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Sunday, February 13, 2011

CMU - Open Spaces (1971 uk, brilliant prog, jazz, blues, folk rock with marvelous female vocals, 2008 Esoteric remaster)

CMU stands for Contemporary Music Unit (no less), and were one of the few progressive rock bands to feature both male and female vocals. With influences mainly from psych and blues, their debut "Open Spaces" occasionally reminds a bit of Affinity, especially on the passages sung by Larraine Odell.

The opener "Henry" is one of the better tracks, based in a nice melody and with tasteful, atmospheric arrangements consisting of piano, guitar, bass, drums and some almost inaudible flute. "Voodoo Man" sounds like something Arthur Brown could have done, and the heavy chorus in the middle introduces the raspy voice of James Gordon, who together with guitarist Ian Hamlett is the main reason for the bluesy touch of this album. Hamlett really proves that point on the instrumental "Slow and Lonesome Blues" that is actually a bit faster and more energetic than what you would expect from such a title. "Chantecleer" starts slow, dark and moody with some haunting pairing of vocals from Odell and Gordon, but builds quickly up to a fast, organ-driven and almost funky tune where an influence from Arthur Brown again can be detected.

The second side opens with "Japan", an attempt at traditional Japanese folk music that sounds surprisingly authentic, especially when considering that the band just used their usual instruments. "Clown" is a lightweight and whimsical tune, but catchy enough to be worthwhile, and Gordon's vocals has an unusual operatic twist here. One of the most best melodies on the record can be found in "Mystical Sounds", a ballad dominated by Hamlet's flute and Odell's voice. The title-track is a lengthy, mystical and atmospheric journey with lots of dreamy, wordless vocals from the two singers, and keyboardist Terry Mortimer also contributes with some spooky violin here

1. Henry (L. Odell, R. Odell) - 4:42
2. Voodoo Man (L. Odell, R. Odell) - 4:35
3. Slow And Lonesome Blues (Ed Lee) - 5:06
4. Chanticleer (J. Gordon, L. Odell, Ed Lee, T. Mortimer) - 6:10
5. Japan (Sanders, arr. CMU) - 2:44
6. Clown (J. Gordon, Ed Lee) - 2:34
7. Mystical Sounds (L. Odell, R. Odell) - 3:11
8. Open Spaces (Ed Lee, T. Mortimer) - 11:34

*Jim Gordon - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
*Ian Hamlett - Guitar
*Larraine Odell - Vocals
*Leary Hasson - Keyboards
*Roger Odell - Drums
*Ed Lee - Bass
*Terry Mortimer - Guitar, Fuzz Guitar, Organ, Piano

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B.B.Blunder - Workers' Playtime (1971 uk, splendid heavy psych with blues shades, 2009 double disc remaster)

B.B. Blunder's story is a most confusing one for such a short-lived and little-known band. The group was essentially an offshoot of the Blossom Toes, one of the best underground British rock acts of the '60s, noted for both their droll psychedelic pop and a heavier, dual-lead guitar-oriented sound.

When the Blossom Toes broke up at the end of the '60s, guitarist Brian Godding and bassist Brian Belshaw continued to play together, sometimes in association with singer (and Godding's sister-in-law) Julie Driscoll. Eventually, Kevin Westlake, who had drummed on the Blossom Toes' first LP, joined them, and the trio recorded an album, with Driscoll helping out on vocals.

Although the group could have just as well been called Blossom Toes as B.B. Blunder, their sound was in fact significantly different than what they'd played on the Toes' albums. The songwriting was, well, loose, and unfocused. The record's principal attractions are the multi-layered guitars, which have a certain just-post-Abbey Road charm, with lengthy electric-acoustic passages bordering on jams.

After it was issued as Workers Playtime in 1971, Reg King (formerly of mid-'60s cult mod band the Action) joined the group for live work. The enterprise was basically a non-starter, though. Westlake soon quit, new members joined (including Reg King's brother and fellow Action veteran Bam King), and the group fell apart by the end of 1971.

To add to the confusion surrounding this none-too-tight aggregation, in 1989, their sole album was reissued under the title New Day by Decal, who attributed the recording to "Blossom Toes '70 (formerly B.B. Blunder)." This is why this none-too-interesting one-shot record also shows up in the Blossom Toes discography.
by Richie Unterberger

Disc 1
1. Sticky Living! - 6:33
2. You’re So Young - 5:26
3. Lost Horizons (Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw, Kevin Westlake) - 2:06
4. Research (Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw, Kevin Westlake) - 4:34
5. Rocky Yagbag (Kevin Westlake) - 3:59
6. Seed - 5:28
7. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw, Kevin Westlake) - 3:32
8. Rise - 5:04
9. Moondance (Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw, Kevin Westlake) - 1:23
10.New Day - 4:40
All compositions by Brian Godding except where indicated

Disc 2
1. Backstreet (Brian Godding) - 3:55
2. Freedom (Brian Belshaw) - 5:42 
3. Black Crow's Nest (Kevin Westlake) - 3:30 
4. When I Was In The Country (Kevin Westlake) - 4:43
5. A Hard Day's Night (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 4:21 
6. Come On Eyes (Kevin Westlake) - 7:17 
7. Snippet With Tippett (Keith Tippett) - 0:25
8. Square Dance (Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw, Kevin Westlake) - 5:38 
9. Earache (Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw, Kevin Westlake) - 8:05 
10.Robots (Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw, Kevin Westlake) - 4:58 
11.Waltz (Brian Godding, Brian Belshaw, Kevin Westlake) - 6:02

The B.B.Blunder
*Brian Godding - Vocals, Guitar, Piano
*Kevin Westlake - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Drums
*Brian Belshaw - Vocals
*Julie Driscoll - Vocals
*Marc Charig - Trumpet
*Nick Evans - Trombone
*Chris Kimsey - Piano
*Keith Tippett - Piano
*Barry Jenkins - Piano
*Mick Taylor - Bass
*Brian Auger - Piano