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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Various Artists - Do The Pop (1976-87 aussie, substantial punk, garage revival, neo psych, guitar pop, double disc release)

The mid-'70s onset of Radio Birdman and the Saints is an event that has (rightly) attained legendary status. I won't play my usual game of rating Birdman well ahead of the Brisbanites - let's face it: they both mattered - but the early '80s is when the floodgates truly opened. The likes of the Lipstick Killers, the Hitmen, the Scientists, the (sadly unrecorded) Other Side and the Visitors were all playing within half-a-dozen blocks of each other in their central Sydney playground. (Sydney was The Place, and those bands were The Shit.) In their wake (or interstate) were Died Pretty, the Screaming Tribesmen, the Lime Spiders, the Stems and The Eastern Dark to name a few. They were the leading edge of the second wave of home-grown, garage-inspired rock that became a tidal wave, the impact of which was felt as far afield as Scandinavia, lower Europe, the USA and South America.

"Punk" might be the label most of these bands wore back in the day, but this is more of a "Rock" compilation. The unbridled energy is there, but most of these groups were more musically adept than the two-chord thrash artists that briefly burned at places like the White Horse and the Grand Hotel. For the most part, the bands on these discs had roots that ran all the way back to the Music Machine, the Remains, the Sonics or the 13th Floor Elevators (to name a few.) It's the similar bloodlines that make comparisons to Lennie Kaye's "Nuggets" valid, and should ensure a place in CD racks overseas.

Compiler Dave Laing hasn't missed too many essentials. You could quibble about the absence of the full version of Died Pretty's "Mirror Blues" or the lack of a Wet Taxis, X or Beasts of Bourbon cut. Others might also bemoan the absence of the Thought Criminals (who didn't sound anything like any of the bands here anyway.) Some - not me - will question the total absence of the Birthday Party (or any Victorian bands, for that matter - before you e-mail me, the Philisteins were from Tasmania, though did finish up in Melbourne. The likes of Bored! and God will, no doubt, be covered in depth on the forthcoming "Best of Dog Meat" compilation.) It could be argued that girl groups are sorely under-represented with only the Passengers rating a place of the trio of female-fronted acts that occupied similar turf in Sydney in the early '80s (the Flaming Hands and the Shy Imposters being the omissions.)

None of the tracks are staggeringly rare either, though you will struggle to find copies of the Victims' "Television Addict", the Scientists' "Last Night" and the New Christs' terrifically sullen "Face a New God", at least in official digital form. It's great to see Dave went for the earliest versions of some of the better-known songs. Birdman's "New Race" and the Sunnyboys' "Alone With You" are the original Trafalgar black album and Phantom single versions, respectively. The Saints' wonderful "Simple Love" is also the "Paralytic Tonight" EP take (which craps all over the one on the "Monkey Puzzle" long player.) The jungle-drumming 45, "Leilani", was re-recorded but never bettered on the Hoodoo Gurus' first album, so it's great to hear it here in all its primal glory. Good to see so-described court jesters of the Sydney scene, the Psychotic Turnbuckles, also present with the thunderous "Groove to the Eye" from their Rob Younger-produced debut mini-album.

The Headstones are a surprise - but worthy - inclusion ("When You're Down" has always been a fave around these parts.) Was "Igloo" never going to be the Screaming Tribesmen's representation? Two decades later, it still sounds great and otherworldly. Good to hear the underrated "Ice" also weighing in (Chris Masuak's sustain guitar spray being a highlight.) The early Hard Ons hit "Girl in The Sweater" still sounds like a sublime piece of Ramonish pop. "Don't Look Down" is the best thing Decline of the Reptiles recorded. "Johnny and Dee Dee" wasn't the best thing The Eastern Dark put on tape - that honour goes to "Walking" - but both are inclusions. You want to know the roots of grunge? Listen no further than the (late period) Scientists' track "Atom Bomb Baby".

Three Hitmen songs "Didn't Tell the Man", "I Don't Mind" and "Bwana Devil" (the alternative, revisited mix) all sit well. Their presence also underlines that, in spite of their critics who saw them as too commercial/too cover reliant/not trendy, the Hitmen influenced a helluva lot of contemporaries. Zeus himself gets a guernsey (with Radio Birdman, sans Dr Tek and plus Charlie Georgees) on "King of the Surf" (which Dave Laing's now defunct Dog Meat label released as a 45 a decade or so back.)

The Lime Spiders, Celibate Rifles, Stems and New Christs all command strong representation (though I would have plumped for "Born Out of Time" ahead of "I Swear", though rival label Raven seems to have covered that base on their release of Oz '80s stuff, being reviewed else where here soon.)

Added bonus: The voluminous liner notes and unpublished pix in the accompanying 28-page booklet, mostly a Laing effort but supplemented by Steven Danno.

Put this album on now, slip into your old winklepickers and most comfortable leather jacket, flip the lid on a can of KB (remember cold gold?), ease back into your rocking chair and turn up the volume. Some of us still remember. And if you're too young to remember, this collection will be the ideal starting point. It's indispensable.
The Barman

Artists - Tracks
Disc 1 Orange
1.The Saints - (I'm) Stranded - 3:31
2.Radio Birdman - New Race (Original Version) - 4:28
3.The Psycho Surgeons - Wild Weekend - 1:51
4.The Saints - One Way Street - 2:58
5.The Victims - Television Addict - 2:56
6.Radio Birdman - Aloha Steve & Danno - 3:56
7.Johnny Kannis - King of the Surf - 2:16
8.Radio Birdman - Crying Sun - 2:54
9.Hitmen - Didn't Tell the Man - 2:56
10.Lipstick Killers - Hindu Gods of Love - 3:19
11.The Visitors - Living World - 2:54
12.The Passengers - Face With No Name - 2:54
13.The Saints - Simple Love (Original Version) - 3:40
14.The Scientists - Last Night - 2:39
15.Fun Things - Savage - 2:40
16.Sunnyboys - Alone With You (Original Version) - 3:14
17.The New Christs - Face a New God - 4:22
18.New Race - Alone in the Endzone - 2:10
19.Hitmen - I Don't Mind - 2:42
20.The Celibate Rifles - 24 Hours (SOS) - 2:04
21.Sunnyboys - Happy Man - 3:03
22.Lipstick Killers - Driving the Special Dead - 3:42
23.Le Hoodoo Gurus - Leilani (Original Version) - 4:54
24.Hitmen - Bwana Devil - 3:50
25.Minuteman - Voodoo Slaves - 2:28

Disc 2 Blue
1.The Scientists - Swampland - 4:10
2.Lime Spiders - 25th Hour - 3:10
3.The Screaming Tribesmen - Igloo - 4:00
4.Hoodoo Gurus - Be My Guru - 2:38
5.Lime Spiders - Slave Girl - 2:51
6.The New Christs - Like a Curse - 3:19
7.Died Pretty - Mirror Blues Pt. 1 - 4:33
8.The Screaming Tribesmen - Ice - 3:39
9.Decline of the Reptiles - Don't Look Down - 4:13
10.The Eastern Dark - Johnny & Dee Dee - 3:01
11.Exploding White Mice - Burning Red - 2:48
12.Hard-Ons - Bye Bye Girl - 2:01
13.The Psychotic Turnbuckles - Groove to the Eye - 3:28
14.Lime Spiders - Out of Control - 3:14
15.The Scientists - Atom Bomb Baby - 3:00
16.The Stems - Can't Resist - 2:34
17.Died Pretty - Stoneage Cinderella - 3:15
18.The Someloves - Don't Talk About Us - 2:35
19.Hard-Ons - Girl in the Sweater - 2:44
20.The Eastern Dark - Walking - 3:31
21.The Celibate Rifles - Back in the Red - 2:44
22.The Philisteins - Early Morning Memory - 2:12
23.The Headstones - When You're Down - 2:24
24.The Stems - At First Sight - 4:04
25.The New Christs - I Swear - 3:09

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Caravan - Cunning Stunts (1975 uk, progressive rock, canterbury scene, japan remaster with bonus tracks)

By July 1974, John Perry had moved off to play with Quantum Jump, to be replaced by Mike Wedgewood who had played previously in Curved Air. With Dave Sinclair firmly re-established in the band, an album was put together. This was originally to have been titled 'Toys in the Attic', but they were beaten to it by Aerosmith and had to make do with 'Cunning Stunts', which featured Dave Sinclair's songwriting far more heavily.

The opening "Show Of Our Lives" was (still is) one of my favorite Caravan tracks, along with few others which were part of a somekind a best of record by Caravan,  that i bought back there in the second half of the seventies. Their songwritting goes more easily with Pye's "Stuck In A Hole" a funky groovy three minute heavenly song.

Lover is nice melodic Mike's composition with the use of an orchestra, which comes as no surprise after Caravan's 'The New Symphonia' record. 'No Backstage Pass' (another Pye's song) flows from 'Lover' with a string introduction, and takes it good with a guitar solo. The next step comes again with a funky groovy little piece, this time the songwritting part goes to Mike. "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" is an 18 minute composition by John Murphy and Dave Sinclair, split in five parts, a long trip, with many turns, that gives to members the opportunity, to show their high perfoming level.

This japanese remaster release comes with extra bonus tracks, the single version of "Stuck In A Hole", an unissued take of "Keeping Back My Love"   which would ultimately be reworked three years later on Better by Far (1977), and "For Richard" recorded at Fairfield Hall in Croydon, England. Also there's a 12page booklet with liner notes from Mark Powell.

1. The Show of Our Lives (David Sinclair, John Murphy) - 5:47 
2. Stuck in a Hole (Pye Hastings) - 3:09 
3. Lover (Mike Wedgwood) - 5:08 
4. No Backstage Pass (Pye Hastings) - 4:35 
5. Welcome the Day (Mike Wedgwood) - 4:03 
6. Dabsong Conshirto - Pt. 1 the Mad Dabsong... (David Sinclair, John Murphy) - 18:01 
7. The Fear and Loathing in Tollington Park (Geoff Richardson) - 1:09 
8. Stuck In A Hole (Pye Hastings) - 3:10
9. Keeping Back My Love (Pye Hastings) - 5:14
10.For Richard (Richard Coughlan, Pye  Hastings, Richard Sinclair, David Sinclair) - 18:34

*Richard Coughlan - Drums, Percussion
*Pye Hastings - Vocals, Guitars
*Geoff Richardson - Viola, Guitars, Flute
*David Sinclair - Keyboards
*Mike Wedgwood - Basses, Vocals, Congas
*Jimmy Hastings - Brass Arrangements

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Grapefruit - Deep Water (1969 uk, excellent beat psych, repertoire extra tracks edition)

Grapefruit were one of the better Beatlesque late-'60s British pop-rock bands. In 1968 they seemed on the way to stardom, with a couple of small hit British singles and, more importantly, some help from the Beatles themselves. Led by George Alexander, brother of the Easybeats' George Young, the group were at the outset cheerful harmony pop/rockers with similarities to the Easybeats, Bee Gees, and some Paul McCartney-penned tunes from the Beatles' own psych-pop era.

Not quite as incessantly chipper as the Easybeats, not as melodramatic as the Bee Gees, and certainly not as inventive as the Beatles, they were nonetheless similarly skilled at blending melodic pop with sophisticated arrangements that employed baroque/psychedelic touches of strings, orchestration, and several varieties of keyboards. A disappointing second album, however, helped sink them out of sight, and the Beatles couldn't be of help as they were preoccupied with their own imminent dissolution.

George Alexander (born Alexander Young), who wrote most of the songs for Grapefruit, was the older brother of George Young and had stayed behind in the U.K. when the rest of his family emigrated to Australia. He was signed to Apple Music Publishing in 1967 by Terry Doran, who had been affiliated with Brian Epstein and the Beatles' organization for some time. Doran also managed the band, which was completed by several members of the light harmony pop-rock group Tony Rivers and the Castaways (who were managed by Brian Epstein's NEMS Enterprises).

Guitarist and lead singer John Perry has remembered that the idea behind Grapefruit would be to play music in the mold of the Beatles' earlier pop image, filling a gap left empty by the Beatles' growth into psychedelia and more sophisticated territory. The Beatles also got behind the group to some extent, as John Lennon named the band (after Yoko Ono's book with the same title) and went to press receptions introducing the band to the media.

Members of the Beatles pitched in ideas for Grapefruit arrangements and recording sessions, and Paul McCartney even directed a promotional video for their single, "Elevator." Grapefruit, despite all the Beatles associations, were not on Apple Records, which might have seemed their logical home. There was a pragmatic reason for this: Although Grapefruit began releasing discs in early 1968, Apple Records was not officially launched until quite a few months later.
by Richie Unterberger

1. Deep Water - 2:14
2. Can't Find Me - 2:07
3. Thunder And Lightning - 3:04
4. Lady Goodiva - 3:16
5. The Right Direction - 2:54
6. L.A. And Back (Bobby Ware) - 1:48
7. Come Down To The Station (Bobby Ware) - 3:03
8. A Dizzy Day - 2:49
9. Blues In Your Head (Bobby Ware) - 4:47
10.Time To Leave - 3:14
11.Deep Water (Mono Single Mix) - 2:13
12.Come Down To Station (Mono Single Mix) (Bobby Ware) - 3:02
13.Thunder And Lightning (Single Mix) - 3:04
14.Blues In Your Head (Single Edit) - 4:01
15.Sha-Sha (Single A- Side) (Moni James) - 3:32
16.Universal Party (Single A- Side) - 2:59
All compositions by George Alexander except where noted.

*George Alexander - Rhytm Guitar
*Mike Fowler - Piano, Organ, Guitar
*John Perry - Bass
*Geoff Swettenham - Percussion
*Bobby Ware - Vocals, Lead Guitar And Harmonica

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Black Pearl - Black Pearl (1969 us, superb psychedelic garage with funky groovy blinks)

Black Pearl was a Boston band. Well, ultimately San Francisco-based, but originally from Boston and their backstory is one of those classic gems you love to uncover when doing musico-archeology. Black Pearl was Bernie “B.B” Fieldings (vocals), Oak O’Connor (drums), Tom Mulcahy (guitar), Geoffrey Morris (bass), and Jerry Causi (guitar) and Bruce Benson (guitar). Morris, Causi and Benson had been members of the Barbarians, a mid-‘60s garage band from Cape Cod noted for a couple of reasons.

They had longer hair than most bands at the time (which was still a big deal in the mid-‘60s), and their drummer, Victor “Moulty” Moulton, played with prosthetic hook, having lost his left arm in an explosion at the age of 14. He actually held one of his drumsticks with the hook!

And, not only that, the Barbarians wrote and performed a rather melodramatic (albeit slightly humorous) song chronicling the drummer’s life and loss But the Barbarians were perhaps best known for their appearance in one of the first rock concert movies, The T.A.M.I. Show, with such big-timers as James Brown, Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, as well as their chart hit “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?”

Black Pearl was formed in 1967 after Moulty refused to travel to Boulder, Colorado for a two week engagement, and Morris, Causi and Benson recruited a new drummer (O’Connor), plus Mulcahy and Fieldings. Initially based in Boston, they relocated to San Francisco shortly after forming.

They released two albums, Black Pearl in 1969 and Black Pearl – Live! in 1970. Lester Bangs doesn’t have as high an opinion of the second album, but here are all the tracks from their self-titled 1969 debut and it’s pretty much exactly as Bangs described. In a word, awesome!
by Ed Murray

1. Crazy Chicken (B. Fieldings, T. Mulcahy, J. Causi, O. O'Connor, B. Benson, Les Kiefer) - 3:00
2. Thinkin' 'Bout the Good Times (B. Fieldings) - 4:11
3. White Devil (B. Fieldings, J. Causi, O. O'Connor) - 4:55
4. Mr. Soul Satisfaction (Traditional arr. by B. Fieldings, T. Mulcahy, J. Causi, O. O'Connor, B. Benson, G. Morris) - 3:35
5. Forget It (Teddy Van, Calvin White) - 3:41
6. Climbing Up the Walls (B. Fieldings, T. Mulcahy, G. Morris) - 3:51
7. Bent Over (B. Fieldings, G. Morris) - 2:55
8. Endless Journey (B. Fieldings, J. Causi) - 3:49
9. Reach Up (B. Fieldings) - 4:03

Black Pearl
*Bernie "B.B" Fieldings - Vocals
*Bruce Benson - Guitar, Bass
*Tom Mulcahy - Guitar
*Jerry Causi - Drums
*Jeff Mackay Morris - Lead Guitar
*Oak O'Connor - Drums

1969-70  Black Pearl - Black Pearl And Live (2007 digipak edition)
Related Acts
1965 The Barbarians

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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump - The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump (1969 us, bostown psychedelic rock, 2005 akarma digi pack issue)

Fort Mudge Memorial Dump was a band from Walpole, Massachusetts, that started playing by 1969, gathering a good number of fans. They got filed into the “Boston Sound”, among the Ultimate Spinach, the Beacon Street Union, Orpheus, Tangerine Zoo, ecc.

With good technique and better ideas, they recorded a very sought-after LP in which the voice of Caroline Stratton stands out to some Jefferson Airplane affinity.  Guitarist Dan Keady, with his jazzy effects, leads the band.

1. Mr. Man (C. Stratton, D. Keady) - 2:39
2. Crystal Forms (C. Stratton, D. Keady, J. Deptula, D. Amaral) - 5:45
3. Actions Of A Man (Richard Clerici) - 3:21
4. Blue's Tune (D. Keady) - 3:15
5. The Seventh Is Death (Richard Clerici) - 5:29
6. What Good Is Spring (C. Stratton) - 4:02
7. Tomorrow (Richard Clerici) - 3:07
8. Know Today (C. Stratton, D. Keady) - 2:08
9. Questionable Answer (C. Stratton) - 3:23
10. The Singer (R. Clerici, D. Keady) - 7:41

The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump
*Caroline Stratton - Vocals
*Dan Keady - Guitar
*James - Drums
*Dave Amaral - Bass
*Richard Clerici - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ashton, Gardner and Dyke - Let It Roll / Live (1971 uk, great progressive rock with r 'n' b vibes)

Launching in 1968 from the wreckage of the Remo 4, keyboard player Tony Ashton and drummer Roy Dyke linked with former Birds and Creation bassist Kim Gardner when those bands split to form Ashton, Gardner & Dyke in emulation of the Nice's then-revolutionary keyboards and rhythm lineup. Signing with Polydor, Ashton, Gardner & Dyke debuted with the aptly named single "Maiden Voyage," swiftly following through with an eponymous album -- highlights of the set included an absolute reworking of "In the First Place," now titled "As It Was in the First Place." The album did little, however, even after the band toured with Delaney & Bonnie, and by 1970 the band signed to Capitol.

Let It Roll is taken from a concert in Belgium in 1971, this captures the offbeat British group when it was at the peak of its popularity. The nine principal tracks are drawn from all three of the band's albums. Included, as most anyone interested in a release like this will be relieved to know, is the trio's big hit, "Resurrection Shuffle," the one Ashton, Gardner & Dyke song that most rock fans will know. That track has enough pizzazz to endure. Tony Ashton's vocals can tend toward the grating, like a hoarse Joe Cocker. A twisting brass section really pushes "It's a Drag, I'm a Drag" along, but some of the songs do drag, particularly the 14-minute "Falling Song."

"I'm Dying for You" is distinguished from the studio version by an arrangement that highlights flute rather than fiddle. Drawn from a roadie's soundboard recording, the fidelity is listenable but flawed, marking it as one for the fans and collectors. Three of the 12 songs are "bonus live tracks" that present different recordings of three numbers also heard in the main 1971 Belgium portion: "Billy and His Piano With," "Rolling Home," and, what better for an encore, "Resurrection Shuffle." There's a good history of the band in the 12-page booklet, though.
by Richie Unterberger

1. It's Gonna Be High Tonight - 3:55
2. Let It Roll - 5:01
3. Mister Freako - 6:03
4. It's a Drag, I'm a Drag - 6:08
5. I'm Dying for You - 2:53
6. Resurrection Shuffle - 7:01
7. Falling Song - 14:15
8. Rolling Home - 15:05
9. Billy & His Piano With - 4:18
10.Billy & His Piano With (as Three Piece Live 1970) - 3:54
11.Rolling Home - 3:29
12.Resurrection Shuffle (Live January 1971) - 3:58
All songs by Tony Ashton

Ashton, Gardner and Dyke
*Tony Ashton - Keyboards, Vocals
*Kim Gardner - Bass
*Roy Dyke - Drums
*Mick Liber - Lead Guitar

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Barry McGuire & The New Christy Minstrels - Star Folk (1963 us, folk, 2007 RPM remaster edition)

McGuire is of course well known for scoring with an international no.1 hit, Eve Of Destruction. Prior to this, his grounding had been as a member of the New Christy Minstrels since they began in 1962, a vocal/instrumental ensemble whose line up at times included Gene Clark and Kim Carnes. McGuire sang lead on their US hits ‘Green Green’ and ‘Saturday Night’.

The recordings on this album were made for the Horizon label in 1963. A short-lived American Folk label whose most prominent artist at the time was Hoyt Axton. McGuire recorded a number of tracks for the label in the company of Karen Gunderson , Art Podell, Paul Potash, Barry Kane, all also members of the New Christy Minstrels. These were collected together as Star Folk volumes 1 and 2 . (A further two volumes were released later but featured different singers.) The material is for the most part originals by McGuire and his contemporaries such as Hoyt Axton, Art Podell, Rod McKuen.

As the LPs became old news in the American catalogues, they were given a new lease of life by Ember Records in the UK in 1965 ; not coincidentally at the time that McGuire hit big with Eve of Destruction. Ember even released a single, McGuire's raw vocal version of the Kingston Trio hit Greenback Dollar. However these classic American Folk recordings have not been available since, and they include standouts such as Greenback Dollar (Axton/Ramsey) , Oh Miss Mary (Stewart / Phillips), Another Country (McGuire/McKuen) ,So Long, Stay Well (McKuen).

1. Greenback Dollar (Axton, Ramsey) - 2:29
2. Doo Dah (McGuire, McKuen) - 2:12
3. Jelly Coal (Man Freeman, Roberts) - 2:04
4. Old Paint 2:23
5. Love Song (Williams) - 2:35
6. Good Times Is All Done Now (McGuire, McKuen) - 3:13
7. The Banjo Song (Ross) - 2:01
8. Town and Country (McKuen, Podell) - 2:01
9. So Long, Stay Well (McKuen) - 1:46
10.Midnight Train (Helma, Scherr) - 2:29
11.Gold Wedding Ring (Lee, Sukman) - 2:19
12.One by One (McKuen) - 2:23
13.Oh, Miss Mary (Phillips, Stewart) - 2:37
14.Another Country (McGuire, McKuen) - 1:58
15.You Know My Name (Podell, Scherr) - 2:56
16.The Way You Are (McKuen) - 2:23
17.The First Time (McColl) - 3:49
18.Hush a Bye 2:23
19.Fireball Mail (Kene, McGuire) - 1:25
20.Another Man 1:48
21.Jump Down, Turn Around 2:54
22.Little Boy (Settle) - 2:19
23.Far Side of the Hill (Arnold) - 3:42
24.Puff the Magic Dragon (Yarrow) - 2:46

*Randy Sparks - Guitar, Vocals
*Art Podell - Guitar, Vocals
*Barry McGuire - Vocals, Guitar
*Barry Kane - Vocals
*Nick Woods - Guitar
*Larry Ramos - Banjo, Vocals
*Clarence Treat - Upright Bass
*Dolan Ellis - Vocals
*Jackie Miller - Vocals, Guitar
*Gail Caldwell - Vocals

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Tim Hardin - Suite For Susan Moore / Bird On The Wire (1969/1970 us, folk rock, with jazzy and psychedelic touches)

Tim Hardin was a scary guy. At least he was when I met him a few years before his death.

One innocuous introductory question about his Nine album invoked a stream of consciousness rant that continued without pause for 45 minutes covering every topic imaginable from President Ford and the scars of Nixon and Watergate to Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, dodgy hotel suites and lots about not being a junkie.

At one point he whipped his shirt off and challenged me to find any track marks. "Can you see any track marks? Can YOU?" he bellowed at me. "I'm clean, man!" I'd only asked if he was pleased with the album.

He died — of a drug overdose — in 1980 and there was much wailing and lamenting that one of the most talented writers and singers of his generation had so comprehensively failed to fulfill his potential. But it's a harsh epitaph.

In the space of a single year — 1967 — Hardin produced a string of songs that must now rank as all-time classics ...Ifl Were A Carpenter, Lady Came From Baltimore, Red Balloon,Reason To Believe, Misty Roses, Black Sheep Boy . . . all took on a life and celebrity that far outstripped that of their author.

His immediate failure to follow that extraordinary burst of melancholy creativity with anything remotely comparable in 1968 — or indeed 1969 — led to the general assumption that he'd burned out.

Grisly stories of a debilitating habit supposedly provided the answers why. Hardin's reply came in 1970 when he re-emerged with an extraordinary concept album, full of painful beauty and disquieting intrigue.

Susan Moore, the lady who came from Baltimore and all she wore was lace, had already been immortalised in a Hardin song (""I was there to steal her money, take her rings and run Bur I fell in love with the lady, got away with none.") Susan Moore became his wife and the simple answer is that the Suite in her name is effectively a sequel to Lady Came From Baltimore.

But developed such complex sub-plots and conflicting: emotions it grew and grew into a bizarre concept album that must now surely rank as Hardin's life masterpiece.

Concept albums were still pretty thin on the ground in those days and Suite For Susan Moore And Damion - a heartfelt paeon to his wife and young son was a desperately ambitious, even visionary work for a singer-songwriter who still tended to find himself in the racks marked folk'.

After this they didn't know WHERE to rack him. Overnight he was unclassifiable and we knew then he was a particular^ wayward talent and there'd be a price to pay.

His free-form vocal phrasing assumed many of the characteristics of j a z z and blues — much like Van Morrison later — and musically he'd entered uncharted waters of texture, arrangement and range, even touching the realms of classical music at some points.

This isn't so much a conventional album of songs as elaborate variations on a theme, grouped together and subdivided under the "Implications" heading which, in tandem with the rambling mood of self-examination, adds to an intensity and intrigue that's further mystified by Hardin's occasional poetry recitals.

In fact Susan Moore wasn't from Baltimore at all and h»-real name was Susan Moore, an actress from Vermont who met Hardin in LA when she was appearing in a TV show called The Young Marrieds under her stage name Susan Yardley.

But the rest of the story is true enough. Hardin, already on heroin when he met her, fell deeply in love and Susan became not merely his soul mate but his muse.

Yet the Suite was an agonisingly difficult album to make . . . and it got harder and harder when the muse left. Plagued not only by drug addiction, stage fright and general paranoia, there were increasingly regular periods when Hardin simply dried up and couldn't write.

In the end he installed recording equipment in every room of his house in Woodstock, NY and when inspiration struck he sent urgently for a recording engineer to capture the moment, whatever hour of the day or night that moment may have occurred.

Backing tracks were added later and Tim rarely saw the other musicians on the album, let alone worked with them in the studio at the same time. It was all too much for Susan Moore, who took Damion and decamped to LA in the middle of it.

The curiously compelling yet heartbreaking result was that while Suite was both a passionate autobiography, it also revealed an artist performing out of sheer despair and longing.

The pain of love has seldom been more eloquently illustrated than on Suite For Susan Moore And Damion. They were themes pursued with even more disturbing intensity the following year on Bird On A Wire, with a whole welter of brilliant musicians (Paul Hornsby, Joe Zawinul, Bill Keith, Tony Levin, Ralph Towner, etc) to divert him into a more mainstream area and give a populist kick to the soulsearching.

In the circumstances it was a remarkable album. Surprisingly upbeat and powerful.

While his familiar writing problems meant that there were only six original Hardin songs on the album, the bluesy covers were astutely chosen for their empathy with his erratic state of mind.

Leonard Cohen's title song, Hoagy Carmichaers classic Georgia On My Mind, John Lee Hooker's Hoboin9 - each could have been written with Hardin in mind and he responded brilliantly to the challenge, proving what an explosive and expressive singer he was when he put his mind to it.

Joe Zawinul "s superb jazz arrangement of Georgia On My Mind proves Hardin's worth as a deeply emotive interpreter; and in Andre Johray he wrote one of the most telling songs of his career, revealingly confessing his own instabilities in an original mix of song and poem.

Later he moved to London and other albums followed but he hit an anguished peak with these two albums and it was effectively downwards from here on until his inevitable demise from a combination of heroin and morphine six days after his 39th birthday.

The end, like much of his life, was desperately sad. A major rediscovery of Tim Hardin s wayward, unpredictable, disturbing, beautiful music is long overdue.
by Colin Invin

1969 Suite For Susan Moore
1. First Love Song - 4:26
2. Everything Good Become More True - 3:51
3. Question Of Birth - 3:33
4. Once-Touched By Flame - 2:54
5. Last Sweet Moments - 6:12
6. Magician - 3:40
7. Loneliness She Knows - 3:14
8. The Country I'm Living In - 4:11
9. One One The Perfect Sum - 9:55
10. Susan - 0:40

1970 Bird On The Wire
11. Bird On The Wire - 5:29
12. Moonshiner - 3:15
13. Southern Butterfly - 2:56
14. A Satisfied Mind - 2:07
15. Soft Summer Breeze - 2:59
16. Hoboin' - 3:28
17. Georgia On My Mind - 4:33
18. Andre Johray - 2:50
19. If I Knew - 3:55
20. Love Hymn - 4:38

1969 Suite for Susan Moore
* Tim Hardin – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
* Warren Bernhardt – Keyboards
* Buzz – Keyboards
* David – Saxophone
* Monte Dunn – Guitar
* Keith – Trumpet
* Gary Klain – Keyboards
* Donald Mcdonald – Drums

1970 Bird on a Wire
* Tim Hardin – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
* Joe Zawinul – Keyboards
* Warren Bernhardt – Keyboards
* Sam T. Brown – Guitar
* Bill Chelf – Keyboards
* Ed Freeman – Guitar, String And Horn Arrangements
* Monte Dunn – Guitar
* Steve Haas – Drums, Percussion
* Paul Hornsby – Keyboards
* Bill Keith – Pedal Steel Guitar
* Tony Levin – Bass
* Glenn Moore – Bass
* Richard Bock – Cello
* George Ricci – Cello
* Margaret Ross – Harp
* Ralph Macdonald – Drums, Percussion
* Natoga – Drums, Percussion
* Alphonse Mouzon – Drums, Percussion
* Mike Mainieri – Vibraphone, Background Vocals
* Canby Singers – Background Vocals
* Robert Popwell – Bass
* Rob Rothstein – Bass
* Joe Rudd – Guitar
* Bill Stewart – Drums, Percussion
* Ralph Towner – Guitar
* Miroslav Vitous – Bass
* Collin Walcott – Vibraphone, Background Vocals

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mott The Hoople - Mad Shadows (1970 uk hard glam rock, remastered edition with extra tracks)

When Mott the Hoople went into the recording studio to record this, their second album, it was known as Sticky Fingers. The front sleeve was already complete and featured an outsize Frankenstein's monster driving a dragster through the night. But Mott had reckoned without their producer Guy Stevens getting friendly with the Rolling Stones, who were next door mixing their new album for impending release. Hearing the title of Mott's new album, Mick'n'Keef promptly nicked it off them. And so it was that Mott's second LP had to be retitled Mad Shadows, a title originally chosen for the projected Steve Winwood solo album which was soon to become Traffic's come-back LP John Barleycorn Must Die. Confused? Well, you always would be when Guy Stevens was involved. And Mott could hardly complain, especially as Guy had got Mott together in the first place.

In 1969, Stevens had been looking for a cross between the Stones and the Band with an English Bob Dylan at the helm. So he took a young going-nowhere Hereford band called Silence and lumbered them with a new front man - a pianist/vocalist called Ian Hunter, a guy in his 30s who'd played bass in the New Yardbirds and had been a staff songwriter in London's tin pan alley. The first album had been cobbled together in late 1969, without Stevens knowing that Ian Hunter had never really been a pianist at all and could only play the chords G, C and D; all in a hugely kack-handed fashion. So, by the time of recording this second LP, Hunter's place in the group was in no way secure, and their guitarist Mick Ralphs was being pushed by Guy Stevens as the possible replacement frontman.

Side one of the first Mott LP had been a mish-mash of styles and experiments, but side two had produced just what Guy Stevens was looking for. It was a classic rock'n'roll work which ran from the uber-Stones riffing of "Rock and Roll Queen" to the Dylan overload of the eleven-minute "Half Moon Bay", with medleys of simple but blazing emotion linking each statement together. It was gorgeous in an emotional slegdehammer-y kind of way.

But this second LP, Mad Shadows, was to be Mott's greatest statement of all and a true cry from the heart for Ian Hunter. His wife had taken his children and returned to Shrewsbury, telling him that she would not accept his new longhair and new lifestyle, and the whole album resounds with Hunter's wailing and fist-pounding as the ghosts of his still recent former life spill over into every song. The sledgehammer attitude of the first album is, if anything, overtaken by the brutality of musical execution of Mad Shadows.

Indeed, what makes Mad Shadows so powerful is the brazen way in which the other much younger musicians interpret Hunter's work. Simple to the point of repetition because of his ultra-limited piano playing, Hunter's songs actually gain from this flash, virtually punk energy which the rest of the band bring, and his desperate cry from the heart of a dissolving 30-something marriage is gloriously mis-translated by rampant musical interpreters barely out of their teens. Throughout the LP, Overend Watts' bass is far more reminiscent of Bill Wyman's storming work on "Have You Seen Your Mother Baby", than Rick Danko of the Band or any equivalently subtle American musician. Buffin's drums are proto-flash to the point of bluster, and were thoroughly ripped off by Cheap Trick's Bun E. Carlos to later drive a far more brash kind of music.

Verden Allen's overdriven Hammond organ cranks out the same old riff song after song, even resorting to that dreadful Bar Mitzvah lick from "Like a Rolling Stone", but never does Guy Stevens scream 'Enough!' He just lets them get on and on with it, and often on songs of six and seven minutes in length. It is this suffocatingly, axe-wieldingly sentimental glue which fixes the entire album together, and the freedom was given to the band by Guy Stevens. Crediting himself with 'spiritual percussion and psychic piano', Guy Stevens is an awesome presence on Mad Shadows - not for what he contributes but for the space he allows them all to fill. Mott the Hoople may have made their name with a David Bowie song, but it was Stevens who created them, and he who created this LP. For Mad Shadows is their masterpiece.

This huge emotional reverberator drop kicks into life with the frantic five minutes of "Thunderbuck Ram", in which Mick Ralphs' raucous guitar riffs ring out across a Cheddar Gorge of chasmic reverb. The proto-Paranoid riff propells them all into the chorus with such venom that Guy Stevens' record-this-live-at-all-costs mode is immediately confronted and challenged head-on by huge glaring errors, as minors and majors clash and buzz. Yet the song thunders on relentlessly, until the tail-out becomes a huge one chord burn-out and the first of Ian Hunter's Velvets-meets-Jerry Lee Lewis high velocity piano attacks kicks in like cooking amphetamines into a hot curry.

Verden Allen's monolithic Hammond organ introduces the massive six minutes of "No Wheels to Ride", as Ian Hunter grinds his teeth and pounds the piano in grief, the memories of his children so recently taken from his life manifesting in a gargantuan emotional haemorrhage, as the band behind him try desperately to upstage him. "Can't get enough, can't get enough, can't get enough of your love," he howls over and over and over until even Mick Ralphs jots down the hookline (for later use). Then it's off into another huge and simple three chord emotional Hammond organ and pounding piano blow-out, like some kind of Spectorized proto-punk gross out. It's fair to remind ourselves at this moment that Guy Stevens once claimed: "There are only two Phil Spectors … and I'm one of them!" Indeed, In-fucking-deedio!

Following close behind on the coattails of "No Wheels to Ride", "You are one of us" is virtually the same song with the same frantic emotion and the same 'Hang on Sloopy" chord sequence, while Hunter screams about how he 'wants to thank everyone' and the band return to their single-minded intention of upstaging each other. Apparently, Hunter wants to THANK the band for letting him stay IN the band, while they accompany him as though they think he's already left.

And when they finish side one with "Walking with a Mountain", Mott is a Foden truck with the intentions of a Cadillac. Brutal, brash and totally without finesse, the bass and piano threaten to drive the whole tune into a lake at any moment, while Buffin's totally overachieving ideas of drumming are matched only by his inability to achieve any of it. Startling upstart rock'n'roll this is indeed and their producer Guy Stevens would have made the worst politician ever. He can't even be bothered to do a cover-up of thee most glaring errors. No wonder Mott's labelmates Traffic would later disparagingly allude to Mott's flash and bluster in their album title The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.

But subtlety was the last thing Stevens was searching for here, which is good because he would have been more than disappointed. Instead, he opted for huge Viking emotions and Neanderthal gestures. Side two begins with the sentimental and monumentally real seven-minute last-waltz of "I Can Feel". I say 'real' because it is both dopey and refreshing at the same time. The most mawkish female singers this side of Joe Cocker's "With a Little Help From my Friends" coo and placate Hunter as he stands knee deep in pain and self-pity. Huge descending piano and organ chords swoop gratuitously as lumpen melody bass and ernie-ernie guitars squeeze out huge obvious solos from their wrung-necks. Only opera dares to be more brutal than Mott the Hoople when describing sad emotions.

Then it's off to the rodeo for "Threads of Iron" with its C&W rhythm and good time melody and cliched lyrics, until Mick Ralphs reminds us all that 'You are what you are' and the whole group bludgeon some poor old blues riff until it becomes subsumed into their standard two-chord thrash out, and we're off again into pounding and huge Albert Hall-sized Jerry Lee Lewis piano and that fucking merciless punk rock bass that wants to be a lead guitar played on telegraph wires. Of course, the whole thing disintegrates into utter painful chaos. Crash, bash, wallop. Oh, and then some more wallop.

Then we're down and down and downer still … to the very last song on the album. Legend has it that Guy Stevens switched the tape on for "When My Mind's Gone" without letting Ian Hunter write lyrics, telling him that whatever he sung would be the last track on the LP, so he'd better make it good. Stevens told the press that he'd hypnotised Hunter and sat at the other end of the piano staring the song into Hunter's eyes. If it's the truth, then Ian Hunter was a human sponge for emotion and instant song-writing. If, as Hunter later claimed, he was touching cloth and made it all up at the drop of a hat, then he's still a genius. Whatever, for "When My Mind's Gone", the standard three chords got wheeled out by Hunter, who proceeded to hammer his muse for all it was worth.

"What once was true is now untrue … what once was clean is now unclean … what once was safe is now … unsafe." Does it cut it, damn right it does. It is magnificent and tragic and funny and the best thing on the LP. Only Verden Allen dares play along with any confidence, while the rest of the band hesitate and splutter in the background for the whole six and a half minutes. And Mott prove themselves with their one great album; an album so flawed that it makes the Faces look tight and cover versions of Vanilla Fudge seem subtle.

Mad Shadows takes its name from a poem by Baudelaire, which Guy Stevens reproduced on the back of the gatefold sleeve. It includes such lines as: "Descend the way that leads to hell infernal, Plunge in a deep gulf where crime's inevitable." So we must presume from this evidence that, if Ian Hunter was really Pinocchio to Guy Stevens' Gepetto at this time, Mad Shadows is a brilliantly unhinged example of an albeit briefly, but nevertheless perfectly balanced rock'n'roll symbiosis.

1.Thunderbuck Ram (Mick Ralphs) - 4.50
2.No Wheels To Ride (Ian Hunter) - 5.50
3.You Are One Of Us (Hunter) - 2.26
4.Walkin' With A Mountain (Hunter) - 3.49
5.I Can Feel (Hunter) - 7.13
6.Threads Of Iron (Ralphs) - 5.12
7.When My Mind's Gone (Hunter) - 6.31
8.It Would Be A Pleasure (Ralphs) - 1.50
9.How Long? (Death May Be Your Santa Claus) (Hunter, Verden Allen) - 3.54

Mott The Hoople
*Ian Hunter – Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Mick Ralphs – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Keyboards
*Verden Allen – Organ, Backing Vocals
*Pete Overend Watts – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals, Guitar
*Dale "Buffin" Griffin – Drums, Backing Vocals, Percussion

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Guess Who - This Time Long Ago (1966-68 canada, stimulated psychedelic, garage beat, double disc edition)

The Guess Who & Bachman Turner Overdrive founder Randy Bachman again has rescued these tapes from oblivion, and has carefully restored them. The packaging is superb as it includes a wonderful 14-page essay and a collection of never seen photos from Bachman's own archives. A true treasury of rare gems for loyal Guess Who fans everywhere!

"This Time Long Ago" continues their journey from their humble Winnipeg beginnings to becoming the superstar act which is still playing together in 2004! With songs ranging from their second UK chart hit His Girl to unreleased versions of songs from their Wheatfield Soul, Canned Wheat and American Woman albums, these "lost sessions" really cover a lot of musical territory. Check out the newly discovered version of These Eyes with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. Burton Cummings vocals are really in exceptional form on this classic track as well as all of the other tunes in this new package. Their rare Canadian single of the Neil Young penned Flying On The Ground Is Wrong receives star treatment as well earlier versions of Guess Who staples Wednesday In Your Garden, When Friends Fall Out and Of A Dropping Pin.

Another reason to rave about this collection is because of the unreleased songs unearthed from the Canadian television show Let's Go. Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, Jim Kale and Garry Peterson appeared weekly and played not only their own material but also a selection of hit songs from the era. Their interpretations of White Room, Love Is All Around and Light My Fire are highly interesting and enjoyable to hear after all these years of being stored in the vaults. These tracks make this collection worth its weight in gold.

The Guess Who went on to sell millions of records worldwide. Their songs are heard everywhere today, on radio, television, movies, you name it. This Time Long Ago proves the genuine talent that this band possessed in the late 60s. They met their challenges, paid their dues, and became one of the most successful recording acts of all time.

Disc One
1. His Girl (Johnny Cowell) - 2:57
2. It's My Pride (Randy Bachman) - 2:49
3. If You Don't Want Me (Burton Cummings) - 3:05
4. Croyez-Moi (Randy Bachman) - 3:03
5. His Girl (Johnny Cowell) - 3:03
6. This Time Long Ago (Jimmy Stewart, Jerry Langley) - 2:26
7. Flying On The Ground Is Wrong (Neil Young) - 2:38
8. There's No Getting Away From You (Randy Bachman) - 2:53
9. Miss Felicity Grey (J. Stewart, J. Langley) - 2:19
10.Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran, Jerry Capehart) - 3:47
11.Love Is All Around (Reg Presley) - 2:49
12.Sitar Saga (Randy Bachman) - 4:43
13.Pretty Blue Eyes (Teddy Randazzo, Robert Wilding) - 2:36
14.Pretty Blue Eyes (Alternate Take) (T. Randazzo, R. Wilding) - 2:35
15.We're Coming To Dinner (R.Bachman, B. Cummings) - 2:55

Disc Two
1. Light My Fire (Acoustic Version) (Densmore, Krieger, Manzarek, Morrison) - 3:21
2. Light My Fire (Densmore, Krieger, Manzarek, Morrison) - 2:55
3. Shadows Cross The Shadows (Burton Cummings) - 4:15
4. These Eyes (R. Bachman, B. Cummings) - 3:42
5. Wednesday In Your Garden (Randy Bachman) - 3:23
6. When Friends Fall Out (R. Bachman, B. Cummings) - 2:57
7. Maple Fudge (R. Bachman, B. Cummings) - 1:54
8. I Found Her In A Star (Burton Cummings) - 2:09
9. 6 a.m. Or Nearer (Randy Bachman) - 3:58
10.I'm In The Mood For Love (Dorothy Fields, Jim McHugh) - 4:08
11.White Room (Pete Brown, Jack Bruce) - 4:31
12.Of A Dropping Pin (R. Bachman, B. Cummings) - 2:22
13.Friends Of Mine (Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings) - 11:00

The Guess Who
*Randy Bachman - Guitar, Vocals
*Burton Cummings - Piano, Vocals
*Jim Kale - Bass
*Garry Peterson - Drums

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rhinoceros - Satin Chickens / Better Times Are Coming (1969-1970 us psychedelic rock, 2003 remaster edition)

January 1969. Rhinoceros, an assembly of talented musicians brought together by Elektra producer Paul Rothchild as a "Project Supergroup", had released their self-titled debut album which, despite warm critical response, only peaked at #115 on the Billboard charts. However, the band was gaining a reputation as one of the finest live acts of the day, coming across as a "heavier" version of The Band, crossed with a Booker T & The MG's/Three Dog Night/Springfield vibe.

At a residency at The Scene nightclub in New York City, the cracks in the "supergroup's foundation were beginning to show. Bassist Jerry Penrod left the band in dramatic fashion, to be briefly replaced by 17-year old Stevie Weis, Danny's brother, who was soon replaced by Finley's cousin Peter Hodgson, who had been earmarked for the nascent group but was passed over before sessions commenced for the debut album. The group then fired their original record producer Paul Rothchild, who had helped put together and nurture the band during their first year.

Rhinoceros was on a slippery slope; but with their brilliance still intact... In early 1969, the band returned from New York to Elektra's LA. studio. The result was, in many ways, the final 'real' Rhinoceros album, Satin Chickens. Despite the excellent finished product, lead singer John Finley revealed the album was quite different from the original concept as devised by Rothchild. "It was going to be an album of singles," says Finley.

While the actual track listing was never finalized, Finley says that it would most likely have included original material like Alan Gerber's "It's The Same Thing," but in a radically different form. "'It's The Same Thing' would have been recorded at a faster tempo, so it would have been more like soul music," says Finley. "Paul was going for singles. He was also going to get outside originals, real R&B, soul songs and then two or three covers in addition to the internally generated material.

Do original arrangements on covers. But the band fired him before he could tell us." Apparently frustrated by Rothchild's evidently autocratic authority in the studio, the band chose Elektra A&R head David Anderle as producer. Anderle had a strong rapport with the band, as he, along with Rothchild and Frazier Mohawk (Barry Friedmanl, had helped assemble Rhinoceros in mid-late 1967. "Paul had his own concept of how to do things," says Alan Gerber today, "and obviously it was very successful for him. I had no problem working with Paul, aside from the fact that with Paul, he had the final word, and you had to go with what the end result was..." Like its predecessor, Satin Chickens was cut, for the most part, live in the studio.

Anderle had recently completed Judy Collins' majestic Who Knows Where The Time Goes in similar fashion at the same studio, with marvellous results. Despite personnel problems and the change in producer, Satin is, in this writer's opinion, nearly as potent a statement as their debut. A long season of touring had paid great dividends, and this is clearly illustrated in the band's near-telepathic communication. In the best possible way, several of the songs sound as though they were written and recorded spontaneously in the studio. Indeed, according to Alan Gerber, "Some of the funky grooves were created - or at least enhanced - in the studio, and some of the songs may have been finished in the studio." This is readily evident in the Finley/Weis collaborations, "Monkee Man" and "Top Of The Ladder."

Built on funky guitar riffs by Weis, the tunes begin slowly, as if the players are feeling their way through the groove...but soon enough, there is a collective authority that becomes blue-eyed hard rock/soul at its highest. Finley's gospelinspired wailing, Gerber and Fonfara's superlative keyboard work, the rock-solid rhythm section – particularly Billy Mundi's drumming - and Weis and Hastings' staglike guitar dueling all coalesce into powerful, spontaneous and commanding performances that are brimming with conviction.

Pianist Alan Gerber, who - along with some of the other band members - occasionally felt that some of his best material was either not cut or left in the can, shines on brightly with his Procol Harum-esque masterpiece, "Find My Hand." Alan remembers a couple of particularly appreciative fans. "I remember I sang that at The Scene in New York," he recalls, "and Steve Winwood and Odetta were sitting right in front of me - literally eight feet away; it was a very small club. I was really into it, really singin' it.. .and after we finished, they got up and hugged me. That was such a great feeling."

The song's soulful, melancholy lyric, agile construction along with its stately, rolling power is startling, and buttressed by Michael Fonfara's commanding Hammond playing, it easily remains one of the groups' finest moments. "Michael and I really hit it off," says Gerber. "We came from different musical schools, but we very quickly came together and locked into something wonderful. He complemented and added extraordinary things to my songs." However, despite such weighty material, the album is home to some whimsical moments, such as the instrumental "Sugerfoot Rag," which finds Weis and Hastings pickin' and grinnin' at blinding speed.

The instrumental was another in a line of signature tunes for the band, such as Fonfara's "Funk Butt" and Weis and Fonfara's "Booker T & The MG's-on-speed" instrumental "Apricot Brandy" from the debut, which nearly made the Top 40. Satin Chickens was recorded amidst mutinous changes in management, production and internal friction within the band. It would, in fact, be the last to be cut by anything closely resembling the band's original line-up. Things were about to change radically again, as you will soon see.

However, despite (or perhaps because of) this chaos, the resulting album showcases a handful of LA.'s brightest musicians playing at the peak of their abilities with an undeniable sense of intuition, authority and above all, soul. Along with their debut, this just may be one of the great lost masterpieces of late 60s rock & roll.

Despite the excellence of Satin Chickens, several key Rhinoceros members jumped ship following a tour to support the album. Co-lead guitarist Doug Hastings was the first to bail, followed in quick succession by pianist/singer/songwriter Alan Gerber and drummer Billy Mundi. According to Gerber - who had written some of the band's finest material (some of it unreleased, such as "A Fine Day (For Loving You)," "A Sin To Take Life" and "Horace The Rhino"), "The original concept of the group was to do something different and really creative. And it was different, but it ended up being a funky R&B/ rock band... it started out to be something much different, much more experimental; and that's really the reason I left.

I wanted to do something experimental...! was writing all of these songs, and the guys loved 'em, but some of them didn't even get recorded...they didn't fit into the 'Heavy, Horny Beast...'" The remaining original Rhinoceri (lead vocalist John Finley, guitarist Danny Weis, bassist Peter Hodgson and organist Michael Fonfara) were now augmented by two former John & Lee and The Checkmates alumni, guitarist Larry Leishman and drummer/vocalist Duke Edwards. Finley, Hodgson and Fonfara had been members of that Canadian band, and a more accurate name for the new Rhinoceros group would have been "John & Lee and The Checkmates &Weis".

Also gone was producer David Anderle, and in his chair was Guy Draper, who, oddly enough, ended up writing almost half of the Better Times material. Duke Edwards nearly dominates the album with his gritty soul growl, which is strongly reminiscent of Lester Chambers. The album in fact does sound like a different band, which it really was. There are a few fleeting flashes of the real Rhino, such as the melancholic and intense Weis/Finley collaboration, "Somewhere", which was apparently a leftover from the band's 1968 debut.

The song's gentle, spacey verses are juxtaposed by some startling, near-orchestral crescendos and water sound effects. The title cut may be the album's finest moment, combining a Chambers Brothers feel along with the instantly recognizable vocal harmony of Finley, Weis' funk guitar and Fonfara's wailing Hammond. New members Leishman and Edwards came up with some fine material, such as the moody, anti-war album closer, "Rain Child," and "Old Age," which features a blistering guitar passage that could easily be called "fusion." "That's Larry Leishman," comments Danny Weis. "It was a flurry or cluster of notes and phrases, and very bluesy.

I thought he was a very fine guitar player, and he had a real nice feel. Doug (Hastings) had his own style, and was very unorthodox, but it worked, but Larry was really funky. I liked playing with him very much." Organist Michael Fonfara also shines brightly throughout the album, particularly on the instrumental "Insanity" and a sing-along party breakdown aptly titled "Let's Party." Better Times would be the end of the road for the group. "My guess would be that there was some contractual obligation to do that record," Weis speculates. "By the time Better Times happened, the enthusiasm was less than up there, and we were kind of forced to do certain things that we wouldn't normally do as a band." Despite this, the record, as you will hear, does indeed have some brilliant - albeit fleeting - moments. 35 years later, the band's legacy is remarkable.

"I think it's amazing," comments Alan Gerber today. "Wherever I go, all over Canada, the United States and Europe, people know and respect Rhinoceros. I'm very surprised, because the amount of records that the group sold was not that great; maybe 200,000 total, but people know and respect the band all over the world." "It reiterates the fact that over the years I thought we had a pretty strong underground following," concludes Weis. "A lot of people knew about us that I didn't think knew about us, though we didn't sell a lot of records...still, we had quite a following.

I'm pleasantly finding that a lot of people still remember us to this day. I listen to the stuff now, and I still like a lot of it. It was a good band; it wasn't necessarily a perfectly 'tight' band; but that band always had a lot of heart, and that remained a constant throughout with most of the players. I would love to be able to have that kind of feeling again with a group."
by Matthew Greenwald

Satin Chickens 1969
1.Satin Doll (Duke Ellington) - 0:50
2.Monkee Man (Finley, Weis) - 4:07
3.Find My Hand (Gerber) - 3:36
4.Top Of The Ladder (Finley, Weis) - 5:03
5.Sugar Foot Rag - 0:46
6.Don't Cme Crying (Finley) - 4:05
7.Chicken (Hastings, Weis) - 3:25
8.It's The Same Thing (Gerber) - 3:23
9 In A Little Room (Finley) - 4:28
10.Funk Butt(Fonfara) - 3:22
11.Back Door (Hastings) - 3:43
Better Times Are Coming 1970
12.Better Times (Edwards, Fonfara, Finley) - 2:45
13.Old Age (Leishman, Edwards) - 3:02
14.Sweet Nice n' High(Leishman, Edwards) - 3:32
15.Just Me (Draper) - 2:12
16.Happiness (Draper) - 2:34
17.Somewher (Weis, Finlay) - 3:42
18.It's A Groovy World (Draper) - 2:55
19.Insanity (Draper) - 2:21
20.Lady Of Fortune (Edwards, Leishman) - 3:05
21.Let's Party (Draper) - 3:05
22.Rain Child (Leishman, Edwards) - 5:26

1969 Satin Chickens
*John FIinley – Vocals
*Alan Gerber – Vocals.Piano
*Danny Weis – Guitar, Piano
*Doug Hastings – guitar
*Michael Fonfara – Organ, Piano
*Peter Hodgson – Bass
*Billy Mundi – Drums, Percussion
1970 Better Times Are Coming
*John FIinley - Lead Vocal
*Michael Fonfara - Organ
*Danny Weis - Lead, Rhythm Guitars
*Duke Edwards - Drums, Vocal
*Larry Leishmann - Rhythm, Lead Guitars
*Peter Hodgson - Bass

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Fever Tree - Fever Tree / Another Time, Another Place (1968-69 us, awsome, west coast psychedelic rock, 2006 remaster edition)

Curious, isn't it, that Rush drummer Neil Peart should mention the fact in his new book Roadshow that he was a fan of a Texas group called Fever Tree. Hailed from Houston and started in 1966 as folk rock outfit, The Bostwick Vines. They changed their name to Fever Tree a year later after the addition of keyboard player Rob Landes. This twofer collection of Fever Tree's -first two albums at the same time-. Psychedelic, man! And that's what this CD is all about. Recorded in 1968, it features the best known, and (they say) best sounding albums they made in their career.

Think Vanilla Fudge. Think the Doors. Think J.S.Bach's "Toccata and Fugue" which opens the first album. Cool, the way it leads into "Where Do You Go?" by Fever Tree's management team of Scott & Vivian Holtzman (who also wrote for Tex Ritter, by the way!) and it's extra cool the way Fever Tree was able to adapt their songs to this heavy "Inna-Gadda-Da-Dida" style. Listen, man, the string section is freaking out!

I really love this stuff. When I was a teenager I used to work the door at the local boys' club dances. Got to see great psychedelic bands like Marble Orchard, the Village S*T*O*P, Spyder Blues and bigger bands that followed, like the McCoys. But I was always crazy for the long instrumental bits, and 10-minute drum solos, the over-the-top vocalists overdramatizing the would-be poetry of their lyrics, and the guitar solos, oh, the guitar solos. Well, it's all here.

Dennis Keller sings, Michael Knust plays guitar, John Tuttle drums, "Bud" Wolfe is on bass and rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Don Lampton makes up Fever Tree. They were fans of the aforementioned Vanilla Fudge, and you can hear it in their overwrought rendition of the Beatles' "Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out" with echoes of "Eleanor Rigby" and other's simply awesome. They were also perhaps the first group ever to cover a Neil Young song, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," and it sounds like it's gonna be Steve and Eydie by the orchestral introduction. Cool though!

The second album is more of the same. Great timeless psychedelic rock. Sorry for using the "psy" word so much, but it's the only way to describe this music. The titles give it away, "What Time Did You Say It Was In Salt Lake City," "I've Never Seen Evergreen," and "Death Is the Dancer." Far out! And a slinky version of Peggy Lee's (and the McCoys') "Fever" done, according to Mr. Unterberger's notes, just because of the title..."It'll be cool man...we're Fever Tree and the song is "Fever!" Get it!?!" It's obvious to me.

Anyway...this is a twofer so it's double your pleasure. Sit back. Turn off all the lights except for the little blue one that shines when your CD player is on. Grab a...well...make it a Guinness, I guess. Relax. And crank up the volume. You will be immediately transported. Ahhh! The late '60s, awesome!
by David Kidney

1. Imitation Situation 1 (Toccata and Fugue)(S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman, R. Landes, J.S. Bach) - 1:36
....Where Do You Go? (S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman, Michael) - 2:27
2. San Franciscan Girls (Return of the Native) (S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman, Michael) - 4:02
3. Ninety-Nine and One-Half (W. Pickett, S. Cropper, E. Floyd) - 2:47
4. Man Who Paints the Pictures (S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman, Michael) - 2:34
5. Filligree and Shadow (S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman, Michael) - 3:56
6. The Sun Also Rises (S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman, R. Landes) - 2:43
7. Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out (J. Lennon, P. McCartney) - 3:31
8. Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing (N. Young) - 3:04
9. Unlock My Door (S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman, R. Landes) - 3:50
10. Come with Me (Rainsong) (S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman, R. Landes) - 3:49
11. Man Who Paints the Pictures II (N. Knust, S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman) - 6:51
12. What Time Did You Say It Is in Salt Lake City? (S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman) - 3:16
13. Don't Come Crying to Me Girl (R. Landes, S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman) - 2:30
14. Fever (J. Davenport, E. Cooley) - 3:41
15. Grand Candy Young Sweet (F. Davis) - 1:54
16. Jokes Are for Sad People (R. Landes, S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman) - 7:15
17. I've Never Seen Evergreen (N. Knust, S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman) - 3:25
18. Peace of Mind (N. Woods) - 3:12
19. Death Is the Dancer (R. Landes, S.Holtzman, V. Holtzman) - 3:57

Fever Tree
*Dennis Keller - Vocals
*Michael Stephen Knust - Guitar
*Rob Landes - Synthesizer, Organ, Piano
*E.E. "Bud" Wolfe - Bass Guitar
*John Tuttle - Drums

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Rhinoceros - Rhinoceros (1968 us, magnificent west coast psychedelic rock , 2002 remaster edition)

"It's September 1967 in Los Angeles. The optimism of the psychedelic music revolution was the unifying force in the world. The Monterey International Pop Festival had happened; The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper was not only a musical event but a sociological and cultural one as well. Despite the Vietnam War, the world was for one shining moment on the same page. Elektra Records (formerly a boutique folk music label) had successfully brought electric rock & roll to its roster, first with the Butterfield Blues Band, and then in quick succession, LA. Heroes Love and, of course, The Doors (the last two were re a dying for release Forever Changes and Strange Days, two seminal albums of the era).

The late Paul Rothchild produced all of these acts. He seemed to have the Midas touch, and despite some fumbles with bands, such as Clear Light, he obviously h|d his finger on the pulse of the music and the movement. Skipping back six months to early 1967 Frazier Mohawk (formerly known as Barry Friedman) approached Rothchild with a concept to collect some of the finest musicians in Los Angeles who weren't encumbered by bands into one group destined to blow the music world away. He even had a name for the band: Supergroup. Friedman/Mohawk already had impeccable credibility in helping assemble bands, particularly Buffalo Springfield, whom he nurtured in early 1966 before being aced but of the official management position by the nefarious team of Greene & Stone.

The overall concept is not that different from another band that would surface a year later from the U.K.: Led Zeppelin. The first assemblage of musicians at Rothchild & Friedman's Laurel Canyon home that September included guitarist Doug Hastings (formerly of Seatl’s “Daily Flash”, and also a temporary replacement for the errant Neil Young in the Springfield earlier that summer) and Chicago born and bred singer/ songwriter/ pianist Alan Gerber, both of whom made the final cut. Also in attendance were guitarist Danny Kortchmar former Kingsmen and Gentle soul bassist Kenny Magness among others.

During a brief hiatus in November, Rothchild took a trip to New York and recruited bassist Peter Hodgson and lead singer John Finley from the legendary Canadian R&B band, Jon & Lee and the Cliekmates. Rothchild had seen The Checkmates on one f his Elektra scouting trips back in late 1965. Rothchild returned to Los Angeles to continue assembling the band, followed in quick succession by Finley and Hodgson. Another addition during this period was former Iron Butterfly guitarist Danny Weis, who had just been recommended by his friend David Crosby to possibly join Al Kooper's Blood, Sweat & Tears, an offer he declined. Around the same time that Weis joined, the project saw the addition of yet another former Jon & Lee and the Checkmates member, classically trained keyboard player Michael Fontara. In late 1967, Weis introduced bassist Jerry Penrod, who at this point replaced Hodgson.

During late 1967, while the Canadians in the band scrambled to obtain work visas, the band as it were got a wonderful shakedown gig, backing singer/songwriter David Ackles for his exquisite Elektra debut album. The final addition to the band during this period was drummer Billy Mundi, who had previously played with Frank Zappa & the Mothers Of Invention, Skip & Flip, and Tim Buckley. In a strange twist of fate, Mundi had also been a fill-in drummer during Buffalo Springfield's spring 1966 salad days, while he was playing with Mastin & Brewer, two other Freidman alumni. After a brief break in late '67/early '68, the Canadians in the band finally secured proper work visas, and wert quickly assembled in a Los Angeles studio, where according to Hastings, the septet finally "sounded like a real band. We were (also) paid to rehearse and record an unheard of arrangement for the time. We wouldn't have to make a dime, much less a profit, until after the first album release! Some sources suggest that Elektra invested as much as $80,000 in the band, a considerable sum of money for the time.

Finley commented on the pre-fab concept in an interview with Larry LeBlanc in the Canadian magazine Egg in late 1969. Elektra "didn't call us Supergroup! They called us project Supergroup, their concept of all their favorite musicians." Elektra "had this multi-thousand dollar campaign to make us instant mini-rock stars' you just go through a change, but by living together and jamming together the hype goes away." I Throughout early 1968, the band wrote and honed their songs and newfound chemistry at The Las Palmas Theater in Hollywood. By summer, they were ushered into Elektra Records, brand new state of the art studio on La Cienega Boulevard to work with engineer John Heaney (and Rothchild as a producer), and proceeded to lay down enough material for their debut album over a period of eight days.

Listening to the album today, it's difficult to believe that the group was able to deliver such astounding results in such a sort time. Despite the way the group was put together, there is an incredible amount of chemistry in the grooves. In a way, the powerful combination of soul roots and hard rock moxie make the band sound like they had been together for years, rather than months. A pair of the most obvious cuts that show this off are versions of a pair of songs that appeared on a Little Richard album; "You're My Girl", which would later be covered by Rod Stewart, and Larry Williams' "I Need Love." Both were brought to the group by Billy Mundi. Cut live in the studio (as all of the tracks were), there is a solidarity to the performances and precision in Hastings' and Weis' guitars, Mundi's heavy (and well-recorded) drumming - a year before John Bonham defined the art - and especially the blinding white funk of lead singer John Finley.

The band also established themselves to be excellent writers as well, as proved by the albums, striking hard rock/soul opener, "When You Say You're Sorry," written by Alan Gerber, and "I Will Serenade You," a soulful, plaintive ballad by Finley. This song would later be covered by Three Dog Night, who was gathering their resources at this same period, with slightly more successful commercial results. According to John Finley, "It was Paul Rothchild's plan from the onset to record the band live without overdubs." Danny Weis discussed this concept with John Mars in Blitz magazine in 1980: "At the time, all the big groups like Cream and the Jim! Hendrix Experience were doing overdubs on all their things with something like nine guitars floating back and forth across the speakers on each track.

I was the first in Rhinoceros to want to try for a live sound with all the advantages of the studio. Michael Fontara thought it was a good idea too, and later all the other guys thought it was good bet. The way we knew our stuff then, it just made sense to play like that." It indeed did make sense, and the proof is here in the grooves. The combination of the band's overall sound, combined with the miraculous sonic rapture of the new studio, delivered by John Haeny's impeccable engineering, brought forward a new, more sophisticated sonic picture to the listener. Musically, the album is a radical departure from the psychedelic excess of the period, while still retaining a sparkling period charm that is inescapable.

In the end, this album has aged better than many of its more legendary contemporaries. What went wrong? Well is in itself is a book on its own, and the curious reader is well advised to check out the excellent website ( for the complete, heartbreaking story. Much has lien made of the term Supergroup. By 1969, between groups such as CSN&Y, Blind Faith, Blood, Sweat & Tears (and a few others that we needn't mention) were washing over the rock music scene like a tidal wave. Some of them were organically formed, and some were record industry by product. Rhinoceros was, to a large extent, part of the later category. But that doesn't mean that the group didn't have real talent, and they certainly deserve a rightful place far and away above the standard rock & roll cult following. Following the release of the album and a long season of touring, the group split into two factions: Finley and Gerber wanted to remain in Los Angeles to continue working with Paul Rothchild.

The remaining Rhinoceri wanted to move to New York, and away from Rothchild's apparently autocratic control for their follow-up album, Satin Chickens. At a crucial band meeting, Gerber decided to side with the rest of the band, and they relocated and changed producers. In the spirit of keeping the band together, Finley reluctantly hung in and joined them in the New York. The resulting two Rhinoceros albums, Satin Chickens and Better Times Coming had some fine moments, but lacked the cohesion of the debut. The real magic is on the album you are now hopefully enjoying.
by Matthew Greenwald

1. When You Say You're Sorry (Gerber) - 3:52
2. Same Old Way (Finley) - 2:04
3. Apricot Brandy (Weis, Fonfara) - 1:59
4. That Time Of The Year (Gerber) - 4:13
5. You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want To Discuss It) (Cooper, Beatty, Shelby) - 4:40
6. I Need Love (Williams) - 4:25
7. I've Been There (Gerber, Finley) - 4:26
8. Belbuekus (Weis, Finley) - 2:27
9. Along Comes Tomorrow (Gerber) - 4:39
10.I Will Serendade You (Finley) - 3:20

*Alan Gerber - Keyboards, Vocals,
*Michael Fanfara - Organ, Keyboards
*John Finley - Vocals
*Douglas Hastings - Guitar
*Billy Mundi - Drums, Percussion
*Jerry Penrod - Bass
*Danny Weis - Guitar, Piano, Keyboards

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