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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cat Mother And The All Night Newsboys - Albion Doo Wah (1970 us, impressive jamming country folk classic rock, 2013 issue)

A really compelling second set from Cat Mother and The All Night Newsboys – and quite different than the first! On their Polydor debut, the group had Jimi Hendrix at the production helm – but this time they're taking things on their own, with a feel that's nicely loose and freewheeling – and which really matches the woodsy image of the cover! 

The core mix of guitar and organ is still as tight as before – but it also gets some nice rootsy touches from violin, mandolin, and acoustic guitar – used in ways that echo folk and maybe preface a bit of redneck rock – yet which also have a bit more of a North Cali sort of sensibility in the long run.

1. Riff Raff (Bob Smith, Larry Packer, Michael Equine, Roy Michaels) - 5:28
2. Turkish Taffy - 2:58
3. Boonville Massacre - 4:11
4. I Must Be Dreaming - 4:17
5. Last Go Round (Jay Ungar) - 3:20
6. Strike A Match And Light Another (Jay Ungar) - 2:49
7. Been All Around The World (Traditional) - 4:58
8. Good Times (Roy Michaels) - 3:06
9. Albion Doo-Wah (Bob Smith, Jay Ungar, Larry Packer, Michael Equine, Roy Michaels) - 4:14
10.Rise Above It - 3:14
All compositions by Bob Smith except where indicated

Cat Mother And The All Night Newsboys
*Roy Michaels - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Equine - Drums, Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Smith - Electric Piano, Organ, Drums, Vocals
*Larry Packer - Lead Guitar , Violin, Mandolin, Vocals
*Jay Ungar - Violin, Mandolin, Guitar, Vocals
*Paul Johnson - Guitar
*Lyndon Lee Hardy - Vocals

1969  Cat Mother And The All Night News Boys - The Street Giveth And The Street Taketh Away

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Roger McGuinn - Cardiff Rose (1976 us, magnificent country folk classic rock, 2013 edition and 2004 bonus tracks issue)

On the surface, Roger McGuinn, the former leader and 12-string jangle-meister of the Byrds, and Mick Ronson, who contributed the wicked guitar crunch to David Bowie's Spiders from Mars period, might seem like a wildly unlikely musical combination, but the two became friendly when they both toured as part of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, and after that road trip came to a close, Ronson went into the studio with McGuinn to produce his next solo album. 

The result, 1976's Cardiff Rose, is easily one of McGuinn's finest solo efforts; with fellow Rolling Thunder veterans Rob Stoner, Howie Wyeth, and David Mansfield joining McGuinn and Ronson in the studio, the band sounds tight and enthusiastic from front to back, and while this rocks a good bit harder than the average McGuinn effort, Ronson's six-string swagger never gets in the way of the songs, and Mick's production is unexpectedly sympathetic, adding the right seafaring touches to the pirate tale "Jolly Roger" and coming up with a lovely old-timey arrangement for "Pretty Polly." 

McGuinn also had a better batch of material at his disposal than on his previous set, Roger McGuinn & Band; he wrote a handful of strong originals, including "Partners in Crime" (a witty salute to Abbie Hoffman, then on the lam), the charging rockers "Rock and Roll Time" and "Take Me Away," and the beautifully atmospheric "Jolly Roger," while he was also lucky enough to receive fine contributions from Bob Dylan ("Up to Me") and Joni Mitchell ("Dreamland"). 

Sadly, Cardiff Rose didn't fare especially well on the sales charts, which is a shame -- it finds McGuinn in excellent form, and proves he could have moved outside of the musical framework of the Byrds and still had plenty to say with the right collaborators. 
by Mark Deming

1. Take Me Away - 3:04
2. Jolly Roger - 4:59
3. Rock And Roll Time (R. McGuinn, Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Neuwirth) - 2:49
4. Friend (R. McGuinn) - 2:08
5. Partners In Crime - 4:53
6. Up To Me (Bob Dylan) - 5:37
7. Round Table - 4:07
8. Pretty Polly (Trad., Arranged And Adapted By R. McGuinn) - 3:20
9. Dreamland (Joni Mitchell) - 5:20
All songs  by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy except where noted.

Bonus Tracks 2004 Issue 
10.Soul Love (Demo Recording) (David Bowie) - 3:06
11.Dreamland (Live) (Joni Mitchell) - 5:29

*Roger McGuinn - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Vocals
*Mick Ronson - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Recorder, Accordion, Piano, Organ, Autoharp, Percussion, Vocals
*David Mansfield - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Steel Guitar, Mandolin, Violin, Banjo, Organ, Percussion
*Rob Stoner - Bass, Percussion, Vocals
*Howie Wyeth - Drums, Percussion
*Timmy Schmit - Vocals
*Kim Hitchcroft - Saxophone

1973  Roger McGuinn - Roger McGuinn (2013 Edition) 
1979  McGuinn, Clark And Hillman (2014 Japan SHM Remaster)

With The Byrds
1964  The Byrds - Preflyte (2012 Edition)
1968  The Byrds - Sweetheart Of The Rodeo  (Double Disc Set)
1969  The Byrds - Live At Fillmore
1971  The Byrds - Live At Royal Albert Hall
1973  Byrds - Byrds

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Other Half - The Other Half (1968 us, outstanding raw garage and blues rock tingles, with pre-Blue Cheer Randy Holden, 2006 extra tracks release)

While there are literally thousands of psych LPs out there, there's a small core (say 400 or 500), that are widely recognized as sought after genre classics. This is one of 'em ...

It's always struck us as kind of interesting that these guys (bassist Larry Brown, former Fender IV and Sons of Adam guitarist Randy Holden, singer Jeff Nowlen, rhythm guitarist Geoff Western and drummer Danny Woods) have been lumped in with San Francisco bands such as The Dead, The Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Geographically hailed from Los Angeles they really weren't part of the Haight Ashbury scene (though they played a lot of shows at the Avalon and other San Francisco clubs). Musical comparisons to those other bands are equally clumsy given their weird hybrid of garage and psychedelia set them miles apart from most contemporaries.

As The Other Half, by 1966 Brown, Nowlen, Western and Woods had begun to attract a devoted local following in Los Angeles. Interesting it was band fans that suggested they consider adding guitarist Holden to the line up. Unhappy with his current outfit (Sons of Adam), Holden ended up jamming with the group at a local club, subsequently joining the lineup. The band's live act (including Holden's 20 minute guitar solos), brought them to the attention of the small GNP/Crescendo label which released their 1966 debut "Mister Pharmacist" b/w "I've Come So Far" (GNP/Crescendo catalog number 378).

A growling slice of garage/punk anger, the single did little in terms of sales, but attracted the attention of Kenny Meyers, who promptly signed them to his newly formed Dot-affiliated Acta label (along with San Francisco's Neighb'rhood Childr'n).

Released in 1967, their label debut "Wonderful Day" b/w "Flight Of The Dragon Lady" (Acta catalog number 801), attracted critical attention, but few sales. In spite of that, Acta agreed to finance an album, though the project was apparently done on a shoestring budget and without much post-production work - check out the goofy dialog in the midst of " Introduction" and the sound of someone coughing in the background of "Wonderful Day".

Good thing Acta financed the LP. Produced by the band, Larry Goldberg, Leo De Gar Kulka and Hank Levine, 1968's "The Other Half" is nothing less than a lost classic. This is a horrible description, but propelled by Holden's mind numbing guitar (more about that later) and Nowlen's bluesy voice, the album featured a wonderful mix of Yardbirds-styled blues-rock, raw garage moves, West Coast-psychedelia and Eastern influences ... yeah, we've described an aural stew that includes virtually everything but a kitchen sink.

As mentioned earlier, Holden's dizzying guitar work was unparalleled. Highlights included the Arthur Lee-penned "Feathered Friend" (checkout his fuzz work), "Flight of the Dragon Lady" (how'd he get that sustained distortion?), the Indian flavored "I Need You" and the cataclysmic closer "What Can I Do For You, The Other Half". Regardless of whether you're into psych, this is simply a great guitar album !!! Greeted with complete indifference, the set quickly vanished into cutout bins. (Tom Hall provided the cool period cover art ...)

1. Introduction (Randy Holden, Jeff Nowlen, Geoff Westen) - 1:50
2. Feathered Fish (Arthur Lee) - 2:38 (Arthur Lee)
3. Flight of the Dragon Lady (Randy Holden, Jeff Nowlen, Geoff Westen, Larry Brown, Danny Wood) - 2:36
4. Wonderful Day (Randy Holden) - 2:21
5. I Need You (Randy Holden, Mike Port) - 2:46
6. Oz Lee Eaves Drops (Randy Holden, Jeff Nowlen) - 2:29
7. Bad Day (Randy Holden, Jeff Nowlen) - 2:18
8. Morning Fire (Randy Holden, Jeff Nowlen) - 2:37
9. What Can I Do For You, First Half (Randy Holden, Jeff Nowlen, Geoff Westen) - 2:45
10.What Can I Do For You, The Other Half (Randy Holden, Jeff Nowlen, Geoff Westen) - 6:57
11.I’ve Come So Far (1968 single) (Geoff Westen) - 2:22
12.Mr. Pharmacist (1966 single) (Jeff Nowlen) - 2:30
13.No Doubt About It ( b-side of an Acta single) (Jeff Nowlen) -  2:36
14.It’s Too Hard  (Jeff Nowlen) - 2:13
15.I Know (Jeff Nowlen) - 2:41

The Other Half
*Randy Holden - Lead Guitar, Vocals (1967-68)
*Geoff Westen - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals (1966-68)
*Larry Brown - Bass (1966-68)
*Danny "Woody" Woods - Drums (1966-68)
*Jeff Nolan - Vocals, Harmonica, Guitars (1966-68)
*Ron Saurman - Drums (1968)

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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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