Friday, February 27, 2015

Human Instinct - Stoned Guitar (1970 new zealand, magnificent heavy stoned fuzz rock, 2007 bonus tracks edition)

Billy Te Kahika was a truly inspired guitarist who is only unknown because of geography. Billy TK as he is known is a Maori from Palmerston North in New Zealand and played with The Human Instinct on their first three albums – Stoned Guitar is the second album released in 1970. If you like screaming ’70s wah wah guitar solos, then this is for you. Like the Japanese bands of this era, (Flower Travellin’ Band for example) they often played cover versions live as well as their own songs, but they also recorded them on albums . The Kink’s You Really Got Me, Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and Maiden Voyage by Ashton, Gardner and Dyke (the last two wrongly credited on the record) all appear on the first album Burning Up Years 1969. Their last album Pins In it 1971 has a cover of Pink Floyd’s The Nile Song. I read the All Music Review where the reviewer called the solos over long -really? That’s like calling Van Der Graaf Generator overwrought…that’s the point!

The single Black Sally (another cover originally recorded by Australian band Mecca) gives a taster of what is to come in the guitar department. The second and title track starts with beautiful feedback and develops into some exciting tones and solos. It makes Robin Trower sound half asleep. (That’s why I like him by the way.) Jugg-A-Jug, one of two songs by Jesse Harper, a non band member guitarist and song writer and something of  a New Zealand enigma had contributed songs to the band on the first album as well. Midnight Sun begins with the riff from  Mountain’s Mississppi Queen before becoming its own song. The last two tracks are also covers, the acoustic Tomorrow (Tomorrow I’ll Go) by John Kongas. Kongos a South African is remembered for two hits in the early seventies Tokoloshe Man (I still have the Fly Records 7 inch single) and the Happy Mondays covered, He’s Gonna Step On You Again (Step On).

Rory Gallagher ‘s Railway And Gun complete with overdubbed crowd noises and introduction even though the song was recorded in the studio – probably sounded like a good idea at the time. This is a song recorded by Gallagher’s band Taste from their their scond and last studio album On The Boards 1970. It seems that in those days musicians around the world were inspired by their contemporaries and there was no issue with playing or recording their songs. Hendrix famously came to London in 1967 the week Sgt. Pepper ws released and played the title track live.

To conclude, Billy TK is a traditional rock guitar player, a late sixities and early seventies soloist for fans of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. He played in his own frantic and inspired way and is probably someone you’ve never heard of. Enjoy.

The cover art is by Michael Smither and is called Two Rock Pools and was a finalist in the 1968 Benson & Hedges Art awards. Smither born in 1939 is famous for his iconic paintings of New Zealand scenery.
by Marty Willson-Piper
1. Black Sally (Dennis Wilson) - 7:35
2. Stoned Guitar (Billy TK, Larry Waide, Maurice Greer) - 7:47
3. Jugg-A-Jug Song (Jesse Harper) - 9:00
4. Midnight Sun (Jesse Harper) - 10:40
5. Tomorrow (John Kongos) - 5:20
6. Railway And Gun (Rory Gallagher) - 10:17
7. Play My Guitar (Billy TK) - 2:52
8. The Nile Song (Roger Waters) - 3:07
9. Duchess Of Montrose (Neil Edwards) - 2:42
10.Rainbow World (Maurice Greer, Mrs G.R. Edwards, Neil Edwards) - 4:10
Bonus tracks 7-10 live recordings

The Human Instinct
*Maurice Greer - Lead Vocals, Drums, Tambourine
*Billy TK - Lead Guitar
*Larry Waide - Bass, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Derek Neville - Baritone Sax

1971  Human Instinct - Pins In It 
1972  Human Instinct - Snatmin Cuthin
1975  Human Instinct - Peg Leg / The Lost Tapes

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mendelbaum - Mendelbaum (1969-70 us, superb west coast hard psych rock)

This is an excellent unearthed gem of West Coast psychedelic rock: inspired songs, sturdy musicianship, and a fantastic cleanup job on the master tapes. Mendelbaum was active in the late '60s and early '70s in San Francisco. Singer, guitarist, and main songwriter Chris Michie would become a studio musician (he recorded with the Pointer Sisters and Van Morrison) and solo artist, while drummer Keith Knudsen would later join the Doobie Brothers. Bassist Tom LaVarda, sax player George Cash, and organist Ronnie Page (heard on the live cuts from the Matrix on the second disc, later replaced by J.D. Sharp) complete the group. 

The first disc of this double eponymous set is comprised of studio demos recorded in 1970 for Warner Bros. The group's blues-rock leanings and troubled topics make this music heavier than your run-of-the-mill West Coast psych rock (and at times evoking England's Savoy Brown). Pop attempts like "Since I Met Her" had no chance to make it on the radio -- the song is simply too frantic and ecstatic (which is all the better). Other highlights include Sharp's "Key of Be" and Michie's "Oh, Yes, Yes!" The second disc culls 54 minutes of live material from two concerts in 1969. Both recordings have been nicely restored. The group gets bluesier, stretching "Last Saturday Night" and "Every Day and Every Night" over seven minutes -- good occasions to witness Michie's impressive guitar work. Highly recommended to scavengers of psychedelia and '60s rock. Michie died on March 27, 2003, two months before the release date of this album. 
 by Fran├žois Couture
Disc 1 studio 1970
1. Days Gone By (Tom LaVarda) - 4:18
2. Since I Met Her (Tom LaVarda) - 3:29
3. Oh, Yes, Yes! - 3:49
4. Key Of Be (J. D. Sharp) - 7:17
5. No Hiding Place - 5:29
6. All My Life (Tom LaVarda) - 2:50
7. Walk With Me - 2:46
8. I'm A Fool - 2:21
9. Blood Of The Nation - 3:06
All songs by Chris Michie except where indicated
Disc 2 Live
1. Wars To Rainstorms - 4:09
2. Rhyme Of Time - 3:14
3. No Reason - 4:30
4. They Don't Know - 1:49
5. Message For The People - 3:32
6. What To Do - 4:28
7. Last Saturday Night - 7:08
8. Learning To Die - 2:36
9. Lost Hope (Tom LaVarda) - 5:20
10.Every Day And Every Night - 8:30
11.Drivin' Wheel (Roosvelt Sykes) - 5:51
12.Since I Met Her (Tom LaVarda) - 3:09
All songs by Chris Michie except where stated
Tracks 1-8 recorded at The Matrix, S. F. by Peter Abram And Dave Martin, 1969
Tracks 9-12 recorded at The Fillmore West by Bill Graham and friends, 1969

*Chris Michie - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Tom LaVarda - Bass, Piano, Vocals
*Keith Knudsen - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*George Cash - Sax, Percussion, Vocals
*Ronnie Page - Organ (Disc 2, Tracks 1-8)
*J. D. Sharp - Organ

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Third Eye - Searching (1969 south africa, spectacular heavy garage psych rock)

Time and fortune have not been kind to Third Eye. Back in the late 1960s they were one of the top acts in South Africa, recording three powerful albums that easily matched the creative output of their now better-known contemporaries. Four decades on, though, and they are the also-rans in the contest to name the nation’s rock royalty. Search the web for information on the band and all that pops up is sketchy information on their recording output and brief notes on recent revival concerts. Search for the recordings of Third Eye and you would – until this timely reissue – have been hard pressed to find anything other than the hugely expensive original vinyl pressings. Although badly reproduced CDs of their releases – Awakening, Searching and Brother – have been available on bootleg labels, the band have been poorly represented in digital form. Contrast this with the plethora of bootlegs and, more recently, official releases on offer from other South African artists of that era.

Perhaps their ‘misfortune’ was that they lived and performed in Durban, a coastal city several hundred miles away from the recording and musical hub of Johannesburg (although they recorded their three albums in Johannesburg). Perhaps it was the fault of their record label – Polydor – which did not promote them as heavily as EMI did its stable of artists (although Third Eye got to feature on two internationally released Polydor Super Groups compilation albums, in the company of global stars Cream, Hendrix, John Mayall and The Who among others). Perhaps it was simply that just not enough people outside of Durban heard their driving, organ-powered rock for it to remain lodged in their consciousness over the years. 

Remember, back in South Africa in the early 1970s there was no television to give a band national coverage, radio airplay was almost exclusively on state-controlled stations and government censors had a very narrow view of what would or wouldn’t subvert the nation’s youth; Third Eye’s version of Arthur Brown’s Fire was kept off the airwaves by these very custodians of the nation’s morals. The band did get support from LM Radio, the first commercial radio station in Africa that was broadcasting from Lourenco Marques, now Maputo, in Mozambique. Fire b/w With the Sun Shining Bright was on the station’s hit parade for six weeks and Apricot Brandy, which featured on the Awakening album, later became a playoff signature tune on the station. But LM Radio and the state broadcasters focused solely on pop-oriented singles; and as for radio airplay of extended album tracks, the band’s forte – forget it.

Third Eye coalesced in Durban in 1968 around the young brother and sister team of Ron and Dawn Selby. The two – with Ron on guitar and Dawn, just into her teens, on Hammond organ – had played alongside bassist Mike Sauer in a Durban band It’s a Secret. Formed in 1963, It’s a Secret had played mainly commercial cover music, but the times they were a-changing’. The arrival of Maurice Saul, a guitarist who had worked the boards in what was then Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) before travelling the well-worn path south, and Robbie Pavid, a drummer who doubled as the percussionist for Abstract Truth, another Durban-based progressive outfit, saw the band morph into Third Eye.

Mixing original compositions with favourites from the overseas scene – such as Deep Purple and Hendrix – Third Eye gigged around Durban and the neighbouring city of Pietermaritzburg, with Robbie playing the cocktail set with Abstract Truth between 5pm and 7pm before taking up the sticks with Third Eye. At the start the band played ‘sessions’, with Third Eye blitzing a single venue alongside such groups as The Flames, The In Crowd and The Bats. As they grew in popularity, so did the number of gigs they played. ‘Battles of the Bands’, peculiarly South African musical contests that saw bands competing against each other at mini-festivals, were fought and full-blown festivals trawled. Soon Third Eye found themselves playing to bigger, more appreciative audiences and having the freedom to perform their own compositions. The scene was blossoming, on the verge of a massive creative flowering – and the record executives were sensing an opportunity.

In 1968 the song Fire had been recorded by the band on four-track at Troubadour Studios in Johannesburg under producer Billy Forrest, and it was the strength of this single that led to a more significant recording contract. Third Eye were snapped up by Trutone, on the Polydor label, one of the premier labels at the time, which signed them for three albums. It heralded a hectic couple of years, with Awakening released in 1969 followed by two releases in a single year in 1970 – Searching and Brother. Amazingly the three albums were recorded in just six days. 

They were heady days – both musically and politically. Awakening had been dedicated by Maurice Saul, driven by a “personal disgust with war and hatred”, to all “young men in this world forced to go to war”. It could have been directed nearer to home, where boys were being conscripted into the army and the white society was becoming deeply polarised. The increasingly authoritarian government clearly saw rock musicians as a threat, playing “devil’s music” to the gullible young. No one could escape the looming crackdown. And it all came to a head in October 1970 at the Milner Park 24 hour rock festival near Johannesburg, with Third Eye as top of the bill alongside a host of other big names – including The Flames, Otis Waygood, Freedoms Children, Abstract Truth and Suck. As the good-natured crowd gathered, they were stormed by conservative youths – divinity students from a nearby university, say some, while newspaper reports claim they were from a local police college – who dragged some of the audience away to cut their hair.

Trutone were not renewing the contract and there were no royalties coming from the three albums already recorded. “With no support from our record company in terms of publicity or marketing (despite having signed a very binding contract which still stands today) it was impossible for us to continue,” says Dawn. “If we wanted to play, and earn something back for what we had put in, we had to go commercial and do the gig band thing. It became a ‘chicken and egg‘ situation. To create the music, we needed to spend time with the band. But as the band was not earning any income we had to work in the day (I started teaching when I was 14) to support ourselves. But this limited our time for rehearsing or travelling to the better gigs.”

Maurice and Robbie called it a day. Ron, Dawn and Mike continued to carry the flag for Third Eye, although Mike eventually quit a year later. In 1973 Third Eye, with only Ron and Dawn as surviving members of the original line-up, returned to RPM Studios in Johannesburg to record some tracks for an album. Two of these songs – Caterpillar b/w What’s Going On – were released by Bluejeans Records in the Benelux countries and one – Free – made its way on to an EMI compilation album in 1998. Needless to say, no royalties have been forthcoming.

Disillusionment with the industry had set in but the band battled on. Ron remembers that “after the recordings of the albums, and with the band line-up changes, we were wary of dealing with untrustworthy promoters and managers so we undertook to do our own concerts, bookings and marketing. We recorded with Chris Kritzinger at RPM and the single Caterpillar was released.

“In the early ’70s we toured South Africa’s eastern Cape province, playing some of the original material as well as newly written compositions. We were very well supported, despite the Christian group outside Port Elizabeth’s city hall who were demonstrating with placards, we think because of the banning of Fire on state radio. The irony of this is that we were no longer performing Fire, as our new vocalist, Richard Wright, had a different vocal feel and we had a different repertoire to suit the new line-up. We realised that the market was not supporting progressive rock music, so we had no choice but to go the commercial route.”

Dawn is still championing the band – a task, she says, that is a load of fun despite time constraints. “I am grateful that I have been able to remain in the music industry for 46 years and am still very active (one big advantage of having started playing at such an early age), but it hasn’t been easy a lot of the time. I’ve always felt that Third Eye was a wonderful band creating great music and it is a pity that, at the time, we didn’t get what I felt we should’ve. We have had such a lot of fun with our recent reunion concerts [in 2008, 39 years after it all began, the members of the original band - minus Mike - reunited for concerts in Durban] and hopefully the reissue of the albums will change a few things for the better.”

Ron now runs an audio-visual and lighting company, Mike is in the motor industry and Robbie has a jewellery business. Only Maurice and Dawn remain deeply involved with the music industry; Maurice is gigging one-nighters as a solo artist, while Dawn still performs and is involved with orchestral arrangements and teaching.

Today, any revisionist rewriting of the history and influence of South African psychedelic and progressive music would see Third Eye back in their rightful place among the rock aristocracy – battered and bruised, but jostling in a mighty Battle of the Bands to see just who, among the many creative and innovative acts thrown up in such a peculiar place and time as South Africa in the ‘60s and ‘70s, was the leader of the pack. No one can say who would win. But what an awesome contest that would be.
by Roger Browning
1. A Sad Tale - 5:34
2. Selby's Hospitality - 2:09
3. Retain Your Half-Ticket - 3:56
4. Stagemakers - 5:34
5. Awakening - 13:52
6. I Can't Believe It - 3:07
All songs by Maurice Saul

The Third Eye
*Ronnie Selby - Lead Guitar
*Maurice Saul - Vocals, Lead Guitar
*Dawn Selby - Piano, Hammond Organ
*Robbie Pavid - Drums
*Mike Sauer - Six String Bass

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Dick Heckstall Smith - A Story Ended (1972 uk, magnificent progressive jazz blues rock, 2006 japan remaster)

A couple of important explanatory notes before I get to the music. First, the full title of the album is truly exquisite: Dust In The Air Suspended Marks The Place Where A Story Ended. (And if you like that “dusty” title, you’ll want to search out another rare solo album made by a one-time member of another famous band: Uriah Heep’s Ken Hensley’s lovely 1973 album Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf.) Second, the last two of the bonus tracks on this album are credited not to Dick Heckstall-Smith alone but to the band Manchild (featuring Heckstall-Smith, of course). Finally, Dick Heckstall-Smith died of cancer in 2004, five years before the re-release of this excellent 1972 album. 

Dick Heckstall-Smith was Colosseum'’s saxophonist. When the band broke up, several of its members (notably Jon Hiseman) contributed to this solo album; also heard on the album is the incomparable Chris Spedding. In a modest, now-dated way, this is an all-star effort, and I think it’s just superb. Nope, it’s not for all tastes; but if you’re a fan of fusion, you’ll love it; if you liked Colosseum, you’ll love it; if you like saxophone in general, you’ll love Heckstall-Smith’s playing in specific. 

What I love most about the album – hmm, having started that sentence, I realize it’s going to be hard for me to pick one thing. Okay, what I love most about the album are the many passages in which Heckstall-Smith’s saxophone lines, often ridiculously complex, twisting and turning, are doubled by guitar – sometimes by two guitars, sometimes by wordless vocalizing, too. The saxophone is absolutely integral to every one of these compositions, and Heckstall-Smith has a command of numerous styles – some of which he sometimes employs in the same song, sometimes at the same time, via overdubs!

Listening to this album, I find myself genuinely sorry that he won’t be making any more. Here was a talented man who played an important role in one of the important early progressive/fusion bands but who also had a distinctive musical voice of his own. Aided by a bunch of other gifted musicians, he’s left us an album to be cherished. 
by Gerald Wandio
1. Future Song - 4:06
2. Crabs - 5:12
3. Moses In The Bullrushourses - 3:41
4. What The Morning Was After - 5:30
5. The Pirate's Dream (D.H. Smith, C. Clempson, P. Brown) - 11:09
6. Same Old Thing (D.H. Smith, C. Clempson, P. Brown) - 6:41
7. Moses In The Bullrushourses (Live Version) - 7:44
8. The Pirate's Dream (Live Version) (D.H. Smith, C. Clempson, P. Brown) - 10:19
9. No Amount Of Loving (Live Version) (Paul Butterfield) - 9:25
10.I'll Go Back To Venus - 3:44
11.I Can't Get It - 3:04
All compositions by Dick Heckstall Smith, Lyrics by Pete Brown except where noted
Bonus Tracks 7-11
Tracks 10-11 recorded as Manchild

*Dick Heckstall Smith - Winds
*Chris Farlowe - Vocals
*Jon Hiseman - Bongos, Congas, Drums, Maracas
*Gordon Beck - Piano
*Graham Bond - Moog Synthesizer, Organ, Piano, Vocals
*Malcolm Clarke - Bass, Vocals
*Caleb Quaye - Acoustic, Electric Guitar
*Chris Spedding - Electric Guitar
*Rob Tait - Drums
*Mike Vickers - Moog Synthesizer
*Dave Greenslade - Piano
*Paul Williams And His Hucklebuckers - Vocals

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Strawberry Alarm Clock - The World In A Sea Shell / Good Morning Starshine (1968-69 us, amazing colorful psychedelia)

When the Strawberry Alarm Clock recorded their third album in 1968, they were struggling to regain the phenomenal success they'd enjoyed in late 1967, when "Incense and Peppermints" shot to the top of the charts and their debut album of the same name stopped just outside the Top Ten. Despite featuring a Top Forty single in "Tomorrow," their second album, Wake Up...It's Tomorrow (also reissued on CD by Collectors' Choice Music), had failed to chart at all. There had always been a number of musical directions at work in the band, but The World in a Seashell found them torn between their own brand of psychedelic pop and record company-instigated attempts to move them toward a softer, more orchestrated pop approach.

Dissatisfied with the group's recent output, the UNI label brought in some outside writers for the album. Also added to the recipe were some string arrangements by George Tipton, who also worked in the 1960s on recordings by Sam Cooke, Jackie DeShannon, the Sunshine Company, the Monkees, Nilsson, and others. "What they probably didn't like," speculates keyboardist Mark Weitz, "was that we wrote and arranged our own songs -- some of which, the lyrics were not to their approval. [Tipton] was brought in on the third album to try our luck on recording some original songs written by popular songwriters like Carole King. I guess UNI thought it might help us get on the charts again." But as so often happens when the bean-counters try to over-egg the pudding, "eventually we found out that it practically ruined our following. The songs weren't us! They weren't strong enough! I think it hurt our image drastically -- like we were 'selling out' to the 'Suits' and going soft rock."

Two of the songs penned on their behalf, "Sea Shell" and "Home Sweet Home,"  were by the team of John Carter and Tim Gilbert, the same duo whose songwriting credits had been attached to "Incense and Peppermints." Weitz backtracks here to explain why he was not exactly the best of buddies with Carter, despite the massive success of that hit single: "John Carter was a writer, a musician friend of Frank Slay's [who co-produced the Strawberry Alarm Clock with the band's manager, Bill Holmes], from a group called the Rainy Daze out of Colorado Springs. Slay produced them and had a novelty record released of theirs, 'That Acapulco Gold.' It had some L.A. airplay [in fact it made #70 on the national charts] until it was pulled because of the lyric content. Tim Gilbert was also in the same band, but I heard that he really didn't have much to do with the lyric writing; it was mainly Carter."

Back before the Strawberry Alarm Clock were even on UNI, they'd recorded a backing track to the song that eventually became "Incense and Peppermints." Guitarist Ed King writes on his website ( that "Mark Weitz wrote the bulk of the music and I wrote the bridge. We didn't have lyrics." Slay then mailed a small two-track reel of tape with the recording to Carter back in Colorado. Carter, Weitz continues, "mailed the tape back to Slay. Slay called us into a meeting in his office in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard, and played the tape of Carter playing an acoustic guitar (of my music!) and singing [his] lyrics along with it. Carter from then on was not my friend! As well as Slay, and Holmes. John Carter showed up later on the third album submitting songs for us to play, probably through Frank Slay of course. Carter was not involved in the second album because it was too soon after the ripoff of 'Incense and Peppermints.' I guess he ducked out of sight until things cooled off!

"By the way, Bill Holmes had something to do with that ripoff also. He fought with Slay just before label printing. Holmes wanted all of the members' names on the record as writers, because he felt that all band members had something to do with the overall song. Slay asked him to pick only four names, which was the maximum limit that was allowed to be associated with a song -- according to Frank Slay. Holmes wouldn't back down on his request, so, as I heard it, Slay sent it to label printing with Carter and Gilbert's names alone. Leaving Weitz and King off! Slay's response when questioned was there was no melody line, and that without a melody line the lyricist gets the credit! That was the lamest response I have ever heard. And he was emphatic about the answer too! So this was now a toxic working environment -- a producer and manager that could not be trusted! Without [us] noticing at the time, it was probably the precursor to the ultimate demise of the Alarm Clock."

A rather more famous writer than Carter contributed to a couple of the other non-band compositions, "Blues for a Young Girl Gone" and "Lady of the Lake," both of which were co-written by Carole King and Toni Stern. "We were not in love with those songs," admits Weitz. "But, they were a challenge. Orchestra and all, we had to rise to the occasion. There was a lot of pressure on those sessions not to make any mistakes. We were playing alongside some accomplished studio horn [players] and violinists that were twice our age in experience. It was pretty tense for us; we were not used to playing live with orchestrations simultaneously. It was harder than any of the studio recording we had done thus far. The masters turned out great."

By the time the Strawberry Alarm Clock made their fourth and final album in 1969, the group had changed considerably in both lineup and sound from the one that recorded "Incense and Peppermints." Considering what was going on behind the scenes, in fact, it's something of a surprise that the band were even able to survive as an act, let alone make it into the recording studio. When they did cut their final LP, a new lead singer and new bluesy hard rock direction resulted in some music that was far afield from their earlier albums and singles, though much of their idiosyncratic brand of psychedelic pop remained on some of the tracks.

The musical chairs started when drummer Randy Seol and bassist George Bunnell, who'd both been aboard for the band's first three LPs, left near the end of 1968 after the group's third album, The World in a Seashell. Confusingly, it wasn't quite the end of their time playing under the name Strawberry Alarm Clock. 

A much more famous hit single by the Beach Boys (with whom the Strawberry Alarm Clock toured in 1967 and 1968), incidentally, is quoted elsewhere on the album on the tag of "Small Package." "I had the idea to do that 'California Girls' ending," says Weitz. "The key we were playing in was perfect -- it just flowed into it. We had been on tour when they played that song, it was in my mind, and I just started playing it during rehearsal on the Hammond B-3 I was using on that song, just for fun. We kept it in. Jimmy and I did the harmony at the ending fadeout."

The Good Morning Sunshine album, like all Strawberry Alarm Clock LPs save the first, failed to chart. Although a few singles on UNI (as well as an appearance in the movie Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) would follow in 1969 and 1970, the band never regained their initial popularity. "None of the singles we recorded [after Good Morning Sunshine] were smash hits," Weitz recalls. "I'm not blaming UNI, don't get me wrong, we really did try. We just didn't have a mouth-watering hit on our hands, and knew it was inevitable that they were going to lose interest." In fact, the lineup that had recorded Good Morning Starshine didn't even last too long. Pitman left in mid-1969, with Paul Marshall coming in as lead singer and King switching back to lead guitar.

Looking back on the Strawberry Alarm Clock's career, Weitz and King agree that the band often didn't gel and work well together. Remarks Weitz, "There was always difference of opinions on what songs should get recorded, whose material was better, and not liking how the other member was playing a part of the song -- stuff like that. Randy and George sometimes had totally different ideas about songwriting. Some of us didn't like their stuff, and sometimes they didn't like ours. Also, I was always trying to keep the band in line -- you know, more serious. They were only eighteen and had very little discipline as far as how they behaved on the road -- like NOT professional. I liked to laugh and have a good time too, but not to their extent. They didn't like that. I just always felt I was more serious about everything when it came to music. They wanted me to lighten up." King feels that the third and fourth albums in particular "were pieced together and there was no unity anywhere about the content. Actually, the only unity that existed was on the first album. But the second album 'sounded' better.
by Richie Unterberger
The World in a Sea Shell 1968
1. Sea Shell (J. Carter, T. Gilbert) - 03:08
2. Blues For A Young Girl Gone (C. King, T. Stern) - 02:31
3. An Angry Young Man (B. Stone) - 02:29
4. A Million Smiles Away (L. Freeman, E. King) - 02:38
5. Home Sweet Home (J. Carter, T. Gilbert) - 02:40
6. Lady Of The Lake (C. King, T. Stern) - 03:01
7. Barefoot In Baltimore (R. Freeman, E. King, M. Weitz) - 02:23
8. Wooden Woman (L. Freeman) - 02:06
9. Heated Love (R. Seol, G. Bunnell) - 01:59
10.Love Me Again (L. Freeman, E. King) - 03:29
11.Eulogy (R. Freeman, R. Seol, G. Bunnell) - 01:47
12.Shallow Impressions (M. Weitz) - 03:20
Good Morning Starshine 1969
13.Me And The Township (J. Pitman) - 03:24
14.Off Ramp Road Tramp (G. Bunnell, L. Freeman, E. King, J. Pitman, M. Weitz) - 04:16
15.Small Package (G. Bunnell, L. Freeman, E. King, J. Pitman, M. Weitz) - 03:55
16.Hog Child (G. Bunnell, L. Freeman, E. King, J. Pitman, M. Weitz) - 05:06
17.Miss Attraction (G. Bunnell, L. Freeman, E. King, J. Pitman, M. Weitz) - 04:49
18.Write Your Name In Gold (J. Pitman) - 02:22
19.Miss Attraction (Single Version) (G. Bunnell, L. Freeman, E. King, J. Pitman, M. Weitz) - 02:44
20.Write Your Name In Gold (J. Pitman) - 03:39
21.Standy By (You Put Me On) (G. Bunnell, L. Freeman, E. King, J. Pitman, M. Weitz) - 02:23
22.Dear Joy ( J. Pitman) - 03:22
23.Changes (G. Bunnell, L. Freeman, E. King, J. Pitman, M. Weitz) - 05:18

Strawberry Alarm Clock
*George Bunnell - Bass,Vocals
*Lee Freeman - Guitar, Drums, Sitar, Vocals,Bass  
*Ed King - Guitar, Bass, Vocals
*Randy Seol - Percussion, Drums, Keyboards, Vocals
*Mark Weitz - Keyboards, Vocals
*Jimmy Pitman - Lead Guitar, Vocals (Tracks 13-23)

1968  Strawberry Alarm Clock - Wake Up...It's Tomorrow (out of print edition)

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oho - Okinawa (1974 us, impressive progressive experimental rock, 2010 digi pack remaster)

Packed with mucho and fast moving music which is often crazed recitation and even screaming words that may or may not make one bit of sense to the listener. A 1970's Baltimore MA prog band, this is a difficult listen at times, but you must give it more than one listen thru to really get the best from it. It's rare, but there are even some really beautiful mellotron prog rock parts, although followed by the talking and the more zany concoction of jazz/rock/pop/classical in avant garde format. 

It's a good bet that lovers of early to mid period Gong ( nod to Dave Allen ) will dig this. Some of it reminds me of the more comical early British rock recordings and pieces of Frank Zappa, Supersister, Samla Mammas Manna (in their zany outrageous mode ) and some direct Beatles acknowledgment. With 30 songs, you get quite the kitchen sink of music styles but all in a very eccentric format. Also beware it sometimes sounds like music you and some of your friends might do one night after heavy drinking (or drugs, if you prefer). Both might be applicable.

Previous opinions agree that much turmoil existed in the band, so much so that they had a chance to open for one of the finest USA prog music bands in America, THE MUFFINS, but tempers or stubbornness killed the chance. Now that is a lesson in stupidity for all bands to take notice of.

What stands out is the fact that OHO have an abundance of talent and most of the musicianship is really good to excellent. It's only the rushed recording and production that hurt them the most on this release. And for anyone who only owns their "Bricolage" or "Up" CD and not this one yet, then double beware, as both of those have female vocals and is melodic with exact song structure in the Blackmore's Night, Maggie Reilly, Pentangle, and a mix of more modern aggressive prog folk female fronted groups and early haunting folk bands.

'Okinawa' is ambitious, and it's crazy as hell most of the time, but RIO fans might just like this a good deal. If all this sounds a bit uneven, it is. You have to be in a receptive frame of mind to sit thru this almost 74 minutes of nonstop semi assault on your good nature. You might be like me and scratch your head when those moments of pure classic progressive rock ala VDGG come along. The rest of the time it's almost like Peter Hammill gone wild with some unknown bunch of backing musicians. The vocals sometimes singing, sometimes screaming, ranting, and talking, most remind me of Hammill in some imaginative varied states of mind.

The conclusion of 'Okinawa' is a bit like weeding a garden so you have all the beautiful flowers left to adore. The last song really makes you wish the whole thing sounded like that,. But those abrasive and indulgent babblings, may be your weeds. That said, I felt exhausted after listening to the whole thing twice and then a 3rd time 2 days later. But I always keep my rule of a fair review, and listen to each disc at least 3 times before I commit the review publicly. Some discs get better and unveil their layers, and some may just sit at the same place after the 3rd listen. One thing for sure, this CD is an adventure and I didn't hate it. I actually really liked it for that mood where I just need something that gets nutty and beautiful all in one sitting. I loved some of it where it actually gets beautiful and big like those nice progressive rock songs we lust for.. Now excuse me while I weed the garden.
by Lee Henderson on September 16th, 2010
1. Laughing (Oho) - 0:22
2. Opposites (Oho) - 0:27
3. Duva (Oho) - 3:03
4. Hyphenate Ice Less - 3:53
5. Horse Remorse (Mark O’Connor, Joe O’Sullivan) - 3:32
6. Parts And Ponds - 2:09
7. Ain't Life Dumb (Steven Heck) - :25
8. A Frog For You (Mark O’Connor, Joe O’Sullivan) - 2:32
9. Hogshead - 5:51
10.Manic Detective (Joe O’Sullivan) - 2:05
11.Brown Algae Is Attractive (Steven Heck) - 2:19
12.Plymouth Ascendants - 2:48
13.The Salient Sickle Sucker (Mark O’Connor) - 5:22
14.Hairy Bag (Mark O’Connor) - 1:01
15.Fast Bananas - 2:54
16.The Unfortunate Frankfurter Vendor (Mark O’Connor) - 1:11
17.Last Dance (Joe O’Sullivan) - 0:59
18.Fill The Sheet - 1:51
19.The Still Nite - 2:04
20.Dance Of The Ivy Dog - 1:52
21.Gotta Write A Poem (Mark O’Connor) - 1:18
22.The Insipid City Of York - 2:59
23.Board Organ - 1:31
24.The Continuing Story Of Cragwheel-Ii (Oho) - 6:19
25.Lemon Flowers - 2:13
26.Corrective Shoes - 0:54
27.Pale Hippo (Mark O’Connor) - 1:49
28.Sorry - 3:18
29.Chess Is Boring - 0:36
30.The Plague (Jay Graboski, Mark O’Connor) - 4:12

*Jeffrey Graboski - Drums
*Steven Heck - Bass, Vocals
*Mark O'Connor - Keyboards, Vocals
*Joe O'Sullivan - Guitars, Vocals
*Jay Graboski - Guitars, Vocals
*Boris McFinnie - Horns
*Gene - Saxophone
*Nuna - Bass
*Larry - Percussion
*Greg Coulson - Vocals
*Cedarcroft Girls - Chorus, Vocals

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Paul Revere And The Raiders - Hungry For Kicks, Singles And Choice Cuts (1965-69 us, fantastic garage beat, 2009 release)

Kicks is the first compilation to exclusively concentrate on the Raiders at the absolute peak of their hit making powers. Before we go any further, here are some statistics worth pondering. During those all important years between 1965 and '69, the Raiders scored no less than 16 US hit singles, were the first rock act to be signed to Columbia – for whom they released eight albums – and, on the top of all this, had their own network TV show Where The Action Is.

Built around the partnership of Paul Revere, Mark Lindsay and co-songwriter and producer Terry Melcher, the 27 tracks on Hungry For Kicks represent no less than the absolute golden age of Raiders pop, if not American mainstream ’60s pop in general.

The band's habit of dressing themselves up in cheesy matching band outfits not to mention the notorious American Revolutionary garb may to a degree have compromised their credentials as a serious garage act but the real proof of the pudding lies in the quality and quantity of the selections showcased here.

Sequenced in non-chronological order the track listing literally bounces its way around between the twin landmarks of the Raiders' ’65 breakthrough 'Steppin' Out' and their last single release of the decade, the soulful 'We Gotta All Get Together' from late '69 with original (and often markedly different) single versions rubbing shoulders with a selection of the Raiders' most happening album tracks and a rare radio promo from ’67.

Whether its the out and out garage frenzy of 'Kicks', 'Hungry', 'Just Like Me', 'Steppin' Out', 'Louie, Go Home' or Boyce and Hart's 'I'm Not Your Stepping Stone' (which actually predated the Monkees’ hit version) or the more psych-tinged 'I Had A Dream', 'Peace Of Mind', 'The Great Airplane Strike', 'Why? Why? Why? (Is It So Hard)' and 'Tighter' you're well and truly spoilt for choice here whatever your bag.
by Grahame Bent
1. Kicks Song (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) - 2:28
2. Him Or Me (What's It Gonna Be?) (Terry Melcher, Mark Lindsay) - 2:51
3. Hungry Song (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) - 2:55
4. Let Me! (Single Version) (Mark Lindsay) - 2:30
5. Just Like Me Song Review (R. Dey, R. Hart) - 2:32
6. Too Much Talk (Single Version) (Mark Lindsay) - 2:12
7. Ups And Downs (Terry Melcher, Mark Lindsay) - 2:48
8. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone (T. Boyce, B. Hart) - 2:47
9. Good Thing (Terry Melcher) - 3:04
10.I Had A Dream (Terry Melcher, Mark Lindsay) - 2:20
11.Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon (Single Version) (Mark Lindsay) - 2:35
12.Steppin' Out (Paul Revere, Mark Lindsay) - 2:30
13.Peace Of Mind (Terry Melcher, Mark Lindsay) - 2:26
14.We Gotta All Get Together (Freddy Weller) - 2:58
15.The Great Airplane Strike (Terry Melcher, Paul Revere, Mark Lindsay) - 4:09
16.Louie, Go Home (Paul Revere, Mark Lindsay) - 2:39
17.Gone / Movin' On (Terry Melcher, Mark Lindsay) - 2:30
18.Cinderella Sunshine (Single Version) (Mark Lindsay) - 2:00
19.Action (S. Venet, T. Boyce) - 1:28
20.Don't Take It So Hard (Mark Lindsay) - 2:21
21.Why? Why? Why? (Is It So Hard) (Peter Volk) - 2:54
22.Ballad Of A Useless Man (D. Levin) - 2:11
23.Tighter (Mark Lindsay, Terry Melcher) - 1:59
24.Freeborn Man (Mark Lindsay, Keith Allison) - 3:32
25.Observation From Flight 285 (In 3/4 Time) (Mark Lindsay) - 3:22
26.Louise (J. Kincaid) - 2:05
27.Theme From It's Happening (Single Version) (Mark Lindsay) - 2:44
Paul Revere And the Raiders
*Keith Allison - Bass
*Charlie Coe -  Bass
*Joe Corero, Jr. - Drums
*Joe Foster - Synthesizer
*Mike Doc Holiday - Bass
*Drake Levin - Guitar
*Mark Lindsay - Saxophone, Vocals
*Paul Revere - Organ
*Nick Robbins - Synthesizer
*Michael "Smitty" Smith - Drums
*Jim Valley - Guitar
*Phil "Fang" Volk - Bass
*Freddy Weller - Guitar

Paul Revere And The Raiders
1963-65  Mojo Work Out (Sundazed issue)
1965-67  Evolution to Revolution: 5 Classic Albums (2013 double disc remaster)
1967  A Christmas Present... And Past
1968  Goin' To Memphis (Sundazed remaster)
1968  Something Happening  (Repertoire digipack remaster and expanded)
1969  Alias Pink Puzz (Sundazed remaster)
1969  Hard 'N' Heavy With Marshmallow (Sundazed issue)
1970-71  Indian Reservation / Collage (2009 remaster)
1982  Special Edition (Vinyl edition) 
Related Act
1970  Mark Lindsay - Arizona / Silverbird

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cottonwood - Camaraderie (1971 us, great rural classic rock, 2004 edition)

Cottonwood, the 1971 ABC Dunhill band, was a classic product of the times and cultural metamorphosis unfolding throughout the West Coast in the late ’60s. Los Angeles was a hotbed of diverse musical activity, and Hollywood bulged with record companies big and small looking to sign bands which happened to enjoy a discernible difference or unique sound, qualities that those companies could exploit for potentially explosive profits.

The strictly psychedelic sound which had dominated the West Coast scene for several years was starting to give way to new influences, and fusions of various sorts began to appear in the local clubs and on the radio stations which played a broader range of music. Doug Weston’s Troubadour Club on Santa Monica Boulevard was arguably the epicenter of the transformation, a sort of petri-dish of mutating musical influences, starting it would seem with the formation of the Byrds, rising out of strictly folk influences to become the nascent electric folk/country paragon.

The blues influence was ever present, but a decidedly southern flavor began appear in ostensible Cajun borrowings from musicians like Mac Rebbenac, aka Dr. John. Faux cajun bands like Creedence Clearwater dominated airwaves with West Coast imaginings of what southern life must have been like, singing of swamps, bayous, and riverboats, apparently romantically ignorant of the paroxysms of southern culture, those seemingly insoluble conflicts by the way, being a major reason the blues influence was so prevalent on the West Coast. Country influences had also appeared, making it acceptable to use traditional country instruments like a lap steel or dobro, in a rock band. The Byrds, Linda Ronstadt, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Crosby Stills, Nash, and Young, as a start, opened the doors for many musicians to try their hands at incorporating country styles and instruments, with layered multi-part vocal harmonies. The Flying Burrito Brothers embraced full pedal steel, at the hands of “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow 
1. Cottonwood - 03:02
2. Thank You Mr.Man - 02:28
3. Passin' Through (Gary Rowles) - 02:32
4. In My Life - 03:31
5. Red - 03:21
6. 50 LBS Of Smile - 03:02
7. Now Is The Time (Gary Rowles) - 02:39
8. Holdin' On - 03:00
9. Pacoy - 02:06
10.Mother Earth (I Love You) (Gary Rowles) - 02:25
All songs by Doug Phillips unless as else stated

*Gary Rowles - Guitar, Vocals
*Doug Phillips - Vocals
*David Vaccaro
*Rick Allan - Bass
*David Weyer

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gravy Train - The Ballad Of A Peaceful Man (1971 uk, exceptional hard prog rock, japan remaster)

Among the lesser-feted jewels released by the Vertigo label during its swirly-logo purple patch, Gravy Train's restful hybrid of jazz-tinged virtuosity, folky pastorals, and heartfelt vocalizing peaks on this, their second album, and that despite A Ballad of a Peaceful Man doing little more than treading water when compared to the experimental peaks of its predecessor. Part of the album's appeal lies in the then-novel concept of splitting its contents neatly in half, the hard rockers on one side, the softer material on the other. 

On the whole, the ballads have dated a lot better than the monsters, particularly "Alone in Georgia," which clashes sweet soul with (of all things!) Southern rock and, for some reason, sounds a lot like the Heavy Metal Kids. But that is not to denounce the sheer power of the band in full flood. The title track postulates an unholy collision of Uriah Heep and Atomic Rooster, and shows off Norman Barrett's vocals to maximum effect, while "Won't Talk About It" is almost stubbornly likable, and that despite prophesying every yowling power ballad of the '80s and beyond. Best of all, though, is the spookily atmospheric "Home Again," all throbbing percussion, primal flute, and timeless melancholy. On an album that flirts across a variety of moods, the moodiest track of all makes for a breathtaking finale. 
by Dave Thompson
1. Alone In Georgia - 4:35
2. (A Ballad Of) A Peaceful Man - 7:06
3. Julie's Delight - 6:58
4. Messenger - 5:58
5. Can Anybody Hear Me - 2:59
6. Old Tin Box - 4:45
7. Won't Talk About It - 3:00
8. Home Again - 3:25
All compositions by Gravy Train

Gravy Train
*Norman Barrett - Guitar, Vocals
*Barry Davenport - Drums
*J.D. Hughes - Keyboards, Vocals, Wind
*Lester Williams - Bass, Vocals

1970  Gravy Train - Gravy Train

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Impi - Impi (1971 south africa, fantastic jazz funky brass rock, 2012 remaster)

At the turn of the '70s rock mutated into a multi backed beast ,cross pollinating with jazz, classical, folk and ethnic influences, forming what is loosely termed 'progressive rock'. On the tip of Africa bands like Hawk, Abstract Truth and Freedoms Children were tapping into the poly rhythms and modal structures of African indigenous music, incorporating this into elements of rock, pop and folk, creating a truly unique progressive rock movement.

Starting out as a Beatles styled pop group in 1964,The Bats had racked up multiple hit singles and albums in their native South Africa, in the process becoming the biggest pop band in the country. The group has already experimented with psychedelia on tracks like “The Image” and ‘The Rock Machine” but growing frustrated with the creative restrictions of 3 minute pop singles and endless package tours, they decided to broaden their musical horizons. Teaming up with ex Sounds of Brass member Peter Hubner (trumpet, trombone & keyboards) , the sultry Deni Loren (vocals) and The Square Set's singer Neville Whitmill they formed Impi in 1971.

Impi is an isiZulu word for any armed body of men and in the case of this band of musical warriors it's an apt description. Paul Ditchfield remembers “Peter Hubner was with The Sounds of Brass, and when they broke up Peter came to us ,bringing Deni Loren, a great singer who had a very sexy stage presence and was also his girlfriend. We had previously worked with Neville Whitmill, who had a strong Ray Charles kind of voice with a fantastic range, and he too came along, completing the Impi line up”.

Influenced by the emerging jazz rock bands like Chicago Transit Authority, Chase and Blood, Sweat & Tears the band went into intense rehearsals before hitting the road, playing all the big venues across South Africa. Honed by the roadwork, Impi entered the studio with producer Johnny Boshoff to record their sole, self titled debut album.

“Impi” is an exciting merger of stomping African rhythms and melodies, powerful brass arrangements and soulful rock with elements of psych-tinged folk. The evocative “Herd Boy” with it’s haunting 'kwela' pennywhistle was released as a single in South Africa and reached the lower echelons of the charts; the languid ballad “Deep River” was released in the States but failed to make an impact.

Despite being critically acclaimed “Impi” failed to capture the either the burgeoning prog rock market or the conservative pop audience and the band quietly split – The Bats returning to the pop domain, Neville Whitmill rejoining The Square Set for the sterling “Those many feelings” album; Peter Hubner opening Emcee Studios and Deni Loren into relative obscurity. Now reissued over 40 years later the “Impi” album stands as a testament to a musically ambitious band ,perhaps ahead of it’s time in conservative South Africa.
1. Son Of A Zulu Man - 4:01
2. No One Seems To Notice - 4:12
3. Catch My Love - 3:44
4. Rifleman - 3:01
5. Seven Kinds Of Hell - 3:21
6. Deep River - 3:17
7. Herd Boy (Dlamini, Ditchfield, Jarman, Eckstein) - 2:58
8. Piccaninnies - 3:21
9. Nada - 2:30
10.Sun - 5:22
All compositions by P. Ditchfield, P. Clifford, B. Jarman, E. Eckstein except track #7

*Paul Ditchfield - Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
*Eddie Eckstein - Vocals, Drums, Perscussion
*Barry Jarman - Vocals, Guitar, Trumpet, Valve Trombone, Flute, Penny Whistle, Concertina
*Peter Clifford - Vocals, Guitar
*Neville Whitmill - lead Vocals
*Deni Loren - Lead Vocals
*Peter Hubner - Trumpet, Trombone, Organ

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Monday, February 9, 2015

The Parlour Band - Is A Friend (1972 uk, beautiful prog silk rock, 2010 remaster with extra track)

The Parlour Band have the dubious honour of being the first band from the small English Channel island of Jersey to be signed by a major UK label (Decca) and put into a studio to record an album. This was in late 1971 after Decca had been impressed by some very basic demos submitted the previous year by Peter Filleul, the band's song writer, lead vocalist and keyboard player. At the time, the band was based in Leicester as the group's drummer (Jerry Robins) and one of the guitarists (Jon 'Pix' Pickford) were studying at the local polytechnic (also the venue for the group's first mainland concert). 

The other two group members were brothers Craig and Mark Anders (guitar and bass, respectively), and the five of them shared two low-rent houses typical of the squalor fit only for habitation by mice and students! However, the accommodation did give the band space to practice and Leicester was a fairly convenient location to travel from to get to gigs, although after signing a deal the band relocated to London to be nearer the hub of the English music industry.

From the opening Hammond riff of Forgotten Dreams with its accompanying layered vocals there is no mistaking that Is A Friend? is a product of the 70s. A fantastic opening which surprisingly leads into the more mellow Pretty Haired Girl. The harmony vocals are spot on and the twin lead guitars provide a gloriously melodic interlude. What is essentially a superior pop song breaks with conformity with a guitar solo which stridently leads the listener directly into Spring's Sweet Comfort. And so it goes on, song after song of melodic glory that effortlessly combines prog stylings, pop overtones and west Coast US harmonies. 

Although identifiable as being from the 1970s, it is not surprising that the album failed to capture the imagination of the masses. Sure the players are technically very proficient and the song writing is first class, but the album lacks the bombast of an out-and-out progressive album of the era and is crushed in comparison to the glam rock that occupied the singles charts. Filleul's writing was not entirely unaffected by the contemporary influences as evidenced by tracks such as Evening and the closing suite, Home which provides a light prog finale to the album, and also the rather enigmatic album title (the lyrics include the line: Home is a friend).

I am sure a lot of people would dismiss this album as lightweight and somewhat inconsequential. However, I have to state that I seriously love all of the songs; from the uplifting Little Goldie, through the melancholy of Don't Be Sad to the harder Early Morning Eyes. The killer vocals get to me, the playing is concise and precise, the tunes are memorable and the production (by Nick Tauber) is crystal clear. With Esoteric's precision remastering the sound of the album is perfect and at last there is an informative booklet, written by band member Craig Anders, with information on the band and what they are up to these days. As we have come to expect, the album also features a bonus rarity, Runaround, a horn embellished rocker, the number shows a different side to the band that is not so evident from the 10 core album tracks.

The Parlour Band only released the one album under that moniker but didn't split when the album failed to sell. Instead they changed their name, first to A Band Named O and then simply The O Band, and released four more albums, albeit on a different label. The style of music also changed, taking on a harder edge with Filleul's songwriting dominance usurped. Being a long-time fan of Is A Friend?, this remasterered version is a treat to behold and will no doubt provide me many hours of late night enjoyment. This is an album I would unfailingly recommend to anyone based purely on my own love of the music. However, being somewhat more objective, the progressive elements of the album are rather thin on the ground and, as such, may not find much appeal with our readership. Of course, that doesn't mean that it is not a worthwhile album to possess... 
by Mark Hughes
1. Forgotten Dreams - 2:42
2. Pretty Haired Girl - 2:51
3. Spring's Sweet Gomfort - 5:05
4. Early Morning Eyes - 3:52
5. Follow Me - 4:56
6. Evening - 4:58
7. Don't Be Sad - 3:19
8. Little Goldie - 3:20
9. To Happiness - 2:59
10.Home - 7:38
11.Runaround - 4:26
All Words and Music by Peter Filleul

The Parlour Band
*Peter Filleul - Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Rhythm Acoustic
*Pix - Vocals, Wah Wah Gibson
*Craig Anders - Vocals, Electric, Acoustic , Slide Guitar
*Mark Ashley Anders - Vocals, Bass
*Jerry Robins - Percussion

Monday, February 2, 2015

John Mayall - The Turning Point (1969 uk, outstanding blues, jazz, folk, psych rock, remaster and expanded)

Remastered from a live 1969 recording at Bill Graham’s Filmore East in New York City and with three bonus tracks, the album starts off with the folk blues “The Laws Must Change”. The song seems an appropriate opener given the time and social, political and cultural changes that transpired in that time period. Far from the sound of Leadbelly or Son House, the blues quotient still can be heard in Johnny Almond’s flute, Mayall’s harmonica solos, and Jon Mark’s unique finger-picking style on acoustic guitar. And judging from the fan’s response, it’s not an abhorrent sound. “Saw Mill Gulch Road” is bit bluesier, starting off with a slide guitar in the distant background and lyrically lending itself towards the traditional structure.

One of the noticeable traits is how organically sounding the album is, needing little in the way of literal electricity to evoke the same slow blues swagger and sway in the audience, which you can imagine hanging on basically every note. “I’m Gonna Fight for You J.B.”, a song for one of Mayall’s biggest influences, J.B. Lenoir, is perhaps one of the average songs on the album given the subsequent swerves and curves in “So Hard to Share”. Initially slow and almost veering into an early seventies disco sound, the song evolves after two minutes into a jazz/folk/blues collage, each musician complementing the other while maintaining their lengthy individual solos quite well. And just when you think the song is about to lose its momentum, the group ups the ante to further outstanding results.

If there’s a slight problem with the album, it’s how canned the applause after each song appears, as some tunes receive a far greater ovation than perhaps warranted. The hoots and hollers are also repeated, sounding as if they’re on a loop. Regardless though, it’s a small annoyance in the larger picture. And nowhere is the sound Mayall craves more indicative than on “California”, a free form jazz piece, which could be taken for a very early, very sketchy Pink Floyd contraption. Adventurous to a fault, the song falters midway in, with nothing surpassing Johnny Almond’s saxophone solo until near the song’s last legs.

The biggest song on the album, and in fact, the biggest song of Mayall’s long and storied career is “Room to Move”. Originally thrown in as an impromptu encore number for shows in Germany and Europe, the song has a bit of “chicca chicca” in it to quote Mayall. Working overtime on the harmonica as Almond’s flute adds a nice touch, it’s the solo work by Mayall that drives the song full steam ahead and the scat like phrasing between both. Even more remarkable is how the group sounds so tight considering they’d been playing together for only four weeks!

The album closes the same way it starts, making it an incredibly satisfying journey of ideas being heard rather than just thought.
by Jason MacNeil
1. The Laws Must Change - 7:21
2. Saw Mill Gulch Road - 4:39
3. I'm Gonna Fight For You J.B. - 5:27
4. So Hard To Share - 7:05
5. California (John Mayall, Steve Thompson) - 9:30
6. Thoughts About Roxanne (John Mayall, Steve Thompson) - 8:20
7. Room To Move - 5:03
8. Sleeping By Her Side - 5.10
9. Don't Waste My Time (John Mayall, Steve Thompson) - 4.54
10.Can't Sleep This Night - 6.19
All songs by John Mayall except where indicated

*John Almond - Flute, Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Mouth Percussion
*Jon Mark - Acoustic Guitar
*John Mayall - Guitar, Harmonica, Keyboards, Tambourine, Vocals, Slide Guitar, Mouth Percussion
*Steve Thompson - Bass Guitar

1966  John Mayall Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton (Japan SHM double disc set)
1967  Various Artists - Raw Blues

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