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Plain and Fancy

Music gives soul to universe, wings to mind, flight to imagination, charm to sadness, and life to everything.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

McGuinn, Clark And Hillman - McGuinn, Clark And Hillman (1979 us, elegant folk country smooth rock, 2014 japan SHM remaster)

Although Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman were founding members of the Byrds, when they reunited as a trio at the end of the 1970s they seemed determined to create a sound that did not remind listeners of the earlier group. Though their music was still mainstream pop/rock with folk antecedents, it sounded like contemporary '70s studio rock, even to the point of including a song with a disco arrangement, "Release Me Girl." More important, the trio's vocal blend, heavily augmented by the voices of John Sambataro and Rhodes, Chalmers & Rhodes, did not remind listeners of the Byrds. The major reason for this was the back seat that McGuinn, the virtual leader of the Byrds, took in the new group. He had only two compositions, to Hillman's three and Clark's four, on the record, and they were his only lead vocals. Otherwise, his reedy tenor faded into the background, with Clark and Hillman singing lead most of the time. 

But if the group didn't sound like the Byrds, they often did sound like the Eagles, the group that had inherited the Byrds' mantle in the '70s. Hillman's "Sad Boy," for example, could have passed for a Glenn Frey-led Eagles song. Ironically, and perhaps deliberately, given record company machinations, the single released from the album was McGuinn's "Don't You Write Her Off," which rose into the Top 40, taking the album with it. But what probably helped the group and the album most was that in 1979 more than two years had passed since the last Eagles album, leaving fans hungry for a soundalike. If the trio had an appealing sound, however, they lacked substance.
by William Ruhlmann

1. Long Long Time (Chris Hillman, Ramsey, Rick Roberts) - 3:11
2. Little Mama (Gene Clark) - 4:17
3. Don't You Write Her Off (Bob Hippard, Roger McGuinn) - 3:19
4. Surrender To Me (Rick Vito) - 3:37
5. Backstage Pass (Gene Clark) - 4:28
6. Stopping Traffic (Chris Hillman, Knobler) - 3:20
7. Feelin' Higher (Gene Clark, Jim Messina) - 5:22
8. Sad Boy (Chris Hillman) - 4:05
9. Release Me Girl (Gene Clark, Thomas Jefferson Kaye) - 3:55
10.Bye, Bye Baby (Bob Hippard, Roger McGuinn) - 3:58

*Chris Hillman - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Gene Clark - Vocals, Guitar
*Roger McGuinn - Guitars, Vocals
*Paul Harris - Keyboards
*Joe Lala - Percussion
*Donna Rhodes - Vocals
*John Sambataro - Guitar, Vocals
*George Terry - Guitars, Piano
*Greg Thomas - Drums
*Charles Chalmers - Vocals
*Sandra Chalmers - Vocals
*Mike Lewis - Horn Arrangements, String Arrangements

1964  The Byrds - Preflyte (2012 Edition)
1968  The Byrds - Sweetheart Of The Rodeo  (Double Disc Set)
1969  The Byrds - Live At Fillmore
1971  The Byrds - Live At Royal Albert Hall
1973  Byrds - Byrds

1973  Roger McGuinn - Roger McGuinn (2013 Edition) 

1967  Gene Clark - Echoes
1968-69  Dillard And Clark - Fantastic Expedition / Through The Morning, Through The Night (MFSL remaster)
1971  Gene Clark - White Light
1972  Gene Clark - Roadmaster (2011 Remaster)

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Beau Brummels - Live (1974 us, marvelous folk psych country rock)

In 1965, American rock and roll music was swept up in the British Invasion. But, in Northern California, fans had there own "British" band. The Beau Brummels, like the Byrds and others, were a vital part of a new music explosion. All jangly guitars and tight harmonies, they had the sound. They also had the look. And, the name? Well, it sounded like a bunch of English dandies! The Beau Brummels took America by storm in 1965, leaping onto the charts with "Laugh Laugh", following in May with "Just A Little/ Still In Love With You Baby", and ending the summer with "You Tell Me Why". While the hits were breaking nationwide, the band's managers and record label owners, DJ's "Big Daddy" Tom Donahue and Bobby Mitchell, kept the group hidden in San Francisco area clubs until "the time was right for touring".

Finally let loose to play their first concert, the Beau Brummels were headliners at the Memorial Auditorium in nearby Sacramento. With Gary Lewis And The Playboys as support, they played in front of 4000 screaming fans! From 1965 through 1968, the Beau Brummels created a string of memorable Top-40 hits. They released a half-dozen albums, including one recognized classic, "Triangle" in 1967. The band are considered folk-rock pioneers and are credited with helping to introduce country-Rock with "Bradley's Barn" in 1968.  The Beau Brummels earned the respect and support of fans worldwide who remember something special when they hear the heartfelt soul in Sal Valentino's voice-the reverberation of Ron Elliott's and Dec Mulligan's guitars and Dec's wailing harmonica-all carried along by Ron Meagher's bass and John Peterson's drums. Ultimately, the band ceased to exist.  

In 1974, Elliott sparked a reunion of the Beau Brummels. He showed up at Sal's house with new material, a record deal in the works, and a desire to recapture the magic. But, it had to be with all the original guys! Sal Valentino explained it this way to DIG records: "Ron Elliott had a bunch of songs that sounded like he had been a staff writer trying to write stuff that would fit different artists. Ron Meagher had a couple songs. Declan wrote a song or two. One thing decided early on by Elliott was that I was going to do (all) the singing...not like before.

The group came to Sacramento to woodshed, to work on the songs. They returned to the city that had always received them warmly. Before recording any new material, they would test the waters with a week-long engagement at the intimate Shire Road Pub in nearby Fair Oaks Village. The Beau Brummels would play music for old friends and for the curious over a four night stand, two shows each night. With Sal's opening acoustic set, and Stoneground lady Lydia Moreno's offering, the shows ran nearly 3 hours. Crowds were lined up around the block—the Beau Brummels were back! The band performed the chart hits with a fresh infusion of joy and celebration. But, there was something else. From the bossa nova beat of "City Girl", to the funk-driven "Man And Woman Kind" and the rocking "Lisa", new musical territory was being staked out. 

1975 saw the Warner Brothers album "Beau Brummels" released to critical acclaim but poor sales. The band had not remained intact. Ron Meagher left before the LP was finished. Some live label-sponsored showcases were scheduled, but it just wasn't the same. 

People have said that the magic that justified the reunion was left on that tiny stage in Fair Oaks. What survived was this recording. It's the only stage performance of the original Beau Brummels. And, the song list features 10 compositions that have never been released.  

DIG records asked Sal Valentino to comment on some of the songs that Beau Brummels fans have not heard before. We share his thoughts and impressions with you: "Lonely People" ...That was a Ron Meagher song. "Music Speaks Louder Than Words" a strange song. It was one of those songs Elliott wrote when he was some kind of staff writer.

"Lisa" a Declan Mulligan song. It's got that kind of driving beat that Declan liked. With Elliott, everything we were doing was meticulous and plotted out. Whereas "Lisa" is just "let's get it on". We all seemed to like doing it. "Man And Woman Kind" ...We had fun doing this one because it's the kind of thing we (normally) wouldn't do. 

"Her Dream Alley" ...A little country, a little jug band-ish. "City Girl" ...This song I love. I really do. It's about his (Elliott's) wife, I think. You have to remember, this is the kind of singer I am. Basically, this is what I could do. Almost folky. Maybe a little jazzy. You know, not quite. But, that FM kind of song. Sal also commented on two songs from the Warner Brothers album: "Singing Cowboy" ...was inspired by Gene Autry

"Tennessee Walker" ...When Elliott came to me and played this song, I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I knew someone who wrote this song. It made me think of Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer. I knew Elliott was capable of that. That was part of his musical background. When I met him, he was around 14 or 15 and he was writing musicals. It was impressive. Upon hearing Beau Brummels Live all the way through, DIG asked Sal what he thought: "That sounds pretty good!" Come, join us for a set at the Pub.
by Jeff Hughson, January, 1999

1. Nine Pound Hammer (Merle Travis) - 3:52
2. You Tell Me Why (Ron Elliott) - 3:34
3. Turn Around/Singing Cowboy (Ron Elliott, Ruth Durand) - 8:01
4. Gate of Hearts (Ron Elliott) - 3:18
5. Lonely People (Ron Meagher) - 4:19
6. Music Speaks Louder (Ron Elliott) - 2:49
7. Lisa (Declan Mulligan) - 3:01
8. Tennessee Walker (Ron Elliott) - 4:34
9. Don't Talk to Strangers (Ron Elliott, Ruth Durand) - 2:21
10.Laugh, Laugh (Ron Elliott) - 3:15
11.Lonesome Town (Ron Elliott) - 3:09
12.Free (Ron Elliott, Brian Engle) - 3:45
13.Man And Woman Kind (Ron Elliott, Brian Engle) - 4:50
14.Restless Soul (Ron Elliott) - 3:29
15.Her Dream Alley (Ron Elliott) - 2:34
16.City Girl (Ron Elliott, Brian Engle) - 3:29
17.Paper Plane (Ron Elliott) - 2:59
18.Just a Little (Ron Elliott, Ruth Durand) - 2:51
19.Love Can Fall (Ron Elliott, Ruth Durand) - 4:47

The Beau Brummels
*Sal Valentino - Vocals
*Ron Meagher - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Declan Mulligan - Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
*John Petersen - Drums
*Ron Elliott - Guitar, Vocals

1964-66  Beau Brummels - Autumn Of Their Years
1965  Introducing The Beau Brummels (Sundazed edition)
1966  Beau Brummels' 66 (Japan edition)
1967  Triangle
1969  Bradley's Barn
1975  Beau Brummels
Related Act
1970  Ron Elliott - The Candlestickmaker

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tobias Wood Henderson - Blue Stone (1968 us, superb funky soul blues rock, 2009 korean remaster)

I was actually born in New Iberia, Louisiana. To be exact, I was born on Avery Island in the middle of the Bayou Teche in a lying in hospital which was part of the WL Mclllhenny plantation. Momma had taken the train to Florida to meet daddy when his ship arrived in Charleston harbor. They started back to Texas so the child (me) could be born in Texas and only got so far due to the interference of a hurricane. So it was that I was born at 12:01 AM on the 26th day of August, 1945 dead in the middle of a hurricane. For the next three days I had no name because I was going to be a Texan. Finally, on the 29th of August my mom and dad arrived in Victoria, Texas and my birth certificate says I was born in Victoria Hospital, Victoria, Texas (same date, August 26'th, just different venue.

I was a sickly child and suffered terribly from asthma and was not expected to live. To occupy the endless hours spent in an oxygen tent, my dad built me a crystal radio and one night (when I was about 4 years old) I discovered WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee and I heard the blues. As I recall, the first thing I heard was a serious sermon by the Reverend CL Franklin (Aretha Franklin's dad) from his church in Chicago, Illinois. The next thing I heard was Sonny Boy Williamson and then I heard Robert Johnson playing "Hellhounds On My Trail" I already had a violin but now I was torn between the harmonica and the guitar.

Lucky for me, one of my uncles went to Hawaii on vacation and brought back a slack-key guitar and made me a gift of it. The harmonicas had the approval of my doctor because I had to breathe deeply to play them. About this time I discovered singing. When I reached the age of 10, my father had my disabilities of minority removed. Except for the purchase of liquor, this made me a legal adult and I took my guitar and left home shortly thereafter. I went to New Orleans and played in the lobby of a whore house. I made tips from the music and worked as a towel boy in that house until I went back to Texas when I was 14. 

Shortly after returning, I founded "Tobias and The Sounds" and this band, which grew from 4 members up to 14 players over the next few years was one of the most successful Blues and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues bands around the state of Texas. Unfortunately, my success was not I welcomed in the White community as I played  I with an all-Black band and very often played for a large and devoted Black audience.

My parents were insulted in the street and I was often shot at by the local "whites only" folks. In 1961 I had a hit record and received an award from the Negro Disk Jockeys of America (of which BB King was a member from Memphis). When I arrived to pick up my award, they refused to give it to me because I was white. They were afraid of racist backlash. I wish I could say that today the world has changed but it has not changed all that much. In 1962, I entered the US Army which was which was the occasion of my first trip to Korea. I was deeply impressed by the culture, the people, and the food. 

When I was released, I ventured from Texas to Hollywood end met my old friend Dr. John The Night Tripper and his partner Harold Battiste, Jr. and that association led to the album called "Tobias Wood Henderson-Blue Stone". Unfortunately, Pulsar Records was a division of Mercury Records and at that time, the record business including distribution was very much under the aegis of organised crime. The album got great reviews and (4) singles were pulled from it and at the end. Mercury owed me something in the neighbourhood of $800,000.00 in royalties and publishing. I never got a dime of that money. We sued, we won and then getting any payment was like nailing jelly to a tree. Finally gave up and went back to Texas and worked in the oil field and played music on the week ends.

It was nearly 30 years until I recorded again. Meanwhile, I have been (and lived) all over the world playing and singing the Blues and I still can play and sing them.
by Tobias Wood Henderson 5/23/2009

1. Color Blind Man - 4:08
2. Turn Me Loose - 2:42
3. Be A Fool - 2:47
4. The Price Of Love - 2:45
5. Gypsy Boy I - 2:48
6. Child Of Darkness - 3:02
7. Woman Of The World - 3:18
8. Big Brothers Message - 2:42
9. Why Can't You Do Right - 2:43
10. Gypsy Boy II - 3:44
All compositions by Tobias Wood Henderson

*Tobias Wood Henderson - Vocals, Guitar

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chris Spedding - Chris Spedding (1975-77 uk, splendid guitar pub rock, audiophile 2013 issue)

Though this eponymous masterpiece was not Chris Spedding's first solo album, it was the first to impact on the record buying public at large. Spiralling out of his so-memorable hit "Motorbiking," it established the leather-clad, quiff-topped Spedding as the first guitar-hero pin-up of the punk era, a full year before even punk's progenitors had heard of the term. Certainly great swathes of what eventually emerged amid the British new wave was bodily borrowed from Spedding, both visually and, with a few fashionable refinements, visually. 

Chris Spedding sounds like its maker looked: tight, mean, and taking no trash from no-one. The future anthem "Guitar Jamboree" could easily have been replayed with switchblades, while his take on Chuck Berry's "School Days" has a lot more in mind than class work and gym. Electrifying, too, are "Jump in My Car" and "Bedsit Girl." Economically riff-driven guitar pop was nothing new, of course, but rarely had it been executed with such a glowering swagger. Short, sharp and never less than brittle, Chris Spedding has few of the frills that Spedding so adeptly draped over other people's records, few of the twists and turns that distinguished his work with Sharks or later, alone. But, if ever anyone figures out how to fit a CD player into a motorcycle helmet, this should be the first album anybody buys to play on it. 
by Dave Thompson

1. New Girl In The Neighbourhood - 2:31
2. School Days (Chuck Berry) - 2:27
3. Sweet Disposition - 2:17
4. Bedsit Girl - 2:04
5. Guitar Jamboree - 4:20
6. Jump In My Car (Ted Mulry) - 3:24
7. Hungry Man - 3:18
8. Motorbikin' - 2:40
9. Catch That Train - 2:41
10.Nervous - 2:14
11.Boogie City - 2:38
12.Working For The Union - 2:53
13.Running Round - 2:38
14.Truck Drivin' Man - 3:13
All songs by Chris Spedding except where indicated

*Chris Spedding - Guitar, Vocals
*Brian Bennett - Drums
*Tony Burrows - Vocals
*Tony Carr - Drums
*Dave Cochran - Bass
*Sue Glover - Vocals
*Les Hurdle - Bass
*Neil Lancaster - Vocals
*Sunny Leslie - Vocals
*Charles Mills - Vocals
*Barry Morgan - Drums

1972  Chris Spedding - The Only Lick I Know
1977  Chris Spedding - Hurt

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Black Hippies - The Black Hippies (1977 nigeria, terrific hard fuzzy funk psych afro rock, 2014 digipak edition)

Black Hippies were a Nigerian rock band in the mid-'70s led by songwriter Joseph Etinagbedia (aka Pazy). In their earliest incarnations, the band played a distinct style of harder rock, one that bore many of the trademarks of Nigerian music, from the raw, visceral vocal style to the psychedelic funk that touches every corner of the songs. This first, self-titled album was recorded in 1976 by producer Odion Iruoje and features five of the band's tunes from their earliest days, finding funky pre-disco rhythms playfully co-existing with light-headed fuzz guitar in Pazy's celebratory, somewhat psychedelic tunes. The band would shift gears with subsequent releases, going more in the direction of reggae than hard rock, but these five songs represent the band at an inspired beginning point where their take on hard rock was something truly unique. 
by Fred Thomas

1. Doing It In The Street - 5:12
2. I Have The Love On You - 5:44
3. Love (Sonny Orovie) - 4:11
4. The World Is Great - 9:05
5. You Are My Witness – 8:40
All songs by Edire Etinagbedia except where noted

*Joseph Etinagbedia - Vocals, Guitar

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Ken Lauber - Contemplation View (1970 us, awesome folk country, classic rock, 2009 korean remaster)

At 13, I received a dozen or so lessons as a surprise birthday gift and a few weeks later, found myself on West 54th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue, New York City. I was about to take my first drum lesson with two of the greatest drummers in American Syncopated Music history: Gene Krupa and Cozy Cole Walking through the door for the first lesson Cozy Cole said: "The more you study the more you find out what you don't know: but the more you study, the closer you come". Early piano lessons proved to be the catalyst for improvisation at the keyboard, and the drums added an exciting perspective to the music I most loved.

The earliest musically memories came from my Mother and Father When the music of Benny Goodman. Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and the Dorsey's. Chick Webb. Duke Ellington and many other popular big bands of their era, came over the radio and into our home my parents would often, spontaneously, begin to dance. Their laughter filled our home with joy, as they moved to the quick, fluid tempos, and rhythms bouncing out of the radio. Watching them, a nervous, unconscious fingertapping twitch developed into a habit, whenever I heard their music. Transferring the tapping, to a beat up set of drums and playing along with Benny Goodman's, 'Sing, Sing, Sing', I learned Gene Krupa's famous drum solo and that kicked me into a fantasy of having my own band and hitting the road at ten years of age.

The lessons with Krupa and Cole took place in a room filled with cigarette smoke so thick you could not see out the window that looked down on 54th street from the second floor. A floating smell of Four Roses Whiskey, added a relaxed atmospheric dimension. There were three brand new Slingerland drum sets lined up next to each other. "Come sit down at the set in the middle..." Cozy said smiling his famous smile. I sat down, sticks in hand, and everything disappeared except for the rhythm being past between us First Gene would play something, on his hi-hat cymbal that was easy for me to follow and Cozy would do the same. This would go on, back and forth, for an hour. Often I dropped my sticks to the floor, while Cozy and Gene kept playing. They always enjoyed themselves and I learned quickly. They suggested to keep an extra pair of sticks wedged into one of the many chrome, tuning keys around the bass drum. That way, when I dropped a stick, I could grab a needed stick without losing a beat. "It happens to all of us," Gene laughed, puffing away on a Chesterfield.

After more than a dozen lessons. I played and read drum music with a reasonable degree of accuracy for a novice. Songwriting was still a few years away. Drums were my obsession. I organized a local big band comprising of musicians between the ages of thirteen to eighteen. We played in school programs and at special events making ourselves a few bucks My drum set was set up right square in the middle of the band and up on a riser, just like Gene Krupa's set up when he played with Benny Goodman. The arrangements were the same tunes I had heard coming over the radio in our living room a few years before and those lessons, added a new rhythm to my body. That rhythmical energy continues to run through my musical self-expression to this day.

A few years latter, at 16, I became the musical director of the great Frank Loesser show. 'Guys and Dolls', presented by a small community theater A woman in the chorus said she knew Stanley Mills of the well known. Mills Music Publishing family Mills was located in the famous Brill building at 50th and Broadway, where Elvis Presley and Irving Berlin had offices. She asked me to write some music to one of her lyrics and if came out okay, she would get us an appointment to play it for Mills. In the same living room where my folks enjoyed dancing. I sat at our small piano, and we wrote the song. Mr Mills liked it enough and gave us an advance.

I began writing more and more songs and started studying percussion and mallet instruments at the extension division of the Juilliard School of Music. My teachers were Saul Goodman, the New York Philharmonic famed timpanist, and another New York Philharmonic member of the percussion section and master teacher, Morris Goldenberg. Latter. I entered The Juilliard School as a full time student and studied both percussion and music composition. To this day, I have not been as musically challenged as I was at The Juilliard School.

By the time I turned, 21, I found a job at United Artists Music Company. They needed someone to produce demo recordings of film theme music At U.A., the head of the a’n’r department was Don Costa and he took a liking to me and tutored me in arranging, orchestration and record production While working for U.A., I wrote songs and produced instrumental film theme single records as artist under my own name.

While still working for U.A., I met Alex Matter, a 22-year-old film director who was shooting his first film, an independent effort entitled, "The Drifter." Matter listened to some of my music and commissioned me to compose and orchestrate the score to his feature film, "The Drifter". Prior to that, my film composition experience added up to one credit. I had composed orchestrated and conducted a 'Piano Concerto' for the "World of Henri Orient," staring Peter Sellers and performed on screen by many members of the New York
Philharmonic Orchestra.

I wrote, Contemplation (View), in my home up on Upper Byrdcliffe Mountain. In an unheated back room, a few dozen or so songs spilled out during the cold winter 1967. A subtle friendship began with Bob Dylan, who was also lived up on Byrdcliffe and was a neighbour. Bob was gracious enough, as often he is with other musicians, to invite me over to his home one day to listen to a test pressing of his new album, "Nashville Skyline." I loved it almost immediately We listened to all the tracks in silence. After, he asked me what I thought of it and I replied instantly, without thinking. "I like the spirit of it." Days later, I played him some of my new songs and he said I should go down to Nashville and record down there with some of the same musicians that played on "Nashville Skyline" and before that on the "John Wesley Harding," album.  He spoke with authority and enthusiasm about how the Nashville musicians picked things up quickly and how their respect for lyrics, allowed the personality of the song to emerge clearly. 

Good timing cannot be denied. At the same time, a friend, who liked my songs, introduced me to the head of the newly formed American record company, Polydor Records. I played him the new songs I had written and told him I wanted to record in Nashville. He liked the songs and the concept of recording them in Nashville and offered record contract. The record was recorded and mixed, at Wayne Moss's eight track garage studio, Cinderella Sound, in Madison Tennessee, with Gene Echelberger and Eliot Mazur as engineer and producer. Gene built Cinderella Sound with and for, the highly regarded and super talented guitarist and bass player supreme, Wayne Moss. The space was formerly a two car garage behind his Aunt Lucy's house. The line up of musicians was the following: the great Kenny Butrey on drums. The man of all instruments, Charlie McCoy on blues harp, bass and organ, the  brilliantly melodic Weldon Myric. on pedal steel; a strong lead guitar soloist, Mac Gaydon, on electric guitar and the versatile and easy going Pete Wade on all the acoustic guitars.

We recorded the album in a week My piano playing was enough to set the syncopated, 'feel' I wanted and I was so thrilled and overwhelmed with the musicianship of these pickers, I unconsciously allowed plenty of room for their spontaneous licks There was little talk, and much laughter. I don't remember what we were laughing at but  it kept things loose and most of all, great fun These musicians were the 'A' team, all right, and by the time I arrived in Nashville, to record Contemplation (View), they had amassed many credits, backing the great country and pop stars on classic country and pop hits. They were technically flawless and never failed to come up with strong melodic ideas for the intros, turnarounds and fade outs. The music magically unfolded as if it had been written in advance. They always knew what to do where and always just at the right time.

The most startling revelation as the sessions rolled on, was that the drummer, Kenny Butrey, actually created the arrangements on the spot, dictating who played the intro, who would take the solo and when I know this has not been duplicated in the studios very often, since Butrey's untimely passing and I don't believe it will be repeated by a drummer quite like that again. Returning to NYC with the new album mixed and presenting it to Polydor, I experienced a reaction that was completely unpredictable. When the last song  ended the president of the label. Gerry Shoenberg, started yelling: "What the hell did you go down to Nashville for?" You were supposed to make a 'jazz' album not a country album." What am I gonna do with this, now? Get outta here!" The style of music most definitely cannot be categorized in anyway as a 'jazz' album, and to this day it is for sure not a country album.

Polydor released the album reluctantly, and received positive reviews and many press comparisons to its sound as 'dylanesque.' which was and of course still is, just fine with me. The label executives were right. In retrospect, these songs were not typical pop or country songs and I think we were much 'jazzier' in our 'swing' feel. Call it what you want, I don't mind being referred to as a 'jazz-er' or 'Dylanesque' Either way that is just fine with me.
by Ken Lauber

1. When I Awake - 2:55
2. Undertow - 4:13
3. An Understanding Survey - 3:05
4. Wander On - 2:15
5. Far I Will Travel - 3:18
6. Without Recollection -  3:06
7. Disabled Veteran - 3:49
8. Goodbye To You Sweet Sue - 3:21
9. Mama, It's Such A Long Ride Home - 3:42
10.Rainy Day Sunday - 2:42
All compositions by Ken Lauber

*Ken Lauber - Vocals, Piano
*Wayne Moss - Guitars, Bass
*Kenny Butrey - Drums
*Charlie McCoy - Harp, Bass, Organ
*Weldon Myrick - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Mac Gaydon - Electric Guitar
*Pete Wade - Acoustic Guitar

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Genesis - In The Beginning (1968 us, sensational psych rock, 2012 edition)

In The Beginning is a decent enough acid rock album very clearly born from LA in the late '60s. Much more fascinating than the music on the album is the list of acts in which members of Genesis had previously performed. In The Beginning comes at the end of a garage-psych tradition, but is entirely in keeping with the latter-day sound of the '60s. The album doesn't quite hold up as well as some of its more raw and aggro antecedents.

Tracing the genesis of Genesis starts to feel like a stateside equivalent of trying to figure out the band genealogy of Hawkwind. That is to say, the deeper you, the more you wonder if there was a band on the West Coast which they weren't somehow connected with. Genesis frontman Jack Ttana played in Sons of Adam, another biblically named act, most famous for performing the Arthur Lee-written and oft' compiled nugget "Feathered Fish." "Feathered Fish" is a classic slice of garage-psych; cryptic, synaesthetic lyrics, hugely soaring vocal harmonies, and a Paul Revere-with-the-fuzz-cranked-way-up riff, this track would be considered "freakbeat" if it came from Europe (in fact, people probably call it freakbeat anyway). 

The other guitarist of Sons of Adam, Randy Holden, went on to play in The Other Half (of "Mr. Pharmacist" fame) before finally landing in the 1968 lineup of Blue Cheer. Post-Genesis, second guitarist Kent Henry went on play in Steppenwolf. There are doubtlessly plenty of other highly interesting ties to the LA garage and incipient hippie-metal scenes to be found in Genesis' past, too. Music-wise, In The Beginning hints at a proto-metallic bent with some heavier-edged riffs, but opts for melody rather than the sloppy ferocity of its heavier contemporaries.

In The Beginning opens with "Angeline," one of the album's heavier tracks, which features churning riffs and wailing solos as a backdrop for male-female harmonies. Less aggressive songs like "Suzanne" recall the softly sung, sometimes spooky and sentimental harmonies of The Mamas and The Papas, and the lyrics pretty much run the gamut of standard flower child imagery. 

The blues-tinged "What's It All About?" and the 16-minute "Girl Who Never Was" are where the album hits its stride, resembling Cream, or pretty much any band doing a heavy take on the blues. It wouldn't be out of place to draw a musical comparison to a more jam-centric Led Zeppelin at points. This makes perfect sense; if you doubt the influence of the West Coast psych scene on really early British metal, listen to Spirit's “Taurus,” then the intro to “Stairway to Heaven,” and watch your classic rockin', Jimmy Page-idolizin' world unravel.

In The Beginning is an unearthed gem, but it's an unearthed gem of baroque classic rock, subject to some of the trappings that era. Genesis doesn't quite live up to some of its more idiosyncratic contemporaries (the blaring Blue Cheer, the jazz and pop tinged Spirit,) nor does it touch the mind-boggling moddish psych of its forbears Sons of Adam. That said, there's something to the pretty female leads (especially on the cover of original suicide rock anthem "Gloomy Sunday”) and dueling vocals in the context of the music. Not to mention, it's hard to deny the twinge of entertainment derived from the band having such a prominent nominative doppelganger. Imagine the smug satisfaction you’ll feel as someone poses you the question,
by Matthew A. Stern

1. Angeline (Bob 'Crusher' Metke, Jack Ttanna) - 2:54
2. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) - 3:01
3. Gloomy Sunday (Rezső Seress, Samuel M. Lewis) - 4:07
4. What's It All About? - 2:48
5. Mary, Mary (Bennett) - 2:42
6. Ten Second Song (Kent Henry) - 2:58
7. Girl Who Never Was - 4:02
8. World Without You - 16:16
9. The Long Road - 4:54
All songs by Jack Ttanna except where stated

*Kent Henry - Lead Guitar
*Bob "Crusher" Metke - Drums, Percussion
*Fred "Foxey" Rivera - Bass (Replaced Mike Port)
*Jack Ttanna (Aka Joe Koohen) - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
*Sue Richman - Vocals

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Blue Cheer - Oh! Pleasant Hope (1971 us, impressive classic rock with folk and blues traces, japan 2007 and 2017 SHM remasters)

It's hard to imagine what would prompt someone to suggest the band that recorded Vincebus Eruptum should get in touch with their pastoral side, but for their sixth album in only four years, Blue Cheer decided to explore something close to folk-rock and they sounded a lot more comfortable with the stuff than anyone had a right to expect. 1971's Oh! Pleasant Hope featured the same lineup as the previous year's The Original Human Being (the first time since Outsideinside that the band had the same musicians for two albums in a row), and while the previous album found Blue Cheer trying to buff off some of their rough edges, this one is loose, laid-back, and playful; if it doesn't hit very hard, it's one of the most organic and natural-sounding recordings to carry the group's name. 

The album opens with "Hiway Man," an updated variant on old folk ballads with acoustic guitars and a magisterial organ dominating the arrangement; Oh! Pleasant Hope upends traditional expectations about this most heavy band, and while their tough, blues-centered rock is still present on songs like "Believer" and "Heart Full of Soul" (not the Yardbirds hit but a Dickie Peterson original), most of the time the music is simpler and quieter, and "Traveling Man," "Money Troubles," and "Ecological Blues" come off like jams cut live in the studio rather than stuff the group labored over for days. And the band flies their freak flag high on the tale of a mythic, mean-spirited cop "Lester the Arrester" and the title track, a likably goofy singalong in which a guy looking for reefer in the midst of a cannabis drought imagines a day when "grass will flow like wine." 

Oh! Pleasant Hope was recorded at a time when Blue Cheer's fortunes were at a low ebb, and it was the last album they would cut before breaking up for several years; it's hard to imagine anyone thought this was a shrewd commercial move, and at heart, this is an album Blue Cheer made because they felt like doing this, and the relaxed attitude and sense of fun is what makes this album work. 
by Mark Deming

1. Hiway Man (G.R. Grelecki, G.L. Yoder, N. Mayell) - 4:21
2. Believer (G.R. Grelecki, G.L. Yoder) - 3:42
3. Money Troubles (Dr. Richard Peddicord) - 4:08
4. Traveling Man (G.R. Grelecki, G.L. Yoder) - 3:09
5. Oh! Pleasant Hope (Dr. Richard Peddicord) - 2:39
6. I'm The Light (K. Housman, N. Mayell) - 5:45
7. Ecological Blues (Norman Mayell) - 2:26
8. Lester The Arrester (Ralph Burns Kellogg) - 3:09
9. Heart Full Of Soul (Dickie Peterson) - 4:35

Blue Cheer
*Dickie Peterson - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Norman Mayell - Guitar, Sitar, Drums
*Gary Yoder - Acoustic And Electric Guitars, Harp, Lead Vocals (Tracks 1-6)
*Ralph Burns Kellogg - Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Bass Guitar

1968   Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum (2007 Japan remaster)
1968  Blue Cheer - OutsideInside (2012 edition)
1969  Blue Cheer - Blue Cheer (Japan 2007 remaster and expanded)
1969  Blue Cheer - New Improved! (2007 japan remaster)
Related Act
1967  Mint Tatoo - Mint Tatoo

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Butterfield Blues Band - East-West (1966 us, classic influential blues psych rock, 2014 audio fidelity hybrid SACD limited edition)

The legendary Butterfield Blues Band, led by vocalist/harmonica player Paul Butterfield, was a launching pad for many aspiring electric blues musicians back in the mid/late 1960s. East-West has long been considered one of their classic albums, originally released in 1966, and contains some stellar performances from two of the bands breakout stars, guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. 

Along with keyboard player Mark Naftalin, bassist Billy Davenport, and drummer Jerome Arnold, The Butterfield Blues Band at this point were really peaking, this set containing 9 songs of blistering electric blues and a smattering of pop and jazz for good measure. Reissued here by Audio-Fidelity on the Hybrid SACD/CD format, you get sparkling clarity of this classic album that can be enjoyed on your SACD or standard CD player.

Comprised of shorter, upbeat blues/pop numbers as well as more extended, jammy tracks, East-West has something for everyone. "Work Song" is a blistering display of instrumental virtuosity, as Naftalin's smoky, Jimmy Smith inspired organ passages drift alongside some sizzling licks from Bloomfield and Bishop, with Butterfield's husky harmonica punctuating things quite nicely. The slow blues of "I Got a Mind to Give Up Living" displays the power and emotion of this band, while the heavier "Mary, Mary" sees them taking on some of the rock 'n' roll influences that were popping up all around them at the time. 

Upbeat, shuffling blues can be heard on "Walkin' Blues", "Get Out of My Life Woman", and the rousing "Two Trains Running" (stinging guitar work on this one), while the 13-minute title track combines blues, jazz, Middle Eastern themes and Latin rhythms for an exciting adventure that again shows the talents of the band as soloists. Some truly remarkable guitar solos from Bloomfield and Bishop on this one. 

East West is an album that influenced a whole generation of bands and musicians who came after it. Amazing audio clarity to go along with some sensational guitar playing makes for an impressive combination! 
by Pete Pardo

1. Walkin' Blues (Robert Johnson) - 3:21
2. Get Out Of My Life, Woman (Allen Toussaint) - 3:16
3. I Got A Mind To Give Up Living  (Traditional) - 5:01
4. All These Blues (Traditional) - 2:25
5. Work Song (Nat Adderley, Oscar Brown) - 7:56
6. Mary, Mary (Michael Nesmith) - 2:53
7. Two Trains Running (Muddy Waters) - 3:57
8. Never Say No (Traditional) - 3:01
9. East-West (Mike Bloomfield, Nick Gravenites) - 13:15

The Butterfield Blues Band
*Paul Butterfield - Harmonica, Vocals
*Mike Bloomfield – Guitar
*Elvin Bishop – Guitar, Vocals
*Mark Naftalin – Keyboards
*Jerome Arnold – Bass
*Billy Davenport - Drums

Paul Butterfield's mosaic
1964  The Original Lost Elektra Sessions
1965  The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
1966  East West
1966-68  Strawberry Jam
1967  The Resurrection Of The Pigboy Crabshaw
1968  In My Own Dream
1969  Keep On Moving
1970  Live 
1971  Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin'
1973  Paul Butterfield's Better Days
1973  It All Comes Back (Japan Edition)
1976  Put It In Your Ear

Elvin Bishop
1969-70/72  Party Till The Cows Come Home
1974  Elvin Bishop - Let It Flow
1977  Live! Raisin' Hell (2012 remaster)

Mike Bloomfield's tapestry
1967  Electric Flag - The Trip
1968-69  Electric Flag - An American Music Band / A Long Time Comin'  
196?-7?  The Electric Flag - Live
1968  Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield - The Lost Concert Tapes, Filmore East
1969  Mike Bloomfield And Al Kooper - The Live Adventures
1969  Michael Bloomfield with Nick Gravenites And Friends - Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore West
1969  Nick Gravenites - My Labors
1973  Bloomfield, Hammond, Dr.John - Triumvirate (Japan remaster)
1976  KGB - KGB
1976-77  Michael Bloomfield - Live at the Old Waldorf
1977  Prescription For The Blues

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Siegel Schwall Band - The Complete Vanguard Recordings And More (1966-70 us, astonishing blues rock, three disc box set)

Corky Siegel was born in Chicago in 1943 and musically influenced by Elvis, Chuck Berry, little Richard, Fats Domino, and everything eke on '50s and '60s radio. He had played tenor sax in a high school band that also featured Russ Chadwick, Siegel-Schwall's first drummer. Jim Schwall was also born in Chicago, a year earlier than Corky. He had started playing guitar in high school, influenced by the Weavers and other mainstays of the late '50s folk revival. He played in bluegrass bands, but also took on the influences of folk blues players including Big Bill Broonzy, Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert Pete Williams, lonnie Johnson, and Brownie McGhee. Siegel was barely 21 in 1964 when he met his fellow Roosevelt University music student in an elevator. Schwall was studying composition, Siegel was majoring in classical saxophone. That year, however, Siegel was introduced to the blues by a couple friends who played Dylan-style harmonica (one was Bob Buchanan, of the hit folk group the New Christy Minstrels).

While both played in the school's jazz band, Siegel hadn't noticed Schwall until he saw the guitar slung around his future partner's neck in the elevator. Siegel played a Wurlitzer electric piano with a makeshift bass drum and high hat cymbals underneath. Schwall had the same '50s era blond Gibson B-25 acoustic guitar—with an electric pickup literally bandaged over the sound hole—which he still uses to this day (though it's been rebuilt a couple times since he first acquired it in 1959). As The Two Man Blues Band, Siegel and Schwall auditioned for Johnny Pepper at Chicago's famed South Side blues club Pepper's Show Lounge.

They were then, and still are, unique instrumentalists. An extraordinarily inventive harmonica player with a broad vocabulary of inimitable riffs and tones, he would alternate chunky folk-blues chords with Chicago blues single notes and throw in vocal groans and yips (listen to "Angel Food Cake," from final Vanguard album Siegel Schwall 70). His piano playing was likewise unorthodox: "Down In The Bottom," the Howlin' Wolf classic which opened the band's 1966 self-titled debut album, prompted a puzzled Wolf, who used to sit in with the band frequently and was Siegel's favorite blues Founding Father, to point out that he was playing the key piano part "backwards."

Schwall, who stayed with his sturdy acoustic Gibson because its "boxy" neck could withstand his punishing hard play, was similarly incomparable. His guitar lines attacked from all directions: up, down, sideways, diagonally predictably and from out of nowhere. His slide work, as on the heretofore unreleased "Easy Rider" or the slow blues buzz of Slim Harpo's "I'm A King Bee" from the band's second album Say Siegel- Schwall, was utterly dazzling; so was his mandolin play on that album's "Bring It With You When You Come." (His use of the mandolin as a blues instrument, incidentally, put him in the company of the late Yank Rachell and very few others in using the mandolin as a blues instrument.)

After a few months at Pepper's, the band moved to Big John's on the North Side, where they took the slot previously occupied by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Now called The Siegel-Schwall Band, it had solidified a lineup also including bassist Jos Davidson-another Roosevelt student and Mike Bloomfield's bassist-and drummer Chadwick. Within weeks of their first Big John's gig, The Siegel-Schwall Band was discovered by Sam Charters, talent scout (or Vanguard Records, the venerable folk music label.

The author of The Country Blues and producer of such blues greats as Lightnin' Hopkins, Charters was immediately struck by the group's commitment, excitement, and innovative take on the traditional blues genre. He produced the songs on The Siegel- Schwall Band-a mix of covers by major influences like Howlin' Wolf and jimmy Reed with originals in a similar stylistic vein—in one take at Universal Recording Studios in Chicago. he album was released in 1966, just as the San Francisco music explosion was getting underway. Siegel Schwall soon became a big draw in the Frisco scene, sharing stages with virtually every major act from that period including Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. hey also mode inroads on the East Coast, at clubs like the Bitter End, and Steve Paul's Scene, where Tiny Tim used to open their shows and where the over of Say Siegel Schwall was shot. That album, released in 1967, as recorded in Vanguard's New York studio, using the downstairs washroom for an echo chamber. Jack Dawson, who had played bass in a Detroit band, had replaced Davidson, who left to pursue a career in social work.

Once again, the contents came from the band's set list and continued its founders' use of traditional blues as a base for contemporary expression. One tune, the slow blues "My Baby Thinks I Don't Love Her," would soon be embellished by composer William Russo in "Three Pieces for Blues Band And Symphony Orchestra." (Siegel Schwall would later record it with prominent fan Seiji Ozawa and The San Francisco Symphony for release on the Deutsche Grammophon label in 1973. Ozawa had conducted The Chicago Symphony in the late '60s and, like Charters, fell in love with the band after stumbling upon them at Big John's. They first performed with Ozawa and The Chicago Symphony in 1968, and would later appear with other orchestras; they even joined Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops in a concert televised on PBS.)

Say Siegel Schwall is followed in this set with four previously unreleased tracks. "Easy Rider" and "I Like The Way You Rock" are demo versions of late '60s earty '70s concert favorites, while "Don't Want No Woman" and "Sneaky Pete" are outtakes from the first Vanguard sessions. The third Vanguard album, Shake!, was also cut in New York, mainly as a collection of song demos. After its 1968 release, the band, which had toured heavily for two and a-half years, took a year off, returning in 1969 with a new rhythm section in Rollo Radford, who had played with Dinah Washington and Martha and the Vandellas, and the great Chicago blues drummer Sam Lay, who had played in Siegel's interim band along with guitarist Jim McCarty of Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels fame. Drummer Shelly Plotkin was in place when Siegel Schwall recorded its final Vanguard album, Siegel- Schwall 70, at Paragon Studios in Chicago.

Whereas the preceding studio albums could only hint at the exhilarating roller coaster ride of the Siegel- Schwall Band live, Siegel- Schwall 70 fully captured it in two concert performances: "Angel Food Cake" and Seawall's guitar masterpiece "A Sunshine Day In My Mind." They were recorded live at Chicago's premiere showcase dub The Quiet Knight, where the band now held court every Tuesday. To use a term evocative of the time, they had by now become a "boogie band" second to none, and almost every track on the album was a concert favorite.

Siegel, who currently fronts Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues, a Chicago-based blues-classical hybrid also featuring four string players and a tabla player. Schwall now lives in Madison, working as a high school teacher and part time social services worker when not planning a run for mayor. Radford, who went on to play bass with the likes of Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, and Sun Ra, is a special education teacher in Chicago, and also plays in jazz groups.  Plotkin, a master drummer, died of heart failure in 1990. 

Yet The Siegel Schwall Band remains "a bond in perpetuity," to use Siegel's designation. A reunion concert recorded in 1987 and released on Alligator Records returned Sam Lay to the fold, and found the group in lop form-and up-to-date, as the "Find yourself another hippie" line in "I Don't Want You To Be My Girl" was contemporized to "Find yourself another yuppie." They still get together occasionally, more than 35 years after their historic first Vanguard album.

And so the Siegel-Schwall magic lives on, and with it, that special Siegel Schwall induced smile. It's all there in Siegel- Schwall's The Complete Vanguard Recordings and More, a deserved commemoration of the timeless talents of two immensely influential musicians-and more. Much more.
by Jim Bessman

Disc 1
The Siegel Schwall Band  1966
1. Howlin' For My Darlin' (Chester Burnett, Willie Dixon) - 2:41
2. I've Had All I Can Take (Instrumental) (Mark Siegel) - 3:20
3. Down In The Bottom (Chester Burnett) - 2:27
4. I've Had All I Can Take (Mark Siegel) - 3:16
5. Boot Hill (Jimmy Witherspoon) - 2:57
6. When I Get The Time (Jos Davidson) - 3:00
7. I've Got To Go Now (Mark Siegel) - 2:49
8. Mama/Papa (Jim Schwall) - 1:41
9. I'll Be The Man (Mark Siegel) - 2:41
10.Little Babe (Chester Burnett) - 2:49
11.Going To New York (Jimmy Reed) - 3:24
12.Mary (Mark Siegel) - 2:07
13.So Glad You're Mine (Arthur Crudup) - 3:46
14.Hoochie Coochie Man (Willie Dixon) - 6:50
15.Break Song (Jim Schwall, Mark Siegel, Russ Chadwick) - 2:20

Disc 2
Say Siegel Schwall  1967
1. I'm A King Bee (James Moore) - 5:32
2. Slow Blues In A (Jim Schwall) - 5:23
3. You Don't Love Me (Jim Schwall) - 2:48
4. I.S.P.I. Blues (Illinois State Psychiatric Institution) (Corky Siegel) - 8:58
5. Bring It With You When You Come (Traditional Arr. By Jim Schwall) - 4:19
6. My Baby Thinks I Don't Love Her (Corky Siegel) - 4:38
7. That's Why I Treat My Baby So Fine (Corky Siegel) - 11:52
8. I Like It Where We Walked (Corky Siegel) - 2:58
9. Easy Rider (Huddie Ledbetter) - 4:03
10.I Like The Way You Walk (Betty James) - 6:50
11.Don't Want No Woman (Don Robey) - 2:30
12.Sneaky Pete (Take Two) (Hendler, Rogers) - 2:01

Disc 3
Shake!  1968
1. Shake For Me (Willie Dixon) - 4:50
2. My Starter Won't Start (Jim Schwall) - 4:49
3. Jim Jam (Jim Schwall) - 2:25
4. Louise, Louise Blues (J. Mayo Williams, Johnny Temple) - 2:48
5. Wouldn't Quit You (Mark Siegel) - 3:10
6. You Can't Run That Fast (Jim Schwall) - 3:03
7. Think (Mark Siegel) - 2:39
8. 334-3599 (Jim Schwall) - 2:34
9. Rain Falling Down (Jim Schwall) - 2:40
10.Get Away Man (Mark Siegel) - 3:12
11.Yes, I Love You (Mark Siegel) - 2:52
Siegel Schwall  1970
12.I Don't Want You To Be My Girl (Corky Siegel) - 6:23
13.Do You Remember (Corky Siegel, Jim Schwall) - 3:03
14.Geronimo (Charles De Meyer, Jim Schwall) - 3:07
15.Angel Food Cake (Corky Siegel) - 5:34
16.Walk In My Mind (Corky Siegel) - 2:35
17.Song (Corky Siegel) - 4:22
18.Tell Me (Chester Burnett, Howlin' Wolf) - 3:50
19.A Sunshine Day In My Mind (Jim Post, Jim Schwall) - 8:08

The Siegel Schwall Band
*Corky Siegel – Piano, Harmonica, Vocals
*Jim Schwall – Guitar, Vocals
*Jos Davidson – Bass, Vocals (1966)
*Russ Chadwick – Drums (1966-68)
*Jack Dawson – Bass (1967-68)
*Rollo Radford – Electric Bass, Upright Bass (1970)
*Shelly Plotkin – Drums (1970)

more from Siegel Schwall
1971  The Siegel-Schwall Band
1972  Sleepy Hollow
1973  953 West
1974  R.I.P. Siegel-Schwall (Vinyl issue)

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stillrock - Stillrock (1969 us, awesome folk country psych, 2014 korean remaster)

A rock album released on Stax's Ernterprise subsidiary that was produced by Donald Duck Dunn and Don Nix, and featuring material by Nix and Don Preston ...   sounds like an interesting way to spend a couple of hours ...

Before recording as Stillrock (I've also seen it referenced as Still Rock'), guitarist/singer Don Preston, guitarist Bobby Cochran, bassist Casey Van Beek, and drummer Bob Young had recorded and album as Don Preston and the South ("Hot Air Through a Straw"). 

Perhaps because the name wasn't particularly cool, by 1969 the group had reinvented themselves as Stillrock, signing a contract with Stax's short-lived Enterprise subsidiary.   Co-produced by Donald Duck Dunn and Don Nix, the album showcased some real talent though much of the impact was lost across the eclectic mixture of genres that graced the eleven tracks.  As lead singer, Preston had an extremely likeable voice.  He was far from a great singer, but seemed to know his limitations and made the most of his range and capabilities.  The rest of the band were also pretty impressive with bassist Van Beek turning in a series of impressive performances.  

The band was also willing to experiment with some interesting musical mash-ups - check out the country-meets-psych ' Lost City Child'.   And too a large extent that was the big problem here.  It was simply hard to figure out who these guys were.  Bouncing around between country, pop, psych, rock, etc. left you wondering if they were simply auditioning as a wedding act.   That's not to take away from the album's strengths.  A couple of these tunes were really good with lots of mid-'60s radio potential.    'So Hard to Say Goodbye', 'Hiway Fever' and 'Waiting for the Door to Open'.   Unfortunately those tracks were offset by way too many bland, MOR-ish ballads ('I Can Remember') and equally irritating country moves ('Wedding Parade').   Worth hearing especially if you can find a reasonably priced copy.

1. So Hard To Say Goodbye (Don Nix, Don Preston) - 2:18
2. The Reach Of My Memory (Don Preston) - 3:05
3. Mighty Time (Don Nix) - 3:08
4. Rolling In My Dreams (Don Nix) - 2:47
5. Hiway Fever (Don Preston) - 2:20
6. Waiting For The Door To Open (Don Preston) - 2:54
7. Wedding Parade (Don Nix) - 3:11
8. I Can Remember (Don Preston) - 2:47
9. Lost City Child (Don Preston, Don Nix) - 2:48
10.When Something Is Wrong With My Baby (Issac Hayes, David Porter) -  3:37
11.She Was A Long Time Ago (Don Preston) - 2:42

*Bobby Cochran - Guitar,  Vocals
*Don Preston - Vocals, Guitar
*Casey Van Beek  - Bass,  Vocals
*Bob Young - Drums,  Vocals

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Knowbody Else - Soldiers Of Pure Peace (1967 us, fascinating psych rock, pre-Black Oak Arkansas, 2012 release)

The band formed in Monette, Arkansas from the remnants of local bands the Surfs and the Epsilons, with members coming and going including Ricky Copeland on drums. Terry Cullen on guitar and Danny Knuckles on bass. By early 1966 they had coalesced as Knowbody Else with the lineup: ]im Mangrum, lead vocals, Rick Reynolds, 12-string guitar, Artis "J.R." Brewer, Jr., six-string guitar. Keith McCann, drums, Danny Reynolds, bass (shortly replaced by Pat Daugherty), and Ronnie Smith, organ and tambourine (shortly replaced by Harvey Jett). They were not The Knowbody Else, lust Knowbody Else. By not using the article their name became extremely cool. And they exuded cool.

What made them so exceptionally good? Their medium was performance and they took it to the level of fine art. Their live shows were enhanced by the visual aspects of each member's unique appearance and demeanor as well as the atmosphere provided by the lights and venue. Blend that visual image with the audial stimuli of their words and music, and you had an artistic presentation of exquisite melodic and visual excitement. It was performance art at its best: sound and sight fusing into pure poetry. Your emotions and intellect were thrilled to the bone. And, like all who achieve such levels of artistic creation and expression, they emitted the aura of the exotic, the magical. 

The band lived together in an isolated house on farmland owned by ].R.'s father near Manilla, Arkansas. This arrangement allowed the band to focus completely on their art, free from normal societal strictures. Their art came first, and their goal was nothing less than perfection. They practiced rigorously every day, leaving all else to fall wherever it may. And if this meant that on many days the only food available would be popcorn and Kool-Aid, then so be it. It was through Knowbody Else that I first learned about total dedication to one's art, and the importance of self-discipline, which greatly influenced my own life as an artist. Knowbody Else was the most unique band I had ever heard. Every member had a microphone, and sang beautiful harmonies. 

The band assimilated a lot of the music that was going on around them, yet came up with a very distinct style. There is a strong folk-rock feel to some of the material ("White, Mix And Smith"), while other tracks ("On A Busy Day") recall a mod psychedelic sound not unlike the Who. Some of their psychedelic excursions ("Ten Till Five") pushed the boundaries of the day, incorporating studio effects and eastern-inspired guitar riffs over a single-chord drone. Although in performance they played so loudly that your ears would still be ringing the next day, their studio work shows their skill to cover a wide dynamic range.

In addition to their original songs, they played many of the standard covers of the day, reinventing them to fit their sound. A sample of their repertoire includes: "Turn Turn Turn," "The Bells Of Rhymney," "My Little Red Book," "A Message To Pretty," "It Was A Very Good Year," "Could You, Would You," "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" (Them's version), "Don't Talk To Strangers," "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," "You're A Better Man Than I," "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again," "I Don't Believe," "For My Own," "Leave Me Be" and "All Day And All Of The Night."

There was a contradictory air about the band, because they looked like outcasts, or criminals, or mad men. They looked dangerous, yet never hurt a thing. They practiced honesty, respect for others' property and beliefs, and peace. They did not enter your world. But through their performances you could enter their's. They did not compromise. They played at the same high quality every time they performed, whether to an audience of one, or to an crowd of hundreds. They were like gypsies. Not of this society, yet moving in it.

As I found out many years later, renowned Memphis musician, engineer and producer Jim Dickinson heard Knowbody Else, and was very impressed. He asked if he could produce and record their original compositions.  The band had been turned away by other recording engineers who did not know how to record a band that played as loudly as they did. Dickinson knew how to do it, and believed that the resulting album would make them all famous, and rich. 

Throughout I 967, whenever they were close enough to make the drive to Memphis after completing a Saturday night gig, the band would spend the rest of the night in Ardent Studios working with Dickinson. At shows, they began to announce that they were recording an album to be called Soldiers of Pure Peace, and that it would be released by the summer of 1968. However, it was not to be. Shortly after the completion of the recording sessions, something occurred that caused the band and Dickinson to mysteriously and completely put the project aside. No one seems to know exactly what happened; maybe it was due to a mishandling of publishing rights, or the rejection of the album by Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler.

The band created new songs for their repertoire and the songs from Soldiers of Pure Peace were never performed again. I, though, could not abandon those first songs of Knowbody Else. They are works of musical art which 1 had heard performed spectacularly on several occasions, and I had been eagerly awaiting the release of the album. It was very difficult to accept the fact that I would never hear these songs again. As the years went by I searched for anyone who might know something about what had happened to the tapes, hoping that recordings still existed.

In the early 1990s I was told that Jim Dickinson, who was also an authority on music recorded in Memphis, might have information about these recordings. I called him and we started a discussion and friendship based on our mutual love and respect for that phenomenon: Knowbody Else. Dickinson had once possessed the tapes of the songs for Soldiers of Pure Peace, but believed that they had been destroyed due to improper storage.  In a happy twist of fate, in 2005, Dickinson discovered the master tapes to 10 of the 15 songs he had recorded in 1967. Dickinson burned a CD of the songs for me, and after 38 years of searching  for the music, I was able to hear it again.

A couple of years later, I played the CD for Erik Lindgren who was visiting me in Oxford. Mississippi. Erik was blown away by what he heard. As with all performance art, its occurrence happening on the canvas of time, passing even as it is created, the art of Knowbody Else occurred, was experienced by those present, and is gone. But, we are lucky to have the soundtrack to their art. And now, 45 years after it was created, this musical masterpiece is presented to the world.
by Glennray Tutor, May, 2012

1. MRB - 2:31
2. On A Busy Day - 2:23
3. Your Big Brown Chair - 2:48
4. The Circus Song - 2:54
5. Free Singers' Island - 2:21
6. Secret Storm - 3:09
7. The Cowboy Song - 2:25
8. Ten Till Five - 2:40
9. Until I'm Like Uncle Hugh - 2:49
10.White, Mix And Smith - 2:48
All songs writen by Rick Reynolds, Jim Mangrum

Knowbody Else
*Jim Mangrum - Lead Vocals
*Rick Reynolds - 12 String Guitar, Organ, Bass, Vocals
*Artis Brewer Jr. -  6 String Guitar, Vocals
*Keith McCann - Drums, Vocals

The Black Oak Arkansas heights
1971  Black Oak Arkansas (Debut album)
1973  High On The Hog
1973  The Complete Raunch 'N' Roll (Live)
1975  X-Rated (Vinyl issue)
1976  Balls Of Fire

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