Archive for the ‘ Classic Rock ’ Category

uReview: “Nilsson Sings Newman”

12345678910 (34 votes, average: 8.56 out of 10)
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Today is a day to remember John Lennon, but I just finished the watching the 2006 biopic on his good pal, Harry Schmilsson. Maybe I’m just a big Nilsson fan, but I thought Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) was moving, revealing, an excellent film; every great artist deserves a tribute this devoted. But when they got to Nilsson Sings Newman I remembered that I never really fell for this record, for whatever reason.

Q. Am I missing out on a knockout LP? Does Harry really improve on Newman’s tunes? Why wouldn’t I just listen to Randy sing em? Have you seen the doc and what’d you think?

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“Livin’ Without You”

:D Deluxe CD Reissue | 2008 | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | RCA | 1970  | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Felt “Felt”

Not much is known about this mysterious hard rock/psych group.  Felt hailed from Alabama and released their only album on the Nasco label in 1971.  Formed in the late 60s, Felt’s lineup featured two solid guitarists in Myke Jackson and Stan Lee.  The latter would eventually play guitar for the legendary (and great) late 70s/early 80s punk band, the Dickies.  Other group members were bassist Tommy Gilstrap and drummer Mike Neel.

Their album is a sterling example of late 60s/early 70s American underground rock n roll – a very strong disc.  Felt alternates between crunchy blues based rock (with biting teenage vocals) and Beatlesque psych.  Their ten minute epic, “The Change,” is two or three songs wrapped into one.   Most bands would never be able to pull a trick like this off but Felt gets by on great musicianship and interesting arrangements: plenty of potent guitar solos, fresh organ interplay, blistering drums and brooding hard rock vocals.  “Weepin Mama Blues” and “World” are similar cuts with more of a blues influence – solid early 70s hardrock with none of the histrionic wailing or 10 minute guitar solos that plagued so many LPs of the era.  The remaining half of this disc sports more of a psych feel.  “Look At The Sun” is a downbeat popsike gem while “Now She’s Gone” and “Destination” are great tracks that feature jazzy time signatures and good psychedelic guitar work.   Felt is definitely a keeper without any real weaknesses – a solid 4 star album.

Akarma reissued this lost gem several years ago.  Flawed Gems followed Akarma in 2010 with a bootleg version of Felt.

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“Look At The Sun”

;) MP3 Album | download amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Nasco |  search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Luke Gibson “Another Perfect Day”

Along with Bruce Cockburn’s debut, Another Perfect Day was one of True North’s first releases in 1971/1972.  Prior to this disc, Luke Gibson fronted Luke and the Apostles, a legendary garage blues group who released an excellent punker in 1967 titled “Been Burnt.”   From here, Gibson went on to play in Kensington Market, a psych pop group who released two intriguing albums in the late 60’s (Aardvark is a great psych pop effort).  Disagreements and drug abuse killed off the Kensington Market.  From here, Gibson revived the Apostles once more in 1970, releasing another good hard rock 45 titled “You Make Me High.”  It was a popular record for the time but not enough to change the struggling group’s fortunes, so Gibson decided to embark on a solo career.

Listeners must’ve been shocked when they heard Another Perfect Day. The LP isn’t the psych, garage, or hardrock that colored Gibson’s past records.  The vocals are informed by hardrock and country-rock rather than folk or honky tonk.  This gives the music a sparse but ballsy quality – it’s what makes Another Perfect Day so unique.  Some tracks like “See You Again” and “All Day Rain” have electric guitars but for the most part this record is quiet acoustic music.  “Full Moon Rider” one of the album’s key tracks, is a riveting piece of music that features fiddle, superb vocals and a hard rocking ambience.  Other highlights are “Lobo”, a beautiful heartfelt country tune, the world weary title track and the trippy acoustic harpsichord laced gem “Angel.”  Great vocal performances, accomplished musicianship, a good backwoods vibe and strong songwriting make this one of the best discs I’ve heard in quite some time.  Long thought of as one of the best singer songwriter albums to come out of Canada, Another Perfect Day is the real deal – authentic stuff.

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“Angel”

:D CD Reissue | 2010 | True North |  buy at true north | amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Atomic Rooster “Death Walks Behind You”

Although it provided the background to my formative years as a musician, I’d be the first to admit that the late sixties/early seventies first wave of British progressive hard-rock veered wildly between creative sophistication and plodding self-indulgence. For every Led Zeppelin, there was a Black Sabbath; for every Deep Purple, an Edgar Broughton Band. (My apologies to adherents of those two combos.) Somewhere in the middle came the curiously-named Atomic Rooster, whose constantly changing line-up centred on keyboard wizard Vincent Crane released a series of undistinguished albums plus one genuine gem, the sophomore effort Death Walks Behind You.

Classically-trained organist and pianist Crane had been the instrumental cornerstone of wigged-out psych outfit The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, as witness his Hammond histrionics on their eponymous long-player. The Rooster should have satisfied Crane’s search for his own direction but, bedevilled by impatience, musical perfectionism and manic depression, he changed his style and his fellow musicians almost from year to year in search of a constantly moving and unattainable target. The second, and best, line-up teamed Crane with guitarist/vocalist John Cann, a.k.a. Du Cann, and drummer Paul Hammond. Cann had seen through the psychedelic era with Five Day Week Straw People and Andromeda and offered crunching rhythms and flyaway bluesy leads not unlike Ritchie Blackmore, whilst Hammond was a teenage tub-thumper with no real CV but just the sort of no-frills, aggressive style that Crane’s prevailing riff-tastic compositions demanded. In the best Jimmy Smith tradition, Crane played the bass lines on his pedals and on the bass-boosted low keyboard register of his B3. Between them they could sound as full as Deep Purple with two musicians fewer, and usually did.

At first sight slightly unnerving with its Dark Side imagery, but actually surprisingly accessible and in places even commercial – “Tomorrow Night” would become a top twenty single in the UK – Death Walks combines mostly straightforward but tightly-executed riff-based chord structures and bass lines with formulaic Gothic horror-inspired lyrics, overlaying these with energetic, optimistic soloing by the two frontmen. The net result is surprisingly “up” if you don’t take the words too seriously and aren’t put off by the cover art featuring William Blake’s “Nebuchadnezzar” and clichéd shots of the band in a graveyard. Mostly eschewing the possibilities of overdubbing in the studio, the tracks are largely played live, as evinced by the BBC radio session versions of two of the same tunes offered on the CD reissue as bonus tracks. (I recall hearing that actual session back in the day, and it’s clear that the trio was a hot live act.) The lightest moment is provided by “Tomorrow Night” with its catchy riff, singalong refrain and brief, soaring solos, whilst the title track is the most ponderous, starting with eerie piano arpeggios and creaking into the most leaden of descending chromatic chord sequences. Cann kicks off the surprisingly funky “Sleeping For Years” with what became his trademark feedback introduction. The oddly titled “Vug” and “Gershatzer” are instrumentals on which the band’s undoubted musicianship is given free rein, Cann and Crane exchanging lines in fine conversational style on the former while the latter confirms that Crane wasn’t far behind Keith Emerson in the deranged virtuosity stakes.

Death Walks proved the commercial and artistic zenith for all three band members. Crane carried an ever-mutating Rooster into the eighties before taking his own life in 1989. Hammond was badly injured in a road accident in 1973 and played only at intervals thereafter. Cann formed a praiseworthy and briefly popular hard-rock quartet, Bullet, a.k.a. Hard Stuff, but moved post-punk   into uninspired power-pop which considerably diluted his talent. Recently he’s overseen the reissue of the Rooster catalogue and associated items on the excellent Angel Air label.

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“Sleeping for Years”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Castle | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | B&C | search ebay ]

uReview: The Allman Brothers Band

12345678910 (48 votes, average: 8.02 out of 10)
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These guys any good? Is this album a good choice for a start? Where’s the sweet spot?
I need schooling on these Brothers.

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“Come And Go Blues”

;) MP3 Album | download here ]
:) Orig Vinyl |1973 | Capricorn | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Bachdenkel “Lemmings”

Bachdenkel started out life as the U NO Who.  This late 60s group had been active on the Birmingham scene for some time and played psychedelic pop.  They recorded a handful of respectable tracks which were pitched to the Beatles’ Apple label but no deal ever materialized.  The U NO Who would go on to become Bachdenkel at the end of the decade.  Bachdenkel’s lineup looked something like this:  Colin Swinburne on vocals, guitar, piano, organ and harpsichord, Peter Kimberley on vocals, bass and piano, Brian Smith on drums, and Karel Beer on Organ.

Bachdenkel would relocate to France and record the great Lemmings album in 1970.  Although the LP was completed by the summer of 1970, Phillips didn’t release Lemmings until 1973 – released throughout Europe but not in the UK.  This really sealed this unique British group’s fate – unfairly so because they were very talented.  I believe a UK reissue/rerelease appeared in the late 70s (maybe 1978-) but by that time Bachdenkel had ceased to exist.    The group released another solid progressive album titled Stalingrad (1975) and toured Europe in 1976 before breaking up.

And as for the Lemmings LP? It’s one of the best 70s progressive rock albums out there.  The musicians here keep their egos in check and know when to end a song, unlike Yes or ELP.  To me this is a much better (and more interesting) album than anything Yes or ELP would ever release.  The ringing guitars dominate Bachdenkel’s sound but there are tasteful keyboards as well.  Some people have linked Bachdenkel’s sound to Caravan, Abbey Road era Beatles, and King Crimson.  These are all valid comparisons – think of Bachdenkel as a missing link between the Beatles and the mighty Crimso, progressive guitar pop with a slight psychedelic hangover.  “An Appointment With The Master”, the LP’s most popular song, is a lost classic that might be what the Beatles would have sounded like had they lasted into the progressive rock era.  Crashing drums and superb psychedelic guitar work give this cut a fresh edge.  “Translation” and “Equals” are also outstanding dark mood pieces that sound completely modern by today’s standards – this LP has not dated one bit.  All of Lemmings 7 tracks are excellent, whether it be the 11 minute epic “The Settlement Song” or the shorter, tuneful tracks like “Long Time Living” – every works beautifully.  So…interesting arrangements that take chances (unique twists and turns), a dark aura, rock solid songwriting, Caravan-like vocals, and great musicianship unify this very special musical statement.  Any fan of classic rock needs to own this essential masterpiece.

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“Equals”

:D CD Reissue | 2007 | Ork | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Philips | search ebay ]

Neil Young “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

This record holds a very special place in my musical affections. In 1969, being still in the grip of the
Beatles, the British Blues Boom and the tail end of the psychedelic era, I hadn’t even heard of Mr
Young. One day whilst idling around London’s West End I strolled into the HMV store in Oxford
Street and heard the long central guitar workout from “Down By The River” playing over the PA. I
guess in my five decades of record buying I’ve bought an unknown album merely from hearing it
played in a store maybe four, five times; the most recent was Beth Orton’s Trailer Park about eight
years ago. Everybody Knows was my first such purchase. It’s still a mega-favourite.

Why did this record turn out so great? I think it’s a case of simple serendipity; everything seemed
just to fall into place at these sessions. Neil discovered exactly the right backing band, sympathetic
to his muse to an almost uncanny degree, as evinced by the unselfishly solid bass and drum
backing and the almost telepathic interplay between Young’s and Danny Whitten’s guitars. Neil’s
simultaneously fragile and potent voice has never sounded better, and the slightly ragged harmonies
are exquisite. The songs show their composer at a creative summit, and whilst they provide
prototypes for all of his future directions (the perverse electronica of Trans excepted), their variety
is surely unmatched on any single later album; from the distortion-laden proto-grunge of “Cinnamon
Girl” through the wry cod-Nashville of “The Losing End”, via the sparse, punky groove of “Down
By The River” with its crunching, wailing solos, and the understated acoustic beauty of “Round
& Round”. There’s a vein of sadness and despair that runs all the way through the album like the
lettering through a stick of seaside rock; in particular, Bobby Notkoff’s tremulous Klezmer violin work
on “Running Dry” should bring a tear to even the most jaundiced eye. And producer David Briggs
achieves a rare and gratifying symbiosis of warmth and clarity on the original vinyl waxing that the
latest CD reissue finally recaptures (earlier ones being less than perfect in this respect).

I know that I’m courting a flurry of comments by opining that Uncle Neil peaked this early in
his career, and that his second solo album is the best of his remarkable forty-year oeuvre. I’ve
subsequently absorbed pretty well all of his stuff from the simple, sunny country-folk of Old Ways
to the teeth-loosening fury of Ragged Glory, and I love and respect the man for the breadth of his
vision and his wilful, capricious determination to choose and change his own direction. However, for
me this one still holds the top spot. That said, anyone who wants to propose another Young opus as
the man’s masterwork is welcome to do so – with reasons given, of course. Over to you . . . .

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“Running Dry (Requiem for the Rock)”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Reprise | buy ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Reprise | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1969 | Reprise | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Riley “Grandma’s Roadhouse”

I’m a long time fan of the perfect hair, boozy lamentations, and sorrowful, wavering croon of popular country music’s tragic superstar, Gary Stewart. When I heard Delmore Recordings had unearthed one of Gary’s first projects, a 500 LP hand-stamped private-pressed recording from after-hour sessions at Bradley’s Barn in 1970, well, who could resist.

Nashville writing partners and recording assistants, Gary Stewart (who would hit it big in the later 70s with “She’s Acting Single, I’m Drinking Doubles” and “Drinkin’ Thing”) and Bill Eldridge invited Michigan’s Riley Watkins, Jim Snead, and Jim Noveskey to experiment during their free time at the Barn. Nashville Scene does an excellent service to the rest of Riley’s story, although, I can’t agree their music is very commercial in sound. Roadhouse may be one of the scratchiest demos I have yet to hear from the early country-rock (as Delmore calls it “headneck”) genre. These are scant, dusty archive recordings (“Daddy’s Come Home” even mildly garbled by tape flutter). Riley’s sound is more on par with what came from suburban garages in the early 60s than anything ever recorded in Music City USA; naturally I’m completely in to the record.

The sound is somewhere between The Band’s americana, heady jams and headstrong vocals of Moody Blues, CSN-tinged harmonies, Link Wray’s chicken shack (in this case “Funky Tar Paper Shack”), and down-home southern vibe you’ll find in bands like Goose Creek and Wheatstraw-era Dillards. For Stewart fans, the highlight is Gary’s big vox on his own “Drinkin’ Them Squeezins,” an early nod to his secret formula. Big kudos to Delmore for digging this up from nowhere; I’ll never tire of excellent unheard reissues from this era. Keep em coming!

Get some more at whenyouawake.

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“Field Of Green”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2010 | Delmore |  buy from delmore ]
:D CD Reissue | 2010 | Delmore Recordings |  buy  @ delmore ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Fairport Convention “Full House”

Full House marked the consolidation of Fairport’s transition from West Coast-styled, hallucinogenics-
influenced outfit – a British Jefferson Airplane, perhaps – to purveyors of rocked-up, electrified
British traditional folk, a courageous move tentatively started with the inclusion of “A Sailor’s Life”
on Unhalfbricking and triumphantly completed on Liege And Lief, perhaps the most influential and
important UK rock album to appear since Sergeant Pepper. But Fairport had then lost arguably its
two most important contributors, founder and direction-setter Ashley Hutchings and crystal-voiced
frontwoman Sandy Denny. New bassist Dave Pegg proved a valuable acquisition with his rocky style,
but the other members had to close ranks and take on the vocal chores themselves. They did so,
with an initial naïvité that retrospectively evinces considerable charm, Richard Thompson and Dave
Swarbrick proving to have distinctively different rural vocal deliveries and Simon Nicol reluctantly
airing a melodious tenor that would eventually see him become the band’s leading voice.

The other element that newly marks Full House out is the humour and looseness which its illustrious
predecessor lacked. With talented but earnest female vocalist Denny no longer having to be
accommodated and adulated, the boys were free to have some fun, and it comes across in these
grooves, notwithstanding the doomy themes of some of the lyrics: songs about sexual exploitation,
sin and death can be funky, as “Doctor Of Physick”, “Sloth” and “Sir Patrick Spens” show. I recall
seeing this line-up play the Bath Festival Of Blues And Progressive Music at Shepton Mallet in 1970,
and the high jinks on stage would not have been on display a year earlier.

“Walk Awhile” is a wonderfully swinging opener, with all three lead vocalists taking turns at the
verses and fine, fiery harmony and octave work between Thompson’s guitar and Swarbrick’s
violin. “Sloth” is an ominous, downbeat death march that builds to an almost unbearable tension in
the lengthy instrumental break as Thommo’s edgy Strat and Swarb’s compressed, wailing fiddle duke
it out in opposite stereo channels: perhaps the best instrumental work the band ever produced. The
two cheerful jig medleys offer a variety of familiar and little-known traditional tunes, forefronting
Swarb’s and Peggy’s duelling mandolins on “Flatback Caper” and all four string players on “Dirty
Linen”. “Spens” is a gloriously disrespectful, steady-rollin’ take on that revered Scottish traditional
ditty, while Nicol’s amplified dulcimer provides the backbone for that country’s mournful anthem
for the dead, “Flowers Of The Forest”. The Island CD re-release offers a number of bonus tracks,
including the unnecessarily lugubrious “Poor Will & The Jolly Hangman” that had been removed
(probably wisely) from the original pressing at the last moment at the insistence of its writer,
Thompson, and the brief but excellent non-album single “Now Be Thankful”, one of the band’s
evergreens.

Full House is arguably Fairport’s last really great album, its release being followed by the departure
of Thompson for a solo career and his replacement by Jerry Donohue, whose elegant Nashville style
prefaced a gentle slide in the direction of country rock. Henceforth Swarbrick would take over the
band’s direction as the quality gradually declined until his own departure, when Nicol as the last-
standing original member would take the reins. After countless further line-up changes and albums
the band remains extant and much-loved to this day, with its annual outdoor reunion at Cropredy in
Oxfordshire attracting swarms of the faithful.

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“Walk Awhile”

:D CD Reissue | 2001 | Island | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1970 | Island | search ebay ]

Mac Gayden “Skyboat”

Note: Today’s post comes from dk, author to one of the finest vintage music blogs around: dk presents. Don’t miss subscribing over there and look forward to some more Storm reviews from dk in the future.

The story of Mac Gayden’s Skyboat is one of bad promotion, bad cover art, and bad luck. Gayden was a top-notch Nashville session guitarist who made an uncredited appearance on Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, played the distinctive slide guitar on J.J. Cale’s ‘Crazy Mama’, and wrote hit songs such as ‘Everlasting Love’ (part of which he claims to have written on his grandmother’s piano when he was just five years old). This 1976 album is a pleasing amalgamation of many 70’s musical styles – country rock instrumentation, soulful vocals, pop sheen (string charts courtesy of Bergen White), and an overall singer-songwriter sensibility. Wedged stylistically between Cat Stevens and Poco, Skyboat should have been Gayden’s breakthrough.

Instead, paint-by-numbers promotion men in Los Angeles saw a Nashville artist and assumed Skyboat was a country record, which it most definitely is not. By pushing this album as country and sending it out exclusively to country stations, ABC Records effectively ensured its doom. And there’s no way to put this kindly – that album art is atrocious. The awkward creature flying across that cover is in no way representative of the 11 highly-polished cuts on this record, and certainly didn’t help its cause.

Opener ‘Morning Glory’ has hit written all over it. One of the great lost tunes of the ’70s, this song is so good that you’ll sing along the first time you hear it. Gayden shows off his considerable guitar chops in two places on this song, but particularly on his solo near its conclusion. Sublime stuff. ‘Gettysburg’ is a stirring, minor-key, banjo-tinged ode to the South that was recorded in a thunderstorm and sounds like a blueprint for Will Oldham’s career. Gayden lays down his own version of ‘Everlasting Love’ (since covered by nearly everyone, including U2), which ironically might be the least heard of the many versions in circulation. Elsewhere, ‘Don’t Look Back’ is a bold re-wiring of a Temptations’ song that makes perfect sense in this context, and ‘Diamond Mandala’ closes the album with 10 minutes of Appalachian fever dream that conjures Sandy Bull, Aaron Copland and Native American spirit dances.

Gayden told Mojo magazine in 2002 that “By the time [radio] realized the album [wasn’t country] it was too late, and many stations refused to play the record because of ABC, not because of me. It put an end to my career… so I do have some bittersweet memories.” The memories might be bittersweet, but the music is pure nectar…

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“Morning Glory”

:D CD 2fer | 2008 | Big Beat | buy at amazon ]
:) Orig Vinyl |  1976 | ABC | search ebay ]