Metre was a short-lived band with guitarist Leigh Stevens (who had just left Blue Cheer) and former Jeff Beck Group drummer Mickey Waller, along with bassist Pete Sears (who'd later join Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship) and rhythm guitarist Tommy Cowan. Their 1970 eponymous LP has aged quite well, as evidenced from the opening piano-heavy rendition of Elton John’s “Now They've Found Me (Ballad of a Well Known Gun).”
They curiously cover a few more Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs, including a gritty take on “Country Comforts” and a psychedelic rendering of “Sixty Years On.” They also turn the main song from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar into a heavy gospel-rock jam that’s more reminiscent of Delaney & Bonnie.
The band’s own “Naughty Lady” riffed on some of the biker-friendly blues-rock that Stevens had played with Blue Cheer (though much mellower in volume and attack), while the instrumental jam “Gangbang” sought to revisit the decibel abuse that made Stevens such a worshipped guitar player.
by Keith Pettipas
1. Ballad Of A Well Known Gun (Bernie Taupin, Elton John) - 3:39
2. Naughty Lady (Pete Sears, Tom Cowan) - 4:30
3. Gangbang (Leigh Stephens) - 4:42
4. Country Comforts (Bernie Taupin, Elton John) - 3:23
5. Superstar (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice) - 3:45
6. Sixty Years On (Bernie Taupin, Elton John) - 4:20
7. Compromising Situation (Leigh Stephens, Tom Cowan) - 3:46
8. Cocklewood Monster (Leigh Stephens, Tom Cowan) - 5:15
9. Nightflight (Pete Sears, Tom Cowan) - 4:15
10.Dog End (Leigh Stephens, Tom Cowan) - 3:52
After leaving Blue Cheer in 1969, guitarist Leigh Stephens, whose pulverizing roar was an essential element of the band's original sound, made his solo debut with "Red Weather". In contrast to his former band's stripped-down metallic blast, Stephens spread his musical wings to explore new musical territory. Although Stephens' trademark guitar sound is still prominent, it's featured in a more eclectic context that encompasses elements of avant-psychedelia and electric blues. Also featured is stellar piano work by legendary English pianist Nicky Hopkins.
Red Weather was the first solo project from the lead guitarist of Blue Cheer. Originally released on the Phillips/Mercury label in 1969, the album immediately became a favorite on the underground music scene and established Stephens as a solo act. The music on Red Weather was dramatically different than that of Blue Cheer, with a well structured psychedelic sound like Quicksilver or the Grateful Dead rather than the sledgehammer hard rock sound of his former band. Recorded in England at the Trident Studios with the help of Nicky Hopkins on keyboards, drummer Mick Waller from the Jeff Beck Group, and Kevin Westlake from Blossom Toes, the album was hailed as a masterpiece by many British rock fans but was equally dismissed by Blue Cheer fans. The album contained eight songs that highlighted Stevens songwriting ability rather than his guitar prowess. After nearly 30 years the album was rereleased complete with the original psychedelic artwork cover.
by Keith Pettipas
1. Another Dose Of Life (Leigh Stephens) - 4:47
2. Drifting (Leigh Stephens) - 6:41
3. Indians (Leigh Stephens, Koske) - 4:47
4. I Grow Higher (Leigh Stephens, Eric Albronda) - 5:39
5. Red Weather (Leigh Stephens) - 3:14
6. If You Choose Too (Leigh Stephens, Eric Albronda) - 5:10
7. Joannie Mann (Leigh Stephens) - 5:05
8. Chicken Pot Pie (Leigh Stephens) - 3:12
Cast of Thousands is the second solo album release from Blue Cheer frontman Leigh Stephens. Originally recorded and released in the U.K. in 1971 on the Charisma label, this album is dramatically different from his debut, Red Weather. Cast of Thousands journeys into more of a jazz, AOR style on most of its tracks. The overabundance of horns and female backup vocals makes it rather experimental at times, but Stephens' superb guitar work does manage to shine through in places.
1. The World Famous Soul Transplant - 3:27
2. Medicine Man - 3:47
3. Simple Song - 4:52
4. Handful Of Friends - 1:56
5. Oh Lord - 5:31
6. Jumping Jack Flash (Mick Jagger, Keit Richards) - 4:47
7. Sweet Love Of Mine - 2:44
8. Chunk Of Funk - 5:29
All songs by Leigh Stephens except where stated
To describe Blue Cheer, the first word that comes to mind is . . . loud! It was said that the band’s sonic blast could “turn the air into cottage cheese.” The classic “power trio” lineup of guitar, bass and drums is more than capable of knocking down a house, as we easily find out on Blue Cheer’s debut LP, ‘Vincebus Eruptum,’ released in January 1968.
Blue Cheer have been cited by many as being the world’s first heavy metal band. That’s true to some extent, perhaps. Iron Butterfly were already on the scene, while Grand Funk Railroad and Led Zeppelin were right around the corner, but none of them were as single (or simple) minded as the bludgeoning attack that was Blue Cheer. In a blur of Roger Corman films, amphetamines, LSD, long hair, loud guitars and teen lust, the roots of metal, grunge and stoner rock can all be found on this one album.
Blue Cheer were managed by a former Hell’s Angel called simply “Gut,” and though they may have shared a home base (San Francisco) and a pharmacist (Owsley Stanley) with the Grateful Dead, their musical approach was very different.
Singer/bassist Dickie Peterson, guitarist Leigh Stephens and drummer Paul Whaley made one hell of a noise, while producer Abe ‘Voco’ Kesh found the group’s deafeningly definitive sound. The album is split between three cover songs, and three originals written by Dickie Peterson. Of those originals, ‘Out of Focus‘ is a classic. With a funky guitar riff leading the way, the song rides a heavy groove. The tone of the guitar alone defines the Blue Cheer sound — a Big Muff fuzzbox plugged into Marshall amp and cranked up loud. The circular riff of the song is hypnotic and ranks as one of the band’s finest efforts.
Their classic ‘Parchment Farm‘ (a cover of Mose Allison’s ‘Parchman Farm’) is a glorious case of taking the simple blues and transforming it into their own monster. It’s a driving rocker that has the eternal pedal to the metal. ‘Doctor Please‘ is a rollicking number about Peterson’s first time delving into the world of LSD. As Owsley states on the back of the LP, “Subtle color of the mind – BLUE, call the figure of the soul – CHEER.”
The band managed to have a hit single amidst all the heavy fuzz going on. Their cover of Eddie Cochran’s classic ‘Summertime Blues‘ lit up AM radio in 1968 and climbed the Billboard charts to No. 14. It would be the band’s sole hit single. It is the definitive Blue Cheer song in so many ways. They capture the angst and raw teen emotion of the Cochran original, but, like some crazy Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth vehicle, it’s all souped up and driving way out of control. It certainly didn’t sound like a lot of what was on the top of the charts, but in those times, it really was a stylistic free for all that somehow made sense.
by Dave Swanson
1. Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran, Jerry Capehart) - 3:45
2. Rock Me Baby (B.B. King, Joe Josea) - 4:21
3. Doctor Please (Dickie Peterson) - 7:52
4. Out Of Focus (Dickie Peterson) - 3:56
5. Parchman Farm (Mose Allison) - 5:479
6. Second Time Around (Dickie Peterson) - 6:18
The Hard Times certainly enjoyed some hard times - almost 40 years of obscurity to be exact - but thanks once again to the fine folks at Rev-Ola, a lost 1960s group with riches of talent and musical goodness has been unearthed to be rediscovered in this modern age of rediscovery. The Hard Times were one of many groups trying for the big time in mid 60s California, but unlike groups who did make it big like The Mamas and Papas, The Doors, Arthur Lee's Love, and Buffalo Springfield, The Hard Times were a mere blip on the map.
Like many groups of the time, The Hard Times showed us their best work first on their 45 singles. The Hard Times 45s have been sought after for years now, so to have them all collected in one spot, along with their sole LP from 1967, Blew Mind, is a true revelation. Like their fellow Where the Action Is cohorts The Robbs (both groups served as house band for the Dick Clark produced teen pop program), The Hard Times put out a slew of amazing folk rock gems on 45s (and here's hoping The Robbs will get the same treatment The Hard Times have been afforded on this Rev-Ola reissue).
Centering attention on The Hard Time singles compiled here for the very first time (and included as bonus tracks) is indeed a real treat. Not only does it become apparent that The Hard Times were an excellent folk rock outfit equal to groups like The Robbs, it becomes apparent just who the unsung heroes of this group are: Hard Times' songwriters Rudy Romero and Bill Richardson. Rudy and Bill wrote a number of The Hard Times' songs included here, and a few of the singles were re-recorded for the Blew Mind LP, while others were not.
You're Bound To Cry is a folk rock gem which includes an excellent melody played on the mournful sounding harmonica and wouldn't sound out of place on The Rolling Stones' Between the Buttons. That's All I'll Do continues with a more rollicking sound, but retains that haunting harmonica. Goodbye has wonderful harmonies and folk rock guitar work in a Beatlesque way, and certainly sounds more together on the 45 version as compared to the stereo LP version, but either version shows the band in a strong light. There'll Be a Time has a great introduction combining strummed guitar riff and the harmonica, but doesn't hold up as well during the verse.
They Said No works the rocking sound a bit better, with angsty vocals that are only slightly tempered by the harmony background vocals and slapping rhythm that would have surely got the kids dancing back in 1966. A really amazing find is the Al Kooper composition Sad Sad Sunshine which sounds like Goffin/King's Wasn't Born to Follow (the song The Byrds sang in Easy Rider - which incidentally The Robbs covered as well), any fan of that song could do much worse than to check out this song. Wow, what a great song - the 45 version and the LP version have different feels to them too which make for interesting comparisons. Fortune Teller was the closest The Hard Times came to a hit, and while it pales in comparison to other versions of this song, it certainly will be a favorite of anyone who checks out this cd. Give to Me Your Love is a Rudy composed tune performed by The New Phoenix and produced by Mama Cass Elliot which has some peeling guitar licks and a haunting melody which opens up nicely thanks to the sweet vocals (Thanks - its b-side is an instrumental version of the a-side).
A few of the songs from the Blew Mind LP stand out too. The aforementioned Fortune Teller is probably stronger in its LP version, and a real standout tune. Play It for Me is probably my favorite Hard Times LP track, with it's giddy instrumentation and harmony vocals; it makes me smile every time I hear it. Take a Look Around is a really sweet ode to the things we take to granted in this world, and is a truly inspiring moment. Not Me combines a Beatlesque guitar riff with Donovan styled vocals, and is a groovy angsty LP track. I'm Not a Rock is another Donovan styled rocker, which isn't half bad. Under the Sunlight is an interesting attempt at a more psychedelized folk rock tune, which doesn't wholly work, but does end up with some interesting pop guitar work. The really tremendous psych moment that does work wonders is the odd title tune, Blew Mind combines droney guitar and gong hits with radio broadcasts sampled in and a psych melody with a mantra like vocal singing about "Blew...Blew....Blew Mind."
The downside to the Blew Mind LP is a handful of so-so covers which were no doubt the idea of the record company (indeed much of the album was reportedly recorded by session musicians). Songs like Candy Man (which does get a pretty unique arrangement), Colours (the Donovan tune), and The Beatles' Here, There and Everywhere all have an easy pop feel to them, but don't seem to match the goodness of the best by The Hard Times. Small complaint, for an otherwise amazing compilation from the fine folks at Rev-ola.
by Patrick (The Gullbuy), November 4, 2003
1. Candy Man (Beverly "Ruby" Ross, Fred Neil) - 2:39
2. Here, There And Everywhere (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 2:25
3. Play It For Me - 2:08
4. Take A Look Around - 2:41
5. Fortune Teller (Naomi Neville) - 2:29
6. Goodbye - 2:36
7. Not Me (Bill Richardson) - 2:17
8. Colours (Donovan Leitch) - 2:15
9. I'm Not A Rock (John Simon, Frances Landesman) - 2:35
10.Under The Sunlight - 2:09
11.Sad Sad Sunshine (Al Kooper) - 3:00
12.Blew Mind (Bill Richardson) - 2:47
13.You're Bound To Cry - 2:51
14.There'll Be A Time (Bill Richardson) - 2:28
15.That's All I'll Do - 2:30
16.Come To Your Window (Bob Lind) - 2:29
17.They Said No (Bill Richardson) - 2:38
18.Sad Sad Sunshine (Mono 45) (Al Kooper) - 3:04
19.Fortune Teller (Mono 45) (Naomi Neville) - 2:34
20.Goodbye (Mono 45) - 2:26
21.Give Me Your Love - 3:09
22.Thanks - 3:09
All composotions by Rudy Romero except where stated
Bonus Tracks 13-22
Tracks 21-22 as The New Phoenix
The Hard Times
*Rudy Romero - Vocals, Twelve String Guitar
*Larry Byrom - Bass
*Lee Keifer - Harmonica, Tambourine
*Bill Richardson - Lead Guitar
*Bob Morris - Bass
As this record came out on the Moody Blues' Threshold label, it's inevitably gotten some comparison to their patrons of sorts. It's not all that much like the Moody Blues, however, other than sharing the trait of being more pop-influenced than much progressive rock. Its more bombastic than the Moody Blues in its strident vocals, melodies, and serious arching lyrics.
While it's not extremely similar to Kansas, it might hold some appeal for fans of the kind of American art rock Kansas purveyed as well, in part because of its pop-flavored gravity, in part because violinist Peter Orgil is a big part of Asgard's sound. For all that, it just doesn't stick in the mind nearly as much -- regardless of whether you consider that a good or bad thing -- as the more accessible prog rock bands like the Moody Blues and Kansas do, in spite of the premium they place on straining vocal harmonies.
Lyrically it fits in snugly with the more naïve side of prog rock's probing visions, as reflected by titles like "Children of a New Born Age" and "Starquest," the latter track decorated by dated swooping synthetic sounds.
by Richie Unterberger
1. In the Realm of Asgard - 4:25
2. Friends - 4:39
3. Town Crier - 3:59
4. Austin Osmanspare (Rodney Harrisson, Rob Hunt, Bernhard Jinks, Luis Farrell) - 4:15
5. Children of a New Born Age - 3:13
6. Time - 5:11
7. Lorraine - 4:45
8. Starquest - 5:17
All songs by Rodney Harrison except where noted
Andy Fairweather Low was born in Cardiff, Wales, Fairweather Low formed Amen Corner in the mid-'60s, for which he served as lead singer. The group scored six U.K. hits from 1967 to 1969, the biggest of which was the number one "(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice." Its success put Fairweather Low's attractive face on the bedroom walls of teenage girls all over Britain. Amen Corner broke up at the end of the '60s and evolved into the more progressive Fair Weather, which scored a hit with "Natural Sinner" in 1970, but broke up in 1971.
Fairweather Low retired for several years, but returned as a solo artist in 1974 , "La Booga Rooga" is his most successful record, this continues his eclectic approach, starting off with the steel guitar-drenched cover "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" and also featuring the cocktail lounge pop of "Champagne Melody" and the funky title track (a U.K. hit for the Surprise Sisters), plus his biggest solo single, the whimsical "Wide Eyed and Legless."
Fairweather Low made a series of albums through 1980, reaching the U.K. Top Ten with the singles "Reggae Tune" and "Wide Eyed and Legless." Gradually, however, he began to work as a sideman to more prominent British musicians, notably ex-Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters, and with the ARMS benefit group in 1987. He toured Japan with George Harrison and Eric Clapton in 1991 and has since been part of Clapton's backup band. Fairweather Low began touring with Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings and, in 2006, hit the road again with Waters for the Dark Side of the Moon Tour.
by William Ruhlmann
1. My Bucket's Got A Hole In It (Clarence Williams) - 3:11
2. Jump Up And Turn Around - 4:04
3. Halfway To Everything - 4:03
4. La Booga Rooga - 4:12
5. Champagne Melody - 3:32
6. If That's What It Takes - 3:30
7. 8 Ton Crazy - 3:31
8. Grease It Up - 3:10
9. Wide Eyed And Legless - 4:01
10.Inner City Highwayman - 4:42
All songs by Andy Fairweather Low, except where noted
Though the lone record from Rain is a few stops short of a lost classic, Sunbeam's reputation is intact thanks to the solid songwriting of Frank Schallis, who passed away in 2000, and Cobb Bussinger. Cobb gives a nice rundown of the aftermath left on the wake of Rock Island (also a one album phenomena), that band's path to Rain, and the latter's disillusion and disbanding during the writing of a double LP follow-up at the hands of the usual industry ineptitude and shortsightedness.
Though the vocals were occasionally a little corny and the production of Jeff Hest, under direction from the legendary Enoch Light, sounded more late '70s than early, the eponymous solitary album boasted a great deal of variety from early prog, power pop, and folk to psychedelic rock and even a little jazz. "To a Dreamer" alone is a dazzling mix of organ driven hard rock and ELP prog, specifically the Moog from the "Lucky Man" solo. They deserved a shot at that album. There was so much more they could have done that they never had a chance to prove. Shame on you, nameless record executives.
by Alan Ranta
1. Can You Help Me Sing My Song - 1:53
2. To A Dreamer - 3:59
3. Mother's Evil Child - 3:02
4. Love Me Still - 4:02
5. All Your Days Are Long - 6:31
6. Let Our Hopes Run Our Dreams - 3:34
7. Song To Barbara - 5:19
8. You Take Me Higher - 2:28
9. He Could Have Known - 5:46
10.As I Played My Song (For You) - 3:19
All songs by Cobb Bussinger, Frank Schallis
John Stewart's follow-up to the unprecedented success of California Bloodlines stuck close to the same formula. Recorded in Hollywood with many of the same musicians from the earlier record -- Norb Putnam, Kenny Buttrey, Charlie McCoy, among them -- Stewart also employed other country musicians such as banjo boss Bobby Thompson and fiddle player Doug Kershaw as well as a host of his peers -- from Russ Kunkel and Carole King to Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar, James Taylor, and Bryan Garofalo -- at the suggestion of producer Peter Asher -- later known for his schlock work with Linda Ronstadt and Carly Simon among others. Nonetheless despite Asher's best attempts at taming the thin, reedy wildness in Stewart's voice, it wasn't to be. Stewart is a songwriter with a rambling vision, and the best of his rambling songs are included here, and as such, he draws inspired performances from all of his bandmembers.
The feel of the album is somewhat stripped of the California crap that was in so many records from that time. A listen to "Belly Full of Tennessee," with Kershaw's fiddle and Putnam's bass driving the tune, colored elegiacally with Thompson's banjo, makes it a Louisiana bayou dance tune. It's raw, tough, and full of unbreakable spirit. "Back in Pomona" is a country rocker in the purest sense of the word. Stewart's uncompromising lyrical vision that relates the past as if it were a living, breathing present drives a band eager to carry those words through to the listener. Willard is a romantic record in the same way that California Bloodlines was, but its romanticism is well intentioned in that it poetically preserves a time period in America that was quickly disappearing. In the title track, Stewart's romanticism centers on a character, a hobo, who embodies everything that is free and wild, untamed, and often tragic, but there are no apologies, no sentiments other than the fact that this unlikely icon is everyone and everyone is him, separated only by circumstance. Likewise "Golden Rollin' Belly," about the need for a woman's sexual company, with Chris Darrow's fiddle and Thompson's banjo riding well inside a big fat Garofalo bassline. Willard is a country record in all the best ways; it just might be Stewart's master opus.
by Thom Jurek
Disc 1 California Bloodlines 1969
1. California Bloodlines - 3:15
2. Razor-Back Woman - 2:29
3. She Believes In Me - 2:38
4. Omaha Rainbow - 3:10
5. The Pirates of Stone Country Road - 3:56
6. Shackles And Chains - 2:56
7. Mother Country - 4:57
8. Some Lonesome Picker - 3:13
9. You Can't Look Back - 2:06
10.Missouri Birds - 3:29
11.July You're A Woman - 3:18
12.Never Going Back - 5:00
All songs by John Stewart
Disc 2 Willard 1970
1. Big Joe - 3:19
2. Jukie, Judy, Angel Rain - 3:08
3. Belly Full of Tennessee - 2:50
4. Friend of Jesus - 2:26
5. Clack Clack - 2:23
6. Hero from the War - 2:26
7. Back in Pomona - 2:28
8. Willard - 3:36
9. Golden Rollin' Belly - 3:14
10.All American Girl - 2:20
11.Oldest Living Son - 3:16
12.Earth Rider - 2:53
13.Great White Cathedrals - 2:04
14.Marshall Wind - 5:43
All compositions by John Stewart
Musicians 1969 California Bloodlines
*John Stewart - Vocals, Guitar
*Fred Carter Jr. - Guitar
*Norbert Putnam - Bass
*Lloyd Green - Pedal Steel
*Hargus "Pig" Robbins - Piano
*Kenneth A. Buttrey - Drums
*Charlie McCoy - Harmonica 1970 Willard
*John Stewart – Acoustic Guitar, 12-String Guitar, Auto Harp, Boxes
*James Taylor - Acoustic Guitar, Background Vocals
*Joel Bishop O'Brien - Drums, Conga
*Russ Kunkel - Knees, Drums, Boxes
*Billy Mummy - Cow Bell
*Peter Asher - Background Vocals, Tambourine, Bass, Auto Harp
*Bryan Garofalo - Bass, Background Vocals
*Carole King - Piano
*Mike Stewart - Guita
*Doug Kershaw - Fiddle, Background Vocals
*Kenneth "Down Wind" Buttrey – Drums, Knees
*Norbert "Home Town" Putnam – Bass
*Bobby Thompson - Banjo
*Ralph Schuckett - Piano, Harmonium
*Buffy Ford - Background Vocals
*Abigale Haness - Background Vocals
*Danny Kooch - Electric Guitar
*Chris Darrow - Fiddle
*Fred "The Flash" Carter - Acoustic Guitar
*"Goodtime" Charlie MCcoy – Harp
*The People - Background Vocals