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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Holy Mackerel - Holy Mackerel (1968 us, exceptional psychedelic sunny folk, 2010 deluxe expanded edition)

If ever an album was lost in the shuffle, it was the 1968 debut LP by The Holy Mackerel. The LP, assigned as Reprise 6311, fell smack in between Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (Reprise 6307) and Neil Young’s eponymous solo debut (Reprise 6317). But adventurous listeners would find themselves rewarded if they picked up the album by the oddly-named group, with its cover sleeve of five gents and a lady smiling for the camera under three-dimensional comic book-style lettering proclaiming them “The Holy Mackerel.” Produced by an emerging Richard Perry, The Holy Mackerel might as well have been called Something for Everyone.

Over the course of 12 tracks, the group traversed psychedelia, country rock and best of all, sunshine pop with the terrifically infectious “Bitter Honey,” co-written by Paul and Roger Nichols. Of course, the Nichols/Williams team would go on to become a Los Angeles-based hitmaking factory, turning out some of the most-loved songs of all time: “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “I Won’t Last a Day Without You.” They also wrote some tunes which are not-so-well-known but no less wonderful: “The Drifter,” “Someday Man,” “Trust.” Cherry Red and producer Steve Stanley on September 27 will give The Holy Mackerel the deluxe Now Sounds treatment with an expanded reissue, appending a whopping 10 bonus tracks to the original 12-track LP, including 9 songs new to CD and 5 previously unissued in any form. Click on the jump for more background on The Holy Mackerel, one of this author’s favorite lost LPs of the era, and the full track listing for the Now Sounds reissue with pre-order link!

The Holy Mackerel originally consisted of Paul Williams, brother Mentor Williams (who would go on to write Dobie Gray’s much-covered smash “Drift Away”), Bob Harvey (late of Jefferson Airplane), guitarist George Hiller, flautist/vocalist Cynthia Fitzpatrick and Don Murray, formerly of the Turtles. Perhaps not boding well for the album, the lineup changed before the LP was ever released. Harvey was replaced by a name soon to be familiar to Elvis Presley’s fans, bassist Jerry Scheff; Don Murray was replaced by Michael Cannon. In the liner notes to Collector’s Choice’s 2005 CD reissue (CCM-543-2), Steve Stanley indicates that Buffalo Springfield’s Dewey Martin also contributed drums to the Mackerel’s LP; the Springfield influence was clear on country-flecked tracks like “The Somewhere In Arizona at 4:30 A.M. Restaurant Song (And Now I Am Alone).” The album’s eclectic nature may have hurt its initial reception, but it’s filled with the sounds of young artists at their hungriest and most imaginative.

Despite the album’s commercial failure and the band’s dissolution, its reputation remained strong over the years. Lead singer and songwriter Paul Williams went on to create his underrated solo debut Someday Man, wholly written by the Nichols/Williams team and produced by Nichols, and then to even greater fame. Andrew Sandoval revisited two of the LP’s tracks, “Scorpio Red” and “Wildflowers,” for Come to the Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults (Rhino Handmade RHM2 7818) and Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults (Rhino Handmade RHM2 7821), respectively. Steve Stanley has more than done his part in keeping the Williams/Nichols partnership in the spotlight, spearheading Collector’s Choice’s reissues of The Holy Mackerel and Someday Man, and via Rev-Ola and Now Sounds, reissuing the complete output of Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends as well. (If you’re still reading this far and don’t have both Roger Nichols albums, along with Someday Man, stop now and order immediately! You won’t regret it.)

Now Sounds’ edition boasts non-LP single tracks “Love for Everyone” and “To Put Up With You,” one of the most delicious put-down songs ever, with Williams’ pointed lyrics directed at a heartbreaking if attractive lady: “Yes, I’d like to hang around/But I’ll have to let you down/I just haven’t got what it takes/To put up with you…” set to a breezy Nichols melody. “Scorpio Red” and “The Lady is Waiting” are heard in their mono 45 versions, joined by session outtakes and demos, including a demo of “Bitter Honey,” memorably covered by Jackie DeShannon on her Laurel Canyon LP.
by Joe Marchese

1. The Secret of Pleasure (Michaels, Williams) - 3:35
2. Scorpio Red - 3:15
3. The Lady is Waiting - 2:09
4. Wildflowers (Harvey) - 4:00
5. The Somewhere In Arizona At 4:30a.M. Restaurant Song (and Now I Am Alone) - 2:23
6. Prinderella (Perry, Rubini) - 2:44
7. Bitter Honey (Nichols, Williams) - 2:24
8. Nothin' Short of Misery - 2:32
9. The Golden Ghost of Love - 2:41
10.The Wild Side of Life (Carter, Warren) - 2:53
11.10,000 Men - 3:42
12.1984 - 4:28
13.Love For Everyone - 3:12
14.To Put Up With You (Nichols, Williams) - 3:27
15.Bitter Honey (Nichols, Williams) - 2:20
16.Scorpio Red - 3:10
17.The Lady is Waiting - 2:09
18.And Now I Am Alone - 6:01
19.Love For Everyone - 8:48
20.Bitter Honey (Nichols, Williams) - 2:25
21.On the Way - 2:35
22.Listen To the Voice - 2:14
All songs by Paul Williams unless otherwise stated.
Tracks 1-12 from Reprise LP 6311, 1968
Tracks 13-14 from Reprise single 0681, 1968
Track 15 from Reprise single 0768, 1968
Tracks 16-17 from Reprise single 0797, 1968
Tracks 18-22 previously unreleased

*Paul Williams - Vocals
*Cynthia Fitzpatrick - Flute, Vocals
*Alvin Dinkin - Viola
*Jesse Ehrlich - Cello
*David Frisina - Violin
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Allan Harshman - Viola
*Bob Harvey - Bass
*George Hiller - Banjo, Dobro, Guitar, Harmonica, Organ, Vocals
*Nathan Kaproff - Violin
*Raymond Kelley - Cello
*Raphael Kramer - Cello
*Steve Lefever - Bass
*Marvin Limonick - Violin
*Charles Loper - Trombone
*John Lowe - Flute
*Lewis McCreary - Trombone
*Oliver Mitchell - Trumpet
*Alexander Murray - Violin
*Don Murray - Drums
*Richard Nash - Trombone
*Erno Neufeld - Violin
*Roger Nichols - Piano
*Michael Rubini - Harpsichord
*Jerry Scheff - Bass
*Thomas Scott - Flute
*Frederick Seykora - Cello
*Clifford Shank - Flute
*Kenny Shroyer - Trombone
*Anthony Terran - Trumpet
*Dave Timberley - Project Assistant
*Ray Triscari - Trumpet
*Mentor Williams - Rhythm Guitar , Vocals
*John Audino - Trumpet
*Michael Barone - Trombone
*Larry Bunker - Tympani
*Michael Cannon - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Jules Chaikin - Trumpet
*William Collette - Flute
*Vincent DeRosa - French Horn

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Paul Butterfield's Better Days - Paul Butterfield's Better Days (1973 us, elegant blues rock)

Following the disbanding of the final Butterfield Blues Band lineup, Paul Butterfield relocated to the artist colony that had developed in the Catskill Mountains around Bearsville and Woodstock, NY. He began hanging out with members of the Band, Van Morrison, Jesse Winchester, and an ever-growing roster of high profile musicians who had also relocated there in recent years.

Butterfield assembled a new band, which featured some of the cream of that crop of veteran musicians. The new group, christened Better Days, had an extraordinary frontline consisting of Butterfield on harp and vocals, former Jim Kweskin Jug Band founding member Geoff Muldaur on keyboards, guitar, and vocals, Ronnie Barron on piano and vocals, as well as legendary studio vet, Amos Garrett, on lead guitar. The rhythm section boasted former Buddy Miles Express and Taj Mahal bassist Billy Rich and former Holy Moses drummer, Christopher Parker, who would eventually work with a long list of legends including Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Steely Dan.

Better Days released two excellent studio albums on the Bearsville label and this concert features much of the material from their debut album, when the band was still relatively new and full of enthusiasm for playing together. Butterfield, Muldaur, and Barron were all strong lead vocalists and Garrett was probably the best guitarist to work with Butterfield since Michael Bloomfield. Sadly overlooked at the time, this group was just as intriguing as Butterfield's former band and the music they created was as good, if not better, than much of what directly proceeded it within Butterfield's catalogue.

"We're the only band around that's playing rooted American music," Better Days vocalist and former folkie Geoff Muldaur told an interviewer when this album was first released in 1973, and with perhaps just a handful of exceptions he was right. The band's mix of various styles of blues, from rural (Robert Johnson), to cosmopolitan (Percy Mayfield), along with hints of New Orleans R&B, boogie woogie, and early rock and country, was tremendously out of step with the pop trends of its time.

These days, of course, there are many bands doing more or less the same thing (although rarely as well), but the fact that these guys couldn't have cared less about appearing trendy is one of the reasons why Better Days sounds timeless. Another reason, of course, is world class musicianship; Muldaur, Paul Butterfield, and stupendously stylish guitarist Amos Garrett in particular come across as both relaxed and passionate. Despite their essentially formalistic approach to music making, they never sound academic or sterile. Better Days is one of the great lost albums of the '70s.

1. New Walkin' Blues (Johnson) - 4:54
2. Please Send Me Someone to Love (Mayfield) - 5:09
3. Broke My Baby's Heart (Barron) - 5:09
4. Done a Lot of Wrong Things (Charles) - 3:52
5. Baby Please Don't Go (Williams) - 3:28
6. Buried Alive in the Blues (Gravenites) - 3:44
7. Rule the Road (Von Schmidt) - 4:13
8. Nobody's Fault But Mine (Simone) - 3:37
9. Highway 28 (Hicks) - 3:10

*Ronnie Barron - Keyboards, Organ, Electric Piano, Vocals
*Gary Brocks - Trombone
*Sam Burtis - Trombone
*Paul Butterfield - Harmonica, Harp, Electric Piano, Producer, Vocals,
*Bobby Charles - Vocals
*Brother Gene Dinwiddie - Tenor Saxophone
*Peter Ecklund - Trumpet
*Amos Garrett - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Howard Johnson - Horn, Baritone Sax
*Geoff Muldaur - Guitar, Piano, Slide, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Maria Muldaur - Fiddle, Vocals
*Chris Parker - Drums
*J.D. Parran - Tenor Saxophone
*Billy Rich - Bass
*David Sanborn - Alto Saxophone
*Stan Shafran - Trumpet
*Dennis Whitted - Drums, Vocals

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