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Plain and Fancy

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

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. 

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

*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

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

*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

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. 

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

*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

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.

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

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

*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

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

*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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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Paul Pena - New Train (1973 us / cape verde, magnificent melt of funky blues folk psych classic rock, 2000 release)

Paul Pena came from a Cape Verdean background and learned the Afro-Portuguese music of those islands, including morna. His musician father also sent him to Spain and Portugal to study flamenco. He began to get interested in blues, though. Because of the folk movement in the '60s, he managed to work his way up and sideways, and started to to play with T-Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker. He released a solo album on Capitol in 1972 which did fairly well critically, if not commercially. He moved to San Francisco and began opening gigs for the Grateful Dead. All the while, Pena was impressing many of the musicians with whom he came in contact. He began work on a second album in 1973, but mismanagement conspired to keep it from ever being released. Among the special guests on the album are Jerry Garcia, Merle Saunders, Ben Sidran, and The Persuasions. 

Produced by Ben Sidran (Steve Miller, Mose Allison), New Train is being released after its sudden discovery among Pena's personal possessions. Among the songs on the album is the track "Jet Airliner" which was originally penned and sung by Pena and later was a hit for the Steve Miller Band in the 1970s. Performing on the album is the late Jerry Garcia who played the pedal steel guitar on "Venutian Lady" and "Taking Your Love Down." Merle Saunders played keyboards on "Venutian Lady" and "New Train" and R&B greats The Persuasions sang background vocals on "Gonna Move" and "Let's Move and Groove." 

Pena, who was born blind and is currently suffering from a terminal illness, studied the piano, guitar, upright bass, violin, and "a little trumpet." Cutting his teeth in coffee houses in and around New England he was soon playing the Newport Folk Festival with such artists as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Kris Kristofferson. As his career furthered, he began playing with B.B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Bonnie Raitt. He eventually decided to relocate to San Francisco, where he recorded and released an album on Capitol Records and began working with T-Bone Walker. 

Raitt says of Pena, "I've loved Paul and his music since I used to open gigs for him in Worcester, MA thirty years ago. He was then as he is now, one of the most extraordinarily gifted singers, guitarists and songwriters I've ever heard. It was like finding my very own Jimi Hendrix - there's simply nothing he can't play well. Long deserving of wider recognition, I'm glad the film Genghis Blues exposed the rest of the world to his genius. But the real cause for celebration is the long overdue release of his extraordinary album - Paul is a treasure. One of the most unique and soulful artists you'll ever hear." 

As the subject of the Academy Award nominated documentary Genghis Blues, Pena first heard Tuvan throat singing, a technique in which a singer produces two or three tones simultaneously, in 1984 and soon taught himself the difficult vocal techniques and language. After meeting performer Kongar-ol Ondar in 1993, Paul was invited to perform at the second international Khoomei Symposium and contest held in the capital - Kyzyl, Tuva and won the contest in the Kargyraa division as well as the "audience favorite" category. 

In an article published in 1973 by The Times (MA), Pena is "reminiscent of a young Jimi Hendrix, a dramatic and stylized guitar player. His voice has a touch of pain, humor, and loneliness that is characteristic of a folk singer. Pena is his own master and this becomes readily apparent as he eases through his intense compositions. Pena is a musician's musician." Touching people wherever he goes, Pena was named "San Francisco's Tuvan Blues Ambassador" and July 11, 1999 was declared "Paul Pena Day" by the mayor.  Paul Pena passed away on October 4th 2005, due to complications of diabetes and pancreatitis.
by Julie Lichtenstein

1. Gonna Move - 4:31
2. New Train - 4:54
3. Jet Airliner - 5:42
4. Wait On What You Want - 3:29
5. Venutian Lady - 4:43
6. Cosmic Mirror - 5:24
7. Let's Move And Groove Together - 4:13
8. Indian Boy - 4:38
9. A Bit Of All Right - 3:44
10.Taking Your Love Down - 2:53
All Music and Lyrics by Paul Pena

*Paul Pena - Guitar, Piano,Vocals
*Ben Sidran - Piano,Organ
*Harvey Brooks - Bass Guitar
*Gary Mallaber - Drums,Percussion
*Jerry Garcia - Pedal Steel Guitar (Tracks 2, 5)
*Merl Saunders - Keyboards (Tracks 2, 5)
*The Persuasions - Background Vocals (Track 1)
*Charles Greene - Background Vocals (Track 7)
*Arthur Adams - Guitar (Track 9)
*Dave Woodward - Saxophone (Track 6)
*Nick Decaro - Arranged Strings
*The Funky Ladies - Background Vocals

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Wings - Wings (1968 us, marvelous folk sunny psych, 2018 korean remaster)

The American folk-rock group Wings -- not to be confused with Paul McCartney's 1970's-era band -- is one of the more enigmatic recording outfits of their era, partly owing to the fact that although they managed to cut an entire album, nowhere on its packaging were any credits or other information about the group, just a photo. They were actually an off-shoot of Spanky & Our Gang and the Serendipity Singers, with members who had played in the early incarnations of groups such as the Jefferson Airplane and who would later go on to work with bands such as Mountain. 

The group initially came together as a trio consisting of Oz Bach (ex-Spanky & Our Gang), Pam Robins (ex-Serendipity Singers, and Eddie Simon, but the latter was subsequently replaced by guitarist/singer Jim Mason (co-author of the Peter, Paul & Mary hit "I Dig Rock And Roll Music"). Their line-up was rounded out by keyboard player Steve Knight, lead guitarist Jack McNichol, and drummer Jerry Peloquin. The group spent most of late 1967 and a big chunk of 1968 performing, and got to play as the opening act behind bands like Big Brother & The Holding Company, and got a recording contract with ABC-Dunhill Records -- at the time, they seemed like a potential successor to the Mamas & The Papas, especially once producer Steve Barri heard Pam Robins' powerful vocals. 

Despite a nicely honed sound and a year of work together, however, the group never got their act together or their signals straight; even the selection of the name "Wings" was sheer serendipity, after an extended period of disagreement, a suggestion by one of Jim Mason's friends. The finished album, produced by Steve Barri -- who, with his backgound as a member/producer of the Grass Roots, knew a thing or two about the folk-rock sound -- never sounded as good as it might have, reportedly due, in part, to the way that it was mastered, and they were unable to agree on a direction or a sound to emphasize when it came time to tour behind it. 

Despite some minimal success for the song "General Bringdown", the LP and the group vanished into history -- Peloquin, who had played with the Jefferson Airplane in its earliest days, continued working into the 1970's with various bands before giving up music, and Steve Knight later played with Mountain, while Oz Bach, who passed away in 1998, went on to form Tarantula and to a career as an actor and filmmaker. Paul McCartney later picked up on the group's name for his own uses, which has resulted in the occasional spectacle of unknowing vinyl enthusiasts finding the American group Wings' self-titled album and thinking they may have latched on to a McCartney-related rarity. Their sound was actually closer to that of the Mamas & The Papas or the Stone Poneys. 
by Bruce Eder

1. See Someone Hangin' (Oz Bach) - 4:11
2. That's Not Real (Jim Mason, Pam Robins) - 3:30
3. General Bringdown (Jim Mason, Oz Bach, Jack McNichol) - 2:34
4. First Time Is The Last (Oz Bach) - 3:04
5. What Do I Know (Jim Mason) - 2:43
6. Pretty Little Girl (Oz Bach) - 3:48
7. Takin' It Lazy (Oz Bach) - 3:09
8. Shrinking Violet (Jim Mason, Felix Pappalardi, Gail Collins) - 2:09
9. Different Kind Of Woman (Pam Robins, Seth Evans, Joe Piazza) - 2:43
10.Changes (Keep Coming About) (Oz Bach) - 2:26
11.Give Me Your Love (Jim Mason) - 2:14

*Paul "Oz" Bach - Bass, Vocals
*Jim Mason - Guitar, Vocals
*Pam Robins - Vocals
*Jack McNichol - Lead Guitar
*Steve Knight  - Keyboards
*Jerry Peloquin - Drums

Related Act
1966-70  Spanky And Our Gang - The Complete Mercury Recordings (2006 four discs box set) 

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Marc Ellington - Marc Time (1975 uk, splendid country folk classic rock, 2011 bonus tracks remasters)

I like the way how Marc Ellington approaches his songs and choices, Sandy Roberton's flawless production, great song adaptations, excellent musicians, and beautiful sound collages, which makes it possible for Marc Ellington  to embody and interpret the songs perfectly by smartly slipping from traditional country to folk and blues into straight rock tunes.

His 5th album titled "Marc Time" released 1975, -with contributions from some of the U K's top session players-, stands out the powerful "Ad Man", the self penned (along with Sandy) guitar acid funk "You Just Can't Believe What You See", the blues killer "Stealin" and the beautiful country song "Streets Of Baltimore", written by Harlan Howard, Tompall Glaser -first covered by Bobby Bare-, in any case the whole album moves in high level.

1. Wild About My Lovin' (Traditional) - 3:29
2. The Answer Is You (Marc Ellington, Sandy Roberton, Paul Kent) - 3:16
3. Stealin' (Traditional) - 2:43
4. Streets Of Baltimore (Harlan Howard, Tompall Glaser) - 2:46
5. Ad Man (Marc Ellington, Sandy Roberton) - 2:11
6. I Miss The Mississippi And You (Bill Halley) - 2:46
7. Shady Lies (Richard Thompson) - 2:34
8. Borrowing Time (Chris Hillman, Joe Lala) - 2:14
9. Close The Door (Sandy Roberton, Paul Kent) - 2:49
10.You Just Can't Believe What You See (Marc Ellington, Sandy Roberton) - 3:46
11.Anyday Woman (Paul Siebel) - 2:11
12.Peggy Gordo (Traditional) - 3:18

*Marc Ellington - Vocals, Guitar
*BJ Cole - Dobro, Steel Guitar
*Jerry Donahue - Electric Guitar
*Dave Mattacks - Drums
*Gerry Conway - Drums
*Roger Swallow - Drums
*Timmy Donald - Drums
*Pat Donaldson - Bass
*Sandy Robertson - Acoustic Guitar
*Simon Nicol - Acoustic Guitar
*Steve Ashley - Harmonica
*David Richards - Piano
*Ian Whiteman - Piano
*Tony Cox - Strings
*Katie Kissoon - Vocals
*Richard Thompson - Vocals
*Linda Thompson - Vocals
*Mac Kissoon - Vocals

1969  Marc Ellington - Marc Ellington (2009 korean remaster)
1971  Marc Ellington ‎- Rains-Reins Of Changes (2004 remaster)
1972  Marc Ellington - A Question Of Roads (2010 korean remaster)
1972  Marc Ellington - Restoration (2011 remasters)

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