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 29, 2022

Fever Tree - Fever Tree (1968 us, classic psych rock, 2011 digipak remaster)

The self-titled debut album of this unfairly neglected psychedelic band is an odd mix of slick studio work laced with surprising moments of eclecticism, from soundtrack references to hard rock worthy of the best bands of the time. They open up with a pretty good piece of musical prestidigitation, melding Johann Sebastian Bach and Ennio Morricone into the album's first track, which segues neatly into a hard rock style that's their own on the spaced-out, Ravel-laced "Where Do You Go," which sounds like the Doors and the Jimi Hendrix Experience jamming together. They also roll over "Day Tripper" and "We Can Work It Out," squeezed into a two-song medley, like a proto-metal steamroller while quoting "Norwegian Wood" and "Eleanor Rigby"; then switch gears into a beautifully elegant, gently orchestrated pop/rock rendition of Neil Young's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" that's worth the price of admission by itself.

The harder rocking numbers (especially "San Francisco Girls") are highly diverting artifacts of their time, while the last two songs, "Unlock My Door" and "Come with Me (Rainsong)," show off a totally unexpected and beautifully reflective folk-rock side to their sound that's strongly reminiscent of Phil Ochs' work on Pleasures of the Harbor and Tape from California. The variations in sound and content, plus the fact that the only keyboard player, Rob Landes, made any large contribution to the in-house songwriting (mostly the work of their producers, Scott & Vivian Holtzman), makes it difficult to pin down precisely what Fever Tree was about, beyond the evidence at hand; but taken on its own terms, the album ought to be better known than it is, which is probably also true of the band itself. 
by Bruce Eder

1. Imitation Situation 1 (Toccata and Fugue) (Scott Holtzman, Vivian Holtzman, Rob Landes, J.S. Bach) - 1:36
....Where Do You Go? (Scott Holtzman, Vivian Holtzman, Michael Knust) - 2:28
2. San Franciscan Girls (Return of the Native) (Scott Holtzman, Vivian Holtzman, , Michael Knust) - 4:04
3. Ninety-Nine and One-Half  (Wilson Pickett, Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd) - 2:47
4. Man Who Paints the Pictures (Scott Holtzman, Vivian Holtzman, Michael Knust) - 2:35
5. Filligree and Shadow (Scott Holtzman, Vivian Holtzman, Michael Knust) - 3:57
6. The Sun Also Rises (Scott Holtzman, Vivian Holtzman, Rob Landes) - 2:43
7. Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 3:31
8. Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing (Neil Young) - 3:05
9. Unlock My Door (Scott Holtzman, Vivian Holtzman, Rob Landes) - 3:49
10. Come with Me (Rainsong) (Scott Holtzman, Vivian Holtzman, Rob Landes) - 3:50

Fever Tree
*Dennis Keller - Vocals
*Michael Stephen Knust - Guitar
*Rob Landes - Synthesizer, Organ, Piano
*E.E. "Bud" Wolfe - Bass Guitar
*John Tuttle - Drums

1968-69  Fever Tree - Fever Tree / Another Time, Another Place
1969-70  Fever Tree - Creation / For Sale

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Mark "Moogy" Klingman - Moogy (1972 us, fabulous rhythm 'n' blues rock, 2022 korean remaster)

His mother, Mildred "Milly" Klingman, wrote the book The Secret Lives of Fat People. Her son, Mark "Moogy" Klingman, produced Bette Midler's third album, Songs for the New Depression; co-wrote with Buzzy Linhart the song that could be considered her theme, "(You Got to Have) Friends"; co-founded Utopia with Todd Rundgren; and was a legendary figure in the music industry, having written, produced, performed, and organized for over four decades. Born on September 7, 1950, his early start enabled Moogy's career to span decades, beginning in the 1960s when producer Dick Glass signed his friends from Great Neck, New York to a demo deal. The band, the Living Few, recorded two Dylan tunes and a couple of originals, like their answer to P.F. Sloan's "Eve of Destruction" called "Let 'Em Cry."

At 16, he was a member of Jimmy James & the Blue Flames, the original Jimi Hendrix Group along with Spirit co-founder Randy California. A year later, Klingman caught a break when one of the hottest producers in the industry, Bob Crewe, produced his first signed band, Glitterhouse (formerly the Justice League),which included drummer Joel O'Brien, later with James Taylor and Carole King. "I got a real education in making records with Bob Crewe," Klingman told the All Media Guide in May of 2002. Glitterhouse also recorded the soundtrack to the hip Roger Vadim science-fiction film starring Jane Fonda, Barbarella, though they may be credited as the Bob Crewe Generation. You can hear the singer's distinctive voice and harp playing. 

Klingman was in a jug band with Andy Kaufman, one of his best friends from Great Neck, performing in a civil rights concert that got Klingman expelled from high school. He met Todd Rundgren at the Cafe Au Go Go circa 1969 and played on many Rundgren-produced discs by artists such as Ian & Sylvia, co- producing some like the James Cotton Blues Band and Klingman's own two albums for Capitol/EMI. When Family producer Earl Dowd got recording time at The Record Plant and Todd Rundgren walked away from a proposed project, Klingman got to produce and direct sessions that came to be known as Music from Free Creek. These included recordings with Keith Emerson, Buzzy Fenton, Mitch Mitchell, and Chris Wood; a second set taped over a two-day period with Jeff Beck; and one night of the sessions with Beck and Eric Clapton. At Moogy Klingman's loft, Todd Rundgren built a studio and they became co-owners of Secret Sound, "where Todd recorded all of the albums he did for the next few years. In the front half was the studio, the back half I lived in. I was there for all the sessions...starting with A Wizard, a True Star, Todd, Utopia the first album, and then he mixed Utopia Live there." Klingman appeared on about ten to 12 Rundgren albums, he brought in the players for the classic Something/Anything?, and performed on various sessions including another Rundgren find, the Hello People. 

With a sound much like another Capitol recording artist from the day, the Band, the self-titled album debut from underrated songwriter Mark "Moogy" Klingman came shortly after he appeared on releases by Al Kooper, James Cotton Blues Band, and Shuggie Otis, as well as discs by his friend Buzzy Linhart. "I Can Love" has that Band sound with a strong Klingman vocal; the mood comes right down for "Liz, When You Waltz," which is merely Klingman's piano and voice coupled with Joel Bishop O'Brien's mandolin. It's a great pairing, and the album would have had just as much heart and life had all the tracks received this treatment. Instead the 12 songs were recorded in six different facilities, with a full band kicking in for "Kindness" -- and not just any bunch of cats, the musicians were as legendary as this strong material would turn out to be. Todd Rundgren, engineer and co-producer, lends his talents on guitar and backing vocals, with Amos Garrett adding the intentionally brittle lead guitar, Stu Woods playing the bass, and N.D. Smart providing the beat. 

What is stunning about this album is the amount of cover versions of these songs that it spawned. Johnny Winter recorded "Kindness"; Carly Simon included "Just a Sinner" on her first album; the song here that Todd Rundgren and Klingman co-wrote, "Tonight I Want to Love Me a Stranger," found its way onto a James Cotton album; while a Klingman original which had Rundgren dueting on with him, "Crying in the Sunshine," got further validation when Thelma Houston tracked it on one of her sessions. Rundgren doesn't sound like Houston, but it's a neat female vocal from the wizard and true star. The inner sleeve has a photo of young Mark Klingman and all the lyrics, with the band receiving the moniker of the Rhythm Kings, a line from the last tune, "The Man at Ease." The cover photo has the singer/songwriter seated at a piano in a burned-out shell of an apartment or living room; a painting of the artist on the back cover has the him looking like a bearded Bob Dylan. 

On April 22, 2002, he organized a benefit for musical collaborator Buzzy Linhart featuring Dave Amram, Eric Andersen, John Hammond, John Sebastian, Phoebe Snow, and others. Even his former engineer/producer Eddie Kramer made an appearance. It brought things full circle and became a focal point for the artist to re-launch much of his music on the Internet at In 2010, Klingman was diagnosed with cancer, which prompted Rundgren to re-form Utopia for a 2011 benefit concert in New York City to help defray the mounting medical bills of his friend and former bandmate. Moogy Klingman lost his battle with cancer later that year, passing away on November 15 at the age of 61. 
by Joe Viglione

1. I Can Love - 3:57
2. Liz, When You Waltz - 2:09
3. Kindness - 3:34
4. Crying In The Sunshine - 2:57
5. Kilpatrick's Defeat (Mark "Moogy" Klingman, Mike Gayle) - 3:05
6. Just A Sinner - 3:26
7. Making The Rounds At Midnight - 3:05
8. On Your Own - 2:59
9. Tonight I Want To Love Me A Stranger (Mark "Moogy" Klingman, Todd Rundgren) - 3:20
10.The Sun And The Moon - 3:12
11.Me And Richard - 1:34
12.The Man At Ease - 3:41
All songs by Mark "Moogy" Klingman except where indicated

*Mark "Moogy" Klingman - Keyboards, Vocals, Clavinet
*Todd Rundgren - Guitar, Keyboards, Drums, Backing Vocals 
*Richard Corey - Vocals, Fiddle
*Tom Cosgrove - Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Rick Derringer - Guitar
*Terry Eaton - Horn
*Amos Garrett - Guitars
*Ben Keith - Pedal Steel Guita
*Robbie Kogel - Guitar, Backing Vocals
*John Miller - Bass
*Joel Bishop O'Brien - Mandolin
*Douglas Rodriguez - Guitar
*Ralph Schuckett - Keyboards, Clavinet, Backing Vocals
*John Seigler - Bass, Cello, Backing Vocals
*John Siomos - Drums
*Norman D. Smart - Drums, Vocals
*Colin Wilcox - Horn
*Keith Johnson - Horn
*Terry Eaton - Horn
*Stu Woods - Bass, Backing Vocals
*Buzzy Linhart - Vibraphone, Backing Vocals 
*Peter Labarbera - Vibraphone, Backing Vocals
*Mark Rosengarden - Congas

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Team Dokus - Team Dokus (1972 uk, superb underground acid psych rock, 2021 hard sleeve bonus tracks limited edition)

When Blandford Forum resident and vocalist Roger ‘Dokus’ Hope was edged out of local band The Room in favour of Jane Kevern in February 1969, he was approached by former members of The Push, guitarists Stephen Hall and Fred Fry, bassist Terry Lowe and keyboard player Phil Bridle to form their own outfit with eventual drummer Royston ‘Roy’ Stockley. The name they chose for this new band, Team Dokus, was a fusion of Roger’s nickname ‘Dokus’, given to him by Stephen Hall from the TV cartoon character ‘Diplodocus’ and the Formula one racing team Lotus. Managed by Graham Cole of the J. C. Theatrical Agency based in Weymouth, the band honed their repertoire of Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, Status Quo and Ten Years After covers, plus a smattering of originals, at local venues such as the Chequers Inn in Lytchett Matravers, the Old Harry pub in Poole High Street and the George Hotel, also in Poole.

By 1971, they were making headway on the national college and club circuit and recorded four tracks at Wessex Studios in Highbury New Park, Islington on 15th February. Two of the songs, “Tomorrow May Not Come” and “I Feel Your Fire” turned up years later on their sole album, while “My Name is Death” and “Feel a Little Higher”, have never been released. 

Six months later, on 18th September, the band recorded an ambitious concept album with a nuclear holocaust theme set during World War 3 for the miniscule Sphere label, a subsidiary of CBS Records. Sandwiched between dates with Nazareth at The Temple in Wardour Street and Genesis at the Potters Bar Youth Club, the ten songs were hurriedly taped in a matter of hours, leaving no time for overdubs, refinements or corrections. On the day of recording, Terry and Roger were suffering from severe bouts of flu and were promised a chance to return at a later date to re-record their vocal parts, but the opportunity never materialised.

A couple of months later over two Saturdays in October, the band decamped to Regent Sound Studios in Denmark Street to record shorter versions of two songs from the album, “Fifty Million Megaton Sunset” and “Tomorrow May Not Come”, for a single. A small amount were released in London and it was picked up by John Peel who played it on his radio show, but the record never reached the shops nationally. 

In 1972, Team Dokus entered the southern area final of the inaugural ‘Melody Maker National Rock and Folk Contest’ (as opposed to the ‘Melody Maker Search’ contest that Roger’s former band Room entered in 1970). Held at the Chelsea Village in Glen Fern Road, they beat off the opposition and progressed to the final held at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm on Saturday 4th June 1972. The band missed out on a top three places and the chance of a recording contract because they were already signed to Sphere. The blues artist Lloyd Watson came out top in the solo category and the Anglo / American jazz rock outfit Listen was deemed to be the best band, while Team Dokus settled with fourth position. They received a consolation pat on the back from John Peel, plus a brand new Fender bass for Terry Lowe. Later, in 1972, the band broke up and returned to a quiet life in rural Dorset, becoming just another blip in the annals of rock history.

1. 50 Million Megaton Sunset - 6:51
2. Night Of The Living Dead - 5:46
3. Here's Hoping - 4:40
4. On The Way Down - 4:11
5. Magic Castle - 4:27
6. Visions - 3:34
7. It's On The Rise - 2:45
8. Feel A Little Higher - 2:34
9. Tomorrow May Not Come - 4:08
10.50 Million Megaton Sunset - 1:57
11.I Feel Her Fire - 3:03
12.Feel A Little Higher - 2:42
13.Tomorrow May Not Come - 2:32
14.My Name Is Death - 3:08
15.On The Way Down - 6:03
All songs by Roger "Dokus" Hope, Fred Fry, Stephen Hall, Phil Bridle, Terry Lowe, Royston Stockley

Team Dokus
*Roger "Dokus" Hope - Vocals
*Fred Fry - Lead Guitar
*Stephen Hall - Rhythm Guitar
*Phil Bridle - Keyboards
*Terry Lowe - Bass 
*Royston Stockley - Percussion

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Vangelis Papathanassíou (29 March 1943 - 17 May 2022)

Vangelis, the Greek composer and musician whose synth-driven work brought huge drama to film soundtracks including Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire, has died aged 79. His representatives said he died in hospital in France where he was being treated.

Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou in 1943, Vangelis won an Oscar for his 1981 Chariots of Fire soundtrack. Its uplifting piano motif became world-renowned, and reached No 1 in the US charts, as did the accompanying soundtrack album.

Mostly self-taught in music, Vangelis grew up in Athens and formed his first band in 1963, called the Forminx, playing the pop music of the time: uptempo rock’n’roll, sweeping ballads and Beatles cover versions, with Vangelis supplying organ lines.

They split in 1966, and Vangelis became a writer and producer for hire, working for other musicians and contributing scores for Greek films. Two years later, he struck out for Paris to further his career, where he formed the prog rock quartet Aphrodite’s Child with Greek expats including Demis Roussos. Their single Rain and Tears was a hit across Europe, topping the French, Belgian and Italian charts and reaching the UK Top 30.

After they split – Vangelis deeming the world of commercial pop “very boring” – he returned to scoring film and TV. Turning down an invitation to replace Rick Wakeman on keyboards in Yes, he moved to London and signed a solo deal with RCA Records: his LPs Heaven and Hell (1975) and Albedo 0.39 (1976) each reached the UK Top 40, the former also used to soundtrack Carl Sagan’s popular TV series Cosmos. The connection with Yes was finally completed later in the decade, when he teamed with the band’s Jon Anderson for the duo Jon and Vangelis, whose debut album went Top 5.

Vangelis had continued his film score work throughout the 1970s, but it was in the 1980s that this reached its commercial heights. Chariots of Fire became inextricable from Vangelis’s timeless theme, and the music became synonymous with slow-motion sporting montages. “My music does not try to evoke emotions like joy, love, or pain from the audience. It just goes with the image, because I work in the moment,” he later explained.

His score to Blade Runner is equally celebrated for its evocation of a sinister future version of Los Angeles, where robots and humans live awkwardly alongside one another, through the use of long, malevolent synth notes; saxophones and lush ambient passages enhance the film’s romantic and poignant moments. “It has turned out to be a very prophetic film – we’re living in a kind of Blade Runner world now,” he said in 2005.

Later in the decade he scored the Palme d’Or-winning Costa-Gavras political drama Missing, starring Jack Lemmon; the Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins drama The Bounty; and the Mickey Rourke-starring Francesco. He worked again with the Blade Runner director, Ridley Scott, on 1992 film 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and elsewhere during the 1990s, soundtracked Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon and documentaries by Jacques Cousteau.

Vangelis drew on Greek instrumentation alongside the typical orchestras used in film scoring on Oliver Stone’s 2004 classical epic, Alexander. 

His most recent score is for El Greco, a 2007 Greek biopic of the Renaissance painter. The Greek artist, who moved to Spain and acquired his nickname there, was much admired by Vangelis, who composed albums in 1995 and 1998 that were inspired by and named after him.

Continually celebrated for his evocative Chariots of Fire theme, Vangelis was also commissioned by sporting bodies to soundtrack major events, including the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He also wrote ballet scores and music for stage productions of Medea, The Tempest and other plays.

Solo releases remained steady alongside his commissioned work, and occasionally included collaborations with vocalists such as Paul Young.

A fascination with outer space found voice in 2016’s Rosetta, dedicated to the space probe of the same name, and Nasa appointed his 1993 piece Mythodea (which he claimed to have written in an hour) as the official music of the Mars Odyssey mission of 2001. His final album, 2021’s Juno to Jupiter, was inspired by the Nasa probe Juno and featured recordings of its launch and the workings of the probe itself in outer space.


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Cargo - Simple Things (1970 canada, fantastic hypnotic jazzy psych rock, 2015 remaster)

Merv Buchanan originally started up his now-sought-after Trend label in 1965 in a crusty old studio out in the wilds of suburban east Toronto. The enterprising dee jay and producer half-flippantly recalls, "The studio did mostly demo work and an album by Dutch immigrant Guido Smit, which sold 200 copies, mostly to his relatives back in Holland." A few years later, however, Buchanan had converted an old schoolhouse over in nearby West Hill and fitted it with a pair of high-tech Ampex real-to-real decks. ("The bank manager was pretty understanding, (but) he was amazed that a tape recorder could cost more than a car.") By 1969, the fledgling indie was firing on all four, kicking out a string of totally obscure psych singles by the likes of Sedum Shadows, the Uncertain and the Ultimate Image.

Though none of those records had sold more than two or three hundred copies each, Buchanan signed up a youthful jazz-rock combo from the neighbouring suburbs and set out recording the label's first full-length disc. And for a record made by four boys who look barely out of high school, Cargo's Front Side Back Side is a revelation. The squeaky clean kids (guitarist Bruce Oxley, bass player Garth Vagan, Mike Proudfoot on guitar and piano and Norm Foster behind the drum kit) may have looked like extras from the set of My Three Sons, but their spacy noodling had an unintentional lysergic edge to it, and could probably have given the Grateful Dead a good run for their money.

Even more curious is the record's live, almost muffled feel - one song, the upbeat 'Only Best Friends Can Tell', actually splices in some random nightclub din midway through. In an interview with Robert Williston over at The Museum of Canadian Music Foster recalled, "We were all in one room. We played most of (the songs) live and then maybe added in the backing vocals and a couple of instruments later on." That amateurish sound just adds to the mysterious, almost otherworldly effect. Songs like the languid 'Black Widow' and the nearly comatose 'Child of the Playroom' are pure stoned delights, while the dreamy instrumental 'Talk with Us' cruises avenues the Doors might have ventured down had Robbie Krieger been given more of a say.

Cargo added a more polished and better-recorded album to their resume the following year, but the self-conscious blues jams on Simple Things (Ringside) pale next to the acid-tinged naivete of Front Side Back Side. Barely a few hundred copies of Front Side Back Side were pressed up, so tracking a copy down will be a tough - and expensive! - slog, especially with mint copies scraping the four-figure mark. Buchanan, meanwhile, has reformed the label with plans to reissue "all Trend albums and singles, in fully re-mastered form"!!! Better stayed tuned. 
by Michael Panontin

"Simple Things album was recorded off the floor, direct to 2 track, in the course of one evening. We started around 9pm and finished about 8am the next morning. I had never played or met the band 'till that night when Merv brought me in to play with them. He thought it would be nice to have keys on their record. All worked out pretty well after that. Hope this gives you some information to work with."
by Ray Parker

1. Initial Mailing (Norm Foster, Garth Vogan, Mike Proudfoot, Ray Parker) - 4:19
2. Geordy (Traditional) - 3:03
3. Serenade To A Cuckoo (Roland Kirk) - 4:59
4. The Old Woman (Mike Proudfoot, Norm Foster) - 2:07
5. Simple Things (Norm Foster) - 2:53
6. Calvin Fell Out (Norm Foster) - 2:01
7. Rural Route 1 (Norm Foster) - 3:05
8. Pachyderm (In Your Head) (Garth Vogan) - 7:06

*Mike Proudfoot - Guitar
*Ray Parker - Organ
*Garth Vogan - Bass
*Norm Foster - Drums

Friday, May 13, 2022

Axis - Someone (1972 greece, epic fusion prog rock, 2013 edition)

"Someone" was an album from Axis, a band with Greek musicians who based in Paris. They played archetypical heavy progressive rock with great organ and electric guitars, with couple of tracks were even in line with the british mellotron-rock.

Axis disbanded in 1974, after the release of their third album. Like their more illustrious compatriots (Aphrodite's Child) they succeeded in breaking into the hit lists, with a Greek traditional called Ela Ela. Axis was also the backing band for the early recotdings by Demis Roussos, after the Aphrodite's Child split.

The last two songs are propably the best on the album, with prog experimentalism that included multi instrumental jams,  Keyboard heavy with quirky sounds.  One of the listenable obscurities this is worth the spin. Cool album cover.
1. Osanna (Boris Bergman, Ivano Fossati, Nico Di Palo) - 3:05
2. Living In - 3:52
3. Shine Lady Shine - 3:13
4. Dedicated - 4:50
5. Nothing To Say - 3:02
6. Someone (Doug Flett, Guy Fletcher) - 3:36
7. Long Time Ago - 3:03
8. Ela Ela (Traditional) - 3:08
9. Thought - 5:33
10.Bad Trip - 5:24
All compositions by Alecos Caracandas, Demis Visvikis, George Hadjiathanassiou, Demetris Katakuzinos except where stated

*Alecos Caracandas - Lead, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Demis Visvikis - Harpsichord, Piano, Organ, Lead Vocals
*George Hadjiathanassiou - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Demetris Katakuzinos - Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Lead Vocals

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Freedom's Children ‎- Astra (1967-70 south africa, impressive psych prog space rock, 2007 digipak remaster and expanded)

It all began one manic weekend in 1970 in a recording studio in Johannesburg - and when it was over Astra, one of the greatest rock albums to ever come out of South Africa, had been born.

While the cream of the country's finest bands were strutting their stuff at a rock festival at the 'Out of Town Club' a few kilometres away, Freedom's Children were hard at work laying down the tracks for what was to become their seminal album - a powerful symbol of the rock creativity that flourished in South Africa in the early 70s.

It took three days to completed album, from recording to final mix, but little did anyone involved in the project realise then that what had happened over that magic weekend would live on more than three decades later.

Said Nic Martens, one of the engineers for Astra who also played organ on the album, in an interview in July 2000: "What many are unaware of, is that Astra was recorded from a Friday night, to the Monday morning…on a four track Studer, eight fader Siemans valve mixer, an echo plate, with some help from a Lesley amp and a modified echo box."

This may sound archaic today when powerful software is freely available for anyone with the technical ability to create music using a PC. Seen in context, this makes Astra, if it is possible, even more remarkable.

Not only did the album capture for posterity the unique sounds - dubbed "astral music" or "acid rock" - of arguably South Africa's finest band ever, but it also caught the mood of the drugs infused culture that had taken root on the southern tip of Africa in the post Woodstock love and peace era.

From the driving lead of Julian's lead guitar, a perfect match for the amphetamine and speed culture of the day, to the surreal, trippy sound of the band that tuned into the growing use of LSD, Freedom's captured the mood and the sounds of the early 70s South African music scene.

Not for them the hit parade sounds of the Beatles, Beach Boys and the Monkees. Instead - freakily unconnected in isolated apartheid South Africa - Freedom's, like Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane on other ends of the globe, were experimenting with creativity and musical styles that tapped into the new head spaces opened up by the growing worldwide drugs and psychedelic culture.

But the seeds for Astra were planted well before that crazy weekend in 1970 when, two years earlier the band headed off for the testing grounds of England to seek fame and fortune on the international stage.

So it was that Julian Laxton, who with his magical "black box" was responsible for Freedom's trippy sounds, Ramsay Mackay, a tortured poet and the man responsible for penning the music and lyrics to some of the band's greatest songs, drummer Colin Pratley and Harry Poulos, found themselves in London.

But from headlining their own sell-out gigs back home, the band - from hated apartheid South Africa and unable to legally work in London - were frustrated and unable to work.

Says Julian: "We had time on our hands. We got to see lots of gigs, but frustratingly we could not play so we had lots of time to practice. We started working on a new album, which was to become Astra and half of it was written while we were in England.

"By that stage I had invented a gizmo, which was the beginning of my black box. I took it around to some music shops and got some interest from a company that was keen to develop it further and produce a prototype."

In return they gave us a place to stay and some music equipment, which is how we came to start working on Astra. It took about eight months of experimenting and hard practice to get it right.

"When we finally recorded the album back in South Africa we had no idea then of what it would become, it is sheer magic," says Laxton. "When I listen to it now it still brings tears to my eyes, it was the very essence of our creativity at its peak.

"We could do what we wanted, just about everything was patched into the 'black box', the Hammond organ, the piano, the vocals and the guitars. All the phasing, the echoes, all the effects, were the black box. Today these effects would be simple, but certainly not then.

So, is the urban legend that Pink Floyd made use of any early black box - and may even have been influenced by some of Freedom's work, true - or just an urban legend? I want to know.

"When we were creating Astra we were not aware of anything other than what we were doing, we put our hearts and souls into it. They had developed in England, and we were from the other side of the world. We both developed separately and in our own ways," says Julian.

When the album was finally released in South Africa in 1970 it was an overnight sensation and set new standards for local bands. It was also an album, as time has proved, that would not go away.

Behind this is a remarkable story of an album that would not die: a few years after it's release all the master tapes of that magical weekend were destroyed in a fire at EMI, which also saw the destruction of many of the original masters of Hawk's recordings, as well as other important South African musical history. It has survived because of the dedication of many people who fell under the spell of Astra.

So strongly did songwriter and producer Patric van Blerk believe that Astra's songs "would live again", that in the mid 1970s he bought the publishing and recording rights (the master rights were not available because the original tapes had been destroyed)

Amazingly, at that time there were many requests for the now unavailable "Astra" - some even from as far as San Francisco. Some of these people were willing to pay just about any price for a virgin album.

It was then, said Julian, that he and Patric, with the help of Phill Adoire (Engineer at Orange Studios in Orange Grove, Johannesburg), decided to remaster Astra from a virgin copy of the original album. It was released on both vinyl and cassette - but the album bombed, selling only a handful of copies, and was subsequently deleted by EMI from their stock.

"When it was first remixed from an original vinyl copy in 1990, it was done on a 16 track. When we filtered out the surface noise and re-eq'd the upper mids to brighten up the tracks, the sounds that were hidden on the original came out. I was not very happy; the original had a mystical-mist shrouding the music, which was lost in the remix. It unlayered the music, but this latest CD is much truer to the original."

But beyond the music, the stories surrounding the album encapsulate the madness, the bizarre setting, to what was apartheid South Africa at the time Astra was made.

When the original album was ready and samples cut, Freedom's were suddenly faced with the prospect of it not being played on radio after the national broadcaster, the SABC, ruled that one of the tracks, The Kid Who Came From Nazareth, was blasphemous.

Says Julian: "It was a huge problem, the album was already cut and processed and the covers printed, but the SABC would not give us airtime. So we went back into the studio and "fixed" the song, replacing the word Nazareth with Hazareth. The album covers were also reprinted, and only then were the SABC happy.

Equally bizarre was an objection by the SABC to the name Freedom's Children right at the beginning of the band's career, with the national broadcaster objecting to the use of the word "Freedom". Only when they changed the name to Fleadom's Children", used on several early 7-single releases, were the SABC's policies satisfied.

Two of these songs, Freedom's debut single in 1967, The Coffee Song, and its B-side, a cover of the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction, originally released under Fleadom's name, as well as the 1968 single Little Games, are included on this new release.

Along the way, the band also had to deal with Mother Grundies who said the band was evil and their music would turn the youth into drug-crazed addicts.

It was a time in South Africa when it was common practice for bands to tour widely, playing live at clubs, bigger gigs and festivals and Freedom's created controversy and headlines wherever they went. And, as they toured the country, city fathers and local police in some small towns often banned them.

Besides the trippy sound of their music, their image of bad boys was spurred on by their liking for long black capes and publicity photographs that pictured the band in graveyards.

From its earliest beginnings way back in 1966, Freedom's Children (briefly Fleadom's Children) went through many changes in its line up, as some of the country's finest musicians passed through its ranks. Something of a local version of John Mayall's Blue Band - a nursery for some of rock's finest musos - many of South Africa's top rock musicians did stints in the constantly changing line-ups, with many going on to form some of the biggest bands of the day. Some of those who passed through the Freedom's revolving door included Ken E Henson, Mick Jade, Barry Irwin, and Rabbitt's Ronnie Robot and Trevor Rabin.

But it was the line-up of MacKay, Laxton, Davidson and Pratley, with Gerard Nel and Nic Martens, who joined forces with them to record Astra, that many regard as the apex of the band.

Speak to anyone who knew the band and two people, the tortured genius Ramsay, for his words and music, and Julian, with his driving lead and magic black box, are credited with helping shape the band's unique sound.

Looking back today, Colin Pratley, who with his wife runs a shelter for abandoned AIDS babies in Durban, remembers how Astra came together.

"Ramsay had written words and music, there were the skeletons of songs and each of us put something of our own into the album. It was a mad weekend where all that counted was the music - and after three days we had Astra.

"It was insane. At one stage Julian was kicking the echo chamber to get sounds that today with modern equipment, we would take for granted. This was Freedom's at its apex; it was the ultimate expression of its time, of the music and the lifestyle."

There are many fans who believed that Astra, with songs like the Kid Who Came From Hazareth, the Homecoming and Slowly Towards the North, was based on the life of Jesus.

Not so says Julian, who today owns his own rock club in Johannesburg and prefers playing stripped down blues rock: "It was a concept album, but the story about the album being about Christ is not true. But who knows what was in Ramsay's head when he wrote the songs. He was interested in many different things and read a lot, so he got his ideas from all over the place."

The song Aileen - listed as Alien on the 1990 reissue - was written by Ramsay about a girl he once lived with, and Slowly Towards the North was - "I think" , says Julian - about his dream of one day returning to his native Scotland. But the origins of the other songs on the albums, says Julian are anyone's guess. "For all I know he may have read the bible at the time he wrote some of the songs, but I really do not know".

Ramsay, returned to live in Scotland, where he still has a band, from many years ago. He seldom - if ever - granted interviews - and always let his music speak for itself.

And then there was Brian Davidson, a slightly built man with one of the finest rock voices of his time. He was recruited from a soul band during a talent-scouting mission in Cape Town, soon after they returned to SA from England, Davidson, who went on to put together his own band many years later, died mysteriously in Thailand, where he was teaching English, in December 2002.

"Brian was a bit like Robert Plant, he used his voice like a musical instrument," says Julian. "To this day I still cannot say how he managed to create some of his vocal sounds. The sounds on some of the tracks, some of the high harmonies, I honestly cannot say where they came from."

If ever there was an album that has stood the test of time, Astra is it. The music is as relevant and as powerful today as when it was released 34 years ago. The high point of a great band at its peak, so sit back and enjoy and feast your ears on the best of the very best.
by Raymond Joseph, Cape Town, November 2004

1. Aileen - 2:02
2. The Homecoming - 6:16
3. The Kid He Came From Hazareth - 5:36
4. Medals Of Bravery - 3:55
5. Tribal Fence - 4:34
6. Gentle Beasts (Parts 1, 2) - 5:26
7. Slowly Towards The North (Parts 1, 2) - 7:04
8. Afterward - 4:57
9. The Coffee Song (Raymond Barry Smith, Tony Colton) - 2:48
10.Satisfaction (Keith Richards, Mick Jagger) - 2:46
11.Little Games (Harold Spiro, Phil Waiman) - 2:29
All songs by Ramsay MacKay except where stated
Bonus tracks 9-11

Freedom's Children
*Julian Laxton - Guitar
*Ramsay MacKay - Bass
*Brian Davidson - Vocals 
*Colin Pratley - Drums, Percussion
*Harry Poulos - Organ, Vocals (Tracks 9-11)
*Craig Ross - Vocals (Tracks 9-11)
*Gerard Nel - Piano, Harpsichord, Bells
*Nic Martens - Organ

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Glenn Faria - Glenn Faria (1964-71 us, rough acid psych rock, 2001 release)

Born Nov 13, 1946, raised in Kentucky and Virginia by middle-class parents. I was given piano lessons at age five for a few years, then switched to guitar. My early idols were the Everly Brothers and Elvis. Folk music caught my ear around age fifteen, and I was impressed by Ian and Sylvia and Joan Baez. Jimmy Reed was a big influence and really got me started on the blues.

I started performing at age fifteen at some of the local coffee houses for ten dollars a night. I met a lot of older musicians and learned a lot about singing and playing with feeling. There was no room for phonies in that scene, and I knew I would always be content in that environment. I went off to college like most kids in my high school, spent a couple years at Georgetown University (Bill Clinton was my classmate) and immediately got into the Washington, D.C. music scene. As you might have guessed I spent more time hanging out in blues clubs and psychedelic joints than I did studying. I dropped out after two years and decided to become a full time musician.

I played coffeehouses and bars up and down the East Coast, mostly as a soloist on accoustic guitar, and singing my own songs. After a few years of this the psychedelic band Headstone Circus asked me to join them and I did. That was a fun band and we had some wild times during the late sixties. It was a great time to be alive, to be in a popular band, and of course the women were flocking around us continuously.

When I was offered a recording contract as a soloist, I reluctantly left that band to record in New York City. It was a sad parting, but I felt that I better take my shot when I had the chance. Well, the rest is history. I never got rich and famous but I have had a wonderful career in music, written some good songs, met some great people, and have the satisfaction of knowing that I did and am still doing the thing that I was born to do.
by Glenn Faria

PS. My only complaint is the sound quality, I believe it could be better...
1. Born In Georgia -3:57
2. Summer's Gone -4:30
3. Reason To Live -3:16
4. Centuries To Live -2:22
5. Feast Your Eyes -2:32
6. Love Is Calling -6:22
7. No Time For Your Tears -4:26
8. I'm Crazy -5:41
9. I'm Crazy -2:39
10.Get Off My Back -3:19
11.I Can't Take It -3:27
12.Strange Love -3:58
13.I'm Going Down -5:06
14.You Got To Live -4:21
15.Bear Down -5:18
Lyrics and Music by Glenn Faria

*Glenn Faria - Vocals, All Instruments except Drums

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