Posts Tagged ‘ 1971 ’

Lou Christie Sacco “Paint America Love”

Paint America Love buzz

This is probably Lou Christie’s greatest artistic statement to date.  Paint America Love was an ambitious statement by Christie, a total departure from the Four Seasons influenced bubblegum pop he had been releasing throughout the 60s.  His best known songs from the mid 60s were the hits “Lightning Strikes” and “Rhapsody in the Rain.”   Christie was a truly great, underrated artist though and it’s worth noting that he would reinvent his career from bubblegum to sophisticated pop to country, always with great success artistically and commercially. 

Paint America Love was released in 1971 on Buddah.  All the songs were written by Christie and they are a complex, sprawling mixture of pop and Americana.  The arrangements are adventurous and lush as heard on the gorgeous instrumental Campus Rest.  This was no doubt Lou Christie’s Pet Sounds though in musical style, it’s much closer to Sunflower or Surf’s Up.  Christie’s vocals are still wonderful (he has a magical falsetto) and a definite highpoint on this lp.   One can hear shades of his 60s work in the country-rocker Chuckie Wagon – there’s some interesting fiddle and a great chorus on this one.  Some of these tracks take on ecological themes like the pop friendly “Paper Song” while others are a bit more complex like “Lighthouse,” “Paint America Love” and “Wood Child.”  Many consider these tracks the best of Lou Christie’s career although after this lp he would release a good country lp which is also recommended (Beyond The Blue Horizon from 1973). 

But there are other pleasures to behold on Paint America Love,  like the astonishing Beach Boys inspired “Waco” and the achingly tuneful “The Best Way To See America.”  Every track is inspired, the lyrics are personal and the songcraft is very strong.  Paint America Love was one of the best off-the-radar releases from 1971 – it’s as good as early 70s pop gets.  The album finally saw a cd release by Re-Ola in 2008.

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“The Best Way To See America”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Revola | buy at revola | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Buddah | search ebay ]

Brave Belt “I”

Brave Belt I

Randy Bachman had abruptly quit the Guess Who in the midst of a winning streak.  After two classic albums, Canned Wheat and American Woman, and a host of excellent pop/hard rock singles he decided to get up and leave.  Rock critics panned Bachman’s decision to leave this very successful pop group and more often than not, wrote off this fine debut album from Brave Belt.  Brave Belt was a conscious attempt to create something a bit more experimental and less hard rock oriented.  It was the first time Randy Bachman (lead guitar and bass) and Chad Allen (vocals, rhythm guitar, mandolin) had gotten together on record since 1966’s classic It’s Time album.  Allan was a great vocalist and one of rock’s truly underrated talents.  The remaining members of Brave Belt were Bob Bachman on drums and Ron Holldorson on pedal steel guitar.

The first lp was recorded in Winnipeg and released off RCA in 1971.  Gone was the hard rock stylings of American Woman or the breezy jazz-pop of Undun.  Instead the group offered up a brilliant mix of quiet country-rock and psychedelia.   Both of these worlds collided on the excellent album opener “Crazy Arms, Crazy Eyes.”  This track rocks pretty hard with its Bo Diddley-like beat, attractive pedal steel work and phased drums – one couldn’t ask for a better debut opener.  Personal numbers such as “It’s Over” and “French Kiss” were written by a revived Bachman/Allan partnership.  These tracks along with the more country oriented material recalled the early work of Neil Young or Poco’s reflective numbers on their great debut lp.  “Wandering Fantasy Girl” and “Scarecrow” are a bit more psychedelic in nature with lots of Bachman fuzztone and a nice, druggy studio production.  Another track, “I Am The Man,” is an intoxicating, complex masterpiece with psychedelic guitar work reminiscent of late 60s George Harrison and even some creative mandolin flourishes that give the song an exotic flavor.  The album is great all the way thru though Guess Who fans may be disappointed if they come here looking for a hard rock blowout.

Brave Belt would record one more solid album in 1972 before giving way to Bachman-Turner Overdrive.  Randy Bachman once summarized his experience with Brave Belt: “Too much garbage had been laid down about me that Brave Belt never really had a chance.  Radio stations wouldn’t play us, magazines wouldn’t do stories on us. ”  Rock journalist Larry LeBlanc also added, “Randy got a real shellacking from the music press when he left the Guess Who.”  Many rock fans refer to Brave Belt’s music as Randy Bachman’s bridge from the Guess Who to Bachman-Turner Overdrive.  It’s much more than that though, as this album is arguably more consistent then either of those groups’ best work.  Brave Belt is more experimental and has definitely earned it’s “lost classic” status over time.  Both albums have been reissued in the past though 2009’s Wounded Bird twofer is the easiest way to obtain these recordings.  Highly Recommended.

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“French Kiss”

The Guess Who featuring Randy Bachman and Chad Allan (1965):
mp3: I’d Rather Be Alone

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Wounded Bird | 2fer | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Reprise | ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Reg King (self-titled)

Reg King

Reg King belonged to the Action, Mighty Baby, Blossom Toes,  B.B. Blunder family tree, leaving the Action before they became Mighty Baby and performing with (ex-Blossom Toes) B.B. Blunder after releasing this acclaimed and rare solo record.

Members from the bands above would form the backbone for this project, recorded over three years and guesting Stevie Winwood on keys. The Action had cut their teeth covering Motown soul during the mid 60s and those influences had not gone amiss for this LP, albeit through distorted guitars and stoney jams. The leadoff track “Must Be Something Else Around” is a blistering slice of hard English rock that probably gave Led Zep a brief jolt of anxiety. “That Ain’t Living” has the explosive impatience of certain tracks I know from The Action, but add this album’s key ingredient: raw and relentless blue-eyed soul, propelled by Reg King’s voice – probably the best of the British hard-rock-soul singers.

It’s not a grand slam on the other hand. I’m not much of a blues-hound, so “Down The Drain,” or six-minutes of predictable blues doesn’t do it for me. But “That Ain’t Living” pushes hard through a fully worthwhile six of spirited rock. There are a couple less memorable tracks, but the good hooks make this record worth a spin. Perhaps a good introduction to the Action family tree .

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“Must Be Something Else Around”

:D CD reissue | 2007 | Circle Records | Reg King ]
:) Original Issue | mega rare | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Lonnie Mack “The Hills of Indiana”

Hills of Indiana

Probably due to the success of The Band, starting in 1970 a slew of rockabilly and rhythm and blues artists diverged from the sound that gave them a name in the 60s and released at least one kick ass roots rock album. File Hills of Indiana on the same shelf.

Lonnie Mack’s 1971 outing may not slay listeners the first time around like Bobby Charles or Link Wray, though it reels in that familiar mix of blues, soul, & country rock. Indiana finds Lonnie trading his guitar slinger/blues-instrumental persona for gentler roots rock with touches of gospel and even straight bluegrass – Uncle Pen is a faithful rendition of the Bill Monroe number. He shows good taste with versions of Bob Dylan’s Man In Me, Carole King’s A Fine Way To Go, and Mickey Newbury’s She Even Woke Up To Say Goodbye. There are five originals (cowrote with Don Nix) with some fine cuts in Motown-inspired trucker ode Asphalt Outlaw Hero, the low-key and orchestrally ornamented Florida, and album closers All Good Things Will Come To Pass and Three Angels.

The album’s production is a touch on the clean side, edging near schmaltzy, and closer to Dale Hawkin’s pro-studio approach than Wray’s chicken shack. This kills only a little appeal for this near classic record, still worth a spot in any Americana collection.

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:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Elektra | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download @ amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends “Motel Shot”

Maybe the first “Unplugged” album, Motel Shot presents Delaney & Bonnie & Friends live in the studio performing traditional numbers in the styles of gospel, country, and folk, in addition to four Delaney penned tunes (the hit of which was “Never Ending Song Of Love”). Luckily for us, Delaney & Bonnie’s “friends” include Gram Parsons, John Hartford, Leon Russell (long overdue in these pages), Joe Cocker, Clarence White, Dave Mason, and Duane Allman. If this crew had got together in 1971 to record nonsense it would still be worth listening to, but they pour it out instead, dishing soulful performances with rousing gusto.

Motel Shot was recorded in the spirit of a late-night motel jam session, after the show – back to the basics. On top of the traditional numbers are standards from the likes of AP Carter, Bob Wills (“Faded Love” is a standout slow tempo killer) Chuck Willis, and Robert Johnson. The performances invite listeners to become a part of the music with a communal feel. Grab another tambourine or just bob your head. “Come On In My Kitchen” is featured for its remarkable sparsity in such a solid groove.

For more from this type of crew, take a look at Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen DVD, with excellent tour footage and backstage jam sessions offering a glimpse into the spontaneous traditional music paid homage by this record.

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“Come On In My Kitchen”

:D CD Reissue | 1997 | Atco | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Atco | search ebay ]

Mighty Baby “A Jug Of Love”

After the release of their scorching debut, Mighty Baby drastically switched format and recorded this Dead/Airplane-influenced rural LP. Both are great records, but hardly by the same band.

The self-titled lead off track would get your attention first, it got mine enough to include it on the very first Rising Storm Podcast. This track, and the album overall, is loaded with vicious string bender guitar licks from either Alan King or Martin Stone (can anybody confirm?). Whether it’s a bender or not, Clarence White fans should take note for the onslaught of high-register fancy guitar pickin contained herein.   My only complaint is the length of songs, tending to jam on a bit, however to those looking to soak in these type of sounds this is a dream. Besides, with a touch of class and some minor theatrics they manage to give noodling a good name.

Influences range from The Band on the grooving “Tasting The Life,” CSNY on mellow “Virgin Spring,” and Untitled Byrds all over. “Virgin Springs” is a song so familar it sounds like a cover, I just can’t find any evidence of an original version. In this case, along with “Slipstreams,” the album is responsible for at least two bonafide rural classics.

Jug of Love is what happens to a band after their rock break out leads them to Sufism and a jaded view of the music industry; always makes for an interesting sound! Check out Jason’s post on their s/t debut to compare this to the “sleek, powerful piece of psychedelia” that is Egyptian Tomb (updated link).

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“Keep On Jugging”

:D CD Reissue | 2006 | Sunbeam | A Jug of Love ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Blue Horizon | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen “Lost In The Ozone”

Certainly one of the classic country-rock records, Lost In The Ozone was Commander Cody’s first disc released back in 1971 (MCA). The original group formed sometime around 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Eventually they would relocate to San Fransisco and become a major live phenomenon. The group were led by pianist George Frayne (Commander Cody), vocalist/harp player Billy C. Farlowe, pedal steel player Don Bolton and lead guitarist John Tichy. At the time of the above debut other members included were guitarist Billy Kirchen, drummer Lance Dickerson, bassist Bruce Barlow and fiddle/saxophone player Andy Stein.

Lost In The Ozone was recorded during Commander Cody’s peak, which began in the late 60s and carried over til about 1976. During this period they gave the rock community many legendary live performances and left behind a handful of classic studio recordings. This debut sounded like nothing else in 1971, freewheeling, full of humor, great performances (some fine steel playing) and that special something that only comes around every so often, honesty. Included on the lp is their classic top 10 hit Hot Rod Lincoln, an outlaw anthem that’s still played on radio today and a song that has stood the test of time remarkably well. Cody’s strong point was melding old fashion 50s rock n roll with the emerging outlaw sound. By doing this they came up with a unique fusion of roots, country, soul and rock, a sound that became all their own.

The album is full of strong moments, whether it be group originals or well chosen covers. One song, Midnight Shift, sounds like a vintage Gene Vincent rockabilly side while the humorous title track became an anthem of sorts for the Airmen. Slow weepers Seeds and Stems Again, Family Bible, Wine Do Yer Stuff and Daddy’s Gonna Treat You Right are all Commander Cody classics that will give any other country-rock group a run for their money. The last three tracks of the album are live numbers in good fidelity showing the group in top form with their patent country-swing sound intact – What’s The Matter Now is a highlight in this respect.

Lost In The Ozone is really a neglected gem from the early 70s. It has a reckless, ramshackle feel that’s hard to describe to newcomers but still a very warm, friendly record that will not alienate its listeners. The Airmen had more punch and style than some of the more popular or critically acclaimed groups of the era. Their appeal was wide, rednecks, hipsters and hippies could relate to the Airmen’s music and their live shows were always a major production. If you’re into sounds like the Sir Douglas Quintet or Shiva’s Headband you need to check these guys out.

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“Daddy’s Gonna Treat You Right”

Here’s a great early track from around 1969/1970. This hard riffing country-rocker comes from the compilation Early Years 1967 – 1970:

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“I’m Gonna Burn That Woman”

:D CD Reissue | 1990 | MCA | Lost in the Ozone ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Paramount | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

John Prine (self-titled)

John Prine has had a long and distinguished career as a songwriter working the line between folk and country. As is so often the case, he made his biggest mark with his first album, released in 1971. After a stint serving in the army (always a great source for song ideas) Prine began playing open mic nights in his native Chicago. He comes from the same folk scene that produced Steve Goodman (“Ridin’ on the City of New Orleans”). The first review of his work was penned by Roger Ebert, then a young Chicago critic. Other early supporters included both Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan.

It’s not hard to see why Prine so quickly won the respect of great songwriters. His own talents put him in the same ballpark. The All Music Guide describes Prine’s debut album as “a collection of standards,” which isn’t much of an exaggeration. The first song, “Illegal Smile,” is a clever and endearing tribute to smoking marijuana—not necessarily an easy feat. (“A bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down, and won. And it was twelve o’clock before I realized I was having no fun.”) “Spanish Pipedream” is another gem. It’s Prine’s daydream about running off to the country with a sly exotic dancer to blow up the TV and eat a lot of peaches. (“I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve.”) “Hello In There” is a melancholy song about the loneliness of aging. What’s amazing is how it rings so true despite being written by a 25-year old. (“So if you’re walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow ancient eyes, please don’t just pass ‘em by and stare, as if you didn’t care, say, ‘Hello in there, hello.’”) “Sam Stone” is a classic tune about the hopeless struggles of a veteran returning from the war to his family. (“There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes. Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose.”)

My favorite track on the album is “Paradise,” Prine’s loving tribute to the “backwards old town” in Western Kentucky where his parents were raised. The song combines his fond memories of visiting as a kid (“Where the air smelled like snakes and we’d shoot with our pistols, but empty pop bottles were all that we killed”), with realization that the place is now gone forever, “hauled away” by “Mr. Peabody’s coal train.” (“Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel, and they tortured the timber and stripped all the land.”) While it contains a strong environmental-protection message, it never sounds preachy.

The album has many more high points. “Pretty Good” is sort of an anthem to resignation. (Refrain: “Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain, actually, everything is just about the same.”) “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” is an amusing anti-war song about empty patriotism. “Angel From Montgomery” is a classic tune which later became a hit for Bonnie Raitt. Musically, the album sounds great, with some nice pedal steel and organ in just the right spots. It’s a classic.

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“Illegal Smile”

:D CD Reissue | 1990 | Atlantic | John Prine ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Atlantic | search ebay ]

Mountain Bus “Sundance”

Mountain Bus is the kind of band you get into after you’ve exhausted all your major label heroes. They were one of Chicago’s great underground bands who were dealt a bad deck of cards. Mountain Bus were frequently cited as Chicago’s answer to the Grateful Dead, and indeed some of their songs on the above album sound like San Fransisco’s most cherished sons.

Mountain Bus’ roots extend way back to the early 60’s when Ed Mooney was fronting a band called the Moons and the Stars. Tom Jurkens was in another local group called Jurk & The Bushman and upon their demise formed a group with Mooney called Rhythms Children. This group took in Steve Titra, Joe Wilderson and Steve Krater. Eventually Rhythms Children dissolved when Wilderson left for Canada avoiding the Vietnam War draft. Bill Kees had formerly been in Fantasy and Hearts of Soul when he joined the struggling Rhythms Children. They began calling themselves Mountain Bus and playing as many live gigs as possible around the Chicago area. Mountain Bus never made alot of money during their day and always had low paying jobs. Their jobs funded the band’s equipment, activities and eventually, legal costs. Some of the group members worked at local record stores. One of the record stores, Round Records, ended up becoming the groups headquarters while owner David Solomon assumed Mountain Bus’ manager role.

In 1971 independent label Good Records released Mountain Bus’ only album Sundance. Good Records goal was to release good quality local music that could be sold to the public at reasonable prices. They also aimed to give the musicians a greater slice of the profit, unlike the major labels. Mountain Bus’ end was unfortunate and came very suddenly in November of 1971. Windfall Music slapped an ugly lawsuit on Mountain Bus and Good Records claiming that both entities were infringing on the established trade marks of Mountain (Leslie West’s band). Windfall Music demanded that all record sales, promotions, air play and so forth be halted and that such activities had hurt the sales of Mountain lps. Roger Maglio of Gear Fab records summed it up best, “It was a plain and simple matter that the major record labels at this time (Columbia owned Mountain) were not going to allow nor put up with upstart companies like Good Records or any others that offered good quality music at an affordable and lower price than the majors. Mountain Bus had never reaped any significant profits over these years – the band were paid very small wages and many of their performances were for benefits and other non-profit organizations. A record company founded with the express purpose of providing people with good quality music was run out of business. And a great band broke up as a result of these bully actions.” It’s funny to note that Mountain Bus had been together some years before Mountain had formed – 2 years to be exact. I guess it was a loss for the public and a big gain for the greedy record company executives.

These legal disputes should not overshadow the music though, which is often excellent and full of stunning guitar solos. Tracks like Sing A New Song and Rosalie are what the late 60’s Dead should have sounded like in the studio – they capture a good live outdoor sound. Rosalie is a superb jam rocker with lots of great melodic guitar work that is at once trippy but also laced with a C&W accent. Sundance is an awesome psychedelic folk-rocker that hits the 7 minute mark but never succumbs to any formless jamming – it’s a track that reminds me of 5th Dimension Byrds crossed with Live 69 Dead. Other highlights are a long but very good country-rock version of I Know You Rider and the psychedelic instrumental Hexahedron. “Deadheads” and fans of great rural rock sounds should not miss this mini classic. In the late 90’s Sundance was reissued by Gear Fab records with additional outtakes and live cuts. This package offers lots of good music for a cheap price.

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:D CD Reissue | 1999 | Gear Fab Records | buy from amazon
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Good Records | search ebay ]

Help Yourself “Help Yourself”

Unable to get over my Ernie Graham addiction, I set out in search of more from the ilk of rootsy pre pub rock and stumbled across this gem from 1971. Help Yourself formed in the wake of Brinsley Schwarz but with a strong ear to The Band, forging a raw and honest Americana sound on their first LP. Not nearly as dippy as the cover art suggests, this is a fine sample of straight California rock that’s really from the UK.

Recorded at The Grange in Headley, previously used by Led Zeppelin to record the Four Symbols album, the Helps were trying to let the rural environment to influence their music. If this is the case, the landscape in Headley must be no different than the piece of earth Neil Young was treading around the same time. The Help Yourself album is eerily similar to Young’s sound in almost every regard; they even have a song called Old Man, which is a really fine but totally different song.

The record opens with a feel good gospel track, I Must See Jesus For Myself, that I can’t help but think was meant to be ironic. This is sure to throw off listeners, but maybe attract those who don’t mind a little Jesus in their tunes. In any case, you might want to start this record from the 2nd groove. From there on the record showcases great melodies, great double guitar noodling (to great effect with acoustic and electric on separate channels), great songcraft, great CSNY influenced harmonies, and great overall sound. There you have it: six greats for this easily overlooked LP that could and should sneak its way into the playlist of any Neil Young fan.

The second album, attached in the BGO 2fer, adds a clean, phased sound to the recording that gets a little cheezier. Not to say this is a discountable record, just that it maybe draws too near the Ducks Deluxe pub rock approach for my tastes.

Help Yourself. Don’t mind if I do.

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“Your Eyes Are Looking Down”

:D CD Reissue | 2002 | Beat Goes On | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | UA | search ebay ]