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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chicago - Chicago Transit Authority (1969 us, smashing debut album, with fusion jazz and blues rock elements, 2008 japan SHM remaster)

Opinion on what is surely one of the finest debut albums ever made tends to be somewhat polarised these days. Detractors of what eventually, sadly, unforgivably, metamorphosed into the ultimate slush-rock outfit simply ignore it; admirers of the earlier stuff who nonetheless try to distance themselves from the currently unfashionable genre of jazz-rock describe the band as a mainstream hard-rock quartet accompanied by a more-adventurous-than-average Memphis-style horn trio. In fact Chicago Transit Authority has real jazz in bucketloads, alongside blissed-out rock, blues, funk-soul and some wilful psychedelic oddness, particularly in the lyrics and occasional sound effects. And in this instance the mixture really does work.

The first thing that hits your consciousness is the bullhorn-brash confidence of this nascent outfit. Seven unknown but uncompromising musicians offer as their first recording a double album containing eleven lengthy tracks (and one short prologue). The staple fare is meticulously arranged songs, some of which contain enough modulations and changes of tempo to allow them to qualify as suites. Heaven knows how long they rehearsed to get their sh*t this tight, but they are that good and they know it. What other band had the chutzpah to include on its debut a seven-minute solo guitar piece comprising only electronic feedback, long before Lou Reed or Neil Young did so? No wonder the guitarist can be heard laughing into the amplifier mic half way through the piece. He’s not giving the finger to the record company; he’s saying, “this isn’t gratuitous noise, this is our art: make up your own mind whether it’s valid.”

All the musicians are excellent, but in particular guitarist Terry Kath can give Hendrix a fright in the sustain/widdling stakes (“Poem 58”: reportedly, Jimi rated him as a peer) and can perform a continually-inventive twelve-minute strut on the pentatonic comparable to Frank Zappa at his best (“Liberation”). Yes, the horns can throw in the choreographed stabs, but they show themselves capable of ambitious yet economical improv soloing (“Introduction”). Together, the septet move beyond finely honed jazzy pieces (“Beginnings”) through a bludgeoning riff-blues (“South California Purples”) to a latin-drenched drum solo (the fine cover of Steve Winwood’s “I’m A Man”), while the lyrics veer from hippy-dippy mysticism (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”) to abrupt political statement (“Prologue, August 29, 1968” / “Someday”). The latter segues seamlessly and intelligently out of the former, a location recording of a chanting civil rights crowd, to drum the message home.
by Len Liechti

1. Introduction (Terry Kath) - 6:35
2. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (Robert Lamm) - 4:35
3. Beginnings (Robert Lamm) - 7:54
4. Questions 67 and 68" (Robert Lamm) - 5:03
5. Listen (Robert Lamm) - 3:22
6. Poem 58 (Robert Lamm) - 8:35
7. Free Form Guitar (Terry Kath) - 6:47
8. South California Purples (Robert Lamm) - 6:11
9. I'm a Man (Steve Winwood/James Miller) - 7:43
10.Prologue (James William Guercio) - 0:58
11.Someday (James Pankow/Robert Lamm) - 4:11
12.Liberation (James Pankow) - 14:38

*Peter Cetera - Bass, Vocals
*Terry Kath - Guitar, Vocals
*Robert Lamm - Keyboard, Vocals
*Lee Loughnane - Trumpet, Vocals
*James Pankow - Trombone
*Walter Parazaider - Woodwinds, Vocals
*Danny Seraphine - Drums

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Grand Funk Railroad - Live (1970 us, awesome classic live album, japan remaster)

Thus starts out one of the quintessential live recordings of all time. The power trio of Mark Farner, Mel Schacher, and Don Brewer entered the 70s with all the thunder of a great storm when they released "Live Album". And that storm still resonates.

"Live Album" was one of the discs that was played over and over because of its intensity and the great songs of GFR. Recorded at Sarasota, Florida on June 22, 1970; Jacksonville, Florida on June 23, 1970; and West Palm Beach, Florida on June 24, 1970.

The remaster of "Live Album" is a grand art, it opens up the sound. It realizes the textures of the show by emphasizing the instruments. Schacher's bass is clearer and produces the growl that it was meant to. The drums' pounds are good but a little distant. Fairly, this is a concert setting. But to hear Farner's vocals as cleanly as we do here along with his guitar leads is a plus. Listen to the extraordinary "Inside Looking Out" and the change is unreal. GFR played music for their fans.

That love dedication is revealed on this album of material recorded during mid June,1970 at several Florida arenas. With an energy level of a nuclear reactor, the disc captures the heat of the times and documents it for all time. Secondly, Grand Funk was the essence of Rock. Listen to any of the tracks and you realize that Farner and the boys understood what great music was and better, how to produce it. Mixed with socially conscious lyrics, GFR became the voice of an age.

 From the drum solo sweat machine of "T.N.U.C" where Brewer toils forever with a fevered intensity and produces the drum solo of all time that has never been beatened. With the rigid bass of Mel Schacher and the utilitarian Guitars/Keys/Vocals of Mark Farner, Grand Funk also produces the timeless "Heartbreaker", "Mean Mistreater", "Inside Looking Out", and other GFR classics that have defined the era's concept of great rock music and what it was all about.

Grand Funk have had their share of troubles and came out of them stronger. They went on to produce fantastic studio discs that cemented the status of the band forever in the annals of rockdom. Many of those discs are in the "Grand Funk Remasters" series.

The disc has a different song sequence than what you may be used to. This is because of the intent to adhere to the original progression of the shows. This does not hurt the reproduction but is an added bonus for those who have seen these shows. Suits me.
by Matt Rowe

1. Introduction - 2:30
2. Are You Ready - 3:34
3. Paranoid - 6:20
4. In Need - 9:50
5. Heartbreaker - 6:58
6. Inside Looking Out (John Lomax, Alan Lomax, Eric Burdon, Bryan "Chas" Chandler) - 12:22
7. Words Of Wisdom - 0:55
8. Mean Mistreater - 4:40
9. Mark Says Alright (Farner, Don Brewer, Mel Schacher) - 5:10
10.T.N.U.C - 11:45
11.Into The Sun - 12:10
All songs by Mark Farner, except where noted.

Grand Funk Railroad
*Don Brewer - Drums, Vocals
*Mark Farner - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Mel Schacher - Bass

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Miller Anderson - Bright City (1971 uk, excellent guitar blues with folk and jazz tinges)

Miller Anderson, the Scots born singer, guitarist, and songwriter, came to fame with the Keef Hartley band, which established him as a well respected frontman. He joined the band in 1968 and stayed with Hartley for some three years, during which time the\d hard, became However it seemed that Miller and Keel didn't always get on too well and Miller left the band in 1971.

“Bright City” was Andersons first solo album for which he additionally wrote all the material. It was first released on Deram Records in 1971. The songs, including, Alice Mercy from(Whom It Max Concern)”. "The Age of Progress", "Nothing In This World", and "Bright City", remind us what a line singer has been missing from mainstream rock these past few years.

Among those helping him out were Neil Hubbard (guitar), the late Gary Thain (bass), who later joined Uriah Heep, Mick Weaver, (sometimes known as Wynder K. Frogg) and Peter Dines, on keyboards. Session man Lynn Dobson from the Manfred Mann band played flute, while Eric Dillon was on drums. Producer Neil Slaven sat in on percussion. Adding backing vocals were Madeline Bell, Tracey Miller and Liza Strike. Thain, Dines, and Weaver all played on Keel Hartley's albums, so Miller was using mostly familiar faces to present his own music to the world. But getting a "name" in the music biz is harder than it looks, and back in the early seventies at least, Keel Hartley still had the pulling power that Miller Anderson lacked on his own.

For a while Miller had his own band called Hemlock with James Leveron (bass) and Eric Dillon (drums). It was a struggle to establish themselves and they joined forces with Ken Simmonds and Stan Webb (ex-Chicken Shack), to form a new version of the Savoy Brown Blues Band which went on a brief tour of America in the Spring of 1974. In the same year, Anderson rejoined Keef Hartley and the\d a new band called Dog Soldier.

The group released only one album of the same name for United Artists, Anderson then teamed up with Man Nolan, in 1976, in what proved to be the last version of T.Rex, working alongside Dino Dines (keyboards), Herbie Flowers (bass), and Tony Newman (drums). T.Rex hit the road with the punk group The Damned on the  "Dandy In the Underworld Tour" in 1977. Bolan was sadly killed in a car accident in 1977, and the- band broke up.

Miller carried on working and earned the respect, if not the fame and fortune, of his contemporaries, Today he continues to write and perform and reminds us of a regarding aspect of the thriving Seventies music scene that now seems like a bye gone age.

1. Alice Mercy (To Whom It May Concern) - 6:43
2. The Age Of Progress - 3:27
3. Nothing In This World - 4:15
4. Bright City - 3:04
5. Grey Broken Morning - 4:26
6. High Tide, High Water - 7:53
7. Shadows 'Cross My Wall - 6:02

*Gary Thain - Bass Guitar
*Eric Dillon - Drums
*Neil Hubbard - Guitars (tracks: A1, B2.)
*Peter Dines - Organ, Piano
*Lyn Dobson - Flute
*Mick Weaver - Organ, Piano, Harpsichord, Congas
*Miller Anderson - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
*Junior Campbell - Strings Arrangements

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hard Meat - Hard Meat / Through A Window (1970-71 uk, awesome acid psych 2002 edition and 2017 korean remaster)

Both great albums from the UK psych/progressive rock band Hard Meat are combined here on one CD. Originally released in 1970 and 1971 the albums are very much in the early '70's UK underground counter cultural rock vein.The first album is a psychy heavy affair with some nice jamming and a great version of Dylan's "Most Likely You Go Your way and I'll Go Mine", whilst the second moves into more experimental areas with the addition of keyboards, flutes and purified guitar passages. Groovy, Trippy with a West Coast aura.

From "Through A Window" Sleeve Notes
“Many changes have developed since the first album and this, the second record, represents the middle of something that we started long ago. Pete Westbrook and Phil Jump joined in on flute and keyboard respectively. The band consists of Mick Dolan on six and twelve string acoustic guitars, six string electric guitar, harmonica and lead vocals; Steve Dolan on acoustic string bass, bass pedals, electric bass, acoustic guitars and vocals; Mick Carless on drums, castanets, congas and assorted loud noises.”

Hard Meat 1970
1. Through A Window - 3:51
2. Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow - 5:03
3. Space Between - 4:33
4. Time Shows No Face - 3:56
5. Run Shaker Life - 10:16
6. Universal Joint - 3:39
7. Most Likely You Go Your Way I'll Go Mine - 5:03
Through A Window 1971
8. On The Road - 5:56
9. New Day - 5:01
10.Free Wheel - 2:56
11.Smile As You Go Under - 4:11
12.I Want You - 6:57
13.From The Prison - 4:09
14.A Song Of Summer - 5:08
15.Love - 4:59
16.The Ballad Of Marmalade Emma And Teddy Grimes - 2:59

Hard Meat
*Mick Dolan - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals
*Steve Dolan - Electric Bass, String Bass, Vocals
*Mick Carless - Drums, Congas, Percussion and Assorted Loud Noises
*Pete Westbrook - Flute
*Phil Jump - Keyboards
*Ian Whiteman - Piano, Flute (Track 4)
*Bruce Howard - Piano (Track 7)

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Zzebra - Zzebra (1974 africa, excellent jazz, heavy rock and nigerian folk)

Zzebra in its original encarnation was an amalgamation of two brilliant bands. Terry Smith and Dave Quincey from (IF and Lasissi doughty) Amao from OSIBISA. Liam Genockey and John McCoy were brought in on drums and bass, and Gus Yeadon on keyboards and vocals. Ken Burgess produced and Tony Taverner engineered.

Gus Yeadon was not happy in the band and when Ken's old friend and partner, Tommy Eyre, returned from recording in the USA with Mark-Almond he was invited to see them play at London's Marquee club with a view to joining. Eyre recalls: 'The band was absolutelly electric. The combination of jazz, serious heavy rock and Nigerian folk music was incredible. The highlight of the evening though was an unaccompanied guitar section in the middle of Hungry Horse.

Terry Smith attempted and incredibly speedy rising line that ended up in a mis-fretting. He grunted and tried again. Still missed the last couple of notes. As hot as the Marquee club was, Terry was wearing a thick heavy woolen overcoat. He took a huge slug from it, layed it on the ground and then played the line perfectly and at double the speed! .

That's when I knew I wanted to play with that band!". Zzebra was a hard-working road band and it's improvisitational natural couple with the sheer power of the rhythm section allowed it to constantly experiment without losing the audience. Many new songs were composed this way and within s short time they had enough new material to record, "Panic".
by Tommy Eyre

1. Cobra Woman - 6:14
2. MrJ. - 4:17
3. Mah Jong - 5:10
4. Ife - 6:20
5. Spanish Fly - 4:16
6. Amuso Fi - 5:16
7. Rainbow Train - 5:05
8. Hungry Horse - 6:45

*Dave Quincey - Alto Tenor & Soprano Sax, Piano, Clavinet
*Gus Yeadon - Piano, Guitar, Flute, Clavinet, Lead Vocals
*Terry Smith - Guitar
*Loughty Amao - Conga Drums, Baritone & Tenor Sax, Flute, Assorted African Percussion, Vocals
*Ltam Genockey - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*John McCoy - Bass
*Tommy Eyre - Piano, Keyboards

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bread Love And Dreams - The Strange Tale Of Captain Shannon And The Hunchback From Gigha (1970 uk, dreamy folk, with baroque and sunshine pop trickles)

The mouthful named Bread Love and Dreams was a relatively short-lived two woman/one man folk trio hailing from the fair township of Edinburgh, Scotland. The self-titled debut in 1969 failed to ruffle any feathers. Their producer, Ray Horricks (Davy Graham, The Human Beast), had taken the original four-track recordings made by David McNiven, Angie Ray, and Carolyn Davis without their knowledge, threw them on an eight-track, and tacked on a bunch of strings. Horrick’s idea was to turn it into a concept album, but sales figures indicate that no one got it. Davis walked half way out the door after that, to unsuccessfully embark on a solo career. Somehow, by an act of uncertain mercy, McNiven and Ray were granted an extension to their Decca contract and headed back into the studio with Mr. Horricks.

The Strange Tale Of… and Amaryllis were recorded simultaneously, with the idea of releasing them together as a double LP. Horricks invested more of himself and his contacts into these sessions. As such, he pulled in the rhythm section from Pentangle and select session musicians to fill out the compositions. This time around, McNiven worked closely with an orchestra conductor, giving the new works a more natural feel over the debut. However, Decca was in the business of making money at whatever cost, just like most RIAA labels, so they split up the albums. Captain Shannon saw release in November of 1970 and Amaryllis mid-way through ‘71. The former was drenched in personal experience and the latter focused on more mystical songs, but neither was seriously promoted. After a brief supporting tour, Bread Love and Dreams was no more.

Though they were intended as two sides of a coin, I prefer the straightforward, semiautobiographical nature of Captain Shannon, and believe it to be their most essential work. Amaryllis was weighed down by its 21-minute long opening title track, which was really several songs mashed together, while its partner had a much more even tracklisting. Shannon opens on the lovely Dylan-esque “Hymn To Sylvia.” Written about a female biker in a rough London roadhouse, a flowing church organ and touches of harmonica rounds out a warm, traveling bassline and twin acoustic guitars. It’s the kind of tune to make you fall in love with strangers, and sets the tone of the record. There are characters everywhere you look.

Ignoring the slightly sloppy bongo, “Masquerade” predates Trooper with a ballad about a homicidal car thief. Ray’s voice is sampled, looped, and altered in a fashion ahead of its time, while an electric guitar rocks out as seriously as anything the band ever did. The saxophone there adds a nice punch to accent the chorus. The lone Carolyn Davis contribution, “Purple Hazy Melancholy”, takes things down a notch with sorrowful, otherworldly female vocals and a contemplative acoustic intro. Complimentary strings and horns eventually join in, making the track a wonderfully understated epic. It draws you in and makes you stay.

They don’t make albums much like this anymore. Sure, neither Captain Shannon nor Amaryllis did very well commercially, but McNiven himself notes they were probably released as part of a Decca tax scam, noting that they were promoted about as much as Andrew “Dice” Clay’s recent comeback tour. Sunbeam’s reissues (Amaryllis popping up late in 2007) were made with complete cooperation with the band, who provide a forward and lengthy, worthwhile explanations of each song. The few random photos are nice too. That makes this pressing of the lost Scottish acid-folk classic the most definitive yet.
by Alan Ranta  (PopMatters Contributing Editor)

1. Hymn for Sylvia - 5:43
2. Masquerade - 4:52
3. Sucking on a Cigarette - 3:30
4. Ho Who Knows All - 4:50
5. The Lobster Quadrille - 2:42
6. Butterfly Land - 5:06
7. Purple Haze Helancholy - 3:48
8. Sing Me a Song - 2:12
9. The Strange Tale of Captain Shannon and the Hunchback from Gigha - 6:56

Bread Love And Dreams
*David McNiven - Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
*Angie Rew - Vocals , Flute
*Carolyn Davis - Vocals
Guest Musicians
*Terry Cox - Drums
*Allan Trajan - Keyboards
*Danny Thompson - Bass

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Stoneground - Family Album (1971 us, great west coast psych, live and studio recordings)

Stoneground was formed 1970 in San Francisco. What originally started as a trio soon expanded to a 10 piece band. Stoneground were know for their outstanding live performances and they toured America and Europe as part of Warner Brothers' Medicine Ball Caravan. In Europe they developed some kind of cult status through this. Nevertheless 1973 marked a big break in the band's history as differences in oppinion within the band caused them to split. Some of the band members: Cory Lerios, Steve Price and David Jenkins formed Pablo Cruise in 1973, a band that turned out to be a commercial success. Only Annie Sampson and Tim Barnes were remaining to form later versions of Stoneground with new band members.

Prior to their first album Stoneground had already recorded one album for Warner Brothers which the label didn't release. Later sessions resulted in the release of Stoneground's first album in 1971. The second album, a live double album, followed in the same year and 1972 saw the release of their third album. After their new formation Stoneground recorded four more albums between 1976 and 1982 - most of the songs being rock'n'roll. Somehow this formula didn't work out in times of disco tunes and new wave and eventually Stoneground disintegrated completely in the early eighties.

Disc 1  Live
1. Get Rhythm
2. Passion Flower
3. Corina
4. Big River
5. Won't Be Long
6. Super Clown
7. Richland Woman
8. Queen Sweet Dreams
9. Precious Lord
10.It Takes A Lot To Laugh
11.I Can't Help It
12.No Doreen
13.It's Not Easy
14.If You Gotta Go
15.Total Destruction To Your Mind

Disc 2   Studio
1. You Must Be One Of Us
2. All My Life
3. Where Will I Find Love
4. Gonna Have A Good Time
5. Jam It

*Sal Valentino - Guitar, Vocals, Percussion
*Tim Barnes - Guitar, Vocals
*Cory Lerios - Keyboards
*Stephen Price - Drums
*Brian Godula - Bass
*John Blakely - Guitar, Bass
*Lynne Hughes - Vocals
*Dierdre LaPorte - Vocals
*Annie Sampson - Vocals
*Lydia Morero - Vocals

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stoneground - Stoneground (1971 us, excellent west coast psych)

As the 1960s turned into the 1970s, old groups broke up, new ones formed, and alliances became as loose as musical chairs, with fluid lineups forming and morphing around young veterans. Of all the ensembles to arise from the new order, few were as large and fluid as Stoneground, the ten-strong band who featured several stalwarts of the initial '60s San Francisco rock explosion in their ranks. On their self-titled debut album, they embraced a scope of styles reflecting their diverse membership, blending San Francisco rock with blues, soul, and gospel. Their size and eclecticism might have worked against them commercially, however. But then again, Stoneground's origins in the hippie counterculture were almost uncommercial by definition.

Stoneground grew out of a much smaller power trio from the East Bay San Francisco suburb of Concord, featuring guitarist Tim Barnes, drummer Michael Mau, and guitarist Luther Bildt. Barnes had known San Francisco rock impresario Tom Donahue since high school; Donahue, a pioneer of FM radio in the Bay Area in the late 1960s, had been a big part of the local scene since the beginning of the decade, when he was a DJ on the popular Top Forty AM station KYA. He was also co-founder of the first significant San Francisco rock label, Autumn Records, which had a couple of hits in the mid-'60s with the Beau Brummels. At the end of the 1960s, the Beau Brummels, now on Warner Brothers, were breaking up, and lead singer Sal Valentino was in need of a new project.

Warners, Valentino told me in a 1999 interview, "were going to do some sort of a project with me. And it got started, but I didn't stay long enough. Tom came down [to Los Angeles] and brought me back north." Valentino, as well as rhythm and bass guitarist John Blakeley, started to work with the Stoneground trio, which took on no less than four woman singers. Only one of them, Lynne Hughes, had significant recording experience, as the lead singer for the Bay Area band Tongue and Groove (which recorded for Fontana in the late 1960s) and an auxiliary member of sorts of the Charlatans. Annie Sampson had known Valentino as a neighbor of both him and another of the new recruits, Deirdre LaPorte. Both Sampson and Lydia Phillips, the fourth female vocalist, had been in the San Francisco production of Hair. As Sampson remembers, Sal "was like the leader, 'cause Tom had built the band around Sal. Tom was deeply involved with Warners as well."

Warners in turn was deeply involved with financing a documentary of a traveling rock festival of sorts, which eventually ended up as the film Medicine Ball Caravan. Originally the Grateful Dead (also on Warner Brothers) were supposed to be part of the Caravan. But according to Sampson's recollection, Stoneground ended up going instead, and were something of the house band of the project, as the only band to play every concert of the enterprise in America and Europe. Signed to Warners, they recorded an unreleased attempt at a debut album in London with George Harrison in attendance at some of the sessions. "It was a great album," according to Sampson. "But somehow Warners didn't quite like it; they didn't think it was quite what they wanted, or something." In England they did pick up a new member in bassist/keyboardist Pete Sears (who played on Rod Stewart's early-'70s albums), and did the LP released in 1971 as Stoneground at Sunwest Studios in Los Angeles, reprising some of the material from the London sessions. Non-member Ron Nagle, who'd been in one of the very first psychedelic San Francisco bands in the mid-1960s, the Mystery Trend, contributed keyboard, percussion, and (according to the sleeve credits) "inspiration."

If there was any dominant force on Stoneground, it was Valentino. He wrote five of the six original numbers and was the only member to sing lead on more than one track (taking the lead on four cuts altogether, and featuring as a sparring partner on a couple others). Yet those expecting a continuation or expansion of the Beau Brummels' moody folk-rock, in which Valentino occasionally wrote material but usually interpreted the songs of Brummels guitarist Ron Elliott, would come up empty. "Stoneground's stuff is like, it's a different guy," Valentino told me. "It's different songs, different styles. Some people don't think much of it at all, especially people that like my singing at the beginning."

Indeed the record featured no less than seven lead vocalists, with Sampson, Hughes, LaPorte, Phillips, Barnes, and Bildt each taking a turn at the front mike. "Sal was gracious in doing that," praises Sampson. "He would let everybody sing. He wasn't selfish. He spotlighted us all." In keeping with an album that presented so many different voices, the choice of covers was quite eclectic, including the Kinks' "Rainy Day in June," Reverend Gary Davis's "Great Change, Since I've Been Born," John D. Loudermilk's "Bad News" (previously recorded by Johnny Cash), and John Mayall's "Don't Waste My Time." The closing gospel-soul-rock ballad, the Sampson-sung "Brand New Start," was penned by Blakeley and Donahue; Donahue also pitched in by co-producing the record with Valentino.

The result couldn't wholly capture their live persona, which as Sampson puts it was like "a happening on stage," with much dancing and audience participation. And inevitably for a band featuring seven singers, the record encompassed only a portion of the material that Stoneground performed live. Their next release, the double-LP Family Album, caught up on some of the omissions, yet by that time the lineup was already changing. By 1973 only Barnes and Sampson remained from the original group, and Stoneground kept going until 1984, Barnes and Sampson on board all the while. Pete Sears found the most fame of any of the original Stonegrounders as a member of Jefferson Starship. While many of the others faded from the music business, Barnes remains active in Northern California as a guitarist in Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers, as does Sampson, who plays live often and releases solo recordings on her own label.
by Richie Unterberger

1. Looking for You
2. Great Changes Since I've Been Born
3. Rainy Day in June
4. Added Attraction (Come See Me)
5. Dreaming Man
6. Stroke Stand
7. Bad News
8. Don't Waste My Time
9. Colonel Chicken Fry
10.Brand New Start

*Luther Bildt - Guitar
*John Blakeley - Guitar, Bass
*Lynne Hughes - Vocals
*Deirdre La Porte - Vocals
*Michael Mau - Drums
*Lydia Phillips - Vocals
*Annie Sampson - Vocals
*Sal Valentino - Vocals
*Tim Barnes - Guitar, Vocals
*Pete Sears - Piano
*Ron Nagle - Vocals, Piano

1971  Stoneground - Family Album

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Albert King - Live Wire / Blues Power (1968 us, electric blues masterpiece, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab)

Live Wire/Blues Power is one of Albert King's definitive albums. The guitarist is at the top of his form throughout the record -- his solos are intense and piercing. The band is fine, but ultimately it's King's show -- he makes Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" dirty and funky and wrings out all the emotion from "Blues at Sunrise."
by Thom Owens

Recorded at San Francisco's legendary Fillmore Auditorium in June 1968 during Albert King's first engagement there as a headliner, Live Wire/Blues Power ranks with B.B. King's Live at the Regal of four years earlier as one of the greatest and most influential live blues albums of all time.

Performing six tunes, only two of which he'd recorded previously, the 6'4" blues titan was able to stretch out beyond the three-to-four minutes allowed on 45-RPM discs and finally capture on vinyl the way he played in person. The results were nothing short of incendiary.

As critic Albert Goldman commented at the time: "Instead of bending or warping a note here and there for special effect, King skirls every kiss-off note, sending vicious waves along his strings like the ripples on a cobra's back."

Exciting guitar playing, a tapestry of remarkable patterns throughout the album, with great music in which captivates you from start to the end.

1. Watermelon Man (Herbie Hancock) - 4:03
2. Blues Power (Albert King) - 10:17
3. Night Stomp (Raymond Jackson, Albert King) - 5:49
4. Blues At Sunrise (Albert King) - 8:43
5. Please Love Me (Albert King, Jules Taub) - 3:58
6. Look Out (Albert King) - 5:22

*Albert King – Guitar, Vocals
*Willie James Exon – Guitar
*James Washington – Organ
*Roosevelt Pointer – Bass
*Theotis Morgan – Drums

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Taj Mahal - The Natch'l Blues (1968 us, high-grade blues, remastered with bonus tracks)

Taj Mahal (formerly Henry Saint Clair Frederick) literally was born to play the blues. Growing up in a musical household, his musical pedigree would be defined by the gospel music of his mother and the West Indian jazz arrangements of his father. Classical piano lessons resulted, plus mastering the harmonica and acoustic guitar. His organic comprehension of music was reflected in academic pursuits of farming, a passion he maintained in addition to his music.

Taj moved to California and formed a blues group with Ry Cooder that failed to generate commercial success. Subsequently, he started working with iconic blues players, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy and Lightnin’ Hopkins, developing his distinctive singing and playing. He recorded with the Rolling Stones (appearing in the groundbreaking Rock and Roll Circus), and release a self-titled debut album for Columbia Records. His career over the next four decades elevated his status to legendary.

Natch’l Blues, originally released in 1968, is a transformative album. It combines traditional blues with modern sound production. “Good Morning Miss Brown” sets a rhythmic tone with a jazzy acoustic steel guitar, walking piano bass line, and soulful vocal. There are numerous hooks that make the songs vibrant. “The Cuckoo”, a medium-paced number has an infectious electric guitar groove that works in tandem with Taj’s discerning harp work.

The harp playing has a natural, understated quality, that is displayed on the instrumental, “Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine” (one of three bonus tracks on the album), as he and Jesse Ed Davis exchange urgent leads, fixed in counterpoint. On the frequently covered, “Corinna”, a country aesthetic is rendered with the harp licks, blending seamlessly with the song’s tempo. A colorful rhythm and blues theme is developed on “You Don’t Miss Your Water (‘Till Your Well Runs Dry)”, punctuated by Memphis-Stax/Volt horn chorus and lead vocals reminiscent of Otis Redding or Sam Cooke.

Even in a traditional blues format (“Goin’ Up To the Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue”), the mystique of this modern bluesman is proprietary. It is inconceivable that he recorded an album this commanding in his twenties. The supporting band (Davis, Gary Gilmore, Chuck Blackwell, Al Kooper and Earl Palmer) is cohesive, led by the musical acuity of Davis.

The analogue stereo sound is flawless. The separation of the instrumentation (especially between the electric and steel guitars) is exact. With reduced distortion, a clearer tone on the electric instruments and the harmonica is achieved. Audiophile or not, this album is an idiomatic excursion into great blues music.
by Robbie Gerson

1 Good Morning Miss Brown - 5:16
2 Corinna - 5:01
3 I Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Steal My Jellyroll - 5:13
4 Going Up To The Country, Paint My Mailbox Blue - 5:35
5 Done Changed My Way Of Living - 11:44
6 She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride - 5:27
7 The Cuckoo - :55
8 You Don't Miss Your Water ('Til Your Well Runs Dry) - 7:05
9 Ain't That A Lot Of Love - 6:41
10 The Cuckoo (Alternate Version) - 5:20
11 New Stranger Blues (Bonus Track) - 8:59
12 Things Are Gonna Work Out Fine (Bonus Track) - 5:17

*Taj Mahal - Vocals, National Steel Guitar, Harmonica
*Jesse Ed Davis - Guitar, Piano
*Al Kooper - Piano
*Gary Gilmore - Bass
*Chuck Blackwell - Drums
*Earl Palmer - Drums

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The Churls - The Churls/Send Me No Flowers (1968/69 canada, fine psych garage beat, 2007 digipak remaster)

The Churls were a Canadian garage/psych band with blues roots. Rount the mid sixties they went to New York to record their debut album(The Churls) and toured the East Coast college circuit with Muddy Waters and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

The Churls got dressed up in some funny medieval clothing style and disbanded after the release of their second album "Send Me No Flowers". This edition contains both their albums.

1. Eventual Love (Sam Hurrie, Hal Ames, Robert O'Neill) - 2:48
2. Crystal Palace (John Barr, Robert O'Neill) - 3:28
3. Think I Can't Live Without You (Sam Hurrie, Hal Ames) - 3:18
4. Princess Mary Margaret - 3:29
5. City Lights - 3:01
6. Fish On A Line - 6:09 
7. The Weeks Go By (Sam Hurrie) - 3:11
8. Where Will You Be Tomorrow (Sam Hurrie, Hal Ames, Robert O'Neill) - 2:33
9. Time Piece - 4:49
10.Reservations - 2:11
11.Gypsy Lee - 5:35
12.Send Me No Flowers - 3:08
13.I Can See Your Picture (Brad Fowles, Hal Ames, John Barr, Newton Garwood, Robert O'Neill) - 3:05
14.See My Way (Newton Garwood, Robert O'Neill) - 5:16
15.Long,Long Time - 4:04
16.Tonight - 4:15
17.Trying To Get You Off My Mind (Brad Fowles, Newton Garwood, Robert O'Neill) - 4:53
18.She Needs A Man (Brad Fowles, Newton Garwood, Robert O'Neill) - 2:45
19.Too Many Rivers (Brad Fowles, Newton Garwood, Robert O'Neill) - 5:35 
Songs written by Hal Ames, Robert O'Neill except where noted

The Churls
*Sam Hurrie - Guitar
*Brad Fowles - Drums
*John Barr - Bass
*Newton Garwood - Organ, vocals
*Hal Ames - Guitar, Vocals
*Robert O'Neill - Lead Vocals

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Thursday, April 21, 2011


The Original Blues Project - Reunion in Central Park (1973 us, outstanding live album, 2013 japan SHM issue)

In 1964, Elektra Records produced a compilation album of various artists entitled, The Blues Project, which featured several white musicians from the Greenwich Village area who played acoustic blues music in the style of black musicians. One of the featured artists on the album was a young guitarist named Danny Kalb, who was paid $75 for his two songs. Not long after the album's release, however, Kalb gave up his acoustic guitar for an electric one. The Beatles' arrival in the United states earlier in the year signified the end of the folk and acoustic blues movement that had swept the US in the early 1960s.

Kalb's first rock and roll band was formed in the spring of 1965, playing under various names at first, until finally settling on the Blues Project moniker as an allusion to Kalb's first foray on record. After a brief hiatus in the summer of 1965 during which Kalb was visiting Europe, the band reformed in September 1965 and were almost immediately a top draw in Greenwich Village. By this time, the band included Danny Kalb on guitar, steve Katz (having recently departed the Even Dozen Jug Band) also on guitar, Andy Kulberg on bass and flute, Roy Blumenfeld on drums and Tommy Flanders on vocals.

The band's first big break came only a few weeks later when they auditioned for Columbia Records, and failed. The audition was a success, nevertheless, as it garnered them an organist in session musician Al Kooper. Kooper had begun his career as a session guitarist, but that summer, he began playing organ when he played on the "Like a Rolling stone" recording session for Bob Dylan's album, Highway 61 Revisited. In order to improve his musicianship on the new instrument, Kooper joined the Blues Project and began gigging with them almost immediately. Soon thereafter, the Blues Project gained a recording contract from Verve Records, and began recording their first album live at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village over the course of a week in November 1965

This reunion concert, -the first featuring all five members since early 1967-, was a major event at the time. Heard today, the Project's unique blend of blues, pop, and folk rock is as potent as ever, and the performances here simply crackle with energy. Actually, on balance, this is probably the group's all-around best album, if for no other reason than the excellent sound quality; the Project's two "official" albums famously suffered from some of the tinniest sonics of the period.

Recorded live at The Schaffer Festival, Central Park, New York, on June 24, 1973.

Introduction: Ron Delsener - 0:37
1. Louisiana Blues (Muddy Waters) - 3:38
2. Steves Song (Steve Katz) - 3:34
Introduction: Al And Andy - 0:42
3. I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes (Blind Willie Johnson, Al Kooper) - 5:26
4. You Can't Catch Me (Chuck Berry) - 4:13
Introduction: Al - 0:55
5. Fly Away (Al Kooper) - 3:28
6. Caress Me Baby (Jimmy Reed) - 7:36
Introduction: Andy - 0:35
7. Catch The Wind (Donovan Leitch) - 4:22
8. (I Heard Her Say) Wake Me Shake Me (Traditional, ar. Al Kooper) - 9:11
Introduction: Danny Kalb - 1:00
9. Two Trains Running (Muddy Waters) - 13:30

Blues Project
*Roy Blumenfeld - Drums
*Danny Kalb - Guitar
*Steve Katz - Guitar
*Al Kooper - Keyboards
*Andy Kulberg - Bass

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gordon Haskell - It Is And It Isn't (1971 uk, amazing progressive folk rock, japan remaster)

From Gordon Haskell's official page, about his latest album release.
Dear Friends, 
I live quietly and freely, but industriously on a beautiful Greek island. I had no intention of writing or recording. I had had 60 years of life under English rule and had always found it too oppressive for my tastes.

In 2006 I finally gave up on England as a lost cause. Besides, the cost of living was beyond me and my taxes were going to finance wars. It was hardly encouraging. I shriveled up, starved of light. The vineyard was destroyed. Any good gardener knows the remedy for that.

My father, Professor Harry Hionides, was a Greek-American and whilst I never knew him, I had his Greek blood and humanitarian ways. After 60 years of mental imprisonment and frustration, and never-ending arguments, I am finally free.

When I first arrived on the island I began learning how to build my own house and with enormous help from my inspirational partner and soulmate we began to grow our own vegetables and fruit. Together we built a new and rewarding beautiful way of life.

Being able to provide shelter and food for oneself seems so obvious yet most of us leave the education system without the basic tools of survival. Most of us become dependent on somebody as a result. Our natural abilities and talents are too often overshadowed by our ambitions, put there by the good intentioned but misguided.

We begin our lives trying to please, trying to make someone proud of us. We can become successful, even President . Along the way we are obliged to make certain compromises to achieve those goals. George Bush is the perfect example of how any idiot can achieve his goal if you don’t mind the company you’re forced to keep and are willing to follow orders.

The song ‘How wonderful you are’ encapsulated the potential in each and every one of us . I had hoped the song would awaken those who felt oppressed by our idiotic authorities and we would start objecting and fighting back, but never mind. It’s a bit late now. Wars cost billions. Who did you think would pay for them? The Banks?

I had repeatedly rejected success over 40 years of ‘show business’ whether it was King Crimson or my own solo efforts simply because it felt phoney. Which in the main it was. My instincts never let me down. I had been right all along. I was simply outnumbered. Here on this island I find agreement and like minds. I have moved on. The new album “One day Soon” is here and I feel very good about it. There’s nothing more to say. Except that the fruit and vegetables never tasted so good as they do now. 

I wish you all a good harvest on this amazing and beautiful planet. As I used to say in my previous life back in The Bent Brief and The Thomas Tripp, ‘May you be blessed with many goats!’ I remember you all with enormous love and admiration. Jazz was conversation. I’ll never forget listening to the jazz in Harry’s Bar. It was my education. 
Thank you. Gordon Haskell Hionides

Gordon Haskell is usually thought of as a footnote in the history of King Crimson -- the only lead singer in the group's long list of personnel who never played a single live date with the band, though he was with them long enough to cut most of an album (Lizard) and get one performance ("Cadence and Cascade") onto its predecessor. Otherwise, he's been an enigma even to many Crimson fans.

Haskell's history with Robert Fripp goes back to the days they spent together in the mid-'60s as members of the League of Gentlemen, a band that backed various American R&B stars on tour and cut a couple of singles. Haskell was also a member of a Liverpool band called the Quotations, formed by ex-Big Three bassist Johnny Gustafson (before he joined the Merseybeats), who recorded for English Decca ("Alright Baby" b/w "Love You All Over Again") in 1964. His main group affiliation for most of the mid-'60s was the Fleur de Lys, a somewhat lightweight psychedelic band who recorded at least once under the pseudonym of Shyster. Haskell passed through the lineups of Rupert's People and Cupid's Inspiration, and, as a member of the Fleur de Lys, also played on records by Bill Kimber, John Bromley, Sharon Tandy, and Terry Durham. By the end of the '60s, he was a solo act, trying to establish himself as a singer/songwriter, and released a pair of singles in 1969 and 1970, "Boat Trip" and "Oh-La-Di-Doo-Da-Day," and one LP, Sail in My Boat, all for British CBS.

In 1970, as his former League of Gentlemen bandmate Robert Fripp was struggling to keep his current group, King Crimson, viable in some form and complete a second album, Haskell joined the band as successor to bassist-singer Greg Lake, who was leaving the lineup to join Emerson, Lake & Palmer. After singing on one song for that album, In the Wake of Poseidon, he joined a new Crimson lineup and recorded most of the next album, Lizard. As was often the case with Crimson lineups in those days, however, Haskell didn't last -- he and other members of the core band had left by the time Lizard was completed and released late in 1970, and he never worked live with the band.

Haskell cut a solo album, It Is and It Isn't, during 1973 (actually the album was recorded circa 1971 but saw the limelight round 1973-74), and worked with such artists as Tim Hardin, Alvin Lee, and Van Morrison. His solo work tends to be in a folk-like, singer/songwriter vein, reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot with something of a progressive rock edge and more humor, some of it very sardonic. Based in southern England at the end of the '90s, he concertizes regularly in the Hampshire and Dorset areas, and he has continued his recording career into the '90s with his albums Butterfly in China and Hambledon Hill. In 1993, he also teamed up with Mike Wedgewood (ex-Curved Air and Caravan) to tour Scandinavia. In the late '90s, Voiceprint Records' Blueprint label reissued Haskell's solo albums of the '60s and '70s on compact disc. The massively popular "How Beautiful You Are" hit British airwaves in the winter of 2001, announcing Haskell's comeback to music. Harry's Bar followed the next year, fully bringing him back into the public spotlight after years of inactivity.
by Bruce Eder

1. No Meaning - (3:31)
2. Could Be - (3:18)
3. Upside Down - (4:31)
4. Just a Lovely Day - (3:59)
5. Sitting by the Fire - (3:44)
6. When I Lose - (0:26)
7. No Need - (2:51)
8. Worms - (4:46)
9. Spider (Robert Smith, Gordon Haskell) - (4:19)
10.Learning Not to Feel - (2:39)
11.Benny - (4:49)
12.When I Laugh - (0:24)
All songs written by Gordon Haskell except where noted.

*John Wetton - Organ, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals, Gut String Guitar, Vocal Harmony
*Gordon Haskell - Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Bill Atkinson - Drums
*Alan Barry - Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
*David Brigati - Vocals
*Eddie Brigati - Vocals
*Dave Kaffinetti - Piano, Keyboards, Electric Piano
*Arif Mardin - Keyboards, Electric Piano, Horn Arrangements, String Arrangements
*Neal Rosengarden - Piano
*David Spinozza - Guitar, Rhythm Guitar

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lighthouse - Can You Feel It? (1973 canada, exciting jazz rock, 2008 remastered)

One of Canada's most original pop groups ever, Lighthouse was formed in Toronto early in 1969 when drummer Skip Prokop (ex of The Paupers, Janis Joplin, Al Kooper and Carlos Santana) had a vision of incorporating horns and strings with modern rock, sort of a heavy-hitting 'big band' sound. After a chance meeting in New York with Paul Hoffert - who was actually trained in more classical stylings and already an established sessions-player. Ralph Cole joined soon after. Originally a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Cole knew Prokop when he was in Thyme, who had actually performed on many bills with The Paupers during the latter half of the decade. They added mul

The 'full orchestra sound' which would become the band's trademark was at first rounded out by an additional 10 members including singer Pinky Dauvin. Their sound was as diverse as their listening audience, and contained cellos, violas, an array of horns and a full percussion section. The band was doing their first gig outdoors by May of that year and were signed to a deal with RCA shortly thereafter. They went to Toronto's Eastern Sound Studios in the spring of '69 and released their self-titled debut that same year. Produced by Prokop and Hoffert, it was met with critics' praises, following the success of such tracks as "Mountain Man" and the cover of the Byrds' "Eight Miles High".

"Can You Feel It"? came out in '73, recorded in New York's Record Plant. The upbeat pop-smash "Pretty Lady", along with the title track and "Set The Stage" fetched the band more gold. But despite following their proven forumula, they were finding themselves in the middle of a changing musical environment.

1. Set the Stage (Cole) - 4:56
2. Same Train (Prokop) - 6:03
3. Magic’s in the Dancing (Cole) - 4:04
4. Pretty Lady (Prokop) - 3:57
5. Disagreable Man (Prokop) - 5:29
6. Can You Feel It (Prokop) - 4:36
7. Is Love the Answer (Cole) - 3:14
8. Lonely Hours (Prokop) - 6:25
9. No More Searching (Hillary) - 4:04
10. Bright Side (Cole) - 4:26

*Skip Prokop - Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Guitar
*Ralph Cole - Guitar, Vocals
*Alan Wilmot - Bass
*Don DiNovo - Five-String Electric Viola
*Dick Armin - Electric Cello
*John Naslen - Trumpet
*Dale Hillary - Tenor Sax, Alto Sax, Vocals
*Larry Smith - Piano, Vocals
*Rick Stepton – Trombone

1969  Lighthouse (2012 extra tracks edition)
1971  One Fine Morning
1972  Sunny Days (2008 RDI issue)
Related Acts
1967  The Paupers - Magic People
1968  The Paupers · Ellis Island  (2008 remaster)
1969  The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield And Al Kooper
1969  Michael Bloomfield with Nick Gravenites & Friends - Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore West (2009 remaster and expanded) 

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Bobak, Jons, Malone - Motherlight (1970 uk, heavenly psychedelic experimental pop)

One of the most curious developments in the record collecting world over the last two decades has been the astonishing rise in values of late 60s/eorly 70s UK progressive and psychedelic albums, which were transformed almost overnight from bargain bin fodder to bank loan status. This was particularly true of the various independent releases of the era, which rapidly became known in the trade as 'private pressings'.

In this bizarre Alice Through The Looking Glass world, familiarity was spurned and obscurity become positively desirable: a fifth-rate, fifth form impersonation of the Incredible String Band, invariably limited to a tax-exempt pressing of 99 copies, escalated in value almost daily while the original ISB albums went untouched. The irony of this situation, almost inevitably, was that the identities of some very successful people were hidden away in the Xeroxed small print on the bock sleeve.

The Forever Amber album (current value: £1500) included Chris Barren, who went on to contribute keyboards to George Michael's chart-topper "Careless Whisper", while another English psychedelic band, Complex, featured Steve Coe, later a member of 80s hit makers Monsoon and one of the stalwarts of WOMAD. Perhaps the most successful of all the 'unknowns' who cut a highly coveted album in the late 60s, however, were Bobak Jons Malone - not a group of solicitors, but three backroom boys at the Morgan Sound Recording Studios in Willesden, London.

Their sole album Motherlight emerged in 1969 and promptly disappeared again, leaving another generation to discover its idiosyncratic charms (by which time, of course, the price tag had increased alarmingly). The genesis of the Motherlight album can be traced back to the mid-60s. Monty Babson, an old-fashioned crooner who'd been recording as a solo act since the 1950s, hod crossed over to the other side of the fence: establishing his own publishing company, Morgan Music, he also worked as one of the independent producers based at Denis Preston's lansdowne Studios in Holloway Pork, London, licensing completed masters to the major labels.

During the mid-60s Babson produced recordings for, amongst others, the Barron Knights and Shawn Phillips, though freakbeat connoisseurs will doubtlessly prefer to remember his production work on the Shots single "Keep A Hold Of What You Got". By the summer of 1967 Babson was working with on outfit called Orange Bicycle, whose mainmon was Wilson Malone - a multiinstrumentalist who could write, sing, produce and arrange with equal dexterity. Malone's emergence as a creative force coincided with Babson's desire to set up his own autonomous little empire, and by early 1968 he had founded the Morgan Sound Recording Studios. Surrounding himself with familiar faces,

Babson utilised such studio autocrats as Malone and the similarly accomplished all-rounder Danny Beckerman, while the Shots' psychedelic incarnation, the Smoke, were employed pretty much as the Morgan house band. As well as continuing to licence material to the likes of EMI, Babson had established the Morgan label, a predominantly MOR outlet that also released idiosyncratic efforts by organist Jerry Allen and jazz fusion outfit the Gordon Beck Trio, though the strangely strange- but oddly-normal 1968 album Funnysad Music (credited to the Wilson Malone Voiceband) succeeded in muddying the waters between MOR and the avantgarde.

By the end of the year, however, it was obvious to even the rather staid Babson that, though the album market was beginning to take over from the traditional singles scene, it was the nascent progressive and underground bands who were capable of making the serious money. Babson's response was to introduce the Morgan Blue Town label, which was to cater for the left-of-centre rock and pop audience. Danny Beckerman was entrusted with the nurture and development of the Pussy Plays LR cut by the Hertfordshire/London band Pussy, while a folk/pop crew called the Academy were called in for the album Pop- Lore According To The Academy. The third Morgan Blue Town album, however, was a sfrictly internal affair. With Chris Blackwell at Island making good use of the facilities at Morgan, staff engineers Mike Bobak and a teenage Andy Johns (younger brother of Stones producer Glyn) were already experienced studio hands. Equally relevantly, they were also accomplished musicians.

Bassist Johns had helped out the likes of Spooky Tooth and the Deviants, while Bobok hod previously been guitarist with a London-based band known at various times I as Fogin and the End (not to be confused with the Bill Wyman-managed group of the same name). "We played Kingston I Polytechnic two or three times with the Sweetshop, who later shortened their name to the Sweet", remembers Mike. "They asked us to support them at a gig in the Midlands - Birmingham, I think - but we couldn't, because the guy whose van we used for transport needed it to go to work! With Wil Malone on drums, keyboards, vocals and songwrrting duties, Bobak on guitar and Johns (not Jons, despite the spelling on the album!) contributing bass as well as performing various feats of studio trickery, the ad hoc studio trio agreed to create their own Morgan Blue Town long player.

"Monty Babson had a deal with Wil Malone", recalls Mike Bobak, "and it went from there. The album was definitely a low-key thing, really just us having fun. We used dead studio time late at night to record the music, and part of the agreement was that we lost ail rights to the frocks as soon as we created them. But that was alright – the album wasn't going to sell a million, though someone did tell me that it reached the charts in Holland." The opening track, "Motherlight", set the mood for the entire album. Obscure, almost literary lyrics (the title had been taken from James Joyce's Ulysses), a dominant piano leitmotif, breathy vocals low in the mix, some frustrated guitar hero fretwork and an eerie studio vibe coalesced to confirm that, though Malone was ostensibly the prime mover, this was a collaboration in which all three members played their part.

"On A Meadow-Lea pinpointed the trio's sound to somewhere between Procol Harum and the early Floyd, with some more fractured wordplay, heavy-lidded vocals and monstrous fuzztone guitar, while the tight little rocker "Mono Lose was offset by some gently spiralling vocals and a continuation of that weird but impressively unselfconscious lyrical imagery ("thimble full of empty grooves"?!). With its references to "smiley smiles* and "you'll see a hero rise as every villain dies", "Wanna Make A Star Sam" (possibly aimed at Babson, who owned a company called Mr Sam?) narrowed the imagery down to suggest some obscure Beach Boys homage, though anyone who'd been following Malone's work with both Orange Bicycle and Wilson Malone's Voicebond would hardly have been surprised by his admiration for Brian Wilson.

Next up was "House Of Many Windows", which built from a dramatic opening (very similar, incidentally, to the first few seconds of the Kaleidoscope single "Flight From Ashiya") to a fully-fledged psychedelic/progressive crossover epic, with more evocative lyrics and another deliciously non-sequitur piano break. By way of contrast, the Andy Johns-penned "Chant" featured an almost Pythonesque opening before developing into swathes of white noise, then switching again to a hypnotic, repetitive chant. Generous amounts of phasing and backwards tapes confirm the period piece nature of this track, which featured fellow Morgan engineer Robin Black on backing vocals. From its mock-country opening, "Burning The Weed" was a clearly tongue-in-cheek tale of stoned hillbillies that had wholly unexpected repercussions three decades later.

"A couple of years ago I played the track to my nephew, who's a club DJ", laughs Mike Bobak. "It gave him the inspiration to write a song called "I Don't Smoke" which, after he recorded it as DJ Dee Kline, became a UK Top Ten single." "Burning The Weed" was pure light relief compared to the ominous, unsettling closing track "The Lens, which sounded like Procol Harum on downers. The second half of the song acted as a precis of the entire album over Malone's ponderous, quasi-classical piano motif, thereby reinforcing the impression that Motherlight was a unified, fully cohesive body of work.

Motherlight duly emerged in the summer of 1969, but without a band to promote it, the Morgan sales team were facing an uphill struggle. The album came and went: Wil Malone continued to involve himself with Morgan and Orange Bicycle, recording a solo album for Fontana in 1970 before becoming on integral part of late period Smoke. After orchestrating the Who's Tommy in the mid-70s, he has enjoyed more sustained success over the last few years as the highly-respected producer/arranger of such acts as Iron Maiden, Simple Minds, Massive Attack and the Verve. Mike Bobak, meanwhile, continued to work at Morgan, though he was briefly sacked by Monty Babson after one of his charges, Quintessence, set fire to a studio piano!

He later settled his differences with Morgan's boss and returned to the fold: his work at Morgan and various other London consoles like Olympic and IBC encompassed acts of the calibre of Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney (specifically the superb "C Moon" single), Led Zeppelin (actually a mixing session with Jimmy Page), Cat Stevens, Donovan, Lou Reed and no less than five Rod Stewart albums, including Rod's breakthrough LP Every Picture Tells A Story. He eventually quit as an engineer in 1982 after working with Rick Wakeman.

Andy Johns also continued at Morgan, where he followed in the footsteps of his elder brother by working with the Stones ("my first session with them was at Morgan - they came in to do a version of "You Can't Always Get What You Want", which was a disaster, so they went to Olympic and did it properly"). He also worked with Led Zeppelin ("I don't know why they chose Morgan - it certainly wasn't to work with me!"), Jethro Tull, Free and Van Halen, as well as acting as joint producer for the astonishing debut LP from Television, Marquee Moon.

Still, it's a fair bet that none of the releases featuring input from Mike Bobak, Andy Johns and Wil Malone are worth the sums of money attracted by original copies of Motherlight, which now gains its first-ever, long-overdue official CD release.
By David Wells, With thanks to Mike Bobak

1. Motherlight (Malone) - 3:26
2. On a Meadow-Lea (Malone) - 4:36
3. Mona Lose (Malone) - 2:57
4. Wanna Make a Star, Sam (Malone, Bobak, Jons) - 2:06
5. House of Many Windows (Malone) - 3:36
6. Chant (Jons) - 4:08
7. Burning the Weed (Malone, Bobak, Jons) - 3:21
8. The Lens (Malone) - 6:48

Mike Bobak - Guitar, Vocals
Wilson Malone - Keyboards, Drums, Vocals
Andy Jons - Effects

Related Acts
1969 - Pussy - Pussy Plays

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pussy - Pussy Plays (1969 uk, supreme psychedelia)

One of the most valuable vinyl artefacts of the UK’s psychedelic era. the Pussy album "Pussy Rays" nevertheless has remained something of a mystery even amongst hardcore collectors: despite counterfeit releases on both CD and vinyl formats over the last decade or so, the group's origins and personnel have continued to elude the best sleuthing efforts of fans and researchers alike.

So let's hear it for Edsel, who have undertaken the first-ever official reissue of the album, and the band's drummer Steve Townsend. who has kindly provided the full, previously unknown story behind the album's obscure genesis. The story of "Pussy Plays" really begins in the mid-1960s in Hertfordshire, where Townsend, singer Dek Boyce and bassist Jez Turner were all involved in the local music scene. "We played together in local bands who were well quite well known in the area", recalls Steve. "Initially we were called the Creepers, but when the psychedelic era came along, we used to come up with some silly names - for a while we were known as We Shake Milk I after the old milk posters! We cut a few demos, but nothing serious really, and certainly nothing that was commercially available".

During the middle of the decade, the Creepers had played the Hertfordshire beat/R&B circuit, supporting the likes of the Graham Bond Organisation as well as the Who just before the release of "My Generation". But while the beat boom had thrown up all kinds of regional strongholds, the arrival of the psychedelic era coincided with the country's capital city firmly re-establishing itself as the epicentre of the British music industry. Like most provincial acts of the era, Townsend and his colleagues slowly tired of being big fish in a small, increasingly stagnant pool.

The drummer duly placed an advertisement in the musicians' bible, Melody Maker, which was answered by a couple of London musicians guitarist Barry Clark and keyboardist Peter Whiteman. Clark turned out to be that most intriguing of animals: a fellow musician with contacts. He was particularly friendly with Danny Beckerman, an in-house writer/producer/ arranger/ musician at the Morgan Sound Recording Studios in Willesden. London.

The proverbial studio whizzkid, Beckerman had already released material under such names as Fortes Mentum and Barnaby Rudge. "Morgan already had their own label, and were in the process of setting up a progressive offshoot called Morgan Blue Town", explains Townsend. "Barry Clark and Danny Beckerman had agreed a deal to cut an album for Morgan Blue Town, but they were looking for a band to record it". With Clark, Whiteman and Townsend all on board, the I If drummer recruited two of his old colleagues in We Shake Milk, and the new band duty expanded to a five-piece with the addition of Dek Boyce and Jez Turner.

With additional vocals and I instrumentation supplied by - producer Beckerman, recording began for the album that was to become Pussy Plays. Eight songs were recorded, with Ihe Clark/Townsend composition  "The Open Ground" being the only non-Beckerman selection. Though one or two were purely instrumental workouts, there were no throwaways: tracks like Tragedy In F Minor" (inspired by the recently-issued Electric Prunes album Mass In F Minor, perhaps?) were assured I ill examples of the distinctive, quasi-classical piano approach that shaped so much of Beckerman's work, while "Comets" was a deliciously squally theremin and moog duel, presumably intended as some kind of Joe Meek style space adventure updated for the psychedelic era.

Other songs, however, seemed to suggest that the band were pulling in a slightly different direction, and "We Built The Sun" and "The Open Ground" in particular hinted at the otherworldly lysergic wispiness of early Pink Floyd, with the faux naif, wide-eyed vocals uncannily pitched somewhere between Syd Barrett and Dave Gilmour. So was the album an accurate representation of the band's musical style, or purely a studio project on which they were no more than hired hands? "Half and half, really", muses Steve Townsend. "Even though we more or less came together in order to make the album, we still had considerable input. For example, I wrote and recited the lyrics to The Open Ground", which was a real product of the era I wanted it to have that Tolkienesque, Lord of the Rings-type feel. But Danny Beckerman was really an old-fashioned pop songwriter, so we attempted to give his material a slightly tougher, more contemporary approach."

"We were also responsible for the album's overall concept – the band name, the album title, even the original artwork. Dek Boyce's brother-in-law was Gordon Beningfield, one of the country's leading wildlife artists - he was also commissioned to design a series of stamps for the Royal Mail. We asked him to help us out, and he came up with a cartoon cat design, which we sent to Morgan's publicity department as the proposed front cover. But for some reason they decided to go with their own version, which woo absolutely nothing like his original design!

The irony is that, if they'd used the original design, it would have become collectable amongst Beningfield's followers purely as an example of his work." By the summer of 1969 sessions were complete. Released as the second Morgan Blue Town album (the first had been by the Academy, a pop/folk outfit led by future soap actress Polly Perkins), the appearance of Pussy Plays was marked by a press launch at the Two Decks Club in Rupert Street, Soho. Sadfy this failed to have any noticeable effect on sales - like most of the smaller labels of the time.

Morgan found that issuing quality product counted for nothing without the sales support and distribution network that was necessary to break the album. The UK issue duly sank without trace as did an Italian release on the even more obscure Saint Martin label. The same Italian label also released a single from the album that coupled two of the strongest tracks. "All Of My Life" and "Come Back June", and boasted a picture sleeve (sadly this was merely the same design as the album's front cover).

It would appear that this coupling was only issued in Italy: no other Pussy singles are known to have been pressed in any other territory (and in case you were wondering, a 1972 Pussy 45 on the Deram label is the work of another band). Undeterred, Pussy kept going for a while, recording a handful of further tracks ("roughly half-a-dozen", reckons Steve Townsend) at Morgan Studios that sadly failed lit to gain a release. The group also played in and around the London/Home Counties area, as Townsend relates. "We got the live band together at the same time as the album, and we were doing gigs like the Scotch of St James (on 8 Jury 1969, trivia buffs) and one or two colleges as we were recording.

We didn't play all the numbers from the album, just the more straight-ahead ones. We were all pretty much into that sort of early Pink Floyd type sound, but we were probably rockier when we played live. We also played some old standards – Cannonball Adderley, Mose Allison, some of the blues stuff that was going round as well, and based the act around that." In addition to the Scotch of St James date, psych buffs may be interested to team of a gig at the Rhodes Centre in Bishop's Stortford on 3 February 1969, when Pussy shared the bill with another cult UK psych outfit, Tintern Abbey.

Now if only we had a video of that one... Barry Clark left and was briefly replaced by Gary Peters, before the band slowly disintegrated. "I can't remember exactly why the band drifted apart", admits Townsend, "but it basically split into two halves again – the original Hertfordshire trio and the two Londoners". While Danny Beckerman continued to mastermind a series of pseudonymous releases from the Morgan console room, Steve Townsend, Dek Boyce and Jez Turner returned to the relative tranquillity of Hertfordshire as the heart of a band called Twilly, leaving copies of Pussy Plays to fester in the bargain bins for the next decade or so until the album's eventual rediscovery during the Great Prog/Psych Stampede of the mid-1980s.

So it goes. Still, as you can now hear for yourselves, for once this is an album whose musical strengths come close to justifying the £300-odd price tag currently demanded for original copies.
By David Wells, with thanks to Steve Townsend.

1. Come Back June - 3:59
2. All Of My Life - 4:08
3. We Built The Sun - 5:00
4. Comets - 4:16
5. Tragedy In F Minor - 5:02
6. The Open Ground - 3:35
7. Everybody's Song - 4:20
8. G.E.A.B. - 5:28

*Dek Boyce - Vocals
*Barry Clark - Guitars
*Peter Whiteman - Keyboards
*Jez Turner - Bass
*Steve Townsend - Drums

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