Archive for April, 2009

Rodriguez “Cold Fact”

Cold Fact

Cold Fact by Sixto Rodriguez was recently reissued by Light In The Attic – an excellent reissue at that.  Over the past few years this lp has gained quite a reputation, probably due to its unique sound, which is still fresh even by today’s indie rock/folk-rock standards.  Cold Fact was originally released by Sussex in 1970 and while it didn’t sell too well in the U.S. , the record gained a new lease on life in 1971 when A&M repressed the lp in Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand – where it sold well (he would eventually play to sell-out stadium crowds in South Africa!).  Rodriguez was born in Detriot MI, his parents were both Mexican immigrants – his first name was chosen because he was the sixth child. 

Cold Fact is a s0lid record all thru – a real four star gem. One can tell that Dylan was a major influence but this should by no means discredit  Rodriguez’s originality and talents as a songwriter.  The album led off with “Sugar Man,” a drug addled masterpiece full of intriguing lyrics, twisted electronic sound effects, and soulful vocals.  “Sugar Man” is a very dark composition that has stood the test of time well and probably the lp’s standout track – a true classic.  Other tracks are worthwhile though like the fuzz guitar driven garage rocker “Only Good For Conversation” or the horn laden “Crucify Your Mind.”  “Hate Street Dialogue,” “I Wonder,” and “Forget It” are also excellent with good accoustic melodies and lyrics that really hit home hard.  This is real outsider music that is sung so eloquently and played so well it’s almost hard to notice the despair – you really have to listen to the lyrics. 

Prior to the Light In the Attic reissue there was a so/so RCA repress from the late 80s.  Light In The Attic have done a great job with Rodriquez and will also be reissuing his second lp, Coming From RealityCold Fact is singer-songwriter material at its best with beautiful vocals, catchy songs, string and horn arrangements that compliment rather than harm, great downer lyrics, and just the right amount of psych-folk residual.  Distinctive soul searching stuff.

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“Sugar Man”

😀 CD Reissue | 2008 | Light In The Attic | buy from attic | amazon ]
:) Vinyl Search | ebay ]

uReview: Dark Side of the Moon

Dark Side of the Moon

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The Pink Floyd’s best album… or worst album? Cheezy and overplayed… or undeniably genius?
Even after 10+ Wizard of Oz syncs (yes, I have done it that many times) , I still can’t decide on this one.
What’s your call?

😀 CD search | amazon ]
:) Original vinyl search | ebay ]

It’s All Meat “It’s All Meat”

It's All Meat

It’s All Meat were a late 60s/early 70s band that hailed from Toronto and released this excellent album in 1970 (Columbia).  Prior to that, It’s All Meat had been known as The Underworld.  The Underworld released a superb, crude garage single (“Go Away”/”Bound” – the label is Regency) in 1968 and also recorded some fine unreleased material captured on acetate.  As mentioned before, some of the members of The Underworld would form It’s All Meat.  In 1969 this new group would release their debut 45, “Feel It” coupled with “I Need Some Kind of Definitive Commitment.”  The A-side combined MC5 energy with New York Dolls-style swagger and features plenty of feedback and great guitar breaks.  It’s one of the great proto-punkers. 

Their album was released the following year and feartured 8 fresh original numbers written by drummer Rick McKIM and keyboard player/lead vocalist Jed MacKAY.  There are a bunch of good, solid stonesy garage rockers that form the axis of this lp: “Make Some Use Of Your Friends,” “Roll My Own,” “You Brought Me Back To My Senses,” and “You Don’t Know The Time You Waste.”  The latter track would be released as the group’s second and final single but “Roll My Own” and “Make Some Use Of Your Friends” were just as good, featuring fine psychedelic guitar work and raw vocals.  Other note worthy tracks flirted with blues (“Self-Confessed Lover”) and folk-rock (“If Only”) but the lp’s brightest moments were its two 9-minute marathon compositions.  “Crying Into A Deep Lake” was full-blown Doors psychedelia with spacey keyboards and spooky Jim Morrison influenced vocals.  The other lengthy track, “Sunday Love,” sounds like a strange Lou Reed/John Cale concoction with lots a great psychedelic guitar noise and soft folk-like passages sprinkled with light garage keyboards.   So while these last two tracks are very long, they never wear out their welcome and are required listening for both garage and psych fans.  The album’s production teeters between a primitive recording sound and the typical major label gloss, making it just right.

It’s All Meat is a fine, consistent trip all the way thru.  It’s one of the best late period (really late) garage rock albums I know of.  The album’s hard rock and proto-punk sounds give it a nice,  visceral edge.  It’s All Meat was reissued in 2000 by Hallucinations though originals are not hard to come by either.

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“Make Some Use Of Your Friends”

:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | Columbia | search ebay ]

Gene Clark “No Other”

No Other

Barely understood when it was released in 1974, No Other is Gene Clark’s most polarizing record but generally considered essential today.

Almost every song an epic, Clark’s songwriting was never up for debate, nor his genuinely poetic verses, but it’s Thomas Jefferson Kaye’s production that would weed out hordes of would-be fans. I contend the producer made only one mistake: the use of “power gospel” backing vocals on every track is probably what turns most people off to No Other. Strike the voices and this record would be hailed as a mid-70s masterpiece for Clark’s efforts as much as its lush, candied orchestration.

The record starts off without skipping a beat from the Clark oeuvre; “Life’s Greatest Fool” sounds like a natural step forward from his earlier country rock. The supporting musicians are perfectly in tune with the vision; I want to dig in deeper with the sound every listen, so I hardly consider it overcooked. One tune does embody Gene’s new super-glam image in sound, where you can “hear the cocaine” churning the record: the sinister title track, “No Other,” is slathered with sleazy synth lines and electric guitars. Whether for camp or pure songcraft it’s an irresistable jam and centerpiece of the record.

All of the numbers possess the signature Gene Clark sound. Say when he waits for “Strength Of Strings” to reach full crescendo before sinking into his minor-tinged verse with that untouchable heartworn vocal. Clark is one of the world’s greatest songwriters, his skill in transforming traditional progressions to his unique brand of song unmatched.

Give this record the right chance and you’ll reach the point where you appreciate every overdone detail, down to the gorgeous sleeve and awesomely hideous poster of Gene decked in flowing garments, beads, and makeup in front of an airbrushed Gene Clark monument. I only have the record, but the CD resissue is reportedly worth it for the alternative versions and “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” a retake from the Expedition.

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“No Other”

😀 CD Reissue | 2003 | WEA/Rhino | amazon ]
:) Orig Vinyl | 1974 | Asylum | search ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Sheridan/Price “This is to certify that….”

This Is To Certify That...

This is one of the better albums coming from the Move family tree. It was released in 1970 though it has a clear 1967/1968 sound and is one of the best albums of its kind. Rick Price entered the Move sometime in the late 60s, contributing bass and guitar to “Shazam“, “Looking On” and “Message From The Country.” Mike Sheridan had previously been leader of the Nightriders which were a Birmingham group that specialized in the merseybeat sound and 50s rock n roll.

The Nightriders were sort of a breeding ground for future Move members, most importantly Roy Wood. During Price’s tenure with the Move, he and Sheridan started writing songs together for the above album. Both Sheridan and Price share vocals and writing chores on an album that veers into power pop, psychedelia, sunshine pop and progressive pop. There are horn and string arrangements on this beautiful album that recall some of Paul McCartney’s soft moments on the Beatles’ classic White Album (think “Martha My Dear” or even the Move’s great “Beautiful Daughter”). Some of the heavier moments like “Sometimes I Wonder,” “Lamp Lighter Man,” and “Lightning Never Strikes” sound like excellent 68/69 era Move outtakes. In fact, “Lighting Never Strikes” was released as a Move single at the tail end of the 60s. Sheridan and Price’s version is just as good though not as trippy, with a splendid backwards guitar solo, slashing acoustic guitars and crashing drums. Other songs such as the string laden pop number “Davey Has No Dad” or the trippy “Picture Box” have a beautiful child-like, story song whimsy that hints at a Ray Davies influence.

This is an exceptional if little known Move album that will appeal to fans of the Beatles, Kinks and even lovers of soft, sunshine pop sounds.

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“Lightning Never Strikes”

😀 CD Reissue | 2007 | Ace | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | Gemini | ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

PODCAST 12 Southern Comfort

The Rising Storm Podcast - Country Rock Special

Running Time: 35 Minutes | File Size 49.0 MB
Listen: .mp3
To subscribe to this podcast: http://therisingstorm.net/podcast.xml [?]

 

PLAYLIST

Clip from: Sir Douglas Quintet “Can You Dig My Vibrations” & “T-Bone Shuffle”

John Stewart “You Can’t Look Back”

Dan Penn “Tear Joint”

Mike Nesmith and the First National Band “Mama Nantucket”

Redwing “Dark Thursday”

Rick Nelson “Things You Gave Me”

Clip from: Parsons-Warford-Strandlund B-Bender Instructional EP

Ozark Mountain Daredevils “Leatherwood”

Vince Martin “Danville Girl”

Sir Douglas Quintet “Be Real”

Everly Brothers “Cuckoo Bird”

Townes Van Zandt “I’ll Be Here in the Morning”

Crazy Horse “Outside Lookin’ In”

Matthews Southern Comfort “Road to Ronderlin”

The Scruffs “Wanna Meet The Scruffs?”

Wanna' Meet The Scruffs?

The Scruffs were a late 70s power pop band who released this great debut album in 1977 (off the Power Play Records label).  Even though the Scruffs looked like a group of hip New Yorkers they actually hailed from Memphis, Tennessee. All 13 tracks were written by guitarist Stephen Burns though lead guitarist Dave Branyan gets partial credit for three numbers.  Other important members of the Scruffs included bass player Rick Branyan and drummer Zeph Paulson.

The Scruffs sound is similar to Big Star (especially their great sophomore effort), wild, careening and reckless with neurotic lyrics about masturbation, boy-girl relationships and teen alienation.   While the playing may come off as sloppy it’s still engaging and in a weird way calculated – these guys were a pretty tight group who knew exactly where they wanted to take their music.  Tracks like “Break The Ice,” “This Thursday,” and “I’ve Got Something” are relentless, loud rockers that cut like a sharp switchblade but remember this was 1977, the punk era.  Most of the other tracks are anchored down by ringing guitars, great hooks, and vulnerable, heart broken vocals; in fact, every song on Wanna Meet The Scruffs has something on offer, whether it be a catchy guitar riff, stinging solos, or an anthemic chorus.  “My Mind” and “She Say Yea” were influenced by the Beatles and Byrds but also early 70s American power pop greats like the Raspberries and Big Star.  Those two tracks are all-time power pop classics but other numbers like the album closer “Bedtime Stories” isn’t far behind with its beautiful intro and timeless melodies – these are magical songs.  Also, many tracks wield an uncompromising sense of humor with strange lyrics like “Im a failure and my entire life was meant for killing time” (from “I’m A Failure”) or  “Dear Jean, all I ever wanted from you was a little revenge and your phone number” (from “Revenge”).  This music is elegant but at the same time shambolic, and while phoney, manufactured groups like the Knack and Rubinoos completely disappoint, the Scruffs were the real deal, delivering 13 fine, romantic power pop tracks.  Wanna Meet The Scruffs is ace from start to finish, making it one of the best lps from 77.

Rev-Ola records did a nice straight up reissue of Meet The Scruffs back in 2002, no significant bonus tracks though, just a couple of alternate takes.  They would record material for a second album but these tracks would not see a release till the late 90s (Teenage Girls) and while good, are not up to par with the songs on Wanna Meet The Scruffs.  A true classic.

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“She Say Yea”

😀 CD Reissue | 2002 | Revola | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1977 | search ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Buck Owens And His Buckaroos “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Capital, 1971) wasn’t Buck’s first foray into rock n roll music.  In 1957 he cut a handful of rockabilly sides under the name Corky Jones – and good sides they are!  Buck had once vowed to “sing no song that is not a country song” but in 1965 he released a great charging version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” on the classic I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail lp.  Some fans felt that he had broken his pledge by covering “Memphis” but Buck didn’t see it that way: “I see Memphis as being rockabilly.  Listen to the lyrics….If they’re not country lyrics….the melody – if that ain’t a country melody….” I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail along with 61’s Sings Harlan Howard and 66’s The Carnegie Hall Concert are usually what fans cite as his best ever lps.  These recordings went a long way in establishing the Bakersfield Sound and making Buck Owens a household name.

Bridge Over Troubled Water is not on par with the above classics.   It’s a good record though with some interesting experiments that see the Buckaroos trading in their beloved Telecasters for an acoustic folk-rock sound – though country music is still their foundation.  The album is roughly divided between covers of current rock standards and Owens originals.  The production is beautiful, the guitar work is stellar, Buck is in great voice and the harmonies are nothing short of amazing.  There’s the occasional organ or Moog but for the most part the arrangements are sparse and the playing is less aggressive when compared to earlier records.  My only complaint is the weak cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock” and the album’s short running time, which hovers around the 25 minute mark.  Renditions of the title track, “Love Minus Zero,” “Homeward Bound,” and “Catch The Wind” are suprisingly good.  “Catch The Wind,” with its droning Moog and angelic vocals is so good it may even surpass the Donovan original.    Buck’s own material blends nicely with the above mentioned tracks, making this a strong listen all the way thru.  All the original material is good, though “Within My Loving Arms,” “The Devil Made Me Do That,” “San Francisco Town,” and “Everything Reminds Me You’re Gone” stick out for their contemplative approach, brittle acoustic guitars, and gorgeous harmonies.  Throughout the album Buck’s vocals are world weary, it’s a quality that makes this record special.

Buck would take some heat from the C&W squares for revamping his style and covering current rock n roll songs.  But the C&W crowd would prove to be wrong over time as Bridge Over Troubled Water reeks class and Bakersfield sophistication.  It was this willingness to experiment that made Buck and his group so great and pioneering.  This open-minded approach has made the Buckaroos music age so well whereas many of their contemporaries sound dated and hokey.  In 2004 Sundazed released this solid album on cd, it’s certainly well worth a spin for fans of country-rock.

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“Within My Loving Arms”

😀 CD Reissue | 2004 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Capitol | search ebay ]

Classic Gear: Harpsichord

HarpsichordIt’s by no means an essential piece to the quintessential rock band, nonetheless the harpsichord, dating from the 1500s and the predecessor to the piano, served a distinct sound on plenty of essential late sixties records, earning it “classic” status, and the first acoustic spot in our ongoing series on classic gear.

The first difference you’ll notice from the piano is the inverted keys. The black and white keys are reversed (a sleek effect, almost as sexy as grey and white). The sonic difference from the piano results from the way the keyboard vibrates each string. Piano keys “hammer” the string, while harpsichords “pluck.” This plucking action gives the harpsichord the extra bright tinny sound so often associated with classical music and what would become known as “baroque pop.”

Examples
Besides the standards (Yardbirds “For Your Love;” Stones “Lady Jane,” “Yesterday’s Papers,” “In Another Land;” Kinks “Two Sisters,” “Session Man;” Beatles  “Lucy In The Sky,” “Because” (actually a Baldwin Electric Harpsichord) and “In My Life” emulates the harpsichord with a sped up piano solo — find more here) below are a few examples that put this ‘ancient’ instrument to good use in the 60s:

Lords of ‘baroque pop,’ the Left Banke frequently rocked the harpsichord, decorating many of their gems with that other-timely sound. The Left Banke Anthology comes highly recommended.

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The Left Banke – I Haven’t Got The Nerve

The End might have borrowed the Stones’ harpsichord for the Introspection sessions, which were produced by Bill Wyman. This performance is from legendary session man, Nicky Hopkins (the subject, and harpsichordist, of Ray Davies’ “Session Man” indeed).

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The End – Loving, Sacred Loving

Curt Boettcher set out to make the greatest album of all time when he finally got a chance to record Begin in 1968. Harpsichord gets used and abused on this powerhouse leadoff, an unbelievable track for all first timers:

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The Millennium – Prelude

And of course Rod Argent and the Zombos, they used harpsichord as well as piano, organ, harmonium, and Mellotron all over Odessey and Oracle. Come to think of it, it’s hard to find a psychedelic masterpiece without harpsichord on there somewhere!

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The Zombies – I Want Her She Wants Me

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Moby Grape “The Place And The Time”

The Place And The Time

If you’re not convinced Moby Grape were one of the hippest, baddest, realest, and rawest bands of the late 1960s then grab this new outtakes and live cuts compilation from Sundazed and try to explain otherwise.

The Place and the Time collects unissued recordings by Moby Grape and presents them more or less chronologically from 1967 to 1968 over 2 LPs. Side One combines auditions (“Indifference,” “Looper”) and demo cuts (“Stop,” “Loosely Remembered”)  with “Rounder,” an instrumental outtake from the sessions for the Grape’s legendary debut album. Side Two focuses on outtakes from the Wow album sessions, ending with a scorching version of Bob Mosley’s “Soul Stew.” Side Three rounds out later 1968 Grape demos, many of which would form the Moby Grape ’69 album, and Side Four includes a triplet of killer live cuts from 1968 – just listen to the overwhelmed crowd react to the onslaught of “Changes.”

I love the Sundazed mono pressings, but the stereo live cuts are particularly atmospheric; it puts you right on the stage with the band and hearing these tracks pressed to vinyl (for the first time in their sadly neglected lifespan) is a real warp zone. Moby Grape fans who haven’t picked up the recent reissues (where some of these are bonus tracks) should clamber to get on board with these discs, the recordings are rock solid in sound and it’s a treat to spin these dusty gems and listen to the mighty Grape tear shit apart.

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“Soul Stew”

:) 180 Gram Vinyl | 2009 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed ]
😀 CD | 2009 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed | amazon ]