Archive for the ‘ Art ’ Category

Sheridan/Price “This is to certify that….”

This Is To Certify That...

This is one of the better albums coming from the Move family tree. It was released in 1970 though it has a clear 1967/1968 sound and is one of the best albums of its kind. Rick Price entered the Move sometime in the late 60s, contributing bass and guitar to “Shazam“, “Looking On” and “Message From The Country.” Mike Sheridan had previously been leader of the Nightriders which were a Birmingham group that specialized in the merseybeat sound and 50s rock n roll.

The Nightriders were sort of a breeding ground for future Move members, most importantly Roy Wood. During Price’s tenure with the Move, he and Sheridan started writing songs together for the above album. Both Sheridan and Price share vocals and writing chores on an album that veers into power pop, psychedelia, sunshine pop and progressive pop. There are horn and string arrangements on this beautiful album that recall some of Paul McCartney’s soft moments on the Beatles’ classic White Album (think “Martha My Dear” or even the Move’s great “Beautiful Daughter”). Some of the heavier moments like “Sometimes I Wonder,” “Lamp Lighter Man,” and “Lightning Never Strikes” sound like excellent 68/69 era Move outtakes. In fact, “Lighting Never Strikes” was released as a Move single at the tail end of the 60s. Sheridan and Price’s version is just as good though not as trippy, with a splendid backwards guitar solo, slashing acoustic guitars and crashing drums. Other songs such as the string laden pop number “Davey Has No Dad” or the trippy “Picture Box” have a beautiful child-like, story song whimsy that hints at a Ray Davies influence.

This is an exceptional if little known Move album that will appeal to fans of the Beatles, Kinks and even lovers of soft, sunshine pop sounds.

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“Lightning Never Strikes”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Ace | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | Gemini | ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Red Krayola “God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It”

God Bless the Red Krayola

Sued by Crayola for naming rights, this is the band’s first album under their new ‘Krayola’ moniker, a stripped down follow-up to their debut record, the freaked out Parable of Arable Land. Actually it’s a remake of a rejected (by International Artists) 2nd album called Coconut Hotel. Mayo Thompson essentially pasted together a daring audio collage with amateur musicians, dada lyrics sung by choruses of friends, original (opposed to ‘ found’) sounds, a little Texas grit, psychedelic glue, and it holds up well today.

I love how the band continually loses the rhythmn on “Sherrif Jack,” teasing any possibility of a groove, eventually bringing back the ‘Say Hello To Jamie Jones’ motif when things fall apart. Tracks like “Big” are really ahead of its time with the unintelligible childspeak sample and organ, bass, guitar trio playing a scarcely organized sample-and-hold pattern. Short songs make the album really tolerable and engaging, an enjoyable trip that would influence countless lo-fi and bedroom musicians for years to come.

This album reminds us that music doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be serious, and you don’t have to be a virtuoso to record a fantastic record.

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“Sherriff Jack”

:D CD Reissue | 2CD w/ Parable | 2007 | Snapper | buy at amazon ]
:D CD Reissue | Mini Gatefold Limited Edition | 2003 | Sunspots | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | International Artists | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

uReview: The Doors “Soft Parade”

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The Doors… overplayed or overlooked? What’s your call on this oft-maligned LP?

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“Tell All The People”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Rhino | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Vogue | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album |  download at amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Kim Fowley “International Heroes”

This was waxed around the time he produced legendary recordings by the Modern Lovers so it’s no surprise that this is one of the best albums from the ubiquitous Kim Fowley. Son of actor Douglas Fowley, he produced the novelty hit “Alley Oop” in 1960, then went on to release some commercially unsuccessful solo albums, produced and wrote more oddities for other artists (including Kiss) and eventually unleashed Runaways on the world. And that’s just to name a few. He even found time to write songs with Skip Battin, which were recorded by the Byrds (Untitled LP) and Gene Parsons.

Those who’ve worn out their copies of Roxy Music/Eno/Bowie albums will be thrilled to exhume this forgotten (or never really even known) specimen of oddball glam. Judging from the cover, he didn’t want to leave anyone guessing about the sound he was shooting for. This platter plays like an instant classic, falling into some no man’s land somewhere between Roxy Music and the New York Dolls. Like Eno, he’s often playing post-punk years before it existed, but Fowley’s songs are looser and more accessible, sure to get you hooked on the first spin. “Something New” is simply a perfect pop song with a great update on a Byrdsian jangle feel. “I Hate You” is a gloomy slice of contempt that’ll leave you feeling good about your shitty mood. There are nice female soul/gospel backings throughout. “Dancing All Night” rocks like a garbage can bound outtake from Sticky Fingers.

International Heroes is another exceptional rocknroll record that is in dire need of CD release. Good luck finding any cheap copies on ebay.

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“E.S.P. Reader”

;) MP3 Album | download at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Capitol | search ebay ]

Touch “Touch”

Touch

Touch’s sole album was released in early 1969. Prior to that, the band’s leader, Don Gallucci, had been in the Kingsmen and later on with Don and the Good Times. With the Kingsmen ,he co-wrote and played electric piano on Louie Louie, the most legendary of junk rock classics. Don and the Good Times were a Portland based rock & roll/pop-rock group who had a few small local hits in the mid 60’s. In 1967 the band’s old school style of pop had become passe, a change was needed, and in a fit of inspiration Gallucci wrote Seventy Five. This track would prove to be the centerpiece on Touch’s only album.

The lineup that recorded Touch was Don Gallucci (vocals, keyboards), Jeff Hawks (vocals), Bruce Hauser (vocals, bass), Joey Newman (vocals, guitars) and John Bordonaro (vocals, percussion). The group rented a castle in the Hollywood Hills in which they would rehearse and invite interested record company executives who would see them play live. With numerous record companies competing for a contract, Coliseum/London Records finally won the bid with a record breaking $25,000 advance. The band began recording at Sunset Sounds but sessions were soon plagued with hype and out of control partying. Word quickly spread about the mind blowing music Touch had been recording at Sunset Sounds. Grace Slick, Mick Jagger, and the great Jimi Hendrix stopped by the studio to witness Touch in action. What they heard on those sessions was thankfully put down to wax and released at the tail end of the decade.

The Touch album is graced with the adventurous spirit of the 60s, a record overflowing with ideas, killer musicianship, and great performances. It’s one of America’s first progressive rock albums albeit one that still has a strong psychedelic hangover. The above mentioned track, the nearly 12 minute Seventy Five is one of the great early progressive rockers with a fabulous guitar solo and a wonderful, atmospheric vocal performance from Jeff Hawks. Seventy Five is often described as a theatre-of-the-mind epic but is by no means an overblown ELP keyboard extravaganza. Two straight ahead rockers, We Feel Fine and Miss Teach, are really good and distinctive too, with confident vocals, great guitar work, and well written lyrics. Other songs are more psychedelic like the piano dominated Friendly Birds, the classically influenced ballad Alesha and Others, and the experimental Down At Circe’s Place. Down At Circe’s Place is an underrated psychedelic classic with flanged vocals, a great spaced out guitar solo, powerful drum work, trippy sound fx ,and noisy keyboard work – it’s got everything you’d want from an album like this.

Touch hangs together as an album quite well and never succumbs to endless jamming or unfinished ideas. This is a great album and one that deserves its classic status. Gallucci would go on to produce the Stooges’ Funhouse but Touch is probably his finest hour as a musician. Touch has been repressed numerous times but the best reissues in recent years have been by Wild Places and Eclectic.

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“Alesha And Others”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Rock Candy | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | London | search ebay ]

Al Kooper “I Stand Alone”

I Stand Alone

Al Kooper’s debut should really be heard by more people. This record was released by Columbia in 1968, sometime after Kooper had left the original Blood, Sweat and Tears. Casual listeners know Kooper as a mid-60’s Bob Dylan sideman, sometimes Mike Bloomfield/Shuggie Otis collaborator, respected record producer and keyboard player in the legendary underground New York City group, the Blues Project. Kooper left behind many fine solo records in the late 60’s and 70’s but I Stand Alone is something special, a disc that captures it’s place and time very well.

I Stand Alone is one of those records that’s inventive in a post Sgt. Pepper way, ambitious in its wide array of styles, experimental within a pop context and bound to confuse at least a few listeners. It’s amazing that Kooper’s solo work and the first Blood, Sweat and Tears record have never been reassessed for the great records they are. I Stand Alone is a strong listen all the way through, divided evenly between originals and well chosen covers. The disc opens with the title track, which was recorded in Nashville and is one of Kooper’s signature tunes. Had this strange but wonderful Nashville blue-eyed soul hybrid been released as a single it may have had a chance at reaching the charts. About half the tracks are in a pop sike vein. Kooper does a nice job covering Nilsson’s One and stretches out with the Kooperfone on an excellent reading of Traffic’s Coloured Rain. Song and Dance for the Unborn, Frightened Child is somewhat similar to one of the more arty, psychedelic cuts on Blood, Sweat and Tears debut, it’s an excellent, elaborate production though and proof that strings and horns can work well in the rock n roll format. Other tracks see Kooper cover classics by Sam & Dave (Toe Hold), Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (Hey, Western Union Man) and Bill Monroe (Blue Moon of Kentucky). Blue Moon of Kentucky, which Elvis also covered in 1969, is a wild bluegrass rockabilly take on the classic that was clearly a homage to the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

All the covers are great and Kooper gives his own individual stamp on each song but of course it’s the originals that grab your attention. The Stonesy swagger of Camille and the dreamy Impressions-like I Can’t Love A Woman are killer soul songs and two of Al Kooper’s best in this particular style. Another classic on the album, Right Now For You, sounds like a really good British psychedelic track with very trippy Kooperfone which sounds well ahead of it’s time. This is an undeniably great album by an artist who should really be looked at with the same esteem as say a John Cale, Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa. Al Kooper is one of New York’s great musicians and his contributions to rock music have been tremendous. In 2008, Raven reissued I Stand Alone with Kooper’s 1969 followup lp, You Never Know Who Your Friends Are on compact disc. Both lps are a must.

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“I Can Love A Woman”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Raven | buy from Raven | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Columbia | search ebay ]

East of Eden “Mercator Projected”

Mercator Projected

Fantastic album from an English group that bridged the psychedelic and progressive worlds together. East of Eden had put out a non lp single prior to their debut album, Mercator Projected, which was released in 1969 off Decca. The band formed in 1967 and was centered around classically trained violinist Dave Arbus, guitarist Geoff Nicholson and vocalist/sax player Ron Caines.

The group had a strong underground following in London and in other parts of Europe but never attained the widespread success they deserved. Arbus’ flute, violin, and sax played a prominent role in East of Eden’s sound and on any given night they could have easily upstaged similar, like-minded bands such as the Mahavishnu Orchestra or Colosseum. Many of these songs have a clear Eastern influence as heard on the experimental Waterways. Waterways starts out as a trippy pop-sike number with lots of mellotron that eventually morphs into an explosive, metallic hard rocking raga piece. The opener, Nothern Hemisphere is a menacing, bass heavy piece of progressive rock that is somewhat similar to early King Crimson in its power and fury. In fact King Crimson’s debut may be Mercator Projected’s closest reference point. It’s difficult to mix classical, blues, jazz, folk, hard rock and psychedelia into a seemless whole but somehow East of Eden does this well. They shine on the classic jazz-psychedelic instrumental In The Stable of the Spinx and completely dismantle the superb blues-rock number Centaur Woman into something new and avant garde. There’s even a few good psychedelic pop tracks (Moth and Bathers) on an album known for its progressive tendencies.

All the songs are really good and there are few early progressive albums that are better than Mercator Projected. It’s all very intense in an English sort of way but there is no denying the greatness and talent that is packed within this record and group. In 1970 they would release another classic album, Snafu before taking a 360 turn and becoming a wasted country-rock outfit. The recent Esoteric disc is recommended as it includes the original album along with some interesting demos, which include an excellent cover of Eight Miles High.

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“Waterways”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Esoteric | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Deram | search at ebay ]

Van Dyke Parks “Song Cycle”

Song Cycle

“I’ve been in this town so long that back in the city I’ve been taken for lost and gone and unknown for a long, long time.” Beyond his work with the Beach Boys, Parks had an impressive and varied career, often working with a number of other groups, as varied as Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Byrds, Tim Buckley — all the way to Joanna Newsom. His marvelous solo debut, Song Cycle, is a classic and poetic tour de force.

Musically, I imagine it as a “song spiral.” Motifs aren’t recycled or revisited as much as they are abandoned for new ideas. The orchestration is borne of the poetry, the words directing each instrumental movement. Song Cycle is an album to let yourself soak in, to stay with for a week or even a year. I also recommend listening with the lyric sheet in hand because the layered sound of ever-changing chamber orchestra can be heavy for the mind to absorb concurrently with the poetry.

Being a fan of SMiLE most likely won’t offer a free pass to Song Cycle. The album is dense and difficult to infiltrate. There are traces of inspiration here and there, possibly a glimpse to what Brian could have done with SMiLE if he’d had the encouragement Van Dyke had in Lenny Waronker.

Truthfully speaking, I can’t really understand the concept behind the album. As far as I have read, the record was meant to span a breadth of American musical styles. I know the touch of bluegrass (Steve Young singing Black Jack Davy in a clip that introduces the record) and the homage to Gershwin/Showtune styles, a taste of jazz, but I just don’t really get it. While I’m happy to enjoy what is still unknown to me, for I do love this album, I would be grateful to hear from those who can lighten the mystery of Song Cycle.

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“Palm Desert”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2007 | Sundazed | buy ]
:D CD | 1990 | Warner | amazon ]

The United States Of America (self-titled)

The United States of America

The United States of America album is the product of Joseph Byrd, former FLUXUS member, artist and UCLA instructor who managed to combine experimental art and early synthesizer technology with psychedelic rock in creating this brilliant record. Employing percussion instruments, electric violin and acoustic strings, electric bass, various keyboards, homemade oscillators and ring modulators, and Dorothy Moskowitz’s confident soprano, this record shows surprising pop capability for an avant garde project.

United States of America is a pioneering record and worth your attention. Everybody wouldn’t be expected to sit through campy synth exercises like “I Wouldn’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar,” but many tracks hold up as strong experimental rock numbers. It’s a must listen for fans of ear candy, or those who love delving into the details. Tracks like the opener, “The American Metaphysical Circus,” feature layers of burbly oscillators, organ, calliope, and sound effects or field recordings. Other tunes tear it apart pretty hard for a guitar-less album like “Hard Coming Love” and some more restrained numbers make great careful listening material like the excellent “Cloud Song.” Dorothy’s vocals are very strong and lead with unexpectedly memorable lines.

The melodies and flow of the record, the sampled recurring themes, and the politically charged lyrics give this album a concept record feel. It was critically acclaimed on its release in 1968 but failed to sell, of course. The band broke up after their masterful debut though Byrd would continue to create experimental music and Moskowitz would eventually sing with Country Joe McDonald.

Sundazed reissued this album in 2008 as a hi-def vinyl LP that came packaged with a repro of the manilla envelope like the original. If this one has been hovering on your list for years, now is the time to pick it up!

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“Coming Down”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2008 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed ]
:D CD Reissue | 2004 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed | amazon]

Split Enz “Mental Notes”

Mental Notes

Split Enz, a band that Australia would dearly love to call its own, was formed in New Zealand in 1973. Their early albums and legendary live performances conjured a dedicated fan base that fed and clothed the band until radio friendly unit shifters like “I See Red “ and “I Got You“ made the band a household name. Their influence and legacy in the Antipodes cannot be underestimated.

The nucleus of the group in 1975 was Tim Finn and Phil Judd, who share vocal duties on Mental Notes and are credited with forming the band two years earlier. The line-up waxed and waned over the lifetime of the band with only two members who played on Mental Notes being present for the final iteration of the band in 1985.

Firmly founded in a progressive art rock/pop base Mental Notes cuts itself a niche that could only have existed outside Europe or America. This album is the pinnacle of Split Enz early period. The style, complexity, musicality, and grace that earmark Mental Notes would underpin the music of Split Enz (and all the braches of the Enz family tree) for decades to come.

There are so many elements present in the tracks of Mental Notes that only exceptional musicianship and hours upon hours of rehearsal could make this album sound as tight and bright as it is. Mental Notes nods its head to the music of the time but only as a sort of passing farewell, as the band heads off at full throttle into uncharted territory.

Crafted into sonically complex layers, patterns and textures, the sound nonetheless rides on a melodic base that makes it music that your Grandmother could tap her foot to, but lurking just under the surface is an aural landscape akin to an underwater dream. Mandolin picks a melody underscored by synthesized strings, vocals glide by on wings while drums punctuate a pattern that turns left and right and leaves you in a head space totally new but uncannily familiar. Musical Déjà vu.

Beautiful, captivating, dynamic, challenging, invigorating, rich and fulfilling. Mental Notes deserves headphones or at least a decent level of volume. As one famous Australian music critic said, “Do yourself a favor…”

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“Walking Down A Road”

:D CD Reissue | 2006 | Digipak | Mushroom Records | Buy @ Amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | Search @ eBay ]