Archive for November, 2011

PODCAST 25 Southbound Train

trs podcast

Running Time: 59:00 | File Size 81 MB
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1.  Yukon Railroad – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – 1970

2.  That’s Alright By Me (Previously Unreleased) – Gene Clark – 1968

3.  Southbound Train – Graham Nash & David Crosby – 1972

4.  Just Yesterday – Weird Herald – 1967

5.  Rosana (Previously Unreleased) – Hearts And Flowers – 1968

6.  Little Boy Blue – Charlie Daniels Band – 1970

7.  Banjo Press Conference – Beachwood Sparks – 2001

8.  Strange Ways – Cherokee (The Robbs) – 1971

9.  Coalminers – Uncle Tupelo – 1992

10.  Birmingham – The Camel’s Hump (post Mike And The Ravens) – 1969/1970

11.  Homemade Songs – Bobby Charles – 1972

12.  Beware Of Time – The Corvettes – 1969

13.  Scorpio Woman – Mordicai Jones (aka Bobby Howard with Link Wray) – 1973

14.  Nothing At All – Tim Dawe – 1969/1970

15.  Modessa – Bluebird – 1969/1970

16.  Sweet Mama – Blue Mountain Eagle – 1969

17.  Brokedown Palace (live) – The Grateful Dead – 1970

Donovan “Open Road”

Open Road was Donovan’s first album of the 1970’s.  Here he was backed by a sympathetic group of the same name (Open Road) and this change made all the difference.  Gone are the psychedelic trappings of previous years and in their place are a collection of sharp Celtic influenced folk-rock tracks.

The lyrics and backing band are straight forward and direct, giving this album a back to the basics feel (there are no sitars, horns, harpsichords or elaborate studio productions) – so in the case of Open Road, less is more.  While there are no huge hits in the order of “Mellow Yellow” or “Sunshine Superman”, Open Road rates as one of Donovan’s most consistently enjoyable sets.  To these ears tracks such as “Curry Land,” “Celtic Rock,” “Roots of Oak,” and “People Used To” are some of the most powerful music of Donovan’s career.  “People Used To” features gutsy slide guitar while “Roots of Oak,” “Curry Land,” and “Celtic Rock” are outstanding compositions that could hold their own with any authentic, critically praised UK folk-rock act of the time or place.  These mesmerizing tracks are a unique mixture of traditional Irish folk, hard rock, roots music and the dying embers of psychedelia.

The album’s most popular song and minor hit, “Riki Tiki Tavi,” is a jaunty studio jam with politically charged lyrics and a playful vibe.  Other winners are the punchy pop-rock opener “Changes”, sensitive folk-rock numbers “New Year’s Resolution” and “Season of Farewell” and the whimsical throwback “Joe Bean’s Theme.”  Donovan would never record anything like Open Road again.  Not only is this one of Donovan’s most mature records but it’s also one of his best – surely an underrated LP that deserves recognition.

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“People Used To”

:) Original | 1970 | Dawn | search ebay ]
😀 Reissue | 2000 | Repertoire | buy ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

NGC-4594 “Skipping Through The Night”

Here’s another genuinely “lost” sixties psych album, laid down in 1967 but not seeing the light of public exposure until forty-three years later.

Coming together in ‘66 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, these six students and alumni must have thought they had a stellar musical career in store, because not only did all the undergrads drop out of their courses but they took as their name the astronomical designation of the Sombrero Galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. This didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but in the trippy atmosphere of the times it conveyed a trendy spaced-out attitude. The auguries were however unpromising; while David Bliss, Steve Starger and Danny Shanok were all experienced pianists, Minty Collins wasn’t even a musician though he was determined to become one, “liberating” a flute from the UConn Music Department and teaching himself the basics. Chas Mirsky contributed rudimentary but suitably whacked-out electric guitar, whilst to fill out the backline Starger switched to Farfisa organ and Shanok took the bass guitar. No-one came forward to be the featured vocalist, but drummer Bob de Vos proved to possess a creditable baritone and was duly pressed into the rôle.

The band assembled an acid-soaked collection of originals, mostly from the pen of pianist Bliss, relocated to Stanford, CT in January ’67 and gigged their set around New England, honing their chops and tightening their act. In April they moved to NYC where they auditioned for Mercury and were invited to rapidly record their whole oeuvre live in the studio as a monophonic demo. From this two sides were selected for a single and re-recorded to professional studio standards. “Going Home” and “Skipping Through The Night” appeared as a 45 on Mercury’s Smash subsidiary, garnered some desultory airplay on Northeast radio stations and disappeared. Despite a few subsequent high-profile concert appearances supporting the likes of the Doors and Country Joe & The Fish, the band’s briefly-flaring star had passed its zenith and by the fall of ’67 they’d split. It wasn’t till the early 90s that Tim Page, a professor at UConn, much taken with hearing the play-worn single on the college’s Campus Restaurant jukebox, would seek out former band members Mirsky and Starger and discover that the original tapes from the Mercury audition still existed. It took a further two decades before the estimable Tune In imprint of psych reissue specialists Cherry Red was able to license the tapes for CD release, along with both sides of the Smash single.

The two Smash tracks are carefully-produced, commercially-viable soft-psych numbers. The twelve “lost” album tracks, by comparison, are a revelation; given the uncompromisingly basic circumstances of their creation they shouldn’t work but somehow they do, revealing a band on the cusp of garage R’n’B and psychedelia, given a fizzing veneer of excitement by the live-in-the-studio performance and unvarnished production values. Even the crude, play-in-a-day lead guitar, flute and harmonica figures contribute to the ambience rather than detracting, whilst Bob de Vos’s Scott Walker-ish vocal is an unexpected asset. The leadoff “Colors” is definitive garage-into-psych with clichéd lysergic lyrics, ringing Wurlitzer piano arpeggios, hyperactive bass and fuzzed-up boxing-glove guitar. “Negative Zone” is Brit R’n’B straight out of the Pretty Things with wailing harp, cheesy Farfisa and rattling maracas framing its cod-protest lyrics. “Imagination Dead Imagine” offers a soporific, trippy mantra with spacey Floyd-style organ, jazzy piano fills and druggy flute and guitar leads, while “Forever Gone” is a doomy blues, heavy with eleventh chords on the Wurlitzer, reverbed vocals and a dragging surf guitar solo. The closing “So Bright” is a pulsating piano-driven rocker that strays into Moody Blues territory with stacked harmonies and flute colouration. All the other tracks provide energetic, freewheeling variations on these themes with plenty of tempo and instrument changes.

The In Tune reissue CD from 2010 is an excellent remaster and includes a comprehensive illustrated history of the band with input from Page and various former members.

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“Colors”

😀 Reissue | 2010 | Tune In | buy ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

Terry Callier “The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier”

This record is like a river, ebbing and flowing. That may sound vague, but it’s probably the best way I can think to describe the music contained on the 1964 recordings that make up Terry Callier’s debut record The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier. Every time I put this music on I drift away, caught up in the slow, rolling rhythms and sad, rambling lyrics. Though Callier is best known for his run of unique psychedelic records in the early seventies, it’s his earliest material that has taken the strongest hold on my soul: a molasses-thick concoction of traditional American folksong and jazz, with Callier’s warm, deep croon practically floating across the stripped-back musical arrangements. Aside from Terry’s own finger-picked acoustic guitar, the record’s only other contributors are Terbour Attenborough and John Tweedle dueting on the bass.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of The New Folk Sound is in its ability to cast popular traditional songs in an entirely new light. I can guarantee you that you have never heard a more heartbreaking, soul-wrenching rendition of “Cotton-Eyed Joe” in your life. Time-worn lines such as “dying is easy/it’s living that’s pain” suddenly come weeping wildly back into focus, illuminating the bleak underbelly to American folk art that is so often taken for granted in these days of glossy history textbooks and institutionalized blind-patriotism.

What makes this all so intensely compelling, however, is Callier’s hypnotically beautiful voice. There are so many layers of honesty and emotion here that’s its impossible to describe. When the man sings the otherwise inconspicuous lines “oh dear, what can the matter be/Johnny’s so long at the fair,” you somehow know Johnny is never ever coming back. It’s remarkable that Callier manages to harness the raw, spiritual impact of the Southern blues singers without surrendering any of the crystal-clear purity inherent to his Chicago folk background. Even the cackling black humor of “Johnny Be Gay” is offset by the barely-veiled sadness in Callier’s voice and the song’s startlingly violent conclusion.

Recent reissues of The New Folk Sound include a wealth of bonus tracks which add to the album in almost every way, all having been cut around the same time as the album proper and all encompassing the same moods and rhythmic pulses as the previously released material. The music here may be too wide and mellow for the majority of today’s listeners, but to those with an ear for this kind of stuff this is a record you simply cannot afford to miss. If an additional hook is needed, it may be that two songs here, “Spin, Spin, Spin” and “It’s About Time,” are probably already familiar to Storm readers through renditions cut by the popular Chicago rock band H.P. Lovecraft.

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“It’s About Time”

:) Original | 1968 | BGP | search ebay ]
😀 Reissue | 2003 | Prestige | buy ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

The Freeborne “Peak Impressions”

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The Freeborne were a youthful Boston-based psych outfit whose five members, despite their tender years, all had considerable experience of playing a wide range of styles in earlier combos. Adapting their name from the movie Born Free and discovering the freewheeling creative delights of LSD, they signed to Monitor in early ’67 and concocted a set of highly psychedelic originals which were laid down at A&R Studios in NYC. Peak Impressions sold only modestly, probably because of a dilatory campaign of live appearances to support it. After the lukewarm reception afforded it the original Freeborne folded, though later incarnations with fewer or no original members did tramp the second-division concert circuit for a few years afterwards. Inexplicably, given their obvious talent, only guitarist Bob Margolin seems to have had an appreciable later career, playing in Muddy Waters’s backing band through most of the 70s and subsequently with blues-based outfits under his own name. There’s precious little documentation on the band anywhere, but the excellent It’s Psychedelic Baby website features an informative career interview with Margolin which includes insights into the Freeborne.

I was expecting this one to be good, having read complimentary accounts of it in both Fuzz Acid And Flowers and The Acid Archives. I was even more impressed when it arrived and the CD remaster proved to have been archived by Smithsonian Folkways whose estimable moniker now adorns the Digipak. And this is indeed an impressive collection. It’s notable for the virtuosity of the musicians whose ages ranged from just 17 to 19 and yet three of whom were precociously-talented multi-instrumentalists: and we’re talking orchestral hardware here – pianos, harpsichords, cellos, trumpets, flutes and recorders – not just standard rock frontline. It’s also remarkable for the variety and creativity of the material; one reviewer commented that there seemed to be too many ideas to fit into a single album, and I can see his point. Youthful enthusiasm ensured that nothing was left out and nothing left understated, and most tracks move through bewildering sequences of keys, metres, instrumentation and vocal stylings that give their definitively psych outlines a distinctly progressive edge. This is one to listen to right through several times to get the whole effect.

The lyrics are mostly generic trippy psych nonsense, but the music is invigoratingly original. Leading off with a soulful piano riff, the opening “Images” offers Byrdsy harmonies, pulsating bass and rippling guitar scales before switching into a baroque piano and trumpet waltz. “Land Of Diana” prefigures 70s prog, starting as a jazzy 5/4 and shifting into a bluesy shuffle after distinctly proggy organ and guitar episodes. “Visions Of My Own” sets a homely acoustic guitar and trilling flute against what sounds like a chorus of PDQ Bach’s infamous Dill Piccolos before mutating without warning into a military snare-drum march. “Peak Impressions And Thoughts” is all Piper-era Floyd with swirling Farfisa, spiky Syd-style guitar, fluid bass and crashing cymbals building to a furious final crescendo. “Yellow Sky” is definitive Britsike with wah-ed guitars, churchy keyboards and lots of tempo changes. The most conventional track, “Hurtin’ Kind Of Woman”, is a soft blues shuffle with jazzy guitar and energetic Hammond work comparable with the best of Brian Auger. Despite the multifarious musical landscapes visited here, only on the last two tracks does the band outstretch itself, with the ridiculously sombre harpsichord and cello, sub-Beach Boys harmonies and cod-poetic spoken voice outro of “A New Song For Orestes” and the unnecessarily lengthy and self-indulgent cod-classical piano/trumpet cadenzas and duet of the closing “But I Must Return To Frenzy”.

A fine nine-out-of-ten psych artefact that will reward repeated listening.

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“Visions of My Own”

:) Original | 1968 | Monitor | search ebay ]
😀 Reissue | 2011 | Smithsonian Folkways | buy ]

Slade “Play It Loud”

No one can blame you if you dismiss Slade’s Play It Loud out of hand. After all, Slade was the original hair metal band, launching a thousand ill-begotten covers, their originals just as bombastic, screeching and spelling-challenged. Yet, the Slade catalogue is full of buried treasures; nearly every one of the band’s 70s albums contains at least one song worth the price of admission, from “Gudbye to Jane” to “How Does It Feel,” and in the case of Play It Loud, an entire album’s worth of great songs.

Released in 1970, Play It Loud is the band’s second proper album, and the first released under the name Slade; one previous album had been released under the name Ambrose Slade, yet another as the N’ Betweens. While the two previous albums had relied heavily upon covers and songs by outside writers, Play It Loud was composed almost completely by drummer Don Powell, bassist Jim Lea, and singer Noddy Holder. It’s Slade before they were all crazee, before the platform boots and shiny spacesuits, more early Deep Purple than Gary Glitter.

The name Play It Loud may be a sad predictor of the type of albums the band would release later on, but it’s apt nonetheless. You can’t help but want to play this one loud; on an iPod or tinny computer speakers, it’s impossible to appreciate the wallop Slade packs.  It’s rough, garage-y and artless – like a collection of the best songs culled from Slade’s later albums and B-sides.

The best tracks on the album are those written by some combination of Powell, Lea and Holder. The rollicking opener “Raven,” the Black Sabbath-esque “See Us Here” and solid rockers “I Remember” and “One Way Hotel” are Slade with more grit than glitz, but the unexpected tenderness of “Dapple Rose” and the bluesy “Pouk Hill” show surprising range and depth. A standout is the album closer “Sweet Box,” which rolls as much as rocks, showing Slade’s nascent talent for a great groove.

A few covers pop up, too, such as the almost-psychedelic version of  Mann-Weil’s “The Shape of Things to Come,” and Neil Innes’ “Angelina,” a boozy bar-room blues.

Both “The Shape of Things to Come” and band original “Know Who You Are” were released as singles, with “The Shape of Things to Come” getting the Top of the Pops treatment. Neither single went anywhere; despite being aligned with producer/manager/ex-Animal Chas Chandler, Slade seemed destined for obscurity. However, a string of singles – including “Get Down,” “Look Wot You Done,” and “Coz I Love You” – that combined the band’s hard-rocking sound with glammy, slick production and hideously bad grammar soon shot the band to stardom. Not surprisingly, from 1971 on, the band would become primarily a singles outfit, with most later albums built around a single already on the charts, and the straight-ahead, correctly-spelled rock of Play It Loud relegated to b-sides and album tracks. More’s the pity.

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“Sweet Box”

:) Original | 1970 | Polydor | search ebay ]
😀 Reissue | 2006 | Salvo | 2fer | buy ]

Rick Nelson & the Stone Canyon Band “Rick Sings Nelson”

Rick Sings Nelson, Rick Nelson’s first studio album with the pioneering Stone Canyon Band, really does deserve the reputation of “stone-cold classic”. Expanding tenfold upon the razor-sharp music and harmonies of the Stone Canyon’s debut record, In Concert, Rick Sings Nelson was actually the singer’s first album of wholly original material (hence the title). It’s unbelievable that it took him this long start laying his songs on the public like this, because they’re pretty great, and certainly miles above lots of the crud he had been running through for the preceding decade or so of his career.

One of the principal strengths of Rick Sings Nelson is that, though brimming with Southern California pop, it never strays too far from earthier roots. Former Buckaroo Tom Brumley proves to be one of the band’s strongest assets in this regard, always anchoring the music in Bakersfield country whether he’s laying down weeping leads on “Anytime” or conjuring up rolling rhythm figures on “Sweet Mary”. The layered interplay between him and Stone Canyon guitarist Allen Kemp really reaches some soaring highs here, and though they were never really given all that much room to stretch out and jam in the studio Brumley has been quoted as saying that his years spent in the Stone Canyon Band were the most enjoyable of his career.

If there’s any clunker on Rick Sings Nelson it’s in “Mister Dolphin,” which illustrates Nelson’s penchant for writing the occasional awful song. Any cut opening with the line “I just talked to a dolphin the other day” is going to be a little hard to take, and when said dolphin tells Rick sagely to “open up your mind” and love everyone, well…let’s just say that if he had really been dead set on including a cosmic dolphin song here he may have been better served cutting Fred Neil’s folk-rock standard “Searching For the Dolphins” and leaving things at that (or hell, throw us a studio recording of one of those beauties off In Concert like “Easy To Be Free” and keep the album title intact).

All things considered though, Rick Sings Nelson remains a landmark collection in the history of country rock, and even though it failed to offer up any hit single it’s loaded down with memorable songs. The record has been reissued by Beat Goes On Records alongside it’s follow-up, Rudy the Fifth, which is best known for its pair of Dylan covers, but which also includes many other Nelson-penned jewels.

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“Sweet Mary”

:) Original | 1970 | Decca | search ebay ]
😀 Reissue | 2002 | BGO |2fer | buy here ]