Sunday, December 17, 2017

Maria Muldaur - Waitress In The Donut Shop (1974 us, magnificent melt of blues jazz folk rock and traditional elements)

Best known for her seductive '70s pop staple "Midnight at the Oasis," Maria Muldaur has since become an acclaimed interpreter of just about every stripe of American roots music: blues, early jazz, gospel, folk, country, R&B, and so on. While these influences were certainly present on her more pop-oriented '70s recordings (as befitting her Greenwich Village folkie past), Muldaur came into her own as a true roots music stylist during the '90s, when she developed a particular fascination with the myriad sounds of Louisiana. On the string of well-received albums that followed, Muldaur tied her eclecticism together with the romantic sensuality that had underpinned much of her best work ever since the beginning of her career.

Muldaur was born Maria D'Amato on September 12, 1943, in New York. As a child, she loved country & western music and began singing it with her aunt at age five; during her teenage years, she moved on to R&B, early rock & roll, and girl group pop, and in high school formed a group in the latter style called the Cashmeres. Growing up in the Greenwich Village area, however, she naturally became fascinated with its booming early-'60s folk revival and soon began participating in jam sessions. She also moved to North Carolina for a while to study Appalachian-style fiddle with Doc Watson. Back in New York, she was invited to join the Even Dozen Jug Band, a revivalist group that included John Sebastian, David Grisman, and Stefan Grossman; they had secured a recording deal with blueswoman Victoria Spivey's label and she wanted them to add some sex appeal. The young D'Amato got a crash course in early blues, particularly the Memphis scene that spawned many of the original jug bands, and counted Memphis Minnie as one of her chief influences.

Elektra Records bought out the Even Dozen Jug Band's contract and released their self-titled debut album in 1964; however, true to their name, the band's unwieldy size made them an expensive booking on the club and coffeehouse circuit and they soon disbanded. Many of the members went off to college and, in 1964, D'Amato moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, home to another vibrant folk scene. She quickly joined the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and began an affair with singer Geoff Muldaur; the couple eventually married and had a daughter, Jenni, who would later become a singer in her own right. When the Kweskin band broke up in 1968, the couple stayed with their label (Reprise) and began recording together as Geoff & Maria Muldaur. They moved to Woodstock, New York to take advantage of the burgeoning music scene there and issued two albums -- 1970's Pottery Pie and 1971's Sweet Potatoes -- before Geoff departed in 1972 to form Better Days with Paul Butterfield, a move that signaled not only the end of the couple's musical partnership, but their marriage as well.

With Maria initially unsure about her musical future, her friends encouraged her to pursue a solo career, as did Reprise president Mo Ostin. Muldaur went to Los Angeles and recorded her debut album Maria Muldaur in 1973, scoring a massive Top Ten pop hit with "Midnight at the Oasis." Showcasing Muldaur's playfully sultry crooning, the Middle Eastern-themed song became a pop radio staple for years to come and also made session guitarist Amos Garrett a frequent Muldaur collaborator in the future. Three more Reprise albums followed over the course of the '70s, generally with the cream of the L.A. session crop, "Waitress In The Donut Shop" includes her second (and final) hit single "I'm a Woman" and presents a pleasant folk-blues mixture of material including everything from contemporary songs by Wendy Waldman and Anna McGarrigle to Skip James blues tunes and Fats Waller's "Squeeze Me," all given Muldaur's earthy, enthusiastic treatment. 
1. Squeeze Me (Clarence Williams, Thomas Waller) - 3:21
2. Gringo En Mexico (Wendy Waldman) - 3:20
3. Cool River (McGarrigle, Audrey Bean) - 2:51
4. I'm A Woman (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 4:09
5. Sweetheart (Ken Burgan) - 3:05
6. Honey Babe Blues (Clarence Ashley) - 3:06
7. If You Haven't Any Way (Skip James) - 2:46
8. Oh Papa (David Nichtern) - 3:19
9. It Ain't The Meat It's The Motion (Henry Glover, Lois Mann) - 3:02
10.Brickyard Blues (Allen Toussaint) - 4:32
11.Travelin' Shoes (Traditional) - 2:26

*Maria Muldaur - Vocals
*Elvin Bishop - Electric Guitar
*George Bohannon - Trombone
*James Booker - Keyboards, Piano
*Joe Boyd - Producer
*Ray Brown - Bass
*Dennis Budimir - Guitar
*Ken Burgan - Composer
*Paul Butterfield - Harmonica
*Red Callender - Bass
*Rosendo Cervantes - Trumpet
*John Collins - Guitar
*Rosendo Covanties - Trumpet
*Dr. John - Keyboards, Marimba, Piano
*Jose Ordaz Durante - Trumpet
*Harry "Sweets" Edison - Trumpet
*Terry Evans - Vocals, Vocals
*Freebo - Bass
*Amos Garrett - Bass, Guitars, Vocals
*Lowell George - Guitar
*Jim Godron - Drums
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*David Grisman - Mandolin
*Jeff Gutcheon - Keyboards, Piano
*Bobbye Hall - Percussion
*Paul Harris - Keyboards, Piano
*Milt Holland - Percussion
*Paul Humphrey - Drums
*Plas Johnson - Tenor Saxophone
*Mark T.  Jordan - Keyboards, Piano
*John Kahn - Bass
*Ellen Kearney - Vocals
*Roger Kellaway - Keyboards, Piano
*Bobby King - Vocals
*David Lindley - Guitar
*David Lynley - Guitar
*Tommy Mcclure - Bass
*Anna McGarrigle - Vocals,
*Kate McGarrigle - Vocals
*Abe Most - Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
*David Nichtern - Guitar, Piano
*Spooner Oldham - Keyboards, Piano
*Larry Packer - Viola, Violin
*Earl Palmer - Drums
*Bob Porter - Percussion
*Greg Prestopino - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Mac Rebennack - Marimba, Piano
*Emil Richards - Percussion
*Alvin Robinson - Electric Guitar
*Linda Ronstadt - Vocals
*Bud Shank - Alto Saxophone
*Sahib Shihab - Baritone Saxophone
*Fred Staeble - Drums, Percussion
*Fred Staehle - Drums
*Tommy Tedesco - Guitar, Requinto
*Doc Watson - Guitar
*Merle Watson - Guitar
*Snooky Young - Trumpet

1973  Maria Muldaur - Maria Muldaur
Related Acts
1967  Geoff And Maria Muldaur - Pottery Pie
1972  Nick Gravenites And Mike Bloomfield - Steel Yard Blues (2015 remaster)

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Doris Troy - Doris Troy (1970 uk, wonderful groovy rhythm and blues with some folk shades, 2010 extra tracks remaster)

Doris Troy is a rollicking party album, and this particular party included Harrison, labelmate Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, Peter Frampton and Klaus Voormann! All of those estimable talents, however, took a back seat to the lady with the smoky voice which could be gritty one minute, velvety the next.

It was clear that Troy had evolved musically since the days of “Just One Look.” Harrison’s powerful electric guitar licks on “Give Me Back My Dynamite” couldn’t be further removed from that soul classic. Yet Troy didn’t turn her back on those halcyon days of just a few years earlier; she revisited “Hurry,” which she first recorded at Atlantic, for Doris Troy. If “Dynamite” is rocking soul, Stephen Stills’ “Special Care” was reworked from Buffalo Springfield’s folk-psych into pure R'n'B heaven. 

On Doris Troy, the singer treats all songs with equal respect, regardless of origin; the Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh standard “Exactly Like You” is taken to the same gospel church as her cover of Joe South’s “Games People Play.” (Spiritual “Jacob’s Ladder” even closes the album on a rousing high note.) On “Gonna Get My Baby Back,” Troy jams with two Beatles (Harrison and Starkey) and Stills for a track that would make a great sing-along, if only one could possibly keep up with Doris’ insistent vocals!

The original CD release boasted five bonus tracks; all five have been retained, and are supplemented with one additional cut, an alternate version of “All That I’ve Got.” Troy sings “You Give Me Joy Joy” (another Troy/Harrison/Starkey/Stills co-write!) on the album, but joy – singly or doubly – is assuredly what this album will bring to any classic soul fan.
by Joe Marchese
1. Ain't That Cute (George Harrison, Doris Troy) - 3:50
2. Special Care (Stephen Stills) - 3:00
3. Give Me Back My Dynamite (George Harrison, Doris Troy) - 4:56
4. You Tore Me Up Inside (Doris Troy, Ray Schinnery) - 2:33
5. Games People Play (Joe South) - 3:06
6. Gonna Get My Baby Back (George Harrison, Richard Starkey, Doris Troy, Stills) - 2:20
7. I've Got To Be Strong (Jackie Lomax, Doris Troy) - 2:36
8. Hurry (Doris Troy, Greg Carroll) - 3:13
9. So Far (Klaus Voormann, Doris Troy) - 4:28
10.Exactly Like You (Jimmy Mchugh, Dorothy Fields) - 3:10
11.You Give Me Joy Joy (George Harrison, Starkey, Doris Troy, Stephen Stills) - 3:42
12.Don't Call Me No More (Doris Troy, Ray Schinnery) - 2:07
13.Jacob's Ladder (Traditional Arranged George Harrison, Doris Troy) - 3:21
14.All That I've Got (I'm Gonna Give It To You) (Billy Preston, Doris Troy) - 4:19
15.Get Back (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 3:08
16.Dearest Darling (Doris Troy) - 3:04
17.What You Will Blues (Doris Troy) - 5:07
18.Vaya Con Dios (Larry Russell, Inez James, Buddy Pepper) - 3:33
19.All That I've Got (I'm Gonna Give It To You) (Alternative Version) (Billy Preston, Doris Troy) - 3:24
Bonus Tracks 14-19

*Doris Troy - Vocals, Piano
*George Harrison - Electric Guitar
*Klaus Voormann - Bass
*Ringo Starr - Drums
*Billy Preston - Piano, Organ, Electric Piano
*Stephen Stills - Electric Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Peter Frampton - Electric Guitar
*Alan White - Drums
*Eric Clapton - Electric Guitar
*Delaney Bramlett - Percussion
*Bonnie Bramlett - Percussion
*Leon Russell - Keyboards
*Bobby Whitlock - Vocals
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Rita Coolidge - Vocals
*John Barham - String, Brass Arrangements

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Web - I Spider (1970-71 uk, exceptional prog rock, 2008 remaster)

Like many others I became acquainted with the music of keyboardist and vocalist Dave Lawson with the release of the debut Greenslade album in 1973. A dual keyboard led quartet, the band also included Dave Greenslade, Tony Reeves and Andrew McCulloch. Whilst I was aware of his colleague’s pedigree having come by way of bands like Colosseum and King Crimson, I was unfamiliar with Lawson’s background. Thanks to Esoteric and the re-release of this 1970 album from Web and the 1971 Samurai set (see review below) which followed, my education is now complete in that department. As with all of Esoteric’s retrospective releases this album has been lovingly remastered, on this occasion by Lawson himself.

When Lawson joined Web, a then soul influenced band, they already had several recordings under their belt but this proved to be their last. Up to that point he had been a member of Episode Six, a band best known for once having Ian Gillan and Roger Glover amongst its ranks before they found fame and fortune with Deep Purple. Taking over sole song writing duties he transformed Web into a jazz-rock outfit with progressive rock and blues leanings. What attracted Lawson to the band in the first place was the dual drumming of Kenny Beveridge and Lennie Wright. Completing the line-up for the recording was Tom Harris (saxophones and flutes), Tony Edwards (electric and acoustic guitars) and John Eaton (bass guitar).

They nail their new colours to the mast by opening the album with Concerto For Bedsprings, a ten minute opus in five contrasting parts. I Can’t Sleep is a suitably strident and atmospheric introduction with heavy sax and organ underpinning the imposing vocal which is unmistakably Lawson. A spooky repeated organ motif rather like the vintage Twilight Zone TV theme leads into Sack Song a melodic jazzy instrumental with buoyant piano and sax. In keeping with its title Peaceful Sleep finds the band in gentle mode with a plaintive vocal resting on a light piano, flute and sax backing. In contrast the up-tempo You Can Keep The Good Life has an aggressive edge aided by a pounding piano riff. During the stark chorus Lawson’s voice it at its most strained and in my opinion least appealing. A strong sax solo continues the mood although it’s a tad overlong and begins to drag long before it ends. Loner returns briefly to the earlier mood to provide a peaceful close.

The title track I Spider is another lengthy piece although with less contrast in mood than its predecessor. Slow and moody for the most part it has a thoughtful vocal with a delicate organ backing and a spiralling sax motif. The edgy guitar punctuations sound very Peter Banks ala Yes’ version of Everydays from Time And A Word released the same year. A soaring sax break proves to be the most uplifting part. Love You opens with the rare use (for Lawson) of Mellotron with acoustic guitar and a reflective vocal which is Lawson sounding at his best. The mood and tempo abruptly changes as menacing sounding sax and guitar erupt. Mellotron and tympani are used to good effect here to sustain an air of tension and the whole thing reminded me of Van Der Graaf Generator. A heavy and bluesy guitar solo rounds off what is thus far for me the albums best song.

The curiously titled Ymphasomniac is an urgent sax led instrumental with a thumping piano backing. The eerie underscoring of Mellotron and the busy drum work is strongly reminiscent of early King Crimson. A lengthy percussion only section gives both drummers a chance to hit everything in sight before building into a bombastic piano, organ and sax coda driven by monumental drumming. Although the coda feels somewhat over extended it’s a cracking instrumental nonetheless. Always I Wait is an OK closer but is about three minutes longer than it needs to be. The trebly staccato guitar punctuations have a Hendrix influence whilst Lawson sings impossibly high joined by restless sax and organ. A fuzzed organ solo brought back memories of Tony Kaye’s work in Yes mark 1 whilst the vocals here sound very like Andy Tillison at times.

With the original album clocking in at less than forty minutes, which was about average for the time, two bonus tracks have been included. Both were recorded live in 1971 in Sweden, a country where the band seemed to find particular favour. As live recordings go they are both excellent in terms of clarity and musicianship. Here the instruments seem more pronounced in Concerto For Bedsprings. This is especially true of bass and organ which when combined with sax recalls the Mike Ratledge and Elton Dean partnership from Soft Machine. Love You skips the mellow intro of the studio version and compensates with an extended and excellent guitar solo. It’s supported by animated organ playing and together they build to a potent climax. Superb stuff making both tracks an essential addition.

Following the albums release and a string of live dates supporting the likes of Yes, Hawkwind and Manfred Mann, Web decided to call it a day. This was prompted by a lack of finance and also frustration over their name constantly being misspelt on billings. They didn’t so much disband however as evolve into the band Samurai. With I Spider they have left behind a worthy legacy and it’s not hard to see why Esoteric decided to give it a new lease of life. If you’re familiar with Greenslade then you will appreciate that Lawson’s vocals are an acquired taste, sitting somewhere between Andy Tillison and Patrik Lundstrom. Stylistically the music occupies the same area as Soft Machine, Colosseum, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator from the same era with overtones of the Canterbury style. Well worth a dabble especially for those that recall early 70’s UK prog-jazz with affection. 
by Geoffrey Feakes

1. Concerto For Bedsprings Including I Can't Sleep / Sack Song / Peaceful Sleep / You Can Keep The Good Life / Loner - 10:19
2. I Spider - 8:38
3. Love You - 5:32
4. Ymphasomniac - 6:52
5. Always I Wait - 8:22
6. Concerto For Bedsprings Including I Can't Sleep / Sack Song / Peaceful Sleep / You Can Keep The Good Life / Loner - 10:40
7. Love You - 4:22
All compositions by Dave Lawson

The Web
*Dave Lawson - Vocals, Keyboards, Piano, Organ, Mellotron, Harpsichord
*Lennie Wright - Drums, Percussion
*Kenny Beveridge - Drums, Percussion
*Tom Harris - Tenor, Soprano Sax, Concert, Alto Flute, Tambourine
*Tony Edwards - Electric And Acoustic Guitars
*John Eaton - Bass, Cabassa

1968  The Web - Fully Interlocking (2008 remaster) 
1970  Web - Theraphosa Blondi (2008 remaster) 
Related Act
1971  Samurai - Samurai (2008 Esoteric remaster) 

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Web - Theraphosa Blondi (1970 uk, beautiful jazz brass rock, 2008 remaster)

This reissue is the second of three albums The Web recorded before evolving into Samurai for one eponymous album. The Web’s last album I Spider and the Samurai album (reviewed here) both feature a pre-Greenslade Dave Lawson on keyboards and are well worth investigating for Greenslade, VDGG and early English progressive rock fans. 

Admirably wanting to move away from their soul band roots, they start off OK with the strident Like The Man Said and keep up the momentum with a fair cover of Sunshine Of Your Love, shoehorning some jazzy variations into the middle of the song. Unfortunately, the wheels come off the wagon here and you will have to make it past a version of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s overwrought and melodramatic 'Til I Come Home Again; a couple of novelty pieces – the percussive Bewala and the execrable Kilimanjaro, not to mention the hideous crooning of One Thousand Miles Away, before you reach the climactic pairing of Tobacco Road / America which, thankfully is not bad at all, if hardly an original choice of song to cover.

The two bonus tracks are a bit more like it, in an Afro/Jazz rock vein and quite enjoyable too.When the band are on form, as on the first two tracks and the last three, they manage to present a competent if unspectacular jazz rock blend, strong on saxes and flutes and with powerful vocals, and with the merest hint of the progressive direction they went on to pursue.
by Dave Sissons
1. Like The Man Said (Lennie Wright) - 7:06
2. Sunshine Of Your Love (Pete Brown, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce) - 6:47
3. 'til I Come Home Again Once More (Gilbert O'Sullivan) - 3:01
4. Bewala (John L. Watson, John Eaton, Tony Edwards, Tom Harris, Dick Lee-Smith, Kenny Beveridge, Lennie Wright) - 2:31
5. One Thousand Miles Away (John Eaton) - 4:29
6. Blues For Two T's (Tom Harris) - 2:50
7. Kilimanjaro (John Eaton, Lennie Wright) - 3:49
8. Tobacco Road / America (John D. Loudermilk, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim) - 5:39
9. Afrodisiac (John L. Watson, John Eaton, Tony Edwards, Tom Harris, Dick Lee-Smith, Kenny Beveridge, Lennie Wright) - 3:20
10.Newspecs (Tom Harris) - 3:47
Bonus Tracks 9-10

The Web
*John L. Watson - Vocals
*John Eaton - Electric, Acoustic Guitars, Tambourine, Cabasa, African Drum
*Tony Edwards - Electric, 12-String Guitars, Military Bass Drum
*Tom Harris - Flutes, Tenor, Baritone Saxes, Bass Clarinet, Marimba
*Dick Lee-Smith - Bass, Chinese Tom Tom, Drums
*Kenny Beveridge - Drums, Percussion, African Drum
*Lennie Wright - Vibes, Congas, Claves, Marimba, Varitone, Drums, Xylophone

1968  The Web - Fully Interlocking (2008 remaster) 
Related Act
1971  Samurai - Samurai (2008 Esoteric remaster)

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Yardbirds - Live At The BBC (1965-68 uk, influential rhythm and blues, 2016 double disc remaster)

A selection of the Yardbirds BBC key live recordings, assembled with the assistance of the Yardbirds and the BBC, with several tracks now all together the first time on this newly restored and remastered 2LP set.

Many tracks have been expertly repaired from rare,hard-to-find and archive sources and now feature for the first time on these best available recordings in LP format.

Sourced from the BBC, this double LP covers numerous songs - including smash hits such as For Your Love , Heart Full Of Soul and Yardbirds classic stage favourites Too Much Monkey Business , Smokestack Lightning ,I'm A Man and Train Kept A-Rollin.

Guitar legends Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page feature alongside front man Keith Relf, Paul Samwell-Smith and Jim McCarty in these sessions, recorded by the world renowned broadcasting organisation for radio transmission and our LPs feature a selection of the best available Yardbirds BBC Radio One output from 1965-1968.

Authoritative sleeve notes contain new quotes from Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Paul Samwell-Smith. McCarty also adds his exclusive personal introduction for this set, looking back at those BBC years.All tracks recorded in Mono.
Disc 1
1. I Ain't Got You (Calvin Carter) - 1:58
2. Interview, Keith Relf - 0:56
3. For Your Love (Graham Gouldman) - 2:22
4. I'm Not Talking (Mose Allison) - 2:32
5. I Wish You Would (Billy Boy Arnold) - 2:39
6. Interview, Paul Samwell-Smith - 0:59
7. Heart Full Of Soul (Graham Gouldman) - 2:27
8. I Ain't Done Wrong (Keith Relf) - 2:32
9. Heart Full Of Soul (Alternate version) (Graham Gouldman) - 2:24
10.Too Much Monkey Business (Chuck Berry) - 2:34
11.Love Me Like I Love You (Chris Dreja, Jeff Beck, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, Paul Samwell Smith) - 2:54
12.I'm A Man (Ellas McDaniel) - 2:31
13.Evil Hearted You (Graham Gouldman) - 2:32
14.Interview, Paul Samwell-Smith - 0:52
15.Still I'm Sad (Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell Smith) - 3:01
16.Hang On Sloopy (Bert Russell, Wes Farrell) - 3:46
17.Smokestack Lightning (Chester Burnett) - 5:03
18.Interview, The Yardbirds - 0:47
19.You're A Better Man Than I (Brian Hugg, Mike Hugg) - 3:15
20.The Train Kept A-Rollin' (Howie Kay, Syd Nathan, Tiny Bradshaw) - 2:43
21.Smokestack Lightning (Edited version) (Chester Burnett) - 3:34
Disc 2
1. Shapes Of Things (Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, Paul Samwell Smith) - 2:29
2. Dust My Broom (Elmore James) - 2:34
3. You're A Better Man Than I (Brian Hugg, Mike Hugg) - 3:05
4. Baby, Scratch My Back (James Moore) - 3:18
5. Interview, Keith Relf - 0:48
6. Over, Under, Sideways, Down (Chris Dreja, Jeff Beck, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, Paul Samwell Smith) - 2:15
7. The Sun Is Shining (Edited version) (Elmore James) - 2:46
8. Interview, Keith Relf - 1:21
9. Shapes Of Things (Alternate version) (Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, Paul Samwell Smith) - 2:21
10.The Sun Is Shining (Elmore James) - 3:34
11.Over, Under, Sideways, Down (Original TV version) (Chris Dreja, Jeff Beck, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, Paul Samwell Smith) - 2:10
12.Comment, Jeff Beck's Guitar Playing - 0:16
13.Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) (Bob Dylan) - 2:55
14.Little Games (Harold Spiro, Phil Wainman) - 2:27
15.Drinking Muddy Water (Chris Dreja, Jimmy Page, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, Paul Samwell Smith) - 2:44
16.Think About It (Chris Dreja, Jimmy Page, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, Paul Samwell Smith) - 3:13
17.Interview, Jimmy Page - 1:47
18.Goodnight Sweet Josephine (Tony Hazzard) - 2:36
19.My Baby (Jerry Ragovoy, Mort Shuman) - 2:51

The Yardbirds
*Jim McCarty - Drums
*Keith Relf - Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar
*Chris Dreja - Rhythm Guitar, Bass
*Paul Samwell Smith - Bass
*Jeff Beck - Lead Guitar
*Jimmy Page - Lead Guitar, Bass

1963-68  Glimpses (five disc box set, 2011 release) 
1964  Five Live Yardbirds (2007 Repertoire digi pack) 
1968 The Yardbirds - Live Yardbirds! (2008 edition) 
Related Acts 
1969 Jeff Beck Group - Beck-Ola (2006 remaster and expanded)
1970 Jeff Beck - Rough And Ready (Japan remaster) 
1969 Renaissance - Renaissance (2008 remaster) 
1974  Renaissance - Turn Of The Cards
1977  Illusion - Out Of The Mist (2011 remaster)
1978  Illusion – Illusion (2011 remaster) 

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Blackfeather - Live Sunbury (1974 australia, exceptional classic roots 'n' roll jam rock, 2005 remaster)

In early 1972 Blackfeather with Johns, Ward and Wylde were joined by Billy Taylor (ex-Flake) on lead guitar. With Gil Matthews (of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs) guesting on drums they recorded a cover version of Carl Perkins' 1956 single, "Boppin' the Blues" (July 1972). It became a number-one hit in Australia in October for four weeks. 

In September of that year a four-piece line-up of Johns, Ward, Wylde and Greg Sheehan on drums were recorded live at Melbourne Town Hall and the Q Club for the second Blackfeather album, Boppin' the Blues. It was produced by Howard Gable and released in December 1972. McFarlane noticed they "relied on dominant boogie-woogie piano as a substitute for guitar."

Wylde quit at the end of 1972; he was replaced by two guitarists, Lindsay Wells (ex-Healing Force) and Tim Piper, which returned Blackfeather to the harder, guitar-based style of the Robinson-era group. They performed at the second Sunbury Pop Festival in January 1973. The set was released in the following year as another live album, Live! (Sunbury). A track, "I'm Gonna Love You", appeared on Mushroom Records' inaugural release, the triple-album, Sunbury 1973 – The Great Australian Rock Festival (April 1973). 

The third Blackfeather single, "Slippin; & Sliddin'", a cover of Little Richard's track, was issued in February 1973; by which time Sheehan had quit and the group split in April. Johns briefly performed solo before joining former band mates, Penson and Ward, in Flake; which disbanded late in 1974.

This release is coupled with the "Boppin the Blues" album from 1972 which was the bands follow up to "Mountains of Madness" and gave the band their biggest hit in Australia with the title track.
1. Get It On (Neale Johns) - 6:43
2. I'm Gonna Love You (Neale Johns) - 9:58
3. Still Alive And Well (Rick Derringer) - 3.32
4. Slippin' And Slidin' (Little Richard, Edwin Bocage, Al Collins, James Smith) - 4:26
5. Boppin' The Blues (Carl Perkins, Howard "Curley" Griffin) / Let's Twist Again (Kal Mann, Dave Appel) / I Just Love To Rock 'N' Roll (Neale Johns) - 14:35
6. Pineapple (Neale Johns) - 5:37
7. Gee Willikers (Neale Johns) - 4:55
8. Own Way Of Living (Neale Johns) - 8:03
9. Red Head Rag (Neale Johns) - 6:22
10.D.Boogie (Muma Roll) (Neale Johns) - 4:57
11.Boppin' The Blues (Carl Perkins, Howard "Curley" Griffin) - 6:33
12.Lay Down Lady (Neale Johns) - 4:11
Bonus tracks 6 - 12  from Boppin' The Blues 1972 album.

The Blackfeather
*Neale Johns - Vocals
*Lindsay Wells - Guitars (Tracks 1-5)
*Tim Piper - Guitars (Tracks 1-5)
*Warren Ward - Bass
*Warren Morgan - Piano
*Greg Sheehan - Drums
*Trevor Young - Drums
*Paul Wylde - Piano (Tracks 6-12)
*Billy Taylor - Guitar

1971  Blackfeather - At the Mountains of Madness (2010 remaster) 

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mike Tingley - The Abstract Prince (1968 us, wonderful folk baroque psych, 2012 edition)

Mike Tinglay was from Anaheim, California, his sole release The Abstract Prince" was recorded at the Phonogram studios in Hiversum, Holland in February 1968. 

Folk baroque psych, sometimes sounds bit too mellow, but this was more or less usual for the time. Another point is the subject matter of the lyrics,  not just love themes for broken heart stories and the peace-love-dove messages that we'd expect, but also to political themed songs, like the marvelous title track. 

Mike remained in the music business for about a decade or so and then he worked as a winemaker in California.
1. A Real Fine Time - 2:49
2. Begin The Sun - 2:54
3. Connected To Nothing - 1:43
4. Emotions And May - 2:58
5. Monotony's Message - 3:31
6. See The People - 2:15
7. Abstract Prince - 2:58
8. Of Sand - 1:29
9. Of Soul And Deed - 2:58
10.I Weep - 3:16
11.It's Time To Leave Her - 2:48
12.Crossroads - 1:57
Words and Music by Mike Tingley

*Mike Tingley - Vocals, Guitar

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Eric Andersen - Blue River / Stages The Lost Album (1972-73/90 us, amazing folk rock, 2014 double disc remaster)

This modestly influential master s/s from the Greenwich Village '60s set (he wrote Violets Of Dawn and Close The Door Lightly When You Go, to name but two titles), enjoyed a healthy modicum of success after a run of moderately well-selling LPs for Vanguard with his first album for Columbia, 1972's Blue River. Here it enjoys a timely reissue on BGO, in a two-disc set coupled with its intended followup Stages, of which, as the subtitle implies, the master tapes were initially lost (they subsequently turned up in the Columbia vaults in 1989, and were eventually released in 1991). I think this is the first time these two albums have appeared on CD coupled together in one sensible package, and all tracks have been remastered in 2014 for this new BGO release, the well-filled booklet for which, in addition to the original extra notes for Stages' 1991 appearance, contains a new essay by John O'Regan that grants a useful perspective on this often undersung figure who to date has released well over 25 albums yet without gaining mainstream recognition despite producing work of consistent, enduring quality. Blue River is often considered by critics to be Andersen's creative masterpiece, and contains a number of songs regarded by critics as central to his output, songs that display his quintessential, trademark quality of delicate "resigned fractured romanticism": Is It Really Love At All?, Sheila, Wind And Sand, and of course the disc's title song (which features some beautiful backing vocals courtesy of Joni Mitchell and Deborah Green Andersen). These are complemented by the Dylanesque More Often Than Not and the gospel-style arrangement of Round The Bend. The latest reissue of Blue River is usefully supplemented with the same two bonus tracks recorded at the album sessions which were a feature of the album's 1999 Sony Legacy CD edition: the tender Come To My Bedside, My Darlin' and the rollicking cajun-inflected cover of Hank Williams' Why Don't You Love Me?.

It's widely acknowledged that Stages is of such quality that if it had appeared at the time (instead of being lost) it might have given Andersen a degree of mainstream acceptance and capitalised on the success of Blue River. Its opening song, Baby I'm Lonesome, was a particularly lovely example of the classic country waltzer, and the gentle backdrop proved just perfect and an ideal template for the rest of the album, on which a host of top-drawer session musicians, including Leon Russell, David Briggs and Kenny Malone, were used commendably sparingly. The overall standard of Stages' songs was such that no fewer than six of its songs were deemed so worthy of not being lost that they were reworked for Andersen's 1975 Arista album Be True To You; these naturally included Moonchild River Song and Woman, She Was Gentle (which featured Joan Baez on backing vocal), and the evocative 8½-minute meditation Time Run Like A Freight Train. Sure, there were a couple of rather mundane rockers tucked in there amongst the exquisite gems, although the third rocker, Wild Crow Blues (in praise of Patti Smith), was more convincing. The three bonus tracks for this reissue are identical to those that graced the 1991 CD. The first, Dream To Rimbaud, is the pearl of the collection, and was recorded at the same time as the Blue River album, whereas the final three cuts (Make It Last, Lie With Me and Soul Of My Song) were recorded in late 1990, shortly after the 1989 comeback album Ghosts Upon The Road and just prior to the eventual release of the Stages tracks; the backing crew on these tracks includes Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Eric Bazilian, Andy Newmark and Shawn Colvin.

Together, these two albums represent Andersen's craft at a peak, encapsulating a mature, bittersweet attitude to life and love that was rarely equalled even amongst Andersen's peers. Congratulations to BGO on this expertly remastered and well presented new edition.
by David Kidman
Disc 1 Blue River 1972
1. Is It Really Love At All - 5:20
2. Pearl's Goodtime Blues - 2:20
3. Wind And Sand - 4:28
4. Faithful - 3:14
5. Blue River - 4:44
6. Florentine - 3:29
7. Sheila - 4:35
8. More Often Than Not (David Wiffen) - 4:50
9. Round The Bend - 5:37
10.Come To My Bedside, My Darlin' - 4:57
11.Why Don't You Love Me (Hank Williams) - 2:45
All compostisions by Eric Andersen except where indicated
Disc 2 Stages: The Lost Album 1972-73
1. Baby, I'm Lonesome - 3:17
2. Moonchild River Song - 4:19
3. Can't Get You Out Of My Life - 2:53
4. Woman, She Was Gentle - 4:17
5. Time Run Like A Freight Train - 8:29
6. It's Been A Long Time - 3:20
7. Wild Crow Blues - 6:10
8. Be True To You - 3:06
9. I Love To Sing My Ballad, Mama - 2:55
10.Dream To Rimbaud - 6:22
11.Make It Last (Angel In The Wind) - 4:51
12.Lie With Me - 3:50
13.Soul Of My Song (Eric Andersen, Jonas Fjeld, Willie Nile, Ole Paus) - 3:55
All songs by Eric Andersen except where stated

Blue River 1972
*Eric Andersen - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Piano, Harmonica, Vocals
*David Bromberg - Dobro, Acoustic Guitar
*Andy Johnson - Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vibraphone, Background Vocals
*David Briggs - Organ, Keyboards, Celeste
*Weldon Myrick - Steel Guitar
*Norbert Putnam - Bass
*Glen Spreen - Organ, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Woodwinds
*Eddie Hinton - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
*Grady Martin - Gut String Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
*Kevin Kelly - Accordion
*Mark Sporer - Bass
*Kenneth Buttrey - Drums, Percussion, Tambourine
*Jim Mckevitt - Drums
*Rick Shlosser - Drums
*Deborah Andersen - Piano, Background Vocals
*Joni Mitchell - Vocals, Background Vocals
*Farrell Morris - Vibraphone, Background Vocals
*Jerry Carrigan - Percussion
*Millie Kirkham - Background Vocals
*Sonja Montgomery - Background Vocals
*Laverna Moore - Background Vocals
*Florence Warner - Background Vocals
*Temple Riser - Background Vocals
*The Jordanaires - Background Vocals
*The Holidays - Background Vocals

Stages: The Lost Album 1973
*Eric Andersen - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Piano, Harmonica, Vocals
*Andy Johnson - Acoustic Guitar
*Leon Russell - Organ, Piano, Guitar
*David Briggs - Piano, Hammond Organ, Clavinet
*Rick Danko - Bass Guitar, Background Vocals
*Garth Hudson - Accordion
*Pete Drake - Steel Guitar
*Weldon Myrick - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Norbert Putnam - Upright Bass, Cello
*Eddie Hinton - Acoustic Guitar
*Grady Martin - Gut String Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
*Joe Spivey - Acoustic Guitar, Fiddle
*Kenny Malone - Drums, Percussion
*Kenneth Buttrey - Drums
*Deborah Andersen - Piano, Background Vocals
*Farrell Morris - Percussion
*Steve Addabbo - Synthesizer
*Eric Bazilian - Mandolin, Concertina, Background Vocals
*Tommy Cosgrove - Bass Guitar
*Teddy Irwin - Acoustic Guitar
*Mike Leech - Bass
*Charlie Mccoy - Percussion
*Andy Newmark - Drums
*Willie Nile - Electric Guitar
*Troy Seals - Electric Guitar
*Glen Spreen - Hammond Organ
*Reggie Young - Electric Guitar
*Jonas Fjeld - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Piano
*Dan Fogelberg - Background Vocals
*Joan Baez - Background Vocals
*Shawn Colvin - Background Vocals
*Florence Warner - Background Vocals

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Mott The Hoople - Fairfield Halls Live (1970-71 uk, superb classic hard rockin' live set, 2007 remaster)

Prior to the release of the (at the time, disappointing) Live album in 1974, the only officially available record of Mott the Hoople's live prowess was one track tacked onto the end of 1971's Wildlife album, a protracted take on "Keep a Knockin'" that was, apparently, the only salvageable cut from a projected full live album. The rest, producer Guy Stevens insisted, was so marred by technical problems as to be unusable. However, 36 years later listeners would discover that Stevens was a lot of things, but -- at least on this occasion -- he wasn't necessarily honest. Fairfield Halls, Live 1970 captures the full concert, from the tumultuous opening "Ohio," all ragged guitars and Verden Allen's foreboding organ, through a dynamite "Rock and Roll Queen" and three slabs from the then-forthcoming Mad Shadows, and on to the closing oldies, "Keep a Knockin'" and "You Really Got Me." 

And, alongside the Fillmore tapes recorded earlier in the year, at last the true magic of the original Mott the Hoople has been unleashed, a rock band that could have redefined "rock" if only more breaks had gone its way. Less exciting, but filling up the disc regardless, five tracks recorded five months later in Sweden (and previously available on the same label's All the Way from Stockholm to Philadelphia: Live 71/72 set) repeat "Thunderbuck Ram" but do add a Himalayan "Walkin' with a Mountain," "Laugh at Me," and "The Original Mixed Up Kid" to the brew, plus a volcanic cover of Mountain's "Long Red" that will leave you reeling. As if the rest of the disc hasn't already battered you hard enough. 
by Dave Thompson
1. Ohio (Neil Young) - 5:00
2. No Wheels To Ride (Ian Hunter) - 7:45
3. Rock 'N' Roll Queen (Mick Ralphs) - 5:18
4. Thunderbuck Ram (Mick Ralphs) - 4:56
5. When My Mind's Gone (Ian Hunter) - 6:42
6. Keep A Knockin' (Richard Wayne Penniman) - 8:28
7. You Really Got Me (Ray Davies) - 8:55
8. Long Red (Leslie West, Felix Pappalardi, John Ventura, Norman Landsberg) - 4:22
9. The Original Mixed-Up Kid (Ian Hunter) - 4:37
10.Walking With A Mountain (Ian Hunter) - 7:08
11.Laugh At Me (Sony Bono) - 5:46
12.Thunderbuck Ram (Mick Ralphs) - 4:42
Tracks 1-7 Recorded 13th September 1970 at Fairfield Halls, Croydon, England
Tracks 8-12 Recorded 16th February 1971 at the Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden

Mott The Hoople
*Pete Overend Watts - Bass Guitar, Vocals, Guitar
*Dale "Buffin" Griffin - Drums, Backing Vocals, Percussion
*Ian Hunter - Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Bass Guitar
*Mick Ralphs - Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
*Verden Allen - Organ, Backing Vocals

1966/90  Doc Thomas Group And The Silence - The Italian Job / Shotgun Eyes
1969-72  Mott The Hoople - Two Miles From Heaven (2003 issue)
1969  Mott The Hoople - Mott The Hoople (2003 bonus tracks remaster)
1970  Mott The Hoople - Mad Shadows (2003 Extra Tracks Remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Wildlife (2003 japan bonus tracks remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Brain Capers (bonus tracks remaster)
1972  Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes (2006 bonus tracks remaster)
1973  Mott The Hoople - Mott (2006 remaster and expanded)
1974  Mott The Hoople - Hoople (2006 remaster and expanded)
1975  Mott - Drive On (2006 edition)

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mott - Drive On (1975 uk, tough glam classic rock, 2006 edition)

After the departure of both Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson from Mott The Hoople in 1974, remaining members Overend Watts (bass), Morgan Fisher (keys) and Dale Griffin (drums) formed the spin-off band Mott with guitarist Ray Major and vocalist Nigel Benjamin. Intending to be harder hitting, but still emphasising their links to their illustrious past, the band went straight into the studio to launch themselves with the self-produced 'Drive On'.

Commercial Rock and Roll was the order of the day; not a million miles away from whence they came but with the joyous vocals of Benjamin pushing mostly Watts-written tunes like 'By Tonight', 'Monte Carlo', 'The Great White Wail' and 'She Does It' into a Rockier direction. The Pop side of the band was still evident on the inventive 'Stiff Upper Lip' and the infectious 'It Takes One To Know One', along with quality ballads 'I'll Tell You Something', 'Here We Are' and 'Apologies', all based around Fisher's great piano work and Benjamin's heartfelt vocals. 

Watts sang the excellent 'Love Now' himself, and this version also features the single b-side 'Shout It All Out', a laid-back tune that's just as musical as anything else here. Produced by the band themselves, 'Drive...' was a rough diamond with many appealing qualities.
by Phil Ashcroft
1. By Tonight - 3:45
2. Monte Carlo - 4:35
3. She Does It - 3:26
4. I'll Tell You Something - 4:30
5. Stiff Upper Lip - 4:34
6. Love Now - 2:48
7. Apologies - 0:50
8. The Great White Wail - 5:09
9. Here We Are - 5:28
10.It Takes One To Know One (Dale Griffin) - 4:28
11.I Can Show You How It Is (Pete Overend Watts, Dale Griffin) - 2:51
All songs by Pete Overend Watts, except where stated

The Mott
*Nigel Benjamin - Lead Vocals, Rhythm, Acoustic Guitars
*Ray Major - Lead, Slide Guitars, Backing Vocals
*Morgan Fisher - Piano, Backing Vocals, Organ, Synthesizer
*Pete Overend Watts - Bass, Vocals
*Dale "Buffin" Griffin - Drums, Backing Vocals, Percussion

1966/90  Doc Thomas Group And The Silence - The Italian Job / Shotgun Eyes
1969-72  Mott The Hoople - Two Miles From Heaven (2003 issue)
1969  Mott The Hoople - Mott The Hoople (2003 bonus tracks remaster)
1970  Mott The Hoople - Mad Shadows (2003 Extra Tracks Remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Wildlife (2003 japan bonus tracks remaster)
1971  Mott The Hoople - Brain Capers (bonus tracks remaster)
1972  Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes (2006 bonus tracks remaster)
1973  Mott The Hoople - Mott (2006 remaster and expanded)
1974  Mott The Hoople - Hoople (2006 remaster and expanded)

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bill Fay - Time Of The Last Persecution (1971 uk, remarkable prog folk rock, 2005 remaster)

"Enigmatic" was the tag oft-times tossed 'round Bill Fay, whose loyal cult following grew significantly over the years. Signed to Decca, the singer/songwriter and pianist released two albums in the late '60s and early '70s; their haunting, darkly shadowed songs were never meant to appeal to the masses, even at the height of the psychedelia-streaked introspection sparked by the soul-searching of the day. 

While the Beatles flew off to meet the Maharishi, Fay fell under the spell of a 19th century compendium of commentaries on the Biblical books of Daniel and Revelations, which would inspire his second album, Time of the Last Persecution. But before the born-agains jump on to the Fay bandwagon, they should be warned that the artist was equally influenced by the ravaging events of the day. The title track, "Time of the Last Persecution," was written in an immediate and visceral response to the killings of four students at Kent State.

Even in 1971, the intensity of Fay's lyrics -- reflecting his commentaries in their poetical language, their highly introspective nature, the brooding quality of the music, all exquisitely enhanced by Ray Russell's evocative blues guitar work -- left most reviewers cold and confused. In truth, the album would have slotted much more neatly into the coming firestorm that descended on Britain later in the decade, and would have provided a surprisingly supple bridge between the apocalyptic visions of roots reggae and the political polemics of punk. 

The set certainly contains all the fire and fury of the latter movement, as well as the deeply dread atmospheres of the former. By 2005, with the rise of evangelicalism and Christian rock, Persecution no longer sounds so obscure or out of place; it is, however, a personal journey of spirituality, not a platform from which to proselytize. For all its dark vision, it's the possibility of peace and hope that shines through the gloom, and as for all the seeming quietude of the music, it thunders, too, with a power and emotion that speak in volumes as loudly as Fay's striking lyrics. 
by Jo-Ann Greene
1. Omega Day - 3:14
2. Don't Let My Marigolds Die - 2:26
3. I Hear You Calling - 2:57
4. Dust Filled Room - 2:03
5. 'Til The Christ Come Back - 3:08
6. Release Is In The Eye - 2:41
7. Laughing Man - 3:15
8. Inside The Keepers Pantry - 2:29
9. Tell It Like It Is - 2:32
10.Plan D - 3:12
11.Pictures Of Adolf Again - 2:27
12.Time Of The Last Persecution - 3:54
13.Come A Day - 2:27
14.Let All The Other Teddies Know - 2:31
Lyrics and Music by Bill Fay

*Bill Fay - Vocals, Piano
*Ray Russell - Guitar
*Alan Rushton - Drums
*Darryl Runswick - Bass
*Nick Evans - Trombone

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Matthews Southern Comfort - Later That Same Year (1970 uk, marvelous folk country rock, 2008 remaster)

Ian Matthews left Fairport Convention in 1969, and while the U.K.'s greatest folk-rock band was beginning to reinvent itself in a more traditional and very British direction, Matthews began digging deeper into the American influences that had marked his old band's first era. Later That Same Year, the second album from Ian's new group Matthews Southern Comfort (it was released in late 1970, a mere six months after their debut, hence the title), is a beautiful set of songs that splits the difference between West Coast folk-rock and early country-rock, with Gordon Huntley's pedal steel and Roger Coulam's lending an air of sunny sadness that dovetails beautifully with Matthews' silky tenor. 

Matthews wrote three of the songs on Later That Same Year, and they rank with the album's finest moments, especially the ethereal harmonies of "And Me" and the graceful simplicity of "My Lady," but Matthews also borrows some excellent material from American writers, including a cover of Neil Young's "Tell Me Why" that remains faithful while creating a languid mood of its own, a fine, poignant take on Jesse Winchester's "Brand New Tennessee Waltz," and two by Al Anderson, which date from the latter days of the Wildweeds before he joined up with NRBQ (and "Mare Take Me Home" and "And When She Smiles" show Big Al was already a songwriter of no small talent and Matthews handles both tunes beautifully). 

While country influences run all through the album, Matthews had the smarts not to try to emulate a Nashville production or arrangement style, and instead the album suggests the shadows of Tim Buckley or early Crosby, Stills & Nash while adding an English pastoral subtext all their own. After Later That Same Year, Matthews parted ways with Southern Comfort to record solo and later form Plainsong, but you'd never guess that this album was recorded by a band on its last legs -- this is subtle but confident music that comes from a handful of artists working at the height of their skills. [Before the release of Later That Same Year, Matthews Southern Comfort released a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" as a single, and it became a sizable hit in both America and Europe; it was added to the American edition of the album when it was released in the States in 1971.
by Mark Deming
1. To Love (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) - 4:42
2. And Me (Ian Matthews) - 4:37
3. Tell Me Why (Neil Young) - 2:03
4. Jonah (Carl Barnwell) - 4:13
5. My Lady (Ian Matthews) - 1:37
6. And When She Smiles (She Makes The Sun Shine) (Alan Anderson) - 2:16
7. Mare, Take Me Home (Alan Anderson) - 3:44
8. Sylvie (Carl Barnwell) - 5:40
9. The Brand New Tennessee Waltz (Jesse Winchester) - 2:59
10.For Melanie (Carl Barnwell) - 6:45
11.Road To Ronderlin (Ian Matthews) - 2:21
12.Woodstock (Joni Mitchell) - 4:30
13.The Struggle (Ian Matthews) - 3:50
14.Parting (Ian Matthews) - 2:54
15.Scion (Howard Blaikley, Ian Matthews) - 3:28
Bonus Tracks 12-15

The Matthews Southern Comfort
*Ian Matthews - Guitar, Vocals
*Carl Barnwell - Guitar
*Gordon Huntley - Steel Guitar
*Keith Nelson - Banjo
*Mark Griffiths - Bass
*Andy Leigh - Bass
*Roger Coulam - Piano
*Ray Duffy - Drums
*Tristan Fry - Vibraphone

1971  Ian Matthews - Tigers Will Survive (2012 remaster)  
1971  Ian Matthews - If You Saw Thro' My Eyes (2012 Remaster)
1972  Plainsong - Plainsong (2013 Japan Remaster)

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Nick Drake - Tuck Box (1968-74 uk, brilliant jazzy folk rock, 2013 five discs box set remaster)

A singular talent who passed almost unnoticed during his brief lifetime, Nick Drake produced several albums of chilling, somber beauty. With hindsight, these have come to be recognized as peak achievements of both the British folk-rock scene and the entire rock singer/songwriter genre. Sometimes compared to Van Morrison, Drake in fact resembled Donovan much more in his breathy vocals, strong melodies, and the acoustic-based orchestral sweep of his arrangements. His was a much darker vision than Donovan's, however, with disturbing themes of melancholy, failed romance, mortality, and depression lurking just beneath, or even well above, the surface. Ironically, Drake has achieved a far greater stature in the decades following his death, with an avid cult following that grows by the year.

Part of Drake's failure to attract a mass audience was attributable to his almost pathological reluctance to perform live. It was at a live show in Cambridge, however, that a member of Fairport Convention saw Drake perform, and recommended the singer to producer Joe Boyd. Boyd, already a linchpin of the British folk-rock scene as the producer for Fairport and the Incredible String Band, asked Drake for a tape, and was impressed enough to give the 20-year-old a contract in 1968. 

Drake's debut, Five Leaves Left (1969), was the first in a series of three equally impressive, and quite disparate, albums. With understated folk-rock backing (Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson plays bass on most of the cuts), Drake created a vaguely mysterious, haunting atmosphere, occasionally embellished by tasteful Baroque strings. His economic, even pithy, lyrics hinted at melancholy, yet any thoughts of despair were alleviated by the gorgeous, uplifting melodies and Drake's calm, measured vocals. Bryter Later (1970) was perhaps his most upbeat effort, featuring support from members of Fairport Convention, and traces of jazz in the arrangements. On some cuts, the singer/songwriter, remarkably, dispensed with lyrics altogether, offering only gorgeous, orchestrated instrumental miniatures that stood well on their own. 

Neither album sold well, and Drake, already a brooding loner, plunged into serious depression that often found him unable to make music, work, or even walk and talk. He managed to produce one final full-length work, Pink Moon (1972), a desolate solo acoustic album that ranks as one of the most naked and bleak statements in all of rock. He did record a few more songs before his death, but no more albums were completed, although the final sessions (along with some other fine unreleased material) surfaced on the posthumous compilation Time of No Reply. 

Drake's final couple of years were marked by increasing psychiatric difficulties, which found him hospitalized at one point for several weeks. He had rarely played live during his days as a recording artist, and at one point declared his intention never to record again, although he wished to continue to write songs for others. (It's been reported that French chanteuse Fran├žoise Hardy recorded some of Drake's songs, but she hasn't released any.) On November 25, 1974, he died in his parents' home from an overdose of antidepressant medication; suicide has been speculated, although some of his family and friends dispute this.

In the manner of the young Romantic poets of the 19th century who died before their time, Drake is revered by many listeners today, with a following that spans generations. Baby boomers who missed him the first time around found much to revisit once they discovered him, and his pensive loneliness speaks directly to contemporary alternative rockers who share his sense of morose alienation. 

Hunger for "new" Nick Drake material had reached enough of a fever pitch by the 21st century for Island to try digging up enough for this odd patchwork collection, combining outtakes with remixes of tracks that had been previously issued on the Time of No Reply album. The result is a curious disc that's not quite an anthology of wholly previously unreleased material, and thus of somewhat limited value to Drake collectors, though it contains much good music. The only song here previously unavailable in any form is the 1974 outtake "Tow the Line," a melancholic solo acoustic performance (as are most of the tracks on the CD) that's well up to the standards of Pink Moon and the 1974 tracks that previously surfaced on Time of No Reply. 

Also new to official release are spring 1968 solo acoustic versions of "River Man" (later to appear on Five Leaves Left with orchestration) and "Mayfair" (a later recording of which was used on Time of No Reply), as well as a March 1969 version of "Three Hours" that's longer than the one later cut for Five Leaves Left. There's also a newly discovered take of "Hanging on a Star" (one of the 1974 outtakes used on Time of No Reply) with a different vocal. The differences between these and the familiar studio renditions aren't knock-your-socks-off different, but certainly good and well worth hearing by Drake cultists.

It's the rest of the material that might be the target of criticism from concerned consumers, whether for posthumous tampering or redundancy with previously available albums. Most controversially, two tracks from Time of No Reply -- "Time of No Reply" itself and "I Was Made to Love Magic" (the latter here, for some reason, retitled simply "Magic") -- have been altered to include Robert Kirby's original orchestral arrangements, recorded in 2003. Actually in both instances, the substituted orchestration is integrated very tastefully, but it can never be answered whether Drake himself would have approved or had it done the exact same way. 

The remaining cuts are simply remixes or remasterings of six songs that appeared on Time of No Reply, the remixes of the 1974 songs "Black Eyed Dog," "Rider on the Wheel," and "Voices" (originally titled "Voice from the Mountain" when it first appeared on Time of No Reply) being done by the original recording engineer, John Wood. Though those remixes of the 1974 tracks in particular are an improvement (the songs on the original release had been mixed onto a mono listening tape), again it's not the sort of thing that will generate revelations unless you're an audiophile. As everything Drake recorded was worth hearing, this CD too is quite worthy judged in isolation, and certainly full of the subdued mystery the singer/songwriter brought to his music. It's just not the gold mine of discoveries for which some might have hoped.

For many years after his death, unreleased home tapes that Nick Drake made shortly before beginning his official recording career have been bootlegged among collectors. The 28 songs on Family Tree add up to an extensive (though not quite complete, missing some minor covers like "Get Together," "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," and "Summertime") compilation of the performances he recorded on such equipment before he cut his debut album, 1969's Five Leaves Left. The bulk of it, and the part that's been oft-bootlegged, was recorded on a reel-reel at his family home (and include a vocal duet between him and sister Gabrielle Drake on "All My Trials," though otherwise they're all solo performances).

Less familiar, and hence probably new even to many hardcore Drake collectors, are eight songs taped on cassette somewhat earlier during his spring 1967 stay in Aix-En-Provence in France, as well as a couple of earlier versions of songs that later appeared on Five Leaves Left that were taped by Robert Kirby in 1968, and a couple recordings of songs sung and played (on piano) by Nick's mother, Molly Drake. Many Drake fans will already be familiar with the performances he taped at his family home, but the cleaned-up sound here makes this disc much easier to listen to than those earlier unauthorized releases, though everything's still (inevitably given the sources) a little lo-fi. 

As for the music, it's a very pleasant and listenable portrait of Drake's folk roots, though not on par (and not meant to be) with his studio releases. For one thing, at this point, he wasn't playing much of his own material; most of the songs are traditional folk tunes, or covers of compositions by '60s folk songwriters that were obviously big influences on Drake, such as Bert Jansch, Jackson C. Frank, and Dylan (and, on "Been Smokin' Too Long," a friend he met in France, Robin Frederick). Also, both his guitar work and singing are more derivative of the likes of Jansch, Donovan, and country bluesmen such as Blind Boy Fuller (whose "My Baby's So Sweet" he covers here) than they would be by the time he settled into his own style on Five Leaves Left. Still, much of what makes Drake special does come through, even with the relatively low percentage of original material and primitive recording conditions. 

His folk guitar work is already nimble, but more striking are his vocals, which already boast his characteristic mixture of assured slight smokiness and English reserve. And the few Drake compositions put his reclusive yet poetic world view in greater, more original focus, though it's really only on the songs later used on Five Leaves Left (and, perhaps, the haunting if Donovan-esque "Strange Meeting, Pt. 2") that it becomes fully mature. The two Molly Drake songs, incidentally, aren't mere completist add-ons; they make it clear that she was likely a substantial influence upon her son's melancholy melodies and songwriting, if perhaps a subliminal one. Less essential, though still illuminating for the dedicated Drake fan is a classical instrumental (by "the Family Trio") with Nick on clarinet. 
by Richie Unterberger
Disc 1 - Five Leaves Left 1969
1. Time Has Told Me - 4:27
2. River Man - 4:22
3. Three Hours - 6:15
4. Way To Blue - 3:11
5. Day Is Done - 2:28
6. Cello Song - 4:48
7. The Thoughts Of Mary Jane - 3:22
8. Man In A Shed - 3:55
9. Fruit Tree - 4:49
10.Saturday Sun - 4:05
All Songs by Nick Drake
Disc 2 - Bryter Layter 1970
1. Introduction - 1:32
2. Hazey Jane Ii - 3:46
3. At The Chime Of A City Clock - 4:45
4. One Of These Things First - 4:51
5. Hazey Jane I - 4:29
6. Bryter Layter - 3:22
7. Fly - 3:00
8. Poor Boy - 6:09
9. Northern Sky - 3:45
10.Sunday - 3:43
All Compositions by Nick Drake
Disc 3 - Pink Moon 1972
1. Pink Moon - 2:06
2. Place To Be - 2:43
3. Road - 2:02
4. Which Will - 2:58
5. Horn - 1:23
6. Things Behind The Sun - 3:57
7. Know - 2:25
8. Parasite - 3:36
9. Free Ride - 3:06
10.Harvest Breed - 1:37
11.From The Morning - 2:32
Words and Music by Nick Drake
Disc 4 - Made To Love Magic 1968-74
1. Rider On The Wheel - 2:37
2. Magic - 2:45
3. River Man - 4:01
4. Joey - 3:03
5. Thoughts Of Mary Jane - 3:38
6. Mayfair - 2:11
7. Hanging On A Star - 3:23
8. Three Hours - 5:11
9. Clothes Of Sand - 2:31
10.Voices - 3:46
11.Time Of No Reply - 2:48
12.Black Eyed Dog - 3:34
13.Tow The Line - 2:16
Lyrics and Music by Nick Drake
Disc 5 - Family Tree 1968
1. Come In To The Garden (Introduction) - 0:32
2. They're Leaving Me Behind - 3:17
3. Time Piece - 0:43
4. Poor Mum - 1:38
5. Winter Is Gone - 2:43
6. All My Trials - 1:55
7. Kegelstatt Trio - 1:13
8. Strolling Down The Highway (Bert Jansch) - 2:50
9. Paddling In Rushmere - 0:24
10.Cocaine Blues - 2:59
11.Blossom - 2:41
12.Been Smokin' Too Long (Robin Frederick) - 2:13
13.Black Mountain Blues - 2:36
14.Tomorrow Is A Long Time (Bob Dylan) - 3:42
15.If You Leave Me - 2:02
16.Here Come The Blues - 3:53
17.Sketch 1 - 1:00
18.Blues Run The Game - 2:24
19.Milk And Honey - 2:59
20.Kimbie - 3:26
21.Bird Flew By - 2:54
22.Rain - 3:07
23.Strange Meeting Ii - 4:27
24.Day Is Done - 2:20
25.Come Into The Garden - 2:00
26.Way To Blue - 2:52
27.Do You Ever Remember? (Molly Drake) - 1:34
All Songs by Nick Drake except where Stated

Disc 1 - Five Leaves Left 1969
*Nick Drake - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Piano
*Danny Thompson - Bass
*Richard Thompson - Electric Guitar
*Paul Harris - Piano
*Rocki Dzidzornu - Congas
*Clare Lowther - Cello
*Tristam Fry - Drums, Vibraphone
*Robert Kirby - Arrangements

Disc 2 - Bryter Layter 1970
*Nick Drake - Vocals, Guitar
*Dave Mattacks - Drums
*Dave Pegg - Bass
*Richard Thompson - Lead Guitar
*Mike Kowalski - Drums
*Ray Warleigh - Alto Saxophone
*Ed Carter - Bass
*Lyn Dobson - Flute
*John Cale - Harpsichord, Viola, Organ, Piano, Celesta
*Paul Harris - Piano
*Doris Troy - Vocals
*P.P. Arnold - Vocals

Disc 3 - Pink Moon 1972
*Nick Drake - Vocals, Piano, Acoustic Guitar

Disc 4 - Made To Love Magic 1968-74
*Nick Drake - Guitar, Vocals
*Rebop Kwaku Baah - Congas
*Gina Ball - Violin
*Dinah Beamish - Cello
*Ian Burdge - Cello
*Amanda Chancellor - Viola
*Sally Herbert - Violin
*Karen Jones - Flute
*Rory McFarlane - Double Bass
*Anna Morris - Violin
*Claire Orsler - Viola
*Julia Singleton - Violin
*Jane Spiers - Flute
*Richard Thompson - Electric  Guitar

Disc 5 - Family Tree 1968
*Nick Drake - Vocals, Guitar, Clarinet
*Chris McDowall - Piano
*Nancy McDowall - Viola
*Molly Drake - Vocals

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Flaming Youth - Ark 2 (1969 uk, wonderful pleasant concept baroque psych early prog, with young Phil Collins, 2004 edition)

This was one of the great albums of the sixties - brilliantly melodic, original and intelligent - but known till now only to a small band of passionate cognoscenti.

ARK 2 was the first 'concept album' - a 'space cantata' (though that makes it sound inaccessible and pretentious, which it is far from being). Written by the UK songwriting team whose success, according to The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, was 'rivalled only by Lennon & McCartney': Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, both from Hampstead, London.

Though brilliantly reviewed in the music and rock press of the time (it was Sunday Times Rock Album of the Year in 1969), the BBC did not know what to make of it: there were no radio or TV slots for an extended rock work at the time. So it remained largely unheard except by those who sought it out.

It is noteworthy for the first appearance on disc of Phil Collins, but (Flash) Gordon Smith, Brian Chatton and Ronnie Caryl each contributed their own fantastic musicianship and vocal power.

As can be seen from the original 'sleeve notes', ARK 2, nearly forty years ago, was extraordinarily prescient, anticipating many of today's private and global dilemmas and anxieties.

"After a while, supporting John Walker of The Walker Brothers, Collins and his guitarist friend Ronnie Caryl formed Hickory who soon found themselves with a concept album, the backing of Phonogram, and a new name, Flaming Youth.

Their album Ark II, was premiered at the London Planetarium and received lots of favourable press, but musical differences and a lack of commercial success soon meant it was time to answer another Melody Maker ad, this time from a struggling young band from Surrey, called Genesis."
1. Guide Me, Orion - 3:16
2. Earthglow - 2:52
3. Weightless - 2:37
4. The Planets - 12:47
.a. Mars - Bringer Of War
.b. Venus - Bringer Of Peace
.c. Mercury - The Winged Messenger 
.d. Jupiter - Bringer Of Jollity
.e. Saturn - Bringer Of Old Age
.f. Uranus - The Magician
.g. Neptune - The Mystic 
5. Changes - 5:48
6. Pulsar - 3:05
7. Space Child - 5:10
8. In The Light Of Love - 3:26
9. From Now On (Immortal Invisible) - 4:19
10.Man, Woman And Child - 3:14
11.Drifting - 3:52
All songs written by Ken Howard, Alan Blaikley
Bonus Tracks 10-11

The Flaming Youth
*Phil Collins - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Ronnie Caryl - Bass, 12-string Guitar, Vocals
*(Flash) Gordon Smith -  Bass, Vocals, Guitars
*Brian Chatton - Organ, Piano, Vocals

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