BREWER AND SHIPLEY – Shake Off The Demon – (Kama Sutra) – 1971

Brewer and Shipley - Shake off the Demon

Google "hippie" and "Brewer & Shipley" and you will find a lot of references to this act as a "hippie duo".

When I was young and when I first got this record (at the great University of Queensland Student Union Record Club sell-off of 1988) I assumed they were, indeed, a hippie act. It doesn't help that their big hit "One Toke over the Line" about smoking pot is something instantly identifiable with the hippie movement of the late 60s and early 70s.

Like wise, Hippie music by it's nature has to be rustic or at least pastoral. The "proper" San Francisco hippies are urban but pastoral in their outlook but then there were a lot of hippies that were rural and commune based and their music reflects that. This type of hippie music is usually rustic country rock or folk rock  but with lyrics that are invested with the hippie escapist, retreatist (?) or perhaps non-confrontationalist "peace and love" themes.

"I never considered myself a hippie," commented Michael. "I was a young, married man paying taxes, working, pursuing a career. I wore the clothes of the time and had long hair — back when I had hair — but I never lived in a commune. I actually bathed and shaved."  

Tom, however, had no problem with the label. "Back in the days when we were officially card-carrying hippies travelling cross-country and living out of our Volkswagen," he says, "I spent some time on a Hopi reservation out in the middle of Arizona. But I did not take acid and go running naked through any of their pueblos. And I bathed."

Well, maybe they were and maybe they weren't.

Worse still allmusic has tagged them as "Contemporary Christian / Folk-Pop / Jesus Rock / AM Pop /  Contemporary Pop/Rock".  Someone there must have been taking one toke over the line. Sure, Jesus makes an appearance in a song here and there, as do wells, cleansing water, messages on high, angels, demons and crucifixion references but this is (despite all that!) hardly "Christian music". Some of the back to the earth, get away from the city themes do overlap with the simple life and a faith in God songs so perhaps that's why they occasionally earn the "Christian rock" tag. Well, that and the fact they mention "sweet Jesus" in "One Toke over the Line".  Likewise, there certainly are pop elements to the music but it is still no where as slick as The Eagles.

This is folk rock with country influences of country rock with folk influences. They are in the same camp as Crosby Stills Nash and Young, or at least Crosby Stills and Nash but with a dash of Arlo Guthire. On some of their other records they do, as their contemporaries did, experiment with sounds and grooves but generally on what I have heard thus far, including this album, they stick to the folk country rock.

Brewer and Shipley were products of the folk boom and then the same folk-rock scene that nurtured bands such as The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. What  they had that some of their contemporaries did not have were the country influences of their Midwest upbringings.

Michael Brewer (born 1944, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) and Tom Shipley (born 1941, Mineral Ridge, Ohio)were two Midwestern folkies who met Blind Owl Coffee House in Kent, Ohio in 1964. They were friendly and crossed paths over the next few years on the folk circuit until Shipley drifted in to LA in 1967 and bumped into Brewer (who had just been in folk rock act "Mastin & Brewer) and ended living around the corner from him. They teamed up as songwriters and wrote songs that were recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band,  H.P. Lovecraft,  Noel Harrison, Glenn Yarbrough, The Poor, and Bobby Rydell. Their demo tapes sounded so good that they eventually hooked up a s a duo releasing their first album in 1968. They left California during 1969, returning to Kansas City, Missouri, where they made a living playing college towns. 

allmusic: "In 1971, they scored a surprise Top Ten hit with "One Toke Over the Line," in spite of radio bans owing to the song's marijuana-oriented lyrics. Following this success, Brewer and Shipley moved to rural Missouri, but their appeal dwindled, and the partnership was dissolved in 1979". (actually 1980)

All songs Brewer & Shipley except where marked

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Shake Off The Demon - a good start. There is quite a groove going here in a song about turning your back on war and violence. John Cipollina (of Quicksilver Messenger Service) provides electric and slide electric guitars.
  • Merciful Love - quasi spiritual love song which is sounds like Tim Hardin if he was a
  • Message From The Mission (Hold On) – now this is positive stuff and can be called hippy music though it can also be called country rock. Today this could sit well with any of the alt country groups.
  • One By One -  "we pick up the pieces and carry on".
  • When Everybody Comes Home – a familiar theme
  • Working On The Well – a country blues of sort. So so.
  • Rock Me On The Water – (Jackson Browne) – A cover of the Jackson Browne song though Browne had not yet released it. It was on his 1972 debut album and a single also (#48, 1972). Apparently Browne was performing the song as early as autumn 1970 but it didn’t receive a single or album release until 1972. It was also covered by Johnny Rivers (1971), Linda Ronstadt (1972 – her single release predated Jackson Browne's single release by five months – her version reached #85).
  • Natural Child - a song with some no psychedelic cajun thrown in.
  • Back To The Farm - an ode to a return to the country and the simple life away from "heroin heroes" and "cocaine disciples"
  • Sweet Love – "everybody should share the power of love". And the love I suspect isn't visceral.

And …

This is a solid album. The best tunes are well crafted and catchy in the best of the country rock vocal harmony groups and the others are nothing short of listenable …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action

1972 Shake Off The Demon #98


1972 #164



Shake Off The Demon

Brewer & Shipley – Shake off the Demon

Merciful Love

When Everybody Comes Home

Rock Me On The Water




  • Wikipedia: "One Toke Over The Line" was performed on The Lawrence Welk Show, a television program known for its conservative, family-oriented format, by a duo known as "Gail and Dale." At the conclusion of the performance of the song, Welk remarked, without any hint of irony, "There you've heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale." This caused Michael Brewer to comment:  "The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing and introduced it as a gospel song. That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for".
Posted in Country Rock, Folk Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

CILLA BLACK – Cilla – (Parlophone) – 1965

cilla black - cilla - Australia sleeve

Cilla swings?

Swinging Cilla?

There is a time, perhaps, in everyone's life where they are "hip", "now", "with it", "mod", "happening" and every other trans-generational word for someone who typifies the moment.

1965 was Cilla's year.

Swinging London was in full swing and even this girl from Liverpool could cash in. She was riding on a high with a number of hit singles ("Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "You're My World" both 1964 and both #1 in England), had an association with the hip Beatles, both as friends (from Liverpool days), and professionally (they shared the same label, producer, George Martin and manager, Brian Epstein) , wore great 60s skirts, and mixed with all the pop celebrities of the time, totally unexpected for a hat check girl from Liverpool.

From here there was a steady decline (?) whilst her husband manager made her the all round entertainer: movies, television, situational comedy, cabarets, variety specials and support for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party.

Wikipedia: "Priscilla White was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on 27 May 1943 and grew up in the Scotland Road area of the city. Her parents were John Patrick White and Priscilla Blythen. Her grandfather, Joseph Henry Blythen, was from Wales but most of her family were from a Liverpool Irish background.

She attended St. Anthony's School, which was behind St. Anthony's Church in Scotland Road, and Anfield Commercial College.

Determined to become an entertainer, she got a part-time job as a cloakroom attendant at Liverpool's Cavern Club, best known for its association with the Beatles. Her impromptu performances impressed the Beatles and others. She was encouraged to start singing by a Liverpool promoter, Sam Leach, who gave her her first gig at the Casanova Club, where she appeared as "Swinging Cilla". She became a guest singer with the Merseybeat bands Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes and, later, with the Big Three. She was also, in the meantime, a waitress at The Zodiac coffee lounge, where she was to meet her future husband Bobby Willis. She was featured in an article in the first edition of the local music newspaper Mersey Beat; the paper's publisher, Bill Harry, mistakenly referred to her as Cilla Black, rather than White, and she decided she liked the name, and took it as a stage name".

She then hooked up with Brian Epstein and George Martin.

Following those successful singles there was a lot riding on this, Cilla's first album. She had proven she could sing and could interpret a lyric and make it her own but, the mid 60s were awash with equally capable English female singers: Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Lulu, and Helen Shapiro.

Cilla needed to show she could sell albums and distinguish herself vocally … she fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between Dusty's soulfulness on one side and Petula's pop balladry on the other.

All of those girls relied on (to varying degrees) interpretations of contemporary pop song hits, mainly on songs from the US (in those earlier days of international communications you could rush out your version of a US hit in your market before the US record got over there). They would throw in a few "oldies", usually oldies that had already been recently revived by someone else, and then, maybe throw in a few songs written for them.

Petula was perhaps the exception to this, having written some of her own material but otherwise they all followed similar patters.

Cilla's ace in the hole though is George Martin.

Martin was a record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer and musician who never looked down on any form of music and was adept at classical, pop, novelty, jazz, stage and rock n roll.

And on this album, knowing that Martin could do all that, Cilla hedges her bets and picks songs in a variety if styles. You could rephrase that to,  on this album Cilla's diverse vocal range is highlighted through an array of jazz, power ballads, pop, and soul standards.

She sings well and Martin keeps all the seemingly disparate styles under the general banner of pop. How much of this you can listen to depends on you tolerance for English mid-60s female vocalists.
Tracks (best in italics)

  • Goin' Out of My Head - (Teddy Randazzo, Robert Weinstein) – Covered by everyone but originally recorded Little Anthony & the Imperials in 1964 (#6 US)whom performer Randazzo wrote it for. ( This is a really good version by Cilla.
  • Every Little Bit Hurts – (Ed Cobb) – "Every Little Bit Hurts" was originally a 1964 hit single for Motown soul singer Brenda Holloway (#13 US). Again, a well covered tune.
  • Baby It's You - (Burt Bacharach, Mack David, Barney Williams) – It was recorded by the Shirelles (#3, 1961) and many others. The highest-charting version of "Baby It's You" was by the band Smith, who took the song to #5 on the US charts in 1969.'s_You. Another good version.
  • Dancing in the Street - (Ivy Jo Hunter, William Stevenson, Marvin Gaye) – Originally done by Martha and the Vandellas (#2US, 1964) and then covered everywhere from the lame to the good. This is a big sound, no longer soul, from Cilla and George and it works.
  • Come to Me – (George Martin, Bobby Willis) – an original written by producer Martin and Cilla’s husband, Willis. A nice power ballad that sounds like something out of a film from the same time.
  • Ol' Man River – (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II) – Done by everyone- immortalised by Paul Robeson (1936), but Judy Garland, one of the few female singers to attempt the song, sang a powerful rendition on her television show in 1963, followed by a studio recording.'_Man_River. Nope, it doesnt work
  • One Little Voice – (Uno Di Voi) -  (Coppola, Isola, Shaper) – First version was in Italian by by Gigliola Cinquetti (1964) . The first English version was this by Cilla. Very dramatic and quite good.
  • I'm Not Alone Anymore – (Clive Westlake, Kenny Lynch) – first recorded by Cilla written by a pair of English writers.
  • Whatcha Gonna Do 'Bout It – (Doris Troy, Gregory Carroll) – What'cha Gonna Do About It is a 1964 song by American Doris Troy. It made #37 on the UK Singles Chart in 1964. The Hollies did a British Invasion cover version of this for their debut album Stay with The Hollies from early 1964 (recorded in 1963).  Cilla is covering the Hollies here.'cha_Gonna_Do_About_It
  • Love Letters - (Edward Heyman, Victor Young) – Love Letters" is a 1945 popular song with music by Victor Young and lyrics by Edward Heyman. The song appeared, without lyrics, in the movie of the same name, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song for 1945. The song has been performed many times, but the best-known versions were made by: Dick Haymes (in 1945, US #11) needed and Elvis Presley (in 1966, US #19, UK #6). cilla inspiration 0 anyone The Marvelettes (1962), Shelley Fabares (1962), Ketty Lester (#5, 1962), Patti Page (1963), Cliff Richard with The Norrie Paramor Orchestra (1963), Ike & Tina Turner (1963), A great ballad.
  • This Empty Place - (Hal David, Burt Bacharach) – First release by Dionne Warwick (#84 Pop, #26 R&B1963). The Searchers did it in  April 1964. Frantic and captures youthful yearning quite well.
  • You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To – (Cole Porter) – covered by everyone.'d_Be_So_Nice_to_Come_Home_To. Cilla does a jazz standard and belts it out but then the music behind her is belting also.

And …

A few great tracks, some filler and a few that don't work …. I'm taping a couple and selling.
Chart Action


Surprisingly there where no hit singles.
1965 #5

Baby It's You
Mp3 attached

Cilla Black – Baby It's You

This Empty Place
You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To




English sleeve below (Australian sleeve at start)

cilla black - cilla - UK sleeve

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BOBBY BLOOM – The Bobby Bloom Album – (L&R Records) – 1970

Bobby Bloom - The Bobby Bloom Album

The only thing I knew about Bloom was the song "Montego Bay". And, that was mainly because it had been covered by Australian ska band The Allniters in 1983 and that version was very popular when I was at university.

The internet won't offer you much on Bobby.

Well, it can't because he was dead from gunshot wounds at age 28.

Wikipedia: Robert "Bobby" Bloom (January 15, 1946 – February 28, 1974) was an American singer-songwriter. He is known best for being a one-hit wonder with the 1970 song, "Montego Bay", which was co-written with and produced by Jeff Barry.

In the early 1960s, Bloom had been a member of the doo-wop group, The Imaginations, and sang lead on "Wait A Little Longer, Son." Bloom received a big break in 1969 when he was awarded a contract to write and record a jingle for Pepsi, paving the way for his later success with "Montego Bay." Bloom also played a role as a songwriter connected to the Kama Sutra/Buddah group of labels. He also co-wrote the song "Mony Mony" and with Jeff Barry he co-wrote "Sunshine" by The Archies, their fifth hit single in 1970.

Bloom worked as a sound engineer for musicians such as Louis Jordan and Shuggie Otis. Bloom often recorded demos of his songs at the recording studio of MAP City Records, owned by friends Peter Anders and Vincent Poncia Jr., with chief engineer Peter H. Rosen at the controls. Early solo projects included "Love Don't Let Me Down" and "Count on Me."

The recordings that followed his success with "Montego Bay" in 1970, "Heavy Makes You Happy", which became a hit for the Staple Singers in 1971, "Where Are We Going" and The Bobby Bloom Album all used the same combination of pop, calypso, and rock.

Bloom suffered from depression towards the end of his life. Bloom died on February 28, 1974, at the age of 28. He apparently shot himself while cleaning his gun. Jeff Barry was surprised to find out afterwards that he was the sole beneficiary of Bloom's life insurance policy.

That's it …. and everyone else seems to crib from the wikipedia entry.

It's time to go back to the books.

Well, that was fruitless.

The Rolling Stone Record Guides, History of Rock and various other histories don't help either.

Yep, Luka Bloom and Mike Bloomfield are well covered.

It's google time.

Most of the wikipedia article details seems to come from a bubblegum website where they interview Jeff Barry (see trivia at the end)

Bits and pieces reveal that Bloom:

  • Was in white doo wop band The Imaginations who formed in Long Island, New York in 1961 and recorded five singles and were quite popular regionally;
  • Was in another white doo wop band (1962) when the Imaginations folded called The Ebonaires for one single;
  • Was in yet another white doo wop group (1962), The Expressions who cut one single in 1963 (for the Parkway label) and backed Tommy Boyce in the studio;
  • Did engineering work for a number of artists, including Louis Jordan and Shuggie Otis;
  • Arranged, conducted or produced things for The  #1, Bobby Mann, The Tymes, Jerry and Jeff, Jamie Lyons Group, Bo Gentry &  Ritchie Cordell, 1910 Fruitgum Co., Zebra;
  • Cut his first solo single in 1967;
  • Was one of the singers in a (probable studio group) Captain Groovy and his Bubblegum Army who released one single in 1969;
  • Worked on one of the later Monkees albums;
  • Wrote songs that were recorded by the Bazooka Company, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Archies, Freddie Scott, Jamie Lyons Group, Jerry and Jeff, 1910 Fruitgum Co., Bo Gentry &  Ritchie Cordell, Frankie Smith, Zebra;
  • Was covered by the The Bar-Kays, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Jon Stevens and others;
  • Died of a gunshot wound whilst either cleaning his gun, by an assailant (who was never found) in a fight over a girl, by an accidental shooting (after mentioning that he suffered depression), or by taking his own life.

He squeezed in a lot of the music business in his 28 years.

It would make a great film.

It's assumed, because of all the bubblegum acts he worked with that Bloom is bubblegum.

But he isn't.

Well not only bubblegum.

Wikipedia define bubblegum pop music as: "The chief characteristics of the genre are that it is pop music contrived and marketed to appeal to pre-teens and teenagers, is produced in an assembly-line process, driven by producers, often using unknown singers and has an upbeat sound. The songs typically have singalong choruses, seemingly childlike themes and a contrived innocence, occasionally combined with an undercurrent of sexual double entendre. Bubblegum songs are also defined as having a catchy melody, simple chords, simple harmonies, dancy (but not necessarily danceable) beats, repetitive riffs or "hooks" and a vocally-multiplied refrain. The song lyrics often concern romantic love, but many times are about just feeling good or being happy, with references to sunshine, loving one another, toys, colors, nonsense words, etc. They are also notable for their frequent reference to sugary food, including sugar, honey, butterscotch, jelly and marmalade".

Bloom's music has elements of this but more. His music is a "mature bubblegum" if that doesn't sound like a contradiction. This is music that does have some bubblegum motifs: the catchy choruses, the faux psychedelia, the chorused backing vocals, the melody with an emphasis on the beat …

but …

this music is quite adventurous and very individual.

There is some blue eyed soul in there and some clever themes. The music is good time music but it is quite subversive. It's not dissimilar to Joe South in some ways.

Allmusic describe Bloom as "American singer/songwriter, producer and engineer, born May 22, 1946 and died February 28, 1974 (accidental shooting)".

And that probably is the best way to describe him except I would add "multi-instrumentalist". The guy did everything. I gather at these small labels, churning out songs looking for a hit or respectable sales, you have to do everything.

Bloom has skills. This album is a little erratic (and occasionally a little thin) but it is clear that he knows what he is looking for (and Jeff Barry his producer is at one mind with him)…they also play all of the instruments on the album with the exception of the guitar on Montego Bay which Jimmy Calvert of The Tradewinds provides.

All songs by Jeff Barry and Bobby Bloom except "Heidi" by Barry, Bloom, J. Levine, K. Resnick.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Careful Not to Break the Spell – a big mid tempo ballad with some funky touches
  • Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom) - He sounds like Bowie here a little or rather (later) Bowie sounds like Bloom! Think Bowie singing The Archies covering Neil Diamond. I like it. A great track ….quite catchy.
  • Try a Little Harder – trying for a little of the southern white soul here.
  • Oh, I Wish You Knew – a beautiful ballad and reminiscent in it's sadness of David Ackles.
  • Fanta - The chord progression at the start sounds like Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" (a year before them) before the song moves into Eric Burdon and War territory. This one grooves and works well.
  • Heidi – More southern type soul …
  • This Thing I've Gotten Into – a sort of Neil Diamond groove here with some "risqué" lyrics.
  • A Little on the Heavy Side – more southern soul this time with some shades of 70s Blood Sweat and Tears.
  • Brighten Your Flame – southern gospel soul and in Delaney and Bonnie territory.
  • Give 'Em a Hand - quite a cynical song about a band in the music industry.
  • Montego Bay - the hit… it's catchy and quite an interesting song. Perhaps the first time calypso was used in a mainstream pop rock song. Belafonte and Johnny Nash had used  the beats in their music but not in this pop rock setting. And think about it – the tuba is used as a bass and one of the hooks is whistled. The song ends with a couple of lines from Oh What a Beautiful Morning"  from Oklahoma! Specifically the "everything is going my way" line. It certainly was at that stage. Odd but endearing.

And …

A total surprise and a not a great album but a greatly underrated album …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action
1970  Montego Bay  The Billboard Hot 100  #8 
1970  The Bobby Bloom Album  The Billboard 200  #126 

1970  Montego Bay  #3
1970  Montego Bay  #42  (re-entry)
1974 Heavy Makes You Happy #31
1970  Montego Bay  #47  (2nd re-entry)



Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)
Mp3 attached-

Bobby Bloom – Heavy Makes You Happy

Montego Bay -


Of the single


The Imaginations

The Expressions



  • An interview between Jeff Barry and Don Charles of :

 Don Charles: Then, later on in the ‘60s, you collaborated with Ron Dante, Andy Kim,  and Bobby Bloom. Bobby Bloom is one of the most underrated artists of that period.  What do you remember about working with him?

 Jeff Barry: Bobby and I were really great friends. As a matter of fact, when Bobby  died, I got a call from AFTRA, the musician’s union. I never knew it, but I was his life  insurance beneficiary. Bobby was a real character! Just a great guy, really, really  bright, and really, really talented. He loved to write, he loved to sing, and he loved  being in the studio, but he really didn’t love performing. Not that he disliked it, but he’d  just as soon not. It wasn’t like he had to perform. He wasn’t coming from that place, \ which was really unfortunate. He was a great-looking guy, and the girls just loved  him.

 Don Charles: And what a singing voice he had! The album you did with him (The  Bobby Bloom Album, L & R 1035) is fantastic. What instrument did he play?

 Jeff Barry: He played guitar. He could play keyboards, too, somewhat, and was good  on percussion as well, but mainly guitar. Bobby was the kind of a guy . . . he had this  house in the Hollywood hills, he had a motorcycle, and a Porsche, and a car called  Excalibur. Sometimes, he got really crazy! He once drove his motorcycle into his  pool. But the Bobby Bloomness of it was, he left it there. He never took it out. It was  like The Titanic – you could swim down to the wreck!

 Don Charles: How did he die?

 Jeff Barry: Unfortunately, he died of a gunshot wound. Somebody shot him, in a fight  over a girl. It was crazy! He kicked down a door, and ran into the room, and the guy  reached for a gun. I don’t think they ever found the guy.



Posted in Bubblegum Pop, Pop Rock, Rock & Pop, Sunshine Pop and Baroque | Tagged | Leave a comment

LEN BARRY – 1-2-3 – (Decca) – 1965

Len Barry - 1-2-3

I've talked about Len Barry and his former vocal band The Dovells both on this blog before.

I love vocal bands and vocalists.

At some time around 1962 the musical world changed forever and the age of the musician as, foremost, a writer, was ushered in regardless of the quality of the voice. This is despite the fact that those singer songwriter types themselves loved vocalists.

Sure there had been expressive (read gravel-like, growl-like, nasal-like, guttural) singers before but they were normally limited to folk, country and blues and not to pop and rock.

Music had to go somewhere and I have no problem with that though in pop and rock the rush towards the songwriter and increasing amplification meant the vocalist (and arrangements of vocalists) became less important and an important interpretative musical instrument (the voice) was denigrated .

Black soul, white blue eyed soul, and pure pop resisted this trend whilst, in a way, some of the new vanguard like the early Beatles and Beach Boys were a throw back to an earlier era where vocals and harmonies were just as important as the lyric. But, The Beatles discovered Dylan and perhaps abandoned that whilst The Beach Boys under Brian Wilson continued to explore vocal arrangements and became increasingly marginalised after 1966.

Eventually the vocalist returned in white pop rock though ultimately much of it was ruined by the sameness of the vocalists, by mass exposure on middlebrow mainstream television followed by, logically enough, vapid real life television like "The X Factor", "The Voice", "So you think you can Sing" etc.

Len Barry stands out amongst the blue eyed soul vocalists. He is a singer with a good voice and one who doesn't play any instrument (normally) but who co-writes a lot of his songs. (I'm not sure how or what portion of the songs he wrote – song writing was a messy business in those days with all sorts of credits going everywhere).

Barry may have loved the music but it was also his job and a means of escape from a potential life of digging ditches. The art in his music may have been important but the money it brought in was equally important…OK I natter on about this every now and then but music was a job not just a calling. I also note that it must have been hard playing this music to black audiences (he toured with James Brown apparently).

Wikipedia: "Len Barry (born Leonard Borisoff, June 12, 1942, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States) is a retired American vocalist, songwriter and record producer … Born and raised in Philadelphia, Barry had little thought of a show business career while still in school. Instead, he aspired to become a professional baseball player upon his graduation. It was not until he entered military service and had occasion to sing with the U.S. Coast Guard band at Cape May, NJ, and was so encouraged by the response of his military audiences, that he decided to make music a career.

Upon his discharge from military service, Barry returned home to Philadelphia and joined the Dovells as their lead singer. His is the lead voice on their best selling records "Bristol Stomp", "Hully Gully Baby" and "You Can't Sit Down", among others. "Bristol Stomp" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Barry also made film appearances with the Dovells in films such as Don't Knock the Twist, as well as guest appearances on US television on The Dick Clark Show, Shindig, and Hullabaloo. Soon after leaving the group, Barry recorded his first solo single "Lip Sync".

As a predominately blue-eyed soul singer, he recorded two hits in 1965 for Decca Records in the US and released by Brunswick Records in the UK: "1-2-3", and "Like a Baby", both of which made the Top Ten of the UK Singles Chart".

Search for blue eyed soul definitions amongst my other listings but it's fair to say it is a much maligned genre of music. It's often referred to as a white version of Motown soul which is a little unfair. Motown soul was quite sweet and sugary.  Blue Eyed soul may have lifted elements of black soul but it's white, quite rockin at times, and generally a lot more grittier.

It is also prone to bad imitation.

To this day.

Len Barry has a deeply expressive voice for this material. I don't know how far he could go into other styles but, here at least, he is a king.

On this, his first solo album he surrounds himself with some great collaborators. The album was producer (an largely co-written) by John Madara and David White. John Madara and David White had both worked with or had been in white 50s vocal group "Danny and the Juniors" (think the song "At the Hop"). And the album was arranged by Jimmy Wisner who was a pianist, arranger, songwriter, and producer of great ability.

Amongst the grit of blue eyed soul there is some rock, pop, black soul and throwbacks to the Bobby Vee/Rydell/Darin era of  pop rock. It all hangs to well and shows that music isn't nurtured in a vacuum.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • 1-2-3 - (David White, John Madara, Leonard Borisoff) – a magnificent song. One of the best blue eyed soul songs and one of the best singles of the 1960s. Barry sings the song perfectly. Motown sued over the songs similarity to "Ask any Girl" by The Supremes. They were suing everyone ion those days …though they did get some money.
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow - (Carole King-Gerry Goffin) – The Shirelles magnificent Goffin and King song and #1 (US) hit from 1960. The fact that The Shirelles were an all girl vocal group doesn't effect this version of the song in the least.
  • Treat Her Right - (Roy Head)- Roy Head was a crazed rockabilly and blue eyed soul singer from Texas who had a #2  (US) hit with this in 1965. Barry tones it down a little but the song is still magical. It has been covered many times.
  • I.O.U – (David White, John Madara, Len Barry)- a good song and a re-write of "1-2-3".
  • Would I Love You – (William Robinson)- The Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song from 1964 or thereabouts.
  • Lip Sync (To the Tongue Twisters) – (David White, John Madara, Leonard Borisoff)- a novelty song but one with it's own independent dance groove.
  • You Baby – (Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil, Phil Spector)-  The Ronettes 1964 song and another girls group cover. The Lovin Spoonful also covered it in 1965.
  • Like A Baby - (David White, John Madara, Len Barry)- another great song and not dissimilar to "1-2-3", again.
  • Bullseye – (David White, John Madara, Leon Huff, Leonard Borisoff) – a variation on the Motown theme….and a co-write with Leon Huff, Philadelphia soul legend.
  • At The Hop '65 – (Arthur Singer, David White, John Madara)-  An updating of Danny and the Juniors #1 hit from 1958….a pure dance song.
  • Don't Throw Your Love Away – (Billy Jackson, Jim Wisner)- A cover of a B-side by R&B group The Orlons from 1963.
  • Happiness (Is A Girl Like You) - (David White, John Madara, Leonard Borisoff)- Catchy but it sounds like an outtake from an Elvis film. Is that a bad thing? No!

And …

A good album and one to get you dancing in a 1965 kind of way …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action


1965  Lip Sync (To The Tongue Twisters)  The Billboard Hot 100  #84 
1965  1-2-3  The Billboard Hot 100  #2 
1965  1-2-3  R&B Singles  #11 
1966  Like A Baby  The Billboard Hot 100 #27

1965 #90



1965  1-2-3 #3 
1966  Like A Baby  #10



and mp3 attached

?Len Barry – 1-2-3




The Dovells

Johnny Madara

David White

Jimmy Wisner



  • "In an interview with Forgotten Hits, Madara explained: "In 1965, with '1-2-3' being the #1 record in the country, we were sued by Motown during the period when Berry Gordy was suing anyone whose records sounded like a Motown record. We were sued, saying that '1-2-3' was taken from a B-Side of a Supremes record called 'Ask Any Girl.' The only similarity between the two songs are the first three notes where the Supremes sang 'Ask Any Girl' and Lenny sang '1-2-3.' After that, there were no similarities, but their lawsuit said that our goal was to copy the Motown sound. Well, needless to say, Motown kept us in court, tying up all of our writers' royalties, production royalties and publishing royalties, and threatened to sue us on the follow-up to '1-2-3,' which was 'Like A Baby.' So after battling with them for two years and having a ton of legal bills, we made a settlement with Motown, giving them 15% of the writers' and publishers' share. … We never heard 'Ask Any Girl.' The only influence for making '1-2-3' was to make a ballad with a beat. And the sound of '1-2-3' was definitely the sound of the era. Listen to 'The In-Crowd' – that's not the Motown Sound, that's the sound of the era – and '1-2-3' definitely had a beat! Motown was suing a lot of people at the time."
  • "In 1969 Len, along with brilliant arranger-musician Tommy Sellers, created the Philadelphia disco sound with the first disco hit record, “Keem-O-Sabe,” by a studio group Len named The Electric Indian. Most of the musicians who played on that session went on to become the Gamble-Huff studio players who eventually became known as MFSB, AKA, The Philadelphia Funk Brothers, (a play on the famous Motown studio players of an earlier era). By the mid 1970’s Len had tired of the road and turned his attention to writing and producing for others. Artists such as Lola Falana, Blue Magic, Major Harris, Bobby Rydell, Sylvester and Impact, (new group from Damon Harris), all benefited from the Len Barry touch….. Considered absolute classics in Europe, Slick’s “Space Bass” and “Zoom” by Fat Larry’s Band were both written and produced by Len Barry".
  • He has also written a novel ….
  • The album was released through Festival in Australia


Posted in Blue Eyed Soul | Tagged | Leave a comment

STEVE FORBERT – Streets of This Town – (Geffen) – 1988

Steve Forbert - Streets of This Town

You might ask "Steve Forbert, what happened?".

You're more likely to ask, "Who the fuck is Steve Forbert?".

These are valid things to ask but it's worth looking for an answer to either or both questions.

At the end of the 1970s Stevie Forbert was destined to become the next big thing but within five years his career was de-railed and never to be back on track.


He was the victim of a strange voodoo curse.

Well, my fourth glass of Bacardi  premixed "Classic Cocktails Pina Colada infused with Coconut Water" leads me to believe it is a voodoo curse. It may be the alcohol but I think not 'cause it's healthy 'cause it's got a lot of fruit in it. "From the rum which inspired the creation of the original Pina Colada. Experience the classic creamy Pina Colada cocktail prepared with Bacardi Superior Rum, pineapple and coconut flavours."

And it's only 15% … though the fruit really does let you knock over a bottle really quickly.

I blinked and the fucker was gone.

Shit, this is easier to drink than Flor de Caña and lemonade.

Hold on, Steve Forbert.

The guy was called "the new Dylan" on his first couple of albums  and the second did well with a top 40 in "Romeo's Tune" but that "new Dylan" tag is a weight that is hard to carry. It may not be a Bacardi fuelled voodoo curse but it is the kiss of death or perhaps, more charitably, a albatross around the neck. Of the many labelled "new Dylan" only Bruce Springsteen survived the tag and it took him till his third album to do it.

Forbert has put out a lot of good music but the, err, curse has doomed him.

A pity.

Maybe if he had an Al Kooper, Band or was 20 years earlier it would be a different story but, cest la vie.

I was a kid but I loved his "Romeo's Tune" when it came out in the late 70s. A few years later after high school his music was a staple to my lazy Australian sunny suburban beer garden days in the inner west of Brisbane as  much as Rodriguez or Jim Croce was …. thanks Buch and Luba.

Is it a coincidence that Keith Urban was playing  those suburban pubs around Brisbane's west at the same time and has also covered "Romeo's Tune" ?  (youtube it)

And now ….

Steve Forbert is not even remotely Caribbean in his outlook but his tales of loser, contenders, dreamers is good (or bad?) drinking music to a pre mixed Bacardi..

Read my other entries on this blog in relation to his other albums for background bio and the Dylan curse

Forbert had stalled  (slightly) creatively  on his third album. After his fourth album he ended up in a argument with his record label which stopped him from releasing another album for six years which is this one.

I've got a feeling I got this album at uni when I was reviewing records and I must have  dismissed it (in part at least) as I tried selling it at record fairs (and I know that because I just took the $5 sticker off it). As I got older I realised that, rather than limiting my vinyl collection I should just get a bigger room …hence this albums reappearance.

And I'm happy I still have it.

Forbert here is in good form though any "new Dylan" tag should be replaced with a "new Springsteen" tag. He is too much of a folkie to rock out like Springsteen but on his ballads and mid-tempo songs he taps into the same US heartland music that Springsteen did at the time. Lyrically his tales are quite similar to Springsteen but Springsteen's beautiful uber passionate, romantic, optimistically, fatalistic (?) attitude is not reflected in Forbert. Forbert takes things at face value. What, perhaps, is most Springsteen-like is the chord progressions and production. This is a big sound – and not a big Springsteen sound 1988 but a big Springsteen sound circa "Born to Run" 1975 – bearing in mind that Forbert doesn't rock out like Springsteen.

Clearly that sound is the result of his producer Garry Tallent who is Springsteen's bass player in  the Springsteen's E Street band.

The fact that Springsteen backing men Nils Lofgren and Ernest Carter play on a song each only confirms that.

There is no stylistic drama with that because Forbert and Springsteen both work on the same construction site and swing their picks only slightly differently.,

Bruce, though, reminds me of something specifically American. Forbert, not as good, but equally as interesting, is  more melancholy and perhaps more universal.

Maybe it's the Bacardi but Steve Forbert reminds me of a simpler time.

Bacardi I drank as a youth, and still do, though in moderation. One of my uncles I was close to was a Bacardi drinker and , without fail, whenever I drink the same I think of him ( now passed) and simpler times. Forbert, also, I listened to all those years ago and now putting it on, it too, reminds me of those simpler times.

But that assumption is a little unfair to Forbert because his music is beyond that. Forbert's songs, whatever the production, are about people on the margins … they aren't winners but they are survivors. And it's hard not top be moved by them.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Running on Love – a big love song which is widely optimistic and quite catchy.
  • Don't Tell Me (I Know) – a "our troubles are the same" song….
  • I Blinked Once – a beautiful song about the passing of time.

 Childhood often seemed a pain to me
 So hard waiting to be grown
 Childhood climbed up in a white oak tree
 I blinked once and it was gone

  • Mexico – Mexico still exerts an influence on Americans wanting to escape to times past.
  • As We Live and Breathe – a good example of Springsteen instrumentation coupled with Forbert's sensibility. It works.
  • On the Streets of This Town – More Springsteen type sentiment and gently reflective
  • Hope, Faith and Love – a beautiful song about the need of the title words
  • Perfect Stranger – another love song …he must have met someone
  • Wait a Little Longer – Forbert's most rock song on this album
  • Search Your Heart – a gentle reflective ballad.

And …

Strip this down and this would be Americana of the highest order. As it is this is still a good album …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action

Nothing no where

Running on Love
Live on Letterman

I Blinked Once
mp3 attached

Steve Forbert – I Blinked Once

Live recently

As We Live and Breathe

On the Streets of This Town

Others or






Steve Forbert - Streets of This Town - back

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

(PAUL REVERE & THE) RAIDERS – Collage – (Columbia) – 1970

Paul Revere - Collage

The Raiders had been struggling for the previous  two years to distance themselves from their earlier incarnation, Paul Revere and the Raiders.

There was nothing wrong with that, and they were a hell of a band, but they felt that the times had changed and they, accordingly, needed to sound "mature".

And that meant, albums not just singles, a heavier sound, a ditching of costumes, facial hair less Paul Revere slapstick, a pitch to FM radio, and new members.

Those new members were (future country star) Freddy Weller, Joe Correro Jr, and Keith Allison who had been with the band since the "new  direction" in 1967.

They were tight, slick and as good as any band I the land but none of the subsequent four albums through to 1969 made the Top 40. Likewise none of the singles had made the Top 10.

They had failed to engage the public.

Some of their old fans liked them (there was much to like), some of their old fans couldn't disassociate them from their old gimmickry (even though the same fans gave the Beatles a break when they stopped with the Beatle suits and boots) but new fans were forthcoming.
Paul Revere also, I suspect, was a businessman (as well as a musician)  and had a family to support. He liked the shtick  and the AM sounds because they brought in the money in the past. There is nothing wrong with that. Do you have to suffer, dirt poor, for your art or craft?

Still, Paul Revere always new there was money in keeping up with the times so he would give new things a go.

Lindsay, however, wanted to expand, and had kept himself aware of the new emerging sounds. He wanted to be harder and heavier …or so the story goes. His solo albums of the late 60s and early 70s weren't any harder or heavier. The truth is Lindsay did want to expand but his background was always old fashioned rock and pop. And there was nothing wrong with that.

They were his strengths.

With a 1970 and a new decade Paul Revere and the Raiders gave the change of image one more shot. Their music became heavier still and they changed their name to the "Raiders".

This was the first name under that moniker and the change of name or direction didn't help their decreasing fortunes.

The album sank.

It's a pity as what we have here is a "Collage" of all the 1970s sounds. It's a nice slab of hard (but not heavy) rock with slabs of fuzzy guitar and psychedelica, horns, soul, funk, country vibes played with determination and a distinctly in your face struttin' grooviness without missing any of the AM radio pop aspects of the music.

Written in are lyrics that refer to a new found cynicism with an immediacy that you would expect from early 70s rock.

Think Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Buffalo Springfield but playing a a high school dance.

And it works.

It would be tempting to suggest they were just jumping on the bandwagon of whatever music was around at the time. Sure this is the collage mentioned but as I have said before, about this band, and I feel compelled to say yet again:

The key to their success was their commitment to upbeat rock 'n' roll whilst acknowledging change, and they weren't precious about it as evidenced by the fact that sometimes they were "influenced" by bands that post dated them. They did, as I have said, keep their original sound, unlike a slavish imitator or someone just jumping the bandwagon. Also they did this even through line-up changes though Paul Revere (the keyboardist) and Mark Lindsay (the vocalist) were the nucleus of the group which was lucky as Revere knew where to take the group and Lindsay could sing anything.

It's also fair to say that they probably influences a few of the groups they were now taking inspiration from.

Still it wasn't enough

Ironically the following year their "Indian Reservation" album made the Top 20 (#19) and they had their only US #1, " Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian)"

That album was safe with a very AM radio friendly sound.

Paul Revere and the Raiders always had a Jekyll and Hyde persona – once side dirty rock the other side pop.

It's tempting to think that Paul Revere gave Lindsay command on this album (Lindsay also produced as well as writing most of the songs including redoing some old tunes of his) but when that didn't work the heavier aspects were excised and the band went to pop, albeit, big bossy pop and hit gold again.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Save the Country - (Laura Nyro) -  Laura Nyro's spiritual song (from her 1969 album "New York Tendaberry") about faith and action is given a funky horn treatment.
  • Think Twice – (Keith Allison / Mark Lindsay) – a warning to potential rock n rollers. Thick twice! It's a hard road and Lindsay's band have all the competition they need.
  • Interlude (To Be Forgotten) - (Keith Allison / Mark Lindsay) – a gentle lullaby of a song
  • Dr. Fine - (Mark Lindsay) – Mark Lindsay takes on Mick Jagger and why shouldn't he as I'm sure Jagger was watching mid-60s Lindsay. This song is like a left over from "Beggars Banquet" with a touch of "Satanic Majesties Request" thrown in (and some Vanilla Fudge).
  • Just Seventeen - (Mark Lindsay) – the dangers of underage sex (underage being 17).
  • The Boys in the Band – (Mark Lindsay) – Lindsay's thumpin', pumpin' song about the boys in a rock band. Clearly Lindsay wasn't into theatre and hadn't heard of Mart Crowley's hit 1968 play (which was made into a film in 1970) …
  • Tighter – (Mark Lindsay / Terry Melcher) – a total revamp of a song from their 1967 album "Revolution". A great song but not as good as the original.
  • Gone – Movin' On - (Mark Lindsay / Terry Melcher) – another total revamp of a song from their 1967 album "Revolution".
  • Wednesday's Child - (Keith Allison / Mark Lindsay) – Quite  gently trippin, country style.
  • Sorceress with Blue Eyes – (Keith Allison / Mark Lindsay) – Led Zeppelin or Cream have been on the turntable. Paul Revere and the Raiders never got much heavier than this.
  • We Gotta All Get Together - (Freddy Weller)- a remake (?) of their #50 song from 1969. Not too bad. It's followed by a snip of what sounds like Hal from that most overrated of "head" films "2001: A Space Odyssey"

And …

Excellent (though it's a bit  all over the place like a, errr collage) and underrated …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action
1970 Just Seventeen #82

1970 #154



Dr. Fine
mp3 attached

Raiders – Dr Fine


15 top 40s and …
who the fuck is Kanye West?





Posted in Garage, Surf and Frat, Psychedelic, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

PAUL COLLINS’ BEAT – The Kids Are The Same – (Columbia) – 1982

Beat - The Kids Are the Same

I've commented on The Beat's other album, their debut, from 1979.

And the comments there could largely apply to this album.

Which means this is a splendid slice of power pop , which by it's nature is visceral, rarely dull, totally infectious and fun.

See my other comment for biographical details on Paul Collins and the Beat and on power pop generally.

In the two years between the debut and this follow up The Beat had become Paul Collins' Beat. This was not an act of  narcissism but rather a means of distinguishing the band from the English ska act The Beat. Ironically, in the US the English Beat were called, errr "The English Beat".

Follow up albums (or sophomore albums as the Americans refer to them) are always difficult creatures. It goes without saying that most bands put everything good they have into their debut album meaning that material for a follow up is either scarce, of inferior quality, rushed, hasty, or otherwise lacking. Of course when you have a master tunesmith or a band with a deep well of material the second album can work but the pitfalls remain.

With indie bands there is a further difficulty. If the first album received critical or popular acclaim there is a tendency (on behalf of the major label to who they have been or are newly signed to) to slick up the production and make the sound more mainstream, bigger and potentially more marketable to the broader audience.

The danger here is that the band loses what it had and still doesn't reach a wider audience.

Mainstream labels who have signed indie bands from their debut or on the strength of their debut are rarely a nurturing lot and look at the bottom line which is money and a return on investment. It's fair to say that most indie bands who have got the goods musically have those difficulties above and only last two albums.

Paul Collin's Beat fall into that position perfectly.

This album isn't as good as it's debut though it does have many joys. It's sound is bigger, slicker and less immediate though, again, it has it's joys. But, it failed to sell so The Beat were dropped by their label.

Paul Collins went on to a marginal indie career but the shot t the big time had come to an end.

It's a pity because the album has its, as I have said, joys and it's better than a lot of other music circa 1982.

Featuring regular bassist Steve Huff, Alice Cooper (and Elton John)  drummer Dennis Conway and Milk 'N' Cookies guitarist Larry Whitman. The album was produced by Bruce Botnick, (famous for his work with The Doors, Love, Marvin Gaye, Tim Buckley, Buffalo Springfield and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album).

Tracks (best in italics)

  • That's What Life Is All About  - A genuinely catchy song in a Buddy Holly (and Dwight Twilley) fashion although I would have liked it a little more up front and sharp.
  • Dreaming  – quite slick
  • On The Highway  – not really power pop but quite a stunning piece of moody Americana rock like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and The Flamin Groovies.
  • Will You Listen  – a thumping power pop ride.
  • Crying Won't Help  – wow, one foot in the early 60s – not so mush in sound but in mood and lyrics this summons up those pre Beatles American teen heartthrobs as well as the very early Beatles themselves.
  • The Kids Are The Same  – another great power pop tune which could be a template for the sound.
  • Trapped  – so so. Collins is a good vocalist (though he is perhaps limited to what he loves) but sometimes they need to bring him up front a little.
  • It's Just A Matter Of Time  – Dull though there is a hint of English new wave power pop in there.
  • Met Her Yesterday  – hmmm
  • I Will Say No  – a return to catchy power pop with the usual power pop boy loves girl theme on display.

And …

Fark … the album is actually half great and it's as if it was sequenced that way. The first half is killer and then it seems to lose steam …. still, it better than most, I'm keeping it.
Chart Action
Nothing no where

That's What Life Is All About 
Live recently

On The Highway 

Will You Listen

mp3 attached

Beat – Will You Listen

The Kids Are The Same






  • Wikipedia: "Portions of the album The Kids Are The Same were recorded in 1980 at Twentieth Century Fox Music Scoring Stage during a Musician's Union strike against the motion-picture and television industries. The Beat is quite possibly the only Rock and Roll group to record in this historic studio".
Posted in Power Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

COUNTRY JOE McDONALD – Love is a Fire – (Fantasy) – 1976

country joe mcdonald - love is a fire

Allmusic: "A native of Washington, D.C., McDonald grew up in El Monte, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles, where his parents, Florence and Worden, had moved to escape political difficulties in the capital city. Music played an important role through McDonald's childhood, and he attended many concerts at El Monte Legion Stadium; after becoming enchanted by Dixieland music, he frequented the Lighthouse Club in Hermosa Beach.

At the age of 17, McDonald enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Following his discharge after three years, he attended City College in Los Angeles for a year. Although he moved to Berkeley to continue his schooling, McDonald was distracted by his love of music and spent most of his time playing in bands like the Berkeley String Quartet and the Instant Action Jug Band, which included future bandmate Barry Melton.

McDonald continued to be active in politics in the mid-'60s, and published a left-wing magazine, Rag Baby. After publishing the first few issues of the magazine, McDonald conceived the idea of recording a special "talking" issue. Released as an EP, the issue featured two songs, "I Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag," a Dixieland-like indictment of the Vietnam War, and "Superbird," a satire aimed at President Lyndon Johnson; both were credited to "Country Joe & the Fish." Following the completion of the project, McDonald and Melton agreed to form a more serious rock band.

With McDonald's political lyrics set to a dynamic rock beat, Country Joe & the Fish became popular in the San Francisco Bay area, performing frequently at the Jabberwocky coffeehouse in Berkeley and the Avalon and Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco".

Country Joe was 34 in 1976.

The Vietnam War had ended, racial integration (on paper) had occurred, women had become liberated (at least white middle class women), the new generation had become (arguably) more self indulgent than the last, those in authority were never going to be held (automatically) in esteem, and the 60s were uncool.

What was left for a political, hippie hipster, radical, folkie who epitomised the militant 1960s and who sang uncompromising songs of rebellion, emancipation and liberation to do?

Make an album of love songs?

Yes, and why not, the music stars of the 60s that had something to say about America were finding the going tough.

Dylan was on the verge of turning to God, Phil Ochs had (seemingly) killed himself, Arlo Guthrie couldn't sell a record, Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship, The Byrds had broken up (for the last time), Lou Reed had been forgotten and was putting out "Metal Machine Music", Iggy Pop was battling drug demons, the MC5 had either scattered on were in jail, Brian Wilson was a virtual recluse.

Yes, but, Country Joe doing love songs?

The concept isn't all that silly. Country Joe could turn directions on a dime and the love song, in the US popular music songbook, is a subject matter as old, no, older, than all other themes.

And if there was one thing that Country Joe understood it was American popular music songbbook.

Country Joe's solo career, as I have commented on before,  seems to get overlooked in relation to his career as lead in Country Joes & The Fish.

And, to make things worse (or perhaps not surprisingly so), Country Joe's later solo career is even more over looked that his earlier solo career,

Try googling a review of this album or any of the late 70s albums and you won't find much out there.

McDonald had dabbled with but formally went solo in the early 70s.

Initially he took up where Country Joe & The Fish left off (though there were exceptions)…. strident, confrontational songs about the world.

After a half dozen albums he wasn't selling. The appeal of a love song album in this context didn't seem a bad idea. It's not as if he hadn't written love songs before and he had a deep knowledge of the great American songbook and the songwriters of the pre rock era.

And what would have been a good idea would have been to put out an album of newly written old timey love songs and bite into the market that Jim Kweskin and Leon Redbone  had (an admittedly small market).,

But Country Joe instead put out this album.

This is, variously, folk, American songbook, MOR, soft rock, and even light disco.


It's like Country Joe was trying to reinvent himself and get everyone to forget his past.

He is now a singer of love songs.

The trouble is that, though thematically it's about love, stylistically it's all over the place. There are some contemporary (circa 1976) music styles that just don't suit Country Joe (or his voice).

What keeps it together (just) is the fact that Country Joe's does it straight but you KNOW it's Country Joe.

Joe's love songs never hit the truth or any depth on love in it's many facets but his slightly surreal world view (something that goes back to The Fish days) makes the songs, …. err interesting.

There was no market for this.

No surprises there.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • It Won't Burn – horns, like bad Philly soul, punctuate a generally silly song with nothing to say. "Love is a flame that keeps us warm" …indeed.
  • You're The Song  -  70s backing vocals and bland lyrics in this MOR tune.
  • In Love Naturally  – this works as if references back to country folk.
  • Oh, No    – this is just plain weird and more than a little dull.
  • Baby, Baby  - Country Joe moves into Seals & Croft territory and it's not too bad but you don't expect it.
  • True Love At Last    – more MOR with a slight Poco vibe. Not too bad.
  • Who´s Gonna Fry Your Eggs  – A old school old timey love song. "Who's gonna fry your eggs when your hair is grey". A very relevant question, and a good song.
  • Colortone  – I'm not sure what this is.
  • I Need You (This And That)   – some of the cheesiest lyrics this side of John Sebastian but it is so silly it is thoroughly engaging.
  • Love Is A Fire – Country Joe goes 70s funky …. wtf.

And …

This is not a success but it won't take up much space on the shelf between the other Country Joe albums. …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action
Nothing no where

Who´s Gonna Fry Your Eggs   
mp3 attached

Country Joe McDonald – Who's Gonna Fry Your Eggs

Love Is A Fire



Country Joe & The Fish–the-fish-p25282




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

KARLA DEVITO – Is this a Cool World or What? – (Epic) – 1981

Karla DeVito - Is This a Cool World or What

What do you do if you have been slogging it out for many years as a backing vocalist for all sorts of acts and then you finally get your big break yo record an album but the sounds you have been singing are "old hat"?

You take a good look around, listen to what's going on and proceed full steam ahead making sure to hedge your bets.

Will this work?

Of course it will that's what hedging your bets is about. But the return is usually a little less than normal.

And that is Karla's album.

Karla was born in 1953 in Mokena, Illinois and "attended Lincoln-Way High School in New Lenox, Illinois. In her senior year, Karla appeared in the high school's production of "Brigadoon" and "The Odd Couple". She was also runner-up to the Homecoming Queen.

At Loyola University Chicago, she majored in theatre. During her freshman year, she joined the Chicago cast of "Godspell." In 1971-72 Karla studied with Jo Forsberg at Second City Company in Chicago and was part of the Second City Children's Theatre group, with Bill Murray and many other improvisational actors. In 1973, she was in the cast of the popular play Hair.

She subsequently sang with Meat Loaf, on the Bat out of Hell tour (and also performed lip sync to Ellen Foley's vocals in the music videos). Karla then contributed background vocals for such groups as Blue Öyster Cult and the Sorrows. Later she became a solo performer in her own right and opened for such prominent artists as Hall & Oates and Rick Springfield, as well as headlining solo concerts at New York's The Bottom Line". (wikipedia)

She was also one of the vocalists in the rock n roll, come Broadway, come theatrical band "Orchestra Luna" in the mid 1970s.

She finally got a chance to record her first album, this one, in 1981 and the music world around her had changed.

She (or her producer or label) did what they always do and forged ahead… 

Throw in a few of songs with the new sound, a few in the old sound, a few covers and we should be muster a hit.

Not such luck – this album tanked.

But this is unfair as the album is (in part) quite good, and occasionally great.

Karla can sing.

Think Cyndi Lauper but with less pop and more rock or Olivia Newton-John with more grit.

There is also some Lesley Gore, Go-Gos, Ann Wilson, Pat Benetar  and Ellen Foley in there

Karla's voice is powerful and quite distinctive and ballsy. Her strength surely comes from singing her lungs out on stage in musicals.

Fuck, I will say it again …. this chick can sing ….

But … the material is variable.

Oh, and she is quite "foxy" – is that the correct 1981 expression for a girl who is a babe? She comes across on the sleeve as if Kate Bush if she was invaded by Cyndi Lauper …. I would like to be there for that.

I love the hooker aerobics instructor outfit …

It's a pity Karla never really caught on – I believe marriage and lack of subsequent label push stalled her career.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Cool World - (D Lawson, G Mundt, Karla DeVito) – Trying to be very "new wave" with keyboards, doubling echo and "edgy" lyrics this is naff but it actually grows on you. It's one of those songs you could hear as a "new wave" song on a Hollywood teen film from the 80s.
  • I Can't Stand To Reminisce – (P. Glenister) – standard pop trying to be power pop. Writer Glennister was a member of London power pop new wave band "The Hitmen": in the early 80s. he went on to session for everyone.
  • Heaven Can Wait – (J Steinman) -  This is a throwback to the 70s – naturally enough written by Jim Steinman…and recorded by Meatloaf for his monster selling " Bat Out of Hell" in 1977. It is melodramatic and overwrought as you thought it would be
  • Midnight Confession - (L Josie) -  a #5 hit for The Grass Roots in 1968. Karla has updated the song from it's psych pop roots but it still works …this is big new wave pop for the mainstream.
  • Big Idea – (D Lawson) -  Danny Lawson is Karla's song writing partner. The sound is big and it's a fair approximation of what the mainstream thought the new wave was about. That doesnt mean it's bad
  • Almost Saturday Night - (J.C. Fogerty) -  from John Fogerty's self title album of 1978 (the song was released as a single and went to #78 in the US). WTF? Why would Karla record this.? I don't care I love this song and Karla sings the hell out of it. There is no danger in Karla's Saturday night as there was in Fogarty's but you know this girl is going to party regardless. Excellent.
  • Boy Talk - (D Lawson) -  Pop rock with a hint of the new wave.
  • Just One Smile – (R Newman) -  Randy Newman wrote this song, and Gene Pitney recorded it in 1966 (#8). It was recorded later by Dusty Springfield, Scott Walker, Blood, Sweat & Tears and others. Not too bad …
  • I'm Just Using You – (M Briley) -  Englishman, Martin Briley played with Mandrake and Greenslade in the 60s and 70s before moving to New York and doing session work (and obviously writing)
  • Work – (D Lawson, Karla DeVito, P Jacobs) -  an inordinate number of new wave songs were about "work" or rather the disenchantment with it.
  • Bloody Bess – (Karla DeVito) -  a song about a female pirate which is clearly, lyrically and musically, trying to be a Jime Steinman song. This is ridiculous…but it almost works.
  • Just Like You – (Karla DeVito) – the obligatory chick ballad. Not too bad.

And …

This is not to bad …. I don't really have enough rock chicks in my collection or even pop rock chicks …..hmmm, decisions, decisions.
Chart Action
Nothing no where


Cool World

Almost Saturday Night
Mp3 attached

Karla DeVito – Cool World

Most of the songs can be found done live for her MTV Rockin New Years 1982 concert:


with Robby Benson

with Meatloaf
The Breakfast Club sequence featuring "We Are Not Alone"




  • Another album, to be called "Karla DeVito – Incognito" for which Karla had recorded several new demo songs, was shelved, and those still unreleased recordings were thought to be lost for twenty years (wikipedia). Karla's second (and last) album, "Wake 'Em Up in Tokyo" included songs written by Robby and Karla was released by A&M in 1986.
  • She has been married (and has kids to) actor Robby Benson since 1982.  In 1981 Benson accepted an offer to take over the romantic lead in the Broadway hit "The Pirates of Penzance" opposite Karla DeVito and the rest is ….err history.
  • Karla has written music with Benson (for her second album) and also co-starred with him the 1990 film "Modern Love".
  • She subsequently (1989) formed a band called "Desolation Angels". The Desolation Angels were : Karla DeVito, Suzzy, Margaret and Terre Roche (The Roches), Deborah Berg and Kit Hain (The Blister Sisters) and Jane Kelly Williams.

Karla DeVito - Is This a Cool World or What - back sleeve

Karla DeVito - creemKarla DeVito - 1981

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

SHAWN PHILLIPS – Bright White – (A&M) – 1973

Shawn Phillips - Bright White

I'm tired.

I've just spent the day painting – house painting.

Painting is probably the easiest of the trades…

Err, wait, I know a few house painters so I probably should qualify that.

It's the easiest of the trades in that if you fuck it up it will still be, more or less, OK. You can't say that about carpentry, plumbing electrical, bricklaying, welding, etc.

But, painting has it's own special punishment …. it is extremely dull, back breaking, neck aching work.

I don't think I could do it day in, day out.

Right now I need to unwind and let the body get back to it's normal state.

A glass of red and Shawn Phillips will do the trick.

Sometimes a glass of red helps with the listening of Shawn.

Don't get me wrong, as I have said I'm a convert to his music .

Read my other comments on him on this blog.

I have said this though:

Phillips tended to be associated with "hippie music" and I tended to avoid hippie music in my youth. And even now I cringe at the term and the thought.  The trouble is that to label Phillips as purely "hippie" would be unfair.

Sure, this album may be more "hippie" than some of the others but what Phillips was really was a cosmic psychedelic singer songwriter.

"Progressive folk" is another label you could throw at him …

I have also said this:

I should say most of Phillips albums are "gentle" with voice and instrumentation creating a otherworldly vibe ….

And this album is also "otherworldly" with jazz touches and some extreme vocal gymnastics. Phillips loves his vocals but they can be a little naff (in that 70s "prog rock" way) at times. There are also regular references to kings, castles, prophetic events, fantasy, folklore, pastoralism, and other worlds, amongst the instrumental wizardry, classical music references and lack of choruses.

In fact it's a slippery slope from the joys of Shawn Phillips to the ridiculous pretentiousness of Prog rock.

But Shawn keeps it on the good side of the equation …. though, only just on this album.

I always find it surprising that he is Texan born but then again so are Devendra Banhart and Roky Erikson who at various times are not dissimilar to Phillips.

This has been described as one of his most accessible albums. If that is the case then it does not surprise me that the average punter doesn't know who he is.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Bright White - a catchy tune with perceptive lyrics, meaty horns and orchestrations. Think early 70s Ray Davies and The Kinks covered by 70s era Vegas Elvis.
  • Salty Tears - I have no idea what this song is about but it's catchy with a little funk thrown in.

 Salty tears from a lady with electric knees
 Seven years I've been smoking that anti-freeze
 Silly fears and I never even held the keys
 Won't you please take another look
 Are you going to the marketplace
 Read another book
 Learn the rules of the human race
 Try to learn to cook
 'Cause there isn't time to see the face
 Wrapped in silk and lace

  • All The Kings And Castles – If Tenacious D did an unplgged it may sound a little like this.
  • Victoria Emmanuele – bouncy but again in Tenacious D territory.
  • Planned "O" - this song is so quiet and gentle it almost doesn't exist. But there is a real delight in Phillips view of human history as a form of planned obsolescence.
  • Lasting Peace Of Mind – Hmmmm …
  • Technotronic Lad – some squeaky guitars on this don't really help
  • Dream Queen – Some deja vu here – I think late 70s era Pink Floyd may have dipped into the Phillips songbook.
  • It's A Beautiful Morning – Phillips sounds like he is having fu here with the false start and the jaunt
  • Lady Of The Blue Rose – very, very gentle.

And …

There are not enough catchy songs but Phillips can make anything listenable …. I'm keeping it.
Chart Action

1974 #72



Bright White
mp3 attached

Shawn Phillips – Bright White

Lady Of The Blue Rose




  • Again Phillips has surrounded himself with session talent – Shawn Phillips – Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars, Synthesizers / Lee Sklar – Bass / Chuck Rainey – Bass/ Russell Kunkel – Drums / Barrington York DeSouza – Drums / Danny Kortchmar – Guitar / Tony Walmsley – Electric Guitar / Sneaky” Pete Kleinow – Steel Guitar / Larry Carlton – Acoustic Guitar / Craig Doerge – Clavinet / William Smith – Organ / Peter Robinson – Keyboards / Chuck Findley – Brass / Jim Horn – Horns, Recorder / Jim Price – Horns / Bobby Keyes – Horns / Pastrami Bros. – Percussion
  • Produced by Jonathon Weston with the help of Robert Appere and recorded in Hollywood, with orchestral arrangements by Peter Robinson and Paul Buckmaster.




Posted in Folk Rock, Prog Rock and Art Rock, Psychedelic, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment