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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mick Softley - Any Mother Doesn't Grumble (1972 uk, magnificent folk jazzy prog rock, 2016 reissue)

After many years lurking in a musical hinterland, Mick Softley's quite wonderful 'Any Mother Doesn't Grumble' has been released into the wild once again and it is quite clearly the work of an untamed and erratic free spirit who refused to conform to any record company's desire to crank out another Bob Dylan clone. On this album, Softley mixed a heady brew of folk, jazz, blues, country and rock together and sprinkled his idiosyncratic lyrics throughout the creation to craft the most powerful work of a three-album deal with CBS Records between 1970-73. It is a masterclass from a time when creative freedom in the studio was often not only accepted but encouraged however the road to its release was tempestuous and twisting.

From an early age it was apparent the Michael 'Mick' Softley was not going to accept the stifling grip of post-war conformity. Born to Irish parents in 1941, he was raised in South Woodford close to Epping Forest. Although he received a religious education at a Jesuit College in North London the priesthood was not a calling and, at the age of eighteen, Mick had already kissed his factor)' job goodbye and embarked on a motorcycle trip to Spain followed by a period of hitch-hiking in France, While residing above a bookshop in Paris, Mick was living the beatnik dream in the presence of writers such as William Burroughs and Gregory Corso but it was the ex-pat music community that really drew his attention and where he heard music from the likes of Sandy Denny and Ramblin' Jack Elliott first hand. It was on the streets of France's capital city that Mick served his musical apprenticeship busking with Raymond 'Wizz' Jones and Clive Palmer (Incredible String Band / C.O.B.).

On returning to England in the early 1960s as a fully-fledged and well travelled bohemian, Mick started a folk club in the tiny basement of The Spinning Wheel restaurant in Old Town, Hemel Hempstead. It was a rowdy but creative space (Mick coaxed a youthful but very shy Maddy Prior into action here, long before her days in Steeleye Span) but also a health and safety nightmare with no fire escape and the police eventually closed it down.

Mick began playing at The Cock in St Albans, a legendary hangout for beatniks, hippies and musicians looking for a break from the big smoke. It was here that he began teaching cross-picking guitar techniques to a youthful Donovan Leitch before the Glaswegian singer / songwriter was snapped up by Pye Records. Donovan would later cover Mick's songs 'The War Drags On' and 'Goldwatch Blues' and it was through his connections that led Mick to the release of his first single with Immediate Records, 'I'm So Confused / She's My Girl' (1965), and then his debut alburn 'Songs For Swingin' Survivors' (1965) for Columbia Records. Neither seemed to bring Mick much joy and his first dealings with the record 'biz' were bruising' encounters that left him fighting an uphill battle to regain the copyright to many of his songs.

Mick then shot off in a more Psychedelic Rock direction as Mick Softley and the Summer Suns, a group who produced one single for CBS Records, 'Am I The Red One / That's Not My Kind Of Love' (1966). Soon he was back on the road without a record deal and once again indulging in a nomadic lifestyle. In between travelling Mick formed a band called Soft Cloud Loud Earth with Donovan sidekick Keith 'Mac' Macleod. The band soon disintegrated into simply Mick and Mac as the duo Soft Cloud and as the 1970s appeared on the horizon Mick was off on a solo trip once again thanks to a new record deal with CBS.

The first fruits of this deal were the albums 'Sunrise' (1970) followed by 'Street Singer' (1971). On both albums Mick moved well away from the straightforward folk delivery that he had employed on his debut album and gleefully threw everything into the mix. The Eastern influence of tabla and sitar nestled alongside evangelical choruses, tantric chants, acid-tinged folk and more mainstream singer-songwriter compositions. Both albums were widely diverse and this theme was to continue across Mick's third album for CBS.

The recording of 'Any Mother Doesn't Grumble' took place at Richard Branson's residential studio The Manor in Oxfordshire and at Sound Techniques - a recording facility built within an old dairy in Chelsea and a popular creative hub for folk royalty such as Steeleye Span, Pentangle and John Martyn. In the studio once again with Mick was a hugely talented line-up. American guitarist Jerry Donahue was one of the key players who put the rock in 'folk rock' and he had already worked with Fotheringay and just become a recent addition to Fairport Convention. Alongside Jerry were his Fotheringay bandmates Gerry Conway on drums and bassist Pat Donaldson. Added to this exotic mix was percussionist Barry De Souza (Curved Air) and Lyn Dobson (Manfred Mann / Soft Machine) on saxophone, flute and harmonica.

In the producer's chair and tasked with blending together this experienced and eclectic bunch was Tony Cox, a talented keyboard player who had played with Sandy Denny and Mike Heron and produced albums for Caravan and cult acid-folkies Trees. Cox had also lent his talents to Softley's previous two CBS albums so they were almost three years into a solid working partnership.

Right from the start it is apparent that Any Mother Doesn't Grumble' will be a wild ride as the first track, the gentle ballad 'The Song That I Sing,' blends seamlessly into a hypnotic crescendo of sleazy sax and wailing guitar before drawing to a gentle close. The windswept acoustic theme continues on 'Hello Little Flower' but there are a number of different avenues that the album wanders down - wrong-footing musical travellers who think they know what to expect next. 'I'm So Confused' is a protest anthem throwback to Mick's early days, 'From The Land of the Crab' has a rootsy, country feel and each new track offers something different and original. It's hard to say whether CBS execs of the time would have been settling back with a warm, satisfied glow at being part of the creation of this rich tapestry or were tearing their hair out wondering how to market an album of such musical diversity.

The whole package places the artist centre stage and all of the songs were Softley originals. His lyrics even got unusual prominence on both the front and back of the album cover which also featured illustrations from Ian Beck - the talented artist who created the artwork for Elton John's 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' album. This decision to feature lyrics so prominently was an unusual one and particularly bold considering the words to 'Magdalene's Song' deal fairly heavily with drug abuse, whores and factory 'hell holes'.

CBS played on Mick's travelling roots with press ads that stated "20,000 miles of tyres and a lot of bootwear went into this album" and they gave the album a final push into the public arena. By the time of the album's release Mick had already appeared on two CBS sampler albums, 'Together' (1971) and 'Rock Buster' (1972), and a promo single featuring two tracks from the album, 'Lady Willow' / 'From The Land Of The Crab', was also released. Despite gigs, festivals and TV appearances across Europe, including support slots on tours with Steve Miller and Mott The Hoople, 'Any Mother Doesn't Grumble' failed to capture a mainstream audience and Softley drifted off into the roving lifestyle once again. At one point he was living in a van purchased with his CBS advance money and the vehicle even featured on the front cover artwork of his 'Sunrise' album.

While drifting across Europe he released two further LPs on the' Zurich-based independent label Doll Records, 'Capital' (1976) and 'Mensa' (1978), and his final creation was a cassette only album 'War Memorials' (1985). Back in the UK in the early 1980s, Mick fell victim to new laws targeting 'New Age' travellers and he settled in Northern Ireland in 1984 where he continued to make sporadic appearances at the Belfast Folk Festival. Now living in Enniskillen it would be wonderful if this album could provide a retrospective resurge in interest for an artist who has wilfully worn his own trail through the British musical landscape. Way back in 1972, Disc and Music Echo Magazine probably captured the essence of this unique recording most succinctly when they reviewed the album and stated: "Listening to it, one almost feels an intruder into the man's soul".
by Craig Brackenridge, 2016

1. The Song That I Sing - 4:49
2. Hello Little Flower - 2:05
3. Sing While You Can - 3:18
4. The Minstrel Song - 2:32
5. Magdalene's Song - 1:40
6. Traveller's Song - 2:33
7. From The Land Of The Crab - 3:15
8. Lady Willow - 3:22
9. Great Wall Of Cathay - 2:59
10.If Wishes Were Horses - 4:21
11.Have You Ever Really Seen The Stars - 7:17
12.I'm So Confused - 3:07
All songs by Mick Softley

*Mick Softley - Vocals, Guitar
*Jerry Donahue - Guitar
*Pat Donaldson - Bass
*Gerry Conway - Drums, Percussion
*Barry de Souza - Percussion
*Lyn Dobson - Tenor, Soprano Saxophones, Flute, Harmonica
*Tony Cox - Keyboards

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Ides Of March - Last Band Standing The Definitive 50 Year Anniversary Collection (1965-2015 us, amazing colorful blend of music, 2015 four discs box set)

“Beware the ides of March,” goes the famous admonition.  Thankfully, Jim Peterik, Larry Millas, Bob Bergland and Mike Borch didn’t heed the warning.  Formed in Berwyn, Illinois in 1965 as the Shon-Dels, The Ides of March are still going strong 50 years later with their brassy blend of good-time rock and roll, R&B, pop and soul epitomized on the 1970 hit single “Vehicle.”  These rock and roll survivors and local legends around the Chicago scene have recently assembled a definitive box set tracing their career from the spring of 1965 to the present day.  The aptly-titled Last Band Standing, released on the group’s own Ides of March Records label, features four CDs and one DVD in a numbered, 500-unit limited edition slipcase signed by the band members.  This set packs a powerful punch, and should let everybody else in on the secret that Chicago’s known for years: that The Ides of March is one hell of a great band!

From their early days playing sock hops and clubs around Chicago, Peterik (lead vocals/lead guitar), Millas (keyboards/guitar/bass/vocals), Borch (drums/percussion/vocals) and Bergland (bass/saxophone/vocals) developed the Ides’ sound from roots in Hollies and Kinks-inspired white R&B.  During the crucial years leading to the group’s major-label signing with Warner Bros., Peterik was finding his own voice as a songwriter, too, honed from years of performing covers of songs by James Brown, The Beatles, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and later, Traffic and the Buffalo Springfield.

After kicking off with three high-octane new songs in tasty retro-modern arrangements (including the title track, featuring guitar from guest Steve Cropper), the first disc of Last Band Standing jets back to the mid-sixties with all of the Ides’ singles for Epitome (their own label), Parrot and Kapp Records.  Even more excitingly, the disc presents eight previously unreleased tracks from this formative period before the group adopted its horn section.  Including the strong ballad “I Put It Out of My Head” (with Larry Millas on lead vocal) and covers of Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio’s “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” and Johnny Cash’s “Train of Love,” these varied songs are remarkably polished – and filled with youthful energy, tight and jangly arrangements, vivid harmonies, catchy melodies, and a sure grasp on the various styles on pop radio circa 1966-1967.  Not only are the unreleased tracks as strong as the released singles, but it’s nearly impossible to believe that they’ve been on the shelf for nearly 50 years!  There are also assorted other rarities, like a new stereo mix of the bright Monkees-esque B-side “Girls Don’t Grow on Trees.”

With the addition of Ray Herr (guitar/bass/vocals), John Larson (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Chuck Soumar (trumpet/vocals) to the line-up, the band began to clearly define its muscular signature sound rooted in melodic rock.  The Ides entered Chicago’s Columbia Studios to record an album of both originals and time-tested covers that had worked well onstage and fit into the “heavier” sound the band was cultivating. “One Woman Man” was released prior to Vehicle, the album, and was the Ides of March’s first single. It remains a mystery why the band didn’t catch fire with such a strong melody. Melding the rich harmonies of The Association with the Ides’ developing horn sound (and a memorable trumpet riff), it closes the first disc of Last Band Standing along with its soaring B-side “High on a Hillside.”

The second disc features selections from the Vehicle album (recently reissued on CD by Real Gone Music), its follow-up, 1971’s Common Bond, and related Warner Bros. singles.  The song destined to become the Ides of March’s calling card, “Vehicle” itself gets two airings – once in its album version and once in its mono single mix.  With crack support from Millas’ organ, Borch’s drums, and the three horns, Peterik channeled Blood, Sweat and Tears’ David Clayton-Thomas on “Vehicle,” tearing into its over-the-top, erotically-charged lyrics and earning the Ides a No. 2 smash on the pop chart. In addition to album cuts like the beautiful, Neil Diamond-meets-The-Righteous-Brothers ballad “Home” and the psychedelic jam “Symphony for Eleanor (Eleanor Rigby),” this disc is peppered with other rare tracks including the band’s reverent, harmony-filled rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a Pepsi commercial set to “Vehicle,” and the previously unreleased “Reunion,” a hard-driving rock track sans brass that pointed the way for the next phase of the band’s stylistic evolution.

At RCA, The Ides of March largely stripped down their sound, abandoning their horns in the process.  Bob Bergland hung up his sax.  Chuck Soumar remained on vocals and percussion, and John Larson departed.  (Ray Herr had already left the group between Vehicle and Common Bond.)  The third disc of Last Band Standing samples the never-on-CD albums World Woven (1972) and Midnight Oil (1973), featuring six tracks from the former and four from the latter.  On World Woven, the band tried on blue-eyed soul, country and even bubblegum rock; if the last term there seems an oxymoron, just listen to the catchy sing-along choruses of “Mother America” and “All Join Hands.”  (Peterik’s knack for crafting anthems would serve him well when he founded Survivor!)  The shifting, shimmering “Children” recalled the group’s funky, extended jams, and “Flipside” allowed Soumar a triumphant moment back on the trumpet.  Midnight Oil featured further changes.  Rather than adding flourishes on the organ, Larry Millas contributed guitar, bass, and flute.  Dave Arellano, who also played on World Woven, handled keyboards.  Rusty Young of Poco dropped in to add pedal steel and dobro to Oil, the Ides’ most countrified album.  On both the ballads (“Lay Back,” “Roadie Ode”) and the uptempo tracks (the southern rock-inflected “Hot Water,” “Quicksilver”), the Ides hardly sound like the band of “Vehicle” and “One Woman Man.”

Live tracks spanning 1972 to 2008 round out this disc.  This lengthy period spans both the original group’s breakup (in November 1973) and their reunion (in 1990).  Highlights include a ten-minute take on The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” recalling the likes of ‘Symphony for Eleanor,” as well as the buoyant, brash “Gotta Share This Feeling” from a 1972 date at Michigan Tech which recalls the best of early Chicago.  (How was this hit single-in-the-making not recorded in the studio?) This disc also has one of the Ides’ career highlights with “Finally Next Year,” the song released in summer 1999 to commemorate the Chicago Cubs’ season and included on a Cubs CD sold at the ballpark.

The fourth and final CD in the set brings the Ides of March’s story up to date, with tracks recorded between 1997 and 2010 and primarily released on the band’s own, independent label.  1991’s “Spirit of Chicago,” like the other tracks from 1991’s Ideology, bridges the sonic gap between The Ides of March and Survivor.  The anthemic power ballad even features Peterik’s Survivor collaborator and sparring partner, Frankie Sullivan, as well as Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen.  The cheeky “One Hit Wonder,” from 2000, taps into the Ides’ own history with “Vehicle” and pays tribute to the band’s one-hit wonder brethren, wrapping the fun, nostalgic trip in an “Oh, Pretty Woman” riff.  There’s more musical autobiography on the 2010 track “Still Nineteen.”  Peterik and Millas even play Lennon and McCartney as they return to the Beatles songbook with a 2010 recording of “A Day in the Life.”  A DVD wraps the Ides’ story up (for now!) with a live concert recorded at Chicago’s House of Blues on May 31, 2014.  This program includes the Ides’ rendition of Peterik’s Survivor hits “Eye of the Tiger” and “The Search is Over” and “Caught Up in You” and “Hold On Loosely,” both of which he wrote for 38 Special.  Bonus features include a music video for “Last Band Standing,” a From the Vaults segment with archival footage dating back to the band’s early days, and a performance of “Vehicle” with Buddy Guy.

Last Band Standing is accompanied by a booklet featuring notes from the current Ides lineup of Peterik, Millas, Borch, Bergland, Scott May, Dave Stahlberg, Tim Bales and Steve Eisen.  Photographs, credits and a discography are also provided.  Larry Millas has remastered each track on these four CDs which are housed in jewel cases within the autographed slipcase.  In addition, the booklet notes that a portion of the proceeds from the set will go to the Ides of March Scholarship Fund.

For a longtime fan of the Ides of March (or Survivor, for that matter!) or an Ides newbie, Last Band Standing is a vibrant, nostalgic and captivating audiovisual journey with a band that’s far more than just “Vehicle.”  It makes a perfect companion, too, to Jim Peterik’s new album Risk Everything, a collaboration with Marc Scherer.  As for his partnership with Larry Millas, it’s alive and well, too.  The pair co-wrote “Sail Away” on Brian Wilson’s new No Pier Pressure.  One of that album’s standout tracks, it features both Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin.  The Ides of March may be the last band standing, but it sure looks like they’ll be standing and rocking with their positive and upbeat brand of rock and roll for more years to come.
by Joe Marchese

Disc 1
1. Last Band Standing (Jim Peterik, Mike Borch) - 5:42
2. Who I Am - 3:35
3. Too Far To Turn Around - 4:18
4. Like It Or Lump It (Jim Peterik, Larry Millas, Mike Borch) - 3:28
5. No Two Ways About It (Jim Peterik, Larry Millas, Mike Borch) - 2:16
6. You Wouldn't Listen (Jim Peterik, Larry Millas, Mike Borch) - 2:32
7. I'll Keep Searching (Jim Peterik, Larry Millas, Mike Borch) - 2:24
8. I'll Take You Back - 2:05
9. Please Don't Tell Me Lies - 2:39
10.Train Of Love (Johnny Cash) - 2:48
11.Don't Cry To Me - 2:45
12.You Tell Me Why (Ronald Elliot) - 3:28
13.I Put It Out Of My Head - 3:07
14.The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore (Bob Crewe, Bob Gaudio) - 2:13
15.Roller Coaster - 2:32
16.Things Aren't Always What They Seem - 2:28
17.My Foolish Pride - 2:18
18.Give Your Mind Wings (Jeff Mine) - 2:55
19.Hole In My Soul - 2:53
20.Girls Don't Grow On Trees - 2:56
21.I'm Gonna Say My Prayers - 3:00
22.You Need Love - 2:47
23.Sha La La La Lee (Mort Shuman, Kenny Lynch) - 2:57
24.Nobody Loves Me - 2:40
25.Strawberry Sunday - 2:52
26.One Woman Man - 3:16
27.High On A Hillside - 2:52

Disc 2
1. Vehicle (Mono Hit Single Mix) - 2:56
2. Lead Me Home Gently - 2:58
3. Aire Of Good Feeling - 3:14
4. Symphony For Eleanor-Eleanor Rigby (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jim Peterik) - 9:44
5. Bald Medusa (Jim Peterik, Mike Borch) - 3:02
6. Home - 3:37
7. Wooden Ships (Dharma For One) (Stephen Stills, Paul Kantner, Ian Anderson, Clive Bunker) - 7:15
8. Superman (Stereo Album Mix) - 3:00
9. L.A. Goodbye - 2:52
10.Hymn For Her - 4:03
11.Tie Dye Princess - 11:39
12.We Are Pillows (Prelude To Freedom) - 3:42
13.Freedom Sweet - 3:30
14.Giddy Up Ride Me - 2:59
15.Melody - 2:48
16.Reunion (Jim Peterik, Mike Borch) - 3:47
17.Pepsi (Vehicle Commercial) - 1:02
18.Vehicle (Stereo Album Mix) - 2:55
19.The Star Spangled Banner (Francis Scott Key) - 1:39

Disc 3
1. Mother America - 3:50
2. All Join Hands - 3:13
3. Colorado Morrow - 2:54
4. Diamond Fire - 4:38
5. Flipside - 3:45
6. Children - 6:58
7. Hot Water (Jim Peterik, Mike Borch, Dave Arrellano) - 4:07
8. Lay Back - 4:09
9. Quicksilver - 3:33
10.Roadie Ode - 4:23
11.Gotta Share This Feeling - 4:15
12.American Express - 5:08
13.Rag For A Vagabond Lady - 4:58
14.Love's Got The Power (Jim Peterik, Anthony Gomes) - 6:25
15.Summer In The City (John Sebastian, Steve Boone, Mark Sebastian) - 9:50
16.Don't Fight The Feeling - 3:48
17.Finally Next Year (Jim Peterik, Scott May) - 3:24

Disc 4
1. Friendly Stranger (Vehicle Overture) - 4:29
2. Spirit Of Chicago (Jim Peterik, Dick Eastman) - 4:44
3. I'd Love Her Anyway - 4:17
4. Love Don't Choose - 5:18
5. Age Before Beauty - 3:37
6. Moon Out Of Phase - 3:58
7. One Hit Wonder - 4:52
8. Come Dancing - 4:22
9. A Day In The Life (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 7:28
10.The Forgotten Oldie - 3:58
11.Pepperhead - 2:45
12.Secrets Of A Woman - 4:15
13.Soul To Soul (Jim Peterik, Bob Bergland) - 4:57
14.For One Moment - 4:01
15.Still 19 - 6:45
16.Live Life - 4:39
17.Keep Rocking - 5:07
All songs written by Jim Peterik except where indicated

The Ides Of March
*Jim Peterik - Lead Guitar, Lead Vocal
*Larry Millas - Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocal
*Bob Bergland - Bass, Saxophone, Backing Vocals
*Ray Herr - Bass, Backing Vocals
*Michael Borch - Drums, Percussion
*John Larson - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
*Jim Larson - Trumpet, Backing Vocal
*Chuck Soumar - Trumpet, Vocals, Odds, Ends
*Scott May - Vocals, B3 Organ, Keyboards
*David Stahlberg - Trombone
*Tim Bales - Trumpet
*Steve Eisen - Sax, All Reeds, Percusion
*Dave Arellano - Keyboards
*Steve Daniels - Trumpet
*Conrad Prybe - Trombone
*Dave Southern - Trombone

1965-68  The Ides Of March - Ideology (sundazed remaster edition)
1970  The Ides Of March - Vehicle (2014 remaster and expanded)
1971  The Ides Of March - Common Bond (extra tracks issue)

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Carp - Carp (1970 us, heavenly psych folk country rock with spiritual references, 2017 korean remaster)

Carp is known not so much for its music as it is for being the launching pad for the career of fledgling actor Gary Busey. Singer/drummer Busey formed the group in the spring of 1966 with fellow Oklahoma State University students Ron Getman on guitar, John Crowder on bass, and Glen Mitchell on piano. After relocating to Los Angeles, Carp signed with Epic to record a self-titled 1969 album rooted equally in rock, blues, and country -- two singles () - "Save the Delta Queen" and "Page 258" were released to little commercial notice, and the band soon dissolved. 

While Getman, Crowder, and Mitchell continued collaborating as session musicians behind Loudon Wainwright III and Janis Ian, Busey pursued a career as an actor, although he continued playing drums under the alias Teddy Jack Eddy, backing artists including Kris Kristofferson and Leon Russell. In 1975, he also contributed his original song "Since You've Gone Away" to Robert Altman's film masterpiece Nashville.

Busey's music career was, ultimately, the determining factor in landing the role that made him famous: As the ill-fated title character in 1978's The Buddy Holly Story, he performed his own renditions of the rock & roll legend's biggest hits, and earned an Academy Award nomination for his efforts. 
by Jason Ankeny

1. Drink To The Queen Of The May (Gary Busey, Ron Getman) - 2:33
2. Circuit Preacher Brown (Gary Busey, Ron Getman) - 2:40
3. He's Comin' Back To Check On What You've Done (Gary Busey, Glen Mitchell, Ron Getman) - 2:36
4. Pine Creek Bridge (Gary Busey, John Crowder, Ron Getman) - 3:46
5. Rosabelle Bovine (Gary Busey, Glen Mitchell, Ron Getman) - 2:17
6. Page 258 (Gary Busey, Ron Getman) - 2:37
7. Jotham Clay, Mississippi (Gary Busey, Ron Getman) - 2:49
8. The Great Kansas Hymn (Michael McGinnis) - 5:25
9. Mammoth Mountain Blues (Gary Busey, John Crowder, Glen Mitchell, Ron Getman) - 2:46
10.There Goes The Band (Gary Busey, John Crowder, Ron Getman) - 3:00
11.Jesus Is The Mountain (Gary Busey, Ron Getman) - 3:48
12.The Firehouse Dog (Gary Busey) - 1:04

The Carp
*Gary Busey - Drums, Vocals
*John Crowder - Bass, Vocals
*Ron Getman - Guitar, Vocals
*Glen Mitchell - Keyboards, Vocals
*Sneaky Pete - Steel Guitar
*Bouncin'Bobby Bruce - Fiddle

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Leon Russell And Marc Benno - Asylum Choir II (1971 us, outstanding psych protest bluesy rock with experimental mood, japan SHM 2016 remaster)

1971's "Asylum Choir II" was originally intended as a follow-up to 1968's "Looking Inside the Asylum Choir".  Unfortunately Smash Records executives shelved the set where it sat for the next three years.  The collection was ultimately rescued in 1971 when Leon Russell (enjoying stardom as a solo act), bought the tapes and released the collection on his newly formed Shelter imprint. Ironically, by the time the sophomore album saw the light of day, Russell and singer/multi-instrumentalist Marc Benno had dissolved their musical partnership. 

Musically the set wasn't a major change from the debut, though there were a couple of marked differences.  While the debut was very much a collaboration, this time around the focus was clearly on Russell.  That may have something to do with the fact Russell was responsible for the collection's release.  As on the debut, Benno was credited with co-writing most of the material (there were three tracks credited to Russell alone), but Benno's other contributions were far and few between.  He handled backing vocals on a couple of tracks, but elsewhere was largely absent.

While full of engaging melodies, lyrically the album was a topical timepiece - though I've always found it an engaging reflection of the times.  There were a couple of nifty anti-war tracks ('Down On the Base' and 'Ballad for a Soldier') and some dated social/political commentary ('Sweet Home Chicago' with it's not-to-subtle commentary on 1968's Democratic National Convention and 'Straight Brother'). 

Speaking of dated, amazing how time impacts language ...  "when you're bass player's flat and your drummer drags, don't you wish you had a fag"  Anyone under 30 probably doesn't realize he was talking about cigarettes, not lifestyles.  Bottom line is that it was a good effort, though largely a Russell solo effort and simply not on a par with the debut.

1. Sweet Home Chicago - 3:22
2. Down On The Base - 2:17)
3. Hello Little Friend (Leon Russell) - 2:52
4. Salty Candy - 2:27
5. Tryin' To Stay 'Live - 2:50
6. ...Intro To Rita... - 2:07
7. Straight Brother - 3:07
8. Learn How To Boogie - 2:45
9. Ballad For A Soldier (Leon Russell) - 4:25
10.When You Wish Upon A Fag (Leon Russell) - 4:09
11.Lady In Waiting (Leon Russell) - 3:38
All songs by Leon Russell, Marc Benno except where stated.

*Marc Benno - Guitars, Vocals
*Leon Russell - Bass, Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Vocals
*Jesse Ed Davis - Guitars
*Chuck Blackwell - Drums
*Carl Radle - Bass
*"Donald Duck" Dunn - Bass

1968  The Asylum Choir - Look Inside (2007 remaster)
1972  Leon Russell - Carney
1970  Marc Benno - Marc Benno (2012 korean remaster)
1973  Marc Benno And The Nightcrawlers - Crawlin (with young Stevie Ray Vaughan, 2006 release) 

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Christopher Kearney - Pemmican Stash (1973 canada, wonderful folk country classic rock, 2014 korean remaster)

Toronto-born Christopher Kearney moved to the cottage area of Lindsay, Ontario at age 4. He became serious about music in the mid-60's after relocating to the US West coast where he met Gordon Lightfoot who put up the money for his first demo recordings.

In 1970, Apex Records released Kearney's first single "Theme For Jody". He returned to Toronto in 1971 and used his Lightfoot connection to land a publishing deal with Early Morning Music and an album deal with Sun Dog Productions who signed him to Capitol Records.

His first self-titled album was released in 1972 and spawned the single "Loosen Up". His career became a whirlwind of touring throughout the US in folk clubs and festivals with opening slots next to the likes of Anne Murray. Kearney went to Brazil in 1972 with The Stampeders to represent Canada at the Seventh Rio International Song Festival held in Rio de Janeiro.

A follow-up LP, 'Pemmican Stash', was released in 1973 and Kearney's career slowly faded shortly after 1975's 'Sweetwater'.

In the early ‘80s Kearney joined China with fellow Canadians Bill King and Danny McBride for one album on CBS Records.

Kearney returned to the spotlight briefly in 1993 when he wrote "A Letter From Sarajevo" with Scott Lane and Neil Dobson that accompanied a star-studded public service video about the plight of children in the war-torn city of Sarajevo in Bosnia.

Kearney is currently living in San Diego, California and released a new album in 2008 called "Just A Step Away". 

1. The Hobo's Creed - 4:00
2. Jubal's Dream - 3:18
3. Sarah's Stopover (Jim Laramie) - 3:52
4. Youngbird (Christopher Kearney, Josh Onderisin) - 3:08
5. One Helluva Rock 'N' Roll Band (Christopher Kearney, Josh Onderisin) - 4:48
6. Shot Down - 3:09
7. Remember Me My Brother - 4:00
8. The Ballad Of William Bent - 6:48
9. A Taste Of Snow - 4:22
Music and Lyrics by Christopher Kearney except where noted

*Christopher Kearney - Vocals, Acoustic, Electric Guitars
*Josh Onderisin - Acoustic, Electric Lead Guitars
*Jim Laramie - Bass
*Gord Neave - Drums
*D'Arcy Wickham - Background Vocals
*Gord Noore - Background Vocals
*Duane Ford - Keyboards
*Ralph Cole - Slide Guitar
*Larry Good - Banjo
*Ollie Strong - Steel Guitar
*Jerry Cingolani - Cordovox
*Bruce Good - Autoharp

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Bobby Whitlock - One Of A Kind (1975 us, wonderful blend of classic rock southern tastes and blues, 2016 japan SHM remaster)

The Memphis-born/Austin resident with a soulful voice soaked in gospel, R&B, and blues continues to represent the true South, the legacy he began when he was the first white artist to be signed to the Stax label at the tender age of sixteen. 

1975 marked the release of “One of a Kind”, it's a vast improvement very close to his prior best efforts. Bobby plays piano and organ and these are the intruments that subity dominate the album.

His singing is a mix of original blue eyed soul and southern rock a music he helped pioneer.

1. Movin’ On - 5:09
2. You Still On My Mind - 3:12
3. Rocky Mountain Blues - 2:58
4. Be Honest With Yourself - 4:06
5. Goin’ To California - 3:50
6. Free And Easy (Way Of Lovin’ You) - 4:33
7. The Right Road Back Home - 4:36
8. You Don’t Have To Be Alone - 5:49
9. Have You Ever Felt Like Leavin’ - 3:27
10.We Made It To The Moon - 3:36
All songs by Bobby Whitlock except Track #6 co-written with Dru Lombar

*Bobby Whitlock - Vocals, Organ, Piano, Leslie, Acoustic Guitar, Chimes, Percussion
*T.J. Tindall - Lead Guitar, Banjo
*Kenny Tibbetts - Bass
*Rick Eckstein - Drums
*Richard Betts - Slide Guitar
*Chuck Leavell - Piano
*Dru Lombar - Slide Guitar
*Jaimoe (A.K.A Jai Johanny Johanson) - Congas
*Johnny Sandlin - Tambourine
*Sid Sharp And His Magic Violins - Strings

1972  Bobby Whitlock - Where There's a Will There's a Way (2013 remaster)
1970  Derek And The Dominos - Layla (2013 platinum SHM edition)

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Ian And Sylvia - The Beginning Of The End (1971 canada, wonderful country folk rock)

Born in Victoria, BC in 1933, it wasn't until he was a teen, laid up in a hospital after a rodeo accident, that Ian Tyson picked up a guitar for the first time.Once the broken leg mended, he continued learning the guitar, and always a poet and writer, began writing songs.

While attending the Vancouver School of Art, he made his singing debut at Vancouver's Heidelberg Cafι in 1956. Realizing he might be able to afford his education, he continued playing, and later joined The Sensational Stripes. They were an up and coming rock and roll band made up of other students at UBC and gave Tyson a better exposure to different sounds.

Still pursuing his artistic dreams, he moved to Toronto and got a job as a commercial artist once he'd graduated from the VSA in 1958. Taking advantage of the burgeoning folk scene in Yorkville, he made ends meet by performing in the local clubs.

In 1959 he was introduced to Chatham, Ontario's Sylvia Fricker, another folk singer trying to make it in the big city. They hit it off, and by that summer were performing together at the Village Corner, first part time, and eventually they were a full-fledged duo, one of the hottest on the scene.

They married in 1961, and over the next year earned a loyal following while working their way out of the dimly lit Toronto clubs and coffee shops throughout the US northeastern seaboard, and were frequent performers at festivals, including their first of many appearances over their careers at the famed Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ont.

After moving to New York in '61, they were performing in Greenwich, when Albert Grossman, Bob Dylan's manager, saw and liked the act. He offered to represent them, and soon after he sent the duo off to expand their territory, where they played throughout the Chicago/Detroit area and onto the west coast.

Grossman helped land them a deal with American based Vanguard Records, who released their self-titled debut in the summer of 1962. It was the first in a long line of records throughout the decade that transcended folk and country, delving into blues and early pop. Covers of "CC Rider," "Down By The Willow Garden," and "Handsome Molly"were mixed in with early signs of what would become a legendary waving of the Canadian music flag, with the 19th century standard "Un Canadien Errant" and "Pride of Petrovar." That song also showed their range from fast tempo two-steppers to the slow, melodic "Got No More Home Than A Dog" (a traditional hobo song), and the prison work song "Rocks And Gravel."

In early 1963 they released what has been heralded as some as the greatest Canadian song ever written, "Four Strong Winds." The title track to their sophomore record, the album barely made a dent in the charts on either side of the border, but the song has been covered by everyone from Bob Dylan and Neil Young to a Swedish version by The Hep Stars. Performed by an ensemble cast, it also still traditionally closes out the Edmonton Music Festival each year.

The rest of the album was another mix of French Canadian songs, ("V'la L'bon Vent"), the Scottish ballad "Every Night When The Sun Goes Down," a cover of Dylan's "Tomorrow Is A Long Time," and another old traditional prison work song from the deep south, "Poor Lazarus". "Jesus Met The Woman At The Well" and "Every Time I Feel The Spirit" also showcased the duo's gospel's roots.

Their second album of '63 was met with mixed critical reviews, as well as public reaction. NORTHERN JOURNEY made the top 40 at home, but only peaked at #70 in the US. Backed by Ian's cowboy lamenting in "Texas Rangers" with a capella for a base. It also featured the sing-alongs "Moonshine Can" and "Little Beggar Man," the gospel standard "Swing Down Chariot," and Sylvia's first solely written and recorded song, the reflective "You Were On My Mind," which was later covered by Bobby Bare, San Fransisco's folk/rock band We Five, and then British pop star Crispian St. Peters.

The Tysons had met Gordon Lightfoot earlier in their respective careers, and 1964's EARLY MORNING RAIN featured a pair of his songs - "For Lovin' Me" and the title track, which went peaked in the top 40 at home but only made it as high as #77 in the US. Johnny Cash's "Come In Stranger" is one of the few other covers on the record, the first time the duo had recorded mostly their own material, centred for the most part around Canadian roots, such as "Travelling Drummer," and also often with a political undertone, as in "Song For Canada," co-written with Ian by future CBC journalist Peter Gzowski.

After moving back to Canada later that year, they took time off to have their first child, Clayton Dawson Tyson, in the spring of '65. They didn't return to the studios until later that year, releasing PLAY ONE MORE. Felix Pappalardi, arranged, contucted, played bass and assisted in production of the record, which leaned more towards the pop spectrum than its predecessors. The cover of Burt Bacharach's "24 Hours To Tulsa" and the title track showed a fuller band sound than what fans were used to, and the shift in direction translated to less than expected sales. Further evidence of experimentation was evident with the organ in Sylvia's "Gifts Are For Giving" and Ian's "When I Was A Cowboy." Unlike previous records, this one had no adaptations of traditional folk songs, but the more typical sounding music from them was showcased in "Changes," with its standard guitar and autoharp, and "The French Girl," with the accompanying string arrangement and banjo drives "Molly and Tenbrooks."

Wanting out of their record deal with Vanguard anyway, they experimented with the blues on their next project, SO MUCH FOR DREAMING. Released in the fall of 1966, the record was all but a flop with the fans and critics alike, with Sylvia singing lead on much of it, including "Catfish Blues" and "The Circle Game." "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies" was a minstrel-like ballad Ian penned, and other tracks included the occasional nod to the seafaring life they liked to do with "Cutty Wren," and "Summer Wages."

Their first album for new label MGM was THE LOVIN' SOUND in the spring of '68. They brought in new producer John Court with the intent of coming out of the studio with a more pop accessible album. Even the title reflected the change, a spin on The Lovin' Spoonful, one of the hottest pop groups at the time. The lead-off "Windy Weather" was criticized as being nothing more than a conglomeration of The Association's "Windy" and The Mamas and Papas' "Monday Monday." But sticking to their folk roots, they also covered Dylan's "I Don't Believe You," although it too was criticized for its flower power arrangement. The one straight out country song was a cover of Johnny Cash's "Big River."

Looking to make a straighout country album, they packed up and made Music City their new temporary home. But while writing the material, they were informed they were still owed Vanguard Records one more album. Their contractual obligation was filled before '68 was up with the appropriately titled NASHVILLE. Abandoning all other experimentations, they hired producer Elliot Mazar and released a straighout country album, which featured another pair of covers of Bob Dylan's - "The Mighty Quinn" and "This Wheel's On Fire," and made great use of strings as backup, in tune with the changing landscape at the time of country music.

They were already in the middle of an exhaustive year-long tour when FULL CIRCLE was released. The album was more experimental in previous records, as office execs had pretty much given the duo creative control carte-blanche, and the result was sort of a free-flow, new age country/western experiment. The lead off "Here's To You" sounded more like a pop arrangement with a steel guitar just to make it a country song. Also included was the obligatory Dylan cover "Tears of Rage" and a remake of "Mr Spoons" from the previous album, a song about their son Clay.

Reworking their stage show on advice from the suits in the office, they assembled a new straight country backing band with Amos Garrett, Buddy Cage, Ken Kalmusky, and ND Smart, and now dubbed themselves Ian Tyson & The Great Speckled Bird, which quickly began touring the continent, including the high profile live events like the Atlanta Pop Festival and Festival Express 1970.

After a double album greatest hits package, the '70s opened with the album GREAT SPECKLED BIRD on the ill-fated Ampex label. Produced by Todd Rundgren, it was too experimental for the mainstream, and it came and left the scene just as fast. Sylvia's "Trucker's Cafe," was a formulatic heartbreak tune, the waltz inspired "Flies in the Bottle," the upbeat "Love What You're Doing Child," and the gospel inspired "We Sail."

Their second album entitled IAN & SYLVIA in the spring of '71 was their first with new label Columbia. Each took turns churning out more country flavourings, but less as an actual harmonized duo. Sylvia's slow bluesy feel to "Midnight Barney" to Ian's tale-telling in "Lincoln Freed Me," to the remake of "Summer Wages" from the SO MUCH FOR DREAMING album and the cover of the folk standard "Needle of Death" didn't translate particularly well in sales, and stalled before making the top 50 on either side of the border. The first single was "Creators of Rain," and was followed by "More Often Than Not," which gassed out at the #22 spot in Canada.

Their last album together of original material came a year later with YOU WERE ON MY MIND. Sylvia's title track was a remake from an earlier album, and would be a comeback of sorts. Their last single together, it reached #4 on the Canadian chart. After moving back to Toronto, they began hosting a CTV variety show called "Nashville North" for two seasons, beginning in '74. The duo played their final public performance in 1975, and went through a relatively amicable divorce later that year.

1. More Often Than Not (David Wiffen) - 3:08
2. Creators Of Rain - 2:51
3. Summer Wages (Ian Tyson) - 3:28
4. Midnight - 4:16
5. Barney - 4:35
6. Some Kind Of Fool (Ian Tyson) - 2:41
7. Shark And The Cockroach - 2:41
8. Last Lonely Eagle (John Dawson) - 5:09
9. Lincoln Freed Me (David Paton) - 2:54
10.Needle Of Death (Bert Jansch) - 3:51
11.Everybody Has To Say Goodbye (Sylvia Tyson) - 2:28
12.Give It To The World (Ian Tyson) - 2:59
13.Jordan Station - 5:28
14.Long Beach - 2:52
15.Love Is Strange (Mickey Baker, Ethel Smith, Ian Tyson, Sylvia Tyson) - 2:51
All songs by Ian Tyson, Sylvia Tyson except where stated

*Ian Tyson - Vocals, Guitar
*Sylvia Tyson - Vocals, Piano
*Ken Asher - Harpsichord, Organ
*David Briggs - Piano
*Kenny Buttrey - Drums
*Lloyd Green - Guitar
*Kirk Hamilton - Bass, Vibraphone
*Buddy Harman - Drums
*Ernie Hayes - Organ, Piano
*John Hill - String Arrangements
Herb Lovelle - Drums
*Charlie McCoy - Harmonica
*Weldon Myrick - Guitar
*Norbert Putnam - Bass
*Joe Renzetti - Guitar
*Stuart Scharf - Guitar
*David Wilcox - Guitar, Mandolin

1967-68  Ian And Sylvia - Lovin' Sound / Full Circle
Related Act
1970 Great Speckled Bird - Great Speckled Bird (2007 japan bonus track remaster) 

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Monday, June 5, 2017

William R. Strickland - Is Only The Name (1969 us, prominent introspective experimental folk rock, 2009 remaster)

One of the most unusual signings by the legendary Deram label, not least of all because he was American, poet/singer/songwriter William R. Strickland was paired with keyboardist/synthesizer player Philip Springer and placed under the direction of Buddy Kaye for one of the most the unique albums of the age, William R. Strickland Is Only the Name.

Well will listeners of a certain age recall their first exposure to it, courtesy of the label's budget-priced compilation Wowie Zowie: The World of Progressive Music. Skittering electronics pinged and pongs across "Computer Lover," a sci-fi romance that absolutely predicted later electronic music (not least of all great swathes of ELP's "Karn Evil 9 Third Impression"). And then you ventured into the LP to discover a quite astonishing collision between beat-styled poetry and progressive rock, with Strickland's acoustic guitar playing off Springer's sympathetic and versatile backings. Hammond organ sweeps across "Romeo De La Route," sax jazzes up "You Know My Body," while pastoral flute ripples through "Touch." 

All the while, Strickland strums his guitar and riffs on the themes of life and love. "World War 3 1/2," however, is his piece de resistance. Imagine Arlo Guthrie eagerly joining the army instead of successfully dodging the draft, and going off to boot camp and then a futuristic war. It's a witheringly sardonic look at the military mentality that leaves the rest of the songs lyrically in the shade. It's an adventurous and bold album, that has remained little more than a collector's item in the years since its release. But it was certainly worthy of resurrection and reissue. 
by Dave Thompson

1. You Can Know My Body (But You'll Never Know My Soul) - 4:15
2. Computer Lover - 4:47
3. Romeo De La Route - 3:55
4. Touch - 6:41
5. If I Stand Here Much Longer - 7:18
6. Oops That's Me!!! - 2:14
7. World War 3½ - 11:20
All compositions by William R. Strickland 

*William R. Strickland - Vocals, Guitar
*Gershon Kingsley - Synthesizer Arrangements
*Phillip Springer - Synthesizer Arrangements

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