Author Archive

Jesse Ed Davis “Jesse Davis”

While Jesse Ed Davis’ legacy has finally started to see the light of recognition, there is still a long way to go in establishing his rightful place in the pantheon of rock and roll legends. The Kiowa guitarist’s career encompassed work with everyone from Conway Twitty to John Lee Hooker to Bob Dylan, and his time served in the original Taj Mahal band would be highly influential on up-and-coming guitar slingers like Duane Allman (he being the inspiration for the latter’s taking up bottleneck-style guitar in the first place). Davis never really managed to establish himself as a commercially successful singer in his own right, but that did not prevent him from cutting a series of strong and invigorating records in the early 1970s, the first and foremost of these being Jesse Davis.

Davis has surrounded himself with a real who’s-who of rock and roll musicians here, including Eric Clapton, Joel Scott Hill, Gram Parsons and the oddly-omnipresent Leon Russell. This is a hearty American brew; it’s only too bad that the liner notes do not include a track by track breakdown of who is playing what on which songs. Davis’ voice may be an acquired taste – being slightly nasally and, yes, sometimes a little pitchy – but it also has a lot of character, and its hard not to give the guy a break; in the end, whatever vocal limitations the cat may be accused of are more than made up for by his exemplary musicianship. In his guitar playing I have noticed that Davis exhibits a certain degree of Curtis Mayfield influence (similar to that of Woodstock-era Robbie Robertson) in his ability to always serve the song and the rhythm; that is, until it comes time to let loose into a sharp and jagged solo, such as that which leaps out from the end of the otherwise lethargic “Reno Street Incident” – an original composition which was also recorded by Southwind’s Jim Pulte. The expansive horn arrangement on “Every Day Is Saturday Night” falls somewhere between Memphis boogie-woogie and red dirt dixieland, with Davis’ sharp staccato guitar leaping and swerving through the collective improvisation until its gleeful collapse. Make a joyful noise, indeed.

Perhaps the most memorable number here is “You Belladonna You,” which not only manages to lock into a serious groove, but also boasts an inescapable vocal hook. The extended jam at the end is the reason I harbor such ill will towards “the fade-out” on rock and roll records: is this not where the real magic happens? On the other hand, the oddest moment on the record comes with “Golden Sun Goddess,” which is an uncharacteristic detour into Los Angeles yacht rock replete with groovy electric sitars and a lava lamp vocal choir. It sounds like the album’s closest thing to a hit single, though its Steely Dan-isms are pretty jarring. Pretty much everywhere else Davis leans on an earthy, deadpan charm that betrays his deep Oklahoma roots. “Redheaded woman wants me to get a haircut,” Davis grumbles at the end of Pamela Polland’s “Tulsa County” before cracking, “man, I can’t get no haircut. Redhead? That’s a redneck.” Alright, so the Byrds may have cut the definitive take on this one, but they never let themselves have this much fun in the studio. Davis may be criticized for relying so heavily on other people’s material for his own albums, but his takes on these songs are always individualistic, and anyways, the guy’s got some good taste.

Jesse Davis has been reissued both individually and as a set with the follow up release, 1972’s Ululu, but somehow both are currently out-of-print and demanding ridiculously high prices. Your best bet is to keep an eye out for some original vinyl or else sucking it up and purchasing a digital copy, which may in fact be the most affordable choice at the moment though it does entail missing out on the righteous jacket artwork.

mp3: Washita Love Child
mp3: You Belladonna You

:) Original | 1971 | Atco | search ]
:D Reissue | 2006 | Wea | amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Bill Fay “Time of the Last Persecution”

Bill Fay’s is a name that has crept back into the underground consciousness in recent years due to some unexpected word-of-mouth publicity which has culminated in a series of commendable reissues of the artist’s work. Going into Time of the Last Persecution, however, I was unaware of such recent windfalls and totally unprepared for what I was delving into save for having read a record store tag-line which compared him to Ray Davies and Bob Dylan, or something along those lines. Sounded like hype of the highest order, but I was willing to take a chance; it was a somewhat impulsive bargain-bin purchase, anyways: cut-out bin at $2.99, and with a stark photograph on the cover that was hard to ignore.

At first I was a little uncertain as to Fay’s songwriting, which is quite strong in exploring the author’s religious ideologies, but that hurdle was quite quickly cleared. The truth is that Fay does not preach or praise so much as pray for understanding and salvation; here is the same tortured spirituality that haunts such landmark recordings as Satan Is Real or Dave Bixby’s Ode To Quetzlcoatl. For example, if it were not for the cracked desperation in Fay’s voice, a line like “Satan is in the garden shed, he’d like to screw you all” might come off as ridiculous. As it stands, however, it is both surreal and terrifying. Fay invokes all sorts of twisted black imagery here, from mental collapse to ecological disaster to chemical warfare. The music is a dynamic tapestry of melancholy piano tracks and heavy psychedelic guitars, often exploding into free-jazz inspired chaos as in the incredible title track. Guitarist Ray Russell is sure to blow your mind over the course of Persecution, capable of shifting between savory Nashville accents and volatile Sharrockian squalls. Horn players Tony Roberts, Nick Evans and Bud Parkes help to underscore the occasional free aspects here – this is the kind of jazz-rock fusion I’ve always hoped to hear. Mahavishnu, eat your heart out.

Most of the time, however, the sound of The Last Persecution is closer to Ernie Graham’s equally underrated self-titled record in that it blends elements of British folk-rock with imported American weariness. Alan Rushton and Daryl Runswick make for a crisp rhythm section whose propensity for laid-back grooves is not too far removed from Rick Danko and Levon Helm’s work in The Band. Runswick’s melodic playing on “Dust Filled Room” is a particular delight, though I’m surprised to find that his own artistic background actually extends the record’s free-jazz connections: he has spent time with Ornette Coleman, of all people! Which is all to say that these are some serious musicians, and even if you have trouble latching onto Fay’s songwriting or reedy voice there’s an entire world of delicacies to be tried within the music. Just take a listen to the frenzied coda to “Release Is In the Eye,” with Russell painting lightning all up and down his fretboard as the rhythm section latches on to a droning freight-train pattern.

Eclectic Discs reissued Time of the Last Persecution back in 2005 and did a beautiful job of it, too. This is a unique and heartfelt statement of a man searching through the darkness and while it may not be easy listening, its grooves are full of rewards for the dedicated listener. As Fay himself writes in Eclectic’s liner notes, “I worry to an extent about its ‘heaviness’ circulating out there in a small way, but at the same time I feel there’s maybe something of a therapeutic release in some of the intensity of the music,” which is about as fitting a description as I could ever think to assign.

mp3: Release Is in the Eye
mp3: Time of the Last Persecution

:D Reissue | 2005 | Eclectic | buy ]
:) Original | 1970 | Deram | search ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Southwest F.O.B. “Smell of Incense”

Northeast Texas heads Southwest F.O.B. can’t claim the same sort of critical attention lauded on such fellow statesmen as the 13th Floor Elevators or Red Krayola, but their one record, Smell of Incense, remains an indispensable slice of Lone Star psychedelia. Much more commercially-minded than any of the aforementioned collectives, the band nevertheless reveals an exciting instrumental virtuosity and willingness to draw FM gold out of esoteric regions. Thankfully, songwriters Dan Seals and John Colley betray little of the sickening soft-rock aspirations that would later drive them into their roles as England Dan and John Ford Coley, and show some surprisingly good taste in outside material.

The F.O.B.’s heavy, barnstorming take on the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s “Smell of Incense” is perhaps the clearest example of the group’s hip tastes and knack for redefinition; as strong as the original may be, the F.O.B. manage to take it in subtle new directions that streamline the song’s eccentric appeal, essentially rebuilding the rhythm section from the ground up. Zeke Durrell’s drumming really makes this recording; dig the intricacies between sections and those explosive runs following the hi-hat break just before the final chorus. You could never call the F.O.B. slick, but these cats are clearly no amateur musicians.

Another of the major highlights here is Seals and Colley’s “And Another Thing,” though its length, at just-under twelve minutes, may try the patience of some listeners – especially considering that about a quarter of those minutes are dedicated to a dizzying, tom-heavy drum solo. The cut never loses its drive, though; even the weird and loopy guitar improvisation in the middle manages to stick close to the song’s heavy rhythmic center. If you dig the warped, astral jams off Cold Sun’s Dark Shadows then there should be a lot for you to like here, though the band’s lyrics are never as interesting as what Bill Miller or Tommy Hall were writing around this time. “Beggar Man” may be one of the worst offenders in this regard, a woefully naïve and romanticized view of urban poverty hinting at the flower child sentiments of the decade.

There are all sorts of notable musical flourishes across this album which stand out in the course of a listen, however, and many lay among the local horn section (itself rather unusual in these interim years between early-sixties frat rock and the approaching Chicago sound) of Dan Seals on saxophone and Randy Bates on trumpet. Bates’ background in mariachi music colors his playing across the record, adding a sharp Texas accent to the band’s thick polychromatic sound. On occasion Seals and Bates hit a rather tepid Los Angeles brass sound, such as on the band’s melodramatic non-album recording of Paul Simon’s “59th Street Bridge Song,” but such moments are reassuringly infrequent and in general the two add, rather than detract, from the overall group dynamic.

Originally released on Stax’s short-lived pop-music imprint Hip Records, The Smell of Incense has been reissued to great effect by the folks over at Sundazed. The compact disc release now includes a wealth of additional material, including alternate mixes (including a shortened version of “And Another Thing” for those with limited constitutions) as well as some more R&B-centric material from the band’s early years as Theze Few. Highly recommended all around.

mp3: And Another Thing

:D Reissue | Sundazed | buy from sundazed | amazon ]
:) Original | 1969 | Hip Records | search ebay ]
:) Reissue | Sundazed | buy from sundazed ]

Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky”

Folks are going to recognize the title track of this one, the buzzing slice of pseudo-religious boogie that made Norman Greenbaum…well, maybe not a household name, but at least established him as the voice behind one of the most recognizable tunes to come out of the 1970s. It is actually more than a little surprising that, despite having scored such a serious smash single, Greenbaum would be so quick to drop out of the public eye. Few people have given the rest of his recordings a fair shake, despite albums like Spirit In the Sky and Back Home Again housing a wealth of strong and joyful material.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this one-hit-wonder status is the fact that “Spirit In the Sky” was a little unusual within the context of Greenbaum’s body of work (though not, I’d argue, to the extent that some critics have claimed). The spiritual lyrics would have appeared to herald a rising star in the nascent Jesus Freak scene, but in reality most of the man’s music was a relaxed blend of rootsy Americana and long-haired west coast blues. The lyrics pretty much entirely avoid religion, instead delving into such diverse subjects as back-to-the-earth living, spectral ex-girlfriends, and “smoking the tars of India.” Anyways, Greenbaum is Jewish. Go figure.

Though the cosmic guitar drone that drives Greenbaum’s most famous tune is also conspicuously absent from the rest of Spirit In the Sky, there are all sorts of inventive musical sounds being explored here, from the sunny wah-wah guitar of “Tars of India” to the swirling analogue electronics which dart across both “Alice Bodine” and “Marcy.” The former is a pretty haunting song, and impressively hard to pin down; the gurgling Moog and unusual lyrics would suggest disaster, but Greenbaum’s good taste and ability to walk the line between humor and sincerity let it do its thing. The band here, headed by producer Erik Jacobsen (best known for his work with fellow jugband disciples The Lovin’ Spoonful), is very tight, and really know how to get these songs to boogie. Cuts like “Junior Cadillac” and “The Power” even throw in a horn section for some pretty funky L.A. R&B. It’s to Greenbaum’s credit that these songs prove so memorable; indeed, this is one platter that burns all the way through. Just wait and see how many of these songs you find yourself humming after the needle’s lifted.

Spirit In the Sky was most recently reissued in 2001 with a handful of bonus tracks, but if you can find it a now out-of-print import edition on Demon Records also includes the follow-up album Back Home Again, which is a little rootsier and also comes highly recommended. Before retiring to farm life, Greenbaum would record a last, 1972 album with Ry Cooder entitled Petaluma, but this one’s a lot harder to find. I haven’t heard it, so I’m not sure if it’s as strong as the previous two, though I suspect it is. I mean, just check out that sleeve photograph with a grinning, overalled Greenbaum holding up a chicken. How could you possibly go wrong?

Spirit in the Sky
mp3: Tars of India
mp3: Marcy

Back Home Again
mp3: Hook & Ladder

:) Original | 1969 | Reprise | search ]
:D Reissue | 2001 | Varese | buy ]
:D Reissue | 2fer | Demon | buy ]

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 ]
:D Reissue | 2001 | Sundazed | buy ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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 ]
:D Reissue | 2004 | Wounded Bird | 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 ]
:D Reissue | 2008 | Revola | buy ]

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 ]
:D Reissue | 2003 | Prestige | buy ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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 ]
:D Reissue | 2002 | BGO |2fer | buy here ]

Blue Mountain Eagle (self-titled)

Blue Mountain Eagle is a band with a tediously convoluted history. Though originally construed by former Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin as the New Buffalo Springfield, they went through a long series of lineup changes during their brief existence, the end result of which was Martin’s rather ironic expulsion. A pretty-much-inevitable lawsuit taken out against the band by Stephen Stills and Neil Young effectively barred them from performing under their rather awkward, hand-me-down moniker, so the group took on the name of a newspaper one of the guys had picked up while on tour.

What may have seemed like setbacks at the time, however, were for the best, as Blue Mountain Eagle deserved to be remembered as more than just a shadow of the Springfield. By the time of their debut record, the band boasted a strong line of musicians which included, oddly enough, the brothers of both Jim Price (horn-man with Delaney & Bonnie, the Stones, et al) and Bobby Fuller (who fought the law and lost). It seems to me that these cats couldn’t help but be overshadowed, whether through the ghosts of musical history or their own blood kin.

Taken as it is, the band’s 1970 self-titled debut comes on like a breath of fresh mountain air, boasting traces of influence from the old Springfield but a sound all unto its own. The band’s vocal harmonies and tight songwriting mesh beautifully with their heavy Pacific Coast sound. Many of the tunes here feature lengthy instrumental passages showcasing Bob Jones’ scorching electric guitar work, though no one song surpasses the five minute mark. Early Traffic shades the laid-back “Troubles” (that acoustic guitar opener sound familiar to anyone else or am I hearing things?) while a Moby Grape influence is all over “Feel Like A Bandit” and “No Regrets.” The choogling rhythm section, brash vocals and soaring guitar interplay are chock-full of the kind of drive that normally marked a band as future FM favorites. Despite Blue Mountain Eagle’s album selling moderately well, however, it just wasn’t enough to keep a band like this in the game for long. This proved to be their sole recording besides one obscure single, an early take on Stephen Stills’ “Marianne.”

Blue Mountain Eagle is currently out-of-print, but relatively recent reissues on both CD and LP are still easy to track down. There’s a lot to dig into here, and if you’re into west coast psychedelia I’d really recommend checking this group out. After the Eagle’s dissolution, members would go on to join such groups as Medicine Ball and even Arthur Lee’s reconstituted Love.

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“Troubles”

:) Original | 1970 | ATCO | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]
Don’t buy the Fallout bootleg