Posts Tagged ‘ 1965 ’

The Roosters “All Of Our Days”

All Of Our Days

This Westchester, CA group released just three singles in the mid 60s.  The last single, released in 1967, is a disappointment (mediocre sunshine pop) in light of what came before: two of the best chiming guitar folk-rock singles of the 60s.

On these 45s the lyrics are above average, the vocals strongly recall Roger McGuinn, and the band plays with an exciting garage band energy.  ”One of These Days” (Progressive Sounds of America label – 1965) is perhaps their best known single and a classic but the flip “You Gotta Run,” a hybrid of Byrdsian folk-rock and British Invasion pop, is also a winner.  Their next single, released in 1966, was the excellent “Rosebush” (Enith label)  backed by another fine, hard hitting B-side, “Ain’t Gonna Cry Anymore.”

It’s said that the Roosters were headed by lead guitarist and head songwriter Tim Ward and vocalist Ray Mangigian.  Before the Roosters, Tim Ward had played in the Avengers and then a bit later in the Five More.  In 1965, the Five More released a fine surf instrumental (“Avalanche”) backed by the raving, Mersey influenced “I’m No Good.”

All Of Our Days collects all of the above tracks plus the Roosters 1966 Gold Star Studio sessions.  Thankfully, these tracks measure up to their official 45s.  ”She Sends Me,” a dark, minor key folk-rocker is one of their finest songs while “Help Me Please” and “Deep Inside” explode with enthusiasm and strong pop hooks.  This compilation, released in both vinyl and cd format by Break-A-Way Records  is better than most “real” garage albums as it’s a strong listen all the way through.

mp3: Rosebush
mp3: She sends me

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2011 | Breakaway | search ebay ]

PODCAST 29 Garage,Psych,Folk-Rock

I Will Go  - The Beau Brummels (1965)
You Gotta Run - The Roosters  (1966)
Song of a Gypsy – Damon (1969)
Invisible People - Hamilton Streetcar (1968)
Walkin’ ShoesThe Trolls (1964)
The Losing Game - The Five Americans (1966)
Thesis – The Penny Arkade (1968)
SwimThe Penny Arkade  (1968?)

Do I Love You - Powder (1968)
Wanting YouPaul Revere & the Raiders (1967)
Mother Nature – Father EarthThe Music Machine (1969)
Merry Go RoundReggie King (1969)
So Now You Know Who You Are - Peter Lindahl (1970?)
Think of the Good Times - The Stumps (with the Grodes)  (1967)
Secret Police - The Belfast Gypsies (1966)

Download: Podcast29.mp3
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The Stained Glass “A Scene In-Between 1965-1967″

stainedglass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grateful Dead “Birth of the Dead”

birthofthedead

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

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

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

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

mp3: Mindbender
mp3: One Kind Favor

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

The Poor “Help The Poor”

Eagles may have earned themselves a reputation for taking late 1960s country rock and turning it into slick, corporate drivel, but that doesn’t change the fact that the band’s early members have some solid histories in underground rock and roll. Just check Bernie Leadon’s much-lauded work with The Flying Burrito Brothers, Dillard & Clark, and Hearts and Flowers (and that’s one horribly abbreviated list) for a glimpse. One of the least explored Eagles histories, however, is that of bass player Randy Meisner. Not only did Meisner work high-profile stints with Poco and the Stone Canyon Band, but he also served time in a number of far-lesser-known mid-sixties garage bands, such as The Poor, The Esquires, and The Soul Survivors, all of whose recordings have been assembled by Sound City Music on 2003′s rather forgotten Help the Poor.

If the Eagles references have you frightened, fear not: Help the Poor is solid psychedelic garage rock, about as far removed from Meisner’s later band’s output as you can get. From the chiming folk-rock of “Hung Up On Losing” to the crashing psychedelia of Tom Shipley’s “She’s Got the Time, She’s Got the Changes,” this is a platter full of strong songwriting, sharp harmonies, and adventurous arrangements. These guys knew what they were doing, taking cues from west-coast combos like The Byrds and The Association and adding a hefty dose of sonic bite. If there’s any complaint to be made here it’s that this anthology is rather top-heavy: the first half-dozen cuts are absolutely phenomenal could-have-been-hit-singles, while the remainder (with the exception of the aforementioned “She’s Got the Changes,” which is actually one of my favorite pieces here) tend to be a little less memorable.

As is always the case with a comprehensive anthology spanning two or three different bands, you are bound to get some musical anomalies. The choogling surf-rock of “The Prophet” (the only cut we get from Meisner’s short-lived Esquires) is Help the Poor‘s case-in-point, featuring a booming introduction and awkwardly overdubbed applause which mar an otherwise righteous Morricone flavored instrumental. The album as a whole remains an exciting listen, however, and like all successful compilations leaves the attuned listener hungry for more. Too bad this fifteen-track collection looks to be all we get – another should-have-been from an era brimming with great sounds.

mp3: Come Back Baby
mp3: She’s Got the Time, She’s Got the Changes

:D Collection | 2000 | Sound City Music | buy here ]

Tandyn Almer “Along Comes Tandyn”

We recently lost another unsung genius from the cracks and crevices of 60s pop/psych. Tandyn Almer, who sadly passed in early 2013, would never become a household name, but you’ve definitely heard his work. Penning major tunes like “Along Comes Mary” for the Association, “Sail on Sailor” and “Marcella” for the Beach Boys, and countless other psych-tinged gems, Almer left behind a distinguished trail of well-crafted compositions. Luckily, and ironically (as I’m sure he would have enjoyed to see its official release), we have gained a new trove of lost work in Along Comes Tandyn, a collection of Almer’s demos from 1965-1966.

Originally written and recorded for Davon music, a small number of acetates labeled “The New Songs of Tandyn Almer” was circulated in order to shop his tunes to other recording artists. While some acts like The Sure Cure and Curt Boettcher’s The Ballroom took the bait, most of these tracks have remained unheard. The sound is definitely demo quality (all the better), the band generally led by a clangy electric guitar and sprinkled with bits of piano and harpsichord. The vocals soar with typical 60s harmony, the lyrics quite often along the same vein. You can tell Almer was a real musician’s musician, his tunes never compromise, always taking an unexpected turn and often for something quite complicated. Take a listen to the surprisingly hip “Everytime I Take You Back To Me” and just try to follow the changes; or check the classical piano work on “There’s Gotta Be a Way.” Even “Along Comes Mary” (not included here) ducks and weaves at every chance, delivering it’s punch where you’d least expect it.

Some of Almer’s other happenings of note include an interview in Leonard Bernstein’s Inside Pop – The Rock Revolution (a “serious” investigation into pop’s emergence as an art form), as well as a short-lived best friendship with Brian Wilson, allegedly ending in an enstranging three-way.  While not exactly loaded with clear winners (Face Down in the Mud” is a downright weirdo blues offering that would sound at home on FZ’s Only in it for the Money and some tracks sound a bit like psychedelic filler), Along Comes Tandyn is still an excellent comp of lost pop-psych with a satisfying garage sound. Essential for fans of complex pop, the full package includes excellent liners (with lots of information provided by Tandyn himself) and will turn anyone into a hardcore Tandyn fan. Count me a Fandyn.

mp3: You Turn Me Around
mp3: Everytime I Take You Back To Me

:) LP | 2013 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed | amazon ]
:D CD | 2013 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed | amazon ]

Les Fleur De Lys “Reflections”

As Britain’s “other” major Atlantic seaport, Southampton might have been expected to produce a stream of pop and rock successes to rival Liverpool during the Golden Years, but it didn’t happen. Probably the highest-profile outfit to emerge from the south coast seaport during this period was Les Fleur De Lys, certainly the only such with a grammatically-incorrect French name. Like their near-neighbours, Brighton’s Mike Stuart Span, they enjoyed a chequered history involving half–dozen lineups, dabbling in half-a-dozen genres, sporadically releasing a dozen or so singles and finally fragmenting in frustration after half-a-dozen years (1964-1970). Again like the Span, they never contrived to issue an album in their lifetime, but the present CD is a compendium of all their  singles from their earliest Beat Boom days through their freakbeat, blue-eyed soul, harmony-pop, psychedelic and nascent prog-rock phases. Their legacy remains a handful of classic freakbeat and psych A-sides, and their other main claim to fame is as a launch pad for guitarist Bryn Haworth’s subsequent career; he would morph into perhaps Britain’s finest electric slide player and thence become a doyen of Christian rock music in which field he remains very active.

The Fleurs could in fact boast some pretty substantial musicianship throughout their various incarnations. Drummer Keith Guster, the only ever-present member, could hold down a metronomic funky beat whilst bassist Gordon Haskell, who would move on to King Crimson, had formidable rock and soul chops. Haworth’s predecessor Phil Sawyer was also a fine player in a reckless Jeff Beck style, whilst Haworth himself boasted a fluid bluesy technique and a distinctive, piercing Stratocaster/AC30 sound. They were a top live draw around Swinging London, acting as backing band live and on disc for singer Sharon Tandy and supporting such esteemed and varied visiting headliners as the Beach Boys, Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin. In an attempt to break through chartwise they also recorded under various pseudonyms including Shyster, Waygood Ellis, Rupert’s People and Chocolate Frog (!). Several of the early singles were produced by one Jimmy Page, no less.

The twenty-four tracks of the present compilation include the A’s and B’s of all seven singles issued under their own name, the Tandy sides and all the sides released under the fake monikers. The early Beat-era stuff and the soul-based tracks are pretty disposable; the Fleurs were no Young Rascals, nor despite the presence of a couple of competent organists in the early lineups were they anyone’s Procul Harum. However the Page-produced freakbeat cover of Pete Townshend’s “Circles” and its follow-up “Mud In Your Eye” forefront Sawyer’s fine manic lead guitar licks, whilst “Gong With The Luminous Nose” and “Liar” are fine examples of Brit psychedia and guitar-led prog respectively with Haworth’s exemplary Hendrixoid fretwork to the fore. The two Sharon Tandy sides “Hold On” and “Daughter Of The Sun” are rip-roaring rockers, with the powerful backings complementing Tandy’s steely vocal and Haskell’s bass work on “Hold On” a revelation. On the rock and pop tracks the instrumentation and vocals are more than competent but the songwriting is passable at best and sometimes mediocre. The result is a fascinating 24-track collection of historical interest to Sixties rock completists, but which would have made a really good “best of” if reduced to sixteen cuts.

Originally issued on CD by Blueprint in 1996, the present Gonzo budget reissue has the same track listing but a different cover photo. The typo-strewn track listing and historical perspective in the booklet notes are not exactly academic masterpieces, but better ones can be found.

mp3: Circles (Instant Party)
mp3: Gong with the Luminous Nose

:D Compilation | 2010 | Gonzo | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

PODCAST 26 Garage,Pop

 

I Want to Hold Your Hand (1968-) – The Moving Sidewalks
Naughty Girl (1965/1966) – The Missing Links
Sad and Lonely and Blue (1966) – The Easybeats
I’m On Fire (1968-) – The Easybeats
Calm Me Down (1966) – The Human Expression

Her Face (1966/1967) – Steve Ellis and the Starfires
You Lied To Me Before (1966) – The Treez
You’re Too Young (1965) – The Vagrants
I’ll Come To You (1967) – The Elite
Gone To The Moon (1966) – The Savages
Out of the Question (1967 – from the Future LP) – The Seeds

Download: Podcast26.mp3
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Richard and Mimi Fariña “Reflections in a Crystal Wind”

Though not forgotten by any means, the unique and groundbreaking music of Mimi and Richard Fariña still remains distressingly under-appreciated. As the sands of time have gathered, the two have, in many ways, found their roles as musicians eclipsed by other aspects of their lives: namely, Mimi as Joan Baez’s little sister, and Dick as an iconic literary figure of the post-Beat generation. The fact that they were not only recording electric folk-rock before almost anybody else on the scene, but raga-influenced folk-rock at that, seems to be on a card relegated to the bottom of their deck. Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home may have predated the Fariñas’ debut album, Celebrations For A Grey Day, by a month, but it was Dick Fariña who had been actively asserting to the revival’s leading lights that American folk music was no good without a beat you could dance to. Hell, at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, the Fariñas were stomping out rainy day rock and roll several hours before Dylan’s electric set supposedly blew open the doors of the genre.

But enough frustrated backstory, because I think just digging the music will tell you all you really need to know. Eight months after dropping their extraordinary debut, the Fariñas released this record, Reflections In A Crystal Wind. Building on the white-lightning folk-rock-raga sound of Celebrations, this album establishes the two’s developed musical spirit while, at the same time, expanding the range of their repertoire considerably. Both Dick and Mimi are at the top of their games, both vocally and instrumentally, with Mimi especially starting to shine, such as on the swaying guitar and dulcimer duet “Miles,” her tribute to the Prince of Darkness. There are less instrumental showcases here than on the first album, but the two make up for it with a plethora of righteous songs. It’s difficult to choose highlights, but the ominous “Bold Marauder” and biting, anti-establishment “House of Un-American Blues Activity Dream” are nothing but stone-cold classics. You find lots of instances where an author’s talent fails to translate into songwriting talent and vice versa, but that is absolutely not the case here. The sharp wit and crystalline imagery of Dick’s literature is everywhere on Reflections, as he leaps effortlessly from rapid-fire satire to beautiful, lyrical evocations. Even the two’s attempt at a languid, junky blues (“Mainline Prosperity Blues”) comes up supernatural, with John Hammond and Bruce Langhorne digging in on harmonica and guitar, respectively.

Richard Fariña’s tragic death by motorcycle misadventure is well recounted (I’d recommend David Hadju’s Positively Fourth Street), cutting down a beautiful spirit whose artistic endeavors had only just set sail. Mimi would release the odds and ends compilation Memories the following year, which  has proven just as essential as everything else to two ever recorded. Vanguard Records has kept all of the Fariñas albums in print, and even put out a three-disc set of their complete recordings a while ago that is definitely a worthwhile investment, particularly as it includes nine live cuts culled from two of their three Newport appearances. Don’t let Mimi and Richard slip you by; with whole heart do I recommend their records as required listening.

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“House un-American Blues Activity Dream”

:D Reissue | 1995 | Vanguard | buy ]
:) Original | 1965 | Vanguard | search ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Sandy Bull “Inventions”

In a world full of musical copycats, where imitation is often regarded as the highest form of flattery, a musical artist as singular as Sandy Bull truly stands on his own. Born in New York City in 1941, Bull picked up the guitar at the age of 15 and first began performing at clubs and coffeehouses on the folk music circuit in Cambridge, Massachussets in the early 60s. Though he was only in his early 20s at the time, Bull had already adopted a distinctive yet subtle approach when it came to combining elements of different styles, ranging from jazz to raga to country and western to Arabic–Bull loved it all and mixed and matched styles and instruments in unique and challenging ways that often defy the listeners’ expectations. Although often, and understandably so, lumped in with visionary guitar poet-composers such as Takoma’s John Fahey and Leo Kottke, Bull was truly in a league of his own and his music has an exotic, smokey, almost acid-tinged vibe that doesn’t exactly sound like anything else out there. While not quite exactly psych-folk, Bull’s early output is quite possibly some of the weirdest folk music released in the guitar and banjo boom of the time. Bull was exploring radically altered tunings and transposing ragas to guitar when most guitarists his age were still trying to figure out the chords to Woody Guthrie tunes.

In 1965 Vanguard Records released Bull’s second solo record, Inventions. Inventions can easily be seen as the second half of an excellent pair of records that began with his first lp, Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo, which was released in 1963. Inventions is the perfect name for an album where Bull doesn’t so much cover other writers’ tunes, but completely re-imagines them–constructing a whole new world for the the songs to exist inside of and to be experienced within. Bull, a multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, and all-around musical artiste, covers tunes from sources as disparate as Chuck Berry (“Memphis, Tennessee”) and Bach (“Gavotta No. 2″). Along the way, he manages to lay down some killer riffs on the acoustic guitar, the banjo, the electric guitar and bass, and the Turkish oud–an instrument whose open, airy, exotic, and seductive tone he specializes in wielding with truly mesmerizing results. On several tracks he is accompanied by Billy Higgins–a highly lyrical and expressive drummer with an impressive track record that, at the time, had already included gigs with Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, the results are stunning to say the least, and make for some of the most evocative, emotional, and expressive music ever to be laid to tape.

Bull kicks it all off with “Blend 2,” a sequel of sorts to “Blend,” which appeared on Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo. On “Blend 2″ Bull and Higgins take the listener along for the ride as they travel to lands both east and west, north and south–combining riffs from different songs from all over the world in a sort of fluid free-form emotionally evocative expressionist piece. Elements of jazz and raga surface frequently, although “Blend 2″ is neither, as such it is a wonderful example of the kind of piece that only Bull seems to be able to construct and deliver in such an astonishing fashion. One moment the listener notices traces of an Ornette Coleman tune, the next moment Ali Akbar Khan, the next a Mike Seeger melody. “Blend 2″ certainly can be a challenging song to listen to as the tension slowly builds and releases and Bull and Higgins pick up their bag and move from one side of the world to the other. In many ways “Blend 2″ is a sort of test for the listener–if you can make it through, you’ll certainly love the rest of the record. Bull is, almost above all, an artist intent on challenge.

A discussion about Inventions simply wouldn’t be complete without mention of Bull’s version of the classic Luiz Bonfa tune “Manha de Carnival.” With the help of the most advanced multitrack recording technology available at the time Bull was able to accompany himself on several different instruments. Warm and gooey electric bass holds down the low end, and an acoustic guitar plays the chord changes while Bull delivers an astonishing performance, playing the melody on the oud. Seductive, humid, and airy, this incredibly evocative piece is one of Bull’s most effective. As if the idea to play this genre defining Brazilian Bossa Nova piece on the Middle Eastern oud wasn’t brilliant enough, Bull’s performance magically guides the listener to lands yet undiscovered.

Bull’s version of the Chuck Berry classic “Memphis, Tennessee” takes the listener straight to the swamps of the southern bayou. Here the listener is treated to another wonderfully expressive performance where Bull, along with help of Higgins, seems to extract the most interesting ingredients of the song and reinsert them in a distilled form. Never content to stay in one place for too long, Bull and Higgins travel east for portions of the song, using raga inspired elements to give the bluesy tune an exotic feel. It was another genius move on Bull’s part to blend these two approaches together, as the true origins of the pentatonic scale–which Blues and Rock n’ Roll are both largely based on–originally made its way to West Africa from India.

Sadly, even as Fahey and company were gaining attention for their American Primitive compositions, Bull languished in obscurity for his entire career. He managed to release only two more albums, 1969′s E Pluribus Unum and 1972′s Demolition Derby, before disappearing for many years into the horrors of addiction–barely returning to perform the occasional show. In the 1990′s he resurfaced in Nashville, where he lived until his passing in 2001, releasing a small handful of albums on the Timeless Recording Society label. Those interested to learn more about Bull would do well to check out the excellent documentary, “No Deposit, No Return Blues.” There’s no doubt that Bull was quite a complicated artist; “Inventions” stands not only as Bull’s finest hour, but as an excellent introduction to the man and his music.

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“Memphis, Tennessee”

:) Original | 1965 | Vanguard | search ]
:D Reissue | 2009 | Sutro Park | buy ]