Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Shady Grove (1969 us, excellent west coast psych rock, 3rd album, 2012 Audiophile remaster)

Nicky Hopkins climbs on board as a full-fledged band member, and Quicksilver Messenger Service go in an unpredictable direction. Then again, how unpredictable is it, really? Many a-hippie band at the time heard The Band do marvels with roots-rock and decided to go the same way (see the Grateful Dead for example number one, and all those Airplane offshoots too); Quicksilver Messenger Service, however, were different in that they decided to rely on Hopkins' impeccable keyboard skills to lead them in this direction, and this makes up for a truly unique listen.

First and foremost let me tell you that 'Edward (The Mad Shirt Grinder)', the nine-minute instrumental "jam" that ends this record, isn't just the best tune on it. It might, for all I know, simply be the most accomplished, emotional, technically immaculate, resplendent instrumental composition to ever come out of the entire California rock movement of the Sixties. It's essentially "jazz", I guess, but the kind of jazz that prefers real intensity and melodicity to pretentious senseless noodling, with beautiful, yet powerful keyboards and sensitive, moody guitars all over the place. 

In fact, the interplay between Hopkins' piano, Cipollina's guitars, and those tricky little organ patterns that can be heard in the background if you're attentive (more Hopkins overdubs?) is simply stunning, and any art-rock lover who'd want to dismiss the Frisco scene offhand would have no choice but to seriously reevaluate his position after hearing this track. Yeah, I suppose that the slow middle part of the number can get a little tedious at times, but it's essentially needed for contrast with the fast part - the one that really gets the blood flowing, with Hopkins unleashing all those unbelievable piano riffs upon us. Of course, the track is hardly typical for the Frisco scene: it's credited to Hopkins, and it's Hopkins that makes all the difference, and with all respect to Nicky, he's a very alien element to the SF/LA spirit of the times. But it takes some real gall and adventurousness for a bunch of stoned-out hippie-guitar playing kids to get Britain's most required piano session man to join and provide them with his ideas, doesn't it?

In any case, Hopkins plays a crucial role on the other eight songs as well - much too often, his inspired playing is able to bring even the weakest material to life. I wouldn't want to say, though, that the album is awash in weaker material: Happy Trails it's not. In fact, it's all pleasant and endearing as hell, if hell can ever be endearing, that is. Starting from the album cover, dammit. Isn't that album cover simply beautiful? That velvet green, mmm... And the carriage with the horse on the back sleeve, too, don't forget 'bout the horse. I love green. The songs are... well, the songs are kinda green, too, in that they're a) relaxative, b) inspired, c) very raw, sometimes to better, sometimes to worse effect. Seems like Nicky was the most hard-workin' guy at the sessions, and I don't blame him.

A lot of those numbers are essentially R'n'B pastiches, rambling, introspective numbers that take a long time to develop and sometimes don't develop at all. Like Freiberg's 'Too Far', for instance, which sounds - don't laugh - exactly like all those early Mott The Hoople introspective tunes with Ian Hunter doodling away at the piano and mumbling something exceedingly clever and vaguely self-pitying. Hunter, however, simply can't touch Hopkins, which means that throughout most of the songs I pay little attention to lyrics or vocals and mostly just enjoy the magnificent organ swirls and piano tinkles. 'Holy Moly' is even better - a swirling R'n'B anthem replete with celeste, harpsichord and God knows what else, Nicky really revels in his multi-instrumentalism and virtuosity. And then the song quickens up the pace and the guitars go frenetic and it's a marvelous rave-up in the best tradition of British blues-rock bands. Like Ten Years After.

Other highlights include the title track, that starts with a majestic pseudo-classical keyboard intro and then incorporates an oddly arranged Diddley beat where the lead singer sounds like a particularly revved-up Eric Burdon; Cipollina's generic, but extra-weird in its "muddy" production blues number '3 Or 4 Feet From Home', complete with dog noises in the beginning (impersonated by Nicky, if we are to believe the liner notes); and the medievally-influenced 'Joseph's Coat', with somber backing chorale vocals and more of those catchy piano riffs. In other words, creativity abounds: you may like or dislike the record, but you'll have to admit that SF bands were rarely that inventive, either before or after this album. And I blame it on Nicky - there's no way the band could have made such a giant step up from Happy Trails without his participation.
by George Starostin
1. Shady Grove (P. O. Wands) - 3:00
2. Flute Song (Denise Jewkes) - 5:23
3. Three or Four Feet from Home (John Cipollina) - 3:05
4. Too Far (David Freiberg) - 4:30
5. Holy Moly (Nick Gravenites) - 4:25
6. Joseph's Coat (John Cipollina, Nick Gravenites) - 4:49
7. Flashing Lonesome (David Freiberg, Nick Gravenites) - 5:28
8. Words Can't Say (David Freiberg, Denise Jewkes) - 3:22
9. Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder (Nicky Hopkins) - 9:22

The Quicksilver Messenger Service
*John Cipollina - Guitar, Vocals
*Nicky Hopkins - Organ, Piano, Celeste, Cello, Harpsichord, Keyboards
*Greg Elmore - Drums, Percussion
*David Freiberg - Viola, Bass, Guitar, Vocals

1967-68  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Lost Gold And Silver (double disc issue)
1968  Quicksilver Messenger Service (2005 japan, 2012 audiophile mini LP replica)
1969  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Castles In The Sand
1970  Q. M. S. - Just For Love  (2005 japan, 2012 audiophile mini Lp replica)  
1970  Q. M. S. - What About Me (2005 japan, 2012 audiophile mini LP replica)
1971  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Quicksliver (2012 Audiophile Vinyl replica)
1972  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Comin` Thru (2012 Audiopfile mini LP replica)  
1975  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Solid Silver
Related Acts
1973  Copperhead - Copperhead (2001 reissue)

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Easy Chair - Easy Chair (1968 us, outstanding psych blues rock, 2014 remaster)

Easy Chair’s 1968 one-sided album with a running time of 20 min. is one of the most sought-after Northwest psych-underground records of all time. Original copies have been sold for over 1,000 US$. Correctly remembered as psychedelic rock pioneers, they crammed an amazing career into only one year of activity. Easy Chair performed with the Yardbirds, Cream and the Mothers of Invention. Their epic Westcoast blues features a unique guitar chemistry of Larson’s psychedelic leads and Kirby’s fluid lines and hypnotic chording. Their jam-excursions were always satisfying. They played lots of original material and it is known that a complete live-gig was recorded when EC opened for The Mothers at the Shrine Auditorium, L.A. - but the tape seems to be lost (forever).

By end of 1968 they caught the attention of Zappa´s crew and signed a record contract with Bizarre Records to be promoted together with Alice Cooper. Too soon then Easy Chair broke up, but together with EC´s drummer Al Malosky, multi-instrumentalist Simmons recorded the “Naked Angels“ Soundtrack (re-released by WIS in 2008). After releasing his solo album “Lucille Has Messed my Mind up“ in 1969, Jeff joined The Mothers. Carefully remastered from the original mastertape - you´ll get definitive 1968 psychedelia with three haunting and unforgettable long songs.
1. Slender Woman (Jeffrey Simmons) - 8:57
2. My Own Life (Peter Larson) - 4:06
3. Easy Chair (Jeffrey Simmons) - 6:33

The Easy Chair
*Phil Kirby - Guitar
*Peter Larson - Guitar
*Albert Malosky - Drums
*Jeffrey Simmons - Bass

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Altona - Altona (1974 germany, good prog kraut rock, 2016 remaster)

With their roots as ex-Thrice Mice members, Altona wisely chose this new name (Altona is a town on the edge of Hamburg) when dropping the former band's classical edge in preference for a jazzier front. 

On their debut Altona played a lively fusion that crossed many boundaries, but kept the Blodwyn Pig feel that dominated the early Thrice Mice recordings.

Notably, they sounded almost like a hybrid of Birth Control and Creative Rock, occasionally hinting at Eiliff, with songs and instrumentals that were full of surprises!

A few Altona members later reappeared in the obscure band Dirty Dogs.
from The Crack In The Cosmic Egg
1. Can't Live Without You - 4:09
2. Cocopus - 5:39]
3. Uberlandfahrt - 4:06
4. 7/4 - 4:17
5. Boulevard - 5:01
6. Frustration - 6:47
7. Hide Yourself - 5:50
All Music and Lyrics by Altona

*Klaus Gerlach - Guitar
*Karl-Heinz "Carlo" Blumenberg - Vocals, Soprano Sax
*Karl-Heinz Gossler - Drums
*Fritz Kahl - Bass
*Werner Von Gosen - Guitar
*Wolfgang Wülff - Tenor Sax
*Michael Von Rönn - Tenor Sax

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Rustix - Come On People (1970 us, great funky groovy blues rock, Vinyl edition)

Formed in 1967, The Rustix showcased the talents of drummer Bobby Bladino (replaced by former Invictas drummer David Colon Jr.), singer Chuck Brucato,, lead guitarist Bob D'Andrea, singer Albin Galich, bassist Kit Nelson, and keyboardist Vince Strenk, the group became quite popular throughout New York state, eventually scoring a one-shot contract with Chess' Cadet subsidiary resulting in the release of a cover of Eddie Holland's 'Leaving Here' as their debut single.

While the single did little commercially outside of upper New York, manager/Rochester DJ Ferndinand Jay Smith III was responsible for getting the band signed by Motown's newly formed Rare Earth subsidiary.  Apparently signed as part of the label's attempt to dip it's corporate toe in rock and roll, the band was teamed with Motown artist R. Dean Taylor in the producers role.  

Like the band's debut album, fellow Motown artist R. Dean Taylor produced their sophomore release - 1970's "Come On People".  This time out the creative spotlight was clearly focused on the band with Brucato responsible for penning seven of the ten tracks.  That said, musically the album featured a modest change in direction compared to their debut.  Gone was most of the blue-eyed soul that characterized the debut.  In its place the band could be heard pursuing a more blues-rock oriented sound.
1. Mississippi Woman (Chuck Brucato) - 2:51
2. Do Right Woman Do Right Man (Dan Penn, Chips Moman) - 5:21
3. Hey Mose (Chuck Brucato) - 4:52
4. Dress Colored Lavender Blue (Chuck Brucato) - 4:22
5. Come On People (Chuck Brucato) - 3:16
6. Billie's Gone (Chuck Brucato) - 2:57
7. Hard To Handle (Allen Jones, Alvertis Isbell, Otis Redding) - 5:00
8. Maple Shade County Day (Chuck Brucato) - 2:35
9. Cry Another Day Away (Chuck Brucato) - 2:59
10.Finale: Happy Trails (Dale Evans) - 0:47

The Rustix
*Chuck Brucato - Vocals
*Ron Collins - Bass, Vocals
*Vince Strenk - Keyboards, Accordion
*Albin Galich - Vocals
*Bob D'Andrea - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*David Colon Jr. - Drums, Percussion
*Ted Lucas - Guitar
*R. Dean Taylor - Piano
*The Adantes - Vocals

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Shoes - Let The Shoes Shine In (1970 holland, excellent nederbeat, 2014 remaster)

In the history of Nederpop, only a few Dutch bands could rival the Shoes’ (formed as The White Shoes, in 1963, in Zoeterwoude) consistency of releasing top hit material.

In the period between 1966 and 1970, all of their singles entered the hit parade. And afterall, it is not surprising at all, considering how hard they were working at the time, and how consistent their output was – truly one of the Netherlands’ top hitmakers in the late 60s.

The group specialised in good, commercial rock and pop, and was constantly promoted at the time by Radio Veronica (the station which specialised in Dutch bands – Nederbeat and Nederpop); thus consistently dominating the airwaves all around the country! Besides, the band members were able to turn their hits into good, solid live performances thanks to a wealth of stage experience they’d possessed from their previous tours of Germany. The "black"-like, soul voice of Van Es was the most remarkable aspect of the band’s sound. It was this special voice (resembling that of Steve Winwood in some ways) that's responsible for the emergence of a staggering string of the hits between 1966 and 1970, including "Standing and Staring" (66), "Na Na Na", "Farewell in the Rain" (67), "No Money for the Roses", "Don't You Cry For a Girl" (68) and "Osaka" (70).

No wonder it was hugely disappointing news when Van Es announced his departure from the group, but the band soldiered on, and within the next couple of years, the rest of the band members tried their luck at retaining the popularity without him in the fold.Van Es subsequently went on to some moderate success with his own formation, Teddy Lane.

Following a great deal of friction and internal disagreements within the Shoes, they finally split up some time in 1973.
by Adri Verhoef 
1. After All (Jan D. Versteegen, Jerry Voisin) - 3:13
2. I'm On My Way (Jan D. Versteegen, Jerry Voisin) - 3:08
3. That Tender Looking Angel (Jan D. Versteegen, Hendrikus Theo Van Es) - 2:54
4. Highways And Byways (Jan D. Versteegen, Jerry Voisin) - 3:26
5. Young Lovers (Jan D. Versteegen, Hendrikus Theo Van Es) - 4:20
6. Happiness Is In This Beat (Hendrikus Theo Van Es, Jan D. Versteegen) - 3:22
7. Osaka (Jan D. Versteegen, Jerry Voisin) - 3:51
8. Time Is What I Need (Jan D. Versteegen, Hendrikus Theo Van Es) - 3:51
9. Adios Corazon (Jan D. Versteegen, Jerry Voisin) - 3:47
10.Flutes, Horns, Strings And Drums (Jan D. Versteegen, Jerry Voisin) - 3:36
11.Trip Around The World (Jan D. Versteegen, Hendrikus Theo Van Es) - 3:42
12.Daylight (Hendrikus Theo Van Es, Jan D. Versteegen) -  3:32

The Shoes
*Hendrikus Theo Van Es - Vocals
*Wim Van Huis - Guitar
*Jan D. Versteegen - Bass
*Henk Versteegen - Drums

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Velvet Night - Velvet Night (1970 us, terrific misty shady psych rock, 2008 edition)

Don’t expect Velvet Night to comfort you to sleep.  This ain’t your father’s flower power.  This is deep, dark stuff, recorded at the very end of psychedelia, when things got serious, and yesterday’s flower children suddenly realized that the world wasn’t gonna change.  Velvet Night is dark.  Spooky even.  Eerie, doom-laden, brooding tracks that take their cue from the darker Steppenwolf stuff (Monster).

Recorded in 1969, these White Plains NY kids created a horror show of late psych, which they fully admitted to on “Freak Show,” a slow bluesy creeper with spirally spiderweb organ and the fantastic and sexy sorceress vocals of Lynn Boccumini.  The title track could be the theme to a biker gang horror film, like Werewolves on Wheels say, with an instantly catchy big guitar riff set to a spooky rhythm.

“Edge Of The Woods” is another creepy psych crawler, with frantic stutterstep fuzz riff, sweeping Hammond and wailing banshee backing vocals, like some dark Wagnerian opera on brown acid.  There’s also a ten-minute Cream medley, where they mash-up crude Vanilla Fudge-like versions of “I Feel Free,” “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “White Room” with one of the weirdest ambient tribal percussion takes on “I’m So Glad” I’ve ever heard.

If Ginger Baker were ever trying to raise ancient spirits from the dead, this is probably how he would’ve played it.  No doubt about it – the smoky purple reverse image cover tells you all you need to know.  This is music from the other side of the mirror.  Tales from the dark side.  This is one Wonderland Alice won’t be coming back from.
Unknown Soldier
1. Season Of The Witch (Donovan Leitch) - 7:02
2. Velvet Night (Jimmy Curtiss, Steve Kanyon) - 2:58
3. Freak Show (Jimmy Curtiss, Hillman, Phillips) - 3:45
4. Tribute - 9:16
.a.I Feel Free (Jack Bruce, Pete Brown)
.b.Sunshine Of Your Love (Jack Bruce, Pete Brown)
.c.White Room (Jack Bruce)
.d.I’m So Glad (Skip James)
5. The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 5:06
6. Edge Of The Woods (Jimmy Curtiss, Steve Kanyon) - 3:24
7. Don’t Let Them Stand In Your Way (Vinnie Nisi) - 2:57
8. If I Were A Carpenter (Tim Hardin) - 5:05
9. I'm Sure He'll Come Most Anytime (Jimmy Curtiss, B. Strickland) - 2:37

The Velvet Night
*Lynn Boccumini - Vocals
*Doug Catuogno - Percussion
*Frank Chiaro - Bass
*Tony Faranda - Guitar
*Peter Fuino - Sax,Flute,Vocals
*Vinnie Nisi - Keyboards,Vocals

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