Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ian Matthews - Tigers Will Survive (1971 uk, fine delicate folk country rock, 2012 remaster)

Tigers Will Survive, Ian Matthews' second release of 1971, and fifth in less than three years, continues the Anglo-American folk-rock that he began in 1968 with Fairport Convention. Following his departure from the band in early 1969, Matthews' style quickly veered from the British traditional direction that Fairport was headed, gravitating more toward the American singer/songwriter scene that was the source for much of the group's material in their early days, keeping him closer to the mid-Atlantic mix of What We Did on Our Holidays (his last record with the band). 

If You Saw Thro' My Eyes, his previous album, reunited him with members of his old band, as well as others from the revolving Fairport/Fotheringay cast, but this time out, with the exception of Richard Thompson's accordion on a couple of tunes (credited as Woolfe J. Flywheel), he opts for the backing of the English rock band Quiver. And while it may lack some of the cohesive personality of its predecessor, Tigers Will Survive still shares its primarily acoustic sound, augmented by a strong rhythm section and touches of electric guitar. 

Also, as was the case with that album, the toughest moment is courtesy of Richard Farina, whose "House of Unamerican Blues Activity Dream" brings an edginess and anger to Matthews' characteristically pretty and reflective tone, though his self-penned title track is close behind. Elsewhere, the beautiful "Morning Song" and Phil Spector's "Da Do Ron Ron" (without a change in gender) are high points for Ian Matthews, the songwriter and interpreter, respectively. The former is among the two or three best songs he'd written, while the latter, a wonderful a cappella rendition of the Crystals' classic, bolstered only by hand claps, brings a lightness and energy to the record. 
by Brett Hartenbach
1. Tigers Will Survive (Ian Matthews) - 4:07
2. Midnight On The Water (Ian Matthews) - 2:50
3. Right Before My Eyes (Peter Lewis) - 2:16
4. Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home) (E. Greenwich, J. Barry, P. Spector) - 2:14
5. Hope You Know (Ian Matthews) - 3:26
6. Please Be My Friend (Ian Matthews) - 5:40
7. Never Again (Ian Matthews) - 3:16
8. Close The Door Lightly (Eric Anderson) - 3:09
9. House Of Unamerican Blues Activity Dream (Richard Farina) - 3:22
10.Morning Song (Ian Matthews) - 3:49
11.The Only Dancer (Pete Carr) - 4:18

*Ian Matthews - Guitar, Vocals
*Richard Thompson (Credited As Woolfe J. Flywheel) - Guitar, Accordion
*Andy Roberts - Guitar
*Bob Ronga - Bass, Keyboards
*Tim Renwick - Guitar
*Timi Donald - Drums
*Cal Batchelor - Guitar
*Bruce Thomas - Bass
*Ray Warleigh - Saxophone
*Ian Whiteman - Keyboards
*John Wilson - Drums

1971  Ian Matthews - If You Saw Thro' My Eyes (2012 Remaster)
1972  Plainsong - Plainsong (2013 Japan Remaster)

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ian Matthews - If You Saw Thro' My Eyes (1971 uk, fabulous folk soft rock, 2012 remaster)

Throughout his four-decade career, the folk-pop songwriter Ian Matthews has had occasional brushes with critical and commercial success, but he has always seemed to shy away from his best chances. He quit the early, definitive version of Fairport Convention after the first two albums. He’d written “Book Song” on the landmark What We Did On Our Vacation, but felt frustrated as a songwriter in a band more interested in dusty traditional folk songs. His subsequent band, Matthews’ Southern Comfort, was meant to be a songwriters collective, though it became most famous for a cover. This second band flourished in the late 1960s, with its rotating cast of British folk mainstays, Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol of Fairport among them. Yet, after the surprise breakthrough success of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” Matthews abandoned that project as well. Faustian bargains didn’t seem to interest him much. What he wanted, mainly, was a quiet place to record, a few friends and some interesting songs to cover.

Matthews got all that in If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes, originally released in 1970, long out of print and now reissued with lavish notes, lyric sheets and credits by Water. Supported by Fairport’s Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny, Andy Roberts of Everybody, Pink Floyd fellow traveler Tim Renwick, as well as King Crimson’s Keith Tippett and others, Matthews debuted with a set of deceptively simple, transparently beautiful songs.

The album opens with the warm, country-ish folk of “Desert Inn,” with Matthews singing in a high, tremulous tenor over a mesh of acoustic and electric guitars. One of them, bending and scratching around the melody, is unmistakably Richard Thompson’s, lending a strident urgency to an otherwise low-key song. Once you’re listening, though, you can hear Thompson all over the place, most particularly in “Reno, Nevada,” where his blistering breaks burn right through the fabric of the song. Denny slips a bit of gospel piano into “Hearts,” then returns to the keyboards for the stripped-bare title track, while Tippett’s piano on “Never Ending” plays a high shivery counterpart to the track’s harmonies. The songs are light, but well arranged, the other instruments never obscuring even the most delicate of melodies.

Matthews’ songs themselves are rather low-key, easy-going, buoyant and optimistic in a very hippie-ish, country-folk sort of way. Even the melancholy songs penned by Matthews, “Hearts” for instance, have a sweet, lilting uplift to them, and the closer “Thro’ My Eyes,” sung in duet with Denny and accompanied by an eerie bowed electric (Renwick again), lofts inexorably upward, like the show-stopping triumph ballad from a Broadway musical. It’s almost sappy, riding an exquisitely fine line between simplicity and obvious-ness, but falling on the good side of the line. Matthews’ penchant for the sunny side becomes clear when you contrast his songs to the two Richard Farina covers. “Reno, Nevada” and “Morgan the Pirate” are considerably darker and more urgent than his own songs, paced with harder guitar riffs and bigger drums. The second of these, Farina’s meditation on a rivalry with Bob Dylan, is particularly fine, sardonic and venomous (“You had to have assistance / In confirming your existence.”)

Overall though, the debut has an unstudied, unplanned grace to it, as if Matthews had stumbled somehow onto a target that he would spend the rest of his career trying to hit again. Indeed, in a new essay for the reissue, he writes, “On reflection, I see how delicate and uncensored my songwriting was in its infancy stages, but the delicacy and naiveté of it, the untutored chord sense and the opaque lyrics also came with a warmth and vitality that I’ve never been able to recapture since.”

That’s in marked contrast to what he says about Tigers Will Survive his second solo album, also reissued by Water this year. “For the longest period after the release of Tigers, I couldn’t listen to it without feeling it had finished a distant second to its predecessor,” he writes. “Now…I can enjoy it for what it truly is…a steppingstone along that great musical causeway to an unreachable place.”

And yet Tigers Will Survive has its highlights as well, songs as good as anything on If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes. It starts in a flourish of Spanish-sounding acoustic guitars, the tightly harmonized voices emerging from thickets of strumming, the whole thing breaking for a dreamy Floydian guitar interval at the end. The song runs straight into the even lovelier “Midnight on the Water” with its piano runs and slow-paced mesmeric builds. And the guitar twitching, piano flecked “Right Before My Eyes” is sweaty and blues-tinged, like The Band but with better singing.

But the Spector cover “The Doo Run Run” is just plain silly, and the MOR piano-poppiness that Matthews avoided (barely) on “Thro’ My Eyes” emerges full-blown in “Hope You Know.” Elton John and Tim Rice couldn’t write a sappier ballad. Trust Richard Farina to inject a little necessary skepticism, this time in the black-humored, bass-heavy “House of Unamerican Activities Blues.” It’s like a slap in the face, a blast of cold air and it wakes you up immediately.

After Tigers, Matthews went on to Plainsong and a string of additional solo albums, but he never hit the mark set by If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes again. Sometimes your best shot is the blind one, before you know what you’re doing, and all the trying in the world, after that won’t get you any closer to the goal.
by Jennifer Kelly
1. Desert Inn - 3:31
2. Hearts - 3:10
3. Never Ending - 2:55
4. Reno Nevada (Richard Fariña) - 4:45
5. Little Known - 2:54
6. Hinge I - 1:24
7. Hinge II - 0:27
8. Southern Wind - 3:11
9. It Came Without Warning (Jerry Burnham, Allan Jacobs) - 4:03
10.You Couldn't Lose - 3:36
11.Morgan The Pirate (Richard Fariña) - 6:42
12.Thro' My Eyes - 2:35
All songs by Ian Matthews except where indicated

*Ian Matthews - Guitar, Vocals
*Sandy Denny - Keyboards, Vocals
*Richard Thompson - Guitar, Accordion
*Pat Donaldson - Bass
*Andy Roberts - Guitar
*Tim Renwick - Guitar
*Gerry Conway - Drums

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Serenity - Piece of Mind (1972 new zealand, spectacular folk psych rock with blues and jazz flashes)

The sole album by this obscure New Zealand trio is decent early-'70s folk-rock with some occasional pop, psychedelic, and blues traces, though it's not notable enough to be of interest beyond the specialized collecting circuit. The trio do manage a pleasant low-key sound that has a slightly unusual, diffident, laconically hip quality, especially in the vocals. That makes for a nice change from the leagues of early-'70s albums colored by earnest blandness to the singing and songwriting. 

Like many rock records from the era made away from the main recording centers of the United States and United Kingdom, it has a slightly-behind-the-times feel, sounding more like a 1970 record than a 1972 one -- not a huge difference, but a notable one at a time when trends in pop music changed so rapidly. Several of the tracks sound a little like engaging minor league cousins to Country Joe & the Fish's better reflective psychedelic tunes, and a California psychedelic influence is audible in the harmonies and wafting organ of "Away from Here." Much of the material has a breezy feel that doesn't try too hard, nearing an almost jazzy sense of hippie cool on "Millions." 
by Richie Unterberger
1. Green And Sunny Weather (Malcolm Lane) - 4:15
2. Devil Man (Phil Briggs) - 2:26
3. Millions (Phil Briggs, Malcolm Lane) - 2:21
4. Away From Here (Rob Sinclair) - 3:01
5. Sea Time Rain (Phil Briggs) - 3:14
6. Chance With Freedom (Phil Briggs) - 3:07
7. Where Is The Lord (Phil Briggs) - 3:23
8. Sandalmaker (Phil Briggs) - 2:43
9. Pig (Rob Sinclair) - 2:37
10.The Golden Legend (Long Fellow, Kevin Bayley, Phil Briggs, Malcolm Lane) - 3:02
11.Shell (Rob Sinclair) - 4:37
12.Her Mind Holds You (Phil Briggs) - 1:58

*Malcolm Lane - Harmonica, Vocals
*Phil Briggs - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Rob Sinclair - Bass, Vocals
*Kevin Bayley - Acoustic, Electric Guitar
*Martin Hope - Acoustic Guitar
*Terry Crayford - Electric Piano, Organ
*Andrew Stevens – Flute
*Richard Burgess - Drums, Congas, Tambourine, Maracas

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Grapefruit - Around Grapefruit (1968 uk, smart beat psych, 2005 bonus tracks issue)

Like the fruit after it was named, Grapefruit's debut album was at times too sweet, but was on the whole a promising and worthy effort. Devoted almost wholly to songs written by leader George Alexander, the record featured tuneful, upbeat mid-tempo late-'60s British rock with good harmonies, creative ornate arrangements, and a very slight and very sunny psychedelic tinge. Certainly similarities to the Paul McCartney-penned tracks from the Beatles' own psych-pop era are evident, and if George Alexander's songs weren't in nearly the same league as McCartney's, well, no one working the style was in McCartney's league. 

Grapefruit was at their best on the occasional songs in which they reached into slightly darker and more melancholy territory, particularly when they made creative use of strings, organ, baroque keyboards, and Mellotron, as on "This Little Man" and "Dear Delilah" and the instrumental "Theme for Twiggy." The latter tune sounds like something that could have been killer had words been devised; as it is, it seems like something that wasn't quite seen through to completion. There's also the Four Seasons cover "C'mon Marianne," which, although it wasn't one of their better tracks, was (along with "Dear Delilah") one of their two small U.K. hits. The CD reissue on Repertoire adds "Dead Boot," the non-LP B-side of "Dear Delilah." 
by Richie Unterberger
1. Another Game - 2:56
2. Yesterday’s Sunshine - 3:35
3. Elevator - 2:06
4. Yes (Perry) - 2:23
5. C’mon Marianne (Bloodworth, Brown) - 2:39
6. Lullaby - 3:32
7. Round Going Round - 3:05
8. Dear Delilah - 2:39
9. This Little Man - 2:31
10. Ain’t It Good - 2:41
11. Theme for Twiggy - 3:17
12. Someday Soon - 3:03
13. Dear Delilah (Single Version) - 2:32
14. Dead Boot - 1:56
15. Elevator (Single Version) - 2:07
16. Yes (Single Version) (Perry) - 2:25
17. C’mon Marianne (Single Version) (Bloodworth, Brown) - 2:44
18. Ain’t It Good (Single Version) - 2:43
19. Round Going Round (Single Version) - 3:04
20. This Little Man (Single Version) - 2:30
21. Someday (Single Version) - 3:00
22. Theme for Twiggy (Single Version) - 3:22
23. Dolce Delilah (Single Version) (Alexander, Perrucchini) - 2:40
24. Mai Nessuno (Alexander, Perrucchini) - 1:55
All songs by George Alexander except where noted

*George Alexander - Bass, Vocals
*John Perry - Guitar
*Geoff Swettenham - Drums
*Peter Swettenham - Guitar

1969  Grapefruit - Deep Water

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Monday, September 22, 2014

One In A Million - Double Sight (1967 uk, awesome mod beat psych)

"One In A Million were a Scottish mod/blues band who turned psych sometime in 1967. They featured precocious guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (14 years old, looks nine in the photos) and released second single, the ambitious 'Fredereek Hernando', on MGM that December. Their famous rarity's B-side provides the title for Double Sight: The Complete Recordings (Wooden Hill), which gathers their January '67 single for CBS and a bunch of acetates, including the unreleased putative third 45, 'No Smokes'. Good punchy stuff with street-level edge. 'Double Sight' itself sounds like The Jam, 10 years earlier."

"Chocolate Soup For Diabetics was the greatest ever UK psych comp - splintering tunes, ultimate quality control, maximum danger - and only one band got both sides of their forgotten drugged genius 45 included on Volume One. One In A Million lived up to their name, in that they boasted the curious psych-out gimmick of a 14-year-old guitarist called Jimmy McCulloch, along with the extreme-fire attack of that 1967 MGM single, 'Double Sight'/'Fredereek Hernando'. If they could've kept it up, they'd have been bigger than The Who. They didn't. They imploded. "One real weird-out is a group called One In A Million", Julian Cope said of Chocolate Soup in 1983. "Both their featured songs are The Jam if they hadn't 'Souled-Out'. Gruff Weller voice, identical Foxton harmonies, how I wished they'd gone in this direction." There are plenty of other sparks among the other nine tracks - a crunchy mod strut in 'Goin' Places'; the Troggs-ish pounder 'Something On Your Mind', a snippet of Peel - but Little Jimmy and the lads must still be most proud of that one insurmountable 45." 
Record Collector

"In recent years the Tenth Planet/Wooden Hill label has been synonymous with noteworthy reissues of English psychedelic beat music, invariably tastefully and imaginatively presented, which would otherwise have remained the province of those sinister purveyors of shoddy illegal merchandise with whom cognoscenti are depressingly familiar. And fuck my old boots if they haven't gone and done it again. What a pleasure it is to hear this wonderful compilation of the official releases and demos of Glasgow's One In A Million, one of the most sacred Chocolate Soup combos. 

It kicks off in some style with their momentous MGM 1967 45 'Fredereek Hernando' b/w 'Double Sight', which retains all its poisonous psychotropic potency and then some. Does anyone still have the cheek to proclaim that this historic recording "sounds like a psychedelic Jam"? Lazy journalism just doesn't cover that. What a great single. As if that wasn't enough, you get the sublimely paranoiac 'No Smokes' (the planned "Summer of Love" 45 which some may have encountered on various releases of dubious origin), several fascinating demos such as 'Man in Yellow' and 'The Trial of Elmer Fudd' which, while owing their debt to The Who's halcyon 1966 period, have a unique charm and edge, both in the songwriting and playing, and both sides of their debut 'Use Your Imagination' b/w 'Hold On', which are more poppy but feature some agreeably crunchy fuzz-tone guitar in an Ian 'Tich' Amery style. 

This courtesy of the sadly departed Jimmy McCulloch, a mere babe in arms at the times of these recordings; see the liner photos and gawp. David Wells provides detailed, informative and entertaining sleevenotes, including reminiscences from lead singer Alan Young (whose soulful singing is yet another highlight of this release) adorned with the aforementioned photos of the wee lads in all their finery. Indeed, such is the overall quality of this release that I really can't be bothered to end this review with some witty remark, secure as I am in the knowledge that you've all stopped reading this review by now as you're off out to buy your own copy. Quite right too.
1. Double Sight (Alan Young, William Scenters) - 2:35
2. Fredereek Hernando (Alan Young, William Scenters) - 3:18
3. No Smokes - 2:32
4. Man In Yellow - 2:28
5. The Trial Of Elmer Fudd - 3:40
6. Goin' Places - 2:44
7. Something On Your Mind - 2:28
8. We Don't Want Nobody Around - 2:57
9. Lament In 'A' - 3:13
10.Hold On - 2:59
11.Use Your Imagination (A. Wayne) - 6:38
All songs by Alan Young except where stated

One In A Million
*William Scenters - Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Jack McCulloch - Drums
*Jimmy McCulloch - Lead Guitar
*Alan Young - Lead Vocals, Guitar

Cat Mother And The All Night News Boys - The Street Giveth And The Street Taketh Away (1969 us, excellent classic rock with psych and roots shades, 2013 remaster)

In the late sixties there were far worse things for a an aspiring rock band than to tour with, and have their debut album produced by, Jimi Hendrix. While such an association was not an immediate passport to fame and fortune, it certainly helped. Such was the case with the wonderfuf/y named Cat Mother and the All Might Newsboys.

Despite a later move to, and many years close association with, rural northern California, Cat Mother were originally a New York City band and evolved out of the Greenwich village folk community. While none of the founding members made a huge impact in their folk days, banjo player Charlie Chin had been a fixture on the basket club circuit for several years and was respected as one of the best pickers around. Of the other original members, Roy Michaels was the only one with a local reputation—he'd been part of the Au Go Go Singers, along with Steve Stills ana Richie Furay.

The Au Go Go Singers split up in mid 1965, just at the time that the Village was experiencing a renaissance. Many previously acoustic folk and blues musicians formed electric bands and the Village clubs rang to the folk rock of the Lovin' Spoonful and The Youngbloods and the soupcd-up blues of the Blues Project. Despite the changes not much happened for Michaels, who carried on as a solo performer, although on occasion he teamed up with future Cat Mother members Bob Smith ancf Michael Esquine, who performed as an acoustic trio.

In early 1967 Michaels and Smith visited California and immediately fell in love with the San Francisco scene. They stayed long enough to attend the Monterey Pop festival, an event that convinced them that not only was rock ana roll the way to go, but also that they should move west permanently. Despite Michaels' and Smith's desire to move to California, things didn't quite work out that way—at least for the time being. Once back in New York, they teamed up with Equine and Chin along with another old friend, Larry Packer.

At the risk of mixing metaphors. Cat Mother was born. Michaels played bass and guitar, Equine played drums. Packer played lead guitar, violin and mandolin, Smith played keyboards and occasional drums and Chin played rhythm guitar ana banjo. All of them sang. The band rehearsed for six months and lived, more or less communally, on East    Tenth Street, in the heart of the lower east side. In due course they became the local hip community's favorite band, playing at numerous benefits and at the series of free concerts in Tompkins Square Park.

By the fall of 1968 they had come to the attention of Michael Jcffery, Hendrix's manager, who signed them to his company and got them a deal with Polydor, who were about to launch tne label m the States. November saw them touring with the Experience, a remarkable piece of good fortune which continued when, during the New York portion of the tour, Hendrix produced their debut album at Manhattan's Record Plant. He was aided by two of his favorite engineers, Gary Kellgren and Tony Bongiovi.

The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Aivay is a wonderful, eclectic record—a mix of hard driving rock and roll, a dash of funk, some folk-based material and overtones of near eastern music that draw comparison with LA's finest. The Kaleidoscope. The release of the album was delayed until June 1969, when it became Polydor's first US release. A single from the album, "Good Old Rock and Roll," (a medley of several late fifties rock classics, linked by new verses written by the band) became a surprise, but well-deserved hit, peaking at number 21. Fueled by the single's success, the album itself reached 55, a more than creditable showing.

Despite their local New York success, city life was becoming too much for-Cat Mother. In the Spring of 1970, the whole band except Chin, moved to the rural splendor of Mendocino, north of San Francisco, and took over a huge farm house that became their base of operations for several years. Almost immediately they dropped their All Night Newsboys suffix and their music changed as well. The hard rock of the first album disappeared, and future records featured a more relaxed country sound that suited the time and place. Whether the subsequent albums (Albion Doowah, 1970; Cat Mother, 1972; Last Chance Dance, 1973) were as good as the first is debatable; what is true is that the band never repeated the commercial success of The Street Giveth ..., which remains a minor classic of the era.
by John Platt, 1997
1. Good Old Rock N Roll (Bob Smith, Charlie Chin, Larry Packer, Michael Equine, Roy Michaels) - 3:05
2. Favors (Bob Smith, Charlie Chin, Larry Packer, Michael Equine, Roy Michaels) - 3:25
3. Charlie's Waltz (Charlie Chin) - 3:39
4. How I Spent My Summer (Robert Smith) - 3:50
5. Marie (Robert Smith, Charlie Chin, Larry Packer) - 3:34
6. Probably Won't (Robert Smith) - 4:47
7. Can You Dance To It? (Robert Smith) - 4:54
8. Bramble Bush (Roy Michaels) - 5:00
9. Bad News (Charlie Chin, Michael Equine) - 3:09
10.Boston Burglar (Bob Smith, Charlie Chin, Larry Packer, Michael Equine, Roy Michaels) - 3:42
11.Track In 'A' (Nebraska Nights) (Bob Smith, Charlie Chin, Larry Packer, Michael Equine, Roy Michaels) - 9:35

Cat Mother
*Roy Michaels - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Equine - Drums, Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Smith - Electric Piano, Organ, Drums, Vocals
*Larry Packer - Lead Guitar , Violin, Mandolin, Vocals
*Charlie Chin - Rhythm Guitar, Banjo, Vocals

1970  Cat Mother And The All Night Newsboys - Albion Doo Wah (2013 remaster)  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rupert Hine - Unfinished Picture (1973 uk, intensive art prog smooth rock)

Typically, Pick Up A Bone received some good critical accolades, but sold very poorly. Still, Glover had enough faith in Hine and MacIver that he saw to it they got an advance on a second album. With the advance, Hine purchased an electric piano on which he and MacIver wrote most of the songs. As a result, the sound begins to change on Unfinished Picture, moving away from the folky Anglo-blues of Pick Up A Bone and into more experimental realms. Though recorded at A.I.R. London, the sound is also a lot more intimate than its predecessor. A lot of this has to do with the smaller cast of characters, with Hine on keys and acoustic guitars, Simon Jeffes on guitars, John G. Perry (then of Caravan, and later to join Hine in Quantum Jump) on bass and a succession of drummers including Mick Waller and Mike Giles. Even the orchestral arrangements (by Jeffes rather than Paul Buckmaster) seem smaller and more intimate. The fact that one of the orchestral tracks was recorded in a church rather than a recording studio adds to that intimate feel.

The tone of the music has changed as well. This album takes a definite turn towards the conceptual and cinematic, with a somber pipe-organ intro followed by a child’s voice saying, «One day…» Ostensibly a soundtrack to Anthony Stern’s* impossible-to-find feature film Wheel, it also takes on an altogether darker sound than its predecessor. The mix of whimsy and dark menace that was suggested on the previous album’s title track is fully realized here.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on the album’s opener, «Orange Song.» On the surface, it seems to be just a rhythmic folk guitar based tune with a swing feel, featuring some chugging cellos joining in in due time and later on, an instrumental bridge with raucous, squawking horns.

Moving swiftly on, «Doubtfully Grey» is similarly comical folk, but of a considerably less creepy nature. MacIver here equates a relationship with Darwinian evolution. And I get the distinct feeling that this particular tune was based on an actual conversation; the line «‘I don’t understand your songs,’ she said» is a dead giveaway. More MacIver wordplay, based on the song’s title, closes out the piece. The arrangement is for the most part very stripped-down, acoustic guitars and light percussion giving a slight samba feel. But a crescendo of keening strings at the end seems to pop in out of nowhere, providing a sonic link to…

«Don’t Be Alarmed,» probably the closest the album comes to the laid-back bluesy feel of  Pick up a bone. This one features drums and bass reëntering the picture, with a multiple acoustic guitar arrangement. Jeffes adds some Oldfieldian sped-up guitar and some skittering runs here and there adding an odd bent to the tune.

For «Where In My Life,» we start on a sharp detour away from anything resembling Pick up a bone at all. Hine’s vocal performance is at its most ethereal, fitting the music and impressionistic text perfectly. The backing track was built up entirely by Hine’s ARP 2600 synthesizer, presumably the same one he used on Caravan’s For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night album. Back in 1973, the all-synthesizer arrangement was quite extroardinary, and it totally works for the song. It’s here that we first get a (rather skeletal, admittedly) taste of what Hine would later do on his albums for A&M like Immunity.

«Anvils In Five» is undeniably the strangest piece on the album, and considering it follows «Where In My Life,» that’s really saying something. Recorded in a suburban London church, the backing track is wholly orchestral, building in dark intensity from beginning to end, finishing on a fortissimo pipe-organ chord (played by Hine). Hine recites the lyrics in a creepy, low monotone, words inspired by the five senses. Since there’s no melody to speak of, it forces you to concentrate on the text and the arrangement. Very much a mood piece, and definitely one of the more impressive moments on this disc. It’s followed by «Friends and Lovers,» a simple, intimate piano/vocal ballad. Recorded in the same church as «Anvils In Five,» it concludes with the sound of the piano lid closing, footsteps moving from one speaker to the next and a door being shut.

«Move Along» returns us, however fleetingly, to familiar territory, as it’s another Randy Newman-esque folk-blues number. Hine even pulls out the harmonica one last time. And MacIver is up to his old tricks, returning to the faux-Southern dialect à la «Ass All.» But Jeffes, it seems, couldn’t allow any of the pieces on this album have a «normal» arrangement, so the song eschews conventional drums altogether, substituting instead a battery of Latin percussion from famed sideman Ray Cooper. Here we get our first listen to that electric piano of Hine’s, Jeffes’ subtle sustained guitar notes adding extra colour to the sound.

The outlandishly titled «Concord(e) Pastich(e)» is probably the most intricate piece on the album. Beginning with a verse accompanied only by piano, Hine starts on a second, only to abruptly stop on the line «We used to run from here to over there,» which hard-pans from one speaker to the next. Then Jeffes’ arpeggiated guitar and Perry’s bass enter, overlaid by a second guitar playing a long, slightly distorted solo. After much deliberation, the drums and organ enter. The liner notes to this particular tune proclaim «Headphones are an extreme advantage,» obviously referring to Hine’s heavily treated and barely audible recitation over the long, otherwise instrumental balance of the track. The piece doesn’t end as much as it just stops, very abruptly indeed.

«On The Waterline» starts off with just Hine’s voice backed by his own piano. But anyone worried that this will turn into «Friends And Lovers: Part 2» should be consoled by the harpsichord and cymbal (the latter courtesy ex-King Crimson drummer Mike Giles) accents entering in the second verse. Actual drumming appears in the third verse, though still in a watercolour rather than rhytmic manner. At last the piece gains rhythmic momentum over the closing «All the children cry» refrain, mainly via Hine’s piano and harpsichord, with Giles still playing off the rhythm in a jazzy manner. Again, something of a mood piece, but for those who were put off by the lack of melody on «Anvils In Five,» this should prove immensely more satisfying.

So, who should go for these albums? Fans of Hine’s 80’s output are likely to find Pick up a bone a shocking experience, since it’s so far removed from what he did later. Unfinished Picture should prove rather less so, as some tracks («Where In My Life,» «Anvils In Five») are something like embryonic visions that later came to fruition on Immunity and its successors. Indeed, many of the more experimental moments of Unfinished Picture bore fruit not only in Hine’s own subsequent work, but also in latter-day expermental and «post-rock» acts like Radiohead.

That said, while Unfinished Picture is probably the more technically impressive, influential release, Pick up a bone is definitely the more satisfying listen of the two. Mainly because it offers a far more memorable set of actual songs. Fans of offbeat and unusual songs are sure to dig both, though.
1. Orange Song (Rupert Hine, Simon Jeffes) - 4:05
2. Doubtfully Grey - 4:15
3. Don't Be Alarmed - 4:54
4. Where In My Life - 2:21
5. Anvils In Five - 5:47
6. Friends And Lovers' - 3:44
7. Move Along - 4:56
8. Concord(E) Pastich(E) (Rupert Hine, Simon Jeffes) - 5:56
9. On The Waterline - 6:36
Music by Rupert Hine, lyrics by David McIver except where stated

*Rupert Hine - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Simon Jeffes - Guitar, Bass
*John Perry - Bass
*Steve Nye - Piano
*Mick Waller - Drums
*Mike Giles - Drums
*John Punter - Drums
*Ray Cooper - Percussion
*Dave Cass - Trumpet
*John Mumford - Trombone
*The Martyn Ford Ensemble - Strings

1971  Rupert Hine - Pick Up A Bone

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

D.R. Hooker - The Truth (1972 us, gorgeous lounge psychedelia)

New Haven, CT nutbomb Donald Hooker, who rumor has it went dressed like Jesus at all times, was a guitarist, singer & songwriter who got a gaggle of local yokels to accompany him on dobro, bass, synth, organ, piano, horns and drums.  There's also a few pop-psych near-ballads tinged with minor keys and jazzy percussion that makes for a low-rent Zombies vibe, and Hooker's edgy-but-quiet singing smacks of Lou Reed. Fuzz cranks up to bomber level for the tougher songs, and it wraps up with a big pro-Jesus pro-drug blowout complete with backmasking.

Tempting as it is to exaggerate the worth of such obscurities, The Truth deserves every plaudit that comes its way, making it astonishing that there was no real band to speak of. Instead ten musicians are credited alongside the mysterious Donald Hooker, who wrote, sang and played lead on the album. Culled from the local music scene, they rehearsed only briefly before entering the studio. Tom Kobela, who plays dobro on The Truth, remembers that Hooker ‘was a very likable, long-haired fellow’ with a most unusual appearance. Heavily bearded and very thin, he looks nothing short of messianic on the front cover. Kobela recalls that ‘D.R. wore robes, which was pushing the dress code conventions even then.’ Despite his wasted appearance, though, he knew exactly what he wanted in the studio. ‘He had a real sense of mission’, says Kobela. ‘He was way ahead of me there!’

Heralded by an eerie whoosh, the first track, ‘The Sea’, exemplifies the album’s sound: a strong melody, funky drumming and percussion and piercing guitar underpin oddly philosophical, quasi-Christian lyrics. Some songs are mellow (the lethargic  ‘Weather Girl’ and plain soporific ‘Falling Asleep’), whilst others rock hard (‘I’m Leaving You’ and ‘The Truth’). Other highlights include the irresistibly funky ‘A Stranger’s Smile’ and the beautifully structured ‘This Thing’. But the album’s masterpiece is the unforgettable ‘Forge Your Own Chains’, whose smouldering groove, enlivened by delicate synth and atmospheric brass, provides the backing for Hooker’s admonitory lyrics about the iniquities of substance abuse.

Despite the profusion of musicians involved, The Truth has a remarkably intimate, uncluttered feel - no small achievement. Kobela, however, admits that ‘at the time I thought D.R. overestimated his own talents. I’ve since learnt not to judge people so quickly.’ The group, such as it was, split as soon as the recording was complete and that was that. ‘I never heard the final mix of the album or even saw the cover art’, Kobela continues, only learning of its cult status when, to his amazement, he stumbled across it on the internet."
1. The Sea - 4:26
2. Fall In Love - 2:35
3. A Stranger's Smile - 2:21
4. Weather Girl - 4:11
5. This Thing - 5:18
6. Forge Your Own Chains - 4:42
7. I'm Leaving You - 4:03
8. The Truth - 3:39
9. The Bible - 4:46
10.Falling Asleep - 5:01
11.Hello - 2:41
12.This Moment - 5:26
13.Free - 3:17
14.Winter - 4:29
15.A Tormented Heart - 6:01
16.Kamala - 5:54
Music and Lyrics by D.R. Hooker

*D.R. Hooker - Vocals, Guitars
*Steve Malkan - Bass
*Bett McDevitt - Drums
*Bob Reardon - Keyboards
*Carroll Yanni - Lead Guitar
*Ken Lovelett - Vibraphone, Percussion
*Dave Mason - Vocals

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Traffic Sound - Virgin (1970 peru, amazing rough psych rock)

In January 1970, Traffic Sound’s second album, "Virgin" appeared on the market. It was the first Peruvian rock album with 100% original tunes. The album contains the hit single 'Meshkalina', a fusion of Latin rhythms, power rock and hippie lyrics; it also includes beautiful acoustic tracks: 'Virgin', 'Simple' and 'Last song,' and progressive rock tracks like 'Yellow sea days' and 'Jews caboose.'

The uniqueness of Traffic Sound made them very special – although influenced by bands like the Animals, Iron Butterfly, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Pink Floyd, they added their own original touches and created something new.
1. Virgin - 2:58
2. Tell The World I'm Alive - 4:11
3. Yellow Sea Days: March 7th, March 8th, March 9th - 9:00
4. Jews Caboose - 4:26
5. A Place In Time "You And Me" - 0:31
6. Simple - 3:26
7. Meshkalina - 5:23
8. Last Song - 2:17

Traffic Sound
*Manuel Sanguinetti - Lead Vocals, Percussion
*Willy Barclay - Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Freddy Rizo Patrón - Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Vocals
*Willy Thorne - Bass, Organ, Piano, 12 String Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Luis Nevares - Drums, Vibes, Percussion, Vocals
*Jean Pierre Magnet - Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Percussion, Vocals
*Otto De Rojas - Piano
*Pablo Villanueva Branda (Melcochita) - Drums, Percussion
*Tito Chicoma- Trumpet

1970  Traffic Sound

Traffic Sound - Traffic Sound (1970 peru, fanstastic psychedelic rock)

It was mid 1964, when a group of  young high school students,. Diego Garcia Sayan, brothers Freddy and Jose Rizo Patron, Ramon Orbegoso and Felipe Larrabure, formed the group Los Hang Ten's. The band had several additions, among them a promising vocalist, Manuel Sanguinetti.

In 1967,  Jose and Freddy Rizo-Patron (lead and rhythm guitar), left Los Hang Ten's to join Manuel Sanguinetti, a lead singer and a former classmate, who wanted to form a more professional, tighter outfit. That group, with several key additions eventually became Traffic Sound, one of the most influential and creative groups that emerged from the rock 'n' roll  scene in Peru in the 60's.

 The new band had high hopes and the dream that one day they could play their music to larger audiences, perhaps even give rock concerts in the United States. After several months playing together and giving presentations to friends, they realized the only way to achieve their goals was to bring into the band other experienced rock musicians who shared their own particular high hopes.

The elected group of new musicians, among others, were the ex-members of Los Mads, perhaps the first super-group in Peruvian psychedelic rock history. Manuel Sanguinetti (lead vocals) called Jean Pierre Magnet (sax and wind instruments) and Willy Thorne (keyboards); Willy got in touch with two other friends, Willy Barclay (bass) and Lucho Nevares (drums), who accepted to join the group and Traffic Sound was born. The origin of the group’ s name was the traffic light, a souvenir from a wild night in town, they found in the attic that was used for rehearsals, at the Rizo-Patron's state.

After months of intense practice and presentations for friends, Traffic Sound started giving concerts at the Tiffany Club, the temple of Peruvian psychedelia. Because of their musicianship and popularity, a Peruvian label, MAG Records, gave them a recording contract in the last quarter of 1968. Their first single came out on the MAG label with the songs” Sky Pilot” and “Fire”, and it was followed by two others under the same label. The singles were cover songs by The Doors, Cream, Jimmy Hendrix and other groups that were Traffic Sound’ s main influences at the time. The covers were well executed, with an added Latin flavor, and with Manuel Sanguinetti singing in English. The singles sold out quickly and MAG decided to reissue all three of them as a compilation that became their first long-play  Bailar Go Go.

In 1969 they recorded their second LP, Virgin (MAG LPN-2382), perhaps one of the finest rock albums made in South America in the seventies, and regarded by many collectors among the best psychedelic LPs of all times. This time all songs were original compositions, all group efforts, and played with finesse, finally Traffic Sound had developed its own style. Still some small influence from British rock is evident in some compositions : “Virgin” (The Bee Gees) , “Tell the World I am Alive” (Led Zeppelin) , “Yellow Sea Days” (Pink Floyd) and a touch of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Sky Pilot” on their song  “A Place in Time Called You and Me ” (purposely presented backwards on the LP).

Virgin made Traffic Sound the most popular group in Peru and the most requested in concerts. Later on became the number one priority among serious collectors of psychedelic recordings. The first edition of the LP came out on the regular MAG package (front and back covers joined by a rivet), the second edition was a fold out cover with pictures of the group (this version of the cover is the most popular among collectors), the third and last edition had a single cover, with the front and back glued together, and the record had an orange label, instead of the original MAG black label.

In 1970 they recorded their third LP titled Traffic Sound (MAG LPN-2395); in my opinion their finest album. This recording features seven tracks of highly original material, full of “all out” improvised solos. At this point they had a strong, mature sound; unique in the right mixture of psychedelic rock with Andean and Latin music. The hit songs  ”Chicama Way” and “Tibet’ s Suzettes” revealed the group’ s inner thoughts and the atmosphere that surrounded Peruvian youths in the early seventies.
By George Bonilla 
1. Tibet's Suzettes - 4:37
2. Those Days Have Gone - 3:21
3. Yesterday's Game - 5:41
4. America - 2:55
5. What You Need And What You Want - 4:07
6. Chicama Way - 7:41
7. Empty - 1:22
Music by Traffic Sound Lyrics by Manuel Sanguinetti

Traffic Sound
*Manuel Sanguinetti - Lead Singer, Percussion
*Willy Barclay - Lead, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Freddy Rizo Patron - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Willy Thorne - Bass, Organ, Piano, Vocals
*Jean Pierre Magnet - Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Percussion
*Luis Nevares - Drums, Vibraphone, Percussion

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rupert Hine - Pick Up A Bone (1971 uk, spectacular orchestrated sophisticated progressive folk rock)

Although also a recording artist in his own right, Rupert Hine earned perhaps his greatest recognition as one of the most successful and prolific producers of the synth pop era. As half of the duo Rupert & David, he made his recording debut at the age of 16 with the 1965 single "The Sound of Silence"; it was not a success, and so he maintained a low profile until 1971, venturing out as a solo performer with the LP Pick Up a Bone. 

After issuing his second solo effort, 1973's Unfinished Picture, Hine turned to production with Kevin Ayers' Confessions of Dr. Dream. In 1976 he began fronting the trio Quantum Jump, debuting that year with a self-titled album and releasing the follow-up Barracuda a year later. Around 1978 he began accepting more and more production work, helming albums from Anthony Phillips, the Members, and Camel, guiding the latter to their most commercially successful effort, I Can See Your House from Here. 
by Jason Ankeny
1. Landscape - 5:14
2. Ass All - 3:39
3. Me You Mine - 5:24
4. Scarecrow - 3:29
5. Kerosene - 7:32
6. Running Away - 4:57
7. Medicine Munday - 3:20
8. More Than One, Less Then Five - 4:14
9. Boo Boo's Faux Pas - 6:28
10.Pick Up A Bone (Rupert Hine, Simon Jeffes) - 3:51
11.Instant Muse - 1:28
All compositions by Rupert Hine, David MacIver except where stated

*Rupert Hine - Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*Simon Jeffes - Acoustic, Electric, Slide Guitars
*David MacIver - Guitar
*Peter Robinson - Piano, Organ
*Pete Morgan - Acoustic, Electric Bass
*Terry Cox - Drums
*Clive Hicks, Eric Ford, Joe Moretti - Guitars
*Steve Hammond - Electric Guitar, Banjo
*Paul Buckmaster - Electric Cello
*Eddie Mordue, Roy Willox - Sax, Flute
*Raul Mayora - Congas, Bells
*Roger Glover - Tambourine
*Barry de Sousa - Drums

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Kingdom Come - Kingdom Come (1972 uk, essential heavy experimental prog, 2005 japan issue)

1971's Galactic Zoo Dossier, Arthur Brown's first album with his new band Kingdom Come proved that he still had more great material to give us. So a year later, he decided to record a second album, called Kingdom Come. By this point VCS-3 synthesizer player Julian Paul Brown and bassist Desmond Fisher left, replaced by new bassist Phil Shutt. The rest of the band at this point consisted of Arthur Brown on vocals, of course, guitarist/vocalist Andy Dalby, keyboardist Michael "Goodge" Harris, and drummer Martin "Slim" Steer. 

The album starts off with "Water",  the Mellotron makes its first appearance (something you'll hear much more on their following album, Journey, where American-born Victor Peraino used plenty of it). Luckily the album gets much better with the wonderful ballad "Love is a Spirit" and the ever eccentric "City Medoly". A lot of this stuff can get pretty unpredictable, especially the second half of "City Medoly". 

Perhaps the most absurd song on this album is "Experiment". Parts of this song sounds a little bit like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, where there's another part where Andy Dalby does the singing and it ends up sounding a bit like Traffic's "40,000 Headmen". Then Arthur Brown starts talking about bowel movements with the sound of someone having diarrhea. I could hardly believe I heard something that crude, not even Frank Zappa could think of something that crude in his music. 
by Ben Miler
1. Water - 8:10
2. Love Is The Spirit (J. P. Brown) - 4:19
3. City Melody 06:10
4. Trafic Light Song - 2:43
5. The Teacher (Kingdom Come, Vincent Crane) - 1:54
6. The Experiment 07:25
7. The Whirlpool - 4:17
8. The Hymn (Andy Dalby) - 8:51
9. Traffic Light Song - 2:41
10.The Hymn - 5:58
11.The Experiment - 8:47
All compositions by Kingdom Come except where indicated

Kingdom Come
*Arthur Brown - Lead Vocals
*Phil Shutt - Bass
*Andy Dalby - Guitar
*Michael Harris - Keyboards
*Martin Steer - Drums

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Millennium - Begin (1968 us, gorgeous baroque sunny psych, Blue Spec edition)

The Millennium's Begin can truly be described as a bona fide lost classic. The brainchild of producers Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher, the group was formed out of the remnants of their previous studio project, Sagittarius, which was preceded by yet another aggregation, the Ballroom. 

On Begin, hard rock, breezy ballads, and psychedelia all merge into an absolutely air-tight concept album, easily on the level of other, more widely popular albums from the era such as The Notorious Byrd Brothers, which share not only Usher's production skills, but similarities in concept and construction. The songwriting, mostly by Curt Boettcher, Michael , and Joey Stec is sterling and innovative, never straying into the type of psychedelic overindulgence which marred so many records from this era. For example, "It's You," by Fennelly and Stec, is as powerful and fully realized as the era ever produced, easily on par with songs by the Beach Boys and the Byrds -- and, yes, even the Beatles. 

At the time the most expensive album Columbia ever produced (and it sounds like it), Begin is an absolute necessity for any fan of late-'60s psychedelia and a wonderful rediscovery that sounds as vital today as it did the day it was released. 
by Matthew Greenwald

The Millennium was the creation of Curt Boettcher, who gathered a handful of California musicians to create a psychedelic rock group with sunshine pop harmonies. Boettcher was from the folk group the GoldeBriars and later The Ballroom which is where he met Sandy Salisbury. Ron Edgar and Doug Rhodes were from The Music Machine which had scored a Top 20 hit with the song "Talk Talk". Lee Mallory was a singer, songwriter and guitarist that had a hit with the cover of the Phil Ochs song "That's The Way It's Going To Be". It was produced by Boettcher and reached #86 on the charts. Joey Stec and Michael Fennelly were singers, songwriters and guitarists that were recruited by Boettcher.

The Millennium recorded one album, "Begin" in 1968. It was highly influential and had some local success with the song, "To Claudia on Thursday" but was commercially unsuccessful. The album was an interesting combination of breezy pop and psychedelic rock. At the time, it was the most expensive record Columbia had ever produced. The song "It's You" become a substantial hit in several regions and "5 AM" became a hit in the Philippines. Before disbanding, the group recorded one follow-up single: "Just About The Same" b/w "Blight," as well as several tracks that were later released on compilation albums.

Boettcher went on to producing and in 1973 released a solo album, "There's An Innocent Face" but it was a commercial failure. In 1979 he had a moderate hit with a 10-minute disco version of the song "Here Comes the Night" by The Beach Boys. He died in 1987 while being treated for a lung infection.

Lee Mallory performed as lead guitarist and a member of the "Tribe" for the first road company of the stage production of Hair. He is the only person known to have served both in the tribe and in the band. He became highly esteemed in San Francisco and The San Francisco Board of Supervisors proclaimed in 2005 that January 10 would be Lee Mallory Day, honoring Lee and all singer-songwriters. He died of liver cancer in March of 2005.

Joey Stec joined the Blues Magoos and after that started the band, The Dependables, and then released a solo album in 1976. In the late 1990s he founded the record label Sonic Past Music which is dedicated to publishing unreleased recordings by classic rock artists.

Sandy Salisbury recorded a solo album, but it was not released until 2001, he worked several jobs before becoming an author of novels and children's literature (under his given name of Graham Salisbury).

Doug Rhodes did studio work for Taj Mahal, The Association and others. He eventually moved to Canada and is a professional piano tuner and piano restorer, as well as playing 1920's style jazz with an orchestra called The Belevedere Broadcasters.

Ron Edgar did studio work for The Association, Bread, Paul Renze and appears on Boettcher's and Salisbury's solo albums. Michael Fennelly would end up in Crabby Appleton.
by Adamus67
1. Prelude (Ron Edgar, Doug Rhodes) - 1:18
2. To Claudia On Thursday (Michael Fennelly, Joey Stec) - 3:26
3. I Just Want To Be Your Friend (Curt Boettcher) - 2:34
4. 5 A.M. (Sandy Salisbury) - 2:48
5. I'm With You (Lee Mallory) - 2:35
6. The Island (Curt Boettcher) - 3:18
7. Sing To Me (Lee Mallory) - 2:15
8. It's You (Michael Fennelly, Joey Stec) - 3:21
9. Some Sunny Day (Lee Mallory) - 3:22
10.It Won't Always Be The Same (Michael Fennelly, Joey Stec) - 2:57
11.The Know It All (Curt Boettcher) - 2:40
12.Karmic Dream Sequence #1 (Curt Boettcher, Lee Mallory) - 5:58
13.There Is Nothing More To Say (Curt Boettcher, Michael Fennelly, Lee Mallory) - 2:23
14.Anthem (Begin) (Curt Boettcher, Lee Mallory) - 2:39
15.Just About The Same (Michael Fennelly, Doug Rhodes, Joey Stec) - 2:21
16.Blight (Michael Fennelly) - 3:02
17.It's You (Mono Single Version) (Michael Fennelly, Joey Stec) - 3:13
18.I Just Want To Be Your Friend (Mono Single Version) (Curt Boettcher) - 2:35
19.5 A.M. (Mono Single Version) (Sandy Salisbury) - 2:44
20.Prelude (Mono Single Version) (Ron Edgar, Doug Rhodes) - 1:18
21.It Won't Always Be The Same (Mono Single Version) (Michael Fennelly, Joey Stec) - 3:00
22.To Claudia On Thusday (Mono Single Version) (Michael Fennelly, Joey Stec) - 3:09
23.There Is Nothing More To Say (Mono Single Version) (C. Boettcher, M. Fennelly, L. Mallory) - 2:25

*Curt Boettcher - Vocals, Guitar
*Ron Edgar - Drums, Vocals
*Michael Fennelly - Guitar, Vocals
*Lee Mallory - Vocals
*Doug Rhodes - Horn, Keyboards, Vocals
*Sandy Salisbury - Guitar, Vocals
*Patrick Shanahan - Drums
*Joey Stec - Guitar
*Red Rhodes - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Doug Dillard - Banjo

Related Act
1966-68  Sagittarius - Present Tense

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The Freak Scene - Psychedelic Psoul (1967 us, sensational experimental psych rock)

The story of pop music in the 1960s is littered with “bands” that were never truly bands, but were, rather, the creation of record companies and record producers anxious to cash in on prevailing trends. This, too, is the story of The Freak Scene.

The Freak Scene was the creation of Rusty Evans, an ostensible folksinger who’d gotten his start recording rockabilly for Brunswick Records. The Kasentez-Katz of psych-pop, Evans was responsible for several albums by “bands” that were, in actuality, Evans and a group of studio musicians.  The Freak Scene was the second of Evans’ psych-pop groups, following on the heels of The Deep, and featuring many of the same musicians who’d played on the The Deep’s sole album.

Like The Deep, The Freak Scene was credited with one album before Evans lost interest. Psychedelic Psoul, the lone contribution by The Freak Scene, is a fascinating late-60s curio, made up of songs interspersed with spoken word vignettes that address all the hot-button issues of the time – the Vietnam War, civil rights, the plight of hippies. The result is as much art-rock as psych-pop.

Not surprisingly, the spoken word vignettes have not aged well, but several of the songs on Psychedelic Psoul have lasting appeal. “A Million Grains of Sand,” “Rose of Smiling Faces” and “My Rainbow Life”’ bear heavily the Indian influence that dominated the music of the Summer of Love, with their mystical lyrics and swirling strings; however, “My Rainbow Life” suffers from banal lyrics that make it sound more like a soundtrack entry on an acid exploitation flick than a real song. “Behind the Mind,” “The Center of My Soul” and “Mind Bender” bear a striking resemblance to garage-psych on the level of the Electric Prunes (another pre-fab band) or the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

By far the best offering on Psychedelic Psoul is “The Subway Ride Through Inner Space,” which somehow manages to mash-up the stream-of-conscious lyrical quality of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and any of George Harrison’s sitar-heavy Beatles tracks, all on top of a loping, hypnotic rhythm.

Evans abandoned The Freak Scene after Psychedelic Psoul. Evans worked in A&R for a time, establishing Eastern Productions, which signed both Third Bardo and The Facts of Life, and producing the Nervous Breakdown for Take Six.

Although The Freak Scene was short-lived, Evans wasn’t quite finished with the band’s output; when he re-emerged as a recording artist in 1969 under his given name, Marcus, he recycled “A Million Grains of Sand” as “Grains of Sand,” slowing the tempo, simplifying the instrumentation, and generally going for a more seductive vibe.
1. A Million Grains Of Sand (Rusty Evans) - 2:36
2. "...When In The Course Of Human Events" (Draft Beer, Not Students) / Interpolation: We Shall Overcome (Rusty Evans, David Bromberg, David Rubinson) / (Frank Hamilton, Guy Carawan, Pete Seeger, Zilphia Horton) - 3:33
3. Rose Of Smiling Faces (Rusty Evans) - 4:14
4. Behind The Mind (Arthur Geller, Rusty Evans) - 2:20
5. The Subway Ride Thru Inner Space (Rusty Evans) - 2:41
6. Butterfly Dream (David Richard Blackhurst, Lenny Pogan, Rusty Evans) - 1:37
7. My Rainbow Life (Rusty Evans, Teddy Randazzo, Victoria Pike) - 2:51
8  The Center Of My Soul (Rusty Evans) - 2:25
9. Watered Down Soul (David Richard Blackhurst, Rusty Evans) - 2:36
10.Red Roses Will Weep (David Richard Blackhurst, Rusty Evans) - 2:18
11.Mind Bender (David Richard Blackhurst, Rusty Evans) - 2:26
12.Grok! (Rusty Evans) - 1:37

*Rusty Evans - Vocals, Arrangements

Related Acts
1966  The Deep - Psychedelic Moods
1967-70  Marcus - Marcus Original LP And Outtakes

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sagittarius - Present Tense (1966-68 us, heavenly tender baroque sunny psychedelia, 2006 japan bonus tracks issue)

Sagittarius is the project (and zodiac sign) of one Gary Usher, collaborator and friend to Brian Wilson and producer of Notorious Byrds, and the ambitious Curt Boettcher, another Beach Boys coconspirator and genius behind the legendary Begin album by The Millennium.

Basically, they are companion albums, released in the same month in 1968, where most recommend starting with Begin and expanding into Present Tense. Some will find this album a bit twee for their tastes, and it is very hard to take seriously on first listen. But a little effort in putting it on, and it won’t take long before the album reveals itself to you. I find Present Tense to be almost a little better put-together than Begin. Realize though, that you’re not going to win points pumping this album full blast; maybe this is an album for headphones on the train, or a light rainy day.

Usually, I would balk at posting a track called “Song To The Magic Frog;” I have to though as it well represents the album. The instruments are eq’d with fairy dust it seems, and nice orchestral touches. “Will you ever, will you ever know” sounds to me like a classic Curt Boettcher melody, and though this is a Gary Usher project, Curt’s prevailing influence is unmistakable. The vocals soar on “Another Time” and it’s near the top, but I promise you that it is worth growing with Present Tense and all of its loveliness.

It’s only a matter of time before some director includes some of this Curt Boettcher madness in a popular film and all this soft California sike blows up. Included here from the bonus selections is the single version of My World Fell Down, with the preserved musique concrete bridge that Clive Davis urged removed from the album version.
by Brendan McGrath
Original Album 1967
1. Another Time (C. Boettcher) - 2:39
2. Song To The Magic Frog (Will You Ever Know) (C. Boettcher, M. O'Malley) - 2:48
3. You Know I've Found A Way (C. Boettcher, L. Mallory) - 2:00
4. The Keeper Of The Games (C. Boettcher) - 1:53
5. Glass (E. Sheldon, L. Marks) - 2:26
6. Would You Like To Go (C. Boettcher, G. Alexander) - 2:37
7. My World Fell Down (G. Stephens, J. Carter) - 2:54
8. Hotel Indiscreet (J.A. Griffin, M.Z. Gordon) - 2:11
9. I'm Not Living Here (C. Boettcher) - 2:26
10.Musty Dusty (C. Boettcher) - 3:11
Japan 2006 Extra Tracks Issue
12.My World Fell Down (Mono Single Version) (G. Stephens, J. Carter) - 3:47
13.Hotel Indiscreet (Mono Single Version) (J.A. Griffin, M.Z. Gordon) - 2:22
14.Another Time (Mono Single Version) (C. Boettcher) - 2:44
15.You Know I've Found A Way (Mono Single Version) (C. Boettcher, Gary Usher, L. Mallory) - 2:04
16.The Truth Is Not Real (Mono Single Version) (Gary Usher) - 3:03
17.I'm Not Living Here (Mono Single Version) (Curt Boettcher, Gary Usher, Keith Olsen) - 2:24
18.The Keeper Of The Games (Mono Single Version) (Curt Boettcher, Gary Usher, Keith Olsen) - 1:49
19.Virgo (Gary Usher) - 2:26
20.Libra (Gary Usher) - 4:06
21.Pisces (Gary Usher) - 2:54

*Curt Boettcher - Vocals, Arrangements
*Gary Usher - Vocals, Arrangements
*Glen Campbell - Guitar
*Sandy Salisbury - Vocals
*Joey Stec - Guitar
*Bruce Johnston - Vocals
*Lee Mallory - Guitar
*Ron Edgar - Drums
*Michael Fennelly - Vocals, Guitar
*Doug Rhodes - Bass, Flute, Horn, Organ, Tambourine, Vocals
*Wrecking Crew
*Firesign Theatre

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