Archive for April, 2008

The Youngbloods “Earth Music”

Earth Music

It’s too bad the Youngbloods are mostly known for their classic cover version of Get Together. They are often referred to as a second rate Lovin’ Spoonful too but there was so much more to the group then these generalizations would lead you to believe. They left behind three classic records, a worthwhile oddities lp entitled Two Trips and some good live recordings.

The Youngbloods were an early folk-rock group that mixed blues, folk, good-time music, country, and rock n roll into something fresh and durable. The group’s members were guitarist bassist Jesse Colin Young, bassist guitarist Jerry Corbitt, keyboard player Banana Levinger and drummer Joe Bauer. Young had soulful, gritty vocals that stood out and in the group’s early years both he and Corbitt split the songwriting credits. While Elephant Mountain is usually regarded as their peak (and most experimental album) the first two lp’s were a dynamite mix of various roots music. The early 1967 debut album was a very consistent mix of well-chosen covers and group originals highlighted by Get Together and the classic Corbitt folk-rocker All Over The World. Earth Music came out later that year and was just as good but lacked a major hit single to propel it into the limelight.

Most of the album’s tracks were originals although there were a few excellent covers that rounded the lp out. The last song on the original lp was one of the first great cover versions of Tim Hardin’s Reason To Believe. The arrangement is sparse, the harmonies are wonderful and overall the Youngbloods turned in a fine countried version of this Hardin standard. Dreamer’s Dream, All My Dreams Blue and Don’t Play Games were great tuneful folk-rockers which were perhaps the group’s strong suit. They also found time to turn in two uptempo good time tracks, Euphoria, which came from the Holy Modal Rounders and the Wine Song. Both these songs were highlights along with the Levinger penned acid garage-rocker Fool Me which featured some fine guitar work. The most significant track may have been Sugar Babe. This was one of the first great country rock standards with great lyrics and a spirit that embodies everything that is good about that genre.

Originals were off the RCA label and easy to come by 40+ years later. The best of the cd reissues was put out by BGO in 2007 and it includes the first 3 albums on 2 discs. Anyone who is into American rock n roll or true roots music should really own these albums; the Youngbloods really deserve their due.


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“All Over The World (La-La)”

Earth Music:

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“Sugar Babe”

😀 CD Reissue | 2007 | Beat Goes On | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | RCA | search ebay ]

The Rockets (self-titled)

The Rockets

The sole release by the band that would become Crazy Horse. While it may be a bit unfocused, there’s a lot of stellar, inventive material here. Lead vocalist Danny Whitten and guitarist Leon Whitshell each wrote about half of the songs. Traces of embryonic country-rock can be heard, but they mostly cling to a tougher blues-rock sound with interesting psych touches. If anything, it certainly earns originality points for Bobby Notkoff’s innovative use of the electric violin, which ranges from traditional country breakdowns (“Hands in my Pocket”) to some intense bow-slashing that sounds something like a steel-shed being mutilated by a chainsaw. (“Let Me Go”).

The album’s highpoint is undoubtedly the melancholic tour-de-force “Won’t You Say You’ll Stay,” which may be the best song Whitten ever wrote. Unfortunately the album actually suffers because of this—no other track comes close to touching its brilliance. And at least for the sake of consistency they probably should’ve discarded the two awkward blue-eyed soul attempts for something a little heavier in tone. But there’s still some high-quality stuff left, including the snotty, Stones-like “Try My Patience” and “Shed Your Skin,” where the ever versatile Notkoff uses the violin to capture a bizarre Eastern feel.

Even with its flaws, the Rockets is an important late 60s album that seems to have been written out of the history books.

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“Wont You Say You’ll Stay”

😀 CD Reissue | 2001 | Varese Sarabande | buy from amazon ]

Graham Nash “Songs For Beginners”

CSNY dismantled after 1970’s Deja Vu, to release four excellent solo albums: Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush, David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, Stephen Stills’ Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash’s overlooked but truly excellent Songs For Beginners.

Graham Nash began his music career penning excellent tunes for the Hollies, a lovely group whose Butterfly album is desperately missing a review on this site. His tunes for the Hollies and CSN: “Dear Eloise,” “King Midas In Reverse,” “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” etc. were always in top form. Vocally, Nash defined the sound of CSN with a high harmony part joyfully recognizable in Beginners. The ace writing continues on this record with fine tracks like “Better Days,” “Wounded Bird,” no use listing every track as there are no dull points. The production makes very few false steps, with solid choices in the arrangement and a good comfortable sound.

Songs For Beginners has a few politically minded tunes in “Military Madness,” the album’s bouncy opener, and the anthemic “Chicago,” about the 1968 Democratic Convention. The lyrics have a bright and hopeful feeling throughout, which could work in a time like today’s. We can change the world, Graham, and that sentiment remains undated by my standards.

Fans of the CSNY family are lucky folk, with such a depth of wonderful material to dig. This album is definitely as strong as anything released at the time by Neil Young, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, or all of them together.

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“Better Days”

😀 MP3 Album Download | amazon ]
:) Vinyl | search ebay ]

Classic Gear: The Fender Rhodes

Press your hand to these keys for the first time and you’ll hear it, the smooth electric ring with a touch of grit and lots of soul. It’s hard not to sound good on a keyboard this classic, but the best players can muscle out a powerful growl. You probably know the sound.

The Rhodes is not an electronic instrument or a synthesizer, it works mechanically like a regular piano. Rather than hammering strings, each key on the Rhodes strikes a thin metal rod, called a tine, that is cut to length and amplified through a pickup. A few knobs on the faceplate can alter the tone or vibrato, but modification of the raw sound is barely needed. Plug this baby in a Twin Reverb and you’re good to go.

It was invented by Harold Rhodes as a bedside piano for wounded GIs, and manufactured by the Fender company as early as 1959, but portable (though damn heavy) stage models produced in the late 60s would drive its popularity and acceptance by artists from jazz, rock, soul, or any genre. Being one of the most important piano innovations of our time, the Rhodes is still dearly loved and highly collected today. As Ray Charles would say during Harold Rhodes’ lifetime achievement Grammy award presentation, “The Rhodes was a musical atom bomb, changing the face of the music landscape forever.”

First let’s hear from Herbie Hancock from his 1970s Rhodes promo record. This is a great introduction to the capability and sound of the Rhodes from one of the deepest keyboard explorers ever.

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Herbie Hancock “Demonstrates The Rhodes Sound; Side A”

Get Back features some nasty Rhodes soloing by “fifth Beatle,” Billy Preston. The Let It Be Naked release is said to better represent Preston’s fine contributions to the Beatles’ music.

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The Beatles “Get Back”

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Willis Alan Ramsey (self-titled)

A one of a kind record from a talent so deep it kills you to learn… this is all there is. Straight out of Austin, Texas this may be the best of the whole Armadillo/outlaw scene, though Willis never wanted a part of it in the first place. Country fans and foes alike should grab this record and hold on tight.

Willis Alan Ramsey’s record  merges country and soul as much as it combines chicken shack production with a touch of studio glitter. Put out by Leon Russell on his Shelter label (Russell also contributes keyboard), Ramsey was only twenty when he wrote many of these tunes, and only 22 or so when he laid down the vocals. Pretty remarkable considering the sound. It’s an ecclectic mix of styles with songwriter tunes ranging from the sweet and waltzy to bluesy, gritty grooves. “Muskrat Candlelight,” the album’s most sugary spot, would be covered by America and forever confined to the Lite 97s as “Muskrat Love.” But other tracks tear it up. All originals except for “Angel Eyes,” which fits like a glove on Side 2, every song is a serious keeper.

A few tracks are ornamented with strings and orchestral accompianment, which works for the more developed numbers, but the sound gets so nicely stripped at times. On two tracks, “Satin Sheets” one of them, the only percussion is a steady kick drum with a thick cardboard sound. “Ballad of Spider John,” the hypnotic storytale opener, also achieves this effect; the simplicity delights me to no end.Then this little green bit of heaven closes with a cut no one could argue, a swampy and irresistible groove: “Northeast Texas Women.”

Willis Alan Ramsey made one of those perfect albums. Unfortunately for us, he was seriously jaded by the music business, and never put out another record.

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“Northeast Texas Women”

😀 CD Reissue | 1999 | Koch | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Shelter | search ebay ]

Record Store Day

Record Store Day

Tomorrow is the first annual Record Store Day. The official site explains it a little strange: “all of these stores will simultaneously link and act as one…” but to me the message is clear, get out there and do some record shopping. Doing this blog here, sometimes I get jaded, self-conscious, or uninspired, but I set foot in one of my favorite record stores and all the problems go away.

We link to online retailers quite a bit here, but I would always recommend buying locally first. And in the face of convenient internet downloads, record shops are beginning to need some grass roots support. So scrape up 30 or 50 bucks and a friend and binge on good vinyl tomorrow.

Record Store Day

Participating Retailers

Les Sinners “Vox Populi”

Original copies of this lp are fairly expensive, sometimes selling on ebay for a few hundred dollars. It’s worth it though, as Vox Populi is one of the great early concept lps and definitely one of the best French-Canadian albums bar none.

A little history on the band known as Les Sinners: they started out in Quebec during the mid 60s and before Vox Populi released two garage pop albums in 1967, their half French/half English-sung debut Sinerisme was an excellent, defiant effort that combined rowdy fuzz rockers with attractive garage pop numbers. The similarly titled Sinnerismes followed the debut album and while not as strong as the aforementioned record, it was still a respectable slab of garage pop. Vox Populi or “voices of the people” was the group’s highwater mark, a superb concept lp centered around life and people’s attitudes toward everyday situations. This 1968 release was sung entirely in French though it’s interesting to note that a recent English version cd reissue of Vox Populi (25 Succes En Anglais) appeared in the early 1990s! Both versions are recommended and differences between the two are very few. Only the French version of Everything Will Be Fine (Le Fou Du Roi) may have the edge over its English counterpart because it begins and ends with cool, distorted vocals.

Vox Populi bears a strong resemblence in sound to the Who’s Sell Out lp and shares a concept similar to that of the Kink’s Face to Face album. Many of the songs are 2.5 to 3 minute pop-art gems and the album displays a good stoned sense of humor throughout. It’s almost useless to pick out key tracks as Vox Populi is very consistent and individual. Everything Will Be Fine, Nothing Is Happening, and Today, Tomorrow are all strong psych pop tracks with good atmospheric vocals, an “english feel” and a nice, trippy production. Other hard rocking highlights are the muscular, lean rocker Late and the brilliant Don’t You Run Away. Don’t You Run Away is a killer fuzz laden psych punker that sounds similar to a really good cut off the Outsiders’ C.Q. or the Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow. Another strong track, The Days Are Gone is a superb melancholy rocker that harkens back to an earlier time in rock history.

Les Sinners would go on to release another album or two during the progressive rock era though none of them matched the greatness of the debut or the legendary Vox Populi.

Early Sinners:

mp3: Sour as a Sidewalk

Vox Populi:

mp3: The Days Are Gone (Anglais)
mp3: Le Fou Du Roi (Francaise)

mp3: Don\’t You Run Away
mp3: Today, Tomorrow

:) Original Vinyl | Jupiter | search ebay ]

Kensington Market “Aardvark”


The Kensington Market were a Toronto band that recorded two albums in the late 60s off the Warner Brothers label. Their first album, Avenue Road appeared in 1968 and was greeted with great acclaim. Avenue Road was a modest effort that was noteworthy for a few reasons, it featured decent pop instincts and solid songwriting. In 1969 the band released their final lp titled Aardvark. After the release of this disc the band broke up a few months later, leaving behind a much stronger lp than their debut.

Aardvark is a weird and wonderful mini masterpiece in which much of the Kensington Market’s reputation rests. This time out there were no silly jugband tracks and many of the album’s ideas are fully formed and well thought out. Some of the songs, like the beautifully trippy Cartoon and the ahead-of-it’s-time Help, use primitive synthesizer in all the right ways. Help sounds like a lost Flaming Lips track with its open arrangement and blissed out guitar playing. Side I Am would have had radio potential had it not been for the experimental Smile-era Beach Boys intro. It’s a stunning pop song with Penny Lane horns, fine vocals and that special, inspiring 60s magic. Other tracks like Think About The Times and If It Is Love have more of a meloncholy air but are equally excellent and reveal a more pessimistic side of the band. The experimental Americana of Half Closed Eyes is another standout composition that’s superb in an early morning folk-strum Dylan way with unusual synthesizer flourishes.

Aardvark requires a few close listens to sink in but it really is a great Beatles influenced pop album by an underrated band. This vital piece of Canadian rock n roll will be reissued on cd for the first time by Pacemaker (February/March 2008-).

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“Half Closed Eyes”

😀 CD Reissue | 2008 | Pacemaker | buy @ EMI ]
:) Original Vinyl | Warner Bros | search @ ebay ]

The Golden Dawn “Power Plant”

I’ve owned this album for years and while I think it’s a very solid lp, it most certainly isn’t desert island status. Power Plant was this Texas group’s only album, released 1968 off the legendary independent label International Artists. Many rate this album as the best IA release all over but it’s nowhere near Easter Everywhere or 1966’s Psychedelic Sounds Of. Not the year’s most original release, George Kinney’s vocals sound a little too close to Roky Erickson and the band lacks the originality and vision of the Elevators.

Kinney was in a pre-Elevators band, the Fugitives and also played an important role in getting Erickson’s book, Openers, financed and published. I’ve been told that Power Plant’s original release date was set for sometime in 1967 but for uknown reasons IA held out till the following year. That being said, there are still many fine moments on Power Plant. Evolution, the leadoff track, is a good psychedelic rocker with chimes, snotty punk vocals and some nice fuzz guitar. The band plays hard and tight throughout and favor hard bluesy licks over fuzz as heard on songs like Starvation and I’ll Be Around. There are two undisputed classics on the album, This Way Please and My Time. The former is an excellent piece of acid drifter music while My Time may be the best song the Golden Dawn ever wrote. I hear bits of Gloria in My Time, the guitars are powerful with a rough edge and there’s a nice raga style solo making this an all-time, epic garage punk classic. Another highlight Tell Me Why stands out for backwards tapes and twisted Kinney vocals.

Power Plant is worth recommending on the strength of the above songs and it’s overall consistency. There have been numerous cd reissues though the Sunspot release comes in a nice mini lp sleeve with good sound quality. Kinney has made some late 60’s/early 70’s post Golden Dawn music which is reportedly very good but has never seen an official release.

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“My Time”

😀 CD Reissue | 2003 | Sunspots | purchase ]

PODCAST 3 Cool it Down

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Hosted By Liz


Moby Grape “Hey Grandma”

Link Wray “God Out West”

talk set: bed = Miles Davis “Black Satin”

George Harrison “I Dig Love”

The Remains “Time Of Day”

The Kinks “Sweet Lady Genevieve”

The Beach Boys “Little Bird”

clip from “The Who Sell Out”

The Monkees “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”

Gandalf “Golden Earrings”

The Zombies “I Know She Will”

Eye of The Storm
Bill Fay “Till The Christ Comes Back”
clip from Song Cycle by Van Dyke Parks
Little Feat “Willin'”

The Velvet Underground “Cool It Down”

Tony Schwartz “Bill Bones” (street recordings)

Tom Waits “Earth Died Screaming”

Fairport Convention “Si Tu Dois Partir”

The Basement Tapes “Million Dollar Bash”

Tintern Abbey “Vacuum Cleaner”

Commercial for The Move
The Move “Do Ya”

Classic Closer