Archive for December, 2007

The New Colony Six “Breakthrough”

Breakthrough

This midwesterner is jam packed full of great songs in the classic garage tradition. The New Colony Six was founded by lead vocalist Ray Graffia but included a fine guitarist by the name of Jerry VanKollenburg, organist Wally Kemp, bassist Craig Kemp, vocalist Pat McBride and drummer Chic James.

They took Chicago by storm on their debut Centaur single I Confess (1965) which is featured on the above lp. It was a tough British Invasion powered single that reached the #2 position on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey. Confess was only kept from being a #1 local hit by Lou Christie’s “Lightning Strikes” and notable for the inventive guitar sound created by VanKollenburg feeding his instrument through a Leslie speaker.

Around the time of recording their debut lp, the band decided to release the legendary At The River’s Edge single. Although the very good flip I Lie Awake received airplay, At The River’s Edge was really their moment in the sun. It was a menacing garage punk single driven by frantic pace and wild harmonica playing, At The River’s Edge was Chicago’s version of Them’s fantastic Mystic Eyes single. At this point the New Colony Six were a popular live act throughout Chicago and were known to raise hell on stage. During the summer of 1966 Breakthrough was released, and if there was any flaw at all with the lp it came down to the two lunk headed covers of current pop rock singles Hang On Sloopy and Mr. You’re A Better Man Than I. The other 10 songs were sterling group originals ranging from tough gritty rockers to softer more melodic folk-rockers. Besides the superb singles other highlights were the Raiders-like A Heart Is Made Of Many Things and the dreamy Don’t You Think It’s Time To Stop You’re Crying which featured more ace guitar work from VanKollenburg. Another song worth pointing out is The Time Of The Year Is Sunset. Other reviewers have mentioned that this reflective gem could be a counter part to the Rising Storm’s killer Frozen Laughter.

All in all this is a very strong debut that will appeal to fans of the early Guess Who, Outburst era Wailers, and mid period Paul Revere and the Raiders. The band released some other fine singles and a respectable though less aggressive garage pop album titled Colonization before transforming into a bubblegum-hit-making act.

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“I Confess”

Below is one of the highlights from their second album Colonization. Let Me Love You was one of their last true classics and underneath the psychedelic production and monstrous fuzz leads is a folk-rock song with a soft, pretty middle section and glittering 12-string guitar runs. They rerecorded a much better version of Mr. You’re a Better Man Than I that works quite well too. While not as good nor as raw as Breakthrough, Colonization is still a solid pop record that hinted at their bubblegum future.

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“Let Me Love You”

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Spirit “The Family That Plays Together”

The Family That Plays Together

Many of you are probably familiar with this great, underrated LA band that was started by drummer Ed Cassidy and guitarist Randy California in 1967. The roots of Spirit can be traced to prior groups the Rising Sons (who released one excellent blues rock single in the mid 60’s) and the Red Roosters. While Cassidy and California were the heart and soul of Spirit, Jay Ferguson handled lead vocals while Mark Andes and John Locke played bass and keyboards respectively.

Spirit crafted many fine albums in their day but most people cite this album along with Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus and Spirit of ’76 (double lp) as their masterpieces. The Family That Plays Together hit the record shelves in 1968 and featured a wild, young guitarist in Randy California. Cassidy was an excellent middle aged drummer and Ferguson was an outspoken, courageous lead singer. Spirit definitely stood out amongst a crowd and the different personalities within the group eventually tore them apart.

The above record featured Spirit at an early peak, opening with their biggest radio hit I Got A Line On You. This was the most atypical song on the album but great guitar driven hard rock anyhow. California’s leads were fantastic and innovative and there is no doubt that he was one of LA’s top rock guitarists. Some of the songs such as the spacey It Shall Be or the heart wrenching Darlin’ If have beautiful string and horn charts that bring to mind Love’s classic Forever Changes album. The Grateful Dead-like It’s All The Same and the strange psych blowout Aren’t You Glad showed California’s mastery of the fuzztone.

He was clearly breaking new ground with tone and texture but for me the true masterpiece on this album is Dream Within A Dream. This song opens with some intense Hendrix influenced riffs which eventually drift into space, riding high on insane, droning bumble bee fuzz riffs that hit really hard. It’s one of the great slices of LA guitar psych and mandatory listening for any casual rock fan. For those who have not given this legendary band a chance, it is worth your while to do so.

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“Dream Within A Dream”

Below is the great My Friend track from the Original Potato Land album. Potato Land was a weird science fiction rock opera/concept album recorded around 1971/1972. Some of the songs were later rerecorded (probably during the early 80’s) and released in 1981. At this stage in the game Spirit were basically cut down to the duo of Cassidy and California and would remain so for many years after. In early 2006 the original Potato Land album was released off the Acadia label. This cd reissue off Acadia is the album to get and not the 1981 vinyl version, as it presents the album in its original form (it’s full of great songs) and also contains more tracks. My Friend is one of the highlights off this great lost record, a fine slice of power pop.

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“My Friend”

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The Fugs “Village Fugs”

Village Fugs

This is also known today as The Fugs First Album. These guys weren’t really musicians, certainly not vocalists, they were beat poets and activists that wanted to be musicians. The record was made possible because their friend Harry Smith, curator of the Anthology of American Folk Music, convinced Folkways to let them record in their studio. Thank you, Harry Smith.

A classic. What we have here is not only a genuine artifact from the downtown 60s scene, but actually a pretty listenable record. The Fugs pumped up their line up for this record with Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber from The Holy Modal Rounders (pictured right), and Steve even contributed one of the Fugs most well loved songs, Boobs A Lot. Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg are the real poet masterminds behind the Fugs, however, and their songs are often offensive or hilarious, concerning sex, drugs, and politics.

This album should be viewed along side another album called Virgin Fugs, which is a bootleg containing outtakes from the same recording sessions. Songs vary from stony diatribe drones to loose pop songs like Supergirl, one of my favorites. And I’ve always got a big kick out of Nothing: “January nothing, February Nothing… Reading nothing, writing nothing, even arithmetic, nothing… Harry Smith and Allen Ginsberg, Nothing Nothing Nothing.” The aesthetic of the Fugs is instant punk, not the sound particularly, but the do-it-yourself approach. The sound of Village Fugs teeters between that of a skiffle group and an amateur R&B combo. The percussion is always plentiful and varied, like they raided some restaurant’s kitchen, and Ken Weaver rounded it out on the drums.

It may not be music you put on to relax to, or set the mood, or dare to DJ with… but you have to hear it!

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“Supergirl”

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The Holy Modal Rounders (self-titled)

The Holy Modal Rounders

A damn fine record! For years, I’ve been trying to get my ears around The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders with limited success. It’s a totally weirded out record that kicks off with the If You Want To Be A Bird single famously featured on the Easy Rider soundtrack. The problem I had understanding Moray Eels was a lack of context – now that I’ve got my hands on this joyous and addictive little gem, I’m more anxious than ever to dive in deeper with the Rounders catalogue.

Bound To Lose: Documentary
Recently, I had the (spur-of-the-moment) opportunity to catch Peter Stampfel introduce a showing of the new documentary film chronicling his band, entitled Bound To Lose. Pete is a real eccentric with an amazing speaking and singing voice, tuneful and squawky like no other. The documentary was quite good and renewed my interest in the Rounders. Instead of uncovering many of the details surrounding the original Holy Modal Rounder recordings (1 & 2, Indian War Whoop, Moray Eels), the doc relied on footage and stories concerning the modern day Rounders. It’s hard to blame the filmmakers for this angle because they are such interesting characters and prolific artists. I highly recommend a rental for fans of the band or those looking for a pleasant introduction to this fascinating group.

You’ve got to start at the beginning, though. Their debut album, way ahead of its time, is one of the most fun records I’ve heard in a while and would spawn the genre of freak folk. The Rounders were heavy into the folk revival scene of the early 60s in NYC’s Greenwich Village and also heavy into drugs. Interestingly, their reworking of Hesitation Blues on this record featured the first recorded use of the term “psychedelic.” The tunes performed here on guitar and fiddle, or guitar and banjo, are essentially folk standards with new and often satirical lyrics. Stampfel confesses to this writing technique in the liners: “hear song, forget song, try to remember song while adding your personal wrinkles, bingo!”

There are traces of the less traditional and electric route the Rounders were headed down on originals like their “hit” song Euphoria and the catchy pop oddity, Mr. Spaceman. Most important to note, of course, are the voices. Sure to turn off casual listeners, but remarkably unique and strangely perfect. Something about their alien brand of harmony is indefinably great, and in brief little moments, truly beautiful. This record is a wonderful ride and an essential slice of music history.

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“Euphoria”

Note: The debut record is packaged as a twofer including their 2nd record, pretty much every bit the equal of the first. Excellent deal ($9 digital download).

😀 CD Reissue | 1999 | Fantasy | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1964 | Prestige | search ebay ]

Appletree Theatre “Playback”

Playback

Playback was released in 1968 off the Verve label. Both John and Terrence Boylan were the brains behind this project that is divided into three acts. It’s an inventive pop album with great songs, strange sound effects, comedy bits and trippy dialogue in between some of the tracks. Fans of Friends era Beach Boys, Family Tree, the Smoke (Michael Lloyd’s band) and the Millennium will really love this record though it has more of a downbeat mood than the before mentioned sunshine pop classics.

Playback was released in two different album covers (both covers are great) and was supposedly one of John Lennon’s favorites from 1968. Some of the tracks, such as I Wonder If Louise Is Home suggest the boys may have indulged in too many psychedelic drugs, with its distorted megaphone vocals and soaring horns. The album opener, Hightower Square, and Nevertheless It Was Italy are strong hallucinary floaters that play it straight, with light psychedelic arrangements. There’s even a beautiful 52 second acoustic track with gorgeous strings and downer vocals called Saturday Morning.

The real meat of this jaded pop album lies within it’s best 3 tracks: Brother Speed, You’re The Biggest Thing In My Life, and the wonderful What A Way To Go. Brother Speed is a great blue-eyed soul drug number with stax-like horn arrangements, pounding drums, stoned vocals, and a loud guitar psych solo. It’s a good one for sure but You’re The Biggest Thing In My Life is superb as well with tons of guitar feedback within the confines of a creepy but pretty conventional pop song. The album comes to a close with the outstanding What A Way To Go. This is one of the great introspective acid folk-rock songs that hits a downer psych nerve that few can equal. It’s a good one to play for square friends as the track has beautifully spaced out vocals and crazed, nonsensical lyrics.

In 1969 Terrence Boylan returned with a solo psych pop album credited to Alias Boona which I have never seen or heard. Just recently the Appletree Theatre’s Playback was reissued but can only be bought off Terrence Boylan’s homepage (The Official Terence Boylan Website). Highly recommended!

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“What A Way To Go”

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:::: Top Ten Rediscovered Gems of 2007

In lieu of a best reissues of 2007 list, we’ve scoured a host of popular music blogs, mostly using The Hype Machine and elbo.ws, to pin down many of this year’s most resurgent tracks. It’s always like when one of these gems finds an overdue reappraisal, proving its time-worn strength and offering hope that a perfect time and place exists for music’s true lost treasures.

10.
Flying Burrito Brothers – Sin City
I can’t figure exactly why the Burritos were back in style this year. Maybe it had something to do with their Amoeba Records live archive reissue [an aquarium drunkard] that came out this year, but every where I turned the cosmic American heroes were popping up this year, this masterful track prevalent.

9.
Harry Nilsson – The Beehive State
Between buzz from the new Nilsson documentary [aquarium drunkard] and an LCD Soundsystem cover version of Harry’s powerhouse Jump Into The Fire, Nilsson and the shandemonium shadow pole is back this year. Perhaps his 2007 prowess was spurred on by the late 2006 full album covering of Pussy Cats by a band called The Walkmen. As any of his material from any time is always stunning, and Nilsson is on in general, above is a track from the fantastic Nilsson Sings Newman.

8.
13th Floor Elevators – Slip Inside This House
The Elevators have been in vogue for a while now, but this was a great year for Roky Erickson. There was a new documentary out this year entitled You’re Gonna Miss Me and Roky performed at select showings [speed of dark] with his band The Explosives. And now just another excuse to post the official track of this blog, SLIP INSIDE THIS HOUSE (complete with artificial rising storm sfx).

7.
Pink Floyd – Astronomy Domine
The 40th anniversary of Piper At The Gates of Dawn saw a luxurious reissue [mainstream isn’t so bad], although Jason will tell you it’s complete BS to leave out demo tracks like Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream. The album was finally restored to its proper mono Syd Barrett mix and Astronomy Domine recaptured the ear of many.

6.
The Monks – Monk Time
Punk precursors and energetic experimental popsters The Monks got their due in spades [20 jazz funk greats]. Black Monk Time is as essential as it gets and maybe the only reason we haven’t reviewed it yet is its overwhelming presence elsewhere in 2007! Their fantastic single Love Came Tumblin’ Down did make our mix tape, however.

5.
The Modern Lovers – She Cracked
The Modern Lovers’ landmark self-titled debut was finally reissued in the US this year and it seemed to strike a chord [said the gramophone] with just about every blog I check. This album was recorded in 1973, amazingly sharp and ahead of its time.

4.
The Seeds – Pushin’ Too Hard
A few years ago groups like the Strokes brought back the immediate raw rock appeal of classic groups like the Velvet Underground. After a tiresome flood of Strokes copycats, the bands making a name for themselves today are smartly harkening to deeper depths in the garage and psych vein. Namely among them is therisingstorm.net’s favored modern group, The Black Lips, often pegged for their Seeds influence [gorilla vs bear]. (I also find their sound resembles that of The Outsiders.)

3.
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood – Some Velvet Morning
Lee Hazlewood is an unforgettable music producer that passed away in 2007 [some velvet blog]. His work with Nancy Sinatra on the album Nancy & Lee is monumental and the one-of-a-kind Some Velvet Morning received much warranted attention.

2. & 1.
The Kinks – Strangers
The Kinks – This Time Tomorrow
And topping the list! The credit here must go to Wes Anderson, whose brilliant films give new life time and again to some of the best unknown gems [the yellow stereo] ever recorded. Seeing these two from Lola Vs. Powerman put to image, for me, was breathtaking; it brought to focus the emotional appeal in these tracks that had been hiding from the populous, who hadn’t even known they wanted it. From the film, Darjeeling Limited. (To new friends of this album by The Kinks, don’t miss their earlier material or the well-worth-it Muswell Hillbillies [stwof].)

**************************************************************************************
To finish off I thought I would include a few favorites that are new to me in 2007. Nothing mind shattering and totally arbitrary, but what the hell. Of course, credit for pointing the way goes to Jason, as always, so thanks Jay. **************************************************************************************

The Flatlanders – Tonight I’m Gonna Go Downtown
I’ve made a full on switch from country rock to straight up country this year, and still haven’t heard a more lonesome twang, laid back swing, or real deal perfect country record than The Flatlanders. Love this album every second [so well remembered].

Doug Sahm & Band – Is Anybody Going To San Antone
Yeah, I can’t help it with the country rock but this Doug Sahm cat can really invade your psyche. There is something so simple and familiar to each of his tunes, yet they all live fine and strong on their own. I had always thought the Sir Douglas Quintet was just another mod clone, but they are their own beast entirely. Special thanks to IV, of course, for that monster eye roll when I didn’t know who Sahm was, earlier this year!

Bobby Charles – I Must Be In A Good Place Now
This album hit me like a brick recently. It’s like a continuation of The Band with a whole new angle, so real and immediately pleasing, but continuing to stay with me.

Thanks for reading.

Mason Proffit “Wanted”

Wanted

Mason Proffit were an unknown country-rock band that released 5 good albums between 1969 to 1973. They originally formed out of the ashes of Sounds Unlimited, a hard edged Chicago garage band with a good sense of melody and song structure. Mason Proffit had strong elements of blue grass and folk in their sound but could also rock hard when the mood suited them. They were all excellent musicians and wrote poetic lyrics that occasionally reflected the times (war, protest, and religion).

Wanted was one of the first country-rock records, released off the Happy Tiger label (Dunwich) in 1969. Terry (guitar and vocals) and Johnny Talbot (guitar and vocals) were the foundation of Mason Proffit and often sang beautiful tenor harmonies. Wanted should really be up there with the country rock innovators but many feel that Mason Proffit lacked notoriety because their records were released off small independent labels. It’s an ambitious album to say the least and similar to latter period Byrd gems The Ballad of Easy Rider (1969) and Untitled (1970).

Two Hangmen is a folk-rock song that received lots a radio exposure back in the late 60’s and is now considered a folk-rock classic. It’s by far the most popular song on this record that has many more impressive moments throughout its 30 minutes plus running time. Some songs have sweeping orchestrations, such as the excellent country-rocker, You’ve Finally Found Your Love and a sensitive banjo ballad, Till The Sun’s Gone. Other tracks such as Voice of Change and Rectangle Picture are tuneful, quality songs that skillfully integrate political views and protest the current Vietnam War. A personal favorite is Sweet Lady Love, a pounding bayou rocker with pedal steel guitar and a great acid fuzz solo towards the end. It almost sounds like a great lost Creedence Clearwater Revival track and justifies purchasing this album alone.

For many years Wanted was unavailable but in 2006 the Water record label gave this great album a new lease on life. Mason Proffit would go on to make 4 other fine records though Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream (1971) is often quoted as their masterpiece.

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“Sweet Lady Love”

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The Remains (self-titled)

The Remains

This album was out of print when I initially reviewed it here, and I’ve got the old flashy yellow cover, which is a Greatest Hits collection but still a blazing hot disc. A month later their self-titled debut lp was reissued featuring the original album artwork, which is an important update. The yellow cover makes the Remains look like some novelty rock act, whereas the cover above restores their authenticity and edge. The Remains are positively one of the best rock bands you’ve never heard.

Barry Tashian and The Remains used to cook it up for Boston audiences back in the mid 60s (they were originally from Brookline), and this record, though none of it recorded live, is still proof. The beauty is in their by-the-book formula: loud rhythm guitars, electric piano, bluesy bass riffs, and most importantly, great songs.

The Remains get it started every time. But apparently they had trouble doing so for Beatles fans. The Remains toured with the fab four a short while, playing to a screaming mob who were impatiently awaiting one of the all time historic rock concerts. But the truth is, the Remains deserved all the same attention back then, and now we can give it back, for the first time in style. Will I be buying the reissue just for the packaging? Yes, I think I will.

Literally, every song on this record is good. Each one a gem so surprisingly radio friendly it’s astonishing to think we haven’t heard these before. They are quick friends with instant familiarity and appreciating resonance.

If you’d like to hear The Remains tear it apart in a live setting, check out A Session With The Remains from Sundazed, a live studio audition recording.

Barry Tashian used to play with Gram Parsons on GP and some stuff for the Burritos. Currently he is playing and recording bluegrass music with his wife, Holly.

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“Time Of Day”

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Sagittarius “Present Tense”

Present Tense

Sagittarius is the project (and zodiac sign) of one Gary Usher, collaborator and friend to Brian Wilson and producer of Notorious Byrds, and the ambitious Curt Boettcher, another Beach Boys coconspirator and genius behind the legendary Begin album by The Millennium.

Basically, they are companion albums, released in the same month in 1968, where most recommend starting with Begin and expanding into Present Tense. Some will find this album a bit twee for their tastes, and it is very hard to take seriously on first listen. But a little effort in putting it on, and it won’t take long before the album reveals itself to you. I find Present Tense to be almost a little better put-together than Begin. Realize though, that you’re not going to win points pumping this album full blast; maybe this is an album for headphones on the train, or a light rainy day.

Usually, I would balk at posting a track called “Song To The Magic Frog;” I have to though as it well represents the album. The instruments are eq’d with fairy dust it seems, and nice orchestral touches. “Will you ever, will you ever know” sounds to me like a classic Curt Boettcher melody, and though this is a Gary Usher project, Curt’s prevailing influence is unmistakable. The vocals soar on “Another Time” and it’s near the top, but I promise you that it is worth growing with Present Tense and all of its loveliness.

It’s only a matter of time before some director includes some of this Curt Boettcher madness in a popular film and all this soft California sike blows up. Included here from the bonus selections is the single version of My World Fell Down, with the preserved musique concrete bridge that Clive Davis urged removed from the album version.

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“My World Fell Down”

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The Carpenters “A Song For You”

A Song For You

There is always a time and place when this will be the perfect record to put on. Many could use a little Carpenters in their collection, and this hit-studded near-concept album is their best work. You have to let down your guard and forget what you know about this group; they sound a little slick, sure, but they perform good honest songs, aren’t afraid of a little humor, and that voice…

My god, Karen Carpenter slays them all. American Idol losers and winners alike have never approached this type of talent, and I always think of Karen, somehow, when comparing the wannabes. There is a flippancy in her wide range, a lazy accent or something, as she didn’t care, we’ll act formal later. Listening to her sing Leon Russell’s A Song For You, the opener on this record, has become a ritual; could anybody top this version?? I’ll take it any day, sax solo, over-the-top affected chorus and all.

The first five tracks on the record represent the stages of a love-gone-wrong relationship. You can tell just by the titles: 1. A Song For You, 2. Top Of The World, 3. Hurting Each Other, 4. It’s Going To Take Some Time, 5. Goodbye To Love. Wow, what a great set of tunes. It’s worth noting that Top Of The World went to #1 and is a great, fun song with smooth country stylings. You will most likely recognize a few of these gems from scattered radio play and other recordings.

After a goofball ‘Intermission’ we have Side B, featuring a less serious set but still top-quality stuff. Richard Carpenter gets to shine a bit on this side, with his instrumental Flat Baroque and lispy vocals on Piano Picker. Piano Picker is hilarious, I must say, an ode to Richard Carpenter’s dedication to “banging on the keys” in lieu of “playing with the football.” This is the kind of song you put on as a joke, though I can’t explain why I know all of the words.  If you want to try on some classic soft rock, this is the record for you.

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“A Song For You”

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