Archive for December, 2011

The Best Reissues of 2011

It’s been another great year for quality reissues from some of our favorite labels dedicated to vintage sounds. Here are our favorite reissued records for 2011, unranked and submitted for your review in the poll below:

  Can “Tago Mago”
Mute 2CD: Can’s all-time classic gets the deluxe treatment, restores the original UK artwork, and comes with a bonus CD with a live show from around the same time.
  The Rationals “The Rationals”
Big Beat CD: Followup to last year’s excellent Think Rational, this year Big Beat delivers the group’s eponymous album with the same attention to detail. First time it’s been reissued legit since 1970.
  The Free Design – Complete Discography
Light in the Attic LP/CD/MP3: What a treat from LITA with all of the Free Designs albums reissued in 2011. Available in different formats with liner notes and some bonus tracks. This’ll be standard issue for new fans to this wonderful group.
  The Beau Brummels “Bradley’s Barn (Expanded)”
Rhino Handmade 2CD: Impressive reissue of the Brummels’ best moment from Rhino features a hardbound booklet with brand new liners and a second disc with 25 rare and unreleased recordings.
Michael Chapman “Fully Qualified Survivor”
Light in the Attic LP: Classic English folk-rock masterpiece from Michael Chapman gets its first CD issue in the states and the first vinyl reissue in decades.
Mickey Newbury “Heaven Help the Child”
Drag City LP: In addition to Heaven Help (maybe his best), Drag City put out some of Mickey’s finest work on LP this year: Looks Like Rain, Frisco Mabel Joy, and American Trilogy. Unfortunately, they’re only shipping to the US.
  John Fahey “Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You”
Dust to Digital 5CD: Massive box set from Dust to Digital features 115 mostly new-to-CD tracks from “The Fonotone Years, 1958-1965.” Remastered audio straight from the reel-to-reel tapes and an extensive accompanying book highlighted by a 1967 interview with Fahey.
  V/A “Local Customs: Pressed at Boddie”
Numero CD/MP3/Cassette: A novel concept from the adventurous Numero label. All of the tracks on this comp were pressed at The Boddie Recording Company in Cleveland and range from garage to soul to polka. Available on cassette tape!
  The Left Banke “Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina”
Sundazed CD/LP: The Left Banke get their due this year with both of their original records restored by Sundazed.  Sourced from the original stereo tapes, we get the original track orders for this and The Left Banke Too. The CD features new liners and interviews (but when will Sundazed finally give us liners with the vinyl?).
  Oscar & the Majestics “No Chance Baby!”
Sundazed LP/MP3: First-ever collection of Oscar Hamod’s complete ‘60s output, previously uncovered on last year’s Michigan comp. Includes the band’s best known USA sides as well as rare self-pressed singles. Includes detailed liners, vintage photos and 45 label scans.
  Los Dug Dugs “Dug Dug’s” (aka “Lost in My World”)
Light in the Attic LP: One of the more unsung releases of the year was Los Dug Dug’s self titled debut (1971), credited as the first Mexican psych record with English lyrics. Released concurrently with their second album, Smog, this one is only available on vinyl.
  The Outsiders “CQ”
RPM CD: Remastered and expanded edition of this seminal 1968 album. This year’s RPM issue features six bonus cuts from a live show in Amsterdam, December 1968.
  Hot Knives “Hot Knives”
Grown Up Wrong! CD/MP3: This Flaming Groovies spinoff band, often compared to the Airplane and Grape, saw its first reissue after 30 years in 2011. The 14-track album comprises material recorded at 3 sessions in local studios in ’76. Includes liners and an illustrated booklet.
  Paul McCartney “McCartney”
MPL/Concord 2CD: Released along with McCartney II as special 2CD editions featuring remastered audio and generous bonus cuts.  Also comes in a more expanded edition with a bonus DVD of unseen footage.
  Phil Spector “Presents the Philles Album Collection”
Sony Legacy CD: Six albums from Spector’s Philles record label remastered in mono album and reissued for the first time on CD. Packaged in mini-vinyl replica sleeves, it also includes a bonus disc of B sides, many available on CD for the first time.
  Michael Hurley “Long Journey”
Light in the Attic LP: Michael Hurley’s classic 1976 Long Journey see its first vinyl reissue. LITA also put out the legendary Have Moicy! album this year featuring the Holy Modal Rounders and Jeffrey Fredericks, as well as some other classics from Michael Hurley.
  Jim Ford “Harlan County”
Light in the Attic LP: First straight vinyl reissue of Jim Ford’s classic record. Remastered from the original tapes and given the usual LITA loving treatment.
  Pink Floyd Discography
Capitol CD: All 14 original studio albums have been digitally remastered and reissued with new packaging and booklets created by the band’s long-time artwork collaborator Storm Thorgerson.
  The Beach Boys “SMiLE Sessions”
Capitol Box CD/LP: Will be surprised if this doesn’t top most lists this year. The first official SMiLE release from Capitol includes 5 CDs,  2LPs, 2 7″ singles, and tons of extras. Every Beach Boys fan should have seen this one under the tree this year. No brainer.
  Bobby Charles “Bobby Charles”
Rhino Handmade CD: Three-disc Deluxe Edition that combines a remastered version of the original with a wealth of unreleased material recorded during those sessions and others recorded at Bearsville Studios throughout 1974. The set closes with a newly unearthed, 30-minute interview Charles did that was recorded shortly before the Bobby Charles album was released in August 1972.

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The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band “Vol. 3 – A Child’s Guide To Good and Evil”

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band is one of those remarkable quasi-underground groups from the 1960s which nowadays inspires a sort of obsessive cult interest among certain individuals. As such, there’s been more than enough amateur scholarship written on them for me to safely forgo much of an introduction or studied history (I’d strongly recommend Tim Forster’s comprehensive article). In fact, if it were not for their conspicuous absence on the Rising Storm, I might think that any more ink shed on the band’s records would be a waste of time.

As it stands, however, A Child’s Guide To Good and Evil deserves a place on these pages. Probably the strongest and most representative of the band’s recordings, Child’s Guide is a surreal set of beautiful folk-rock and off-the-wall psychedelic excursions from the mind of notorious west-coast playboy Bob Markley. Don’t be put off by the band’s legendary weirdness, though; hell, any record that opens with as stunning a pop song as “Eighteen Is Over the Hill” should deserve a place in your collection, catholic taste or not. Multi-tracked finger-picked acoustic guitars and wide-open harmonies help drive this piece into one of the catchiest choruses this band ever put to tape. Imagine a hipper, dropped out Simon and Garfunkel and you’re maybe halfway there.

After hooking you with the opener the band slowly starts to indulge more and more in their trademark psychedelics. First comes fuzz-tone bass and pedal-steel on “In the Country,” which happily manages to transcend its overworked “going to the country” theme. Then Ron Morgan’s crackling electric sitar turns up on the two otherwise-unrelated “Ritual” numbers as the band explores such intriguing topics as flowers, beads and babies. Morgan really does seem to have been the band’s secret weapon at this point; his spidery guitar lines – such as those dancing behind the twisted black humor of Markley’s “A Child of A Few Hours Is Burning To Death” – help turn these songs into psychedelic classics. In this last song we also find the Experimental Band’s often-inscrutable lyrics at their most unnerving and most pointed: “we all are nothing but soft moist people, with soft moist hands folded over our buttons,” Markley intones cheerfully before dropping his psychopathic chorus. The Mamas and Papas these guys were not.

So if you ever thought Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was just way too tame and predictable, then it might do you good to check out the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. All of the records the band released during its short lifetime are worth hearing at least once, from the garage-band hodgepodge that is Volume 1 to the unmitigated Freudian strangeness that is the band’s official swan song, Where’s My Daddy. Markley himself may have been one disturbed cat, but the band’s solid musical prowess was always more than enough to keep his nonsense on target.

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“As the World Rises & Falls”

:) Original | 1968 | Reprise | search ]
😀 Reissue | 2001 | Sundazed | buy ]
😎 Spotify link | listen ]

The Common People “Of The People/By The People/For The People From”

A well known rarity, The Common People’s Of The People/By The People/For The People is one of the more collectable Capitol releases.  Prior to this LP, the group released two primitive garage singles which are very good but nearly impossible to find.

For many years very little was known about the Common People.  Terrascope’s interview with lead singer Denny Robinett cleared up many unanswered questions regarding the band’s existence and roots.  The Common People hailed from Baldwin Park California (LA area) and played the local club circuit.  “Lord” Tim Hudson, of Lollipop Shoppe and Seeds fame, managed this mysterious psychedelic outfit.  Of The People/By The People/For The People is an interesting mixture of garage pop and orchestrated psych whose reputation has soared in recent years – it’s a bit overrated to these ears but generally a worthwhile LA psych rock trip.

The first three tracks of the album were arranged by David Axelrod and are an amazing mixture of swirling strings and raw lead vocals.  The string arrangements mesh seamlessly with Denny Robinett’s vocals, creating a sound which was very unique for 1969 – an unsettling amalgam of folk-rock, psychedelia, and orchestrated pop.  Had the whole album been arranged and produced by David Axelrod it might have turned out to be a psychedelic masterpiece but unfortunately, the budget tightened up, forcing the band to abandon its original vision for something that’s more run-of-the-mill and less exciting.  It’s even been suggested that Axelrod might have pulled out of these sessions because his wife suffered serious injuries from a car accident.  In the end, the group was forced to move on and complete the album without him.  Most of the remaining tracks are solid garage pop numbers.  The low points are two generic horn rock numbers and one despicable novelty tracked titled, “They Didn’t Even Go To The Funeral.”  By no means a classic or masterpiece, Of The People/By The People/For The People is a flawed but worthy album – a solid psych rock record that will satisfy many fans of the genre.  The buzzing organs and occasional fuzz guitar of  “Why Must I Be,” “Take From You,” “Land of Day” and “Go Every Way” deliver the garage goods in a downbeat, moody fashion.  The album’s key strengths are its mood, Robinett’s gruff vocals, and Axelrod’s soaring string arrangements/production on the LP’s first three tracks.

Denny Robinett claims that Capital never promoted Of The People/By The People/For The People and that it “was never available for sale in any store.”  Australian label Ascension and Fallout have recently reissued this disc on cd.  The Fallout reissue includes the early singles but is a “grey area” release.

Read Terrascope’s interview with Denny Robinett for more information on The Common People.

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“Soon There’ll Be Thunder”

:) Original | 1969 | Capitol | search ebay ]
Please do not purchase the illegal Fallout pressing of this record.

Mother Earth “Make a Joyful Noise”

Mother Earth has to be one of the best American rock and roll bands to have ever been forgotten. A hot act in its day, it seems folks have tended to overlook the group in recent years. Perhaps the band’s aesthetic center in 1960s blues and soul music makes them just a little too straight for today’s “forward-thinking” music listeners more hip to the weird, experimental sounds of bands like Faust or The Incredible String Band than righteous electric combos like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (now that I mention it, East/West really does beg review on these pages). No matter, though; let us take the first steps in reintroducing listeners to the wild, rootsy sounds of Mother Earth.

Make A Joyful Noise is the band’s second album, and marks a clear evolution in the band’s dynamic by containing both a “city side” and a “country side,” the latter recorded in Nashville with legendary pedal steel player and country music producer Pete Drake. Whatever new angles the band was introducing to their sound, however, they certainly hadn’t lost sight of their strengths, for there is soul enough aplenty across both sides of this collection. Dig the explosive opening number, “Stop the Train,” starring part-time Mother Earth shouter The Reverend Ron Stallings. Though the band is best remembered for Tracy Nelson’s fiery vocal talents, they were actually an extraordinary collaborative ensemble, also including among their ranks the enigmatic Powell St. John, occasional lyricist with The 13th Floor Elevators and whose stunning “The Kingdom of Heaven” the band had recorded the year before.

The “country side” here introduces Tracy Nelson’s talent for Music City soul, which would really shine on her first solo record Country, itself recorded around the same time as the Pete Drake selections on Joyful Noise. The band’s recording of Doug Sahm’s slow-grooving “I Wanna Be Your Mama Again,” a song purportedly written with Nelson in mind, really cooks and includes some tight picking. Dig the way the fiddle, pedal steel and electric guitar weave together during the instrumental breaks; rocking, rolling, backwoods bliss. Powell’s lazy, West Texas vocal spot on “Then I’ll Be Moving On” further highlights the appeal of the communal group organization, one which would eventually be discarded when the band turned into Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth.

All of the early Mother Earth albums are go-to records for me when I’m in the mood for beautifully honest, down-to-earth music (and yeah, I reckon that’s pretty often). If you’re really digging the rhythm and blues here, look for a copy of the band’s follow-up Bring Me Home; if you’re more into the country half, you absolutely need to get your hands on Nelson’s aforementioned solo record. Fortunately for all, every one of these records are still in print and readily available.

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“I Wanna Be Your Mama Again”

:) Original | 1969 | Mercury | search ebay ]
😀 Reissue | 2004 | Wounded Bird | buy ]

John Baldry “It Ain’t Easy”

Most folk who remember “Long” John Baldry at all recall only his chart-topping single of 1967, the maudlin crooner ballad “Let The Heartaches Begin”. But if the mettle of a performer is measured by the affection and respect of his fellow professionals and their willingness to participate in his art, then this album is a testament to a musician who’d been an industry favourite from his earliest days as the original vocalist and occasional guitarist with Alexis Korner’s pioneering Blues Incorporated. To proffer just two examples, the virtually unknown Baldry was an invited guest on the Fabs’ 1964 international TV spectacular “Around The Beatles” – which is where I first heard him – and is credited in Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” after he dissuaded John from suicide following the latter’s distraught realisation of his sexuality. Himself openly gay, dazzlingly handsome and at six foot seven a magnificent, elegant figure, Baldry’s talent deserved wider commercial success than it ever achieved.

After his misguided, though briefly successful, flirtation with middle-of-the-road music Baldry angled to get back to his folk-country-blues roots and in 1971, via former Steampacket and Bluesology colleagues Rod Stewart and Elton John, signed with Warner Brothers for whom he would cut two albums, It’s Not Easy being the first. The then nascent rock superheroes Stewart and John produced one side of the album each, and the result is a mildly schizophrenic opus with the Stewart topside comprising mostly rollicking bluesy outings and the John flipside more thoughtful, soulful fare. Baldry’s warm, abrasive tenor delivery makes the best of both. The lists of musicians also signify the esteem in which Baldry was held; among many other front-liners, the Stewart sessions feature Rod’s old muckers Ron Wood and Mickey Waller from the erstwhile Jeff Beck Group, while the flip includes Elton himself on piano plus his early sidekick guitarist and organist Caleb Quaye. The eclectic list of writers includes Baldry’s original muse Huddie “Leadbelly” Leadbetter, Tuli Kopferberg of the Fugs, Lesley Duncan, Randy Newman, the John/Taupin axis and Stewart himself.

The opening recitative “Conditional Discharge”, in which Baldry wryly relates an encounter with the Metropolitan Police during his Soho busking days over an effortless boogie-woogie piano backing, segues brilliantly into the thunderous “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll” with everybody in the band rocking out like there’s no tomorrow. Baldry’s faithful homage to Leadbelly on “Black Girl” is a duet with chainsaw-voiced chanteuse Maggie Bell over piano, Dobro and mandolin, whilst the title track is a rolling country boogie with Bell again in tow and a great Delaney-And-Bonnie vibe. “Mr Rubin” is a beautifully understated piano-led take on Duncan’s plangent appeal to the militant Yippie founder. The final track of the original ten is a splendid extended cover of the Faces’ “Flying” with great piano from Elton and soaring, gospel-inspired ensemble backing vocals.

The album sold sparingly in the US and barely at all in the UK, and received its first CD reissue only in 2005 when Warners put it out with a clutch of bonus outtakes and a panegyric booklet note by Sid Griffin. The extras included alternative, less-produced takes on three of the originals plus four delightful classic acoustic blues covers which contrast with the densely-produced originals and showcase Baldry’s voice and guitar in a setting otherwise unadorned but for an anonymous harmonica player (Stewart?). The second and last Warner album Everything Stops For Tea in 1972 made no showing and Baldry’s career thereafter was uneven and mostly unedifying, with continuous health problems, and sporadic, patchy albums and live appearances alternating with commercially more successful placements as a bit-part actor and voiceover specialist. He relocated to Vancouver in 1978 and died there from pneumonia aged just 64, just a month after this album was reissued.

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“Flying”

:) Original | 1971 | Warner Bros | search ebay ]
😀 Reissue | 2005 | Rhino | buy ]

John Berberian “Middle Eastern Rock”

During the 1960s it seemed as though every western musician worth their salt was experimenting with Eastern instruments. In most cases this did not extend beyond the sitar, an Indian instrument introduced to the Occident by British bands like the Beatles and the Kinks (god bless colonialism, indeed), but in a number of cases western musicians took this interest one step further and began to explore the Eastern world’s abundant wealth of stringed instruments. American players like Sandy Bull and David Lindley were at the vanguard of this new artistic swing, laying instruments like the oud onto North American musical patterns and coming up with new and exciting sounds. A somewhat lesser-known member of this movement was John Berberian, a serious, virtuosic oud player of Armenian ancestry who recorded a series of genre-bending records in the sixties, key among these being 1969’s Middle Eastern Rock.

This record is a seemingly effortless amalgam of Armenian, Greek, and American musical forms, not to mention the sounds of “the Druze tribe of Northern Africa” (as per Berberian’s sleeve notes) most aptly demonstrated on the six-and-a-half minute opener “The Oud and the Fuzz.” As its straightforward title would suggest, this side pits Berberian’s nimble oud work against Joe Beck‘s whirling electric guitar which, about halfway through, does in fact roar into an incisive fuzz-tone. The net results are quite extraordinary, the band successfully weaving together contemporary psychedelic rock and middle eastern jazz. The west coast group Kaleidoscope may have made some iconic recordings with the oud and the saz, but rarely did they manage a sound as beautifully cohesive and technically stunning as this.

There really aren’t any bum notes on this record. “Tranquility” delves into a floating Armenian melody showing off the group’s ear for tasteful improvisation, while on “Chem-oo-Chem” (the one vocal track in the collection) Berberian’s ensemble takes on a popular Armenian folk song and throws in a jagged electric guitar solo. Honking saxophone riffs lay easy across a bed of middle eastern percussion. “The Iron Maiden” has a righteous oud and saxophone introduction before burrowing deep into the “middle eastern jazz” sound mentioned previously (shades of Ahmed Abdul-Malik). Though I can’t say that any of the arrangements here would give Monk or Mingus much to write home about, the tunes themselves maintain a propulsive rhythmic drive that keeps the proceedings ever pushing onwards into the next grooves.

It’s too bad that Berberian never got the chance to cut another record in this vein, though from what I hear there is much to love on his earlier, more traditional oud recordings from the early sixties. The man himself is still around and as active as ever, running his own record label and performing the odd concert or benefit – in the rare instance that he happens to be in town, don’t pass up the opportunity to catch this legend perform.

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“Iron Maiden”

:) Original | 1969 | Verve Forecast | search ebay ]
😀 Reissue | 2008 | Revola | buy ]

Southwind (Self-Titled)

The 1968 self-titled debut by California based country rock group Southwind is a rather obscure little gem.  The unique combination of country, psych, soul, funk, and just good old rock & roll turns this record into a stew of great listening, and really makes this record stand out.

The band’s origins can be traced back to Norman, Oklahoma, while members were attending the University of Oklahoma.  Coming together first as a rockabilly-flavored band known as “The Disciples,” the group comprised John “Moon” Martin (guitar, vocals), Jim Pulte (bass, vocals), Phil Hope (organ), and Eric Dalton (drums).  Soon after forming, the band scored an opportunity to play at several venues in Wisconsin to delighted audiences.  In 1967, the band headed out for the musical promised land of Los Angeles, with The Disciples changing their name to the more contemporary-sounding “Southwind.” The newly-named band started incorporating psychedelic rock, country, blues, soul, and funk into their sound.  After playing gigs in and around L.A. for a while, in 1968, Southwind were signed to the tiny MGM subsidiary Venture records, which was a label known for giving lesser-known soul/R&B acts a shot.  Nevertheless, the band headed into the studio and laid down tracks for their debut.

The opening tune, the outstanding cover of Bob Dylan’s “You Been On My Mind,” is a blend of country-tinged pop with lush strings.  The song features wonderfully beautiful and expressive vocals, and doesn’t sound too far from something an early Nitty Gritty Dirt Band may have cut.  Next up is the rave-up soul flavored number “Get On Board The Train,” which asks the listener to get on board of the soul (love?) train before it takes off, undoubtedly leaving them behind in the dust.  Track three is the rather dark “I’m Proud To Be,” and is a bit of a psychedelic mini-masterwork, containing very creepy sounding vocals and guitar playing.  The last track on side one is also another stand-out, “Got To Get Myself Together,” a plaintive tune of love gone bad and the choice of finally moving on.  To my ears, the best track on the album is on side two.  “New Orleans (Mardi Gras)” is a song that was deserving of hit status, and was also recorded by Del Shannon for his “The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover” album.  The song had the typical late ’60’s flower power sound, complete with very hallucinatory and vivid lyrics, and eerie and dissonant harpsichord and guitar work.  The song gives off a definite “loss of glory and happiness of days gone by” vibe.  This whole album is full of great tracks.

Southwind released this and a handful of singles before replacing organist Phil Hope with longtime pal Dugg (Fontaine) Brown as a full time member.  The group left Venture records for the eccentric and now-legendary Blue Thumb label, releasing their second album “Ready To Ride” in 1970.  Southwind’s final effort was the more blues-influenced “What A Strange Place To Land” album in 1971, and not long after the release, the group disbanded.  John Martin (now going by his newly-adopted first name of “Moon”) went on to back artists such as Linda Ronstadt and later recorded several solo albums, all of which received little attention.  Martin is probably best remembered for writing Robert Palmer’s huge hit “Bad Case Of Lovin’ You (Doctor, Doctor).”  Jim Pulte made a couple of solo albums for United Artists, and virtually dropped out of radar.  Little is known of the whereabouts of original organist Phil Hope or drummer Eric Dalton.  Dugg (Fontaine) Brown has been in the music scene for years, and was at one time connected to music legends Del Shannon and Bob Seger.  Brown still writes and records music today.

Sadly, no label to my knowledge has picked up this album to be reissued on CD.  The two tracks provided for this review were recorded straight from my personal copy of the vinyl, so you may hear some pops and clicks in places.  Search online auction sites such as eBay or scour your local record shops and thrifts in hopes of finding an original vinyl copy.  I will say in full confidence that this is an album worthy of the reissue treatment, and it is definitely an album worthy of picking up if you can find it cheap enough.  Not a disappointing moment on this record.

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“You Been On My Mind”

:) Original | 1968 | Venture | search ebay ]

Tyrannosaurus Rex “Unicorn”

Marc Bolan was one of the best known musicians of the 1970s and he’d hardly be characterized as a cult figure if it were not for his early, tragic death. But before he hit number one and became a household name with his electric glitter glam persona, an early non-abbreviated Tyrannosaurus Rex released a string of “fantasy folk” records in the late 60s that gradually progressed toward psychedelia and perfection.

Tyrannosaurus Rex was comprised of Bolan and percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Peregrin Took. Together with producer Tony Visconti (of Bowie fame) they recorded Unicorn very quickly in 1969, eventually reaching number 12 on the UK pop charts. In hindsight it seems like a strange feat given what kind of oddities this rather straightforward record jacket contained.

Bolan’s songs mostly revolve around open guitar chords, pitter-pat percussion, and strong two part harmonies, with the production kept extremely minimal. But even with such a seemingly limited pallet, Unicorn shines and shifts revealing layers of hidden beauty.

On songs like “Evenings of Damask” and “Stones for Avalon” Steve Took harmonizes in an otherworldly voice, perfectly matching Marc’s stray cat wail.  The percussion and various accompaniment Took provides manages to unobtrusively fill out the arrangements without ever taking anything away from Marc’s tall tales.

The lyrics are mostly unintelligible and concern all things fantasy (with far too many references to Lord of the Rings), but occasionally paint touching images like “Oh the throat of winter is upon us, barren barley fields refuse to sway/Lo the frozen bluebirds in the belfry, the blue bells in their hearts are surely prey”.

Perhaps it’s songs like “Throat of Winter” and “Like a White Star…” but this record has a persistent autumnal/winter vibe that penetrates like a deep chill. You can almost hear the cold in Bolan’s voice as he shivers through these tracks.

It’s not a stretch to say that Marc’s writing peaked with this album. It stands on its own with beautiful, mature melodies and is more stunning, original, and developed then anything he would subsequently produce. Bolan and Took parted ways shortly after Unicorn’s release, and the rest of the T. Rex story is widely known. But we’ll always have this record as a document of what Marc was truly capable of when he followed his heart.

Orignally released on Regal Zonophone/Blue Thumb, A&M has a very nice reissue of this disc that is readily available from Amazon. Original vinyl copies are highly sought after.

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“Like A White Star, Tangled and Far, Tulip…”

😀 Reissue | 2004 | Universal (expanded) | buy ]
:) Original | 1969 | Polydor | search ebay ]

Ticket “Awake”

Ticket’s Awake is one of the best classic rock/psych albums from a surprisingly fertile late 60s/early 70s New Zealand scene.  Ticket’s roots trace back to several late 60s blues rock and pop groups: the Challenge, the Blues Revival and the Jamestown Union. Despite hitting the top 20 with the funky rural rocker “Country High” and recording two albums, Ticket’s popularity never broke out of the Aussie/New Zealand territories.

Awake’s contents were made up of several single sides issued in 1971 and some new studio material that date from 1972.  Hendrix, Cream and Traffic are the primary influences heard on Awake but Ticket’s funky rhythm section, rural overtones and complex song structures make them a distinct entity. The vocals of Trevor Tombleson are a fine mixture of Steve Winwood soul and Jack Bruce grit.  This vocal style is showcased on the group’s 8 minute psych gem “Dream Chant,” which is arguably the group’s finest moment on plastic.  “Broken Wings” and “Angel On My Mind” are strong Hendrix influenced originals with excellent guitar work courtesy of Eddie Hansen.   Hansen takes the spotlight on “Highway of Love” and “Reign Away,” both of which feature funky guitar licks and impressive soloing.  Two and a half minutes into “Reign Away” Hansen unleashes a devastating feedback drenched psych solo that is worth the price of admission alone.  Most of the tracks exceed the 5 minute mark but the group never succumb to aimless jamming – this band was as tight as a drum and knew exactly where to take the song.  A “must own” if early Mighty Baby, Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Traffic are your cup of tea – every track is a winner.

Aztec Music reissued this classic Kiwi acid rock album on cd in 2010.  It’s a bit pricey ($25 – $30) but well worth the money as an original vinyl copy of Awake will set you back $200 – $300.

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“Reign Away”

😀 Reissue | 2010 | Aztec | buy ]
:) Original | 1972 | Atlantic | search ebay ]