THE YOUNG RASCALS – Groovin’ – (Atlantic) – 1967

Young Rascals - Groovin

Check out my other Rascals comment for background on this seminal American band.

Putting the hit singles to one side, The Young Rascals are sadly underappreciated outside of the US. They were, for a short time, phenomenal, but like many other American acts their popularity outside of the US was underwhelming.

You don't hear people asking "What's Your favourite Rascals album?" as they would of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Who or Kinks.

And, they had a #1 album in 1968 (the Greatest Hits album), 2 Top 10 albums, another 3 Top 20 albums and another Top 40 album … all in 4 years!

I think, outside of the US, there is still an under appreciation of LPs by US 60s bands generally, such was the popularity of the British invasion groups. The good thing is, for me, the discovery of  these "new" albums.

This was the Rascals third album and here they really extended themselves bringing in Latin rhythms, pop, balladry, horns, psych influences to their already establish blue eyed soul and garage sound.

They could do this, and do this easily…

As a working band they could play as good as any band in the land. Playing night after night will sharpen your skills to the point where anything you tackle with imagination will pay off.

And they had imagination.

The late 60s, and 1967 specifically, was a time of imagination and experimentation. Anything was possible. Both musically and otherwise. The Summer of Love was underway and even though there was a war being fought on south east Asian fields escapism rather than confrontation was the rule of the day.

The Rascals tapped into that alternative reality. There is an urban pastoral (if that's not a contradiction) feel to this album. This album is relaxed and laid back, as if you were going for a stroll in the local park, even if it is surrounded by skyscrapers. The heavier, noisier rock and soul of their first two albums only sticks its head in occasionally here. I love that music but the "good vibrations" on this album really make it special and ease a weary mind.

Even today, despite some sounds that are of their time, this album is perfect for the days of winter sunshine when you don't have a care in the world.

Within a few years everything would turn to shit and a realisation that escape does not exist without ramifications, becomes clear, but, for a moment there in 1967 the world was perfect. It was good to be young, free, and in love.

The Young Rascals knew this and put it to music, just like an East Coast Beach Boys.

What is most striking to me is the similarity to The Beach Boys. Wait, listen. I'm not talking about sounds, but thematically. With a sense of innocent wide eyed excitement much of this album feels like something coming in the immediate aftermath of "Pet Sounds" (1966). Surely that album had an influence on this album. The horns replace The Beach Boys multi layered vocals but, otherwise, the emotional punch in the songs comes from the same area.

This is sublime music.

All songs are written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, except where otherwise indicated.

Tracks (best in italics)

Side One

  • A Girl Like You – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – A great song. Really, a great song. A touch of The Lovin Spoonful in here but what a great song.
  • Find Somebody – ((Lead Vocals: Eddie) – ) – Garage rock with psychedelic overtones. This is good and tough ….
  • I'm So Happy Now – (Gene Cornish) – (Lead Vocals: Gene) – beautiful … gentle.
  • Sueño – (Lead Vocals: Felix) –  A wonderful Latin lilt runs through this, naturally enough given the songs title. Though here the Latin is injected with some psych. Excellent.
  • How Can I Be Sure – (Lead Vocals: Eddie) – a fantastic single with a beautiful melancholy accordion (well three of them are of Italian ancestry). This is one of my favourite "accordion" rock n pop songs. This sounds like it could have come off a soundtrack of the time. It is sublime, totally romantic and wonderful.

      Side Two

  • Groovin' – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – The big single and one of the greatest of songs from pop. Its effect on the happy  part of the brain is palpable … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groovin%27
  • If You Knew – (Lead Vocals: Eddie & Felix) – a very pretty song. Filler, but superior filler.
  • I Don't Love You Anymore – (Gene Cornish) – (Lead Vocals: Gene) – Beautiful.
  • You Better Run – (Lead Vocals: Felix) – Apparently a song left over from earlier albums. This is straight garage and rock with keyboards up front. Maybe they were hedging their bets in case the old fans didn't like the new direction but, it doesn't matter because the song is so well done and sung.
  • A Place in the Sun – (Ronald Miller, Brian Wells) – (Lead Vocals: Eddie) – a cover of the Stevie Wonder hit from 1966 (#9). The Rascals play this gently and it fits in perfectly with the originals (thematically also).
  • It's Love – (Lead Vocals – Felix) – a great soul rock song with swirling flute and an ethereal light psych feel. The Flute solo is by legendary jazz flutist Hubert Laws.                

And …

A magnificent album. One of the best of the 1960s … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1967  How Can I Be Sure  The Billboard Hot 100  4 

1967  Groovin'  The Billboard Hot 100  1

1967  Groovin'  R&B Singles  3 

1967  A Girl Like You  The Billboard Hot 100  10 

Album

1967  Groovin'  R&B Albums  7 

1967  Groovin'  The Billboard 200  5 

England

Singles

1967  Groovin'  #8   

1967  A Girl Like You  #37 

Album

Sounds

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVcEcPb8Ilc

A Girl Like You

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

Sueño

mp3 attached

How Can I Be Sure

mp3 attached

live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Es6qBBrrhc

Groovin'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0fErmzmfqo

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA7CPmNqjek

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Mlj8nuJbNQ

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

Review

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groovin%27_(The_Young_Rascals_album)

http://www.allmusic.com/album/groovin-mw0000202187

http://www.sundazed.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=513

Bio

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-rascals-mn0000493122/biography

http://www.angelfire.com/mi4/rascals/

Website

http://www.therascalsarchives.com/

http://www.young-rascals.com/main_rascals.htm

http://www.drummerworld.com/drummers/Dino_Danelli.html

http://www.felixcavalieremusic.com/bio

Trivia

  • apparently The Young Rascals were one of the only white groups to have a sizeable following with Afro-Americans (five of their albums made the R&B Charts).
Posted in Blue Eyed Soul, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHNNY RIVERS – In Action! – (Imperial) – 1965

Johnny Rivers - In Action

You know the drill.

Biographical details and musical stylistic observations on Johnny Rivers are on any number of other entries on this blog.

This was Johnny's 3rd album and 3rd album of 1964.

It was his first studio album despite suggestions of being live: the pictures, the title.

Rivers had shown he could cut it live and create "groovy" go go sounds. This album is a little more restrained but there is still a good vibe running through it as he tackles songs from the rock n roll era and more recent hits. These aren't slavish covers but rather songs done to the Rivers beat. The emphasis is on the beat, as in a beat for dancing.

As I sit here alone in my man cave (the wife and kids having deserted me for the comforts of cable TV) I'm not going to hop up and do a dance but my foot is tapping and I know I'll be playing the record through again because it's fun.

The album was produced by Lou Adler who is no slouch at this type of stuff. Joe Osborn is on bass and Mickey Jones (formerly with Trini Lopez and later with Bob Dylan) is on drums.

Perhaps the final word should come from Steve McQueen who does the celebrity endorsement liner notes on the back sleeve:

I dig music…all kinds of music: jazz, blues, pop, classical; the style doesn’t matter if it’s something that involves me.  That’s why, when I was asked to write a few lines for this new album, I jumped at the chance.

Blues are something special for me; they get to the live heart of people – their hurts and happiness, problems and joys, desires and fulfilments.  Isn’t this what life is all about?

When Johnny Rivers sings, he gets to the heart of the music.  He sings from the soul, capturing not only the meaning of the lyric but the complimentary value of the melody.  For me, Johnny is the most exciting and creative young talent since the days of the great Leadbelly.

Many times I’ve enjoyed dancing to Johnny’s music at the Whisky à Go Go.  But Johnny’s talents are equally deserving of a listening audience, and for that reason I’m happy to be able to add this album to my collection at home.

Johnny Rivers is no fad.  He’s an artist, one who will survive and continue to grow long after many another has been forgotten.

Tracks (best in italics)

Side One

  • Mountain Of Love – (Harold Dorman) – Harold Dorman's 1960 hit (#21Pop, #7R&B). Apparently, The Wrecking Crew played backing to Rivers on this. The Beach Boys tackles Rivers version on their "Party" (1965) album. This sis a great song and oddly reminiscent of Elvis movie songs around the chorus.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_of_Love
  • Promised Land – (Chuck Berry) – Chuck Berry was perfect for Johnny Rivers. Rivers had hit with Chuck's Memphis and Maybelline (both 1964)  so i assumed the logic was, "when oin a roll …" The song first appeared on Chuck's 1964 album, "St. Louis to Liverpool" and Rivers does a good credible version. It's become a bona fide classic. (Elvis' version from 1974 is one of the best). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Promised_Land_(song)
  • I Should Have Known Better – (Lennon–McCartney) – The Beatles song from 1964 slowed down for hipster older dancing rather than teen shenanigans. It works. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Should_Have_Known_Better
  • I'm In Love Again – (A. Domino – D. Bartholomew) – Fats Domino's tune from 1956. is done well by Rivers. This type of stuff Rivers loved having grown up in Louisiana. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_in_Love_Again_(song)
  • Rhythm Of The Rain – (J. Gummol) – The Cascades big hit from 1963 (#3) is sped up slightly to match the tempo of the other songs, for dancing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhythm_of_the_Rain
  • He Don't Love You Like I Love You – (Nathan Stuckey) – Jerry Butler, Calvin Carter, and Curtis Mayfield) – A #7 hit in 1960 under a different title. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/He_Don%27t_Love_You_(Like_I_Love_You)

Side Two

And …

I dig this music and, if it's good enough for Steve McQueen, it's good enough for me … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1964  Mountain Of Love  The Billboard Hot 100  #9 

1965  Cupid  The Billboard Hot 100  #76 

Album

1965  Johnny Rivers In Action!  The Billboard 200  #42 

Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Johnny_Rivers/In_Action!/66c1cf74-328f-482e-b489-3db2a99141e0/

Mountain Of Love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5R-_ZUf0wY

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TXfcsFhc7A

Review

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Action_(Johnny_Rivers_album)

http://www.allmusic.com/album/johnny-rivers-in-action!-changes-mw0000461707

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/

Trivia

Posted in Blue Eyed Soul, Rock & Pop, Rockabilly and Rock n Roll | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHN WALKER – If You Go Away – (Philips) – 1967

John Walker - If You Go Away

Everyone (well the critics and music tragics anyway) wax lyrical about Scott Walker (and rightly so) of The Walker Brothers but what about his "brother" John?

John was one third of 1960s pop sensations The Walker Brothers.

The Walker Brothers are interesting on a number of levels.

They weren't brothers and secondly they were Americans who went to live in England at the height of the British invasion and had hits there.

Wikipedia: John Maus was born in New York City (in 1943) , the son of John Joseph Maus Sr., who was of German extraction, and his wife Regina. With his parents and his older sister, Judith, he moved to California in 1947, at first settling in Redondo Beach and later in Hermosa Beach. He began learning saxophone, clarinet and guitar as a child, and by the age of 11 also began acting and appearing in TV talent shows. He had a role in a regular sitcom, Hello Mom, and small uncredited parts in the movies The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) and The Missouri Traveler (1958). He became a friend of Ritchie Valens, and was an honorary pallbearer at Valens' funeral. In 1959 the family moved again, to Inglewood, where he made the acquaintance of David Marks and Dennis and Carl Wilson, helping to teach them guitar. He began using the name John Walker at the age of 17, because he was unhappy at how people pronounced his real name…From 1957 onwards, he worked as singer and guitarist with his sister, as the duo John and Judy. They recorded several singles for the Aladdin, Dore, Arvee and Eldo labels between 1958 and 1962. In 1961, they formed a backing band and performed as John, Judy and the Newports, until the band split up after an engagement in Hawaii. They then met Scott Engel, who had been playing bass in The Routers, and, with drummer "Spider" Webb, formed a new band, Judy and the Gents. Maus obtained an ID card in the name of John Walker, in order to perform in clubs around Los Angeles while under the legal age to do so. In 1963, Walker and Engel, with two other musicians, toured the Midwest as "The Surfaris", although the group included none of the musicians who played on the Surfaris' records. Walker also released his first solo record, "What a Thrill", on the Almo label, with The Blossoms as backing singers… He formed The Walker Brothers (originally The Walker Brothers Trio) in 1964, with himself as lead vocalist and guitarist, Engel on bass and harmony vocals, and Al "Tiny" Schneider on drums. Walker and Engel were signed as a duo by Mercury Records, and recorded their first single, "Pretty Girls Everywhere" in Los Angeles. There they became a leading attraction at Gazzari's nightclub, and appeared on the Shindig! TV show developed by Jack Good, and then on a weekly TV show, Ninth Street A Go Go. Late in 1964, they met drummer Gary Leeds, previously of The Standells, who had recently toured the UK with singer P.J. Proby, and who persuaded them that they would have greater success in England. Before leaving, they recorded their second single, "Love Her", overseen by Nick Venet and arranger Jack Nitzsche, with Scott Engel taking the lead vocal part for the first time. With financial backing from Leeds' stepfather, Walker, Engel and Leeds travelled to the UK in February 1965 for an exploratory visit …"

The result of that visit …. Singles: 2 #1s, another 7 Top 40. Albums: 4 Top 10 albums. And that is in the space of three years!

The Walker Brothers had less chart success in the US (2 Top 20s) though I suspect that was partially because the US already had "their" Walker Brothers … and what the "Walker Brothers" were based themselves on (in part), The Righteous Brothers.

The Brothers broke up in 1968. Each went on to put out solo work with Scott achieving the most success, critically and commercially.

They reformed in the 70s for three more albums before splitting again. John Walker went into electronics and solo work before passing away in 2011.

John was 24 at the time of this album. He had sung lead back in the US but Scott had become the lead voice soon after the group formed and was the only lead voice the English had heard. So whilst he sand up front, Gary played drums and John sang harmonies. Those harmonies where integral to The Walker Brothers sound and John was right up front of stage with Scott. But there was more. John Walker wrote, somewhat immodestly, but with a lot of truth, in his autobiographical The Walker Brothers: "No Regrets – Our Story":

"I was always the leader of the band. I was the one who said, 'Let's do this, let's do that.' I spent a great deal of time making sure that the group would make incredible music. Most people don't realise that it was I who chose the songs that would become The Walker Brothers' biggest-selling singles….. I was aware that things had changed a lot: Scott had become the lead singer of the group… Now that he was singing lead, I enjoyed the opportunity to create some unusual harmonies, something I had never done before. We knew that we each had an important role, and felt responsible to each other, with one goal in mind, which was to make good records that were unique for the time."

I suspect, though, that John wanted to do a side project and this was it. Whether that was a result of a split in the band or a looming split I do not know as I'm not that familiar with the (minutiae) details of the band.

Clearly, John had an influence on The Walker Brothers career and sound as they all did. By that I mean to suggest they were not a "put together" act. It seems clear they were all creative and (to varying degrees) forceful personalities.

This album is proof of that. It is both a Walker Brothers album and a departure from the Walker Brothers. This album could have been a Walker Brothers album. The same themes, same sound (maybe stripped down a little), and same pop sensibility are there. And yet, it departs from what the Walker Brothers did as John injects more of his own personality. There are more retro trad pop numbers, less emphasis on intensely brooding songs, and occasional displays of a wounded heart (which was Scott's forte).

Despite a single John  released in 1968, "Annabella", co-written by Graham Nash, which reached #24 on the UK singles chart this album tanked as did follow up singles and a 1969 album, "This Is John Walker". There would be other bits and pieces before and after the 1970s Walker Brothers reunion but his solo career never took off.

I suspect a lot of that had to do with being in the (giant) shadow of Scott Walker, who sang not dissimilar music.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side 1

  • The Right To Cry – (Goffin-King) – nice, but a little thin around the voice and the voice lost in the instrumentation on occasion. First done by Lenny Welch in 1967.
  • Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry – (Cahn-Styne) – this is better. Walker's voice suits gentle arrangements when he wants it to. Here he takes on a wounded heart little boy lost voice, with some huskiness around the edges. This is decidedly retro with 40s era backing vocals. I'm not sure where the market is (was) for this in 1967. Even Tony Bennett wasn't doing stuff like this at the time. Still, there is nothing wrong with it, it's good in fact. A standard done by everyone, notably Frank Sinatra in 1958. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Guess_I%27ll_Hang_My_Tears_Out_to_Dry
  • Reaching For The Sun – (Duncan-Nash-James) –   a beat ballad co-written by Graham Nash. This is good with some nice drama. Nash is always a good writer.
  • An Exception To The Rule – (Stone) –  a mid tempo soul number which is fun (slight but fun).
  • Good Day – (Nash-Duncan-James) – a song of its times. Baroque, hippy and quite relaxing in a winter way.
  • If You Go Away – (McKuen-Brel) – The magnificent Rod McKuen and Jacques Brel song done by everyone including Scott Walker. There are going to be inevitable comparisons and the general consensus is Scott's version is better … and it is, but John's version is pretty good also, but then again the song is great for pop singers like this. Some of the orchestral flourishes are a little too much but then the song is meant to be uber emotional …

            Side 2

  • So Goes Love – (Goffin-King) – English pop singer Dave Berry (1965) had done this as had The Turtles (1967). Nice.
  • It's All In The Game – (Sigman-Dawes) –  The song had given Tommy Edwards (#1, 1958) and Cliff Richard (#2 UK 1963, #25 US, 1964) hits. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_All_in_the_Game_(song)
  • Nancy (With The Laughing Face)  – (Silvers-van Heusen) – nice and gentle but always associated with Frank Sinatra (1944). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_(with_the_Laughing_Face)
  • It's A Hang Up Baby – (Reeves) – a stompin mid tempo rocker. Decidedly old school and a touch cabaret but quite groovy. Similar to Jerry Lee Lewis' version on his " Soul My Way" album from 1967.
  • Pennies From Heaven – (Burke-Johnston) – one of my favourite of all the popular standards. This , though, misses the mark. Both the tempo and  orchestration is wrong, which, I think, sets the wrong mood for the song. Done by everyone but usually associated with Bing Crosby (1935) though I'm partial, also, to Guy Mitchell's version from 1958. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennies_from_Heaven_(song)
  • I Don't Wanna Know About You –  (Maus) – written by Walker himself. A pleasant mid tempo rocker.

And …

Not perfect and if it wasn't for the continual comparisons to Scott Walker this would stand a taller. Quite good and at times impressively good (and I like the Walker Brothers anyway) … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

nothing

Sounds

Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZTscdO4Slo

Reaching for the Sun

mp3 attached

If You Go Away 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NKDN86gRlw

It's A Hang Up Baby   

mp3 attached

Others

doing Dylan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkAHz-PgLeY

Walker Brothers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eAxCVTMJ-I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u96SurBlgbM

doing Dylan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8H9o4r4NkI

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/if-you-go-away-mw0000473690

http://twenty-flight-rock.co.uk/2010/01/09/john-walker-if-you-go-away-1967/

Bio

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Walker_(musician)

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/john-walker-mn0000193824/biography

http://theirlifewastooshort.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/john-walker.html

visual tribute

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-walker-brothers-mn0000582024/biography

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

Website

http://www.johnwalkerinternational.com/

http://www.thewalkerbrothersjohnwalker.com/

http://www.john-walker.org/

Trivia

  • Accompaniment is by reg Guest who worked with The Walker Brothers and Scott Walker solo.

 

RIP: Elvis Presley – 38 years ago.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ3MOyCn66w

 

Posted in Adult Pop, Blue Eyed Soul, Popular & Crooners, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

ROD McKUEN – Seasons in the Sun, II – (Stanyan) – 1967

Rod McKuen - Seasons in the Sun II

A man.

A singlet.

A beach.

A piece of driftwood.

A perfect LP sleeve.

And perhaps a little gay.*

Not to me though.

To me the (almost) middle aged beachcomber depicted is a romantic slightly retreat-ist anti-hero at odds with contemporary society.

McKuen was that person.

I say was because Rod McKuen died earlier this year, on January 29, 2015.

Readers of this blog will see that I have commented on other Rod McKuen albums in the past. Go to those for biographical detail.

McKuen was 81 when he died, and sadly, that revival in his career I imagined could always happen never did.

But the press remembered his place in history:

NEW YORK (AP) — Rod McKuen, the husky-voiced "King of Kitsch" whose avalanche of music, verse and spoken-word recordings in the 1960s and '70s overwhelmed critical mockery and made him an Oscar-nominated songwriter and one  of the best-selling poets in history, has died. He was 81http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/01/29/us/ap-us-obit-rod-mckuen.html

The mainstream may have referred to him as the King of Kitsch but within that title, if that title is accurate, he encompassed many tings and took many positions which made him progressive, even in the progressive 60s, and would even still make him progressive by today's standards. His attitudes to the environment, war, the arms race, gender politics, human rights, interpersonal relationships and all sorts of social ills were insightful and accordingly, "progressive". Sure, he lacked the "scientific" rigour to make him a soapbox singer, a political troubadour,  or a militant malcontent minstrel but that was intentional on his part. His beliefs were wrapped in a romantic humanism almost religiously spiritual in nature which was always inclusive rather than exclusive.

In the 60s a critic called him a "soft voice in a hard world" and that is pretty accurate. Not so much in actual voice but in themes. He was in his thirties. Those themes were there when he was in his twenties and their when he grew old. He was remarkably consistent in his out look on life.

McKuen's songs are populated by people (lovers, friends, friends who are lovers, strangers, people who meet by chance) who are trying to make connections or maintain connections, and not necessarily sexual ones, in a world that is determined to make it difficult for them. That "difficulty" is a dual one, both manmade and natural. The busy society and the impersonality of technology are all themes hinted at but the movement of time and aging also reoccur in song after song.

Time is always slipping away in McKuen's songs and he is forever trying to stop it or preserve the moment or rather make that moment last, longer than it does.

It is undeniably romantic.

When wrapped in strings, spoken word, with a world weary and throaty voice it is a little kitsch.

It is also ready for rediscovery.

What Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash on his "American Recordings" he could have done for Rod McKuen.

Perhaps, McKuen was a little "one note" (sic). Certainly, despite the fact that he has sold millions of volumes of poetry I find his music easier to listen to than his poetry to read. In both mediums his themes are re-visited many times but what makes them so appealing (at least aurally) is the delivery. At his best his voice is up front, weary, with retrained emotion whilst behind him he has a small orchestra or large combo.

One thing is for certain, he was prolific, there are many Rod McKuen songs ready for rediscovery.

This record was made on 1967 … I have little detail on it but I assume it was done at the same session as the songs for the "Seasons in the Sun" (1966) album.

This album is firmly of McKuen's late 60s product. His style is well developed. This is the sound that he would, more or less, keep till the end of his career.

Tracks (best in italics)

         Side One

  • I'm Strong But I Like Roses – (Rod McKuen) – yes, and why not.
  • Blue – (Rod McKuen – Gloria Shayne) –   A smoky late night ballad much in the Sinatra mould. Co-writer Shayne wrote "Goodbye Cruel World", which was recorded by James Darren in 1961.
  • Chasing The Sun – (Rod McKuen) – an ode to youth
  • Song Without Words- (Rod McKuen – Jacques Brel) – a spoken piece with nice piano accompaniment which is quite sombre and quite French, not surprising given it is written with Brel. (this actually plays as track 5)
  • Love Child – (Rod McKuen) – This plays as track 4 not track 5 …odd. In any event it's a devastating song. McKuen had a dysfunctional growing up particularly in relation to his "real" father. This song s partially autobiographical.
  • Nobody Told Me – (Rod McKuen – John Addison) – John Addison was an English film composer best known for the Oscar winning score to Tom Jones (1963).        
  • Interlude – (Rod McKuen – Hale Matthews) – a gentle samba type beat. Dream like.

         Side Two

  • When Summer Ends (I Think I'll Go Back Home) – (Rod McKuen) – a beautiful song with familiar McKuen themes, and a nice melody line. It reminds me a little of The Elvis Presley song "Let's Be Friends" from 1969.
  • The Word Before Goodbye – (Rod McKuen) – "Hello is the word before goodbye"
  • Orly Field & Fields Of Wonder – (Rod McKuen) –  from "Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows". A poem, spoken, to acoustic guitar.
  • I Don't Know Why (Je Ne Sais Pas) – (Rod McKuen – Jacques Brel) – a short (like a fragment of a song?) almost spoken song about lost love.
  • I Am What I Am – (Rod McKuen) – If you try you can find a homosexual subtext in just about anything.
  • I Wish You'd Stay – (Rod McKuen) – OK, there's anchors being dropped in the bay and restless men at dawn in this song. A good tune.
  • Once Upon A Summertime (La Valse des Lilas) – (Johnny Mercer –  Michele LeGrand) –  Originally done by Blossom Dearie for her "Once Upon a Summertime"(1958) album. Other versions include Tony Bennett 1963 and Astrud Gilberto (1966). A beautiful lost love song.

And …

Wonderful … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

No charting.

I find something wrong with the charts when it comes to McKuen. Very few of his LPs appear in the US charts. But yet his albums are everywhere here in Australia (and in the US I assume). Record labels will get it wrong once and have to dump hundreds of thousands of copies of an album on the public but they wont re-finance mistakes and McKuen had to many albums to have mistakes. Over his career, McKuen released over fifty vocal albums, ten spoken word albums, fourteen albums of classical compositions, twelve live recordings, fifteen hits compilations, four greatest Hits compilations, and sixteen albums in collaboration with Anita Kerr and the San Sebastian Strings. So why isn't there more of a chart presence?

Sounds

I'm Strong But I Like Roses

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eoEASJvG80

Interlude

mp3 attached

When Summer Ends (I Think I'll Go Back Home)

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtESZkGAl0I

Review

Bio

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/rod-mckuen-mn0000243803

a video biography

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxsR9X0_iRI

Obituaries

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/30/rod-mckuen-dead-songwriter-poet-obituary_n_6576838.html

http://variety.com/2015/music/obituaries-people-news/oscar-nominated-songwriter-rod-mckuen-dies-at-81-1201418899/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/30/arts/rod-mckuen-prolific-poet-and-lyricist-dies-at-81.html?_r=0

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/feb/01/rod-mckuen

Website

http://www.rodmckuen.org/

https://www.facebook.com/rodmckuen

Trivia

  • *I've just deleted three paragraphs of my rambling. I don't want to give this topic any mileage because McKuen himself didn't want to give it any mileage so I've put it down here. The mainstream press in their obituaries made no mention of his sexuality mainly because, for McKuen, there was no big coming out moment. The alternative press saw a conspiracy because McKuen's sexuality (his "gayness") was not championed in those obituaries. The fact that he wasn't championed by the gay press while he was alive probably says lot about them. When asked, in 2004, at age 70, on his blog, if he was gay he said, in typical McKuen fashion: "Am I gay? Let me put it this way, Collectively I spend more hours brushing my teeth than having sex so I refuse to define my life in sexual terms. I've been to bed with women and men and in most cases enjoyed the experience with either sex immensely. Does that make me bi-sexual? Nope. Heterosexual? Not exclusively. Homosexual? Certainly not by my definition. I am sexual by nature and I continue to fall in love with people and with any luck human beings of both sexes will now and again be drawn to me. I can't imagine choosing one sex over the other, that's just too limiting. I can't even honestly say I have a preference. I'm attracted to different people for different reasons. I do identify with the Gay Rights struggle, to me that battle is about nothing more or less than human rights. I marched in the 50’s and 60’s to protest the treatment of Blacks in this country and I’m proud of the fact that I broke the color barrier in South Africa by being the first artist to successfully demand integrated seating at my concerts. I am a die-hard feminist and will continue to speak out for women’s rights as long as they are threatened. These, of course, are all social issues and have nothing to do with my sex life (although admittedly I’ve met some pretty hot people of both sexes on the picket line.)." http://www.rodmckuen.org/

One day he will be rediscovered and his history will be rewritten, no doubt (as it      already seems to be … a lot of post death articles refer to him as a "gay icon"?) but he is a most unlikely poster boy for the orthodox homosexual lobby but an effective one for the humanist lobby.

Posted in Popular & Crooners | Tagged | 1 Comment

JACKIE DeSHANNON – Songs – (Capitol) – 1971

Jackie DeShannon - Songs - 1971

This is another album that I've had a while. It's been kicking around since the late 1980s I think. I had quite a few Jackie DeShannon albums and I was pressed for space and I thought … I've got a couple of compilations in my collection so I can rationalise a few LPs and stick them into a "maybe" pile… where they sat for quite sometime.

Time, age and the realisation that Jackie probably is my favourite female singer-songwriter has caused me to reconsider that decision and I started to re-listen to those albums over the last few years.

Commenting on this album is perhaps a fait accompli as I have heard it (albeit many moons ago) and I do like Jackie DeShannon but I'm in a Jackie DeShannon mood and I have so little of her product (perhaps five or so albums all up).

Jackie was born Sharon Lee Meyers in Hazel, KY on August 21, 1944 (some sources say (born August 21, 1941). Go to the links and read any of her bio's … they make for interesting reading … she started in the late 50s, was in California in it's heyday the 60s, dated Elvis (well, she didn't really but every article says she did – see trivia section), hung out with The Everly Brothers and Rick Nelson, toured with The Beatles, worked with Jack Nitzsche  Burt Bacharach and Hal David, starred in films, wrote music, appeared on TV shows of the day …

She isn't as well know as Carole King or Joni Mitchell

But, she, perhaps, should be more well known: Allmusic introduces its entry on her with, "Singer and songwriter Jackie DeShannon has quite a musical legacy. Her early singles crafted doo wop to intelligent lyrics. She toured with the Beatles in 1964 and more than held her own. She wrote songs with Randy Newman and Jimmy Page. She sang with Van Morrison. She was among the first artists to realize that folk and pop could work together and was a behind-the-scenes innovator in the creation of folk-rock. And she did it all with style and grace, singing with a sexy, husky voice full of energetic passion and writing songs that gracefully belied the craft behind them. By all accounts she should be a household name instead of just a respected rock & roll footnote'.

Her own website is overly modest I think: "Singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon is the soulful voice behind two enduring 1960’s anthems — Burt Bacharach & Hal David's "What The World Needs Now Is Love" and DeShannon's own  "Put A Little Love In Your Heart."  Beyond those standards is an artist who has created a body of  work covering a diverse range of genres including rock, folk, R&B, country, gospel, reggae and jazz.  Her songs have been performed by Brenda Lee, The Byrds, Marianne Faithfull, Al Green,  Annie Lennox, The Searchers, Pam Tillis, The Carpenters, Kim Carnes, The Temptations,  Rick Nelson, Cher, Van Morrison, Ella Fitzgerald, Dolly Parton, Irma Thomas,  Bruce Springsteen and dozens more". 

This chick really was a trailblazer and was cutting edge throughout the 60s and into the 70s writing many great tracks, recording many other great tracks but never having that one gigantic album or hit for herself.

Two Top 10 singles and no albums that even made the Top 40.

Everything, normally, is about the charts. That's where the money is and the ticket to fame.

But there are exceptions.

The singers, the musicians, the music archaeologists, the keen listeners and the kids who spend a lot of time in op shops all know real gold when they hear it.

And, so do the punters, they just have to be given access to it.

In truth, even the most casual music listener knows something by Jackie DeShannon you just have to dig a little to realise it.

In the early 70s Jackie was on a roll … she had had hit with "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" ( #4 1969) and "Love Will Find A Way" (#40 1969)  and had put out some fine, though, low selling introspective singer-songwriter-ish introspective country soul and pop albums.

This album is more of the same though it is a little bit more rustic. DeShannon has a good mix of covers and originals (and a couple of songs that, I assume, are originals by others) which all emphasise a pastoral attitude with quite a few gospel overtones. I think Jackie was tapping into her Kentucky roots. Co-produced by DeShannon, Eric Malamud, and John Palladino everything is kept quite low key but still soulful, much like what Delaney & Bonnie were doing at the time. One track  'Show Me' was produced by Memphian Chips Moman, (apparently from an earlier abandoned session) and in Chips Moman style it's quite produced but it still fit's in well.

This country soul sound fit hand in hand with the country rock sound emerging at the time and there were many crossovers. The only surprise is that neither the album or any of the tracks got any airplay.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side 1

  • Keep Me Warm – (Johnny Christopher) – Johnny Christopher is a professional songwriter (he co-wrote "Always on My Mind" with Mark James, for Elvis)
  • Lay, Baby, Lay – (Bob Dylan) – The great Dylan song with the "Lady" changed to "Baby". A beautiful version of the song.
  • West Virginia Mine – (Jackie DeShannon) – quite vivid and potent for a pop song.
  • Show Me – (Johnny Christopher) – I love this track. The carnival bounce to it and delicate lyric work well and remind me a little if Nilsson.
  • Down By The Riverside – (traditional arranged by Randy Edelman) – a rocking version of the old spiritual.

      Side 2

  • International – (Benny Gallagher – G. Lyle) – a cover from the first McGuinness Flint album from 1970. A nice gospel feel.
  • Sunny Days – (Randy Edelman) – a cover from Edelman's 1971 self titled debut album. Nice.
  • Salinas – (Jackie DeShannon) – quite like a daydream.
  • Bad Water – (Jackie DeShannon) – Another rocker and quite good.
  • Ease Your Pain – (Hoyt Axton) – a cover of country singe Axton's 1971 single. A great tune. Another in the long line of "hip" faith songs of the early 70s. Understanding, love and faith will lighten your burden and ease your pain … and by extension get you through the troubling times that were the early 1970s.

And …

Quite relaxing and perfect for a sunny autumn day … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing … surprisingly.

Sounds

Lay, Baby, Lay

mp3 attached

West Virginia Mine

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SxAZPbs5ac

Show Me

mp3 attached

Salinas  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XVzn6h6XKU

Bad Water

Live recent

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

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMj7UcjPZ0U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh9PMULbuFI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJLktCznMQ4

Is this not perfect?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVCBSIn_1j0

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

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

Here cover of Elvis' "Trouble"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCcb92fmkHo

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/songs-mw0000582320

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

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jackie-deshannon-mn0000127451/biography

http://jackiedeshannon.tripod.com/jdsas7.html

http://jackiedeshannon.tripod.com/jdsas7a.html

http://jackiedeshannon.tripod.com/jdsas7b.html

Website

http://www.jackiedeshannon.com/index.html

Trivia

  • If the truth be know, and I put aside all the psuedo intellectual wankery in relation to music and songwriting the real reason I got hooked on Jackie way back in the 80s, when I was a teenager, was because she was a total fox. I went into Kent records (I think) in Brisbane and there was an album or book with a picture of her with platinum blonde hair, in a bob, and she was wearing a 60s skirt … that image and her slightly husky voice on the record grooves was worth ten Cyndi Laupers.
  • Apparently she was one of the singing voices on the " Don't Bug the Mosquitoes" (1965) episode of Gilligan's Island. I assume she was a voice for one of The Honeybees. Cool! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqp_Si4a10E
  • Jackie and Elvis. http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/interview_jackie_deshannon.shtml

Jackie DeShannon 01             jackie deshannon 02             jackie deshannon 03

Posted in Country Soul, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

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