Posts Tagged ‘ 1972 ’

John Drendall, B.A. Thrower and Friends “Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues”

Papa

There are enough good vanity pressings from the late 60s – mid 70s that make record collecting a rewarding interest.  The really good ones (the Bachs, the Rising Storm, Wilson McKinley, Relatively Clean Rivers et al) are far and few between.  Most of these records, while musically very good, are overpriced because so few quantities were initially pressed.  Please be warned though, most private press albums are average at best – I’ve been disappointed many, many times.  So naturally, when I bought the Riverman Music version (a Singpore cd reissue) of John Drendall, B.A. Thrower and Friends’ Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues I was somewhat unsure of its quality, in other words, a skeptic.

Deacon Productions released 100 copies of Papa in 1971/1972.  Both John Drendall (vocals/guitar) and B.A. Thrower (bass guitar/electric guitar/organ) lived on the campus of Michigan University in Lansing.  The two eventually moved into a suburban house with a spacious garage.  This garage was turned into a studio where the group practiced hours on end.  Eventually Drendall and Thrower found a studio in Kalamazoo that would record their experiments.  Friends Tommy “Stiff Finger Eddie” Caruso (slide guitar), Mike “Elmo” Skory (keyboards), Vern “The Bopper” Albaugh (flute), Nelson Wood (harp), Jimmie Spillane (backgrounds), and Ross Maxwell (bells and anything else) add many valuable contributions to the album.  The music is very fine Americana, a true undiscovered gem that needs to be heard by more music fans.

The performances on Papa sparkle with a true level of professionalism.  Drendall, Thrower and their “Friends” are all excellent musicians, the songwriting is stellar, and the production sounds top notch – on par with a major label rock group.   Those of you who enjoyed Euphoria (the Texas country-rock group), Crazy Horse, and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere era Neil Young will fall for this record in a big way.  One of the songs on Papa, “Old Man Gibbs,” sounds like an early Neil Young number in that it’s a great rootsy rocker with stoned electric guitar work and burnt out lyrics.  The album opener, “Cold Nite in August,” stands out as the album’s most blues oriented cut,  6+ minutes of laid back country-blues that’s well worth hearing.  Other highlights are the title track and “Get Too Heavy,” both acoustic gems that feature solid guitar picking and in the case of the latter, good, close harmonies.  Even the psychedelic numbers, “Black River Lady” and “I Feel” are fabulous mood music that conjures up a spacey atmosphere more in line with the late 60s.  My favorite tracks are the nifty country-rocker “Bye Bye Mr. Jones,” with its amusing group dialogue and the great “Throw Off Your Troubled Past.”  This last number features frantic guitar work (the guitarist really shreds up the fretboard on this one) and busy percussion; it’s really a treat to hear these last two numbers.  The album as a whole is uniformly strong and a must hear; not a bad cut on this LP.

So once again, Papa is a very accomplished work that should have been reissued years ago.  There’s been plenty of great reissues in 2009 but Papa is one of the best I’ve heard so far.

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“Get Too Heavy”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Riverman | amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1972 | Deacon | 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 ]

The Band “Rock of Ages”

Rock of Ages

I usually stay away from live albums. Rock of Ages was my last chip at The Band’s discography, but what a thrill to hear the band at their peak, a true live-rock classic.

Before this record, I’ve always felt “Across The Great Divide” plays kind of hokey at the helm of one of the top records of all time, but here it nearly brings me to tears, revealing the power of a good song. A considerable chunk of this recording’s force comes from Allen Touissaint’s horn arrangments, adding a level of raw, visceral energy, one that fails to detract from the original tunes (unlike so many last-minute horn-section supplements).

Subtle road-variations kill me: the super-slowed chorus to “Stage Fright” (it should have been like this from the beginning), the embellished arrangment for the “Rag Mama Rag” tag (Touissaint again), not to mention the killer Lowrey Organ solo from Garth Hudson, “The Genetic Method,” introducing blazing hot “Chest Fever,” and Robby Robertson’s emotic guitar solo for “Unfaithful Servant.”

I’m glad I saved it for last. Guaranteed to put everybody in a good mood. Though The Band still had more great material in the wings, specifically Northern Lights – Southern Cross, I say make this your Last Waltz.

Q. Are there any other essential live records?

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“Across The Great Divide”

:D CD Reissue | 2001 | Capitol | buy amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Capitol | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Van Dyke Parks “Discover America”

Discover America

Van Dyke Parks’ second album, released four years after his celebrated Song Cycle,  is an exploration of Trinidadian calypso music infused with Parks’ ingeniously offbeat treatment. Like its predecessor, the record is clever, intriguing, and musically brilliant. Discover America adds an unexpected ingredient: fun.

The album opener echoes that of Song Cycle‘s, an intentionally degraded song clip, “Jack Palance” performed by the Mighty Sparrow himself (those interested in exploring more calypso through this angle might investigate Mighty Sparrow’s Hot and Sweet, an album produced by Van Dyke Parks in 1974). Wooden marimbas, steel drums, island rhythms, and other calypso staples (supplied by the Esso Trinidad Steel Band) grace many of the tracks, but Parks maintains style thru vast string arrangements, orchestration, gratuitous experimental bits, and the vintage Americana themes examined in the lyrics.

Parks reimagines and rearranges traditional material on Discover America, as well as borrowing two killer tunes from Allen Touissaint (“Occapella” and “Riverboat”) and Lowell George’s “Sailin’ Shoes” (Little Feat actually play on Park’s “FDR In Trinidad”). The adapted material is brilliantly produced and addictingly melodic. Couple of standouts include the lilting “John Jones” and mind boggling “G-Man Hoover” (a tune as weird as it is captivating), though the entire album is consistently 5-star. A masterpiece from a master.

Song Cycle is great but not for everyone. If you’re looking to play Van Dyke Parks in a public forum, this is the album. I would submit that it’s catchy, fun, odd, and funky enough to be played just about anywhere. Have it with you this summer.

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“John Jones”

:) Vinyl Reissue | Sundazed | buy sundazed ]
:D CD Reissue | 1990 | Warner | buy amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 |  Warner | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

uReview: Steely Dan “Can’t Buy A Thrill”

Can't Buy A Thrill

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“The perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.” –Rolling Stone

“Think of the Dan as the first post-boogie band: the beat swings more than it blasts or blisters, the chord changes defy our primitive subconscious expectations, and the lyrics underline their own difficulty…” –Robert Christgau

“Steely Dan gargles my balls.” – Seth Rogen’s character in “Knocked Up

Q: What’s your take on Steely Dan’s 1972 debut?

8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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Jesse Winchester “Third Down, 110 To Go”

With its more striking cover and impressive personnel (produced in Bearsville by Robbie Robertson with Levon Helm on drums and mando), Jesse Winchester’s self-titled debut is the go-to pick for newcomers to Jesse’s music. While I still consider it an absolutely essential disc for the strong songwriting, Robertson’s production is somewhat coarse and the record lacks a certain magic. Luckily, Jesse knew better how to present his tunes, and two years later delivered this special gem, co-produced with Todd Rundgren.

With delicate and soulful production, mostly adding only the scarcest accompaniment, Jesse Winchester offered an album with 12 fine songs short and sweet. Side one of the record is largely acoustic, barely spicing it up with tasteful electric guitar leads on the grooving opener and even what sounds to be synthesized clarinet on the instrumental Lullably For The First Born. But the lack of a full band is apt, especially combined with harmony lines withheld for all but the right moments. Side two features some trademark Rundgren production: listen to the elements of Midnight Bus build into a gnarly little rythmn section, worthy of the Stage Fright era Band’s finest.

A gift sent from the north. Jesse lived in Canada while recording this album having dodged the Vietnam draft, leaving his home state of Mississippi in the late 60s (one of my favorite Jerry Jeff Walker performances, Mississippi, You’re On My Mind was penned by Winchester). You might think he’d have a political message, but it’s more like sweet nothings. Sometimes bordering on cutesy, it’ll be ok to let this album hit your soft spot. Just know it’s likely to hit the right spot, whatever that is.

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“Midnight Bus”

:D CD Reissue | 2006 | Wounded Bird Records | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Bearsville | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download at amazon ]

Ozark Mountain Daredevils “Lost Cabin Sessions”

The Lost Cabin Sessions are the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ first studio recordings from 1972. To my knowledge these early recordings were first officially released sometime in 2003 off the Varese cd label. The band would go on to become a well known and very successful country pop group similar in sound to the Eagles or the Pure Prairie League. While that sound is a bit commercial and somewhat formula driven, these early recordings represent something a little different. These 18 songs highlight a wonderful group whose sound was caught between the less bluesier aspects of early Little Feat and the astute folk country leanings of the Byrds, circa 1970.

The group had gotten together in the early 70s when Larry Lee and Steve Cash had met John Dillon at a local pizza parlor. At the time Dillon had said to both Cash and Lee “Look, I’m playing in a pizza parlor, they’re not paying me anything but I get to eat and drink all I want,” Lee replied, “Well I will play with you!” Eventually Buddy Brayfield, Randy Chowing and Michael Granda came into the fold. The Ozarks had five strong songwriters who individually brought something new and fresh to the pizza table. Being isolated in the mountains meant that they could only rely on each other for influence. Over a short period of time they would develop into a strong, cohesive unit, whose sound was highly original and roots based. The groups’ strength were their harmonies, songwriting chops, and a unique ability to fuse mountain boogie with both current and traditional country, folk, and pop music. The Lost Cabin Sessions takes 18 of the 28 tracks recorded during this fruitful early period.

It’s difficult to single out highlights on such a strong collection but personal favorites are the gorgeous country folk ballad Someday Darlin’ and the chugging country-rocker Long Time To Here. The latter’s catchy chorus and fine harmonica playing make it a near classic. A Satisfied Mind, the discs’ one cover, is given a good, sparse reading with great harmonies and a nice harmonica solo. Manager Paul Peterson remembers the recording sessions: “We were at a management office, showing our wares and Leatherwood was playing. I was sitting there, then, I felt somebody come in the room and sit behind me. And then as they got up and walked out, I heard their voice say ‘That’s a really good sound.’ I turned around to see that it was Neil Young.” Leatherwood is one of the more rock influenced numbers but it’s a good one, with catchy guitar figures and a hummable melody. Other tracks like Fly Away Home and Chicken Train hit a good authentic bluegrass vibe with rugged banjo playing and down-home mouthbow.

This is a terrific disc and probably better than any of the studio albums they would soon release. The performances are superb, the sound is underground country-rock and the playing is lived-in and timeless. At around $10 on the amazon marketplace, this disc is an absolute steal.

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“Someday Darlin”

:D CD Issue | 2003 | Varese | buy from amazon ]

Khan “Space Shanty”

This is the first Canterbury prog album I heard, and it’s the one that led me to explore the whole scene. But it’s amazing that this album even got made.

“Space Shanty” is a one-off album by a foursome of pedigreed Canterbury musos, and it’s considered a love-it or hate-it classic by proggies. Some love its loose, jazzy jams, and others hate its hippie lyrics and flowery arrangements. But what’s notable is that “Space Shanty” is a distillation of the many styles of the Canterbury musos — the cosmic-hippy humor, the fascinating and busy arrangements — but it remains completely fresh and exciting.

As is typical of the Canterbury bands, each member was also a member of a number of other bands. Keyboardist Dave Stewart played with Arzachel, Egg, Gong, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, to name a few. Guitarist Steve Hillage went on to play and record a number of notable albums with Kevin Ayers, Gong, and as a solo artist. Basist Nick Greenwood had done time with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

After a few false starts and some rotating membership, Khan came together in 1971, and finished this album in March, 1972 with Neil Slaven producing. Dave Stewart even took time off from his band Egg to sit in on the “Space Shanty” sessions. Khan did its share of live shows, supporting such acts as Van Der Graaf Generator and Genesis. Khan continued playing live after “Space Shanty” was finished, but its membership continued to change. Only Hillage remained the original member. After some live dates the money dried up and Khan dissolved. Hillage joined Kevin Ayers on the road four days later and played on the “Banamour” album and later joined Daevid Allen’s Gong.

The music has a real sense of scale and joy, and the guys are clearly enjoying themselves and their instruments. The recording is warm and straightforward with panning and flanging done to good effect. The Canterbury crowd were quite innovative, particularly with combining effects pedals with keyboards, so by this time weren’t relying too much on studio trickery and tape manipulation.

“Mixed Up Man Of The Mountains” starts with a fairly straightforward rock beat played at a stride. “Looking at the ground, I’m crying for the sky. I know I can’t hope to go where I can’t be found. But when I close my eyes I start to fly.” And fly they do — just listen and wait for them to break into some of the best Canterbury prog jamming you’ll ever hear. “Driving to Amsterdam” features some particularly fiery keyboard work by Dave Stewart and his prepared keyboards.

The album has been issued quite a few times, starting with the original Brain and Pink Elephant vinyl pressings in 1972, and a vinyl reissue in America in 1978 on PVC records. There have been CD pressings by Mantra, Deram, Polydor (a Japanese mini-LP style reissue). The vinyl has also recently been reissued by Tapestry records. The CD to get is the new remastered expanded edition by Eclectic Discs (ECLCD 1016), which features great, tight sound from the original master tapes, excellent liner notes, and two previously unreleased cuts.

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“Mixed Up Man Of The Mountains”

:D CD Reissue | 2005 | Esoteric (Eclectic) | buy from esoteric | amazon ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | Tapestry | search ebay ]

Space Opera (self-titled)

Space Opera

An obscurity from day one, Space Opera is an overlooked classic-rock wonder. Three of the four members of Space Opera (Philip White, Scott Fraser, David Bullock) had previously recorded a stellar country-folk gem in Whistler, Chaucer, Detroit, and Greenhill. As good as that record was, they were still green compared to the fully developed band (adding drummer Brett Wilson) they would become by 1972.

From Forth Worth, Texas, but recorded in Canada, Space Opera forged a familiar rock sound in an unheard context, combining blissful three part harmonies with searing guitar leads and righteous, intricate jams. The reissue is appropriately billed as “12 string prog rock” and while references to the Byrds and Zappa abound in other reviews, it behooves me to agree. Though it is a must; Space Opera combines these musical forces like nothing I have ever heard before. Still, if you have ever hankered for the sounds of local FM radio rock, this is an album you won’t believe didn’t hit the airwaves.

Songs are well developed and near classical in form, developing into finely tuned suites. “Country Max” leads off as the clear “hit” record, remarkably recognizable, it’s the kind of record you feel like you’ve heard a million times. Moodier numbers like “Holy River” and “Riddle” jangle their way into your head with good craftsmanship and memorable refrains. “Guitar Suite” is the album’s instrumental centerpiece that successfully merges prog and country rock during every moment of sound; gnarly double-tracked harmonica and tape effects stealing the show. The recordings are so warm it’s as if the master tapes were filtered through a rainbow of vintage tape machines, and the flutes on “Outlines” even sound suspiciously mellotron-esque. Some of the beauty to this record must be owed to the warmth and grit that you just can’t get with modern digital technology.

More than pleased to discover one like this. Beautiful songs that are truly unheard classics. These fellas clearly understood how to create rock music in a way more advanced than many better known contemporaries and are still awaiting their recognition.

Available from It’s About Music as a digital download or Collectors Choice CD. The liner notes are actually halfway decent for a CC release, including a scan of the original 16-track channel assignments, revealing all sorts of uncredited instrument parts and the lyrics.

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“Holy River”

;) MP3 Album | download at itsaboutmusic ]
:D CD Reissue | 2003| Collectors Choice | buy from itsaboutmusic ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Epic | search ebay ]

Double Zappa |FZ| 1971-72

This would have been good to post two days ago, considering the original Mothers chose their band name on Mother’s Day. The label tacked on “Of Invention” in an attempt to lessen the weird. By 1971, Zappa’s ever evolving band — now fronted by Flo & Eddie, the lead singers from The Turtles — proudly reclaimed their simpler title and re-upped the weirdness to a frenzied degree. To me, these two live albums from the age of 200 Motels are the most fun picks from the discography.

Fillmore East (1971)
FZ kept extensive archives of his live recordings, and Cal Schenkel’s pencil-scribbled cover (“He made me do it!” pleading on the back) must be an homage to one of the actual reels. Opening with a tasty instrumental reworking from Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Fillmore East becomes a stage play of sorts, with the Turtles assuming the role of one of Frank’s long-lived obsessions: starstruck groupies looking to get their “rocks off.” What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are is genius for its seemingly off-the-cuff yet fully orchestrated vocals, riffing all sorts of mayhem over a modified blues. And before this, the Mud Shark fits a memorable rock n roll tale over a soulful little groove. The sound they had by this show is wild: a combination of organ, Rhodes piano, Don Preston’s Minimoog, and Zappa’s gritty guitar all the while complemented by the over-the-top falsettos of Flo & Eddie (whose voices you might recognize from T-Rex’s Slider album). As usual, Zappa’s band is on top of its game.

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“The Mud Shark”

:D CD Reissue | 1995 | Zappa Records | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Reprise | search ebay ]

Just Another Band From LA (1972)
“Billy was a mountain. Ethel was a tree growing off of his shoulder.” It just astounds the mind what Zappa was able to accomplish in his lifetime; case in point: the 25-minute, fully developed performance piece on side one of this record, Billy The Mountain. As a canned recording, it’s more road trip fare than casual listening, but it must have been quite a lucky few to have seen it performed live, a bizarre tale complete with character acting, theme songs, sound effects, and very catchy refrains. Side two rounds out the experience with harder rock interpretations of early Mothers classics like Call Any Vegetable and Dog Breath. Two new tracks, Eddie, Are You Kidding and the perverted Magdalena are suitably ridiculous for one of the Mothers’ nuttiest incarnations.

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“Call Any Vegetable”

:D CD Reissue | 1995 | Zappa Records | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Bizarre | search ebay ]