Posts Tagged ‘ 1965 ’

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 ]

The Liverbirds “Star Club Show 4”

“Girls with guitars / What’s the world coming to?” sang Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1993, with her Rickenbacker 620 clutched firmly to her bosom and her tongue firmly in her cheek. Since the emancipating mid-70s influence of punk, women have been free to pick up electric guitars and emulate, or even outperform, their male counterparts, either as solo virtuosi (Bonnie Raitt, Rosie Flores) or in all-female bands (the Slits, the Bangles). How different it all was back in the sixties! Ever since the arrival of the Stratocaster back in ’54 the electric axe had garnered a near-universal image as a phallic symbol, culminating in the onstage antics of Hendrix, Page, Ted Nugent and Marc Bolan. As a matter of course, only men played the electric guitar and bass, and indeed the drum kit; a few lady folksingers got to pick melodiously at an acoustic, but during the Beat Era and the ensuing Golden Age Of Rock the idea of females seriously picking up the men’s toys and running with them was almost unthinkable. What about Fender bassist Megan Davies with the Applejacks, or drummer Honey Lantree with the Honeycombs, you ask? OK, they turned a few heads on Ready Steady Go, but they were almost universally dismissed as novelties.

It was with some surprise, then, that I discovered the Liverbirds, a fully-fledged all-female Beat band from Liverpool who came together as early as 1962, were regulars at the Cavern, opened for the Rolling Stones several times in late ’63, spent two years on the infamous Hamburg circuit, and despite a forecast to the contrary by John Lennon (“All-girl outfits can’t last”) stayed together for six years, finally bowing out after a tour of Japan. Nothing remotely folky about these ladies; they elected to play an abrasive brand of R’n’B with all the spiky garage-band pizzazz of the early Stones or Pretty Things, whilst coming onstage in masculine-cut waistcoat suits and frilled shirts for all the world like a female Kinks. Their enduring lineup featured Pam Birch on lead vocal and rhythm guitar, Valerie Gell on lead guitar, Mary McGlory on bass and Sylvia Saunders on kit, and their recorded legacy reveals that they all had real chops.

Beyond cosmopolitan Liverpool, the girls’ reception by conservative UK audiences and sceptical record company A&R men proved predictably underwhelming. However, when invited to work in Germany by Star-Club owner Manfred Weissleder early in 1964 they immediately wowed the famously indulgent Reeperbahn audiences with their energetic, high-volume set of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley covers, earning the nickname “die Weiblichen Beatles” – “the female Beatles”. As an inducement to a second tour, Weissleder offered to record them on his recently-incepted label; their recording career on Star-Club would eventually stretch to four singles and two albums. German chart entries and TV appearances followed, and the girls toured extensively there and in Denmark and Switzerland, even once sharing a bill with Berry himself in Berlin, where legend has it they defied a management instruction to avoid Berry’s songs and brazenly opened with “Roll Over Beethoven”.

Their recordings were unsurprisingly never released in the UK, and apart from the odd anthologised track remained firmly underground here till compiled by Ace subsidiary Big Beat in 2010 as From Merseyside To Hamburg, the CD comprising the entire 1964-65 Star-Club recordings, 29 cuts in all. The tracks from their first original album, Star Club Show 4, are the best: raw, unadorned R’n’B covers recorded live in the studio. These could almost be the Pretties, driven along as they are by Birch’s angry, punky contralto, McGlory’s muscular, metronomic bass, Saunders’s no-nonsense percussion and Gell’s scratchy machine-gun Fender Jaguar lead work. Their takes on Chuck Berry’s “Talking About You”, Berry Gordy’s “Money” and the blues chestnut “Got My Mojo Working” are fit to strip wallpaper. The later sessions offer more of the same but also move further towards Motown, with creditable tilts at the likes of Doug Sahm’s “She’s About A Mover”, Holland-Dozier’s “Heatwave” and Smokey Robinson’s “Shop Around” – all good Reeperbahn fare – plus a couple of modestly Beatle-ish Pam Birch originals which originally appeared as single B-sides; the production is more measured and less viscerally exciting. Today, the individual albums remain unavailable but the compilation is a great-value testament to a bunch of pioneering female rockers, and is highly recommended.

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“Talking About You”

:D Compilation | 2010 | Big Beat | buy here ]

Otis Redding “Otis Blue”

In 1965,  Otis Redding recorded and released his third studio album, Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul on the legendary Stax label’s subsidiary Volt Records.  The album is considered by fans and critics alike to be Otis’ masterpiece.  To me, it just may be the ultimate masterpiece of soul music, period.

The album begins with “Ole Man Trouble,” a cry of desperation of a man who has had one too many demons on his trail.  In classic Otis Redding-style, this is a damn powerful and convincing song.  He is begging for some peace and contentment in his life.  In my opinion, this is one of the greatest opening tracks of any album of any genre.

The album continues with the original version of “Respect,” one of Otis’ own compositions.  For those of you who are only familiar with Aretha Franklin’s rendition, you’ll be in for a bit of a surprise (yes, it is quite different).  Otis Redding’s original rendition of the classic tune takes on a life of its own, and is an all-out soul stomper.  Definitely a track worthy of cranking at maximum volume.

The album just keeps getting more and more fantastic as it goes on.  Track three:  Sam Cooke’s immortal “A Change Is Gonna Come.”  Now, as much as I truly love Sam’s original version, nothing beats Otis’ version.  The power in this man’s voice as he sang this song is unbelievable.  This song, a classic Civil Rights anthem,  always reduces me to tears.  Otis, who was a huge Sam Cooke fan, covers two more of his compositions: “Shake,” which is a great soul dancer, and the playful and tender “Wonderful World”.  One thing was for certain, Otis showed the utmost of respect to his fellow artists by doing incredible covers of their songs.  “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” is one of the greatest love songs ever made.  It’s pretty hard to not be emotionally touched by that song.  I’ve always been a fan of Otis’ love songs.  They don’t sound sappy or weak at all.  Otis Redding sounded like a strong, real man who was comfortable with being emotional without sounding syrupy or weepy.

The other track on this album that gets me every time is the cover of the Stones’ “Satisfaction.”  Some background info on Otis’ cover kind of goes like this: supposedly, Otis was not very familiar with the song, until the day came to record it.  The reason why Otis’ lyrics differ so much from the original is because he actually barely knew any of the words!  Talk about true creativity!  The Rolling Stones wrote and recorded the song with Otis Redding and similar American soul artists in mind as inspiration.  Redding’s rendition featured the horn section main-riff, which is what Keith Richards originally intended on doing.  The Stones were so impressed with this cover, that their later concert rendition of the song reflected Redding’s interpretation.

The Stax players (Steve Cropper, Al Jackson Jr., Donald “Duck” Dunn, and so on) positively smoke on this record.  Steve Cropper’s biting and nasty Telecaster sound just screams.  Pay particular attention to the all-out sweaty ‘n’ gritty blues workout, “Rock Me Baby.”  These guys were jamming hard in that little studio!

Since Otis Redding is probably my favorite solo artist of all-time, I’d recommended all of his recordings to a beginner.  However, I’d have a hard time not recommending this album as the starting point. To me, and many others, this album truly embodies the classic Stax sound.  A gem.

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“Rock Me Baby”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Rhino | buy here ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2001 | Sundazed | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Graham Bond Organization “The Sound of 65”

It’s a matter of record that the British Blues Boom of the sixties – as discrete from British Rhythm‘n’Blues, a similar but different beast – was originally created not by former rock’n’roll or Beat musicians but principally by ex-jazz players searching for a new “authentic” music. Its earliest practitioners came to the blues via skiffle, the ersatz rural American folk movement of the mid-fifties; subsequent ones via the brief vogue for revivalist traditional jazz at the turn of the sixties. Furthermore, the Blues Boom began not, as popularly thought, with erstwhile jazzman John Mayall’s landmark 1966 album Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton, but with the formation of Alexis Korner’s influential, ever-mutating Blues Incorporated in 1961. Bluesbreakers may be the defining record of the British Blues Boom, the one that induced a whole regiment of Beat guitarists to emulate Muddy, Wolf and BB, but by the time it hit the decks the ground had already been prepared by other former jazzers, notably Korner and his acolyte, the larger-than-life, manic-depressive Hammond organist Graham Bond.

Bond had started out as a bebop alto saxophonist in Charlie Parker vein, but at the turn of the sixties he switched to organ and, along with other high-profile jazz instrumentalists, began to concentrate on the twelve-bar form. Enlisting fellow Korner alumni Jack Bruce on upright and Fender basses, Ginger Baker on drums and (after rapidly firing early guitarist John McLaughlin) Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor sax, Bond christened his outfit the Graham Bond ORGANisation, leaving no doubt where the engine room lay. The band immediately became a live tour-de-force on the London club circuit but, as with so many other artists who are ahead of their time, failed to find commercial success in terms of record sales; its albums weren’t even released in North America, where the whole concept of “British Blues” was initially treated as a joke. The ORGANisation lasted for two studio albums before disbanding shortly after Bruce and Baker, finding the bipolar Bond too difficult a taskmaster, departed for new challenges.

Compared with the straight-ahead purist electric blues of Bluesbreakers, the earlier Sound Of 65 shows a band attempting engagingly to pervert the blues in every conceivable direction. It combines the expected traditional blues covers (“Hoochie Coochie Man”, “Got My Mojo Working”) and instrumental R’n’B workouts (“Wade In The Water”, “Train Time”), reworked in distinctive, individual fashion, with lyrically naïve but musically adventurous Bond originals which move confidently in the direction of what would later be called “jazz-rock”. All the tracks are carried along by the sheer, rough-edged energy of Bond’s vocals and the irrepressible swing of the band’s ensemble playing, plus a remarkable cheap-studio production with plenty of reverb that gives the impression of a live recording. In fact the album was the ORGANisation’s well-honed live set with each number pared down to three minutes or less, the solos from Bond’s growling B-3 and Heckstall-Smith’s squalling tenor short and ferocious rather than extended and building. High spots include the flavouring of “Wade In The Water” with more than a soupçon of Bach’s Toccata, the spoof field holler of “Early In The Morning”, Bruce’s rumbling upright bass figures on “Mojo”, Bond’s and Heckstall-Smith’s wailing snake-charmer licks on “Spanish Blues”, and the eerie “Baby Make Love To Me” which is carried on just harmonised saxes, bass and drums and boasts lead vocal and braggadocio harmonica from Bruce. Only the mandatory (and thankfully truncated) Baker drum solo on “Oh Baby” and the maudlin closer “Tammy” (intended as a “commercial” single) conspire to lower the overall appeal.

The second and final ORGANisation album There’s A Bond Between Us offered a slightly wider musical range played with a bit less verve, and Bond’s pioneering use of the Mellotron (before the Beatles, Stones and Moody Blues discovered it) presaged his move towards progressive music. After an erratic subsequent career and involvement with hard drugs and Satanism he was mysteriously found dead under a stationary London Underground train in 1974: a sad end to one of rock’s most colourful characters. The BGO twofer combining both studio albums is a bargain; for a flavour of the band’s live sound, try Solid Bond, the posthumous Rhino release featuring the short-lived final line-up of Bond, Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman.

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“Baby Make Love to Me”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Repertoire | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1965 | Columbia | search ebay ]

The Pretty Things “Get the Picture?”

In London’s early 60s it seemed all the kids wanted to play American R&B and Chicago blues. Kids all throughout England exchanged guitar licks with one another in the front room of their parent’s flat – trying to emulate the sounds of Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo or Elmore James. There was a group of young Londoners in particular who did just this, jamming after art school at the childhood home of budding guitarist Dick Taylor. When these boys, who coined themselves Little Boy Blue & The Blue Boys, started to get serious about their music and parted ways to form other groups, half of the camp went on to form a little band called The Rolling Stones while the other half formed The Pretty Things.

The Pretty Things had a hard-driving, raw, and energetic soul that poured out in their loose and urgently chaotic music. While The Stones skyrocketed into the stratosphere of success, The Pretty Things didn’t prove to be as lucky. Though they quickly gained immense notoriety around London by playing their guitar amps louder, their arrests and social punch-ups coupled with outrageous behavior (drummer Viv Prince was The Pretties’ Keith Moon…nuf’ said).  Though they never achieved the commercial success of their shaggy haired brethren, they did manage to influence many younger garage bands including The Shadows of Knight and The Primitives. The Pretties’ unique sound was propelled by Viv’s primeval drumming and Dick Taylor’s jagged & piercing guitar runs. Not to mention the main ingredient of The Pretty Things sound – Phil May, the man behind the painfully soul-filled vocal that exalted these tunes beyond the reach of mere mortals.

“Get The Picture” is The Pretty Things at their best, with two sides of amazing material. “You Don’t Believe Me” starts the record with a jangled pop-soul fever featuring Jimmy Page on supportive guitar and percussion duties. “Buzz The Jerk” comes next which has, quite possibly, one of the coolest intro riffs to come out of England. The title track “Get the Picture” has that head bobbing swagger that is truly infectious. They do a stellar job on Slim Harpo’s “Raining in My Heart,” with its tremolo soaked guitar work and May’s sorrowful vocals. The album closer, “Gonna Find Me a Substitute” oozes with cool. The fuzz bass drives and pushes this track while Dick Taylor lays down great guitar riffs throughout the song backing May’s perfect vocal performance. The Pretty Things may not have received the recognition and success they deserved, but they did and still continue to burn up turntables across the world. I guess some things are best kept secret.

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“Get The Picture”

:D CD Reissue | 2000 | Snapper | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1965 | Fontana | search ebay ]

The Honeycombs “All Systems Go!”

Before the dust settled on their million-selling debut single “Have I the Right?” produced by Joe Meek, the Honeycombs released their self-titled debut LP on Pye records in September of 1964.

Dismissed by some as a novelty act for having a female drummer (bandleader Honey Lantree), they cut consistently good material at Meek’s Holloway Road home studio throughout 1965 and released their finest effort All Systems – Go! on Pye in December of that year.

Mostly a mix of freakbeat and the bubblegum-pop of their singles, All Systems- Go! also features some great experimenting from a band trying to maintain their success. It’s these genre hopping tracks that make this a solid record, but also account for some of the lesser numbers.

There are a few throwaways, like the light R&B fare of “Ooee Train” (which starts strong but dies at the verse) and “Don’t Love Her No More” (which has a great guitar sound but a terrible chorus). The version of “I Can’t Stop” featured here is not as catchy as the single, but the Honey-sung “There’s Something I’ve Got To Tell You Baby” has been improved from the Glenda Collins version. This time it’s slowed down and more sincere, replacing the strings with a mellow organ and classical guitar musings. “Our Day Will Come” expands on the exotica vibe of “Totem Pole” and displays Honey Lantree’s strong prowess as a drummer. The rhythm section is especially tight on this album and really pops out.

“If You Should” could be mistaken for an early Brian Wilson production, and is easily among the best here. “Nobody But Me” stands out with its persistent guitar line and another solid performance from Honey, but the title track is the most single-worthy, with its anthemic full band chant of “ALL…SYSTEMS…GO!!”. Most of the songs here were written by Howard & Blaikley, with the exception of the Ray Davies penned “Emptiness”, which was never recorded by The Kinks. It’s very Kinks-like and bears a striking similarity to “Something Better Beginning” which had also been recorded by the Honeycombs earlier in the year. The disc closes with the Roy Orbison sounding “My Prayer” that works strangely well and highlights the uniqueness of Denis D’Ell’s voice.  Probably the most grandiose recording here, it shows the Honeycombs as far from their core sound as they ever got, but also comes across as the most confident.

Forty six years on and All Systems Go is still an interesting and rewarding listen. It’s full of unique sounds and rhythms and is definitely one of the best of the few LP’s Joe Meek recorded.

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“All Systems Go”

:D CD Reissue | 2fer | buy here ]
:) Original LP |  1965 | Pye | search ebay ]

The Sorrows “Take A Heart”

The Sorrows’ roots can be traced back to Coventry (around 1963), where Don Fardon (vocals), Pip Whitcher (lead guitar), Terry Jukes (rhythm guitar), and Philip Packham (bass) played in various local beat groups.  While plying their trade in the local night clubs the group was discovered by John Schroeder, Picadilly’s label manager.  Their first Picadilly (owned by Pye) single, “I Don’t Want To Be Free/Come With Me,” was an excellent Kinks-like number, full of power chords and tough, soulful vocals.  Another quality single leaked out (“Baby”) but success seemed to elude the boys.

It wasn’t until “Take A Heart” that the Sorrows had their big top 20 smash.  Originally written by songwriter Miki Dallon and recorded by the Boy Blues, “Take A Heart” for my money, is one of the UK’s greatest rock n roll singles.  The song’s arrangement gradually builds up into an explosion of speedy guitar work, charging rhythms, and violent lead vocals (Fardon was a great vocalist).  Without question, this 45 is one of the true classics.  To capitalize on the single’s success Pye released the Take A Heart LP in December of 1965.  The LP is consistently good, featuring originals, a few more tracks written by Miki Dallon and some interesting R&B covers.  Standouts include their ferocious take on “Teenage Letter,” the trashy mod pop of “Come With Me,”  a couple of strange beat ballads (“How Love Used To Be” and “We Should Get Along Fine”), and a Dylan influenced folk-rocker titled “Don’t Sing No Sad Songs For Me.”  Another great cut is their cover of “Let Me In,” a track that rocks really hard and features impressive fretwork.  Take A Heart is right up there with the early Stones’ output, the Pretty Things first two LPs, and the Small Faces debut; it’s that good.

The Sorrows released a few more 45s from the lp but none of them made the charts.   At this point Fardon decided it was best that he leave the group to pursue a solo career.  The Sorrows would soldier on, releasing an excellent early psych 45 in 1967 (“Pink, Purple, Yellow, Red”) and then relocate to Italy.  It was around this time that the group cut an LP titled Old Songs, New Songs in 1968.  A respectable LP, Old Songs, New Songs was a mixture of group originals and covers of then popular tracks by Traffic, The Small Faces and Family.  Despite the LP’s fine guitar work, it was nowhere near as good (or original) as Take A Heart.

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“Take A Heart”

;) MP3 2-Album | 2006 | Sanctuary | download ]
:)  Vinyl | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Ikon Records Story

Several years back the good folks at Frantic Records treated us to The Ikon Records Story.  This vinyl sampler of the fabled label was followed by a grand, 2 cd set (60 tracks!), which included plenty of bonus cuts, lost 45s and unreleased tracks.  Many of these tracks were recorded during the prime garage/teenbeat era (1964-1966) at Ikon Studios, which was located in Sacramento, California.

There are no fuzz (Eirik Wangberg’s excellent “Every Night I Dream A Little” is a notable expection – it’s a twisted gem of a record) or freaky garage stompers a la Back From The Grave.  Be that as it may, The Ikon Records Story is loaded with great slices of mid 60’s rock n roll, surf, instrumental numbers, folk-rock, garage punk, spy-themed novelty bits and Brit influenced pop.  It’s nearly the equal of Back From The Grave but focuses on a wider array of vintage teenbeat sounds: key cuts being Madd, Inc.’s powerful, rebel rocker “I’ll Be The One” (a near classic), the Knightsmen’s impressive, Rolling Stones-like “Daddy Was A Rolling Stone,” the Mergers’ fine British Invasion influenced pop rocker “Love, You Funny Thing,” and The Shondells’ downbeat jangler “It’s True.”

There’s really too many highlights here to list – The Ikon Records Story is a terrific collection of adolescent, fresh-faced sounds from the days when rock music was new, raw and vital.  Most of the original 45’s are so rare that it would cost thousands of dollars to piece this collection together.   If you’re into classic mid 60’s sounds you should really own this superb compilation of regional rock n roll.

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Sel-Sync – The Fire Is Gone

:D CD Issue | 2006 | Crypt Records | search ebay ]

The Nomadds “The Nomadds”

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Their only album has finally been reissued by Way Back Records on vinyl and cd. The Nomadds was originally released by Radex in 1965. They enjoyed quite a local following in Freeport and were Northwestern Illinois’ most popular teenbeat group bar none. The group’s lineup is: Lee Garner (lead guitar), Tony Cannova (drums), Greg Johnson (rhythm guitar, vocals), Denny Kuhl (bass), and Dean Kuehl “Stick” (vocals, harmonica – the big guy who stands center on the album’s cover).

The Nomadds is closer in spirit to early British Invasion records like Meet The Beatles or Gerry and the Pacemakers from their giddy 1963/1964 prime. For this reason interest may be limited: there are no fuzz guitars, walls of feedback, psychedelic freakouts, or shouting punk vocals; this album was recorded in 1964! That being said, the song arrangements are articulate and take interesting detours that most teenbeat/garage groups couldn’t handle. The Nomadds cut their teeth playing the bars and teen clubs of Illinois which would explain the accomplished nature of their performances.

You’re buying the album for the five great originals but some of the covers are pretty solid too. Standout covers to these ears are a rocking version of “Roll Over Beethoven,” a rollicking “W.P.L.J.,” Jimmy Reed’s “Shame Shame Shame,” and the ultimate teenage heartbreak of “Tragedy.” Excellent originals like “There Is No More” and “You Can Fall In Love” mix minor chords, folk-like guitars and rocking rhythms while other good tracks hit more of a tender, love song vibe. My favorite tune is “Don’t Cheat On Me”, a great performance with an interesting guitar intro and a marvelous vocal arrangement – this is teenbeat at it’s finest, really.

So while this LP may not be a definitive classic, it’s still very good and recommended to those who appreciate the British Invasion or very early American garage/teenbeat sounds.

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“Don’t Cheat On Me”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Way Back | at amzn ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Way Back | at amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1965 | Radex | at ebay ]

The Enfields/Friends of the Family

The Enfields and early Friends of the Family

The Enfields were one of the countless garage bands competing for airplay in the 1960s. They released a series of quality local 45s before morphing into the more progressive Friends of the Family, of which by that time, principal songwriter Ted Munda was the only surviving member. The Enfields hailed from Wilmington, Delaware, where they were unquestionably the area’s top group.

In The Eyes Of The World” was their first Richie 45 released in late 65/early 66. This track is really a teenbeat gem with the great reverbed hollow-body guitar work of John Bernard and plenty of ghostly harmonies via Ted Munda and Charlie Berl. “In The Eyes Of The World” did not have a B-side but sold well locally, making Wilmington’s top 40 and established the group as a force to be reckoned with. The Enfields’ next number, “She Already Has Somebody/I’m For Things You Do” was a #4 local smash and perhaps their finest moment on vinyl. Very similar to the Dovers’ material from around the same time, “She Already Has Somebody” is a minor key folk-rocker with solid hooks, lots of nervous energy and fine guitar work. By the release of their third single the Enfields began branching out into harder, more aggressive sounds. “Face to Face,” another near classic from 1966, opens with a toggle switch guitar sound (probably influenced by the Who), features tough Taxman-like riffs and a brief psychedelic guitar solo. The single’s A-side, “You Don’t Have Very Far” is musically very strong but represents somewhat of a throwback to the 1965 folk-rock sound. This is definitely a “must own”45 from 1966!

After the Enfields broke up in 1967, Ted Munda formed Friends of the Family. He recruited Wayne Watson and Jimmy Crawford from local group the Turfs. They released one disappointing 45 in 1968 but thankfullly made it into the studio for two recording sessions. Munda and his new group recorded throughout 1967 and 1968, amassing about an album’s worth of material (11 songs). While these recordings barely reached the demo stage, the music is accomplished and worth your time. Tracks like the excellent “Last Beach Crusade,” “Together” and the 6 minute “Hot Apple Betty” are progressive and sound like a jazz influenced Left Banke. These three tracks were recorded in 1968 and show the Friends experimenting with lots of keyboards, challenging guitar solos, Zombies/Beatles’ influenced vocals and complex song arrangements. “Funny Flowers,” one of the earlier songs recorded in 1967, is just as appealing but more song-based (jangly folk-rock). “You See I’ve Got This Cold,” another highlight from the 1968 sessions, is a personal favorite that reminds me of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. It’s full of psychedelic weirdness; check out the bizarre lyrics, tinkling piano, and trippy wah-wah. The band forged on into late 68 opening for The Who and Pink Floyd at the Philadelphia Music Festival. Eventually, Friends of the Family broke up and some years later Ted Munda formed Hotspur, who released an album on Columbia in 1974.

The best way to hear the Enfields/Friends of the Family saga is through Get Hip’s superb 1993 cd reissue, Classic Sounds of the 60s. Normally a patchwork reissue like this doesn’t work but Ted Munda rarely recorded anything bad, making The Enfields/and early Friends of the Family a very impressive release.

Update: Ted Munda is currently seeking financing to record a new album of original material. Get in touch with Ted here.

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“In The Eyes Of The World”

:D CD Reissue | 1993 | Get Hip | at Get Hip | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | search ebay ]