Archive for February, 2009

Reg King (self-titled)

Reg King

Reg King belonged to the Action, Mighty Baby, Blossom Toes,  B.B. Blunder family tree, leaving the Action before they became Mighty Baby and performing with (ex-Blossom Toes) B.B. Blunder after releasing this acclaimed and rare solo record.

Members from the bands above would form the backbone for this project, recorded over three years and guesting Stevie Winwood on keys. The Action had cut their teeth covering Motown soul during the mid 60s and those influences had not gone amiss for this LP, albeit through distorted guitars and stoney jams. The leadoff track “Must Be Something Else Around” is a blistering slice of hard English rock that probably gave Led Zep a brief jolt of anxiety. “That Ain’t Living” has the explosive impatience of certain tracks I know from The Action, but add this album’s key ingredient: raw and relentless blue-eyed soul, propelled by Reg King’s voice – probably the best of the British hard-rock-soul singers.

It’s not a grand slam on the other hand. I’m not much of a blues-hound, so “Down The Drain,” or six-minutes of predictable blues doesn’t do it for me. But “That Ain’t Living” pushes hard through a fully worthwhile six of spirited rock. There are a couple less memorable tracks, but the good hooks make this record worth a spin. Perhaps a good introduction to the Action family tree .

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“Must Be Something Else Around”

:D CD reissue | 2007 | Circle Records | Reg King ]
:) Original Issue | mega rare | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The HiFis “Snakes and HiFis”

Snakes and HiFis

The HiFis were a wonderful mid 60s  London-based group that would eventually relocate to Germany and release the above Star-Club lp in 1967.  Prior to the LPs release, the HiFis (also known as the Hi-Fi’s) also released a series of singles.  These singles were more in a soul beat style though some of them are pretty good and worth seeking out.  Their lineup consisted of Brian Bennett (vocals and keyboards), Mike Douglas (vocals and guitars),  Malcolm Lenny (vocals and lead guitar), Gary Unwin (bass), and Mel Wright (drums).

Many UK groups would relocate to countries such as Germany or Italy because being a British Invasion group that played original rock n roll was seen as something special abroad.  Many of these groups like the Rokes, the Primitives, and the Sorrows (a really excellent group) would see great success and sell lots of records.  The HiFis did pretty well in Germany and were a popular live group.  This success allowed them to record their only album, Snakes and HiFis.  I have seen other magazines describe the lp as “a brilliant mixed bag of an lp” or “one of the finest examples of the beat-bands-go-bonkers syndrome.”  I have even heard some compare the HiFi’s guitar and rhythm section to that of the legendary Monks (a funhouse effect in which everything seems about ready to fall apart but the band pulls thru in the end to keep things together).  I agree with all these comparisons though it’s really hard to put a label on the HiFis, they were pretty unique.

There are several great tracks on Snakes and HiFis: Tread Softly For The Sleepers (a great chunky mod psych track that reminds me of late period Action), Snakes and Ladders, What’s A Bulb, I’m A Box, Calorie Ann (soaring vocals and whacked out lyrical concerns), Odd Man Out, You’re Haunting Me, My Cards Numbered 17, and the awesome but strange Uwe Aus Duisburg.  Just by looking at these titles one can tell that this music is NOT the typical beat psych fare.  As mentioned before, this lp was recorded at a time when beat groups were experimenting with different sounds and turning to psychedelia, so there’s a bit of an advanced mid-60s sound – short 2 minute pop songs with a freaky edge.  For those of you who love the Kinks, the Idle Race, the Move, the Tages and the Ro-d-y’s (a great group from the Netherlands), you’ll love this reissue (the 2008 Wooden Hill cd version to be exact).  Standout picks on my end are the buzzing organ psych of What’s a Bulb, which is an absolutely brilliant track, and Uwe Aus Duisburg.  The latter track vaguely reminds me of The Move with its galloping tempo and gonzoid lyrics – it’s a track that would fit in well with today’s modern indie radio stations.  Other good ones are the Pet Sounds influenced You’re Haunting Me and the truly bizarre I’m A Box.  Both of these tracks carry a unique mellow buzz and one may also note that I’m A Box was strangely released as a single (this track had no hit potential whatsoever).  Wooden Hill reissues are usually limited, so pick one up if you can.  Snakes and HiFis is definitely an obscure gem and a must hear for fans of Brit psych.

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“What’s A Bulb”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Wooden Hill | google shop ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1967 | Star-Club | ebay ]


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The American Dream “Untitled Demo” (The American Way?) (source)

The Spades (13th Floor Elevators) “We Sell Soul”

The Kinks “Rainy Day In June”

Fred Neil “Just A Little Bit of Rain”

The Savages “Intro/Poor Man’s son”

Rising Storm “The Rain Falls Down”

The Action “Something To Say”

The Idle Race “Morning Sunshine”


The Beatles
THE BYRDS (forgot to list them originally)
The Pretty Things
Link Wray

uReview: Steely Dan “Can’t Buy A Thrill”

Can't Buy A Thrill

12345678910 (33 votes, average: 8.18 out of 10)

“The perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.” –Rolling Stone

“Think of the Dan as the first post-boogie band: the beat swings more than it blasts or blisters, the chord changes defy our primitive subconscious expectations, and the lyrics underline their own difficulty…” –Robert Christgau

“Steely Dan gargles my balls.” – Seth Rogen’s character in “Knocked Up

Q: What’s your take on Steely Dan’s 1972 debut?

8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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Odds n Ends | Lost singles and forgotten tracks…

Zakary Thaks – Face to Face
Zakary Thaks came from Corpus Christi Texas, an area that was considered a hotbed for such groups. Much of their reputation rests on 1966’s Bad Girl, an incredible single notable for its jaunty start-stop tempo. They managed to release 6 great 45s throughout the decade, some of which were local hits. Most of their 45 releases are originals and cut while the group were still in their teens (they covered just one Kinks track, I Need You – a good version too). Face to Face, their second J-Beck single released in 1967 was arguably the group’s finest moment. It begins with one of the all time great guitar intros and is no doubt one of Texas’ prime garage punkers. The intro sounds like swirling police sirens but Face to Face is also anchored down by a good chaotic fuzz guitar solo and an uplifting chorus. This single was a huge regional hit (selling over 6,000 copies) giving the Thaks major local popularity and momentum to break into other regions/states. The group was poised for a major breakthru but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. All the group’s singles and outtakes have been compiled on BeatRocket’s excellent Form The Habit.

It’s almost unfair to call the Zakary Thaks a garage rock group. Their sound was definitely raw but they were great musicians, well above the typical garage band standard. Also, their sound was constantly evolving and changing throughout the 60’s – just listen to all of their singles. The first time I heard Face to Face my head was blown off clean, it’s a terrific song from a group that were ahead of their time.

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“Face To Face”

:) Vinyl Reissue | “Form The Habit” | Beat Rocket | buy from sundazed ]

The Mind’s Eye – Help, I’m Lost
This group was short-lived and from San Antonio Texas but their single is excellent and worth the search. The B-side had come from Louis Cabaza, Steve Perron and Chris Holzhaus’ prior group, the Argyles. Bill Ash played guitar for the Mind’s Eye briefly and prior to this was a member of the Stoics. The Stoics released a double sided garage rock gem in Enough Of What I Need/Hate – suitably underproduced and menacing. The Mind’s Eye’s only A-side, Help, I’m Lost, is a primitive garage psych classic. Perron’s vocals are mad while the string arrangement adds a sophisticated texture to the swirling organ and acidic raga guitar solo. This single was recorded in 1967 and released off the Jox label. As with many great singles from this era, it received very little commercial feedback and sank without a trace. Many of the Mind’s Eye members went on to form the Children, who would release a good psych pop record in 1968 (all the above tracks were released on Gear Fab’s Rebirth reissue by the Children).

The Stoics:

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“Enough Of What I Need”

The Mind’s Eye:

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“Help I’m Lost”

:D CD Reissue | 2002 | Gear Fab Records | buy from amazon ]

Morning Disaster – Black Leather Books
This track was never released. Morning Disaster were from Colonial Heights Virginia (a Petersburg suburb). They recorded two other good psych pop tracks that also went unreleased at the time: Song of Innocence and Urban 44. All three tracks appeared on Aliens, Psychos & Wild Things Volume 3 ( a great compilation of local Virginia garage psych bands). Not much is known about the group but I believe these tracks were recorded in 1968 with Black Leather Books/Urban 44 as a projected single. Stanley Rose, vocals and guitar, had written all three tracks and been in prior garage bands the Lost Cause and Fugitives. Black Leather Books is his finest 3 minutes, a demented masterpiece of spacey psychedelia with compelling lyrics “all of your children, waiting in slumber, sad golden children, waiting in slumber.”

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“Black Leather Books”

:D CD Compilation | 2003 | Arcania Int’l | buy from amazon ]

Thor’s Hammer – The Big Beat Country Dance
One of Iceland’s finest groups, Thor’s Hammer (in Iceland they were known as Hijomar) released singles, eps and a few albums then eventually morphed into progressive rock group Trubrot. The late 60s albums were more in a pop-rock/psych-pop mode though perhaps their best work was the 1966 ep titled Umbarumbamba. This disc featured four hard hitting rockers: My Life, I Don’t Care, Better Days and the Big Beat Country Dance. My Life, Big Beat Country Dance, and I Don’t Care are acknowledged killers but Better Days is also pretty good. Big Beat Country Dance sizzles from the intro and forges on with a skull crushing intensity that never lets up – these guys knew how to raise hell. The group recorded these sides in London’s Lansdowne studios. Every song is full of frenzied drum work and walls of guitar distortion. This ep is essential for fans of freakish mid 60s beat sounds.

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“The Big Beat Country Dance”

:D CD Reissue | 2004 | Big Beak UK | buy from amazon ]

The Red Krayola “God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It”

God Bless the Red Krayola

Sued by Crayola for naming rights, this is the band’s first album under their new ‘Krayola’ moniker, a stripped down follow-up to their debut record, the freaked out Parable of Arable Land. Actually it’s a remake of a rejected (by International Artists) 2nd album called Coconut Hotel. Mayo Thompson essentially pasted together a daring audio collage with amateur musicians, dada lyrics sung by choruses of friends, original (opposed to ‘ found’) sounds, a little Texas grit, psychedelic glue, and it holds up well today.

I love how the band continually loses the rhythmn on “Sherrif Jack,” teasing any possibility of a groove, eventually bringing back the ‘Say Hello To Jamie Jones’ motif when things fall apart. Tracks like “Big” are really ahead of its time with the unintelligible childspeak sample and organ, bass, guitar trio playing a scarcely organized sample-and-hold pattern. Short songs make the album really tolerable and engaging, an enjoyable trip that would influence countless lo-fi and bedroom musicians for years to come.

This album reminds us that music doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be serious, and you don’t have to be a virtuoso to record a fantastic record.

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“Sherriff Jack”

:D CD Reissue | 2CD w/ Parable | 2007 | Snapper | buy at amazon ]
:D CD Reissue | Mini Gatefold Limited Edition | 2003 | Sunspots | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | International Artists | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The International Submarine Band “Safe At Home”

Safe At Home

This was Gram Parsons’ debut album, the eternally underrated Safe At Home.  Prior to this he had recorded solo demos, music with an early folk band the Shilohs and a few singles with the International Submarine Band – all worthwhile stuff.  Parsons formed this group after he had dropped out of Harvard and moved to New York City.  While he was no stranger to the recording studio, critics and music fans unfairly label Safe At Home as a tentative early album that showed signs of greatness. While it was nowhere near as influential as Gilded Palace of Sin, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, or Parsons’ two solo discs, time has shown Safe At Home to be much more than an early throw away.

The remaining members consisted of rhythm guitarist Bob Buchanan, bass player Ian Dunlop and drummer Jon Corneal.  The album is disappointingly short at 9 songs but all the performances are memorable and Gram’s talent as a bandleader is clearly on display.  Even so early on in his career Parsons’ vocal and songwriting abilities were obvious and on the money.  The rest of the group is tight and engaging, reminding me of a garage band playing country music – reckless playing and soulful harmonies.  There are four originals: an early version of Do You Know How It Feels To Be Lonesome which is sparse but very effective, Luxury Liner, Strong Boy, and Blue Eyes.  The latter three tracks are country rock classics, kind of like early benchmarks for the genre.  Luxury Liner charges hard like a freight train and is probably the most popular track off the original lp.  Without a doubt the album’s most rock oriented number, this track is essential listening.  Just as good is Blue Eyes and Strong Boy which are closer to pure country and show off great Parsons vocal performances.  Strong Boy is one of the true country rock classics, an absolute must hear.

The remaining tracks are wisely chosen covers, all great renditions too.  Satisfied Mind is notable for its powerful drum work, Folsom Prison Blues has great stinging guitar leads and I Must Be Somebody Else You’ve Known sports a gorgeous, catchy chorus that’s worth the price of admission.  The original lp was released off Lee Hazlewood’s LHI Records in 1968.  At the time it was praised widely by the likes of Glen Campbell and Don Everly though sales were pretty poor.  There is really much more to this story that I’m leaving out but my main objective was to comment on the strength of the songs and general quality of performance.

Parsons left the group before the lp’s release and remained inactive for a few months before joining the Byrds.  Many of you know this record, so in a sense it’s not really a lost album like The Wheel (Bernie Schwartz) or Morning.  But taken as a whole, Safe At Home is a fresh, groundbreaking record, that at least in my mind is a classic.  The best cd version is on Sundazed, orignal artwork and all.

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“Strong Boy”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2004 | Sundazed | purchase ]
:D CD Reissue | 2004 | Sundazed | purchase ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Jerry Jeff Walker “Bein’ Free”

Bein' Free

This one, his 4th solo, was recorded after Mr. Bojangles, Driftin’ Way of Life, and Five Years Gone. He would imprint his legacy on the next one, Jerry Jeff Walker (an Austin masterpiece), but bridge from his drifter-folk career with Bein’ Free, by no means just a three star record.

He kicks it off with a customary party track, “I’m Gonna Tell On You.” This song embodies the “gonzo” sound, with a crew hollering background choruses and one-liners, a perfectly loose feel, boozy grin on your singer’s face. “Stoney.” “Nobody’s.” “But For The Time.” Hard not to fall for the heartfelt Jerry songs. “Harmonica Talk” is pretty awesome, a trio of hambone, jaw harp, and harp riffs. “Please Let Me Be” is especially interesting with sandpaper blocks, harpsichord, and some fantastic pipey (synth?) sounds I can’t even make out.

“Some Go Home,” one of “Jerry Jeff’s train songs” was the track that got me early on; JJ’s no slouch on a storyteller and this is kind of a precursor to “Desperados.” Bein’ Free is a special album, the kind that benefits from vinyl’s hum and crackle. I’m sure the CD sounds just fine.

Q: Any other fans out there? Care to list your top three JJW songs or records?

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“Some Go Home”

;) MP3 Album | download Bein’ Free ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | ATCO | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Lonnie Mack “The Hills of Indiana”

Hills of Indiana

Probably due to the success of The Band, starting in 1970 a slew of rockabilly and rhythm and blues artists diverged from the sound that gave them a name in the 60s and released at least one kick ass roots rock album. File Hills of Indiana on the same shelf.

Lonnie Mack’s 1971 outing may not slay listeners the first time around like Bobby Charles or Link Wray, though it reels in that familiar mix of blues, soul, & country rock. Indiana finds Lonnie trading his guitar slinger/blues-instrumental persona for gentler roots rock with touches of gospel and even straight bluegrass – Uncle Pen is a faithful rendition of the Bill Monroe number. He shows good taste with versions of Bob Dylan’s Man In Me, Carole King’s A Fine Way To Go, and Mickey Newbury’s She Even Woke Up To Say Goodbye. There are five originals (cowrote with Don Nix) with some fine cuts in Motown-inspired trucker ode Asphalt Outlaw Hero, the low-key and orchestrally ornamented Florida, and album closers All Good Things Will Come To Pass and Three Angels.

The album’s production is a touch on the clean side, edging near schmaltzy, and closer to Dale Hawkin’s pro-studio approach than Wray’s chicken shack. This kills only a little appeal for this near classic record, still worth a spot in any Americana collection.

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:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Elektra | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download @ amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]