Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bill Fay - Time Of The Last Persecution (1971 uk, remarkable prog folk rock, 2005 remaster)

"Enigmatic" was the tag oft-times tossed 'round Bill Fay, whose loyal cult following grew significantly over the years. Signed to Decca, the singer/songwriter and pianist released two albums in the late '60s and early '70s; their haunting, darkly shadowed songs were never meant to appeal to the masses, even at the height of the psychedelia-streaked introspection sparked by the soul-searching of the day. 

While the Beatles flew off to meet the Maharishi, Fay fell under the spell of a 19th century compendium of commentaries on the Biblical books of Daniel and Revelations, which would inspire his second album, Time of the Last Persecution. But before the born-agains jump on to the Fay bandwagon, they should be warned that the artist was equally influenced by the ravaging events of the day. The title track, "Time of the Last Persecution," was written in an immediate and visceral response to the killings of four students at Kent State.

Even in 1971, the intensity of Fay's lyrics -- reflecting his commentaries in their poetical language, their highly introspective nature, the brooding quality of the music, all exquisitely enhanced by Ray Russell's evocative blues guitar work -- left most reviewers cold and confused. In truth, the album would have slotted much more neatly into the coming firestorm that descended on Britain later in the decade, and would have provided a surprisingly supple bridge between the apocalyptic visions of roots reggae and the political polemics of punk. 

The set certainly contains all the fire and fury of the latter movement, as well as the deeply dread atmospheres of the former. By 2005, with the rise of evangelicalism and Christian rock, Persecution no longer sounds so obscure or out of place; it is, however, a personal journey of spirituality, not a platform from which to proselytize. For all its dark vision, it's the possibility of peace and hope that shines through the gloom, and as for all the seeming quietude of the music, it thunders, too, with a power and emotion that speak in volumes as loudly as Fay's striking lyrics. 
by Jo-Ann Greene
1. Omega Day - 3:14
2. Don't Let My Marigolds Die - 2:26
3. I Hear You Calling - 2:57
4. Dust Filled Room - 2:03
5. 'Til The Christ Come Back - 3:08
6. Release Is In The Eye - 2:41
7. Laughing Man - 3:15
8. Inside The Keepers Pantry - 2:29
9. Tell It Like It Is - 2:32
10.Plan D - 3:12
11.Pictures Of Adolf Again - 2:27
12.Time Of The Last Persecution - 3:54
13.Come A Day - 2:27
14.Let All The Other Teddies Know - 2:31
Lyrics and Music by Bill Fay

*Bill Fay - Vocals, Piano
*Ray Russell - Guitar
*Alan Rushton - Drums
*Darryl Runswick - Bass
*Nick Evans - Trombone

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Matthews Southern Comfort - Later That Same Year (1970 uk, marvelous folk country rock, 2008 remaster)

Ian Matthews left Fairport Convention in 1969, and while the U.K.'s greatest folk-rock band was beginning to reinvent itself in a more traditional and very British direction, Matthews began digging deeper into the American influences that had marked his old band's first era. Later That Same Year, the second album from Ian's new group Matthews Southern Comfort (it was released in late 1970, a mere six months after their debut, hence the title), is a beautiful set of songs that splits the difference between West Coast folk-rock and early country-rock, with Gordon Huntley's pedal steel and Roger Coulam's lending an air of sunny sadness that dovetails beautifully with Matthews' silky tenor. 

Matthews wrote three of the songs on Later That Same Year, and they rank with the album's finest moments, especially the ethereal harmonies of "And Me" and the graceful simplicity of "My Lady," but Matthews also borrows some excellent material from American writers, including a cover of Neil Young's "Tell Me Why" that remains faithful while creating a languid mood of its own, a fine, poignant take on Jesse Winchester's "Brand New Tennessee Waltz," and two by Al Anderson, which date from the latter days of the Wildweeds before he joined up with NRBQ (and "Mare Take Me Home" and "And When She Smiles" show Big Al was already a songwriter of no small talent and Matthews handles both tunes beautifully). 

While country influences run all through the album, Matthews had the smarts not to try to emulate a Nashville production or arrangement style, and instead the album suggests the shadows of Tim Buckley or early Crosby, Stills & Nash while adding an English pastoral subtext all their own. After Later That Same Year, Matthews parted ways with Southern Comfort to record solo and later form Plainsong, but you'd never guess that this album was recorded by a band on its last legs -- this is subtle but confident music that comes from a handful of artists working at the height of their skills. [Before the release of Later That Same Year, Matthews Southern Comfort released a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" as a single, and it became a sizable hit in both America and Europe; it was added to the American edition of the album when it was released in the States in 1971.
by Mark Deming
1. To Love (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) - 4:42
2. And Me (Ian Matthews) - 4:37
3. Tell Me Why (Neil Young) - 2:03
4. Jonah (Carl Barnwell) - 4:13
5. My Lady (Ian Matthews) - 1:37
6. And When She Smiles (She Makes The Sun Shine) (Alan Anderson) - 2:16
7. Mare, Take Me Home (Alan Anderson) - 3:44
8. Sylvie (Carl Barnwell) - 5:40
9. The Brand New Tennessee Waltz (Jesse Winchester) - 2:59
10.For Melanie (Carl Barnwell) - 6:45
11.Road To Ronderlin (Ian Matthews) - 2:21
12.Woodstock (Joni Mitchell) - 4:30
13.The Struggle (Ian Matthews) - 3:50
14.Parting (Ian Matthews) - 2:54
15.Scion (Howard Blaikley, Ian Matthews) - 3:28
Bonus Tracks 12-15

The Matthews Southern Comfort
*Ian Matthews - Guitar, Vocals
*Carl Barnwell - Guitar
*Gordon Huntley - Steel Guitar
*Keith Nelson - Banjo
*Mark Griffiths - Bass
*Andy Leigh - Bass
*Roger Coulam - Piano
*Ray Duffy - Drums
*Tristan Fry - Vibraphone

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

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nick Drake - Tuck Box (1968-74 uk, brilliant jazzy folk rock, 2013 five discs box set remaster)

A singular talent who passed almost unnoticed during his brief lifetime, Nick Drake produced several albums of chilling, somber beauty. With hindsight, these have come to be recognized as peak achievements of both the British folk-rock scene and the entire rock singer/songwriter genre. Sometimes compared to Van Morrison, Drake in fact resembled Donovan much more in his breathy vocals, strong melodies, and the acoustic-based orchestral sweep of his arrangements. His was a much darker vision than Donovan's, however, with disturbing themes of melancholy, failed romance, mortality, and depression lurking just beneath, or even well above, the surface. Ironically, Drake has achieved a far greater stature in the decades following his death, with an avid cult following that grows by the year.

Part of Drake's failure to attract a mass audience was attributable to his almost pathological reluctance to perform live. It was at a live show in Cambridge, however, that a member of Fairport Convention saw Drake perform, and recommended the singer to producer Joe Boyd. Boyd, already a linchpin of the British folk-rock scene as the producer for Fairport and the Incredible String Band, asked Drake for a tape, and was impressed enough to give the 20-year-old a contract in 1968. 

Drake's debut, Five Leaves Left (1969), was the first in a series of three equally impressive, and quite disparate, albums. With understated folk-rock backing (Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson plays bass on most of the cuts), Drake created a vaguely mysterious, haunting atmosphere, occasionally embellished by tasteful Baroque strings. His economic, even pithy, lyrics hinted at melancholy, yet any thoughts of despair were alleviated by the gorgeous, uplifting melodies and Drake's calm, measured vocals. Bryter Later (1970) was perhaps his most upbeat effort, featuring support from members of Fairport Convention, and traces of jazz in the arrangements. On some cuts, the singer/songwriter, remarkably, dispensed with lyrics altogether, offering only gorgeous, orchestrated instrumental miniatures that stood well on their own. 

Neither album sold well, and Drake, already a brooding loner, plunged into serious depression that often found him unable to make music, work, or even walk and talk. He managed to produce one final full-length work, Pink Moon (1972), a desolate solo acoustic album that ranks as one of the most naked and bleak statements in all of rock. He did record a few more songs before his death, but no more albums were completed, although the final sessions (along with some other fine unreleased material) surfaced on the posthumous compilation Time of No Reply. 

Drake's final couple of years were marked by increasing psychiatric difficulties, which found him hospitalized at one point for several weeks. He had rarely played live during his days as a recording artist, and at one point declared his intention never to record again, although he wished to continue to write songs for others. (It's been reported that French chanteuse Françoise Hardy recorded some of Drake's songs, but she hasn't released any.) On November 25, 1974, he died in his parents' home from an overdose of antidepressant medication; suicide has been speculated, although some of his family and friends dispute this.

In the manner of the young Romantic poets of the 19th century who died before their time, Drake is revered by many listeners today, with a following that spans generations. Baby boomers who missed him the first time around found much to revisit once they discovered him, and his pensive loneliness speaks directly to contemporary alternative rockers who share his sense of morose alienation. 

Hunger for "new" Nick Drake material had reached enough of a fever pitch by the 21st century for Island to try digging up enough for this odd patchwork collection, combining outtakes with remixes of tracks that had been previously issued on the Time of No Reply album. The result is a curious disc that's not quite an anthology of wholly previously unreleased material, and thus of somewhat limited value to Drake collectors, though it contains much good music. The only song here previously unavailable in any form is the 1974 outtake "Tow the Line," a melancholic solo acoustic performance (as are most of the tracks on the CD) that's well up to the standards of Pink Moon and the 1974 tracks that previously surfaced on Time of No Reply. 

Also new to official release are spring 1968 solo acoustic versions of "River Man" (later to appear on Five Leaves Left with orchestration) and "Mayfair" (a later recording of which was used on Time of No Reply), as well as a March 1969 version of "Three Hours" that's longer than the one later cut for Five Leaves Left. There's also a newly discovered take of "Hanging on a Star" (one of the 1974 outtakes used on Time of No Reply) with a different vocal. The differences between these and the familiar studio renditions aren't knock-your-socks-off different, but certainly good and well worth hearing by Drake cultists.

It's the rest of the material that might be the target of criticism from concerned consumers, whether for posthumous tampering or redundancy with previously available albums. Most controversially, two tracks from Time of No Reply -- "Time of No Reply" itself and "I Was Made to Love Magic" (the latter here, for some reason, retitled simply "Magic") -- have been altered to include Robert Kirby's original orchestral arrangements, recorded in 2003. Actually in both instances, the substituted orchestration is integrated very tastefully, but it can never be answered whether Drake himself would have approved or had it done the exact same way. 

The remaining cuts are simply remixes or remasterings of six songs that appeared on Time of No Reply, the remixes of the 1974 songs "Black Eyed Dog," "Rider on the Wheel," and "Voices" (originally titled "Voice from the Mountain" when it first appeared on Time of No Reply) being done by the original recording engineer, John Wood. Though those remixes of the 1974 tracks in particular are an improvement (the songs on the original release had been mixed onto a mono listening tape), again it's not the sort of thing that will generate revelations unless you're an audiophile. As everything Drake recorded was worth hearing, this CD too is quite worthy judged in isolation, and certainly full of the subdued mystery the singer/songwriter brought to his music. It's just not the gold mine of discoveries for which some might have hoped.

For many years after his death, unreleased home tapes that Nick Drake made shortly before beginning his official recording career have been bootlegged among collectors. The 28 songs on Family Tree add up to an extensive (though not quite complete, missing some minor covers like "Get Together," "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," and "Summertime") compilation of the performances he recorded on such equipment before he cut his debut album, 1969's Five Leaves Left. The bulk of it, and the part that's been oft-bootlegged, was recorded on a reel-reel at his family home (and include a vocal duet between him and sister Gabrielle Drake on "All My Trials," though otherwise they're all solo performances).

Less familiar, and hence probably new even to many hardcore Drake collectors, are eight songs taped on cassette somewhat earlier during his spring 1967 stay in Aix-En-Provence in France, as well as a couple of earlier versions of songs that later appeared on Five Leaves Left that were taped by Robert Kirby in 1968, and a couple recordings of songs sung and played (on piano) by Nick's mother, Molly Drake. Many Drake fans will already be familiar with the performances he taped at his family home, but the cleaned-up sound here makes this disc much easier to listen to than those earlier unauthorized releases, though everything's still (inevitably given the sources) a little lo-fi. 

As for the music, it's a very pleasant and listenable portrait of Drake's folk roots, though not on par (and not meant to be) with his studio releases. For one thing, at this point, he wasn't playing much of his own material; most of the songs are traditional folk tunes, or covers of compositions by '60s folk songwriters that were obviously big influences on Drake, such as Bert Jansch, Jackson C. Frank, and Dylan (and, on "Been Smokin' Too Long," a friend he met in France, Robin Frederick). Also, both his guitar work and singing are more derivative of the likes of Jansch, Donovan, and country bluesmen such as Blind Boy Fuller (whose "My Baby's So Sweet" he covers here) than they would be by the time he settled into his own style on Five Leaves Left. Still, much of what makes Drake special does come through, even with the relatively low percentage of original material and primitive recording conditions. 

His folk guitar work is already nimble, but more striking are his vocals, which already boast his characteristic mixture of assured slight smokiness and English reserve. And the few Drake compositions put his reclusive yet poetic world view in greater, more original focus, though it's really only on the songs later used on Five Leaves Left (and, perhaps, the haunting if Donovan-esque "Strange Meeting, Pt. 2") that it becomes fully mature. The two Molly Drake songs, incidentally, aren't mere completist add-ons; they make it clear that she was likely a substantial influence upon her son's melancholy melodies and songwriting, if perhaps a subliminal one. Less essential, though still illuminating for the dedicated Drake fan is a classical instrumental (by "the Family Trio") with Nick on clarinet. 
by Richie Unterberger
Disc 1 - Five Leaves Left 1969
1. Time Has Told Me - 4:27
2. River Man - 4:22
3. Three Hours - 6:15
4. Way To Blue - 3:11
5. Day Is Done - 2:28
6. Cello Song - 4:48
7. The Thoughts Of Mary Jane - 3:22
8. Man In A Shed - 3:55
9. Fruit Tree - 4:49
10.Saturday Sun - 4:05
All Songs by Nick Drake
Disc 2 - Bryter Layter 1970
1. Introduction - 1:32
2. Hazey Jane Ii - 3:46
3. At The Chime Of A City Clock - 4:45
4. One Of These Things First - 4:51
5. Hazey Jane I - 4:29
6. Bryter Layter - 3:22
7. Fly - 3:00
8. Poor Boy - 6:09
9. Northern Sky - 3:45
10.Sunday - 3:43
All Compositions by Nick Drake
Disc 3 - Pink Moon 1972
1. Pink Moon - 2:06
2. Place To Be - 2:43
3. Road - 2:02
4. Which Will - 2:58
5. Horn - 1:23
6. Things Behind The Sun - 3:57
7. Know - 2:25
8. Parasite - 3:36
9. Free Ride - 3:06
10.Harvest Breed - 1:37
11.From The Morning - 2:32
Words and Music by Nick Drake
Disc 4 - Made To Love Magic 1968-74
1. Rider On The Wheel - 2:37
2. Magic - 2:45
3. River Man - 4:01
4. Joey - 3:03
5. Thoughts Of Mary Jane - 3:38
6. Mayfair - 2:11
7. Hanging On A Star - 3:23
8. Three Hours - 5:11
9. Clothes Of Sand - 2:31
10.Voices - 3:46
11.Time Of No Reply - 2:48
12.Black Eyed Dog - 3:34
13.Tow The Line - 2:16
Lyrics and Music by Nick Drake
Disc 5 - Family Tree 1968
1. Come In To The Garden (Introduction) - 0:32
2. They're Leaving Me Behind - 3:17
3. Time Piece - 0:43
4. Poor Mum - 1:38
5. Winter Is Gone - 2:43
6. All My Trials - 1:55
7. Kegelstatt Trio - 1:13
8. Strolling Down The Highway (Bert Jansch) - 2:50
9. Paddling In Rushmere - 0:24
10.Cocaine Blues - 2:59
11.Blossom - 2:41
12.Been Smokin' Too Long (Robin Frederick) - 2:13
13.Black Mountain Blues - 2:36
14.Tomorrow Is A Long Time (Bob Dylan) - 3:42
15.If You Leave Me - 2:02
16.Here Come The Blues - 3:53
17.Sketch 1 - 1:00
18.Blues Run The Game - 2:24
19.Milk And Honey - 2:59
20.Kimbie - 3:26
21.Bird Flew By - 2:54
22.Rain - 3:07
23.Strange Meeting Ii - 4:27
24.Day Is Done - 2:20
25.Come Into The Garden - 2:00
26.Way To Blue - 2:52
27.Do You Ever Remember? (Molly Drake) - 1:34
All Songs by Nick Drake except where Stated

Disc 1 - Five Leaves Left 1969
*Nick Drake - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Piano
*Danny Thompson - Bass
*Richard Thompson - Electric Guitar
*Paul Harris - Piano
*Rocki Dzidzornu - Congas
*Clare Lowther - Cello
*Tristam Fry - Drums, Vibraphone
*Robert Kirby - Arrangements

Disc 2 - Bryter Layter 1970
*Nick Drake - Vocals, Guitar
*Dave Mattacks - Drums
*Dave Pegg - Bass
*Richard Thompson - Lead Guitar
*Mike Kowalski - Drums
*Ray Warleigh - Alto Saxophone
*Ed Carter - Bass
*Lyn Dobson - Flute
*John Cale - Harpsichord, Viola, Organ, Piano, Celesta
*Paul Harris - Piano
*Doris Troy - Vocals
*P.P. Arnold - Vocals

Disc 3 - Pink Moon 1972
*Nick Drake - Vocals, Piano, Acoustic Guitar

Disc 4 - Made To Love Magic 1968-74
*Nick Drake - Guitar, Vocals
*Rebop Kwaku Baah - Congas
*Gina Ball - Violin
*Dinah Beamish - Cello
*Ian Burdge - Cello
*Amanda Chancellor - Viola
*Sally Herbert - Violin
*Karen Jones - Flute
*Rory McFarlane - Double Bass
*Anna Morris - Violin
*Claire Orsler - Viola
*Julia Singleton - Violin
*Jane Spiers - Flute
*Richard Thompson - Electric  Guitar

Disc 5 - Family Tree 1968
*Nick Drake - Vocals, Guitar, Clarinet
*Chris McDowall - Piano
*Nancy McDowall - Viola
*Molly Drake - Vocals

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Flaming Youth - Ark 2 (1969 uk, wonderful pleasant concept baroque psych early prog, with young Phil Collins, 2004 edition)

This was one of the great albums of the sixties - brilliantly melodic, original and intelligent - but known till now only to a small band of passionate cognoscenti.

ARK 2 was the first 'concept album' - a 'space cantata' (though that makes it sound inaccessible and pretentious, which it is far from being). Written by the UK songwriting team whose success, according to The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, was 'rivalled only by Lennon & McCartney': Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, both from Hampstead, London.

Though brilliantly reviewed in the music and rock press of the time (it was Sunday Times Rock Album of the Year in 1969), the BBC did not know what to make of it: there were no radio or TV slots for an extended rock work at the time. So it remained largely unheard except by those who sought it out.

It is noteworthy for the first appearance on disc of Phil Collins, but (Flash) Gordon Smith, Brian Chatton and Ronnie Caryl each contributed their own fantastic musicianship and vocal power.

As can be seen from the original 'sleeve notes', ARK 2, nearly forty years ago, was extraordinarily prescient, anticipating many of today's private and global dilemmas and anxieties.

"After a while, supporting John Walker of The Walker Brothers, Collins and his guitarist friend Ronnie Caryl formed Hickory who soon found themselves with a concept album, the backing of Phonogram, and a new name, Flaming Youth.

Their album Ark II, was premiered at the London Planetarium and received lots of favourable press, but musical differences and a lack of commercial success soon meant it was time to answer another Melody Maker ad, this time from a struggling young band from Surrey, called Genesis."
1. Guide Me, Orion - 3:16
2. Earthglow - 2:52
3. Weightless - 2:37
4. The Planets - 12:47
.a. Mars - Bringer Of War
.b. Venus - Bringer Of Peace
.c. Mercury - The Winged Messenger
.d. Jupiter - Bringer Of Jollity
.e. Saturn - Bringer Of Old Age
.f. Uranus - The Magician
.g. Neptune - The Mystic
5. Changes - 5:48
6. Pulsar - 3:05
7. Space Child - 5:10
8. In The Light Of Love - 3:26
9. From Now On (Immortal Invisible) - 4:19
10.Man, Woman And Child - 3:14
11.Drifting - 3:52
All songs written by Ken Howard, Alan Blaikley
Bonus Tracks 10-11

The Flaming Youth
*Phil Collins - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Ronnie Caryl - Bass, 12-string Guitar, Vocals
*(Flash) Gordon Smith -  Bass, Vocals, Guitars
*Brian Chatton - Organ, Piano, Vocals

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Sonics - The Jerden Years (1966-69 us, impressive garage punk, 2001 digi pak remaster)

The original (and best known) Sonics lineup lasted for a total of three albums -- 1965's Here Are the Sonics, plus 1966's Boom and Introducing the Sonics. With the first two releases having been reissued on CD by the Norton label, the third release has become increasingly hard to come by over the years -- until it was issued in 2001 as part of the import release The Jerden Years 1966-69. 

The 30-track set is padded with post-Introducing the Sonics filler, but the Sonics were still firing on all cylinders by the time of their third album -- as such classic originals as "The Witch" are combined with a smattering of covers (Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man," etc.). While the extra tracks don't exactly measure up to the Sonics' classic tunes, Introducing the Sonics was one heck of a record, and hunting down a copy of The Jerden Years 1966-69 will allow you to complete your Sonics CD collection. 
by Greg Prato
1. The Witch (Gerald Roslie) - 2:42
2. You've Got Your Head On Backwards (Gerald Roslie) - 2:21
3. I'm A Man (Ellas McDaniel) - 2:59
4. On The Road Again (John Sebastian) - 1:45
5. Psycho (Gerald Roslie) - 2:11
6. Dirty Old Man (Gerry Roslie) - 2:16
7. I'm Going Home (Larry Parypa) - 2:24
8. High Time (Andy Parypa) - 1:45
9. I'm A Rolling Stone (Andy Parypa, Larry Parypa) - 2:22
10.Like No Other Man (Gerald Roslie) - 2:00
11.Maintaining My Cool (Gerald Roslie) - 1:51
12.Bama Lama Lu (Richard Penniman) - 2:38
13.Leave My Kitten Alone (James McDougal, Little Willie John, Titus Turner) - 2:41
14.Hanky Panky (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich) - 2:21
15.Diddy Wah Diddy (Willie Dixon, Ellas McDaniel) - 2:25
16.Anyway The Wind Blows (Pt. 1) (Frank Zappa) - 2:52
17.Anyway The Wind Blows (Pt. 2) (Frank Zappa) - 3:25
18.Loveitis (Albert James Vance, Harvey Scales) - 2:31
19.Always Love Her (Gerald Roslie) - 2:42
20.Lost Love (Gerald Roslie) - 2:16
21.Good Hard Rock - 2:17
22.Once Again (Gerald Roslie, Larry Parypa) - 2:33
23.I'll Stay With You (Bob Demmon, Dennis Lindsey, Jim Gallagher, Rich Fifield, Stormy Patterson) - 2:51
24.I'm Right (Gerald Roslie) - 2:19
25.Only She Would Do (Gerald Roslie) - 2:20
26.Love Lights (Gerald Roslie) - 2:44
27.Goodbye (Randy Hiatt) - 2:20
28.Near My Soul (Randy Hiatt) - 2:38
29.Wake Me, Shake Me (Al Kooper) - 2:18
30.You're In Love - 3:24

The Sonics
*Andy Parypa - Bass
*Bob Bennett - Drums
*Larry Parypa - Lead Guitar
*Gerry Roslie - Lead Vocals
*Rob Lind - Saxophone, Vocals
*Jim Brady - Vocals

1964-66  The Sonics - Psycho Sonic (2003 remaster edition) 
1965  Here Are The Sonics (New Rose rare Vinyl issue)
1966  The Sonics - Introducing

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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Litter - Emerge (1969 us, superb garage psych rock, 2009 edition)

In 1968 Electra Records made an offer to sign the group after their performance at the famed Cheetah Club in LA. with "Genesis" and "The Iron Butterfly".

In August 1968 "The Litter" recorded 7 songs live at The Electric Theatre for the movie "Medium Cool".  The band was paid $500 for the days shooting, but when the movie was released to theatres the scenes of "The Litter" on stage were intact but the soundtrack was Frank Zappa.

In 1969 The Electric Theatre in Chicago held a contest to see which band was louder, "The Litter", or "Blue Cheer".  "The Litter" won hands down.

ABC Probe Records signed "The Litter" sight unseen to a recording contract and the album Emerge - The Litter was recorded in Michigan.  Although the record was charting in Billboard and the group was touring the U.S. with acts like "The Who", unavailability of their albums due to distribution problems, plagued the group everywhere they appeared.

The album Emerge - The Litter is the only album by the group to chart in Billboard magazine, also was #1 in Puerto Rico and successful as well in the European market.

The single Silly People (flip side Feeling) from the album Emerge - The Litter was picked as a Special Merit Spotlight in Billboard magazine, but was banned from airplay by some radio stations because of the lyrics.

Dan Rinaldi is the only member of "The Litter" to have played in and recorded with all 12 versions of the band.
1. Journeys (Mark Gallagher, Ray Melina) - 2:14
2. Feeling (Jim Kane, Mark Gallagher, Tom Murray) - 2:50
3. Silly People (Jim Kane, Mark Gallagher, Ray Melina, Tom Murray) - 3:31
4. Blue Ice (Jim Kane, Tom Murray) - 3:10
5. For What It's Worth (Stephen Stills) - 5:21
6. Little Red Book (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) - 3:30
7. Breakfast At Gardenson's (Ray Melina) - 3:02
8. Future Of The Past (Jim Kane) - 12:37
9. On Our Minds (Mark Gallagher, Sean Jones) - 2:15

The Litter
*Jim Kane - Bass, Fuzz Bass, Special Effects
*Tom Murray - Drums, Percussion
*Dan Rinaldi - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Ray Melina - Lead Electric, Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
*Mark Gallagher - Lead Vocals

1966-68  The Litter - Distortions / Live At The Electric Theatre 
1968  The Litter - One Hundred Dollar Fine
Related Act
1968-71  Lightning - Lightning

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Litter - Distortions / Live At The Electric Theatre (1966-68 us, stunning garage beat)

The Litter were one of the few garage bands to invest enough energy and imagination into their interpretations to make a cover-heavy LP worth hearing. "Action Woman" is here, and they go about tackling, and sometimes dismantling, numbers like the Small Faces' "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" and the Who's "A Legal Matter" (both of which were barely known in the U.S. at this point, incidentally). 

"I'm a Man," though based on the Yardbirds' version, gets into some pretty incredible feedback/distortion swirls in the closing rave-up section. Distortions has been reissued a few times, but the 1999 CD on Arf! Arf! is the one to get, as it includes two outtakes ("Hey Joe" and the 25-second, hardly worth noting "Harpsichord Sonata #1") and seven songs, mostly previously unreleased, recorded live at Chicago's Electric Theatre in August 1968. This was the music that the band played while filming a scene in Haskell Wexler's film Medium Cool (although none of the music was used in the movie), and it's in a heavier, bluesier hard rock direction than their 1967 recordings, but still retains some of the punky spirit of the Distortions era. 
by Richie Unterberger
1. Action Woman (Warren Kendrick) - 2:32
2. What'cha Gonna Do About It? (Brian Potter, Ian Samwell) - 2:27
3. Codine (Buffy Sainte-Marie) - 4:30
4. Somebody Help Me (Jackie Edwards) - 1:55
5. Substitute (Pete Townshend) - 2:36
6. The Mummy (Tom "Zippy" Caplan, B. Bomberg) - 1:25
7. I'm So Glad (Skip James) - 3:47
8. A Legal Matter (Pete Townshend) - 2:47
9. Rack My Mind (Jeff Beck, Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith) - 3:41
10.Soul Searchin' (Warren Kendrick) - 2:47
11.I'm a Man (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) - 4:00
12.Hey Joe  (Billy Roberts) - 4:08
13.Harpsichord Sonata #1 - 0:25
14.Here I Go Again - 2:37
15.The Egyptian - 2:52
16.(Under the Screaming Double) Eagle (Tom "Zippy" Caplan, Denny Waite, Woody Woodrich) - 3:01
17.Confessions (Of a Traveler Through Time) (Larry Loofbourrow) - 2:23
18.Blues One (Tom "Zippy" Caplan, Denny Waite) - 4:03
19.She's Not There (Rod Argent) - 7:53
20.Pegasus - 3:19
Tracks 14-20 Live At The Electric Theatre, 18th August 1968

The Litter
*Denny Waite - Vocal, Keyboard
*Tom "Zippy" Caplan - Lead Guitar
*Dan Rinaldi - Rhythm Guitar
*James Worthington Kane - Bass
*Tom Murray - Drums
*Bill Strandlof - Lead Guitar
*James Worthington Kane - Organ, Vocals

1968  The Litter - One Hundred Dollar Fine
Related Act
1968-71  Lightning - Lightning

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Maria Muldaur - Maria Muldaur (1973 us, charming mixture of folk country jazz and blues)

From the sweet to the salacious to the poignant, Maria Muldaur's eponymous, strong debut features savvy studio vets, talented guests, strong tunes, and Muldaur's lissome pipes. The outstanding players include Ry Cooder, David Grisman, Clarence White, and Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John. A tasteful guitar solo by the underrated Amos Garrett elevates the charming surprise hit single "Midnight at the Oasis." Although she later gravitated to jazz and gospel, Muldaur's first outing is heavy on songs derived from country and blues. A rousing "Work Song," borrowed from Kate & Anna McGarrigle, is only one of several highlights. 
by Mark Allan
1. Any Old Time (Jimmie Rodgers) - 03:45
2. Midnight At The Oasis (David Nichtern) - 03:49
3. My Tennesse Mountain Home (Dolly Parton) - 03:32
4. I Never Did Sing You A Love Song (David Nichtern) - 02:49
5. The Work Song (Kate McGarrigle) - 04:04
6. Don't You Make Me High (Don't You Feel My Leg) (Blue Lu Barker, Danny Barker, J. Mayo Williams) - 02:48
7. Walkin' One And Only (Dan Hicks) - 02:47
8. Long Hard Climb (Ron Davies) - 03:03
9. Three Dollar Bill (Mac Rebennack) - 03:58
10.Vaudeville Man (Wendy Waldman) - 02:41
11.Mad Mad Me (Wendy Waldman) - 03:13

*Maria Muldaur - Vocals
*Clarence White - Acoustic Guitar
*Bill Keith - Banjo
*Ry Cooder - Acoustic Guitar
*David Lindley - Hawaiian Guitar
*Andrew Gold - Acoustic Guitar
*David Nichtern – Acoustic, Electric Guitar
*David Grisman - Mandolin
*Dr. John – Keyboards, Horn Arrangements
*Jim Dickinson - Piano
*Mark T. Jordan - Piano
*Spooner Oldham - Piano
*Greg Prestopino - Piano
*James Gordon - Organ
*Chris Ethridge - Bass
*Klaus Voormann - Bass
*Ray Brown - Bass
*Dave Holland - Bowed Bass
*Jimmy Calhoun - Bass
*Tommy Mcclure - Bass
*Freebo - Bass
*Amos Garrett - Bass, Guitar, Vocals, Guitar Solo
*Jim Keltner - Drums
*Ed Shaughnessy - Drums
*John Boudreaux - Drums
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Chris Parker - Drums
*Jerry Jumonville - Alto Horn, Horn Arrangements
*Artie Butler - Alto Horn, Horn Arrangements
*Nick Decaro - Accordion, String Arrangements
*Richard Greene - Violin
*Larry Packer - Violin, Viola
*Karen Alexander -  Vocals
*Gloria Jones -  Vocals
*Ellen Kearney -  Vocals
*Bettye Lavette -  Vocals
*Jessica Smith -  Vocals
*Beryl Marriott - Violin

1967  Geoff And Maria Muldaur - Pottery Pie
Related Acts
1972  Nick Gravenites And Mike Bloomfield - Steel Yard Blues (2015 remaster)
1979  Geoff Muldaur And Amos Garrett - Live In Japan

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Geoff And Maria Muldaur - Pottery Pie (1967 us, remarkable blues folk rock)

One of just two albums to be released by the easier-going American equivalent of Richard & Linda Thompson (without the brooding gloom and biting irony), this set includes some virtuoso folk-blues performances, as well as the version of "Brazil" made famous in Terry Gilliam's movie of the same name. Though the ten tunes here are all covers, Geoff & Maria Muldaur treat each as if molded from clay of their own making, just as they had old traditional numbers as members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. 

It's probably no coincidence that this album would eventually find its way to Joe Boyd's Hannibal label. It's a collection that suggests the Richard & Linda Thompson albums he would release throughout the '70s. Although it's often difficult to find, many fans will find Pottery Pie more than worth the money and effort. 
by Brian Beatty
1. Catch It (Eric Von Schmidt) - 3:20
2. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (Bob Dylan) - 3:57
3. New Orleans Hopscop Blues (George Thomas) - 2:46
4. Trials, Troubles, Tribulations (Traditional) - 4:47
5. Prairie Lullaby (Billy Hill) - 4:51
6. Guide Me, O Great Jehovah (Traditional) - 1:39
7. Me and My Chauffeur Blues (Memphis Minnie) - 6:25
8. Brazil (Ary Barroso, Bob Russell) - 3:31
9. Georgia On My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael, Stuart Gorrell) - 3:44
10.Death Letter Blues (Son House) - 6:14

*Geoff Muldaur - Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Vocals
*Maria Muldaur - Vocals
*Peter Ecklund - Trumpet, Whistle
*Amos Garrett - Guitar
*Hal Grossman - Horn
*Bill Keith - Steel Guitar, Pedal Steel
*Rick Marcus - Drums
*Billy Mundi - Drums
*Betsy Siggins - Vocals
*Bill Wolf - Bass

Related Acts
1972  Nick Gravenites And Mike Bloomfield - Steel Yard Blues (2015 remaster) 
1979  Geoff Muldaur And Amos Garrett - Live In Japan 

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Paladin - Charge! (1972 uk, tremendous crossover prog rock, 2007 extra tracks remaster)

Having failed to ignite the populace with their eponymous debut, a set brimming with joie de vivre and creative crossovers, Paladin decided the only way to break into the mainstream was to assault it. And this they set about doing with their sophomore set, 1972's Charge. Far heavier than their previous set, the quintet seemed determined to beat listeners into submission. That's evident from the get go, as they bash their way through the opening track "Give Me Your Hand," a rhythm-heavy number fueled by fiery guitar solos, strident vocals, and a hard rocking sound. The only reminder of their previous musical predilections is the Latin percussion that bubbles up halfway through the piece. But then this is much more a hard rock album, with Derek Foley's guitar now given far more prominence while the vocals stray into Robert Plant territory, and the organ is invariably set towards psychedelia. 

This inevitably constricts their musical experimentations, yet the band still take some interesting excursions along the way. "Good Lord," for instance, encompasses Latin rhythms, a Southern rock segment, space rock passages, and even pop. "Watching the World Pass By" is even more diverse, kicking off in an easygoing fashion with a jaunty harmonica solo, then running into discordance, a majestic church organ, bouncy blues, a country hoedown, and a jig before a ferocious guitar solo takes the piece out in hard rock style. The Beatles get a nod on "Any Way," funk goes psychedelic on "Get One Together," and the roots of rock are explored on the barrelling "Well We Might," with the rest of the set dedicated to R&B laced rock. Yet somehow it all sounds a bit forced and heavy-handed. Still it's a hard rocking extravaganza. 

The Roger Dean cover art inevitably excited interest, the band's new hard rock approach garnered them more praise, but not enough to prevent them from calling it a day. In later years, Charge's reputation among prog rock fans soared, more so than their far superior self-titled set. [Esoteric wisely reissued both, with Charge buttressed further by five bonus tracks. Three are alternate takes of songs from the set, the other two instrumental versions of Paladin numbers.]
by Jo-Ann Greene
1. Give Me Your Hand - 6:50
2. Well We Might - 5:05
3. Get One Together (Keith Webb) - 2:38
4. Anyway - 4:20
5. Good Lord (Derek Foley, Lou Stonebridge, Peter Beckett) - 6:47
6. Mix Your Mind With The Moonbeams - 6:03
7. Watching The World Pass By (Lou Stonebridge) - 9:38
8. Give My Love To You (Derek Foley, Keith Webb) - 2:31
9. Sweet Sweet Music - 2:48
10.Anyway (Alternate Version) - 4:19
11.Sweet Sweet Music (Alternate Version) - 2:48
12.Well We Might (Alternate Version) - 6:10
13.Fill Up Your Heart (Instrumental) - 5:43
14.Bad Times (Instrumental) - 7:14
All songs by Peter Solley except where indicated
Bonus Tracks 8-14

The Paladin
*Lou Stonebridge - Vocals, Electric Piano, Harmonica
*Peter Solley - Organ, Violin, Grand Piano
*Keith Webb - Drums, Percussion
*Derek Foley - Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Vocals
*Pete Beckett - Bass, Vocals

1971  Paladin - Paladin (2007 remaster) 
Related Acts
1966-69  Terry Reid - Superlungs / The Complete Studio Recordings (two disc set)
1967  Donovan - A Gift From A Flower To A Garden (2008 remaster)
1967-69  Ruperts People - Magic World Of Rupert's People (2001 Circle limited edition)
1970  Philamore Lincoln - The North Wind Blew South (2010 remastered edition)
1972  Bond And Brown - Two Heads Are Better Than One (2009 remaster)

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Glencoe - Glencoe (1972 uk, magnificent prog rock, 2013 korean remaster)

Having recorded two albums under the Forever More nameplate, in 1971 the four principals (drummer Stuart Francis, bassist Alan Gorrie, and guitarists Onnie McIntyre and Mick Strode, decided to reinvent themselves as Glencoe.

Before the band could record anything Gorrie and McIntyre bailed, reappearing in The Average White Band.  Francis and Strode quickly recruited keyboard player Graham Maitland and bassist Norman Watt-Roy.  The quartet hit the road touring the English club and college circuit, but in early 1972 Strode quit.  He was replaced by guitarist John Turnbull, whose resume included time with The Chosen Few, ARC, and Skip Biffery.

The band were quickly signed by Epic, with Columbia signing them to it's newly establish Grand Western Gramaphone subsidiary.  In an unusual move, the band were allowed to produce their own debut.  Released in 1972, "Glencoe" stands as one of those albums that makes you wonder how these guys escaped wider attention.  With Maitland and Turnbull responsible for the majority of  material, the set featured a likeable mixture that crossed country-rock ('Lifeline'), pop, and progressive moves (frequently within the same song).  Tracks like 'Airport', 'Lifeline' and 'Look Me In the Eye' were smooth and highly melodic and that may have spelled their demise.   With so many talented early-'70s bands out there, these guys were too mainstream for hard rock fans.  They were also too rock oriented for country-rock fans, and too bright and commercial for progressive fans.  Maybe not the most album of 1972, but thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

In support of the album, Epic put them on the road opening for Deep Purple, but that did little for sales. 
1. Airport (Graham Maitland, Reed) - 5:04
2. Look Me In The Eye (Graham Maitland, Reed) - 4:15
3. Lifeline (Graham Maitland, Reed) - 5:45
4. Telephonia (John Turnbull) - 5:02
5. It's (John Turnbull) - 5:40
6. Book Me For The Flight (Graham Maitland) - 5:26
7. Hay Fever (John Turnbull) - 4:44
8. Questions (Graham Maitland) - 3:24
9. Sinking Down A Well (John Turnbull, Micky Gallagher) - 5:00

The Glencoe
*Stuart Francis - Drums, Vocals
*Graham Maitland - Keyboards, Vocals
*John Turnbull - Guitar, Vocals
*Norman Watt-Roy - Bass, Vocals

Related Acts
1965-69  Les Fleur De Lys - Reflections
1966-69  Skip Bifferty - The Story of Skip Bifferty (double disc edition) 
1970  Forever More ‎- Yours / Words On Black Plastic (2007 remaster)
1970  The Greatest Show On Earth - Horizons (2012 remaster) 
1970  The Greatest Show On Earth - The Going's Easy (2012 remaster)
1970  Five Day Rain - Five Day Rain (2006 remaster bonus track issue) 
1971  Bell And Arc - Bell + Arc 

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Genya Ravan - Genya Ravan (1971 us, great soulful funky blues rock)

Genya Ravan is an important rock & roll personality and influential vocalist and record producer, born Genya Zelkowitz on April 19, 1945, in Lodz, Poland. Her mom later changed her name to Goldie Zelkowitz, Ravan taking her birth name back when she formed the band Ten Wheel Drive. When her parents left Poland, they went into a Russian camp. The singer kindly gave personal details of her youth to AMG on April 4, 2002: "We lost everyone. I never had an aunt or an uncle, I had two brothers, they died. I never met my grandparents, it was me and my sister and my mom and dad. They came from big families and saw all of them die. We escaped to the U.S. via a ship. We were DPs and went straight to Ellis Island."

Young Goldie Zelkowitz never knew she could sing until in her late teens "then I picked up alto sax, drums, and harmonica." In the summer of 1962, she asked to sing with the Escorts (not Felix Cavaliere's band from Syracuse University nor the '50s group or U.K. band of the same name) who were performing at the Lollipop Lounge in Brooklyn, NY. She remembers it was the summer because: "I had pants that showed my belly button, they could not get their eyes off it." Soon, she was rehearsing with the band and became the first girlfriend of Richard Perry, bass vocalist in the group and the man who would go on to produce Ringo Starr, Carly Simon, Leo Sayer, the Pointer Sisters, and so many others. The band recorded and released a few singles on Coral Records in 1962 and 1963: "Somewhere" b/w "Submarine Race Watching," "I Can't Be Free" b/w "One Hand, One Heart," and "Something Has Changed Him" b/w "Back Home Again."

After she left the Escorts, Zelkowitz formed Goldie & the Gingerbreads, an original all-female band that was only the first of many firsts for Zelkowitz. All girls in a man's music world was as daunting a task as a woman trying to become president of the United States. Petula Clark, Lulu, Cilla Black, Skeeter Davis, and Kitty Wells simply did not have a crew of women backing them up. Where the Go-Go's became a bit of a novelty years later, the people who came before that hit '80s band, Goldie & the Gingerbreads, Fanny, and later, Isis, all had a harder edge and would have done more for the cause's credibility had they had the hit singles to go along with their critical acclaim. 

Genya Ravan released an album a year starting in 1969 with Ten Wheel Drive's Construction #1 on Polydor, up to the 1974 release of Goldie Zelkowitz on Janus, but created her most popular recordings on 20th Century Fox in 1978 and 1979 when she released the self-produced ...And I Mean It / Urban Desire one-two punch. Genya Ravan, her first solo disc which Columbia released after she left Ten Wheel Drive, was the catalyst for Ravan producing herself. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the record is that it is the only one she recorded for Columbia, a place that seemed like the perfect home for a woman with so many talents. Clive Davis originally wanted Richard Perry to produce, and it wasn't the fact that he was Ravan's first boyfriend that the idea was nixed, his pop work with Carly Simon was not what this artist is about. Larry Fallon former partner of producer Jimmy Miller and the guy behind "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)"for The Looking Glass (he had also put strings on an unreleased version of "Wild Horses" for Jimmy Miller and the Rolling Stones ) was brought in. But "Brandy" was more pop than "You're So Vain" if you think about it.

To feel comfortable, Ravan asked for, and got, her original partners in Ten Wheel Drive, Aram Schefrin, and Michael Zager, and with the band Baby behind her, Goldie Zelkowitz made the first album of her career beyond Goldie & the Gingerbreads and Ten Wheel Drive. It is a pure document of her transition. This is the shift between the sounds of Ten Wheel Drive and what would follow on 1973's They Love Me, They Love Me Not and 1974's Goldie Zelkowitz. She takes Rod Stewart and the Faces superb and little recognized "Flying" and makes it her own, a tune she would continue to perform live in concert. Stephen Stills' "Sit Yourself Down" gets a total reworking, just as Gabriel Mekler would revamp Whipping Post with her in 1974, when Ten Wheel Drive was re-forming with Annie Sutton. It is an amazing thread of events, with players from both the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin filtering through her recorded work, and where this album could have been Columbia Records replacing Janis Joplin with Genya Ravan, the singer opted to take her music into a realm where Diane Schuur would feel at home, rock influenced by jazz rather than high-powered blues rock. Indeed, the final track on side one, "Takuta Kalaba," is blended into "Turn on Your Love Lights," a song Janis Joplin did with the Grateful Dead if memory serves on one of the live tapes of theirs that has circulated over the years, so there was this thread, though the result is 180 degrees from where Joplin took it. Genya Ravan did not want to fill the Janis Joplin void for Mr. Davis -- she wanted to be herself. 

Clive told her, "You are either a rock singer or you're a jazz singer, but you cannot do both," and maybe for short-term marketing he had a point, but for longevity and vision, the Larry Fallon-produced "I'm in the Mood For Love" is exquisite. Fallon had come from a jazz band with Jimmy Miller, who coincidentally produced Genya Ravan's next album for his production company, released on ABC Dunhill. James Moody's saxophone solo is thrilling, and a real touch of class. The cabaret atmosphere seguing into the African drum sound of Michael Olatunji and his "Takuta Kalaba," which was released as a single in Europe. Brilliant material which would certainly stifle the Janis Joplin comparisons. The soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" was tracked long before Cohen was considered chic. Columbia released "What Kind of Man Are You" from this album on a 45 rpm with the non-LP A side of "Morning Glory," written by Michael Holmes, and produced by he and Dixon Van Winkle, making for five producers during these sessions! 

The single was the idea of Clive Davis, and it is beautiful, the style of music that Bette Midler was having success with at this point in time. Midler eventually covered Genya Ravan's "Stay With Me" for The Rose film and soundtrack, bringing things full circle. Genya Ravan is an album brimming with this creative woman's personality, talent, and amazing vocal prowess. "Morning Glory" should eventually find itself on a Sony/Legacy re-release of Genya Ravan, important music that is continuously contemporary because of the long-range vision of the artist. 
by Joe Viglione
1. What Kind Of Man Are You (Ray Charles) - 3:26
2. Sit Yourself Down (Stephen Stills) - 2:32
3. I Hate Myself (Doc Pomus, Ken Hirsch) - 4:59
4. I'm In The Mood For Love (Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields) - 3:50
5. Takuta Kalaba Turn On Your Love Lights (Babatunde Olatunji, Deadric Malone, Joseph Scott) - 6:25
6. Lonely, Lonely (Aram Schefrin, Michael Zager) - 3:45
7. Flying (Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane) - 6:00
8. Every Little Bit Hurts (Ed Cobb) - 3:37
9. Bird On The Wire (Leonard Cohen) - 4:49
10.I Can't Stand It (Smokey McAllister) - 3:18

*Genya Ravan - Harmonica, Percussion, Vocals
*Peter Hodgson - Bass
*Bian Keenan - Drums
*Mitch Styles - Guitar
*John Platania - Guitar
*Nick Oliva - Keyboards
*Bernard Williams - Percussion
*Arnie Lawrence - Saxophone
*James Moody - Saxophone
*Michael Olatunji - African Drums

1969-71  Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan - The Best Of

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Sweet Salvation - Sweet Salvation (1972 us, solid funk blues rock, 2009 edition)

Led by long-established New Orleans musicians drummer "Big John" John Thomassie, keyboard player Wayne DeVillier and guitarist Don Normand, Sweet Salvation could have been one of the all-time great r&b/funk/rock/gospel bands. Unfortunately due to business mis-steps and bad timing it was not meant to be. Also featuring 2 great women singers, DeEtta Little and Fritz Basket, and Alex Smith on bass, Sweet Salvation covered ground that includes New Orleans second line, blues, r&b, rock and 70's funk. They were very much connected to Allen Toussaint and the Meters, but maybe heavier in sound and style, closer to rock.

"Sweet Salvation" features 2 great cover tracks, very elaborate and creative arrangements of Randy Newman's "Sail Away" and Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady". "Sweet Salvation" also delivers some first-rate original tunes in what could have led to a powerful and unique style. It's great to hear rock-solid r & b and second line grooves combined with Devillier's brilliant and virtuosic piano playing, which is beautifully recorded (loud and thick sounding, not too bright) and is the backbone of the band's sound. 
by Adam Holzman
1. Do A Number (Fritz Basket) - 3:35
2. Ain't Nobody's Fault But Your Own (Wayne DeVillier) - 4:18
3. I Just Find Myself Falling (John Vinidigni, Wayne DeVillier) - 3:28
4. Who's A Blue (Fritz Basket, Wayne DeVillier) - 3:52
5. Sail Away (Randy Newman) - 5:31
6. Carry Me Home (Wayne DeVillier) - 1:58
7. Have You Ever Had The Blues (Bill Jennings, Harold Logan, Lloyd Price) - 2:22
8. Stick With Me (John Vinidigni, Wayne DeVillier) - 2:49
9. Keep On Pushin' (Wayne DeVillier) - 2:50
10.Rock Steady (Aretha Franklin) - 8:21

The Sweet Salvation
*Wayne DeVillier - Keyboards, Vocals 
*John Evans Thomassie - Drums, Vocals
*Don Normand - Guitar
*Alexander Smith jr - Bass 
*Deetta Little - Vocals
*Fritz Basket - Vocals

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan - The Best Of (1969-71 us, impressive jazz blues brass rock)

Ten Wheel Drive was a highly influential rock/jazz group not afraid to push the envelope while exploring various musical styles. Though musicians came and went, including the original lead vocalist, by the time the fourth album was released, the records have stood the test of time, influencing the successful Bette Midler breakthrough film The Rose, inspiring women with the drive and ambition to front their own group in a once male-dominated industry, getting sold on online auction sites to be discovered by new generations of music lovers. 

When Bette Midler put the Jerry Ragovoy/Larry Weiss song "Stay With Me" in her film The Rose, it was a sly tribute to the genius of Genya Ravan and her innovative ensemble Ten Wheel Drive. The former Goldie Zelkowitz hit big in Europe with "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat," which Peter Noone has said Zelkowitz/Ravan's manager nicked off producer Mickey Most's desk. Most and Noone, of course, hit in America with "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" on a Herman's Hermits release. Zelkowitz emerged from her pioneering girl group (later producing Ronnie Spector's first solo disc) to front an adventurous and highly experimental unit known as Ten Wheel Drive.

With elements of Blood, Sweat and Tears meeting Big Brother and the Holding Company somewhere in the middle, Ten Wheel Drive covered the gamut of pop styles. The band's three albums with Ravan, and a fourth without her on Capitol, only hinted at Ten Wheel Drive's potential. Polygram's Bill Levenson has done another commendable job putting together a solid collection featuring six tracks each from the first two discs and four from the third. A track from the Capitol disc co-written by Schefrin/Zager/Ravan and entitled "Why Am I So Easy to Leave" would have made this perfect but, clocking in at 79:05, this disc is generous indeed.

"Come Live With Me" has Ravan's exotic vocals slinking up and down the scale alongside bass and guitar, and "Brief Replies" is reminiscent of Mae West singing in the film Myra Breckinridge, but it is Ravan's screaming-from-the-cosmos wail in her astonishing performance of "Stay With Me" that is the album's zenith. Pearl producer Paul A. Rothschild was enlisted to recreate Ravan's performance somehow and Bette Midler did a wonderful tribute to her, as well as to Joplin and to songwriter Ragovoy (who also co-wrote Joplin's signature tune "Piece of My Heart."

Make no mistake, both Joplin and Midler have owed a debt to the work of Genya Ravan. Just listen to "Last of the Line," with its experimental pop that Big Brother and the Holding Company flirted with so often, or the dreamy "Shootin' the Breeze," which sounds like a Jackie DeShannon/Burt Bacharach reunion. It is second only to "Stay With Me" as the showpiece of the disc. Any group that goes out on so many limbs to cover pop, jazz fusion, hard rock, country, blues, and any other musical format whether in vogue or not, deserved the opportunity to generate more sound. This "best-of" is a unique snapshot of talents who have yet to receive their due.
by Joe Viglione
1. Tightrope (Genya Ravan, Leon Rix) - 5:10
2. Lapidary - 4:32
3. Eye Of The Needle - 8:11
4. Candy Man Blues (Elizabeth Hoff, Louie Hoff) - 4:36
5. Ain't Gonna Happen - 5:39
6. House In Central Park - 4:29
7. Morning Much Better (Genya Ravan, Mike Zager) - 2:36
8. Brief Replies - 5:20
9. Come Live With Me - 5:22
10.Stay With Me (George David Weiss, Jerry Ragovoy) - 4:20
11.How Long Before I'm Gone - 6:43
12.Last Of The Line - 5:20
13.The Night I Got Out Of Jail - 3:46
14.Shootin' The Breeze - 3:18
15.Love Me - 5:03
16.I Had Him Down - 3:53
All compositions by Aram Schefrin, Mike Zager except where stated

Ten Wheel Drive
*Genya Ravan - Vocals, Harmonica, Tambourine
*Aram Schefrin - Guitar, Vocals, Banjo, Percussion
*Michael Zager - Organ, Piano, Clarinet
*Bill Takas  - Bass
*Leon Rix - Drums, Percussion, Cello
*Louie Hoff - Flute, Tenor, Baritone Saxophones
*Dennis Parisi - Trombone
*Jay Silva - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Flute
*Richard Meisterman - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
*Peter Hyde - Piccolo Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Trumpet
*Allen Herman - Drums, Percussion, Vibes
*Bob Piazza  - Bass, Vocals
*Dave Liebman - Flute, Soprano, Tenor, Baritone Saxophones
*Steve Satten - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Hamesha, Cowbell
*John Gatchell - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
*John Eckert - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
*Blake Hines  - Bass
*David Williams- Drums, Percussion
*Alan Gauvin - Woodwinds
*Tom Malone - Trombone
*Dean Pratt - Trumpet
*Frank Frint - Trumpet
*Danny Stiles Francisco - Trumpet

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Margo Guryan - Take A Picture (1968 us, divine ethereal baroque jazzy psych, 2009 HDCD digipak remaster)

Routinely selling for huge sums of money on the vinyl market and making its way into the collections of pop fanatics as far afield as Japan, Take a Picture has taken on a dynamic life of its own since its 1968 release, especially for an album that went relatively unheard at the time. It is not difficult to figure out what all the retroactive acclaim is about once you hear the sweet, delicate strain of gently kaleidoscopic music on the sole album from Margo Guryan. 

It is the soft pop of which gauzy dreams are made, full of the hazy changes and transitory variations of autumn, an album that you invariably want to wrap up in. Better than most similar efforts from the time, the album maintains a vibrant resonance outside the milieu in which it was created because the songcraft is not only infectious but also highly intelligent, and because Guryan's performance is so delicious. Perhaps a bit too thin and breathy for mass consumption, her voice is an acquired taste in an era loaded with wispy pop princesses, not to mention brassy belters such as Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, and Mama Cass. Once you accept its whispery invitation, though, Guryan's singing, equal parts girl group innocence and seductive torch, envelops you.

The thing that really elevates her above many of her contemporaries and competitors for the soft rock tiara, though, is her wonderfully idiosyncratic songwriting capabilities. A classically trained pianist and jazz composer by education and trade, her songs are much more than your standard pop fare. Although the song structures are simplistic on a superficial level (which should have made them perfect nuggets for commercial radio play in 1968), the arrangements beneath them are anything but. There are all kinds of intriguing things going on with or underneath the melody, either instrumentally (hammy trombones, old-tavern piano, touches of sitar) or via affect. Just when you think a chorus or hook is as ethereal as it could possibly be, Guryan tweaks it just slightly enough that it rises even higher and takes you to an even more elevated emotional plane. She manages the difficult trick of cajoling something already beautiful to something truly sublime. There is also an expert, fluid balance of juxtapositions within the music. 

Tempos are shifted frequently but seamlessly, and Guryan's chord progressions tend to switch from balladic choices during the slower verses to sly and unconventional jazz progressions during the quicker paced breaks and bridges, with the influence of bossa nova particularly heavy in many of the tunes. Her classical background is spliced into the mix as well, generically via the orchestral splashes of various songs, but more explicitly on "Someone I Know," where her own pop melody is superimposed over the chorale of Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." The two fit perfectly, point and counterpoint, like the complex pocket symphonies of Brian Wilson, a huge influence, and far more interesting with each listen. 

Other highlights include her own version of "Sunday Morning," the breezily kittenish "Sun," and the tough go-go groove of "Don't Go Away," but really every song is a gem. The CD reissue, housed in a handsome special edition digipak with a 12-page booklet that contains a brief biography, liner notes, and lyrics, also includes three stellar bonus publisher's demos that mark a significant addition an album that was already one of the most endearing cult soft rock records from an era full of them. 
by Stanton Swihart
1. Sunday Morning - 2:20 
2. Sun - 2:36
3. Love Songs - 2:37
4. Thoughts - 2:25
5. Don't Go Away - 2:04
6. Take A Picture - 3:08
7. What Can I Give You - 2:31 
8. Think Of Rain - 2:25 
9. Can You Tell - 2:34 
10.Someone I Know - 2:46 
11.Love - 5:26
12.I Think A Lot About You - 2:19 
13.It's Alright Now - 2:04 
14.Timothy Gone - 1:50
Music and Lyrics by Margo Guryan
Bonus Tracks 12-14

*Margo Guryan - Vocals
*Phil Bodner - Oboe
*Paul Griffith - Keyboards
*Kirk Hamilton - Bass, Flute
*Buddy Sultzman - Drums
*John Hill - Guitar

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