Archive for the ‘ Classic Rock ’ Category

Vox Dei “Caliente”

In the late 1960s there emerged in Argentina a heavy, thriving rock and roll scene, partially built by the independent record label Mandioca. Founded in Buenos Aires by a pair of radical young left-wing book publishers and inspired in part by The Beatles’ Apple Records project, the vinyl put out by Mandioca was raw compared to the slick records that flooded the Argentine pop scene of the day, but it was exactly that raw, uncompromising character – combined with the label’s anti-corporate approach to the music business – that helped put Mandioca’s artists at the forefront of the Argentina youth movement.

Mandioca only lasted long enough to put out five long-players, but every one delivers. One of the most prominent, both in the history of the label and Argentine rock and roll in general, is the debut record by the modestly-named power trio Vox Dei, or the “Voice of God.” Though the Dei would eventually find mass-market appeal with a pounding, progressive take on Catholic biker boogie, Caliente reveals a band better informed by the dusty growl of North American garage rock than the hair-brained swagger of Foghat’s ilk. Mandioca’s empty-pocket recording aesthetic adds further dimensions to the album’s appeal, with crunchy instrumental mixes and crisp, torn-speaker fuzz tones rarely heard outside of 1950s Link Wray records. There’s a real pleasure in finding home-brewed guitar sounds like these, calling to mind all the joy that is cracked, thrift-store amplifiers and cheap plastic Fenders.

And the best part here is that the music lives up to the aesthetic. Spin this one and dig the band as they immediately lash into a funky, cyclical vamp that could almost be on loan from an early Magic Band session. From this tight opening thrust, stacked percussion drops “Reflejos Tuyos y Míos” into a snarling guitar solo and atmospheric space break. The bongo drums and maracas give the cut a subtly indigenous Latin American flavor and help drive the improvised jam section home in impeccable style. The interplay between guitarists Ricardo Soulé and Juan Godoy is definitely a strength here, as in most of the album’s tracks. “Cuero” starts off with the two throwing down a relentless Hell’s Angel growl (arguably the album’s heaviest single moment) before the razor-throated funk cuts things back to a low prowl. It’s clearly these moments of laid-back clarity that allowed Vox Dei to stand above the glut of generic bar bands of the era and make their mark on music history. In fact, the album’s single biggest surprise may very well be “Canción Para Una Mujer Que No Está,” an otherwise unprecedented detour into cosmic, Floydian balladry, featuring some floating vocal harmonies and a barbed hook.

The unfortunate dissolution of Mandioca Records led to the disappearance of their admittedly-limited catalog from stores. As such, Vox Dei saw fit to re-record their album a few years later in order to make the songs available again. This second version, Cuero Caliente, is far less exciting than the original rendition, but today is easily avoided in favor of the real thing. Reissues of the original are only available out of Argentina, which perhaps highlights the limited success of the band – no matter how strong they were in their home country, they couldn’t quite break out across the border. Said import can be scored quite easily stateside, however, so don’t let that minor technicality prevent you from digging this hot slice of rock and roll from a time when rock and roll had real some serious bite.

mp3: Reflejos Tuyos y Míos
mp3: Total Qué (A Nadie Le Interesa Si Quedás Atrás)

:D Reissue | Sony BMG | buy here ]
:) Original | 1970 | Mandioca | search ]

Country Funk “Country Funk”

Country Funk was a folk-rock/country-rock group whose members at one point played in earlier psych pop combo Adam.   The group materialized in Los Angeles but then moved out to Boston where they played all the well known venues of the day. Country Funk shared the stage with many of rock’s biggest names and because of their affiliation with Beantown, the group are usually remembered (unfairly so) as part of the Bosstown Sound.   From 1968 to 1970/1971 they recorded quite a bit of studio material, enough to fill out two albums.  In 1970, Polydor would release Country Funk’s only album in a generic blue sleeve with a black and white photo of the band.  While no classic, Country Funk is still a very good album (kind of a mini gem) thats appeal lies in its consistency (no weak tracks) and timeless sound – think Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, CSN&Y and Poco.  The group clearly had a knack for blending the blues, country, hard rock, folk, and psych into something that’s refreshing.  The members of Country Funk could also play and write with the best of them, never overextending their songs or falling prey to dated 60s cliches.

The album opens with “Apart of Me,” a track that was issued as a single in 1970 and some years down the line, sampled by alternative pop star Beck Hansen.  Clearly one of the LP’s highlights, this excellent track begins as a care-free country folk-rocker, exploding midway through into a soulful fuzz guitar rave-up.  The vocals are a dead ringer for Stephen Stills circa Buffalo Springfield Again – definitely a compliment here.  Other winners are the trippy folk-rock of “Phoebe,” a track that recalls David Crosby’s work on the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday and the spritely country-rock of “A Way To Settle Down.”  Country Funk tempers the album’s softer moments with hard edged fuzz tone guitar workouts such as “Another Miss” and “When I’m Without You.”  These cuts give Country Funk an attractive classic rock/psychedelic edge.  Also, songs like “Poor Boy,” “For Me,” and “Really My Friend” deliver the classic West Coast style folk-rock goods with aching melodies and harmonies to spare – not to mention tambourines and fine, world weary vocals.  Given the quality of Country Funk, one wishes the group had stuck around long enough to record a follow up to this very promising LP.

Solid songs and thoughtful songwriting, succinct guitar solos, good use of fuzzbox and spirited vocals make Country Funk one of the finer, unsung American LPs of it’s time.  Its been reissued no less than three times but our nod goes to British label Slipstream, who is now offering a group authorized version of Country Funk, which includes the single sides by precursor group Adam.  In addition, CDBaby offers a CDR version of Country Funk on their website while the Fallout reissue from a few years back is an unauthorized vinyl rip bootleg.

mp3: For Me
mp3: Apart Of Me

:D Reissue | 2012 | Slipstream | buy from slipstream ]
:) Original | 1970 | Polydor | search ebay ]

Coloured Balls “Ball Power”

Coloured Balls were one of the best pure rock n roll groups to emerge from the early 70’s Australian scene.  Sure, The Saints and Radio Birdman stayed together longer and released a slew of fine albums during the punk era but it was the Coloured Balls who pioneered the proto punk sound earlier in the decade.  Their wildcard was Lobby Loyde (also known as John Barrie Lyde), Australia’s premier guitar hero (detractors must check out his live at Sunbury performance of “G.O.D.” – from Aztec’s Ball Power reissue) whose pivotal roles in beat/psych/blues rock groups The Purple Hearts, The Wild Cherries and Billy Thorpe’s Aztecs made him a major home-grown star down under.  Ball Power is not only the Coloured Balls’ greatest album but also the finest music of Lobby Loyde’s long, fabled career.

Ball Power, released in 1973, favorably recalls the latter day MC5 or the Pink Fairies from their great Kings of Oblivion LP.  The best moments on Ball Power are transcendent.  “Human Being,” the album’s lone classic, is a blistering hard rock masterpiece notable for its crunching buzz saw guitars and bludgeoning rhythm section.  “That’s What Mama Said” is essentially “Human Being” drawn out to 10 minutes but this time around Coloured Balls utilize a foot-controlled Theremin and lots of guitar soloing/guitar noise (progressive raunch).  Other good ones are “Won’t You Make Up Your Mind,” which sounds like anarchy in the UK before there was such a thing, the powerful boogie rock of “Hey! What’s Your Name” and “Something New,” a hard psych number with phased guitar work.  Even the lesser cuts hold up quite well and if anything, serve to display the group’s diversity and unique talents.  “B.P.R.,” a strong blues instrumental, gives Lobby Loyde room to stretch out and solo while their rendition of “Whole Lotta Shakin'” rocks as hard as any version I’ve heard of this classic.  From beginning to end Ball Power is an excellent album that’s mandatory listening – all the performances have that road-honed tightness and tense, proto punk edge.

Several years back Aztec Music reissued this lost classic on cd but since then its become very expensive and increasingly hard to find.  Coloured Balls would release two other flawed but worthy albums, 1974’s Heavy Metal Kids and 1976’s First Last Supper (1972 recordings).

mp3: Won’t You Make Up Your Mind
mp3: Hey! What’s Your Name

:) Original |  1973 | EMI | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2006 | Aztec | buy here ]

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 ]

Tommy James and the Shondells “Cellophane Symphony”

Most people are familiar with Tommy James and the Shondells through their impressive string of radio hits, but what few people realize is that, alongside said bubblegum classics, the band was busy laying down some of the weirdest rock and roll of the era. 1969’s Cellophane Symphony is a beautiful case in point, and in fact doubles as an excellent gateway into the Shondells’ discography.

Few rock and roll groups have ever been adventurous enough to open an album of catchy, psychedelic rock and roll with a droning, ten minute space rock instrumental, especially when you keep in mind the percentage of kids buying this record after hearing lightweight hits like “Hanky Panky” over the waves and hoping for more of the same. “Cellophane Symphony,” however, is about as far from radio land as you’re going to get. I’d say it is far closer in spirit to early-seventies Pink Floyd than to anything else I’ve heard in this band’s body of work; a heavy, languorous bass riff supports a weird array of electronic noodling and slide guitar. Even if it weren’t so overwhelmingly slow and repetitive, it would still be a disarming way to open a record.

And yet the most bizarre part about it is that nothing else on this album sounds remotely like the first song. From  “Making Good Time” onwards, the band is back to their trademark brand of peculiarly accessible rock and roll. Like their last album, the smash psychedelic opus Crimson and Clover, however, the band manages to take relatively trite rock and roll formulas and stretch them in unique directions that hint at the subversively experimental frame-of-mind behind all the sing-along choruses and sunshine harmonies. The spidery analog electronics even make a return on “Changes,” one of the album’s most memorable pieces. The only low points here for me are the short novelty numbers that close each side of the album, though I’m sure that they may hold appeal for some listeners – especially the sly music hall wink of “Papa Rolled His Own.” As far as hit material goes, “Sweet Cherry Wine” actually did make it all the way to number seven on the Billboard charts, and features an insistent beat and the band’s famous tremolo background vocals.

Not only has Cellophane Symphony been reissued (and remained in print, no less), but it comes right alongside the band’s aforementioned Crimson and Clover. All in all it’s quite a steal, and I reckon we should applaud Rhino Records for letting this rather esoteric record find a new audience.

mp3: Cellophane Symphony
mp3: I Know Who I Am

:D Reissue | Rhino | 2fer | buy ]
:) Original | 1969 | Roulette | search ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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 ]

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 ]

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 Baldry “It Ain’t Easy”

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

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

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

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

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“Flying”

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

Ticket “Awake”

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

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

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

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“Reign Away”

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