Sunday, July 25, 2021

Matching Mole - Matching Mole's Little Red Record (1972 uk, extraordinary art prog rock, 2013 japan Blu Spec and 2012 double disc extra tracks remasters)

With antagonistic artwork - a pastiche of a Chinese propaganda poster - Little Red Record was a different album in many respects. For starters, Wyatt had requested that Robert Fripp produce the album, which he did with aplomb. Crucially, however, Wyatt had decided to relegate his position in the band to solely writing lyrics, letting the others write the material. On this record, the band are a more synchronised unit, with tighter performances a very aggresive outlook.

The album starts with the eerie Starting In The Middle Of The Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away, a rather unsettling track, before plunging straight into the breakneck instrumental that is Marchides. The next nineteen minutes are progressive bliss as far as I'm concerned. The music sounds far more structured than their previous output, perfectly showcasing each of the bandmembers talents. Often the band choose to repeat a riff ad nauseum, such as the brilliant riff in Nan True's Hole, while either letting one band member solo on top or allowing guests Alfreda Benge, Julie Christie and David Gale to speak surreally, adding a phantasmagoric air to the record. On the whole, with complex patterns and speedy interplay, this is very exciting music.

Side Two isn't quite as fulfilling, but isn't without its own rewards. Starting with the lengthy Gloria Gloom - featuring the well renowned Brian Eno - we reach the more conventional, yet simultaneously blasphemous track God Song. In this brief acoustic piece, Wyatt laments God and all his mysterious ways quite explicitly. The final tracks Flora Fidgit and Smoke Signal are more of the same instrumental noodling as heard on the first side, a neat way to end the album.

Sadly, by the time of the album's release, Matching Mole were no more, due to Wyatt's unhappiness in being the main focus of the band. By 1973, it seemed that a new Matching Mole would reform, playing music that would later become Rock Bottom, but after Wyatt's topple from a fourth story window, the idea was abandoned. 

Despite only lasting around twelve months, Matching Mole were a remarkable band, capable of creating evocative and memorable music. Their two albums provide a darker perspective on the sometimes enigmatic genre that is Canterbury scene, as well as showcasing Wyatt's skills as a drummer. 
by Basil Francis
1. Starting in the Middle of the Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away (Dave MacRae, Robert Wyatt) - 2:31
2. Marchides (Dave MacRae) - 8:25
3. Nan True's Hole (Phil Miller, Robert Wyatt) - 3:37
4. Righteous Rhumba (aka Lything and Gracing) (Phil Miller, Robert Wyatt) - 2:50
5. Brandy as in Benj (Dave MacRae) - 4:24
6. Gloria Gloom (Bill MacCormick, Robert Wyatt) - 8:05
7. God Song (Phil Miller, Robert Wyatt) - 2:59
8. Flora Fidgit (Bill MacCormick) - 3:27
9. Smoke Signal (Dave MacRae) - 6:38
10.Starting in the Middle of the Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away (Take 1) (Dave MacRae, Robert Wyatt) - 2:54
11.Flora Fidgit (Take 8) (Bill MacCormick) - 6:40
12.Smoke Signal (Take 4) (Dave MacRae) - 6:45
13.Mutter (Dave MacRae) - 3:26
Disc 1
1. Starting In The Middle Of The Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away (Dave MacRae, Robert Wyatt) - 2:32
2. Marchides (Dave MacRae) - 8:25
3. Nan True's Hole (Phil Miller, Robert Wyatt) - 3:36
4. Righteous Rhumba (Phil Miller, Robert Wyatt) - 2:50
5. Brandy As In Benj (Dave MacRae) - 4:25
6. Gloria Gloom (Bill MacCormick, Robert Wyatt) - 8:06
7. God Song (Phil Miller, Robert Wyatt) - 3:00
8. Flora Fidgit (Bill MacCormick) - 3:27
9. Smoke Signal (Dave MacRae) - 6:40
Recorded at CBS Studios, London in the Summer of 1972
Disc 2
1.a.Instant Pussy (Robert Wyatt
1.b.Lithing And Gracing (Dave MacRae, Phil Miller, Robert Wyatt) - 7:56
2. Marchides (Dave MacRae) - 10:30
3.a.Part Of The Dance (Phil Miller
3.b.Brandy As In Benj (Dave MacRae) - 8:41
4. Starting In The Middle Of The Day We Can Drink Our Politics Away (Take One) (Dave MacRae, Robert Wyatt) - 2:51
5. Smoke Signal (Take Four) (Dave MacRae) - 6:44
6. Flora Fidget (Take Eight) (Bill MacCormick) - 6:38
7. Mutter (Dave MacRae) - 3:23
Tracks 1, 3 recorded at the Paris Theatre, London on 27th July 1972
Tracks 2, 4 - 7 recorded at CBS Studios, London in the Summer of 1972

Matching Mole
*Phil Miller - Guitars
*Dave MacRae - Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, Piano, Organ, Synthesizer
*Bill MacCormick - Bass
*Robert Wyatt - Drums, Vocals
*Brian Eno - Synthesizer ( "Gloria Gloom")
*Ruby Crystal (Pseudonym For Julie Christie) -  Vocals ("Nan True's Hole")

Related Acts
1968  Caravan - Caravan (Japan SHM remaster)  
1970  Caravan - If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You (Japan SHM remaster)
1971  Caravan - In The Land Of Grey And Pink (Japan SHM remaster)
1973  Caravan - For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night (Japan SHM remaster)
1974  Caravan - Caravan And The New Symphonia (Japan SHM remaster)
1975  Caravan - Cunning Stunts (Japan remaster)

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Pure Prairie League - If The Shoe Fits / Just Fly / Dance (1976/78 us, fine southern country soft rock, 2013 double disc remaster)

On 1976's "IF THE SHOE FITS" features the same PPL line-up, though this time the band members co-wrote much of the material with each other, giving the whole album a more cohesive vibe.  However, that’s not apparent from the opening revival of the Crickets’ That’ll Be The Day, which sounds at odds with the rest of the album—despite it being a rather good rendition. That is the only outside song, though Sun Shone Brightly was penned by Tim Goshorn, younger brother of Larry, who was to join the band a year after the album was recorded. 

DANCE maintained the same soundscape, driven by some infectious tunes like the opening title song that features horns and the loping Catfishin’ with some inspired Dobro work. The gentle, harmony-inflected In The Morning is a particular long-time favourite of mine with guest Andy Stein’s fiddle up-front and prominent. This collection closes with JUST FLY, from 1978, which was to be PPL’s penultimate RCA album. On this one steelie JD Call had been replaced by Tim Goshorn and the lack of steel, Dobro and banjo was most noticeable, and for me ranks as possibly their weakest RCA album. Despite that, there are some enjoyable moments to savour such as the acoustic-styled Slim Pickin’s and the easy-listening vibe of You Don’t Have To Be Alone. There’s also a revival of Lee Dorsey’s Working In The Coal Mine, which doesn’t work at all.

Pure Prairie League moved on in 1980 to Casablanca Records and with various personnel changes have continued to tour and occasionally record right through to today. In 1985 Craig Fuller rejoined and he has remained very much the lynchpin of PPL with their most recent recording being 2005’s ALL IN GOOD TIME. A long overdue look back at this underrated band, and overall an impressive and enjoyable listening experience.
by Alan Cackett
Disc 1 " If The Shoe Fits" 1976
1. That'll Be The Day (Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, Norman Petty) - 2:10
2. I Can Only Think Of You (Larry Goshorn, Mike Reilly) - 2:36
3. Sun Shone Lightly (Tim Goshorn) - 4:01
4. Long Cold Winter (George Ed Powell, Larry Goshorn, Mike Reilly) - 3:18
5. Lucille Crawfield (George Ed Powell) - 4:04
6. Gimme Another Chance (Larry Goshorn) - 3:40
7. Aren't You Mine (George Ed Powell, William Frank Hinds) - 3:45
8. You Are So Near To Me (George Ed Powell) - 4:33
9. Out On The Street (Larry Goshorn) - 3:10
10.Going Home (Larry Goshorn) - 3:27
"Just Fly" 1978
11.Place In The Middle (Larry Goshorn, Patsy Scanlan, Tim Goshorn) - 3:44
12.Slim Pickin's (George Ed Powell) - 3:09
13.Love Will Grow (Tim Goshorn) - 3:00
14.You Don't Have To Be Alone (Larry Goshorn, Mike Reilly) - 3:36
15. Love Is Falling (Tim Goshorn) - 3:07
16.Just Fly (Tim Goshorn) - 3:59
17.Lifetime (Larry Goshorn) - 2:39
18.Working In The Coal Mine (Allen Toussaint) - 3:29
19.My Young Girl (George Ed Powell) - 3:12
20.Bad Dream (Billy Hinds, Mike Reilly, Tim Goshorn) - 4:02
Disc 2 "Dance" 1976
1. Dance (George Ed Powell) - 3:20
2. In The Morning (Larry Goshorn, Tim Goshorn) - 3:00
3. All The Way (Mike Reilly, D. Loe, R. Perry) - 3:40
4. Livin' Each Day At A Time (Larry Goshorn) - 2:47
5. Fade Away (Mike Reilly, Larry Goshorn) - 4:09
6. Tornado Warning (George Ed Powell) - 3:16
7. Catfishin' (Larry Goshorn) - 2:19
8. Help Yourself (Mike Reilly, Larry Goshorn) - 3:32
9. San Antonio (George Ed Powell) - 3:24
10.All The Lonesome Cowboys (Tim Goshorn) - 5:00

Pure Prairie League
*George Powell - Guitar, Vocals, Vocals
*Larry Goshorn - Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Reilly - Bass, Vocals
*Billy Hinds - Drums
*Michael Connor - Keyboards
*John David Call - Banjo, Dobro, Steel Guitar, Vocals ("If The Shoe Fits", "Dance")
*Tim Goshorn - Guitar, Vocals ("Just Fly")
*Prairie Dog Choir - Vocals ("Dance")
*Charles Veal Jr. - Violin ("Dance")

Related Act

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Billy Boy Arnold with Tony McPhee And The Groundhogs - Dirty Mother (1977 us / uk, superb hard boogie rock, 2007 remaster)

This long-buried treasure, featuring a recording session from 1977 available on disc for the first time, reveals two like-minded hard-blues gods getting on like a house afire. Both Billy Boy Arnold and the backing unit here, Tony McPhee & the Groundhogs, were arguably as good as anybody at their instruments (Arnold on harmonica and McPhee on guitar), but were always eclipsed in popularity by bigger acts such as Sonny Boy Williamson for the former or Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix for the latter. A shame that success eluded both, as they can shred with the best of them, and DIRTY MOTHER represents one of the best meldings of Chicago and London electric blues. Arnold, McPhee, and the Hogs tear through 15 blues standards and Arnold originals with a rawness and energy that sounds more like 1964 than 1977. Very highly recommended for fans of hard electric blues. 
1. Dirty Mother F... (Traditional) - 6:54
2. Don't Stay Out All Night (William Arnold) - 3:15
3. 1-2-99 (Hawkins) - 4:14
4. Riding The El (William Arnold) - 2:46
5. Just Got To Know (Bob Geddins, Jimmy McCracklin) - 3:50
6. Christmas Time (Bob Geddins, Jimmy McCracklin) - 3:22
7. Wish You Would (William Arnold) - 3:07
8. Ah' W' Baby (Walter Jacobs) - 4:03
9. Sweet Miss Bea (William Arnold) - 4:24
10.Blue And Lonesome (Calvin Carter) - 6:16
11.Eldorado Cadillac (William Arnold) - 2:02
12.Mary Bernice (William Arnold) - 4:23
13.It's Great To Be Rich (Unknown Artist) - 4:11
14.Just A Dream (Big Bill Broonzy) - 3:14
15.Catfish (Robert Petway) - 3:44

*Billy Boy Arnold - Harmonica, Vocals
*Alan Fish - Bass
*Wilgar Campbell - Drums
*Tony McPhee - Guitar

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Harry Chapin - Original Album Series (1972-76 us, brilliant folk rock, 2009 five disc box)

Harry Chapin's debut album is a smoothly put-together, if slightly musically unbalanced piece of singer/songwriter rock, unbalanced because good as everything here is, the hit, "Taxi," and the other songs on the original LP's second side somewhat overwhelm the rest of Heads & Tales. "Taxi" is so elaborately produced and arranged that it's like a feature film that clocks in at six minutes and 44 seconds; "Any Old Kind of Day" is a beautiful and unsettling confessional about an artist's unease and depression, like an East Coast equivalent to Brian Wilson's brand of personal songwriting, with a touch of James Taylor's influence and unique phrasings and sensibilities by Chapin; the epic "Dogtown" (which nearly overstays its welcome at seven and a half minutes) is a startling piece of song painting with a topical edge, which anticipated some aspects of Chapin's subsequent public commitment to progressive political causes; and "Same Sad Singer" is a haunting, romantic confessional that explores some of the same emotional territory in first-person terms that "Taxi" dealt with through characters. 

Side one's songs don't quite match up, though "Empty" has nice hooks and a good beat. The record holds up well in part because of its strange combination of lean production and rich sounds -- producer Jac Holzman preserved all of the elements from Chapin's stage act that he liked, and apart from some keyboard embellishment from Steve Chapin and percussion by Russ Kunkel, it's all the basic quartet: Ron Palmer on electric guitar, Tim Scott on cello, John Wallace on bass, and Harry Chapin on acoustic guitar. They sound like a lot more players, and Palmer and Wallace add more than two backup singers should be capable of bringing to the table. Chapin's singing isn't actually that good, his range and expressiveness at times very narrow, but his energy and commitment to the songs pour off the album and make this album a compelling listen 30 years later.

Sniper & Other Love Songs never sold remotely as well as its predecessor, Heads & Tales, mostly because it never had a hit single like "Taxi" to help lift it high on the charts, but it is actually a bolder and better album and a much more balanced record; the lack of an elaborately produced number like "Taxi" may have hurt sales, but it meant that no one song dominated the proceedings. Chapin sings better here than on his first album, with improved range and a lot more confidence, which extends to his songwriting as well -- "Sunday Morning Sunshine" is a fine folk-based number that opens the album in achingly beautiful, genial fashion, but it's on the second song, "Sniper," that Chapin shows his real range. 

A ten-minute conceptual work, the latter has all the complexity and drama of a screenplay and a movie soundtrack woven into one, and is brilliantly performed/acted by Chapin; listening to it, one gets the impression of a real-life, soft rock version of Noel Airman, the composer character from the novel Marjorie Morningstar, who was forever trying out and reworking material from the Broadway show that he was planning for years; even overlooking the fact that Chapin did, of course, get to Broadway, there's a sense of someone looking for a bigger canvas that records or singing songs on a concert stage can provide. 

The rest ranges from low-key, elegantly played, but unpretentious singer/songwriter material, built on beautiful melodies ("And the Baby Never Cries") to fairly hard-rocking electric numbers ("Burning Herself"). Some of it, like "Barefoot Lady," sounds a decade out of place in the 1970s, while other numbers, such as "Better Place to Be," are the kind of extended soft-rocking, poetic numbers that collegiate audiences (at least, humanities majors) used to devour in the early '70s. "Circle" is probably the most popular number ever to come off of the album, but it's merely the most obvious personal statement here, rather than representative of this engaging and still very rewarding album, which finally showed up on CD in 2002, in time for its 30th anniversary, from the Wounded Bird label. 

Verities & Balderdash is a very strange and wonderful album. "Cat's in the Cradle" was the driving force behind the album's sales, but there's a lot more to appeal to listeners, along with enough personal, topical material to make it seem a bit didactic at the time, but Chapin was cultivating a politically committed audience. Verities & Balderdash walked several fine lines, between topical songwriting and an almost (but not quite) pretentious sense of its own importance, humor and seriousness, and balladry and punditry, all intermingled with catchy, highly commercial ballads such as "I Wanna Learn a Love Song" (which is about as pretty a song as he ever wrote). Chapin is in good voice and thrives in the more commercial sound of this album, which includes lots of electric guitars and overdubbed orchestra and choruses. He still loves to tell stories -- most are like little screenplays, with "Shooting Star" offering details and textures and a sense of drama akin to a finished film (in the manner of "Taxi"). 

The "haunt count" on this album is extremely high, boosted by gorgeous ballads like "She Sings Songs Without Words." "What Made America Famous" may be the one song that comes off as dated, a parable -- perhaps reflecting the near-meltdown of politics surrounding the Nixon resignation of 1974 -- about long-haired teens and crew-cutted firemen who discover a mutual dependence and respect for each other and reconciliation; it seems like ancient history and probably will be incomprehensible to anyone born after 1968. Chapin also lapses into excessive dramatics in the finale, which shamelessly borrows a couple of lines from one song out of the musical 1776. 

The album also offers a pair of humorous numbers on "30,000 Pounds of Bananas" and "Six String Orchestra," not the most significant songs in Chapin's repertory, but both adding balance to the mood. Producer Paul Leka (the commercial genius behind Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye") retained some elements of the relatively lean sound that characterized Chapin's debut album, embellishing it only enough to give the album some potentially wider commercial appeal. Even the cover art seems to reflect the two delightfully contradictory thrusts of this album: an image of Chapin posed like Uncle Sam on the military recruiting poster with a wry smile on his face. 
by Bruce Eder

The pensive tales of personal relationships on Short Stories belong to a bygone era, when the summer of love was yielding to the autumn of adulthood and the mundane realities that attended it. Like Jim Croce and James Taylor, Harry Chapin observes the melancholy side of life in self-contained character studies: the midlife assessment of a failed career and marriage on the poignant "WOLD," a dry cleaner whose pretense to a singing career is exposed on "Mr. Tanner," the meager dreams of a poor farmer and his mail-order bride on "Mail Order Annie." Yet the album's overall tone is sober rather than somber. Perhaps "Song for Myself" expresses it best when Chapin offers up the challenge: "Are we all gonna sit here with a stoned out smile and simply watch the world go 'way?" For the songwriter, it's a rhetorical question.

If the subjects are flawed, unhappy, unable to appreciate or hold on to love, it's the reality left in the wake of the '60s overweening idealism. The loss of free love is lamented on "They Call Her Easy," replaced by the cynicism of experience in "Changes." Musically, the album has much in common with the work of Cat Stevens, leaning on Paul Leka's orchestral arrangements to embellish otherwise dry songs. Chapin lacks Stevens' affection for inventive melodies and off-kilter rhythms, but compared to a toned-down record like Catch Bull at Four, the two are strikingly similar. The fact remains that casual fans will be better served with a greatest-hits compilation that includes "WOLD" than wading through all of Short Stories. Those with a predilection for Chapin's bittersweet muse will be better served by the whole album. 

On the Road to Kingdom Come sounded more like a rock album than anything Harry Chapin had done to date. In the hands of sympathetic producer/arranger Stephen Chapin, Harry's songs are infused with clever and often humorous bits of musical commentary -- horns, electric guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, and various sound effects pop up at opportune times throughout -- that makes much of the material instantly ingratiating. While the record failed to capture commercial interest (singer/songwriters were out, disco was in), song for song this is one of his strongest efforts. As a musical storyteller, Chapin has few peers; both the potent tale of a duplicitous potentate on "The Mayor of Candor Lied" and the heartwarming "Corey's Coming" are masterfully conceived. Harry's humorous side, which somehow got stifled in the studio, here comes out of the closet for the title track and "Laugh Man," though both have their barbs.

The album also included two of his prettiest songs, "Caroline" (co-written with wife Sandy Chapin) and "If My Mary Were Here." A track dedicated to the recently fallen Phil Ochs, "The Parade's Still Passing By," is also featured. Compared to some of his earlier work, which was often dry and dour, these songs are vigorous and saturated in sound. Some might charge that the record's resemblance to Elton John's contemporary work renders it lightweight, but Chapin's wit was sharpening with age and his romantic visions remained keen. For the faithful, getting On the Road to Kingdom Come is a good idea.
by Dave Connolly
Disc 1 Heads And Tales 1972
1. Could You Put Your Light On, Please - 4:30
2. Greyhound - 5:45
3. Everybody's Lonely - 4:07
4. Sometime, Somewhere Wife - 4:58
5. Empty - 2:57
6. Taxi - 6:44
7. Any Old Kind Of Day - 4:56
8. Dogtown - 7:30
9. Same Sad Singer - 4:12
Music and Lyrics by Harry Chapin
Disc 2 Sniper And Other Love Stories 1972
1. Sunday Morning Sunshine - 3:51
2. Sniper - 10:02
3. And The Baby Never Cries - 5:09
4. Burning Herself - 3:29
5. Barefoot Boy - 3:29
6. Better Place To Be - 8:36
7. Circle - 3:25
8. Woman Child - 5:25
9. Winter Song - 2:31
Words and Music by Harry Chapin
Disc 3 Short Stories 1973
1. Short Stories - 4:35
2. W*O*L*D - 5:15
3. Song For Myself - 5:00
4. Song Man - 3:13
5. Changes - 4:32
6. They Call Her Easy - 4:03
7. Mr. Tanner - 5:08
8. Mail Order Annie - 4:52
9. There's A Lot Of Lonely People Tonight - 3:39
10.Old College Avenue - 4:25
All compositions by Harry Chapin
Disc 4 Verities And Balderdash 1974
1. Cat's In The Cradle (Sandy Chapin) - 3:44
2. I Wanna Learn A Love Song - 4:19
3. Shooting Star - 4:02
4. 30,000 Pounds Of Bananas - 5:45
5. She Sings Songs Without Words - 3:31
6. What Made America Famous? - 6:53
7. Vacancy - 4:00
8. Halfway To Heaven - 6:10
9. Six String Orchestra - 5:25
All songs by Harry Chapin except where stated
Disc 5 On The Road To Kingdom Come 1976
1. On The Road To Kingdom Come - 5:26
2. The Parade's Still Passing By - 3:26
3. The Mayor Of Candor Lied - 8:27
4. Laugh Man - 3:36
5. Corey's Coming - 5:41
6. If My Mary Were Here - 3:32
7. Fall In Love With Him - 3:54
8. Caroline (Sandy Chapin) - 3:41
9. Roll Down The River - 4:28
All tracks by Harry Chapin except where indicated

Disc 1 Heads And Tales 1972
*Harry Chapin - Guitar, Vocals
*Steve Chapin - Keyboards
*Russ Kunkel - Drums, Percussion
*Ronald Palmer - Guitar, Vocals
*Tim Scott - Cello
*John Wallace - Bass, Vocals

Disc 2 Sniper And Other Love Stories 1972
*Harry Chapin - Guitar, Vocals
*John Wallace - Bass, Vocals
*Tim Scott - Cello
*Ron Palmer - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Steve Chapin - Keyboards
*Russ Kunkel - Drums And Percussion

Disc 3 Short Stories 1973
*Harry Chapin - Guitar, Vocals
*Dave Armstrong - Harmonica
*Tomi Lee Bradley - Vocals
*Bobby Carlin - Drums
*Jeanne French - Vocals
*Paul Leka - Keyboards
*Michael Masters - Cello
*Ronald Palmer - Guitar, Vocals
*Buddy Salzman - Drums
*John Wallace - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Tim Scott - Cello

Disc 4 Verities And Balderdash 1974
*Harry Chapin - Guitar, Lead Vocals
*Stephen Chapin - Keyboards, Vocals
*Jim Chapin - Drums
*Tom Chapin - Banjo
*John Tropea - Acoustic Guitar, Sitar
*Don Payne - Bass
*Allan Schwartzberg - Drums
*Don Grolnick - Piano, Electric Piano, Harpsichord
*Ron Bacchiocchi - Synthesizer
*George Simms - Background Vocals
*Frank Simms - Background Vocals
*Dave Kondziela - Background Vocals
*Zizi Roberts - Vocals
*Paul Leka - Piano
*Irving Spice - Concertmaster

Disc 5 On The Road To Kingdom Come 1976
*Harry Chapin - Guitar, Vocals
*Buzz Brauner - Recorder
*Stephen Chapin - Keyboards, Vocals
*Carolyn Dennis - Vocals
*Ron Evanuik - Cello
*Donna Fein - Vocals
*Howie Fields - Drums, Percussion
*Bobbye Hall - Percussion
*Muffy Hendrix - Vocals
*Sharon Hendrix - Vocals
*Doug Walker - Guitar, Vocals
*John Wallace - Bass, Vocals

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Fat - Fat / Footloose (1970/76 us, amazing acid psych bluesy rock, 2007 digi pak remaster)

Formed in 1968 in and around Springfield MA, Fat is going strong and is as beloved as ever more than five decades later. The derivation of the band’s name is simple, suggested by a hip, beatnik-inspired friend who spoke of all things cool and righteous as being “fat.” The Fat story is far more complicated, filled with big-time success, hope, disappointment, disillusion, resilience, and redemption. And some very enduring music. 

The seeds of Fat are sown at Holyoke Community College, where front man vocalist and songwriter Peter J. Newland connects with guitarists/songwriters Michael Benson and Jim Kaminski. Along with bassist Guy DeVito and drummer William “Benji” Benjamin, the band starts out playing covers of songs by their favorite bands: Cream, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Hendrix. But early on, seeing Jefferson Airplane at the Springfield Civic Center, Newland looks up at the stage and thinks, I wanna do that. What do we need to do to do that? From then on, the band’s focus is writing original songs. And these songs are good enough to lead to associations with big-league managers, producers, and record labels.

An early tape, recorded in 1968 in a two-track recording studio at what was then the Passionist Monastery in West Springfield, leads to a visit by producer Eddie Jason (a.k.a. Ed Germano), who’d go on to own the Hit Factory. The producer is particularly taken by the young band’s scrappy energy and a Newland original, “Black Sunday.” Six weeks later, the band is in midtown Manhattan, first at A&R Studios, then at RCA Studios, recording what becomes their first album, with Jason behind the board. 

The self-titled album is released on RCA Records about a year later, but the powers that be aren’t quite sure how to promote the record, and the band finds itself on bills in New York with Bobby Sherman and Bread. As Newland recalls, “Given that I was young and full of beans, and had that rock and roll arrogance thing going on, I was very unhappy about that.”

Back home, Fat is pioneering the music scene in the Pioneer Valley. In 1969, they play 12 dates at Steve Nelson’s club, The Woodrose Ballroom, in South Deerfield, both as a headliner and as an opening act. In December, they open for a new band with their first album just out, The Allman Brothers. In 1970, when the Woodrose moves its shows to the Paramount Theatre, about a half-hour south in Springfield, they land an opening slot for The Velvet Underground on January 9. Also on the bill are Barry T & the Studebakers, a new band fronted by Barry Tashian and Bill Briggs, formerly of The Remains. (An image of the concert poster appears on page 326 of Steve Nelson’s Gettin’ Home memoir.) 

After the Woodrose, things continue to improve when the band play shows with Paul Butterfield one night and Little Richard the next, and with acts including Steppenwolf and Eric Burdon and War. Then with Jerrold Kushnick as manager, Fat lands a slot at the Strawberry Fields Festival in Ontario, Canada, in August 1970 with Sly and the Family Stone, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, and others. But, recalls Newland, “Right when they figured out where we fit, there was regime change at RCA. We were going down to record our second album and we cut our new single [in late 1970], ‘Still Water,’ but they were unhappy to find out it was a Vietnam protest song. That straw broke the camel’s back.”

But that first album’s viability and major-label luster was a big deal for fans of the band. Legendary Western MA-based songwriter and performer Ray Mason has recorded nearly three dozen albums as a front man for the Lonesome Brothers and with his own Ray Mason Band. Says Mason, “The first time I heard Fat was at an outdoor concert at Forest Park in Springfield in the late ’60s. With a combination of originals and choice covers (including Spirit’s “Fresh Garbage”), they proceeded to show me and my buddies that this was what a great band sounded like! With original tunes like “House On The Corner” and “Black Sunday,” I later wore out their self-titled RCA album. What I’m trying to say here is that Fat have always knocked me out!”

Throughout the ’70s, members of Fat not only worked together but lived together, further adding to the tight-knit feel of the band. The back cover of the RCA album, in fact, is taken at one of those group houses, in Pelham, MA. 

Even without a recording contract but with an ever-growing catalogue of power-packed original music, embracing soulful rock and blues with hip jazzy inflections, the band remained strong with a fiercely loyal following throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, and become house-packing regulars at the Rusty Nail in Sunderland, MA. In the early- to mid-1970s, Fat frequently finds themselves sharing bills there with the likes of Cold Blood, James Cotton, Taj Mahal, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. 

In the mid-1970s, guitarist Kaminski leaves, replaced by Peter’s brother Christopher on guitar; Drummer Benjamin leaves, too, eventually to join The Elevators, whose Frontline album would be released on Arista Records in 1980. William Perry from Cricket Hill is his replacement.

In 1975, the group forms the area’s first Indie label, Dream Merchant Records, and its members—Peter and Christopher Newland, DeVito, Benson, and Perry—proceed to record and self-produce their second LP, Footloose, with assistance from esteemed engineer Ed Begley (Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone). The album sells well regionally, and Fat is firmly established as a major musical force in a vibrant scene that also includes Clean Living and Mitch Chakour and the Mission Band. In Boston when Fat plays such clubs as Brandy’s and Bunratty’s, they connect with Bonnie Raitt, Billy Colwell, and James Montgomery.

Looking for new management and armed with copies of the solid-selling Footloose album, Newland likes to say he “bribed” his way backstage at the Springfield Civic Center during a Charlie Daniels Band show, in hopes of connecting with promoter Shelly Finkel of powerful Cross Country Concerts. It works, and on September 30, 1978, the band officially signs on with Finkel and partner Jim Koplik as managers. 

In early January 1979, the band is off to Miami’s Criteria Studios to record what they hope will be their third album, with Felix Pappalardi (Cream, Mountain) producing. Around this time, Fat also records with producers Murray Krugman (Blue Oyster Cult) at Bearsville Studios, and Mick Ronson (there’s some classic, unreleased material from those sessions), but it soon becomes clear, Newland says, that “Felix was gonna be the guy.”  

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, manager Shelly Finkel connects with the legendary Jerry Wexler from Atlantic Records and gives him some Fat home demos. As Newland recalls, “Jerry liked it and encouraged Ahmet [Ertegun] to sign us. And while we’re at Criteria, Ahmet flew in from his place in the Caribbean. We met him at the airport and he came back to the studio and we listened to the tapes with Ahmet. He liked the band very much. He said, ‘You guys are the new Rolling Stones. We are going to take rock and roll back from the English with this band.’ We shook hands on a deal that day.”

But at the time the band signs with Atlantic, just after the record industry’s sugar-high of Saturday Night Fever and its subsequent pre-MTV plunge, money dries up and companies are quickly starting to tighten their belts and suddenly don’t have slots on their rosters for so-called “developmental acts.” Fat gets caught up in this, and despite having recorded an album’s worth of new material, the Atlantic deal falls through. 

“When the Atlantic deal fell apart,” Newland continues, “it hit everybody really hard. We’d worked really hard and got to [what we felt was] the ultimate deal, the deal we’d all been looking for, and when that fell apart, we just kind of imploded for a while.” 

Christopher Newland, DeVito, and Perry leave the band, with Peter Newland and Michael Benson remaining to keep the fire burning. Which they did, beginning in late 1979 with a succession of new lineups. The first sees the two stalwarts being joined by bassist Peter Frizzell (Clean Living) and drummer Barry Blinn (Mama’s Little Jewel). This quite-different incarnation of Fat, a power trio with front man vocalist, was dubbed Hell’s House Band, with Newland the creative force driving it. “I did not take the loss of the Atlantic deal and the breakup of the band well,” reflects Newland understandably, “and I was pretty angry. In one sense, it made for some angry, violent, beautiful music.”

The harder-edged Fat sound, though, doesn’t ring true with some of the band’s loyal fan base, who want to hear the old Fat songs. In 1982, the band, now with Newland and Benson joined by Joe Rudolph (bass) and Mark Kislus (drums), releases a new single, recorded at Dream Merchant Studios in Ashfield, MA. The record, the high-energy rocker “Livin’ Like an Outlaw” backed with a timeless ballad, “When Will I Meet You?” has the feel of classic Fat, and when this new version of the band plays a record release party at the Springfield Civic Center Exhibition Hall on June 19, 1982, the place is packed, the fans in attendance clearly loving their local heroes. 

Throughout much of the 1980s, Peter Newland and company continue playing clubs and bigger halls like the Paramount Theatre in Springfield. But in the late-’80s, Fat officially calls it quits, although in retrospect it was just a multi-year hiatus. Fast forward, and Ron Hurst, a longtime member of Steppenwolf and friend of venerable Fat bassist Guy DeVito, inspires members of the original band to get back together, and that happens at the Waterfront Tavern in Holyoke in February 1992. The magic returns, the band is resurrected, and with a few exceptions early on have been playing together several times a year, most recently with original members Peter and Christopher Newland, Guy DeVito, Jim Kaminski, and “Benji” Benjamin, joined by guitarist Mark Pappas and second drummer Chet Pasek. 

Into the third decade of the new millennium, Fat brings in special guests including James Montgomery, Mitch Chakour, and Ray Mason to such venues as Court Square in Springfield and the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, and before sold-out full-to-capacity crowds, is as energetic and as good, if not better, than ever. And one of the wonderful things about Fat is that in 2020, 52 years after the band’s formation, all its members, past and present, are still alive. “Yeah,” Peter Newland says with a mischievous smile, “we sometimes jokingly say that we just didn’t make enough money to kill ourselves.” And the songs, from all phases of their career, shine as brightly as ever, getting loud and standing ovations from music lovers of all ages.
Fat 1970
1. House On The Corner (Michael Benson, James Kaminski, Peter Newland) - 3:06
2. Black Sunday (Peter Newland) - 3:20
3. Mine Eyes Have Seen (Peter Newland, James Kaminski) - 4:11
4. Lonely Lady (Peter Newland) - 4:47
5. Journey (Peter Newland, James Kaminski) - 5:03
6. Shape I'm In (Peter Newland, James Kaminski) - 2:29
7. Country Girl (Peter Newland, Michael Benson) - 5:46
8. Over The Hill (Peter Newland, Michael Benson) - 3:13
9. Duck Sweat (Peter Newland, Michael Benson) - 4:07
10.Highway (Peter Newland) - 5:48
Footloose 1976
11.Footloose And Fancy Free (Peter Newland, James Kaminski) - 3:52
12.Dirty Money (Guy DeVito, Peter Newland, James Kaminski, William Benjamin) - 3:48
13.Highway Angel (Peter Newland) - 4:02
14.Bistro City (Guy DeVito, Peter Newland, William Perry) - 3:56
15.Down Home Girl (Artie Butler, Jerry Leiber) - 3:38
16.Get It While It's Hot (Michael Benson, Guy DeVito, Peter Newland) - 6:40
17.(You Make Me) Nervous (Chris Newland, Peter Newland) - 5:01
18.It Was An Elegant Time (Peter Newland) - 3:52
19.Immediate Woman (Michael Benson, Chris Newland, Peter Newland) - 3:13

*Peter Newland - Vocals, Mouth Harp, Flute, Synthesizer
*James Kaminski - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Benson - Guitar
*Guy DeVito - Bass, Vocals
*William (Benji) Benjamin - Drums, Vocals (Tracks 1-10)
*William Perry - Drums (Tracks 11-19) 
*Eduardo Vates - Percussion (Tracks 11-19)

Friday, July 16, 2021

Rockin Foo - Rockin Foo (1969 us, exceptional psych rock with southern traces, 2007 digi pak remaster)

Rockin Foo was a short lived musical experiment in the late 1960's. Many bands are reviewed with what I feel are jaundiced eyes because of the sheer volume and quality of music produced during this period 1965 to 1975. Most reviewers are always in comparison mode. This band sounds like these or those and this band is not as good as that or their music is categorized as dark, hippie, pop, country, hair, metal or whatever.

This practice often misses the point and true nature of music. To me music is that which is produced from the heart, soul and mind of one human being and offered to another for the sheer purpose of making a human connection. This is how I want to tell you what I see (hear) in Rockin Foo's music through a couple of their songs.

Rockin Foo subtly communicates activists themes ("You Are the Music"). "I make you a promise; I will treat you like my brother." Opening as a ballad this civil rights proclamation slips into fast shuffle with Les driving the groove as Michael Racoon's staccato counters and the backup singers shout out their gospel influenced harmonies. This tune is a fun uplifting commitment to civil rights.

"El Camino Real" - this short tune opening with a Harmonium and Beatlesque bass sound, telling a sad story of a man shaped by hunger robbing and slinging guns until he is inevitably killed along that famous road.

"All We Need is Time" - this heartfelt plea for a connection with someone is really three versions of the same song in one. First is Wayne plunking a ballad with just piano, part way through the song the whole band enters and perks it up to a mid tempo rock song. Last but not least, the song jumps into a fast paced oompah Polka beat to the finish, again, seasoned with some great gospel backing harmonies.

Fun band, interesting, even unusual arrangements and lyrics that tell a story, sounds like a good band to me

Here's what connects the above named artists to Rockin Foo.

Wayne Erwin - Rockin Foo songwriter, lead guitar, lead vocals. The main songwriter, lead singer and guitarist, Wayne Erwin, sang backing vocals and played guitar on several of the Monkees' early releases, including "Not Your Steppin' Stone", "Last Train To Clarksville" and "Valleri". In 1966, Erwin replaced Warren Zevon in the band "Lyme And Cybelle" the duet with Zevon had charted on Billboard at #65 with their first single "Follow Me" on White Whale Records. Erwin replaced Zevon and the duo released "Song 7" on the A-side and "Write If You Get Work" on the B-side. The songwriting was attributed to Joe Glenn, who some believe to be a pen name for Erwin. Some of Erwin's other credits include guitar on "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" by Boyce and Hart, the self-titled Brian Wilson, as re-mixer, background vocals on "The First Sessions" by Warren Zevon and guitar on Del Shannon's "Home and Away", the complete recordings 1960-1970.

Michael Racoon (Clark), Rockin Foo keyboards and backing vocals. Michael Clark went on to become sound supervisor for Roger Corman's Concorde Studios in Venice, CA, and is a respected keyboardist/music director, who has worked with many rock legends, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, The Temptations, etc. (Paul Carlson)

Michael is also listed as contributing a song to the Hal Jepson surf film compilation "A Sea For Yourself", which also contains 3 other Rockin Foo songs.

Ron Becker, Rockin Foo's bassist on the second album. Other than some killer bass riffs and generally good playing he did for Rockin Foo, I can find no other attributions. Great playing though, dude, hope you are still at it!

Les Brown Jr., Rockin Foo drummer and backing vocals. Les Jr. entered the music and entertainment world at the tender age of 15, when he spent his summer vacations on the road with his father's famous "Band of Renown" as a drummer. Les Jr.'s father Les Brown and his band recorded Doris Day's first hit song, "Sentimental Journey" in 1945. In 1960, after leaving Duke University, Les Jr. joined his dad's band full-time as the "boy singer". In 1962, Brown released two solo instrumental records, "Surf Crazy", which featured surf-themed songs of the day and "Wildest Drums Yet", both on Crescendo records. The discs are quite collectable now both here and in England and can go for up to $100 in good condition. Les Brown Jr. has had a varied and successful career in music, TV and film.

By 1962, Les Jr. turned to his other passion in life - acting - and worked both freelance and under contract for CBS and ABC TV, appearing in over 200 segments of various situation comedies and dramas. In 1964, he starred with Paul Ford and Judy Carne in the series, "The Bailey's of Balboa" and later spent two years on the daytime drama "The Young Marrieds" and "General Hospital."

Les Jr. switched his career back to the music business when he became head of production for International Management Combine (IMC). In that position he produced and oversaw the production of many albums from soundtracks to pop for all the major labels. IMC also started its own label at that time and Les produced and/or oversaw all of IMC's albums. (IMDb)

Phil Hartman, roadie and album cover artist. Phil was a roadie for Rockin Foo and drew both of Foo's album covers. After graduating college with a degree in graphic arts, he designed album covers for bands like Poco, America and Rockin Foo. Hartman joined the comedy group The Groundlings in 1975 and there helped comedian Paul Reubens develop his character Pee-wee Herman. Hartman co-wrote the screenplay for the film Pee-wee's Big Adventure and made recurring appearances on Reubens' show Pee-wee's Playhouse. Hartman became famous in the late 1980s when he joined the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. He won fame for his impressions, particularly of president Bill Clinton, and stayed on the show for eight seasons. Hartman won a Primetime Emmy Award for his SNL work in 1989. Hartman married Brynn Omdahl in 1987. On May 28, 1998, Brynn shot and killed Hartman while he slept in their Encino, Los Angeles, home, then committed suicide several hours later.
by Chris Faust, June 2014
1. New Friends - 2:39
2. Old Friends (Wayne Erwin, Michael Racoon) - 3:31
3. Familiar Places - 3:51
4. Gabby Hayes Waltz - 1:41
5. Kind Old Lady - 3:35
6. Stranger In The Attic - 2:54
7. Down To Cleaton - 4:32
8. Black Diamond Mine - 1:49
9. Browder Ground - 4:07
10.Boogaloo Jungle - 2:55
11.Rochester River - 3:06
All songs by Wayne Erwin except where noted

Rockin Foo
*Les Brown - Drums, Vocals
*Wayne Erwin - Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Racoon - Piano, Vocals 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Rare Bird - Beautiful Scarlet The Recordings (1969-75 uk, fabulous prog jazz rock, 2021 six disc box set)

The Rare Bird story is both a cautionary tale and one full of missed opportunities and naivety, for this was a group who showed great talent and promise and yet let it all slip away somehow.

Rare Bird were the first act signed to the fledgling Charisma label that had been set up by Tony Stratton-Smith, who had become fed up with Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records (who his then charges The Nice were signed to). Because of his dissatisfaction he set up his own label to whom he signed Rare Bird, amongst others like Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, Monty Python and Vivian StanshalLevin 

Rare Bird Released their eponymous debut album in 1969 and this yielded an unexpected hit single in the track Sympathy, which reached the top 30 in 1970 and was a hit in Holland, France, and Italy. This is possibly where the problems began as the group completely failed to capitalize on that success and proceeded to continue to trek around the UK circuit when, in fact, they should have been touring the continent.

The single also made inroads into the US Charts with the album being released through an ABC offshoot called Probe although, yet again, we find the band failing, or certainly being failed by their Record Company and Management who had not lined up any shows for them. They did manage to appear at the Agora Ballrooms in Chicago on a bill with Rare Earth, It’s a Beautiful Day and The Grateful DeaDave This was a very well received gig, by all accounts but, sadly, further gigs did not materialize and they returned home disillusioned by their sole stateside excursion.

Their second album, ‘As Your Mind Flies By’, was a good album they were busy doing a lots of European TV performances and this reduced their time to work on the album and, as a result, it was rushed and not really as good as it could have been. It does, however, have a monster track in the form of Flight which lasts for 19 minutes (the whole of one side of the album), comprises of 4 Sections and allows lots of room for the keyboard players to really indulge and show their talents and what they could achieve as a band given the opportunity. Sadly the album did not really sell well enough and Charisma lost interest in the group and dropped them from the labeLevin  This was obviously a major blow for the band, with the upshot being that Graham Field (Keyboards) and Mark Ashton (Drums) both decided that enough was enough and quit the banDave 

This left Steve Gould in charge of the group and they changed their direction somewhat reeling back the progressive aspects significantly as most of that influence had come from Graham Fields really and his departure meant and allowed a new direction to emerge.

Graham Field got an offer from CBS and formed his own group Fields with Andrew McCullough and Alan Barry which met with limited succesSteve A second album was recorded but was left unreleased in the CBS Vaults until 2015 when it got a release through Esoteric. Fields then split and Graham semi-retired and wrote TV music for many yearSteve

Mark Ashton also had his own solo career under the name of Headstone and recorded two albums for Trident, with whom he was involveDave Trident’s other act was Queen, and we all know what happened with them! Mark is now a painter who lives in the south of France and exhibits his works around the worlDave 

This left Steve Gould and David Kaffinetti (keyboards) to soldier on, which they did successfully (after a fashion), signing to Polydor who released their next three albums, starting with ‘Epic Forest’ in 1972. This album was a lot softer in sound and style, with hints of the US west coast sound, although the title track is an epic song in itself and, in addition, the album was released with a 3 track, 33 RPM, single with the last track You’re Lost clocking in at ten minutes pluSteve The album is not prog per-se but is an interesting slice of early 1970’s rock with great bass playing from Paul Karas and some bite in the sounDave By then Steve Gould had switched to 2nd guitar with lead guitar coming from Ced Curtis, who certainly tears it up on the album. Other songs were more subdued and reflective but with strong instrumentation, making them sound gooDave 

Title track Epic Forest starts like Crosby, Still and Nash with harmonic vocals and acoustic guitars before getting louder and rockier with some strong rhythm guitar work and keyboard textures standing out as the pace picks up. There is a lengthy organ solo that is very pleasing and harks back to their earlier albums, although this has guitar interplay as welLevin  There is a further instrumental section full ff guitars and this sounds terrific, really melodic and appealing. The song then moves into a piano part that is stately, subtle and atmospheric, before returning to the main part once again. This is really an effective and well-developed song by any standard and it certainly is a highlight of the album, as is You’re Lost which has a similar feel and tone to it, although this one has a fabulous ending sequence full of minor chord progressions along with some excellent guitar playing from Ced and Steve. This is fluid soloing and most agreeable to these earSteve There then follows an extended keyboard section with guitars for the next six minutes, remarkably interesting and inventive, a bit of a minor prog rock classic really. It is highly possible that most folks will not have heard this excellent song and dexterous musical chops before now so I urge you to rectify that for yourselFred This is simply magnificent music that deserves a far wider audience than it initially receiveDave 

The magic continued on their next album ‘Somebody’s Watching’, which gave the world a fine song in the form of the title track which opens with lush keyboards and a chunky guitar part, this time around they add a soulful sound to proceedings allowing Steve Gould to really show his voice to fine effect. The track combo of Dollars and A Few Dollars More is a real highlight of this excellent album, this time with John Wetton on basSteve Opening with gentle piano, it literally gains pace with a surging guitar line from A Few Dollars More (the classic spaghetti western by Sergio Leone with music by Ennio Morricone) that the band re-interpret here again to fine effect, it really is an imaginative piece performed and realized very welLevin 

The last album in the set is their final studio album ‘Born Again’, which is a bit of a misnomer as the band were on their last legs and about to throw in the towel due to their last set of demo’s with a full album’s worth of maerial, all with John Wetton on vocals, being dismisseDave However the group soldiered on to record this one last album in 1974. This record took a far softer, American West Coast, sound even further and is a minor classic in its style and fabulous voice/keyboards interplay. The strongest tracks are Last Tango In Beulah, Redman and Live For Each Other. It really is a far more laid back album than the previous one but is still a fine closing chapter in the story.

The extra live disc is of interest as it was recorded at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane whilst supporting Barclay James Harvest and Rare Bird’s 8 song recording sees the light of day for the first time here and shows the group delivering a fine set of performances, especially on the versions of Last Tango and Dollars, both of which are the longer tracks on offer.

Rare Bird were, sadly, a very overlooked group and, as such, it is fabulous to have all their output gathered here with pristine sound, gatefold sleeves, worthy bonus tracks and a great, informative, booklet.

This is one fabulous package and I heartily recommend it to any who appreciates class music and great songs and performanceSteve

From the booklet it seems that both Mark Ashton and Steve Gould still feel badly about how Tony Stratton-Smith and Charisma treated them, which is sad as Rare Bird certainly had the talent to make it big but sadly never quite got the breaks they needed to do so. 
by John Wenlock-Smith
Disc 1 Rare Bird 1969
1. Iceberg - 6:56
2. Times - 3:24
3. You Went Away - 4:39
4. Melanie - 3:28
5. Beautiful Scarlet - 5:23
6. Sympathy - 2:30
7. Nature's Fruit - 2:32
8. Bird On A wing - 4:13
9. God Of War - 5:30
All songs by Graham Field, Dvid Kaffinetti, Steve Gould, Mark Ashton
Disc 2 As Your Mind Flies By 1970
1. What You Want To Know - 5:59
2. Down On The Floor - 2:41
3. Hammerhead - 3:31
4. I'm Thinking - 5:40
5. Flight - 19:39
…As Your Mind Flies By
…New York
…Central Park
6. What You Want To Know - 3:34
7. Hammerhead - 3:23
8. Red Man - 3:29
All compositions by Graham Field, Dvid Kaffinetti, Steve Gould, Mark Ashton
Disc 3 Epic Forest 1972
1. Baby Listen - 3:24
2. Hey Man - 5:50
3. House in the City - 4:22
4. Epic Forest - 9:12
5. Turning the Lights Out - 4:37
6. Her Darkest Hour - 3:33
7. Fears of the Night - 3:18
8. Turn It All Around - 4:42
9. Title No. 1 Again (Birdman) - 6:04
10.Roadside Welcome - 4:26
11.Four Grey Walls - 3:52
12.You're Lost - 10:07
Words and Music by Ced Curtis, Dave Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Paul Karas, Steve Gould 
Disc 4 Somebody's Watching 1973
1. Somebody's Watching (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti, Andy Curtis) - 5:26  
2. Third Time Around (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti, Andy Curtis) - 4:56  
3. Turn Your Head (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti, Andy Curtis) - 4:39  
4. More And More (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti, Andy Curtis) - 4:06  
5. Hard Time (Blondie Chaplin, Ricky Fataar) - 3:06  
6. Who Is The Hero (Kevin Lamb) - 3:40  
7. High In The Morning (Paul Korda) - 3:32  
8. Dollars (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti, Andy Curtis) - 0:31 
9. A Few Dollars More (Ennio Morricone) - 8:12 
10.Virginia (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti) - 3:11
11.Lonely Street (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti) - 4:16
Disc 5 Born Again 1974-75
1. Body And Soul (Levin Camm, Steve Gould) - 3:10
2. Live For Each Other (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 2:55
3. Diamonds (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 4:07
4. Reaching You (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 3:31
5. All That I Need (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 3:57
6. Redman (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould, Andy Curtis, Andy Hall) - 3:42
7. Peace Of Mind (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 5:24
8. Harlem (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould, Levin Camm) - 3:23
9. Lonley Street (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould, Levin Camm) - 3:13
10.Last Tango In Beulah (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 6:27
11.Don't Be Afraid (Dave  Kaffinetti, Steve Gould) - 3:38
12.Passing Through (Dave  Kaffinetti, Steve Gould) - 4:28
Disc 6 Live At The Theatre Royal 1974
1. Somebody's Watching (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti, Andy Curtis) - 7:18  
2. Third Time Around (Steve Gould, Fred Kelly, Dave Kaffinetti, Andy Curtis) - 5:14
3. Hard Time (Blondie Chaplin, Ricky Fataar) - 5:14
4. All That I Need (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 4:20
5. Lonley Street (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould, Levin Camm) - 5:33
6. Live For Each Other (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 4:15
7. Last Tango In Beulah (Dave  Kaffinetti, Fred Kelly, Steve Gould) - 7:01
8. Dollars (Ennio Morricone) - 6:03 

Rare Bird
*Mark Ashton - Drums, Vocals
*Graham Field - Organ, Keyboards
*Steve Gould - Bass Guitar, Saxophone, Vocals
*Dave Kaffinetti - Keyboards, Electric Piano
*Ced Curtis - Guitar (Disc 2 Track 8, Disc 3)
*Paul Holland - Guitar, Percussion, Vocals (Disc 3)
*Paul Karas - Bass, Vocals (Disc 3)
*Nic Potter - Bass (Disc 3 Track 5, Disc 4)
*Fred Kelly - Percussion, Drums, Vocals (Disc 2 Track 8, Discs 4, 5, 6)
*Andy Rae - Bass, Guitar (Discs 5, 6)
*John Wetton - Bass (Disc 4)
*Paul Korda - Vocals (Disc 4)
*Nicky James - Vocals (Disc 4)
*Kevin Lamb - Vocals (Discs 4, 5)
*Sammy Abu - Percussion, Conga (Disc 4)
*Paul Holland - Percussion, Conga (Disc 4)
*Al Matthews - Percussion, Conga (Disc 4)

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Ralf Nowy - Lucifer’s Dream (1973 germany, fine jazz prog krautrock, 2008 remaster)

Born in 1940 in Berlin, Ralf Nowy's musical interest was first exposed to an audience during his school years, when he formed his first rock'n'roll band in the late fifties. After graduation from the Konservatorium, he joined the German jazz scene and also worked for the Saaerland radio station. His recording career began recording exploitation albums designed for dance parties, following the path opened in Germany by artists like Paul Nero (a.k.a. Klaus Doldinger). But with the rise of the krautrock scene he became interested in new, more experimental sounds and joined forces with Paul Vincent (who had played in Klaus Doldinger's Motherhood, from which he would go on to form Hallellujah) and Keith Forsey (also from Hallellujah) - the three, under the name The Ralf Nowy Group, became on of the hottest acts of the Munich scene. Ralf Nowy remained involved in music up to his death in April 2007.

Originally released in 1973 on Global, is a quiet tip for all lovers of the genre. Inspired by the burgeoning Krautrock scene, Nowy found his own supergroup with top musicians Paul Vincent and Keith Forsey and others from the Munich scene. Lothar Meid, bass (Amon Düül II) contributes as a guest on one title as well as Al Gromer, sitar (Amon Düül II). Lucifer´s Dream was therefore a melting pot of almost everything from psychedelic pop onto slight jazz influences, with experimental and ethnic diversions, a complex musical suite with a great deal of invention. Indeed, Paul Vincent and Keith Forsey are responsible for a great psychedelic rock feeling. Nowy himself and Al Gromer give the album an ethnic message. Outstanding titles are 'Shiwa's Dance' with a great Al Gromer on sitar and 'Tschad' with a catchy melody, played by Nowy on flute and a percussive background you will never forget.
1. Breadhead (Ralf Nowy, Paul Vincent Gunia) - 4:58
2. Lucifer's Dream (Ralf Nowy) - 5:03
3. Something's Happened On The Chicken Farm (Ralf Nowy, Werner Schueler) - 2:59
4. Hear Me Calling (Edo Zanki, Vilko Zanki, Colin Rickards) - 4:59
5. Soul Tango (Ralf Nowy) - 3:52
6. Ashes To Ashes (Ralf Nowy, Paul Vincent Gunia) - 3:37
7. Shiwa's Dance (Al Gromar) - 8:48
8. Tschad (Ralf Nowy) - 3:55

*Ralf Nowy - Flute, Alto Saxophone, Oboe
*Paul Vincent Gunia - Electric, Acoustic Guitar
*Sylvester Levai - Piano, Electric Piano
*Al Gromar - Sitar 
*Liz van Neyenhoff - Sitar
*Bernie Prock - Percussion
*Keith Forsey - Drums
*Gary Unwin - Bass
*Sankar Chatterjel - Tabla
*Lothar Meid - Bass (Track 4)
*Andy Marx - Electric, Acoustic Guitar (Track 4)
*Don Anderson - Piano, Electric Piano, Backing Vocals (Track 4)
*Joy Fleming - Backing Vocals (Track 4) 
*Rainer Pietsch - Backing Vocals (Track 4) 
*Vilko Zanki - Backing Vocals (Track 4)

Friday, July 9, 2021

Reign Ghost - Reign Ghost Featuring Lynda Squires (1970 canada, brilliant psych rock)

1969 was an incredibly busy year for me. I was at the ripe old age of 18. In an era when bands were reinventing themselves at lightning speed with each album, I went a step further. In 1969 I was in three bands all of whom recorded. The first Reign Ghost album came out at the beginning of that year and by year’s end I had formed and recorded the second Reign Ghost album and founded my longest lasting ensemble, Christmas.

The second Reign Ghost album or ‘Reign Ghost featuring Lynda Squires’ as the cover states, or ‘The New Reign Ghost’ as we were billed at our initial gigs, had a rapid genesis. The line-up of the first album quickly changed in mid 1969 as Lynda and I were increasingly restless to find something different. There was a local 3 piece band we admired called Mechanic Elusion, comprising John Pudlis (whom I had  played with in one of my first bands, The Things); Russ Erman and Rich (Helge) Richter. Rich was the cousin of my friend Wolfgang Hryciuk both of whom would later be in the first incarnation of Christmas.

I recall that Lynda and I thought Mechanic Elusion were a very cool ensemble. I recall that we approached them and asked if they wanted to amalgamate and become a new version of Reign Ghost. Obviously, they were into it. Pudlis, Erman and Richter had a lot of interesting original material. (What they lacked in lyrical content they made up for in melodies and interesting chord progressions - ‘Mother’s Got Trouble’ is a case in point). Clearly, Mechanic Elusion (and particularly Pudlis) had been big Iron Butterfly fans as is evident in some of their writing (‘Enola Gay’) and Pudlis’s vocal tone. Lynda and I didn’t seem to mind that too much. 

Lynda and I were still under contract to Allied/Paragon so we brought the ‘New Reign Ghost’ into the studio very quickly.  It would seem that all this transition took place between June and July of 1969. The new band played a lot gigs in the Oshawa area including high schools and the 2nd big rock show at the Civic Auditorium. 

It’s incredible to me when I look back and think that in a few short months, the first Reign Ghost folded, the second Reign Ghost was born and then by the end of the year - that version of Reign Ghost had also folded so that by December I was rallying the troops to form Christmas! The New Reign Ghost, I remember, folded for a couple of main reasons - John Pudlis was getting married and wanted to ‘settle down’; Russ Erman wanted to devote time to running the family printing business in Oshawa (Arjay Printers) and Rich - well Rich, he came with me into the Christmas fold. Around this time Lynda and I had auditioned for the Toronto production of ‘Hair’. Lynda got the gig and that left me free to form and pursue Christmas, my ultimate dream band at that time.

In retrospect, listening back to this newly remastered version of the 2nd Reign Ghost album, I can enjoy it. My only regret is that I didn’t get some of my better songs on the record. The tune I’m most pleased with is ‘Solar Nice’ which is a pretty accurate indication of where I wanted to go songwriting wise. ‘Breast Stroke Blues’  was a complete satire and as such it’s a bit of a throwaway. I hate to say it - but we were kind of ‘mocking the blues’. ‘Ain’t It Great’ was one of my lesser tunes and I’m not quite sure why we put it on the record. Of course, ‘Long Day Journey’ is a carry-over from the first Reign Ghost album. I guess I wanted to have a rockier version of that. I’m impressed with the recording over-all. Considering, once again we were recording in Cousin Bill Bessey’s basement (see insert notes on first Reign Ghost album). The guitar tones are pretty cool and the vocal recording is nicely strident. As was the custom, the album was done VERY quickly with little time for corrections or re-takes but as such - the performances hold their own.

We artists can be pretty hard on ourselves, but I’ve learned to appreciate the older stuff over the years, for it’s historical value if nothing else. The Reign Ghost albums were both immediate and spontaneous products of the times. Things went from the mind to the studio to the public with amazing rapidity in those days. As the outpouring of a seventeen and then eighteen year (respectively) poetic mind I can’t really fault either album. The Canadian music business was still in the womb and nobody really knew what they were doing, therefore I’m amazed and pleased that the recordings can still generate interest with new audiences.
by Bob Bryden, Sept. 22, 2013
1. Long Day Journey - 3:00
2. More Than I (John Pudlis, Russ Erman) - 3:43
3. Mother's Got Troubles (John Pudlis) - 3:35
4. Pudsy's Parable (John Pudlis) - 2:15
5. Ain't It Great - 3:54
6. Breast Stroke Blues - 4:21
7. Solar Nice - 2:38
8. Breadbox (John Pudlis) - 2:00
9. Enola Gay (Russ Erman) - 8:20
All songs by Bob Bryden except where stated

Reign Ghost
*Lynda Squires - Lead Vocals, Kazoo
*Bob Bryden - Lead Vocals, Guitar 
*John Pudlis - Vocals, Guitar 
*Rich Richter - Drums, Vocals
*Russ Erman - Bass, Vocals

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Jud`s Gallery - SWF Sessions Volume 1 (1972/74 germany, stunning heavy blues prog rock, 2000 remaster)

"The legendary SWF (German regional radio from Baden-Baden) radio sessions from 1970–1975 were, for a long time, considered lost. Now after extensive searching through the archives they have been recovered and remastered to their original glory. These tapes are a "must" for Progressive Music and Krautrock fans. Originally the sessions were broadcast as part of an SWF talent search for up and coming bands organised by Walther Krause. The bands were invited into the studio and the results were broadcast.... Unmissable for Prog and Krautrock fans. Some of the "unknown" bands that took part in the sessions were Kraan, My Solid Ground and Curly Curve. Other less known bands became their first chance to play in a "real" studio and prove that they were as good, if not even better, than their contemporaries. These long lost tapes form the basis for a new series for Long Hair and will also reflect SWF's pioneer work with young unsigned bands over this period. Volume 1 presents the band Jud's Gallery from Offenburg (South-West Germany).

Jud's Gallery recorded 9 songs over two SWF sessions (28.07.1972 an 29.03.1974). These songs have been digitally remastered from the original tapes to perfect studio quality. Jud's Gallery were formed in 1971 by Jürgen "Judy" Winter. The only other founding member at the sessions was Peter Oehler who had been playing with Judy in other guises before. These two enthusiatic perfectionists were accompanied for the first session by Hannes Gremminger, Herbert Brandmeyer and singer Elly Lapp who left the band shortly afterwards. SWF presenter Hans-Jürgen Kiebenstein was instrumental in inviting the band to Studio U 1 in Baden-Baden for a session without any overdubbing or re-recording, no easy task for a band who's average age was at the time a mere 21.... At a festival in southern Germany the band was approached by Roland Schaeffer (Fashion Pink, Brainstorm, Guru Guru) who was working as a producer for SWF at the time. He invited the band for their second SWF session. 

The band recorded 4 songs, including the 12 minute version of Nordrach, with the line-up of Jürgen "Judy" Winter, Peter Oehler, Clem Winterhalter and Sibi Siebert. After this session it was only a question of time before Jud's Gallery released an LP. Contacts to Achim Reichel's label "Gorilla Music" were made and shortly before they went into a studio the band broke up due to economic hardship and musical differences. Despite this and thanks to the excellent radio sessions we can relive a fantastic time of enthusiasm and hope from this brilliant band that deserved more at the time."
by Manfred Steinheuer, March 2000
1. Inspiration - 4:36
2. Danger Of Shoot (Early Version) - 4:47
3. Follow Me - 11:14
4. Friends - 5:15
5. Catch The Fly - 8:00
6. Reaching - 6:00
7. Danger Of Shoot (Real Version) - 8:10
8. Nordrach - 12:00
9. White Woman - 4:10
10.New Day's Dawning - 13:29
All songs by Jürgen 'Judy' Winter except track #4 co-written with Hannes Gremminger

Jud`s Gallery
*Jürgen 'Judy' Winter - Vocals, Bass. Acoustic Guitar
*Peter Oehler - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Hannes Gremminger - Violin, Piano (Tracks 1-5)
*Herbert Brandmeyer - Drums (Tracks 1-5)
*Sibi Siebert - Drums (Tracks 6-10) 
*Clem Winterhalter - Organ (Tracks 6-9)
*Elly Lapp - Backing Vocals (Track 4)
*Helmut Krieg - Guitar (Track 10)