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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blood, Sweat And Tears - Child Is Father To The Man (1968 us, jazz blues brass rock masterpiece, 2000 bonus tracks edition, 2014 audio fidelity and 2016 SACD)

This album is unique. More precisely, it is the first of its kind — a music that takes elements of rock, jazz, straight blues, R&B, classical music and almost anything else you could mention and combines them into a sound of its own that is "popular" without being the least bit wattered down.

That Blood, Sweat and Tears is a band and not merely a melange whose diverse constituents (a trumpet player from Maynard Ferguson's college-dance-and-concert big band, a drummer who has gigged with Eric Anderson and whose elder brother is Thelonious Monk's personal manager, several young white New York jazz horn men who were technologically unemployed by the New Thing revolution and physically unemployed by the shrinkage of available nightclub and record jobs, an L.A. bass player out of the Mothers of Invention and a pair of old Blues Project-ers) are at war with each other is greatly to the credit of Al Kooper, its organist, pianist, vocalist, arranger and general head honcho Child is even more complex than that, what with the addition of a string section, a "soul chorus" and asorted sound effects on several of the cuts. But Kooper and the other musicians involved knew the sound they were after, and having achieved it, they kept the effects strictly secondary.

Two of the songs, "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" and "Somethin' Goin' On" are very nearly perfect, self-contained masterpieces. Both written by the leader, they are extremely bluesy, but without the credibility gap that afflicts almost all white blues performances. This is because these are Al Kooper's blues, Blood, Sweat and Tears' blues and not anyone else's, not Robert Johnson's or B. B. King's or Wilson Pickett's blues or, on the other side, Hank Miller's blues — just as "She Belong to Me" is Bob Dylan's blues and Gerry Mulligan playing "Blueport" is the blues, and those are two pale cats. They are big city blues, New York blues, too much happening blues, they are the blues used as a frame for deeply felt experiences and that's what the form, any form, is all about anyway. If you use it your way.

Musically these cuts are tight where they should be tight, loose etc. What they do is swing, a term or honorable antecedents (see Duke Ellington) that is too little heard these days. For a working definition Fred Lipsius's alto solos are more than just adequate; they are, quite frankly, better saxophone playing or just plain better anything playing than one would expect to hear on a rock and roll record. Lipsius blows right up to the limits of the form and even makes them bulge a little, but he neither pierces nor transcends them. He doesn't need to and it is doubtful that he wants to. What he sets out to do is play the blues, and a booting, exciting pair of blues solos they are.

It would have been a minor miracle if the entire album had maintained that level. Most of it is merely very good. Steve Katz's vocals, and his choice of material does nothing to minimize the dull graininess of his voice: Tim Buckley's "Morning Glory" and Katz's own "Meagan's Gypsy Eyes" are the two folkiest songs on the record. They make pretty limp vehicles for the horn section — and why did Kooper and Lipsius chose to frame "Morning Glory" with the corniest kind of Ferguson over-arranged opening and closing riffs? Probably this, like the animal sound effects, will be forgotten by the time they record again.
by Rolling Stone,  April 27, 1968

1. Overture (Kooper) - 1:32
2. I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know (Kooper) - 5:57
3. Morning Glory (Larry Beckett, Tim Buckley) - 4:16
4. My Days Are Numbered (Kooper) - 3:19
5. Without Her (Harry Nilsson) - 2:41
6. Just One Smile (Randy Newman) - 4:38
7. I Can't Quit Her (Kooper, Levine) - 3:38
8. Meagan's Gypsy Eyes (Steve Katz) - 3:24
9. Somethin' Goin' On (Kooper) - 8:00
10.House In The Country (Kooper) - 3:04
11.The Modern Adventures Of Plato, Diogenes And Freud (Kooper) - 4:12
12.So Much Love/Underture (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) - 4:47
13.Refugee From Yuhupitz (Instrumental) (Al Kooper) - 3:45
14.I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know (Album Version) (Al Kooper) - 5:54
15.The Modern Adventures Of Plato, Diogenes And Freud (Album Version) (Al Kooper) - 4:48
Bonus Tracks 13-15

Blood, Sweat And Tears
 * Randy Brecker - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
 * Bobby Colomby - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
 * Jim Fielder - Bass Guitar, Fretless Bass Guitar
 * Dick Halligan - Trombone
 * Steve Katz - Guitar, Lute, Vocals
 * Al Kooper - Organ, Piano, Ondioline, Vocals
 * Fred Lipsius - Piano, Alto Saxophone
 * Jerry Weiss - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Vocals
Guest Musicians
 * Anahid Ajemian - Violin
 * Fred Catero - Sound Effects
 * Harold Coletta - Viola
 * Paul Gershman - Violin
 * Al Gorgoni - Organ, Guitar, Vocals
 * Manny Green - Violin
 * Julie Held - Violin
 * Doug James - Shaker
 * Harry Katzman - Violin
 * Leo Kruczek - Violin
 * Harry Lookofsky - Violin
 * Charles Mccracken - Cello
 * Melba Moorman - Choir, Chorus
 * Gene Orloff - Violin
 * Valerie Simpson - Choir, Chorus
 * Alan Schulman - Cello
 * John Simon - Organ, Piano, Conductor, Cowbell
 * The Manny Vardi Strings

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Iron Butterfly - Ball (1969 us, great 3rd album, 2006 japan SHM remastered)

During the progressive music revolution in the late 60s, one of the most surprising successes was that of Iron Butterfly. The band was formed by Doug Ingle, who added Ron Bushy, Lee Dorman and briefly, Danny Weiss. Together, they were arguably the first to amalgamate the terms 'heavy' and 'rock', following the release of their debut album called "Heavy" in 1968.

Later that same year, Weis left the band and guitarist Erik Braunn stepped in. When Iron Butterfly relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles, the band started to gain a live following and soon was gigging with the likes of The Doors and Jefferson Airplane.

Ball, - which surpassed "Vida", was less of a success, despite being a better collection of songs, notably the invigorating 'It Must Be Love' and the more subtle 'Soul Experience',  turning "Gold" record, climbed to No. 1 and remained on the charts for 44 weeks.

1. In the Time of Our Lives (Ingle, Bushy) - 4:46
2. Soul Experience (Ingle, Bushy, Brann, Dorman) - 2:50
3. Lonely Boy (Ingle) - 5:05
4. Real Fright  (Ingle, Bushy, Brann) - 2:40
5. In the Crowds (Ingle, Dorman) - 2:12
6. It Must Be Love (Ingle) - 4:23
7. Her Favorite Style  (Ingle) - 3:11
8. Filled With Fear (Ingle) - 3:23
9. Belda-Beast  (Brann) - 5:46

Iron Butterfly
* Doug Ingle - Organs, Lead Vocals
* Erik Brann - Lead Guitar, Vocals
* Lee Dorman - Bass, Vocals
* Ron Bushy - Drums

More Iron Butterflies
1968 Iron Butterfly - Heavy (Japan SHM)
1968 Iron Butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (2009 japan SHM remaster)
1970 Iron Butterfly - Metamorphosis (Japan SHM) 
1974-75 Iron Butterfly - Scorching Beauty / Sun and Steel

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Comin` Thru (1972 us, superb classic rock with psych drops, 2012 Audiophile mini LP replica)

A band known for their formation during the sixties with helping the onset of the psychedelic scene, Quicksilver Messenger Service’s seventh album (first with keyboard player Chuck Steaks), Comin’ Thru is brain child of guitarists Dino Valente and Gary Duncan. Although the band’s most notable albums such as their self-titled album (1968) and Happy Trails (1969) show progressive notions of San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, Comin’ Thru shows more of the band’s musical influences of blues, jazz and folk. This album doesn’t follow a typical Quicksilver song montage of jamming then losing your mind for an allotted amount of time, but don’t get me wrong, it holds true to the psychedelic rock ideas of say the Dead or Jefferson Airplane.

The album’s front runner, Doing Time in the U.S.A., a song chronicling different themes regarding the law being broken has an almost Dicky Betts southern rock feel to it. Doing Time in the U.S.A. has somewhat of an ode to the Rolling Stones when Dino Valente recites in his most Jagger-esque voice, “…I can’t get no, satisfaction;” this being ironic seeing as how the band’s former organist, Nicky Hopkins, was doing work with the Rolling Stones at the time. Whether or not this is an actual response to the Stones classic is unknown, but in a genre where underlying song connections run wild, one can only imagine. 

Quicksilver’s jazz influences are recognizable within moments of the first horn solos found on Chicken. Sonny Lewis (saxophone) and Pat O’hara lay down a dueling solo of lows and highs that make this soulful jam extremely tight. As always twang blues guitar riffs are found throughout, most present on Mojo and Changes. Mojo, a song about what else than a man’s swagger, libido, has that psychedelic song formation found in their earlier albums. Ending the song via a line-up of solo’s starting from guitar to trumpet to bass then on to keyboard the band obtains a type of “jam feeling” usually only found in live performances. Stressing the difference between this album and their popular titles is the production of keyboard player Chuck Steaks. His approach to keyboard is much more up tempo and “wild” compared to a more classically trained Mark Naftalin. 

The albums organ solo’s reflect this greatly with a Bernie Worell style to them, most recognizable on Doing Time in the U.S.A and Don’t Lose It. Many regard Comin’ Thru as a lesser work of Quicksilver Messenger Service since the band would fall apart near the end of the decade and many of the original members were not part of the album’s production (John Cippollina, David Friedberg & Jim Murray). 

An album that holds two sides of the love, hate spectrum: Some feel the horn work is used to compensate for a less talented band, then others feel it was innovative thinking (the band looking for a new sound). Some feel as though the use of a less classically trained pianist was by default (due to the band is disarray), while others feel it adds an element unknown style (coming from the school of thought that, the less classically trained you are, the more unique your style is). Let’s not hang signs, just listen.

1. Doin' Time in the U.S.A.  (Gary Duncan) 4:15
2. Chicken (Traditional, Arrangement by Dino Valenti) 4:03
3. Changes (Dino Valenti) 4:15
4. California State Correctional Facility Blues  (Dino Valenti, Gary Duncan, Greg Elmore, Chuck Steaks) 6:10
5. Forty Days  (ino Valenti, Gary Duncan, Greg Elmore) 5:31
6. Mojo  (Dino Valenti) 5:34
7. Don't Lose It  (Dino Valenti, Gary Duncan) 5:57

* Dino Valenti – Vocals, Guitar, Congas
* Gary Duncan – Guitar, Vocals
* Greg Elmore – Drums
* Chuck Steaks – Organ
* Mark Ryan – Bass
Guest Musicians
* Ken Balzell – Trumpet
* Dalton Smith – Trumpet
* Bud Brisbois – Trumpet
* Pat O'Hara – Trombone
* Charles C. Loper – Trombone
* Sonny Lewis – Saxophone
* Donald Menza – Saxophone

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Iron Butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968 us, classic album, 2009 japan SHM remastered)

Iron Butterfly are a fluke in the music world. Their sound is one thing and another all at once. Basically, they're psychedelic, with creepy classical Vox organ by Doug Ingle, Middle Eastern influenced guitar by Erik Brann, a nd tribal drums by Ron Bushy. But there's also a hard edge to it, which explains why the album has been cited as a big influence on heavy metal.

Their winding instrumental breaks also inspired Black Sabbath and the like as well. There's also a slight pop feel, close to bubblegum on "Flowers And Beads," sort of a hippie take on those classic '60s Dion/Righteous Brothers sort of thing. Mainly, it's all mystique and trippy soundscapes.  Sound quality is pretty good. Except for "Termination," the songs were written by vocalist/organist Doug Ingle.

For this album, he crafted love songs, and dreamy tales of exploration. "Mirage," a tribute to a friend just passed, is one of the best. "Termination," inspired by Greek myths, is by far the most colorful, though. All in all, not bad.  In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was Iron Butterfly's second album. Vocalist/organist Doug Ingle and drummer Ron Buhsy are joined by newcomers Lee Dorman and guitarist Erik Brann, the latter adding great depth to their sound. "Most Anything You Want" is a great fun opener, "Termination" is a psychedelic classic, and "Mirage" is just dreamy.

But as we all know, the best song is the title track, that great 17-minute finale with wild solos and all kinds of metal-prophesying arrangements. It made them famous and remains one of the best moments of the late 1960s. This is Iron Butterfly's most important album, and includes their most important song. It's a gas.
by Avram Fawcett

1. Most Anything You Want - 3:44
2. Flowers and Beads - 3:09
3. My Mirage - 4:55
4. Termination (Brann, Dorman) - 2:53
5. Are You Happy - 4:31
6. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" - 17:05
All songs written by Doug Ingle, except where noted

Iron Butterfly
*Doug Ingle - Organ, Vocals.
*Erik Brann - Guitars, Vocals
*Lee Dorman - Bass Guitar, Background Vocals
*Ron Bushy - Drums, Percussion

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Humble Pie - Rock On (1971 uk, superb classic hard blues rock, 2000 Rebound and 2007 japan remaster)

Everybody agrees that Rock On is one of the Pie's better moments, if not the best one. On this album the band really proves why in the early Seventies it was considered one of Britain's greatest R'n'B outfits. They are becoming thoroughly Americanized by this time, much more so than their principal concurrents, the Faces: country, blues and bluegrass influences are all over this album, but Steve Marriott adds to everything his impeccable vocal stylizations, really bothering to sing and, okay, maybe 'articulate' instead of just barking and shouting his way through all the songs. And the band shows itself a tight and compact unit; not as tight as the Stones, but I don't blame them for that. I mean, none of the songs ever really fall apart or degenerate into noisy bummers; Shirley's drumming is tight enough to prevent them from doing that, but loose enough to give the band some opportunities for improvised jamming. Meanwhile, Marriott tosses out crunchy, awesome riffs, Frampton blasts the house to pieces with magnificent leads, and occasional guests, like Bobby Keyes on sax, provide great embellishments as well.

The heavy tracks should be played really loud in order to feel their power, especially the monstruous jam 'Stone Cold Fever' - a track after listening to which I hardly understand the need for Aerosmith's existence on the planet. Marriott howls out the 'paleolithic' lyrics like a prime caveman while beating the shit out of his guitar, Frampton gives out an impressive impersonation of Santana, and the track ends with a little guitar heaven as both play that generic, but unbeatable riff in unison. There's also a terrific cover of Howlin' Wolf's 'Rollin' Stone', heavily recommended for all heavy lovers of heavy blues; Steve's singing on that one is magnificent, a prime example of 'putting the soul and spirit into the blues', and Frampton really intrigues me with his playing on that one. The solo part is awesome once you listen to it in headphones; Wilson & Alroy were right in comparing Frampton with Page on that one - he plays the same barrages of echoey, flashing licks that distinguish Page's work on Led Zep's best album (the first one), and that's a fantastic listening experience.

However, the album is diverse enough, and it's not just the heaviest numbers that make the grade. Many subgenres of roots-rock are tackled in many interesting ways, some of which are quite unique. Okay, maybe 'A Song For Jenny' isn't too unique, but you can't get away from the fact that the main acoustic melody of it is just as memorable as it is gorgeous, which is only proved for the fact that McCartney later nicked that same acoustic riff for his pretty ballad 'Mama's Little Girl' - be it intentionally or subconsciously, it really doesn't matter.

But what about '79th And Sunset'? I love that song, and, shame on me, I even like the misogynistic lyrics. They rank among the most interesting misogynistic lyrics I've ever witnessed, by the way. How about this: 'Well this yellow haired snake sits snug as a bug/Got more angle than a toby jug/Star lock hair pins, honey has faults/Shows her legs when opportunity knocks/Underneath her red sweater/She's a big-deal go-getter/There'll be some dramas inside your pajamas tonight'. And I could go on, too, but I won't, because I'm not here to give away the lyrics. Instead, I'll just say that the saloon piano is tremendously tasty, Marriott's tongue-in cheek intonations are hilarious, and the doo-woppy backing vocals and Frampton's simplistic, but enthralling licks are absolutely endearing.

Frampton's main highlight on the record, a Bo Diddley stylization entitled 'The Light', is quite catchy as well; bassist Greg Ridley breaks in with an overtly stupid country rocker ('Big George'), highlighted by its own stupidity and Bobby Keyes' beautiful sax solo. And the magnum opus of the record is a really strange number appropriately called 'Strange Days' which begins its life as a piano-guitar fast jam before turning into an eerie chant about an FBI employee - three years before Mick Jagger took the theme and perfected it on 'Fingerprint File'. Again, Steve is the main hero, turning this into a real theatrical performance: his singing ranges from a shaky, trembly murmur to all-out screaming, and the song can get really scary at times.

I'm sure the record will keep on growing on me yet, like most prime R'n'B recordings do. There's probably nothing particularly great about it if one just disassembles it to individual pieces, but when all the elements of the band's 1971 style are taken together, this makes up for some truly great R'n'B and a style you certainly couldn't find anywhere else. Like I said, this is the vibe that Aerosmith were probably feeding on in the beginning of their career - they just made everything a wee bit heavier and faster and swapped the funny and interesting lyrics for idiotic ones. If you're a big Stones or Faces fan, try it, you'll like it.
by George Starostin

1. Shine On (Frampton) – 3:00
   2. Sour Grain (Frampton, Marriott) – 2:40
   3. 79th and Sunset (Marriott) – 3:01
   4. Stone Cold Fever (Ridley, Marriott, Shirley, Frampton) – 4:09
   5. Rollin' Stone (Muddy Waters) – 5:59
   6. A Song for Jenny (Marriott) – 2:35
   7. The Light (Frampton) – 3:15
   8. Big George (Ridley) – 4:08
   9. Strange Days (Humble Pie, words Marriott) – 6:36
  10.Red Neck Jump (Marriott) – 3:06

Humble Pie
*Steve Marriott - Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica
*Peter Frampton - Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
*Greg Ridley - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Jerry Shirley - Drums, Keyboards
Guest Musicians
*Alexis Korner - Vocals
*Bobby Keyes - Saxophone
*B.J. Cole - Pedal Steel Guitar
*P.P. Arnold - Backing Vocals
*Claudia Lennear - backing vocals
*Doris Troy - backing vocals

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Humble Pie - Town and Country (1969 uk, 2nd album, 2007 remastered with extra bonus tracks)

Anyone who thinks of Humble Pie solely in terms of their latter-day boogie rock will be greatly surprised with this, the band's second release, for it is almost entirely acoustic. There is a gently rocking cover of Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat," and a couple of electrified Steve Marriott numbers, but the overall feel is definitely more of the country than the town or city.

"The Sad Bag of Shaky Jake" is a typical Marriott country ditty, similar to those he would include almost as a token on each of the subsequent studio albums, and "Every Mother's Son" is structured as a folk tale. On "The Light of Love," Marriott even plays sitar. Peter Frampton's contributions here foreshadow the acoustic-based music he would make as a solo artist a few years later.

 As a whole, this is a crisp, cleanly recorded, attractive-sounding album, totally atypical of the Humble Pie catalog, but well worth a listen.
by Jim Newsom

1. Take Me Back (Frampton) - 4:52
2. The Sad Bag of Shaky Jake (Marriott) - 2:59
3. The Light of Love (Ridley) - 3:00
4. Cold Lady (Shirley) - 3:22
5. Down Home Again (Marriott) - 2:56
6. Ollie Ollie (Frampton, Jones, Marriott, Ridley, Shirley) - 0:50
7. Every Mother's Son (Marriott) - 5:42
8. Heartbeat (Montgomery, Petty) - 2:32
9. Only You Can See (Frampton) - 3:37
10.Silver Tongue (Marriott) - 3:20
11.Home and Away (Frampton, Ridley) - 5:54
12.Desperation (Kay) - 6:26
13.Stick Shift (Frampton) - 2:22
14.Buttermilk Boy (Marriott) - 4:21
15.As Safe as Yesterday Is (Frampton, Marriott) - 6:06
16.Bang! (Marriott) - 3:26
17.Alabama '69 (Marriott) - 6:59
18.Wrist Job (Marriott) - 4:16
19.Natural Born Bugie (Marriott) - 4:11

Humble Pie
* Greg Ridley - Bass, Vocals, Guitar, Tambourine
* Peter Frampton - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Spanish Guitar, Drums, Wurlitzer Piano
* Steve Marriott - Guitar, Vocals, Percussion, Piano, Marracaas, Drums
* Jerry Shirley - Drums, Percussion, Tambourine, Tablas, Marracaas, Piano

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Quicksilver Messenger Service - What About Me (1970 us, awesome west coast psych, 2012 audiophile Vinyl replica)

A suitable follow-up to the group's seminal (fourth) album, "Just For Love", the album, "What About Me", produced soon after its release with its title song a widely-played anthem of sorts for the early 1970's. The title song was aired repeatedly over the radio on numerous progressive-rock FM stations from coast to coast. It was written by Dino Valente; the song's lyrics reflected the songwriter's concern for the environment as well as his strong distaste for certain laws of the land at that time, specifically, laws prohibiting the use of some recreational drugs. The song, "What About Me", was a forceful, and yet a typical, protest song of the late 1960's and early 1970's, played over the airwaves during a period of time when the country was engulfed in numerous protests that took on a wide range of issues, including protests against our nation's involvement in faraway Vietnam, an unjust war that, for a good number of years, had no visible end in sight. Fortunately, with the eventual passage of time, positive change did come!!

Certain tracks on this particular album were recorded during the same sessions in Hawaii that produced its predecessor. As a result, the lineup of the band, in essence, remained unchanged on this album with the heart of the group's driving force consisting of two(2) competent lead guitarists in John Cipollina and Gary Duncan, and the infamous piano player, Nicky Hopkins. The rest of the band consisted of David Freiberg on bass, Greg Elmore on drums, and the late Dino Valente as singer and songwriter.

Soon after the recording of these "twin" albums, namely, "Just For Love" and "What About Me", the band's lineup began gradually to change. With the arrival of Dino Valente at this particular time during the group's history, and just in time to inject some much-needed energy, there appeared to be a sudden shift in power within the group and thereupon, a slight change in its musical direction, too. Mr. Valente's immediate background, prior to rejoining the band, had been as a solo artist in New York City. Consequently, the band now began to record an occasional ballad or two sung by Mr. Valente, in contrast to the band's other tracks that reflected San Francisco's brand of harder (and at times, psychedelic) rock. Having had rejoined the band as lead singer, Dino Valente became the group's frontman on stage and, for better or worse, the band's de facto leader, as oftentimes was the case within a rock band at that time when the lead singer and writer of most of a band's songs took the helm.

The title song of this album, "What About Me", was similar in its intensity and stance (critical of society's ills) to another song that Dino Valente had recorded during his days in New York City while he sang as a lone troubadour. The song, "Children of the Sun", likewise became popular, and with time, it grew to become another anthem of sorts for its day. As such, it received its share of airplay on the radio, too, but predominantly in California and on the West Coast. (The song can still be heard on Dino Valente's only solo album, "Dino Valente.") 
by  Sharpphoto "Sharp" 

1. What About Me (Jesse Oris Farrow) - 6:40
2. Local Color (John Cipollina) - 2:56
3. Baby Baby (Jesse Oris Farrow) - 4:40
4. Won't Kill Me (David Freiberg) - 2:30
5. Long Haired Lady (Jesse Oris Farrow) - 5:52
6. Subway (Gary Duncan, Jesse Oris Farrow) - 4:25
7. Spindrifter (Nicky Hopkins) - 4:33
8. Good Old Rock and Roll (Jesse Oris Farrow) - 2:29
9. All in My Mind (Gary Duncan, Jesse Oris Farrow) - 3:44
10.Call On Me (Jesse Oris Farrow) - 7:35

*Dino Valenti - Vocals, Guitar, Flute, Percussion
*Gary Duncan - Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Percussion, Organ
*John Cipollina - Guitar, Percussion
*David Freiberg - Vocals, Bass, Guitar
*Greg Elmore - Drums, Percussion
*Nicky Hopkins - Piano, Keyboards
Guest Musicians
*Martin Fierro - Flute, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Winds
*Frank Morin - Saxophone, Tenor Sax
*Mark Naftalin - Piano
*Pat O'Hara - Trombone
*Jose Reyes - Percussion, Conga, Vocals
*Ron Taormina - Saxophone, Baritone Sax, Soprano Sax

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Humble Pie - As Safe As Yesterday Is (1969 uk, stunning classic rock, 1st album, japan edition)

When Humble Pie was formed in 1969, the act immediately garnered attention as one of the first "supergroups," as its leading members, Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton, had already attained stardom in other rock bands. Marriott had played guitar and sang with the Small Faces, a successful rock act that had achieved a string of hits around the world, and Frampton had played guitar with the Herd, a pop-rock group that was popular in England. Dissatisfied with the direction their respective bands were taking, Marriott and Frampton decided to form Humble Pie as a rock band with a blues-oriented sound.

The band was an immediate hit with critics and started to build solid sales when Frampton left the band in 1970. Humble Pie subsequently released its most successful album, Smokin’, in 1972; following this commercial peak, the group disbanded in 1974. Marriott re-formed the band for a couple of years in the early 1980s, but it again broke up after releasing two more albums. In 1991 Marriott and Frampton decided to work together again. Although their collaboration was not officially called a reunion, Humble Pie fans eagerly awaited the outcome of the duo’s recording sessions. Tragically, after recording a handful of tracks, Marriott died in a house fire in April of 1991 at the age of 44.

Humble Pie started out with one of the most distinguished pedigrees among rock bands of the late 1960s. London native Steve Marriott started his entertainment career as a child actor and singer and appeared in the musical Oliver! in the early 1960s. After a short-lived stint as a pop singer, Marriott worked in a music instrument shop, where he met bassist Ronnie Lane.

Bonded by a love of R&B and rock ‘n’ roll, the two formed the Small Faces with Marriott as its lead singer. The band was immediately popular in England and, with the release of the top-20 single "Itchycoo Park," in the United States as well. Despite the band’s success, Marriott was increasingly unhappy with its musical direction and in 1969 decided that he wanted to leave the group. Intent on forming his own band, one of the first people he contacted was guitarist Peter Frampton.

Frampton had just left the lineup of the Herd, another London-based band. Although the group was not quite as successful as the Small Faces, it had made Frampton into something of a teen idol in England, a status that made the guitarist and singer uncomfortable. Frampton was also unhappy with the Herd’s increasingly pop-oriented direction. After leaving the Herd in early 1969, he was determined to pursue a harder-edged sound with another band. Marriott and Frampton thus had a common goal in mind when they announced that they were looking for some bandmates to round out the lineup of the group that Marriott christened Humble Pie. They recruited teenage drummer Jerry Shirley and bassist Greg Ridley and moved to Essex, England, to start rehearsing.

After making some preview concert appearances, the group was acclaimed by critics even before it entered the recording studio. The single "Natural Bom Boogie" hit the British top five in September of 1969, and the band’s first album, As Safe As Yesterday Is, was released later that year on the Immediate label, owned by Andrew Oldham.

As Safe as Yesterday Is, is a visionary blend of hard blues, crushing rock, pastoral folk, and post-mod pop. It would be even more impressive if the group had written songs to support its sound, but it seemed to have overlooked that element of the equation. Still, there's no denying that the sound of the band isn't just good, it's quite engaging, as the band bring disparate elements together, letting them bump up against each other, forming a wildly rich blend of hippie folk and deeply sexy blues.

Musically, this set a template for a lot of bands that followed later -- Led Zeppelin seemed to directly lift parts of this, and Paul Weller  would later rely heavily on this for his '90s comeback -- and it's very intriguing, even rewarding, on that level. But it falls short of a genuine classic, even with its originality and influence, because the songwriting is rarely more than a structure for the playing and the album often sounds more like a period piece than an album that defined its times.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1. Desperation (Kay) - 6:27
2. Stick Shift (Frampton) - 2:25
3. Buttermilk Boy (Marriott) - 4:21
4. Growing Closer (McLagan) - 3:12
5. As Safe as Yesterday Is (Frampton, Marriott) - 6:07
6. Bang! (Marriott) - 3:25
7. Alabama 69 (Marriott) - 6:57
8. I'll Go Alone (Frampton) - 3:55
9. A Nifty Little Number Like You (Marriott) - 6:13
10. What You Will (Marriott) - 4:22
11. Natural Boy Boogie (Marriott) - 4:14
12. Wrist Job (Marriott) - 4:15

Humble Pie
* Steve Marriott  - Vocals, Guitar , Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica, Organ, Tablas, Piano
* Peter Frampton - Vocals, Guitar, Slide Guitar, Organ, Tablas, Piano
* Greg Ridley - Bass, Vocals, Percussion
* Jerry Shirley - Drums, Percussion, Tablas, Harpsichord, Piano,
* Lyn Dobson - Flute, Sitar

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Just For Love (1970 us, 4th album, classic west coast psych, 2012 audiphile remaster)

This is one of the few best produced albums in the history of Rock music, and way more. When I first heard this on vinyl back in the early 70s, I was mesmerized by the amazing quality of the materials, their performance, and the recording. I've liked the first two albums of the Quicksilver Messenger Service, but this album really cemented my love for their music. Someone mentioned in his/her review that you had to listen to them perform live to really know their music, but for me who lived in the other part of the world, this album really did it.

While Dino Valenti's materials are quite different from what the band has been playing prior to this album, the way many of his tunes are arranged and the overall tone and the feel of the entire album, are so sublime. Every member of the band sounds very well-integrated to the music as well.

Particularly the way the lead guitarist Gary Duncan plays on this album is out of this world; way above and beyond the realm of the typical Rock guitar playing. From the powerful thrilling boogie glides on "Freeway Flyer" to the intoxicatingly beautiful and sensual melodic whispers and caresses on "Gone Again," his guitar consistently and spontaneously delivers what seems to be just the right sound for the moment and the context, but never a dull moment. Because of his masterful use of the instruments and sound effects, the sounds coming out of his guitars always provide the most interesting dynamics, rich tones, and colorful textures to the music. His fantastic solo on "Fresh Air" sends anyone to that far-out heaven each time he hits that first note. Duncan's extremely evolved, uniquely compositional, and unparalleled melody sense contributes so much to the excellence of this album as does to the music of the band in its entirety.

If I had to pick only one Rock CD to listen to the rest of my life, this would be the one. 
by Mic Murdoch

1. Wolf Run, Pt. 1 (Jesse Oris Farrow) - 1:12
2. Just for Love, Pt. 1 (Farrow) - 3:00
3. Cobra (John Cipollina) - 4:23
4. The Hat (Farrow) - 10:36
5. Freeway Flyer (Farrow) - 3:49
6. Gone Again (Farrow) - 7:17
7. Fresh Air (Farrow) - 5:21
8. Just for Love, Pt. 2 (Farrow) - 1:38
9. Wolf Run, Pt. 2 (Farrow) - 2:10

Quicksilver Messenger Service
*Dino Valenti - Vocals, Guitar, Flute, Congas
*David Freiberg - vocals, Viola, Bass Guitar
*John Cipollina - Guitar
*Gary Duncan - Guitars, Electric Bass, Percussion
*Nicky Hopkins - Piano, Harpsichord, Organ
*Greg Elmore - Drums, Percussion

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968 us, classic album, 2005 japan remastered mini Lp replica and 2012 Audiophile remaster)

Quicksilver Messenger Service has never gotten the full credibility they deserve. A lot like what Thin Lizzy did for Hard Rock, Quicksilver Messenger Service is one of those bands who works wonders for Psychedelia, but never got famous enough to be noticed for how good they really were. Blending instrumental virtuosity with soaring melody, and marrying country rock to jazz, psychedelic rock has never sounded more awesome. 

Having one big live album, Happy Trails, Quicksilver's studio work has gone quite unnoticed throughout the last few decades. And while Happy Trails was trippy, acidic, and an all out live freak show, Quicksilver's self-titled debut record was a nod towards country rock and folk, yet exposing that stimulus in the most rocking way possible. Founding member, Dino Valenti was incarcerated during the making of this record, so any ideas he had were written to his band mates from prison, and the band took his ideas and made them into one of the coolest debut albums of the late 60's. 

Like most of the other music exploding from that era, most of this six-track record was probably fashioned and produced with the help from 'experimental substances". Namely, drugs were definitely a part of what the album is. But even if the band was stoned out of their right mind, I wouldn't want this record to be made any other way. Because let's face it, addicts or not, most of the musicians from that time were geniuses. And the drugs only helped them to further their artistic creativity.

What I really like about this album is the order of the songs, and what the songs consist of. Quicksilver Messenger Service provided ground shaking original material for their debut, but what really makes the album interesting and, in my opinion, worthwhile, is their covers. They put their own spin on some blues classics, and turned them into psychedelic nirvana. Evidence of this is their rendition of folk artist Hamilton Camp's 'Pride of Man", which marries a spicy mariachi groove to an acid rock guitar melody, and a very strong vocal performance. 

Add a trumpet section in the verses and some really cool drumming, and you've got a killer psychedelic tune. And the schizophrenic instrumental jam 'Gold and Silver" is nothing less than the most awesome cover of all time. At six minutes, forty five seconds it features the best guitar work on the album, and some blazing, brooding guitar solos. The piano accompaniment and free jazz groove own the tune, but it's the guitar intercourse that makes this instrumental so darn sexy. The leads make me shiver, because they own so hard. The frequent, samba-inspired breakdowns don't hurt it, either. It easily contends for being the best song on the album, but that isn't saying much, because every song on here owns.

Even if the covers surpass the original material, the conventional material isn't too shabby at all. The successor to 'Pride of Man', the highly imaginative 'Light Your Windows" gives it's big brother a run for its money. Combining the acid jazz trip on the verses, with mellow 'ahhhhh's" and acoustic chord progressions, with some powerful vocals, and turning it into a more upbeat chorus that sounds as if were pulled from the Rabbit Hole in Alice in Wonderland. Beautiful acoustic piece, and regarded by many QMS fans to be the best song on the album.

 'The Fool' is a twelve-minute-plus freak out jam which can get a bit boring at times, for its dragged out length and how it generally follows the same guidelines as every other song on the album, but for the most part contains some very cool guitar work, and cool vocal effects. 'Dino's Song", which is the band's way of paying homage to their convicted frontman/ songwriter, is probably the weak point on the album, but not bad. It actually is a formidable song on its own, but is rather boring compared to the rest of the record. But it does feature a catchy melody, and some pretty acoustic guitar playing.

Undoubtedly, Quicksilver Messenger Service's music is very underrated in the classic rock catalogue, and even more overlooked. But even if no one really notices them, they probably redefined and epitomized the psychedelic genre, with a whirlwind of sound. Whether it be the pure ownage of their guitar interplay, the marriage of samba grooves (which Santana clearly found a place in), to trippy, acidic, rocking psychedelic guitar, or the juxtaposition of musical taste, their debut record isn't as polished or clean cut as their epic Happy Trails, but pretty darn close. It's not perfect, but rock is never meant to be. 

If you are a fan of southern hard rock, reminiscent of the Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, or even the Eagles, you'd probably take a liking to Quicksilver Messenger Service's music. Because whether or not an imprisoned songwriter wrote this when he was stoned, or not, this is by far some of the greatest, yet underrated music in the classic rock catalogue. It has Entwistle's official seal of approval.

1. Pride of Man (Hamilton Camp) - 4:09
2. Light Your Windows (Duncan, Freiberg) - 2:36
3. Dino's Song (Valenti) - 3:06
4. Gold and Silver(Duncan, Schuster) - 6:42
5. It's Been Too Long (Polte) - 2:59
6. The Fool (Duncan, Freiberg) - 12:10

Quicksilver Messenger Service
David Freibergbass - Viola, Vocals
John Cipollina - Guitar
Greg Elmore - Drums
Gary Duncan - Guitar, Vocals

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Camel - Camel (1973 uk, prog rock masterpiece, 2002 and 2013 japan SHM remaster)

Formed by Andrew Latimer, Doug Ferguson, Andy Ward and Peter Bardens in 1971, Camel was an essential part of the ‘70s progressive movement, although not one of its more famous components. Overshadowed by the likes of Genesis, King Crimson and Yes, the group was nevertheless extraordinarily talented and most definitely unique in the genre. With their first and finest formation, they would release a streak of four outstanding albums before moving on with different line-ups and creating mostly inferior works. The latter three of these albums, Mirage, The Snow Goose and Moonmadness, are regarded as the real Camel classics, but their 1973 debut is almost as compelling.

What makes Camel stand out next to their contemporaries is their style of playing and composing. Latimer leads the band with his distinctive guitar sound: choosing mood and emotion over showmanship, his very melodic riffs are as powerful as they are meaningful. This also had a direct influence of the band’s manner of writing. Despite composing songs that could range up to 12 minutes in length, Camel was never as stubbornly avant-garde as King Crimson, overambitious as Yes, or strongly theatrical like Genesis. While keeping the ground rules of progressive rock intact, the songs that this group produced were far more focused, which also makes them far more accessible. Latimer and his company really tell a story with their music, and such is Camel’s greatest strength.

Though underdeveloped as many debuts are, the band’s first album gives a strong hint of what’s to come with seven very worthy tracks. If you compare it to Camel’s three classics, something immediately notable is how confident the boys became from Mirage onwards. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing for the album, which sound positively laid-back and welcoming; don’t expect anything of the “Freefall” calibre (if you’ve heard Mirage). The hard-rocking closer “Arubaluba” is the only real moment you’ll find to the band going all out, more of these energetic moments being spread throughout the record in only a modest sense.

“Slow Yourself Down” is pretty indicative of the album’s main sound. Going through several mood changes, it first welcomes you with Latimer’s relaxed vocals (he’s a far better guitar player than he is a singer, but luckily seemed aware of this and used his voice little but effectively), but progresses into a brilliant instrumental display that leaves no doubt to the talents of the musicians that stand behind Latimer. Especially Bardens proves his mastery of the organ, bearing no shame to the Jon Lords of his generation, and Ferguson’s bass and Ward’s drums have absolutely no intention of going by unheard either.

“Separation” and “Curiosity” feature similar moments of such energetic virtuosity, but “Mystic Queen” and “Six Ate” float along like a pleasant dream. The real highlight of the album comes with “Never Let Go,” which acoustic opening was actually the basis for Opeth’s “Benighted” (Camel being one of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s major influences). Latimer’s vocals are at his strongest here, the instrumentation is beautifully moody, and the song concludes with an excellent guitar solo. A track that best shows the enormous potential Camel had in 1973.

Because yes, in the three years that followed, the band would release their three most acclaimed albums, realizing that potential they had going. This debut is not just another example of a stepping stone, but an accomplished work in its own right. While not as good as the group’s later albums, it is a most excellent start and an essential Camel release, as well as a very good starting point to get into their wonderful music.
by Prog Sphere May 22, 2017

1. Slow Yourself Down (Latimer, Ward) - 4:47
2. Mystic Queen (Bardens) - 5:40
3. Six Ate (Latimer) - 6:06
4. Separation (Latimer) - 3:57
5. Never Let Go (Latimer) - 6:26
6. Curiosity (Bardens) - 5:55
7. Arubaluba (Bardens) - 6:28
8. Never Let Go (Single Version) 3:36
9. Homage to the God of Light (Recorded Live at The Marquee Club) - 19:01

*Andrew Latimer - Guitar, Vocals
*Peter Bardens - Keyboards, Vocals
*Doug Ferguson - Bass, Vocals
*Andy Ward - Drums, Percussion

Related Acts
1970  The Answer (2010 esoteric remaster with extra tracks)
1971  Write My Name In The Dust (Japan remaster)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010