THE DILLARDS – Copperfields – (Elektra) – 1970

Dillards - Copperfields

I've commented on The Dillards before in relation to their wonderful "Wheatstraw Suite" (1968) album. Look to that comment for discussion on country rock, bluegrass cross-over and the seminal position of The Dillards in the evolution of country rock and progressive bluegrass.

Having looked at that comment what I failed to do was provide a history of the band. There are many good ones on-line and I'm not about to indulge in creative writing to rehash the same, so ….

Allmusic: "One of the leading lights of progressive bluegrass in the '60s, the Dillards played a major part in modernizing and popularizing the sound of bluegrass, and were also an underappreciated influence on country-rock. The group was founded by brothers Doug (banjo) and Rodney Dillard (guitar), who grew up in Salem, Missouri, playing music together. During the late '50s, they appeared often on local radio and performed with several different area bands, including the Hawthorn Brothers, the Lewis Brothers, and the Dixie Ramblers; they also recorded a couple of singles for the St. Louis-based K-Ark label as the Dillard Brothers in 1958. In 1960, they decided to form their own group, recruiting DJ pal Mitch Jayne on bass, as well as mandolin player Dean Webb. Christening themselves the Dillards, the quartet decided to move to Los Angeles in 1962, and were quickly signed to Elektra after being discovered at a gig with the Greenbriar Boys. Not long after, the group landed a recurring role on The Andy Griffith Show, appearing in several episodes over the next few years as a musically inclined hillbilly family called the Darlings … Meanwhile, the Dillards released their debut album, Back Porch Bluegrass, in 1963, and also teamed up with Glen Campbell and Tut Taylor for the side project the Folkswingers, who went on to release two albums. The Dillards' second album, 1964's concert set Live! Almost!, captured their controversial move into amplified electric instruments, which was considered heresy by many bluegrass purists; they also began to tour with rock groups, most notably the Byrds…

In 1968 Doug left the band and was replaced with banjoist Herb Pedersen, and then drummer Paul York became an official member of the group. The band still tours today in some form though Doug Dillard died in Nashville on May 16, 2012 at the age of 75.

This album from 1970 (their fifth) is really a companion piece to "Wheatstraw Suite". It is generally considered (by the critics) to be a smidgin inferior to that album. It may, or may not be, but it certainly does adopt the musical language of the earlier album. It does take the music even more into a pop direction (their is a lot of orchestration and up front drums, electric guitar and electric bass), which arguably laid a lot of the work for The Eagles etc major country rock breakthrough in the 1970s.

A lot of people don't like this slickness and pop sheen but this is genuinely beautiful country pop music. The harmonies are spot on and precise, and reminiscent of The Statler Brothers who were big at the time, whilst some of the soloing sounds as smooth as the Glen Campbell of the time.

Looking at it now it is easy, perhaps to dismiss this music as soft country rock pap but at the time this was nothing short of revolutionary. The band's feet were still in bluegrass and  country but concessions had been made to rock, pop and Hollywood (where they had cut their teeth as a show band and whose influence on this sound is undervalued). And, ultimately, what is most surprising is the eclecticness of the band as they tackle country, bluegrass, folk, pop and rock.

The music is sublime and even a little subversive.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Rainmaker – (Bill Martin/Harry Nilsson) – A cover of the Nilsson track from his third album, "Harry" (1969). They have countrified it up and it is irresistibly catchy
  • In Our Time – (Rodney Dillard/Mitch Jayne) – Californian sunshine pop doe through a a bluegrass sensibility
  • Old Man at the Mill – (Rodney Dillard/Mitch Jayne/Herb Pedersen) – a more traditional country folk number just to show you they haven't forgotten how to do this type of number
  • Touch her if you Can – (Rodney Dillard/Mitch Jayne) – a beautiful song
  • Woman Turn Around – (O'Dell) –
  • Yesterday – (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – ha, a stripped down short version of the famous oft covered Beatles song, done a capella! Excellent.
  • Brother John – (Herb Pedersen/Howard) – it starts off like a cross between "Eleanor Rigby" and Dave Brubeck before finding it's own wonderful groove.
  • Copperfields – (Herb Pedersen) – a pretty, slightly melancholy up-tempo ballad.
  • West Montana Hanna – (Herb Pedersen/Mitch Jayne) –  Herb Pedersen sings lead on this one (Rodney Clark sings lead on the others). Glorious country …
  • Close the Door Lightly – (Eric Anderson) – a song written by the Greenwich Village folkie, with a familiar country theme …someone leaving.
  • Pictures – (Rodney Dillard/Smith) – more familiar country themes …things lost, leaving only memories.
  • Ebo Walker – (Rodney Dillard/Mitch Jayne) – actually a re-recording of a song that the band had originally released on a rare Capitol single in 1966. Named for a friend of the group and future member of "The New Grass Revival", who despite the lyrics, was not, in fact, dead.
  • Sundown – (Herb Pedersen) – a beautiful gentle instrumental

And …

Wonderful … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where

Sounds

Rainmaker

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo0QwJ4vcsg

In Our Time

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LA2sP-Mppc

Old Man at the Mill

Live 1999

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqO9hBPSmPw

Yesterday

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_ZC5DdSZEA

Brother John

mp3 attached

Copperfields

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38Qc3jPmiMc

West Montana Hanna

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-AITZafZqw

Pictures

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zaS6aCpbhs

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFU10kFu90I

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

Review

http://www.richieunterberger.com/copper.html

http://www.allmusic.com/album/copperfields-mw0000229122

http://stuckinthepast08.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/dillards-copperfields-1970.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copperfields

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dillards

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-dillards-mn0000788568/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Pedersen

Website

http://www.the-dillards.com/

http://www.burritobrother.com/dillard.htm

Trivia

  • Musicians:  Rodney Dillard: guitar, dobro, vocals /  Herb Pedersen: banjo, guitar, vocals Dean Webb: mandolin, vocals /  Mitch Jayne: bass, vocals /  Paul York: drums, percussion / Guest artist:  Byron Berline: fiddle.
  • John Boylan produces and he had produced the recent Rick Nelson introspective Hollywood county-ish albums "Another Side of Rick Nelson" (1967) and "Perspective "(1968) which perhaps adds to equally smooth sound here.
  • Orchestration is by the great Jimmy Haskell.

Dillards - Copperfields - back sleeve

Posted in Country Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

TUFF DARTS – Tuff Darts! – (Sire) – 1978

Tuff Darts - Tuff Darts

This album has been kicking around for a while also.

I had little knowledge of the band beyond them being a New York first generation punk band.

A lot of first generation punk bands are, perhaps, or need to be, "retro" in style, or have retrospective influences. A lot of punk, after all, is about rallying against the current prevailing trends, against the mainstream. The way to do that best is to dig into the past, into sounds that are no longer fashionable, dusting them off, stripping them down and then presenting them afresh to contemporary audiences. With punk, that "stripping" means the rawer the better. How devoted and loyal you are to the sounds of yesterday will dictate where on the punk ladder you stand. The acts that get the kudos seem to be the ones who take those sounds to the next level (or perhaps compromised for Top 40 success) whilst the strict traditionalists have devoted cult followings but that's it. Tuff Darts fall into this latter group.

New York was (and is) a magnet to all inspiring musicians and bands. In the 70s the seeds of punk, I think, was being laid in  places outside of the big cities where there was a paucity of entertainment but that music was being drawn to New York City where the labels, publishing, recording facilities and venues were.

Local "punks" though were a different breed. New York was not starved for entertainment but there were kids from the wrong side of the tracks or, perhaps, the wrong side of town, or from the wrong boroughs who felt marginalised and who didn't want to, or weren't allowed into the local disco. These kids also had exposure to all the music of yesteryear through record shops and local revival radio stations. Their punk revered the past … the music of The New York Dolls, Suicide, The Ramones  and Mink DeVille is littered with retro-ish footnotes (and covers). At some stage it intermingled with those punks coming to NYC and a new tougher, harder sound was born.

This is just an observation.

Also, interestingly, in the first generation NYC punk scene you can usually tell which band is native NYC by the names. There are no surprises that The Ramones, most of Blondie, Television, Suicide, New York Dolls and The Dictators were all New Yorkers. Italian, Jewish, Polish, Continental European, and Eastern European names are more frequent in band line ups than in bands, say, of the West Coast. For sure, the ethnic mix of NYC is just that, but there does seem to be an overrepresentation of those kids here. Take Tuff Darts as an example:

  • Tommy Frenzy – Vocals
  • Jeff Salen – Lead Guitar
  • Bobby Butani – Guitars
  • John DeSalvo – Bass
  • John Morelli – Drums

Allmusic: "While the Ramones, Patti Smith, Television, and the Dead Boys were the biggest names to emerge from the first wave of New York's punk rock explosion in the mid- to late '70s, dozens of other bands were also making the scene at CBGB's and Max's Kansas City at the time, and Tuff Darts were among the first to make their mark. Playing tough-minded rock with pop hooks, hard rock riffs, and more than a little retro style, Tuff Darts first began making a noise on the New York club scene in the early '70s, where their punchy sound and suit-and-tie image earned them gigs opening for the New York Dolls. The band's original lineup was Robert Gordon on vocals, Jeffrey Salen and Bob Butant on guitars, John DeSalvo on bass, and James Morrison on drums; this edition of the band made its recording debut with three tracks on the 1976 compilation album Live at CBGB's, though before long Gordon would move on to a well-respected solo career as a rockabilly revivalist…Gordon's departure was soon followed by drummer Morrison, who was replaced by percussionist John Morelli; Morelli in turn recruited a new singer for the group, Tommy Frenzy. With Frenzy at the helm, Tuff Darts scored a deal with Sire Records and released their self-titled debut album in 1978, which was produced by Bob Clearmountain and Tony Bongiovi and featured guest appearances from Ian Hunter and Eric Weissberg. A nationwide tour followed the album's release, but after returning to New York, Frenzy announced he was leaving Tuff Darts to form his own band, Big Spender, and it wasn't long before Tuff Darts broke up".

I have long liked Robert Gordon so I must admit I was happy to discover that Gordon had been in Tuff Darts though not at the time of this album. His musical sensibility is something I admire though he is like I have mentioned earlier a strict traditionalist operating within a new wave or punk framework.

It's nice to see this album spinning … it's on the Sire album like The Ramones and there are stylistic similarities though Tuff Darts here have been, perhaps, a little overproduced. Producers, Bob Clearmountain, Lance Quinn and Tony Bongiovi are experts at big rock and roll. And some people would consider Tuff Darts to be a big , loud rock and roll band and not a punk band.

They are wrong.

Sure, some of this record sounds like straight ahead rock n roll but that is because the rough edges have been smoothed out and the sound has been made more palatable for general audiences on purpose. I suspect the label wanted that. But it does not matter because you can still hear, under all that, the difference between them and any number of other "rock and roll" bands who did not come form a punk background. There is attitude here, musical smarts, a fine sense of musical history, a sense of humour and a lot of musical diversity all done through a, err punk framework.

Some of this music is brutal, it assaults the ears, the lyrics are uncompromising and the it the humour is decidedly dark. This is punk by nature not punk, colour by numbers.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Rats – (Butani, Salen) – some people are rats! Fair enough. A strange start to the album, tough sounding but quite straight and a little Mott the Hoople like. (who in their own wat were quite punkish)
  • Who's Been Sleeping Here? – (Mikael Kirke, Salen) – a power pop with a bit more power than pop to it.
  • Here Comes Trouble – (Frenzy) – a straight ahead rock n roller
  • She's Dead – (Frenzy, Salen) – a theatrical piece. Punk goes Broadway". This could be something out of "Rocky Horror". The lyrics are not going to get them played on the radio though.
  • Phone Booth Man – (DeSalvo, Salen) – a nice piece of humour about a person with some serious hang ups. Very funny and done to a nice retro beat with a slight Caribbean feel.
  • (Your Love Is Like) Nuclear Waste – (DeSalvo, Salen) – A great song title if there ever was one of the best songs about a man purging himself of a woman's love ever:

  I'd rather stick my tongue into a vat
  drink ex-lax all day long
  or have to chew on razor blades
  or give head to king kong

  Than have to be between the sheets with you for any time
  or have to feel your scaly flesh moving onto mine

  Your love is like a nuclear waste
  your body is a danger to the human race
  they should stamp contaminated right across your face
  your love is like a nuclear waste

  • My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms – (DeSalvo, Morelli) – "while my guitar gently weeps", I don't think, so but quite funny. Intentionally so I hope. Great lyrics. Bon Jovi had a song with the same title – odd given their cousin co-produced this album.
  • Love and Trouble – (Salen) – so so rock song.
  • Head Over Heels – (Jeff Salen) – another straight rock song but with a bit of drive.
  • Slash – (DeSalvo) – another piece that suggests the author had a bad girlfriend experience. This certainly won't endear him to any feminists. A great "spit" of a song.
  • Fun City – (DeSalvo) – another spit against everything today. What can be more "punk" than that? This is a great.
  • All for the Love of Rock 'n' Roll – (Butani, Salen) –  A statement of faith…and a great way to finnish an album.

And …

This is sharp, funny and tough… and possibly a minor classic. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

Album

1978 #156

England

Sounds

Rats 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TlcVevQ98A

live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEBwtATYOt8

She's Dead

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewpDVgWq6so

Phone Booth Man

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcoUoY6hcQs

(Your Love Is Like) Nuclear Waste

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlpW6lCVuSs

My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlg-7TU1QZA

Slash

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_jBufsPBt4

Fun City

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xfU03OBZpE

All for the Love of Rock 'n' Roll

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx-Kxl5fb6g

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD3xOUlOqms

Review

http://www.trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=tuff_darts

http://www.allmusic.com/album/tuff-darts%21-mw0000221819

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuff_Darts!

http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Tuff+Darts

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/tuff-darts-mn0000805000/biography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuff_Darts

http://www.punkmagazine.com/stuff/stuff-jeff_salen_obit.html

Website

Trivia

  • On the inner they thank Martin Scorsese, Hilly Krystal and Don Corleone
  • They "God Bless" Ian Hunter on the back sleeve who played on the album.

Eric Weissberg played pedal steel on some tracks and another CBGB band, The Shirts, provide backing vocals.

Posted in Punk and New Wave | Tagged | Leave a comment

FRIENDSOUND – Joyride – (RCA) – 1969

Friendsound - Joyride

This album I have had since the 1980s. I listened to it a few times and (kind of) liked it but eventually (in a rationalisation period) put it into a possible "to go" pile.

That pile still exists but the record has been retrieved, and retrieved quickly, and listened to again with "new" ears.

Some music you will get straight away, some music you will get because everyone else is into it (this could be, though not always is, the worst way to develop an interest in music) and sometimes you just need to know where the band are coming from before you get them.

Friendsound were, or are, the latter with me.

When I got this record at an op shop in the late 80s (and it is an Australian pressing in remarkably good condition – even with my few plays it still looks new) I thought, this is okay, but I could find nothing on the band. In fact I wasn't sure (as someone said in a link below) if the band was called Joyride or Friendsound  despite there being a song called "Joyride". There were no hints, the band names were strange and the producer was "Brotherhood".

It was only later that things fell in place. It was after going on a Paul Revere and the Raiders kick (the band not ever being big in Australia)  that I discovered Paul Revere and the Raiders members Drake Levin, Mike Smith, and Phil Volk were involved in this, and that Brotherhood were the band they left Paul Revere to form.

In 1967, Drake Levin, Phil Volk, and Mike Smith left Paul Revere and the Raiders and formed Brotherhood which released two LPs (in '68 and '69). Sometime during this period, they were also allowed to record this musical "joyride" jam with Ron Collins (the fourth member of Brotherhood) and a bunch of friends, who were backing musicians or session musicians.

So, this is either an unofficial third Brotherhood album or just a sideline. Either way it is one of the strangest, mainstream American psychedelic albums of the time.

The guy at the fine Badcat records blog and shop had this to say:  The late 1960s seem to have found everyone in the music business trying to turn out something deep and meaningful.  The sonically weirder it was, the more interest record labels seem to have had in the product.  As such it probably was not much of a surprise that Paul Revere and the Raiders members Drake Levin, Mike Smith, and Phil Volk decided to follow the masses and take a stab at doing something strange and bizarre without an assist from namesake Paul Revere, or lead singer Mark Lindsay. Still, anyone expecting to hear something in the Paul Revere, or Brotherhood pop-rock vein was going to be in for one major shock !!! … Signed by RCA Victor, 1969's self-produced "Friendsound" made absolutely no attempt to go down the commercial road and to my ears deserves to be recognized as one of the first real "jam" albums.  http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/Friendsound.htm

The liner notes on the album refer to "A musical free-for-all … The idea for Friendsound came to us when we were in the early stages of creating our first album.  We rounded up all out musician friends in the area and headed for a recording studio to have a musical free-for-all."   

And that is pretty much spot on. This is a wild batch of instrumental psychedelia with plenty of avant garde asides thrown in. These guys are musicians who are mainstream, Top 40 session musicians, and also quite creative, though of their time.

Which means … flutes, guitars, organ, percussion, piano, recorder, celesta, wind chimes, finger cymbals are mixed in with tape loops, backwards tracks, snippets of dialogue, feedback and acid effects but without losing rhythm and melody.

They weren't the only group at the time doing this type of stuff … everyone was indulging but most bands would limit the indulgences to a few tracks rather than devote a whole album to them. How do you convince a label to give you the money for something like this?

Did it sell.

No.

But, the volume of reviews below gives you an idea of its influence or cult popularity. It certainly has increased in stature and seems to appeal to those into avant jazz rock, Kraut rock, prog, improv,  navel gazer, psych, acid lounge, free jazz and any other number of sub genres.

It is like some kind of cross between The Ventures and The Fugs via Captain Beefheart after he has had been drinking, free jamming, and hallucinating with Robert Moog.

It had no commercial potential in the US so God knows why it was pressed in Australia.

But I'm glad it was.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Joyride – (John Barbatta  – Chris Brooks – Dewey Burke – Nino Candido – Ron Collins – Kent Dunbar – Chris Etheridge – Tina Gancher – Bhudda Blues – Drake Levin – Flip Mullen – Don Nelson – Mike Smith – Phil Volk – Danny Woody) – (instrumental) – How many songs do you know that credit 15 writers? This is a "groovy" piece which is heavy on the flute with hand claps, and some fuzz guitar before everything else kicks in. It actually works up a nice groove. Co-writer John Barbata was in The Turtles.
  • Childhood's End – (Ron Collins – Drake Levin – Mike Smith – Phil Volk) – (instrumental) – some old school industrial sounds against some tape looping. Think of a Revolution #9 by the Beatles at a construction site. I quite like this as it soars at the end.  
  • Love Sketch (instrumental)   (Drake Levin – Phil Volk) – (instrumental) – a gentle trippy (literally) song.
  • Childsong –  (Drake Levin – Mike Smith – Nelson – Phil Volk) – (instrumental) – a six minute musical collage of noise from a kids playground. I have kids so I probably don't need to be reminded of this. Though I wish I heard gentle bells in the background behind the kids voices as they appear her. I suppose if I did I would be escorted from the grounds.
  • Lost Angel Proper St  – (Ron Collins – Drake Levin – Don Nelson – Mike Smith – Phil Volk) – Another aural collage with a lot of studio tricks including bits of dialogue, some singing, slowed down tapes, fragments of music, spliced music and other studio tricks.
  • The Empire of Light –  (Ron Collins – Drake Levin – Mike Smith – Phil Volk) –  Organ and piano surrounded by effects for almost 10 minutes.

And …

Perfect for, err dinner parties … when you want people to leave. I like it.  I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

I wish.

Sounds

Joyride

mp3 attached

Childhood's End  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgrVEU5vgf0

Love Sketch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeoVUVJN1gs

Childsong

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_H2HoGtOt8

Lost Angel Proper St 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLYebLMU578

The Empire of Light

http://prognotfrog.blogspot.com.au/2006/11/joyride-friendsound-usa-1969-192-us.html

Others

Brotherhood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5PGBxfAfo8

Review

http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/Friendsound.htm

https://shelfdwindle.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/friendsound-joyride-1969/

http://prognotfrog.blogspot.com.au/2006/11/joyride-friendsound-usa-1969-192-us.html

http://www.slippytown.com/3records.htm

http://anotherworldofsound.blogspot.com.au/2009/08/friendsound-joyride.html

http://lisathatcher.com/2012/05/11/friendsound-joyride-time-to-chill/

Bio

http://blog.musoscribe.com/?p=760

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Volk

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_Levin

Website

Trivia

  • The cover art for this album was illustrated by Edna Marie O'Dowd. Ms. O'Dowd was an emerging artist and a friend of Drake Levin during the recording of the album. https://www.facebook.com/EdnaMarieODowd
  • Musicians:  Drake Levin – guitars / Phil Volk – bass, piano, celesta / Michael Smith – drums, celesta, tambourine / Ron Collins – organ / Chris Brooks – guitars / Nino Candido – guitars / Grape Lemon – guitars / Don Nelson – flute, saxophone / Chris Etheridge – bass (The Flying Burrito Brothers) / Davey Burke – bass / Jerry Cole – bass / Jim Gordon – drums (Derek and the Dominos, Little Richard and Delaney & Bonnie) / Flip Mullen – wind chimes / Kent Dunbar – percussion / Jim Valentine – percussion / Danny Woody – drums
Posted in Prog Rock and Art Rock, Psychedelic, Underground | Tagged | Leave a comment

FIVE DOLLAR SHOES – Five Dollar Shoes – (Neighborhood Records) – 1972

Five Dollar Shoes - Five Dollar Shoes

The only thing I knew about this group was the producer, Peter Schekeryk, who was married to and produced Melanie.

Which also explains why Five Dollar Shoes were on Melanie's independent label, "Neighborhood Records".

Accordingly, I expected them to sound a little folky.

Melanie's wide eyed (urban) folk is nowhere to be found. This is all (mainly) straight ahead rock. I have no problem with that, of course, but you know what it's like when you expect something and have the exact opposite dropped on you.

There is very little information on-line about them and none of my reference books revealed anything of note.

Five dollar Shoes was: Mike Millius (harmonica, vocals), Gregg Diamond (drums, percussion, vocals), Tom Graves (keyboards, vocals), Jim Gregory (bass, vocals), and Scott Woody (guitar, vocals).

Singer Mike Milius started as a singer songwriter writing topical songs for Folkways Broadside Magazine and records. One of his topical songs "The Ballad of Martin Luther King" did quite well in folk circles which may have been the impetus for his being signed. He recorded a solo album in 1969 "Desperado" (Uni) which is in hard rock, singer songwriter, folk and oddball styles. It, and the Martin Luther King song may have been the impetus for the signing to Neighborhood records though the album here is quite different in style again.

The music is of its time. It is heavy post psych East Coast rock … like The Illusion, Vanilla Fudge, and Mountain with an emphasis on the beat. There are heavy glam rock tendencies but there are also some hedged bets with some rustic blues boogie country notes. Think the New York Dolls meet Cactus or The Allman Brothers Band… though there are hints of 1970-72 era Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones and The Kinks.

The music is unpretentious and straight ahead with enough thump to make it interesting. The singer Millius has a rasp in his voice … perhaps one of the raspiest voices I have heard. Some of the vocals sound positively strangled. And that is perhaps one of the problems (even though that type of vocal was not uncommon at the time). Millius wrote or co-wrote all of the tunes so he knows what he is doing (and looking for) but his voice (to my ears) only seems to fit the more "rustic" numbers, not the glam rock numbers. Those songs have to succeed on the strength of the song itself and they don't always. The production, also, is a little muddy.

Lyrically, the album dwells, despite the rustic numbers on the "mean" streets of New York. Every song is about the seediness of the big city (specifically NYC) or escaping it. The boy shining shoes on the front sleeve and the city backdrop in the inner sleeve reinforce "life in the city". Dion, Brill Building poppers and others had already shown the potential of such themes, and Bruce Springsteen would make those themes into an artistic song craft a couple of years down the track. Here the framework is up but the songs are a little unfinished … some of the songs sound like they need another verse to finish off the narrative.

This is fun music but a little of this goes a long way and the success of the song, especially when turned up to "11", depends on how catchy the song is.

There is more than meets the eye here even if, ultimately, the album falls short.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Love Song – (Diamond/Millius) – a thumper of a song and quite unsubtle. Fitting given it's an ode to a groupie and her skills. "Love song"… ha ha …excellent
  • Can't Do That Anymore – (Diamond/Millius) – more of the same. And, this one, again, may be about a groupie or a "loose" chick picked up somewhere.
  • Bare Mattress – (Graves/Millius/Woody) – shades of "Mott the Hoople" here.
  • Rain Train – (Graves/Woody) – the first ballad, a rustic one, and a excellent song. Life is variously a train ride or a card gam. The melody , chorus and instrumentation make it a winner.
  • Chemical Lover – (Diamond/Millius) – This one has a touch of the glam Bowie…and it works because its urban grit
  • Bad Dream – (Graves/Millius/Woody) – squealin' guitars and obscure lyrics
  • G.T.A. – (Elfassy/Millius) – a Stones "Let it Bleed" era power ballad. Very well done. One of the best songs the Rolling Stones never wrote!
  • Mitzi – (Fraves/Millius/Wiley/Woody) – a mid tempo song about a prostitute. It's non judgemental.
  • Louise – (Millus/Elfassy) – quite early 70s Kinks, loud guitar and even spoken verses done tongue in cheek and quite reminiscent of Ray Davies.
  • Let's Leave Town – (Millius) – Very Dylan and quite effective though without a Dylan hook

And …

A hard one. There are  a couple of great tracks here. I think this album may grow on me even more. It's hard to say. I'll keep it …. for now..

Chart Action

nothing

Sounds

Love Song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50B1HoGASYg

Chemical Lover

mp3 attached

G.T.A. 

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pO8VEcXOkO4

Mike Millius

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LWQf9O_4fU

Review

Bio

http://translate.google.com.au/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregg_Diamond&prev=search

Website

https://www.facebook.com/mike.millius

Trivia

  • Apparently Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS, (then in Wicked Lester), were the backing vocalists on the Five Dollar Shoes' studio sessions, but this has not been substantiated.
  • Singer Mike Millius went on to work in the music industry in a variety of roles. He also "brought" karaoke to North America apparently! http://spudtootight.com/celebrity-interviews/blog/mike-millius-interview
  • Beck sampled the vocals from Millius' song "Lookout for Lucy" from his solo album for his (Beck's) "Odelay" album. http://www.whosampled.com/sample/20536/Beck-Lord-Only-Knows-Mike-Millius-Lookout-for-Lucy/
  • "Come out, come out (wherever you are)", composed by Don Thomas & Mike Millius was due to be recorded by Elvis in 1969. A backing track was recorded but Elvis never added his vocals (he was distracted by a passing fire truck).
  • Gregg Diamond and Jim Gregory were members of Jobriath's backing band, The Creatures.
  • Gregg Diamond then went on to form disco electronic band Bionic Boogie before releasing a number of disco electronic solo albums. http://www.discogs.com/artist/104914-Gregg-Diamond
  • Guitarist Scott Woody ended up playing and writing with German, singer Klaus Nomi.
  • Tom Graves had been in the "The Wild Ones" in the  1960s and then was in later Bullseye and Electra 5  and a band called Steetnoise.
  • This album was nominated for a Grammy … for best packaging (in it's American packaging)
  • The powers that be thought there was a market for this in Australia as this did get an Australian release.
  • Apart from this album Five Dollar Shoes released two singles:

                  Love Song/ Rain Train (Neighborhood) 1972

                  Your Rock 'N' Roll Band b/w Antediluvian Movie Theme (Neighborhood) 1973

Five Dollar Shoes - Five Dollar Shoes - Inner Sleeve

 

Posted in Glam, Hard Rock, Southern and Boogie Rock | Tagged | 1 Comment

DANNY O’KEEFE – So Long Harry Truman – (Atlantic) – 1975

Danny O'Keefe - So Long Harry Truman

Danny O'Keefe is not a stranger to this blog.

And, this record isn't exactly a new listen.

This was, perhaps, the first Danny O'Keefe album I got back in the 80s … read the other entries to find out why I bought it. The copy of the record  was hacked and listening to it didn't do the music a service. And, believe me, I have a high tolerance for hiss, scratch and pop.

I thought the music was interesting but the record was slung in the bin. I think I kept the evocative sleeve.

$4 and twenty years later I revisit this album.

In the intervening years Ii have listened to a lot more Danny O'Keefe and I know where he is coming from.

I'm convinced that O'Keefe cannot make an uninteresting album. Everything he does has some worth. His albums are a little uneven but the good moments in them outweigh the bad, and importantly, his songs stick in the memory.

They aren't there right away but return to you later.

This, his fourth solo album (he had been in a band called "Calliope"), highlights his strengths though it hints at some of his weaknesses.

I have mentioned in some of my other comments about O'Keefe's tendency to some Eagles-like material (which I do not think is a great thing) but here he actually uses The Eagles as his backing band on a couple of tracks!

This was just before the Eagles major breakthrough with "Hotel California" in 1976 and they play well. They alway did but that's not the problem. Luckily, O'Keefe's writing and sensibility is sufficiently rustic and ragged to avoid any of The Eagles smooth pitfalls.

No doubt this is helped by the inclusion of other great musicians like Larry Knechtel, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and David Lindley … check the personnel at the end of this blog entry …it is quite stellar.

Linda Ronstadt also contributes backing vocals on the first two tracks.

The beauty of this record is, like a lot of O'Keefe I have heard, its eclectic-ness …. trad pop, country rock, singer songwriter, soft rock, rock n roll, country, ragtime, old timey, avant garde … all wrapped in lyrics that lean towards poetry.

It doesn't always work but it is always interesting and eclectic and occasionally brilliant.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • So Long, Harry Truman – a great bounce of a song. US Democratic President Harry Truman (1945-1953) was known for his honesty and plain speaking. Obviously this is meant to be a statement on the deterioration of American politics in the wake of the Watergate scandal (1972) and the resignation of President Nixon (1974).
  • Quits – a beautiful song about a relationship at an end. And quite final, "I'll just call it quits"
  • Rainbow Girl – a love song where the music sounds more ominous than the upbeat lyrics, I love it.
  • The Delta Queen – a gentle old trad pop come ragtime type tune. This is something you would expect to hear Jim Kweskin (or more recently Pokey LaFarge) singing and it works.
  • The Kid/The Last Days – The intro and fade out contain Spanish spoken bits taken from Federico Garcia Lorca's poem "Malaguena", Manuel Machado's poem "Lirio" and an old Spanish proverb. Both poets are associated with work before and during the Spanish Civil War. I'm not sure what the song is about as the narrative doesn't seem to flow with the extracts. I think it's a stream of consciousness
  • Covered Wagon – country rock …with more rock than country. Not too bad but familiar.
  • It's Been a Good Day – a gentle bounce of a song …almost Jimmy Buffet in nature.
  • Fiddler's Jamboree – another pre-war throwback ..this time an old-timey country type tune. Engaging
  • Steel Guitar – a 1950s honky tonk country throwback song (with some early rock n roll …  perhaps a little vocal melody from Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88"?) about a steel guitarist in the 1950s. Endearing and played well. David Lindley plays the steel guitar. The song originally appeared on his self titled album from 1971.
  • Hard Times – a grim singer songwriter tune with religious overtones about "end of times" perhaps? Well, it was the mid-70s …..

And …

Wonderfully, errr eclectic and occasionally, err brilliant  …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where

Sounds

So Long, Harry Truman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVaWC4Lii6s

Quits

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r73uy4hALrU

The Delta Queen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOKhvd5D-o0

Fiddler's Jamboree

Mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwdIjObuZ0U

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P6D61L9b6Y

Review

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_O%27Keefe

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ragogna/scotty-mccreerys-christma_b_2255016.html

http://www.pauseandplay.com/a-special-wthat-where-the-heck-are-they-danny-okeefe/

Website

http://www.dannyokeefe.com/

Trivia

  • Danny O’Keefe – guitar, vocals /  Personnel: John Guerin – drums / Larry Knechtel – piano, bass /  Don Henley – drums, background vocals /  Bernie Leadon, Linda Ronstadt, Joyce Everson – background vocals /  Andrew Gold – piano /  Jim Fielder, Chuck Domanico – bass /  Gary Mallaber – drums /  Sneaky Pete Kleinow – pedal steel guitar /  John Boylan – mellotron /  Roger Kellaway – piano /  Tom Scott – woodwinds /  Richard Greene – violin /  David Grisman – mandolin /  Jimmy Bond – bass /  Larry Vanover – jug /  Glenn Frey – guitar /  Randy Meisner – bass /  David Lindley – lap steel guitar / John Boylan – producer
Posted in Americana, Country Rock, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOE SOUTH – Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home? – (Capitol) – 1970

Joe South - Dont It Make You Want To Go Home

I'm excited.

Check my other comments in relation to Joe South's career and musical pedigree but I will say here that Joe's music fits into a genre that emerged in the late 1960s and which subsequently was called "white southern soul" or "country soul".

This genre was popularised (mainly) by Elvis Presley, Joe South and Tony Joe White but it can be found in contemporaneous recordings by Glen Campbell, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Hartford, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bobbie Gentry, Jerry Reed, Billy Joe Royal, Charlie Rich, Jeannie C Riley, Delaney & Bonnie, Bob Dylan and others.

The music was pop, country and rock but also soulful. Occasionally (perhaps because of the times) it was slightly trippy (and gently psychedelic). Lyrically the music leaned to introspection whilst also displaying some cynicism to social mores.

Joe South was the pinnacle of that writing style within the genre. On this, his second album, the liner notes (written by an unknown person) refer to that postion: "Joe believes that today, popular music is much more than entertainment. More, even, than a mirror of our times. It has become steadily more important, until now it is probably the most profound and significant means of communication between people. The ideas it contains and communicates are the dominant force in the development of tomorrow. In fact, popular music is making history. Literally. This is his viewpoint"

Musically, Joe South was more to the pop side of the country soul equation though his music is singularly distinctive. He (perhaps as a result of being a producer and session musician) liked to try new things in the studio. Accordingly, his music is quirky and occasionally jarring especially when a country pop song is followed by a psych trip out song. It was, perhaps, a reflection of the times but I'm sure it must have thrown off some people who bought his LPs.

People want a consistency of style in what they listen to. More often than not they want the album to sound like the hit single.

Joe South was never so obliging.

And, that is part of his genius. He has his sound but he likes mixing things up so that every time, you (or rather I) hear a new Joe South album I'm not sure what I will get.

His albums capture the stew that was mid 60s pop craft and gospel, late 60s rootsy country and psychedelia. The result is a perfect blend of tuneful melodies, reflective lyrics, funky guitars, regional accents, and soulful vocal performances.

It will be frequently great, sometimes magnificent but always, even at it's worst, consistently interesting.

Without a doubt, Joe South is the most important lost artist of the late 1960s, early 1970s.

Produced, arranged and written by Joe South.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Clock Up On The Wall – A good tune with some good lyrics reflecting on a love ended. There is a (little of) the sound of the late 60s Beach Boys here. In fact if you could picture Elvis singing for the Beach Boys it wouldn't be much different to this. There are some interesting studio tricks in here also. Excellent.
  • Bittersweet – a good pop tune with a melancholy (though not downbeat) point of view.
  • Shelter – another good pop song with a gospel chorus backing.
  • What Makes Lovers Hurt One Another? – a nice bass line with another gospel chorus. South's voice is almost drowned out as the song progresses which I think is intentional, as if, his voice and the chorus are the lovers fighting with each other.
  • Before It's Too Late – very late 60s in theme, "come on everybody let's get together" is the chorus …before "before it's too late" repeats and the song gets trippier.
  • Children  – some good lyrics about children and the modern age. Children being both kids and adults and adults who were kids …sharp.
  • Walk A Mile In My Shoes –  This is the song that introduced me to Joe South. I loved the Elvis Presley version (recorded by Elvis on 19 February 1970 and released on the "On Stage" (1970) album) and decided to tack down the original. Elvis is version was Vegas (and great) so this is a little more low key but the song is catchy with some very sharp (and pointed) lyrics.
  • Be A Believer –  a mid tempo lush ballad with gospel overtures.
  • A Million Miles Away – a funky swamp blues instrumental. This is just South and the band having fun. Picture Jerry Reed on acid and it may sound a little like this.
  • Don't It Make You Want To Go Home – A magnificent song with great lyrics. The narrator of the song wants to go home (home being as much his youth as a place) and yearns for it but finds that things have changed when he does return …

                        But there's a six-lane highway down by the creek

                        Where I went skinny-dippin' as a child

                        And a drive-in show where the meadows used to grow

                        And the strawberries used to grow wild

                       

                       There's a drag strip down by the riverside

                        Where my grandma's cow used to graze

                        Now the grass don't grow and the river don't flow

                        Like it did in my childhood days

                       

                        Don't it make you wanna go home?

                        Don't it make you wanna go home?

                        All God's children get weary when they roam

                        Don't it make you wanna, wanna go home?

And …

Excellent …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1970  Walk A Mile In My Shoes  The Billboard Hot 100  #12 

1970  Walk A Mile In My Shoes  Country Singles  #56 

1970  Walk A Mile In My Shoes  Adult Contemporary  #3 

1970  Why Does a Man Do What He Has to Do #118

Album

1970  Don't It Make You Want To Go Home?  Country Albums  #39 

1970  Don't It Make You Want To Go Home?  The Billboard 200  #60 

England

nothing

Sounds

Clock Up On The Wall

mp3 attached

Bittersweet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN21Fv7f9XQ

Shelter

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

Before It's Too Late

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

Children  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PClS1JrY4c0

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th-epsY-7mA

A Million Miles Away

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

Don't It Make You Want To Go Home

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBPBWLmF-W8

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5znh58WITU8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvzGAW4BB34

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

sobering

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2xev6_uZ-Y

Covers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ov9fjaRZT4E

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcmnS_2buGA

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/dont-it-make-you-want-to-go-home-mw0001879175

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/joe-south-mn0000171994

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

http://redkelly.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/joe-south-and-believers-shelter-capitol.html

http://doclawrencenews.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/joe-souths-georgia.html

Website

http://www.joesouth.com/

Trivia

  • Musicians: Backing Vocals  – Pee Wee Parks / Backing Vocals, Piano, Keyboards and Other Keyboard Instruments  – Barbara South / Bass, Backing Vocals – Eddie Farrell / Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Tommy South / Engineer, Mixed By – Bob "Tub" Langford
  • Strangely, the LP was credited to Joe South alone, whereas the single showed Joe South and The Believers.
  • There is an Australia compilation from 1984 (EMI Capitol SCA 260318) which has the same front and back sleeves and album title but is, actually, a compilation made up of all the tracks from the original album (minus "Shelter" and "A Million Miles Away" ) and adding another 12 songs.
  • Elvis trivia: Elvis recorded four lines of the song "Don't It Make You Wanna Go Home" live in concert, on Wednesday, 29 July 1970 following a "Little Sister/Get Back" medley.

 

Posted in Country Soul, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

BLUE ANGEL – Blue Angel – (Polydor) – 1980

Blue Angel - Sleeve

For my readers who say I don't comment on enough "recent" records, recent being the 1980s, I give you Cyndi Lauper. Well, Cyndi Lauper's first band.

And it's a rockabilly band!

Well, perhaps "rock revival" rather than the rockabilly they are often described as.

Now, anyone who was around in the 1980s, like myself, knows who Cyndi Lauper is, but I wasn't into her music so I'm sketchy on her musical pedigree and career.

Not surprisingly, the rockabilly revelation took me by surprise.

Wikipedia: "Blue Angel was a retro-rockabilly band that featured Cyndi Lauper before her rise to fame as a solo singer. The lineup also included John Turi on keyboard instrument and saxophone, Arthur "Rockin' A" Neilson (guitar), Lee Brovitz (bass guitar) and Johnny Morelli (drums). Lauper and Turi wrote the bulk of their material, and the group also covered pop standards, such as Mann/Weil's "I'm Gonna Be Strong" (which Lauper covered again in a 1994 album). Blue Angel was briefly popular on the New York club scene … The band reformed without Lauper in 1987 under the name "Boppin' the Blues." Lauper joined them on stage for a one-time performance at New York's Lone Star Cafe, singing a Big Mama Thornton song and That's Alright Mama. The band has since disbanded". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Angel_(band)

According to wikipedia's Cyndi Lauper entry: "In 1978, Lauper met saxophone player John Turi through her manager Ted Rosenblatt. Turi and Lauper formed a band named Blue Angel and recorded a demo tape of original music. Steve Massarsky, manager of The Allman Brothers Band,heard the tape and liked Lauper's voice. He bought Blue Angel's contract for $5,000 and became their manager …  Lauper received recording offers as a solo artist, but held out, wanting the band to be included in any deal she made. Blue Angel was eventually signed by Polydor Records and released a self-titled album on the label in 1980. Lauper hated the album cover, saying that it made her look like Big Bird, but Rolling Stone magazine later included it as one of the 100 best new wave album covers (2003). Despite critical acclaim, the album sold poorly (or " It went lead", as Lauper later joked.) and the band broke up. The members of Blue Angel had a falling out with Massarsky and fired him as their manager. He later filed an $80,000 suit against them, which forced Lauper into bankruptcy … After Blue Angel broke up and due to her financial problems, Lauper spent time working in retail stores, waitressing at IHOP (which she quit after being demoted to hostess when the manager made a pass at her), and singing in local clubs. Her most frequent gigs were at El Sombrero. Music critics who saw Lauper perform with Blue Angel believed she had star potential due to her four-octave singing range, and a unique vocal style. In 1981, while singing in a local New York bar, Lauper met David Wolff, who took over as her manager and had her sign a recording contract with Portrait Records, a subsidiary of Epic Records". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyndi_Lauper

And the rest is history

But, in 1980, Cyndi Lauper was struggling to make ends meet.

New York was going through a rock "n" roll and rockabilly revival which had hitched itself to the back of the musical New Wave. Robert Gordon and The Stray Cats (who had moved to England) were the highlights, though in other parts of the US, punk and new wave influenced rockabilly acts like The Cramps, Tav Falco's Panther Burns, The Blasters, and The Kingbees were also getting attention.

The scene had been bubbling away through the 70s but it really became commercially viable with the New Wave in the late 1970s.

Cyndi Lauper was in the right time and place with the right pedigree. Half Swiss German, half Italian Catholic and born in 1953 in Queens, New York she was perfectly suited to take advantage of the trend, and, more importantly, she could sing.

Her range is amazing.

However, without a feel for the music range doesn't mean much.

Cyndi has feel.

I suspect, much like fellow New Yorker David Johansen (born 1950), in her youth she soaked up the many musical sounds of New York which included rock n roll, Brill Building pop and doo wop, and channeled it into her music.

The sound here is more to the pop end of the rockabilly spectrum, with a big dose of early 60s Brill Building girl pop, but the music has energy (as it should have because it's of that era), catchy rhythms and a touch of quirkiness.

It's hard to listen to it without thinking about Cyndi, because here voice is so distinctive, but if you get past that (if that is a problem) then the album is worthwhile.

Some of the production is slick rather than retro and I think most Cyndi fans will think the sound recording is sub par. It certainly doesn't sound like here subsequent bop pop hits but that's what I like about it.

The album was produced by New Yorker Roy Halee , most associated with Simon & Garfunkel.

All songs written by Cyndi Lauper and John Turi except where noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Maybe He'll Know – Cyndi rerecorded the song for her "True Colors"(1987) album. Here it is a cross between Brill Building pop and contemporary (1980) pop. It works well and is sufficiently retro to appeal to me.
  • I Had a Love – more 60s pop
  • Fade – well sung and distinctly retro with nice 60s keyboards
  • Anna Blue – a slow saxy (and trying to be sexy) song.
  • Can't Blame Me – a mid tempo bouncy tune that's catchy.
  • Late – (Lauper, Turi, Brovitz) – the first straight rockabilly song which sounds a little like Fabian's "Tiger" (1959) at times and Johnny O'Keefe's "Wild One" (1958). It is very catchy and very 50s.
  • Cut Out – (Fowler, King, Mack) – Originally by Johnny and the Hurricanes from 1959 this is a faithful and well done quasi-instrumental.
  • Take a Chance – very much a 50s type of Elvis tune and not dissimilar to "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" (1957)
  • Just the Other Day – an OK Brill Building type of New York street song that reminds one The Shirelles or The Ronnettes.
  • I'm Gonna Be Strong – (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil) – Gene Pitney's #9 from 1964. There is only one Gene Pitney but Cyndi does the song well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_Gonna_Be_Strong
  • Lorraine – OK, but filler.
  • Everybody's Got an Angel – (Blue Angel, Gross) – Quite a contemporary tune and Cyndi really belts it out in her fashion.

And …

It's not a rockabilly revival masterpiece but it is perfect for my next, errr sock hop. And it's a good talking point  (if i could only find someone interested enough to talk about it) … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing (in the big markets)

Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Blue_Angel/Blue_Angel/aebb4b58-a154-36f1-ae3c-246481969f66/

Late

mp3 attached

I'm Gonna Be Strong (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil)

Clip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MBijekSzDQ

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIb6AZdTr-A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFq4E9XTueY

live bop

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb7zoDD3CSI

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/blue-angel-mw0000770882 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Angel_(Blue_Angel_album)

http://www.dustbury.com/music/bluangel.html

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Angel_(band)

http://lostbands.blogspot.com.au/2005/03/blue-angel-cyndi-lauper.html

http://www.last.fm/music/Blue+Angel/+images/5002195

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyndi_Lauper

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Halee

Website

http://cyndilauper.com/

Trivia

  • Bass player Brovitz was briefly ion Chicago garage rockers The Shadows of Knight in the early 70s.

Blue Angel - Back Sleeve          Blue Angel - Australian Sleeve          Blue Angel - Sleeve post Lauper success

Blue Angel - Promo 01          Blue Angel - Promo 02          Blue Angel - Promo 03

Posted in Rockabilly and Rock n Roll | Tagged | Leave a comment

JIM KWESKIN – Side by Side – (Mountain Railroad Records) – 1979

Jim Kweskin - Side by Side

The beauty of listening to old school Americana, folk, Tin Pan Alley or the Great American songbook music is you don't have to worry about authorship.

Whether the artist wrote or didn't write the songs is second to the message and mood being conveyed.

A lot of the music comes from a time when music was a form of, err communication. Well, I suppose, it still is but way back when it was literally a form of communication … a way of telling people what was going on in the world (folk), expressing emotions (trad pop), showing a feeling (ragtime), or capturing a past (cowboy songs).

As a result, up till World War Two, song writing was more than a beat and a few snappy lines. The inherent communicative aspect of the songs made them especially evocative of their times and much more central to that community as a form of communication and entertainment.  There have been many pop songs since that can be dusted off and sung aging and that is a benefit, perhaps. But these pre-war tunes, despite being revived (especially in the late 50s and early 60s by rock and pop singers) are more locked in the times when they were written.

That's not to say these songs are dated. They aren't. The music is not any less worthwhile because, despite technology, the problems and emotions people sing about then still relate to now.

Right?

Well, if that isn't right we wouldn't be reading (or rather watching) Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams.

So what does it mean when a guy in 1979 (or even now) puts out an album like this where most of the songs are from  (or sound like they are from) another era?

It means the music is alive

Marginalised perhaps.

But alive.

And it is literally alive here, or rather live. This was recorded live at McCabe's, Santa Monica, California. And judging from the audience (and the thought to the song selection) the subjects of the pre-war songs was still relevant in 1979 and I would think they still are now.

You can listen to these tunes and they will still move you as any more recent music. Sure, if you haven't turned your ear to the music itself, you may have to try an little harder to acclimatise yourself to the music, but the emotional payoffs should be the same.

Also, to me, brought up on watching old black & white movies on Saturdays and Sundays on TV in the 70s and 80s, this music is a link to that past. I suppose, it is also a link further back to a past which I never knew (pre World War 2) which I understand through the prism of Hollywood films I watched.

Kweskin is an aficionado of all this music. Check my other comments for biographical details.

This is all second nature to him and he was in the right place and time.

The early to mid 70s saw a resurgence in this old-timey Americana from the 20s and 30s. Kweskin was active, as was Redbone and The Manhattan Transfer (slick vocal pop). "The Great Gatsby" (1974), "The Sting" (1973), "Nikelodeon" (1976), "Julia" (1977),  "Bound for Glory" about Wody Guthrie, and any number of gangster pics all looked back to that era with suitable music in place. "Ragtime" (1975) by E. L. Doctorow, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"  (1970) by Jimmy Breslin, "The Other" (1971) by Thomas Tryon, and other books were set in that era.

Kweskin just kept doing what he was doing.

He has made some concessions though. Kweskin was always quirky though not adverse to doing a song straight no matter how sentimental or sticky it may be. Here, his set is more straight than quirky, and he does not really explore his quirky side (with the exception of the song choices themselves).

He is in good voice and the small band behind him know exactly where his coming from , and going.

As an aside I note that Kweskin was, pretty much, always moustached. And it is fitting, here, that he is moustached given the hairy lip was in fashion in the 1970s as well as the 1920s and 1930s. Having said that Kweskin doesn't look like Burt Reynolds, Robert Redford, Errol Flynn or Clark Gable but rather like a migrant off a boat, Ellis Island circa 1929.

Perfect.

With the recent resurgence in Americana and old-timey music I hope that Kweskin has more bums on seats at his concerts. He is playing out there somewhere. Pokey La Farge and others are carrying the banner but I hope there is room for Kweskin.

Tracks (best in italics)

A lot of  discographies have the sides the wrong way around. Kweskin labels his record "left side" and "right side" rather than "side one" and "side two". But he is clearly being introduced at the start of "Goody Goody" which is the first song on the "Left side" which is also sometimes listed as "side one". The back sleeve has no discernable order to the songs.

  • Goody Goody  – (Matty Malneck / Johnny Mercer) – another trad pop classic, from 1936, covered by everyone and with a hit pop rock version by Frankie Lymon (1957). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goody_Goody
  • Side by Side  – (Harry Woods) – from 1927 this has become a standard with many covers. Kay Starr (1953), Dean Martin (1966), Trini Lopez (1965), Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello (for the Hudson Hawk movie soundtrack in 1991), Guy Mitchell (1952). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Side_by_Side_(1927_song)
  • It's a Sin to Tell a Lie  – (Billy Mayhew) – from 1936 this (beautiful song) was originally by Fats Waller (or maybe Freddy Ellis) and then done everywhere including a informal version by Elvis in 1966 which is based the Ink Spots version (1956 I think). Kweskin does it beautifully and gets the audience to participate.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Sin_to_Tell_a_Lie
  • Cieleto Lindo  – (Public Domain / Carlos Fernandez / Traditional) – an old Mexican song dating back to the 19th century but forever being revived. Kweskin doesn't sound remotely Latin (despite singing in Spanish) but I have always loved this song (even the Croatian version (!) I heard as a kid) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cielito_Lindo
  • Tumbling Tumbleweeds  – (Bob Nolan) – Done by everyone, always associated with the authors Sons of the Pioneers (1946), it was also done by Gene Autry (1935),  Bing Crosby (1940), Slim Whitman (1956), Michael Nesmith (1970),  Don Everly (1970) and the Meat Puppets (1982). Every version of this song is good and this one is no exception. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumbling_Tumbleweeds
  • The Preacher and the Bear – (Joe Arzonia / Jim Kweskin) – Rustic and rural ("Grizzly Adams" was popular at the time) but obviously allegorical. A traditional done by everybody including Golden Gate Quartet (1937),  New Christy Minstrels (1962), and Jerry Reed (1971)
  • Papa's on the Housetop  – (Leroy Carr) – a blues dating back to 1930. This is a gentle stomp.
  • On the Sunny Side of the Street  – (Dorothy Fields / Jimmy McHugh) – done by everyone (I mean everyone) this is a beautifully optimistic song (which is also often used as irony) with some of the most sublime lyric written. And who doesn't know that melody? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Sunny_Side_of_the_Street
  • Ain't Misbehavin'  – (Harry Brooks / Andy Razaf / Fats Waller) – the legendary old school, trad jazz song, originally from 1929. Kweskin does the long instrumental intro like on the pre-war versions of the song. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain%27t_Misbehavin%27_(song)
  • Sweet Sue, Just You  – (Will J. Harris / Victor Young) – Originally from 1928. Kweskin is unabashedly romantic here. Gritty, but romantic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Sue,_Just_You

And …

Beautiful and it may work at dinner parties, if you are serving boiled potatoes and cabbage …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

none

Sounds

It's a Sin to Tell a Lie

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

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-VnSOYZa9w

Papa's on the Housetop

Recent live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZsK2KRenmQ

On the Sunny Side of the Street

mp3 attached

Sweet Sue, Just You 

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9LGruqQcUc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUeuj41dXF4

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/side-by-side-mw0000654284

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jim-kweskin-mn0000345596/biography

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

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2013/08/22/the-jim-kweskin-jug-band-celebrates-its-anniversary/Oqomz2ClmAWLuRR7hEhoSO/story.html

Website

http://jimkweskin.com/  

Trivia

  • The angsty rock kid in me has to take a back seat here because there is some merit to this position from youtuber Austin Casey, talking about authorship of The Ink Spots song "It's a Sin To Tell a Lie", "The Ink Spots did NOT write their own music Lol. Hardly anyone back then wrote their own music… the music industry was totally different then. Up until about the 60's most songs were written by songwriters and the artists would choose which they liked best. THAT is why music was so much better then… because music was only written by people who knew music… not just some teenagers who only know 3 chords on the Guitar. This whole idea of "writing your own music" is only good when you can actually write good music. Most artists cant."
  • The back sleeve is a humorous dress up to each of the songs.
  • The venue for this live record was McCabe's Guitar store which is still going and putting on shows. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCabe's_Guitar_Shop
  • The band was: Jim Kweskin (guitar, banjo, vocal) with Richard Guerin (mandolin, guitar, fiddle, vocal), Terry Bernhard (piano, harmony vocal), Etta Russell(cello, guitarone)

Jim Kweskin - Side by Side - back

Posted in Americana, Folk, Popular & Crooners | Tagged | 1 Comment

HAWKS – 30 Seconds Over Otho – (Columbia) – 1982

Hawks - 30 Seconds Over Otho

I have spoken about power pop before in this blog. I have commented on it's history, on it's pedigree, on it's popularity. But, what really becomes noticeable when discussing power pop LPs is it's universal regionality, if that phrase makes any sense.

Bands across the US (and England and Australia) away from the hip scenes of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco (or London and Sydney) regularly picked up their instruments and pounded out tunes that were new but not so new that rock fans would be thrown off. The songs had to trigger something in the collective historical rock n roll memory and be danced to, not thought about.

Sure there were power pop bands from Los Angeles and New York like The Knack, The Plimsouls and Dirty Looks but that was nothing compared to the bands from the "regions" …

Cheap Trick from Rockford, Illinois , Dwight Twilley Band from Tulsa Oklahoma, The Cars from Boston, The Romantics from Detroit, Pezband from Oak Park, Illinois, 20/20 from Tulsa, Oklahoma, The As fron Philadelphia, Clocks from Wichita, Kansas, D.L. Byron  from New Jersey etc etc

Power pop is  the music of the nowhere, and everywhere.

I suspect power pop in some form was always out there in the suburbs or in the backwaters, in the mid sized towns that dot the landscape between the capitols. Bands in the backwaters didn't have access to fantastic recording facilities, walls of horns and strings, magnificent venues or access to promotion facilities.

And, importantly they had to pay the bills.

I'm sure their rock n roll was the rock n roll of survival. It was about earning a wage, getting a girl (or girls), and having a good time.

It is the music of dances, drinks, live concerts, Friday and Saturday nights and doing as much as you can before everything (life) explodes on you.

The music was new but old. Check out my other comments but you can trace the music back to the 60s and perhaps back to the late 50s.  The music was always there biting at the heels of self importance that seems to take over rock like a reoccurring flu. Before the resurgence in the late 70s there had been Big Star(from Memphis), The Raspberries (from ), The Flaming Groovies (from San Francisco) and many bands in-between.

And like many other musicians from the regions who had been plugging away for years, the new wave gave them that second chance in the form of power pop.

I had said this before

I have always had a soft spot for powerpop (though with reservations) mainly because any music that is short, sharp and jagged is worth a listen. And in the 70s awash with disco funk excess, prog rock excess , saccharine Eagles pseudo country rock excess, bloated glam rock excess and nauseating world music excess, powerpop filled the rock void until the rise of punk.

Punk it isn't but rock in a youthful, jubilant way it is, and that's enough. It's easy to see how it was incorporated into punk and the New Wave.

The 20 something Hawks from Fort Dodge, Iowa fit the definition.

wikipedia: "Frank Wiewel and Kirk Kaufman met in junior high school in Fort Dodge, Iowa, during the 1960s. This eventually led to the formation of the group West Minist’r, a popular group during the late 1960s to early 1970s … until its demise in 1974. Kaufman, Wiewel, Keith Brown and Arnie Bode opened West Minist’r Sound in 1972. Housed in a brick chicken coop that the band had used for practice, this Tom Hidley- designed space was located on Kaufman’s parent’s farm outside of Otho, Iowa … Both Wiewel and Kaufman continued writing and recording during the 1970s. By 1979 Wiewel had recorded several tracks that his wife encouraged him to send out to various record labels … they sealed the deal with Columbia. The only immediate stipulation made by Columbia was that the group’s name be changed. Wiewel had sent the demos out using the name Nighthawks. Using the first letters of their last names, it was decided to just shorten the name to Hawks".

A lot of power pop enthusiasts love the Hawks debut LP. I haven't heard it so I can't say. The general criticism is that this sophomore album is not as enthralling or power pop as their debut. They made compromises to commerciality ant AOR (album oriented rock).

But, if the songs and music is good then , perhaps, it doesn't matter.

Their first album, didn't sell and, like many bands signed by the major labels at the time you only had a couple of albums to prove (read – make big  sales) yourself.

The Hawks are slick (this album was recorded in LA), and their music can be quite anthemic but their power pop sensibility is there in every song. The songs are well crafted (four of the five band members write) and hit all the genre motifs. Their sound recalls  Cheap Trick, Dwight Twilley, Badfinger, Rick Springfield and Todd Rundgren.

The music is a little familiar (power pop by it's nature tends to be a limited genre regardless of how joyous and exhilarating it is) but the songs are well crafted and well played.

The album still didn't sell … what is regional success doesn't always translate into national success. There are too many factors working against a band ….

"It's a long way to the top it you want to rock n roll"

Columbia let the band go after this second album and they split up. (there was a "Two Album Deal" curse in the '80s …)

I'm not sure if they are referencing Jefferson Airplanes 1973 live album "Thirty Seconds Over Winterland" or the Spencer Tracy 1944 war film "30 Seconds over Tokyo" in the title which also refers to their recording origins.

Check my other entires for definitions of power pop

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Tonight You Are Mine – (Steen/Kaufman) – a big sound but a good balance between classic power pop and AOR.
  • Somewhere in the Night – (Hearn) – A big song and very catchy. Even the synths (and Meatloaf references) don't ruin it. It's a slippery slope from here to REO Speedwagon though.
  • (If We Just) Stick Together – (Steen) – a great Springsteen-ish song .. not surprisingly there is (distinctive) saxophone by Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.
  • Nobody Loses Tonight – (Steen) – a fitting anthem to be played at any dance. It sounds a little Dwight Twilley-esque to me. And, there is nothing wrong with that.
  • Angel – (Kaufman) – a touch of The Beatles and Badfinger here.
  • The Great Divide – (Hearn) – Great fun
  • Don’t Walk Away – (Hearn) – a little more sedate but catchy.
  • Black and White – (Wiewel/Steen) – catchy and quite busy.
  • Listen to Her Sing – (Steen) – the obligatory love ballad though this is a mid-tempo one with beautiful chorused backing vocals
  • Call On Me – (Harders/Kopp) – a cover. Originally released in 1977 by German pop band "Sunrise". Pure pop .. and extremely catchy.

And …

A minor masterpiece of the genre … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where

Sounds

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUbs1PVCEtM

Tonight You Are Mine

mp3 attached

(If We Just) Stick Together

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iMtUOX9ny8

Nobody Loses Tonight

mp3 attached

Black and White

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGudtD7t7FU

Call On Me – (Harders/Kopp) –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGyHDez_NJ4

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nY0X7Wdx6UQ

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/30-seconds-over-otho-mw0000922357

Bio

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

https://www.iowarocknroll.com/inductees/174/the-hawks/

http://www.myfortdodge.com/profiles/blogs/the-hawks

Website

Trivia

  • Produced by John Ryan … (Badfinger, Styx, Allman Brothers Band etc)  http://chicagokidrecords.com/discography/
  • A third album, " Perfect World Radio", came out in 2003 which was compiled with the assistance of the band, and features various demos and unreleased tracks including material they were putting together for a new album in 1983 .
Posted in Power Pop | Tagged | 1 Comment

JOHNNY RIVERS – Slim Slo Rider – (Imperial) – 1970

Johnny Rivers - Slim Slo Rider - (Imperial) - 1970

I like Johnny Rivers but, to be fair, he always seemed to have an eye on what was happening around him. Most musicians do I suspect, well at least those who want some commercial success do.

It would be reasonable for a cynical voice to say that River's style hopping was more calculated than sincere. I choose not to believe this but say that even if this was true, who cares, the  guy has got great taste.

This album is of its time.

1970

Rivers embraces country rock, Jesus rock, Van Morrison, a beard and introspection. But, always the rock n roller at heart, he recruits most of Elvis Presley's' TCB band (that Elvis had put together in mid 1969) to play session for him … as well as most of "The Wrecking Crew" musicians.

Rivers could write a tune but was happier relying on other peoples songs. His skilled lied in interpretation and in subsuming the song into his musical personality without losing whatever made them distinctive or appealing in the first place. And, the songs are, I assume, carefully chosen and by and large he stays away from singles and goes for album tracks.

Here, clearly, he has become obsessed with quiet introspection and rural vibes as channelled through Van Morrison and Gram Parsons. Morrison's "Slim Slow Rider" from his "Astral Weeks" (1968) album is recorded twice and gives the album it's name (albeit as "Slim Slo Rider"). Rivers also covers his "Into the Mystic" which was on Morrison's "Moondance" (1970) album. He also covers two Gram Parsons songs (interestingly Gram Parsons, an Elvisophile  himself, was to use the line up Rivers has here for his "GP" (1973) and "Grievous Angel" (1974) albums.

He also covers a couple of James Kendricks songs who had worked with Rivers before (and would again). Kendricks isn't as well known as Morrison or Parsons but was known and was a friend of Rivers. On his "Realization" (1968) album comment I said "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 is quiet and thoughtful on this set and like a lot of people on the west coast he started to embrace different philosophies whilst thinking about the "bigger picture".

“I started becoming introspective and searching for God around ’67 or ’68,” Rivers recalled. “I had joined some yoga groups and was studying a lot of Eastern teachings. I was caught up in that whole movement and I guess it came out in my music". http://www.todayschristianmusic.com/artists/johnny-rivers/features/on-the-road-of-life/

What he has done is make all the songs pop and soul. Strings and horns are added, and not is a cloying or obvious way. This, in his hands is no longer rural, ragged (Gram), spectral, jazzy (Van). It is radio friendly MOR but good MOR.

The sounds are lush and the playing as you would expect is beautiful. Rivers nasal delivery works well and at times on occasion he sounds a little like Gene Clark

Lou Adler produced with Rivers.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Slim Slow Slider – (Van Morrison) – another song about a drug pusher. Originally done by Van Morrison on his "Astral Weeks" (1968) album. This is acoustic intro to the song which is then done again at the end of the album.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slim_Slow_Slider
  • Wrote a Song for Everyone – (John Fogerty) – From the Creedence Clearwater Revival  "Green River " (1969) album. It's good hearing the CCR song in a big production setting.
  • Muddy River – (James Hendricks) – Hendricks wrote "Summer Rain," which had been a hit single (#14) for Rivers (who produced his debut "Songs Of James Hendricks" 1968 LP).  This song subsequently came out on Hendricks self titled 1971 LP.
  • Rainy Night in Georgia – (Tony Joe White) – written by Tony Joe White in 1962 and popularized by R&B vocalist Brook Benton in 1970 (#4). Rivers gives a big cover and it comes off really well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainy_Night_in_Georgia
  • Brass Buttons – (Gram Parsons) –  "Brass Buttons" dated from Parsons' brief stint as a Harvard-based folksinger in the mid-1960s. It subsequently came out on Gram's 1974 LP, "Grievous Angel". This is a beautiful song with great, delicate lyrics. This is the first cover of "Brass Buttons" which went ton to become a favourite.
  • Glory Train – (James Hendricks) –  Another song from Hendricks that came out on Hendricks self titled 1971 LP. This one has obvious religious references.
  • Jesus Is a Soul Man – (Jack Cardwell / Lawrence Reynolds) –  The original single by Lawrence Reynolds came out in 1969 (#28). This is a mid tempo rocker celebrating Jesus. Some great guitar by James Burton. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Is_a_Soul_Man
  • Apple Tree – (Gram Parsons) –  Rivers cut this unrecorded Parsons song . I'm not sure how he got hold of it . It is a wistful tune.
  • Into the Mystic – (Van Morrison) – from Van's "Moondance" (1970) LP.   More great guitar from Burton and a good performance by Rivers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Mystic
  • Resurrection – (Bob Ray) – Los Angeles psych-folkie Bob Ray was signed to Johnny Rivers' Soul City label and this song first appeared on  his 1968 release "Initiation of a Mystic"
  • Enemies and Friends – (Scott McKenzie) –  from Mackenzie's "Stained Glass Morning" (1970) album. More religious overtones. A good song.
  • Slim Slow Slider – (Van Morrison) –  a reprise of the title track with the full band … and a great performance.

And …

Slick and groovy …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1969  Muddy River  The Billboard Hot 100  #41 

1970  Into The Mystic  The Billboard Hot 100  #51

Album

1970 #100

England

Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Johnny_Rivers/Slim_Slo_Slider/2985e7d1-76fe-3718-b0bf-1d579aece12d/

Rainy Night in Georgia

mp3 attached

Apple Tree

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xCIDwC3CwI

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hLfbLhXugs

Review

Bio

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

http://johnnyrivers.com/jr/biography.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/johnny-rivers-mn0000203639/biography

Website

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

http://www.james-burton.net/

Trivia

 

Posted in Rock & Pop, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment