Archive for February, 2010

The Human Beinz “Evolutions”

This Youngstown, Ohio band hit pay dirt in 1967 with their version of the Isley Brothers’ classic “Nobody But Me.”  The group featured Mel Pachuta (bass guitar), Ting Markulin (rhythm guitar), Mike Tatman (drummer) and Richard Belley (lead guitar).  Prior to Evolutions the group had released a split LP with the Mammals and a legit 1967 debut followup titled Nobody But Me.

Most of the Evolutions material was penned by producer Lex De DeAzevedo.  While the album is a bit self-indulgent in spots, overall it’s a very classy garage psych platter; a wreckless landmark for the genre.  Only the mellotron speckled pop number “Mrs Applebee” sounds dated today.  The fuzz guitar instro “April 15th” and country-rocker “Two Of A Kind” are over the top psychedelic madness but in the best possible way.  The last few minutes of “Two Of A Kind” are devoted to the group destroying a piano in-house.  The rest of the lp is given over to short compact folk-rock numbers, psychedelic pop, and menacing garage punkers.

Evolutions opens with “The Face,” an excellent psych pop track with production values (strings, horns, harpsichord and lots of fuzz) that are a good deal more sophisticated than the typical Human Beinz outing.  This cut sets the tone for the lp nicely and features a smooth mixture of acoustic and electric guitar textures.  The mellow numbers, “Close Your Eyes” and “Cement,” are solid folk-rock cuts that hint at a softer, introspective side.  “My Animal,””I’ve Got To Keep On Pushing,” and “Every Time Woman,” are worthy gems that give lead guitarist Richard Belley ample breathing room to stretch out and produce some wicked fuzztone solos.  “Every Time Woman” along with Nobody But Me‘s “Flower Grave”, may be the group’s finest moment on vinyl.  This cut features blasts of lacerating fuzz guitar and neurotic punk vocals.  Behind Belley’s fab fuzz work are the Beinz locked-in rhythm section, who whip up a storm here.  Out of control and unhinged, this performance is one of the all-time garage punk classics – mandatory listening.  Evolutions is a long way from the Human Beinz frat rock, soul influenced origins.  Listening to sounds from within and taking a quick glance at the album’s fine cover art should tell you these guys were no longer fooling around.   It’s a great album by an underrated band.

Evolutions has been reissued on cd several times (Ascension and Collectables Records are the best versions) and is relatively easy to score on vinyl.

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“Every Time Woman”

😀 CD Reissue | 2006 | Collectables | 2fer w/ Nobody But Me | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1968 | Capitol | search ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

The Rolling Stones “Aftermath (UK)”

The Rolling Stones may still elicit the soubriquet “the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world”, but in my opinion they’ve produced in a 42-year recording history (to A Bigger Bang, 2005) just two albums really worthy of the full five stars. Both came in the 1960s when they were still comparatively young and hungry, and both interestingly represent periods of transition. Aftermath was a product of their move from faux American R’n’B garage band towards a British pop-psych sensibility motivated by the success of mid-period Beatles and the demand by their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, that they develop as songwriters; and Beggars’ Banquet the corresponding move back to their roots, post-psychedelia.

Aftermath was the Stones’ first album to comprise only their own compositions, and can be compared to Rubber Soul in its mix of adventurousness and commercial appeal. Although Jagger’s and Richards’ songs are in general not as strong harmonically as Lennon’s and McCartney’s – the Stones lacking the Fabs’ insight into such diverse musical fields as jazz, Tamla, country and showtunes, not to mention a studio Svengali of the calibre of George Martin – the best of them are right up there, and the eclectic instrumentation brought to bear by Brian Jones, Jack Nitzsche and the invisible “sixth Stone” Ian Stewart is every bit as effective as Martin’s baroque embellishments. “Under My Thumb”, “Take It Or Leave It” and “Out Of Time” were all considered commercial enough to be covered immediately as singles by high-profile acts. The eleven-minute bluesy jam “Going Home” (not the Ten Years After song) was unprecedented on a British pop album, yet works brilliantly in the context of the wider work. The one dubious quality is the mysogynous nature of many of the lyrics; “Stupid Girl”, “Thumb”, “Time”, “Dontcha Bother Me” and “Take It” unambiguously reveal Jagger’s prevailing frame of mind.

Despite the classic British Invasion sound of the album, it was recorded in RCA’s Hollywood studios and engineered by Dave Hassinger, who would fall out big-time with the Grateful Dead a year or two later but who got along famously with the Stones if his sleeve notes are to be believed. Production was, as usual, credited to Oldham, but Nitzsche was ever-present at the sessions and the hallmarks of his touch are all over the record. North American readers should note that Aftermath UK is a greatly superior artefact to the US release of the same name, benefitting from omission of the superfluous previous hit single and from the band’s preferred sequencing, not to mention offering fourteen tracks against the US version’s eleven.

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“Mother’s Little Helper”

😀 CD Reissue |  2002 | Abkco | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1966 | Decca | at ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band “Trouble In Paradise”

The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band was pulled together by Elektra/Asylum supremo David Geffen to be, as one critic described it, “a country Crosby, Stills & Nash” (notwithstanding that CS&N had plenty country roots of their own, cf. “Teach Your Children”). More likely, Geffen set out to cynically rehash his previous Frankensteinian creation, the Eagles, at a time when the latter had mutated from an honest country-rock quartet into an intolerably precious stadium-rock act. SHF would follow the same path, but on a drastically shortened timeline and with conspicuously less success, as tensions immediately mounted between the three talented but mismatched principals: the reclusive, sensitive Souther, the hard-living, hard-boozing Hillman and the born-again evangelist Furay, not to mention ill-fated schizophrenic drummer Jim Gordon. Sometimes the whole just isn’t greater than the sum of the parts.

SHF’s eponymous debut from 1974, breezily labelled “Greetings from Glamour City”, had turned out to be a reasonably satisfying, if by then somewhat dated, LA country-rock trip comprising unspectacular but mostly upbeat songs from all three principals, the whole elevated by their scintillating three-part harmonies plus honey-sweet pedal steel and scorching lead guitar from Al Perkins and inspirational piano and Hammond from Paul Harris, all mixed gratifyingly upfront. Their second effort a year later would be a very different animal, its title instantly giving the lowdown: now the songs were subdued and pessimistic, symbolising the tensions in the band and reflecting the same disillusionment with the sleazy Los Angeles scene evinced in the Eagles’ contemporaneous Hotel California. The accompaniment was considerably stripped down, with Perkins mixed much further back and most tracks carried by Harris’s plaintive piano. In place of the garish, solarised band portrait on the debut’s elaborate gatefold sleeve, the follow-up offered simple, sombre, Bible-black artwork. The faces tell the story; even Richie Furay’s ubiquitous smile is wry and forced. Needless to say, the album faltered chartwise and the inevitable breakup followed in short order. SHF’s entry on Wikipedia is one of the briefest on record.

Yet for all this, to me Trouble In Paradise is still a rewarding listen. The songs themselves are better than those on the debut, Souther’s in particular being more expressive and explorative, and the Big Three rely less on the stellar talents of their sidemen to raise the quality. The self-explanatory title track features untutored but amazingly confident drumming by Souther himself, and its centre section moves unerringly into a jazz groove with immaculate flute and Fender Rhodes from Harris; the “gold plated room” motif consciously echoes Gram’s classic “Sin City” theme. “Mexico” sets its tale of infidelity and guilt against an exquisite faux Norteño accompaniment, decorated with Hillman’s shimmering mandolin and offering superb mariachi harmonies in the middle eight. “Follow Me Through” allows Perkins and Harris to stretch out briefly and funkily, and could almost have been lifted from a Manassas album. Ironically, a cover of the gorgeous, keening “Prisoner In Disguise” would headline Linda Ronstadt’s immensely successful next album.

Perhaps the tensions and prevailing bad atmosphere perversely instigated an unexpectedly strong work; after all, there were numerous precedents for this, not least the Fabs’ Abbey Road and the Stones’ Beggars’ Banquet. None of the three SHF principals would ever again produce genuinely first-division product (unless you consider Hillman’s Desert Rose stuff to be in that bracket, which I don’t), but this isn’t a bad valedictory effort.

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“Mexico”

😀 CD Reissue | 2002 | Wounded Bird | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | Asylum | at ebay ]
😉 MP3 Download | at amazon ]

Nashville West “Nashville West”

Sierra-Briar Records released the original Nashville West vinyl LP in 1978.  Initially panned by rock critic Noel Coppage in ‘Stereo Review‘ magazine, the Nashville West album has since been proclaimed one of the “20 Essential Country Guitar Albums” (Guitar Player magazine) and has seen subsequent releases in Italy, Holland, and England.

Nashville West is indeed a solid record that features the talents of Gib Guilbeau (vocals), Wayne Moore (bass), Gene Parsons (drums), and of course Clarence White (guitar).  These recordings were laid down live at the Nashville West Club in El Monte, California (1967).  The four musicians traveled back and forth from Bakersfield to LA in a beat up 1954 Mercury station wagon, playing all the local dive bars and clubs along the way.  These songs were recorded before Guilbeau formed Swampwater and also before Parsons and White would become full-time members of the Byrds.  The group’s name was actually the Reasons and these recordings were laid down before the invention of the B-Bender – Clarence White played it straight, with just a tele.

The song selection is eclectic (blues, cajun, rock, country, and instros) and the sound quality a bit rough in spots but this gives the Nashville West album its intimate feel and unique character.  No bullshit here, just hard hitting drum work via Gene Parsons and dazzling Clarence White guitar solos.  The early version of “Nashville West” kicks things off nicely.  Many of the performances are low key but forceful, give a good listen to “Sweet Mental Revenge” and “CC Rider”  for an example of this.  My favorite number is the instrumental “Ode To Billy Joe.”  This cut features outstanding, slightly spacey guitar work that sounds pretty fresh 40+ years after the fact.  Other worthy cuts are “By The Time I Get To Pheonix,” a sturdy rendition of “Love Of The Common People,” “Greensleeves,” and “Mom & Dad’s Waltz.”  The band’s sound here is bar-band tight and Gib’s vocals are appealingly world weary.

Nashville West was really the beginnings of country-rock.  The performances are fun, honest and the guitar playing is absolutely top notch.  A very good disc.  The Sierra Records CD is the best version to get, as it features a handful of bonus tracks and nice liner notes.

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“Ode To Billy Joe”

😀 CD Reissue | 2001 | Sierra | buy at sierra | at amazon ]

The Sir Douglas Band “Texas Tornado”

I recently finished reading Jan Reid’s (cowritten with Shawn Sahm) new Doug Sahm biography, Texas Tornado: The Times & Music of Doug Sahm out now from The University of Texas Press. This post isn’t so much a review of the album above, but more of a short audio compendium to the book, highlighting some of Doug’s favorites, standards, where he came from and what he inspired.

Read our book review at Aquarium Drunkard.

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Doug Sahm – Sometimes You’ve Got To Stop Chasing Rainbows

“Why can’t you just groove!”

😀 Texas Tornado | 2006 | Collectors Choice | at amazon ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

The Beach Boys “Landlocked Sessions”

The Landlocked Sessions were recordings made in 1969/1970 after the Beach Boys left Capitol records and signed on to the Warner/Reprise roster.  The Boys’ new label rejected these recordings, feeling they did not capture the group at their best (in a purely commercial sense).  So fans miss out on great quirky tracks like “Loop De Loop,” “I Just Got My Pay,” “San Miguel,” “Suzie Cincinnati,” and the gorgeous Dennis Wilson penned gem “Lady.”  Some tracks would appear on later albums Surf’s Up and Holland (check out the great version of “Big Sur” or the 5 minute “Till I Die”).  In response to major label demands, the Beach Boys fired back by releasing the masterful Sunflower in 1970, followed by 71’s classic Surf’s Up.  These records were special not only for their quality but because they represented a creative rebirth of sorts – the material on hand was excellent, abundant and cutting edge.  Landlocked is the very beginnings of this early 70s renaissance.  Much of it has never been officially released but it’s all great stuff that’s worth hearing.

Copies (bootlegs) of Landlocked are usually coupled with another unreleased Beach Boy’s album, Adult Child.  Also, some bootlegs of Landlocked include the glorious Brian Wilson penned “Soulful Old Man Sunshine.”  This track was cut in 1969 and eventually/officially released on 1998’s Endless Harmony.  Its unique brass arrangement gives it a blue-eyed soul sound.

It always amazes me how many great unreleased recordings and false starts the Beach Boys had during their heyday.  Their outtakes and unreleased albums are better than most groups’ best material.

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“San Miguel”