Archive for July, 2010

News “Hot Off The Press”

Definitely not what I was expecting from a 1974 private pressing with a strangely modern sleeve and a pedal steel guitarist. News, who were four or more lads from Yale University, had the late 60s sound nailed down five years too late, but who’s to complain about a throwback to the best era in rock history? Hot Off The Press is a unique and unknown LP featuring super tight performances, lovely four-part harmonies, and songs that won’t take long to get comfortably lodged in your head.

Kicking off with a pysch-flavored spliced radio parody performed by some of the band members, Hot Off The Press gets right into its first sweet spot with “Loser,” showcasing Mark London’s expert and refreshingly twang-free steel. Throughout the record’s nine songs he has no trouble fitting the instrument in with a pop/rock sound, and essentially designs the rare flavor of this record with soaring, jazzy licks. There are a couple pretty tough rockers, and I must agree with Llama where he labels “One Night Stand” a “so-so Creedence ripoff.”  But lighter fare like “Ooo La La” and “Misty Day” (one of the band’s first songs) groove with the sunny sound of Montage. I love the jabber at the end of optimistic bopper “Easy Street:” “…somebody’s way off key…I was doing a 7th,” which adds just the right amount of silliness to this laid-back affair. “Farmer’s Daughter” gets bonus points for the album’s second Beach Boys reference and “New York City” ends the original lineup with an 8-minute jam that finally belies News’ sixties psych disguise. Bonus tracks include the 60-second radio bed that got the band their first shot in the recording studio (1970) and an early demo recording of “Misty Day.”

The CD package is a mini-repro as faithful to a vinyl sleeve as I’ve ever seen, the extensive details of the News story told by principal songwriter Bob Pretcher in the liners. But if you’re willing to shell out some bucks, I’d say go for one of the limited 1974 sealed pressings available direct from Yoga Records. Don’t miss this excellent reissue.

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“Ooo La La”

😀 CD Reissue | 2010 | Riverman/Yoga Records | buy from yoga ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1974 | private | ]

uReview: The Byrds “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”

12345678910 (70 votes, average: 8.29 out of 10)

I’d be happy to see a uReview for every Byrds record in the discography (excepting Maniax), seeing as they’re one of the house bands around here, but it’s the middle of country season and I wanna hear your honest opinion on this one. Are you all about Sweetheart or did you never quite get it? Is this really the landmark country-rock record (does it even deserve the ‘rock’ tag)? If not this, then what?

mp3: Radio Spot – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

😀 CD Reissue | 2003 | Sony | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Columbia | ebay ]

Mark Leeman Five “Memorial Album”

The UK didn’t produce garage bands; in post-austerity Britain few enough people had cars, let alone covered accommodation for them. The Brit equivalents cut their teeth during the early sixties in youth clubs or in the few schools whose music teachers were sufficiently broad-minded to admit that anything more recent than Elgar was actually music. In these restrictive settings a rash of teenage groups got together on cheap instruments to bash out joyous covers of the black American underground sounds recently imported by merchant seamen and cult blues enthusiasts. The Animals in Newcastle, the Rolling Stones in Dartford, the Spencer Davis Group in Birmingham and those four lads in Liverpool all offered their own distinctive takes on R’n’B, coloured by their preferred influences: Berry and Diddley for the Stones, Hooker and Jimmy Reed for the Animals and the Spencers, Tamla and Arthur Alexander for the Fabs. The Mark Leeman Five chose to enhance their R’n’B with a smattering of funky jazz via the likes of Booker T, Ray Charles and Nina Simone, mostly courtesy of their trump card, the splendid acoustic/electric pianist and occasional organ player Terry Goldberg. Along with the spiky guitar of Alan Roskams and the solid rhythm section of David Hyde (bass) and Brian Davison (drums) came the aggressive, punky pipes of Mark Leeman.

The Five assembled at school in Woolwich in 1961, and their initial influence was clearly Joe Meek judging by their first demo single. The second covered Barrett Strong’s “Money” – well before the Fabs got hold of it – and indicates their change of direction. Sometime in 1963 they cut an eleven-track demo album which was two years ahead of its time and didn’t find a sponsor. Undaunted, Leeman and the lads built up a formidable live following around the capital until spotted by Manfred Mann’s manager Ken Pitt in January of the following year; an impressed Pitt subsequently ensured prestigious support slots to the Manfreds. Twelve months later a single “Portland Town” b/w “Gotta Get Myself Together”, the latter benefitting from harp by Paul Jones, finally hit the record racks. Five months further on, and tipped by their peers as the band “most likely to succeed”, the Five’s train hit the buffers when Leeman was killed in a car crash on his way home from a gig in Blackpool. Vocalist Roger Peacock was recruited to replace him, but as a tribute to their former frontman the band kept the same name. Three further singles were released, but the zeitgeist was past and the Five folded within a year. The only member to find subsequent celebrity was Brian “Blinky” Davison, who went on to thump the tubs with the Nice.

The Five’s recorded oeuvre remained in limbo till 1991, when with Ken Pitt’s assistance See For Miles released this compilation which includes both sides of the two early demos, both sides of the four later singles and the whole of the demo album (allegedly previously unreleased, although I’ve found reference to it as Rhythm And Blues Plus!, including cover art, on one website: possibly a few pressings did escape). The three final singles, produced by Denny Cordell, are competent, unremarkable Manfred-ish fare, deliberately commercial.

The second demo single and the album are revelatory; though all the tunes are covers, the musicianship is impressive and the energy is astonishing, the latter blasting through the unpolished but surprisingly clean production. Goldberg’s stomping electric piano take on “Green Onions”, IMHO, blows the original away. His boogie-woogie piano and Roskams’s bluebeat guitar power a fine, edgy rendition of Simone’s “Forbidden Fruit”, while “Work Song” and “Let The Sunshine In” hold up easily against the better-known versions by Mose Allison and Ray Charles. The straightforward R’n’B cuts include the overworked staples “Shame, Shame, Shame”, “Got My Mojo Working” and “You Can’t Judge A Book”, but the Five attack these as if they’d never been heard before, with Goldberg’s piano always to the fore.

The Memorial Album has never seen a re-release and is now hard to find; I picked up my copy in a record store clearout some ten years ago. However, copies can be found at a price, and both collectors with an ear for early British Invasion influences and fans of quality R’n’B garage music from the Animals to the Mysterians should hunt down this fine early
example of the genre.

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“Green Onions”

😀 CD |  1990 | Sfm | at amazon ]

Mac Gayden “Skyboat”

Note: Today’s post comes from dk, author to one of the finest vintage music blogs around: dk presents. Don’t miss subscribing over there and look forward to some more Storm reviews from dk in the future.

The story of Mac Gayden’s Skyboat is one of bad promotion, bad cover art, and bad luck. Gayden was a top-notch Nashville session guitarist who made an uncredited appearance on Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, played the distinctive slide guitar on J.J. Cale’s ‘Crazy Mama’, and wrote hit songs such as ‘Everlasting Love’ (part of which he claims to have written on his grandmother’s piano when he was just five years old). This 1976 album is a pleasing amalgamation of many 70’s musical styles – country rock instrumentation, soulful vocals, pop sheen (string charts courtesy of Bergen White), and an overall singer-songwriter sensibility. Wedged stylistically between Cat Stevens and Poco, Skyboat should have been Gayden’s breakthrough.

Instead, paint-by-numbers promotion men in Los Angeles saw a Nashville artist and assumed Skyboat was a country record, which it most definitely is not. By pushing this album as country and sending it out exclusively to country stations, ABC Records effectively ensured its doom. And there’s no way to put this kindly – that album art is atrocious. The awkward creature flying across that cover is in no way representative of the 11 highly-polished cuts on this record, and certainly didn’t help its cause.

Opener ‘Morning Glory’ has hit written all over it. One of the great lost tunes of the ’70s, this song is so good that you’ll sing along the first time you hear it. Gayden shows off his considerable guitar chops in two places on this song, but particularly on his solo near its conclusion. Sublime stuff. ‘Gettysburg’ is a stirring, minor-key, banjo-tinged ode to the South that was recorded in a thunderstorm and sounds like a blueprint for Will Oldham’s career. Gayden lays down his own version of ‘Everlasting Love’ (since covered by nearly everyone, including U2), which ironically might be the least heard of the many versions in circulation. Elsewhere, ‘Don’t Look Back’ is a bold re-wiring of a Temptations’ song that makes perfect sense in this context, and ‘Diamond Mandala’ closes the album with 10 minutes of Appalachian fever dream that conjures Sandy Bull, Aaron Copland and Native American spirit dances.

Gayden told Mojo magazine in 2002 that “By the time [radio] realized the album [wasn’t country] it was too late, and many stations refused to play the record because of ABC, not because of me. It put an end to my career… so I do have some bittersweet memories.” The memories might be bittersweet, but the music is pure nectar…

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“Morning Glory”

😀 CD 2fer | 2008 | Big Beat | buy at amazon ]
:) Orig Vinyl |  1976 | ABC | search ebay ]

PODCAST 21 Dark in my Heart


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1.  Hank Williams – Lonesome Whistle (1951) from Revealed: The Unreleased Recordings

2.  Lee Hazlewood – Dark In My Heart (1967) from Lee Hazlewoodism, Its Cause and Cure

3.  Addie Pray (Bill Lincoln from Euphoria) – Wings In The Wind (1970-1971) from Late For The Dance

4.  Elyse (with Neil Young) – Houses (1969) from Elyse

5.  The Youngbloods – Foolin’ Around (The Waltz) from The Youngbloods (1967)

6. J.J. Light – Gallup, New Mexico (1969) from Heya!

7.  Roscoe Holcomb – Coal Creek (date unknown) from An Untamed Sense of Control

8.  Buffy Sainte-Marie – Poppies (1969) from Illuminations

9.  Bert Jansch – Cluck Old Hen (1974) from LA Turnaround

10.  Graham Nash & David Crosby – Frozen Smiles (1972) from self-titled LP

11.  Ry Cooder – France Chance (1970) from Ry Cooder

12.  John Simon – Did You See? (1970) John Simon’s Album

13.  The Beau Brummels – One Too Many Mornings (1966) from Magic Hollow Box Set

14.  Space Opera – Blue Ridge Mountains (1972) from Space Opera

15.  Pearls Before Swine – Ballad to an Amber Lady (1967) from One Nation Underground

16.  Muleskinner – Muleskinner Blues (1972) from Muleskinner

17.  Tim Buckley – Song to the Siren – Morning Glory – The Tim Buckley Story

18.  The Band – The Rumor (1970) from Stage Fright

Deep Purple “The Book Of Taliesyn”

The first incarnation of Deep Purple has tended to be ignored until lately, shaded by the
overwhelming success of Mark II which benefited from a homogeneous (and supremely
timely) musical direction and the outstanding talent of Ian Gillan. By contrast Mark I found
itself at a many-sided crossroads; musically the band was pulled in the conflicting directions
of freakbeat, psychedelia, retro-classical and nascent prog-rock, and perversely it enjoyed
unexpected early adulation in the States whilst remaining virtually unknown in its homeland.
Adverse critical comment of Mark I has only recently begun to ease, as the undoubted
attractions of some of the early works become retrospectively appreciated and the works
themselves remastered and reissued.

Even the beginnings of Purple were artificial, the band being conceived by ex-Searchers
drummer Chris Curtis as Roundabout, an ever-changing musicians’ combine, and sponsored
by two London businessmen looking for a purely commercial foothold in the pop market.
The Mark I lineup pulled in diversely-experienced, classically-trained session musicians
Ritchie Blackmore (gtr), Jon Lord (keys) and Ian Paice (drs). Bassist Nick Simper had played
rock’n’roll with Johnny Kidd and Screaming Lord Sutch alongside Blackmore, and vocalist
Rod Evans came with Paice from Mod R’n’B outfit the Maze. A unified direction was unlikely
from the start.

Following the clearly saleable example of Vanilla Fudge, the band developed a set
based largely on grandiose reinterpretations of known hit songs, subjected to Lord’s cod-
classical Hammond interludes, Paice’s jazzy percussion and Blackmore’s unique, manic
style of soloing involving heavy use of his Stratocaster’s whammy bar. The first album,
Shades Of Deep Purple, produced an unexpected US hit single with a rollicking cover of
Joe South’s “Hush”. This led rapidly to a second album and a prestigious support slot to
Cream on the latter’s final US tour. Meanwhile, the band couldn’t get arrested at home.
The Book Of Taliesyn (pronounced Tal-ee-ess-in) followed the pattern of Shades Of,
expending first-class musicianship over a confusingly diverse mix of styles, most of which
deserves more attention than it’s received. “Listen, Learn, Read On” is tautly-constructed
psychedelia with a semi-recitative vocal extolling the virtues of the tome in the album’s title
(Taliesyn was the bard at King Arthur’s court); Evans’s powerful vocal on this belies one
critic’s description of him as a “supper-club crooner”, although he does display Scott Walker
ish tendencies on the string-quartet-enhanced ballad “Anthem”. “Kentucky Woman” is a
similarly energetic workout on the modest Neil Diamond tune to the earlier “Hush” which
would again feature in the US singles chart. “Wring That Neck” is a stereo-tastic proto-prog
instrumental in which Lord and Blackmore vie for supremacy; it portends the sound of In
and would remain in the live set for years. Pretentious covers of “We Can Work It Out”
and “River Deep, Mountain High” segue out of equally bombastic classical themes in which
Lord displays the same leanings as Keith Emerson without the outrageous stagecraft; this
is the sort of “pomp-rock” material that’s reduced Mark I in the eyes of its later heavy-metal
acolytes. Perhaps the best track, “Shield”, is a funky, loping offering with an impenetrable
hippie (or possibly sci-fi) lyric, a catchy, almost oriental organ riff, and splendid guitar work
throughout which deserved to be a hit single in its own right.

Home success continued to elude Purple until the collapse of its US label, Tetragrammaton,
forced the band to return home, re-evaluate and regroup. Evans and Simper were fired and
replaced, and the rest is history. The first three albums, however, show that all the required
elements were in place; only the focus was missing. Avoid the earliest CD reissues and go
for the remastered (at Abbey Road) versions with bonus tracks.

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“Listen, Learn, Read On”

😀 CD Reissue | 2000 | EMI | buy at amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1968 | Harvest | search ebay ]

Del Shannon “Home & Away”

Del Shannon’s Home & Away never saw a proper release in the 1960s.   These tracks would eventually see light of day on the 1978 vinyl LP/compilation titled And The Music Plays On.  Record executives of the day were looking for heavy, underground sounds, not dense, wall-of-sound type productions that featured complex vocal arrangements, strings, harpsichords, and plenty of horns.  The music on this disc was recorded in 1967 with Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham sitting in the producer’s chair.   Home & Away was considered passe stuff for 1967 and shelved shortly after, as Del began work on his psychedelic masterpiece, The Further Adventures of Charles Westover.  The 2006 EMI reissue has excellent stereo sound and presents the LP in it’s proper context – a must own for fans of  the mid 60s Beach Boys, the Zombies and the Left Banke.

It’s useless to point out highlights on this great, lost pop album.  “Runaway ’67” is exactly what it claims to be; a 1967 update of Del’s classic smash.  This cut has a strong Left Banke feel with it’s swirling strings and baroque arrangement.  Del’s vocals sound haunted and seamlessly mesh with Oldham’s productions.  They hit the mark on nearly every track.  This means that each song on the album flows effortlessly, whether it’s the trippy harpsichord intro to “Easy To Say, Easy To Do” or the romantic pop of “My Love Is Gone.”   My hit picks are the shimmering psychedelic pop of “Silently” and the beautiful Pet Sounds influenced gem “It’s My Feeling.”  Del only penned 3 of the LP’s tracks but he and Oldham did a good job choosing fine material from outside writers – the 3 Billy Nichols selections are pop gems.

Home & Away is just a shade or two less important than The Further Adventures of Charles Westover. It’s proof that this type of early rocker could forge on into the late 60s and make great, experimental music without losing their identity.  Del Shannon is one of those hard luck artists who made excellent music all throughout the decade but never received his due.

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“Ginny In The Mirror”

😀 CD Reissue | 2006 | EMI | get at amazon ]