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, January 29, 2023

Highway - Smoking At The Edges (1974 uk, awesome bluesy country swamp rock, 2012 korean remaster)

UK band from Sunderland, formed by ex-Cold Comfort drummer Ian Byron, guitarist Ray Minhinnit and former Heaven bassist John Gordon.  The band scored exposure in the UK by acting as support to Black Sabbath's December 1973 tour. Ray Minhinnit played with artists such as Alan Price and Georgie Fame. Highway also included John Elstar, and James Hall. They released "Highway" in 1974 and "Smoking At The Edges" later the same year on EMI Records.

After they split Minhinnett  joined Frankie Miller’s Full House in the mid-70s, he also played with Phoenix at the start of the 80s and was in John Coghlan’s Diesel Band. Minhinnett was soon concentrating on writing music, sometimes composing in collaboration with others, such as Andy Frazer and his long-term associate Bob Young. He was also musical director for a Sky Television music show. The 90's found Minhinnit working with ex-Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody on the 1998 Minhinnit, Young and Moody project album. 

John Gordon wound up playing with Pink Floyd man Roger Waters on his 'When The Wind Blows' album.  Vocalist John Elstar played a small part in the history of Black Sabbath adding harmonica touches to their 1978 album 'Never Say Die'.  In the early eighties Elstar fronted a short-lived London outfit dubbed Informer, involving ex-Side Winder and Stallion guitarist Stuart Smith, Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray and a pre-Iron Maiden Nico McBrain. 

1. No Need To Run (Ray Minhinnett) - 6:06
2. Better Times (Jim Hall, Ian Byron) - 3:04
3. Heaven`s End (Ray Minhinnett) - 2:25
4. Quantrill`s Men (Jon Elstar, Will Killeen) - 5:46
5. Anna Lee (Jon Elstar, Will Killeen) - 5:39
6. Cell Block 4 (Jon Elstar, Will Killeen) - 3:38
7. Don`t Turn Your Light On (John Gordo) - 3:55
8. Natural Born Gun (Ian Byron) - 2:20
9. One Sad Song (John Gordo) - 6:53

*Ray Minhinnett - Electric, Slide, 12-String Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
*Jim Hall - Piano, Keyboards, Synthesizer, Vocals
*Ian Byron - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*John Gordon - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Jon Elstar - Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals, Harmonica

Related Act


Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Count Bishops - The Count Bishops (1977 uk, tough boogie garage pub rock, 2005 remaster)

They were our first band way back in 1975, even before punk rock was invented and independent record labels were still few and far between. We released the “Speedball” extended play 7” vinyl 45 rpm record on Chiswick Records as by the Count Bishops. By the time of the first Chiswick album the vocalist had been ejected and Dave Tice added to the original band of Zenon De Fleur – rhythm guitar / Johnny Guitar – yes, you’ve guessed it, on lead guitar / Steve Lewins – bass (replaced by Pat McMullan on the second album) / Paul Balbi – drums. They were a total powerhouse of a band, with a tough R&B sound carrying more weight than Dr Feelgood and just this side of Motorhead, who they played with regularly. The young Julian (Jools) Holland tickled the ivories with great aplomb on both of the albums.

They delivered a mix of originals and astute cover versions, the latter drawn from blues, soul and beat sources as well as just plain good songs. Willie Dixon, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson and Slim Harpo were all inspirations on these Long Players. Ray Davies, Van Morrison and Jeremy Spencer were all inspired by these same blues legends and so the tradition continued with covers from them too. The soul side is represented by a fine Hayes / Porter tune and one from Otis. But the single from the first album consisted of two sides written by Zenon who also wrote some great blues-based numbers with singer Dave Tice on the second album. The second single from that LP, which made it as far as Top Of The Pops, but unfortunately no further, was their storming rendition of the Strangeloves’ I Want Candy, which later charted in a somewhat more anaemic version for Bow Wow Wow. And we did try with releases in 6”, 7” and 10” formats.

The band maintained a healthy touring schedule and though they turned out great records, they were absolute dynamite live; very few bands at the time could stand up to them.

However the tragic death in a car accident of Zenon in March 1979 was a blow that the band never recovered from. It was not just that his driving rhythm guitar was sorely missed, but he was really the force behind the logistics of a band who toured a lot. He died suddenly and unexpectedly in hospital a few days after totalling his Aston Martin on the way from a gig. While in hospital he was overseeing the finishing touches to the second album’s release. The third single from the second Chiswick studio album was a great take on John D Loudermilk’s witty Mr Jones and it came out shortly after Zen’s death. The album followed a month later and the band went on the road with a substitute guitarist. They toured Australia later that year, but never played the UK again after that.

But they left a hell of a legacy in these two studio albums as well as a live album. For a long time bands like the Bishops were swamped in people’s minds by the onslaught of punk rock, but when it came to being tough, when it came to lifting an audience off their feet, the Bishops were a hard act to follow.

1. I Need You (Ray Davies) - 2:25
2. Stay Free (Zenon De Fleur) - 3:09
3. Down In The Bottom (Willie Dixon) - 2:52
4. Talk To You (Steve Lewins) - 3:47
5. Shake Your Moneymaker (Elmore James) - 2:33
6. Down The Road A Piece (Don Raye) - 2:50
7. Baby You're Wrong (Zenon De Fleur) - 2:48
8. Don't Start Crying Now (James Moore, Jerry West) - 2:05
9. Someone's Got My Number (Steve Lewins) - 2:35
10.Good Guys Don't Wear White (Ed Cobb) - 2:46
11.You're In My Way (Steve Lewins) - 3:11
12.Taste And Try (Chris Youlden) - 2:31

The Count Bishops
*Johnny Guitar - Guitar, Vocals
*Paul Balbi - Drums
*Steve Lewins - Bass
*Zenon De Fleur - Guitar Vocals
*Dave Tice - Vocals 
*Julian Holland - Piano

Thursday, January 12, 2023

The Alan Ross Band - Restless Nights (1978 uk, nice funky guitar rock, 2021 korean remaster)

An obscure little record from the band of UK singer Alan Ross, a set that's very much got the 70s vibe of the messy hotel room on the cover -- kind of a shaggy blend of hard rock elements with a bit of tighter, more mainstream production! Alan's a strong singer who gets his vocals all compressed in a cool way in the setup of the sound, maybe a bit of an Eagles influence in the way the things come together, although the group are leaner and more focused on showcasing Ross, his lyrics, and his guitar work. Titles include "Angel", "Joe Henry", "Restless Nights", "Land Of The Snows", "Kamina", "I Will Be Alright", and "Don't Back Away".

1. Restless Nights - 5:08
2. Ain't It A Shame - 4:00
3. Kamina - 4:03
4. I Will Be Alright (Jim Frank) - 4:06
5. Angel - 3:31
6. Joe Henry - 3:39
7. Land Of The Snows - 3:30
8. Salvation - 3:48
9. Don't Back Away - 4:59
All compositions by Alain Presencer, Alan Ross except where noted

*Alan Ross - Guitar, Vocals
*Craig Anders - Guitar, Vocals
*John Cooke - Keyboards, Vocals
*Pete Dennis - Bass, Vocals
*Ed Spevock - Drums 

1974  Ross - The Pit And The Pendulum (2019 remaster)

Monday, January 2, 2023

James Gang - Thirds (1971 us, great blend of country, blues and classic rock, 2021 japan reissue)

The gang’s third album follows the same formula as their last: deliver a killer rock track out of the gate and then do your darnedest not to repeat that feat again. This time, the killer track is “Walk Away,” which I would tell you is even tighter than “Funk #49,” but that’s splitting heirs, as the two tracks are pretty much the sum and substance of James Gang’s legacy. If the band didn’t have any qualms about making the same album twice, they take pains on Thirds not to write the same song twice; I’d be hard-pressed to name another album that sounds so different from track to track.

What emerges on Thirds is a band with very different musical personalities. All three members contributed material on their last album, but this is the first time that members wrote and sang the material on their own. Dale Peters delivers a really sweet country song (“Dreamin’ in the Country”) and a blues song that builds into an impressive crescendo (“White Man/Black Man”), Jim Fox writes two tracks, including the ambitious and surprisingly philosophical album-ender, “Live My Life Again,” and Joe Walsh matches their contributions with four new songs. It turned out to be a good time to advance the personalities of Fox and Peters, as Walsh would leave the band the following year.

Although third albums are often where it all comes together, I would say that Rides Again is the tighter album because it rocks more consistently. On Thirds, the band brings in the sort of orchestral arrangements not normally associated with rock bands (unless they’re named The Beatles) and is guilty of meandering a bit on some of the more ambitious songs (e.g., “Again”). In fact, there are only three songs that technically rock on Thirds: “Walk Away,” “Midnight Man” (which is really more of a romantic pop song, though with tongue in cheek) and “Things I Could Be.” Given how good a rock drummer Jim Fox is (not my impression on the first album, btw), it’s a shame his talents are wasted on tracks like “Again” and “It’s All The Same.” As a kind of compensation, Fox does branch out into organ (“Things I Could Be”) and vibes on this album.

The band’s ambitions are (again) slightly misaligned with their abilities. It seems James Gang wanted to write a hit song, play with an orchestra and change the world all on the same album. They succeed on one of those fronts, but I feel like the orchestrated works here are a step back from what they already achieved on “The Bomber” and “Ashes the Rain and I.” By diffusing their energies in so many different directions, Thirds shows the band to be more than the sum of Joe Walsh’s songwriting abilities, but it’s not the first James Gang album you need to own.
by Dave Connolly, December 5, 2019

1. Walk Away (Joe Walsh) - 3:33
2. Yadig (Dale Peters, Jim Fox, Joe Walsh) - 2:33
3. Things I Could Be (Jim Fox) - 4:19
4. Dreamin' In The Country (Dale Peters) - 2:59
5. It's All The Same (Joe Walsh) - 4:13
6. Midnight Man (Joe Walsh) - 3:29
7. Again (Joe Walsh) - 4:04
8. White Man, Black Man (Dale Peters) - 5:39
9. Live My Life Again (Jim Fox) - 5:26

The James Gang
*Joe Walsh  - Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards, Piano, Pedal Steel Guitar
*Dale Peters  - Bass Guitars, Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Vibraphone
*Jim Fox  - Drums, Vocals, Percussion, Keyboards, Organ, Piano
*Tom Baker - Horn Arrangements
*Horn Freaks - Horns (Track 5), 
*Mary Sterpka - Vocals (Track 6) 
*The Sweet Inspirations - Background vocals (Track 8)  
*Bob Webb - Background vocals (Track 6) 

1969  James Gang - Yer' Album (Japan SHM remaster)
1970  James Gang - Rides Again (2010 SHM remaster)