Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Keith Allison - In Action The Complete Columbia Sides Plus! (1965-70 us, splendid folk beat psych rock, 2014 bonus tracks remaster)

Keith Allison is a talented guy who has worked with some of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll, but he owes his solo career to simple good luck. In 1965, Texas-born Allison was at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles hoping to get paid for a demo session he played on for Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart when someone spotted him and thought he'd look good on television. That of all things led to a regular gig on ABC-TV's rock music show Where the Action Is! and a record deal with Columbia. In Action: The Complete Columbia Sides Plus! features Allison's 1967 album In Action in its entirety, along with 12 bonus tracks from singles he cut for Columbia and Amy Records between 1966 and 1970. Allison was a fine singer, a solid guitarist, and a gifted songwriter, but he doesn't get much of a chance to show off the latter on his album; while he penned one of the best of its 11 songs, "Freeborn Man," in tandem with Mark Lindsay () - it's a country-flavored tune good enough that Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin both recorded it, the rest are covers that offer up a cross section of what was happening in pop at the time -- two Monkees covers, two Donovan tunes, several numbers about cars and girls, and a smattering of well-scrubbed R&B for seasoning. 

The arrangements are sharp and Allison's voice is clear and versatile, with his faint Texas accent adding a nice twist to the songs. However, it's the single sides that feature the most interesting material () - all in punchy mono that sounds tighter than the more spacious stereo mixes on the album; "Glitter and Gold" and "I Ain't Blamin' You" are teen pop with some real grit, "Look at Me" and "Everybody" give Allison room to show off his songwriting chops, and "Who Do You Love" and a medley of "Johnny B. Goode" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" demonstrate he had a firm command of rock & roll basics. A year after In Action was released, Allison joined Paul Revere & the Raiders, and since then he's worked with everyone from Harry Nilsson to Alice Cooper, but this disc shows Allison clearly had the goods for a solo career, even if his sales figures suggested otherwise. 
by Mark Deming

Keith Allison took listeners “where the action is” on his 1967 Columbia Records debut LP In Action, packing its grooves with tunes from Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart () - including “Action, Action, Action,” the theme to ABC-TV’s Where the Action Is, which featured Allison, Donovan, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles, and his future bandmates Paul Revere and the Raiders. On the album—produced by California music icon Gary Usher—Allison even introduced a future country-and-western staple in his own song “Freeborn Man,” co-written with the Raiders’ Mark Lindsay.  Real Gone Music’s first-ever compact disc reissue offers more action than before, adding twelve original mono single bonus tracks to the original eleven stereo pop nuggets.  

These diverse 45s—ten rarities from the Columbia vaults and two ultra-rare tracks from Bell Records’ Amy imprint—boast productions by the likes of Mark Lindsay, Terry Melcher and Larry Marks, and songs by Bo Diddley, Joe South, Tommy Roe, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and the legendary Brill Building team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil as well as Allison himself.  Like "Freeborn Man," a couple of these tracks () - South’s “Birds of a Feather” and Allison and Lindsay’s “Wednesday’s Child" would also get the full Raiders treatment on the band’s albums.  Taken together, the 23 tracks on In Action—The Complete Columbia Sides and More! show the many sides of this singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who, besides being  the late-period Raiders bassist, worked with the Monkees, Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper. Joe Marchese’s in-depth liner notes explore the Keith Allison legacy; Vic Anesini’s remastering lets the music shine.
1. Louise (Jesse Lee Kincaid) - 1:55
2. I'm A Believer (Neil Diamond) - 2:34
3. Freeborn Man (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) - 2:58
4. Lies (Beau Charles, Bobby Randell) - 2:47
5. I Wanna Be Free (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart) - 2:38
6. Colours (Donovan Leitch) - 2:45
7. Good Thing (Terry Melcher, Mark Lindsay) - 2:47
8. Action, Action, Action (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart) - 2:22
9. Catch The Wind (Donovan Leitch) - 3:33
10.Leave My Woman Alone (Ray Charles) - 3:12
11.Do It (Neil Diamond) - 2:12
12.Action, Action, Action (Mono Single Version) (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart) - 2:14
13.Glitter And Gold (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) - 2:15
14.I Ain't Blamin' You (Joe Brooks, Al Stillman) - 2:19
15.Look At Me (Keith Allison) - 2:52
16.Who Do You Love (Ellas McDaniel) - 2:23
17.I Don't Want Nobody But You (Keith Allison) - 2:36
18.Birds Of A Feather (Joe South) - 2:27
19.To Know Her Is To Love Her (Phil Spector) - 2:32
20.Johnny B. Good/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (Chuck Berry, Sunny David, David "Curly" Williams) - 3:18
21.Toad Jam Blues (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) - 5:28
22.Everybody (Single Version) (Keith Allison) - 3:00
23.Wednesday's Child (Single Version) (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay, Judy Allison) - 2:25

*Keith Allison - Vocals, Acoustic, Electric, 12 String Guitar, Piano, Bass, Keyboards

with Paul Revere And The Raiders
1965-69  Paul Revere And The Raiders - Hungry For Kicks, Singles And Choice Cuts (2009 release)
1969  Alias Pink Puzz (Sundazed remaster)
1969  Hard 'N' Heavy With Marshmallow (Sundazed issue)
1970-71  Indian Reservation / Collage (2009 remaster)
1971-74  Raiders - Country Wine...Plus (2010 remaster and expanded)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Boomerang - Boomerang (1971 us, solid heavy bluesy psych rock, 2015 release)

Boomerang- by definition, something that returns to the originator. Mark Stein may have been ahead of his time. As a founding member of Vanilla Fudge, largely remembered for the hit “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” Stein cultivated an organ rich sound that influenced other heavy organ rock bands, most notably, Deep Purple; Stein is credited as an originator of sounds that bridged psychedelia with what eventually became heavy metal.

I’m not sure that is an entirely accurate picture of the music at the time; there were lots of “heavy rock” bands in the era (think: Iron Butterfly) and Vanilla Fudge seemed to have more range and versatility than many, covering a wide variety of Beatles tunes, Donovan and even “The Look of Love.” The band’s biggest hit was an R & B number. Their catalog is certainly worth revisiting but I wouldn’t put them in one slot, musically, though they are definitely “of the period.”

By the time the rock music business (emphasis on business) reached full swing, Vanilla Fudge was history. (The band has reformed over the years, but Stein worked with a number of other artists, including Tommy Bolin, Alice Cooper and Dave Mason in the years that followed).

Boomerang was released by a band Stein formed in the immediate aftermath—and though it carries the thematic elements that made Vanilla Fudge influential—bombastic organ work, wailing vocals and driving hard rock guitar and drums—it never did much commercially.

What of Boomerang? Was it simply an attempt to seize on musical developments that Stein was partly responsible for setting in motion? Stein seems to have dismissed the album, (see Tice Interview at p.4) as something he did while trying to come to grips with the loss of Vanilla Fudge- he was on top of the world, and then—nothing. At the age of 23. Stein nonetheless admits that they did “some pretty cool things” on that album. Id.  

On its own merits, it’s a good album, and one that if not “lost,” certainly doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. It pops up in the used bins in stores and at record shows— copies are neither difficult to source nor expensive.  It was released by RCA during the Dynaflex era which means very thin vinyI. However, I’ve never had an issue with the sound quality of such pressings, though they tend to warp if not stored properly.

“Juke” is a hard rocker with wailing vocals, driving guitars and all that comes with it, including that thick, rich organ sound.  “Fisherman” is a slower ballad, it’s melodic, kind of what would happen if you mixed Mountain with Three Dog Night. The drumming is good and Stein’s vocals are in the zone. “Hard Times” starts with some rattly strings and has a blues sound on the guitar, but the vocals soar and the chorus isn’t very bluesy sounding. Some nice slide parts, though. It’s an odd juxtaposition of blues with pop, not bad, just hard to nail down (which is OK). The first side finishes with “Mockingbird,” which takes us into hard rock territory again—a kind of jubilant boogie that’s got it all—gospel voices and nice drive on the organ and guitar. 

"Cynthia Fever”—another rollicking rocker—these guys have got the vocal chops and that’s what drew my attention, but the playing is solid. “Brother’s Comin’ Home” starts with a nice piano part and then strings! A solid slow ballad—the vocal part really carries this—and with this instrumentation, you can hear a very good recording—the piano sounds “right” to my ears. The bass and strings sounds are good too.  I’ve found most hard rock bands that recorded with an orchestra sounded like two different things playing at once, but the string arrangements work here as does the guitar playing with the string parts.  The lead vocal part is stunning here—it’s very soulful.

The album wraps with “The Peddler,” a hard-edged guitar led piece—its style is reminiscent of Steppenwolf but it’s far “cleaner” sounding (and the recording is better too, since most of Steppenwolf’s recorded output isn’t the best, sonically though they were such a great band in their heyday). The pace picks up midway through the piece and drives it home in the great tradition of all those bands that relied on the Hammond B-3 for that thick rich tone. Gee, I wonder where these (other) guys got that from?

Without the fame and talent of Stein—who was coming off a hugely successful and ultimately very influential run as Vanilla Fudge—any band that released this record would (and should) have been rightfully proud. Maybe that was the problem- Stein is really talented and it shows through here but it wasn’t enough to distinguish this record from the many others in the same vein released in this period.

With the vantage point of time and distance, we (and hopefully Stein himself) can appreciate this record for what it is.
by Bill Hart, Austin, TX. October, 2019
1. Juke (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 4:55
2. Fisherman (Mark Stein) - 3:36
3. Hard Times (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 4:10
4. Mockingbird (Inez Foxx, Charlie Foxx) - 4:01
5. Cynthia Fever (Brennen, James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 3:44
6. Brother's Comin' Home (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 4:44
7. The Peddler (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 5:18
8. Montreal Jail (James Galluzi, Mark Stein, Richard Ramirez) - 3:01
Bonus Track 8

*Mark Stein - Organ, Piano, Vocals
*James Galluzi - Drums, Percussion
*Richard Ramirez - Lead, Rhythm, Acoustic Guitar
*Jo Casmir - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Billy Arnel - Strings

Related Acts 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Alan Wilson - The Blind Owl (1966-70 us, superb psych blues rock, 2013 double disc remaster)

Alan Wilson is widely remembered as a pioneer of blues-rock during its crucial development period of the 1960s. Wilson’s devoted fans considered him one of the most brilliant, innovative, and sadly under-recognized artists of his era. His recording career spanned only three years, cut short in 1970 by his untimely death. Despite this, he left behind a rich legacy of inspiration to fellow artists, music scholars, and listeners alike.

Born July 4, 1943, Wilson was the second child of Jack Wilson and Shirley Brigham Wilson. His parents divorced when he was four years old and he and his sister, Darrel, remained in their Arlington Massachusetts house with their father and their maternal grandmother, Julia Brigham. Jack married his second wife, Barbara. Barbara and Jack raised Alan and Darrell along with the three children they had together. Shirley also remarried and raised three daughters with her husband, Joe Konecny. In 1954 Shirley moved to New York State, and remained in contact with Alan, Darrell and the Wilson family, visiting back and forth over the years.

Alan’s exceptional intelligence was obvious at a young age. His musical inclinations became apparent when Barbara bought him a jazz record, and he immediately began analyzing what he heard. He learned to play the trombone and taught friends how to play the other instrumental parts of the arrangements.

As a teen, he played trombone in a jazz band he formed called Crescent City. It was the beginning of a lifetime of music scholarship and instrumental prowess. He shared his interest in jazz during summer visits with Joe and Shirley, bringing his favorite LPs to enjoy. Shirley and Joe both played piano and Joe taught vocal and instrumental music in the local school district.

Though his musical explorations began with the trombone and focused largely on instrumental jazz music, Wilson soon discovered the related genre of blues. The first blues record to move him deeply was a Muddy Waters LP, which he appreciated for the power and authenticity of the vocals as well as the slide guitar and harmonica. He began to teach himself both these instruments. Over the years he developed an interest in other genres, including Asian forms, African-American gospel, classical, rock, and pop music among others, but his own primary form of musical expression was the blues. Eventually he would give up trombone, and focus on the guitar and harmonica.

Although Alan’s unusual singing voice would be apparent in the unofficial theme song of the Woodstock Festival, “Going up Country,” some of his first singing attempts took place behind a closed bedroom door at home. When a family member overheard him, he was embarrassed. With a style that took its cue from high-pitched blues singer Skip James, Alan’s vocals would end up making Canned Heat’s hit songs instantly recognizable.

In 1961, Alan attended Boston University after graduating from high school. His academics earned him a National Merit Scholarship and a scholarship from the Town of Arlington. 

After a year and a half, anxious to play music rather than study it, he quit school. To make ends meet, he worked with his father as a bricklayer and occasionally gave guitar or harmonica lessons. It was an exciting time, for Alan was immersed in the fertile musical environment of the “folk revival” that was happening in local Cambridge, Massachusetts in the early 1960’s.

Around this time, Alan’s interest in the blues led to his participation in the revival of old blues artists and their music. When newly rediscovered bluesman Booker White played a series of Cambridge gigs, Wilson took the opportunity to interview him. From White, he learned that the seminal 1920s bluesman Son House, teacher to Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, was still alive. As a result of this interview, efforts to locate Son House were successful.

When Son House came to Cambridge, Alan helped resurrect guitar parts and songs that the elderly man hadn’t played in decades, due to his decline into alcoholism. Thanks in large part to Alan’s assistance and inspiration, House recorded a classic album for the Columbia record company and enjoyed a successful career playing for “blues revival” audiences. Alan would later appear on two of Houses’ albums, “Father of the Delta Blues” and “Delta Blues and Spirituals,” playing harmonica and guitar.

Another figure involved in this scene was the quirky, iconoclastic guitarist John Fahey, who had been involved in the rediscoveries of Skip James and Booker White. In later years, he would become known as a founder of the “American Primitive” guitar style. In 1965, Alan had been listening to Fahey’s records, and at a gig in Cambridge the two struck up a friendship that would change Alan’s life.

Fahey was attending UCLA and writing a thesis on Charlie Patton, who is nowadays known as the “father of the Delta blues.” Recognizing Alan’s interest and scholarship, he asked Alan to accompany him back to California to help him with music theory and notation for the thesis in exchange for room and board. Alan accepted the offer and moved to Los Angles with Fahey.

On the journey, the forgetful Alan Wilson left his eyeglasses in Massachusetts. Because of his poor vision, Fahey began calling him “Blind Al”, in the style of old-time blind musicians such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake, and so on. Eventually, because of Alan’s roundish facial features combined with his scholarly nature, the name became “Blind Owl”. In later years, it became Alan’s blues moniker with Canned Heat.

In Los Angeles, Fahey introduced Wilson to a record store manager named Bob Hite who had an encyclopedic knowledge of music, and a record collection that some have recalled as one of the world’s largest at the time. Hite sang the blues in a classic “belter” style comparable to that of Big Joe Turner. He was a natural musical complement for Alan. The two men could not have been more different, however, in terms of their personalities. Hite was loud and outgoing; Wilson was quiet and introverted. Alan was the meticulous creator of music; Bob was the over-the-top showman. Their partnership, though, provided an unlikely balance, and was the basic chemistry for Canned Heat.

Hite and Wilson decided to form a jug band along with Fahey. When someone proposed the idea of going electric, Fahey lost interest, and would be replaced by a short succession of electric guitarists culminating with Henry Vestine. With influences from Albert King, Albert Collins, B. B. King, and other masters, Vestine made his guitar speak a psychedelic blues language that fit perfectly with Wilson’s concept for the band and the music of the era.

The band decided to name themselves after an obscure record by 1920s-era bluesman Tommy Johnson. Thus, they were originally “The Canned Heat Blues Band”, but after discovering that local interest in blues was tepid at best, decided to shorten this to “Canned Heat.” With a lineup of Hite on vocals, Wilson on bottleneck, rhythm guitar, and harmonica, and Vestine on lead guitar, they were made complete by bassist Larry Taylor and drummer Frank Cook. In this incarnation, they played local fraternity events, private parties, and the like. Eventually they played a party where they caught the attention of Hollywood agent Skip Taylor, who became their manager.

In 1966, the band had recorded a batch of demos for R&B producer Johnny Otis. For the time being, the songs were shelved, and would eventually be released on Janus Records in 1970 as Vintage Heat. But their first official LP release came when Skip Taylor secured a recording contract with Liberty Records.

The album, Canned Heat, stayed true to the band’s blues roots, presenting material going back as far as the 1920s in a modern, electric band format. It included songs like “Big Road Blues”, “Catfish Blues”, and “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”. The only item featuring Wilson’s vocals was a version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me”.

Canned Heat’s first nationwide tour included the historic Monterey International Pop Festival. The national tour was suspended briefly due to a drug bust in Denver. The arrests did not include Alan, who was outside collecting leaves while the other band members partied in their motel rooms with, unbeknownst to them, undercover drug agents.

This retreat into nature was not uncommon for Alan. It may have been his shyness and social awkwardness that made him feel more comfortable when surrounded by nature, or reading books on botany. He felt ill at ease with the rock and roll lifestyle, not knowing how to relate to women as his band mates so easily did.

Alan had a special love of trees, and now that he lived on the West coast, found a virtual heaven on earth in the ancient coastal redwood forests. In 1969, Bob Hite gave him a camper for his birthday, knowing how Alan would go off into the woods during his time off tour. He usually spent his nights outside in a sleeping bag, often cooking his dinner of brown rice over a portable stove. He also had an interest in yoga, and was known to practice yoga positions and breathing exercises often which he felt improved his harmonica playing.

In late 1967, drummer Frank Cook was replaced by Fito de la Parra, whose affinity to the blues would prove essential to the “classic” Canned Heat sound. This lineup recorded their third album in 1968, Boogie With Canned Heat, and released a single containing an unusual raga-like harmonica blues, “On the Road Again.” Alan not only sang the lyrics, but played a variety of instruments, layered in multiple tracks. This song expressed his deep interest in classical Indian music. Musicologically, it has certain key affinities with pentatonic blues, which Alan recognized and used to good effect here.

Surprising everyone and breaking out as a hit in Texas before spreading nationwide, “On the Road Again” peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, it reached number 8 on the singles charts, forecasting Canned Heat’s immense popularity there and in Europe. This was quite an achievement given the tunes unusual sound compared to other popular music of the era.

At this point, Wilson’s musical expertise was guiding the group’s musical direction. The 1969 album, Living the Blues, featured  “Going Up Country” which reached number 11 on the singles charts and would become the unofficial theme song of the Woodstock Festival movie soundtrack. For decades, it has been used in movie soundtracks, television commercials, and other media worldwide, and for many represents the “hippie” era of the 1960s. Other songs on the album showed the band’s interest in experimentation and psychedelia.

The success of the hit “Going Up Country” and the band’s previous performance at the Monterey Folk Festival no doubt secured the invitation of Canned Heat to appear at the Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York, in August 1969. Just prior to the event, lead guitarist Henry Vestine, whose performances had begun to suffer from drug and alcohol abuse, left the band and was replaced by Harvey Mandel, a Chicago guitarist noted for his innovative approach to blues and jazz-influenced rock. The  Harvey Mandel era of the band saw the release of the Future Blues album along with successful and lucrative tours across the US, UK, and Europe. 

Despite the band’s commercial success, on a personal level, Alan Wilson was suffering. An extremely sensitive individual, he had long been prone to depression, and struggled to interact with others on mundane social levels. An inability to find a suitable romantic partner also weighed upon him, and at various times he considered leaving Canned Heat.

To contribute something for the world of a nature he loved, which he saw increasingly endangered by pollution and urban sprawl, Alan decided to create a conservation fund. Music Mountain, as it was called, was an organization to raise money for the preservation of the coastal redwood, his favorite tree species. The liner notes for the album Future Blues, written by Wilson, celebrate the beauty of the redwood forest and beseech the reader to contribute to the Music Mountain cause.

By the time lead guitarist Henry Vestine returned to the band in 1970, Wilson had begun expressing suicidal thoughts. He sought help through a therapist, as well as inpatient treatment for a period in a psychiatric hospital. Though he was treated with some of the antidepressants of the time, he also continued to self-medicate a sleeping problem by using illicitly obtained barbiturates.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream for the band, Canned Heat teamed up with John Lee Hooker in May 1970 to record a double album. This also served as an effort to engage Wilson, providing him with some musical satisfaction and the accomplishment of recording with one of his artistic idols. The resulting album, Hooker N’ Heat, was critically acclaimed.

On September 2, 1970, Canned Heat was scheduled to leave for a European tour. Alan didn’t show up at the airport, which didn’t raise immediate alarm because he was often late and disorganized in the past. This time, however, he would not appear. On the morning of September 3, a group of friends found him dead in Bob Hite’s backyard. He was 27 years old.

The backyard of Bob’s home in Topanga Canyon had been one of Wilson’s regular haunts when the band was in Los Angeles, with a hillside covered in trees and bushes where he liked to sleep. It was there that he was found in his sleeping bag. In his pants pocket were a few of the barbiturates he habitually used to get to sleep. The Los Angeles coroner ruled his death “accidental acute barbiturate intoxication.” Some close to him felt that his death was no accident, recalling his recent depression and hospitalization. Others, like the coroner, thought that evidence of a suicide was insufficient, and that the circumstances point to a tragic accident.

We will never know what Alan Wilson was thinking that night, as he unrolled his sleeping bag and looked up at the stars one last time. What we do know is that he was a talented musician and musicologist who promoted the revival of early Delta blues and left his own permanent mark on the blues and the music of the late 1960s. He was an environmentalist at the beginning of the modern environmental movement. He struggled with emotional issues and social awkwardness, and his life was cut short either accidentally or recklessly as a result of drug use. We also know that he was and still is loved, remembered and missed by his living relatives, including Barbara, Shirley and Joe,  his sisters and brother, Darrell, Heidi, Lisa, Nicole, Sharon, David, Jayne, and all his nieces and nephews who never got to know him. We hope that this web site is a fitting tribute to his life.
Alan Wilson bio
Disc 1
1. On The Road Again (Alan Wilson, Floyd Jones) - 4:58
2. Help Me (Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon) - 3:11
3. An Owl Song - 2:34
4. Going Up The Country - 2:50
5. My Mistake - 3:19
6. Change My Ways - 2:50
7. Get Off My Back - 5:13
8. Time Was - 3:23
9. Do Not Enter - 2:51
10.Shake It And Break It - 2:31
11.Nebulosity / Rollin' 'n' Tumblin' / Five Owls (Alan Wilson, McKinley Morganfield) - 5:01
All songs by Alan Wilson except where noted
Disc 2
1. Alan's Intro - 1:26
2. My Time Ain't Long - 3:46
3. Skat - 2:40
4. London Blues - 5:26
5. Poor Moon - 3:23
6. Pulling Hair Blues - 9:28
7. Mean Old World (Walter Jacobs) - 3:26
8. Human Condition (Alan Wilson, Robert Hite Jr, Adolfo de la Parra, Henry Vestine, Tony de la Barreda) - 5:25
9. Childhood's End - 1:10
All songs by Alan Wilson except where stated

*Alan Wilson - Vocals, Rhythm, Bottleneck Guitar, Harmonica 
*Henry Vestine - Lead Guitar  
*Harvey Mandel - Lead Guitar 
*Larry Taylor - Bass 
*Tony de la Barreda - Bass 
*Adolfo de la Parra - Drums, Percussion 
*Frank Cook - Drums 
*Dr. John - Piano 

1967-73  Canned Heat - The Very Best Of

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Chad And Jeremy - Before And After (1965 uk, orchestrated folk with wondrous harmonies, 2002 remaster)

No one did lush, orchestral pop better than Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde. And very few traveled as far in their musical careers as did Chad & Jeremy. From their early hitmaking days as British Invasion moptop troubadours (and pinup dreamboats for teenage girls), to the complexity of their latter work, an eye-opening, deftly orchestrated, wonderful blend of psychedelia and dayglo pop, their work gained critical plaudits from all corners of the world. 

The first Columbia sessions. We were still in the grip of the record making machine. We had no idea that the day would eventually come when you could record in your house if you felt like it. Back then it was the big Columbia studios, run by strict union rules and costing $285. an hour!  (deducted from your royalties of course - the old company store shell game.)
The flip-flopping between folk music, ballads and rock 'n roll is still apparent here. I remember feeling frustrated because I wanted to arrange everything. Our producer, Lor Crane ran a pretty tight ship and he wasn't about to let that happen. To be fair, our touring commitments made it difficult anyway, so we surrendered to the system and went along for the ride.

In retrospect, I like "Tell Me Baby". It pointed in a direction that perhaps we should have taken sooner. "Say It Isn't True" was written for Freddy and the Dreamers. Why we did it I'll never know!
Jeremy was only happy doing stuff like "Evil-Hearted Me". This would later prove to be our undoing when it came to "Teenage Failure", but more about that later!
by Chad Stuart
1. Before And After (Van McCoy) - 2:37
2. Why Should I Care - 2:43
3. For Lovin' Me (Gordon Lightfoot) - 2:13
4. I'm In Love Again - 2:33
5. Little Does She Know (Chad Stuart, Russell Alquist) - 2:52
6. Tell Me Baby - 3:12
7. What Do You Want With Me - 2:53
8. Say It Isn't True (Chad Stuart, Russell Alquist) - 1:58
9. Fare Thee Well - 2:08
10.Evil-Hearted Me (Josh White, C. White) - 2:11
11.Can't Get Used To Losing You (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) - 1:59
12.Pennies (Chet Powers) - 2:46
13.Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Duke Ellington, Bob Russell) - 2:30
14.Sometimes (Rod Argent) - 2:03
15.Fare Thee Well - 2:40
16.Adesso Si (Sergio Endrigo) - 2:29
17.Nessuno Piu Di Me (Gianni Marchetti, Ettore Stratta) - 2:46
18.What Do You Want With Me - 2:55
19.Evil-Hearted Me (Josh White, C. White) - 2:14
20.Before And After (Van McCoy) - 2:46
21.The Cruel War (Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey) - 3:11
22.I Can't Talk To You (Bobby Lind) - 2:47
All songs by Chad Stuart, Jeremy Clyde except where indicated
Bonus Tracks 12-21
Tracks 21-22 as Chad and Jill Stuart

*Chad Stuart - Vocals, Guitar, Arranger, Conductor
*Jeremy Clyde - Vocals, Guitar

1967  Chad And Jeremy - Of Cabbages And Kings (2006 japan bonus tracks remaster) 
1968  Chad And Jeremy - Three In The Attic (2013 edition) 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Chad And Jeremy - Distant Shores (1966 uk, swirly baroque pop, 2000 bonus tracks remaster)

Musical styles were changing and threatening to leave Chad & Jeremy's light, pleasant folk-rock-cum-British beat pop style behind. Amazingly, in the midst of this tectonic shift in the musical landscape, they managed to put together the strongest of their Columbia albums, which isn't saying too much, but for those who care to start with their best effort, this is it. 

Distant Shores catches the duo belatedly evolving out of their old folk-style and light pop sound, with denser production and some better songs to work with. It wasn't an abrupt break from their past, however, as evidenced by the title track, a beautiful and more complex sequel to "A Summer Song," authored by producer James William Guercio (and sporting a string, horn, and reed accompaniment that sounds like it was lifted straight from the embellishment to Gerry & the Pacemakers' "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying"); it might not have stood out on a Beatles album of the era, but for these two, the overall sound was a step forward, at least in ambition (and it was their final Top 40 hit). And with Guercio calling the production shots, they manage to turn Bobby Goldsboro's "When Your Love Has Gone" into a faux Burt Bacharach number that adds up to slightly more than the sum of its parts, as does the album closer, "Don't Make Me Do It," the latter one of three originals by the duo on this record.

Their version of Jonathan King's "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" benefits from the pair's harmonies, but otherwise adds little significant beyond a very busy percussion part behind them. Of the other two originals, "You Are She" stands out as a glittering piece of Baroque pop, with enough use of the harpsichord to rival the Left Banke.

On the other hand, "The Way You Look Tonight," "Early Mornin' Rain," and "Homeward Bound" (done in an arrangement identical to Simon & Garfunkel's) didn't depart at all from the duo's prior sound, suggesting that even Guercio found his limits in extending their range. Despite these caveats, and the fact that they still had their feet in several different musical camps, there are more high points to this record than anything else that Chad & Jeremy issued in their waning two years. Distant Shores had "transitional" written all over it, although it wasn't clear what Chad & Jeremy were making a transition to.
by Bruce Eder
1.Distant Shores (James William Guercio) - 2:44
2.Ain't It Nice (Jimmy "Guitar" Smith) - 3:07
3.When Your Love Has Gone (Bobby Goldsboro) - 2:38
4.Homeward Bound (Paul Simon) - 2:33
5.The Way You Look Tonight (Dorothy Fields, Jerome Kern) - 2:33
6.Morning - 2:49
7.You Are She - 2:36
8.Everyone's Gone To The Moon (Jonathan King) - 2:29
9.I Won't Cry (James William Guercio) - 2:05
10.Early Mornin' Rain (Gordon Lightfoot) - 3:41
11.Don't Make Me Do It - 2:39
12.Last Night (Jeremy Clyde) - 2:05
13.Teenage Failure (Jeremy Clyde) - 3:05
14.Anytime - 2:10
15.Your Mama's Out Of Town (Chad Stuart, Russell Alquist) - 2:06
16.You've Got Your Troubles (I've Got Mine) (Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway) - 2:54
17.Wonderful Land (Instrumental) (Jerry Lordan) - 2:43
18.Sticks And Stones (Henry Glover, Henry Glover) - 1:47
19.Sixpence (Traditional) - 2:45
20.Love Is Strange (Ethel Smith, Mickey Baker, Sylvia Robinson) - 2:40
21.If You Need Somebody (W. Irwin) - 2:39
22.When Your Love Has Gone (Early Version) (Bobby Goldsboro) - 2:35
23.Distant Shores (French Version) (James William Guercio) - 2:44
24.You Are She (French Version) - 2:33
All songs by Chad Stuart, Jeremy Clyde except where stated
Bonus Tracks 12-24

*Chad Stuart - Vocals, Guitar, Arranger, Conductor
*Jeremy Clyde - Vocals, Guitar

1967  Chad And Jeremy - Of Cabbages And Kings (2006 japan bonus tracks remaster) 
1968  Chad And Jeremy - Three In The Attic (2013 edition) 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Amazing Rhythm Aces - Full House Aces High (1981 us, delicate country bluesy soft rock)

 Original relased in 1981 as a double LP, this live set by The Amazing Rhythm Aces contains recordings made in 1979 in California and Alabama. Aces' are in excellent condition playing some great tunes,  many of them even better from the studio versions. Sweet melodies sometimes melancholic haunted, sometimes nostalgic, with excellent guitar passages, sweet piano and brass sections. Just what I needed on this Sunday morning...  My only objection is the dedication about the ...King of Cowboys

1. The End Is Not In Sight (The Cowboy Tune) - 4:30
2. Anything You Want (Russell Smith, James H. Brown Jr.) - 4:53
3. Who's Crying Now? - 4:10
4. Just Between You And Me And The Wall (You're A Fool) - 6:01
5. Lipstick Traces (Naomi Neville) - 4:42
6. Dancing The Night Away (Russell Smith, James H. Brown Jr.) - 5:33
7. Amazing Grace (Used To Be Her Favorite Song) - 4:01
8. These Dreams Of Losing (Russell Smith, James H. Brown Jr.) - 4:55
9. I Pity The Mother And Father (When The Kids Move Away). 2:57
10.King Of The Cowboys (Russell Smith, James H. Brown Jr.) - 6:23
11.Third Rate Romance - 4:14
12.My Tears Still Flow - 4:14
13.The "Ella B" - 4:42
14.I'll Be Gone - 3:25
15.Who Will The Next Fool Be (Charlie Rich) - 3:28
16.I'm Gonna Miss You (Like The Devil) (James Moore) -  2:42
All songs by Russell Smith unless as else indicated
Live recordings at
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco,CA,May 22,1979
Roxy Theatre, Los Angeles,CA,May 24, 1979
Roxy Theatre, San Diego,CA,May 26, 1979
Brothers' Music Hall, Birmingham,AL,Aug.5,1979

The Amazing Rhythm Aces
*Duncan Cameron - Vocals, Guitar, Steel Guitar
*Jeff Davis - Electric, Double Upright Bass, Vocals 
*Billy Earheart - Keyboards, Organ, Piano
*James Hooker - Vocals, Grand Piano, Electric Piano, Organ
*Butch McDade - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Russell Smith - Guitars, Harmonica, Vocals
*John McEuen - Banjo, Mandolin
The Rhino Horns
*Brian Savage - Saxophone
*Al Garth - Saxophone, Fiddle

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Unicorn - Laughing Up Your Sleeve (1973-74 uk, marvelous folk country soft prog rock, 2018 remaster)

Back during the early-to-mid-‘70s, England’s Unicorn was plowing a similar country rock-styled vein as pub-rockers like Brinsley Schwarz, but their American West Coast musical leanings were tempered by the inherently British folk-rock sound of primary songwriter and guitarist Ken Baker. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour became a huge Unicorn supporter, picking up on them after the 1971 release of their debut album, Uphill All the Way, and subsequently producing three wonderful albums and opening more than a few doors for them in the industry. With a trio of fine albums to tour under, and an indelible connection to (then) world-beaters Pink Floyd, Unicorn pulled down opening slots with ‘70s-era heavyweights like Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, and the Doobie Brothers.

Still, none of those Gilmour-produced records – 1974’s elegant Blue Pine Trees, 1976’s more rock-oriented Too Many Crooks, and 1977’s band swansong, One More Tomorrow – performed very well commercially in spite of their overall creativity and excellence and the band would break up. Still, those albums garnered new fans through the years and were ripe for rediscovery when U.K. archival label Esoteric Recordings reissued all three titles in 2017, expanded with bonus tracks and fresh liner notes.

Just when Unicorn fans thought that there would be no more unheard music from the band comes news from Omnivore Recordings that on October 5th, 2018 the label will release the Unicorn compilation album Laughing Up Your Sleeve. The 20-track collection will be released in CD, vinyl, and digital formats and features previously-unreleased demos by the band recorded in Gilmour’s home studio circa 1973-74, with the Floyd guitarist adding his tasty pedal steel guitar to the band’s “Sleep Song.” 

Laughing Up Your Sleeve also includes never-before-seen and recently rediscovered photos of the band that document their working in the studio with Gilmour and performing live onstage in London. Liner notes go into detail about the band’s history and the finding of these long-lost recordings with new interviews with Gilmour and original band members. The album was produced by the band’s Pat Martin from the restored original multi-track tapes and are said to feature remarkable sound quality (not surprising, as the band’s sophomore effort, Blue Pine Trees, is as sonically gorgeous an album as you’ll ever hear).

David Gilmour, quoted in the album’s new liner notes, says “one could say that Unicorn didn’t want success quite enough, or that they just weren’t prepared to compromise their music to better fit into the competitive world of popular music. Their music still gives me great pleasure.” The band’s unique blend of American influences like the Band and Crosby, Stills & Nash and homegrown favorites like Ray Davies and Syd Barrett resulted in some incredible, timeless music that is ripe for rediscovery here in the 21st century.
by Rev. Keith A. Gordon  Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Unicorn released three exquisite albums in the mid-’70s with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd in the producer’s chair. The albums and the band found a wide audience elusive, even though the band opened for many heavyweights in the day (including Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Dr. Hook), played with Kate Bush on her first proper demo recordings that landed her a deal with EMI, and were even covered by their producer, David Gilmour, on his first self-titled solo album, released in 1978.

Laughing Up Your Sleeve attempts to correct what may have been a matter of wrong time, wrong place for a band whose music overflows with beautiful melodies, lush arrangements and perfect harmonies. The CD/LP/Digital release compiles twenty previously unreleased demos, recorded in Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour’s home studio in 1973–74, with Gilmour adding pedal steel guitar to “Sleep Song.”

Unicorn’s music owes as much to rustic Americana acts such as The Band, The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, as it does to the lyrical themes of English tradition and whimsy relayed by the likes of Ray Davies and even Syd Barrett.
Although musically inspired by American acts (mostly folk and country rock), theirs is a very British sound which, unfortunately, was out of step for the time in which it was released, at least in England from where they rarely strayed.

Laughing Up Your Sleeve contains many never-before-seen, recently discovered photos of the band, including pictures of the band in the studio with Gilmour and on stage in London. In addition, extensive liner notes detail the band’s story, how these demos were found and new interviews with David Gilmour and key band members. These demos, recorded on multi-track tapes, have been lovingly restored and beautifully mixed and mastered by Scott Anthony at Storybook Sound in New Jersey with input from Pat Martin from Unicorn. The sound quality is simply stunning.

It’s hard to imagine this music managed to remain under the radar for so long, but true artists, Unicorn never played “the game” the music industry requires in order to achieve commercial success. We are fortunate then, that this music was preserved so we can give it its just reward now.
1. Sleep Song - 4:51
2. I Saw You - 4:09
3. Ooh! Mother - 3:29
4. The Farmer - 3:32
5. Autumn Wine (Kevin Smith, Roy St. John, Steve Waters) - 2:27
6. Take It Easy - 2:46
7. Electric Night - 4:59
8. All Night Long - 3:33
9. Just Wanna Hold You - 5:00
10.The Ballad Of John And Julie - 5:18
11.Disco Dancer - 3:33
12.Weekend - 4:14
13.Blue Pine Trees - 3:09
14.Bogtrotter - 5:24
15.Ferry Boat - 6:01
16.Kevin Barry (Traditional Lyrics,  Ken Baker) - 3:18
17.Holland - 3:28
18.Nightingale Crescent - 3:33
19.Drinking All Night (Kevin Smith, Roy St. John, Steve Waters) - 3:06
20.So Far Away - 3:22
All songs by Ken Baker except where stated
Bonus Tracks 12-20

1974  Unicorn - Blue Pine Trees (2006 Japan and 2017 remaster and expanded)
1976  Unicorn - Too Many Crooks (2006 Japan remaster)

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

NRBQ - High Noon A 50 Year Retrospective (1966-2016 us, career-spanning 5 disc boxed set, produced and compiled to celebrate 50 years, 2016 remaster)

Once you’ve steeped yourself in the music and sensibility of NRBQ, it makes total sense that a sprawling career retrospective should start in the future, even as it recaps the band’s history. Track one of Disc One of High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective is from a forthcoming album and time travels through the cosmos to a utopia fashioned in words and music by the late Sun Ra. “Love in Outer Space” is a perfect opener for this five-CD box set: it kaleidoscopes through many of NRBQ’s signature sounds; it’s goofy, sweet, and entirely sui generis; it’s played in a characteristically loose but tight style by the latest lineup, which boasts only one—but the essential—founding member, keyboardist/singer Terry Adams; and it builds upon Adams’ answer to a question posed in 1969 about his musical inspirations, “The Sun: Sun Records and Sun Ra.”

The influence of jazz’s legendarily whimsical master of the “interstellar low ways” is evident in the new anthology, both in the presence of “Rocket Number 9,” a tune Ra gave to Adams early on, and in NRBQ’s playful tendency to sidestep from swinging, shuffling, and four-on-the-floor rhythmic precision into brief, shambling breakdowns of improvised chaos. Other jazz influences crop up in the set as well: interpretations of Claude Thornhill’s “Snowfall,” Andy Razaf and Paul Denniker’s “S’posin’,” Moondog’s “Paris,” and Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear.”

Equally paramount is the impact of that other Sun, the studio and label that Sam Phillips established in the early 1950s, from which erupted the blues, R&B, rockabilly, and rock ’n’ roll of B.B. King, Junior Parker, Jackie Brenston, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and others. The Q’s rendition of Cash’s “Get Rhythm” is here on Disc Three, which also includes Stuart Hamblen’s “This Old House” and a live version of Big Joe Turner’s “Honey Hush.” The relatively few covers among High Noon’s 106 tracks (notable highlights include Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody,” Jimmie Lloyd’s “Rocket in My Pocket,” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Getting to Know You”) are wonderful, but they also underscore the way Adams and his songwriting band mates through the years (Steve Ferguson, Joey Spampinato, Al Anderson, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough) seamlessly integrated the foundational influences and idioms into their own classically structured, catchy, and ultimately timeless tunes.

The timeless factor, owing in part to Adams’ perpetual youthfulness and unselfconscious wackiness, is embodied in such songs as “Green Lights,” “Ridin’ in My Car,” “RC Cola and a Moon Pie,” “Me and the Boys,” “Rain at the Drive-In,” “I Want You Bad,” “Little Floater,” and “If I Don’t Have You.” It accounts for the consistent Q identity across five decades of music making with a shifting lineup, and it made it possible to organize these five CDs, packaged in a simple, cardboard fold-out folio with a straightforward booklet of photos and notes, in the loosest of narrative structures. The first disc, Everybody Say Yeah! (2005–2016), contains the most recent material, and the subsequent discs roughly encapsulate eras in the band’s history: Ain’t It All Right (1966–1970), Do You Feel It? (1971–1978), Me and the Boys (1977–1990), and Puddin’ Truck (1989–2004). Some fans, with good reason, favor the Al Anderson period (with Spampinato on bass and Tom Ardolino on drums) that spans Discs Two and Three, and features Big Al’s terse, blazing, idiosyncratic guitar solos, memorable compositions, and sweet, reedy vocals. Others, loyalists from the start, hold unshakable affection for the earlier times with guitarist Ferguson, when a rehearsal band from Kentucky developed spontaneously into the New Rhythm and Blues Quintet and eventually migrated to the Northeast, often adding the Whole Wheat Horns (anchored by Terry Adams’ trombone-playing brother Donn). And a strong case can be made for the bands of the past 27 years, when all the experience of previous decades coalesced beautifully and the recorded sound improved dramatically.

Then, now, and at every point in between, NRBQ has simply been a great rock ’n’ roll band—singing about girls, cars, and parties; privileging charm, innocence, and madcap humor over rebellion and darkness; and negotiating sometimes silly or saccharine pop sentiments, thundering backbeats, wild solos (piano, clavinet, guitar, sax), and Spike Jones-like accents with equal aplomb. Other bands with overlapping values and sounds have had more success and celebrity, but for 50 years, Adams and his crews have endured and endeared with peerless persistence, subsuming and transcending subgenres (from jump blues and rockabilly to pub rock and power pop), all for the love and joy of music.
by Derk Richardson, Mar 15th, 2017
Disc 1 Everybody Say Yeah! 2005-2016
1. Love in Outer Space (Sun Ra) - 3:43
2. Never Cop Out (Terry Adams) - 4:22
3. Waitin' on My Sweetie Pie (Scott Ligon) - 2:54
4. Ruby, My Dear (Thelonious Monk) - 3:59
5. I'd Like to Know (Jim Hoke) - 2:05
6. Boozoo and Leona (Terry Adams) - 5:25
7. I'm Alone (Terry Adams) - 3:02
8. Can't Wait to Kiss You (Casey McDonough) - 1:48
9. Everybody Say Yeah! (Terry Adams) - 2:12
10.In Every Dream (Terry Adams) - 2:33
11.Here I Am (Terry Adams, Scott Ligon) - 2:31
12.The Animal Life (Scott Ligon) - 4:39
13.Getting to Know You (Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers) - 2:04
14.Talk (Terry Adams) - 2:20
15.Snowfall (Claude Thornhill) - 4:45
16.Keep This Love Goin' (Terry Adams, Pete Donnelly, Scott Ligon) - 3:44
17.Fightin' Back (Casey McDonough) - 3:31
18.Let Go (Terry Adams, Pete Donnelly) - 4:15
19.Dutchess County Jail (Traditional) - 2:41
Tracks 2, 6, 15, 18 Live Recordings
Disc 2 Ain't It All Right 1966-1970
1. Ain't It All Right (Terry Adams, Steve Ferguson) - 2:22
2. Rocket Number 9 (Sun Ra) - 2:08
3. Tina (Joey Spampinato) - 1:22
4. I Say Gooday Goodnite (Steve Ferguson) - 1:29
5. Down in My Heart (Traditional) - 2:33
6. Have You Heard (Terry Adams) - 1:42
7. Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard (Terry Adams) - 1:38
8. Get on the Right Track Baby (Ray Charles, Joe Turner) - 2:21
9. You Move So Fast (Terry Adams) - 1:21
10.Flat Foot Flewzy (Steve Ferguson) - 4:43
11.You Got Me Goin' (James Dale Spence) - 2:33
12.On the Farm (Terry Adams) - 2:32
13.You Can't Hide (Joey Spampinato) - 1:53
14.Step Aside (Steve Ferguson) - 1:22
15.Benellie (Steve Ferguson) - 1:27
16.I Feel Good (John Lee Hooker) - 2:43
17.Fergie's Prayer (Steve Ferguson) - 2:37
18.C'mon Everybody (Jerry Capehart, Eddie Cochran) - 3:06
19.Stomp (Steve Ferguson) - 1:58
20.Stay with We (Terry Adams) - 3:50
21.Heartbreaker (Ahmet Nugetre) - 4:24
22.The Waiting Song (Steve Ferguson) - 2:32
23.We Are Brothers (Traditional) - 1:03
Tracks 8, 9, 14, 16, 13 Live Recordings
Disc 3 Do You Feel It 1971-78
1. That's Neat, That's Nice (Terry Adams) - 3:11
2. Green Lights (Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato) - 3:00
3. Help Me Somebody (Al Anderson) - 3:52
4. Only You (Joey Spampinato) - 2:46
5. This Old House (Stuart Hamblen) - 2:51
6. Ridin' in My Car (Al Anderson) - 2:53
7. Things to You (Terry Adams) - 3:27
8. Do You Feel It? (Terry Adams) - 2:49
9. Howard Johnson's Got His Ho-Jo Workin' (Terry Adams) - 3:21
10.Electric Train (Terry Adams) - 1:07
11.Magnet (Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato) - 3:31
12.Honey Hush (Joe Turner) - 3:05
13.Get That Gasoline Blues (Terry Adams, Charlie Craig) - 2:55
14.It's Not Too Late (Terry Adams) - 3:39
15.It Feels Good (Terry Adams) - 2:35
16.Still in School (Joey Spampinato) - 2:26
17.Be My Woman Tonight (Al Anderson) - 2:39
18.RC Cola and a Moon Pie (Terry Adams) - 3:37
19.Get Rhythm (Johnny Cash) - 3:00
20.You and I and George (Red Kelly) - 2:04
21.It's Not So Hard (Joey Spampinato) - 2:45
Tracks 12, 20 Live Recordings
Tracks 13, 18 single Versions
Disc 4 Me And The Boys 1977-1990
1. Captain Lou (Terry Adams, Al Anderson) - 2:31
2. Me and the Boys (Terry Adams) - 3:30
3. Talk to Me (Terry Adams) - 2:42
4. I Love Her, She Loves Me (Joey Spampinato) - 2:31
5. Smackaroo (Instrumental) (Terry Adams) - 2:04
6. This Love Is True (Terry Adams, Jake Jacobs, Joey Spampinato) - 2:46
7. Feel You Around Me (Al Anderson) - 3:31
8. Crazy Like a Fox (Al Anderson) - 4:01
9. Rain at the Drive-In (Terry Adams) - 3:11
10.S'posin' (Paul Denniker, Andy Razaf) - 4:09
11.Wacky Tobacky (Terry Adams, Keith Spring) - 2:44
12.The One and Only (Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato) - 3:43
13.How Can I Make You Love Me (Joey Spampinato) - 2:52
14.I Got a Rocket in My Pocket (Jimmie Logsdon, Vic McAlpin) - 4:34
15.Boy's Life (Al Anderson) - 2:57
16.Never Take the Place of You (Al Anderson) - 3:24
17.Want You to Feel Good Too (Terry Adams) - 3:39
18.I Want You Bad (Terry Adams, Phil Crandon) - 2:33
19.She Got the House (Terry Adams, The Wailer) - 5:04
20.12 Bar Blues (Jack Butwell) - 2:49
21.My Girlfriend's Pretty (Terry Adams) - 2:46
22.Christmas Wish (Joey Spampinato) - 2:51
Tracks 8, 10, 14, 19 Live Recordings
Disc 5 Puddin' Truck 1989-2004
1. Little Floater (Terry Adams) - 3:08
2. Sail on Sail On (Joey Spampinato) - 3:11
3. Next Stop Brattleboro (Terry Adams) - 2:44
4. What You Mean to Me (Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato) - 3:17
5. If I Don't Have You (Stephanie Davis, Joey Spampinato) - 2:12
6. One Big Parking Lot (Terry Adams) - 3:54
7. Love Came to Me (Joey Spampinato) - 3:07
8. Dummy (Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato) - 3:11
9. Terry Got a Muffin (Terry Adams) - 2:17
10.It's St. Patrick's Day (Joey Spampinato) - 2:37
11.21-50 to Headquarters (Terry Adams) - 1:27
12.Do the Primal Thing (Terry Adams) - 2:10
13.Goodbye (Joey Spampinato) - 3:09
14.Puddin' Truck (Terry Adams) - 3:16
15.Ain't No Horse (Terry Adams) - 3:49
16.Blame It on the World (Joey Spampinato) - 3:04
17.Imaginary Radio (Terry Adams) - 2:39
18.Always Safety First (Joey Spampinato) - 2:50
19.Advice for Teenagers (Terry Adams, Joey Spampinato) - 3:08
20.Paris (Louis Hardin) - 3:15
21.See You Soon (Terry Adams) - 1:57
Track 20  Live Recording

*Terry Adams - Clavinet, Harmonica, Keyboards, Hammond Organ, Piano, Trumpet, Vocals
*Scott Ligon - Guitar, Organ, Vocals
*Casey McDonough - Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*John Perrin - Drums
*Pete Donnelly - Bass, Vocals
*Conrad Choucroun - Drums
*Bobby Lloyd Hicks - Drums
*Steve Ferguson - Guitar, Vocals
*Frank Gadler - Cowbell, Percussion, Vocals
*Tom Staley - Drums, Vocals
*Ken Sheehan - Rhythm Guitar
*Al Anderson - Guitar, Vocals
*Tom Ardolino - Drums, Vocals
*Johnny Spampinato - Guitar, Vocals
*Klem Klimek - Harmonica
*Jim Hoke - Flute, Harmonica, Alto, Tenor Saxophones
*Pete Toigo - Bass
*Quentin Sharpenstein - Bass
*Danny Thompson - Flute
*P.J. O'Connell - Vocals
*Norm DeMoura - Vocals
*Donn Adams - Trombone, Vocals
*Lou Albano - Vocals
*King Curtis - Tenor Saxophone
*Charlie Craig - Drums
*Brian Darby - Drums
*Lee Tiger - Guitar
*Keith Spring - Bells, Tenor Saxophone
*Roswell Rudd - Trombone
*Kami Lyle - Trumpet
*John Sebastian - Autoharp
*T-Bone Wolk - Accordion, Banjo

Monday, April 5, 2021

Roger Nichols And The Small Circle Of Friends - Roger Nichols And The Small Circle Of Friends (1964-68 us, soft pop, a smattering of rock, heavy dose of easy listening with great vocal blend, 2005 remaster and xpanded)

It’s 1967.  You record a debut album for an upstart record label.  It doesn’t sell in fantastic numbers when first issued, but it gains a very strong following.  The logical thing to do is to record a follow-up.  This is exactly what Roger Nichols has done–he has recorded a follow-up to his excellent and highly-regarded Roger Nichols & The Small Circle of Friends album on A&M, called Full Circle…

Roger Nichols’ catalog as a recording artist is woefully small, especially given how there is such a loyal following of fans for his original A&M album, long considered a prime example of sunny, California pop.  As a composer, though, Nichols’ compositions have appeared on many other artists’ albums.  Teamed up with lyricist Paul Williams, Nichols was half of the creative duo that created classics such as “Let Me Be The One,” “I Kept On Loving You,” and a song that nearly everyone knows: “We’ve Only Just Begun.”  He has written other memorable tunes with other lyricists.  After a lengthy hiatus spanning decades, the “Circle” is back!

Full Circle, recorded in 2007 but re-released in 2008, reassembles the the original trio of Nichols, Murray McLeod and Melinda McLeod Patterson (Murray’s sister).  The minute your laser hits the first track, “Talk It Over In The Morning,” and the trio of vocalists breezes its way out of your speakers, it’s like an instant wave of familiarity.  Those silky smooth harmonies haven’t lost a thing in 40 years!  It’s like those middle 38 years never happened.

The album is a pleasant surprise.  The five bonus tracks aren’t really essential, as they are demo versions of the main body of twelve tracks that comprise the newer recordings.  But those twelve tracks are gold.  The shuffling leadoff track, “Talk It Over In The Morning,” was recorded by Anne Murray many years ago and may be familiar to many music fans. The next track should have you break into an instant smile: “The Drifter”, a bonus track on the Complete Small Circle of Friends CD and long-lost A&M single, is given an update, and aside from some modern production hints, it’s like 1967 all over again.

Two pleasant surprises are songs from the Carpenters songbook, both co-written with Paul Williams.  “Let Me Be The One” is given a silky three-part vocal treatment here, as is the album staple “I Kept On Loving You”.  The Nichols-penned “Out In The Country,” a Three Dog Night track, is given the SCOF treatment as well.  Chuck Findley and the Toto rhythm section lend their talents to the instrumental track “The Winner”.

And on that note I, too, declare this album a winner.  Those great harmonies are back, many of the tracks are familiar, and the others are hidden gems as well.  Highly recommended if you like sunny “California pop” and, especially, if you want to hear the long-awaited follow-up to this group’s first album.  Enjoy!
Rudy's Corner, February 27, 2010
1. Don't Take Your Time (Roger Nichols, Tony Asher) - 2:29
2. With A Little Help From My Friends (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 2:48
3. Don't Go Breaking My Heart (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) - 2:45
4. I Can See Only You (Roger Nichols, Smokey Roberds, Stuart Margolin) - 2:55
5. Snow Queen (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) - 3:24
6. Love So Fine (Roger Nichols, Tony Asher) - 2:01
7. Kinda Wasted Without You (Jerry Riopelle, Smokey Roberds, Murray MacLeod) - 2:23
8. Just Beyond Your Smile (Roger Nichols, Tony Asher) - 2:18
9. I'll Be Back (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 2:35
10.Cocoanut Grove (John Sebastian, Zal Yanovsky) - 2:34
11.Didn't Want To Have To Do It (John Sebastian) - 2:37
12.Can I Go (Roger Nichols, Tony Asher) - 2:11
13.Our Day Will Come (Bob Hilliard, Mort Garson) - 2:24
14.Love Song, Love Song (Doug Tibbles, Larry Marks) - 2:03
15.Just Beyond Your Smile (Mono 45) (Roger Nichols, Tony Asher) - 2:20
16.I'll Be Back (Mono 45) (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 2:42
17.Let's Ride (Paul Williams, Roger Nichols) - 2:53
18.The Drifter (Paul Williams, Roger Nichols) - 2:31
19.Trust (Paul Williams, Roger Nichols) - 2:25
20.St. Bernie The Sno-Dog (Gian Cassarino) - 2:30
Bonus Tracks 13-20
Tracks 13-16 as Roger Nichols Trio

*Melinda MacLeod - Vocal Harmony, Vocals
*Murray MacLeod - Guitar
*Roger Nichols - Bass, Guitar, Piano, Vocals 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Chris Bell - Looking Forward The Roots Of Big Star (1969-71 us, rough energy, fractured guitar heroics, and splendid lead vocals, 2017 remaster)

Perhaps 2017 will finally right the cosmic wrong that keeps Chris Bell a cult figure, relegating his memory to being “the guy that left after Big Star’s first record” or as a lesser-heralded member of “the 27 club”. Before the year is out, the first comprehensive biography of his life, Rich Tupica’s There Was a Light: The Cosmic History of Big Star Founder Chris Bell, will be released. We’re also told to expect a comprehensive, six-LP box set, The Complete Chris Bell, which alleges to make good on the promise of its title.

Omnivore Records offers a stunning first salvo in the re-appraisal of Bell’s work with Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star. Though it will be filed as such for practical purposes, this is not a “Chris Bell” record in the traditional sense of an artist-in-charge and at the front-and-center of things. It could even be argued that there is no such thing in Bell’s case, for this talented and tragic artist did not release a full-length collection of his own music during his lifetime. The highly regarded I Am the Cosmos collection released in 1992 by Rykodisc made available Bell’s post-Big Star recordings, which had failed to find a sympathetic record label before his death in a car accident in 1978. 

Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star collects material from when Bell was working at Ardent Studios between 1969 and 1971, leading up to the months immediately before Big Star’s formation. The album is credited as “featuring” Bell with a list of collaborators. Both Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens, Bell’s colleagues along with Alex Chilton in Big Star, appear among the many collectives credited here. Other significant contributors include Tom Eubanks, Terry Manning, Alan Palmore, and Steve Rhea, who also contribute to the excellent oral history in the liner notes. This loose group of musicians hanging around during the off-hours of the studio recorded under an assortment of names including the Wallabys, Icewater, and Rock City. That last group’s recordings were previously released by Manning’s own Lucky Seven Records in 2003 and comprise 11 of the tracks here.

Bell appears throughout these tracks as a trusted collaborator and guiding force. Only two of the cuts are credited solely to him, while he shares composition duties on another seven. He sings lead vocals on only four of the tracks and doesn’t even appear on “The Wind Will Cry for Me”. It is his defining guitar work and support vocals that form the most consistent thread throughout the collection and point the way to what will become the Big Star sound. In the group of musicians hanging around Ardent, Bell found a collection of kindred spirits, fellow pop-rebels who looked to England for inspiration while finding themselves growing up at ground-zero of Southern soul. They found joy not in grooving smoothly but rather lurching spastically.

The influence of the British mod and psychedelic music flows through these cuts in a way that distinguishes them from the sounds that Bell would develop with Chilton in Big Star, but the twisted pop sheen is already forming. Palmore’s “Feeling High” shows a clear Beatles influence, while Bell’s own “Psychedelic Stuff” evokes the Pretty Things, and “A Chance to Live” could be a lost track by the Move. Bell’s singing on the version of “My Life Is Right” first recorded with Rock City sounds more confident here, even, than on the version he recorded with Big Star. And the guitar tone on the collection’s opener “Think It’s Time to Say Goodbye” evokes “In the Street” from #1 Record. 

Bell’s collaborators demonstrate themselves a talented bunch. There was something in the water or amidst the smoke floating in the air at Ardent Studios during the decade’s turn into the ‘70s. Eubanks, in particular, proves himself a versatile vocalist equally comfortable with a hard rocker’s rasp or a lazy psychedelic croon. Manning’s keyboards and synthesizers color the songs in a way that differentiates them from Big Star, offering more psychedelic flourishes, as in the backward masking on Bell’s “Looking Forward” or the pseudo-mandolin in “The Wind Will Cry For Me”, and his “Sunday Organ” is a standout instrumental contribution. 

Listening to Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star it becomes apparent that, without Chris Bell, there would have been no Big Star. The anthology makes it plain that Bell was one of the great collaborators in rock and roll history and adds further emphasis to just how cruelly the fates have treated him. Compiler Alec Palao makes all the right decisions in his selection and sequencing of these songs, presenting as complete a portrait of an artist still in formation as is possible, offering all sides of Bell: singer, songwriter, lead guitarist, accompanist, and, ultimately, catalyst. 
Pop Matters, 30 June 2017 
1. Rock City - Think It's Time To Say Goodbye (Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 3:56
2. Icewater - All I See Is You (Chris Bell, Steve Rhea) - 3:33
3. Rock City - My Life Is Right (Chris Bell, Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 3:06
4. The Wallabies - Feeling High (Alan Palmore) - 3:21
5. Icewater - Looking Forward (Chris Bell) - 3:39
6. Rock City - The Wind Will Cry For Me (Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 3:07
7. Chris Bell - Psychedelic Stuff (Chris Bell) - 2:48
8. The Wallabies - The Reason (Alan Palmore) - 2:33
9. Rock City - I Lost A Love (Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 3:16
10.Icewater - A Chance To Live - 2:07
11.Rock City - The Answer (Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 3:34
12.Rock City - Lovely Lady (Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 3:09
13.Icewater - Sunshine (Steve Rhea) - 1:40
14.Rock City - Introduction (Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, Terry Manning, Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 1:50
15.Rock City - Sunday Organ (Terry Manning) - 3:16
16.Rock City - The Preacher (Chris Bell, Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 3:41
17.Rock City - Shine On Me (Thomas Dean Eubanks) - 2:33
18.Rock City - Try Again (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton) - 3:37
19.Icewater - Germany - 3:34
20.Icewater - Oh My Sou (Alex Chilton) - 3:20
21.Icewater - All I See Is You (Chris Bell, Steve Rhea) - 3:21
22.The Wallabies - Feeling High (Alan Palmore) - 4:50

*Chris Bell - Guitar, Vocals
*Terry Manning - Piano, Organ, Ardotron, Moog Iiic, Backing Vocals
*Thomas Dean Eubanks - Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Jody Stephens - Drums
*Steve Rhea - Drums
*Alan Palmore - Vocals 
*Bobby Maxwell - Guitar
*Alex Majors - Bass
*Glen Wilson - Drums

1972-76  Chris Bell - I'm The Cosmos (two disc set) 
Related Acts
1968-75  Big Star - Keep An Eye On The Sky (2009 four discs box set)