In The Land of Free, we still keep on Rockin'

Plain and Fancy

"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"

Nikos Kazantzakis

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mind Garage - A Total Electric Happening (1968 us, superb heavy psych garage rock, 2009 Vinyl edition)

The Mind Garage story begins in Morgantown, WV with the release of the classic “Asphalt Mother” single on their own label and includes turning down an opportunity to play Woodstock, walking away from RCA Records in 1970 at the height of their success (never to be heard from again) and the first and very controversial integration of rock music and religion that saw the band performing rock music during services in churches around the country and ending with a petition for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  The story of the Mind Garage is much more than how a group of talented musicians worked their way out of the backwater to find success in the music business, it’s about how their efforts ultimately influenced and paved the way for an entirely new “Contemporary Christian” genre of rock music and how that music is incorporated into the worship services of Christian churches today and maybe, more importantly, why they disappeared at the height of their popularity.  Their story begins with a band caled the Glass Menagerie.

The Glass Menagerie was formed in Morgantown in 1966, by a group of students attending West Virginia University, and included the core of what would become the Mind Garage.  The band featured Larry McClurg (vocals), Tom Warfield (lead guitar), John Fisher (bass), Norris Lytton (sax) and Jim Straub (drums).  Early on Jack Bond would show up wherever they would play and watch the band perform.  Norris Lytton remembers “he was a dedicated fan.”  When circumstances forced the Glass Menagerie to shuffle their lineup, Jack was invited to join as keyboardist.  Jack played many instruments but didn’t have a keyboard so John offered to buy one for him and let him pay it back a little at a time.  The band was highly regarded locally and their reputation for playing British Invasion and psychedelic cover songs of the day, along with a few originals, was such that they were often booked throughout the US Midwest playing on bills with more established national artists.  

The importance of the Glass Menagerie to the success of the Mind Garage cannot be understated as it was on these tours where the future members of the Mind Garage gained an education in how to entertain a large live audience by watching the headliners perform for crowds of up to 10,000. When the tour ended in the spring of 1967 the band broke up when their guitarist John Fisher left the band to join the Shadows of Knight (they had enjoyed a big hit in the US with a cover of Them’s Gloria) and drummer Jim Straub left for parts unknown, never to be heard from again.

In 1967 the cultural revolution was exploding nationally and long haired rock and roll musicians were considered “hippies” and violently disliked and ridiculed especially in a town like Morgantown where conformity was the rule and conformity meant being like all the other students involved in fraternities, sports and dances, and wearing your hair short and dressing conservatively.  Larry McClurg recalls the members of the band being threatened and harassed.  “Those dirty beatnik hippies” is what they called us.”  “We were spat upon as freaks, called communists, and were victims of discrimination, hatred, ridicule, lies, beatings, and sometimes called anti-Christ”.  “The unfortunate longhair walking alone somewhere at night would now and then come across a group of rednecks, frats or jocks hanging out drinking. They would block the path to intimidate the ‘hippy’ and one of them might whip out scissors to cut the long hair. Having your person threatened over the length of your hair seems absurd now.

In some respects Morgantown, a mix of intellectuals and cowboys, seemed like the Wild West”.  The cultural revolution was not limited to just secular circles but was also being fought in churches where young ministers and priests and members of the congregation were demanding changes be made to the services to make them more relevant to them and today’s world.  Reverend Paine and the band were both on the front lines of this revolution and therefore could not only relate to one another but help support each other by working together to change the status quo and that’s what they ultimately accomplished.

The band began their recording career in 1968 with the “Asphalt Mother”/”Reach Out” single pressed on their own Morning Glori label.  The A side “Asphalt Mother” is one of the all time greatest garage/psych records ever recorded and is a template many future punk and grunge records would follow without ever hearing it.  The band’s sound was new and exciting less British invasion and more loud, hard and heavy with a lot of fuzz and very psychedelic.  The record was pressed in a lot of 1,000 and placed in local record stores in Pittsburgh, Morgantown, Clarksburg and Fairmont WV and when they sold that was it.  The single never appeared on a Mind Garage album and it was therefore undiscovered and forgotten and has remained, even today, very much undiscovered.  Their live shows at that time were legend with Larry McClurg possessing enormous charisma and even some Jim Morrison like stage presence. 

The music was said to mesmerize the audience and would capture their attention to the point that in between songs you could hear a pin drop.  Their lighting and light shows were effective in creating an atmosphere where the audience felt they were being taken on a journey and according to those who attended they were.  When they would play these “Electric Happenings” as many of the performances were billed they would include, in addition to the light shows, psychedelic fashion shows and all sorts of other music with opening acts playing jazz and even sitar sounds.  The concerts were interactive with “Total Environment, Total Involvement” themes where the audience was as much a part of the show as the music. 

1. B-52 (Norris Lytton, Jack Bond, Ted Smith, John Vauhghan) - 0:53
2. Sale Of A Deathman (John Vaughan) - 3:56
3. What Shall We Do Till Norris Comes (Larry McClurg) - 6:26
4. Water (Larry McClurg) - 4:55
5. Star Goddess (John Vaughan) - 3:11
6. Circus Farm (Larry McClurg) - 2:47
7. This Town (Larry McClurg) - 4:08
8. Reach Out (Holland, Dozier, Holland) - 4:50
9. Asphalt Mother (Larry McClurg) - 5:05

The Mind Garage
*Larry McClurg - Lead Vocals, Vocals
*John Vaughan - Lead Guitar
*Ted Smith - Drums, Vocals
*Jack Bond - Keyboard, Vocals
*Norris Lytton - Bass Guitar, Vocals

Free Text
Free Text II

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lighthouse - Peacing It All Together (1970 canada, amazing brass psych rock, 2010 korean remaster)

In 1969 Lighthouse played the Atlantic City Jazz Festival and after a technical glitch with the PA system the band had an impromptu conversation with many of the 20,000 people in attendance who were anxious to hear this new band from Canada. They also discussed politics and when the show continued the band won over the mostly American audience – and the press declared Lighthouse “The Peace Band”.

The band took the term to heart and named their next release ‘Peacing It All Together’which allowed them to continue touring and building a larger audience. While the jazz-rock-classical blend they had pioneered was still prominent, the record included more pop-friendly tunes than their first two albums had featured, as well as some unexpected detours into folk-rock and country-rock. Comprised entirely of original compositions, the LP also included 'The Chant,' a hit single in Japan.

Peacing It All Together was the most commercially successful of Lighthouse's three RCA albums, reaching #133 in the Billboard charts, though it would take the title track of their next album, One Fine Morning, to give the band an international hit single. RCA would release the band from its deal in 1971. 

1. Nam Myoho Renge' Kyo / Let The Happines Begin (Paul Hoffert, Skip Prokop, Ralph Cole) - 3:52
2. Every Day I Am Reminded (L. V. Beethoven, Paul Hoffert, Skip Prokop) - 4:54
3. The Country Song - 2:29
4. Sausalito - 3:05
5. The Fiction Of Twenty Six Million - 2:32
6. The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge' Kyo) - 2:47
7. Mr. Candleman - 3:15
8. On My Way To L.A. - 4:28
9. Daughters And Sons (Grant Fullerton) - 2:57
10.Just A Little More Time - 2:19
11.Little People / Nam Myoho Renge' Kyo - 4:04
All songs by Paul Hoffert, Skip Prokop except where stated

*Skip Prokop - Drums, Vocals
*Paul Hoffert - Keyboards, Vibes
*Ralph Cole - Guitar, Vocals
*Grant Fullerton - Bass, Vocals
*Pinky Dauvin - Lead Vocals
*Paul Armin - Violin
*Don Dinovo - Viola
*Dick Armin - Cello
*Leslie Schneider - Cello
*Arnie Chycoski- Trumpet
*Bruce Cassidy - Trumpet
*Howard Shore - Alto Sax, Flute
*Russ Little - Trombone

1969  Lighthouse (2012 extra tracks edition)
1969  Lighthouse - Suite Feeling (2010 Korean remaster)
1971  One Fine Morning
1972  Sunny Days (2008 RDI issue)
1973  Can You Feel It?  (2008 RDI issue)
Related Acts
1967  The Paupers - Magic People
1968  The Paupers · Ellis Island  (2008 remaster)
1969  The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield And Al Kooper
1969  Michael Bloomfield with Nick Gravenites And Friends - Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore West (2009 remaster and expanded) 

Free Text 
Free Text II

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Canned Heat - Historical Figures And Ancient Heads (1971-72 us, awesome hard blues funky rock, extra track remaster issue)

A couple of summers ago, when “Blind Owl” Wilson overdosed; well, it looked like curtains for Canned Heat. The band added Harvey Mandel as lead guitarist and dropped a live album onto the market. After that LP whisked into oblivion, so did Canned Heat.

But wait, just released is Historical Figures and Ancient Heads complete with new member Joel Scott Hill at vocals and guitars, Harvey Mandel, who since left the band, is back for guitar work, and Little Richard himself.

What’s a critic to do? The band has retired the “boogie” theme for a more ballsy rock ‘n blues format. Gone are Bob “The Bear” Hite’s embarrassing growls. Gone are the inane lyrics. In their place stand a new band gleaming and ready to be accepted.

Side One is the stomping side – sizzling with good new rock ‘n roll. The side is, I might add, completely swiped by Little Richard on “Rockin’ with the King” where the Georgia Peach plays honky-tonk piano and shares the arrogant lyrics with Hite. I guess that’s the way it should be, but “Long Way From L.A.” gives it a good run-for-the-money which epitomizes all the “gotta-get-my-ass-back-home” theme songs.

Well, if you’re gonna change the tune of a band, you might as well go all out. The group has added a Mexican rhythm section with Adolfo de la Parra and Antonio del la Barreda on drums and bass respectively. The two jam away, weaving in and out between all the verses with their tasty subdued Latin-flavored style.

Side Two is the setting for the extended jam tunes “That’s All Right” and “Utah,” the former being Harvey Mandel’s homecoming cut. These two tracks seem to best describe the new and refreshed state of the band. They have not lost their snotty sense of raw humor, or their snotty sense of raw instrumentation. For once, I feel the group has tried their utmost to produce a great album… and succeeded.
by Cameron Crowe –  Courtesy of the Door (aka San Diego Door) March 30, 1972  – April 13, 1972

1. Sneakin' Around (Jessie Mae Robinson) - 4:53
2. Hill's Stomp (Joel Scott Hill) - 3:03
3. Rockin' With The King (Skip Taylor, Richard Wayne Penniman) - 3:17
4. I Don't Care What You Tell Me (Charles Lloyd) - 3:58
5. Long Way From L.A. (Jud Baker) - 3:05
6. Cherokee Dance (Robert Landers) - 4:25
7. That's All Right (Jimmy Rogers) - 5:30
8. Utah (Canned Heat) - 8:25
9. Long Way From L.A. (Single Version) (Jud Baker) - 2:53

Canned Heat
*Bob Hite - Vocals
*Henry Vestine - Lead Guitar
*Joel Scott Hill - Rhythm, Lead  Guitar, Vocals
*Adolfo De La Parra - Drums, Piano
*Antonio De La Barreda - Bass
Additional Personnel
*Little Richard - Piano, Vocals
*Clifford Solomon - Saxophone
*Charles Lloyd - Flute
*Harvey Mandel - Guitar
*Ernest Lane - Piano
*Kevin Burton - Organ
*Ray Bushbaum - Piano

1967-73  Canned Heat - The Very Best Of
1968  Canned Heat - Livin The Blues (Akarma edition)
1971  John Lee Hooker And Canned Heat - Hooker 'N' Heat
1970-73  Memphis Slim Canned Heat Memphis Horns - Memphis Heat
1973  Canned Heat - One More River To Cross

Free Text
Free Text II

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Unicorn - Uphill All The Way (1971-73 uk, splendid harmony folk soft rock, 2009 remaster and expanded)

The Unicorn’s first album,  Uphill All the Way, sounds like a band simply ecstatic at the possibilities of this new brand of folk-rock; they cover all the greats of the genre: Neil Young, Jimmy Webb, John Stewart, James Taylor, Joe Cocker, and Gerry Rafferty. But the originals by Ken Baker show that he was just as good at evoking the sun drenched canyons of the beaches of Southern California as his influences; which is all the more impressive considering he was writing and singing from the famously overcast and rainy London. 

Still Baker’s songwriting wasn’t yet up to snuff, the best song here is their beautiful interpretation of Webb’s  P.F. Sloan,  a tribute to the American songwriter. The amazing harmonies on this track reveal Unicorn was more than just a CSN rip-off like so many bands of this breed; these guys are the real deal.
by Stephen Belden

1. P.F. Sloan (Jimmy Webb) - 4:30
2. 115 Bar Joy (Ken Baker) - 3:51
3. I've Loved Her So Long (Neil Young) - 2:42
4. Don't Ever Give Up Trying (Ken Baker) - 5:08
5. Country Road (James Taylor) - 4:16
6. Something To Say (Joe Cocker) - 4:43
7. Ain't Got A Lot Of Future (Ken Baker) - 6:49
8. Never Going Back (John Stewart) - 3:21
9. You, You, Hate Me (Ken Baker) - 5:38
10.Please Sing A Song For Us (Gerry Rafferty) - 3:13
11.Going Back Home (Ken Baker) - 3:36
12.Cosmic Kid (Ken Baker) - 2:57
13.All We Really Want To Do (Bonnie Bramlett, Delaney Bramlett) - 3:17
14.P.F. Sloan (2006 Remix) (Jimmy Webb) - 4:40
Bonus Tracks 11-14

*Peter Perrier - Drums, Congas, Percussion, Vocals
*Pat Martin - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Ken Baker - Electric Guitar, Acoustic 6, 12 String Guitar, Organ, Piano, Harmonium, Electric Piano, Vocals
*Trevor Mee - 6, 12 String Electric Acoustic Guitars, Flute, Vocals
*Kevin Smith - Guitar, Mandolin
*Hugh Murphy - Tambourine

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

Free Text
Free Text II

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Brian Auger And The Trinity - Befour (1970 uk, brilliant jazzy prog rock, SHM 2013 remaster with extra tracks)

Brian Auger and his band outdo themselves on this extraordinary album, which boasts playing that is both passionate and of virtuoso caliber, and encompasses just the right repertory. From the opening of the soaring rendition of "I Wanna Take You Higher" through the jazzy interpretation of Gabriel Faure's Pavane, the Albinoni-based Adagio per Archi e Organo, the impassioned rendition of Traffic's "No Time to Live" (sung by lead guitarist Gary Boyle), and the smooth interpretation of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" (featuring some elegant lead playing by Boyle before Auger's organ moves into the foreground), Befour delivers superb musicianship, crossing the lines between jazz and rock with touches of soul and even some lingering traces of psychedelia. 

The one fully experimental track, "Listen Here," which was cut in a single take of nine-minutes-and-22-seconds, is a hard, pounding piece driven by Boyle's jagged lead guitar and showing off the band augmented by three additional drummers (Mickey Waller, Barry Reeves, and Colin Allen) and an extra bassist (Roger Sutton) -- it reminds one somewhat of the kinds of experiments that the Nice sometimes attempted a lot less successfully. "Just You and Me" is a worthy finale to the original album, a hard-rocking showcase for each of the players.
by Bruce Eder

1. I Want To Take You Higher (Sylvester Stewart) - 5:08
2. Pavane (Gabriel Fauré) - 3:49
3. No Time To Live (Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood) - 5:27
4. Maiden Voyage (Herbie Hancock) - 5:03
5. Listen Here (Eddie Harris) - 9:26
6. Adagio Per Archi E Organo (Brian Auger) - 3:30
7. Just You Just Me (Brian Auger) - 6:31
8. Rain Forest Talking (Live) (Brian Auger) - 4:07
9. Pavane (Demo Version) (Gabriel Fauré) - 3:44
10.Fire In The Mind (Previously Unreleased) (Brian Auger) - 4:47
11.Pavene (Live) (Gabriel Fauré) - 4:49
12.I Got Some (Live) (Brian Auger) - 5:02

Brian Auger And The Trinity
*Brian Auger - Keyboards, Electric Piano, Organ, Vocals
*Gary Boyle - Guitar, Vocals, Harmony Vocals
*Dave Ambrose - Bass, Harmony Vocals
*Clive Thacker - Drums, Harmony Vocals
*Colin Allen - Bass, Drum Rhythms, Bells,
*Roger Sutton - Bottom Bass Line
*Barry Reeves - Snare Drum, Cowbell
*Mickey Waller - Cymbals

Brian Auger's Oblivion Express
1970 Brian Auger's Oblivion Express (2013 Japan SHM edition)
1971  A Better Land (2006 japan remaster)
1972  Second Wind (2006 japan remaster)
1973  Closer To It (2006 japan remaster) 
With Julie Driscoll
1967  Open (2013 Japan SHM)
1970  Streetnoise  (2014 SHM)

Free Text
Free Text II

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Third Eye - Brother (1970 south africa, exceptional heavy psych rock with prog traces)

The South African heavy prog act the Third Eye recorded three albums over the course of as many weekends in 1969. This second release is slightly more aggressive than the group's debut, and the horn section that sometimes caused Awakening... to become a little too ersatz-soulful is absent. 

The opening title track, driven by Dawn Selby's churning organ, almost has the impact of some of the Doors' heaviest, least jazzy material. Vocalist Maurice Saul is still a little too clean, in a weirdly middle-of-the-road way; he's neither a hoarse blues shouter nor a high-pitched frontman like Yes' Jon Anderson, and he winds up sounding like the frontman for a show band specializing in covers, not a unique and interesting band making compelling, original music. Which is too bad, because at their best (which is anytime guitarist Ronnie Selby gets to really cut loose; on this album, it's "Listen to the Bells"), they muster up a roar that Deep Purple would pack concert halls with only a couple of years later. 

This album's other high point is its final track, an eight-minute suite that includes poetry and a grinding, amped-up version of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown's "Fire" -- the only cover on this album, by the way, as contrasted with the trio of adaptations on the debut. Brother roars to its conclusion, Saul shrieking with all the power he can muster as the band explodes around him. 
by Phil Freeman

1. Brother - 4:02
2. Once Upon A Time Part 1 - 3:46
3. Once Upon A Time Part 2 - 4:01
4. Listen To The Bells - 5:40
5. Sister - 4:04
6. Young Folk And Old Folk - 3:32
7. Fire A) Prelude B) Poem C) Fire (Arthur Brown, Vincent Crane) - 8:00
All songs by Maurice Saul and Third Eye except where indicated

The Third Eye
*Ronnie Selby - Lead Guitar
*Maurice Saul - Vocals, Lead Guitar
*Dawn Selby - Piano, Hammond Organ
*Robbie Pavid - Drums
*Mike Sauer - Six String Bass

1969  The Third Eye - Awakening
1969  The Third Eye - Searching

Free Text
Free Text II

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Jokers Wild - Liquid Giraffe (1967-69 us, tremendous garage psych rock, 2013 issue)

Local band The He-Too’s (the first version of the band and formerly The Aardvarks) break up and guitar player Gene Balabon and bass player Dave Waggoner decide to put together a new band.  Dave Waggoner calls Denny Johnson to see if he is interested in playing in a new band and he signs on with the two former members of The He-Too’s /Aardvarks.  Dave Waggoner plays Farfisa organ and sings lead vocals, Gene Balabon plays guitar and sings lead vocals, and Denny Johnson plays bass guitar and sings backing vocals. 

The band now needs to find a drummer so Dave and Denny head over to The Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis, where booking agent David Anthony Wachter rents space for bands to practice in and to try out new band members in a “live” club like setting with a stage.  At The Ritz, Dave and Denny meet Pete Huber, a drummer from The Gremmies, a band that had just broken up due to their singer Jim Larkin leaving the group to take over as lead singer for The Rave Ons, as the group had lost their lead singer Lonnie Knight due to his family moving from Minneapolis to Detroit.  Pete Huber joins the newly forming group on drums. 

After practicing for a few weeks at Denny’s house in North Minneapolis, Dave decides he no longer wants to play keyboards and wants to focus on being a front man on lead vocals.  Denny recalls a guitar and keyboard player that he had worked with in the past and calls Dave “Kink” Middlemist.  Dave is playing with The Cavaliers but decides to try out for the new band  and leaves The Cavaliers to join on with the new band which is now up to five members.  The lineup is: Dave Waggoner on lead vocals; Gene Balabon on guitar and lead vocals; Dave “Kink” Middlemist on keyboards; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and backing vocals; and Pete Huber on drums.

Jokers Wild, now signed on with David Anthony Productions, plays teen clubs, ballrooms, and armories throughout the upper 5 State Midwest area. They recorded 3 singles between 1967 and 1969 in Minnesota but the complete album LIQUID GIRAFFE was never released. Starting as a 5 man band most of the material was recorded by the 3 main members: Lonnie Knight, Denny Johnson and Pete Huber. Later Lonnie Knight became guitarist of “The Litter” for a while but he returned to “Jokers Wild”.

What a powerful band this is. Huge amp stacks guaranteed a “wall of sound” on stage. Double bass drum, cool outfits, they must have been been great on stage.

Damin Eih, A.L.K. and Brother Clark wrote: “In ’67 I saw two local bands that again amped up the juice, The Litter and Jokers Wild. Both bands played original music and had excellent psychedelic-raved guitar players, Zippy Caplan (Litter) and Lonnie Knight (Jokers Wild). That brought everything to a new level”

Heavy underground rock with great composed songs, fuzz guitars, speedy drums and tight bass lines.If you think The Litter is the one you should listen to Jokers Wild.

1. Peace Man - 2:17
2. Tomorrow (Pete Huber) - 2:53
3. The Grass Is Greener - 4:14
4. I'm On My Way (Pete Huber) - 4:00
5. Stranger - 3:12
6. Copper Penny - 2:25
7. I See You - 4:19
8. Witch - 3:06
9. American Dream (Denny Johnson, Ed Fitzgerald) - 2:19
10.Hard Road - 2:49  
11.River - 4:56
12.Have You Ever Loved Somebody (Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, Graham Nash) - 3:16
13.Dissatisfied - 6:41
14.Good Time (Harry Vanda, George Young) - 4:00
15.Echo (Bonus Track) - 2:21
16.Because I'm Free (Bonus Track) (Greg Springer) - 2:46
17.All I See Is You (Bonus Track) - 2:38
18.Park Music (Bonus Track) (Lonnie Knight, Denny Johnson) - 6:02
All Songs written by Lonnie Knight unless as else stated

Jokers Wild
*Lonnie Knight - Guitar, Vocals
*Denny Johnson - Bass, Vocals
*Pete Huber - Drums, Vocals

Free Text
Free Text II