Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bobby Charles - Bobby Charles (1972-74 us, fantastic blend of blues dixie country folk classic rock, 2011 three disc box set remaster)

When he was around 13, Robert Charles Guidry began singing with a band around his hometown of Abbeville, La., deep in the Cajun swamps. The group played Cajun and country music and, after he passed through town and played a show, Fats Domino's music. It was a life-changing experience for the young man, and he found himself with a new ambition: to write a song for Fats.

One night as he left a gig, Charles said to his friends, "See ya later, alligator," and one of them yelled back, "In a while, crocodile." Charles stopped in his tracks. "What did you say?" he asked. The friend repeated it. At that moment, as would happen countless times in the future, the song "See You Later, Alligator" came to him, fully formed.

Fats didn't want the song, and told the young man he didn't want to sing about alligators. Somehow, though, the kid wound up singing the song over the phone to Leonard Chess, whose Chess Records in Chicago was the hottest blues label in town. Chess didn't hesitate: He sent the kid a ticket, and when Charles showed up at his office, Chess said something I can't say on the air. The sentence ended with the word "white" and a question mark, though.

Chess recorded him, though, and put the song out, changing Guidry's name to Bobby Charles; almost immediately, Bill Haley grabbed it for himself. Haley's record was one of the best sellers of 1956, and both Chess and Charles made some decent money from it. They tried follow-ups called "Watch It, Sprocket," which wasn't something people actually said, and "Take It Easy, Greasy," which was, but the record was a little too, well, greasy to be too popular. Charles recorded for Chess until 1958, but his records only sold locally. Along the way, though, he seems to have pioneered a genre called swamp pop.

He also got to realize a dream. One evening, Fats Domino played Abbeville, and Fats invited Charles to a show in New Orleans. The young singer said he had no way to get there. "Well," the fat man said, "you'd better start walking." And sure enough, a song popped into Charles' head: "Walking To New Orleans."

Bobby Charles signed with Imperial, Fats' label, but again, nothing hit. He admitted freely that he was part of the problem. He didn't enjoy touring, and he had a jealous wife who didn't like him leaving town. He continued writing and selling songs, and recorded for some local Louisiana labels. He and his wife parted company, and then, in 1971, he got busted for pot in Nashville. Rather than risk jail, he disappeared; he wound up in upstate New York, and saw the name Woodstock on a map. He'd never even heard of the famous festival, but the name appealed to him.

Arriving in town, he asked a real-estate agent about a place to rent and wound up in a house shared with two other musicians. They introduced him around, and Albert Grossman, who'd managed Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and many others, got interested. The next thing he knew, Charles was back in the studio with members of The Band, Dr. John and lots of other Woodstock musicians. The resulting album has some truly memorable moments.

It didn't sell, though. Charles focused on songwriting, but he wasn't comfortable in Woodstock, and in the end he went back to Abbeville, where he disappeared from public view for an entire decade. He had a good income from his songs, but a run of bad luck: His house burned down, and then his next house blew away in a hurricane. He kept writing songs, and he entertained visitors who came to Abbeville to meet him — people like Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Willie Nelson. His record label, Rice 'N' Gravy, put out several homemade albums, which mixed his old and new songs.

At 70, Bobby Charles was diagnosed with cancer, and he died in January 2010, unknown to most of the world he'd enriched with his songs.
by Ed Ward

Reissued here as a wood-paneled box set with 25 bonus tracks, Louisiana singer Robert Charles' lone album from the 1970s, featuring four members of the Band as his backup group, is one of the most sublime Americana records ever cut.

On the third disc of this wood-paneled box set of Louisiana singer Robert "Bobby" Charles Guidry's lone album from the 1970s, there's a half-hour interview with radio disc jockey Barry Hansen, better known as Dr. Demento. They laundry-list the records released that week in 1972, ranging from a posthumous Jimi Hendrix LP to John Fahey, Tim Buckley, Bonnie Raitt, Nazareth, Wet Willie, and Martin Mull. To which Bobby Charles comments in his gentle, stoned Cajun drawl: "It's too bad, a lot of good ones just have to get lost. It's unexplainable, but they just do." To which Hansen replies: "Well... a lot of times they get picked up the second or third time around."

Warm and crackling as a campfire, easeful and understated, all of it suffused with Charles' nuanced blend of humor and empathy, this 1972 eponymous album was one of the "good ones" that got lost. Think of this as the second or third time around for the album to finally find its people-- and there should be plenty of them. Considering that 4/5ths of the Band served as Charles' back up group here (augmented by Dr. John and Neil Young pedal steel guitarist Ben E. Keith), this is-- simply put-- one of the most sublime Americana records ever cut.

Charles' story started two decades earlier, when he wrote and recorded R&B standards like "See You Later, Alligator" and "Walking to New Orleans". The story goes that Chess Records signed the then-14-year-old sight unseen after he sang them "Alligator" over the phone. When he arrived in their Chicago offices, though, Leonard Chess flipped out: Not because Charles was underage, but because he was white. After touring through a pre-integration South, he wound up in Nashville by the late 1960s. A marijuana rap led him to head further north, where he ultimately fell in with the musical community centered around Woodstock, N.Y., recording at Dylan manager Albert Grossman's Bearsville Studios.

From the opening twang and snare snap of "Street People", it's clear Charles' songwriting acumen had grown beyond his early R&B roots. Over the slinking beat, he details an itinerant life of what one would label a "bum." But rather than spin some tale of hard luck and woe, Charles makes drifting from town to town and panhandling for spare change sound idyllic. "Wouldn't trade places with no one I know/ I'm happy with where I'm at," he drawls. A cowbell accents the punchline: "Some people would rather work/ We need people like that."

Elsewhere, there are organ-gurgling numbers about new love and community gossip, lilting ballads about watching butterflies, honking barroom numbers about growing old, and gentle, country-tinged numbers about spending all day in bed with your honey. And then there's the ode to Jesus to save him from his followers. All of it gets delivered with a sly grin and at a pace with which you might sip a beer on a back porch, cast a fishing line into a creek, or barbecue a rack of ribs: slow, unhurried, a sunny afternoon ahead of you.

Some 25 previously unreleased tracks augment the original 10-song album, ranging from the pleasant to revelatory. There are differently mixed singles, three songs released only on a Japanese box set, some half-baked songs, but also the sound of Charles' shuffling toward a follow-up album that he never quite got around to finishing. Or, as he put his M.O. on one chorus: "(I'm) staying stoned and singing homemade songs." There's the Band's telltale funk on "Why Are People Like That?", Dr. John's piano commingling with Garth Hudson's gospel organ swells on the elegant crest of "You Came Along". Fans of Will Oldham's Arise Therefore will swoon for demos of Charles dueting with the Band's Rick Danko over a sputtering drum machine.

When this set was originally made available through Rhino Handmade back in August (it's in stores now via distribution partner Light in the Attic), mid-album track "He's Got All the Whiskey" was already an album highlight. So it's uncanny hearing both it and "Street People" in a post-Occupy mindset. About as loud as "Chappelle's Show"'s intro, Dixieland horns, Danko's bass, and a snare's pop skitter about as Charles gripes: "He got all the money." It, of course, follows that "The Man" also has all the "whiskey/ power/ women," the biggest crime of it being that "he won't give me none." It's a simple protest from Bobby Charles-- good-natured at its heart-- and hopefully it won't get ignored this time around.
by Andy Beta
Disc 1
1. Street People - 3:44
2. Long Face - 3:35
3. I Must Be In a Good Place Now - 4:10
4. Save Me Jesus - 5:16
5. He's Got All the Whiskey - 5:17
6. Small Town Talk (Bobby Charles, Rick Danko) - 3:29
7. Let Yourself Go - 4:12
8. Grow Too Old (Bobby Charles, Dave Bartholomew, Fats Domino) - 4:04
9. I'm That Way - 4:03
10.Tennessee Blues - 5:01
11.Small Town Talk (Single Version) (Bobby Charles, Rick Danko) -3:31
12.Save Me Jesus (Mono Single Version) - 5:10
13.He's Got All The Whiskey (Long Version) - 6:45
14.New Mexico (Bobby Charles, Rick Danko) - 2:26
15.Homemade Songs - 3:44
16.Rosie - 2:51
17.Don't Be Surprised - 2:29
18.You Were There - 6:25
19.'Radio spot' (not listed on cover) - 1:03
All songs by Bobby Charles excepr where stated
Disc 2
1. He's Got All The Whiskey (Take 1) - 6:20
2. New Mexico (Demo) (Bobby Charles, Rick Danko) - 2:20
3. Homemade Songs (Long Version) - 7:56
4. Done A Lot Of Wrong Things - 8:17
5. Ain't That Lucky - 3:04
6. Better Days - 3:38
7. You Came Along - 6:21
8. Jealous Kind - 3:52
9. Whatever Happened - 3:27
10.Livin' In Your World - 3:40
11.Nickles Dimes Dollars - 4:01
12.Why Are People Like That - 3:43
13.Please Please - 2:49
14.Little Town Tramp - 2:58
15.Keep Cookin' Mama - 4:12
16.What Are We Doing? - 2:16
17.Cowboys And Indians (Bobby Charles, Ben Keith) - 3:01
All songs by Bobby Charles excepr where noted
Disc 3
1. The Bobby Charles Interview - 30:57

*Bobby Charles - Vocals, Piano
*Jim Colegrove - Bass
*Rick Danko - Bass
*Dr. John - Keyboards
*Amos Garrett - Guitar
*Norman D. Smart - Drums
*Ben Keith - Guitar, Steel Guitar
*Billy Mundi - Drums
*Bob Neuwirth - Vocals, Guitar
*Bugsy Maugh - Bass
*David Sanborn - Alto Saxophone
*Garth Hudson - Keyboards, Accordion, Saxophone
*Geoff Muldaur - Guitar, Vocals
*Harry Lookofsky - Violin, Viola
*Hymie Schertzer - Saxophone
*Jim Colegrove - Guitar
*Joe Newman - Trumpet
*John Simon - Tenor Saxophone
*John Till - Guitar
*Levon Helm - Drums
*Norman Don Smart II - Drums
*Richard Manuel - Piano, Drums

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Grin - Gone Crazy (1973 us, great classic rock with southern blues rock shades, 2014 SHM remaster)

After touring with Neil Young while still a teenager, singer, songwriter, and guitar hero Nils Lofgren formed the band Grin in 1969 with bassist Bob Gordon and drummer Bob Berberich. While his credentials as part of Young's entourage certainly attracted a few people to the band's early shows, Grin rapidly built a fervent audience of its own in the Washington DC/Northern Virginia area based entirely on the band's dynamic performances and Lofgren's six-string pyrotechnics.

Lofgren further parlayed his connection with Young into a record deal for Grin, and the band released its self-titled debut in 1971. Grin's sound was simple, no-frills, guitar-driven rock 'n' roll with pop overtones and catchy melodies. Although the debut album didn't set the world on fire with sales, it did well enough to merit a follow-up, and in '72 the band released 1+1. The album's lone single release, a clever slice of power-pop called "White Lies," would become a minor hit on AOR radio, rising as high as #75 on the Billboard magazine pop chart and propel the album onto the bottom end of the Top 200 album chart.

To help flush out the band's sound, Lofgren added his brother as a second guitarist after the second album, Tom Lofgren playing rhythm behind Nils' scorching leads. In 1973, the band released All Out, another fine collection of songs that rose almost as high as 1+1 on the charts, but yielded no singles, hit or otherwise. Disappointed by the band's lack of forward commercial momentum, CBS dropped Grin, who would quickly be picked up by A&M Records.

Gone Crazy would be the result, Grin's fourth and final album, released in 1973 and sadly suffering a fate similar to its predecessors. Many consider Gone Crazy to be Grin's weakest album, but I'd disagree – the band's four-album milieu is uniformly and consistently enjoyable. Grin's infectious pop/rock sound was a welcome digression during the hard rock early 1970s, and if Lofgren and crew could easily bang it out with the heaviest of their contemporaries, they also possessed an elfin charm and whimsical nature that sets their music apart from much of the decade's better-known bands.

Gone Crazy opens with a fierce rocker, "You're The Weight" offering up a concrete-hard guitar-bass-drum riff on top of which Lofgren lays down his potent vocals and measured wildcat solos. The song is as infectious as anything Grin had done previously and, in many ways, foreshadows Lofgren's soon-to-come solo debut album. The band slows it down a bit for the mid-tempo ballad "Boy + Girl," which features as much of Lofgren's keyboard skills as it does guitar. With trilling piano play that sounds like an old-timey, Western saloon soundtrack, Lofgren tries on his best blue-eyed soul shoes, the song engaging and hiding just a bit of nasty funk beneath the grooves.
"What About Me" returns the band to solid rock territory, Lofgren's wiry fretwork running like an electrical charge across the song's exotic instrumentation. While Lofgren's vocals here are a little more strained, they fit the chaotic feel of "What About Me," with the rest of the band throwing in their own shouted harmonies. Lofgren delivers a scorching solo at just past the two-minute mark, short and shocking and simply devastating while his grinning (sorry!) band members knock out the wild-n-wooly rhythms behind him.

"True Thrill" is a bouncy, pop-influenced tune with a slippery rhythmic arrangement, Nils' trademark guitarplay, a little vocal harmony, and some very fine basswork by Gordon. With a little label push in the right direction – perhaps a judiciously-placed $100 bill in the sleeve for a few station programmers – and the song could have been a hit on both AM and FM radio. By contrast, "Beggar's Day" (Eulogy to Danny Whitten)" is a blistering rocker and strictly FM radio fare. Written for his fallen Young bandmate Whitten, it is lyrically one of the best songs Lofgren has written, with powerful instrumental backing, passionate vocals, and some of Lofgren's nastiest guitar solos.
The gentle ballad "Believe" is the closest that Gone Crazy comes to a clunker, the piano-heavy tune relying too much, perhaps, on Lofgren's still-maturing keyboard skills and too little on his six-string mastery. Lofgren's vocals are slight, sometimes too sweet, and the band harmonies are simply precious, and the lyrics come from a solidly romanticist perspective, but the song could have benefitted from a little guitar grit. The album ends with "Ain't For Free," a bluesy mid-tempo honky-tonker that smolders in the grooves and features a different side of Lofgren's guitar skills.

After touring in support of Gone Crazy, Grin would break up in 1974 and Lofgren would stay with A&M Records, delivering his critically-acclaimed self-titled debut album a year later, fully launching a successful and varied career that is still going strong today. Although the Grin chapter of Nils Lofgren's musical history has been obscured by his later work, it's nice to once again hear the underrated Gone Crazy, one of the true hidden gems among the band's sparse catalog. 
by Rev. Keith A. Gordon
1. You're The Weight - 5:14
2. Boy And Girl - 4:31
3. What About Me - 4:25
4. One More Time - 5:11
5. True Thrill - 3:13
6. Beggar's Day (Eulogy To Danny Whitten) - 4:21
7. Nightmare - 3:42
8. Believe - 3:57
9. Ain't For Free - 4:17
All songs by Nils Lofgren

*Nils Lofgren - Guitars, Keyboards, Lead Vocals
*Bob Berberich - Drums, Lead Vocals
*Bob Gordon - Bass, Background Vocals
*Tom Lofgren - Guitars, Background Vocals

1971  Grin - Grin (2005 remaster)
1971-72  Nils Lofgren And Grin - 1+1 / All Out (2007 remaster) 

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mount Rushmore - High On/69' (1969 us, heavy raw bluesy garage psych, 2002 edition)

This third generation, late 60s San Francisco rock group comprised Glen "Smitty" Smith (vocals), Mike "Bull" Bolan (guitar), Terry Kimball (bass) and Travis Fullerton (drums). Although they failed to garner the same commercial or artistic plaudits of many contemporaries, the group's two albums revealed a competent, if unadventurous, act. Mount Rushmore disbanded in 1969 following the release of their second album, although Fullerton later found success as a member of Sylvester And The Hot Band. 

Opening a debut LP with Jimi Hendrix's "Stone Free" is a bold move and a curious choice, establishing the territory that the band will mine and exactly how they measure up to the gold standard (in Mount Rushmore's case, nowhere near). However, High on Mount Rushmore contains some tracks of interest to the dedicated psych-rock historian. "I Don't Believe in Statues" closes out side one and functions as a manifesto of sorts, an indignant outsider cry set to charging riffs that sound like an Amboy Dukes record warped by the sun. 
by Fred Beldin
1. It’s Just The Way I Feel (Glenn Smith) - 4:33
2. 10:09 Blues (Glenn Smith) - 5:55
3. Toe Jam (Glenn Smith, Mike Bolan, Travis Fullerton, Terry Kimball) - 5:48
4. V-8 Ford Blues (Willie Lowe) - 2:36
5. Love Is The Reason (Dotzler, Phillips, Bolan, Levin, Esterlie) - 4:00
6. I’m Comin’ Home (Glenn Smith, Mike Bolan) - 7:29
7. King Of Earrings (Warren B. Phillips) - 3:58
8. Somebody Else’s Games (Glenn Smith) - 4:35
9. Stone Free (Warren B. Phillips) - 4:01
10.Without No Smog (Glenn Smith, Mike Bolan) - 5:29
11.Ocean (Glenn Smith, Mike Bolan) - 4:10
12.I Don’t Believe In Statues (Warren B. Phillips) - 4:11
13.Looking Back (Glenn Smith, Mike Bolan, Travis Fullerton, Terry Kimball) - 9:37
14.(‘cause) - She’s So Good To Me (Bobby Womack) - 3:40
15.Medley: Funny Mae (Buster Brown) / Dope Song (Glenn Smith) - 7:20

Mount Rushmore
*Mike Bolan "Bull" - Guitar
*Glenn Smith "Smitty" - Vocals, Guitar
*Travis Fullerton - Drums, Percussion
*Terry Kimball - Bass

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Fuzzy Duck - Fuzzy Duck (1971 uk, tremendous heavy prog psych rock, 2007 bonus tracks remaster)

Their name taken from the popular linguistic inversion of the time (Fuzzy Duck - Duzz ’E Fuck?), this early 70s UK progressive rock quartet featured Paul Francis (drums), Mick Hawksworth (bass), Roy Sharland (organ) and Garth Watt-Roy (guitar/vocals). Prior to the band’s formation Hawksworth had played with Andromeda and Five Day Week Straw People, while Sharland had been a member of Spice and worked with Arthur Brown. Watt-Roy had been a member of Greatest Show On Earth. 

Fuzzy Duck recorded one self-titled album for Mam Records and two singles, ‘Double Time Woman’ and ‘Big Brass Band’, for the same label. The album, which was musically if not lyrically impressive, was originally issued in a scarce edition of 500 back in 1971. This album is classic keyboard-driven British progressive rock in the vein of Soft Machine and Caravan. 
by Dean McFarlane
1. Time Will Be Your Doctor (David Brown, Graham White, Paul Francis) - 5:12
2. Mrs. Prout (Paul Francis, Roy Sharland) - 6:49
3. Just Look Around You (Mick Hawksworth) - 4:24
4. Afternoon Out (Paul Francis, Roy Sharland) - 4:58
5. More Than I Am (Mick Hawksworth) - 5:34
6. Country Boy (Grahame White, Paul Francis, Roy Sharland) - 6:04
7. In Our Time (Mick Hawksworth) - 6:41
8. A Word From Big D (Grahame White, Mick Hawksworth) - 1:40
9. Double Time Woman (Garth Watt-Roy) - 3:00
10.Big Brass Band (Tim Martin, Walt Meskell) - 2:58
11.One More Hour (Garth Watt-Roy, Mick Hawksworth, Paul Francis, Roy Sharland) - 3:59
12.No Name Face (Garth Watt-Roy, Mick Hawksworth, Paul Francis, Roy Sharland) - 3:03
Bonus Tracks 9-12

The Fuzzy Duck
*Mick Hawksworth - Bass, Vocals, 12-String Acoustic Guitars, Electric Cello
*Roy Sharland - Organ, Vocals, Electric Piano
*Paul Francis - Drums, Percussion
*Grahame White - Electric, Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
*Garth Watt Roy - Electric Guitar, Vocals

Related Acts
1964-70  The End - From Beginning To End..(2015 four discs box set) 
1967-69  Andromeda - The Definitive Collection (double disc set) 
1968  The Five Day Week Straw People - The Five Day Week Straw People 
1970  The Greatest Show On Earth - Horizons (2012 remaster) 
1970  The Greatest Show On Earth - The Going's Easy (2012 remaster) 

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Motherhood - I Feel So Free (1969 germany, delicate instrumental jazzy funky psych vibes, 2016 remaster)

Klaus Doldinger, best-known for leading the excellent fusion group Passport in the 1970s and '80s, has had a diverse and episodic career. He started out studying piano in 1947 and clarinet five years later, playing in Dixieland bands in the 1950s. By 1961, he had become a modern tenor saxophonist, working with such top visiting and expatriate Americans as Don Ellis, Johnny Griffin, Benny Bailey, Idrees Sulieman, Donald Byrd, and Kenny Clarke, recording as a leader for Philips, World Pacific, and Liberty. 

His late 60's recordings were under the name"Motherhood".  They released two albums  "I Feel so Free" in 1969 and "Doldinger's Motherhood" in 1970, both for the label Liberty. In "I Feel so Free" featuring nine funky, punchy originals and two covers from Beatles and Cream. The original vinyl copies changing hands for well over 500 euros.

However, in 1970, he initiated a long series of fusion-oriented sessions for Atlantic that featured his tenor, soprano, flute, and occasional keyboards with an electric rhythm section. In addition to writing music for films (including Das Boot) and television in Europe, Doldinger has remained active as a player who occasionally explores his roots in hard bop into the late '90s, but because he has always lived in Europe, he remains underrated in the U.S. 
1. Soul Tiger - 1:47
2. I Feel Free (Jack Bruce, Pete Brown) - 4:06
3. Slurpin' - 3:19
4. Soul Town - 2:09
5. Lady Madonna (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 1:46
6. Baby Hold On To Me (Lothar Meid, Paul Nero) - 3:17
7. Back In The Dark - 2:36
8. Wade In The Water - 3:22
9. Cleopatho - 6:10
10.Yackedy Soul - 2:57
11.Last Beer - 1:42
All Songs by Paul Nero except where stated

*Klaus Doldinger - Saxophone, Clarinet, Piano, Organ, Vocals
*Keith Forsey - Drums, Vocals
*Udo Lindenberg - Drums, Vocals
*Lothar Meid - Bass
*Paul Vincent - Guitar

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Spirogyra - Old Boot Wine (1972 uk, spectacular canterbury prog folk jazz rock, 2013 remaster with extra tracks)

Old Boot Wine, which dates from 1972, was a more accomplished affair which, though boasting a more polished studio production, happily didn't iron out either the group's stylistic eccentricities or Martin's pointed, intellectually and politically aware songwriting. With the reintroduction to the lineup of original pre-Canterbury band member Mark Francis and a scaling-down of Julian's contributions, the sound of Spirogyra's second LP was more rock-oriented, but never in any way merely "ordinary", for it conveyed remarkably well the band's artfully energetic (and drummer-less) stage act (even though a certain Mr Mattacks again featured strongly in the recording sessions). 

Roadie Rick Biddulph brought his mandolin-playing skills to the mix too (he was to join the band, replacing Steve on bass, the following year). Favourite moments include the visionary Van Allen's Belt and the dark tale of social alienation Dangerous Dave, but interest is maintained even on the comparatively sprawling mantras of World's Eyes, and much capital is made of the contrast between Martin and Barbara's respective vocal styles.
by David Kidman
1. Dangerous Dave - 4:18
2. Van Halen's Belt - 2:49
3. Runaway (Steve Borrill) - 4:59
4. Grandad - 3:27
5. Wings of Thunder - 3:13
6. World's Eyes - 7:35
7. Don't Let It Get You - 4:31
8. Disraeli's Problem (Steve Borrill) - 4:19
9. A Canterbury Tale - 4:09
10.Counting The Cars - 3:09
11.Window - 2:11
12.Turn Again Lane - 7:36
13.Melody Maker Man - 2:40
All songs by Martin Cockerham except where indicated

*Barbara Gaskin  - Vocals
*Martin Cockerham  - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Mark Francis  - Vocals, Electric Guitar, Keyboards
*Steve Borrill  - Bass
*Julian Cusack  - Violin, Keyboards, Strings Arranger
*Alan Laing  - Cello
*Rick Biddulph  - Mandolin
*Dave Mattacks  - Drums

1971  Spirogyra - St. Radigunds (2013 remaster) 

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Free – Live At The BBC (1969-71 uk, superb blues classic rock, 2006 double disc edition)

Free started their history with the BBC early in their career. They had only formed in April 1968 and yet by July they were recording their first session. Althoug only "Waiting On You" survives it shows the band in fine form playing the hard edged Blues boom sound from the period with incredible confidence. While Simon Kirke keeps the band anchored Andy Fraser )literally days after his sixteenth birthday) plays the bass like he was born with it hanging over his shoulder. Paul Rodgers sounds absolutely magnificent and Paul Kossoff is just blistering.

It's quite a statement from a bunch of kids and predates any album work by some three months. A surviving "Sugar For Mr Morrison" from Alexis Korner's World Service "Rhythm 'n' Blues" tapes. Quite why only this track remains is unknown but its freedom jazz styling and unsusual format make it something of a revelation. Free certainly weren't scared to experiment, and Fraser's bass solo at the end was a sign of more virtuoso things to come from his talented player.

The first full session to urvive comes from March 1969. This finds the band in fine form, not only using material from their debut album, released earlier the same month, but also their first single "Broad daylight" and a strong version of "Songs Of Yesterday", both used some seven months later on their second album.

In this respect the BBC sessions are especially interesting as they chart the growth of a band that never stop developing. When a new song was ready it went straight into their set list. By the time their debut album "Tons Of Sobs" ewas released, it was already out of date. Free had already moved on, but were still experimenting. On this session we find everybody singing harmony vocals and some intrument swapping with Andy Fraser handling rhythm guitar while Paul Rodgers plays bass on "Broad Daylight". They were doing similar things in their early live sets too.

The first John Peel concert comes from "Off Air" recording kept by Jim Wilson, a fan who followed Free around England and held onto the recordings he made from the radio. It's a short set of only four numbers and leans heavily on old favourites but provides a rare version of "Free Me" and an early version of "Remember:.

A second longer John Peel concert in July 1970 kept with the new formula but again shoed the band moving on. Only weeks after the third album had gone into the shops they were introducing songs srom next album, "Highway". The band were now selling out huge venues off the back of the succes of "All Right Now" but still Free were pushing forward. There seemed little interst in promoting the current record, they were all about new songs and the next project. It was a relentless pace.
by Dave Clayton, May 2006 
Disc 1 In Session
1. Waiting On You (B.B. King, Freddie Washington) - 2:17
2. Sugar For Mr Morrision - 3:43
3. I'm A Mover - 3:05
4. Over The Green Hills (Paul Rodgers) - 3:52
5. Songs Of Yesterday - 3:09
6. Broad Daylight - 3:19
7. Woman - 4:23
8. I'll Be Creepin' 2:44
9. Trouble On Double Time (Paul Rodgers, Paul Kossoff, Andy Fraser, Simon Kirke) - 3:51
10.Mouthful Of Grass - 4:42
11.All Right Now - 5:29
12.Fire And Water - 3:05
13.Be My Friend (Take One) - 6:06
14.Be My Friend (Take Two) - 5:37
15.Ride On A Pony (Take One) - 0:10
16.Ride On A Pony (Take Two) - 4:32
17.Ride On A Pony (Take Three) - 1:24
18.Ride On A Pony (Take Four) - 0:25
19.Ride On A Pony (Take Five) - 4:30
20.Get Where I Belong - 3:25
All songs by Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers except where indicated
Track 1 Top Gear 15/7/68
Track 2 World Service Rhythm 'n' Blues 15/11/68
Tracks 3-6 Top Gear 17/3/69
Track 7 Stuart Henry 2/12/69
Tracks 8-10 Top Gear 8/12/69
Tracks 11-12 Sounds Of The Seventies 4/6/70
Tracks 13-20 Sounds Of The Seventies 19/4/71
Disc 2 In Concert (in some tracks sound quality failed)
1. The Hunter (Booker T. Jones, Carson Wells, Al Jackson, Jr., Donald Dunn, Steve Cropper) - 5:24
2. Woman - 4:26
3. Free Me - 7:24
4. Remember - 4:48
5. Fire And Water - 3:59
6. Be My Friend - 5:00
7. Ride On A Pony - 4:35
8. Mr Big (Paul Rodgers, Paul Kossoff, Andy Fraser, Simon Kirke) - 6:36
9. Don't Say You Love Me - 5:27
10.Woman - 4:18
11.All Right Now - 5:10
All songs by Andy Fraser, Paul Rodgers except where stated
Tracks 1-4 John Peel Sunday Concert 15/1/70
Tracks 5-11 John Peel Sunday Concert 2/7/70

The Free 
*Paul Rodgers – Vocals, Piano
*Paul Kossoff – Lead Guitar
*Andy Fraser – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
*Simon Kirke – Drums

Related Acts
1967-69  The Magic Mixture - This The Magic Mixture (2008 extra tracks issue) 
1972/73/75/76  Paul Kossoff - Kossoff Kirke Tetsu Rabbit / Back Street Crawler / The Band Plays On / 2nd Street (2005 double disc edition) 

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sweet Smoke - Live (1974 us, sensational jam psych jazz rock, 2001 remaster and expanded)

Sweet Smoke was an American music group living and playing in Europe from 1970 till 1974. Originally from N.Y. the group moved to Germany where they lived as a family commune. Within a year of their arrival they recorded their first L.P. Just a Poke which almost immediately turned them into a sort of cult icon of the underground scene which was beginning to emerge as Europe’s response to the American hippy scene.

An extremely resourceful and creative group, they took the art of spontaneous improvising to new heights, very often involving their audiences in their music. Words like rock jazz, acid rock, raga rock, hard rock, experimental music are only some of the words used to describe their music. Looking back one can see the early roots of fusion and new age music beginning to manifest through them.

Though the basic group consisted of 5 musicians, they came to most of their concerts with their communal family (10-15 of their friends) who helped them on and off stage to create an atmosphere of a musical happening

A Live that sounds like a studio record, with lots of rhythm and melodic changes, very well chained. First Jam, in the beginning lets the feeling of an improvisation, and you may ask yourself if the song was really written.

Guitar soli are really remarkable, with unbelievable texture and rich harmony. You may note that Kaminowitz seems really at ease during all the live. This First Jam gives 19 minutes of a great pleasure, with a magic feeling between the players.

Shadout Mapes is the second song of the disc. There again, you find lots of wealthy melodies, but as the track is shorter than the first one ("only" 11 minutes), there are less harmonies. You may notice that Kaminowitz and Greenberg play with a great commitment.

A strange solo concludes the song, that sounds again like an improvisation, and then plays the initial theme, flirting with blues and jazz. Ocean of Fears will expose you a different kind of music, more peaceful, in the style of From Darkness to Light, but Kaminowitz still dominates the music. Dershin reveals its essential presence during the play, and particularly during the soli. Very nice ! 

To Sweet Smoke music was not simply a collection of songs that the audience would sit back and listen to, but rather it was a living vehicle through which they could share with everyone their vision and joy of life. To sweet smoke music was magic, their concerts were an interaction between them and their audiences, and their group was like a Cosmic Space Ship forever exploring the unknown regions of our musical universe."
by Mike Paris

1. First Jam (Sweet Smoke) - 19:04
2. Shadout Mapes (Rick Greenberg) - 11:04
3. Ocean Of Fears (Marvin Kaminowitz) - 6:23
4. People Are Hard (Rick Greenberg) - 7:59
5. Schyler's Song (Marvin Kaminowitz) - 8:52
6. Final Jam (Sweet Smoke) - 13:47

The Sweet Smoke
*Marvin Kaminowitz - Lead Guitar, Vocals, Percussion
*Rick Greenberg (Aka, Rick Rasa) - Rhythm Guitar, Sitar
*John Classi - Percussion, Sound Effects
*Andrew Dershin - Bass Guitar, Percussion
*Jay Dorfman - Drums, Percussion
*Martin Rosenberg - Tambura, Percussion

1970/73  Sweet Smoke - Just A Poke / Darkness To Light

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Friday, May 4, 2018

The Kinks - Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire (1969 uk, brit rock masterpiece, 2011 double disc japan SHM remaster)

"You look like a real human being but . . ." "He got feet/ Down/ below his knees/ Hold you in his arms yeah you can feel his disease . . ."

It's all over for England. They've had their history and it's been written in books; they've fought their wars and buried their heroes. The English have owned the world and jettisoned their empire, and all that's left is — rock and roll. "England has got all the bad points of Nazi Germany, all the pompous pride of France, all the old fashioned patriotism of the old Order Of The Empire. It's got everything that's got nothing to do with music . . . the poxy little shit-stained island." So said Pete Townshend.

And the Kinks' answer, like the Band's answer to the American questions, is that a band makes its music out of whatever history has to offer. Arthur has the same guts as the Band's new album, that same reach back into the past, the same sense of age — like the Band, the Kinks can play the role of man near the end of his life when they themselves are merely in their twenties. Arthur is more fun, more cutting, and in the end simply hilarious because whatever England was, it isn't any more, and the Kinks are set free of all responsibilities. Christine Keeler died for their sins.

The Kinks are fun. Ray belts out "Victoria," and manages to sound pompous and fat — just like the girl herself — while doing so. The band drops off all restraints and finally performs like a real rock and roll band instead of like a bunch of old ladies. Dave Davies takes solos with delightful horns as a back-up, not to display virtuosity (which he has) but because the songs are too much fun to stop. On "Mr. Churchill Says" the band moves effortlessly into a three or four part number, changing the tempo, the mood, and the melody while never losing a superb dancing beat. Many of the songs display that sort of genius: "Shangri-la," "Australia," and more. The complexity of the compositions doesn't intrude because these delights are composed, not constructed, as were "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," "A Day in the Life," or the collages on Abbey Road. The music's like a verbal and instrumental jam session with divine inspiration as a rhythm section.

The music will move anyone who listens, because there is such an enormous mount of pathos in what Ray Davies has done. He's presented the last hundred years of English history through the eyes of one little man who never meant a thing to the rest of the world — as if Sinclair Lewis had followed Babbitt from birth to death and then made it into a musical comedy.

Less ambitious than Tommy, and far more musical — no fillers, no waste tracks, not a matter of ideas but of perceptions worked out by bass, drums, voices, horns and guitars — Arthur is by all odds the best British album of 1969. It shows that Pete Townshend still has worlds to conquer, and that the Beatles have a lot of catching up to do.

Perhaps a week or two ago, a very wise kid shuffing about in an old pawn shop was approached by an aging but slick pawnshop keeper. The old man watched with amusement as the young longhair looked through all the shiny and not so shiny instruments hanging in the yellowed window and stuffed into the backroom.

"What can I do for you, young man," the keeper said, rolling back on his heels, his hands in his pockets, the standard toothpick hanging out of the corner of his tight dry lips.

"Looking for something to play," the kid answered with nary a glance up to the sly old man. The kid's fingers were busy threading their way into the darkest recesses of all the back corners of the room, in quest of some forgotten treasure.

"Ah," the shopkeeper smiled, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling. "A tuba; perhaps, so you can join the high school band." He paused chuckling for a second, and then leaned forward, his sallow eyes quickly ablaze, his voice close and whispering loudly. "Or a guitar, an electric guitar, a Gibson Les Paul so you can make loud noises and maybe next week be a big star? Eh?"

The kid pushed the hair out of his eyes and grimaced at the pawnshop keeper. "No," he said.

"No? That's not it?" The old man drew back askance. "You don't want to learn to play the guitar?"

"Naw," the kid answered without any apparent interest, adding what seemed mere token explanation. "A lot of guys can play the guitar, and play it real well." He was silent for a moment as his hand settled gently on an old red Les Paul Junior. The kid turned, looked up at the aging keeper, and said in a very strange and remorseful voice, "What's the use anyway? And ten years after what could I do that a million guys can't do now?" The kid smiled, obviously struck by something he had said. "Ten Years After. Ha. Isn't that funny. I'd almost forgotten." And he laughed once more.

"Ha. Do you know what I said? Do you know that last week I was really tired of listening to the guitar, no matter who was trying to get it on?" The hair settled back over his eyes, and the old man drew his hands from his pockets and cocked a thick finger under his chin. "Clapton, B.B., Page, all of them. The same old stuff. They weren't moving, ya know? Refinements, not extensions. I really thought the days of the guitar were numbered." The kid picked up the smooth red axe and plucked the metal strings lightly. "Then I heard the new album."

"New album?" the old man quizzed, puzzled by the whole thing. "What new album?"

"Sssh," the kid said with a smile, "Ten Years After."

"What?" The man looked around suspiciously. "When? Who?"

"Ten Years After," the kid said again.

"Ten Years After?" the old man asked, furrowing his eyebrows. "And whom pray tell is that?"

"Ten Years After is . . ."

There was a singularly long pause, with not so much as the blinking of an eye. The boy lowered the guitar to its resting place, and then added his last words.

"And Alvin Lee . . . I think perhaps he is God."

The boy smiled at the old man for the final time and turned toward the front entrance. Just before closing the door, he paused and looked back in, still smiling, and said, "What's left for me to do but pass the Word? Why do I have to play? Why does anyone? It's already been done."

He closed the door and slipped out, humming an Alvin Lee run. A passing freak and businessman both nodded.

"Mellow," they said in unison.

"Yeh," the kid answered. "Mellow."

And as they moved by one another, the kid hoped that they understood, and were not just talking as so many are prone to do.
by J.R. Young,  November 1, 1969
Disc 1 
1. Victoria - 3:36
2. Yes Sir, No Sir - 3:46
3. Some Mother's Son - 3:23
4. Drivin' - 3:18
5. Brainwashed - 2:34
6. Australia - 6:46
7. Shangri La - 5:18
8. Mr. Churchill Says - 4:43
9. She's Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina - 3:07
10.Young And Innocent Days - 3:21
11.Nothing To Say - 3:08
12.Arthur - 5:24
13.Plastic Man - 3:04
14.This Man He Weeps Tonight (Dave Davies) - 2:42
15.Mindless Child Of Motherhood (Dave Davies) - 3:16
16.Creeping Jean (Dave Davies) - 3:14
17.Lincoln County (Dave Davies) - 3:09
18.Hold My Hand (Dave Davies) - 3:18
19.Victoria - 3:37
20.Mr. Churchill Says - 3:31
21.Arthur - 3:19
All songs by Ray Davies except where stated
Tracks 1-12 The Original Mono Album
Tracks 13-18  Original Mono Singles
Tracks 19-21 Studio Recordings For The BBC
Disc 2
1. Victoria- 3:40
2. Yes Sir, No Sir- 3:47
3. Some Mother's Son- 3:25
4. Drivin'- 3:22
5. Brainwashed- 2:34
6. Australia- 6:46
7. Shangri La- 5:20
8. Mr. Churchill Says- 4:42
9. She's Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina- 3:09
10.Young And Innocent Days- 3:21
11.Nothing To Say- 3:08
12.Arthur- 5:27
13.Plastic Man- 3:02
14.This Man He Weeps Tonight (Dave Davies) - 2:39
15.Drivin' (Alternative Mix) - 3:22
16.Mindless Child Of Motherhood (Dave Davies) - 3:10
17.Hold My Hand (Alternative Take) (Dave Davies) - 3:13
18.Lincoln County (Dave Davies) - 3:21
19.Mr. Shoemaker's Daughter (Dave Davies) - 3:08
20.Mr. Reporter - 3:37
21.Shangri La - 5:29
All songs by Ray Davies except where noted
Tracks 1-12 the Original Stereo Album

The Kinks
*Mick Avory - Drums, Percussion
*John Dalton - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Dave Davies - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Ray Davies - Lead, Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Harpsichord, Piano
*Pete Quaife - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Lew Warburton – Horn, String Arrangements

1970  The Kinks - Lola VS The Powerman And The Money Go Round (2010 SHM remaster) 
1972  The Kinks - Everybody's In Show-Biz (2003 MFSL Ultradisc) 
1976  The Kinks - Present Schoolboys In Disgrace (2004 SACD) 

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Dana Gillespie - Foolish Seasons / Box Of Surprises (1968-69 uk, wondrous folk beat baroque psych, 2006 remaster and 2008 extra tracks remaster)

Although she would eventually become most known as a blues singer, at the outset of her recording career in the mid- to late '60s, Dana Gillespie flirted with pop/rock, folk-rock, and mildly psychedelic baroque pop. All of those styles can be heard on her obscure 1968 debut album, Foolish Seasons, which was oddly issued in the U.S. but not in the U.K., despite the heavily British-European cast to the production and arrangements. The melange of approaches makes for an indecisive direction and uneven quality in certain respects. Yet at the same time, it makes the record an undeniably interesting, at times even exhilarating, slice of eclectic late-'60s Swinging London-tinged pop. 

Very roughly speaking, Gillespie echoed the material and vocals of fellow British woman pop/rock singers such as Marianne Faithfull and Dusty Springfield at points, though her voice was at once both huskier and smokier than the young Faithfull's, and gentler and more whispery than Springfield's. The styles tried on for size include the breezy psych-pop of "You Just Gotta Know My Mind," a Donovan composition that Donovan himself never recorded; the very Faithfull-esque (in the good sense) wispy folk-pop of "Tears in My Eyes" and Gillespie's own composition "Foolish Seasons"; the sunshine pop-influenced orchestral arrangements of "Life Is Short" and "London Social Degree," both penned by cult British pop/rocker Billy Nicholls; the gothic Euro-pop of "Souvenirs of Stefan," which vaguely recalls the likes of Françoise Hardy; and the downright catchy, sexy, mod pop of "No! No! No!" Further unexpected turns are taken with the almost pre-goth blues-pop death wish "Dead," and the haunting, eccentric cover of Richard Fariña's "Hard Lovin' Loser."

Sure, there are a couple of icky-sweet pop clunkers along the way (including Gillespie's sole other self-penned number on the album, "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not"). On the whole, though, it's an extremely likable (if somewhat stylistically confused) album, with nonstop unpredictably luscious and imaginative production. The U.K. 2006 CD reissue on Rev-Ola has thorough historical liner notes, including many quotes from Gillespie herself. 
by Richie Unterberger
Foolish Seasons 1968
1. You Just Gotta Know My Mind (Donovan Leitch) - 2:09
2. Tears In My Eyes (Tony Waddington, Wayne Bickerton) - 2:28
3. Life Is Short (Billy Nicholls) - 2:32
4. Souvenirs Of Stefan (Les Reed, Les Vandyke) - 3:40
5. Can't You See I'm Dreaming (Tony Waddington, Wayne Bickerton) - 2:58
6. No! No! No! (Michel Polnareff) - 2:49
7. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (Dana Gillespie) - 2:01
8. London Social Degree (Billy Nicholls) - 2:08
9. Dead (Joe Huffman, Moses Dillard) - 3:09
10.Foolish Seasons (Dana Gillespie) - 2:12
11.Where Will You Be (Andy Kim, Jeff Barry) - 2:10
12.Hard Lovin' Loser (Richard Farina) - 3:50

*Dana Gillespie - Vocals
On her ’69 sophomore longplayer, Dana takes over the songwriting credits, taking full advantage of it. With Savoy Brown behind her, and Mike Vernon in the producer’s chair, one would guess that the result must’ve been as blue as blues can get, while it’s just as stylistically varied as Foolish Seasons.

With the above personnel made obvious only by the title tune, there’s also at least two tracks (Like I’m A Clown, I Was A Book) worthy of the mod-stompin’ shoulda-been-a-hit tag , already stuck firmly onto previous year’s You Just Gotta Know My Mind.

She revisits the acid folk of the debut LP’s title tune, and gets even moodier with the pair of ballads recalling The Zombies (When Darkness Fell), or The Swinging Blue Jeans’ take on You’re No Good with and additional Eastern touch to it (I Would Cry).

As a bonus, we get four sides of pre-debut singles, of which Page’s freaked-out fuzz solo in ‘65’s Thank You Boy makes the addition worthwhile on it’s own.
by Garwood Pickjon

Box Of Surprises 1969
1. Box of Surprises - 4:26
2. Like I'm a Clown - 2:16
3. Taffy - 3:13
4. When Darkness Fell - 4:21
5. For David, The Nest Day - 4:29
6. If You're Dreaming - 2:13
7. Foolish Seasons - 2:30
8. Grecian Ode - 3:34
9. By Chasing Dreams - 3:06
10.I Was a Book - 2:03
11.Describing You - 3:04
12.I Would Cry - 4:41
13.Thank You Boy (Barry Mason, John Carter, Ken Lewis) - 2:05
14.You're a Heartbreak Man - 2:20
15.Pay You Back With Interest (Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, Tony Hicks) - 2:50
16.Adam Can You Beat That - 1:53
All compositions by Dana Gillespie except where stated

Box Of Surprises 1969
*Dana Gillespie - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
*Chris Youlden - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Lonesome Dave Peverett - Guitar, Vocals
*Kim Simmonds - Guitar, Harmonica, Piano
*Bob Hall - Piano
*Rivers Jobe - Bass
*Tony Stevens - Bass, Percussion
*Roger Earl - Percussion, Drums
*Jimmy Page - Guitar (Track 13)

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