STEPHEN STILLS – Right By You – (Atlantic) – 1984

stephen-stills-right-by-you

If you read this blog enough you will hear me say, and, yes, I'm saying it again, the 80s were awful for mainstream music.

New mainstream sounded awful and "in the charts" mainstream was rubbish but the hardest hit by the 80s sound were the old acts from the 60s and 70s.

Many people would disagree with me but they are looking at the music, or rather, remembering the music through the joy of their youth.

Okay, I don't come to this argument with clean hands. I disliked mainstream 80s music in the 80s. I was a kid but I was listening to 50s, 60s and 70s music. I also lived for indie / underground / alternative music mainly because it (sounded then) so raw , under-produced and organic. One argument is that those bands sounded "raw" because they didn't that have the money to sound any "better". There is some truth to that because as soon as some of those bands were signed to major labels they ended up sounding like mainstream crap. I think, though, that most of those bands didn't sound like the mainstream because they were looking backwards trying to emulate their heroes of the past whilst the mainstream was looking forward to the future.

And their future was full of synthesisers, drum machines, loud guitars without any ragged edges, and full vocals that seemed to have been recorded at a different time laid and over the instrumental track.

It's one thing if you are a New Wave band doing this … you may get away with it because you sort of anticipated the sound. But, it is altogether something else, if you are an older act and you are trying to sound contemporary. It is sad.

Those albums (and everyone gave it a go: Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison) may have sounded good then and even had chart success but now they just sound awful.

And this is how we come to Stephen Stills. His previous two albums hadn't done that well, so he came out with this attempt for chart success.

But, his folk rock, country, blues singer songwriter genes was not suited to synths and drum machines

Ever.

It is better to stick to your (musical) guns and remain out of touch. The music will become fashionable again and with back catalogue sales you may have a career rise. Most importantly, your career won't be blighted by ill-conceived product.

Stills is a bit of a legend, albeit not a common knowledge one. Wikipedia: "Stephen Arthur Stills (born January 3, 1945) is an American musician and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young … Beginning his professional career with Buffalo Springfield, he composed their only hit "For What It's Worth," which became one of the most recognizable songs of the decade. Other notable songs he contributed to the band were "Sit Down, I Think I Love You," "Bluebird" and "Rock & Roll Woman." According to Richie Furay, he was "the heart and soul of Buffalo Springfield." … After Buffalo Springfield broke up, Stills began working with David Crosby and Graham Nash on their debut album. Stills, in addition to writing much of the album, played bass, guitar, and keyboards on most of the album. The album sold over four million copies and at that point, had outsold anything from the three members' prior bands: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Hollies. The album won the trio a Grammy Award for Best New Artist … Neil Young, formerly of Buffalo Springfield, joined CSN months later for their second concert at Woodstock and subsequent album Déjà Vu. The album found Stills again as a leader of the group. Living up to his nickname "Captain Many Hands" he played bass, guitar and keyboard on the title track, and electric guitar and piano on Helpless. Young appeared on half of the album, which became a huge success and sold over eight million copies. In its wake all four members of CSNY released solo albums that reached the top 20 … ".

Stephen Stills released his first self titled solo album in 1970 which went to #3 in the US. Each subsequent album charted a little lower in the charts. The album preceding this one, "Thoroughfare Gap", charted at #83 (US).

That album had flirted with disco. You would have thought Stills would have learnt his lesson about chasing chart success by incorporating contemporary popular sounds.

No, he didn't.

It took six years to get to this album, "Right By You" though he wasn't quiet during that period as he put out two patchy Crosby Stills and Nash albums.

This album has a host of great guest musicians including Jimmy Page on guitar on three tracks (perhaps not that unusual as Led Zeppelin had done the Stephen Stills penned Buffalo Springfield song, "What It's Worth", live in 1975 and Stills had used Clapton and Hendrix before) and Herb Pedersen, Bernie Leadon and Jerry Scheff on one. Old cohorts Graham Nash, Chris Hillman and Mike Finnigan provide backing vocals (along with John Sambataro) and the occasional instrument.

But they are all  buried under bad (atrocious and very typical) 80s production. This is truly awful. Stills knows how to write a song and choose a cover (though the use of professional songwriters with recent hits seems a little calculating) but almost nothing works here.

Chart wise, did the gambit pay off?

No, though the album charted marginally higher than his album previous. This was Stills last solo album for seven years and the last for a major label.

And, what is with the cover art?  Stills must have been into speedboats, the back has him on one whilst the front pic is a speedboat in outer space with futuristic font. A visual attempt at relevancy. Granted the outer space sleeves were big in the late 70s early 80s (Chuck Berry's guitar spaceship on "Rockit" (1979) the only one that works) but this is particularly naff.

The album was produced by Ron Albert, Howard Albert and Stephen Stills apart from Can't Let Go" which was produced by (former 60s teen idol come) Steve Alaimo.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • 50/50 – (Joe Lala, Stills) – a Latin feel and groove runs through this and it is awful. Starting an album with this does not offer any comfort. Page provides a short guitar solo in the Santana vein.
  • Stranger – (Stills, Christopher Stills) – fark, Shoot me. This feels like, err bad Top 40 radio in, errr, 1984 or 1985. I can see myself walking through a shop in 1985 with this playing in the background.
  • Flaming Heart – (Ray Arnott) – Ray Arnott was an Australian musician (drummer) from the bands Spectrum, The Dingoes, and Cold Chisel as well as fronting his own band, the Ray Arnott Group. I don't know how Stills got hold of this song. It came out on a Ray Arnott band album, "Rock n Roll" in 1985.The single came out in 1984). Page provides guitar. This is a slow but muscular rocker that is done in my the production. There is a good bit right before Page cuts loose, Stills proclaims " Talk about it James!"
  • Love Again – (Stills) – fark, utter pus. This could be The Hooters, though not as good!
  • No Problem – (Stills) – yes there is. A big one.

      Side Two

  • Can't Let Go – (Joe Esposito, Ali Willis) – Joe Esposito and Allee Willis were MOR pop rock American singers and songwriters. Marginally better with some nice electric guitar wankery by Stills himself.
  • Grey to Green – (Stills, James Newton Howard) – rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, and very , very, very 80s.
  • Only Love Can Break Your Heart – (Neil Young, additional lyrics Stephen Stills) – from Neil Yung's " After the Gold Rush" from 1970. The production is awful but the song is good and Stills vocals sound right.
  • No Hiding Place – (Louise Cirtain, Gladys Stacey, A. P. Carter, additional lyrics Stephen Stills) –  The Carter Family song from 1934. Slick but great. This is one of the few songs that seems to be commentating on political and social issues which was a normal feature of (liberal) Stills song writing. Stills has added some new lyrics to the old country number. "There's No Hiding place down here" in 1984 during Ronald Reagan's presidency and Star Wars program can't be accidental. This sounds out of place on this album. The guesting of Hillman, Pedersen, Nash, Leadon, Finnigan and Scheff is welcome.
  • Right by You – (Stills) – a slow blues with Page on guitar. This is quite good (though a little, yawnsville, biker blues-ey) though, again, out of place on this album.

And …

Awful, but I like Stills and have most of his other albums so for completeness …. I'm keeping it. I may try sneaking it on at a dinner party to se what happens.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1984 Can't Let Go #67

1984 Stranger #61

Album

1984 #75

England

Sounds

Full album

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ieKpq29Es0

50/50

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVLd9Giyob8

Stranger

Video clip

This is worth watching as a bad 80s video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6UjIqTtbHk

No Hiding Place

The least typical song on the album and the best

mp3 attached

Right by You

Acoustic live version 1984

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOl9t-Rh_yw

Others

Solo

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

with Manassas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKmlcb4HSLM

with Neil  Young

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FfBgyRyB0s

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/right-by-you-mw0000191892

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

Bio

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

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/stephen-stills-a-classic-rock-zelig/2015/06/25/18abf612-150f-11e5-8457-4b431bf7ed4c_story.html

interview

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/stephen-stills-interview-we-re-still-here-haha-haha-ha-8772387.html

http://www.stephenstills.com/news/10.13.13.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAVS7UD5SlA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_t1EUGwfh8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRacqP5O89c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRuBJ48VfmA

Website

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

Trivia

 

stephen-stills-right-by-you-back

Posted in Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHNNY RIVERS – Homegrown – (United Artists) – 1971

johnny-rivers-homegrown

I have written many comments on this blog about Rivers and his albums. Check them out for biographical detail but especially check out the "Slim Slo Slider" (1970) comment.

That album and this one have been joined on a 2fer on CD and it is right to do so but not just because of their chronology but because Rivers was really on a down home earthward bent.

Rivers was primarily a rock n roller. From straight ahead Elvis-like rock in the 50s, to his slick (but ragged?) Go Go rock of the 60s, through his boogie woogie of the 70s to his revival style in the 80s and beyond,

But, at various times, perhaps to keep up with the sounds and to remain to commercial (everyone does), or perhaps because of a significant change of outlook, he has interrupted his rock 'n' roll with drabs of folk rock, a whole lot of pop psych, a dash of MOR and on this southern, country, and Hollywood hippiebilly (country California) music.

Rivers has, however, kept his musical personality front and centre and hasn't tried to be something he isn't. He is / or seems to be just tapping into lesser known parts of his musical personality and bringing them to the fore.

Rivers, Louisiana born and bred, isn't reaching far to explores sounds with southern, country and soul roots. And, at 29, he wasn't too old to voice the concerns of the questioning young, even if he had been a pop star for many years.

Rivers has a distinctive style. On up-tempo songs he tends to have a straight rock 'n' roll voice (and there is nothing wrong with that) but lets his guitar and instrumentation give him his musical personality. On the slower songs he gravitates to singing in a soulful way regardless of the song  which makes his interpretations of covers quite distinctive.

Rivers could write a tune, and had his first brush with fame writing songs. But, he is known mostly as a covers artist.  Most of his hits have been cover songs.  Most of his biggest hits have been cover songs.

And Rivers has been denigrated underrated and dismissed for being a cover artist.

But, he can write … if that is important to you (and its not to me, interpretations are). Rivers problem is that, at times, he seems have less faith in his songs than he does in the covers. "Slim Slo Slider" was all covers and this album has only three originals which fit into the whole and are nothing to be ashamed of.

His covers are exceptionally well chosen. He seems to have a knack for picking the right song for his album and for bringing exposure to young artists. Here he has recorded two classic Jackson Browne songs which he recorded before Jackson Browne or anyone else had released them as well as a classic James Taylor song which was climbing it's way up the charts.

All the songs deal with contemporary issues even though few are explicit. The early-70s in the US was a time of social disenchantment. As I have said before, elsewhere, environmental degradation, unemployment, urban decay, the Vietnam war, soulless consumerism had to led to civil unrest and a search for something else. Many songwriters and entertainers were affected by the same. A back to the earth movement, new spirituality and re-found appreciation of traditional agrarian community values (family, religion, less faith in science …), was one of the results of that. And songwriters reflected the same.

And so did Rivers through his songs and the songs he chose.

There is nothing "rock" here (unless it is in the earth – sic) and very little up-tempo but there is a lot of dirt under the nails, soul searching, religion and spirituality and reflection all surrounded with a ragged pop sensibility … which is also reflected in the albums gatefold sleeve artwork.

This then, with "Slim Slo Slider" is Johnny Rivers singer-songwriter album even though he wrote only a few songs on them.

Putting all that to one side  River used a string of exceptional musicians (James Burton and Mike Deasy are legends). A lot were old friends he had worked with many times, and a few were newer on the California scene. A lot were in (not surprisingly) Elvis' recently formed touring band and were recording similar new country and southern sounds with him in the studio.

I was a fascinating time to be in  California musically before it all became standardised in the mid-70s.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Moving To The Country – (Charles D. Harris – Ron Milo Duquette) –  the writers are from country rock band "Charley D. and Milo". This song wasn't on their only album from 1970. This encapsulates one of the central themes in early-70s American music … a retreat for the city to the country. The writers also supply guitar and backing vocals on the song.
  • My New Life – (Frank Kinsel) – Another great song about change. Kinsell was an emerging singer songwriter who had put out an album in 1970 (his only major release). This song was not on it.
  • Our Lady Of The Well – (Jackson Browne) – A beautiful Browne song
  • Look At The Sun – (Johnny Rivers – Frank Kinsel) – Quite spiritual. I don know how Rivers hooked up with Kinsell or if they sat down together to write this. But thematically it fits in perfectly with everything else
  • Rock Me On The Water – (Jackson Browne) – The classic Browne song and a great interpretation with great backing vocals from Rita Coolidge and others. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Me_on_the_Water
  • Song For Michael – (Johnny Rivers) – one of the best songs on the album. Rivers is explaining how he wants a child to grow up. Very emotional but songs about kids always are, aren't they?

      Side Two

  • Permanent Change – (Johnny Rivers) – another good one from Rivers.
  • People Get Ready – (Curtis Mayfield) –  The Impressions soul hit (#14) from 1965. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_Get_Ready
  • So Far Away – (Carole King ) – From Carole King's #1 album "Tapestry" (1971). The single went to #14 in 1971 for her. A personal song about lovers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So_Far_Away_(Carole_King_song)
  • Fire And Rain – (James Taylor) – another personal song from the author who saw life as fire and rain. A good cover though it goes cabaret or Church revival with the horns and the backing vocals..  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_and_Rain_(song)
  • Think His Name – (Mincy – Shanklin – Coe – Mincy – Shanklin) – Martha Mincy, Wayne Mincy, Todd Shanklin , Wayne Shanklin & Tommy Coe I think were all professional writers with work going back to the 50s and trad pop. The name they want you to think is "Jesus Christ". A great tune which could have worked in a rural version of "Godspell". One of the catchiest Jesus songs I have heard. It could even make a believer out of a lapsed Catholics again (Cashie are you reading this? I mean no one has written songs about Richard Dawkins yet, have they?).  I have no idea who the Guru Ramdas Ashram Singers are but Guru Ram Das was a Sikh Guru and there is a temple in Los Angeles so ….

And …

Perfect, relaxing, reflective Sunday morning music … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1970 Fire and Rain – #94

Album

1971 #148

England

nothing

Sounds

Moving to the Country

mp3 attached

My New Life

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

Our Lady of the Well

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

Look at the Sun

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2Ss44KUvfQ

Rock Me on the Water

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp1SY7pQzwQ

Song for Michael

mp3 attached

Permanent Change

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKg5gJHdza0

People Get Ready

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

So Far Away

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Yk0xVvp6H4

Fire and Rain

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLE7w7h2gfA

Think His Name

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq6lBBfrOXA

Others

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwbeSgEEe5M

Review

Bio

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

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

Excellent Glenn A Baker bio on Rivers

https://www.whiskyagogo.com/articles/609999.html

Website

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

http://www.frankkinsel.com/

https://www.facebook.com/frank.kinsel.7

Trivia

  • Personnel:

            Johnny Rivers: Vocals, guitar and producer 

            Jim Horn: Arranged and Conducted By (tracks: B4), Flute (tracks: A6)

            Glen D. Hardin: Arranged and Conducted By (tracks: A3, A4, B2, B3)

            Frank Kinsel: Backing Vocals (tracks: A2)

            Chris Ethridge: Bass (tracks: A3 to A6, B5)

            Jerry Scheff: Bass (tracks: A2)

            Joe Osborn: Bass (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B3, B4)

            Jim Keltner: Drums (tracks: A5, B1, B3, B5)

            Ronnie Tutt: Drums (tracks: A! to A3, A6, B2, B4)

            Mike Deasy: Guitar (track B3), 6-String Guitar (tracks: A4, B2), Gut String Guitar (tracks: A2), 

            Lead Gtr (tracks: A3, A5, A6, B2), Bck Vcls (tracks A3, A4, A6, B2, B3), Harm vcls (track B1)

            James Burton: Guitar [6-Sring] (tracks: A1), Slide Guitar [Slide Dobro] (tracks: A1, B4)

            Mike Shanklin: 6-String Guitar, Backing Vocals (tracks: B5)

            Tommy Coe: Guitar 6-String Guitar, Bass Vocals (tracks: B5)

            Glen Townsend: Lead Guitar – (tracks: A1)

            Larry Knechtel: Organ (tracks: A6), Piano (tracks: A1 to A3, A5, A6, B2 to A4)

            Clydie King: Backing Vocals (track A5)

            Rita Coolidge: Backing Vocals (track A5)

            Vanetta Fields: Backing Vocals (track A5)

            Kathy Deasy: Backing Vocals (tracks A3, A6, B2, B3, B4)

            Milo: Twelve-String Guitar, Vocals (tracks: A1)

            Charlie D.: Vocals (tracks: A1)

            Guru Ramdas Ashram Singers: Backing Vocals [Background Singers] (track B5)

            Wayne Mincy: Lyre [Lyric Harp], Vocals (track B5)

            Michael Amilius: Voice [Talking] (track A6)

 

johnny-rivers-homegrown-gatefold     johnny-rivers-homegrown-back

 

RIP: BOBBY VEE (1943-2016)

Posted in Americana, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE ROCKSPURS – Getting Off … – (DJM) – 1979

the-rockspurs-getting-off

There is very little on this band online.

At the risk of sounding twee I will say that in some ways knowing nothing about a band can be a good thing.  There are no preconceptions because  all you have to gauge the music is the music itself and art work. The music has to stand on its own. This is, perhaps, how it should be but popular music is more than just music, as has been proven many times.

The Rockspurs seem to be New Yorkers (well at least a couple of them are) who signed to English label DJM which had distribution and offices in the US.

Lead vocalist and bassist, Greg Hollister, had been in rock bands "The Silver Caboose" and , "Anthem" who released an album in 1970 and then went on to tour and do sessions in the 70s and 80s. He is currently in the band Marco de Sade.

New Yorker and guitarist Mike Festa ended up playing guitar, in the 80s, for Shakin Stevens. He now lives in Adelaide, Australia and fronts "Mike Festa & Bluesmen".

That's about it on history.

Artwork … make up your mind yourself but, in this age, charges of sexism would be levelled … especially regarding the back sleeve. The hand on the fly is a giveaway. Then again the album is called "Getting Off …", what did you expect?

But, to be fair, the late 70s was littered with hard rock, power pop and pub rock sleeves like this. A sign of the times? We are better than that now? And our music is better also?

The Rockspurs seem to be another rock band jumping on the skinny tie new wave, power pop

phenomena at the end of the 70s.

That said, this album was released in the very early days of new wave rock (in 1979) whilst their first self titled album was released in 1978 (and apparently is more of the same) and, accordingly, the band gets kudos for being earlier than the opportunistic efforts by latter-day "power-pop" bands.

The Rockspurs aren't fully power pop, they aren't frantic and there are quite a few standard hard rock and mainstream rock stylings but they hit enough power pop  markers to come in under the banner. They also have strong vocal harmonies, sometimes sounding like power pop if it was done by The Four Seasons.

They are perhaps a bit more on the Greg Kihn (or The Babys) side, with nods to mid 70's Graham Parker.

Jerky hook laden pop with harmonies.

The musicianship is strong and there is a bit of humour and "street" attitude.

Power pop fans will, ultimately, get into this like this as there are a few good power pop songs, and there is that evocative artwork which reflects power pops musical obsessions with girls, love, sex, and good times.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Thinkin' About The Good Times – (Gregg Hollister) – a good song though a little underwhelming.
  • She Can't Get Off – (Michael Festa, Mick Moran) – this one has more new wave stylings though it falls back on standard rock motifs.
  • Dream Love – (Michael Festa) – hmmm
  • You're With Me Tonight  -(Mick Moran, Richard Tannum) – a hoot of a song with good vocals.
  • I Wish There Were More To The Story -(Michael Festa) – a pleasant song with some attitude.

      Side Two

  • Red Light Runner – (Mick Moran) – another good power pop tune.
  • Night Full Of Rain – (Gregg Hollister, Peter Yellen) –  a retreat to 70s rock
  • I Could Give You It All – (Mick Moran) – quirky power pop but quite mainstream … this is just lazy. They could have committed fully to the sound.
  • Sabotage – (Gregg Hollister) – Someone said, "And now I will write a power pop song". This is full on new wave power pop. It's obvious and a little funny (with a few punk overtones , "annihilate" is used rather that "destroy" and "anarchy") but it is totally enjoyable.

And …

I have a lot of power pop and I'm not a singular power pop fan … I will tape a couple and sell. But … you never know …

Chart Action

Nothing no where

Sounds

Dream Love

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

You're With Me Tonight

mp3 attached

Red Light Runner

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeUFWYJ5SH8

Sabotage

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kfsz-67OM-Y

Review

Bio

https://somanytalentedmusicians.blogspot.com.au/2016/09/meet-greg-hollister.html

http://www.marcodesade.com/about-us

Website

https://www.facebook.com/events/533975133456746/

https://www.facebook.com/gregg.d.hollister

Trivia

  • Produced by Arthur Braun apart from "Dream Lover" produced by Larry Alexander and Arthur Braun.

 

the-rockspurs-getting-off-bac-k

Posted in Power Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE BRANDOS – Honor Among Thieves – (Relativity) – 1987

the-brandos-honor-among-thieves

I had no knowledge about this band till now. They weren't on my radar and that's strange because the 80s and the 90s were the decades I spent a lot of time searching out new non-mainstream sounds, especially from the US.

I have high hopes for this. The band are American, look vaguely cowpunk-ish, are on a indie label, and have a cool name.

Cause for concern is that it is 1987, a little after the cowpunk genre had peaked, it was recorded in New Jersey (not that there is anything wrong with that but most cowpunk came from California) and they look quite slick.

The concern is mainly ill founded.

The Brandos are a roots rock band who have their roots in power pop and indie rock from the west coast.

Allmusic: " The gritty, back-to-basics rock & roll of New York's the Brandos has roots in the Seattle scene, but not the one that become famous. Brandos frontman Dave Kincaid once led the Allies, an early-'80s power pop band that won an MTV contest with the video for "Emma Peel." However, the new wave-influenced acts emanating from the Emerald City back then received little attention outside of the Pacific Northwest so Kincaid split from the Allies and moved to New York in 1985. While skimming through the Village Voice, Kincaid saw an ad from the group Soul Attack looking for another lead singer. Kincaid joined the band and changed their name to the Brandos. Featuring Kincaid on vocals and guitar, Ed Rupprecht (guitar), Ernie Mendillo (bass, vocals), and Larry Mason (drums), the Brandos released their first album, Honor Among Thieves, on Relativity Records in 1987. The Brandos reaped positive coverage in Rolling Stone and Time; moreover, the video for "Gettysburg" was played often on MTV, a channel that rarely supported artists on indie labels. In 1988, Kincaid was chosen as Best Male Vocalist (Independent Label) at the New York Music Awards. The Brandos also left Relativity that year to sign with Geffen Records. But the Geffen deal was tangled in legal hassles, and the group ended up at RCA Records in 1989. RCA dropped the Brandos after they finished their second LP, Trial by Fire, in 1990. The Brandos' third album, Gunfire at Midnight, was distributed by Germany's SPV Records in 1992. Rupprecht and Mason departed from the band in 1993, replaced by ex-Del Lords members Scott Kempner (guitar) and Frank Funaro (drums). In 1996, Frank Giordano (vocals, guitar) was added to the lineup; the group's fourth LP, Pass the Hat, also appeared that year. Kincaid completed a solo album in 1997 but returned to the Brandos for another LP and gigs in Europe with Bryan Adams, Van Morrison, and Deep Purple"

The band have a following in Europe and have recorded 13 albums. Lead singer and main songwriter Dave Kincaid has also recorded a couple of solo albums.

This debut album would have tickled me back in 1987. Listening to it now I still find it enjoyable though what came after it in roots and Americana has tarnished it a little perhaps.

A lot of the roots rock (and some of the cowpunk) from the 80s sounds quite slick today. At the time though it was anything but. The mainstream 80s, as I have said somewhere else was filled with some of the most dire music ever recorded. The dominant 80s sound ruined everything and was all pervasive. Even rockers and rootsy folkers from the 60s and 70s put out 80s albums that sounded over produced and slick. The only relief was from the US alternative indie scene … roots rockers, hardcore punk, paisley underground, leftover power poppers and any number of other fringe dwellers.

But, even then, the production techniques were against them.  And, music is a job and most (well not the hardcore punkers) wanted sales and things couldn't get to dirty.

The ragged edges of the 70s roots rockers were filled out.

There is nothing wrong with this. I loved it then because it was different to the mainstream 80s, had links to American musical traditions and sounded positively confrontational when placed against the 80s mainstream.

But, we would have to wait till the 90s for roots, Americana, rock and roll to start sounding rightfully ragged again.

It is sad because ten years later and all these roots rockers would have the perfect mainstream rock sound and would have made a lot of cash.

Think The Del Lords, The Beat Farmers, The Blasters, True Believers,  The Long Ryders, Jason and the Scorchers  … and I don't mind thinking these bands as these are all bands I loved in the 80s, and still do.

The Brandos may have jumped on a rootsy bandwagon given their pedigree.

"The Allies had risen out of the ashes of Bighorn, a popular Seattle group that made a big-time, major-label record in 1976 and toured behind arena rockers like REO Speedwagon. After Bighorn tanked in 1979, drummer Adamek switched to guitar and fronted the Allies with newcomer Kincaid. The Allies gigged with abandon around Seattle for quite a spell, but Adamek quit the group after they failed to cash in on the buzz surrounding their self-released debut, and Kincaid called it a day in 1984. He switched coasts to try his luck in a bigger pond – New York City … The Brandos, in short order, David Kincaid had his second brush with greatness by, cynics might claim, hopping on yet another bandwagon. During the mid-80's, numerous American rockers were embracing their ostensible roots: country, folk, blues, and rock 'n' roll played the way God intended – loud and unencumbered. Perhaps these bands were reacting to the fey, synthesized road rock had taken since new wave supplanted disco in the hearts of the fickle public. Regardless, this "American Music" movement spawned acts as illustrious as the Blasters, Los Lobos, Long Ryders, Del Fuegos, and BoDeans, leading eventually to the acoustic-based "Americana" movement that persists to this day … Anyway, David Kincaid's new band, the Brandos (formed with former Allies drummer Larry Mason and members of local New York rockers Soul Attack) unblinkingly embraced this burgeoning genre. The Brandos readily affected the trappings common to bands of this ilk – working-class couture, heroic swagger, and a fetishistic obsession with American history". http://www.randysrodeo.com/pop/allies.php

Their roots rock don't come from a punk, new wave or outsiders background though I think come from Kincaid and a real interest in American musical history (and history generally). Kincaid is sharp and has throaty John Fogerty-like vocals with conviction.

The band combines roots rock, with some hard rock & folk rock. The songs were given big rock productions with a tendency to anthemic sounds with (over) emotion always on display. The sound is very 90's so it amazing to hear this kind of sound in 1987.

The Brandos never spent much time in the sweaty trenches with their genre mates. After this albums release they were on MTV rotation, touring the U.S. and Europe, opening for  The Georgia Satellites, INXS, The Cars and The Alarm and being reviewed favourably reviewed by out of touch, well behind the event, old fart magazines like Rolling Stone, Creem and Time (in its music review section). They even won Best Album (Independent Label) for this album at the New York Music Awards (Kincaid won Best Male Vocalist (Independent Label)).

I sound like I'm criticizing the band. I'm not. Well, not entirely. The Brandos have the skills, and there is some very angry writing in there (and befits the American indie underground of the 80s) as well as a couple of well chosen covers (every album should have a couple of covers as far as I'm, concerned).

It may be slick roots rock but is sure would have sounded good in the 80s.

Produced and arranged by Dave Kincaid.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Gettysburg – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – catchy, full sound, sobering subject matter.
  • A Matter of Survival – (Dave Kincaid) – another catchy song (with a pulsating beat that reminds me a little of "Dont Fear the Reaper" by the Blue Oyster Cult)  though there are some old school guitar wankerisms.
  • Nothing to Fear – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – …
  • Honor Among Thieves – (Dave Kincaid) – deliberately slow paced and angry but obscure. I assume it is about 80s greed, banks and the financial crisis at the time.
  • Strychnine – (Gerald Roslie) – The Sonics magnificent song from 1966. A good version …pity about the production on the 80s drums.

      Side Two

  • Hard Luck Runner – (Dave Kincaid) – …
  • In My Dreams – (Creston Funk / Dave Kincaid) – a slow grind.
  • Walking on the Water – (John Fogerty) – "Walk on the Water" was a song on. Creedence Clearwater Revival's first album from 1968.  The track is a remake of "Walking on the Water", a recording released by the band as a single, in 1966, while they were still known as The Golliwogs. He has the right voice for this and sounds a little like Fogerty … and there is nothing wrong with that
  • Come Home – (Dave Kincaid) – the folk ballad which is given the big treatment … and again a little like Creedence.

And …

Patchy, but with enough good songs in a genre of music I like … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

Album

1987 #108

England

nothing

Sounds

Gettysburg

Clip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMb9Uoi0d2M

live

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

Honor Among Thieves

Clip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k75iyF4oAJ4

Strychnine

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuF6c980Sug

Hard Luck Runner

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxlsQ8aBY9E

Walking on the Water

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

Come Home

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YecdQ72JZQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9mFB1t9qQE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sM8inOgDCF0

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NZQ2qXSbP0

 Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/honor-among-thieves-mw0000651260

http://powerpopulist.blogspot.com.au/2007/01/heyday-revisited-brandos.html

Bio

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

http://popdose.com/hooks-n-you-the-brandos-honor-among-thieves/

http://www.randysrodeo.com/pop/allies.php

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

Website

https://www.facebook.com/The-Brandos-138179002484/

http://www.thebrandos.nl/band/band.html

In German

http://www.nowherezone.de/

Trivia

  • Kincaid's solo albums are songs of irish volunteers in the US civil war.   Allmusic: "Singer David Kincaid was best known as the frontman of the roots-rock band the Brandos when he took a break from contemporary life and music to join the 116th, a Civil War re-enactment troop. His fascination with history led him to begin researching the obscure traditional songs sung by Irish Union soldiers during the war between the states". http://www.allmusic.com/artist/david-kincaid-mn0001446804
Posted in Americana, Roots Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE JAGS – Evening Standards – (Island) – 1980

the-jags-evening-standards

This has been floating around for ages. I had it, I listened to it, I tried to sell it, and somehow it ended back in my "to listen pile".

At the time I thought this sounded too much like Elvis Costello and I found  lot of Elvis Costello boring (yes, even the early stuff before he became American) but to be fair I haven't listened to all of Elvis Costello's albums.

It seems I'm not the only one that thinks this.

That  The Jags sound like Elvis Costello not that a lot of Elvis Costello music is boring. Every review of the time or subsequently  compares The Jags to Costello or The Rumour – some positively and some referring to them as mimics.

Wikipedia: "The Jags were a British rock band formed in North Yorkshire in 1978, composed of Nick Watkinson (vocals), John Alder (guitar/backing vocals), Steve Prudence (bass), firstly Neil Whittaker and then Alex Baird (drums), Michael Cotton (bass/backing vocals) and Patrick O'Toole (piano/keyboard) … They signed to Island Records in July 1978 and initially released a four-track EP … On 8 September 1979, the power pop single "Back of My Hand", written by Watkinson and left-handed guitarist Alder, entered the UK Singles Chart. It had a chart life of 10 weeks and peaked at number 17. "Back of My Hand" was included on their debut album Evening Standards, which was released the following year. Their follow-up single "Woman's World" entered the UK chart on 2 February 1980 at number 75 – dropping out the next week … 1981 saw the release of their second, and what proved to be, final album, No Tie Like a Present. The Jags disbanded in 1982".

That's it.

There is a massive power pop fan base on line and The Jags first album seems to get reviewed and commented on a lot but a lot of it is just rehash because the band were short lived, a one (small) hit wonder (in England) and didn't really have a big, lasting impact.

Does this mean they are bad?

No, not at all, music is about enjoyment (for us the listener) but for the band some longevity, notoriety or substanital success would have helped pay the bills.

The Jags were a product of their time but it was a good time. Both sides of the Atlantic (but especially the US) were overrun which power pop bands. The Knack, The Romantics, The DBs, Cheap Trick, The Cars, Dwight Twilley, The Vapors, Bram Tchaikovsky . The Nerrves, The Plimsouls.

Strong song writing, nice harmonies, punchy guitars or touches of 12-String Rickenbacker, lyrics about love or love lost make for pretty good toe tapping listening.

I prefer my power pop American because there seems to be more of a tradition to the 60s (as opposed to just trying to sound 60s) and they also like to mix it up a little and experiment in a genre where bands are not known for their experimentation. Power pop bands tended to stick to the formula (a good one though) and only experimented on subsequent albums. Most power pop bands (like the Jags)) did follow up albums in a different styles altogether rather than tweaking power pop by adding to it.

By all accounts The Jags had the live chops but couldn't escape the Costello shadow.

"One positive constant of the band’s early press coverage is the assertion they were one of the most professional, musically tight and entertaining live acts on the U.K. new-wave/punk-pop circuit. Great rock ‘n’ roll lives onstage; by all accounts the Jags were a great live band. It should be also explained to American readers that the U.K. music press has the deserved reputation in some circles as being vicious and just plain arbitrary. Then, as now, they can saddle a band either as a “next big thing” or as unworthy of any attention—and then hammer the public relentlessly with their pontification. By 1979, Costello had been anointed by the U.K. music press as a pop savior, with all others to be seen as unworthy of even attempting his singular style. The Jags were easy targets as industry newcomers". http://www.magnetmagazine.com/2009/07/31/the-jags-power-goes-pop/

Guitarists Watkinson and Alder join on vocal harmonies and recall the young McCartney and Lennon and others but they aren't The Beatles and they lack the new-wave anger of Graham Parker, Elvis Costello or and Jackson which was rewuired.

Power pop died pretty quickly on the UK whilst in America its legs were a little longer, just a little.

As steam ran out of power pop, the band attempted to change their sound a bit. 1981's "No Tie Like The Present", featured a new direction (and some new personnel) but it was overlooked. They toughened up their sound, toning down the keyboards, amping up the guitars, and ending up sounding more like The Clash

http://nostalgiacentral.com/music/artists-a-to-k/artists-j/jags/

All songs by Watkinson and Alder

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Evening Standards – Like a poppy version of The Jam and a good one.
  • Party Games – This mid tempo song sounds a little like any number of US power pop bands. Again, this is pretty good.
  • Tune Into Heaven – so so
  • Last Picture Show –  I quite like this
  • The Tourist – not too bad

      Side Two

  • Desert Island Discs –  very Elvis Costello (there! Another person has compared them to Costello). Good lyrics.
  • Woman's World – more Costello, still it is quite good.
  • Back Of My Hand – an undeniably good song. Very catchy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_of_My_Hand_(The_Jags_song)
  • She's So Considerate – zippy, familair power pop which is a lot of fun.
  • Little Boy Lost –  a power pop song about a little boy lost.
  • Single Vision / BWM – more familiar power pop.

And …

This is familiar stuff but done well, and I'm a sucker for some power pop … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

US

Singles

1979 Back Of My Hand #84

Album

England

Singles

1979 Back Of My Hand #17

1980 Woman's World #75

Album

Sounds

Evening Standards

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBk54wpahOQ

Party Games 

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7rfYcW8HEY

Tune Into Heaven 

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00AwNBXHlU4

The Tourist 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa5ad6UUtt0

Desert Island Discs 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32eCYh094Hg

Woman's World 

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rr7yLKDN0I

Back Of My Hand

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hu91uv2f_Bs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQa6zOsfjRs

mp3 attached

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EysHQj9CKos

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/evening-standards-mw0000851925

http://powerpopoverdose.blogspot.com.au/2008/06/jags-evening-standards-1980.html

http://icecreamman1967.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/jags-evening-standards.html

http://www.sugarbushrecords.com/2013/06/great-albums-jags-evening-standards.html

http://mrworthyandwhammo.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/jags-collected.html

Bio

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

http://www.magnetmagazine.com/2009/07/31/the-jags-power-goes-pop/

http://nostalgiacentral.com/music/artists-a-to-k/artists-j/jags/

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jags-mn0000087151/biography

http://blurtonline.com/news/donate-to-fund-for-uk-power-pop-legends-the-jags-watkinson/

Website

Trivia

  • Producer, Engineer – Simon Humphrey, The Jags, Producer – Jon Astley and Phil Chapman (tracks: B3
Posted in Power Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

ALBERT HAMMOND – Somewhere in America – (Columbia) – 1982

albert-hammond-somewhere-in-america

I do like Albert Hammond. Check out the other blog entries for biographical details and ruminations.

I've said this before, and I've even used this before but I like it.

When I commented on his 1977 album, "When  I Need You" on this 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".

This album is from 1982 and as I'm about to drop the needle I'm hoping that the 80s mainstream sound, which ruined so many records, isn't prevalent here.

It is.

This screams early 80s mainstream. There are funky rhythms, screechy guitars, muted vocals, chorused backing vocals all surrounded in a nice full sound.

This is mainly wretched music.

The record was recorded in Los Angeles with slick sessionmen and the sound is very adult themed rock as you would expect from 1982.

Hammond was always, or seems to be, a generous song writer and here all the tracks bar two are co-writes.

Jennings is a professional songwriter from the US (who worked with Steve Winwood a lot). Lauren Wood is a singer-songwriter from the US. Osborne is a English songwriter who entered the music business at age 15 in the 60s and is most notable fro working with Elton John.

Hammond, from what I have heard, doesn't need a co-writer so any act is him just being generous.

Or maybe he had writer's block?

Either way I think the co-writers have hindered more than helped him. Some of the tunes are just wrong for him.

Hammond doesn't sound like himself a lot. He sounds like any number of other 30 something singers of the time. Robert Palmer, Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, Elton John, Joe Cocker, Phil Collins, Donald Fagen, Chris de Burgh , Peter Cetera,  Leo Sayer, Kenny Loggins, Neil Diamond  … all popular at the time.

And, all ranging from patchy to total rubbish.

Albert Hammond what have you done?

Gibraltarian Hammond hadn't hit the US charts since 1974 (even less in the UK).

I think this was an attempt to re-enter the American market.

The albums title, the inoffensive colourful sleeve for grown ups, the Los Angeles recording, the co-writes with writers popular at the time, the clean soulless production.

Fark.

But, it failed and I'm happy it did.

Hammond needed a kick for this. It's too calculated.

He is so much better than this.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • The Light At The End Of The Line – (Hammond – Will Jennings) – quite good lyrically with a good melody but that production and synth … urrgh.
  • Sweet Defector   – (Hammond – Lauren Wood) – total rubbish and the guitar by Richie Zito is awful. (by that I mean the sound … he is a good guitar player)
  • Rendezvous – (Bruce Springsteen) – The song was originally recorded during Springsteen's "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" sessions in 1977 but it wasn't released, as a live version until 1998 and then as a studio version in 2010. The song was donated to The Greg Kihn Band for their album "With The Naked Eye" (1979). It was also recorded by Gary U.S. Bonds for the Springsteen produced album, "On The Line" (1982). The song is very Springsteen (not surprisingly) though this version has no balls and sounds a little out of place.
  • Shoot 'Em Up, Shoot 'Em Down – (Hammond – Gary Osborne) –   You could hear Elton John doing this circa 1980. Rubbish.
  • Hero On Parade – (Elton John – Gary Osborne) –  Originally the song was called "Sweetheart on Parade. Elton John never released it, but his demo of the song is available. The song in its original version is written for a woman to sing. It may have been intended for Kiki Dee, but she never recorded it. Not surprisingly this is very Elton John but it's not too bad.

      Side Two

  • Oh, What A Time – (Hammond – Will Jennings) –  there is some channelling of John Lennon here … and it works. A great song.
  • Before You Change The World – (Hammond – Gary Osborne) –  so so.   
  • The Right Time – (Hammond – Gary Osborne) – more Elton John (or Billy Joel) but Hammond sings it well let down by the guitar again. 
  • Doe Was The Loving Kind – (Hammond – Will Jennings) –   a catchy tune and very much in the Albert Hammond style. Excellent.
  • Somewhere In America – (Hammond – Will Jennings) – very similar to Supertramp. Lyrically, thematically and by sound. Catchy.

And …

Patchy and probably the worst Hammond album I have heard but there are some great tunes so for the sake of completeness (yet again) … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where

Sounds

The Light At The End Of The Line

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

Sweet Defector 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sHO-HCELss

Rendezvous 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4t7PJAe7e4

Shoot 'Em Up, Shoot 'Em Down 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwkHCOexHb8

Hero On Parade 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3Bac-SwRmY

Oh, What A Time

mp3 attached

Before You Change The World 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE6Lm1tT2Lw

The Right Time 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25uJvFsn_S4

Doe Was The Loving Kind 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uMXHYHGHsc

Somewhere In America

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4fGdt6AWHo

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gmq4WIjQxp0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GbjGV386Wk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYXr4Z5mXUo

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVwx11H6ljE

Review

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/albert-hammond-mn0000933781/biography

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

http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/meet-albert-hammond–the-greatest-songwriter-youve-never-heard-of-321916.html

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

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

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

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

Website

http://www.alberthammond.net/

https://www.facebook.com/AlbertHammondOfficial/

Trivia

  • Produced by Brooks Arthur and Albert Hammond.
Posted in Adult Pop, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

MARC BENNO – Ambush – (A&M) – 1972

marc-benno-ambush

Apart from having a couple of Marc Benno solo albums and a couple of him with Leon Russell, I had no idea who Marc Benno was before pulling this out of the pile behind me.

Marc Benno fans may say "shame on you" but there is no shame in that. Benno isn't a household name and when he had his shot at the big time he was localised to the US and I was a small child in Australia.

But, Benno had a not insubstantial recording career throughout the late 60s and 70s, which seems to have amped up in the 2000s (no doubt due to the cheap recording and pressing available).

Wikipedia's entire entry on Benno is this, "Marc Benno (born July 1, 1947, Dallas, Texas) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist … Benno was a member of The Asylum Choir with Leon Russell in the late 1960s, and launched a solo career in the early 1970s, with his 1972 effort Ambush being the most commercially successful. He wrote the song "Rock 'n Roll Me Again", which was recorded by the band The System for the soundtrack to the 1985 film Beverly Hills Cop; this soundtrack won a Grammy Award. Benno also worked with musicians such as The Doors, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Rita Coolidge. Benno was the second guitar player on The Doors L.A. Woman alongside Robby Krieger".

What it doesn't say is how he performed in Dallas in the 1960s with Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs, members of the Eagles and ZZ Top before joining Asylum Choir and going solo. He later toured with Rita Coolidge as her lead guitarist, opened for The Byrds at Royal Albert Hall in London, was Lightnin' Hopkins bandleader and lead guitarist, and then formed Marc Benno & The Nightcrawlers, which had a young Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar.

Texas, 70s, old Afro-Americans … this is heading into white blues territory.

Benno says on his website (http://www.marcbenno.com/interview.php), "My first influences were hits on the radio, and the Cats Caravan Show on WRR radio. WRR played all the real good stuff, like Jimmy Reed, Little Richard and Ray Charles. Their theme song was "Night Train." The daytime radio played hits by the Coasters, the Drifters, and a lot of white artists, from Buddy Holly to Elvis, and whoever had a hit record. These hit makers came to Dallas in 1959, while I was working for my dad in the beer garden at The State Fair Music Hall. He snuck me in backstage, and my life was never the same. I met Sam Cooks, Paul Anka, and these guys throwing combs out the window to screaming chick fans. The show-biz bug bit me for good right then. It wasn't until I was 16 that I heard "Lightnin'" Hopkins over at a friend's house, and began to get into the blues. At Cains Ballroom in Oklahoma City is the first time I met him and ended up touring with him as 2nd guitarist. Everybody thought I knew him, but it was really Mance Lipscomb that I knew, and I thought Mance was Lightnin Hopkins when I first saw him at San Jacks Café in Austin. Mance gave me my license to play the blues"

He goes on to say, "Well, for years I listened to nothing but the blues. As has been said before, all the Kings, Juniors, Bigs and Littles. Lately, it's been nothing but Chet Baker. He is the most no tricks singer I've ever heard. My favorite unknown guitarist is Lenny Breau. My favorite pianist is Bill Evans. And I like Johnny "Guitar" Watson's Bow Wow CD. I've been playing piano a lot lately and learning classics, like "It Could Happen to You.", "Like Someone in Love', and some contemporary standards. My guitar playing has been used mostly writing originals for my new CD. But definitely Lightnin Hopkins, Jimmie Reed, Albert King, Kenny Burrell and Johnny "Guitar" Watson are my biggest influences. And jazz musicians are incredible. They have unlimited chops. They know their instruments. Of course, the classical masters are an inspiration when I'm relaxing".

Despite sidelines the blues are part of his musical makeup. That's why I approach this album with some trepidation. White blues, when done faithfully to black blues, leaves me a little cold and bored. It can never be as good as the black blues. But, if it is given a new set of clothes and taken out on the arm of the white musician then it can work.

This was Benno's fifth album and third solo album and it was 1972. The blues had gone through it's rock n roll stage, it's acoustic folk stage, its home grown white R&B stage, its British invasion R&B stage, it's heavy electric and acid blues stage and its funky stage.

But, rock blues was still very popular especially with its heavy electric and funk overtones.

Led Zeppelin, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominos,  The Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top, Mountain, Canned Heat, Cactus, Humple Pie,  Sly & the Family Stone, Cold Blood, Ides of March, Leon Russell, Delaney and Bonnie and many others were all doing well..

If you were a serious musician you played the blues.

Benno had his roots in the blues and clearly could play and sing (though his vocals at times aren't forceful enough), write and entertain. It was a no-brainer.

Benno plays the blues on this album in the laid back lazy and funky style as was the style at the time – Clapton solo, JJ Cale.

The problems of 1972 are subsumed into style over content, though the trouble of the times comes through in the mood.  Benno has separated the two album sides into two sounds. The first side is pure funk blues and more often than not it does just emulate the Afro-Americans but there are interesting asides – the chuggin saxophone and the slide guitar. The second side is blue eyed soul of the deep soul variety with moody keyboards and white boy bluesy ballads.

The band are tight Mike Utley (keyboards), Carl Radle (bass), Jim Keltner (drums and percussion), Bobby Keys (saxophone). They are tight and you have to be tight to sound this loose.

This album had a lot going for it but only reached #197 in the album charts. That was his highest solo placing.

Benno's solo career did very little., but should have done better.

For me, a little of this goes a long way unless it is really dressed up in new clothes.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Poor Boy – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno ) – a very funky blues workout
  • Southern Women – even better. Guitar is by legendary native American session guitarist Jesse ed Davis while Benno is on piano. Muscular and fun.
  • Jive Fade Jive – an instrumental workout that is incredibly funky with some jazz overtones. Wonderful
  • Hall Street Jive – Slide Guitar by Jesse Ed Davis and a great tune. Some great asides.

      Side Two

  • Share – Horns by Booker T. Jones on this deep soul ballad. Very familiar but very good.
  • Donut Man – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno) – a great reflective ballad, of its time but undeniably mood soaked.
  • Sunshine Feelin – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno / Mike Utley) – standard white slow electric blues. The kind I find the most difficult to listen to.
  • Here to Stay Blues – (Irvin Benno / Marc Benno) – Shared vocals with Bonnie Bramlett. Bramlett has great lungs and this blues works.
  • Either Way It Happens – Bass – Ray Brown. Low key smouldering jazz blues with some squeaky vocals,

And …

I've said before a little of this goes a long way with me. There is nothing really new here (not even by 1972 standards) but it is done so well … I may just keep this.

Chart Action

US

Singles

Album

1972 #171

England

nothing

Sounds

Southern Women

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEaz65Pe1eQ

Hall Street Jive

mp3 attached

Share

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqta0thq2JA

Donut Man

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxP6sKrkb3g

Sunshine Feelin

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

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMZsvAt9Zq8

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

Review

http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Marc+Benno

http://www.allmusic.com/album/ambush-mw0001878728

Bio

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/marc-benno-mn0000955347/biography

Website

http://www.marcbenno.com/welcome.php

Trivia

  • Producer – David Anderle, Marc Benno
Posted in Blues Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

LOS INDIOS TABAJARAS – The Many-Splendored Guitars of Los Indios Tabajaras – (RCA) – 1965

los-indios-tabajaras-the-many-splendored-guitars-of-los-indios-tabajaras

Will there ever be a Los Indios Tabajaras cult?

Is there a Los Indios Tabajaras cult?

There should be a Los Indios Tabajaras cult.

Los Indios Tabajaras, in their most famous and longest incarnation, are two brothers from Brazil who play guitar instrumentals (check my other comment for biographical detail).

Their record label played up the exotic foreignness of the music as well as its from a time past beauty. Words like "freshness", "uncluttered", "purity" and "beauty" are always thrown around on the liner notes.

This album begins with a heading "music in all its natural beauty" and ends with "This is tranquilizing music — heady with melody, smooth as velvet, languid without laziness.  You're invited to relax with Los Indios Tabajaras and their entrancing potion of beautiful music."

Recorded in New York in 1965 this is easy listening music for those (inevitably older types) who were tired of The Beatles, frat rock and surf music.

Mainly popular in South America Los Indios Tabajaras had broken into the US market in 1963 with a big hit "Maria Elena" (#6 pop, #3 easy listening) and were regular album sellers.

Most people dismiss Los Indios Tabajaras’ lush guitar instrumentals as elevator music, but there is a lot more to them than that. This is not a simple cash in on sounds of the day by a couple of guitar virtuosos. For on thing the virtuosity is not up front and in your face. What Los Indios do is create mood. Song selection, instrumentation, recording and the ears of Los Indios all combine to create a otherworldly, dreamy, relaxed mood. This is chill out music before it existed and it's organic and free range at that.

They did trad or faux trad South American music, classical, pop, and film songs, but, all are subsumed in their musical persona and within their guitar style.

This album, like most of their albums (that I have heard) after they hit it big in the US is a mix of film songs and familiar standards (some of which were pop hits at the time).

For me the music soothes and relaxes. The mix  of  familiar melodies and thoughtful expression of them massages my brain with its familiarity. Even if you were brought up on

punk music some of these songs are familiar just because they have been around a long time, been covered, been used in ads, in films and they are, errr standards.

This is music to be enjoyed alone.

The music could work for dinner parties though the clang, clatter and chatter would possibly drown out the subtle complexities (yes, subtle complexities) of the harmonics. Six people sitting around, not speaking whilst sipping on liqueurs would be a perfect listening environment … but where are you going to find six people in this age willing to do that?

Well, maybe if I supply the liqueur.

This album could be called, "Los Indios Tabajaras play Frank Sinatra and other songs". I don't know if this was intentional but there are five songs Sinatra did. Of course Sinatra was prolific, very popular and err, sang standards so there is probably nothing in it.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Love Is a Many Splendored Thing – (Paul Francis Webster / Sammy Fain) – from the 1955 film of the same name. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song. The Four Aces went to #1 with it in 1955. Frank Sinatra recorded in 1964. A beautiful version of a beautiful song. The melody is perfect. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Is_a_Many-Splendored_Thing_(song)
  • I'm Getting Sentimental over You – (Ned Washington / George Bassman) – Sinatra sang this song when hje was with the Dorsey Orchestra and recorded it on his album, "I Remember Tommy" (1956). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_Getting_Sentimental_Over_You
  • Begin the Beguine – (Cole Porter) – The trad pop jazz standard. Sinatra recorded the song in 1944. Los Indios have increased the Latin in the song and it was always quite Latin. This is a good infectious version. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begin_the_Beguine
  • The Washington Flowers – (Natalicio Lima) – an original and quite good
  • Harbour Lights – (Jimmy Kennedy / Hugh Williams) – I have always loved this song though the first time I heard it was in the late 70s on an Elvis Presley album. He recorded it in 1954 though it wasn't released till 1976 (on "Elvis – A Legendary Performer Volume 2"). The song has an otherworldly quality. With lyrics the song is bout a lost love or, rather, love ended by a departure. Without lyrics it still captures that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harbor_Lights
  • You're Breaking My Heart – (Pat Genaro / Sunny Skylar) – Vic Damone had a #1 with this 1949 and it has been covered by many people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27re_Breaking_My_Heart

      Side Two

  • Lisboa Antigua – (Rômulo Portela / José Galhardo / Amadeu do Vale ) – a #1 for Nelson Riddle's orchestra in 1956 and then used as the theme in the film "Lisbon" (1956). Beautiful https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisbon_Antigua
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told – (Alfred Newman) – from the 1965 film of the same name. The title is the "Jesus of Nazareth (Main theme) from the film (I think). As you would from a song about Jesus Christ this is suitably reverential
  • Johnny Guitar – (Peggy Lee / Victor Young) – from 1954 film of the same name. Many instrumental covers have been done . This is beautiful with a hint of the western clip clop coming through.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Guitar_(song)
  • La Novia – (Joaquin Prieto) – "The Wedding". In 1964, this version by Julie Rogers reached #2 on the UK charts and #10 in the US. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wedding_(song)
  • Luna Rossa – (Kermit Goell / A. Vian) – "Blushing Moon". Sinatra did a version in 1952. Another beautiful Latin tune.
  • Comme Ci, Comme Ca – "Clopin Clopant" –  (Bruno Coquatrix / Joan Whitney / Alex Kramer / Pierre Dudan) – Sinatra did a version in 1949. Pretty pop.

And …

Wonderful … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where.

Sounds

Love Is A Many Splendored Thing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSpS38jJJkk

I'm Getting' Sentimental Over You

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba-oFAS3je8

Begin The Beguine 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U72Cw4sqNg

The Washington Flowers 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aS-j7TEp6E

You're Breaking My Heart 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMM4TU7t4Kw

Lisboa Antiqua 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jm1macOjfA

Johnny Guitar 

mp3 attached

La Novia (The Wedding)

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

Luna Rossa (Blushing Moon) 

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

Comme Ci, Comme Ca

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmhWEKl8XJw

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPA6Dd3YCpk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW8MgtyYzno

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5_tLfq9Pxg

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-many-splendored-guitars-of-los-indios-tabajaras-mw0000977617

http://mtwebsit.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/los-indios.html

Bio

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

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/natal237cio-lima-guitarist-best-known-for-the-million-selling-maria-elena-1876437.html

http://www.vinyltimemachine.com/Folder%20LA_LZ/los_indios_tabajaras/artists_los_indios_tabajaras.htm

http://thehistoryofrock2012.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/los-indios-tabajaras.html

Website

Trivia

los-indios-tabajaras-the-many-splendored-guitars-of-los-indios-tabajaras-back

Posted in Lounge & Exotica | Tagged | Leave a comment

MICKEY NEWBURY – Looks Like Rain – (Mercury) – 1969

mickey-nerwbury-looks-like-rain

Check out my other comments for details and background on Mickey Newbury.

You will need something on background because Mickey isn't a household name even though he was extremely influential as a songwriter.

He wrote songs that were covered by Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, Andy Williams (!), Johnny Cash, Scott Walker, Ray Charles, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, The Box Tops, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Nick Cave and others. He has been recorded over 1300 times by more than 1000 performers

Musicians know and love him.

The proof is in the covers. But, what is less discernable but is still there amongst the songwriter musicians is when they take his approach to a song when they write.

Newbury writes lyrics that are incredibly personal. His songs are about loss, love and life stripped bare of bravado. The songs are confessional, naked and sincere. Musically,  he always seems to be trying to make sure the music reflects the lyrical content in both rhythm and structure. He is not adverse to using studio tricks or sound affects in his music if that will help create the desired mood in the lyrics.

Newbury wasn't the first person to write personal songs in country. Hank Williams made a career of it in the late 40s and early 50s. Newbury wasn't even the only one doing in the late 1960s, Kris Kristofferson, John Hartford, Buck Owens, and others were doing the same.

Newbury was, perhaps, the most fragile and wounded of the new writers but he was also, perhaps, the least wedded to country sounds even though he embraced his country music history.

He brought post Dylan folky ruminations and a gentle pop sensibility to his country music..

For the purpose of this comment I will refer to something I have said in an earlier comment on this blog:

"It is Newbury's subtlety and thoughtfulness (sic) that put him at the forefront of "progressive country". "Progressive Country" roots lie in traditional country, roots music, folk, Americana, regional rock n roll and was largely comprised of younger country songwriters writing country music with naked honesty, which is no mean feet as country music generally is "nakedly honest" (think Hank Williams, Patsy Cline).  What they did do was write incredibly personal songs much like their "singer-songwriter" relatives in the pop field with an ear to the past. The other thing they did was sing their own material regardless of the quality of the voice. Consequently, they have put out many albums and are well respected but their songs are often associated with other singers. Think Townes Van Zandt, Danny O'Keefe, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Terry Allen, John Hartford, Billy Joe Shaver, Butch Hancock, Gene Clark, Tom T. Hall, John Prine, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Guy Clark, Dennis Linde, etc. Some of those artists moved into the more up-tempo "outlaw country" whilst the rest continued on and eventually became the spiritual cornerstones of "alt country" in the 80s and 90s".

I don't move away from that but the more Mickey Newbury I listen to the more Newbury impresses me with his instinctual knowledge of American music. He is Americana, country, singer songwriter, folk, progressive country, old timey, pop and even rock at times. There are hints of all that in his style of music.

This was his second album.

Mickey found success in the late 60s as a songwriter. He was among the hottest new songwriters in Nashville at the time with many writing credits (and hits) to his name. He signed to RCA and recorded (and released) an album he was dissatisfied with ("Harlequin Melodies" (1968) ). The record label had their eyes on commerciality and produced the record accordingly. That album is undervalued – it may not have sounded like what he wanted in his mind but it was still beautiful. Mickey negotiated his way out of his contract with RCA, and signed with Mercury Records on the condition that he got total artistic control. For his second album, this album,  he left the mainstream Nashville recording establishment and went to the tiny Cinderella Sound studio in a Nashville garage.

And, there , he was allowed to put down the sound in his head. It may not have been Nashville country commercial but you can hear in Mickey's music The Beach Boys (apparently Mickey admired "Pet Sounds"), Simon and Garfunkel, Scott Walker and others.

The 60s was a time of change both musically and socially. The late 60s seemed to be at crisis point, between incredible achievement and age old strife. Man was landing on the moon, people were marching in Chicago, the Vietnam was ongoing, environmental degradation was becoming obvious.

Society was changing and there was new openness of expression in talking about feelings, politics, society.

Mickey was less interested in the big picture than how people communicate with each other in those changing times. In true country fashion though he had his eye on the past. These people and where they come from form a line where their problems are much the same as the problems of those than preceded them.

Thanks to changing times he was, however, able to discuss those problems in a different way to those musicians before him.

This album is a concept album not in a narrative way but by virtue all the songs are similar in tone. A country concept album, think about it. They were miles ahead of where mainstream country is now.

Admittedly, the album is also of its time. There are psych asides (well, it was 1969) and sound effects that would fit on an easy listening album (rain, wind, train whistles, ghosts)

But, the album is visionary. The listener is drawn into the narrators world. One of uncertainty, a dreamlike hallucinatory emotional landscape where heartbreak, loneliness, madness and despair exist all to the sound of wind chimes and rain.

It's as if you are sitting in a s mall country bar, after hours, on a dark, rainy night and listening to the musician unwinding and playing to himself on the stage.

He was backed on these records by Area Code 615, a group that included the cream of Nashville studio musicians—Charlie McCoy, Jerry Kennedy, Wayne Moss, Kenneth Buttrey, and Farrell Morris — much the same crew who had just backed Bob Dylan on his albums Blonde on Blonde (1966), John Wesley Harding (1967) and Nashville Skyline (1969).

Needless to say songs that evoke moods, stretched to lengths that weren't radio-friendly, are a hard sell. Mercury didn't like or didn't understand what they heard, but they released it Whether the record was pushed or not I don't know but there was little in the way of sales. But there was enough there for Newbury to keep recording and he was picked up by a label known for it adventurousness, Elektra.

Jerry Kennedy and Bob Beckham produced though clearly with Mickey had a hand in there. In any event Kennedy worked with a lot of Nashville renegades and is happy to let them express.

This is not country as you know it but is country and it is a highpoint of country singer songwriter

The liner notes by Kris Kristofferson.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Write A Song A Song / Angeline – a beautiful song. Like a country version of "Whiter Shade of Pale"
  • She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye – The song had been recorded by Jerry lee Lewis in 1969 (#2 Country US) . Jerry Lee nails this and probably does it better though Newbury's woman saying "goodbye" has a different vibe and, probably, different reasons for going. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She_Even_Woke_Me_Up_to_Say_Goodbye
  • I Don't Think Much About Her No More – Almost otherworldly with its heavenly chorus and asides.
  • T. Total Tommy  – a great song. Bouncy on the surface with some undeniably catchy lyrics. Too low key to be a hit but ….

     T Total Tommy took a toke of tea

            Black cats backin' up a big oak tree

            Tick tocks tickin' out a tune on time

            Last words lookin' for a line to rhyme

            Saw fishs swimmin' in the sea-saw-sea

            But me well I'm only lookin'

 

    Side Two

  • 33rd Of August / When The Baby In My Lady Gets The Blues – A nine minute song medley. The first part is a narrative disguising the fact that it has something to do with the life of Jesus whilst the second part becomes a slow trad gospel love song. The song messes with your head a little but the mood, and melody is irresistible.

            But now I put my dangerous feelings under lock and chain

            Guess I killed my violent nature with a smile

            Though the demons danced and sung their songs within my fevered brain

            Not all my God-like thoughts Lord were defiled

            Its the thirty-third of August and I'm finally touchin' down

            Eight days from Sunday find me Saturday bound

  • San Francisco Mable Joy – a young Georgia farm boy goes to the big city, gets lost and finds comfort in the arms of a prostitute. It ends with loss and one of life's cruel jokes. Magnificent and reminiscent of much Kris Kristofferson and Townes Van Zandt. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_Mabel_Joy
  • Looks Like Baby's Gone – a low key type blues type with some nice gentle sitar and a "Sunday Mornin Comin Down" feel.

And …

Wonderful, magnificent …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where.

Sounds

Write A Song A Song / Angeline

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

She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM2PKcLSaYA

I Don't Think Much About Her No More

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

T. Total Tommy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWg4boYuql4

33rd Of August / When The Baby In My Lady Gets The Blues

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=213l8-qm7Z8

San Francisco Mable Joy

mp3 attached

Looks Like Baby's Gone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc3JGMlhh94

Others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiTjElq5Xjs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK89Wcanbfk

Review

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/15473-an-american-trilogy/

http://tapeop.com/interviews/83/remastering-and-recreating-mickey-newburys-looks-rain/

http://therisingstorm.net/mickey-newbury-looks-like-rain/

http://www.allmusic.com/album/it-looks-like-rain-mw0000859579

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

http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Mickey+Newbury

Bio

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

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mickey-newbury-mn0000525789

http://www.soundonsound.com/people/wayne-moss-cinderella-sound-nashville

Website

http://www.mickeynewbury.com/

Trivia

  • Personnel: Charlie McCoy – harmonica, guitar, bass pedals / Wayne Moss – guitar / Jerry Kennedy – guitar, sitar / Farrell Morris – percussion / Mickey Newbury – vocals, guitar
  • Rain & train sound effects courtesy of Mystic Moods Orchestra (from the LP: One Stormy Night").
  • This album is the start of a lose trilogy. Mickey followed this "Frisco Mabel Joy" (1970). The cycle of Cinderella Sound albums ended in 1973 with "Heaven Help The Child". Mickey himself thought of these albums as one piece in concept, theme, music and lyric (though similar elements traverse all his albums). Apparently he said, "“[They] all tie together in my head,” … “Some of the songs refer to the same situation, just looking at it from a four-year difference in time.”
  • Mickey would help Townes Van Zandt and other songwriters get started in Nashville, he was Townes' "manager" for a while.
Posted in Alt Country, Americana, Country | Tagged | 2 Comments

JOHN DENVER – Take Me to Tomorrow – (RCA) – 1970

JOHN DENVER - Take Me to Tomorrow

It’s hard to explain how popular John Denver was in the 70s, so just accept that he was.

He was everywhere … in the charts, on television, in films and on constant tour around the world.

He is, generally, assumed to be a country act because of the country themes in many of his songs. He didn't, however, fit into the traditional country boxes or even the new country that opened up in the 60s or 70s. Country bravado and strut is not to be found his music. His country is not of the open plains, the honky tonks or of lying women, cheating men or excessive whiskey and gin. It is the of the high mountains, clean air and thoughtful quiet contemplation.

Accordingly, he brought a folk sensibility and folk sensitivity to country which means it is barely what we assume country is, but it still is.

There are elements of country pop, singer-songwriter, and folk in his music, all done to an open gentle semi acoustic sound. If his music doesn't always sound authentically country it does always sound genuinely rustic, albeit quite smooth. It isn’t always evident in the music but it is evident in the lyrics and narratives that Denver was entranced with the American landscape, its native peoples, the flora, fauna of the land and the societal values of a time past.

That is what makes him country.

And, if you don’t accept that opinion, then you can accept the fact that country audiences accepted him.

Wikipedia … "Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., was born in Roswell, New Mexico, to Lt. Col. Henry John Deutschendorf, Sr., an Air Force officer (who set three speed records in the B-58 Hustler bomber and earned a place in the Air Force Hall of Fame) and Erma Louise Swope. Henry Sr. was of German ancestry, and met and married his "Oklahoma Sweetheart". Denver's Irish Catholic and German maternal grandmother was the one who imbued Denver with his love of music. In his autobiography, Take Me Home, Denver described his life as the eldest son of a family shaped by a stern father who could not show his love for his children. He is also the nephew of singer Dave Deutschendorf of The New Christy Minstrels … At the age of 11, Denver received an acoustic guitar from his grandmother. He learned to play well enough to perform at local clubs by the time he was in college. He adopted the surname "Denver" after the capital of his favorite state, Colorado. He decided to change his name when Randy Sparks, founder of The New Christy Minstrels, suggested that "Deutschendorf" wouldn't fit comfortably on a marquee. Denver studied Architecture at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and sang in a folk-music group called "The Alpine Trio" while pursuing architectural studies. He was also a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. Denver dropped out of the Texas Tech School of Engineering in 1963,[10] and moved to Los Angeles, where he sang in folk clubs. In 1965, Denver joined the The Mitchell Trio, replacing founder Chad Mitchell, which later became "Denver, Boise, and Johnson" (John Denver, David Boise, and Michael Johnson)… In 1969, Denver abandoned the band life to pursue a solo career and released his first album for RCA Records: Rhymes & Reasons … "

His fourth album “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” (1971), was a breakthrough for him in the US, thanks in part to the single "Take Me Home, Country Roads", which went to number 2 on the Billboard charts.

After that he followed themes and a style which varied only a little, till the end of his career.

When you are onto something why change?

He recorded nearly 300 songs, of which 200 of them he wrote. His career spanned four decades and his music appeared on a variety of charts, including Country and Western, the Billboard Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary. In the US he had 14 gold and eight platinum albums. He was loved around the world for his music and its message.

Allmusic, "One of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s, country-folk singer/songwriter John Denver's gentle, environmentally conscious music established him among the most beloved entertainers of his era; wholesome and clean-cut, his appeal extended to fans of all ages and backgrounds, and led to parallel careers as both an actor and a humanitarian".

There is something to be admired about this but it doesn't make country, alt country or neo-country heroes.

Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and their crossover music with it's pain, despair and ambiguity makes for credible country counter-culture heroes.

But what he lacks in street cred (or is that trail cred?) he makes up with sensitivity, sincerity and a niceness that are wrapped up in an easy sing-a-long-a-bility of his tunes. He has something to say but he doesn't want to offend, he isn't strident or in your face despite the unequivocal nature of some his messages. He wants you to remember a tune and he had the folkies ability to turn words into moods.

Denver's sincerity doesn't extend to analysing his own personal demons in song, well, not directly or in any confessional manner. He had personal demons, but his image was quite separate. And when his image was tarnished, later in his life, by his drinking and associated allegations it seemed that much worse because it wasn’t expected of him.

Of course the truth is everyone has demons and those bits of darkness are hinted at in his earlier solo music.

This solo album (his second major release but third album release) is from Denver's transitional period between folkie and country. He was experimenting with the singer-songwriter style (as were a lot of ex folkies) as well as with rock sounds.

There are moments of darkness here (some which may put off traditional Denver fans) but it works and, importantly, it was a transition from folk that he needed to do. There are originals with bite as well as some well chosen covers which are darker still. But, there also hints of the pretty folk country music and open handed sincerity which would become his forte.

His voice is perhaps a little too sweet for this material (though it would serve his later material perfectly). In singer-songwriter folk we want out vocalists to be a little gruff, a little hoarse, a little lived in and a little raggedy around the edges. We want them world weary. And that's what we got with most. But, Denver has one of the purest voices in music with a natural vibrato and quality that, once heard, is remembered.

So, it is not surprising that his voice and music launched a thousand buskers

I haven't listened to every John Denver album but Denver's earlier solo and Chad Mitchell Trio work needs to be rediscovered or at least heard again. It may not be “up there” with his best but it is certainly worth a look and more interesting than when his work tapered off in the 80s and 90s.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Take Me to Tomorrow -a big rock beat (with keyboards up front) on this one with all the familiar late 60s themes …"do you care", "are you happy with your life"
  • Isabel – More like the John Denver we know though not as effortless as his later stuff.
  • Follow Me – More Denver we are familiar with though overproduced and with his voice slightly uncertain but haunting.
  • Forest Lawn – (Tom Paxton) – from Tom Paxton's seventh album, despite the album title, "Tom Paxton 6" (1970) (there was live album in there also). A satirical song on the funeral industry is quite funny and very in the style of the folkie.
  • Aspenglow – Aspen and glow …very John Denver
  • Amsterdam – (Jacques Brel, Mort Shuman, Eric Blau) –  One of Jacques Brel’s most well known songs originally sung in his French in 1964. There have been a number of English translations. John singing about Dutch prostitutes is odd but he does a good job of it even if his voice isnt gruff or dramatic enough.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amsterdam_(Jacques_Brel_song)

      Side Two

  • Anthem-Revelation – an up-tempo pop rock song with a  religious evangelical vibe.
  • Sticky Summer Weather – a strange one. Echoes of numerous later Denver songs though with a touch of Phil Ochs about it.
  • Carolina in My Mind – (James Taylor) – James Taylor's well known song from his self titled debut LP (1968). Denver has pitched this wrong. This would be perfect for his impassioned delivery, instead he gives it too much bounce. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carolina_in_My_Mind
  • Jimmy Newman – (Tom Paxton) – another track from Tom Paxton's album, "Tom Paxton 6". This is cynical and strident and quite good.
  • Molly – (Biff Rose) – written by Biff from his LP, "The Thorn In Mrs. Rose's Side " (1968). This is very Biff Rose (with a hint of David Ackles), like a song from a musical stage show. Catchy but very quirky.

And …

Patchy but more good than not … I'm keeping it (perhaps)

Chart Action

US

Singles

Album

1970 #197

England

nothing

Sounds

Take Me to Tomorrow

mp3 attached

Isabel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fvqzh14dG0

Follow Me

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gcu8XgWePMM

Forest Lawn

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S8Q2M4CBVU

Aspenglow

Live

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

Amsterdam

Live

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nd_kR7XzlkY

Anthem-Revelation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y93h1ZnJSGI

Sticky Summer Weather

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeSSZM5i9gk

Carolina in My Mind

Live with Tom Jones

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYryU5b_10k

Jimmy Newman

Live

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

Molly

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

Others

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzcoOGsXm80

with Mama Cass

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

Review

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

http://www.allmusic.com/album/take-me-to-tomorrow-mw0000370955

Bio

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/john-denver-mn0000811622/biography

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

Website

http://johndenver.com/

Trivia

  • John Denver the activist, on wikipedia: "Denver became outspoken in politics in the mid-1970s. He expressed his ecologic interests in the epic 1975 song "Calypso," which is an ode to the exploration ship and team of environmental activist Jacques Cousteau. In 1976, he campaigned for Jimmy Carter, who became a close friend and ally. Denver was a supporter of the Democratic Party and of a number of charitable causes for the environmental movement, the homeless, the poor, the hungry, and the African AIDS crisis. He founded the charitable Windstar Foundation in 1976, to promote sustainable living. His dismay at the Chernobyl disaster led to precedent-setting concerts in parts of communist Asia and Europe … During the 1980s, Denver was critical of the Reagan administration, but he remained active in his campaign against hunger, for which Reagan awarded Denver the Presidential World Without Hunger Award in 1985. Denver's criticism of the conservative politics of the 1980s was expressed in his autobiographical folk-rock ballad "Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For)." Denver was also critical of the Republican-dominated Congress and American Conservatism of the 1990s[citation needed]. He denounced the National Rifle Association (NRA) as a corrupt political machine that could buy off politicians[citation needed], and in an open letter to the media, he wrote that he opposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Denver had battled to expand the refuge in the 1980s, and he praised President Bill Clinton for his opposition to the proposed drilling. The letter, which he wrote in the midst of the 1996 presidential election, was one of the last he ever wrote. Denver was also on the Board of Governors of the National Space Society for many years"
  • Denver's second wife, Cassandra Delaney was born in Brisbane and is the younger sister of 70s TV celebrity Delvene Delaney

 

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