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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.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tony Joe White - ...Continued (1969 us, stunning swamp roots rock, 2012 japan remaster)

In a world of neurotic hygiene—of self-cleaning chopping boards, plastic-sealed furniture and such—it's little wonder Louisiana's "Swamp Fox" Tony Joe White never made it big. There's something just too funky (in the old-fashioned sense of the word), too rough and ready about his brand of blue-eyed soul for him to have been a household name. (Check the pic below if you need further convincing.)

White's ruggedness hasn't stopped the songs themselves from becoming massive though. Elvis's hit "Polk Salad Annie"? That's a TJW track. "Rainy Night in Georgia," as sung by Ray Charles and Randy Crawford? TJW again. Hell, even Tina Turner's "Steamy Windows" is a TJW song (he produced her entire Foreign Affair album). And you can find the best of White's songwriting on his musky, 1969 sophomore album, ...Continued.

White sings about what he knows about: the things he grew up with. So besides the heartbreak of "Rainy Night" and the outrageous sexiness of "Woodpecker," there are tales of rednecks out poaching chickens and eating bullfrogs ("frawgs"), all sung in his smoky, Southern baritone.

The musicianship is a treat in itself. White is backed up by players from the legendary Muscle Shoals studios, so there's no shortage of Hammond riffs, groovesome wah-wahs, deliciously lazy drumming and horns. And thankfully, Continued was released in its raw state; between songs, there's the sound of buttons being pressed, little half-conversations between White and the studio engineers, and plenty of giggling and grunting. Great album!
by Sophie Harris

Tony Joe White passed away on Wednesday, October 24th 2018, in Nashville. He was 75.

1. Elements And Things - 5:15
2. Roosevelt And Ira Lee (Night Of The Mossacin) - 3:06
3. Woodpecker - 2:47
4. Rainy Night In Georgia - 3:42
5. For Le Ann - 3:24
6. Old Man Willis - 3:16
7. Woman With Soul - 3:20
8. I Want You - 5:22
9. I Thought I Knew You Well - 4:16
10.The Migrant - 3:32
11.Watching The Trains Go By (Dewey Oldham, Wallace Pennington) - 3:07
12.Old Man Willis - 3:06
All compositions by Tony Joe White except track 11

*Tony Joe White – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
*Tommy McClure – Bass
*Sammy Creason – Drums
*James Milhart – Drums
*Mike Utley – Organ

1970  Tony Joe White - Tony Joe (2013 Japan remaster) 
1969-2004  Tony Joe White - Collected (2012 three discs release)

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Tangerine Peel - Soft Delights (1970 uk, power pop glam rock, 2015 reissue)

Tangerine Peel was best known during the second half of the 1960s as a five-man psychedelic band, specializing in a slightly light but pleasant brand of the music. Their principal claim to fame was the presence of future songwriter/producer Mike Chapman in their ranks during the late '60s, when they cut records such as their version of the Bee Gees' "Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You," cut for British United Artists in 1967. Subsequent singles included "Solid Gold Mountain" and "Talking to No One" for British CBS, and "Never Say Never Again" and "Play Me a Sad Song and I'll Dance" for British MGM. Chapman left before the group recorded its one and only LP, Soft Delights, in 1970. By that time, the group had abandoned its psychedelic influences in favor of a more conventional pop/rock sound. 
by Bruce Eder

1. Cindy Lou - 3:18
2. Soft Delights - 3:15
3. Goodnight To The Nights - 6:43
4. Long Long Ride (James Gaynor) - 3:31
5. What Am I To Do - 4:04
6. Talkin' 'Bout A New Day - 3:57
7. Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie - 4:34
8. To Judi - 3:34
9. Leave Me Now - 2:58
10.Moment I Recall (Terry Tootill, Mike Chapman) - 2:46
All songs by Mike Chapman except where indicated.

The Tangerine Peel
*James Gaynor - Guitar
*Terry Tootill - Keyboards
*John Warwick - Drums
*Ian Stalker - Vocals
*Alan Ross - Lead Guitar
*Mike Chapman - Vocals

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Joanne Vent - The Black And White Of It Is Blues (1969 us, fascinating soul blues funky rock, 2015 japan SHM remaster)

Produced by Larry Marks, 1969's "The Black and White of it is Blues" sounded like A&M was trying to position her as a Joplin-esque blues singer.  That wasn't necessary a bad thing.  Judging by tunes like 'Love Come Down' and '' Vent had the chops to easily rival Joplin, or any other roof her other blues diva rivals.  Add to that, judging by the promo photo I stumbled across, she was one attractive young lady ...   Interestingly, at least to my ears, Vent was even more impressive on soul numbers like 'Ninety Nine and a Half', 'Weak Spot', and 'It's a Man's World'. 

With a bit of Etta James in her delivery, Vent sounded quite good on her cover of Billie Holiday's 'God Bless the Child'. "Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad" is one of the better Newman covers with Vent using a range lower than normal. Vent turned in one of the exception on the Joplin-esque 'Love Come Down'.  The woman did have one amazing voice. The way she took on the refrain on" Ninety Nine and a Half" was simply mesmerizing.   One of the album's best performances. Vent's version of 'It's a Man's World' was quite good, showcasing what a powerful, but controlled singer she was.  Easily to imagine Joplin singing this with a shrill, out-of-control swagger.   Not Vent.  She was crisp, cool, and dazzling. 

Her cover of 'Weak Spot' was quite a bit different than the rest of the album - dropping the blues-rock moves for a surprisingly accomplished soul sound.   Every time I hear this one I have to admit I'm surprised at what a good 'soul' voice the lady had. In spite of an appearance on the Johnny Carson Show, the album disappeared almost instantly, leaving Vent to return to sessions work. Joanne Vent sadly passed away in 1998.

1. God Bless The Child (Billie Holiday, Arthur Herzog Jr.) - 4:46
2. Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad (Randy Newman) - 2:25
3. Love Come Down (Jeanne Darling) - 3:27
4. You Can`t Change (Michael McCormick) - 2:09
5. Ninety Nine And A Half (Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett) - 2:56
6. It`s A Man`s World (James Brown) - 4:32
7. Weak Spot (Dave Porter, Isaac Hayes) - 2:51
8. I Love You More Than You`ll Ever Know (Al Kooper) - 4:00
9. Stormy Monday (T Bone Walker) - 7:15
10.Can`t Turn You Loose (Otis Redding) - 2:23
11.Gloomy Sunday (Sam M. Lewis, Rezco Seress) - 4:15

*Joanne Vent - Vocals
*Richard Crooks - Percussion
*Dave Johnson - Bass

Related Act
1972  White Cloud - White Cloud (2018 korean remaster)

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

White Cloud - White Cloud (1972 us, splendind country folk funky blues rock, 2018 korean remaster)

Although energy and effort to please, are not the only requirements of quality in a group of musicians, they certainly make the package more pleasurable. White Cloud seven people from different parts of USA, uses this energy to put together an act that varies from a country blues tune like “Hoe Bus” to a soulful number “Qualified” to some decidedly Joplinesque efforts by their lead female Joanne Vent.

Kenny Kosek fiddle some nice riffs and Don Payne is consistent on bass, while Richard Crooks maintains a steady heavy beat on the drums. Charlie Brown is the sun behind the cloud, definitely the shinning member of the group, emitting strong rays of good music from his electric guitar. White Cloud also backed John Hammond and Loudon Wainwright.
by Abigail Lewis

1. All Cried Out (Mann Curtis, Michel Deborah) - 3:39
2. Hound Dog (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 3:20
3. Hoe Bus (Thomas Jefferson Kaye) - 4:44
4. Is That Somebody You (Joanne Vent, Thomas Jefferson Kaye) - 3:07
5. Rocky Roads To Clear (Joanne Vent, Thomas Jefferson Kaye) - 2:49
6. Qualified (Mack Rebenack, Jesse Hill) - 3:55
7. Colleection Box (Joanne Vent, Thomas Jefferson Kaye) - 4:03
8. Funky Bottom Congregation (Thomas Jefferson Kaye) - 4:24
9. Thanks For Nothin' (Thomas Jefferson Kaye) - 3:56
10.The Sun Don't Shine The Same (I. Vent, Joanne Vent, Thomas Jefferson Kaye) - 2:54

The White Cloud
*Charlie Brown - Guitar
*Richard Crooks - Percussion
*Thomas Jefferson Kaye - Guitar, Vocals
*Kenny Kosek - Violin, Vocals
*Don Payne - Bass
*Joanne Vent - Vocals
*Eric Weissberg - Banjo, Steel Guitar
*Teddy Wender - Keyboards, Vocals

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

Shawn Phillips - At The BBC (1971-74 us, impressive prog jazzy folk, 2009 release)

It’s something of a cliché to say it but unbelievably Shawn Phillips remains on the periphery of mainstream rock, despite selling hundreds of thousands of albums and singles since he first came on to the scene in the 1960s. Once famously described by the late rock impresario Bill Graham as ‘the best kept secret in the music business’, Shawn has collaborated with the good and great, – from Stevie Winwood and Eric Clapton, to Donovan and Bernie Taupin – was cast to play the lead in the original production of Jesus Christ Superstar (he had to pull out due to his other music commitments) , written soundtracks for and starred in movie,s and yet he’s as far as ever from being a household name.

Born in Fort Worth , Texas 3 February 1943 , Shawn was smitten by pop music from an early age. ‘My father gave me a Stella guitar when I was six, and it started there’, he recalls. ‘ Texas blues and rock’n’roll on the radio – ‘Rockin’ Robin’ for one, and the Everly Brothers and such’ . In 1959 he left Texas – ‘because the police wanted me for my automobile. It was fast’ – and he ended up in the US Navy for the next three years until he was discharged. ‘Honorable discharge’, he now quips, ‘it was due to medical reasons. I had too much cartilage in my knees (it’s called Osgoodschlatter’s Disease. A lot of young sports people get it).. I later had it corrected’.

As fate would have it, he ended up in Southern California where he befriended singer/guitarist Tim Hardin – ‘I met Tim in LA around 1962’, he recounts, ‘after we had known each other for several weeks, he suggested we go to New York ’. The folk revival was in full swing and Greenwich Village was awash with a wave of new talent – they were soon rubbing shoulders with the likes of Fred Neil, Ritchie Havens and a young Bob Dylan. As he later joked, ‘I played every class A club that exists in the United States from the ‘Hungry I’ on down to the other end. The best gig I ever had was the Café Au-Go-Go when it opened, with Lenny Bruce’.

But there was obviously a bit of the Woody Guthrie in Shawn – he’s always been a travelling man. Whilst in Toronto he met the classical Indian musician Ravi Shankar and ‘he set me off with the desire to play sitar. I left the States to go to India to study the instrument. I got waylaid in London by Denis Preston, who heard me sing at a party and asked me if I wanted to make a record. I told him sure as long as there’s no time clause to the contract. Never got to India but I learned to play the instrument anyway’.

It was in London in Ivor Moraint’s famous Music Store that Shawn met Donovan Leitch, who was just enjoying his first taste of fame and they shared a fruitful if brief relationship, with Shawn touring America with the young guitarist – they even played the Pete Seger TV show, where Shawn was interviewed by the great ex-Weavers singer about the sitar and mentor Ravi Shankar. But the relationship with Donovan was rather one-way and in 1971 Shawn would observe, ‘we wrote a lot of things together and there wasn’t over much said about my part. The only thing I ever got credit for was ‘Little Tin Soldier’ on the Fairy Tale album. We co-wrote ‘Season of the Witch’. We were sitting there on the floor and I was playing my guitar and Don started making up words to what I was playing. And I made up that funny little riff that you hear on the original ‘Season of the Witch’. The Sunshine Superman – I co-wrote most of the stuff on that’.

However, Shawn’s stay in the UK was cut short by the Home Office – ‘the English government said my work permit had expired and I must leave England for three months’ – a short bout in jail in Dublin and a stay in Paris followed, before Shawn found a new base in Italy. ‘My friend Casy Deiss told me to go to Positano and return after three months was up. I didn’t’. This little Mediterranean fishing village was to be Phillips’s home for the next 13 years, and its friendly, gentle atmosphere would provide him with the perfect environment to write and develop as a musician.

He’d already recorded a number of singles and albums for various EMI imprints, but in 1968 he signed to A&M and embarked on a project which should have cemented his reputation as not only a gifted composer, a fine singer, highly innovative guitarist and multi-instrumentali st, but also as a musician willing to take chances. It should have catapulted him into the big time. Recorded at Trident Studios in London with producer Jonathan Weston, Shawn began his most ambitious work to date, Trilogy. Unfortunately as he later opined, it ‘took me four and a half years to make and it took them [A&M] about two weeks to take apart’. All that music that he’d been soaking up since his first got into the business five years before poured out in an amazing splurge of creativity and originality – written against that sweeping psychedelic backdrop of the late 60s, it combined elements of jazz, rock, folk, blues, gospel, classical and his love of Indian music to stunning effect. It should have been his masterwork – his Solid Air or Sgt Pepper!

It was a tragedy that the work was never released as it was intended. As Shawn recounted to Goldmine in 2006: ‘the Trilogy was actually made and presented to A&M Records with the stipulation that each album would be released separately so that people would not have to buy all three at once. Everyone at A&M said yes to this project except one man, an executive at A&M. He considered it was unrealistic and looked at it solely from a financial standpoint, never even considering the artistic endeavour involved. He was the comptroller at the time. He made me take the Trilogy apart and put eight of the songs on to one album, which became Contribution. The rest, with the exception of one or two songs, went on to Second Contribution. This man was one of the forerunners for the desolate miasma the music business is today’.One can only ponder on what might have been had the original concept prevailed.

Even so these two records, which eventually emerged in 1970, are not without their pleasures – the first LP featured some great Phillips songs and also superlative playing not just from Shawn but from old ‘Slow Hand’ himself on ‘Man Hole Covered Wagon’, and Messrs Winwood, Capaldi and Wood (Traffic) on ‘For RFK, JFK and MLK’. ‘Every single song was recorded in less than three takes and the master vocals were not overdubbed later but were done in the same moment’, says Shawn. Second Contribution was more experimental and abstract with fabulous orchestrations from Paul Buckmaster.

Despite these major frustrations with his record label, Shawn came to record his first Peel session on something of a roll. Although never well marketed, Contribution was described by Rolling Stone magazine as ‘one of 1970’s better efforts’. On Saturday afternoon 29th August he’d played unbilled to an audience of some 500,000 people at the third Isle of Wight Pop Festival. The previous December he had also released a well-received Yuletide 45, ‘A Christmas Song’. Indeed, side by side with the broadcast of his first BBC session, Rolling Stone had also just given him a highly positive centre spread, written by noted critic Chet Flippo. The timing could not have been better.

Phillips’s staunchest fans already know what a treat these Beeb recordings are, but with 38 years of hindsight it strikes this scribe somewhat odd that in the realms of ‘legendary sessions’ done by ‘Auntie’, this is never mentioned in despatches. To these ears at least, it’s up there with the likes of Tim Buckley’s legendary 68 recordings for the corporation. Kicking off with ‘Hey Miss Lonely’ which he would later re-do in 1972 in LA with highly regarded session men Lee Sklar and Sneeky Pete Kleinow as part of the sessions for Faces, this gets us off to a cracking start. Shawn’s memories of this session are at best sketchy but he wryly adds, ‘Fuck me! Did I do that? OK, the acoustic tunes are what they are, and I notice I flat picked ‘Hey Miss Lonely’, I finger pick it now, and can’t remember when I started doing that’. The version on Faces is a gentler take with a country lilt rounded out by Sklar’s lovely bubbling bass and Pete’s sweet steel. The Radio 1 recording here maybe a rawer snapshot but both versions work equally well.

In contrast ‘Spring Wind’ is a reading take of the 9 ½ minute full-blown electric epic found on 1971’s Collaboration – an introspective, brooding piece which features some incredibly dexterous picking from the man and the lower range of his wonderfully elastic voice. ‘Salty Tears’ is a bluesy number, with superb harmonising between his guitar lines and voice – Shawn could flick from a low rumble to a soaring falsetto in the blink of an eye – this is a performance of one of the more obscure songs in his catalogue that only ever saw the light of day as the flipside of the 1974 single ‘All the Kings and Castles’– and it’s the only number on the session to use an electric guitar and the way he wields his Fender Telecaster is just jaw-droppingly brilliant!

For most musicians a performance like that would be hard to top but the last two numbers from March 1971 are just as potent, and both taken from the aforementioned Contribution LP. Shawn’s driving12-string playing is given full flight on ‘Withered Roses’. The song starts with a stunning raga-like sequence – shades of the great Fred Neal and David Crosby here – before a full onslaught of super-fast picking. In 2008 Shawn observes, ‘I have a conundrum. I’ve been thinking about playing ‘Withered Roses’ again in concert, but instead of an acoustic 12-string, I would use an electric 12-string. Peter Robinson has my original Gibson 12 string at his home in LA. He sampled it for use on his New England Digital Synclavier. I would rather it be in safe place, as it is the second 12 string Gibson made, after the prototype. Barney Kessel got the first one. We played a session together once, and he played mine, and I played his, and he offered to trade mine for his, with $500 on top of that. I said, “Don’t think so. Thanks anyway”’.

‘L. Ballad’ is just gorgeous, one of his best – a song brimming with mystery and imagination that has undergone various transformations. Here somewhat reminiscent of the best work by the Tims (Hardin, Rose and Buckley), it was later re-done for Faces where Shawn was backed up by Skaila Kanga on harp and the 85-piece David Katz Orchestra with a haunting, majestic arrangement courtesy of Paul Buckmaster. Even so, this unadorned solo version is hard to fault, it’s the real jewel in the crown of this first BBC set.

By the time he came to do the next BBC session for Bob Harris in March 1973, Shawn was regularly working with a backing band which featured

drummer Barry de Souza, guitarist Tony Walmsley and keyboard player Peter Robinson. As Peter recalls, ‘I met Shawn in the autumn of 1971.. My long standing friend and fellow Royal Academy of Music alumnus, Paul Buckmaster, had met Shawn during the recording of Contribution and took me over to see him at his flat located in one of London ’s famously secluded squares. We instantly hit it off and we all talked endlessly until the wee hours. It was during these dialogues that Shawn asked me to play keyboards on his next album. We took the songs from Contribution, Second Contribution and Collaboration on the road and I played with Shawn for the next five years in concert. On the Bob Harris Show we had no bass player at that time and so I played all the bass parts on Fender Rhodes bass keyboard. The only other group I knew about that utilised this instrument was the Doors’.

First up is ‘Spaceman’, done for the Collaboration album, a number says Shawn ‘prompted by my getting hit on, on the street, by various sundry Jesus freaks, whom I would invariably leave standing speechless, because I would remind them of the origins of the bible, and the myriad cultures that actually contributed to its writing, much of which was long before Jesus. For someone who loves Jesus so much, they weren’t real happy with the truth. Also contributing to it was a blonde lady (now long forgotten), that piqued my fancy’. ‘Not Quite Nonsense’ was another song from the Contribution record – something of a humorous break-neck tongue-twister – ‘”will the lady in the rear please be kind enough to take her lovely hat off”’, was actually the line that set the writing of the song off’, he says, ‘I like the ending as well, “and we’ll call a stop to all that’s not harmonic”. There wasn’t anything left to say. Dead stop’.

There is a pair of aces from the Faces record: ‘Anello’ has a Donovan flavour particularly in the vocal phrasing, not surprising given their earlier friendship, whilst ‘I Took A Walk’ shows the more political side of Phillips’ song writing. Talking now of the versions recorded for Bob Harris, Shawn says: ‘OK, what you have to remember is that in the studio when you’re trying to make an album, you have time to create several different moments, whereas in the radio studio you’ve got to get it right the first time. Each situation is different’. The take of ‘Took A Walk’ is certainly faster and snappier, with Robinson’ electric keyboards adding a funkier edge compared to the one on the record.

The final contribution to this session is another gem – ‘Dream Queen’, later recorded for 1974’s Bright White album, is pretty much another solo performance – Phillips adds, ‘I think the guitar I was playing was a Fender 6-string bass. I had turned the bridge around, so I could put guitar strings on it’.

When Phillips came to do his second Peel show in October 1974 former Big Three bassist Johnny Gustafson had replaced Tony Walmsley. Gustafson had already played with Shawn on ‘Spaceman’ and had been in the prog-rock organ-led power trio with Peter Robinson, Quatermass, and they’d co-headlined concerts together so this was a grand reunion. The funk elements that had been peeping through on the Harris recordings were now given full reign. Phillips’s music was now following a heavy jazz-funk direction. Peter Robinson recalls, ‘we recorded an album called Furthermore which made several musical turns to funk and extended improvisations. We were asked to record again for the Beeb in 1974, for John Peel. What a gentleman! He treated us so well and, I think, it made us play better! Thank you John!’ The final tracks on this Hux release are all based on tracks recorded for that LP. Talking about this change of style, Phillips now observes, ‘Truthfully, I have to pass the buck on to Pete (Robinson) and Paul (Buckmaster) . They opened my mind to soooo much music – Stockhausen, Miles, Penderecki, composers who made music that made you run out of the fucking room!’

About that final Peel session, he adds: ‘I have to say that I think they were amazing moments. Dude, Miles would be proud. The jam on ‘See you/Planscape’ is wonderful. ’92 years’ is funk personified, and ‘Talking in the Garden/Furthermore’ just flat out smokes. I can’t believe the tempo on ‘January 1st’. Great energy by everyone involved’. Gustafson adds: ‘It’s difficult to say how the music evolved, but Shawn was always open to ideas as long as it didn’t interfere with his original concept. For instance, when we rehearsed ‘January 1st’ in Los Angeles, there wasn’t an arrangement as such so after a few attempts I tried something quite fast that I thought might fit in with Barry’s drum pattern. It was just a repeated bass riff spread over an A flat minor 7th scale. It seemed to work after it was played more staccato’. Peter Robinson, who played B3 Hammond Organ, Moog and ARP synthesizers, Fender Rhodes piano, clavinets ‘and the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure’ says, ‘Everything was done in one take! At the end of the song ‘Planscape’, one can distinguish a somewhat truncated version of a tune that Paul Buckmaster wrote for Miles Davis titled ‘ Ife ’. I think secretly Paul’s a little pissed off that Miles never credited him with the composition so here it is, quoted as if to quietly cock a snoot!’

Going by these recordings, live gigs at the time must have been extraordinary – there’s an incredible electricity to them that had not been over evident in his earlier work. Shawn’s fixation with this type of music would see him go on to work with various ex-Herbie Hancock Headhunters sidemen, on records like Rumplestiltskin’s Resolve, whilst the spaced out jazz-funk jams would reach their zenith on 1977’s Spaced and the 16-minute ‘Came To say Goodbye’.

Sadly he has as yet never returned to the portals of Broadcasting House, but he has gone on to enjoy a long career as a musician and continues making interesting records and playing gigs to this day. He’s currently living in Port Elizabeth , South Africa , where in between writing and touring, he works as an emergency medical technician and fire fighter. He remains outspoken too – when I spoke to him about the BBC sessions, he finished with a typically forthright burst of Phillips insight – ‘now I got a question for you. Why don’t we hear music like this today? Where are the artists and musicians that create at that level? Seems everybody wants to play rock, blues or pop. For me today rock is standard chords with amps at 11, and no substance, and pop is oversimplified, and panders to the raging hormones of adolescent teenagers, and I don’t play blues, because I’m not black, and have no conception of the depths of despair those people suffered under such oppression, and never will. Any white guy that says they can identify with that is deluding themselves’.
by Nigel Cross, September 2008

1. Hey Miss Lonely - 3:27
2. Spring Wind - 5:06
3. Salty Tears - 3:55
4. Withered Roses - 5:34
5. L' Ballade - 5:38
6. Spaceman - 4:00
7. Not Quite Nonsense - 2:02
8. Anello - Where Are You - 2:32
9. I Took A Walk - 5:18
10.Dream Queen - 3:52
11.See You-Planscape - 8:06
12.92 Years - 3:02
13.Talking In The Garden-Furthermore - 5:30
14.January 1st - 2:58
All songs by Shawn Phillips

*Shawn Phillips - Guitars, Vocals
*Barry DeSouza Drums
*Jon Gustafson - Bass
*Peter Manning Robinson Keyboards
*Tony Walmsley Guitar

1970  Shawn Phillips - Contribution / Second Contribution (2009 remaster)
1971  Shawn Phillips - Collaboration
1969-72  Shawn Phillips - Faces (2014 remaster)
1974  Shawn Phillips - Furthermore (2014 issue)
1976  Shawn Phillips - Rumplestiltskin's Resolve (2013 remaster)
1977  Shawn Phillips - Spaced (2013 remaster)
1978  Shawn Phillips - Transcendence (2015 remaster)

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Clear Blue Sky - Clear Blue Sky (1970 uk, essential raw heavy rock, 2017 remaster)

As the '60s gave way to the '70s in Swinging London, the colossal success of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience was helping hard rock to become arguably the musical genre du jour, meaning there were literally hundreds of young British bands bent on following in their heavy footsteps, while testing the limits of those newly developed Marshall stacks. Needless to say, only a handful of those groups would go on to become household names (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, etc.), leaving dozens more to share in the remaining limelight (Uriah Heep, Budgie, Taste, Jethro Tull, etc.), and then hundreds more fighting over the leftover table scraps -- including the subject of this text, Clear Blue Sky.

Formed in the western London suburb of Acton by teenage school chums John Simms (guitar, vocals), Mark Sheather (bass), and Ken White (drums), the bandmembers tried on several different monikers (Jug Blues, Matuse, and simply X) while they tinkered with their Brit-blues foundation, gradually adding harder, psychedelic, and eventually progressive songwriting elements. Extensive touring across the U.K. and into Germany also helped them gel as a unit, and so the precocious trio was primed and ready to capitalize on the next big opportunity that came its way, taking first place in a talent contest at the legendary Marquee Club that resulted in an offer from Donovan manager Ashley Kozak to represent the group. And true to his power broker reputation, Kozak soon managed to secure a recording contract for the boys with adventurous EMI imprint Vertigo, which put the newly renamed Clear Blue Sky into Island Studios in the spring of 1970, right next door to none other than Led Zeppelin! 

Another early believer, vocalist Patrick Campbell-Lyons, formerly of the progressive rock band Nirvana (no, not that Nirvana), was hired to produce the three 18-year-olds, and by January 1971 the eponymous Clear Blue Sky LP arrived in record stores, adorned with one of the first Roger Dean cover designs (although, in Europe, it was titled Play It Loud and given different artwork). Unfortunately, the record's edgy mix of proto-metal, post-psych acid rock, and burgeoning prog rock -- though enthusiastically praised by collectors to this day -- ultimately failed to distinguish itself from the embarrassment of heavy rock riches that marked this period in time. And despite consistent touring over the next few years, Clear Blue Sky's career slowly lost momentum -- along with their Vertigo contract -- until the old friends finally decided to call it a day in 1975.
by Eduardo Rivadavia

1. Sweet Leaf - 8:02
2. The Rocket Ride - 6:24
3. I'm Comin' Home - 3:08
4. You Mistify - 7:49
5. Tool Of My Trade - 4:55
6. My Heaven - 5:01
7. Birdcatcher - 4:15
All compositions by John Simms

Clear Blue Sky
*John Simms - Guitar, Vocals
*Mark Sheather - Bass
*Ken White - Drums

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

Tony Kosinec - Processes (1969 canada, wonderful orhestrated silky jazzy folk psych, 2016 japan remaster)

Singer/songwriter Tony Kosinec began his long recording career in 1969 with the album Processes, and the single "Simple Emotion." Both were released under the Columbia Records label. More albums followed through the next two decades, with at least one album being reissued in the '90s. When the new millennium rolled around, Kosinec was still on the music scene, writing scores for television shows like Joan of Arc, a mini-series on CBS.

Raised in Toronto, Canada, Kosinec really began his professional musical career in the United States. In places like New York, he landed spots opening for popular acts at the time like Blood, Sweat & Tears. Those early gigs in the '60s gave Kosinec the chance to learn his craft, and to begin to build a fan base of his own. He had some success with his debut album, and with the sophomore, Bad Girl Songs, released in 1970. His third album, Consider the Heart, brought him his first big triumph with the hit single "All Things Come From God."

Although a number of recordings followed through the '70s and into the '80s, Kosinec also found other outlets for his creative energy, doing some acting now and then, and spending a lot of time writing jingles, even the theme song for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.

In 1998, Bad Girl Songs was re-released. A few of the tracks from the album are "I Use Her," "Come and Go," "The Sun Wants Me to Love You," "Dinner Time," "The World Still," and "Me and My Friends." A couple of years later, Kosinec began work on some new songs for an album, as well as pulling together some old songs for what he hoped to be a "best-of" collection.
by Charlotte Dillon

1. Down On Words - 3:11
2. Tyrant - 2:42
3. Mystic Fifties - 2:54
4. Silver Morning - 2:20
5. You Got Me Crazy - 2:23
6. Simple Emotion - 2:24
7. Processes - 4:11
8. Cleopatra (Mark Shekter, Tony Kosinec, Bob Diverse) - 2:32
9. Raymond Austin - 3:31
10.I Can't Sing - 2:29
11.Summer/Spring - 4:16
12.Feather Of A Boy - 2:14
All songs by Tony Kosinec except where stated

*Tony Kosinec - Guitar, Vocals
*Skip Prokop - Drums
*Harvey Brooks - Bass
*Ralph Cole - Guitar
*Paul Hoffert - Keyboards
*Patti LaBelle - Vocals
*The Bluebelles - Vocals

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Andy Roberts - Urban Cowboy (1973 uk, marvellous folk soft prog rock, 2012 remaster)

Born in Hatchend, London, in 1947, Andy’s dad was a devotee of Music Hall comedy and his mum an afficionado of classical music. Both involved Andy in their enthusiasms from a young age and consequently, from formative exposure to slapstick and symphony concerts, Andy took up the violin at nine (taking lessons for nine years) and simultaneously dived into the skiffle boom that was sweeping Britain in the late ‘50s – owning his first guitar circa 1959.

‘I got a music scholarship to a public school in Essex,’ he explained, in an extensive interview with Ptolomaic Terrascope in 1992. ‘When I went there there was already a band called Flash Sid Fanshawe & The Icebergs. This was in 1959. They’d got guitars which they’d made in the school workshops and played very simple stuff which I thought sounded fantastic. By the time I left the school there was half a dozen quite good bands there. You could plug in and just make as much racket as you wanted.’

Andy’s school band, foreshadowing his long involvement with the wacky and the surreal, was known to its friends as Monarch T. Bisk & The Cherry Pinwheel Shortcakes – or, at least, would have been ‘but nobody could remember it all’. The band went through several stages – from a Shadows sound to Chicago R&B – ‘but I never thought of doing it for a living’.

It was becoming embroiled in providing live music for a revue – written by a Shortcakes’ associate – at the 1965 Edinburgh Festival which led to the real beginnings of Andy’s path as a professional musician. The show ran for two weeks at the Traverse Theatre, and one of the acts following the play was Vivian Stanshall, who had recently formed the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, ‘doing mime, playing the tuba and generally camping around’. The theatre was also playing host to The Scaffold, a Liverpool comedy troupe comprising Roger McGough, John Gorman and Mike McGear (ne McCartney, Paul’s brother). Andy was really impressed with their show, and by a bunch of poets – including Adrian Henri – playing the venue during afternoons. Many strands of Andy’s career over the next decade and beyond would be interwoven with all of the above, all focused on this one venue in August 1965.

Andy returned to London and accepted an offer to study law at Liverpool University, almost immediately bumping into Roger McGough at a bookshop as soon as he got there. The ‘jazz and poetry’ movement was at its peak, and Roger invited Andy to dive in: ‘February 1966 was the first time I did a thing with him and Adrian Henri, at the Bluecoat Theatre in Liverpool. It just took off from there. Within a couple of months I was doing poetry events at The Cavern and playing with a band at the University. There was loads going on.’

Soon, on the back of a 1967 poetry anthology entitled The Liverpool Scene, Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Andy, along with jazz saxophonist Mike Evans and songwriter/guitarist Mike Hart, were taking bookings as ‘The Liverpool Scene Poets’ Andy was also recording with McGough’s music/comedy outfit The Scaffold, on a series of singles which included their breakthrough hits ‘Thank U Very Much’ and ‘Lily The Pink’. Roger consequently had to drop out of the poetry gigs, leaving Andy to suggest to the charismatic Adrian Henri that all they needed was a bassist and drummer to become a bona fide band. Percy Jones and Bryan Dodson (later replaced by Pete Clarke) filled those roles respectively and The Liverpool Scene was born.

An album for CBS had already been recorded, prior to the band’s formation, called The Incredible New Liverpool Scene – basically Andy accompanying Adrian Henri and Roger McGough, recorded over a couple of hours in Denmark Street, London. BBC Radio’s champion of ’the underground’ John Peel took a shine to it and regularly booked the now fully-fledged band (or, as a duo, Roberts & Henri) for his show and for his own live engagements. He also nominally produced their first full-band album, Amazing Adventures Of… (RCA, 1968), in a recording deal secured by their new manager Sandy Roberton – a key figure in the careers of many now legendary acts at the progressive ends of folk and rock music of the time.

In 1968 Andy graduated in Law – having somehow found a way through a degree course in between singles with The Scaffold, concerts with the Scene and helping out on the Scaffold spin-off LP McGough & McGear, the other guitarist being Jimi Hendrix and the producer Paul McCartney. ‘I wasn’t professional at the time,’ says Andy, ‘but I was doing jobs that many professionals would have envied. I’d get calls to do a bit of recording in London, and I’d stay at Paul McCartney’s house – walk up and ring the doorbell and there’d be 85 girls hanging around outside. I didn’t even think twice about it. [But] 1968 was really when the working life started.’

The following year saw the Liverpool Scene at their peak – delivering their second album Bread On The Night, touring the UK on a three act bill with Led Zeppelin and Blodwyn Pig, playing to 150,000 at the Isle of Wight Festival (on the day of Bob Dylan’s much-heralded ‘comeback’ performance) and touring America for a gruelling, and revelatory three months. ‘Absolute disaster,’ is Andy’s verdict on the tour. ‘We suddenly came up against the utter reality of it. With a British audience, given this poetry and a band that were never rehearsed, we got away with it through being so different and [through] our verve and irreverence. None of which worked in America.’

The American experience would nevertheless inspire the band’s best work – the lengthy ‘Made In USA’ suite, one side of their last LP proper, St Adrian Co, Broadway And 3rd (1970) – and which would filter into Andy’s own work for the next few years. It also forced him to re-examine his own direction: ’[Before America] I was stupid enough to still think I could be Jimi Hendrix. I wanted to be a star. You do when you’re young – you don’t realise that everybody has their role, and that wasn’t mine.’ Andy still recalls some sage advice he received around this time from folk-baroque guitar hero Davy Graham : ’You only person you should be in competition with today is yourself yesterday’.

The first Andy Roberts album, Home Grown, was recorded in late 1969, and built upon the quirky solo tracks he had to date peppered among the jazz/poetry workouts on Liverpool Scene albums and radio sessions. ‘The Raven’, featured on 1968’s Bread On The Night and heard here in a superior unreleased version from 1969, was one such; ‘Home Grown’ itself was another. Those two tracks conveniently represent the poles of Andy’s writing: the profound and the purely comedic. Making these parameters sit well together on one piece of vinyl was the question which would quickly colour Andy’s own view of the album – or, at least, in its original form, as released by RCA (under a production deal with Sandy Roberton) in March 1970.

‘Infinitely listenable and beautifully arranged, with excellent guitar work from Andy. A lovely, peaceful album.’ That was Disc’s judgement on this mesmerising and atmospheric rough-hewn debut, on which Andy was backed on some tracks by the rhythm section from Mighty Baby (another of Sandy Roberton’s charges), with brass arrangements from future Jethro Tull man David Palmer.

An eclectic album, punctuated with brief bursts of violin and organ noodling, the key tracks included the ragtime/country flavoured comedic songs like ‘Home Grown’ and ‘Gig Song’, the impressionistically autobiographical ‘Moths And Lizards In Detroit’ (first of the ‘American’ songs) and ‘Queen Of The Moonlight World’ (inspired by a visit to London Zoo), and the altogether gothic ‘Applecross’, inspired by a weekend in a village of that name in north-west Scotland. The spooky vibe was continued on the traditional ‘John The Revelator’ and a funky cover of ‘Spider’ John Koerner’s ‘Creepy John’.

Andy performed several items from Home Grown on John Peel’s Top Gear radio show, plus the driving non-album track ‘You’re A Machine’, on which he was again backed by Mighty Baby. A previously unreleased rehearsal of the track, recorded shortly before the BBC session, is included here.

The Liverpool Scene finally split, onstage at a London gig, in May 1970. In Andy’s recollection (’Adrian attacking Mike Evans with a mike stand’) it had been building up for a while. Soon after, Andy crashed a motorcycle and was out of action for a couple of months, but recovered well enough by July to accompany Adrian – along with Dave Richards on bass, Alan Peters on trumpet and John Pearson on drums – to Norway for a couple of gigs booked as the Liverpool Scene. The trip would inspire Andy’s ‘Sitting On A Rock’.

Regrouping with Adrian had been Andy’s hope, but it wasn’t to be. Despite the Scene’s perceived success, as Andy explained to Record Mirror’, ‘nobody really made any more than about £20 a week. I was going to form a band with Adrian after the Scene split, but he backed out. You’ve got to remember, he’s 39 and £20 with the Scene wasn’t much.’

As Adrian went on towards becoming, in tandem with his poetry, a well-regarded visual artist and college lecturer, Andy pressed ahead with his new band – now titled Everyone. Retaining Richards and Pearson from the Norway trip, he added John Porter, on guitar, and took Porter’s recommendation to bring in Bob Sargent on keyboards which, he now says, ‘was probably the worst of several moves’.

Nevertheless, the picture that emerged from the band’s debut music press feature, in Disc, September 19, 1970, was one of a bunch of happy campers, ready to take on the world. Having played one gig – the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, no less – and on the cusp of their debut album, Andy declared, ‘We’ve reached the stage now where we’re over-rehearsed and under-performed.’ In retrospect, he prefers to sum up the period with a rejoinder worthy of Spinal Tap: ’Rented a house near Stonehenge; took lots of drugs; didn’t rehearse enough.’

The resulting album, Everyone, released in January 1971, while well-recorded was, in Andy’s view, ‘frankly, a bit of a mess – there was Bob’s stuff and my stuff and it didn’t really meet in the middle.’ The album included four songs fronted by Andy: another Koerner cover, ‘Midnight Shift’, and a beautiful trio of originals in ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ (a reflection on recent US student uprisings against the Vietnam war), ‘Sitting On A Rock’ and ‘Radio Lady’, the latter being another memoir of the Scene’s US tour. All three originals are included here, with ‘Radio Lady’ appearing in the form of a superior mix first released in October 1971 on an US Roberts compilation, on the Ampex label, confusingly called Home Grown (more of which below).

Whether Everyone could have found the common musical ground to continue is academic, for the band were effectively destroyed by a tragic accident involving their two road crew and a friend on the A33 in November 1970. The group’s van and gear were written off and Paul Scard, Andy‘s loyal roadie, lost his life. Andy saw out some contractual obligation gigs as a three-piece with Richards and Pearson but ‘come December 1970 that was it. I didn’t want to do anything.’ By the time the group’s first (and last) album appeared, on B&C, there was no wind in its sails.

Shortly after the crash, Andy and Dave Richards had rented a house for a month on the outskirts of Northampton. This brief period would yield the material that found its way onto Andy’s next solo album proper, Nina And The Dream Tree, a year later. As Andy explains, ‘We played a lot of Bezique, and played Neil Young and Grateful Dead records. I was visited by Polly James [actress in the popular TV sitcom The Liver Birds], with whom I was seriously involved, and who is the subject of the whole of the first side of Nina . Polly and I spent New Year’s eve at Tommy Steele’s house.’

Andy was back in London by January ‘71, living with his folks and wondering what to do, when he got a call out from Paul Samwell-Smith, ex-Yardbirds bassist and now a record producer. He was looking for a guitarist to work on a debut solo album by former Fairport Convention and Matthews’ Southern Comfort vocalist Iain Matthews – hot property after MSC’s September 1970 No.1 hit single with ‘Woodstock’. Andy and Iain hit it off together, and the new association with himself and Samwell-Smith ‘put me into seven months’ intense studio work Iain and Cat Stevens and so on. Then Sandy Roberton was saying I hadn’t done a solo album for a year and should do something…’

Work on the Iain Matthews album (If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes) spanned January to March 1971 (April to May ‘71 would see further studio work with Iain, which became his next album, Tigers Will Survive); during March he also worked on the Mike McGear LP Woman; and he was also, as a Melody Maker feature of March 27 put it, ‘experimenting on a solo album, using vocal backing from three West Indians (“but no flash guitar”)’. Those backing singers, who played a crucial part in the magical sound of Nina And The Dream Tree (recorded sporadically during the next few months and released on Pegasus in October 1971), were Mike London and Mac and Kathy Kissoon. Three pieces of Nina’s jigsaw had been debuted on a BBC session for Bob Harris earlier that month – ‘Keep My Children Warm, ‘I’ve Seen The Movie’ and ‘Welcome Home’ – although the listing of musicians involved, essentially a reunion of Everyone, as given in Ken Garner’s In Session Tonight (BBC Books, 1993) strikes Andy in retrospect as ’hugely unlikely’.

During the early summer of ‘71 Andy was certainly enjoying himself playing shows with a proto-GRIMMS outfit billed as the Bonzo Dog Freaks. If this was a blast of the future, Sandy Roberton had engineered a blast from the past: a new lease of life for Home Grown. Home Grown’s re-release provided an excuse for Andy to perform, supporting Procul Harum, at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, backed by Dave Richards and Mighty Baby’s Ian Whiteman and Roger Powell. It would be the stage debut of the Nina material, and led directly to Andy getting the support slot on a Steeleye Span UK tour later that year.

During July ‘71 Andy was able to tell Melody Maker’s Karl Dallas that: ‘For the first time I’ve got a coherent direction. Now I have personal statements I wish to make, though I don’t want to knock them in with a sledgehammer.’ Dallas was given a preview of the new recordings and was rightly impressed: ‘There is a great deal of warmth in his work,’ he wrote, ‘a fellowship for his kin which brims over… His singing voice has matured incredibly and his use of the electric guitar is haunting, reminiscent sometimes of Richard Thompson on top form…’

Andy was often telling the press that it was only during the McGear and Matthews sessions earlier in the year that he found his voice on the instrument, and the quality of his electric playing – a master of texture and atmosphere – was one of Nina’s revelations. Then again, spending August-September ‘71 on an Iain Matthews tour of the States as a trio with Richard Thompson himself can’t have done any harm. 

As before, Andy’s US tour experiences would be a rich seam for his song writing. Time spent with one Karen Goskowski at the Poison Apple in Boston would yield three songs, first heard on his country flavoured Urban Cowboy LP in 1973: ‘Poison Apple Lady’, ‘Urban Cowboy’ and ‘New Karenski’. The first of these is heard here in a demo version recorded in November 1971. "Urban Cowboy" was recorded piecemeal during sporadic 1972 sessions, yet emerges as a true gem of an album. Working with his Plainsong colleagues - Iain Matthews, Dave Ronga and Dave Richards - and guest musicians like Richard Thompson, BJ Cole, Martin Carthy, Neil Innes and Dick Parry, Andy Roberts explored a series of beautiful original songs and a powerful cover of Jim Hall's barroom classic, 'Elaine'.
by Colin Harper, April 2005

1. Charlie - 1:30
2. Big City Tension - 4:30
3. New Karenski - 4:09
4. Urban Cowboy - 3:44
5. Elaine (Jim Hall) - 4:35
6. Home At Last - 2:55
7. All Around My Grandmother's Floor (Mike Evans, Andy Roberts) - 3:14
8. Richmond - 4:53
9. Baby, Baby - 2:26
10.Poison Apple Lady - 4:16
All songs by Andy Roberts except where noted
Track #6 as The Grimms Band

*Andy Roberts - Dulcimer, Electric, Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
*Martin Carthy - Banjo
*B.J. Cole - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Gerry Conway - Tambourine
*Timi Donald - Drums
*Neil Innes - Electric  Guitar
*Mike Kellie - Drums
*Paul Kent - Vocals
*Iain Matthews - Vocals
*John Megginson - Piano
*Zoot Money - Vocals
*Gillian Noel - Vocals
*Dick Parry - Saxophone
*David Richards - Bass, Harmonium, Electric  Piano, Vocals
*Bob Ronga - Bass,  Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Richard Thompson - Electric Guitar
*Karene Wallace - Vocals

1969-76  Andy Roberts - Just For The Record The Solo Anthology (2005 two disc set)
Related Acts
1971  Everyone - Everyone (2011 extra tracks edition)
1972  Plainsong - Plainsong (2013 japan remaster)

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