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Thursday, February 29, 2024

rep> Truk - Truk Tracks (1971 us, strong heavy psych rock, 2008 Retro Disc remaster)

Truk hailed  from Oklahoma, and played a high energy  Hard Rock magma punctuated with stunning heavy organ, there is a good cover of Gun's " Yellow Cab man", some acoustic melodic passages and few glamour glimpses.

Truk obviously had a pretty strong affinity for the trailblazing trudge of titans like Cream, and the powerful, messy drunken genius of early Guess Who.It's the kind of record where the drums and electric guitar crunch buries the sound right into the middle of your chest when it's played loud enough.

The sound was surely found at a dime-a-dozen in '71, but they sure don't make them like this today! 10 tracks, including "Country Woman", "Got To Find A Reason", "Pretty Lady", "Yellow Cab Man", "Silence Ending", "Max", "Sun Castle Magic" and more."

In 1973 Glenn Townsend resurfaced with Johnny Rivers and later Willy Daffern played with the reformation of Captain Beyond.  Truk Traks  Album cover picture shot at the East-West Truck Terminal in Orange County during a strike by the Teamsters.  The L. A. P. D.  was called by the security dude, who was not told we had permission to shoot the pictures.  

"Dewey Martin produced Truk and later became a mechanic. In the late '70s he also played sessions on a Hoyt Axton album. Buddy Emmons kept on recording hundreds of country sessions, Harvey Kegan rejoined Doug Sahm and Augie Meyer, and Steve Lefever became a session man, notably with Alexander Harvey.

1. Country Woman - 4:29
2. Got To Find A Reason - 3:02
3. Pretty Lady (James Patrick Graham) - 3:56
4. Winter's Coming On - 2:46
5. Sun Castle Magic - 5:12
6. Yellow Cab Man (Adrian Curtis, Jimmy Parsons) - 3:01
7. Five Is Together (Glenn Ray Townsend, James Patrick Graham) - 3:41
8. You (George Michael Graham, Glenn Ray Townsend) - 4:02
9. Silence Ending (Glenn Ray Townsend, James Patrick Graham) - 2:43
10.Max (Glenn Ray Townsend) - 3:52
Songs written by James Patrick Graham, Glenn Ray Townsend, George Michael Graham, J. Martin Anderson, William Daniel Daffern except where noted.

*J. Martin (Moby) Anderson - Bass, Vocals
*Danny Cornett -  Drums, Vocals (original drummer)
*William Daniel Daffern -  Drums, Vocals (on last 4 songs cut--lead vocal on Winter's Coming On)
*George Michael (Mike) Graham - Lead Vocals
*James Patrick (Pat) Graha - Organ, Vocals
*Glenn Ray Townsend - Guitar, Vocals

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Ned - Ned (1973 us, refreshing soothing melody and harmony, 2023 korean remaster)

Ned four young men who chance brought together in a Harvard dorm in 1969. Rokko Jans and Jeffrey Parsons were attending Harvard while Nick Talantis and Norman Reim were just passing through Boston on their way to Greece. They ended up many-a-night jamming till dawn and as quickly as that plans were changed: Rokko and Jeff forsook the scholarly life and Nick and Norman have yet to make it to Greece. The four have been making music together, off and on, ever sinc

Work in a mellow, pickin', strummin' and grinnin' style more reminiscent of Poco, the Eagles and CSN&Y. Most endearing for their very casualness, whether up tempo pieces or down-to-earth ballads... It is almost impossible to dislike Ned, four smiling long-haired geeks, each holding in his arms an absolutely massive looking dog, in the picture on the back of their first album."
Rolling Stone

Ned has performed throughout the US and Canada since 1969. Very active in concert halls and on college campuses in the early seventies, they opened for a wide variety of acts, including: Sly and the Family Stone, The James Gang, B.B. King, The Supremes, Ramsey Lewis, Rare Earth, B.J. Thomas, Richie Havens, Wilson Pickett, The Dells, The Kinks, Wishbone Ash–-and many more.

1. Feelings To Hide (Jeff Parsons, Nick Talantis, Norman Reim) - 3:43
2. Above The Storm (Alaric Jans, Nick Talantis) - 2:00
3. Rosemary May (And Little Baby Blue Jeans) (Nick Talantis) - 3:38
4. Time (Alaric Jans) - 2:29
5. I Got A Conflict (Nick Talantis, Norman Reim) - 6:45
6. Matinee Movie (Alaric Jans, Nick Talantis, Norman Reim) - 3:17
7. Mississippi Streams (Alaric Jans, Nick Talantis, Norman Reim) - 6:29
8. My Heart Song (Alaric Jans, Nick Talantis) - 3:40
9. I Seen The Glory (Nick Talantis, Norman Reim) - 3:01
10 Home (Alaric Jans, Nick Talantis, Norman Reim) - 3:45

*Norman Reim - Vocals
*Jeff Parsons - Vocals, Guitar 
*Nick Talantis - Vocals, Guitar
*Alaric Jans - Vocals, Keyboards 
*Doug Mazique - Vocals, Bass
*Richie Morales- Drums 
*Paul Hornsby - Organ, Vibraphone
*Tommy Talton - Guitar 
*Sammy Creason- Drums

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Graham Bell - Graham Bell (1972 uk, fabulous rhythm 'n' blues, 2016 korean remaster)

Bell's father, Jimmy, who died in 2010, was a well-known local singer, and his late mother, Leonora Rogers, was in show business prior to marriage, after which she was heavily involved in local music and dance.

Graham made a solo single in 1966 and one year later replaced Alan Hull as the singer of psychedelic rock band Skip Bifferty (later renamed Heavy Jelly). In 1969 he was singer in another psychedelic rock band Griffin. In 1970 he began his stint with Charisma Records, joining Every Which Way, a band formed by Brian Davison formerly of The Nice, as singer and principal writer. Musical style was jazzy progressive rock with guitar from John Hedley (who was later part of Last Exit, with Sting) playing call and response with Bell's blues shout vocals. Bell then rejoined his old mates from Skip Bifferty, now known as Arc, to form Bell & Arc in July 1971, with John Turnbull, Mick Gallagher, Bud Beadle, Kenny Craddock, Steve Gregory, Tom Duffy and Alan White. Bell was then tempted to leave the group to record an album as a solo artist in 1972. Featuring Tim Hinkley, Mel Collins and lan Wallace, it was produced by Bob Dylan associate Bob Johnston.

After Bell's appearance in the London Symphony Orchestra version of Tommy it was reported that Pete Townshend produced an album for him, but it never saw the light of day. In 1974 he contributed backing vocals on Carol Grimes' Warm Blood also featuring Tommy Eyre, Jess Roden, John 'Rabbit' Bundrick and Henry Lowther. In the late 1970s Graham Bell was featured on the front page of Sounds music paper as a "the man -most likely to", but sadly his profile was affected by the rise of punk and the new wave. Bell moved to America, where he toured with Long John Baldry, and was the co- front man along with Jackie Lomax of a band of LA Brit expatriates known as the Tea Bags, among others, before returning to his native Northeast England in the mid 1980s. He also lived for a while in Cumbria before finally heading for London again and cropping up in Snowy White's Blues Agency in 1988/89. In 2008 he died of cancer shortly after his 60th birthday.

1. Before You Can Be A Man (Graham Bell) - 4:01
2. The Thrill Is Gone (B.B. King) - 4:52
3. After Midnight (J.J. Cale) - 5:32
4. Down In The City (Graham Bell, Tim Drummond) - 5:17
5. Watch The River Flow (Bob Dylan) - 4:38
6. Too Many People (Bob Wilson, Graham Bell) - 4:18
7. How Long Will It Last (Bob Wilson, Graham Bell) - 3:09
8. The Whole Town Wants You Hung (Graham Bell) - 2:27
9. The Man With Ageless Eyes (Graham Bell) - 5:11
10.So Black And So Blue (Kris Kristofferson) - 3:54

*Graham Bell - Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Wilson - Keyboards
*Derek Quinn - Percussion
*Gaspar Lawal - Percussion
*Eddie Mordue - Baritone Saxophone
*Ian Wallace - Drums
*Mel Collins - Alto, Tenor, Baritone Saxophones
*Ron Cornelius - Guitar
*Tim Drummond - Bass
*Tim Hinkley - Keyboards
*Kenny Wheeler - Trumpet 
*Mark Charig - Trumpet 
*Nick Evans - Trombone
*Derek Collins - Tenor Saxophone

Related Acts
1966-69  Skip Bifferty - The Story of Skip Bifferty (double disc edition) 
1970  Brian Davison - Every Which Way (2010 edition) 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

rep> Blown Free - Maximum Rock 'n' Roll (1978 us, great hard, rough 'n' raw, pre stoner rock, limited release, 300 copies)

Blown Free were a Houston band active between 1978 and 1982. Their history is almost completely unknown, what is known is that the band's leader and main songwriter, David Matthews, has a long history in music. He got his start in Wisconsin, playing in some underground psyche bands as early as 1968.

When he moved to Houston he immediately put together his own band and the results of this can be heard on this disc, what recordings survived anyway. If there ever was a band that could be classified as "obscure, underground rock" this is surely one. The only known release on this band is a sole 45 released on Excelsior (the label owned by the late Bill Holford, SR. of ACA Studios in Houston).

Mr. Holford would sometimes take a band under his wing and help them through business deals and publishing deals, which is what he did with Blown Free. After the dissolution of the band, and the break-up of Matthews' marriage, David took off for greener pastures back in Wisconsin where he started his own label and put together another version of Blown Free, this time under the monniker of The Matthew Davis Project. Several tracks from that period are included here as "Lemonade and Suzie Tonight", "A Seedy Reefer", and "The Bash".

1. Baby Come Back - 2:14
2. My House - 2:57
3. Sweet Love - 3:52
4. The Wizard - 3:56
5. Come Back My Way - 4:58
6. Rock And Roll Band - 2:48
7. A Little Bit At A Time - 3:59
8. My House - 3:11
9. I Feel Free - 3:54
10. Blown Free - 5:47
11. Sweet Love - 4:14
12. Lemonade & Suzie Tonight - 5:30
13. A Seedy Reefer - 3:55
14. The Bash - 4:46
15. The Wizard - 3:18
Tracks 1-4 recorded at ACA Studios in Houston, TX. Track 4 is a different mix than the released version on the 45 (Track 15).
Tracks 5-11 are taken from a rehearsal tape recorded sometime in 1978.
Tracks 12-14 are recordings made by The Matthew Davis Project.
Track 15 taken from the band's only official release, the Excelsior Records 45 recorded at ACA Studios and engineered by Bill Holford, SR.

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Friday, February 16, 2024

rep> Birmingham Sunday - A Message From Birmingham Sunday (1968 us, nice sunny folk psych, akarma edition)

Birmingham Sunday was formed in September 1966, and they were named after the Sunday concerts that took place in Birmingham, England. The original lineup of Birmingham Sunday featured bassist John Kvam, drummer Monty Johns, guitarist (and Monty's brother) Ward Johns, organ/sax player Phil Gustafson and guitarist Joe LaChew.

Monty and Ward Johns had been in The Contrasts, who covered popular Beatles and Beach Boys tunes. John Kvam was a guitarist in the folk rock group The Scroachers, and learned bass after joining Birmingham Sunday. Phil Gustafson was the keyboardist and sax player for the rock band The Kensingtons. Gustafson was trained as a pianist and sang in the church choir, and he played sax in his high school band. Even though Phil's voice could easily handle the demands of opera, he preferred to sing background harmony with Birmingham Sunday. Joe LaChew was the guitarist and vocalist for the group The Freedom Five, who covered the blues-based output of British bands like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Animals. At the age of 15, LaChew earned his stripes as a songwriter when he wrote a campaign song for the Nevada governor at the time, Grant Sawyer. The Freedom Five recorded a single of Joe's song and sold it at various campaign sites throughout the state.

Birmingham Sunday started to play teen dances throughout northern Nevada. Their biggest crowds were at the Civic Auditorium in Carson City and at Genoa Town Hall. The group put on dances and rented halls in Carson City, Genoa, Minden and Reno to cover their increasing fan base.

In 1967, Birmingham Sunday was poised for their breakthrough. Joe LaChew and Monty Johns were attending the University of Nevada in Reno, and their band had a much greater following – especially since the university dorms and fraternities now had their own party band!

That summer season, Birmingham Sunday landed a house band gig at American Legion Hall in South Lake Tahoe, California. This involved playing five days a week at the hall, plus performing as the opening act for each weekend's entertainment. The venue was filled every summer night with Californians from the Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area. Weekend shows were extravaganzas, as well-known San Franciscan acts like The Grateful Dead and Sly And The Family Stone were frequently brought in with local favorites The Family Tree and Jim Burgett.

The American Legion Hall's weekend festival on July 28-29, 1967 was headlined by The Grateful Dead and Jim Burgett, with Birmingham Sunday, The Justice Five and Velvet Chain on the bill. This festival is where Birmingham Sunday first heard Debbie Parke sing. Debbie was performing a guest spot with The Justice Five at the shows.

A few months later, Debbie Parks joined Birmingham Sunday, adding her strong voice to the mix. She was only 15 and a sophomore in high school. Even though Debbie's voice was overpowering, she did not try to dominate the band. Instead, her voice blended well with the rest of the singers in the band. Birmingham Sunday was now playing more originals as part of their sets. They began attracting interest from numerous managers and record company scouts.

Phil Gustafson left for the summer to attend National Guard camp, and he was replaced by his younger brother Dave. Dave Gustafson was a child prodigy that could play any style from Beethoven and Bach to Jimmy Smith. In addition, Dave could read and copy nearly everything he heard. His great playing impressed crowds with a note-for-note rendition of The Doors' "Light My Fire."

Birmingham Sunday's success carried them into 1968. Everyone's favorite hipster, Pat Boone (!), co-sponsored a "Teen Scene" local battle of the bands with promoter Bruce Blaylock. This two-day event was held at Reno’s Centennial Coliseum, where groups like The Kinks, Buffalo Springfield, The Zombies, The Beach Boys and many others had played. The judges were the members of The Sunshine Company, who had recently enjoyed some success. The Sunshine Company had a similar approach and appreciated Birmingham Sunday's vocal tapestry.

Birmingham Sunday was chosen with the top bands to travel to Las Vegas for the finals. The Las Vegas judges were Strawberry Alarm Clock and their manager/producer Bill Holmes. The Las Vegas band London Fogg won the battle, but Bill Holmes greatly preferred Birmingham Sunday's original songs and he was very impressed by their vocals.

Birmingham Sunday was invited by promoter Bruce Blaylock to do some recordings in Hollywood. Blaylock was shopping the band to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band manager Bill McEuen as well as a representative of that group's label, Liberty Records. Birmingham Sunday did an audition and received a record deal from Liberty. The record label had a song that they wanted Birmingham Sunday to record – the "Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet," also known as "A Time For Us." It was later recorded by Henry Mancini, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis.

After hearing the demos, Bill Holmes took on Birmingham Sunday as their producer and manager. Holmes turned down the Liberty deal, which proved to be a big mistake when Henry Mancini's recording became a big pop hit. Instead, Birmingham Sunday was signed to Bill Holmes' All-American label.

Meanwhile, the band had changed. Monty Wards left after the "Teen Scene" contest for a rigorous, pre-med schedule at the University of Nevada. Birmingham Sunday auditioned singing drummers, but no one materialized. With concert bookings to be fulfilled and not much time to prepare, Joe LaChew took over as the drummer. Monty had been teaching Joe all the drum parts for their original songs, so LaChew had no problem in this transition period. Since Joe gave up his guitar to play drums, the group had to find another guitarist who could sing well. They found Jean Heim, who played rhythm guitar and a little lead guitar. Heim could also sing lead with his pure, light tenor tone.

The group perfected ten original songs and recorded them in December 1968 with Bill Holmes producing at Original Sound Recording Studios. The studio was located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, and it was owned by multiple award winning DJ and promoter Art Laboe. The legendary Paul Buff, who previously ran Pal Recording Studio before selling it to his recording partner Frank Zappa, was Original Sound's engineer. The album "A Message From Birmingham Sunday" was recorded in five days using Buff's own ten-track studio equipment. Paul Buff also played a Chamberlin keyboard, the American precursor to the mellotron, on the entire album. Buff's string arrangements on the Chamberlin were essential parts of each song.

All-American selected "Prevalent Visionaries" and "Egocentric Solitude" as the respective A- and B-sides of a single released in early September 1969. The album was released the same month. Before the album was released, Bill Holmes sent a tape of the single to radio stations in Nevada.

"Egocentric Solitude" was first tracked for the week ending August 16, 1969 by Reno, Nevada radio station KIST. It reached the Top 10 in Reno that September 10, and it was #5 on KCBN. Although the single did not receive wide distribution, it did well in Sacramento, Chicago, Seattle, and especially Santa Barbara, where it made #1! The lack of distribution made the album extremely rare, even at the time. About 10 to 20 copies of the original LP are known to exist today.

Many of Bill Holmes' All-American acts played concerts on July 18-19, 1969 at Kings Beach on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. On the first day, Birmingham Sunday was the opening act. However, the popularity of the band enabled Birmingham Sunday to close the second night's show. Holmes had lost control of Strawberry Alarm Clock, so he had the replacement group Strawberry SAC play instead. Gary Solomon, the lyric writer of "Egocentric Solitude," was in that band. Birmingham Sunday ruled the weekend event!

Birmingham Sunday played concerts throughout 1969, but they split up in 1970 due to a number of forces pulling band members in different directions. Joe LaChew and Monty Johns stayed in college to continue their education. Both Joe and Monty formed the college rock band Brother Rock with Ward Johns. This nine-piece horn band opened for concerts at the college, including shows by Cold Blood, Tower Of Power, The Sons Of Champlin, and most notably, Derek And The Dominoes.

Brother Rock did a recording for the Mercury label in San Francisco, but the tracks have been lost. While influenced by Chicago and The Sons Of Champlin, Brother Rock played original songs by Monty Johns and Joe LaChew.

Debbie Parke, Jean Heim, John Kvam and the Gustafson brothers joined well-known Nevada casino lounge singer Frankie Fanelli. They recorded an album with Fanelli before splitting with him in August 1970. The band members went into different directions:

Joe LaChew continued playing guitar with The Drifters, The Coasters, Billy Preston, The Righteous Brothers, Rose and Joe Maphis, Merle Travis, Dorsey Burnett, Jimmy Dickens, Zella Lehr (an RCA artist), Kathy O'Shea (for MCA) and comedian Rich Little. Joe is now a music teacher in Nevada and still plays shows in the Reno and Lake Tahoe areas. He still enjoys writing music and has done commercials, film music and solo albums. Joe still writes songs for the more recent Birmingham Sunday reunions. Two of those tracks, "Raw Rhythm" and "C'Est La Vie Blues," are included here for the first time. The famous Birmingham Sunday parties continue to this day!

Debbie Parke became an elementary school teacher and counselor in Lewiston, Idaho. She is now retired. Phil Gustafson retired from the Nevada National Guard. John Kvam was a bartender and journeyman cabinet maker before his retirement. Jean Heim became a country musician and has also retired. Monty Johns is a doctor in West Virginia. Ward Johns was the Vice President of Missile Records. He passed away from compilations due to a stroke in December 2009. Dave Gustafson became a successful musician and very wealthy real estate agent. He passed in January 2010.
by Joe LaChew (Birmingham Sunday)

1. Egocentrick Solitude - 3:17
2. Wondering What to Feel - 2:36
3. Prevalent Visionaries - 2:51
4. You're Out of Line - 2:55
5. Medieval Journey - 2:36
6. Mr. Waters (The Judge) - 2:52
7. Fate and the Magician - 1:58
8. Peter Pan Revisted - 2:15
9. Time to Land - 3:03
10. Don't Turn Around - 2:41

Birmingham Sunday
*Ward Johns - Guitar
*Debbie Parks - Vocals
*John Kvam - Bass
*Jean Heim - Rhythm Guitar
*Joe LaChew - Drums, Guitar
*Phil Gustafson - Keyboards, Saxes
*Monty Johns - Drums

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Monday, February 12, 2024

Winterhawk - Dog Soldier (1980 us, awesome hard rock, 2021 hard sleeve remaster)

San Francisco band Winterhawk were years ahead of their time. They’re best remembered for frontman/guitarist Nik Alexander’s distinctive mashups of 70s acid rock and Cree Indian folk music. Alexander was fiercely proud of his heritage, and that connection to the land resonates potently in the band’s many politically-oriented songs. In addition to rocking out ancient folk melodies, they sometimes employed indigenous instruments like shakers and wood flute. Drummer Alfonso Kolb would frequently diverge into native rhythms as well.

On Dog Soldier, the group are tighter. Fringed leather tunics, furs, feathers, and loincloths are not the standard garb of the average rock band, and neither were many popular bands quite literally gushing with Indian blood and heritage. Likewise, few bands indeed carry high the philosophies, and traditions of their forefathers cultures as did Winterhawk. A Native American foursome that specialized in rapidfire, hard rock and roll. But the striking thing about this band is not so much the warrior beliefs, but their sincerity and genuine faith in themselves and their culture. Winterhawk appeared in the 1983 US Festival and has opened for such big names as Tina Turner, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, Steve Miller, Van Halen and Motley Crue. The Electric Warriors LP was produced by Tom Bee of XIT, AKA Lincoln St Exit. A must have for Native American, Hard Rock, Metal music fans. Nik Alexander's song writing and guitar playing skills are the best. 

We Are the People is a towering, defiantly timeless reminder of how much more civilized the North American natives were, compared to the imperialist invaders. There’s also Crazy, shifting between hammering riffage and a spare, cantering native rhythm; We’re Still Here, a surreal attempt at politically-fueled disco; Warriors Road, a subdued acoustic freedom-fighter anthem; and I Will Remember. a stark, mystical folk tune. Good to have this distinctive band back in print.

Unfortunately, Nik Alexander passed away in July 5, 2017 after battling with cancer.  His memory lives on through the timeless compositions he created, that will surely be remembered and enjoyed by every serious music fan and collector unto the ages of the ages.

1. Our Love Will Last - 3:11
2. Honey Lady - 3:41
3. Crazy - 4:50
4. Loser - 4:14
5. Lady Blue - 4:04
6. We're Still Here - 3:46
7. Warriors Road - 3:15
8. We Are The People - 5:45
9. I Will Remember - 3:12
All compositions by Nik Alexander

*Nik Alexander - Guitar, Vocals
*Doug Love - Bass, Vocals
*Gordon Campbell - Bell
*Jon Gibson - Drums, Vocals

Thursday, February 8, 2024

rep> Various Artists - With Love A Pot Of Flowers (1965-67 us, fantastic garage psych folk rock, 2010 remaster and expanded)

“With Love: A Pot Of Flowers” was originally issued in late 1967 by Mainstream Records. It is testament to the quality of the groups and songs included, not to mention the A&R proclivities of Mainstream head honcho Bob Shad – as irascibly indefatigable as anyone you might choose in the hothouse atmosphere of the independent record business of that era – that the album plays so well and, if you’ll pardon the pun, really grows on you. That in hindsight it also plucked four bands from within the vortex of 1966 nascent psychedelia and places them in a historically fascinating context, is equally remarkable. This expanded version of “A Pot Of Flowers” includes additional material by other relevant groups released on Brent or Mainstream from 1965 to 1967, as well as the mono single mixes of selected tracks from the album and some unreleased cuts.

The collection was amongst the first of a swathe of rock albums that Mainstream issued towards the end of the 1960s, the result of a remarkable A&R odyssey conducted by Shad across the United States, in much the same fashion as the location recording expeditions the producer had made to the south in the late 1940s in search of blues and R&B acts. Whether by luck or design, Shad decided to make one of his first ports of call San Francisco, which in early 1966 was well into the honeymoon period of its own socio-cultural renaissance, with the entire Bay Area awash with rock’n’rollers of all shapes and sizes.

As our extensive liner note details, he had initially issued several unsuccessful singles by Bay Area groups on both Mainstream and Brent, but by subsequently collecting the best of these together on “A Pot Of Flowers” he unwittingly created one of the more satisfying surveys of the scene at the time. The acts in question were the Wildflower, pioneering folk-rockers who were an early fixture at the Fillmore and Avalon; San Jose’s popular garage band the Otherside; legendary East Bay punks the Harbinger Complex; and, from southern California via Texas, the idiosyncratic Euphoria, whose pathfinding, off-beat take on psychedelia has given the group a cult reputation.

The bonus material included on this Big Beat reissue doubles the track list of “A Pot Of Flowers” y adding appropriate folk-rock and proto-psych sides from other West Coast acts on Mainstream such as the New Dawn, the Word, the Ariel and Thee Unusuals, the latter a Northwest group featuring blue-eyed chanteuse Kathi McDonald, who would later to take Janis’ spot in Big Brother & the Holding Company (who were also signed by Bob Shad during his California sorties). We are also proud to include several stellar unissued garage rockers from the Ban and the Montells, as well as the original mono singles mixes of selected tunes. 
by Alec Palao

1. Wildflower - Baby Dear (Michael McLure, Stephen Ehret) - 2:23
2. Wildflower - Wind Dream (Stephen Ehret) - 2:18
3. Euphoria - Hungry Women (Wesley Watt) - 3:20
4. The Otherside - Streetcar (Marty Battey, Alan Graham) - 2:19
5. Wildflower - Coffee Cup (Stephen Ehret, Tom Ellis) - 2:19
6. The Harbinger Complex - I Think I'm Down (Jim Hockstaff, Bob Hoyle) - 2:26
7. Wildflower - Jump In (Stephen Ehref, Tom Ellis, Michael McCausland) - 2:48
8. The Otherside - Walking Down The Road (Al Schackman) - 2:24
9. The Harbinger Complex - When You Know You're In Love (Jim Hockstaff, Bob Hoyle) - 2:14
10.Euphoria - No Me Tomorrow (Bill Lincoln, Wesley Watt) - 3:11
11.The Harbinger Complex - Time To Kill (Jim Hockstaff, Bob Hoyle) - 2:11
12.The Harbinger Complex - My Dear And Kind Sir (Jim Hockstaff, Bob Hoyle) - 2:26
13.New Dawn - Slave Of Desire (Tony Supnet, Mike Leonti) - 2:34
14.The Word - Now It's Over (Bill Lincoln, Wesley Watt) - 2:47
15.The Ban - Thinking Of Your Fate (Tony McCuire) - 2:17
16.The Montells - I'm Lonely (Rick Dorenzo, Alan Feia) - 2:56
17.Thee Unusuals - I Could Go On (Bill Capp) - 2:02
18.The Ban - Bye Bye (Tony McCuire) - 2:50
19.The Ariel - It Feels Like I'm Crying (Jack Walters) - 2:04
20.The Word - So Little Time (Bill Lincoln, Wesley Watt) - 2:42
21.The Montells - You're Wrong To Think It (Rick Dorenzo, Alan Feia) - 1:54
22.The Ban - Place Of Sin (Tony McCuire) - 2:40
23.Wildflower - Wind Dream (Mono Single Version) (Stephen Ehret) - 2:18
24.The Otherside - Streetcar (Mono Single Version) (Marty Battey, Alan Graham) - 2:21
25.Euphoria - Hungry Women (Mono Single Version) (Wesley Watt) - 3:02
26.The Harbinger Complex - I Think I'm Down (Mono Single Version) (Jim Hockstaff, Bob Hoyle) - 2:27

The Wildflower 
*Tom Ellis - Drums
*Teddy Schneider - Percussions
*Stephen Ehret - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Brown - Guitar
*John Jennings - Bass

*David Potter - Drums
*Hamilton Wesley Watt - Vocals
*Peter Black - Bass
*James Harrell - Guitar

The Other Side
*Allen Graham - Guitar, Vocals
*Danny Phay - Vocals
*Ken Matthew - Drums
*Marty Battey - Bass
*Ned Torney - Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals
*Tom Antone - Bass

The Harbinger Complex
*Gary Clarke - Bass
*James Hockstaff - Vocals
*Jim Redding - Drums
*Robert Hoyle - Guitar
*Ron Rotarius - Lead Guitar

The Montells
*Rick Dorenzo - Vocals, Guitar
*Bob Mullong - Guitar
*Bob Trevorrow - Guitar
*Alan Feia - Bass
*Dave Ditto - Drums

The Unusuals
*Terry Allan - Bass
*Vic Bundy - Keyboards
*Bill Capp - Guitar
*Pat Jerns - Drums
*Kathi McDonald - Vocals
*Gary Ramsey - Drums
*Harvey Redmond - Bass
*Laurie Vitt - Guitar

The Ban
*Randy Gordon (Guzman) - Drums, Vocals
*Tony McGuire - Guitar, Vocals,
*Oliver McKinney - Keyboards, Vocals,
*Frank Straight - Bass

The Ariel
*Jack Walters - Guitar
*Chris Guiver - Sax, Guitar
*Paul Studebaker - Bass
*DennisStudebaker - Drums

The New Dawn
*Tony Supnet - Vocals
*Mike Leonti - Vocals
*Donnie Ordiniza - Vocals

Related Acts
1969  Euphoria - A Gift From Euphoria

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Saturday, February 3, 2024

The Pretty Things - S.F. Sorrow (1968 uk, spooky, trippy, strange, and delightful a psychedelic masterpiece, 2018 digipak remaster with bonus tracks)

As the British invasion sound of the early 60s grew and developed into an insatiable beast, the founding bands themselves looked to stretch their wings, douse their music in psychedelia and create records that were more than simply a collection of songs. The idea of the story concept album was born and in 1968 one band took the idea to its fruition, creating what can be argued to be the first true narrative concept album.

The Beatles had taken a stab at the concept album with Sgt. Pepper, but as masterful as the record was, the idea only managed to last the first two songs, and Lennon himself disowned the idea that his contributions had ever been envisaged as part of the concept. The Small Faces had come out with Odgen’s Nut Gone Flake, but only the second half of that record followed a single narrative. It’s true also that there had been numerous albums with overarching themes over the preceding decades (Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads, Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours, Zappa’s Freak Out), but no artist had ever before created such a bold piece of work that took one story and told it through a collection of wonderful, twisting, swirling and, at times, intensely dark songs. On S.F. Sorrow, The Pretty Things unleashed their psychedelic masterpiece, and threw down the gauntlet to their contemporaries, challenging them to really step up. And step up some of them certainly did as the album went on to influence other soon to be more well-known ‘rock operas’.

S.F. Sorrow followed their previous album, Emotions, a record that the band admitted to being embarrassing. For singer Phil May the situation was clear. “I think the album was hi-jacked.  So we had a choice, we either stood our ground and fought the company to seize back control or cut out losses and run.” Emotions was overdubbed with orchestral arrangements that saw it taken far from where they had originally envisaged and despite possessing a quality of song writing and melody that should have seen them garnering multitudes of new fans, the band refused to play much of it live. But that’s not to say that the process didn’t have some silver lining, as Phil continues, “One of the few positives about Emotions was we realised we needed to get into creating our own material, ie. writing.  Also Wally Waller and Jon Povey’s arrival provided us with another colour in our pallete.  Our new direction was already taking shape. We were already moving on.  And there was no love loss between us and Fontana.” Free from their contract with Fontana, the band signed to EMI. Money was not the aim, but artistic freedom was.

Emotions, however, was also to be a precursor to what was to follow for them artistically, as lead guitarist Dick Taylor says: “Without Emotions there would have been no S.F. Sorrow. It was Wally and Jon’s introduction to recording with Phil and I. The harmony blend started there, it was kind of a semi concept album, and despite the heavy handedness of most of the additional instrumental arrangements (with the exception of the Sun), it kind of got us thinking of breaking away from the guitar, bass and drum format. I have a snaking fondness for it.”

Phil has previously stated that they did not want to go back and write another typical record so, inspired more by classical music and opera, they embarked on the idea to create a musical journey, a means of commanding their own destiny and releasing themselves from the treadmill they were on. With the idea of creating one 40 minute tale based on a short story he had written entitled Cutting Up Sergeant Time about the life of a soldier in the First World War trenches, the band developed a twisted tale from birth to death. Phil explains, “I think this is partly a “lost in translation” moment. The short story that S F Sorrow was based on was originally called Sargeant Sorrow. But I demoted him so that I could extend his story both forward and backwards, in youth and in age, to provide a wider context.” 

And extend it they certainly did. The story arc takes the listener on a literary journey of the band’s protagonist, Sebastian F. Sorrow, told through the songs themselves and the entwined paragraphs in the liner notes that accompanied the original album. From birth to death; through the drudgery of monotonous work that saps S.F.’s creativity and sees him labelled as a scab; his sexual awakening; the draw of love and lust; war; the death of his fiance; reflection on his life through a spiritual journey with the mysterious Baron Saturday; and finally a drifting into mental anguish and a depression and seclusion that leads him eventually to his death. The band holed up in Abbey Road Studios at the tail-end of 1967 and set to work.
In the studio the band, chemically-enhanced, had no problem spending days and nights pushing their studio time, and technicians, to the max. Early synthesisers were built; tracks bounced from machine to machine creating sometimes hundreds of layered tracks that formed the complex and schizodelic sound, one credited in part to the dedicated work of sound engineer Peter Mew, for whom S.F. Sorrow was his first full studio album. A baptism of fire no doubt it certainly must have been. Following an album that they didn’t want to play, The Pretty Things eventually emerged with a record near-impossible to actually recreate live, even for the band themselves. In fact it wasn’t until 30 years later that the band pulled it off. Returning to the Abbey Road studio where it was originally recorded and, with the help of Dave Gilmore on lead guitar and Arthur Brown narrating, they produced S.F. Sorrow Resurrection.

Of course, in the studio, immersed in their own world, the recreation of the album was not on their minds. As Dick recalls: “I don’t think we gave a thought to playing it live, we were so absorbed in  making the album. Having Norman Smith as our producer enabled us to give free rein to our imaginations, and his own of course. To have worried about how we would play it would have put a limit on what we could do and we weren’t into limits at the time. (By 1998) we were doing more and more of it in our live set. I think it was our manager – Mark St John, who first suggested doing it live. Despite some initial misgivings that we could do it justice we started rehearsing it an the whole thing blossomed. I think it was one of the things which sparked off more interest in the album.” Phil continues, “The time was right to put the whole thing back in the spotlight. So with Snapper (our record label) on board it quickly developed into a live world web cast (the first, globally, I believe) and a DVD with the special guests. So – S F Sorrow was resurrected.”

Not only was S.F. Sorrow innovative and ground-breaking in its subject and sonics, but it was also a masterclass in the use of music to create mood, each song perfectly encapsulating its lyrical theme and the feelings of its protagonist. Album opener S.F. Sorrow Is Born chimes with optimism in its acoustic guitars and the following songs dealing with the innocence of his youth continue to float along on a more psychedelic folk wave, but when disasters strike and things turn sour, such as on Balloon Burning, the music takes on a dark intensity rarely seen before. It’s almost Krautrock before its time, the repeating two guitar notes creating a woozy effect over the pulsing rhythm. The introduction of Baron Saturday sees the band kicking up a tight percussion focused march, before Sebastian is taken on a floatingly trippy flight on The Journey. The sign off of Loneliest Person is an aching twinkle, a lonesome goodbye from our protagonist.

Like any great work of art, it’s one that has also been the subject of continued analysis. Where does Sebastian die in the tale? At the end, as would be supposed? Or does he actually die in war on the fourth track, Private Sorrow (which finishes with an alphabetical reeling off of war deaths that fades out just before his name would be read), and is what follows almost a Jacob’s Ladder journey with the Haitian Voodoo priest guiding him to accept his fate and make his way to the underworld? If so, it’s a fate that he rejects, and thus condemns himself to hell. Dick throws water on the idea though. “Sorry, Sebastian didn’t end up hobnobbing with Paul McCartney minus his shoes, not unless Phil knows something different and just hasn’t told me yet.”

“I’m unaware of the Jacobs ladder theory,” says Phil, “But I always believe the listeners right to interpret the lyrics and narrative as they feel it, it’s a subjective process.” Either way it’s not the most uplifting of stories and its dark subject matter, coupled with a lack of promotion from the studio led to low sales. However, it is a dark tragic odyssey to rival the great classics and one that not only influenced future concept albums, but also the sound of modern bands such as Kasabian. It was the band’s unrepentive drive to create a piece of art as opposed to a commercial endevour that resulted in a slow-burning fire that has had a sustained impact. Dick reflects, “Despite the somewhat disappointing sales when it was first released I always regarded it as an artistic success. It is great that so many people now regard it as an important milestone and an inspiration (thank you Serge). It’s actually quite extraordinary that it commands so much respect. What more could we want.” For Phil the blow seemed to hit harder. “It was kick in the balls and for my part if I hadn’t been deep into the ribs of the process of writing material for the next album – “Parachute” – the blow could have been terminal.  I like to think that it proves that real class will eventually get the recognition it deserves.”

Although it was misunderstood at its time of release, especially in America where it was released after The Who’s Tommy and unjustly referred to by Lester Bangs as an inferior copy of Townsend’s rock opera, it has stood the test of time with grace and in today’s world of one-song downloads provides not a morsel, but a feast for the listener to consume in its entirety. 50 years on S.F. Sorrow should be held up as one of the greatest pieces of art of its time – the first fully-realised narrative concept album.
by Nathan Whittle, August 30, 2018 

1. S.F. Sorrow Is Born - 3:10
2. Bracelets Of Fingers - 3:42
3. She Says Good Morning (Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Charles Alder) - 3:22
4. Private Sorrow (Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Povey) - 3:51
5. Balloon Burning (Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Povey) - 3:50
6. Death (Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Charles Alder) - 3:05
7. Baron Saturday - 4:01
8. Journey (Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Charles Alder) - 2:46
9. I See You - 3:56
10.Well Of Destiny (Norman Smith, Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Povey, John Charles Alder) - 1:47
11.Trust - 2:48
12.Old Man Going (Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Povey, John Charles Alder) - 3:10
13.Loneliest Person (Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Charles Alder) - 1:29
14.Defecting Grey - 4:31
15.Mr. Evasion - 3:30
16.Talkin' About The Good Times - 3:45
17.Walking Through My Dreams (Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller, John Povey) - 3:36
All compositions by Phil May, Dick Taylor, Wally Waller except where noted

The Pretty Things
*Phil May - Vocals
*Dick Taylor - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Wally Waller - Bass, Guitar, Vocals, Wind, Piano
*John Charles Alder - Drums, Vocals
*John Povey - Organ, Sitar, Percussion, Vocals  

1964-66  The Pretty Things - The EP Collection...Plus 
1967  The Pretty Things - Emotions (Japan remaster)