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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The United States of America - The United States of America (1968 us, baroque psych milestone, remaster edition with bonus tracks)

It takes balls —well, at least, something like that— to call your band The United States of America. And the San Francisco-based eggheads who dared to do so in the late-'60s were doing so with no little irony. At a time in which their country was waging a hated war and opposition to it was steeped in "all you need is love" delusion, their name had a mocking quality to it.

It hardly endeared them to the establishment, including their own record label, Columbia. "There was," USA mastermind Joseph Byrd would later recount, "scant enthusiasm from the executives for a band whose name they hated, whose music they didn't understand, and whose politics they thought treasonous."

That sense of treason extended to their approach to popular music. These United States were a band of serious avant-gardists; young composers and scholars who were students of modern-composition titans John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Even though none had a background —or, even, a sensibility— in rock'n'roll, Byrd decided that they should try their hand at a rockband.

And they were like no band ever before assembled. Rather than electric guitar, The United States of America employed a bizarre arsenal of instruments: circus calliope, harpsichord, scrapes of atonal violin, a ring modular, and electronic oscillations all being used to assault the 'sacred' form of the rock'n'roll song.

It was part subversion, sure, but The United States of America weren't simple provocateurs. Listening to their one-and-only album —a 1968 self-titled album that sunk quickly without a trace— and what stands out isn't its sense of invention or its preponderance of experimentation, but the way that its experimental edge works with its surprising, charming tunefulness.

Whilst The United States continually deconstruct the sanctity of songs —passages of white noise, eerie atmospheres, and cacophonous collage derailing the forward progression of verse/chorus— they don't shy away from the sweetness of songcraft. With Dorothy Moskowitz's voice as their most melodic instrument, Byrd and his crew composed tunes that were tuneful; be they raucous, psychedelic rockers, or eerie, barely-there lullabies.

Since this album has been rediscovered by a new generation, it's those sparse songs that've most entranced modern audiences; the marriage of Moskowitz's gentle singing, scrapes and wails of Gordon Marron's violin, and sci-fi squalls of electric circuitry make for most modern-sounding compositions on cuts like "Cloud Song."

The influence of the spectral side is apparent on their biggest new-millennial boosters, Broadcast, the amazing English electro minimalists who've cited The United States of America as their chief influence. In many ways, this album makes more sense over 40 years on than it would've in its day; even if the band were an obvious product of their era.
by Anthony Carew

1. The American Metaphysical Circus (Joseph Byrd) - 4:56
2. Hard Coming Love (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 4:41
3. Cloud Song  (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 3:18
4. The Garden Of Earthly Delights  (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 2:39
5. I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar  (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 3:51
6. Where Is Yesterday  (Gordon Marron, Ed Bogas, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 3:08
7. Coming Down  (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 2:37
8. Love Song For The Dead Che  (Joseph Byrd) - 3:25
9. Stranded In Time  (Gordon Marron, Ed Bogas) - 1:49
10.The American Way Of Love - 6:38
...Metaphor For An Older Man (Joseph Byrd)
...California Good Time Music (Joseph Byrd)
...Love Is All  (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz, Rand Forbes, Craig Woodson, Gordon Marron) - 6:38
11.Osamu's Birthday  (Joseph Byrd) - 2:59
12.No Love To Give  (Dorothy Moskowitz) - 2:36
13.I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 3:45
14.You Can Never Come Down  (Joseph Byrd) - 2:32
15.Perry Pier  (Dorothy Moskowitz) - 2:37
16.Tailor Man  (Dorothy Moskowitz) - 3:06
17.Do You Follow Me  (Kenneth Edwards) - 2:34
18.The American Metaphysical Circus  (Joseph Byrd) - 4:01
19.Mouse (The Garden Of Earthly Delights)  (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 2:39
20.Heresy (Coming Down)  (Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz) - 2:32

The United States Of America
*Joseph Byrd – Eectric Harpsichord, Organ, Calliope, Piano
*Dorothy Moskowitz – Lead Vocals
*Gordon Marron – Electric Violin, Ring Modulator
*Rand Forbes – Electric Bass
*Craig Woodson – Electric Drums, Percussion
Guest Musician
*Ed Bogas – Occasional Organ, Piano, Valliope

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Pearls Before Swine- The Use Of Ashes (1970 us, psych folk rock, 2003 water issue)

For their second Reprise Records outing, Pearls Before Swine worked primarily with Nashville-based musicians, including a small orchestra who provide a stately feel to the highly intimate nature of the material. According to Tom Rapp's comments in the liner booklet accompanying the Jewels Were the Stars (2003) box , the songs were written while he and his wife were living in the Netherlands, which Rapp said contributed significantly to the air of romanticism throughout.

"Jeweller" opens the album with an exquisite tale that exemplifies Rapp's remarkable abilities to draw upon disparate metaphors such as shining coins and worshiping God, both involving the Use of Ashes -- hence the title. The rural mood created by the notable Music City USA stalwarts effortlessly fuses with David Briggs' baroque-flavored harpsichord on the delicate "From the Movie of the Same Name," featuring Rapp and spouse Elisabeth on non-verbal vocalizations as they "da-da-da" the melody.

Although "Rocket Man" predates the Elton John cut by a couple of years, Bernie Taupin cites it as his inspiration for the lyrics behind John's 1972 Top Ten hit. The words are credited as having been influenced by a Ray Bradbury novella that dealt with the universal emotion of loss. Again, Briggs' keyboard runs relate the story with subdued refinement. By contrast, "God Save the Child" is one of the more amplified inclusions, making good use of session heavies Kenneth A. Buttrey (drums) and Charlie McCoy (guitar), especially when placed against the restrained string section.

Another sonic texture in the tapestry is the jazzy "Tell Me Why," shimmering with an uncredited vibraphone lead gliding beneath Rapp's whimsical lines. These tracks are offset by the noir "When the War Began," the ethereal love song "Margery," and the mid-tempo retelling of the "Riegal," a ship whose 4,000 inhabitants perished during World War II.

Rapp's juxtaposition of stark imagery reveals that while Pearls Before Swine might not have continued the bombastic direction set about on their earlier protest works "Uncle John" or "Drop Out," they maintained social and political relevance.
by Lindsay Planer

1. The Jeweler - 2:48
2. From the Movie of the Same Name - 2:21
3. Rocket Man  (based on a short story by Ray Bradbury) - 3:06
4. God Save The Child (Elisabeth helped) - 3:08
5. Song About A Rose - 2:21
6. Tell Me Why - 3:43
7. Margery - 3:03
8. The Old Man - 3:16
9. Riegal - 3:13
10.When the War Began - 5:07
All words and music by Tom Rapp

* Tom Rapp - Vocals, Guitar
* Elisabeth - Vocals
* Charlie McCoy - Dobro, Guitar, Bass, Harmonica
* Norbert Putnam - Bass
* Kenneth Buttrey - Drums
* Buddy Spicher - Violin, Cello, Viola
* Mac Gayden - Guitars
* David Briggs - Piano, Harpsichord
* John Duke - Oboe, Flute
* Hutch Davie - Keyboard
* Bill Pippin - Oboe, Flute

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Pearls Before Swine - One Nation Underground (1967 us, great psychedelic folk rock, japan remaster)

Tom Rapp, an 18 year-old draft resistor and college dropout living in Eaugallie, Florida, sent a small unsolicited reel of tape to ESP. Bernard Stollman invited him to bring his musicians to New York, where they recorded their acclaimed debut, One Nation Underground in 1967.

This is still a stunning piece of work, from the nightmarish sleeve art -- the "Hell Panel" from Hieronymus Bosch's 15th century painting "Garden of Delights" -- to the strange yet powerful songs. - Peter Kurtz
by Peter Kurtz

1. Another Time - 3:05
2. Playmate (Saxie Dowell) - 2:17
3. Ballad To An Amber Lady (R.Crissinger, T. Rapp) - 5:13
4. (Oh Dear) Miss Morse - 1:52  
5. Drop Out! - 4:07  
6. Morning Song - 4:05  
7. Regions Of May - 3:25  
8. Uncle John - 2:52  
9. I Shall Not Care (Teasdale, R. Tombs, T. Rapp) - 5:10
10.The Surrealist Waltz (L. Lederer, R. Crissinger) - 3:27
All compositions by Tom Rapp except where indicated

Pearls Before Swine
*Tom Rapp - Vocals, Guitar
*Wayne Harley - Autoharp, Banjo, Mandoline, Vibraphone, Audio Oscillator, Harmony
*Lane Lederer - Bass, Guitar, English Horn, Swinehorn, Sarangi, Celeste, Finger Cymbals, Vocals
*Roger Crissinger - Organ, Harpsichord, Clavioline
*Warren Smith - Drums, Percussion

Pearls Before Swine
1967 One Nation Underground (Japan remaster)
1968  Balaklava (Japan remaster) 
1969-70  Pearls Before Swine - Use Of Ashes / These Things Too (2011 remaster issue)
1971  Beautiful Lies You Could Live In
1971  City Of Gold

Tom Rapp
1972  Tom Rapp - Stardancer (2009 Lemon edition)
1973  Sunforest (2009 Lemon edition)

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Joseph - Stoned Age Man (1970 us, heavy fuzzy psych rock)

What can we say except ...Classic Stoner (heavy fuzz) bluesrock!!!This is a rare album indeed and much sought after, originallyreleased on the Scepter label (SPS 574) in 1970 and recordedin Memphis at the legendary American Sound Studios.

The “Joseph” was in fact Joseph Long or Joseph Longeria,discovered by the albums producer and A & R man SteveTyrell playing in Houston in a battle of the blues competition!!This is the only know foray into recording that Longeria madeand he was a superb guitar player to boot!!Stoned Age Man contains some of weirdest lyrics ever written.

1. Trick Bag - 4:32
2. I Ain't Fattenin' No More Frogs For Snakes (Joseph Longeria, Glen Spreen, Mark James, Steve Tyrell) - 3:36
3. Cold Biscuits And Fish Heads - 3:37
4. Stone Age Man - 3:26
5. I'm Gonna Build A Mountain - 2:10
6. Mojo Gumbo - 2:53
7. The House Of The Rising Sun (Traditional) - 2:23
8. Gotta Get Away (Gregg Allman, John Hurley, Ronnie Wilkins) - 2:40
9. Come The Sun Tomorrow (D. Collins, S. Walton) - 2:53
All songs by Joseph "Long" Longeria, Glen Spreen, Mark James except where noted

*Joseph "Long" Longeria - Vocals, Guitar
*Glen Spreen - Keyboards

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Black Oak Arkansas - High On The Hog (1973 us, excellent tough southern rock)

This is probably the best-known album in the Black Oak Arkansas catalog, thanks in large to part to its hit cover of the LaVern Baker R&B classic "Jim Dandy." This effective update combines a countrified touch, some electric guitar fireworks, and a frenetic double-time tempo with the inimitable hillbilly vocals of Jim "Dandy" Mangrum to create a song that became a hit with both country and pop listeners. It is definitely High on the Hog's undisputed highlight, but the other tracks surrounding it also have plenty to offer.

Although they were too eccentric a band to fit a strict "Southern rock" label Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Oak Arkansas did have an ability to dish up both country and rock sounds with style. For instance, "Red Hot Lovin'" is a punchy rocker about the joys of loving a red-haired woman, while "Back to the Land" is a tribute to rural life delivered in a convincing, pure country style. Elsewhere, the group also shows a surprisingly ability to mix elements of pure funk into their country-rock stew: "Swimmin' in Quicksand" glides along on some funky wah-wah guitar licks that could have been lifted from a Funkadelic record.

The band also gets a solid showcase for their chops on "Moonshine Sonata," a tasty little instrumental that starts off as sprightly country-rock rave-up before shifting into a down-home ballad tempo for a surprisingly lovely and mellow finale. In the end, High on the Hog probably won't appeal to anyone who isn't already a Southern rock fan, but anyone who enjoys this genre will find plenty to like on this album.
by Donald A. Guarisco

1. Swimmin' In Quicksand - 3:20
2. Back To The Land - 2:26
3. Movin' - 3:13
4. Happy Hooker - 5:28
5. Red Hot Lovin' - 2:47
6. Jim Dandy - 2:39
7. Moonshine Sonata - 5:27
8. Why Shouldn't I Smile - 2:23
9. High 'N' Dry - 2:27
10. Mad Man - 3:49

Black Oak Arkansas
*James "Jim Dandy" Mangrum - Vocals
*Ricky Reynolds - Twelve Sring Guitar, Vocals
*Harvey Jett - Lead Guitar, Banjo, Piano, Vocals
*Stan Knight - Lead Guitar, Steel Guitar, Organ, Vocals
*Tommy Aldridge - Drums

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Black Oak Arkansas - Black Oak Arkansas (1971 us, great southern rock, debut album, Wounded Bird edition)

Born and raised in the neighbouring hamlets of small town of Black Oak, Arkansas, school friends Jim 'Dandy' Mangrum and Ricky Reynolds formed their first band whilst in High School. September 1965 witnessed the group's first live show at Reynolds Park Community Centre in Pasragould, Arkansas. During 1969, after having been finally chased out of town thanks to a reputation for hell raising and ripping off the neighbourhood in order to pawn their ill-gotten gains for new band equipment the boys wound up in New Orleans.

Relocated, the group (originally known as THE KNOWBODY ELSE) was signed to Hip Records and issued a self-titled album (re-issued by the Stax label in 1974 as 'The Early Times') before attracting the interest of the Atlantic label after a show in Los Angeles. By the time they released their major label debut in 1971, produced by the IRON BUTTERFLY duo of MIKE PINERA and Larry Dorman at Paramount Recording Studios and Gold Star Recording Studios in Hollywood, California, the group had changed their name to BLACK OAK ARKANSAS in honour of their roots.

The initial BLACK OAK ARKANSAS roster included vocalist Jim 'Dandy' Mangrum, guitarist Rickie 'Ricochet' Reynolds, guitarists Stan 'Goober' Knight and Harvey 'Burley' Jett, bassist Pat 'Dirty' Daugherty and drummer Wayne 'Squeezebox' Evans. The debut album struck an immediate chord with the American Rock public; especially the renewed attitude the band gave the GUY MITCHELL hit 'Singin' The Blues'. Touring to promote the record included support dates to GRAND FUNK RAILROAD before the band journeyed to Florida to cut follow up 'Keep The Faith'.

1. Uncle Elijah - 3:17
2. Memories At The Window - 3:05
3. The Hills Of Arkansas - 3:45
4. I Could Love You - 6:10
5. Hot And Nasty (Black Oak Arkansas, Endsley) - 2:55
6. Singing The Blues (Melvin Endsley) - 2:17
7. Lord Have Mercy On My Soul - 6:15
8. When Electricity Came To Arkansas - 4:26
All songs written by Black Oak Arkansas, except where stated.

Black Oak Arkansas
* Jim "Dandy" Mangrum - Lead Vocals, Washboard
* Rickie "Ricochet" Reynolds - 12 String Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
* Pat "Dirty" Daugherty - Bass Guitar, Vocals
* Harvey "Burley" Jett - Lead Guitar, Banjo, Piano, Vocals
* Stanley "Goober" Knight - Lead,  Steel Guitar, Organ, Vocals
* Wayne "Squeezebox" Evans - Drums

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Taste - Live Taste (1971 ireland, awesome hard blues rock, 2009 japan SHM)

To many thousands of people, Taste meant hours of enjoyment in small-packed sweaty clubs up and down the country. They meant that three piece group from Ireland, who did what few groups ever do by making the top on merit of their music. Taste meant three brilliant soloists who, together, formed one of the tightest groups around. But above all, they simply meant Taste the magic of whom it was impossible to catch with words.

Take this piece of  "plastic", put it on your player, close your eyes and let your imagination run. This, their third release -and first live album-, is what Taste were all about.

Live Taste' as the title implies was recorded live in Montreux by the technical department of Swiss Radio.  Broonzy and Jackson were heavy influences on Rory's guitar playing and song writing. The LP was released after Rory went solo and was an attempt to ride his coat tails as he was becoming very popular in Europe at this time.

1. Sugar Mama (Traditional) - 8:12
2. Gamblin' Blues (Melvin Jackson) - 6:21
3. I Feel So Good (Part 1) (Big Bill Broonzy) - 3:41
4. I Feel So Good (Part 2) (Big Bill Broonzy) - 3:59
5. Catfish (Traditional) - 10:45
6. Same Old Story (Rory Gallagher) - 5:43

*Rory Gallagher - Guitars, Vocals, Saxophone, Harmonica
*Richard McCracken - Bass
*John Wilson - Drums

1970  On The Boards (Japan SHM edition)

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Taste - Live At Isle Of Wight (1971, irish blues rock feat Rory Gallagher)

The festival at the Isle of Wight was to Europe what Woodstock was to the USA. Many problems came about as more rock fans than tickets available came to this usually peaceful island just off the coast of Portsmouth, England. The festival was held at East Afton farm in Freshwater, on the 13- by 23-mile island off the coast of Southern England. This was considered the last monster tribal gathering -- the five-day 1970 Isle of Wight Festival -- where 600,000 mostly stoned flower children turned ugly in obnoxious displays of hippie self-righteousness."

Many of the biggest rock stars of the time appeared at this festival including The Who, Free, Donovan, Ten Years After, The Moody Blues, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen and Jethro Tull, and ELP. Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison of the Doors made their last live stage appearance here.

Taste played through the madness of this giant concert where those who did not have tickets rushed and crashed the gates. 'Taste Live at the Isle of Wight' has some wonderful songs by Rory Gallagher and a cover for blues star Broonzy in "I Feel So Good."

1 What's Going On (Gallagher) - 5:38
2 Sugar Mama (Gallagher, Traditional) - 10:08
3 Morning Sun (Gallagher) - 4:36
4 Sinner Boy (Gallagher) - 5:30
5 I Feel So Good (Broonzy) - 10:08
6 Catfish (Gallagher, Traditional) - 14:16

* Rory Gallagher - Guitars, Vocals, Saxophone, Harmonica
* Richard "Charlie" McCracken - Bass Guitar
* John Wilson - Drums

1970  Taste - On The Boards

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Crystalaugur - Terranaut (1972 us, striking fuzz, psych, prog rock)

The story of Crystalaugur is a strange one: the obscure Native American band Crystalaugur recorded this album in Singapore between 1972 and 1973, orginally pressing a mere 200 copies for a private label (Warped Rec) and the ridiculously small pressing made the original album an unbelievable rarity.  The fuzz guitar and space rock vocals definitely put this LP in the psychedelic realm with an interesing primitive backdrop.

This is reissue of the 1974 release  by BMI SINGAPORE of a one-off album done as highschool project by 4 Americans in Singapore, that only has been sold to classmates, family and friends. A weird mix of Kaleidoscope / Velvet. Underground and eastern vibes with fuzz-guitar all over! Sorta prog-folk-garagy vibe, hypnotising and repetitive. A great psych rock fuzz album .

1. Terranaut (Kim Bengs) - 5:18
2. I'll Remember (Kim Bengs, Howard Kukla) - 4:07
3. Cosmic Journey (Howard Kukla) - 4:21
4. You've Got to Rap (Howard Kukla) - 3:11
5. Uppachit Creek (Kim Bengs) - 2:22
6. Easy Term Pleasure (Howard Kukla, Kim Bengs) - 4:41
7. Pam's Song (Howard Kukla) - 4:42
8. Number 4 (Kim Bengs) - 5:00
9. Goodbye (Kim Bengs, Watson) - 1:25

The Crystalaugur
*Kim Bengs - Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Howard Kukla - Rhythm Guitar
*Bryan Hall - Drums
*Guy Rittger - Bass Guitar

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Truth And Janey - No Rest For The Wicked (1976 us, power hard rock)

The late-'60s power trio format made famous by Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience sent inspirational shockwaves across the rock and roll universe, and among the most isolated examples of its influence must have been eastern Iowa's extremely obscure cult hard rock band Truth and Janey.

Taking their name from the seminal Jeff Beck Group album, vocalist/guitarist Billy Janey, vocalist/bassist Steven Bock, and drummer Denis Bunce (original percussionist John Fillingsworth lasted less than a year) began penning original material, recorded a pair of singles in 1972/1973, and then evolved into Truth and Janey when informed that another band already held rights to the Truth moniker before them. Arduous roadwork in the neighboring states kept the band busy in years to come, but the absence of a major record deal eventually drove them to finance their own album -- a fierce and bluesy hard rocker to be entitled No Rest for the Wicked -- at a studio in nearby Ames, IA.

This they released through a local independent label, and its 1,000-unit pressing quickly sold out among their dedicated fans in the region -- but that was it. With no apparent career-advancing prospects in their near future, Truth and Janey disbanded the following year, with main man Janey turning to blues and adding a "Lee" to his name before recording several albums throughout the '80s and '90s.

Truth and Janey's modest legacy was kept alive by their few cult followers and eventually led to an official CD pressing of No Rest for the Wicked by Monster Records (which added all four of their single A- and B-sides, to boot), and a legendary live performance released in 2004 as Erupts!
by Eduardo Rivadavia

No Rest for the Wicked
1. Down the Road I Go
2. The Light
3. I'm Ready
4. Remember a) A Child b) Building Walls
5. No Rest for the Wicked
6. It's All Above Us
7. Ain't No Tellin
8. My Mind
9. Midnight Horseman*
10. Around and Around*
11. Under My Thumb*
12. Straight Eight Pontiac*
* bonus tracks

Truth And Janey
*Billy Lee Janey - Guitar, Vocals
*Steven Bock - Bass, Vocals
*Denis Bunce - Drums

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Aunt Mary - Aunt Mary (1970 norway, fantastic hard groovy psych prog rock, 2020 japan remater)

One of the early nad many considered to be one of Norways definitely best prog bands.

Their music is a mix of heavy hard rocking tunes, combined with clear influence from the symphonic genre.

Aunt Mary came from the small town of Fredrikstad in Ostfold. Their first album was recorded and released in Denmark, as they lived there at the time.

Having spent a month in the band’s home town Fredrikstad, Norway, they returned to Vigerslev, Denmark to continue writing. It turned out the songs they wrote were more pop than blues. Nevertheless, they started recording the eponymous album "Aunt Mary".

Polydor liked the album so much that they decided to release it in 17 countries.

The album release was followed by gigs in Denmark, and in April they went back to the Top Ten in Hamburg for two weeks.

By now they had developed a more heavy approach to their music. Per Ivar Fure felt he no longer had anything to bring in to the band. And that summer he announced his resignation.

The band launched their first Norwegian tour, starting in september, touring the entire country. It turned out to be a tremendous success. Everywhere they went, Aunt Mary sold out the venues. The critics were unanimously euphoric, and the band was declared the best Norwegian rock band ever.

1. Whispering Farewell - 4:00
2. Did You Notice - 3:18
3. Theres A Lot Of Fish In The Sea - 3:51
4. I Do And I Did - 4:52
5. 47 Steps - 4:39
6. Rome Wasn't Built In One Day - 2:59
7. Come In - 3:29
8. Why Don't You Try Yourself - 2:28
9. The Ball - 3:33
10. All My Sympathy For Lily - 3:21
11. Yes, By Now I've Reached The End - 2:51
All songs by Bjoern Christiansen, Per Ivar Fure, Jan Leonard Groth, Svein Gundersen, Kjetil Stensvik

 Aunt Mary
*Bjoern Christiansen - Guitar, Vocal
*Per Ivar Fure - Flute, Harmonica, Saxophone, Mouth Organ,  
*Jan Leonard Groth - Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
*Svein Gundersen - Bass, Piano, Vocal
*Kjetil Stensvik - Drums, Vocal

Friday, January 14, 2011

Marie Queenie Lyons - Soul Fever (1970 us, excellent blaxploitation, 2004 digipak remaster)

Marie "Queenie" Lyons is the sort of artist soul collectors salivate over -- she paid her dues on the Southern chitlin' circuit, shared stages with the likes of King Curtis, Jackie Wilson, and James Brown, scored a record deal with the King Records subsidiary DeLuxe Records, and after a few singles cut an album, 1970's Soul Fever, that sank without a trace.

As far as anyone can tell, Lyons never made another record after Soul Fever, making her obscure enough to please even the most finicky British R'n'B archivist, and as luck would have it Lyons was also a gifted singer whose sole LP is a fine piece of work. Lyons manages to show a very Southern variety of passion and fire along with a big city sense of showmanship and control, and her vocals reveal an impressive balance of sass and skill, knowing when to play it subtle and when to open up and wail. Lyons was well served in the studio on these sessions; the production and arrangements are solidly soulful but imaginative, with just the right amount of sweetening from string and horn arrangements that don't undercut the steady groove of the rhythm section.

And while Lyons didn't write her own material, she and her handlers knew how to pick songs that fit her talents, and from the lean funk of "See and Don't See" to the gospel-influenced Black Power anthem "I Want My Freedom" and the polished heartache of "We'll Cry Together," every song on this set fits her like a glove. Soul Fever is a better than average soul obscurity that will please fans of the golden age of R&B, but while this is a good album, it's not a great one, and more casual observers may want to give it a listen before they invest.
by Mark Deming

1. See And Don't See (Rose Marie McCoy) - 3:20
2. Daddy's House (Helen Miller, Rose Marie McCoy) - 3:14
3. You Used Me (Don Pullen) - 3:38
4. You're Thing Ain't No Good Without My Thing (Don Pullen) - 2:27
5. Snake In The Grass (Don Pullen) - 2:42
6. Your Key Don't Fit It No More (Alecia Evelyn, Henry Glover) - 2:38
7. Fever (Eddie Cooley, John Davenport) - 3:02
8. I Don't Want Nobody To Have It But You (Don Pullen) - 2:03
9. We'll Cry Together (Helen Miller, Rose Marie McCoy) - 3:16
10.I'll Drown In My Own Tears (Henry Glover) - 3:00
11.I Want My Freedom (Don Pullen) - 2:31
12.Try Me (James Brown) - 2:38

*Marie Queenie Lyons - Vocals

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mick Abrahams - Mick Abrahams (1971 uk, solid blues rock)

The roots of Mick Abrahams' musical career were typical of aspiring guitarists in the mid-sixties, taking in stints with R&B groups like The Hustlers, The Toggery Five, Screaming Lord Sutch, Neil Christian's Crusaders (replacing Jimmy Page) and his own McGregor's Engine.

By late 1967 Mick had become a founder member of Jethro Tull, and throughout 1968 the band built up a reputation based on the already distinctive blues guitar of Abrahams and the flute playing and wild stage persona of Ian Anderson. The band's unique blend of blues, jazz and rock was reflected in their first album This Was, an immediate UK chart hit. However, having two such strong personalities as a twin focus was always going to be a recipe for musical incompatibility, and at the end of 1968 Abrahams jumped ship.

After quitting Jethro Tull Mick formed his own band, called Blodwyn Pig. They released two albums "Ahead Rings Out" (1969) and "Getting To This" (1970). At that stage Blodwyn Pig looked destined for great things - but the old ogre of musical differences reared its ugly head, and Abrahams left his own band. Blodwyn Pig soldiered on for a while, but Mick's presence had been too vital a factor in their success, and the Pig died.

The early seventies saw Mick on 'Top Of The Pops' and 'In Concert' on Radio One with The Mick Abrahams Band, showcasing two fine guitar-driven rock albums in (A Musical Evening With) Mick Abrahams and At Last. The band enjoyed success throughout Europe but record company support was less encouraging and, after a short-lived Blodwyn Pig reunion in 1974 (immortalised via another Radio One live broadcast), a disillusioned Mick Abrahams effectively quit the music business.

1. Greyhound Bus - 4:50
2. Awake - 8:49
3. Winds Of Change - 4:50
4. Why Do You Do Me This Way (Abrahams, Sargeant) - 3:31
5. Big Queen - 4:28
6. Not To Rearrange (Abrahams, Sargeant) - 3:26
7. Seasons - 15:03
All songs by Mick Abrahams except where stated

*Mick Abrahams - Guitar, Mandolin, Pedal Steel, Guitar Steel, Vocals, Slide Guitar
*Bob Sargeant  - Organ, Guitar, Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
*Ritchie Dharma - Percussion, Conga, Drums
*Walt Monaghan - Guitar  Bass, Vocals

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Steve Hillage - Open (1979 uk, progressive space rock, 2007 remastered)

Steve Hillage's music really has moved with the times. We've seen him progress from the seventies sound to the eighties 'pop' to the nineties 'techno' (System 7). So if you dig that late seventies funky sound then this could be the album for you. I would place it on a par with Green, but whereas Green takes you to another world, this recording stays in this one but turns your world into a paradise.

Talking to the Sun climaxes in what I call 'aural orgasm'. How can anybody write a tune that sounds that good? This really is music to put you in a good mood. If you're feeling low, these songs just say to you, "everything's going to be alright." 1988 Aktivator is a bit out of place, being very manic, but Open is just Love. Definite Activity and Don't Dither Do It are good for getting that motivation back into your life. Then there are some more mellow instrumental tracks but very pleasant listening nonetheless. Those spacey keyboard sounds are just great. This is feel good music.
by Marty (Sydney)

1. Talking to the Sun - 5:59
2. 1988 Aktivator - 2:29
3. New Age Synthesis (Unzipping the Zype) - 8:52
4. Healing Feeling - 6:05
5. Earthrise - 8:34
6. Open - 5:17
7. Definite Activity - 4:43
8. Getting Better - 2:59
9. Day After Day - 6:19
10.Getting in Tune - 3:15
11.Don't Dither Do It - 5:04
12.The Fire Inside - 6:14
13.Don't Dither Do It (1974 Power Trio Backing Track) - 4:46
14.Four Ever Rainbow - 8:56

*Steve Hillage - Synthesizer, Guitar, Vocals
*Andy Anderson - Drums
*Paul Francis - Bass
*Miquette Giraudy - Keyboards
*Jean Philippe Rykiel - Synthesizer
*Dave Stewart - Guitar, Vocals

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Steve Hillage - L (1976 uk, progressive space rock, 2007 remaster)

After a stint with Gong as their trippy, hippy, new agey guitar guru of cosmically and extremely raga-esque trance rock and improv heaven, Steve Hillage went solo. He branched out to carry his own version of the Gong gospel of personal freedom via his special blend of cosmic brotherhood, Eastern religion, new age, pyramids, ley lines, crystals, and some ferocious jazz fusion and progressive rock guitar blended with space rock synths.

Hillage reinterprets some well-known tunes by other artists like Donovan and George Harrison here as well as penning some of his more memorable sonic treats. His awesome riffing and speedy solos on his Fender Strat rival those of Hendrix and Frank Marino but go further compositionally via exotic scales from other cultures. Add in Todd Rundgren's engineering and production genius, his Utopians guesting, and several others like Don

Cherry on brass and Tibetan trumpet along with a 15th century Hurdy Gurdy and you have a wild romp into eclectic rock. The 12-minute-long "Lunar Musick Suite" is the pinnacle moment of the release and "Om Nama Shivaya" comes in a close second for Hillage's most blissed-out trance rock. Both Gong and Hillage's solo career have brought such superb musical echoes and legends such as veteran space rockers, the Ozric Tentacles.
by John W. Patterson

1. Hurdy Gurdy Man (Donovan Leitch) - 6:32
2. Hurdy Gurdy Glissando (Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy) - 8:54
3. Electrick Gypsies (Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy) - 6:24
4. Om Nama Shivaya (Kesar Singh Narula, Uma Nanda) - 3:33
5. Lunar Musick Suite (Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy) - 11:59
6. It's All Too Much (George Harrison) - 6:26
7. Eight Miles High (Bonus Track) (David Crosby, Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn) - 4:34
8. Maui (Bonus Track) (Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy) - 4:41
9. Shimmer (Bonus Track) (Steve Hillage, Tim Blake) - 3:50

* Joe Blocker – Drums
* Don Cherry – Trumpet, Horn, Tambourine, Voices, Bells
* Miquette Giraudy – Keyboards, Vocals, Vibe Master
* Peter Hillage – Performer
* Steve Hillage – Synthesizer, Guitar, Vocals, Arp, Shenai
* John Holbrook – Engineer
* Larry Karush – Percussion, Tabla
* Sonja Malkine – Keyboards
* Roger Powell – Synthesizer, Piano, Keyboards, Moog Synthesizer
* Todd Rundgren – Record Producer, Engineer
* Kasim Sulton – Bass Guitar
* John (Jon) Wilcox – Drums

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A Passing Fancy - A Passing Fancy (1968 canada, psych garage beat)

A Passing Fancy was born out of Toronto's Yorkville Village scene in the mid sixties. In 1967 the band released its debut single I'm Losing Tonight, which immediately became a hit and scored high on the east coast charts. In 1968, A Passing Fancy released a self titled album on the independent Boo Records label that was well received and gathered good reviews. The Boo label, formed by two record store owners, only released the album in the Toronto area, so national fame and exposure eluded the band. 

The music on the album, A Passing Fancy, was British influenced pop with elements of psychedelia and an American garage sound. The band went through a couple of line up changes while recording the album but all musicians that worked on the album were credited in the album liner notes. The main songwriters in the band were Jay Telfer and brothers Fergus and Greg Hambleton. The songs were well written and the music was well played. Shortly after the release of the album, one more single followed, I Believe In Sunshine, which was also a hit. 

This single broke out across Canada and attracted interest south of the border as well as with some major labels but unfortunately it was too late and the band folded. Telfer and the Hambletons, in particular Fergus (as he went by for a time) went on to write more songs and record with other bands in the 70's. They also made a couple of solo albums that were well received and are still active today on the Canadian music scene. Greg Hambleton went on to form Axe Records while Fergus Hambleton continues to perform with his reggae band the Satellites. 

This reissue of the original Boo Records album by Pacemaker Records in association with the U.S. reissue label Timothy's Brain, is housed in a beautiful digipack case with original album artwork. Although this album contains no bonus tracks as none were available or additional liner notes, the sound quality is superb and is taken from the original master tapes. An exciting and long lost piece of the early Canadian music scene that has thankfully been restored and made available once again for all to hear and a new generation to discover.
by Keith Pettipas

1. I'm Losing Tonight - 2:53
2. A Passing Fancy - 2:41
3. You're Going out of My Mind - 2:37
4. Sounds Silly - 2:30
5. She Phoned - 2:16
6. I Believe in Sunshine (Greg Hambleton) - 2:27
7. Island (Greg Hambleton)  - 2:11
8. Your Trip (Ruth Cameron) - 3:10
9. Little Boys for Little Girls - 3:35
10.Under the Bridge (Fergus Hambleton) - 2:42
11.Spread Out - 2:57
12.People in Me (Sean Bonniwell) - 3:24
13.I'm Losing Tonight - 2:49
All songs by Jay Telfer except where noted
Bonus track 13 

*Rick Mann - Bass
*Brian Price - Organ
*Brian Smith - Rhythm Guitar
*Jay Telfer - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
*Ron Forster - Guitar, Vocals
*Fergus Hambleton - Organ, Vocals
*Louis Pratile - Drums
*Phil Seon - Guitar
*Dan Troutman - Bass
*Steve Wilson - Drums

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Haystacks Balboa - Haystacks Balboa (1970 us, great hard psych underground rock)

New York City based, hard-rock band with progressive ideas. They released this self titled album in early 1970. The sound is dominated by hard rock tunes who are typical of the time, like Sabbath or Mountain, with backbreaking heavy fuzzy guitars. The progressive moments are quite nice, long tracks relying on Hammond organ and guitar interplay with extended instrumental stretches.

Real heavy dudes with a mean attitude and some wicked guitar - above-par hard rock. A couple of tracks on their album were written by Larry West, formerly of the legendary Vagrants and younger brother of guitar colossus,  Leslie Mountain' West. The album was produced by Shadow Morton, aka Shadow Mann. Mayo and Polott still play together in an outfit called Blue Lagoon.

1. Spoiler (Deborah Mayo, Mark Pollot, Mark Mayo) - 3:30
2. The Children Of Heaven (Lloyd Landesman, Mark Mayo) - 3:06
3. Bruce's Twist (Bruce Scott, Mark Babani, Mark Mayo) - 2:42
4. Auburn Queen (Lloyd Landesman, Mark Mayo) - 9:11
5. Sticky Finger (Deborah Mayo, Larry West, Mark Babani, Mark Mayo) - 5:14
6. Ode To The Silken Men (Lloyd Landesman, Mark Mayo) - 8:49
     a.Tell Me A Story
     b.What Would Happen
7. Riverland (Mark Mayo) - 3:49

Haystacks Balboa
*Mark Babani - Drums
*Mark Harrison Mayo - Guitar
*Lloyd Landesman - Keyboards
*Mark Polott - Bass
*Bruce Scott - Vocals

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies - The American Metaphysical Circus (1969 us, sensational experimental psych space rock, 2004 reissue)

This album has a huge reputation to live up to, so I go into this review expecting something truly special, and from the start there is already the huge sense of experimentation that I was expecting. It is clearly very ahead of it’s time, it sounds fresh even by todays standards. In Kalyani there is already some very interesting effects being put to good use and it makes for a very intense, refreshing listen. The end of the track and the transition into the next track is beautifully crafted and creates a very intense feeling.

You Can’t Ever Come Down introduces some well played guitars and some brilliant vocal looping. There is an obvious psychedelic feel that is good enough to even define the genre, however it does it in a way that is so far above that of the normal psychedelic bands that it sets itself very much apart. All the first three songs act as parts of one larger piece “The Sub-Sylvanian Lithanies” it feels like a very concious attempt to create something so different, so fresh and it does just that. It is very obvious already why this album is held in such high regard. The unusual effects and instruments create an incredibly eclectic mix that simply drives the album forwards and makes in incredibly interesting.

Right now I am wishing as must everyone else that has ever heard this album not under the influence that I had some acid or a big fat joint to truly appreciate everything as it was meant to be appreciated, then again I doubt I’d be able to review it as well. As moonsong ends you are thrust into American Bedmusic and Patriot’s Lullabye, which is a lushly arranged piece with some beautifully delivered vocals featuring some brilliantly executed effects. The whole feel is very sobering, it brings you back down to earth, and true to it’s name relaxes you as any lullaby should.

The album then slowly progresses towards Nighmare Train which features some very confidently arrogan vocals and more unusual instrumentals and a lovely little rhythm. If Lullaby puts you sleep, this track will very aptly give you nightmares, the album has been perfectly crafted to reflect the outward concepts. You can feel this albums effect on progressive rock which at the time was blundering its way into mainstream, this album would certainly have helped that along.

There is a incredible feel of direction in this album, you are most certainly left feeling that everyone knows their part and exactly how it’s going to turn out. Whether this can be credited to brilliant production, planning, musicianship or all of the above is unknown. The album feels very genuine yet also mechanical and this juxtaposition makes it an increidbly interesting listen. Invisible Man feels very much like a standard jazz song that has had many added layers added above the guitars and rhtyhm section, including the vocals.

American Bedmusic ends with an old-time ragtime tune Mist 4th of July with all effects, including the record scratching effect that makes it feel very genuine. This brings us into part three of the album, Gospel Music for Abraham Ruddell Byrd III. The instrumental Gospel Music very nicely breaks up the album and presents itself as a very well played, if quite outwardly standard seeming jazz song. The whimsical feel of this song will refresh the listener and adds a further direction to the album before Part IV.

The Southwestern Geriatrics Arts and Crafts Festival stats with the Sing-Along Song, which is a perfect and even more whimsical departure from the rest of the album. With a very upbeat melody and an actual sing-along at the start of the song it sets the scene for a very alternatively psychedelic part of the album. Instead of relying on the standard psychedelic feel of the era it sets the scene by creating something that feels very old yet incredibly refreshing and ahead of its time for the type of album that it is.

The fact that it encompasses early 50’s style music as part of the Geriatric concept feels very natural and it shows a form of reverse experimentation that is quite uncommon even today. The Elephant at The Door often feels like standard psychedelia but turns on a penny, there are some lovely uses of silence and time here that make me feel right at home. The extended instrumental jams here can sometimes lose direction but surprisingly it works to it’s favour when it is eventually brough back in line.

The whole album feels a lot shorter than it actually is, it controls time perfectly and runs through in a way that makes you want to listen to it again once it finishes. Leisure World contains narration separated by a soft folk song, and ends with what sounds like something either in intense joy or the death throes of an animal. The album ends with the melodic reprise of the sing-along song.

The album as a whole plays like a masterpiece and very much deserves the hype surrounding it, the use of effects and unusual instrumentals works very well as a whole.

1. Kalyani - 3:51
2. You Can’t Ever Come Down - 3:01
3. Moonsong: Pelog - 3:46
4. Patriot’s Lullabye - 2:49
5. Nightmare Train - 3:19
6. Invisible Man - 3:33
7. Mister 4th of July (Lisa Kindred) - 1:47
8. Gospel Music - 4:29
9. The Sing-Along Song - 4:04
10.The Elephant at the Door - 5:13
11.Leisure World - 2:35
12.The Sing-Along Song - Reprise - 0:47
Written and Arranged By Joseph Byrd except where indicated

* Pot - Piano, Conductor, Harpsichord
* Ed Sheftel - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
* Christie Thompson - Vocals
* Ernest "Ernie" Anderson - Voices
* Fred Selden - Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute
* Ted Greene - Guitar
* Joseph Hunter Byrd - Organ, Producer, Vocals, Keyboards, Conductor, Synthesizer
* Larry Kass - Tabla
* Michael Whitney - Guitar (Classical)
* Chuck Bennett - Bass Trombone
* Victoria Bond - Vocals
* Ray Cappocchi - Tuba, Tenor Trombone
* Dana Chalberg - Flute, Piccolo
* John Clauder - Percussion, Drums
* Susan de Lange - Vocals, Electronic Voices
* Meyer Hirsch - Flute, Saxophones
* Don Kerian - Trumpet, Cornet
* Gregg Kovner - Drums, Percussion
* Tom Scott - Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute
* Harvey Newmark - Bass (uncredited on album)
* Harihar Rao - Percussion (uncredited on album)

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Music Emporium - Music Emporium (1969 us, brilliant psychedelic rock)

The Music Emporium was a venturesomely creative quartet, comprised of Dora Wahl, their only non-vocalist, but an accomplished girl drummer - one of only a few in rock at the time (Jan Errico of the Vejtables, and later, the Mojo Men, as well as Maureen Tucker of the Velvet Underground, also come to mind); Carolyn Lee, another nimble femme, who made the bass guitar hum (also played piano and sometimes, organ); Dave Padwin, a master of both wispy and agitating chops, on guitar; and Bill "Casey" Cosby, the organ playing wizard, who could blend wedding and funeral music (psychedelia is often awash with contradictions) to evoke a new, sonic vocabulary and who also wrote or co-wrote, with Thom Wade (guitarist/vocalist from a previous group he played in), the lion's share of material for the band.

With all of the aforementioned virtuosic qualities, the Music Emporium's signature could range anywhere from grinding eeriness to luscious wistfulness, even taking one into the twilight zone, at times.

The lyricism in all of the songs on "Music Emporium" are philosophical poetry, pursuing--through apocalyptic crescendos and chanting sound bites--poignant issues that were the embodiment of the 60s: peace, love and brotherhood; ultimate knowledge and truth; the celestial; the wearisomeness of work; and fate.

This brings me to the matter of five bonus cuts on this expanded CD reissue by the Music Emporium: instrumental versions of half of the ten numbers heard previously that were on the original album.

I found that their music here, divorced from lyrics, can depict impeccable images.Yes, the incessant intensity in the mellifluous mystique they engender is like the sight and redolence of incense, wafting forever through the air of an open window on a dreamy midsummer's dusk.

All in all, this CD by the Music Emporium is a veritable masterwork. If they possessed a slightly larger oeuvre like, say, what the Left Banke or the Strawberry Alarm Clock (who they bore some resemblance to) had, they might have been a contender for the most underrated group in rock history accolade.

Indulge yourself then; go out and snap up this CD now, for in this opus by the Music Emporium the dance of hypnotic keyboards brightens whispering darkness.
by David Chirko

1. Nam Myo Renge Kyo (W. Casey Cosby, T. Wade) - 2:37
2. Velvet Sunsets (W. Casey Cosby, T. Wade) - 2:35
3. Prelude (W. Casey Cosby) - 2:07
4. Catatonic Variations (W. Casey Cosby) - 1:58
5. Times Like This (M. Bulian) - 2:00
6. Gentle Thursday (W. Casey Cosby, T. Wade) - 3:46
7. Winds Have Changed (W. Casey Cosby, T. Wade) - 2:12
8. Cage (W. Casey Cosby) - 5:09
9. Sun Never Shines (D. Padwin) - 4:01
10. Day Of Wrath (W. Casey Cosby) - 3:25
11. Nam Myo Renge Kyo  (W. Casey Cosby, T. Wade) - 2:41
12. Velvet Sunsets  (W. Casey Cosby, T. Wade) - 3:08
13. Winds Have Changed  (W. Casey Cosby, T. Wade) - 2:14
14. Sun Never Shines  (D. Padwin) - 4:04
15. Gentle Thursday  (W. Casey Cosby, T. Wade) - 4:17

Music Emporium
*Bill "Casey" Cosby - Vocals, Keyboards
*Dave Padwin - Guitar
*Carolyn Lee - Bass, Background Vocals
*Dora Wahl - Drums

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SRC - SRC (1968 garage psychedelic from detroit, 2010 Micro Werks edition)

The sixties are remembered as a very fertile time for music, when bands were actually encouraged to take risks, be different, try something new and write their own material. With so many talented acts around, it's easy to see how some of the less-commercial bands might be forgotten. Sometimes the most interesting music is the kind you have to seek out and dig for, like a lost treasure- SRC are a perfect example of this. With musical barriers and restrictions being torn down then, it allowed bands across the country to do something original. Detroit specifically, from the mid sixties to the early seventies, had a budding scene where bands were producing harsher sounds and pushed the musical limits. This was the atmosphere in which the heavy psychedelic rock of SRC would flourish. It's important to make clear that SRC shouldn't be confused with the Nuggets bands, most of whom could only produce one or two songs of merit. SRC wrote a lot of strong material, pushed boundaries and still sounds fresh to new ears today. This is their story.

The band started when the Fugitives consisting of Gary and Glenn Quackenbush (guitar and organ) and drummer E.G. Clawson took the lead singer Scott Richardson from another local band, the Chosen Few (their past notoriety being opening up the Grande ballroom in Detroit with the MC5). Then after adding Robin Dale on bass and Steve Lyman on rhythm guitar, they formed the Scott Richard Case (later shortened to SRC so as not to have emphasis on any individuals in the group) and released their 1967 debut single (A-Square Records), a cover of Skip James “I'm So Glad." No doubt SRC first heard the song off of Cream's debut record, but they don't do a by-the-numbers retread of it. Their version has more energy and feeling to it. The guitars get a raw sound, the lyrics are sung with conviction and it has a nice fuzzed-out solo that only hints at Quackenbush's talent. The song became a hit locally that summer and with help of their future producer John Rhys, they met the V.P. of Capitol records and signed a contract with them.

SRC had their own distinct sound and unique vision- heavy psychedelic rock mixed with hard rock overtones with Quackenbush's lead guitar style really contributing to their overall sonics. Quackenbush's technique was incredible, especially the way he used feedback and incorporated it into searing solos that are so expressive and can range from melodic to chaotic in a matter of seconds in the same song. This made the band stand out, although the other band members shouldn't be underestimated since it's when they all got together that the songs took form. Their music is the kind you get lost in, you forget yourself and your surroundings just melt away. Their sound reflected influences like Cream, The Pretty Things, The Who and The Yardbirds and other British bands. They mixed that influence with the sound of peers from the local music scene (the Stooges,MC5 and the Amboy Dukes) to come up with something very unique and creative.

SRC's self-titled debut record (1968) is a classic of first rate psychedelic music and should be put alongside other classic from that era. The album is filled with great melodies and harmonies, outbreaks of raw noise and incredible ripping guitar solos that make you stretch your head back in amazement. The guitar sounds like it has a personality of its own throughout the record. The lead off track, "Black Sheep," is their best-known song and an anthem for outcasts. The song starts with a melodic organ carrying the tune along, punctured by bursts of huge sustained feedback guitar that crackle through the speakers, giving it a heavy stomp tempo to it. In the song, Richardson sings about how few black sheep they are and celebrates their fearlessness of the Unknown and their mission to do something unconventional. "Black sheep, outcast, misfit, Ishmael" the chorus goes, then seemingly out of nowhere comes a heavy intense sustained guitar lead that bends and wails. “Daystar" ups the intensity in a driving melody with responding feedback, interplaying the vocals with Quackenbush, who stretches out some fuzzy electric notes only to explode into a shredding noisy solo. “Exile" tells a spacey story set to music and ends with Quackenbush's wild guitar howling like some kind of demented animal. “Paragon Council" gets building with its melody going along with the commanding lead guitar that changes into a searing, powerful catchy riff that compliments each other and then goes completely mental. “Refugeve," a very innovative track, opens with the feeling of exhaling a deep breath. It has numerous parts that don't follow a standard song format, staring with high, atonal notes, and progressing until it evolves into a fuzzed out power chord Mudhoney-like groove. They even do a psychedelic cover version of the classical chestnut "Morning Mood" (from Grieg's "Peer Gynt") on the album. The music on this record, filled with distortion and loud manic solos, challenged mainstream listeners. Like many fresh, innovative ideas, most people couldn't grasp it- although it sold well locally, it had little impact outside of the Midwest.

Before the start of the second record, they switched bass players, with Robin Dale being replaced by Al Wilmot, and dropped their second guitarist Steve Lyman. Whether the line up change or pressure from Capitol to write something more commercial due to low sales effected them is uncertain, but their sound became different. Milestones (1969), SRC's second record, finds them mixed between expanding on their earlier heavy sound and trying out new styles that they might not be suited for, making the record inconsistent. “No Secret Destination" kicks the record off with a flurry of urgency coming from the organs and a siren-like guitar lead that give way to a rising melody that eventually goes into a scorching, cacophonic noisy solo that attacks your ears. “Eye of The Storm", another highlight, starts slow, dissonant and menacingly, erupting into a moving rhythm and distorted guitar lead.

The chorus has a great simple melody while Richardson sings “somewhere it's quiet, somewhere its warm, it's peaceful and calm in the eyes of the storm" as if he'd found tranquility within a hectic storm. Unfortunately, the album is marred with mediocre and awful attempts at easy listening pop ("Show Me," "I Remember Your Face," "Our Little Secret"). "Checkmate" balances out the bad with a throbbing, thumping bassline throughout the song, with crunchy guitar and an explorative organ solo. “Up All Night" shows them letting loose with tons of energy. There's rocking melody, bouncy bassline and Quackenbush injecting real aggressive attitude into the guitar making it growl and spit out screaming feedback notes.

It's interesting to note that the band chose to put the easy listening songs at the beginning of the record while “Up All Night" one of the best tracks is the second to last on the album. “Turn Into Love" shows the band trying to incorporate both styles in the same song as it has a fat R&B vibe to it with back up soul singers and Quackenbush giving a tearing fury guitar storm. The album ends on a good ambitious note with the lengthy and atmospheric “Angel Song" that tells a story of an angel who wishes to be able to dream while an empathetic and fuzzy lead are played over it, showing that they were still trying to stretch their neck out and try something different .

When Milestones was released in March '69 with no promotion, it still sold much more than their debut. EMI even picked it up and re-released it in Europe because of it getting airplay there. With Milestones getting them recognized, SRC were able to do a West coast tour but there was a large contrast between their sound and the hippie music there. It ended up making SRC re-evaluate their sound- ultimately, they kicked out Gary Quackenbush out of the band. Richardson stated “It got to the point where we couldn't completely carry on with Gary. It was like another plateau that we were building up to. We'd been to San Francisco and gotten it into our heads what our next level of working should be. We just had to make another step and he couldn't make it with us."

As Quackenbush no longer fit in with the band's sound, the less talented Ray Goodman took his place and SRC started recording their third album Traveler's Tale (1970), which lacks the bite and energy that gave SRC its appeal. The songs were longer with more prog rock passages and came off sounding generic and faceless with Goodman trying to match Quackenbush's abilities. One track, “The Offering," has the band playing with a large orchestra and comes out as a failure. Although a few shorter songs ("By Way of You," "Midnight Fever") redeem it from being complete garbage, you can't help but imagine how much better they'd sound if Gary could have contributed something instead of someone else doing an imitation of him. There's a reason why when they made an SRC compilation later on, this album had the fewest tracks taken from it.

When Traveler's Tale came out, it didn't sell well. Goodman left and SRC asked Quackenbush to return to the band. SRC recorded a few new songs with new bass player Richard Haddad, but were dropped from Capitol in 1971 due to lack of sales. The band decided to have one more go at it by changing their name to Blue Scepter and getting a new record label. They released a single “Out in The Night" (a Pretty Things cover) featuring horns, backed with an original called “Gypsy Eyes" that reinstated Quackenbush's intense guitar playing. They recorded enough for an album but it was shelved when the single flopped.

Over the next few decades, SRC's albums went out of print until 1987, when a skimpy best-of compilation was put together by the Bam Caruso label (The Revenge of the Quackenbush Brothers). One Way Records went a step further and did a small scale re-issue of their three studio albums and compiled an album of leftovers called Lost Masters. Its first half is made up of Blue Scepter songs, sounding like a better follow-up to Milestones with a more stripped down sound but plenty of acid rock solos from Quackenbush. The second half comes from their last days at Capitol and has them doing covers and playing different genres like psychedelia, blues and R&B but this time, they match up strongly with the solos, still leaving a strong effect on the listener. A better compilation was done in 2000 by the RPM label (Black Sheep)- there were more tracks and it was made more widely available than any of their other releases, introducing a whole new generation to their music.

SRC's music has crept up as an influence to other bands over the years. Bands like Hawkind, Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney and other heavy rock bands with insane psychedelic leads share traits with SRC's sound. Even if some of these bands never heard SRC, there's still a correlation. When SRC's music came out, they was ahead of its time and suffered for it. But by doing it their way, they broke ground. The use of jaw-dropping distortion and noise became more acceptable over the years for many musicians after numerous bands like SRC broke the mold. It's a crime their records aren't in print again, but thanks to the Internet, more people can hear them now than ever (myself included). Hopefully, this article will turn more people onto this wonderful, amazing band.
by Tim Shannon

1. Black Sheep
2. Daystar
3. Exile
4. Marionette
5. Onesimpletask
6. Paragon Council
7. Refugeve
8. Interval
9. Morning Mood (Bonus track)
10.Black Sheep (Bonus track)

*Steve Lyman - Second Guitar and Voice
*Glenn Quackenbush - Hammond Organ
*Scott Richardson - Lead Voice
*E.G. Clawson - Drums
*Robin Dale - Bass and Voice
*Gary Quackenbush - Lead Guitar

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