Posts Tagged ‘ 1970 ’

Wizards from Kansas (self-titled)

Wizards from Kansas

This group is primarily known for their devastating version of High Flying Bird. This song is on their only album from 1970 which bears the strong influence of Jefferson Airplane’s masterpiece Volunteers (which is also from 1970).

The Wizards from Kansas started off in the late 60’s playing festivals alongside other, more well known bands. They have a disc of late 60’s outtakes and alternate versions that are trippier and more psych oriented than the above album. It took me a while to get into this album, but I now consider it one of the best San Francisco style acid guitar LPs. As mentioned before, High Flying Bird is radically reworked into a psychedelic tour de force, full of hard distorted guitar and great Airplane-like vocals. The Wizards also do a powerful cover of Codine, which is slow, progressive and tripped out. The originals also hold up, mixing country, psychedelia, folk and rock into a heady brew. Hey Mister and Country Dawn are standout rural rockers, the latter is really one hell of a tune with a classic intro. Mass is a great psychedelic rocker with acid leads that twist inside and out recalling Jerry Garcia’s guitar style.

Anyone into the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Youngbloods or H.P, Lovecraft will really appreciate this great, unknown record. By the way, these guys were from Kansas.

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“High Flying Bird”

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Michael Nesmith “Magnetic South”

Magnetic South

Michael Nesmith was never really a Monkee. At least, not in the way that most folks imagine the Monkees – as 60s bubblegum phonies in a TV show. The Monkees eventually got with it enough to deserve much more cred than that, but Nez was always ahead of the game.

By 1965, Nezzy was writing and selling hits in LA that were recorded by artists like The Stone Poneys and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. His only mistake was showing up for an audition advertising their need for “four insane boys.” While there’s no telling if it was a mistake or not, Nezzy grew unhappy with lack of freedom afforded to him on the Monkees’ records. He was a musician and a songwriter in the first place!

In 1970 he paid a mint to end his contract early and got to business. It’s clear he wanted to renew his image, because The First National Band he assembled went on to record this country rock classic which is right on par with the Burritos and Poco. When you spin this you’ll realize why Nezzy got frustrated in the Monkees; his songwriting is incredibly strong.

The tone is almost more country than rock, not to say he turned his back on his pop roots. The pedal steel verges on Hawaiian and the band commits to a laid back but very tight sound. Nezzy doesn’t have that “deep in the heart a” country bass kind of vox, but he gets nice and yodelly-melodic on Joanne (the album’s #21 single) and brings out the high-lonesome on Keys To The Car. Things tend to get a little groovy here and there, but First National always brings it back home! Great licks and a very memorable album.

This is a real-deal country rock record, every bit influential as all the others. If you look for this on CD, you’ll also get the other two First National Band records that followed Magnetic South, both as great as the first.

mp3: Hollywood

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Tamam Shud “Goolutionites and the Real People”

Goolutionites and the Real People

Australia has had a vibrant music scene for many years. The 60’s produced many great Aussie bands like the Wild Cherries, the Twilights, the Easybeats, the Loved Ones, Tully, and the Masters’ Apprentices, among others. Tamam Shud came out of the ashes of The Sunsets, who released several decent garage rock singles before their transformation.

The band’s name was taken from a Persian phrase meaning “the very end” which founder Lindsay Bjerre took from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Tamam Shud began playing popular festivals and clubs in or around 1967/1968 and were one of Australia’s first genuine acid rock bands (although it’s important to note that Australia’s surf culture played an important influence). Their first album, Evolution, was released in 1969 and was hailed as Australia’s first original album.

Goolutionites and the Real People was a concept album which came the following year, 1970. At this point, they had added teenager Tim Gaze to their lineup. Gaze was much younger than his other bandmates but his contributions were astonishing. Instrumentally, Tamam Shud was the equal to any band in England or the United States. Goolutionites is highlighted by Gaze’s intense guitar playing with lightning fast leads and jazzy licks. It’s a heavy hard rock psych prog album that will appeal to listeners interested in guitar solos and atmospheric vocals. Fans of early Ash Ra Temple, the Flower Travellin’ Band or even Live Dead 1970 will really dig cosmic rockers I Love You All and Heaven Is Closed. Heaven Is Closed begins with thumping drums and ragging guitar riffs, then mellows out to deliver the band’s lyrical apocalyptic visions. A Plague is also really good with great psychedelic riffs that form a tapestry, weaving in and out during the song’s two and a half minutes. The album closing Goolutionites Theme is awesome, a great space rock song with some incredible guitar solos.

At the time of it’s release Goolutionites was considered a major breakthru, an Oz classic and one of Australia’s finest contributions to rock music. When Tamam Shud disbanded a few of its members went on to form Khavas Jute, who released another great acid rock album in 1971.

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“Take A Walk On A Foggy Morn”

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Swampwater “Swampwater”

Swampwater

Swampwater’s 1970 debut stands alongside Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Guilded Palace of Sin, Poco’s debut, the Everly Brothers’ Roots and Bradley’s Barn as one of the best country-rock records ever.

Founder, Gib Guilbeau had a strong Bakersfield resume prior to forming Swampwater. Guilbeau and Gene Parsons had released a few early country-rock singles in the late 60’s as well as an album which eventually saw light of day in 1970 (although recorded in 1968-). The two recruited Clarence White in 1968 to record the legendary Nashville West album. This album has a good live feel and is highlighted by some of Clarence White’s best playing which was always breathtaking and revolutionary.

Eventually Swampwater formed and started out as Linda Ronstadt’s backing group in the late 60’s. Eric White, Clarence’s brother was also in the band and prior to forming Swampwater had been in the excellent Kentucky Colonels. Swampwater made two distinct albums in the early 70’s without Linda Ronstadt’s involvement. The above album was different than many notable country rock acts of the time for adding cajun and swamprock elements. The album opens and closes with two certified country-rock classics, Louisiana Woman and Big Bayou. Guilbeau had recorded the classy Louisiana Woman with both Nashville West and on his 1970 album with Parsons, though the version heard on Swampwater is the best. Big Bayou is a hard rocking, white hot country song with pretty fiddle that has been covered by many popular artists inlcuding Rod Stewart. Other songs like the acoustic flavored Man From New Orleans are highlighted by beautiful harmonies and a tear in your beer ambience.

Swampwater’s musicianship is high caliber and Guilbeau’s lyrics are always first-rate and thoughtful. Great songs like Kathleen, Desperation’s Back Again (supposedly an Everly Brothers homage with great down and out lyrics) and River People are beautifully arranged and display superior craftsmanship. It’s really a wall of greatness, with each song just as good as the next.

Swampwater mastered all the rural styles from cajun to folk-rock but just never received the breaks they so justly deserved. Their members were slugging it out in bars playing this sort of music years before anyone else had thought to do so. This album is a masterpiece and recommended to any true country fan.

Can anyone provide further information regarding their self-titled RCA album from 1971/1972?

EDIT: John Beland himself was kind enough to stop by and inform us about it in the comments! Thanks for visiting, John!

mp3: Big Bayou

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Emitt Rhodes (self-titled)

Emmit Rhodes

After disbanding his 60s pop group, the Merry Go Round (also recommended!), Emmit Rhodes released this wonderful debut in 1970. Emitt, along with The BBoys, was raised in Hawthorne, California and by the age of 20 had amassed an unusual degree of musical talent. This entire album is composed, performed, and sung by Emitt Rhodes.

This album is different than most lost gems, however, in that there seems to be no good explanation for why it should have remained lost in the first place. The songs are so good, and the recording is ingenious, and incredibly catchy. The closest I get to the problem, is that it sounds too much like The Beatles. In fact, the first time I got this record, I found it hard to get into because it sounded so close to Paul McCartney. It takes the bite out, know what I mean? This doesn’t remain a problem for long, though, as Emitt’s work surpasses that of Sir Paul’s in terms of good to bad ratio. You will soon be bopping along, wishing that Paul had been as focused as Emmy here.

Another classic case of mismanagement later and Emmy’s 4 solo albums would be brushed under the table, waiting for us to scoop it all up. Even after having the song Lullaby featured in Wes Anderson’s Royal Tenenbaums, Emmy’s work remains inexplicably unavailable. I have a feeling a good comp will show up again soon. Daisy Fresh From Hawthorne was a great CD because it held the first album intact and followed with a smattering of pieces from his later albums.

Each song on this self-titled debut is a perfect little gem. You’ve got to track this down somehow. Never pass it up in the bins!

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“Somebody Made For Me”

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Barclay James Harvest “Their First Album”

Barclay James Harvest

Barclay James Harvest were one of England’s most unappreciated, hardluck underground bands throughout the 60’s and 70’s. They released a handful a good albums and came very close to major stardom.

Often labeled the “poor man’s Moody Blues,” Barclay James Harvest began their career in or around 1967. In 1968, they released their superb debut single, Early Morning. Early Morning was a confident, mellotron drenched psychedelic ballad that should have gained them notoriety but failed to do so (sounding similar to a really good cut on the Zombie’s Odessey and Oracle). Another good prog-psych single followed but did little to enhance their reputation.

In 1970, their outstanding debut was released in a gorgeous stained-glass illustrated sleeve. Barclay James Harvest (self-titled) was absolutely dynamite, opening up with Taking Some Time On. This song has some seriously vicious, punky psychedelic guitar riffs and hard hitting drums. It’s a pummeling, devastating rock song and a great way to open up this debut, displaying a mature band with wildly inventive ideas. The next song, Mother Dear is a beautiful acoustic composition augmented with strings that is almost a response to the Move’s classic Beautiful Daughter (from Shazaam). Another highlight is The Sun Will Never Shine, a great piece of dramatic progressive psychedelia highlighted by great use of mellotron. The album closes with the 12 minute Dark Now My Sky, which is a sterling example of early progressive rock.

There are no false steps on Barclay James Harvest and this great record never fails to challenge and reward its listeners.

The whole album is absolutely wonderful, finding some kind of middle ground between the Move, psychedelic era Pretty Things and late 60’s Procol Harum. A genuinely fantastic album that is not to be missed, pitched half way between the psych and prog eras.

mp3: Taking Some Time On

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The Wackers “Hot Wacks”

Hot Wacks

Hot Wacks is unquestionably the Wackers best album. Although at times a bit derivative of Abbey Road era Beatles (there’s even a side 2 suite), Hot Wacks is really a lost power pop gem.

In 1971, the Wackers released a strong debut, lushly produced by Gary Usher. While Usher was no doubt a great producer, some may find his production on Hot Wacks a little too slick. The songs and performances save the day though, and show the band maturing at a rapid rate. Bob Segarini, one of the band’s founders, had been in Family Tree and Roxy prior to forming the Wackers. He’s still on the scene today making albums, and if push comes to shove, I’d say that his other two masterpieces are Miss Butters by Family Tree (1968-) and Gotta Have Pop which is a solo effort from the late 1970’s.

With Hot Wacks, Segarini and the Wackers’ Beatles obsession reached an apex. On vinyl, the side two suite is very good with some superb harmonies and tight songcraft. Anyone who enjoyed Shake Some Action or Now era Flamin’ Groovies will love this album. The early 70’s psych pop (distorted vocals) of Find Your Own Way and the catchy, sensitive accoustic rocker Time Will Carry On are definite highlights of this medley. Side 1 has a power pop masterpiece in We Can Be. It’s everything you would hope from an underground band like this, a great epic guitar riff and Segarini’s wonderfully gritty, soulful vocals. Even the John Lennon self-analyzing classic Oh My Love is a killer cover, performed with care and panache.

Anyone interested in power pop or Beatles-influenced bands should pick this album up and delve a little deeper into the career of Bob Segarini. A critical assessment of this lost figure is long overdue.

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mp3: Oh My Love

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Montage (self-titled)

Montage

Michael Brown, though not credited, is the man behind this strange, beautiful album. His work with The Left Banke will go unmentioned for this review, as we will certainly revisit it later. But if you don’t know the Left Banke, think The Zombies gone classical, replacing the Fender Rhodes with a harpsichord.

And if you don’t know Montage, think The Left Banke gone Zombies, though a year or three later, replacing the harpsichord with a bass-driven rhythm section and confident grand piano. Though we have all the chamber elements in place; each song is adequately ornamented with winds, strings and brass when needed, though never when not. What differs from the Banke is a seemingly more progressive sound, certainly a step beyond their great first accomplishments, but one that could go no further.

These songs will surprise you: the haunting She’s Alone, the unbelievable “off-note” that tunes you in to the message of Men Are Building Sand, a Left Banke leftover actually, along with Desiree, a major highlight on this disc, and even better than its original counterpart.

Best of all, The Song is Love, a lite pop master stroke: it’s awesome.

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“The Song Is Love”

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The Left Banke “Desiree”

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Montage “Desiree”

John Cale “Vintage Violence”

Vintage Violence

I was listening to a Paul McCartney album the other day, thinking about how when you listen to his solo work, you can then go back and hear just what his contributions were to the Beatles. More likely, you don’t even have to go back, if the Beatles albums are as ingrained into your head as they should be. We get that same opportunity with John Cale and the Velvet Underground, listening to Cale’s brilliant Vintage Violence.

Granted, John Davies Cale left the VU after finishing their second album, but you can tell they missed out on a good thing. This record, unlike the surprising cover would imply, is a perfect pop gem. You might think you’d be getting into a full LP’s worth of Sister Ray type viola droning and electric mayhem, but Cale proves he’s got mad pop song skills to match his solid, driving piano stomping.

No doubt some of these songs should have been hits. That’s what we’re here for though; I’ve got ten bucks that says a song from this album ends up in the next Wes Anderson film (editors note: fail), and if I had to pick one I’d probably go with Amsterdam, certainly a competitor to The Zombs’ The Way I Feel Inside.

If you are into Brian Eno this is going to be very essential for you. John Cale would go on to create more wonderful music and produce some seriously classic albums, so get started here.

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“Big White Cloud”

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