Archive for October, 2009

Gene Parsons “Kindling”

Kindling

Sometimes it’s the less visible members of a great band who turn out to be the most interesting. Gene Parsons was the drummer with the Byrds from 1968 to 1972. If you’ve ever even heard his name, there’s a fair chance that you’ll confuse him with his near namesake who was with the same band less than a year and achieved a disproportionate notoriety. It’s indicative of Gene’s character that when Chris Hillman quit the Byrds to form the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram, Gene refused the invitation to accompany him, choosing to stay with the seemingly over-the-hill outfit out of loyalty, particularly to close friend Clarence White, rather than take a giant leap with the hotly-fancied new boys.

Gene’s career continued to be defined by his unassuming, sensitive personality. When Roger McGuinn finally fired Gene and Clarence before the ill-fated reunion of the original band, Gene went into Warner Brothers to record an album of the songs he’d been unable to persuade McGuinn to perform with the Byrds. The project had support from Clarence throughout, with guest appearances from legendary bluegrass artists Vassar Clements on fiddle and Ralph Stanley on vocal. But the biggest surprise was the appearance of Gene Parsons, lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who beside thumping the tubs proved to be a butt-kicking five-string banjoist and also contributed acoustic and electric guitars, pedal steel, harmonica and bass. Gene’s earnest vocals front seven originals plus covers by Lowell George, old partner Gib Guilbeau, Stanley and Skip Battin. The feel of the album is as refreshingly homespun as might be expected, with an air of bluegrass that predates the genre’s eighties traditionalist revival and compares with the slick commercial country rock then being produced by the various other Byrds alumni and their contemporaries. The sparse, bright production by Russ Titelman is exemplary.

The album garnered strong reviews from Rolling Stone and other music press biggies and might have prefigured a profitable, if appropriately low-key, solo career for Gene, but shortly after its issue Clarence White was killed and, in despair at the loss of his friend and collaborator, Gene withdrew from his Warners contract and retired to his California farm to concentrate on developing the Parsons-White String Bender. It would be three years before he ventured on a stage again, joining the reformed Burritos for a three-year tenure during which Gene finally found peer acceptance in a group milieu as composer and vocalist. Since then he’s continued to make public music at intervals whilst devoting his main effort to production and further development of the String Bender. He still has the trademark “soup strainer” moustache and professes contentment with life in a style typical of the man.

Kindling has been reissued by Sierra Records as The Kindling Collection, which bookends the whole album with seven neglected Parsons originals from the Byrds’ albums and four more from the later Burritos era. Clarence White features heavily on the former cuts and Sneaky Pete Kleinow on the latter, and the whole package is an excellent chronicle of Gene’s first-division career.

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“Monument”

:) Vinyl | 1973 | Warner Bros | search ebay ]
😀 CD Reissue | 1995 | Sierra | buy from sierra ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Loudon Wainwright III “Attempted Mustache”

attemptedmustache

This is good singer-songwriter fare that’s well worth seeking out (and a pretty easy find too). Loudon Wainwright III had been kicking around for some time, releasing a few critically acclaimed folk albums throughout the early 70s. Attempted Mustache (his 4th LP) is one of Loudon’s finest efforts, a loose, low key affair with brutally honest lyrics and even a few shambolic, drunken performances that are highly entertaining. So while the playing and atmosphere is relaxed, this LP features some of Loudon’s best loved songs, a few that rank as true classics. Columbia released this very solid, musical album in 1973 (Loudon’s prime years), as he was just coming off the fluke hit “Dead Skunk.”

The album opens with “Swimming Song,” a very personal composition with clever lyrics. For this track Loudon’s ex-wife taught him how to pick the banjo. Towards the end Doug Kershaw adds some wonderful colors with his superb fiddle work. All in all, a brilliant performance that captures the man at the top of his game. Other great numbers are “A.M. World” (drunken country-rock), “Come A Long Way” (fragile Americana), “Nocturnal Stumblebutt” (sexually charged singer-songwriter nonsense) and “Lullaby” (melancholy folk-rock). These tracks rank as some of the finest unsung singer-songwriter material from the era but the humorous, looser cuts such as the live, talking-blues of “I Am The Way”, the modern/indie sounding “Dilated To Meet You” and rocker “Clockwork Chartreuseare” are almost as good.

Some reviewers have criticized Loudon’s work for being too emotional or overly sensitive but I think Attempted Mustache sounds great, especially all these years later. More of a hard luck hero than a James Taylor, Loudon delivers the goods on Attempted Mustache.

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“The Swimming Song”

:) Vinyl | 1973 | Columbia | search ebay ]
😉 MP3 Album | download at amzn ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

はっぴいえんど 風街ろまん (Happy End “Kazemachi Roman”)

Kazemachi Roman

From 1971 Japan comes this gleaming gem of classic rock, encompassing a myriad of American styles from rural rock and country to raw garage, blues, experimental, and blazing west coast rock – but contrary to prevailing trends of the time, the lyrics are not sung in English. If this poses a problem for your ears it is a great shame, for Kazemachi Roman (Wind City Romance) is a must-listen record, and #1 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums.

Kazemachi Roman owes its sound to many influences, but the band maintains an unmistakable originality while flawlessly running the gamut of American popular music. “Haikara Hakuchi” drives with the ferocity of a Moby Grape track, “Haru Ranman” combines byrdsian folk with a roaming west coast feel, while “Sorairo no Crayon” dabbles with country & western, replete with pedal steel and a yodeled outro.  “Natsu Nandesu” and “Kaze wo Atsumete” have a soulful, bucolic charm, the latter finally getting its due via 2003’s Lost In Translation soundtrack. “Dakishimetai” sounds like a classic 70s rock anthem and “Hanaichimonme” grooves like a freight train, prodded along by rolling guitar licks and driving piano. “Ashita Tenki ni Naare” gets to funky rhythm and blues featuring a fantastic Beegees multi-falsetto vocal part. And then there’s “Taifuu” (typhoon), the clear alpha dog of the set. On this authorative rocker the singer lets it all out with gnarly, gutteral yelps and grunts.

Even the slightest investment in this record should prove the attraction goes way beyond novelty.  The sound is instantly recognizable feel-good rock and easily transcends the language barrier. Had these gentlemen hailed from California and sang in English, Happy End would have been a household name.

The lead man, Haroumi Hosono, would later form the sensational Yellow Magic Orchestra (titans of the pre-midi synth age) and continues to make music with his electronica duo, Sketch_Show.

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“花いちもんめ (Hanaichimonme)”

😀 CD Reissue | search ebay ]

Ian Dury “New Boots And Panties”

New Boots And Panties

In the wake of pop’s rediscovery of itself, prompted by the blitzkrieg success of punk, 1977 proved to be a splendid year for debut albums, indeed perhaps the best since 1969 kicked off the Golden Age Of Prog Rock. Most of the artists concerned were promising newcomers, but a fair number were veterans in new guises. In the UK, musicians who had cut their teeth in the back-to-basics pub-rock bands of 1973-75 recombined into new units or declared themselves solo artists and, riding on the New Wave of energy generated by punk, sought to combine their established chops with its novelty, brevity and audacity. While the younger hardline punks disdained all previous genres for ground-zero three-chord originality, the second-time-around outfits leavened the new energy with earlier styles; the Stranglers displayed a clear Doors streak, Elvis Costello evinced more than a pinch of Gram Parsons, and the Motors borrowed heavily from both the Beatles and the Byrds.

Former Kilburn & The High Roads frontman Ian Dury took his lyrical influences from the music hall performers of the thirties and the Carry On films of the fifties, filtered through Ray Davies’s wry observations of London society in the sixties, to produce a uniquely English, witty product which nonetheless chimed with the impending social upheavals of the late seventies in true punk fashion. Like the Kinks’ mid-term catalogue, Dury’s songs portrayed contemporary suburban characters and their lifestyles but, eschewing Davies’s gentle, rose-tinted, middle-class mockery, Dury unashamedly painted his subjects in stark black-and-white with all the sexual innuendo, scatology, and profane language of the working-class Cockney. The contrast was heightened by the presence of the Blockheads, a killer backing band who could deploy their formidable and highly danceable playing skills effortlessly in the directions of jazz or art-rock, soul or reggae, disco or doo-wop as befitted the song in hand. Guitarist-keyboardist Chaz Jankel also provided the music and arrangements to Dury’s lyrics; bassist Norman Watt-Roy and drummer Charley Charles were a fearsomely tight rhythm section, whilst seriously leftfield saxophonist Davey Payne took his deranged cues from Roland Kirk and Ornette Colman.

The debut album New Boots And Panties and non-album single “Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll”, credited only to Dury but featuring the Blockheads throughout, immediately scored glowing music press reviews in Britain, the scribes praising their originality, energy, theatricality and occasional unbridled venom (New Musical Express journo Roy Carr described the album as “Max Wall with a backbeat: Max Miller on mandies”). “Billericay Dickie”, “Clevor Trever”, “Plaistow Patricia”, “Sweet Gene Vincent” and “My Old Man” are all affectionate and occasionally bawdy portraits to characters of Dury’s acquaintance – some with names changed to protect the guilty – while “Wake Up And Make Love With Me” and “I’m Partial To Your Abracadabra”, along with “Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll” and its B-side “Razzle In My Pocket”, both included on the deluxe CD reissue, are funny and inoffensive (depending on how sensitive you are) homages to Dury’s favourite vices. For an example of Dury’s poetic lyrical talent, in the MP3s below contrast the lazy, loping alliteration in “Trever” with the stroboscopic acapella parts echoing the “black, white, black, white” theme in “Vincent”. The cover art shows The Man posing archly in appropriate Doc Marten footwear outside a typically seedy East End men’s outfitter’s; the equally cocky-looking urchin with him is his son Baxter, who would become a singer himself.

Whilst very much of the New Wave, the highly original, uniquely theatrical and impressive musical qualities of New Boots And Panties render it apart from the best of the rest. Though yielding many more individual gems, notably the tremendous hit singles “Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3” and “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, the consistency of Dury’s subsequent work would suffer from the departure of Chaz Jankel, whose relationship with the frontman had always been somewhat spiky, and from Dury’s own physical deterioration as his uncompromising rock’n’roll lifestyle took its toll on his polio-weakened body.

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“Sweet Gene Vincent”

😀 CD Reissue | 2005 | Fuel | at amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1977 | Stiff | search ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

PODCAST 16 Garage.Country

THE RISING STORM!!

Running Time: 44:51 | File Size 74.5 MB
Download: .mp3
To subscribe to this podcast: http://therisingstorm.net/podcast.xml [?]

PLAYLIST

1. Buy For Me The Rain by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (Alive – Live 1968-)

2. The Brand New Tennessee Waltz by The Everly Brothers (Stories We Could Tell – 1972)

3. Man From New Orleans by Swampwater (Swampwater – 1970)

4. Dear Betty Baby by Mayo Thompson (Corky’s Debut To His Father – 1970)

5. Blue Velvet Band by Hasil Adkins (Moon Over Madison -2005 but recorded in 1956-1963)

6. Around The Town by Gino Washington (Out of This World cd – 1960s)

7. Never Knew I Had It So Bad by Thee Midniters (Unlimited – 1967 – Thee Midniter’s boxset)

8. It Must Have Been The Wind by The Fun and Games (Elephant Candy – 1968-)

9. Say Goodbye To John by Pisces (A Lovely Sight – 1968/1969)

10. Long Tall Sally by Jerry Lee Lewis (Live At The Star Club 1964)

11. No Reason To Complain by The Alarm Clocks (Back From The Grave Vol. 1 – 1966)

12. Boy In The Sandbox by The Michael Yonkers Band (Microminiature Love 2003 but recorded in 1968-)

13. My Friend by the Steve Miller Band (Sailor – 1968-)

14. I Just Don’t Know How To Say Goodbye by Sandy Salisbury/Millennium (Sandy Salisbury – 1969)

15. Occasional Rain by Terry Callier (Occasional Rain – 1972)

16. Smug by The Youngbloods (Elephant Mountain – 1969)

17. Sign On The Cross by Bob Dylan and The Band (Genuine Basement Tapes Vol. 3 – 1967)

John Drendall, B.A. Thrower and Friends “Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues”

Papa

There are enough good vanity pressings from the late 60s – mid 70s that make record collecting a rewarding interest.  The really good ones (the Bachs, the Rising Storm, Wilson McKinley, Relatively Clean Rivers et al) are far and few between.  Most of these records, while musically very good, are overpriced because so few quantities were initially pressed.  Please be warned though, most private press albums are average at best – I’ve been disappointed many, many times.  So naturally, when I bought the Riverman Music version (a Singpore cd reissue) of John Drendall, B.A. Thrower and Friends’ Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues I was somewhat unsure of its quality, in other words, a skeptic.

Deacon Productions released 100 copies of Papa in 1971/1972.  Both John Drendall (vocals/guitar) and B.A. Thrower (bass guitar/electric guitar/organ) lived on the campus of Michigan University in Lansing.  The two eventually moved into a suburban house with a spacious garage.  This garage was turned into a studio where the group practiced hours on end.  Eventually Drendall and Thrower found a studio in Kalamazoo that would record their experiments.  Friends Tommy “Stiff Finger Eddie” Caruso (slide guitar), Mike “Elmo” Skory (keyboards), Vern “The Bopper” Albaugh (flute), Nelson Wood (harp), Jimmie Spillane (backgrounds), and Ross Maxwell (bells and anything else) add many valuable contributions to the album.  The music is very fine Americana, a true undiscovered gem that needs to be heard by more music fans.

The performances on Papa sparkle with a true level of professionalism.  Drendall, Thrower and their “Friends” are all excellent musicians, the songwriting is stellar, and the production sounds top notch – on par with a major label rock group.   Those of you who enjoyed Euphoria (the Texas country-rock group), Crazy Horse, and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere era Neil Young will fall for this record in a big way.  One of the songs on Papa, “Old Man Gibbs,” sounds like an early Neil Young number in that it’s a great rootsy rocker with stoned electric guitar work and burnt out lyrics.  The album opener, “Cold Nite in August,” stands out as the album’s most blues oriented cut,  6+ minutes of laid back country-blues that’s well worth hearing.  Other highlights are the title track and “Get Too Heavy,” both acoustic gems that feature solid guitar picking and in the case of the latter, good, close harmonies.  Even the psychedelic numbers, “Black River Lady” and “I Feel” are fabulous mood music that conjures up a spacey atmosphere more in line with the late 60s.  My favorite tracks are the nifty country-rocker “Bye Bye Mr. Jones,” with its amusing group dialogue and the great “Throw Off Your Troubled Past.”  This last number features frantic guitar work (the guitarist really shreds up the fretboard on this one) and busy percussion; it’s really a treat to hear these last two numbers.  The album as a whole is uniformly strong and a must hear; not a bad cut on this LP.

So once again, Papa is a very accomplished work that should have been reissued years ago.  There’s been plenty of great reissues in 2009 but Papa is one of the best I’ve heard so far.

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“Get Too Heavy”

😀 CD Reissue | 2009 | Riverman | amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1972 | Deacon | ebay? ]

The Monkees “Head”

Head

Head isn’t the best Monkees album; in fact it contains just six pieces of music, only one of which is a copper-bottomed classic. But it does best symbolise the wonderful set of contradictions that made up the Monkees and their brief top-flight career.

The Monkees were first really brought to my attention in 1967 when my kid sister pinned a tearout picture from Fab 208 teeny fanzine on her bedroom wall. It showed the band members goofing around in Victorian style striped swimsuits. Her comment was “Haven’t they got nice legs?”. You can imagine the response she received from this then ultra-serious psychedelia and Memphis soul admirer. Actually I had appreciated the excellent first single, “Last Train To Clarksville”, but had not been impressed by the follow-ups, including the turgid “I Wanna Be Free” and the simplistic “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone”. Nothing to lay alongside Pepper, Hendrix and Wilson Pickett there, then. The TV series just irritated me: A Hard Day’s Night reduced to twenty-five-minute knockabouts. And if I did manage to catch the Head movie – I can’t remember if I did or not – its plotless, formless, apparently pointless structure would have had the same effect.

Fast forward to the new millenium, and after decades of derision the Monkees suddenly became hip again in the wake of Britpop, New Psychedelia and other sixties revival movements. I discovered to my surprise that Mickey Dolenz was a peerless pop vocalist, and Mike Nesmith a confident, strident songwriter; that the best songs had been penned by the aristocracy of Goffin and King, Boyce and Hart, Neil Diamond, John Stewart and the Harries Chapin and Nilsson; that with musical backing by Glen Campbell, James Burton, Clarence White, Ry Cooder, Tommy Tedesco, Neil Young (yes, that one) and other A-team sessioneers from both coasts, those tracks were, in retrospect, sublime nuggets of pop; and that Head the movie was a definitive sixties cinematic experience. I came to sympathise with the group’s struggle to escape from the straitjacket of the exploitative entertainment industry, so splendidly satirised in Head in “Ditty Diego – War Chant”. From witless boy-band to The Next Beatles via psychedelia and country-rock, I saw the Monkees for what they really had been: a genuinely ambitious and progressive outfit with real musical integrity, their career cut short by their inability to shed the ludicrous image they’d been saddled with at the start. (OK, maybe scratch Davy Jones, who had zip musical or vocal talent, but provided eye-candy in the same way as Paul McCartney did for the Fabs and Brian Jones did for the Stones, and also shared Macca’s unfortunate penchant for Vaudeville. Nobody’s perfect.)

Head the movie and Head the album represent the Monkees’ final, ill-fated, attempt to break through the cultural barriers. Read about the movie on Wikipedia, if you will; the entry is very good. The album comprises the aforesaid six songs plus a bewildering collage of dialogue and found sounds from the film, deliberately reassembled, reverbed, varispeeded and otherwise twisted to produce a supremely trippy experience not unlike Frank Zappa’s experiments on Uncle Meat. (In fact Zappa also has a cameo in the film.) Of the songs, “Porpoise Song” (Goffin & King) is possibly the best psychedelic single ever released. The live version of Nesmith’s “Circle Sky”, unaccountably passed over on the original album for the inferior studio version, is good enough to have been included on Nuggets. And the reissue CD also includes the original mix of Peter Tork’s “Can You Dig It”, his homespun vocal fitting this deeply psych song better than Micky’s smooth, poppy delivery as used on the final version.

Both movie and album bombed, of course. But the Monkees’ true legacy can be found in the excellent psych artifact which is the reissue CD of Head, and on the absolutely stunning 2008 Rhino 4-CD compilation The Monkees Music Box. Also indispensible is Andrew Sandoval’s definitive book The Monkees: The Day By Day Story. Go explore, and happy hunting.

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“Porpoise Song”

😀 CD Reissue | 1994 | Rhino | at amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1968 | Colgems | at ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Classic Gear: Pedal Steel Guitar

Pedal Steel GuitarThe pedal steel guitar’s journey to Nashville began in the Hawaiian Islands. Islanders would take an old guitar, lose the frets, raise the strings, and then slide the dull edge of a steel knife to sound wavering chords up and down the strings. Further tinkering from the Dopyer Brothers led to the invention of the Dobro, the classic bluegrass instrument. The Dobro eventually morphed into the lap steel, which when electrified was one of the first electric guitars, and along with ukulele became one of the signature sounds of Hawaii. After Gibson added pedals to their lap steel, calling it the Electraharp, pedal modifications developed until the standardized pedal steel was born.

Unlike the lap steel, the pedal steel guitar is not limited in its voicings – it allows for an unlimited amount of inversions and chords. By depressing pedals and knee levers while playing, the pedal steel performer can raise or lower each string up to two steps. Combined with the crying slide of the steel bar used to fret the strings, this affords the pedal steel guitar its expressive and distinct whine that Lloyd Green would call “the other voice in country music.”

However, pedal steel’s use is not limited exclusively to country music. The pedal steel has been used in rock music by David Gilmour, Manassas, and Steely Dan. King Sunny Adé even incorporated the instrument into Jùjú music, bringing the story of the steel all the way to Nigeria.

Examples
Webb Pierce’s “Slowly” was the first record to feature pedal steel guitar. Bud Isaacs had attached a pedal to his console steel guitar that yanked the pitch of two strings, affording quick access to two common tunings. During the very first chords you can hear Isaacs bend a string up and back down (and then back up!), a resounding ‘hello’ from country music’s new signature instrument.

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Webb Pierce “Slowly”

Long time steel guitarist for Buck Owen’s Buckaroos, Tom Brumley was another celebrated player, who would go on to record with Rick Nelson, Chris Hillman’s Desert Rose Band, and plenty others. This tune, adapted from either an old Hawaiian lap steel rag, or the 1920’s “Guitar Rag” helped popularize the pedal steel in C&W circles, and is still performed today by most every steel guitar player.

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Buckaroos “Steel Guitar Rag”

Buddy Emmons, “the Big E,” wasn’t only one of the world’s greatest steel players, he also damn near invented the thing (when you order a pedal steel, you have to specify if you want an Emmons or [Jimmy] Day setup). A lap steel player early as age 11, Buddy went on to play with the likes of Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, and The Everly Brothers and formed the successful pedal steel manufacturing company, Sho-Bud. On his 1963 Pedal Steel Jazz record, Emmons set out to demonstrate the versatility of the instrument.

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Buddy Emmons “Gravy Waltz”

Even if you can’t stand Frank Zappa, this next track is worth a listen for what may be the hottest steel solo I’ve ever heard. After some characteristically bizarre orchestrated mayhem, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, legend of the steel (too many appearances to name), stretches way out over one of FZ’s most addicting grooves.

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Frank Zappa “It Just Might Be A One Shot Deal”

Manassas “Pieces”

Pieces is just what the title says, but shouldn’t be discounted. The original Manassas album was a disconnected smattering of “pieces” itself. Nobody had combined country, rock, salsa, blues, and bluegrass like Stephen Stills’ powerhouse 7-piece that formed out from the wake of CSNY and the Burrito Brothers.
Pieces collects some leftovers from the Miami sessions that led to the first album (“Witching Hour” “Like A Fox”), warmups and ideas intended for the lost 2nd Manassas album, Down The Road (“Lies” “Love and Satisfy”), and what Stills refers to as “Chris Hillman and Byron Berline teaching me bluegrass” (“Panhandle Rag” “Uncle Pen”). Other tracks are electrified covers from Stills 1 & 2, the largely successful solo albums that gave Stephen the freedom to form a band like Manassas.
I can’t imagine Stills had heard the original Fox On The Run by Manfred Mann, which the Country Gentlemen would turn into a bluegrass standard, before writing Like A Fox. Even with Bonnie Raitt lending her voice, the chorus is still hard to listen to under the circumstances. The bluegrass numbers have no knockout picking, but a treat to hear Stills and Hillman harmonize on “Uncle Pen.” “Do You Remember The Americans” is bluegrass cooler than I’ve ever heard, a song that I wish had spawned an entire record’s worth.
“I Am My Brother” is a sick solo blues proves Stills true worth.
Al Perkins on steel

Pieces

Pieces is the perfect name for this new Manassas outtakes collection from Rhino.  Nobody had combined country, rock, salsa, blues, and bluegrass like Stephen Stills’ powerhouse 7-piece that formed out from the wake of CSNY and the Burrito Brothers, and their eponymous album was a disconnected smattering of “pieces” itself. This new hodgepodge of unheard treats may be scattered, but it’s right in line with tradition and kicks ass like any Manassas fan would expect.

Pieces collects some leftovers from the Miami sessions that led to the first album (“Witching Hour” “Like A Fox”), warmups and ideas intended for the 2nd Manassas album, Down The Road (“Lies” “Love and Satisfy”), as well as what Stills refers to as “Chris Hillman and Byron Berline teaching me bluegrass” (“Panhandle Rag” “Uncle Pen”). Other tracks are electrified covers from Stephen Stills 1 & 2, the hugely successful solo albums that gave Stephen the freedom to form a band with Doug Sahm level schizophrenia.

There are a number of gems here; “Witching Hour” and “Sugar Babe” are easy classics. Stills throws together the chorus of “Like a Fox” last minute and presages  Manfred Mann’s “Fox On The Run” (which the Country Gentlemen would turn into a bluegrass standard) word for word. Only problem, even with Bonnie Raitt lending her voice, I can’t hear past the Manfred version to this one. On Side B, the bluegrass numbers have no knockout picking, but it’s a treat to hear Stills and Hillman harmonize on “Uncle Pen.” “Do You Remember The Americans,” however, is cooler grass than I’ve ever heard. I wish Stills had recorded an entire album in this vein. “I Am My Brother” is a sick solo blues to prove Stills’ immense talent and soul.

This is a no-brainer for Stills, CSNY, Byrds, Burrito, or rock music fans.

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“Do You Remember the Americans?”

😀 CD Compilation | 2009 | Rhino | buy at amazon ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Richard Hell & The Voidoids “Blank Generation”

Blank Generation

After the uncertainty as to into which genre his previous band’s magnum opus ought to be placed, Richard Hell’s first album as bandleader turns out to be refreshingly and unambiguously punk, from whichever side of the Atlantic you define it.

Like Marquee Moon, the Voidoids’ debut offers a twin-guitar attack, but there any resemblance ends; devoid of any art-rock pretensions, the band and the album sit proudly and squarely between the New York and London incarnations of punk, yet with some surprisingly original touches. Hell’s spiky hair and ripped clothing, eagerly adopted by the Sex Pistols and their acolytes, contrast with the balding, bearded, bespectacled Bob Quine, hardly a punk icon. The guitars too are spiky, but Quine’s nervy, occasionally shrieking leads are closer to Richard Thompson’s edgy electric style than to either Tom Verlaine’s crystalline confections or Steve Jones’s simplistic Keef knockoffs. Hell is a better vocalist than either Verlaine or John Lydon, with clearer diction and a wider range of both pitches and effects; the heterodyne yowl he employs on “Love Comes In Spurts” and “Liars Beware” would be copied, irritatingly to excess, by Adam Ant. And Hell’s lyric writing is suitably rebellious in content, but steeped in the Romantic poetry which was his other muse.

The songs too provide unexpected variety. “Love Comes In Spurts” features a distinctive orgasmic guitar figure, and a chugging beat and repetitious refrain that suggest the thrusts of sexual intercourse. The slower “Betrayal Takes Two” has an almost Spectorish progression. “Down At The Rock And Roll Club” sounds like a demented outtake from the Who’s Tommy, right down to the brief appropriation of the riff from “I’m Free”. The title track employs a walking chord and bass pattern not dissimilar to Brian Setzer’s “Stray Cat Strut”, and has a fascinatingly ambiguous lyric: optimistic or nihilistic? “Walking On The Water” is a radically punked-up cover of a John Fogerty song, but the Voids playfully follow it with “The Plan”, an original performed to perfection in Creedence style complete with mellow country-rock leads from Quine. The eight-minute “Another World” is as close as they get to Televison, both lyrically and musically, but lacks the subtlety and dynamics of “Marquee Moon”, and the long, howling fadeout definitely outstays its welcome. However the only real dog is the CD reissue bonus track, Hell’s inexplicable and inept cover of Sinatra’s “All The Way”, which is nowhere near as repugnant as Sid Vicious’s later “My Way” but falls just as flat.

Intriguingly, Hell allegedly claimed that the “blank” in “Blank Generation” was not an expression of hopelessness for youth culture, as per the “no future” in the Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK”, but an invitation to youth culture to insert its own definition. In a similar vein, on the original cover art, which differs from that used on the reissue CD, Hell has written across his bare chest “You make me ____ ”. What? Again, that’s for you to decide.

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“Love Comes in Spurts”

:) Vinyl | 1977 | Stiff | search ebay ]
😉 MP3 Album | download @ amzn ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]