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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Mckendree Spring - Get Me To The Country (1975 us, wonderful folk rock, 2017 korean remaster)

McKendree Spring is a progressive folk-rock band, active mainly in the early 1970s.The band consisted of Fran McKendree (vocals and guitar), their first bass player was Larry Tucker (shown in the picture) then Fred Holman took over bass, Dr. Michael Dreyfuss (electric violin, viola, Moog, Arp, Mellotron), Martin Slutsky (electric guitar).

A change of motivation, line-up and outlet (Pye Records) was needed; Hollman was also duly replaced by Chris Bishop and drummer Carson Michaels. This move came on the self-descriptive “Get Me To The Country” 1975, their best-selling set to date (reaching No.118) and a record that cloned the peaceful, easy feeling of the Eagles.

1. Hold On (Bob Livingston, Ray Wylie Hubbard) - 4:43
2. Easier Things Have Been Done (Fran McKendree) - 4:21
3. She'd Never Leave Chicago (Chris Bishop) - 3:13
4. Meeting In Paris (Fran McKendree) - 3:17
5. Give It Some Time (Chris Bishop) - 4:40
6. So Long Daddy O (Fran McKendree) - 3:23
7. I've Been On The Mountain (David Kent) - 3:16
8. Get Me To The Country (Chris Bishop, Michael Dreyfuss) - 3:33
9. The Hustler (Fran McKendree, Martin Slutsky, Michael Dreyfuss) - 3:26
10.Give All You've Got To Give (Bryn Haworth) - 5:37

The McKendree Spring
*Fran Mckendree - Vocals, Acoustic, Electric Guitars
*Chris Bishop - Bass, Vocals
*Dr. Michael Dreyfuss - Violin, Viola, Synthesizer
*Martin Slutsky - Electric Guitar
*Carson Michaels - Drums, Chinese Bells, Tree Gong, Vocals
*Howard Wyeth - Organ
*Valerie Rosa - Vocals

1969  McKendree Spring - McKendree Spring (2009 remaster and expanded) 
1970  McKendree Spring - Second Thoughts
1973  McKendree Spring - McKendree Spring 3 

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Wayne Berry - Home At Last (1974 us, excellent folk country soft rock, 2017 japan remaster)

Wayne Berry is a singer-songwriter from Nashville, TN who was mostly active in the 1960s and 1970s as a country/rock artist. Besides recording a handful of singles and one album as a solo artist, he was also a founding member of the folk rock band Timber, who released two albums in 1970 and 1971. After releasing his only solo album, 1974's "Home at Last", Berry, together with George S. Clinton—who was also a member of Timber and later became an award-winning film music composer—formed a band named the Volunteers, who recorded one eponymous album in 1976. Over the years, Berry's songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Glen Campbell, Tom Rush, Johnny Rivers, David Soul, and Steppenwolf. In the mid to late 1970s, Berry began writing religious music for different artists and retired from the popular music business. Today, Wayne Berry is a Worship Ministries Pastor at Springhouse Worship & Arts Center in Smyrna, TN.

1. All I Needed - 3:17
2. Another's Lifetime - 3:23
3. Indian Woman From Witchita - 3:22
4. Snowbound - 3:47
5. Welcome Home - 4:21
6. Dixie's Pride - 3:31
7. Black Magic Gun - 4:17
8. Ballad Of Jonah - 3:31
9. Gene's Tune - Blond Guitar - 4:14
10.Lovers' Moon - 4:18
All songs by Wayne Berry

*Wayne Berry - Vocals, 12 String, Acoustic Guitar
*Jesse Ed Davis - Guitars
*James Rolleston - Bass, Vocals
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Jeff Baxter - Guitar, Steel Guitar
*William Smith - Organ
*David Paich - Piano
*David Briggs - Piano
*Jimmy Johnson - Guitar
*David Hood - Bass
*Roger Hawkins - Drums, Percussion
*Peter Carr - Guitar
*Reggie Young - Guitar
*Barry Beckett - Organ, Piano
*Ben Cauley - Flugelhorn, Trumpet
*Ronald Eades - Sax
*Harvey Thompson - Sax
*Charles Rose - Trombone
*Harrison Calloway - Trumpet
*Joe Osborn - Bass
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Weldon Myrick - Steel Guitar
*William Smith - Organ
*David Paich - Piano
*Norbert Putnam - Bass
*Kenny Buttrey - Drums
*Billy Sanford - Acoustic Guitar
*Weldon Myrick - Dobro
*Johnny Gimble - Fiddle
*Charlie McCoy - Harp
*Jackson Browne - Background Vocals
*Jeanie Greene - Background Vocals
*Ginger Holladay - Background Vocals
*Mary Holladay - Background Vocals
*Ned Doheny - Background Vocals

Related Act
1970  Timber - Part Of What You Hear (vinyl edition) 
1971  Timber - Bring America Home (2009 extra tracks issue) 

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Monday, December 16, 2019

King Harvest - Dancing In The Moonlight (1972 us, elegant soft classic rock)

They scored only one real hit, but the magic of King Harvest's infectious invitation to go "Dancing In The Moonlight" has secured the song a regular rotation on many oldies stations. The members of King Harvest were all students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in the '60s when they began playing, partly to pay their way through college. David (Doc) Robinson, Eddie Tuleja, Ron Altbach and Rod Novak played all over the Northeast, developing a reputation that even helped them score a gig in the balmy Virgin Islands.

Things changed in 1969. Altbach went to Paris to study classical piano and the rest of the band drifted off to other pursuits. For three years the players performed film music and did what one member once called "bizarre stage shows". How bizarre? They were a vaudeville rock group called Nik. They played as the Chicago Beau Blues Band. They were even a country band for a time, working as E. Rodney Jones & The Prairie Dogs.

In 1972 the band cut "Dancing In The Moonlight" in Paris. Then they took another break. Two members cruised the Mediterranean on a tuna boat. A couple went to Switzerland. Meanwhile, tiny Perception Records in the States had secured the release rights to "Dancing" and promoted it into a hit. That inspired King Harvest to regroup and return to this country to tour, promoting the single and subsequent album, named after "Dancing In The Moonlight".

After one album for Perception and an unsuccessful follow-up to "Dancing In The Moonlight" called "A Little Bit Like Magic", the band dropped out of music for the most part, spending a little time touring, playing favorite places like Oleott, New York and fishing, racing sailboats on Lake Ontario and occasionally working on some new songs.

In 1975, King Harvest reappeared with those new songs. This time they were on A&M Records, doing an album called "King Harvest". Produced by music veteran Jeff Barry - who had written numerous hits and produced the likes of Andy Kim for his own Steed Records - the album was a pleasant mix of 70s pop styles. But even with the help of musical friends like Mike Love and Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys, Pete Cetera of Chicago and jazz ace Charles Lloyd, The group was unable to harvest any hits for A&M.
by Mark Marymont

1. Lady, Come On Home (Ronnie Altbach) - 2:45
2. Motor Job (Eddy Tuleja) - 2:47
3. Roosevelt And Ira Lee (Tony Joe White) - 5:32
4. Dancing In The Moonlight (Ronnie Altbach) - 2:40
5. She Keeps Me High (Eddy Tuleja) - 4:00
6. Think I Better Wait Till Tomorrow (Ronnie Altbach) - 3:00
7. The Smile On Her Face (Ronnie Altbach) - 2:55
8. You And I (Ennio Morricone, Ronnie Altbach) - 2:38
9. Marty And The Captain (Ronnie Altbach) - 2:17
10.I Can Tell (William Bell) - 4:45

King Harvest
*Ron Altbach - Keyboards
*Eddie Tuleja - Guitar
*Rod Novak - Bass, Saxophone
*Dave "Doc" Robinson - Keyboards, Bass, Lead Vocals

1975  King Harvest - King Harvest (Vinyl edition)

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Animals - Animalism (1966 uk, essential rhythm 'n' blues roots rock, 2014 remaster and expanded)

As with many of their 1960s contemporaries, the Animals were beholden to blues, gospel, and r&b;, even as they combined those rhythms with prevailing rock sounds. Like the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, they idolized Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley, among other black American performers, and the Animals even shared a stage with Sonny Boy Williamson. Singer Eric Burdon also had the voice to sell the sound: sandpaper-raw, effortlessly loud, and, like Mick Jagger, intimately lewd, as if every lyric contained some potential double entendre.

On their 1966 album Animalism, they indulge their white-soul jones more heavily than ever before, and the songs-- mostly covers-- volley between the derivative and the inventive. On Animalism, amid near-complete turnover of the original lineup, the Animals play up their r&b; chops on blues and soul covers, and Burdon continues to try to match his heroes by pushing his performance over the top. His voice is undeniably strong-- and this type of approach certainly had a particular appeal 40 years ago-- but his soulman affectations sound practiced, imitative rather than instinctual. 

Burdon oversells these songs, especially on Sam Cooke's "Shake" and the slow, simmering version of "Hit the Road, Jack", and his vocals on "Rock Me Baby" make the song's innuendo all too obvious. Strangely, on "The Other Side of Life" he takes a slightly different tack, aiming for a sound between Elvis and Jim Morrison, but he winds up sounding smaller than the former and smarter than the latter. It should be no surprise that his best performances-- also his most restrained-- are on the originals "Outcast" and "Louisiana Blues". Burdon's vocals sound more spontaneous and individual, perhaps because he doesn't have an example to mimic on these songs-- or maybe because modern listeners have no other examples against which to measure his performance.

Balancing out Burdon's vocals, the Animals prove a powerful band, despite the fact that nearly half of them were new replacements. They're rock solid, but unlike their singer, they rarely showboat. Together they put the real soul in these songs. Hilton Valentine lays down some bluesy riffs on "Smoke Stack Lightning", but he's best when trading off with organist Dave Rowberry on "Rock Me Baby" and "All Night Long", forming a rowdy call and response. It's the rhythm section, however, that shapes the songs and allows the band to move so agilely around Burdon. Bassist Chas Chandler and drummer Barry Jenkins (a sturdy replacement for original member John Steel) put the shake in "Shake", pushing a swampy beat to its breaking point, and Jenkins' high hat and snare drive the up-and-down stomp on "Lucille". This type of playing doesn't go out of style.
by Stephen M. Deusner

1. All Night Long (Frank Zappa) - 2:50
2. Shake (Sam Cooke) - 3:16
3. The Other Side Of This Life (Freddie Neil) - 3:31
4. Rock Me Baby (B.B. King, Joe Josea) - 5:26
5. Lucille (Albert Collins, Richard Penniman) - 2:21
6. Smokestack Lightning (Chester Burnett) - 5:13
7. Hey Gyp (Donovan Leitch) - 3:49
8. Hit The Road Jack (Percy Mayfield) - 3:20
9. Outcast (Ernie Johnson, Edgar Campbell) - 2:38
10.Louisiana Blues (McKinley Morganfield) - 2:42
11.That's All I Am To You (Otis Blackwell, Winfield Scott) - 2:12
12.Going Down Slow (James B. Oden) - 6:24
13.C.C. Rider (Ma Rainey, Lena Arant) - 3:56
14.A Love Like Yours (Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Edward Holland, Jr) - 3:00
15.Shake, Rattle And Roll (Charles E. Calhoun) - 3:06
16.Tobacco Road (John D. Loudermilk) - 4:20
17.Roadrunner (Ellas McDaniel) - 2:49
18.When I Was Young (Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, Danny McCulloch) - 3:03
19.A Love Like Yours (Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Edward Holland, Jr.) - 2:44
20.Connection (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) - 2:25
21.It's All Meat (Barrie Ernest Jenkins, Danny Mcculloch, Eric Victor Burdon, John Weider, Victor Briggs) - 2:09
22.San Franciscan Nights (Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, Danny McCulloch) - 3:03
23.All Night Long (Frank Zappa) - 2:40
Tracks 13-17 Live In Germany, Jan 1967
Tracks 18-20 BBC Sessions 30th Jan 1967
Tracks 21-23 BBC Sessions 15th Aug 1967

*Eric Burdon - Lead Vocals
*Chas Chandler - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Dave Rowberry - Organ, Piano
*Hilton Valentine - Guitar
*Barry Jenkins - Drums
*John Steel - Drums
*Frank Zappa - Guitar, Bass
*William Roberts - Harmonica
*Larry Knechtel- Organ
*Don Randi- Piano
*Carol Kaye- Guitar
*John Guerin- Drums
*Vic Briggs - Guitar, Piano
*Danny Mcculloch - Bass Guitar
*John Weider - Guitar, Violin

1964-67  The Animals - The Complete French EP (ten disc edition) 
1967  Eric Is Here
1967  Winds of Change (2013 Double SHM CD)
1968  The Twain Shall Meet (2013 Japan SHM)
1966-68  Roadrunners! Rare Live And Studio Recordings
1974-75  The Eric Burdon Band - Sun Secrets / Stop 

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Freeborne - Peak Impressions (1967/2010 us, psychedelic masterpiece, 2013 expanded, 2007 digipak remaster and collector's item Vinyl reissue)

The Freeborne were a youthful Boston-based psych outfit whose five members, despite their tender years, all had considerable experience of playing a wide range of styles in earlier combos. Adapting their name from the movie Born Free and discovering the freewheeling creative delights of LSD, they signed to Monitor in early ’67 and concocted a set of highly psychedelic originals which were laid down at A&R Studios in NYC. Peak Impressions sold only modestly, probably because of a dilatory campaign of live appearances to support it. 

After the lukewarm reception afforded it the original Freeborne folded, though later incarnations with fewer or no original members did tramp the second-division concert circuit for a few years afterwards. Inexplicably, given their obvious talent, only guitarist Bob Margolin seems to have had an appreciable later career, playing in Muddy Waters’s backing band through most of the 70s and subsequently with blues-based outfits under his own name. There’s precious little documentation on the band anywhere, but the excellent It’s Psychedelic Baby website features an informative career interview with Margolin which includes insights into the Freeborne.

I was expecting this one to be good, having read complimentary accounts of it in both Fuzz Acid And Flowers and The Acid Archives. I was even more impressed when it arrived and the CD remaster proved to have been archived by Smithsonian Folkways whose estimable moniker now adorns the Digipak. And this is indeed an impressive collection. It’s notable for the virtuosity of the musicians whose ages ranged from just 17 to 19 and yet three of whom were precociously-talented multi-instrumentalists: and we’re talking orchestral hardware here – pianos, harpsichords, cellos, trumpets, flutes and recorders – not just standard rock frontline. 

It’s also remarkable for the variety and creativity of the material; one reviewer commented that there seemed to be too many ideas to fit into a single album, and I can see his point. Youthful enthusiasm ensured that nothing was left out and nothing left understated, and most tracks move through bewildering sequences of keys, metres, instrumentation and vocal stylings that give their definitively psych outlines a distinctly progressive edge. This is one to listen to right through several times to get the whole effect.

The lyrics are mostly generic trippy psych nonsense, but the music is invigoratingly original. Leading off with a soulful piano riff, the opening “Images” offers Byrdsy harmonies, pulsating bass and rippling guitar scales before switching into a baroque piano and trumpet waltz. “Land Of Diana” prefigures 70s prog, starting as a jazzy 5/4 and shifting into a bluesy shuffle after distinctly proggy organ and guitar episodes. “Visions Of My Own” sets a homely acoustic guitar and trilling flute against what sounds like a chorus of PDQ Bach’s infamous Dill Piccolos before mutating without warning into a military snare-drum march. “Peak Impressions And Thoughts” is all Piper-era Floyd with swirling Farfisa, spiky Syd-style guitar, fluid bass and crashing cymbals building to a furious final crescendo. “Yellow Sky” is definitive Britsike with wah-ed guitars, churchy keyboards and lots of tempo changes. 

The most conventional track, “Hurtin’ Kind Of Woman”, is a soft blues shuffle with jazzy guitar and energetic Hammond work comparable with the best of Brian Auger. Despite the multifarious musical landscapes visited here, only on the last two tracks does the band outstretch itself, with the ridiculously sombre harpsichord and cello, sub-Beach Boys harmonies and cod-poetic spoken voice outro of “A New Song For Orestes” and the unnecessarily lengthy and self-indulgent cod-classical piano/trumpet cadenzas and duet of the closing “But I Must Return To Frenzy”.

1. Images (Nick Carstoiu, Mike Spiros) - 3:38
2. Land Of Diana (Mike Spiros, Nick Carstoiu) - 2:56
3. Visions Of My Own (M. Spiros, N. Carstoiu, B. Greenglass) - 4:10
4. Sadly Acknowledged (J.Babbitt, M. Spiros) - 1:27
5. Peak Impressions And Thoughts (Dave Codd, N. Carstoiu) - 6:56
6. Yellow Sky (J.Babbitt, M. Spiros, D. Codd, N. Carstoiu) - 2:23
7. Hurtin' Kind Of Woman (Bob Margolin) - 4:24
8. Inside People (Dave Codd) - 2:50
9. A New Song For Orestes (Dave Codd) - 3:37
10.But I Must Return To Frenzy (N. Carstoiu, M. Spiros) - 9:06
11.Images (Nick Carstoiu, Mike Spiros) - 3:40
12.Land Of Diana (Mike Spiros, Nick Carstoiu) - 3:15
13.Visions Of My Own (Mike Spiros, Nick Carstoiu, Barry Greenglass) - 4:08
14.Sadly Acknowledged (Extended Mix Without Sound Effects) (Joan Babbitt, Mike Spiros) -1:18
15.Yellow Sky (Joan Babbitt, Mike Spiros, Dave Codd, Nick Carstoiu) - 2:20
16.But I Must Return To Frenzy (Nick Carstoiu, Mike Spiros) - 8:49
17.This Is It (Dave Codd, Nick Carstoiu) - 4:22
18.Take A Lick (Dave Codd) - 3:12
19.Lew's Blues (Bob Margolin, Dave Codd, Nick Carstoiu) - 7:05
Bonus Tracks 11-19
Tracks 11-16 Alternate Mono Mixes
Tracks 17-19 Freeborne / Reborne 2010

*Lew Lipson - Drums, Percussion
*Nick Carstoiu - Guitar, Recorder, Cello, Piano, Vocals
*Bob Margolin - Lead Guitar
*Mike Spiros - Organ, Piano, Chimes, Trumpet, Percussion
*Dave Codd - Harpsichord, Percussion, Bass, Vocals
*Tom Halter - Trumpet (Tracks 17-18)
*Aaron Smith - Drums (Tracks 17-18)

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Blues Image - Open (1970 us, outstanding blues psych classic rock, 2004 remaster)

When Blues Image launched into their 1970 chart smash, "Ride Captain Ride," the smoking lamp was always lit. But, with their subtle use of Latin Rhythms -- featuring tantalizing fretboard work by Mike Pinera and the addictive conga drums of Joe Lala -- this Tampa, Fla. combo proved themselves anything but a one hit wonder on their out of nowhere classic, Open. This 2004 reissue adds historical liner notes with quotes from guitarist Mike Pinera and percussionist Joe Lala.

1. Love Is The Answer - 2:35
2. Running the Water - 2:37
3. Clean Love - 7:49
4. La Bamba (Traditional) - 2:26
5. Consuelate - 1:15
6. Ride Captain Ride - 3:46
7. Pay My Dues - 3:49
8. Fugue U - 0:50
9. Parchman Farm (Mose Allison) - 2:49
10.Wrath of Daisey - 1:31
11.Take Me - 7:35
All songs by Mike Pinera, Malcolm Jones, Joe Lala, Skip Konte, Manny Bertematti except where noted

Blues Image
*Mike Pinera - Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar
*Malcolm Jones - Bass
*Joe Lala - Percussion, Vocals
*Skip Konte - Keyboards
*Manny Bertematti - Drums
*Kent Henry - Guitar

1969  Blues Image - Blues Image / Red White and Blues Image 
Related Acts
1970  Iron Butterfly - Metamorphosis (2010 japan SHM)
1972  Ramatam - Ramatam (2004 edition) 
1974-75  Thee Image - Thee Image / Inside The Triange (2014 remaster edition) 

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Climax Blues Band - World Tour (1976 uk, superb funky blues rock, 2012 release)

Everyone seems to be getting in on the Climax Blues Band reissues these days, and now Major League Productions (MLP) are jumping on board with their re-release of the sizzling 1976 live album titled World Tour 1976. At the time the band had just released their strong selling Gold Plated album that contained the massive hit "Couldn't Get it Right" that really broke the band as rock superstars, showing the could do much more than play the blues. Colin Cooper (vocals, sax, rhythm guitar, harmonica), Peter Haycock (vocals, lead & slide guitar), Derek Holt (bass, vocals), John Cuffley (drums), and Richard Jones (keyboards) toured all over the world that year alongside bands such as ZZ Top, Aerosmith, Bad Company, Johnny Winter, BTO, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but with the success of Gold Plated headline tours of their own were in their immediate future. This album captures all the excitement of a CBB show in the mid/late '70s as their blues side was giving way to pop, funk, jazz, and high energy rock.

Most fans generally look to their FM Live album from 1972 as the bands definitive live statement, but World Tour 1976 is a very close second, and features some excellent performances. Recorded October 16, 1976 at Nottingham University, the band tear through some strong album tracks, a few lengthy medley's & jams, plus hits "Couldn't Get it Right", "All the Time in the World", "Seventh Son", and other surprises. Near 10 minute opener "Together and Free/Amerita/Sense of DIrection" allows the band to get into some fiery musical interplay, sounding not unlike The Allman Brothers Band or The Grateful Dead, complete with plenty of scorching Haycock guitar licks. Haycock's guitar & Cooper's sax are locked in on the funky blues of "Running Out of TIme/Good Time Blues", and at nearly 13-minutes long the band really stretches out and cooks. Heavy blues rock is all the rage with "Mighty Fire", another vehicle for Haycock's fiery lead guitar work, which leads into his slide solo spotlight "Country Hat". Other examples of their groove laden, funky blues rock include "Chasing Change" and "Using the Power", while "Goin' To New York" is a throwback to their early Chicago blues style. Also, look for a wild rendition of the Beatles "Get Back" which is played at the end of their hit "All the Time in the World".

There's no indication on whether MLP remastered World Tour 1976, but the CD sounds quite good and is presented in a small LP styled sleeve, with a booklet stacked with live photos and an essay each from Haycock & Holt. It's a great live set of a band just hitting their creative peak and delivering stirring concert performances. 
by Pete Pardo

1. Together And Free / Amerita / Sense Of Direction - 9:52
2. Running Out Of Time / Good Times Blues - 12:51
3. Mighty Fire - 4:57
4. Country Hat / Come In The Kitchen (Robert Johnson)/ Country Hat (Reprise) (George Newsome, Anton Farmer, Colin Cooper, Pete Haycock, Derek Holt) - 10:05
5. Seventh Son (Willie Dixon) - 6:13
6. Couldn't Get It Right - 3:20
7. Chasing Change - 4:51
8. Using The Power - 4:15
9. Goin' To New York (Jimmy Reed) - 7:18
10.All The Time In The World (Colin Cooper, Pete Haycock, Derek Holt, John Cuffley) / Get Back (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 5:09
11.Encore Medley: Drum Intro / Hey Mama (Colin Cooper, Pete Haycock, Derek Holt, George Newsome, Arthur Wood) / Let The Good Times Roll (Leonard Lee) / Who Killed Mcswiggin / Get Into That Rock 'n' Roll - 6:13
All songs by Colin Cooper, Pete Haycock, Derek Holt, John Cuffley, Richard Jones except where stated

The Climax Blues Band
*Colin Cooper - Vocals, Alto, Tenor Saxes, Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica
*Pete Haycock - Vocals, Lead Guitar. Slide Guitars
*Richard Jones - Keyboards
*Derek Holt - Vocals, Bass
*John Cuffley - Drums

The Climax Long Hard Road
1969  The Climax Chicago Blues Band (2013 remaster and expanded)
1969  The Climax Blues Band - Plays On (2013 remaster and expanded) 
1970  A Lot Of Bottle (2013 remaster and expanded)
1971  Tightly Knit (2013 remastered with bonus tracks)
1972  Climax Chicago - Rich Man (2013 bonus track remaster) 
1973  Climax Blues Band - FM Live (2013 remaster)
1973-79  Climax Blues Band - Live Rare And Raw (2014 Release)
1974  Climax Blues Band - Sense Of Direction (2013 remaster and expanded)
1975  Climax Blues Band - Stamp Album (2013 remaster with extra tracks) 
1976  Gold Plated (2013 bonus tracks remaster) 
1978  Climax Blues Band - Shine On (2012 remaster) 

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Mystic Number National Bank - Mystic Number National Bank (1969 us, awesome blues psych rock, 2013 remaster)

Formed in Kansas City. Specializing in hard-edged psychedelic blues and propelled by Sebbo's fine guitar work, their sole album was taped in New York and appeared in 1969, but promptly sank without trace, upon which Walters joined The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils.

1. Blues Jam (Russ Booth, Bob Sebbo, Glenn Walters, Dave Lorenz) - 2:23
2. Good Love (Bob Sebbo, Glenn Walters) - 2:41
3. It Will Break Your Heart (Bob Sebbo) - 2:47
4. AC/DC (Russ Booth, Bob Sebbo, Glenn Walters, Dave Lorenz, Dick Weissman) - 1:44
5. St. James Infirmary (Irving Harold Mills) - 7:55
6. Beautician Blues (B.B. King, Jules Taub) - 2:23
7. Umbrellas (Bob Sebbo, Glenn Walters) - 3:40
8. Ginger Man (Geoff Muldaur) - 2:58
9. Big Boy (Bob Sebbo) - 3:32
10.Blues So Bad (Russ Booth, Bob Sebbo, Glenn Walters, Dave Lorenz) - 3:38

Mystic Number National Bank
*Glenn Walters – Percussion, Vocals
*Bob Sebbo - Lead Guitar
*Dave Lorenz - Rhythm Guitar
*Russ Booth - Bass

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Dirk Hamilton - You Can Sing On The Left Or Bark On The Right (1976 us, spectacular folk rock with jazz and blues elements, 2013 japan SHM remaster)

Dirk Hamilton was born in Hobart, Indiana and raised in California. At 14 he played in a Chuck Berry/surf music band called The Regents. For a 45-rpm record they were about to make, bandleader Houston Box had written an instrumental called ‘Orangutan’ but needed a B-side so Dirk whipped out ‘Truck’ the night before the session. He says it was the first song he ever wrote and ‘it stunk’.

Dirk: “I began playing guitar and singing songs when I was 8 years old. I was writing stories and poems before that. I always thought of the two activities as completely different and separate -- writing was ‘serious’, playing and singing was ‘fun’. Then I discovered Dylan and learned that songs could be just as deep as the best poetry. It was an epiphany! At that moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

At 15, Dirk wrote two more songs for another 45, this one under his own name. Both records were on the IKON label in Sacramento. “These two were stinkers too but after what seemed like a real long time, I began writing good songs and realized I’d done it! I had enjoyed myself into a real songwriter poet!”

By the early 70’s, he was playing professionally in nightclubs in the San Joaquin and Central Valleys and in the San Francisco Bay Area. In ’74, he moved to LA where he eventually signed with ABC records thanks to Steely Dan producer Gary Katz who produced his first album, ‘You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right’. Dirk went on to record 3 more major label records, another one for ABC (‘Alias i’) and two for Elektra (‘Meet Me at the Crux’ and ‘Thug of Love’). He toured the country with his band for 5 years receiving good and rave reviews for his records and live performances but somehow never became a huge commercial success.

After moving to Los Angeles from Stockton, CA, Dirk Hamilton attracted the attention of Steely Dan producer Gary Katz, who in turn helped him sign a deal with ABC Records. The result, the Katz-produced You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right, is a quirky if occasionally misguided work, with moments of brilliance. Katz brought in a host of session pros, including Chuck Rainey, Elliott Randall, and Jeff Porcaro -- all of whom had previously worked with him on various Steely Dan projects -- to flesh out Hamilton's idiosyncratic, acoustic-based tunes. 

What makes You Can Sing truly worthwhile, and distinguishes it from the other singer/songwriter recordings bombarding the industry at the time, is masterful songwriting like the terrific "She Don't Squash Bugs," the detailed melancholy of "Wasn't That One Night Good," and the opening track, "The Sweet Forever." It would take Hamilton a couple of years to find the perfect setting for his songs but, nonetheless, his sharp wit, keen insight, and unique style are evident throughout You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right. 
by Brett Hartenbach

1. The Sweet Forever - 5:34
2. Waterfall - 3:23
3. Little Big-Time Man - 2:42
4. She Don't Squash Bugs - 3:18
5. I Got To Feelin' - 4:47
6. Sweet And Cold - 4:33
7. Wasn't That One Night Good - 3:45
8. Grow A Rose - 3:31
9. When She Kiss Ya' Like She Love - Ya' Know She Do - 4:49
10.Ridin' On A Whale - 2:41
All compositions by Dirk Hamilton

*Dirk Hamilton - Vocals, Guitar
*Chuck Rainey - Bass
*David Hungate - Bass
*Jeffrey Porcaro - Drums
*Dean Parks - Guitar
*Elliot Randall - Guitar
*Larry Carlton - Guitar
*Louie Shelton - Guitar
*David Paich - Keyboards
*Ron Fransen - Accordion
*Milt Holland - Percussion
*Victor Feldman - Percussion
*Chris Hillman - Background Vocals
*Jim Gilstrap - Background Vocals
*Sherlie Matthews - Background Vocals
*Tom Kelly - Background Vocals
*Venetta Fields - Background Vocals

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Dave Lewis - From Time To Time (1976 ireland, wonderful orchestrated folk blues straight rock, 2018 korean remaster)

David Lewis began playing guitar and piano and writing songs at a very young age, appearing in talent contests and on local TV in Northern Ireland. 

In 1967 he joined psychedelic band The Method who became Andwellas Dream in 1968. In 1969 while still a member of Andwellas Dream, he recorded some of his songs for a publisher's demo album "The Songs Of David Lewis". Intended as a calling card for his song-writing skills, this was a very limited private pressing, probably only a few hundred copies made, and is now a major rarity. 

Andwellas Dream released three albums between 1969-1971, the last two under the name Andwella. The band also worked on David Baxter's solo LP during this period. When Andwella split, David pursued a solo career. 

Two solo albums emerged on Polydor Records, "From Time to Time" in 1976 and "A Collection of Short Dreams" in 1978. The former is soft melodic AOR, the latter more uptempo soul. Both are difficult to locate but are bound to be somewhat of a disappointment to those expecting something in the vein of Andwellas "Love and Poetry" album. However the songs are well written and the playing excellent through. Not a million miles away from Boz Scaggs mid-70s records. 

Dave has also written many songs for other artists including "Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun", which was a worldwide hit for legend in his own lunchtime Demis Roussos. 

Disambiguation: No connection to the David Lewis who recorded the "Just Molly & Me" LP for Tiger Lily Records. 

1. Yesterday's Gone - 4:39
2. Papa Boy - 4:12
3. Good Morning - 3:25
4. We're Gonna Make It - 3:00
5. Our Time Has Come - 5:16
6. Ready To Rock'n'roll - 3:04
7. There's A Party Going On - 2:43
8. Follow Your Dreams - 5:11
9. Dedicated To You - 3:18
10.Going To The Better Side Of Time - 3:38
All titles by Dave Lewis

*Dave Lewis - Vocals, Guitar, Piano

1970  David Lewis - Songs Of David Lewis (2009 bonus tracks remaster)
Related Act
1969  Andwellas Dream - Love And Poetry (2009 Sunbeam extra tracks edition) 
1970  Andwella - World's End (2006 japan remaster) 
1971  Andwella - People's People (japan remaster issue) 

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Friday, November 8, 2019

Navasota - Rootin' (1972 us, tough southern boogie country rock, 2013 reissue)

The Year was 1969. The new Blues Rock music had taken the country by storm, and five lads from Southheast Texas had their own vision of how to create this sound. Steve Long (guitar), Ray Pawlik (guitar), Dicky Sony (vocals), Lindsey Minter (drums), and Paul Minter (bass) formed the band Navasota!

By 1972, Navasota had signed a record deal with ABC Dunhill Records, and they were off to Los Angeles to record the album Rootin´. This album was produced by Gary Katz, and Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan fame!. “Rootin'” was best described as bluesy-rock.  Powered by Sony’s growling vocals, group-penned tracks such as ‘Western Boots’, ‘$2 Bill’ and ‘That’s How It Is (Playin’ In a Rock & Roll Band)’ were tight and fairly commercial, though they didn’t exhibit a great deal of originality.  Far less impressive were the bands’ stabs at country-rock.  Complete with pedal steel and whistling solo, ‘Ballad of a Young Man’ was outright embarrassing.  As for the Fagen-Becker number, well it was okay though the lyrics were largely indecipherable.

This one album appears to be Navasota’s entire catalog.  Baxter went on to a stint with The Doobie Brothers before continuing his collaboration with Becker and Fagen in Steely Dan.  ABC tapped the LP for a single in the form of ‘That’s How It Is (Playin’ In a Rock & Roll Band)’ b/w ‘P. Farm’ (ABC catalog number ABC-11332).  Wonder if the band were aware that the single also saw a Japanese picture sleeve release …

ABC-Dunhill sent the band out on the road where they were teamed with the likes of Boston and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but sales didn’t amount to much outside of their Texas fan base.  ABC subsequently dropped the band, though they seem to have stuck it out through the late 1970s.

1. Western Boots - 2:44
2. $2 Bill - 2:18
3. Ballad Of A Young Man - 3:43
4. That's How It Is (Playing In A Rock 'n' Roll Band) - 4:16
5. Canyon Ladies (Donald Fagen, Walter Becker) - 3:57
6. Ole Slew Foot (Howard Hausey) - 2:55
7. I'm Leavin' (Chester Burnett) - 3:23
8. P. Farm - 3:41
9. Heat Of The Night - 3:38
10.Spring Creek - 2:58
All songs by Richard 'Dicky' Sony, Lindsey Minter, Paul Minter, Ray Pawlick, Steve Long except where stated

*Richard "Dicky" Sony - Vocals
*Ray Pawlik - Vocals, Guitar
*Steve Long - Guitar
*Paul Minter - Bass
*Lindsey Minter - Drums
*Donald Fagen - Piano
*Jeff Baxter - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Bryon Berline - Fiddle

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Monday, November 4, 2019

Aarons And Ackley - Aarons And Ackley (1971 us, wonderful folk rock, 2014 korean remaster)

Cleveland, Ohio-born Chuck Aarons and Portland, Oregan native Jim Ackley were both in their own groups in the 1960s, but both wound up in Canada at the height of the Viet Nam War. Aarons was excused from the draft due to an asthma condition (which his brother and father also had), while Ackley fled to Toronto while in a group called Thirteenth Story and touring with The Beach Boys.

Looking to continue his music career, Ackley made ends meet as an English tutor before taking a job at Capitol Records as a clerk in the promotions department, when a mustual friend introduced him to Aarons early in 1971. Aarons was a guitarist and Ackley was predominantly a jazz piano player. They started writing some material and occasionally played around the clubs in Toronto as a folk duo, and eventually got Capitol execs to listen to their demos, who signed them to a deal.

They were teamed up with producer Dennis Murphy, but wanting to shed the folk image and lean more towards a commercially palatable pop sound, execs insisted some session players be brought in. They included bassist Jim Rolleston who'd worked with Seals & Crofts and Gordon Lightfoot, and drummer Terry Clarke, whose resume included Jim Hall, Manhole, and Fifth Dimension. Their eponymous debut album was released in the spring of 1971. Two singles ensued to moderate success - "Let It Shine" (used on an episode of "The Mike Douglas Show" during a dance routine) and "Devil Song." "Swanee Song" was also included in a 1971 compilation album called THE CAPITOL RECORDS GUIDE TO CANADIAN CONTENT PROGRAMMING - VOLUME TWO.

But because Ackley was a draft dodger, they couldn't tour the US, and so for the next few months they assembled a back-up band and did the central Canada circuit. This was despite the fact reps at Captiol's New York office urging Aarons to find a replacement for an American tour.

Before the year was up, they released the single "NFS" while working on their follow-up, which came in the form of 1972's YOU AND I, with Murphy again acting as producer. It only spawned one single, "Bonnie Blue" b/w "Could Have Had Anything," but the record had a more rounded sound than its predecessor, incorporating woodwinds, trumpets, and a French horn. And unlike the first record, it also featured songwriting solely from Aarons and Ackley, without any outside assistance, and included other tracks like "Oh What A Good Time," "Truly," and "Five O'Clock."

But feeling they weren't getting the push they deserved, they moved to fledgling GRT Records in '74, where they cut four songs on a pair of singles over the next year or so - "Where Did The Music Go" b/w "Victim of Sorrow" and "Detective of Love" b/w "Beverley."

But with the label having financial woes, the intended album they were working on never materialized, and Aarons and Ackley both went on to other projects, including session work, and producing the likes of The Irish Rovers and Bob McBride after he'd left Lighthouse.

Following President Nixon's amnesty grant to draft dodgers, Ackley moved back to the US, settled in LA for awhile, then moved to Spain. After relocating to Vancouver, Aarons eventually followed him to LA and also got involved in movies, working on such films as "Winter of My Discontent," "Thornbirds," "Bird," "The Rose Mary Cloony Story," and "Quicksilver," as well as in TV, including working on "Dynasty."
With notes from Jeffrey Aarons, Toni Diotte, Ron Grahame, James Kavinsky 

1. Lay Me Down - 2:49
2. Willie Boy - 3:29
3. Devil Song - 3:01
4. There Is A Lady (Chuck Aarons, Jim Ackley, Larry Alan Morse) - 2:23
5. Take Me Home - 4:45
6. Swanee Song - 2:46
7. Annalee (Chuck Aarons, Jim Ackley, James Rolleston) - 2:38
8. Sleeping Gypsy (Chuck Aarons, Jim Ackley, Larry Alan Morse) - 3:57
9. Sailor Song (Chuck Aarons, Jim Ackley, Larry Alan Morse) - 1:47
10.Let It Shine (Chuck Aarons, Jim Ackley, Larry Alan Morse) - 4:57
All composotions by Chuck Aarons, Jim Ackley except where noted

*Chuck Aarons - Guitar, Vocals
*Jim Ackley - Keyboards, Vocals
*Terry Clarke - Percussion
*Rolf Kempf - Guitar, Jew's-Harp
*Carole Marshall - Cello
*James Rolleston - Bass, Vocals
*John Tank - Soprano Saxophone

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Harvey Mandel - The Snake (1972 us, outstanding funky jam blues rock, 2016 remaster)

Guitarist/composer Mandel was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1945, and has been an active and creative musician throughout his long, distinguished career—collaborating with the likes of Canned Heat, the Rolling Stones, Don ”Sugarcane” Harris, Charlie Musselwhite, John Mayall, Henry Kaiser, and Steve Kimock. The instrumental LP, The Snake, was released in 1972 on the Janus Label and was co-produced by Mandel and Canned Heat’s Skip Taylor. They did a great job balancing a multitude of instruments into a distilled audio picture, and, considering this record was released in 1972, Mandel attains many otherworldly, incredibly compressed guitar sounds in conjunction with low-down blues tones that still sound early-morning fresh to my ears.

However, not all of the compositions are standard blues fare. Songs like “Pegasus” and “Divining Rod” have great cinematic changes that Mandel rips over melodically. “Bite the Electric Eel” is a great fusion of tribal rhythms with Mandel playing compression-laden, Hendrix-like tones that sound simultaneously controlled and unhinged. Also, it’s extraordinary how much of his playing sounds “backwards.” Great stuff.

What I learned from this record is that guitar instrumentals can be melodic and innovative, and yet keep an eye on the audience. There’s no need to alienate the listener—or the integrity of the song—with self-centered pyrotechnics. Mandel and company combine great chops while grooving hypnotically hard. The Snake has fine playing by a large cast of fine musicians, including Pure Food and Drug Act alumni—Adolfo de la Parra, Randy Resnick , Victor Conte, Paul Lagos, and Don “Sugarcane” Harris—as well as Chuck Domanico, Freddie Roulette, and the great Earl Palmer.

I’ve been listening to this underrated guitar record—which I feel wasn’t reviewed fairly back in the day—for 40 years. It’s in my DNA, and it remains in my Top 10 instrumental records—right up there with Buddy Emmons’ “Black Album,” Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow, and Jimmy Bryant’s Country Cabin Jazz. Not every track on The Snake hits it out of the park, but when this great group connects, it’s a grand slam.
by Jim Campilongo

1. The Divining Rod - 3:04
2. Pegasus (Jim Taylor) - 3:29
3. Linda Love - 2:32
4. Peruvian Flake - 3:30
5. The Snake (Harvey Mantel, Larry Taylor) - 3:06
6. Uno Ino (Harvey Mantel, Jim Carroll, Skip Taylor) - 2:36
7. Ode To The Owl - 2:40
8. Levitation (Charles Lloyd, Harvey Mantel) - 5:15
9. Bite The Electric Ell (Don "Sugarcane" Harris, Harvey Mantel, Paul Lagos, Randy Resnick, Victor Conte) - 4:11
All compositions by Harvey Mantel except where indicated

*Harvey Mandel - Lead Guitar
*Victor Conte - Bass
*Paul Lagos - Drums
*Randy Resnick - Rhythm Guitar
*Chuck Domanico - Bass
*Earl Palmer - Drums
*Jim Taylor - Piano
*Don "Sugarcane" Harris - Strings
*Antonio de la Barreda - Bass
*Adolfo de la Parra - Drums
*Charles Lloyd - Flute
*Kevin Burton - Organ
*Freddie Roulette - Steel Guitar

1968  Harvey Mandel - Cristo Redentor (2003 remaster and expanded)
1971  Harvey Mandel - Baby Batter (2016 remaster)
Related Acts
1965-66  The Barry Goldberg Blues Band - Blowing My Mind ..Plus (2003 remaster and expanded)
1967  Charley Musselwhite - Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite's Southside Band
1968  The Barry Goldberg Reunion - There's No Hole In My Soul
1969  Barry Goldberg - Two Jews Blues (vinyl edition) 
1967-73  Canned Heat - The Very Best Of (2005 issue with previous unreleased track)
1970  Canned Heat - Future Blues (remastered and expanded) 
1971-72  Canned Heat - Historical Figures And Ancient Heads (extra track remaster issue)
1974  Love - Reel To Reel (2015 deluxe edition)

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Paper Bubble - Behind The Scenery the Complete (1969-81 uk, brilliant folk psych rock, 2018 double disc remaster)

Recognise this plotline? In 1969 folk-rockers Paper Bubble recorded Scenery. Despite some impressive songs by the band’s core duo, Brian Crane and Terry Brake, fine vocals and most of the future Strawbs backing them, the album sunk on release.

After decades of highly prized collectability, Scenery returns, along with an unreleased follow-up, instrumental mixes, a rare single and a final album from 1981. There are engaging moments throughout, particularly on Scenery, such as the epic period-piece Energy, and the pensive Tomorrow Never Comes Like A Silver Spoon. When it gets a bit too barefoot-in-the-park on Being Human Being, the band’s skilled delivery throughout helps compensate. Indeed, with blasting keyboards from Rick Wakeman, the frenetic Mother, Mother, Mother rocks your head off.

The second album showed interesting signs of artistic development on tracks like Somewhere To Belong. Despite this, the label cancelled the release and the duo returned to the folk club scene. Their return in 1981 is listenable enough, though occasionally too close to some of that period’s waterlogged singer-songwriting.

Nevertheless, full credit to RPM for tracking all this down and the package comes with a characteristically excellent, informative booklet.
by Steve Burniston

Post psychedelic folk-rock featuring the classic album Scenery plus its previously unreleased follow up LP, both with the song writing duo backed by The Strawbs.

In 1969 a classic folk rock album escaped on Deram, Scenery by Paper Bubble, produced by Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper for their then production company Strawberry Music. The album’s merits took a couple of decades to be recognised but today is now highly regarded (and with an average LP collectors price of £100 to boot). Recorded in the same year of release the producers engaged Rick Wakeman, and Richard Hudson, John Ford, Paul Brett recently of Velvet Opera, to back the Paper Bubble duo Brian Crane and Terry Brake, at Regent Sound engineered by Tom Allom.

The same team re gathered again in 1970, this time at Olympic studios to lay down the songs for a follow up called Prisoners Victims Strangers Friends. By now the backing band had gelled as a unit, along with Cousins and Hooper, as The Strawbs and sailed off into the sunset. Same time the initial return on ‘Scenery’ had failed to inspire the suits and consequently PVSF was left on the shelf. Happily a sound desk recording was preserved by Brian.

Thus RPM is proud to present both Paper Bubble LPs as backed by The Strawbs, plus the duo’s late 70’s single, and to round off Disc 2, following PVSF, their final work together the 1981 album I’m Coming Home.

As a bonus on Disc 1 we have been able to include freshly mixed versions of 5 songs from Scenery and 1 from PVSF, taken from the only surviving 48 year old multi track masters.

For the first time we have the Paper Bubble story direct from Brian and Terry in the booklet, plus photo’s from Brian own archive.

Brian Crane continued to write songs and in the 80’s had the distinction of an entire album’s worth of his music being set to Hindi lyrics and released by CBS India. The success of this led to one of those songs being re-recorded by another artist AMAR in the 90’s and again selling big numbers in the Asian territories. In 2018 a theatre production called ‘Poppyfields’ is being staged by Theatre Severn which features 8 of Brian’s songs, including 3 from the Paper Bubble era.

Disc 1
1. Fillin' A Gap - 3:17
2. Being Human Being - 3:14
3. She - 4:35
4. I'm Laughing - 3:08
5. Just An Actor - 2:26
6. Energy - 6:44
7. Scenery - 5:22
8. Mm Of La - 3:38
9. Silly Bit Of Sentiment - 3:13
10.Mother, Mother, Mother - 3:07
11.Tomorrow Never Comes Like A Silver Spoon - 4:43
12.Woman - 3:36
13.Loving You - 5:33
14.Sorry About That - 2:52
15.Mm Of La - 3:38
16.Mother Mother Mother - 3:40
17.Tomorrow Never Comes Like A Silver Spoon - 4:41
18.I'm Laughing - 3:09
19.Being Human Being (Alternative Version) - 4:32
Music and Lyrics by Terry Brake, Brian Crane except tracks 12-13 by Brian Crane
Tracks 1-11 from LP "Scenery" 1969
Tracks 12-13 Single 1980
Tracks 14-19 Unreleased 1969

Disc 2
1. Working Man - 3:08
2. You're Feeling Sleepy - 2:56
3. I Am, You Are, We Are - 3:31
4. Strange Days - 5:28
5. Amazon Song - 3:44
6. Afternoon - 3:56
7. Sorry About That - 3:04
8. Prisoners, Victims, Strangers, Friends - 5:14
9. Alone - 1:25
10.Somewhere To Belong - 4:36
11.Coming Home - 4:28
12.Marcia - 2:57
13.Time - 4:50
14.Everything Will Be Alright - 3:27
15.Got To Live - 4:10
16.Getting A Little Love - 3:50
17.Sleepy - 3:01
18.Change In Me - 3:55
19.Funny - 2:26
20.Saints And Sinners - 5:09
21.Alone - 2:29
Tracks 1-10 written by Terry Brake, Brian Crane, unreleased "Prisoners, Victims, Strangers, Friens" 1970
Tracks 11-21 written by Brian Crane and recorded as Brian Cane and The Stillbreeze "I'm Coming Home" 1981

*Terry Brake - Guitars, Vocals
*Brian Crane - Guitars, Vocals
*Neil Mitchell - Bass
*Rick Wakeman - Keyboards
*Richard Hudson - Drums
*John Ford - Bass
*Dave Cousins - Guitar
*Tony Hooper - Guitar
*Steve Layton - Acoustic, Electric Guitars
*Phil Vickers - Percussion
*Mark Tibenham - Keyboards, Bass
*Dek Byrne - Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
*Pete Rowland - Bass
*Pete Board - Keyboards

1969  Paper Bubble - Scenery

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Paul Siebel - Woodsmoke And Oranges/ Jack-Knife Gypsy (1970-71 us, awesome folk country rock, 2004 remaster)

In the dawn of the seventies, when the singer/songwriter boom was just starting to reach full steam, with the heady rush of psychedelic rock giving way to the intimate sounds of introspective troubadours aiming for the coveted “Next Dylan” tag, an album appeared on the Elektra label with the evocative title Woodsmoke and Oranges. The voice was not unlike Dylan’s, circa the dusty John Wesley Harding, but shot through with a keening country wail bespeaking a grounding in vintage honky-tonk and bluegrass. The songs too mixed traditions freely, taking as many liberties with traditional folk and country song structure as the lyrics did with the ‘60s balladeer template. The album cover featured a drawing of a man with a pensive mien and a hint of melancholy in his hound-dog eyes, and the name emblazoned across the top was Paul Siebel.

Siebel was a graduate of the Buffalo, New York folk scene, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Eric Andersen and Jackson C. Frank. He had done a stint in the army before hitting the Greenwich Village folk circuit where he became a mainstay by the late ‘60s, having paid his dues at Village clubs like The Four Winds. “When you’d do the Four Winds,” he recalls, “you’d do like five sets a night, sometimes it got so weird. It’d be about the third set and a few beers into the night; you’d start the third verse [of your song] and you’d think ‘I just did that.’ Well sure you did it, like 45 minutes ago!”

All the long hours and hard work paid off when Siebel was picked up by Elektra in ’69. Though Woodsmoke and Oranges, was his debut album, he had already been around the block a few times. He was 33 by the time it was released in 1970, and there was a gravitas and maturity to both his writing and his delivery that was lacking in many of the era’s new troubadours. While the album was chock full of striking songs, it ultimately became best known for “Louise,” an elegiac narrative about the passing of a lady of the evening. More people came to know “Louise” through its many cover versions (most notably those of Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt) than Siebel’s original recording. “A lot of women [singers] picked it up,” says Siebel. “They liked the pathology of Louise and identified with that.” These more successful versions were good for the songwriter’s bank account, but didn’t do much for his own record sales.

Equally affecting were tunes like the incisive small-town vignette “My Town,” one of the era’s few truly subtle anti-war songs. Siebel says the characters were “maybe second-generation people in America — ‘My town was fathered by orphans’– people who left their roots and are pining away in America.” A figure of derision in the song is the blindly patriotic “Miss Delia,” but Siebel claims compassion even for her. “Miss Delia is also someone that you know and love, it could be our own mother. That’s part of our makeup also, to raise the flag, fight for our country, and be chauvinistic — what else are you protecting? When you protect your borders, are you being a chauvinist, are you being a patriot? Are you being a fascist, what are you being?”

Tunes like the opening track, “She Made Me Lose My Blues” showed a strong country influence that would be further amplified on Siebel’s second album. In fact, country music had been a part of the songwriter’s musical mindset for a long time, and he was something of a trailblazer in terms of incorporating it into the ‘60s Village folk aesthetic. “I got into Jimmie Rodgers’ songs, which I thought fit very well into the folk idiom…I got to be known for doing country. No one in the folk scene was doing this, with the exception of perhaps Jack Elliott doing cowboy songs, not quite country. [The Jim] Kweskin Jug Band maybe did a little. And of course there was the Holy Modal Rounders doing it tongue-in-cheek — if you did it tongue-in-cheek it was okay, you couldn’t do it proper. I think I wanted to find a voice and a venue in the city folk scene and I used country. One of the problems I had in the ‘70s — country began becoming very popular and people approached me saying ‘Why don’t you go to Nashville?’ I was not a country singer, I did not want to go to Nashville; they could do that stuff better than I could. I would get a lot of ‘What are you doing singing country music? You’re from upstate New York!’ So if you were a banker from Georgia, you would’ve been more authentic?”

Siebel’s brand of country was an idiosyncratic one though – the country-oriented tunes on both of his albums willfully and wonderfully bent the harmonic framework of conventional country. He’s characteristically modest about this, saying “They weren’t I-IV-V, but neither is [George Hamilton IV’s 1963 country hit] “Abilene,” or [traditional tune] “Salt Creek,” those changes, the minor part back to the major, those things had been around, so I didn’t consider ‘Miss Cherry Lane’ more sophisticated than that stuff. A couple of my [country-flavored] songs are Beatles-influenced – ‘Pinto Pony’ maybe a little bit. ‘Uncle Dudley’ — pure John Lennon/Paul McCartney.”

While sales of Woodsmoke and Oranges didn’t exactly necessitate Siebel seeking tax exile in the Caribbean, a solid touring schedule gave him a strong mid-level profile on the early-‘70s singer/songwriter circuit. “There was a whole circle of nice clubs all across America,” he remembers, “The Troubadour in L.A., The Ark in Ann Arbor, Earl of Old Town in Chicago, Passim’s in Boston, the Gaslight here (in New York), The Second Fret in Philadelphia. So the first years you had money all over the place, not huge stuff, but I didn’t have to worry about the rent for a while. I got paid fairly well, but I never broke into big money. And I did that for about 10 years.”

1971 saw the release of Siebel’s second Elektra album, Jack-Knife Gypsy, which upped the ante in terms of both songwriting and production values. Where the first album had been an intimate, homespun-sounding effort, the follow-up was much more ambitious, employing everything from full-tilt electric rock & roll to sweeping string arrangements. Fortunately, it all worked, partly due to the sympathetic production of Robert Zachary. Siebel, however, expresses misgivings. “Bigger production, more money — I think it was premature to do this kind of production with that. I think this should have led to something bigger, I think I still should have kept it simple.” Regardless, the all-star backing band assembled for the album included Byrds guitarist Clarence White, famed mandolin virtuoso David Grisman, country pedal-steel legend Buddy Emmons, Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon, and Cajun/country fiddle phenomenon Doug Kershaw, among others. The rich sound they created fueled some of Siebel’s most powerful compositions, like the outlaw-at-the-gallows tale “Pinto Pony,” the inscrutably poetic, rather Dylanesque “Jasper and the Miners,” and another sneaky anti-war tune, the dark, paranoid parable “Jeremiah’s Song.”

Unfortunately, Jack-Knife Gypsy didn’t do any more to fill Siebel’s pocket than its predecessor had, and it turned out to be the last album he’d ever record. Though he continued to maintain his performing career throughout the ‘70s, cracks began to show after a while. “I don’t know why I didn’t write another record,” he muses, “I started drinking, things started coming apart. I guess I wasn’t getting the recognition I wanted, and without that, how can you write? And then after a while I just couldn’t go out and do those same songs again and again. I soured. It soured. It started coming apart. Then I quit drinking, got all cleaned up, and then I was stone sober trying to entertain a bunch of people having a party…It got to be too difficult. I opened for Bonnie Raitt once at Max’s Kansas City I think, and I remember Bonnie kind of apologizing for that, because I think there was a time when she opened for me in the old, old days.”

In the ‘80s, Siebel jumped off the train, leaving his musical career behind and working a series of day jobs. In the years to come, he would make the occasional, extremely infrequent guest appearance, but his days of gigging and songwriting were behind him for good. Eventually, he moved to Maryland, where he ultimately landed an outdoorsy job with the Parks Department, and started avidly pursuing an interest in sailing, but no matter how much distance Siebel puts between himself and his songs, they can never lose their power. Over the years, several of his tunes – not just “Louise” – have been recorded by other artists, from Emmylou Harris to David Bromberg. In 2004, his Elektra albums were reissued together in England as a twofer, earning ecstatic reviews from the British music press, and this year, in MOJO Magazine’s celebration of Elektra’s 60th anniversary, this writer had the opportunity to single out Siebel’s debut as one of the label’s shining moments. Siebel may not be singing the songs anymore, but they’re still out there waiting to be discovered — or re-discovered. As another Greenwich Village songwriter, Richard Meyer, once said: “A record is like a time bomb, you can never tell when it’s gonna go off.”
by Jim Allen

1. She Made Me Loose My Blues - 2:39
2. Miss Cherry Lane - 2:56
3. Nashville Again - 3:13
4. The Ballad Of Honest Sam - 4:23
5. Then Came The Children - 4:11
6. Louise - 3:42
7. Bride 1945 - 3:33
8. My Town - 3:12
9. Any Day Woman - 3:06
10.Long Afternoons - 4:26
11.Jasper & The Miners - 2:39
12.If I Could Stay - 3:44
13.Jack-Knife Gypsy - 3:29
14.Prayer Song - 4:49
15.Legend Of The Captain's Daughter - 3:56
16.Hillbilly Child - 2:59
17.Pinto Pony - 2:25
18.Miss Jones - 4:27
19.Jeremiah's Song - 2:03
20.Uncle Dudley - 3:12
21.Chips Are Down - 4:36
22.Nervous - 3:33
All songs by Paul Siebel

Woodsmoke And Oranges 1970
*Paul Siebel - Acoustic Guitar, 12 String Guitar, Vocals
*David Bromberg - Dobro, Acoustic, Electric Guitar
*Weldon Myrick - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Richard Greene - Violin
*Gary White - Bass
*Jeff Gutcheon - Organ, Piano
*Don Brooks - Harmonica
*James Madison - Drums

Jack-Knife Gypsy 1971
*Paul Siebel - Guitar, Vocals
*Clarence White - Guitar
*Robert Warford - Guitar
*Buddy Emmons - Steel Guitar
*David Grisman - Mandolin
*Jim Buchanan - Violin, Viola
*Doug Kershaw - Fiddle
*Billy Wolfe - Bass
*Bernie Leadon - Guitar
*Gary White - Bass
*Ralph Shuckett - Organ, Piano
*Russ Kunkel - Drums

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