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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Marc Ellington - A Question Of Roads (1972 uk, marvellous country folk rock, 2010 korean remaster)

Marc Ellington is a Scottish folksinger and multi-instrumentalist who worked with Fairport Convention, providing some vocal support on their 1969 ‘Unhalfbricking’ album, also played with Matthews Southern Comfort in the same year, as well as releasing his debut. I haven’t heard that one, but came across his 1971 follow-up ‘Rains/Reins of Change’ some years ago, and was intrigued to see just how members of Fairport were involved. It was a very different line-up for the next album, ‘A Question of Roads’.

The album has far more in common with American country, with steel guitars and banjo making plenty of appearances. If I was to compare this album with a more well-known group then it would be with The Band, as this 1972 album compares well with the music they were releasing at the same time.

It is laid back, melodic, and totally enjoyable the first time it is played. This album may not have any Fairport members involved, but I did find it intriguing to note that it includes a very countrified “Open The Door, Homer”, which was what Bob Dylan & The Band called “Open The Door, Richard” when they recorded it in 1967, but it can trace its roots back the Forties. Fairport Convention then recorded the song on the ‘Red & Gold album’, in a very different manner to this it must be said. Marc must have been held in high acclaim back in the Seventies when one sees who he worked with, and the number of solo albums he released, but he seems to have been mostly forgotten now which is a real shame. 

1. Four Rode By (Traditional) - 2:14
2. No Deposit, No Return - 3:14
3. Never Again (Karen Ellington, Marc Ellington) - 4:45
4. Please Be My Friend (Iain Matthews) - 3:46
5. Jacobite Lament (A Celtic Dream) - 3:26
6. Royal Blues - 3:08
7. Question Marc (Better Days Ahead) - 2:39
8. You Finally Found You - 3:03
9. Past Master - 2:17
10.Open The Door Homer (Bob Dylan) - 4:04
11.A Question Of Roads - 4:39
12.Six Days On The Road (Carl Montgomery, Earl Green) - 2:09
All songs by Marc Ellington except where indicated

*Marc Ellington - Vocals, Guitar
*Mike Deighan - Guitar
*Gordon Huntley - Steel Guitar
*Tim Renwick - Guitar
*Andy Roberts - Organ
*Bruce Thomas - Bass
*Andy Leigh - Bass
*Ray Duffy - Drums
*John Wilson - Drums
*Dave Richards - Piano
*John Roy - Vocals
*Karen Ellington - Vocals

1969  Marc Ellington - Marc Ellington (2009 korean remaster)
1971  Marc Ellington ‎- Rains-Reins Of Changes (2004 remaster)

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Eric Andersen - Be True To You (1975 us, awesome country folk soft rock, 2016 japan remaster)

Eric Andersen's songs, voice, and guitar have created a career, spanning over 40 years, that includes 25 albums of original songs, and numerous tours of North America, Europe, and Japan. His songs; have been recorded by artists all over the world, including Judy Collins, Fairport Convention, Peter Paul and Mary, Rick Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, The Grateful Dead, and Francoise Hardy.

Although born in Pittsburgh in 1943, Eric Anderson received his early education in Buffalo, where he taught himself guitar and piano. He saw Elvis Presley perform in a gold suit at Memorial Auditorium and the Everly Brothers play at his high school gym. He also saw the Miles Davis Quintet at Kleinhan's music hall. He had folk groups that performed the political songs of Woody Guthrie and the Weavers and spent a great deal of time reading the books of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. After two years of pre-medical studies at Hobart College, he hitchhiked to San Francisco to try out his new songs in North Beach coffeehouses and seek out the poets of the Beat Generation. He succeeded in meeting Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Neal Cassady at the City Lights Bookstore. Weeks later, he heard them recite at a poetry reading in Haight Ashbury, on the same evening President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Songwriter Tom Paxton discovered him that late fall of 1963, performing at the Coffee Gallery in North Beach. He heard his songs and invited him to New York City. In 1964, Eric was soon introduced to the Greenwich Village songwriting circle of Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. He played his first gig as an opening act at Gerde's Folk City. Robert Shelton of the-New York Times wrote a review where he called him "a writer and performer of the first rank… possessing that magical element called star quality." He was signed to Vanguard Records and began recording his first album.

In the Village folk and jazz clubs, he witnessed the singing and playing of some of America's greatest blues, and jazz masters alive. The list of people heard whose music he absorbed, was vast; performers like Mississippi John Hurt, Judy Roderick, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Skip James, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Doc Watson, Dave Van Ronk, Doc Watson, Reverend Gary Davis, David Blue, Uncle Dave Macon, Fred Neil, Son House, Anita O'Day,, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. It was in these clubs where he learned, first-hand, how a master musician can with one voice or one instrument, captivate an audience.

Over the next three years he wrote and recorded four albums of his earliest songs, including his early classics "Come To My Bedside", "Thirsty Boots", and "Violets of Dawn", for Vanguard. The Brothers Four recorded a single of "Bedside" for Columbia Records and it was immediately banned from AM radio, on the grounds of obscenity. Judy Collins and the Blues, Project created pop hits of the latter two songs. 

In 1972, Andersen would sign with Columbia Records after Blood, Sweat and Tears drummer Bobby Colomby introduced him to then-label head Clive Davis. Andersen’s Columbia Records debut, Blue River, would become his most commercially successful release, produced by Norbert Putnam. Joni Mitchell sang the duet harmonies on the title track. The Rolling Stone, Album Guide awarded it four stars and credited it as being "the best example of the 70's singer-songwriter movements. But when the master tapes for the follow-up album, Stages, were lost, Andersen's career lost much of its momentum. Between 1974 and 1977 he recorded two albums with Clive Davis at Arista Records, Be True To You and Sweet Surprise. He performed at the opening show of the Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review, at Gerde's Folk City in New York, and again in Niagra Falls, in 1975.
by Will James

1. Moonchild River Song - 3:52
2. Be True To You - 4:10
3. Wild Crow Blues - 3:07
4. Ol' 55 - 3:22
5. Time Run Like A Freight Train - 8:41
6. Liza, Light The Candle - 3:45
7. Woman, She Was Gentle - 5:01
8. Can't Get You Out Of My Life - 3:02
9. The Blues Keep Fallin' Llike The Rain - 4:48
10.Love Is Just A Game - 3:46
All song by Eric Andersen except Track #4 written by Tom Waits

*Eric Andersen - Guitar, Keyboards, Harmonica, Vocals
*Deborah Greene Andersen - Backing Vocals
*Richard Bennett - Guitar
*Ginger Blake - Backing Vocals
*Christopher Bond - Guitar
*Jackson Browne - Backing Vocals
*Gary Coleman - Percussion
*Mike Condello - Backing Vocals
*Scott Edwards - Bass
*Jesse Ehrlich - Cello
*Howie Emerson - Guitar, Dobro
*Emory Gordy - Bass
*John Guerin - Drums
*Douglas Haywood - Vocals
*Tim Hensley - Piano
*Russ Kunkel - Drums
*Allen Lindgren - Piano, Wurlitzer
*Orwin Middleton - Backing Vocals
*Joni Mitchell - Backing Vocals
*Emmanuel Moss - Violin
*Maria Muldaur - Backing Vocals
*Dean Parks - Guitar
*Herb Pedersen - Backing Vocals
*Andrew Robinson - Vocals
*Tom Scott - Saxophone
*Tom Sellars - Clavinet
*Mark Sporer - Bass
*Dennis St. John - Drums
*Julia Tillman Waters - Vocals
*Maxine Willard Waters - Vocals
*Jennifer Warren - Vocals
*Ernie Watts - Saxophone, Flute

1972-73/90  Eric Andersen - Blue River / Stages The Lost Album (2014 double disc remaster) 

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Jim Ford - The Sounds Of Our Time (1967-73 us, fantastic groovy soulful country folk psych, 2007 digi pak remaster and expanded)

In the liner notes to cd reissue Sounds of Our Time Nick Lowe describes Jim Ford: “Jim Ford’s reputation was not the best. He told a lot of terrible stories and he used to bend the truth a bit. I think deep down he was no rock star, but he noticed people provided him with money when he pretended to be one. Many people who financed his career probably got disappointed when Ford didn’t care to live up to their expectations. He took a lot of people for a ride….I’d never seen anyone use cocaine before I met Ford. Wherever he went there were also illegal substances around. Ford was unreliable and from time to time he disappeared. We were surprised to find what kind of people he seemed to know in England. One time when he got back he had stayed with the blonde bombshell Diana Dors and her gangster-type husband Alan Lake!”

Nick also added this, “When Jim walked off the plane he wore a big Stetson, rose-tinted shades and jeans with creases and round-toe cowboy boots. I’d never met anyone like him before. Ford was the real thing, he was other-worldly and very charismatic. He turned up with a $3,000 guitar, an astronomical sum for 1970, but it seemed he could barely play it, and yet it was so mean, the way he hit that thing. He was totally unimpressed by us (Brinsley Schwarz), but he was making the best out of a bad job.”

Jim Ford meant a lot of things to a lot of different people. Sly Stone claimed Ford was his best friend, Nick Lowe name checks him as a major inspiration, and British mod band the Koobas recorded an entire album of Harlan County songs (The Koobas even went as far as to change their name to Harlan County). His unique brand of country-rock-soul-funk has proven to be original and very influential.

The Harlan County LP was released by White Whale in 1969 and is evenly divided between covers and Jim Ford originals. Most people single out the title track and “I’m Gonna Make Her Love Me” as highlights, and they are great slices of hard country funk. “Harlan County,” the title track, has a nice horn arrangement, crisp, driving acoustic guitars, female backup vocalists and a great beat – it’s another lost gem. But for me Ford’s fuzz guitar arrangement of “Spoonful” is really stellar and the superb country soul ballads “Changing Colors” and “Love On My Brain” make the album what it is today – a unique record in the country-rock canon. Ford’s main strength was his songwriting ability but he’s also an underrated vocalist with real southern grit and soul. There is nothing like Harlan County, the LP is mandatory listening for fans of 60s American rock n roll and country-rock.

You wanna hear his music? The best reissue to get a hold of is Sounds of Our Time by Bear Family Records (2007). This disc has the Harlan County LP in its entirety, rare pre-lp singles, and excellent outtakes that are in more of a country-rock vein. For an example of this, check out the slow version of “Big Mouth USA” and the title track. Both tracks are outstanding pieces of Americana that sound very similar to the Band’s best songs on Music From Big Pink.
by Jason Nardelli

1. Harlan County - 3:27
2. I'm Gonna Make Her Love Me (Henry Cosby, Lula Hardaway, Stevie Wonder, Sylvia Moy) - 3:06
3. Changing Colors (Suzanna Jordan) - 3:18
4. Dr. Handy's Dandy Candy - 2:34
5. Love On My Brain - 3:15
6. Long Road Ahead (Bonnie Bramlett, Carl Radle, Delaney Bramlett) - 2:53
7. Under Construction - 1:42
8. Working My Way To L.A. (James Ford, Lolly Vegas) - 2:44
9. Spoonful (Willie Dixon) - 2:44
10.To Make My Life Beautiful (Alex Harvey) - 2:57
11.Big Mouth U.S.A - 3:11
12.36 Inches High - 1:53
13.Sounds Of Our Time (Bobby Womack, James Ford) - 3:47
14.Chain Gang (Sam Cooke) - 4:21
15.I Wonder What They'll Do With Today (James Ford, Pat Vegas) - 3:45
16.Go Through Sunday - 4:27
17.She Turns My Radio On - 3:20
18.Mixed Green - 3:26
19.Happy Songs Sell Records, Sad Songs Sell Beer - 2:53
20.It Takes Two - To Make One - 2:07
21.Big Mouth U.S.A - 2:32
22.Rising Sign - 3:40
23.Linda Comes Running (James Ford, Pat Vegas) - 2:23
24.Ramona - 2:29
25.Hanging From Your Lovin' Tree - 2:57
All compositions by James Ford except where stated.

*Jim Ford - Vocals, Guitar
*Dr. John - Keyboards
*Jim Keltner - Drums
*James Burton - Guitar
*Pat Vegas - Bass
*Lolly Vegas - Guitar

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Gregg Allman - Laid Back (1973 us, exceptional southern blues rock, 2016 japan SHM remaster)

Laid Back is Gregg Allman’s debut studio solo album, released in October 1973 by Capricorn Records. He developed the album as a small creative outlet wherein he would assume full control, and he co-produced the album alongside Johnny Sandlin. Laid Back was largely recorded in March 1973 at Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, Georgia, with additional recording taking place at the Record Plant in New York City.

The album explores Allman’s varying influences, including rhythm and blues and soul music. It consists of several cover songs, originals, and a traditional hymn, and contains performances from a host of musicians, most notably Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton on guitars, Bill Stewart on drums, and Charlie Hayward on bass guitar. The album was created while Allman also worked on Brothers and Sisters, the fourth Allman Brothers album. The album title was a studio term Allman coined for relaxing a song’s tempo, while its cover was painted by Abdul Mati Klarwein.

Upon its release, Laid Back received positive reviews from music critics, and it peaked at number 13 on Billboard’s Top LPs & Tapechart. To support the album, Allman embarked on an ambitious tour, consisting of a full band and an entire string orchestra. Two singles were released to promote the record, with lead single “Midnight Rider” becoming a top 20 hit in the U.S. and Canada. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1974 for shipping 500,000 copies in the U.S., making it one of Allman’s best-selling albums.

The early '70s were a tumultuous time for Gregg Allman. After years of hard touring, The Allman Brothers Band broke through in 1971 with Live at the Fillmore East, one of the best live albums of all time. Then his brother, slide-guitar genius Duane Allman, died in a motorcycle accident late in the year. Gregg spent some of 1972 piecing together material the group had recorded with Duane for the landmark Eat a Peach, and began recording the lively Brothers and Sisters, which yielded the hit "Rambling Man." Somewhere in the middle of that process, the keyboard player and singer sneaked away to make a different kind of record: his aptly titled solo debut, Laid Back. It came out to positive notices in 1973 before fading into the background, eclipsed by the band's runaway success.

By this time, Allman was a formidable, confident vocalist — but mostly singing in front of the roaring Allman Brothers rhythm section. Though the disc offers terrific guitar asides, Laid Back's songs are centered on Allman's B3 organ and Chuck Leavell's acoustic and electric pianos, while the rhythm section's relaxed approach defines the session. Singing at a measured pace, one word at a time, Allman makes the most of these entrancingly downcast tunes. His version of Jackson Browne's "These Days" is a study in dejection, a symphony of self-pitying shrugs and cracked-apart whines that only a southerner could make beautiful. Meanwhile, Allman's original "Midnight Rider" , plenty rousing when played by the band, becomes a slightly spookier sketch of an even more shadowy figure.

Several of the songs come right from the revival tent: There's a mournful version of the standard "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," and the Allman original "Please Call Home" finds him singing with a slightly ragged but utterly righteous choir. It's amazing stuff, deep and intense yet nowhere near the decibel levels of his work with the band. Allman is amazing when he's belting his heart out about being tied to the whipping post. But he's equally compelling — maybe even more so — in a quieter space, when he's less fired up. At times on Laid Back, he sounds like a man reflecting on the dizzying twists and turns of what he's recently experienced. He may still be shell-shocked, and not too proud to ask for help (from a higher power, from a friend) as he tries to make sense of all that's happened to him.
by Tom Moon, October 25, 2006

1. Midnight Rider (Ed Freeman, Gregg Allman, Kim Payne, Jay Collins) - 4:29
2. Queen Of Hearts (Gregg Allman) - 6:17
3. Please Call Home (Gregg Allman) - 2:50
4. Don't Mess Up A Good Thing (Oliver Sain) - 4:11
5. These Days (Jackson Browne) - 3:56
6. Multi-Colored Lady (Gregg Allman) - 4:55
7. All My Friends (Scott Boyer) - 4:33
8. Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Traditional) - 4:50

*Gregg Allman - Vocals, Organ, Acoustic Guitar
*Bill Stewart - Drums
*Chuck Leavell - Acoustic, Electric Pianos, Vibes
*Tommy Talton - Acoustic, Electric, Slide Guitars, Dobro, Tambourine
*Scott Boyer - Acoustic, Electric, Steel Guitars, Electric Piano
*David Brown - Bass
*Buzz Feiten - Guitar
*Charlie Hayward - Bass
*Paul Hornsby - Organ, Keyboards, Clavinet
*Jai Johanny Johanson - Percussion, Conga
*Carl Hall - Background Vocals
*Hilda Harris - Background Vocals
*Cissy Houston - Background Vocals
*Emily Houston - Background Vocals
*June Mcgruder - Background Vocals
*Helene Miles - Background Vocals
*Linda November - Background Vocals
*Eileen Gilbert - Background Vocals
*Maretha Stewart - Background Vocals
*Albertine Robinson - Background Vocals
*Jim Nalls - Guitar
*David "Fathead" Newman - Saxophone
*Johnny Sandlin - Bass
*Butch Trucks - Percussion, Cabasa
*Ed Freeman - Strings, Horn Arrangements, Conductor
*Max Cahn - Violin
*Tony Posk - Violin

1974  Gregg Allman - The Gregg Allman Tour (2008 japan SHM remaster)
1977  The Gregg Allman Band - Playin' Up A Storm
with Allman Brothers
1968-89  Dreams (4 disc box set) 
1971  S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook NY
1973  Brothers And Sisters (2013 Japan SHM super deluxe four disc set edition)

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Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Original Caste - One Tin Soldier (1969 canada, wonderful sunny folk psych, 2012 remaster and expanded)

The five-member band grew out of the Calgary folk trio The North Country Singers, formed in 1966 by songwriter and guitarist Bruce Innes (b Calgary 7 Jan 1943). They moved to Vancouver and added the singer Dixie Lee Stone (b Moose Jaw, Sask 14 May 1946), who married Innes. After playing western Canadian and US coffeehouses and resorts, in 1969 they signed with Bell Records, adopted a pop sound, and changed their name to The Original Caste. Their first release with Bell was the 1969 pop LP The Original Caste (Bell TA 5003), from which the moralistic tale "One Tin Soldier" (written by US producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter) became a No. 1 gold record in Canada and Japan, was No. 1 in several US cities, and reached No. 34 on the US Billboard charts in 1970. Also from this album, "Mr Monday" hit No. 3 on the CHUM charts in May 1970, was No. 1 in Japan, and sold over 2 million copies.

At their peak, the band was based in Los Angeles. They toured North America and Japan, performed with Glen Campbell and B.B. King, and made television appearances, including on Denny Doherty 's CBC TV show in 1978. Additional releases included several singles 1970-1, which fared less well, and two Live in Japan albums (Bell 1971). After the band's dissolution in 1972, Bruce and Dixie Lee Innes continued to perform as The Original Caste, releasing the country-influenced album Back Home (Century II/Capitol ST 17004, 1974), arranged by Tommy Banks and recorded in Alberta. Bruce Innes continued to perform under the band's name through the early 2000s.

"One Tin Soldier" was given a BMI award. A cover version performed by the US band Coven was featured in the 1971 film Billy Jack. In 2003 CHUM radio banned The Original Caste version and other anti-war songs, despite its having reached No. 1 on the CHUM chart in December 1969.

The Original Caste's trademark early sound was polished, uncomplicated pop, made remarkable by Dixie Lee Innes's rich, strong voice and heartfelt delivery. The band was among the earliest Canadian groups to be heard internationally.
by Betty Nygaard King

Following some musical work in the US, and the completion of his formal education at the University of Montana, Bruce Innes finally returned to Calgary, and began performing in a small renowned coffee house called The Pig's Eye at the same time as undiscovered performers like Joni Anderson (later to be Joni Mitchell) and David Wiffen. Using this as a performance base, he formed The North Country Singers with Graham Bruce (bass) and Joseph Cavender (drums). Innes saw Dixie Lee Stone performing there as well and soon asked her to join the ensemble. The group headed out on a cross Canada tour, swinging down into the US where they picked up Portland, Oregon native Bliss Mackie as second guitarist eventually landing in Los Angeles and changing their name to "The Original Caste".

Through Innes's former label, Dot Records, they recorded two singles including "I Can't Make It Anymore" (1968) which was less than a blip on the music industry radar. However, after signing with TA Records, a label distributed by Bell Records (Columbia), in 1969, Innes met writers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who would produce The Original Caste’s first album.

They struck pay dirt after releasing the duo's "One Tin Soldier" that same year. The song made No. 6 on RPM Weekly chart and No. 34 on the Billboard Top-40 and went to #1 on the CHUM Chart.

They charted even higher with "Mr. Monday" which hit No. 4 on RPM Weekly's chart and No. 3 on the CHUM Chart in Canada. The two singles combined, worldwide, sold over three million copies. Despite the failure of "Mr. Monday" to chart in the US, they landed opening slots for the likes of BB King and Glen Campbell south of the border and made numerous TV appearances.

"One Tin Soldier" had a revival of sorts in 1972 when it was featured in the movie 'Billy Jack', however it was not the Original Caste on the soundtrack but rather American band Coven featuring singer Jinx Dawson. The singles made another round at radio and had significant sales after being re-issued.

The husband and wife team of Dixie Lee and Bruce Innes would record together and as solo artists as a continued extension of their Original Caste recording contract through Bell.

With switch to Century II Records out of Canada, the new four-piece version of the group (now with Gary Carlson on bass and Tom Doran on drums) released the 'Back Home' album in 1974.

The new version of Original Caste toured into the late 1970's. When the band made its final split in 1980 so did the Innes'; Dixie remarried and became a social worker; Bruce began jingle and film score work, remarried and moved to Washington. He currently lives in Idaho. In 2000 Bruce Innes produced country artist Brenn Hill utilizing the help of veteran country/folk singer Ian Tyson; Mackie died in 2004; Joe Cavender now resides in Seattle, Washington; Carlson now resides in Bellevue, Idaho; Coats now resides in Sandpoint, Idaho.

With the release of 'The Best Of The Original Caste' in Japan in 2005, another revival of the act returned with a line-up headed by Bruce Innes and Cheryl Morrel on vocals.

In 2008 Innes, with new vocalist Jilla Web, a featured artist with Las Vegas show "Superstars Live In Concert," re-recorded "One Tin Soldier" with the Nashville Children’s Choir. A new CD is planned. Innes and Web) can be seen in concert in theaters across the US performing their highly acclaimed traveling show 'One Tin Soldier Rides Again'.
Museum of Canadian Music, with notes from Bruce Innes

1. One Tin Soldier (Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert) - 3:38
2. Mr. Monday (Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert) - 3:08
3. Country Song (Bruce Innes) - 3:16
4. A Picture of Bob Dylan (Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert) - 3:00
5. Nothing Can Touch Me (Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert) - 2:59
6. Leaving It All Behind (Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert) - 2:47
7. Watch the Children (Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert) - 2:59
8. Highway (Bruce Innes) - 3:34
9. Sweet Chicago (Bruce Innes) - 4:38
10.Live For Tomorrow (Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert) - 3:26
11.Come Together (Artie Butler) - 2:22
12.Ain't That Tellin' You People (Artie Butler) - 2:40
13.When Love Is Near (Artie Butler) - 3:03
14.Come Together (Live) (Artie Butler) - 3:02
15.Sault Ste. Marie (Artie Butler, Bruce Innes) - 3:04

The Original Caste 
*Dixie Lee Innes - Vocals
*Bruce Innes - Lead Guitar
*Bliss Mackie - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Graham Bruce - Bass
*Peter Brown - Drums
*Joseph Cavender - Drums (1970)

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

John Wonderling - Daybreaks (1973 france / us, extraordinary spaced out folk psych rock, 2017 issue)

Johnny Wonderling was born in France on February 18th 1945, and moved to Queens, New York, at the age of five. Always a music enthusiast, he began his career at Cameo-Parkway Records in the mid- 605, before finding a job at Alouette, an independent NY music production publishing company best-known for having signed up Quincy Jones, Lesley Gore and Janis Ian, and run by Artie Wayne and Sandy and Kelli Ross, towards the end of 1967. At the same time, he set about writing songs himself. Sadly, Ross barely remembers him: "His name and face are familiar, but I cannot recall how I was involved," she says. "Wish I had more to tell..." "I met Johnny when I was a teenager, and it completely changed my life," says Carey Allen Budnick, who first encountered him backstage at a Hullabaloo dance show in Manhattan. '"He was a song plugger, and introduced me to various publishers. He taught himself autoharp, and we began to write songs together, which we sold for $25 to $50 a time. He was a very well-liked guy, a wheeler-deler who knew everyone - I remember him introducing me to Tiny Tim one day..."

In April 1968 Wonderling's song Midway Down - co-written with Lou Shapiro – was recorded by the Creation in the UK, via his publishing connections, but didn't sell. That June, a song by Wonderling, Budnick (under the alias Allane) and their pal Ed Goldfluss, Ask The Children, was included on the Cherry People's sole LP. It was also released by the Cowsills on their Captain Sad & His Ship Of Fools LP in September - but, for nefarious reasons, the writers never saw any royalties. That autumn Wonderling became the first pop artist to sign to Jerry Ragovoy's Loma Records [a subsidiary of Warner Brothers), which had previously devoted itself to R’n’B. On September l1th he recorded his only 45 for the label at Ragovoy's Hit Factory studio in New York. 

He produced it himself, aided by engineer Bill Szymczyk (who went on to earn immortality with the Eagles and others) and a crack backing band consisting of Hugh McCracken (guitar) Paul Harris (keyboards), Chuck Rainey (bass) and Bernard Purdie (drums). Coupling Wonderling's own rendition of Midway Down with Man Of Straw (written by him, Budnick and Goldfluss), the disc was issued at the end of the month, both on Loma and Warner Brothers, one pressing for each Coast. 'New artist shows certain savvy about the current market,' hedged Record World in a brief review on October 12th. 'Has a certain sell quality.' Cash Box, meanwhile, raved that a 'Distorted
carnival atmosphere gives this track a staying power which will peg it for immediate response. Song is the first pop-flavored release from Loma, and has outstanding appeal for teen and progressive listeners. Should be welcomed by radio spots for exposure that should create a sales explosion.'  In fact, the disc barely made a whimper in the marketplace. 

Wonderling therefore became studio manager at the Hit Factory, at a time when Jimi Hendrix, the Stooges, the James Gang and countless others were working there. He hadn't abandoned his own creative ambitions, however. In 1971 his haunting song Jessica Stone - co-written with Szymczyk – was recorded by Jimmie Haskell on his eccentric California '99 LP. The same year, he set about making an album of his own, in collaboration with Szymczyk.

Drawing on his many studio contacts, the initial sessions for Day Breaks took place at the Hit Factory, and subsequently at Sun West in Los Angeles (after he'd moved from
New York to Laurel Canyon, where he lived with his girlfriend Cindy). Few musicians, even superstars, commanded such a roll-call of talent: Aynsley Dunbar, Tim Rose, Jesse Ed Davis, Jim Gordon, Jim Pons, Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie, Chuck Rainey, Hugh McCracken, Paul Harris, Jim Keltner, Danny Kortchmar, Paul Griffin, Gloria Jones and numerous others were all involved.  Despite such a large and stellar cast, however, the arrangements are restrained, albeit more layered than it seems at first, with piano, organ, steel guitar, wah wah, backing vocals and more adding subtle texture.

Most of the LP consists of spacey, acoustic guitar-led ballads, sung in Wonderling's appealingly warm, world-weary voice. It opens with the reflective Long Way Home, referencing a backpacking trip Budnick had made around Europe in the 60s. Next is the beautiful, wistful Jessica Stone (co-written with Szymczyk). Its mood is sustained on the reflective Someone Like You, M'lady, and Shadows. Perhaps surprisingly, a faithful re-recording of the eerily psychedelic Man Of Straw is included (its B-side, Midway Down, is absent). Cowboy Lullaby is a gentle instrumental; 'Just close your eyes and listen,' instruct the credits.

The bouncy Follow Me breaks the album's thoughtful mood, but its levity is quickly reined in on the touching closing track, Reach The Ground, in which Wonderling hopes that his fragile subject will "someday make your way down, without breaking when you finally reach the ground..." 'John was a fascinating fellow and a great guy," says engineer Bruce Alblin, who worked on overdubbing mixing, and editing the LP at Golden West Sound in Hollywood. "He was very much a man of the world - charismatic, sophisticated, smart, and fun to work with in the studio. As well as being a talented musical artist, he was also well-versed in the 'business' side of the music business - a very rare combination."

With the album finally completed, in December 1972 Paramount trailed its release with a radio promo 45, offering mono and stereo mixes of Shadows, in a picture sleeve. The LP was scheduled to follow in mid- 1973 (judging from its catalogue number, PAS 6063) - but something went awry. The singer-songwriter scene was at its commercial peak, but Day Breaks seems not to have been distributed, and was effectively stillborn. Only a handful of copies are known to exist, and no promo material or references to it in the contemporary press (including trade papers) have yet surfaced. It was clearly expensive to make, and was packaged with a custom lyric inner sleeve, so the reason for its evidently tiny pressing size is baffling.

"From what I gathered at the time, there was some kind of politics / machinations at the label that delayed and inhibited its release," recalls Ablin. "It was held up quite a I while, and from what I recall, the release was extremely small, 100 or fewer albums total." Wonderling is not known to have performed live, which can't have assisted his prospects as a recording artist, and the album got no traction whatsoever. Ablin, however, was always a fan: "Of all the countless projects I've worked on over the years, Day Breaks is one of my favorites, if not my favorite, musically. It's that good.  Truly brilliantly creative and unique. I'm amazed at how well the songs, arrangements and production hold up after all theseyears."

Following its release Wonderling is known to have made numerous demos, only one of which – the melodic Penelope - is known to survive, and is included in this set. Despite his considerable abilities, he released no further records under his own name. Instead, he joined Arista Records as'General Professional Manager, East Coast' in February 1978, subsequently becoming their 'Director of Creative Affairs' and 'Publishing Director, East Coast' working with stars such as Aaron Neville, Chaka Khan and Pat Benatar.

In 1981 he moved to Sidstan Music Publishing in New York (owned by former Beatles promoter Sid Bernstein and his brother Stan). The following year he played autoharp on John Gale's Music For A New Society, and produced the near-hit 400 Dragons by Adrian John Loveridge. Wonderling and Loveridge also contributed two songs to the March 1982 debut album by Laura Branigan, Branigan, which reached #34 on the Billboard chart, making it easily the most commercially successful recording of his career. Unfortunately, both Loveridge and Branigan died before their time. Wonderling subsequently set up his own music production and publishing company, Myth America, from the  barn he called home in Woodstock, notably overseeing the 1990 album ^4 Creole Christmas, for which he produced tracks by artists including Aaron Neville and Irma Thomas. He also collaborated closely with the composer Keith 'Plex' Barnhart on advertising jingles for Macy's and others, which became his main source of income for the remainder of his life.

Latterly he was involved with ' the Woodstock Youth Theater, and acted as musical director for The Woodstock Century, an ambitious production mounted at the Woodstock Playhouse in June 2002. His last public statement seems to have been made that October, when he joined a protest against the invasion of Iraq in Woodstock. "The powers that be are the ones pulling all the strings," he told the New York Times. "You've got to keep going, and eventually us gentler people maybe will
be heard." Sadly, he succumbed to a heart attack in Amsterdam on September 17th 2003, whilst honeymooning with his third wife, and may well have taken the full story behind the mysterious Day Breaks with him.

"I'm really thrilled to see that it's available at last," concludes Ablin. "For many years after John and I worked together, the only way that I could listen to the record was via my reference cassette from the master tape. But great music, and all great art, has a way of eventually being acknowledged." For now, the last word goes to Wonderling's daughter Jenny, after whom he named his Sweet Jenny Music publishing company: "He was a wonderful man, deeply passionate, with a laugh, naughty wit, intelligence and warmth that was rare. I really miss him."
by Richard Morton Jack, London, March 2017

1. Long Way Home (John Wonderling, Carey Budnick) - 4:20
2. Jessica Stone (John Wonderling, Bill Szymczyk) - 3:54
3. Man Of Straw (John Wonderling, Carey Budnick, Ed Goldfluss) - 2:46
4. Someone Like You (John Wonderling) - 4:29
5. M'lady (John Wonderling, Carey Budnick) - 3:41
6. Shadows (John Wonderling, Carey Budnick) - 3:09
7. Cowboy Lullaby (John Wonderling) - 2:55
8. Follow Me (John Wonderling, Carey Budnick) - 3:33
9. Reach The Ground (John Wonderling) - 3:56
10.Midway Down (45 A-Side) (John Wonderling, Los Shapiro) - 2:34
11.Man Of Straw (45 B-Side) (John Wonderling, Carey Budnick, Ed Goldfluss) - 2:49
12.Shadows (Mono) (John Wonderling, Carey Budnick) - 3:11
13.Penelope (Mono) (John Wonderling) - 2:25

*John Wonderling - Acoustic, Electric Guitar, Autoharp, Organ, Percussion, Electric Piano, Lead Vocals
*Tim Rose - Acoustic Guitar
*Jerry McGee - Acoustic, Electric Guitar
*Hugh McCracken - Acoustic, Electric, Slide Guitar, Tambourine
*Chuck Rainey - Bass 
*Jim Pons - Bass
*Danny Kortchmar - Electric Guitar
*Jesse Ed Davis - Electric Guitar
*Jordan Stephens - Harmonica, Electric Guitar
*Paul Griffin - Organ, Piano
*Roger Dollarhide - Organ, Piano, Synthesizer
*Paul Harris - Organ, Piano, Electric Piano
*Jim Gordon - Tambourine
*Aynsley Dunbar - Drums
*Bernard Purdie - Drums
*Herbie Lovelle - Drums
*Jim Keltner - Drums
*Clydie King, Gloria Jones, Venetta Fields - Backing Vocals

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Monday, August 27, 2018

The Outlaws - Bring It Back Alive (1978 us, outstanding southern boogie guitar rock, 2015 japan remaster)

The Outlaws were one of the most enduring and popular of bands to emerge from the great 'Southern Rock' boom in the USA in the mid-70s. The band came from Florida, and their history stretched back into the late 1960s. A more detailed story of how the band coalesced can be found in my note for the Retroworld reissue of their self-titled debut album and their third, Hurry Sundown. Like fellow Southern Rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band boasted a three-pronged lead guitar line-up (known affectionately by their substantial fan base as The Florida Guitar Army) but in Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones and Henry Paul allowed much more in the way of tasteful Country picking to bleed in as an influential strand compared to the Skynyrd Blues-Rock sound.

The Outlaws were the first Rock act signed to the Arista Records label, an imprint set up and helmed by Clive Davis, the legendary former chief of the Columbia / CBS label, affecting the change of the label emphasis into the contemporary Rock scene late in the 1960s, with such signings as Santana, Johnny Winter and many others. The Outlaws debut album, released in 1975, proved that Davis still possessed substantial commercial nous, when it charted just outside the Billboard US Top Ten album chart. An impressive set of American Classic Rock, it still sounds remarkably fresh, nearly forty years down the line.

However, by the late seventies, the Southern Rock phenomenon was on the wane. The act that kicked the whole shebang into gear, The Allman Brothers Band, had sundered in a morass of drug abuse and allegations of treachery, Lynyrd Skynyrd had been torn apart when several members of the band were killed and some seriously injured in a plane crash, and New Wave Rock was starting to become more of a commercial force (indeed, Clive Davis again showed genuine foresight in his signing of The Patti Smith Group, whose epochal debut album, Horses, was released later in 1975).

Bring It Back Alive released as a double live set, and it frequently indicated that a potential change was on the cards; this proves to be the case with the Outlaws; Bring It Back Alive, like its preceding studio album, Hurry Sundown, had been produced by Bill Szymczyk, with his engineering sidekick, Allan Blazek, who had worked on The Eagles' Hotel California and a slew of other US rockers (such as the J GeiIs Band, Joe Walsh and Santana). The Outlaws would go on to record for Arista and other labels, eventually splitting and reforming. There's still a version of the band about on the US heritage rock circuit, but this pairing of albums shows contrasting sides of their talents.
by Alan Robinson

1. Intro (Relay Breakdown) - 1:00
2. Stick Around For Rock 'n' Roll (Hughie Thomasson) - 9:30
3. Lover Boy (Hughie Thomasson) - 4:10
4. There Goes Another Love Song (Hughie Thomasson, Monte Yoho) - 4:13
5. Freeborn Man (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) - 5:50
6. Prisoner (Bill Jones) - 7:22
7. I Hope You Don't Mind (Freddie Salem) - 5:41
8. Song For You (Bill Jones, Hughie Thomasson) - 3:57
9. Cold And Lonesome (Harvey Dalton Arnold) - 3:35
10.Holiday (Bill Jones) - 4:55
11.Hurry Sundown (Hughie Thomasson) - 4:18
12.Green Grass And High Tides (Hughie Thomasson) - 20:59

The Outlaws
*Harvey Dalton Arnold - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*David Dix - Percussion, Drums
*Bill Jones - Guitar, Vocals
*Freddie Salem - Guitar, Vocals
*Hughie Thomasson - Guitar, Vocals
*Monte Yoho - Percussion, Drums

1973-81  Outlaws – Anthology / Live 'n' Rare (2012 four disc set release) 
1975  The Outlaws - The Outlaws (2001 remaster)
Related Act
1979  Henry Paul Band - Grey Ghost 

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Point Blank - Airplay (1979 us, solid hard boogie southern rock, 2018 japan remaster)

Point Blank's second album, the aptly-titled Second Season, disappeared without a trace, which meant that they needed one thing from their third -- airplay -- so they could get some success underneath their belt. Maybe that's why they titled the album Airplay. Even if their motivations weren't so clearly crass and commercial, there's little question that the focus on Airplay results in a quantum leap over their meandering debut. 

Here, it's pretty much polished hard rock boogie, best heard on the opening track "Mean to Your Queenie." The rest of the album is undeniably slick -- something that comes as a shock after the roughshod and scattershot debut -- but that slickness gives the production coherence and helps focus the band. A  late-'70s album-oriented hard rock, this is pretty entertaining since it has a good surface lined with keyboards and hot distorted guitars and they touch on enough different sounds, not just boogie, but power ballads ("Shine On" is particularly good) and Southern-tinged mid-tempo rockers. A step in the right direction, then, and easily one of the best records this forgotten Texas rock band cut. 
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine 

1. Mean To Your Queenie (Steve Hardin) - 4:42
2. Two Time Loser - 3:55
3. Shine On (Steve Hardin) - 3:07
4. Penthouse Pauper - 5:39
5. Danger Zone (Steve Hardin) - 4:40
6. Louisiana Leg - 3:48
7. Takin' It Easy - 4:44
8. Thunder And Lightning - 3:16
9. Changed My Mind - 6:05
All songs by Bill Randolp, John O'Daniel, Kim Davis, Peter Gruen, Rusty Burns except where stated

Point Blank
*Rusty Burns - Guitar, Slide Guitar, Vocals
*Kim Davis - Guitar, Vocals
*John O'Daniel - Vocals
*Peter Buzzy Gruen - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Bill Randolph - Bass, Vocals
*Steve Hardin - Harmonica, Harp, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals

1976  Point Blank - Point Blank (2006 issue) 
1977  Point Blank - Second Season (2006 edition) 

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

John Hall - Action (1970 us, splendid bluesy psych classic rock, 2017 japan remaster)

John Hall was best known, for most of the first four decades of his public life, as a singer and guitarist, principally with the group Orleans -- although that group, an outgrowth of the more prosaically-named John Hall Trio and John Hall Quartet, came along some four years after he'd made his recording debut, and had shared stages with the likes of the Doors and the Who. Born on July 23, 1948, in Baltimore, MD, Hall was studying physics at Notre Dame University before he quit to pursue music full-time. He was initially based in Washington, D.C., where his early band affiliations included the British Walkers, a local group whose membership also included Teddy Spelios (aka Ted Spelies) and, at one time, had featured Roy Buchanan in its ranks. It was sometime after leaving D.C. that Hall joined the Greenwich Village-based group Kangaroo, playing bass and sharing guitar duties with Spelios as well as doing some singing alongside Barbara Keith, while N.D. Smart II filled the drummer's spot. 

Signed to MGM Records, they released a self-titled LP as well as three singles that failed to chart, on which the lion's share of the songwriting went to Hall. He was, along with Keith, the strongest composer in Kangaroo, and they were a powerful enough performing unit -- especially thanks to Spelios' playing -- to get gigs opening for the Doors and the Who in 1968. Following the breakup of the band in 1969, Hall concentrated more on songwriting, providing "Half Moon" for Janis Joplin's final album, Pearl. He also played on the Seals & Crofts debut album Down Home and Bonnie Raitt's Give It Up, in between founding his own group, the John Hall Trio -- later the John Hall Quartet -- which evolved into Orleans in 1972, in conjunction with Larry Hoppen and Wells Kelly, in Woodstock, NY. During his time with the soft rock group, they would score Top Ten singles with "Dance with Me" and "Still the One." 
by Tom Demalon

John Hall is a performer to be reckoned with, especially as a guitarist as the closing instrumental cuts demonstrate, peaceful in "Park Lane Blues" and stronger in "Scuffle". His singing also is good as are his songs, such as "Action" and "Where Would I Be". Produced by Harvey Brooks, who also plays bass on some of the numbers, this pressing also offers other fine musicians, including John Sebastian on harmonica and rhythm guitar and Paul Harris on keyboards. 

1. Nu Toone (John Hall) - 4:07
2. Look In My Eyes (Harvey Brooks, John Hall, Paul Harris, Wells Kelly) - 5:07
3. Where Would I Be (John Hall) - 2:53
4. Milwaukee (Tom Pacheco) - 2:50
5. True Love (Tom Pacheco) - 3:50
6. Sitting On Top Of The World (Lonnie Carter, Walter Jacobs) - 2:45
7. Action (John Hall) - 4:00
8. Sing A Blues Song (Tom Pacheco) - 3:36
9. Park Lane Blues (Harvey Brooks, John Hall, Paul Harris, Wells Kelly) - 7:25
10.Scuffle (Harvey Brooks, John Hall, Paul Harris, Wells Kelly) - 3:31
11.Going To The Valley (John Hall) - 1:03

*John Hall - Lead Vocals, Guitar
*Harvey Brooks - Bass (Tracks 1, 2, 5, 8-11)
*Paul Harris - Keyboard
*Wells Kelly - Drums (Tracks 1, 2, 5, 8-11)
*Jim Colegrove - Bass (Tracks 3, 4, 6, 7)
*Elliot Zigmund - Drums (Tracks 3, 4, 6, 7)
*John Sebastian - Harmonica, Rhythm Guitar (Track 6)
*Richard Greene - Violin
*Sharon Alexander - Back Up Vocal (Track 4)

Related Act
1968  Kangaroo - Kangaroo (2007 edition) 

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Compton And Batteau - In California (1970 us, brilliant groovy baroque folk, 2017 remaster)

In the beginning there was “Yesterday.”

Then “Eleanor Rigby” came to pass. And just about every teenager (James Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop excepted) wanted to play acoustic guitar, sing important introspective songs, and color those important introspective songs with flutes, oboes, a violin or cello, harpsichords, a bongo or two, gentle harmony voices, perhaps a sitar, bird sounds, and anything else that sounded exotic, classical, jazzy, or mind expanding.

And, oddly enough, some of the albums weren’t too bad. Cambridge–based Appaloosa released its album on big time Columbia Records. The album, which is fundamentally folk music, gets jazzy and classical and had that important Baroque feel in its grooves. But it died a death for the same reason hyphenating last names in marriage always fails: You know, a Smith marries a Jones and becomes Smith-Jones who in turn marries Johnson-Franklin who in turn becomes a Smith-Jones-Johnson-Franklin who then marries someone else who brings four other hyphenated names into the last name equation. After a while, it’s just not worth the bother while trying to fill out a tax form.

There just wasn’t a space in the average record store for a section given to albums under the convoluted category of rock-classical-jazz-baroque-folk-singer songwriter-avant-garde, and pop music. I actually bought Appaloosa’s vinyl debut in the great equalizer of the music industry known as the cut out bin, the record equivalent of Purgatory where all unpopular music waits to be someday rescued from obscurity. Now, I’m not particularly religious, but I am happy to this day for coughing up pocket change for the record. It’s really a classic of its day whose only crime was it just didn’t fit anywhere. Do seek it out.

Thankfully, John Parker Compton (guitar, vocals) and Robin Batteau (violin) ditched the others, dropped a hyphen or two, exchanged coasts, and enlisted such talents as Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, and Rusty Young to cut In California in 1970. This one leaves some of the Baroque stuff back in Cambridge. The first song “Laughter Turns to Blue” is a template for the album. It’s a beautiful acoustic song. There’s a bit of Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Brewer and Shipley, Kenny Loggins, and Allan Taylor, of the English folk scene. “Silk and Steel” with its accenting violin, matches the beauty and loneliness of any song of that era. “Honeysuckle” gets funky and sounds quite a bit like “New Mother Nature” by Canada’s Guess Who (a forgotten band I always try to champion).

But there’s a problem: On the promo, the next song is listed as “Narration.” It lasts a few seconds and is the strummed intro to the final song “California.” Odd. In fact, two other songs are titled “Narration” and each plays a few seconds of that final track, which incidentally, does have some opening narration. Bandcamp also lists these “songs” on this reissue. I checked the always reliable site What Frank Is Listening To only to find, on his original vinyl, those “narration” songs don’t exist. The same is true for the equally reliable site All Music. Now, those tiny bits don’t ruin the album, but they don’t seem to have any point. They certainly don’t add anything.

So I’m confused.

And that’s a shame because this is a nice folk album. Sure, it’s a record very much of its time, but I really liked that time; and there is so much retro-sounding stuff today that pays homage to the free vibe of the 70’s, it only figures that this re-issue is well-timed.

There are many more nice songs. “Elevation” is bare and confessional. It’s the distant older cousin of Jim Croce’s signature sound. “Homesick Kid” mines the same “Kentucky Hills” sound and adds a great bit of piano and dramatic violin. “Proposition” is timeless stuff. This music is what would one day be known as soft rock, when it still possessed some dignity. Of course, that style would later morph into radio friendly hits like Bread’s “Baby I’m-a Want You,” Eric Carman’s “All By Myself,” Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch,” and anything by Phil Collins or The Eagles that took the “fire and rain” out of the guts of the music.

The final song “California” (the one with the actual narration which includes the recorded pleas of porpoises complaining about one of their own being captured!) conjures the enlightened ecological concerns of the times as well as the sound of the great Gordon Lightfoot. Yeah, I love Gord. And that just about completes the circle. Like I said, this record is very much of its time. And what a time it was. Music was still purely an audio experience. It wasn’t mobile and interchangeable with everything else in life. It was as important as water.  Sure, I am glad that Iggy Pop never succumbed to the acoustic introspective craze, but I’m equally happy that Compton and Batteau recorded this sublime bit of west coast folk rock, when the folk stuff still had the moxie that allows it to wear its age well, even after all these years.
by Bill Golembeski, 18 July 2017  

1. Laughter Turns To Blue - 3:22
2. Silk On Steel - 3:30
3. Honeysuckle - 3:07
4. Narration - 0:12
5. Elevator (Robin Batteau) - 1:43
6. Narration - 0:14
7. Homesick Kid - 4:46
8. Proposition - 3:40
9. Narration - 0:14
10.Grotto Farm - 3:46
11.Essa Vanessa - 3:09
12.Zephyr - 2:16
13.Narration - 0:12
14.California (Robin Batteau) - 3:26
Words and Music by John Parker Compton except where stated

*Robin Batteau - Cello, Guitar, Vocals
*John Parker Compton - Vocals
*Bill Elliott - Keyboards
*King Errison - Percussion
*Robin Lane - Backing Vocals
*John London - Bass
*Randy Meisner - Bass
*Jim Messina - Guitar
*Pat Shanahon - Drums
*John Ware - Drums
*Rusty Young - Pedal Steel Guitar

1969  Appaloosa - Appaloosa (2006 japan remaster)

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