Posts Tagged ‘ 1975 ’

The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band “Trouble In Paradise”

The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band was pulled together by Elektra/Asylum supremo David Geffen to be, as one critic described it, “a country Crosby, Stills & Nash” (notwithstanding that CS&N had plenty country roots of their own, cf. “Teach Your Children”). More likely, Geffen set out to cynically rehash his previous Frankensteinian creation, the Eagles, at a time when the latter had mutated from an honest country-rock quartet into an intolerably precious stadium-rock act. SHF would follow the same path, but on a drastically shortened timeline and with conspicuously less success, as tensions immediately mounted between the three talented but mismatched principals: the reclusive, sensitive Souther, the hard-living, hard-boozing Hillman and the born-again evangelist Furay, not to mention ill-fated schizophrenic drummer Jim Gordon. Sometimes the whole just isn’t greater than the sum of the parts.

SHF’s eponymous debut from 1974, breezily labelled “Greetings from Glamour City”, had turned out to be a reasonably satisfying, if by then somewhat dated, LA country-rock trip comprising unspectacular but mostly upbeat songs from all three principals, the whole elevated by their scintillating three-part harmonies plus honey-sweet pedal steel and scorching lead guitar from Al Perkins and inspirational piano and Hammond from Paul Harris, all mixed gratifyingly upfront. Their second effort a year later would be a very different animal, its title instantly giving the lowdown: now the songs were subdued and pessimistic, symbolising the tensions in the band and reflecting the same disillusionment with the sleazy Los Angeles scene evinced in the Eagles’ contemporaneous Hotel California. The accompaniment was considerably stripped down, with Perkins mixed much further back and most tracks carried by Harris’s plaintive piano. In place of the garish, solarised band portrait on the debut’s elaborate gatefold sleeve, the follow-up offered simple, sombre, Bible-black artwork. The faces tell the story; even Richie Furay’s ubiquitous smile is wry and forced. Needless to say, the album faltered chartwise and the inevitable breakup followed in short order. SHF’s entry on Wikipedia is one of the briefest on record.

Yet for all this, to me Trouble In Paradise is still a rewarding listen. The songs themselves are better than those on the debut, Souther’s in particular being more expressive and explorative, and the Big Three rely less on the stellar talents of their sidemen to raise the quality. The self-explanatory title track features untutored but amazingly confident drumming by Souther himself, and its centre section moves unerringly into a jazz groove with immaculate flute and Fender Rhodes from Harris; the “gold plated room” motif consciously echoes Gram’s classic “Sin City” theme. “Mexico” sets its tale of infidelity and guilt against an exquisite faux Norteño accompaniment, decorated with Hillman’s shimmering mandolin and offering superb mariachi harmonies in the middle eight. “Follow Me Through” allows Perkins and Harris to stretch out briefly and funkily, and could almost have been lifted from a Manassas album. Ironically, a cover of the gorgeous, keening “Prisoner In Disguise” would headline Linda Ronstadt’s immensely successful next album.

Perhaps the tensions and prevailing bad atmosphere perversely instigated an unexpectedly strong work; after all, there were numerous precedents for this, not least the Fabs’ Abbey Road and the Stones’ Beggars’ Banquet. None of the three SHF principals would ever again produce genuinely first-division product (unless you consider Hillman’s Desert Rose stuff to be in that bracket, which I don’t), but this isn’t a bad valedictory effort.

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“Mexico”

:D CD Reissue | 2002 | Wounded Bird | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | Asylum | at ebay ]
;) MP3 Download | at amazon ]

Bintangs “Genuine Bull”

Genuine Bull

Commonly referred to as the Rolling Stones of the Lowlands, Bintangs are also one of the longest lived Dutch groups (they’ve been at it since the late 50s).  Prior to Genuine Bull, Bintangs had released 3 albums in the late 60s/early 70s and some fine garage rock/nederbeat singles a bit earlier (seek out 65’s “Splendid Sight” and 67’s “Please Do Listen”).   After years of personnel changes, Bintangs had finally stablized a solid lineup in 1974 and released arguably their finest album to date.

Genuine Bull was first issued in 1975.  Produced by Steve Verroca and recorded in Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales, the lp is usually considered one of the best by a Dutch band.  Exile On Main Street must’ve been a major inspiration for these guys but I also hear, more distantly, the primitive, tribal sounds of Captain Beefheart and Dr. John etched deep within Genuine Bull‘s grooves (another point of reference: Roy Loney and the Flamin’ Groovies).  The album’s foundation is blues-rock (a medium Bintangs would never stray from) but this fine lp’s tense guitar playing and angst fueled vocals will also appeal to garage-rock and proto punk fans.  The first three tracks of Genuine Bull show off this lean, hard rock attack and the world is a better place for it.    The guitar work on Stone’s inspired gem “Hobo Man” is imaginative, “Insight Inside Out” is a raw garage rock/hard rock shouter, and “Agnes Grey,” one of the LP’s finest numbers, is downright epic.  Other tracks such as “New Orleans, New Orleans” and “Biyou Woman” stand out for their evil hoodoo swamp rock thang.   And while the latter description might sound strange knowing this band hails from the Netherlands,  Bintangs make their odd stew of American roots music work for them in spades.  Also of note is “Do John,” another swampy rhythm & blues number with a killer Bo Diddley beat, greasy harp and stellar guitar solos.   Genuine Bull is loaded with great moments like these; there’s plenty of character to be found here.

Overall, I can’t imagine anyone complaining about this group’s delivery.  Bintangs’ songwriting is very solid; the musicianship while reckless in a Rolling Stones/Faces manner, is still very impressive at heart, showing off lots of skill and talent.   Groups from the Netherlands always had a knack for mutating American blues and rock n roll traditions into something original and bracing.  Had the Rolling Stones released a record like this in 1975 it would have been seen as a blessing.  Genuine Bull is a much better album than It’s Only Rock N Roll or Black And Blue and stays true to rock n roll’s roots whereas the Rolling Stones of the mid 70s were studio slick and formulaic.

Bintangs have never really received their due.  It took almost 25 years for Genuine Bull to be reissued for the first time in 1999 (on cd).   The 2009 deluxe version (double disc) by Corazong is highly recommended as it includes tons of extra tracks and rarities.  So if you’re into pure rock n roll, ballsy, bluesy and decadent, check this great album out.

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“Hobo Man”

;) MP3 Album | 2009 | Corazong | download ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “Symphonion Dream”

Symphonion Dream

Symphonion Dream was the last album recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band before Jim Ibbotson left and the band began to move away from its traditional jug band/bluegrass roots. The big question is why in 1975, when the rest of the First Division of country-rock practitioners – the Eagles, Poco, Souther-Hillman-Furay et al – had been travelling for some time in the direction of simplified, stadium-friendly AOR, the NGDB went the other way and produced what I think is the best, and surely the quirkiest, psychedelic country album ever. The tunes are the band’s usual mix of originals and highly personalised covers; however this time the tunes are wrapped up in a sonic kaleidoscope of sound effects, seaside amusement park soundtracks, studio backchat, disconcerting segues, fade-in/fade-out interludes and odd instrumentation. So many familiar tunes, so many unfamiliar and occasionally unsettling treatments.

The album is bookended front-and-back by the eerie screech of an Aeolian harp, with a lonely tolling bell as prologue, finally fading out to the silvery chiming of the Symphonion – a large Victorian musical automaton sounding like an orchestra of musical boxes. The original songs feature some truly offbeat ideas, with John McEuen picking Flamenco on solo banjo – perhaps influenced by Bernie Leadon’s banjo opus Journey Of The Sorcerer on the Eagles’ One Of These Nights – and hammering the same banjo to produce steel band-like tones on the calypsoish Joshua Come Home. The more conventional tracks move smoothly from Hey Good Lookin’, played Bob Wills-style with Linda Ronstadt duetting Ibbotson on vocal, via a roistering Texas honky-tonk rendering of JD Souther’s The Moon Just Turned Blue, to the straight-ahead country-rock, all Telecasters blazing, of Bayou Jubilee. However, perhaps more memorable are the swampy, drone-laden treatment of that hoary old standard, The Battle Of New Orleans, replete with coda of marching drums and bagpipes, and the thumping bluegrass version of the Everlys’ maudlin (All I Have To Do Is) Dream, which revisits the Dirts’ version of Mike Nesmith’s Some Of Shelley’s Blues. Musicianship and harmonies throughout are as accomplished as we’ve come to expect from these guys, with McEuen’s fiery five-string banjo usually well to the fore, and production by Bill McEuen (any relation?) is faultless.

Exactly what the Dirts were trying to achieve with this album escapes me – perhaps a belated country-rock Sergeant Pepper? There is no conceptual theme as such, though the first four tracks on what was the second side seem to purposefully convey an atmosphere of the southern California coastline. Whatever: I enjoy eclectic albums that display a multiplicity of styles within, or even across, genres. This one never escapes being country-rock, but boy, does it stretch the boundaries.

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“The Battle of New Orleans”

:D CD Reissue |2003 | Capitol | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | United Artists | ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance “One For The Road”

One For The Road

This album snuck up on me, from behind, and knocked my ass on the floor. I forget how important it is to space them out. Put em away for awhile, re-listen two weeks later. Change the situation. Sometimes, you just need to crank it up and let them do their thing.

Ronnie is well-known as one of the founding members of The Small Faces and The Faces. His solo output is consistently good, the Slim Chance recordings a late-night, rousing and old-timey affair, usually combining mandolin, harmonica, acoustic for a solid roots rock sound. One For The Road seems to be the moment where it fell together best. There are memorable tunes set a dynamic paces, some starting off at barely audible levels. Every number is damn near anthemic the way they build. The music is at once traditional and uniquely original. No, this one doesn’t kick in right away, but when it does. Something something.

I have two more requests concerning Mr. Lane. I heard the 2006 biopic, The Passing Show, was really good. Anybody got word on this? Also, the Slim Chance twofer excludes two tracks, Single Saddle from Slim Chance, and Snake from One for The Road. I’d be glad if somebody could pass them my way so I can replace the tracks here.

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“32nd Street”

:D CD Reissue | 2003 | Acadia | 2fer | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | search ebay ]

Double Zappa |FZ| 1974-75

Zappa 1974-1975

After creating his two most commercially successful albums, FZ released a couple of beasts that many progressive fans call his apex and would become the Elements of Style for nearly every jam band in the 90s. I’m more of an early Mothers fan but there’s no denying this is some of his best.

Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)
In the midst of an old Zappa-crazed summer, this one really blew me away. I had never imagined a live band could perform like this, and I still don’t think I’ve ever heard a performance like Roxy ever since. The band was tighter than ever while playing the most complex passages Zappa had yet penned. Pygmy Twylyte and Echidna’s Arf are intricately orchestrated pieces that must have been exhilarating in a live setting. Napoleon Murphy Brock’s vocals balanced the show with a relaxed quality on Village Of The Sun and Son Of Orange County, a mellowed out retake for Frank to stretch his guitar over. The 15+ minute Be-Bop Tango gives a taste of the fun to be had at a Zappa show and a welcome Freak Out! number, Trouble Every Day, offers what may be the heaviest drum fill I’ve ever heard.

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“Echidna’s Arf (Of You)”

One Size Fits All (1975)
Same band as on Roxy & Elsewhere hits the studio.  The prog-rock numbers benefit from some studio attention and Ruth Underwood’s tuned percussion feats continue to amaze, but there are some new Zappa classics to fall back on, namely Po-Jama People, San Ber’dino, and Sofa (a recurring FZ theme introduced here in song and illustration). At once, the album will satisfy pop and prog fans alike as things never veer too far in one direction. One Size Fits All is a jewel from Zappa’s prime and never could enough be said of his guitar work on Inca Roads.

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“Inca Roads”

Split Enz “Mental Notes”

Mental Notes

Split Enz, a band that Australia would dearly love to call its own, was formed in New Zealand in 1973. Their early albums and legendary live performances conjured a dedicated fan base that fed and clothed the band until radio friendly unit shifters like “I See Red “ and “I Got You“ made the band a household name. Their influence and legacy in the Antipodes cannot be underestimated.

The nucleus of the group in 1975 was Tim Finn and Phil Judd, who share vocal duties on Mental Notes and are credited with forming the band two years earlier. The line-up waxed and waned over the lifetime of the band with only two members who played on Mental Notes being present for the final iteration of the band in 1985.

Firmly founded in a progressive art rock/pop base Mental Notes cuts itself a niche that could only have existed outside Europe or America. This album is the pinnacle of Split Enz early period. The style, complexity, musicality, and grace that earmark Mental Notes would underpin the music of Split Enz (and all the braches of the Enz family tree) for decades to come.

There are so many elements present in the tracks of Mental Notes that only exceptional musicianship and hours upon hours of rehearsal could make this album sound as tight and bright as it is. Mental Notes nods its head to the music of the time but only as a sort of passing farewell, as the band heads off at full throttle into uncharted territory.

Crafted into sonically complex layers, patterns and textures, the sound nonetheless rides on a melodic base that makes it music that your Grandmother could tap her foot to, but lurking just under the surface is an aural landscape akin to an underwater dream. Mandolin picks a melody underscored by synthesized strings, vocals glide by on wings while drums punctuate a pattern that turns left and right and leaves you in a head space totally new but uncannily familiar. Musical Déjà vu.

Beautiful, captivating, dynamic, challenging, invigorating, rich and fulfilling. Mental Notes deserves headphones or at least a decent level of volume. As one famous Australian music critic said, “Do yourself a favor…”

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“Walking Down A Road”

:D CD Reissue | 2006 | Digipak | Mushroom Records | Buy @ Amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1975 | Search @ eBay ]

Neil Young “Tonight’s The Night”

Tonight’s The Night

Easily my favorite Neil Young record.  I grew up not listening to Neil because I had never latched on to the sound of his radio hits. But a while back I got into his records (starting with On The Beach) and realized what a miss I had made. If you made this same mistake, go start with above record and make amends.

It’s a bit seedy and a little drunk;  Neil tells it like it is on “Borrowed Tune”: “..singing this borrowed tune…too wasted to write my own.” When I first heard this late night piano confessional, a tribute to the Rolling Stones’ Lady Jane, the final lyrics gave me the chills. Then they come in with “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown,”  a remake of the rollickin’ Crazy Horse tune, and you’re sold. Easy as that.

It was recorded in 1973 and released in 1975. The whole record feels as if it was as loosely constructed as possible, like they just wrapped a couple of one-take sessions in newspaper and dropped ’em off at the video store. It’s a masterpiece, on about loss, sorrow, and drugs. Apparently, this album was part of the ‘Ditch Triology‘, an unofficial grouping of three experimental albums recorded after his initial commercial successes.

The first of the trilogy is a live record called Time Fades Away which still hasn’t seen release. Give it a look @ aquariumdrunkard.com.

I love this song “Albuquerque.” It make you think every city should have a song.

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“Albuquerque”

[ under $10 used @ amazon ]

Relatively Clean Rivers (self-titled)

Relatively Clean Rivers

This album comes out of the mind of Phil Pearlman. Pearlman is a veteran of the American 60’s rock scene, being the brains behind such epic psych albums Beat of the Earth and the great Electronic Hole. Relatively Clean Rivers’ only album was released in 1975/76 though it sounds straight out of 1969. This album is extremely rare and has proven to be quite a controversial privately financed release.

Some feel this album is the second coming, with strong apocalyptic acid visions and wonderful musicianship. Others feel that it’s a solid rural rock record with strands of late period psychedelia. It’s important to note that Relatively Clean Rivers was name checked as an influence in a recent interview (via Record Collector magazine) with a Wilco band member concerning their latest album release. This Wilco band member called the record a 60’s guitar album that is “economic.” Regardless, RCR may not be the second coming but it’s still a great album from a period in rock (1974-75) that was thought to be void of such hidden country psych gems.

It’s really a quiet, flowing rural record that has many unsettling, strange moments. At first listen Hello Sunshine immediately stands out amongst the crowd. This song is pretty great, sounding like a stoned underground version of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Everything comes off very natural and the music never sounds forced or dishonest. Much of the record is predominately acoustic, though Journey Through The Valley has some strong electric guitar acid leads. Other tunes like the effects laden Babylon are very spacey and almost veer towards progressive rock. The album closes with the reflective A Thousand Years. It’s another strong composition with some eastern influenced acoustic guitar playing, lyrics with bizarre religious overtones and backward cymbals. Relatively Clean Rivers is not bound to be everyone’s cup of tea, though fans of rural rock should investigate this great private press release.

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“Hello Sunshine”

NOTE: Please avoid purchasing this album from the Radioactive label. Radioactive and related label, Fallout are pirate operations, meaning they do not pay the original artists or copyright holders when they sell bootleg vinyl rips on CD. Read more about it at NothingExceptional.com.

Brian Eno “Another Green World”

Another Green World

There are four Eno albums that sort-of go together. These are his first four solo albums after leaving Roxy Music: Here Come The Warm Jets (1973), Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974), Another Green World (1975), and Before & After Science (1977). I could have chosen any one of these recently remastered digipak albums to review today (and probably will get to them all soon enough), but Another Green World jumps out at me first every time.

Don’t expect ambient, experimental, exclusively electronic non-music or anything you have previously associated with Eno’s incredible body of work. This album, as well as the others listed here, is part of Eno’s pop-rock masterpiece phase, at once a listenable rock album and a piece of certifiable Eno art.

The first time I heard this record though, I was really digging it, until Brian started singing. But rest assured, you will learn to love and appreciate his vocal style, as much as you will learn to love each “sound painting” arranged within this perfect album.

Also of note, this album synchronizes excellently (a la Dark Side of the Rainbow) with the 1984 Disney film Where The Toys Come From. I forget exactly which “roar of the lion” to sync them up with, but that doesn’t really matter.

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“Another Green World”

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Brian Eno - Another Green World