Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sandy Hurvitz - Sandy's Album Is Here At Last! (1969 us, individual sharp avant jazz rock, 2010 issue)

Philadelphian Essra Mohawk is best known as the answer to the trivia question: “Who was the first female Mother (of Invention)?” She joined Frank Zappa and the band in 1967. Her name was Sandy Hurvitz back then, although Zappa dubbed her “Uncle Meat” for obscure reasons. 

But Mohawk had been in the music business for several years before her association with the Mothers at age 19. She recorded a single for Liberty when just 16 years old (“The Boy with the Way”, b-side “Memory of Your Voice”) and wrote songs recorded by the Shangri-Las and Vanilla Fudge. In 1969, Mohawk, nee Hurvitz, put out her first solo album, Sandy’s Album Is Here at Last!, on Zappa’s Bizarre record label. The record went basically unproduced (fellow Mother Ian Underwood is credited) and suffers from poor sound quality and other technical issues. Collectors’ Choice has recently reissued this album and Mohawk’s next two releases, Primordial Lovers (1970) and Essra Mohawk (1974). 

Critics frequently compare Mohawk with other female singer songwriters from her era, especially Laura Nyro and Carole King, because all three write piano-based jazz rock that frequently concerns issues of Mother Earth spirituality and distaff loneliness. However, the three have distinct personalities and anyone with even a glancing familiarity of the musicians could easily discern their differences. Mohawk is the most, um, out there. What would one expect from the original woman Mother? Conventionality? Her songs meander all over the place and use serial repetitions rather than hooks to catch the audience. 

Sandy’s Album Is Here at Last! offers many great examples of this eccentricity, some of which may be due to the fact that it was released on the Bizarre label and was unproduced, not to mention the record was released during the height of the psychedelic era. Song titles such as “Arch Godliness of Purpleful Magic”, “All This Time Going By”, and “Tree of Trees” suggest the acid logic that informs the music. However, these three tracks are playful, heartfelt, and original. Contemporary fans of Devendra Banhart and the Dirty Projectors would do well to seek this disc out. The tinny production may be off-putting, but just like the way a blues collector loves the sound of a needle and static cutting a groove in an old 78 rpm recording, the sonic limitations function to make lyrics about hawks having sex, turning on and tripping, the holiness of trees, and such more authentic. Mohawk performs mostly unaccompanied, and the amateur nature of the recording makes the sentiments seem more real.

Although Primordial Lovers came out only a year later on Reprise, it sounds much more modern. The pristine sound quality showcases Mohawk’s unusual vocal style—she often swoops and ululates for effect—and this time she has serious players behind her that includes drummer Dallas Taylor, from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s band, and Rhinoceros’s guitarist Doug Hasting. (Mohawk wanted to join Rhinoceros but her manager, Herb Cohen, wouldn’t let her.) The songs on this album are more conformist than that of her previous album, but are still adventurous in their lyrics and arrangements. Her “I Have Been Here Before” was the inspiration for David Crosby’s “Déjà Vu”. In Mohawk’s song, she spends more than six minutes searching for the source of the familiar through chanting and radically changing time signatures as a method of exploration. Primordial Lovers has had a reputation as one of those great records that no one has heard. In 1977, Rolling Stone ranked it as one of the “Top 25 Albums of All Time.” While that may seem an overstatement, the record’s charm is easily recognizable.

Mohawk’s self-titled third album may be her most conventional. She covers the George Gershwin “Summertime” in a bluesy way, and only one of the 11 original tracks clocks in at more than four minutes, and that one (“I Cannot Forget”) is only four minutes and 24 seconds long. The lyrics are more sedate as well, frequently about love between a man and a woman. Yet Mohawk still takes risks and sings the odd lyrics about life and death, nature and transcendence, faith and reason, etc. The Elektra album comes off as quirky (“My right hand has six fingers”) more than weird.

Mohawk continued to make music after these records, and has written songs that have been recorded by Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner, Lorrie Morgan, Keb’ Mo’, and many others. Mohawk also was the vocalist on School House Rock songs “Interjections”, “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage”, and “Mother Necessity”. None of these three albums were successful upon release, and Collectors’ Choice should be applauded for re-releasing them.
by Steve Horowitz
1. Child - 3:07
2. Three Hawks - 3:02
3. All This Time Going By - 5:47
4. Woman - 2:24
5. I Know the Sun - 6:52
6. Many Different Things - 4:12
7. You'll Dance Alone - 3:27
8. Tree of Trees - 3:49
9. Arch Goodness of Purplefull Magic - 3:24
10.Love Is What I've Found - 3:54
11.Life Is Scarlet - 3:05
All songs by Essra Mohawk

*Sandy Hurvitz (Essra Mohawk) - Vocals, Piano
*Jim Pepper - Saxophone
*Eddie Gomez - Bass
*Donald McDonald - Drums
*Jeremy Steig - Flute

1970  Essra Mohawk - Primordial Lovers 

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Shadows Of Knight - Dark Sides (1965-70 us, superb garage blues 'n' roll)

Initially released in early 1965 by Them (featuring a young Van Morrison on vocals), “Gloria” went onto become a certified garage punk and bar band staple. Although thousands of musicians have performed and recorded this three and a half chord marvel over the years, the Shadows of Knight from Arlington Heights in Chicago scored the heftiest points with their own savage version of the hot and horny song, which in the spring of 1966 gripped the number ten spot on the national charts.

Sad to say, the band failed to duplicate the kind of massive success they achieved with “Gloria.” However, they remained an in-demand live act and proceeded to produce outstanding material through the end of the decade. During their stint, the Shadows of Knight issued a string of sterling singles and a trio of terrific albums that belong in any serious rock fan’s collection.

Having said that, Dark Sides (The Best of the Shadows of Knight) (Rhino Records) provides only a glimpse of their genius, but still holds as a fine introduction to the band and does champion their greatest moments.

Of course, “Gloria” appears on the disc, as well as the band’s next biggest hit, a thumping cover of Bo Diddley’s “Oh Yeah,” which barely scraped the Top 40, peaking at No. 39 in the summer of 1966. As both these tunes attest, the Shadows of Knight were masters of blues-battered rock. In certain quarters, they were deemed America’s answer to British bands like the Rolling Stones, the Pretty Things, and the Yardbirds, and such comparisons were right on the mark. Not only did the band flaunt a sound similar to their cousins across the pond, but they also had the image to match. Shaggy tresses, turtleneck sweaters, skin-tight jeans, Beatle boots and menacing mugs made the Shadows of Knight look mighty cool and mod.

Booming with brawn, Dark Sides continually illustrates how tight, powerful and loud the band was. Seething with frustration and aggression, “I’ll Make You Sorry,” “Bad Little Woman,” “It Always Happens This Way,“ and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” sizzle and smoke to a thundering template of chunky guitars, shouting harmonies and pounding rhythms. And those cocky vocals, sneering, snarling, and snickering with sinister motives are absolutely priceless. One gets the impression the Shadows of Knight are scolding and taunting the target of their anger or lust. There’s nothing the least bit subtle about the band’s raw and honest music.
by Beverly Paterson
1. Gloria (Morrison) - 2:37
2. Dark Side (Sohns, Rogers) - 2:03
3. Oh Yeah (McDaniel) - 2:48
4. Light Bulb Blues (Sohns, McGeorge, Kelley) - 2:35
5. It Always Happens That Way (Sohns, Rogers) - 1:56
6. I Got My Mojo Working (Preston Foster) - 3:33
7. You Can't Judge A Book (By The Cover) (Dixon) - 2:40
8. Bad Little Woman (Rosbotham, Armstrong, Demick, Tinsley, Catling) - 2:38
9. Gospel Zone (Schiffour) - 3:18
10.I'll Make You Sorry (Kelley) - 2:41
11.I'm Gonna Make You Mine (Carr, D'Errico, Bayer) - 2:33
12.Peepin' And Hidin' (Reed) - 3:02
13.Willie Jean (Traditional) - 2:49
14.The Behemoth (Pye) - 2:35
15.Someone Like Me (McDowell, Novak) - 2:21
16.Three For Love (Kelley) - 2:37
17.Shake (Levine, Resnick) - 2:31
18.My Fire Department Needs A Fireman (Katz, Kasenetz) - 2:22
19.Alone (Levine, Feldman) - 2:07
20.I Am The Hunter (Sohns, Fisher) - 2:52

Shadows Of Knight
*Joe Kelley - Guitar
*Jerry McGeorge - Guitar
*Jim Sohns - Vocals
*Tom Schiffour - Drums
*Warren Rogers - Bass
*David "Hawk" Wolinski  - Organ, Piano
*Dan Baughman - Guitar
*Jack Daniels - Guitar
*John Fisher - Bass
*Kenny Turkin - Drums
*Steve "Woody" Woodruff- Guitar
*Paul Scarpelli - Drums

1966  The Shadows Of Knight - Gloria
1968-69  The Shadows Of Knight - Shake! (2009 remaster) 

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gary Walker And The Rain - Album Number 1 (1968 us / uk, fabulous beat psych, 2009 edition)

The Rain’s reign was brief, but they left behind a genuine “lost” album which has only recently seen the light of day outside Japan and which will come as a pleasant surprise to aficionados of Brit psych.

Gary Leeds was only ever a third wheel to the Walker Brothers, a non-singing drummer thumping the tubs on live dates and TV appearances and providing a further piece of eye candy for the photo shoots. However, such was the impact of the Walkers in Europe and Japan that, when the trio folded, Gary was easily convinced by conniving manager Maurice King to put together a new band in England on the basis of his kudos as a former Walker. He was fortunate enough to recruit two capable Merseybeat veterans, Joey Molland (vocal, lead gtr) and Paul “Charlie” Crane (vocal, keys, gtr), plus reliable London bassist John Lawson. 

Allegedly Molland’s interview ran thus. Leeds: “You look like Paul McCartney. Can you sing like him?” Molland: “Yes”. L: “Can you play guitar like Eric Clapton?” M: “Yes”. L: “You’re in.” Serendipitously, he really could do both, besides proving an adept songwriter. Lawson got the job on the basis of his Gene Clark-like good looks and his orange jacket and purple loons; such are the vagaries of rock showbiz. Unashamedly cashing in on Leeds’s celebrity, the outfit would be known as Gary Walker and the Rain.

The band’s recording career kicked off with a passable cover of “Spooky” that failed to show in the UK or America but sold well in Japan, where the Walkers had belatedly achieved godlike status. On the basis of this UK Polydor permitted them to record an album, but then inexplicably refused to release it. Only in Japan, where the band’s local label, Philips, was crying out for further product, did it hit the shelves; its title there was Album No. 1, which follows a Japanese penchant for such unambiguous nomenclature whilst appearing pretty humdrum to Western sensibilities. 

On the ensuing tour of Japan the band were mobbed by teenage girls, with the lion’s share of the attention going to the drum-stool god rather than to the talented but unknown front line. Sadly, Beat Era heroes were less in vogue in the UK by 1968; the gigs dried up, two subsequent single releases tanked, and the band called it a day just a year after coming together. Molland went on to be a cornerstone of Badfinger, while Crane became a noted music publisher. Leeds enjoyed a brief renaissance when the Walkers reunited in the mid-70s.

The album itself proves gratifyingly to be a distinctive pop-psych set falling somewhere between a pre-Tommy Who, an un-flanged early Status Quo and a nascent Badfinger. The slightly hazy production was by ex-Four Pennies bassist Fritz Fryer, who enlisted much inventive studio trickery to enhance the uncompromisingly basic eight-track recording facilities. The leadoff track “Magazine Woman” sets out the stall, with choppy rhythm, stun-gun lead guitar, delightful rough-edged harmonies and “Taxman” rip-off bassline. 

The ensuing tracks move from late Merseybeat through freakbeat to proto-metal, some played straight, others psychedelically treated. Notable are “Thoughts Of An Old Man”, distinctly Pepper-ish musically and lyrically; “Francis”, a crunchy, stereo-tastic garage rocker chronicling the adventures of an elderly philanderer; and a totally wigged-out cover of Lieber and Stoller’s venerable “If You Don’t Come Back” in best Jeff Beck Band style with thudding backing and shards of barely controlled guitar feedback. The original album closes with two ballads: the harpsichord-driven pop-baroque “I Promise To Love You” and the gentle countrified acoustic “Whatever Happened to Happy”.

The album finally hit the Western World as a CD in 2009, boosted by the band’s sole post-album track and both sides of a single recorded earlier by Gary with some Japanese musicians styled the Carnabeats. The B-side of this is unselfconsciously wet-yourself hilarious. Why? I ain’t telling; you’ll have to get the album to find out.
by Len Liechti
1. Magazine Woman (Joey Molland) - 5:01
2. The Sun Shines (Paul Crane) - 2:47
3. Doctor Doctor (Joey Molland) - 2:58
4. I Can't Stand To Lose You (Gary Leeds, Paul Crane) - 2:27
5. Market Tavern (Joey Molland, Paul Crane) - 4:05
6. Spooky (Middlebrooks, Shapiro) - 3:02
7. Take A Look (Joey Molland) - 2:07
8. The View (Gary Leeds, Joey Molland) - 2:50
9. If You Don't Come Back (Leiber, Stoller) - 6:47
10.Thoughts Of An Old Man (Gary Leeds, Joey Molland) - 2:43
11.Francis (Gary Leeds, Joey Molland, Paul Crane, John Lawson) - 3:05
12.I Promise To Love You (Paul Crane) - 3:06
13.What Ever Happened To Happy (Bonner, Gordon) - 2:19
14.Come In You'll Get Pneumonia (Harry Vanda, George Redburn Young) - 4:05
15.Cutie Morning Moon (Scott Walker, Kazu Haru Honjo) - 2:51
16.Gary`S Theme (Kazu Haru Honjo) - 2:49

Gary Walker And The Rain
*Gary Walker - Drums, Vocals
*Paul Crane - Lead Vocals, Guitar
*Joey Molland - Guitar, Vocals
*John Lawson - Bass

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chris Smither - I'm A Stranger Too! / Don't It Drag On (1971-72 us, spectacular folk country blues psych rock)

Chris Smither left New Orleans in the mid-'60s for Boston, and quickly became part of a booming Cambridge folk scene that also included Bonnie Raitt, who went on to make his "Love (Me) Like a Man" a folk-blues standard. He eventually signed a deal with Poppy Records, which led to the release of I'm a Stranger Too! in 1970. 

Although he was just entering his mid-twenties, Smither's songs already had the insight and eloquence of some of the period's best singer/songwriters, yet with the roll of his Louisiana roots and a strong debt to bluesmen like Mississippi John Hurt, Willie McTell, and Lightnin' Hopkins. He also had a great ear for outside material, borrowing from writers such as Neil Young and Randy Newman. He went back a couple of years to Young's days with Buffalo Springfield for the innocence of "I Am a Child," as well as to a pair of more recent choices from Newman's (then just released) 12 Songs. 

The production on I'm a Stranger Too!, built primarily around Smither's intricate, bluesy fingerwork and prematurely mature baritone, works best the closer that it's pared to the bone. As great as Newman's "Have You Seen My Baby" (the source of the album's title) and his own "Love You Like a Man" are as songs, the full band arrangements here seem a bit thin in comparison to some of the more stripped-down cuts. Smither went on to successfully re-record these and a few more tracks from the record (along with selections from 1972's Don't It Drag On) 20-plus years later, but there's still a certain charm to these early versions. I'm a Stranger Too! is a portrait of an artist who stepped onto the scene fully formed, yet still with plenty of room to grow. 

With his debut, I'm a Stranger Too!, Chris Smither had already proven himself to be a rare combination -- a Cambridge folkie with roots in New Orleans, a great writer who knows when to look elsewhere for material, a masterful guitarist who understands simplicity and a powerful singer with restraint. Released in 1972, Don't It Drag On continues this mix and is every bit as good as its predecessor, maybe better. Smither's folk-blues have a soul and intelligence that mesh well with current covers by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, yet seems as ageless as Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" (also included here). 

Tracks such as "Another Way to Find You," "I've Got Mine" and "Lonesome Georgia Brown" are as enduring as contemporary blues and folk get. And while the bulk of Smither's material has a ruminative, melancholic tone, don't expect typical singer/songwriter fare. There's a maturity and depth to songs such as "I Feel the Same" (also recorded by Bonnie Raitt), "Every Mother's Son" and the title cut that's beyond that of most of his peers. Smither's originals may not have the energy of "Statesboro Blues" or Dylan's "Down in the Flood," but there's an easy, rolling assurance and plainspoken eloquence at work that more than make up for it. Smither went on to record one more album for Poppy, but was dropped by the label before its release. 
by Brett Hartenbach
1. A Short While Ago  - 2:35
2. A Song For Susan - 3:08
3. I Am A Child (Neil Young) - 3:51
4. Have You Seen My Baby (Randy Newman) - 2:55
5. Devil Got Your Man - 3:49
6. Homunculus - 3:13
7. Love You Like A Man - 2:36
8. Lonely Time - 3:23
9. Look Down The Road - 2:38
10.Old Kentucky Home (Turpentine And Dandelion Wine) (Randy Newman) - 2:30
11.Time To Go Home - 5:35
12.Lonesome Georgia Brown - 2:40
13.Down In The Flood (Bob Dylan) - 3:13
14.I've Got Mine - 2:56
15.Statesboro Blues (Willie McTell) - 3:14
16.Another Way To Find You - 3:47
17.No Expectations (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 3:07
18.Friend Of The Devil (Jerry Garcia, John Dawson, Robert Hunter) - 3:35
19.Don't It Drag On - 3:20
20.Every Mother's Son - 3:26
21.Mail Order Mystics - 2:15
22.I Feel The Same - 3:23
All songs by Chris Smither except where noted.

*Chris Smither - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Eric Kaz - Piano, Harmonica
*Ben Keith - Dobro, Pedal Steel
*Happy Traum - Banjo
*John Bailey - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Autoharp, Tambourine
*Rod Hicks - Bass
*Roy Markowitz - Drums
*Stu Schulman - Violin
*Maria Muldaur - Backing Vocals
*Bonnie Raitt - Backing Vocals
*Kathy Rose - Backing Vocals

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Richie Havens - Mixed Bag (1967 us, outstanding sophisticated folk psychedelia)

Richie Havens' finest recording, Mixed Bag captures the essence of his music and presents it in an attractive package that has held up well. A close listen to lyrics like "I Can't Make It Anymore" and "Morning, Morning" reveals sadness and loneliness, yet the music is so appealingly positive that a listener actually comes away feeling uplifted. 

In fact, on most of the songs on this album, it's the sound of Havens' distinctive voice coupled with his unusual open-E guitar tuning, rather than the specific lyrical content of the songs, that pulls the listener in. The six-and-a-half minute "Follow" is structured like a Dylan composition in the "Hard Rain" mode, with its memorable verse-ending refrain, "Don't mind me 'cause I ain't nothin' but a dream." Both "Sandy" and "San Francisco Bay Blues" have a jazzy feel, while the aforementioned "I Can't Make It Anymore" would not have been out of place in a movie soundtrack or pop radio playlist of the time. 

"Handsome Johnny," one of Havens' best known songs as a result of the Woodstock film, is a classic anti-war ballad, stoked by the singer's unmistakable thumb-chorded guitar strumming. Mixed Bag winds up with a soulful cover of Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" and an electric piano-propelled take on the Lennon-McCartney classic, "Eleanor Rigby." 
by Jim Newsom 
1. High Flyin' Bird (Billy Edd Wheeler) – 3:35
2. I Can't Make It Anymore (Gordon Lightfoot) – 2:48
3. Morning, Morning (Tuli Kupferberg) – 2:17
4. Adam (Richie Havens) – 3:34
5. Follow (Jerry Merrick) – 6:22
6. Three Day Eternity (Richie Havens) – 2:15
7. Sandy (Jean Pierre Cousineau) – 3:12
8. Handsome Johnny (Lou Gossett, Richie Havens) – 3:53
9. San Francisco Bay Blues (Jesse Fuller) – 2:30
10.Just Like A Woman (Bob Dylan) – 4:46
11.Eleanor Rigby (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 2:42

*Richie Havens - Guitar, Sitar, Vocals
*Harvey Brooks - Bass
*Paul Harris - Organ, Piano, Keyboards
*Bill Lavorgna - Drums
*Howard Collins - Guitar
*Joe Price - Tabla
*Paul "Dino" Williams - Acoustic Guitar

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Association - Waterbeds In Trinidad (1972 us, smart smooth rock)

Released a year after the group’s final Warner Brothers release, the eclectic Stop Your Motor, Waterbeds in Trinidad is a solid mix of originals and covers that is as good as any of their eight studio releases (a ninth, double-live set recorded at the University of Utah, was released in 1970). From Terry Kirkman’s sweet midtempo confessional “After the Fall” and the Larry Ramos co-penned paean to a lost love, “Indian Wells Woman,” to a muscular, jazzy cover of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Snow Queen,” Waterbeds soars. But the album’s fate was foretold: it became the group’s last release until an embarrassing 1995 collection featuring only two original members, Russ Giguere and Ramos, that managed to single-handedly crush memories of the original group–at least for those unlucky listeners who heard it.

Waterbeds in Trinidad was, like most of the Association’s later albums, out of step with the then-current musical times. The group dared to be true to themselves, never succumbing to market pressure and preferring to follow their own muse. They even turned down the chance to record Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park.”

The Association’s stance never varied: Their original songs, and the songs they chose to cover, were fully-realized vocal harmony showcases that emphasized melody above all else. Although the variously six-and-seven man band got a bit heavy on occasion (“heavy” being a relative term), they pretty much stuck to soft pop, providing the template for other groups that followed them into the seventies. Certainly, the Carpenters, whose first album was released in 1969, wouldn’t have been the Carpenters if the Association hadn’t set the earlier standard.

That standard lay at the foundation of Waterbed’s 10 tracks. The well-chosen covers, particularly John Sebastian’s classic “Darling Be Home Soon,” given an emotional reading here by Jim Yester and deep background vocal support, are tremendous examples of the exquisite taste exhibited by the group. The group’s originals are equally fine, even the jazzy, 5th Dimension-esque throwaway “Kicking the Gong Around,” whose many wordless vocal parts sound like they were a blast to wax.

The album closer, John Stewart’s touching ballad “Little Road and a Stone to Roll,” remains a particularly eerie listening experience given that the group’s bassist, Brian Cole, sings it (Cole later died of a drug overdose). It is hard not to get a lump in the throat when Cole sings “Everybody needs a fire inside/Everybody needs a dream to ride/Everybody with a growing soul/Needs a stone to roll.” The song’s reference to a Carole King tune as something that everyone needs always results in a tear or two.

The vocal arrangement on “Little Road and a Stone to Roll” is perhaps closest to the most classic moments the Association achieved during their career. The gentle, soaring harmonies seep into your brain and give you a little chill at every turn, not unlike the bulk of the group’s output.

After a couple of subsequent singles on RCA and Elektra and a mostly disappointing oldies collection released by, of all companies, Radio Shack, the group called it a day, although they did reform in the early 1980s, even appearing on TV’s The Mike Douglas Entertainment Hour, during which they performed “Windy,” “Cherish,” “Along Comes Mary,” and a terrific, still unreleased song entitled “Back Seat of Heaven.” What’s more, the group performed totally live, proving themselves to be a solid band that hardly needed the help of seasoned session musicians who played the parts on their early albums.
by Alan Haber
1. Silent Song Through the Land (Ron Davies) - 3:22
2. Darling Be Home Soon (John Sebastian) - 3:42
3. Midnight Wind (Jules Alexander, Steve Carey) - 2:58
4. Come the Fall (Terry Kirkman) - 3:41
5. Kicking the Gong Around (Alexander, Carey) - 3:20
6. Rainbows Bent (Alexander, Carey) - 2:26
7. Snow Queen (Carole King, Gerry Goffin) - 3:17
8. Indian Wells Woman (Del Ramos, Larry Hickman, Larry Ramos) - 3:24
9. Please Don't Go ('Round the Bend) (Alexander) - 3:22
10.Little Road and a Stone to Roll (John Stewart) - 3:37

The Association
*Russ Giguere - Vocals, Guitar
*Brian Cole - Vocals, Bass
*Terry Kirkman - Vocals, Brass, Woodwinds
*Jim Yester - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
*Jules Alexander - Vocals, Guitar
*Larry Ramos, Jr. - Vocals, Bass, Guitar
*Ted Bluechel Jr - Vocals, Drums

1966  The Association - And Then...Along Comes (2013 Japan remaster)
1968  The Association - Birthday (2013 Japan remaster)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Michael Moorcock And Deep Fix - The New Worlds Fair (1975 uk, superb concept album with various influences, 2008 remaster extra tracks edition)

The Esoteric label finally gives the highly sought-after The New World's Fair album a proper remastering for this splendid reissue. The brainchild of science-fiction author Michael Moorcock, bassist Steve Gilmore, and guitarist Graham Charnock, Fair featured a host of guest players, among them members of Hawkwind and guitar hero Snowy White.

It was a concept album, of course, a trek through a dystopian fun fair, a metaphor for society itself. It's a set that promised much, but delivers surprisingly little, with the lyrics and themes nowhere near as profound as Moorcock's reputation would dictate or fans' memories might suggest. Sure the "Fair Dealer" peddles dreams and illusions, drugs and rides, the "Candy Floss Cowboy" swaggers across the fairground, a precedent setter for President Bush, a hollow idol headed for the Valhalla of the ironic "You're a Hero."

The teen-aged temptresses that haunt the fair are also headed for disaster on "Sixteen Year Old Doom," a rather heavy-handed retort to every rocker that ever celebrated a young girl's charms in song. Even more derivative is "In the Name of Rock and Roll," which lifted its downbeat theme from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. Finally the fairground begins careening towards destruction on "The Last Merry Go Round," reaching its demise on "Dude's Dream (Rolling in the Ruins)."

However, the musicianship far surpasses the lyrical content, the album's saving grace. Musically, it's a heady concoction that stirs in a bit of glam, a few swirls of folk, a good dousing of R&B, and a dollop of metal. It's nowhere near as musically adventurous as one would expect from the cast, but surprisingly accessible and easily digestible. More of a fun fair then, than a rock your world exhibition.

Esoteric sweetens the pot with seven bonus tracks, including a pair of previously unreleased demos. "Dodgem Dude"'s demo also appears here for the first time, the song, while intended for the Fair, finally hit the shops as a 1980 limited-edition 45. That too is included, alongside "Starcruiser" and "The Brothel in Rossenstrasse," which inspired Moorcock's book of the same title.
by Jo-Ann Greene
1. Candy Floss Cowboy - 1:20
2. Fair Dealer - 5:05
3. Octopus (Steve Gilmore) - 2:15
4. Sixteen Year Old Doom - 4:15
5. You're A Hero (Graham Charnock) - 3:10
6. Song For Marlene (Sam Shepard, Steve Gilmore) - 5:11
7. Come To The Fair (Graham Charnock) - 1:20
8. In The Name Of Rock And Roll (Graham Charnock) - 4:15
9. Ferris Wheel (Steve Gilmore) - 5:40
10.Last Merry Go Round - 2:11
11.Dude's Dream (Rolling In The Ruins) - 4:40
12.Dodgem Dude - 2:47
13.The Brothel In Rossenstrasse (Michael Moorcock, Peter Pavli) - 3:44
14.Starcruiser - 3:17
15.Candy Floss Cowboy - 4:27
16.Kings Of Speed - 2:52
17.You're A Hero - 4:09
18.Dodgem Dude - 2:59
All compositions by Michael Moorcock except where indicated

*Michael Moorcock - Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Graham Charnock - Guitar, Vocals
*Steve Gilmore - Guitar, Vocals
*Kuma Harada - Bass
*Peter Pavli - Cello
*Snowy White - Guitar
*Herbert North - Guitar
*Nik Turner - Saxophone
*Dave Brock - Guitar
*Simon House - Violin, Keyboards
*Simon King - Drums
*Alan Powell - Drums
*Shirley Roden - Vocals
*Debi Ross - Vocals

Monday, November 17, 2014

Joyous Noise - Wanderingman (1972 us, amazing folk psych with prog shades, 2012 korean remaster)

Based in Los Angeles, California, USA, Joyous Noise comprised Lee Montgomery (vocals), Marc McClure (guitar, keyboards, dobro), Lance Wakely (lead guitar), Happy Smith (bass) and Dennis Dragon (drums). McClure was previously a member of Levitt And McClure, an excellent country-influenced act associated with San Francisco’s Beau Brummels. 

A similar style of music was present on both Joyous Noise albums, but an interest in jazz was equally apparent. McClure subsequently embarked on an ill-starred solo career before joining the reformed Spanky And Our Gang in 1976. Dennis Dragon, brother of Daryl Dragon of Captain And Tennille, later joined the irreverent Surf Punks.

Wanderingman' is the band's 2nd effort. Compared to the first album, it is more progressive/psychedelic oriented as 'Wanderingman Suite' is a killer track.
1. Rock And Roll Road Cowboys (Lee Montgomery, Lance Wakely) - 4:17
2. Slide On The Light (Marc McClure, Happy Smith) - 4:32
3. Silver Guitar (Lance Wakely, Marc McClure, Happy Smith) - 3:04
4. Clear Light (Lance Wakely, M.Roth) - 5:28
5. Harry On Sunday (Lee Montgomery) - 4:05
6. Everyman (Lee Montgomery) - 7:33
7. Story Road (Lee Montgomery) - 4:57
8. Winter (Lee Montgomery) - 4:43

*Lee Montgomery - Vocals
*Lance Wakely - Guitar, Vocals
*Marc McClure - Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
*Dennis Dragon - Drums
*Happy Smith - Bass

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Loot - Singles A's And B's (1966-69 uk, excellent freak beat)

Formed in 1966 the Andover, Hampshire-based band showcased the talents of singer Chris Bates, bassist Jeff Glover, drummer Roger Pope, lead guitarist  Bruce Turner, and rhythm guitarist Dave Wright.  Glover and Pope had previously been members of The Soul Agents who recorded a series of 1964 - 1966 R'n'B-oriented singles for Pye.  Guitarist Wright had briefly been a member of The Troggs. The Troggs connection also helped the band score a contract with Larry Page's Page One label where they recorded a series of four singles over a three year period.

The group never recorded an album so if you're interested in hearing their catalog you've essentially got two choices - collect all of their singles (which are fairly expensive), or opt for one of the retrospective sets that may not be legitimate releases.

Released by James Plummer's Radioactive label, unlike a lot of releases on the label, there's a good chance "The Loot Singles A's and B's" was an approved compilation.  I make that statement based on the fact the 1,000 copy pressing served to collect all of the band's six singles from Page One and CBS, along with a pair of demos ('You Need someone To Love' and 'I've Just Gotta Love You' and the 'A' side of a French-only single 'Gotta Get Home'.  Messing with big label copyrights like CBS/Columbia would take considerable gumption ...  Not that Plummer didn't have that characteristic.  

So aside from the business considerations what did these guys actually sound like?  Most of the reviews I've seen have been lukewarm, labeling them second tier Troggs.  Judging by these 14 tracks I'd beg to disagree.  While nothing here was particularly original, Bates had a great voice (easily as good as Reg Presley), while the rest of the band were every bit as talented as their Page One competitors.   Taking these in chronological order as opposed to the track listing sequence, here's a quick run down.
1. She's a Winner (Dave Wright, Grundley) - 2:01
2. Try To Keep a Secret (Caleb Quaye) - 3:13
3. Baby (Dave Wright) - 2:15
4. Baby Come Closer (J. Price, T. Dwyer) - 2:33
5. Meet Jacqueline (Hammond) - 2:15
6. You Need Someone To Love (Jeff Glover) - 2:36
7. Radio City (Dave Wright) - 2:14
8. Save Me (D. Glover) - 2:15
9. I've Just Gotta Love You (J. Price, T. Dwyer) - 2:23
10.Don't Turn Around (Bruce Turner) - 2:46
11.I Got What You Want (Chris Bates) - 2:06
12.Gotta Get Home (Bruce Turner) - 2:36
13.You Are My Sunshine Girl (Jeff Glover) - 2:04
14.Whenever You Are Ready (Jeff Glover) - 2:14

The Loot
*Chris Bates - Vocals (1966-69)
*Jeff Glover - Bass (1966-69)
*Roger Pope - Drums, Percussion (1966-69)
*Bruce Turner - Guitar (1966-69)
*Dave Wright - Rhythm Guitar (1966-69)

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tom Lucas - Red Letter Days (1975 us, exciting folk acid psych rock)

Another top-notch release from the series of private label pressings that is becoming an important part of the Radioactive reissue programme, this time by the New York electric folk/rock singer-songwriter, Tom Lucas. Although virtually nothing is known about Lucas, Red Letter Day is an extremely fine album on the New Fate label (New Fate 500) that in all probability the artist funded and distributed himself. The sound is awesome, the song writing tight and occasionally politically motivated (particularly the title track with its eye glancing towards Woody Guthrie's tribute to Sacco and Vanzetti), and the music often risky and experimental. 

Lucas's vocal style is almost pure Neil Young (although on 'Broken Wheel' his New York roots do make him sound very similar to Lou Reed), and at times Red Letter Day feels almost like the album Young never got around to making. Other influences come up and take a bow without in any way detracting from Lucas's own original style. However, it is the consistently-high standard of just about everything to do with this superb folk/rock album that leaves the listener gasping in disbelief that any record this good has only been heard by the 500 people (and possibly some of their friends) who were fortunate enough to acquire a copy when it was originally released in 1976. 
1. Red Letter Day - 4:07
2. Babylon Rising - 3:47
3. One Eyed Gods - 4:32
4. They're Coming - 3:57
5. Down To The Ground - 4:00
6. Days Of Reckoning Come - 4:25
7. Days Numbered - 3:30
8. Self Made Man - 3:27
9. Broken Wheel - 3:19
All compositions by Tom Lucas

*Tom Lucas - Vocals, Guitars, Piano
*Geoffrey Davis.
*Paul K. Johnson II.
*Steve Klass.
*Laura Kranker
*Ismael Rodríguez.
*Peter Sanders.
*Russell Simon

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

John Entwistle - Smash Your Head Against The Wall (1971 uk, essential varied rock)

Entwistle's quirky, labored solo debut still offers a lot of creative experiments and occasional Who-style thunder. Half the tunes would have worked on a Who album, including the stately acoustic guitar/piano ballad "What Are We Doing Here?", like a melancholy "Hey Jude," and the joyous sing-along "You're Mine," propelled by a rollicking piano line. 

The two centerpiece rockers are among his best compositions ever: the swaying, strutting "My Size," and the philosophical "Heaven And Hell," where he recreates the Who's standard live arrangement, but switches to a druggy, slowed-down tempo. Entwistle dubs horns and piano onto most tracks, and he's helped by Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley and Pie/Who roadie Cy Langston, who's an effective, understated guitarist, even able to ape Townshend ("Heaven And Hell"). 

Entwistle's bass playing is as awesome as ever ("You're Mine"), his lead and harmony vocals are warm and even pretty (the deceptively sunny funeral ballad "Ted End"), and although the tunes don't always hold together ("Pick Me Up (Big Chicken)"), there's always something interesting going on: baroque horn riffs ("What Kind Of People Are They?"), psychedelic mantras ("You're Mine"), a bizarre percussion break featuring Keith Moon and Bonzo Dog Band members Neil Innes (the future Rutles mastermind) and Viv Stanshall ("No. 29 (External Youth)," otherwise standard fare). And he ends with a hysterical parody of John Lennon's "God" ("I Believe In Everything"). 

A must-have if you enjoy Entwistle's contributions on contemporary Who records. The CD includes an outtake cover of "Cinnamon Girl" that's remarkably close to the original. 
by John Alroy
1. My Size - 3:46
2. Pick Me Up (Big Chicken) - 3:44
3. What Are We Doing Here? - 3:50
4. What Kind Of People Are They? - 2:44
5. Heaven And Hell - 4:55
6. Ted End - 2:37
7. You're Mine - 4:38
8. No. 29 (Eternal Youth) - 5:37
9. I Believe In Everything - 3:11
10.Cinnamon Girl (Outtake) (Neil Young) - 3:05
11.It's Hard To Write A Love Song - 4:54
12.The Haunted Can Be Free -
13.World Behind My Face - 4:56
14.My Size (Early Take) - 3:50
15.What Kind Of People Are They? - 2:55
16.Pick Me Up (Big Chicken) - 3:07
17.No. 29 (Eternal Youth) - 4:38
18.Ted End - 1:56
All songs by John Entwistle, except where noted.
Tracks 11-18 Demo recordings

*John Entwistle - Vocals, Bass Guitar, Brass, Percussion, Piano, Keyboards
*Dave "Cyrano" Langston - Electric And Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
*Jerry Shirley - Drums, Percussion
*Keith Moon - Percussion, Vocals
*Neil Innes - Percussion, Vocals
*Vivian Stanshall - Percussion

1965  The Who - My Generation (Japan SHM Remaster)
1966  The Who - A Quick One (Japan SHM Remaster)
1967  The Who - Sell Out (Japan SHM Remaster) 
1968  The Who - Live At Fillmore East (Japan Edition)
1971  The Who - Who's Next (Japan SHM Remaster)

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Picadilly Line - The Huge World Of Emily Small (1967 uk, marvellous psych baroque pop, 2006 remaster)

The Picadilly Line's The Huge World Of Emily Small is one of those albums that just seems to have slipped under the radar of most UK pop psych collectors. As such, it has never been re-issued in any form! The band (essentially a duo led by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, who would later record as Edwards Hand) flourished briefly in the late '60s releasing this one album. 

With them is the cream of UK session men including Danny Thompson (bass), Alan Hawkshaw (keys), Herbie Flowers (bass) and Harold McNair (flute). The Picadilly Line even managed an appearance at The Middle Earth club in London, the then hallowed centre of the UK psychedelic scene. The album is breezy post-Sgt. Pepper psychedelic pop with plenty of swinging London vibes, orchestration and evocative whimsical lyrics.

Reference points are a psychedelic Hollies, Chad and Jeremy (circa Of Cabbages and Kings) Nirvana, Kaleidoscope (UK), World Of Oz, Donovan and The Bee Gees. Filled with beautiful dreamy vocal harmonies and elaborate electric and acoustic arrangements, this is a real trip back to the height of UK Flower Power. 

All material is original except for a great version of Dylan's 'Visions of Johanna' and The Everly Brothers' 'Gone, Gone Gone.' Features ten unreleased bonus tracks exclusive to this CD, including their non-album singles 'Yellow Rainbow'/'Evenings with Corinna' and 'Evening with Corinna'/'My Best Friend,' both from 1968. Digitally re-mastered from the original master tapes and re-released with full consent of the producer and band. Booklet includes unseen photos from the period and band biography and the CD features ten bonus tracks.

1. Emily Small (The Huge World Thereof) - 2:28
2. Silver Paper Dress - 2:42
3. At The Third Stroke - 2:56
4. Can You See Me? - 2:08
5. Your Dog Won't Bark - 2:55
6. How Could You Say You're Leaving Me? - 2:37
7. Gone, Gone, Gone (Don Everly, Phil Everly) - 2:17
8. Twiggs - 3:44
9. Tumble Down World - 2:50
10.Visions Of Johanna (Bob Dylan) - 6:08
11.Come And Sing A Song - 2:57
12.Her Name Is Easy - 3:25
13.Rosemary's Bluebell Day - 3:08
14.Gunny Sunside - 3:37
15.Country Girl - 3:07
16.No One Else Can See - 2:41
17.Yellow Rainbow (Graham Nash, Kirk Duncan, Nicky James) - 2:16
18.I Know, She Believes (Spencer Davis) - 3:02
19.Evenings With Corinna - 2:47
20.My Best Friend (Norrie Maclean) - 2:31
21.Memories Fade - 1:35
22.I Can Tell You Everything - 2:18
All compositions by Rod Edwards, Roger Hand except where indicated

The Picadilly Line
*Roger Hand - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Rod Edwards - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards
Guest Musicians
*Norrie McLean - Bass Guitar   (tracks: 17 to 20)
*Herbie Flowers - Bass (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Mo Foster - Bass (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Danny Thompson - Double Bass [String] (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Barry Morgan - Drums  (tracks: 1 to 16) ,
*Dougie Wright - Drums  (tracks: 1 to 16) ,
*Keith Hodge - Drums  (tracks: 17 to 20)
*Tony Carr - Drums, Percussion  (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Harold McNair - Flute (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Alan Parker - Guitar  (tracks: 1 to 16) ,
*Colin Green - Guitar  (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Alan Hawkshaw - Keyboards (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Roger Coulam- Keyboards (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Harry Stoneham - Organ (tracks: 1 to 16)
*Jan Barber - Vocals  (tracks: 17 to 20)

Related Acts
1968  The Edwards Hand - Edwards Hand
1970  Edwards Hand - Stranded (Japan remaster edition)
1971  Edwards Hand - Rainshine (2015 issue)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Crazy Horse - At Crooked Lake (1972 us, excellent classic folk country rock, 2013 remaster)

Most of you will know Crazy Horse as Neil Young's backing band who have been his musical cohorts, off and on, since joining him for his classic second solo album "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" in 1969. Indeed, they still play with Neil even now, both live and on record. What is less well-known is that between 1971 and 1989, Crazy Horse released five albums, three of which were released between 1971 and 1972! "At Crooked Lake" was their third album, being released on Epic Records in late 1972.

Crazy Horse, as a band, had anything but a stable line-up. In fact, they have the distinction of having a different line-up on each of their albums, the only constants being Ralph Molina [drums] and Billy Talbot [bass]. In that respect, they have had a similar history to Fleetwood Mac, where the rhythm section forms the basis for a fluctuating line-up of front persons.

By the time Crazy Horse recorded "At Crooked Lake", former members Nils Lofgren [guitar] and Jack Nitzsche [keyboards] had moved on and their main singer/songwriter Danny Whitten had sadly died from an overdose. Whitten is best remembered for penning "I Don't Want To Talk About It" which has been covered by many artists, most notably Rod Stewart, who had a number one hit with it in 1977 [thus keeping "God Save The Queen" by The Sex Pistols from the top spot]. Danny's song also reached number three in the charts in 1988, when covered by Everything But The Girl.

Crazy Horse released their second album "Loose" in 1972 but by the end of that year the line-up had changed again and for the recording of "At Crooked Lake" the band consisted of Molina and Talbot together with the Curtis Brothers [Rick and Michael] and lead guitarist Greg Leroy.

The songwriting duties on "At Crooked Lake" are split between the Curtis Brothers [six songs] and Leroy [three songs]. Despite the inconstant line-up of the band, "At Crooked Lake" is a remarkably strong and consistent album. As I said at the beginning, I was not expecting too much from this album but I was very pleasantly surprised as it turns out to be an accomplished West Coast psychedelic-tinged country rock album which stands favourable comparison with other bands of that ilk, such as Buffalo Springfield, Poco, Pure Prairie League and even The Eagles [when they were a country rock band].

The album gets off to a flying start with "Rock and Roll Band" by Sidney Jordan,which is the only cover song on the album, and a cracker it is too, with its superb harmonies, driving rhythm and powerful guitars. A great start to the album.

"Love Is Gone" is a mellow,harmony-laced country ballad written by the Curtis Brothers, which features Greg Leroy's bottleneck guitar to great effect.

"We Ride" by Rick Curtis is an excellent acoustic guitar and mandolin-based song which bears more than a passing resemblance to the best solo work of Stephen Stills [think "Love The One You're With", for example]. "Outside Lookin' In" by Greg Leroy is a prime slice of country rock which wouldn't sound at all out of place on the first album by The Eagles.

Whilst we are playing spot the similarities, "Don't Keep Me Burning" is a hard-edged blues-rock number which might well appeal to fans of Free !

Perhaps the most unexpected track is "Vehicle",which is a spacey, psychedelic piece complete with backwards guitars which has echoes of the more experimental tracks by The Byrds or, indeed, The Beatles. It's a stunning track and all the more surprising for having been released in 1972, rather than 1967.

It's back down to earth for another country rock gem from Greg Leroy, in the shape of "Your Song", which features some sublime pedal steel from Sneaky Pete Kleinow of The Flying Burrito Brothers.

One of Buffalo Springfield's greatest recordings is " Mr.Soul" by Neil Young, and on "Lady Soul" by Mike Curtis, Crazy Horse sound remarkably like their boss's old band. Nonetheless, this is a fine slab of West Coast Psych Rock.

To close the album, we have a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of a straight country song in "85 El Paso's", complete with honky-tonk piano and a seemingly drunken crowd singing the chorus.

Unfortunately, as with previous line-ups, this version of Crazy Horse did not last long as Molina and Talbot soon returned to work for Neil Young [along with Nils Lofgren and Ben Keith] as The Santa Monica Flyers, recording "Tonight's The Night" in the process. The rest, they say, is history.

It's a pity that the "At Crooked Lake" line-up of Crazy Horse did not stay together as it was certainly an accomplished band and its one album is a fine piece of work. All credit is due to Floating World for making it available again.
by Peter Cowley
1. Rock And Roll Band (Sidney Jordan) - 3:10
2. Love Is Gone (Rick Curtis, Michael Curtis) - 3:15
3. We Ride (Rick Curtis) - 3:08
4. Outside Lookin' In (Greg Leroy) - 2:05
5. Don't Keep Me Burning (Michael Curtis) - 4:18
6. Vehicle (Rick Curtis) - 3:38
7. Your Song (Greg Leroy) - 2:42
8. Lady Soul (Michael Curtis) - 3:32
9. Don't Look Back (Rick Curtis) - 3:28
10.85 El Paso's (Greg Leroy) - 4:50

Crazy Horse
*Billy Talbot - Bass,  Vocals
*Ralph Molina - Drums,  Vocals
*Greg Leroy - Guitars, Bottleneck Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Curtis - Organ, Guitars, Mandolin, Piano, Vocals
*Rick Curtis - Banjo, Guitars, Vocals
*"Sneaky" Pete Kleinow - Pedal Steel
*Patti Moan - Vocals
*Bobby Notkoff - Violin

1962-73  Crazy Horse - Scratchy, Complete Recordings
1968  The Rockets - The Rockets

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Improved Sound Limited - Improved Sound Limited (1971 germany, spectacular prog psych krautrock)

It all started in 1961 as a student band at the Willstätter School in Nuremburg. They called themselves the "Pyjamas Skiffle Group" and copied Lonnie Donegan relentlessly. From 1964 to 1966 they appeared under the name "Blizzards" and backed the German pop singer Roy Black at 33 shows. Starting in the fall of 1966, they called themselves "Improved Sound Limited", and so they remained, except for a brief intermezzo in 1976 when CBS called the band „Condor“.

In 1966 they won the 1st Place in the competition "Best Beat Band in Bavaria" at Bavarian Radio (BR) Participation in the BR "Schmusical" called "How Beatles turn into citizens". In 1968 first soundtrack Music for Megan Terry's play "Vietrock" with Inge Brandenburg, directed by: Stavros Doufexis, choreographed by José Luis Gómez Music for the solo pantomime "Idylls of Herr Meck" by José Luis Gómez

The next year came with music for the Film  "Engelchen macht weiter – hoppe, hoppe Reiter", directed by Michael Verhoeven Film music for "Der Bettenstudent", directed by Michael Verhoeven Single "Sing Your Song" / "Marvin Is Dead" (Polydor), also Music for the TV documantary "Ezra Pound", for the 13 part series "The 6th Day" and for the first five episodes of "The Play School"

One more soundtrack "o.k.", directed by Michael Verhoeven and a Single "Oedipus" / "Where Will The Salmon Spawn" (United Artists). More music for the series "The Play School" and for the series "The Kommissar", episode "Dr. Meinhardt's Tragic End".

In 1971 they recorded and released a Double album simply named "Improved Sound Limited" (Liberty) Film music "Lass knacken, Ive" with the song "The Policeman" BR Open Air Concert in Bergdorf (with Tangerine Dream, Birth Control, Ihre Kinder and Klaus Kreuzeder) German Pop Festival in Koblenz and Burg Herzberg Festival (with Frumpy, Can,Achim Reichel, Xhole, Embryo, Guru Guru etc.).
1. Doctor Bob Dylan - 5:14
2. Pink Hawthorn - 3:05
3. Johanna - 3:59
4. If You Want To - 2:08
5. Oedipus - 3:42
6. Fudd McGorges - 3:18
7. Thingamannalime - 3:26
8. An Old Army Poem - 2:00
9. Where Will The Salmon Spawn - 2:46
10. To My Son - 5:13
11. Shining Brightly In The Sun - 4:11
12. It Is You (You Belong To Me) - 1:58
13. Columbines, Violets And Daisies - 2:32
14. I Am The Wolf - 4:46
15. A Well-Respected Man - 3:34
16. Drunken Mr. Hyde - 0:45
17. A Soldier's Songbook - 17:17
18. *** - 0:47
All songs written by Axel Linstädt, Bernd Linstädt 

Improved Sound Limited
*Johnny Fickert - Vocals, Percussion, Flutes, Alto Sax
*Axel Linstädt - Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
*Uli Ruppert - Bass
*Rolf Gröschner - Drums

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Eugene Mc Daniels - Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse / Outlaw (1970-71 magnificent funk jazz blues protest folk rock)

At the start of the 1960s Gene McDaniels was flying high. Smartly-dressed and clean-cut, the smooth crooner from Kansas City scored two Top 10 US pop hits for the Liberty label, 'A Hundred Pounds Of Clay' and 'Tower Of Strength.' But as the '60s progressed, McDaniels' career took a commercial nose-dive as musical tastes changed and in 1970, after several fallow years, he re-launched his career as Eugene McDaniels and signed to Atlantic Records (aided by the fact that his song, 'Compared To What,' was a big hit for the label by Les McCann and Eddie Harris).

Those who were familiar with McDaniels' previous oeuvre would have been shocked by his Atlantic debut, 'Outlaw,' released in 1970, which has now been remastered and reissued alongside a clutch of classic soul and jazz titles by Warner Japan (the good news is that they're available over here at mid-price). The provocative cover of 'Outlaw' depicted a hirsute, scruffy McDaniels - who dubbed himself 'the left rev. mc d' - holding a revolver and clutching a bible alongside two armed women. 

The music (produced by Joel Dorn) was even more provocative, though perhaps not as revolutionary as McDaniels had hoped - songs like 'Welfare City,' 'The Silent Majority' and the ironically-titled 'Love Letter To America' are Bob Dylan-esque folk-rock songs with trenchantly polemic lyrics focusing on America's domestic problems. There's a jazz-meets-funk tinge to 'Unspoken Dreams Of Light' and the excellent 'Cherrystones,' a cleverly-wrought jazz-style paean to wilful ignorance. McDaniels' also serves up his own version of 'Reverend Lee,' a song about a preacher beset by carnal temptations that Roberta Flack brilliantly covered on her 'Chapter Two' album.

McDaniels' second Atlantic album, '71's 'Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse,' continues lyrically where 'Outlaw' left off with its protest themes though the music is darker, jazzier and funkier, thanks to a crack rhythm section comprising pianist Harry Whitaker and future Weather Report duo, bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. On 'Outlaw,' McDaniels was trying to be a black Bob Dylan but on 'Heroes,' he's channelling Mick Jagger, who's the inspiration behind a faintly sinister homage, 'Jagger The Dagger,' a song whose off-kilter jazzy groove has been sampled by a Tribe Called Quest and numerous other hip-hop acts.  

The funkafied title track is a conspiracy theory song that focuses on conflict in the Middle East, while the epic 'The Parasite' finds McDaniels' commenting on the genocide of Native Americans. Arguably the album's best cut is the jazz-inflected 'Freedom Death Dance' (which references Eddie Harris's jazz classic, 'Freedom Jazz Dance'). It laments the futility of good human endeavours in an unjust world. Sounds heavy? Well, lyrically, it is but the album's more sober themes are often leavened with a wry sense of humour, as evidenced by the absurd and hilarious narrative 'Supermarket Blues.'

Sadly, not many people saw the humour and satire behind some of McDaniels' lyrics, which came to the attention of President Richard Nixon's regime and resulted in a complaining phone call by then US vice-president Spiro Agnew to Atlantic Records' boss, Ahmet Ertegun. The fallout from that call was that McDaniels was unceremoniously dumped from the label (though he went on to become a hit-making producer and songwriter for Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight and Phyllis Hyman). 

The album sank into obscurity until segments of it were sampled by hip-hop acts in the late '80s, which eventually brought about its reissue in the early noughties. Now deemed a cult classic, 'Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse' is back in circulation again. Remastered, it sounds better than ever, though sadly these Japanese reissues don't possess liner notes, although McDaniels' lyrics are present and are well-worth reading. Much of what he wrote remains relevant to today's troubled world. The late producer Joel Dorn said of McDaniels: 'He's a genius.' McDaniels, himself, was more modest. "I'm just a half-assed poet,' he declared to this writer in 2002.
by Charles Waring
Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse 1971
1. The Lord Is Back (G. Mc Daniels, Singleton) - 3:18
2. Jagger The Dagger - 6:00
3. Lovin' Man - 4:45
4. Headless Heros - 3:30
5. Susan Jane - 2:08
6. Freedom Death Dance - 4:16
7. Supermarket Blues - 4:07
8. The Parasite (For Buffy) - 9:36
Outlaw 1970
9. Outlaw (G. Mc Daniels, Suzan Jane) - 5:00
10.Sagittarius Red (G. Mc Daniels, Zito, Johnson) - 3:03
11.Welfare City - 2:52
12.Silent Majority - 4:10
13.Love Letter To America - 3:57
14.Unspoken Dreams Of Light - 6:40
15.Cherrystones - 3:08
16.Reverend Lee - 6:31
17.Black Boy (G. Mc Daniels, Blair) - 2:59
All songs by Eugene Mc Daniels except where stated

Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse 1971
*Eugene Booker McDaniels - Vocals
*Harry Whitaker - Piano
*Gary King - Electric Bass
*Miroslav Vitous - Acoustic Bass
*Alphonse Mouzon - Drums
*Richie Resnikoff - Guitar
*Carla Cargill - Vocals
Outlaw 1970
*Eugene Booker McDaniels - Vocals
*Ron Carter - Bass
*Ray Lucas - Drums
*Eric Weissberg - Guitar
*Hugh McCracken - Guitar
*Mother Hen - Piano
*Buck Clarke - Percussion
*Welfare City Choir - Choir

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