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

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

Free Text

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)

Free Text

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

Free Text/No Code

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

Free Text/No Code

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

Free Text/No Code

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Kathy McCord - New Jersey To Woodstock (1968-79 us, brilliant soulful folk psych with jazz expansions, 2010 two disc set)

Had events taken a different turn, Kathy McCord might now be regarded as a 60s pop icon, rather than a cult heroine. It was her early mentor Chip Taylor’s intention that she would record the original of the now-classic ‘Angel Of The Morning’, but his partner Al Gorgoni favoured Evie Sands. Instead Kathy got to record a single for their Rainy Day label in 1968 that fell stillborn from the presses.

A year later, Kathy became the first non-jazz artist to be signed to Creed Taylor’s renowned CTI imprint. Her eponymous album featured musicians of the calibre of John Hall, future founder of Orleans, on guitar and flautist Hubert Laws. Its ethereal beauty failed to reach its intended audience, and it was not until years later – decades, even – that it started to achieve a belated recognition, particularly among those who enjoy the works of such McCord peers as Nick Drake and Vashti Bunyan. Copies of the original LP have crept up in price and nowadays fetch a pretty penny when offered for sale. A limited edition Japanese CD from the mid-90s sold out almost before it hit the streets.

In the 21st century, the cult of Kat continues to snowball. When the opportunity arose for Ace to license and re-reissue “Kathy McCord”, we jumped at it. She is, after all, family by relation – her big brother Billy Vera has long been part of the Ace team, as both compiler and annotator. Billy is a thrilled as we are that we’re able to give his little sister the treatment that her small but mighty catalogue deserves. It was Billy who approached her on our behalf to see if she had unissued material lurking in corners or cupboards that we could use to make that catalogue even bigger.

To everyone’s delight, Kathy trawled through her tapes and found 16 tracks that make up CD2 of this set. The fi is not always hi on these, but her abundant talent shines through on each and every one of them. They were recorded at various times during the 1970s, while Kathy was living in Woodstock and hanging out with the likes of the Fabulous Rhinestones, Amos Garrett, Paul Butterfield and assorted members of the Band – most if not all of whom can be heard in this half of our programme.

Listening to the repertoire of “New Jersey To Woodstock”, it’s quite incredible that Kathy never got the kind of breaks that were afforded to considerably less talented contemporaries of hers. She had the look, and the looks. She wrote most of her own material and sung it with supreme confidence and soulfulness. Her lack of success can only be down to a matter of being on the wrong label, or in the wrong place, at the wrong time. But it’s never too late to travel from New Jersey To Woodstock, so buy your ticket and let Kathy McCord make your journey worthwhile.
by Tony Rounce

Disc One
New Jersey. The 60’s Recordings
1. Rainbow Ride - 5:05
2. I'm Leaving Home (She's Leaving Home) (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 4:20
3. Candle Waxing - 4:12
4. Baby James - 3:14
S. The Love Flow - 3:00
6. New York Good Sugar/Love Lyric #7 - 3:57
7. For You, Child - 3:08
8. Jennipher - 4:39
9. Take Away This Pain - 5:36
10.Velvet Smile (Kathleen McCord, Billy Vera) - 3:16
11.I'll Give My Heart To You (Chip Taylor)  - 3:47
12.I'll Never Be Alone Again (Chip Taylor, Al Gorgoni) - 2:27
All titles written by Kathleen McCord except where noted

Disc Two
Woodstock. The 70s Recordings
1. New Horizons - 3:22
2. Acapulco - 3:07
3. Baby, Come Out Tonight - 2:55
4. That's A Love That's Real - 3:54
5. No Need To Wait - 3:11
6. I'll Be Lovin' You Forever - 3:18
7. Magnolia - 3:06
8. Madman - 3:53
9. Captain Cody Memorial - 3:55
10.Keep Peace In The Family - 3:41
11.You'd Convince The Devil - 2:42
12.Who's Been Coolin' You? - 5:57
13.Don't Go Talkin' To Strangers - 4:02
14. Every Little Thing You Do - 3:56
15. I Wanna Know Why - 4:38
16. Shine On - 3:57
All titles written by Kathleen McCord

*Kathy McCord - Vocals, Guitar
*Harvey Brooks - Bass
*Kal David - Guitar, Vocals
*Marty Grebb - Keyboards
*Lenon Helm - Drums
*Rick Danko - Bass
*Amos Garrett - Guitar
*Tommy "T-Bone" Wolk - Bass
*Howard "HoJo" Johnson - Saxophone
*John Platania - Guitar
*Tom Malone -  Trumpet, Tuba, Saxes, Flutes
*Lou Marini - Saxophone
*David Sanborn - Alto Saxophone
*Lew Del Gato - Sax
*Michael Brecker - Sax, Flute
*Randy Brecker - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
*Ed Shaughnessy - Drums, Tabla
*Don Sebesky - String, Brass Arrangements
*Hubert Laws - Flute
*Paul Harris - Piano, Organ
*John Hall - Guitar
*Willis Kelly - Drums

Free Text

Monday, October 6, 2014

Luv Machine - Luv Machine (1971 barbados, great hard guitar rock with prog traces)

Originally released in 1970, the single "Witches Wand" is as classic as it gets from this magical era in underground music. To this day it remains a firm favourite at 60s mod and psych and 70s rock clubs up and down the UK.

Formed in the tropical climes of Barbados in 1967, the Luv Machine relocated to the UK in late '68 to seek fame and fortune in those swinging times.

The band started out by playing the underground black soul clubs in the Midlands area. Their sound was a lot harder-edged than the usual acts on the initial club circuit on which they were being booked.

Influenced by Hendrix, Cream, Credence Clearwater Revival as well as more obscure hard rock bands of the time, Luv Machine managed to combine elements of both rock & soulful psych with a funky progressive groove. Added to this was a Caribbean vibe, which made them completely unique amongst rivals of the day.

The band's self-titled debut album that was released for Polydor in 1971 has become a much-revered and collectable item amongst collectors and fans of the era.

Unfortunately, the band split before the album was actually released, which meant it was never actually given the publicity it surely deserved. Who knows what may have happened if the situation was different for them.

1. Witches Wand - 2:45
2. You're Surprised - 2:41
3. It's Amazing - 3:21
4. Happy Children (Bishop, Bradshaw) - 3:07
5. Everything (Martin Hall) - 3:16
6. Maybe Tomorrow - 4:19
7. Reminiscing (Vernon Pareira) - 2:52
8. Change your Mind - 2:57
9. Corrupt One - 3:47
10.Lost - 3:06
11.My Life Is Filled With Changes - 3:05
12.Portrait Of Disgust - 4:53
All songs by Michael Bishop except where noted

Luv Machine
Michael Bishop - guitar, vocals
Bob Bowman - guitar, vocals
Errol Bradshaw - drums, vocals
John Jeavons - bass, vocals

Free Text