Late-'60s New York-based flower child Cosmic Michael is one of the scads of ultra-obscure recording artists from the original psychedelic era whose records were swept under the rug of time completely. Copies left from the astonishingly small initial pressings have been trading hands among collectors for obscene amounts of money, ranking Cosmic Michael's crude, handmade psychedelia with records of the same era by MIJ, Gary Higgins, and Kenneth Higney.
This disc collects both of Cosmic Michael's private press albums, including a 1969 self-titled set and 1970's After a While. Unlike the drifting stoner vibes of most loner psyche records, Cosmic Michael's talent for boogie-woogie rock piano comes through as equally as the acidic jamming. Tunes like "River City," "Salty Jam," and of course "The Heavy Boogie" are mostly showcases for Michael's grooving boogie organ or piano skills, if couched in extremely muddy lo-fidelity recording quality.
While the self-titled material sees the tunes filled out by a full band, the songs from After a While are of a more stripped-down orchestration, Cosmic Michael's voice in one speaker, piano in the other, and the occasional warbly kazoo or harmonica. While the sparsity of After a While makes it a more eerie affair, it's no less engaging than the fried boogie of the other songs.
Even for his time, Cosmic Michael was by no means a career musician or even remotely concerned with professionalism in music. This innocence and oblivion are largely what makes these very odd songs such a breath of fresh air.
by Fred Thomas
1. Now That You've Found It - 3:58
2. Salty Jam - 4:09
3. Theme - 3:46
4. Too Much - 2:55
5. River City - 2:11
6. People's Fair - 2:33
7. Mother Earth - 6:48
8. The Heavy Boogie - 4:26
9. Woodstock Nation - 3:04
10.She's My Girl - 3:55
11.Feel Free - 3:36
12.Rock Me - 5:21
13.After a While - 3:19
14.Shake It Loose - 1:30
15.Fine Spaces of Time - 4:30
16.Let Me Be - 3:41
17.Truckin - 3:18
All tracks written by Cosmic Michael
Tracks 1-8 from "Cosmic Michael" 1969
Tracks 9-17 from "After A While" 1970
*Cosmic Michael - Vocals, Piano, Harmonica, Guitar.
This is a fine example of music that arose after the Beatles caught "A Ticket To Ride". Running the gamut from jolly mid-60s beat-pop through to heavily orchestrated affairs from '69, "Fading Yellow's" overall concept of 'pop-sike' and more so 'other delights' is fully realised.
Some may argue that by the end of the year a certain type of collector will be becoming hot under the collar on hearing mention of a rare '67 Ken Dodd acetate that features lush orchestration and sustained fuzz guitars! Diddy Men in the sky with diamonds, indeed! Cynicism aside, the psych/pop compilation is clearly becoming far poppier with the passing of time, and such a fine example as "Fading Yellow" sits perfectly on the cusp of the "Rubble" series most commercial selections and the more recent and uneven "Ripples" compilations (albeit a lot more interesting).
It's practically a gem after gem ride too. Mike 'Remember You're A Womble' Batt's mournful, sweeping ballad "Fading Yellow" is the perfect summation of what's on offer and is certainly worthy of having an entire compilation named after it. The strings, warm guitar parts and soft vocalising are sumptuous, and a good indication of what's in store. It really is a solid set, and possibly the greatest pop-psych comp to come out in years.
Rather than focus on fifth-division acetate pressings of 'four Lancashire lads trying to be Syd Barret' everything included here is well performed pop saturated in that certain late '60s over-the-top production that so regularly gets classified as psychedelia. And there are plenty of obscure choice cuts to satisfy even the most hardened psych-head. Irish four-piece Jon's "Is It Love" has a great rising chorus, some oriental sounding instrumentation and a middle-eight that has a vague feel of the Troggs psych-pop phase.
Juan & Junior (of Los Brincos fame) sound uncannily like Magna Carta on their whimsical folk-pop cut 'Andurina'. 'Woe, Is Love Dead My Dear?' the b-side of the Koobas rare Danish only 'Sweet Music' 45 sees the 'pudlians getting introspective on their beautifully performed rendition of this Bert Jansch piece (which he also recorded). And amongst the many other strong cuts from the likes of Eddy Howell, Ronnie Bird, Paul & Barry Ryan is American teen trio The Aerovons incredible "World Of You", which was recorded in Abbey Road in 1969.
This not only rates as one of the best cuts on this album, but is also among the finest late '60s EMI discs (and yes, we're talking Pretty Things and Pink Floyd here too). (Rumour has it that their unreleased 1969 album will soon be available on Flower Machine).
Not only timeless, but in every aspect wonderful too. If only more compilations were as good as this.
by Jon 'Mojo' Mills
Artists - Tracks
1. Kate - Strange Girl - 3:03
2. Dean Ford & The Gaylords - That Lonely Feeling - 2:40
3. Eddie Howell - Easy Street - 3:00
4. Mike Batt - Fading Yellow - 3:44
5. Steff Sulke - Oh, What A Lovely Day - 3:04
6. John Williams - Flowers In Your Hair - 2:42
7. The Zephyrs - I Just Can't Take It - 2:30
8. Jon - Is It Love? - 2:51
9. Koobas - Woe, Is Love My Dear - 2:27
10.The Orange Bicycle - Competition - 2:40
11.The Gremlins - The Only Thing On My Mind - 2:05
12.Quintin E Klopjaeger And The Gonks - The Long Way Home - 2:28
13.Sundragon - Far Away Mountain - 2:57
14.Juan And Junior - Andurina - 3:10
15.Hamlet - She Won't See The Light - 2:08
16.Paul And Barry Ryan - Madrigal - 2:17
17.Phil Cordell - Red Lady - 2:25
18.Ronnie Bird - Sad Soul - 2:54
19.Ronnie Bird - Raining In The City - 2:36
20.Elliot's Sunshine - 'Cos I'm Lonely - 3:07
21.Peter Janes - Do You Believe (Love Is Built On A Dream) - 2:53
22.The Bliss - Lifetime - 2:47
23.The Jackpots - King Of The World - 2:50
24.Members Of Time - Dreamin' - 2:38
25.Aerovons - World Of You - 2:24
All ten songs the Purple Hearts released during their brief lifetime (on 1965-1967 singles) are on this meticulously thorough reissue. It also adds four songs they recorded on acetates in early 1965 prior to their recording deal, as well as seven tracks by the Coloured Balls, the band in which singer/harmonica player Mick Hadley and bassist Bob Dames played in the late '60s and early '70s.
The Purple Hearts tracks are the ones the collectors who seek this CD out will be most interested in, as they're solid, punky R&B, very much in the mold of the British bands springing up in the wake of the Rolling Stones circa 1964-1965. The cuts are tough and hard-boiled, and will no doubt recall similar, though superior, British acts such as the Pretty Things and the Graham Bond Organisation.
What makes the Purple Hearts inferior to such acts is that they recorded absolutely no original material, devoting most of their studio performances to covers of songs by the likes of Bond, Paul Butterfield, Bo Diddley, and Muddy Waters. They do, however, pull off a superbly menacing R&B/punk makeover of the spiritual "Early in the Morning," with searing fuzz guitar and voodoo-ish ensemble chanting. Too, their sole 45 to feature cover tunes that weren't well known ("Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones"/"I'm Gonna Try") is pretty respectable, though Mick Hadley's vocals aren't quite up to the level of belters like the Pretty Things' Phil May.
The Coloured Balls tracks (in quite variable sound quality), which are much more in a hard rock/blues-rock/psychedelic/progressive rock vein, are apparently taken from "rehearsals, gigs and local TV appearances" -- the liner notes aren't wholly clear on this point. These songs aren't nearly as interesting as the Purple Hearts' material, and are likewise all covers, this time around of songs by Jethro Tull, Steve Miller, and Fleetwood Mac, as well as blues tunes by Howlin' Wolf and Willie Dixon.
The 36-page booklet is exemplary, with liner notes featuring vintage photos and first-hand quotes from original bandmembers, properly honoring the Purple Hearts' status as one of the more notable Australian rock acts of the '60s.
by Richie Unterberger
Tracks The Purple Hearts
1. Talkin' Bout You (Chuck Berry) - 2:08
2. Louie Louie (Richard Berry) - 3:09
3. Long Legged Baby (Bond) - 2:18
4. Gloria (Morrison) - 2:54
5. Here 'Tis (MacDaniel) - 2:49
6. Long Legged Baby (Bond) - 1:54
7. Of Hopes And Dreams And Tombstones (J. Byers) - 2:30
8. I'm Gonna Try (J. Williams) - 2:20
9. Early In The Morning (Trad. Arr The Purple Hearts) - 2:11
10.Just A Little Bit (Gordon) - 1:50
11.You Can't Sit Down (Upchurch, Clark, Muldrow, Sheldon) - 3:04
12. Tiger In Your Tank (Dixon) - 2:09
13.Chicago (Butterfield) - 2:25
14.Bring It On Home (Williamson) - 2:58
The Coloured Balls
15. A Song For Jeffrey (Anderson) - 5:42
16. Killing Floor (Howlin Wolf) - 2:58
17. Living In The Usa (Miller) - 4:34
18. Bring It On Home (Willie Dixon) - 4:35
19. Long Grey Mare (P.A. Green) - 3:56
20. Living In The Past (Jethro Tull) - 3:12
21. Living In The Usa (Live) (Miller) - 10:13
There was always something a little different about Tom Rapp and his music. Debuting in 1967 with his band Pearls Before Swine (a Biblically inspired name, in case you were wondering) and the fascinating album 'One Nation Underground', Rapp continued to explore a diversity of styles and influences through a succession of intriguing records. The personnel in the band might have shifted - after second album "Balaklava" (1968), the other original members all left - but the quality was clear sightedly retained.
Rapp had a remarkable way of espousing his own philosophies and worldly observations in expansive songs that made you think, while also allowing the listener to lose themselves in a melange of musical adventures. He never drew a sonic diagram to guide you through any album - it was your own interpretation that mattered as much as his creativity. By the time Rapp released the album 'Stardancer' in 1972, he was a clearly accomplished performer, both live and in the studio.
This record came out under his own name, something he hadn't encouraged but was imposed by the Blue Thumb label. However for 1973's 'Sunforest' (which would be his final record for nearly three decades – the reasons will be explained shortly), the band name Pearls Before Swine were back in view, as it had been for all his previous releases (except for '72's 'Familiar Songs', over which he had no control). was also a button mentioning the band.
" Most of the work for this record, recalls Rapp, was actually done during the same Nashville sessions which delivered 'Stardancer', although Larry Butler (who would go on to collaborate extensively with Kenny Rogers) did come in as coproducer, alongside Peter H. Edmiston. "I used some of the lyrics from one song here, 'Prayers Of Action', on the back over of 'Stardancer'. As far as I can recall, the two albums were pretty much done at the same time." We shall return to 'Prayers Of action', which seems to have taken on a life of its own, but let's deal with the one aspect of 'Sunforest' that disappoints Rapp to this day - namely the sound quality. "At the time, a new process had just been developed called Aphex. This was an audio processing system that was supposed to dramatically improve the sound of your music. So, I was persuaded to put this album through the Aphexing process. But it didn't turn out quite as I hoped and expected. Instead of enhancing everything, it really did the opposite. So, what you hear on the album is the result of a processing attempt that failed. It's such a pity, because that's the only thing connected to the record that I don't like."
As with 'Stardancer', its successor is full of well-constructed songs performed by musicians of the very highest calibre. And one of two of the tracks have becoming almost iconic, in particular the aforementioned 'Prayers Of Action'. "I would like the lyrics to that song used on my gravestone," states Rapp, calmly. "It really does seem to have had a profound effect on some people. I recall playing a show in London during 1999 (at the Terrastock 3 Festival, University Of London, in August of that year). After my set, a guy came up to me, with his head completely covered in bandages.
He was suffering from terminal cancer, and this had eaten away at his face. He knew he didn't have long to live, but asked if he could used 'Prayers Of Action' at his funeral. That was such an amazing moment for me. To have one of my songs mean so much to one person. "I've had people come up to me in the past and tell me how they were feeling suicidal, and that listening to one of my tunes helped pull them through, but to have someone planning to have this song played at his funeral, which could only be a matter of one or two months away...that was something else." Aside from this, it has also been used as the name of a charity, and has also appeared on a prayer website. "I was asked by the people who run www.worldprayers.org if they could reproduce the lyrics to the song on their website.
So 'Prayers Of Action' seems to have made its mark." Another song, 'Love/Sex', has often been cited as Rapp's own riposte to Stephen Stills' 'morally sleazy' 1970 classic 'Love The One You're With'. And Rapp can now confirm this is the case. "I did have exactly that in mind when I wrote the song, yes. The idea just came to me, and I wrote the song in just a few minutes. Sometimes things do happen that quickly. On other occasions, it can take ages to get the song out. But I wanted to come up with lyrics that really pointed out the importance of love, as opposed to it being interchangeable with sex." Like, 'Stardancer', this album was released to a generally positive critical response, although many reviews did highlight the fact that the sound on the album let it down a little. But this was to be Rapp's swansong.
Soon afterwards, he decided to leave the music business. Why? "I just felt that I'd achieved everything that I wanted to. I had written and recorded about 100 songs. I'd met everyone I wanted to meet. I'd hung out with John Lennon, got to chat to Bob Dylan...what more was there for me to do?" So, Rapp decided to go to law school, which proved a challenge of itself. "To pay for my studies, I sold popcorn at the Harvard Square Movie Theater. In fact, I was working and studying so hard that I probably got about five hours sleep in all over a period of two years! Eventually, in 1984 I graduated (from the University Of Pennsylvania Law School) and became a civil rights lawyer." Rapp did return to music in 1997, appearing at the Terrastock Festival in Providence, Rhode Island, and two years later he released a 'comeback' album 'A Journal Of The Plague Year'.
He now plays live on a regular basis, and it is his old material that strikes a chord with everyone. "You know, I couldn't tell you how many copies of 'Sunforest' have been sold. I never made any money from it at the time. But people appear to know the lyrics to these songs, so you have to assume that the album did quite well. I'm generally happy with the way it turned out although I wish the record label hadn't used a portrait of me on the cover!
There are two paintings by (19th century French post-impressionist) Henri Rousseau used on the back cover, and they should really have been on the front." 'Sunforest1 remains a fitting finale to a six-year era wherein Rapp had secured his place in rock history. It captures his imagination, and encapsulates his vision. Songs like the title track - a folk masterclass – and 'Forbidden City' - with is jazz inflections - reflect the fact that he had a diverse canvas, and was never afraid to be bold. A worthy, worthwhile record. Enjoy discovering - or -re-discovering - it.
by Malcolm Dome, London, February 2009
1. Comin' Back - 2:59
2. Prayers Of Action - 3:05
3. Forbidden City - 2:51
4. Love / Sex - 4:04
5. Harding Street - 3:40
6. Blind River - 4:57
7. Someplace To Belong - 2:53
8. Sunforest - 6:19
9. Sunshine And Charles - 4:55
All titles by Tom Rapp
The word underscore comes to mind when I hear Pearls Before Swine. Here lies a wooden expression lightly fused with jazz tempo, but solidified exoterically with remarkable poetry, the ultimate impression of Tom Rapp.
Tom got it together quite early when he recruited high school friends Wayne Harley (banjo, mandolin), Lane Lederer (bass, guitar) & Roger Crissinger (piano, organ) as Pearls Before Swine. Tom a folk nurtured disciple was strongly influenced by a group of beat poets called The Fugs which gave rise to Pearl Before Swine's EP styled 1967 debut One Nation Underground that reflected mysticism, solitary love and protest.
The controversial "Miss Morse", spelled out an obscenity in code while the opening "Another Time" was sheer angelic tears. Largely an experimental album with varied sounds, the real strength of the album was its hippy sincerity ("Drop Out") and un- pretentious avante -garde message. With tears in my eyes I have rarely heard anything this beautiful ("Morning Song"), it pierces heart and cleanses the soul.
Rapp stated that Stardancer was the first album since the first Pearls album One Nation Underground over which he had full control. The fierce anti-war song "Fourth Day of July", with its references to "the broken children of Vietnam", was widely played in "underground" circles of the time. The lighthearted "Summer of '55" contains some of Rapp's cleverest aphorisms, such as "When the day breaks / the pieces fall on you".
Two of his other songs, "Stardancer" and "For The Dead In Space", reflect on themes of loss against a background of space travel and can be seen as reworkings of Like most of the Pearls Before Swine albums, the sleeve design used classic art works, in this case the painting "Descent of the Rebel Angels" by Pieter Brueghel the Elder on the front sleeve, and a William Morris background design on the reverse.Pearls Before Swine's earlier "Rocket Man".
1. Fourth Day Of July - 4:55
2. For The Dead In Space - 4:05
3. The Baptist - 5:10
4. Summer Of '55 - 2:13
5. Tiny Song - 2:33
6. Stardancer - 5:42
7. Marshall - 2:15
8. Why Should I Care (John Osborne, John Addison) - 2:54
9. Touch Tripping - 4:55
10.Les Ans - 1:50
All songs by Tom Rapp except as else listed.
*Tom Rapp - Vocals, Guitar
*Charlie McCoy - Guitar, Dobro, Organ, Banjo, Harmonica, Toy Piano
*Mike Leech - Bass Guitar, String Arrangements
*Steve McCord - Guitar, Musical Advisor
*David Briggs - Piano
*Bobby Wood - Piano
*Jim Isbell - Drums, Percussion
*Buddy Spicher - Fiddle, Electric Viola, Electric Violin
*Weldon Myric - Steel Guitar
*Florence Warner - Vocals
*Reggie Young - Electric Guitar
*Jim Colvard - Electric Guitar
*Roger Crissinger - Organ, Piano -Pearls Before Swine (on tracks 3, 6, 7)
*Art Ellis - Flute, Wind Chimes, Congas, Vocals
*Harry Orlove - Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Bill Rollins - Cello, Vocals -String quartet (on track 10)
*Brenton Banks - Violin
*Gary Van Osdale - Viola
*Sheldon Kurland - Violin
*Byron Bach - Cello
Like their West Coast contemporaries Sly and the Family Stone, the Chambers Brothers shattered racial and musical divides to forge an incendiary fusion of funk, gospel, blues, and psychedelia which reached its apex with the perennial 1968 song "Time Has Come Today." The Chambers siblings -- bassist George, guitarist Willie, harpist Lester, and guitarist Joe, all of whom contributed vocals -- were born and raised in Lee County, MS; the products of an impoverished sharecropping family, the brothers first polished their vocal harmonies in the choir of their Baptist church, a collaboration which ended after George was drafted into the army in 1952.
Following his discharge he relocated to Los Angeles, where the other Chambers brothers soon settled as well; the foursome began performing gospel and folk throughout Southern California in 1954, but remained virtually unknown until appearing in New York City in 1965. The addition of white drummer Brian Keenan not only made the Chambers Brothers an interracial group, but pushed their music closer to rock & roll; a well-received appearance at the Newport Folk Festival further enhanced their growing reputation, and they soon recorded their debut LP, People Get Ready.
by Jason Ankeny
In 1969 the Chambers Brothers released a double vinyl under the title "Love, Peace and Happiness", the first disc contains studio recordings and on the B side there's the same-title classic music piece, while the second disc contains live recordings which took place a year before (1968) at Bill Graham's Fillmore East.
1. Have a Little Faith (S. Turner) - 5:11
2. Let's Do It (Do It Together) (S. Turner) - 4:33
3. To Love Somebody (Robin Gibb, Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb) - 4:36
4. If You Want Me To (S. Turner) - 3:58
5. Wake Up (Marvin Hamlisch) - 2:17
6. Love, Peace and Happiness (The Chambers Brothers) - 16:15
7. Wade in the Water (Traditional) - 10:22
8. Everybody Needs Somebody (Joseph Chambers) - 6:28
9. I Can't Turn You Loose (Otis Redding) - 2:56
10.People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:13
11.Bang Bang (Joe Cuba, Jimmy Sabater) - 7:25
12.You're So Fine (Willie Schofield, Lance Finney, Bob West) - 4:38
13.Medley: Undecided / Love! Love! Love! (S. Robin, C. Shavers / T. McRae, S. Wyche, S. David) - 4:04
If ever there was a "typical" record from what's been retrospectively labeled the "downer folk" genre of the late '60s, Peter Kelley's Path of the Wave might fit that bill as well as any. Records in this style were far from the folk-rock and pop mainstream, however, so it's not exactly a typical late-'60s record per se.
Kelley sings in a breathy sing-speak in the manner of a far gentler mid-'60s Bob Dylan -- "High Flyin' Mama," for instance, sounds a little like "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" -- but the backings are far sparer and spookier than those heard on most '60s folk-rock singer/songwriter records. At times, however, the gentle vibe glides into something more incoherent and disturbed, like that of a young man skirting some serious psychiatric trouble as he tries to sort out the crossfire of strange thoughts floating around his head.
The arrangements are largely acoustic, but some mild electric guitar and percussion are heard at times, and "Childhood's Hour" sounds rather like a more aggressive Donovan in its combination of flute and delicately picked acoustic guitar. "The Man Is Dead" opts for blistering blues-rock, but it's not representative of a record that usually presents a troubadour of sorts who sounds like a Dylan wannabe trying to fight down his inner demons.
It's the kind of approach you'd expect from a privately pressed LP of the era, but actually this came out on a pretty sizable label, Sire, with contributions from famous producer Richard Gottehrer (on viola) and future Bruce Springsteen keyboardist Danny Federici (on organ).
by Richie Unterberger
1. Apricot Brandy - 2:54
2. High Flyin' Mama - 3:59
3. Christine I - 2:11
4. All I Needed Was Time - 2:33
5. Childhood's Hour - 7:06
6. Man Is Dead - 6:57
7. Christine II - 2:45
8. In My Own And Secret Way - 5:12
9. Path Of The Wave - 3:10
All songs written By Peter Kelley
In 1975 BOA signed a contract with MCA and release their tenth album “X-Rated”. We’re in the mid 70’s and Hard Rock sounds more than ever at the high peeks, Jim Dandy and his band doing that they can do best, Southern high energy Rock ‘n Roll, raunchy dirty up tempo ballads.
From the front cover to the back cover the sins of Jim Dandy and his gang are everywhere diffuse, soaked with plenty of bourbon . Overall the album stands quite well with the band tight-knit and the voice of Jim fits exactly between the music and the lyrics parts.
Hard blues rock band from California formed and lead by Dennis Rodrigues. They also released another one as Growl (Discreet 2209) 1974. The master tapes were shared with Bob Smith during recording of The Visit album which confirms that Utopia's album was released during 1969 - 70.
from Fuzz Acid and Flowers
1. I Just Want To Make Love To You (Willie Dixon) - 4:06
2. Me 6:08
3. Young And Crazy 2:19
4. Who's This Man 3:24
5. Walking Blues (Traditional) - 7:11
6. Working Man 4:36
7. On My Feet Again 4:01
8. Ain't No Reason 4:33
9. Hound Dog (J. Leiber, M. Stoller) - 4:04
10.I Wonder 3:29
11.Back Stabbin' Woman 2:12
All songs by Dennis Rodrigues except where noted.
The first album by Boston's most exciting trio, getting rare now as an original, and unavailable to many, it failed to sell after its release despite a good welcome by critics. After more than 40 years the album stands the weight of time and provides nine robust songs with all the fuzz you can ask for, a constant pounding drum beat and even some Eastern influences. The record is probably worth it alone for the great guitar playing of Richard Schamack 'Sham' and its cool psychedelic cover.
Follow up to their seminal 1968 debut, this brings you another example of what the Eden's Children are known for, and why they are openly (even back then) acclaimed as the best Boston band. Led by Richard 'Sham' Schamach's fine guitar playing and backed by the tight rhythm section of bassist Larry Kiley and drummer Jimmy Sturman, the children unload in this album another twelve songs of fuzzy psychedelic sounds. Some people argue this to be even better than their first, but we'll let the listener judge.
Tracks Eden's Children
1. Knocked Out - 3:16
2. Goodbye Girl - 3:20
3. If She’s Right - 2:34
4. I Wonder Why - 3:29
5. Stone Fox - 3:05
6. My Bad Habit - 2:22
7. Just Let Go - 7:43
8. Out Where The Light Fish Live - 5:05
9. Don’t Tell Me - 4:48 Sure Looks Real
10.Sure Looks Real - 4:29
11.Toasted (Larry Kiley) - 2:05
12.Spirit Call - 2:44
13.Come When I Call - 3:44
14.Awakening - 2:08
15.The Clock’s Imagination - 2:54
16.Things Gone Wrong - 4:06
17.Wings (Larry Kiley) - 2:40
18.Call It Design - 3:20
19.Invitation - 3:36
20.Echoes - 2:20
All songs written by Richard 'Sham' Schamach, except where noted.
If any band personified the epic musical voyage of the '60s it was Sir Winston and The Commons from (where else?) Indianapolis, Indiana. Born in 1963 as a surf combo called the Suspicions, Ron Matelic, Don Basore, Herb Crawford, Joe Stout and John Medvescek rode each subsequent pop culture tsunami as it swept across America: from the English Invasion and jangly folk-rock to snotty garage and sitar-laced psychedelia.
Changing their name to Sir Winston & The Commons in 1964 at the urging of Bob Kelly, their booking agent, the boys adopted fake English accents for a brief period while playing weekly fraternity keggers at Indiana and Purdue Universities. "Some could do the accent and some couldn't," chuckles Matelic. "We told people we were from different parts of England. But then we'd run into guys we went to high school with, so we said, 'Forget this.'" Matelic relied on the late night radio signal of WBZ out of- Boston to pick up on the hottest new tunes weeks before his peers, insuring Sir Winston continuous bookings at teenclubs sprouting up all over "Naptown," like the Whiteland Barn, the Flame Club, the House Of Sound and the Westlake Beach Club (with an indoor swimming pool and a detachable roof). "There was a club in every corner of town," recalls Matelic. whose band competed for gigs with the Boys Next Door, the Idle Few, Sounds Unlimited and the Dawn Five.
Sir Winston's new booker, Sonny Hobbs, convinced them to concentrate on original material, which soon garnered a single on Soma Records out of Minneapolis. "We never actually met the Soma people," insists Matelic. "They sent us to Columbia Studios in Chicago to record that single. Herb and I both had fuzz-boxes, so 'We're Gonna Love' was inspired by 'Satisfaction.' The other side, 'Come Back,' we tried to make sound like the Beatles' 'Things We Said Today.'" The crowning achievement of Sir Winston's career must have been "Not The Spirit Of India," a subtle yet peppery ragout from 1967, released on their own label, Nauseating Butterfly! "Herb thought of the label name," smiles Matelic, "the Frisco thing had hit: combine any adjective with any noun." Recording aside, Matelic alleges the most fun the group ever had was on periodic incursions into Chicago.
"We'd charter two buses to take all our family and friends down there to see us play at The Cellar." The band's ultimate kudo may also have come from that Chitown nitery, considering it was frequented by the Shadows Of Knight and Saturday's Children. "Everybody there thought we were really weird," says Matelic, still proud of the backhanded compliment.
by Prof. Jud Cost
1.We're Gonna Love (Don Basore) - 2:38
2.Come Back Again (Ronald Matelic) - 2:02
3.Not the Spirit of India (R. Matelic, Herb Crawford) 2:15
4.One Last Chance (Don Basore) - 2:39
Sir Winston And The Commons
*Joe Stout - Saxophone
*Herb Crawford - Guitar
*John Medvescek - Drums
*Ron Matelic - Guitar
*Don Basore - Bass
Michael Lloyd clearly recalls the day he decided to be in a band. Aged 12, he was surfing in Hawaii in the summer of '62 with schoolfriend and fellow pianist Jimmy Greenspoon. "We were far out from the shore and we heard music coming from the beach. It sounded great. So we paddled in and there were these local guys playing Ventures songs - they were very good - and that started us thinking, We've got to have a band!" Michael took up guitar and thus were born The New Dimensions, a barely pubescent surf combo. When the British invasion turned the local band scene on its ear a couple of years later, Lloyd and his chums became The Alley Kats and then The Rogues.
Lloyd's musical obsession meant he wasn't giving school his full attention, so, in the autumn of 1964, he left Beverly Hills High School and started at the more relaxed Hollywood Professional School. When he deigned to attend classes, he met the Harris brothers, Shaun and Danny, sons of celebrated American classical composer Ray Harris. The trio quickly recognised their common enthusiasm for pop, and, inspired by seeing Jeff Beck and The Yardbirds at a Hollywood party, began recording songs in Michael's bedroom.
The party's host, an older guy named Bob Markley, offered to fund recordings in a 2-track studio. In return he asked to join the band as a tambourine player, because it would help him attract girls. Their rudimentary recordings, mostly cover versions, were released locally on an album (recently reissued) as The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Volume 1. Lloyd left and the group subsequently signed to Reprise, creating three excellent albums that also deserve to be more widely heard. (They later reunited with Lloyd for an album entitled Bob Markley - A Group... It's a long story.)
In the meantime, Michael was introduced to young executive Mike Curb by ubiquitous LA scenester and producer Kim Fowley. Curb handed the precocious producer a number of projects for Tower under names such as The Laughing Wind and The Rubber Band. Epic Records then offered Lloyd the chance to produce a folk group who came to be called October Country. One afternoon in late 1967 the band assembled at Columbia Records Studios on Sunset. "That was my first time in a real studio. It was an 8-track and one of those union places where you couldn't touch a thing.
The first thing that happened was that the drummer was so nervous he threw up and ran out! So I ended up playing the drums and then, after everyone left, I replaced all the instruments, overdubbed the strings and sang with the girl in the group." Although it flopped, the October Country album gave Lloyd a taste of what he could achieve with such facilities at his disposal. 'I promoted the fact that I could do it all. Mike Curb had this great studio called Hollywood Boulevard and he let me spend about six months there making an album. It was just me and those two guys. No engineers, no anything.' Thus was born The Smoke.
Michael song lead vocals, played bass and keyboards while "those two guys" were Stan Ayeroff, who co-wrote three of the songs and played guitar, and Steve Baim who played drums. (Jimmy Greenspoon, by this time part of Three Dog Night, appeared in the shots on the sleeve although he didn't play on it.) Lloyd poured everything he'd learnt into the album. It opens with the organ-driven Cowboys And Indians, a song with parallels to Brian Wilson's Heroes And Villains. 'I met Bruce Johnston and he took me to a couple of sessions while Brian was recording Good Vibrations," recalls Lloyd. "it was a great experience.
Obviously The Beatles and The Beach Boys were a prime motivation. I think I've always been trying to catch up with them." There are overt Beatles references throughout the record, the chorus of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds is even quoted in the fade to Fogbound. The song's influence is also clear in Gold Is The Colour Of Thought. Elsewhere, the lush arrangements feature Pepperesque bursts of trumpet, strings, harpsichord and lashings of sweet singing. Including all the foregoing, October Country, the song, makes a spirited reappearance and there are further great pop moments in Umbrella and Odyssey. As a final nod to Lloyd's heroes, the album is dedicated to Stuart Sutcliffe.
As records by Beatle-obsessed youths of the '60s go, it all remains remarkably fresh, and should certainly delight fans of post-Pet Sounds psych-pop, say Millennium or Sagittarius. Perhaps only Stan's tricksy guitar shop-window, The Hobbit Symphony breaks the mood. Despite encouragement from Tower and a wide release, the album flopped. "I don't know if anybody really knew what to make of it," sighs Lloyd. "We never went on to play live as The Smoke as I'd planned.' Luckily, Lloyd had plenty of youthful confidence in reserve and didn't let failure faze him. "By the time I was 19, I'd already recorded over 10 albums with different bands and different labels, all unsuccessful! But after that my life changed a great deal."
At the tender age of 20, Lloyd was appointed vice-president of MGM by Mike Curb and his first production job, Lou Rawls's Natural Man, won a Grammy. After that he turned out hits for teen sensations like The Osmonds and Shaun Cassidy, later producing Belinda Carlisle, Barry Manilow and, most lucratively, the multi-million selling soundtrack to Dirty Dancing.
He worked on Pat Boone's recent, bizarre and surprisingly controversial album of orchestrated versions of heavy metal classics, and is in the studio with the Harris brothers hoping to resurrect the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.
But of all the things he's recorded it's clear Michael Lloyd's very fond of his forgotten classic created almost 30 years ago and is delighted that it's still finding fans. "It was great fun and gave me the opportunity to learn a little something. I'm very grateful for that."
Jim lrvin and Tim Forster, MOJO, January 1998
1. Cowboys And Indians - 2:48
2. Looking Thru The Mirror - 1:43
3. Self-Analysis - 2:54
4. Gold Is The Colour Of Thought - 3:05
5. The Hobbit Symphony - 3:58
6. The Daisy - Intermission - 0:28
7. Fogbound - 2:22
8. Song Thru Perception - 1:46
9. Philosophy - 0:45
10.Umbrella - 2:27
11.Ritual Gypsy Music Opus 1 - 0:14
12.October Country - 2:46
13.Odyssey - 3:44
Keen Followers of the 1960s Rock scene have become used to tales of long lost tapes and unissued recordings that have seemingly disappeared forever. Every so often, however, a cache of "lost" recordings does surface.
In subsequent years, the finally crafted pop-psych of "Sycamore Sid" helped earn the group a reputation for being one of the more intriguing- and most elusive- UK bands of the sixties. Yet nothing more was heard from Focal Point until 2002, when two previously unreleased tracks recorded at the same session as their Deram single appeared on the compilation CD 94 BAKER STREET which features artists who were signed to The Beatles' Apple Music Publishing company. Both, "Never Never" and "Girl on the corner" confirmed that "Sycamore Sid" was no fluke and that FOcal Point were perharps one of the great lost English pop groups of the 60's.
Since then, Paul Tennant, Dave Slater and Tim Wells of Focal Point have scoured lofts and basements across England in an effort to uncover tracks that were recorded during Focal Point's 1967-1968 heyday but were misplaced during ensuing decades. FIRST BITE OR THE APPLE represents the fruit of their labours. In addition to the four songs recorded for Deram in early 1968, FIRST BITE OF THE APPLE includes a number of tracks that were recorded independently at an 8-track studio in Manchester in late 1968.
by Stefan Granados
1. Miss Sinclair - 2:29
2. Sycamore Sid - 2:39
3. Hassle Castle - 3:39
4. Never Never - 3:27
5. Lonely Woman - 3:31
6. Far Away From Forever - 3:42
7. Love You Forever - 2:56
8. Tales From The GPO Files - 2:19
9. McKinnley Morgan The Deep Sea Diver - 3:10
10.Falling Out Of Friends (Paul Tennant, Dave Slater, Tim Wells) - 3:29
11.Girl On The Corner - 2:22
12.Goodbye Forever (Dave Slater, Paul Tennant, Tim Wells) - 2:29
13.This Time She's Leaving (Dave Slater, Paul Tennant, Tim Wells) - 3:22
14.'Cept Me - 2:28
15.Miss Sinclair (Demo) - 2:38
16.Miss Sinclair (Alternate Version) - 2:57
17.Hassle Castle (Demo) - 3:02
18.Never Never (Alternate Version) - 3:04
19.Reflections (Demo) - 2:54
20.Reflections - 2:59
All songs by Paul Tennant and Dave Rhodes except where noted.
By the middle of 1971, I had five albums in the can, taken the band on endless tours and played at major festivals including the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969. I suppose after all that I was getting ready for a change. At the end of 1971 it started to become clear that myself and Gary Thain were following a different musical direction to that of Miller Anderson, but all in a positive way.
Miller decided to pursue his solo career which, although it was a blow, left me the freedom to get together fresh musicians and essentially make a new start. I set about the task of searching for a great bunch of very different but nevertheless, musically like minded individuals. The gathering together of Junior Kerr on Guitar, Pete Wingfield on Keyboards, Chris Mercer on Sax (who was also a dynamite arranger) and Nick Newell on Sax was the result of that search.
The respect I had for Gary Thain was immense and to the extent that I made the one and only concession in my recording career. Gary wrote "You Say You're Together Now" and he was insistent that he should sing that number himself. I agreed that he could and, although I honoured that agreement, it wasn't the right decision musically. Saying it was a mistake makes it sound like I'm bitter about that decision which I'm not, but I always wanted the music to come first.
Pete Wingfield was the most tight fisted person I'd ever met! Whilst sailing to Oslo, we all bought and took seasick pills and we all threw up except for Pete who said "I've paid for it so I'm keeping it". Some months later he released a successful single on the Blue Horizon label called "18 with a Bullet" and every time I bumped into him at a session after that I used to sing "I'm 18 with a wallet - I can't get in there, you won't allow it." It was all in good humour.
Pete wrote "Hard Pill to Swallow" for the album that also showed off Chris Mercer's horn arrangements, which were both subtle and deep. Junior Kerr was an extremely mellow guy but as a performer he always wanted to be Jimi Hendrix; the ultimate alter ego chameleon. He contributed two songs for the album "Heartbreakin' Woman" and "Don't You Be Long". I'd always loved Chris Mercer's playing when he was in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Chris was in the band at the same time as I was so we knew each other and it was great that he agreed to join my brand new 1972 band.
To get an idea of Chris's talented playing, listen to Roxy Music's "Let's Work Together" - the sax solo in that was Chris Mercer at his very best – he blows it to kingdom come! I knew Nick Newell through Zoot Money's Big Roll Band and one day he approached me and asked if I'd got any work, so I said "Yes, how do you fancy working with Chris Mercer?" and he said "Yeah, I'd love to". Those two got on like a house on fire and some of the brass arrangements were perfected by the two of them huddled together in a corner trying out different voicings for the parts.
As we all became familiar with what we were doing I got really excited about getting in the studio with this bunch of really talented guys. I couldn't wait! The album title was conceived as usual during the time frame of recording the album and as the year was very soon going to be 1972 and I wanted to keep the Native American theme alive, I came up with "Seventy Second Brave" in a moment of inspiration one evening on the way home from the studio. The album owes as much to John Burns the coproducer as it does to any of the players that were involved. I first met up with John Burns in the editing suite when he worked as an engineer whilst making our previous album "Little Big Band".
After that he decided to go into producing and had produced one or possibly two Genesis albums before I asked him if he would co-produce and engineer "Seventy Second Brave". On one track, (I'll leave you to decide which it is), we had Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins on backing vocals. You won't find them credited on the album as it was just a case of them strolling into the studio with John Burns and joining in for fun. A nice moment was when Phil Collins took me to one side and said to me "Do you remember the Mayall gig at Wellington Town Hall?" And I said "No" "Well", he said, "we came to see you and loved it because you took the piss out of your own drum solo." You see I was expected to do drum solos and the crowd loved them but I never liked them musically.
Anyway, the time was approaching when we were going to make the album so we all met up at John Burns' flat and brainstormed the songs making sure that each and every musician had a chance to input their ideas. We had at least half a dozen sessions like this. Not only was this good preparation for working on the album, it was a great insight into how we would work as a live band. We had two and a half weeks of studio time booked (excluded mixing). We played everything live but still used overdubs to enhance the performances. By now most other bands were starting to work in a different way, building up songs one instrument at a time.
This was all very well but often lost the interplay that you get when musicians are playing together in the same room. We all went in well rehearsed for the recording sessions but when we started gigging it was a different matter - we often had to adapt arrangements to suit the live performances until we were happy with them. Each session was around 10 hours each day over the two and a half weeks. We would possibly abandon a track when we were getting stale and rather than call it a day we would start on another, only to find the juices would start to flow again and reactivate the session with everyone queuing up to do their particular overdub.
Island Records studio was in Notting Hill Gate and we'd start sessions at around six o' clock in the evening until three in the morning and during the sessions we'd obviously get hungry. We'd give our minder and companion Dell Roll our order for a takeaway and he'd go out in the early hours into an area that, at the time, was problematic with black / white violence. As the only white man walking the streets for miles around; he used to be scared to death! After he got to know the guys in the Caribbean takeaways and they knew what he was doing he could relax a little more. Dell always used to take Blue, my Alsatian dog at the time, with him on these nightly vigils. Blue used to accompany me down to the studio and fall asleep, often in front of the monitor speakers.
No matter how loud they got (and John Burns would have them falling off the brackets at times) Blue stayed asleep throughout it all. "Seventy Second Brave" was released right at the beginning of 1972 and we toured almost immediately. That took care of the first part of 1972. I then took up the offer from John Mayall to join him on a European tour. I needed a rest and this seemed like an ideal opportunity - a busman's holiday. I've just listened to the album for the first time in a very long time and I must admit that on first listening I thought it was tight even by today's standards and still stands up today musically.
It reminded me of John Burns getting paranoid whilst miking up my bass drum and I could hear the perfect marriage of Gary Thain's bass and my bass drum that came about from this. We used to get everyone in the control room often after each take so we could all criticise the take and make suggestions so we could improve things with the next take. It reminded me why I enjoyed the music business so much - I got to work with so many talented people.
by Keef Hartley, December 2008
1. Heartbreakin' Woman (J. Kerr) - 4:21
2. Marin County (C. Mercer) - 3:58
3. Hard Pill To Swallow (P. Wingfieid) - 5:43
4. Don't You Be Long (J. Kerr) - 5:16
5. Noctums (C. Crowe) - 2:04
6. Don't Sign It (C. Mercer) - 4:28
7. Always Thinkin' Of You (C. Crowe) - 4:39
8.You Say You're Together Now (G. Thain) - 3:43
9.What It Is (C. Crowe) - 1:18
Having worked with George Martin on their self titled debut, Edward's Hand began recording at Morgan Studios in 1970, attempting to create a harder and more progressive sound than before. There where no nervous second album vibes here! The album is comprised of evocative and intelligent progressive pop songs immaculately produced featuring Edward's and Hand's distinctive harmonies to the fore.
The second half of the album is effectively a concept of alienation and isolation, covered in the seven minute title track and the twelve minute epic Death Of A Man. which includes an incredible "orchestra duelling-with-moogs" mid section followed by a beautifully majestic and Beatles like coda. Stranded marks its reissue here on CD with the inclusion of the original artwork by Revolver cover artist and long term Beatle friend Klaus Voorman.
The line drawing of a Southern Sheriff, ties in with the lyrics of Sheriff Myras Lincoln - a song about an American racist policeman - and was subsequently banned and replaced with different artwork by RCA in the US. Clearly more confident and adventurous lyrically on this album, Edward's Hand also had more time with George Martin during the pre-production stages. This preparation time, an intelligent lyric writing team and Georges complex yet concise orchestral arrangements give their second LP a much worldlier and unique feel.
Edwards Hand were the first group that George Martin arranged and produced after The Beatles. This is the band's second album and was originally released in 1970. It features some stunning string arrangements by George Martin from the first sessions to be mixed at his then new Air Studios.
The cover art is a controversial caricature of a US Sheriff by "Revolver" Beatles artist / friend Klaus Voorman. This artwork was banned by the US label and was subsequently replaced with different artwork on the original US pressing of the album. It is re-instated on this release. Edwards Hand were formally the short-lived Picadilly Line who released the ultra rare album The Huge World of Emily Small, whilst Rod Edwards was also a key member of legendary UK folk band Jade.
Stranded features John Wetton's first guest appearance on an album, just before he joined Family and Jimmy Litherland of Colosseum. The band is virtually the same grouping that backed Marianne Segal and Dave Waite on the legendary Fly On Strange Wings album by Jade.
This preparation time, an intelligent lyric writing team and George's complex yet concise orchestral arrangements give their second LP a much worldlier and unique feel.
1. US Flag - 4:51
2. Sheriff Myras Lincola - 6:01
3. Revolution's Death Man! - 4:04
4. Encounter - 2:39
5. Hello America - 2:37
6. Stranded - 7:07
7. Winter - 1:40
8. Death of a Man - 12:11
....i. Die When You Must Die
....ii. The Strife Is O'ef the Battle Done
....iii. He Is Gone
....iv. This May Sound Strange
....v. The Sentence Is Life
All songs written by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand
*Rod Edwards - Keyboards, Vocals
*Roger Hand - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*James Litherland - Electric Guitar
*John Wetton - Bass
*Clem Cattini - Drums
Blossom Toes were the twee-est band of all time-- twice as twee as the Dukes of Stratosphear covering "(Listen to the) Flower People" in front of an audience of animated chipmunks, thrice as twee as a Keane painting magically brought to life by a sprinkling of fairy dust and singing the Fluff Fluff Fluff Fluff and Cuddleyness catalogue. Originally the Ingoes, one of ten million British blues bands who desperately wanted to be the Yardbirds, they hooked up with their idols' manager Giorgio Gomelsky; just as flower power was taking off, they were directed to become psychedelicists and change their name, for reasons having less to do with LSD than pounds-shillings-pence.
The Toes claim their songs were all written by the time somebody played them an acetate of Sgt. Pepper's in the studio. If so, "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" seems to have hit them like an acid bomb, because virtually every song here can trace its DNA to the Beatles' psychedelic moment, from the harmonies to Kevin Westlake's Ringofied drumming to the quick-changing orchestrations accompanying the chime of their twelve-string guitars to their general sense of persistently tuneful music-hall whimsy as the corridor behind the doors of perception.
They don't waste time getting around to it, either: The opening track begins with a backwards-guitar fade-in before singer/guitarist Brian Godding exclaims "Look at me I'm you! Look at me I'm you!" Godding was the band's main songwriter, although guitarist Jim Cregan also gets in a couple of good ones, especially "When the Alarm Clock Rings" (later recycled as the closing track of the Nuggets II compilation), and Westlake contributes a song called "The Remarkable Saga of the Frozen Dog", which is as look-at-me-I'm-high as you'd guess.
And virtually everything on the original album works beautifully-- they'd spent years streamlining their attack on stage, including a stint backing up Sonny Boy Williamson, so the spaced-out playfulness of their lyrics and singing is balanced out by fine, tough musicianship. "Hurry up, sleep, take me/Or I'll be late for tea," they croon, but even as an overdubbed French horn paraphrases the "Penny Lane" coda, Westlake and bassist Brian Belshaw are playing crushingly hard.
The bonus tracks appended here mostly just demonstrate how quickly the bloom came off the blossom: a few demos and live tracks meant to suggest what the "real" Toes sounded like without the album's ludicrous overdubs (not nearly as much fun), and a forced-sounding cover of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" from a 1968 A-side. Two years later, they made a heavy, dull second and final album, If Only for a Moment, which has also just been reissued; the new edition includes the single "Postcard", the only trace of whimsy that remained in them after Clean.
The summer of 1967 produced lots of phenomena, and the historical condition for the Blossom Toes to be not just twee but wonderful might have been one of them. The only reasonable response in 2007 to hearing them chirp "I will bring you plastic flowers/You can play with them for hours" in druggy harmony is to conclude that they're a brilliant put-on. But they were for real-- or at least not wholly fictional-- and, for a few gorgeous, candy-colored months, they kicked ass up and down the Royal Parks.
by Douglas Wolk
1. Look at Me I'm You (Brian Godding,Giorgio Gomelsky) - 3:55
2. I'll Be Late for Tea (Brian Godding) - 2:42
3. The Remarkable Saga of the Frozen Dog (Kevin Westlake) - 3:02
4. Telegram Tuesday (Brian Godding) - 2:37
5. Love Is (Brian Godding) - 2:41
6. What's It For? (Jim Cregan) - 3:03
7. People of the Royal Parks (Kevin Westlake) - 2:20
8. What on Earth (Brian Godding) - 2:52
9 .Mrs. Murphy's Budgerigar (Jim Cregan, Kevin Westlake) - 2:38
10.I Will Bring You This and That (Brian Godding) - 2:55