Monday, May 22, 2017

Weight - One Man's Queen Is Another Man's Sweat Hog (1970 us, remarkable melt of psych blues and classic rock, 2016 korean remaster)

Weight consisted of Brian Cassidy (vocals-bass), Peter Masi (vocals-keyboards-guitar-harmonica), Toni Christmas (guitar-vocals), and Noel Cassidy (drums-washboard-vocals).

The album described in some circles as “progressive psych” starts off with “The Night The Pig Got Loose”, featuring a hilarious account of a drug bust told in an Arlo Guthrie sort of way, and then shifts to a ballad musically similar to Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” with the weird title of “Mr.M, Mr.N, and Mr.C (With Help From Mr.D)” (maybe the Mr.D is Dylan they’re referring to).

As the album progresses, it has some nice guitar/organ interplay similar in style to the Allman Brothers, so it leans to Southern Rock as much as it does to a progressive style. 
by Max Collodie
1. The Night The Pig Got Loose - 4:37
2. Mr. M, Mr. N. And Mr. C (With Help From Mr. D) - 4:27
3. I'm Sure We're Gonna Die - 8:53
4. Overhead Ego - 3:47
5. Disillusion # 1 - 3:00
6. Open Up Your Gate - 3:38
7. The Reason Why We're Here - 5:23
All songs by Peter Masi

The Weight
*Brian Cassidy - Vocals, Bass
*Noel Cassidy - Drums, Washboard, Vocals
*Toni Christmas - Guitar, Vocals
*Peter Masi - Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar, Harmonica

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Juicy Lucy - Pieces (1972 uk, awesome bluesy classic rock with country shades)

Who was the mysterious Juicy Lucy? Glenn 'Fernando' Campbell was always meaning to tell me. The cheerful dude in the big hat who played the steel guitar loved to keep everyone guessing and he never revealed his secret. At least - not to me. But Lucy was doubtless one of those ladies of the road, who lubricated the wheels of rock, if you'll pardon the phrase. Musically speaking Juicy Lucy, the band that bore her name, was one of the most respected outfits to come howlin' and wailin' out of the Sixties' blues boom. They had style and class. They also had some of the finest musicians of the day, ready to rock and eager to tour. Their debut album 'Juicy Lucy' (Vertigo), released in 1969 became famous for its notorious gatefold album sleeve, depicting a plump, naked lady covered in grapes, bananas and a half consumed melon. Not a pretty sight, but once seen, never forgotten.

Despite their dramatic launch and excellent credentials, the band never quite made it into the international super league. They had a Top Twenty hit in 1970 with their version of Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love’ and a subsequent hit with ‘Pretty Woman’. Glenn was filmed in action with the band for the rock movie 'Supersession' and Juicy Lucy went on to record several more albums for Vertigo, Polydor and Island, including 'Lie Back And Enjoy It', 'Pieces' and 'Get A Whiff Of This', before they finally broke up in 1972.  Juicy Lucy underwent considerable line up changes during this turbulent period. The band featured on 'Pieces' provides revealing aspects of a fascinating saga which began when Glenn Campbell first arrived in Britain from the States, and ended with the final version of Juicy Lucy, fronted by guitar legend Micky Moody.

The roots of Juicy Lucy lay way back in The Misunderstood, a band championed by both the author of these notes and the lugubrious, mild mannered Radio One DJ John Peel. The reasons for this enthusiasm lay in the fact that Glenn Campbell was not just a fine musician who played a pedal steel guitar with great gusto. He was an American in London and thus seemed closer to the source. He was also very funny and entertaining, and liked a glass of English beer. His laid back sense of humour provided a welcome contrast to the attitude of many British blues practitioners, who seemed to imagine that you had to undergo some sort of private hell and spread a message of unrelenting gloom to be considered a true blues man!

The original Misunderstood was formed in 1966 and reformed for its trip to England. They made two singles for Fontana including 'Children Of The Sun,' and featured good looking young singer Steve Hoard. However the Misunderstood were eventually superseded by a more commercial Juicy Lucy. The first Lucy lineup included Ray Owen (vocals), Glenn Campbell (steel guitar, mandolin and vocals), Neil Hubbard (guitar), Chris Mercer (saxophone, and piano), Keith Ellis (bass and vocals) and Pete Dobson on drums. The band was managed by Nigel Thomas who also looked after the affairs of Joe Cocker. A controversial but energetic music biz figure, Nigel died of a heart attack a couple of years ago. Micky Moody (born August 30, 1950), who is featured on the present album, remembers seeing the first version of the band on the road. 'The band was virtually formed around Glenn and everyone remembers their first album cover with the lady covered in fruit! I think her name was Zelda Plum. It was a great album and I remember seeing the band in action at their early gigs.’

Moody is from Middlesborough. He went to school with Paul Rodgers who later came to fame with Free and Bad Company. Micky and Paul formed a band at school called The Roadrunners which became The Wild Flowers when they moved to London in 1967 and 'starved to death in our caftans!' Micky later went home to study classical guitar while Paul Rodgers met Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke and formed Free. Says Moody: 'I went back to the North East and was asked by a local club owner and singer called John McCoy to help form a blues band called Tramline.' The singer was friendly with record boss Chris Blackwell and the band released two albums on Blackwell's Island label. In March 1969 Moody auditioned for Lucas & The Mike Cotton Sound, a well known soul band. He got the gig, but switched to Zoot Money's band for a few months in 1970. He'd got to know Zoot's regular singer Paul Williams, who by this time had joined Juicy Lucy. Micky was brought up to date on all the latest Juicy gossip. 'Ray Owen had been sacked after a couple of months and Paul had got the gig. He told me Neil Hubbard was leaving and asked if I'd like to join on lead guitar. I said, 'Great!' I went straight into recording the album 'Like Back And Enjoy It.' We were gigging all the time and became particularly popular in Germany where the band was very respected."

However it proved increasingly difficult to break out of the club circuit, and reach a higher level of acceptance. "We made another album 'Get A Whiff Of This' before the group finally disintegrated in 1971.' Glenn Campbell went back to America, apparently disillusioned, but during their time together the, Campbell/Moody guitar partnership had worked well. ‘It was good because we didn't get in each other's way. I liked Glenn's playing and did a bit of slide guitar myself, using the bottle neck. Yes I remember Glenn wearing his big hat. But we all used to do that, it was quite trendy at the time!’

Despite the defection of the mainman, Paul Williams wasn't ready to give up. ‘Paul said he wanted to keep the band together. He wanted me to be the lead guitarist and also play bottle neck slide and the band kind of reformed. We had the famous rhythm section of Ron Berg and Andy Pyle from Blodwyn Pig. The line-up varied from time to time and Bernie Marsden actually came down for a blow. We were looking for another player because we wanted twin guitars. I'd been promoted to lead and we needed a rhythm player to get that American funky sound, without being too heavy. Bernie came down, but he was wrong for the job, as he was more in the Clapton vein.’

The third and final version of Juicy Lucy remained functional between July 1971 and June 1972. Rhythm player Dave Tedstone worked with them for a while but the line up on 'Pieces' mainly featured Paul Williams (vocals), Micky Moody (guitar), Jean Roussel (keyboards), Ron Berg (drums) and Andy Pyle (bass). Later Paul Williams would depart to join Jon Hiseman's Tempest, Jean Roussel worked with Cat Stevens and the rhythm section defected to Savoy Brown. Juicy Lucy's style meanwhile had begun to move away from the more predictable blues sound.

Says Micky: ‘The music had a more mellow edge to it. We got a deal with Polydor to record the 'Pieces' album which was produced by Bruce Rowlands, drummer with the Grease Band.'

It was recorded at Olympic Studios, Barnes in December 1971.  Most of the songs were written by Paul and a lyricist friend of his called John Edwards. There were a few guests on the album. Albert Lee and Chas Hodges were on backing vocals and Ian McLagan from the Small Faces and Mick 'Wynder K. Frogg' Weaver were on keyboards. Incidentally those two guys have been working together again on albums in Los Angeles.’ 'Pieces' is packed with good performances and kicks off with a rousing version of Chuck Berry's 'Promised Land' intended as a tribute to the master. ‘Although it was mainly a mellow album we wanted to show we could still play rock'n'roll,’ says Micky. ‘The next song, 'Cuckoo', was one we'd head on a Taj Mahal album called 'Natch'l Blues.' This showed the kind of West Coast influence on the band.

We really liked Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. 'It Ain't Easy' was a song Zoot Money wrote and passed on to Paul, and 'Suicide Pilot' was a Williams/Edwards original and a good rock'n'roller. Some of the songs have early Seventies' style lyrics, like 'Dead Flowers In The Mirror' which I recall was a bit of a country spoof!  The final cut 'How Can A Poor Man Stand These Times' was taken from Ry Cooder's first album and was written by a blues singer called Alfred Reed. Did the album do very well? I don't think so I haven't been paid for it!'  The band virtually split up not long afterward the album was released in the summer when Paul left to join Tempest. Yet the band struggled on with Frankie Miller for a couple more gigs and Bobby Harrison also sang for a while.

We tried to get Frankie Miller into the band but his management said 'no.'  Then Bobby said he had a management deal and asked if we'd like to form a band with him. So we formed a new band called SNAFU and in 1972 we toured with Joe Cocker in Europe and did some gigs with Slade.  But as Nigel Thomas, our manager, was looking after Joe Cocker, we sort of got pushed to the background. At one point I was asked to join Boxer with Mike Patto but didn't really fancy that, so I teamed up with Bobby Harrison and that was the end of Juicy Lucy.’It was a sad end to a band which had started out with such promise, and high hopes.

Amazingly, despite all the line up changes and shifts in musical direction, the band's name alone could still command strings of college and club gigs right up to the end, such was the demand for 'live' music in those days. Subsequently, Moody did three albums with SNAFU.  After they disbanded in 1976, Moody returned to session work and in that role backed singers Graham Bonnett, Frankie Miller, Chris Farlowe, Sheena Easton, Eric Burdon and Roger Chapman. In the mid-seventies, David Coverdale asked him to work on a project that became the first Whitesnake album. Micky played lead guitar on the album, contributed four songs and subsequently toured the world with Whitesnake.

Moody has also recorded with Bob Young ('Young And Moody' album recently reissued on Repertoire) and worked with Bernie Marsden in the Moody Marsden Band. Recently Moody has reunited with Paul Williams to sing in a new band called Blue Thunder. No doubt, when the last punters have left and it’s time for a drink at the bar, reminisce and they swap tales of the days when Juicy Lucy was on the loose!
by Chris Welch, London 1997
1. Promised Land (Chuck Berry) - 3:51
2. Cuckoo (Traditional Arr. Paul Williams) - 3:40
3. All My Life (Paul Williams, John Edwards) - 6:30
4. It Ain't Easy (Zoot Money, Colin Allen) - 5:54
5. Suicide Pilot (Paul Williams, John Edwards) - 4:10
6. Why Can't It Happen To Me (Paul Williams, John Edwards) - 3:51
7. Dead Flowers In The Mirror (Paul Williams, John Edwards) - 3:56
8. Prospector Dan (Paul Williams, John Edwards) - 4:50
9. How Can A Poor Man Stand These Times And Live (Alfred Reed) - 3:54

The Juicy Lucy
*Ron Berg - Drums
*Micky Moody - Guitar
*Andy Pyle - Bass
*Jean Roussel - Keyboards
*Paul Williams - Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
*Ian McLagan - Keyboards
*Mick Weaver - Keyboards
*Zoot Money - Keyboards

1970  Juicy Luicy - Lie Back And Enjoy It (2010 remaster)
1971  Juicy Lucy - Get A Whiff A This (2013 remaster)
Related Acts
1968  Tramline - Somewhere Down The Line (2008 digi sleeve)
1969  Tramline - Moves Of Vegetable Centuries
1969  Zoot Money - Transition (2009 edition)

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Juicy Luicy - Lie Back And Enjoy It (1970 uk, tremendous blues classic rock, 2010 remaster)

The second Juicy Lucy album was released a mere 10 months after their debut, a feat all the more remarkable when one considers that half the band who had recorded the first album had departed and been replaced. Guitarist Glenn Ross Campbell, bassist Keith Ellis and saxophonist/keyboard player Chris Mercer were joined by former Zoot Money/Aynsley Dunbar vocalist Paul Williams, drummer Rod Coombes and a young slide guitarist named Michael 'Micky' Moody, who despite only being 20 years of age had already release two albums with his previous band, Tramline.

However, it was the recruitment of Williams that had the biggest impact on the group with the new vocalist contributing to the writing of five of the album's eight songs, three of which were solo efforts, the first of which, Thinking Of My Life opens the album. A strong beginning, the combination of Campbell and Moody is quite electrifying and Williams' Cocker-like vocals emphasise the bluesier direction the band were heading in, confirmed by the very sympathetic cover of Willie Dixon's Built For Comfort.

Pretty Woman, another Williams solo composition, was the single released from the album and features an interesting mixture of Campbell's lap steel guitar and Moody's bottleneck guitar. The single's b-side, I'm A Thief has been added to the CD as a bonus track and it's quite a corker! Simple piano riff, scorching sax and lots of female backing vocals make it a great addition. 

Back at the album proper, Whisky In My Jar (not the song covered by Thin Lizzy!) is a pleasant enough song enhanced by a great acoustic guitar solo by Moody but it is the cover of Delaney Bramlett's Hello LA, Goodbye Birmingham that takes things to a new level. Even though the title undoubtedly refers to Birmingham, Alabama, one can't help thinking the band had Birmingham, England on their mind as they recorded the song! Again, Moody's guitar playing is a highlight of the song. Changed My Mind, a hangover from the first incarnation of the band, should perhaps have replaced I'm A Thief as the non-album b-side, being a country-ish throwaway that pales in comparison with the rest of the album.

A deeper and more 'traditional' blues is found on That Woman's Got Something, with the two guitarists employing a variety of instruments and Coombes adding a mixture of percussion effects. However, it is the next number that has, over the years, really divided people in relation to this album - a version of Zappa's Willie The Pimp. Personally I think it is better than the original, from Williams' Beefheart-like vocals to Moody's searing solos and Mercer's faultless sax it is a wonderful interpretation, particularly the coda following a brief drum interlude. The Williams penned title track Lie Back And Enjoy It, a brief piano instrumental calms things down bringing the album to completion. 

Lie Back And Enjoy It is another good reissue from the Esoteric label from an era when anything went and artists were free to express themselves in any way they wanted and even occasionally came up with a hit single. Fine performances though! 
by Mark Hughes
1. Thinking of My Life (Paul Williams) - 4:31
2. Built for Comfort (Willie Dixon) - 6:03
3. Pretty Woman (Paul Williams) - 3:15
4. Whisky in My Jar (Keith Ellis, Micky Moody, Paul Williams) - 4:01
5. Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham (Mac Davis, Delaney Bramlett) - 4:13
6. Changed My Mind (Glenn "Ross" Campbell, Neil Hubbard) - 3:07
7. That Woman's Got Something (Glenn "Ross" Campbell, Micky Moody, Paul Williams) - 2:55
8. Willie the Pimp (Frank Zappa) - 5:37
9. Lie Back and Enjoy It (Paul Williams) - 1:30

The Juicy Lucy
*Glenn "Ross" Campbell - Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Rod Coombes - Drums, Percussion
*Keith Ellis - Bass
*Chris Mercer - Keyboards, Saxophone
*Micky Moody - Guitar
*Paul Williams - Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals

1965-66  The Misunderstood - Before The Dream Faded
1966-67/69  The Misunderstood - The Legendary Goldstar Album / Golden Glass  
1969  The Koobas - Koobas
1968  Tramline - Somewhere Down the Line (2008 digi sleeve)
1969  Tramline - Moves Of Vegetable Centuries
1969  Zoot Money - Transition (2009 edition)

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sweet Pants ‎- Fat Peter Presents (1969 us, fine psych rock with humorous aspect)

With its pretty amusing "flasher" cover, the musicalstyle is best described as The Dead meets MaryButterworth, with its seedy organ and a smattering offuzz guitar. One of the few things we do know aboutthe band is that it consisted of 4 guys fromPennsylvania (Drummer Michael Carr, guitarist TonyMolla, bassist Mark Mozzone and Mike Mulloney onkeyboards), the band's only album appeared on theminiscule Barclay Records sometime in 1969.

Only a few hundred copies of this album are known to exist. All the band members leant their compositionaltalents to the enterprise and the combination makesfor a musically solid and satisfying album, although it has to be said the sound is falls rather on the lo-fi side of the audio spectrum.
1. Stars And Bars (Mike Mulloney) - 2:47
2. Tell Me (Tony Molla, Mike Mulloney) - 2:17
3. Poor John (Michael Carr, Mike Mulloney) - 3:16
4. Mamma Come Got What You Want  (Michael Carr, Mike Mulloney) - 2:39
5. Good To Be Good (Mike Mulloney) - 4:47
6. Trilogy (Michael Carr, Mike Mulloney) - 6:00
7. Trilogy II (Michael Carr, Mike Mulloney) - 3:33
8. I'm Clean (Michael Carr, Mike Mulloney) - 2:07
9. Joe (Michael Carr, Mike Mulloney) - 3:19
10.Enjoy Yourself (Merk Mozzone, Mike Mulloney) - 2:21

The Seet Pants
*Mike Mullowey - Organ, Vocals, Rhythm, Lead Guitars
*Tony Milla - Lead, Rhythm Guitars, Vocals
*Merk Mozzone - Bass, Vocals
*Michael Carrr - Drums, Vocals, Conga

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rationals - The Rationals (1969 us, stunning detroit r 'n' b garage rock, 2011 extra tracks remaster)

At the time of the album’s release, Detroit rock was epitomised by the Grande Ballroom and the powerful sounds of the groups associated with it, such as the MC5, Stooges, SRC, Amboy Dukes and Frost. The Rationals were younger than the majority of the musicians in these groups, and they ploughed their own rock/R'n'B furrow, resisting the heavyweight arrangements deemed mandatory, and eschewing the fashionable hirsute image of the time for a neat, latter-day mod look. Not that the Rationals were unpopular at the “high energy” Grande – far from it. The group appeared as a regular, and no doubt refreshing, alternative to the bluster of many of their harder-edged contemporaries. Their classic 1969 single ‘Guitar Army’ became an anthem of sorts for Detroit rock, with its universal truth that seemed to have been submerged in the overheated revolutionary rhetoric of the time – that the music was the message.

Having left their mentor Jeep Holland, of A-Square Records,in 1968, the Rationals cast around for a contract and a producer, eventually settling for a deal with Bob Crewe’s short-lived Crewe label. The result, this album, were as soulful as their earlier recordings but it demonstrated better the breadth of the group’s talents. Intricate, complex originals like ‘Ha Ha’ and ‘Deep Red’ nestled easily with tried and tested R&B chestnuts from their stage act and inspired covers like Dr John’s ‘Glowin’’ and Mike d’Abo’s soon-to-be-classic ‘Handbags And Gladrags’. All showcased the amazing pipes of vocalist Scott Morgan to great effect.

Sadly, the Rationals’ long-overdue shot at recording a long-player did not translate into record sales and by the end of the year the group had split. They remain a cherished memory for their devoted hometown audience of Ann Arbor who had been by their side since they first emerged in 1965.

Our reissue of “The Rationals” adds the rare single mixes of ‘Guitar Army’ and ‘Sunset’, along with two previously unissued tracks, including an amazing ten minute live-in-the-studio take of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ that goes some way to explaining the roots of that devotion. The Rationals were truly one of the era’s finest.
by Alec Palao
1. Barefootin' (Robert Parker) - 3:22
2. Temptation 'Bout To Get Me (James Diggs) - 3:58
3. Guitar Army (Bill Figg, Scott Morgan, Steve Correll, Terry Trabandt) - 3:16
4. Something's Got A Hold On Me (Etta James, Leroy Kirkland, Pearl Woods) - 3:49
5. Deep Red (Bill Figg, Scott Morgan, Steve Correll, Terry Trabandt) - 2:19
6. Sunset (Bill Figg, Scott Morgan, Steve Correll, Terry Trabandt) - 5:36
7. Glowin' (Mac Rebennack) - 4:16
8. Handbags And Gladrags (Mike D'Abo) - 3:30
9. Ha-Ha (Bill Figg, Scott Morgan, Steve Correll, Terry Trabandt) - 6:36
10.Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah (Previous Unissued) (Allie Wrubel, Ray Gilbert) - 3:36
11.Wang Dang Doodle (Previous Unissued) (Willie Dixon) - 11:24
12.Guitar Army (Single Version) (Bill Figg, Scott Morgan, Steve Correll, Terry Trabandt) - 2:46
13.Sunset (Single Version) (Bill Figg, Scott Morgan, Steve Correll, Terry Trabandt) - 5:39

The Rationals
*Scott Morgan - Lead Vocals, Flute, Harmonica, Percussions
*Steve Correll - Electric Guitar, Vocals, Percussion
*Terry Trabandt - Bass, Vocals, Piano
*Bill Figg - Drums, Vibes, Percussion

1965-69  Think Rational (2009 two discs set)
1968  Temptation 'Bout To Get Me / Live At The Grande Ballroom (Vinyl Issue)

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Van Morrison - Hard Nose The Highway (1973 northern ireland, delicate jazzy folk silky rock)

Hard Nose the Highway is psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent. Its surface pleasures are a little less than those of St. Dominic's Preview and a great deal less than those of Tupelo Honey, while its lyric depths are richer and more accessible than those of either predecessor. The major theme of Hard Nose is nostalgia, briefly but firmly counter-pointed by disillusion. The latter sentiment Van spews out in the album's one ugly, self-indulgent song, "The Great Deception," a vicious indictment of hip urban culture and rock affluence.

The chief musical mode of Hard Nose the Highway is intimate, quiet jazz, a cornucopia of understated, subtly-shaded and shifting instrumental textures that provide a sympathetic setting for Van's vocal ruminations. Again, Van demonstrates his ability to fuse jazz, pop and rock ideas into a fluid format whose stylistic identity ends up being his and his alone.

The cut-by-cut schematization of Hard Nose is fairly loose. Side one comprises five songs, beginning with "Snow in San Anselmo" and closing with "The Great Deception." "Snow" is alternately contemplative and rapturous in its recollection of a near-miraculous occurrence. A languid, jazz-flavored verse suddenly erupts into a sped-up refrain that pits the Oakland Symphony Chamber Chorus against a frenetic horn-sax arrangement. Van's introduction of a large chorus seems as unnecessary as the London Symphony Orchestra behind Neil Young, for it exaggerates the volatile emotional dualism that exists at the core of Van's sensibility in the same way that the London Symphony overdramatizes and undercuts Neil's pathos. "Snow" does contain, however, one of Van's best vocals.

Next is the ingratiatingly melodic "Warm Love," which embodies in all its details a sensuous appreciation of life and music. Because it's the album's strongest tune, it stands the best chance of being a hit single. The title cut, which follows, is an abbreviated, inferior reprise of "St. Dominic's Preview" in its sound, structure and shifting time sense. Here Van pays tribute to the best mid-Fifties pop ("Ain't that some interpretation/When Sinatra sings against Nelson Riddle strings"), then assesses his own rocky past and offers a somewhat cynical directive: "Put your money where your mouth is ... In order to win you must be prepared to lose sometime."

"Wild Children," which delves deeply into Van's personal mythology from childhood through adolescence, is the album's most historically resonant song. Against early memories of returning soldiers, Van identifies his growing-up with the figures of Tennessee Williams, Rod Steiger, Marlon Brando and James Dean. The musical energy here is relaxed, the poetry terse and poignant: "We were the War Children/Born 1945/When all the soldiers came marching home/Love looks in their eye."

As was the case in St. Dominic's Preview, the second side of the album turns out to be better than the first. The ten-minute "Autumn Song" demonstrates anew Van's gift at creating extended meditations that accumulate emotional power as they unfold in modified, impressionistic streams of consciousness. "Little glamour sun coming round/Take a walk when autumn comes to town," he sings, evoking as few contemporary composers have, the ineffable joys of daily life in attunement to a pleasant environment. The music is laid-back and sparkling, highlighted by the lovely pianism of Jef Labes and the doubled guitars of Van and John Platania.

"Autumn Song" is sandwiched between two other mellow delights. Joe Raposo's "Green" is an enchanting bit of poetic whimsy set in rock & roll triplets and featuring a lusty horn break that segues into shivering strings. The album closes with Van's beautiful arrangement of the traditional "Purple Heather," which he has transformed into an ethereal "Astral Weeks" reverie that fades out on his inimitable rock scat singing ... "Da da da, Da da da, Da da da ..." echoed between voice and piano, with glissando strings hovering overhead. It is a deliciously satisfying ending that carries us back into the mystic arena where Van always seems most at home.
by Stephen Holden, September 27, 1973
1. Snow In San Anselmo - 4:33
2. Warm Love - 3:22
3. Hard Nose The Highway - 5:12
4. Wild Children - 4:19
5. The Great Deception - 4:50
6. Bein' Green (Joe Raposo) - 4:20
7. Autumn Song - 10:34
8. Purple Heather (Traditional Arranged By Van Morrison) - 5:42
Music and Lyrics by Van Morrison except where stated

*Van Morrison - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Jack Schroer - Tenor, Alto, Baritone, Soprano Saxophones
*Jules Broussard - Tenor Saxophone, Flute
*Joseph Ellis - Trumpet
*Bill Atwood - Trumpet
*Nathan Rubin - Violin
*Zaven Melikian - Violin
*Nancy Ellis - Viola
*Theresa "Terry" Adams - Cello
*John Tenney - Violin
*Michael Gerling - Violin
*Jef Labes - Piano
*John Platania - Guitar
*David Hayes - Bass
*Gary Mallaber - Vibraphone, Drums
*Rick Shlosser - Drums
*Marty David - Bass
*Jackie De Shannon - Backing Vocals
*Oakland Symphony Chamber - Chorus

1967  Blowin' Your Mind! (extra tracks edition)
1971  Tupelo Honey (Japan SHM remaster)
1974  It's Too Late To Stop Now (Japan SHM remaster)
1974  Veedon Fleece  (Japan SHM remaster)
with Them
1964-66  The Story Of Them (two discs set)

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bacon Fat - Tough Dude (1971 us, awesome funky blues rock vibrations, 2004 reissue)

Second album from 1971 by this killer LA blues/rock band, also originally released on the Blue Horizon label and also stupidly rare and sought after. With Rod Piazza still out front, harp in hand, wailing his soul and J.D. Nicholson suppling piano and vocals Tough Guys has much to recommend it to fans of the group's debut and anyone who would like to hear one of the west-coasts greatest harmonica players. 
1. Wait On It (Rod "Gingerman" Piazza) - 3:39
2. Down The Road (J.D. Nicholson) - 3:20
3. Shake Dancer (Walter Jacobs) - 2:05
4. Leaving On Your Mind (George "Harmonica" Smith) - 4:05
5. Jivin' The Business (Ivan «Buddy» Reed) - 2:25
6. Betty (Gregg Schaefer) - 2:41
7. Travelling South (Mike Vernon) - 3:00
8. Evil (Chester Burnett) - 2:46
9. Blues Feeling (Rod "Gingerman" Piazza) - 4:00
10.Pool Hall Sam (George "Harmonica" Smith) - 2:54
11.Translating Blues (Ivan «Buddy» Reed) - 4:05
12.Hurricane (George "Harmonica" Smith) - 5:00

The Bacon Fat
*Rod "Gingerman" Piazza - Harp, Vocals
*George "Harmonica" Smith - Harp, Vocals
*Buddy Reed - Guitar, Vocals
*Gregg Schaefer - Guitar
*J.D. Nicholson - Vocals, Piano
*Jerry Smith - Bass
*Dick Innes, Jr. - Drums

1970  Bacon Fat - Grease One For Me
Related Act
1967-68  Dirty Blues Band - Dirty Blues Band / Stone Dirt (2007 remaster)

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Heat Exchange - Reminiscence (1972–73 canada, marvelous post psych prog rock with blues and jazz details, 2017 release)

The history of Heat Exchange starts somewhere in the late 60s in Toronto, Canada. The band emerged from a band named Cloud which involved four of the total of six of Heat Exchange members, except the saxophonist / flutist Craig Carmody and the lead singer Mike Langford. The unsuccessful attempts to release their debut album in 1972 in connection with the indifference of the record companies, led them inevitably to their break-up. However, they managed to deliver a concise legacy of three 45 rpm records,  the six compositions of which are included in this album, along with some unreleased songs. Some of the band members kept the recorded material and Guerssen Records willing to carry out her purpose once again, gathered their material and presents an addictive compositions package where a blending of heavy prog, prog folk, pop glimpses, jazz and rock guitar is harmoniously achieved.

What seems clear is that their place of origin is not indicative of their influences. The whole aesthetics of the album refers to bands of the Old Albion and the generalized wave of prog rock of that era. If we want to clarify the effects that arise, these will probably be found in two of the favorite bands of Carmody, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and King Crimson, the Raw Material, Jethro Tull, The Nice, Web, and Argent. The album has an exciting flow capturing a band composed of highly talented musicians. To avoid prolixity in relation to the individual development of the album, I wish to stand on tracks which fascinated me most and to the minimum disadvantages I received as a listener.

First, it is the opening For Those Who Listen, a four-minute prog folk anthem based on the keyboards of Gord McKinnon. Imagine a mixing of Argent, Jethro Tull and Procol Harum with the discreet but very successful presence of the flute of Carmody. In the surprising title track Reminiscence, whose characteristic introduction recollects late 60s-early 70s keyboard-driven prog bands, until the Carmody flute takes charge of the composition to take off completely the composition. In the also excellent jazzy Stopwatch but mainly in the last track of the album, the prog / folk epic Four to Open the Door. From there onwards, Can you Tell Me is constructed on a pop base brightened with distinct funk blends, while the highly remarkable Scat effortlessly evokes N.S.U. by Cream. The heavy prog Inferno convinces equally with the foregoing, as well as the switch of harmonica and saxophone in the very good She Made All Alone. The intelligible Philosophy and Scorpio Lady without touching the heights of the previous compositions do not affect the positive sign of the total.

For several years we share a seamless revival of the past, with the positive and negative aspects. Bands like Heat Exchange underline the purpose of this revival which is not ephemeral and any trendy trivialization, but the need to update the past through the present. Reminiscence is a serious reminder of this revival. Rush fearlessly and listen.
by Thomas Sarakintsis
1. For Those Who Listen - 3:43
2. Inferno - 3:52
3. Reminiscence - 4:37
4. Can You Tell Me - 3:06
5. Stopwatch - 5:48
6. She Made Me All Alone - 3:31
7. Philosophy - 2:50
8. Scorpio Lady - 2:35
9. Scat - 3:22
10.Four To Open The Door - 9:34
Music and Lyrics written by The Heat Exchange  

The Heat Exchange
*Mike Langford - Vocals
*Neil Chapman - Guitars
*Marty Morin - Drums, Backing Vocals
*Gord McKinnon - Keyboards, Harmonica
*Ralph Smith - Bass
*Craig Carmody - Saxophones, Flute

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mac Gayden - Skyboat / Hymn to the Seeker (1976 uk, marvelous smooth rock jazzy funky blue eyed soul, 2008 two discs set)

If you were a London-based listener with at least a modicum of good taste in the late summer of 1975, Mac Gayden’s massive turntable hit, ‘Morning Glory’ will hold more than a few memories for you. Championed by a better class of DJ, such as Charlie Gillett on Radio London, and Roger Scott on Capital Radio when it was everything that an independent radio station should be, this supremely catchy song with its compelling slide guitar work ought, by rights, to have been one of the year’s stone smashes. Sadly, its appeal didn’t get far beyone those who appreciate perfect pop, but even now, 33 years on, it stands up to any amount of scrutiny, and is easily the equal of any of Gayden’s better known mid 1960s compositions, such as ‘Everlasting Love’ and ‘Love On A Mountain Top’, two Top 20 hits that he co-wrote for Robert Knight, or the beach music/60s classic ‘She Shot A Hole In My Soul’for Clifford Curry.

‘Morning Glory’ was not a hit in the USA either, but Gayden’s label ABC believed in him enough to release “Skyboat” and “Hymn To The Seeker”, two of only three solo albums that he released last century issued here with his non-album B-side ‘Sunfall’ as a bonus track. Neither of them made ways. Not helped by sending the decidedly non-country “Skyboat” album to country stations, on the basis that it had been recorded in Nashville. Now they have come to be recognised as masterpieces of the diverse and all encompassing musical melting pot that is Southern Rock.

The sleevenotes, by Gayden aficionado and Mojo writer Mick Houghton, give valuable insight into this still relatively unsung hero, whose other notable achievements include playing on Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” sessions, co-founding two cornerstone acts of Southern rock in Area Code 615 and its successor, Barefoot Jerry and, possibly most importantly, inventing an innovative way to play a slide guitar through a wah-wah pedal, as exemplified by his work on J J Cale’s first album and, of course, ‘Morning Glory’.

Gayden still pursues a musical path in the 21st century, with his own label and the occasional Nashville gig to keep him busy. For those who can’t pop across to Music City every time Mac plays a show, the CD premiere of “Morning Glory – The ABC Recordings” will be a most acceptable alternative. We’re delighted to return this small but perfectly formed body of work to catalogue after far too long an absence.
by Tony Rounce
Disc 1 Skyboat 
1. Morning Glory - 3:40
2. Gettysburg - 2:41
3. Southwind - 3:27
4. Everlasting Love (Mac Gayden, Buzz Cason) - 4:10
5. Freedom Drum - 4:00
6. Don't Look Back (William Robinson, Ronald White) - 4:41
7. It's All Right (Curtis Mayfield) - 4:03
8. Sweet Serenity - 3:45
9. Appalachian Fever - 4:13
10.Waterboy - 3:42
11.Diamond Mandala 10:24
12.Sunfall (Bonus Track) (Mac Gayden, Buzz Cason) - 2:53
All songs by Mac Gayden except where indicated
Disc 2 Hymn To The Seeker
1. Rejoice The Dawn (Mike Miller) - 2:30
2. Steppin' Stone (Mac Gayden, Bill Cheatham) - 4:01
3. Someone Whispered - 4:53
4. Standing in the Background - 3:50
5. Life Is Just A Pantomime - 5:32
6. Here We Meet Again - 1:50
7. To Our Ancestors (Mac Gayden, Mike Miller) - 5:03
8. Colours of the Rainbow - 3:12
9. The Minstrel Is Free At Last (Mac Gayden, John Harris) - 9:16
10.Hymn to the Seeker (Mac Gayden, Mike Miller) - 1:32
11.If I Could I'd Set You Free - 1:14
All compositions by Mac Gayden except where stated

1976  Skyboat 
*Mac Gayden- Guitars, Lead Vocals,  Banjo
*Jim Althouse - Bass
*Jerry Carrigan - Drums
*Buzz Cason - Vocals
*Tammy Cason - Vocals
*Tommy Cogbill - Bass
*Quitman Dennis - Saxophone
*Janie Fricke - Vocals
*Kim Gayden - Vocals
*Steve Gibson - Guitar
*Vickie Hatnie - Vocals
*Karl Himmel - Percussion
*Ginger Holladay - Vocals
*Kristy Karson - Vocals
*Robert Knight - Vocals
*Jack Lee - Bass
*Andrew McMahon - Keyboards
*Mike Miller - Vocals, Wind
*Farrell Morris - Percussion
*Bobby Ogdin - Keyboards
*Wasunt Pundant - Tabla
*Cindy Reynolds - Harmonica
*Dan Sperry - Cello, Vocals
*Jack Williams - Bass
1976 Hymn To The Seeker
*Mac Gayden - Banjo, Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Bill Aikens - Keyboards
*Anita Ball - Vocals
*Buzz Cason - Vocals
*Bill Cheatham - Guitar
*Vic Mastrianni - Drums
*Randy Meisner - Vocals
*Mike Miller - Vocals, Wind
*Nelson Flaco Padron - Percussion

Related Acts
1971-72  Barefoot Jerry - Southern Delight/Barefoot Jerry

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Roy Buchanan - Live In Japan (1978 us, fascinating hard blues rock, 2003 remaster)

It seems only fitting that one of Roy's best albums was a live album that's never even been released in the United States, as Roy was doomed to a life of cult fandom and recognition without ever reaping the rewards of significant commercial success. Of course, part of this was due to his own self-destructive nature, but in any event this live album is a scorcher that shows Roy and his loyal road band (still Lukens, Harrison, and Foster) in fine form on an "on" night in a country that really appreciated what they had to give. I'd give this album the slight nod over Live Stock mostly due to the appearances of "Hey Joe" and "Sweet Dreams," though like the previous live album this one is too brief (around 46 minutes) for its own good, especially since again there was more material available that could've been used.

The album starts with a stellar version of Booker T. & The MG's "Soul Dressing" (an improvement on "Green Onions") that's moody yet rocking, with keyboard and guitar solos and Harrison's bass prominent as well. "Sweet Honey Dew" delivers swinging mid-tempo rock n' roll with some good lashing guitar and moody keyboards including another solo spotlight, before "Hey Joe" slowly stretches out for 9+ minutes. Now, I really liked the flashier studio version, but I prefer this version for the "Shenandoah" reference and the explosive "Foxey Lady" coda; this performance is Roy Buchanan at his absolute best. 

"Lonely Days Lonely Nights," a soulful semi-ballad with a good Byrd vocal and attractive piano. "Blues Otani," a remake of an old Snakestretchers song called "Since You've Been Gone," is another in a long line of excellent extended (7:53) blues tracks, before an explosive "My Baby Says She's Gonna Leave Me" leads into an intimate, heart wrenching "Sweet Dreams." The main problem with this album is that it leaves you wanting more and makes you feel slightly unsatisfied as a result. Still, what is here is mostly excellent, and the album was a personal favorite of Roy's who felt that it captured what him and his band were all about. Note: Roy toured incessantly (band members came and went) and released several albums after this one, including a trio of studio albums for Alligator Records in the mid-'80s, but I feel that his best recorded output came in the '70s, on the albums reviewed on this page.

Buchanan's life was tragically cut short when he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly and allegedly hung himself in jail. Fittingly given his enigmatic life, some have questioned whether he was really in fact the victim of police brutality and a subsequent cover up, but for all his shortcomings as a singer, songwriter, bandleader, and businessman, what can't be denied is that in life few people could make a guitar cry quite like Roy Buchanan. 
by Scott Floman 
1. Soul Dressing (Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewis Steinberg, Al Jackson) - 7:18
2. Sweet Honeydew (Roy Buchanan, Byrd Foster) - 3:28
3. Hey Joe (William M. Roberts) - 9:23
4. Slow Down (Larry Williams) - 2:53
5. Lonely Days Lonely Nights (Earl King) - 4:13
6. Blues Otani (Roy Buchanan, Byrd Foster) - 7:51
7. My Baby Says She's Gonna Leave Me (Roy Buchanan, John Harrison, Billy Price) - 3:24
8. Sweet Dreams (Don Gibson) - 3:58

*Roy Buchanan - Guitar, Vocals
*John Harrison - Bass
*Malcolm Lukens - Keyboards
*Byrd Foster - Drums, Vocals

1969-71  Roy Buchanan - The Prophet
1969-78  Roy Buchanan - Sweet Dreams The Anthology
1972-73 Roy Buchanan - Roy Buchanan / Second Album
1977  Roy Buchanan - Loading Zone (2005 remaster)

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Roy Buchanan - Loading Zone (1977 us, essential hard blues guitar rock, 2005 remaster)

Well, this 1977 release from the guitar master (who ultimately and sadly took his own life in the late 1980's) just happens to be one if his rare fusion recordings, and contains a few tunes that the progressive listener will no doubt appreciate.

"The Heat of the Battle" kicks things off in rousing fashion. This raging song is like a head on collision between vintage Allman Brothers and Wired era Jeff Beck, featuring smoldering jazz licks from Buchanan and Ray Gomez, acrobatic bass from Stanley Clarke (who wrote the song), drums from Narada Michael Walden, and nimble keys courtesy of Malcolm Lukens. The more moody and introspective "Hidden" follows, where Roy's electric and acoustic guitar passages are massaged by Jan Hammer's wonderful acoustic piano and Stanley Clarke's picolo bass. Additional strings and flute bring this one close to prog rock waters after the more upbeat opening fusion romp. "The Circle " is a rocking vocal piece, featuring great male and female vocals and Roy's funky guitar leads, while "The Adventures of Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby" is an engaging little country pickin' ditty where Buchanan and Clarke get to strut their stuff. Dixie Dregs anyone?

Fans of Booker T and the MG's will love the searing blues interplay of "Ramon's Blues" as well as the cover of "Green Onions", where Roy and Steve Cropper get to trade some serious blues licks over some meaty organ from Lukens. "Judy" is another jazzy number, written by Walden, that showcases some rampaging fusion solos from Buchanan over beds of piano and organ, while Walden and bassist Will Lee lay down some funky rhythms. Again, the comparison to Jeff Beck's instrumental work is evident. Screechingly heavy guitar rock meets the blues on "Done Your Daddy Dirty", a great vehicle for Roy's distorted blues-rock meanderings (this guy smokes!), then segues into the sappy Walden penned "Your Love", the CD's one lone clunker, and totally out of place here. Featuring no guitar and Buchanan on lead vocals, this one might have been nice had they left it instrumental, as there's some cool flute passages and brass in the mix.

Loading Zone is an essential purchase for guitar and fusion fanatics, and one of the better "lost classics" of the 70's. 
by Pete Pardo
1. Heat of the Battle (Stanley Clarke) - 5:02    
2. Hidden (Roy Buchanan) - 3:25  
3. Circle (Roy Buchanan, Byrd Foster, Scott Musmanno) - 2:57  
4. Adventures of Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby (Roy Buchanan) - 2:36  
5. Ramon's Blues (Roy Buchanan) - 7:09  
6. Green Onions (Booker T Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewis Steinberg, Al Jackson) - 8:11
7. Judy (Narada Michael Walden) - 4:11  
8. Done Your Daddy Dirty (Roy Buchanan) - 4:14  
9. Your Love (Narada Michael Walden) - 3:55

*Roy Buchanan - Guitars, Vocals
*Byrd Foster - Drums
*David Garibaldi - Drums
*Dennis Parker - Bass
*Diva Gray - Vocals
*Donald "Duck" Dunn - Bass
*Jan Hammer - Keyboards, Piano
*Laura Williams - Vocals
*Malcolm Lukens - Keyboards, Organ, Electric Piano
*Narada Michael Walden - Drums, Piano
*Ray Gomez - Rhythm Guitar
*Rhetta Hughes - Vocals
*Ron Foster - Vocals
*Ronnie Foster - Vocals
*Scott Musmanno - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Stanley Clarke - Bass, Guitar
*Steve Cropper - Rhythm Guitar
*Will Lee - Bass

1969-71  Roy Buchanan - The Prophet
1969-78  Roy Buchanan - Sweet Dreams The Anthology
1972-73 Roy Buchanan - Roy Buchanan / Second Album

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ken Hensley - Eager To Please (1975 uk, magnificent classic rock, 2010 bonus track remaster)

Following up his critically acclaimed debut solo album Proud Words on a Dusty Shelf from 1973, legendary Uriah Heep/The Gods/Toe Fat keyboard player/singer/songwriter/guitarist Ken Hensley unleashed record number two, Eager to Please in 1975, in between recording & touring for Heep's successful Return to Fantasy album. This time with ex-Heep/Colosseum bassist Mark Clarke on board, along with drummer Bugs Pemberton, pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole, and orchestral arranger/conductor Michael Gibbs, Hensley once again handles all the keyboards, lead vocals, lead & rhythm guitar on this very solid mix of atmospheric rock, prog, blues, hard rock, and country.

The title track kicks things off, somewhat akin to what you would expect from Heep, a rousing boogie rocker chock full of Hensley's slide guitar licks and Hammond, and "Stargazer" continues the rock trend with some great bluesy riffs and Ken's strong vocals. "Secret" is more of a country pop ballad, featuring Cole's yearning pedal steel guitar, while "Through the Eyes of a Child" has piano & strings supporting Hensley's soaring, heart tugging vocal melodies. It's one of the most gorgeous songs he's ever written. You'll be reminded of Crosby, Stills, and Nash on the breezy folk/pop of "Part Three", as Hensley's lush acoustic guitar, vocal harmonies, and Hammond organ sweep you away. "House on the Hill" blends folk with prog-rock, another beautiful tune, while "Winter or Summer" takes things closer to Heep-ville, as rousing bass & drum rhythms drive some stinging guitar licks and insistent Hammond, Hensley's layered lead & backing vocals proving to be the icing on the cake. 

Haunting organ and tasty lead guitar work permeate the moody rocker "Take and Take", and Moog lines weave with pastoral acoustic guitar on the engaging "Longer Shadows", another great example of folky prog on the album. Clarke brings to the table the funky rocker "In the Morning", a groove laden number with some solid vocals from the bassist and more alluring lead guitar & Hammond from Hensley. The album closes out with the mellow "How Shall I Know" and the bonus track "Who Will Sing For You". The latter also rocks out in typical Uriah Heep fashion, as heavy Hammond organ and biting guitar feed off rich vocal harmonies for a winning formula.

Whether in Uriah Heep or solo, Ken Hensley has always been nothing short of an amazing talent. It's always surprising to hear just how strong his vocals were back in this time period, and when you toss in his thoughtful songs, commanding keyboard talents and tasty guitar work, it's not hard to see why he's been so respected by so many for over 45 years. Esoteric Recordings have done a great job on this remastered edition, giving the fan crisp, stellar sound and a booklet packed with lyrics and info. 
by Pete Pardo
1. Eager to Please - 4:54
2. Stargazer (Mark Clarke, Susie Bottomley) - 3:46
3. Secret - 4:02
4. Through the Eyes of a Child - 2:19
5. Part Three - 3:48
6. The House on the Hill - 3:17
7. Winter or Summer - 3:01
8. Take and Take - 3:41
9. Longer Shadows - 3:36
10.In the Morning (Mark Clarke) - 2:34
11.How Shall I Know - 4:06
12.Who Will Sing For You - 2:52
All songs by Ken Hensley except where stated

*Ken Hensley - Guitars, Keyboards, Synthesiser, Vocals
*Bugs Pemberton - Drums, Percussion
*Mark Clarke - Bass
*B.J. Cole - Pedal Steel
*Ray Warleigh - Saxophone

1973  Ken Hensley - Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf (2010 remaster)
Related Acts
1968  The Gods - Genesis (2009 japan extra tracks remaster)
1969  The Gods - To Samuel A Son (2009 japan bonus track remaster)
1970  Head Machine - Orgasm (2006 digipak edition)

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Head Machine - Orgasm (1970 uk, fabulous beat psych, 2006 digipak edition)

Featuring members of the Gods performing under pseudonyms -- Ken Leslie (keyboards/vocals/guitars), John Leadhen (bass), Brian Poole (drums), and Lee Poole (percussion) -- British hard rock quartet Head Machine was created to record an album of compositions by producer/songwriter David Paramor, the bandmembers pledging themselves to a basic, pummeling rock sound redolent of Atomic Rooster. 

Their music was accented heavily toward crushing rhythms, with the Poole brothers providing a distinctive multi-layered backdrop to Leslie's alternately mythological or humor-based lyrics. Their sole album, Orgasm, was released in 1969 but failed to build a commercial profile. The band eventually morphed into Toe Fat and later Uriah Heep, after the bandmembers had returned to their more famous billings: Leslie, aka Ken Hensley; Leadhen, aka John Glascock; and the Poole brothers, aka Brian Glascock and Lee Kerslake. 

Ken Hesnley said:
Head Machine was contract project it was just project that somebody paid me to write some songs. In this case the producer came to me and said, “Would you write some songs? I’ll buy these songs from you. I wanna use them for this specific project”. And so that’s what I did — sat down and, you know, scratch down.
1. Climax You Tried To Take It All - 6:52
2. Make The Feeling Last - 3:38
3. You Must Come With Me - 4:55
4. The Girl Who Loved, The Girl Who Loved - 3:35
5. Orgasm - 8:54
6. The First Time - 5:00
7. Scattering Seeds - 3:21
All songs written by Ken Hensley

The Head Machine
*David Paramor - Vocals
*Ken Hensley (Ken Leslie) - Keyboards, Vocals, Guitar
*Lee Kerslake (Lee Poole) - Drums
*Joe Konas (Brian Poole) - Guitar
*John Glascock (John Leadhen) - Bass Guitar

Related Act
1968  The Gods - Genesis (2009 japan extra tracks remaster)
1969  The Gods - To Samuel A Son (2009 japan bonus track remaster)
1973  Ken Hensley - Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf (2010 remaster)

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Ken Hensley - Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf (1973 uk, brilliant soft and gently classic rock, 2010 Remaster)

Solo albums are often a crapshoot for fans of a particular group.  They tend to be ventures into bloated-ego territory; repositories of songs that just weren’t good enough to cut it on the parent group’s album.  However, there’s a small but noteworthy percentage of solo albums that deepen your appreciation of what a musician brings to their day-job.  Said solo outings might not venture too far from the sound a musician’s group is known for but the best ones allow you to approach that musician from a different angle that brings their particular talents into sharp focus.

Ken Hensley’s Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf is a great example of that rarified brand of solo album.  For those who don’t know the name, Hensley was the principal songwriter and keyboardist for the British hard-rock legacy Uriah Heep, as well as a frequent second guitarist and vocalist.  They’re known for a highly theatrical, prog-tinged proto-metal that often embraces fantasy themes.  This was Hensley’s solo debut, recorded concurrently with the group’s prolific output, and can easily be considered an extension of the group’s work because it features Heepsters Gary Thain on bass and Lee Kerslake in the drummer’s chair.

That said, one shouldn’t expect a bunch of fire-breathing Frodo metal from Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf.  Hensley delivers the occasional touch of heaviness here — album opener “When Evening Comes” is a steamy, wah-wah-drenched guitarfest and “Fortune” has the complex arrangement and multiple stylistic shifts that defined the best Heep moments — but rocking out is not what this album is about.  The mood of these songs is introspective, using the guitar/organ alloys of their arrangements to convey intense emotion without lapsing into cliched hard rock moves.

Instead, Hensley delivered an album that could be considered mellow-out music for the heavy rock fanbase.  Some songs even have a country-rock sound (favorite in this vein: “Black Hearted Lady”).  Balladry is the main style of songwriting here, with an emphasis on lyrics that deal in romantic loss and longing for the inspirations of a time gone by.  Thankfully, Hensley has a way with a lyric that can be poetic and haunting: “Go Down” paints its character portrait of a lovelorn woman in a spare, elegant way that magnifies the quiet heartbreak of its words and “From Time To Time” steeps its tale of love lost in gothic, Brothers Grimm imagery.

Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf further benefits from a high level of craftsmanship.  Hensley was on a real creative high here, coming off a string of classic Uriah Heep albums that were anchored by his complex, richly melodic sense of songcraft.  That style is fully on display here, in the arranging as well as the songwriting.  Hensley handles all the keyboards and guitars (both electric and acoustic) and creates a musical backdrop that is richly detailed without lapsing into bombast.  The rhythm section matches his every move in a sympathetic style, giving it all a three-dimensional quality.  A great example is “Cold Autumn Sunday,” which starts with solo piano then bursts into a full band performance driven by fiery guitar leads before closing with a coda that blends both styles, adding choral vocals and organ for just the right touch of grandiosity.

It also helps that Hensley’s vocals work hand in hand with the music to sell the lyrics.  He sings in that classic English style of that early-1970’s era, elegant yet soulfully intense when needed.  Throughout the album, he shows he can work a delicate croon (“Go Down”) or a strong, full-voiced delivery (“Cold Autumn Sunday”) with equal skill.  If this wasn’t enough, he also did his own backing vocals and he shows an unerring knack for knowing when to add a double-tracked vocal or a backing chorus without overdoing either.

Thus, Proud Words On A Dusty Shelf is a must for anyone interested in Uriah Heep and proof that Ken Hensley’s skills went beyond the group’s fantasy-oriented hard rock sound.  Anyone interested should pick up the recent Esoteric Recordings remaster because it offers a skillful remastering job that preserves its earthy, analog textures.  It also offers quality liner notes and a nice reproduction of the album’s lovely packaging in its booklet.  It’s a nice treatment for a solo album that beats the solo-album odds.
by Don Guarisco
1. When Evening Comes - 4:37
2. From Time To Time - 3:37
3. A King Without A Throne - 3:51
4. Rain - 3:13
5. Proud Words - 3:17
6. Fortune - 5:19
7. Black Hearted Lady - 3:36
8. Go Down - 3:09
9. Cold Autumn Sunday - 5:27
10.The Last Time - 2:47
All songs written by Ken Hensley

Ken Hensley - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Dave Paul - Bass
Gary Thain - Bass
Lee Kerslake - Drums

Related Act
1968  The Gods - Genesis (2009 japan extra tracks remaster)
1969  The Gods - To Samuel A Son (2009 japan bonus track remaster)

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Spooky Tooth - Spooky Two (1969 uk /us, remarkable psych bluesy classic rock, 2005 remaster and 2010 japan SHM expanded)

Spooky Two is this British blues-rock band's pièce de résistance. All eight of the tracks compound free-styled rock and loose-fitting guitar playing, resulting in some fantastic raw music. With Gary Wright on keyboards and vocals and lead singer Mike Harrison behind the microphone, their smooth, relaxed tempos and riffs mirrored bands like Savoy Brown and, at times, even the Yardbirds.

With some emphasis on keyboards, songs like "Lost in My Dream" and the nine-minute masterpiece "Evil Woman" present a cool, nonchalant air that grooves and slides along perfectly. "I've Got Enough Heartache" whines and grieves with some sharp bass playing from Greg Ridley, while "Better by You, Better Than Me" is the catchiest of the songs, with its clinging hooks and desperate-sounding chorus. 

The last song, "Hangman Hang My Shell on a Tree," is a splendid example of the bandmembers' ability to play off of one another, mixing soulful lyrics with downtrodden instrumentation to conjure up the perfect melancholia. Although Spooky Tooth lasted about seven years, their other albums never really contained the same passion or talented collaborating by each individual musician as Spooky Two. 
by Mike DeGagne
1. Waitin' for the Wind (Luther Grosvenor, Mike Harrison, Gary Wright) - 3:45
2. Feelin' Bad (Mike Kellie, Gary Wright) - 3:24
3. I've Got Enough Heartache (Mike Kellie, Gary Wright) - 3:29
4. Evil Woman (Larry Weiss) - 9:07
5. Lost in My Dream (Gary Wright) - 5:06
6. That Was Only Yesterday (Gary Wright) - 3:58
7. Better by You, Better Than Me (Gary Wright) - 3:42
8. Hangman Hang My Shell on a Tree (Gary Wright) - 5:47
9. The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 3:09
10.Do Right People (Gary Wright) - 4:45
11.That Was Only Yesterday (Gary Wright) - 3:53
12.Oh! Pretty Woman (Andrew Charles Williams Jr.) - 3:29
13.Waitin' for the Wind (Luther Grosvenor, Mike Harrison, Gary Wright) - 3:30
14.Feelin' Bad (Mike Kellie) - 3:19
15.The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 3:14
Original Album Tracks 1-8
Bonus Tracks 9-15

Repertoire 2005 Bonus Tracks
9. That Was Only Yesterday (Gary Wright) - 3:51
10.Oh! Pretty Woman (Andrew Charles Williams Jr.) - 3:27
11.Waitin' for the Wind (Luther Grosvenor, Mike Harrison, Gary Wright) - 3:28
12.Feelin' Bad (Mike Kellie) - 3:18

The Spooky Tooth
*Mike Harrison - Keyboards, Vocals
*Gary Wright - Keyboards, Vocals
*Luther Grosvenor - Guitar
*Greg Ridley - Bass, Guitar
*Mike Kellie - Drums

1968  Spooky Tooth - It's All About (2005 and 2010 SHM)
Related Acts
1965-67  V.I.P's - The Complete V.I.P.S (2006 double disc remaster)
1966  The V.I.P's - Beat Crazy (2004 remaster extra tracks edition) 
1966-68  Deep Feeling - Pretty Colours
1967  Art - Supernatural Fairy Tales (extra track issue)
1971  Mike Harrison - Mike Harrison
1971-72  Gary Wright - Extraction / Footprint
1974  Mott The Hoople - Hoople (2006 remaster and expanded)

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Spooky Tooth - It's All About (1968 uk / us, marvelous colorfully psych rock 2005 digipak expanded and 2010 japan SHM bonus tracks remaster)

Spooky Tooth were one of Island Records' finest acts, yet never quite scaled the upper echelons of the late 60's / early 70's rock hierarchy. Always a band much loved by writers and fellow musicians, they lacked the commercial sucker punch that would've catapulted them to the toppermost of the poppermost. It didn't stop them making some corking records, however.

The Spooky Tooth story (for those of us who are into this sort of thing), if you want to wax analytical about it, provides the perfect paradigm of how various members of disparate 60's British Beat bands pooled their musical resources and mutated into a psychedelic / progressive outfit.

The story begins in summer 1963, in Carlisle and Aspatria, in Cumberland, in the far North-West of England. Jimmy Henshaw (guitar, keyboards), Walter Johnstone (drums), Frank Kenyan (guitar) and former export clerk Mike Harrison (vocals) formed a beat combo, and dubbed themselves The VIPs. Johnston and Kenyan had previously been in The Teenagers; not long after forming the band, The VIPs added Greg Ridley on bass, who had previously lined up with Dino & The Danubes, and The Dakotas and The Ramrods, together with Harrison. They scored a record deal with RCA, who put out their debut single, "She's So Good" / "Don't Keep Shouting At Me" in 1964, both sides being penned by Henshaw. The single is a great slice of sneery Brit R&B, and is now an ultra-rare collector's favourite. From 1965 to 1966 the band were a top club attraction in London, and gigged regularly at the Star Club in Hamburg, garnering a sizeable cult following,

The original VIP's line-up recorded three more singles ("Wintertime" as The Vipps for CBS, plus "I Wanna Be Free" / "Don't Let It Go" and "Straight Down To The Bottom" / "In A Dream" for Island, produced by Island stalwart Guy Stevens) before disbanding. Henshaw, Johnstone and Kenyan were replaced by Luther Grosvenor (guitar), Mike Kellie (drums), and Keith Emerson (keyboards). Emerson had previously been a member of Gary Farr & The T-Bones; this variant of The VIPs gigged for only three months, before Emerson upped and formed The Nice, with Brian "Blinky" Davidson, Lee Jackson and Davy O'List. The remaining quartet changed their name from the by then somewhat anachronistic VIPs, to simply Art-Worcester-born Grosvenor had played guitar for The Hellians, whose 1964 single, "Daydreaming Of You", released on Pye subsidiary Piccadilly, was produced by maverick West Coast genius / madman /charlatan Kim Fowley. The Hellians, if I may digress still further, boasted the nascent talents of both Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi, who would, of course, go on to form Island mainstays Traffic with Steve Winwood, and a young Poli Palmer, who latterly rattled the Joanna for Family. The Hellians in turn mutated into Deep Feeling.

Mike Kellie, originally from Birmingham, had drummed for second city band Locomotive, who also featured sax and flute player Chris Wood, who joined Traffic in 1967. There. See how incestuous this little scene was? Anyway, Locomotive would go on to enjoy a UK Top 30 hit with the ska-rhythmed "Rudi's 1? Love" (unusually enough, the band were very heavily ska and bluebeat driven), and in 1969 put out the awesome latterday psychedelic gem "Mr. Armageddon".

Art cut one album, "Supernatural Fairy Tales", also produced by Guy Stevens (and also available on Edsel), released in 1967. Beautifully housed in a Hapshash And The Coloured Coat-designed sleeve, its original Island Records catalogue number was, ironically enough, ILP 967. Hapshash And The Coloured Coat released an album on Liberty, in which Art featured as backing band on several tracks.

Art's line-up was swelled by the addition of American Gary Wright in October 1967, which initiated a name change - Art became Spooky Tooth.

Spooky Tooth's full-length debut has a tone similar to Traffic with its psychedelic take on the influential pop and soul music of the '60s. A few cover tunes including Janis Ian's "Society's Child" and the Nashville Teens' "Tobacco Road" are included, but original songs like the soulful ballad "It Hurts You So" and "Bubbles" (with its Beach Boys sensibility) are the real standouts. The cheery, psychedelic "It's All About a Roundabout" is the catchiest number by far. On this dreamy cut, vocalist/keyboardist Gary Wright demonstrates some sharp melodic and compositional instincts. 

Although Spooky Tooth eventually became better-known for their straightforward blues-rock, the trippy pop of It's All About counts as a career highlight for the group. Fans of late-'60s British rock are definitely advised to check out this impressive release. 
by Jason Anderson
1.Society's Child (Janis Ian) - 4:30
2.Love Really Changed Me (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller, Luther Grosvenor) - 3:34
3.Here I Lived So Well (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller, Luther Grosvenor, Mike Harrison) - 5:07
4.Too Much Of Nothing (Bob Dylan) - 3:57
5.Sunshine Help Me (Gary Wright) - 3:02
6.It's All About A Roundabout (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller) - 2:44
7.Tobacco Road (John D. Loudermilk) -5:34
8.It Hurts You So (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller) - 3:04
9.Forget It I Got It (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller) - 3:26
10.Bubbles (Gary Wright, Luther Grosvenor) - 2:49
11.The Weight (Stereo Version) (Robbie Robertson) - 3:14
12.Sunshine Help Me (Gary Wright) - 2:59
13.Weird (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller, Luther Grosvenor, Mike Harrison, Mike Kellie) - 3:59
14.Love Really Changed Me (Mono Version) (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller, Luther Grosvenor) - 2:59
15.Luger's Groove (Peter Luger) - 3:34
16.The Weight (Robbie Robertson) - 3:07
17.Do Right People (Gary Wright) - 4:44
18.Bubbles (Mono Version) (Gary Wright, Luther Grosvenor) - 2:44
Original Album Tracks 1-10
Bonus Tracks 11-18

SHM 2010 version Bonus Tracks list
11.Sunshine Help Me (Mono Single Version) (Gary Wright) - 3:00
12.Weird (Mono Single Version) (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller, Luther Grosvenor, Mike Harrison, Mike Kellie) - 4:01
13.Love Rally Changed Me (Mono Single Version) (Gary Wright, Jimmy Miller, Luther Grosvenor) - 3:01
14.Luger's Groove (Mono Single Version) (Peter Luger) - 3:35
15.Bubbles (Mono Single Version) (Gary Wright, Luther Grosvenor) - 2:43

The Spooky Tooth
*Gary Wright - Vocals, Organ, Keyboards
*Luther Grosvenor - Guitars
*Mike Harrison - Vocals, Keyboards, Harpsichord
*Mike Kellie - Drums And Percussion
*Greg Ridley - Bass, Guitar

Related Acts
1965-67  V.I.P's - The Complete V.I.P.S (2006 double disc remaster)
1966  The V.I.P's - Beat Crazy (2004 remaster extra tracks edition) 
1966-68  Deep Feeling - Pretty Colours
1967  Art - Supernatural Fairy Tales (extra track issue)
1971  Mike Harrison - Mike Harrison
1971-72  Gary Wright - Extraction / Footprint
1974  Mott The Hoople - Hoople (2006 remaster and expanded)

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