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Plain and Fancy

Music gives soul to universe, wings to mind, flight to imagination, charm to sadness, and life to everything.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kensington Market - Aardvark (1969 canada, great psych fusing folk with baroque, prog and jazz elements, 2008 remaster)

By the end of the 1960s, the psychedelic-rock revolution was peaking. Dream-laced lyrics and trippy effects, including distortion, tape-loops, echoes, delays and phase shifting, were rampant. Adventurous musicians were busy employing a new array of instruments to conjure up kaleidoscopic sounds. The Beatles, leaders in the new music, had already introduced the sitar on Sgt. Pepper’s and the Mellotron on “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The year 1969 saw numerous bands tripping out with delightfully freaky albums, including Skip Spence’s Oar, Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers and The Moody Blues’ On the Threshold of a Dream.

During the winter of ’68, the members of Toronto’s Kensington Market were dreaming up their next psych-rock move. The band had already garnered praise for its debut album, Avenue Road, both at home and in America and Japan, where a picture sleeve of “I Would Be the One” had been issued. And several of its songs featured sitar. But now the group was looking to expand its horizons with new songs by singer-guitarists Keith McKie and Luke Gibson and guitarist-keyboardist Gene Martynec. Help would come from a close encounter with a Moog Synthesizer, a futuristic piece of equipment that had made its debut appearance that year on a classical album called Switched-On Bach, by electronic composer Wendy Carlos.

The Market’s members were introduced to the land of Moog and its strange and wondrous sounds by their road manager, Bart Schoales, who was an enthusiastic fan of Intersystems. An experimental, mixed-media Toronto group, Intersystems was comprised of sculptor Michael Hayden, architect Dick Zander, poet Blake Parker and musician John Mills-Cockell, whose instrument of choice was the Moog. Excited by the prospect of adding a synthesizer to its next album, the Market—including bassist Alex Darou and drummer Jimmy Watson—invited Mills-Cockell to join them in the studio. The marriage of the Moog’s alien sounds with the group’s latest songs would prove to be a freakishly fruitful partnership.

Avenue Road had been recorded in New York’s Century Studio, which suited producer Felix Pappalardi at the time. The New York-based Pappalardi had just finished recording Cream’s best-selling Disraeli Gears and had quickly become one of America’s hottest producers. But for the Market’s next album, Pappalardi liked the idea of setting up shop at Toronto’s Eastern Sound studio, right in the heart of the Yorkville hippie district. “For Felix, it was a real adventure,” recalls Bernie Finkelstein, the Market’s manager. “Everyone in the band was living around the village, just a few hundred yards from the studio. And we could record a little, walk down the street, drop in at a coffee house, have a drink, talk to friends and just hang out. Felix loved the whole neighborhood vibe of it.”

Sessions for the new album at Eastern began in earnest. All three of the Market’s principal songwriters brought forward strong new material. McKie had several fully formed songs, including “Is It Love,” “Think About the Times” and “Half Closed Eyes,” a Renaissance-style ballad with imagistic lyrics about a winter’s day. McKie, Martynec and Gibson all co-wrote songs, either with each other or with Pappalardi, who was bringing his skills as an arranger and multi-instrumentalist to the sessions. And even Finkelstein got in on the act, co-writing the technicolor feel-good number “Cartoon” with Martynec. Experimentalism—not to mention the group’s hallucinogenic diet—fuelled everything. “It may sound arrogant today,” says Martynec, “but at the time we felt we were pursuing art rather than trying to fixate on making hits. The music world was a bit more experimental then and you really could try new things.”

A distinctive Sgt. Pepper influence showed up on several tracks, including the psychedelically-enhanced “Side I Am.” For the song, an epiphany about a stoned-out chess game, Pappalardi added some distinctly Pepper–ish trumpets to Martynec’s piercing guitar and the mellifluous harmonies of Gibson and McKie. Martynec, meanwhile, created a medieval mood on “If It is Love,” by conjuring up a harpsichord-like sound on his keyboard. And “Said I Could Be Happy,” with its skipping, ? beat, is a gentle daytime reverie with Beatle-esque lyrics: “She’s all free fall lately on the moon,” sings McKie, “Sunshine on my mind above the afternoon.”

The recording sessions took their most adventurous turns on tracks featuring the Moog. Mills-Cockell extracted a slow, unearthly groan from the instrument to compliment Gibson’s plaintive cry on “Help Me.” The oscillating synthesizer creates an almost vertigo-inducing thrum on the track, as Gibson sings about climbing and slipping and needing a helping hand. And it added a haunting swirl of sound on “Half Closed Eyes.” Some of its most other-worldly sounds showed up on “Cartoon,” where Mills-Cockell crafted a mind-boggling assortment of spacey effects.

Having the analog Moog in Eastern Sound Studios was like having a proverbial elephant in the room. “It’s not like today, where equipment is digitized and small and you just have to push a button and there’s sound automatically,” explains McKie. “The Moog was this huge monstrosity, with large, modular components and all kinds of plug-ins. It looked like one of those old telephone switchboards. And John would plug in various jacks and eventually he’d draw out the most extraordinary sounds.” Added McKie: “Sometimes the sounds were absolutely gorgeous and almost impossible to describe—like angels dancing on a skating rink.”

Mills-Cockell’s $18,000 Moog made its historic live debut on March 22, 1969 at Toronto’s Rockpile, where the Market premiered the newly recorded songs from its forthcoming album, Aardvark. Opening for the band was Leather, a Yorkville group that featured the Market’s roadie Schoales. More than 900 people gathered in the former Masonic Temple to hear the Market perform both familiar songs and its latest material. Unfortunately, the sound mixing at the Rockpile failed to capture the Market’s thrilling new sound with the Moog. “Much of its effect was lost in poor sound balance,” wrote Globe and Mail reviewer Ritchie Yorke, who noted that some people in the audience, baffled by the new electronics, left before the concert ended.

The Market had greater success when it returned to the Rockpile two months later, in May, to coincide with Aardvark’s release. Appearing with Edward Bear in between dates by supergroup Rhinoceros and just two days before The Who made its Rockpile debut, the Market thrilled its audience with a triumphant showcase. The band played the Rockpile once more that month, appearing with Grand Funk Railroad, along with Milkwood and Leather. Then, in June, the Market performed before the largest audience of its career in June at the city’s Varsity Stadium, in front of over 50,000 people at the Toronto Pop Festival, joining a lineup that included Steppenwolf, The Band, The Byrds, Tiny Tim and Blood Sweat & Tears.

All of these appearances with the band’s secret weapon, Mills-Cockell’s dazzling Moog, helped to promote the group’s daring new album, which featured the avant-garde work of celebrated graphic artist Bruce Meek. Why did the band choose to call it Aardvark? “We liked the fact that the word was high up in the alphabet,” chuckles Martynec. “Avenue Road got listed near the top of the Warner Bros. catalogue. We thought with Aardvark it’d be right at the pinnacle.”

Ultimately, the Market’s heavy use of hallucinogens, LSD and MDA in particular, took its toll. Another attempted tour of the U.S. ballrooms proved a disaster. “It’s all a bit of a blur now,” admits Gibson. “Everyone was pretty stoned in those days and we didn’t live anywhere. We were just in hotels and on airplanes constantly, so that was hard. But, mostly, people were just doing a lot of drugs and that causes a lot of confusion.” Finkelstein agrees. “I think the drug culture got the best of the band,” he says, “and it got the best of me to some degree as well.” Within a year of Aardvark’s release, the band was disintegrating.

Finkelstein and Gibson left Yorkville and moved out to the country to live on a commune in Killaloe, Ont., 200 kilometers north of Toronto. McKie carried on performing as a solo artist. Martynec, who’d been inspired by Pappalardi’s musicianship and studio skills, set his sights on production work. Watson and Darou disappeared from the music scene altogether, with the former going AWOL while the latter met a tragic end. Darou retreated to his Yorkville crash pad, plunged into an apparent deep depression and never came out. He was later found dead of starvation.

The Killaloe dropouts eventually returned to Toronto. Finkelstein formed True North Records and launched the recording careers of Bruce Cockburn, Murray McLauchlan and Gibson, who reunited his band Luke & the Apostles briefly, before releasing a fine solo album, 1972’s Another Perfect Day. Martynec went on to become one of Canada’s most successful record producers, working on albums by Cockburn, McLauchlan and others. Mills-Cockell formed the electronic rock band Syrinx and released two groundbreaking records on True North and scored a cult hit with “Here Come the Seventies.” Schoales, meanwhile, became an award-winning designer of True North album covers.

Kensington Market made its mark as Canada’s quintessential psych-rock group, a band of hippie musicians from Yorkville with lysergic dreams of greatness. Born during the Summer of Love in 1967, the Market released two classic albums before dissolving as the Sixties gave way to the Seventies. Aardvark, one of the first rock recordings to embrace the sonic possibilities of the Moog, is the sound of a band venturing deep into pop music’s outer limits. It’s a significant legacy to have left behind: an album that takes the listener on a journey to the far-off corners of the mind, a place as wild and wonderful as any fantasy novel or Fellini film. So sit back, slip on the headphones and roll ’em if you got ’em. The Aardvark adventure is about to begin.
by Nicholas Jennings

1. Help Me (Gene Martynec, Felix Pappalardi) - 2:48
2. If It Is Love (Keith McKie) - 2:42
3. I Know You (Gene Martynec, Keith McKie) - 1:58
4. The Thinker (Gene Martynec, Luke Gibson) - 2:29
5. Half Closed Eyes (Keith McKie) - 2:29
6. Said I Could Be Happy (Gene Martynec, Luke Gibson) - 2:20
7. Ciao (Gene Martynec, Luke Gibson) - 1:14
8. Ow-Ing Man (Gene Martynec, Keith McKie) - 2:37
9. Side I Am (Keith McKie, Gene Martynec) - 3:18
10. Think About the Times (Keith McKie) - 2:53
11. Have You Come to See (Keith McKie, Gene Martynec) - 3:02
12. Cartoon (Gene Martynec, Bernie Finkelstein) - 2:31
13. Dorian (Luke Gibson, Felix Pappalardi) - 6:51

Kensington Market
*Keith McKie - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
*Gene Martynec - Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
*Luke Gibson - Guitar, Vocals
*Jimmy Watson - Percussion, Drums
*Alex Darou - Bass
Guest Musicians
*Felix Pappalardi - Organ, Trumpet, Piano, Bass

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Trees - The Garden Of Jane Delawney (1970 uk, sensitive folk rock with baroque touches, 2008 remaster with extra traks)

So much has already been written in an attempt to describe the music Trees play, and Trees themselves hope that they have now reached a degree of originality that defies the usual terms such as 'folk orientated rock.'

Melody Maker writes of them, 'Their depth of character causes the group concern over categories to the extent where they are cautiously rejecting the label of 'folk rock' while still clinging to the stable foundation of traditional material. Much of this is misunderstood in the hands of more staid folk figures, and it can only be hoped that Trees' visually contemporary image will encourage audiences to pay more attention to the lyrics'. 

All one can do now is give a brief synopsis of Trees' past, tell you what they are doing at the moment and give you a quick glimpse of their future. Bias Boshell (bass guitar and keyboard), Unwin Brown (drums), Barry Clarke (lead guitar, acoustic guitar, dulcimer and mandolin), David Costa (Electric 12 string, acoustic guitar, dulcimer, and mandolin), and Celia Humphris (vocals) have always attracted a great deal of favourable attention from the press, in fact when they first formed, well before 'The Garden Of Jane Delawney' (their first album) was released they had a very good feature in Zigzag. Since then Trees have received a far wider press coverage, with features and interviews in all the leading music and 'underground' press, and also The Express, The Mail and The Times.

Despite all these good words being written about Trees, things haven't always been easy for them, not that they are for any new group, but they seem to have had more than their fair share of bad luck... Even when they first started playing together, their first public performance had to be cancelled because their van broke down 20 miles away from the gig, and David and Barry had to stay in the van all night to guard what little equipment they had.

However, things gradually improved, and Trees got some support bookings at the larger universities and colleges, and at the beginning of 1970 topped the bill for the first time at a folk concert put on by the St. Ives Art Festival, also receiving their first standing ovation.

The next major step forward in Trees' career was a bottom of the bill appearance at Queen Elizabeth Hall, appearing with Matthews' Southern Comfort in their first London concert. Although Trees playing time allowed them to do only four numbers, their performance brought them more acclaim than anything they had done to date, as most of the trade press were there. Karl Dallas, a leading expert on their type of music wrote of them 'Trees have a beautiful girl as lead singer, a lively lass who bends her rich voice round the complexities of folk ballads with increasing assurance, a hard rock guitarist and a folk-club-trained acoustic man, a good bass guitarist and a tasteful drummer... Trees are significant for a number of reasons. First, because in the persons of its three guitar-players it is introducing three virtually unknown artists on to the scene - artists who have an individual brilliance and collective rapport that is nothing less than phenomenal'.

Trees received more and more bookings, and luck seemed to be going their way, but they were to suffer another major setback. In the autumn of last year they had all their equipment stolen, and spent all the money they had earned, plus a lot more on some second-hand equipment, and carried on playing the best they could, for even their van was falling to bits. They have suffered the repercussions of this theft until very recently when they thought they had secured a reliable financial backer to a) expand the band, and b) buy new equipment. Unfortunately the backer pulled out in the middle of the university term, and Trees had to cancel some of their most precious gigs until the money was found to buy more instruments.

Don't think that this affected them as a group, for they have always been very close as people. Beat Instrumental sums them up very well: 'Trees are a tightly-knit group. They weren't assembled by some Svengali manager hoping to amass quick wealth, but had all been friends for some time when, all having musical experience and ambitions, they decided on becoming a band... The closeness also shows in the music. Trees songs are meticulously and precisely arranged, yet such is the sympathy between them that the whole thing seems as easy as pie. Anyone attempting to jam with them would be left helpless'.

1. Nothing Special (Boshell, Unwin Brown, B. Clarke, D. Costa, C. Humphris) - 4:29
2. The Great Silkie - 5:13
3. The Garden Of Jane Delawney - 4:05
4.  Lady Margaret - 7:11
5. Glasgerion - 5:15
6. She Moved Thro' The Fair - 8:07
7. Road - 4:35
8. Epitaph - 3:23
9. Snail's Lament - 4:38
10.She Moved Thro' The Fair (Bonus Track, Demo Version) - 5:26
11.Pretty Polly (Bonus Track, Demo Version) - 4:50
12.Black Widow  (Bonus Track) - 3:22
13.Little Black Cloud (Bonus Track, Suite) - 1:39
All songs written by Bias Boshell except where noted
(Tracks 12 and 13 recorded July 2008)

Ceilia Humpris - Vocals, Keyboards
Bias Boshell - Bass, Acoustic Guitars, Backing Vocals
Barry Clarke - Lead,  Acoustic Auitars
David Costa - Acousitic, 12-String Guitars
Unwin Brown - Drums

1970  On The Shore

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Mel Brown - Chicken Fat (1967 us, great electric guitar blues funk, remastered edition)

Mississippi-born, West Coast-based guitarist Mel Brown flexed his slinky fingers with blues god T-Bone Walker before going out on his own for this seriously funky 1967 session. The hot studio band here also includes versatile L.A. pianist Gerald Wiggins and none other than six-string legend Herb Ellis, who dishes up fiery exchanges with Brown on the backbone-slipping “Greasy Spoon” and the Down-South, down-home title cut. In addition to handling arrangements on the date, composer supreme Oliver Nelson (“Stolen Moments”) contributed two tunes; the tricky, frenetic “Anacrusis” and the wah-wah-covered “Hobo Flats.”

But it’s the blues that form the rich and juicy marrow of Brown’s soulful style, and Chicken Fat’s pair of late-night, down-tempo workouts—the sultry original “Home James” and the Ellis-composed “I’m Goin’ to Jackson”—will have you licking your lips with deep delight. Guitar chops meet pork chops on this gorgeous gatefold repress of the original Impulse! LP, one that’s sure to water the mouths of not only jazz and blues fans but of anyone who can’t get enough of that good ol’ raw, funky, Booker T.-style soul. Pass the sauce!

1. Chicken Fat (Brown) - 4:16
2. Greasy Spoon (Brown, Ellis, Humphrey) - 5:53
3. Home James (Brown) - 6:34
4. Slalom (Chaikin) - 2:31
5. Hobo Flats (Nelson) - 2:18
6. Shanty (Brown, Wright) - 4:40
7. Sad But True (Ellis) - 5:01
8. I'm Goin' to Jackson (Ellis) - 4:24
9. Blues for Big Bob (Brown) - 4:25

*Mel Brown - Guitars
*Ronald Brown - Bass
*Paul Humphrey - Drums
*Gerald Wiggins - Organ
*Herb Ellis - Guitar (on Tracks 1, 2, 3, 7 ,8)
*Arthur Wright - Guitar (on Tracks 4, 5, 6, 9)

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trees - On the Shore (1970 uk, beautiful progressive folk, 2nd album 2007 remaster edition, with bonus disc)

Having honed their repertoire on the road, Trees returned to the studio in October 1970 to cut their second and last LP, the masterful On The Shore. Another beautifully-judged blend of original and traditional material, it received extravagant praise but failed to break through commercially, spelling the end for the band’s original incarnation.

It makes its long-awaited reappearance on vinyl here, as a deluxe double LP set. Featuring a gatefold sleeve packed with rare images, a lavish 12-page booklet with an introduction from their guitarist David Costa and a detailed band history, and numerous bonus tracks, it is the fullest edition of this classic album ever assembled.

‘An exceptionally intoxicating brew of gothic folk songs, eastern-tinged guitars, male-female vocal interplay and solid drum grooves. Impeccable stuff’
Shindig magazine

A splendid fusion of austere English folk and the fluid guitar lines of America’s West Coast, and as good as anything produced by their contemporaries in the field’
Record Collector

1. Soldiers Three (traditional) - 1:51
2. Murdoch (Bias Boshell) - 5:10
3. Streets of Derry" (traditional) - 6:09
4. Sally Free and Easy (Cyril Tawney) - 1:12
5. Fool (Boshell, David Costa) - 10:12
6. Adam's Toon (A. Della Halle) - 5:22
7. Geordie (traditional) - 5:06
8. While the Iron is Hot (Boshell) - 3:21
9. Little Sadie (traditional) - 3:11
10.Polly on the Shore (traditional) - 7:31

Bonus Disc
1. Soldiers Three (remix) - 1:50
2. Murdoch (remix) - 6:36
3. Streets of Derry (remix) - 7:34
4. Fool (remix) - 5:24
5. Geordie (remix) - 5:09
6. Little Sadie (remix) - 2:40
7. Polly on the Shore (remix) - 6:09
8. Forest Fire (1971 BBC session) - 4:06
9. Little Black Cloud (1970 demo) - 2:14

*Bias Boshell - Guitars, Piano, Acoustic 12-String, Vocals
*Celia Humphris - Vocals, Keyboards
*Barry Clarke - Lead Guitar
*Unwin Brown - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*David Costa - Acoustic Guitar, Electric 12-String, Dulcimer
Guest Musicians
*Tony Cox - Bass (on track 4)
*Michael Jeffries - Harp

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Fantasy - Paint A Picture (1973 uk, essential progressive rock, full of delightful twists and turns, 2005 remaster with bonus tracks)

Many of the most obscure progressive bands of the late 60s and early 70s are included in our exhaustive appraisal of private pressings elsewhere in this issue. They took the independent route in the hope of being spotted by talent scouts from labels like Charisma, Island or Harvest, having already proved themselves on vinyl.

Others, like Gravesend-based Fantasy, were more fortunate. They were picked up by a major label, Polydor, and given a favourable recording budget and a name producer. Sadly, this arrangement didn't work out, and when it became clear that Fantasy weren't going to turn into Genesis or Van Der Graaf Generator overnight, the band were promptly dropped.

Today, many experts in the burgeoning progressive field scoff at the label's shortsightedness. For several years, Fantasy's only album, "Paint A Picture", issued in 1973, has been renowned among collectors for displaying talent that, if properly nurtured, could have given the group a massive profile in the years to come. The phenomenal BP300 price tag for a mint copy does not simply reflect the album's rarity: Fantasy's "Paint A Picture" has long been hailed as a masterpiece of classically influenced, quintessentially English progressive rock, full of delightful twists and turns and instrumental prowess, coupled with an uncanny talent for songwriting. Now, interest in the band has been heightened by the release of "Beyond The Beyond", a fascinating find dating from the summer of 1974 which, in the opinion of many collectors, simply confirms Fantasy's early promise.

The band began playing some time around 1970 as Chapel Farm, named after the Singlewell building which provided them with rehearsal space. The nucleus of Dave Metcalfe (keyboards), Paul Lawrence (guitar/vocals) and Dave Read (bass), together with drummer Brian Chatham and guitarist Bob Vann, began by performing cover versions, before focusing their attentions on their own material.

With a support slot to Argent just three weeks away, tragedy struck the band when, turning up for a 'Melody Maker' competition held at a hotel in Cliftonville, Bob Vann toppled over the cliffs edge outside. Paul Lawrence recalls that, "The rest of us had gone back inside the hotel, but we became worried because, as it was Bob's 18th birthday, he'd been drinking a lot." Bob lay on the beach below, and died in the ambulance on the way to a hospital.

It was a cruel blow, but the group eventually decided to stick together, for Bob's sake if nothing else. With Brian Chatham also having left the line-up, Chapel Farm recruited guitarist Pete James and drummer Jon Webster from local band Joy, changed their name to Firequeen, and began supporting progressive heavyweights like the Edgar Broughton Band and the Pink Fairies.

After they sent out demos of their homegrown material to companies like Decca, it was Polydor who took the bait, on the proviso that the group change its name. "They didn't like Firequeen", recalls Dave Metcalfe, "as it was too close to Queen, and they said that Chapel Farm suggested that we were a country band." The name Fantasy was suggested. "We had no choice in the matter," remembers Paul Lawrence, "and we hated it right the way through our whole career. But in a way, they were right, because the name is quite representative of the sound of the music."

Having signed a three-year contract in spring 1973, the group entered Chipping Norton Studios in May with producer Peter Sames (who'd recently worked on Peter Skellern's massive hit, "You're A Lady"), emerging with a ten-song album that would have delighted Genesis and Caravan fans had they heard it. Metcalfe remembers, "We just couldn't get through that barrier of recognition. I don't think Polydor understood our music, and our management appeared not to take us seriously enough."

The label, then riding high with Slade, may have also detected a slight lack of commitment in the fact that the group members still maintained their day jobs.

Originally titled "Virgin On The Ridiculous", "Paint A Picture" appeared in the autumn, containing much of the group's stage set, including "The Award", a tribute to their late guitarist Bob Vann. Also included was the commercially inclined "Politely Insane", which was written and recorded on the same day. Brass was later added, and the track provided Polydor with the single they wanted. It didn't give them the sort of sales figures they were looking for, however. "Politely Insane' was backed by the non-LP cut, "I Was Once Aware", which helps explain its current asking price of BP20.

Fantasy were disappointed but not disheartened by the poor response to "Paint A Picture". They knew that their music was the kind that needed nurturing, and that audiences would take time to warm to their classically influenced and richly textured material. But after sharing the bill with Queen at the Marquee, they failed to follow up with regular concerts and any momentum set in motion by the LP quickly subsided.

1. Paint A Picture - 5:24
2. Circus - 6:18
3. The Award - 4:52
4. Politely Insane - 3:27
5. Widow - 2:12
6. Icy River - 5:53
7. Thank Christ - 4:06
8. Young Man's Fortune - 3:41
9. Gnome Song - 4:19
10.Silent Mine - 4:39
11. Beyond The Beyond (Bonus Track) - 5:37
12. Reality (Bonus Track) - 2:58
13. Alanderie (Bonus Track) - 9:01
14. Afterthought (Bonus Track) - 5:51
15. Worried Man (Bonus Track) - 2:56
16. Just A Dream (Bonus Track) - 3:32
17. Winter Rose (Bonus Track) - 3:27
All songs written by Paul Lawrence, David Metcalfe, David Read.

*Peter James - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Paul Lawrence - 12 String Guitar, Vocals
*David Read - Bass, Vocals
*David Metcalfe - Keyboards, Vocals
*Jon Webster - Drums, Percussion, Vocals

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Primitives - Maladjusted (1964-67 uk, excellent garage freak beat)

Like most of their equally obscure mid-60s R&B/freakbeat brethren, THE PRIMITIVES are principally namechecked these days for the value - both in fiscal and artistic terms - of their vinyl legacy. Their trio of singles for the Pye label, the Italian-only album Blow Up and a unique-to-France EP currently have a combined value on the collectors circuit of over £1000, an accurate representation of their standing amongst freakbeat connoisseurs.  But while their records have long been coveted by 60s collectors, the story of the Primitives has remained shrouded in mystery, with only vague rumours ci rc u lati ng about the relationship between the band's early UK career and their subsequent exploits in Italy.

Maladjusted rounds up their work during this 1964-67 period, featuring everything from those previously-mentioned releases plus an alternate version of the French EP's lead track, 'Oh Mary', the entire Blow Up album and a couple of related solo 45s from the group's long-term frontman Mal Ryder who, along with early fan John Taylor, has provided invaluable help in piecing together the legend of the band.

The Primitives evolved in 1964 out of British beat boom hopefuls The Cornflakes (previously known as The Rising Sons), whose typically cheesy post-Beatles handle didn't prevent them building up a sizeable fan base on the Oxford live circuit. As the Cornflakes, they won the Plaza Cinema beat group contest in Northampton, a competition that proved to be of twofold importance in their embryonic career: the contest's first prize was a two-year contract with the Pye label, while Cyd Cipin, who ran the local Plaza, was so impressed by the group that, in conjunction with his brother Mayer and their associate Leslie Jaffa, he became their manager.

While The Primitives were experiencing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, a teenage rock'n'roll fan by the name of Paul Bradley Couling had been invited to rehearse with The Meteors, who also worked the Oxford iive circuit. Accepting their invitation, Couling quickly began to attract attention as The Meteors' frontman, and he was duly approached by prominent local band The Beatniks, whose lead singer Peter Cox had just been called up for National Service. Couling didn't need to think twice about accepting their offer: he left The Meteors, his job at the Southern Electricity Board, Oxford and his old identity behind. Adopting the stage name of Mal Ryder, he and his new colleagues - by now rechristened the Spirits moved north to Doncaster, appointing Martin Yale (who also handled Hull R&B band The Rats and Sheffield's Joe Cocker) as their manager.

Yale helped Mal Ryder and The Spirits find work in working men's clubs, but his influence was most apparent in brokering a recording deal. With the aid of future Tom Jones producer Peter Sullivan, two singles were cut both for Decca and Decca's Vocalion Pop labels: 'Cry Baby' / 'Take Over' (Decca F 11669, June 1963) and 'See The Funny Little Clown' / 'Slow Down' (Vocalion V 9219, May 1964). When these failed to garner attention, the band changed managers, the London-based David Stones setting in motion a move to Pye subsidiary Piccadilly. That led to the November 1964 release, 'Forget It' b/w 'Your Friend' (a Marty Wilde song), and a follow-up single - the Carter/Lewis composition 'Lonely Room' (also recorded by Carter/Lewis's own band, The Ivy League) backed by 'Tell Your Friend'appeared as a Mal Ryder solo single in April 1965.

Stones also arranged for the group to follow the well-worn UK/Germany export route, including a stint on the Storyville Club circuit that found The Spirits playing for up to six hours a night. Exhausted by their schedule, The Spirits fulfilled their contractual commitments in Germany before returning to England in spring 1965, when they promptly split up. As stressed as the rest of his former colleagues, Mal Ryder went back to work with his father on building sites, his hopes of pop stardom apparently over.

The Primitives stayed with Mal until the early 70s, by which stage their line-up had gone through several changes. Pick Withers returned to England, playing with various low-profile progressive acts before finally hitting paydirt in the late 1970s with Dire Straits. His replacement in The Primitives, Scottish-born drummer Robbie Mcintosh, came to the group from the Brian Auger Trinity before going on to international success with the Average White Band, though he died at a tragically early age in 1974. A more pivotal Primitives member, Jay Roberts/Jeffrey Farthing, is also sadly no longer with us, having died of an overdose in the 1990s.

The late 60s line-up of the Primitives continued to contribute to Italian albums like "Sua Eccelenza" and "Mal Dei Primitives", but their musical output had become increasingly erratic. Sparkling psychedelic performances of 'Dear Mr. Fantasy', 'Race With The Devil' and the Small Faces track 'Song Of A Baker' were buried cheek-by-jowl alongside such mainstream fare as 'Love Letters In The Sand', 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' and 'You'll Never Walk Alone' as Mal opted for the traditional showbiz route. For that reason, our anthology ends in 1967, thereby capturing both Mal and the Primitives during their mid-60s artistic apex, with fire in their teenage bellies and an unshakable commitment to the life-affirming qualities of raw, belligerent, adenoidal British R&B. Maladjusted? The Primitives?!? You'd better believe it.
by David Wells

The Primitives
1. Help Me (Bass, Williamson, Dixon) - 3.39
2. Let Them Tell (Soul, Farthing) - 2.14
3. You Said (Tindell) - 2.17
4. How Do You Feel? (Soul) - 2.23
Mal & Primitives
5. Every Minute Of Every Day (F. Catana) - 2.10
6. Pretty Little Face (Soul) - 2.07
Mal Ryder & Spirits
7. Forget It (Martin, Dow) - 2.01
8. Your Friend (Mal Ryder) - 2.37
Mal Ryder
9. Lonely Room (Carter, Lewis, Ford) - 2.02
10.Tell Your Friend (Ryder) - 2.27
Mal & Primitives
11.Oh Mary (J. Edwards, Demo, previously unreleased) 2.48
From The French EP "Oh Mary"
12.Oh Mary (J. Edwards) - 2.05
13.I Don't Feel Myself (D. Sumner) - 2.42
14.Mr. Heartache (J. Roberts) - 2.36
15.Tears In My Eyes (D. Summer) - 3.47
From The Italian LP "Blow Up"
16.Gimme Some Loving (S. Winwood, M. Winwtod S. Davis) - 4.21
17.L'Ombra De Nessuno "Standing in The Shadows Of Love" (Holland, Dozier, Holland) - 2.55
18 .No Response (Anderson) - 3.08
19.Johnny No "Thunder & Lightning" (Axton) - 3. 10
20.Cara-Lin (Feldman, Goldstein, Gottehrer) - 3.32
21.Yeeeeeeh! "' Ain t Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore" (Burton, Sawyer) - 3. 12
22.Gira, Gira "Reach Out, I'll Be There" (Holland, Dozier Holland) - 3.07
23.Every Minute Of Every Day (F. Catana) - 2.16
24.Mister Heartheache (Roberts) - 2.19
25.Ma Beata Te (Roberts) - 3.08
26.Sookie, Sookie (D. Covay. S. Cropper) - 2.51
27.Mohair Sam (D. Frazier) - 2.43
28.L'lncidente "Soul Finger" -with words- (Cunningham, Bacauley) - 2 .52

*Jay Roberts - Vocals, Bass, Organ
*Geoff Eaton (aka Geoff Tindall) - Lead Guitar,
*John E. Soul - Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica
*RogerJames - Bass
*Mike Wilding - Drums
*Mal Ryder - Vocals
*Stuart Linnell - Lead Guitar
*Mick Charleton - Drums
*Dave Sumner - Guitar
*Bruce Finley - Drums
*Pick Withers - Drums
*Robbie McIntosh - Drums

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Love Sculpture - Forms and Feelings (1969 uk, 2nd great album with early Dave Edmunds, 2008 esoteric remaster with bonus tracks)

Love Sculpture made an amazing leap forward in a relatively short space of time from their album of raw blues and soul covers (Blues Helping) to the much more advanced psychedelic pop and quasi classical structures of Forms and Feelings. It starts with two memorable singles “In The Land of the Few”, complete with Byrds like jangly guitars and an early expression of environmental concerns in their take of Paul Korda’s “Seagul”, a sensitive, somewhat dramatic ballad as it turns out.

The creative leap forward taken by the band is also demonstrated on the remarkable version of “Nobody Talking” (written by Finesilver and Ker famous for their composition “Fire” for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown) with some blistering guitar breaks seguing into a 7:43 tour de force entitled “Why (How-Now)”, also by Finesilver and Ker but to my ears a remake of George Harrison’s It’s All Too Much. Just when you think you’re moving forward it’s back in time to a cheeky Edmunds arrangement of Bizet’s “Farandole”- “sacre blue” to some but a kind of Cossack dance that might make you dance around the living room with your Dyson to others!

By the way Edmunds can’t resist a Clapton blues guitar quotation in the middle of this sounds like Fresh Cream to me! While the Chuck Berry cover (“You Can’t Catch Me”) seems out of place, there’s another Finesilver/Ker number “People, People” that restores the flow: a sardonic, psychedelic, Ray Davies type of ballad featuring some incendiary guitar. Few people familiar with the hit single “Sabre Dance“ (included as a bonus track) would realise that an interpretation of Holst’s “Mars” segues into the full album version.

There are other worthwhile bonus tracks like the b-side of “Sabre Dance”, a rare Edmunds solo composition (“Think of Love”) mixing blues with psychedelic but mostly an “I Hear you Knocking” trying to get in with a bit of “River Deep, Mountain High” as well! The single version of “Seagull” with a truncated “Farnadole” is also included along with “In The Land of the Few” and its b-side “People People”. There’s a lot to enjoy on Forms and Feelings, a quantum leap from Love Sculpture’s tentative debut and one of the most enduring and exciting releases of the period.
by Phil Jackson

1. In The Land of the Few (Dave Edmunds, Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker)
2. Seagull (Paul Korda)
3. Nobody's Talking (Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker)
4. Why (How-Now) (Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker)
5. Farandole (Georges Bizet, arranged by Dave Edmunds)
6. You Can't Catch Me (Chuck Berry)
7. People, People (Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker)
8. Mars (Gustav Holst)
9. Sabre Dance (Aram Khatchaturian, arranged by Dave Edmunds)
10.Think of Love (Dave Edmunds, Bonus Track)
11.Seagull (Paul Korda, Single Version, Bonus Track)
12.Farnadole (Georges Bizet, arranged by Dave Edmunds, Single Version, Bonus Track)
13.In The Land of the Few (Dave Edmunds, Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker, Mono Single Version, Bonus Track)
14.People, People (Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker, Single Version, Bonus Track)
15.Sabre Dance (Aram Khatchaturian, arranged by Dave Edmunds, Single Version, Bonus Track)

Love Sculpture
*Dave Edmunds - Guitar, Vocals
*John Williams - Bass
*Bob 'Congo' Jones - Drums
*Terry Williams - Drums (arrived late 1969 and replaced Bob )
*Mickey Gee - Guitar (arrived late 1969)

1968  Love Sculpture - Blues Helping (2008 remaster)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Love Sculpture - Blues Helping (1968, fine blues rock with early Dave Edmunds, 2008 esoteric remaster)

Long before he produced legendary albums by artists like Brinsley Schwarz and the Flamin' Groovies; before he had formed a musical partnership with pop/rock singer/songwriter Nick Lowe; even before he enjoyed a brief - albeit moderately successful - career as a solo artist during the 1980s, guitarist Dave Edmunds was a bluesman.

Yup. You read that correctly...singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer Dave Edmunds, who has worked with such artistically disparate artists as k.d. lang and the Stray Cats, Rockpile and Johnny Cash, and whose solo work was a maddening mish-mash of 1950s-styled rockabilly, vintage '60s British rock, and the 1980s-era infatuation with synths and keyboards and slick production...that Dave Edmunds was a blues-rock guitarist the equal of contemporaries like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Rory Gallagher. And you wondered why the Fabulous Thunderbirds chose Edmunds to produce their breakthrough 1986 album Tuff Enuff?

Before he wore any and all of the abovementioned musical hats, Edmunds cut his teeth with the long-lost British blues-rock outfit Love Sculpture. Formed in 1966 in response to England's ongoing love affair with the blues, and inspired by the popularity of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Love Sculpture was an early power trio consisting of Edmunds on vocals and guitar, John Williams on bass, and drummer Bob "Congo" Jones.

All three members of Love Sculpture had played together for years in bands such as the rockabilly-oriented trio the Raiders, and the blues-influenced Human Beans (who recorded one single for Columbia and shouldn't be confused with the Youngstown, Ohio frat-rock band the Human Beinz).

Signed to EMI's Parlophone label, the band released its 1968 debut album into a thriving British blues-rock scene that included Cream and Savoy Brown, among many other bands. A collection of blues and R&B standards, with a lone original song in the title track, Blues Helping was designed as a showcase for Edmund's underrated six-string pyrotechnics.

Although Edmunds has since stated that he knew little about the blues when recording Blues Helping, you couldn't tell it from the results. With his instrument slung low, Edmunds leads the band through a breakneck cover of Freddie King's "The Stumble," the sped-up instrumental proving the guitarist's mettle and fretboard dexterity. The set includes a smoky cover of Ray Charles' "I Believe To My Soul" that features bassist Williams belting out the vocals, accompanied by Edmunds' stinging leads. Elmore James' raucous "So Unkind" is provided a Chicago blues-styled rhythm and Edmunds' spry guitarwork.

An odd cover of the George Gershwin song "Summertime" provides one of those hippy-dippy 1960s flashback psych-pop moments, with lush instrumentation, echoed vocals, and delicate, tho' decidedly un-bluesy guitarplay. The old blues chestnut "On The Road Again" was based on Canned Heat's cover of the song earlier in the year, and it even sounds like Bob Hite, Al Wilson, and crew save for Edmunds' distinctive guitar tone and blistering solos. Otherwise, from the vocals down to the potent, driving rhythm, you'd swear that you were listening to the boogie kings from California.

An inspired cover of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" lopes along at an acceptable tempo, Williams' sly vocals peppered by shards of swaggering fretwork and supported by a hearty bassline as sticky and wide as two lanes of freshly-paved blacktop. Going back to the deep well that is Ray Charles' song catalog, "Come Back Baby" is a smoldering R&B bonfire with Jones' subtle brush-and-cymbal work and one of Edmunds' most dynamic solos. The album's title track, the instrumental "Blues Helping," features heaps of six-string notes that fly by with the speed and power of a tornado.

Four bonus tracks were tacked onto the end of Blues Helping, including an engaging cover of Tim Rose's folk-rock classic "Morning Dew (Take Me For A Walk)" by the pre-Love Sculpture line-up of the Human Beans, the 'A' side to their lone 7" single release. It's a fine cover, too, more in a psychedelic vein than blues-rock, but an impressive and original performance nonetheless. The 'B' side of the long-lost Human Beans single is a somewhat strained reading of the Isaac Hayes/Dave Porter gem "It's A Wonder" that offers inspired instrumentation but weak vocals. Another pair of tracks, from an obscure pre-Love Sculpture single, are interesting, but unremarkable pastiches of Beatlesque psych-pop.

More of a measure of Dave Edmunds' chameleon-like musical talents than a true artistic statement, Love Sculpture's Blues Helping is an obscure relic of an era past. The band would release a second, less bluesy and far less energetic album in 1969, and they would even score a hit in the U.K. with a speed-demon cover of the classical composition "Sabre Dance." Although he'd slap a bluesy lick into a song now and then throughout his lengthy solo career, Edmunds never quite walked the blues-rock path the same way again.
Still, Blues Helping is a rockin' collection of spirited blues covers with plenty of verve and more than enough guitar-wrangling to please even the most diehard Stevie Ray fan.

It's also a lot of fun, the band loose-limbed and brash in their musical aggression, playing off the power trio aesthetic with a recklessness and joy that they'd never find again. Edmunds' fretwork is a thing of amazement, and it makes one wonder what might have been if he'd followed Clapton down that lost highway towards the crossroads.
By Keith A. Gordon

1. The Stumble (Freddy King, Sonny Thompson) - 3:03
2. Three O' Clock Blues (B.B. King, Jules Taub) - 5:08
3. I Believe To My Soul (Ray Charles) - 3:47
4. So Unkind (Elmore James, Marshall Sehorn) - 2:56
5. Summertime (DuBose Heyward, George Gershwin) - 4:02
6. On The Road Again (Floyd Jones, Will Shade) - 3:35
7. Don't Answer The Door (Jimmy Johnson) - 6:02
8. Wang Dang Doodle (Willie Dixon) - 3:31
9. Come Back Baby (Ray Charles) - 2:45
10.Shake Your Hips (James Moore) - 3:19
11.Blues Helping: Instrumental (Bob Jones, Dave Edmunds, John Williams) - 3:46
12.Morning Dew: Take Me For A Walk (Bonnie Dobson, Tim Rose, 1967 Single Release as Human Beans) - 2:52
13.It's A Wonder (Isaac Hayes, David Porter, 1967 Single Release as Human Beans) - 2:41
14.River To Another Day (Charles & Kingsley Ward, 1968 Single Release) - 2:36
15.Brand New Woman (Crick Feather, 1968 Single Release) - 2:21

Love Sculpture
*Dave Edmunds - Guitar, Organ, Piano, Lead Vocals
*John Williams - Bass, Piano, Vocals
*Bob 'Congo' Jones - Drums, Vocals

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Flower Pot Men - Let's Go To San Francisco (1967 uk, sunny flower power psych with bonus tracks)

The Flowerpot Men were a studio construct created by British songwriters John Carter and Ken Lewis, who had previously been in the Ivy League, notable for providing background vocals on the early Who albums and for first recording the cult song "My World Fell Down," later a famous non-hit by Sagittarius.

Carter and Lewis (as the Flowerpot Men) crafted the Beach Boys-influenced "Let's Go to San Francisco," which was a minor hit at the close of the Summer of Love, as well as a couple of albums' worth of psychedelic-tinged sunshine pop, the highlights of which are included here.

Aside from the two-part single "Let's Go to San Francisco" (and its reprise, "Let's Go Back to San Francisco"), this release from C 5 also includes the very Byrds-ish "Blow Away" and the epic Mellotron-laced "Mythological Sunday." None of this is major stuff, but some of the recordings are gorgeously produced, and fans of 1960s sunshine pop and psychedelia should definitely give the Flowerpot Men a try.
by Steve Leggett

1. Let's Go To San Francisco, Part 1 & 2 (John Carter,  Ken Lewis) - 6:17
2. A Walk In The Sky (John Carter,  Ken Lewis, Russell Alquist) - 3:51
3. Am I Losing You (John Carter) - 2:00
4. Man Without A Woman (John Carter, Russell Alquist) - 4:00
5. You Can Never Be Wrong (John Carter,  Ken Lewis, Russell Alquist) - 2:35
6. Piccolo Man (John Carter,  Ken Lewis, Russell Alquist) - 2:17
7. Mythological Sunday (Russell Alquist) - 5:18
8. In A Moment Of Madness (Roger Cook, Roger Greenaway) - 2:59
9. Young Birds Fly (Bill Swofford) - 2:27
10.Sweet Baby Jane (Gillian Shakespeare, John Carter) - 3:35
11.Journey's End (Gillian Shakespeare, John Carter) - 4:22
12.Silicon City (Gillian Shakespeare, John Carter) - 4:05
13.Busy Doin' Nothing (Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke) - 2:54
14.White Dove (John Carter,  Ken Lewis) - 4:09
15.Let's Go Back To San Francisco, Part 1 (John Carter,  Ken Lewis) - 2:35
16.Let's Go Back To San Francisco, Part 2 (John Carter,  Ken Lewis) - 2:46
17.Cooks Of Cake And Kindness (John Carter, Russell Alquist) - 2:56
18.Gotta Be Free (Peter Barnfather, John Carter) - 3:29
19.Heaven Knows When (Peter Barnfather, John Carter) - 3:39
20.Brave New World (Gillian Shakespeare, John Carter, Russell Alquist)  - 3:13
21.Children Of Tomorrow (Gillian Shakespeare, John Carter, Russell Alquist)  - 7:57

The Flower Pot Men
*Tony Burrows - Vocals
*Neil Landon - Vocals
*Robin Shaw - Vocals
*Pete Nelson - Vocals
*Ged Peck - Guitar
*Carlo Little - Drums
*Nick Simper - Bass
*Jon Lord - Organ

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blues Wire - Take My Hand To The Sky (1983-2007 greece, superb blues rock, unreleased, demos, lives and outtakes)

In the words of blues prodigy Katie Webster, "Blues Wire are the best blues band in Europe and deserve to be heard by a wider audience".

According to everybody who has ever witnessed a Blues Wire gig this band is one of Europe 's best kept blues secrets and they should finally get the chance to be known to blues lovers around the world. The Blues Wire story began in 1983 when Sotiris Zisis (bass) and Elias Zaikos formed Blues Gang (who renamed themselves as Blues Wire in 1985), the very first blues band in Greece that tried to capture the original sounds of blues legends like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and T-Bone Walker.

They recorded the first blues album ever to be made by Greek musicians, at a time when it was really difficult to play music without obvious roots in Greek culture, let alone get a record deal for it. Back then, playing the blues not only could make someone almost an outcast, but it also meant dealing with shady characters and going through hard times. The only ways for a blues band to go through these times was to be tough, determined and stay true to the spirit that moved them in the first place.

It was these qualities that saw Blues Wire rise from a struggling blues band to full-grown, seasoned artists with their own distinctive sound. Thousands of gigs in every kind of venue imaginable, scores of TV and radio show appearances in Greece as well as abroad and an enviable recording expertise have helped define their tight and recognizable sound, a mix of passion and maturity that only comes with experience. Playing festivals and clubs in countries like France , Italy , Austria and Hungary (among others) not only consolidated their reputation but also proved that they are long past the novelty aspect of being a blues band coming from Greece .

Their infectious live act has captured the minds and the hearts of audiences everywhere and has earned them many an enthusiastic press reviews all around Europe . Through the years Blues Wire have often backed up top blues artists such as Louisiana Red, Katie Webster, John Hammond, Larry Garner, Big Time Sarah, Carey and Lurrie Bell, Angela Brown, Big Jay McNeely, Al Copley and Jeanne Carroll, to mention a few, proving they can keep up with the best of them. They have also opened for legendary musicians like Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Albert King, Otis Rush, the Yardbirds and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Their skill and musicianship led to memorable jam sessions with blues pioneers like Champion Jack Dupree, rising stars like Sherman Robertson and well-known British blues players like Dave Kelly. The band's versatility and open hearted attitude brought up spontaneous performances together with many musicians of different styles, ranging from Brit-jazzer Dick Heckstall-Smith to Australian songwriter Louis Tillett and from Canvey Island R&B masters Doctor Feelgood to members of Osibisa.

Blues Wire has provided the foundation of the Greek blues scene and the main inspiration for many younger musicians. For five years they were the house band at Pararlama, the first and most famous blues club in Greece .

After a career spanning more than twenty years, Blues Wire are now busier than ever. Spanning yet another mark in their long career, their last studio album showcases a more varied, elaborate and eclectic sound.
Blues Wire may have moved on to another level but their essence remains intact.

1. Steady Gig - 3:58
2. Beacause Of You - 4:42
3. Meanthing - 3:16
4. Bulldog Boogie - 4:12
5. Keep Blues Alive - 4:16
6. Love Me - 3:44
7. There Is Love - 4:32
8. Circus Of Fools - 5:30
9. Fat Meets Bones - 4:06
10.Chicago Blues - 4:08
11.Blinded - 3:34
12.Life On The Road - 6:00
13.Wishbone - 6:57
14.Goodbye Now Blues - 1:35
All Songs Written by Elias Zaikos

Blues Wire
*Elias Zaikos - Guitars, Vocals
*Sotiris Zissis - Bass
*Nick "Backbone" Dounoussis - Guitar
*Alex Apostolakis - Drums
*George Bandoek - Harp, Guitars, Keyboards
*Oleg Chaly - Piano, Organ
*George Papazoglou - Drums
*John Doc Stanopoulos - Tenor Sax
*Akis Katsoupakis - Keyboards

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Grand Funk - Closer To Home (1970 us, classic heavy rock, 3rd album, japan remaster with bonus tracks)

Closer to Home, the trio's third album, was the record that really broke them through to the commercially successful level of metal masters such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Rather than rushing headlong into their typical hard, heavy, and overamplified approach, Grand Funk Railroad began expanding their production values.

Most evident is the inclusion of strings, the acoustic opening on the disc's leadoff cut, "Sins a Good Man's Brother," as well as the comparatively mellow "Mean Mistreater." But the boys had far from gone soft. The majority of Closer to Home is filled with the same straight-ahead rock & roll that had composed their previous efforts. The driving tempo of Mel Schacher's viscous lead basslines on "Aimless Lady" and "Nothing Is the Same" adds a depth when contrasted to the soul-stirring and somewhat anthem-like "Get It Together."

The laid-back and slinky "I Don't Have to Sing the Blues" also continues the trend of over-the-top decibel-shredding; however, instead of the excess force of other bands, such as MC5, Grand Funk Railroad are able to retain the often-elusive melodic element to their heavy compositions.
by Lindsay Planer

1. Sin's A Good Man's Brother
2. Aimless Lady
3. Nothing Is The Same
4. Mean Mistreater
5. Get It Together
6. I Don't Have To Sing The Blues
7. Hooked On Love
8. I'm Your Captain
9. Mean Mistreater (Alternate Mix)
10.In Need (Live)
11.Heartbreaker (Live)
12.Mean Mistreater (Live)

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

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

John Lee Hooker And Canned Heat - Hooker 'N' Heat (1971 us, superb blues rock, MFSL ultra gold double disc)

Canned Heat are hands down the best back-up band John Lee Hooker has recorded with since those hot shot country groups that blazed anonymously through the studios in the early Fifties. And despite the cover billing, they are very much a back-up group, for this is really a John Lee Hooker album, and one of his best in a long while.
Much of the credit goes to the Heat's planning and programming. They have caught Hooker in a variety of settings: soloist in his own characteristic idiom; playing a fantastic series of duets with the late Al Wilson; and fronting the entire band (minus Hite, who worked on the project, and spread his infectious good humor, from the control booth) for some righteous, raunchy boogie. Canned Heat have made no secret of the fact that their entire boogie series, spread over some three albums, draws its inspiration from Hooker's work, so the combination is a natural. The second album in this two-record set is given over to band numbers, and it's the best of the two.
Wilson's presence doesn't need to be overadvertised; he is very strong throughout, mostly in a very subtle way. Hooker has noted his admiration for Wilson several times, and their generation-spanning empathy is very evident here, especially on side two, which is given over mostly to Hooker with Wilson's harp and piano. Hooker remarks. "I don't know how that boy keeps up with me." It's no easy trick, keeping up with John Lee, but that's just what Alan does, laying down some amazing playing, especially on harp, in the process.

 Vestine, who had recently rejoined the band when these sides were cut, is also very strong, even though he like Wilson is subservient to Hooker's thing. Henry once told an interviewer his greatest ambition was to record with John Lee Hooker and with Albert Ayler. With the release of Ayler's Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe, and Hooker 'N Heat, Henry has fulfilled his ambitions at a very young age; there's no place for him to go but up.

 Mention should be made of the earth-moving power of Antonio de la Barreda and Adolfo de la Parra. the Heat's south-of-the-border rhythm section, and of the engineering, which may still be a little too clean for Hooker, but then, nobody records in barns anymore. Hooker fans are going to dig this record, and so are Heat fans, and that includes a lot of people. Let 'em boogie!
by Bob Palmer

1. Messin' with the Hook - 3:23
2. The Feelin' Is Gone - 4:32
3. Send Me Your Pillow - 4:48
4. Sittin' Here Thinkin' - 4:07
5. Meet Me in the Bottom - 3:34
6. Alimonia Blues - 4:31
7. Driftin' Blues - 4:57
8. You Talk Too Much - 3:16
9. Burnin' Hell" (Bernard Besman, Hooker) - 5:28
10.Bottle Up and Go - 2:27

1. The World Today - 7:47
2. I Got My Eyes on You - 4:26
3. Whiskey and Wimmen' - 4:37
4. Just You and Me - 7:42
5. Let's Make It - 4:06
6. Peavine - 5:07
7. Boogie Chillen No. 2 - 11:33
All songs written by John Lee Hooker except as noted.

*John Lee Hooker - Vocals, Guitar, Percussion
*Bob Hite - Vocals
*Henry Vestine - Guitar
*Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson - Guitar, Piano, Harmonica
*Antonio De La Barreda - Bass
*Adolfo De La Parra - Drums

Other Canned Heat 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Howlin' Wolf - The Real Folk Blues / More Real Folk Blues (1966-67 us, blues master, 2002 release)

The Real Folk Blues, originally released by Chess in 1966 to capitalize on the then-current folk music boom. The music, however -- a collection of Howlin' Wolf (born Chester Arthur Burnett), singles from 1956 to 1966 -- is full-blown electric, featuring a nice sampling of Wolf originals with a smattering of Willie Dixon tunes.

Some of the man's best middle period work is aboard here; "Killing Floor," "Louise," the hair-raisingly somber "Natchez Burning," and Wolf's version of the old standard "Sitting on Top of the World," which would become his set closer in later years.

The Mobile Fidelity version sounds as sonically sharp as anything you've ever heard by this artist and its heftier price tag is somewhat justified by the inclusion of two bonus cuts. But those on a budget who just want the music minus the high-minded audiophile concerns will be happy to note that this is also available as a Chess budget reissue.

More Real Folk Blues,  was issued in 1967 (after the Wolf  had appeared on network television with the Rolling Stones, alluded to in the original liner notes) and couldn't be more dissimilar in content to the first one if you had planned it that way. Whereas the previous volume highlighted middle-period Wolf, this one goes all the way back to his earliest Chess sessions, many of which sound like leftover Memphis sides. The chaotic opener, "Just My Kind," sets a familiar Wolf theme to a "Rollin' & Tumblin'" format played at breakneck speed, and what the track lacks in fidelity is more than made up in sheer energy. 

For a classic example of Wolf's ensemble Chicago sound, it's pretty tough to beat "I Have a Little Girl," where the various members of his band seem to be all soloing simultaneously -- not unlike a Dixieland band -- right through Wolf's vocals. For downright scary, the demonic-sounding "I'll Be Around" is an absolute must-hear. Wolf's harp solo on this slow blues is one of his best and the vocal that frames it sounds like the microphone is going to explode at any second. As soul singer Christine Ohlman commented upon hearing this track for the first time, "Boy, I'd sure hate to be the woman he's singing that one to."
by Cub Koda

1. Killing Floor - 2:48
2. Louise - 2:41
3. Poor Boy - 2:32
4. Sitting on Top of the World - 2:30
5. Nature - 2:44
6. My Country Sugar Mama - 2:33
7. Tail Dragger (Willie Dixon) - 2:55
8. Three Hundred Pounds of Joy (Willie Dixon) - 3:02
9. Natchez Burning - 2:09
10.Built for Comfort (Willie Dixon) - 2:35
11.Ooh Baby (Hold Me) - 2:36
12.Tell Me What I've Done - 2:47
13.Just My Kind - 2:52
14.I've Got A Woman - 2:55
15.Work For Your Money - 2:12
16.I'll Be Around - 3:14
17.You Can't Be Beat - 3:10
18.No Place To Go (You Gonna Wreck My Life) - 2:56
19.I Love My Baby - 2:57
20.Neighbors - 2:45
21.I'm The Wolf - 2:52
22.Rockin' Daddy - 3:03
23.Who Will Be Next - 2:34
24.I Have A Little Girl - 2:34
All songs by Chester Burnett except where indicated
Songs recorded between 1953-65

*Howlin' Wolf - Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
*Andrew McMahon - Bass
*Arnold Rogers - Tenor Sax
*Donald Hankins - Baritone Sax
*Johnny Jones - Piano
*Hubert Sumlin - Guitar
*Andrew Palmer - Electric Bass
*Willie Dixon - Bass
*Alfred Elkins - Bass
*Sammy Lay - Drums
*Earl Phillips - Drums
*Hosea Lee Kennard - Piano
*Otis Spann - Piano
*Jody Williams - Guitar
*Willie Johnson - Guitar
*Junior Blackman - Drums
*J.T.Brown - Tenor Sax
*Lafayette Leake - Piano
*Buddy Guy - Guitar
*Otis "Smokey" Smothers - Guitar
*Fred Below - Drums
*Lee Cooper - Guitar