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

Plain and Fancy

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

Nikos Kazantzakis

Friday, October 24, 2014

Neil Christian - That's Nice (1962-75 uk, fascinating classic roots 'n' roll, rhythm 'n' beat, blue eyed soul, 2007 release)

There's no doubting Neil Christian's contributions to the formative days of British rock. His groups included, at various times, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Nicky Hopkins, Albert Lee, and Mick Abrahams. As a singer and recording artist, though, he was distinctly lacking, with a rather wimpy and tentative voice, in spite of the occasional power of his backing tracks on the numerous singles he cut between 1962 and 1968. He tried his hand at teen idol tunes, Merseybeat-ish numbers, British R&B, and bloated MOR pop, but could not overcome his fundamental lack of strong material.

His earliest numbers (some produced by the legendary Joe Meek) do have a slight charm, particularly the 1963 B-side "Get a Load of This," one of the best unknown Merseybeat-style recordings, and one that features some quite good session guitar work by the still-teenaged Jimmy Page. Also good (and also with Page on guitar) was the uncommonly tough R&B-rock of "I Like It," though this too was buried, on a 1966 French EP. Ultimately he belonged to that peculiar British Invasion subgenre of male solo singers who had a stronger visual image than vocal chops, like P.J. Proby and Dave Berry. Christian, however, wasn't nearly as successful as either Proby or Berry, landing just one U.K. hit, the vaudevillian "That's Nice," which made number 14 in 1966.

Born Christopher Tidmarsh, Neil Christian started fronting his backing group the Crusaders in the early '60s. Jimmy Page was the guitarist at the outset, but left in mid-1962 due to illness, although he would later record with Christian in the studio. Page's replacement was Albert Lee (though he too only lasted a short time), and other fine musicians would continue to pass through the Crusaders on their way to bigger and better things. Christian started recording relatively quickly, making his debut on the 1962 Meek-produced single "The Road to Love"/"The Big Beat Drum," but none of his 1962-1965 Columbia releases (one, the 1965 single "Give the Game Away," was credited to Guy Hamilton) made a mark. 

Christian's fortunes went on the upswing after he hooked up with songwriter and producer Miki Dallon and began recording for the U.K. indie Strike Records, for whom Dallon often worked. Virtually all of his 1966-1967 singles were written by Dallon, including "That's Nice" and "I Like It." Christian couldn't follow up "That's Nice," however, and Strike went out of business in late 1967. Christian released his final British 45 for Pye in 1967, though he did better in Germany, where he released some additional tracks in the late '60s. Everything Christian released in 1962-1968 has been reissued on the CD compilation That's Nice, which also adds several unreleased recordings from the same era.
by Richie Unterberger

1. That's Nice - 2:50
2. She Got the Action - 2:16
3. I Like It - 2:16
4. Let Me In - 3:12
5. Oops - 2:12
6. She Said Yeah - 2:38
7. Two at a Time - 2:30
8. Wanna Lover - 2:08
9. You're All Things Bright and Beautiful - 2:56
10.Gonna Love You Baby - 2:52
11.Bit by Bit (Gene Latter, Miki Dallon) - 3:07
12.Let Me Hear You Laugh - 3:03
13.Countdown - 3:23
14.Bad Girl (R. Tidmarsh, M. Dallon, Fisher) - 3:10
15.What Would Your Momma Say Now - 2:20
16.My Baby Left Me (B.A.Crudup) - 2:41
17.Yakety Yak (Ralph Tidmarsh) - 2:56
18.Happy Go Lucky (Zimmermann, Jay) - 2:18
19.I'm Living My Life (Zimmermann, Jay) - 2:18
20.She's Got the Power (Courtney) - 3:08
21.Someone's Following Me Around (Courtney) - 3:20
22.The Road to Love (Gibb, Barlow) - 2:38
23.Big Beat Drum (Gibb, Barlow) - 2:45
24.A Little Bit of Something Else (Conrad, Schroeder) - 2:02
25.Get a Load of This (Barlow) - 2:39
26.Honey Hush (J. L. Turner) - 2:09
27.One for the Money (Pelaez) - 2:02
28.Crusading (Miki Dallon, Ralph Tidmarsh) - 2:44
29.Baby in Love (Miki Dallon, Joachim Relin) - 2:26
30.Was Ich Dir Noch Sagen Wollte (Miki Dallon, Joachim Relin) - 2:08
All songs by Miki Dallon except where indicated

*Neil Christian - Vocals
*Jimmy Page - Guitar
*Jumbo Spicer - Bass
*Tornado Evans - Drums
*Albert Lee - Guitar
*Avid Anderson - Bass
*Phil McPill - Guitar
*Tony Marsh - Piano
*Dave Cakebread - Bass
*Graham Hill - Drums
*Stan Thomas - Sax
*Mick Abrahams - Guitar
*Alex Dmchowski - Bass
*Graham Waller - Keyboards
*Carlo Little - Drums
*Richie Blackmore - Guitar
*Tony Dangerfield - Bass
*Matt Smith - Piano

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Life - Life After Death (1974 uk, tremendous heavy prog with glam shades, 20212 remaster)

Consisting of Roger Cotton (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Ian Gibbons (flute, keyboards, vocals), Richard Thorpe (bass, vocals) and Paul Thorpe (drums, vocals), this obscure quartet issued their sole album on UK Polydor in 1974.

Produced by Chris White, formerly of the Zombies and a songwriter with Argent, Life After Death has been compared to Uriah Heep (though that may be on account of its artwork, which is reminiscent of the cover to Very Eavy, Very Umble, and the intermittent birdsong between tracks, as on Salisbury, rather than its actual musical content), Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Kansas and other leading 70s prog bands. 

The band's most notable member was Ian Gibbons, who started playing the accordion at the age of 9, performing solo at music festivals and competitions before forming his own band at the age of 14. In 1972 he joined Moonstone (who issued three 45s), then formed Life. 

Though it has gone on to enjoy a degree of cult acclaim, Life After Death vanished without trace upon its release in the summer of 1974, as did the accompanying 45, Woman / Bless My Soul (Polydor 2058 500, with a non-album B-side). 

Unsurprisingly, they split soon afterwards, with Ian Gibbons going on to a long career, first with English Assassins, then the Kinks (with whom he had a long association), and also Love Affair, Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley (in Shotgun), the Sweet, Ian Hunter and many others.
CD Liner-Notes

1. Riding Around - 4:19
2. Oupus - 1:41
3. I Don't Want To - 3:38
4. Black Eye - 3:29
5. Highway - 8:52
6. Sleepless Night - 3:59
7. Woman - 3:38
8. Looking Out - 4:29
9. Everybody's Queuing To Be Last - 5:21
10.The Plank / Devil On The River (Roger Cotton, Ian Gibbons) - 6:13
All songs by Roger Cotton except where indicated

*Roger Cotton - Vocals, Keyboards
*Richard Thorpe - Bass, Vocals
*Ian Gibbons - Keyboards, Flute
*Paul Thorpe - Drums, Vocals

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Charisma - Charisma (1969 us, exceptional jazz psych rock, 2008 issue)

Charisma was an American progressive rock group from the late 60s, they came about from diverging roots emanating from 3 directions. The core of Charisma was Rich Tortorigi (drummer) and George Tyrell (bass player). Both were members of a New Britain, Connecticut soul band called The Mantiques. The Mantiques had been one of the three main horn-based bands in New Britain in the mid to late 60’s, along with Detroit Soul and The Paramounts. Paramounts drummer, Tyrone Lampkin went on to play with Gutbucket and the Parliament Funkadelics. In 1968, Rich Tortorigi recruited Tom Majesky to play guitar with The Mantiques, following their breakup. Tom enlisted Bernie Kornowicz, former bassist of The Last Five, to share guitar and organ duties. The final addition to the group was folk singer Mike DeLisa to sing lead. Tom and Bernie brought the rock and roll element to the Mantiques and Mike brought the band an element of folkiness.

It was in 1969 that The Mantiques signed with Roulette Records as a convenient tax write off to record an album. The album was produced by Ed Vallone and most of the songs were penned by Bruce McGaw.

Following the recording of What’s It Like, the very first song on the album, (which, was in fact recorded at Vanguard Studios), there was a shakeup. George Tyrell quit the band, Bernie Kornowicz became the bass guitarist, Tom Majesky became the lead guitarist, and a new organist was recruited: Bob Mocarsky. The album was eventually completed. In the meantime, Tom, Bob and lyricist/art director Suzi Langlois began writing songs for a second album.

Before the recording of the second album, Mike DeLisa decided to go his own way, leaving the job of lead vocalist to guitarist Tom. Beasts and Fiends was recorded at the Record Plant in NYC during the summer of 1970. The lead engineer was the top engineer in the business: Jack Hunt (the Woodstock album, Electric Ladyland), assisted by Dave Ragno (the Woodstock album), and Tom Fly (the Woodstock album, former drummer of Lother and the Hand People). While credit was given to Bruce McGaw and Ed Vallone for production, fact is the album was produced by Charisma with interference run by Jack Hunt. Both albums sold better in Europe than they did in the USA. In 1976, Charisma disbanded, leaving one incomplete recording.

1. What's It Like? (Bruce McGaw) - 3:10
2. Truth Emerged (Suzi Langlois, Bob Mocarsky) - 2:36
3. Happy Song (Bruce McGaw) - 2:30
4. Where Do We Go From Here? (Bruce McGaw) - 4:17
5. Yesterday's Folks (B. Durso) - 4:17
6. Marianne (Bruce McGaw) - 4:48
7. Miss Willoughby (Bruce McGaw) - 4:13
8. Death of Me (Bruce McGaw) - 4:14
9. Bang Bang (Sonny Bono) - 1:02
10.If You're Waiting for a Miracle (A. Wayne, D. Marchand) - 2:57
11.Suzanne Gives (Bruce McGaw) - 2:37
12.Take Me Away  (Bruce McGaw) - 4:22

*Mike DeLisa - Vocals, Percussion
*Bernie Kornowicz - Bass, Guitar
*Tom Majesky - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
*Bob Mogarsky - Keyboards
*Rich Tortorige - Drums, Backing Vocals

1970  Charisma - Beasts And Fiends

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Keith Christmas - Stimulus (1969 uk, outstanding folk rock, 2012 remaster)

Stimulus was originally released in 1969 on the RCA label and is a true lost treasure of the 60s. Here we see Keith backed by members of Mighty Baby as well as Matthews Southern Comfort's pedal-steel guitarist Gordon Huntley who, all together, have created a beautifully styled gem of the late 1960's.

As was popular at the time, the emphasis on long tracks Trial & Judgement and / Know You Can't Loose showed off Keith's great songwriting ability and the gift for extended musical musings. 1969 was a busy time for Keith as with the release of Stimulus he also found time to play the acoustic guitar on David Bowie's first album Space Oddity and later appeared at the very first Glastonbury Festival.

Fable Of The Wings and Pigmy followed in the next few years, during which time Keith toured with many of the top bands of the day, including the Who, Ten Years After, King Crimson and Roxy Music.

In 1974 he joined the Belgium-English 70's rock band The Esperanto Rock Orchestra as their vocalist and appeared on their 1974 album, Danse Macabre, produced by Pete Sinfield.  

That same year Keith returned to solo work and produced Brighter Day which was issued on the same label as Pete Sinfield, which was Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Manticore label.

This release offered a tougher perspective than previous albums while Stories From The Human Zoo, recorded in Los Angeles and released in 1976, featured assistance from several American musicians, including Steve Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn.

After taking time out from the music scene in 1981 Keith re-emerged at the end of the 80's with a fresh outlook, rejoining the folk club circuit with renewed enthusiasm and back to the recording studio. Forming the blues band Weatherman in 1991 he issued an album the following year.

In 1996 the excellent Love Beyond Deals was released on the famous HTD label. Love Beyond Deals was produced by Ashley Hutchings and featured a fantastic collection of guests from the folk world . Yet another change of direction was to follow with a highly acclaimed instrumental album Acoustica in 2003.

2006 and Keith releases his first ever truly solo CD Light of the Dawn and just continues to tour and release material and has been described as 'a songwriter at the peak of his powers'. 2011, and a 5 track EP called Fat Cat Big Fish was released and even this year as we go full circle from Stimulus to the present day. Check out Keith's 2012 album Live at the Pump for a continued journey into the wonderful world of a true all-round singer songwriter of our time.
CD Liner-notes

1. Travelling Down - 3:54
2. Bedsit Two-Step - 3:22
3. Roundabout - 2:24
4. Ice Man - 6:00
5. I Know You Can't Lose - 5:17
6. Metropolis - 3:32
7. Trial And Judgement - 9:43
8. Buddwing - 3:40
9. Examinations Rag - 2:31
10.I Know You Can't Lose - 5:45
11.Trial And Judgement - 9:57
12.The Ballad Of Robin Head - 4:08
Lyrics and Music by Keith Christmas

*Keith Christmas - Guitar, Vocal
*Martin Stone - Electric Guitar
*Mike Evans - Bass
*Roger Powell - Drums
*Ian Whiteman - Piano
*Gordon Huntley - Steel Guitar

1974-76  Keith Christmas - Tomorrow Never Ends The Anthology (2010 Two Disc Set)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Side Show - Side Show (1970 us, beautiful baroque psychedelia, 2014 edition)

Paul Giovanni was from Atlantic City and got into music by way of theater productions in New York. He had made a one off psych single under the name Forever Children, and then met bass player Gregg Kreutz during a summer stock play gathering in rural Massachusetts. So their idea together was to apply the laid back Laurel Canyon ballad style to life in the big bad city. Kreutz says of Giovanni nowadays "He seemed to be always trying to push us towards concepts involving covens and suicides." So Giovanni met his perfect project a few years later when he did the score for the movie 'The Wicker Man'. 

This record is far more accomplished than it ought to be and has some darned great arranging.  Originally released in the summer of 1970, combining vocal harmonies with distorted guitars, Moog synthesizer, saxophone, melodica and more to impressive effect, and  a guest spot by Cissy Houston. The band never toured and fell apart quickly.

1. Cold Coffee (Gregg Kreutz) - 3:34
2. Carolyn (Paul Giovanni) - 4:06
3. The Duel (Gregg Kreutz, Ken Zeserson, Paul Giovanni) - 5:19
4. The Pill (Paul Giovanni) - 4:39
5. Ah! (Paul Giovanni) - 4:05
6. Joanna (Gregg Kreutz, Ken Zeserson) - 4:34
7. Jinx (Ken Zeserson, Paul Giovanni) - 3:29
8. Supper (Gregg Kreutz, Ken Zeserson, Paul Giovanni) - 3:54
9. Rooster (Ken Zeserson, Gregg Kreutz) - 3:13
10.Joe (Gregg Kreutz, Ken Zeserson, Paul Giovanni) - 4:46

The Side Show 
*Paul Giovanni - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Twelve String Guitar
*Ken Zeserson - Lead Guitar, Saxophone, Vocals
*Gregg Kreutz - Bass, Harmonica, Vocals
*Ken Bischel - Keyboards, Moog, Trumpet, Melodica, Vocals
*Gordon Gottlieb - Drums
*Bill Lavornia - Drums
*Chuck Rainey - Bass
*Ted Hoyle - Cello
*John Sachs - Guitar
*Tony Studd - Trombone
*Cissy Houston - Vocals
*Arif Mardin - Finger Cymbals, Strings

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Mason - Starting As We Mean To Go On (1973 uk, wondrous harmonies in a folk soft rock marquetry)

The title of the lone album by Mason is rather ironic when considering the band's fate; not only did they fail to "go on," their album wasn't even released until 37 years after the fact. In retrospect, it's hard to believe that a soft pop/folk-rock gem like this could languish in limbo for so long, but one has to consider the back-story. After the breakup of ‘60s U.K. pop stars Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, Dave Dee briefly worked with singer/songwriter Peter Mason, whose biggest claim to fame at the time was the fact that he almost replaced Robin Gibb in the Bee Gees. Dee's solo efforts came to little, but Mason eventually hooked up with Beaky (John Dymond) and Tich (Ian Amey) to make Crosby, Stills & Nash-inspired harmony-laden folk-pop. 

They signed to Pye's prog rock-oriented imprint Dawn under the name Mason, but after releasing a couple of unsuccessful singles, the label lost interest and declined to release the 1973 album. Decades later, Mason's album sessions were discovered moldering in the archives, and finally given an official release in 2010. While it seems unlikely that the easygoing acoustic sounds of Starting as We Mean to Go On would have made a big impact in glam-era England, it's entirely reasonable to assume that any one of the lambent soft rock delicacies contained herein could have connected with the U.S. charts, which were full of similarly minded artists at the time. 

While the band's CSN influence can be clearly heard on "It Was Me Who Left Her," which is a close cousin to the American trio's "Helplessly Hoping," Mason undeniably establish their own identity over the course of the album. For all the American rural rock touches (including the overt country-rock of the fiddle-driven "My Country Home"), there's an unmistakable Englishness to the melodic sensibilities here, one that connects Mason as much to the likes of John Pantry and the Bee Gees as to CSN, Bread, et al. 
by James Allen

1. Don't You Ever Change Your Mind (Mason, Harman) - 4:21
2. To 50 From 45 (Mason, Dymond) - 3:55
3. It Was Me Who Left Her - 2:58
4. Love's Evening Song - 2:39
5. You've Gotta Get Up (Mason, Dymond) - 3:24
6. When Freedom Comes - 2:55
7. Lordy - 5:14
8. It's All Gone Wrong - 3:28
9. My Country Home - 3:44
10.J'Ann Here Is A Song - 2:14
11.48 Now To Each Day (P. Mason, Barry D. Mason) - 4:07
12.It's Alright - 4:37
13.Fading (Ian Amy, John Dymond, Mason) - 3:09
14.Rise With The Morning - 5:58
All songs by  Peter Mason unless as else stated

*Peter Mason - Vocals, Guitars, Bass,
*Ian "Tich" Amey - Vocals, Lead Guitar, Pedal Steel, Mandoline
*John “Beaky” Dymond - Vocals, Guitars, Banjo, Mandolina
*Chas O’brien - Vocals, Drums
*Bob Taylor - Bass

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Keith Christmas - Tomorrow Never Ends The Anthology (1974-76 uk, bright melodic folk prog rock with funky soul vibes, 2010 double disc edition)

After his first three albums in the late 1960s and early '70s, Keith Christmas was without a record deal for a few years and left the music business, returning to the fray with a couple of albums on Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Manticore label. This two-CD set has both of these (1974's Brighter Day and 1976's Stories from the Human Zoo), adding two tracks that appeared only on 1974-1975 singles, as well as previously unreleased early versions of four songs from Brighter Day. 

As he had on his earlier albums, Christmas remained a frustrating artist for listeners inclined to the kind of eclectic British singer/songwriter material he recorded. He was obviously more talented (particularly as a guitarist) than the bulk of singer/songwriters seeking record contracts, yet not such a striking or memorable vocalist or composer that his albums figure among the more impressive records of their time, even on a cult level. Influenced by folk-rock and mid-'70s mainstream rock of both the U.K. and U.S. variety, these were pretty ordinary if unobjectionable albums of their type, particularly in the melodic department. Brighter Day had strong connections to King Crimson alumni, as it was produced in London by Greg Lake and Pete Sinfield, with contributions by Ian Wallace, Mel Collins, and Ian McDonald. 

The songs mixed some folk, progressive rock, orchestral pop, and even soul influences with lyrics that got into some unusual (for rock) subjects, like trendy religious conversions, vagabonding on the rock circuit, and gypsy lifestyles, often in a storytelling fashion. Christmas was only an average-at-best tunesmith, though, and his vocals were adequate but thin, working better on the more introspective, acoustic-oriented numbers (especially the one most indebted to British folk, "Robin Head") than the harder-rocking ones. 

Recorded in Hollywood with contributions from Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn of Booker T. & the MG's, Stories from the Human Zoo was more oriented toward harder, at times slightly Dylanesque mainstream rock, though not enormously so. Again, Christmas probed some fairly unusual territory in songs like "The Astronaut (Who Wouldn't Come Down)" (he did play on Bowie's Space Oddity album, after all) and "Last of the Dinosaurs." Most often, though, he left the impression of a sensitive soul observing the small trials and sad vignettes of life and taking them to heart, most suitably when he came up with melancholic melodies to go with them on "High Times" and "Tomorrow Never Ends." 

As for the six bonus tracks (all grouped together at the end of disc one), the four early versions of songs from Brighter Day are, as expected, simpler productions (though not extremely so) than the ones on the album. The 1974 B-side "Sweet Changes" is very much in the reserved folky style he favored, while the 1975 A-side cover of the soul standard "My Girl" seems a ridiculous mismatch for Christmas' style. The 20-page booklet gives the material deluxe treatment, with lengthy liner notes including memories from Christmas himself, as well as lyrics for all of the songs on both albums. 
by Richie Unterberger

Disc 1 
Brighter Day 1974
1. Brighter Day - 6:15 
2. Foothills - 3:59 
3. Country Farm - 2:53 
4. The Bargees - 6:06 
5. Lovers' Cabaret - 4:30 
6. Robin Head - 4:48 
7. Gettin' Religion - 4:23 
8. Could Do Better - 4:46 
9. Song Of A Drifter - 3:07 
10.Brighter Day (First Version) - 7:46 
11.Foothills (First Version) - 4:08 
12.Robin Head (First Version) - 4:52 
13.Lovers' Cabaret (First Version) - 4:33 
14.Sweet Changes (B Side) - 4:14 
15.My Girl (1975 Single A Side) - 3:09
All compositions by Keith Christmas

Disc 2 
 Stories From The Human Zoo  1976
1. The Dancer - 4:28
2. The Nature Of The Man - 3:32
3. 3 Golden Rules - 4:12
4. Souvenir Affair - 2:55
5. The Last Of The Dinosaurs - 4:37
6. The Astronaut (Who Wouldn't Come Down) - 3:14
7. High Times - 6:19
8. Tomorrow Never Ends - 4:04
9. Life In Babylon - 5:41
All compositions by Keith Christmas

*Keith Christmas -  Congas, Flexatones, Guitars, Tambourine, Vocals,
*Mel Collins  - Flute, Horn Arrangements, Saxophones, Soloist
*Steve Cropper  - Guitar
*Martin Drower  - Trumpet
*Donald "Duck" Dunn  - Bass
*Malcolm Griffiths  - Trombone
*Andy Hendriksen  - Engineer
*Neil Hubbard  - Guitar
*Skaila Kanga  - Harp
*David Kemper  - Drums
*Greg Lake  - Producer
*Henry Lowther  - Trumpet
*Ian Mcdonald  - Piano
*Eddie Mordue  - Alto Sax
*David Nicterne  - Guitar
*Dean Olch  - Flute
*Tommy Reilly  - Harmonica
*Darryl Runswick  - Bass
*William D. "Smitty" Smith  - Keyboards
*Pete Solly  - Clavinet, Moog Bass, Piano
*Alan Spenner  - Bass
*Cat Stevens  - Horn Arrangements, String Arrangements
*Snuffy Walden  - Guitar
*Wendy Waldmann  - Vocals
*Ray Warleigh  - Alto Sax

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