Posts Tagged ‘ 1971 ’

Felt “Felt”

Not much is known about this mysterious hard rock/psych group.  Felt hailed from Alabama and released their only album on the Nasco label in 1971.  Formed in the late 60s, Felt’s lineup featured two solid guitarists in Myke Jackson and Stan Lee.  The latter would eventually play guitar for the legendary (and great) late 70s/early 80s punk band, the Dickies.  Other group members were bassist Tommy Gilstrap and drummer Mike Neel.

Their album is a sterling example of late 60s/early 70s American underground rock n roll – a very strong disc.  Felt alternates between crunchy blues based rock (with biting teenage vocals) and Beatlesque psych.  Their ten minute epic, “The Change,” is two or three songs wrapped into one.   Most bands would never be able to pull a trick like this off but Felt gets by on great musicianship and interesting arrangements: plenty of potent guitar solos, fresh organ interplay, blistering drums and brooding hard rock vocals.  “Weepin Mama Blues” and “World” are similar cuts with more of a blues influence – solid early 70s hardrock with none of the histrionic wailing or 10 minute guitar solos that plagued so many LPs of the era.  The remaining half of this disc sports more of a psych feel.  “Look At The Sun” is a downbeat popsike gem while “Now She’s Gone” and “Destination” are great tracks that feature jazzy time signatures and good psychedelic guitar work.   Felt is definitely a keeper without any real weaknesses – a solid 4 star album.

Akarma reissued this lost gem several years ago.  Flawed Gems followed Akarma in 2010 with a bootleg version of Felt.

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“Look At The Sun”

;) MP3 Album | download amzn ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Nasco |  search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Luke Gibson “Another Perfect Day”

Along with Bruce Cockburn’s debut, Another Perfect Day was one of True North’s first releases in 1971/1972.  Prior to this disc, Luke Gibson fronted Luke and the Apostles, a legendary garage blues group who released an excellent punker in 1967 titled “Been Burnt.”   From here, Gibson went on to play in Kensington Market, a psych pop group who released two intriguing albums in the late 60’s (Aardvark is a great psych pop effort).  Disagreements and drug abuse killed off the Kensington Market.  From here, Gibson revived the Apostles once more in 1970, releasing another good hard rock 45 titled “You Make Me High.”  It was a popular record for the time but not enough to change the struggling group’s fortunes, so Gibson decided to embark on a solo career.

Listeners must’ve been shocked when they heard Another Perfect Day. The LP isn’t the psych, garage, or hardrock that colored Gibson’s past records.  The vocals are informed by hardrock and country-rock rather than folk or honky tonk.  This gives the music a sparse but ballsy quality – it’s what makes Another Perfect Day so unique.  Some tracks like “See You Again” and “All Day Rain” have electric guitars but for the most part this record is quiet acoustic music.  “Full Moon Rider” one of the album’s key tracks, is a riveting piece of music that features fiddle, superb vocals and a hard rocking ambience.  Other highlights are “Lobo”, a beautiful heartfelt country tune, the world weary title track and the trippy acoustic harpsichord laced gem “Angel.”  Great vocal performances, accomplished musicianship, a good backwoods vibe and strong songwriting make this one of the best discs I’ve heard in quite some time.  Long thought of as one of the best singer songwriter albums to come out of Canada, Another Perfect Day is the real deal – authentic stuff.

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“Angel”

:D CD Reissue | 2010 | True North |  buy at true north | amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Shuggie Otis “Freedom Flight”

As we all know, the oldest cliché in rock is the casualty list. There are the high-profile heroes of misadventure: Buddy Holly, Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are those that couldn’t handle success and took the ultimate way out: Nick Drake, Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley. But perhaps saddest of all are those huge talents who unaccountably chose simply to fade into obscurity, often in self-imposed seclusion: Brian Wilson, Peter Green, Emitt Rhodes . . . and Shuggie Otis.

Johnnie Velotes Jr was a precocious musical polymath. Son of extrovert jump-jive bandleader Johnnie Otis, Shuggie inherited the musical gene in spades, playing guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vibes fluently before reaching his teens. At fifteen he replaced Mike Bloomfield in Al Kooper’s occasional all-star supergroup for the album Kooper Session: Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis. In the same year he played bass on the sessions for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats; that’s Shuggie’s bubbling, syncopating bass on “Peaches En Regalia”.

A year later the teenage prodigy released his first solo album, Here Comes Shuggie Otis, co-written and produced by his father and backed by the cream of Johnnie Sr’s session pals. The second followed a year later: its title Freedom Flight symbolised Shuggie’s breaking loose from his father’s patronage, with most compositions being credited to him alone and with a much smaller coterie of backing players, while Shuggie overdubbed his own bass and keyboard parts and wrote his own string and brass charts. But even this new level of creative control wasn’t enough: his third and final album, Inspiration Information, took three years to construct, with Shuggie playing everything bar the horns and strings which he scored. And then, at the age of 22, Shuggie Otis went into self-imposed retirement. Apart from occasional studio sessions for other artists and, recently, some low-key live appearances in Northern California, he’s remained silent and invisible.

The first album is an enthusiastic freshman romp through blues and funk, showcasing Shuggies’s youthfully exuberant guitar; the last is an introspective, sensitive effort that unites soul and jazz in what would now be called ambient soundscapes, way ahead of its time but with a curiously vulnerable, unfinished quality. Freedom Flight is undoubtedly his most-realised collection. The blues/funk axis carries over from Here Comes, notably on the killer opener “Ice Cold Daydream” and the sole cover, Gene Barge’s “Me And My Woman”, but with a far more mature, considered approach to his guitar playing from the eighteen-year-old virtuoso. The album also nods in other directions; the gorgeous psychedelically-tinged California soul of “Strawberry Letter 23” with its astonishing coda, the restrained modal slide guitar work on “Sweet Thang” and the guitar/flute dialogue that ends the joyous “Someone’s Always Singing”. But the big surprise is the title track, which moves unexpectedly into the most melodic of free jazz with the guitar improvising against tenor sax, Fender Rhodes and a ubiquitous wind chime for thirteen minutes, and not a wasted note anywhere – Shuggie’s absolute masterpiece. This points toward the third album, and the direction he’d probably have taken thereafter had he stayed the course.

One reviewer called Shuggie Otis the link between Sly Stone and Stephen Stills; personally I’d say between Mike Bloomfield and Curtis Mayfield. But such comparisons are subjective and irrelevant. If you want to follow up this brilliant, enigmatic young musician’s brief career on CD, Inspiration Information was reissued on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop imprint in 2001 with four key tracks from Freedom Flight included as bonus cuts, while the first two albums reappeared in full as a twofer on the excellent Raven label from Australia in 2003. Both releases are unreservedly recommended.

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“Strawberry Letter 23”

:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Epic | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2003 | 2fer | Raven | at amzn ]

Poco “Deliverin'”

Poco’s first two studio albums and Deliverin’, this live set from 1971, represent some of the best country-rock laid down to wax.  These tracks were taken from two recorded live shows: Boston’s Music Hall and New York City’s Felt Forum.  If you’re into this kind of music, Deliverin’ represents a kind of peak or pinnacle for the genre.  If only for the powerful playing, tight performances and Rusty Young’s brilliant, often underrated steel guitar work.  It’s easily one of the best live discs of its time; a better played and more enjoyable listening experience than say the Rolling Stones’ Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out.  Furay and Messina are in great spirits too, often lifting the mood and interplay between the musicians.  That’s what makes Deliverin’ so essential; the positive attitudes and vibrant mood of the musicians.  This music soothes the soul and lifts spirits; it’s good listening when you’re having a bad day or going through the motions.  But there’s also depth here too, these tunes will stick in your head for days.

Deliverin’ is high energy, hard hitting country music that mixes new group originals with tracks from Poco’s first two albums and a few Richie Furay penned Buffalo Springfield era gems.  “Kind Woman”, a great, great song, is given a 5 minute rendition while “A Child’s Claim To Fame” is the center of a brilliant medley which also includes “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” and the awesome “Hard Luck.”  They rock the hell out of album opener “I Guess You Made It” and nearly burst into flames on an acoustic version of “You’d Better Think Twice,” which was one of their all-time classics (a small radio hit too).  Deliverin’ ends with another great medley that is mostly comprised of songs from Poco’s superb debut.

Not a wasted moment here.  This is Jim Messina’s swan song with the group as he would leave shortly after, forming the Loggins & Messina duo with Kenny Loggins of course.  Deliverin’ shows us why Poco was one of the great American bands.

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“Medley: Hard Luck/A Child’s Claim To Fame/Pickin’ Up The Pieces”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Sbme | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Epic | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Hoyt Axton “Joy to the World”

After too many years over-exposure to the words “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…” I thought I would never make it all the way through another version of “Joy to the World.” Hoyt Axton’s original delivers the goods though, and much more to dig on this 1971 gem, his most celebrated and “hits” filled record.

In quotations since none of the “hits” were from his own version. Before any research, it sounds like a collection of covers, but I was surprised to learn he actually wrote “Joy to the World,” “Never Been to Spain” (both as made famous by 3 Dog),  and “The Pusher” (Steppenwolf). Clearly a talented songwriter but a damn fine performer at that, seeing as how his originals endure better today than their played-out cover versions. These productions are raw, but layered and textured, a bit twangy and sometimes pumped up with an overdriven gospel chorus. It’s a kind of sound that could even sound good on blown out speakers.

Axton’s vocal varies track to track: sometimes it’s a little unconvincing, like on the swampy “California Women” (great work with the blues harp on this one), but a couple lines in he’ll hook you back. The payoff is in the growl and squonk when his voice is most worn.

This record’s worth it for some key moments. The panning moog (or distorted bass guitar, sax? can anybody call it?) on “Alice in Wonderland’s” addicting chorus.  The first verse of “Lightnin’ Bar Blues” (another song so good I can’t believe it’s original) before the bar fight sound effects nearly ruin the track. And “Have a Nice Day,” now that’s my kind of tune, it’s like the content of a R. Davies track with some J. Sebastian feel.

Get this any way you can find it, but the Raven CD reissue comes as a 2fer with his previous recording, Country Anthem, another great one.

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“Alice in Wonderland”

:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Capitol | search ebay ]
:D CD reissue | 2001 | Raven | 2fer | at amazon ]

Tommy James “Christian of the World”

An unlikely classic if you judge by the sleeve, “Christian of the World” is a sweet slab of gospel rock from the one and only Tommy James. Tommy James and the Shondells are an obsession-worthy group, with a slew of memorable hits to their name. I beg you to listen closer next time “Hanky Panky” comes up on oldies radio – it’s one of the nastier garage beats I’ve heard, though it still hit number one, such a killer track. A string of succeeding uptempo hits marred the group with a “bubblegum” label that Tommy hated, urging him to infuse psychedelic sounds into classics like “Crimson and Clover.” His first two solo records continue seamlessly in the marvelous vintage sound of the Shondells.

Apart from Tommy’s brilliant vocals, it’s the production that draws me in on these records. “Adrienne,” the bass is right in your face, with clacky guitars and percussion beefing up the background. This was recorded in 1971 but still has the magic ‘oldies’ sound. Uplifting rhythm and blues grooves like “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “Church Street Soul Revival” will appeal on the first listen. The classic driving Shondells beat that made “I Think We’re Alone Now” a hit takes hold on “Sail A Happy Ship.”  But “Dragging The Line” would become Tommy’s biggest solo hit, for obvious reasons.

I’m not bothered by the religious bent. God is one of the main reasons for song. It’s devotion, sorrow, fear, faith, and madness all wrapped up in one topic. Tommy James is the master craftsman of pop. I’m off on a Shondells bender.

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“Adrienne”

:D 2fer | autographed by Tommy James | @tommyjames.com ]

Jericho “Jericho”

Jericho

Has classic rock radio made a bad name for itself because the music doesn’t wear well with age, or is it because they keep playing the same old shit? In a perfect world, classic rock gems like Jericho would no longer be neglected by the airwaves and listeners would abound in new sounds from a previous era. Just imagine your local classic rock station slipped in one cut off this record, in place of the usual barrage of Zep and Skynyrd repeats; there could easily be a demand for this sweet sounding, authentic-as-it-gets, yet unissued and unplayed recording.

Jericho members Frank DiFelice, Denny Gerrard, Fred Keeler, Gordon Fleming hailed from Canada and recorded this one-off at the famous Bearsville studio in Woodstock, with engineering and production by Todd Rundgren. These guys were a part of the same scene as Jesse Winchester and The Band, sharing Rundgren as producer and art director Bob Cato between this and Stage Fright, and the music falls right in line, albeit with a harder edge.

They bust down the door with “True Fine Girl,” sounding like the Band on steroids with overdriven organ and screeching guitars notching a next-level sound. “SS #4” even sounds a little like hard rock “Cripple Creek,” but the key here isn’t loud guitar rippin but a loose knit down-home groove. There are nasty prog moves and killer Clavinet shredding on “Cheater Man;” Gordon Fleming really steals the show on keys, often overshadowing the guitar leads (a rare feat for keyboardists). “Baby’s Gone Again” is a blues that shuffles harder than Cream and “Backtrack” is a killer Edgar Winter style instrumental with gnarly parts played thru Garth Hudson’s own Leslie speaker and Clav. I’m a sucker for “Goin’ To The Country,” a goofy, stoned country groover with wowy Moog bass replacing the “jug” line. The vocalist shines on this little number (vocals are really great all the way through, actually) that definitely stands out from the rest.

One track, “Make It Better,” would score a minor hit, but Jericho would be largely forgotten, unissued since its original release. I do find that this record tends to push a little too hard; it’s kind of relentlessly hard-rockin. But it deserved much more than it got.

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“Backtrack”

:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Bearsville / Ampex | search ebay ]

はっぴいえんど 風街ろまん (Happy End “Kazemachi Roman”)

Kazemachi Roman

From 1971 Japan comes this gleaming gem of classic rock, encompassing a myriad of American styles from rural rock and country to raw garage, blues, experimental, and blazing west coast rock – but contrary to prevailing trends of the time, the lyrics are not sung in English. If this poses a problem for your ears it is a great shame, for Kazemachi Roman (Wind City Romance) is a must-listen record, and #1 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums.

Kazemachi Roman owes its sound to many influences, but the band maintains an unmistakable originality while flawlessly running the gamut of American popular music. “Haikara Hakuchi” drives with the ferocity of a Moby Grape track, “Haru Ranman” combines byrdsian folk with a roaming west coast feel, while “Sorairo no Crayon” dabbles with country & western, replete with pedal steel and a yodeled outro.  “Natsu Nandesu” and “Kaze wo Atsumete” have a soulful, bucolic charm, the latter finally getting its due via 2003’s Lost In Translation soundtrack. “Dakishimetai” sounds like a classic 70s rock anthem and “Hanaichimonme” grooves like a freight train, prodded along by rolling guitar licks and driving piano. “Ashita Tenki ni Naare” gets to funky rhythm and blues featuring a fantastic Beegees multi-falsetto vocal part. And then there’s “Taifuu” (typhoon), the clear alpha dog of the set. On this authorative rocker the singer lets it all out with gnarly, gutteral yelps and grunts.

Even the slightest investment in this record should prove the attraction goes way beyond novelty.  The sound is instantly recognizable feel-good rock and easily transcends the language barrier. Had these gentlemen hailed from California and sang in English, Happy End would have been a household name.

The lead man, Haroumi Hosono, would later form the sensational Yellow Magic Orchestra (titans of the pre-midi synth age) and continues to make music with his electronica duo, Sketch_Show.

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“花いちもんめ (Hanaichimonme)”

:D CD Reissue | search ebay ]

Manassas “Pieces”

Pieces is just what the title says, but shouldn’t be discounted. The original Manassas album was a disconnected smattering of “pieces” itself. Nobody had combined country, rock, salsa, blues, and bluegrass like Stephen Stills’ powerhouse 7-piece that formed out from the wake of CSNY and the Burrito Brothers.
Pieces collects some leftovers from the Miami sessions that led to the first album (“Witching Hour” “Like A Fox”), warmups and ideas intended for the lost 2nd Manassas album, Down The Road (“Lies” “Love and Satisfy”), and what Stills refers to as “Chris Hillman and Byron Berline teaching me bluegrass” (“Panhandle Rag” “Uncle Pen”). Other tracks are electrified covers from Stills 1 & 2, the largely successful solo albums that gave Stephen the freedom to form a band like Manassas.
I can’t imagine Stills had heard the original Fox On The Run by Manfred Mann, which the Country Gentlemen would turn into a bluegrass standard, before writing Like A Fox. Even with Bonnie Raitt lending her voice, the chorus is still hard to listen to under the circumstances. The bluegrass numbers have no knockout picking, but a treat to hear Stills and Hillman harmonize on “Uncle Pen.” “Do You Remember The Americans” is bluegrass cooler than I’ve ever heard, a song that I wish had spawned an entire record’s worth.
“I Am My Brother” is a sick solo blues proves Stills true worth.
Al Perkins on steel

Pieces

Pieces is the perfect name for this new Manassas outtakes collection from Rhino.  Nobody had combined country, rock, salsa, blues, and bluegrass like Stephen Stills’ powerhouse 7-piece that formed out from the wake of CSNY and the Burrito Brothers, and their eponymous album was a disconnected smattering of “pieces” itself. This new hodgepodge of unheard treats may be scattered, but it’s right in line with tradition and kicks ass like any Manassas fan would expect.

Pieces collects some leftovers from the Miami sessions that led to the first album (“Witching Hour” “Like A Fox”), warmups and ideas intended for the 2nd Manassas album, Down The Road (“Lies” “Love and Satisfy”), as well as what Stills refers to as “Chris Hillman and Byron Berline teaching me bluegrass” (“Panhandle Rag” “Uncle Pen”). Other tracks are electrified covers from Stephen Stills 1 & 2, the hugely successful solo albums that gave Stephen the freedom to form a band with Doug Sahm level schizophrenia.

There are a number of gems here; “Witching Hour” and “Sugar Babe” are easy classics. Stills throws together the chorus of “Like a Fox” last minute and presages  Manfred Mann’s “Fox On The Run” (which the Country Gentlemen would turn into a bluegrass standard) word for word. Only problem, even with Bonnie Raitt lending her voice, I can’t hear past the Manfred version to this one. On Side B, the bluegrass numbers have no knockout picking, but it’s a treat to hear Stills and Hillman harmonize on “Uncle Pen.” “Do You Remember The Americans,” however, is cooler grass than I’ve ever heard. I wish Stills had recorded an entire album in this vein. “I Am My Brother” is a sick solo blues to prove Stills’ immense talent and soul.

This is a no-brainer for Stills, CSNY, Byrds, Burrito, or rock music fans.

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“Do You Remember the Americans?”

:D CD Compilation | 2009 | Rhino | buy at amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Buck Owens And His Buckaroos “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Capital, 1971) wasn’t Buck’s first foray into rock n roll music.  In 1957 he cut a handful of rockabilly sides under the name Corky Jones – and good sides they are!  Buck had once vowed to “sing no song that is not a country song” but in 1965 he released a great charging version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” on the classic I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail lp.  Some fans felt that he had broken his pledge by covering “Memphis” but Buck didn’t see it that way: “I see Memphis as being rockabilly.  Listen to the lyrics….If they’re not country lyrics….the melody – if that ain’t a country melody….” I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail along with 61’s Sings Harlan Howard and 66’s The Carnegie Hall Concert are usually what fans cite as his best ever lps.  These recordings went a long way in establishing the Bakersfield Sound and making Buck Owens a household name.

Bridge Over Troubled Water is not on par with the above classics.   It’s a good record though with some interesting experiments that see the Buckaroos trading in their beloved Telecasters for an acoustic folk-rock sound – though country music is still their foundation.  The album is roughly divided between covers of current rock standards and Owens originals.  The production is beautiful, the guitar work is stellar, Buck is in great voice and the harmonies are nothing short of amazing.  There’s the occasional organ or Moog but for the most part the arrangements are sparse and the playing is less aggressive when compared to earlier records.  My only complaint is the weak cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock” and the album’s short running time, which hovers around the 25 minute mark.  Renditions of the title track, “Love Minus Zero,” “Homeward Bound,” and “Catch The Wind” are suprisingly good.  “Catch The Wind,” with its droning Moog and angelic vocals is so good it may even surpass the Donovan original.    Buck’s own material blends nicely with the above mentioned tracks, making this a strong listen all the way thru.  All the original material is good, though “Within My Loving Arms,” “The Devil Made Me Do That,” “San Francisco Town,” and “Everything Reminds Me You’re Gone” stick out for their contemplative approach, brittle acoustic guitars, and gorgeous harmonies.  Throughout the album Buck’s vocals are world weary, it’s a quality that makes this record special.

Buck would take some heat from the C&W squares for revamping his style and covering current rock n roll songs.  But the C&W crowd would prove to be wrong over time as Bridge Over Troubled Water reeks class and Bakersfield sophistication.  It was this willingness to experiment that made Buck and his group so great and pioneering.  This open-minded approach has made the Buckaroos music age so well whereas many of their contemporaries sound dated and hokey.  In 2004 Sundazed released this solid album on cd, it’s certainly well worth a spin for fans of country-rock.

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“Within My Loving Arms”

:D CD Reissue | 2004 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Capitol | search ebay ]