Archive for August, 2008

Michael Chapman “Fully Qualified Survivor”

Michael Chapman, apart from being a prolific English songwriter whose revered work spans four decades, is probably the best guitar smith you have never heard. While his skills are best evidenced on this album’s predecessor, Rainmaker, the original songwriting and tight production, seemingly informed by all music that came before it, steal the show here.

It’s as if every style of rock music were somehow harnessed and tamed into Michael’s unique folk vision. The album sounds fresh as anything recorded today, yet still of its time, sparkling with punchy drum fills and orchestral arrangements. The album opens with an understated triumph: experimental strings create a soundscape for the soothing rhythm of Aviator to “take my time away.” I cannot think of another 9 minute song that doesn’t seem to last long enough. The lyrics on the album evoke a feeling of hopelessness, and there is a kind of sad tone but all together I believe it can be an uplifting album. This may be thanks to sharing much of the same personnel responsible for early albums by Elton John and David Bowie. During Fully Qualified’s hardest moments, though, I hear a striking resemblance to Bowie’s classic Man Who Sold The World.

Stranger In The Room and Soulful Lady lend a classic rock balance to softer songs like the immortal Postcards From Scarborough, by far the most famous Chapman song. Through several interludes, we are treated to Chapman’s masterful six-string suites. I know my fair share of fingerpicking but still have trouble believing that Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime is actually performed on one guitar by one person. In any case, it’s a piece that should be standard fare in guitar workshops the world over. But note that I’m not talking about the trite electric guitar leads, performed by Mick Ronson who would team up with Bowie for Space Oddity thanks to this record.

Fully Qualified Survivor is an exceptional collection of songs and your best introduction to one of England’s great underappreciated artists. One of the best.

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“Andru’s Easy Rider/Trinkets & Rings”

πŸ˜€ CD Reissue | 2011 | LITA | Β buyΒ ]
:) LP Reissue | 2011 | LITA |Β buyΒ ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | Harvest | search ebay ]

Tages “Studio”

Tages (pronounced “tah-guess”) are universally known as the best sixties pop band from Sweden. They struck it big early, hitting the Swedish #1 with “Sleep Little Girl” in 1964! Their efforts in the psychedelic era would be their last. Studio should sit comfortably next to masterpieces of the year, a few notches closer to Odessey & Oracle than Sgt. Pepper and not very far at all from the following year’s Birthday Party. Thanks to the tape cuts, orchestration, harmonies, and studio tricks, it even sounds like they got their hands on a copy of Brian Wilson’s unreleased Smile tapes. Certainly, anybody willing to spend enough time exploring all the rabbit holes in the Beatles catalog owes themselves a trip through this marvelous record.

The album opener, Have You Seen Your Brother Lately, proves how apt the name “Studio” is for such a creatively produced statement. Few won’t be sold within the first few seconds, hearing a looping string quartet surrender to a commanding rhythm highlighted by pounding drums and boxy plucked bass lines. Delicate touches of grand piano and kazoo bust open the door to an album rife with auditory treats and excellent craftmanship. Vocals are good, reminding me of an edgier Colin Blunstone, with plenty of fine backup parts.

But Studio is a diverse affair, It’s My Life, the 2nd track growls out dark guitar distortions straight from the Move arsenal under workout vocal leads. The drums stand out, consistently providing ahead-of-their-time and vicious beats. Tunes are often loaded with orchestration, like the soft ballad, People Without Faces, and bouncier brass marches like What’s The Time and She’s Having A Baby Now. Tasteful psychedelic treatments abound in backwards guitar leads, weird stomp boxes, and sound effects sprinkled throughout the record. Songs are short pop winners, maybe missing some of the excellent songwriting of their contemporaries, but the entrancing production really makes up for the lack of a better bridge or two.

The only real dissapointment is the lack of a proper CD or LP reissue (thankfully, the album is available digitally). An album like Studio should have propelled them to top 500 lists worldwide, rather than remain a Swedish rocknroll footnote. Members of the Tages would form Blond in 1969 but disband by 1970.

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“Have You Seen Your Brother Lately”

πŸ˜‰ MP3 Album | download at amazon ]

Karen Beth “The Joys of Life”

The Joys of Life is Karen Beth’s best early album which was released off Decca in 1969. Beth was not a popular artist so it was strange when this underground record peaked at #171 in Billboard’s Top 200 in 1969. The good thing about The Joys of Life is that it’s a strong record without a steep price tag and easy to find on vinyl – just check your local record dealer or better yet, ebay.

Beth’s vocals are a mixture of Karen Dalton and Buffy Sainte-Marie and the album is a beautiful blend of rural folk, lite psychedelia, and the more downer elements of the singer-songwriter genre. The album opener It’s All Over Now has one too many horns and is by far the lp’s weakest track. After this, there are no false starts or wasted notes; this album is completely solid all the way thru. The title track is an unsettling acid folk masterpiece that begins to rock about mid way thru and is highlighted by organ and vibes. Song to a Shepard is an impressive, stark vocal that sounds centuries behind, similar to what the English folk-rock groups were doing from around the same time. Other tracks reach into deeper, darker moods, just listen to Something to Believe In and the excellent Nothing Lasts. The former is a disturbing slice of spooky folk-jazz paranoia while the latter is a majestic, melancholy folk-rocker. White Dakota Hill, another great track, is wistful with a slight C&W feel that gives this album variety and substance.

Anyone into Margo Guryan or Linda Perhacs is strongly urged to track this record down. The Joys of Life really deserves a first time cd or vinyl reissue as it’s a pretty unique record that needs to be heard by more people.

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“Something To Believe In”

:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Decca | search ebay ]

News: Latest Reissues

I wish we could write a review on every reissue that pops up, but due to the growing multitude of quality reissue labels out there, the task is too much for one blog to handle (so far). Still, we love re-releases here at The Rising Storm, and are committed to informing our readers about the latest and greatest.

The newest feature on our sidebar is a list of the 10 latest recommended reissues. We hope to keep this list of CDs, LPs, DVDs, and magazines updated weekly. If you would like to inform us of a great release we may have missed, please feel free to use the Suggest A Reissue form just below the list.

For an archive of our selected reissues go to: http://del.icio.us/reissues

Big thanks to readers, commenters, and contributors as always!

B πŸ˜‰ :) πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ :) πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ :) πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ :) πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ :) πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ :) πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ :) πŸ˜€

Bodine “Bodine”

Bodine

Maybe not one of the top ten albums we’ve reviewed, but Bodine is as solid as it gets, loaded with tunes as good as anything played on classic rock radio today. You would think that stations would be interested in expanding their content with picks from the vast piles of unknown classics (Bodine included), but it’s still the same old hits, recycled day after day, some 40 years later. In any case, this little lost gem, produced by Bill Cowsill, is a strong promise from a band that would disappear after just one release.

The sound is influenced by country rock, with rural acoustic guitar driving back seat to funk bass lines and stabbing double tracked guitars. But the song structures have Ray Davies-ian 3-part movements and a strong Beatles influence, especially on the bouncy Statues Of Clay. Apart from this review, I think the vocal harmonies are cool, the backups strangely adding “eee’s” to the excellent Easy To See and trading vocal leads easily standing next to groups like Blood Sweat and Tears. It’s nice to find a record with a lotta soul made by some kids with seriously blue eyes.

I find it amazing a band so unknown could have such powerfully memorable songs, though not everything has aged wonderfully. Take It Back satisfies but teeters near television theme schmaltz. But the boys do manage to approach Jim Ford’s country funk on clear winners like Keep Lookin’ Through Your Window. If you give it a chance, you’ll find there really are no throwaways on Bodine’s only album.

This has never seen a CD release, who knows what it could sound like after a proper remaster. The record is relatively easy to find and affordable (mine was $4). Long due for a new release and reappraisal.

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“Short Time Woman”

:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | MGM | search ebay ]
Not to be confused with the Dutch heavy metal band

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown issued just one album in 1968 off Polydor. But that one album holds up as one of rock’s great one shot wonders. Prior to releasing this lp Brown had been singing in a number of semi pro bands throughout the early 60’s while studying in France. It was during this period that Brown developed his strange stage persona and eccentric nature.

In 1967 The Crazy World of Arthur Brown released the Track single Devil’s Grip backed by Give Him A Flower. This disc is a good slice of soul drenched psychedelia that was notable for Brown’s operatic vocals and heavy organ interplay. In 1968 Brown and the group released Fire, a huge top ten hit over in England and here in the US. When Fire hit the airwaves nothing sounded quite like it. Brown’s vocals were demonic, the song’s lyrics were threatening and like the album above, it had a slight r n b feel.

The group’s only album is one of the masterpieces of late 60’s British rock, a confident, flamboyant debut that has few equals. The album opened with Prelude – Nightmare, a powerful piece of early progressive rock with crazed vocals, thundering drums and soulful organ via Vincent Crane – a true classic. The two covers, I Put A Spell On You and I’ve Got Money are suprisingly fine examples of British R&B. Spontaneous Apple Creation is possibly the album’s most psychedelic cut with lots of sound effects and nonsensical lyrics but a good piece of music regardless. The band flirts with basic pop on the catchy Rest Cure but for many Child of My Kingdom was the group’s finest moment on lp. This track is a superb piece of British R&B with hints of psychedelia and just plain lostness.

After this debut Brown recorded Strangelands, music that was recorded in the late 60’s but would not see an official release till the late 80’s. These recordings are strange to say the least and dispense of conventional song structure in favor for something more challenging and demented. In the early 70’s Brown would form Kingdom Come, a skilled group of musicians who would release 3 worthwhile records that are more progressive in nature than the Crazy World of Arthur Brown recordings. There have been numerous reissues of the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the best being a standard Polydor repress and the pricey Japanese import in excellent sound quality. For anyone who likes their music on the edge, this album is a must.

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“Child Of My Kingdom”

πŸ˜€ CD Reissue | 1991 | Polydor | google shop ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2007 | Tapestry | ebay ]

Spring (self-titled)

Spring

In 1971 the Leicestershire UK-based band Spring recorded its first album at Rockfield Recording Studios with Elton John cohort Gus Dudgeon producing. The music was recorded live to tape, with just some acoustic guitar overdubbed later. This is music awash in seas of rolling Mellotron tones — at times you’ll think you’re drowning in melancholy marzipan. At times all three Mellotrons are in use, each with a different tone, and it makes for quite a rich and ornate musical tapestry. Just close your eyes while you listen to “Grail” and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

No doubt the blues was a very popular choice for young bands in the UK in 1971, and Spring’s music reflects that. In fact, Spring toured the UK opening for The Velvet Underground before they recorded this album. But Spring weren’t doing the out-there jazz jamming of The Soft Machine or the LSD-fueled space trips of Hawkwind, or even the whiskey-soaked blues of Led Zeppelin. It’s hard to know which scene Spring grew out of, but considering that London’s airwaves were full of acid pop in the late 60s — I can hear the sounds, humor, and instrumentation of such bands as Turquoise, 23rd Turnoff, and Timebox in Spring’s music — it’s fair to assume Spring’s sound was influenced by quite a few styles and bands.

But Spring’s music isn’t all just Mellotron, and all of the playing is exceptional. “Fool’s Gold” features some excellent guitar playing and not much Mellotron, and breaks into a particularly fiesty jam. Drummer Pick Withers’s articulate use of cymbals and fleet fingers is always in the pocket and pure icing. Vocalist Pat Moran’s voice recalls John Wetton’s baritone with a touch of vibrato. The instruments were recorded with no phasing, flanging, or effects, so the recording does not sound dated in any way. But for all the tricky tempos, busy playing, and mountains of Mellotron, this is glorious, effortless music. I feel refreshed after listening to it, not tired or worn out as I would after a King Crimson album.

The album has been given one vinyl reissue by Akarma Records in Italy (which is good, because according to popsike.com original copies are fetching up to $800US). The Akarma and Repertoire CD reissues are pricey, but relatively easy to find and the sound is good.

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“Fool’s Gold”

πŸ˜€ CD Reissue | 2004 | Akarma | buy from akarma | buy from amazon ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2004 | Akarma | search google ]
πŸ˜‰ MP3 Album | download at amzn ]

The Blues Project “Projections”

The Blues Project were one of the hottest live acts of the time and one of the first album oriented bands. Not all blues, with certain tunes rooted in folk and this album bearing a psychedelic edge (nearly the American “Aftermath”) but listen to them cook through some classic blues standards and soulful originals, and the name starts to settle in just fine.

This Greenwich Village group lit up audiences weekly at New York’s Au Go Go Cafe. Before they cut their first record, the smokin’ hot Live At The Cafe Au Go Go, they were joined by session player Al Kooper who was looking to gig and improve his chops on the Farfisa organ. By the time Projections was released, they had become a hard-edged party band that were well-equipped to extend their jams for a drugged out San Fransisco scene, and their eagerness to incorporate other musical forms and experiment beyond the blues put this band ahead of their time.

Al’s “Kooperphone” (actually called a Tubon) on Can’t Keep From Crying supplies an opening dose of out-of-control psych. A completely unexpected classical suite introduces Steve’s Song, a folksy groover with light touches of fuzz. And it’s hard to not become a classic ’66 record with a track like the hard slow blues, Two Trains Running, running 11 minutes 30 seconds. Another toss-for-a-loop is a Jazz-lounge number featuring Andy Kulberg on the uncleverly named Flute Thing. Cheryl’s Going Home is a riff-based standout, but when they perform bluesy shuffles like Wake Me Shake Me and Caress Me Baby you know they’ve hit their stride. The blues numbers give the album its vintage appeal.

Though they could smoke an audience, they were unable to score a hit song. However, one of the last tracks they cut before Al Kooper left the band may be one of the best unknown singles of the year: No Time Like The Right Time.

The Polydor/Chronicles anthology has the Projections album on disc two, with scores of live material and outtakes from the first album on disc one and detailed liners.

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“I Can’t Keep From Crying, Sometimes”

πŸ˜€ CD Reissue | 2011 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed ]
:) LP Reissue | 2011 | Sundazed |Β buy from sundazedΒ ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1966 | Verve | search ebay ]

Sync: JΓ³zsef Nepp & Michel Polnareff

| Video

mp3: Michel Polnareff – Hey You Woman

Classic Gear: Combo Organs

Forget the Hammond B3 and her clunky brethren, the organ of choice for the discerning (and touring) 60s rock band was bound to be colorful, compact, and a scorcher in sound. The suitcase style combo organs, revered for their “cheezy” timbre, defined a classic sound for many well-known outfits and devoured the churchy sound from the organs of yore, paving the way to the synthesizer age. Welcome to the wonderful reedy world of combo organs.

Vox Continental

The Vox Continental (1962)
Lord and master of all things combo, this line of organ is probably revered as much for its sound as for its sleek look. The beautiful inverted, harpsichord-like keys, smooth pull drawbars, and striking red flat-top cover set the bar for portable organ design over the next 10 years. Initially meant to replace the B3 for touring musicians, the distinct transistor sound of the Continental caught on with groups like the The Animals and Sir Douglas Quintet and was used most famously on Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gada-Da-Vida. The Super Continental boasted two sets of keyboards (known as “manuals”) and even more customization of sound with a “percussion” feature, while stripped down versions like the Jaguar featured only preset buttons, without the drawbars, and a slightly thinner sound. Hard to go wrong with the Vox Con tho; let’s hear it tear. “Lay it on me, Augie“:

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Sir Douglas Quintet – She’s About A Mover

Farfisa Compact

Farfisa Compact (1965)
They’ll tell you any combo organ recording from the 60s… if it’s not a Vox Continental it’s the Farfisa Compact. The Farfisa sound is somewhat distinct, sounding punchy and chewier than the Vox, and the “Farfisa” name does seem to embody the whole combo-organ sound in our collective consciousness. The Italian-made Farfisa was converted from the company’s transistor accordians, and became the 2nd most popular combo organ after the Vox; probably a more affordable choice for tons of 60s garage bands. The octave of black keys on the left could be switched to a bass sound that was separate from the white keys, and uniquely, you could push the lever on the bottom with your knee to open the filter of the sound during performance. The Compact line spawned many fine instruments including the Farfisa Compact Duo (two manuals), the brilliantly designed (but non-transistor) Farfisa FAST and Professional, and a series of interesting organ/synthesizer hybrids. Here’s a clip of Herbie Hancock riffing nasty on a busted Farfisa for Miles Davis’s Tribute to Jack Johnson:

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Miles Davis – Clip from “Right Off”

Gibson G101

Gibson G-101 (1966)
Ray Manzarek used the Vox Continental for the first two Doors albums, but switched and stayed with the G-101, also known as the Kalamazoo. His use of the instrument, combined with a Rhodes Piano Bass set on top, has lended to its classic, sought-after status. Not only did the G-101 have black bass keys like the Compact, but an additional set of gray keys that could switch between an extended bass section or extended treble section. Other features included vibrato, tremolo, and sustain controls. What most distinguished it from other combos were its Piano and Harpsichord sounds, similiar to sounds heard on Back Door Man (The Doors) and Lucy in the Sky, respectively.

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The Doors – Roadhouse Blues (Live in Pittsburgh, May 2, 1970)
(buy new release)

Almost all thanks for this post goes to the heavenly Combo Organ Heaven site, a gem of the internet and loving tribute to these underappreciated and no longer manufactured keyboards.

Honorable Mentions
Ace Tone Top Series
Elka Panther Series
Lowrey T1 (G101 cousin)
Fender Contempo
Yamaha YC Series

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