Posts Tagged ‘ 1969 ’

Southwest F.O.B. “Smell of Incense”

Northeast Texas heads Southwest F.O.B. can’t claim the same sort of critical attention lauded on such fellow statesmen as the 13th Floor Elevators or Red Krayola, but their one record, Smell of Incense, remains an indispensable slice of Lone Star psychedelia. Much more commercially-minded than any of the aforementioned collectives, the band nevertheless reveals an exciting instrumental virtuosity and willingness to draw FM gold out of esoteric regions. Thankfully, songwriters Dan Seals and John Colley betray little of the sickening soft-rock aspirations that would later drive them into their roles as England Dan and John Ford Coley, and show some surprisingly good taste in outside material.

The F.O.B.’s heavy, barnstorming take on the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s “Smell of Incense” is perhaps the clearest example of the group’s hip tastes and knack for redefinition; as strong as the original may be, the F.O.B. manage to take it in subtle new directions that streamline the song’s eccentric appeal, essentially rebuilding the rhythm section from the ground up. Zeke Durrell’s drumming really makes this recording; dig the intricacies between sections and those explosive runs following the hi-hat break just before the final chorus. You could never call the F.O.B. slick, but these cats are clearly no amateur musicians.

Another of the major highlights here is Seals and Colley’s “And Another Thing,” though its length, at just-under twelve minutes, may try the patience of some listeners – especially considering that about a quarter of those minutes are dedicated to a dizzying, tom-heavy drum solo. The cut never loses its drive, though; even the weird and loopy guitar improvisation in the middle manages to stick close to the song’s heavy rhythmic center. If you dig the warped, astral jams off Cold Sun’s Dark Shadows then there should be a lot for you to like here, though the band’s lyrics are never as interesting as what Bill Miller or Tommy Hall were writing around this time. “Beggar Man” may be one of the worst offenders in this regard, a woefully naïve and romanticized view of urban poverty hinting at the flower child sentiments of the decade.

There are all sorts of notable musical flourishes across this album which stand out in the course of a listen, however, and many lay among the local horn section (itself rather unusual in these interim years between early-sixties frat rock and the approaching Chicago sound) of Dan Seals on saxophone and Randy Bates on trumpet. Bates’ background in mariachi music colors his playing across the record, adding a sharp Texas accent to the band’s thick polychromatic sound. On occasion Seals and Bates hit a rather tepid Los Angeles brass sound, such as on the band’s melodramatic non-album recording of Paul Simon’s “59th Street Bridge Song,” but such moments are reassuringly infrequent and in general the two add, rather than detract, from the overall group dynamic.

Originally released on Stax’s short-lived pop-music imprint Hip Records, The Smell of Incense has been reissued to great effect by the folks over at Sundazed. The compact disc release now includes a wealth of additional material, including alternate mixes (including a shortened version of “And Another Thing” for those with limited constitutions) as well as some more R&B-centric material from the band’s early years as Theze Few. Highly recommended all around.

mp3: And Another Thing

:D Reissue | Sundazed | buy from sundazed | amazon ]
:) Original | 1969 | Hip Records | search ebay ]
:) Reissue | Sundazed | buy from sundazed ]

Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky”

Folks are going to recognize the title track of this one, the buzzing slice of pseudo-religious boogie that made Norman Greenbaum…well, maybe not a household name, but at least established him as the voice behind one of the most recognizable tunes to come out of the 1970s. It is actually more than a little surprising that, despite having scored such a serious smash single, Greenbaum would be so quick to drop out of the public eye. Few people have given the rest of his recordings a fair shake, despite albums like Spirit In the Sky and Back Home Again housing a wealth of strong and joyful material.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this one-hit-wonder status is the fact that “Spirit In the Sky” was a little unusual within the context of Greenbaum’s body of work (though not, I’d argue, to the extent that some critics have claimed). The spiritual lyrics would have appeared to herald a rising star in the nascent Jesus Freak scene, but in reality most of the man’s music was a relaxed blend of rootsy Americana and long-haired west coast blues. The lyrics pretty much entirely avoid religion, instead delving into such diverse subjects as back-to-the-earth living, spectral ex-girlfriends, and “smoking the tars of India.” Anyways, Greenbaum is Jewish. Go figure.

Though the cosmic guitar drone that drives Greenbaum’s most famous tune is also conspicuously absent from the rest of Spirit In the Sky, there are all sorts of inventive musical sounds being explored here, from the sunny wah-wah guitar of “Tars of India” to the swirling analogue electronics which dart across both “Alice Bodine” and “Marcy.” The former is a pretty haunting song, and impressively hard to pin down; the gurgling Moog and unusual lyrics would suggest disaster, but Greenbaum’s good taste and ability to walk the line between humor and sincerity let it do its thing. The band here, headed by producer Erik Jacobsen (best known for his work with fellow jugband disciples The Lovin’ Spoonful), is very tight, and really know how to get these songs to boogie. Cuts like “Junior Cadillac” and “The Power” even throw in a horn section for some pretty funky L.A. R&B. It’s to Greenbaum’s credit that these songs prove so memorable; indeed, this is one platter that burns all the way through. Just wait and see how many of these songs you find yourself humming after the needle’s lifted.

Spirit In the Sky was most recently reissued in 2001 with a handful of bonus tracks, but if you can find it a now out-of-print import edition on Demon Records also includes the follow-up album Back Home Again, which is a little rootsier and also comes highly recommended. Before retiring to farm life, Greenbaum would record a last, 1972 album with Ry Cooder entitled Petaluma, but this one’s a lot harder to find. I haven’t heard it, so I’m not sure if it’s as strong as the previous two, though I suspect it is. I mean, just check out that sleeve photograph with a grinning, overalled Greenbaum holding up a chicken. How could you possibly go wrong?

Spirit in the Sky
mp3: Tars of India
mp3: Marcy

Back Home Again
mp3: Hook & Ladder

:) Original | 1969 | Reprise | search ]
:D Reissue | 2001 | Varese | buy ]
:D Reissue | 2fer | Demon | buy ]

Dave Davies “Hidden Treasures”

The recent release of The SMiLE Sessions must mark the ebb tide of the steady stream of retrospective issues of mythical “lost” albums from the Sixties. Surely with the debut of The Holy Grail Of Rock these have all now finally appeared in one form or another? But one other such offering that crept out with much less fanfare in the same month as SMiLE is the “lost” solo album by Dave Davies, purveyor of revolutionary guitar licks and falsetto vocal harmonies to the Kinks. Despite its enticing title, as with SMiLE the majority of its songs have already been in the public domain in one form or another for some time, but again like SMiLE the new release represents the first legitimate attempt to bring it together as nearly as possible in its originally-intended form.

The CD contains what are believed to be the genuine original stereo mixes of the twelve proposed album songs – three of these unissued in any form until this release – with some alternative versions in mono, plus the other Dave songs that did see the light of day as solo singles, as components of Something Else By The Kinks or as B-sides of later Kinks 45s: twenty-seven cuts in all. Despite their piecemeal production over two years, the proposed album tracks exhibit commendable homogeneity and the quality is consistently high with respect both to composition and to performance, offering a set of well-crafted pop-rock songs, many with country-rock overtones. Setting them apart from the Kinks’ oeuvre are Dave’s distinctive proto-punk vocals and his frequent use of modest time signature changes and modulations to add further musical interest, whilst the lyrics are in the form of acerbic interpersonal dialogues and wry observations on love, eschewing his brother’s wistful nostalgia. The best of the bunch are the inexplicably-unsuccessful second single “Susannah’s Still Alive” with its great piano riff and homespun harmonica, the Byrdsy jangle of “Mindless Child Of Motherhood”, the twelve-string-driven, string-laden “Lincoln County” with its good-time Lovin’ Spoonful vibe and the lyrically-contentious “Creeping Jean” which recalls Beggars Banquet-era Stones. Despite these comparisons the twelve tracks are distinctly Dave and would indeed have made a fine late Sixties album. The extras naturally include the peerless non-album single “Death Of A Clown”.

The music is solid despite the convoluted circumstances of its genesis, which was lengthy and full of hiccups and about-turns as admirably explained in the fine booklet essay by Russell Smith that accompanies the CD. In 1966 the Kinks’ management proposed a parallel solo career for Brother Dave, on the basis that his good looks and immaculate dress sense might attract a separate teenybopper audience and perhaps lead to films. The man himself was initially resistant to individual promotion, but the other band members were fully amenable and every Dave-credited track was actually a proper Kinks recording, with Dave taking the writer credits and handling the lead vocals but all three other members contributing fully and Ray generally arranging and producing. The initial “Clown” single was a massive 1967 hit and the solo album was immediately proposed, but for some reason from that point on the band’s management and their record labels seemed to lose interest, possibly because of the campaign to rescind the Kinks’ touring ban in the States, possibly because of the success of their increasingly Anglocentric albums there in contrast to their steady decline at home where they were by then widely regarded as a somewhat dated singles band. Specific sessions to cut Dave’s songs were nonetheless held sporadically over the next two years and the twelve-track tape was finally delivered to the Kinks’ US label Warner-Reprise in the fall of ‘69, only to be shelved immediately without either a title or a final running order. Forty-two years on, we finally have it as near as dammit, and Kinks fans and lovers of good Sixties music will agree that it’s been worth the wait.

mp3: Do You Wish to Be a Man
mp3: Creeping Jean

:D Reissue | 2011 | Sanctuary | buy ]

The Common People “Of The People/By The People/For The People From”

A well known rarity, The Common People’s Of The People/By The People/For The People is one of the more collectable Capitol releases.  Prior to this LP, the group released two primitive garage singles which are very good but nearly impossible to find.

For many years very little was known about the Common People.  Terrascope’s interview with lead singer Denny Robinett cleared up many unanswered questions regarding the band’s existence and roots.  The Common People hailed from Baldwin Park California (LA area) and played the local club circuit.  “Lord” Tim Hudson, of Lollipop Shoppe and Seeds fame, managed this mysterious psychedelic outfit.  Of The People/By The People/For The People is an interesting mixture of garage pop and orchestrated psych whose reputation has soared in recent years – it’s a bit overrated to these ears but generally a worthwhile LA psych rock trip.

The first three tracks of the album were arranged by David Axelrod and are an amazing mixture of swirling strings and raw lead vocals.  The string arrangements mesh seamlessly with Denny Robinett’s vocals, creating a sound which was very unique for 1969 – an unsettling amalgam of folk-rock, psychedelia, and orchestrated pop.  Had the whole album been arranged and produced by David Axelrod it might have turned out to be a psychedelic masterpiece but unfortunately, the budget tightened up, forcing the band to abandon its original vision for something that’s more run-of-the-mill and less exciting.  It’s even been suggested that Axelrod might have pulled out of these sessions because his wife suffered serious injuries from a car accident.  In the end, the group was forced to move on and complete the album without him.  Most of the remaining tracks are solid garage pop numbers.  The low points are two generic horn rock numbers and one despicable novelty tracked titled, “They Didn’t Even Go To The Funeral.”  By no means a classic or masterpiece, Of The People/By The People/For The People is a flawed but worthy album – a solid psych rock record that will satisfy many fans of the genre.  The buzzing organs and occasional fuzz guitar of  “Why Must I Be,” “Take From You,” “Land of Day” and “Go Every Way” deliver the garage goods in a downbeat, moody fashion.  The album’s key strengths are its mood, Robinett’s gruff vocals, and Axelrod’s soaring string arrangements/production on the LP’s first three tracks.

Denny Robinett claims that Capital never promoted Of The People/By The People/For The People and that it “was never available for sale in any store.”  Australian label Ascension and Fallout have recently reissued this disc on cd.  The Fallout reissue includes the early singles but is a “grey area” release.

Read Terrascope’s interview with Denny Robinett for more information on The Common People.

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“Soon There’ll Be Thunder”

:) Original | 1969 | Capitol | search ebay ]
Please do not purchase the illegal Fallout pressing of this record.

Mother Earth “Make a Joyful Noise”

Mother Earth has to be one of the best American rock and roll bands to have ever been forgotten. A hot act in its day, it seems folks have tended to overlook the group in recent years. Perhaps the band’s aesthetic center in 1960s blues and soul music makes them just a little too straight for today’s “forward-thinking” music listeners more hip to the weird, experimental sounds of bands like Faust or The Incredible String Band than righteous electric combos like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (now that I mention it, East/West really does beg review on these pages). No matter, though; let us take the first steps in reintroducing listeners to the wild, rootsy sounds of Mother Earth.

Make A Joyful Noise is the band’s second album, and marks a clear evolution in the band’s dynamic by containing both a “city side” and a “country side,” the latter recorded in Nashville with legendary pedal steel player and country music producer Pete Drake. Whatever new angles the band was introducing to their sound, however, they certainly hadn’t lost sight of their strengths, for there is soul enough aplenty across both sides of this collection. Dig the explosive opening number, “Stop the Train,” starring part-time Mother Earth shouter The Reverend Ron Stallings. Though the band is best remembered for Tracy Nelson’s fiery vocal talents, they were actually an extraordinary collaborative ensemble, also including among their ranks the enigmatic Powell St. John, occasional lyricist with The 13th Floor Elevators and whose stunning “The Kingdom of Heaven” the band had recorded the year before.

The “country side” here introduces Tracy Nelson’s talent for Music City soul, which would really shine on her first solo record Country, itself recorded around the same time as the Pete Drake selections on Joyful Noise. The band’s recording of Doug Sahm’s slow-grooving “I Wanna Be Your Mama Again,” a song purportedly written with Nelson in mind, really cooks and includes some tight picking. Dig the way the fiddle, pedal steel and electric guitar weave together during the instrumental breaks; rocking, rolling, backwoods bliss. Powell’s lazy, West Texas vocal spot on “Then I’ll Be Moving On” further highlights the appeal of the communal group organization, one which would eventually be discarded when the band turned into Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth.

All of the early Mother Earth albums are go-to records for me when I’m in the mood for beautifully honest, down-to-earth music (and yeah, I reckon that’s pretty often). If you’re really digging the rhythm and blues here, look for a copy of the band’s follow-up Bring Me Home; if you’re more into the country half, you absolutely need to get your hands on Nelson’s aforementioned solo record. Fortunately for all, every one of these records are still in print and readily available.

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“I Wanna Be Your Mama Again”

:) Original | 1969 | Mercury | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2004 | Wounded Bird | buy ]

John Berberian “Middle Eastern Rock”

During the 1960s it seemed as though every western musician worth their salt was experimenting with Eastern instruments. In most cases this did not extend beyond the sitar, an Indian instrument introduced to the Occident by British bands like the Beatles and the Kinks (god bless colonialism, indeed), but in a number of cases western musicians took this interest one step further and began to explore the Eastern world’s abundant wealth of stringed instruments. American players like Sandy Bull and David Lindley were at the vanguard of this new artistic swing, laying instruments like the oud onto North American musical patterns and coming up with new and exciting sounds. A somewhat lesser-known member of this movement was John Berberian, a serious, virtuosic oud player of Armenian ancestry who recorded a series of genre-bending records in the sixties, key among these being 1969’s Middle Eastern Rock.

This record is a seemingly effortless amalgam of Armenian, Greek, and American musical forms, not to mention the sounds of “the Druze tribe of Northern Africa” (as per Berberian’s sleeve notes) most aptly demonstrated on the six-and-a-half minute opener “The Oud and the Fuzz.” As its straightforward title would suggest, this side pits Berberian’s nimble oud work against Joe Beck‘s whirling electric guitar which, about halfway through, does in fact roar into an incisive fuzz-tone. The net results are quite extraordinary, the band successfully weaving together contemporary psychedelic rock and middle eastern jazz. The west coast group Kaleidoscope may have made some iconic recordings with the oud and the saz, but rarely did they manage a sound as beautifully cohesive and technically stunning as this.

There really aren’t any bum notes on this record. “Tranquility” delves into a floating Armenian melody showing off the group’s ear for tasteful improvisation, while on “Chem-oo-Chem” (the one vocal track in the collection) Berberian’s ensemble takes on a popular Armenian folk song and throws in a jagged electric guitar solo. Honking saxophone riffs lay easy across a bed of middle eastern percussion. “The Iron Maiden” has a righteous oud and saxophone introduction before burrowing deep into the “middle eastern jazz” sound mentioned previously (shades of Ahmed Abdul-Malik). Though I can’t say that any of the arrangements here would give Monk or Mingus much to write home about, the tunes themselves maintain a propulsive rhythmic drive that keeps the proceedings ever pushing onwards into the next grooves.

It’s too bad that Berberian never got the chance to cut another record in this vein, though from what I hear there is much to love on his earlier, more traditional oud recordings from the early sixties. The man himself is still around and as active as ever, running his own record label and performing the odd concert or benefit – in the rare instance that he happens to be in town, don’t pass up the opportunity to catch this legend perform.

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“Iron Maiden”

:) Original | 1969 | Verve Forecast | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2008 | Revola | buy ]

Tyrannosaurus Rex “Unicorn”

Marc Bolan was one of the best known musicians of the 1970s and he’d hardly be characterized as a cult figure if it were not for his early, tragic death. But before he hit number one and became a household name with his electric glitter glam persona, an early non-abbreviated Tyrannosaurus Rex released a string of “fantasy folk” records in the late 60s that gradually progressed toward psychedelia and perfection.

Tyrannosaurus Rex was comprised of Bolan and percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Peregrin Took. Together with producer Tony Visconti (of Bowie fame) they recorded Unicorn very quickly in 1969, eventually reaching number 12 on the UK pop charts. In hindsight it seems like a strange feat given what kind of oddities this rather straightforward record jacket contained.

Bolan’s songs mostly revolve around open guitar chords, pitter-pat percussion, and strong two part harmonies, with the production kept extremely minimal. But even with such a seemingly limited pallet, Unicorn shines and shifts revealing layers of hidden beauty.

On songs like “Evenings of Damask” and “Stones for Avalon” Steve Took harmonizes in an otherworldly voice, perfectly matching Marc’s stray cat wail.  The percussion and various accompaniment Took provides manages to unobtrusively fill out the arrangements without ever taking anything away from Marc’s tall tales.

The lyrics are mostly unintelligible and concern all things fantasy (with far too many references to Lord of the Rings), but occasionally paint touching images like “Oh the throat of winter is upon us, barren barley fields refuse to sway/Lo the frozen bluebirds in the belfry, the blue bells in their hearts are surely prey”.

Perhaps it’s songs like “Throat of Winter” and “Like a White Star…” but this record has a persistent autumnal/winter vibe that penetrates like a deep chill. You can almost hear the cold in Bolan’s voice as he shivers through these tracks.

It’s not a stretch to say that Marc’s writing peaked with this album. It stands on its own with beautiful, mature melodies and is more stunning, original, and developed then anything he would subsequently produce. Bolan and Took parted ways shortly after Unicorn’s release, and the rest of the T. Rex story is widely known. But we’ll always have this record as a document of what Marc was truly capable of when he followed his heart.

Orignally released on Regal Zonophone/Blue Thumb, A&M has a very nice reissue of this disc that is readily available from Amazon. Original vinyl copies are highly sought after.

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“Like A White Star, Tangled and Far, Tulip…”

:D Reissue | 2004 | Universal (expanded) | buy ]
:) Original | 1969 | Polydor | search ebay ]

Wool “Wool”

This 1969 release by Watertown, New York’s Wool proves that even when you have strong talent and all the right connections, sometimes it still isn’t enough to get your band to break.

The group formed in the early ’60s, and were originally known as Ed Wool and The Nomads.  Ed Wool, who was a master guitar prodigy and excellent songwriter, was influenced early on by the new British Invasion sound and later on by the cream-of-the-crop of soul/R&B.  Ed Wool and The Nomads were huge in the mid-60s’ thriving Northern/Upstate New York music scene, even sharing the stage with bands such as Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, The (Young) Rascals, and The Rolling Stones.  In 1966, Ed and The Nomads scored a recording contract with RCA Victor and made one single, “I Need Somebody” b/w “Please, Please, Please,” which flopped.  Several line-up changes ensued as the ’60s progressed, but with Ed Wool still as the main focal point. The group was known as “The Sure Cure” for a brief amount of time, releasing the Feldman/Goldstein/Gottehrer penned “I Wanna Do It” for the Cameo-Parkway label, which also flopped.  Next, as “The Pineapple Heard,” Ed’s group even had the chance to be the first group to record the Boyce & Hart tune “Valleri” in 1967, a year before The Monkees had a hit with it.  That single, released on the tiny Diamond label, again, flopped.  Starting circa 1968, Ed Wool finally settled with a new and final line-up, which included his younger sister Claudia on vocals, and began going by the simple, unique name “Wool.”  The group traveled to New York City and began laying down tracks for their lone eponymous album for ABC Records.

This time around, the group managed to establish a songwriting connection with Neil Diamond, and had folk/pop songwriter and musician Margo Guryan at the helm for production help.  Surely, this should’ve been a recipe for success. Unfortunately, the album went virtually unnoticed nationally, and scored at the very bottom of the Billboard Top 200.  In Upstate/Northern NY, the album was a hit, with several of the tunes being played constantly on local radio stations.  Although it was largely unknown, one can assume that a lack of promotion from ABC Records was likely to blame for the album not being a hit.  It’s a shame, because the music contained on the album is downright good, with even some moments of greatness.

The album is a super tight blend of psych-rock, pop, and funk.  The album’s biggest highlight, a cover of Big Brother & The Holding Company’s “Combination Of The Two” absolutely blows the original out of the water in every aspect. Both the music and vocals make Big Brother’s version sound…dare I say…weak?!  One should especially pay attention to the wild vocals of Claudia Wool and the jaw-dropping fuzzy bass solo, courtesy of Ed Barrella.  The second highlight of the album is an Ed Wool original, entitled “If They Left Us Alone Now.”  A stark piece of psych-pop balladry, the tune belonged in the Top 40.  The Neil Diamond-penned “The Boy With The Green Eyes” also had hit written all over it.  Their cover of “Any Way That You Want Me,” which was better known by The Troggs, The Liverpool Five, and later Evie Sands, may be the best recorded version.  The album closes with the nine-and-a-half minute cover of Buffalo, NY’s Dyke & The Blazers’ “Funky Walk” and perfectly showcases Ed Wool’s superb guitar chops.

After Wool released this album, they recorded a handful of singles for Columbia (yet another major label!), all of which fell upon deaf ears.  Ed Wool is now based in Albany, NY playing blues-rock with a new line-up.  Wool reunited in 2007 for a concert at the famous Bonnie Castle Resort in Alexandria Bay, NY playing some of their old ’60s songs.  As for this album, it was definitely Wool at their peak of creativity. Wool has become a cult classic of sorts, and can be a bit pricey on eBay.  Luckily, in 2006, the UK’s Delay 68 label reissued a remastered version of the album on CD with plenty of photographs and liner notes, and is available for purchase on Amazon.  If you have the extra cash, pick this little gem up.  It will not disappoint the average ’60s rock fanatic.

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“Combination Of The Two”

:D Reissue | 2006 | Delay 68 | buy here ]
:) Original | 1969 | ABC | 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 ]

Bamboo “Bamboo”

Bamboo is in large part the work of guitarist David Ray, formerly one third of legendary folk-blues shouters Koerner, Ray and Glover. Blues enthusiasts coming into this later project should be warned, however, that this is a far cry from the rural acoustics of Ray’s previous group. Instead, Ray and pals traverse a weird, labyrinthine conglomeration of jazz, blues, country, and psychedelic rock that makes for a disorientating yet eminently enjoyable listen.

Singing and songwriting is split here between Ray and his two principal accomplices, Will Donicht and Daniel Hall, though it is clearly Ray who leads the proceedings. For some reason Hall only makes it as an unofficial member, for despite writing and singing two of the funkiest numbers his photograph is absent from the cover. The band is rounded out by a number of west coast session players, including a welcome appearance by esteemed First National Band steel player Red Rhodes.

The songs here are all great, though some ultimately prove less memorable than others. I’d say that Ray’s “Tree House” takes the title for worst offender, marred by its tacky vibes and uninspired lyrics. His “Virgin Albatross,” however, is a serious slice of late-sixties country rock, while the band delves deep into Band-style Americana with Donicht’s “The Odyssey of Thadeus Baxter.” One of my favorite elements to this record – and one that it oddly enough shares with fellow Koerner, Ray and Glover alumni John Koerner’s landmark Running, Jumping, Standing Still – is its extensive use of honky tonk tack piano. Though the playing isn’t quite as remarkable as Willie Murphy’s ragtime runs on Running, it still lends the music a subtle, saloon-band edge.

Daniel Hall’s two contributions are at once the bluesiest, worst-spelled, and most explicitly electric. The catchy shuffle of “Blak Bari Chari Blooz” has some great Hammond organ work, while “Sok Mi Toot Tru Luv” features the record’s deepest grooves. Repeated listens prove rewarding here, so anyone that finds themselves off-put by this collection’s many eccentricities should try spinning it again a little later on down the line – there’s a good chance something will stick before long. This one tends to be underrated by most critics, making it among the easier Elektra Records rarities to hunt down.

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“Blak Bari Chari Blues”

:) Original | 1969 | Elektra | search ebay ]