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Plain and Fancy

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Octopus - Restless Night (1967-71 uk, spectacular beat psychedelia prog rock, 2006 remaster with extra tracks and 2016 japan remaster)

As put by Stefan Granados in the accompanying liners, “perhaps due to it being recorded at the fag end of the psychedelic pop years in 1970, or the ghastly illustration that graced the sleeve”, Octopus’ sole album still remains unheard of by lots of those who would’ve treasured it, had they been digging a bit deeper under the hostile surface … had they ever came across it at all.

Though it’s already been given a second chance actually, by See For Miles in the mid 90's, this is surely the definitive, and most certainly the first ever complete version of Restless Night, including the previously omitted pair of ballads, with I Was So Young being an almost Victorian-sounding piece of British folk, with a fragile Blunt-stoned vocal delivery, and Orchard Bloom already kinda suggesting McCartney’s post-Beatle days.

While we’re at it, there’s quite a few other kinds of Beatlisms, be it the Macca-by-way-of-Emitt-Rhodes sounding I Say and Rainchild (a formula already applied on some of the pre-album recordings like Call Me A Fool and especially Turning Night Into Day, as well as the pre-Octopus Cortinas’ single sides Girlfriend/ Laugh At The Poor Man), the Lennon-like proggy blues of the title tune, or Council Plans, finding them halfway between the Pepper-ish groove and The Turtles’ sunshiny harmony pop.

On a rare occasion when they tend to rawk out a bit harder, it usually comes out pretty close to the above concept, in a more Badfinger-like way, most audibly in the fuzzy opening The River, there’s also some tasty slightlydelic guitar lines, keeping Summer from it’s almost classic bubblegum chewy ness.

Thief sounds like a rather nervously (in a good way) upbeat rendition of an imaginary Graham Gouldman tune, Queen And The Pauper is a kind of a lightweight type of Britsike, while the epic closer Tide, though still sticking to the album’s highly melodic concept, also combines it with a progressive structure, being more in accordance with the album’s contemporary surroundings.

Besides the already mentioned pair of pre-album recordings, worth of mention are some other previously unreleased Cortinas recordings as well, such as the happy-go-lucky pair of the Vaudeville-ian ditty Phoebe’s Flower Shop and the Hermits-sounding Too Much In Love.

Seems like it’s about time for Octopus to fully spread his arms around the popsike world. 
by Garwood Pickjon, October 25, 2006

1. The River (Nigel Griggs) - 4:22
2. I Was So Young (John Cook) - 2:58
3. Summer (Nigel Griggs) - 3:04
4. Council Plans (John Cook) - 3:33
5. Restless Night (Nigel Griggs) - 4:07
6. Orchard Bloom (Nigel Griggs) - 2:34
7. Thief (Nigel Griggs) - 3:36
8. Queen And The Pauper (Nigel Griggs) - 3:37
9. I Say (Nigel Griggs) - 1:52
10.John's Rock (John Cook) - 2:37
11.Rainchild (Nigel Griggs) - 3:06
12.Tide (John Cook, Nigel Griggs) - 5:32
13.Girlfriend (John Cook, Rick Williams) - 2:56
14.Laugh At The Poor Man (Jackie Steward, Nigel Griggs, Paul Griggs) - 3:17
15.Sagittarius (Nigel Griggs) - 3:41
16.In The Park (Unknown) - 3:18
17.Phoebe's Flower Shop (Brian Potter, Graham Dee) - 2:44
18.Too Much In Love (Brian Potter, Graham Dee) - 2:27
19.Call Me A Fool (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:46
20.Turning Night Into Day (Paul Raymond, Tony Murray) - 2:20
21.I Am The Walrus (Live) (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 5:02
22.Peer Gynt Suite (Live) (Edvard Grieg) - 5:57
Tracks 15-18 as The Cortinas

Octopus’s sole 1969 long-player Restless Night is something of a treasure among ’60s Brit-psych fans due to its mixture of proto-progressive riffs, accomplished pop tunes and sparkling Beatlesque flourishes. The band evolved out of the thriving Hertfordshire beat scene that also gave us The Zombies, The Gods and those other cult pop-psych heroes Forever Amber. Octopus’ music was coloured by the use of keyboards and layered vocal harmonies in much the same way. 

As The Cortinas they enjoyed several years of local success which culminated in the 1968 CBS single ‘Phoebe’s Flower Shop’. The single was pure pop confectionery and betrayed little of the band’s tight, melodic brand of rock. By the time they’d been signed to Larry Page’s Penny Farthing label in 1969, their sound had expanded to encompass the burgenoning progressive scene, the dawn of the solo troubadour and the omnipresent influence of The Beatles, illustrated perfectly by their live sets of the period which included songs by Yes, Neil Young, Cat Stevens and even note-for-note renditions of “I Am The Walrus” and “Baby, You’re A Rich Man”!

The first single and album opener ‘The River’ is a tough dancefloor groover complete with lysergic fuzz guitar and has appeared on several compilations while the album cover art is an eye-opening classic of the “so bad it’s good” school. Much to the band’s horror, they discovered that Page had released a bastardised version of the album which omitted two of the original tracks and added the b-side of the single. Previous re-issues of the album have, not surprisingly, stuck to the erroneous tracklist but here at Rev-Ola we always strive to give you more. And you love it don’t you, you little beauties? So here it is pop pickers, for the first time EVER, the original version of the Octopus album as the band intended… containing two previously unheard (and uniformly excellent) tunes plus the usual plethora of previously unreleased bonus tracks, single sides, demos and even a mind-blowing contemporary live recording of Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt Suite’! You better believe it daddy!
by Michael Kearton

1. The River (Nigel Griggs) - 4:24
2. Summer (Nigel Griggs) - 3:03
3. Council Plans (John Cook) - 3:36
4. Restless Night (Nigel Griggs) - 3:58
5. Thief (Nigel Griggs) - 3:38
6. Queen And The Pauper (Nigel Griggs) - 3:37
7. I Say (Nigel Griggs) - 1:53
8. John's Rock (John Cook) - 2:38
9. Rainchild (Nigel Griggs) - 3:04
10.Tide (John Cook, Nigel Griggs) - 5:40
11.Laugh At The Poor Man (Jackie Steward, Nigel Griggs, Paul Griggs) - 3:16
12.Girlfriend (John Cook, Rick Williams) - 2:55
13.The River (Single Version) (Nigel Griggs) - 3:23
14.Thief (Single Version) (Nigel Griggs) - 3:40

Paul Griggs - Lead Guitar, Vocals
Nigel Griggs - Bass Guitar, Vocals
Rick Williams - Rhythm Guitar,Vocals (1,2,5,11,12,13,14)
Brian Glasscock - Drums (1,2,5,11,12,13,14)
John Cook - Wurlitzer Organ, Piano, Vocals (3,4,6,7,8,9,10)
Malcolm Green - Drums (3,4,6,7,8,9,10)

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Stone The Crows - Teenage Licks / Ontinuous Performance (1971/72 uk, sensational hard blues rock, 2015 double disc remaster and expanded)

Scottish blue rock act Stone the Crows were dealt more than a few blows as they attempted to record their third album in 1971. Bassist/vocalist James Dewar had jumped ship to be the sole vocalist in Robin Trower's band, and keyboard player John McGinnis had enough of life on the road and became a teacher. This left vocalist Maggie Bell, guitarist Leslie Harvey, and drummer Collen Allen to look for replacements, and in came bassist Steve Thompson and keyboard player Ronnie Leahy. With Maggie now as the main focal point from a vocal perspective, the sound of the band changed slightly, and things got even more dicey when Harvey was electrocuted on stage in 1972, before the band had even finished their soon to be fourth album. In would come ex-Thunderclap Newman (and soon to be Wings) guitarist Jimmy McCulloch. However, things were never the same, and the band split soon afterwards with four albums in just over two years. This 2CD Angel Air Records set collects the two long out of print albums Teenage Licks and Ontinuous Performance, and while they are perhaps not quite as impressive as the band's first two releases, they are still prime examples of fiery early '70s blues rock.

Teenage Licks features a host of hot tunes, including the smoldering rocker "Mr Wizard", the slow blues piece "Don't Think Twice" (featuring an emotional, Janis Joplin styled vocal from Bell), the heavy rocker "Big Jim Salter", and Harvey's sizzling hard rock licks on the raucous "Keep On Rollin' ". A blistering live "Let It Down", originally written by the first incarnation of the band, is an outstanding bonus surprise here. Leahy contributes more piano on Teenage Licks than we saw on the first two Stone the Crows albums, as opposed to McGinnis' reliance on the Hammond organ, so there is a bit of a different feel here to be sure. With Harvey's death, the band had not completely finished the Ontinuous Performance, so McCulloch put the finishing touches to the songs "Good Time Girl" and "Sunset Cowboy", but Les can still be heard on the crunchy blues rocker "On the Highway", an old school blues number "Penicillin Blues", the upbeat "Niagara", and the atmospheric "King Tut". None of these songs carry the power of anything from Stone the Crows or Ode to John Law, as the band seemed to be going through the motions by this point, delivering solid but unspectacular honky tonk blues. By 1972, it was all over, and Maggie Bell's solo career would begin.

Thanks must be made to Angel Air for making sure these recordings are once again available for fans to either discover for the first time or finally get a CD copy of their old vinyl versions. Though their first albums are the cream of the crop, there's still plenty of exciting blues rock here to enjoy, featuring the amazing skills of one Maggie Bell. 
by Pete Pardo

Disc 1 Teenage Licks 1971
1. Big Jim Salter (Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, Leslie Harvey) - 4:38
2. Faces (Steve Thompson, Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, Ronnie Leahy, Leslie Harvey) - 4:41
3. Mr Wizard (Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, Leslie Harvey) - 5:27
4. Don't Think Twice (Bob Dylan) - 5:04
5. Keep On Rollin' (Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, Leslie Harvey) - 3:53
6. Ailen Mochree (Traditional) - 0:25
7. One Five Eight (John McGinnis) - 6:28
8. I May Be Right Imay Be Wrong (Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, Ronnie Leahy, Leslie Harvey) - 5:05
9. Seven Lakes (Steve Thompson, Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, Ronnie Leahy, Leslie Harvey) - 3:04
10.Let It Down (Live) (Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, John McGinnis, James Dewar) - 5:33
11.Going Down (Live) (Don Nix) - 5:05

Disc 2 Ontinuous Performance 1972
1. On The Highway (Ronnie Leahy, Leslie Harvey) - 5:36
2. One More Chance (Ronnie Leahy) - 6:13
3. Penicillin Blues (Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee) - 5:34
4. King Tut (Maggie Bell, Leslie Harvey) - 2:40
5. Good Time Girl (Steve Thompson, Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, Ronnie Leahy) - 3:28
6. Niagra (Ronnie Leahy) - 9:15
7. Sunset Cowboy (Colin Allen, Ronnie Leahy) - 6:42
8. Good Time Girl (Live) (Steve Thompson, Maggie Bell, Colin Allen, Ronnie Leahy) - 3:10
9. Penicillin Blues (Live) (Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee) - 5:27

Stone The Crows
*Steve Thompson - Bass, Vocals
*Colin Allen - Drums, Percussion
*Leslie Harvey - Guitar
*Maggie Bell - Vocals
*Ronnie Leahy - Organ, Piano
*Jimmy McCulloch - Guitar (Disc 2)
*Dundee Horns - Horn (Disc 1)
*Roger Ball - Horn (Disc 2)
*Malcolm Duncan - Horn (Disc 2)

1969-71  Stone The Crows - Stone The Crows / Ode To John Law (015 double disc bonus tracks set) 
1972  Stone The Crows - Live In Montreux
1975  Maggie Bell - Suicide Sal (2006 remaster)
1974  Maggie Bell - Queen Of The Night (2006 bonus tracks remaster) 

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Kevin Odegard - Kevin Odegard (1971 us, amazing folk psych rock, 2008 korean remaster)

This album was born one sunny day in the summer of 1970 as I ambled along the mall at the University of Minnesota, where I was a sophomore. The year following the “Summer of Love” wasn’t very lovely on campuses across America. The Altamont Rock Concert and Manson Family murders ended the Age of Aquarius with a thud. Rock god Jim Morrison and guitar genius Duane Allman would both be dead within a year. Musically, the times they were a changin’. “The Dream is Over” sang a prophetic, depressed John Lennon on his first solo album “Plastic Ono Band.” Chaos, rebellion and unrest overtook our campus when a group of students managed to shut down the school as part of a nationwide student strike in response to Nixon’s unannounced invasion of Cambodia.

Classes had been cancelled in the Spring. Already an apathetic student, I became a sailor without a compass, and by the time summer rolled around I was living as a caretaker in the basement of my fraternity house, in a barroom which I had converted, with the help of blankets and egg cartons, into a makeshift recording studio. My nutritional intake came from a Coke machine in the hallway and a new fast-food restaurant down the street called Arby’s. On a primitive Ampex quarter-track machine, I had proceeded to record my own versions of most of Neil Young’s first Reprise album, along with an odd collection of original songs, some of which appear here. The violence and student protests had quelled for a happy event known in Minneapolis as “Soul Of A City,” a festival of music, arts, street theater and counterculture, right here in my front yard. As I wandered through clouds of incense past the artisan booths, dodging mimes, mystics, tarot readers, astrologers and military recruiters, I was drawn to an area near Coffman Student Union where I heard what sounded like rifle shots cascading through the canyons of classroom buildings. 

The sound was magnetic, entreating me to cross Washington Avenue to see what it was. As I got closer I saw it was a bandstand, and on it were several scraggly-looking young musicians just about my age scrambling through an amplified, distorted fusion of strange new music. It was harder to follow than my mathematics class, yet was infinitely more intriguing to my ears. I was more attuned at that time to the warm, rich Vanguard recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, played late at night, all night, many a night. “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor,” “Payday,” “Talking Casey.” It was like Woody Guthrie with emotion, and the finger-picking style was addictive. (I still haven’t shaken it) The beat was implied more than played. Local radio airplay on Mississippi Fred MacDowell’s Capitol recording, “I Do Not Play No Rock ‘n Roll” had drawn me across the river to the West Bank a week earlier to see, and meet MacDowell. playing his riveting, unforgettable one-man show with a beef bone slide guitar, tapping a foot that never quite hit the ground. In retrospect, Fred was the most influential professor I ever had, yet when he was at home in Como, Mississippi he pumped gas for a living at the Stuckey’s Pecan Shop & Texaco Station on the state highway. It never interfered with his stature in my mind. 

My own life was to follow a similar path once I chose music, but I didn’t know it at the time. On this sunny summer day I was puzzled by what I heard. The beats were fluid, rambling, but not hard to follow. You simply had to listen to become part of this intoxicating music. How did the singer remember where to go next, or what words to sing? Nothing made sense; there was no schlocky pop chorus, no refrain, no structure, and there were no boundaries or limits to what they could do together. Song after song they jammed and hammered away at something unseen, some mysterious source at the heart of things. Soon the crowd around me became invisible, indistinguishable from the members of the band, and then I too disappeared into the sax, the flute, the bass, the guitar, the Fender Rhodes electric piano and yes, that infinite energy behind it all, the drums! When it was over and the band was packing up, I found myself near a tree where the drummer stood wiping his face with a towel. I walked over, offered my hand and met Stanley Kipper for the first time, then retreated to the quiet of my lodgings, intrigued and deeply inspired by what I had just seen.

At Thanksgiving dinner that year I met Nancy Bundt, an artist-photographer, who became my soulmate and fellow traveler for the journey ahead. My heart was not into school, especially in the wake of the strike, and my formal education ended then and there with a January hitch-hiking trip to Boston and New York City, where Nancy had friends in the world of yoga and meditation. I brought along my Martin D-28 guitar and played here and there, making up songs along the way as I had with my frat brothers at the University. We were lucky in love, life and business. 

On our second trip to New York we went to work as music copyists for a small publisher doing the sheet music for George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” folio. We lived at 12 Perry Street in Greenwich Village, above both subway lines, and recorded short songs between the noisy trains below. Stephen DeLapp, my friend from a summer, 1969 gig playing the Medora Musical in North Dakota, was attending Yale Divinity School, and our visit to New Haven resulted in an appearance on a local television show, sandwiched between the news and Rat Patrol. 

A friend in New York City introduced us to her brother, a record company owner, and by May, 1971, we were back in Minnesota, contract in-hand to record an album of my ramblings and musings. How, I wondered, was I going to do this? What could I do with these songs, fragments and ideas to make a record that people would enjoy? I wanted to do something no one else was doing, not a repeat or imitation like I had done with the Neil Young songs in my frat studio. Then I thought of Stanley Kipper, and realized that the sound I wanted to hear on the record and, ultimately, on the radio was the sound I had heard at Soul of A City last summer. I also thought of a very talented fellow I had met through friends at the University, a great piano-player named Greg Anderson. 

I started there, writing a song with Greg we called “Me & The Blind Man.” We had fun doing that, and he came aboard for the project. I then located Stan, who suggested his bass player Dick Hiebeler, and flautist Larry Ankrum, both an integral part of his rock-jazz-fusion sound. Andy Howe was also playing with Stan by this time, and he came into our little group full of ideas about arrangements and instruments. A multi-instrumentalist, Andy could play anything in front of him, and as Stan notes, he did so on this recording with (mostly) good results. Cheerful, charming and brave, Andy became the bandleader. Producer Don Kasen enlisted David Zimmerman to oversee the recording sessions at Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis, where I would later work with David’s brother Bob Dylan on “Blood On The Tracks.” Rehearsals ensued, songs were chosen, thrown out, re-tooled, rewritten, trashed, made up on the spot, mixed, edited, spliced and fashioned into this humble, impassioned first album, which came out just before Christmas, 1971. 

Reviewers heard or imagined the influences, Neil Young and Jefferson Airplane among them, and the album surfaced on regional FM radio with “Trees,” “A Man’s Work” and, mostly, the longest song of the collection, “When I Get Home.” Musically and lyrically, this is an album about a countercultural revolution that redefined a generation’s values and tested its faith. Deep inside the sweet love songs, laments and tentative mantras in this recording, if you listen very hard, you can hear the sounds of war and rebellion hiding in the electricity. 

By March of 1972, we were playing concert dates to support radio airplay. At the University of Minnesota, we played our first local show at The Whole Coffeehouse in the basement of Coffman Student Union, a hundred yards from where I had met Stan two years earlier. By this time, however, Andy Howe had moved on to another project, and he eventually landed in Hollywood as music director for America’s Sweetheart Debbie Reynolds. Duplicating the sound of the most popular song in performance was a problem without Andy in the band, and when the time came for the big guitar solo in “When I Get Home,” all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Andy back in the band. Stan. a magnificent drummer and loyal friend, became the conscience of our rotating membership, and has held that position through present day.
by Kevin Odegard

1. Krak`s Song - 1:04
2. Forget The Waste - 2:20
3. Trees - 1:55
4. If Your Heart`s Not In It - 1:44
5. A Man`s Work - 2:30
6. Fathers And Sons - 3:20
7. I Am - 2:32
8. Me And The Blind Man - 3:01
9. Advice From A Stranger - 1:41
10.When I Get Home - 8:32
11.Krak`s Song - Version 2 - 1:58
All songs by Kevin Odegard except track #8 co-written with Greg Anderson

*Kevin Odegard - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Steven Delapp - Acoustic Guitar
*James Hauck - Backing Vocals, Percussion
*Dick Hiebler - Bass
*Stan Kipper - Drums
*Andy Howe - Electric Guitar, Electric Piano
*Max Swanson - Flute
*Tony Glover - Harmonica
*Greg Anderson - Piano, Organ, Electric Piano, Celesta, Backing Vocals

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rare Earth - Back To Earth / Rare Earth (1975/77 us, marvellous jazzy soul funky rock, 2006 remaster)

An altogether more pleasurable experience than their previous recording sesions, "Back To Earth" restored the group to the chart, its #59placing their best in three years. Singles wise the group found the going a little more difficult, with "It Makes You Happy (But It Ain't Gonna Last Too Long)" bein written by new recruits Gabriel Katona and Paul Warren and bubblingunder at #106. 

With Motown shutting down the Rare Eartyh label following the release of "Midnight Lady" the group left the company. They weren't without a home for long, for long time champion Barney Ales had set up the Prodigal label, featuring an eclectic mix of artists and offered Rare Earth a new contract. Several of the Old group members joined up for the ride too, with Rare Earth at this point featuring Gil Bridges, Mike Urso, Pete Rivera and Ed Guzman along with newer recruita Ron Fransen (keyboards) and Danile Ferguson (Guitar).

Cal Harris and James Anthonh Carmaichael handled production, and whilst the resulting Rare Earth album was hardle a shattering succes, at least charting (albeit at #187) proved that they still had an audience.
from Motown Encyclopedia

Back To Earth 1975
1. It Makes You Happy (But It Ain't Gonna Last Too Long) (Gabriel Katona, Paul Warren) - 4:08
2. Walking Schtick (Gabriel Katona) - 4:14
3. Keeping Me Out Of The Storm (Johnny Stevenson, Paul Warren) - 5:22
4. Delta Melody (Doug Duffey) - 4:59
5. Happy Song (Doug Duffey) - 4:54
6. Let Me Be Your Sunshine (Gabriel Katona, Paul Warren) - 2:51
7. Boogie With Me Children (Jerry Lacroix) - 3:26
8. City Life (Dennis Provisor) - 4:56
Rare Earth 1977
9. Love Has Lifted Me (Michael Sutton, Brenda Sutton) - 3:52
10.Is Your Teacher Cool? (Anna Gaye, Elgie Stover, Jerry Knight, Terrance Harrison) - 5:12
11.Foot Loose And Fancy Free (Anna Gaye, Elgie Stover, Michael Torrance, Terrance Harrison) - 4:10
12.When I Write (Peter Hoorelbeke, Tom Baird) - 4:20
13.Share My Love (Gloria Jones, Janie Bradford) - 4:28
14.Tin Can People (Beverly Gardner, Gloria Jones) - 3:43
15.I Really Love You (Allen Story, Anna Story, Berry Gordy) - 4:59
16.Crazy Love (Peter Hoorelbeke, Ron Fransen) - 3:29
17.Ah Dunno (Michael Urso, Peter Hoorelbeke, Ron Fransen) - 2:06

Rare Earth
*Eddie Guzman - Congas, Percussion
*Gil Bridges - Flute, Alto Saxophone, Backing Vocals
*Jerry La Croix - Lead Vocals, Tenor Saxophone, Flute (Tracks 1-8)
*Ray Monette - Guitar (Tracks 1-8)
*Paul Warren - Guitar, Backing Vocals (Tracks 1-8)
*Gabriel Katona - Keyboards, Backing Vocals (Tracks 1-8)
*Reggie McBride - Bass, Backing Vocals (Tracks 1-8)
*Barry Frost - Drums, Percussion (Tracks 1-8)
*Michael Urso - Bass, Backing Vocals (Tracks 9-17)
*Daniel Ferguson - Guitar (Tracks 9-17)
*Ron Fransen - Keyboards (Tracks 9-17)
*Peter Hoorelbeke - Lead Vocals, Drums (Tracks 9-17)

1968  Dreams/Answers (2017 audiophile remaster)
1969-74  Fill Your Head (three cds box set, five studio albums plus outtakes and alternative versions)
1971  One World  (2015 audiophile remaster)
1971  In Concert (2017 Audiophile) 
1974  Live In Chicago (2014 audiophile remaster)
1976/78  Midnight Lady / Band Together (2017 digipak remaster)

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Donnie Fritts - Prone To Lean (1974 us, awesome bluesy country folk rock, 2013 japan remaster)

One of the architects of the famed Muscle Shoals Sound, songwriter Donnie Fritts also enjoyed success as a longtime associate of Kris Kristofferson. A native of Florence, Alabama, as a teen Fritts played drums with local acts like the Satellites and Hollis Dixon. By the late '50s he was writing and performing with the likes of Arthur Alexander, Dan Penn, and Spooner Oldham, all of them joining forces to forge the unique fusion of Southern soul, pop, country, and R&B immediately recognizable as the Muscle Shoals Sound. Fritts' early songs were recorded by performers as diverse as Percy Sledge, Dusty Springfield, the Box Tops, and Tommy Roe. 

By the late '60s he was employed as a Nashville staff writer, often working alongside fellow up-and-comer Kristofferson. Beginning in 1970, Fritts was Kristofferson's touring keyboardist, and they even appeared together in films including Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and A Star Is Born. He released his first solo album, the solid country soul offering Prone To Lean, in 1974, but whether because of poor sales or other priorities, it was 23 years before he released another one. Although his name is not as well known as some of his collaborators, Fritts was an integral part of the development of the 70s country soul sound. 

Fritts focused on session and touring work during the early 2000s. He guested on Robert Plant's Sixty Six to Timbuktu in 2003 and on the Resentments' Roselight in 2009, but did little else. His songs paid the bills, as they appeared on dozens of compilations and were covered by current artists including Shelby Lynne, who made his "Breakfast in Bed" the title track of her tribute to Dusty Springfield in 2008. 

Fritts didn't record again under his own name for another half dozen years. He had become friendly with producer and label and studio owner John Paul White (formerly of the Civil Wars), who asked him to play the premiere of the Muscle Shoals documentary. While visiting one day, White heard Fritts play songs on his well-used Wurlitzer that were favorites, not necessarily his own. The producer convinced him to record an album of this material on that instrument. With assistance from the Alabama Shakes' Ben Tanner, White assembled various guests including Brittany Howard, Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, John Prine, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Spooner Oldham, and the Secret Sisters to back Fritts. Released by White's Single Lock Records, Oh My Goodness was issued in October of 2015.  
by Jason Ankeny

1. Three Hundred Pounds Of Hongry (Donnie Fritts, Eddie Hinton) - 3:30
2. Winner Take All (Donnie Fritts, Dan Penn) - 3:47
3. When We're On The Road (Donnie Fritts) - 3:22
4. Whatcha Gonna Do (Donnie Fritts, Jon Reid) - 3:22
5. You're Gonna Love Yourself (In The Morning) (Donnie Fritts) - 2:51
6. I've Got To Feel It (Donnie Fritts, Eddie Hinton) - 3:24
7. Sumpin' Funky Going On (Donnie Fritts, Tony Joe White) - 2:54
8. Jesse Cauley Sings The Blues (Eddie Hinton) - 3:28
9. My Friend (Donnie Fritts, Spooner Oldham) - 3:18
10.Prone To Lean (Kris Kristofferson) - 3:38
11.We Had It All (Donnie Fritts, Troy Seals) - 3:03
12.Rainbow Road (Donnie Fritts, Dan Penn) - 3:36

*Donnie Fritts - Vocals, Electric Piano
*Barry Beckett - Piano, Vives, Clavinet
*Roger Hawkins - Drums, Tambourine, Congas
*Jimmy Johnson - Acoustic, Electric Guitar
*David Hood - Bass
*Eddie Hinton - Acoustic, Electric Guitar, Harmonica
*Pete Carr - Acoustic, Electric Guitar, Dobro
*Mike Utley - Organ
*Sammy Creason - Drums
*Jerry McGee - Acoustic, Electric, Slide Guitar
*Tony Joe White - Lead Guitar, Back Vocal
*Spooner Oldham - Vives
*Jerry Masters - Bass
*Mickey Raphael - Harp
*The Muscle Shoals - Horns
*Rita Coolidge - Back Vocal
*Billy Swann - Back Vocal
*Dan Penn - Back Vocal
*Kris Kristofferson - Back Vocal
*John Prine - Back Vocal
*Spooner Oldham - Back Vocal
*Eddie Hinton - Back Vocal
*Jerry Wexler - Back Vocal

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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Fifth Avenue Band - Fifth Avenue Band (1969 us, spectacular blend of jazzy funk folk psych rock, 2018 japan SHM remaster)

Kenny Altman, Jerry Burnham and Peter Gallway started their musical partnership while attending high school in New York City.  As The Strangers, they recorded a little heard 1965 single 'Land of Music' b/w 'I Need Your Love Inside Me'.

By the late-'60s the trio were members of The Fifth Avenue Band (the line up rounded out by drummer Pete Heywood, vocalist Joe Lind and keyboard player Murray Weinstock).  Signed by Reprise, the band's self-titled 1969 debut was interesting for a number of reasons, including the fact it teamed them with Lovin Spoonful alumis Jerry Yester and Zal Yanvosky (Lovin' Spoonful producer Erik Jacobsen handling five tracks).  Certainly a result of the Lovin' Spoonful connection, numerous reviews and references have compared  "The Fifth Avenue Band" to the Lovin' Spoonful catalog.  To our ears, with the exception of 'Nice Folks', the comparison isn't really there

With Altman and Gallway responsible for the majority of material, the set was actually quite diverse.  The opener 'Fast Freight' recalled The Band-styled of rural rock; 'One Way or The Other' 'could haven been mistaken for The Fifth Dimension (not kidding) and 'Good Lady of Toronto' sported a pretty country-rock melody. 

Because it was produced by one-time Lovin' Spoonful members Zal Yanovsky and Jerry Yester, and because they were also based in Greenwich Village, the Fifth Avenue Band's sole and self-titled album has generated its share of Lovin' Spoonful comparisons. It's really not too close in sound to the Spoonful, however, even if it shares a little bit of the same sort of good-timey/easygoing reflective mood of some of the Spoonful's vintage material. It's far more colored by late-'60s rock in its arrangements, for one thing, sometimes going into a somewhat heavier, occasionally jazz-funk-influenced sound than what the Spoonful were renowned for, though there are bits of country as well. 

To be a little harsher, it also doesn't have anything on the order of the classic original material the Spoonful generated at their peak. It's not at all bad, however, with a gentle melodic vibe and vocal harmonies that tend toward the optimistically upbeat even on the somewhat more pensive tunes, though it's more a pleasant listen than a memorable one. Some of the more forceful songs might also recall some of the Nazz's work in their blend of pop/rock with slight soul spice, though the Nazz were more Beatlesque in their approach. They come closest to hitting that kind of stride on the closing cut, "Angel," which is the album's highlight. 
by Richie Unterberger 

1. Fast Freight (Peter Gallway) - 3:39
2. One Way Or The Other (Kenny Altman) - 2:27
3. Good Lady Of Toronto (Peter Gallway) - 4:03
4. Eden Rock (Kenny Altman, Peter Gallway) - 2:30
5. Country Time Rhymes (Peter Gallway) - 3:45
6. Calamity Jane (Peter Gallway) - 2:49
7. Nice Folks (Kenny Altman) - 2:26
8. Cockeyed Shame (Peter Gallway) - 2:48
9. Faithful Be Fair (Kenny Altman) - 4:11
10.In Hollywood (Peter Gallway) - 3:27
11.Angel (Jon Lind) - 3:36

The Fifth Avenue Band
*Kenny Altman - Vocals, Bass
*Jerry Burnham - Vocals, Guitar
*Peter Gallway - Vocals, Guitar
*Pete Heywood - Drums
*Joe Lind - Vocals
*Murray Weinstock - Keyboards

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Tamburlaine - Say No More (1972 new zealand, fascinating folk rock with prog and psych touches, 2018 korean remaster)

Raised in Wellington’s rich musical underground, the great Tamburlaine was born from British-style blues and the folk revival, and graduated from shouty, sweaty clubs to spellbinding larger concerts.

Guitarist Steve Robinson grew up in Fiji, where he studied piano from age four, played the violin in school orchestras and learned the ukulele, which naturally led to guitar. Returning with his family to New Zealand as a young teenager, he first played bass in Christ College’s ironically named beat covers band The Pagans, and later, lead guitar with Wellington College’s Us Five.  

Long before graduating to guitar, young Denis Leong studied piano for eight excruciating years, while also developing his singing voice. Backed by brother Kevin on guitar, Leong sang and together the brothers dominated 1950s talent shows, where they regularly won prizes in competition and accumulated a modest collection of toasters and other small kitchen appliances.

“I would like to say we sang early Chuck Berry or Everly Brothers tunes,” says Denis Leong, “but … our repertoire was limited to all but the cheesiest of top twenty hits.”

Meanwhile, bassist Simon Morris was playing lead guitar in his Onslow College school band Changing Times when formidable future vocalist Rick Bryant tried out for singer, but was turned down. Meeting up again with Morris at university, a newly honed Bryant fancied starting a “serious blues band”, and he and Morris bore Original Sin. “Original Sin was very much a bunch of mates into Chicago type blues (Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, etc.), pretty much driven by Rick," says Steve Robinson.

After unshackling from Rick’s harmonically-challenged brother Rod on mouth harp, the Sin really caught fire when ex-Canberran draft-dodger Bill Lake took on guitar and harmonica. Cafe L’Affare founder Jeff Kennedy played drums, rounded off, says Morris, with “a revolving door of bass-players. We could never hold onto one. Steve Robinson was one, Tony Backhouse another, [and] Lindsay Field [later an in-demand backing vocalist in Australia]."

“I went to see Original Sin perform in a school gym,” says Denis Leong. “The stage was full but the hall was empty and there was possibly just one functional amplifier. I was there because Rodney Bryant – a year younger at Rongotai College – claimed to play in a rock band. A group of fellow sixth-form skeptics went to check this out. While Rodney did not play, his older brother Rick did, ably fashioning a credible Chicago blues frontman persona in the manner of a prematurely weathered Van Morrison. More striking was another fellow who did all the talking bits between songs. This fellow told great jokes and projected a very sunny entertaining disposition … a touch at odds with the otherwise grim authentic blues ethos. That was Simon.”

Sure, Original Sin had started off playing “authentic” blues – via the Stones and The Pretty Things – but soon the Sin stepped even farther from the source when Hendrix and Cream modified the mix. Songs got longer, tempos and keys changed more, and there was more adlibbing and improvisation.

They played sporadically – including a gig for the Karori Girl Guides – and by 1968 they were the resident band at the Mystic, on Wellington’s Willis Street, a hot, smoky blues club with ultraviolet lighting.

In 1971 Tamburlaine was performing around Wellington with similarly progressive folkies at the university and Chez Paree. “I vividly remember coming off the stage in the Victoria University Union Hall March 1971," says Robinson, "and seeing the next band due to go on, heavily made up with mascara etc. It was the first line-up of Split Enz.”

By May they were in the studio, recording for Kiwi Records, who had set up a new Tamburlaine-focused sub-label: Tartar. 

“We got signed up ridiculously easily by Tony Vercoe at Kiwi Records,” says Simon Morris. “He was a lovely old chap, and he promised us not only an album contract – recorded at a real studio, EMI, with a real producer, Alan Galbraith – but our own label, you know, like Apple. And the spirit of The Beatles was all over the first album – even the title Say No More was a running gag in the movie Help. We’d write a song, arrange it, then embellish it with overdubs. Alan Galbraith made sure it didn’t get out of hand – with one exception – and it was a lot of fun.

"We didn’t have a drummer at that stage, so Steve, who was the best rhythmically, did a lot of percussion – tambourine, bongos, tabla, that sort of stuff. I had the best ear for solos, so I’d usually do those – acoustic guitar, rudimentary piano, organ at one stage, and a bit of electric guitar. And Denis wrote the most specific songs, and brought some mates in to play strings and flute on them.”

“We had made a demo tape mostly of original material and this was shopped around to the various recording companies,” says Leong. “I was pleasantly surprised to get a call back from Tony Vercoe … Tony was planning to retire that year and he felt like doing ‘something out of the box’ with a final completely unexpected blockbuster. He had a twinkle in his eye when he gave me the numbers: there would be $30,000 available to record an LP in the EMI studios. Roughly speaking the budget allowed thirty hours of recording time on a lovely four-track machine, the very model that The Beatles had used to record Rubber Soul. There had been many surprises over the previous twelve months but this was right up there. We signed, somewhat in disbelief.”

Say No More is simply astonishing, and rightly recognised in Nick Bollinger’s 100 Essential New Zealand Albums. Robinson won the 1972 APRA Silver Scroll for ‘Lady Wakes Up’ and for good reason: a simple, elegant arrangement with guitars, subtle flute, hand-claps and wood block grace the homely homily: “In your woodbox of memories, may I be a chip.” When Julie Needham’s fiddle comes in during the opening to ‘Raven And The Nightingale’, it briefly foreshadows Alastair Galbraith’s violin on The Rip’s ‘Starless Road’, 15 years into the future.

1. Pass A Piece Of Paper (Denis Leong) - 3:45
2. Lady Wakes Up (Steve Robinson) - 3:26
3. The Raven And The Nightingale (Simon Morris) - 3:28
4. Do For The Others (Stephen Stills) - 3:18
5. Saffron Lady (Simon Morris) - 4:05
6. Some Other Day (Steve Robinson) - 4:03
7. Rainy City Memoirs (Denis Leong) - 3:52
8. The Flame Of Thoriman (Simon Morris) - 10:23

The Tamburlaine
*Steve Robinson - Lead Guitar, Electric Guitar, Percussion, Vocals, Tambourine, Bongos, Maracas
*Simon Morris - Piano, Percussion
*Denis Leong - Rhythm Guitar, Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar, Piano
*Julie Needham - Fiddle
*Alan Galbraith - Vocals
*Ingrid Culliford - Flute, Strings
*Alan Park - Bells
*Mike Fullerton - Drums
*Lindy Mason - Vocals

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tony Joe White - ...Continued (1969 us, stunning swamp roots rock, 2012 japan remaster)

In a world of neurotic hygiene—of self-cleaning chopping boards, plastic-sealed furniture and such—it's little wonder Louisiana's "Swamp Fox" Tony Joe White never made it big. There's something just too funky (in the old-fashioned sense of the word), too rough and ready about his brand of blue-eyed soul for him to have been a household name. (Check the pic below if you need further convincing.)

White's ruggedness hasn't stopped the songs themselves from becoming massive though. Elvis's hit "Polk Salad Annie"? That's a TJW track. "Rainy Night in Georgia," as sung by Ray Charles and Randy Crawford? TJW again. Hell, even Tina Turner's "Steamy Windows" is a TJW song (he produced her entire Foreign Affair album). And you can find the best of White's songwriting on his musky, 1969 sophomore album, ...Continued.

White sings about what he knows about: the things he grew up with. So besides the heartbreak of "Rainy Night" and the outrageous sexiness of "Woodpecker," there are tales of rednecks out poaching chickens and eating bullfrogs ("frawgs"), all sung in his smoky, Southern baritone.

The musicianship is a treat in itself. White is backed up by players from the legendary Muscle Shoals studios, so there's no shortage of Hammond riffs, groovesome wah-wahs, deliciously lazy drumming and horns. And thankfully, Continued was released in its raw state; between songs, there's the sound of buttons being pressed, little half-conversations between White and the studio engineers, and plenty of giggling and grunting. Great album!
by Sophie Harris

Tony Joe White passed away on Wednesday, October 24th 2018, in Nashville. He was 75.

1. Elements And Things - 5:15
2. Roosevelt And Ira Lee (Night Of The Mossacin) - 3:06
3. Woodpecker - 2:47
4. Rainy Night In Georgia - 3:42
5. For Le Ann - 3:24
6. Old Man Willis - 3:16
7. Woman With Soul - 3:20
8. I Want You - 5:22
9. I Thought I Knew You Well - 4:16
10.The Migrant - 3:32
11.Watching The Trains Go By (Dewey Oldham, Wallace Pennington) - 3:07
12.Old Man Willis - 3:06
All compositions by Tony Joe White except track 11

*Tony Joe White – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*Tommy McClure – Bass
*Sammy Creason – Drums
*James Milhart – Drums
*Mike Utley – Organ

1970  Tony Joe White - Tony Joe (2013 Japan remaster) 
1969-2004  Tony Joe White - Collected (2012 three discs release)

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tangerine Peel - Soft Delights (1970 uk, power pop glam rock, 2015 reissue)

Tangerine Peel was best known during the second half of the 1960s as a five-man psychedelic band, specializing in a slightly light but pleasant brand of the music. Their principal claim to fame was the presence of future songwriter/producer Mike Chapman in their ranks during the late '60s, when they cut records such as their version of the Bee Gees' "Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You," cut for British United Artists in 1967. Subsequent singles included "Solid Gold Mountain" and "Talking to No One" for British CBS, and "Never Say Never Again" and "Play Me a Sad Song and I'll Dance" for British MGM. Chapman left before the group recorded its one and only LP, Soft Delights, in 1970. By that time, the group had abandoned its psychedelic influences in favor of a more conventional pop/rock sound. 
by Bruce Eder

1. Cindy Lou - 3:18
2. Soft Delights - 3:15
3. Goodnight To The Nights - 6:43
4. Long Long Ride (James Gaynor) - 3:31
5. What Am I To Do - 4:04
6. Talkin' 'Bout A New Day - 3:57
7. Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie - 4:34
8. To Judi - 3:34
9. Leave Me Now - 2:58
10.Moment I Recall (Terry Tootill, Mike Chapman) - 2:46
All songs by Mike Chapman except where indicated.

The Tangerine Peel
*James Gaynor - Guitar
*Terry Tootill - Keyboards
*John Warwick - Drums
*Ian Stalker - Vocals
*Alan Ross - Lead Guitar
*Mike Chapman - Vocals

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Joanne Vent - The Black And White Of It Is Blues (1969 us, fascinating soul blues funky rock, 2015 japan SHM remaster)

Produced by Larry Marks, 1969's "The Black and White of it is Blues" sounded like A&M was trying to position her as a Joplin-esque blues singer.  That wasn't necessary a bad thing.  Judging by tunes like 'Love Come Down' and '' Vent had the chops to easily rival Joplin, or any other roof her other blues diva rivals.  Add to that, judging by the promo photo I stumbled across, she was one attractive young lady ...   Interestingly, at least to my ears, Vent was even more impressive on soul numbers like 'Ninety Nine and a Half', 'Weak Spot', and 'It's a Man's World'. 

With a bit of Etta James in her delivery, Vent sounded quite good on her cover of Billie Holiday's 'God Bless the Child'. "Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad" is one of the better Newman covers with Vent using a range lower than normal. Vent turned in one of the exception on the Joplin-esque 'Love Come Down'.  The woman did have one amazing voice. The way she took on the refrain on" Ninety Nine and a Half" was simply mesmerizing.   One of the album's best performances. Vent's version of 'It's a Man's World' was quite good, showcasing what a powerful, but controlled singer she was.  Easily to imagine Joplin singing this with a shrill, out-of-control swagger.   Not Vent.  She was crisp, cool, and dazzling. 

Her cover of 'Weak Spot' was quite a bit different than the rest of the album - dropping the blues-rock moves for a surprisingly accomplished soul sound.   Every time I hear this one I have to admit I'm surprised at what a good 'soul' voice the lady had. In spite of an appearance on the Johnny Carson Show, the album disappeared almost instantly, leaving Vent to return to sessions work. Joanne Vent sadly passed away in 1998.

1. God Bless The Child (Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog Jr.) - 4:46
2. Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad (Randy Newman) - 2:25
3. Love Come Down (Jeanne Darling) - 3:27
4. You Can`t Change (Michael McCormick) - 2:09
5. Ninety Nine And A Half (Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett) - 2:56
6. It`s A Man`s World (James Brown) - 4:32
7. Weak Spot (Dave Porter, Isaac Hayes) - 2:51
8. I Love You More Than You`ll Ever Know (Al Kooper) - 4:00
9. Stormy Monday (T Bone Walker) - 7:15
10.Can`t Turn You Loose (Otis Redding) - 2:23
11.Gloomy Sunday (Sam M. Lewis, Rezco Seress) - 4:15

*Joanne Vent - Vocals
*Richard Crooks - Percussion
*Dave Johnson - Bass

Related Act
1972  White Cloud - White Cloud (2018 korean remaster)

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