JOHN HIATT – All of a Sudden – (Geffen) – 1982

John Hiatt - All of a Sudden

When reading about John HIatt you will often read something like  "John Hiatt's sales have never quite matched his reputation".

There is truth in that.

But, there is a reason for that.

His albums, and (disclaimer) I have not heard everything (I have not heard any compete albums from the 2000s), are incredibly patchy, despite some magnificent songs.

Other musicians can cherry pick his songs but the public likes their "adult" musicians to have albums solid all the way through (yes, yes, there are many exceptions to prove me wrong)

I have said elsewhere on this blog: "John Hiatt has had a long, schizophrenic career as, variously, a singer-songwriter, a new waver, an AOR dinosaur, a roots rocker, a country rocker, and an adult-contemporary singer".

The albums "Bring the Family" (1987) and "Slow Turning" (1988) changed the tide for him. Before that he was a singer looking for a style, after that he worked out his shtick and stuck to it, a sort of singer songwriter Americana troubadour with rock asides.

All he had to do then was decide in what kind of production to wrap it up.

At least that is the way i see it ….some of his post 80s albums may be wildly different … I don't know, you will have to do the research. A bit annoying for a blog perhaps, but I don't want or need to make assertions which Iam unsure about, and the only way to be sure would be to listen to all those albums.

I my get around to it but …..

For now, I'll stick to my position:

                                    There is a before and an after and both are patchy.

This album came in the searching for a successful sound period.

Check out my other comments for biography but …

It was his fifth album on his third label and he had been recording and playing music since the 1960s ("All of a Sudden" is ironic?).

This is how he ended up on the Geffen label. Geffen had all the nerve of an indie label, with the desire to be major label. The desire, and it probably has something to do with when they emerged (the early 80s), meant they had to be big and slick in sound. And because they were so intent on achieving that their "big and slick" was uber "big and slick". They had forgotten that  majors have their ragged on the fringe acts and took (money losing) chances from time to time. Huh, that paragraph has the cadence of a cautionary fairytale.

And maybe it should.

The "big and slick" collided with the "new wave" of the late 70s which changed the technology and the production (for a time) but the labels got hold of the "new wave" , took its stylings and smoothed them out to make them more mass audience friendly.

It worked. Records sold.

So the technology was applied to everything, and every genre, at least in the mainstream.

And that rubbish 80s sound dominated.

Don't get me wrong. The 80s sound, when applied to new bands from the 80s, is passable but when they tried to attach the sound to old acts, singers from a different era , style, personality or temperament the result were awful. Even if there were big sales at the time, to my ears, now, the results are sometimes un-listenable.

I'm sorry there is no nostalgia. I lived through that era and experienced its (mainstream musical) horrors.

I'm scarred.

You see where I'm going with this.

Labels kept signing Hiatt because other musicians kept recording his songs.

They assumed they could have  a breakthrough with him.

Geffen gave him everything. A big release with a hot big producer Tony Visconti (T. Rex, David Bowie), a big contemporary sound, a big slick sound (an even 80s artwork). This is designed to have you dancing. And this is everything Hiatt was not. His best work is not big, but small, or rather quiet, reflective, observant, introspective.

Universally, critics and punters complain about the inappropriateness of this to Hiatt's music.

Who am I to argue?

Well, I have in the past but here I won't.

Techno-pop production values with  new wave synth sounds aren't going to appeal to an audience who expected the fusion of American roots styles as had been characterised in earlier Hiatt albums. More importantly, I'm not sure if the sounds and styles used are ever compatible, musically.

As with Hiatt's two previous albums "Slug Line" (1979) and "Two Bit Monster" (1980)  this album sounds like a Elvis Costello album from around his "Get Happy" (1980) period, though with bigger production. There are vocal similarities and they both like the same historical source music and themes. This does not surprise as Elvis Costello always had the same root influences as Hiatt but it wasn't immediately obvious to Costello fans  during the late 70s New Wave.

The problem here is, I have been largely immune from Mr Costello's numerous charms, even "before" he became an American.

Keyboards dominate and session keyboardist Jesse Harms is the keyboardist. He was in Sammy Hagar's band as well an in REO Speedwagon briefly, none of which helps. That  up-tempo new wave keyboard-heavy sound is dated now but was all over the mainstream at the time.

Hiatt's strongest feature wasn't his sound anyway, but his song writing and, sometimes, you have to concentrate on that and not let the sound get in the way.

If you can.

All tracks written by John Hiatt, except where noted

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side One

  • I Look for Love – quite a great song about the dating scene though sunk by the production and keyboards out of a Gary Numan song. Imagine what Nick Lowe could have done with this.
  • This Secret Life – another good song with power pop overtones, though, again, I wish the production was different.
  • Overnight Story – catchy dance-y tune
  • Forever Yours –  filler but solid filler.
  • Some Fun Now – more Elvis Costello stylings.
  • The Walking Dead – great social observations and very Elvis Costello.

      Side Two

  • I Could Use an Angel – awful. Here Hiatt is trying to be new wave rather than having those new wave stylings dumped on him.
  • Getting Excited – a loner perspective. Quite good and very Nick Lowe.
  • Doll Hospital – (Hiatt, Isabella Wood) – I have no idea who the co-writer is but the song has Hiatt's usual cynical humour and an old school rock 'n' roll feel. Very Dave Edmunds. Marvellous.
  • Something Happens – actually first released by Dave Edmunds on his "Twangin'" album (1981). It doesn't work here
  • Marianne – a retro 60s-ish song. I like this
  • My Edge of the Razor – a good song. Nicely observed detail.

And …

A hard one … I have a lot of John HIatt albums in the maybe keep pile, why not add another one?

The songs on this album are, actually, a bit better than his other efforts around the same time, pity about the production… have I mentioned the production?

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere


Full album

I Look for Love

The Walking Dead


Doll Hospital

Live recently

mp3 attached






  • I liked both the "Bring the Family" (1987) and "Slow Turning" (1988) albums in the 80s when they came out but haven't listened to them in years so I'm not sure they still stand up. They may but …


Posted in Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

MELANIE – Born to Be – (Buddah)- 1968

Melanie - Born to Be - original

… or '"My First Album" (1970).

Apparently, "following Melanie's success at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 Buddha repackaged and reissued the album as My First Album".

Most sources seem to date "My First Album" as 1969 though the copyright on my copy is 1970.

Melanie released two albums in the two years after her debut, "Affectionately Melanie" (aka "Melanie") in  December 1969 which did okay (US # 196) and "Candles in the Rain" in  September 1970 which was a wordlwide hit (US #17, UK #5, Australia #2, Canada #5, Norway #20, Germany #16).

It could be, then, that "Born to Be" was repackaged as "My First Album" to cash in on that.

Either way sounds reasonable. A record label is never going to miss an opportunity to exploit, errrr promote, its talent.

Check out my other comments for biographical detail on Melanie but, in short, Melanie Safka was born in 1947, in Queens, New York. She made her first public singing appearance at age 4 on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire performing "Gimme A Little Kiss".

"Born To Be" was Melanie's debut album released in 1968 on Buddah Records.

She then performed at Woodstock in 1969 (unfortunately, she was not featured in the movie as were several other artists) and was a surprise discovery.

She emerged as a force in the early 1970s singer-songwriter boom.

Most of the criticism of this album seems to be that Melanie is all over the place musically. I understand the criticism but I don't have a problem with that jumping of styles if it fits into a whole.

And it does.

Melanie is a vocalist though, apparently , her voice is "love it or leave it". I don't get that … doesn't that apply to a lot of singers? She has a husky voice with plenty of vibrato but .. so?

As a vocalist she is an interpreter. She interprets other peoples work (she loves a good cover) but she also writes (the majority of) her own material. But in some ways her own material is an interpretation (re-write) of music she loves, and she loves more than one style..

This is how she can genre hop without any jarring musical schizophrenia.

Melanie is usually compared to Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Judy Collins and there is some of them here. They are all products of the 60s folk and coffee house movements. But, they are (and this is not criticism of any of them) more singular and focused on song writing. Melanie's musical brush is a lot broader and she is in some ways more experimental, or, willing to take chances on all sorts of song styles. Perhaps she is akin to Buffy Sainte Marie or Laura Nyro with Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland and Shirley Temple thrown in for eccentricity.

There is smoky Parisian (a la Edith Piaf), kid musings, folk, protest, pop, rock, vocal operatics all over the album.

Though there are touches of her future musical fame (as an innocent hippy songstress) this is not a sunshine flower child Melanie harvesting organic vegetables in a field but a world weary (at age 21) songstress in a big city smoke-filled bistro, cafe or coffee house..

The songs are solid and the covers are both obvious (but good, "Mr Tamborine Man) and playfully left of field ("Christopher Robin")

The album could be described as diverse or uneven depending on your perspective, but Melanie was clearly trying out various styles of music she likes and having audible fun doing it.

All songs written by Melanie Safka, except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • In The Hour – a sad song with some nice accordion and a French feel, ala Edith Piaf.
  • I'm Back In Town – musical theatre and quite effective (but then again, I like musical theatre …well, on record)
  • Bobo's Party – a lot of vocal gymnastics with a bit of drama and some darkness.
  • Mr. Tambourine Man – (Bob Dylan) – The great Bob Dylan song though the Byrds are most associated with it. With his they created folk rock and the song went to #1 in the US and UK (1965). Melanie slows it down and takes the Dylan original in a different direction and mood from The Byrds cover. Wonderful..
  • Momma, Momma – daughter angst with husky vocal opera. The narrator questions the mothers rearing of her in the modern world.

      Side Two

  • I Really Loved Harold – the narrator is searching for heaven on earth, inall the wrong places. Some great, sharp and perhaps funny lyrics.
  • Animal Crackers – pleasant and funny (and perhaps a little cynical) with overtones of "Sugar Sugar" (which came out in 1969) by the Archies.
  • Christopher Robin Is Saying His Prayers – (A.A. Milne-H. Fraser Simpson) – Christopher Robin is a character created by A. A. Milne and appears in Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories. British musical theatre composer Harold Fraser-Simpson was known for his many settings of children's verse by A. A. Milne and others. This is engaging children's song done in a child's voice (that Melanie was to do again on other tunes)
  • Close To It All – a lot of rhymes and repeated words. Melanie loves to do this.
  • Merry Christmas – a nice haunting cover of "I Wish You a Merry Christmas" introduced by the beginning of "Silent Night". The old given a new leaf much like Simon and Garfunkel had done on "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" (1966)

And …

Pretty amazing in parts and solid all over … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing in the English speaking world (in its original or repackaged release).

"Bo Bo's Party" became a #12  single in France (some sources say #1). Melanie's first chart success was in Europe. "Bobo's Party" was a hit in France and "Beautiful People" was a hit in the France and The Netherlands. She didn't become well known here until her appearance at Woodstock in August 1969.


In The Hour


Bobo's Party


Mr. Tambourine Man

mp3 attached

Momma, Momma


I Really Loved Harold

Live recently

Animal Crackers


Close To It All



doing Phil Ochs

with Johnny Cash





  • Credits: Roger Kellaway – Arranger,  Melanie – Guitar, Vocals, (her husband)  Peter Schekeryk – Producer.


Melanie - My First Album     Melanie - My First Album - back sleeve picture     Melanie - Born to Be - repackage     Melanie Safka pictured here in 1971 with what used to be her Grandma's tablecloth.


Posted in Folk Rock, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

BREWER & SHIPLEY – Tarkio – (Kama Sutra) – 1970

Brewer & Shipley - Tarkio

I like Brewer & Shipley.

They are largely forgotten apart from one song, the notorious “One Toke over the Line”, which is on this album.

This was their third album.

Their first album, the patchy though endearing “Down in L.A.” (1968)  and their second, the vastly underrated “Weeds” (1969) charted nowhere.

Folk rock troubadour duos were everywhere in the wake of Simon & Garfunkel (and in any event had been common in the folk music world): Ian & Sylvia, Frummox, Zager and Evans, Jim and Jean, Joe and Eddie, Richard and Mimi Farina, Sonny and Cher (faux folk), so you need something to stand out a little.

Here, the native Oklahoman and Ohioan (respective to their billing) had been kicking around the Los Angeles folk scene for a couple of years working the coffee house circuit, separately, as folk troubadours before hooking up and drawing on each other’s years of performing.

They played throughout California and returned to their Midwest origins playing the folk scene.

They had all the right ingredients needed: A fusion of folk, rock, country, jazz, blues riffs in an American troubadour bag containing lyrics that were equally socially conscious, questioning and observant, with a hint of stoner, religion and back to the earth vibes.

And, they had talent.

But no doubt, their label Kama Sutra (who signed them for their “Weeds” album) wanted a return. If the first album doesn’t do well it’s the second album that decides whether a label will persevere with you or not.

Luckily, Brewer and Shipley included a throwaway, light song, “One Toke over the Line”, which captured the public’s imagination, or floated on it, with its pleasantly pastoral view of excessive drug taking.

At first it’s good vibes and refreshing honesty made some, unfamiliar with west-coast youth jargon, mistake it for a piece of rural sunshine pop with Jesus overtones, if this cover from the Lawrence Welk is any indication (it’s referred to as a “modern spiritual … and I suppose it is) …

I'm not sure what the "straights" thought "toke" (tasking a puff of a marijuana cigarette) meant. Then again it wasn't a English word adopted to drug references. It doesn't seem to have much usage in English until the late 60s in the US. Interestingly it may come (in pronunciation) from American Spanish for toque for touch, test, from tocar to touch.

But soon people cottoned on to its common contemporary meaning, and there was outrage. The song wasn’t the first to have drug references but it was the first song to make an overt drug reference to reach the Top 10. The song created a controversy and ignited a censorship debate at the time.

But the album was more than the hippie vibe of the hit song. There were echoes of the Vietnam War and Kent State, creeping paranoia as America’s political and industrial complex expanded as well as the usual poetic and philosophical musings (lots of internal turbulence and dissatisfaction) disguised as personal travelogues, run through with dollops of the anti-corporate back to Jesus mood.

Yes, you could be spiritually religious and smoke pot, be anti-establishment, and question the world around you.

Brewer & Shipley released another four albums in the 70s without any chart action before disbanding (and then reforming in the 90s).

This music is a product of its time but the sounds, lyrics and feel (the vibe man – sic) is wonderful and transcends any limitations of time and place. Brewer and Shipley were smarter, better and funnier (there is a bit of self-deprecating humour) than a lot of their contemporaries.

Open your mind, put this is on, preferably on a lazy sunny afternoon, and kick back.


Check out my other comments for biographical detail on the duo.

All tracks written by Brewer & Shipley except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side A

  • One Toke Over the Line – a classic song, and perhaps the most well known about pot. Mike Brewer can give this account of the origin of the song, "One day we were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, “Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.” I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it”. (
  • Song from Platte River – a "where is freedom" song that references America's past, Native Americans, slavery.
  • The Light – though "Jesus" in never mentioned, this is clearly a Christian song. It is serious and suggests the answer to the strife is in the light (of Jesus).
  • Ruby on the Morning – an ode to a love. And, a little like Simon and Garfunkel.
  • Oh Mommy – A great song. Another familiar concept from the times. The American Constitution protects alternative lifestyles, people from left  field and anything you want to do (as long as it doesn't harm others). A point that seems to be lost, a lot, by supporters from both sides of the political fence in the US. With pedal steel by Jerry Garcia.

                        Oh, mommy, I ain't no commie

                        I'm just doing what I can to live the good old all American way

                        It says right there in the constitution

                        It's really A-OK to have a revolution

                        When the leaders that you choose

                        Really don't fit their shoes

            Side B

  • Don't Want to Die in Georgia – not expressly political but a social comment.
  • Can't Go Home – life on the road
  • Tarkio Road – a great song. ""Tarkio Road" is about freedom and  the restrictions placed upon it circa 1970 for many young people who were redefining personal expression in the United States".
  • Seems Like a Long Time– (Ted Anderson) – I have little information on the writer Ted Anderson but I suspect he may be the Ted Anderson who was in 60s folk group "The Hammer Singers" who were based in Wassau, Wisconsin and played the folk coffeehouse scene through the Midwest and Northwest in the 1960s (as Brewer & Shipley did … they must have crossed paths). This seems to be the first recording of the song and it was covered by Rod Stewart on his "Every Picture Tells A Story" (1971). The song is a gentle anti-war, war weary song.
  • Fifty States of Freedom – people with their living their lives on the road and lonely people populate this song. Very, of it's time but very evocative.

And …

A underrated joy. Not perfect but certainly solid … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1971 One Toke Over the Line #10 US Pop

1971 Tarkio Road #55 Pop







1971 One Toke Over the Line #5

1971 Tarkio Road #41




Whole album

One Toke Over the Line



mp3 attached

Song from Platte River

live recently


Oh Mommy

mp3 attached

Fifty States of Freedom

live recently






  • Brewer and Shipley derived the name of the album, Tarkio, from a regular gig they played in Tarkio, Missouri. "There was a town in Missouri called Tarkio where we used to play, up in the northwest corner of the state," Mike explains.  "We played a lot of colleges in Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas and it seems like whenever we had to play one of those colleges we had to take this highway that we wound up calling Tarkio Road."
  • Credits: Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Michael Brewer, Tom Shipley / Bass – John Kahn  / Chorus – Danny Cox, Diane Tribuno, Nick Gravenites / Drums – Bill Vitt, Bob Jones / Electric Guitar – Fred Burton  and Paul Butterfield (apparently, not listed officially but I have seen his name crop up online …so it has to be right …ha) / Flute – Noel Jewkes  / Pedal Steel Guitar – Jerry Garcia  / Piano, Organ – Mark Naftalin  / Producer – Nick Gravenites.
  • Who knows is Brewer & Shipley are being mischievous as the youthful can. "Toke" may have had more than one meaning. "Beaver" has quite a few. Their songs are published by their own publishing company, "Talking Beaver music"
Posted in Folk Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

DANNY O’KEEFE – Danny O’Keefe – (Cotillion Records) – 1970

Danny O'Keefe - Danny O'Keefe

Check out other posts on this blog for detail on, the great, Danny O’Keefe.

This is Danny O’Keefe’s first solo album, or, at least first proper solo album.

In the mid-60s O’Keefe tread the solo folk rock path created by Dylan and put out a few singles on Seattle based Jerden records (who put out "Louie Louie" by the Kinsmen in 1963) and its subsidiary Picadilly (owned by Jerry Dennon) before putting out an album in 1966, the obscure “Introducing Danny O'Keefe”, on the Seattle based Panorama records label (also owned by Dennon).

Somehow, for reasons known to him, in 1968, O'Keefe ended up in of a four-man heavy psychedelic rock band named Calliope. The group recorded one album, “Steamed” (1968), for Buddah Records before disbanding.

He went back to his folky Americana, which was becoming a chart viable genre as part of the singer-songwriter movement.

And then Ahmet Ertegun (co-founder of Atlantic records) heard him and liked him ( and he was signed to Cotillion, an Atlantic records subsidiary, who were expanding into the country, country rock and country flavoured market, with signings of Willie Nelson, The Eagles, The Allman Bros, Doug Sahm, John Prine and others.

Ertegun produced him.

This is the result.

This is pure country folk flavoured singer-songwriter with some New York touches. O’Keefe is too smart (and sharp) to do it too straight. He understands drama and intensity but there is humour and acute detail in his songs. His voice, nasally, fully phrased with precise diction, is rarely stretched, but is perfect for this music, and only enhances the detail he puts in his story songs.

This I love about O’Keefe’s music … he has captured the right balance between musicality and telling a story. You can (without waxing lyrical) feel the characters in his songs or at least understand what they are going through.

Among the West Coast singer-songwriters who came to fame in the early 1970's, O'Keefe has enjoyed, probably, the least commercial success relative to his talent. And whatever success there is comes off the back of one song, his hit “Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues”. And, it doesn’t hurt that Elvis Presley covered it … the royalties on that must have put bread and butter on the table.

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side One

  • Covered Wagon – later re-recorded on his "So Long Harry Truman" album from 1975. A excellent pumpin' and honky tonkin' country rock song about the need to move on to new places (a familiar theme at the time)
  • 3:10 Smokey Thursday – a great song about the effects of pollution. Pete Seeger had sung about the same in the 1960s but the theme on environmental degradation was becoming a mainstream concern, "Don't Go Near the Water" and "A Day in the Life of a Tree" (both from "Surf's Up" (1971)) by The Beach Boys, ‘Hungry Planet’ (from ‘(Untitled)’ (1970)) by The Byrds,  ‘Apeman’ (from ‘Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One’ (1970)) by The Kinks, ‘Where Do the Children Play?’ (from ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ (1970)), by Cat Stevens, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ (from ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ (1970)) by Joni Mitchell, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (from "What's Going On (1971)) by Marvin Gaye …

      3:10 Smokey Thursday

      The people on the freeways

      Left their castles

      Built on wheels

      To find the fields

      They were all gone

      The sky, too, was out of view

  • The Drover – the narrator meets a drover and he tells him his story. Very good.
  • A Country Song –  you can read "brother" narrowly (a sibling) or broadly (other people). Either way this is powerful
  • Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues – recorded by O’Keefe in 1968 originally as a b-side, then re-recorded for this album, and then re-recorded again for his next album, “O’Keefe” (1972). The hit version of the song (#9 Hot 100 1972) is the 1972 version. Not as solemn as the later version but magnificent nevertheless..
  • Steel Guitar – later re-recorded on his "So Long Harry Truman" album from 1975. Another winner about a woman and her steel guitar. He life is unwinds during the course of the song and her experiences make her quite a singer and player. There is a dig in here also, the steel guitar is the "real" guitar. Perhaps O'Keefe is suggesting that to be convincing in the types of broken hearted country songs the woman sings you need to have lived life. Sounds reasonable to me.

Side Two

  • Saturday Morning – a funky song about dealing with people. School has finishes and it's Saturday morning …
  • Sweet Rollin' –  a love affair breaking down …
  • Bottle Up And Go –  (Sam Hopkins, Max McCormick) – a Lighting Hopkins song done in the style of The Blues Project combined with a bit of Rolling Stones-y mid tempo swagger.
  • Come Dance With Me –   a country psych number which struts, between clouds.
  • Canary –  the significance of the canary – warning of danger?
  • Rev. Stone – the spoken intro sounds like something from a film (and sounds a little like Steve McQueen (but it's not)) but I can't pick it. This is an existential plea about … something. But it hold the interest and is well sung with O'Keefe going outside his usual voice.

And …

A magnificent album. Vastly underrated … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere (though a re-recorded “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” (from his “O’Keefe” album) charted in 1972 (#9, 1972 US Pop)


3:10 Smokey Thursday 

mp3 attached

A Country Song

Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues 

mp3 attached

Saturday Morning

Bottle Up And Go

Come Dance With Me







  • Sweet Rollin',  Come Dance With Me, Canary, Rev. Stone – recorded in Hollywood California with: Danny O'Keefe (vocals / guitar), Doug Hastrings (guitar), Billy McPherson (flute/ saxes/keyboard), Bob Nixon (keyboards), Chris Ethridge (bass), Rich Crooks (drums/ percussion), string and vocal arrangements by Jimmy Haskell (!).The rest recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with Danny O'Keefe (vocals / guitar), Eddie Hinton (guitar), Jimmy Johnson (guitar), Barry Beckett (keyboards), David Hood (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums / percussion) string and vocal arrangements by Arif Mardin (!). Produced by Ahmet Ertegun
  • “Cotillion Records was a subsidiary of Atlantic Records (and from 1971 part of WEA) and was active from 1968 through 1985. The label was formed as an outlet for blues and deep Southern soul; its first single, Otis Clay's version of "She's About a Mover", reached the R&B charts. Cotillion's catalog quickly expanded to include progressive rock, folk-rock, gospel, jazz and comedy. In 1976, the label started focusing on disco and R&B. At that point, Cotillion's catalog albums outside those genres were reissued on Atlantic.

               Danny O'Keefe - Danny O'Keefe - gatefold 01               Danny O'Keefe - Danny O'Keefe - gatefold 02

Posted in Americana, Country Rock, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

LITTLE VILLAGE – Little Village – (Reprise) – 1992

Little Village - Little Village

A one-off by a group of musicians with similar interests.

Allmusic say this in their review of this album: “In 1987, guitarist Ry Cooder, bassist Nick Lowe, and drummer Jim Keltner backed up singer and songwriter John Hiatt on his album Bring the Family; the album was hailed as an instant classic, but negotiations to reassemble the group for Hiatt's next album failed. Five years later, the four musicians were persuaded to give working together another try, but this time instead of backing Hiatt, they'd form a band called Little Village, with all the members writing collectively and Hiatt, Cooder, and Lowe trading off on vocals”.

Little Village has also been called a “supergroup” which is also correct.

A supergroup is normally made of members who are already successful solo artists or part of other well-known groups. (The supergroup can, probably, be traced back to the 1968 album “Super Session” with Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, and Stephen Stills).

Normally, the supergroup is a one or two album group (ie: the output of The Highwaymen, Traveling Wilburys), but from time to time they have emerged and been quite popular (Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bad Company). What is common to all supergroups is a group of musicians who are into the same music, more or less. The excuse to play with musicians who are on the same wavelength as you is a good time aphrodisiac, which can’t be ignored.

Here Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner were all disciples of American roots rock (and all around the same age). Only Keltner wasn’t a solo front man but he had played with American music greats (Roy Orbison, Delaney & Bonnie, Bob Dylan Clarence Gatemouth Brown and many others).

Check out my other comments for detail on Lowe and Hiatt and the biographical links below.

Given the like minds and the fact that Keltner, Lowe and Cooder had all worked on John Hiatt’s solo album “Bring the Family” in 1987, which was a commercial and critical success, this album was, perhaps, a likely, occurrence .

And this time around they would share the bulk of the work.

Or so it was thought.

Hiatt still does most of the vocals as all but three songs are sung by him, but the songwriting was a collaborative process.

Supergroups rarely have the critical success of each member’s individual recordings and, I suppose, it is because of the “too many cooks …” scenario. They may all be on the same wavelength but when you are trying to share the centre spotlight amongst all the participants things don’t always jell. Inevitably, most supergroup albums end up sounding like a collection of solo tracks for each member.

The exceptions are when some of the participants are willing to take more of a back seat.

Here, Cooder, Lowe and Keltner all take a back seat to Hiatt (who was on a critical roll at the time) and that gives the album a more cohesive sound. The problem though, is, Hiatt isn’t as convincing as Cooder or (Englishman) Lowe.

The songs are performed in his style and come out suiting his temperament but Hiatt has largely been hit or miss (even on his most famous albums) to my ears.

The general reviews for the album at the time were lacklustre whilst the live shows were said to be great, and the youtube live footage available certainly does suggest that seeing four talented musicians strutting (literally) their stuff gives the songs a lift that isn’t present on vinyl.

That’s not to say the record is bad, it isn’t. But it is quite slick (it was 1992) in that mainstream roots way which means it doesn’t have any ragged edges which you would normally expect from this kind of music.

The group disbanded the same year and the members went back to solo work.

All songs written by Little Village and sung by John Hiatt except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side One

  • The Solar Sex Panel – a lot of double entendres. Like "Sixty Minute Man" updated for the 90s. The lyric is buried a little in the melody and it is a little naff though humorous if you listen to the lyrics.
  • The Action – sung by Ry Cooder – a so-so Ry Cooder song
  • Inside Job –  ho hum
  • Big Love –   a slow burn of a song
  • Take Another Look – sung by Nick Lowe – a bouncy song done in the familiar Lowe manner. Quite good though a little busier than usual.

Side Two

  • Do You Want My Job –  a leisurely Jimmy Buffet type of tune (without the alcohol fuelled fun) 
  • Don't Go Away Mad –  a gentle bounce of a song with far eastern influences. Quite pleasant in its own way.
  • Fool Who Knows – sung by Nick Lowe – another good one by Nick.
  • She Runs Hot –  a boppy tune
  • Don't Think About Her When You're Trying to Drive –  quite a nice ballad
  • Don't Bug Me When I'm Working –  plodding, a bit like hard work.

And …

A misfire. Still, I like the individuals … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1992  Solar Sex Panel  Mainstream Rock  #35 

1992  She Runs Hot  Mainstream Rock  #17 


1992 #66




The Solar Sex Panel


The Action


Inside Job

Big Love

Take Another Look

mp3 attached

Do You Want My Job

Fool Who Knows


She Runs Hot


Don't Think About Her When You're Trying to Drive






  • The band name comes from a Sonny Boy Williamson song apparently.
  • Personnel: John Hiatt – guitars, lead (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9-11) and backing vocals, piano / Ry Cooder – guitars, backing and lead (2) vocals / Nick Lowe – bass, backing and lead (5, 8) vocals / Jim Keltner – drums, percussion.
  • There were a couple of unofficial live albums that followed; "Stage Job" (Swingin’ Pig Records) recorded live in Chicago April 15, 1992 and "Living Action" (Kiss) recorded live in San Francisco April 7, 1992.
Posted in Rock & Pop, Roots Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

PAUL SIEBEL – Jack-Knife Gypsy – (Elektra) – 1971

Paul Siebel - Jack Knife Gypsy

Check out my other comment on Paul Siebel for background detail.

I fully expect (as I’m writing) this comment to be concise, errr short.

Siebel only put out two studio albums, this, and his debut album “Woodsmoke and Oranges” (1970). A live album followed in 1978 and a compilation (of the first two albums) followed after that.

His output and exposure (to Americans), until recently, was similar to Rodriguez (two studio album 1970, 1971, a live album from 1979 and a compilation made up of the two studio albums). He was recording at the same time Rodriguez, they were similar ages (Siebel was born in 1937 and Rodriguez in 1942), they were augmented singer-songwriters looking at the world, and both were indebted to Bob Dylan.

The big obvious difference apart from Rodriguez recent popularity is that Rodriguez had a massive following in Australia (I know that first hand) and New Zealand and to a lesser extent, South Africa (lesser than Australia and New Zealand) all through his wilderness period in the USA (the “Searching for Sugarman” was wildly inaccurate historically and, perhaps, intellectually dishonest).

Siebel, on the other hand is still only known to cultists and collectors.

Siebel, despite urban origins, has produced a rural country rock Americana (or pastoral rock with big doses of old-timey country and folk), album. Like others of the time he was looking at the world and trying to make sense of it by making observations hidden in elusive imagery wrapped in good tunes.

Siebel’s first album, a great album, wasn’t successful. He followed it up with this. There was more production and more money. The all-star backing band assembled for the album contained the cream of the emerging country rock scene including Byrds guitarist Clarence White, mandolin virtuoso David Grisman, country pedal-steel guru Buddy Emmons, Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon, and Cajun/country fiddle legend Doug Kershaw, session drummer extraordinaire Russ Kunkel among others.

The difficult second album for a singer generally, and for a singer-songwriter specifically, (because most of you best songs, one assumes, are used on your first album) is well known. Whether these songs were already written or tunes composed between albums I do not know but Siebel doesn’t suffer from the second album danger.

The style owes a lot to Dylan (something Siebel acknowledges) but he has enough talent to make his music distinctive. The songs are strong though, perhaps, not as strong as the first album (it’s a close call), the musicianship, not surprisingly is above par and, the feel was just right for the times.

It sold nothing.

Perhaps it was a little to quirky but Jim Kweskin had a similar (albeit small) audience. Such is life in the (inventive) margins of music.

With the resurgence of Americana and alt-country, this album as well as Siebel’s other record, have been resurrected by the hardcore aficionados of those genres.

The only question remains, then, ‘where is his documentary’?

So that he can go through the same resurrection as Rodriguez.

He deserves it.

All songs by Paul Siebel.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Jasper and the Miners – a Dylanesque tune which in Dylan fashion is a little obscure in intent but great nevertheless.
  • If I Could Stay – a country-ish ode
  • Jack-Knife Gypsy – a mid tempo country folk song
  • Prayer Song – quite a beautiful song with tasteful strings.
  • Legend of the Captain's Daughter – a Cajun hoedown style song. I assume Doug Kershaw is playing fiddle on this because it is his style of music. though the themes are distinctly Atlantic maritime. This has the gravitas of an old sea shanty and is wonderful.

      Side Two

  • Chips Are Down – a country folk lament
  • Pinto Pony – a old school cowboy song updated to the Dylan area. I love it.
  • Hillbilly Child – an old school country boogie which is a hoot.
  • Uncle Dudley – quite an affecting song about an Uncle with great stories, all untrue but who was always there for you and made you feel better.
  • Miss Jones – the narrator, a poor boy, is shagging a rich girl and has all the benefits of the same but it's not as easy as it seems …

                  Now all the boys give me the eye

                  They joke about some cherry-pie

                  But it ain't easy to be on call

                  And have to bounce like a rubber ball


                  I'll take the poor girl who eats beans

                  The kind who wears them old blue jeans

                  She'll treat me like I was a king

                  And not like a monkey on a string

  • Jeremiah's Song – an anti-war song done as old-timey spiritual.

And …

Wonderful. A great country rock folk old-timey singer-songwriter album (how big is that group?) … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere


The whole album:

Legend of the Captain's Daughter

mp3 attached

Pinto Pony

mp3 attached






  • Personnel: Paul Siebel – guitar, vocals / Clarence White – guitar / Robert Warford – guitar / Buddy Emmons – steel guitar / David Grisman – mandolin / Jim Buchanan – violin, viola / Doug Kershaw – fiddle / Billy Wolfe – bass / Bernie Leadon – guitar / Gary White – bass / Ralph Shuckett – organ, piano / Russ Kunkel – drums / produced by Robert W. Zachary, Jr.
  • "In the ‘80s, Siebel jumped off the train, leaving his musical career behind and working a series of day jobs. In the years to come, he would make the occasional, extremely infrequent guest appearance, but his days of gigging and songwriting were behind him for good. Eventually, he moved to Maryland, where he ultimately landed an outdoorsy job with the Parks Department, and started avidly pursuing an interest in sailing, but no matter how much distance Siebel puts between himself and his songs, they can never lose their power. Over the years, several of his tunes – not just “Louise” – have been recorded by other artists, from Emmylou Harris to David Bromberg. In 2004, his Elektra albums were reissued together in England as a twofer, earning ecstatic reviews from the British music press, and this year, in MOJO Magazine’s celebration of Elektra’s 60th anniversary, this writer had the opportunity to single out Siebel’s debut as one of the label’s shining moments. Siebel may not be singing the songs anymore, but they’re still out there waiting to be discovered — or re-discovered. As another Greenwich Village songwriter, Richard Meyer, once said: “A record is like a time bomb, you can never tell when it’s gonna go off.”"


Paul Siebel - Jack Knife Gypsy - gatefold               Paul Siebel - Jack Knife Gypsy - back

Posted in Alt Country, Americana, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

EDWIN STARR – Clean – (20th Century Fox Records) – 1978

Edwin Starr - Clean

I’m not a big soul fan but there are individual soul songs I find magnificent.

“War” (1970) by Edwin Starr in one of them.

Starr’s career had its highs and lows.

The soul ground had changed in the 70s as it morphed into disco, and depending on where one stood before hand it became either pop or street funk in its groove.

Of course there were many shades in between.

Whether the old black soul dudes went along willingly to the disco dancefloor or had to be dragged into it, once committed, it kept them in the green stuff (the old white soul guys who flirted with disco had fewer returns, perhaps not surprisingly).

Wikipedia:  "Charles Edwin Hatcher was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1942. He and his cousins, soul singers Roger and Willie Hatcher, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they were raised … In 1957, Starr formed a doo-wop group, the Future Tones, and began his singing career. Starr lived in Detroit, Michigan, in the 1960s and recorded at first for the small Ric-Tic label, part of the Golden World recording company, and later for Motown Records (under the Gordy Records imprint), after the latter absorbed Ric-Tic in 1968 … The song which launched his career was "Agent Double-O-Soul" (1965), a reference to the James Bond films popular at the time … Other early hits included "Headline News", "Back Street" and "S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight)". While at Ric-Tic, he wrote the song, "Oh, How Happy", a #12 Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1966 for The Shades of Blue (he would go on to release a version of the song with Blinky in 1969) and sang lead for the Holidays on their #12 R&B hit, "I'll Love You Forever". At Motown he recorded a string of singles before enjoying an international success with "25 Miles", which he co-wrote with producers Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua. It peaked at #6 in both the Hot 100 and R&B Charts in 1969 … It was when Motown's Berry Gordy became frustrated with smaller labels like Ric-Tic stealing some of the success of his company that he bought out the label. Many of Starr's Ric-Tic songs (subsequently owned by Motown) like "Back Street" and "Headline News" became favored Northern Soul classics. His early Ric-Tic hit "Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.)" was reissued in Britain (with "Headline News" as its B-side) in 1968, and it performed better than the original release on the UK Chart, surpassing the original #35 and peaking at #11. His 1970 song "Time" also helped to establish him as a prominent artist on the Northern Soul scene … The biggest hit of Starr's career, which cemented his reputation, was the Vietnam War protest song "War" (1970). Starr's intense vocals transformed a Temptations album track into a number one chart success, which spent three weeks in the top position on the U.S. Billboard charts, an anthem for the antiwar movement and a cultural milestone that continues to resound in movie soundtracks and hip hop music samples. It sold over three million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. "War" appeared on both of Starr's War & Peace album and its follow-up, Involved, produced by Norman Whitfield.

During the mid-70s, like many other soul and R&B vocalists, Starr hadn't gotten fully comfortable with the big, busy, dance tracks, devoid of a message. After all he had moved away from the dance based soul of the 60s and now was expected to return to it. A different look with different shoes and different moves but still the same dance.

The O’Jays, one of the greatest of soul acts, were in the same boat. Their funk soul with a message sound was popular in the early to mid-70s but as the decade progressed the public wanted more beats and less politics. The crisis, doubt and unrest of the early-70s had given way to good times and drug fuelled hedonism. It was occurring across mainstream radio friendly music. Generally, people were tired of hearing about the troubles and wanted to dance their problems away. And, that desire tied in with the outlook of the music establishment. The good times and hedonism, reflected the life of the old, those still popular, popstars, now secure in their wealth, so that's what they sang about. The late 70s mainstream, with a few exceptions, Springsteen making statements, Dylan turning to God (a statement in itself) and a few others, was the domain of the dance beat and pop for pops sake … Andy Gibb, (the new) Rod Stewart, K.C and the Sunshine Band, Abba, The Bee Gees, Commodores, Bonnie Tyler, Meatloaf, Donna Summer, Village People, The Jacksons. (the new dancy) Dr Hook, (a beat laden) Rolling Stones, Wings. Elton John, Billy Joel etc etc (of course, punk and the new wave were bubbling under and about to addressed the imbalance)

If Starr wanted to remain viable he needed to transition back to dance based music.

He did.

He didn’t completely leave behind the message in his recorded music, despite what the public were looking for, but he certainly subsumed the message deep in the music, so the album title is quite apt.

This album helped ease the transition from message soul and funk to disco soul and funk.

The album is full of funky pure 70s soul in many of its forms (R&B, disco, balladry, funk) with Starr's voice as passionate, expressive and emotional as always, and, he ends up embracing disco convincingly.

Starr wasn’t one of the smooth soul singers (who slipped into disco easily) nor, exclusively, one of the soul shouters like James Brown but he bridges the two styles. Here he has combined his voice with some soft and hard disco funk beats to create a nice showcase for both sides.

Granted, a little of this goes a long way on me and the upbeat numbers resonate more than the ballads but this is in your face and good for the (dancing) feet also.

Producer by Edwin Starr (tracks: A1, A3, B4) and Lamont Dozier (tracks: A2, B1 to B3). All songs by Edwin Starr unless noted otherwise.

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side One

  • I'm So Into You – smooth disco funk with some horns that date from an earlier time. Nice but not distinctive.
  • Jealous – (Lamont Dozier – Edwin Starr) – even smoother and sexier …
  • Contact – (Robert Dickerson – Arthur Pullam – Edwin Starr) – trivial but with some undeniable dance beats (over seven and half minutes) which would have made it a dance floor favourite. And you can playfully booty bump and grind with any number of strangers on the dance floor (without being charged with assault)

Side Two

  • Storm Clouds On The Way – the "storm clouds" seem to be personal relationship ones not societal ones though there is some intentional ambiguity. Catchy.
  • Don't Waste Your Time – a big mid tempo soul ballad
  • Music Brings Out The Beast In Me – hmmmmm, not on this song it doesn't (you knew that was coming).
  • Working Song – finally, a glorious song. It's a little "old school" (ie: early 70s) with the horns and things but it has been updated for the late 70s. The beat is there, a message is there, and it thumps and pumps with Edwin in great voice. It is a statement on relationships but its attitude and strident nature wouldn't make it popular in current white ribbon times.

And …

Like I said a little goes a long way but there some magnificent song here … tape a couple and sell.

Chart Action



1979 Contact #1 Disco US Charts, #13R&B US, #65 Pop US


1978 #80 US, #22 R&B



1979 Contact #6 UK




live 2003

Storm Clouds On The Way

Music Brings Out The Beast In Me

Working Song

mp3 attached


with Bruce Springsteen





  • In 1983 Starr moved to England and settled in the West Midlands where he got regular work on the Northers soul scene. “During the next two decades he became an established part of the British soul music and show business worlds. He was a favourite of the northern soul dance scene, being voted number one in Blues & Soul magazine's northern soul poll. He gave 50 performances last year, touring with Martha Reeves (of Martha and the Vandellas) in the Motown nostalgia show Dancing in the Streets”.
  • He died in Chilwell, on the outskirts of Nottingham, England in 2003.

From the back cover:


Edwin Starr - Clean - back

Posted in Soul, Funk & Disco | Tagged | Leave a comment

VOLUNTEERS – Volunteers – (Arista) – 1976

Volunteers - Volunteers

I don’t have much information on “Volunteers”, the band, but it seems they are one of those bands where a couple of guys around town keep bumping into each other and decide to form a band.

And if that fails, you try again …

Los Angeles was central to rock music in the 1970s (as it was in the 60s and in the 80s and perhaps beyond). Musicians, songwriters and singers from all over the country were dropping in hoping to get signed.

It was the first place of call for work for the musicians from the south-west and south, and together, with the local sons and daughters of the displaced depression era refugees from the Midwest, it was inevitable that country sounds would filter into the scene. And it did, in a big way, becoming the centre for country rock in the US, especially after the phenomenal success of the Eagles in the early to mid-70s.

Volunteers spring from that.

The line-up is:

Wayne Berry – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars

George S. Clinton – vocals, keyboards, horn and string arrangements

Jerry Vilicich – vocals, bass guitar, lap steel

Joey Kluchar – drums, percussion

Southerner Berry who had been in Los Angeles since the late 60s kept bumping into the same old people, most notably Tennessean George S. Clinton, who he formed the country folk rock outfit, Timber, with.

Timber were part of the Los Angeles Troubadour country rock / folk rock crowd.

They released two albums, the first, "Part of What You Hear" (1970), on Kapp and the second "Bring America Home" (1971), on Elektra. Neither album went anywhere, though Berry was noticed as a songwriter and got to release a couple of solo albums for RCA. "Home at Last" (1974) has contributions from Jackson Browne, Jesse Ed Davis, Jeff Skunk Baxter and others (the backing band were basically the band that became Area Code 615) and was followed by, "Tails Out' (1975). Neither sold (there was also an earlier album for Capitol records that wasn’t released)

Meanwhile ex-Timber bandmate George Clinton had released "The George Clinton Band Arrives" (1974) on ABC.

Likewise it didn’t sell.

Together they decided to give it another shot and recruited local bass man Jerry Vilicich on vocals, bass guitar, lap steel and Joey Kluchar, who had played drums on Berry’s second album. They then went "back home" to Nashville and recorded this album. 

“Everything fell apart at RCA, but before it was finalized the VP at RCA who had heard the demos the secretary had played and had been instrumental to bringing me to the label pulled me aside one night and told me Clive Davis was about to start his own label, Arista Records. Everything was evidently in place behind the scenes for the label to kick off, but it had not yet gone public. What it looked like was that Clive was willing to make me an offer even though I was still at RCA. During that whole transition, George Clinton and I were reconnecting, partially because both of our careers were sputtering. Every time either of us would go three steps forward, we would go two steps back. So we got together and did some demos and put together some pickup bands … “Clive wouldn't offer us a deal right out, but he wanted to hear us. We met with him at the Beverly Hills Hotel where he had a bungalow. He took us to the ballroom, which was empty. The only people there were Bob Feiden, Clive, myself and Clinton. There was a white piano there, supposedly the same one used in the film "Holiday Inn." We played four or five songs with just acoustic guitar and piano and cut a deal right there. Ah, show biz! The stuff dreams are made of…..

“We didn't want to go out as a pre-Hall & Oates or something. We both were band players, so Volunteers morphed out of that. Originally, there were six of us. We rehearsed in Hollywood for several weeks and when the deal was finalized and the front money was there, we decided to go back to Nashville. We needed to get out of L.A. and the plan was to head to Nashville, rehearse and start recording there. Right at the last minute, two of the guys got cold feet. One of them had family. They both pulled out of the band, which was how we ended up a quartet. That really diminished the power of the band. I mean, I'm a competent guitar player, but I'm certainly not a lead guitarist. Both of the guys who left were guitarists, so before they left we had bass, drums, keyboards and three guitars. We were stubborn and doggedly determined, though, and we were already signed. Rather than back up and punt, we decided to go it on our own which was not really a great idea. The Volunteers album has some nice stuff on it, but musically it needed much more attention than it got. The four of us could not really carry what needed to happen … The album was received coolly and we went out on tour. We held our own, but not all that well, so the dates we played were not very strong. And that is basically how that project wound down.

The album bombed.

The music business is a bitch, even if you have talent.

Though this album is a misstep.

The music is country rock (just) with some (a lot of) smooth soft rock sounds thrown in. It isn't in the least rustic or rural, even though there are rustic, rural and commerc ial folk sounds in there, which are very smooth. Clearly there was an ear to what was going on at the time, musically. The soft rock, the upbeat sounds, good vibes and slick production make a lot of this sound like Christian rock of the time. There is nothing wrong with that but it may throw some people off. It's like hippies gone clean.

Wayne Berry left music, had a spiritual awakening, and became an ordained Preacher / Minister / Worship Pastor at Smyrna Assemblies in Smyrna Tennessee. He is a prolific writer of religious songs. Or as a punter described it “He is alive and well … and walks in the role of a Psalmist and a prolific writer of vertical songs to the Lord and horizontal songs for the people to encourage one another”.

Clinton stuck it out and now composes film scores for major and mid-major Hollywood films.

Jerry Vilicich (now that sounds like a Croatian name) is still plugging away in Los Angles and was in Ricci Martin and The Pack with Ricci Martin, an entertainer and the youngest son of legend Dean Martin (he died in 2016). Apparently he has also played with Loggins and Messina, The Doobie Brothers, Sly and The Family Stone, Linda Ronstadt, Boz Scaggs, The Beach Boys, Ambrosia, Danny Douma and Fleetwood Mac. Recently he was playing with LA based Australian singer Daniel Aranda.

Joey Kluchar is still playing in small and unsigned bands like PGH with Sputzy Sparacino, Southside Rhythm Section

All songs by the band unless specified.

Tracks (best in italics)

              Side One

  • All Night Long – (Berry-Clinton) – very, very slick with some funky asides creeping in (horns and things).
  • Queen Of The Night – (Adam Mitchell) – Mitchell was the former lead singer for Canadian 60s garage and psych rockers, The Paupers (and later wrote songs recorded by many acts including KISS, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Art Garfunkel etc. ( This song was subsequently recorded by Stonebolt for a single release (1978). Slick but quite good. Sneaky Pete plays slide guitar on this.
  • For The Lack Of Anything Better – (Clinton) – a ballad which is "inspirational" and hymn like. Surprisingly it's not by Wayne Berry (given his later career).
  • Maybe It Doesn't Even Matter Now – (Berry) – a mid tempo song with some sweet strings and keyboards added.
  • Long Haul – (Clinton-Berry) – Quite good with a couple of lines that sound like (in tempo and phrasing) as if they are from "Welcome Back" (#1 US Pop 1976) by John Sebastian. That was the theme song to "Welcome Back Kotter" which premiered in 1976. Very pleasant.

Side Two

  • Standing Up For Love – (Clinton) – and up-tempo song that sounds like a lot Christian rock of the time. 
  • Gypsy Thief (Who Do You Trust) – (Berry-Clinton) – Quite good though the keyboards are totally wimpy.
  • Driven Snow – (Berry-Clinton) –  another ballad. It doesn't have a hook and comes across as a small mood piece.
  • Lost In The Hills Of Hollywood – (Berry-Clinton) –  a warning piece, quite strident by this albums standards.
  • Payday (The Weekend Again) – (Berry) –

And …

Some okay tunes but too slick for me. I like my country flavoured rock a little ragged around the edges … I'm taping a couple of tracks and selling.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere


Long Haul 

mp3 attached






  • George Clinton ended up as a film composer doing the Austin powers films, “3000 Miles to Graceland" and others.
  • Produced by Jim Mason. I can't say for sure but I assume it is the same Jim Mason working in the mid-70s … "Jim co-wrote the Peter, Paul, and Mary hit "I Dig Rock-N-Roll Music", produced gold and platinum albums for the band, FireFall, produced albums for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Chris Hillman of the Byrds, and Richie Furay, of Buffalo Springfield. Other production credits of Jim's include Poco, the Cate Brothers, Bob Buford, The Rhinestones, Robbin Thompson, and Paul of Peter, Paul, and Mary, who originated the timeless "Wedding Song (There is Love)"".
  • There is session work from from Joe Lala on percussion and Sneaky Pete on pedal steel!(Photos of the band by the great David Gahr)1976.
  • Wayne Berry says, “I got very involved in left-wing politics as a teenager because left-wing politics was so fundamental to the folk movement. So many people who were voices in folk music were standing on platforms which were basically leaning to the left, politically. and “I got involved with The Underground and The Resistance,” he said, “helping people to evade the draft. That was a direct result of everything that had been keyed in during my mid-teen years because of the Civil Rights Movement. In those days, if it had to do with Republicans or conservatism, my path was in the extreme other direction. In a sense, you can trace a lot of the hippie culture and movement to that. Whether the hippies were going to vote Democrat or not was not the point. The point was that culture needed to change and it needed to change in a liberal context.”

Volunteers - Volunteers - back


RIP: Jim Nabors 1930-2017

Posted in Country Rock, Soft Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE PIPE DREAM – Wanderers / Lovers – (RCA) – 1969

The Pipe Dream - Wanderers Lovers

One familiar name crops up in conjunction with this album, Steve Schwartz.

None of the biographies of Stephen Schwartz allude to this record / group but it is undoubtedly him.

His website states, “Stephen Schwartz was born in New York City on March 6, 1948. He studied piano and composition at the Juilliard School of Music while in high school and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1968 with a B.F.A. in Drama. Upon coming back to live in New York City, he went to work as a producer for RCA Records, but shortly thereafter began to work in the Broadway theatre”. (my underlining … this album is released on RCA at that time)

Schwartz went on to do "Pippin" (1972) and "Wicked" (2003) for Broadway as well as songs for the films Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), The Prince of Egypt (1998) and Enchanted (2007) and others.

Take from that what you will.

But for me nothing he did comes close to the perfection of "Godspell".

His Broadway success (1971) and then film (1972).

The show / film was a part of my Catholic education (Scared Heart Convent, Rosalie and Marist Brothers Rosalie) in Brisbane. The songs were well known, often sung, and it seems, everywhere.

Of course they weren’t. The regular hymns would have taken precedence but the music of Godspell had an impact on us kids. I recall the film being shown to us through a whirling old projector and enjoying the colours, the movement and the variation on a story we knew well. (at least that is my recollection).

The music was so comforting (as so many things from your youth are) that I bought the soundtrack from an op shop when I first started op shopping … and there were many copies available, such was the success of the soundtrack.

To this day it is still a favourite musical film and I still watch it on a semi regular basis.

To me it was always infinitely preferable to the other religious musical, of the time, on Jesus' life, "Jesus Christ Superstar".  That rock opera I found just loud and sour.

But that perhaps is the difference.

Godspell is Broadway whereas Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera.

Or, perhaps, it's because Godspell seems to be catholic and "Jesus Christ Superstar” seems to be Protestant. Okay I know with a name like Schwartz it is unlikely he is Catholic and I know that the book writer (the guy who wrote the spoken bits of Godspell and the brainchild behind the musical), John-Michael Tebelak, was Episcopalian but the musical seemed to sum up the love and religious and humanist message post Vatican II. As Catholics we are not adverse to pain, suffering and guilt but 1970s Catholic teaching (as epitomised by the laughing happy Jesus) really did fit in with Godspell. "Jesus Christ Superstar" just seemed loud, slightly secular, humourless and old school.

Or, perhaps, it is because Godspell was American and Jesus Christ Superstar was English … and the English can't really do musicals.

I have travelled off topic perhaps but that is a good thing because there is very little information on this album and I need to fill in the space.

We know that the "group" is three guys and two girls (David, Steve, Pete, Chris and Pat) and it was recorded at RCA's Studio B, New York City and was arranged by, produced by, and largely written by Steve Schwartz.

At the age of 21 to get an album deal, as well as write, arrange and produce shows some balls but he had it … after all he had two major Broadway successes under his belt by the time he was 24.

Group member and songwriter, David Spangler, is also from Broadway having done “Nefertiti the Musical” (1977) and worked with Schwartz on "The Magic Box" (1974). Interestingly he worked with John-Michael Tebelak on the musical "Elizabeth 1" (1972)

This album breathes 1969.

The cover suggests, that there are two women and three men in the band but the female vocalists are more prominent across the whole album.

It’s sunshine pop with all its glorious harmonies with some, not surprising, asides and references to theatre and Broadway as well as some bubblegum and psych touches. It is well arranged with a lot of musicality. Lyrically, it is of its time also, questioning, gently cynical (look at the name of the band), with touches of humour.  They were aiming at the Fifth Dimension audience but it is also apt to think The Mamas and the Papas or the late 60s Beach Boys if they were a Broadway revue, or perhaps, theatre kids discover free love, drugs and class consciousness.

Groovy …

Tracks (best in italics)

             Side One – Lovers 

  • January Girl – (Schwartz) – This is lovely sunshine pop with one foot in Broadway (not surprisingly given the above). You can hear this in a movie of the time playing over the credits. It is hard to dislike and there is something memorable about it.
  • The Middle Of The Night – (Thomas, Levitt) – Don Thomas and Estelle Levitt were American 60s songwriters that wrote Herman's Hermits' "This Door Swings Both Ways", Lulu's "Love Loves To Love, Love", The Seekers' "Music Of The World A-Turnin' and other songs. A big sound.
  • The Winds Of Yesterday – (Spangler) – Full on MOR with a touch of melancholy as you would expect about a love song called "Winds of Yesterday".
  • Uphill Woman – (Schwartz) – Sunshine pop with baroque touches as a result of a harpsichord (?).
  • The Softness Of July – (Schwartz) – soft psych touches on this female tour de force.

Side Two – Wanderers 

  • Night In The City – (Mitchell) – Joni Mitchell released this as a single in 1968  which didn't chart (it appeared on her debut album of the same year "Song to a Seagull"
  • Mrs. Brown's Limousine – (Spangler) – I don't think I have a dirty mind, well, not exclusively, but there are some sexual double entendres going on here. Mrs Brown's is posh as she drives around in her limousine which may also be a part of her anatomy.
  • Getting To Me – (Williams) – Jill Williams put out a self-titled solo album on RCA in 1970 that was produced by Stephen Schwartz. She also did the music and lyrics to the unsuccessful Broadway musical “Rainbow Jones” (1974). Quite a catchy MOR sunshine pop number in the Fifth Dimension mould.
  • The 5:23 – (Schwartz) – a Broadway piece which is quite good in a show tune sort of way, well, show tune crossed with sunshine pop.
  • Councilman Brewster – (Schwartz) – a weird song about the life of a, errrr councilman or, would be councilman. I have no idea if it is a real person but it is daft but quite catchy and epic in scope … a persons life and ambitions from youth to old age in three minutes.

And …

Not fantastic but pleasant enough and it appeals to my sense of the obscure … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing nowhere


The whole album:

January Girl

mp3 attached






  • “Talking about Godspell, I’m not going to discuss religious topics, as I never do that. I feel that if people know about your personal beliefs, they bring that to the work. I’d rather have them respond the way they respond, and not have that coloured by whether they share my particular belief system. That being said, Godspell is about the philosophy that Jesus preached in the New Testament. It deals little with the question of divinity, unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), which is entirely the passion story. That aspect of the story only comes into Godspell in the last 20 minutes. We are basically dealing with the teachings of Jesus, and I think these transcend any particular religious belief, or lack of thereof. If you look at the principles of secular humanism, and you look at the teachings of Jesus and take out the word “God” where it appears, they are practically the same”
  • The Episcopal Church is the United States-based member church of the worldwide Anglican Communion … The Episcopal Church describes itself as "Protestant, yet Catholic".


The Pipe Dream - Wanderers Lovers - back


RIP: David Cassidy (1950-2017)

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ROD McKUEN – Other Kinds of Songs – (RCA) – 1966

Rod McKuen - Other Kinds of Songs - 1966

We probably need a Rod McKuen now more than we ever did.

In what seems to be an increasingly polarised world (at least in the middle class secular west) we need him to show that all men aren’t pricks and that they can be observant, sensitive and attentive to the feelings of others*.

In this way he is no different to Ray Davies, Brian Wilson, Albert Hammond, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and those greatest of non-composers Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

They all had the ability to communicate the vicissitudes of personal relationships on a micro level and in a way that seemed they were only singing to you.

They also, all, wore their hearts on their sleeves.

Romantics, lost romantics, emotional empaths.

Rod was the uber romantic.

But, despite having written a memoir, songs that are autobiographical and answered his own blog McKuen was a private man. His songs deal often with love and love lost but not often in a sexual way. He talked about his sexuality and love infrequently and then in atypically McKuen-esque way:

“Am I gay? Let me put it this way, Collectively I spend more hours brushing my teeth than having sex so I refuse to define my life in sexual terms. I've been to bed with women and men and in most cases enjoyed the experience with either sex immensely. Does that make me bi-sexual? Nope. Heterosexual? Not exclusively. Homosexual? Certainly not by my definition.

 I am sexual by nature and I continue to fall in love with people and with any luck human beings of both sexes will now and again be drawn to me. I can't imagine choosing one sex over the other, that's just too limiting. I can't even honestly say I have a preference. I'm attracted to different people for different reasons”.

I don’t need to examine it any more than he has outlined, and he probably wouldn’t want anyone to.

Perhaps his ability to see things from both sides gave him an edge in singing about emotions honestly (as it did Tennessee Williams in the written word) though that doesn’t explain those other singers, who have the same gift, mentioned above.

No, I think McKuen’s ability to get to the heart of things is based around his ability to listen and observe, and then express what he has heard and seen, frankly, without prejudice, or fear.

To listen and to observe doesn’t require any gender, sexuality, cultural, racial or religious requirements. The skills are available to anyone, and, people who have those skills can be found in all of the groups above.

His songs are heavy on the aforesaid observation and sometimes a little presumptuous about people feelings though he is describing what he sees through his eyes and based on his world experiences (don’t we all?). He pigeonholes some of his subjects, repeats himself occasionally, and everything is overlayed with a melancholy air which is wrapped up in trad pop which can be sensitive or incredibly kitschy.

The beauty though is in the delivery, the mood and the honesty. His frankness, in relation to himself, is everywhere in his music though not always explicit. His attitude is, perhaps, best encapsulated in his song title (on this album), “I'm Strong but I like Roses”.  His singing style is conversational and it seems as if he is talking to you in a bar or a coffee shop, or rather, a European coffee shop where they serve alcohol.

It’s hard not to be moved by the music, especially if you are a middle aged male and half tanked. And yet, women love him also, if the countless blog responses are anything to go by, but, they must, for totally different reasons. Mustn't they?

McKuen, here, in 1966 had not reached the peak of his career but he was an influential bubbling under type of guy.

Within three years Sinatra would record an album of his songs, “A Man Alone & Other Songs Of Rod McKuen” (1969), he would receive two Academy Award nominations as a composer  for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” (1969) and “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” (1969), his “Lonesome Cities” album of readings would win a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording in 1968, he would host a major network TV special (1968), and his books of poems would become best sellers with his books selling over one million copies in 1968 alone apparently.

This album seems to be a collection of recently written (circa 1966) McKuen songs which I assume are all recorded for this album.

All his usual themes are here fully formed and the music is lush without the soft around the edges treacle that would dull the sharp edges of similar trad pop music in the 70s. Don get me wrong there are heavenly backing vocals, strings and all sorts of things here but there is a crispness in the production which is the result of 60s recording techniques. In the 70s, with technological advancement the sounds would become a little duller, and accordingly the music a little blander (perhaps).

Yet he is soft, relaxing and melancholic romantic. If you like quiet words that paint a picture and love a soft, slight raspy voice sung in an almost conversational tone … then this is perfect.

Tracks (best in italics)

              Side One

  • The Hurtin' – (Rod McKuen – Mort Garson) – Mort Garson was a Canadian-born songwriter, composer and arranger who worked with a lot of trad pop and easy listening stars. This is a great song that captures one of McKuen's usual themes.
  • You  – (Rod McKuen) – mush, but superior, glorious mush about the narrators love for another.
  • Before The Monkeys Came  – (Rod McKuen – Lincoln Mayorga) – Lincoln Mayorga is an American songwriter, pianist, arranger, and conductor who worked in all sorts of style and recorded with every one from Andy Williams to Frank Zappa. Thematically, this is a weird song that sounds like a theme song to a Hollywood film, where people have dropped acid. It has something (everything) to do with love and sex.
  • The Summertime Of Days – (Rod McKuen – Mort Garson) – a ballad.
  • The Women  – (Rod McKuen – Brel – Louannest) – Jacques Brel was an old friend of McKuen’s who Rod stayed with when living in Paris in the early 1960s. Brel’s French version was called “Les Bitches’. Take from that what you will though McKuen says, on the liner notes, the song is a praise of women not a damnation. It may be an ode to women but it is certainly brutally honest. I'm not sure if you get away with this today in the mainstream music.
  • Zangra  – (Rod McKuen – Jacques Brel) – McKuen describes this, in the liner notes, as a "typical Jacques Brel song", and it is. A chanson given a 19th century feel it comes across as an art song or a leftover from a 1930s period musical). Any song that starts like this isn't western mainstream:

                  My name is Zangra and I’m lieutenant

                  At the Belonzio fort overlooking the plain

                  One day the enemy will come and make me a hero

      Side Two

  • Down At Mary's Old Time Bar – (Rod McKuen – Mort Garson) – recorded live apparently, this is a zippy song McKuen says was "conceived as an "art song"". It certainly changes tempo and narrative lines freely. A novelty but a pleasing one.
  • Meantime – McKuen's familiar ballad style. That is, a ballad with a gentle bounce and lots of lyrics about "us". It's always pleasing.
  • Open The Window And See All The Clowns – Rod would like a clown song, of course, but who are the clowns?
  • I'm Strong, But I Like Roses – Rod's statement of who he is.
  • The Statue – (Rod McKuen – Jacques Brel) –  Brel's familiar cynicism as he takes the point of view of a heroic statue. Now, that's putting yourself into someone else's shoes! Of course the statue refers to both the inanimate object and the flesh and blood narrator.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
  • Ain't You Glad You're Livin', Joe – McKuen says (in the liner notes) he included this song to show "all my songs aren't about the dead and dying, the loners and the lonely". Beautiful. Fluffy and perfect for a late 60s musical. They should have had him write the songs for "Doctor Dolittle".
  • Loneliness In Crowds – (Rod McKuen – John Addison) – Addison won an Oscar for his score for English film "Tom Jones" (1963) and went to California, as you would. This sounds like a song from a 60s musical film about a man with a mid life crisis. And it works.

And …

One of McKuen's best albums … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action





The Hurtin'


Before The Monkeys Came 

mp3 attached

The Women


Down At Mary's Old Time Bar


Open The Window And See All The Clowns

I'm Strong, But I Like Roses

Ain't You Glad You're Livin', Joe

Loneliness In Crowds




a video biography




  • Arranger and conductors are Mort Garson, Anita Kerr, Lincoln Mayorga and Tommy Morgan. Featured instrumentalists are Terry trotter (piano), James Helms (lead guitar), Stephens La Fever (bass).
  • Rod was know for his large collection of records. The liner notes here (1966) indicate  he lives in a big house in Southern California with his 8000 records.


* or maybe they are pricks that are but observant, sensitive and attentive to the feelings of others which would make them partial pricks



RIP: Malcolm Young (1953-2017)

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