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Plain and Fancy

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


Friday, February 26, 2021

Moby Grape - 20 Granite Creek (1971 us, remarkable west coast rural psych rock, 2017 japan SHM remaster)


20 Granite Creek was another comeback disc that Moby Grape issued in 1971, and delivers the goods in a more subdued, laidback country-rock fashion.

The five original members who played on the 1967 debut are all present though Skip Spence only contributes one fascinating original, the instrumental Chinese Song. Chinese Song is incredible, completely unlike anything the Grape would record again and more proof of Skip Spence’s genius. While Spence provided the Grape with an undefinable magic, Mosley, Lewis, Stevenson, and Miller’s contributions were just as important and really an underrated facet.

My first initial reaction to 20 Granite Creek was disappointment. The record’s production reminds me of the Doors’ LA Woman, slicker than their 60s records, making the band sound like a ghost of its former self. That being said, 20 Granite Creek is a much better album than their unfocused 1969 lp, Truly Fine Citizen, which was more or less contractual filler. Each track has something new to offer and as a whole this is one of Moby Grape’s very best offerings. Songs like Gypsy Wedding and Wild Oats Moan show off the group’s loose, bluesy hard rock side and would fit in well with classic rock radio as both these songs are full of great guitar riffs and busy arrangements. Goin Down To Texas is another excellent driving roots rocker with some great guitar hooks and a vibe that’s similar to Fall On You or Omaha. Other surprising highlights are the moody oblique psychedelia of Horse Out In The Rain and the boogie rocker I’m The Kinda Man, That Baby You Can – which bears a passing similarity to prime era Little Feat.

My picks off the album are Apocalypse and About Time, two reflective gems off the first side of the original lp. Apocalypse is more of a country-rocker that comes on like the calm after a storm and highlighted by fiddle and a rock steady beat. About Time is a complex production and notable for its unique tin drum section which gives it a distinct island influence. All in all this is a great guitar oriented roots rock lp that shows Moby Grape trying different ideas in the studio while keeping things fresh and simple. The original lp is fairly easy to find and was reissued on cd (but now out of print) by San Fransisco Sound in the 90’s albeit with shitty cover art though.
by Jason Nardelli

1. Gypsy Wedding (Bob Mosley) - 2:23
2. I'm The Kind Of Man, That Baby You Can Trust (Jerry Miller) - 3:32
3. About Time (Don Stevenson) - 2:51
4. Goin' Down To Texas (Peter Lewis) - 1:55
5. Road To The Sun (Bob Mosley) - 2:42
6. Apocalypse (Peter Lewis) - 2:11
7. Chinese Song (Alexander Spence) - 5:45
8. Roadhouse Blues (Jerry Miller) - 2:45
9. Ode To The Man At The End Of The Bar (Bob Mosley) - 3:42
10.Wild Oats Moan (Don Stevenson, Jerry Miller) - 3:03
11.Horse Out In The Rain (Peter Lewis) - 2:17

Moby Grape
*Peter Lewis - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Jerry Miller - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Mosley - Bass, Vocals
*Skip Spence - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Don Stevenson - Drums, Vocals
*Jeffrey Cohen - Bass
*Andy Narell - Steel Drums
*David Rubinson - Electric Piano, Congas
*Gordon Stevens - Electric Viola, Dobro, Mandolin

1966-69  Live (Sundazed digipak issue)
1967  Moby Grape - Moby Grape (2007 remaster)
1967-68  The Place And The Time (2009 Sundazed release)

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Locksley Hall - Locksley Hall (1969-70 us, fine psych rock, 2019 reissue)

Named after a poem written in 1835 by Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall came from Spokane, Washington. Established 1967, the band was well regarded on the Pacific Northwest circuit until their demise in 1970. In 1969, The group put together an album intended to be released by the Epic label, but the effort failed to materialize. However, the tapes from these sessions were saved, and “Locksley Hall” has recently been reissued.

Operating in the same male-female vocal framework as groups such as Eternity’s Children, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and It’s A Beautiful Day, the band was clearly a product of their time, yet had enough of their own bright ideas to forge a rather unique identity. Informed by adventure and imagination, “Locksley Hall” offers many mercurial moments to keep listeners interested and satisfied.

The introductory track is a short instrumental propelled by the spooky sound of a church organ, which duly whets the appetite. Plugging in at over seven minutes in length, “Let Me Blow Out Your Candles” is molded of a moody and meditative texture, intensified by spellbinding vocals, wavery acid-flavored guitar pickings and the lilting burr of a flute. Equally mesmerizing is the ghostly hymn-like approach of “When Autumn Leaves Turn To Gold,” while “Boy” rattles and rocks to a snarling edge.

Breezy jazz rhythms and shimmering melodies cement “Que-Ball,” and for a good laugh, there’s the corny “D.O.P.E.,” a strummy hillbilly sentiment about smoking grass. Exploding with sunny harmonies and effective hooks, “Wake Up (Tubby’s Tune)” is a pure pop gem smacking of hit single status, and “Some Say Love” carries a soulful hard rocking flair.

A lot of cool and clever stuff is happening throughout “Locksley Hall.” The vocals are strong and heartfelt, and the interplay between the guitars, keyboards and drums moves and grooves with freewheeling fervor. Containing an alluring mix of colors and tones, the album shows off the band’s vision on a variety of different levels. A homemade quality, coupled with a casual attitude gives “Locksley Hall’ an added dose of charm. As far as true blue hippy rock goes, here’s an album that certainly fits the term.
by Beverly Paterson

1. Locksley Hall (Poem) - 0:59
2. Boy - 4:14
3. Let Me Blow Out Your Candle - 7:35
4. Baby Blue Eyes - 4:06
5. D-O-P-E - 3:08
6. Some Say Love - 3:01
7. What Does A Lonely Heart Do? - 5:44
8. Que-Bell - 4:33
9. Wake Up (Tubby's Tune) - 2:20
10.When Autumn Leaves Turn To Gold - 4:18
11.Locksley Hall (Poem) - 0:30
12.After Thought - 0:41
13.Studio Chatter - 3:00
All songs written by Ben Staley

Locksley Hall
*Shannon Svenson - Vocals
*Ben Staley - Guitar, Vocals
*Randy Thompson - Drums
*Roy Castleman - Bass, Vocals
*Denny Langdale - Keyboards
*Kevin Svenson - Backing Vocals

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Thrice Mice - Thrice Mice (1970 germany, astonishing psych prog jazz rock with blues touches, 2003 remaster and expanded)

A sextet from Hamburg, playing the patented, distinctive German type of progressive jazz-rock typified by underground legends like Xhol and Out Of Focus (their 2nd & 3rd albums). The leading soloist in Thrice Mice was Wolfgang Buhre. Vocalist Karl-Heinz Blumenberg had little to do most of the time. Their album was recorded in November - December 1970 in Hamburg and released on Phillips in 1971. Buhre often tried to copy the wah-wah sax style of Ian Underwood of Mothers Of Invention, this was most apparent on the opening track, "Jo Joe". On "Vivaldi" the three soloists were playing duets, taking turns two at a time! Minnemann's organ sound was high, thin and cranky in the late sixties sort of way. 

The distinctive German underground sound, rooted in jazz, notably with influences as wide-ranging as Blodwyn Pig (two covers as bonus tracks) and Curved Air. Long jammings by highly talented musicians, all blending into an unique sound with the distinct spirit of krautrock. Bonus material, digitally remastered and with informative booklet.After a couple of years, the group resurfaced as Altona and made two further albums for RCA in 1974 and 1975.

1. Jo Joe (Arno Bredehöft) - 8:51
2. Vivaldi (Antonio Vivaldi) - 11:34
3. Trakov (Karl-Heinz Blumenberg) - 12:54
4. Fancy Desire (Wolfgang Buhre) - 8:00
5. Drve Me (Mick Abrahams) - 2:20
6. Pig Ii (Arno Bredehöft, Rainer von Gosen) - 10:56
7. Vivaldi's Revival - 7:18
8. Trying - 5:10
9. New Life - 2:20
10.Dawn - 2:57
11.An Invitation (Rainer von Gosen) - 3:10
Tracks 7-10 written by Wolfgang Buhre, Karl-Heinz Blumenberg, Werner von Gosen, Wolfram Minnemann, Arno Bredehöft, Rainer von Gosen
Bonus Tracks 5-11
Tracks 1-4 Recorded Nov./Dec. 1970, Windrose-Dumont-Time Studio, Hamburg.
Tracks 5, 6 Recorded live, 04.-06.09.1970 at Fehmann-Festival.
Track 7 Recorded live, March 1970, Ernst-Merck-Halle, Hamburg.
Tracks 8-10 Recorded live, Tochstedt (1969).
Track 11 Recorded 1967, Tonstudio Niemann & Richter

Thrice Mice
*Wolfgang Buhre - Saxophone
*Karl-Heinz Blumenberg - Vocals
*Werner Von Gosen - Guitar
*Wolfram Minnemann - Organ
*Arno Bredehöft - Drums
*Rainer Von Gosen - Bass

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Rory Gallagher - ‘Check Shirt Wizard-Live In ’77 (1977 ireland, superb classic hard blues rock, 2020 double disc digipak remaster)

Irish bluesman Rory Gallagher was always known as a fierce live performer and those not fortunate enough to catch him first-hand can still feel his power on his new posthumous release Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ‘77. The set comes out March 6th, 2020 via Chess/UMC as two CDs or three vinyl records and contains 20 previously unreleased live recordings from shows in early 1977 in London, Brighton, Sheffield and Newcastle. Many of the selected tracks are from Gallagher’s then-current album Calling Card and his 1975 effort Against The Grain. They’ve all been newly mixed from the original master tapes captured by The Rolling Stones’ mobile studio and were mastered at Abbey Road. This new record follows Gallagher’s successful Blues album of 2019 and is another tremendous batch of music from a talent who left us far too soon.

Rory Gallagher is arguably the greatest guitarist ever to emerge from Ireland and had a deep, passionate gift for playing the blues. His live performances during his 70s and 80s heyday are the stuff of legend and he was never more in his element than when he was onstage. His playing connected blues and rock influences to form a mighty guitar style that’s as relevant now as it was back then and his name is spoken in hushed, respectful tones in the guitar community to this very day. Gallagher died in 1995 at just 47 years old but his reputation has only grown in stature since then. He’s also been cited as an important figure in the development of guitar stars including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Queen’s Brian May, and The Smiths’ Johnny Marr. He was a musician’s musician who left an empty spot behind him that’ll never be filled.

Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ‘77 begins with an audience chanting Gallagher’s name and, after a simple introduction, he goes right to work on the funky rocker “Do You Read Me.” Rory wastes no time and gets hot immediately on guitar and vocals. He pushes his battered old Stratocaster into overdrive and skillfully works unique melodic figures in between his blues licks. “Moonchild” follows and raises the tempo and intensity another few levels. Gallagher is bold and expressive, fearlessly taking the blues he loved into a rock environment that still sounds fresh and progressive. His tone and phrasing both shine here and represent a gold standard that emerging guitar heroes must still be judged against.

“Calling Card” is a jazz-tinged shuffle with a jam band flavor to it that gives Gallagher an entirely different context in which to situate his improvisations. The band stretches right along with him and together they touch on an Allman/Santana type of sound that everyone involved wears extremely well. Gallagher’s energy is unrelenting and gives this jam a harder edge than Duane or Carlos could, however, and he throws down like a boss.

Gallagher was one of the few blues/rock players who was just as compelling on solo acoustic as he was with an electric band, a fact made clear by tracks like “Barley & Grape Rag” and “Pistol Slapper Blues.” His acoustic efforts were always a cut above and he easily expanded to fill the space a solo stage gave him. “Too Much Alcohol” showcases Gallagher’s slashing acoustic slide playing and muscular rhythm style. He also engages vocally with his audience and you can tell that those assembled were paying attention to every word he sang.

“Bullfrog Blues” gets into Rory’s practically manic electric slide style and he deals out a seemingly endless string of tight bottleneck licks over a fast rock and roll beat. Gallagher never lets the energy lag even a little and keeps driving himself harder and harder. Impressive bass and drum solos complete the live band experience and help push Gallagher into the stratosphere.

Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ‘77 is a long and wonderful collection that explores a mostly undocumented period of Gallagher’s performance history. It shows us Rory at his best, giving his all to crowds that loved this music as much as he did. Gallagher was a house-rocker of the highest order and deserved to be more famous than he ever became. These live takes are treasures that all fans of blues music need to hear.
by Mike O’Cull

The New York Times obituary for blues rock guitarist Rory Gallagher says he was known for his “flashy guitar work,” which, while certainly true, is a dramatic oversimplification of Gallagher’s legacy. But the tribute, coming in at a scant 150 or so words, also crystalizes Gallagher’s career: misunderstood in the United States, underappreciated, and seen as one-dimensional by those who didn’t choose to delve into his full body of work. Check Shirt Wizard – Live in ‘77, a compilation of four European shows, won’t change Gallagher’s stature in the eyes of the public at large, but it does serve as a strong reminder of just what made him so great.

Gallagher’s live work is well-documented. There’s 1972’s Live In Europe, Irish Tour ’74, and 1980’s Stage Struck, plus some posthumous live releases. So it’s hard to say where Check Shirt Wizard fits into those other shows, other than as a great excuse to delve back into Gallagher’s catalog.

And one thing that comes across Check Shirt Wizard is that while Gallagher was a gifted guitar player, he was also a soulful singer. The vocal performances are impressive. I was particularly struck by “Calling Card,” with Gallagher, notoriously critical of his own abilities, sounding both relaxed and confident. While there’s plenty of “flashy” guitar punctuating the track, the piano and Gallagher’s weathered voice make it special.

Clocking in at twenty generous tracks, you get to hear Gallagher cover a lot of stylistic ground in-depth. There’s a nice run of acoustic songs, which make you feel like you’re hearing Gallagher in a pub. “Barley and Grape Rag,” just Gallagher and his acoustic guitar, sounds like Gallagher is performing across the room from you, a tribute to his ability to convey intimacy, and to the quality of the recording. “Too Much Alcohol,” the J. B. Hutto tune Gallagher tackled with a full band on Irish Tour ’74 is performed here as a Delta blues.

Gallagher also hits some surprisingly glam notes that I wasn’t expecting. “I Take What I Want,” a Sam and Dave soul cover, sounds like Sweet in Gallagher’s energized hands. “Walk on Hot Coals” has a similar power, with an abandon that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Led Zeppelin track. And here too, you have to be impressed with Gallagher’s vocals, which have a sexy smokiness. The joke is that European rock singers try to sound American and American singers try to sound British, but Gallagher, across the entire album, does a beautiful job of sounding like his true Irish self, but organically channeled through the American south.

As someone who doesn’t pay for the music being reviewed, I feel funny criticizing the length of an album, but at 20 tracks there’s a lot to process here. “Bullfrog Blues,” a fun tune with some vintagely wild Gallaher slide, clocks in at almost 10 minutes, largely because Gallagher introduces the band during the performance. It’s cute the first time, but as you might expect, the same introduction loses its charm over repeated listenings. It hardly detracts from what is a very strong album, but it would also be nice if labels understood that the things that make a one-time live show work don’t translate across the board for live albums.
by Steven Ovadia,  March 2, 2020

Disc 1
1. Do You Read Me - 5:51
2. Moonchild - 5:49
3. Bought And Sold - 7:27
4. Calling Card - 6:46
5. Secret Agent - 6:37
6. Tattoo'd Lady - 6:27
7. A Million Miles Away - 7:13
8. I Take What I Want (David Porter, Isaac Hayes, Mabon "Teenie" Hodges) - 5:50
9. Walk On Hot Coals - 7:58
All songs by Rory Gallagher except where stated

Disc 2
1. Out On The Western Plain (Huddie Ledbetter) - 4:44
2. Barley And Grape Rag - 2:37
3. Pistol Slapper Blues (Fulton Allen) - 2:42
4. Too Much Alcohol (J.B. Hutto) - 4:20
5. Going To My Hometown - 5:34
6. Edged In Blue - 5:56
7. Jack-Knife Beat - 8:47
8. Souped-Up Ford - 6:22
9. Bullfrog Blues (Traditional) - 9:51
10.Used To Be - 4:42
11.Country Mile - 5:49
All songs by Rory Gallagher except where noted

*Rory Gallagher - Vocals, Guitars, Mandolin
*Gerry McAvoy - Bass 
*Lou Martin - Piano, Guitar 
*Rod De'Ath - Drums, Percussion

1971  Rory Gallagher (Japan Mini Lp replica)
1971  Deuce (Japan Mini Lp replica)
1972  Live In Europe (2018 remaster)
1973  Blueprint (Japan Mini Lp replica)
1973  Tattoo (2012 promo copy)
1974  Irish Tour (2018 remaster)
1975  Against The Grain (2018 remaster)

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Siegel Schwall Band - R.I.P. Siegel Schwall (1974 us, essential blues rock, 2018 reissue)

R.I.P. Siegel/Schwall was the band’s swansong, of sorts. The Siegel-Schwall Band had broken up in February 1974, around the time of the release of Live: The Last Summer, but Wooden Nickel asked them to come up with one more studio album. The fittingly-titled R.I.P. Siegel/Schwall was released later that year; a collection of cover songs by the band’s favorite artists, the eclectic track list runs the gamut from John Prine and Little Richard to Little Walter, Muddy Waters and, of course, Jimmy Reed. Prine’s “Pretty Good” is bluesed-up pretty good with melodic harp-play that emphasizes the lyrics while Nappy Brown’s “Night Time Is The Right Time” offers red-hot rhythm and blues in a mighty fine performance.

After a decade on the road together, the band members decided that it was time to pursue other musical opportunities. R.I.P. Siegel/Schwall would be their last album for fourteen years; The Siegel-Schwall Reunion Concert, with the legendary Sam Lay taking over on drums, was released by Alligator Records in 1988. The band would also release a studio album of new songs titled Flash Forward on Alligator in 2005, and they’ve toured together as recently as 2014. The Siegel-Schwall Band may not receive the respect heaped upon similar blues-rock trailblazers, but their influence continues to resound with contemporary artists.

Nashville-based blues guitarist Mark Robinson grew up in Indiana, where he witnessed the Siegel-Schwall Band perform live. “I loved the power of Muddy and Howling Wolf, but I also loved the energy of Butterfield and Siegel-Schwall,” he remembers. “I felt that I might someday be able to play blues after hearing these younger guys doing it so well.” Robinson agrees that although the band “is not as well-known and not as influential as their contemporaries…their records were great and their performances were really strong. Elements of country-blues and jazz were more evident in their recordings than most of the other Chicago blues artists.” In the end, Robinson concludes, “I think their influence in Chicago and in the Midwest was considerable.” 
by Rev. Keith A. Gordon, January 4, 2019

1. Take Out Some Insurance (Charles Singleton, Wadense Hall) – 3:19
2. Pretty Good (John Prine) – 2:53
3. (I) Can't Believe You Wanna Leave (Leo Price, Richard Penniman) – 2:54
4. Wild About My Lovin' (Traditional) – 4:07
5. Night Time's The Right Time (Nappy Brown, Ozzie Cadena, Lew Herman) – 4:52
6. I'm A Hog For You Baby (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) – 4:38
7. Tell Me Mama (Walter Jacobs) – 1:52
8. You Don't Have To Go (Jimmy Reed) – 3:31
9. Long Distance Call (McKinley Morganfield) – 4:51
10.It's Too Short (W. R. Calaway, Clarence Williams) – 2:46
11.Women Make A Fool Out Of Me (Johnny Bond) – 3:20

The Siegel-Schwall Band
*Corky Siegel – Piano, Harmonica, Vocals
*Jim Schwall – Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Rollo Radford – Bass, Vocals
*Shelly Plotkin – Drums, Percussion

1972  Sleepy Hollow
1973  953 West
1974  R.I.P. Siegel-Schwall (Vinyl issue)