Archive for the ‘ Classic Rock ’ Category

The Stained Glass “A Scene In-Between 1965-1967″

stainedglass

The Stained Glass hailed from San Jose CA, the same scene that spawned 60s garage heroes the Chocolate Watch Band, the E-Types and the Syndicate of Sound. Being 45 minutes outside of San Francisco, it was inevitable that the Stained Glass would rub shoulders with and even play on the same bills with many of the region’s big name acts. Chief songwriter and guiding light Jim McPherson would even go on to play in John Cipollina’s early 70′s post Quicksilver band Copperhead. The music heard on A Scene In-Between 1965-1967 suggest that had things gone right for the Stained Glass, they could have been – should have been – serious contenders.

The Stained Glass started out life in 1964 as a raw folk-rock, British Invasion influenced outfit called the Trolls. The group’s story began with Jim McPherson (bass) answering guitarist Rodger Hedge’s local advertisement to form a band.  Drummer Dennis Carrasco joined by way of recommendation, followed by lead guitarist Bob Rominger.  The group’s earliest songs, all originals mostly written by Jim McPherson, were an impressive lot. “Walking Shoes”, the Trolls only 45 (Peatlore) is a superb folk-rock track with a raw, garage feel – by far their hardest rocking early number and a track often championed by garage rock obsessives. “How Do You Expect Me To Trust You” (45 flipside) and “Sweeter Than Life” compare favorably to what the Beau Brummels were recording around the same time in that they are lyrical, downbeat folk-rockers with strong melodies and a mystical edge. “Such Good Friends,” “She’s Not Right” and “No Rhyme or Reason” were a nod to the Trolls’ British Invasion influences – all are giddy, driving numbers that compare favorably to the early Zombies or Kinks work from around the same time (circa 1965/1966). Jim McPherson’s songwriting, the group’s excellent harmonies and tight ensemble work separated them from countless other regional groups.

From 1966-1967, around the time the group changed their name to the Stained Glass, was when McPherson (and the group) recorded some of their finest material. In 1966, the group travelled to Columbia’s Sunset Boulevard Studios to audition for the label.  They recorded a few gems which ended up being shelved. “Lonely Am I” is a worthy minor key Zombies influenced gem but it was the devastating “Broken Man” that really catches the ear.  ”Broken Man” stuck out for it’s well written, enigmatic lyrics, unique chorus and proto psychedelic guitar solo which was innovative for the time.

The Columbia deal didn’t pan out which led the group to RCA Victor. Here, they recorded and released a fine version of the Beatles’ “If I Needed Someone” (before Rubber Soul had hit the market) backed by a recut of “How Do You Expect Me To Trust You.”  This single flopped and the Stained Glass gave it another go. “My Buddy Sin” backed by an underrated Kinks-like “Vanity Fair” (think “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”) was superb but somehow failed to connect with music fans. “My Buddy Sin” was one of the group’s true classics; the back bone of the song is harmony pop but the harmonica flourishes give it a rootsy folk-rock flavor that recalls some of the Byrds best mid 60s tracks. The band was disappointed with the outcome as they did not want harmonica added to the single but it’s interesting to note that the harpsichord intro was played by Jim. The songwriting on “My Buddy Sin” was once again interesting (religious imagery) and ahead of its time. When “My Buddy Sin” failed it did little to the group’s confidence as they were getting plenty of live work and making lots of money.  For their next 45, RCA Victor forced the Stained Glass to record a catchy Barry Mann/Cynthia Well offering. “We Got A Long Way To Go,” was a big hit locally and notable for it’s catchy melody and stinging distorted guitar solo.  It was more in vein with the Turtles pop sound, which wasn’t really where the Stained Glass stood from an artistic standpoint.  At around this time the group were in the studios, recording music that was more in line with Moby Grape, Buffalo Springfield and the Beau Brummels.  ”Inside Ouch” a fine balance between soul and folk-rock, would have fit comfortably on Buffalo Springfield’s debut.  The outstanding “Dollar Sign Friends” is a driving jangle rock track with defiant lyrics, which were written by Bob Rominger while “Second Day” was the kind of lyrical folk-rock that could be found on Moby Grape’s debut classic.  A latter recording session yielded two cuts that ended up being issued as a 45 in 1967, the bizarre “A Scene In-Between” and the pure pop of “Mediocre Me.”  Both songs are minor psychedelic pop classics and represent a high point for the Stained Glass.  During this session they also recorded two other fine tracks, “Bubble Machine,” a vibrant piece of sunshine pop with echoplex guitar, shimmering bells and keys and the morbid “Mr Martyr.”  The latter track once again featured unique lyrics and superb harmony vocals.

From here the anthology ends although the Stained Glass would go on to record two albums in the late 60s, the excellent Crazy Horse Roads from 1968 and the disappointing Aurora from 1969.  A Scene-In Between 1965-1967 is a much needed overview of this great lost American band.  This is easily one of the best 60s reissues of 2013 and it goes without saying that this disc is mandatory listening.

mp3: My Flash On You
mp3: Broken Man
mp3: Dollar Sign Friends

:D Reissue | 2013 | Ace Records | get it here ]

Grateful Dead “Birth of the Dead”

birthofthedead

It’s no secret that the Grateful Dead jumped the shark many, many times during the course of their long career. In fact it’s pretty easy to dismiss the group outright as figureheads of the sixties counterculture’s gradual descent into hippie/yuppie oblivion, as their constituency dropped back into the mainstream American fold during the rather nihilistic, Cocaine-fueled post-Nam years and carried the band along with it. But behind the burden of all this history lies a remarkable early career that, while by no means providing the most extraordinary music of the times (our articles here should have made that one clear enough by now), managed to give us a good run of righteous records. Now Birth of the Dead, a relatively generous two-disc set released by Rhino Records back in 2001, adds another, perhaps even more exciting piece to the puzzle that is early Dead.

Split between studio and on-stage material, the material found on the former represent some of the band’s earliest forays into the recording studio, and the sounds they waxed during these sessions are a revelation. The band here is raw, frazzled and gnarly, still rooted in the blues and folk traditions they emerged from and free from any of the light funk fusion flavors that would come to tarnish their jams in the proceeding decade. The tempos here are fast, the guitars brittle and Pigpen’s Vox Continental dripping with garage cool. Had it come from any other group, “Mindbender” (possibly the crown jewel of the collection) and “Can’t Come Down” would be regarded as psychedelic folk-rock nuggets of the highest caliber. One almost wishes that some of the instrumental takes of these songs would be shuffled around the disc instead of being placed back-to-back with their masters, but the lack of vocals here help alleviate any repetition irritation. The most unusual cut on the first take is probably “Fire In the City,” in which the band is found backing jazz singer Jon Hendricks on a political number originally written for use in a mid-sixties documentary feature. The combination works much better than one might expect, with Hendricks letting his hair down a little beside Jerry Garcia’s piercing blues leads.

The live disc is a further joy, painted in surprisingly crisp sound quality and featuring a lengthy anthology of 1966 concert recordings apparently culled from a number of sources. Some of the usual suspects are to be found here, numbers which would follow the Dead onto their debut album such as “Viola Lee Blues” and “Sitting On Top of the World,” but these are backed with some rarely-heard material from the era, including a solid rendition of Dylan’s oft-covered “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and the traditional ballad “In the Pines.” The blues and R&B numbers in-between are all solid, if not particularly exhilarating, but are definitely worth their weight for hearing this band in its prime really cut loose. The seven-minute closing romp “Keep Rolling By” has some razor-sharp Garcia guitar action going – at times sounding more like fellow Bay Area pickers John Cippollina or Jorma Kaukonen than his own latter-day self – and a bevy of endearingly ragged group vocal shouting. Merry Prankster Dead like it should be.

So if you’ve never really given the band their due, put off by their mythological hokum and alarmingly obsessive legacy, give this set a shot and see where you end up. There’s a lot of great rock and roll to be found here, and it deserves to be taken on its own merit. And if you’re digging this and haven’t already jumped into the band’s self-titled debut (released a year after the material contained herein was recorded but born of many of the same impulses), maybe now you’ll have the proper context to digest that often underrated set.

mp3: Mindbender
mp3: One Kind Favor

:D CD Issue | 2001 | Rhino | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Gene Clark “Two Sides To Every Story”

Two Sides To Every Story

It was three years after Gene Clark’s infamous, cocaine-fueled mid 70s masterpiece No Other, teaming again with Thomas Jefferson Kaye as producer and employing the best musicians of the era, Doug Dillard, Emmylou Harris, Jeff Baxter, Al Perkins, John Hartford to name a few, Clark took things down a notch while retaining a tight (but not overly slick) studio sound on 1977′s Two Sides To Every Story. Even judging the albums by their cover, the excess of No Other gets stripped away to reveal a regular, humble Gene Clark in its wake. On the surface what appears to be a late, perhaps too-safe offering from a washed up Gene Clark (it did turn out to be another commercial failure) in hindsight is one of his finest moments on record.

A little bit a country, a litte bit rock n roll, a heavy dose of Gene’s trademark ballads and tender vocal deliveries, you’ll probably fall for one of the styles offered up on Two Sides more than another, but the varied mix works. Album starter “Home Run King” is an oddly great track as good as anything from the Fantastic Expedition, though Dillard’s pronounced banjo picking will surely turn off the less country inclined. In the same kind of feel, the band lends traditional “In The Pines” as much a ‘Gene Clark’ sound as Nirvana would do for themselves some fifteen years later. I’m less inclined to stay around for the barroom rock sound on his own “Kansas City Southern,” previously recorded for Dillard & Clark’s Through The Morning Through The Night, and a cover of Young Jessie’s ”Mary Lou,” but these are still strong cuts.

The key to this record is to not let the soft ones sneak by. Like all good Clark tunes the slower numbers here are moody, dynamic, dramatic rides that pay off more and more with each new listen. The beautiful “Sister Moon” could have easily found a home on No Other.  ”Give My Love To Marie” is a tender take on a sad track penned by the underrated James Talley. The final trio of ballads, “Hear The Wind,” “Past Addresses,” and “Silent Crusade” all originals where he does his thing; the growing beauty of this album further solidifies Gene Clark as one of my favorite singer/songwriters (a shame I hadn’t found this one sooner).

Perhaps a little more thought on the sleeve design (not that Gene’s big goofy grin on the back is without its charm) might have ensured Two Sides would be properly recognized as the classic it is. On the other hand, most of Clark’s material remains woefully unrecognized today, Two Sides no exception.

The fairly new High Moon Records issued Two Sides To Every Story on vinyl (with 16-page booklet) earlier this year. They plan to also put it out on CD for the first time this spring, included with an extra disc of bonus material. Apparently vinyl buyers will eventually be able to get their hands on the extra material as well through a download card. You can’t be a Gene Clark fan without this one.

mp3: Home Run King
mp3: Sister Moon

:) Reissue | 2013 | High Moon Records | buy from highmoon ]
:) Original | 1977 | RSO Records | search ebay ]

Flower Travellin’ Band “Make Up”

In the wake of their rather extraordinary, barnstormer of a classic, Satori, the Flower Traveling Band stepped up to the bar and managed to pull off that all-too-rare of feats, an artistically successful follow-up. While not quite the record that Satori had been, Made In Japan managed to establish the Band as a force to be reckoned with, and hinted at a long and illustrious career to come. Something seems to have gone a little haywire in-between the time that third record hit shelves and the compilation of what would come to be the group’s fourth, and final, release: 1973′s studio/live double-record set, Make Up. The Traveling Band had shed off a good percentage of the psychedelia that had marked their most legendary work, and instead developed themselves into a progressive, hard rock band, in tune with the sound of the era.

So what does all this have to say about Make Up? Well, despite the odds being against it, the record is a solid work, with some memorable material and at least a few gems. Most of it is something of a grab bag, veering back and forth between hard rock bluster and rather sentimental balladry. “All the Days” is one of the record’s heavier, most typical Traveling Band numbers, with a gnarly guitar solo and a rather schizoid bass line. The following “Look  At My Window” is a ten minute cut of acoustic prog that makes it clear that the band wasn’t planning on resting on their laurels, as marked by some great vocal harmonies. “The Shadow of Lost Days” is hundred-proof blues, and a showcase of sorts for Joe Yamanaka’s soulful wail. The more unusual cuts to be found here include a twenty-three minute work-out on Made In Japan‘s “Hiroshima,” half of which is unfortunately taken up by a ridiculously overextended drum solo, and a laughable riff on “Blue Suede Shoes” featuring the band’s manager on lead vocals that never should have happened in the first place, much less have been recorded for all of posterity. If it weren’t for a roaring live take of Satori‘s legendary second movement and the soaring, atmospheric acoustic closing number, “After the Concert,” the second record might be considered pure filler, but as it is these last two tracks almost makes it worth sitting through the preceding half hour of hits-and-misses.

Make Up may not be the place to start with the Flower Traveling Band’s catalog, but if you have already dug the majestic freak-outs of Satori, then you could do a lot worse than picking this collection up as well. The band would not release another record until 2008′s rather dismal reunion album We Are Here, making this the end of the line for one of Japan’s most highly-regarded psychedelic exports. The two-disc set has most recently been reissued by Phoenix Records, and while their set commands a rather high, double-CD price new, you can score a copy second-hand for far less.

mp3: Look At My Window

:D Reissue | 2011 | Phoenix | buy here ]
:) Original | 1973 | Atlantic | search ebay ]

Almendra “II”

Yet another classic group out of Argentina’s inspirational seventies rock scene. Almendra is probably one of the country’s most legendary groups, if for no other reason than for laying roots for the career of Luis Alberto Spinetta, who has become the country’s most celebrated pop/rock songwriters. Almendra has more value than as some sort of origin story, however (hell, I’d go so far as to argue that this is the raddest music the man has ever made). The band’s two self-titled records are heavy, eclectic slabs of late-sixties psych grounded in smoky, Buenos Aires blues, with brief acoustic flourishes that hint at the mellower sounds to come from the quartet’s principal exponent. In fact, Almendra runs a pretty similar current to the work of fellow travelers Vox Dei.

Though the first of these two vinyl slabs is the most celebrated, its follow up is just as worthwhile. What sets this one off from the first, however, is the fact that this thing is a monster: a twenty-one track double record brimming with enough riffing and rumbling to last you halfway to the Mojave and back. Though those more familiar with European and North American hard rock might find these South American kids’ jams to be a little on the raw and unvarnished side, I find it’s that very characteristic that makes Almendra stand out from the pack. This could very well have been just another overloaded grab-bag of biker rock miscellanea, but Almendra has enough character and songwriting power to turn a now worn-out format into something earthy and reinvigorating.

That being said, the record’s finest moments do come with its occasional deviations from the norm. “Los Elefantes Saben Descansar” is a memorable slice of semi-acoustic psychedelia, brushed in warm bottleneck and wah-pedal guitar playing, while the short, late-period Beatles venture “Jingle” proves that the band could be as subtle and charming as the best of them. My particular favorite here, however, arrives when the band finally comes in and lays all these sounds down together on the fourteen-and-a-half minute opus “Agnus Dei,” which makes up the bulk of the first LP’s second side. Songs seem to bleed in and out, as a loopy acoustic groove slowly descends into a choogling electric improvisation. The bass work is a particular highlight here, especially during in the number’s rather chaotic final segment.

Almendra II may not be a perfect record – very few double albums like this are – but it manages to rise above its less successful moments (the silly interlude “Verde Llano,” the obnoxiously loud bongos on the otherwise excellent “Carmen,” and a couple of somewhat generic blues-rock cuts) and reward repeated listening. This one’s best listened to the way it was intended, either on wax or with a good break to refresh your senses in-between records (for those of you digging this one on compact disc or otherwise, this would fall right after track ten, which I may as well note is another highlight, despite failing to receive a mention in the preceding paragraph). Reissues of this one are remarkably easy to come by at budget prices for whatever reason, so what are you waiting for? Get out there and dig it.

mp3: Toma El Tren Hacia El Sur
mp3: Los Elefantes (Saben Descansar)

:) Original | 1970 | RCA Vik | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2008 | Sony | buy here ]

The Groundhogs “Split”

Here’s one I can’t believe I haven’t heard before. For a record with such a commanding presence, excellent would-be classic tunes, and an ahead of its time Nirvanesque sound it’s a shock I can find too scant mention of it around these parts or elsewhere. In reality, it’s my shame I haven’t run across the Groundhogs before now, as their legendary run through most of the 60s’ British blues scene and subsequent forays in hard jam-rock are not to be overlooked.

Not at all “blues” and too cool for the prog tag, Split is more like a psych-tinged  insanity-fueled classic rock opus. Side A, a continuing amalgam of anthemic classic rock jams, “Split Parts 1-4″ (the lyrics apparently inspired by a panic attack), is the kind of amped-up music it can be dangerous to drive to; “Part 1″ is so juiced it makes me want to join a frantic crime spree. “Part 2″ may be the catchiest song with it’s driving wah-guitar lead and chop chords. Tony McPhee is clearly running the show, his guitar playing so effortless, dynamic, reeking of virtuosity; this is as in the zone as it gets. Not to diminish the efforts of Peter Cruikshank on guitar and bass and Ken Pustelnik wildly beating away, this band can fucking play.

“Cherry Red” may be the sickest, meanest classic I’ve never heard. How this masterpiece has evaded classic rock radio, movie soundtracks, and my ears altogether I’ll never understand. (Instead of the endless barrage of Black Keys and Jack Whites on the airwaves, music supervisors would do well to score something like this, both for the better of their budgets and our sanities.) On the self-titled “Groundhog,” McPhee proves he can swat the devil blues out of his electrified acoustic as fine as Robert Johnson, providing the album’s only real taste of blues.

Grab this mean, mighty bastard as soon as you can find it.

mp3: Split (Part One)
mp3: Cherry Red

:) Original | 1971 | Liberty | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2003 | Caroline | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Sandy Denny and the Strawbs “All Our Own Work”

It is telling that during the course of Sandy Denny’s short but illustrious career, she managed to cut two full-length records which, despite remaining unreleased for many years, are nowadays heralded as essential pieces in the puzzle that is British folk-rock. One of these two “rediscovered” LPs was Fotheringay 2, which met a good deal of critical claim when it was put out on CD a few years back, while the other is this: All Our Own Work, the tragically-unreleased debut album that Denny cut with a young, unknown group known as The Strawbs back in 1967, but which failed to see the light of day until Denny had built a name for herself with Fairport Convention.

It is actually rather interesting to place late-sixties Strawbs alongside Fotheringay, as both bands share a number of commonalities outside of Denny’s extraordinary faerie voice. Each group borrows from both British and United States pop and folk-music traditions, and pair Denny’s voice against a strong, distinct male lead…actually, now that I read back over that, Fairport pretty much followed the same formulas, though they quickly shucked off the U.S. influences and contemporary rock and roll material for starker, traditional ballads and old English dance songs. On All Our Own Work, Denny and The Strawbs are still drawing out bits and pieces from mid-to-late sixties radio sounds, as the densely-orchestrated balladry of “You Need Me” and the bouncy, acoustic “Always On My Mind” reveal. There are also many touches of classic psychedelia here that never quite carried over into any of Denny’s other work, such as the droning sitar work on “Tell Me (What You See In Me).”

The songs here are almost uniformly excellent, making it even more of a shame that this album never saw the light of day back when it would have made the biggest impact. It’s hard to select just a few cuts to talk about, as each has its own unique, quirky charms. “How Everyone But Sam Was A Hypocrite” and “Poor Jimmy Wilson” could have easily come from the pen of Ray Davies, while the simple, swirling acoustics on “Two Weeks Last Summer” create an entrancing day-in-the-life head space that could very well have made this one a classic on the folk-psych genre. Perhaps the most historically notable song on here is Denny’s original full-band recording of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” which would soon be put on vinyl first by Judy Collins and later by a Denny-fronted Fairport Convention. There’s a lot of ground covered here considering the constrained palette of sounds that the band conjures, touching on all the best British flavors of the era. On later records, Strawbs would expand their arsenal of instruments considerably, but to hear the band working primarily with acoustic guitars and touches of orchestration is something of a revelation. Sometimes you just have to clear away the clutter and Mellotrons and electric guitars and just let a record breath.

There have been a couple separate reissues of All Our Own Work, released under varying titles, but the most readily available these days is Witchwood Media’s CD issue, which includes not just the original LP but also a wealth of additional cuts from the same sessions. I imagine that this is one of the more obscure Denny releases out there, so if you’re a fan and have yet to hear this – one of her earliest recorded offerings – you are in for quite a treat.

mp3: Who Knows Where the Time Goes
mp3: Tell Me (What You See In Me)

:) Original | 1973 | Pickwick | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2010 | Witchwood | buy here ]

Borderline “Sweet Dreams & Quiet Desires”

Here’s yet another gem I found tucked within these pages at the The Band’s best fan site. Involvement from a Band member or two can’t guarantee a record’s gonna be a good one, but most of the time, you can count on it.  Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson both grace this class act recording credited respectively as “Dick Handle” and “Campo Malaqua,” but they’re no show stealers next to some heavy hitting session men, a fine set of original tunes and Borderline’s down home, roaming feel.

Sweet Dreams and Quiet Desires somehow manages to blend classic rock with the Bearsville sound, Nashville country, even as far as bluegrass – albeit more of a laid-back and stoned grass-rock than that of the Dillards, Brummels or Goose Creek. Brothers David and Jon Gershen turn in 8 original numbers ranging from swampy groovers like David’s “Don’t Know Where I’m Going” to Jon’s strung-out, anthemic ballads “Please Help Me Forget” and “Dragonfly.” Traditional numbers arranged by producer and guitarist Jim Rooney (“Clinch Mountain,” “Good Womans Love,” and “Handsome Molly”) seamlessly flow next to classic sounding country numbers by David Gershen (“Marble Eyes,” Sweet Dreams”). In addition to the Band members, Band producer John Simon appears on piano as well as Billy Mundi on drums and Vassar Clements on fiddle.

Sadly, Sweet Dreams and the ill-fated Second Album remain criminally unissued.  For now, get yer Borderline info/story here. This record certainly deserves as much recognition as any other genre-forging classic country rock record I’ve heard.

Update:  Borderline is finally being issued, along with their never before released Second Album, by Real Gone Music! The CD includes new liners with a limited amount autographed by the band. Scoop this edition up before it leaves us again.

mp3: Don’t Know Where I’m Going
mp3: Please Help Me Forget

:D 2CD Reissue | 2012 | Real Gone Music | buy from real gone ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Avalanche | search ebay ]

Crazy Horse “Loose”

After releasing their classic debut on Reprise back in 1970, Crazy Horse underwent some serious changes in personnel. Guitarist Danny Whitten got kicked out for substance abuse, keyboardist Jack Nitzsche left to focus on his highly-successful career as composer and producer, and occasional Horse cohort Nils Lofgren got sucked into a promising solo career before eventually finding berth in a top dollar position backing Bruce Springsteen. The result was that Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina – band mainstays to a degree that they have pretty much become Crazy Horse – decided to call up their former Rockets compatriot George Whitsell and rewire the group. It would be foolish to claim the ensuing record, 1972′s scatter-shot country-rocker Loose, is anywhere as good as its predecessor, but it’s nowhere near the disappointment its neglected position in Horse history has led some to claim it as.

What we have here is a solid collection of 1970s Canyon stompers and Zuma beach jams, pulling the spirit and sound of the band’s first album into a slightly lower register and trading in a bit of the garage-band cackle for a smooth, whiskey-soaked groove. This is by no means a tamed Horse, as some might lead you to believe, but rather one that’s learned the ropes a little and has decided to switch pastures before getting ground up in Los Angeles smog. “She Won’t Even Blow Smoke In My Direction,” a seemingly insignificant one-and-a-half minute instrumental coda to the record, actually does everything to sum up this new Crazy Horse cool: loose, laid back groove, raw, twangy guitar and the “hell, might as well switch on the tape recorder” spirit that has always been the band’s modus operandi.

A reference point for some of the material might be the New Riders of the Purple Sage, especially on the mellow shuffle of “One Thing I Love” (very obvious shades of Sage ballads like “Last Lonely Eagle” here) and the barroom ramble “You Won’t Miss Me,” which features tasty pedal steel licks and honky tonk piano. “Hit and Run” is pure Horse, however; it would be hard to mistake those ragged harmonies and that classic rhythm section beat with any other group. Numbers like this help bridge the new, sleepier approach to the band’s prior incarnation, and perhaps even hint at where Horse catalyst (and arguably, founder) Neil Young’s own music was meandering around this time. Those missing the jams that defined the Horse’s original work on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere might be reassured to come to “All the Little Things,” which has some great guitar playing that, while remaining distinct, does occasionally slip into some Neil-style, one-note growls.

Loose has been reissued on compact disc twice: once in 1998 and, more recently, by Wounded Bird Records in 2006. Both of these are out of print, however, and commanding ridiculous sums. You’d be much better off tracking down an original vinyl copy, which occasionally finds its way into record store cut-out bins. If you’re a Horse fan, bite the bullet and give some of this mid-period material a shot. Though Whitten and latter-day Horse mainstay Frank “Poncho” Sampedro may be absent from the proceedings, this is a worthwhile chapter in the band’s history that has remained sorely overlooked.

mp3: All the Little Things
mp3: And She Won’t Even Blow Smoke In My Direction

:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Reprise | search ebay ]

The Butts Band “Butts Band”

The Butts Band is one of those curios from the early-to-mid seventies when prominent rock musicians used to continually combine into various short-lived combos, always looking for that elusive commercial success. The Butts Band should have had a better chance than most, given the pedigree of its members; it grew out of an attempt in 1973 by the three remaining Doors to recruit a new vocalist after Jim Morrison’s demise. For some reason they elected to audition in London rather than LA, and all the prospective candidates were Brits. Partway through the search Ray Manzarek lost interest and went home, but Robby Krieger and John Densmore kept the faith, finally settling on Jess Roden as frontman. Roden had experienced critical acclaim but commercial failure with his previous project, the country-rock outfit Bronco, and as a student and practitioner of all the American roots music genres, not to mention an unassuming but distinctive vocalist and songwriter, he was an obvious candidate for the post. The band was made up by former Jeff Beck bassist Philip Chen and little-known keyboard player Roy Davies, with assistance in the studio from ubiquitous sessioneer Mick Weaver on organ.

Recording commenced at London’s Olympic Studios with former Doors engineer Bruce Botnick in the producer’s chair, but after three weeks the whole circus decamped to Kingston, Jamaica to complete the recordings. About half the tracks were cut in each location, and the final mixes were prepared back in LA. (The closing cover of “Kansas City” which purports to be a live recording was actually taped in a single take at Olympic and the crowd noise dubbed on later.) When Jac Holtzman declined to put the finished product out on Elektra, it was picked up by Bob Krasnow’s independent Blue Thumb imprint and subsequently distributed by Island.

The album comes across as equal parts The Band and Curtis Mayfield, with no real Doors flavour at all; perhaps no surprise as the two principal writers are Krieger and Roden in equal share. The original topside is a delight from start to finish; the leadoff “I Won’t Be Alone Any More” could be an outtake from The Basement Tapes, with its down-home twelve-string, wheezy organ, rustic bass and restrained lead guitar. “Baja Bus” is a mid-tempo funky-butt outing with a fine Fender Rhodes interlude and an extended Latin percussion jamming outro dominated by an apparently blissed-out conga player. “Sweet Danger” is mellow minor-key white soul, tailor-made for Roden’s honey-sweet double-tracked voice and featuring beautifully-restrained piano and guitar, but spoilt by an irritatingly-dated pitchwheel synth solo. “Pop-A-Top” rides on a reggaefied rhythm and a gorgeous electric piano riff; Krieger’s chillingly beautiful slide feature fades out far too soon. The flipside songs are less distinguished but benefit throughout from Chen’s and Densmore’s no-nonsense, sparse-but-inventive rhythm work. The closer, the aforementioned Kansas City, rocks along with a vengeance but Krieger’s ad-libbed slide work here is undeniably sloppy and bears no comparison to Duane Allman’s polished bronze licks.

With reviews of the album being generally favourable, the Butts Band scored a couple of live gigs in the UK as support to the Kinks and Sparks and a brief dilatory tour in the States, plus a few TV appearances including The Old Grey Whistle Test, but it was clear right from the start that the British contingent would not be willing to move permanently to the West Coast and the lineup rapidly fell apart. Krieger and Densmore recruited a bunch of American players, retaining the Butts Band name, and put together a further album, but it bore little relationship to its predecessor and is not highly regarded. Butts Band is currently out of print unless you’re prepared to settle for a bootleg CD, but pre-loved vinyl copies periodically surface on eBay. John Densmore’s website has a fine retrospective of the Butts Band(s).

mp3: I Won’t Be Alone Anymore
mp3: Pop a Top

:) Original | 1974 | Blue Thumb | search ebay ]