Archive for the ‘ Folk ’ Category

Terry Callier “The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier”

This record is like a river, ebbing and flowing. That may sound vague, but it’s probably the best way I can think to describe the music contained on the 1964 recordings that make up Terry Callier’s debut record The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier. Every time I put this music on I drift away, caught up in the slow, rolling rhythms and sad, rambling lyrics. Though Callier is best known for his run of unique psychedelic records in the early seventies, it’s his earliest material that has taken the strongest hold on my soul: a molasses-thick concoction of traditional American folksong and jazz, with Callier’s warm, deep croon practically floating across the stripped-back musical arrangements. Aside from Terry’s own finger-picked acoustic guitar, the record’s only other contributors are Terbour Attenborough and John Tweedle dueting on the bass.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of The New Folk Sound is in its ability to cast popular traditional songs in an entirely new light. I can guarantee you that you have never heard a more heartbreaking, soul-wrenching rendition of “Cotton-Eyed Joe” in your life. Time-worn lines such as “dying is easy/it’s living that’s pain” suddenly come weeping wildly back into focus, illuminating the bleak underbelly to American folk art that is so often taken for granted in these days of glossy history textbooks and institutionalized blind-patriotism.

What makes this all so intensely compelling, however, is Callier’s hypnotically beautiful voice. There are so many layers of honesty and emotion here that’s its impossible to describe. When the man sings the otherwise inconspicuous lines “oh dear, what can the matter be/Johnny’s so long at the fair,” you somehow know Johnny is never ever coming back. It’s remarkable that Callier manages to harness the raw, spiritual impact of the Southern blues singers without surrendering any of the crystal-clear purity inherent to his Chicago folk background. Even the cackling black humor of “Johnny Be Gay” is offset by the barely-veiled sadness in Callier’s voice and the song’s startlingly violent conclusion.

Recent reissues of The New Folk Sound include a wealth of bonus tracks which add to the album in almost every way, all having been cut around the same time as the album proper and all encompassing the same moods and rhythmic pulses as the previously released material. The music here may be too wide and mellow for the majority of today’s listeners, but to those with an ear for this kind of stuff this is a record you simply cannot afford to miss. If an additional hook is needed, it may be that two songs here, “Spin, Spin, Spin” and “It’s About Time,” are probably already familiar to Storm readers through renditions cut by the popular Chicago rock band H.P. Lovecraft.

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“It’s About Time”

:) Original | 1968 | BGP | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2003 | Prestige | buy ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Comus “First Utterance”

Quite reasonably described in recent reviews as “acoustic death metal” and “too weird for folkies, too folky for weirdos”, it would be hard to identify any album from the sixties/seventies cusp that was more wilfully intended to alienate the mainstream record-buying public than this totally unique progressive folk effort by Comus. First Utterance was, and still is, “difficult”. Fortunately today an appreciative audience exists for “difficult” stuff like this.

Kent-based art students Roger Wootton and Glenn Goring had played acoustic covers of Velvet Underground numbers in London folk clubs, thereby alienating the contemporary folk audience as early as 1968. Enlisting several classically-trained players, they became Comus, after the seventeenth-century masque (musical drama) by John Milton, and debuted at the Beckenham Arts Lab, the southeast London pub session hosted by a young David Bowie. The stage act now centred round Wootton’s lyrically-disturbing songs which drew from the themes of the original Comus – sorcery and attempted rape – and other similarly cheerful topics: murder, mutilation and mental illness. The accompaniment was fully acoustic apart from Andy Hellaby’s Fender bass, with Wootton on 6-string, Goring on 12-string and slide, Colin Pearson on violin and viola, Rob Young on flute and oboe and Bobbie Watson’s homespun vocals. There was no drummer but various band members contributed enthusiastic hand percussion when not soloing. Indeed, apart from Wootton’s lyrics the band’s other distinctive feature was the intensity and variety of sounds they conjured from their acoustic toolkit, matched by Wootton’s astonishing vocal variations which ranged from a demented Bolan warble via a Roger Chapman bleat to a John Lydon shriek.

A support slot with Bowie at London’s prestigious Festival Hall led to Comus’s signing with Pye’s adventurous progressive arm, Dawn, and a tortuous series of recording sessions. On its 1970 release the album received reasonable support, including a pre-release maxi-single comprising leadoff track “Diana” and two non-album songs plus a slot on the fondly-remembered Dawn Penny Concerts college tour. Despite this the album never appealed to other than a few wigged-out diehards, and it died an appropriate slow death, the band folding. In 1974, at the request of the nascent Virgin Records, Wootton, Watson and Hellaby reconvened as Comus with guest musicians to produce a more conventional folk-prog album To Keep From Crying, but this also stiffed and marked the end of the band until, thirty-four years later, the entire original outfit sans Young was enticed back together by a Swedish cult following for a live appearance at a Stockholm festival.

“Diana” conjures up the darkest of Dionysian images, operating around a disconcerting riff set off by cacophonous goblin voices and sweet atonal strings. “The Herald” is a serenely beautiful twelve-minute suite in three sections with allegorical day/night lyrics, lush woodwinds and a shimmering acoustic guitar centre section. By contrast the eleven-minute “Drip Drip” with its chilling references to nudity, bloody death and forest burial builds to a thunderous jam with howling strings and rattling percussion. “The Bite” chronicles the tortured nightmares of a condemned man’s final night of sleep to an inappropriately cheery guitar and flute backing reminiscent of Jethro Tull. The closing “The Prisoner” is a desperate cry for help from an inmate of a lunatic asylum which starts innocuously enough but progresses to a fractured, crazed finale. Subject matter notwithstanding, the quality of the music itself throughout makes it possible to appreciate the album without delving too deeply into the words, which suits me just fine.

First Utterance was reissued as a single CD by Phantom Sound & Vision in 2004, and is currently available as part of a comprehensive 2CD set Song To Comus on Castle that includes the whole of both albums and the maxi-single, both sides of a late Wootton solo single and an unreleased outtake plus an excellent historical booklet. All the Comus you could conceivably want, frankly. If you really need to digest the lyrics, visit Comus’s website.

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“The Prisoner”

:) Original |  1970 | Dawn | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2005 | Castle | buy here ]

Tranquility (S/T)

If you ever wondered what the love child of the Bee Gees and Crosby, Stills and Nash would sound like, wonder no more – the pointy-headed creature would sound like Tranquility.

The story of short-lived career of Tranquility is a difficult one to track; now largely forgotten, the band has neither a biography at AllMusic or a Wikipedia page. A fairly short history of the band’s 1971-1974 duration can be found on a page dedicated to Vanity Fare, but aside from that, little exists on the Internet about Tranquility.

The dichotomy of a band that references the Bee Gees and CSN in equal measure is not surprising, considering the band’s origins. According to the Vanity Fare page:

“The band was formed in 1971 by Ashley Kozak, formerly Donovan’s manager, and built around the song writing abilities of Terry Shaddick. Kozak had long wished for a “…gentle tranquil band that could create it own hybrid of pop, rock and English folk music” (CBS Inner Sleeve Issue III, 1973), and in Shaddick, he saw the focal point for creation of just such a band.”

From the meager info provided by AllMusic, it appears that Shaddick had a hand in all of the songs featured on Tranquility, and satisfied the intent of Kozak’s wishes, if not the spirit; Shaddick and company rarely hybridize pop, rock and English folk, but hit each of the points individually, song-by-song.

The best songs on Tranquility lean more toward folk; album opener “Try Again” is all innocuous confessional lyrics married to acoustic guitars and tight harmonies. Likewise, “Look at the Time, It’s Late” mimics the best of the Bee Gees’ late-60s-early 70s pop. Just as many times, the album aims for CSN or the Bee Gees and misses; “Lady of the Lake,” “Ride Upon the Sun,” and “Walk Along the Road” are pleasant but forgettable.

“Oyster Catcher” and “Black Current Betty” are almost jarringly out-of-place on an album full of CSN-lite offerings. Both songs recall 1967-68, when, inspired by Sgt. Pepper, every British album had to include a few music hall-type numbers full of twee Angliophilia. Of the two songs, “Black Current Betty” (which I’m almost certain should be “Black Currant Betty,” and the writer on the Vanity Fare page agrees) is the most listenable, even if “Penny Lane,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or even “Hello Hello” by Sopwith Camel got there first and more memorably.

Tranquility is hardly a buried classic, even if the Vanity Fare page claims that  the band “blew more than one big-name U.S. band off the stage.” All this begs the question: are some bands/albums better lost to history?

In the case of Tranquility’s 1972 self-titled debut, that depends on your tolerance for an album that veers wildly between introspective singer-songwriter offerings featuring CSN-type harmonies and English pop that would have sounded at home on Chad & Jeremy’s Of Cabbages and Kings.

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“Try Again”

:) Original | 1972 | Epic | search ebay ]
:) Reissue | 2004 | Rock & Groove | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Stone Poneys (s/t)

The Stone Poneys should be much more than a footnote. Forever eclipsed by Linda Ronstadt’s latter-day success, the band has found itself set down in history as little more than an early backing group for the singer – hardly a fair assessment, especially considering the strength of the material recorded by the band, of which Ronstadt was only one contributor. In fact, Poneys Ken Edwards and Bob Kimmel were remarkable singers in their own right and actually penned all of the group’s original material.

The Poneys’ self-titled debut is perhaps their strongest statement as a band. Produced by the great west-coast folk-rock producer Nick Venet (Fred Neil, Hedge & Donna, et al.), the album typifies the slow and hazy L.A. sound that would become the man’s signature. Venet would also serve to connect the recent Tucson immigrants with several other players on the local folk scene, most notably Tim Buckley, whose songs they would soon go on to record, and the band Hearts & Flowers, who Linda would sing with on their 1968 record Now Is the Time.

Legendary multi-instrumentalist Cyrus Faryar’s bouzouki opens the album and kicks off one of its most memorable songs, Edwards and Kimmel’s “Sweet Summer Blue & Gold.” Starring the Poneys’ beautiful vocal blend set to a swirling, eastern folk-rock melody, this one could have easily become an underground hit. The singing also helps to immediately put into focus what the Poneys would later go on to lose: first when Linda began to take on the lion’s share of the lead vocals, and at the end, when she essentially became the sole Poney.

All this is not to say that Ronstadt doesn’t reveal her incredible talents on The Stone Poneys. Her soulful rendition of Fred Neil’s “Just A Little Bit of Rain” is a stunner, and she really tears the roof off “Orion,” a cut which foreshadows her rock and roll future while also driving home her companions songwriting abilities. On the second side of the record, Edwards and Ronstadt take a duet on the blue, drifting “The Train and the River,” before borrowing the Rising Sons’ arrangement of Tom Campbell and Linda Albertano’s classic “2:10 Train” to bonnie effect.

Raven Records has reissued The Stone Poneys alongside the band’s second album, Evergreen, which contains their famous recording of Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum,” as well as a few key tracks from the final, Linda-centric Poneys record. I’d say this is definitely a collection to look into, especially if you aren’t yet willing to hunt down all three records on vinyl.

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“Sweet Summer Blue & Gold”

:D Reissue | 2008 | Raven | buy here ]
:) Original | 1967 | Capitol | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Hardwater “Hardwater”

These pages are overflowing with tales of bands that came within a whisker of making it big in the halcyon years of rock: bands for which talent, originality and a fine first album wasn’t enough to propel them into the commercial big-time and which subsequently fell by the wayside. Few came closer than Hardwater; only their timing probably let them down.

Their back pedigree was immaculate; guitarist Richard Fifield and bassist Robert McLerran had been members of the Astronauts, the Boulder-based surf outfit who’d released a string of nationally successful singles and albums on RCA between 1962 and 1968 and garnered an enthusiastic following in Japan. Relocating to LA and recruiting full-blooded Apache drummer Tony Murillo and bilingual guitarist Peter “Pedro” Wyant, they were signed rapidly to Capitol as Hardwater – the name being hippie argot for ice – assigned to illustrious house producer David Axelrod and directed to record in Capitol’s famed Records Tower studios with all its near-limitless resources. Axelrod was also a top-notch composer and arranger, and Hardwater’s situation could be compared to a new but well-qualified UK outfit being assigned to George Martin and recorded at Abbey Road. Success seemed inevitable.

There was no distinctive lead singer, but effortless three-part harmonies carried the songs which were comparable with those of Buffalo Springfield and Moby Grape, although the band members themselves claimed to have been heavily influenced by Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. In other words, definitive West Coast folk/country/acid rock that couldn’t have come from any other area or any other era. Liberally sprinkled over the tight, taut rhythm tracks was Wyant’s remarkable lead guitar, whose unique style juxtaposed rippling Eastern raga scales with aching pedal steel simulations via a volume swell. His sound was and remains revolutionary, especially since he favoured an unfashionable hollowbody Fender Coronado guitar with low-powered DeArmond pickups. The rockin’ leadoff medley “My Time / Take A Long Look” sets out the store, while the subsequent tracks vary from the unassuming folk-rock of “City Sidewalks”, and the good-timey two-step of “Plate Of My Fare” built around a sinuous Wyant guitar riff, through the dreamy acid-folk of “Monday” and the complex, contrapuntal acoustic guitars of “To Nowhere” to the funky finisher “Good Luck” with its popping bass and eleventh chords reminiscent of the Fabs’ “Taxman”.

No problems in the execution, then, and the album should have been a biggie. The problem was that Capitol had signed and recorded a glut of top-quality acts around that time, notably the Band and the Steve Miller Band, and subsequent record label effort was overwhelmingly directed towards these other acts. Hardwater’s eponymous debut was six months delayed in release, there was no record company-sponsored tour, and like so many other praiseworthy offerings in those prolific days it failed to sell and duly disappeared, the disillusioned band fragmenting. Of its members, Wyant had the most high-profile subsequent career, having impressed Axelrod sufficiently to appoint him his house guitarist and feature him on Axelrod’s own highly-successful quasi-orchestral recordings and on the ersatz Electric Prunes’ infamous Mass In F Minor. He has since enjoyed a long and varied career whose details can be found at his website.

The CD reissue on Cherry Red’s subsidiary Tune In is brief but excellent, augmenting the original running order of around thirty minutes with the very different re-recording for a projected single of “Plate Of My Fare”. Axelrod’s production standards were as good as it got at the time and still sound good today if you don’t mind the sweeping stereo separation fashionable back then, with guitars and drums widely spaced across the plane. The accompanying booklet with historical perspective by Wyant is exemplary.

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“Medley: My Time / Take a Long Look”

:D Reissue | 2011 | Tune In | buy here ]
:) Original | 1968 | Capitol | search ebay ]

Cowboy “5’ll Getcha Ten”

Cowboy were a country-rock group usually remembered for their associations (The Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton) rather than the fine body of music they produced in the early 70s. 5’ll Getcha Ten was Cowboy’s second LP, released by the Capricorn label in 1971.  Never released on cd, this is arguably Cowboy’s finest moment and indeed one of the best forgotten country-rock albums from the late 60s/early 70s.  It’s worth mentioning that one of Cowboy’s key members, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Tommy Talton was formerly in the great Florida garage rock group We The People.  Scott Boyer, Cowboy’s other key member, played guitar and co-wrote many of group’s songs.

Fans of Crazy Horse, Poco, and CSNY will want to own this fine album.  Cowboy’s sound is similar to Poco but instead of rocking out Talton and Boyer prefer a more relaxed, introspective back porch sound.  Only on the excellent “Seven Four Tune” does Cowboy truly let loose and rock out.  Every track on 5’ll Getcha Ten features transcendent harmonies (perhaps the group’s greatest asset), terrific songwriting, and strong musicianship – these boys can play.  If it’s any consolation as to the quality of the music here, Eric Clapton chose to cover Cowboy’s bluesy country-folk number “Please Be With Me” on his classic 461 Ocean Boulevard album.  Other great tracks include an upbeat number with electric sitar titled “Right On Friend,” the introspective “Innocence Song,” and “The Wonder,” a superb track that recalls Crazy Horse circa 1971.   Duane Allman playing dobro/guitar on 5’ll Getcha Ten adds a little star power and credibility to the proceedings but don’t let this be the reason you purchase this album (vinyl originals can still be found for cheap!). In their own right, Cowboy were a talented group of musicians who made great music.  5’ll Getcha Ten is a classic roots rock album that deserves a lavish LP or cd reissue.  Also, Cowboy’s debut, Reach For The Sky and their 1974 album, Boyer & Talton are great records worth seeking out.

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“The Wonder”

:) Original | 1971 | Capricorn | search ebay ]

Dion “Wonder Where I’m Bound”

Dion DiMucci may not be a name often associated with underground rock and roll. As the New York teen behind such inner city oldies as “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue,” Dion is usually branded as representative of the slick, early-1960s pop sound that came to replace teenagers’ grittier rock and roll heroes like Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry. Through the years, however, the singer has shown himself a cat of many clothes, whether through rediscovering life as a soft-rock songwriter in the early 1970s or acting muse to Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound later in the decade.

DiMucci’s peak, however, was probably the most obscured era of his multifaceted career. In the mid-to-late-1960s the singer underwent a serious bout of heroin addiction that temporarily silenced his music and sent him spiraling in search of direction. Sobriety would find him with a hit recording of Dick Holler’s topical “Abraham, Martin and John” in 1968, but in the interim Dion recorded off-and-on with legendary Columbia producer Tom Wilson, backed by a razor-sharp band dubbed The Wanderers. The results of these sessions were not to see the light of day until 1969, when they were released among assorted outtakes from earlier in the decade in order to capitalize on the success of “Abraham, Martin and John”. The result was the slapdash collection Wonder Where I’m Bound, which is at once the most chaotic and most exciting album in Dion’s discography.

Wonder Where I’m Bound makes no secret of its piecemeal construction, careening from panoramic, harmony-drenched folk-rock to backwoods country blues to old unreleased Belmonts-era doo-wop. Somehow, though, it all works. In fact, I daresay that had this album had been purposely constructed in this way, it would have been something of a masterstroke. DiMucci’s beautiful voice cuts through the many styles of attack and imbues every cut with a sense of desperate yearning, while the exploration of genres is actually quite in tune with the era’s sense of Sergeant Pepper eccentricity.

The record’s title track, penned by songwriter Tom Paxton, should have been the piece to return Dion to the radio. The recording has everything the song demands, and while the arrangement is dense, it is not overdone. Meanwhile, DiMucci’s own “Now” is vintage folk-rock at its most righteous, featuring a latter-day Everly Brothers arrangement and scratchy guitars. Both this cut and later “Wake Up, Baby” prove that Dion was the real deal, as a songwriter as well as a performer.

The most startling revelation on Wonder Where I’m Bound, however is clearly Dion’s treatment of the blues standards “Southern Train,” “Seventh Son,” and “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” The story goes that Dion was first turned onto the blues in the early 1960s by the pre-war music of Robert Johnson, and it is obvious that since that point the man has gone back and done some serious listening. Each song is taken in a completely different direction, for while “Southern Train” is constructed around stripped-back bottleneck guitar and gutsy vocals, “Seventh Son” is layered deep with tremolo-soaked electric guitars and a heavy Electric Mud arrangement. It’s hard to believe this cat’s versatility. Set at the tail end of the record, the nimble piano work and vocal phrasing on “Baby, Please Don’t Go” even make it clear that DiMucci has been digging the genius jazz vamps of old Mose Allison.

This lost classic was just re-released in 2010 by Now Sounds Records, and if you have any inclination for 1960s rock and roll you probably owe it to yourself to locate a copy. The biggest wonder of all is how it has managed to stay so far off of people’s radars for so long.

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“The Seventh Son”

:D Reissue | 2010 | Now Sounds | buy here ]
:) Original | 1969 | Columbia | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Soundtrack to American Dreamer

During the post-production of Dennis Hopper’s surreal and unjustly-forgotten South American anti-imperialist western, The Last Movie (which would prove disastrous for his career upon release, yet go on to become a cult classic and one of Hopper’s own proudest achievements), the actor and director was the subject of a sort of loose, biographical documentary, filmed around his Taos, New Mexico home as he wandered the desert, got wasted, and philosophized about life (see tag line: “I’d rather die fighting than die getting fat”). American Dreamer would share in the fate of The Last Movie and quickly disappear into obscurity, but among the film’s remains lays a beautiful acoustic soundtrack, featuring original compositions courtesy of Hopper’s personal acquaintances, such as John Buck Wilkin and Chris Sikelianos, as well as better-known performers such as Gene Clark and gonzo-mime-band The Hello People.

The album itself is relatively short, as are the individual tracks of which it is composed. Gene Clark’s contributions may be the crown jewels of this collection, though they only consist of two pieces, each less than two minutes in length. His “Outlaw Song” is particularly powerful, a stark anthem of personal revolution against the “rational lines that all men draw.” The following number, a hushed performance of the country blues standard “Easy Rider” by Chris Sikelianos, is majestic American folk music in the best Jack Elliott tradition. You can hear Hopper and others laughing and interacting with Sikelianos in the background, giving this one that grace of intimacy that is so hard to find in recorded music.

John Buck Wilkin was a friend of Kris Kristofferson’s who was introduced to Hopper just prior to the filming of The Last Movie, in which he would appear and perform. He scores three songs here, which are basically hit-and-miss. “Screaming Metaphysical Blues” recounts the Last Movie expedition, and while it has some topical charm, it suffers from a case of weak songwriting. The driving “Look at Me, Mama” is much better, accompanied by some righteous picking and boasting a solid chorus. The record closes with a reading of Fred Neil’s “The Other Side of This Life” by The Abbey Road Singers, which is not some long-haired religious choir as one might expect from the name, but rather a heavy acoustic rock-and-roll ensemble, with a singer who vaguely reminds me of John Kay, of Steppenwolf fame.

Like the film which birthed it, the soundtrack to American Dreamer has never been re-released on any modern format, but the record is definitely worth tracking down if you’re into Gene Clark or even just eccentric American folk music. If you’re lucky the vinyl also includes a pretty wild fold-out poster of Dennis Hopper toting a rifle and a joint that’s almost worth the price of the album itself. Like they say, peace and love, right?

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“American Dreamer”

:) Original | 1971 | Mediarts | search ebay ]

Kaleidoscope (US) “When Scopes Collide”

Though it is generally written off as a failed reunion album, Kaleidoscope’s When Scopes Collide really does demand re-evaluation. Though the record was released six yearsafter Kaleidoscope’s disastrous swan song Bernice, this is not the work of a band that has lost its way. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that When Scopes Collide reveals a group that has not only gained a new lease on life, but has managed to reclaim some of the carefree, communal spirit that had, over time, become less and less apparent in their recorded output. Some of the credit here may be due to multi-instrumentalist Chris Darrow, who finally returns after having jumped ship in the wake of 1968’s A Beacon From Mars.

Some folks have criticized this album as being too “rock and roll,” presumably having hoped for a half hour of lysergic middle-eastern breakdowns. Might I remind these unfortunate listeners, however, that good-old-fashioned rock and roll was always a major part of the Kaleidoscope sound and, though their legend may have been cemented through their innovative use of eastern instruments and rhythms, their more exotic numbers were always outnumbered by their ventures into traditional American musical forms. The band’s strength has always lain in their willingness to cross-pollinate between east and west, whether by laying down whirring shahnai lines across an old Coasters novelty hit like “Little Egypt,” or arranging “Ghost Riders In the Sky” around a haunting oud and lap-steel duet.

Having said all that, however, I will admit that the most transcendent moment on this record does in fact come on the cut with the strongest middle-eastern influence. Solomon Feldthouse’s “It’s Love You’re After” is a hazy, nine-minute tapestry of saz, oud, kemenche, piano, doumbag, violin, gudulka and steel guitar. This may very well be one of the band’s great masterpieces; an epic descendant of earlier Kaleidoscope classics such as “Egyptian Gardens” and “Lie To Me.” Not even an awkward attempt at a percussion solo halfway through is able to dampen the magic.

This record was originally released on Michael Nesmith’s Pacific Arts Records, but in 2005 the German roots-music label Taxim reissued both When Scopes Collide and Kaleidoscope’s second reunion effort, Greetings From Kartoonistan…We Ain’t Dead Yet. It would appear that both are still available, though those of you in the Americas are probably going to have to fork over a little extra in shipping. It’s more than worth it, though; if you dug the first few Kaleidoscope records there’s a good chance you’ll find something to enjoy in this collection. Keep your mind open.

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“So Long”

:D Reissue | 2005 | Taxim | buy here ]
:) Original | 1976 | Pacific Arts | search ebay ]

The Tree People “Human Voices”

Human Voices, the Tree People’s second album from 1984, is a solid dose of American folk-rock.  The group hailed from Eugene Oregon, releasing their debut LP in 1979.  Human Voices was a limited edition cassette only release, of which only 300 copies were pressed.  Stephen Cohen (guitar and voice), Jeff Stier (recorder, flue, bells and percussion) and Denis Mochary (drums) recorded the album at The Recording Arts Center.  It’s an album that sounds wonderfully out of step with the post-punk times.

Allmusic.com refers to the album as a “mini gem” while psychedelicfolk.com notes that Human Voices is “a very strong album, that should be regarded as a classic for the genre.”  A few songs, such as the album opening title track, have an English folk influence (early 70s) but the rest of this LP is original American folk/folk-rock music.  Highlights include “Grandfather,” a moody singer-songwriter number, “Thomas,” a great, ahead of its time indie sounding composition, the freeform “If That’s Entertainment” and a superb folk instrumental titled “Opus III,” which delves into spacy soundscapes.  Human Voices is evenly divided between instrumentals and vocal arrangements.

Guerssen Records, a reissue company based in Spain, reissued this very impressive title on vinyl and cd – it’s well worth a spin and highly recommend to those who are into freakier folk sounds.

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“Thomas”

:) Reissue | 2009 | Guerssen Records | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2009 | Guerssen Records | get it here ]