Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Thunderclap Newman - Hollywood Dream (1970 uk, delightful album with unique sound)



How anyone will manage to remain a nasty narrow-minded jade in the presence of this unremittingly delightful album defies the imagination.

There's simply no exaggerating the pimply splendor or Speedy Keen's lead voice, a reedy, breathless, disarmingly earnest affair that resides in the No-Voice's-Land between little-boy soprano and grown-up falsetto. There's simply no describing the charm of Andy Newman's keyboard-tickling, which takes the form of a dazzling assortment of boogie-cum-piano-bar chops laid down with unerring clumsiness only in the least likely places (and there without accompaniment, as there's apparently no keeping up with it). Nor could one exude excessively in behalf of wee Jimmy McCulloch's precisely lyrical lead guitar.

Put alternatively, nothing in Thunderclap's music has anything much to do with anything else in Thunderclap's music, the result being that Thunderclap's is at once unexaggerably bizarre and a mightily refreshing rock and roll sound. That sound couldn't in a month of Halloweens be better suited to Speedy's imbecilically catchy little songs, which abound with surreal, nostalgic, surreally nostalgic, and other wonderful lyric sentiments.

Try on for size "Wild Country," in which he glorifies the great outdoors because, simply, it's such a nice place to ball in. Try on both the modest and colossal (the latter featuring all manner of domestic and exotic percussion) takes of "Hollywood," an eminently hummable little ditty in which Speedy laments the passing of bigger-than-life film-stars who used to make him sick, and a very McCartney-ish instrumental exploration of this theme, "Hollywood Dream." And the delightfully-dated "Accidents," which here bends the mind with its late 1966 psychedelic ambiguity for nearly ten minutes and contains dazzling piano and kazoo freak-outs by Andy. And, of course, "Something In The Air," which you'll find as emphatic a knock-out on 600th hearing as it was on first. "Pass out the arms and ammo....": have you ever encountered a TV revolutionary line that can match that for sheer charm? 

To top it all off, they're the oddest-looking bunch you've ever laid eyes upon. Newman, with slicked-back, receding hair, a corncob pipe, and the face of a 40-year-old mailman (in actual fact he's a former mailman who used to attend art college with Pete Townshend) is so straight he's surreal, while Speedy's your workaday big-nosed English longhair. And McCulloch is that archetypal moddie, a tiny teen with an adorable toothy smile who a casual groupie of my acquaintance has informed me will find long lines of takers should he ever venture onto the stage of the Whisky A-Go-Go.
by John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 10/15/70
Tracks
1. Something In The Air – 3:54
2. Hollywood #1 - 3:20
3. The Reason - 4:05
4. Open The Door, Homer (Bob Dylan) - 3:00
5. Look Around - 2:59
6. Accidents - 9:40
7. Wild Country - 4:14
8. When I Think - 3:06
9. The Old Cornmill - 3:58
10.I Don't Know - 3:44
11.Hollywood Dream (Instrumental) (Jack McCulloch, Jimmy McCulloch) - 3:06
12.Hollywood #2 - 2:54
13.Something In The Air (Single Version) - 3:54
14.Wilhemina (Andy Newman) - 2:56
15.Accidents (Single Version) - 3:46
16.I See It All (Jack McCulloch, Jimmy McCulloch) - 2:46
17.The Reason (Single Version) - 3:47
18.Stormy Petrel (Andy Newman) - 2:57
All songs by Speedy Keen except where stated

Musicians
*John "Speedy" Keen - Congas, Drums, Glockenspiel, Gong, Guitars, Maracas, Organ, Percussion, Tambourine, Vocals
*Jimmy McCulloch - Acoustic, Electric, Rhythm, Spanish Guitar, Maracas, Wood Block
*Andy Newman - Bells, Cor Anglais, Finger Cymbals, Flute, Glockenspiel, Handbells, Kazoo, Keyboards, Oboe, Piano, Baritone, Bass, Soprano, Tenor, Saxophones, Sleigh Bells, Temple Blocks, Tin Whistle, Vocals, Whistle
*Ian Green - Arranger, String Arrangements
*Chris Morphet - Harmonica
*Pete Townshend "Bijou Drains" - Banjo, Bass, Pedal Steel Guitar

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Monday, February 24, 2020

Velvert Turner Group - Velvert Turner Group (1972 us, groovy heavy guitar psych rock)



Ever since his death in 1970, Jimi Hendrix has certainly had his share of guitarists who thoroughly studied him -- some would say even copied him -- to a tee. One such gentleman would be Velvert Turner, who fronted the Velvert Turner Group. But there is an interesting reason why Turner resembled the self-proclaimed "Voodoo Child" -- not only was he supposedly friends with Hendrix, but allegedly, Hendrix took the guitarist under his wing, and taught him quite a few tricks on the six-string.

Born on October 12, 1951 and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Turner befriended Hendrix during the mid- to late '60s -- and Turner would show what Hendrix was teaching him to another guitarist friend of his, future Television member Richard Lloyd. After Hendrix's passing, Turner formed the Velvert Turner Group, with bassist Prescott Niles, keyboardist Christopher Robinson, and drummer Tim McGovern, and in 1972, issued a self-titled debut album. Highly derivative of his mentor -- both musically and even in the song titles, as evidenced by "Madonna (Of the Seven Moons)," "'Xcuse Me, Gentlemen (The Fall of Atlantis)," "(Love Rides)... The Slowly Swirling Seas. 

There was even a cover of a Hendrix tune, "Freedom," that closed the album. Although the album didn't set the charts alight, it has become a sought-after cult item amongst Hendrix fanatics over the years.

And that was all that many heard from Velvert, although he did appear on a self-titled release by Arthur Lee in 1977, and in the mid-'80s, was involved in a Jimi Hendrix instructional guitar video, which strangely, only featured Turner narrating it and not showing the viewer the tricks of the trade that Hendrix had taught him (the guitar parts are played by Andy Aledort). Subsequently, the other members of the Velvert Turner Group would reappear in the Knack (Niles), the Motels (McGovern), and the New York Dolls (Robinson). 

Sadly, on December 11, 2000, it was reported in the New York Times that Turner had passed away at his Brooklyn home. In the article, fans learned that in recent years Turner had been employed by Samaritan Village in Brooklyn, where he worked with those battling substance addiction. Four years after his passing, a snippet of Turner playing some Hendrixian guitar, titled "Going Home," was included on the star-studded tribute, Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix. In 2009, Turner's old friend, Lloyd, recorded an album of Hendrix covers, titled The Jamie Neverts Story, whose title came from a code name that Turner and Lloyd used for Hendrix, when they would go visit him (to keep their visits "secret" from kids in the neighborhood). The album was also dedicated to Turner, and features altered album covert art based on Turner's Velvert Turner Group from over three decades prior. 
by Greg Prato

Velvert Turner was apparently a friend of Jimi Hendrix's, and the Hendrix vibe on the album Velvert Turner Group is almost overpowering, right down to the fish-eye photo on the back cover. Turner's got great guitar tone and a playing style quite similar to Jimi. The songs are also similar to later-period Hendrix, circa First Rays of the New Rising Sun, but with some keyboards added. In fact, "Three O'Clock Train" starts out with a riff very close to "Izabella," then sounds more like "51st Anniversary" in the body of the tune. The really shocking thing, though, is how much Turner's voice sounds like Jimi. It's jarring, right down to the same vocal inflections. But it doesn't sound like imitation, it just sounds like they came from the same places. The songs are good, although not the equal of Hendrix's, but some of the guitar playing is great, with some good feedback and panning effects to boot. It's certainly derivative, but Jimi left so few official albums that this will be a welcome sound to Hendrix fans. 
by Sean Westergaard
Tracks
1. Madonna (Of The Seven Moons) - 3:35
2. Talkin' 'Bout My Baby - 4:00
3. Country Chicken (Christopher Robinson) - 2:56
4. Strangely Neww (Christopher Robinson, Prescott Niles) - 6:05
5. Scarlet Warrior (Prescott Niles, Tim McGovern) - 3:32
6. Three O'Clock Train - 4:15
7. Just Look And See (Prescott Niles, Velvert Turner) - 4:15
8. 'Xcuse Me, Gentlemen (The Fall Of Atlantis) - 4:32
9. (Love Rides...) The Slow Swirling Seas - 3:50
10.Freedom (Jimi Hendrix) - 6:17
Song by Velvert Turner except where indicated

The Velvert Turner Group
*Bob Hogans - Organ
*Bob Lenox - Organ
*Tim McGovern - Drums, Percussion
*Prescott Niles - Bass
*Christopher Robinson - Keyboards
*Velvert Turner. Guitar - Vocals

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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Tempest - In Concert (1973-74 uk, solid heavy prog rock, 2013 release)



Tempest will. From a four piece, to a five piece, the band name aptly describes their music, and has always been the basis of their style. With Hiseman, the Thunderous God of Percussion, the musical elements ebb and flow like a storm, or a rock translation of Wagner. Thus, the overall feel is one of adventure, turbulence and down the line funk.

Naturally by trimming the group format they operate with more advantages, and conversely more limitations.

Halsall, the ex-Patto axe-man, has the scope to improvise licks continually, with Clarke using an equal amount of imagination. So the front two provide an enormous dose of entertaining playing.

And although Hiseman plays with true excellence throughout the set, at times he does have to restrict himself to strict rhythms and tempos.

But his solo, towards the end of the concert, was one of the highlights.

Visually too the band are impressive, with some good lighting effects, and Clarke bent over his instrument, his hair bursting from his skull, as if somebody had put a hatchet right down the middle. And of course Hiseman demonstrates the ancient art of stick juggling.
by Tony Stewart, from NME October 13, 1973

At the moment Tempest are creating more of a commotion in Europe than in England, to quote Jon Hiseman they are somewhat forgotten here. In an attempt to correct this these patriotic lads are currently undertaking a few dates in their Mother land before hot footing it back to the Continent. On Saturday they played at the Belfry near Sutton Coldfield deep in the heart of the green and pleasant land of Warwickshire and showed that they deserved to be thought of more often, more highly by more people.

The start of their set concerned my original opinion of Tempest that although their individual and collective musical ability was not in doubt they seemed to be falling between two stalls. They were neither an out and out instrumental group nor was their music following the more simplistic pattern of vocally orientated numbers.

However this doubt was soon removed as later numbers varied in pace and the vocals served as a focus rather than a limitation for some intricate instrumentalisation. Particularly successful was "Living In Fear", a blues gone wild that showed the dual talents of Ollie Halsall on guitar and moog, and contained some very effective bass runs by Mark Clarke; "Dream Train" with some slow harmonics; and "Stranger" which emphasised what a superb technician Jon Hiseman is.

The crowd warmed to the group and the night was rounded off with a rousing version of "Paperback Writer". 
by Phil Holt, from Sounds, May 4, 1974
Tracks
1. Foyers Of Fun (Jon Hiseman, Mark Clarke, Allan Holdsworth) - 6:51
2. Gorgon (Jon Hiseman, Mark Clarke, Allan Holdsworth) - 8:16
3. Up And On (John Edwards, Allan Holdsworth) - 7:19
4. Grey And Black (Mark Clarke, Susie Bottomley) - 3:32
5. Brothers (Jon Hiseman, Allan Holdsworth) - 14:43
6. Round About Golders Green (Jon Hiseman, Mark Clarke) - 7:07
7. Strangeher (Jon Hiseman, Mark Clarke) - 5:39
8. Yeah Yeah Yeah (Ollie Halsall, Jon Hiseman) - 3:09
9. Living In Fear (Ollie Halsall) - 7:58
10.Dance To My Tune (Mark Clarke, Susie Bottomley) - 10:12
11.Paperback Writer (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 5:10
Tracks 1-7 Recorded Live At The Golders Green Hippodrome, London On 2 June 1973
Tracks 8-11 Recorded Live In London In April 1974

Tempest
*Jon Hiseman - Drums
*Mark Clarke - Bass, Vocals
*Ollie Halsall - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Paul Williams - Vocals (Tracks 1-7)
*Allan Holdsworth - Guitar (Tracks 1-7)

1974  Tempest - Tempest (2011 remater) 
Related Acts
1968  Zoot Money - Transition
1969  Igginbottom - Igginbottom's Wrench
1970  Juicy Lucy - Lay Back And Enjoy It
1969 Colosseum - Valentyne Suite (2004 deluxe expanded edition) 
1969  Colosseum - Those Who Are About To Die Salute You (2004 remaster and expanded)
1970  Colosseum - Daughter Of Time (remaster with bonus track)
1971  Colosseum - Colosseum Live (2016 double disc set remaster)

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Friday, February 21, 2020

Tommy James - Tommy James (1970 us, psychedelic rainbows and mirror images of black and white sketches, 2009 remaster)



A very cosmic/psychedelic album cover has seven black-and-white Tommy James heads coasting over what looks like an acid trip, rainbow behind him, colors dripping upwards. It's the opposite of the black-and-white psychedelic look of the Cellophane Symphony album and the first of James' three final albums for Roulette. If we are to take the discs as three chapters, this one is Tommy James and Bob King proving that Tommy James was the Shondells. "Ball and Chain" is poppy and intense, the Velvet Underground gone bubblegum. Clearly, drugs had some influence on Tommy James' work, and where his ex-bandmates took a stab at the third Velvet Underground album with their Hog Heaven track "Come Away," "Ball and Chain" from the first Tommy James solo album sounds like it is an outtake from the Velvet Underground's Loaded CD.

"Meet the Comer" has bits of Neil Young's "Helpless," all gone pop, of course. Tommy James' reformulation of pop riffs he would create or nick kept the majority of his albums highly listenable. It's a real gift to tune in and grab melodies from the cosmos, and rest assured, memorable hooks and special sounds are all over these grooves. "Midnight Train" continues the party, making this a very underground pop album. "Come to Me" leads off side two, and it is the lost sequel to "Sugar on Sunday," the big hit for the Clique which first appeared on the Crimson & Clover album. "Come to Me" has a choir of backing vocals and should've been a smash with its flavors of past glories enhanced with a new bridge. Wonderful stuff. As the first part in his solo trilogy, Tommy James pays tribute to Tommy Roe, Billy Joe Royal, and even Bobby Sherman, but shows them all how a pop album is crafted and how Tommy James is the genuine article. 

It's perhaps the most experimental of all his projects, more cohesive than Peter Lucia and Mike Vale's Hog Heaven, and sets the stage for the refined Christian of the World and the reverent and very satisfying Nashville recording My Head, My Bed and My Red Guitar. Where a song like "Quick Silver would be out of place on those aforementioned titles, it fits perfectly on this descent into a pop maestro's psyche. An enlightening project, and like many of Tommy James' other artistic endeavors, tragically overlooked.
by Joe Viglione
Tracks
1. Ball And Chain - 3:33
2. Meet The Comer - 3:36
3. Midnight Train - 3:28
4. Light Of Day - 3:47
5. Come To Me - 2:35
6. I Lost My Baby - 3:05
7. Lady Jane - 3:42
8. Quicksilver - 3:43
9. Draggin' The Line - 2:45
10.Church Street Soul Revival - 3:07
All songs by Tommy James, Bob King
Tracks 5,7 with The Shondells
Bonus Tracks 9-10

Personnel
*Tommy James - Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
*Peter Scaltrito - Guitars
*Eddie Gray - Guitars
*Frank Scaltrito - Keyboards
*Ron Rosman - Keyboards
*Bob King - Bass
*Fung Porter - Bass
*Mike Vale - Bass
*Russ Leslie - Drums, Percussion
*Peter Lucia - Drums, Percussion

1969  Tommy James And The Shondells - Crimson And Clover / Cellophane Symphony (2009 remaster) 

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Rotary Connection - Songs / Hey Love (1969/71 us, beautiful psych soul jazz funk)



It could have been an almighty mess and for years critics asserted that it had been but the rock-meets-soul experiment that was the Rotary Connection became a sonic tour-de-force. Don't take my word for it, judge for yourself as BGP bring you their two most sought-after albums in a single package.

The brainchild of Marshall Chess, and the musical result of the arranging and production skills of Charles Stepney, Rotary Connection was the perfect showcase for the awesome voice of Minnie Riperton. On SONGS she is teamed up with Sydney Barnes and some local rock musicians, they take on an array of recent pop hits and blues classics that emerge as a funk rock amalgam which can in the case of their version of Cream's Tales Of Brave Ulysses or Otis' Respect still rock a dance-floor 30 years later.

On 1971's HEY LOVE Barnes had left and the band was made up of the cream of Chicago's soul session players such as Phil Upchurch and Master Henry Gibson, yet the music was no less radical. The sound was built around what had become Stepney's trademark strings, drums and bass arrangements so far ahead of their time that it still sounds fresh today. Songs such as Love Has Fallen On Me and I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun are epic pieces that shouldn't fail to touch your soul, while Song For Everyman showcases the songwriting talent of Stepney's then latest prodigy Terry Callier.

It was Rotary Connection's last stand-.-Riperton went off to live in California with her husband Richard Rudolph, scoring a massive hit in 1975 with Loving You, only a few years before she died. Stepney also died in the 70s, leaving an incredible legacy of production work from both his days at Cadet and his later work with soul mega group Earth Wind and Fire. Today, this music is as in-demand and relevant as way back then. House production legends Masters At Work slotted a cover version of I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun on their Nu-Yorican Soul project and took it into the UK charts earlier this year. Talk about staying power.
by Dean Rudland
Tracks
1. Respect (Otis Redding) - 3:08
2. The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 3:27
3. Sunshine Of Your Love (Pete Brown, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton) - 5:08
4. I Got My Mojo Working (Preston Foster, Muddy Waters) - 2:35
5. The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp (Jimi Hendrix) - 4:42
6. Tales Of Brave Ulysses (Eric Clapton, Martin Sharp) - 4:33
7. This Town (Don Hunter, Stevie Wonder) - 3:28
8. We're Going Wrong (Jack Bruce) - 3:24
9. The Salt Of The Earth (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 5:00
10.If I Sing My Song (Charles Stepney, Richard Rudolph) - 3:42
11.The Sea & She (Richard Rudolph) - 3:32
12.I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun (Charles Stepney, Richard Rudolph) - 5:47
13.Hangin' Round The Bee Tree (Richard Rudolph) - 3:42
14.Hey, Love (Charles Stepney, Richard Rudolph) - 4:12
15.Love Has Fallen On Me (Charles Stepney, Richard Rudolph) - 4:20
16.Song For Everyman (Terry Callier) - 5:34
17.Love Is (Charles Stepney, Richard Rudolph) - 5:21
18.Vine Of Happiness (Charles Stepney, Richard Rudolph) - 4:04
Tracks 1-9 from "Songs" 1969
Tracks 10-18 from "Hey, Love" 1971

The Rotary Connection
1969 Songs 
*Bobby Simms - Vocals, Guitar
*John Jeremiah - Keyboards
*Minnie Riperton - Vocals
*Mitch Aliota - Vocals, Bass
*Sidney Barnes - Vocals
*Kenny Venegas - Vocals, Drums, Percussion
*John Stocklin  - Guitar

1971 Hey Love 
*Minnie Riperton - Vocals
*Charles Stepney - Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Electric Piano
*Master Henry Gibson - Congas
*Pat Ferreri - Guitar
*Donny Simmons - Drums
*Sydney Simms - Bass
*Phil Upchurch - Guitar
*Dave Scott - Tenor Vocals
*Kitty Haywood - Soprano, Alto Vocals
*Shirley Wahls - Contralto Vocals

1967  Rotary Connection - Rotary Connection
1967-71  Rotary Connection - Black Gold, The Best of Rotary Connection (2006 remaster) 
1968  Rotary Connection - Peace
Related Act
1969  Aorta - Aorta
1970  Aorta - Aorta 2

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Cosmic Dealer - Crystallization (1970-73 holland, standout psych blues rock, 2013 double disc remaster)




Formed in Dordrecht in 1968, Cosmic Dealer were one of the most gifted Dutch bands to emerge from Holland's rich psychedelic scene. 

On Crystallization, Cosmic Dealer are at their best when they are rocking out. Tracks like Daybreak, The Scene and the ELO-ish Head In The Clouds are amazingly fun to listen to. The Dutch accent comes on quite strong, but fortunately doesn't impede the singing. Daybreak in particular has a good opening riff that could possibly be described as progressive. At other times, the band show a more acoustic side, such as the sentimental I Had a Friend or Flying in the Winter. The vocals on the latter track remind me of Roger Chapman's bleating vocals in Family.

Cosmic Dealer were clearly heavily influenced by The Beatles. While you may not be able to make him out in the tiny picture above, the man sitting in front of the band bears an uncanny resemblance to John Lennon. Musically, If There is Nothing Behind The Hills sounds like a lost Beatles track, except in a Dutch accent, rather than a Liverpudlian. However, the biggest giveaway is the band's recreation of the 'Hold that line!' sample that concluded Lennon's frightening piece of musique concrète, Revolution 9. This time, the band shout it themselves to bookend their rather bizarre title track. This piece comes in two parts, a plodding opening section, followed by a frenetic climax, both halves featuring the incessant repetition of the album's name. It wouldn't be so bad if they could pronounce crystallization correctly.

Once again, this reissue comes loaded with another LP of bonus tracks, including demos and live tracks. Also, both singles from the album are on this disc. Inside the gatefold, Mike Stax of Ugly Things Magazine tells the story of the band, helped by pictures. It would have been helpful to point out who was whom in the pictures, as it otherwise impossible to put names to the faces.

This is an obscure, but fun record. While the tracks aren't groundbreaking, the band provide a very amicable listening experience, without pretension. If you already own this album, then the bonus LP might be worth your while for upgrading. If you don't mind a bit of psychedelic music in your life, then check this album out soon. 
by Basil Francis
Tracks
Chapter 1 The Album
1. Daybreak (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:06
2. If There Is Nothing Behind The Thrills (Bas Van Der Pol) - 1:17
3. Child Of The Golden Sun (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:45
4. Swingin' Joe Brown (Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:40
5. I Had A Friend (Frans Poots, Jan Reijnders) - 3:57
6. Crystallization (Cosmic Dealer) - 5:52
7. The Scene (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:43
8. The Fly (Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:00
9. One Night (Dave Bartholomew, Pearl King) - :46
10.Find Your Way (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:22
11.Flying In The Winter (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:33
12.Head In The Clouds (Paul Curtis) - 3:34
13.Illusions (Jan Reijnders) - 1:58
14.The Scene (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:46
15.Child Of The Golden Sun (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:48
16.Head In The Clouds (Paul Curtis) - 2:44
17.Find Your Way (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:24
18.Winterwind (We'll Be Walking) (Angelo Noce Santoro, Frans Poots) - 4:07
19.Child Of Tomorrow (Ed Boender) - 3:39
20.You're So Good (Ed Boender) - 3:00
21.Sinner's Confession (Kees de Blois, Jan Reynders) - 4:50
Tracks 1-13 Original Album
Tracks 14-17 Single Mixes
Tracks 18-21 Demos
Chapter 2 The Sessions
1.Daybreak (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:10
2.If There Is Nothing Behind The Hills (Bas Van Der Pol) - 1:20
3.If There Is Nothing Behind The Hills (Bas Van Der Pol) - 1:28
4.Swingin' Joe Brown (Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:46
5.I Had A Friend (Frans Poots, Jan Reijnders) - 4:05
6.Crystallization (Cosmic Dealer) - 5:27
7.Crystallization (Cosmic Dealer) - 5:32
8.The Fly (Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:50
9.One Night (Dave Bartholomew, Pearl King) - 0:44
10.One Night (Dave Bartholomew, Pearl King) - 0:41
11.Find Your Way (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:28
12.Flying In The Winter (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:33
13.Head In The Clouds (Paul Curtis) - 3:40
14.Illusions (Jan Reijnders) - 1:12
15.Illusions (Jan Reijnders) - 2:04
16.Illusions (Jan Reijnders) - 2:06
17.Fast (Hoyer, P. Kingma, Leen Leendertse, Spiljard) - 6:41
18.Child Of The Golden Sun (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:31
19.Fast (Hoyer, P. Kingma, Leen Leendertse, Spiljard) - 4:57
20.Swingin' Joe Brown (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 2:43
21.Child Of The Golden Sun (Frans Poots, Bas Van Der Pol) - 3:49
Tracks 1-2, 4-6, 8-9, 11-16 Demos
Tracks 3, 7, 10 different Mixes
Tracks 17-21 Live Recordings

Cosmic Dealer
*Frans Poots - Flute, Percussion, Saxophone, Vocals
*Bas Van Der Pol - Guitar, Vocals
*Jan Reijnders - Guitar, Vocals
*Angelo Noce Santoro - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Ad Vos - Drums, Percussion
*Leen Leendertse - Guitar, Vocals
*Ed Boender - Guitar, Vocals
*Kees De Blois - Vocals


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Crystal Syphon - Elephant Ball (1967-69 us, excellent garage west coast psych, 2015 Vinyl release)



For decades, Merced, California’s Crystal Syphon were lost amongst the psychedelic lettering that graced the dayglo posters of the Fillmore and Avalon – just a mere opener on the heaviest of bills and a footnote in the countless tomes written about the Haight Ashbury music scene. That all changed in 2012 when Roaratorio Records released Family Evil a highly praised collection of studio and live cuts that proved there was still pure California gold to be mined. The deposit was not depleted and Roaratorio is back with a second compilation, Elephant Ball, of smokin’ early 1967 studio demos and a live November 1969 gig from the legendary Fillmore West.

Side one opens with the all too brief “Dawn Sermon”, whose jingle jangle will make the biggest Quicksilver Messenger Service and Byrds’ fans sweat what is missing after the one minute and twenty second mark. No need to fret, as the sweet yet dark vocal harmonies of “For All of My Life” and “Tell Her For Me” – paired with Jim Sander’s fuzzed minor key leads – move at a blinding lysergic pace as they slip into a live portion of the album. Featuring the last incarnation of the group, the title track begins with an eccentric percussion and bass jam unleashing a frenzy of swirling organ fills and crunchy riffs that pummel the listener like a herd of wild pachyderms. As the audience outwills the abrasive attack the band barrels at a break neck speed into “It’s Winter”. 

Closing with the Latin-tinged “There is Light There”, this release is further proof Crystal Syphon were an incendiary live group whose name should be mentioned in the same breath as other underappreciated Nor Cal luminaries (see: Kak, The New Tweedy Bros and Country Weather) while also being held in the highest esteem of the Quicksilvers, Airplanes and Grateful Deads who went on to find major label success. 
by D. Norsen
Tracks
1. Dawn Sermon - 1:19
2. For All Of My Life - 3:12
3. Tell Her For Me - 3:29
4. Elephant Ball - 4:26
5. Sing To Me - 8:36
6. It's Winter - 3:23
7. Snow Falls - 5:16
8. Don't Fall Brother - 3:20
9. There Is Light There - 6:33
All songs by Crystal Syphon
Tracks 1-3 Recorded 1967
Tracks 4-9 Recorded at Filmore West, San Francisco, CA, 18 November 1969,

Crystal Syphon
*Tom Salles - Vocal, Guitar, Percussion
*Jeff Sanders - Vocals, Organ, Percussion
*Bob Greenlee - Bass
*Jim Sanders - Vocal, Guitar (1-3)
*Andy Daniel - Drums (1-3)
*Dave Sprinkel- Vocals, Organ, Percussion (1-3)
*Marvin Greenlee - Drums (4-10)

1967-68  Crystal Syphon - Family Evil (2012 Vinyl edition) 

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Magna Carta - Lord Of The Ages (1973 uk, brilliant folk rock with prog touches, 2007 digi pak remaster)



In 1973, English progressive folk group, Magna Carta, released their fourth album, Lord of the Ages. Joining members Chris Simpson and Glen Stuart, was Stan Gordon, who had replaced Lyell Tranter. Together, the trio released this appreciable album, which is arguably best listened to in a peaceful environment, to match the tranquil vibes of the music.

Starting off with, Wish It Was, Magna Carta announce to the world that they are still capable of creating beautiful works of musical delight. It is about the singer’s attempt to visualize events in his mind where he is helping others to fulfil lost dreams.

It clearly works, the song opens the album in a remarkable way, you would have to be a sociopath not to have a smile on your face while listening to it. That stinging acoustic guitar sound could even spike the interest of the toughest hard rockers. The second song, Two Old Friends, moves a bit more into the country territory, while still retaining the ‘folkiness’ that Magna Carta are known for. Lead singer Chris Simpson has a voice somewhat similar to Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane. The song drags a bit, but it does have a killer harmonica sound throughout. Not as good as the opener, Two Old Friends, is an acceptable piece regardless.

Now we get to the title track, at over ten minutes long, it starts off with a spoken word passage that proves they had a skill for poetry, as well as enchanting melodies. The song transforms into an exciting whirlwind of sounds that come out of nowhere. You will be reciting the chant “gathering in the harvest” in your head for hours after hearing it. The imagery here is flooded with folk-horror images of forests, fields of wheat, and children playing. It then begins to mellow, before slowly fading out. Come to think of it, that bombastic part of the song is probably the only part of the album that would be suitable for radio consumption.

Now, we get to the ever-beautiful, Isn’t It Funny (And Not A Little Bit Strange) – not unlike singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson’s Waiting On The Willow from his Aerial Ballet album. The song has a dream-like aura to it, similar to floating away to far away lands of mystique that could only be conceived by the ideas we get while in dream land. It has a slight pop element to it, and a leisurely breeziness, but don’t fall asleep, we still have half of the album left!

After finishing that (which might be the best song on the whole album), we get to Song of the Evening. While not a total bore, in a way similar to Two Old Friends, it kind of just ‘drags on’, where as the other slower numbers on the album manage to grab your attention, this lacks that resonance. It just drones, with no apparent enthusiasm in sight. The swirling guitar part that is prominently featured throughout the song is impressive. The album then goes into the second-longest track on the album, Father John, it is a bit better than the previous track, although it is still inferior to anything on the first half of the album. It does have impressive harmonies, which frankly isn’t surprising for Magna Carta. The song features fitting bongos, which go perfect with a song like this. Not great, but a passable song nonetheless.

Not to worry, That Was Yesterday is a fetching ballad that will grab your heart and won’t let go until the song draws it’s very last breath. Dominated by the piano, this song is the definition of the word beauty. The lead vocals never sounded better on this album, it has a very romantic feeling to it. Accompanied by woodwind and string instruments, it is as emotionally powerful as it is gentle. Finally, we come across the album closer, Falkland Grene, an interesting medieval-style track, this one definitely seems like it could be popular while played deep in a forest, near a campfire. Enjoyable for sure, it contains lots of vivid imagery just like most of the rest of the album.

Even though there are arguably a couple of blunders on the album, the record is a joyous experience overall. Magna Carta would go on to release many more albums, including The Fields of Eden in 2015.
by Matt Kessler, June 22, 2017 
Tracks
1. Wish It Was - 3:35
2. Two Old Friends - 3:33
3. Lord Of The Ages - 9:59
4. Isn't It Funny (And Not A Little Bit Strange) - 2:33
5. Song Of Evening - 3:44
6. Father John - 6:42
7. That Was Yesterday - 3:24
8. Falkland Grene - 2:48
All Lyrics and Music by Chris Simpson

Magna Carta
*Chris Simpson - Guitar, Vocals
*Glen Stuart - Vocals, Spoken Word
*Stan Gordon - Guitar, Vocals
With
*Jon Curle - Voice
*Gordon Huntley - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Jean Alain Roucel - Piano
*Graham Smith - Jew's Harp
*Dave Peacock - Bass
*Danny Thompson - String Bass
*Gerry Conway - Drums
*Alan Eden - Drums
*Tony Carr - Percussion

1969  Magna Carta / Times Of Change
1969-2006  Tomorrow Never Comes-The Anthology (2007 double disc remaster)
1971  Magna Carta - In Concert (2014 remaster)

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Tempest - Tempest (1973 uk, great hard prog jazz rock, 2011 remater)



When Jon Hiseman split Colosseum in 1972. he resolved to take the rock aspects of his music to their logical conclusion. To this end he retained the services of Mark Clarke on bass/keyboards/vocals, who had been with him in the last Colosseum lineup; his rock intentions were signalled by the recruitment of Paul Williams on guitar/ keyboards/vocals, who had previously seen service in Juicy Lucy and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band. 

The fourth member of the new band was Allan Holdsworth on  guitar/vocals/violin. Holdsworth was a rock guitarist with jazz leanings (rather than vice versa), and in a sense this definition tells you the difference between Tempest and Colosseum. It was in this band that Allan Holdsworth came to critical attention, his only previous recorded outing being an album with the band Igginbottom's Wrench on Deram in 1969.

Tempest was an apt name for the band, as their eponymous debut album showed. With Hiseman drumming up a storm and Clarke adopting the wise approach of playing simply but strongly (a flash drummer and a busy bassist never go together), the foundation was laid for Williams and Holdsworth to wail and moan over a series of complex progressive compositions.  
 Tracks
1. Gorgon (Hiseman, Clarke, Holdsworth) - 5:41
2. Foyers Of Fun (Hiseman, Clarke, Holdsworth) - 3:38
3. Dark House (Hiseman, Clarke, Holdsworth) - 5:00
4. Brothers (Hiseman, Holdsworth) - 3:35
5. Up And On (Edwards, Holdsworth) - 4:16
6. Grey And Black (Clarke, Bottomley) - 2:26
7. Strangeher (Clarke, Hiseman) - 4:07
8. Upon Tomorrow (Clempson, Hiseman) - 6:15

Tempest
*Jon Hiseman - Drums
*Mark Clarke - Bass
*Paul Williams - Vocals
*Allan Holdsworth - Guitar

Related Acts
1968  Zoot Money - Transition
1969  Igginbottom - Igginbottom's Wrench
1970  Juicy Lucy - Lay Back And Enjoy It
1969 Colosseum - Valentyne Suite (2004 deluxe expanded edition) 
1969  Colosseum - Those Who Are About To Die Salute You (2004 remaster and expanded)
1970  Colosseum - Daughter Of Time (remaster with bonus track)
1971  Colosseum - Colosseum Live (2016 double disc set remaster)

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Monday, February 10, 2020

Jonesy - Masquerade The Dawn Years Anthology (1972-73 uk, spectacular prog rock, 2007 double disc remaster)



While there's no shortage of progressive music being made today, much of it takes place below the radar, without the support of major labels. During the 1970s, on the other hand, anything seemed possible, and the industry provided considerable exposure to music that's since become marginalized. It's unlikely that bands like King Crimson and Yes would be able to build such large fan bases, were they to emerge today. Still, despite the internet's contribution to a resurgent interest in progressive rock, there are groups that have fallen by the wayside, deserving to be more than a historical footnote.

Formed by Tasmanian-born guitarist/vocalist John Evan-Jones after relocating to England in 1969, Jonesy is one such group, bearing some comparison to Crimson and Yes despite possessing none of the gravitas of Crimson's early albums or Yes' overall bombast. Still, with the pre-synthesizer mellotron—a portable instrument allowing the addition of orchestral and choral textures—a fundamental part of Jonesy's sound, and its often lengthy and episodic compositions, Classic Rock Magazine's description of Jonesy as "The best prog band you've never heard" may be a touch hyperbolic, but still affords Jonesy a fuller due never received at the time.

Masquerade - The Dawn Years Anthology collects the group's first three records, along with an early single and one brief outtake, evidence of another 1970s progressive rock characteristic—surprisingly rapid growth from album-to-album, and over short periods of time. Recorded between May, 1972 and October, 1973, Jonesy not only went from the rock-based, semi-symphonic prog of No Alternative (Dawn, 1972 to the more jazz-informed Growing (Dawn, 1973, but weathered an almost complete personnel change after its first album, leaving Evan-Jones and keyboardist/vocalist Jamie Kaleth as the only members common throughout the entire two-plus hours of music collected here.

While Evan-Jones doesn't have quite the personality of Crimson's Robert Fripp or Yes' Steve Howe, he's no slouch. His reverse-attack solo on the funky but hard-edged "No Alternative" offers a taste of the territory Adrian Belew would mine more visibly a few years later, while his impressive triplet-based arrangement over David Paull's Chris Squire-like bass line on "Pollution" is decidedly in Yes territory, albeit somehow less self-indulgent in tone.

But it was in the band's major shake-up following No Alternative, that Jonesy made a significant shift, notably with the recruitment of electric trumpeter Alan Bown. More sophisticated vocal harmonies and a richer blend of rock, classical, jazz—a touch of soul, even—inform the Rupert Hine-produced Growing. "Jonesy," the album's closer, is closer to fusion free-improv, although with a string arrangement by Simon Jeffes and the group expanded to an octet with guests Bernard Hagley (saxophones, Ken Elliott (keyboards and Maurice Pert (percussion, it assumes unexpected form over its nearly twelve minutes.

Once again Esoteric Recordings (formerly Eclectic Discs) have rescued a group from obscurity, and given it some well-deserved exposure in a lovingly remastered package with informative liner notes, and archival photos and cover art. 
by John Kelman, January 11, 2008
Tracks
Disc 1 
1. Ricochet - 4:01
2. Every Day's The Same - 4:31
3. No Alternative - 8:21
4. Heaven - 8:05
5. Mind Of The Century - 4:12
6. 1958 - 7:53
7. Pollution - 9:43
8. Ricochet - 4:59
9. Reprise (1:05
10.Maquerade - 6:07
11.Sunset And Evening Star (John Evan Jones) - 3:40
12.Preview - 2:00
13.Questions And Answers - 5:15
All compositions by Jamie Kaleth except where indicated
Track 1 Single Edit 1972
Track 2 Single B-Side 1972
Tracks 3-8 from LP "No Alternative" 1972 
Track 9 Outtake 1972
Tracks 10-13 from LP "Keeping Up" 1973
Disc 2
1. Critique (With Exceptions) - 9:32
2. Duet - 0:49
3. Song - 3:33
4. Children - 9:02
5. Can You Get That Together - 8:58
6. Waltz For Yesterday - 4:11
7. Know Who Your Friends Are - 6:14
8. Growing - 5:04
9. Hard Road - 3:56
10.Jonesy - 11:40
All songs by Jamie Kaleth
Tracks 1-4 from LP "Keeping Up" 1973
Tracks 5-10 from LP "Growing" 1973

Musicians
*John Evan Jones - Lead Guitar, VCS3, Vocals
*Jamie Kaleth - Mellotron, Electric Piano, Grand Piano, Vocals
*Alan Bown - Electric Trumpet, Electric Flugelhorn, Percussion
*Gypsy Jones - Bass, Recorders, Vocals
*Plug Thomas - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*David Paul - Bass, Vocals (Tracks 1-9 Disc 1)
*Jim Payne - Drums, Percussion (Tracks 1-9 Disc 1)
With
*Bernard Hagley - Electric Saxes (Tracks 5-10 Disc 2)
*Ken Eliott - Clavinet, ARP 2600 (Tracks 5-10 Disc 2)
*Maurice Pert - Percussion (Tracks 5-10 Disc 2)

1972-73  Jonesy - Ricochet Pioneering In (2007 release) 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Lee Michaels - Carnival Of Life (1968 us, astonishing psych rock with some killer fuzz guitar, 2010 remaster)



1968’s Carnival of Life debut ended up being unrepresentative of Michaels’ most characteristic work, it showed a singer-songwriter with strong R&B roots partially obscured by hippy-dippy psychedelia. But after a chance hit of acid given by the famed mind-chemical maven August Owsley Stanley lll, he was convinced he was an organ player, not a stand-up frontman vocalist, and Michael’s music took a unique turn towards the keyboard/drums only approach he favored for most of the rest of his career. While some will only recognize his fluke hit “Do You Know What I Mean,” Michaels’ sound ran far deeper into psychedelic pop, soul, gospel, rock and even blues. 
by Hal Horowitz

Lee Michaels, a veteran of the Los Angeles and San Francisco bar-band scene in the mid-'60s, struck out on his own in 1967 after fronting bands with such illustrious alumni as Joel Scott Hill, Bob Mosley, and John Barbata. Michaels' music was characterized by his soulful vocals and equally soulful organ playing. These awesome talents would be polished on his second and third albums, but his debut, while interesting, falls a bit short. The main problem is that A&M saw Michaels as sort of a psychedelic singer/songwriter/rocker. In reality, he was sort of a California version of Steve Winwood. Carnival of Life has some excellent performances by Michaels and especially drummer Eddie Hoh. Both rock hard on the album's nine cuts, but the material is a bit dated and tends to end up in some hard-rock clichés of the period. Still, it's a promising if quirky start of what would be a fine career. 
by Matthew Greenwald
Tracks
1. Hello - 4:24
2. Another One - 4:08
3. Streetcar - 3:35
4. Love - 5:07
5. Carnival Of Life - 3:00
6. Why - 3:23
7. Tomorrow - 4:33
8. Sounding The Sleeping - 4:05
9. My Friends - 2:37
All songs by Lee Michaels

Personnel
*Lee Michaels - Piano, Organ, Harpsichord,  Vocals
*David Potter - Drums
*John Keski - Bass
*Hamilton W. Watt - Guitar
*Gary Davis - Organ
*Eddie Hoh - Drums

1969  Lee Michaels - Lee Michaels 
1970  Lee Michaels - Barrel

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Saturday, February 8, 2020

John David Souther - John David Souther (1972 us, wonderful country rock with blues tinges, 2008 remaster)



John David Souther was among the first artists signed to David Geffen's Asylum Records imprint, joining the likes of other SoCal talents Judee Sill, Jackson Browne, David Blue, and the Eagles. Souther's on-again/off-again collaborations with fellow Detroit, MI native Glenn Frey began when the pair formed a folk duo called the Longbranch Pennywhistle. Their sole outing is definitely worth finding as it boasted contributions from the likes of James Burton (guitar), Ry Cooder (guitar), Doug Kershaw (fiddle), Jim Gordon (drums), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), and Joe Osborn (bass). For Souther's 1972 debut, the singer/songwriter enlists the aid of not only his one-time partner Frey, but also a few other notable names consisting of Ned Doheny (guitar), Gib Guilbeau (fiddle), former Things to Come member Bryan Garofalo (bass), and soon-to-be-session musician extraordinaire Gary Mallaber (drums). John David Souther (1972) bears the same earthy Southwestern textures that are inextricably linked to the roots of the country/rock subgenre.

"The Fast One" commences with a midtempo rocker that bears the sonic stamp of Guilbeau's unmistakable fiddling. "Run Like a Thief" follows with a prime example of Souther's often underrated lyrical capacity. He draws upon sacred themes during "Jesus in 3/4 Time" with a feel that isn't too far removed from the Gram Parsons-era Byrds. "Kite Woman" is a love song for codependents, reiterating an understated craftsmanship within Souther's wordplay as he reflects on one whose "got you strung-out somewhere down the line." "Some People Call It Music" is marked by some superlative string work from Souther and Doheny, with the former's harmonies practically predicting the compact, rural vocals that the Eagles would adopt in fairly short order. Joel Tepp (harmonica) -- whose recent résumé listed a guest shot on Crazy Horse's Loose -- provides a few greasy harp licks to the blues-fuelled "White Wing." 

The palpable loneliness of "It's the Same" and the concluding "Lullaby" are countered by the rocker "How Long." Although the latter title was initially issued by Souther as a single from this album, it resurfaced some 36 years later on the Eagles' reunion studio platter Long Road out of Eden (2007). It would become a Grammy award winner for them under the "Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal" category. The nod reinforced an already prolific collaboration between Souther and the combo, as he supplied several key LP cuts for them during the '70s, including co-writing "The Best of My Love," "New Kid in Town," and "Heartache Tonight." 
by Lindsay Planer
Tracks
1. The Fast One - 3:10
2. Run Like A Thief - 3:15
3. Jesus In 3/4 Time - 3:38
4. Kite Woman - 3:06
5. Some People Call It Music - 3:16
6. White Wing - 4:21
7. It's The Same - 3:32
8. How Long - 3:22
9. Out To Sea - 5:03
10. Lullaby - 1:35
All Songs By J.D. Souther

Musicians
*J.D. Souther - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Glenn Frey - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*John Barbata - Drums
*Michael Bowden - Bass
*Fred Catero - Guitar
*Ned Doheny - Guitar
*Mickey Mcgee - Drums
*Bryan Garofalo - Bass
*Gib Guilbeau - Fiddle, Violin
*David Jackson - Bass, Piano, Keyboards
*Gary Mallaber - Drums, Keyboards
*Joel Tepp - Bass, Harp
*Wayne Perkins - Guitar, Slide Guitar

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Friday, February 7, 2020

Bobby Callender - The Way / First Book Of Experiences (1971 us, exceptional raga world fusion psych)



An orchestral and eastern influenced psychedelic pop gem, Bobby Callendar’s “The Way” sometimes gets the shaft to “Rainbow,” but I like “The Way.”

Sometimes, when folks are asked if they could interview anybody from any time, it would be Gandhi. But, The Rising Storm chooses Bobby C. Seriously, somebody needs to get the scoop on this mysterious and intriguing record. Bobby’s intense lyrics are matched with a mix of eastern instruments, lush strings, and tambourine. I can’t say why but the tambourine sticks in my memory. Nothing says 60s pop like that wonderful percussion instrument.

Bobby C. was clearly very into the Mike Love style 60s eastern Buddhism thing. “Sitting ‘neath the bodhi tree… as one.  The Story of Rasha & Dhara is essential listening for psychedelic music fans. It’s pretty, and strange, and sports one of the smoothest basslines of the 60s.

Not to say that this record is flawless. There are a few skippable tracks, all in all it’s nothing to brag about, but there are some real nice gems in here. The opening is miraculous, while others are catchy, and others take you quite by surprise. Be prepared for religous themes and a generally trippy experience.

The lack of availability to this record is a disappointment; the sturdy digipak casing, reminiscent of some of the best vinyl record sleeves, should be a standard for CD reissues. And like I’ve been saying, this one is a real gem.
by Brendan McGrath
Tracks
1. Drone/Going Back/Ist and 2nd Movement - 2:46
2. Awaken John/Lord Am I Dreamnng - 2:58
3. Bhodi Tree - 2:06
4. Satori - 2:28
5. Story of Rasha and Dhara - 4:27
6. Chant: Kasha and Dhara and Love, Love, Love - 0:59
7. Shringara - 2:02
8. 3rd Movement/Satyagraha - 6:37
9. Transmigration/Travel With Me - 3:43
10.Karma Yogi - 2:16
11.4th Movement/Ooda Rata Travel With Me - 2:23
12.Story of the Shepherd - 3:49
13.Let Thy Will Be Done - 2:17
14.Hari Om and Deva Chant Interlude - 4:18
15.Santa Grace - 3:16
16.Going Back Instrumental/Ooda Chant and Ending - 4:42
All compositions by Bob Callender

Personnel
*Bobby Callender - Vocals
*Ralph Towner - Flugelhorn, Guitar, Piano, Percussion, Organ
*Glen Moore - Bass, Clarinet, Viola,  Piano
*Collin Walcott - Percussion, Tabla, Sitar, Dulcimer
*Paul McCandless - Clarinet, Oboe, Horn, Saxophone, Synthesizer
*Trilok Gurtu - Percussion, Tabla

1968  Bobby Callender - Rainbow (bonus tracks edition) 

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Rotary Connection - Rotary Connection (1967 us, delicate experimental jazzy soul psych)



The most inexplicable aspect of Rotary Connection's debut is that its strange and experimental qualities are often referred to as charming but dated, while Love's Forever Changes (released the same year), a record that is just a shade less bizarre and no more psychedelic, is universally viewed as timeless. There's no mistaking that this is hardly a flawless record -- this band, more an experiment than anything else, was only beginning to find its feet. For every cover that radically reshapes the original and either stuns ears or elicits screams of blasphemy ("Like a Rolling Stone"), there's one that falls completely flat in its blandness ("Soul Man"). 

And for every original that is rife with otherworldly melodies and luscious combinations of countless musical styles ("Memory Band"), there's something like the ghostly "what you've just heard" audio collage/megamix that closes out the album ("Rotary Connection"). The consensus seems to be that this is the only essential record this group released, and that they were such an oddball entity that this is all one can take of them. That's just plain silly, evident from any number of the sparkling moments found on the LPs that followed. Minnie Riperton had yet to take the spotlight she deserved in this group -- so in a sense, this could be seen as the least-representative Rotary Connection record, as fascinating as it is. Some strange force carried it to the Top 40 of the album chart, not that it was undeserving. 
by Andy Kellman
Tracks
1. Amen (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 4:01
2. Rapid Transit (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 0:39
3. Turn Me On (Sidney Barnes, Greg Perry) - 3:19
4. Pink Noise (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 0:22
5. Lady Jane (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 5:00.
6. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan) - 4:52
7. Soul Man (Isaac Hayes, David Porter) - 3:18
8. Sursum Mentes (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 0:43
9. Didn't Want To Have To Do It (John Sebastian) - 3:13
10.Black Noise (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 0:20
11.Memory Band (Richard Rudolph, Charles Stepney) - 3:20
12.Ruby Tuesday (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 4:27
13.Rotary Connection (Marshall Paul, Charles Stepney) - 2:51

Rotary Connection
*Mitch Aliotta – Vocals
*Minnie Riperton – Vocals
*Sidney Barnes – Vocals
*Bobby Simms – Vocals
*Kenny Venegas – Vocals
*Judy Hauff - Vocals
*Charles Stepney – Keyboards
*Marshall Chess - Theremin
With
*Bobby Christian – Guitar
*Pete Cosey – Guitar
*Morris Jennings – Drums
*Louis Satterfield – Bass
*Phil Upchurch – Bass
*Chuck Barksdale - Bass Vocals

1967-71  Rotary Connection - Black Gold, The Best of Rotary Connection (2006 remaster) 
1968  Rotary Connection - Peace
Related Act
1969  Aorta - Aorta
1970  Aorta - Aorta 2

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Mike Cooper - Trout Steel (1970 uk, amazing avant folk rock, 2014 remaster)



Mike Cooper was already a noted multi-instrumental folk and blues guitarist who rejected pigeonholes for a more enlightened view of the musical community when, in 1970, Pye released his third album, Trout Steel. It can be argued that Trout Steel became the fulcrum upon which the rest of his life made purchase, marking the point at which his style openly balanced traditional arrangements and song structures with the organic and experimental movements at the periphery of folk, jazz and blues.

Employing acoustic, resonator and lap steel guitars, piano, upright bass, saxophone and all manner of percussion, Cooper set out to blend his interests across the length of an album that, 43 years on, is now afforded a re-issue through Paradise of Bachelors. Cooper has gone on to record albums, score orchestral soundtracks, make films and generally engage in any output of ethnic and acoustic noise art that will expand his, and our, experience of sound. In 1970, you can hear the seeds being sown.

Of the more traditional arrangements, That’s How, the opening track, is as close as you’ll get to understanding his mindset as the new decade began. The first of many tracks to remark upon the need to keep moving and seek out new horizons, it has a simple chord strum that introduces his reedy English vowels:

So hard, to know what she’s thinking / So hard to know, what’s on her mind / Everything has changed and everyone’s to blame / For the things, that get lost, on the way

It’s as English as scrumpy and ploughmans. Sitting Here Watching is a blues twang with pre-cursive hints of Neil Young’s Harvest, whose 1972 released songs adopt a similar loose-limbed vocal performance and ragged guitar accompaniment. Goodtimes and Hope You See could be outtakes from the Let It Be sessions, the latter complete with a ‘Sorry Ringo, it’s not good enough to make the cut’ country warble over the layered guitar parts. Don’t Talk Too Fast has a great melody and a fiery sax break. They’re all good.

If these and the remainder of the album were all you got, Trout Steel would be an album you’d be pleased to sit beside your early Richard Thompson or Nick Drake vinyl. What marks it out is the tracks that don’t conform to our standard expectations. Four tracks in, I’ve Got Mine sets up a repetitive guitar riff that for four minutes is overlaid with splashes of piano, dissonant brass breaks, random percussive outbursts and the occasional bar of a violin seemingly tuning up.

At first it’s purposefully disconcerting, but as the guitar builds the melting pot of instruments come together as if until now they’ve just been playing with you, allowing Cooper to sing over the slightly more accommodating middle of the song. The extended jam and free-form nature of the track bookends the vocal part and the whole runs for nearly twelve minutes. Repeated listening begins to unfold the layers of melody until what seemed forced and difficult becomes natural and cohesive.

I’ve Got Mine is followed by A Half Sunday Homage to a Whole Leonardo da Vinci (without words by Richard Brautigan), a short jazzy instrumental that was clearly the influence for Fiona Apple’s album titles. The other departure is Pharaoh’s March, which expands upon I’ve Got Mine’s template by introducing ambient sounds, small bells and off-key string pushes that rise in volume and depth alongside scat-like saxophone and de-constructed beats to a crescendo that resolves in a melody that destroys itself before the end. Whilst it’s not a song you’d play for your Gran on a Sunday afternoon (or maybe you would?), its merit lies in the message Cooper was sending out, that he was more than ready to step off the yellow bricks and explore the fields to either side. As a calling card for his later work, in particular his last Pye releases Places I Know and The Machine Gun Co, it’s a perfect transitional piece for anyone tempted to join him.

Ironic then, that the final track, Weeping Rose, reverts to type with a gentle stroll through a folk-picker that stays in the memory long after it finishes, the method of delivery nothing new but the lyrics continuing to elucidate upon his wanderlust state of mind and need for pastures new:

So long girl, I’ve got to go / You won’t understand that I know / You take my hand, be my friend / I’ll meet you further down the road

The reissue has been handled with care and is available on vinyl or CD. It comes with the reassuring hiss of a master long tucked away before seeing the light of day, which doesn’t detract from the music, but helps to place it in its time even as the content seeks to make time immaterial. File under classic.
by Paul Woodgate
Tracks
1. That's How - 4:22
2. Sitting Here Watching - 3:13
3. Goodtimes - 3:29
4. I've Got Mine - 11:22
5. A Half Sunday Homage to a Whole Leonardo da Vinci - 1:36
6. Don't Talk Too Fast - 3:24
7. Trout Steel - 2:25
8. In the Mourning - 5:21
9. Hope You See - 4:20
10.Pharaoh's March - 7:16
11.Weeping Rose - 3:22
All titles composed by Mike Cooper

Musicians
*Mike Cooper - Vocals, Guitar, Slide Guitar
*Harry Miller - Double Bass
*Roy Babbington - Double Bass, Electric Bass
*Alan Jackson - Drums, Percussion
*Bill Boazman - Guitar
*Stefan Grossman - Guitar
*John Taylor - Piano
*Mike Osborne - Alto Saxophone, Clarinet
*Geoff Hawkins - Tenor Saxophone, Flute
*Alan Skidmore - Tenor, Soprano Saxophone
*Jerry Field - Violin
*Nick Pickett - Violin
*The Heron - Vocals

1971-72  Mike Cooper - Places I Know / The Machine Gun Company (2014 remaster) 

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