Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Thundermother / Lightyears Away - Astral Navigations (1970-71 uk, remarkable acid folk psych blues rock)

“Lightyears away: melting off the sea by the Coastroad / in the dead land. You can hear, almost hear that place, softly, naked, unknown / voices appear behind distant mountains / and now simple beauty. Time ticks by. Reality, but we’ll do what we can do. We are there but so many of us are not, how to make them understand? The Astral Navigator is here - he’ll tell them. Yesterday: Your whole mind is suddenly jerked and slowed down, only to be speeded up and thrust back / through to the new North Country Cinderella - then Coombs’ Surprise Symphony. Now the spaceship talks . . .

Thundermother: Gentle heavy chords pump the brain / take the ride again and we do. Rock Banshees. It’s a long, long way back home. But it’s really nice here / Boogie! Solid driving bass cracks the ground beneath your feet, and maybe at the end all those things they bin shakin’ about have just slipped through the cracks / Fucking good, go on sell a piece of your mind to Holyground”.
by Pete Ball, from STYNG, Yorkshire’s underground newspaper,1971

The album is divided into three - Mike's songs with Brian Calvert; Chris's songs; and on side two Thundermother. Mike labeled the SIDES of the album 'Lightyears Away' (side one Mike, Brian and Chris); and 'Heavyside Layer' (side two, Thundermother). There is thus no single artist, and like A to Austr, Astral doesn't really have one. Over time the idea that there were two groups had arisen 'Lightyears Away' and 'Thundermother'. A to Austr had a by-line: "Musics from Holyground" . Astral had a similar one on a couple of posters: "Music For The Human Mind".

To mark the split between Mike's / Brian's songs and Chris's songs Mike added the Apollo rocket launch sound effect.
1. Fourth Coming (Mike Levon, Brian Calvert) - 5:18
2. Path Of Stone (Mike Levon, Brian Calvert) - 3:38
3. Windows Of Limited Time / The Astral Navigator (Mike Levon, Brian Calvert) - 1:50
4. Yesterday (Chris Coombs) - 3:06
5. Today (North Country Cinderella) (Chris Coombs) - 2:42
6. Tomorrow (Buffalo) (Chris Coombs) - 4:15
7. Someday (Frank Newbold, Peter Illingworth) - 13:43
8. Country Line (David John, Dave Millen, Dave Wilkinson) - 0:58
9. Boogie Music (L. T. Tateman III) - 5:40
10.Rock Me (Dave Millen, Dave Smith, Fred Kelly) - 6:02
11.Come On Home (Dave Millen) - 7:29
Tracks 1-9 as Lightyears Away 
Tracks 7-11 as Thundermother 

Lightyears Away
*Chris Coombs - Piano, Treated Pianos, Vocals, Organ, Steel Guitar, Stylophone
*Bill Nelson - Guitars, Vocal
*Martin Snell - Piano
*Ron Double - Bass
*Mike Levon - Drums, Tape Loops
*Ted Hepworth - Drums

*David John - Vocals
*Dave Millen - Guitar
*Frank Newbold - Guitar, Bass
*Dave Smith - Bass
*Fred Kelly - Drums


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Magic Sam - West Side Soul (1967 us, impressive chicago electric blues, 2011 digipak)

Samuel Maghett was born February 14,1937 on a farm in central Mississippi, eight miles east of Granada. By the time he was thirteen, like most other kids his age, he was doing a full day's work, but found time to start learning how to play the guitar by stretching strings tied to nails driven into a wall in a manner similar to Big Joe Williams' primitive one-string guitar (described in the notes of Delmark's Piney Woods Blues, DL-602).

The Maghett family got its first taste of big-city life when they moved to Chicago in i960 Sam decided he never wanted to live again in the South — the relative freedom of the city life changed his mind once and for all. When he attended Drake elementary school on Chicago's South Side he often took his guitar with him. His classmates used to tease him about it but one morning Sam played before all the students at assembly, caught the fancy of the girls and "went home with a pocketful of telephone numbers."

A year later, while playing his guitar under a tree in his backyard at 27th and Calumet. Sam attracted the attention of a gambler named Cadillac Jake who happened to be walking by Jake encouraged Sam and they were to meet again years later when the gambler had himself become a blues-singer and harmonicaplayer By that time Sam had already formed his first band with Syl Johnson (most recently noted for his recording of Sock It To Me) and Mack Thompson who still plays with Sam on a lot of jobs It was Thompson who nicknamed Magic Sam by rhyming his last name.

Even when still a gambler. Shakey Jake "followed Muddy Waters around" and when he again met Magic Sam in 1954, encouraged him to sing as well as play Up to that time Sam was more interested in playing guitar but, after he overcame the usual initial shyness, he was good enough to make it as an R’n’B-singer in the commercial music world. However, he took great pride in the blues heritage and "decided to stick to the blues." He continued to practice with Shakey Jake and another harp-blower named Blues King and developed his vocal style by singing with a family gospel group, the Morning View Special.

By 1955 Sam was ready to play the blues clubs. One night Jake took him to the 708 Club on East 47th Street where Muddy Waters was playing Jake persuaded Muddy to let Sam sit in for a set after which the owner of the club hired him to follow Muddy's engagement In 1957 he made his first recordings for the Cobra label. Sam recalls that Eli Toscano, the label's owner, had a way of sending the sound through some pipes in a back room and back again to gel just the right amount of reverberation.

After a hitch in the army Sam again recorded for the Chief label in 1960 and 1961, playing clubs on the West and Near North sides. His guitar-playing matured and his voice steadily improved in depth as he concentrated on his singing. He later moved to the Club Alex on West Roosevelt Road where he sometimes doubled with Muddy Waters band He also broadcast frequently on Big Bill Hill's shows on WOPA from the Copacabana. At the time of this recording he was working more frequently opposite Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf at Sylvio's famous blues club at Lake and Kedzie and doing off nights occasionally at Mother Blues on Wells Street His most recent 45's were Al Benson's Crash label in 1966.
by Bill Lindemann

To call West Side Soul one of the great blues albums, one of the key albums (if not the key album) of modern electric blues is all true, but it tends to diminish and academicize Magic Sam's debut album. This is the inevitable side effect of time, when an album that is decades old enters the history books, but this isn't an album that should be preserved in amber, seen only as an important record. Because this is a record that is exploding with life, a record with so much energy, it doesn't sound old. 

Of course, part of the reason it sounds so modern is because this is the template for most modern blues, whether it comes from Chicago or elsewhere. Magic Sam may not have been the first to blend uptown soul and urban blues, but he was the first to capture not just the passion of soul, but also its subtle elegance, while retaining the firepower of an after-hours blues joint. Listen to how the album begins, with "That's All I Need," a swinging tune that has as much in common with Curtis Mayfield as it does Muddy Waters, but it doesn't sound like either -- it's a synthesis masterminded by Magic Sam, rolling along on the magnificent, delayed cadence of his guitar and powered by his impassioned vocals. 

West Side Soul would be remarkable if it only had this kind of soul-blues, but it also is filled with blistering, charged electric blues, fueled by wild playing by Magic Sam and Mighty Joe Young -- not just on the solos, either, but in the rhythm (witness how "I Feel So Good [I Wanna Boogie]" feels unhinged as it barrels along). Similarly, Magic Sam's vocals are sensitive or forceful, depending on what the song calls for. Some of these elements might have been heard before, but never in a setting so bristling with energy and inventiveness; it doesn't sound like it was recorded in a studio, it sounds like the best night in a packed club. 

But it's more than that, because there's a diversity in the sound here, an originality so fearless, he not only makes "Sweet Home Chicago" his own (no version before or since is as definitive as this), he creates the soul-injected, high-voltage modern blues sound that everybody has emulated and nobody has topped in the years since. And, again, that makes it sound like a history lesson, but it's not. This music is alive, vibrant, and vital -- nothing sounds as tortured as "I Need You So Bad," no boogie is as infectious as "Mama, Mama Talk to Your Daughter," no blues as haunting as "All of Your Love." No matter what year you listen to it, you'll never hear a better, more exciting record that year.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
1. That's All I Need (Magic Sam) - 3:14
2. I Need You So Bad (B.B. King, Sam Ling) - 4:53
3. I Feel So Good (I Wanna Boogie) - 4:43
4. All Of Your Love (Magic Sam, Otis Rush) - 3:47
5. I Don't Want No Woman (Don Robey) - 3:34
6. Sweet Home Chicago (Robert Johnson) - 4:13
7. I Found A New Love (Little Milton, Bob Lyons) - 4:03
8. Every Night and Every Day (Jimmy McCracklin) - 3:07
9. Lookin' Good (Instrumental) (Magic Sam) - 3:13
10.My Love Will Never Die (Willie Dixon) - 4:07
11.Mama Talk To Your Daughter (J.B. Lenoir) - 2:42
12.I Don't Want No Woman (Alternate Take) (Don Robey) - 3:30

*Magic Sam - Vocals, Guitar
*Mighty Joe Young - Guitar
*Stockholm Slim - Piano
*Earnest Johnson - Bass
*Odie Payne - Drums
*Mack Thompson - Bass (only on Tracks 1, 3, 8)
*Odie Payne III – Drums (only on Tracks 1, 3, 8)

Friday, August 26, 2022

Magic Sam Blues Band - Blac Magic (1968-69 us, effective electric blues, 2015 digipak remaster and expanded)

This album's color cover photo is an action shot, showing Magic Sam in the process of choking and bending his strings, a good hike up the fretboard. It isn't clear exactly what he is playing from the picture, although that certainly didn't stop dozens of pimply hippie guitar players from trying to figure it out. In the meantime, the record goes on and the first soloist out of the gate is Eddie Shaw, playing tenor sax. He is blowing over the top of an R&B riff that, although not out of the syntax of Chicago blues, would also have been quite fitting on a Wilson Pickett record. 

It is unfortunate that Magic Sam's recording career came to such an abrupt end, as he was one of the best artists working in the musical area between the urban blues tradition and newly developing soul music forms. This fusion was on the minds of many blues artists during the late '60s, and not just because it was aesthetically conceivable. It was also a matter of commerce, as audiences -- particularly black audiences -- didn't want to hear any blues that sounded too much like something their parents might have listened to. The harmonica player Junior Wells was another one who decided to get a bit of James Brown into his act, not always with great results. 

What listeners have here, on the other hand, is frankly delicious, the results of the surplus of talent Magic Sam possessed, a triple threat as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Yet with all this talent, the label should also get some credit. This period of the Delmark discography set a high standard for blues recordings, the sound quality and tight interplay among the musicians every bit the equal of the classic jazz recordings on labels such as Blue Note and Prestige. There is nothing fancy about the production, and no gimmicks. It is just a great band, allowed to play the music exactly the way it wanted to. The musicians have obviously worked together a great deal and either had these arrangements down cold from live gigs or had plenty of time to get things tight. This doesn't mean that the music doesn't breathe, as there are plenty of little touches such as drum fills and turnarounds that show the presence of musicians thinking on their feet.

The passage of time also increases the musical value of this music, as the eventual popularity of commercial projects such as the Blues Brothers has only served to dilute the power of urban blues. Labels big and small have forsaken this type of honest and straightforward production, preferring to try concocting a higher level of funkiness through extravagent over-production, boring superstar guest appearances, and insipid studio practices such as prerecorded rhythm tracks and dipstick guitar solos punched in a note at the time. Forget all this jive and check out a track such as "You Belong to Me," where the guitarist cuts loose with a restrained solo that sometimes dances ahead of the beat like a country fiddler while the band pumps away on a superb riff. 

The players here, including the fine guitarist Mighty Joe Young, pianist Lafayette Leake, and a muscular rhythm section, are the best of the best. No information is provided on the songwriting, so the assumption is that these tunes are all originals by Magic Sam. None are too obviously adopted from standards, but the opening "I Just Want a Little Bit" was much copied by other blues artists. "I Have the Same Old Blues" has a medium, loping blues tempo that swings so perfectly it should be used as an instruction course for lame blues bar bands.
by Eugene Chadbourne
1. I Just Want A Little Bit (Roscoe Gordon) - 3:00
2. What Have I Done Wrong (Samuel Maghett) - 3:07
3. Easy, Baby (Willie Dixon) - 4:20
4. You Belong To Me (Samuel Maghett) - 4:04
5. It's All Your Fault (Lowell Fulsom) - 4:52
6. Same Old Blues (Don Nix) - 3:31
7. You Don't Love Me Baby (Willie Cobb) - 3:28
8. San-Ho-Zay (Freddy King, Sonny Thompson) - 3:53
9. You Better Stop (Andrew Brown, Al Perkins) - 4:48
10.Keep Loving Me Baby (Otis Rush) - 3:54
11.What Have I Done Wrong (Samuel Maghett) - 3:20
12.I Just Want A Little Bit (Roscoe Gordon) - 3:12
13.Everything's Gonna Be All Right (Samuel Maghett) - 4:04
14.Keep On Doin' What You're Doin' (George Butler) - 2:54
15.Blues For Odie Payne (Samuel Maghett) - 4:44
16.Same Old Blues (Don Nix) - 3:41
17.What Have I Done Wrong (Samuel Maghett) - 2:51
18.Keep On Loving Me, Baby (Otis Rush) - 3:23
Bonus tracks 11-18

*Magic Sam - Vocals, Guitar
*Eddie Shaw - Saxophone
*Odie Payne, Jr. - Drums
*Mack Thompson - Bass
*Mighty Joe Young - Guitar
*Lafayette Leake - Piano

Free Text

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Link Wray - Be What You Want To (1973 us, awesome country guitar rock, 2003 remaster)

Link Wray's release prior to Be What You Want To had proven the man's versatility. The self-titled album had obvious influences coming from many different genres including R&B, country, blues, and, of course, rock. Be What You Want To continues this trend. Country-rock, country, rock & roll; it's all here. This diverse range of genres may not be to everyone's liking, however, and the album must be approached with an open mind.

Wray employed a huge number of musicians to play on Be What You Want To, including Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. Of course, the main part of the talent comes from Link Wray himself. His amazing ability as lyricist, songwriter, and musician is noticeably brought to the fore on this album. Be What You Want To is consistently enjoyable to listen to and always impressive musically. The man's growling vocals and rocking guitar will undoubtedly enthrall many first-time listeners and also keep longtime fans happy. 
by Ben Davies
1. Be What You Want To - 5:57
2. All Cried Out (Mann P. Curtis, Michel Deborah) - 3:48
3. Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Lloyd Price) - 2:41
4. Tucson, Arizona (Doug Wray) - 4:18
5. Riverbend - 2:40
6. You Walked By - 3:17
7. Walk Easy, Walk Slow - 5:20
8. All the Love in My Life - 4:05
9. You Really Got a Hold on Me - 4:04
10.Shine the Light - 4:43
11.Morning - 2:02 
All compostions by Link Wray except where indicated

*Link Wray - Guitar, Vocals 
*Teressa Adams - Cello
*Paul Barlow - Bass
*Bobby Black - Steel Guitar
*David Bromberg - Electric Guitar
*Jules Broussard - Alto, Tenor Saxophones
*David Coffin - Background Vocals
*Henry Coleman - Background Vocals
*Commander Cody - Piano
*Keith Crossan - Background Vocals
*Frank Demme - Background Vocals
*Lance Dickerson - Drums
*Greg Douglass - Slide Guitar
*Diane Earl - Background Vocals
*George Frayne - Keyboards
*Robert Frost - Background Vocals
*Jerry Garcia - Guitar, Pedal Steel
*Tom Harrell - Trumpet
*Zeller Hurd - Background Vocals
*Carl Johnson - Background Vocals
*Peter Kaukonen - Electric Guitar
*Thomas Jefferson Kaye - Background Vocals
*Greg Kenney - Background Vocals
*Kip Maercklein - Bass
*Barbara Mauritz - Background Vocals
*John McFee - Guitar (Electric)
*Chris Michie - Acoustic, Electric Guitars, Vocals
*Dorothy Morrison - Background Vocals
*Ralph Payne - Background Vocals
*Jules Rowell - Trombone 
*Nathan Rubin - Violin
*Tom Salisbury - Clavinet, Horn Arrangements, Organ, Piano, String Arrangements, Background Vocals
*Jack Schroer - Baritone Sax
*Rick Shlosser - Drums
*Andy Stein - Fiddle
*Bruce Steinberg - Harmonica


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Hustler - Play Loud (1975 uk, tough boogie hard 'n' roll, 2002 reissue)

This second album by Hustler was immediately recorded following a series of grueling continental tours. As opening act for some of Britain’s popular names (like Queen), Hustler was forced to edit, redefine, alter, amplify and sophisticate its particular brand of Rock ‘n’ Roll to Grab an audience.

That Grab is at the heart of “Play Loud”, and it’s omnipresent on several of the band’s raver/boogie cuts including “Money Maker”, “Who D’Yer Think Yer Foolin’”, and “Little People”. Also on the straight rock ‘n’ rollers (with the tip of the hat to the Free school), “You Had It Coming To You”, and the incredible “Night Creeper”, which features the dynamic vocals of Steve Haynes, and searing guitar work of Micky Llewellyn.
1. Money Maker (Steve Haynes) - 3:38
2. You Had It Coming To You (Micky Llewellyn, Steve Haynes) - 3:56
3. Boogie Man (Steve Haynes, Tigger Lyons) - 4:47
4. Break Of Day (Steve Haynes, Tigger Lyons) - 3:58
5. Who D’Yer Think Yer Foolin’ (Micky Llewellyn, Steve Haynes) - 2:41
6. Goin’ Home (Micky Llewellyn, Steve Haynes) - 3:01
7. Strange Love (Steve Haynes, Tigger Lyons) - 4:21
8. Little People (Micky Llewellyn, Tigger Lyons) - 3:46
9. Night Creeper (Hidden Track) (Steve Haynes) - 6:45

*Steve Haynes – Lead Vocals
*Micky Llewellyn – Guitars, Vocals, Harmonica
*Tigger Lyons – Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Henry Spinetti – Drums, Percussion
*Kenny Daughters – Keyboards, Birdwhistle
*Roy T. Baker - Castenettes


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Hustler - High Street (1974 uk, astonishing boogie funky hard rock, 2002 edition)

Among the early pioneers of UK hard rock, Hustler comprised Steve Haynes (vocals), Micky Llewellyn (guitar, vocals), Tigger Lyons (bass, vocals), Kenny Daughters (keyboards) and Tony Beard (drums, percussion). At a time when the UK music scene still related anything from the rock field with complex, multi-layered progressive recordings, Hustler seemed somewhat of place with their straightforward rock hooks and ‘good-time boogie’ style. Nevertheless, both High Street and Play Loud remain excellent examples of the back-to-basics.

Steve Haynes, the singer, was an American Paul Rodgers type living in South Ruislip and his dad worked at the US Army base back then. He now lives, records and gigs in the US. The band split in 1976, drummer Tony Beard played and toured with the likes of Mike Oldfield, Jeff Beck, Chris Rea, Go West and many more. Tigger Lyons, the bass player, became an architect. Guitarist Micky Llewellyn died in 2014. In 2020 Steve Haynes and Kenny Daughters reunited to record and release on album under the title "Reloaded" with two new guitarists to the band, Tick Brown and Tony Miles.
1. Just Leave A Good Man (Micky Llewellyn, Tigger Lyons) - 4:12
2. Piranhas (Micky Llewellyn) - 5:40
3. Let The Wind Blow (Steve Haynes) - 3:40
4. Uptight Tonight (Steve Haynes) - 3:43
5. Get Outa Me`Ouse (Tigger Lyons) - 3:08
6. Jack The Lad (Micky Llewellyn, Kenny Daughters, Steve Haynes) - 5:23
7. Midnight Seducer (Micky Llewellyn, Tigger Lyons) - 5:38
8. Miranda (Tigger Lyons) - 5:02
9. The Hustler (Steve Haynes) - 5:28

The Hustler
*Micky Llewellyn - Guitar
*Tigger Lyons - Bass
*Steve Haynes - Vocals
*Kenny Daughters - Piano, Moog Synthesizer, Organ
*Tony Beard -  Drums

Monday, August 22, 2022

Axcraft - Dancing Madly Backwards (1974 us, nice prog rock, 2000 digipak)

Axcraft was a mid-'70s band from California around whom legends were built. Originally recorded for Bill Holmes' All American Records label, Dancing Madly Backwards was never officially released but an acetate of the album made its way onto the collector's market, causing quite a stir. The sound of the band was progressive hard rock and many who heard it thought they were a British band. In the genre of such bands as Yes, Gentle Giant, Strawbs, Wishbone Ash, or many more similarly styled acts, Axcraft is now set to take its place in music history with the first legitimate release of this album through Akarma Records. 

Contained here are the original five songs (all clocking in at over five minutes!) from the album, together with two bonus live tracks recorded by the band themselves during their heyday. Officially sanctioned by band members and taken from original tapes supplied by band producer Bill Holmes, who also designed the album cover from original designs, this album is a must for any fans of the '70s progressive music. A superb album, it has finally been made available for all to hear and realize what the excitement was all about.
by Keith Pettipas
1. So Far Away (C. Austin) - 6:13
2. Astral Love (Dan Gerard) - 7:05
3. 727 Suite (Michael Carroll) - 6:39
4. Firewheel (Paul Skylar) - 5:39
5. Dancing Madly Backwards (Dan Gerard) - 9:09
6. Vahalla (Byron Daugherty) - 7:42
7. Love Is Blue (Byron Daugherty) - 5:20

*Jim McClellan - Lead Vocals
*Dan Gerard - Lead Guitar
*Paul Skylar - Rhythm Guitar
*Randy Ballard - Keyboards
*Michael Carroll - Bass
*Gary Gossett - Drums

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Caravan - The Show Of Our Lives The BBC Recordings (1968-75 uk, outstanding canterbury prog rock, 2007 double disc edition)

While this two-CD, nearly two-and-a-half-hour collection doesn't include all of Caravan's BBC recordings, it's indisputably the finest collection of the band's radio performances yet assembled. It doesn't quite include all of the BBC tracks that have appeared on previous releases; a couple songs from their first 1968 session are missing, as are most of the cuts from the Ether Way: BBC Sessions 1975-77 compilation. This is more than compensated for, however, by the inclusion of a half-hour August 2, 1973 session that appears for the first time anywhere on this anthology, as well as the much-improved fidelity on some material first issued as part of the Green Bottles for Marjorie: The Lost BBC Sessions set. 

Too, the absence of some mid- to late-'70s material isn't a big blow, as it was during the period covered by this collection, in which Caravan were truly at their peak. As for the music itself, while these tracks aren't radically different from the more familiar studio versions, they're fine testimony to the band's ability to deliver complex progressive rock with deft spontaneity in a live setting. The first disc is far more impressive than the second, the band sounding like a cousin to early Soft Machine (with whom, of course, they shared deep roots) in their ability to make the transition from psychedelia to progressive rock sound playful, humane, and for the most part, based in strong songs and vocals. 

The most pleasing treasure is their fine nine-minute stretched-out cover of the early Soft Machine B-side "Feelin', Reelin', Squealin,'" which Caravan never recorded on their studio releases. The second disc, alas, finds the group becoming steadily less interesting with the onset of several personnel changes, documenting the band's (and indeed the entire serious British progressive rock genre's) growing inclination toward slicker virtuosity and less acute, distinguished songwriting. Nonetheless, the better portions are delightful and Mark Powell's annotation (which almost amounts to a band history in itself) excellent, and the compilation as a whole belongs in every serious Caravan fan's collection. 
by Richie Unterberger
Disc One
1. Place Of My Own - 4:12
2. Ride - 4:17
3. If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You - 2:45
4. Hello, Hello - 3:10
5. As I Feel I Die - 6:23
6. Love To Love You - 3:12
7. Love Song Without Flute - 3:33
8. In The Land Of Grey And Pink - 3:43
9. Nine Feet Underground - 14:27
10.Feelin' Reelin' Squealin (Kevin Ayers) - 9:30
11.A Huntin' We Shall Go (Pye Hastings) - 9:15
12.Waffle Part One: Be Alright / Chance Of A Lifetime (Pye Hastings) - 6:46
All selections composed by Richard Coughlan, Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair except where stated
Tracks 1-2 recorded for John Peel's "Top Gear" Radio Show 31 December 1968 ("Off-Air" Recordings)
Tracks 3-5 recorded for the BBC Transcription Service "Top of the Pops" 19 August 1970.
Tracks 6-8 recorded for "Sounds of the Seventies" 11 March 1971.
Tracks 9-10 recorded for John Peel's "Sunday Concert" at the Paris Theatre, London 6 May 1971.
Tracks 11-12 recorded for the BBC "In Concert" at the Paris Theatre, London 2 August 1973.
Disc Two
1. Memory Lain Hugh (Pye Hastings) - 5:04
2. Headloss (Pye Hastings) - 4:27
3. The Love In Your Eye (Richard Coughlan, Pye Hastings, David Sinclair) - 13:54
4. Mirror For The Day (Pye Hastings) - 4:15
5. Virgin On The Ridiculous (Pye Hastings) - 7:01
6. For Richard (Richard Coughlan, Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair) - 15:04
7. The Dabsong Conshirto (David Sinclair) - 15:11
8. Stuck In A Hole (Pye Hastings) - 3:14
9. The Show Of Our Lives (David Sinclair, John Murphy) - 4:54
Tracks 1-2 recorded for the BBC "In Concert" at the Paris Theatre, London 2 August 1973.
Tracks 3-6 recorded for John Peel's Radio Show 7 February 1974.
Track  7 recorded for the BBC "In Concert" at the Paris Theatre, London 21 March 1975.
Tracks 8-9 recorded for John Peel's Radio Show 26 June 1975.

*Pye Hastings - Guitar, Vocals
*Richard Coughlan - Drums
*David Sinclair - Keyboards
*Richard Sinclair - Bass, Vocals
*John G. Perry - Bass, Vocals
*Steve Miller - Keyboards
*Jan Schelhaas - Keyboards
*Mike Wedgwood - Bass
*Geoffrey Richardson - Viola

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)
Related Acts

Friday, August 19, 2022

Zzebra - Take It Or Leave It (1975 nigeria / ghana / uk, extraordinary afro fusion rock)

A three week trip to a rehersal studio in Wales was organized to develop the songs for the third Zzebra's album. Songs were accepted, modified or rejected in an atmosphere of wonderful concentration. Loughty remembered and old Nigerian folksong "Bai La Jo (this is how we dance)", but played it almost like a calypso. It didn't work. The song stuck in Tommy's head and a week later he came up with a slow 6/4 groove. Loughty went back to his room and wrote three verses all in Yuraba dialect. On the finished record Loughty spent hours with Ken and Tommy teaching them the correct pronunciation for their backing vocals. 

Alan Marshall showed Tommy his book of poetry, there were always Buddhist overtones in Alan's lyrics but one especially struck home. "The good is me/ the filth is me/ the devil and the god is me". Searching out lines from other poems, this became "Word Trips".

Tommy showed Steve Byrd a guitar shape that could be a minor 11th. or a major 9th. depending on where the pedal note was. Steve got this glassy look in his eyes and a couple of days later came up with "living". Quincey came up with one of the most beautiful sax solos for this song. Then John McCoy, his big smiling face gave the band two great songs: "No Point" and "Take it Or Leave it".

As usual, the back tracks were recorded at Escape studios and the dubs in Advision. “Bai La Jo” was particulary fun when Loughty invited four of his old friends from Osibisa on percussion This was to be the Zzebra's last album. Loughty moved to New York and was tragically murdered in an argument over a parking space. Dave Quincey decided to work more from business end. Steve Byrd and John McCoy went on to work with Ian Gillan. 

Liam worked with Gerry Rafferty and Tommy worked with among others. George Michael. Gerry Rafferty. Gary Moore. Daryl Hall. BB King and Tracey Chapman. Alan worked on a variety of projects with Tommy, including the legendary Classical Mechanics’ and is now an ordained minister.
by Tommy Eyre, Encino California 1999
1. No Point - 5:26
2. Living - 5:08
3. The Poverty Song - 3:48
4. Bai La Jo - 6:59
5. Word Trips - 5:40
6. Take It Or Leave It - 3:48
7. Evacuate My Sack - 5:30
8. Society - 6:08
All compositions by Tommy Eyre, Dave Quincey, Loughty Amao, Liam Genockey, Steve Byrd, Alan Marshall, John McCoy 

*Tommy Eyre - Keyboards
*Alan Marshall - Vocals
*John McCoy - Bass
*Liam Genockey - Drums
*Steve Byrd - Guitar
*Dave Quincey - Saxes
*Lasissi "Loughty" Amao - Vocals, Percussion, Saxes


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Zzebra - Panic (1975 nigeria / ghana / uk, a driving, funky amalgam with much rhythmic persistence and a full-blooded exciting big-band)

Zzebra were at the forefront of mid 70's progressive rock that threw jazz, rock, and African rhythms into a huge fusion blender. Created by an amalgamation of two important figures: the saxophonist Dave Quincy from IF, and the Nigerian flautist and saxophonist Lasisi 'Loughty' Amao from Osibisa, Zzebra, joined then by Tommy Eyre, John McCoy Liam Genockey, Alan Marshall and the only 17-year old guitarist Steve Byrd.

Panic is the second studio album of the band recorded during the summer of 1975 and includes, among the others, the highly inventive instrumental interpretation of 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling', the atmospheric 'Liamo', the groovy 'Put A Light On Me', and concludes its journey with the killer tracks 'Return To Forever' and 'La Si Si-La So So'.
1. Panic (John McCoy) - 4:41
2. You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Phil Spector) - 6:22
3. Karrola (Dave Quincey) - 4:06
4. Liamo (Dave Quincey, Loughty Amao) - 6:05
5. Death By Drowning (Tommy Eyre) - 3:03
6. Tree (Dave Quincey, Trevor Preston) - 6:09
7. Put A Light On Me (Kim Moore, Liam Genockey) - 5:07
8. La Si Si-La So So (Dave Quincey, Loughty Amao) - 5:20

*Dave Quincey - Alto, Tenor, Soprano Sax, Piano, Clavinet 
*Alan  Marshall - Vocals
*Steve Byrd - Guitar 
*Loughty Amao - Conga Drums, Baritone, Tenor Sax, Flute, Vocals
*Liam Genockey - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*John McCoy - Bass
*Tommy Eyre - Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
*Jo Newman, Kim Moore, Lesley Duncan - Vocals

Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Nighthawks - Rock 'n' Roll (1974 us, solid blues rock)


The Nighthawks was an idea in Mark Wenner's brain long before he was able to implement it. The musical product of pre-1958 radio in Washington, D.C., he did not know there were rules against mixing blues, R&B, honky-tonk country, doo-wop, gospel and rockabilly into one delicious stew.

In 1972, Mark, then 23, returned to his hometown after a New York City band apprenticeship eager to start a real, work-every-night band based on American roots music. He found a receptive local scene. Washington has long been a musical melting-pot of the kind that made Memphis the source point for the evolution of American music in the second half of the 20th century. It just never had a Stax or Sun record label to tell the world. As the city exploded with an influx of people from all the surrounding states during the Great Depression and World War II, Washington became a hotbed of musical cross-fertilization. When Bill Haley first brought his wacky Pennsylvania mix of hillbilly music and rhythm and blues to D.C. in 1952, people got it. And white kids like Mark found the Howard Theater – now recently restored and part of the historic top tier of the Chitlin' Circuit that included Baltimore’s Royal, Chicago’s Regal and New York’s Apollo – just a 25-cent bus ride away from the suburbs.

The original Nighthawks lineup solidified in mid-1974. Bringing together frontmen Mark Wenner and the young Jimmy Thackery with a veteran rhythm section, Jan Zukowski on bass and Pete Ragusa on drums, the quartet ruled the highways and honky-tonks until Jimmy’s departure in 1986 to pursue a solo career. The band opened many doors and forged many touring routes for their contemporaries, including the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Cray, and played with as many Blues and Rockabilly legends as they could. They opened show after show for Muddy Waters, James Cotton and Carl Perkins, and backed up and recorded with John Hammond and Pinetop Perkins.
The NightHawks
1. Red Hot Mama (Elmore James) - 4:14
2. Can't Get Next To You (Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield) - 3:41
3. Keep Cool (Jerry Ragovoy) - 3:29
4. Bring It On Home (Willie Dixon) - 3:44
5. Tell The Truth (Lowman Pauling) - 3:11
6. Stop Breakin' Down (Robert Johnson) - 4:46
7. Shake And Finger Pop (Junior Walker) - 3:44
8. Bright Lights (Jimmy Reed) - 3:19
9. Little Sister (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) - 2:55
10.Heat Wave (Brian Holland, Edward Holland, Jr., Lamont Dozier) - 3:12
11.Memo From Turner (Mick Jagger) - 4:44
12.Teenage Nervous Breakdown (Lowell George) - 2:29

The Nighthawks
*Mark Wenner - Vocals, Harp
*Jimmy Thackery - Guitar
*Jan Zukowski - Bass
*Pete Ragusa - Drums

Friday, August 12, 2022

Goliath - Goliath (1969 us, magnificent soulful psych rock)

“Goliath” by Goliath was a major-label US release in 1969 (ABC Records ABCS-702). The LP was recorded in Philadelphia, and the band is usually presumed to be from there as well. The album is dominated by heavy Hammond B3 organ and a vocalist who sounded much like David Clayton-Thomas. As such, the album is justifiably described as a blend of Vanilla Fudge and Blood, Sweat & Tears. The highlight is a Fudge-like cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”. 
by W. T. Neill
1. Yesterday's Children (Steve D'Amico, Ted Barbella) - 6:04
2. Can't Stop Feeling Lonely (Rusty Richards) - 3:10
3. Man's Temptation (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:39
4. Time And Time Again (Eddie Ray) - 3:17
5. If Johnny Comes Marching Home (Steve D'Amico, Ted Barbella) - 4:15
6. Eleanor Rigby (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 6:12
7. Come With Me To My World (Steve D'Amico, Ted Barbella) - 3:10
8. Loving You Too Long (Otis Redding) - 6:24
9. Are You Lonely For Me, Baby? / Jacksonville Express (Bert Berns / Dennis Jason, Jerry Gilbert, Norm Conrad, Steve Jason, Ted Barbella) - 4:05

*Dennis Jason - Lead Guitar
*Jerry Gilbert - Drums, Percussion
*Norm Conrad - Bass  
*Steve Jason - Vocals 
*Ted Barbella - Organ

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Sundowners - Captain Nemo (1968 us, elagant sunny beats, 2007 remaster)

The Sundowners’ cover of Roger Nichols’ Always You, was a nailedon easy monster: a string and trumpet-driven hallucination of a violet sunset over Malibu Beach, with a girl in a big bikini running your way. It quickly fostered a craving for more.

The Sundowners, it now transpires, hailed from New York and there were six of them. Stylistically, they mashed up the usual Beatles, Beach Boys and Byrdsisms – but these cats boasted symphonic ideas, an edge, a complexity, and a six-way ego clash. Playing Ciro’s on Sunset Strip in the spring of 1967, Michael Nesmith wandered backstage and asked them, “So, how would you like to go on tour with the Monkees?” They ended up supporting Hendrix as well. Then they imploded and disappeared. Finding Nemo, indeed.
by Derek Hammond, 04 September 2007
1. Sunny Day People (Dominick DeMieri, Eddie Placidi) - 2:36
2. On The Edge Of Love - 3:10
3. Let It Be Me (Gilbert Bécaud, Manny Curtis, Pierre Delanoë) - 4:36
4. Dear Undecided - 2:24
5. Ring Out Wild Bells - 2:27
6. Plaster Casters (Dominick DeMieri, Eddie Placidi) - 2:43
7. Captain Nemo - 3:45
8. Always You (Tony Asher, Roger Nichols) - 2:54
9. Easy Does It - 2:48
10.Blue Green Eyes - 3:03
11.So Sad - 3:59
All songs by Dominick DeMieri except where noted

The Sundowners
*Dominick DeMieri - Bass, Lead, Rhythm, Steel Guitars, Organ, Piano, Vocals
*Eddie Placidi - Rhythm, Lead, Steel Guitars, Organ, Piano, Vocals
*Bobby Dick - Bass, Vocals 
*Eddie Brick - Percussion, Vocals 
*Kim Capli - Drums 
*George Bianchi - Percussion, Vocals
*Benny Grammatico - Drums, Vocals 
*Joe Foster - Synthesizer
*Nick Robbins - Synthesizer

Monday, August 8, 2022

Lewis And Clarke Expedition - The Lewis And Clark Expedition (1967-68 us, wonderful sunny folk psych, 2016 edition)

Lewis & Clarke Expedition evolved out of several folk bands operating around Los Angeles during the mid-'60s. Formed by Dallas songwriter Michael Martin Murphey (under the guise of Travis Lewis) with Owen Castleman (performing as Boomer Clarke), the band recorded one LP in late 1967 for the Colgems label then making pots of money off sales of the first two Monkees albums. Not quite a coincidence then, that Lewis, Clarke, and bassist John London were all old friends of country-minded Monkee Michael Nesmith (London even worked as Nesmith's stand-in on the television show).

Well before Nesmith was hired to the Monkees, though, London performed with him in San Antonio as a folk duo, and after moving to California, all four native Texans appeared in a large folk group called the Survivors. Nesmith dropped out because of a commitment to the Air Force, and the remaining trio added guitarist Ken Bloom and drummer John Raines, coming together in 1966 as the Lewis & Clarke Expedition. Since Lewis and Clarke both worked at Monkees corporate Screen Gems as writers, a recording contract with Colgems was a natural. 

The band was hyped not only to young girls as another version of the Monkees, but also to older rock fans as a cutting-edge country-rock band that played up their association with Native American elements. Colgems released The Lewis & Clarke Expedition in November 1967, and the single "I Feel Good (I Feel Bad)" was a local hit, though nothing from the band ever charted and they were soon dropped. Michael Martin Murphey, soon to leave Los Angeles to concentrate on his songwriting at a home in the San Gabriel Mountains, wrote a song ("What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?") recorded by Nesmith for the 1968 Monkees LP Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. Owen Castleman played on an album with Earl Scruggs, and later played on several of Murphey's solo LPs, while London played with Michael Nesmith's First National Band, Bloom performed on several folk records, and Raines went on to play with the Dillards. 
by John Bush
1. Windy Day - 3:00
2. Freedom Bird - 2:50
3. Spirit Of Argyle High - 3:15
4. This Town Ain't The Same Anymore - 2:40
5. Everybody Loves A Fire - 2:30
6. House Of My Sorrow - 4:24
7. I Feel Good (I Feel Bad) - 2:26
8. (I Call Them) Lies - 2:44
9. Destination Unknown (Boomer Clarke, Tom Jefferson, Travis Lewis) - 2:51
10.Chain Around The Flowers (John Vandiver) - 2:33
11.Blue Revelations - 2:16
12.Memorial To The American Indian - 7:14
.1.Legend Of The Creation (Travis Lewis, Boomer Clarke, Diane Hilderbrand)
.2.Send Me Rain (Travis Lewis, Boomer Clarke, Diane Hilderbrand)
.3.Red Cloud's Farewell To His Tribe (Travis Lewis, Boomer Clarke, Diane Hilderbrand)
.4.(The Lament Of) The Cherokee Reservation Indian (John Loudermilk)
13.Daddy's Plastic Child (Danny Janssen) - 3:02
14.Gypsy Song Man (Jerry Jeff Walker) - 2:22
15.Why Need They Pretend - 2:32
16.Slave Medley - 12:21
All songs by Travis Lewis, Boomer Clarke except where noted
Bonus Tracks 13-16

Lewis And Clarke Expedition
*Mike Murphy "Travis Lewis" - Guitar, Harmonica 
*Owens Boomer Clark - Guitar, Percussion 
*Kenneth Michael Bloom - Autoharp, Bouzouki, Chalumeau, Clarinet, Esraj, Flute, Guitar, Organ, Saxophone, Tuba, Vina 
*John Kuehne "John London" - Bass, Guitar, Percussion 
*John Rains Hoenig - Drums, Percussion 

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Various Artists - 50 Years Of Genuine Houserockin' Music (1971-2021 us, superb electric blues compilation, 2021 three disc box set remaster)

You could say that Alligator Records was born in a little neighborhood South Side Chicago bar in January of 1970, almost two years before the label’s first release. That’s the first time I was overwhelmed by the most joyful, exhilarating, spirit-lifting music of my life—the blues of Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers. It was at Florence’s Lounge, on a gritty side street of run-down houses, on a snowy Sunday afternoon. This life-altering music was created by just three men—Hound Dog Taylor, playing a cheap Japanese guitar with a steel slide encasing the fifth of his six fingers (true!) and singing in a high-pitched voice into a microphone plugged into a guitar amplifier; Brewer Phillips, propelling each song with ever-changing bass lines played on a Fender Telecaster guitar, and Ted Harvey, driving the band with rocking grooves played on a minimalist drum kit. It was blues, but it sure wasn’t sad blues. It was blues to make you forget your blues, to make you holler and dance and throw away your troubles. But it could turn serious, slow and cathartic. Hound Dog, playing searing slide and singing about love gone wrong in his ragged, just-on-the-verge-of-cracking voice, could reach inside you, grab you by the soul, and squeeze hard.

I had pushed my way into the dancing, happy crowd of neighborhood people. They had come here to cut loose on the weekend and celebrate their shared “down home” roots in the Mississippi Delta, and to forget about their low-paying jobs and hard life in one of the poorest parts of the city. Once they had figured out that I wasn’t a cop, they weren’t concerned about the longhaired, bearded “hippy” among them. They were having too much fun.  And I, a young blues fan who had come to Chicago to immerse himself in the music he loved, thought, “This band has got to be recorded.” And so, in the spring of 1971, I started Alligator Records to record an album by my favorite musicians. It was called simply Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers. Now, 50 years and over 350 albums later, Alligator Records is still releasing recordings by my favorite musicians.

The promotional flyer for that first album was headlined “Genuine Houserockin’ Music,” and that’s been Alligator’s slogan ever since. Not only does it pay tribute to Hound Dog’s band, but it also has a deeper meaning. Genuine because Alligator’s music is rooted in the blues tradition, even when it stretches beyond a purist definition of blues. It’s a musical tradition created by oppressed Black people to carry them through hard times and bind their communities together. It’s created by musicians who have honed their music to meet the emotional needs of live audiences, not by programming synthesizers in their bedrooms. House instead of “theater” or “arena” or “stadium,” because it grew up being played in intimate settings, on front porches and in little taverns, where the audience could feel the emotions of the musicians and the musicians could feel the feedback from the audience. Blues is not music presented by the musicians, but instead it’s shared between the musicians and their audience, just like what happened every Sunday at Florence’s Lounge. And Rockin’ because it’s meant not just to move your body and your feet, but also to rock your soul. It’s music to rid you of your inner pain by ripping that pain right out of you. That’s why they say the blues “hurts so good.”

When I started Alligator back in 1971, I knew a little bit about the record business. I had learned from watching my mentor, hero and boss, Bob Koester, founder of Delmark Records, whom I had talked into hiring me as the label’s shipping clerk. I went to every Delmark recording session in 1970 and 1971, saw Bob interact with and inspire musicians, listened to him on the phone with distributors, and packed every LP Delmark shipped to critics, radio stations, mail order customers and distributors. I hung on his every word as he shared his years of accumulated wisdom learned from running a tiny blues and jazz label.

But Bob didn’t spend much energy reaching out to the growing new audience for the blues—an audience like me—college-aged kids who had discovered blues by listening to the Stones or Yardbirds or Paul Butterfield, or maybe from hearing acoustic blues at folk music festivals, like I did. They were reading new publications called Rolling Stone or Creem, and listening to “progressive rock” radio stations that were playing everything from the Beatles to Motown to Coltrane to Joni Mitchell to B.B. King. I knew that if I was so energized and excited by Hound Dog Taylor’s music, that young audience and those radio stations and those publications would love his music as much as I did. So, when I founded Alligator, a label with one LP in its catalog, I reached out to those radio stations and those publications. I sent out hundreds of promo copies, and visited as many stations as I could. And, much to my delight, the DJs and writers fell in love with Hound Dog, too. My one-man record company, housed in an efficiency apartment where I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, was getting national and international radio play and press coverage. Plus, I was able to sell enough Hound Dog albums to afford to make the second Alligator release, a summit meeting of two of the world’s best harmonica players, Big Walter Horton With Carey Bell. By then, I had become Hound Dog’s booking agent, manager, publicist, song publisher and part-time driver. I became the same thing for Son Seals and Koko Taylor. They all needed my support, and I was the whole staff of Alligator. It was four years before Alligator was able to afford a full-time employee.

The early years of Alligator were spent mining the riches of Chicago’s fabulous blues scene. Dozens of taverns and clubs across the Black neighborhoods of the South Side and West Side booked blues bands (and, starting around 1971, some white North Side clubs did, too). You could sit 20 feet from Howlin’ Wolf at Big Duke’s or Junior Wells at Theresa’s or Otis Rush at the Wise Fools Pub. And you could hear wonderfully talented unrecorded and under-recorded bluesmen and women who deserved a national and international audience. Alligator became the home for some of those world-class Chicago artists, ranging from an unknown, rough-edged young guitarist from Arkansas named Son Seals, to Koko Taylor, “The Queen Of The Blues,” to a subtle, melodic master singer and player named Fenton Robinson. Besides full albums by Chicago artists, our six-LP Living Chicago Blues series, released in 1979 and 1980, showcased 18 more of the city’s bluesmen and women. One of them, Lonnie Brooks, a West Side guitarist with roots in Louisiana and Texas, became a long-time member of the Alligator family, bringing his funky “voodoo blues” sound to the label.

It wasn’t until 1978 that Alligator signed its first non-Chicagoan, the legendary Texas-born guitar giant Albert Collins, “The Master Of The Telecaster.”  Albert came to Alligator with a worldwide reputation as a thrilling, top-echelon blues guitarist. With his Alligator debut, Ice Pickin’ (which I co-produced with Dick Shurman), he finally made a record that matched the level of his overwhelmingly powerful live performances. Ice Pickin’ announced Alligator as more than a Chicago label. During the 1980s, my little label signed artists from all across the country.

The first was the beloved, one-of-a-kind pianist/vocalist Professor Longhair, New Orleans’ “Bach of Rock.” Fess cut his classic Crawfish Fiesta album (sadly, the last album of his career) for us. Famous blues-rock guitar heroes also found a home at Alligator. The flamboyant Johnny Winter came aboard, determined to get back to his blues roots. He made three albums for Alligator with some of Chicago’s blues giants, beginning with the much-hailed Guitar Slinger. Pyrotechnic master guitarist Roy Buchanan followed, and Alligator shepherded the re-emergence of Lonnie Mack, produced by his #1 disciple, Stevie Ray Vaughan. (In December of 1985, Albert Collins, Lonnie Mack and Roy Buchanan rocked the house at Carnegie Hall for an American Guitar Heroes night. It was a long way from Florence’s Lounge!)

Other major blues figures joined the Alligator family during the 1980s—powerhouse harmonica giant James Cotton, beloved country-tinged blues-rocker Elvin Bishop, the fabled Texas guitarist Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (who had been recording since the 1940s) and the exuberant “Swamp Boogie Queen,” pianist Katie Webster. Besides signing established stars, we championed rising younger artists, helping them break out of their local scenes to reach national and international audiences. We released albums by a host of newcomers: Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, the rough and ready band from Chicago’s West Side; The Kinsey Report, the funky band of brothers from Gary, Indiana; Little Charlie & The Nightcats, the jumping, swinging quartet from Sacramento; The Paladins, the tough roots rock trio from Southern California; Kenny Neal, the guitarist/harmonicist from Louisiana bayou country; and Tinsley Ellis, the rocking guitar hero from Atlanta. All of them burst onto world stages following their debut Alligator releases. And the unlikely all-female, all-acoustic, proudly middle-aged trio, Saffire–The Uppity Blues Women, became one of the label’s best sellers. Virtually all the Alligator artists were touring nationally and internationally, represented by professional booking agents. I often became the overseas road manager for Koko Taylor and Lonnie Brooks, and regularly carried luggage and guitar cases through Europe, Japan and Australia. Alligator has always been a “hands on” business.

The 1980s and 1990s were years of steady growth for Alligator. In the 1970s, the label released only 22 LPs. In the 1980s, that number grew to 60, and in the 1990s, we released 90 albums. The label expanded from three people to over 20. We moved from my little house in a working-class neighborhood, with its dank basement “warehouse” crammed with albums and 7000 cassettes stored in the kitchen, to two rundown storefront buildings. Alligator became a real business, with distributors across the country and around the world. Taking a leap of faith, I gambled on a new technology called compact discs, and Alligator became the first blues label to release its catalog on CDs. Meanwhile, I was in the studio constantly, producing or co-producing iconic artists like Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Son Seals, James Cotton, Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, Lil’ Ed, Saffire, and more. As a fanatic fan, to work with these artists, help them create and then be the bridge that carried their music to the public, was my dream come true. And over the years Alligator attracted a series of intensely hard-working staffers who were just as dedicated to the artists and their music as I was.

We celebrated the 20th anniversary of Alligator in 1991 by hitting the road and taking the music to the people. In the spirit of the old R&B multi-artist package tours, we rented a bus and brought on board Koko Taylor & Her Blues Machine, the Lonnie Brooks band, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Elvin Bishop and Katie Webster. They barnstormed across the Midwest and up and down the East and West Coasts, delivering hours-long shows with spontaneous jams, and spreading the gospel of Genuine Houserockin’ Music.

As we rolled into the 1990s, established artists like harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite, zydeco accordion hero C.J. Chenier and Piedmont acoustic blues duo Cephas & Wiggins found a home at Alligator. Through an arrangement with Germany’s Ruf Records, we released four albums by the amazing Luther Allison, a Chicago legend who had relocated to Europe. Between 1994 and his tragic death from cancer in 1997, Luther became the most popular artist on Alligator, returning to the U.S. to deliver thrilling, hours-long performances, including his incredibly powerful set at the 1995 Chicago Blues Festival. But we were also determined to continue to bring new names to the forefront. Australian slide guitar wizard Dave Hole, brilliant California harp player William Clarke, and visionaries like young Corey Harris and cutting-edge New York guitarist/songwriter Michael Hill, all became Alligator artists. Plus, the most charismatic blues/roots singer of her generation, Shemekia Copeland, cut the first of her seven genre-bending Alligator albums in 1998, at the age of 18.

Things turned difficult for Alligator starting in 1999, when music began being offered illegally on the Internet for little or nothing. CD sales plummeted, and thousands of record stores closed nationwide, especially independent stores that had supported Alligator. “Music should be free” became a mantra for a lot of youth. At the end of 1999, we had 22 employees. Within a few years, that number was reduced to sixteen. But still, established artists kept knocking on our door. In the next few years, Coco Montoya, The Holmes Brothers, Marcia Ball, Roomful of Blues, Tommy Castro, W.C. Clark, Guitar Shorty and the truly legendary Mavis Staples, all of whom had recorded for other labels, released Alligator albums. Our definition of the Alligator sound broadened to include roots rock singer-songwriters—Florida’s JJ Grey & Mofro and New Orleans’ Eric Lindell and Anders Osborne. Not every artist has stayed with Alligator. We weren’t the right fit for some musicians, or they weren’t the right fit for us. But many, like Koko Taylor, Lil’ Ed, Lonnie Brooks and Little Charlie & The Nightcats (now Rick Estrin & The Nightcats), spent decades with us and became close personal friends. Of course, over the years, we’ve had too many of our musician family members leave us to join the great blues band in the sky.

Today, after 50 years, Alligator remains proudly independent and still 100% dedicated to Genuine Houserockin’ Music. With a roster that includes beloved veterans like Marcia Ball, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Elvin Bishop and Roomful Of Blues, rising stars like Selwyn Birchwood and Toronzo Cannon, and the 22-year-old sensation Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, we are committed to the past, present and future of the tradition. Now that illegal downloading has been replaced by digital streaming services reaching around the globe, Alligator’s music can be heard in China, India, and across Africa, and in other countries where it was never available in physical form. Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers would be amazed to see what happened to the tiny record label, now with over 350 releases, that was created to bring their music to the world. They’d be thrilled to know that billions of people can now discover the joyous houserockin’ blues that they played every Sunday at Florence’s Lounge.
by Bruce Iglauer, 2021
Artist - Tracks - Composer
Disc 1
1. Hound Dog Taylor - Give Me Back My Wig (Hound Dog Taylor) - 3:34
2. Koko Taylor - I'm A Woman (Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley) - 4:34
3. Big Walter Horton And Carey Bell - Have Mercy (Walter Horton) - 3:43
4. Fenton Robinson - Somebody Loan Me A Dime (Fenton Robinson) - 2:56
5. Professor Longhair - It's My Fault, Darling (Miles Grayson, Lermon Horton) - 4:53
6. Son Seals - Telephone Angel (Deadric Malone) - 5:25
7. Johnny Winter - Lights Out (Mac Rebennack, Seth David) - 2:34
8. Albert Collins - Blue Monday Hangover (Deadric Malone, Gilbert G. Caple) - 5:34
9. James Cotton - Little Car Blues (Big Bill Broonzy) - 3:33
10.Albert Collins, Robert Cray And Johnny Copeland - The Dream (Bruce Bromberg, Robert Cray) - 5:32
11.William Clarke - Pawnshop Bound (William Clarke) - 4:23
12.Lonnie Mack - Ridin' The Blinds (Don Nix) - 4:23
13.Lonnie Brooks - Cold Lonely Nights (Lonnie Brooks) - 5:43
14.Luther Allison - Soul Fixin' Man (Luther Allison, James Solberg) - 4:06
15.Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown - Got My Mojo Working (Preston Foster) - 4:47
16.Saffire The Uppity Blues Women - Sloppy Drunk (Lucille Bogan) - 3:07
17.Roy Buchanan - That Did It (Dave Clark, Pearl Woods) - 5:07
18.The Paladins - Keep On Lovin' Me Baby (Otis Rush) - 4:02
Disc 2
1. Michael Burks - Love Disease (Michael Burks) - 3:19
2. Kenny Neal - I'm A Blues Man (Walter Godbold, A.D. Prestage, Joe Shamwell) - 4:11
3. The Holmes Brothers - Run Myself Out Of Town (Wendell Holmes) - 3:25
4. Little Charlie And The Nightcats - Jump Start (Little Charlie Baty) - 2:54
5. Katie Webster - I'm Still Leaving You (Jay Miller) - 3:36
6. Smokin' Joe Kubek And Bnois King - Don't Lose My Number (Joe Kubek, Bnois King) - 3:33
7. The Kinsey Report - Corner Of The Blanket (Donald  Kinsey, Kenneth  Kinsey, Ralph  Kinsey) - 3:36
8. Carey Bell - I Got A Rich Man's Woman (Jack Leroy Welch) - 4:43
9. C.J. Chenier - Au Contraire, Mon Frere (Williams) - 3:39)
10.Mavis Staples - There's A Devil On The Loose (Brenda Burns) - 3:34
11.Michael Hill's Blues Mob - Presumed Innocent (Michael Hill, Eunice Levy) - 4:38
12.Bob Margolin - Not What You Said Last Night (Bob Margolin) - 2:48
13.Billy Boy Arnold - Man Of Considerable Taste (Billy Boy Arnold) - 4:32
14.Cephas And Wiggins - Ain't Seen My Baby (John Cephas) - 3:23
15.Long John Hunter - Marfa Lights (Jon Foose, Long John Hunter, Tary Owens) - 4:53
16.Dave Hole - Phone Line (Dave Hole) - 3:43
17.Eric Lindell - Josephine (Eric Lindell, Aaron Wilkinson) - 2:46
18.Joe Louis Walker - I Won't Do That (Tom Hambridge, Richard Fleming) - 5:01
19.Janiva Magness - That's What Love Will Make You Do (Milton Campbell) - 3:20
20.The Siegel-Schwall Band - Going Back To Alabama (Sam Lay) - 3:40
21.Corey Harris And Henry Butler - Why Don't You Live So God Can Use You (Traditional) - 2:12
Disc 3
1. Marcia Ball - Party Town (Bobby Charles) - 4:14
2. Lil Ed And The Blues Imperials - What You See Is What You Get (Lil Ed Williams) - 4:21
3. Roomful Of Blues - In A Roomful Of Blues (Chris Vachon) - 3:30
4. Billy Branch And The Sons Of Blues - Blue And Lonesome (Walter Jacobs) - 4:12
5. Christone 'Kingfish' Ingram - Outside Of This Town (Tom Hambridge, Christone "Kingfish" Ingram) - 4:09
6. Shemekia Copeland - Clotilda's On Fire (John Hahn, Will Kimbrough) - 4:26
7. Curtis Salgado - The Longer That I Live (Curtis Salgado) - 3:50
8. Selwyn Birchwood - Living In A Burning House (Selwyn Birchwood) - 4:07
9. Elvin Bishop And Charlie Musselwhite - Midnight Hour Blues (Leroy Carr) - 4:13
10.The Cash Box Kings - Ain't No Fun (When The Rabbit Got The Gun) ("Low Rollin' Joe" Nosek, Oscar Wilson) - 3:07
11.Tommy Castro And The Painkillers - Make It Back To Memphis (Bonnie Hayes, Tommy Castro) - 4:55
12.JJ Grey And Mofro - A Woman (John Grey Higginbotham) - 3:25
13.Rick Estrin And The Nightcats - I'm Running (Rick Estrin) - 4:07
14.Coco Montoya - You Didn't Think About That (Dave Steen) - 3:56
15.Tinsley Ellis - Ice Cream In Hell (Tinsley Ellis) - 4:14
16.Chris Cain - You Won't Have A Problem When I'm Gone (Chris Cain) - 3:06
17.Guitar Shorty - Too Late (Cecilia Rockstead, Dave Kearney) - 4:15
18.Nick Moss Band And Dennis Gruenling - The High Cost Of Low Living (Nick Moss) - 4:04
19.Toronzo Cannon - The Chicago Way (Toronzo Cannon) - 4:22