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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Tim Buckley - Venice Mating Call (1969 us, monumental live recordings, 2017 double disc digi pak remaster)

In September 1969, and at just 22 years old, Tim Buckley was at the top of his game. A couple of months after the release of what remains one of his most widely-loved albums (Happy Sad), he was in the midst of an especially fertile creative period. He played a well-received string of shows in L.A., documented on the 1994 release Live at the Troubadour. Now, hours of additional material from those shows have emerged, extending the late folk-rock cult hero’s legacy: Venice Mating Call and Greetings from West Hollywood.

By then,  Buckley had only been a recording artist for three years.  Yet, he’d already undergone a remarkable artistic evolution. His self-titled debut LP was a relatively simple slice of art-folk, while the follow-up, Goodbye and Hello, leaped into ambitious, Sgt. Pepper-influenced baroque rock. But Happy Sad took a drastic detour into a passionate folk-jazz feel inspired by Miles Davis’ jazz innovations. By the start of the ’70s, Buckley would venture into avant-garde explorations; at the end of ’69, Buckley was really feeling his oats, coming to terms with the power and possibilities of his voice, letting it all hang out, and making it work. And that’s the luminous period captured on the Troubadour recordings.

Up until now, all fans had to go by was Live at the Troubadour;  Venice Mating Call and Greetings from West Hollywood make it clear that Buckley was capable of making magic happen onstage every night. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he had one of his most spontaneous ensembles on hand for these shows: his longtime sidekick Lee Underwood on lead guitar and electric piano, Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart drummer Art Tripp, bassist John Balkin and conga man Carter “C.C.” Collins. Together, they tackled material from Happy Sad and Blue Afternoon, as well as embryonic versions of songs from later albums and even some tunes that would never see the inside of a studio.

Greetings from West Hollywood (a play on the title of Buckley’s 1972 album Greetings From L.A.) is a nine-song double LP, while Venice Mating Call (named after the Buckley instrumental included in both packages), is a 13-song, two-CD set. Each contains its own unique set of recordings from the Troubadour run. And it’s clear that Buckley and his band were on fire for the entire stint. The quintet used their free-flowing improv chops to turn those songs inside out, upside down, and any other way the muse demanded in the moment.  The result is a constantly-shifting amalgam of folk, rock, jazz, blues, and more.

Buckley commands a broad range of emotions over the course of these sets, with his fluid tenor turning either urgent or sultry, as the moment demands; the band is right there with him every step of the way. He makes his way through a hazy dreamscape in the hypnotic “Driftin’,” employing long tones that swell and swoop with a gauzy, ghostly feel, as Underwood frames Buckley’s ululations with some gently jazz swooping of his own. On the breezy, bossa nova-inflected “Blue Melody,” Buckley comes off like an otherworldly Joao Gilberto, as Underwood gracefully blurs the edges of the tune and Collins chimes in with just the right percussive punctuation.

But when Buckley gets worked up, as on “Gypsy Woman,” Underwood’s edgy electric piano  and Tripp’s drumming egg him on, and it sounds like he damn near leaves his body. He wails, shrieks, moans, coos, and generally pushes his voice past the limits of human possibility, while the band alternates between a simmer and furious boil. On “Nobody Walkin’,” Buckley and company turn a basic bluesy vamp into a churning, sweaty cross between a Baptist revival meeting and a jazz-juiced bacchanal.

The concerts captured on these two collections will be revelatory to those who haven’t already heard Live at the Troubadour. But even for those who have, it firmly reinforces the fact that Tim Buckley was one of the most fearless artists of his era. Not only did he push the artistic envelope by trying new things in the studio (evidenced by albums Lorca and Starsailor), he was equally courageous in front of an audience, willing to follow a feeling wherever it led. And with the superhuman vocal talent displayed on these recordings, Buckley was able to go places nobody else could.
by Jim Allen, October 27, 2017

Disc 1
1. Buzzin’ Fly - 5:50
2. Strange Feelin’ - 5:48
3. Blue Melody - 5:42
4. Chase The Blues Away - 6:54
5. Venice Mating Call - 6:53
6. Gypsy Woman - 13:05
7. I Don’T Need It To Rain - 11:43

Disc 2
1. Driftin’ - 8:10
2. I Wanna Testify - 9:08
3. Anonymous Proposition - 8:08
4. Lorca - 11:10
5. I Had A Talk With My Woman - 7:25
6. Nobody Walkin’ - 8:25
All songs by Tim Buckley

*Tim Buckley - Twelve-String Guitar, Vocals
*Lee Underwood - Electric Guitar, Electric Piano
*Art Tripp - Drums
*Carter C.C. Collins - Congas
*John Balkin - Bass

1966-74  Tim Buckley - Wings The Complete Singles (2016 remaster)  
1966  Tim Buckley - Tim Buckley (Part 1 of 2017 eight cds box set)
1967  Tim Buckley - Goodbye And Hello  (Part 2 of 2017 eight cds box set)
1967  Tim Buckley - Live At The Folklore Center (2009 digipak release)
1969  Tim Buckley - Happy Sad (Part 3 of 2017 eight cds box set)
1969  Tim Buckley - Blue Afternoon (Part 4 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1969 Tim Buckley - Greetings From West Hollywood (2017 remaster)
1970  Tim Buckley - Lorca (Part 5 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1970  Tim Buckley - Starsailor (Part 6 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1972  Tim Buckley - Greetings From L.A. (Part 7 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1967-69  Tim Buckley - Works In Progress (Part 8 of the 2017 eight cds box set)
1973  Tim Buckley - Sefronia (2017 remaster)
1973  Tim Buckley - Honeyman 
1974  Tim Buckley - Look At The Fool (2017 remaster)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Grass Roots - Uprooted / Powers Of The Night (1979/82 us, wonderful melt of classic rock blue eyed soul and power pop, 2005 edition)

Robert Frank "Rob" Grill was born November 30, 1943 in Los Angeles, California and was an American lead singer, songwriter and bass guitarist.

He was the central member of The Grass Roots and he launched a solo career in 1979, assisted on his solo project by several members of Fleetwood Mac. He then returned to leading The Grass Roots into the new millennium.

He was a native of Hollywood, California where he attended Hollywood High School. Soon after graduation, he began working at American Recording Studios with musician friends Cory Wells and John Kay (who later formed Three Dog Night & Steppenwolf).

Rob and The Grass Roots teamed up with mega-hit producer Steve Barri (The Mamas and the Papas, Tommy Roe, Four Tops and Dusty Springfield) and went on to chart twenty nine singles, thirteen of which went gold, followed by two gold albums and two platinum albums. In the new millennium, he released two live albums and one with a symphonic quartet.

Rob passed away on July 11, 2011
The GrassRoots 

In 1982, seven years after the group disbanded, and three years after he recorded his solo album Uprooted, Rob Grill reactivated the Grass Roots with three new musicians and cut this album, which must be tied with its predecessor, The Grass Roots on the Haven label, as the most obscure album in the group's output. That's a genuine pity, as the record has lots of very good moments and is far more polished and successful than Uprooted -- one can only imagine that, beyond any role that the relative weakness of MCA at the time played in its failure (this reviewer scarcely saw or heard a word printed about the album or its release), it died an absolute death in the MTV-dominated environment of 1982-1983, as many worthwhile records did.

The album opens with a title track that's a little bit too much of a by-the-numbers power pop exercise, but from there we move through some nicely soul-flavored pop/rock with lots of hooks, vocal, and instrumental -- the guitars, in particular, are memorable and Grill is in excellent voice almost everywhere, and the selection of material is stronger than most of what is on Uprooted.

Given the large number of session musicians who participated on the Grass Roots' most famous recordings, there seems to be little point in pondering who's doing the backup singing behind Grill or playing some of what we hear; on the other hand, it does seem to be a great showcase for Terry Oubre's guitar work. And the results are consistently appealing, if not groundbreaking -- actually, a lot like the group's best work of the '60s. There were at least three potential singles on this album, which marked just about the last time that the Grass Roots were anything but an oldies act, redoing their vintage hits either on-stage or in the studio. One wishes it were a little better known on that basis, as well as a pretty good place for this band to have stopped making new music.
by Bruce Eder

1. Feel The Heat (D. Callens, E. Villeria, W. Warkins) - 4:40
2. God Help The Man (Dennis Provisor) - 5:02
3. Have Mercy (Dennis Provisor, Rob Grill) - 3:24
4. Rockin' On The Road Again (Rob Grill) - 3:25
5. Strangers (Mike Chapman, Nicky Chin) - 4:17
6. Rock Sugar (Dennis Provisor) - 5:28
7. When Will It Be (Dennis Provisor) - 5:23
8. Open Up Your Heart (D. Callens, E. Villeria, W. Warkins) - 4:38
9. Where Were You When I Needed You (P.F. Sloan, Steve Barri) - 3:42
10.Powers Of The Night.. (Frieda Parton, Mark Anderson) - 4:21
11.Here Comes That Feeling Again (John Sembello, Louie Shelton) - 3:18
12.Try Me (Alex Call, Jim Keller) - 3:05
13.Keeps On Burning (Bobby Bennett, Rob Grill) - 3:09
14.I'm Not Gonna Cry Anymore (Bobby David) - 3:44
15.She Don't Know Me (Mark Avsec) - 3:28
16.Mirage (John Bettis, Michael Clark) - 3:28
17.You've Got To Be The One (Evan Pace, Scott Lipsker) - 2:48
18.Feels Like The First Time (Detlef Peterson, Inga Rumpf, Rob Grill) - 4:30
19.Little Too Late (Alex Call) - 4:01
Tracks 1-9 from Rob Grill 1979 solo album "Uprooted"
Tracks 10-19 from The Grass Roots 1982 album "Powers Of The Night"

1979 Uprooted
*Rob Grill - Vocals
*Dennis Provisor - Keyboards
*Brian Naughton - Guitar
*Lindsey Buckingham - Guitar
*Steve Hunter - Guitar
*Mick Fleetwood - Drums
*Mike Huey - Drums
*John McVie - Bass
*Mark Leonard - Bass
*Annie McCloone - Backing Vocals
*Bill Champlin - Backing Vocals
*Carl Graves - Backing Vocals
*Donnie Gerrard - Backing Vocals
*Jay Gruska - Backing Vocals
*Kathy Collier - Backing Vocals

The Grass Roots 1982
*Ralph Gilmore - Drums, Vocals
*Rob Grill - Lead Vocals, Bass
*Terry Oubre - Guitar, Vocals
*Charles Judge - Keyboards, Vocals

1967-68  Grassroots - Let's Live For Today / Feelings 
1969  The Grass Roots - Leaving It All Behind  (2010 edition)
1972-73  The Grass Roots - Move Along / Alotta Mileage

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Friday, April 17, 2020

One Of Hours ‎- When You Hear The Music, It's Yours (1967-68 us, fantastic psych garage rock, 2019 release)

One of Hours were a Stonewall neighborhood band from Lexington’s south side. Formed in 1966, the three core members of the original lineup had been playing in a prior group called the 7 Suns performing primarily rock ‘n roll and early rhythm and blues covers for fraternity parties and special occasions.

Shawn Foreman, Lexington Catholic HS Class of ’64, recruited his 7 Suns bandmates David Bogliole and Dave Flynn (both still Seniors at Catholic) and formed One of Hours. The band was fleshed out with the addition of Lafayette HS grad Carol Craig on vocals and Georgetown College student Robert Nelson on drums.

Searching for a new sound, the band worked on lyrics and arrangements as a unit. There was no designated ‘leader’ of the group, but Foreman is generally credited as the creative force behind the band’s sound and direction.

A young man of only 20, Foreman was the embodiment of his Pisces birth – a true poet and artist. Image was everything and he was obsessed with the British Invasion and the fashion that came along with it. The band had to have the right clothes, Chelsea boots, and (since he had short, wiry hair) he would often don a mod Beatle-cut wig for photos and studio hangouts. He prowled the streets in a ’57 Cadillac hearse (appropriate since he had already earned a certificate in Mortuary Science after a short stay in Louisville) and used his ride to haul the band’s equipment to practice and gigs.

Shawn Foreman was the youngest of two boys. His family moved to Kentucky from Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood. His Italian Catholic mother Fulvia was a gifted pianist in the church and Shawn was also classically trained. His mother was very supportive of his musical interests and nurtured the band providing the use of the family’s basement, plenty of hot meals, and even helped with sewing outfits for the group during the early days.

The band walked into the newly founded Chetwyd studio (originally located at 1611 Fortune Drive in the Regency area of Southland) to record what would be the first release on the label. Ed Commons – a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, transplant – had already been working in radio and had a small jazz label there. A young entrepreneur, Commons was only 28 when he set up shop in his mother’s basement. His fledgling label would eventually produce eight singles, one EP, and at least four albums ranging from folk, jazz, soul, and garage/psych.

“It’s Best” b/w “Trifolia” was released in 1966. It is hard to pin down a direct influence from the band. Both sides have a dreamy, breezy psych pop Baroque feel unlike anything happening in Lexington at the time. The lyrics are imaginative and translucent with a lost-at-sea sound from the band. This complexity was intentional since, unlike other bands in the area, One of Hours were primarily a studio group. They played a few outings but were mostly interested in recording, writing, working on arrangements and experimenting with sound.

Bob Willcutt from Washington D.C. would join the group on guitar for their second and final release. Bob was at age 18 already a talented guitar player and prior had recorded with a group called the Curfews, a D.C. band with two garage 45s on the Montgomery label.

One of Hours already had a rough draft of the song “Feel the Pain” by 1967 when Bob made the scene to add the scorching guitar breaks and menacing feel to the track. Bob recalls working with the band and having “a great version of the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ worked up with extra fuzz tone.” He also remembers an upstairs shop at the intersection of High and Rose where a guy was making boutique effects pedals and having Willcutt come and ‘audition’ them for him.

By the summer of ’67 the single “Feel the Pain / Psychedelic Illusion” was released. “Feel the Pain” having a direct “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” influence would be considered the A-side and the haunting, shimmering “Psychedelic Illusion”, which was made up almost on the spot with lyrics by Foreman and 12-string guitar courtesy of Willcutt. With nice bubbling bass lines from Bogliole and an organ dirge break from Shawn, this is a hidden gem on the two-sider.

500 copies were pressed at Recordings Incorporated pressing plant in Baltimore. Though distribution was slim, the record was getting some airplay on local Lexington radio station WLAP and by DJ Denny Mitchell on WVLK’s ‘Denny’s Den.’ The groups effort cracked the local Top 40 and a photo of the band was featured in the Lexington Herald-Leader upon the release of the new single.

Shortly after “Feel the Pain / Psychedelic Illusion”, the band morphed again adding new members and losing others. A name change to Dandelion Wine cemented the new lineup. By ’68 the band was traveling to D.C. to try and make a bigger city splash. Opening up for the likes of the Cherry People and Iron Butterfly, the group settled in an apartment there for a short time. The Civil Rights movement and accompanying race riots, protest marches and normal D.C. politics created an unusually chaotic time in the city and the band retreated back to Lexington and familiar territory.

Not missing a beat, Dandelion Wine played a memorable dance party at UK complete with a full psychedelic light rig, black lights and day glo painted dancers. They also quickly slid back into the studio to record an LP’s worth of unreleased material – “When You Hear the Music It’s Yours.” More progressive and art rock oriented with the sounds of the late ‘60s, it took 50 years but Willcutt has made it available on the internet digitized from a quarter inch tape of the original master.

By 1970 the band was dissolved. Shawn Foreman took off for California with the Dandelion Wine master in hopes of finding a record deal. It is also believed that he had many of the copies of the second One of Hours singles with him at the time as well. Foreman would be heard from one more time with his album of DIY electronic compositions “Transistor-Jet Strikes Back” before his untimely death at age 38 in June of 1985.

David Bogliole stayed in Lexington and became a practicing architect.

Dave Flynn continued to play music and joined several local country rock bands over the years.

Bob Willcutt continued to play guitar and was also in several soul/rock and country rock bands in the area including one with a Lemco release – B.W. Cat. He opened a guitar shop in the Southland area in the 1970s and remains in business today.

Robert Nelson moved to Arizona and continues to play drums in a wedding band dubbed Blue Passion.

Label owner Ed Commons is still in the music recording business and is the sound engineer for Red Barn Radio an old-time string band and Americana themed live broadcast and variety show in downtown Lexington at Arts Place. 
by Lee Bryant 

1. When Your Hear The Music, It's Yours - 5:35
2. Mother Said - 2:26
3. Love Is Real - 2:15
4. Two Heads For 35 Cents - 2:34
5. Mary Jane Like A Woman - 3:25
6. Cry - 2:41
7. Within My Garden - 3:42
8. Little Willie - 3:35
9. Kazoo Man - 2:41
10.Sweet Dragonfly - 3:23
11.Incense C-19x - 2:02
12.A Way To Leave At Last - 3:31
All compositions by Bob Willcutt, Shawn Foreman, David Bogliole, Dave Flynn, Robert Nelson  

One Of Hours
*Bob Willcutt - Guitars
*Shawn Foreman - Hammond Organ, Piano, Flute
*David Bogliole - Bass
*Davy Randolph - Drums
*Vance Arnett - Lead Vocals

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Monday, April 13, 2020

Gene Clark - Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers (1967 us, a glorious countrified psych folk rock album, 2014 japan blu spec remaster and expanded)

When Gene Clark died in 1991 after years of substance abuse, obit writers cited his brief period as a founding member of the Byrds. Clark was actually much more. He infused the original band with much of its soul and vision, establishing himself as a pivotal folk-rock innovator, a fact known to the band and hardcore fans but never comprehensively chronicled until John Einarson’s 2005 Clark biography, Mr. Tambourine Man.

Like bandmates Jim (now Roger) McGuinn and David Crosby, Clark was a former folkie captivated by the Beatles. His baritone vocals were as integral to the Byrds’ sound as McGuinn’s jangly Rickenbacker twelve-string electric. So were Clark originals such as “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”, “I Knew I’d Want You” and “She Don’t Care About Time”. McGuinn and Crosby may have shared co-writer credit on “Eight Miles High”, but they essentially embellished a song that Clark had created. Overwhelmed by demands of fame and tired of clashing with the contentious Crosby, Clark left the band in 1966; Byrds manager Jim Dickson landed him the Columbia contract that spawned this album.

Recorded with the Byrds’ rhythm section of Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke, plus A-list Los Angeles studio musicians Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers has justifiably gained stature over the past 40 years, not only as a glorious brew of ’60s folk-rock, proto-country-rock and complex, Beatlesque pop, but as an expository effort that defined and clarified Clark’s importance to the band he left behind (and briefly rejoined).

Given the fact the vocal harmonies from the Gosdins (future Nashville star Vern and his brother Rex) were of marginal importance, their overblown billing can only by explained by the fact that Dickson also managed them. Clark invoked the Byrds sound several times, on “The Same One” (with guitar from Clarence White, then just beginning to plug in), “Couldn’t Believe Her”, and “So You Say You Lost Your Baby”. The painfully emotional “Echoes”, a bit of baroque ’60s art-rock framed by Russell’s string arrangement, showcases Clark’s stunning lyrical impressionism.

Revolver-era Beatles influence bursts forth from “Is Yours Is Mine” and “Elevator Operator”. Buck Owens is the influence on “Tried So Hard” and “Keep On Pushin'”, a harbinger of the country-rock Clark would pursue with Doug Dillard in 1968. Six bonus tracks include two alternate takes, two acoustic demos, and mono mixes of both sides of a 1967 Columbia single. This isn’t the album’s first reissue, but this edition conclusively summarizes and showcases Clark’s early genius.

1. Echoes - 3:19
2. Think I'm Gonna Feel Better - 1:37
3. Tried So Hard - 2:22
4. Is Yours Is Mine - 2:23
5. Keep On Pushin' (Gene Clark, Bill Rinehart) - 1:47
6. I Found You - 3:02
7. So You Say You Lost Your Baby - 2:09
8. Elevator Operator (Gene Clark, Bill Rinehart, Joel Larson) - 2:28
9. The Same One - 3:30
10.Couldn't Believe Her - 1:53
11.Needing Someone - 2:04
12.So You Say You Lost Your Baby - 2:29
13.Is Yours Is Mine - 2:10
14.Tried So Hard - 2:27
15.Only Colombe - 3:02
16.The French Girl (Ian Tyson, Sylvia Fricker) - 2:33
17.Tried So Hard - 2:22
18.Keep On Pushin' (Gene Clark, Bill Rinehart) - 1:49
19.Think I'm Gonna Feel Better  - 1:36
20.Is Yours Is Mine - 2:29
21.Echoes - 3:21
22.The Same One - 3:32
23.Needing Someone - 2:02
24.So You Say You Lost Your Baby - 2:10
25.Couldn't Believe Her - 1:58
26.I Found You - 2:58
27.Elevator Operator (Gene Clark, Bill Rinehart, Joel Larson) - 2:55
28.Couldn't Believe Her - 2:11
29.Tried So Hard - 2:20
30.Only Colombe - 3:09
31.The French Girl (Ian Tyson, Sylvia Fricker) - 2:37
32. So You Say You Lost Your Baby - 3:13
All songs by Gene Clark except where indicated
Tracks 12-13 Acoustic Mono Versions
Track 14 Alternate Mono Mix
Tracks 15-16 Mono Versions
Tracks 17-26 Collector's Series Early L.A. Sessions
Tracks 27,29 Alternative Stereo Version
Tracks 28,30,31 Remixed
Track 32 Acoustic Demo Version

*Gene Clark - Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
*Vern Gosdin - Backing Vocals
*Rex Gosdin - Backing Vocals
*Glen Campbell - Electric Guitar
*Jerry Cole - Guitars
*Bill Rinehart - Guitars
*Clarence White - Guitar On
*Doug Dillard - Electric Banjo
*Leon Russell - Piano, Harpsichord; String Arrangements
*Van Dyke Parks - Keyboards
*Chris Hillman - Bass
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Michael Clarke - Drums
*Joel Larson - Drums

1964-90  Gene Clark - Flying High
1964-82  Gene Clark ‎- The Lost Studio Sessions (2016 audiophile double Vinyl set)
1967  Gene Clark - Echoes
1967  Gene Clark - Sings For You (2018 digipak with unreleased material)
1968-69  Dillard And Clark - Fantastic Expedition / Through The Morning, Through The Night
1971  Gene Clark - White Light
1972  Gene Clark - Roadmaster  (2011 Edition)
1974  Gene Clark ‎– No Other / No Other Sessions (2019 hybrid SACD three disc box set) 
Related Acts
1979  McGuinn, Clark And Hillman (2014 Japan SHM Remaster)
1964  The Byrds - Preflyte (2012 Edition)
1973  Byrds - Byrds (2004 issue)
1967-68  The Rose Garden - A Trip Through The Garden (2018 bonus tracks remaster)

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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Keith Christmas - Pigmy (1971 uk, sensational acid folk psych rock, 2012 remaster)

Acid Folk is one of those musicological genre headings that had to be invented retrospectively because it didn’t exist when the music it describes was extant in the late sixties. These days it’s taken to cover the acoustic singer-songwriter individuals and combos who sprang from Dylan-inspired folk-pop roots, picked up psychedelic overtones and morphed into the complexity of prog-rock – which satisfyingly describes Keith Christmas’s most creative period, up to and including Pigmy.

Originally an Essex lad, Christmas was an undergrad at Bath University (coincidentally my own alma mater at around the same time, though we never met) where he studied Building Technology in between extensive gigging on the vibrant London and Bristol folk club circuits. Never a true folkie but certainly influenced by the likes of Bert Jansch and John Rembourn, he combined an enviable fingerstyle technique on an unfashionable but strident Fender Palomino with hippie bedsitter lyricism and a reedy but distinctive voice, a combination also evident in the work of his contemporaries Nick Drake and Al Stewart. The schizophrenic nature of Keith’s career at this time – recording with session musicians but invariably gigging solo – is mirrored in the three albums he cut between 1969 and 1971, these setting his formidable acoustic guitar work alternately against orchestral ensembles and jazzy rock band backings.

Christmas has disowned his first album, 1969’s vaguely country-rock Stimulus, recorded with musicians from Mighty Baby and pedal steelist Gordon Huntley, as “overproduced”; I’d say it was rather a venture in an unsuitable musical direction for the man. He hit his stride eighteen months later with the second, Fable Of The Wings, recorded with session musicians with folk-rock credentials, which subsequently established the folk-baroque-prog template for which he’s best remembered today. There’s little to choose quality-wise between this and the ensuing Pigmy, which for me just has the edge, offering immaculate, restrained orchestral arrangements by Robert Kirby (who did the same for Nick Drake) and the LSO on its first side of introspective ballads, notably the earnest but cerebral “Timeless And Strange”, and powerful keyboards from Rod Argent and bass from Fuzzy Samuels on the other side’s trio of extended classy rockers, culminating in the extraordinary “Forest And The Shore” with its swelling, Ligeti-like choral interludes. Keith’s acoustic shimmers like a harpsichord on the top side, and his ferocious acoustic rhythm work on the flip is leavened with some fluid electric soloing. The album artwork shows him appropriately framed by a Narnia-like background, wispily-bearded, Afghan-coated and apparently rolling a joint, the true zeitgeist of the period.

Although critically his best-received works, neither Fable nor Pigmy sold in droves at the time, and after an even less successful move in a rock/soul direction Christmas threw in the professional music business. While his contemporaries Al Stewart and Nick Drake had gone on to contrasting fates – one to superstardom in LA, the other to clinical depression and an untimely death – Keith became a renovator of old houses and eventually a schoolteacher, settling in a pleasant village near Bristol and making music for his own pleasure, issuing privately-recorded small-circulation albums at intervals and occasionally gigging local pubs and small venues, his acoustic guitar mastery undiminished. Stimulus has been bootlegged for CD, but Fable and Pigmy remain unreissued and are now great rarities on vinyl; however, almost their entire contents are available on the excellent Castle compilation CD Timeless And Strange, whose title encapsulates his music of that period and which is available direct from Keith himself at his website.
by Len Liechti

1. Travelling Down - 4:11
2. Timeless And Strange - 4:42
3. Evensong - 4:28
4. Spanky - 2:38
5. Poem - 2:01
6. The Waiting Grounds - 3:29
7. Song For A Survivor - 9:18
8. Forest And The Shore - 7:07
All compositions by Keith Christmas

*Keith Christmas - Vocals, Guitars
*Rod Argent - Piano, Organ
*Calvin 'Fuzzy' Samuels - Bass
*Adrian Shaw - Bass
*Conrad Isidore - Drums
*Roger Powell - Drums
*Mac Kissoon - Backing Vocals
*Kathy Kissoon - Backing Vocals
*Mike London - Backing Vocals
*Ray Warleigh - Saxophone
*Bob Stewart - Swedish Psaltery
*Robert Kirby - String, Choral Arrangements
*London Symphony Orchestra - Strings

1969  Keith Christmas - Stimulus (2012 remaster) 
1970  Keith Christmas - Fable Of The Wings (2012 remaster)
1974-76  Keith Christmas - Tomorrow Never Ends The Anthology (2010 Two Disc Set)

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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Don Nix - In God We Trust (1971 us, spiritual blues rock, 2016 SHM remaster)

Born in Memphis, Nix attended Messick High School with Donald "Duck" Dunn and Steve Cropper of the famed Stax house band Booker T. & the MG's. After graduation, Nix spent a short stint in the Army before returning to Memphis, where he joined Dunn and Cropper, along with Wayne Jackson, Packy Axton, Terry Johnson, and Smoochy Smith, as a saxophonist in the Mar-Keys.

The group scored a smash hit with the instrumental "Last Night" on the Satellite label (later Stax/Volt), and Nix went on the road with the group, while a house band from Memphis attempted to recorded follow-up hits under the Mar-Keys' name.

After the success of "Last Night" fizzled, Nix returned to Memphis and spent the next several years as a horn for hire, occasionally playing gigs with a re-formed version of the Mar-Keys or backing Stax stars such as William Bell and Carla Thomas.

In the mid-'60s, Nix began making trips to L.A. to visit Leon Russell and Carle Radle, friends he'd met through touring. The friendship with Russell, a big producer at the time, landed Nix a position in Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars backing one of Russell's acts, Gary Lewis & the Playboys. Their friendship also provided Nix the opportunity to see how a session was put together, and he began engineering and producing at studios around Memphis such as Stax and Ardent. 

Nix spent the next several years writing and producing for artists such as Freddie King, Albert King, Sid Selvidge, and Charlie Musselwhite. In 1970, he signed a recording deal with Shelter Records (co-owned by his old friend Leon Russell) and released a solo album, In God We Trust and followed it a year later with Living by the Days. Neither album sold very well, and after a few more attempts, Nix returned to recording other artists, producing records for John Mayall and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. 
by Steve Kurutz

1. In God We Trust - 4:29
2. Golden Mansions - 4:08
3. I'll Fly Away (Traditional) - 3:29
4. He Never Lived A Day Without Jesus (Don Nix, Bobby Whitlock) - 4:07
5. Nero My God To Thee (Traditional) - 1:09
6. Amos Burke - 3:03
7. Long Way To Nowhere (Don Nix, Larry Rasberry) - 3:38
8. Iuka - 5:20
9. Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Traditional) - 3:58
10.I've Tried - 1:29
All songs by Don Nix except where indicated

*Don Nix - Vocals
*Barry Beckett - Keyboards
*Roger Hawkins - Drums
*David Hood - Bass
*Eddie Hinton - Electric, Rhythm, Slide Guitars
*Furry Lewis - Slide Guitar
*Larry Rasberry - Rhythm Guitar
*J.A. Spell - Fiddle

1971  Don Nix - Living By The Days (2011 japan SHM remaster)

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Lee Michaels - Recital (1968 us, awesome classic rock with prog shades, 2016 hard sleeve remaster)

A big, demanding voice seeping with melody, combined with crafty keyboard exercises were prime factors engraved in the songs of Lee Michaels. Prior to adopting such a stance, the Southern California based musician held membership in a surf rock band called the Sentinals, trailed by stints with the Joel Scott Hill Group and the Family Tree. Leaving the band thing behind, Lee launched a solo career that parented a string of fine albums.

Powered by limitless energy and imagination, Lee’s second album, Recital taps into his multiple talents from track to track. Along with piano and Hammond organ, Lee also plays guitar and harpsichord, while his songwriting is strong and expressive. A crack band further contributes their mojo to the disc. Noted session musician Larry Knechtel handles bass, and both John Barbata (the Turtles, Jefferson Airplane) and Frank Davis supply drum duties.

The first song on the album, “If I Lose You”  radiates with harmonious motions shaped of punchy hooks, digging rhythms and a soul-inflected swagger. As an incentive, former Paul Revere and the Raiders guitarist adds a run of steamy licks to the cut. Beginning on mid-tempo footing, “The War” eventually develops into a muscular force of intensity. A tasty blend of driving harpsichord and organ flourishes accent the folky angst of “Basic Knowledge,” where “Spare Change” starts out on a funky feel before turning into an ear-splitting experimental endeavor pulsating with pounding keyboard passages tinted with classical leanings.

Composed of catchy arrangements and stirring instrumentation, “Time Is Over,” “Blind” and “Grocery Soldier” weigh in as other excellent songs featured on the record. An exciting listen from side to side, Recital captures Lee at the peak of his presence. His ability to incorporate rock, pop, blues and soul into a progressive soundscape remains stunning.

Although Lee’s music swayed more towards the underground edge of the spectrum, he managed to score a pair of hit singles during the latter days of 1971. “Do You Know What I Mean” reached number six on the charts that autumn, followed by a cool cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get A Witness,” which made it to the number thirty-nine position. But after that, his profile waned and he soon disappeared from the scene altogether. An artist ripe for rediscovery, Lee Michaels truly commands the recognition he deserves. And Recital proves to be just one of his many masterstrokes. 
by  Beverly Paterson

1. If I Lose You (Larry Marks, Lee Michaels) - 2:23
2. Time Is Over - 3:45
3. No Part Of It - 2:14
4. Fell In Love Today - 1:59
5. Blind - 2:53
6. Grocery Soldier - 2:28
7. What Can He Do - 0:45
8. Basic Knowledge - 3:29
9. Gonna Leave - 2:22
10.The War - 3:12
11.Spare Change - 7:24
All songs by Lee Michaels except where stated

*Lee Michaels - Vocals, Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Bass
*Drake Levin - Guitar
*John Barbata - Drums
*Frank Davis - Drums
*Larry Knechtel - Bass

1968  Lee Michaels - Carnival Of Life (2010 remaster)
1969  Lee Michaels - Lee Michaels 
1970  Lee Michaels - Barrel

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