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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Compton And Batteau - In California (1970 us, brilliant groovy baroque folk, 2017 remaster)

In the beginning there was “Yesterday.”

Then “Eleanor Rigby” came to pass. And just about every teenager (James Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop excepted) wanted to play acoustic guitar, sing important introspective songs, and color those important introspective songs with flutes, oboes, a violin or cello, harpsichords, a bongo or two, gentle harmony voices, perhaps a sitar, bird sounds, and anything else that sounded exotic, classical, jazzy, or mind expanding.

And, oddly enough, some of the albums weren’t too bad. Cambridge–based Appaloosa released its album on big time Columbia Records. The album, which is fundamentally folk music, gets jazzy and classical and had that important Baroque feel in its grooves. But it died a death for the same reason hyphenating last names in marriage always fails: You know, a Smith marries a Jones and becomes Smith-Jones who in turn marries Johnson-Franklin who in turn becomes a Smith-Jones-Johnson-Franklin who then marries someone else who brings four other hyphenated names into the last name equation. After a while, it’s just not worth the bother while trying to fill out a tax form.

There just wasn’t a space in the average record store for a section given to albums under the convoluted category of rock-classical-jazz-baroque-folk-singer songwriter-avant-garde, and pop music. I actually bought Appaloosa’s vinyl debut in the great equalizer of the music industry known as the cut out bin, the record equivalent of Purgatory where all unpopular music waits to be someday rescued from obscurity. Now, I’m not particularly religious, but I am happy to this day for coughing up pocket change for the record. It’s really a classic of its day whose only crime was it just didn’t fit anywhere. Do seek it out.

Thankfully, John Parker Compton (guitar, vocals) and Robin Batteau (violin) ditched the others, dropped a hyphen or two, exchanged coasts, and enlisted such talents as Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, and Rusty Young to cut In California in 1970. This one leaves some of the Baroque stuff back in Cambridge. The first song “Laughter Turns to Blue” is a template for the album. It’s a beautiful acoustic song. There’s a bit of Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Brewer and Shipley, Kenny Loggins, and Allan Taylor, of the English folk scene. “Silk and Steel” with its accenting violin, matches the beauty and loneliness of any song of that era. “Honeysuckle” gets funky and sounds quite a bit like “New Mother Nature” by Canada’s Guess Who (a forgotten band I always try to champion).

But there’s a problem: On the promo, the next song is listed as “Narration.” It lasts a few seconds and is the strummed intro to the final song “California.” Odd. In fact, two other songs are titled “Narration” and each plays a few seconds of that final track, which incidentally, does have some opening narration. Bandcamp also lists these “songs” on this reissue. I checked the always reliable site What Frank Is Listening To only to find, on his original vinyl, those “narration” songs don’t exist. The same is true for the equally reliable site All Music. Now, those tiny bits don’t ruin the album, but they don’t seem to have any point. They certainly don’t add anything.

So I’m confused.

And that’s a shame because this is a nice folk album. Sure, it’s a record very much of its time, but I really liked that time; and there is so much retro-sounding stuff today that pays homage to the free vibe of the 70’s, it only figures that this re-issue is well-timed.

There are many more nice songs. “Elevation” is bare and confessional. It’s the distant older cousin of Jim Croce’s signature sound. “Homesick Kid” mines the same “Kentucky Hills” sound and adds a great bit of piano and dramatic violin. “Proposition” is timeless stuff. This music is what would one day be known as soft rock, when it still possessed some dignity. Of course, that style would later morph into radio friendly hits like Bread’s “Baby I’m-a Want You,” Eric Carman’s “All By Myself,” Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch,” and anything by Phil Collins or The Eagles that took the “fire and rain” out of the guts of the music.

The final song “California” (the one with the actual narration which includes the recorded pleas of porpoises complaining about one of their own being captured!) conjures the enlightened ecological concerns of the times as well as the sound of the great Gordon Lightfoot. Yeah, I love Gord. And that just about completes the circle. Like I said, this record is very much of its time. And what a time it was. Music was still purely an audio experience. It wasn’t mobile and interchangeable with everything else in life. It was as important as water.  Sure, I am glad that Iggy Pop never succumbed to the acoustic introspective craze, but I’m equally happy that Compton and Batteau recorded this sublime bit of west coast folk rock, when the folk stuff still had the moxie that allows it to wear its age well, even after all these years.
by Bill Golembeski, 18 July 2017  

1. Laughter Turns To Blue - 3:22
2. Silk On Steel - 3:30
3. Honeysuckle - 3:07
4. Narration - 0:12
5. Elevator (Robin Batteau) - 1:43
6. Narration - 0:14
7. Homesick Kid - 4:46
8. Proposition - 3:40
9. Narration - 0:14
10.Grotto Farm - 3:46
11.Essa Vanessa - 3:09
12.Zephyr - 2:16
13.Narration - 0:12
14.California (Robin Batteau) - 3:26
Words and Music by John Parker Compton except where stated

*Robin Batteau - Cello, Guitar, Vocals
*John Parker Compton - Vocals
*Bill Elliott - Keyboards
*King Errison - Percussion
*Robin Lane - Backing Vocals
*John London - Bass
*Randy Meisner - Bass
*Jim Messina - Guitar
*Pat Shanahon - Drums
*John Ware - Drums
*Rusty Young - Pedal Steel Guitar

1969  Appaloosa - Appaloosa (2006 japan remaster)

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Monday, August 6, 2018

New Riders Of The Purple Sage - Glendale Train Live Radio Broadcast (1971 us, awesome country psych rock, 2013 release)

Legendary guitarist Jerry Garcia (1942-1995) is best known for his leadership of the quintessential San Franciscan collective, The Grateful Dead. However, in the early 1970's he was concurrently a member of another Californian band, The New Riders of the Purple Sage. Further cementing the connection, the New Riders also frequently played support slots at Grateful Dead gigs during this period. The New Riders of the Purple Sage's eponymous debut album was recorded during the winter of 1970 and released in August 1971. 

Unlike the Dead's sometimes sprawling jams, the NROTPS focus was on tight countrified arrangements. At this stage John Dawson (1945-2009) was the band's only songwriter - composing all ten of the album's tracks. Glendale Train, a song concerning the 1879 robbery by Frank and Jesse James, is a highlight, alongside Last Lonely Eagle and Louisiana Lady. This show from which this broadcast was transmitted was performed just two months after the release of the album. 

The New Riders were playing to an ideal audience as the gig was as support to the Dead. The fact that Jerry Garcia was there onstage, seated behind his pedal steel guitar, made extra sure the New Riders had everyone's rapt attention. In addition to a selection of Dave Torbert's finest original compositions, there was a hand-picked selection of cover versions that acknowledged the influence of the Riders' peers: Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Band. Closing a superb show is a fine reworking of Johnny Otis' perennial R'n'B classic Willie and the Hand Jive.

By the following year, Jerry Garcia had left the band to concentrate his activities in the Grateful Dead. The New Rider's 'golden period' was undoubtedly in the early 1970's and their fourth album, 1973's The Adventures of Panama Red was a career highlight, reaching no.55 on the Billboard charts. They went on to release more than 20 albums, and continued to record and perform - in various line-up configurations - into the new millennium.
CD Liner Notes

The connections between the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Grateful Dead were firm and many, as Dead members Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, and, most notably, Jerry Garcia were members of the New Riders at one point, and the Riders frequently opened for the Dead at concerts in the early years. This live set recorded October 30, 1971 at Taft Auditorium in Cincinnati came after the band had settled into a lineup of John Dawson (guitar, vocals, main songwriter), David Nelson (guitar, vocals), David Torbert (bass, vocals), Spencer Dryden (drums), and at this point, just after the release of the band's self-titled debut album earlier in the year, Garcia was a regular on pedal steel guitar. It was arguably the classic lineup for a band that was initially a spinoff project from the Dead, making this well-recorded live set a historical and archival delight. 
by Steve Leggett

1. Intro By Sam Cutler - 0:29
2. Workin' Man Blues (Merle Haggard) - 3:49
3. Superman - 4:01
4. Down In The Boondocks (Joe South) - 3:12
5. Cecilia - 4:23
6. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, And Loud Music (Joe Maphis, Max Fidler, Rose Lee Maphis) - 4:19
7. Dirty Business - 10:41
8. Truck Drivin' Man (Terry Fell) - 3:07
9. Lochinvar - 4:51
10.Hello Mary Lou (Gene Pitney, Cayet Mangiaracina) - 2:58
11.The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 7:27
12.Glendale Train - 4:53
13.Lodi (John Fogerty) - 4:05
14.Last Lonely Eagle - 6:33
15.Louisiana Lady - 3:57
16.Willie And The Hand Jive (Johnny Otis) - 6:30
All Songs written by John Dawson except where noted

The New Riders Of The Purple Sage
*John Dawson - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*David Nelson - Electric Guitar, Vocals
*Dave Torbert - Bass, Vocals
*Jerry Garcia - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Spencer Dryden - Drums

1971-72  New Riders Of The Purple Sage - New Riders Of The Purple Sage / Powerglide (2002 double disc remaster)
1972  New Riders Of The Purple Sage - Gypsy Cowboy (2007 remaster and expanded)
Related Act
1969  Grateful Dead - Live/Dead
1971  Grateful Dead - Skull and Roses (2001 HDCD bonus tracks edition)

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Milt Matthews Inc - For The People (1971 us, splendid bluesy funk psych rock, 2010 remaster)

Some old recordings are rare for a reason. When I was a kid in the 70s, like lots of other boys my age, I collected beer cans. And we quickly learned some basic tenets of the hobby. An old Busch can wasn’t usually worth much, even though it had a fairly nice full-color Alpine chalet painting on the can. Aesthetics aside, the fact remained that since those suds were cheap and popular, the cans could be found everywhere. They simply weren’t highly sought after by collectors.

Something like Hop’n Gator Tropical Flavored Malt Liquor, on the other hand, was a popular can among collectors. This concoction was, I believe (I never tried it!) an admixture of a Gatorade-like product and some beer from the people who brought you Iron City Beer. In all likelihood it was as awful as it sounds. It didn’t last long, having what we might tactfully characterize as limited appeal. Thus finding a can for one’s collection was a big deal. (I have one, but it’s not in great condition.)

Music is sometimes the same. Unless one is an aficionado of the Incredibly Strange, there are some items that simply aren’t worth tracking down. But there are other cases. To further riff on the beer can metaphor, some regional products were quite good, but failed due to distribution problems.

Which, finally, brings me to an album by Milt Matthews Inc. called For the People. Originally released on the tiny Catalyst label in the USA, this second album by the group sank in the marketplace with nary a trace. For reasons having mostly to do with the uniqueness and quality of the sides therein, UK label Ember licensed the album for re-release in England. They slapped new cover artwork on it — nothing special, but superior to the original — and put it out in 1971.

It sank without a trace. Again. Which was a shame, since it’s a pretty solid album. The period from around 1965 to the early 70s was filled with so much of value, so much groundbreaking and worthwhile music, that there simply wasn’t any practical way to assimilate it all. The mind boggles at how much quality music never got a hearing. The archive-minded folks at Fantastic Voyage think so, too: they’ve reissued the album so that modern-day listeners can avail themselves of Milt Matthews Inc.’s music, a prime example of how-did-we-miss-this.

So, to the music. At its core, the music on For the People is soul of the turn-of-the-decade variety, but the arrangements are richly informed by the best trends of the era. While that funk-jangle-chunka-chunk so popular on soul albums of the day is omnipresent, there is also an awful lot of fuzz guitar on the album. In fact there’s as much fuzz as you’d hear on a record by, say, Blue Cheer or the Electric Prunes. And said fuzz is well-integrated.

Milt Matthews wrote some strong tunes, but in some ways the most interesting numbers on the disc are the covers. Matthews actually went to the trouble to enlist the services of arranger Bert DeCoteaux for the strings on his cover of BB King‘s “The Thrill is Gone” (DeCoteaux did the arrangement for BB as well). But the vacuum-tone leads all over the song owe more to acid-rock and psychedelia than to the Beale Street Blues Boy. Matthews leads the band through the song with ad-libs like “I believe I’ll sing that verse again,” suggesting that (a) the band performed live in the studio or (b) he wanted to give listeners that impression. This reviewer votes for the former. The strings and the lead guitar fills play effectively off one another, creating a head-nodding groove.

A cover of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” reinterprets the song in a manner stylistically related to some of what was coming out of Stax (track down the 2008 compilation Stax Does the Beatles for more in this vein). The fuzz is laid on more thickly than was the wont of, say, Steve Cropper. A string chart adds a lot here as well: there aren’t all that many successful examples of melding of soul and psych.

Matthews’ original tunes are good, too. “Can’t See Myself Doing You Wrong” features hypnotic riffing seemingly influenced by both Traffic and Led Zeppelin. But a soulful female chorus moves the song closer to the sort of thing Isaac Hayes did so well. “O Lord (You Gotta Help Me)” is sort of a soul corollary to what George Harrison was doing at roughly the same time on All Things Must Pass.

The riffy “Runaway People” features lots of wah-wah guitar and piano, striking a note redolent of Sly and the Family Stone. The gospel/soul slow-jam “That’s the Way I Feel (Like a Burning Fire)” would merely be a good tune of its type were it not for the searing fuzz leads — did I mention there’s fuzz all over this record? — that catapult it into something greater. “Disaster Area” is good, too; it was via that track’s inclusion on Fantastic Voyages’ Looking Toward the Sky comp of Ember tracks that this reviewer discovered Milt Mathews Inc.

In 1971 there was still a lot of cross-fertilization going on in music. It wasn’t unheard of to dig both Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell. A singer in the Otis Redding style like Milt Mathews could imbibe the best influences of acts like Blind Faith and apply those influences to his own sound.

Which is exactly what Matthews and his band do on the cover of “Presence of the Lord,” the album closer. Matthews brings the song’s gospel feel — already clear — even more to the fore. Fuzz and wah add to the festivities with a long, searing solo.
by Bill Kopp, May 3rd 2010

1. The Thrill Is Gone (Roy Hawkins, Rick Darnell) - 6:19
2. Can't See Myself Doing You Wrong (Milt Matthews) - 3:34
3. Hard Day's Night (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 5:12
4. Oh Lord (You Gotta Help Me) (Milt Matthews) - 4:01
5. Runaway People (Arlester Christian) - 4:09
6. That's The Way I Feel (Like A Burning Fire) (Milt Matthews) - 5:05
7. Disaster Area (Milt Matthews) - 4:33
8. Presence Of The Lord (Eric Clapton) - 5:30

The Milt Matthews Inc
*Milt Matthews - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
*Randalll Burney - Lead Guitar
*Tommy Byrd - Drums, Percussion
*Norman Harrison - Keyboards
*Carl Matthews - Bass

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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Ashman Reynolds - Stop Off (1972 uk, marvelous classic rock with west coast aura, 2012 korean remaster)

This is an interesting UK early-1970s 'super group' that doesn't seem to have attracted a great deal of attention during it's brief existence and today is all but unknown.

Singer Aliki Ashman had previously worked and recorded with Ginger Baker's Air Force and The Graham Bond Organization, providing backing vocals for a number of their late 1960s albums. In 1971 she decided to step out on her own, hooking up with singer/bassist Harry Reynolds.  Expanding the line up to include former Heavy Metal Kids drummer Keith Boyce, ex-Picadilly Line multi-instrumentalist Rod Edwards, and ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Weston the group attracted the attention of Polydor Records which signed them to a contract.

Recorded in London's A.I.R. Studios with John Miller producing 1972's "Stop Off" wasn't anything like I expected.  Backed by singer Madeline Bell, guitarist Mickey Keen and others, my expectations were to hear something along the lines of a shrill blues-rock set.  Instead tracks like 'Come Right In', 'Country Man', 'They're Only Gonna Take My Life' and 'My Father's Side' came off as a UK version of Delaney and Bonnie.  That comparison might sound strange, but it was apt with the group showing a true penchant for the same mixture of blues, gospel, soul, and rock influences Delaney and Bonnie excelled at.  Ashman and Reynolds shared vocal duties, though Reynolds was in the spotlight far more often. 

While he may have had the stronger voice (hard to believe he was English), Ashman made the most of her isolate solo spots - 'Work Out the Score' was a nice ballad with a haunting West Coast-styled guitar solo from Wilson, while the closer showcased her tougher edge, ending with a killer Wilson solo.  Sound weird?  Definitely, but in a good way.  Once I got over my surprise I discovered the LP was full of charm and winning efforts.  Hard to select a favorite track, but it might be the up tempo rocker 'Long Long Road'.  Complete with a tasty Weston guitar solo the song would have made a dandy single.  Equally impressive were the pretty ballad 'I Wish I Knew' (sporting some dazzling harmony vocals from Ashman and Reynolds).

The band survived long enough to undertake a supporting tour for the LP,  opening for Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown.  That apparently did little for sales and within a couple of months Ashman, Boyce, Edwards, Reynolds, and Weston were supporting Long John Baldry.  Ashman and Reynolds seem to have continued their partnership through the mid-1970s, though they don't seem to have recorded anything else.

On her own Ashman reappeared as a member of the band Casablanca who recorded a 1974 LP for Elton John's Rocket label, only to see it shelved.  The album "The Lost Funk"  was finally released in 2003 by the Second Sight Films Ltd Label, she also  recorded an obscure 1976 single with Arthur Brown - 'Ooh, It Takes Two To Tango' b/w 'Rocking the Boat' (Electric Record Co catalog number WOT7).

1. Come Right In (Harry Reynolds) - 4:45
2. Country Man (Harry Reynolds) - 3:12
3. Long, Long Road (Harry Reynolds) - 3:56
4. They're Only Gonna Take My Life (Rod Edwards, Roger Hand) - 5:13
5. Hymn For Him (Aliki Ashman, Harry Reynolds) - 6:01
6. I Wish I Knew (Aliki Ashman, Harry Reynolds) - 5:47
7. Work Out The Score (Aliki Ashman, Harry Reynolds) - 4:08
8. Taking Off (Aliki Ashman, Bob Weston, Harry Reynolds) - 4:35
9. My Father's Side (Harry Reynolds) - 3:50
10.Help Me (Aliki Ashman, Harry Reynolds) - 5:05

Ashman Reynolds
*Aliki Ashman (Aka Aliki Holland) - Vocals
*Keith Boyce - Drums
*Rod Edwards - Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
*Harry Reynolds - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Weston - Lead Guitar
*Madeline Bell - Vocals
*Tony Clarke - Percussion
*Mickey Keen - Guitar
*Liza Strike - Vocals

Related Acts
1969  Ashkan - In From The Cold (Japanese limited edition)
1967  Picadilly Line - The Huge World Of Emily Small
1968  The Edwards Hand - Edwards Hand
1970  Edwards Hand - Stranded (Japan remaster edition)
1971  Edwards Hand - Rainshine (2015 issue)

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Motherlode - When I Die The Best Of Motherlode (1970/72 canada, magnificent brass jazzy classic rock, 2008 bonus tracks remaster)

The roots of the original Motherlode can be traced back to some of Toronto's hottest club acts in the late '60s. Despite the rave reviews and loyal following, The Soul Searchers were spinning their wheels. Steve Kennedy (sax & harmonica) and William Smith (keyboards), who's resume also included some time with David Clayton Thomas's bands prior to BST, decided to go out on their own, and joined another hot commodity on Yonge Street, Grant Smith & The Power.

But that band was mostly playing everyone else's material, and the majority of the 9-piece ensemble was growing restless, and parted ways in 1968. Kennedy and Smith, along with guitarist Ken Marco and drummer Wayne Stone, decided to go out on their own. They packed up their gear and their bongs, and moved to London to escape the pressures and rat race of living in Toronto.

They began playing on the local circuit there while writing their own material, and barely scratching out a living, when they caught the attention of Mort Ross, president of Revolver Records. He signed them to a deal and the band spent the spring of '69 in the studios with producers Doug Riley (Dr Music) and Terry Brown, who would later be producer of Rush, among a million other credits.

With US distribution through Neil Bogart's (KISS, Donna Summer) Buddha Records, the debut album, WHEN I DIE, was released that summer. But amid a considerable amount of hype, the title track eventually climbed in the top 10 in Canada and went gold, and pleasantly surprising, peaked at #18 Stateside. The follow-up single "Memories Of A Broken Promise" stalled at #25, but with a heavy tour schedule to back the product, record execs were happy, and paid for some recording time that fall.

For some reason RPM Magazine, based out of Toronto coincidentally, decided to declare them Canada's first 'supergroup' ... perhaps a bit premature, as they split up only a couple of months later, in January 1970 with eveyone except Smith became Dr Music's revised backup band. But Mort Ross and Revolver Records owned the name 'Motherlode,' And since he hadn't yet recouped the vested financial investment he'd made in the group, Ross decided to produce and release a second album. TAPPED OUT was in the stores that spring, but only in the US, and unfortunately not many copies left those store shelves.

Although following the same basic funk/soul rock to it, the record was generally perceived as disjointed, sounding incomplete. Because there was minimal material to work with, the songs had to be extended as much as possible, and only seven made the album. With the songs too long for radio play and station PDs not all that interested, it went nowhere.

But ever the opitimist, Ross installed revolving doors in the dressing rooms and studio, and over the next year several incarnations of Motherlode came and went. He convinced Smith to come back on board for one version that played a few smaller dates together, and released a pair of singles, "Dear Old Daddy Bill" and "I'm So Glad You're You." Neither song lit up the charts, and since it was a makeshift marriage destined to fail anyway, everyone went their separate ways.

Another version of the group centred around singer Breen LeBoeuf (ex of Chimo, Soutchote, Studebaker Hawk) and guitarist Gord Waszek (ex of Leigh Ashford), which released the single "All That's Necessary." With no money to back the project, that too didn't fare well. Interestingly, the b-side to that song was "The Chant," a reworking of "Hiro Smothek" from the second album. That version split up, and LeBoeuf retreated to mostly studio work over the years, as well as working on some French projects, then later joining Offenbach and then April Wine.

Bassist Mike Levine (later of Triumph) was among the remnants when a third lineup was formed only months later, this time centering around singer Wayne St John (THP Orchestra, Domenic Troiano Band). The final lineup to bear the name 'Motherlode' came in the spring of '71, the shortest lived version yet, which featured George Olliver on vocals.

The original lineup reunited in '76 to record and tried to release the song "Happy People" under the Motherlode monikor. Mort Ross still owned the name, and therefore naturally vetoed the idea, and the song was released as a Kenny Marco solo project. The name stayed dead until a reunion was scheduled for Club Bluenote in Toronto in late 1989. This sparked a renewed interest in recording some new material, but those sessions have yet to be released. 

1. When I Die (Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 3:18
2. Oh! See The White Light (Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 2:38
3. You Ain't Lookin' In The Right Place Baby (Ken Marco, Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 3:47
4. Help Me Find Peace Of Mind (Ken Marco) - 3:20
5. Hard Life (Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 4:00
6. Child Without Mother (Ken Marco, Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 3:50
7. Dear Old Daddy Bill (Ken Marco, Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 2:51
8. Memories Of A Broken Promise (Dianne Brooks) - 2:26
9. Soft Shell (Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 4:59
10.Living Life (Ken Marco) - 3:54
11.What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) (Harvey Fuqua, Johnny Bristol, Vernon Bullock) - 2:20
12.Can't You Find Love (Steve Kennedy) - 2:37
13.Quality Of Leadership (Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 2:41
14.Righteous Land (Ken Marco) - 3:45
15.Been So Long (Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 5:43
16.Robert E. Lee (Louis Muir, Wolf Gilbert) - 1:51
17.Black Cat (Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith) - 3:26
18.Hiro Smothek (Steve Kennedy, William Daniel Smith, Ken Marco, Wayne "Stoney" Stone) - 6:20
19.Lilac Wine (James H. Shelton) - 8:52

*Ken Marco - Electric Guitar, Vocals
*William Daniel Smith - Organ, Piano, Harpsichord, Vocals
*Wayne "Stoney" Stone - Drums
*Carol Kay - Bass, Acoustic Guitar
*Steve Kennedy - Tenor Saxophone, Harmonica, Vocals
*Dave Young - Bass (Track #11)
*Paul "Mickey" MacCallum - Congas (Track #11)
*Andy Cree - Percussion (Track #7)

Related Act
1972  Dr Music - Sun Goes By
1974  Dr. Music - Bedtime Story

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Richie Havens - My Own Way (1967 us, awesome soulful folk psych, 2012 release)

What George Orwell dubbed "Newspeak" back in 1950 has become pervasive in modern day marketing. Examples are too numerous to be noteworthy, but every once in while someone will display enough chutzpah that one has to stop and say, "Really?" Such is the case of Alan Douglas and the new release of two Richie Havens' albums on one compact disc with the title, My Own Way.

The story goes like this: Havens originally recorded the songs acoustically, and several were demos and not intended to be in their final versions. After Havens signed with another record label and became commercially successful, Douglas released the material and added electric guitar, harmonica, organs, and other instrumentation to the mix to make the original folk material into folk rock.

Havens theatrically sings the bittersweet lyrics in a compelling voice. It's beautiful, It has been over 40 years since this music has been available. Havens is in fine form. The music deserves to be heard.
by Steve Horowitz, 19 Sep 2012

Hendrix aficionados of a certain age may remember the apoplexy generated by the mid- 70s release of posthumous albums Crash Landing and Midnight Lightnin’. Producer Alan Douglas had grafted on new backing tracks recorded by session musicians, leading to fevered accusations of “grave-robbing”.

Few of the fist-shakers realised that Douglas already had a bit of form on this front, having pursued a similar course with a clutch of Richie Havens recordings from 1967. These solely consisted of Havens singing and furiously strumming, so it was a case of supplying backing tracks where none previously existed. The results were released on Douglas’ label between 1968-69 on two albums, The Richie Havens Record and Electric Havens.

My Own Way sees this contentious hoard released on CD for the first time: whatever one may feel about having instrumentation dubbed on after the event, it is actually done here with subtlety and taste. You genuinely wouldn’t know for the most part, though Shadow Town admittedly starts unravelling towards the fade. From the shambling groove of Oxford Town and the soul-folk testifying of Drown In My Own Tears to the transfigured Astral Weeks vibe of Daddy Roll ’Em, it’s only the relative dearth of original compositions that docks this of a fourth star.  
by Oregano Rathbone

1. C.C. Rider - 3:22
2. Oxford Town - 3:21
3. Norah's Dove - 3:39
4. 900 Miles From Home - 3:46
5. Shadow Town - 3:57
6. 3:10 To Yuma - 3:20
7. The Bag I'm In - 3:48
8. Drown In My Own Tears - 4:22
9. Down In The Valley - 4:05
10.Chain Gang - 2:51
11.Babe, I'm Leaving - 4:38
12.Daddy Roll 'em - 2:42
13.Boots And Spanish Leather - 5:40
14.My Own Way - 2:11

*Richie Havens - Vocals, Guitar

1967  Richie Havens - Mixed Bag
1970  Richie Havens - Stonehenge (2001 remaster)
1971  Richie Havens - Alarm Clock (2002 remaster) 

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Toby Twirl - Toby Twirl (1968-71 uk, marvellous mod beat, 2017 release)

Newcastle band Toby Twirl was formed in 1968 and released three singles on the Decca label (these things used to matter, believe me), none of which troubled the charts at the time and none of which appear on this, effectively the band's debut album, although a version of their final 45, ‘Movin’ In’, is included.

The dozen recordings featured here were found by the band’s drummer, John Reed, in an old box of reel-to-reel tapes thought long-lost but which was found in his attic. So, as none of the band’s original singles sold enough copies to make the charts, they were dropped by Decca after just one year on the label and these lost recordings are mainly demos and rehearsal recordings the band made in the late Sixties, you’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe the tapes should have stayed hidden away. You’d also be wrong.

Remember that there was a considerable amount of singles being released every week back in the Sixties. Despite the few radio plays that Toby Twirl gained, if the songs didn’t find an audience almost immediately (or it was an established band), then a band’s latest 45 would fall by the wayside as there were another couple of hundred ready for the record buyers' attention coming along in the next seven days. Many 45's deserved a better fate than they received. While the band’s second Decca single, the group-penned ‘Toffee Apple Sunday’, is probably their best known song (and the only single that the band actually played on, in keeping with the times sessions musicians were employed with the band adding their vocals) and which was covered by one of New Zealand’s most respected bands of that period, the Fourmyula, the dozen songs on this delayed debut show that song wasn’t their only jewel and that the band must have been frustrated at not being allowed to play on their other singles as throughout these songs they prove to be a tight and talented unit.

There are a couple of Beatles covers, an interesting version of ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ which doesn’t stray too far from the original but which certainly has some of the band’s own identity stamped through it, more so than many of the perfunctory covers of Beatles songs back in those times. There’s also a beautiful version of ‘Something’; it’s not as laid-back as the original and features fantastic vocal work from the band; consider that this cut certainly wasn’t afforded the time and resources that the Fab Four put into their version and it’s an amazing performance.

Of the other covers, ‘Born To Be Wild’ shows that the band could handle heavier material with ease and that there was more to the group than their trio of singles would suggest. Again, without wishing to take anything away from the excellent playing from the band, especially on this track, it’s the impressive vocals that steal the show. Joe Cocker’s second single ‘Marjorine’ is another cover that the band put their own stamp on. Dare one suggest that while the vocals are light years away from Cocker’s own on this song they are more immediately pleasing? The band also make a fine fist of the Guess Who’s ‘American Woman’, again displaying the heavier direction they were maybe going to take had they been around just a little longer. What doesn’t work so well is the band’s take on the Everly Brothers' ‘When Will I Be Loved’, their reggae-infused arrangement takes away the edge of the song but strangely the main reason for this, the keyboard, is also its saving grace.

For those old enough to remember Toby Twirl this compilation of unreleased tracks goes some way to dispelling those images we had of the band as a pop-sike, pysch-lite act. The opening song, ‘Baby. What Good is Love?’ is a fine beat-era cut and more representative of what the band is remembered for, ‘The Dark Time of the Year’ is a reflective ballad typical of the period (‘Reflections of Charles Brown’ comes to mind) and once again those vocals shine, while ‘Something in Your Eyes’ adds a R’n’B flavour to the mix.

Considering the source of this material the good guys at Mega Dodo have obviously spent some time restoring the tapes to achieve the best possible sound and it’s been time well spent. The songs are all presented in punchy mono and are surprisingly clear. Congratulations to all who had a hand in restoring these tapes.

Toby Twirl’s original singles have gained more interest over the last few years than they did when originally released and the prices that the 45s now command reflect this, but for a full picture of just what this talented and vastly underrated group were really about save yourself a few quid and head for where this collection is available on CD and also limited edition vinyl. One ‘lost’ sixties classic which really does deserve that title.
by Malcolm Carter, 02/10/2017

1. Baby What Good Is Love - 2:46
2. Dark Time Of The Year - 3:43
3. Something In Your Eyes - 2:37
4. Love Is Love - 3:07
5. Baby You’re A Rich Man (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 3:00
6. Movin’ In  (Joe Sauter, Mike Lewis, Sonny DiNunzio) - 3:08
7. Born To Be Wild  (Mars Bonfire) - 3:16
8. Marjorine (Joe Cocker, Chris Stainton, Tom Rattigan, Frank Myles) - 3:03
9. Something (George Harrison) - 2:55
10.When Will I Be Loved (Phil Everly) - 2:37
11.Gonna Have A Good Time (Good Times) (Christopher Young) - 3:16
12.American Woman (Burton Cummings, Garry Peterson, Jim Kale, Randy Bachman) - 3:26
13.Let's Spend The Night Together (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 3:17
14.Hollies Meddley - 3:40
15.Toffe Apple Sunday (John Graham Reed, Nick Thorburn) - 2:03

Toby Twirl
Tracks 1-6 And 14-15
*Dave 'Holly' Holland - Vocals
*Barry Sewell - Keyboards, Vocals
*Nick Thorburn - Guitar, Vocals
*Stuart Somerville - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*John Reed - Drums, Vocals
Tracks 7-13
*Steve Pickering - Vocals
*Barry Sewell - Keyboards, Vocals
*Nick Thorburn - Guitar, Vocals
*Stuart Somerville - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*John Reed - Drums, Vocals
Tracks 9, 10
*Dave Robson - Bass Guitar

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Coke - Coke (1972 us, wonderful latin jazz brass psych rock, 2018 korean remaster)

At it’s inception, the bands’ name was not COKE. The original name of the group was “Instant Garage Band.” The name COKE emerged later during a rehearsal session when the original members decided they needed a catchier name. Those founding members were Ariel Hernandez (bass), Paul “Polito” Garcia (guitar), Ruben Perez (drums), Gary (lead vocal), and an Italian fellow by the name of Tony (keyboard) who was sipping a Coca-Cola during rehearsal and said “why don’t we call it COKE.” As they say, the rest is history. From that day on “Instant Garage Band” was COKE – short and sweet.

One of the most recognized local bands in Miami at the time were the Antiques. The Antiques were in high demand for Quinces, Open Houses and private events, but that was about to change. You see, in 1971 a “Battle of the Bands” event took place at Dinner Key Auditorium. Much to everyone’s surprise, including the Antiques, little known COKE played so well that day the crowning Antiques had their work cutout for them.

The Battle of the Bands first prize winner (or winners I should say) turned out to be both COKE and The Antiques. It became a three way tie between COKE, The Antiques and 2 Plus 1 (if I’m not mistaken.) The award ceremony took place at Salon Sophia, and the trophies were presented to the bands by “La Gorda de Oro.” Do you remember “La Gorda de Oro?” She was Mirta Silva, the Puerto Rican singer, composer and television producer who was affectionately known as “La Gorda De Oro”.

That event put COKE on the local map and it set the stage for a recording opportunity that allowed the band to get recognized in other markets like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico. That’s when the Coca-Cola Bottling Company steps in and stops the boys dead on their tracks. In order to protect its brand, the company served them with a legal letter to cease and desist from using the Coke brand as their name. Ouch! This put a dampener on things for sure. By now the band had already established an identity and had carved a niche for itself with its fusion of Latin rock, psychedelia, and funk that was part of the Miami Sound.

In March of 1973, COKE was #14 in Chicago in the Latin Billboards and #12 in Los Angeles (see figure 1 on the right.) They were still climbing the charts and the record promoters had a lot of money at stake, so they replaced the K with Q (COKE to COQE) to stay under the radar of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. Two months later in May of ’73, COKE had climbed to #2 in Miami with the Antiques trailing close behind at #4 (see figure 2.) The following month COKE had dropped to # 6 in Miami while the Antiques hit #1 with “Dias Como Hoy” sung by Eddy Diaz.

The demand from the Coca-Cola Bottling Company to cease and desist came the following year in ’74. That very same year, the band officially changed their name to “Opus” upon the release of their second album entitled ‘Opus’ featuring Frankie B (Frank Batista) as lead singer.  The album included popular hits such as “Beware”, “Marta” and “Get Yourself Up”. Shortly after, the band recruited saxophonist, Chester Rosas-Guyon. Months later Peter Fernandez joined the Antiques as lead singer and Joe “Tito” Rubio on keyboard and were part of the “Antiques Experience” – the album with the hit song “Cuando Vuelva a tu Lado.”
by Frank Prieto on April 22, 2012

1. Na Na (Paul Garcia, Peter Fernandez) - 4:02
2. You Turn Me On (Paul Garcia, Peter Fernandez) - 6:12
3. Got To Touch Your Face (J. Felicia Cohen) - 2:19
4. Quiero Decirte (José Rubio, Paul Garcia, V. Angulo) - 3:17
5. Bun Bun Bun (Paul Garcia, Peter Fernandez) - 3:06
6. Bang Bang (Arranged By Paul Garcia) - 3:29
7. Sabor A Mi (A. Carrillo) - 3:26
8. Te Amo Mas (Beachwood) - 3:39
9. Nuestro Amor (F. Asencio, J. Felicia Cohen) - 2:37
10.Que Seria De Mi (Senecal, Mercer, Blake, Jackson, Paul Garcia) - 3:19

The Coke
*Paul Garcia - Guitar
*Jose Rubio - Organ
*Ariel Hernandez - Bass
*Ruben Perez - Drums
*Peter Fernandez - Vocals

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Puzzle - The Second Album (1974 us, magnificent funky jazz rock, 2018 korean remaster)

Singer John LiVigni "John Valenti" formed Puzzle in Chicago, Illinois with Bobby Villalobos (guitar), Ralf Richert (guitar, trumpet), Anthony Siciliano (bass), Larry Klimas (saxophone, flute), Bob Williams (trumpet) and Joseph Spinazola (organ, piano).

Their brand of rock and jazz, reminiscent of Chicago, made them a popular live act in venues between Detroit and Chicago and let them being signed to Motown in 1972.

Originaly intended for the Rare Earth imprint, they were switched to the main Motown label for their debut album Puzzle in April 1973. A second album was released the following February, imaginatively entitled Second Album. 

A third album, "How Do We Get Out Of The Business Alive" was to have been released later in 1974 but was subsequentle cancelled. John LiVigni later changes his name to John Valenti and went solo, recording for Ariola America,

1. You Took Me Wrong - 4:15
2. Mary, Mary - 3:26
3. State Of Mind (John LiVigni, Joseph Spinazola) - 4:18
4. Everybody Wants To Be Somebody - 3:25
5. Haiku (Bob Williams) - 5:34
6. My Love (John LiVigni, Joseph Spinazola) - 3:55
7. Now That You Love Me (John LiVigni, Larry Klimas) - 4:17
8. Concept Of Her (Prelude-A Moment's Rest-Visions) (Joseph Spinazola) - 8:58
9. N.Y.C. - 3:42
All songs by John LiVigni except where noted

*John Livigni "John Valenti" - Vocals, Drums, Percussion
*Anthony Siciliano - Bass
*Bobby Villalobos - Guitar
*Ralf Richert - Guitar, Trumpet
*Joseph Spinazola - Organ, Piano
*Larry Klimas - Saxophone, Flute
*Bob Williams - Trumpet

1973  Puzzle - Puzzle (Vinyl edition)

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Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Jelly Bean Bandits - The Jelly Bean Bandits (1967 us, striking garage psych)

Newburgh, New York psych-punks the Jelly Bean Bandits formed in 1966. Singer Billy Donald, guitarist Jack Dougherty, bassist Fred Buck, keyboardist Michael "Mr. Addams" Raab, and drummer Joe "Laredo London" Scalfari originally operated as "the Mirror", regularly packing area nightspots like the local Trade Winds, Poughkeepsie's Buccaneer Nightclub, and Burlington, Vermont's Red Dog. In due time, they recorded a three-song demo reel that resulted in a three-album recording contract with Mainstream Records -- however, unknown to Mainstream, these three songs represented the sum total of the Jelly Bean Bandits' repertoire, forcing the band to write enough additional material to flesh out a full-length LP in the course of a week.

Amazingly, their eponymous 1967 debut is excellent, a freakbeat cult classic distinguished by Dougherty's emotive guitar and some innovative production techniques -- all the more impressive, the album was recorded in a single 12-hour stretch. Mainstream hated the end result, however, and dropped the Jelly Bean Bandits just as they were commencing work on the follow-up -- only one song, "Salesman," was completed before the sessions were aborted. The group dissolved soon after, only to reunite in 1998 to finally commit to tape the songs that were written for their never-completed sophomore LP -- only Donald declined to participate in the project, released in 2001 under the title Time and Again. A vintage live date captured at the Buccaneer on September 3, 1967.
by Jason Ankeny

1. Country Woman - 2:34
2. Generation - 3:00
3. Poor Precious Dreams - 2:05
4. Another August Revisited - 2:49
5. Going Nowhere - 2:37
6. Happiness Girl - 2:17
7. Good Time Feeling - 2:43
8. September Rain - 2:13
9. Neon River - 2:39
10.Plastic Soldiers - 3:01
11.Say Mann - 2:26
12.Tapestries - 2:28
All songs by Billy Donald, Fred Buck, Joe Scalfari, John Dougherty, Michael Raab

The Jelly Bean Bandits
*Billy Donald - Vocals
*Fred Buck - Bass
*Joe Scalfari - Drums
*John Dougherty - Lead Guitar
*Michael Raab - Organ

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