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

Music gives soul to universe, wings to mind, flight to imagination, charm to sadness, and life to everything.


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Atlanta Rhythm Section - Back Up Against The Wall (1973 us, splendid southern rock, 2018 japan SHM remaster)

The 11 songs on this album present a mix of up-tempo tunes and ballads-an approach that would become a cornerstone of the group's future success. The pace overall is slower and more restrained than where the group would go with future albums. But it is a beautiful timepiece of a group of talented musicians playing quality songs and working together to establish their collective sound. 

There's a mix of tempos, both between songs and within individual tunes, which the band would refine on future records. Two of the songs, the rocking Back Up Against the Wall and the reflective Conversation, would become staples of the band's live set. Eight original songs feature songwriter/producer Buddy Buie's writing in partnership with other members of the band, and three covers are highlighted by a version of Joe South's Redneck. 

The album starts off with “Wrong “ an acoustic, mid-tempo song with a country feel. The pace picks up with this rocking, up-tempo song about the "hot time" appeal of a small Southern town on “Cold Turkey Tenn”.

 “Will I Live On?” is a beautiful ballad features singer Ronnie Hammond's first breakout vocal performance articulating some eternal questions.  The tempo picks up and shifts repeatedly within “A Livin Lovin Wreck” that also includes harmonica and piano breaks.

Another slower paced song “Superman”, starts as ballad and shifts into blues. “What You Gonna Do About It?” a moderately paced tune musically mirrors the ups and downs of relationships.. “Conversation “ is classic ballad features Hammond's ponderings about a relationship gone bad over a subtle but beautiful musical background.

The opening harmonic wail on “Redneck“ leads into a punchy, up-tempo look at the particular qualities of a certain type of Southerner who receives his proper sendoff. A slower paced song “Make Me Believe It “ that ebbs and flows while examining the search for love.

The title song “Back Up Against The Wall “ is the high point of the album. It's a loping rocker that shows off the band's musical chops and reaches a new level of group energy. The closer “It Must Be Love” is a slower, bluesy song that drives the album home and lets the guitars break out for a glimpse of things to come.

1. Wrong (Buddy Buie, James B. Cobb Jr.) - 2:43
2. Cold Turkey, Tenn. (Robert Nix) - 3:17
3. Will I Live On? (Robert Nix, Dean Daughtry) - 2:52
4. A Livin' Lovin' Wreck (Otis Blackwell) - 3:07
5. Superman (Randall Bramblett) - 3:22
6. What You Gonna Do About It? (Ronnie Hammond) - 2:59
7. Conversation (Buddy Buie, James B. Cobb Jr.) - 3:28
8. Redneck (Joe South) - 3:48
9. Make Me Believe It (Buddy Buie, Robert Nix, Ronnie Hammond) - 3:13
10.Back Up Against The Wall (Buddy Buie, James B. Cobb Jr.) - 3:23
11 It Must Be Love (Robert Nix, Dean Daughtry, James B. Cobb Jr.) - 4:06

Atlanta Rhythm Section
*Ronnie Hammond - Vocals, Background Vocals
*Barry Bailey - Guitar
*Dean Daughtry - Keyboards
*J.R. Cobb - Guitar, Background Vocals
*Paul Goddard - Bass
*Robert Nix - Percussion, Drums, Background Vocals 
*Al Kooper - Synthesizer, ARP
*Billy Lee Riley - Harmonica

1975-76 Atlanta Rhythm Section - Dog Days / Red Tape (2005 remaster) 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Crystal Syphon - Family Evil / Elephant Ball (1967-69 us, inpressive garage psych rock, 2021 double disc remaster and expanded)

Here, after over 50 years, is the total recorded output of Crystal Syphon. It is the amalgam of the talents and tastes of six musicians, friends and brothers from the little town of Merced, California. On almost every weekend, dances were held atone of Merced's four musical venues: The American Legion Hall, the Italo-American hall, the Women's Clubhouse, or the Merced Fairgrounds. Crystal Syphon was formed in 1965 by a group of musicians from Merced High School. Originally known as the Morlouchs, the founding members were Jeff Sanders on vocals, his brother Jim Sanderson rhythm guitar and vocals, Tom Salles on lead guitar and vocals, Dave Sprinkel on keyboards and vocals, Roger Henry on bass and Andy Daniel on drums.The band was very much influenced by the sounds of The Beatles and The Byrds, and is evidenced in their ability to do very difficult four part harmonies.

The group played many local area gigs, including Battle Of The Bands, but under the management of Jeff and his older brother Bob, the band began to pursue writing their own music. The band pooled ail their earnings for both equipment and recording sessions, and this practice continued the entire time the band was together. In May of 1966, Roger left the band and was replaced by Bob Greenlee on bass. In 1967, the band recorded Marcy, Your Eyes, Paradise, Have More Of Everything, and Try Something Different at Dick Terzian's studio in Fresno and were 3 track recordings; thus they were essential live with only some mild vocal or guitar overdubs. Other well known artists the band appeared with were Bo Diddley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Youngbloods, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe & The Fish, The Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield, Elvin Bishop, Lee Michaels and Santana.

Throughout the band's existence, the band shopped itself to various record labels. With the assistance of Bob Sanders and Richard Delong, who replaced Bob as the band's manager in 1967. Ultimately, the band had several offers to sign, but because they insisted on artistic freedom and complete ownership of their publishing, no agreement was ever reached with a label at the time.

In late 1968, Jim Sanders left the band and was soon followed by Dave Sprinkel. The four remaining members continued on as a four piece group, with Jeff Sanders taking over on keyboards. The band stayed together until late 1969, finally disbanding in early 1970. When Marvin Greenlee moved to Stockton to play in other bands, Tom, Bob and Jeff (now on drums) joined up with Merced guitarist John Fox to form Boogeyman, who recorded a 45 on a local Merced label. They played together for several more years, finally disbanding in 1973.
CD Liner Notes

Disc 1 Family Evil 1967-68
1. Marcy, Your Eyes - 3:36
2. Paradise - 3:09
3. Have More Of Everything - 5:25
4. Try Something Different - 3:42
5. Fuzzy And Jose - 7:30
6. Are You Dead Yet? - 2:46
7. In My Mind - 2:42
8. Family Evil - 5:37
9. Fails To Shine - 5:42
10.Winter Is Cold - 6:56
11.Winter Is Cold - 6:12
All songs by Crystal Syphon
Tracks 8-10 recorded live At The Fillmore West 1-21-68
Track 11 recorded 2008

Disc 2 Elephant Ball 1967-69
1. Dawn Sermon - 1:21
2. For All Of My Life - 3:12
3. Tell Her For Me - 3:29
4. Elephant Ball - 4:26
5. Sing To Me - 8:36
6. It's Winter - 3:23
7. Snow Falls - 5:16
8. Don't Fall Brother - 3:20
9. There Is Light There - 6:33
All compositions by Crystal Syphon

Crystal Syphon
*Tom Salles - Vocal, Guitar
*Jim Sanders - Vocal, Guitar (Disc 1 Tracks 1-11, Disc 2 Tracks 1-3)
*Jeff Sanders - Vocals, Organ, Percussion, Drums 
*Bob Greenlee - Bass 
*Dave Sprinkel- Vocals, Organ, Percussion (Disc 1 Tracks 1-3, 5-11,  Disc 2 Tracks 1-3)
*Andy Daniel - Drums (Disc 1 Tracks 1-4, Disc 2 Tracks 1-3)
*Marvin Greenlee - Drums (Disc 1 Tracks 5-10, Disc 2 Tracks 4-9)

Monday, July 12, 2021

Julian's Treatment - A Time Before This (1970 uk, gorgeous epic art prog rock, with sci fi lyrics, 2017 japan SHM remaster)

Julian's Treatment is yet another forgotten and obscure gem of progressive and psychedelic rock. Not very often does a sci-fi author involve himself with music. Michael Moorcock's involvement with Hawkwind is one of the best examples. And Julian Jay Savarin is another author who involved himself in music, with this band Julian's Treatment. Savarin played the organ and he had an Australian named Cathy Pruden to handle the vocals, with some other guys to handle the guitar, bass, drums, and flute (no liner notes were included, unfortunately).

A Time Before This, released in 1970, was the one and only album by this band (Savarin released an album under his own name called Waiters on the Dance, which varying sources say was released in 1969, 1971, or 1973). Unsurprising, the album is a sci-fi concept album, a bit difficult for me to follow when a lyric sheet wasn't even included, but it seems to involve the destuction of the Earth in which a Terran ends up on a planet inhabited by strange, blue-skinned people, and an evil megalomaniac. Musically, it's late '60s sounding psychedelic with progressive rock with great spacy organ and a cosmic feel to the whole album. Great female vocals as well with the occasional spoken dialog. Highlights include "Phantom City", "The Black Tower", "Altarra, Princess of the Blue Women", "Twin Suns of Centauri", "Alkon, Planet of Centauri", "The Terran", "Fourth From the Sun", and "Strange Things".

All the music sounds like it should belong on some campy sci-fi film from the late 1960s, but that should not come as any surprise. One band that Julian's Treatment gets compared to is The United States of America, the American band that released an self-entitled album in 1968 that featured Joe Byrd and Dorothy Moskowitz. Also comparisons to such prog rock bands lead by female vocalists like Analogy, Sandrose, and Holland's Earth & Fire are pretty common as well. Which is safe to say, if you're a fan of any of these groups, chances are you'll like Julian's Treatment, a great lost gem that sure to grow on you. The original LP (released in Britain by Young Blood and in the U.S. on Decca) isn't exactly easy to come by, but regardless, this album is another excellent obscure gem to add to your collection. 
by Ben Miler

1. First Oracle - 1:30
2. The Coming Of The Mule - 3:52
3. Phantom City - 5:18
4. The Black Tower - 5:01
5. Alda, Dark Lady Of The Outer Worlds - 3:52
6. Altarra, Princess Of The Blue Woman - 4:14
7. Second Oracle - 1:39
8. Part One: Twin Suns Of Centuari - 2:59
9. Part Two: Alkon, Planet Of Centauri - 2:58
10.The Terran - 4:00
11.Fourth From The Sun - 2:48
12.Strange Things - 4:58
13.A Time Before This - 8:55
All compositions by Julian Jay Savarin

Julian's Treatment
*Julian Jay Savarin - Keyboards, Vocals
*Cathy Pruden - Vocals
*Del Watkins - Guitar, Flute
*Jack Drummond - Drums
*John Dover - Bass

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Rab Noakes - Do You See The Lights? (1970 uk, wondrous jazzy folk psych, 2010 korean remaster)

A gift for writing hook-laden songs and sensitively interpreting the work of American singer/songwriters has brought Rab Noakes to the forefront of Scottish pop music. His 1970 debut album, Do You See the Lights, included "Together Forever," which became a folk-pop hit for Lindisfarne.  Although he agreed to form a band, Steeler's Wheel, with Rafferty, he left the band to resume his solo career before the group recorded their Top Ten hit "Stuck in the Middle With You." Noakes has continued to record on his own.
by Craig Harris

Hearing Rab Noakes' debut LP, Do You See the Light, is a bit like listening to a late-'60s folk-rock recording for the Elektra or Vanguard label that somehow wasn't released. As many contributions as those labels made in this genre, however, a comparison such as this isn't necessarily high praise. For though Noakes at times echoes various early singer/songwriters -- Blonde on Blonde-era Bob Dylan, Donovan, Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, James Taylor, Tom Paxton, The Basement Tapes-era Dylan -- he doesn't project a strong identity of his own, and his material is blander than the '60s work of any of the aforementioned figures.

It's as if the music has been filtered through a lower common denominator of someone with a large collection of U.S. singer/songwriter LPs with a personal narrative flavor, though sung here with a Scottish accent. Sometimes the triggers of specific comparisons are strong: the easygoing country-rock of "Together Forever" - later covered by Lindisfarne recalls Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere," and "East Neuk Misfortune" suggests early Tim Buckley as well as the idiosyncratically mild but glowing electric guitar tone heard on numerous Elektra folk-rock recordings. It's all competently done on an even emotional keel, but doesn't mark the artist as possessing distinguished talent of his own. 
by Richie Unterberger

1. Do You See The Lights? - 4:52
2. Song For A Pretty Painter - 5:19
3. On My Own I Built A Bridge - 3:25
4. Without Me, Just With You - 3:10
5. Somewhere To Stay - 3:36
6. Together Forever - 3:15
7. One More, One Less - 2:51
8. East Neuk Misfortune - 4:11
9. A Question Of Travelling - 3:48
10.Too Old To Die - 3:23
11.A Love Story - 3:24
12.Somebody Counts On Me - 4:17
Music and Lyrics by Rab Noakes 

*Rab Noakes - Guitar, Vocals
*Ronnie Rae - Bass
*Alan Trajan - Keyboards 
*Robin McKidd - Guitar, Harmonica

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Friday, July 2, 2021

Hope - Hope (1972 us, magnificent spiritual art rock with prog touches, 2008 remaster)

Hope was a Christian rock group from LaCrosse, Wisconsin who released an album and three singles. They posses a diversity of really good material and styles, which range from subdued vocal to gentle styling. Instrumentally they exhibit great dexterity and skill which should aid them in finding a place in the hearts of the audience.

Hope's  album released 1972, the line up was Wayne C. McKibbin vocals, guitar, Jim Croegaert vocals, piano, Boyd Sibley vocals, organ, David A. Klug vocals, bass and the drummer Jeff Cozy. Good time music, some of the best cuts include "Where Do You Want To Go" and "Valley Of Hope". The lyrics  implies that this is a spritual trip (Jesus Rock).

Wayne McKibbin, was an accomplished artist, photographer, singer and musician. He played in several bands except Hope, including Jerry Way and the Pacemakers, the Silvertones, the Jesters Three.  Wayne C. McKibbin, died on July 4, 2005, at the age 59, in Three Rivers, California, on his home following a courageous battle with cancer.

1. Where Do You Want To Go (Wayne C. McKibbin) - 3:44
2. One Man (Boyd Sibley) - 4:47
3. Find Him (Wayne C. McKibbin) - 4:10
4. Deliverance (Jim Croegaert) - 4:20
5. From Thy Father's Hand (Boyd Sibley) - 5:06
6. Walkin' Over Hills And Valleys (Wayne C. McKibbin) - 4:02
7. One Of These (Jim Croegaert) - 3:31
8. Little Things (David A. Klug) - 3:05
9. Valley Of Hope (Boyd Sibley) - 2:48
10.Cold Morning (Jim Croegaert) - 4:03
11.Everyone Needs (Wayne C. McKibbin) - 4:06

*Jim Croegaert - Vocals, Piano
*Boyd Sibley - Vocals, Organ
*Jeff Cozy - Vocals, Drums
*David A. Klug - Vocals, Bass
*Wayne C. McKibbin - Vocals, Guitar
*Harvey Shapiro - Cello
*Lucien Schmit - Cello
*Homer Mensch - Double Bass
*Russ Savakus - Double Bass
*Alan Rubin - Trumpet, Flugelhorn 
*Joe Ferrante - Trumpet, Flugelhorn 
*Irvin Markowitz - Trumpet, Flugelhorn 
*Raymond Crisara - Trumpet, Flugelhorn 
*Henry Pakaln - Viola 
*Richard Dickler - Viola 
*Arnold Eidus - Violin
*Bernard Eichen - Violin 
*David Nadien - Violin
*Harold Coletta - Violin 
*Harold Kohon - Violin 
*Max Ellen - Violin 
*Tosha Samaroff - Violin

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Dream - Rebellion (1967-71 holland, splendid garage beat, 2014 digi pak remaster)

In 1966 a psychedelic rock band is formed in Tiel, under the name Mother's Love. The musicians were Floris Kolvenbach (guitar), John van Buren (organ, piano), Rini Wikkerink (guitar), John van Buren (drums) and Jan van Doesburg (bass guitar). The latter is replaced by Rob Heuff in 1967. They release two singles: Raise the sails / Saint without glory and Highway to heaven / Lady from the ballroom. One year later an album, Take one, is released. The album doesn't sell well and the name of the band is changed into Dream. With this new name another single is released in 1968, The doting king / Expert jump out. 

This time the band is more succesful. They play concerts with Pink Floyd. In the mean time they change drummers, newcomer is Karel Zwart. In 1969 another single is released, Rebellion / The monarchy, in the same year there is also a new bass player, Edgar Swanenburg. The band is invited to play at the Kralingen festival in 1970, and is invited to play at the first edition of Pinkpop. They also perform on tv, for over an hour in the program Dit is het begin, where they perform parts of the rock-opera The peacock and the rat. In 1971 saw the release of their third single Can you hear me howlin' / Still alive. In 1972 the band ends. Floris Kolvenbach starts the experimental formation Metal Voices. In 1994 he releases the album A journey from Europe to the common world.

1. Highway To Heaven - 3:26
2. Mad Man's Worries - 3:51
3. I Feel Good Warmth - 2:53
4. I Gotta Move - 1:26
5. The Doting King - 2:45
6. Expert Jump Out - 2:13
7. Can I Ask You One More Question - 2:39
8. The Monarchy - 5:03
9. Can You Hear Me Howlin' - 3:35
10.Still Alive - 1:11
11.Talesborough Garden - 3:11
12.New Sensations - 2:27
13.Sleeping Rose - 3:44
14.Park Lane - 1:33
15.Four Phone-Calls - 3:19
16.Mr. V. - 3:27
17.We'll Be Back Yesterday Morning - 2:32
18.Met A Girl Today - 3:29
19.Open The Gates - 5:42
20.The Diamond And The Fool - 6:14
21.Dino - 3:12
22.Still Alive - 1:39
Music and Lyrics by Flores Kolvenbach
Tracks 1-4, 11 as Mother's Love
Tracks 11-21 demo recordings
Tracks 11, 12, 14 previously unreleased

Mother's Love (Tracks 1-4, 11)
*Flores Kolvenbach - Vocals, Guitar
*John Van Buren - Organ, Piano, Flute
*Jan Van Doesburg - Bass
*Karel Zwart - Drums, Percussion

The Dream
*Flores Kolvenbach - Vocals, Guitar
*John Van Buren - Organ, Piano, Mellotron, Keyboards
*Karel Zwart - Drums, Percussion
*Edgar Swanenberg - Bass
*Rini Wikkerink - Guitar (Tracks 5-10, 13, 22)
*Rob Heuff - Bass (Tracks 5-6)

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Joel Scott Hill John Barbata Chris Ethridge - L.A. Getaway (1971 us, superb hard boogie classic rock, 2017 korean remaster)

Probably the greatest and most obscure supergroup album, L.A. Getaway combines the talents of a core group of Joel Scott Hill (guitar/vocals), Chris Ethridge (bass/piano/vocals), and Johnny Barbata (drums). The fact that lead singer Hill remains a largely unknown and under-recognized talent as a singer is one of the reasons for this album's obscurity. Hill's blue-eyed soul vocals on such rockers as "It's Your Love" and Dr. John's brilliant, New Orleans-soaked "Craney Crow" clearly attest to his sheer genius.

Perhaps the album's crowing achievement is a version of Booker T. Jones' slow and smoky gospel/blues workout, "Ole Man Trouble," which is aided by the songwriters' Hammond organ performance and a sterling background vocal arrangement. For this reason alone, L.A. Getaway is worth acquiring, even as an expensive Japanese import. There are numerous guest appearances on the record, including keyboard performances by Dr. John and Leon Russell. In many ways, producer Paul Rothchild used is cache to bring in as much talent on one record as he possibly could, while still retaining the band's overall group identity.

As well, in relation to this, Etheridge's performances are fabulous, particularly on his rare lead vocal on the title track. Barbata also shines on all of the cuts, and his playing dwarfs some of his other, excellent work on records by CSN&Y and the Turtles. In the end, the album remains a vital document of the period (early 1970s), and is well-worth seeking out. 
by Matthew Greenwald

1. Bring It To Jerome (Jerome Green) - 2:57
2. It's Your Love (Chris Ethridge, Dave Mason, Joel Scott-Hill) - 3:23
3. Long Ago (Dan Penn, Robert Killen) - 5:17
4. Craney Crow (Malcolm John Rebennack) - 4:55
5. The Promised Land (Chuck Berry) - 3:19
6. Ole Man Trouble (Booker T. Jones) - 5:40
7. Eyesight (Joel Scott-Hill) - 4:59
8. L.A. Getaway (Chris Ethridge, Greg Dempsey, Leon Russell) - 3:36
9. Big City (Chris Ethridge, Joel Scott-Hill) - 3:23
10.So Long (Allen Toussaint) - 3:08

*John Barbata - Drums
*Chris Ethridge - Bass, Vocals
*Joel Scott Hill - Guitar, Vocals
*Robert Guseus - Percussion
*Booker T. Jones - Organ
*Clydie King - Vocals
*Sneaky Pete Kleinow - Pedal Steel
*Larry Knechtel - Organ
*Spooner Oldham - Piano
*Leon Russell - Piano
*John Sebastian - Harmonica
*The Blackberries - Vocals
*Dr. John - Piano
*Clarence White - Guitar

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Heron - Diamond Of Dreams (1977 excellent prog rock with epic folk tones, 2019 remaster with extra track)

The re-named "Mike Heron's Reputation", now Heron hit the shelves in '77 with Diamond of Dreams, which stands as one of Mike Heron's most mature and gratifying works. Mike Heron more known for his works with The Incredible String Band shifts more towards a more rocky side than his earlier folk days. This album stands out as one of the great forgotten rock albums, full of inventiveness and wonderful song writing. Originally released on the famous Bronze label Talking Elephant are pleased to have this release plus a bonus track and all remastered for 2019.

1. Are You Going To Hear The Music - 5:12
2. Don't Kill It Carol - 4:29
3. Do It Yourself - Desert Song - 7:03
4. Redbone - 5:00
5. Trim Up Your Love Light - 3:54
6. Draw Back The Veil - 4:40
7. Stranded In Iowa - 6:10
8. Diamond Of Dreams - 7:01
9. Baby Goodnight - 5:39
Words and Music by Mike Heron
Bonus track 9

*Mike Heron - Vocals, Guitar
*Mike Tomich - Bass
*Malcolm Le Maistre - Vocals
*John Gilston - Drums
*Frank Usher - Lead Guitar
*Dave Sams - Drums
*David Barker - Keyboards

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Colosseum - Live In Montreux (1969 uk, remarkable prog experimental jazz blues rock, 2020 digi pak)


Following their successful appearance here on the Golden Rose TV Festival in April 1969, the band was invited back to play the Montreux Jazz Festival in June to a more youthful audience. The hot sunny weather saw the boys play an impromptu afternoon matinee by the pool, which culminated in a topless Dick Heckstall-Smith diving in to cool down! During that time bootlegs were a big part of the scene.

1. January's Search (Dave Greenslade, Jon Hiseman) - 6:56
2. February's Valentyne (Dave Greenslade, Jon Hiseman) - 4:21
3. Beware the Ides of March (Dave Greenslade, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Jon Hiseman, Tony Reeves) - 6:47
4. Mandarin (Dave Greenslade, Tony Reeves) - 9:03
5. Butty's Blues (James Litherland) - 10:23
6. The Time Machine (Jon Hiseman) - 6:03

*Dave Greenslade - Organ, Vibraphone, Piano
*Dick Heckstall-Smith - Saxophones
*Jon Hiseman - Drums
*James Litherland - Guitar, Vocals
*Tony Reeves - Bass Guitar

1969 Colosseum - Valentyne Suite (2004 deluxe expanded edition) 
1969  Colosseum - Those Who Are About To Die Salute You (2004 remaster and expanded)
1970  Colosseum - Daughter Of Time (remaster with bonus track)
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1969  Sweet Pain - Sweet Pain
1969  Jack Bruce - Songs For A Tailor (expanded edition)
1970  Keef Hartley Band - Overdog (extra track remaster edition)
1970  Mogul Thrash - Mogul Thrash
1970 Chris Farlowe With The Hill - From Here To Mama Rosa (2010 Flawed Gems extra tracks remaster)
1972  Dick Heckstall Smith - A Story Ended (2006 Japan Remaster)
1973  Tempest - Tempest
1973-82  Bob Theil - So Far...

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Charge - Charge (1973 uk, stunning hard acid psych downer blues rock, 2013 xpanded eition)

Some treasures take a while to reveal themselves. When South Coast-based underground heavy rock trio Charge decided to record a 99-copies-only demo album at the beginning of 1973, sadly it failed to set in motion a chain of events that would culminate in fame, fortune and all manner of rock star excess. Instead, the album was ignored by the major record companies to whom copies were sent. Though they never recorded again, the band continued to play the local live circuit for a further couple of years before calling it a day after the tragic death of their drummer, Pete Gibbons. That terrible event seemed to represent the final chapter in the brief and highly obscure Charge story - just another local rock band who'd achieved a measure of regional popularity, enjoyed some good times and been left with numerous fond memories, but were destined to remain completely unknown by the wider world.

And that's the way it was until the best part of two decades later, when a  battered copy of the band's album was sold at a car boot fair for the price of a few pennies. Serendipitously falling into the hands of an individual who was looking to start a reissue record label specializing in obscure late Sixties/early Seventies rock and folk albums, the Charge LP was deemed to fit the bill perfectly. No attempt was made to trace the band: instead, the composer credits that had been on the original LP were removed, one song title that may have given a clue as to the band's whereabouts was altered, and an additional track was artificially created by a crude remix of elements from the side-long suite 'Child Of Nations'. Housed in an irrelevant 17th Century art print, the album was offered to the public for the first time {the original 1973 pressing had never been commercially available}. Only pressed at this stage on vinyl, the album obviously only reached a very limited number of people - mainly early Seventies progressive rock enthusiasts who were hankering after a new thrill. But sales were considered to be good enough to justify a CD release, which appeared in 1995. This version removed the 1992 remix track and was housed in a slightly different detail of the same painting, with a sleeve note that consisted of Tolstoy extracts and an anonymous, jingoistic note on the back cover about "the genius of the British race'.' 

Despite the fact that the demo album they had recorded in their youth was now on sale in both vinyl and CD formats, the surviving members of Charge - guitarist/singer Dave Ellis and bassist Ian MacLaughlin – remained blissfully unaware of the fact. Until, that is, one day in 2010, when Ian decided on a whim to visit a record fair for the first (and, thus far, last) time. Flicking in a distracted manner through the vinyl racks, he was surprised to find an album by a group who shared the same name as his early Seventies band. He was even more taken aback when he turned over the front cover to discover from the song titles that it was actually the album that he, Dave and Pete had recorded in a Luton demo studio nearly forty years earlier. And even that was nothing compared to the surprise he got when, on telling the stall-holder that he was a member of the band who'd recorded it, he discovered that it would cost him £15 to buy a bootleg pressing of his own album...

But everything happens for a reason (or so they say) - and here we are, o that original demo alburn's 40th anniversary, with the first-ever authorized reissue of the Charge LR Furthermore, it transpires that, twelve months before they'd recorded that alburn, a previous incarnation of Charge – at that point called Baby Bertha - had cut an even more limited (just 50 copies) album at the same derno studio. Another fearsome slab of early 1970s bluesy hard rock, the Baby Bertha LP has now been included in its entirety as a bonus offering on this new and definitive version of the Charge album... finally available legitimately after all these years.

Charge and Baby Bertha had their late Sixties roots in  areham, a Hampshire market town situated between the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth. In mid-1969, guitarist and singer Dave Ellis formed his first band, Relative, since returning from overseas, where he'd been a serving member of the British army. With a name inspired by Family (who'd been thinly disguised as Relative in Jenny Fabian's notorious novel Groupie], the band were primarily a product of the British blues rock boom that had sprung up over the previous year or two. Personnel changes were fairly frequent, with Dave Ellis the only real constant until the arrival of bassist Ian MacLaughlin. The two men would strike up a personal and musical rapport that, more than forty years later, continues to endure.

In late 1971, Relative gave way to Baby Bertha, whose line-up was Dave Ellis (guitar, vocals), Roger 'Prof Perry (rhythm guitar), Ian MacLaughlin (bass) and Des Law (drums). By now Dave had been writing songs for some time, and the band decided to make a demo album to showcase their live sound. In January 1972, they booked some time at SRT Studios, a Luton-based operation who advertised in Melody Maker. Playing live in the studio, Baby Bertha cut nine tracks: a mean and moody version of Fleetwood Mac's 'Looking For Somebody' was joined by a playful cover of the Fats Domino chestnut 'Blueberry Hill', but the remaining seven songs were original Dave Ellis compositions. Several tracks - most obviously 'Blues ForYou', 'The Struggle' and the Chicken Shack-style 'Lost My Woman' - confirmed that Baby Bertha were still essentially a heavy blues band, but the likes of 'Song For The Nights' and the thunderous closing track 'Can You? Will You?' suggested a gradual shift to Led Zeppelin/Deep Purple/Free-inspired hard rock territory. There were even occasional hints of a commercial sensibility, with 'Goodbye Good-Day' and 'Now You're Out Of My Life' boasting as many radio-friendly pop hooks and melodic ideas as anything that Slade were doing at the time.

Charge still stands as one of the buried treasures of the early Seventies British underground scene. Notwithstanding the fluff-on-the-needle production, there's a vitality and rawness to the album that suggests that Charge must have been a sensational live band. The opening track, 'Glory Boy From Whipsnade' (truncated to 'Glory Boy' on those unauthorised reissues), is a perfect encapsulation of the band's sound, with Dave's Lemmy esque vocals to the fore over a maelstrom of Hendrix-esque, hard-riffing downer rock. (Some forty years later, Dave has no idea why he referenced Whipsnade in the title - although, given that Whipsnade Zoo was just a few miles down the road from SRT, it's entirely likely that he simply saw the name and liked it when the band were travelling to or from the studio.)

Side One of the Charge album was completed by To My Friends' and 'Rock My Soul' - two further superb slabs of heavy progressive rock which confirm that, in addition to the band's extraordinary blend of power and swagger, they also boasted an outstanding songwriter in Dave Ellis. They also had a greater sense of ambition than many of their rivals, as can be heard on the epic anti-war song suite that took up Side Two of the album. Clearly inspired by Dave's time in the army, 'Soldiers', 'Battles' and 'Child Of Nations' could easily have fallen into the trap of maudlin sentimentality or awkward crassness, but they retain a sureness of touch that's bolstered by the band's sheer instrumental energy and drive.

All that, of course, is an outsider's point of view, delivered some forty years after the album was made. At the time of the recording, the band felt it to be a deeply unworthy document of their live sound, while they were also aware that the total running time of about thirty minutes was a bit on the miserly side (apparently they briefly considered re-recording a couple of tunes from the Baby Bertha LP simply to flesh out the LP, but in the end decided against it). Whereas Baby Bertha had been limited to 50 copies, Charge was pressed in a total quantity of 99 copies (100 or more would have left the band liable for Purchase Tax, the forerunner of VAT), though once again the albums were manufactured without any outer sleeves. As with the Baby Bertha set, a few copies went to family and friends, while the remainder were despatched to record companies in what proved to be a vain attempt at earning a recording contract.

Although record company interest wasn't forthcoming, Charge did become a very popular live band on the South Coast, building up a sizeable fan-base in the two or three years that they were active. However, tragedy struck in mid 1975 when Pete Gibbons - still only 25 years old at the time - suffered a fatal asthma attack. Crushed by the death of a dear friend and a great musician, Dave and Ian couldn't even contemplate continuing the band without him, and Charge were also laid to rest.

Both Dave and Ian went on to play in numerous other bands, but we leave the Charge story at that point. As already mentioned, it took a bootleg release in the early Nineties to belatedly bring their music to a slightly wider audience than it received during the band's lifetime. Hopefully this first-ever legitimate issue of the Charge album, coupled with its previously-unknown-to-exist predecessor, will widen that net still further. After all, music this good really does deserve to reach as many people as possible...
by David Wells, October 2013

1. Glory Boy From Whipsnade - 4:02
2. To My Friends - 5:04
3. Rock My Soul - 3:45
4. Child Of Nations - 16:54
5. Looking For Somebody - 4:28
6. Goodbye Good-Day - 4:18
7. Lost My Woman - 2:29
8. The Struggle - 5:06
9. Song For The Nights - 5:03
10.Blues For You - 3:37
11.Now You're Out Of My Life - 2:39
12.Blueberry Hill - 1:53
13.Can You? Will You? - 4:18
All songs by Dave Ellis except track #5 by Peter Green
Tracks 5 - 13 as Baby Bertha

*Dave Ellis - Vocals, Guitars, Vox 
*Ian McLaughlin - Bass  
*Pete Gibbons - Drums

Baby Bertha
*Dave Ellis - Vocals, Guitars
*Ian McLaughlin - Bass  
*Roger "Prof" Perry - Rhythm Guitar
*Des Law - Drums