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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Plain Jane - Plain Jane (1969 us, fabulous country folk rock with sunny psych tinges)

Recorded at Hollywood's I.D. Sound Studios with Les Brown Jr. handling the production duties, 1969's "Plain Jane" was nothing short of fabulous.  Featuring ten original tracks with all four members contributing material, the album showcased a mesmerizing blend of late-1960s country-rock, pop, and psych influences. Full of killer songs and breath-taking, slightly stoned vocals, this overlooked gem spent weeks on my CD carousel.  

Hard to pick standouts since all ten tracks were worth hearing, but the opener 'Who's Drivin' This Train' sounded like Arlo Gurthrie and the Grateful Dead having graduated from the John Philips top-40 songwriting academy, while 'Not the Sam' combined CSN&Y vocal harmonies with some ballistic drumming and a cool psych feel.   If I had any complaints, it was that these guys lacked a distinctive sound of their own, though in borrowing bits and pieces from other groups they came up with a wonderful aural stew. 

They also created one of those albums that was a blast to crank up and play spot-the-influences. Okay, I'll add that 'Num-Bird' was too country-flavored for my tastes.   'You Can't Make It Alone' was what post-Monkees Michael Nesmith always yearned to sound like.  'That's How Much' sported an odd mock-English feel - hum, kinda' what Davy Jones always wanted to sound like ...  'Short Fairy Tale' added some tasty jazzy guitar licks to the mix.  And that was just side one.    All hyperbole aside this is a classic lost album just waiting to be discovered !!!  

1. Who's Drivin' This Train? (Barry Ray) - 2:57
2. You Can't Make It Alone (Jerry Schoenfeld) - 4:10
3. That's How Much (Don Gleicher) - 2:10
4. Short Fairy Tale (Don Gleicher) - 2:12
5. Not The Same (Jerry Schoenfeld) - 4:21
6. Num-Bird (Barry Ray) - 2:58
7. What Can You Do? (Jerry Schoenfeld) - 2:35
8. Fire Hydrant (Barry Ray) - 3:26
9. Silence (Don Gleicher) - 2:37
10. Mrs. Que (Barry Ray) - 3:37

Plain Jane
*Barry Ray - Guitar, Vocals
*Don Gleicher - Guitar, Vocals
*David Schoenfeld - Drums
*Jerry Schoenfeld - Bass, Piano, Vocals

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Matching Mole - Matching Mole (1972 uk, marvelous prog rock, canterbury scene, 2012 double disc and 2013 Blu Spec japan bonus tracks remasters)

Robert Wyatt left Soft Machine in 1971 because of creative differences (he didn't want the band to completely abandon vocals) and decided to make a solo album. Wyatt was contractually obligated to Soft Machine's label (CBS) as a solo artist, and it was at the behest of CBS that Matching Mole was formed: CBS insisted that a band be created to support the solo album with a tour. Wyatt ended up making the band a permanent entity and thus Matching Mole (a play on machine molle, the French translation for "soft machine") was birthed. Given the genesis of the project, it should be no surprise that most of the music is Wyatt-penned.

The album is minor practically by definition — it's a disjointed, uneven mixture of experimental jazz improvisation and graceful, Beatles-esque melodic passages — but I think it is nevertheless quite successful. Most of the songs flow together and the first three have a suite-like unity. "O Caroline" is a beautiful Mellotron and piano piece that has an almost-convincing sincerity, although lyrics like "If you call this sentimental crap you'll make me mad / because you know that I would not sing about / some passing fad" reveal an obvious self-awareness. 

"Caroline" then morphs into the trippy "Instant Pussy," in which Wyatt's wordless vocals echo and float above a gentle, catchy bass riff. Groovy. Structure returns with "Signed Curtain," another fragile vocal tune where Wyatt's lyrics irreverently do nothing more than designate what part of the song he's singing: "This is the first verse... this is the chorus / or perhaps it's a bridge," and so on. I find it charming in Wyatt's singularly weird sort of way, though I'm sure it sounded more daring at the time than it does now.

Then we're off to experimental jazz fusion territory, albeit with an occasionally psychedelic bent that I suppose harks back to Wyatt's U.F.O Club days in Soft Machine when they shared the bill with Pink Floyd. "Part of the Dance" is Phil Miller's, and it shows — the piece is very proto-Hatfield and the North. It's probably my favorite of the instrumental jams. "Instant Kitten" and "Dedicated to Hugh, But You Weren't Listening" (a pun on an early Soft Machine song) are Wyatt compositions with psychedelic auras: the drones that make up the opening segment of "Dedicated To Hugh" are more Pink Floyd than Soft Machine.

Up until this point, I'd say that the album flirts with excellence. The final two tracks drag it down a bit, though. "Beer as Braindeer" and "Immediate Curtain" are free-form explorations of sound textures. In some respects, they resemble the similarly-minded material on the Can album Tago Mago (except here the impact is sweetened by Mellotron). This stuff isn't bad, but sequenced this way the flow of the album is disrupted. Tailing off as it does, Matching Mole is like a trip that I'm not sure really goes anywhere, even if the ride is often interesting.
by Matt P. 

Blu Spec 2013 edition
1. O Caroline (David Sinclair, Robert Wyatt)- 5:05
2. Instant Pussy - 2:59
3. Signed Curtain - 3:06
4. Part of the Dance (Phil Miller) - 9:16
5. Instant Kitten - 4:58
6. Dedicated to Hugh, But You Weren't Listening - 4:39
7. Beer as in Braindeer - 4:02
8. Immediate Curtain - 5:57
9. O Caroline (Single Version) (David Sinclair, Robert Wyatt) - 3:33
10.Signed Curtain (Single Edit) - 3:05
11.Signed Curtain (Take Two) - 5:32
12.Part Of The Dance (Take One) (Phil Miller) - 7:28
13.Memories Membrane (Bill MacCormick, Phil Miller, David Sinclair, Robert Wyatt) - 11:17
14.Horse (Bill MacCormick, Phil Miller, David Sinclair, Robert Wyatt) - 3:48
15.Sandwich (Bill MacCormick, Phil Miller, David Sinclair, Robert Wyatt) - 5:35
All compositions by Robert Wyatt except where noted

Disc 1 Esoteric 2012 The Original Album Remastered
1. O Caroline (David Sinclair, Robert Wyatt) - 5:06
2. Instant Pussy - 3:02
3. Signed Curtain - 3:03
4. Part Of The Dance (Phil Miller) - 9:14
5. Instant Kitten - 4:59
6. Dedicated To Hugh, But You Weren't Listening - 4:40
7. Beer As In Braindeer - 4:02
8. Immediate Curtain - 5:58
9. O Caroline (Single Version) (David Sinclair, Robert Wyatt) - 3:33
10.Signed Curtain (Single Edit) - 3:05
11.Part Of The Dance Jam (Phil Miller) - 20:57
All songs by Robert Wyatt except where stated
Bonus Tracks 9-11

Disc 2 Album Sessions Recordings December 1971 / January 1972
1. Signed Curtain (Take Two) - 5:32
2. Memories Membrane - 11:16
3. Part Of The Dance (Take One) (Phil Miller) - 7:27
4. Horse - 3:47
5. Immediate Kitten - 9:54
6. Marchides / Instant Pussy / Smoke Signal (Dave McRae, Robert Wyatt) - 19:36
All tracks by Robert Wyatt except where indicated
Tracks 5-6 BBC Radio One Sessions 

Matching Mole
*Phil Miller - Guitar
*David Sinclair - Piano, Organ
*Bill Maccormick - Bass
*Robert Wyatt - Drums, Voice, Mellotron, Piano
Additional Musician
*Dave MacRae - Electric Piano

Related Acts
1968  Caravan - Caravan (Japan SHM remaster)  
1970  Caravan - If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You (Japan SHM remaster)
1971  Caravan - In The Land Of Grey And Pink (Japan SHM remaster)
1973  Caravan - For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night (Japan SHM remaster)
1974  Caravan - Caravan And The New Symphonia (Japan SHM remaster)
1975  Caravan - Cunning Stunts (Japan remaster)

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