In The Land Of FREE we still Keep on Rockin'

It's Not Dark Yet

Plain and Fancy

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


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Privilege - Privilege (1969 us, fascinating groovy hard classic rock, 2011 edition)

With Leonetti and Venturini responsible for all of the material, "Privilege" rocked way harder than anything in their earlier Soul Survivors catalog.  In fact anyone looking for another slice of 'Expressway To Your Heart' styled blue-eyed soul will be severely disappointed.  Neither Leonetti or Venturini handled vocals while in The Soul Survivors and it showed on tracks like 'Traitor' and the proto-punkish 'The Quiz', though that actually wasn't a major distraction given the set's raw hard-rock orientation. These guys were also smart enough to vary the sound with 'Circling' and the closer 'Sojourn' slowing the tempo down with a couple of power ballads. Leonetti acquitted himself particularly well, turning in some blazing guitar work throughout.  Highlights included the fuzz-guitar propelled rocker 'People' and the Hendrix-influenced 'Purple Dog', though George Thorogood should've covered 'It's Yesterday'.  Certainly not the year's most original album, but well worth hearing and one of the more pleasant surprises I've come across.  T-Neck also tapped the album for a single in the form of ''Taking Care of You' b/w 'People'

An acid rock LP on the Isley Brothers’ T-Neck label? Yes, the unlikely collaboration resulted from a Jimi Hendrix concert at New York’s Syracuse University, supported by the Isleys and mixed soul-rock group, Soul Survivors, who had worked with Tom Bell and Gamble and Huff. When Soul Survivors morphed into Privilege, they convinced the Isleys to sign them to T-Neck, the result being this rare self-titled album, a fine set of hard-rocking originals, expertly produced by the Isleys with plenty of stereo panning, blistering guitar from frontman Edward Leonetti, atmospheric organ from Paul Venturini and melodic bass lines from Jack Douglas, later an engineer for Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Cheap Trick. A true classic.

1. Traitor (Edward Leonetti) - 4:42
2. It's Yesterday - 3:59
3. The Quiz - 2:52
4. Circling - 4:26
5. People - 3:52
6. Going Down - 2:44
7. Purple Dog - 2:32
8. Easter - 3:04
9. Taking Care Of You (Edward Leonetti) - 3:18
10.Sojourn (Edward Leonetti) - 4:15
All songs  by Edward Leonetti, Paul Venturini except where stated.

*Edward Leonetti - Guitar, Vocals
*Paul Venturini - Organ, Vocals
*Jack Douglas - Bass
*Tommy Brannick - Drums

Related Act
1967  The Soul Survivors - Expressway To Your Heart 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Mind Garage - Again / The Electric Liturgy (1969-70 us, awesome garage psych roots 'n' roll with spiritual references, 2007 reissue)

There's truth to the old adage that everything old is new again but you don’t have to take my word for it. Google will happily give you almost half a million hits to prove it: everything from fashion to books to politics to music, music and more music. It seems especially apropos to music because good music never goes out of style. It may fade away for a bit, but will always find a way to be heard again, and again.

Such is the case with a regional rock 'n' roll, or garage, band from the 1960's in West Virginia. Living between Charleston and Morgantown, the Mind Garage was inventive, talented and not afraid to go to new places. The most prominent new place they went was off to church. The Mind Garage invented the concept of Electric Liturgy, the forerunner of today’s popular Christian Rock. That isn’t necessarily what they intended, but like the best of such things, it just happened that way.

They started out as The Glass Menagerie (not to confused with the UK band by the same name), and for the most part, all of them were students at West Virginia University in Morgantown. They covered songs of the Stones, the Beatles, the Animals and Jefferson Airplane, but more and more, they wrote their own material. They toured the Midwest, playing Wisconsin and Minnesota. Touring isn’t all that wonderful, and they just sort of disbanded.

A couple of personnel changes and suddenly, together they were better than any of them had ever been when all alone. It was lead guitarist John Vaughan who led the band to the young minister who supported their music: the Reverend Michael Paine. It was Mrs. Paine who came up the band’s new name, as they became the Mind Garage and their collaboration put the Catholic church’s new Liturgy (then first delivered in English rather than the traditional Latin) to rock music, known as "the Electric Liturgy" (appearing as side two of Mind Garage Again, their second RCA album). Actually, it was more Lutheran or Episcopal, harking back to the music of Bach. It almost didn’t happen, either, because a photograph of the minister with the band caused a major ruckus among the townsfolk, and the band ended up moving the music to a Methodist church. Once the music had been performed, however, the criticism melted away like snow in the sunshine.

A lot of folks called it the Electric Mass, but it was never Catholic, in that sense of the word. The only performances were in churches, mostly in the Midwest or along the Eastern seaboard, and the band never charged a fee for their performance. It was a major success, resulting in invitations to return for more.

After several starts and stops, and name changes, the band had ended up with five guys, all of whom liked classical music but played rock. They played hard, they wrote their own songs for the most part, toured a bit, made a record or two and then one day, for no reason, they just walked away in 1970.

In 1983, they found themselves all in the same place at the same time, at the anniversary of a friend’s marriage. Someone asked them to play and they did, on borrowed instruments. A few weeks later, they did it again in a recording studio, which resulted in the Carolina Session. And then, nothing for another twenty years.

Fast forward to 2005 or so. Larry McClurg, the front man for the band, who sang and addressed the audiences between songs (and still does) decided to see if he could find the other guys, with whom he’d had only that one contact since 1970. “It was surprisingly easy,” he says. He’s now in Florida, not quite retired, but busily planning for the band’s reunion next year. He quickly found Jack Bond, keyboards, also mostly in Florida, with occasional forays back home again in WVa. Jack’s been busy for the last few years on Caribbean cruise ships, as a singer/pianist/entertainer in Japan and Mexico, as well as many parts of the US and Canada.

Norris Lytton is also still in West Virginia, having spent the last 35 years in the chemical industry. He was singing bass and also played sax. John Vaughan was the lead guitarist and had been in a country and western band in the Stanford, California area, where he also worked in environmental situations. Michigan resident Ted Smith was (and still is) a percussionist, having spent a bunch of years as the tour drummer with the Spinners and other big bands, while holding down a job with the post office. He’s considered by Ziljian Cymbals to be one of the best drummers in the world.

It was surprising easy to find all the guys, but what really knocked Larry and the others for a loop was the band’s continuing popularity in far-flung areas of the world, even after all these years! It seems that their records were pressed where ever RCA had a plant, so while the band thought they were history, they were really becoming quite well-known to a new generation of fans throughout Europe, Japan, Russia, South America, Australia and Canada. The guys hadn’t even known about the foreign pressings, believing they were released only in the US. They were even included on a compilation disc made by the armed forces in company with Bob Segar, Percy Faith and the other big names of 1969. Their featured song was “What’s Behind Those Eyes."
by Kelly Ferjutz, December 2006

1. Ruby Rose - 3:18
2. Life - 3:57
3. Back Down Home - 3:09
4. Further Back Down Home - 1:56
5. There Was A Time - 3:18
6. Sweet Potato - 4:00
7. Doctor John - 6:11
8. Never Leave Me - 1:47
9. Angel Asks - 5:14
10.What's Behind Those Eyes - 2:41
11.Tobacco Road (John D. Loudermilk) - 2:06
12.Lucille (Albert Collins, Richard Penniman)  - 2:51
13.Circus Farm - 1:28
14.Emotions - 2:08
15.Isle Of Ely - 4:37
16.Jailhouse Rock (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)  - 1:23
17.Paint It Black (Keith Richards, Mick Jagger)  - 3:35
18.Processional / Kyrie / Gloria - 5:05
19.Offeratory (Sunday Christian) - 2:20
20.The Lord's Prayer - 2:14
21.Communion (Water) - 4:12
22.Recessional - 2:28
All songs by Larry McClurg, John Vaughan, Ted Smith, Jack Bonasso, Norris Lytton except where stated

The Mind Garage
*Larry McClurg - Lead Vocals, Vocals
*John Vaughan - Lead Guitar
*Ted Smith - Drums, Vocals
*Jack Bonasso - Keyboard, Vocals
*Norris Lytton - Bass Guitar, Vocals

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Horn - On The People's Side (1972 canada, extraordinary prog jazz rock, 2015 remaster)

Largely forgotten, even among the crate-diggers, Horn was a Toronto jazz/rock outfit that seems to have fallen off the musical map even though the band contained drummer Bill Bryans (M.G. and the Escorts, the Government, the Parachute Club) and trumpeter Wayne Jackson (Downchild Blues Band). What's more, it appears that TV mogul Moses Znaimer had his fingers in this pie, right about the same time that he was launching Citytv, and starting up the late-night Toronto airwaves with those soft-core Baby Blue Movies.

The band's only release, On the People's Side melds socially conscious lyrics with the then cutting-edge sounds of jazz fusion - that means plenty of Rhodes pianos, vibraphones and trumpet. And though lyrically the record has aged poorly, with its hoary "brothers and sisters" references, the galloping Zappa-esque signatures and Bitches Brew-era riffs raise the stakes somewhat. The lead-off 'Things in Themselves' and the spry 'Vibrations (vee-bra-syohn)' are cases in point, straddling both prog and jazz, and thus infinitely more interesting than the pedestrian fare of the title track or the seventies rock cliches of 'Free All My Brothers'.
by Michael Panontin

1. Things In Themselves (Bruce Burron, David deLaunay) - 3:49
2. Free All My Brothers And Sisters (Bruce Burron, Gary Hynes) - 2:34
3. Roach (Bruce Baron) - 3:46
4. Vibrations (Gary Hynes, Les Clackett, Pierre Martin) - 3:10
5. Pony Buns (David deLaunay, Bruce Burron, Gary Hynes, Les Clackett,  Alan Duffy, Bill Bryans, Wayne Jackson) - 9:37
6. Working Together (David deLaunay) - 5:53
7. On The People's Side (David deLaunay) - 5:36

*Les Clackett - Lead Vocals
*Bruce Burron - Guitar
*Gary Hynes - Guitar
*David deLaunay - Keyboards
*Wayne Jackson - Trumpet
*Bill Bryans - Drums
*Alan Duffy - Bass

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Dr. Music - Dr. Music (1973 canada, remarkable jazz fusion rock, 2005 remaster)

Douglas Riley began playing music with the R&B group the Silhouettes in Toronto. Throughout the late '60s and '70s he worked in Canadian television as a musical director and arranger for various music and variety shows, including Music Machine and The Wolfman Jack Show. The jazz group Dr. Music, that included saxist Steve Kennedy who played in a pre-Hawkins group with Robbie Robertson, began on The Ray Stevens Show, touring and recording after the show was cancelled in 1970.

Dr. Music released two eponymously-titled albums, in 1972 and 1973, both on the same label. The 1973 album included a cover version of The Band's "Where Do We Go From Here" from Cahoots, described by Canadian musicologist Bill Munson as "more effective" than The Band's version.

For the first 1972 LP, the group had about 16 members - half of them singers - doing what might be called gospel-rock, not so much in content, but in feel. All of the singers, aside from those who also played instruments, were gone by the time the second LP came out in 1973. By then the gospel was gone, replaced by more jazz-tinged rock, and the next album, Bedtime Stories (1975?) is all jazz, with just one vocal. When Dr. Music Circa 1984 came in 1985, Dr. Music was no longer a group, just whoever Doug Riley chose to use. Riley released the solo album Freedom in 1990 for PM, he passed away on August 28, 2007 of heart failure.
by John Bush

1. Long Time Comin' Home (Doug Riley) - 3:58
2. On The Road (Keith Jollimore, Larry Smith) - 5:55
3. In My Life (Doug Riley) - 5.46
4. 6-5 (Steve Kennedy) - 6:35
5. Tryin' Times (Doug Riley) - 3:38
6. Doctor Doctor (Doug Riley) - 5:35
7. Rollin' Releases (Doug Riley, Steve Kennedy) - 7:00
8. Where Do We Go From Here (Robbie Robertson) - 6:40

Dr. Music
*Doug Riley - Organ, Piano
*Doug Mallory - Acoustic, Electric Guitars, Lead Vocals
*Wayne Stone - Drums
*Steve Kennedy - Tenor, Alto Sax, Flute, Vocals
*Barrie Tallman - Trombone
*Keith Jollimore - Baritone, Tenor, Alto Sax, Flute,  Vocals
*Michael Kennedy - Percussion, Vocals

1974  Dr. Music - Bedtime Story

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Woody Kern - The Awful Disclosures Of Maria Monk (1969 uk, fascinating blues prog psych rock, 2013 remaster and expanded)

Woody Kern had its beginning with trio Rik Kenton (who was the focal point during live performances), Mick Wheat and Steve Harris forming the band in 1967 in their hometown of Nottingham. As the pivotal figure, Kenton was often mistakenly identified as the mythical 'Woody' by individuals in the audience at gigs as well as promoters. Later that year, John Sanderson was invited to join the group and the foursome played the Working Men's Club circuit in the Nottingham area.

Their music was a mix of blues, jazz, soul and psychedelia. At the beginning of 1968, after the previous year's psychedelic 'summer of love', recording labels were looking for blues bands to sign. The British Blues Boom was considered the next big thing about to happen in the music world. Woody Kern would travel down the M1 to play at the Marquee. Spotted there at a gig one night, Birmingham agency, Inter City Artists, offered to represent them.

The agency, with other artists such as the Velvet Fogg in its fold, presented Pye records with a package lot of groups that the agency represented, including Woody Kern for recording purposes. In the summer of 1968, Pye requested an album from the group. The album title "The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk" was inspired by a book of the same name published in 1836 and written by a nun (or, as has been attested, her ghostwriters) describing forced sexual encounters by the priests who lived in the seminary next door.

The original album cover concept, as conceived by Pye, involved a 'nun' (actually a stripper named Lucy) whose habit was falling away from her body in a lurid fashion. (Pye had produced a similarly trashy album cover for the Velvet Fogg.) The finished photos for the projected Woody Kern release looked ridiculous and farcical and as a result Pye used a close-up photo of Steve Harris instead.

The band were teamed with Jack Dorsey, formerly a big band leader, as producer and the album was created in an almost live fashion. The group wanted to overdub additional instrumentation but as John Sanderson relates, all Jack Dorsey "was really interested in was whether we could introduce him to any of the type of girls that he thought must follow a rock band". The group were dissatisfied with the final mix since Dorsey had added effects, without the group's knowledge, that interfered with the blues atmosphere. The album and a single were released but failed to achieve any sales success and the band went their separate ways. 

1. Biography - 4:25
2. Blues Keep Falling (Traditional) - 6:05
3. That's Wrong Little Mama (B.B. King) - 3:00
4. Tell You When I'm Gone - 4:11
5. Xoanan Bay - 4:34
6. Uncle John - 6:20
7. Gramophone Man (Mark Andes, Randy California, Ed Cassidy, Jay Ferguson, John Locke) - 4:01
8. Fair Maiden - 4:48
9. Vile Lynn - 5:47
10.Mean Old World (Walter Jacobs) - 2:41
11.Vegtable - 9:54
12.Biography - 4:21
13.Tell You When I'm Gone - 4:08
All songs by John Sanderson, Mick Wheat, Rik Kenton, Steve Harris except where stated

Woody Kern
*Rik Kenton - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*John Sanderson - Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Violin
*Mick Wheat - Bass
*Steve Harris - Drums

Monday, May 10, 2021

Toe Fat - Bad Side Of The Moon An Anthology (1970-72 uk, impressive hard classic rock with some prog shades, 2021 double disc digi pak remaster)

Motown’s Rare Earth imprint intended to bring the sound of rock to the home of The Supremes, The Miracles, Martha and The Vandellas, The Temptations, and Four Tops.  The imprint was named after a white rock band from Detroit and its artists were both home-grown and licensed from other parties.  In the latter category was Toe Fat, a U.K. psych-rock band built around the talents of Cliff Bennett, formerly of the beat group Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers.  Both of Toe Fat’s albums – issued on Rare Earth in the U.S. and EMI in the U.K. – are newly collected on Bad Side of the Moon: An Anthology 1970-1972, a 2-CD set from Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings imprint.  It gives a welcome opportunity to reevaluate the music of the band that yielded two future members of Uriah Heep, one member of Jethro Tull, and a key collaborator of The Bee Gees.

Toe Fat’s self-titled debut arrived on Rare Earth in 1970 following albums from Rare Earth (the band), Love Sculpture, U.K. import The Pretty Things, Rustix, and Messengers.  Cliff Bennett was encouraged by EMI, with whom he’d been under contract leading the Rebel Rousers, to form a band reflecting the heavier sound of rock at the turn of the decade.  When Bennett learned that Motown was interested, as well, he set out to form the oddly-monikered Toe Fat.  (Malcolm Dome’s liner notes reveal that “Bollocks” and “Shit Harry” were two other options, so maybe Toe Fat wasn’t such a bad name, after all.)  The core line-up was poached from the ashes of band called The Gods: guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Ken Hensley, bassist John Glascock (incorrectly credited during his time in the band as John Konas), and drummer Lee Kerslake.  Pianist-lead vocalist Bennett tapped Mox Gowland on flute and harmonica as a guest musician.  Recording took place with producer Jonathan Peel at Abbey Road.

Bennett’s efforts to modernize his sound were largely successful; Toe Fat was steeped in blues, rock, and soul and wrapped up in a rather frightening Hipgnosis sleeve depicting toe people.  (Two of the four nude toe people were too much for Motown and were incongruously replaced with a sheep.)  Bennett penned most of the material on the eponymous LP, sometimes in collaboration with Hensley (uncredited due to publishing rights issues).

Some notable outside compositions were brought in, too, including Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Bad Side of the Moon.”  Bennett tells Dome that he’d known John as a young fan of the Rebel Rousers, so he gladly accepted the chance to record the rising star’s song.  (Elton’s rendition appeared as the B-side of his “Border Song” in 1970.)  Bennett’s deep, resonant, and gutsy vocals – which at times resemble those of Blood, Sweat and Tears’ David Clayton-Thomas – were well-suited to the guitar-dominated heavy soul approach to material such as “Bad Side” and “(Ain’t That) Just Like Me,” the Hollies oldie-but-goodie.  Ernie Shelby and Dick Cooper’s “Nobody” (introduced by Larry Williams and Johnny Watson with The Kaleidoscope and covered by Three Dog Night) showcased Hensley with ample soloing and scorching fuzz guitar.

But the album primarily consisted of melodic but aggressive Bennett originals including the strong opener, “That’s My Love for You,” the attractive midtempo harmony ballad “The Wherefors and the Why,” the Tull-esque “Just Like All the Rest” (with Mox Gowland in place of Ian Anderson on flute as well as bluesy harmonica), the powerfully-rocking “I Can’t Believe,” and boogieing “You Tried to Take It All.”  Hensley’s riffs complemented and added an edge to Bennett’s straightforward, hook-laden songs.

Despite lackluster sales upon the album’s May 1970 release, Toe Fat was poised for success with an opening slot on Derek and the Dominos’ U.S. tour.  But it wasn’t without drama.  Before the tour, the band’s management fired Hensley and Kerslake, much to Bennett’s surprise.  They landed in Uriah Heep and were replaced in Toe Fat by future Bee Gees band member Alan Kendall on guitar and John Glascock’s brother Brian on drums.  Once the tour was completed, this line-up, again joined by Mox Gowland, reunited with Jonathan Peel at Abbey Road for the sophomore LP sought by Rare Earth.  The simply-titled Two was more eclectic than its predecessor but for consistency’s sake was adorned with another creepy-crawly Hipgnosis cover.

The opening “Stick Heat” established Alan Kendall’s bona fides.  With its spiky, abrasive guitar and foreboding atmosphere, the tune announced that Kendall was more than ready to pick up where Ken Hensley left off.  He also took Hensley’s place as Bennett’s primary co-writer, albeit with full credit.  The duo co-wrote seven of the eight songs on Two, with Kendall sole author of the moody prog instrumental “Indian Summer.”  The eight songs veered from driving hard rock (“Since You’ve Been Gone,” “Idol,” “Three Time Loser”) to a straight blues workout (“There’ll Be Changes,” boasting uncredited guitar from Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green and harmonica from Mox Gowland) with psychedelia and prog flourishes laced throughout as on the slow-burning, two-part anthem “A New Way.”  The band might not have settled on a firm direction, but they played in the manner of a tight-knit unit.

While singles had been issued from Toe Fat (“Bad Side of the Moon” in both the U.S. and U.K., and then a U.S. pressing with “Bad Side” relegated to the flip of “(Ain’t That) Just Like Me”)), neither Rare Earth in the U.S. nor EMI/Regal Zonophone in the U.K. released a 45 from Two.  Before giving up the ghost, Toe Fat recorded one more single which was released in 1972 on the indie Chapter Two label.  These have been included as bonus tracks on the second disc here.  The A-side, “Brand New Band,” channeled a more rootsy sound, with barroom piano and a singalong chorus.  “Can’t Live Without You,” on the B-side, also had a lighter sound than the two albums, pointing Toe Fat in a pub-rock vein.

Bassist John Glascock would join Jethro Tull in 1976, remaining with the band until his untimely death in 1979.  Alan Kendall would form a crucial component of the Bee Gees’ band for two separate stints (1971-1980 and 1987-2001).  Brian Glascock returned to session work for a number of high-profile artists including Dolly Parton and Heart’s Nancy Wilson.  Cliff Bennett and Ken Hensley remained friends until Hensley’s death in 2020.

Esoteric’s collection is housed in a six-panel digipak containing a 20-page booklet.  In Malcolm Dome’s notes, Bennett candidly and affectionately reflects on the band’s small but potent discography.  Ben Wiseman has remastered all of the tracks here from master tapes other than the Chapter 1 sides which were sourced from a clean vinyl copy of the original single.  Toe Fat has long been a mere footnote in the histories of Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, The Bee Gees, Elton John, and Motown/Rare Earth.  Bad Side of the Moon: An Anthology 1970-1972 enjoyably places the music front and center. 
by Joe Marchese, February 25, 2021

Disc 1 Toe Fat 1970
1. That's My Love For You (Frank Allen, M. Roberts) - 4:02
2. Bad Side Of The Moon (Elton John, Bernie Taupin) - 3:25
3. Nobody (Dick Cooper, Ernie Shelby, Beth Beatty) - 6:03
4. The Wherefores And The Whys - 3:43
5. But I'm Wrong - 4:00
6. Just Like Me (Billy Guy, Earl Carroll) - 4:12
7. Just Like All The Rest - 2:32
8. I Can't Believe - 4:00
9. Working Nights - 2:33
10.You Tried To Take It All - 4:24
All songs by Cliff Bennett except where stated

Disc 2 Toe Fat II 1971
1. Stick Heat - 6:18
2. Indian Summer (Alan Kendall) - 2:08
3. Idol - 3:31
4. There'll Be Changes - 6:51
5. A New Way - 7:55
6. Since You've Been Gone - 4:47
7. Three Time Loser - 4:30
8. Midnight Sun - 4:44
9. Brand New Band (Towns) - 2:59
10.Can't Live Without You (Cliff Bennett) - 3:33
All compositions by Alan Kendall, Cliff Bennett except where noted
Bonus Tracks 9-10 released as Chapter 1 Records SGH-R 175 in September 1972

Toe Fat
*Ken Hensley - Guitar, Organ, Piano, Vocals (Disc 1)
*Cliff Bennett - Lead Vocals, Piano
*John Glascock - Bass, Vocals
*Lee Kerslake - Drums, Vocals 
*Max Gowland - Flute, Harmonica
*Alan Kendall - Guitars, Ukele Banjo (Disc 2)
*Brian Glascock - Drums, Vocals (Disc 2)

Related Acts
1968  The Gods - Genesis (2009 japan extra tracks remaster)
1969  The Gods - To Samuel A Son (2009 japan bonus track remaster)
1970  Head Machine - Orgasm (2006 digipak edition)
1971  National Head Band - Albert One (2008 remaster) 
1973  Ken Hensley - Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf (2010 remaster)

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Chris Harwood - Nice To Meet Miss Christine (1970 uk, gorgeous jazzy folk, naked vocals ride a rock-solid back beat with clavinet funk and a wash of luscious strings sending you into a trance-like state, 2006 bonus trax remaster)

Has anybody met Chrissie Harwood?  Let us introduce to you an elusive British artiste who made an equally elusive, immaculate LP, which in the 35 years since its original release, as if by tragic magic, has materialised into thin air.

Recorded for an obscure British label it was the only record she ever made and no singles were ever released. In fact it was seldom heard beyond these shores (aside rumours of an Australian vanity pressing), and alongside Vertigo’s obscure Linda Hoyle LP, late period Transatlantic releases such as CMU’s Space Cabaret and Julie Covington’s early solo LP Beautiful Changes, it remains one of the most sought after English female folk rock records ever released. Until now it has been a mystery amongst pop-historians, DJs and record collectors alike.

For a short time in the early 90s the original LP became a regular exhibit at UK record fairs where aspiring collectors and DJs like myself would be the only buyers willing to take a gamble on this anonymous slab of vinyl housed in its uninspiring black and white sleeve which was devoid of any information likely to inspire any of the old-faire to take a punt. A record shop in Stockport called ‘The 78 Record Exchange’ was rumoured to have a whole box of these LPs sat outside in the rain throughout the late Eighties until the final copy was snapped up for the modest 50 pence asking price. The old cliche “never judge a book by the cover” couldn’t be more apt – and although, in hindsight, the LP has all the enigmatic trappings of an American private press, Smithsonian, folksploitation LP the bland packaging didn’t quite cut the mustard. Since then copies of the LP rarely crop up, only two have cropped up on the ‘necessarily evil’ eBay within the last 3 years and both have commanded figures around the £200 mark (£192 and £228 retrospectively). With a notable resurgence in vintage British folk rock it is little wonder that ‘an original Chris Harwood’ has become something of a holy grail amongst collectors, but few can say they actually know the history behind this sacred LP – the original artist, as I already mentioned, has remained somewhat elusive to say the least.

Throughout the heady summer of 1970 a regular folk tinged fixture at Rick Wakeman’s notorious ‘Brewer’s Droop’ rock pub in London was an unnamed blues-folk outfit featuring a sixteen-year-old singer called Chrissie Harwood. Spellbinding performances were warmly received by the progressive-pop cognoscenti which inspired Chrissie’s latter day squeeze and future husband and rock hack, Mark Plummer, to pursue a record deal resulting in an overnight guinea-pig contract with the launch of a CBS distributed new label owned by an uber-legendary, Mickie-Most-alike called Miki Dallon.

The first release on the short lived Birth imprint (which acted as a sister-label to Dallon’s Youngblood Records) was realised with a half baked business plan, and after a short run of break-neck off-peak studio sessions at Marble Arch (one of which witnessed a temporary power cut) – the LP, ‘Nice To Meet Christine’, was written and recorded with Plummer behind the desk and Ms. Harwood in the vocal booth. In his debut role as producer, Plummer enlisted the services of a host of up and coming progressive rock and folk stars drawing from a little black book of celebrity friends who he had previously interviewed for the likes of Melody Maker and in turn they then created the blueprint for a Rock Family tree-surgeons breakfast.

The original ‘Yes’ guitarist Peter Banks, who would later reform ‘Blodwyn Pig’ was drafted in to play acoustic and pedal steel guitar throughout the entire LP alongside a young Guitarist Dave Lambert who would go on to work with Dave Cousins in ‘The King Earl Boogie Band’ and later join ‘The Strawbs’. Lambert wrote three tracks for the album, a country-rock-boogie number ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Slave’, the up-tempo ‘Flies Like A Bird’ and a quasi-political intro track ‘Mama’ which included a Gainsbourg / Melody Nelson-esque choral arrangement courtesy of folk-rock vocal group ‘Design’ (craftily recording under the moniker ‘The Designettes’ to avoid legal wranglings with their new label Epic).

By contacting Joe Cocker’s Hammond organist Tommy Eyre, Plummer would inject ‘the funk’ into the proceedings, which goes some way to explaining why the LP has become a regular inclusion on record collectors wants-lists, especially sought after amongst Hip-Hop producers and die-hard Acid-Jazzers over the last ten years. Eyre (who would play on albums by ‘Juicy Lucy’, ‘The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’ and John Martyn) added sublime twinkles of Fender Rhodes and bursts of Hammond B3 to the LP, most notably on an astonishing, orchestral-funk cover of CSN’s ‘Wooden Ships’ as well as Chrissie’s self penned ‘Gotta Do My Best’ complete with pulsating backbeat courtesy of rock journalist veteran Chris Welsch drumming under the pseudonym J.K. Boots. Chris Welsch also supplied a future-DJ-friendly drum break on another of Chrissie’s original compositions ‘Never Knew What Love Was’, a stripped down arrangement exposing the raw fender bass played on the album by Roger Sutton, fresh from recording the seminal Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll LP ‘Open’.

With extra percussion from drum workshop legend Peter York, more guitars by folk-festival stalwart Mike Maran, and ‘Macdonald & Giles’ saxophonist, Ian MacDonald, contributing to a version of Traffic’s ‘Crying To Be Heard’ the LP unintentionally became an all star super-session (library music enthusiasts might revel in the fact that violins were contributed by session-man and Michel Legrand side-kick Johnny Van Derrick whilst taking a break from recording incidental music for The Pink Panther). Three further tracks were recorded in the session which have never been heard since the original recording.

After the studio bill was paid the LP was delivered, manufactured and sadly, mysteriously disappeared in to the purple ether with minimum commitment in the artwork, marketing and radio-plug department. A crest fallen Chrissie was given the cold, ambiguous explanation that ‘nothing happened’ with her only handcrafted stab at fulfiling the teenage dream. In later years Chrissie would hide her only copies of the ultra rare original release in a cupboard only to smash and tear them to pieces to save the potential humiliation of the record re-appearing at family functions like an embarrassing photo album. To this day since, the mysterious Chris Harwood has shyly put her singer songwriter days behind her and successfully covered the tracks. Fruitless, feeble attempts to track Chrissie down have lead to a string of ‘dodgy’ bootlegs from France, Italy and the UK which have only highlighted ‘Miss Christine’s’ enigmatic position in the mystery of pop history. In a topsy-turvy chain of events, the solo artist would step down the pop-ladder and become a session vocalist. Chrissie’s voice can be heard clearly on two tracks by the Peter Grant discovered ‘Stone The Crows’ backing up lead vocalist Maggie Bell on ‘Sunset Cowboy’ and ‘Crystal Palace Bowl’. The Twickenham born singer also spent extra studio time in an unnamed rock combo recording for Bell Records before a twist of fate saw her take the disappointing music industry in to her own hands and until recently she has worked behind the scenes, promoting pop music overseas.

1. Hear What I Have To Say (Chris Harwood) - 3:45
2. Never Knew What Love Was (Chris Harwood) - 2:42
3. Wooden Ships (David Crosby, Stephen Stills) - 4:58
4. Before You Right Now (Dave Lambert) - 3:47
5. Crying To Be Heard (Dave Mason) - 5:03
6. Question Of Time (Roger Sutton) - 3:43
7. When I Come Home (Chris Harwood) - 2:30
8. Gotta Do My Best (Chris Harwood) - 3:18
9. Romance (Chris Harwood) - 3:56
10.Ain't Gonna Be Your Slave (Dave Lambert) - 3:14
11.Flies Like A Bird (Dave Lambert) - 2:36
12.Mama (Dave Lambert) - 3:19
13.When I Come Home (Reprise) (Chris Harwood) - 1:25

*Chris Harwood - Vocals, Percussion
*Dave Lambert - Acoustic, Electric, Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals, Percussion
*Peter Banks - Acoustic Guitar
*Tommy Eyre - Hammond Organ, Piano 
*Jeff Matthews - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
*Mike Maran - Acoustic Guitar
*Ian McDonald - Flute, Saxophone
*John Russell Morgan - Stomping, Tambourine
*Jeff Starrs - Vocals
*Roger Sutton - Bass, Celli
*Johnny VanDerrick - Violin
*Pete York - Congas, Percussion 
*Chris Welch - Drums