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Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Soul Explosion - Soul Fire (1968 germany / us, charmy funky psych grooves, 2015 remaster)

Detroit? Chicago? Well, no not at all. This 1968 release comes from a German band playing some lush and dynamic soul pop with an emotionally exalted vocal style that reminds a bit of Tom Jones at times. The songs range from powerfully onward grooving booty shakers to striking melodic tunes with great chorus lines that enlighten your spirit. 

When you take a listen you will realize these folks had a sense for the classic beat music of just a few years priori to this release and they really manage to lay down a steaming performance on this style actually already outdated back then. But since The Soul Explosion spice up everything with a dark and brooding back street club atmosphere at the right moment, they could do what they want and always  sounded exciting and fresh. 

I could not have told the difference between these krauts and any popular British or North American act in their genre. There is passion, sheer lust, a wild and animalistic drive and an ongoing groove that will mesmerize you. Technically this is a really solid group that knows to let loose when it is time to but mostly keeps the energy flow under control. I am certain that 60s fanatics who love the soul and early rock fusion of thisera will go insane. 

It might be one of these typical exploito bands that were only studio projects done by the same musicians on several occasions for good money to be sold in the bargain bin to a willing audience. Well, we rather do not think further into that direction since the music that appears on "Soul fire" strikes your deepest inner self and sets your spirit aflame. 

The melodies are amazing and if you go and check the rhythms you will end up shaking wit lout a chance to escape the everlasting pulse. This should have been enormously big. Think of later day Animals, The Four Tops and the Equals all thrown into a mixer on full throttle, you might get something of a similar quality. 
CD Liner-Notes

One of the great mysteries of late '60s psychedelic soul music! Though only released on the German exploitation market in 1968, this exceptional album may very well be the work of an American studio outfit (or Americans living in Germany?), performing exclusive songs written by well known US composers s.a. Martin Siegel and Scott English. The material is rather diverse, but most of the music here is high quality soul music, often -especially on Side 2- with scorching psychedelic guitarwork and/or swirling organ parts. But there also are traces of pop and you even get a Dylan-esque slice of folk-rock. Odd, exciting and unique! 

1. Save Me Save Me (Kenny Young, Scott English) - 2:40
2. Don't Wait Up For Me At Night (Scott English, Vic Millrose) - 2:35
3. See How They Run (Martin Siegel) - 2:24
4. Oh Baby Please (Martin Siegel) - 2:35
5. That Ain't Where It's At (Martin Siegel) - 2:26
6. You Let Me Live (Sal Trimachi) - 2:17
7. Good Time Woman (Laurence Weiss, Mark Barkan) - 2:42
8. We Can't Be Friends (Mark Barkan, Scott English) - 2:17
9. You Turned Your Back On Love (Laurence Weiss, Scott English) - 2:12
10.Only With You (Martin Siegel) - 2:47
11.I Didn't Trip You Baby (Martin Siegel, Scott English) - 2:05
12.You Made A Man Out Of Me (Fred Anisfield, Scott English) - 2:43

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Arlo Guthrie - Last Of The Brooklyn Cowboys (1973 us, bright special folk rock with jazz elements, 2005 remaster)

Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys, Guthrie's sixth album, was released in April 1973. It was another effort largely given over to cover material and performed with the cream of Los Angeles session musicians. The single "Gypsy Davy" (another Woody Guthrie song) reached the Easy Listening chart, and the LP peaked at number 87 in Billboard, number 63 in Cash Box.

With the decline of the singer/songwriter movement of the early '70s and the rise of disco, Guthrie's record sales fell off after Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys, which became his final album to hit the upper half of the Top 200 bestsellers. Subsequent releases struggled to spend a few weeks in the bottom half of that list, or did not chart at all. This commercial decline was first apparent with the release of his seventh album, Arlo Guthrie, in May 1974. 

The sales were especially disappointing given the quality of the LP, which increased the number of Guthrie originals to include the scathing "Presidential Rag," a reflection on the current Watergate scandal about to drive President Nixon from office; "Children of Abraham," an examination of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and "Last to Leave," a personal expression by a man who had spent his entire life wondering whether he carried the disease that killed his father. (Guthrie refused to be tested to determine whether he had the gene that causes Huntington's disease, but as he aged and showed no symptoms, it became apparent that he did not.) Despite his dropping record sales, Guthrie remained a potent concert attraction. He teamed with Pete Seeger for a series of concerts that resulted in a double-LP live album, Together in Concert, released in May 1975. That fall, he hired a local Massachusetts band, Shenandoah, as his regular backup group for shows. 
by William Ruhlmann

1. Farrell O'Gara (Traditional) - 2:50
2. Gypsy Davy (Traditional, Woody Guthrie) - 3:44
3. This Troubled Mind Of Mine (Ernest Tubb, Johnny Tyler) - 2:27
4. Week On The Rag (Arlo Guthrie) - 2:23
5. Miss The Mississippi And You (Bill Halley) - 2:56
6. Lovesick Blues (Irving Mills, Cliff Friend) - 2:36
7. Uncle Jeff (Arlo Guthrie) - 0:56
8. Gates Of Eden (Bob Dylan) - 5:16
9. Last Train (Arlo Guthrie) - 3:06
10.Cowboy Song (Arlo Guthrie) - 3:42
11.Sailor's Bonnett (Traditional) - 1:24
12.Cooper's Lament (Arlo Guthrie) - 2:47
13.Ramblin' 'Round (Woody Guthrie, Huddie Ledbetter, John Lomax) - 3:14

*Arlo Guthrie - Vocals, Guitar, Banjo, Piano, Harmonica
*Doug Dillard - Banjo
*Clarence White - Guitar
*Kevin Burke - Fiddle
*Ry Cooder - Guitar
*Buddy Collette - Clarinet
*Ed Shaughnessy - Drums, Tabla
*Chuck Rainey - Bass
*Stan Free - Piano, Harpsichord
*Jesse Ed Davis - Guitar
*Gene Parsons - Drums
*Clydie King - Background Vocals
*Jim Keltner - Drums
*Grady Martin - Guitar
*Buddy Alan - Guitar
*Bob Arkin - Bass
*George Bohanon - Horn
*Jerry Brightman - Steel Guitar
*Donald Christlieb - Woodwind
*Gene Coe - Horn
*Nick Decaro - Accordion
*Barry Feldman - Executive Producer
*Venetta Fields - Background Vocals
*Gib Guilbeau - Fiddle
*Bob Glaub - Bass
*William Green - Oboe
*Richard Hayward - Drums
*Richard Hyde - Trombone
*Thad Maxwell - Bass
*Gene Merlino - Background Vocals
*Bob Morris - Guitar
*John Pilla - Guitar
*Thurl Ravenscroft - Background Vocals
*Don Rich - Fiddle, Guitar
*Jim Shaw - Organ, Piano
*Doyle Curtsinger - Bass, Mandolin
*Jessica Smith - Vocals
*Robert Tebow - Background Vocals
*Mike Utley - Organ
*Ernie Watts - Flute
*Jerry Wiggins - Drums
*Dick Hyde - Horn
*Jesse Smith - Background Vocals
*Jim Gordon - Piano
*Leland Sklar - Bass

1967  Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant 
1968  Arlo Guthrie - Arlo
1969  Arlo Guthrie - Running Down The Road 
1970  Arlo Guthrie - Washington County (2004 digipak remaster)

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Wishbone Ash - Wishbone Four (1973 uk, stunning guitar classic rock with prog tinges, 2015 remaster)

Martin Turner's memories:
"1973 began with us retreating to a cottage on the island of Anglesey, North Wales, to put together music for our fourth album. Writing in the countryside was pretty much the done thing at the time – bands such as Traffic, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple had prepared for albums in similar settings. We rented a holiday cottage and because we went there out of season we got it fairly cheap. The weather was brutal, but getting away from our normal everyday routines allowed us to devote twenty four hours a day to our music without any distractions. As usual I came to the project with various ideas for melodies and lyrics. I was the one guy in the band who was fascinated by the process of recording and all the paraphernalia involved and by this time I was beginning to amass my own recording equipment so that I could record sketches of songs at home. Typically these would contain just acoustic guitar, vocals, and bass. Sometimes I would have a few guitar licks already mapped out. This was great for presenting my songs to the band and giving them a snapshot of what I was aiming for. Of course, once we got into rehearsals and worked on the songs as a full band, then everyone would contribute to the arrangements and it would become a group effort.

We decided to produce the album ourselves, with Keith Harwood engineering. We spent the months of February/March 1973 recording the album at Olympic, with some additional work at Apple Studios. I think we felt we’d learned enough to be able to produce ourselves. In retrospect that was maybe a bit naive and I was really disappointed at how the album eventually turned out, mainly because something went seriously wrong at the mastering stage. When we were recording it in the studio it sounded really good, but all the balls and hi-fidelity got lost during the mastering, making it sound very mid-rangey. 

Upon its release, Wishbone Four was well and truly slated by the music press, and to a certain degree, an element of our fanbase. I think that was mainly for two reasons. Firstly, it was not what people were expecting to hear after Argus. They wanted more of the same and we were quite stubborn in not wanting to do that. We wanted to move in another direction – a more straight forward, mainstream rock approach. Secondly, for the album to have had any chance of acceptance, it needed to have sounded better. I would like to think that the fact that the material went off on a tangent would have been more accepted had the album sounded right. However, I will stand by the quality of the songs, many of which have, with the passing of time, become fan favourites and have found their way back into live shows in recent times."
adapted from the book "No Easy Road - My Life and Times With Wishbone Ash"

1. So Many Things To Say - 5:02
2. Ballad Of The Beacon - 4:59
3. No Easy Road - 3:46
4. Everybody Needs A Friend - 8:23
5. Doctor - 5:49
6. Sorrel - 5:00
7. Sing Out The Song - 4:22
8. Rock 'n Roll Widow - 5:50
All compositions by Andy Powell, Martin Turner, Ted Turner, Steve Upton

Wishbone Ash
*Andy Powell - Vocals, Guitar
*Ted Turner - Guitar, Vocals
*Martin Turner - Bass Vocals
*Steve Upton - Drums
Additional Musicians
*George Nash – Keyboards
*Graham Maitland – Piano
*Phil Kenzie – Horn
*Dave Coxhill – Horn
*Bud Parks – Horn

1970  Wishbone Ash - First Light (2007 release) 
1972-2001  Wishbone Ash - Tracks (2001 double disc release) 
1972  Wishbone Ash - Argus (2013 SHM remaster) 
1974  Wishbone Ash - There's the Rub (2013 SHM remaster)

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tim Buckley - Sefronia (1973 us, brilliant jazz bluesy folk rock, 2017 remaster)

Released in November, 1973, Sefronia was the eighth album in the recording career of Tim Buckley. Originally released on the DiscReet label, an imprint set up by Buckley's manager, Herb Cohen, and another of his managerial charges, Frank Zappa, it is an eleven-track set that has few long-time Buckley fans willing to extol its virtues. None of which reads like a promising start to an album sleeve note, but, at over forty years' remove, and looking at other posthumous releases, it's now possible to view Sefronia in a somewhat kinder light.

On the front cover photo, Buckley wears an odd, slightly bemused expression, which might shed some light on his state of mind, and may also provide a key to the content of the album. Rock pundits and long-term Buckley fans have, on balance, regarded this, and the succeeding album, Look At The Fool, as the dying embers of a once-great artist's career, low on inspiration, luck, and decent album sales. Long gone are the vocal ululations and wordless soundscapes of Lorca and Starsailor; in their place shorter, more concise songs and excursions into funky musical terrain. 

His previous album, 1972's Greetings From LA, had Buckley dig deep into an at times brutally frank carnality, the Romanticism of yore giving way to celebrations of creaking bedsprings and cruising singles bars. It was very good, though, and his musical and lyrical re-invention was an artistic success, even if the sales were, frankly, poor, and his then recording home, Warner Brothers, declined to pursue any further interest in him. Maybe manager Cohen had said "well, we've tried it your way, now let's try it this way..." Or perhaps Buckley was biding his time, with his eyes on other projects. He had been considering, with his lyricist friend Larry Beckett, a musical treatment of the Joseph Conrad novel, The Outcast of the Islands, and was even considering acting roles. After all, he was hardly old - in his mid-twenties, and he'd already released such a fine body of often tremendous music. That refused to sell.

A study of the compositional credits on Sefronia reveals that five of the album's eleven tracks are non-originals. And, for Buckley fans, herein lies the rub. Whether it was at the insistence of his manager, Herb Cohen, or having a producer, Denny Randell, imposed on him, and the demands of bringing an album of usable material in time and on budget for a label where Cohen held the purse strings was putting a brake on Buckley's creative energies. Or maybe it was his growing immersion in booze and drugs - it is impossible to say, but I would suggest that these were all forces at work here. To give Cohen his due, he had supported Buckley throughout the 'difficult' Lorca and Starsailor periods, in which he produced music that some would say was easier to admire than to truly love, and it could be that he was wanting to press the 'reset' button on Buckley's career. Furthermore, Randell's production does at least gift Sefronia with a cohesive sound, not quite the fat funk of Greetings From LA, but it has solid production values in an era when a rock and roll audience was wanting to get more out of the expensive hi-fi equipment they were investing in.

Sefronia opens with a step back to his early troubadour days for Buckley, with a cover of 'Dolphins', penned by former Greenwich Village Folkie and troublemaker, Fred Neil. It's a song that had been in Buckley's repertoire for many a year — it is included in the epochal, posthumously-released live album, Dream Letter, recorded at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall in October 1968, but Neil's influence on Buckley goes way beyond that. Neil added his hectoring baritone to 12-string acoustic guitar, and Buckley had done the same whilst establishing his presence on the New York coffeehouse circuit, although on the Sefronia take, TB favours his trusty Fender electric XII. Neil was, by the early seventies, living in seclusion in Cocoanut Grove in Florida, devoting his time to studying the dolphins he once sang about, and freeing himself from the yoke of substance abuse (his self-imposed exile was no doubt softened by the arrival of substantial songwriting royalties accruing from the global success of 'Everybody's Talkin", a Neil cover by Harry Nilsson as featured in the soundtrack of the smash hit movie Midnight Cowboy, in 1969). Buckley clearly enjoys singing the song; there's no dialled-in vocal here, with TB thoroughly investing himself in the wistful lyrics. The arrangement is on the slightly over-egged side of good, with Buckley's twelve string chords providing a ringing harmonic pad for Joe Falsia adding melodic curlicues of guitar. The jazz waltz-time rhythm is perfectly judged, and it's a pretty fine way to kick things off.

There is great footage of Buckley performing the song on the longrunning British rock music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test, from 1974, where he is backed by a pick-up band of British musicians - Buckley is in superb vocal shape, and it is easily found on a web search.

Setting rather more of a tone for the rest of the album is 'Honey Man', which wouldn't have been out of place on Greetings, and Buckley ups his vocal game here, supported by a muscular funk backing and real sense of purpose. It's one of four tracks penned by Buckley and his sporadic lyric collaborator, Larry Beckett, and has slightly more of the poetic in its libretto. 'Because Of You1 is cast in a funk setting, and is graced with another excellent Buckley vocal, the track building up a pretty good head of steam over its four minutes plus duration. The demo of'Because of You', released on The Dream Belongs To Me collection reveals an even more busier Funk take, which would imply that this move into funkier waters was Buckley's aim, and not thrust upon him by producer Randell.

The most ambitious piece on the album is the title track, which is in two halves - 'Sefronia: After Asklepiades, After Kafka, and 'Sefronia: The King's Chain', and is a partial reprise of Buckley's more dreamier early days, incorporating marimba, his own electric 12-string chords, congas and a thin string arrangement that is redolent of what Willie Mitchell did on contemporary Al Green recordings. It was a pleasant reminder of the more musical and lyrical ambitions of his 'Blue Afternoon' era, although it seems somewhat unfinished, and perhaps with a little more work, could have been polished up into something even more substantial. As it is, it is still a fine piece.

'Quicksand' and 'Stone In Love', the two tracks which bear Buckley's sole writing credit, are pretty good, the former being a taut, edgy piece of funky rock, with some excellent chord changes and an energized vocal, and the latter being an insistent, busy piece that's perhaps a little padded out - excellent vocal again. 'Martha' is a Tom Waits song from his first album, Closing Time (also released in 1973), and its deep vein of sentimentality is an emotional plain that Buckley had never really explored up until now. Buckley offers up a pretty decent interpretation of the song, and the string / woodwind arrangement is luxuriant even though it's slightly out of kilter with the album's often earthier feel. 

One online critic has likened Buckley's vocal to that of later era Neil Diamond! It's a very sweet song, but there's a rather more prosaic reason behind Buckley's recording of it; Waits and Buckley shared management back then in the shape of Herb Cohen, and he was always keen on pushing his artists through having them pick up cover versions. He had rather more luck, sales-wise, with Waits Oil’55, which was covered by The Eagles on their 1974 album, On The Border.

Of all the brought-in material, it is “I Know I’d Recognize Your Face' that is perhaps the most contentious here. A rather limp duet, lame of rhyme and dull of lyric, with vocalist Marcia Waldorf, Buckley is on autopilot, and this is forgettable stuff. Waldorf would go on to record a pretty decent solo album for Capricorn Records, by the way. 'Peanut Man', penned by Fred Freeman and Harry Nehls, is pretty poor, too, and seems to have been an attempt to write a song in the vein of 'Coconut', by Harry Nilsson, with equally dispiriting results. 

However, accentuating the positive, the album closer, a cover of the old Jaynetts hit, 'Sally Go Round The Roses', is very good indeed, and far from the throwaway that its presence may suggest, Buckley using the original as a base upon to wrote his own interpretation, skewing the lyrics into outre territory – he switches the lyric from "Sally don't you go, don't you go downtown; saddest thing in the whole wide world is to see your baby with another girl" replaced with "Oh Sally don't you go down, oh darlin' don't you go downtown; Honey the saddest thing in the whole wide world is to find your woman been with another girl." The song became a strong part of his live set – indeed.

The critical response to Sefronia wasn't too savage, as it turned out, but there was no discernible upswing in Buckley's sales, and his relationship with his manager, Herb Cohen, was becoming increasingly strained. Buckley was drinking heavily, and had been edging deeper into drug abuse, as he searched for a way out of his career impasse. Buckley promoted the UK release of Sefronia with an opening slot on the very first Knebworth Festival (dubbed the 'Bucolic Frolic') on a bill that featured The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Van Morrison, The Doobie Brothers, The Allman Brothers Band, on July 20th 1974. His band consisted of Art Johnson (guitar), Jim Fielder (bass), Mark Tiernan (keyboards) and Buddy Helm (drums), and the set featured 'Nightkawkin", 'Dolphins', 'Get On Top Of Me Woman', 'Devil Eyes', 'Buzzin'Fly', 'Sweet Surrender' and 'Honeyman', and a four minute improvisational section at the end of the set - bootlegs of the show do exist. Despite the fact that Buckley was essentially performing whilst the crowd was arriving and setting up their place for the day, he performed very well, and those who paid attention were very impressed by his dynamic performance. 
by Alan Robinson, July 2017

1. Dolphins (Fred Neil) - 3:12
2. Honey Man (Larry Beckett, Tim Buckley) - 4:12
3. Because Of You (Larry Beckett, Tim Buckley) - 4:28
4. Peanut Man (Fred Freeman, Harry Nehls) - 2:53
5. Martha  (Tom Waits) - 3:20
6. Quicksand (Tim Buckley) - 3:25
7. I Know I'd Recognize Your Face (Letty Jo Baron, Denny Randell) - 4:01
8. Stone In Love (Tim Buckley) - 3:30
9. Sefronia- After Asklepiades, After Kafka (Larry Beckett, Tim Buckley) - 3:11
10.Sefronia- The King's Chain  (Larry Beckett, Tim Buckley) - 2:30
11.Sally, Go 'Round The Roses (Lona Stevens, Zell Sanders) - 3:43

*Tim Buckley - Guitar, Vocals
*Lee Underwood - Guitar
*Joe Falsia - Guitar
*Bob Rafkin - Guitar
*Marcia Waldorf - Backing Vocals
*Myrna Matthews - Backing Vocals
*Lisa Roberts - Backing Vocals
*Sharon Beard - Backing Vocals
*Bernie Mysior - Bass Guitar
*Reinhold Press - Bass Guitar
*Mark Tiernan - Keyboards
*Denny Randell - Keyboards, Producer, Arrangements
*Tom Scott - Tenor Saxophone
*Fred Selden - Flute
*Earl Dumler - English Horn
*Larry Bunker - Percussion
*King Errisson - Percussion, Congas, Tambourine
*Ken Watson - Percussion, Timpani
*Buddy Helm - Drums
*David Blumberg - String Arrangements

1966  Tim Buckley - Tim Buckley (Part 1 of 2017 eight cds box set)
1967  Tim Buckley - Goodbye And Hello  (Part 2 of 2017 eight cds box set) 
1969  Tim Buckley - Happy Sad (Part 3 of 2017 eight cds box set)
1969  Tim Buckley - Blue Afternoon (Part 4 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1970  Tim Buckley - Lorca (Part 5 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1970  Tim Buckley - Starsailor (Part 6 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1972  Tim Buckley - Greetings From L.A. (Part 7 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1967-69  Tim Buckley - Works In Progress (Part 8 of the 2017 eight cds box set) 

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Crowbar - Bad Manors (1970 canada, sensational rural blues classic rock, 2008 remaster)

Crowbar’s “Bad Manors” was released in the spring of '71. Bad Manors was the name of a six bedroom hundred years old Georgian mansion, a brick palace that ruled twenty five acres of farmland on Hamilton Mountain in Ancaster Ontario. There was a huge barn where they rehearsed and partied. Band members and some of their families lived there for twelve years. The sequence of events thta brought the band to Bad Manors was a stop and go, hurry up and wait process.

The first single came from the album, epitomized the care-free hippie generation of the day, and "Oh What A Feeling" soared up the charts. This was the first single released after government regulations requiring Canadian radio stations to play one-third homegrown material had come into effect and would go down as one of Canadian rock's most recognizable songs of the era. 

The single quickly reached gold here, but due to the drug annotations in the song, it didn't receive airplay in the US. Other noteable songs included the 'b' side "Murder In The First Degree", the cover of The Yardbirds' "Train Kept a Rollin'" and the other singles "Happy People" and "Too True Mama". The band toured extensively in Canada and made their US debut at LA's Whiskey A Go Go the next year. 
by Frank Davies

1. Frenchman's Filler #1 (Rheal Lanthier) - 1:14
2. Too True Mama (Kelly Jay) - 2:57
3. Let The Four Winds Blow (Dave Bartholomew, Fats Domino) - 2:25
4. House Of Blue Lights (Don Raye, Freddie Slack) - 2:50
5. The Frenchman's Cherokee Boogie Incident (Moon Mullican, W. Chief Redbird) - 0:29
6. Train Keep Rollin' (Roly Greenway) - 2:53
7. Baby, Let's Play House (Arthur Gunter) - 3:06
8. Oh Never Be A Dodo (Kelly Jay) - 0:21
9. Oh What A Feeling (Kelly Jay, Roly Greenway) - 4:23
10.Frenchman's Filler #2 (Rheal Lanthier) - 0:35
11.Frenchman's Filler #3 (Rheal Lanthier) - 0:39
12.Murder In The First Degree (Kelly Jay, Sonnie Bernardi) - 5:16
13.In The Dancing Hold (Kelly Jay) - 3:54
14.Mountain Fire (Roly Greenway) - 4:02
15.Prince Of Peace (John Rutter) - 4:12
16.Frenchman's Filler #1 (Rheal Lanthier) - 0:47

The Crowbar
*Roly Greenway - Bass, Percussion, Vocals
*Sonnie Bernardi - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Jozef Chirowski - Piano, Organ, Vocals
*John Gibbard - Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Vocals
*Kelly Jay "Blake Fordham" - Vocals, Piano
*Rheal Lanthier - Lead Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

1970  King Biscuit Boy With Crowbar - Official Music 
1970-72  Crowbar - Memories Are Made Of This
1972  Crowbar - Heavy Duty

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Arlo Guthrie - Running Down The Road (1969 us, wonderful country hippie folk psych)

Is it possible to be a one-hit wonder three times? The question is provoked by the recording career of Arlo Guthrie, which is best remembered for three songs in three different contexts. There is "The City of New Orleans," Guthrie's only Top 40 hit, which earns him an entry in Wayne Jancik's The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders. There is also "Coming into Los Angeles," which Guthrie sang at the legendary Woodstock music festival, and which featured prominently in both the Woodstock movie and multi-platinum soundtrack album. And there is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," the comic-monologue-in-song that gave him his initial fame and took up the first side of his debut LP, the million-selling Alice's Restaurant. Whether these successful tracks make him a one-, two-, or three-hit wonder, they were arguably both flukes in a performing career that was still going strong a full 40 years after Guthrie first gained national recognition and facilitators of that career. With their help, he spent 15 years signed to a major record label, charting 11 LPs, after which he was able to set up his own label and go on issuing albums. More significant, he maintained a steady following as a live performer, touring worldwide year after year to play before audiences delighted by his humorous persona and his musical mixture of folk, rock, country, blues, and gospel styles in songs almost equally divided between his own originals and well-chosen cover tunes.

Arlo Davy Guthrie was born July 10, 1947, in the Coney Island section of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City and grew up there. He was the fifth child of Woody Guthrie, the famous folksinger and songwriter, but the second child born to his father's second wife, Marjorie Greenblatt Mazia Guthrie, a former dancer with the Martha Graham dance troupe who had become a dance teacher; his older sister, Cathy Ann Guthrie, had died in a fire at the age of four five months earlier. After having two more children, Joady and Nora, Guthrie's parents separated when he was four and later divorced; his mother remarried. His father remained an important presence in his life, however, giving him his first guitar for his sixth birthday in 1953. By then, Woody Guthrie had been diagnosed with Huntington's disease, an incurable, hereditary illness; he was hospitalized permanently in 1954, and Guthrie's mother supervised his care.

Guthrie grew up surrounded by his father's friends, including such folksingers as Pete Seeger and Cisco Houston. (Houston brought him up on-stage at the Greenwich Village nightclub Gerde's Folk City for an impromptu performance when he was only ten.) Guthrie later said that he had been unaware of his father's fame until he switched from public school to a progressive private school in the sixth grade and found that students there were singing Woody Guthrie songs like "This Land Is Your Land." Only then did he begin learning his father's music. Nevertheless, he did not expect to become a performer himself, feeling that his introspective personality was not suited to such a career. When he graduated from high school at the Stockbridge School in Massachusetts in 1965, he enrolled at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, MT, to study forestry with the intention of becoming a forest ranger. He dropped out after only six weeks, however. Returning to Massachusetts, he stayed at the home of Alice and Ray Brock, a deconsecrated church. The Brocks were former faculty members of the Stockbridge School who had opened a restaurant called the Back Room. Celebrating Thanksgiving with them, Guthrie and his friend Rick Robbins undertook what he later called the "friendly gesture" of attempting to dispose of a large amount of accumulated garbage for them. Finding the city dump closed, they threw it down a hillside. As a result, they were arrested for littering. Convicted of the offense, they paid fines of $25 each and retrieved the garbage. This proved fortuitous shortly afterward, when Guthrie was summoned for the military draft and judged unfit for service because of his criminal record.

Guthrie took up performing, turning professional in February 1966 with a debut at Club 47 in Cambridge, MA. His repertoire included a 16-bar ditty he had written that constituted a musical commercial for the Brocks' eatery, with a chorus that went, "You can get anything you want/At Alice's restaurant." The song, however, was the least of the performance, as Guthrie told a fanciful and comic version of his adventures in littering and at the draft board, spinning it out to what amounted to a 20-minute comedy routine with a tune wrapped around it. He performed what he called "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (idiosyncratically pronouncing the last word "mas'e-kree" instead of "mas'e-ker," hence the extra "e") at Carnegie Hall as part of a folk song festival sponsored by New York radio station WNYC, and another local station, WBAI, began airing a tape of the song in the spring of 1967, to popular response. 

Guthrie attended the Newport Folk Festival and found himself promoted to the closing-night concert on the main stage, performing "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" to 20,000 folk fans on July 16, 1967. That provoked interest from Warner Bros. Records, which signed him and issued Alice's Restaurant on its Reprise subsidiary in September 1967, only weeks before Woody Guthrie's death on October 3. The album entered the Billboard magazine Top LP's chart on November 18 and rose steadily, peaking at number 29 on March 2, 1968, and staying on the chart 65 weeks. (Although the title song dominated attention, the LP also contained a second side of original Guthrie compositions including "Highway in the Wind," which was covered by Hearts and Flowers and Noel Harrison soon after, and by Kate Wolf later.) 

The success of the album and of "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" went well beyond sales, however. First, it established Guthrie not only as a star, but also as a figure separate from his father, always a tricky thing to accomplish for a child following in the footsteps of a famous parent. Despite Woody Guthrie's renown as a progenitor of the 1960s folk revival, he himself did not perform after the early '50s, and his son presented a distinct, if related persona to a young audience that only vaguely recalled his father, if at all. Second, as a highly entertaining live recording, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" immediately transformed Guthrie into a concert attraction; he came off as a wry, yet gentle and charming hippie able to puncture the pretensions of "the establishment" with comic hyperbole.

Guthrie appeared at a memorial concert for his father held on January 20, 1968, at Carnegie Hall that was later released on disc as A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, Pt. 1, featuring his performances of "Do Re Mi" and "Oklahoma Hills," and reached the charts. (A second concert at the Hollywood Bowl on August 12, 1970, produced another LP, A Tribute to Woody Guthrie, Pt. 2, on which Guthrie performed "Jesus Christ" and participated in a version of "This Land Is Your Land"; it also charted.) Alice's Restaurant was still selling when Reprise released Guthrie's second LP, Arlo, in October 1968. It was a live album recorded at the Bitter End nightclub in Greenwich Village, and it featured more of Guthrie's zany humor, along with original songs. Overshadowed by Alice's Restaurant, it peaked at number 100 in Billboard, although it got to number 40 in rival Cash Box magazine.

Guthrie agreed to have "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" adapted into a motion picture and to star as himself in the film. Veteran director Arthur Penn (The Miracle Worker, Bonnie and Clyde) was brought in, and he co-wrote the screenplay with Venable Herndon, elaborating on the song's story to create a virtual screen biography of the 21-year-old Guthrie. Alice's Restaurant the movie premiered at the New York Film Festival on August 24, 1969, to favorable reviews, earning Penn an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Alice's Restaurant the album promptly jumped back into the charts. It was certified gold on September 29 (the same day that Guthrie appeared on the cover of Time magazine) and achieved a new peak in Billboard at number 17 on November 15. Ultimately, it spent a total of 99 weeks in the Billboard chart, and it was certified platinum in 1986. 

United Artists, the distributor of the film, released a soundtrack album featuring a different, two-part version of "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" along with instrumental music by Guthrie on its record label in September. Simultaneously, Reprise released Guthrie's third album, Running Down the Road. Given this glut of product, it is striking that both albums sold fairly well. The soundtrack album peaked at number 63 (number 58 in Cash Box), and Running Down the Road got to 54 (33 in Cash Box). (Reprise also released as a one-off single "Alice's Rock & Roll Restaurant," a shortened, re-recorded version of the famous song, and it charted briefly.) Nevertheless, Running Down the Road did not attract as much attention as it deserved. 

Produced by Lenny Waronker and Van Dyke Parks and featuring such prominent session musicians as James Burton, Ry Cooder, and Clarence White, it was Guthrie's first album without any comic monologues, and it combined some excellent new originals, including the psychedelic rocker "Coming into Los Angeles" (a tale of dope smuggling) and the tender ballad "Oh, in the Morning" (later covered by McKendree Spring), with covers of old folk and blues standards like Woody Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills" and Mississippi John Hurt's "My Creole Belle." (Whether due to his own inclinations or the demanding one-album-a-year schedule of his record contract, Guthrie from this point on would cut as many covers as original songs for his LPs.) Prior to the release of Running Down the Road, Guthrie had appeared at the Woodstock festival on August 15, 1969, where, as part of his set, he performed the then-unreleased "Coming into Los Angeles." When that performance turned up in the Woodstock movie and soundtrack album in May 1970, the tune became one of his signature songs.

In October 1969, Guthrie, who had bought a 250-acre farm in Stockbridge, MA, married Alice "Jackie" Hyde, with whom he would have four children: Abraham (Abe), Annie, Sarah Lee, and Cathy. Abe Guthrie became a musician and worked with his father. Sarah Lee Guthrie also went into music and became a recording artist.
by William Ruhlmann

1. Oklahoma Hills (Woody Guthrie, Jack Guthrie) - 3:27
2. Every Hand In The Land - 2:20
3. My Creole Belle (Mississippi John Hurt) - 3:46
4. Wheel Of Fortune - 2:30
5. Oh, In The Morning - 4:54
6. Coming Into Los Angeles - 3:07
7. Stealin' (Gus Cannon) - 2:49
8. My Front Pages - 3:47
9. Living In The Country (Pete Seeger) - 3:18
10.Running Down The Road - 4:30
All songs by Arlo Guthrie except where stated

*Arlo Guthrie - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Clarence White - Guitar
*Ry Cooder - Guitar, Mandolin, Bass
*Gene Parsons - Guitar, Harmonica
*James Burton - Guitar
*Chris Ethridge - Bass
*Milt Holland - Percussion
*Jerry Scheff - Bass
*John Pilla - Guitar
*Jim Gordon - Drums

1967  Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant 
1968  Arlo Guthrie - Arlo
1970  Arlo Guthrie - Washington County (2004 digipak remaster)

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Monday, February 26, 2018

The Illusion - Together (As A Way Of Life) (1969 us, excellent classic rock with psych vibes, 2014 remaster)

By some standards, the Illusion were one of the most successful unknown psychedelic bands of their generation -- unknown, yes, but with three LPs to their credit on the Steed label. Their personnel included Michael Ricciardella (drums), Richie Cerniglia (guitar), Chuck Alder (bass), Mike Maniscalco (guitar, keyboards), and John Vinci (vocals). The Steed label released Illusion, Together, and If It's So between 1969 and 1970.

Their second is a mixed bag – the psychedelic aspects have been toned down and the album has some heavy workouts which lend themselves to the "cock rock" excess of the 70s, but generally it's a lot more quieter than the other two albums. 

The group, as a sign of the times, experiments with other musical forms trying to expand their palate, sometimes to mixed results. Lead track and first single "How Does It Feel" is a close cousin to "Did You See Her Eyes." A mover with funky cowbell, wah-wah accents and a sly nod to "Day Tripper" it made it to #110 on the charts." "Happy Days" is actually a dramatic mid-tempo number with choral vocals and prominent electric piano. 

Throughout the album Maniscalco's keyboards and acoustic guitars are more to the fore. "Bright Eyes" alternates from jaunty to semi-classical with a piano coda, while "Don't Push It" is a riff rocker, with Hammond organ and a lengthy percussion finale, "Illusion-style." Written by Barry, "Once In A Lifetime" was the B-side of "How Does It Feel," it's slinky soul underpinned by acoustic guitar, with an excellent Vinci vocal and tasty guitar from Cerniglia.

With strong A and B sides, it deserved more than it's #110 chart showing. "Love Me Girl" is a good-time hand-clapper that sounds like a throwback to co-writter Barry's Brill Building days. As "Dame Tu Amor, Nina" it was released in Spain as the flip of "Juntos" ("Together") in a collectable picture sleeve. The real meat is on Side Two. "Lila" is a catchy stew of intertwined guitars, bass-driven rhythm and sing-along vocals that should have been released as a single. With it's throbbing Leslie organ and rubbery sustained fuzz guitar alternating with acoustic-based verses, "Angel" is psychedelic pop perfection. Going from strength to strength, "Peace Pipe" smokes from the dual fuzz lead opening to the last beat of thumping tribal drums.

What could have sounded like a bad cliche in the wrong hands becomes a tour de force with haunting Leslied vocal refrains, growling Hammond organ, and thrilling guitar pyrotechnics. I guess back then all bands felt obligated to take their shot at "da blooze," and while no great shakes, "Naked Blues" is at least not embarrassing. A beautiful haunting ballad, "Little Boy" with it's delicate finger-picked guitar and dramatic flourishes is another showcase for John Vinci's vocal prowess. Side closer "Together" is an ever catchier sing-along and was their second highest charting single at #80. The "peace & harmony" lyrics may be charmingly dated, but it's stabs of fuzz-kazoo guitar and rousing children's choir chorus should have sent it higher than #80. The Illusion had shown listeners again they truly had it "together"
by Bruce Eder and John H. McCarthy

1. How Does It Feel (Jeff Barry, Richie Cerniglia, Mike Maniscalco) - 3:14
2. Happy Days (Chuck Alder, Richie Cerniglia, Mike Maniscalco) - 5:04
3. Bright Eyes (Mike Maniscalco, Richie Cerniglia) - 3:31
4. Don't Push It (Jeff Barry, John Vinci, Richie Cerniglia, Mike Maniscalco) - 4:16
5. Once In A Life Time (Jeff Barry) - 2:59
6. Love Me Girl (Jeff Barry, Richie Cerniglia, Mike Maniscalco) - 3:29
7. Lila (Jeff Barry) - 2:37
8. Angel (Chuck Alder, Mike Maniscalco) - 2:58
9. Peace Pipe (John Vinci, Chuck Alder, Mike Ricciardella, Richie Cerniglia, Mike Maniscalco) - 4:18
10.Naked Blues (John Vinci, Chuck Alder, Mike Ricciardella, Richie Cerniglia, Mike Maniscalco) - 2:45
11.Little Boy (Richie Cerniglia, Folger) - 3:34
12.Together (Chuck Alder, Richie Cerniglia, Mike Maniscalco) - 4:46

The Illusion
*John Vinci - Lead Vocals
*Richie Cerniglia - Lead Guitar
*Mike Maniscalco - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
*Chuck Alder - Bass
*Mike Ricciardella - Drums, Percussion

1969  The Illusion - The Illusion

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Carlos Santana And Buddy Miles - Live! (1972 us, spectacular latin jazz fusion rock)

From December 1971 to April 1972, Carlos Santana and several other members of Santana toured with drummer/vocalist Buddy Miles, a former member of the Electric Flag and Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys. The resulting live album contained both Santana hits ("Evil Ways") and Buddy Miles hits ("Changes"), plus a 25-minute, side-long jam titled "Free Form Funkafide Filth." It was not, perhaps, the live album Santana fans had been waiting for, but at this point in its career, the band could do no wrong. The album went into the Top Ten and sold a million copies. 
by William Ruhlmann

1. Marbles (John McLaughlin) - 4:19
2. Lava (Buddy Miles) - 2:14
3. Evil Ways (Clarence A. Henry) - 6:35
4. Faith Interlude (Buddy Miles, Carlos Santana) - 2:13
5. Them Changes (Buddy Miles) - 5:52
6. Free Form Funkafide Filth (Leon Thomas, Buddy Miles, Carlos Santana, Greg Errico, Ron Johnson) - 24:51

*Buddy Miles - Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Congas
*Carlos Santana - Guitar, Vocals
*Neal Schon - Guitar
*Bob Hogins - Organ, Electric Piano
*Ron Johnson - Bass Guitar
*Greg Errico - Drums
*Richard Clark - Drums, Percussion, Congas
*Coke Escovedo - Drums, Percussion, Timbales
*Mike Carabello - Percussion, Congas
*Mingo Lewis - Percussion
*Victor Pantoja - Percussion, Congas
*Hadley Caliman - Flute, Saxophone
*Luis Gasca - Trumpet

1972  Santana - Caravanserai (2011 MFSL Ultradisc) 
Related Act
1967  Electric Flag - The Trip (2011 remaster)
1968-69  Electric Flag - An American Music Band / A Long Time Comin
1968-74  The Electric Flag - Live 

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Southern Comfort - Frog City (1971 uk, marvellous country folk silky rock, 2013 remaster)

By 1971, Uni's soft rock sensations, Matthews Southern Comfort were suddenly without their songwriting frontman, lain Matthews. The band had achieved a number one single with Woodstock (a Joni Mitchell composition), but Matthews was on the move again after stints with The Pyramid, Fairport Convention and a solo career which had prompted Matthews Southern Comfort (named after his solo LP issued in 1969).

Originally Matthews had quit Fairport Convention after recording sessions had turned sour two years into their relationship. This prompted his move for a solo career, a move which resulted in the release of Matthews'Southern Comfort in 1969 for Uni records. Although happy with the results, Matthews' yearned to be part of a band and enlisted Roger Swallow and Mark Griffiths, two Northampton lads who had recently backed Denis Couldry in Smile and recorded an LP with the band Harsh Reality (Heaven and Hell). Swallow and Griffiths had originally met with lain Matthews courtesy of Fritz Fryer who had arranged for them to jointly provide backing for Marc Ellington's self titled debut LP in 1969.

Another ex-Harsh Reality player, Carl Barnwell was also enrolled along with Peter Watkins on bass guitar. With Gordon Huntley providing steel guitar, the band set about recording Second Spring which was issued by Uni in 1969. For the band's second LP (Later That Same Year), Watkins was replaced by Andrew Leigh on bass guitar (ex-Spooky Tooth) whilst Ray Duffy (Dean Ford and The Gaylords, Marmalade) replaced Roger Swallow who had left to join Principal Edward's Magic Theatre.

Immediately after recording sessions were completed, Matthews announced his decision to quit opting to pursue a solo career again. Andrew Leigh also took time out to record his own LP issued by Polydor in 1970. Leigh was assisted on Magician by rock heavyweights, Reggie King, Gary Farr, Kevin Westlake, Gordon Jackson and various other fanciful names.

Once the band had adjusted to life without Matthews, they quickly regrouped and set about recording a follow-up LP. The band now known as Southern Comfort signed to EMI's progressive arm, Harvest recording at Advision studios. Their self-titled LP appeared in 1971 to favorable reviews and all-round applause prompting further recording sessions.

The band's third LP Frog City was recorded in 1971 at Abbey Road studios and established the band in their own right while Matthews was simultaneously enjoying the fruits of his own labours with Vertigo. Frog City's success initiated a third LP with Stir, Don't Shake appearing in 1972, an album that was to be their last work together, thus concluding an adventurous episode in British rock music history.

In the aftermath of Southern Comfort, Ray Duffy joined Gallagher and Lyle (Gallagher had penned the second single for Duffy's old band The Gaylords back in 1964). Gordon Huntley returned to his steel guitar manufacturing business, lain Matthews was reunited with Roger Swallow joining ex-Liverpool Scene member, Andy Roberts to front the band Plainsong in 1972. Roberts had originally contributed guitar to the Matthews Southern Comfort LP in 1969.
CD Liner-Notes

1. Good Lord D.C. - 2:45
2. Roses - 3:20
3. The Passing (Andrew Leigh) - 3:47
4. The Dreadful Ballad Of Willie Hurricane - 4:05
5. April Lady - 3:44
6. I Sure Like Your Smile - 2:32
7. My Old Kentucky Home (Randy Newman) - 4:15
8. Take A Message - 3:55
9. The Leaving Song (Andrew Leigh) - 3:33
10.Return To Frog City (Mark Griffiths) - 2:51
11.Get Back Home (Hubart) - 3:45
All compositions by Carl Barnwell except where indicated

The Southern Comfort
*Andrew Leigh - Bass, Vocals
*Ray Duffy - Drums
*Carl Barnwell - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Mark Griffiths - Guitar, Vocals, Harp, Mandolin, Organ
*Gordon Huntley - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Ray Duffy - Percussion

1971  Southern Comfort - Southern Comfort (2017 reissue)
Related Acts
1970  Andrew Leigh - Magician (2011 remaster)
1970  Matthew's Southern Comfort - Later That Same Year (2008 remaster)

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bob Martin - Midwest Farm Disaster (1972 us, fine country protest folk rock, 2017 japan remaster)

Bob Martin is a highly talented singer songwriter from Lowell, Massachusetts who released Midwest Farm Disaster in 1972. Martin is still making records today but this one is generally acknowledged as his masterpiece and is perhaps one of the finest singer songwriter albums ever recorded.

Martin’s voice is gravelly and weathered but soulful. Think of a strange Kevin Coyne, Van Morrison, and Bob Lind blend and you’d be right on target. The lyrics are top shelf too, the equal or better of most major or critically acclaimed artists out there. The album’s sound is very close to Gene Clark’s White Light or Bob Lind’s Since There Were Circles LP, a stark, beautiful blend of folk and country that reveals its depth with repeated listens. Each song has something new to offer, and Bob brings us into his working class world with great American stories about local drunks, small town farm life, hard times, prison convicts, and working on the mill.

“Blind Marie” is a moving singer songwriter track that sounds like a classic, it also happens to be the album’s most accessible song that should have gained Martin commercial notoriety. Tracks like the Woody Guthrie influenced “Third War Rag” and “Frog Dick, South Dakota” are coloured by a distinct sense of humor but are also packed with good, catchy melodies and wonderfully sarcastic lyrics. Other songs like the intense “Mill Town” and the title track are dark tales that relate to Bob’s earlier life on the farm and are superb examples of real Americana. The album ends with “Deer Island Prison,” which might be thought of as the album’s centerpiece. Martin turns in a stunning vocal and lyrical performance that must surely rank as one of the great, unsung confessionals.

This is an excellent and unforgettable LP full of rich drifter music and mandatory listening for those who are into deep, rustic singer songwriter albums.
by Jason Nardelli

1. Captain Jesus - 3:46
2. Third War Rag - 2:36
3. Mill Town - 5:18
4. Changes In Me - 4:36
5. Old Rass - 3:15
6. Sister Rose And The Frist Salvation Band - 2:58
7. Midwest Farm Disaster - 4:26
8. Frog Dick, South Dakota - 2:45
9. Blind Marie - 3:16
10.Charlie Zink - 3:28
11.Deer Island Prison - 4:57
Words and Music by Bob Martin

*Bob Martin - Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*David Briggs - Keyboards
*Billy Sanford - Dobro, Guitar
*Kenny Buttrey - Drums
*Norbert Putnam - Bass
*Various Nashville Sidemen

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