Archive for May, 2010

Roland White “I Wasn’t Born to Rock’n Roll”

During the early ’60s folk revival, The Kentucky Colonels were the hottest pickers around, for a minute. Led by brothers Roland White and Clarence White, in 1964 and ’65 they released their knockout instrumental record, Appalachian Swing!, and recorded some astonishing live performances, largely showcasing Clarence’s cutting-edge crosspicking and Roland’s speedy work on the mandolin. By 1965, Clarence was moving on to electric sessions, later joining Nasvhille West and The Byrds and Roland would soon join Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, followed by Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass.

On this 1976 release (three years after Clarence’s tragic death) Roland doesn’t quite abuse his mando like he did in the Colonel days, but instead turns out a wonderfully laid back collection of old-timers and gems from a well-steeped knowledge of bluegrass history. Alan Munde, Kenny Wertz, Roger Bush, and Dave Ferguson join Roland on a deeply traditional set, but one that digs up some of the lesser known tunes by Monroe (“Can’t You Hear Me Calling”), the Carter Family (“The Storms Are On The Ocean”), and Lester Flatt, whose “Head Over Heels In Love With You” appears on a White record for the first time since the brothers released their very first single, back when they were The Country Boys.

“Powder Creek” is the one original, an instrumental fiddle-tune written by Clarence and Roland in 1963 (on the Jersey Turnpike!), and recorded for the first time here. One of my favorite cuts is the previously unreleased bonus track, a smooth take on “She’s Her Own Special Baby” by songwriter, John Hadley (who also contributes “Doorstep of Trouble” and another fine one, “Same Old Blues Again”). Roland gives the standards one clean swoop in his eight-minute “Marathon,” a medley coasting through classics like “Love Please Come Home,” “Nine Pound Hammer,” “and “Shackles and Chains.”

What this album may be missing in ‘hot licks,’ it makes up for tenfold in charm. Released for the first time on CD from Tompkins Square, this has been spinning back to front in my old ride on these early summer days; a relaxed, endearing effort from a legend in his own right. The perfect kickoff to bluegrass season. Time to get pickin.

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“She Is Her Own Special Baby”

😀 CD Reissue | 2010 | Tompkins Square | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1976 | Ridge Runner Records | search ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

? and the Mysterians “96 Tears”

For an outfit whose very name professed a preference for anonymity, there’s a surprising amount of information available nowadays about this bunch of rockin’ Chicano chavales; check out their Wikipedia page for the full Monty. Question Mark himself has gone to considerable lengths to conceal his identity over the years, and why not? It’s one of rock’n’roll’s best-loved clichés. However, copyright registrations in the Library of Congress show his birth name as Rudy Martinez.

This, the first of their two albums, followed the runaway success of the single “96 Tears” as the title indicates, but it’s not the usual mid-sixties cash-in collection with a couple of hits padded out by inferior versions of “I’ve Got My Mojo Working” and “Summertime”. Of the twelve tracks, only one is a cover – “Stormy Monday”, the band’s inevitable contemporary bow to the blues – and the rest are originals, the writing mostly credited to all the band members. Simple stuff, mostly, with a limited palette of keys and chords, but at least they made the effort.

Of course they’re the quintessential R’n’B garage band, with the leanest, meanest sound around; they make Booker T and the MGs sound like the Electric Light Orchestra. The British Invasion influences are crystal-clear: the bass/guitar/organ interplay on the sparse twelve-bar “Up Side” shows a clear link from Eric Burdon’s original Animals, while the choppy rhythm of “You’re Telling Me Lies” is a direct steal from Doug Sahm’s own Invasion- derived “She’s About A Mover”. The more vehement of ?’s vocals, as on “96 Tears”, are a dead ringer for Van Morrison in his Them days. There’s also a closer-than-accidental resemblance to the Rolling Stones’ earliest American recordings that goes deeper than ?’s occasional Jagger impersonations. Play any of the Stones’ tracks recorded on their 1964 visit to Chess and released on the 5 x 5 EP (UK) or the 12 x 5 album (US) and you’ll see what I mean: that wiry, reverbed sound on the Stones’ “Confessin’ The Blues” as against the Mysterians’ take on “Stormy Monday”, or on the steady-rollin’ “Empty Heart” as against “Ten O’Clock”. The major differences are the forefronted Vox Continental on most of the Mysterians’ waxings and the undeniable fact that Bobby Balderama was no Brian Jones when it came to creative guitar playing.

So, derivative certainly. But, hey, if you really need originality, go play “Pet Sounds” or “Odessey & Oracle”. This is one to put on when your head’s woolly from the perplexing complexity of prog-rock and all you need is a fix of something raw and primal. For twice the strength, get the 2005 compilation Cameo Parkway – The Best Of which has the whole of this album and the follow-up Action – more of the same, though a bit denser sonically – carefully remixed from the originals, plus both sides of their valedictory non-album single. (Avoid other compilations, most of which contain re-recordings.)

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“I Need Somebody”

:) Original Vinyl | 1966 | Cameo | search ebay ]

The Buckinghams “Kind of a Drag”

The Buckinghams first disc is unlike anything they would ever record again. Sure, the title track was a bubblegum smash but the rest of the LP is given over to garage, blue-eyed soul, blues, and British Invasion influenced pop. It’s all good too, sung beautifully and played very tightly. You’ll be surprised when you put this gem on the turntable, if only for the two masterful garage punkers from the group’s USA tenure, “Don’t Want To Cry” and “I’ve Been Wrong.” These two tracks alone make Kind of a Drag worth a purchase.

“Sweets For My Sweet” is also given a nice garage pop reading with it’s raw guitar work and smooth organ sounds. Reissues include a powerful version of “I’m A Man”, a track that was featured on early USA pressings of this LP. Other standouts: the garage pop of “Makin’ Up & Breakin’ Up,” a superb blue-eyed soul song titled “Love Ain’t Enough” and “Beginners’ Love,” great Beatles inspired rock n roll. Even the album’s one instrumental, “Virginia Wolf,” is skillfully performed, in fact the whole album is very engaging, lacking any weak spots or noticeable mistakes. There’s lots of energy, thought and professionalism put into this music – these guys must have been one hell of a club band back in the day.

Kind of a Drag sold pretty well, so vinyl copies are very easy to find. Also recommended is the Sundazed CD reissue that was put out some years back. The youthful energy in the playing and the Buckingham’s willingness to tackle different musical genres is what makes this disc so exciting – a must if you’re into garage pop. The Yardbirds, the Kinks, and the Who were strong influences on the early Buckinghams as they had yet to fall into the bubblegum hit-making trap that was soon to come.

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“Love Ain’t Enough”

:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | USA | search ebay ]
😀 CD Reissue | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]

PODCAST 20 Best Of

Running Time: 45:38 | File Size 62.67 MB
Download: .mp3
To subscribe to this podcast: [?]

I’ve been dusting off some of the mp3s we’ve posted here since Feb ’07 and came up with this “Best of the Rising Storm” collection. Tracks with a decided country/blues slant. Thanks for listening!

edit: Grab this as a mixtape at Aquarium Drunkard.

1. Intro: Grape FX

2. “Where I Lead Me” by Townes Van Zandt (1971)

3. “When I’m Dead and Gone” by McGuinness Flint (1970)

4. “Wait Til The Summer Comes Along” by The Kinks (1965)

5. “Little Bit of Rain” by Karen Dalton w/ Fred Neil overdub (1969)

6.  excerpt: “Wild Ox Moan” by Taj Mahal (1969)
7. “Farther on Down the Road (You Will Accompany Me)” by Taj Mahal (1969)

8. “God Out West” by Link Wray (1971)

9. “Bat Macumba” by Os Mutantes (1968-)

10. “Bright Lit Blue Skies” by The Rising Storm (1966)

11. “Passing By” by The Beach Boys (1968-)

12. “Everything’s Gonna be Everything” by Don Covay (1966)

13. “Captain Jesus” by Bob Martin (1972)

14. “Her Good Loving Grace” by Jerry Jeff Walker (1972)

15. “Blues Stay Away From Me” by Doug Sahm and Band (1973)

16. excerpt: “If I Never Touch You” by Cap’n Jack (1972)
Storm Effects: Pretty Things “Rain”/ D.R. Hooker “Weather Girl” /
Mickey Newbury “San Fransisco Mabel Joy”/ The Kinks “Rainy Day in June”

Cream “Wheels of Fire / In the Studio”

Although The Rising Storm’s principal premise is to play the spotlight on fine obscure albums, it’s fun occasionally to review something well-known from a (hopefully) new personal perspective, so here’s my take, forty-two years on, on Cream’s most uncharacteristic album.

The historical context for Wheels Of Fire needs no repetition here, as Cream’s history is so well documented. Suffice to mention that by the time they began recording it in early 1968 the wheels, so to speak, were already coming off, with a disillusioned Eric Clapton’s original vision of a purist blues trio with himself in the Buddy Guy role just a distant dream, Jack Bruce firmly in the driving seat as both composer and vocalist, and Bruce and Ginger Baker well and truly back at each other’s throats just as they had been in their Graham Bond days. The decision to break up the band had already been taken before the album’s completion, with just contractual live engagements and the makeshift fourth album to fulfil.

Despite all this antipathy the studio component of Wheels is a surprisingly high-quality collection which, as we all know, hit the shelves accompanied by a frankly turgid live set. The studio half – which in most countries was also released as a single album in its own right – is exhilarating proto-progressive rock with the odd bluesy afterthought and some stealthy jazz and classical overtones. Hardcore head-banging blues-rock aficionados may still wince when comparing it to Cream’s earlier studio efforts, and to the extended guitar jams on those songs that continued to make up most of their live set – only “White Room”, “Sitting On Top Of The World” and “Politician” from Wheels ever seeing the stage – but fans of Jack Bruce will acknowledge it as a worthy precursor to his highly successful solo career. What may come as a surprise is that three of the most leftfield numbers weren’t composed by Bruce, though he makes two of them his own both vocally and instrumentally, but by ill-fated British jazz composer and pianist Mike Taylor, with Baker providing the lyrics. Add to this the astonishingly diverse multi-instrumental talents of producer Felix Pappalardi, and you’ve got an engaging musical stew comparable to the Fabs’ White Album in its variation and experimentation.

All the tracks are well-known, but possibly overlooked highlights to listen out for in retrospective plays are Clapton’s eerie, brittle, reverbed guitar sound on “Sitting On Top Of The World”, produced from his single-pickup Gibson Firebird; Bruce’s hypnotic droning cello and modal acoustic guitar on “As You Said”; the instrumental break on “Politician” in which Bruce’s sludgy, rumbling bass underpins no fewer than three overdubbed intertwining guitar lead lines; Pappalardi’s gorgeous baroque trumpet figures which rescue the weakest track, Baker’s recitative “Pressed Rat And Warthog”, from mediocrity; and the splendid tuned percussion by Baker and Pappalardi on the sinuous, shifting “Those Were The Days”. Bruce’s near-operatic vocals on this album were among the best of his career.

I guess the live set should be mentioned in passing. Only the crisp, driving four minutes of “Crossroads” makes the grade, with Bruce’s tedious harmonica exposition “Traintime” and Baker’s formless sixteen-minute drum solo on “Toad” being of interest only to completists. (IMHO, the only rock drummer ever to warrant a solo is Jon Hiseman.) Oh, and for those wondering what a tonette is, as credited to Pappalardi on “Pressed Rat”, it’s a cheap plastic recorder-like instrument commonly used in elementary schools. It took me forty-two years to find that out: thanks, Wikipedia.

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“Those Were the Days”

😀 CD Reissue | 2CD | 98 | Polydor | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1968 | Polydor | search ebay ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

uReview: Tom Waits Discography

Tom Waits is one of the many legendary artists we have neglected to feature on these pages. His works seem to transcend time, seamlessly linking sound and style from decade to decade. But, for whatever reason, I only have a couple of his records.

So, calling all TW fiends: what’s overrated, underrated, and essential in the Tom Waits Discography?

Check Your Top 5 Tom Waits Albums

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