Archive for April, 2010

Shuggie Otis “Freedom Flight”

As we all know, the oldest cliché in rock is the casualty list. There are the high-profile heroes of misadventure: Buddy Holly, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are those that couldn’t handle success and took the ultimate way out: Nick Drake, Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley. But perhaps saddest of all are those huge talents who unaccountably chose simply to fade into obscurity, often in self-imposed seclusion: Brian Wilson, Peter Green, Emitt Rhodes . . . and Shuggie Otis.

Johnnie Velotes Jr was a precocious musical polymath. Son of extrovert jump-jive bandleader Johnnie Otis, Shuggie inherited the musical gene in spades, playing guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vibes fluently before reaching his teens. At fifteen he replaced Mike Bloomfield in Al Kooper’s occasional all-star supergroup for the album Kooper Session: Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis. In the same year he played bass on the sessions for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats; that’s Shuggie’s bubbling, syncopating bass on “Peaches En Regalia”.

A year later the teenage prodigy released his first solo album, Here Comes Shuggie Otis, co-written and produced by his father and backed by the cream of Johnnie Sr’s session pals. The second followed a year later: its title Freedom Flight symbolised Shuggie’s breaking loose from his father’s patronage, with most compositions being credited to him alone and with a much smaller coterie of backing players, while Shuggie overdubbed his own bass and keyboard parts and wrote his own string and brass charts. But even this new level of creative control wasn’t enough: his third and final album, Inspiration Information, took three years to construct, with Shuggie playing everything bar the horns and strings which he scored. And then, at the age of 22, Shuggie Otis went into self-imposed retirement. Apart from occasional studio sessions for other artists and, recently, some low-key live appearances in Northern California, he’s remained silent and invisible.

The first album is an enthusiastic freshman romp through blues and funk, showcasing Shuggies’s youthfully exuberant guitar; the last is an introspective, sensitive effort that unites soul and jazz in what would now be called ambient soundscapes, way ahead of its time but with a curiously vulnerable, unfinished quality. Freedom Flight is undoubtedly his most-realised collection. The blues/funk axis carries over from Here Comes, notably on the killer opener “Ice Cold Daydream” and the sole cover, Gene Barge’s “Me And My Woman”, but with a far more mature, considered approach to his guitar playing from the eighteen-year-old virtuoso. The album also nods in other directions; the gorgeous psychedelically-tinged California soul of “Strawberry Letter 23” with its astonishing coda, the restrained modal slide guitar work on “Sweet Thang” and the guitar/flute dialogue that ends the joyous “Someone’s Always Singing”. But the big surprise is the title track, which moves unexpectedly into the most melodic of free jazz with the guitar improvising against tenor sax, Fender Rhodes and a ubiquitous wind chime for thirteen minutes, and not a wasted note anywhere – Shuggie’s absolute masterpiece. This points toward the third album, and the direction he’d probably have taken thereafter had he stayed the course.

One reviewer called Shuggie Otis the link between Sly Stone and Stephen Stills; personally I’d say between Mike Bloomfield and Curtis Mayfield. But such comparisons are subjective and irrelevant. If you want to follow up this brilliant, enigmatic young musician’s brief career on CD, Inspiration Information was reissued on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop imprint in 2001 with four key tracks from Freedom Flight included as bonus cuts, while the first two albums reappeared in full as a twofer on the excellent Raven label from Australia in 2003. Both releases are unreservedly recommended.

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“Strawberry Letter 23”

:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Epic | search ebay ]
😀 CD Reissue | 2003 | 2fer | Raven | at amzn ]

Poco “Deliverin'”

Poco’s first two studio albums and Deliverin’, this live set from 1971, represent some of the best country-rock laid down to wax.  These tracks were taken from two recorded live shows: Boston’s Music Hall and New York City’s Felt Forum.  If you’re into this kind of music, Deliverin’ represents a kind of peak or pinnacle for the genre.  If only for the powerful playing, tight performances and Rusty Young’s brilliant, often underrated steel guitar work.  It’s easily one of the best live discs of its time; a better played and more enjoyable listening experience than say the Rolling Stones’ Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out.  Furay and Messina are in great spirits too, often lifting the mood and interplay between the musicians.  That’s what makes Deliverin’ so essential; the positive attitudes and vibrant mood of the musicians.  This music soothes the soul and lifts spirits; it’s good listening when you’re having a bad day or going through the motions.  But there’s also depth here too, these tunes will stick in your head for days.

Deliverin’ is high energy, hard hitting country music that mixes new group originals with tracks from Poco’s first two albums and a few Richie Furay penned Buffalo Springfield era gems.  “Kind Woman”, a great, great song, is given a 5 minute rendition while “A Child’s Claim To Fame” is the center of a brilliant medley which also includes “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” and the awesome “Hard Luck.”  They rock the hell out of album opener “I Guess You Made It” and nearly burst into flames on an acoustic version of “You’d Better Think Twice,” which was one of their all-time classics (a small radio hit too).  Deliverin’ ends with another great medley that is mostly comprised of songs from Poco’s superb debut.

Not a wasted moment here.  This is Jim Messina’s swan song with the group as he would leave shortly after, forming the Loggins & Messina duo with Kenny Loggins of course.  Deliverin’ shows us why Poco was one of the great American bands.

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“Medley: Hard Luck/A Child’s Claim To Fame/Pickin’ Up The Pieces”

😀 CD Reissue | 2008 | Sbme | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Epic | search ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Gary Walker & the Rain “Album No. 1”

I bought this album after reading the story of Gary Walker & the Rain in Shindig! magazine; it’s as entertaining a tale as any such from the late sixties. The Rain’s reign was brief, but they left behind a genuine “lost” album which has only recently seen the light of day outside Japan and which will come as a pleasant surprise to aficionados of Brit psych.

Gary Leeds was only ever a third wheel to the Walker Brothers, a non-singing drummer thumping the tubs on live dates and TV appearances and providing a further piece of eye candy for the photo shoots. However, such was the impact of the Walkers in Europe and Japan that, when the trio folded, Gary was easily convinced by conniving manager Maurice King to put together a new band in England on the basis of his kudos as a former Walker. He was fortunate enough to recruit two capable Merseybeat veterans, Joey Molland (vocal, lead gtr) and Paul “Charlie” Crane (vocal, keys, gtr), plus reliable London bassist John Lawson. Allegedly Molland’s interview ran thus. Leeds: “You look like Paul McCartney. Can you sing like him?” Molland: “Yes”. L: “Can you play guitar like Eric Clapton?” M: “Yes”. L: “You’re in.” Serendipitously, he really could do both, besides proving an adept songwriter. Lawson got the job on the basis of his Gene Clark-like good looks and his orange jacket and purple loons; such are the vagaries of rock showbiz. Unashamedly cashing in on Leeds’s celebrity, the outfit would be known as Gary Walker and the Rain.

The band’s recording career kicked off with a passable cover of “Spooky” that failed to show in the UK or America but sold well in Japan, where the Walkers had belatedly achieved godlike status. On the basis of this UK Polydor permitted them to record an album, but then inexplicably refused to release it. Only in Japan, where the band’s local label, Philips, was crying out for further product, did it hit the shelves; its title there was Album No. 1, which follows a Japanese penchant for such unambiguous nomenclature whilst appearing pretty humdrum to Western sensibilities. On the ensuing tour of Japan the band were mobbed by teenage girls, with the lion’s share of the attention going to the drum-stool god rather than to the talented but unknown front line. Sadly, Beat Era heroes were less in vogue in the UK by 1968; the gigs dried up, two subsequent single releases tanked, and the band called it a day just a year after coming together. Molland went on to be a cornerstone of Badfinger, while Crane became a noted music publisher. Leeds enjoyed a brief renaissance when the Walkers reunited in the mid-70s.

The album itself proves gratifyingly to be a distinctive pop-psych set falling somewhere between a pre-Tommy Who, an un-flanged early Status Quo and a nascent Badfinger. The slightly hazy production was by ex-Four Pennies bassist Fritz Fryer, who enlisted much inventive studio trickery to enhance the uncompromisingly basic eight-track recording facilities. The leadoff track “Magazine Woman” sets out the stall, with choppy rhythm, stun-gun lead guitar, delightful rough-edged harmonies and “Taxman” rip-off bassline. The ensuing tracks move from late Merseybeat through freakbeat to proto-metal, some played straight, others psychedelically treated. Notable are “Thoughts Of An Old Man”, distinctly Pepper-ish musically and lyrically; “Francis”, a crunchy, stereo-tastic garage rocker chronicling the adventures of an elderly philanderer; and a totally wigged-out cover of Lieber and Stoller’s venerable “If You Don’t Come Back” in best Jeff Beck Band style with thudding backing and shards of barely controlled guitar feedback. The original album closes with two ballads: the harpsichord-driven pop-baroque “I Promise To Love You” and the gentle countrified acoustic “Whatever Happened to Happy”.

The album finally hit the Western World as a CD in 2009, boosted by the band’s sole post-album track and both sides of a single recorded earlier by Gary with some Japanese musicians styled the Carnabeats. The B-side of this is unselfconsciously wet-yourself hilarious. Why? I ain’t telling; you’ll have to get the album to find out.

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“Magazine Woman”

😀 CD Reissue | 2009 | 101 | at amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl Singles | search ebay ]

Joe Walsh “Barnstorm”

Joe Walsh is one of those artists that will always be remembered for classic rock radio hits “Funk #49,” “Rocky Mountain Way,” and ”Life’s Been Good.”  Then of course was his memorable stint in the Eagles, which yielded the highly successful Hotel California album.  He was one of the prime architects of the classic rock sound and his radio smashes are stilled played every day at the top of each hour.   Prior to the Eagles and “Rocky Mountain Way,” Joe Walsh made great music with the James Gang (Rides Again is one of the great classic rock LPs) and this, his first solo album from 1972, Barnstorm (the group is often referred to as the Barnstormers).

The Barnstorm group was put together shortly after Walsh left the James Gang.  The songs were recorded in Nederland, CO with the help of bassist Kenny Passarelli and drummer Joe Vitale, the latter had played with Walsh in 60s garage band the Measles.  The trio recorded an album that rocks hard at times but also has a strong roots/country flavor.  It’s a unique disc in Walsh’s varied discography, as he would never record anything like Barnstorm again.  “Turn To Stone,” the hardest rocker on the album, holds up pretty well and is similar to something the James Gang might have recorded in 1970.  Walsh would revisit this excellent track on 75’s So What but I feel the version heard here sounds best.  Most of the album is earthy roots rock that retains powerful classic rock-like hooks, just listen to the album’s closing cut “Comin’ Down.”  Here you have just Walsh’s vocals, guitar and harmonica but moving stuff nonetheless.  My favorite cuts on the album are “Home,” “I’ll Tell The World About You,” the psychedelic country rocker “Midnight Visitor” and the classic Americana of “Birdcall Morning.”   The latter is truly amazing, highlighted by sparkling acoustic guitars and some rustic slide work – it should have been a radio anthem.

Barnstorm contains imaginative music, wonderful guitar solos, unique songwriting, great ensemble playing and sharp humor – really Joe Walsh at his best.  Some songs have synth and hit a more experimental vibe but they work well in the context of this album.  Barnstorm is a masterpiece, a must hear for fans of country influenced hard rock.  Every track is worth multiple spins and listeners will immediately identify with the amount of thought and care put into each song and guitar solo.  It goes without saying that this record is a lost classic.

Barnstorm

mp3: Comin’ Down
mp3: Midnight Visitor

Rides Again (1970)

mp3: There I Go Again

:D CD Reissue | 2006 | Hip-O | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Dunhill | search ebay ]

The Shaggs “Philosophy of the World”

Three teenage sisters from New Hampshire, Dot, Betty, and Helen Wiggin, were pushed by their father to form a band and in 1969 they recorded the ultimate outsider album, Philosophy of the World. Both Frank Zappa and Kurt Cobain have cited it as a fave.

Immediately it sounds unlistenable, but soon it’s hard to stop – like rubbernecking at a car wreck. The Shaggs’ approach comes from way beyond, seemingly informed by nothing. Their music is profoundly unique, sincere, and captivating.

The “problem” with the music is the drums are plainly out of sync with the guitar and vocal.  But you can’t blame the drummer, Helen, whose oft-recycled, go-to drum fill hits the spot every time.  Dot Wiggin’s guitar and lead vocal melodies have a natural lean to complex and disorganized time signatures; I’d bet even the best free jazz drummers couldn’t keep up.  Ultimately what emerges in my mind is a picture of sibling rivalry: Dot wants Helen to follow her rambling leads, and Helen just wants her sisters to come back to the planet and adhere to some semblance of a 4/4 beat.

The songwriting is strange, but at times poignant, as in “Why Do I Feel” (listen as Betty the rhythm guitarist and Helen the drummer finally sneak in a few bars of beat-matched tempo during the intro) and “Who Are Parents?” a heartbreaking, beautiful mess of a song.  “My Pal Foot Foot” is a bizarre piece, presumably about the family dog. “I’m So Happy When You’re Near” comes to a lyrical crescendo when they loudly proclaim “sometimes I think we are completely insane!”

Philosophy of the World is raw, abrasive, and weird, but absolutely must-hear. Especially recommended in small doses.

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“Who Are Parents”

😀 CD Reissue | 1999 | RCA | buy at amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Third World | search ebay ]

Mark P. Wirtz “A Teenage Opera”

Despite enjoying greater artistic freedom than in any period before or since, a handful of late sixties rock composers strove to push the creative boundaries beyond what even the industry’s patiently elastic limits would accept, resulting in the several great “lost albums” of the period. Brian Wilson’s SMiLE finally emerged complete and as intended in 2006, its compositional brilliance diminished only by the uber-perfect new digital recordings lacking the hazy beauty of those original analogue tracks that had appeared piecemeal on Smiley Smile and Surf’s Up. Pete Townshend saw the bulk of the material from his impossibly ambitious Lifehouse concept become the splendid Who’s Next album and several non-album singles from around 1970-71. And Mark P Wirtz’s A Teenage Opera, a set of nostalgic vignettes of Edwardian village life that predated Ray Davies’s similar Village Green Preservation Society, was belatedly released in 1996 as a pseudo-film soundtrack described by reissue company RPM as “as near to the original concept as can be assembled with the surviving recorded works”.

RPM’s A Teenage Opera is simultaneously fascinating, rewarding and confounding. Wirtz agreed to RPM assembling the album from his original 1967 recordings, allowing the use of the original title and enjoying having his name liberally spread over it, but has since disparaged it as a fake: an opportunistic collector’s item comprising completed tracks intended for the Opera, incomplete demos likewise, and similar but completely unrelated tracks produced during the same period. Given that some of the latter were subsequently issued by Wirtz as singles under his own and other real and spurious artists’ names, and that at least two tracks which are known to have been intended for the Opera haven’t survived, his assertion is probably true. The Opera’s original intended running order remains a mystery.

The music itself is no less enigmatic. The three amazingly ambitious tracks released as single A-sides can be considered as either masterpieces of whimsical psychedelia or as overproduced pop schmaltz, depending on your taste (and whether you recoil from dense orchestration and kiddies’ choirs). The first such release, “Grocer Jack”, credited to Keith West and retitled “Excerpt From A Teenage Opera” to whet the public’s appetite for the rest of the project, was an unexpected UK pirate radio hit; the other two, “Sam” and “(He’s Our Dear Old) Weatherman”, stiffed totally, leading to EMI’s final withdrawal of support and the shelving of the intended album and animated musical film. Three other songs surfaced with justification on Tomorrow’s eponymous album, Keith West and Steve Howe having contributed substantially to the Opera project. Of the instrumentals, most might appear at first exposure to be the corniest of muzak, but intent listening reveals an underlying compositional quality and deft arrangements comparable to Morricone’s incidental film music of the same period. If you’re into the “toytown” end of psych and 1960s film scores and the historical misadventure of the project appeals to you, you’ll enjoy this album; if not, you’ll probably be happier with the more esoteric complexity of SMiLE.

The troubled history of the project has been told numerous times, with variations. A reasonable third-party version is provided in the CD’s extensive and lavishly illustrated liner notes. The best reading, from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, can be found in Wirtz’s own comprehensive and candid account.

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“(He’s Our Dear Old) Weatherman”

😀 CD  | 1996 | RPM | at amzn ]
😉 MP3 Album | download at amzn ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Moby Grape “Live”

Something tells me, if I had been at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom in June of ’67 to witness Moby Grape at the height of their powers, scorching through their set of two-minute pop blasts, blaring triple-guitar action and five-part harmonies soaring, I might not have survived the night. None was the match of the mighty Grape in those days; the band was “flying musically” and easily the toughest act around. Moby Grape Live is the first official release to afford a glimpse into the raucous and entrancing stage performances of one of the most exciting, original, and underappreciated bands of the ’60s.

Separated into four sides, this double LP takes us to performances from the same weeks their infamously overhyped masterpiece Moby Grape was released, to their few high-octane minutes at the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival, jumping forward to a 1969 performance in Amsterdam featuring cuts from Wow and ’69, and ending back at the start: a full side of  “Dark Magic,” recorded New Years Eve, 1966. This one’s worth the purchase for Side 1 alone. The rabid energy of the band, issuing rapid-fire gems like “Rounder” and “Looper,”  hits a high point in “Changes” into “Indifference” featuring Jerry Miller’s careening lead guitar. Skip Spence turns in a beautifully honest vocal to cap the blistering set with “Someday.” The highlight for me, however, are the post-Skip tracks from 1969 on Side 3. “Murder in my Heart for the Judge” shows the band at their loosest, the slack and soul of the rootsier Grape a refreshing contrast. “I am Not Willing,” one of their best songs, gets a grooving drawn out treatment and it’s interesting to hear a matured group attack earlier hits “Fall on You” and “Omaha.” The closing 17-minute raga, “Dark Magic,” is more than a piece of rock music history, an actually listenable and fascinating performance, it features inspiring guitar leads, primitive electronic squeals, Skip’s far out vocal, and the driving force of sound that made Moby Grape one of the hottest band of the era.

Sundazed has curated an important document here. Hardcore Grape addicts should note much of this material has been featured on bootlegs over the years (notably the tracks from Monterey Pop and “Dark Magic”) but none of this has ever been officially released, and never with such pristine sound quality. David Fricke’s notes are the icing on the cake. After the essential debut record, this is the Moby Grape record I would recommend next.

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“Murder in My Heart for the Judge” (1969, Amsterdam)

:) 180 Gram Vinyl | 2-LP | 2010 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]
😀 CD | 2010 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]

The Liberty Bell “Reality Is The Only Answer”

With the notable exception of the Zakary Thaks (both groups shared a similar sound and influence), the Liberty Bell were probably Corpus Christi’s top rock n roll group. They were talented musicians who wrote fine, original material and played with a conviction and skill that most lack.  While the Liberty Bell never recorded an album, they released 5 excellent singles on the J-Beck and Back Beat labels.  Back in the mid 90’s, Collectables issued a good compilation collecting all their singles and a couple of outtakes, titled Reality Is The Only Answer.  The sound quality and liner notes are iffy but the music is fine if underappreciated garage/psych.  Also, if you look hard enough, Reality Is The Only Answer can still be found for under $10.

The group started out life in Corpus Christi, Texas as the Zulus.  Upon manager/record label owner Carl Becker’s suggestion, they changed their name to the Liberty Bell.   Their first single (J-Beck) was released in 1967 – a rocking cover of the Yardbirds’ “The Nazz Are Blue.”  The flip side was a fine, fuzzy take on “Big Boss Man.”  This single met with some local success prompting Becker to release their second 45, “For What You Lack/That’s How It Will Be.”  Both sides of this 45, also released in 1967, are pounding slabs of prime garage punk that should have put the Liberty Bell on the map.  All the ingredients were there too, attitude, lots of fuzz guitar and an overpowering energy but no success.  Another track cut at the same session, “I Can See,” is a brash garage number that’s worth a spin as well.  Amazingly, these 3 songs were cut on one of the first eight-track machines available in the U.S.  Their third J-Beck single was a solid blues number (“Al’s Blues”) with strong guitar work.  This track was backed by another good garage pop number that probably should have been the A-side, titled “Something For Me.”

In 1968 the Liberty Bell added ex-Zakary Thaks lead singer Chris Gerniottis to the fold.  That spring they went into the studio to record some tracks that would never be released.  “Reality Is The Only Answer,” written by Chris, is perhaps the group’s finest moment.  A scintillating acid punker, this cut features ferocious Keith Moon-like drumming and creative psych guitar effects – it’s explosive.  That summer the group forged on, releasing “Thoughts and Visions” and “Look For Tomorrow.”  These cuts were solid psych numbers with diverse influences ranging from the Small Faces to the Jefferson Airplane.  The Liberty Bell closed the year out with “Naw, Naw, Naw” and the superb fuzz laden psych B-side “Recognition.”

Truly due for rediscovery.

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“Reality Is The Only Answer”

😀 CD Reissue | Collectables | at amazon ]

Tomorrow “Tomorrow”

Not exactly a “lost” album, Tomorrow’s solitary collection has been readily available on CD since its major label reissue in 1999. And quite rightly so; this is a splendid retro package for psychedelia fans. The original album covers all the bases, from whimsy to cod-oriental to acid-rock, in tremendous style. The leadoff track “My White Bicycle”, originally issued as the preliminary single to the album, is a recognised psych classic and has been widely anthologised. Also included are five outttakes and alternative versions from the original sessions, plus some interesting hard-to-find tracks from each of the band’s two short-lived offshoots.

Tomorrow, like numerous other Brit psych outfits, came about when an established R’n’B group, the In Crowd, changed their name and musical direction to surf the psychedelic upheaval of late 1966. Signed to EMI but failing to click with Pink Floyd producer Norman Smith, they were handed to his colleague Mark P Wirtz, which proved both a blessing and a curse. Wirtz was a brilliant, willingly experimental producer, arranger and composer, but he also had an obsessive pet project, A Teenage Opera, which was doomed to become a legendary unfinished work comparable to Smile. Diversion to the Opera of the efforts of guitarist Steve Howe, who owed Wirtz favours from earlier session work, and singer Keith West, whom he lured with an offer to act as both vocalist and lyricist, plus the band’s own hectic live dates list and their discovery of LSD, meant that Tomorrow’s recording schedule for their own album became patchy and extended.

You wouldn’t know this from the music, which is somehow both wildly eclectic and reassuringly homogeneous. “My White Bicycle”, inspired by the community white bicycle scheme in 1960s Amsterdam, is a definitive acid-psych cut laced with backwards guitar, found sound effects and other studio trickery. “Real Life Permanent Dream” is a sitar-driven raga-rock opus with suitably lysergic lyrics, while “Revolution” veers crazily through a whirlwind of spoken word passages, riffs and time signatures. On the whimsical side, the delightful musical pen-portraits “Auntie Mary’s Dress Shop”, “Colonel Brown” and “Shy Boy” were originally intended for the Teenage Opera. (“Shy Boy” was later covered as a single by Kippington Lodge, who eventually morphed into Brinsley Schwarz.) Only the chemically-induced silliness of “Three Jolly Little Dwarves” and the superfluous, though solid, cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” conspire to mar the original eleven-track release’s brilliance. Howe’s playing throughout is exemplary while West’s deadpan whacked-out vocal is perfect for these songs and this genre.

Tomorrow didn’t see release until early 1968, after an unsupportive EMI finally called time on the Opera. By then the psychedelic honeymoon had largely passed and the album failed to sell. The jaded band promptly split; drummer John “Twink” Alder and bassist John “Junior” Wood recorded a handful of totally wigged-out originals as The Aquarian Age with Wirtz providing keyboards, while West and Howe called in Ronnie Wood and Aynsley Dunbar, no less, on bass and drums and cut a few tracks in a more mainstream pop-rock direction under West’s name. When neither project grabbed the public’s imagination, Twink went on to rattle the traps for the Pink Fairies, whilst Howe eventually surfaced in an obscure little prog-rock outfit called Yes.

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“Revolution”

:) Original Vinyl |  1968 | Parlophone | search ebay ]
😉 MP3 Album | download at amzn ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Eggs Over Easy “Good ‘N’ Cheap”

Here’s another one for the wish-this-wasn’t-it list. Eggs Over Easy were virtually unknown but recorded an incredibly solid album and have a cool story to boot.

Credited with launching the genre of pub rock, these hard working American road warriors brought the sound of Americana/country rock to the pubs in England during an ill-fated recording trip, and ended up gigging around until their visas ran up, inspiring the likes of Brinsley Schwarz, Bees Make Honey, and Frankie Miller. They had amassed an impressive repertoire of original and cover material upon their return to the states, and recorded Good ‘N’ Cheap out in Tuscon, AZ with Link Wray producing. Sadly, it’s about all they recorded.

You can tell the Eggs were seasoned performers the instant their record hits. These fun, good-natured country tunes have a smooth, Steely Dan vibe, sounding at times squeaky clean, loose & tight, honest and raw. All but one are originals, with writing and singing duties equally distributed between members Austin Delone, Jack O’Hara, and Brien Hopkins. The songs are surprisingly versatile: “Party, Party” is a pure sweet ’70s treat,  just what the title says, “Arkansas” is a gorgeous, foot-tapping roots ballad, “Runnin’ Down to Memphis” is straight country, and a couple harder blues numbers round things out (though “The Factory” is my one skippable track and I’m not too big on “Night Flight” despite its Bowie-tinged flavor). I originally thought the record was a little top-heavy, considering how the first three tracks seem to climax during the anthemic chorus to “Henry Morgan,” but Good ‘N’ Cheap is loaded with gems. These are pretty advanced compositions for a bar band, “Home To You” and the nearly epic “Pistol On A Shelf” are unmissable tracks. Same with “Face Down In The Meadow” and “Don’t Let Nobody,” which feel like instant classics.

It’s the kind of record where you savor the bonus cuts. “111 Avenue C” gives us a taste of the live Eggs act, featuring some intense scatting at the back of this swinging blues number. Also included is the infamous “Bar In My Car” (“put a bar in the back of my car and drive my self to drink”) and is actually one of the band’s catchiest moments.

There is reportedly a 2nd album out there, recorded in 1982 called Fear of Frying. I have yet to track it down but based on this debut, it’s a joke it hasn’t been properly reissued. In any case, Good ‘N’ Cheap is no doubt essential to any fan of Americana and pub rock. Sincere, sweet, feel-good music.

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“Arkansas”

:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | A&M | search ebay ]