Posts Tagged ‘ 1969 ’

Neil Young “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

This record holds a very special place in my musical affections. In 1969, being still in the grip of the
Beatles, the British Blues Boom and the tail end of the psychedelic era, I hadn’t even heard of Mr
Young. One day whilst idling around London’s West End I strolled into the HMV store in Oxford
Street and heard the long central guitar workout from “Down By The River” playing over the PA. I
guess in my five decades of record buying I’ve bought an unknown album merely from hearing it
played in a store maybe four, five times; the most recent was Beth Orton’s Trailer Park about eight
years ago. Everybody Knows was my first such purchase. It’s still a mega-favourite.

Why did this record turn out so great? I think it’s a case of simple serendipity; everything seemed
just to fall into place at these sessions. Neil discovered exactly the right backing band, sympathetic
to his muse to an almost uncanny degree, as evinced by the unselfishly solid bass and drum
backing and the almost telepathic interplay between Young’s and Danny Whitten’s guitars. Neil’s
simultaneously fragile and potent voice has never sounded better, and the slightly ragged harmonies
are exquisite. The songs show their composer at a creative summit, and whilst they provide
prototypes for all of his future directions (the perverse electronica of Trans excepted), their variety
is surely unmatched on any single later album; from the distortion-laden proto-grunge of “Cinnamon
Girl” through the wry cod-Nashville of “The Losing End”, via the sparse, punky groove of “Down
By The River” with its crunching, wailing solos, and the understated acoustic beauty of “Round
& Round”. There’s a vein of sadness and despair that runs all the way through the album like the
lettering through a stick of seaside rock; in particular, Bobby Notkoff’s tremulous Klezmer violin work
on “Running Dry” should bring a tear to even the most jaundiced eye. And producer David Briggs
achieves a rare and gratifying symbiosis of warmth and clarity on the original vinyl waxing that the
latest CD reissue finally recaptures (earlier ones being less than perfect in this respect).

I know that I’m courting a flurry of comments by opining that Uncle Neil peaked this early in
his career, and that his second solo album is the best of his remarkable forty-year oeuvre. I’ve
subsequently absorbed pretty well all of his stuff from the simple, sunny country-folk of Old Ways
to the teeth-loosening fury of Ragged Glory, and I love and respect the man for the breadth of his
vision and his wilful, capricious determination to choose and change his own direction. However, for
me this one still holds the top spot. That said, anyone who wants to propose another Young opus as
the man’s masterwork is welcome to do so – with reasons given, of course. Over to you . . . .

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“Running Dry (Requiem for the Rock)”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Reprise | buy ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Reprise | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1969 | Reprise | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

John Pantry “The Upside Down World Of John Pantry”

John Pantry is one of those artists that deserves to be heard by more people, especially those who value melodic British pop.  He released one decent solo disc in the early 70s (which has not been reissued as of this date) before delving into the world of Christian music.  Prior to that, he had been a talented studio engineer for IBC Studios (working with Eddie Tre-Vett), producing for the likes of Donovan, The Small Faces, The Bee Gees, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Cream.  He was also a member of Peter & The Wolves, an accomplished mid 60s pop group from Leigh-on-Sea/Southend and had a major hand with many other IBC studio projects of the time: the Factory, Sounds Around, Wolfe, The Bunch and Norman Conquest.

In 2009, Wooden Hill released a double disc set of Pantry’s late 60s/early 70s work.  It includes singles/tracks from all the above groups plus numerous outtakes and demos.  If anything, this set (53 tracks!) illustrates the depth of Pantry’s talents.  Besides being a savy studio technician, Pantry was a gifted songwriter and vocalist and an accomplished musician (he played the keyboards).  The earlier tracks stem from one of Pantry’s first groups, Sounds Around.  These guys played straight pop with slight soul and psych influences – they released two singles in 1966-1967.  Peter & The Wolves came shortly after Sounds Around’s demise (they were essentially the same group).  This is the group with which Pantry is most associated, along with The Factory.  Peter & The Wolves released several singles and lasted into the early 70s.  This group’s most productive period was probably the years of 1967-1969, where they released a string of pop gems:  a good, upbeat blue-eyed soul number titled “Still”, the superb Emitt Rhodes like “Woman On My Mind” and several tuneful psych pop creations, “Lantern Light,” “Birthday,” and “Little Girl Lost And Found” being the best in this style.

It was around this time that John Pantry was asked to write two tracks for The Factory, a legendary psychedelic group who had previously released the classic “Path Through The Forest” 45.  Pantry wrote and sang lead on the two Factory standouts, “Try A Little Sunshine” and the more folk-like “Red Chalk Hill.”  “Try A Little Sunshine” is the heaviest song on this comp, a classic that mixes Who power with Moody Blues spaciness.

During this period Pantry took advantage of free studio time and recorded a slew of demos.  While the sound quality is slightly below par, the power of popsike gems like “Battle Of Trafalgar,” “Pitsea Pub,” “Wash Myself Away,” and “Mississippi Paddleboat” cannot be denied.   Most of the material spanning these two discs strongly recalls Paul McCartney, Emitt Rhodes/The Merry-Go-Round and a more cheerful, punchy Bee Gees.  Wooden Hill exercised quality control (no duff tracks to be found) and should be commended for reissuing this great anthology.

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Peter and the Wolves “Woman On My Mind” (1968-)

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Wooden Hill | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1999 | Tenth Planet | search ebay ]

The Four Seasons “The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette”

The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is as good as (if not better) than many of the more vaunted psych pop creations.  The songwriting is dense, adventurous and very strong this time around.  Like all great legends, Frankie Valli comes through in a big way, delivering some of the best vocal performances of his career.  The harmony singing is breathtaking, never straying too far from what made the Four Season’s such a great mid 60s vocal group (they were often called the Beach Boys of the East!).  Three songs exceed the 6 minute mark and are epic productions but the shorter psych pop numbers are just as good.  The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is no cash-in effort or group attempt at jumping on the psychedelic bandwagon, it’s the real deal.  Backward cymbals, phasing and other means of studio experimentation simply add to the group’s strong pop sensibility.  Great hooks, quirky ideas and powerful performances keep this LP grounded – things never sound forced, bloated or too psychedelic. Great pop songs like “Something’s On Her Mind,” “Mrs. Stately’s Garden,” “Saturday’s Father,” and the extended title track expand on the group’s mid 60s sound.

Consistent and original, The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is a terrific LP that always seems to slip thru the cracks. It goes without saying that this is the best LP the Four Seasons ever released.   This is also the achievement that Frankie Valli is most proud of;  in 2002, Goldmine interviewed Frankie Valli who reflected on the album’s lack of success: “We talked about some of the social problems on that album. Nobody was expecting anything like that from us. The record company wasn’t very pleased with the fact that we turned in an album like that. They didn’t do very much work on it. It certainly is an album that I’ve always been very proud of. I wouldn’t call the album exactly psychedelic, [although] it did have kind of a flow or a taste of that. “Wall Street Village Day” was an incredible song. “Soul Of A Woman” was another really great song, and the title song, “Genuine Imitation Life,” is also great. Of all the bands out there, we have touched on almost every kind of music that there is. Everything from “Sherry” to the album Genuine Imitation Life Gazette to touches of jazz with “Swearin’ To God” to “My Eyes Adored You” to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” to “Who Loves You.” I don’t know many acts out there who have done it as successfully as we have done it.”  Four Season main songwriter Bob Gaudio also had some thoughts on the record: “One of the disappointments of our career for me on a creative level was the Genuine Imitation Life Gazette album. It was just something that I had to do at that time. It got wonderful reviews, but obviously it was not an acceptable piece from us. Everybody was expecting Top 40.”

Long time fans usually write Gazette off because it’s a departure from the group’s signature sound.  Dealer’s tend to overlook this classic because it’s an LP by a group who was never considered to be hip, making Gazette a cheap, easy to find score.  Prepare to be surprised.

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“Saturday’s Father”

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

Freedom “Nero Su Bianco (Black On White)”

The history of this MIA sixties popsike gem seems to be better known than the music itself, possibly
because it’s such a quirky tale. Almost immediately after the runaway success of Procol Harum’s
first 45 rpm outing, “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, in the summer of 1967 drummer Bobby Harrison
and guitarist Ray Royer left the band for reasons undisclosed but amid very public rancour, in the
wake of co-manager Jonathan Weston who had been fired just previously. Enlisting the youthful but
experienced Mike Lease on Hammond and piano plus unknown teenager Steve Shirley on bass and
lead vocal, Harrison christened the new outfit Freedom, possibly as a snipe at Procol. While they
rehearsed at Weston’s house, the manager somehow obtained for them a commission to produce
the soundtrack for an upcoming erotic movie by Italian avant-garde director Dino Di Laurentiis. This
would be virtually dialogue-free, with the soundtrack’s lyrics providing the principal characterisation.
The recordings for this challenging project took place at London’s Olympic Studios over two months,
produced by Lease and engineered by Glyn Johns, no less, and Eddie Kramer, future producer to
Jimi Hendrix. The film was entitled Nero Su Bianco (or Attraction/Black On White for release outside
Italy). The band actually appeared in the film, miming the songs as a commentary to the action. It’s
not explained how Italian audiences were expected to cope with the English lyrics.

The movie predictably stiffed everywhere outside its native country, and found only an art-house
audience at home. The music would have disappeared along with it, no release on record ever
having been intended. However, Atlantic Records had issued an album of the soundtrack in 1969
in Italy only, totally without the band’s cognizance, and this was picked up thirty years later by
the new generation of UK psych rarity anoraks, finally finding a general release as Black On White
on the Angel Air reissue label. As for Freedom, Weston had finally secured them a recording deal
with Mercury in 1968 under which a single “Where Will You Be Tonight” appeared, but its chart
failure and that of a subsequent single “Kandy Kay” on EMI’s German Plexium imprint, plus rising
antagonism between founder members Harrison and Royer, led to the band’s demise early the
following year. Harrison went on to lead a new and very different Freedom which produced several
albums in a typical early-70s hard-rock style.

The music on Black On White will not sound unfamiliar to Procol Harum devotees, being heavily
keyboards-based with Shirley’s soulful lead vocals reminiscent of Gary Brooker, although perhaps
nearer to Greg Lake. The general feel is however more funky and less bombastic than Procul of the
same period, maybe closer to early Traffic. It owes its psych credentials to the mildly lysergic lyrics
and to the use of string-quartet backings, harpsichords and other pop-Baroque touches, rather
than to studio trickery, this being limited to modest if ubiquitous flanging. There are no obvious
highlights, all tracks being of a uniformly excellent quality both in the songwriting and in the playing.
The 2009 CD re-release includes all thirteen cuts from the original soundtrack, plus both sides of the
Mercury single and some alternative mixes.

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“The Better Side”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Angel Air | buy at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Atlantic | search ebay ]

PODCAST 21 Dark in my Heart


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1.  Hank Williams – Lonesome Whistle (1951) from Revealed: The Unreleased Recordings

2.  Lee Hazlewood – Dark In My Heart (1967) from Lee Hazlewoodism, Its Cause and Cure

3.  Addie Pray (Bill Lincoln from Euphoria) – Wings In The Wind (1970-1971) from Late For The Dance

4.  Elyse (with Neil Young) – Houses (1969) from Elyse

5.  The Youngbloods – Foolin’ Around (The Waltz) from The Youngbloods (1967)

6. J.J. Light – Gallup, New Mexico (1969) from Heya!

7.  Roscoe Holcomb – Coal Creek (date unknown) from An Untamed Sense of Control

8.  Buffy Sainte-Marie – Poppies (1969) from Illuminations

9.  Bert Jansch – Cluck Old Hen (1974) from LA Turnaround

10.  Graham Nash & David Crosby – Frozen Smiles (1972) from self-titled LP

11.  Ry Cooder – France Chance (1970) from Ry Cooder

12.  John Simon – Did You See? (1970) John Simon’s Album

13.  The Beau Brummels – One Too Many Mornings (1966) from Magic Hollow Box Set

14.  Space Opera – Blue Ridge Mountains (1972) from Space Opera

15.  Pearls Before Swine – Ballad to an Amber Lady (1967) from One Nation Underground

16.  Muleskinner – Muleskinner Blues (1972) from Muleskinner

17.  Tim Buckley – Song to the Siren – Morning Glory – The Tim Buckley Story

18.  The Band – The Rumor (1970) from Stage Fright

The Shaggs “Philosophy of the World”

Three teenage sisters from New Hampshire, Dot, Betty, and Helen Wiggin, were pushed by their father to form a band and in 1969 they recorded the ultimate outsider album, Philosophy of the World. Both Frank Zappa and Kurt Cobain have cited it as a fave.

Immediately it sounds unlistenable, but soon it’s hard to stop – like rubbernecking at a car wreck. The Shaggs’ approach comes from way beyond, seemingly informed by nothing. Their music is profoundly unique, sincere, and captivating.

The “problem” with the music is the drums are plainly out of sync with the guitar and vocal.  But you can’t blame the drummer, Helen, whose oft-recycled, go-to drum fill hits the spot every time.  Dot Wiggin’s guitar and lead vocal melodies have a natural lean to complex and disorganized time signatures; I’d bet even the best free jazz drummers couldn’t keep up.  Ultimately what emerges in my mind is a picture of sibling rivalry: Dot wants Helen to follow her rambling leads, and Helen just wants her sisters to come back to the planet and adhere to some semblance of a 4/4 beat.

The songwriting is strange, but at times poignant, as in “Why Do I Feel” (listen as Betty the rhythm guitarist and Helen the drummer finally sneak in a few bars of beat-matched tempo during the intro) and “Who Are Parents?” a heartbreaking, beautiful mess of a song.  “My Pal Foot Foot” is a bizarre piece, presumably about the family dog. “I’m So Happy When You’re Near” comes to a lyrical crescendo when they loudly proclaim “sometimes I think we are completely insane!”

Philosophy of the World is raw, abrasive, and weird, but absolutely must-hear. Especially recommended in small doses.

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“Who Are Parents”

:D CD Reissue | 1999 | RCA | buy at amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Third World | search ebay ]

Moby Grape “Live”

Something tells me, if I had been at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom in June of ’67 to witness Moby Grape at the height of their powers, scorching through their set of two-minute pop blasts, blaring triple-guitar action and five-part harmonies soaring, I might not have survived the night. None was the match of the mighty Grape in those days; the band was “flying musically” and easily the toughest act around. Moby Grape Live is the first official release to afford a glimpse into the raucous and entrancing stage performances of one of the most exciting, original, and underappreciated bands of the ’60s.

Separated into four sides, this double LP takes us to performances from the same weeks their infamously overhyped masterpiece Moby Grape was released, to their few high-octane minutes at the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival, jumping forward to a 1969 performance in Amsterdam featuring cuts from Wow and ’69, and ending back at the start: a full side of  “Dark Magic,” recorded New Years Eve, 1966. This one’s worth the purchase for Side 1 alone. The rabid energy of the band, issuing rapid-fire gems like “Rounder” and “Looper,”  hits a high point in “Changes” into “Indifference” featuring Jerry Miller’s careening lead guitar. Skip Spence turns in a beautifully honest vocal to cap the blistering set with “Someday.” The highlight for me, however, are the post-Skip tracks from 1969 on Side 3. “Murder in my Heart for the Judge” shows the band at their loosest, the slack and soul of the rootsier Grape a refreshing contrast. “I am Not Willing,” one of their best songs, gets a grooving drawn out treatment and it’s interesting to hear a matured group attack earlier hits “Fall on You” and “Omaha.” The closing 17-minute raga, “Dark Magic,” is more than a piece of rock music history, an actually listenable and fascinating performance, it features inspiring guitar leads, primitive electronic squeals, Skip’s far out vocal, and the driving force of sound that made Moby Grape one of the hottest band of the era.

Sundazed has curated an important document here. Hardcore Grape addicts should note much of this material has been featured on bootlegs over the years (notably the tracks from Monterey Pop and “Dark Magic”) but none of this has ever been officially released, and never with such pristine sound quality. David Fricke’s notes are the icing on the cake. After the essential debut record, this is the Moby Grape record I would recommend next.

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“Murder in My Heart for the Judge” (1969, Amsterdam)

:) 180 Gram Vinyl | 2-LP | 2010 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]
:D CD | 2010 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]

Morgen “Morgen”

Morgen was a hard rock/psych band that hailed from Long Island, NY.  They were fronted by guitarist/vocalist/wild man Steve Morgen but also included drummer Bob Maiman and guitarists Barry Stock and Rennie Genossa.  In 1969, record label Probe (ABC) released the group’s sole offering.

The album’s best known track is the classic “Welcome To The Void.”  40+ years later this cut’s over the top acid guitar work and pounding drums still shred the best of speakers.  Certainly a unique mixture of acid garage and hard rock, “Welcome To The Void” is essential listening.  There are other great cuts to be found on Morgen, like the stealth rocker “Purple” and the freaky fuzz corker “Of Dreams.”  “Eternity In Between,” probably influenced by the Who, is another excellent track that begins with ringing guitars and crashing drums.  This 5 minute song is nearly ruined by a two and a half minute drum solo.

Steve Morgen’s sexually charged lyrics and over the top vocals will irritate some listeners but that’s really a minor complaint as most of Morgen is full of great fuzz guitar solos and solid songs.  No beads or flowers for these guys, Morgen is straight up brooding hard rock psych.  A mini gem of a record that will reward patient listeners.

Over the years Morgen has been reissued by grey area bootleggers Eva and Radioactive.  Originals may set you back a few hundred dollars.

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“Welcome To The Void”

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

Kaleidoscope (UK) “Faintly Blowing”

Kaleidoscope was one of England’s purest and most beloved psychedelic bands.  Prior to their ventures into psychedelia, Kaleidoscope had been known as The Sidekicks and then, The Key.  These groups played a rather ordinary brand of British pop and R&B.  Kaleidoscope debuted in 1967 with their fabulous Tangerine Dream LP.  This disc featured some of the finest psychedelia England had produced up to that point.  More than half the album is fleshed out with lost classics; check out trippy tracks such as “Please Excuse My Face,” “Dive Into Yesterday,” “Flight From Ashiya,” “The Murder of Lewis Tullani,” “Mr. Small, The Watch Repairer Man,” and the superb “Further Reflections In The Room Of Percussion.”  Many of these cuts are on par with the best of Pink Floyd’s early work.  Kaleidoscope was making imaginative music featuring plenty of interesting chord progressions, jangley guitars, bizarre lyrics, and smart production trickery.  Much of the rest of Tangerine Dream is very good too, but sales and critical recognition stiffed due to the adventurous nature of the group’s music.

Faintly Blowing (Fontana) came out sometime later, in 1969.  While it may lack some of the key album cuts that made Tangerine Dream so special, Faintly Blowing is consistently strong and features influences as diverse as folk and hard rock.  Some of the highlights include “Poem,” a soft folk track similar to “Please Excuse My Face,” the phased out hard rocker “Music” and the edgy psychedelic title cut.  Abrasive numbers “Snapdragon” and “Love Song From Annie” represent Kaleidoscope’s new hard rock approach while still retaining the group’s clever edge – these cuts are both gems.  Some songs’ lyrics, like that on the tuneful folk-rocker “A Story From Tom Blitz,” deal with morals and important life lessons to be learned.

The music on Faintly Blowing is a bit more professional sounding, lacking the reckless energy and psychedelic feel of the debut.  But make no mistake, this is a very good album full of sharp ideas, fairytale lyrics, fine songcraft and pretty vocals.  If you’re intrigued by psychedelic, progressive or folk sounds, this disc is not to be missed.

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“Faintly Blowing”

:D CD Reissue | 2005 | Repertoire | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Fontana | search ebay ]

Creedence Clearwater Revival “Bayou Country”

For a long time I wondered why four guys from the musical wellhead that was late ‘60s San Fran set out to sound like a swamp’n’roll band from the backwoods of Louisiana, whilst accepting as perfectly natural that five young long-haired white boys from London, England should have bust their guts to emulate a black 1950s Chicago bar band. Eventually I stopped wondering and started trying to pin down why this album has remained Creedence’s most underestimated, least discussed collection, despite coming closest to the ideal they sought. Not that it didn’t sell; just that nobody ever seems to mention it till near the end of a CCR conversation, if at all. And at the time of writing it’s running a distant fourth in The Rising Storm’s Creedence discography uReview vote.

The undeniable ability of John Fogerty’s outfit to produce immaculate three-minute power-pop singles shines throughout CCR’s oeuvre, from “Suzie Q” to “Sweet Hitch Hiker”. But this album finds the band stretching out on what is to all purposes a live stage set performed in the studio: raw and honest, high energy, no discernable overdubs. The three long, sweaty, riffing jams – “Born On The Bayou”, “Graveyard Train” and “Keep On Chooglin’” – and the shorter but similar “Bootleg” get as close as CCR ever did to the authentic swamp-rock of Tony Joe White. On the mandatory classic rock’n’roll cover “Good Golly Miss Molly” John does what Paul McCartney did on the Fabs’ version of “Long Tall Sally”: his eviscerating vocal simply leaves the original for dead. “Proud Mary” is the hit single, but despite its prettiness it’s the weakest cut on the album, as the pace and energy level dip temporarily. The real surprise, and true gem, of the whole collection is “Penthouse Pauper”, an uncharacteristic twelve-bar blues on which both John’s voice and his Telecaster are fit to strip wallpaper.

The straightforward, no-frills nature of Creedence’s music enabled them to record and release an astonishing six albums in two-and-a-half years, from July 1968 to December 1970. (Think on that, Coldplay.) Whilst on an extended vacation in western Canada in 2007 I got to talk to and play with a number of young musicians who weren’t born till years after these albums came out. I was surprised to find that CCR was right up there as one of their favourite acts to cover. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised: the simple but irresistable songs, the natural, unaffected guitar sound and that unique banshee voice have a genuinely timeless quality.

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“Penthouse Pauper”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Fantasy | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1969 | Fantasy | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Download | at amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]