MELANIE – The Good Book – (Buddah)- 1971

Melanie - The Good Book

OK I only did Melanie a month ago.

But, she's in arms reach and I'm in a rush and I need something to sooth the little edges of my brain.

Watching the news I keep thinking how apt Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" is (and wondering why someone hasn't done a recent cover of it) but I want to turn away from cynicism to hope.

Hence Melanie.

But was the world ever like that depicted by Melanie?

Sure it was, but you have to look for it, and so does Melanie.

Here, Melanie, on her 4th studio album is noticing that some of her flowers have wilted and the world around her can be oppressive and can disillusion even the most sunny of optimists

Melanie is still quite agrarian and rootsy (in an upstate New York kind o way – small towns, coffee shops, and hamlets as opposed to wide open places and being lost in nature) in her music and in her outlook, but there is some dark clouds hanging over the songs.

Melanie's solution is to both fight for optimism and to retreat from the source of the darkness, which seems to be modern living, the music business and the city.

Hardcore punk and agit-pop types may frown on the retreat-ism but ultimately one has to live and live as well as one can. Should change come from confrontation or should it come from showing those against you there in retreating and living well there are alternatives. I'm cynical about the latter but it would be nice and I've been wrong before.

I t may seem more than a little silly to be even remotely philosophical about contemporary pop music but ultimately pop music, can and often does, reflect the times.

In 1971 Melanie may have been lumped with sunshine music hippies whilst the MC5, The Stooges and others were whaming on about the decline of western civilisation but both forms have merit.

Melanie, though, could see the other sides point of view. There is darkness and melancholy in her gentle and personal songs.

There is also a wide world view which is something missing from a lot of singer songwriters who tend to internalise everything so that heartbreak is rarely put in perspective with what is going on around them.

Melanie hits gold often. How much gold is there depends on your tolerance of this type of music and of how many prejudices you hold.

Seriously, half the wounded indie femmes and alt country cowgirls owe a truck load to this chick.

See my other comments for biographical details.

All songs written by Melanie Safka, except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Good Book - These lyrics may not work on everyone but there is a certain innocent charm to them that is undeniable
  • Babe Rainbow – advice to women who have been smacked down and trampled on in the form of , you're better than that and him, pick yourself up and carry on. Melanie sings it emotively and powerfully …. she has convinced me.
  • Sign on the Window -  (Bob Dylan) – A cover of Dylan's ode to family (?) tune from his "New Morning" LP from 1970.
  • The Saddest Thing - and a very sad song
  • Nickel Song - a hit for Melanie and she return to her familiar child like voice. Innocent lyrics with a double meaning. Here she takes a swipe at the music industry. Fitting perhaps, given she was having trouble with her record label, Buddah, l and left after this album.
  • Isn't It a Pity – Four lines and a giggle. Strangely erotic.
  • My Father -  (Judy Collins) – very personal and effective as good as Collins' original.
  • Chords of Fame -  (Phil Ochs) – Phil Ochs beautiful, and cyncial song about the music industry, fame and taking the easy way out in life.
  • You Can Go Fishin' – I haven't been fishing in years. I used to go all the times as a kid with my uncles.This song is really about fishing. But rather a "fuck off" to a boyfriend.
  • Birthday of the Sun – a vocal tour de force.
  • The Prize -  another vocal tour de force. Both power and innocence. Melanie has this down pat.
  • Babe Rainbow (Reprise) – see above.

And …

Another winner …. I'm keeping it. I love this chick.
 
Chart Action
 
US
Singles

1972  The Nickel Song  The Billboard Hot 100  #35 

Album
1971 #80

England
Singles

 
Album

1971 #9
 
Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Melanie/The_Good_Book/a6e02149-c213-378c-8c12-73544ad1d6a1/

Sign on the Window
Mp3 attached
(sorry about the scratchiness)

Melanie – Sign in the Window

Nickel Song
Live
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAa-VzzCGyc

Chords of Fame
Live
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzECo5YnMDM

Others
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKN6lYU5bZ4
 
Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-good-book-mw0000843865
http://raeblog.blogspot.com.au/2009/12/good-book-melanie.html

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/melanie-mn0000409670
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanie_Safka

Website

http://www.melaniesafka.com/home.cfm
http://freespace.virgin.net/robert_ian.smith/Melanie.htm
http://melaniemusicsociety.tripod.com/Mercurio/Mercurio.html
http://www.melanie-music.org/

Trivia

Posted in Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE CRETONES – Snap! Snap! – (Planet) – 1981

Cretones - Snap Snap

This is another record that has been hanging around for about twenty-five years and I think I haven't listened to it in about that time. I recall thinking it was good enough to keep but then subsequently it had a fall from grace and went into my record purgatory section.

Way back then I knew very little about this band and in those pre-internet days I could find out very little, Now, however, some detail has been revealed – see who said the internet was just shopping and porn?

Wikipedia's entry on the band says: "The Cretones were a United States, Los Angeles-based new wave rock and power pop group in the early 1980s. Led by singer/guitarist and former Eddie Boy Band member Mark Goldenberg (who also wrote the bulk of The Cretones' material), the group had a strong sense of melody and a lyrical wit that placed them a cut above most of their new wave peers. Other members were Peter Bernstein (bass, vocals), Steve Beers (percussion) and Steve Leonard (keyboards, vocals).

Both their albums were released on Richard Perry's Planet Records label. They had one single that charted on the Billboard Magazine Hot 100: Real Love, in the spring of 1980, which was from their first album, Thin Red Line. The song Empty Heart, from their second album Snap Snap, was their only other song to receive significant airplay on album rock stations, but it did not chart as a single".

The Cretones were part of the onslaught of new wave and power pop (who were identified with the new wave) bands that emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s. The power pop scene had been small but resilient throughout the 70s. It faced commercial apathy as soft rock, country rock, glam rock, prog rock, disco and singer songwriter ruled the airwaves.

With the chart breakthroughs of The Romantics, The Knack, Shoes, Cheap Trick and Tommy Tutone in the US the market for power pop became viable.  Along with any number rock bands who had been plying their power pop trade came a wave of 20 or 30-somethings who got hair cuts, shaved off their beards, put on some colourful clothing and learnt to write two minute power pop rock songs.

Check out my other power pop comments for more detail on the genre.

Power Pop was largely the "older" young mans version of punk …it's not really punk with one foot in the 60s and early 70s rock n roll but it has enough disdain for the commercial mainstream of the late 70s and early 80s that it could ride on the coat tails of the new wave and be badged accordingly.

I know there are exceptions to the rule but the more power pop I listen to the more that this seems to be the pattern.

Is there anything wrong with that?

No.  But, whilst their music is  stylistically similar to that of their younger brothers it doesn't have the same urgency or immediacy.

They don't sound as "new".

And by "new" I don't mean something that is unheard of but I do mean something unexpected and, possibly , out of step with the times, something uncommercial as new sounds always are when they start out.

What these bands do have is playing ability and some broad sounds that encompass more influences from the past.

The Cretones seem to it into this category of a new wave-ish power pop band made up of musicians who have been around the block a couple of times. Writer-singer Mark dates back to the early 70s (he was singer and guitarist in Chicago's "Eddie Boy Band" in the mid 70s … "The Eddie Boy Band" were mainstream, with 'soulful' vocals, funk-lite rhythm guitar and a smidgin of boogie rock).

A lot of these bands – especially those from the West Coast tend to be overproduced, more than a little slick and quite soft at heart. It's as if the labels were hedging their bets and making the sound palatable to those who were into the ever popular soft rock. .

The Cretones fit this though they are a little under-produced.

The songs should have a little more punch.

Mind you they were on Richard Perry's "Planet" records – hardly the forefront of new wave.

But, underneath it all are some undeniably good tunes and a sound that transports you back to, well 1981.

This is their second album and I haven't heard their first which is generally considered to be superior. Three songs of that album were covered by Linda Ronstadt on her platinum-selling 1980 album, "Mad Love" on which Goldenberg also played. Err, so much for new wave.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Empty Heart – a big rocker
  • Hanging On To No One – power pop without the punch and some Fischer Price keyboards. It's  a pity the song is quite catchy.
  • Swinging Divorcee – pumping piano that are actually keyboards. Against this is a bit of a dull beat song with sax and guitar solos thrown in.
  • Lonely Street - a early late 50s, early 60s styled beat song
  • I Can't Get Over You – a mid tempo power pop song
  • One Kiss – so so
  • Love is Turning – pleasant but not distinctive
  • Girls! Girls! Girls! – the tinkly Casio keyboards work here. Very catchy, though I prefer the Elvis song of the same name.
  • Snap! Snap! - an instrumental. Ha, I like that the title track is an instrumental.
  • Mood Vertigo – a mish mash of a power pop song with a appealing jittery performance.

And …

Patchy …. I may tape a couple of songs and flog it off. Well at least, either way, it will get out of purgatory.
 
Chart Action
 
Nothing no where

Sounds

Empty Heart
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OIMJtn8LGw

Lonely Street
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7qyLxyYPYM

Girls! Girls! Girls!
mp3 attached

Cretones – Girls Girls Girls

Others

 
Review

http://thriftstoremusic.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/the-cretones-snap-snap.html
http://lostbands.blogspot.com.au/2005/02/cretones.html
http://www.popredux80.com/2012/11/real-love-by-cretones.html
 
Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/cretones-mn0001178445
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cretones

Photos
http://www.photofeatures.com/cretones/index.html

Website

http://www.markgoldenberg.com

Trivia

  • Goldenberg went on to solo work and to perform (and or record with as a session musician) with Jackson Browne, Peter Frampton, Chris Isaak, Ringo Starr, Roy Orbison, Lyle Lovett, Elton John, Glenn Frey, Feargal Sharkey, Travis Tritt, Randy Newman, Neil Diamond, Jesse Colin Young, Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings. 
  • He also went on to write songs for other artists. Among the hits he wrote or co-wrote are "Automatic" by the Pointer Sisters, "Along Comes a Woman" by Chicago, "Soul Kiss" by Olivia Newton-John, "Novocaine For the Soul" by Eels as well as songs for Karla Bonoff, Cher, Judy Collins, Jane Wiedlin, Kim Carnes and others. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mark-goldenberg-mn0000827477/credits
  • He is currently in Hugh Lauries touring band.
  • Cretones members Steve Beers and Peter Bernstein went into film and TV scores, together an individually including "21 Jump Street".

Cretones - Snap Snap - Back Sleeve

 

 

Posted in Power Pop, Punk and New Wave | Tagged | Leave a comment

ROAD – Road- (Rare Earth) – 1972

Road - Road

Was I ever "really" into 70s hard rock?

I was  a kid in the 70s and perhaps too young to appreciate hard rock though it was there on the radio. The first hard rock album I bought was AC/DCs "Back in Black" in 1980 (unless you count Suzi Quatro as hard rock) but that was an anomaly. I probably really discovered hard rock in the mid 80s in my late teens.

The reasons for that were numerous…

  1. New Wave had gone it's distance;
  2. New Wave's fascination with music from the 60s had moved to the 70s and bands had changed, accordingly, with the times. Think "The Cult", amongst others;
  3. There was a "Detroit" explosion going on and everything was The Stooges and MC5 (OK, they were 60s bands, but 60s bands that anticipated the 70s),
  4. There was a desire to re-discover or discover for the first time those sounds you heard on the radio in the 70s, and that was even more acute when you were in your late pre-teens in the 70s;
  5. Bands I liked from the 60s, like The Kinks, especially, and the Rolling Stones, had added hard rock trappings to their sound in the hope of being as noisy as their punk counterparts;
  6. There were a lot of 70s hard rock records languishing in op-shops and second hand stores.

This last point was perhaps the most influential factor on my 70s hard rock listening.

I picked up albums by Led Zeppelin (and discovered their undisputable greatness), Deep Purple (I played "Machine Head" over and over), Bon Scott era AC/DC (this is Australia and their old LPs were everywhere for a couple of bucks),  Free (I grooved to "Fire and Water"), Lynyrd Skynyrd (who didn't have a beer whilst listening to "Second Helping"?), Steppenwolf (not knowing they had some crunching albums after their 60s hits), Status Quo (we all got neck aches headbanging, under the influence, to their "12 Gold Bars" LP) as well as albums by Grand Funk Railroad, Mountain, Aerosmith, Jeff Beck, Black Oak Arkansas, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and any of the bands Carmine Appice was in.

Op-shops were good and the music was easy to access and, well, at it's best it was great music which, when turned to, errrr, "11", numbed you with its power and noise.

So, yes, I played a lot of "hard rock", albeit for a short time. It didn't rule my life but it did populate the shelves next to my turntable.

Today, I don't really search out hard rock but I do have 20 or so hard rock albums from the 70s which are amongst my favourite LPs.

And just when you think you know what's what in hard rock along come this band "Road".

I had no idea who this was when my mate (thanks Mitchell) gave me this album though I knew Noel Redding was Hendrix's bass player. When you have such a persuasive front man you sometimes forget that the sidemen have careers also.

Road were and Anglo-American super group (Redding and Samson are English) albeit, arguably, a second tier supergroup as none of the players were "big stars".

Wikipedia: "Road was an American hard rock band that formed in Los Angeles, California in 1970. Comprising bassist/vocalist Noel Redding (previously of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Fat Mattress…), guitarist/vocalist Rod Richards (formerly of Rare Earth) and drummer/vocalist Leslie Sampson, the band released one album, Road, in 1972".

Road play hard rock.

Wikipedia: "Hard rock (or heavy rock) is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music which has its earliest roots in mid-1960s garage rock, blues rock and psychedelic rock. It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with pianos and keyboards"

Road being fairly early in the 70s and with a late 60s psychedelic pedigree lean to the "Heavy Psych" hard rock sound :  loud, fuzzed-out and trippy psychedelic sounds of the late 60s turned up for the 70s.

Road utilise very little of hard rocks other available stylistic motifs:  blues boogie, metal or proto punk noise.

And, why should they when they are happy with using a base they are familiar with, psychedelica.

Wikipedia (wtf again!) define psychedelic rock as a music that "attempted to replicate the effects of and enhance the mind-altering experiences of hallucinogenic drugs, incorporating new electronic and recording effects, extended solos and improvisation and was particularly influenced by eastern mysticism, reflected in use of exotic instrumentation, particularly from Indian music or the incorporation of elements of eastern music".

This is true though the American variation on the same also included music that was neither whimsical or surrealistic but hard and heavy. Road travel down this road (sic) and lean heavily on the acid rock which had come from California in the wake of Jefferson Airplane, Iron Butterfly, The Grateful Dead and others.

This is where Road lies…

Wah-wah guitar, trippy vocals, spacey sounds, long songs … 

It's not new and even when they do asides with some country flavoured slower songs (maybe that's why they are superimposed over Monument Valley on the sleeve)  they aren't taking the music anywhere it hasn't been before.

But, they nail it, with one hell of a big farking nail.

Noel Redding and Leslie Sampson are good but the real standout is Rod Richards on guitar with his wah-wah wizardry. Richards had played with American R&B come light psych Detroit band "Rare Earth" (yes the band have the same name as the record label. The label, which was the "rock" subsidiary of black soul Motown records, was named after the band who were one of their early all white signings) on their first three albums. I have heard  only one of those, "Get Ready" from 1969, and he isn't up front. Here, he is all over the music, writing, playing and singing.

I have no idea who sings lead (most sound like they are probably Noel) but it all works… this is a power-rock trio with a lot of style and substance who manage to avoid the pitfalls of this type of music (pretentiousness, long pointless soloing etc).

It's a pity they only recorded this one album.
 
Tracks (best in italics)

  • I'm Trying – (Rod Richards) – trippy, with perfect late 60s psych  sounds updated to the early 70s
  • I'm Going Down to the Country – (Noel Redding) – this steps back into Led Zepp territory with a mix of hard rock and country … with some post-hippie psychedelic folk thrown in;
  • Mushroom Man  – (Rod Richards, Leslie Sampson) – a psych record with a "mushroom" in the tile ….what are the chances, eh?
  • Man Dressed in Red   – (Noel Redding) – a total space trip with some seriously whacked out fuzz guitar.
  • Spaceship Earth  – (Rod Richards) – "spaceship earth" – of course. Did I mention the psychedelic influences?
  • My Friends   – (Noel Redding) – a instrumental with occasional vocals. It's a showcase for the musicians. Lots of wah-wah, bass runs, and drum solos.
  • Road  – (Rod Richards) – lysergic blasts of stoned early seventies rock. It pumps and drives.

And …

There a couple of ordinary cuts, but generally this record is killer and it has great period flavour …. I'm keeping it.
 
Chart Action
 
Nothing nowhere.

Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Road/Road/c0a91ab7-562a-3f0a-8c25-577a9411cf5b/

Man Dressed in Red
Mp3 attached

Road – Man Dressed in Red

Others

 
Review

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_(album)
http://www.allmusic.com/album/road-mw0000454363
 
Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_(band)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noel_Redding
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/noel-redding-mn0000450700/biography
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/les-sampson-mn0001497385

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Wilson_(producer)

Website

Trivia

  • Redding had performed with The Loving Kind" before joining Hendrix. He also played in "The Noel Redding Band", "British Invasion All-Stars", "305 AM and Keith Dion", "Noel Redding and Friends", "Yardbirds Experience", "Phish" and Shut Up Frank" with Dave Clarke, Mick Avory of The Kinks and Dave Rowberry of The Animals.
  • Richards went on to a solo career…unsuccessful.
  • Sampson joined Redding in "The Noel Redding Band" before joining "Eggs Over Easy", "Stray Dog", "Ramatam", "The Gas"in the 80s and "Sally Barker And The Rhythm and The Pirates" in the 90s.
  • The front sleeve with the band superimposed over the majestic Monument Valley has the words "Save our Open Spaces" across the bottom ….  and it should.

 

Posted in Hard Rock, Psychedelic | Tagged | Leave a comment

TRINI LOPEZ– Now! – (Reprise) – 1967

Trini Lopez - Now

Is it wrong to love the music of Trini Lopez?

To answer that you would have to ask yourself what you get out of the music.

The important word in that sentence is "you".

If "you" love the music, for whatever reason, then so be it.

That's enough to make it as good as The Beatles or Elvis to "you".

I'm not suggesting that Trini Lopez is on the same level as Elvis, Lennon or McCartney when it comes to historical and cultural significance.

That would be ridiculous.

What I am saying is that Trini is on the same level of historical and cultural significance as is George Michael, Eddie Vedder and Kanye West.

And Trini is infinitely more entertaining than any of them  ….

….well, to me at least.

Music is an individual thing and what strikes a chord (sic) in one person may not do the same in another.

Of course there are those artists who strike many chords and transcend music but we are talking about Elvis, The Beatles, Dylan, Sinatra, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry and perhaps another dozen or so artists.

The rest are artists whose music we like or don't like.

They may change your life but they don't change many lives.

It is just music after all.

But sometimes inadvertently musicians come to find themselves as signpost to change.

Trini, because of his widespread popularity in the 1960s (especially on the US Adult Contemporary  charts as well as on television) must have had a hand in breaking down the doors of exclusion to Mexican American musicians. If he didn't break it down his non-threatening MOR rock (or at least that's what it became) gave middle American acceptance of his cultural antecedents in a way Richie Valens (and his miscegenation) or Sam the Sham and his eccentricities didn't.

Trini has had a historical cultural influence … can Eddie Vedder say the same?

Of course I'm being sarcastic.

Aren't I?

I do love the music of Trini Lopez

What do I get from the music -  I get beats, I get rhythm, I get straight ahead music where the delivery and good times are more important that the message which does slide through unnoticed on occasions.

The line notes to this album tell you what Trini is and isn't:

"Trini Lopez has the knack of making every song he sings sound like FUN. He's not "hippie" or "avant-garde" or "socioconscious". He's just a helluva lot of fun to listen to"

"Some people think there's something wrong with a guy who smiles all the time. If that's true, then there's probably something wrong with Trini Lopez – because he smiles a lot. Not only that, he goes around singing all the time! And he makes other people smile and sing! As a matter of fact, this new Trini Lopez album will more than likely make YOU smile and sing a lot. Take it home and play it a few times. Then see if anybody's looking at you strangely"

I guarantee you they will be.

But fuck 'em.

This is fun music.

Though the fun has been a little retrained on this album. Trini's Mex-American go-go guitar sound has been turned down a little here. There are "Hollywood style" horns accompanying him on the songs, something that is reinforced by fact that five of the songs are movie themes.

The other songs are made up of familiar hits of the day.

I suspect there was a desire to change Trini into a Dean Martin type of variety star (with rock and pop leanings) – that's great for Dean but doesn't necessarily work for Trini.

Check out my other comments for biographical detail.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • There's A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World) – (Reed-Stephens) – not with Trini around there isn't. Trini plays with this one and gives it the "Lopez treatment". What was a catchy MOR tune now becomes a go-go song with repetitive rhythmic guitar and short bursts of Alpert-esque horns. The song was a hit in 1967 for Herman's Hermits (#4US). It was originally done by co-writer by Geoff Stephens with his New Vaudeville Band group. A single by Gary and the Hornets from Ohio had significant regional success with the song in 1966.
  • Theme From The Sand Pebbles (And We Were Lovers) – (Bricusse-Goldsmith) – There was nothing upbeat in this film ("The Sand Pebbles") of historical cynicism and social alienation as embodied by Steve McQueen. Here it comes as a McKuen-esque tale with a "Theme for a Summer Place" type of intro. Trini takes it down a notch and creates something ethereal, albeit MOR ethereal.
  • Sunny – (Bobby Hebb) – up-tempo – Trini captures the magic of Bobby Hebbs original (#2 US 1966). Hebbs song about the choice of optimism over pessimism is quite powerful. The song has been done by everyone but Trini's bounce to the song is positively joyous. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunny_(song)
  • Hold Me Now And Forever - (Zeller-Costa) – from the Dean Martin western film "Rough Night in Jericho" – a interesting film and the song has been stripped of any authentic country though it does have a certain 60s lackadaisical Hollywood county lope to it.
  • Guanatanamera (Lady Of Guantanamo) – (José Martí-Pete Seeger-Héctor Angulo) – no one can fuck up this song – a great song and Latino types add that extra zing to it that only an authentic Latinos can do. Although associated with Pete Seeger the Sandpipers had a hit with it (#9US) in 1966.
  • You Talk Too Much – (Jones-Hall) – A hit for Joe Jones (#3US) in 1960. This version has a gentle acoustic bounce  – straight pop with some nice tinky guitar in the bridge which could have come from a Elvis movie of the same era. In act the whole song could have been written for an Elvis film.
  • I Wanna Be Free – (Boyce-Hart) – a very Boyce and Hart song whose airy pop you wouldn't think works with Trini – but it does. Originally done by The Monkees on their debut 1966 album.
  • Once I Wondered – (Adamson-Fain) – mush. A song from the stage version of "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Harold Adamson and Sammy Fain.
  • Where's The Love – (Legrand-Weinstein) – from "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg") – more mush but then so the premise of the film (the delivery of the premise in the film was outstanding). The song has been done by everyone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Will_Wait_For_You
  • In The Land Of Plenty - (Cymbal-Costa) – The only song "original" on the album? Written by ex-singer Johnny Cymbal and arranger Don Costa. This is as close as you'll get to a protest song from Trini – and quite effective lyrically. There are no call to arms or thoughts for strident militancy at it's core but there is a question made of American society. It's not unpatriotic its just saying why is there poverty in the "land of plenty"?
  • The Eyes Of Love – (Russell-Jones) – from the film "Banning" – not really all that good. Bob Rusell and Quincy Jones wrote it and it was nominated for an Oscar. Jack Jones did the most well known version at the time.
  • Born Free – (Barry-Black) -  from the film "Born Free – for a slab of MOR this song always was and is such a good song but it works because we know the film and the e motional environmentalism it advocates. Though associated with Matt Monro and Andy Williams, Roger Williams had a instrumental hit with it in 1966 (#7US).

And …

Perfect for parties …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action
 
US
Singles

Album
1967 #162

England
Singles
Album

 
Sounds

Guanatanamera (Lady Of Guantanamo)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40VYtcZAiaM

I Wanna Be Free
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGs1ZdTc3Os

In The Land Of Plenty
Mp3 attached

Trini Lopez – In The Land Of Plenty

Others
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya_vUAF94gM
with The Ventures doing The Doors (and Hawaii Five-O) …this smokes …
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbpcrtzVMK8

Review

Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trini_Lopez
 
http://www.pennydreadfulvintage.com/1960s-go-go-dancing-pictures-and-videos/

Website

http://www.trinilopez.com/
 
Trivia
– 

Posted in Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

MELANIE – The 7th Wave – (Powderworks)- 1983

Melanie - 7th Wave

How many Melanie albums do I have that I have not listened to before?

A lot!

Feel free to groan if you don't like Melanie.

This is not a Melanie blog but I find myself playing a lot of her music because I know what I'm going to get, more or less.

That is not criticism – that applies to most acts whether it be the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed or U2.

That is what they do and there is comfort in that.

By 1983 Melanie was well and truly no longer a chart force despite having some pleasing and powerful singer songwriter albums.

The 80s did not lend themselves to singer songwriters in the charts – unless they were overwrought, narcissist and only inward looking. The decade, in the mainstream, was about flash and cash. Emotions were superficial and worn on the sleeve. It was the first decade where mainstream music was infinitely less interesting than the music from the alternative, indie or non mainstream charts.

But if you were a charting act there is an expectation to remain in the charts. Chart success means more records, more touring, more shows and maintaining your family in a certain lifestyle. Many an "older" act ruined themselves (or a t least sullied their image by jumping on the "now" sounds without really understanding or  knowing what the "now" sounds are.  

Mainstream record labels run by old farts still hoping for the Beatles to reform or the next Pink Floyd opus certainly didn't.

But sometimes you don't see what is staring you in the face.

Much, well a bit, of the underground 80s was dedicated to a revival of sounds from the 50s or 60s. The "Paisley Underground" bands in California mined 60s trippy sounds. The Jam and other in England exploited  R&B  and soul. For a while it seemed that everything indie was influenced by The Doors and The Velvet Underground. ^0s and 50s sounds kept bubbling through in indie acts who "made it" as well as those who didn't: think The Romantics, The Knack, Robert Gordon, Dwight Twilley, Green on Red, The Long Ryders, The DBs, Nick Lowe …

You would think that an actual artist from that era, like Melanie, could capitalise.

But, perhaps, in the days pre the internet with an industry run by old farts it's sometimes difficult to see what's happening.

The mainstream dictated that the sound should be clean, big, bland, and up-tempo.

And, that is perfect for the 80s …. clean, big, bland, and up-tempo….even though the world is collapsing under the weight of Reaganism, Thatcherism an imploding  totalitarian states.

Melanie jumps on board for some Bonnie Tyler, Jefferson Starship type action.

But it is testament to Melanie (at least on this album) that she doesn't seem totally convinced of her new direction.

She keeps elements of her signature 70s sound and when the album sticks to that it succeeds.

See my other comments for biographical detail.

All songs Melanie-Peter Schekeryk unless noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Didn't You Ever Love Somebody - This is very familiar mid 70s Melanie and it's not too bad.
  • Every Breath Of The Way - This is an up-tempo song but with a pleasingly, for me at least, sound that could have come from 1974 given it is driven by a rocking acoustic guitar. It is quite infectious and anticipates The Proclaimers and other acoustic rock songsters.
  • Lay Down Sally - (Eric Clapton) – very catchy cover of a song off Clapton's "Slowhand" (1977) album. Who would have thought that Melanie has made Clapton palatable to me.
  • Lonesome Eyes – (Peppi Castro) – wtf? – screechy electric guitars. Melanie tries to go "contemporary" here. By that I mean mainstream  "contemporary" from a older established act. This doesn't sound like anything new coming out in 1983 but it does sound like a 70s act desperately trying to sound relevant. There were many of them and unfortunately Melanie has bought into it. Lame
  • Dance To The Music – not likely. Rubbish.
  • Apathy – yehhhhh, contemporary. It's not to bad but ultimately, blah.
  • If You Go Your Way – very catchy
  • Lovers Lullaby – the old school Melanie sound …but not overly memorable.
  • Nickel Song - (refrain from "Music Music Music" by Bernie Baum and Stephen Weiss) – I believe this is the same version of the song from Melanie's "Photograph" (1976) album. Was she really short on songs? In my comment on that album I said "Melanie is in her familiar cutesy voice though, lyrically, the song is not cute at all. An excellent bouncy jaunt which is more than a little cynical"…and that remains the case.
  • Lovin' The Boy Next Door - Melanie's pre-adolescent daughters (Leilah and Jeordie) do backing vocals and give the song a Melanie, circa 1969, feel.

And …

Not great but when Melanie sticks to what she knows it's pretty good …. I'm keeping it.
 
Chart Action
 
US
Singles
Album

England
Singles
1983 Every Breath Of The Way #70
Album

Sounds

Every Breath Of The Way
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC2-fjCmDXQ
mp3 attached

Melanie – Every Breath of the Way

Apathy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuDp4OUt8Us

Nickel Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAa-VzzCGyc

Lovin' The Boy Next Door
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkpULyLMZzY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N98BL4ni2Ps

Others
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cqg3kcwAgso
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6zfS96WGNE
 
Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/seventh-wave-mw0000846611

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/melanie-mn0000409670
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanie_Safka

Website

http://www.melaniesafka.com/home.cfm
http://freespace.virgin.net/robert_ian.smith/Melanie.htm
http://melaniemusicsociety.tripod.com/Mercurio/Mercurio.html
http://www.melanie-music.org/
 
Trivia

  • This album was, apparently, a European only release ( on Neighbourhood Records). The version I have here is Australian and on RCA's Powderworks label and has a shuffled track listing. The sleeve also different to the English (both versions) and German releases.
  • "Lovin The Boy Next Door" appeared on "Cowabonga" (1989) and "Precious Cargo" (1991).
  • "Every Breath Of The Way" and "Didn't You Ever Love Somebody" were later re-recorded for Melanie's next release, "Am I Real Or What" (1985), and a live version of "Apathy" was included on the "On Air" (1997) album.
Posted in Folk Rock, Rock & Pop, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHNNY RIVERS – Realization – (Imperial) – 1968

JOHNNY RIVERS – Realization

I've done Rivers a few times on this blog and I always look forward to his albums.

Read the other comments for bio and ravings but, in  brief, I can say that it wasn't always like that.

I assumed he was a singles and covers act with a limited vocal range and with limited musical ambitions.

Well, he was a singles act for a while, did quite a lot of covers, and had a limited vocal range. But he was a supreme song stylist and he used his voice in more ways, with more ambition, with more smarts and skill, than many others with "better" voices. He was, also, in touch with, and affected by the times. There isn't much posturing here. This is heartfelt music.

Allmusic have this to say about the album, and I can't say it any better: "Not a concept album, but a song cycle depicting life in southern California in the late '60s, Realization is a fine cycle to catch a ride on. It's also a serious surprise — when psychedelia reared its head in 1967, the results were frequently disastrous for those performers who'd been specializing in straight-ahead rock & roll, and few had rocked harder or more straight-ahead than Johnny Rivers. Instead of jumping on a bandwagon that had nothing to do with where he was musically, he hijacked the sounds of psychedelic rock — much as the Temptations did at Motown — and took it where he was going. Acting as his own producer for the first time, Rivers opened up a slightly gentler side to his work that's equally valid and a lot more interesting, if not quite as exciting as his rock & roll classics". http://www.allmusic.com/album/realization-mw0000040595

Rivers co-songwriter, rhythm guitarist and, no doubt, kindred sprit (given they were friends) on this album was James Hendricks. Hendricks had a folk background having been in The Big Three with Tim Rose and a pre-Mamas and the Papas Cass Elliot. In between a stop start solo career he was also in The Mugwumps with Mama Cass, Zal Yanovsky and Denny Doherty before Mama Cass and Doherty went to The Mamas and the Papas and Yanovsky went to The Lovin Spoonful

Rivers was also backed by some fine session musicians: Bass, Guitar – Joe Osborne, Drums, Percussion – Hal Blaine, Guitar – James Burton, Rhythm Guitar – James Hendricks, Horns, Strings – Marty Paich, Keyboards – Larry Knectchel.

But Rivers is the auteur. He produced himself here (for the first time) and no doubt knew what he was looking for.

It is very 1968 ("realization" indeed) but it hasn't dated as much as some other albums from the same year.

Rivers had made steps away from his straight rock n roll but this album comes fully formed and, possibly, from someone you didn't expect.

Many of the 50s and early 60s rockers were trying to keep up with the times but not all succeeded. Those successful ones include Elvis who re-invented himself, Ricky Nelson who went country, Bobby Darin who abandoned his hit making sound,  and Dion, perhaps the best comparison to Rivers, who embraced the spirit of the counter culture and put out music that was "heart on sleeve" type stuff.,

So why isn't Rivers more respected?

I suspect it's because of his pop background (though the Beatles transcended theirs), his love of music regardless of whether it was his or not (covers), and his ability to change, readily and successfully (too much success isn't trusted).

Oh, and he wasn't English. A truckload of rock criticism comes from England and Rivers never even charted there.

But, the proof is in the listening and this album is sublime and evocative and seduces you into enjoying it.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Hey Joe - (William Roberts) – Rivers' excellent slow, gently trippy cover of this song is more like the Tim Rose version from 1966 than the more well known Hendrix version  from the same year though it seems that Hendrix got the song from Rose also). The song has quite a history. See the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hey_Joe
  • Look To Your Soul – (James Hendricks) -  shades of Wichita Lineman (1968) …another song about finding yourself rather than "playing the game".
  • The Way We Live   - (Johnny Rivers) -  shades of Dylan on the organ. This is a  statement for tolerance ….low key and quite effective. I love songs that reference "material things" especially as I sit here with all my vinyl, books and crap around me.
  • Summer Rain - (James Hendricks) -  a real groove gets going on this …and the song even references Sgt Peppers by name .
  • Whiter Shade Of Pale – (Gary Brooke, Keith Reid) – as good as the well known Procol Harum (1967) original. Seriously, you may prefer the original but this version holds up.
  • Brother Where Are You – (Oscar Brown Jr.) – Written and performed by jazz vocalist Oscar Brown Jr on his "Mr Oscar Brown Jr Goes To Washington" album from 1965. This is a beautiful slow, pensive song. Rivers does the song well.
  • Something Strange – (James Hendricks, Johnny Rivers) – strings are added but there is little schmaltz. This is a very late 60s rumination.
  • What's The Difference - (Scott McKenzie) – A great song originally done in 1967 by the underrated Scott McKenzie (of "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" fame). A beautiful song about leaving.
  • Going Back To Big Sur - (Johnny Rivers) – if you are Californian and you want to "get away from it all", Big Sur seemed to be the place to go …especially if you have some cash. Having been to Big Sur I have no problem with that – it's spectacular. Rivers wears his heart on his sleeve and it's convincing.
  • Positively 4th Street - (Bob Dylan) – a brilliant interpretation of Dylan's wonderful song from 1965 (perhaps the first cover of the song). Rivers is at full power as an song interpreter here though Rivers natural nasal helps to bring memories of Dylan's natural nasal. Wonderful. Dylan has said in his book "Chronicles: Volume One" that he preferred Johnny Rivers' version of "Positively 4th Street" to his own recording of the song.

And …

Excellent …. I'm keeping it.
 
Chart Action
 
US
Singles

1968  Look To Your Soul  The Billboard Hot 100  #49   
1968  Summer Rain  The Billboard Hot 100  #14 

Album

1968 #5

England

 
Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Johnny_Rivers/Realization/aebf1e70-d1ba-351d-afca-e3c5bd6d1ba9/

Summer Rain
Live 1973
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfvbtbmJyoU

Positively 4th Street
Mp3 attached (sorry about the crackle)

Johnny Rivers – Positvely 4th Street

Others
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAc0FKyBgks
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MXxfftWnHs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5R-_ZUf0wY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9x63P5dcoTM
 
Review
 
http://www.allmusic.com/album/realization-mw0000040595
http://www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/johnny-rivers-realization-revisited
http://thesethingstoo.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/albums-of-magic-and-beauty-3.html
 
Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Rivers

Website

http://www.johnnyrivers.com/jr/

Trivia

  • Rivers moved to Nashville in the late 1950s, where he teamed up with another young hopeful singer (and future country music star), Roger Miller.  They wrote songs together and made a little money singing demonstration tracks for Elvis and Johnny Cash.
Posted in Psychedelic, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

DAVE EDMUNDS – Tracks on Wax – (Swan Song) – 1978

Dave Edmunds - Tracks on Wax 4

Edmunds' immersion and love of 50s and 60 straight ahead rock 'n' roll  meant he has kept the spirit of that music alive in times when it had very little commercial potential.  

And, importantly, he did it with incredible smarts and talent. What he lacks in authenticity (he was born in Cardiff, Wales in 1944) he makes up for in heart and a genuine feel for a music that he clearly loves.

Wikipedia: "Edmunds was born in Cardiff. As a teenager, he first played in 1954 with a band called the Edmunds Bros Duo with his older brother Geoff (born in 1940, Cardiff); this was a piano duo. Then the brothers were in the Stompers later called the Heartbeats formed around 1957 with Geoff on rhythm guitar, Dave on lead guitar, Denny Driscoll on lead vocals, Johnny Stark on drums and Ton Edwards on bass. Then Dave and Geoff were in The 99ers along with scientist and writer Brian J. Ford. After that Dave Edmunds was in Crick Feather's Hill-Bill's formed in c 1960, with Feathers (Edmunds) on lead guitar; Zee Dolan on bass; Tennessee Tony on lead vocals; Tony Kees on piano and Hank Two Sticks on drums. The first group that Edmunds fronted was the Cardiff-based 1950s style rockabilly trio The Raiders formed in 1961, along with Brian 'Rockhouse' Davies on bass and Ken Collier on drums. Edmunds was the only constant member of the group, which later included bassist Mick Still, Bob 'Congo' Jones on drums and John Williams (stage name John David) on bass. The Raiders worked almost exclusively in the South Wales area.

In 1966, after a short spell in a Parlophone recording band, the Image (1965–1966), with local drummer Tommy Riley, Edmunds shifted to a more blues-rock sound, reuniting with Congo Jones and bassist John Williams and adding second guitarist Mickey Gee to form the short lived Human Beans, a band that played mostly in London and on the UK university circuit. In 1967, the band recorded a cover of "Morning Dew" on the Columbia label,[4] that failed to have any chart impact. After just eighteen months, the core of 'Human Beans' formed a new band called Love Sculpture that again reinstated Edmunds, Jones and Williams as a trio. Love Sculpture scored a quasi-novelty Top 5 hit by reworking Khachaturian's classical piece "Sabre Dance" as a speed-crazed rock number, inspired by Keith Emerson's classical rearrangements".

Post Love Sculpture Edmunds concentrated on his solo career, producing others and financing his own studio where he could do what he wanted.

His solo popularity reached it's peak in the late 70s / early 80s in England during the New Wave. The New Wave was really good to him and he was really good to and shaped it in no small way.

If you accept that new wave and punk were a musical return to the original spirit of rock (rather than the roots of rock) then it is easy to accept and understand why there was a revival in 50s sounds during the New Wave and in its immediate aftermath.

Edmunds was the more traditional of the progenitors but his music kicks as it does with others coming from the same place and popular during the New Wave: The Flamin Groovies, The Stray Cats, Shakin Stevens, Albert Lee, The Kingbees, Robert Gordon, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Tuff Darts and NRBQ.

Hell, even the Dead Kennedy's covered Elvis' "Viva Las Vegas"

Edmunds like the best of them never sounded old or old fashioned.

This record was the first Edmunds solo effort to feature all four members of the band Rockpile: Edmunds, Billy Bremner (who also wrote some tracks  under the pen name Billy Murray), Nick Lowe, and Terry Williams. Rockpile acted as his backing band and he produced them on various solo albums. Oddly, due to a host of music industry missteps and manoeuvrings Rockpile only released one album as Rockpile in 1980 and that was fairly late in the piece. Their  best work is on Edmunds and Nick Lowe solo albums.

And they kick.

Kick seriously.

Think the Travelling Wilburys with balls. In fact the Wilburys must have spent some time listening to these guys.

This is good time music which can be danced and is seriously infective. There are serious moments, but generally any message does no get in the way of the tune. In the style of 50s and early 60s rock the songs are about people, boys and girls and the "stuff" that happens to people in  normal life when they aren't faced with cataclysmic events: love, sex, lies, work, going out and generally trying to make it from A to B.

Edmunds , picks some choice covers and being the sharp guy he is they are relatively obscure ones. It's not rocket science to say Chuck Berry has been often covered but generally its the same ten or so songs. Here Edmunds digs  into the Chuck soingbook circa 1965.

Interestingly, it is often assumed that Edmunds is enamoured with 50s rock and roll and that is true but it is equally true that he is enamoured with 60s rock n roll, frat rock, and teen pop that existed in the world between Elvis getting out of the army in 1960 and the rise of the Beatles (to the top) in 1964.

Check out my other comments for other bio detail.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Trouble Boys - (Billy Bremner / Billy Murray) – A hoot of a teen rumble song ..bad boys move in on the narrator's girl. The song was covered by Thin Lizzy in 1981 and suits their retro urban violence perfectly.
  • Never Been in Love - (Billy Bremner / Dave Edmunds / Nick Lowe / Rockpile / Terry Williams) – with a nod to The Everly Brothers this is otherwise a typical Rockpile / Edmunds song ….and that makes it well above average.
  • Not a Woman, Not a Child - (Billy Murray) – a great semi stomper with a wonderful guitar break
  • Television – (Nick Lowe) – a punchy Lowe song
  • What Looks Best on You - (Dave Edmunds / Nick Lowe) – A teen ballad which could have come from 1962 though with some contemporary sexuality (well innuendo at least).
  • Readers Wives - (Dave Edmunds) – a frantic rocker – all attitude …..rockabilly goes garage. Sweaty and magnificent.
  • Deborah – (Dave Edmunds / Nick Lowe) – calling Buddy Holly! Great fun!
  • Thread Your Needle - (W. Young) – originally recorded by the Ohio-based R&B duo Dean and Jean (Welton Young and Brenda Lee Jones) in 1964. Excellent
  • A.1. on the Jukebox – (Will Birch / Dave Edmunds) – a good rocker.
  • It's My Own Business - (Chuck Berry) – "It's My Own Business" is a great teen rebellion number (here made nastier) and originally done by Chuck Berry on his "Fresh Berry's" album from 1965.
  • Heart of the City – (Nick Lowe) – The album's final song, "Heart Of The City", was originally recorded by Nick Lowe as a single in 1976 and then Rockpile did a live version on Lowe's Jesus of Cool album (1978). Edmunds apparently used the same backing track, but overdubbed his own lead vocals in place of Lowe's…well why not – he played on The Lowe album version. Not as good as Lowe's version but not bad either.

And …

Magnificent, a blast from start to finish …. I'm keeping it.
 
Chart Action

US
nothing

England
nothing
 
Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Dave_Edmunds/Tracks_on_Wax_4/6f70cf4f-c11a-3be7-a0cc-af8de0304c85/

Readers Wives
mp3 attached

Dave Edmunds – Readers Wives

Others
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIIoWFnsc6w
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnbF83bCQW4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTkhBuNdMgY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKCW0wvFeoE

Nick Lowe's "Heart of the City" with Dave Edmunds on guitar
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlCxGDMvvNw

Review

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracks_on_Wax_4
http://www.allmusic.com/album/tracks-on-wax-4-mw0000262359
 
Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Edmunds
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/dave-edmunds-p4167/biography
http://www.rockabillyhall.com/DaveEdmunds1.html

Website

https://www.facebook.com/DaveEdmundsRPM

Trivia

  • The record is, perhaps not surprisingly given Plant and Page's love of the 50s, on Led Zeppelins' "Swan Song" label.

 

Posted in Pub Rock, Rock & Pop, Rockabilly and Rock n Roll, Roots Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE GRASS ROOTS – Alotta’ Mileage – (Dunhill) – 1973

Grass Roots - Alotta' Mileage

In another Grass Roots comment I said this:

Inevitably, when discussing Grass Roots questions of “authenticity” come up but they are largely redundant because this is pop music. I should say:

  • They weren’t a manufactured group in the normal sense of the phrase in the music business.
  • They weren’t like the The Monkees but they were a group put together by producers.
  • They were, like The Monkees, an already talented group of individual musicians brought together by a third party for a meeting of minds.

Musically, they are the logical extension of Gary Lewis and the Playboys because they play their own instruments though with a dollop of Jay and the Americans, because they have the harmonies. Like both those bands they had great success in the USA but next to nothing in England.

Well, that's all correct but the devil is in the detail.

Wikipedia: "The name "Grass Roots" (originally spelled as one word "Grassroots") originated in mid-1965 as the name of a band project by the Los Angeles, California songwriter and producer duo of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. Sloan and Barri had written several songs in an attempt by their record company, Dunhill Records (owned by Lou Adler), to cash in on the budding folk rock movement. One of these songs was "Where Were You When I Needed You," which was recorded by Sloan and Barri. Sloan provided the lead vocals and played guitar, Larry Knechtel played keyboards, Joe Osborn played the bass and Bones Howe was on drums. The song was released under "The Grass Roots" name and sent, as a demo, to several radio stations of the San Francisco Bay area.

When moderate interest in this new band arose, Sloan and Barri went to look for a group that could incorporate The Grass Roots name. They found one in a San Francisco outfit, "The Bedouins", and cut a new version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" with that band's lead vocalist, Willie Fulton. In late 1965, the Grass Roots got their first official airplay on Southern California radio stations, such as KGB (AM) in San Diego and KHJ in Los Angeles, with a version of the Bob Dylan song "Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)". For some months, The Bedouins were the first "real" Grass Roots — but the partnership with Sloan and Barri broke up when the band demanded more space for their own more blues rock-oriented material (which their producers were not willing to give them). Willie Fulton (lead vocals, guitar,) Denny Ellis (guitar, backing vocals) and David Stensen (bass, backing vocals) went back to San Francisco, with drummer Joel Larson being the only one who remained in LA (he was to become a member of a later Grass Roots line-up as well). Fulton, Ellis and Stensen, for a time, continued to appear as the Grass Roots, with original Bedouins drummer Bill Shoppe, until Dunhill ordered them to cease since they'd decided to start all over again with another group they would groom to be the Grass Roots. In the meantime, the second version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" peaked in the Top 40 in mid-1966, while an album of the same name sold poorly.

Still looking for a group to record their material and promote it with live dates, in 1966 Sloan and Barri offered Wisconsin-based band The Robbs (for whom they produced some early material) a chance to assume the identity of The Grass Roots, but the group declined.

Coincidentally, the L.A.-based band Love, at one point in 1965, also used the name "The Grass Roots". However, this group had no other connection to Sloan and Barri, and immediately changed their band name to Love once they became aware of the existence of Barri and Sloan's Grass Roots.

The group's third — and by far most successful — incarnation was finally found in a Los Angeles band called The 13th Floor (not to be confused with the 13th Floor Elevators). This band consisted of Creed Bratton (vocals, guitar), Rick Coonce (drums, percussion), Warren Entner (vocals, guitar, keyboards), and Kenny Fukomoto (bass) and had formed only a year earlier. Entner, who had been attending film school at UCLA alongside future Doors members Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, was drifting through Europe in the summer of 1965 singing and playing on street corners, when he met fellow busker and American Creed Bratton in Israel, where an Israeli businessman expressed interest in managing and promoting them. But the duo moved on and ended up back in LA by 1966, where they formed the 13th Floor and submitted a demo tape to Dunhill Records. After Fukomoto was suddenly drafted into the army, the group went through two replacements before finding singer/bassist Rob Grill. In 1967 the band was offered the choice to go with their own name or choose to adopt a name that had already been heard of nationwide".

Guess which way they went ? (derr, rhetorical)

1967 – 1972 was their golden period. They were a charting act (three Top 10s, another three Top 20s, and then another nine Top 40s) and a credible band playing at many of the notable  musical festivals of the day.

They were though, perhaps, perceived as a singles band (none of their albums cracked the Top 20), and accordingly not a "serious" band.

This album, their seventh non-compilation album, was the start of the down hill slide, popularity wise.

The singles didn't do well and the album charted in the remote fringes.

Sad, yes.

But there are some great sounds in the descent.

There was a lot going on, musically, in the United States in 1973 : soft rock, country rock, pop rock, funk rock, rock rock and more. The Grass Roots had elements of all that in their sound, or, adopted elements of all that as their folk rock sound evolved.

Perhaps they were just not specific enough to attract a audience that was becoming more tribal in it's choice of sounds?

Perhaps, they were too associated as a singles band, and accordingly disposable?

Perhaps, because they relied on staff songwriters for most of, though not all, their tunes they were dismissible in the serious 70s?

The internet, the information highway, is bumpy in what it reveals on The Grass Roots. Perhaps only people of age in 1973 could explain why the Grass Roots didn't move forward as a original, creative musical group with an audience to appreciate them.

They did move forward as a viable group – a couple of obscure albums, a solo album by lead vocalist Rob Grill, re-recorded hits with  an orchestra, a couple of live albums and a career on the "oldies circuit".

Sitting here in 2014 I don't have to worry about what career choices the band should make in 1973, because they have been made.  So, I can put this album on and listen to some seriously good sounds, and wonder why the public is so fickle.

The band at the time was Warren Entner, Rob Grill, Reed Kailing, Joel Larson & Virgil Weber.

I don't know if they played (all) their instruments on the record, though they did live, and anyway their vocals and harmonies are central.

The album was produced by Steve Barri, Warren Entner, and Rob Grill and arranged by Michael Omartian (pre studio group Rhythm Heritage and pre Christian rock)

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire – (Walsh, Price)- bouncy and quite catchy
  • Pick Up Your Feet -(Watkins, Villareal) – catchy but quite MOR.
  • You’ve Got To Bend With The Breeze -(Walsh, Price, Entner, Grill) – horns and a decidedly urban attitude makes this one a winner and has it sounding a little like The O'Jays, albeit a white O'Jays. The O'Jays wouldn't bend with the breeze.
  • Just A Little Tear -(Kailing, Entner, Price, Walsh)- slight but not offensive.
  • Ain’t No Way To Go Home -(Mann, Weil)- prolific songwriter Barry Mann released this as a single and on his solo album from 1971 "Lay it All Out". Very big sounding singer songwriter.
  • Claudia -(Weber, Entner)- very funky in that 70s TV theme show way. Think, SWAT or Baretta …then again Michael Omartian was behind them and he arranged this album.
  • Love Is What You Make It -(Walsh, Price) – quite Partridge Family …. so so …
  • Look But Don’t Touch -(Entner) – standard white funky R&B  – it's not offensive but it's not memorable ..though the keyboard is quite good.
  • Ballad Of Billy Joe -(Rich) – A great song. Apparently, this is a answer to "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" by Johnny Cash (1958). It was composed by Sun label mate and future country music legend, Charlie Rich, but originally recorded by (another label mate) Jerry Lee Lewis in 1959.
  • We Almost Made It Together -(Entner, Provisor)- Regular Grass Roots songwriter Dennis Provisor would later join The Grass Roots. Straight MOR
  • Little Bit Of Love -(Rogers, Kirk, Kossoff, Frazier)- a cover of a Free track from the "Free at Last" LP (1972).. the single went to #13 in England. A little more groovy than the Free original …and perhaps a little better.

And …

Not perfect but well above average …. perfect for parties?  I'm keeping it.
 
Chart Action
 
US
Singles
1973 Love Is What You Make It #55

Album
1973 #222

England
zip

Sounds

Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frk00JqS3Wk

Pick Up Your Feet
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slIB-X-8Yhc

You’ve Got To Bend With The Breeze
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ely4XwnUjvY

Just A Little Tear
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0b2t7-CuBk

Ain’t No Way To Go Home
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj9cUysBUi0

Claudia

mp3 attached

Grass Roots – Claudia

Love Is What You Make It
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vw89aMdLKR0

Look But Don’t Touch
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieb68yzQojc

Ballad Of Billy Joe
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H95W3m_TRZQ

We Almost Made It Together
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu-Oq7v8RyQ

Little Bit Of Love
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRYewBs7o4M

Others
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nZnqtDdsws
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdej9GWq0dU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySjxZDT_5SA
 
Review
 
http://www.allmusic.com/album/alotta-mileage-mw0000840758

Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grass_Roots

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Grill
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Larson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Entner
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Provisor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Barri
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Omartian

Website

http://the-grassroots.com/

http://warrenentner.com/index.html
http://dennisprovisor.com/index.html

Trivia

Posted in Folk Rock, Pop Rock, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

JESSE COLIN YOUNG – Together – (Warner Brothers) – 1972

Sierra Exif JPEG

It's hard to put on a finger on why Jesse Colin Young never had a more successful solo career.

He had all the right attributes to be a successful singer songwriter in the 70s…

He was an ex folkie who had a gentle, lyrical style.

He had been the lead vocalist and central songwriter in a successful rock group, The Youngbloods.

His musical taste encompassed folk, country, old timey music, ragtime and 1950s rock n roll.

He contained an American musical intuition which was rooted in the land.

Van Morrison is comparable though Morrison's Americana is one that is learnt from film and music from afar.

Young is the real deal.

Perhaps the answer for his relative lack of pop fame lies in his time – as the 70s became increasingly more bland or cynical Young's happiness and optimism threw him with the hippies of yesterday, something to which he was already linked to in the publics mind.

That's not to say Young isn't political  – he is. But, Young's politics are not a call to arms just a plea to give peace a chance.

Yerk!

But, it worked for Lennon.

Unlike Lennon you never feel like you are being lectured to and the message isn't strident. There is a wistful, quiet message here … a type of optimistic melancholy if that can exist.

He also didn't write as many catchy songs as Morrison, Lennon et al (and he loved mixing in covers) but there is a trance like quality in his best albums. Like Tim Buckley he manages to pull the listener to the message through the music and the not just the lyric.

When you listen to this album as a whole the music and the mellow tone of Young's voice count as much as the lyric in getting the listener to that place where we can live in peace, and no problem can't be overcome, if we leave our egos at the door and work together communally.

The tone of his voice literally massages the brain …. if James Taylor was more socially observational or political he would sound like this.

This was Young's third solo album. His last, "Young Blood", came out in 1965 just before the start of The Youngbloods,

The album is, perhaps, an extension of the Youngbloods though perhaps a little more straightforward. The Youngbloods could be a little quirky but here Young seems to be content with the message and the gentle mood and he doesn't feel the need to experiment.

There are six covers but all of them are adapted to fit Young's musical point of view and it is testament to his taste and conviction that it works.

The gentle mood is central (as it seems to be on many of his solo albums) …the voice, the arrangements, the guitar, horns and everything all create a gentle vibe.

I'd love to see him playing in the coffee shop or pub down the road …on a sunny, summer day which I know will be followed by another sunny summer day.

Check my other comments for biographical details.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Good Times - (Jesse Colin Young) – reminiscence of good times in San Francisco….ahhh, they must have been great times
  • Sweet Little Child – (Jesse Colin Young) – a rustic love song strut.
  • Together - (Jesse Colin Young) – as gentle and wistful love song as there ever was.
  • Sweet Little Sixteen -(Chuck Berry) – Chuck's rocker done in a gentle bounce. It works but is hasn't been done like this before, or since.
  • The Peace Song - (Jesse Colin Young) – Beautiful, and perhaps, of it's time but who cares….
  • Six Days on the Road – (Earl Green / Carl Montgomery) – The Dave Dudley song given a "hippie" treatment. The ode to the road works regardless if you are short back and sides country or long haired counter culture.
  • Lovely Day – (Jesse Colin Young) – a good original
  • Creole Belle - (Trad) – made famous by Mississippi John Hurt …excellent.
  • 1000 Miles from Nowhere – (Mercy Dee Walton) – this sounds like an old blues though it is actually a 1953 tune by Mercy Dee Walton better known as “One Room Country Shack” and recorded by many others including Buddy Guy.
  • Born in Chicago – (Nick Gravenites) – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band song from 1965. A good blues, not as tough as the original but good nonetheless.
  • Pastures of Plenty – (Woody Guthrie / Traditional) – The magnificent Woody Guthrie song given a entirely new look, Part jazzy torch song, part hippie anthem it's nothing if not an original idea.

And …

A nice vibe …. I'm keeping it.
 
Chart Action
 
US
Singles

Album
1972 #157

England
nothing

Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Jesse_Colin_Young/Together/fc255a7a-4861-3700-84ac-09e6ce128086/

The Peace Song

mp3 attached

Jesse Colin Young – Peace Song

Others
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edCKPmEhRpU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FciBTAgOru0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJho6iWhnQ0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4qZkG4XXw8

The Youngbloods
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbRvXhyFmZY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jnsrpbIvz8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhrBEyA_vc4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbrn9eXEKWk

interview
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_DEPIflgdQ&list=PL25AC63D283DD7445&index=1
 
Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/together-mw0000615154
 
Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Colin_Young
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jesse-colin-youngs-mn0000331846
 
http://www.hearnet.com/features/artist/0507_jessecolinyoung.shtml
http://www.theuncool.com/journalism/rs190-jesse-colin-young/

Website

http://www.jessecolinyoung.com/

Trivia

  • Wikipedia: "Young was born Perry Miller and raised in Queens, where he was a classmate of Art Garfunkel.  His mother was a violinist and his father was an accountant with a strong interest in classical music."
Posted in Folk Rock, Roots Rock, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

TOMMY JAMES – Midnight Rider – (Fantasy) – 1976

Tommy James - Midnight Rider

What makes Tommy run?

Or rather

What makes Tommy sing?

James had his moment in the sun in one of the premier US pop rock acts of the mid to late 1960s, Tommy James and The Shondells.

A singles band they were and they churned out many classic 45s. Tommy, though, was no slouch. He was the driving force behind the band (in it's various incarnations) as  well as being a good songwriter, and a great vocalist.

Check my other comment on this blog for biographical detail but you could say he was the poor kid from the mid-west with stars in his eyes chasing the dream.

He chased and he caught it but by the  early 1970s his career was effectively over .

Sure, there would be a handful of solo albums, oldies concerts and a career presence but, despite some minor solo hits (including a Top 20), he wasn't really a tastemaker or leader anymore

James never took it lying down. He tackled a number of styles and tried everything to keep his career afloat. He didn't but his work in this period is still fascinating.

Like all great vocalists he could tackle any number of musical styles, and, rathe than submerge himself to the sound he would incorporate it into his musical voice. He may have had more hits if he had submerged his style totally but such music fakery doesn't stand the test of time.

The trouble was it was the 70s and there was more than a bit o of crap that dominated the charts.

And James bought into this.

Listening to his 70s solo work now you sometimes wince at the dated sounds and sometimes smile at the wrong-headedness of James tackling the same but ultimately James' taste and fine vocals rise over the sounds.

"Midnight Rider" is James' soft rock album  … soft rock with country overtones. 

It's not the first time he tackled country sounds. I said this about his "My Head, My Bed & My Red Guitar" album from 1971 : "I would like to hear Tommy singing country but that’s not the case here. Tommy takes the country sounds, "urbanises" them and attached them to his trademark pop. He isn’t flip flopping between genres but rather taking what he likes from the sound for himself. Country fans, and country rock fans may be disappointed but people who like their pop a little "out there" will be impressed".

The "In Touch" album from 1976 followed but this album is the natural successor to "My Head, My Bed & My Red Guitar".

James had spent some time in California in the 70s (and signed with the Californian Fantasy label in 1975) so perhaps it makes sense that the "country rock" overtones on his 1971 album are replaced with the "country soft rock" overtones, so popular in California (and nationally), on "Midnight Rambler"

It's as if he was listening to The Flying Burrito Brothers or The Dillards before recording the first album and The Eagles and Seals and Croft before recording this one.

And there is a lot of miles between the two groups.

But, as I said it matters not because James never lets any influences or stylistic trends dominate his pop sensibility

Rejoining James, as producer, was the legendary songwriter Jeff Barry, who wrote Tommy James and the Shondells, first hit "Hanky Panky" and went on to pen and or produce songs for The Monkees, The Archies, Jay and the Americans and all things pop.

Barry, also, had dabbled in soft rock and country in the 70s with some success so the match was a good one.

The sound on this album is crisp and pure, so much so that it makes soft rock sound better than it is.

Lyrically, James backs off from some of the introspective music he had released and concentrates here on love songs.

Well, it is soft rock.

With friends like Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers), session legend Alan Estes, Timothy Schmitt (Poco and a future Eagle) and latter day Spirit member Al Stahaely contribute to the album.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Love Is Gonna Find A Way - (James – Cordell) – really, really smooth soft rock with country overtones. Sexy sax-a-ma-phones I hate but it is quite catchy.
  • I Don’t Love You Anymore – (James) – Pure 70s soft rock,
  • Bobby, Don’t Leave Me Alone - (Jeff Barry) – 70s schlock with screeching guitars and overly emotional lyrics but James' voice soars and makes this a joy…all eight minutes of it. (which, apparently, Jeff Barry had written in memory of his slain friend and protégé Bobby Bloom).
  • Midnight Rider - (Jeff Barry) – This has a similar melody from Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane" for the title track and is an excellent, catchy track.
  • Double Or Nothin’ - (James – Lucia) -  Co-written with former Shondell Peter Lucia this is in Dr Hook (in their mellow mould) territory but better.
  • Still Got A Thing For You - (Jeff Barry) – a touch of the John Sebastian here.
  • What Happened To The Girl – (Jeff Barry) – good mid tempo urban AM pop.
  • Keep It In The Groove – (Jeff Barry) – a little funk creeps into this one.

And …

The album is of its time but at least it's not disco or bad LA hard rock and fark James can make even soft rock sound really good making this a great unheralded soft rock album.  I'm keeping it.
 
Chart Action
 
US
England

Nothing no where
 
Sounds

Love Is Gonna Find A Way
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nt9ubgFaPj4

Bobby, Don’t Leave Me Alone
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wStAcNqhZ6E

Midnight Rider
Mp3 attached

Tommy James – Midnight Rider

Double Or Nothin’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rncddbA6-Z8

Still Got A Thing For You
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ph0VNnmYiGk

Keep It In The Groove
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sff8TSTpOZE


Others
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkMgs3lFwkQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyMLBXxF6is&feature=youtube_gdata_player
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfeCgMo-Kao
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kLog5cF76o
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz8BCLNHREI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCoyBlCKZpY

Review
 
http://www.allmusic.com/album/midnight-rider-mw0000853040
 
Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/tommy-james-the-shondells-mn0000620386
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_James
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_James_and_the_Shondells
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/tommy-james-the-shondells-mn0000520975

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Barry

Website

https://www.tommyjames.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TJandtheShondells?v=wall&filter=2

Trivia

 

Posted in Pop Rock, Rock & Pop, Soft Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment