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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Levi Smith's Clefs - Empty Monkey (1966-71 australia, awesome groovy psych rhythm 'n' blues, 2008 double disc digi pak set)



This story has been amended immensely by Barrie McAskill from the written documentation of Chris Spencer (The Who’s Who of Australian of Rock & Roll) and Ian Mc Farlane (Whammo)

During the 1960s, Adelaide-born Barrie McAskill earned a reputation as the King of Rock & Roll with his band The Drifters. He also became acknowledged as one of the Australia’s pioneering Soul/R&B singers. A great bear of a man with a commanding presence and gravelly voice to match, McAskill led numerous line-ups of his band Levi Smith's Clefs between 1967 and 2004.

Levi Smith's Clefs initially earned a reputation on the disco /club and dance circuit as a gutsy R&B band, eventually proving to be a breeding ground for the swelling ranks of Australia's progressive music scene. Tully, Fraternity and Southern Contemporary Rock Assembly (SCRA), Mighty Mouse for example, all sprang almost intact from the bosom of the Levis.

McAskill’s philosophy became to encourage his band members to improve as musicians, and for them to move on as the urge arose. Many of them became successful musicians and bandleaders because of his willingness to share his knowledge. More than one hundred musicians have passed through the Levis ranks through the years.

The Levi Smith's Clefs story actually began in Adelaide, South Australia during 1966 when Tweed Harris (Keyboard) reformed The Clefs. This early line-up included Barrie McAskill (vocals), Bev Harrell, (vocals), Les Tanner (guitar), Vinnie Jones (drums), John Young (guitar) and Bruce Howe (bass). The Clefs, with out Bev Harrell moved to Melbourne and became an in-demand band on the city's thriving club, disco and dance circuit.

When Harris accepted an invitation to create a supergroup, The Groove, in early 1967, McAskill was offered the job as lead singer; however he decided to assume leadership of The Clefs, which had changed members to Les Stacpool (Guitar), Bob Jeffrey (Saxophone). Gil Matthews (Drums), Doug Stirling (Bass) he added Inez Amaya (Vocals). McAskill’s musical ear had changed from pop to what he calls symphonic soul music.

When manager Peter Raphael (The Editor of Go-Set Magazine and proprietor of the Australian Entertainment Exchange) suggested the band be renamed, McAskill decided upon, The Levi Smith Affair (which in a roundabout way had been inspired by the name of the Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs and Smith being one of the biggest listings in the phone book). Tweed Harris asked Barrie would he keep the name of the Clefs in the equation as he had spent many years building it.

As a six-piece, Levi Smith's Clefs worked Melbourne and Adelaide then to Sydney where they played the Here Disco and were offered a three month season at the Whisky Au Go Go nightclub in Kings Cross, this Gig turned into a six night a week, (9.00pm till 3.00am), 18-month residency, a long party?

The line-up shifted constantly along the way, with Inez Amaya (vocals), Les Stacpool (guitar, ex-Chessmen, Merv Benton and the Tamlas, The Clefs), Ian Walsh (organ, Jeff St John & the Id), Michael Carlos (organ, Long John Law’s Disco), Doug Stirling (bass, The Blue Jays), John Blake (bass, Little Sammy, Janice Slater and The In People), John “Yuk” Harrison (bass, Ray Columbus & the Invaders, Max Merritt & The Meteors), John Helman (bass, Jeff St John & the Id), Gil Matthews (drums, Max Hamilton and the Impacts) and Jimmy Thompson (drums, Tony Worsley & the Blue Jays) passing through the ranks, some for the second time.

By 1968, the line-up had stabilized with McAskill, Amaya, Carlos, Blake, Jurd (guitar), Richard Lockwood (flute, sax) and Robert Taylor (drums, Johnny Young & Company).

The next move, Carlos, Lockwood, Blake and Taylor all left to form Tully, before joining Harry Miller’s Australian stage production of the American “tribal love-rock musical”, Hair in June 1969.

When McAskill left The Whisky Amaya also joined the cast of Hair.

Still at The Whisky, McAskill, Amaya and Jurd assembled a new Levi Smith's Clefs with John Bisset (organ, The Mods, The Action), Bruce Howe (bass, Fraternity, Something Purple, The Clefs, Mickey Finn, Some Dream), and Tony Buettel (drums, Bay City Union, Band of Light). This line-up recorded the adventurous Empty Monkey album for the Sweet Peach label. It was one of the first Australian albums to combine Soul / R & B / pop / jazz with a more progressive rock outlook.

Ed Nimmervol of the editor of Go-Set & Juke magazines, now Howl Space on the web, reviewed this album and concluded that, “This is the best rock album ever produced in Australia”.

Despite being a groundbreaking release in many ways, the album failed to see the success it deserved.

Perhaps due to Sweet Peach changing its recording company from Polydor, to Polygram half way through the promotional tour: And Sweet Peach’s own agenda to take over McAskill’s band: The standout cut was an 11-and-a-half minute arrangement of The Beatle’s You Can’t Do That, Sweet Peach also lifted two singles from the album, Lisa*****Roadrunner (January 1970) And a cover of Junior Walker’s: Shotgun*****Who is it that Shall Come (April 1970). By the time the album came out in March 1970, Jurd, Bisset, Howe and Buettel were leaving to form Fraternity with Bon Scott and supply the backing for Doug Ashdown’s double album The Age of the Mouse, released by Sweet Peach.

McAskill assembled a new Levi Smith's Clefs and returned to Whisky Au Go Go in Sydney. This line-up comprised of Linda Cable (vocals, The Vamps, The Pussy Cats), Steve Doran (keyboards), Peter Karlanek (guitar, Blues Syndicate), Doug Stirling (bass), John Freeman (drums, Red Angel Panic), who was lured away to join Fraternity when Buettel quit, to be replaced by Michael Darby, (drums, Jack Stradbroke & The Action).

When McAskill was offered the famous “Chequers Night Club” where he did another mammoth stint 6 nights a week for a year, another long party.Mike Cousins (trombone, Jeff Duff & Kush), Steve Bowden (trumpet, Daley Wilson Big Band), Bill Harrower (sax), Ken Deacon (Vocals, Everton Park, and Cool Bananas) joined this line up.

It wasn’t long before changes developed to, Mick Kenny (trumpet, The Chant), Bob Jeffrey (sax), Jim Kelly (guitar, Kerry Biddel and The Affair, Dal Myles, their manager was at Peter Raphael’s home when McAskill renamed The Clefs). Russell Dunlop (drums, Aesops Fables), John (Yuk) Harrison (bass, Max Merritt & The Meteors, Genesis), Bruce Howard (piano, La De Das), Michael Carlos (organ returned from Tully & “Hair”).

As Barrie McAskill's Levi Smith's Clefs, this band issued a brassy R&B single, “Gonna Get a Seizure” / “Dancing and Drinking” (April 1971) Chart Records,

Throughout 1971, this band held down the residency at Chequers night club in Sydney. Kelly, Dunlop and Kenny then joined Peter Martin’s, Southern Contemporary Rock Assembly (SCRA) when McAskill's season at Chequers finished. (One Year).

The Levi Smith’s Clefs went on the road again, line-up changes continued apace with Ted (The Head) Yanni (guitar, Plastic Tears, Maple Lace), Yuk Harrison (bass), Doug Stirling (bass), Allan Turnbull (drums, Don Burrows), Greg Henson (drums, The Rhythm Aces) and Bob Jeffrey (sax), Michael Carlos (organ).Carlos and Henson then joined the backing band for the Australian production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

In late 1971, McAskill’s “Madmen, Mescaline & Music” days began, as quoted by Julien Cumming of Juke Magazine.

Some of McAskill’s bands became known as The Bear’s Brigade, McAskill, McAskill's Marauders, McAskill’s People, Barrie McAskill and Friends, “McAskill, Murphy, Melouney, Firth and Barns”, God’s Warriors & the Amazons, however he always thought of them as the Levi Smith’s Clefs.

Barrie McAskill's People comprised Vince Melouney (guitar; Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Bee Gees, Fanny Adams, Cleves, Flite), Michael Barnes (guitar; Nutwood Rug), Ken Firth (bass, Tully, The Ferrets) and Kevin Murphy (drums, Wild Cherries, The Aztecs, King Harvest, Chain, Leo D’Castro & Friends, Rush):.

In mid-1972, McAskill reverted to the Levi Smith's Clefs name for the line-up of Doug Stirling, Kevin Murphy, Les Stacpool and Ian Clyne (keyboard, the Loved Ones, Ram Jam Big Band).

By October 1972, McAskill was working with a line-up, which comprised Murphy, Clyne, Mal Capewell (sax, flute, Dr Kandy's Third Eye, Dada, Little Gulliver’s Company Caine), Russell Smith (trumpet, vocals, Ram Jam Big Band, Power House), Phil Manning (guitar, Bay City Union, Chain, Band of Talabene), and Barry Harvey (drums, Chain). A month later, Murphy, Clyne, Capewell, and Harvey broke away from McAskill and became Mighty Mouse.

It would appear McAskill was left high and dry once again, although he has never seen it this way, he says, “there are more musicians for me to meet and I hope it will remain this way for the rest of my life”, “there is always something new to learn, new chemistries to blend and new music to play”.

McAskill formed a new band called McAskill, (Barns, Stirling, Royal & Doran) which occupied him until 1973. Some of the members of his bands at various times have included: Alvin Tutin (guitar), Lindsay Wells (guitar; Healing Force, Chain, Blackfeather), Jeff Spooner (guitar, Red House Roll Band), Ian Mawson (keyboards, The Ferrets, Company Caine), Howie Morgan (keyboards), Eddie McDonald (bass; Bakery), Doug Stirling (bass; Levi Smith's Clefs), Warren Ward (bass; Flying Circus, Blackfeather), Bob Fortesque (bass; Blackfeather), Roger McLachlan (bass, Stars, Mississippi, Little River Band), Dallas `Digger' Royal (drums, Salty Dog, Rose Tattoo), Stevie Dunstan (bass & keyboards) Mick Eliot, (guitar). And Paul Johnson (drums).

McAskill returned to Adelaide in late 1974 and formed or joined an ever-evolving series of bands: Peter (Beagley) Head’s East End Street Band, Peter (keyboard & vocals, (Head Band, Mount Lofty Rangers), Benni Seidel (bass & vocals), Graham Bartlet’s Keytones and Nexus), Dave Colville (guitar), Doug Johnston (drums, The Drifters), Vonny, (congas & vocals), Joan Boylan, (vocals, Nexus), Pandora Leader, (vocals), Kevin Locket, (sax & flute):

Barrie McAskill's on Fire: Doug Johnston, (drums) Randell Wilson (drums) David Dempsey (guitar), Kirk Steele (piano), Benni Seidel, (bass), Joan Boylan, (vocals), Kevin Locket, (sax & flute), Steve Goss, (pedal steel guitar):

Barrie McAskill and Friends, Chris Finnen, (guitar & vocals, Chain), Carl Orr, (guitar), Doug Johnston, (drums, The Keytones, The Fabulous Drifters), Russ Johnson, (guitar, Country Radio, Mississippi), Stan Chamarczuk, (bass, The Brats), Laurie Pryor, (drums, The Twilights, Healing Force, Hair), Dean Birbeck, (drums, Bobby Bright, Doug Ashdown, Hayden Burford & The Beaumen), Fred Payne, (trumpet, Freddy Hampton’s Big Roll Movement), Stan Koretjni (guitar, Some Dream), Graham Conlan, (guitar, Sybil Graham’s Alice’s Wonder Band, Sue Barker & Self Abuse, The Onions).

In Adelaide, 1983, McAskill recorded two tracks he had written himself. “The Hindley Street Shuffle*****Dance With Me”. (Also film clipped). Levi Smith’s Clefs once more with its big brassy sound, this line up: Mick Jurd (guitar), Phil Cunneen (arranger & piano, Here’s Humphrey, Some Dream,), Russ Johnson (bass, Mississippi, Greg Quill’s Country Radio), Dean Birbeck (drums), Fred Payne (trumpet, Nutwood Rug, Hair, Freddy Hampton’s Big Roll Movement), Schmoe (sax), Bob Jeffrey (sax, The Penny Rockets, The Hi Marks, Neville Dunn’s Planets, Ronny Carson’s Big Seven, The Bob Koss Quartet), Peter Trotter (trombone, Australian Crawl), Irene Petrie, Jaqui Phillips, Marlene Richards, Sue Barker (backing Vocals).

In 1983 McAskill returned to Sydney and within two weeks another Levi Smith’s Clefs featuring the amazing “Dash Riprock” formed, The band that was backing Reg Livermore’s Firing Squad Musical asked him to sing with them when their season ended. After a year of keeping a ten piece band together for a year, McAskill formed his Bear’s Boogie Band, then Who Dat Dere, these units had many styles and faces. Jan & Barrie married and formed a Duo, Topsy & The Bear, (Jan McAskill, (keyboard & vocals), Barrie McAskill, (guitar & vocals) and toured Australia with their son Tarrin for ten years to eventually settle in Adelaide and now work their Duo as Barrie & Jan McAskill. Two Levi Smith’s Clefs reunions were held in Melbourne: 2002 & 2003.


Tracks
Disc 1
1. Relief From A Lighted Doorway (Mick Jurd) - 6:42
2. Shotgun (Single A Side) (Junior Walker) - 5:08
3. You Can't Do That (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 11:37
4. Lisa (John Bisset, Mick Jurd) - 3:31
5. The Hunter (Al Jackson, Booker T. Jones, Carl Wells, Donald Dunn, Steve Cropper) - 2:39
6. Shake And Finger Pop (Junior Walker, Lawrence Horn, Willie Woods) - 6:51
7. Who Is It That Shall Come (Single B Side) (Doug Ashdown, Jimmy Stewart) - 3:32
8. Empty Monkey (Mick Jurd) - 3:26
9. I Can Only Give You Everything (Phil Coulter, Tommy Scott) - 2:47
10.Roberta (Huey Smith, John Vincent) - 2:22
11.A Boy Like Me (Carl Keats) - 2:20
12.Bring It To Jerome (Jerome Green) - 2:32
13.Hey Jude (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 4:18
14.Bye Bye Blackbird (Ray Henderson, Mort Dixon) - 4:22
Tracks 9-12 Single releases
Track 13 Live In Studio, November 1971
Track 14 as The McAskill's Marauders


Disc 2
1. Shake And Finger Pop (Junior Walker, Lawrence Horn, Willie Woods) - 11:26
2. Road Runner (Single A Side) (Brian Holland, Edward Holland, Jr., Lamont Dozier) - 2:40
3. Empty Monkey (Mick Jurd) - 4:10
4. Cool Spot (John Bisset, Mick Jurd) - 3:20
5. The Hunter (Al Jackson, Booker T. Jones, Carl Wells, Donald Dunn, Steve Cropper) - 2:36
6. You Can't Do That (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 12:14
7. The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 5:01
8. Lisa (Single B Side) (John Bisset, Mick Jurd) - 3:54
9. Relief From A Lighted Doorway (Mick Jurd) - 7:43
10.Down In The Valley (Live) (Bert Berns, Solomon Burke) - 3:31
11.Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Live) (Lloyd Price) - 3:33
12.Love Like A Man (Alvin Lee) - 3:20
13.Piece Of My Heart (Bert Berns, Jerry Ragavoy) - 3:01
14.Dancing And Drinking (Johan Kruijswijk) - 3:13
15.Gonna Get A Seizure (John Harrison) - 2:20
16.Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Lloyd Price) - 3:57
Track 10 from "The Best Of Whiskey A Go Go" EP 1971
Tracks 12-15 Single releases 
Track 16 The McAskill's Marauders Live in the Studio, November 1971

Levi Smith's Clefs
*Barrie Mcaskill - Vocals
*Inez Amaya - Vocals
*Linda Cable - Vocals
*Ken Deacon - Vocals
*Les Stacpool - Guitar
*Mick Jurd - Guitar
*Peter Karlanek - Guitar
*Jim Kelly - Guitar
*Ted "The Head" Yanni - Guitar
*Vince Melouney - Guitar
*Michael Barnes - Guitar
*Phil Manning - Guitar
*Billy TK - Guitar
*Bob Jeffrey - Saxophone
*Bill Harrower - Saxophone
*Doug Stirling - Bass
*John Blake - Bass
*John "Yuk" Harrison - Bass
*John Helman - Bass
*Bruce Howe - Bass
*Ken Firth - Bass
*Gil Matthews - Drums
*Jimmy Thompson - Drums
*Robert Taylor - Drums
*Tony Buettel - Drums
*John Freeman - Drums
*Michael Darby - Drums
*Russell Dunlop - Drums
*Allan Turnbull - Drums
*Greg Henson - Drums
*Kevin Murphy - Drums
*Barry Harvey - Drums
*Ian Walsh - Organ
*Michael Carlos - Organ
*John Bisset - Organ
*Richard Lockwood - Flute, Saxophone
*Mal Capewell - Flute, Saxophone
*Steve Doran - Keyboards
*Ian Clyne - Keyboards
*Mike Cousins - Trombone
*Steve Bowden - Trumpet
*Mick Kenny - Trumpet
*Bruce Howard - Piano
*Russell Smith - Trumpet, Vocals

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Taj Mahal - Taj Mahal (1968 us, electric blues masterpiece, 2017 japan reissue)



Taj Mahal's debut album was a startling statement in its time and has held up remarkably well. Recorded in August of 1967, it was as hard and exciting a mix of old and new blues sounds as surfaced on record in a year when even a lot of veteran blues artists (mostly at the insistence of their record labels) started turning toward psychedelia. The guitar virtuosity, embodied in Taj Mahal's slide work (which had the subtlety of a classical performance), Jesse Ed Davis's lead playing, and rhythm work by Ry Cooder and Bill Boatman, is of the neatly stripped-down variety that was alien to most records aiming for popular appeal, and the singer himself approached the music with a startling mix of authenticity and youthful enthusiasm. 

The whole record is a strange and compelling amalgam of stylistic and technical achievements -- filled with blues influences of the 1930s and 1940s, but also making use of stereo sound separation and the best recording technology. The result was numbers like Sleepy John Estes' "Diving Duck Blues," with textures resembling the mix on the early Cream albums, while "The Celebrated Walkin' Blues" (even with Cooder's animated mandolin weaving its spell on one side of the stereo mix) has the sound of a late '40s Chess release by Muddy Waters. Blind Willie McTell ("Statesboro Blues") and Robert Johnson ("Dust My Broom") are also represented, in what had to be one of the most quietly, defiantly iconoclastic records of 1968.
by Bruce Eder


Tracks
1.Leaving Trunk (Sleepy John Estes) - 4:52
2.Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell) - 2:59
3.Checkin' Up On My Baby (Sonny Boy Williamson) - 4:55
4.Everybody's Got To Change Sometime (Sleepy John Estes) - 2:58
5.E Z Rider (Taj Mahal) - 3:04
6.Dust My Broom (Robert Johnson) - 2:39
7.Diving Duck Blues (Sleepy John Estes) - 2:43
8.The Celebrated Walkin' Blues (Traditional) - 8:53

Musicians
*Taj Mahal - Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals, Slide Guitar
*Ry Cooder - Rhythm Guitar, Mandolin
*Jessie Edwin Davis - Lead Guitar, Piano
*Bill Boatman - Rhythm Guitar
*Christopher Sisson - Acoustic Guitar
*James Thomas - Bass
*Gary Gilmore - Bass
*Sanford Konikoff - Drums
*Charles Blackwell - Drums

1968  Taj Mahal - The Natch'l Blues 

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Rumplestiltskin - Black Magician (1972 uk, fascinating prog rock, 2011 hard sleeve remaster edition with extra track)



Rumplestiltskin is the classic example of a band that very few even knew existed.  Another band whose record company’s handling of them was apparently tragic.

Shel Talmy, the producer of The Who and The Kinks (during their early successful years) whose heavy influence with The Who created a historic recording, “My Generation,” has this to say: “I produced a band called “Rumpelstiltskin”, which was a put-together band of very good session guys, and we almost made it with that one.  We had a whole concept.  We were going to do a comic strip and all kinds of stuff.  It was really a fun thing. And good songs, great music, ’cause these guys really could play. That went on Bell Records, [who] just totally screwed the whole thing up.
It was really unfortunate.  We made two albums that I was very pleased with; that I think should have made it.”

Shame this band did not make it into the big time. Their second release "Black Magician" have opted for a smoother, more sophisticated sound. If you're fan of lighter prog fare find stuff to love here.


Tracks
1. Lord Of The Heaven And The Earth - 3:51
2. Can't You Feel It (Alan Parker, Peter Charles Green) - 3:06
3. Evil Woman (Herbie Flowers, Peter Charles Green) - 3:30
4. I Am The Last Man - 6:07
5. Loneliness Is What My Life's All About - 3:50
6. Through My Looking Glass - 3:34
7. Black Magician's Daughter (Herbie Flowers, Peter Charles Green) - 2:53
8. I'm So Afraid I'll Leave Unsaid - 2:25
9. I Am Alone - 3:16
10.I've Had Enough Of The Army - 6:44
11.Wimoweh (Single A Side) (Traditional) - 2:32
All songs by Alan Hawkshaw, Alan Parker, Peter Charles Green except where stated

Rumplestiltskin
*Peter Lee Stirling - Vocals
*Alan Hawkshaw - Piano, Organ
*Alan Parker - Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar
*Clem Cattini - Drums
*Herbie Flowers - Bass

Related Act
1970  Hungry Wolf - Hungry Wolf 

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Friday, May 10, 2019

McKendree Spring - McKendree Spring (1969 us, excellent folk rock with prog shades, 2009 remaster and expanded)



Formed in 1969 as a drummerless four piece folk-rock ensemble that Bill Graham (promoter/manager and creator of the Fillmore Theatres) once dubbed "one of the best unknown bands in the world," McKendree Spring recorded five albums for MCA and two for ATV/PYE, toured with some of the most exciting artists of the 70's, and created exceptionally inventive music. The band was noted for its live shows that brought the crowds to their feet. McKendree Spring had a knack for covering songs that sounded as if they had been either written by them or for them.

McKendree Spring played some memorable venues: Carnegie Hall, the Fillmore East, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center. They loved playing the venues that got them there ~ ‘My Fathers Place’ on Long Island, the ‘Agora Ballroom’ in Columbus and Cleveland, and the College Coffee House Circuit. Over the years McKendree Spring shared the stage with performers like the Everly Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, Elton John, Ike & Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, the Byrds, Jethro Tull, and Van Morrison. 


Tracks
1. I Should've Known (Michael Dreyfuss, Fran McKendree) - 3:58
2. I Can't Make It Anymore (Martin Slutsky) - 4:04
3. Spock (Fran McKendree, Martin Slutsky) - 4:58
4. What Will We Do With The Child (Fran McKendree) - 2:52
5. Morning Glory (Fran McKendree) - 5:02
6. If I Gave You Everything (Michael Dreyfuss, Martin Slutsky) - 4:32
7. John Wesley Harding (Bob Dylan) - 3:09
8. No Regrets (Fran McKendree) - 6:15
9. If The Sun Should Rise (Fran McKendree) - 3:59
10.Hold On (Michael Dreyfuss, Fran McKendree) - 4:41
11.Easier Things Have Been Done (Michael Dreyfuss, Fran McKendree) - 4:19
12.She's Never Leave Chicago (Michael Dreyfuss, Fran McKendree) - 3:10
Bonus Tracks 10-12

The McKendree Spring
*Fran McKendree - Lead Vocals, Acoustic, Twelve-String Guitar
*Martin Slutsky - Electric Guitar
*Larry Tucker - Bass (tracks 1-9)
*Michael Dreyfuss - Violin, Viola, Theremin
With
*Fred Goldstein - Electric Cello
*Donny Brooks - Harmonica
*Carson MIchaels - Drums, Percussion (Tracks 10-12)
*Christopher Bishop - Bass (Tracks 10-12)

1970  McKendree Spring - Second Thoughts
1973  McKendree Spring - McKendree Spring 3 

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name....(1971 us, impressive folk psych rock, 2011 remaster)



The ’60s were over and David Crosby was living on a boat. Aside from the recording studio, his 59-foot schooner, named The Mayan, was the only place where things made sense. When Crosby was 11, his parents decided to enroll their son in sailing classes. The wild-eyed, giggling California kid had an anti-authoritarian streak that was starting to get him in trouble, and some time on the docks, they imagined, might give him some discipline, or at least a place to spend his summers. Sailing came naturally, like he had captained many vessels in a previous life. It was an uncanny feeling, comforting and strange. As the decade came to a close, Crosby wrote the title track of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s blockbuster album Déjà Vu about this very sensation.

Around the same time, he experienced his first major loss. In 1969, on her way to take the cats to the vet, Crosby’s girlfriend Christine Hinton swerved her van and crashed into a school bus. She died instantly. Grief-stricken and depressed, Crosby stood at the start of a long spiral that would consume his next two decades. “I watched a part of David die that day,” his bandmate Graham Nash wrote. “He wondered aloud what the universe was doing to him.” He turned to hard drugs. Fifteen years later, he was in prison, almost unrecognizable, the creative spark that had defined him all but dissipated. Crosby seemed to exist only in the past tense.

In the beautiful tragic comedy that is classic rock radio, David Crosby is almost never the protagonist. He’s more like the stoned sidekick—colorful, lovable, always just kind of around. Once in a while, he takes the lead, but his voice remains most recognizable as the one somewhere in the middle—first in the Byrds, next in CSN, and then in CSNY. Much has been said of his ego—and much of it by Crosby himself—but few artists have been so content to have a legacy defined by the people around them. Surrounded by friends, he was happy. “I had never seen anybody who had that much interest and joy and spontaneous reaction,” Grace Slick said of her first encounter with Crosby in the ’60s. “You could just look at his face and be delighted because there was a human being getting that childlike excitement out of stuff.”

Like sailing, music came naturally to young Crosby. His awakening arrived at age four, when his mother took him to see a symphony orchestra in the park. He was transfixed by everything, save for the compositions themselves. He sat in awe of the chaotic murmurs as the musicians tuned their instruments; the syncopated dance of their elbows when they kicked into action; how a vast body of voices could unite, suddenly, in harmony. He noticed the way that none of these sounds would be nearly as powerful on their own. “It just broke over me like a wave,” he reflected. It’s a thread he followed throughout his career.

While 1971’s If I Could Only Remember My Name is the first release credited to Crosby as a solo artist—and for a long time, the only release—it’s an album defined by harmony, community, and togetherness. The backing band is composed of members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, with notable appearances from Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Graham Nash. At the time of its release, these were some of the most popular names in music, nearly all of them coming off respective career-bests and commercial peaks. And yet together, they sound gloriously abstract. The music feels the way a dream sounds when you try to retell it in the morning: foggy, only loosely coherent, dissolving in real time.

This is David Crosby’s fingerprint. Look back at his earliest songs and you can hear an artist fighting against the confines of popular music. He played guitar in strange ways, opting for odd tunings that carried his songs and lyrics to unexpected places. His first great song, the Byrds’ “Everybody’s Been Burned,” sounds a little like a standard, except for the bass soloing through the entire thing. Later, in a cut called “What’s Happening?!?!,” he sang through what sounds like barely contained laughter, like someone exasperated with how much they have to say, realizing how words fail our deepest visions. The band can barely keep up with him.

The story goes, Crosby was kicked out of the Byrds for a few reasons. One, he was a pain to work with. Two, he had taken to indulging in long rants on stage, veering toward conspiracy theories about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Third, he had written this troublesome little song about a threesome. Continuing his nonmonogamous streak, he had also accepted a role playing with Stephen Stills in Buffalo Springfield at the Monterey Pop Festival. His bandmates took it as a sign of disloyalty—or maybe just an excuse to abandon him. Soon after his dismissal from the Byrds, Crosby and Stills began working with the Hollies’ Graham Nash on a new project focused on tight songwriting and three-part harmony. With Nash, Crosby found his most natural and consistent partner: someone who laughed at his jokes, provided comfort and wisdom when he needed it, and joined him on The Mayan for long treks down the California coast.

Near the end of If I Could Only Remember My Name, Nash and Crosby duet on a gorgeous, wordless piece of music, scatting along to one of the best melodies Crosby ever wrote. “I called it ‘A Song With No Words,’” he announces proudly at a show in 1970, gesturing toward Nash at his side. “He called it ‘A Tree With No Leaves.’ That shows you where he’s at.” The audience laughs. On the sleeve of the record, the song has both titles, Nash’s in parentheses, a symbolic compromise that speaks to the group mentality of the record. Alone with his music, Crosby heard sketches. With his friends around, they became forces of nature.

The creation of the album involved Crosby spending idle time alone in the studio, leaning against a wall or collapsing into tears, before his collaborators arrived to elevate the mood and enliven the music. Jerry Garcia’s pedal steel and Joni Mitchell’s harmony vocals turn “Laughing,” the most conventional song on the record, into the psych-folk ideal: a lazy sunset that gains resonance as it subdues. The kaleidoscopic opener “Music Is Love” was just a plaintive guitar riff before the choir turned it into a commune. “Everybody’s saying that music is love,” they all sing, one after the other, creating a world where it’s true.

Crosby was adamant not to let his pain define the record. “I got no more understanding than an ant does when you pull off his legs,” he told Rolling Stone about his grief. He spoke about his desire to keep the sadness to himself—“It was the most horrible trip of my life and nobody needs to go on it”—so that his music could remain an escape. The album ends up somewhere in the middle. It’s a peaceful but broken sound.

The only song with a narrative arc is “Cowboy Movie.” It tells the thinly veiled story of CSNY dissipating, less interesting for its hippy-comedown mythology than its depiction of a narrator finding himself more desperate and alone with each passing minute. The story is in the music too: a gnarled, paranoid skeleton of Young’s 1969 song “Down by the River” that crackles and fades like a dying campfire. Crosby’s voice is more ragged than usual. “Now I’m dying here in Albuquerque,” he sings at the end. “I might be the sorriest sight you ever saw.”

The record closes with two songs that Crosby recorded by himself. Both are mostly a cappella, his voice layered to sound angelic and vast. “I was sitting there, kind of goofing around,” he said of the experiments, “And then all of a sudden I wasn’t goofing around.” Titled “I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here,” the closing song has since been identified as Crosby’s elegy for Christine. On a record that includes some of his most pointed writing about politics (“What Are Their Names”) and loss (“Traction in the Rain”), this was his clearest statement. He sounds helpless, haunted.

Throughout the ’70s, Crosby slowly fell out of focus. He and Nash made a few strong records as a duo and CSN had several more hits while they drifted apart. Nash knew the band was done when he saw Crosby abandoning a jam after his crack pipe fell from an amp. Things only got worse. At one point, Crosby boarded The Mayan in an attempt to flee from the cops before eventually turning himself in to the FBI. He left prison a year later with his hair cut short and his iconic mustache shaved off. Newly sober, his health began to deteriorate. He nearly died of liver failure in the ’90s, and, when he recovered, diabetes and heart disease followed.

Along the way, If I Could Only Remember My Name garnered a bigger reputation. Unlike anything else in Crosby’s catalog and misunderstood by its generation of critics, it was rediscovered by folk artists in the 2000s among similarly cosmic works by Judee Sill and Vashti Bunyan. Its most notable student, however, is Crosby himself. His last five years have found him returning to the record’s quiet, hypnotic headspace to work with a newfound urgency. On the best of his recent records, 2018’s Here If You Listen, he and his young collaborators return to some of the demos he made during the ’60s and ’70s, finishing the thoughts he abandoned. “If you don’t like the story you’re in,” he sings, “Pick up your pen and then write it again.”

It’s an inspiring new phase of his career, though it also highlights everything that’s been lost: collaborators, friends, time. In 2014, David Crosby sold The Mayan to a California billionaire named Beau Vrolyk. Crosby needed the money and figured this guy could take better care of it anyway. He hasn’t sailed since. The boat, however, has never been better. On a blog dedicated to its maintenance, Vrolyk writes passionately about the Mayan’s second life. He’s since made the boat more habitable for future generations. He got in touch with the grandson of the original builders to learn about its history. He even entered it in some races. “Old boats need love,” he writes. Some find it.
by Sam Sodomsky


Tracks
1. Music Is Love (David Crosby, Graham Nash, Neil Young) - 3:22
2. Cowboy Movie - 8:12
3. Tamalpais High (At About 3) - 3:33
4. Laughing - 5:27
5. What Are Their Names (David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Michael Shrieve, Neil Young, Phil Lesh) - 4:15
6. Traction In The Rain - 3:47
7. Song With No Words - Tree With No Leaves - 6:00
8. Orleans (Traditional) - 2:02
9. I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here - 1:21
Words and Music by David Crosby except where stated

Musicians
*David Crosby - Vocals, Guitars
*Graham Nash - Guitar, Vocals
*Jerry Garcia - Electric Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Vocals
*Neil Young - Guitars, Vocals, Bass, Vibraphone, Congas
*Jorma Kaukonen - Electric Guitar
*Laura Allan - Autoharp, Vocals
*Gregg Rolie - Piano
*Phil Lesh - Bass, Vocals
*Jack Casady - Bass
*Bill Kreutzmann - Drums
*Michael Shrieve - Drums
*Mickey Hart - Drums
*Joni Mitchell - Vocals
*David Freiberg - Vocals
*Paul Kantner - Vocals
*Grace Slick - Vocals

1971 Crosby Stills Nash And Young - 4 Way Street (2016 japan double disc remaster)
1974  Crosby Stills Nash And Young - Live (2013 four discs box set)
1972  Graham Nash David Crosby - Graham Nash David Crosby (2008 remaster)
1964  The Byrds - Preflyte (2012 double disc edition)
1973  Byrds (Reunion Album, 2004 issue) 

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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Loudest Whisper - The Children Of Lir (1974 uk, spectacular folk psych rock, 2006 digipak remaster with bonus tracks)



In 1972, Loudest Whisper guitarist Brian O'Reilly composed a folk-rock song suite of sorts, The Children of Lir, based around the legend of the Irish King Lir. As a theatrical production, it opened in Fermoy, Ireland in January 1973, and subsequently was staged in other towns. Shortly after that, the band recorded an album version of Children of Lir for the Irish branch of Polydor, though the resulting LP wasn't released outside of Ireland, and is rumored to have been pressed in a quantity of just 500 copies. 

The record is respectable if unexceptional folk-rock with tinges of progressive rock, and like many such early- to mid-'70s albums with roots in the hippie era made outside of music industry capitals, it has a slightly lagging-behind-the-times feel in its basic production and earnest naïveté. It's a pleasant listen, though, integrating some guest female lead and backup vocals into a record that -- unlike some other Irish albums of the period that are sometimes billed as "folk-rock" -- really is full-band folk-rock, not an album of traditional folk material using some modern instruments or sensibilities, or a folk album of non-traditional contemporary material. Indeed, very occasionally -- particularly when high male vocals come to the fore, and especially on "Septimus" -- they sound like the quirkily wistful late-'60s British rock group Thunderclap Newman, who are far from most people's idea of an Irish folk-rock band. 

For those who collect this sort of thing, it can be enjoyed without following the ostensible story line, the songs usually standing on their own as modestly enjoyable, if low-key and slightly somber, '70s British Isles folk-rock with harmony vocals and varied acoustic/electric instrumentation (including flute and string arrangements). 

The album's been reissued on CD several times; the CD version with the most material is the 2006 version on Sunbeam, which adds historical liner notes and bonus cuts in the same style as the LP, including both sides of their rare 1974 single "William B."/"False Prophets"; "Wrong and Right," the 1976 B-side of their second single; two mid-'70s demos; and a ten-minute audio track from an Irish TV program with different versions of three of the songs from Children of Lir. 
by Richie Unterberger


Tracks
1. Overture - 5:31
2. Lir's Lament - 2:24
3. Good Day, My Friend - 3:30
4. Wedding Song - 2:39
5. Children's Song - 2:11
6. Mannanan Pt. 1 - 2:53
7. Mannanan Pt. 2 - 3:10
8. Children Of The Dawn - 3:00
9. Dawning Of The Day - 4:30
10.Septimus - 4:44
11.Farewell Song - 3:16
12.Cold Winds Blow - 4:44
13.Sad Children - 3:16
14.William B - 3:46
15.False Prophets - 3:16
16.Wrong And Right - 3:42
17.Silent O'Moyle - 5:54
18.The Wheel Of Life - 2:39
19.Children Of Lir (Original RTE Broadcast) - 10:36
All Compositions by Brian O'Reilly

Loudest Whisper
*Brian O'Reilly – Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
*Geraldine Dorgan – Guitar, Vocals
*Paud O'Reilly – Drums, Harmonies
*Mike Russell – Bass Guitar

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Coldwater Army - Peace (1971 us, remarkable brass psych classic rock with prog shades, 2017 reissue)



Singer/guitarist Bobby Golden and his older brother/bassist Kenny Golden grew up outside of Macon, Georgia.  While in their teens, they started forming and playing in local bans such as The Golden Boys and The Golden Arcade.   By 1969 they'd expanded their repertoire beyond top-40 covers and soul revue, to  include original material as the Coldwater Army.  I'm guessing the name was inspired by the American temperance movement, though it was interesting name choice for a band that was formed near Warner Robbins Air Force Base.

1971 found Coldwater Army signed to the Nashville-based Starday-King affiliated Agape label.  With a line-up consisting of singer Bob Garrett, lead guitarist Bobby Golden, bassist Kenny Golden, drummer Richard Hughes, trumpet player Nick Jones, sax player Dale Miller, and keyboardist  Bob Spearman, the band went into the studios with producer Bobby Smith.  Allowing an unknown band to record an album of original material seemingly reflected one of two things- Agape had significant faith in the band's commercial potential or, 2.) Agape had no interest in the band.   Having listened to "Coldwtaer Army" dozens of times over the years, my guess is the latter category.

Not that you're going to find a lot of on-line reviews for this obscurity, but the ones you'll stumble across routinely tag this one as Southern rock.  On tracks like 'Dreams' and 'Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday' there were clearly Southern rock influences, but don't be mislead, this really wasn't a Southern rock album.  Remember that when the album was recorded, the majority of the band members were still in their late teens.  They had come out of bands that focused on top-40 and soul covers so originality wasn't something they'd necessarily gotten around to.  That made much of this album one of those fun, spot-the-influences collections.  It's all here - Blood, Sweat and Tears horn charts, Chicago blues-rock ('Away'), even Paul Revere and the Raiders top-40 ('Smiling Faces').  

"Dreams" starts with a funky little guitar riff, 'Dreams' found the band dipping their collective toes into the blues-rock arena - imagine a hybrid of The Allman Brothers and The Atlanta Rhythm Section, awesome track.  'To Pamela' is a hyper-sensitive ballad that included a touch of Cream influence in the  middle of the song. The bouncy, blue-eyed soul-ish 'Hey People' is most commercially feasible song.  Imagine The Young Rascals had they grown up in Macon, Georgia rather than New Jersey. I'm not a big fan for social relevancy, but I'll make an exception for this one.  The lyrics may not have been the most subtle you've ever heard, but kudos to an early '70s  Southern band being willing to taken on the subject of equality.  Always liked Golden's melodic solo on this one.

'Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday' was a nice baseline for another sound of spot-the-influences - My answer was Spooky Tooth's 'Evil Woman' meets The Dixie Dregs.  Again, not particularly original, but I liked Garrett's growling vocals and the song's jamming flavor. 'Smiling Faces' was a radio-friendly pop ballad that could have easily slotted on a Paul Revere and the Raiders album.  Seriously, the lead vocal actually reminded me of Mark Lindsay.  Very catchy refrain. Penned by drummer Hughes, 'In Thought ' was another Bobby Golden and Bill Spearman-powered rocker.  Complete with lots of church organ, the lyrics also seemed inspired by the loss of their friend David Allen.

Powered by some of Spearman's prettiest keyboards and Golden's sustained fuzz guitar, 'Time for Reason' probably came the closest to showing off the band's true musical orientation.  With a haunting, slightly lysergic edge, once again, Dale Miller's jazzy, discordant sax solo was at odds with the rest of the song, but it was such a strange juxtaposition that it was kind of neat.  Shame the song faded out so early. With little promotional support from their record label,  shortly after the album was released, the band split up.  


Tracks
1. I Just Can't See You Anymore (Bob Garrett) - 2:02
2. Away (Bob Spearman, Bobby Golden, Nick Jones, Ricky Hughes) - 3:40
3. Dreams (Bob Garrett, Bobby Golden, Ricky Hughes) - 4:57
4. To Pamela (Bob Spearman, Bobby Golden, Nick Jones) - 3:06
5. Hey People (Bob Garrett, Bobby Golden) - 2:30
6. Today Tomorrow, Yesterday (Bob Garrett, Bobby Golden) - 2:51
7. Smiling Faces (Bob Garrett) - 2:40
8. By Your Side (Bob Garrett, Bobby Golden) - 3:59
9. Time Is Lost (Ricky Hughes) - 2:52
10.In Thought (Bob Garrett) - 4:50
11.Get It Together (Bob Garrett, Bobby Golden) - 3:36
12.Time For Reason (Bob Garrett) - 3:52

Coldwater Army
*Bob Garrett - Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Trumpet
*Bobby Golden (Aka Robert Goldne) - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Kenny Golden - Bass
*Richard Hughes - Drums, Percussion
*Nick Jones - Vocals, Trumpet
*Dale Miller - Sax
*Bob Spearman - Vocals, Keyboards
With
*Calvin Arline - Bass
*Stanley Kimball - Guitar
*John Simmons - Keyboards

Related Acts
1977  Stillwater - Stillwater (Vinyl edition) 
1978  Stillwater - I Reserve The Right (2007 remaster) 

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Swampwater - Swamp Water (1971 us, amazing country folk swamp rock, 2019 korean remaster)



Their last album and another really good country-rock outing. This self-titled effort was released off RC

A in 1971 and came packaged in a strange jacket. Swampwater’s lineup had remained the same since their self-titled 1970 debut.

In comparison to that debut, there were a few more rock n roll tracks like the album opener Ooh-Wee California, the raw Dakota, and Ol’Papa Joe. These songs were good though, with well constructed guitar solos and strong bluegrass and cajun flavors. There were a few covers too but all were standouts like the excellent heartfelt version of One Note Man, a track with nice jangly Byrdsian guitar solos and pretty fiddle, which gave the song real atmosphere. Guilbeau also resurrected Gentle Ways of Lovin’ Me, a track he had recorded on numerous occasions with many different bands. Swampwater turned in one of the best versions of this song which is highlighted by barrelhouse banjo and a delicate, sincere arrangement. Another great track, Headed For The Country, compared favorably with the country-rock era Byrds, and had beautiful, sad folk-like harmonies and fine guitar playing.

All in all the album was strong, lacking any weak moments and showcased a great band that should have been at least as well known as Poco or Commander Cody. 
by Jason Nardelli


Tracks
1. Ooh Wee California (Gib Guilbeau) - 2:52
2. Headed For The Country (Larry Murray) - 3:00
3. Ol' Papa Joe (Gib Guilbeau) - 2:34
4. Mama Lou (Larry Murray) - 3:08
5. A Song I Heard (Maury Muehleisen) - 2:23
6. One Note Man (Paul Arnoldi) - 2:41
7. Back On The Street Again (Steve Gillette) - 2:07
8. Dakota (Larry Murray) - 3:15
9. Gentle Ways Of Lovin' Me (Gib Guilbeau) - 2:23
10.Back Porch Harmony (Gib Guilbeau) - 1:58
11.Medley A. Swampdown B. The Merry Go Round C. Broke Down (Traditional, Cliff Friend, Dave Franklin) - 2:06

The Swampwater
*John Beland – Lead, Rhythm Guitar, Dobro, Vocals
*Gib Guilbeau - Fiddle, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Thad Maxwell - Bass, Vocals
*Stan Pratt - Drums
With
*Herb Pedersen - Banjo, Acoustic Guita
*Don Tweedy - Baritone Saxophone
*Curly Chalker - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Jimmy Day - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Glen D. Hardin - Piano

1970  Swampwater - Swampwater 

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

J. Teal Band - Cooks (1977 us, fascinating hard psych blues rock with southern traces, 2012 issue)



The J. Teal Band was formed in 1974, originally called the Jonathan Teal Band, named after a legendary gold prospector from the hills of North Carolina. They were all from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Yes. the same town the Marshall Tucker Band came from. In fact. Joey Cash, one of the guitarists, played with Paul Riddle (Marshall Tucker's drummer) in a band called Stanley and the Star Dusters. Also. Doug Cecil (drums) was a good friend of Riddle, and bought his Gretch drum set that was used in Marshall Tucker's earlier days Doug played that set on J Teal's album, "Cooks". 

Billy Hardy (guitar) and Joey Cash (also guitar) had earlier played in a band called "Magic Weed" that was basically a house band for a road house on Hwy 29 between Spartanburg and Gaffney, SC called Pete's. According to old ledgers, Jimi Hendrix played there but Pete's is no longer there, so that can't be verified. Joey and Billy graduated from Georgia Southern University in 1974 and came back to Spartanburg to team up with Doug Cecil and his friend. Randy Johnson (bass and vocals). In 1975 and 1976. they were playing everything from Al Green to Aerosmith. Funky Southern rock, boogie-blues and a touch of 60's acid rock best describes them. Around this time, they rented a small house in the country on Davis Chapel Rd and turned it into their rehearsal studio. 

After a cult following screamed for their original music, the band recorded "Cooks" in 1977 Hayne Davis was the recording engineer and also the producer who owned the small record company --Mother Cleo Productions. He worked some with Billy Joe Royal. Percy Sledge and Sledge Hammer, Toby King, Sugar and Spice, The Classic Four. High Cotton and others at the time. He did the re-mix of "Cooks" in the MCP Studios located in Newberry. SC near Columbia now called DaviSound. Barry Keel did the final re-master. J Teal signed with the booking agent. Eastern Atlantic Sounds. out of Raleigh. NC. And went on the road with high hopes but after a year or so the original line-up disbanded. 

Doug Cecil left the band and was replaced by Joe Zalack and then J Teal once again hit the road playing full time until they finally broke up in 1979. In 1990 Randy and Billy tried to revive the band but with only minimal success. As Billy put it. "From 1990 to 1999 we went through so many drummers that I can't remember the names of half of them." But now with the re-release of their "Cooks" album, J. Teal Band has once again reformed with all of the original players.
CD Liner Notes


Tracks
1. Brainwasher (Randy Johnson) - 2:53
2. Country Girl (Randy Johnson) - 5:14
3. Coin to Mississippi (Billy Hardy) - 1:55
4. Lost Love (Billy Hardy, Buchannon) - 7:30
5. The Cure (Randy Johnson) - 7:59
6. Born in Chicago (Nick Gravenites) - 2:41
7. Ain't Gonna Cry No More (Billy Hardy) - 4:07
8. Burned (Randy Johnson) - 5:07

J. Teal Band
*Randy Johnson - Bass, Lead Vocals
*Billy Hardy - Guitars
*Joey Cash - Guitars
*Doug Cecil - Drums, Percussion

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Marc Benno - Ambush (1972 us, superb groovy blues rock, rare and out of print 2006 japan remaster)



Ambush cannot be heard as dated, Ambush appears more raw, more straight, than its procedure, Minnows. Ambush was released as a CD only in Japan first time in 1989, this here is the 2006 24bit remastered Mini LP edition, which is out of print and hard to find.

Ambush is a smooth rock album. Ballads, smoky Jazz Blues, sometimes Soulful and Funky. Jesse Ed joins in, Booker T. Jones helps out with a couple of songs, Bonnie Bramlett shouts the lungs out of her body in Here to Stay Blues, and moreover the tightly matched band consists of Miek Utley (keys), Carl Radle (bass), Jim Keltner (drums and percussion) and Bobby Keys (Saxophone). 

Beside the well written and Marc's personality, it is also the quality of the band that characterizes this record as a timeless. Too bad this album remain unnoticed for so long. 


Tracks
1. Poor Boy (Irving Benno, Marc Benno) - 3:31
2. Southern Women (Marc Benno) - 4:19
3. Jive Fade Jive (Marc Benno) - 4:53
4. Hall Street Jive (Irving Benno, Marc Benno) - 3:20
5. Share (Marc Benno) - 5:18
6. Donut Man (Irving Benno, Marc Benno) - 3:05
7. Sunshine Feelin' (Irving Benno, Marc Benno) - 5:05
8. Here To Stay Blues (Irving Benno, Marc Benno) - 2:59
9. Either Way It Happens (Marc Benno) - 3:02

Personnel
*Marc Benno - Vocals, Guitar
*Mike Utley - Keyboards
*Carl Radle - Bass
*Jim Keltner - Drums
*Bobby Keys - Saxophone
*Jesse Ed Davis - Guitar
*Booker T. Jones - Acoustic Guitar, Horn
*Bonnie Bramlett - Vocals
*Ray Brown - Bass

1970  Marc Benno - Marc Benno (2012 korean remaster)
1971  Marc Benno - Minnows (2016 SHM remaster)
1973  Marc Benno And The Nightcrawlers - Crawlin (with young Stevie Ray Vaughan, 2006 release) 
1979  Marc Benno - Lost In Austin (japan reissue) 
Related Act
1968  The Asylum Choir - Look Inside (2007 remaster)
1971  Leon Russell And Marc Benno - Asylum Choir II (japan SHM 2016 remaster) 

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Marc Benno - Lost In Austin (1979 us, splendid blues southern rock, japan reissue)



From the first gut-wrenching guitar licks to a spicy south of the border ode, Marc Benno's "Lost In Austin" is full of funk, vibrant vocals and breathtaking instrumentation. It's perfectly produced by Glyn Johns, showcasing Benno's banner writing talent (he wrote or co-wrote all of the songs except Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash"), his soft infectious vocal style and some outstanding instrumental work.

Tha album star Benno on guitar and piano, Alber Lee and Eric Clapton on guitar (placing that instrument out of the relm of critism), Dick Sims keyboards, Carl Radle bass, Jim Keltner drums and Dick Morresey Sax. Recorded in two weeks in London and mastered in Hollywood, the album provides a geographic montage, since Benno spent a decade of wandering, mainly in California before moving back to Texas.

"Hotfoot Blues" is a kickoff number with enough slapback guitar and turned on percussion to challenge a heady brew of r 'n' b Muddy Waters style. The guitars sound as though they were stolen from King Kong's closet and are being attacked with pick axes. But it works providing a mighty mean sound that paves the way for Benno's vovcal and the finale.

It's followed by a catchy number "Chasing Rainbows". Again the guitar shine, only now they're muted into a subtly romantinc mood as they're mellowed by strings. Heavy percussion and bluesy organ power "Me And A Friend Of Mine". The highlight of the album -and title song- "Lost In Austin" is a beguiling number with it's autobiographical overtones has Benno bemoaning. "I hope words don't hex us/Down in Austin Texas?Lord I'm lost in Austin again/One town I thought I'd never/Be lost in, that was Austin/And then I was lost in/Austin again".

The soul romp is reminiscent of the brilliant peaks Bob Dylan reached in his "Blood On The Tracks" album. Damn good is Benno at his best. "Monterrey Pan" is another Dylanesque effort, sharp stabs of guitar, impeccably rendered, shape this bouncy ballad. Organ electric guitar and Benno's voice colot "The Drifter", then the album ends with "Hey There Senorita". Close your eyes and Dylan is bleeding on the tracks again. But the comparsion is unfair, Benno is not Dylan, and vice versa.
by Gerry Wood


Tracks
1. Hotfoot Blues (Marc Benno, Irvin Benno) - 5:01
2. Chasin' Rainbows - 4:15
3. Me And A Friend Of Mine - 3:07
4. New Romance - 4:08
5. Last Train (Marc Benno, Irvin Benno) - 4:06
6. Lost In Austin - 5:08
7. Splish Splash (Bobby Darin, Jean Murray) - 3:08
8. Monterrey Pen - 3:23
9. The Drifter - 4:30
10.Hey There Senorita - 5:07
All songs by Marc Benno except where noted

Musicians
*Marc Benno - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Eric Clapton - Guitars, Slide Guitars, Vocals
*Albert Lee - Guitars, Vocals
*Jim Keltner - Drums
*Carl Radle - Bass
*Dickie Morresey - Saxphone, Flute
*Brian Rogers - String Arrangement

1970  Marc Benno - Marc Benno (2012 korean remaster)
1971  Marc Benno - Minnows (2016 SHM remaster)
1973  Marc Benno And The Nightcrawlers - Crawlin (with young Stevie Ray Vaughan, 2006 release) 
Related Act
1968  The Asylum Choir - Look Inside (2007 remaster)
1971  Leon Russell And Marc Benno - Asylum Choir II (japan SHM 2016 remaster) 

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Evergreen Blues - Comin' On (1969 us, fantastic soulful funky blues psych brass rock, 2019 korean remaster)



The seeds of Evergreen Blues were planted at St. Alphonsus Catholic elementary school in East Los Angeles.  It was in the basement auditorium of this school that some of the greatest "Eastside Sound" dance and shows occurred in the 60s, featuring all the best bands including Thee Midniters, Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Premiers, The Blendells, The Jaguars with the Salas Brothers, The Ambertones, The Blue Satins, my band, Mark & the Escorts, and many more.  Getting back to the genesis of Elijah, it was in this environment that Hank Barrio, Joe McSweyn, Sam Lombardo, and Manny Esparza took their positions on guitar, bass, drums, and vocals respectively.  Manny says he became the vocalist by default because he could carry a tune better than the others.  Manny's vocal influences were who he calls the "tough r&b singers" such as James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore, and Eddie Floyd, as opposed to the slicker Motown singers.  Manny says he was a Stax/Volt guy.  

As the band improved, they started to play local gigs and were called Two Thirds Majority.  On rhythm guitar in the original band was Tom Merlino, another St. Alphonusus student, who did not stay in the band very long since he didn't seem to have the musical ability of the others.  They played a lot of r&b, but also did songs by groups such as The Rascals and The Buckinghams.  Hank, Joe and Manny went on to Cantwell High School (another parochial school), while Sam Lombardo went to Montebello High School.  There he met Steve Lawrence (no relation to the singer of the same name), who was added to the band on organ and saxophone.  After high school, fellow Montebello High alums Tom Bray and Ken Walther were added on trumpet and trombone.  This completed the puzzle.  They played many venues, including some of the storied East L.A. spots such as Kennedy Hall, the Montebello Ballroom, and aforementioned St. Alphonsus Auditorium.  They shared the stage with Eastside bands such as Thee Midniters, The Ambertones, The Emeralds, The Exotics, and Little Ray & the Progressions.

After hooking up with manager Jim King, the band secured a major record deal with Mercury Records in 1967.  Their name was changed to Evergreen Blues for the record.  It was a time in the music business when money was flowing.  Having just graduated high school, they went on an 18 city national tour.  Musical equipment and clothes were bought for them by the record label and they found themselves riding in limos and flying in a private Beechcraft airplane.  Pretty heady stuff for teenagers!  They found themselves playing shows on the bill with artists such as The Righteous Brothers, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, and Chuck Berry.  On that first tour Hank and Joe were merely 17 years old.  In fact, the band had to go through court and have their parents approval with the recording contracts.  

Despite their under age status they played some clubs on the tour, including "The Rooster Tail in Detroit.  It had a black clientele, but Evergreen Blues were accepted and appreciated because their music was sufficiently good as well as funky.  Manny also had an afro that rivaled American Basketball Association players of the period like Dr. J.  The tour also went to Florida, New York, and some other states.  A non-musical memory of the tour that stands out in Hank's mind is flying in their small Beechcraft airplane over the Great Lakes in the fog during the same period that Otis Redding had gone down under almost identical circumstances (similar plane, same area, a month later.)  Hank says the band was very nervous on the flight and were afraid they might suffer the same fate as one of their musical heroes.  

Their first album entitled "Evergreen Blues," included a song written by their manager, Jim King, under the name L.T. Josie, called "Midnight Confessions."  (Small world department:  My band at the time called Nineteen Eighty Four recorded an L.T. Josie song called "Three's a Crowd."  Our producer on the record was Tommy Coe, who engineered the Evergreen Blues second album.)  Released as a single, "Midnight Confessions" received some airplay around the country, even becoming a hit record in Florida.  Ironically, shortly thereafter The Grass Roots recorded a virtually identical version of the song and it became a major hit record.  That was a heartbreaking experience for Evergreen Blues.  However, they got up, dusted themselves off, and did a second album with ABC Records called "Comin' On."  It included mostly original songs written by various band members.  It also had two more L.T. Josie songs and a cover of Otis Redding's version of "Try a Little Tenderness."  This was likely before Three Dog Night covered  it and had their first mega hit.  In fact, Evergreen Blues opened for Three Dog Night, who's manager asked Evergreen Blues not to play "Try a Little Tenderness."  They went ahead and played it anyway.  Good for them.  

Evergreen Blues had learned "Try a Little Tenderness" from the Otis Redding version.  Manny says Three Dog Night did it in more of a rock style, rather than r&b.  Evergreen Blues did record their second album at American Studios in Studio City, California and Richard Podolar, who was Three Dog Night's producer, engineered a couple of tracks.  One can say it's possible that this was the connection that gave Three Dog Night the idea to record the song, which became their first hit record.  We'll probably never know for sure.  Anyway, their manager Jim King didn't like the musical direction the band was taking so he and Evergreen Blues went their separate ways.  Hank acknowledges in retrospect that the band's songwriting wasn't yet quite developed on that album.

At this juncture, enter Edward James Olmos.  Yes, the actor, who was then an r&b singer.  He had played around Hollywood with his band Eddie James & the Pacific Ocean.  One of the venues they worked a lot was the fabled Gazzari's on the Sunset Strip.  Olmos wound up joining Evergreen Blues, sharing lead vocal duties with Manny Esparza.  At the time Eddie was known for his flashy showmanship, which included some wicked splits.  Hank and Manny both acknowledge that the band learned a lot from Eddie.  He taught them about dynamics, helped with arrangements, and turned them on to a lot of classic r&b records and artists.  Eddie also got them their first regular club gig.  It was a black club called the Citadel du Haiti on Sunset Boulevard, where the band was paid $50 total and all the soul food they could eat.  In those days the deal wasn't as bad as it sounds.  

Through Olmos they met Delaney Bramlett, who was then performing with his wife as Delaney & Bonnie, who would later score a major hit with "Never Ending Song of Love."  At one point, Delaney & Bonnie opened for Blind Faith on a tour.  Eric Clapton who was then a member of Blind Faith took a great liking to Delaney & Bonnie's style and band.  Clapton wound up going on tour playing with Delaney & Bonnie and eventually brought along his friends Dave Mason and George Harrison to share in the fun and musical inspiration.  Eric eventually used Delaney & Bonnie's band to form Derek & the Dominoes.  The result was the classic record "Layla" (the early 70s up tempo version.)  Eddie Olmos played with Evergreen Blues for about a year before they went their separate ways.  Eddie went on to become a successful and excellent actor, best known for his role as El Pachuco in the play and movie Zoot Suit, the classic movie Blade Runner, and his role in the 80s mega hit television series, "Miami Vice."   Evergreen Blues played on into the early 70s, a time when they became Elijah and recorded two more albums. 
by Mark Guerrero


Tracks
1. Please Take Me Now (Ken Walther, Steve Lawrence) - 4:25
2. Girl I Got Wise (Ken Walther, Steve Lawrence) - 3:08
3. Eye In The Sky (Ken Walther, Steve Lawrence) - 2:28
4. Don't Mess Up My Mind (Lou T. Josie) - 2:36
5. Funky Woman (Steve McSweyn) - 3:04
6. The Moon Is High (Ken Walther, Steve Lawrence) - 4:24
7. W.L.A. (Ken Walther, Steve Lawrence) - 3:45
8. Try A Little Tenderness (Harry Woods, James Campbell, Reginald Connelly) - 4:08
9. Quickest Way Out (Sam Lombardo, Tom Bray) - 3:18
10.Bring It On Back (Lou T. Josie) - 2:43
11.Another Night (Ken Walther, Steve Lawrence) - 4:57

The Evergreen Blues
*Sam Lombardo - Drums
*Steve McSweyn - Bass
*Steve Lawrence - Keyboards, Saxophone, Vocals
*Many Esprarza - Vocals
*Rick Barrio - Guitar
*Ken Walther - Trombone
*Tom Bray - Trumpet

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ambergris - Ambergris (1970 us, marvelous jazz brass rock with latin shades, Vinyl edition and 2018 korean remaster)



Ambergris, as it turned out, was a one-shot album from a band formed by Jerry Weiss, who’d played keyboards with the first version of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Leaving before the group recorded the second album, he formed Ambergris and got Steve Cropper of MG’s fame to produce it. It’s not groundbreaking in the way that the first BST album was or in the way that Chicago’s first two albums were. There are hints of Latin influences in some of the tracks, while some of them sound as if they could easily have been lifted from sessions by BST or Chicago. Highlights, from my listening, are “Play On Player” and “Walking on the Water.”

Jimmy Maelen (vocals & percussion) who played with John Lennon, the Jacksons, Talking Heads, Alice Cooper, Marlena Shaw, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Gabriel, Buddy Rich & too many others to mention. Lewis Kahn (trombone / violin) who later played live with Tito Puente. Larry Harlow (piano, organ & percussion) who had previously put out releases on the lauded Fania label and would much later record with the Mars Volta. 


Tracks
1. Something Happened To Me (Jerry Weiss) - 2:50
2. Play On Player (Calvin Clash, Larry Harlow Kahn) - 3:23
3. Gotta Find Her (Arthur Miller, Jerry Weiss) - 3:54
4. Chocolate Pudding (Arthur Miller) - 4:27
5. Forget It, I Got It (Jimmy Miller, Gary Wright) - 4:20
6. Walking On The Water (Herbert L. Lewis, Fred Lewis) - 5:45
7. Sunday Lady (James Maeulen, Jerry Weiss) - 3:20
8. Home Groan (Jerry Weiss) - 3:14
9. Soul Food (Fred Lewis) - 3:15
10.Endless Night (Jerry Weiss) - 5:27

Ambergris
*Larry Harlow - Piano, Organ, Percussion
*Jerry Weiss - Fender Bass, Piano
*Charlie Camilleri - Lead Trumpet
*Harry Max - Trumpet, String Bass,, Violin
*Jimmy Maeulen - Vocals, Conga Drum
*Billy Shay - Guitar, Harmonica
*Lewis Kahn - Trombone, Violin
*Glenn John Miller - Trombone
*Gil Fields - Drums

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