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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


Tracks
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

Musicians
*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


Tracks
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 


Tracks
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. 


Tracks
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

Personnel
*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  


Tracks
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

Musicians
*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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Monday, August 6, 2018

New Riders Of The Purple Sage - Glendale Train Live Radio Broadcast (1971 us, awesome country psych rock, 2013 release)


Legendary guitarist Jerry Garcia (1942-1995) is best known for his leadership of the quintessential San Franciscan collective, The Grateful Dead. However, in the early 1970's he was concurrently a member of another Californian band, The New Riders of the Purple Sage. Further cementing the connection, the New Riders also frequently played support slots at Grateful Dead gigs during this period. The New Riders of the Purple Sage's eponymous debut album was recorded during the winter of 1970 and released in August 1971. 

Unlike the Dead's sometimes sprawling jams, the NROTPS focus was on tight countrified arrangements. At this stage John Dawson (1945-2009) was the band's only songwriter - composing all ten of the album's tracks. Glendale Train, a song concerning the 1879 robbery by Frank and Jesse James, is a highlight, alongside Last Lonely Eagle and Louisiana Lady. This show from which this broadcast was transmitted was performed just two months after the release of the album. 

The New Riders were playing to an ideal audience as the gig was as support to the Dead. The fact that Jerry Garcia was there onstage, seated behind his pedal steel guitar, made extra sure the New Riders had everyone's rapt attention. In addition to a selection of Dave Torbert's finest original compositions, there was a hand-picked selection of cover versions that acknowledged the influence of the Riders' peers: Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Band. Closing a superb show is a fine reworking of Johnny Otis' perennial R'n'B classic Willie and the Hand Jive.

By the following year, Jerry Garcia had left the band to concentrate his activities in the Grateful Dead. The New Rider's 'golden period' was undoubtedly in the early 1970's and their fourth album, 1973's The Adventures of Panama Red was a career highlight, reaching no.55 on the Billboard charts. They went on to release more than 20 albums, and continued to record and perform - in various line-up configurations - into the new millennium.
CD Liner Notes

The connections between the New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Grateful Dead were firm and many, as Dead members Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, and, most notably, Jerry Garcia were members of the New Riders at one point, and the Riders frequently opened for the Dead at concerts in the early years. This live set recorded October 30, 1971 at Taft Auditorium in Cincinnati came after the band had settled into a lineup of John Dawson (guitar, vocals, main songwriter), David Nelson (guitar, vocals), David Torbert (bass, vocals), Spencer Dryden (drums), and at this point, just after the release of the band's self-titled debut album earlier in the year, Garcia was a regular on pedal steel guitar. It was arguably the classic lineup for a band that was initially a spinoff project from the Dead, making this well-recorded live set a historical and archival delight. 
by Steve Leggett


Tracks
1. Intro By Sam Cutler - 0:29
2. Workin' Man Blues (Merle Haggard) - 3:49
3. Superman - 4:01
4. Down In The Boondocks (Joe South) - 3:12
5. Cecilia - 4:23
6. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, And Loud Music (Joe Maphis, Max Fidler, Rose Lee Maphis) - 4:19
7. Dirty Business - 10:41
8. Truck Drivin' Man (Terry Fell) - 3:07
9. Lochinvar - 4:51
10.Hello Mary Lou (Gene Pitney, Cayet Mangiaracina) - 2:58
11.The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 7:27
12.Glendale Train - 4:53
13.Lodi (John Fogerty) - 4:05
14.Last Lonely Eagle - 6:33
15.Louisiana Lady - 3:57
16.Willie And The Hand Jive (Johnny Otis) - 6:30
All Songs written by John Dawson except where noted

The New Riders Of The Purple Sage
*John Dawson - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*David Nelson - Electric Guitar, Vocals
*Dave Torbert - Bass, Vocals
*Jerry Garcia - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Spencer Dryden - Drums

1971-72  New Riders Of The Purple Sage - New Riders Of The Purple Sage / Powerglide (2002 double disc remaster)
1972  New Riders Of The Purple Sage - Gypsy Cowboy (2007 remaster and expanded)
Related Act
1969  Grateful Dead - Live/Dead
1971  Grateful Dead - Skull and Roses (2001 HDCD bonus tracks edition)

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Milt Matthews Inc - For The People (1971 us, splendid bluesy funk psych rock, 2010 remaster)



Some old recordings are rare for a reason. When I was a kid in the 70s, like lots of other boys my age, I collected beer cans. And we quickly learned some basic tenets of the hobby. An old Busch can wasn’t usually worth much, even though it had a fairly nice full-color Alpine chalet painting on the can. Aesthetics aside, the fact remained that since those suds were cheap and popular, the cans could be found everywhere. They simply weren’t highly sought after by collectors.

Something like Hop’n Gator Tropical Flavored Malt Liquor, on the other hand, was a popular can among collectors. This concoction was, I believe (I never tried it!) an admixture of a Gatorade-like product and some beer from the people who brought you Iron City Beer. In all likelihood it was as awful as it sounds. It didn’t last long, having what we might tactfully characterize as limited appeal. Thus finding a can for one’s collection was a big deal. (I have one, but it’s not in great condition.)

Music is sometimes the same. Unless one is an aficionado of the Incredibly Strange, there are some items that simply aren’t worth tracking down. But there are other cases. To further riff on the beer can metaphor, some regional products were quite good, but failed due to distribution problems.

Which, finally, brings me to an album by Milt Matthews Inc. called For the People. Originally released on the tiny Catalyst label in the USA, this second album by the group sank in the marketplace with nary a trace. For reasons having mostly to do with the uniqueness and quality of the sides therein, UK label Ember licensed the album for re-release in England. They slapped new cover artwork on it — nothing special, but superior to the original — and put it out in 1971.

It sank without a trace. Again. Which was a shame, since it’s a pretty solid album. The period from around 1965 to the early 70s was filled with so much of value, so much groundbreaking and worthwhile music, that there simply wasn’t any practical way to assimilate it all. The mind boggles at how much quality music never got a hearing. The archive-minded folks at Fantastic Voyage think so, too: they’ve reissued the album so that modern-day listeners can avail themselves of Milt Matthews Inc.’s music, a prime example of how-did-we-miss-this.

So, to the music. At its core, the music on For the People is soul of the turn-of-the-decade variety, but the arrangements are richly informed by the best trends of the era. While that funk-jangle-chunka-chunk so popular on soul albums of the day is omnipresent, there is also an awful lot of fuzz guitar on the album. In fact there’s as much fuzz as you’d hear on a record by, say, Blue Cheer or the Electric Prunes. And said fuzz is well-integrated.

Milt Matthews wrote some strong tunes, but in some ways the most interesting numbers on the disc are the covers. Matthews actually went to the trouble to enlist the services of arranger Bert DeCoteaux for the strings on his cover of BB King‘s “The Thrill is Gone” (DeCoteaux did the arrangement for BB as well). But the vacuum-tone leads all over the song owe more to acid-rock and psychedelia than to the Beale Street Blues Boy. Matthews leads the band through the song with ad-libs like “I believe I’ll sing that verse again,” suggesting that (a) the band performed live in the studio or (b) he wanted to give listeners that impression. This reviewer votes for the former. The strings and the lead guitar fills play effectively off one another, creating a head-nodding groove.

A cover of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” reinterprets the song in a manner stylistically related to some of what was coming out of Stax (track down the 2008 compilation Stax Does the Beatles for more in this vein). The fuzz is laid on more thickly than was the wont of, say, Steve Cropper. A string chart adds a lot here as well: there aren’t all that many successful examples of melding of soul and psych.

Matthews’ original tunes are good, too. “Can’t See Myself Doing You Wrong” features hypnotic riffing seemingly influenced by both Traffic and Led Zeppelin. But a soulful female chorus moves the song closer to the sort of thing Isaac Hayes did so well. “O Lord (You Gotta Help Me)” is sort of a soul corollary to what George Harrison was doing at roughly the same time on All Things Must Pass.

The riffy “Runaway People” features lots of wah-wah guitar and piano, striking a note redolent of Sly and the Family Stone. The gospel/soul slow-jam “That’s the Way I Feel (Like a Burning Fire)” would merely be a good tune of its type were it not for the searing fuzz leads — did I mention there’s fuzz all over this record? — that catapult it into something greater. “Disaster Area” is good, too; it was via that track’s inclusion on Fantastic Voyages’ Looking Toward the Sky comp of Ember tracks that this reviewer discovered Milt Mathews Inc.

In 1971 there was still a lot of cross-fertilization going on in music. It wasn’t unheard of to dig both Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell. A singer in the Otis Redding style like Milt Mathews could imbibe the best influences of acts like Blind Faith and apply those influences to his own sound.

Which is exactly what Matthews and his band do on the cover of “Presence of the Lord,” the album closer. Matthews brings the song’s gospel feel — already clear — even more to the fore. Fuzz and wah add to the festivities with a long, searing solo.
by Bill Kopp, May 3rd 2010


Tracks
1. The Thrill Is Gone (Roy Hawkins, Rick Darnell) - 6:19
2. Can't See Myself Doing You Wrong (Milt Matthews) - 3:34
3. Hard Day's Night (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 5:12
4. Oh Lord (You Gotta Help Me) (Milt Matthews) - 4:01
5. Runaway People (Arlester Christian) - 4:09
6. That's The Way I Feel (Like A Burning Fire) (Milt Matthews) - 5:05
7. Disaster Area (Milt Matthews) - 4:33
8. Presence Of The Lord (Eric Clapton) - 5:30

The Milt Matthews Inc
*Milt Matthews - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
*Randalll Burney - Lead Guitar
*Tommy Byrd - Drums, Percussion
*Norman Harrison - Keyboards
*Carl Matthews - Bass

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