Posts Tagged ‘ 1973 ’

Blo “Chapter One”

Chapter One

Blo (based out of Lagos) grew out of the Clusters, a popular late 60s group who made ends meet by covering Beatles and Stones tunes.  Before long people began refering to the Clusters as the “Nigerian Beatles” but the group also soaked up the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, and local hero Fela Kuti.  To make a long story short things did not work out for the Clusters who included future Blo members Akintobi and guitarist/songwriter Berkley Jones.  In 1972 Blo made their Christmas debut at Lagos City Stadium and by all accounts blew supporting act Osibisa off stage.   Lagos City Stadium housed 10,000 vistors strong, all who were chanting “we want Blo” that day - a trio they had never seen before!

Press reports began describing Blo as Africa’s first real rock band. Following the explosive live performance at Lagos City EMI issued Chapter One in the summer of 73.  At the time nothing sounded quite like it.   The album is an extraordinary mixture of funky James Brown beats and spacey psychedelic guitar jams (check out the superb instrumental ”Miss Sagitt”).    Album opener “Preacherman” combines both these styles into something really far out and classic.  The spiraling acid guitar solos and shuffling drum work really stand out on this cut. Brilliant.  Every song is worth listening to multiple times but I’ll single out all 6 minutes of “Don’t” for it’s hazy, hypnotic vibe that’s similiar to early Can.

Sadly, Blo never really broke out of Nigeria despite having the look, superior chops, and an excellent batch of songs.

edit: Chapter One is now available on CD through Mr. Bongo (with a vinyl edition due by the end of this month). They’ve also posted the full album as a video playlist here.

mp3: Preacherman

:D CD Reissue | 2013 | Mr Bongo | buy here ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2013 | Mr Bongo | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Ithaca “A Game For All Who Know”

Though only one record was ever released under the name Ithaca, the band actually has a rather lengthy history which encompasses four different LPs. The band’s roots lay in the British folk duo Peter Howell and John Ferdinando, who put out two obscure albums in the late 1960s under their own names before pulling their act together into the band Agincourt. That band’s Fly Away, released in 1970, was a gently magnificent slice of cosmic folk-rock which highlighted the ethereal vocals of Lee Menelaus. A Game For All Who Know is technically the follow-up to that unfortunately unheralded release, marked by a change in name (which probably didn’t help the groups’ momentum, if they had any at all by this point), and a somewhat darker atmosphere.

The songs on A Game For All Who Know tend to bleed into each other in a rather seamless continuum, giving the record the feel of a concept album. All in all, it’s a relaxing trip. Though “The Journey” opens rather auspiciously with an explosion, the buzzing of insects, and what sounds like a soaring air raid siren, it soon dissolves down into a beautiful wash of gentle cymbal crescendos and finger-picked guitars. Droning vocals are kept relatively low in the mix, making the overall sound a little disorienting but also emphasizing the engaging instrumental textures which underlay the songs. According to the liner-notes on the Acme Lion reissue, the band decided during the recording of this album that their material had gotten too complicated and involved to perform live.

The sound of the record has more to do with chiming 1960s U.K. folk rock than it does with most of Ithaca’s progressive-leaning contemporaries. Jangling acoustic guitars provide the bedrock around which most of these songs are written, and instrumental flourishes tend toward flutes, Gilmour-esque slide guitar runs and organ trills that never escape their place as accents. Even the record’s eight-and-a-half minute centerpiece “Times” floats on a quietly-tumbling Bryter Layter atmosphere before picking up the pace into a bright, country-rock groove. The cosmic “Dreams” is perhaps one of the album’s most unsettling moments, in which traces of jazz piano melt and bleed into clouds of fuzz guitar before light ivory arpeggios bring the proceedings down into a rather sudden fade-out. Cut to the lengthy, record-closing reprise of “The Journey,” introduced by the sound of pages turning and a a burst of flamenco guitar before sampled NASA radio chatter announces that “Houston, we are underway” and Ithaca returns to the spaced-out balladry that by now has clearly been revealed to be their forte. It’s only in the introduction of weird, rudimentary synthesizer harmonies on this cut that the band starts to push into standard prog territory, though they redeem themselves a little later in the piece as it begins to slide out into a super mellow, freestyle improvisation.

The band would release one more record, this one under the name Friends and being more of a Peter Howell project than anything. Howell was also spending more and more time as a composer at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (where he would go on to compose the second Doctor Who theme, released as a single under his own name in the late seventies), and slowly the loose amalgam of musicians that had made up Agincourt, Ithaca and Friends ceased recording formally together. They left an impressive run of musical testaments, however, and A Game For All Who Know is worth checking out. Though it was only released in a limited run of ninety-nine LPs back in 1973, the aforementioned Acme Lion edition is readily available for anyone down to take “the journey.”

mp3: Questions
mp3: Peace of Mind

:D Reissue | 2008 | Lion | buy at amazon ]

Bo Hansson “Ur Trollkarlens Hatt”

Technically speaking, Bo Hansson’s Ur Trollkarlens Hatt (on English editions: Magician’s Hat) comes from the same Swedish music scene as the International Harvester record covered a few weeks back. Around the time that Bo Anders Persson was breaking down artistic and political barriers with said troupe of psychedelic renegades, Hansson was serving as one half of the musical duo Hansson and Karlsson, dropping heavy waves into the European music scene and eventually collaborating with Jimi Hendrix (who would go on to record a version of their song “Tax Free,” released on his posthumous record War Heroes). The two bands carved very different furrows in the realm of underground Swedish rock, however, and this 1973 solo record of Hansson’s definitely works well in highlighting the stunning diversity of the Swedish progg movement.

Where Harvester built its sound on a raw, spontaneous strain of improvised, communal music-making, Hansson was much more methodical in his composition and recording. His first album, the surprisingly well-known Tolkien-driven concept album Sagen Om Ringen, set the stage for most of what was to come later from the pen of this highly talented (and apparently quite reclusive) keyboardist: engaging soundscapes veering back and forth between cosmic space-outs and tight, electric grooves. Hatt takes that formula and throws it through all sorts of subtle little loops, incorporating fragmentary touches of…well, pretty much everything. Progressive keyboard passages melt beautifully into jazz horns, acoustic guitars, spy-theme allusions and blissed-out pedal steel flourishes, creating an eclectic, but somehow complementary, tapestry of music that, while not entirely connecting to the eye-catching album cover, is quite otherworldly.

The album opens with what is possibly its most ambitious statement, the epic, eleven minute suite “Storstad.” The piece may not be the highlight of the album, as one might hope by its length, but it is nevertheless a rewarding listen full of memorable moments. It somehow manages to shift back and forth between various complex dynamics without ever dissolving into the sort of pretentious, instrumental indulgences that mar so much similar music of the period. That which might be called the “middle” of the album is composed of a series of short numbers that, while marked as separate tracks, all work together in much the same way as the opening cut’s various movements. The guitar and flute interplay of “Fylke” and the acid-drenched “Findhorns Sång” are two highlights here. The second half of the record sees a shift away from the horns and jazz-flavored lines of the first side, and instead places more emphasis on the organ and electric guitar. These are the cuts I find myself returning to most often. Dig the driving rhythm and spiraling guitars of “Vandringslåt,” or the electric piano and fatback drums that almost help push “Solen” into krautrock territory. The final number even throws on some wah-wah and a heavy, fuzzed out lead guitar…before taking a disorienting detour into happy-go-lucky parlor jazz.

Both EMI and One Way Ticket Records have reissued Ur Trollkarlens Hatt at one point or another, both with extended versions of “Big City,” and the former with the added addition of two bonus tracks. Those wholly turned off by anything bordering on progressive rock may be wary of this album, but it’s distinct enough from such fare that you should be able to shake your preconceptions about the genre and take this record in on its own terms.

mp3: Findhorns Sång
mp3: Vandringslåt

:D CD Reissue | 2004 | EMI | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Silence Records | search ebay ]

David Wiffen “Coast to Coast Fever”

The name David Wiffen may or may not ring a bell, but to anyone with an interest in 1970s folk rock I can promise that at least one of his songs will. His material has seen quite a bit of mileage in other performers’ repertoires, and through them a small handful have even filtered up into popular consciousness. Tom Rush and The Byrds both threw their individual spins on “Driving Wheel,” Eric Andersen recorded “More Often Than Not” on his doomed-romantic classic Blue River, and calypso crooner Harry Belafonte rather unexpectedly included both “One Step” and the self-referential “Mister Wiffen” on his 1973 record Play Me. It was the age of the singer-songwriter and David Wiffen seemed to be the next big thing. So what happened?

Coast To Coast Fever, Wiffen’s follow-up to his critically-lauded debut, tells the tale. An informal concept album illustrating the life of the traveling musician and the rigors involved in trying to gain success as a songwriter, it plays as a sort of autobiographical meditation on where the man was at. “He played his tunes to empty rooms, right on down the line,” Wiffen sings on the melancholy title track, “but before he went the money got spent on good times, whiskey and wine.” As in the rest of the album, the singer’s guitar downright sparkles. The production, courtesy of legendary Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn, is as laid back and stripped down as one would hope on a record like this, built around a wide acoustic piano sound and smokey percussion. Indeed, Wiffen could hardly have found a more sympathetic ear to this collection of beat meditations and road songs, and Cockburn’s understated guitar playing is arguably one of the record’s musical highlights.

It is hard to break this record into specific highlights when every piece of the puzzle is so essential to the album’s overall character, but a few key cuts do stand out. The down-and-out blues of “Smoke Rings” rests uneasily between gruff, masculine charm and absolute desolation, cigarette smoke drifting quietly out into an empty landscape and paralleling the sad admissions already found in “Coast To Coast Fever.” The story wouldn’t be quite so affecting if one did not get the feeling that this is not a man who has lost it all, but rather one who never had it to begin with, only having glimpsed the possibilities of fame and seen them immediately dissolve into a hard and bitter reality. It’s a strange story for being so common, the successful songwriter that’s never able to make it on his own terms. Then again there must be some light to all this darkness considering that we are not only still listening to and talking about David Wiffen’s records, but that he’s still around and singing. The man even managed to record a belated follow-up to Coast To Coast Fever in 1999, featuring a handful of new songs that still stand strong alongside his most enduring material.

Whereas Wiffen’s debut seems to have disappeared into the aether, only having been reissued once by an independent Italian label before quickly falling back out of print (original copies of the album are obnoxiously hard to obtain, and have sold second-hand for several hundred dollars apiece), Coast To Coast Fever has remained somewhat easier to find. A North American release on compact disc remains available through most online retailers, and original vinyl copies seem to have seen far wider distribution than any of Wiffen’s other recordings, frequently appearing in record store cut-out bins and online auction sites.

mp3: Coast To Coast Fever
mp3: White Lines

:) Original | 1973 | United Artists | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2009 | Isotope | buy here ]

 

Skip Battin “Topanga Skyline”

It took a while longer to appear than expected, but Skip Battin’s second solo album has finally surfaced on CD after thirty-nine years. The explanations for its shelving in 1973 include, depending on whom you read and believe, (a) the vinyl shortage resulting from the oil embargo following the Yom Kippur War, (b) the cancellation of the fall-of-‘73 national tour featuring Skip, Gene Parsons, Gram Parsons, Clarence White and Country Gazette through various city fathers vetoing the presence of “longhairs”, or (c) loss of heart in the recording project following the death of Clarence. Following Skip’s own passing in 2009, his son Brent negotiated with California’s Sierra Records to issue the “lost” album posthumously in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Skip’s first appearance with the Byrds. Three years further on, we finally have it, and it’s been worth the wait despite the sad circumstances of its gestation and publication.

Clarence was killed on July 15, 1973, three days before recording was due to begin, but the sessions went ahead nevertheless. In place of the various Byrds alumni who backed Skip on his eponymous debut set, he received the services of members of the redoubtable Country Gazette and assorted friends: Bob Beeman and Herb Pedersen (acoustic guitars), Chris Etheridge (RIP April 23, 2012 – bass), Byron Berline (fiddle), Alan Munde (banjo), Roland White (brother of Clarence – mandolin) and Mike Bowden (drums), and in Clarence’s place came Al Perkins from the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band on electric guitar, pedal steel and Dobro. A more capable combo could not have been wished for, and the album resonates with their flawless musicianship behind Skip’s down-home Dylanish vocal and piano. If there was an atmosphere of sadness and loss in the studio, it doesn’t show in the music, which is relentlessly upbeat and powerful on the fast tunes and warm and sympathetic on the ballads. The bluegrass players shine both ensemble and as soloists, and Perkins’s contributions are remarkably assured given his last-minute drafting. Production by Skip’s longtime writing and recording partner Kim Fowley is exemplary, as you’d expect.

The CD package as released by UK imprint Floating World on licence from Sierra includes the nine original studio tracks completed before the decision to abandon. These are split between typically idiosyncratic Battin/Fowley country-rock originals – “Bolts Of Blue”, “Don’t Go Down The Drain”, “Stoned Sober” – and supercharged bluegrass covers – the Morris Brothers’ “Salty Dog Blues”,  A.P. Carter’s “Foggy Mountain Top”, the traditional ”Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” – plus a truly inspired reworking of the old 1959 Olympics hit “Hully Gully”. In addition to these there are several bonuses. “Willow In The Wind” and “China Moon” are taken from Skip’s 1981 album “Navigator”, an Italian-only release featuring Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel. The ghost of Clarence walks on an alternative version of “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and on “Old Mountain Dew”, two rehearsal tapings which are thought to be the last recorded work Clarence ever laid down. Rounding the package out is a short mpeg of a clean-cut Elvis-quiffed Skip performing solo on a 1965 Californian TV show similar to Ready Steady Go on which he lip-synchs a couple of pre-British Invasion teenypop songs, “Searchin’” and “She Acts Like We Never Have Met”. All in all, then, a lot of Skip for the money and well worth the investment if you’re interested in the long and varied career of this fine musician, in which case you’ll also want to see this astonishingly comprehensive history, rare photos and discography.

mp3: Bolts of Blue
mp3: Salty Dog Blues

:D Reissue | 2010 | Sierra | buy here ]

Coloured Balls “Ball Power”

Coloured Balls were one of the best pure rock n roll groups to emerge from the early 70′s Australian scene.  Sure, The Saints and Radio Birdman stayed together longer and released a slew of fine albums during the punk era but it was the Coloured Balls who pioneered the proto punk sound earlier in the decade.  Their wildcard was Lobby Loyde (also known as John Barrie Lyde), Australia’s premier guitar hero (detractors must check out his live at Sunbury performance of “G.O.D.” – from Aztec’s Ball Power reissue) whose pivotal roles in beat/psych/blues rock groups The Purple Hearts, The Wild Cherries and Billy Thorpe’s Aztecs made him a major home-grown star down under.  Ball Power is not only the Coloured Balls’ greatest album but also the finest music of Lobby Loyde’s long, fabled career.

Ball Power, released in 1973, favorably recalls the latter day MC5 or the Pink Fairies from their great Kings of Oblivion LP.  The best moments on Ball Power are transcendent.  ”Human Being,” the album’s lone classic, is a blistering hard rock masterpiece notable for its crunching buzz saw guitars and bludgeoning rhythm section.  ”That’s What Mama Said” is essentially “Human Being” drawn out to 10 minutes but this time around Coloured Balls utilize a foot-controlled Theremin and lots of guitar soloing/guitar noise (progressive raunch).  Other good ones are “Won’t You Make Up Your Mind,” which sounds like anarchy in the UK before there was such a thing, the powerful boogie rock of “Hey! What’s Your Name” and “Something New,” a hard psych number with phased guitar work.  Even the lesser cuts hold up quite well and if anything, serve to display the group’s diversity and unique talents.  ”B.P.R.,” a strong blues instrumental, gives Lobby Loyde room to stretch out and solo while their rendition of “Whole Lotta Shakin’” rocks as hard as any version I’ve heard of this classic.  From beginning to end Ball Power is an excellent album that’s mandatory listening – all the performances have that road-honed tightness and tense, proto punk edge.

Several years back Aztec Music reissued this lost classic on cd but since then its become very expensive and increasingly hard to find.  Coloured Balls would release two other flawed but worthy albums, 1974′s Heavy Metal Kids and 1976′s First Last Supper (1972 recordings).

mp3: Won’t You Make Up Your Mind
mp3: Hey! What’s Your Name

:) Original |  1973 | EMI | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2006 | Aztec | buy here ]

The Brazda Brothers “The Brazda Brothers”

By the early 70′s Slovakia-born brothers Bystrik and Andy Brazda had relocated to Ontario, Canada in search of greener pastures. Shortly after settling down in their new home they began writing music together. Canadian owned Dominion Records released their first and only lp, The Brazda Brothers, in 1974. Rumour has it that the brothers laid the entire album to tape in a marathon six hour session at RCA Studios in Toronto. Marathon session or not, The Brazda Brothers is one of the finest psych-folk lps ever pressed to wax.

The first track, “Walking Into the Sun”, sets the warm and peaceful pace that permeates the album when a lightly strummed acoustic guitar gives way to a gentle soft-psych tune that comfortably slinks by–full of melodic, wistful vocals, crystal clear electric guitar, thumpy tubby drums, and a wonderful appearance by what sounds to be a calliope, but is credited as a Cordovox–the same keyboard that shows up frequently to add its unique touch to much of the record. Right off the bat it’s clear that the brothers had a vision to share and they do so in an innocent, heartfelt way. This homegrown feel sets their record apart from the pack, earning it a place at the table with other lost classics of the era.

“Share With Love” is an upbeat number that encourages the listener to consider the needs of their fellow brothers and sisters. With its reverb drenched guitar and minor key refrain this tune has an almost garage flavored folk-rock sound, and its slightly eerie vibe adds a different taste to the record and shows a different side of the brothers’ sound. Midway through the album the brothers turn the volume up a bit with “Gemini”. Complete with gloriously fuzzed-out electric guitar and an almost-boiling Hammond Organ that adds something exotic to the mix, this tune definitely delivers in the psych category and comes out as one of finest cuts on this collection. The entire song has a subtle Eastern-European vibe that becomes most apparent when the brothers harmonize on the refrain. On the next track, “Nature”, Andy dreams of a carefree life spent living in the country, singing “the sun will shine all day/Mother nature will be our neighbor”. Reminiscent of “Hello Sunshine” and other tunes off of the Relatively Clean Rivers lp, this song has a great late sixties soft-psych vibe as well as a catchy chorus, and continues the acid-rural-pastoral-folk vibe that begins with the album opener.

“Lonely Time” is a beautifully sad little gem that finds Andy again longing for the peace and serenity of a home surrounded by nature and the familiar faces of friends and loved ones. In 2008 Panda Bear of Animal Collective fame payed tribute to these Slovak brothers when he released a remix of The Notwist’s “Boneless” that uses the opening riff of “Lonely Time” to fine effect.

The only criticism of this album is that several of the songs, such as “My Little Girl” and “Nature” have a very similar sound. However, it’s hard for it to bother you when it’s such a great sound! In the end, the pure and honest nature of the album along with the wonderfull vibe trumps any criticism.

The Brazda Brothers is a great album that stands shoulder to shoulder with other similar sounding lost classics of the time such as Relatively Clean Rivers, Rodriguez’s Cold Fact, and Jim Sullivan’s UFO. With their laid-back attitude, sunny rural vibe, and unique voices, the brothers crafted the perfect album for a lazy summer afternoon full of good vibes. As you’ve already guessed, original copies are rare, and sell for a very pretty penny when they do pop up. Hallucination CDs out of New Jersey re-released the album on cd with a limited pressing of 1,000 copies, and Void Records has reissued the album on vinyl. Pick up a copy while they’re still available!

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“Walking Into The Sun”

:) Orig Vinyl | 1973 | Dominion Records | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Hallucination | buy here ]

Little Feat “Dixie Chicken”

Dixie Chicken (1973) is when Little Feat came up with their signature sound.  Many fans cite this as the group’s best LP.  I’ve always thought their debut was one of the best albums from the time (Sailin’ Shoes is also superb), so I’m not really sure which side of the fence I stand on.

Dixie Chicken is a more produced (rich, full sound), laid back affair when compared to the raw eccentricity of those first two albums.   Most of the tracks are Lowell George originals but to give you an idea of the influences at work here, the group covers Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down.”  This means there’s a strong New Orleans aroma throughout Dixie Chicken.  Classics like the title track and “Two Trains Running” while great songs, feature soulful backup vocalists, which make them sound a bit more produced than the group’s earlier efforts.  That being said, this is certainly one hell of an album – one of the defining roots rock discs.  On Dixie Chicken, the group incorporated funky, almost danceable rhythms within many of the song structures while other tunes such as the excellent “Kiss It Off,” replete with ominous synth or “Juliette,” feature dark, intense vibes.  Dixie Chicken is also notable for featuring one of Little Feat’s greatest songs, the much loved “Fat Man In The Bathtub.”

Impassioned vocals, great lyrics, piano, slide guitar and a rock steady beat make this track one of classic rock’s great legends - there’s nothing like it.  My picks are the acoustic (and slide guitar) piece “Roll Um Easy” and the jumpin’ “Fool Yourself.”  Both songs have the feel and style of Little Feat’s earlier triumphs.  All told, Little Feat came up with their third masterpiece in as many years.  Essential.

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“Kiss It Off”

:) Original Vinyl | Warner Bros | 1973 | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Nicks and Buckingham “Buckingham Nicks”

In 1972 Lindsey Buckingham and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks arrived in Los Angeles with a stack of demos, determined to make a dent in the music industry. By 1973 the pair had scored a deal with Polydor Records and headed into Sound City recording studios in Van Nuys to record their debut with producer and engineer Keith Olson behind the board. The resulting 10 track lp, Buckingham Nicks, is a finely crafted pop record that features contributions from some of L.A’s finest studio musicians of the time, including Waddy Wachtel, Ronnie Tutt, Jerry Scheff, and the infamous Jim Keltner, as well as the exceptional six-string slinging talents that Buckingham would later become famous for and, of course, Nicks’ platinum pipes. Featuring a priceless cover photo, this is the release that first exposed the talents of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie (then credited as Stevi) Nicks to the world.

Side A kicks off with “Crying In The Night”, a poppy folk rocker complete with a lead vocal performance from the young Nicks, already sounding completely in her element. The sound of the song contrasts perfectly with the lyrics, which tell a cautionary tale about a woman on the prowl with not-so-good intentions–another devil in disguise. The driving rhythm, chiming guitars, and hook filled refrain sound straight from the sun bleached streets of Los Angeles and come together to perfectly sum up the essence of what the Buckingham Nicks team was all about. The song is catchy and compact, every element sounding perfectly placed, as if the duo had already perfected their songwriting style and were just waiting for the spotlight to shine their way.

“Without A Leg to Stand On” features both Buckingham and Nicks on vocals, giving Buckingham a chance to step up to the microphone while showcasing their perfectly executed harmonizations, foreshadowing the impressively layered harmonies that would follow shortly when the duo began cranking out hit records with Fleetwood Mac. Chiming 12-strings sparkle and shimmer throughout, and Buckingham even whips up a few tasteful guitar solos, sounding effortless as usual. Overall, the tune has a laid back Malibu vibe that skirts the line between a ballad and a mid-tempo rocker, finally ending up sounding like a lost outtake from Fleetwood Mac streaming out of an FM radio while cruising down Pacific Coast Highway on a sunny day. Which is, of course, a good thing!

“Crystal” surprisingly ends up being one the weaker cuts on the album, with Buckingham at times coming off as if he’s trying his hardest to sing a pretty song, instead of pouring himself into an emotional performance. The treatment given to the song on 1975′s Fleetwood Mac has an added depth lacking from this early version. Meanwhile, “Stephanie” and “Django” are both short instrumental tracks that highlight, you guessed it, Buckinghams enviable guitar skills. The first of these two, “Stephanie”, is a pretty little tune with more of Buckingham’s trademark shimmering Martin acoustic guitar tones, sounding similar to “Never Going Back Again” off of Rumours. The one minute long “Django”, is obviously a tribute to the Gypsy Jazz guitar master, but unfortunately offers little in the way of melodic development.  Neither “Stephanie” nor “Django” detract significantly from the experience of listening to Buckingham Nicks, but their odd placement in the sequencing of the album does disrupt the flow a little bit and leaves the listener wondering what in the world Polydor was thinking. Nevertheless, both of the tracks are valuable for their insight into the Buckingham Nicks machine and should interest listeners who have ventured far enough into the history books to reach word of this release.

The seven-minute long “Frozen Love” is an absolutely epic album closer. Starting off with fingerpicked acoustic guitar and eventually leading to orchestral flourishes, harmony vocals, and killer harmonized electric guitar leads, “Frozen Love” leaves the you yearning for more, practically taunting the listener to flip the record and do it all over again. Appropriately enough, this is the tune that Mick Fleetwood is rumored to have heard one day while touring Sound City, prompting him to offer Buckingham a spot as lead guitarist in Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham infamously told Fleetwood that Buckingham and Nicks were only available as a package deal, and the rest is history!

Unfortunately, Buckingham Nicks has never been reissued on cd. Fortunately, original vinyl copies aren’t too hard to come by, and several cd bootlegs have been available throughout the years. This album is essential listening for fans of Fleetwood Mac and the light it shines on Buckingham’s contribution to the British blues band’s new sound is truly revelatory. If you’ve got a craving for more in the way of 70s era Fleetwood Mac, you know how to score the fix!

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“Crying in the Night”

:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Polydor | search ebay ]

Chris Darrow “Chris Darrow”

By the time Chris Darrow entered Trident Studios in London to record his self-titled debut solo LP, he was already an accomplished, respected, and in-demand musician. As a member of the wonderful genre-bending Southern California psych band Kaleidoscope he had already contributed his talents to their first couple of albums, 67′s Side Trips and 68′s A Beacon from Mars–two excellent psych-rock albums that were some of the first to incorporate world music forms from all over the globe. After leaving Kaleidoscope he was recruited by The Nitty Gritty Dirt band, playing on 68′s Rare Junk, 69′s Dead and Alive, and 70′s Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddie. After leaving The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band he found work as a session musician–playing guitar, banjo, fiddle, dobro, mandolin, bass, keyboards, and singing on a handful of wonderful albums, including Hoyt Axton’s Joy to the World, James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, John Fahey’s Of Rivers and Religion, and more. Chris Darrow had established a reputation as a musical force to be reckoned with.

Darrow had already released his first self-titled solo LP in 1972 with Artist Proof, and his sophomore LP was released by United Artists in 1973. With a sound heavily influenced by and rooted in the traditional American musical forms Darrow loves so much–country, blues, jug-band, cajun music, bluegrass, and fiddle tunes–Chris Darrow comes out of the gate showcasing a list of influences nearly as long as the list of instruments which Darrow had already mastered. However, like a master craftsman he weaves it all together to form a musical tapestry of his own creation, allowing all the elements to work together seamlessly and create a cohesive and creative whole. Perhaps his greatest achievement with this album was the way in which it predicted the shift towards the more complex and genre bending approach we would come to see undertaken by singer songwriters in the years and decades following its release.

The highlight of the album, opening track “Albuquerque Rainbow”, sounds like that great lost “Exile On Main Street” outtake with Gram Parsons singing lead that we’ve been praying for all these years. Opening with just Chris and his guitar, this song is about as close to a perfect combination of country and rock as this record contains, matching tasteful pedal steel ornaments on an acoustic guitar driven tune with a catchy hook and Allman Brothers influenced harmonized guitar leads. With its easy going feel-good early 70′s rural vibes and upbeat tempo this song,which makes for a perfect addition to any road trip soundtrack, will not leave your head soon after you hear it.  “Take Good Care of Yourself”, with some exceptionally fine old-timey fiddling, anticipates the bluegrass/reggae sound that fellow Kaleidoscope member David Lindley would hint at on several of his future solo releases.

“Whipping Boy”, another Darrow original, is a blistering blues rocker with raunchy slide guitar and a driving rhythm that features some extra funky bass playing. When Darrow twangs out Listen here/I don’t care/I don’t wanna be your whipping boy he sings it like he means it and lays it on thick. Darrow’s voice really shines and imbues the song with a level of legitimacy and depth–Darrow didn’t just take inspiration from traditional American music; he played it, loved it, and most of all felt it. “Hong Kong Blues”, a Hoagy Carmichael cover, ventures into more typical singer songwriter territory with just Darrow’s voice and a piano accompaniment that sounds a lot like “Sail Away” era Randy Newman. It serves as a nice contrast to the other tracks, asking the listener to take a seat and enjoy the story. “Faded Love” is a beautiful, wonderfully written tune that sounds like an a cappella Appalachian ballad that’s been graced with subtle instrumental shades of the far east. A lone forlorn flute lilts above the track, singing the bittersweet song of a broken heart. “To What Cross Do I Cling” kicks off with a riff straight from the swamps of bayou country, bringing a much appreciated, laid-back Excello vibe to the tune that could easily satisfy any gumbo cravin’. Add some Clarence White influenced tele twangin’ and you’ve got one smoking tune that goes down like a good shot of Whiskey–warm, easy, groovy.

The other standout track among the set is Darrow’s version of the bluesy old-timey standard “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down”. This remake of the traditional American tune ends up sounding like Crazy Horse jamming with John Hartford–peppered with bluesy guitar runs, twangy telecasters, and dueling old-timey fiddles. The end result is wonderful, one of the best versions of the tune around. Coming up with a creative and compelling way to present traditional tunes can be tough for a rock musician, but Darrow’s work-up of the song is as fresh as the water from an Appalachian spring.

Of course echoes of Darrow’s previous groups abound–the old-timey depression-era string band send-up “We’re Living On $15 A Week”, which calls to mind  The Jim Kweskin Jug Band and their rural romps, makes use of one of Kaleidoscope’s favorite tropes. The end result sounds somewhat similar to “Baldheaded End of A Broom” off of A Beacon From Mars or any number of tunes by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Unfortunately the album’s closing track “That’s What it’s Like to Be Alone” leaves a bit to be desired. The track kicks off with a harpsichord and ends up sounding like a mutant attempt at baroque pop that falls just a bit short of the mark.

All in all Chris Darrow is an excellent albeit overlooked country-rock record from the heart of the genre during its heyday. It is also a unique and compelling artistic statement from a wonderfully gifted musician, and stands up as one of the most interesting singer-songwriter LPs of the era. Musically speaking, a wonderful point of comparison to Chris Darrow would be Dillard & Clark’s excellent first LP The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark, the main difference being (aside from the fact that Darrow was operating as a solo musician and D&C as a duo) that Dillard & Clark created a country-rock classic by coming at the genre from the angle of bluegrass, while Darrow created his own unique country-rock statement coming largely from the angle of blues and pre-bluegrass old-timey American music. The more stripped down intimate sound of old-time and blues music lends that feeling of intimacy and suits Darrow’s songs and voice. It sounds as if his intonation and diction had been reached by years of singing traditional American songs, including a cappella mountain ballads, southern blues, jug band tunes, gospel tunes, traveling medicine show music, bluegrass and folk. Although many of the tunes on Chris Darrow contain full band arrangements, featuring contributions from a handful of wonderful musicians (including members of Fairport Convention), ultimately it is Darrow you feel the connection with–and that’s the way it was intended to be.

Sadly, copies of the album didn’t fly off the shelf like hotcakes. Maybe his music was too ambitious, too richly textured and multifaceted for some fans of the emerging singer-songwriter genre that was streaming out from the West Coast, dominating the FM airwaves and selling millions of pairs of bootcut jeans. Darrow soldiered on, providing a fine follow-up, Under My Own Disguise, that was even more deeply rooted in bluegrass and old-time music. He continued working as a session musician, playing on fine albums of all shapes and size, even hitting the road to backup players such as Linda Ronstadt and John Stewart, pausing every now and then to release an album of his own material. In 1994 young friend and neighbor Ben Harper released a cover version of “Whipping Boy” on his album “Welcome to The Cruel World” that brought Darrow and his tune a little extra attention. In 2009 Everloving Records out of Los Angeles, California reissued remastered versions of both Chris Darrow and Under My Own Disguise in a limited edition deluxe box set that includes a 48 page book and 180 gram vinyl along with copies of both albums on cd as well. This is the set to get as the packaging and presentation really does justice to the material. If you’re low on dough, a BGO twofer is available that includes both of the albums conveniently placed onto one compact disc. Enjoy

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“Albuquerque Rainbow”

:) Vinyl Box Set | 2009 |Everloving Records | buy here ]
:D CD Reissue |  2008 | Beat Goes On | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | UA Records | search ebay ]