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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gordon Jackson - Thinking Back (1969 uk, gorgeous psych folk rock, bonus tracks edition)

Originally released on Marmalade in 1969, Jackson 's lone solo album is the initial salvo from the new UK reissue label, Sunbeam, the brainchild of Steve Carr and rock scribe Richard Morton Jack. Marketed (somewhat correctly) as a long lost Traffic album, the release was produced by Jackson's Worcester neighbour, Dave Mason and features various Traffic permutations (Mason, Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi, and Steve Winwood) throughout, with the entire quartet backing Jackson on the first single, "Me and My Dog" c/w "A Day at The Cottage," whose non-LP B-side, which is included among several bonus tracks, is a reference to Traffic's cottage in Berkshire, where blueprints for many of the album's tracks originated from all night jam sessions). 

The album's personnel reads like a Family tree of late 60's UK rockedelica, including future Traffic bassist, Ric Gretch, along with his then-current partners in Family, Jim King and Poli Palmer (who also played with Blossom Toes, who appear on backing vocals), Luther Grosvenor (future Spooky Tooth guitarist who later changed his name to Ariel Bender and enjoyed much fame with Mott The Hoople), Julie Driscoll, and Reg King from The Action. In fact, Jackson originally played alongside Capaldi and Mason in the primordial Traffic lineups, The Hellions and Deep Feeling, the latter also featuring Palmer and Grosvenor.

Rock history aside, the album itself is a wonderful amalgamation of jazz, psychedelia, and folk influences, with the opening track "The Journey" driven by Rob Blunt's electric sitar and Mason's throbbing basslines and "My Ship, My Star" softly drifting along the open seas like an early, acoustic version of Jethro Tull. The tearfully reflective "When You Are Small," featuring Jackson on sitar and Winwood on bass, provides the lyrical inspiration for the album's title and cover photo, a snapshot of Jackson 's pouting daughter Cherie shedding a tear. 

Despite some warbly playback in the transfer from the original ?" analog master tapes, the song perfectly captures the lost yearning for youthful innocence, occasionally reminding me of the later solo work of the Moody Blues' Ray Thomas (cf., 1975's "From Mighty Oaks"). "Sing To Me Woman" features some tastefully blistering guitar solos from Mason and is included here in both album and single mixes, as is "Song For Freedom," while the extended jam version of "Me and My Dog" finds Traffic firing on all cylinders and is practically worth the price of admission alone, despite its annoying, midflight dropoff, as if the tape (or musicians) ran out of steam! Nevertheless, this is an essential purchase for Traffic and Family completists, as well as anyone interested in late 60's UK rockedelica.
by Jeff Penczak

1. The Journey - 4:52
2. My Ship, My Star - 6:13
3. Me And My Dog - 4:12
4. Song For Freedom - 4:52
5. Sing To Me Woman - 5:27
6. When You Are Small - 7:16
7. Snakes And Ladders - 5:57
8. A Day At The Cottage (Non-album B side) - 3:34
9. My Ship, My Star (Demo version) - 4:29
10. Song For Freedom (Single mix) - 3:56
11. Sing To Me Woman (Single mix) - 4:30
12. Me And My Dog (Long version) - 7:09
All songs by Gordon Jackson

*Gordon Jackson - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Rob Blunt - Electric sitar, Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar
*Dave Mason - Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar, Bass
*Remic Abacca - Tabla
*Jim Capaldi - Drums, Backing Vocals
*Jim King - Soprano Sax
*Poli Palmer - Piano, Organ, Backing Vocals
*Rocky Dzidzorni - Conga
*Cnris Wood - Flute, Tenor Sax
*Steve Winwood - Bass, Piano
*Reg King, Julie Driscoll - Backing Vocals
*Luther Grosvenor, Meic Stevens, Blossom Toes - Backing Vocals
*Nicole, Karen, Cynthia and Annie - Backing Vocals

Related Act
1966-68  Deep Feeling - Pretty Colours

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Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills (1970 us, amazing debut album, 2008 japan SHM remaster)

Talk about understatement -- there's Stephen Stills on the cover, acoustic guitar in hand, promising a personal singer/songwriter-type statement. And there is some of that -- even a lot of that personal music-making -- on Stephen Stills, but it's all couched in astonishingly bold musical terms. Stephen Stills is top-heavy with 1970 sensibilities, to be sure, from the dedication to the memory of Jimi Hendrix to the now piggish-seeming message of "Love the One You're With." Yet, listening to this album three decades on, it's still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Deja Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them. 

The mix of folk, blues (acoustic and electric), hard rock, and gospel is seamless, and the musicianship and the singing are all so there, in your face, that it just burns your brain (in the nicest, most benevolent possible way) even decades later. Recorded amid the breakup of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Stills' first solo album was his effort to put together his own sound and, not surprisingly, it's similar to a lot of stuff on the group's two albums. But it's also infinitely more personal, as well as harder and bluesier in many key spots; yet, it's every bit as soft and as lyrical as the group in other spots, and all laced with a degree of yearning and urgency that far outstrips virtually anything he did with the group.

 "Love the One You're With," which started life as a phrase that Stills borrowed from Billy Preston at a party, is the song from this album that everybody knows, but it's actually one of the lesser cuts here -- not much more than a riff and an upbeat lyric and mood, albeit all of it infectious. "Do for the Others," by contrast, is one of the prettiest and most moving pieces of music that Stills has ever been associated with, and "Church (Part of Someone)" showed him moving toward gospel and R'n'B (and good at it, too); and then there's "Old Times Good Times," musically as good a rock song as Stills has ever recorded (even if it borrows a bit from "Pre-Road Downs"), and featuring Jimi Hendrix on lead guitar. 

"Go Back Home" (which has Eric Clapton on guitar) is fine a piece of bluesy hard rock, while "Sit Yourself Down" features superb singing by Stills and a six-person backing chorus (that includes Cass Elliot, Graham Nash, and David Crosby) around a great tune. "To a Flame" is downright ethereal, while the live "Black Queen" is a superb piece of acoustic blues.

All of this is presented by Stills in the best singing voice of his career up to that point, bolder, more outgoing, and more powerful (a result of his contact with Doris Troy) than anything in his previous output. He also plays lots of instruments (a la Crosby, Stills & Nash, which is another reason it sounds so similar to the group in certain ways), though a bit more organ than guitar, thanks to the presence of Hendrix and Clapton on two cuts. If the album has a flaw, it's the finale, "We Are Not Helpless," which slightly overstays its welcome. But hey, this was still the late '60s, and excess was the rule, not the exception, and it's such modest excess. 
by Bruce Eder

1. Love the One You're With - 3:04
2. Do for the Others - 2:52
3. Church (Part of Someone) - 4:05
4. Old Times Good Times - 3:39
5. Go Back Home - 5:54
6. Sit Yourself Down - 3:05
7. To a Flame - 3:08
8. Black Queen - 5:26
9. Cherokee - 3:23
10.We Are Not Helpless" - 4:20
All songs written by Stephen Stills

*Stephen Stills - Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Piano, Organ, Steel Drum, Percussion
*Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuel - Bass
*Dallas Taylor - Drums
*Conrad Isedor - Drums
*Ringo Starr (listed as "Richie" on track listing, tracks 7 and 10) - Drums
*Johnny Barbata - Drums
*Jeff Whittaker - Congas
*Jimi Hendrix - Guitar (Track 4)
*Eric Clapton - Guitar (Track 5)
*Booker T. Jones - Organ, Vocal
*Sidney George - Flute, Alto Saxophone
*David Crosby - Vocals
*Graham Nash - Vocals
*John Sebastian - Vocals
*Rita Coolidge - Vocals
*Priscilla Jones - Vocals
*Claudia Lanier - Vocals
*Cass Elliott - Vocals
*Henry Diltz - Vocal
*Liza Strike - Vocal
*Judith Powell - Vocal
*Larry Steele - Vocal
*Tony Wilson - Vocal
*Sherlie Matthews - Chorus, Vocals
Horns arranged by Stephen Stills
Strings arranged by Stephen Stills and Arif Mardin

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