Archive for December, 2008

Them “Time Out! Time In For”

Time In! Time Out For

After Van Morrison’s departure from the group in 1966, Them relocated to Los Angeles, California and released a string of worthwhile efforts.  The group completely revamped their image and sound behind Jim Armstrong’s accomplished guitar work and Ken McDowell’s vocals; the only hold over from the Van Morrison era was guitarist Alan Henderson.  Now And “Them” and Time Out! Time In For are by far and away the best LPs the post Van Morrison Them ever produced.  The liners from the Rev-Ola reissue written by notable British rock historian Jon Mojo Mills take it almost too far, stating “they mastered West Coast psychedelia like no other Irish band.  And quite why Van Morrison gets all the credit is beyond me.  Which songs are better?  Gloria and Here Comes The Night or Dirty Old Man and Time Out Time In?”

Let me get this out in the open right here: the psychedelic era Them is nowhere near as good as early Them, particularly Them’s first LP and the early singles with Van Morrison (I’m sure psych fans will take issue with this!).  Early Them was a hard edged British R&B group who was both innovative and revered in their day.  Van Morrison is a legend, however, and Them’s early work is considered some of the best pure rock n roll from that time frame (64-66).

That being said, this album is a pretty good psychedelic record though not the masterpiece dealers and rock critics make it out to be.  This is the kind of album you get after you’ve heard a few hundred or so classics and are thirsting for more UK psychedelia.  The musicianship is way above average, particularly Jim Armstrong’s guitar work.  Mean lean fuzz leads are painted all over this album.  The opening cut “Time Out For Time In” is very good with jazzy time signatures and effective sitar work.   Some of the tracks are marred by dramatic vocal phrasing and pretentious lyrics but that’s a minor complaint.  Exotic numbers like “The Moth” and the lyrically bizarre “Waltz of the Flies” work best, employing a variety of instruments (mandolin) and strange sounds.   Another highlight, “Black Widow Spider,” is a classic sitar headswirler while the boys give a good blues psych reading of “I Put A Spell On You” (titled here “I Put A Hex On You”).

Once again, if you expect the unexpected and enjoy classic psychedelia, this record is for you.  It’s not the original Them but not many bands are.  The Alan Henderson/Jim Armstrong/Ken McDowell lineup was a very underrated group and while this LP may not be an essential purchase, the music is still very good and full of mysticism.  During this era, Them also had a good live reputation throughout the LA area and released some fine singles including the excellent garage punker “Dirty Old Man.”  Icing on the cake is the original vinyl album sleeve’s beautiful psychedelic collage.

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“Waltz Of The Flies”

:D CD Reissue | 2004 | Rev Ola | buy from revola ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Tower | search ebay ]

Best Reissue of the Years 2007-2008

Bob Martin “Midwest Farm Disaster”

Try to read any customer or user review of Midwest Farm Disaster and end up finding a host of incredible stories. Bob Martin is an unrecognized music hero and this record is brilliant and perfect. Self-reissued on CD Baby, the album’s about loss and hard hard times. If you ever bought a Dylan or Van album consider this essential. This is the one I came back to the most last year.

Read about it here, here, and here. must mention that stwof hyped it all year.

Thanks for the heads up to Jason, read his review here.

:D Buy it at CD BABY | Riversong ]

Runners Up
Sundazed – Dennis Wilson “Pacific Ocean Blue”
World In Sound – Cold Sun “Dark Shadows”
El Records – Gilberto Gil “The Sound of Revolution”
Shadoks – The Contents Are “Through You”
Raven – Richie Havens ” Richard P. Havens 1983″
Rev-Ola – Q65 “Nothin But Trouble – The Best Of”
Manifesto Records – Flo & Eddie s/t
Domino Records – Robert Wyatt Catalogue
Wayback Records “Scream Loud – The Fenton Story”
Dusty Groove – Gal Costa “1969”
Sundazed – Moby Grape Catalogue

EDIT

More Runners Up
Jade “Faces of Jade”
Mythos
First two Idle Race albums
Tamam Shud Goolutionites

Jim Ford – Point of No Return
What were your favorite reissues from the last two years?

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends “Motel Shot”

Maybe the first “Unplugged” album, Motel Shot presents Delaney & Bonnie & Friends live in the studio performing traditional numbers in the styles of gospel, country, and folk, in addition to four Delaney penned tunes (the hit of which was “Never Ending Song Of Love”). Luckily for us, Delaney & Bonnie’s “friends” include Gram Parsons, John Hartford, Leon Russell (long overdue in these pages), Joe Cocker, Clarence White, Dave Mason, and Duane Allman. If this crew had got together in 1971 to record nonsense it would still be worth listening to, but they pour it out instead, dishing soulful performances with rousing gusto.

Motel Shot was recorded in the spirit of a late-night motel jam session, after the show – back to the basics. On top of the traditional numbers are standards from the likes of AP Carter, Bob Wills (“Faded Love” is a standout slow tempo killer) Chuck Willis, and Robert Johnson. The performances invite listeners to become a part of the music with a communal feel. Grab another tambourine or just bob your head. “Come On In My Kitchen” is featured for its remarkable sparsity in such a solid groove.

For more from this type of crew, take a look at Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen DVD, with excellent tour footage and backstage jam sessions offering a glimpse into the spontaneous traditional music paid homage by this record.

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“Come On In My Kitchen”

:D CD Reissue | 1997 | Atco | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Atco | search ebay ]

Mighty Baby “A Jug Of Love”

After the release of their scorching debut, Mighty Baby drastically switched format and recorded this Dead/Airplane-influenced rural LP. Both are great records, but hardly by the same band.

The self-titled lead off track would get your attention first, it got mine enough to include it on the very first Rising Storm Podcast. This track, and the album overall, is loaded with vicious string bender guitar licks from either Alan King or Martin Stone (can anybody confirm?). Whether it’s a bender or not, Clarence White fans should take note for the onslaught of high-register fancy guitar pickin contained herein.   My only complaint is the length of songs, tending to jam on a bit, however to those looking to soak in these type of sounds this is a dream. Besides, with a touch of class and some minor theatrics they manage to give noodling a good name.

Influences range from The Band on the grooving “Tasting The Life,” CSNY on mellow “Virgin Spring,” and Untitled Byrds all over. “Virgin Springs” is a song so familar it sounds like a cover, I just can’t find any evidence of an original version. In this case, along with “Slipstreams,” the album is responsible for at least two bonafide rural classics.

Jug of Love is what happens to a band after their rock break out leads them to Sufism and a jaded view of the music industry; always makes for an interesting sound! Check out Jason’s post on their s/t debut to compare this to the “sleek, powerful piece of psychedelia” that is Egyptian Tomb (updated link).

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“Keep On Jugging”

:D CD Reissue | 2006 | Sunbeam | A Jug of Love ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Blue Horizon | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

These Trails “These Trails”

These Trails was an acid folk group who released a very rare record in 1973.  The lp was released by Sinergia and is probably one of the best Hawaiian lps along with Mu.

Prominent members of the group were Margaret Morgan (vocals, guitar and dulcimer), Patrick Cockett (guitar, slide guitar and vocals) and Dave Choy (arp synthesizer, recorder, arrangements and final mix).  Margaret Morgan handles most of the lead vocals with Patrick Cockett occasionally chiming in.  Morgan’s vocals are dreamy and ideally suited for this kind of organic music (acid folk).  Comparisons that come to mind are Linda Perhacs, though Morgan’s vocals are more innocent and angelic and the music on this lp clearly betrays a Hawaiian influence.  Many of the songs are relatively pop friendly; this isn’t difficult, challenging music that has to be listened to closely – ie folk guitar virtuousos spinning off long, complex guitar solos or intricate passages with finely tuned arrangements – it’s not that kind of record.  The synthesizers give tracks like Of Broken Links an otherworldly sound, unlike anything you’ve ever heard.  El Rey Pescador is graced by some light sitar touches and close harmony singing.

Each track stands out on its own but Psyche I & Share Your Water is a tremendous favorite.  This 5 minute track begins with a calm, soothing folk feel highlighted by some fine acoustic guitar work.  Eventually it descends into bad trip territory with ghastly vocals and spooky electronics – an outstanding track, very trippy and worth the price of admission alone.  Garden Botanum is another strong hightlight that hits like a ray of Hawaiian sunshine, the arrangements are free and green with lots of interesting twists, the vocals are beautifully exotic.  This lp is one of the most relaxing listening experiences I’ve ever come across, an album to savour.  The songs are full of simple beauty and the power of the performances will never diminish over time.

If you’re looking for something different, These Trails could be the right tonic.  It’s one of the hidden gems from the early 70s and has been reissued on cd but is somewhat hard to come by these days.

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“Psyche I & Share Your Water”

:D Reissue | 2011 | Drag City | buy from drag ]
:) These Trails | google search | ebay search ]

The Master’s Apprentices “1965-1968”

If the Easybeats were considered the Beatles of Down Under than the Master’s Apprentices were surely Australia’s answer to the Rolling Stones.  They released 5 records during their 65-72 heyday, including the above debut and their classic hard rock album, A Toast To Panama Red.  In between this period the group released a few unfocused but interesting lps and several good singles.  The Mick Bower era (65-68-) is usually considered the group’s highwater mark, even though Panama Red is an excellent progressive hard rock album.

The Master’s Apprentices started out in the mid 60s as the Mustangs.  This group played raucous RnB, covers of 50s rock standards, a few originals and some instrumentals.  Eventually the group would develop into something more original, under the leadership and guidance of guitarist/songwriter Mick Bower and vocalist Jim Keays.  In 1966 the group released their debut Astor 45 Undecided/War or Hands of Time.  The A-side was a powerful, raw RnB track that had cruching guitar riffs and a unique chord progression.  As great as Undecided was, War or Hands of Time was even better.  This unique anti-war track captured the original group at their peak with a powerful, reverberating guitar intro, hard hitting drum fills and a fractured acid solo.   Even today most Aussie rock aficionados agree that this was one of the most exciting singles to ever come out of Australia.  Their next Astor 45, released in 1967,  was Buried and Dead.  This was another classic single and one of the most explosive acid punk numbers ever recorded.  Mid way thru there’s a strong punkoid psych solo although it should be noted that the flip side, featured on their debut album, is rather weak.

The debut, made up of Bower originals and a handful of covers was released in 1967.  Admittedly there are five weak tracks – She’s My Girl, the feedback laden Beatles’ cover I Feel Fine, Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode, My Girl, and Don’t Fight It.  The rest of the album is rock solid and full of driving garage rockers and early psychedelia.  Undecided, War or Hands of Time and Buried and Dead are all featured on the lp though Theme For A Social Climber and the raga influenced But One Day were strong psychedelic numbers too.  Hot Gully Wind is a razor sharp bluesy garage rocker that recalled Ireland’s Them while Dancing Girl featured some slightly freaky guitar work that made it a worthy tune.  The good tracks (7 of them) were great, so based on this, the Master’s Apprentice lp comes highly recommended.

The Masters would release two other classic 45s during the Mick Bower era.  In 1967 Astor released one of their biggest hits, Living In A Child’s Dream.  This single hit the Aussie top ten and is often considered one of the greatest psych singles of all time.  There are no guitar freakouts or wild solos (though Rick Morrison’s guitar solo is tasteful and imaginative), it’s a mellow, spacey pop tune with flower power lyrics and a radio friendly sound.  The single’s B-side, Tired Of Just Wandering was another great Bower penned psych track.  In 1968 the group released Elevator Driver.  By then both guitarist Rick Morrison and Mick Bower had left the group.  Bower leaving the group was equivalent to Syd Barrett exiting the Floyd: nobody thought the Masters would recover such a devastating blow.  Against all odds they released their last great early 45 and to these ears it may edge out Child’s Dream as the better single.  Elevator Driver was originally titled Silver People and is another ace psychedelic track with vocal distortion and a good guitar friendly arrangement.  Ascension released a great cd back in 2000 that combines the Master’s first lp with all their early singles.  True, there are a few weak tracks and the disc is rather hard to find but it’s a great buy from one of rock’s lost bands.

If you’re into the Pretty Things, Outsiders or Q65, the Master’s Apprentices’ 1965-1968 is absolutely mandatory listening.

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“Buried And Dead”

:D CD Reissue | search amazon ]
:) Orig Vinyl | 1967 | Astor | search ebay ]

uReview: The Doors “Soft Parade”

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The Doors… overplayed or overlooked? What’s your call on this oft-maligned LP?

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“Tell All The People”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Rhino | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Vogue | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album |  download at amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Jerry Jeff Walker “Driftin’ Way Of Life”

It amazes me that nobody seems to know the man behind one of the world’s most well-known songs. Not that this is too uncommon, it’s just that Jerry Jeff Walker’s music is so damn good for the heart it’s a mystery why he never became a household name.

Walker wasn’t technically native to Texas, hailing from Oneonta, New York, but he knew he was home when he landed in Austin. Before this album’s release, JJW was a member of Circus Maximus who worked the Greenwich Village scene and released two psychedelic/folk-rock records more than worthy of investigation. His next official release yielded a song that would give the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band a top ten hit and become one of the most recorded tunes of all time, “Mr. Bojangles.”

Jerry Jeff’s six or seven prime albums contain many of my most loved tunes;  every record is a prized treasure. But before the boozy, gonzo years to come and outlaw country sound Jerry would help to define in mid-70s Austin, one album stands out above the rest: a gorgeous folk-country gem the equal of any Dylan or 60s troubadour piece, 1969’s Driftin’ Way Of Life.

Unlike most of his later records, all the songs herein are Walker’s, and among the first he ever wrote.  Any JJW record has to come out swinging, and the title track kicks it off accordingly. “Driftin’ Way Of Life,” is a kicking little number that sets a stage for something much sweeter. “Morning Song To Sally” is a lovely little lovesick gem from the depths of Jerry’s soft side. “Ramblin Scramblin'” is more of a snicker than a laugh, but works along side the old-fashioned “Gertrude,” haunting road ode “Old Road” with just voice and harmonica, and the psyched up “North Cumberland Blues.”  Only thing better than a ballad like “No Roots In Ramblin'” is the album’s closer, which somehow gets the whole story straight in just a few lines, “Dust On My Boots.”

If you do the math right, and cross check it with his 1999 biography, Gypsy Songman (highly recommended read), you find Jerry really was drifting – all over the States from NYC to New Orleans, writing these songs and performing them night after night. High on the success of “Bojangles” this record was a contractual obligation to Vanguard but recorded right in the prime. Jerry: “After so many years of hitchhiking and nights spent on the streets or on borrowed couches, my existence had become a warm Manhattan apartment, a vintage Corvette in an expensive parking garage, whiskey and music all night, enough money and enough fame to keep it going endlessly.” The years of roaming gives the album’s theme credence and a taste of Driftin’ might be all it takes to inspire you to ditch the doldrums and get out on the road. Don’t pick up that book if you are wishing to hold a steady job.

The group sounds like classic Nashville, a good solid band trading backgrounds between the verses. “The album had a real strong country feel. There was no question that in 1969 my music had taken a definite turn, and it was an extremely comfortable sound for me. I felt like I was headed home.” Some notable touches include the tasteful electric piano and swirling steel on “Shell Game” and flatpicking from the underappreciated David Bromberg. According to Jerry he was “the reason man created stringed instruments. David touched them with a lover’s fingers and they moaned that true love right back at him. Wood and wire and flesh spoke.”

JJW’s deep, familiar voice is like a drug. When you hear it cut through the shuffle you can’t help but smile: Jerry you old scamp. He sings to you like an old friend. A one-of-a-kind songman, one of my personal favorites; bits of story, sadness, humor, irreverence, experience, straight up fun, and just some damn pretty songs. Get Driftin.

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“Dust On My Boots”

:D CD Reissue | 1990 | Vanguard | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Vanguard | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | Driftin’ Way of Life ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]