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.


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

B.W. Stevenson - Lead Free / B.W. Stevenson (1972 us, marvelous country folk rock, 2004 release)

Best remembered for his 1973 smash "My Maria," singer/songwriter B.W. Stevenson (the "B.W." reportedly stood for "Buckwheat" -- his real first name was Lewis) was born October 5, 1949, in Dallas, TX. As a teen he played in a variety of local rock bands before attending college, eventually joining the U.S. Air Force; upon returning from duty Stevenson settled in the Austin area, where he became a frequent attraction on the city's thriving club circuit. Upon signing to RCA he was marketed primarily to country listeners, enjoying little success with either his 1972 self-titled debut or its follow-up, Lead Free.
by Jason Ankeny

This two-fer CD combines B.W. Stevenson's self-titled 1971 debut album with Lead Free, released the following year. Originally these LPs were released separately on RCA, and had been out of print until they were reissued in 2004 on Collectables. This pleasant and lite country-pop set highlights many original Stevenson compositions, including "Early Morning Memphis," "Highway One," "Save a Little Time for Love," and "Lonesome Song." 
by Al Campbell

1. Like What You Do - 2:38
2. Early Morning Memphis - 2:31
3. My Feet Are So Weary - 3:51
4. Waitin' For Spring - 4:33
5. Gypsies - 3:25
6. Don't Go To Mexico (Dan McCrimmon) - 2:38
7. August Evening Lady - 3:21
8. Peaceful Easy Feeling (Jack Tempchin) - 3:23
9. A Touch Of Pennsylvania (Dave Loggins) - 3:42
10.Minuet For My Lady - 2:54
11.Maybe Mexico (Jerry Jeff Walker) - 2:46
12.Jackson - 2:12
13.Save A Little Time For Love - 2:18
14.Lonesome Song - 3:11
15.Wasted Too Much Time - 4:06
16.Long Way To Go (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) - 2:20
17.Highway One - 3:37
18.Two Track Road (B.W. Stevenson, Brian T. Atkinson) - 0:39
19.Say What I Feel (Mike Murphey) - 2:10
20.Texas Morning (Boomer Castleman, Mike Murphey) - 3:26
21.Home Again (Carole King) - 2:28
22.On My Own - 4:52
Words and Music by B.W. Stevenson except where indicated

1972 Lead Free
*B.W. Stevenson - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Dean Parks - Acoustic Guitar
*Larry Murray - Vocals
*Linda Dillard - Vocals 
*Thad Maxwell Vocals
*Emory Gordy, Jr - Bass 
*Jimmy Gordon - Drums 
*Dennis St. John - Drums
*Gib Guilbeau - Fiddle, Backing Vocals 
*Mickey Raphael - Harmonica 
*Larry Muhoberac - Piano 
*Red Rhodes - Steel Guitar 

1972 B.W. Stevenson
*B.W. Stevenson - Guitar, Vocals  
*Ronald Steele - Acoustic, Rhythm Guitars  
*Ed Shook - Vocals  
*Kitty Appling - Vocals
*Shane Appling - Bass  
*Sid Sims - Bass
*Don Simmons - Drums  
*Pat Ferreri - Electric Guitar  
*Mickey Raphael - Harmonica, Noises 
*Ray Tate - Pedal Steel Guitar  
*Ed Shook - Percussion
*Richard Silen - Percussion
*Pat Ferreri - Rhythm, Twelve-String Guitars
*Brian Christian - Tambourine 

Friday, April 21, 2023

Buddy Miles - Them Changes (1970 us, best qualities of funk and blues rock, 2003 digipak remaster)

Born in September 1947, Buddy Miles is most renowned for his role as drummer in Jimi Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys. His playing career began in his father's jazz band, but by the mid 60s he was playing in the backing bands of soul vocal groups such as Ruby and the Romantics. In 1966 he joined the band of Wilson Pickett, and it was here that Mike Bloomfield spotted him and asked Buddy to join the band that he was forming after leaving the Butterfield Blues Band. This band became the Electric Flag , who were planning to create an eclectic blend of blues, psychedelia, rock and jazz. The debut album cooked, but the band disintegrated after that - with Miles remaining for a second album without Butterfield.

After this, with the help of the Electric Flag horn section he formed his own outfit The Buddy Miles Express. The debut album was produced by Jimi Hendrix and was called 'Expressway To Your Skull'. Released on Mercury this was the first of a number of collaborations with the legendary guitar man. Hendrix also produced the 2nd Buddy Miles Express album 'Electric Church' and appeared on Hendrix's 'Electric Ladyland' LRWhen the guitarist disbanded his original group the Experience, Miles along with Buddy Cox were recruited to his new outfit The Band of Gypsy's'.This funkier rock group did not last long releasing only one live album before Miles was replaced.

The drummer's next move was to record this album Them Changes' which remained on the chart for over a year making the drummer a star. On the back of this Miles hit the road with Carlos Santana and the pair recorded the top 10 live album 'Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles! Live!' for CBS. After this Miles continued to record for CBS and even took part in a 1974 Electric Flag re-union. He then switched labels to Casablanca for two albums. However after this he kept a reasonably low profile for the next decade, releasing only one album for Atlantic in 1981.

He suddenly found himself on the charts once more in 1986 when he voiced a version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” for a dried raisin commercial, that when released as by the California Raisins became a worldwide hit. The last few years have seen Miles in demand with a reformed Buddy Miles Express. Them Changes' the album was Buddy Miles signature tune, and the album was his most successful. It contained both the funky and the sublime. There are two fantastic cover versions of Neil Young's 'Down By The River' and Greg AlIman's "Dreams". But the music conveyed within the tracks swings with the power of rock and the nuance of soul. Them Changes' the track is furiously funky and this and other originals show a more than capable songwriter. What's more to fans of Miles work with Hendrix and the Electric Flag it is a pleasure to hear his voice.  A classic slice of funky rock.
by Dean Rudland

1. Them Changes (Buddy Miles) - 3:22
2. I Still Love You Anyway (Charlie Karp) - 4:15
3. Heart's Delight (Buddy Miles) - 4:09
4. Dreams (Gregg Allman) - 4:53
5. Down By The River (Neil Young) - 6:22
6. Memphis Train (Bonny Rice, Rufus Thomas, Willie Sparks) - 2:57
7. Paul B. Allen Omaha Nebraska (André Lewis, Buddy Miles) - 5:34
8. Your Feeling Is Mine (Otis Redding) - 2:14

*Buddy Miles - Bass, Drums, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals 
*Fred Allen - Vocals 
*Lee Allen - Saxophone, Trumpet, Vocals 
*Teddy Blandin - Trumpet
*Peter Carter - Trumpet
*Billy Cox - Bass, Fuzz Bass
*Tom Hall - Trumpet
*Tom T. Hall - Trumpet
*Marlo Henderson - Electric Guitar, Vocals 
*Duane Hitchings - Organ
*Bob Hogins - Keyboards, Organ, Electric Piano, Soloist, Trombone, Vocals 
*David Hull - Bass, Vocals 
*Dwayne Hutchings - Organ
*Charlie Karp - Acoustic, Electric Guitars, Soloist, Vocals 
*Andre Lewis - Clavinet, Organ, Electric Piano, Soloist, Vocal Harmony, Vocals 
*Robin McBride - Electric Harpsichord, Keyboards, Piano, Vocals 
*Jim McCarty - Guitar
*Bob Parkins - Organ
*Robert Pittman - Alto, Tenor, Saxophone
*Roland Robinson - Bass
*Wally Rossunolo - Lead, Rhythm Guitars 
*James Tatum - Tenor Saxophone
*Mark Williams - Tenor Saxophone, Vocals, Wind
*Phil Wood - Flugelhorn, Piano, Vocals 
*Philip Woods - Horn
*Toby Wynn - Baritone Saxophone

Related Acts
1967  Electric Flag - The Trip (2011 remaster)
1968-69  Electric Flag - An American Music Band / A Long Time Comin
1968-74  The Electric Flag - Live 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Phil Ochs - Rehearsals For Retirement / Gunfight At Carnegie Hall (1969-70 us, impressive protest folk rock, roots 'n' roll, 2000 double disc edition)

Rehearsals for Retirement might have been a prophetic title for an album by a major singer-songwriter who, after the 1969 release of this LP, would write and record barely any first-rate compositions, and would soon cease writing songs altogether. Despite the tombstone on the cover, though, it was only in hindsight that some critics viewed the effort as that of an artist who knew his creative muse was in danger of expiration. Phil Ochs’ writing, singing, and verve remained sharp and vital on his third A&M album, the last to be produced by Larry Marks. It was his optimism and drive that were wilting, in the wake of a year that had seen the counterculture take the brunt of Establishment repression at the 1968 Democratic Convention (at which Ochs performed and demonstrated), the escalation of the Vietnam War, and tumult in both campuses and inner-city ghettoes.

In comparison to his previous pair of A&M albums (1967’s Pleasures of the Harbor and 1968’s Tape from California, both reissued on CD by Collectors’ Choice Music), the production on Rehearsals for Retirement was relatively straightforward. It largely eschewed the baroque orchestration that had colored much of those pair of Marks-produced efforts. The decrease of risk-taking with the arrangements might have meant that there were no peaks to match "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends," "The Party," and "The War Is Over." Yet it also guaranteed a consistency of tone that each of those earlier LPs lacked. Although Lincoln Mayorga contributed classical-flavored piano (as he had on Pleasures of the Harbor and Tapes from California), he and Phil were also joined by guitarist-bassist Bob Rafkin, who had a more conventional rock orientation than either of his colleagues.

Much of Rehearsals for Retirement was inspired by Ochs’ experiences in Chicago. His disillusionment with idealistic activism and sense of despondency about American society could have hardly been reflected more bitterly than it was in the opening cut, "Pretty Smart on My Part." A peppy melody and characteristically exuberant vocal disguised a lyric about as disturbing as any in pop music, Ochs taking on the persona of a paranoid American who perceives anyone different from him as a threat, whether a hitchhiker that he beats up or a pretty woman he ties and whips. For all its bold and even violent imagery, note how similar the rhythms, melody, and execution are to those of Buddy Holly, an influence that would assert itself quite visibly on Ochs’ subsequent Gunfight at Carnegie Hall album.

"The Doll House," decorated by Mayorga’s stately piano runs, was the oldest song on Rehearsals for Retirement. It was also, along with such late-‘60s Ochs compositions as "When in Rome" and "The Floods of Florence," one of his most surreal, containing a little-noticed blatant homage to/parody of Bob Dylan’s vocal style for a few lines. "I Kill Therefore I Am" was a return to the frightening realism of "Pretty Smart on My Part," another sketch (this time in the third person) of a macho man determined to keep America safe from longhairs, African-Americans, students, and others at odds with his narrow-minded view of the United States. Any doubt that Ochs’ angst had been largely triggered by events in Chicago was put to rest by "William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed." The melancholy tale of chaos in the city’s Lincoln Park was backed by grand Mayorga piano and accordion, in one instance where Ochs and Marks managed to use quasi-classical backing in an understated fashion.

Ochs painted his loss of faith-in idealism and, more distressingly, his own purpose-in more personal terms in "My Life," which features some of his most moving vibrato singing. "The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns," inspired by a nuclear submarine accident, put the apocalyptic glumness that hovered over most of Rehearsals for Retirement in more symbolic terms: certainly it could just be taken as a tale of a ship lost at sea, but it also reflects directionlessness Ochs saw in both the course of America and within his own life. "The World Began in Eden But Ended in Los Angeles," an uncommonly straightahead barroom rocker for Ochs, portrayed Los Angeles not as paradise, but as a morally bankrupt, polluted, and overdeveloped city, a viewpoint much less prevalent in the 1960s than it is today. (Could it be that those tacky horns are a subtle dig at A&M Records co-founder Herb Alpert?) The country-rock-tinged "Doesn’t Lenny Live Here Anymore" fit in well with the album’s somber ambience, but steered clear of sociopolitical comment, illustrating that loneliness and alienation can be found in the lives of everyday people, as well as in battlegrounds for America’s future.

Ochs’ disenchantment with that future, however, roared back into play for "Another Age," with its infectious "Secret Agent Man" tempo and bold pledge of allegiance against the flag (and to vintage rebels such as Thomas Paine, Jesse James, and Robin Hood). The record ended on a suitably resigned note with the title track, again spotlighting Mayorga’s rolling, almost loungish piano accompaniment. Rehearsals for Retirement, for all its sad disappointment, was not a bummer to listen to: the melodies were graceful, and Ochs’ singing passionate and often uplifting, perhaps despite himself. It was a huge commercial disappointment, however, reaching only #167, and earning a deletion from A&M’s catalog just months after its release.

At least Rehearsals for Retirement was released in the United States, which is more than could be said for Gunfight at Carnegie Hall, recorded in 1970 but not issued until the mid-1970s (and then only in Canada). That album, often difficult to obtain since it first came out, has been added to Rehearsals for Retirement on this CD.

Gunfight was recorded at Carnegie Hall on March 27, 1970, during a most controversial phase of Ochs’ career. Exhausted by his struggles to embody the conscience of left-wing America during much of the 1960s, he began to wear Elvis Presley-style gold lamé suits onstage, and sprinkle his concerts with covers of vintage rock tunes, particularly those of Elvis and Buddy Holly. This was part of his effort to establish continuity with the socially aware material in which he specialized, and the roots music that he loved. In the event, however, it was accorded a mixed reception, much as Bob Dylan’s first electric concerts had sparked a divided reaction in the mid-1960s.

Backed by Rehearsals session men Mayorga and Rafkin, as well as drummer Kevin Kelly (who had been in the Gram Parsons-era Byrds) and bassist Kenny Kaufman, Ochs delivered a set of both rock-oriented interpretations of some of his most popular tunes, and medleys of Presley and Holly songs. On top of that were covers of "Mona Lisa" (probably modeled on Carl Mann’s hit rockabilly version) and Merle Haggard’s "Okie from Muskogee." The latter was likely a willfully provocative choice, Haggard’s hit embodying the most reactionary elements of America, and Ochs himself embodying the least reactionary elements of the United States.

The portion of the set preserved on Gunfight was actually an unbalanced representation of the show, which contained much original material that did not appear on the LP. (One of those songs, an acoustic version of "Crucifixion," did eventually get issued on the Chords of Fame anthology and the Farewells & Fantasies box set.) Because it leaned so heavily on the cover tunes (particularly the medleys), the record gave the not wholly accurate impression that Ochs was more interested in covering rock’n’roll oldies than performing his own songs at the concert. The audience’s response to those medleys was not quite vitriolic, but certainly muted and bewildered.

Ochs was not a match for Holly or Presley as a rock singer, nor were his interpretations so radical or imaginative as to stand among his more notable creative endeavors. Gunfight, nevertheless, was an interesting, at times fascinating glimpse at a most odd detour in Ochs’ checkered career. He energetically ran through long Holly and Presley medleys (which were not confined solely to hits), and bantered somewhat exasperatedly with an audience that would have likely been far more enamored of his own vintage compositions. There was also the bonus of hearing no-frills rock versions of "Pleasures of the Harbor" and "Tape from California," songs bestowed with far more heavily produced arrangements in their studio versions. And he couldn’t have gone over too badly; it was 3am in the morning when Ochs launched into his encore of Elvis’ "A Fool Such As I," the hardy audience having stuck with him even after Carnegie Hall cut the power for a few minutes due to the late hour. 
by Richie Unterberger

Disc 1 Rehearsals For Retirement 1969
1. Pretty Smart On My Part - 3:18
2. The Doll House - 4:41
3. I Kill Therefore I Am - 2:55
4. William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park And Escapes Unscathed - 3:30
5. My Life - 3:13
6. The Scorpion Departs And Never Returns - 4:16
7. The World Began In Eden And Ended In Los Angeles - 3:07
8. Doesn't Lenny Live Here Anymore - 6:12
9. Another Age - 3:43
10.Rehearsals For Retirement - 4:10
Music and Lyrics by Phil Ochs

Disc 2 Gunfight At Carnegie Hall 1970
1. Mona Lisa (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans) - 3:49
2. I Ain't Marchin' Anymore (Phil Ochs) - 4:25
3. Oakie From Muskogee (Merle Haggard, Roy Edward Burris) - 2:49
4. Chords Of Fame (Phil Ochs) - 4:41
5. Buddy Holly Medley (Charles Hardin, Norman Petty, Joe Mauldin, Niki Sullivan, Jerry Allison, Sonny West, Bill Tilghman) - 7:18
6. Pleasures Of The Harbor (Phil Ochs) - 6:00
7. Tape From California (Phil Ochs) - 5:10
8. Elvis Medley (Arthur Crudup, Pearl King, Ruth Durand, Joe Robichaux, Tommy Durden, Elvis Presley, Otis Blackwell, Roy Turk, Lou Handman, William Trader) - 10:13
9. Encore - 2:05

1969 Rehearsals For Retirement
*Phil Ochs - Guitar, Vocals
*Lincoln Mayorga - Piano, Accordion
*Bob Rafkin - Guitar, Bass
*Kevin Kelley - Drums 
*Ian Freebairn-Smith - Arrangements
1970 Gunfight At Carnegie Hall 
*Phil Ochs - Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Rafkin - Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Lincoln Mayorga - Piano
*Kenny Kaufman - Bass, Backing Vocals
*Kevin Kelley - Drums

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Stars - Stars (1976 uk, funky prog rock, 2022 korean remaster)

A guitarist/singer who led his own guitar/vocals group Ross and The Alan Ross Band. In the early 1970s, he was a technical guitarist who was sometimes called along with Eric Clapton , partly because he belonged to the same label as RSO.

1971, after working in Love Affair's predecessor bands Soul Survivors and Tangerine Peel, formed Ro Ro with bassist Warwick Rose, and released "Meet Me On The Water", a hidden folk-rock masterpiece and the only highly rated album for Regal Zonophone.

Later the same year, he participated in The Who 's bassist John Entwistle 's solo album "Whistle Rhymes" and acted as a member of the touring band Rigor Mortis . He also participated in Entwistle's next solo album, Rigor Mortis Sets In.

1973, he formed his own leader group Ross with former Indian Summer keyboardist Bob Jackson , who had worked with Rigor Mortis and Pete Brown on sessions , and obtained a contract with RSO. Released two albums, "Ross" and "The Pit And The Pendulum", which mixed elements, but disbanded without achieving great success.

1976, he formed Stars with former Octopus and Slack Alice keyboardist John Cook and former Atomic Rooster drummer Ric Parnell , releasing one album, but it was short-lived. In the second half of the same year, he was also enrolled with Babe Ruth.

1. That Was Yesterday (Peter Matthews, Ric Parnell, Lance Dixon, Simon Lait, Alan Ross, Mike Finesilver) - 4:54
2. Nothing Ever Comes That Easy (Peter Matthews, Ric Parnell, Lance Dixon, Simon Lait, Alan Ross, Mike Finesilver) - 5:33
3. Going Down (For The Third Time) (Peter Matthews, Ric Parnell, Lance Dixon, Simon Lait, Alan Ross) - 4:17
4. Heart Of Stone (Peter Matthews, Ric Parnell, Lance Dixon, Simon Lait, Alan Ross, Zoe Kronberger) - 5:17
5. Platform Soul (Peter Matthews, Ric Parnell, Lance Dixon, Simon Lait, Alan Ross, Phoebe Weatherfield) - 4:38
6. Mr Push-Me-Pull-Ya (Peter Matthews, Ric Parnell, Lance Dixon, Simon Lait, Alan Ross) - 4:40
7. Punishment Park (Peter Matthews, Ric Parnell, Lance Dixon, Simon Lait, Alan Ross, Mike Finesilver) - 6:24
8. Not Fade Away (Charles Hardin, Norman Petty) - 4:00

*Peter Matthews - Bass 
*Ric Parnell - Drums, Percussion
*Lance Dixon - Electric Piano, Hammond, Clavinet, Mini-Moog, Tenor, Soprano Saxophones, Percussion
*Simon Lait - Lead Guitar, Percussion 
*Alan Ross - Lead Guitar, Vocals

Monday, April 3, 2023

Poobah - U.S. Rock (1976 us, brilliantly catchy rock anthems with some great psych guitar workouts, 2014 remaster with bonus tracks)

US underground heavy rock sensations Poobah released this very fine sophomore effort U.S. Rock back in 1976, and the folks at Ripple Music are making it available once again, remastered and with 4 bonus tracks, lyrics, and photos. If you haven't heard of this band or discovered their kick ass proto-metal sound, this is as good a place to start as any.

Featuring the stellar guitar skills & vocals of Jim Gustafson, Poobah on this album also included Ken Smetzer (vocals, keyboards), Gene Procopio (drums), and Phil Jones (vocals, bass). Imagine a mix of Mk III & IV Deep Purple, James Gang, Led Zeppelin, Foghat, Cactus, Aerosmith, Trapeze, and Grand Funk Railroad, and you have an idea of the style of this energetic American band. "Flesh Fantasies" and "Pullin' Me Down" are muscular funk metal tracks that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Purple's Stormbringer or Come Taste the Band albums, while "Watch Me" and "Coast to Coast" also find metallic riffing, tasty Hammond organ, and funky grooves forming a whirlwind of sound not unlike classic Trapeze, Deep Purple, James Gang, and the Edgar Winter Group, with a little bluesy boogie ala Cactus. "Let's Rock" is squarely in that Cactus/Foghat boogie zone, and Gustafson's Jimmy Page-meets-Jim McCarty styled licks are absolutely blistering on the hard rocking "Thru These Eyes". 

Fans of Uriah Heep will love the crunchy guitar riffs and insistent Hammond organ on the heavy "Crazy", with Gustafson's vocals hitting those high notes like a cross between David Byron and Ian Gillan. "Keep on Rollin' " is a straight forward rocker with catchy hooks and more of these delicious Purple/Heep styled guitar/organ riffs, while "Right Out of the Night" is the albums longest and most prog-rock styled piece, with atmospheric keyboards from Smetzer, emotional vocals, and floating arrangements, bringing to mind Styx or Kansas. Jones takes the lead vocal on the raunchy riff rock of Out of You", the closing track on the album proper that features plenty of wicked guitar work, thick grooves, and tasty Hammond.

The bonus tracks are a lot of fun as well; "Your Way, My Way" is a dreamy prog number with lush string synth washes and a great vocal from Gustafson, "Cold Blooded Lover" a catchy little hard rock tune, the atmospheric "Enjoy What You Have", and a ripping live version of "Steamroller", the semi-legendary title track from Poobah's third album.

Honestly, there were so many great heavy rock/proto-metal bands on the scene back in the '70s who never quite made the big time, many of them nearly as good as the heavyweights who became superstars, and Poobah sit up there very high on that list. This is a fantastic album for any lover of heavy music from the 1970s, so if you didn't discover this one back in 1976, now's your chance to do so. 
by Pete Pardo

1. Flesh Fantasies (Ken Smetzer) - 3:03
2. Pullin' Me Down (Ken Smetzer) - 3:14
3. Watch Me - 4:36
4. Coast To Coast (Ken Smetzer) - 2:12
5. Let's Rock - 2:48
6. Thru These Eyes (Ken Smetzer) - 3:05
7. Crazy - 4:07
8. Keep On Rollin' - 4:19
9. Right Out Of The Night - 4:55
10.Out Of You - 3:14
11.Your Way, My Way - 3:47
12.Cold Blooded Lover - 2:10
13.Enjoy What You Have - 6:35
14.Steamroller - 9:08
All songs by Jim Gustafson except where stated
Bonus Tracks 11-14
Track 14 recorded live at Idora Park

*Jim Gustafson - Lead, Acoustic, 12 String Guitars, Organ, Vocals
*Phil Jones - Bass, Vocals
*Gene Procopio - Drums, Percussion, Screams
*Ken Smetzer - Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ, Synthesizer
*Ralph Haring - Drums (Track 14)
*Fred Schnieder - Drums (Tracks 12,13)
*John Grazier - Synth (Track 11)
*Gus Theofilos - Guitar (Track 14)