GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS – Imagination – (Buddah) – 1973


When talking about  Gladys Knight & The Pips "Neither One of Us" (1973) album which immediately preceded this I said, "Gladys Knight and the Pips came through the Motown factory in the 60s with a few top 20 pop hits including "I Heard it through the Grapevine", "Every Beat of My Heart") and transitioned into the 70s easily where they had most of their hits. They really were on fire 1971 – 75, though they had to leave Motown (after this album) to prove their worth (they went to Buddah records)".

This is that album.

This was a big commercial hit and showed (in part) that soul could adapt itself to 70s musical genres rather than just extending it itself as a "dance music".

Check out my other comment for biographical detail on Gladys Knight & The Pips.

This was their 10th album or so and their first on the Buddah label. A lot of this sounds MOR – singer songwriter soft rock filtered through a soul colander.

And that's not a surprise

The album is mainly produced by Tony Camillo or Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise.

Tony Camillo (tracks: 1, 5, 6, 8), Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise (tracks: 2, 3, 4, 7) and Gladys Knight & The Pips (track 9).

All songs are co-produced, apparently, by Gladys Knight & The Pips.

Camillo had worked in soul for a long time. He worked on many pop, rock, soul and disco recordings in the 1960s and 1970s, including recordings by Dionne Warwick, Eric Carmen, The Stylistics, Millie Jackson, Chambers Brothers, Peaches & Herb,  The 5th Dimension ,Grand Funk Railroad, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, The Supremes, Parliament, and Tommy James.

No surprises there.

Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise do surprise though. Former members of early 70s hard rock band "Dust" they produced 4 tracks. They went on to produce Kiss.

Apart  from an emphasis on beat in a couple of songs their hard rock tendencies aren't up front. I'm not sure why they were chosen to produce. Camillo on the other hand  leans towards a smoother pop sound whether he is recording rock, hard rock or soul.

The most noticeable stylistic trend is the singer songwriter sounds. Gladys Knight & The Pips do five songs by Jim Weatherly (they had done one, "Neither One of Us", on the album of the same name and that went to #2 in the charts(1973)). Weatherly, white, was born in 1943 in Pontotoc, Mississippi and played quarterback at the University of Mississippi (and was an All-American) before choosing song writing over a football career.

He had that rugged sensitivity that was popular in the 70s … think Mac Davis, Danny O'Keefe etc.

This is white music though Gladys Knight & The Pips manage to give it some soul and funk … Gladys Knight could sing anything I suspect.

It is still, perhaps, a little too slick for my ears. Don't get me wrong, I love pure pop , but this hybrid adds sugar to something which should a little raggedy around the edges. Black American music in the 70s was about sounding Black with a capital "B"… street talk, Afro-American slang, funk, jive and a general immediacy were as important as the sounds and dance-ability of the music.

This has taken the schmaltz of confessional singer songwriter songs and adds a little black sugar.

Gladys Knight & The Pips were, I suspect, bold in going in tackling more white sounds.

But it worked – a handful of hit singles and a hit album means "money talks".

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Midnight Train To Georgia – (Jim Weatherly) –  Slick, very slick but catchy in a very, err slick way. Originally written as "Midnight Plane to Houston" it's a song about the power of love.
  • I've Got To Use My Imagination - (Barry Goldberg, Gerry Goffin) –  First release by Barry Goldberg October 1973 apparently.  This has a great thumping disco beat which must have packed the dance floors. Infectious.
  • Storms Of Troubled Times – (Jim Weatherly) –  from Weatherly's self title album (1973).  Lots of emotion….but engagingly (over) dramatic.
  • Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me – (Jim Weatherly) – a country hit for Ray Price in 1973 (#1). More emotion. Some of the country can be heard coming through  – black country soul MOR
  • Once In A Lifetime Thing – (Jim Weatherly) –  slick and dramatic.
  • Where Peaceful Waters Flow – (Jim Weatherly) –  from Weatherly's "A Gentler Time" (1973) LP. Very singer songwriter through the black diva filter.
  • I Can See Clearly Now – (Johnny Nash) –  Johnny Nash' magnificent #1 from 1972. It has been covered many times since favourite is by Harry Dean Stanton (live). This song is totally re-imagined with the Pips sing lead. It isn't a great version.
  • Perfect Love – (Paul Williams) –  from Paul Williams "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song" (1971) LP. Strings and horns and schmaltz. The Pips are up front with Gladys on this though I suspect it would have been better if it were Pip-less.
  • Window Raisin' Granny – (B. Knight, E. Patten, G. Knight, W. Guest) – Lead vocal by a Pip, this is great and moves (with it's social observations) into O'Jays territory. Perhaps this is the best track on the album and, interestingly, the only one produced by the band.The only trac

And …

The soul, groove and funk is in the vocals – the arrangements are pure MOR . It still it works,  though only sporadically on my ears … tape a few and sell.

Chart Action



1973  Where Peaceful Waters Flow  The Billboard Hot 100  #28 

1973  Midnight Train To Georgia  The Billboard Hot 100  #1 

1974  I've Got To Use My Imagination  The Billboard Hot 100  #4

1974  Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me  The Billboard Hot 100  #3


1973 #9



1973  Midnight Train To Georgia  #10

1974  Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me  #7



Midnight Train To Georgia


I've Got To Use My Imagination


Window Raisin' Granny

Mp3 attached






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

ALAN PRICE – Lucky Day – (Jet) – 1979

Alan Price - Lucky Day

I like my English music to sound …errr English.

Accepting (as any reasonable person must) that rock music is an essentially organic American medium to, then,  transplant that music to England I need those bands to try a little harder.

Aping American acts won't cut it.

Sure I have time for the musicality and sheer audaciousness of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Animals and others who are trying to beat the Americans at their own game Their lyrics are full of bayous and Mississippi deltas, their rock swaggers and struts with the gin and juke joints of the south and industrial north but I can accept their artifice because they never for once pretended to have invented anything and give credit where credit is due.

There is the lineage of English bands (Munford and Sons being the most recent) which pretend to be English but really just play American native music dressed up and repackaged in English clothes. They have style consultants to make the music "hip" and old English snobbery to give them credibility. Their repackage is sold successfully to the world, even to the Americans who lap it up. American insecurity whether it be in literature, film and music  still exists amongst a percentage of Americans. "We must turn our heads to England for credibility in the arts …. yes but it's like the emperor's new clothes after the emperor has stepped on a dog turd".

There are other bands that wave the English flag but really only recycle American riffs for the local English domestic market. Most of the so called "Britpop" bands fall into that category. Most of the English markets lap them up because they are domestic, can be seen live and probably live around the corner from you. They rarely hit the big time outside of England. And, they are largely dull unless you are member of the English diaspora or a unreconstructed Anglophile.

There are still others who are in it for a buck who don't have a obvious or even subconscious philosophy. Whatever works that's what they produce and sell.

Then there are the English bands I like most. Those that use rock music as a way of exploring their Englishness. They have no trouble adopting American music and usually acknowledge the same. But, their music explores English themes and attitudes from within a American pop cultural world.

The 20th century, like it or not, was the American century.

Many good bands / acts  fill the gaps between those categories but the ones I like the most are these obstinately English ones who draw from all types of music without stealing … ones that are English without a chip on the shoulder, who don't give a fuck and have an acute understanding of pop cultural history. The Kinks, Robyn Hitchcock, David Essex, David Bowie come to mind.

Alan Price fits into that group also.

Price hinted as much talking about blues from the United States, "We had a missionary zeal for this music, I think we identified with it, because it (Tyneside) is a strong area politically, you know, working class. There was a strong trade union ethic up there, and we felt that blues music, the poor black music, represented the same things as the whites had. And we didn't really have contact with our own folk music, whereas the American black music was born of people in the cotton fields, but then heavy industry as well, when you moved up north to Chicago, and we identified with both the sound and the primitive side of it."

See my other Alan Price entry for biographical detail but by way of shorthand lets say, Alan Price was born in the north of England, in 1942, played organ in The Animals, left and formed the Alan Price Set, and then put out a series of solo albums, that are variously autobiographical, adventurous, commercial, or weird but always very English.

On top of that he is very smart.

This album is quite commercial. Price has tackled most of the popular styles of the day and a few styles from "yesterday". Price likes his older music but knows he needs to sell records as well. Not every song is a winner but Price's smarts makes the songs a lot better than they would be other hands.

His strengths are in his inventiveness and in his autobiographical writing and that applies to this album. The best songs are the very personal or those drawn from the narrative of his own life. When he's just trying to write a generic pop song, thinking about melody, pop hooks and instrumentation, he doesn't succeed as well .. though there are some individual charming retro type pop songs.

The other problem is the slick production and reliance on synths … it hasn't dated well.

All tracks by Price unless notes. Price produced the album though the sound production is by Bones Howe (was it recorded in America?)

The album was released in England in 1978 with a different track order and sleeve and under the non-international commercial title of "England My England".

Despite the song of the same the album has influences from all corners of the globe.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • This Is Your Lucky Day (The Girl Won't Get Under)  – (Billy Day / Mike Lesley) – wtf? I know Price had a commercial poppy side to him but this is white disco!
  • Groovy Times   – This is pure soft rock with a gentle, escape from the rat race and live on a beach vibe going for it. It is malarkey but it works (especially with a pina colada).  It is vaguely reminiscent in feel and mood to Michael Nesmith's "Rio" from 1977
  • Baby Of Mine - Price is walking into Paul McCartney territory. Very pleasant with a slight faux gospel feel.   
  • Those Tender Lips – doo wop!  
  • Mama Don't Go Home – a slight calypso steel band feel. If Harry Belafonte had discovered synths he may have released a track like this. It doesn't work here and it wouldn't work for Harry.
  • I Love You Too – big pop which sounds like its from an early 70s soundtrack (minus the production) trying to copy Brill building 60s pop. I like this, it's quite catchy.  
  • Citizens Of The World Unite – a interesting (and still relevant) lyric that comes of as Ray Davies meet the eccentricity of Mick Ronson.  Ed Keupper seems to have lifted part of this the melody for his song "Also Sprach The King Of Euro Disco" (1986) I think.
  • Help From You – more McCartney-isms…and it goes on too long.
  • Pity The Poor Boy – another song that sounds like soundtrack filler.  
  • England My England – for a song about England the song starts out with a French feel, or perhaps a Russian feel if they were doing a chanson song. Snippets of England as known by Price I'm not sure what it's about but it's great.

And …

Not great but there are a handful of great tunes and Price, still, remains a undervalued talent…. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action





1979 Baby of Mine #32



This Is Your Lucky Day (The Girl Won't Get Under)

Groovy Times

Baby Of Mine

Those Tender Lips

Mama Don't Go Home

I Love You Too  

mp3 attached

Citizens Of The World Unite

Help From You

Pity The Poor Boy

England My England






  • "One of Price's early American heroes was Jerry Lee Lewis, and, to his joy, he was lucky enough to meet and work with him on a show: "We did a Granada TV special with him, and I remember we were in a side rehearsal room, myself and group that I was with at the time. I was playing piano and showing them what I could do, when Jerry Lee Lewis walked in, with a big cigar. He sort of pushed me off the piano stool, sat down, and played the most marvellous boogie-woogie. He had never been given the credit for his piano playing, his left hand was absolutely stupendous – fantastic independence, could do great boogie, and could actually make the piano talk. He put his cigar on the end, you could feel it almost burning the grand piano, then he played a few and turned to me and said 'that's how you do it'."

Alan Price - Lucky Day - England

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

DAVID ESSEX – The Whisper – (Mercury) – 1983

David Essex - The Whisper

I've always liked David Essex and his albums from the1970s…and I know that some of you regular readers are to shy (wimps) to get on this blog and say the same but let's sing out the joys of David Essex.

Having said that, this is from 1983 and I fear the worst.

1983 was a shoulder year. The big, bombastic, overproduced sound which typified a lot of 80s mainstream was about to hit.

Essex (see my other comments on him for biographical details etc) was always a quirky performer who had some good pop hooks in him but mainstream 80s sound could kill anyone.

He was a big, big English star (with some overseas presence) in the mid 70s but by the early 1980s his commercial popularity was diminishing. His two previous albums "Hot Love" (1980) and "Bop the Future" (1981)  weren’t big hits.

He needed something.

"A Winter’s Tale" was written by Mike Batt and Tim Rice in 1982  in response, apparently,  to a request from Essex. It was released as a single in December 1982 and peaked at #2 on the UK charts. "Tahiti" a song from  the West End musical "Mutiny!", that Essex was starring in, was then released and went to #8 in England (1983). This set the stage for another album … this one.

Essex decided to collaborate further with Mike Batt. He recorded some of Batt's songs and Batt sang some backing vocals, played some guitar and co produced this album.

The two charting songs were added to various versions of the album in an obvious attempt to increase the sell-ability of the album.

It didn't work, the album didn't do well.

Oddly, on this Australian version neither of the hit songs is included on the album. Then again "A Winter's Tale" only got to #33 in Australia…. and the album didn't chart.

Essex's career, always a mishmash of music, film and entertainment went more mainstream but that doesn't mean he didn't put out some good music … even in the 80s.

He was never out of step with what was happening around him but he was quirky enough to distinguish himself from contemporaries.

Luckily, this album doesn't envelop itself in 80s production. It is "big" in parts, and it is slick and there is brass and saxes but then again this was always in Essex's music. He was initially successful during the "glam" era after all.  There are nods to new wave sounds, rap, synth arrangements and even a little cheesy Caribbean funk but they are, generally, in the back ground.  The best of his music though was in the commitment to form and the determined quirkiness. Here we have Essex trying some new things, but there are obvious traces of his former sound running throughout.

Accordingly the album comes out as neither contemporary nor retro.

It comes out as a David Essex album …instantly identifiable, slightly out of touch and engaging

All sings written by Davis Essex unless indicated otherwise.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • The Whisper   – strange …and the tile song. Very much a song from Essex in the 70s though with a bigger clearer sound.
  • You're In My Heart  – a gentle ballad which in other hands would have been pure mush. Here it's just mush but quirky mush, and catchy. Perhaps there is a nod to Yazoo in the melody.
  • Down Again  – More Essex from the 70s and with a little influence of his former regular producer, Jeff Wayne. There is a nice guitar solo in the bridge which is probably Chris Spedding.
  • Fishing For The Moon – (Mike Batt) – sweet and semi orchestral in sound. Quite typical of Batt who wrote Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes". It's pleasant but not distinctive.
  • Ears Of The City – (Mike Batt) – this sounds, lyrically, a little like 80s Bowie. It's naff but pleasant.
  • Love, Oh Love –    quite strange. This reminds me of some of the more eccentric P.J. Proby recordings from the 80s. Essex sings in a different pitch to normal (as he does on a couple of songs on this album). This is strangely endearing.
  • Moonlight Dancing –   wtf …Essex raps. The song is clearly a cash in on the success of Blondie's "Rapture" mix of pop and hip hop.
  • Love Is A Stranger   –  Essex is trying to be new wave here … it's awful
  • Ernesto – you've got to admire any song about Che Guevara. This could have come from a stage show but with the gentle Caribbean rhythms and straight faced lyric this is quite eccentric, but I like it.
  • Two Runaways   – more New Wave … something like The Psychedelic Furs or David Bowie slumming it. Again this is naff but this is catchy and I think the "naffness" comes from the fact that you don't expect Essex to be singing it. If someone else was doing it you'd think it was a pretty good song.

And …

Patchy but not as bad as some critics would have you believe. Essex is surprising as always …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action





1983 You're In My Heart  #59

1984 Fishing For The Moon         #76


1983 #67


Down Again   

mp3 attached


mp3 attached


A Winter's Tale









  • Personnel: David Essex : vocals / Chris Spedding : guitars / Martin Bliss : guitars / Rod Demicks : bass / Pete May : drums / Ray Cooper : percussion / Mike Batt : keyboards / Pete Giles : keyboards / Produced by : Mike Batt and David Essex
Posted in Punk and New Wave, Rock & Pop | Tagged | 2 Comments

ALBERT HAMMOND – Your World and My World – (Columbia) – 1981

Albert Hammond - Your World And My World

I do have soft spot for Albert Hammond.

I'm not sure how that sits with the other stuff I like but every music collection should have  a couple of acts that stand out stylistically from the rest.

I have more than a couple and Albert Hammond is one of those.

Check out my other blog entries for biographical detail and what not on Hammond.

Hammond is a strange cat in music. He has been phenomenally successful and has some critical credibility despite putting out some very MOR records and writing all sorts of mush songs for people like Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Starship.

When I commented on his 1977 album, "When  I Need You" on htis blog I said: "This album is straight MOR (middle of the road) and a lot of the cringe worthy elements of male MOR are here. Dramatic lyrics, words laden with meaning, overwrought arrangements and a distinct lack of humour. But, there is something worthwhile going on here…… sincerity and sensitivity. Hammond is like a more sensitive Tom Jones who seduces his listener rather than beats  them into submission. The other point of comparison and probably a better one would be 70s era Neil Diamond though without Neil's occasional lapses into pretension".

And this album from 1981 has travelled further down that path.

Hammond's strengths are his smarts in song writing. His viewpoint is clear and he is sensitive enough to see and then write about both sides of the love coin (perhaps that's why so many female vocalists have used his material).

Hammond has no problems in co-writing tunes with all sorts of song writers or musicians.  AS lot of musicians over the years gave written with him i don't know but I suspect he has the knack in coaxing people to work with him and then bringing out the best in them,.

Here he writes with:

  • Tom Snow, an American, who was a member of the band "Country" in the early 70s but is generally a songwriter.;
  • Harold Payne is a songwriter who has also released music with his band "Gravity";
  • Eric Kaz, an American singer songwriter who has written much MOR for many people;
  • Steve Kipner, an American born Australian who was in "Steve and the Board" in Australia and "Tin Tin" in England amongst other bands and who went on to write "Physical" for Olivia Newton-John in 1981
  • Wendy Waldman, a American singer songwriter (who had a reasonable career) and who started off in the late 60s with Bryndle

One of  Hammond's underappreciated strengths (mainly because people always talk about his song writing) is his voice. It is forceful without being aggressively male (at least not on the pop stuff) and it is clear and expressive.

You can call this MOR music or AOR or straight soft rock. But, if more of those genres were like this they may not have gotten the bad names they did (well, the bad names around this household).

The music world may have been imploding in 1981 but Hammond wasn't about to let his well crafted pop fall by the roadside.

My friends may scratch their heads, or more likely their butts, but I could definitely see myself putting this music on at a dinner party or BBQ. It is nice on the ears, quirky enough to be interesting (in parts), and catchy enough to be sing-a-long-able.   

And late at night when the party dies down you could definitely dim the lights and do some lighter waving to the music.

Recorded in Los Angeles the album is played on by a whose who of AOR west coast musicians. Jim Ed Norman, another hit making west-coast conductor and producer ( and member of early 70s outfit " Uncle Jim's Music ") produced this.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Your World And My World - (Albert Hammond ) – excellent AOR Hammond…

            From my window I watch you go

            He's waiting for you in the street below

            His arms wide open while mine are cold and so empty

            'Cause your world and my world they're drifted apart

            in yours the sun is shining

            in mine it's raining

            knocking on the lonely one

  • Memories – (Albert Hammond, Tom Snow) – One step removed from a disco pop ballad …all strings and quite mawkish, but catchy
  • When I'm Gone – (Albert Hammond, Harold Payne) – A little bit of the Elton John here, though with guitar replacing piano.
  • Anyone With Eyes – (Albert Hammond, Tom Snow) – with it's emotional and vocal highs and lows this is a song in the classic Hammond mould.
  • World Of Love – (Albert Hammond, Tom Snow) – a beautiful little song. Quite haunting thought it would have been even better in a lower key.
  • I Want You Back Here With Me – (Albert Hammond, Eric Kaz) – pure soft rock pop …it makes the Partridge family sound like the Stooges.
  • Experience – (Albert Hammond, Steve Kipner) – Hmmm …70s era gently screeching electric guitars punctuation the emotions. Not for me.
  • Take Me Sailing – (Albert Hammond, Wendy Waldman) – a getting away from it al song.
  • By The Night – (Albert Hammond, Tom Snow) – a touch of The Hollies go 70s funky. That can never be a bad thing. There might be a little 10CC in there also.
  • I'm A Camera – (Albert Hammond, Steve Kipner) – Songs with references to cameras always seem to be, naturally enough, voyeuristic, and this is no exception. It's novel enough to be interesting.

And …

Middle of the Road, Adult Oriented Soft Rock…. this is patchy but Hammond nails a few songs. For the sake of completeness … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where (well, not in the English speaking world)


When I'm Gone

mp3 attached

By The Night

mp3 attached






  • Backing Vocals – Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (of The Turtles) as well as Jennifer Warnes, Nicolette Larson, Wendy Waldman and others.
Posted in Singer Songwriter, Soft Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

BUCK OWENS – The Kansas City Song – (Capitol) – 1970

Buck Owens - The Kansas City Song

Regular readers of this blog will know I have a fondness for Buck Owens.

His material from the 1960s is what he is remembered for. That and his pioneering (along with Merle Haggard) of what became known as the Bakersfield sound.

Wikipedia: " The Bakersfield sound was a genre of country music developed in the mid- to late 1950s in and around Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield country was a reaction against the slickly produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville sound, which was becoming popular in the late 1950s. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Tommy Collins, and Merle Haggard and the Strangers, are the most successful artists of the original Bakersfield sound era"

The by-product beauty of the Bakersfield sound was that it ended up influencing many rock musicians especially those on the west coast and perhaps contributing the evolution of Country Rock.

Buck, especially in the 1969 – 1973 period covered non-country songs, and, with his own material took chances in instrumentation and lyrical content. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (1971)  and "In The Palm of Your Hand" (1973) are two of his best albums I have heard from this period and excellent albums by anyone's standards.

Around this time Buck had the knack of making anything sound good. That's not to say that everything he did was great, though. There are a few duds but generally all his material is listenable. And, he can be forgiven for missteps because, along with many country artists, he was quite prolific.

This was his 20th studio album in 10 years.

And, this album is a mixed bag.

The back sleeve of the album declares "Bakersfield's Good Will Ambassador with his tribute home parts, foreign places and people in love …"

And that pretty much sums up the album. Apparently, Buck toured northern Europe during the sessions for this album, or perhaps just before, which explains the Dutch and Scandinavian themed songs. There are very few negative vibes on this album, no social commentary and no heartbreak (even when things don't always go right for people in love) … this is very un-country!

OK, I am trying to be humorous but a country album needs it's fair share of heartbreak …it is white mans blues.

"The Kansas City Song " and (It's a Long Way to) London Town were both rerecorded for this album of songs about places, "I Wouldn’t Live in New York City" (1971).

All songs written by Buck apart from the title song and "I’d Love To Be Your Man" which he co-wrote with red Simpson (who is in his backing band the Buckaroos).

Tracks (best in italics)

  • The Kansas City Song – Chintzy keyboards open the song but otherwise this is solid Buck and another country song about separated love.
  • Bring Back My Peace Of Mind  –  a beautiful Buck ballad
  • (It's A Long Way To) Londontown  –  a gently humorous song
  • I'd Love To Be Your Man –  This song is quite Nashville for a Bakersfield boy – lots of pedal steel and strings.
  • You Can't Make Nothing Out Of That But Love  –  bouncy and slick
  • Amsterdam  –  a ode to Amsterdam and a good one at that. I wonder what would Jacques Brel would think? (cryptic)

                        I left my home and I left my friends said I'll be back but I don't know when

                        Set my sail to the restless wind so long old Amsterdam

                        I picked plums up in Yakimo and I picked pearles down in Arkansas

                        Even learned how to say you all but I still miss Amsterdam

                        Amsterdam old Amsterdam

                        I did my thing in Tokyo tried my luck in Kokomo

                        Searched for bill in Buffalo but I still miss Amsterdam

  • Black Texas Dirt  -  one of the few "downbeat" songs. Dramatic, with a spoken bridge. The narrator defiantly stands up (and leaves) to the harshness of  his this birthplace but can't escape it.

                  From way before sunup to way up to sundown

                  Papa walked behind that ol' mule

                  Until the day that they laid him away

                  He lived by the golden rule.

                  Black Texas dirt you're full of hurt

                  And you won't grow nothing but weeds

                  You took my mama and papa, it's true

                  But you ain't a gonna get me.

      and then:         

                  Black Texas dirt you're full of hurt

                  And you won't grow nothing but weeds

                  You took my mama and papa, it's true

                  And now you're a gonna take me…

  • Scandinavian Polka  -  an instrumental, and despite Buck's tour of Scandinavia a reminder that many working country bands had to play  music for ethnic minority audiences
  • The Wind Blows Every Day In Oklahoma  –  a good song and a melancholy song about love.
  • Full Time Daddy – Buck goes ragtime! The sounds of the 20s were revived in the late 60s and early 70s (think New Vaudeville Band) and Buck had his ear to the ground. It is odd though.

And …

Not the best but good enough …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1970  The Kansas City Song  Country Singles  #2


1970 #10 Country, #196 Pop



The Kansas City Song



Black Texas Dirt

Mp3 attached

Scandinavian Polka

The Wind Blows Every Day In Oklahoma  

Full Time Daddy




Bakersfield Sound:



  • "We were sharecroppers – we were a little bit of everything. We farmed and tried to make something" – Buck Owens
Posted in Country | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE TURTLES – Happy Together – (White Whale) – 1967

Turtles - Happy Together

I spoke about The Turtles a few years back when this blog was still just an email list.

I said then, by way of background,  "The Turtles were one of the California bands that emerged in the wake of The Byrds success (in fact they were originally called The Tyrtles .. get it?)"

I have more time now, am more emotionally stable and can type quicker.

Notwithstanding the need for some sort of empirical rigor in commenting on music these three things are important.

Wikipedia background: "The band, originally a surf-rock group called the Crossfires, was formed in 1965 in Westchester, Los Angeles, by high school friends Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, Al Nichol, Chuck Portz, Don Murray, and Jim Tucker. With the help of KRLA and KFWB DJ and club owner Reb Foster (b. James Dennis Bruton 1936), the Crossfires signed to the newly formed White Whale Records and adhering to the prevailing musical trend, re-branded themselves as a folk rock group under the name the Tyrtles, the intentional misspelling inspired by the Byrds and the Beatles. However, the trendy spelling did not survive long … As with the Byrds, the Turtles achieved breakthrough success with a Bob Dylan cover. "It Ain't Me Babe" reached the Billboard Top Ten in the late summer of 1965, and was the title track to the band’s first album".

Allmusic sum up their legacy as, "Though many remember only their 1967 hit, "Happy Together," the Turtles were one of the more enjoyable American pop groups of the '60s, moving from folk-rock inspired by the Byrds to a sparkling fusion of Zombies-inspired chamber pop and straight-ahead, good-time pop reminiscent of the Lovin' Spoonful, the whole infused with beautiful vocal harmonies courtesy of dual frontmen Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Though they hit number one in 1967 with the infectious "Happy Together," the Turtles scored only three more Top Ten hits and broke up by the end of the '60s".

Influences are important in figuring out a band. No one creates music in a vacuum. With the Turtles they wore their influences on their sleeve but they added to that some great vocals some sharp song writing (and song choices), and a lot of pop smarts.

They took the gentle and smooth harmonies of The Byrds and added the sunshine and pop opera of the Beach Boys, the good time sounds of The Lovin' Spoonful and the quirkiness and observation of the post R&B Kinks.

How can you go wrong with that?

You can't and the Turtles moved with the times but were never slavish in their influences. They starting out as a sort of as a more mainstream folk rock version of The Byrds and then moved to a bigger and fuller sound … the pop and folk never left them but they added horns, and big sounds to the create a quirky pop sensibility.

By 1967 they were almost a avant-garde cabaret folk rock band.

That may sound like a sledge but it's not … I would like to think that they themselves would have liked that definition.

The band had a few hits outside of the US but, for whatever reason, they never reached the international consciousness like The Beach Boys, Creedence, The Doors, The Lovin Spoonful or any number of other American acts

Perhaps that's because they were never revived at a later stage.

Perhaps it's because  the music tastemakers never fully appreciated them …the central Turtles, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, sang a little too well and, despite being able to write a good tunes, were just as happy singing someone else's music. To be taken seriously you have to sing your own material, no matter how dire your voice is.

Failing that you have to at least look the part and Kaylan and Volman hardly looked like pop stars.

The good thing is though that the hardcore fans of the day and their musician peers loved them enough to keep them working and to keep them "known" if not "well known".

Many other bands have slipped through the cracks whilst the Turtles still have a profile (helped by their subsequent reunions in the 80s and their all star package tours (organised by them) in the 21st Century

This album is perhaps their transitional one where they move from folk rock into other areas. There is a bit of this and a bit of that but it is all good and shows the band had wide tastes and were not content to just throw out any old album.

This is west coast sunshine pop par excellance.

Produced by the ever reliable Bones Howe.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Makin' My Mind Up -(Jack Dalton, Gary Montgomery) – this sounds like it could be from a hip 60s Hollywood romantic comedy starring Tony Curtis. Writers Dalton and Montgomery later formed Colours. Not the famous 80s band from Brisbane (or rather Ipswich) but a much underrated band out of LA in the late 60s.
  • Guide for the Married Man -(John Williams, Leslie Bricusse) – this is the title song to a hip 60s Hollywood romantic comedy! Though it starred Walter Matthau. A hilarious film and the song does well by it.
  • Think I'll Run Away -(Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman) – Written by the central Turtles this is sublime ..coming across like a west coast "Left Banke".
  • The Walking Song -(Kaylan, Al Nichol) – written by Kaylan with the bands guitarist this isn't too bad but sounds quite English …there is a European oom-ph-pah feel to it.  It works as a nice piece of wimsy.
  • Me About You -(Garry Bonner, Alan Gordon) – Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon were of the East Coast band the Magicians who also write tunes for others on the side. This song is magnificent. Perfectly sung and quite haunting.
  • Happy Together -(Bonner, Gordon) – Another Bonner/Gordon song. One of the greatest songs of the 60s.
  • She'd Rather Be with Me -(Bonner, Gordon) – More Bonner/Gordon song. Another great tune. These guys can write and the Turtles can sing.
  • Too Young to Be One -(Eric Eisner) – written for them with echoes of Lovin Spoonful. A good song though not as good as that preceding it.
  • Person Without a Care -(Nichol) – written for them this has echoes of The Kinks in themes
  • Like the Seasons – (Warren Zevon) – Before Zevon became famous in the 70s he was in a musical duo called lyme & cybelle (no capitalization) who were on White Whale label. He wrote this and "Outside Chance" (a single from 1966) for label mates the Turtles. A gentle folk song which is very "wounded heart" but quite fetching.
  • Rugs of Woods and Flowers -(Kaylan, Nichol) – The vocals are over the top but The Turtles could never keep a straight face. They love their satire and send up though they are more gentle than this. This seems to be a send up of the psychedelic bands of the day. As music it's so-so but it is quite funny and interestingly in mood it is not too dissimilar from some of Ray Davies satirical rock operas of the 70s…though both he and The Turtles knew they were doing satire.

And …

Side 1 is magnificent, Side 2 lags a little (but only just) This album is excellent …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1967  She'd Rather Be With Me  The Billboard Hot 100  #3 

1967  Happy Together  The Billboard Hot 100  #1


1967 #25 (their highest charting album)



1967  Happy Together  #12

1967  She'd Rather Be With #4


1967 #18 (their only charting album)



1967 Guide for the Married Man #6

1970 Me About you #10 1970


Makin' My Mind Up

live later

Guide for the Married Man

Me About You

mp3 attached

Happy Together

mp3 attached

She'd Rather Be with Me

Like the Seasons






  • "Kaylan and Volman (accompanied by Pons) joined the Mothers of Invention as The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie, since the use of the Turtles name (and even their own names in billings) was prohibited by their contract with White Whale. Flo & Eddie, as they soon became known, recorded albums with the Mothers, appeared in Frank Zappa's film 200 Motels in 1971 and later released a series of records on their own".
  • "Kaylan and Volman sang backing vocals on several recordings by T. Rex, including their worldwide hit "Get it On (Bang A Gong)" and albums Electric Warrior and The Slider. When White Whale's master recordings were sold at auction in 1974, the duo won the Turtles' masters, making them the owners of their own recorded work. (The duo promptly licensed the tracks to Sire Records, who issued the compilation Happy Together Again.).


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

RACHEL SWEET – Blame it on Love – (CBS) – 1982

Rachel Sweet - Blame it on Love

Sex sells,


have pout will travel.

Pout; push one's lips or one's bottom lip forward as an expression of petulant annoyance or in order to make oneself look sexually attractive.

Rachel Sweet had tons of talent but still, she was marketed as all young girls are in the music industry … through sex.

Here at the age of 20 she is no different to Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus or any other number of young nymphets who followed her. The one big difference is that had talent to match her sex appeal.

All of her albums (it seems) have a variety or pouts, snarls or parted lips. Now I have nothing against that as long as she is going along with it and making money for her efforts.

Here they have her looking like a brunette Traci Lords, but the music leaves a lot to be desired and the record didn't sell.

And, that's a pity because this girl can sing and has a great voice and a great ear for old sounds.

The relative failure of the last three albums which were full of updated retro 60s sounds sent her (or her record company) into a different direction, that of mature girl pop.

It was the 80s and the 20 somethings were starting to crowd the airwaves but the trouble is that this is not a s catchy as Cyndi Lauper or as dance-y as Madonna.

It is less dull than Sade though.

This direction was the wrong direction for Rachel.

That's an opinion.

Some people, addicted to everything in the 80s (I grew up in the 80s there was a lot of shit mainstream music … a BIG lot) will love this but for me it is overproduced. And what's worse a lot of this sounds clichéd … and some of the clichés were still new. Such is the disposability of pop that the saturation and turnaround from new to cliché is a blink away.

allmusic says, accurately: "Sweet is in great voice on these ten songs, but she rarely gets a chance to indulge in the hooky but emphatic rock that marked her best music; while she co-wrote and co-produced most of the album with Marc Blatte and Larry Gottlieb, the arrangements are often a mess of '80s pop clichés ("Cruisin' Love" being the worst offender), and the songs are overwrought and uncompelling. It's worth noting than one of the album's best moments, "Paralyzed," was one of two cuts written and produced by Sweet without Blatte and Gottlieb's assistance, which could suggest the album's greatest failing was a poor choice in collaborators, but that doesn't change the fact this was Sweet's weakest album"

Even if Rachel had a hit with this album I'd still maintain this is not the direction for her as a a lot of those sounds haven't dated well.

She was much better served by her earlier label (the English label "Stiff") and those songs hold up better today.

Is a legacy important?

Of course it is.

I would prefer her to have kept mining the older sounds like she did on her first three albums and she would have come across more like The Go Gos, The Bangles or any number of retro 60s new wave chicks.

She can sing that stuff and on her writing she shows the smarts in understanding that sort of pop.

So perhaps Rachel's pout on the cover can be viewed differently:

Pout; To exhibit displeasure or disappointment; sulk.

With exception of "Paralysed" and "American Girl" by Rachel Sweet alone all the other songs are by Rachel Sweet-Marc Blatte – Larry Gottlieb (all three also produced).    

Check my other comments for background on Rachel Sweet.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Voo Doo – For what it is (big 80s overproduced pop) it's not too bad. The guitar is a hangover from the mainstream 70s and makes no concessions to powerpop or new wave.
  • Paralyzed -    quite catchy
  • Sticks And Stones – moving into Cyndi Lauper territory though with a little more grunt
  • American Girl –  good lyrics but a so-so song 
  • The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter –        
  • Blame It On Love –    quite good. Very big but (very) well sung…sort of like a pop version of Joan Jett.
  • Hearts On The Line –   well sung but not especially memorable.
  • Cruisin' Love –    "Nice girls need action, nice girls need satisfaction" ….?
  • Cool Heart –   so so.
  • Baby Blue – a the big ballad – and quite a good one.

And …

Patchy and I wouldn't normally keep this but I quite like Rachel's other albums I have …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1983  Voo Doo  The Billboard Hot 100  #72 




Voo Doo

Video clip


Blame It On Love

mp3 attached







Posted in Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

LOU CHRISTIE – Strikes Again – (Roulette) – 1966

Lou Christie - Strikes Again - Roulette - 1966

I have commented on Christie before though they were earlier comments when this blog was still an email list so they were a little slap dash. To be fair to Lou Christie I should re-vamp what I have said…

Allmusic: "While Lou Christie's shrieking falsetto was among the most distinctive voices in all of pop music, he was also one of the first solo performers of the rock era to compose his own material, generating some of the biggest and most memorable hits of the mid-'60s. Born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco in Glen Willard, PA on February 19, 1943, he won a scholarship to Moon Township High School as a teen; there he studied music and vocal technique, later joining a group dubbed the Classics. Between 1959 and 1962, in collaboration with a variety of Pittsburgh-area bands, he cut a series of records for small local labels, adopting the stage name Lou Christie along the way. Eventually he made the acquaintance of Twyla Herbert, a classically trained musician and self-proclaimed mystic some 20 years his senior; they became songwriting partners, and in 1962 penned "The Gypsy Cried," which he recorded on two-track in his garage. The single became a local phenomenon, and was eventually licensed for national release by the Roulette label, peaking at number 24 on the pop charts in 1963"

That could be shortened to, Lou could sing like a proverbial bird, was a teen idol and sex symbol and was, perhaps a product of his times.

As I said in an earlier comment on Christie, "he is one of the batch of Italian American singers (real name Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco) who flooded the airways in the late 50s / early 60s …. qv: Frankie Valli, Bobby Darin, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Dion, Jack Scott, Freddy Cannon, Johnny Rivers, Bobby Rydell, Bob Gaudio, James Darren…"

I can add Connie Francis and Bobby Vee to that list also.

Why so many Italians? Not all the Italians I know can sing … well, not like these guys.

Perhaps economic necessity creates music.

There was time when only (mainly) poor kids where attracted to careers in music. Potential fame and money where a way of escaping from the often predetermined background of being poor (and anonymous) in contemporary America. Their American dream wasn't based around studying hard, going to University and doing well. I don't know if that opportunity even existed for them. I do know that up until the 1960s, outside classical music and perhaps some folk circles music was a career path, albeit a risky one, for the working class of the US. Whether it be the Italians of the 50s and 60s, of New Orleans jazz 50 years earlier, or of New York and New Jersey in the 30s and 40s, of the poor white kids from the South in the 50s , of the poor black kids from the North, of the Poles and other Slavs from Detroit and surrounds, of the Jewish kids from New York or of the Mexican Americans from Texas and Arizona, music provided an escape route from daily tedium and toil, and with a bit of luck, an escape to a career with fame and potential fortune.

Christie was a part of that simple background and Italian heritage …

A history of rock and pop through the eyes of a social historian with a Marxist bent would be interesting if nothing else.

People forget that, art considerations aside, the music business is just that, a business.

Christie had had minor hits since 1963 and was established but had been drafted into the army for two years. When he came out he found huge commercial success with 'Lightning Strikes' (#1, 1965 on the MGM label). In the traditional of all good music companies various labels rushed to cash-in on Christie.  Roulette and Colpix both released 1966 collections entitled  "Lou Christie Strikes Again" even though neither album had anything to do with the hit song.  The Colpix set featured a compilation of previously released 1964-1966 Colpix singles, with a few unreleased tracks whilst the Roulette set has 4 "new" songs added to 8 lifted from Lou's first album, "Lou Christie" on Roulette in 1963.

Are the albums compilations? Well, yeas and no. They are from different sessions and the albums have been compiled together but the material is largely new and such practices were not uncommon before the album became the dominant form for "serious" music*.

To make things more confusing Co & Ce Records released this same album as "Lou Christie Strikes Back" in 1966. Co & Ce was a small Pittsburgh-based record label which was run by Herb Cohen and Nick Cenci from 1962-1967… and who had signed Christie early on (first). His early releases with the Co & Ce were released around Pittsburgh but Roulette picked them up for national distribution. So, now, accordingly, both labels got to or did a deal to release this album with the same art work, same songs but different titles.

Co & Ce, also, had released Christie's 1966 Single "Outside The Gates Of Heaven  / All That Glitters Isn't Gold" under their name … I assume that was a response to his success with "Lightning Strikes".

The new tracks were:

  • Outside The Gates Of Heaven – (A side # 45 1966 Co & CE records)
  • There They Go – ( the flip side to "Stay" on Roulette from 1964)
  • Maybe You'll Be There – ( a uncharted Roulette single from 1964)
  • You May Be Holding My Baby – (this doesn't seem to have been a single or come from an album so it may be an unreleased track)

The ones lifted from the first album:

  • Mr. Tenor Man
  • Tears On My Pillow   
  • The Gypsy Cried   
  • Have I Sinned   
  • Two Faces Have I   
  • How Many Teardrops   
  • All That Glitters Isn't Gold   
  • You And I ( Have A Right To Cry )

The tracks are three years old and music had moved on, but by 1966 Lou hadn't changed his style greatly. That would come with his late 60s albums. So these tracks did fit in with his current hit, more or less and, obviously, having been recorded together, earlier, they fit in amongst themselves.

But ultimately it's Christie's voice that wins you over. And, he had two unique voices … he had a pleasing doo-wop-tinged tenor, as well as a full command of a shrieking falsetto. The tenor is easy, the flasetto will test how much you like the falsetto sub genre of pop rock.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Outside The Gates Of Heaven – (Christie, Herbert) – a throw back for sure but quite pleasing with Christie's falsetto in perfect use. I have no idea why everyone is outside the gates of heaven though.
  • Mr. Tenor Man – (Carroll Jackson)  – I believe this was first recorded by Christie. A response to Johnny Cymbal's "Mr Bass Man" (#16, 1963)
  • Tears On My Pillow  – (B. Lewis) –   first recorded by Little Anthony and the Imperials in 1958 (#4).
  • There They Go – (Jimmy Crane) –   first recorded by The Delmonicos in 1963
  • The Gypsy Cried – (Herbert, Sacco) –  a great track
  • Have I Sinned  – (Ebert, Mendelsohn) –    I don't have any background on this track. This is is falsetto and it's most overused perhaps. All technique no groove.
  • Two Faces Have I – (Herbert, Christie) –  It may be old but it's good.
  • Maybe You'll Be There – (Rube Bloom , S. Gallop) –    The song was published in 1947. Gordon Jenkins had a #3 with it in 1948 and The Four Aces had a popular version of it in 1958.'ll_Be_There. Christie does a very good, authentic version in his best ballad style. Though, perhaps, a little to authentic …it's too 1958.
  • How Many Teardrops – (Rick Rodell) – written by "Milan the Leather Boy" aka Rick Rodell a rock n roll enigma.
  • You May Be Holding My Baby – (Art Russell, Paul Colby) –   The Pussycats released a version in 1964. This is a little more progressive and works. There's a nice, strange little backing vocal running through it.
  • All That Glitters Isn't Gold – (Herbert, Christie) –  filler, perhaps.  
  • You And I (Have A Right To Cry ) – (Cohen, Lapham, Levy) – The record execs want a piece of the song writing. Cohen was from Co & Ce records and Morris Levy was of Roulette Records and they were friends. Maybe the Lapham wrote the whole song and they got a cut, maybe not. Either way Christie was the first to record the same. A bit to cutesy.

And …

Patchy- the best songs are the ones from the earlier album. Still, I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1966  Outside The Gates Of Heaven  The Billboard Hot 100  #45 

1963  The Gypsy Cried  The Billboard Hot 100  #24 

1963  Two Faces Have I  The Billboard Hot 100  #6 

1963  Two Faces Have I  R&B Singles  #11

1963  How Many Teardrops  The Billboard Hot 100  #46 




Outside The Gates Of Heaven

mp3 attached

Mr. Tenor Man

Tears On My Pillow

There They Go

The Gypsy Cried

Have I Sinned

Two Faces Have I

Maybe You'll Be There

How Many Teardrops

You May Be Holding My Baby

All That Glitters Isn't Gold

You And I ( Have A Right To Cry)






 Lou Christie - Strikes Back - CO & CE - 1966      Lou Christie - Strikes Again - Colpix - 1966     Lou Christie - Lou Christie - Roulette - 1963 

An aside:

*Actually it shits me when people refer to some albums as compilations and somehow they shouldn't be treated as proper "albums". When the wankers at Rolling Stone magazine put out their lists of "best albums" they exclude compilations (oddly though with the exception of Elvis' "Sun Sessions" (1976) which compiles Elvis' Sun output … they wouldn't have credibility otherwise). Pinheads usually say Elvis never pout out a great album (which is rubbish in itself, "Elvis" (1956), "Elvis Presley" (1956), "Elvis is Back" (1960) and "From Elvis in Memphis" (1969) are all classics) but they always leave out "Elvis Golden Records" (1958), "Elvis Golden Records Vol 2" (1959), "Elvis Golden Records Vol 3" (1963) and "Elvis Golden Records Vol 4" (1968). OK only the first two are great but are they compilations? The songs are all hit singles that weren't normally released on albums and were normally recorded at the same sessions and around the same time. Why is that album called a "compilation". How is it comparable to, say, "Queen's Greatest Hits" that collects their best selling tracks, that were singles and on albums, over a 20 year period?. It's not. Those Elvis Greatest Hits albums came from an era when there were albums and then there were singles. A album which has singles released from it comes (mainly, as a concept) from the 60s. To treat those earlier albums as compilations may be true by definition but it is more than a little unfair.

Posted in Blue Eyed Soul, Pop Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHN HARTFORD – Headin’ Down Into the Mystery Below – (Flying Fish) – 1978

John Hartford - Headin' Down Into the Mystery Below

I have fought the urge to rush out a Rod McKuen, who died a couple of days ago, comment today. I have commented on McKuen before, and I love his music, but I don't think it would be wise to write one today. Objectivity (what little I have), the various Rod McKuen albums I have to comment on, and the act of rushing are all considerations I took into account.

I decided instead to finish off this John Hartford album.

And, perhaps oddly, Hartford in many ways has similarities to McKuen. Not in music (at all) but in temperament – both look backwards, McKuen more inwards than Hartford, both can be wistful and melancholy, both can have bursts of biting satire, both used the past to show a different future, both wear their hearts on their sleeves and both can be quite quirky musically.

There is no better expression of that than on this John Hartford album.

John Hartford had a love of the Mississippi river and the steamboats / paddle steamers. So much so that he became a licensed steamboat captain.

The steamboats gently, and largely unobtrusively, paddling down the Mississippi river really seems to fit in with Hartford's personality. A romantic melancholy. A celebration of the past and the simple things in life, I couldn't imagine Hartford on a powerboat or water skiing or on that greatest of evil toys, the jet ski.

This album is an ode to the steamboat. A concept album of sorts.

Every song (all bar one, sort of, written by Hartford) is about steamboats or the wistful recollections and observations of a man who spends a lot of time on steamboats. And, that love of steamboats isn't a nostalgia for days past. This is a album of contemporary (1978) life on the Mississippi steamboats. Many of the steamboats he sings about were of recent (1978) vintage.

It's as if he says we have all these new inventions but I put my faith in these things of the past which are still relevant, useful and functional today.

The steamboats and the river, give him space to think. Just as the solitude of the open sea has created many songs (and books and films) the river here becomes a (perhaps existential) space where one can reflect on life without interruptions from those onshore.

It doesn't hurt that the "average surface speed of the (Mississippi) water is near 1.2 miles per hour – roughly one-third as fast as people walk" (thankyou US National Park Services), and that it is one of the longest and widest rivers in the world. It is (usually) calm and serene.

You may as well be on the open sea, in good weather.

The perfect place to think, perhaps.

Edward Faulkner, Mark Twain (and even open sea man Herman Melville) have written about the Mississippi and songs have been sung to it by Johnny Cash, Charlie Pride and others but Hartford has, over the course of a number of albums, sung about The Mississippi and its steamboats, on a regular basis.

Melancholy and observational he may be but in Hartford style, he is humorous and playful, even with his beloved steamboats. Being a "contemporary album" he generally stays away from the inherent dangers of old school steamboats (boilers were known to blow up) and the Mississippi when it floods but does acknowledge, in his lyrics, that there is work in running  a steamboat on the Mississippi.

That aside, this is his happy steamboat album.

No jokes about happy steamers please.

Apart from the backing vocals on a couple of tracks (as if patrons on the steamboat sidled up to join in on a sing-along) all the banjo, guitar, violin and lead vocals are by Hartford. There is no percussion though he keeps the beat and rhythm in our ears by dancing  on a piece of close miked plywood (3/4" 4×8 sheet of new Grade A unfinished plywood to be exact if any of you want to recreate the sound)

For background on John Hartford check out my other comments.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • The Mississippi Queen – "the biggest steamboat that was ever afloat on the Mississippi river back home" . Hartford doesn't reach back here. The Mississippi Queen was built in 1976. This song can be an ad and celebration of that, and her. (Sadly she was scrapped in 2009).
  • Mama Plays the Calliope – A calliope is a musical instrument that produces sound by sending steam through large whistles and were common on steamboats.
  • See the Julia Belle Swain – Hilarious. Hartford sings the travel brochure for the boat on which he apprenticed, the Julia Belle Swain, for his license.
  • On Christmas Eve – there is "no better place to be than out on the river on Christmas eve". Some beautiful banjo playing.
  • Natchez Whistle – an ode to the Natchez steamboat.
  • Kentucky Pool – a humorous song about trying to steer along the Mississippi ….it's like a song about a driving test.
  • Miss Ferris - a boy dreams of the Mississippi river whilst listening to his teacher Miss Ferris, who also loves the Mississippi.
  • Paducah – kids from Paducah, Kentucky dream of steamboats and the Mississippi…at least I think that's what it is about.
  • Headin' Down into the Mystery Below – Hartford tries to explain his love of the Mississippi river, whilst referencing the tale of a old steamboat wreck.  You can't get more personal that this.
  • Beatty's Navy – just steamboat sounds. From the liner notes: "Beatty's Navy" (The towboat "Claire E. Beatty") was recorded from the pilothouse of the "Julia Belle Swain" at Massengale Rock, Mile 446.0, Tennessee River, 18 miles below Chattanooga, while the former was raising the sunken towboat, "Sarah E. Thomas" in 1974. This past January, Capt. John Beatty lost his wife's namesake in the ice at Markland Dam on the Ohio River in a valiant effort to remove some barges that had drifted down on the piers. As this is being written salvage efforts are underway and by the time this album comes out we'll once again be able to hear his beautiful collection of whistles". More here:
  • In Plain View of the Town – the workings of a steamboat barge.

And …

Not the best John Hartford but a very personal album and ultimately very satisfying. It certainly is the best album ever written about steamboats….. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action


Nothing no where


The Mississippi Queen

See the Julia Belle Swain

mp3 attached

Miss Ferris






  • Backing Vocals– Billy Ray Reynolds, Diane Tidwell, Jack Greene, Jeannie Seely, Lisa Silver.  Banjo, Guitar, Violin, Vocals, Other [Dancing On Plywood Sheet], Written-by– John Hartford, Producer– Mike Melford.
  • This album was recorded at The Sound Shop in Nashville. "Beatty's Navy" (The Towboat "Claire E. Beatty") was recorded from the Pilot House of the "Julia Belle Swain" at Massengale Rock, Mile 446.0, Tennessee River, 18 miles below Chattanooga.




RIP Rod McKuen 1933 – 2015


Posted in Alt Country, Americana, Country, Folk | Tagged | Leave a comment

PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS – Alias Pink Puzz – (Columbia) – 1969

Paul Revere & The Raiders - Alias Pink Puzz

There is plenty of biographical information on this blog about Paul Revere & The Raiders so have  a look at all that for background.

Also, by now there are quite a few of their albums commented on also, so you will have some idea of their musical history if that interests you.

Having said that I like this bio from mainstream music download and streaming site, Rhapsody:

Three decades before grunge broke, Paul Revere and the Raiders charted out of the Northwest with music that rocked as hard as Nirvana ever would. Keyboardist Revere was actually from Nebraska, but by 1958 he was in the Downbeats with Oregon singer Mark Lindsay. Their name changed, and in 1961 — three years before The Beatles — they had their first Top 40 hit, which was already called "Like Long Hair," and based on Rachmaninoff to boot. In 1963 Columbia signed the band for its cover of "Louie Louie"; tragically, the Kingsmen's version hit instead. But the Raiders played frat houses, armories, teen clubs and (according to one 1964 song) Crisco parties, and in 1965 they wound up regulars on Dick Clark's TV show Where the Action Is, dressed up in British Invasion-spurning Revolutionary War outfits. They became, for a couple of years, the biggest American band in America, scoring with R&B-based greaser punkers like "Just Like Me" and the anti-drug classic "Kicks." Big hits lasted into 1967, and smaller hits for another half-decade. But their highest charter — the Native-American-history novelty "Indian Reservation" — came in 1971, by which time they were simply called the Raiders.

Paul Revere & The Raiders like a lot of bands was always adapting itself to the hit sounds of the day.  And, as I have said somewhere before there is nothing wrong with that. If you want to use the holy cow that is The Beatles, who certainly were innovative, you can see that they were doing that (adapting and incorporating their music to and with trends). Their early 60s music is pop rock not dissimilar (though infinitely better ) than any other number of bands from Liverpool and England generally (who were aping any number of Phil Spector acts from the US). Then, the success of Dylan certainly influenced their song writing, whilst the musicality of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys meant the Beatles were playing catch up with them. Later on the back to the earth sound of The Band caused The Beatles to retreat from the overblown theatrics of Sgt Peppers and the rise of the singer songwriter movement affected many of their later LPs.  It's easy to assume that The Beatles were starting the trends because they had the lions share of market sales (success breeds success) but in each case they were incorporating sounds they liked into their sound (and by doing that creating something new). This is not meant to be a put down of The Beatles but it is meant to say that even genius doesn't exist in a vacuum.

So, if you are going to accept that it's OK for The Beatles to incorporate new emerging sounds of the day into their music they why can't Paul Revere & The Raiders get away with a few stylistic shifts in their sound?

I make this point because more than a few musical commentators have commented on The Raiders stylistic shifts in a pejorative manner.

And, frankly, that isn't fair.

Much like The Beatles, and any other number of good bands, Paul Revere & The Raiders don't leave their past behind to jump on another sound but, rather, they incorporate those sounds into their musical sensibility.

And that's what they have done here.

Sandwiched between the "Hard 'N' Heavy (with Marshmallow)" (1969) and "Collage" (1970) LPs, "Alias Pink Puzz" has Paul Revere & The Raiders playing around with psychedelica, funky soul, country and swampy rock though still retaining their proto power pop, garage and pure pop sensibilities.

Searching for current sounds for commercial viability is a nice argument but maybe the explanation is a lot simpler… with the exception of Lindsay and Revere there were a lot of line-up changes and those new members, perhaps, were bringing in their musical personalities to the mix.

Paul Revere & the Raiders though faced another hurdle. Their Top 40 hit making past, gimmicky colonial outfits and teeny bopper status were held against them. (yes, The Beatles managed to shed their teeny bopper image). They wanted to write more "relevant" and personal songs (the lyrics are in the gatefold – always a giveaway for those trying to be serious) but found acceptance here difficult.

When the tastemakers who review records and the DJs who spin records aren't on board it becomes harder to escape your past … and that effects your (commercial) future.

Those things proved fatal to Paul Revere & The Raiders but from the here and now I don't have to be concerned by such things.

All that remains is the songs themselves. Mark Lindsay wrote most of the tunes and he seems to be writing autobiographical material about life as a pop star (much as Ray Davies would do later in the Kinks wonderful "Everybody's in Show-biz" album from 1972). But, if the songs aren't catchy, memorable or have some other special hook then no amount of musical trend knowledge or confessional writing is going to save you.

All songs are by Mark Lindsay unless otherwise indicated. He also arranged and produced.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • Let Me! – a funky dirty greasy soul shouter. Some nice dirty guitar compliment the suggestive (though inane) lyrics. Great fun.
  • Thank You – A love lament that alternatively is gentle and rocking. Not dissimilar to what Simon & Garfunkel were doing. Quite the winner with a number of girls name checked.

                  In a Little square of time

                  I made love with Caroline

                  And she crept into my mind

                  And she eased the pain away

                  But in the morning came the sun

                  And I knew I'd better run.

                  'Cause i rather stay just one

                  Than two or three

  • Frankfort Side Street – hookers on German side streets … everyone should have a song about them. Come to think of it Elvis' "Frankfort Special" (1960) could be about the same subject!
  • Hey Babro – oom pah pah bubble gum with a censored bleep (intentional or subsequent I do not know).
  • Louisiana Redbone – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – country rock with swampy edges. Not dissimilar to Ricky Nelsons "Louisiana Man" ….the melody and outlook not just the title.
  • Here Comes The Pain – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – a gentle psych baroque ballad. Quite melancholy as you would expect from the tile.
  • The Original Handy Man – country rock Vegas style – I could see Elvis doing this.
  • I Need You – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – a trippy mid tempo ballad.
  • Down In Amsterdam – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – a good "Faces" or "Jeff beck Group"  type of song though without the grunt. Very funny though.
  • I Don't Know – another ballad with psych and Rolling Stones overtones. Lindsay does a good Mick Jagger impersonation. Though, arguably, Mick did a good Mark Lindsay impersonation.
  • Freeborn Man – (Keith Allison, Mark Lindsay) – more country rock and quite catchy. Originally released as a single by bassist Allison in 1967 (he joined the band in 1968).

And …

Very underrated and quite great  …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1969  Let Me  The Billboard Hot 100  #20 


1969 #48



Let Me!

Frankfort Side Street

mp3 attached







  • The line-up here : Mark Lindsay – Vocals / Freddy Weller – Lead Guitar / Joe Correro, Jr. – Drums / Keith Allison – Bass / Paul Revere – Organ
  • "As bassist Keith Allison explains in his new liner notes, the title of Alias Pink Puzz refers to the fact that the Raiders submitted an advance pressing of a new song to a Los Angeles FM rock station under the pseudonym "Pink Puzz" in an effort to sidestep the band's Top 40 pop image. The station's management liked the song, but was livid when they learned the truth"
  • Paul Revere and the Raiders toured Europe with the Beach Boys in the spring of 1969. I don know if these songs were written before tat tour or after though there are a number of European references.
  • Paul Revere died Saturday, 4 October 2014, at the age of 76. The cause was cancer.
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