In The Land Of FREE we still Keep on Rockin'

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now

Plain and Fancy

"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"

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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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Mars Bonfire - Faster Than The Speed Of Life (1968 canada, fascinating acid psych rock, original vinyl, 2007 rev ola and fallout editions)



Mars Bonfire has earned himself rock 'n' roll immortality, not to mention lifetime royalty checks, for penning Steppenwolf's inescapable classic "Born to Be Wild," that eternal anthem of would-be bikers and weekend hellraisers worldwide. 

The power of the song has been blunted over the years, thanks to endless cover versions (including a duet between Ozzy Osbourne and Miss Piggy on the Kermit Unpigged album), and ironic use in sitcoms, films, and TV commercials. A listen to Bonfire's own recording of "Born to Be Wild" on this solo outing can remind one just how powerful the song really is. 

Bonfire's take is druggier than the balls-out Steppenwolf hit, a slippery psychedelic tone without the dramatic dynamics and steamroller rhythm. It's still an upbeat rocker with twisting fuzz guitar leads, but Bonfire's vocals suggest a college kid dropping acid at a house party, while John Kay makes the same lyric into a threat. Bonfire didn't possess the macho bombast of his ex-bandmates; his self-titled debut is a lost masterpiece of introspective psych-pop full of great tunes. 

The lead track, "Ride With Me, Baby" lays out everything on his mind with a groovy, dirty, Sunset Strip vibe. Bonfire manages to get out lines like "the beautiful thing has fallen thru with cancer, death, deformity" without sounding clumsy, and he catalogs his worries, woes, and hopes over six minutes of overdriven organ and guitar. "Night Time's for You" is another great rocker, a rather sinister celebration of the dark, while "Sad Eyes" and "Christina's Arms" are sweeter pop numbers. 

Even at his most sensitive, Bonfire never drifts into the ether, keeping things grounded in hard rock instrumentation, so that even ballads like "Tenderness" and "How Much Older Will We Grow?" are loud, full-band affairs. Bonfire's talent as a songwriter was obvious to Steppenwolf, as they would go on to raid this album for a full four songs over the course of their career ("Tenderness," "Ride With Me, Baby," and "The Night Time's for You" all appeared on For Ladies Only). 

This debut was repackaged a year later with a different track order as Faster Than the Speed of Life, but Bonfire was unable to net any hits of his own, and he retreated into private life. 
by Fred Beldin

There are several reasons why the name of Mars Bonfire should be regarded as quite an important entry in every rock’n’roll related encyclopedia, and while being as good as any itself, none of these reasons happen to be his own LP, originally released on the Uni label in 1968, soon to be re-issued on Columbia.

Before actually starting the “bonfire” of his career, along with, among others, Bruce Palmer (soon to join another fellow Canadian in forming Buffalo Springfield), Mars joined Jack London & The Sparrows as Dennis Edmonton. With German émigré, John Kay, replacing their front man, and shortening the name into The Sparrow, the band relocated to New York, releasing a couple of singles, with Mars’ own Tomorrow’s Ship / Isn’t It Strange these days being considered for a minor psychedelic classic.

After yet another move, onto an even hipper coast, the disillusioned Dennis Edmonton, finally becomes Mars Bonfire, while leaving some of his own songs behind, most notably Born To Be Wild, helping his former bandmates reach the long desired heights “faster than the speed of life”, and under a different moniker of another, more appropriate beast ….. without himself present, ironically enough.

Being too tempting to avoid, I suppose Mars just couldn’t help but “cover” his defining number himself, somewhat lacking a ball or two in delivery, compared to the “original”, and it’s a pretty similar kind of a groove that he explores in a more sophisticated way for the album’s title track.

In spite of it not being suggested so, most of the album falls into a lighter, occasionally slightlydelic sound, as heard in Sad Eyes, Lady Moon Walker, She, So Alive With Love or How Much Older Will We Grow?, with the latter being a great Beatle-ish Britsike ballad.

Sometimes he even gets down the folky country round (Tenderness), and on a couple of bluesier tracks, the fragility of the vocal delivery seems to place him somewhere halfway between the Al Wilson-fronted Canned Heat and the Mickey Dolenz-fronted Monkees (Ride With Me Baby, Night Time’s For You).

No less than three more tracks from Faster … were covered by Steppenwolf in 1971, making the legacy of their former bandmate an inexhaustible source, which he hasn’t seemed to be able to take advantage of himself.
by Garwood Pickjon

Tracks
1. Ride With Me, Baby - 6:07
2. Born To Be Wild - 2:58
3. Sad Eyes - 2:25
4. Lady Moon Walker - 2:45
5. Tenderness - 4:26
6. How Much Older Will We Grow? - 5:47
7. So Alive With Love - 2:45
8. In Christina's Arms - 3:15
9. Little Girl Lost - 2:35
10.Time To Fly - 2:32
11.Night Time's For You - 2:16
All compositions by Mars Bonfire.


Tracks
1. Faster Than The Speed Of Life - 2:59
2. Born To Be Wild - 2:59
3. Sad Eyes - 2:19
4. Lady Moon Walker - 2:39
5. Tenderness - 4:26
6. She - 2:584
7. Ride With Me Baby - 6:01
8. How Much Older Will We Grow? - 5:48
9. So Alive With Love - 2:40
10.In Christina's Arms - 3:11
11.Night Time's For You - 2:16
All songs by Mars Bonfire

*Mars Bonfire - Guitar, Vocals

Related Acts
1968  Steppenwolf (2013 japan SHM bonus tracks and 2014 SACD)
1968  Steppenwolf - Second (2013 japan SHM with extra track)
1969  Early Steppenwolf (1967 Live, Japan SHM mini lp)
1969  At Your Birthday Party (Japan SHM 2013 remaster)
1969  Monster (2013 japan SHM issue)
1970  Steppenwolf - 7 (2013 japan SHM remaster)
1970  Live (2013 Japan SHM edition)
1971  For Ladies Only (Japan SHM 2013 remaster)
1968  John Kay and the Sparrow
1972  John Kay – Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes
1986  Sky "Sunlight" Saxon And Firewall - Destiny's Children (Vinyl issue)

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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Curt Newbury - Half A Month Of Maydays (1970 us, tremendous west coast folk psych rock)



Curt Newbury was born and raised in Texas, but while one can hear traces of his Western heritage in his voice, his sole album, 1970s Half a Month of May Days, is an archetypical example of West Coast singer/songwriter-oriented country-rock in its formative stages. Half a Month of May Days features several members of the celebrated psychedelic group Kaleidoscope backing Newbury, and though these sessions lack the sense of trippy adventure that marked that band's best work, Newbury's elliptical wordplay and gently loping melodies mesh nicely with the chiming guitars, fiddles, and organ lines of the studio band, and they turn these tunes into something truly memorable. 

Newbury's songs sometimes sound poetic in all the worst ways, but while there are a few flashes of nearly terminal pretension here, most of the time Newbury has the good sense to reign himself in, and his broad celebrations of women, good times, and the mysteries of the universe (as well as decrying the war in Vietnam that was still raging) are well served by his ambitious phrasing and strong, supple tenor voice. And given Newbury's later career as a photographer specializing in glamor shots of teenage models, "Let's Hang Some Pictures Tonight" sounds more than a little prescient. Half a Month of May Days is a good bit short of a lost masterpiece, but it's certainly the work of a talented artist who was well-served in the studio as he was working out a rather ambitious musical vision, and folks with a taste for the acid-tinged side of country-rock will find it well worth investigating. 
by Mark Deming


Tracks
1. S And C See Me - 4:43
2. Christ, How Easy Could It Be? - 4:03
3. To Marcia - 2:42
4. Highchair Blue - 3:17
5. Let's Hang Some Pictures Tonight - 4:01
6. Half A Month Of Maydays - 4:51
7. Colonel Haygood - 3:39
8. A Girl Is Just Too Much - 4:32
9. Maybe Summer Bells - 3:35
10.Private Jackson Regrets - 2:10
All songs by Curt Newbury

Musicians
*Curt Newbury - Vocals, Guitar
*Jeff Kaplan - Guitar, Organ, Bass, Piano
*Ron Johnson - Bass
*Paul Lagos - Drums
*Coffi Hall - Percussion
*Rick Matthews - Percussion
*Templeton Parsley - Electric Violin
*Max Buda - Harmonica
*Richard Aplanalp - Clarinet
*Mike Deasy - Guitar, Mandolin
*Howard Johnson - Tuba
*Pat Smith - Bass, Fiddle

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Paul Pena - Paul Pena (1971 us / cape verde, fascinating groovy folk classic rock, 2018 korean remaster)



Paul Pena was born on January 26, 1950 in Hyannis, MA, the oldest child of Jack and Virginia Pena. His grandparents came from the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa. He was born with congenital glaucoma. When he was five, he began school at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown - a suburb of Boston. He graduated in 1967 and then attended Clark University in Worcester, MA. 

As a young child, Paul soon showed his talent for music. His mother heard him picking out melodies and chords on a baby grand piano that had been found in the town dump and brought home, 'as a toy that a blind child might enjoy.' He developed 'perfect pitch.' Soon Paul was studying the piano, guitar, upright bass, violin and 'a little trumpet.' He played and sang popular jazz and Cape Verdian ballads with his father, a professional jazz musician, and also sang in his school choruses. Paul appeared in a talent show, and while in college, performed in coffeehouses in Worcester. 

Paul Pena is a respectable album in that style, but it's a fairly ordinary journeyman effort, albeit without serious flaws. There's a little bit of an early-'70s folky singer/songwriter looseness à la Van Morrison involved as well, though occasionally he gets into a funky groove that was more explicitly Southern soul-influenced. Only "One for the Lonely" comes close to getting a really hooky blues-rock riff into the mix, however. Some of the other tracks have some modest pleasures as well, like the expansive organ of "Something to Make You Happy," which gives the brooding number a San Francisco acid rock tinge. The folk-bluesy "Lullaby" is another of the stronger tracks, with its galloping going-down-the-road feel and unexpected addition of steel guitar (by Jeff Baxter) and harp. 
by Richie Unterberger


Tracks
1. Woke Up This Morning - 4:56
2. I'm Gonna Make It Alright - 4:13
3. The River - 6:08
4. One For The Lonely - 4:50
5. Something To Make You Happy - 7:07
6. My Adorable One (Ida Irral Berger, Clara Thompson) - 3:44
7. When I'm Gone - 4:37
8. Lullaby - 5:16
All songs by Paul Pena except where stated

Personnel
*Paul Pena - Guitar, Keyboards, Lead Vocals, Background Vocals
*Jesse Raye - Bass, Background Vocals
*Jim Wilkins - Drums
*Ed Costa - Keyboards, Background Vocals
*Jeff Baxter - Steel Guitar
*Jumma Santos - Congas, Maracas
*Betsy Morse - Harp
*Clarice Taylor - Background Vocals
*Ellis Hall - Background Vocals
*Gil Thomas - Background Vocals
*Earl Frost - Background Vocals
*Ronnie Ingraham Concert Choir - Background Vocals

1973  Paul Pena - New Train

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