both acoustic and electric guitar, he does very little of the full-time fingerpicking you can hear him do nowadays in concert and on records like Trainsong; Martinez, Kemp, and the strings handle all the fancy bits..

Chapman, like most guys who picked up a guitar and started singing in the middle of the 20th century, had a bit of a Dylan thing happening on his early albums. But Chapman’s lyrical aspirations never really matched Dylan’s; he’s generally been content to spin a tail about his own life or a place that he’s seen, spike it with some dry humor or hardnosed sentiment, and leave it at that. When he reaches for an epic feel on the closer, “Shuffleboat River Farewell,” you can hear him replacing Dylan’s influence with a wider appreciation for American music. “All In All” and “Time Enough To Spare” have a funky country and western feel, with plenty of twang bolstered by a sturdy groove. 

For “Mozart Lives Upstairs,” he musters his best blues bawl, which is made more convincing by Martinez’s dated but entirely a propos leads. And that’s what makes this record a shade less essential than Rainmaker and Fully Qualified Survivor — not the bluesiness, but the of its time quality. You hear the strings, the indulgences, the sparse and solid thwack of the drums, and you think early 1970s. If you’re looking for a solid but non-transcendent representative of that time, this could be your reissue of the year. But if you’re looking for peak early Chapman, I’d start with Survivor, then work back to Rainmaker, and only then get Wrecked Again. 
by Bill Meyer
Disc 2 Wrecked Again 
1. Polar Bear Fandango - 2:35
2. Indian Queens - 3:55
3. Wrecked Again - 4:45
4. All In All - 3:02.
5. Back On Your Own Again - 3:28
6. The First Leaf Of Autumn - 4:10
7. Fennario - 7:03
8. Time Enough To Spare 2:42
9. Night Drive - 3:39
10.Mozart Lives Upstairs - 3:24
11.Shuffleboat River Farewell - 6:13
All songs by Michael Chapman

*Michael Chapman - Guitars, Vocals
*Ritchie Dharma - Drums, Tambourine
*Arthur Dogg - Vocals
*Jack Emblow - Accordion
*P. Harold Fatt - Guitar
*Albert Hammond - Vocals
*Claudette Houchen - Vocals
*Rick Kemp - Bass, Bass Cello, Maracas, Vocals
*Neil Lancaster - Vocals
*Ray Martinez - Guitar
*Screaming Skull - Vocals
*Liza Strike - Vocals
*Dean Teagarden - Voices
*Johnny Van Derek - Violin
*Pique Withers - Drums, Percussion
*Alex Atterson - Piano
*Bombay Banger - Vocals

1968  Michael Chapman - Rainmaker
1969  Michael Chapman - Fully Qualified Survivor

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Michael Chapman - Fully Qualified Survivor (1970 uk, spectacular folk rock)

Michael Chapman’s first four albums came out on Harvest Records, an EMI-run British label that served as a hot bed for the psych-folk scene. It was home to, among others, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett’s solo work, and fellow prog-folk singer Roy Harper—whose own 1971 album for Harvest, Stormcock, is a masterpiece. If you’re looking for a comparison to Chapman’s sound, Harper is as close as you’ll get, at least in some ways. The first track on Full Qualified Survivor, “Aviator”, does little to break that comparison. It’s a nearly ten-minute epic, as moody and wandering as anything on Stormcock, though if you’re looking for an album of huge suites, it’s a bit of a red herring.

After that huge, excellent, opening, Chapman continues to develop his own deep, vibrant sound. “Aviator” sets it all up for you; once you set aside the heft, you’ll hear how it falls right in line with the other, tighter songs that follow. We get Chapman’s smoky rasp of a voice, his subtly intricate guitar playing, and his eye for a sharp line, a sinister bark, and a striking detail. It’s a stunning piece about isolation and paranoia—everyone seems to be coming from all angles to “take [his] time away”, and you can feel the world closing in on him, not only in his weary voice but in the silence on the other end of a ringing phone or the stones thudding on the roof.

The solitary feel Chapman establishes is nothing self-pitying or fey. There’s bite to these songs. You can feel him sneer when, say, someone tries to make a fool of him in “Stranger in the Room”. “You made your snide remarks”, he snaps, nearly spitting out the words. Even “Postcards from Scarborough”—a much sweeter bit of melancholia and the closest thing Chapman had to a hit—finds him mourning a lost love while still scowling at his memories themselves. “The food was so tasteless, the wine was so stale”, he growls, remembering his days alone.

The lyrics are fully realized here, as well written as they are well delivered, but Fully Qualified Survivor is excellent because it is just as dynamic musically. Where other folk singers would rely on the acoustic guitar (and maybe some swelling strings or go the other route, the way Harper could) over building their songs with drifting layers, Chapman’s sound may align with the folk movement, but it is rock and roll at heart.

Chapman enlisted some Grade-A players for the record, including guitarist Mick Ronson. This six-string legend would also later work with Elton John and was of course part of David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars on top of having his own solo career, but his work on Chapman’s record is revelatory. Check the swelling run-ups that burst out of “Stranger in the Room”, not to the mention the solos. The thick riffs he drops on “Soulful Lady” are downright funky, while his gentle, distant work on “Rabbit Hills” adds an intricate layer of depth to Chapman’s already weary vocals. The sharpness of his guitar playing worked well with the complex basslines of Rick Kemp—the unsung hero of the record—who circles rumbling notes all around Chapman, giving the whole album a mossy rock feel we wouldn’t hear again—at least not at this brilliant level—until Neil Young’s On the Beach in 1974.

Chapman leaves plenty of room to show off his own chops, of course, and mixes up the mood and tempo of the record with a series of solo acoustic interludes. His playing on these is lightning-quick and arresting—particularly the bright “Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime” and the stunning slide work of “Andru’s Easy Rider”—but it’s how these pieces manage to fit well in the seams between these full-band songs that makes them all the more striking. Fully Qualified Survivor is, well, just what its title claims. This is an album more than worthy of being unearthed and of being appreciated anew. It avoids sounding like anyone else—and, let’s be honest, the early-70’s singer-songwriter camp can feel a bit homogeneous. It also avoids the over-sentimental schmaltz in which some of his peers indulged (another occasional drawback to that crowd).

In a time where we’re constantly trying to recapture sounds from the past, any past, it’s great to stumble upon the genuine article, something that came before and that did all the things people are still trying to do. It’s heartfelt. It’s dark. It’s intricate but immediate, rocking but lush. It does all those things at once, and it does them better than most artists could hope to do any one of them. So is Fully Qualified Survivor a lost classic? Is it a reason to rethink Michael Chapman’s place in folk and rock music? To both questions: A resounding hell yes.
by Matthew Fiander
1. The Aviator - 9:30
2. Naked Ladies And Electric Ragtime - 2:42
3. Stranger In The Room - 5:36
4. Postcards Of Scarborough - 5:18
5. Fishbeard Sunset - 0:39
6. Soulful Lady - 4:13
7. Rabbit Hills - 4:09
8. March Rain 3:46
9. Kodak Ghosts - 3:20
10.Andru's Easy Rider - 2:08
11.Trinkets And Rings (Lyrics Andru Makin) - 5:02
Music and Lyrics by Michael Chapman

*Barry Morgan - Drums Congas
*Rick Kemp - Bass
*Mick Ronson - Guitar
*Gus Dudgeon - Scraper
*Paul Buckmaster - Cello
*Johnny Van derek - Violin
*Michael Chapman - Vocals, Guirar, Piano

1968  Michael Chapman - Rainmaker

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Michael Chapman - Rainmaker (1968 uk, remarkable folk psych rock)

A former art and photography teacher, Michael Chapman emerged from the folk scene in Yorkshire, England, gaining a reputation as one of England's finest original singer-songwriters. A deal with the fledgling Harvest label (EMI's "underground" boutique) led to the release of Rainmaker in 1969. The album featured the support of Rick Kemp (who went on to provide bass for Chapman for many years) and Danny Thompson. Window followed in short order, with Fully Qualified Survivor completing a debut triptych that sent waves of critical appreciation through the music industry, with influential BBC disc jockey John Peel supporting Chapman whenever possible. 

Sales, unfortunately, did not match the critical acclaim for Chapman's work, leaving Fully Qualified Survivor as a high point, with "Postcards of Scarborough" generally being the one cut most often remembered when Chapman is discussed. 

After the release of Wrecked Again, Chapman parted company with Harvest, choosing to sign to Decca's subsidiary Deram, where he altered course somewhat, adding electric guitar and harder rhythms to his work. The first result, Millstone Grit, is a somewhat confused affair, with Chapman's trademark gloomy writing mixed with a couple of lively instrumentals, some almost experimental work, and the country-styled "Expressway in the Rain." Deal Gone Down, more coherent, and Pleasures Of the Street, a live set, followed. Don Nix produced Savage Amusement, which reworked a couple of earlier songs; the album's title would be used in the mid-'80s for a band featuring Chapman and Kemp. 

1977 saw the end of Chapman's Decca deal, and the beginning of an association with Criminal Records in 1978; both labels released versions of The Man Who Hated Mornings. Chapman turned his hand to the release of a guitar instruction record. He continued to gig and record consistently, varying styles and sounds, sometimes working with a full group, more often working with Kemp alone. After the release of Heartbeat in 1987, Chapman experimented with self-released albums. As of the 1997 release of Dreaming Out Loud, Chapman was releasing albums at the rate of one every two years, and is still attracting high praise, if not great sales. Growing Pains followed in 2000. 
by Steven McDonald 

In 1969 British singer/songwriter Michael Chapman took the U.K.'s folk-rock world by surprise with his debut album, Rainmaker, on the Harvest label. In an era when each week garnered a new surprise in the music world, gathering serious and widespread critical acclaim wasn't easy, and finding a buying public near impossible. Rainmaker showcases a new talent who holds nothing back for himself. Every songwriting principle and trick, killer guitar riff, and songwriting hook in his bag makes an appearance here (something he would never do again). 

As a result, there are several truly striking things about the album that makes it stand out from the rest of the Brit folk-rock slog from the late '60s. One of them is Chapman's guitar playing. A true stylist in his own right, he holds a middle line between John Martyn and Bert Jansch with the provocative electric rock funkiness of Martyn juxtaposed against the rock solid folk traditional so wonderfully espoused by Jansch. Another is Chapman's lean, carved, sleek lyrical style, preferring the starkness of poetry to the lush elements of the song styles usually found on records of this type. Both are put to fine use on the opener, 

"It Didn't Work Out," a gorgeous broken love ballad with a philosophical bent, along with Chapman's doleful resigned vocal; the electric guitars cascade over fingerpicked acoustics, and acoustic and electric basses — courtesy of Rick Kemp and Danny Thompson. Here, the old-English melody style was welded to a rock backbeat and fused into a whole, rhythmic, elegant, but sparse tale of broken love. The fiery emotions were carried through the measures by Chapman's tumultuous guitar leads. On the title track, an instrumental with thunderstorm sound effects, the weave between electricity and natural sound grows tighter. 

When playing in traditional or blues styles, such as the dark, menacing folk-blues of "No One Left to Care," Chapman fuses the rock pulse to the folk or blues song, open-tuning his guitars to such a degree that drones created multiple tones and a solid bottom for his voice to pounce down upon. They also create a sense of emotional honesty not so prevalent on the scene at the time — artists were given to interpret old songs with an air of academic distance — Chapman chews his words and spits them out while rifling off guitar riffs at every turn that are as gnarly and venomous as anything by Richard Thompson at the time. 

Not to mention the stunning instrumental "Thank You, P.K., 1944," with its silvery 12-string work that turns the tonal qualities of the instrument inside out so completely you could swear there were three guitars players — despite the fact that none of the guitar parts were overdubbed — or the shimmering, high-whining slide work on the rock growler "Small Stones." The CD reissue contains five bonus tracks, a shorter single version of "It Didn't Work Out," and its B-side, "Mozart Lives Uptown," as well as a second part to that track, "On My Way Again," and the humorous but poignant "Bert Jansch Meets Frankenstein" (the latter three previously unreleased). 

As auspicious a debut as Rainmaker was for its fine songwriting, history has proved it to be more so because it's the only record in Chapman's distinguished catalog where he ever showcased his truly virtuosic talent as a guitarist. Why, is anybody's guess? 
by Thom Jurek
1. It Didn't Work Out - 5:16
2. Rainmaker - 3:38
3. You Say - 3:43
4. Thank You P.K. 1944 - 4:14
5. No-One Left To Care - 4:22
6. Small Stones - 3:02
7. Not So Much A Garden-More Like A Maze - 5:35
8. No Song To Sing - 3:45
9. One Time Thing - 4:51
10. Sunday Morning - 4:27
11.Goodbye To Monday Night - 5:01
12.It Didn't Work Out - 3:44
13.Mozart Lives Upstairs - 3:58
14.Mozart Lives Upstairs, Prt. 2 - 1:05
15.On My Way Again - 6:41
16.Bert Jansch Meet Frankenstein - 2:04
All compositions by Michael Chapman

*Michael Chapman  -  Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Mick Ronson  -  Guitar
*Aynsley Dunbar  -  Drums
*Dave "Clem" Clempson  -  Guitar
*Alex Dmochowski  -  Bass
*Norman Haines  -  Organ
*Rick Kemp  -  Bass
*Barry Morgan  -  Drums
*Danny Thompson  -  Bass

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bad Seeds And Liberty Bell - Bad Seeds And Liberty Bell (1967-69 us, splendid garage psych)

The Bad Seeds were the first rock group of note to come out of Corpus Christi, Texas, itself a hotbed of garage-rock activity during the middle/late 1960s. They started when guitarist/singer Mike Taylor and bassist Herb Edgeington, then member of a local band called the Four Winds, met up with lead guitarist Rod Prince and drummer Robert Donahoe, who had been playing in a rival band called the Titans until its demise. Prince wanted to form a new group, and he, Taylor and Edgeington became the core of The Bad Seeds, who were signed to the local J-Beck label in 1966. 

They stayed together long enough to record three singles during 1966, of which two, "A Taste of the Same"/"I'm a King Bee" and "All Night Long"/"Sick and Tired," are unabashed classics of blues-based garage-punk, three of them originals by Taylor (who wrote most of their originals) or Prince. Even their normally maligned second single, "Zilch Part 1"/"Zilch Part 2," has some worth as a pretty hot pair of throwaway tracks. The band's sound was the raunchy Rolling Stones-influenced garage-punk typical of Texas rock groups in the mid-'60s.

Following the breakup of the group after the summer of 1966, Mike Taylor became a writer and producer for the the Zakary Thaks, another Corpus Christi-based band (who were signed to J-Beck after being spotted playing on a bill with The Bad Seeds), and also recorded singles in a folk-like mode as The Fabulous Michael. Rod Prince went on to become a key member of the legendary band Bubble Puppy, who were signed to Leland Rogers' International Artists' label, and the post-psychedelic group Demian.

With a few breaks, the Liberty Bell might have been America's Yardbirds -- as it worked out, however, the group suffered the undeserved fate of being a footnote in the history of Corpus Christi rock bands. Formed in Corpus Christi, TX in the mid-'60s, they were originally named the Zulus and played a mix of blues-rock drifting toward psychedelia, driven by some fairly ambitious guitar work by lead axeman Al Hunt. In 1967, they hooked up with Carl Becker, the co-owner of J-Beck Records, which, at the time, was recording the hottest local band, the Zakary Thaks. Becker signed them to his new Cee-Bee Records, and suggested a name change to the Liberty Bell.

The group's lineup at the time of their first single, a cover of the Yardbirds' "Nazz Are Blue" backed with a cover of Willie Dixon's "Big Boss Man," included Ronnie Tanner on lead vocals, Al Hunt on lead guitar, Richard Painter on rhythm guitar, and Wayne Harrison on bass. This record did well enough locally to justify further recording, and these sessions yielded the best songs of the group's entire history, "Something for Me," "For What You Lack," "I Can See," and "That's How It Will Be." Fast-tempo, fuzz-drenched pieces with catchy hooks, these numbers made the group sound like an American version of the Yardbirds with more of an angry punk edge, courtesy of lead singer Ronnie Tanner. But the real star of the group was lead guitarist Al Hunt, who wrote most of the material in those days and played like Jeff Beck on a good day.

Tanner exited the group in early 1968 and was replaced by Chris Gemiottis, formerly of the Zakary Thaks, who also brought a quartet of original songs with him, which were somewhat less punk-oriented and attempted to be more profound. The group switched to the Back Beat label, which specialized in R'n'B-flavored material. the Liberty Bell continued in its psychedelic/garage direction before releasing a soul-style number, "Naw Naw Naw" (on which only Gemiottis participated, with a studio band backing him) for their final single, late in 1968. the Liberty Bell came to an end in 1969 when Gemiottis returned to his former band.
by Bruce Eder
1. Bad Seeds - Taste Of The Same - 2:48
2. Bad Seeds - I'm A King Bee - 2:42
3. Bad Seeds - Zilch, Part 1 - 1:45
4. Bad Seeds - Zilch, Part 2 - 2:17
5. Bad Seeds - All Night Long (Tried To Hide) - 2:20
6. Bad Seeds - Sick And Tired - 2:34
7. Bad Seeds - I'm Nobody's Man - 2:31
8. Bad Seeds - My Last Day - 1:59
9. Bad Seeds - Gotta Make My Heart Turn Away - 2:43
10.Bad Seeds - People Sec. IV - 2:59
11.Bad Seeds - Checkerboard - 3:27
12.Bad Seeds - Arkansas - 2:24
13.Liberty Bell - The Nazz Are Blue - 2:55
14.Liberty Bell - For What You Lack - 3:00
15.Liberty Bell - Al's Blues - 2:54
16.Liberty Bell - Thoughts And Visions - 2:39
17.Liberty Bell - Naw, Naw, Naw - 3:06
18.Liberty Bell - Reality Is The Only Answer - 2:11
19.Liberty Bell - I Can See (1st version) - 2:31
20.Liberty Bell - Bad Side Of The Moon - 3:22
21.Liberty Bell - Big Boss Man - 2:31
22.Liberty Bell - That's How It Will Be - 2:40
23.Liberty Bell - Something For Me - 2:29
24.Liberty Bell - Look For Tomorrow - 2:02
25.Liberty Bell - Recognition - 2:44
26.Liberty Bell - Evelyn Kaye - 2:53
27.Liberty Bell - I Can See (2nd version) - 3:01
28.Liberty Bell - Out In The Country - 2:17

The Bad Seeds
*Mike Taylor - Guitar, Vocals
*Herb Edgeington - Bass
*Rod Prince - Guitar
*Robert Donahoe - Drums

The Liberty Bell
*Ronnie Tanner - Vocals
*Al Hunt - Guitar, 1966-68
*Richard Painter - Guitar
*Wayne Harrison - Bass
*Carl Aeby - Drums
*Chris Gemiottis - Guitar, 1968-69