Archive for September, 2008

Stone Country “Stone Country”

Stone Country’s only album contains some of Steve Young’s earliest known recordings. RCA released this strange melange of psychedelia, country, soft-pop and jangly folk-rock back in 1968. This record is by no means a cohesive effort as it sounds like the work of 5 different groups. At first I wasn’t so sure about the album but multiple listens reveal a good record with very solid performances. So while the album itself might not gel together as a finished product, about 90% of the songs are strong and hold up well individually.
Stone Country were a Los Angeles CA sextet that only existed for a little less than 2 years. Steve Young had headed out to LA from Alabama in 1963, looking to secure a recording contract. The group was founded in 1967 when the management company of Denny Bond and Ken Mansfield were in the beginning stages of putting together a new group that would combine elements of both country and rock n roll. Steve Young was chosen as lead guitarist and vocalist while the rest of the group’s lineup looked something like this: banjo player Don Beck, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Doug Brooks, drummer Dennis Conway, vocalist and bassist Dann Barry, and guitarist Richard Lockmiller.

The album, while not a lost classic is very solid and thoroughly enjoyable. It was clear from the beginning that Young was the group’s most distinctive songwriter and vocalist. Magnolias, a Young original, was one of the lp’s highlights and a unique mixture of Southern soul and swamp rock that only he could deliver – a very gritty vocal performance too. Woman Don’t You Weep was more of the same, another good Young roots rocker with a driving beat and an attractive string arrangement. Two raga rock gems, Love Psalm and Mantra have nice fuzz guitar work and could easily fit in on the Byrds classic Notorious Byrd Brothers lp. Other tracks hit more of an Association soft-pop sound (‘Lizabeth Peach and Everywhere I Turn – both very good) while Why Baby Why (a George Jones cover) and Life Stands Daring Me show off the group’s country roots. The latter is a particularly imaginative slice of psychedelic country-rock with its soaring vocals, glittering guitars and wild banjo picking. Stone Country’s only mistake was including Angelica, a horrible bland pop number that had no business being on the lp.

Rev-Ola just recently reissued Stone Country for the first time on cd. Stone Country hits all the right bases that were common in 60’s American rock music: psychedelia, country-rock, folk, blues, airtight harmonies, adventurous arrangements, and great musicianship. This record is well worth a spin.

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“Magnolias”

😀 CD Reissue | 2007 | Revola | buy from revola | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | RCA | search ebay ]

The Long Ryders “Native Sons”

One of the best from the 80s underground, right up there with top albums by the Dream Syndicate, the Wipers, the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen and the Replacements. The Long Ryders had more of a genuine 60s sound though and this record, Native Sons, was their first album (not counting their debut ep, 10-5-60). This group hailed from Los Angeles California and was led by Kentucky native Sid Griffin, a man well versed in the history of rock n roll. Griffin headed out to LA when he heard about the city’s thriving punk scene. Over time Griffin would meet up with guitarist Steve McCarthy, bassist Barry Shank, and drummer Greg Sowders. Prior to the Long Ryders Griffin and Shank had been in garage revival band the Unclaimed. Over time Tom Stevens would become the group’s full-time bass player and this period would see them gain a respectable live following. The group would eventually become the Long Ryders and fuse 60s style garage rock and folk-rock with a country-rock feel. Native Sons was a brilliant debut lp and in some ways similar to the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday, in its unique fusion of folk, country, pop and psychedelia. Also, Native Sons’ album cover strongly recalled Buffalo Springfield’s shelved album, Stampede.

There is real importance in Native Sons though, as the Long Ryders among others, put country-rock back on the map and made the style credible again. In the mid 70s groups like the Eagles were responsible for tarnishing the genre’s reputation, turning something that was intelligent and underground into glossy creampuff pop. So it took a few years and a couple of great albums by groups like Jason and the Scorchers and Rank and File to restore country-rock’s credibility among the underground. On Ivory Tower, Griffin managed to get Gene Clark in the studio to provide backup vocals. Ivory Tower ended up being one of the great lost 80s tracks, downbeat and moody, sounding like a really terrific fusion of mid 60s Byrds and the early 70s solo work of Gene Clark. Sweet Mental Revenge, the album’s only cover (Mel Tillis), was an excellent reading notable for its appealing vocals and fuzz guitar work – a style that is referred to today as cowpunk. Another superb track, the humorous Fair Game, is closer in spirit to blue grass and foreshadowed Griffin’s work with the Cole Porters. I Had a Dream and Wreck of the 809 are underrated gems that listeners often forget about. These tracks display the Long Ryders’ garage band roots and are full of jangly guitars, aggressive vocals, feedback and lots of fuzz. This album is an absolute joy and a must for paisley underground fans and 60s rock junkies.

The Long Ryders were one of the great American underground groups of the 80s. They made recordings that have proven to be timeless and inventive, records that balanced intensity with humor. Besides writing great songs, their talent lies in the ability to take from the past and create something totally fresh and original. Their live shows were spectacular and the group garnered much respect from their peers. All three of their original albums are highly recommended.

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“Ivory Tower”

😀 CD Reissue | 1993 | Frontier | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1984 | Frontier | search ebay ]
😉 MP3 Album | download at amazon ]

The Byrds “Sanctuary I-IV”

When it comes to the major rock bands of the sixties, The Byrds are maybe the most divisive in terms of modern day respect. I’ve read arguments claiming their sound is long past dated, or they were only able to survive because of Bobby Dylan’s songwriting. At the same time I’ve often heard of their revolutionary style and long spread and lasting influence.

The best records often sink in gradually, the sound slowly nestling into the corners of your mind, and the Byrds were never quick to grab me. It’s Sundazed’s Sanctuary collection that’s turned me all the way around, the beauty of the Byrds now ringing in full, clear, vinyl glory. Hearing these alternate takes and unreleased cuts set in album format is like hearing the Byrds for the first time. A fresh take that I might even recommend to complete Byrd n00bs.

Sanctuary I
Outtakes from the first Byrds sessions at Columbia Studio A for the albums Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn Turn Turn, and 5D. There’s something about hearing the hits from those albums that can turn you off from a thorough listen. Songs that have been friends with the radio since the sixties can have the effect of a television commercial to dedicated album explorers. Loaded with unissued tracks, Sanctuary avoids this issue altogether. My standout track from the first LP is the first version of the B Side from the Turn! Turn! Turn! single, She Don’t Care About Time. Truth is, I’m a sucker for absolutely anything by Gene Clark.

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“She Don’t Care About Time”

Sanctuary II
From Younger Than Yesterday, Notorious Byrd Brothers, and Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde.  Sanctuary II is comprised of alternating instrumental and outtake tracks. It’s fantastic to hear the backing tracks, a la the Beach Boys’ Stack-O-Tracks, but not so many that it overwhelms the release. Several pieces showcase Roger McGuinn’s work with the Moog. This is the sound of the Byrds at their most unique and interesting stage, I’ll take any recording I can get my hands on.

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“This Wheel’s On Fire”

Sanctuary III
This is my favorite of the series. Things had changed by the time the Byrds were recording their Ballad of Easy Rider and Untitled LPs (Roger McGuinn was the only remaining original member), but the full time commitment of Clarence White’s guitar for these sessions elevates the group to a whole nother level. It’s told that CW turned down a gig with the Burrito Brothers to be a Byrd, and to my ears some of the tracks on Sanctuary III may be among his best recordings, wrangling wild new sounds from his B-Bender throughout. The alternate mix of Ballad of Easy Rider to open this one is positively sparkling and I can’t get enough of Build It Up, a CW instrumental track inspired by Buck Owens’ Bakersfield sound.

For more on Clarence White, don’t miss an amazing series of posts at Adios Lounge.

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“Build It Up”

Sanctuary IV
Simply a must for Sweetheart devotees, Sanctuary IV puts a host of gems to vinyl from the sessions behind their most revered and uncharacteristic album. Any further glimpse into Gram Parsons’ foray with the Byrds is a must. Pretty Polly is fascinating to hear electrified, seamlessly fusing traditional country with Byrdsian folk rock. One Hundred Years From Now is excellent even at this lazy slow pace.

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“One Hundred Years From Now”

:) 180 Gram Vinyl | get Sanctuary at Sundazed ]

Question
Byrds. Love em or hate em? What’s better, Dylan originals or the Byrds’ covers?

Fapardokly “Fapardokly”

Much loved folk-rock record that is highly desirable from a 60s record collector perspective but comes with a steep price tag ($300-500). I believe Fapardokly’s only lp was released in 1967 off UIP but has some of Merrell Fankhauser’s early work with the Exiles. Prior to the Exiles, Fankhauser had been in the Impacts, a surf group who released the sought after 62/63 lp Wipe Out! This lp contains the original version of Wipe Out and the album as a whole is recognized as a minor gem of surf music.

After the Impacts, Fankhauser would retreat to the desert area of Antelope Valley (CA). It was here where he began to grow as a songwriter and musician. Fankhauser would soon discover a 14 year old Jeff Cotton and eventually the two would form the Exiles. The Exiles played a kind of beat music influenced by the British Invasion and earlier artists such as Ricky Nelson and Buddy Holly. Three or four of these tracks appear on the Fapardokly album and were recorded in Glen Studios during the 1964-65 era. The best of these early tracks is Tomorrow’s Girl, a nice, downbeat Zombies inspired tune that had real potential. In all the Exiles would release 3 singles in the mid 60s of which none would result in any kind of commercial success.

There would be numerous lineup changes throughout 65-66, a time period in which Captain Beefheart would convince both John French and Jeff Cotton to join his new Magic Band. Even through all this, Fankhauser was able to record some interesting folk-rock tracks and eventually release the Fapadokly album in 1967. These newer tracks were more sophisticated and recorded at both Gold Star and Gary Paxton Studios in Hollywood CA. The album opened up with Lila, an excellent, shimmering folk-rocker that recalled the best aspects of the Byrds’ Fifth Dimension lp. The next track, the Music Scene, had a clear Bob Dylan influence and lyrically explained Fankhauser’s frustrations with the music industry. Super Market closed the album out on a high note with its beautiful 12 string acoustic guitar runs, psychedelic lyrics, and blaring trumpet. Two other tracks, Gone To Pot and the quirky Mr. Clock were both successful forays into 1966 psychedelia. The former track begs strong comparisons to the Byrds’ Eight Miles High but is still a very enjoyable piece of raga-rock. The whole album is a mini gem of mid 60s folk-rock which can easily be bought on cd for less than $10 (try the Sundazed version).

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“Mr Clock”

😀 CD Reissue | 1995 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | UIP | try ebay ]

Mad River “Mad River”

Mad River were one of the truly unique Berkeley/Bay area groups. In their brief lifetime they released one ep and two lps but have proven to be a durable psychedelic group. People often compare Mad River to Country Joe and the Fish or the Quicksilver Messenger Service but it’s important to point out that the River’s sound was much more neurotic and darker in mood.

Lawrence Hammond was the lead vocalist, principal songwriter and bass player of Mad River. Hammond was born in Berkeley but spent his childhood in the Mid-West where he was exposed to a diverse mixture of country and folk music. In the mid 60s he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was here he began studying medicine and met the future members of Mad River. The group performed in dives all throughout Ohio and in 1965 they were one of the few rock n roll groups around. To make a long story short, the group became frustrated with their efforts and eventually packed up and moved to the more progressively minded Berkeley, CA. In Berkeley the group’s lineup looked something like this: David Robinson (lead guitar), Thomas Manning (vocals and 12 string guitar), Gregory Dewey (drums), Rick Bochner (2nd lead guitar and vocals) and Lawrence Hammond (bass guitar and lead vocals). Mad River lived a meager lifestyle in Berkeley but were able to record an excellent ep off a local label in 1967. Two of the songs would end up on their self-titled 68 album albeit in different versions. One song, Orange Fire can only be heard on this great ep and is one of its highlights. Orange Fire is a minor key protest rock gem, with explosive guitar noise and cutting, angular riffs. It was both Robinson’s unique, abrasive guitar style and Hammond’s strange, quavering vocals that made people sit up and take note. Robinson’s guitar style was similar to the Magic Band of the late 60’s and much later, Television’s Tom Verlaine/Richard Lloyd on their classic Marquee Moon lp.

In 1968 the group were signed to Capital (along with the Steve Miller Band and the Quicksilver Messenger Service) and afforded the luxury to record the above debut. Disaster struck though, by way of an old recording engineer who knew nothing about current rock music. Thus, the recording and playback speed were not the same, so everything on the album came out faster and higher than Mad River had played it. When the record came out in 1968 it was savaged by Rolling Stone and hated by many rock critics alike.

Today, the Mad River lp sounds fantastic, unlike anything from the time and often considered a dark, ominous masterpiece of psychedelia. Amphetamine Gazelle is the gem of the album, with hard charging guitar riffs and a pulsing rhythm section that really captures the essence of speed. In Wind Chimes, they created an excellent rock instrumental that’s pure psychedelia and highlighted by dreamy eastern scales. Other tracks like High All The Time and Eastern Light are classic Bay area acid blues notable for Hammond’s piercing vocals and Robinson’s fine, sleazy guitar tones. Summary: Once again Rolling Stone proved to be wrong in their judgment and the Bay area produced another classic album of American psychedelia. Mad River would go on to record one more album in 1969, titled Paradise Bar and Grill. This album has much more of a roots rock vibe but is also highly recommended.

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“Amphetamine Gazelle”

:) Vinyl Reissue | Sundazed | 2008 | preorder at sundazed ]
😀 CD Reissue | 2001 | Collectors Choice | 2fer | buy at amazon ]

Ozark Mountain Daredevils “Lost Cabin Sessions”

The Lost Cabin Sessions are the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ first studio recordings from 1972. To my knowledge these early recordings were first officially released sometime in 2003 off the Varese cd label. The band would go on to become a well known and very successful country pop group similar in sound to the Eagles or the Pure Prairie League. While that sound is a bit commercial and somewhat formula driven, these early recordings represent something a little different. These 18 songs highlight a wonderful group whose sound was caught between the less bluesier aspects of early Little Feat and the astute folk country leanings of the Byrds, circa 1970.

The group had gotten together in the early 70s when Larry Lee and Steve Cash had met John Dillon at a local pizza parlor. At the time Dillon had said to both Cash and Lee “Look, I’m playing in a pizza parlor, they’re not paying me anything but I get to eat and drink all I want,” Lee replied, “Well I will play with you!” Eventually Buddy Brayfield, Randy Chowing and Michael Granda came into the fold. The Ozarks had five strong songwriters who individually brought something new and fresh to the pizza table. Being isolated in the mountains meant that they could only rely on each other for influence. Over a short period of time they would develop into a strong, cohesive unit, whose sound was highly original and roots based. The groups’ strength were their harmonies, songwriting chops, and a unique ability to fuse mountain boogie with both current and traditional country, folk, and pop music. The Lost Cabin Sessions takes 18 of the 28 tracks recorded during this fruitful early period.

It’s difficult to single out highlights on such a strong collection but personal favorites are the gorgeous country folk ballad Someday Darlin’ and the chugging country-rocker Long Time To Here. The latter’s catchy chorus and fine harmonica playing make it a near classic. A Satisfied Mind, the discs’ one cover, is given a good, sparse reading with great harmonies and a nice harmonica solo. Manager Paul Peterson remembers the recording sessions: “We were at a management office, showing our wares and Leatherwood was playing. I was sitting there, then, I felt somebody come in the room and sit behind me. And then as they got up and walked out, I heard their voice say ‘That’s a really good sound.’ I turned around to see that it was Neil Young.” Leatherwood is one of the more rock influenced numbers but it’s a good one, with catchy guitar figures and a hummable melody. Other tracks like Fly Away Home and Chicken Train hit a good authentic bluegrass vibe with rugged banjo playing and down-home mouthbow.

This is a terrific disc and probably better than any of the studio albums they would soon release. The performances are superb, the sound is underground country-rock and the playing is lived-in and timeless. At around $10 on the amazon marketplace, this disc is an absolute steal.

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“Someday Darlin”

😀 CD Issue | 2003 | Varese | buy from amazon ]

The Mystery Meat “Profiles”

Profiles

The Mystery Meat record was privately pressed by five Illinois college students in 1968. Only around 25 copies, each now fetching upwards of $6K, were made. The extreme rarity, combined with the provocative cover art and the visceral sounds underneath it all have made Profiles a garage LP of legends.

Legendary lost albums are not loved for their rarity alone. The Mystery Meat has a primitive sound as any dirty garage recording and then some, but the quality of the songs shine through as early as your first listen and maintain Profiles’ unique longevity.  Soft spoken, innocent vocals and sensitive lyrics contrast frightening drums recorded, it would seem, under a blanket. The muffled rhythm section is really distinct, recorded in the cavernous basement of a school building at Blackburn College, rounded on the high end with fierce Farfisa organ and trebly electric rhythm guitar.

It’s not all about loud scary beat rock, but good, strong songwriting, courtesy of Wayne Joplin, and a tender angle. “Both Have To Pay” and “You Won’t Believe It” stick out for their melancholy sound; the melodies alone seem to convey a love lost. Lead singer Dick Leighninger clearly knew how to put emotion into his vocal, and I can just picture the girl in his mind during these makeshift sessions.  “Don’t Take Me” is an exceptionally bizarre ode to death, “Sunshine Makes It” a swirling and slightly experimental piece. The rest make up an album of tunes so great any listener should be surprised. All originals.

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“Give Me Your Love”

😀 CD Reissue | 2005 | Shadoks | buy from amazon ]

The Litter “Distortions”

The Litter were one of Minneapolis’ most popular garage bands. Their orgins can be traced back to two mid 60s garage bands, the Victors and the Tabs. In late 1966 the Litter recorded their first single, Action Woman backed by a cover of the Who’s Legal Matter. The A side was not a Litter original but a Ted Kendrick composition. Ted Kendrick produced Action Woman which was eventually released off the Scotty label sometime in early 67.

From the intro, Action Woman is a flame thrower garage punk single with snarling vocals and one of the great extended guitar solos courtesy of Bill Strandlof. Many feel this single was one of rock n roll’s finest ever and quite possibly Minnesota’s answer to the Stones’ Satisfaction. At this point the group were asked to record an album, since Action Woman enjoyed modest local success. Bill Strandlof recorded a great conventional garage track in Soul Searching (another Kendrick original) before he was replaced with Zippy Caplan.

Over the years the Litter’s impact has dimmed, possibly due to the group’s lack of original material and the recent excavation of other, newer great 60s rock rarities (which emphasize original material). With the exception of one brief guitar instrumental The Mummy and the above tracks, all of Distortions is padded out with covers of classic British Invasion singles. The group stumble when covering the Who’s Substitute but give Legal Matter a good punky reading with some nice fuzz guitar breaks. I’m a Man is given the Yardbirds’ treatment with tons of swirling feedback, thick guitar distortion, and insane white noise – this is one of the best versions I’ve ever heard! Codine displays some solid folk rock chops with powerful drum work and a slowed down arrangement. Somebody Help Me (Spencer Davis Group), Rock My Mind (Yardbirds) and What’cha Gonna Do About It? (Small Faces) are energetic and full of fuzz, angry vocals, driving guitars, and pummeling beats.

With the exception of Substitute, Distortions is a very good garage rock platter worth owning. In some ways Distortions is similar to another classic cover heavy lp, garage band T.C. Atlantic’s Live At The Bel-Rae Ballroom. The Litter would go on to record two more lps before breaking up. Caplan would go on to record a very worthwhile early 70’s hard rock lp with Lightning.

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“I’m A Man”

😀 CD Reissue | 1999 | Arf Arf | buy from amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1999 | Get Hip | search ebay ]

Mix Tape 2

 

SIDE A

1. I Don’t Know You – New Riders of the Purple Sage
off the self-titled debut from 1971

2. Nazi Apocalypse –  Simply Saucer 

3. Fickle Little Girl The Tribe
mid 60’s, midwest garage single off the Fenton label

4. Michaelangelo – Jimmy Campbell
from the Son of Anastasia lp, 1969

5. Karma – P.F. Sloan
non-lp 1967 single

6. Coragem Pra Suportar – Gilberto Gil
from self-titled 1968 album

7. I’m Coming Home – The Deviants
from their 1967 debut, Ptooff

8. I’m Fixing A Hole – Duffy Power
from self-titled 1969 Spark LP

9. El Loco – Los Yorks
from ’69 lp

SIDE B

10. A Thousand Years – Relatively Clean Rivers
from their sole 1975 release

11. Often I Wonder – The Spike Drivers
a Detroit group with a clear San Fransisco sound. This track was taken from the group compilation Folkrocking Psychedelic Innovation and is an outtake of the original 45

12. Who Is That Girl – Scott Richardson Case (or SRC)
this was an early single off A-Square from 1967

13. Looking At You – MC5
their second single from 1968, off A-Square

14. Cuando Llegue El Año 2000 – Los Gatos
from 1968 lp, Seremos Amigos

15. Father’s Getting Old – Chrysalis
from self-titled 1968 album

16. Oh My My – The Common People
non-lp single from mid 60’s

17. Egyptian Candy – Kaleidoscope
1968 outtake

18. Journey Thru The Past – Neil Young
Time Fades Away – 1973

download: mixtape2.zip
(79 mb / 58 min)

The Moon “Without Earth”

The Moon were somewhat of a second tier 60’s rock super group. This group was headed by David Marks and Matthew Moore. Prior to the Moon, Marks had been in the Beach Boys (rhythm guitar) and played on their first four albums. After this stint he fronted Dave and the Marksmen who enjoyed several local hits. Moore had been in the Matthew Moore Plus Four and had previously recorded with Capital and White Whale. The Moon formed right after Marks had disbanded his latest group, the Band Without a Name, who themselves recorded 2 singles for Tower and Sidewalk.

The Moon recorded two albums in 1968 and 1969 for Imperial. At this point the lineup was Matthew Moore (piano, chief songwriter and lead vocals), David Marks (lead guitar), Larry Brown (drums) and Drew Bennett (bass). The above debut, Without Earth is by far the stronger record with more psychedelic arrangements and a greater consistency – though some fans would argue this, favoring the more mature sounding sophomore effort. There’s a clear Magical Mystery Tour feel to this album and the group covers two songs off Colours’ (another obscure American popsike group) debut album. Of the two tracks, Brother Lou’s Love Colony catches the ear most, with its nice little sitar flourishes and Beatles influenced bridge. The remaining 10 tracks are Moore originals, all really good but none sound like they could have reached top 40 radio. The group hit a good hard rock groove on Got To Be On My Way, a tune notable for its liquid distorted guitar. I Should Be Dreaming and Walking Around are spacey psych pop gems whose backward cymbals glitter and flicker while the sitars and vocal echo help convey an authentic acid experience. One of the best tracks off the album, Someday Girl, is a beautiful venture into soft pop with a heavenly melody and even prettier strings. Another similar track, Face, sports a nice pro sound with great fuzz bass and a catchy chorus while Give Me More achieves fragile beauty.

Jon Stebbins chronicled both the Moon and David Marks’ story in “The Lost Beach Boy.” In this book author Jon Stebbins mentions that Give Me More was what he felt to be the group’s most enduring track and a work that defined the Moon’s sound best. This album may not be as distinctive or original as the Smoke but it’s still a mini gem of Beatles inspired rock – even the cover art recalls the psychedelic era Fab Four. Without Earth was recently reissued by Rev-Ola and includes the group’s much inferior followup, The Moon.

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“Got To Be On My Way”

😀 CD Reissue | 2004 | Revola | buy from revola | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Imperial | search ebay ]