In The Land Of FREE we still Keep on Rockin'

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Plain and Fancy

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Cathy Young - A Spoonful Of Cathy Young (1969 canada, elegant bluesy folk psych rock, 2015 reissue)

Already a familiar face on Yorkville, Toronto's thriving folk scene, Cathy Young came to wider prominence when she performed in front of 5000 people at the Queen's Park Love-in in May 1967, still aged only 16, on a bill that also included Leonard Cohen and Buffy Sainte-Marie. As she later commented: "It was my graduation from the streets of Yorkville... The only song I was able to play was Buffy Sainte-Marie's Codeine." Though she was scheduled right after Sainte-Marie on the bill, she went ahead with the song anyway, and cemented her reputation. 

Before long she'd been offered a recording contract by Mainstream's entrepreneurial Bob Shad, who specialized in signing up young artists and swiftly taping whatever they had to offer (the most prominent example having been Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company). With musical backing from Dylan sideman Eric Weissberg (soon to become renowned for Duelling Banjos) and other session notables including Buddy Saltzman and Michael Abene, the album appeared in April 1969, prompting Billboard to write 'Cathy Young is the best female singer-songwriter to come along in a long time. The subtlety of her lyrics is a strong point, but her singing and Eric- Weissberg's musical arrangements also help to make this 'spoonful' an impressive debut album. Some of her best songs are Everyone's A Dealer, Circus, and Melody Plot. 

With much deserved airplay of these and other cuts, such as her unique rendition of the blues standard Spoonful, this album could become an underground smash. This one 'spoonful' should be all that's required to transform Cathy Young into a chart regular.' Unfortunately these predictions did not come to pass, but Young did go on to receive a prestigious Juno Award as Most Promising Female Vocalist in March 1974, following the release of her second album, Travel Stained, the previous year. 

Thereafter she has toured the world, as well as performing in stage musicals (including a stint as Mary Magdalene in the Canadian touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar), and becoming a popular performer on cruise ships and in luxury hotels.
CD Liner Notes

1. Spoonful (Willie Dixon) - 6:46
2. Misfit Matilda - 2:02
3. This Life - 3:07
4. Everyone's A Dealer - 4:17
5. Circus - 2:59
6. Mr. Moth - 1:51
7. Colour That Lightning - 4:00
8. 3 Billion Lovers - 2:01
9. Understanding Changes Misunderstood - 3:38
10.Following In Front - 2:49
11.Melody Plot - 3:37
All compositions by Cathy Young except track #1

*Cathy Young - Vocal, Guitar
*Eric Weissberg - Banjo, Guitar
*Don Payne - Bass
*Buddy Saltzman - Drums
*Ronnie Zito - Drums
*Michael Joseph Abene - Piano, Organ
*Patrick Rebillot - Piano, Organ

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Forest Green - Forest Green (1973 us, exceptional brass jazz prog rock, 2019 korean remaster)

A stunning debut album of this American band in 1973 features progressive and psychedelic rock with nice jazzy approach. Pretty awesome mixed bag album for prog jazz and classic rock.

1. Never Found A Way (Timothy Jordan) - 4:36
2. I've Been This Way Before (Syd Silverstein) - 3:12
3. What It's About (Timothy Jordan) - 3:01
4. Black Shepherd (Arthur Cohen) - 3:15
5. Beggar Man (Ray Barrett) - 4:07
6. Scream Fear (Syd Silverstein) - 4:26
7. The Ballad Of Widow Jenkins And Rita (Arthur Cohen) - 3:10
8. Movin' To The Country (Syd Silverstein) - 2:34
9. Boundless Sky (Ray Barrett) - 4:28
10.Mountain (Timothy Jordan) - 5:16

Forest Green
*Timothy Jordan- Vocal, Electric, Lead, Rhythm, Acoustic Guitars
*Syd Silverstein- Vocal, Bass
*Lon Poland- Drums, Bongo
*Ray Barrett- Vocal, Organ, Electric Piano, Clavinet, Recorder
*Donald Hettinger- Flute, Alto Sax, Bassoon, Percussion
*Robert Mast- Flute, Tenor Sax
*Arthur Cohen - Piano

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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Brian Auger And The Trinity - Definitely What! (1968 uk, fantastic groovy jazz rhythm and blues psych rock, 2013 japan SHM bonus tracks remaster)

Brian Auger inhabits a unique position within British music. Essentially a highly regarded and talented modern jazz musician, he paid the critical price for crossing over into the pop charts, and eventually migrated to America where he felt his wide-ranging approach would be better understood and appreciated.

Straddling jazz, rhythm & blues, folk, gospel and pop with great aplomb, it may have confused the less open-minded of the time, and may still be causing some confusion all these years later. Brian's stated intention had always been to overlay souland funk rhythms with jazz harmonies and solos and all three of these recording are packed with this very individual approach.

Definitely What! (1968) was Auger's first solo recording and his unique keyboard skills and offbeat humour are apparent throughout. ''George Bruno Money'' illustrates this brilliantly. Brian's Jimmy Smith jazz approach sits alongside that mildly camp Goons-like humour so in vogue at the time. This is the broad-minded musical attitude that really led to fusion or jazz-rock.

Leave your 60s-based prejudices at the door and get a dose of musical free thinking!
by Greg Boraman, 2004

1. A Day In The Life (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 5:16
2. George Bruno Money (Brian Auger) - 3:59
3. Far Horizon (Brian Auger) - 5:10
4. John Brown's Body (Traditional) - 3:01
5. Red Beans And Rice (Al Jackson Jr., Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve Cropper) - 5:43
6. Bumpin' On Sunset (Wes Montgomery) - 4:57
7. If You Live (Mose Allison) - 3:50
8. Definiely What (Brian Auger, Clive Thacker, David Ambrose) - 8:06
9. Misty (Erroll Garner, Johnny Burke) - 1:48
10.Il Gatto Nero (Brian Auger) - 3:08
11.As She Knows (David Ambrose) - 3:35
12.What You Gonna Do (Brian Auger) - 3:22
13.Red Beans And Rice Part 1 (Al Jackson Jr., Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve Cropper) - 2:11
14.Red Beans And Rice Part 2 (Al Jackson Jr., Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Steve Cropper) - 2:48
15.If You Live (Mose Allison) - 5:24
16.Season Of The Witch (Donovan Leitch) - 4:10
17.This Wheel's On Fire (Bob Dylan, Rick Danko) - 4:14
18.Save Me (Aretha Franklin, Carolyn Franklin, King Curtis) - 4:08

*Brian Auger - Electric Organ, Piano, Electric Piano, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
*Rick Laird - String Bass
*Phil Kinorra - Drums
*Vic Briggs - Guitar
*Ricky Brown “Ricky Fenson” - Bass
*Micky Waller - Drums
*Gary Boyle - Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
*Roger Sutton - Bass
*Clem Cattini - Drums
*Clive Thacker - Drums
*Dave Ambrose - Bass, Backing Vocals

1970  Brian Auger And The Trinity - Befour (SHM 2013 remaster with extra tracks) 
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)

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Paisleys - Cosmic Mind At Play (1970 us, fabulous beat psych rock, 2003 extra tracks edition)

The Paisleys were formed in Minneapolis, and their sole album was produced by Warren Kendrick, who produced a bunch of other garage rock and psychedelic recordings in Minneapolis in the mid-'60s to early '70s (most notably for the Litter).

The Paisleys actually helped Kendrick build the studio in which Cosmic Mind at Play was recorded, and only a couple of thousand copies were pressed when it was released in 1970

In late 1968, they decided to pack up and move to Canada where they camped around and gigged predominantly in the Vancouver area. Due to fear of being deported back to the U.S. and into the Vietnam draft, Youngerberg left the group. Payton had a nervous breakdown and also left and was replaced by Bob Belknap (drums, vocals).

In 1969, Smith, Timm and Payton moved back to the U.S. and held auditions for a new lead guitarist and found Brad Stodden. They then began recording their sole LP, "Cosmic Minds At Play". Halfway through recording the album, Belknap was replaced by Mike Cornelius (drums, vocals). It's this lineup that recorded the outstanding 'Something's Missing', which is one of their best songs, but ironically never made the LP. Only 2,000 copies of the record were pressed and when it didn't sell well, the band soon split.

1. Cosmic Mind At Play (Richard Timm) - 2:06
2. Rockin’ (Bill Smith) - 1:56
3. Now (Bill Smith, Richard Timm) - 3:07
4. Smokey Windows (Bill Smith) - 1:35
5. Diddley (Bill Smith) - 4:30
6. Wind (Bill Smith) - 5:14
7. Musical Journey (Bill Smith, Richard Timm) -18:38
8. Something’s Missing (Bill Smith, Richard Timm) - 2:55
9. Medley: Comin’ On / City Of Light / Home Again (Brad Stodden, Bill Smith, Richard Timm) - 7:23
10.The Fool With The Jewel (Bill Smith) - 3:19
11.Step Quietly and Quickly (Richard Timm) - 2:08
12.Elf In A Magic Bottle (Rick Youngberg) - 6:06
13.In Dreams (Rick Youngberg) - 6:41

The Paisleys
*Brad Stodden - Vocals, Guitar
*Dick Timm - Bass, Vocals
*Bob Belknap - Drums, Vocals
*Bill Smith - Piano, Vocals
*Mike Cornelius - Drums, Vocals
*Rick Youngberg - Guitar, Vocals

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Terry And The Pirates - Comanche Boots (1973-80 us, great psych classic rock, 2008 release)

Like all good pirates that bury their treasure so they can come back later to bask in the glory of the fruits from their labors and enjoy the bounty of their success Terry And The Pirates would be no exception! Sitting amongst the fools gold, wooden nickels and thin dimes that were in the treasure chest that Terry and The Pirates' buried a long time ago were some real precious gems thought to have been lost forever. It was here that we unearthed the mother lode of tapes for which this collection of music was compiled. 

Featured on "Comanche Boots" are a few of the last known studio recordings of Terry and The Pirates in existence, including never before released tracks, rare demos, rehearsals and exciting live performances. "Comanche Boots" is also in many ways a celebration of 35 years of rockin' with Terry & The Pirates. The aibum opens up with "The Cuckoo", the only recording from the Los Angeles version or T&TP with Terry Dolan and the original "Pirate" rhythm section of Hutch Hutchinson and David Weber (both originally from Copperhead) and featuring Johnny Lee Schell from Bonnie Raitt's and Ian McLagan's bands on lead guitar. On June 12, 1973, Hutch and David joined Terry along with John Cipollina and Greg Douglass the first time he ever played out with a band. This was the night that Terry abd The Pirates were born.

From the Fantasy Studio Sessions on 11-21-75, deep in the vault, we found some interesting outtakes - "I Can't Dance", "Nicky's Tune" and "Truer Than Blue". "Nicky's Tune" has some excellent rocking and rolling piano from Nicky Hopkins along with some great guitar licks from Greg Douglass and John Cipollina. (A live version of "I Can't Dance" appeared on "Silverado Trail"). By the way Silverado Trail has been recently reissued as Return To Silverado on Evangeline Records with bonus tracks and a bonus CD.

The "Pirates" never being ones to pass up on a good thing accepted a offer to go in to the recording studio with Freeway covering all of their expenses. At the time of these sessions, John was on a East Coast tour with Nick Gravenites, so Terry, Greg Douglass, David Hayes and Jeff Myer went in the studio and recorded the songs - "Yankee Son", 'Vain River" and "Sweet Emotions". It was always Terry's every intention to go back and add Cipollina to these recordings but unfortunately that never happened, but if you close your eyes and listen real hard, I think you can still hear him. This is the original version of "Vain River". Terry later re-recorded it on his album "Still A Pirate". 

There is a live version of "Sweet Emotions" with John Cipollina on the album "Silverado Trail", but that version is without Greg Douglass, because he was on the road with Greg Kihn at the time. One of the problems of "The Pirates" was finding them all home from the road long enough for Terry to assemble them for a gig. On October 25, 1978 from a rehearsal for an upcoming gig on Halloween comes "Through The Willows", this is one of the few known recordings of this song. Cipollina was not present for this rehearsal, because he was busy preparing for a Halloween gig with the Novato Frank Band at the Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati, California. From the sessions for Terry Dolan's Acoustic Rangers album comes this great unreleased recording of Bob Dylan's "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, (It Takes A Train To Cry). 

This unique and special version of the Terry and The Pirates classic "Something To Lose" was recorded as a demo with just Terry and John in 1980. The full on, balls to the wall studio version can be found on the album "Wind Dancer" and there is a "killer" live version on the CD release of "Too Close For Comfort". Terry's love for the history of the American Indians and the days of the olde west influenced this psychedelic western styled instrumental called "Comanche Boots". This is Terry's musical landscape interpretation of a Charles Russell or Frederick Remington painting.

The Pirates recorded two versions of "All In Your Mind" - one with lyrics which is included here and the other being an instrumental. Greg really did outdo himself writing this one, Terry sings the vocals. The album closes with a special treat, a never before released live version of "Jungle Love". Long before this became a major hit for Steve Miller it was a staple of T&TP shows...then Lonnie Turner plays their demo for Steve and he flipped over Greg's guitar work! Steve Miller not only records the song, but hires Greg Douglass as well, in part because he couldn't figure out how to play it, but mostly because of Greg's guitar playing ability. It was a lot of fun sifting through Terry's cache of music to create this compilation, I'd been after him for years to cut loose with some of these recordings and he was always holding out for the right time, well my friends that time has finally arrived.
by Mike Somavilla, 2008 

1.  Cucko (Traditional) - 3:47
2.  I Can't Dance (Tom T. Hall) - 2:30
3.  All In Your Mind (Greg Douglass) - 3:28
4.  Vain River - 3:47
5.  Yankee Son - 2:55
6.  Comanche Boots - 3:21
7.  Sweet Emotions (Blue Hazlehurst) - 3:37
8.  Truer Than Blue - 4:25
9.  Nicky's Tune (Nicky Hopkins) - 3:31
10. The Light Thru The Willows - 5:02
11. It Takes A Lot To Laugh - It Takes A Train To Cry (Bob Dylan) - 3:37
12. Something To Lose - 4:09
13. Jungle Love (Greg Douglass, Lonnie Turner) - 3:30
All songs by Terry Dolan except where noted

*Terry Dolan - Rhythm Guitar,  Vocals
*John Cipollina - Guitar
*Gregg Douglas - Guitars
*David Hayes - Bass, Harmonica
*Nicky Hopkins - Keyboards, Piano
*James "Hutch" Hutchinson - Bass
*Jeff Myer - Drums
*Johnny Lee Schell - Keyboards, Piano
*Lonnie Turner - Bass
*Bob Yance - Flute
*Byron Allred - Keyboards, Piano
*Tom Dollinger - Drums
*Andy Kirby - Drums
*David Weber - Drums

1972  Terry Dolan - Terry Dolan (2016 remaster and expanded)
Related Acts
1967-68  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Lost Gold And Silver (double disc issue)
1968  Quicksilver Messenger Service (2012 audiophile mini LP replica)
1969  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Happy Trails (2012 Audiophile remaster)
1969  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Shady Grove (2012 Audiophile remaster)
1969  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Castles In The Sand
1970  Q. M. S. - Just For Love  (2012 audiophile mini Lp replica)  
1970  Q. M. S. - What About Me (2012 audiophile mini LP replica)
1971  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Quicksliver (2012 Audiophile Vinyl replica)
1972  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Comin` Thru (2012 Audiopfile mini LP replica)  
1975  Quicksilver Messenger Service - Solid Silver
1973  Copperhead - Copperhead (2001 reissue)
1975  Man With John Cipollina - Maximum Darkness (2008 remaster)
1975-76  John Cipollina - Raven (2006 remastered and expanded) 

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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Yardbirds - Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds (1965 uk, impressive blues garage 'n' roll. 2018 japan remaster and expanded)

It’s hard to argue that The Yardbirds aren’t the most overshadowed “important” 1960s rock band. They were eclipsed in their own time by the commercial success and cultural impact of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and their legacy has been woefully obscured over the last several decades by the collective careers of its three guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. People do talk about The Yardbirds—usually in the context of what was happening in Great Britain in the mid-1960s or as a prelude of what was to come—but they were far more than a preface project. One need only to listen to their sophomore studio effort Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds to understand why.

Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds is probably the prime example of the sound of the British Blues movement that overwhelmed the city of London from about 1960 to 1966. It’s also happens to be one of the great collections of latent avant-garde, psych pop music that dominated the charts shortly thereafter. That diametrically opposed sensibility stems from the differing viewpoints of the two guitarists whose work stands as the focal point of this particular record: Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. And actually, it’s that same difference of viewpoint that drove the former out of the group entirely, making way for the latter to come in and completely innovate the sound of the electric guitar.

By the spring of 1965, Clapton had become entirely fed up with his bandmates. When he first joined The Yardbirds in 1963 they were a strict Blues band and that’s all that he was content to play. They cut their teeth early on performing late-night sets of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf covers at their manager Giorgio Gomelsky’s Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, and had even toured with the great harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson II in ’63 and cut a live record with him. Then The Beatles happened, and then The Rolling Stones happened, and suddenly it became clear to the rest of The Yardbirds that there was a real viability in pursuing a more pop and world music influenced sound. Unfortunately for Clapton, that now meant that he was faced with the prospect of following the rest of the band down what felt to him like a gimmick, a musical rabbit hole that he had no intention of pursuing.

The final straw for Clapton was the single “For Your Love.” With its harpsichord accents and bongo rhythms, it was about as far away from the blues as one could imagine at the time. “When The Yardbirds decided to record ‘For Your Love,’ I knew that was the beginning of the end for me,” Clapton wrote in his autobiography. “I didn’t see how we could make a record like that and stay as we were. It felt to me that we had completely sold out.” He quit the group on March 25, 1965, the same day the single was released to the larger public. 

Even without one of the greatest guitarist on the scene in the fold—worshiping fans didn’t scrawl the phrase “Clapton is God” on park benches and tube stations for nothing—the band decided to soldier on and cast a wide net for a replacement. At one point they approached Jimmy Page, who was working as one of the most prolific session guitarists on the scene, having built up a sizable reputation for his contributions to The Kinks and The Who. He turned them down flat, but not after recommending a friend of his named Jeff Beck for the gig. When Gomelsky phoned Beck, who was working as a car paint sprayer at the time, to see if he’d be interested in joining the band, he eagerly accepted the invitation.

Jeff Beck was everything that Eric Clapton wasn’t. Where Clapton was a traditionalist, Beck seemed completely intent on pushing his sound to the absolute limit. To achieve this end, he employed the use of a Binson Echorec unit to create artificial echo and reverb sounds and turned to his friend Roger Mayer, a former engineer for the British Admiralty, to design a device that would help him sustain sound. Thus he became one of the earliest adopters of the fuzz pedal, which not only stretched out notes, but added a distinct-sounding layer of overdrive that later became the signature of both psych and garage rock.

Almost immediately after Beck joined the group, the Yardbirds took off for a fall tour of the United States. “For Your Love” had been a huge hit for the band, going all the way to No. 1 on the U.K. singles charts, and reaching No. 6 in America. The demand was high for some in-person shows. Looking to capitalize doubly on that success as quickly as possible, the band also booked a number of recording dates while on the road in the U.S. In Memphis, they linked up with legendary Sun Records label head Sam Phillips and recorded two tracks, “The Train Kept-A-Rollin’” and “You’re A Better Man Than I” on September 12, 1965. A week later they found themselves in Chicago, where they stopped by the epicenter of that city’s famed blues scene, Chess Records, and laid down a rather appropriate cover of the Bo Diddley song “I’m A Man.” Eventually, they took the tapes of all three songs with them to New York City and punched them up at Columbia Recording Studios.

Of those three songs, “The Train Kept-A-Rollin’” went on to be one of The Yardbirds’ most recognized hits; a veritable anthem that could be heard blaring out from behind closed garage doors across America in the years to come. Originally recorded by Tiny Bradshaw in 1951 as a boogie-woogie jazz standard piece, in the hands of The Yardbirds the tune was transformed into a galloping, harmonica-inflected, tour de force of electric guitar wailing. The song opens with a simulated train whistle from Beck’s trusted Fender Esquire before kicking into an almost hypnotic, chugging clip with wave after wave of guitar solos slamming into the speaker. It was entirely unhinged and gave a new sound and attitude for fledgling young rockers, like those in Aerosmith and Alice Cooper, something to aspire toward. 

Three tracks does not a record make, however, and once The Yardbirds concluded their American tour they reassembled at a variety of studios in London to cut the rest of the material for the next release. Among these were the Indian inspired “Heart Full Of Soul”—that’s not a sitar on this song, but rather Beck’s own guitar that he modified to approximate the sound of one; “Evil Hearted You,” which features an inspired Ventures-style guitar solo from Beck; and the lone original song on the entire record, the dirge-like “Still I’m Sad,” written by bassist Paul Samwell-Smith and drummer Jim McCarty.

Everyone agreed that what they had in the can all sounded fresh, exciting, and contained just the right kind of eclecticism to propel them back to the top of the charts. The only catch was that six songs still wasn’t enough for a full album and the clock was ticking. Pressed to the wall, the band and its manager decided that the best course of action would be to include four tracks from a live show that they had performed with Eric Clapton the year before at the Crawdaddy Club to fill out the LP’s second side. It was a compromise, but as far as compromises go, it was an inspired one.

The four songs that the band chose to throw onto the album included a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s signature tune “Smokestack Lighting,” The Isley Brothers’ “Respectable,” and two Bo Diddley songs, “Here ’Tis,” and another version of “I’m A Man.” In a bit of a twist, all of these tracks actually appeared on its U.K. debut album Five Live Yardbirds. It can only be presumed that by adding this collection of material it was the group’s goal to introduce American audiences to its earlier signature blues sound. Because they used recycled material that had already been issued as singles in their home country, Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds did not receive a U.K. release.

It’s an interesting exercise to listen to both versions of “I’m A Man” back-to-back to get a sense of the natural predilections and style of each of the group’s two guitar players up to that point. Being that it was cut live, the version with Clapton on six-string lead is the more raved up take of the two, but even then, a lot of the mania is derived from lead singer Keith Relf’s dynamic harmonica play. However the moment that Clapton bursts out to the front with the warp speed chucka-chucka chord play is absolutely thrilling. The studio version is miles away more controlled and finds Beck playing his own game of call-and-response until he can’t match himself anymore and devolves into a maelstrom of screeching and scratching noises scrapped out from against his guitar strings. Same playbook, different plays.

When it finally debuted on November 15, 1965, the album was not the immediate commercial success that the band had hoped it would be. It did well, topping out at No. 53 on the Billboard album charts in February of the following year, but then slowly receded from view. Despite its middling showing with the general public, Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds was a huge hit among the coming-of-age rock-set and the critical elite who hailed the album’s unique and dynamic sound. In a contemporary review Billboard Magazine singled the record out for performing “a variety of material, from blues to country [rockabilly] to rhythm and blues… all swingers and loaded with excitement and discotheque appeal.”

Things moved fast when you were a rock or pop group in the ’60s and just a few months after Rave Up hit the shelves, The Yardbirds were already ensconced in Advision Studios in London working on their even more out-there follow-up album titled either Roger The Engineer or Over, Under, Sideways, Down depending on who you ask. For his part, Clapton was working with singer John Mayall on the album Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton that all but defined the overall aesthetic of blues-rock for generations to come. Beck and Clapton continued to explore entirely opposite directions and did so in a way that shaped the sounds of those around them, and the sounds from those who came after. Both of their influences should come as no surprise after listening to Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds.
by Corbin Reiff, 2/16/16

1. You're A Better Man Than I (Mike Hugg) - 3:21
2. Evil Hearted You (Graham Gouldman) - 2:27
3. I'm A Man (Ellas McDaniel) - 2:40
4. Still I'm Sad (Paul Samwell-Smith, Jim McCarty) - 3:01
5. Heart Full Of Soul (Graham Gouldman) - 2:31
6. Train Kept A-Rollin' (Howie Kay, Lois Mann, Tiny Bradshaw) - 3:28
7. Smokestack Lightning (Chester Burnett) - 5:40
8. Respectable (O'Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley) - 5:30
9. I'm A Man (Ellas McDaniel) - 4:26
10.Here 'Tis (Ellas McDaniel) - 5:09
11.Shapes Of Things (Paul Samwell-Smith, Keith Relf, Jim McCarty) - 2:28
12.New York City Blues (Keith Relf, Chris Dreja) - 4:21
13.Over Under Sideways Down (Jeff Beck, Paul Samwell-Smith, Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja) - 2:26
14.Jeff's Boogie (Jeff Beck) - 2:28
15.Happenings Ten Years Time Ago (Jeff Beck, Paul Samwell-Smith, Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja) - 2:59
16.The Nazz Are Blue (Jeff Beck, Paul Samwell-Smith, Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja) - 3:08

The Yardbirds
*Keith Relf – Vocals, Harmonica, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion
*Jeff Beck – Lead Guitar
*Eric Clapton – Lead Guitar
*Chris Dreja – Rhythm Guitar, Bass
*Paul Samwell-Smith – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Jim McCarty – Drums, Vocals
*Giorgio Gomelsky – Vocal
*Ron Prentice – Bass

1963-68  The Yardbirds - Glimpses (five disc box set, 2011 release)
1964  The Yardbirds - Five Live Yardbirds (2007 Repertoire digi pack with extra tracks)
1965  The Yardbirds - For Your Love (japan 2018 mono edition)
1965-68  The Yardbirds - Live At The BBC (2016 double disc remaster)  
1968  The Yardbirds - Live Yardbirds! (2008 edition)
Related Acts
1969  Renaissance - Renaissance (2008 remaster)
1970  Renaissance - Illusion (2010 bonus tracks remaster)
1977  Illusion - Out Of The Mist (2011 remaster)
1978  Illusion – Illusion (2011 remaster) 

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Friday, July 10, 2020

Tear Gas - Piggy Go Getter (1970 uk, excellent progressive rock with psych folk shades, 2019 remaster)

For Piggy Go Getter, Wullie Monroe, late of Ritchie Blackmore’s abortive pre-Deep Purple band Mandrake Root, replaced Lavis (who’d go on to play in Squeeze) and David Batchelor succeeded Mulvey. The band cut their teeth performing gigs all over Glasgow, performing originals and selections from Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, and The Jeff Beck Group (in fact, Tear Gas’s version of Beck’s “Jailhouse Rock/All Shook Up” medley appears on their self-titled album). Their live act caught the attention of Tony Calder, one of The Rolling Stones’ managers. He signed Tear Gas for the Famous Music label, a subsidiary of Paramount, and the group joined up with producer Tony Chapman and engineer Tom Allom to record their debut.

They set up in Regent Sound Studios, already a legendary space where The Rolling Stones had cut their first single, and where Black Sabbath had recorded their first albums. The band recorded for only a week, drawing from the originals they’d tested out in concert, and left the mixing to the engineer. The band never got the opportunity to hear (much less, approve) the final mixes before the album hit stores. With a lavish gatefold and two cartoon strips, the original LP was something of a deluxe affair. The cartoons are replicated in the comprehensive, 20-page booklet within Esoteric’s new edition, alongside detailed liner notes with interviews with band members and lyrics for each song for all to sing along to.

And for a band that idolized the likes of Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Jeff Beck, songs like “Nothing Can Change Your Mind” are head-scratchingly catchy, with a sing-along chorus and a surprising lack of shredding.  In fact, the light vocal harmonies, subtle organ, and Blood, Sweat and Tears-like verses wouldn’t be too out of place on AM radio.  “Lost Awakening,” meanwhile, sounds like an outtake from Dave Mason’s Alone Together, with blended acoustic guitar and and electric stabs underscoring a story of lost love before gliding into an extended wah-wah’d guitar solo.

“Living For Today” is a heavier, rollicking selection of riff-rock with impressively high harmonies, soulful lead vocals, and organ interjections that evoke early Deep Purple.  “Mirrors of Sorrow” explores similar territory, a song about loneliness and depression that’s juxtaposed with with catchy organ riffs atop “Hush”-like backing and a “Hey Bulldog”-inspired guitar riff.

While the album didn’t move many units back in 1970, it remains a curious collection five decades on – the work of a band with potential blending equal parts psychedelia and folk-rock, with ample blues influence, and some West Coast vibrations thrown in. While the guitar work isn’t as heavy on Piggy Go Getter as what was to come with their next studio effort, the band’s lyrics are fully formed and their arrangements retain a sense of dynamics that’s sometimes lost in other rock music of the time.

For all the recognition that SAHB has found in recent years, little has been written about Tear Gas and their two lone recordings remained hard-to-find for decades.  Esoteric has fixed that by presenting these newly remastered editions of Piggy Go Getter and Tear Gas for discerning fans everywhere.  With new remastering that faithfully serves the material, detailed liner notes (some repetition forgiven), and restored artwork, these two titles are a must for anyone looking to dig deeper into the rock scene in Scotland ca. 1970.
by Sam Stone, July 9, 2019

1. Lost Awakening - 3:29
2. Your Woman's Gone And Left You - 2:26
3. Night Girl (David Batchelor, Zal Cleminson, Chris Glen) - 5:43
4. Nothing Can Change Your Mind - 3:36
5. Living For Today - 3:01
6. Big House - 3:38
7. Mirrors Of Sorrow (David Batchelor, Zal Cleminson, Chris Glen) - 5:56
8. Look What Else Is Happening (David Batchelor, Zal Cleminson, Chris Glen) - 5:04
9. I'm Fallin' Far Behind (David Batchelor, Zal Cleminson, Richard Monro) - 3:00
10.Witches Come Today - 3:18
All compositions by David Batchelor and Zal Cleminson unless otherwise stated.

Tear Gas
*David Batchelor - Lead vocals
*Zal Cleminson - Guitar
*Richard Monro - Drums
*Eddie Campbell - Keyboards
*Chris Glen - Bass

1971  Tear Gas - Tear Gas (2019 remaster)
Related Act
1972-73  The Senstational Alex Harvey Band - Framed / Next (2002 remaster and 2014 japan SHM)
1974  The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Hot City / The Unreleased Album (2009 release)
1976  The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - British Tour '76 (2004 remaster)

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Tear Gas - Tear Gas (1971 uk, superb hard prog rock, 2019 remaster and 1993 bonus track issue)

Tear Gas, the Scottish rock outfit, released a pair of albums in the early ’70s that vividly highlighted their talents for guitar-based rock. Though the band kept up a rigorous touring schedule, it only really paid off once a few band members joined with Alex Harvey as The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Still, Esoteric’s reissues of Piggy Go Getter (in its first-ever official CD release) and its follow up Tear Gas show the band’s early promise.

The Glasgow-based group originally formed in the tail end of the ’60s and included Eddie Campbell on keys, Zal Cleminson on guitar, Chris Glen on bas and vocals, Gilson Lavis on drums, and Andi Mulvey on vocals. By 1970, their lineup had changed.

By 1971, Tear Gas had undergone another shift in personnel as Eddie Campbell departed and Ted McKenna replaced Wullie Monroe on drums. Session keyboardist Ronnie Leahy stepped in during the sessions of what would become the band’s self-titled second album. He was a skilled player and, as Zal Cleminson recalls in the liner notes, “[Leahy] could do exactly what we needed.” The band’s goal for their next album was to create a collection of more rock-leaning material. While the debut had some Traffic-like hippie-folk, Tear Gas was inspired by some of their contemporaries to embrace a heavier sound.

To that end, Tear Gas took a stab at that Jeff Beck Group arrangement of “Jailhouse Rock/All Shook Up” and covered Jethro Tull’s “Love Story.” The latter, with its slow build and sudden dynamic shifts, was often the dramatic opener for Tear Gas’s live shows. With more than one scorching guitar solo and several intense instrumental interludes, “Love Story” was a far cry from some of the lighter fare on their debut. The medley of “Jailhouse Rock” and “All Shook Up” was equally heavy, with layers upon layers of distorted guitars consistently propelling the tunes forward, if sometimes burying the vocals along the way.

Other highlights include the rockabilly-inspired “Lay It On Me.”  Its crunchy leads, honky tonk piano, and layered slide guitar lines demonstrate their country-rock flair, which they amp up as loud as possible.  The Sabbath-like “I’m Glad” begins as a more straight-ahead heavy rocker with an array of propulsive guitar riffs.  After a lengthy solo, the band glides gently into the second part of the song – a more tender, ballad-like B-section with electric twelve strings, phasey drums, and yearning (if not particularly strong) vocals.  The band builds just as quickly into another rocking exit.

Though sales figures for Tear Gas showed much room for improvement, the album’s release brought the group attention throughout Europe.  In early 1972, Tear Gas opened for Alex Harvey at London’s Marquee Club.  By the middle of the year, faced with the fact that they weren’t going to reach the levels of their heroes, Glen, McKenna, and Cleminson signed on to be Harvey’s back-up group, eventually becoming known as The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.  Donning larger-than-life glam outfits and performing experimental-leaning music, the SAHB, as it became known, found a cult following in Europe.
by Sam Stone, July 9, 2019

1. That's What's Real (Davey Batchelor, Zal Cleminson) - 6:03 
2. Love Story  (Ian Anderson) - 7:00 
3. Lay It On Me  (Davey Batchelor, Zal Cleminson) - 3:44 
4. Woman For Sale  (Davey Batchelor, Zal Cleminson) - 4:23 
5. I'm Glad (Davey Batchelor, Zal Cleminson) - 5:43
6. Where Is My Answer (Davey Batchelor, Zal Cleminson) - 5:54 
7. a. Jailhouse Rock (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)
...b. All Shook Up  (Elvis Presley, Otis Blackwell) - 5:44
8. The First Time (Davey Batchelor, Zal Cleminson) - 4:47
9. The Temptation Of St. Anthony (Alex Harvey) - 5:06
Bonus Track 9

Tear Gas
*Davey Batchelor - Vocals, Guitar
*Zal Cleminson - Lead Guitar
*Chris Glen - Bass, Vocals
*Ted McKenna - Drums
*Hugh McKenna - Keyboards (Track 9)
*Alex Harvey - Vocals (Track 9)

Related Act
1972-73  The Senstational Alex Harvey Band - Framed / Next (2002 remaster and 2014 japan SHM) 
1976  The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - British Tour '76 (2004 remaster) 

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Friday, July 3, 2020

The Alabama State Troupers - Alabama State Troupers Road Show (1971 us, awesome blend of traditional folk spiritual electric blues, 2016 double disc remaster)

Today, it's almost unthinkable that a major record label would send a 15-piece band fronted by a 78-year-old bluesman and two virtually unknown singers on the road for promotional tour dates at $1.50 per ticket. But that's precisely what Elektra Records did in 1971, when the Alabama State Troupers hit the circuit. The glorious results are heard on this reissue of the group's lone live album, issued as a two- LP set in 1972 and released legitimately on CD for the first time here. Point man for this unorthodox trek was Don Nix, who had already inscribed his name in music history by the time the Troupers took to the highway. His tale is told in detail in his literally delicious 1997 book Road Stories and Recipes, which mates Nix's rich curriculum vilae with down-home culinary treats proffered by a host of famous colleagues. (Nix plans to re release his memoir in 2014.)

A Memphis native, Nix was the founding baritone saxophonist of the Royal Spades, a Bluff City R&B group that also included his high school buddies, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn (later of Booker T. & the M.G.'s), and saxophonist Charles "Packy" Axton. Rechristened the Mar-Keys (an adaptation of the Marquis, a handle suggested by Nix), the group cut the 1961 single "Last Night," which became the first instrumental smash for Stax Records, the Memphis label co owned by Axton's mother Estelle. After tearing up the chitlin circuit in front of black audiences thunderstruck by the soulful skills of the young, white players, the Mar Keys disbanded in 1965. Nix soon learned the fundamentals of record engineering at John Fry's Memphis studio Ardent and became a house producer at Stax; he also served on the label's famed all-star tour of Europe and Scandinavia. During a sojourn in Los Angeles, he became a close associate of Leon Russell, and jammed with the Tulsa-bred musician's massive Electric Horn Band, which planted the seeds of his own live project to come.

"Leon put together the Electric Horn Band right before [Joe Cocker's] Mad Dogs & Englishmen [big band]," Nix says today. "We'd rehearse every Sunday afternoon in the warehouse over in Studio City. Some Sundays there would be 30 people – maybe two or three drummers and two or three keyboards. It was an amazing thing. We did it just for fun. That's kinda what started it all." Nix became the first artist besides Russell signed by Denny Cordell's Shelter Records, and released his debut solo album, In God We Trust, on the label in 1971. Like that record, a follow-up, Living By the Days, was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound, the Alabama studio established in 1969 by the former house rhythm section at Rick Hall's nearby FAME facility. Impatience with Shelter led Nix to secure a release and sign with Elektra, which picked up the second album.

In '71, Elektra was making a major investment in acts forwarding a funky amalgamation of rock, R&B, blues, country, and gospel, and Nix became a major player in the mix. He had co-written four songs with singer-guitarist Lonnie Mack (of "Wham!" and "Memphis" renown) for The Hills of Indiana, Mack's third album for the company. He had also produced Maty Called Jeanie Greene, the debut album by seasoned backup singer Greene, a gospel-infused belter who like her thenhusband Marlin was a key performer on sessions at Muscle Shoals. The label's Nashville A&R chief Russ Miller envisioned a low-priced package tour that would jointly promote Mack, Nix, and Greene. It was left to Nix to assemble a band.

Nix says, "I loved Muscle Shoals, 'cause I'd been working down there, and I loved most everything in Memphis. So I got half my players from Muscle Shoals and half from Memphis. I think we had 15 people altogether. I had two drummers, two guitar players, two keyboard players, six background singers." The supporting players were dubbed the Mt. Zion Band & Choir, after a Baptist church spotted during an Alabama photo shoot. From Muscle Shoals Sound, Nix drew Marlin Greene, keyboardist Clayton Ivey, bassist Bob Wray, and hotshot guitarists Wayne Perkins and Tippy Armstrong. Drummer Fred Prouty joined from FAME. The Memphis contingent included keyboardist Ken Woodly and Jerry Lee Lewis' longtime drummer Tarp Tarrant. Brenda Patterson and the vocal trio the Minutes (Mary Anderson, Carolyn Watkins, and Marianne Watkins) were drafted for choral duties. It was a huge group for the day, but its big sound had already been successfully exploited commercially by Delaney and Bonnie & Friends and Cocker and Russell's Mad Dogs & Englishmen, both of which had involved Russell's participation.

Nix says. "I was doing that stuff back in the '60s. I worked with Leon for five years, from '63 to '69. My gig was always a soul choir, having background singers singing like they were in church. He kinda got that...I always had two drummers. That's a really dynamic thing in a live concert. Leon had three of 'em on Mad Dogs & Englishmen. I'm not saying I started it or he started it." Disaster nearly struck the Troupers during the ramp-up for the tour, when without explanation Mack bolted after only three days of rehearsals in Muscle Shoals. "He just split," Nix says. "We went into his room that morning, and he had the Bible open to a passage - 'Get thee out of Zion.' I guess he took that as a sign. I called the people at Elektra and told 'em, and they said, 'What you gonna do?' I said, 'Furry Lewis!' It was a godsend."

A close friend of Nix's since the early '60s, septuagenarian singer and slide guitarist Lewis had recorded several indelible acoustic blues sides in 1927-29, then retreated from music to work as a Memphis street sweeper. Rediscovered by folklorist Sam Charters in 1959, he had cut new albums during the '60s blues revival, but was scarcely known outside the universe of genre aficionados. Lewis had made cameo appearances on both of Nix's studio albums. "It was just fate that I was gonna get to take him all over the country and expose him to all these people who had never heard of the Delta blues, mostly in California and Washington state," Nix says. After warm up gigs in Louisiana, Nix's party-hearty rock 'n' roll caravan reached the West Coast, where at one location they received an unusual greeting. "We flew into San Francisco," Nix remembers, "and on the Holiday Inn sign was, 'WELCOME ALABAMA STATE TROUPERS.' About the second night we were there, I got a phone call, said, There's some people down here that want to talk to you.' I said, 'Who is it?' They said, 'California Highway Patrol.' They thought we were the real Alabama State Troopers, although it was spelled different, come out for a convention or some shit. I said, Tell 'em I don't think they want to talk to us.'" Lewis - who sat onstage after the conclusion of his acoustic opener in a rocking chair set on a vintage Persian rug - proved a scene-stealing favorite of the assembled hippie multitudes. ("Halfway through the first song, they were on their feet," Nix says.) One impromptu epiphany from Lewis in Monterey, California, literally stopped the show. 

"It was real overcast," Nix recollects. "We're about halfway through our show, and Furry stands up, and everybody stopped playing. He had a wooden leg, so he kinda hobbled up to the microphone, and he looked up at the sky. And I swear to you, the sun came out came out from behind the clouds right on him, right on his face. Everybody just stopped - there were 6,000 or 7,000 people out there. He looked up and said, 'A chicken ain't nothin' but a bird.' It was like somebody rolled a bowling ball through the crowd. They had no idea what it meant, but it was hip." The electric portion of the Troupers' set included gospel shouters sung by Greene and Nix and barn-burning, soul-infused rockers essayed by Nix. The band invariably closed the show with "Goin' Down," an insistent Nix composition first recorded by the Memphis band Moloch and later memorably covered by Freddie King and Jeff Beck, among others. 

Of special note were the searing solos by Perkins - who would soon audition to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones – and the lesser-known Armstrong, a veteran of sessions with Tony Joe White, Albert King, and Linda Ronstadt and a glamorous, deeply tormented character. Nix says, "One night on the tour, we were in Pasadena. They would have three or four spots, and sometimes on a guitar solo they'd shine 'em on Tippy, and he would step out of the spotlight into the dark, and he would watch his hand go up in the air. That night I asked him, Tippy, what are you doin' in the dark?' He said, 'Oh, I just like watchin' the sparks fly off my fingers.*" Recorded at dates in Pasadena and Long Beach, California, The Alabama State Troupers: Road Show is a flavorful memento of lush rock 'n' roll days gone by. But it is no mere curio: robust and puissant, it can hold its own with other classics of Southern rock's first great era.
by Chris Morris, Los Angeles, September 2013

Disc 1
1. Furry's Blues (Furry Lewis) - 8:09
2. Brownsville (Furry Lewis) - 4:43
3. I'm Black (Furry Lewis) - 2:03
4. A Chicken Ain't Nothin' But A Bird (Furry Lewis) - 2:59
5. Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Traditional) - 4:18
6. Amos Burke (Don Nix) - 2:40
7. Mighty Time (Don Nix) - 2:56
8. Jesus On The Mainline (Traditional) - 3:54
9. Mary Louise (Don Nix) - 3:15
10.Yes, I Do Understand (Jeanie Greene) - 3:30

Disc 2
1. Opening (Bill Pillmore, Pete Kowalke) - 4:29
2. Living In The Country (Bill Pillmore, Scott Boyer) - 2:49
3. Joa-Bim (Tippy Armstrong) - 3:09
4. Dixie (Traditional) - 2:25
5. Heavy Makes You Happy (Bobby Mann, Jeff Barry) - 3:05
6. Iuka (Don Nix) - 5:44
7. Furry's Rap - 1:04
8. Asphalt Outlaw Hero (Don Nix) - 4:10
9. Olena (Don Nix) - 4:15
10.My Father's House (Traditional) - 4:05
11.Going Down (Don Nix) - 6:49
Recorded October 15, 1971 at Long Beach Civic Auditorium, Long Beach, California, and October 17, 1971 at Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena, California.

The Alabama State Troupers
*Furry Lewis - Vocals
*Don Nix - Vocals
*Jeanie Greene - Vocals, Piano
*Marlin Greene - Vocals
*Wayne Perkins - Vocals
*Marianne Watkins - Vocals
*Carolyn "Pepper" Watkins - Vocals
*Mary "Bouche" Anderson - Vocals
*Bob Wray - Bass
*Fred Prouty - Drums
*Tarp Tarrant - Drums
*Tippy Armstrong - Guitar
*Wayne Perkins - Guitar
*Ken Woodly - Organ
*Clayton Ivey - Piano

Related Act
1971  Don Nix - In God We Trust (2016 SHM remaster)
1971  Don Nix - Living By The Days (2011 japan SHM remaster)
1976  Don Nix - Gone Too Long (2018 japan remaster) 
1970  Johnny Jenkins - Ton Ton Macoute! (HDCD remaster) 

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

John Cipollina - Raven (1975-76 us, stunning guitar rock, 2006 remastered and expanded)

Well it's coming up on thirty years since Raven first came together. Out of their ten members, maybe six of them are still left to spread the rumors. There isn't a lot that can be written about a band that lasted barely 10 months, and that played at best, maybe 11 shows. And when you consider that after all this time some of the memories and recollections of the surviving band members may be just a little but fuzzy. Here's their story.

Feeling restless with the lack of gigs with Terry & The Pirates, John Cipollina decided to start his dream band Raven, taking with him members of "the Pirates", Quicksilver and Copperhead for this new project. Raven was John's concept of a "Big Band" - 2 guitarists, 2 drummers, 2 keyboardists, 2 singers, and 1 bass player.

During their reign on the Bay Area music scene Raven included - John Cipollina from Quicksilver Messenger Service and Copperhead on lead guitar; Greg Douglass from Country Weather and Hot Tuna on lead guitar; Skip Olson from Boyd Albritton's band The Jones Boys and Quicksilver on bass guitar; Andy Kirby from King Kong on drums & lead vocals; David Weber from Copperhead and Front Page Review (a band he played with in Boston in 1968) on drums; Jasper "Hutch" Hutchinson from The Jones Boys on vocals & synthesizer; Nicky Hopkins from the Jeff Beck Group and The Rolling Stones on piano; Jim McPherson from Stained Glass and Copperhead on keyboards & vocals; Clay Cotton from the Charlie Musselwhite Band on keyboards and Dave Walker from Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown on vocals. (John told me once that he felt that Dave Walker was one of the best vocalists he'd ever worked with). It should also be mentioned that by this time John, Greg, Jim, Nicky, David and Andy had all been members of Terry & The Pirates.

In the beginning, but unknown at the time, Raven was born out of a rehearsal at Cipollina's Black Dragon Studio on December 9, 1975 with John Cipollina, Greg Douglass, Nicky Hopkins, Hutch Hutchinson, Terry Dolan, David Weber, Andy Kirby and Dallas Anderson (who played bass that night and was the "caretaker" of John's Corte Madera studio).

As these jam sessions began to take place, they gradually grew into "actual band rehearsals". John and Greg Douglass had often talked about a "serious" project together, but somehow, something always got in the way. But this time they were determined to start a band. Before John ultimately chose Raven for the band's name he was considering as possible contenders Jewel, California Vipers, Rangers, Witness, Prophet and Powerhouse.

Raven rehearsed non-stop for about six months before their first show, although, if you ask the band, it felt more like a year. But John wanted to make sure that Raven was well-rehearsed and ready to play "the Big Time" before they played out.

They probably rehearsed too much because by the time they were ready to play out, some of the songs already seemed old, not to mention that they were burned out on the lack of gigs and a lack of money! According to Greg Douglass "John had a serious case of cold feet". "John", we'd say, "let's go out and do some gigs, man!" "We're not ready", he'd reply. Raven did finally do some scattered gigs. As Greg Douglass put it "The only thing that would have made it all better is if we could've played out more".

Their first show was on June 27, 1976 at Sundance, a small club up in the mountains near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. John wanted to get out of town to debut the band in secret, far away from the familiar surroundings and scrutiny of the San Francisco Bay Area, and unleash this new band on an unsuspecting audience. Skip Olson blew off a gig with Quicksilver to play these shows, pissing off Gary Duncan and Dino Valenti, and subsequently getting kicked out of Quicksilver. Jim McPherson played bass at these gigs because Skip was too sick to play. By all accounts it was a disastrous weekend.

Gary Douglass recalls: "We did this three-night stand in Nevada that still stands near the top of my Worst Gigs Ever List. The first night, the crowd was small but extremely surly. Huge guys would come in small groups and end up scowling and yelling at the band. It turns out the place was a whorehouse that had just been converted into a rock 'n' roll club, without the knowledge of the former patrons. It was an ugly, ugly three days".

Raven then played several back to back Friday/Saturday night gigs: at the Keystone in Berkeley on July 16/17; at the LongBranch Saloon in Berkeley on August 13/14 and then it was back to the Keystone on August 19/20; Jim McPherson played keyboards at the July and August Keystone shows and possibly at the LongBranch Saloon appearances. (There remains some doubt as to whether it was Nicky Hopkins or Jim McPherson that played the LongBranch shows.) On the way to the July 17th Keystone gig, Skip was pulled over by the cops for speeding and not having a driver's licence, which is why their first set was short.

For their last gig on September 4, 1976, also at the Keystone, Clay Cotton played keyboards; Andy Kirby stepped out from behind the drums and was singing lead voals (leaving David Weber as the only drummer), and featuring their new vocalist Dave Walker on a few songs. (Now whether or not Dave played more than one show or if both Keystone shows scheduled for that weekend actually took place, no one can remember).

The songs Raven played showcased the music and songwriting skills of Joh Cipollina, Greg Douglass and Jim McPherson, with the occasional cover tune thrown in for fun. As Greg Douglass put it "A lot of Raven's songs were structurally pretty strange, but at the same time pretty well written and well performed".

Other songs that were part of Raven's repertoire included: Takes All Kinds, Post Scripts, Special Kind of Love, Wet Wild & Warm, All American Boy, Fingers, Snake Eyes, Cloye, Rain or Come Shine, Your Move, She's That Kind of Woman, Moon Light Traveler, Vampira, Saw Tooth, Fever Dreams, Oxblood, and Two Roads (A song by Boyd Albritton).

Over the years there has been much confusion over the identity of Hutch Hutchinson in Raven which is Jasper "Hutch" Hutchinson. The "Hutch Hutchinson" that played bass with Copperhead, Terry & The Pirates and who plays with Bonnie Raitt is "James" Hutch Hutchinson. Jasper was introduced to Cipollina by James, but was brought in to Raven by Skip Olson. (Where is the scorecard to keep this information straight when you need one?)

In 1975 Skip was playing with Cipollina in the reunited Quicksilver Messenger Service and recording at Wally Heider's world renowned studio in San Francisco with Boyd Albritton on guitar & vocals, along with Hutch Hutchinson, Nicky Hopkins, Greg Douglass, Michael Lewis (keyboards), with Sammy Piazza & Harold Aceves (who had also played with Quicksilver) on drums. (In 1998 these recordings were released as Boyd Albritton Band Prehistoric Raven.) John liked Boyd's song "Clouds" so much that he recorded it for the Raven album; Boyd in appreciation of this insisted that John shared the writing credit with him.

Reflecting back Andy Kirby feels that "Cipollina made sure that there were 2 drummers, 2 singers and 2 keyboard players because, in the event someone called in sick, John could still go out and play the gig". Andy also recalls that Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin was being considered as a possible member for Raven and even came over and jammed one day. "He was considered for the band, but I don't recall ever having met the man. John loved his singing & playing. I do remember that" says Greg Douglass.

Having Nicky Hopkins in the band made for some interesting moments. "For instance, there was the high note high dive" factor as Greg Douglass calls it. "Nicky would do one of those spectacular runs up the keyboard all the way to the top note... and keep going, and all of a sudden Bang! He was off the stool and on the floor. To keep Nicky from being seriously injured, Dallas Anderson rigged up a canvas seat belt to prevent any further chromatically-driven spills."

At one rehearsal Raven found themselves being surrounded by a S.W.A.T. team, who thought they were the Symbionese Liberation Army (the group of radicals that kidnapped Patty Hearst). It seems that the band had been shooting at bottles with some of John's extensive gun collection whe a neighbor called the cops, saying they[sic] we're terrorists. A great deal of fast talking was done to convince the gun-toting police specialists that they were just a bunch of goofy old guitar pickers. Dallas did a nice job of hiding Cipollina's M-16s while the band engaged the S.W.A.T. team leader at the front door.

Playing with Raven was a stretch for Clay Cotton because he had come from a Blues & R&B background and Raven was a rock 'n' roll band. He was brought to the band by Skip Olson with whom he worked with in Charlie Musselwhite's band. Clay remembers being treated with dignity and nobility when he met John and Raven and found John to be a gentleman and a true world class artist. "He was clearly a creative genius and composer who put together unique and esoteric songs that had power and integrity" and recalls that "the band played interesting and challenging music that was spot on. I especially remember Fever Dreams as being a zany song with zany lyrics". What appealed to Clay the most was that John had an intellect and personality and wished he could have known John, the person, a little bit better.

Todd Tolces, the San Francisco correspondent for Melody Maker, arranged for Dave Walker to meet John Cipollina and Greg Douglass at Fantasy Studios in 1975. He would later go over to Black Dragon and "jam" a couple of times. Shortly after this Dave moved back to England for about 7 months, and upon his return to the States in August of 1976, he went down to the KSAN studios and signed up on their musicians directory, looking for a band to join. No sooner than he comes home that day the phone rings and it was Cipollina reintroducing himself, and they started hanging out, which led to band practices and recording sessions at John's studio, and then some gigs with Raven. Walker noted, "Being with John gets a little deeper than just doing gigs."

Raven practiced a lot in the studio and they had a lot of freedom to stretch out and play. Dave Walker commented, "Although John was kind of the figurehead of everything, he still counted himself as one of the guys. If you had some kind of idea he was the type of guy that would say, "let's give it a shot and see if we can work something out". John and Greg were kindred spirits and they were a great teaming of guitarists, maybe one of the finest of all time."

Walker continues, "John played with a lot of people and felt he had a lot of responsibility to his friends and he took it seriously. John gave you the free will to be yourself in the studio and on the stage; he was the kind of guy who wouldn't let you down. If he felt he had an obligation to play with someone he would. I've enjoyed playing in America so much more than playing in England, becuase of that freedom to play and be yourself. John got me started here and made it possible for me to continue playing music in America. He took me under his wing a little, and I'll always be grateful for that. Let me put it this way, I've played with a lot of people, but playing with John and Greg Douglass was always a lot of fun".

Raven was an awesome band that was chocked full of some incredibly talented musicians who got along famously, had a lot of potential, and who showed a lot of promise. Maybe the band was too good; but with their aggravation over the lack of gigs and money, members started losing interest. Funny thing though, their disdain for the lack of gigs and money didn't get in the way of their enthusiasm for the music that they creating, both live and in the studio.

At this point Raven wasn't playing live anymore, they weren't earning any money either. This continual underlying theme of "No Gigs equals No Money", only went to underscore once again the frustrations that they felt, and which had plagued them ever since their inception. Greg Douglass sensed Raven's time had about run its course and was preparing for it.

Raven never really broke up; they just stopped playing together, or as John Cipollina explained "Bands in Marin County never really break up; they just have a new rehearsal and fail to tell somebody about it."

Feeling restless with the lack of gigs with Raven, Greg Douglass decided to star a new band, taking with him members of Raven and adopting the name of his old band Mistress and within a month they... De'ja vu... This sounds somewhat familiar... I think this is almost where I started...

In 1980 Line Records in Germany released the Raven recordings as John Cipollina Raven on vinyl. That release was made from a cassette tape that belonged to Andy Kirby; (John didn't have access to his masters so he borrowed Andy's reference tape to use as the master for the record's release).

To summarize - Raven was a powerhouse of a band that played with conviction, fire, intensity, and spirit along with that typical John Cipollina "Take No Prisoners" attitude. The energy and precision with which the band played was a wonder to behold. In looking back, all those rehearsals actually did pay off and they were ready all along.

This CD re-issue has been expanded with studio and live bonus tracks, re-mastered and re-sequenced and really gives the listener a good idea of just how great a band Raven really was!
by Mike Somavilla, 2006

1. Rock And Roll Nurse - 5:29
2. True Golden Touch - 5:20
3. Do What You Do - 6:31
4. Unvicious Circle - 6:51
5. True Reward - 3:05
6. Grass is Always Greener - 4:14
7. Clouds (John Albritton, John Cipollina) - 4:42
8. All Worth The Price (Greg Douglass) - 5:27
9. Ride (Highway Song) - 6:17
10.Burning Corte Madera (Jim McPherson) - 3:33
11.The Truth - 4:02
12.Bad News (Greg Douglass) - 3:57
13.Razor Blade And Rattlesnake (Deke Leonard) - 5:04
14.Prayers (Brian Kilcourse, Greg Douglass) - 3:33
All compositions by John Cipollina except where stated
Tracks 1,3,4,7,8,12,14 His Master's Wheels, San Francisco, CA
Tracks 2,6,11 Black Dragon Studios,San Rafael, CA
Track 5 Keystone, Berkeley, CA, June 7, 1976
Tracks9, 10 Blue Bear Studio, San Francisco, CA, October 15, 1976
Track 13 Venue unknown, Berkeley, CA, September 2, 1976

*John Cipollina - Guitars, Solo Vocal, Backup Vocal
*Greg Douglass -  Guitar, Plectrum Guitar, Bottleneck Guitars
*Nicky Hopkins - Piano
*Jasper "Hutch" Hutchinson - Vocals
*Skip Olson - Bass, Backup Vocal
*David Weber - Drums
*Andrew Kirby - Drums Backup Vocal
*Dave Walker - Vocals

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