Author Archive

Cold Blood “Cold Blood”

San Francisco/East Bay area’s Cold Blood were one of the first bands of its kind, combining a smooth blend of psych, horn rock, jazz, soul, and R&B with front woman Lydia Pense’s Janis Joplin-esque vocal growlings.  People have often compared the group to the more well-known Californian outfit Tower Of Power, and with good reason.  Even so, Cold Blood have held their own ground and place in rock history, because of their energetic live shows, and the quality of material on their albums.  In 1969, Bill Graham signed the band and made them regulars at his legendary Fillmore West auditorium in San Francisco.  Their fan base quickly grew, and soon the band landed in the studio to record their eponymous debut, Cold Blood.

The album starts with the gospel-feel of “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”, and has become one of my all-time favorite opening tracks of any album.  The song captures a longing for personal freedom and independence, which was a major dream for the people of the 1960’s dealing with civil rights, women’s liberation, and the Vietnam war.  Lydia Pense’s powerful and emotional vocals shine on this one, perhaps owing a bit more to Aretha Franklin than Janis Joplin.  Their rocked-up, funkier version of Sam & Dave’s “You Got Me Hummin'” could have been a huge hit single with the right promotion, and contains some VERY flashy bass work, courtesy of Rod Ellicott.  Their cover of Muddy Waters’  “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, is one of the best cover versions of the song, with the horn section just soaring, and the whole feel of the song positively oozing with passion and sexual desire.  The album ends with the semi-obscure Bobby Parker early soul classic “Watch Your Step”.  The saxophone reaches almost an other-worldly plateau, with a super funkified rhythm backing that leaves the listener with sublime aural satisfaction.

Cold Blood went through various incarnations, with several members passing away or moving on to other projects.  The band finally called it quits in the 1970s, with Lydia Pense recording solo material, and then deciding to retire from music indefinitely in the 1980s to raise her daughter.  The band reformed, have a strong cult following, and still continue to perform and wow audiences.

Cold Blood is so chocked full of great songs that it was very difficult to try and pick the “very best” to review.  Truth be told, this entire album is fantastic.  The original vinyl of the album is surprisingly easy and inexpensive to find on eBay, Discogs.com, etc.  “Oldies” label Collectibles reissued the album in 2001 as a two-album set, paired with their second album Sisyphus, which is also highly recommended.  From a personal standpoint, I’d suggest getting the original vinyl version.  It’s one of the best sounding albums, sonically, that I’ve ever owned, and is almost mandatory to crank to the highest possible volume to get the full experience.  Grab this one if you come across it.

mp3: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
mp3: Watch Your Step

:) Original | 1969 | San Francisco | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2001 | Collectables | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Link Wray “Bullshot”

Link Wray, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most important rock & roll guitarists of all-time, is a pretty familiar name with rock fans all over the world.  The man practically invented distorted, fuzzy, and wild rock guitar sounds.  He was one of the first, if not the first, guitarists to use the almighty power-chord.  Pete Townshend has famously cited Link’s importance, claiming that “he is the king;  if it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble’, I would have never picked up a guitar.”  By the way, “Rumble” has since been added by the Library Of Congress to the National Recording Registry.  Important stuff.  Link recorded tons of material throughout his long career, with most of it being great.  There’s just something about “Bullshot,” this dusty little fiery gem from 1979, that really stands out.

Recorded in NYC with Richard Gottehrer on production (need we say more?), this album is an atomic-bomb of a record, combining Link’s nasty rockabilly/psycho/mean/whatever-you-want-to-call-it guitar licks backed with some of the very best rhythm players I have ever heard.  Anton Fig, drummer extraordinaire, plays with such intensity and power.  The same can be said for Rob Stoner, who has played with countless people.  The bass playing on this album is a real ear-opener and jaw-dropper.  When deciding which categories I was going to put this album under, I had no hesitation to add “punk” to the list.  Sure, this may not be a straight-up punk rock album by definition, but the playing is so dirty and intense that it really does sound like a punk album!

Right from the beginning, you know you’re going to be in for a treat.  “Good Good Lovin'” starts off the album, and kicks everything into gear preparing you for the rockin’ ride the album sends you on.  “Fever” is one of the best versions of the song out there, giving it almost a strut or swagger about it, and a whole new vibe.  “Switchblade” is one hell of an instrumental, combining Link’s wild ehco-laden and distorted-to-the-max guitar and a rhythm backing not too far removed from the tune of “Peter Gunn”.  Side two is where the real magic is; Link’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” kicks off, and is something that needs to be heard to be believed.  Link executed this cover perfectly: adding his own twist to it, yet retaining the credibility and beauty of the original.  It was almost as if Link may have had the power-pop urgency of  “Baby Blue” by Badfinger in mind.  The guitar work in this song is positively amazing; he is just making every string scream and strain with so much power it leaves you speechless.  Link even gave us an extra treat of doing a new punked-up cover of his classic “Rawhide,” which again, is phenomenal and improves upon the original…somehow.  The other bright and shining moment on the record is the very last tune, a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t.”  At your first listen, you may not “get it” right away.  Give it a chance, and you will see the absolute brilliance Link gave this old ’50’ hit.  Pay particular attention to the guitar work at the very end of the song.  It sounds as if the song just decides to break down, explode, and go off to another planet.  Unbelievable.

Buying the album may be a bit tricky, especially if you need to go the digital route.  Your best bet, if at all possible, is to try and hunt down an original vinyl copy on eBay or scour the thrifts.  The album was reissued on CD as an import in the ’90s, but it has become quite pricey.  Trying to track down a copy of this album is worth the effort, though.  This record has become a definite main-stay in my collection, and I often find myself going back to it time and time again.  It is rewarding and a joy to listen to each and every time I put it on my turntable.  I will say, that since owning this album, Link Wray has become one of my favorite guitarists of all-time, and it may just do the same thing for you.

mp3: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
mp3: Don’t

:) Original | 1979 | Visa/Charisma | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 1995 | Line | 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 ]

Wool “Wool”

This 1969 release by Watertown, New York’s Wool proves that even when you have strong talent and all the right connections, sometimes it still isn’t enough to get your band to break.

The group formed in the early ’60s, and were originally known as Ed Wool and The Nomads.  Ed Wool, who was a master guitar prodigy and excellent songwriter, was influenced early on by the new British Invasion sound and later on by the cream-of-the-crop of soul/R&B.  Ed Wool and The Nomads were huge in the mid-60s’ thriving Northern/Upstate New York music scene, even sharing the stage with bands such as Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, The (Young) Rascals, and The Rolling Stones.  In 1966, Ed and The Nomads scored a recording contract with RCA Victor and made one single, “I Need Somebody” b/w “Please, Please, Please,” which flopped.  Several line-up changes ensued as the ’60s progressed, but with Ed Wool still as the main focal point. The group was known as “The Sure Cure” for a brief amount of time, releasing the Feldman/Goldstein/Gottehrer penned “I Wanna Do It” for the Cameo-Parkway label, which also flopped.  Next, as “The Pineapple Heard,” Ed’s group even had the chance to be the first group to record the Boyce & Hart tune “Valleri” in 1967, a year before The Monkees had a hit with it.  That single, released on the tiny Diamond label, again, flopped.  Starting circa 1968, Ed Wool finally settled with a new and final line-up, which included his younger sister Claudia on vocals, and began going by the simple, unique name “Wool.”  The group traveled to New York City and began laying down tracks for their lone eponymous album for ABC Records.

This time around, the group managed to establish a songwriting connection with Neil Diamond, and had folk/pop songwriter and musician Margo Guryan at the helm for production help.  Surely, this should’ve been a recipe for success. Unfortunately, the album went virtually unnoticed nationally, and scored at the very bottom of the Billboard Top 200.  In Upstate/Northern NY, the album was a hit, with several of the tunes being played constantly on local radio stations.  Although it was largely unknown, one can assume that a lack of promotion from ABC Records was likely to blame for the album not being a hit.  It’s a shame, because the music contained on the album is downright good, with even some moments of greatness.

The album is a super tight blend of psych-rock, pop, and funk.  The album’s biggest highlight, a cover of Big Brother & The Holding Company’s “Combination Of The Two” absolutely blows the original out of the water in every aspect. Both the music and vocals make Big Brother’s version sound…dare I say…weak?!  One should especially pay attention to the wild vocals of Claudia Wool and the jaw-dropping fuzzy bass solo, courtesy of Ed Barrella.  The second highlight of the album is an Ed Wool original, entitled “If They Left Us Alone Now.”  A stark piece of psych-pop balladry, the tune belonged in the Top 40.  The Neil Diamond-penned “The Boy With The Green Eyes” also had hit written all over it.  Their cover of “Any Way That You Want Me,” which was better known by The Troggs, The Liverpool Five, and later Evie Sands, may be the best recorded version.  The album closes with the nine-and-a-half minute cover of Buffalo, NY’s Dyke & The Blazers’ “Funky Walk” and perfectly showcases Ed Wool’s superb guitar chops.

After Wool released this album, they recorded a handful of singles for Columbia (yet another major label!), all of which fell upon deaf ears.  Ed Wool is now based in Albany, NY playing blues-rock with a new line-up.  Wool reunited in 2007 for a concert at the famous Bonnie Castle Resort in Alexandria Bay, NY playing some of their old ’60s songs.  As for this album, it was definitely Wool at their peak of creativity. Wool has become a cult classic of sorts, and can be a bit pricey on eBay.  Luckily, in 2006, the UK’s Delay 68 label reissued a remastered version of the album on CD with plenty of photographs and liner notes, and is available for purchase on Amazon.  If you have the extra cash, pick this little gem up.  It will not disappoint the average ’60s rock fanatic.

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“Combination Of The Two”

:D Reissue | 2006 | Delay 68 | buy here ]
:) Original | 1969 | ABC | search ebay ]

Klaatu “3:47 EST”

In the late summer of the U.S. Bicentennial, an album was unleashed upon the public which caused much rumor-mongering and gossip within the music world. That album was 3:47 EST, the debut album by Canadian progressive/psychedelic group Klaatu.  The album was hailed superb by critics and fans alike.  Furthermore, what people couldn’t get over was the striking similarity between the style of some of the tunes on the album with The Beatles’ music.  Thus, the inevitable “did The Beatles reunite to make an album?” rumors began.

Supposedly, in 1966, The Beatles recorded enough material to fill an entire album that was intended to be a follow up to Revolver.  Of course, the master tapes were somehow “lost” from Abbey Road studios.  Dealing with Paul McCartney’s alleged “death” in a car accident, The Beatles didn’t want to be bothered with re-recording the album.  When a Paul McCartney look-alike stepped in to take “dead Paul’s” place, The Beatles decided to stop touring and began working on an entirely new album which turned out to be Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  1975 rolled around, and these very “missing” master tapes were rediscovered while researchers were gathering information for a future Beatles documentary entitled The Long And Winding Road (which became the Anthology series twenty years later).  The remaining Beatles decided it would be a great opportunity to release the recorded material as a proper album, sort of in tribute to the “late” James Paul McCartney.  They came to the conclusion that it would be best to release the album with no songwriting credits, and no photographs.  That way, the album could be purchased and enjoyed solely on its musical merits, and free of any Beatles-hype.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Well, maybe not completely…

When the record hit store shelves, people began wondering a bit.  Why was the album put out by Capitol records (which was the label The Beatles songs were released on in America and Canada)?  Why were there no pictures or names of the band members anywhere on the sleeve?  Why were there no proper production or songwriting credits given, only “Produced by Klaatu”, and “All selections composed by Klaatu”?  “Klaatu” was the name of the alien from the film The Day The Earth Stood Still, and why on Ringo Starr’s Goodnight Vienna album was there a photo of Ringo dressed as Klaatu, standing with Gort (the robot in the film) in front of the spaceship from the movie?  Is that just an odd coincidence?  Why did a few of the songs on the album have vocals which sounded a lot like Paul McCartney and John Lennon?  The questions go on and on.  I don’t want to waste any more of your time on this entire back-story.  There’s tons of information available on the internet.  What is for sure, however, is the pure listening joy this album delivers, no matter who was responsible for it!  (By the way, Klaatu was/is a real band from Toronto, Ontario.  They released several other critically-acclaimed albums, and went on tour.  They’re still performing today.)

“Calling Occupants (Of Interplanetary Craft)” starts off the album, and is probably Klaatu’s best remembered song, although it only stalled at #62 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  A year later, The Carpenters recorded the song, where it reached a respectable #32 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  A perfect piece of proggy-space pop, with a memorable shout-out to visitors from outer space.  “California Jam” is track two, and sounds more like early ’70s AM Bubblegum pop than The Beatles.  A good, uptempo power-pop tune, though.  The album continues with “Anus Of Uranus,” which is a bit of a heavier song with a silly title.  Side one finishes with the second highlight of the album (the first being “Calling Occupants”), “Sub-Rosa Subway”.  Now, this is where I can begin to understand The Beatles comparisons.  The singer certainly sounds a lot like Paul McCartney, and the basslines are undeniably McCartney-esque.  But still, the song sounds a bit too modern to have been supposedly recorded in mid-1966.  This is a song which you’ll probably find yourself putting on repeat.

The album continues being a blast to listen to.  The production is great, the songs are great, the music is great!  True, songs like “Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III” sound a bit like something the Muppets (Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!) may have recorded, so you’re not going to find a life-changing album here by any means.  But, who cares?  This album finds its way to my turntable almost on a bi-weekly basis, when I want to listen to something fun and arrogance-free.  Pick it up if you have the chance.  You’ll be wanting to purchase their other albums after hearing this, which are just as much fun.  This record will put a smile on your face, for sure.

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“Sub-Rosa Subway”

:D Reissue | 2010 | Indie Europe/Zoom | buy here ]
:) Original | 1976 | Capitol | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Otis Redding “Otis Blue”

In 1965,  Otis Redding recorded and released his third studio album, Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul on the legendary Stax label’s subsidiary Volt Records.  The album is considered by fans and critics alike to be Otis’ masterpiece.  To me, it just may be the ultimate masterpiece of soul music, period.

The album begins with “Ole Man Trouble,” a cry of desperation of a man who has had one too many demons on his trail.  In classic Otis Redding-style, this is a damn powerful and convincing song.  He is begging for some peace and contentment in his life.  In my opinion, this is one of the greatest opening tracks of any album of any genre.

The album continues with the original version of “Respect,” one of Otis’ own compositions.  For those of you who are only familiar with Aretha Franklin’s rendition, you’ll be in for a bit of a surprise (yes, it is quite different).  Otis Redding’s original rendition of the classic tune takes on a life of its own, and is an all-out soul stomper.  Definitely a track worthy of cranking at maximum volume.

The album just keeps getting more and more fantastic as it goes on.  Track three:  Sam Cooke’s immortal “A Change Is Gonna Come.”  Now, as much as I truly love Sam’s original version, nothing beats Otis’ version.  The power in this man’s voice as he sang this song is unbelievable.  This song, a classic Civil Rights anthem,  always reduces me to tears.  Otis, who was a huge Sam Cooke fan, covers two more of his compositions: “Shake,” which is a great soul dancer, and the playful and tender “Wonderful World”.  One thing was for certain, Otis showed the utmost of respect to his fellow artists by doing incredible covers of their songs.  “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” is one of the greatest love songs ever made.  It’s pretty hard to not be emotionally touched by that song.  I’ve always been a fan of Otis’ love songs.  They don’t sound sappy or weak at all.  Otis Redding sounded like a strong, real man who was comfortable with being emotional without sounding syrupy or weepy.

The other track on this album that gets me every time is the cover of the Stones’ “Satisfaction.”  Some background info on Otis’ cover kind of goes like this: supposedly, Otis was not very familiar with the song, until the day came to record it.  The reason why Otis’ lyrics differ so much from the original is because he actually barely knew any of the words!  Talk about true creativity!  The Rolling Stones wrote and recorded the song with Otis Redding and similar American soul artists in mind as inspiration.  Redding’s rendition featured the horn section main-riff, which is what Keith Richards originally intended on doing.  The Stones were so impressed with this cover, that their later concert rendition of the song reflected Redding’s interpretation.

The Stax players (Steve Cropper, Al Jackson Jr., Donald “Duck” Dunn, and so on) positively smoke on this record.  Steve Cropper’s biting and nasty Telecaster sound just screams.  Pay particular attention to the all-out sweaty ‘n’ gritty blues workout, “Rock Me Baby.”  These guys were jamming hard in that little studio!

Since Otis Redding is probably my favorite solo artist of all-time, I’d recommended all of his recordings to a beginner.  However, I’d have a hard time not recommending this album as the starting point. To me, and many others, this album truly embodies the classic Stax sound.  A gem.

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“Rock Me Baby”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Rhino | buy here ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2001 | Sundazed | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Small Faces “There Are But Four Small Faces”

As it has been said many times before, The Small Faces were, undoubtedly, one of Britain’s most influential rock bands.  Despite being together for only four years in their original incarnation, The Small Faces have gone on to be remembered as one of the most important British bands of the mod/psychedelic era.  Combining the best-of-the-best American soul and R&B and their own special brand of British Beat (and later, psychedelic rock), The Small Faces were definitely unique.  And what is there to say about Steve Marriott that hasn’t been said before?  In many peoples’ opinions, he was the greatest rock & roll singer who ever lived.

1967’s There Are But Four Small Faces holds a special place in my record collection.  Unlike some albums of the same era, this album has held up well without sounding too dated.  Side one kicks off with the flower power classic “Itchycoo Park”.  With its use of tape effects and flanging, it was a song that sounded totally out of this world at the time of its release.  It was also the only major US hit The Small Faces would enjoy in their brief career, reaching a respectable #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.  There was so much more to this band worthy of “hit status” than just that song, though.

“I Feel Much Better”, which closes side one of the LP, contains one of the very first “breakdowns” in hard rock.  The end of the song closes with such power and intensity that it leaves the listener begging for more.  We weren’t used to that much power in a rock song until about two years later when a little band called Led Zeppelin exploded on the music scene.  “I Feel Much Better” was ahead of its time. Side two starts off with one of the most powerful songs ever recorded, “Tin Soldier”.  Originally written for singer PP Arnold (who is heard singing back-up vocals on the track), “Tin Soldier” is a song about unrequited love (and not a sappy one, at that).  Steve Marriott sings this with such fiery passion that it sounds like a man ripping his heart out of his chest, putting it on his sleeve, and begging to be loved by the woman of his dreams.  A masterpiece.  There are very few songs which have made some sort of a spiritual impact on me, but this is definitely one of them.  Listening to “Tin Soldier” is a near religious experience.

“Here Come The Nice” is another lost psych gem.  A drug-influenced song, for sure, it’s about a dealer who’s apparently “always there if you need some speed”.  But, if not for the obvious drug references, “Here Come The Nice” had the potential of being another big hit single, based on its catchiness alone.

Steve Marriott went on to form Humble Pie, and Rod Stewart was brought in to the Faces as his replacement where they enjoyed continued success.  To many, however, nothing compared to the Marriott-era Small Faces.  The fact that the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has neglected to induct this legendary and important band is an atrocity.  Much has been written about the history of this band and its members; the internet is full of information.  If you have the spare time, read up about them…very interesting band.

If you’ve never heard The Small Faces, I’d definitely suggest to start here.  You can’t really go wrong.  To fully appreciate this band, though, one must seek out their entire discography.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.  You may have a new favorite band on your hands.

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“I Feel Much Better”

:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Immediate | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2006 | JVC Japan | buy here ]

Fotheringay (self-titled)

In 1970, Sandy Denny’s departure from British Folk heroes Fairport Convention brought us Fotheringay, named after Denny’s original composition “Fotheringay” (about Fotheringay Castle), which appeared on Fairport Convention’s 1969 album What We Did on Our Holidays. Two former members of Eclection (Trevor Lucas, who would become Denny’s future husband, and Gerry Conway), and two former members of Poet and the One Man Band (Pat Donaldson and Jerry Donahue) completed the line-up. The newly formed group was ready to head in to the studio, and give us their first (and long believed to be) only album. Fotheringay has become recognized as a lost British folk rock treasure.

Of course, Sandy Denny’s voice is immaculate and flows ever so sweetly. “Nothing More,” track one, immediately sets the mood for the album, and features some of Denny’s finest vocals. This definitely sounds like a woman who knows all about pain, and offers her fellow mankind the best possible advice to move on from the past. Self-aware, yet sensitive, this is classic Sandy Denny. But believe me, the album just keeps getting better. The second track, “The Sea,” is absolutely stunning, a song that always gets me choked up a bit and gives me goosebumps. Let’s not forget to mention the musical quality here, either. For a newly formed and fresh band, they sound as though they’re completely comfortable with each other and have been jamming for years. The group knew exactly what they were doing.

Trevor Lucas takes the mic for “The Ballad Of Ned Kelly,” “Peace In The End,” a positively killer cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Way I Feel,” and an almost equally impressive cover of Bob Dylan’s “Too Much Of Nothing.” I’ve always loved Lucas’ vocals on this album. He has a country-rock leaning to his voice, and I instantly dug it right from the start. The album closes with the truly beautiful traditional “Banks Of The Nile,” a perfect ending to a nearly perfect album.

I kept my favorite track for last. “The Pond and the Stream” affected me in a pretty personal way. In fact, when I first got my hands on a copy of this album, I played that one song five times in a row. Lyrically and musically, it hits me pretty hard. I’ve since held it in the same high regard as classic Denny-era Fairport songs such as “Genesis Hall” and the immortal “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?”

Sadly, Fotheringay split in January of 1971, right while they were in the middle of recording tracks for their second album. Some of these songs managed to make it on to Denny’s debut in ’71, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. Lucas, Donahue, and Conway later resurfaced in the “new” Fairport Convention in 1972 for the album Rosie, which also contained some Fotheringay songs. In 2007, Donahue completed the abandoned album by using takes never-before-heard from the original tapes. Fotheringay 2 was finally released in 2008, and is also recommended.

I cannot say enough about this album. A definite “desert island disc” for me, it has brought me a lot of listening pleasure for quite some time. It may also become one of your favorite discs to spin on a cold winter’s night. Highly recommended.

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“The Sea”

:) Original vinyl | 1970 | Island/A&M | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2004 | Fledg’ling UK | buy here ]

The Bee Gees “Bee Gees 1st”

Long before they were known as the kings of Disco, the Bee Gees were master craftsmen of some of the greatest pop-rock the late ‘60s and early ‘70s had to offer. First rumored to be The Beatles under an alias (“Bee Gees” = “Beatles Group,” get it?), the Bee Gees exploded in the North American market in the late summer of 1967 with this album (their first US Top 10 album), and three Top 20 singles:  “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” “To Love Somebody” (originally meant to be recorded for the late great Otis Redding), and “Holiday.”  The Brothers Gibb were well on their way to international superstardom.

On first listen, Bee Gees 1st plays like a wonderful, lost baroque-pop album, which isn’t far from the truth. The opening track, “Turn Of The Century,” with its lush orchestration and classic vocals from the Brothers Gibb, will immediately have the listener waiting for more. The hits, as previously mentioned, are here of course, but the remaining tracks are what give this album its enduring appeal; the record embodies the sweet sounds of the summer of ’67.  The psych-pop weirdness of “Red Chair, Fade Away” to the Pepper-esque “Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You” reveal the Bee Gees at their most versatile and most talented. 1st is full of tunes that will make you smile, whether out of pure joy or bittersweet introspection.

1967 was one hell of a year for popular music.  Think of all the amazing and influential albums that were released that year – Sgt. Pepper’s, Surrealistic Pillow, The Doors S/T, Disraeli Gears; the list goes on and on. I like to hold this first Bee Gees album in the same category of greatness as all of the other classic smashes of ’67.

The Bee Gees are still a beloved music group. To me, there is nothing quite like their output from the late ‘60s. These songs, along with their other early albums (Horizontal, Idea, Odessa), have truly stood the test of time, and it’s easy to see why.  If you want to hear classic, endearing, and beautiful 1960s pop, pick up this album.

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“Turn Of The Century”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Rhino/Wea | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Atco | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]