Archive for the ‘ RnB ’ Category

Timebox “Beggin'”

You could say Timebox got a pretty fair deal out of life when compared to other bands we feature here in these pages.  They had a top 40 hit with the Four Seasons’ “Beggin’,” are represented by two terrific cd reissues and their story has been told countless times by all the serious rock n roll magazines/fanzines (Record Collector, Mojo, Shindig, and Ugly Things).   Timebox’s roots lay in the Take 5, a group who came from Southport, England (near Liverpool) and featured talented drummer/guitarist/vibraphonist Peter (Ollie) Halsall.

The group’s classic lineup didn’t really stabilize until early 1968.  By that time Timebox looked something like this: Mike Patto (lead vocals), Ollie Halsall (guitar, vibes and vocals), Chris Holmes (keyboards), Clive Griffiths (bass), and John Halsey (drums).  Prior to these personnel shifts Timbox had released three 45s in 1967.  Piccadilly issued the first two 45s which were largely instrumental efforts but in the cheerful Swingin’ London style.  The A-side of the first 45, “I’ll Always Love You,” was an excellent pop-soul number, similar in style to the early Action or Small Faces – in other words real mod pop.  In late 67 the group switched over to Deram and released one of the jewels in their crown, a superb cover of Tim Hardin’s “Don’t Make Promises” backed by the soulful acid pop of “Walking Through The Streets Of My Mind.”  Timebox’s version of “Don’t Make Promises” was rather special in that Ollie Halsall played sitar and vibes; the song was dramatically rehauled into something imaginative.  The next single was Timebox’s run at the big time.  “Beggin'” topped out at 38, their highest chart entry by some distance but it was again, a great remake of the Four Seasons classic.

By this time the Patto/Halsall songwriting partnership had began to solidify into something productive.  The group began crafting records that were both experimental but also radio friendly.  Timebox needed a hit 45 for survival.  Their next Deram release was a baroque soul pop number titled “Girl, Don’t Make Me Wait.”  While this track was respectable enough,  it was the brilliant, swirling psychedelia of the B-side that caught my attention most.  “Gone Is The Sad Man” is comparable to a really good track off the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour: dense, tripped out psych rock.  This single stiffed as did Timebox’s next two Deram releases.  The best of these were “Baked Jam Roll In Your Eye/Poor Little Heartbreaker.”  The A-side was another slice of skewed psychedelia that recounts the tale of two dozen martians who are led by Galloping Klaus (a German martian?).  It’s flip side edged comfortably toward classic rock and is a fine slice of metallic angst.

After so many failures Timebox finally broke up around 1969/1970.  Out of the ashes of Timebox came Patto, the great progressive rock outfit formed by Mike Patto and Ollie Halsall.  Timebox is usually remembered as a table setter for Patto, who would release 3 classic progressive LPs in the early 70s.  RPM’s Beggin’ (2008-) collects all Timebox’s 45s (including a rare French release) and much of the Moose On The Loose sessions.  These sessions were recorded in 1968/1969 for what would have been a projected Timebox album.  The group recorded about a dozen tracks at Morgan Studios in Willesden.  Decca heard the results and hated it.  They pulled out, leaving this unheard gem in the vaults for many years.   To my ears Moose On The Loose would have been a fascinating album, close in sound to Traffic’s self-titled 2nd LP.  There’s catchy psych pop (“Promises,” “Tree House,” and “Barnabus Swine”), effective Traffic-like forays into roots rock (“Love The Girl,” “Country Dan and City Lil,” and “Stay There”) and blazing hard rock (“Black Dog”) that point to the future direction Patto and Halsall would take with their progressive outfit.  These recordings highlight Patto’s soulful vocal approach and Ollie Halsall’s wizardry on guitar and vibes .  The Moose On The Loose tracks deliver the goods and prove once and for all that Timebox was one of England’s great lost pop groups.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Walking Through The Streets Of My Mind”

:D CD Anthology | 2008 | RPM | buy at amazon ]

Fleetwood Mac “Then Play On”

At the time of its release an air of mystery pervaded the third studio album proper from Fleetwood Mac. The new, sombre product displayed a seemingly inexplicable change of direction from the preceding high-octane blues-fuelled style. The previously irrepressible Jeremy Spencer is totally absent from the recordings apart from one or two alleged (and inaudible) background piano noodlings, though he appears smiling broadly in the band’s back cover picture. The diminution of Peter Green’s dominance, already clear from the second album, is evinced even further here. Shouldering the new responsibilities is unknown wunderkind guitarist Danny Kirwan, given an unprecedented five (originally seven, but two deleted to allow retrospective inclusion of Green’s double-sided single “Oh Well”) of the individual songwriting credits.

After the rollicking ebullience of the earlier records, the music of Then Play On is often spare and bleak, largely instrumental and, in the case of Green’s compositions, world-wearily sad, both musically and lyrically; the seeds of his later disillusionment, depression and eventual schizophrenia can be clearly heard here. His songs retain a blues flavour, but it’s more oblique, almost incidental. Kirwan’s compositions are more harmonically complex and somewhat more upbeat, but still wistful enough to gracefully complement Green’s songs. What’s most remarkable is the empathy between the two guitarists, who intertwine seamlessly, stylistically and melodically, with just Kirwan’s sharper tone, more pronounced vibrato and generally higher-register playing the difference. Green probably never found a more empathic performance partner, Kirwan a more accommodating mentor. Mick Fleetwood’s drumming is inventive and varied throughout whilst never being overbearing; John McVie’s bass work metronomically understated as ever. For me the highlights are Green’s multifaceted nine-minute masterpiece “Oh Well”, the energetic guitar jam “Searching For Madge” / “Fighting For Madge” which benefits from some fine, mildly lysergic studio editing, Kirwan’s delightful instrumental “My Dream” and Green’s almost unbearably downbeat closer “Before The Beginning”.

Retrospectively this can be seen to be one of the great transitional albums, marking the departure of one of rock’s guitar legends and the start of the first and longest of several turbulent periods for what would become one of rock’s institutions. The absence of the unpredictable Spencer is now thought to be due to a lack of enthusiasm for Green’s downer songs, a theory supported by his making a solo album at the same time . . . to which the other Mac members all contributed. Kirwan’s sudden prominence in the band might have been due at least in part to a romantic attraction on the part of Green, who nicknamed him “young eyes”. And Green’s now universally known psychiatric problems explain his reducing control and ensuing exit. The historical context isn’t necessary to appreciate this haunting, introspective album, but it helps.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“My Dream”

:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Reprise | search ebay ]

Tommy James “Christian of the World”

An unlikely classic if you judge by the sleeve, “Christian of the World” is a sweet slab of gospel rock from the one and only Tommy James. Tommy James and the Shondells are an obsession-worthy group, with a slew of memorable hits to their name. I beg you to listen closer next time “Hanky Panky” comes up on oldies radio – it’s one of the nastier garage beats I’ve heard, though it still hit number one, such a killer track. A string of succeeding uptempo hits marred the group with a “bubblegum” label that Tommy hated, urging him to infuse psychedelic sounds into classics like “Crimson and Clover.” His first two solo records continue seamlessly in the marvelous vintage sound of the Shondells.

Apart from Tommy’s brilliant vocals, it’s the production that draws me in on these records. “Adrienne,” the bass is right in your face, with clacky guitars and percussion beefing up the background. This was recorded in 1971 but still has the magic ‘oldies’ sound. Uplifting rhythm and blues grooves like “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “Church Street Soul Revival” will appeal on the first listen. The classic driving Shondells beat that made “I Think We’re Alone Now” a hit takes hold on “Sail A Happy Ship.”  But “Dragging The Line” would become Tommy’s biggest solo hit, for obvious reasons.

I’m not bothered by the religious bent. God is one of the main reasons for song. It’s devotion, sorrow, fear, faith, and madness all wrapped up in one topic. Tommy James is the master craftsman of pop. I’m off on a Shondells bender.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Adrienne”

:D 2fer | autographed by Tommy James | @tommyjames.com ]

Don Covay “The House of Blue Lights”

Released in 1969, The House of Blue Lights was Don Covay’s bold, adventurous attempt to reach the underground audience.  Here Covay is backed by the white-hot Jefferson Lemon Blues Band, credited on the album jacket.  Prior to this LP Don Covay released two of the finest soul/pop albums of the 60’s, Mercy! and See-Saw.

The House of Blue Lights is much different than what came before.  Most of the record is grounded in electrified country-blues; a deep Southern, swampy aura dominates the proceedings.  No soul man of the time tried any blues like this before: raw, anguished and lived-in with lots of twangy guitar solos for good measure.   A few of the numbers, namely the title cut parts 1 & 2, maintain a moody organ-led soul sound that’s highlighted by light sitar flourishes.  These lengthy tracks are clear standouts but other cuts still have the power to stun and amaze.   In the beginning “Mad Dog Blues” hit me like a ton of bricks.  This tune begins with Covay (and band) barking like dogs in heat.  It also features a fantastic flute solo and stinging lead guitar work; play this one LOUD for best results.  “Four Women” is more of the same, Covay’s smooth, soulful vocals complimented by crunching electric guitars and a rocking beat.  Most of the album’s tracks are originals but a few covers are worth mentioning.  Consider the old country-blues standard “Key To The Highway,” Covay manages to breathe new life into this classic warhorse by adding muffled vocals and electric back-porch-blues guitar.

Although blues sounds dominate this set list, The House of Blue Lights is a varied listening experience that’s well paced.  Some tracks are accoustic country-blues (“Steady Roller”)  while others like “Shut Your Mouth” feature greasy blues harp, piano, pounding drum fills and complex song arrangements.   When listening to the great down-and-out “But I Forgive You” I can’t help but think of a young, bluesy Rolling Stones.  Bruce Eder summed it up best in his review of The House of Blue Lights on allmusic.com; “This album is not only a great record on its own terms, but it’s sort of a black parallel/precursor to a few blues-rock LPs by white artists that sold a hell of a lot more copies around the same time. Much of the album sounds like the sonic and spiritual blueprint for Let It Bleed and Exile on Main Street and parts of Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs.”

If a bit offbeat, The House of Blue Lights is one of Covay’s best albums.  I’ve seen other reviews refer to the LP as “odd” but I think it’s a wonderful, individual recording that’s seldom been equalled in the world of soul music.   The overall vibe of The House of Blue Lights is that of a great artist and tight band, blasting thru a powerful set of swampy blues rock on one of those hot, humid southern nights.   A true American classic.  SepiaTone reissued this album in 2002 but since then it’s been hard to come by.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Key To The Highway”

:D CD Reissue | 2002 | SepiaTone | at amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Atlantic | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Booker T. & the MG’s “In the Christmas Spirit”

In The Christmas Spirit

I love mining the cracks and depths of the rock era, hunting down lost or obscure gems, but I’m not about to put some rare junk or novelty crap on my Christmas mix. The holidays are a time for family entertainment and this jock aims to please the crowd. Mostly, I’m looking for classic tracks with the elusive “christmas sound,” that special magic that separates rushed covers of holiday standards from the true “christmas canon.”

Year after year, Booker T.’s In The Christmas Spirit is where it’s at. Famous as the legendary house band at Stax, the MG’s defined the sound of southern soul backing records for the likes of Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. Even likely the men behind some of the artists on Atlantic’s classic Soul Christmas, cutting classic grooves like Otis’s “Merry Christmas Baby.”

This collection of souled-up instrumentals hits the pocket for me, and it’s versatile as a party record or lite background music. Easily essential this time of year.

Other perfect holiday records to recommend include Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You, The Beach Boys Christmas Album, the original Soul Christmas, and Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Jingle Bells”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]

Q. What records are on your Christmas mix?

Tony Joe White “The Train I’m On”

The Train I'm On

Tony Joe White’s The Train I’m On is one of those records that is just too damn good to be kept a secret. Keeping real on what may be his finest moment, the LP is a sweet and languid roots rock triumph.

“I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby” is sparse and smooth, fitted with just enough details to keep your ears addicted to the feel—Elvis himself took this one to number 5. Like contemporaries Bobby CharlesLonnie MackDale Hawkins, and Link Wray, Tony Joe was one of those swamp-rockers digging up roots in the 70s. On Train, his second album for Warner Bros, the production is stripped though not to the bone. A full band arrangement fills up just about every track, but thankfully you can always hear the spine. Harmonica, piano, and organ assist on dynamic “The Family” and raucous percussion with hyperactive jaw harp push “Beouf River Road” where tunes like “Sidewalk Hobo” need little more than a guitar and that voice. The slightly absurd “Even Trolls Love Rock And Roll” approaches some grimy alley-funk, while “As The Crow Flies” and “300 Pounds of Hongry” are as muddy as I’ll ever need.

It’s true “Polk Salad Annie,” TJW’s huge 1969 hit, kept the paychecks coming in, but this kind of record is how Tony Joe ought to be celebrated.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby”

:D CD Reissue | 2002 | Sepia Tone | at amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1972 | Warner | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

uReview: The White Album

White Album

12345678910 (74 votes, average: 8.92 out of 10)
Loading...

Okay, The Beatles are everywhere again and we haven’t got a single post about them anywhere. Here’s why. When I list my top five bands, I usually just ignore these guys. Like an automatic number 1. “Besides the Beatles.” Of course, no contest.

That said. I’ve never had a strong opinion on the White Album. Very curious to hear your thoughts. What’s your take? As Len wondered:

Flawed but indispensible masterpiece, or overlong self-indugent monument to a crumbling institution?

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | EMI | at amazon ]

Swamp Dogg “Total Destruction To Your Mind”

Total Destruction to your Mind

One of the best underground/unsung soul albums I know of.  Prior to Total Destruction To Your Mind, Swamp Dogg had been recording music and releasing 45s since the 50s, under the name Jerry Williams (or Little Jerry Williams).  Frustrated by the lack of commercial success, Williams changed his name and persona and in 1970, unleashed Total Destruction To Your Mind on an unsuspecting world.  While those early Calico 45s are a fine musical legacy, the above album saw Swamp Dogg hit on something totally new: a very original brew of R&B, funk and rock n roll that still sounds fresh today. Without doubt he delivered a true soul classic.

Total Destruction To Your Mind was originally released by Canyon.  Swamp Dogg’s eccentric nature, blunt lyrics, and gruff vocals make it stand out from the commercial soul of the day.  His style is really individual and authentic, which makes drawing comparisons so difficult.  Think of a more eccentric Curtis Mayfield or a less lysergic Sly Stone with the occasional Stax horn arrangement – but even this description does the man no favors.  The title cut is a classic, probably one of Dogg’s best known numbers.  This track opens the LP and is best described as psychedelic soul rock, featuring wah wah, loud horns, funky guitar riffs, piano, and cryptic lyrics.  Also of note are the fine contributions from guitarist Jesse Carr and drummer Johnny Sandlin; they provide structure and sanity on this great chuggin’ funk rock gem. “Redneck” (written by Joe South) and the excellent “Sal-A-Faster” are similar funk numbers that feature great beats, classic horn arrangements, and controversial lyrics.  Other goodies are the Bob Dylan influenced “Synthetic World,” notable for its cerebral organ and the soulful, psychedelic worldplay of “Dust Your Head Color Red.”  The album closes most unusually with “Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe,” a great blues number that took me by surprise.  Swamp Dogg wrote 9 of the 12 songs featured on this LP.  Regarding the 3 covers; there are two great Joe South numbers which Swamp Dogg interprets brilliantly and then there’s “The World Beyond,” a killer soul ballad with nostalgic lyrics (written by Bobby Goldsboro).

Again, Total Destruction to Your Mind never gained any commmercial notoriety or widespread acceptance but this should in no way discourage you from buying the 1996 cd reissue (which also adds the excellent Rat On LP from 1971) by Swamp Dogg’s very own S.D.E.G. Records.  Swamp Dogg always did things his own way and thats what makes Total Destruction to Your Mind such a special release.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Sal-A-Faster”

:D CD Reissue | 2fer | 1996 | SDEG | amazon ]
;) MP3 Album | 2fer | download ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1970 | Canyon | ebay ]

uReview: Captain Beefheart “Trout Mask Replica”

Trout Mask Replica

12345678910 (43 votes, average: 8.56 out of 10)
Loading...

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Veteran’s Day Poppy”

:D CD Reissue | 1990 | Reprise | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Straight | at ebay ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Warner | at ebay ]

Taj Mahal “Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home”

First I must admit, I have never been a big fan of the blues. I love good songwriting, interesting chord progressions, and sparingly used solos – all things the blues mostly avoids. It’s this deficiency of mine that’s unjustly prevented me from discovering artists who successfully managed to fuse pop, rock, country, and soul with the blues and deliver music that could poke anybody’s sweet spot. Luckily, I’m currently loving this little gem from the incomparable Taj Mahal.\
\
It’s the title track’s delicate, sparse mood I can’t hear enough. Taj transforms the Monkees hit composed by Carole King and Gerry Goffin into a relaxed and gorgeous rural roamer – his soulful vox moving all over the miles-beyond-blues chord changes. And though Giant Step isn’t completely free from the old I-IV-V, just let the feedback harmonica moan from Give Your Woman What She Wants hook in you in, the toe-tapping Cajun feel to Need Somebody On Your Bond ride you home, and overpowered blast of Six Days On The Road stamp it down, then see who cares about changes anymore. Inventive production touches abound: the childlike piano tittering on Good Morning Little School Girl, metronomic banjo strumming on Farther on Down the Road (the only original song on the record and an instant classic at that). The final track, Bacon Fat, is a standard blues originally penned by The Band, and here a slow jam for everybody’s last licks.\
\
downhome grooves, a soothing mood, and plain fun record.\
Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar\

Giant Step

I ‘ve never been a huge blues student. I go for more complicated songwriting, interesting chord progressions, and short, snappy solos – things from which the blues typically stray. Until lately, this deficiency has unjustly prevented me from discovering artists who successfully managed to fuse pop, rock, country, or soul with the blues and deliver music that falls right in the sweet spot. Finally, and thankfully, I’m currently loving this little (giant) gem from the incomparable Taj Mahal.

Along with Ry Cooder, Taj was a founder of the legendary Rising Sons, and went on to release two stripped down delta-blues classics in 1968. Giant Step, released concurrently with a raw collection of solo recordings called De Ole Folks At Home in 1969, would be his third, and personal favorite to many.  It’s the title track’s delicate, sparse mood I can’t stuff in my head enough. Taj transforms the Monkees hit, composed by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, into a relaxed and gorgeous rural roamer – his muddy vox rolls all over the changes, miles beyond blues. And though Giant Step isn’t completely free of the old I-IV-V, just let the feedback harmonica moan from Give Your Woman What She Wants hook you in, the toe-tapping Cajun feel to You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond take you along, and overpowered drive of Six Days On The Road stamp it down, then see who cares about chord progressions anymore.

The most fun comes from inventive production touches: childish piano tittering on Good Morning Little School Girl, metronomic banjo rapping on Farther On Down The Road (one of two originals on the record and an easy classic), ace country guitar leads all throughout provided by Jesse Ed Davis, here accompanying Taj for the third and final record before embarking on his own solo career (releasing three solid records and sessioning with plenty of the greats). The final track, Bacon Fat, is a pretty standard blues originally penned by The Band, and here mostly a drawn out jam affording everbody last licks.

The album is actually 2 in 1, accompanied with De Ole Folks At Home, an acoustic solo set with Taj providing old-time steel-body slide picking, clawhammer banjo, harp, and hambone on traditional and classic numbers like Cluck Old Hen and Fishing Blues, as well as several originals. It’s like pulling up a hot seat on Taj’s front porch, who would pass? An excellent pairing, this record is essential on its own and along with Giant Step you can’t refuse. Downhome grooves, raw authentic performances, a plain fun record that got me rethinking the blues. “Take a giant step outside your mind.”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Take A Giant Step”

:D CD Reissue | 2003 | MSI | 2fer | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1969 | Columbia | search ebay ]
Spotify link | listen ]