Friday, November 27, 2015

James Gang - Bang (1973 us, excellent hard classic rock)

The James Gang was originally formed by drummer Jim Fox in Cleveland, Ohio in 1966. Though guitarist/singer Joe Walsh is most often associated with the early and highly successful James Gang, he actually was the replacement for Glenn Schwartz, who departed in January, 1968. Jim Fox relates that the gap between Schwartz leaving and Joe joining was less than 48 hours. Dale Peters, who later played in the lineup with Tommy on guitar, came in on bass after the release of Yer Album, the group’s first with Walsh. The band’s music combined both American and British rock influences. With Walsh the band toured England opening for The Who, as well as having success with album and touring sales in the United States.

Walsh left James Gang in late 1971, in part because he was envisioning music that could not be performed with a power trio. He then moved to Boulder, Colorado. His immediate replacement on guitar was Domenic Troiano, while Roy Kenner was brought in on vocals.

In Boulder Walsh took six months to study ham radio and chill out. He then began to hook up with musicians such as bassist Kenny Passarelli and keyboardist Tom Stephenson, who were playing with Tommy Bolin in the first lineup of Energy. Tommy and Walsh also met during this period, and often jammed and recorded at Joe’s garage studio. Passarelli split from Energy to join Walsh in his new band Barnstorm, which offered an immediate chance at fortune and fame. Tommy was then forced to look for a new bass player and scored with Stephenson’s cousin Stanley Sheldon.

Tommy and Energy played through until early 1973, when Tom Stephenson left to join Walsh and Passarelli in Walsh’s band, and Tommy was again forced to replace a player. This time Max Gronenthal was then brought in on keyboards and vocals, but the end was near and Tommy left for New York City to record Spectrum with Billy Cobham in May.

The James Gang had not been doing as well as they had hoped for with Troiano on guitar, and Walsh was quick to recommend Tommy for a replacement. That recommendation was partly based on the intensely positive rush Tommy’s playing on Spectrum was generating, plus possibly an effort to pay Tommy back for Joe having nicked Passarelli and Stephenson from Energy. On meeting Tommy in August of 1973, Jim Fox and Dale Peters said they were impressed by Spectrum, but were concerned about Tommy’s ability to play rock. Fifteen minutes into the live audition Tommy was signed on.

The new lineup went to work almost immediately on the Bang album during August and September, 1973 at the Cleveland Recording Company, and was released in October. The album cover photo had already been taken while Domenic Troiano was still with the band, and the album went out using the same photo with Tommy’s face replacing Troiano’s, fairly seamlessly given the technology of the day.

Bang relied heavily on the stockpile of songs Tommy had written with Jeff Cook in Energy, with John Tesar separately, and from solo demos he had been doing on the reel-to-reel tape deck Mike Drumm had helped him buy. One interesting example is “Got No Time for Trouble,” which was a Bolin/Tesar song that had been sung by Jeff Cook on an Energy studio demo and can be heard on the Tommy Bolin Archives Energy CD. Of the album’s nine tracks, Tommy had written or co-written eight.

In the beginning Tommy got along well with singer Roy Kenner. They enjoyed singing a cappella together, and Kenner helped coach Tommy on his singing, a place where his confidence was low. Tommy’s lead vocal on “Alexis” could not have been more perfect for the track. Later their friendship would slowly deteriorate as competition for the spotlight would contribute to driving them apart.

The album turned out very well as the band transformed Tommy’s songs into well-polished studio gems. The record label’s choice for the first single, however, was not to the band’s liking:

“Must Be Love” started getting radio airplay quickly. Other songs such as “Standing In the Rain” and “Alexis” were also played by FM stations which at the time had creatively adventurous play lists. Jim Fox loved “Standing in the Rain” and fought hard for it to be the next single. Atco eventually relented and it hit in the Top 100.

Bang stands as one of the strongest rock statements of the period. Not only are the arrangements and performances crisp and catchy, but Tommy also laid down guitar that was on par with his performances on Spectrum. To many people this album contains the quintessential essence of Tommy’s guitar tone and fire. The guitar solo in “From Another Time” is a textbook example of his ability to play with grace, fire and precision even at fast tempos. The notes still raise your hair even if the track is played at half speed. “Mystery” was another standout with its stellar string arrangements by Jimmy Haskell, reminiscent of Paul Buckmaster’s work with Elton John.
1. Standing In The Rain (Tommy Bolin) - 5:07
2. Devil Is Singing Our Song (Tommy Bolin, John Tesar) - 4:22
3. Must Be Love (Tommy Bolin, Jeff Cook) - 3:53
4. Alexis (Tommy Bolin, Jeff Cook) - 5:09
5. Ride The Wind (Tommy Bolin, Roy Kenner) - 3:46
6. Got No Time For Trouble (Tommy Bolin, John Tesar) - 3:47
7. Rather Be Alone With You (Song For Dale) (Roy Kenner) - 2:05
8. From Another Time (Tommy Bolin, John Tesar) - 4:00
9. Mystery (Tommy Bolin, John Tesar) - 6:07

The James Gang
*Tommy Bolin - Guitars, Synthethizer, Vocals
*Roy Kenner - Percussion, Vocals
*Dale Peters - Bass Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
*Jim Fox - Drums, Percussion, Keyboards, Vocals

1969  James Gang - Yer' Album (Japan SHM remaster)
1970  James Gang - Rides Again (2010 SHM remaster)
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sinto - Right On Brother (1972 germany, exceptional prog jazz rock)

Those expecting kraut-rock must stop here. It's nothing but pure prog in the British tradition and in fact there's almost no "Germanity" on this album, it could have been easily recorded in UK around the same time (1974).

Sinto's complex prog is wonderfully diluted by some funky elements - that can probably make this album appealing for both prog- and mainstream rock fans.

Instrumentation is very rich including not only guitar (Alfred Jones produces some blistering solos throughout the album) and keyboards (funky piano of Peter Holzwig is superb!), but also violin, which plays a prominent part in the whole mix.

Plus, here is a special guy who plays on different congas, bongos and other percussive instruments and his inclusion makes the rhythm-section more versatile.

All the tracks are song-oriented, but this shouldn't repulse you. Vocalist is no Demetrio Stratos, but he does a nice job and it seems that there is no accent in his pronunciation (which is characteristic of many German vocalists daring to sing in English).

Despite the simple structure of most of the tracks (the closing "Another Voice" is the only exception), they are quite unusual harmonically so that they can be labeled progressive rock by all means.

The musicianship is of the highest class and the interplays between guitar and violin are simply great.

Here are some up-tempo rocking songs with obvious funky stylings (opening title-track, "In My Times", 'Don't Wait") and some sad and extremely beautiful ballads ("Rome").

Closing "Another Voice" reminds me of Sinto's compatriots from Pell Mell - the same dark piano riff and violin extravaganza on the top.

Overall, this is a wonderful album. Due to the skillful combination of catchy funky parts and complex instrumental showoffs it can surely please both prog bigots and mainstream rock lovers.

To be honest, I'm pretty surprised this album is fairly obscure, since it seems consciously made for satisfying the wide audience.

Anyway, I highly recommend everyone to check it out. 
1.Right On Brother (Santos, Hannes Beckmann) - 7:37
2.Rome (Ralph Fischer) - 6:02
3.Things I See (Hannes Beckmann) - 3:29
4.In My Times (Hannes Beckmann) - 3:30
5.Don't Wait (Peter Holzwig, Hannes Beckmann) - 5:13
6.Everytime (Hannes Beckmann) - 5:20
7.Another Voice (Hannes Beckmann) - 3:20

*Hannes Beckmann - Amplified Violin, Acoustic Bass, Percussion, Vocals
*Cotch Black - Congas, Lead Percussion, Laughter, Vocals
*Abu Dram - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Ralph Fischer - Bass, Percussion, Vocals
*Peter Holzwig - Piano, Organ, Marimbaphone, Percussion, Vocals
*Alfred Jones - Guitar, Percussion, Vocals

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Monday, November 23, 2015

The Shape Of The Rain - The Shape Of The Rain (1966-73 uk, splendid psych with blues and classic rock touches)

This is quite a nice collection of tunes (rehearsals and demos, mainly) from '60s British psyche group Shape of the Rain, though the term "psychedelic" should be considered in a more generic '60s context that mirrors the bluesy, folk/country tack of the American West Coast groups from the same period as opposed to anything overtly acid-oriented. Having never heard their original-album counterparts, I can't give any comparisons, but this should be very useful for completists as well as an introduction to the group, though the recording quality of the tunes are adequate, so I don't feel that compelled to seek out all the alternate takes.

"Broken Man" kicks off the disc from a '67 session, a great blues-rock stomp perhaps comparable to something early from Welsh group Man; less quirky, but catchy and with an interesting change-up at the chorus. Jumping right ahead to '73, "I Don't Need Nobody" is solid white-boy blues, but no one could have ever convinced me that this was recorded in the '70s. Strangely, the group must have never changed their gear or recording equipment, because all the '70s material on this disc could easily fool the listener as being '60s recordings, and certainly their style never deviated from the original course.

"We're Not Their Boys" is again from a '73 session, but retains a freewheeling folksy '60s naivete that is whistful and endearing. "Hello 503" freaks out a bit more toward the end with appropriately fx'd vocals complimenting the theme of the roboticisation of human beings in the technological age. The next bunch of tunes are from the earliest sessions ('66), reflected in the hissy tape quality - something I've actually grown to enjoy, as the tunes are still perfectly coherent, while giving their sound a more obscure dimension. 

This session is definitely a high point, at times reminiscent of the Stalk-Forrest Group recordings (precursor to the brilliant '70s phenomenon Blue Oyster Cult), though the latter came later. Especially cool is "Whillowing Trees", dreamy '60s "garden-psyche" at its best. From the same session, "Spring" has classic wah-guitar, a lovely folky vocal melody and that wonderful '60s bulbous bass sound. From here, the quality of tunes seems to drop off a bit, though "Big Black Bird" and "Everyone the Fool" are stand-out tunes. 
From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
1. Broken Man - 3:40
2. I Don't Need Nobody - 2:57
3. I'll Be There - 4:15
4. We're Not Their Boys - 4:20
5. Hallelujah - 2:43
6. Hello - 3:15
7. I Doubt If I Ever Will - 2:58
8. Willowing Trees - 3:35
9. Canyons - 4:33
10.Spring - 3:31
11.Words - 5:20
12.Look Around - 3:05
13.Advertising Man - 2:45
14.Go Around And See It - 2:55
15.It's So Good Here - 3:27
16.Big Black Bird - 3:41
17.Everyone The Fool - 4:08
18.You Just Call - 1:45
19.It's My Life - 3:12
All compositions by Keith Riley and Shape Of The Rain.

The Shape Of The Rain
*Keith Riley - Vocals, Guitar
*Len Riley - Bass
*Ian 'Tag' Waggett - Drums, Percussion
*Brian Wood - Vocals, Guitar, Pedal Steel
*Pete Dolan - Bass (1973)

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Love Affair - The Everlasting Love Affair (1967-69 uk, excellent r 'n' b with psych sheathing, 2005 bonus tracks edition)

Love Affair was one of the great, all-too-unheralded pop bands of the late '60s in Britain, not a million miles in approach from the Small Faces -- and in Steve Ellis they had a soulful belter who was close to the genius of Steve Marriott. "Everlasting Love" was the big hit, a wonderful slice of music that crossed and recrossed the line between soul and pop, and which still stands proudly after all these years. But it's far from being the only excellent work here. The covers of "Hush," "Tobacco Road," "Handbags and Gladrags," and "The First Cut Is the Deepest" positively steam, while "Rainbow Valley," although a formulaic retread of the big hit, still has plenty going for it. Perhaps the big problem for the band was that they were tagged simply as a pop band, so when they attempted to break that mold, they weren't taken seriously. 

That's a shame, as "The Tree," which veers into both psychedelia and prog rock (close neighbors in those days) is an excellent piece of work, and "Once Upon a Season" offers a few echoes of Traffic. That's not to say everything is wonderful: "Could I Be Dreaming?" and "The Tale of Two Bitters" are readily dispensable, and a couple of other tracks are simply nondescript. But the ratio of good to bad is extremely high, and Steve Ellis is convincing throughout.
by Chris Nickson
1. Everlasting Love (Buzz Cason, Mac Gayden) - 3:00
2. Hush (Joe South) - 3:38
3. 60 Minutes (Of Your Love) (David Porter, Isaac Hayes) - 3:36
4. Could I Be Dreaming  (Steve Ellis, Morgan Fisher) - 3:17
5. First Cut Is The Deepest (Cat Stevens) - 3:21
6. So Sorry (D. Gerard) - 3:09
7. Once Upon A Season (Mick Jackson) - 3:59
8. Rainbow Valley (Buzz Cason, Mac Gayden) - 3:48
9. A Day Without Love (Phillip Goodhand Tait) - 3:11
10.Tobacco Road (J. D. Loudermilk) - 3:52
11.The Tree (Steve Ellis, Morgan Fisher) - 2:45
12.Handbags And Gladrags (Mike d'Abo) - 3:49
13.Build On Love (Phillip Goodhand Tait) - 2:27
14.Please Stay (Bob Hilliard, Burt F. Bacharach) - 4:13
15.Tale Of Two Bitters (Steve Ellis, Morgan Fisher, John Cokell, Mike Smith) - 2:33
16.Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday (Phillip Goodhand Tait) - 2:54
17.Some Like Me (Steve Ellis, Maurice Bacon, Rex Brayley, Mick Jackson, Lynton Guest) - 3:21
18.I'm Happy (Love Affair) - 2:16
19.One Road (Phillip Goodhand Tait) - 3:08
20.Let Me Know (Love Affair) - 2:29
21.Bringing On Back The Good Times (Phillip Goodhand Tait, John Cokell) - 3:22
22.Another Day (Rex Brayley) - 4:11
23.Un Giorno Senza Amore (Italian Version From 'A Day Without Love') (Phillip Goodhand Tait, Mogol) - 3:11

Love Affair
*Rex Brayley - Guitar (1967-1971)
*Maurice Bacon - Drums (1967-1971)
*Mick Jackson - Bass (1967-1971)
*Steve Ellis - Vocals (1967-1970)
*Lynton Guest - Keyboards (1967-1968)
*Morgan Fisher - Keyboards (1968-1971)

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

January Tyme - First Time From Memphis (1970 us, fine psych rock with west coast aura)

January Tyme was a New York band formed around the in-your-face vocal work of Janis Joplin-wannabe January Tyme. The band consisted of Tyme on lead vocals, keyboards, and percussion; Anthony Izzo on vocals and lead guitar; William Brancaccio on rhythm guitar, vocals, and keyboards; Steve Ciantro on bass; and Allen Cooley on drums and vocals. In 1969 the band released their only album for the Enterprise label, titled First Time from Memphis. 
by Keith Pettipas

"First Time From Memphis" (the ‘Memphis’ reference in the title might imply deep soul or similar), it’s thoroughly enjoyable and should satisfy anyone with a penchant for the more rocking side of the Airplane.
by Richard Falk 
1. Rainy Day Feeling (Steve Ciantro, Valerie Cuccia) - 3:11
2. The Music (Bill Broncachio, Steve Ciantro, Valerie Cuccia) - 3:33
3. Sleepy TIme Baby (Steve Ciantro) - 3:16
4. Ancient Babylon (Anthony Izzo) - 3:50
5. Hold Me Up To The Light (Billy Fox, January Tyme, Justin Tyme) - 4:53
6. Love Is Blind (Bill Broncachio, Billy Fox, January Tyme) - 2:50
7. Are You Laughing (Steve Ciantro) - 2:58
8. Down To The River (Steve Ciantro) - 4:09
9. I Could Never Love You (Anthony Izzo) - 3:32
10.Take This Time (Bill Broncachio, January Tyme) - 2:58
11.Love Surrounds Me (Billy Fox, January Tyme) - 3:23

*January Tyme - Percussion, Keyboards, Vocals
*Allen Cooley - Drums, Vocals
*Steve Ciantro - Bass
*William Brancaccio - Rhythm Guitar, Keyboard, Vocals
*Anthony (Mony) Izzo - Lead Guitar, Vocals

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Charley Musselwhite - Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite's Southside Band (1967 us, astounding electric blues rock)

Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Charley Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, Nick Gravenites, Barry Goldberg, Harvey Mandel, Jim Schwall, Corky Siegel, Steve Miller. If you have been following the progress of folk music activity over the last few years, these names probably are familiar to you.

If not, let me quickly explain that these young men, and a few others like them, have been the prime movers in the latest thrust of the urban folk music revival, the move to the tough, powerful sound of the postwar blues—the loud, mean, insistent blues style developed in the Negro ghettos of the Northern cities in the late 1940's and early '50's by such bluesmen as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Johnny Shines, among a great many others.

The content and style of this strong, vigorous music have been handsomely defined and documented in Vanguard's three-disc survey of modern blues approaches, Chicago/The Blues/Today! the listener is respectfully referred to them; for providing a comprehensive sampling of current blues approaches, and demonstrating the breadth and richness of the music, I know of no more " representative or convenient set of recordings.

In recent years, an increasingly large segment of the folk music audience has come to discover the power and vitality of the postwar urban blues. Inevitably, too, a number of skilled young folk revivalists have turned their talents to this strong contemporary Negro music. Generally they have been far more successful in bringing these latter-day styles to life than have those who sought to reanimate (at best), reinterpret, or recreate (at worst), the older, more apocalyptic country blues idiom.

Not surprisingly, the most successful attempts at essaying modern blues styles have come from the young men listed above, all residents of Chicago and, as such, immediately and directly in touch with many of the living sources of the music. It is no mere accident that they should have attained to such idiomatic fluency in the urban blues approaches; they have been able to learn, assimilate and perfect the music through the simple expedient of having played alongside of the men who shaped it in the first place.

Charley Musselwhite learned his blues harmonica directly from the Negro innovators on the instrument: Little Walter Jacobs, Big (or Shakey) Walter Morton, and "Junior" Wells, among others. Then he further sharpened his skills in years—literally—of playing with various Negro bands in the rough-and-tumble bars and lounges that dot Chicago's South- and West-Side Negro ghettos.

It is the mark of this most demanding of apprenticeships that stamps the work of the young Chicago bluesmen with such conviction and authority. Quite simply, it separates the men from the boys; you can't shuck at Theresa's, Pepper's, the Blue Flame, the J & C Lounge, or any of the countless other clubs where blues are to be heard in the city. You either hold up your end or you're run off the stage. It's as simple as that.

It may be a hard, ruthless system, but it produces artists. Charley Musselwhite is a case in point, a man who has learned his lessons well, has put in his term of apprenticeship (and, in fact, is still doing so), has paid his dues. This is his first recording as a leader, though he has earlier appeared as a sideman with Big Walter Horton in the third volume of Vanguard's Chicago/The Blues/Today! set, with John Hammond on his Big City Blues and with singer-guitarist Tracey Nelson on her Prestige set.

But this disc represents, in a very real sense, Charley's debut—as the fulcrum of a typical hard, powerhouse, Chicago-styled band of the kind with which he's been used to playing over the last few years. It was he who picked the sidemen, he who organized and supervised their rehearsals, he who selected the materials to be recorded, and it is his intensive singing and incisive playing that are featured throughout this album.

The Musselwhite band's music is tough, direct, powerful, providing his assured, idiomatic voice and harp, the perfect setting and foil. As this first recording suggests, Charley is right now one of the handful of young blues interpreters who have succeeded in penetrating beyond the surface of the music to the development of a thoroughly satisfying, recognizeably personal approach to the modern blues. In the coming years, his single-minded dedication to the music, his ever-deepening technical skills, and his thirst for new ways of expression, are sure to yield an even richer musical harvest.

Listen to where he is now, and then recall that he is 22. And this last statement is hardly meant as an apology or justification; quite the contrary, it's a frank expression of acclamation from a devoted friend and admirer.
by Pete Welding
1. Baby, Will You Please Help Me (Charley Musselwhite) - 3:20
2. No More Lonely Nights - 5:19
3. Cha Cha The Blues - 3:12
4. Christo Redemptor (Duke Pearson) - 3:21
5. Help Me (Carraras, Farver, Ward) - 3:30
6. Chicken Shack - 4:17
7. Strange Land (Charley Musselwhite) - 3:01
8. 39th and Indiana (Charley Musselwhite) - 4:10
9. My Baby - 2:42
10.Early In The Morning - 4:35
11.4 P.M. (Harvey Mandel) - 3:14
12.Sad Day (Barry Goldberg) - 5:00

*Bob Anderson - Bass
*Fred Below - Drums
*Barry Goldberg - Organ, Guitar, Piano, Keyboards
*Harvey Mandel - Guitar
*Charlie Musselwhite - Vocals, Harmonica

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Raymond Froggatt - The Voice And Writting Of Raymond Froggatt (1968-69 uk, marvelous orchestrated folk country, 2004 remaster)

Raymond "Froggy" Froggatt was a singer/songwriter who spent much of his tumultuous career struggling to gain recognition. Born in Birmingham, England, he made his debut singing at a Dunlop factory party and received ten cents for his efforts. Froggatt was a sickly child who spent much of his youth battling tuberculosis in the Yardley Sanatorium. He left school in the 1950s to work a series of odd jobs. He had a recurrence of tuberculosis at age 18, and this time it attacked his kidneys and bladder. While isolated at yet another sanatorium, he took up poetry and decided to form a band. After advertising for musicians in the Birmingham Evening Post, he met young guitarist Hartley "H." Cain, bassist Lou Clark, and drummer Len Ablethorpe.

The band began playing the Birmingham club circuit and became regulars at the Belfry, a popular club. There Monopoly gained a devoted following, and was eventually signed by Polydor Records to a five-year contract in 1964. Froggatt's first success came with his song "Red Balloon." Unfortunately, though played on local radio stations for two months, it was badly mishandled and never appeared in stores; later the song became a hit for the Dave Clark Five, and then for Marie Laforet in France. 
by Sandra Brennan

Froggatt's debut album was a bland singer/songwriter effort, mixing in parts of troubadour folk and late-'60s middle-of-the-road British pop/rock. At times, particularly on some of the more bittersweet tunes, it's a little reminiscent of the softer aspects of the early Bee Gees (check "Lonely Old World" for a dose of that). Some of the more hale pop-folk-rock cuts might vaguely bring Donovan's more mainstream work to mind, although Donovan was miles better. Occasional tracks like the traditional "Corinna Corrina" and the guitar instrumental "Sonnet by Hartley Cain" tread close to contemporary folk. But others deploy hokily dated and at times unbearably cutesy orchestration, such as "Red Balloon (Callow-La-Vita)" (covered for a British hit by the Dave Clark Five) and the oompah-horn-laden "Roly." It's a peculiar endeavor that seems unsure of whether to aim for a frivolous pop audience or a more serious folky one, but the lack of focus is less of a problem than the mediocrity of the music.
by Richie Unterberger
1. Always Goodbye - 02:16
2. Corrina Corrina - 02:38
3. Red Balloon (Callow-La-Vita) - 02:38
4. Lonely Old World - 03:45
5. ABC Goldfisch - 02:38
6. Sonnet By Hartley Cain - 01:45
7. Something's Goin' On - 02:40
8. The Old Accordion - 03:00
9. Froggatt Went A Courtin' - 01:44
10.Jeannie With The Light Brown Hair - 02:37
11.We're All Coming To The Seaside - 02:42
12.Roly - 02:38
13.Callow-La-Vita (Single Mix) - 02:34
14.Lost Autumn - 04:12
15.Just A Little Bit Of Love - 02:18
16.ABC Goldfisch (Single Mix) - 02:38
17.Roly (Single Mix) - 02:39
18.Time Goes By - 03:28
19.Ring-Ting-A-Ling - 03:14
20.Anything You Want - 02:44
21.Movin' Down South - 03:16
22.It's Only Me - 02:58
23.Lazy Jack - 02:19
24.Hasn't The Lord Blessed Us - 03:35
All titles composed and arranged by Raymond Froggatt

*Raymond Froggatt - Vocal
*Hartley Cain - Guitar
*Leonard Ablethorpe - Drums
*Louis Clark - Bass
*John Fiddy - Bass

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Swegas - Child Of Light (1971 uk, splendid brass prog jazz rock, 2007 edition)

Swegas were a British 'progressive' brass-rock band that existed between 1969 and 1971. They played all the major venues in the UK and made several tours of Italy and Germany where they were extremely popular. The name of the band is derived from an Anglo Saxon word for music.

Swegas began life as a rehearsal band in 1969. They were put together by Brian (Joe) Spibey and Nick Ronai who had been members of the Fulson Stilwell Band before joining the soul band, Cat Road Show. The original Swegas band consisted of Joe Spibey (trumpet), Nick Ronai (trombone), Alan Smith (Tenor Sax), Jonny Toogood (guitar) plus a few pick up players. Mid 1969 they advertised for an Organist and Bass Guitarist and Keith Strachan and Roy Truman applied and got the gig. They had been playing together in various bands since being at college together and were looking for something a bit more adventurous. They found it in this band which were beginning to fuse Rock and Jazz in the manner of Blood Sweat and Tears and The Chicago Transit Authority who were in their early stages of development. They rehearsed originally above a pub in Acton (The Kings Head?) but later in a basement of a cafe in Fulham Palace Road (about no. 201)

They secured a deal with B&C Records in October 1969 and recorded an untitled album at Advision Studios, Regent St. The line up was Chris Dawe (trumpet), Brian (Joe) Spibey (trumpet/vocals), Nick Ronai (trombone), Alan Smith (alto sax and piano), Nick Thomas (tnr sax), John Legg (bari sax), Keith Strachan (organ/vocals), Jonny Toogood (guitar), Roy Truman (bass guitar), Chrys Chrysostomou (drums). The album was not destined for release and Joe Spibey, Alan Smith and Jonny Toogood left the group shortly thereafter followed shortly by Chrys Chrysostomou.

Undeterred, Keith, Roy, Nick and John recruited Stewart Wilkinson (guitar), Ron Shillingford (tenor sax) and Maurice McElroy (drums) and managed to get a deal with First Class Management. Barry Class bought the group a tour bus (at their suggestion) but the insurance and hgv licence issues not to mention the parking problems in Soho soon put paid to that idea and the bus was exchanged for a Ford Transit minibus and a Transit van.

With their new line-up the band rehearsed endlessly on new material in a room at the London Ambulance Service  in Waterloo Road. They signed record and management deals with the Barry Class Organisation in March 1970 and during this Spring period of 1970 they had a regular spot Upstairs at Ronnie Scotts - Swegas one night - Genesis the next! They then embarked on a three month tour of Europe starting in Oslo on May 20th.

They travelled to Gothenburg from Felixstowe by ship on 17th or 18th May. They were in Oslo till the first week in June then travelled to Zurich for one week. They then left Zurich for Munich on Mon 15th June and ended up in Hamburg in July. The blue mini bus was breaking down continually and through lack of money spent a number of nights sleeping under the vans. They ended up in the famous Top Ten club sharing the bill with the Boston Show Band (featuring the then unknown Gary Glitter). They liked their drummer Billy Hogan so when Maurice left shortly after Billy was offered the job. 

When they arrived back from Germany in July they went into the salubrious Tangerine Studios in Dalston to record the Child Of Light album. Maurice was still playing drums at this point.

The first Swegas album released by the Barry Class Record Company (Trend) was Child Of Light. Recorded early 1970 in Tangerine Studios, Kingsland Road, Dalston, N8, this was the only album released in the UK. It demonstrated that Nick Ronai as the principal arranger of the band had a unique voice. As he said later "I didn't know how to do jazz voicing back then - my experience was more classical". And thank God because, above all else, it was Nick's musicality and his arranging style that gave Swegas it's sound. In retrospect it's hardly a perfect performance or recording but this album does go somewhere to show what SWEGAS might have achieved had they the time and funding to hone this quality to perfection. The material was certainly some of their best, and with the exception of the Rare Bird song Beautiful Scarlet, it is all original. 
1. Beautiful Scarlet (Rare Bird) - 7:10
2. Planetarium (Nick Ronai) - 6:46
3. Magic Pipe (Keith Strachan, Nick Ronai, Chris Dawe, Stewart Wilkinson) - 10:09
4. Photographs (Nick Ronai) - 10:02
5. Child Of Light (Keith Strachan, Nick Ronai, Chris Dawe, Stewart Wilkinson) - 9:57

The Swegas
*Chris Dawe - Trumpet
*Nick Ronai - Trombone
*John Legg - Alto Sax, Bari Sax, Flute
*Ron Shillingford - Tenor Sax, Sop Sax, Flute
*Keith Strachan - Keyboards, Vocals
*Stewart Wilkinson - Guitar, Vocals
*Roy Truman - Bass Guitar
*Maurice McElroy - Drums

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

O.W.L. - Of Wondrous Legends (1971 us, exciting baroque folk acid psych, 2008 remaster)

Of Wondrous Legends is one of the holy grails of unknown acid folk/folk-rock.  As the story goes, Stephen Titra had played in various local Chicago groups, the most popular being the Uncalled Four (traditional folk), Rhythm’s Children (garage folk-rock) and of course, the legendary jam band Mountain Bus.  Titra left Mountain Bus just before the group gained serious traction, eventually releasing their great Dead-inspired rural psych LP from 1971.  Of Wondrous Legends was recorded at Universal Recording Inc. in 1971.  Titra tried shopping the final product around to labels such as Elektra, Fantasy, A&M, Capital and RCA but there were no takers.  Many of the record label A&R reps found O.W.L’s music hard to market, claiming the music was not commercial enough and that no one song on the LP stood out as a potential single.  This music is hard to categorize as it doesn’t fit into any comfortable niche.  The only reason this music was reissued is because Dawson Prater found one of the few pressings (maybe the only pressing!) of O.W.L in a Chicago thift store in the mid 2000’s.

The O.W.L. project sounds nothing like Mountain Bus.  Titra had been playing many of these songs live as early as 1967-1968.  By the time he entered the studio many of his creations were fully developed and ready to record.  Of Wondrous Legends holds a midground between the Left Banke (think “Shadows Breaking Over My Head” ) and Pearls Before Swine’s superb The Use Of Ashes LP.  There are no sitars, psychedelic effects, feedback, crazed electric guitar solos or distorted vocals.  Titra, vocals and guitars, is backed by a host of other musical instruments which include vibes, marimba, flute, alto, cello, drums, bass, piano, moog, mandolin and assorted horns.  If anything, the album’s production gives it a psychedelic feel.

The album is very strong and highly recommended to those who are into “progressive folk.”  “Upon The Wings Of Gabriel” and “A Tale Of A Crimson “Knight” are powerful slices of acid folk that have spacey production values – these tracks are not to be missed by psych fans.  “Be Alive” is what the Left Banke might have sounded like had they progressed into the early 70s albeit with more of a folk-rock approach to their music.  O.W.L.’s most progressive piece, the dreamy eight and a half minute “Midnight Carnival,” is another intricate piece of music whose lyrics deal with unity and chaos.  Finally, “Sunsets Of Smiles,” the closing track, is a very pretty folk song that feels much less produced when compared to the numbers that precede it.
by Jason Nardelli
1. Legends - 5:02
2. A Tale Of A Crimson Knight - 4:12
3. Be Alive - 3:53
4. Renaissance And Rococo - 4:21
5. Midnight Carnival - 8:27
6. Dawn Of Albion - 3:21
7. Upon The Wings Of Gabriel - 3:02
8. Breton Landscape - 2:52
9. Everyman And The Philosopher King - 5:37
10.Peace Of Mind - 3:49
11.Salvation Song - 3:49
12.Sunset Of Smiles - 1:56
All compositions by Stephen A. Titra

*Stephen Titra - Percussion, Vocals
*Dick Boyell - String, Horn Arrangement
*Ellen Olsen - Piano
*Al Keeler - Marimba, Orchestra Bells, Percussion, Vibraphone
*Sam Larderuccio - Electric Piano
*John Knudson - Flutes
*Frank Schabold - Electric Bass
*Tommy Radke - Drums, Percussion
*Steve Kauffman - Drums, Percussion

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Greatest Show On Earth - Horizons (1970 uk, superb prog brass jazz rock, 2012 remaster)

The Greatest Show on Earth were originally formed in 1968 by guitarist Garth Watt-Roy and his bass-playing brother Norman. Also featured in the original line-up were organist Mick Deacon, drummer Ron Prudence and three horn players, Dick Hanson, Tex Phillpotts and Ian Aitcheson. The band's first vocalist was black American Ozzie Lane but he returned to his native New Orleans a year later and was replaced by Colin Horton-Jennings, not only a strong gravel-voiced singer but also quite adept on the guitar, bongos and flute. 

The group's mixture of R'n'B soul, jazz and prog-rock brought them to the attention of EMI's progressive label Harvest Records, who signed the band and issued, in February 1970, the single, "Real Cool World"/"Again And Again" (HAR 5012) which, though not a hit in the UK, gave the band a medium-sized hit across Europe where they were also an in-demand live attraction. Both tracks featured on their March 1970 debut LP, "Horizons" (SHVL 769) which was housed in a distinctive sleeve designed by Hipgnosis and coincided with a Radio One session for Mike Harding on which they played three new songs: "Border Line", "Mountain Song" and "Time". 
1. Sunflower Morning (Colin Horton Jennings, Mick Deacon) - 4:56
2. Angelina (Colin Horton Jennings) - 4:07
3. Skylight Man (Colin Horton Jennings, Garth Philip Watt-Roy) - 4:31
4. Day Of The Lady (Colin Horton Jennings, Roger Saunders) - 4:10
5. Real Cool World (Garth Philip Watt-Roy) - 4:49
6. I Fought For Love (Colin Horton Jennings, Garth Philip Watt-Roy) - 4:24
7. Horizons (The Greatest Show On Earth) - 13:59
8. Again And Again (Garth Philip Watt-Roy) - 4:04

The Greatest Show On Earth
*Mike Deacon - Keyboards
*Dick Hanson - Horns
*Colin Horton-Jennings - Vocals, Guitar, Drums
*Tex Philpotts - Sax
*Ron Prudence - Congas, Drums
*Garth Watt-Roy - Vocals, Guitar
*Norman Watt-Roy - Vocals, Bass

1970  The Greatest Show On Earth - The Going's Easy (2012 remaster)

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Tramline - Moves Of Vegetable Centuries (1969 uk, great blues rock, 2008 remaster)

The second and final set by the hot young blues band signed to Chris Blackwell's Island Records back in 1969.

This album was produced by the late Guy Stevens and he suggested the unusual name, for which guitarist Micky Moody confesses he has no explanation. (Stevens had also suggested such names as Procol Harum and Mott The Hoople, and so 'Moves Of Vegetable Centuries' was just another flight of Stevens' fancy!).

The band was getting into its stride with the addition of sax player Ron Aspery and bass guitar virtuoso Colin Hodgkinson from progressive group Back Door.

They add a boost to such performances as the Tramline version of Traffic's 'Pearly Queen' and the old Yardbirds' favourite 'I Wish You Would'. Here is R'n'B Sixties' style with high energy and strong musicianship.

Micky Moody describes the evolution and ultimate fate of the band in his interview , making a splendid souvenir of a bye gone musical era.
1. Pearly Queen (J. Capaldi, S. Winwood) - 3:40
2. Sweet Satisfaction (J. McCoy, M. Moody) - 3:32
3. You Better Run (Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere) - 2:16
4. Grunt (M. Moody) - 7:12
5. Sweet Mary (Traditional) - 6:24
6. I Wish You Would (B. B. Arnold) - 5:20
7. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (Sonny Boy Williamson) - 2:32
8. Harriet's Underground Railway (J. McCoy, M. Moody) - 3:57

*John McCoy - Vocals
*Mick Moody - Guitar
*Terry Popple - Drums
*Colin Hodgkinson - Bass
*Iss Mate - Saxophone
*Ron Aspery - Saxophone

1968  Tramline - Somewhere Down the Line (2008 digi sleeve)

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

John Hammond - I Can Tell (1967 us, awesome electric blues rock, with bonus tracks)

Born November 13, 1942, in New York City, the son of the famous Columbia Records talent scout John Hammond, Sr., what most people don't know is that Hammond didn't grow up with his father. His parents split when he was young, and he would see his father several times a year. He first began playing guitar while attending a private high school, and he was particularly fascinated with slide guitar technique. He saw his idol, Jimmy Reed, perform at New York's Apollo Theater, and he's never been the same since. After attending Antioch College in Ohio on a scholarship for a year, he left to pursue a career as a blues musician. By 1962, with the folk revival starting to heat up, Hammond had attracted a following in the coffeehouse circuit, performing in the tradition of the classic country blues singers he loved so much. By the time he was just 20 years old, he had been interviewed for the New York Times before one of his East Coast festival performances, and he was a certified national act.

When Hammond was living in the Village in 1966, a young Jimi Hendrix came through town, looking for work. Hammond offered to put a band together for the guitarist, and got the group work at the Cafe Au Go Go. By that point, the coffeehouses were falling out of favor, and instead the bars and electric guitars were coming in with folk-rock. Hendrix was approached there by Chas Chandler, who took him to England to record. Hammond recalls telling the young Hendrix to take Chandler up on his offer. "The next time I saw him, about a year later, he was a big star in Europe," Hammond recalled in a 1990 interview. In the late '60s and early '70s, Hammond continued his work with electric blues ensembles, recording with people like Band guitarist Robbie Robertson (and other members of the Band when they were still known as Levon Helm & the Hawks), Duane Allman, Dr. John, harmonica wiz Charlie Musselwhite, Michael Bloomfield, and David Bromberg.  
I Can Tell boasts an all-star backing band of rock & roll stars, featuring everyone from Bill Wyman to Robbie Robertson. John Hammond leads the band through a set of Chicago blues standards, reaching deep into the catalogs of Willie Dixon, Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, and many others. Although the performances can occasionally sound too studied, the album is by and large an unadulterated delight -- the affection Hammond and his band have for the material is quite clear. The CD reissue includes four cuts from his 1970 album, Southern Fried, which feature Duane Allman on slide guitar.
by Thom Owens
1. I Wish You Would (Billy Arnold) - 3:00
2. I'm In The Mood (Bernard Besman, John Lee Hooker) - 3:19
3. I Can Tell (Samuel Smith) - 3:24
4. Spoonful (Willie Dixon) - 2:54
5. Coming Home (Elmore James) - 2:26
6. My Baby Is Sweeter (Willie Dixon) - 3:04
7. Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Chuck Berry) - 2:19
8. Smokestack Lightning (Chester Burnett) - 2:48
9. Five Long Years (John Lee Hooker) - 3:58
10.You're So Fine (Walter Jacobs) - 2:39
11.Going To New York (Mary Lee Reed) - 1:57
12.Forty Days And Forty Nights (Bernard Roth) - 4:39
13.Shake For Me (Bonus Track) (Willie Dixon) - 2:44
14.Cryin' For My Baby (Bonus Track) (Harold Burrage) - 2:42
15.I'm Leavin' You (Bonus Track) (Chester Burnett) - 3:23
16.You'll Be Mine (Bonus Track) (Willie Dixon) - 2:39

*John Hammond, Jr. - Guitar, Harmonica, Horn, Vocals
*Duane Allman - Guitar
*Joe Arnold - Tenor Sax
*Barry Beckett - Keyboards
*Artie Butler - Bass, Piano
*Lewis Collins - Tenor Sax
*Rick Danko - Bass
*Leonard Feather - Guitar
*Roger Hawkins - Drums
*Eddie Hinton - Guitar
*David Hood - Bass
*Jimmy Lewis - Bass, Piano
*Ed Logan - Baritone, Tenor Sax
*Gene Miller - Trumpet
*James Mitchell - Baritone Sax
*Charles "Honeyman" Otis - Drums
*Robbie Robertson - Guitar
*Bill Wyman - Bass

1965  John Hammond - So Many Roads (2005 remaster)
1970-72  John Hammond - Source Point / I'm Satisfied (2007 remaster)
1973  Bloomfield, Hammond, Dr.John - Triumvirate (japan expanded edition)

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Hammer - Hammer (1971 us, excellent hard psych rock with some jazzy interludes, 2010 remaster)

Jack O’Brien was born on November 9th, 1952 in Astoria, Queens. Christened John Anthony O’Brien, he was first nicknamed Jackie, later Jack. From the age of three, he lived in Elmhurst, Queens, with his mother’s family. From a very young age, he showed a natural musical talent, no doubt inherited from his grandfather, “Happy” O’Brien, who was an orchestra conductor in the 1940s. Family members recall Jack, at the age of four or five, picking out tunes on a tiny toy piano.

When he was about eight, Jack began to teach himself to play guitar which very quickly became his prime interest. With a schoolfriend, Richie McBride, who played bass, he was involved with a number of amateur groups. At fourteen, he played in a “happening” in the East Village known as “The Rock Flow” and also jammed in Steve Paul’s Scene and elsewhere with musicians like B.B. King, Jeff Beck, and Jimi Hendrix.

Together with Norman Landsberg who was trained as a classical pianist, and was able to draw upon the cultural diversity of his native New York City to develop a familiarity with a wide range of musical tastes and styles. His professional career started as one of the founding members of the rock group Mountain. This led to his forming (together with O’Brien) the group Hammer in 1969, featured on Bill Graham’s then newly established label, San Francisco Records., and managed by Shelly Finkel (who would later manage Mike Tyson); and with Richie McBride on bass, John DeRoberts as vocalist, and John Guerin as sessions drummer, they recorded their first and only album, “Hammer” (San Francisco records, a division of Atlantic, 1970), produced by Dave Rubinson and engineered by Fred Catero.

Despite critical praise and an energetic and successful coast-to-coast tour, including Fillmore East and West, Hammer did not achieve commercial success, and the group disbanded. O’Brien later played in other groups in the early to mid-70s, including Wormwood Scrubs, a group that he and Richie Fontana formed, with Richie on drums, Danny Sicardi (aka Danny McGary) on bass, and Michael Harrington as lead singer. (Unfortunately, Harrington passed away from heart problems on January 31, 1984 — he was only 29.)

As Wormwood Scrubs, the four wrote a lot of material, and came very close to a record deal at the time (1973-74). Although they did not make a record, Wormwood Scrubs is remembered as an excellent band by many who heard them play live, with shared influences from British Blues and Pop, the Beatles, Jeff Beck, and others, which were reflected in their sound.

Norman Landsberg gained recognition as vocal arranger and musical director for the Pointer Sisters, touring extensively and making numerous television appearances with them. He went on to work with a variety of artists such as pop singer Lenny Williams (known for his work with Tower of Power).

Landsberg’s arranging skills and studio savvy have helped to establish him as a much sought-after independent producer in the San Francisco bay area. He and his wife, keyboardist Socorro de Castro-Landsberg, run Landsberg Music Productions, a full-service music production company providing music direction and arrangements from custom “minus-ones” to full album production, live performance, as well as scoring for commercials and films such as Ramona S. Diaz’ award-winning documentary, Spirits Rising.

After Hammer disbanded in the following years, bass player Richie McBride continued to be active in the music business, and recorded and toured as bass player with many different artists, traveling throughout the U.S., South America, and the Caribbean. Today, he lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife Frann where he is a middle-school orchestra teacher.

McBride holds a Master’s Degree in Music Education and, in addition to his teaching, he performs in the Tampa Bay area as a bass player with various artists.
by Tom Kennedy
1. Something Easy (Norman Landsberg, John DeRoberts) - 2:50
2. Hot And Cold (Jack O'Brien) - 2:57
3. Tuane  (Norman Landsberg) -3:04
4. You May Never Wake Up (Apologies To Auden And Frost) (Jack O'Brien - Tom Kennedy) - 3:19
5. Hangover Horns (Jack O'Brien, Tom Kennedy, John DeRoberts) - 3:08
6. Charity Taylor (Jack O'Brien, Norman Landsberg, John DeRoberts) - 3:27
7. Sad Song, Happy Song (Jack O'Brien, Tom Kennedy) - 2:52
8. Sweet Sunday Morning  (Norman Landsberg, Bill Austin) - 2:13
9. Pains And Tears (Norman Landsberg) - 3:23
10.Death To A King (Instrumental) (Norman Landsberg) - 5:30

The Hammer
*Richie McBride - Bass
*John Guerin - Drums
*Ken Janick - Drums (Only Track 6)
*Jack O'Brien - Guitar
*Norman Landsberg - Keyboards
*John De Roberts - Vocals

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