Archive for March, 2010

Hoyt Axton “Joy to the World”

After too many years over-exposure to the words “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…” I thought I would never make it all the way through another version of “Joy to the World.” Hoyt Axton’s original delivers the goods though, and much more to dig on this 1971 gem, his most celebrated and “hits” filled record.

In quotations since none of the “hits” were from his own version. Before any research, it sounds like a collection of covers, but I was surprised to learn he actually wrote “Joy to the World,” “Never Been to Spain” (both as made famous by 3 Dog),  and “The Pusher” (Steppenwolf). Clearly a talented songwriter but a damn fine performer at that, seeing as how his originals endure better today than their played-out cover versions. These productions are raw, but layered and textured, a bit twangy and sometimes pumped up with an overdriven gospel chorus. It’s a kind of sound that could even sound good on blown out speakers.

Axton’s vocal varies track to track: sometimes it’s a little unconvincing, like on the swampy “California Women” (great work with the blues harp on this one), but a couple lines in he’ll hook you back. The payoff is in the growl and squonk when his voice is most worn.

This record’s worth it for some key moments. The panning moog (or distorted bass guitar, sax? can anybody call it?) on “Alice in Wonderland’s” addicting chorus.  The first verse of “Lightnin’ Bar Blues” (another song so good I can’t believe it’s original) before the bar fight sound effects nearly ruin the track. And “Have a Nice Day,” now that’s my kind of tune, it’s like the content of a R. Davies track with some J. Sebastian feel.

Get this any way you can find it, but the Raven CD reissue comes as a 2fer with his previous recording, Country Anthem, another great one.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Alice in Wonderland”

:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Capitol | search ebay ]
😀 CD reissue | 2001 | Raven | 2fer | at amazon ]

Hawkwind “Hawkwind”

You mightn’t know it in North America – there’s nary a mention of the band in my 1992 Rolling Stone Album Guide – but Hawkwind is a British rock institution of over forty years’ standing. Coming out of the late sixties Notting Hill freak culture along with such other proto-prog outfits as Quintessence and the Pink Fairies, the Hawks became the ultimate stoner community band – a bit like the Dead, but with intensity and over-the-top stage visuals taking precedence over virtuosity and compositional complexity. Musically, they took as their initial reference the space-rock instrumentals of Syd-era Pink Floyd, from which they rapidly forged the blend of pounding riff-rock, unbridled electronic noise and abstruse science fiction lyrics with which they willingly became stereotyped, as exemplified by the cacophonous hit single “Silver Machine”.

Hawkwind hit big with their second album In Search Of Space, in which they gave themselves over totally to the aforementioned formula that would endure for the next several decades. This, I have to say, is not really my cup of tea. Their first, more tentative, release, however, was one of the better psych-prog crossover albums of the era, despite inexplicably failing to achieve any chart penetration then or since. The roots of the heavy space-rock agenda are there, but the material also harks back to the lysergic side of psychedelia; this is one of the most genuinely trippy albums I’ve ever enjoyed blissing out to. Despite being constructed from the simplest of musical building blocks, there’s plenty of sonic variety. Nik Turner’s primitive freeform sax playing may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s balanced by the muscular lead guitar of Huw Lloyd-Langton, while DikMik’s untutored but atmospheric VCS3 ramblings generate a variety of moods from the sinister to the orgasmic. The production is by Pretty Things mainman Dick Taylor, refreshingly open and uncluttered by later Hawkwind standards, but with plenty of contemporary stereo effects and studio trickery thrown in.

The original album really contained only three pieces. After the opening “Hurry On Sundown”, an engaging acoustic bluesy hangover from founder Dave Brock’s street busking days, the main body of the album, while listed as five separate tracks, is the segued suite that comprised their early stage act. The electronic wash of “The Reason Is?” leads into “Be Yourself” and “Seeing It As You Really Are”, two lengthy, mainly instrumental confections featuring metronomically repetitive chord riffs, separated by “Paranoia (Parts 1 and 2)”, a thudding six-note unison riff excursion fractured by a deliberate tape slowdown at the point where the vinyl album had to be flipped. The final track, and the best, is the seven-minute maracca-tastic “Mirror Of Illusion” which combines Brock’s delightfully atonal twelve-string with a terser, tighter improvisational mid-section and some tasty mixing-desk widdling.

Few bands have ever polarised opinion as much as the Hawks; like Marmite, you either loved or hated their combination of duh-duh musicianship and outrageous stage antics. Yet, after forty-two years and innumerable lineup changes, the band endures, with 69-year-old Brock still at the helm. Interestingly, their name has nothing to do with their sci-fi agenda but derives, allegedly, from Nik Turner’s predilections for coughing and flatulating (figure it out).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Hurry on Sundown”

😀 MP3 Download | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1970 | United Artsits | search ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Alex Chilton 1950-2010

Morgen “Morgen”

Morgen was a hard rock/psych band that hailed from Long Island, NY.  They were fronted by guitarist/vocalist/wild man Steve Morgen but also included drummer Bob Maiman and guitarists Barry Stock and Rennie Genossa.  In 1969, record label Probe (ABC) released the group’s sole offering.

The album’s best known track is the classic “Welcome To The Void.”  40+ years later this cut’s over the top acid guitar work and pounding drums still shred the best of speakers.  Certainly a unique mixture of acid garage and hard rock, “Welcome To The Void” is essential listening.  There are other great cuts to be found on Morgen, like the stealth rocker “Purple” and the freaky fuzz corker “Of Dreams.”  “Eternity In Between,” probably influenced by the Who, is another excellent track that begins with ringing guitars and crashing drums.  This 5 minute song is nearly ruined by a two and a half minute drum solo.

Steve Morgen’s sexually charged lyrics and over the top vocals will irritate some listeners but that’s really a minor complaint as most of Morgen is full of great fuzz guitar solos and solid songs.  No beads or flowers for these guys, Morgen is straight up brooding hard rock psych.  A mini gem of a record that will reward patient listeners.

Over the years Morgen has been reissued by grey area bootleggers Eva and Radioactive.  Originals may set you back a few hundred dollars.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Welcome To The Void”

:) Original Vinyl |1969 | Probe | search ebay ]

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band “Manfred Mann’s Earth Band”

The Small Faces, the Pretty Things, the Zombies and the Move have seen numerous write-ups, send offs, and press in all the big-time (and small-time) classic rock publications.  But of all the major British Invasion acts, none has been as ill-served and neglected in rock critic circles and the collector circuit as Manfred Mann.  Mann and his group are usually thought of as a singles act, which is a cryin’ shame as many of their albums are great if not better than that.  Manfred Mann’s Earth Band followed the excellent jazz rock explorations of Chapter Three (Volume 1 is a stone cold classic).  The self-titled Earth Band debut remains one of the forgotten progressive rock masterpieces.  Manfred Mann’s Earth Band is an LP that’s actually worth hearing as it’s one of the best albums of its time and a fan favorite of sorts.

Originally the Earth Band had been working on Stepping Sideways, a rootsy album that was scrapped in favor of newer, more challenging material, which had been part of their live act at the time.  Many of the Stepping Sideways tracks are as good as much of what ended up on the Earth Band’s debut.  Most of the lost Stepping Sideways sessions later appeared on the Earth Band’s outtake box set, Odds & Sods.

On Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, the group take the best aspects of pop and progressive music and meld them into something original and distinctive.  Manfred Mann’s Earth Band came out in 1972, the height of the progressive rock boom.  The album is half covers, half originals.  There are no long, wanky keyboard solos, everything here is well structured and tight – the band cooks throughout.  Mann still kept some of the rootsy singer songwriter material from the earlier, Stepping Sideways sessions.  “Part Time Man,” a cover of Dylan’s “Please Mrs. Henry,” and “I’m Up and I’m Leaving” are all wonderful, underrated cuts that hold up to repeated plays. Other worthy tracks are “Captain Bobby Scout” which features a cool middle synth section, “Tribute,” a mysterious space rock instrumental and the great, hard rocking “Prayer.” Mann’s use of the Minimoog/synth/keyboards is inventive and often overlooked, he never loses focus or falls prey to mindless self-indulgence.  The album’s centerpiece, a cover of Randy Newman’s “Living Without You,” was a minor US hit and is perhaps the best version of this song you’re likely to hear.  The Moog work on this track is subtle but powerful while the hooks are huge.  “Living Withou You” is one of those great early 70s singles that wasn’t a big hit, but truly deserved to be.  Overall, not a wasted note or duff track to be found on this lost classic.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Part Time Man”

😀 CD Reissue | 2009 | Polydor | at amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | search ebay ]

The Byrds “Byrds” (’73 Reunion)

The announcement of the reunion album featuring all five original Byrds raised expectations to the point where whatever emerged was almost bound to be an anticlimax. (Imagine the effect of the Beatles reforming around the same time, if you will.) Despite a general thumbs-down from the critics, fan loyalty and eager anticipation made the new long-player highly successful at the record store: in the States, the biggest-selling new-material Byrds album since Turn, Turn, Turn. Subsequent reviews expressed varying degrees of disappointment, but recent re-evaluation with almost forty years of hindsight portrays the project as fascinating historically and not without merit artistically. Interest in it has never waned and it’s been re-released on CD no fewer than four times. The Wikipedia article on it is almost a book.

The theory behind the reunion varies. According to one version, the famously unreticent David Crosby visited Roger McGuinn in mid-1972 and panned the well-loved White/Battin/Parsons Byrds lineup, saying, “you’ve done some OK stuff but you’ve also done stuff that is pretty bad. Please stop doing it under the Byrds name”. Crosby then suggested reforming the original band to record an album showing where the founder members “are at today”. Another version has the ever-opportunistic David Geffen seeing the lucrative potential of a reunion and planting the suggestion in McGuinn’s mind, noting that McGuinn himself had become dissatisfied with the long-standing lineup and replaced Gene Parsons with salaried sessioneer John Guerin. Either way, McGuinn acquiesced and the other members, all having found themselves between longterm engagements, followed.

The nature of the final work supports the first theory: the album is The Crosby Show in almost every respect. Although on the surface democracy seems to be served by each of the four principals furnishing two original compositions, two of the three accompanying covers are Neil Young songs and the third is by Joni Mitchell, both being longtime Crosby cronies (though Clark takes lead vocal on the Young ditties). It’s been suggested that the other three writers were saving their best material for their own solo projects, but though none of their offerings is a blockbuster they’re all engaging enough, especially Gene Clark’s delicate “Full Circle” and Dylanesque “Changing Heart” and McGuinn’s ersatz-traditional “Sweet Mary”. By contrast, Crosby’s “Long Live The King” is characteristically ebullient, while his “Laughing” is itself actually a cover of the original that appeared on his sublime 1971 collection If Only I Could Remember My Name. Crosby also has the sole production credit; the only tracks that show real spirit in the lead vocals are his; and in the cover photographs he’s the only one who really looks like he wants to be there. (Chris Hillman looks like he’d rather be anywhere else at all.)

The sound of the album is also heavily redolent with Crosby’s aural fingerprint. Acoustic guitars predominate, with the electrics and bass mostly mixed way back and only Hillman’s vibrant mandolin and Clark’s plaintive harmonica forefronted strongly as solo instruments. Apart from “Laughing”, all the songs have short, terse arrangements, never really catching fire. While Crosby’s lead vocals soar, Clark’s and Hillman’s are more subdued and McGuinn’s particularly sombre. The block harmonies are immaculate but display the sweetness of CS&N rather than the engaging rough edge of latterday Byrds. One is led to conclude that with this album Crosby finally achieved, albeit temporarily, belatedly and with questionable success, the domination of the Byrds that he’d craved during the classic years.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Full Circle”

😀 CD Reissue | 2004 | Wounded Bird | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Asylum | search ebay ]

Kaleidoscope (UK) “Faintly Blowing”

Kaleidoscope was one of England’s purest and most beloved psychedelic bands.  Prior to their ventures into psychedelia, Kaleidoscope had been known as The Sidekicks and then, The Key.  These groups played a rather ordinary brand of British pop and R&B.  Kaleidoscope debuted in 1967 with their fabulous Tangerine Dream LP.  This disc featured some of the finest psychedelia England had produced up to that point.  More than half the album is fleshed out with lost classics; check out trippy tracks such as “Please Excuse My Face,” “Dive Into Yesterday,” “Flight From Ashiya,” “The Murder of Lewis Tullani,” “Mr. Small, The Watch Repairer Man,” and the superb “Further Reflections In The Room Of Percussion.”  Many of these cuts are on par with the best of Pink Floyd’s early work.  Kaleidoscope was making imaginative music featuring plenty of interesting chord progressions, jangley guitars, bizarre lyrics, and smart production trickery.  Much of the rest of Tangerine Dream is very good too, but sales and critical recognition stiffed due to the adventurous nature of the group’s music.

Faintly Blowing (Fontana) came out sometime later, in 1969.  While it may lack some of the key album cuts that made Tangerine Dream so special, Faintly Blowing is consistently strong and features influences as diverse as folk and hard rock.  Some of the highlights include “Poem,” a soft folk track similar to “Please Excuse My Face,” the phased out hard rocker “Music” and the edgy psychedelic title cut.  Abrasive numbers “Snapdragon” and “Love Song From Annie” represent Kaleidoscope’s new hard rock approach while still retaining the group’s clever edge – these cuts are both gems.  Some songs’ lyrics, like that on the tuneful folk-rocker “A Story From Tom Blitz,” deal with morals and important life lessons to be learned.

The music on Faintly Blowing is a bit more professional sounding, lacking the reckless energy and psychedelic feel of the debut.  But make no mistake, this is a very good album full of sharp ideas, fairytale lyrics, fine songcraft and pretty vocals.  If you’re intrigued by psychedelic, progressive or folk sounds, this disc is not to be missed.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Faintly Blowing”

😀 CD Reissue | 2005 | Repertoire | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Fontana | search ebay ]

PODCAST 19 Punk

Running Time: 34:08 | File Size 46.9 MB
Download: .mp3
To subscribe to this podcast: http://therisingstorm.net/podcast.xml [?]

PUNKCAST

1. Testors “You Don’t Break My Heart” 1977

2. Customs “Long Gone” 1979

3. Fun Things “Savage” 1980

4. Dead Boys “Ain’t Nothin to Do” 1977

5. Crime “San Francisco’s Doomed” 1978

6. Gears “Heartbeat” 1980

7. Pagans “What’s this Shit Called Love” 197

8. DMZ “Bad Attitude”

9. Zeros “Don’t Push Me Around”

10. Saints “Erotic Neurotic” 1977

11. The Eat “Communist Radio”

12. Weirdos “Solitary Confinement”

13. Nervous Eaters “Just Head”

14. Radio Birdman “Burn My Eye”

Giveaway: “Texas Tornado” Doug Sahm Bio

The fine folks at the University of Texas Press have cleared us a couple copies of this new bio for two (2) lucky Rising Storm readers. This is the first biography of the legendary Doug Sahm, a great read which I previously reviewed here. (Back to albums soon I swear it.)

To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment below (with your email address) listing your favorite Doug Sahm tune. If you don’t got one, how about any old Country, Rhythm & Blues, Tex-Mex, Conjunto, or otherwise related groove you think we ought to hear.

Two (2) winners will be selected at random in a week or two and get free books mailed to them! Good luck and thanks for reading.

Creedence Clearwater Revival “Bayou Country”

For a long time I wondered why four guys from the musical wellhead that was late ‘60s San Fran set out to sound like a swamp’n’roll band from the backwoods of Louisiana, whilst accepting as perfectly natural that five young long-haired white boys from London, England should have bust their guts to emulate a black 1950s Chicago bar band. Eventually I stopped wondering and started trying to pin down why this album has remained Creedence’s most underestimated, least discussed collection, despite coming closest to the ideal they sought. Not that it didn’t sell; just that nobody ever seems to mention it till near the end of a CCR conversation, if at all. And at the time of writing it’s running a distant fourth in The Rising Storm’s Creedence discography uReview vote.

The undeniable ability of John Fogerty’s outfit to produce immaculate three-minute power-pop singles shines throughout CCR’s oeuvre, from “Suzie Q” to “Sweet Hitch Hiker”. But this album finds the band stretching out on what is to all purposes a live stage set performed in the studio: raw and honest, high energy, no discernable overdubs. The three long, sweaty, riffing jams – “Born On The Bayou”, “Graveyard Train” and “Keep On Chooglin’” – and the shorter but similar “Bootleg” get as close as CCR ever did to the authentic swamp-rock of Tony Joe White. On the mandatory classic rock’n’roll cover “Good Golly Miss Molly” John does what Paul McCartney did on the Fabs’ version of “Long Tall Sally”: his eviscerating vocal simply leaves the original for dead. “Proud Mary” is the hit single, but despite its prettiness it’s the weakest cut on the album, as the pace and energy level dip temporarily. The real surprise, and true gem, of the whole collection is “Penthouse Pauper”, an uncharacteristic twelve-bar blues on which both John’s voice and his Telecaster are fit to strip wallpaper.

The straightforward, no-frills nature of Creedence’s music enabled them to record and release an astonishing six albums in two-and-a-half years, from July 1968 to December 1970. (Think on that, Coldplay.) Whilst on an extended vacation in western Canada in 2007 I got to talk to and play with a number of young musicians who weren’t born till years after these albums came out. I was surprised to find that CCR was right up there as one of their favourite acts to cover. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised: the simple but irresistable songs, the natural, unaffected guitar sound and that unique banshee voice have a genuinely timeless quality.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Penthouse Pauper”

😀 CD Reissue | 2008 | Fantasy | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Fantasy | search ebay ]
😉 MP3 Download | at amazon ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]