THE SEXADELIC DISCO-FUNK SOUND OF…SUSANA ESTRADA.

The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada.

Ever since 1939, the brutal Francoist regime had ruled Spain with an iron fist. This came to an end with the death of dictator Francisco Franco on ’20th’ November 1975. After Franco’s death, control of Spain passed to King Juan Carlos. By then, Spain was in a state of paralysis. It had been, during the last few months of Franco’s reign. The Spanish people hoped that things were about to change.

They hoped that after the death of Franco, that Spain’s transition to a liberal democratic state could begin. The transition began  on  ’20th’ November 1975 with the passing of Franco, and took nearly seven years until the electoral victory of the socialist PSOE party on the ‘28th’ October 1982. That seven year is nowadays remembered in Spain as the ‘transition’, and marked a new beginning for the Spanish people. 

The  transition to democracy saw a liberalisation of values and social mores. Suddenly, the Spanish people were able to enjoy a  freedom that hadn’t existed under the Francist regime. Life, the Spanish people were realising, was for living. This coincided with a sexual revolution that began during the transition.

During the transition and sexual revolution, singer, model and actress and Susana Estrada represented the new Spain. She was independent and modern women, who lived her life on her terms.  Susana Estrada wanted to bring about change, and was an advocate for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom.  One of the ways she sought to bring about change was through her music. This includes the music that features on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada which will be released on the ‘2nd’ June 2017, on Guerssen Records’ new label Espacial Discos. This new compilation features thirteen tracks from Susana Estrada, who was at the vanguard of change that took place during the transition in Spain.

Susana Estrada was born in the city of Gijón, in 1949. By then, Franco had ruled Spain since 1936. Growing up, Susana Estrada she watched as the Francoist regime crushed their opponents mercilessly. Many of Franco’s opponents were imprisoned,  others disappeared in mysterious circumstances and  some were murdered. For anyone who grew up in Spain the forties and fifties, life was tough. It certainly was for Susana Estrada.

By the time she was twenty-one, Susana Estrada had been married, had two children and was now divorced. She was left to bring up two children on her own. This she managed to do on the salary she received working as a librarian. However, Susana Estrada had dreams beyond working in a library. What she really wanted to do, was work as a fashion model.

Eventually, Susana Estrada left her job as a librarian, to embark upon a career as a fashion model. Initially, she worked for small, local companies, but within a year  had been accepted into Madrid’s official model school. It looked like Susana Estrada’s dream was about to come true. However, it turned out that Susana Estrada wasn’t tall enough. Even when she took to wearing fifteen centimetre heels, she wasn’t tall enough. For Susana Estrada, it looked as if her career as a model was over before it began.

It looked unlikely that Susana Estrada would ever model for magazines like Vogue or luxury clothing brands, she found her own niche within the fashion world. Susana Estrada modelled the ready made, prat à porter fashion lines.  Sometimes, though, she was recruited by overseas model agencies, and occasionally found herself featuring on album cover. By 1971, Susana Estrada had gone up in the world.

She made her acting debut in El Zorro de Monterrey in 1971, which was the start of Susana Estrada’s acting career. During the second half of the seventies, Susana Estrada began to feature in a new genre of film, Destape which were erotic comedies. However, before long, Susana Estrada realised that to make a career in the movie industry “you had to pay a high price and do some things I didn’t want to do.” However, by then, Susana Estrada had embarked on a new chapter in her career.

This began in 1976, when she started acting in erotic musicals. Her debut came in 1976, in Historias del Strip-Tease which was roundly panned by critics. Despite the terrible reviews, it was a huge commercial success and turned Susana Estrada into a star. However, this came at a cost: “in the beginning, women hated me. They thought that I was lacking decorum, that I was shameless, lecherous, rude…Not all of them but the vast majority. People were not ready for this.”

After featuring in several erotic musicals, Susana Estrada became a sex counsellor in the magazine Play-Lady. At one point, she was receiving 7,000 letters a week. By then, Susana Estrada’s new role was attracting the attention of Franco’s regime. She was accused of public scandal, fined, had her passport cancelled and banned from voting for ten years. This was just the latest controversy for Susana Estrada, who was skating on thin ice. Any further controversy could see her receive further sanctions from the Franco regime. Most people would’ve kept a low profile.

Susana Estrada wasn’t most people, and was about to embark on a career as a singer. Her debut single Ya Me Voy De Tu Vida was  released on Odeon in 1978. It was written by Alejandro Jaén, who co-produced the single with Marion Bronley. They were responsible for a single that had been heavily influenced by both classic disco, and the Munich Sound, which was pioneered by Giorgio Moroder. The release of Ya Me Voy De Tu Vida marked the start of a new chapter in Susana Estrada’s career. However, she continued her career in musicals.

Between 1978 and 1980, the musicals that Susana Estrada appeared in grew in popularity. However, they became increasingly explicit. By then, Spain was undergoing a period of transition, and Susana Estrada was campaigning for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom. Still, though, some women didn’t approve of what she was doing, and felt it was demeaning. However, Susana Estrada remembers: “I fought very hard for women’s rights. I knew that through sexual liberation you obtain total freedom. This was something which men knew at first and women discovered it late.” Susana Estrada was determined to bring about change, and didn’t seem to care if she caused controversy. Her sophomore single would certainly prove controversial.

Two years after releasing her debut single, Susana Estrada returned in 1980 with her sophomore single Acaríciame, which was released on the Barcelona based Belter label. Acaríciam was written by Carlos Moncada, Félix Lapardi and Óscar Rubio, with Josep Llobell Oliver taking charge of the production. On the B-Side was Machos, which was penned by Pepe Luis Soto and produced Ramón Rodó Sellés. Both Acaríciam and Machos, which feature on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada, and are sensual sounding disco tracks. The success of Acaríciam resulted in Susana Estrada releasing her debut album, Machos.

Unlike most albums released in 1980, Machos was released by Belter,  but only on cassette. It featured songs from the musical Susana Estrada was appearing in, Machos. Nowadays, the cassette album Machos is a collectors item, and changes hands for up to £100. Four of the eight tracks from Machos feature on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada. This includes Acaríciam and  Machos. They’re joined by  the robotic funk of Espacial and the space cosmic disco of Hagamos El Amor. Both these songs were written by the songwriting partnership of C. De Las Eras and Manuel Gas, but did’t appear on what’s nowadays regarded as Susana Estrada’s official debut album, Amor Y Libertad.

When Susana Estrada came to record Amor Y Libertad, it featured ten songs penned by Carlos De Las Heras. They were recorded at the Belter Studio, in Barcelona, with producer by Josep Llobell Oliver. To accompany Susana Estrada, he had brought onboard Atlanta a talented and experienced funk group who were familiar faces on the local music scene. The combination of Susana Estrada, Atlanta and Josep Llobell Oliver resulted in what would eventually be regarded as a Euro Disco  and cosmic disc classic, Amor Y Libertad.

Initially, Amor Y Libertad was underrated and didn’t receive the recognition many thought it deserved. Critics didn’t seem to ‘get’ Amor Y Libertad, despite its innovative fusion of boogie, cosmic disco, funk, Italo Disco, modern soul and the Munich Sound. Maybe critics were shocked by what many regarded as provocative lyrics, sensual vocals and moans and groans? If that was the case, then songs about sexual liberation and freedom were definitely going to get critics hot under the collar. The reception that Amor Y Libertad received was hugely disappointing for everyone involved in the project.

It was only later that Amor Y Libertad began to receive the recognition it deserved. Nowadays, though,  Amor Y Libertad is regarded as a Euro Disco and cosmic disco classic, That comes as no surprise, given the quality of music on the album. Especially songs like Mi Chico Favorito, Voy Desnuda, ¡Gózame Ya!, ¡Qué Calor!, ¡Quítate El Sostén!, Un Sitio Bajo El Sol, Hagámoslo Juntos and Voy Desnuda. These songs  which all feature on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada compilation, and among the highlights of Amor Y Libertad, which somewhat belatedly, received the recognition it deserved.

Playing an important part in the sound and success of the album was Atlanta, who were produced a genre-melting, dance-floor friendly backdrop for Susana Estrada. Meanwhile Josep Llobell Oliver produced Amor Y Libertad, and took a less is more approach to production. This worked well and resulted in what eventually became a Euro Disco and cosmic disco cult classic. 

After the release of Amor Y Libertad, Susana Estrada released Mi Chico Favorito as a single later in 1981. This was Susana Estrada’s penultimate release during the eighties.

Susana Estrada’s eighties swan-song was the cassette mini album Historias Inconfesables. It was released by Star Grabaciones Originals later in 1981 and was billed as “porno-cassette.” The album featured just four songs, including two versions of Mi Chico Favorito and ¡Que Calor! (Canción). This includes X-rated versions of Mi Chico Favorito  and ¡Que Calor! Nowadays, Historias Inconfesables is a real rarity which is almost impossible to find. 

It’s a similar case with Tócame, which features on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada.  It was recorded in 2007, and is best described as Hi-Energy meets Euro Disco. This is a welcome addition to The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada, which documents the musical career of one of the most controversial figures in Spanish music, Susana Estrada.

She was the one time model who went on to enjoy a career as an actress, agony aunt and singer. Susana Estrada also fought for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom. Sadly, her campaigning is often overshadowed by parts of her career that caused controversy.  This may not have been the case in America, Britain or other parts of Europe. However, Spain which was a conservative catholic country, which was in a period of transition from a dictatorship to democracy. Many people were unprepared for Susana Estrada, her campaigning and indeed, some of the music on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada. That was somewhat ironic.

What Susana Estrada was campaigning for was women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom, which were things that many women in other parts of Europe, Britain and America took for granted.  Alas, in the newly democratic Spain, Susana Estrada’s campaigns caused controversy in the corridors of power. Maybe Spain’s patriarchy were scared or intimated by a strong and independent woman, who was willing to make a stand for what she believed in? Despite being fined, having her passport cancelled and losing her vote for ten years, Susana Estrada wasn’t going to be silenced. She continued to speak for all the Spanish women who had no way of making their views heard.  One way Susana Estrada was able to make her voice heard was through her music.

This includes much of the music that featured on her debut album Amor Y Libertad. Eight of the ten tracks from Amor Y Libertad feature on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada which will be released on the ‘2nd’ June 2017, on Espacial Discos, a new imprint of Guerssen Records.  The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada also features singles, B-Sides and the unreleased track Tócame. Quite simply, The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada is a truly comprehensive overview of Susana Estrada’s musical career, and is the perfect introduction to one of Spain’s Euro Disco divas.

The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada.

LIGHTHOUSE-LIGHTHOUSE, SUITE FEELING AND PEACING IT ALL TOGETHER.

Lighthouse-Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together.

In 1968, Skip Prokop the former drummer and vocalist with the Canadian psychedelic rock band The Paupers, met Brooklyn born keyboardist Paul Hoffert in a New York nightclub. The men bonded over their mutual love of music. However, when they parted company at the end of the evening, they never thought that their paths would cross again.

That was until Skip Prokop boarded a flight from New York to head home to Toronto, and recognised one of his fellow passengers. It was none other than Paul Hoffert, who was studying at the University of Toronto. The two men started taking, and soon, were discussing the possibility of forming a band based around a rock rhythm section, jazz horn section, and classical string section. It this was an ambitious plan, but one that Skip Prokop and Paul Hoofers were determined to bring to fruition.

Fortunately, Skip Prokop was a familiar face within Toronto’s music scene, and knew plenty of musicians who would be interested in joining the band he planned to form with Paul Hoffert. Skip Prokop brought onboard some of his musical friends, several session musicians and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Gradually, Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert’s group was taking shape. 

Eventually, the nascent group featured thirteen musicians. The next step for the as yet unnamed band was to record a demo. Once the demo was complete, Skip Prokop sought the advice of one of his musical friends, Richie Havens. He suggested that Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert take the tape to MGM Records, who Richie Havens was currently signed to.

On hearing the demo, executives at MGM Records were hugely impressed with what they heard. So much so, that they offered the band an advance of $30,000. Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert signed on the dotted line. The band was now signed to MGM Records.

Having signed to MGM Records, the band acquired a manager within the space of two days. It was just a pity they hadn’t a manager when they signed to MGM Records.

Their new manager was Vinnie Fusco, who was an associate of Albert Grossman, who managed Bob Dylan. Vinnie Fusco was an experienced manager, who was well versed in the how the music industry worked. He decided that the MGM Records’ deal wasn’t good enough for his new client.  

Vinnie Fusco decided to pay the executives at MGM Records a visit to discuss the contract his new client had signed. By the end of the meeting they were prepared to free the band from their contractual obligations. This left them free to sign to RCA Victor.

Not before Vinnie Fusco had negotiated a lucrative recording contract for the band. This time, it wasn’t $30,000 that the band would receive, Instead, they would receive hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the contract. During that morning, Vinnie Fusco had more than proved his worth. 

Now that the band had a recording contract in place, the next step was to finalise the band’s lineup. Although the band had recorded a demo, this wasn’t the version that would make their live debut at Toronto’s Rock Pile on May ’14th’ 1969.

With the lineup of the band finalised, and having honed their sound, they were ready take to the stage at the Rick Pile. As the band prepared to take to the stage, a seventy year old man made his way to the microphone to introduce the band. Some members of the audience thought his face was familiar. It was none other that Duke  Ellington who uttered the immortal words “I’m beginning to see the Light…house.” With that, the thirteen members of the band  that would become Lighthouse took to the stage and delivered a barnstorming set. By the end of the night, very few people were taking about Duke Ellington. Instead, they were taking about Lighthouse’s live debut.

After the success of Lighthouse’s live debut, Vinnie Fusco knew that he had signed a band with a big future ahead of them. He wasted no time in taking Lighthouse into the studio to record their eponymous debut album. Lighthouse is one three albums that feature on BGO Records’ recent released two CD set. It’s joined by Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together, which covers the period between 1969 to 1970. This period starts with Lighthouse, which was written and recorded during 1969.

Lighthouse.

For Lighthouse, members of the band had written eight new songs, and covered The Byrds’ Eight Miles High and  Richie Havens’ No Opportunity. Lighthouse’s songwriter-in-chief was Skip Prokop who cowrote three songs and wrote four more. This included If There Ever Was A Time, Follow The Stars, Marsha, Marsha and Ah I Can Feel It. He and Paul Hoffert wrote Whatever Forever, while Skip Prokop Peggy Devereux wrote Life Can Be So Simple. They also wrote Mountain Man with guitarist Ralph Cole. Brenda and Paul Hoffert Never Say Goodbye contributed. These ten tracks were to be recorded at Electric Ladyland Studios, New York.

At Electric Ladyland Studios, the thirteen members of Lighthouse prepared to record their eponymous debut album. By then, the lineup included a rhythm section that featured drummer and vocalist Skip Prokop, bassist and vocalist Grant Fullerton and guitarist and vocalist Ralph Cole. They were joined by keyboardist and vibes player Paul Hoffert and percussionist and vocalist Pinky Dauvin. The horn section featured Freddy Stone and Arnie Chycoski on flugelhorn and trumpet; alto saxophonist Howard Shore and trombonist Russ Little. This left just the string section, which featured cellist Leslie Schneider and Don Whitton; violinist Ian Guenther and Don DiNovo who switched between violin and viola. Taking charge of production was Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert who was Lighthouse’s musical director. After the sessions got up and running, it soon became apparent things weren’t going to plan. Rather than waste time and money, they should head home to Toronto and record the album there.

When Lighthouse returned to Toronto, they deduced to record at Eastern Sound Studios. Suddenly, the band were in a groove and before long, had recorded the ten songs that became Lighthouse. Once it was completed, it was released later in 1969.

Before that, critics had their say on Lighthouse. It received plaudits and praise from critics who were won over by Lighthouse’s innovative genre-melting sound.  Lighthouse was a mixture of jazz, rock, classical and fusion. There’s even avant-garde, blues, chamber pop, funk, pop and psychedelia, in an album that was designed to grab the listener’s attention. 

That was the case from the explosive psych-funk of Mountain Man. With its call for freedom, it was an anthem-in-waiting. There was no letup with the carefully crafted and uplifting If There Ever Was A Time. No Opportunity Necessary was a cover of a Richie Havens’ song, while Never Say Goodbye seems to have been inspired by George Martin’s production on Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. Very different was the orchestrated folk of Follow The Stars, which features a dreamy vocal. Whatever Forever seems to have been inspired by both The Doors, before a fleet-fingered Hammond organ transforms the track, and it heads in the direction of jazz. Lighthouse then pay homage to The Byrds on their cover of Eight Miles High, while Marsha, Marsha is a beautiful, blues-tinged ballad. Ah I Can Feel It is a slow burner where pop, rock and jazz play their part in the sound and success of the song. Closing Lighthouse was  Life Can Be So Simple, where a faux classical, baroque introduction gives way to what should’ve been another genre-melting anthem as pop, rock and jazz combine.

Alas, when Lighthouse was released, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Lighthouse failed to trouble the charts. It was a similar case when If There Ever Was A Time was released as a single. Despite the disappointment caused by the failure of their debut album and single, Lighthouse began work on their sophomore album, Suite Feeling.

Suite Feeling.

By then, Lighthouse were regarded as one of the top live acts in Canada. The band was hoping that their sophomore album would introduce the band to a much wider audience.

When Lighthouse began work on what became Suite Feeling, Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert were starting to forge a successful songwriting partnership. They wrote Could You Be Concerned, Presents Of Presence, Taking A Walk, Eight Loaves Of Bread and What Sense. The pair also penned Feel So Good with Grant Fullerton, and the trio proceeded to write Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces with Ralph Cole. Just like Lighthouse, there were two cover versions on Suite Feeling, Robbie Robertson’s Chest Fever and Lennon and McCartney’s Day In The Life. These nine songs were recorded in two studios.

Some recording sessions took place at Eastern Sound Studios, in Toronto. Other sessions  took place in Los Angeles, at RCA’s Music Centre Of The World. This time around, Lighthouse’s lineup numbered fourteen. 

There had been some changes in the lineup, especially in the string and horn section. Don Whitton and Ian Guenther departed and were replaced in the string section by Paul Armin and Myron Moskalyk who played first violin. It was also all change in the horn section, with  Freddy Stone and Arnie Chycoski leaving and being replaced by Paul Adamson and Bruce Cassidy who played first trumpet. This new and expanded lineup of Lighthouse recorded Suite Feeling, which was produced by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert.

Once Suite Feeling was completed, RCA Victor scheduled the release for late 1969. Before that, critics got the opportunity to review Suite Feeling. Just like Lighthouse, it received praise and plaudits from critics, who going by Suite Feeling were forecasting a big future for Lighthouse.

Dramatic destined the introduction to The Robbie Robertson penned Chest Fever, which featured on The Band’s Music From The Big Pink. It’s a fusion of classical, Native Indian and rock music as they unleash an inventive rework of a familiar song. Quite different is the orchestrated ballad Feel So Good which has a commercial, radio friendly sound. Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces was a near eleven minute epic, where Lighthouse showcase their considerable skills and versatility as they flit between musical genres. Then when it’s time for the solos, the members of Lighthouse unleash virtuoso performances.  This closed side one, and set the bar high for the rest of Suite Feeling.

Could You Be Concerned is another carefully crafted song with a commercial sound. It finds Lighthouse successfully fusing funk and rock with classical music.  Genres melt into one on the beautiful ballad Presents Of Presence, where horns, harmonies and swathes of strings accompany a heartfelt, needy vocal. Initially, the ballad Taking A Walk is a mixture of sunshine pop and rock, before incorporating elements of avant-garde and jazz to create a captivating and memorable track with surprises aplenty in store. Lighthouse combed gospel and blues on Eight Loaves Of Bread, as they deliver their sermon on peace and positivity. By contrast,  What Sense is an impassioned protest song that sounds as if it’s been inspired by The Beatles. An imaginative cover The Day In The Life, closes Suite Feeling and finds Lighthouse reinventing a classic song and taking it in new direction.

With critics won over by Suite Feeling, it looked like their sophomore album was destined for the charts. Sadly, when Suite Feeling was released in late 1969, the album failed to chart. It was another disappointment for Lighthouse.  Despite the disappointment, Lighthouse’s thoughts soon turned to their third album Peacing It All Together.

Peacing It All Together.

Just like Suite Feeling, the Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert songwriting partnership wrote the majority of Peacing It All Together. Their songwriting partnership was flourishing. They wrote Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo, The Country Song, Sausalito, The Fiction Of Twenty-Six Million, The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo), Mr. Candleman, On My Way To L.A., Just A Little More Time, Little People and am Myoho Renge’ Kyo. Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert also wrote Let The Happiness Begin with Ralph Cole, and Every Day I Am Reminded where Beethoven receives a credit.  The only song not written Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert, was Daughters And Sons which Grant Fullerton contributed. These songs became Peacing It All Together which was recorded in the Big Apple.

Recording took place at RCA’s Studio C, in New York, where Lighthouse Mk. III recorded Peacing It All Together. Just like Suite Feeling, the lineup had changed. This time, it was there were changes to the horn and string section. First violinist Myron Moskalyk and first trumpeter  Paul Adamson departed. Returning to Lighthouse’s lineup was trumpeter Arnie Chycoski. His addition meant that Lighthouse returned to a thirteen piece band. However, it wasn’t unlucky thirteen for Lighthouse.

Peacing It All Together was a much more eclectic album, with tracks ranging from folk and pop, to jazz and orchestral rock. This won the approval of critics, who hailed Peacing It All Together as Lighthouse’s finest hour.

When Peacing It All Together was released to critical acclaim in 1970, the album charted and reached 133 in the US Billboard 200. It was third time lucky for Lighthouse, who at last, had a hit album on their hands. That was no surprise given the quality of music on the album.

Peacing It All Together opens with the two part suite, where the yoga chant Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo gives way to the sunshine pop anthem Let The Happiness Begin. Every Day I Am Reminded was inspired by Beethoven’s Pathetique piano sonata, before a soul-baring pastoral ballad unfolds. The Country Song finds Lighthouse heading in the direction of country rock, before the cinematic Sausalito documents Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert’s road trip across America after recording Suite Feeling. The Fiction Of Twenty-Six Million is memorable and melodic pop rock song which features Lighthouse in full flight. Very different is The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo), where further explore the yoga chant that opened the album.This captivating track closed side one.

Mr. Candleman is another carefully crafted, genre-melting song from Lighthouse, where Ralph Cole delivers a rueful vocal as he brings to the lyrics in the song. Suddenly, he sounds as if he too has lost his enthusiasm for his life. On My Way To L.A, is a joyous and anthemic slice of psychedelic rock. It gives way to Daughters and Sons, a ruminative sounding song about being brought up in the suburbs. One of the highlights of the album was Just A Little More Time, which is a hook-laden, soulful pop song. This leaves just Little People, where pay homage to hard working people. Hooks haven’t been spared, in this early seventies anthem-in-waiting. It brought to an end Peacing It All Together, which was Lighthouse’s third album.

Peacing It All Together marked the start of the rise and rise of Lighthouse. However, this wouldn’t be at RCA Victor. After the release of Peacing It All Together, Lighthouse signed to GRT, where they enjoyed the most successful period of their career. 

By then, Lighthouse had appeared at Canada’s Strawberry Fields festival in August 1970 and later that summer, starred at the Isle Of Wight Festival in Britain. The rise and rise of Lighthouse continued.

Sadly, it was without lead singer Pinky Dauvin, who left the group after the release of Peacing It All Together. By then, Lighthouse were touring 300 days a year, and when they weren’t touring they were recording. It was a gruelling schedule, and one that was taking its toll on Lighthouse.

When Lighthouse returned in 1971 with their fourth album Thoughts of Movin’ On, it featured a very different lineup of the band. Bob McBride made his debut as lead singer, and was one of four new members of Lighthouse, who were now an eleven piece band. The new lineup of Lighthouse hit the ground running, with the most successful album of the band’s four album career.

One Fine Morning was released in 1971, and reached number eighty in the US Billboard 200 in 1971, Back home in Canada,  One Fine Morning was certified gold. When it came to release a lead single, One Fine Morning was chosen and gave Lighthouse an international hit single. It also reached number two in Canada and twenty-four in the US Billboard 100. At last, Lighthouse’s music was reaching the audience it deserved.  However, it had taken four albums.

What the members of Lighthouse didn’t realise was, that they never replicate the success of  One Fine Morning in America. Their fifth album Thoughts of Movin’ On stalled at 157 in the US Billboard 200, but was certified gold in Canada. Still, things would get better for Lighthouse.

In February 1972, Lighthouse recorded Lighthouse Live! at the Carnegie Hall, in New York. Later in 1972, Lighthouse Live! was released and stalled at 178 in the US Billboard 200. Across the border in Canada, Lighthouse Live! became the first Canadian album to be certified platinum. 

Later in 1972, Lighthouse returned with their sixth studio album Sunny Days. While the album reached just 190 in the US Billboard 200, it was certified gold in Canada.  When Sunny Days was released as a single, it reached thirty-four in the US Billboard 100 and was a hit in Canada. The Lighthouse success story continued apace.

Despite being at the peak of their popularity, Paul Hoffert who was still only thirty was tiring of life on the road. He left Lighthouse, but continued in the role of executive producer. This lead to the latest change in Lighthouse’s lineup.

When Lighthouse returned to the studio to record their seventh studio album Can You Feel It, lead vocalist Bob McBride failed to turn up. Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole wanted to cancel the sessions. However, producer Jimmy Ienner was determined the session continue, and even introduced a new rule that who wrote the song, sang it. This meant that Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole sung most of the songs, apart from No More Searching, which was penned by new saxophonist Dale Hillary. Eventually,  Can You Feel It, which was the first Lighthouse album to feature multiple vocalists, was completed.

Can You Feel It was released in 1973, but failed to chart in America. In Canada, Can You Feel It sold well and the rise and rise of Lighthouse continued. Especially when Pretty Lady reached number nine in Canada and fifty-three in the US Billboard 100. For the followup Can You Feel It was released, and reached number nineteen in Canada. By then, Lighthouse were one of Canada’s most successful bands. The last four years had been a roller coaster ride for Lighthouse. 

A year later, in 1974, Lighthouse returned with their eighth studio album Good Day in 1974. By then, the lineup had changed. Skip Prokop had switched to guitar on a permanent basis, and  Billy King was drafted in as the new drummer. Still, though, Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole shared lead vocal duties. While Good Day failed to produce any hit singles, and failed to match the sales of previous albums it featured the song Wide-Eyed Lady, which quickly would become a favourite when Lighthouse played live.

Despite the disappointing sales of Good Day, Lighthouse returned to Thunder Sounds Recording Studios to begin work on their ninth album. However, by then all wasn’t well within Lighthouse. Founder member Skip Prokop quit the band, and the album was never completed. 

While Lighthouse continued to tour without Skip Prokop, the band never returned to the studio. The only album GRT released was The Best of Lighthouse in 1976. By then, Lighthouse were on their last legs, and disbanded later that year. After seven years, eight studio albums and a live album, Lighthouse called time on their career.

While Lighthouse would later reunite, they had released the best music of their career between 1969 and 1974. This included their first three albums, Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together which were recently rematered and reissued as part of a two CD set by BGO Records. These three album showcase a truly talented band, who would eventually become one Canada’s most successful bands of the early seventies. 

They were lead by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert who were Lighthouse’s songwriters-in-chief and producers. They were responsible for albums of carefully crafted albums. Especially,  Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together which were recorded during Lighthouse’s RCA Victor years. While this wasn’t the most successful period of their career, their three albums oozed quality as  Lighthouse switched seamlessly between and combined disparate musical genres.  

Lighthouse were musical master craftsmen, who deserved to reach greater heights during the RCA Victor years. Sadly, Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together never found the audience it deserved, and it was only later that these three album were discovered by a new generation of music fans. For newcomers to Lighthouse, then  Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together is the perfect introduction to one of Canada’s best bands of the late-sixties and early seventies. 

Lighthouse-Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together.

MULATU ASTATKE-MULATU OF ETHIOPIA.

Mulatu Astatke-Mulatu Of Ethiopia.

By 1972, Ethiopian multi-instrumentalist Mulatu Astatke was twenty-nine, and had already spent time studying music in London, Boston and New York. This included spells at two prestigious institutions,  London’s Trinity College of Music,  Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The time he spent there, influenced and shaped Mulatu Astatke as a musician.  This included  the two albums he released in 1966, Afro-Latin Soul, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Six years passed before Mulatu Astatke returned with his third album Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which was recently rereleased by Strut Records. It was a very different album, and was his first album of Ethio-jazz from the man who nowadays, is regarded as the genre’s founding father, Mulatu Astatke. 

He was born in the city of Jimma, in south-western Ethiopia, on ‘19th’ December 1943. Growing up, Mulatu Astatke developed a love of music, and over the next few years, learnt to play a variety of instruments. This included the vibraphone,  conga drums, percussion, keyboards and organ. Mulatu Astatke developed into a talented multi-instrumentalist. It looked as if Mulatu Astatke would embark upon a career in music. Suddenly, though, any dreams Mulatu Astatke had of embarking upon a career in music were dashed.  

In the late-fifties,Mulatu Astatke’s family sent him to Wales study engineering. That was the plan. Instead, Mulatu Astatke enrolled at Lindisfarne College near Wrexham which prepared him for his studies in London, New York and Boston.

After leaving Mulatu Astatke enrolled at Trinity College of Music, where he spent the next few years studying towards a degree in music. Having graduated, Mulatu Astatke  began collaborating with jazz singer and percussionist Frank Holder. The pair formed a fruitful partnership, and for a while, Mulatu Astatke was part of London’s jazz scene. Eventually though, Mulatu Astatke decided to head stateside, where he would continue his studies and career.

Next stop for Mulatu Astatke was Boston, and the prestigious Berklee College of Music. He became the first African student to enrol and study at Berklee College of Music. For the next few years, Mulatu Astatke studied the vibraphone and percussion. He remembers: “ I learnt the technical aspects of jazz and gained a beautiful understanding of many different types of music. That’s where I got my tools. Berklee really shook me up.” His spell at Berklee College of Music proved an important period in Mulatu Astatke’s career. So did a journey to New York.

While studying in Boston, Mulatu Astatke would often travel to New York to play gigs, and other times, to watch concerts at venues like The Cheetah, The Palladium and The Village Gate. It was during one of these journeys to the Big Apple that Mulatu Astatke met producer Gil Snapper for the first time.  “Gil was a nice and very interesting guy. He produced music and worked with all kinds of musicians.” This would eventually include Mulatu Astatke.

After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Mulatu Astatke moved to New York and continued his studies. It was during this period that Mulatu Astatke recorded two albums for Gil Snapper’s Worthy label. 

The first album was Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 which found Mulatu Astatke taking African music in a new direction. Gil Snapper describes what was at the heart of this new sound on the sleeve-notes to Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1: “he has taken the ancient five-tone scales of Asia and Africa and woven them into something unique and exciting; a mixture of three cultures, Ethiopian, Puerto Rican and American.” This new and innovative sound made its debut on Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1, which was an album of instrumentals that was released in 1966. It marked the debut of Mulatu Astatke and would influence the future direction of Ethiopian music.

Up until Mulatu Astatke released Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 in 1966, Ethiopian musicians neither used congas nor bongos on when recording popular music. This would change when musicians back home in Ethiopia heard Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 and its followup.

Later in 1966, Mulatu Astatke returned with his sophomore album, Afro-Latin Soul Volume 2. Stylistically, it was similar to his genre-melting debut album. It mostly featured instrumentals, apart from  I Faram Gami I Faram where Mulatu Astatke sings in Spanish.  Mostly, though, Mulatu Astatke’s vibes are accompanied by a piano and conga drums that ads Latin rhythms. While this was regarded as new and innovative back home in Ethiopia, some critics thought that Mulatu Astatke’s music was similar to many other Latin-jazz records released during the mid-sixties. However, by the time Mulatu Astatke returned with his third album, he would’ve founded a new musical genre.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, Mulatu Astatke’s music began to change. This was a conscious decision, and one that was necessary. Mulatu Astatke needed and wanted to develop his own sound, and one that stood out from the crowd.  

Mulatu Astatke had decided to develop the sound that had featured on Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 and 2. To this, Mulatu Astatke decided to add elements of funk and Azmari chik-chikka rhythms to his existing sound. Gradually, this new sound began to take shape. The next step was to return to the studio, and record an album that showcased Mulatu Astatke’s new sound.

By 1972,  Mulatu Astatke had gained the necessary skills to fuse the disparate musical genres to create Ethio-jazz. It had taken time and perseverance. Now the twenty-nine year old was ready to return to the studio to record his long-awaited third album, Mulatu Of Ethiopa.

Joining Mulatu Astatke at a studio in downtown Manhattan, were producer Gil Snapper and the band that would record eventually record Mulatu Of Ethiopa. Before that, Mulatu Astatke put his multitalented band through their paces. The band featured some of the Big Apple’s top Latin session musicians and several young, up-and-coming jazz musicians. They would spend the next four weeks rehearsing, and honing Mulatu Astatke’s new sound. He remembers that:  “it took them a while to get the right feeling in the music.” Eventually, the band were ready to record what would become a landmark album, Mulatu Of Ethiopa.

When Mulatu Astatke and his band entered the studio, they recorded seven tracks that showcased his new sound. These tracks became Mulatu Of Ethiopa, where Mulatu Astatke and his band took as their starting point the Ethiopian five tonal scale. To the Pentatonic scale, Mulatu Astatke and his band added elements of jazz and Afro-American soul. This new and innovative musical fusion was christened Ethio-jazz, and Mulatu Astatke was its founding father.

The release of Mulatu Of Ethiopa was a turning point in Mulatu Astatke’s career.  After spending several years searching for his own sound, Mulatu Astatke had eventually settled on what would become his trademark sound, Ethio-jazz. It’s the sound that eventually Mulatu Astatke would become famous for.

While Mulatu Astatke released his first album of Ethio-jazz in 1972, Mulatu Of Ethiopa wasn’t a hugely successful album, it influenced a generation of Ethiopian musicians. They adopted the new Ethio-jazz sound. For the second time in his career, Mulatu Astatke was influencing Ethiopian musicians from afar. At least his fellow countrymen understood the importance of this groundbreaking album.

It was until much later that record collectors discovered Mulatu Of Ethiopa, and realised just how important, influential and innovative an album it was. Sadly, by then, Mulatu Of Ethiopa was out of print, and very few original copies of the album were still available. Occasionally, record collectors chance upon a copy of Mulatu Of Ethiopa, and picked it up in the bargain bins. Mostly though, copies of Mulatu Of Ethiopa were changing hands for large sums of money. What had once been a £200 album was changing hands for upwards of £600. This was a reflection of the importance of Mulatu Of Ethiopa, which was the first album of Ethio-jazz, from the genre’s founding father, Mulatu Astatke.

Opening the stereo mix of Mulatu Of Ethiopa is Mulatu, which straight away, showcases the new Ethio-jazz sound. It’s a fusion of the music of two countries, Ethiopia and Mulatu Astatke’s adopted home of America. Sharp stabs of braying horns leave space for the rhythm section who lock down the groove. They’re joined by a wah-wah guitar, before the sultry horns flow across arrangement. It’s joined by glistening, shimmering vibes, percussion and later, a fluttering flute. Meanwhile, the rhythm section have locked down the tightest of grooves, as the blazing horns are played with power and passion. They join the  vibes and wah-wah guitar in playing leading roles in the sound and success of Mulatu. Not only is it a beautiful,  melodic and memorable example of Ethio-jazz, but it’s funky and soulful.

Just a pensive bass and then percusion open Mascaram Setaba before a wah-wah guitar, vibes and keyboards combine.  By then, the arrangement is shuffling ruefully and cinematically along. Soon, a flute flutters high above the arrangement, as the bass provides the heartbeat. It joins with percussion,  vibes and tough sounding keyboards, and they play their part in rueful, cinematic track that shuffles along as  Mulatu Astatqe seamlessly combine elements of jazz, funk, fusion and Latin music. 

Vibes shimmer, while horns head in the direction of free jazz on Dewel. Meanwhile, the rhythm section play with the same power and urgency as the horns. After nearly a minute, a calm descends as the rhythm section locks into a groove with the keyboards and horns. Before long, the rhythm and horn sections play with urgency, while the vibes, keyboards and percussion explore the groove. They then take charge, after the arrangement has been stripped bare. It skips along, as cymbals play. Soon, the rhythm and horn section return, but still the vibes, keyboards and percussion continue to explore the groove, as the arrangement almost dances along and right through to the closing notes continues to captivate.

The rhythm section, wah-wah guitar and vibes are panned right and create a funky a backdrop on  Kulunmanqueleshi. It sounds as if it belongs on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Soon, they’re joined by a Freddie Hubbard inspired flute and percussion are added. Later, the arrangement takes on a tougher, edgier sound. Partly, this comes courtesy of the vibes, percussion and to some extent, the wah-wah guitar. They’re play their part in what sounds like a lost track from a classic Blaxploitation soundtrack.

Slow and spacious describes the arrangement to Kasalefkut-Hulu as the rhythm section play slowly and deliberately, as the rolling bass is joined by vibes, keyboards and slow, rasping horns. Meanwhile, the drums create mesmeric beat, while the horns play a starring role, as the tempo quickens. The horns play in unison, while the rolling bass plays around the braying, ruminative horns. They play a leading role in this beautiful, emotive track that tugs at the heartstrings, as Mulatu Astatqe and his band reach new heights.

Although it’s just the rhythm section and wah-wah guitar that open Munaye, soon, the rest of the band make their presence felt. Especially the blazing, braying horns which soar above the rest of the arrangement. Their playing is powerful and inventive, as the wah-wah guitar and rhythm section create a funky backdrop.  However, it’s the horns that are stealing the show, until all of sudden, they drop out at 2.22. This allows the rhythm section and guitar to showcase their skills. Soon, though, the horns sashay in, but occasionally leave space that the drums fill. Meanwhile the wah-wah guitar ploughs a lone furrow in the name of funk, before this genre-melting track reaches a crescendo.

Chifara which closes Mulatu Of Ethiopia, is the longest track on the album. It’s just over seven minutes long, which allows Mulatu Astatqe and his band to stretch their legs. A wah-wah guitar, keyboards and pounding drums join with the probing bass and braying horns.  The horns are played slowly, but soon, with a degree of urgency. So are the keyboards, while the rhythm section provide the pulsating heartbeat. Later, a flute flutters above the arrangement as the rest of the band jam. By then, it’s obvious that the four weeks the band spent practising before recording began was time well spent. Not only does the band play with freedom and fluidity, but their playing is inventive. Especially when searing, growling horns embark on one last solo. Again, they’re at their blistering solo plays an important part in this Ethio-jazz epic.

For Mulatu Astatke, Mulatu Of Ethiopia was a game-changer of an album. At last, after years of searching for his own sound, Mulatu Astatke had discovered his own unique sound. This Mulatu Astatke called Ethio-jazz. It was a genre that influenced a generation of  Ethiopian musicians when they heard this groundbreaking album. Forty-five years later, and Mulatu Of Ethiopia continues to influence a new generation of musicians. 

Similarly, Mulatu Of Ethiopia is an album that continues to be discovered by record buyers. Sadly, it’s long been out of print and has never been officially reissued since then. That was until Strut Records reissued Mulatu Of Ethiopia on CD,  triple vinyl and digital download. The CD version features both the stereo and mono mixes of Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which offers interesting comparisons. Obviously, the stereo mix has a much wider and detailed soundstage. Then with the vinyl version of Mulatu Of Ethiopia, there’s the stereo and mono versions, plus a selection of out-takes from the sessions. This offers a fascinating insight into the recording of the original Ethio-jazz classic.

While other artists would release  Ethio-jazz classics,  Mulatu Astatke had set the bar high for those that followed in his footsteps. Their albums were compared to Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which isn’t just as Ethio-jazz classic, but a jazz classic.  It’s also an album that will appeal to anyone likes their music funky and soulful.  However, Mulatu Of Ethiopia was a career defining album for Mulatu Astatke, the founding father of  Ethio-jazz.

Mulatu Astatke-Mulatu Of Ethiopia.

FAUST-FRESH AIR.

Faust-Fresh Air.

Forty-six years ago, Faust released their critically acclaimed, groundbreaking, genre-melting eponymous debut album in 1971. The innovative and imaginative music on Faust was unlike anything else that was being released in 1971. Musically, Faust was a breath of fresh air, which was hailed as a revolutionary album that had the potential that to transform the future of rock music. However, Faust failed to find the audience that it deserved. Just like Can, Cluster and Kraftwerk, it seemed that Faust’s music was way ahead of the curve. Despite this, Faust continued to release albums of groundbreaking music, and are still doing so five decades later. However, it’s not all been plain sailing for Faust.

Far from it. In true rock ’n’ roll style, Faust have had their moments over the past forty-six years. There’s been breakups reunions and countless changes in lineup. To further complicate matters, since 2005, there’s been two different versions of Faust tour and recording.

This came about in 2005, when two of the original members of members of Faust, drummer Werner “Zappi” Diermaier and art terrorist Jean-Hervé Péron decided to form a new Faust with Olivier Manchion and Amaury Cambuzat of Ulan Bator. Each version of Faust would concentrate on different aspects of the original group.

Since 2005, the two versions of Faust have coexisted, and continued to tour and release new albums. The most recent album baring the Faust name is Fresh Air, which was released by Hamburg based Bureau B. Fresh Air was recorded by Werner “Zappi” Diermaier and Jean-Hervé Péron version of Faust.

While Werner “Zappi” Diermaier and Jean-Hervé Péron’s version of Faust started off as a quartet in 2005, it was a very different lineup that recorded Fresh Air during March and April 2016. By then, Faust were reduced to a trio, that included Werner “Zappi” Diermaier, Jean-Hervé Péron and Maxime Manac’h. The three members of Faust embarked upon an American tour, where they sought to also record their new album.

In typical Faust style, Fresh Air wasn’t going see the three members of the band head into studios during their twenty-eight day tour of America. It began in March and finished in April 2016. During the two months spent in America, Faust were looking to communicate with some of their musical friends and also, the audience. 

As the tour began in March 2016, Faust’s musical friends and members of the audience played their part in the recording Fresh Air as the tour mades its way across America. Recordings took place at A1 Nico Studio in Austin in Texas, WPNU in New Jersey and CalArts in Los Angeles. Gradually, Faust gathered material for Fresh Air. 

They recorded Barbara Manning in a live lecture, and wave-maker Ysanne Spevack as she played the viola. One night, Faust had the audience rewrite an updated versions of Marseillaise for the track Chlorophyl. For the title-track a poem that was written by a French school friend of Jean-Hervé Péron, which was translated into Polish and recited. To this, Jean-Hervé Péron adds a political reading and sobs, as if he’s been robbed of Fresh Air. By the end of the tour in April 2016, Faust had recorded plenty of material for Fresh Air.

There was still work to do before the album was ready for release. Playing an important part in the recording of Fresh Air was Jean-Hervé Péron’s now legendary database of field recordings. They would add texture to the recordings, and add nuances, subtleties and surprises. These field recordings would become part of the rich tapestry that became Fresh Air. So would the contributions of guest artists that was overdubbed on Faust’s return home to Berlin. This included Jürgen Engler of Die Krupps who appears on La Poulie. He’s one of nine guest artists who join Faust on Fresh Air. Eventually, the album was completed, and a new chapter in Faust’s forty-six year career was about to unfold with the release of Fresh Air.

Fresh Air opens with the seventeen minute title-track. Just a drone accompanies a poem, before scratchy, otherworldly strings quiver and shiver. Gradually, the strings soften and dominate the arrangement. While the poem is still audible, strings, a drone and Eastern sounds are to the fore. They grown in power, adding an element of drama as an ethereal vocal joins the multilayered soundscape. It adds a new dimension, as the drone, otherworldly strings and found sounds unite. Soon, a bell rings as the soundscape changes. The music changes from shrill and cinematic to dark, discordant and dramatic. Sometimes, it’s eerie and otherworldly as Faust fuse elements of avant-garde, experimental,Krautrock,  modern classical and Musique Concrete. Later, the ethereal vocal returns adding a contrast, as the soundscape takes on an industrial influence. By then, there’s an urgency as machine gun drums pound and accompany the spoken word vocal during the dramatic, thunderous and mesmeric arrangement. Blistering effects laden, rocky guitars join thunderous drums as the arrangement takes on a life of its own, almost overpowering the spoken word vocal. It struggles for Fresh Air as the arrangement jangles, whines and reverberates as it powers along. Meanwhile, Jean-Hervé Péron makes an impassioned plea for Fresh Air, as this groundbreaking, genre-melting epic reaches a crescendo.

Partitur is just twenty-two seconds long, but features a recording of a Barbara Manning lecture. This is no droning lecture though. Instead, it’s more like enthusiastic audience participation, which is accompanied by drums.  All too soon, though, this fascinating Faustian musical experiment is over. 

A bass is played confidently and quickly on La Pouli, before  features just a bass before a variety of sounds are being added. Meanwhile, Zappi adds a mesmeric beat, as crackling, whining and buzzing sounds accompany Faust’s rhythm section. It never misses a beat, while futuristic and sci-fi sounds are added to the soundscape. So to is Jürgen Engler’s impassioned message, which is the final piece of the musical jigsaw. Later, Faust kick out the jams, and fuse elements of Krautrock and space rock. Effects laden scorching guitars join with the rhythm section and sci-fi sounds. Although the vocal makes a brief reappearance, mostly, though, it’s the original rock ’n’ roll reengages, rocking, and rocking hard as they play with enthusiasm and invention.

For Chlorophyl, Faust had the audience rewrite the Marseillaise. The result was a hymnal about a world collapsing in disarray. Hypnotic drums and percussion set the scene for Jean-Hervé Péron’s spoken word vocal. It gives way to Barbara Manning’s vocal as the rhythm section lay down a tight, mesmeric groove and jarring, screeching and whining sounds flit in and out. So does the spoken word vocal. Meanwhile  the vocal and sultry jazz saxophone compliment each other perfectly. Especially as the drama builds, and the vocal is accompanied by sci-fi sounds. Still the saxophone rasps as the rhythm section provides a mesmeric backdrop and accompanies Jean-Hervé Péron’s impassioned spoken word vocal. Later, a myriad of beeps, bleeps and squeaks as Ulrich Krieger’s saxophone unleashes a blistering solo, as this ambitious and thought-provoking mixture of music, dialogue and social comment reaches a ruminative ending.

Closing Fresh Air is Fish, where Faust remember their turbulent teenage years. It’s another cinematic soundscape, where Faust’s rhythm section combine with growling drones and otherworldly strings. They provide the backdrop for Jean-Hervé Péron’s impassioned spoken word vocal. Later, a rueful horn plays, and heads in the direction of jazz while strings are plucked, a drones buzzes and the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. By now, Faust and friends are tugging at the heartstrings with a soundscape that’s wistful, thought-provoking and powerful. It lasts eleven minutes, which allows Faust to sculpt an emotive and innovative soundscape where Faust put forty-six years of experience to good use. They seemed to have kept the best until last on their new album Fresh Air.

A new Faust album has always been something to celebrate. Fresh Air is no different, and features sonic explorers Faust continuing to combine disparate musical genres ad the push musical boundaries to the limits. To do this, Faust enlist a few friends who help them fuse disparate musical genres. Everything from avant-garde, electronica, and experimental, to industrial, Krautrock and modern classical through to Musique Concrete, rock and space rock. The result is Fresh Air another album of groundbreaking soundscapes from Faust which is without doubt, one of their finest albums of recent years. 

For newcomers to Faust, the Fresh Air, which was recently released by Bureau B, is the perfect introduction to of one of the greatest bands of the Krautrock era. After Fresh Air, newcomers are advised to start at the beginning with, their 1971 groundbreaking classic debut album Faust. It marked the debut of a pioneering group who incredibly, were once accused of being mere dilettantes. How wrong were these misguided souls.

The truth was, that Faust were misunderstood, especially in their home country. However, in Britain and France, record buyers embraced, appreciated and understood Faust’s music. Eventually, so did German record buyers. Now forty-six years later, after Faust released their classic eponymous debut album, they’re regarded as one of Kings of Krautrock, who belong at the top table of German music, where they deserve to rub shoulders with Can, Cluster, Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream. A reminder of what that is the case is Fresh Air, which features the welcome return of sonic pioneers, Faust

Faust-Fresh Air.

THE RISE AND FALL OF A MUSICAL EMPIRE.

The Rise and Fall Of A Musical Empire.

Musical history is littered with examples of entrepreneurs who thought they could make money out of running a record company. The only problem was, they lacked the specialised skills that were required. There was a way round this, by surrounding themselves with music industry professionals. Then they were in with a fighting change of running a profitable record company. However, some entrepreneurs have an ulterior motive when they a founded record company. This included Michael Thevis.

The story began in the early seventies, when Michael Thevis was looking for a legitimate way to get his substantial fortune into the financial system. By then, Michael Thevis was  heavily involved in pornography. So much so, that he would later admit to a Louisville jury that he was: “the General Motors of pornography.” That was still to come.

In the  early seventies, Michael Thevis had a problem. He discovered that he was under investigation from the FBI. Not wanting to follow in the footsteps of Al Capone and Dutch Schultz, who were brought down by federal investigations, Michael Thevis began looking for legitimate enterprises.

Casting around looking for a legitimate business, Michael Thevis hit upon the idea of forming not one, but three record labels. This included GRC (General Recording Corporation), Aware and Hotlanta Records. These labels would become part of Michael Thevis’ nascent musical empire. 

Soon, there was a new addition to Michael Thevis’ musical empire, the Sound Pit Studio in Atlanta. It boasted some of the best equipment money could buy. Building the studio made financial sense. It saved hiring other studios, and meant artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records could record at the impressive Sound Pit Studio. When the studio wasn’t in use by Michael Thevis’ artists, it could be hired out, and bring in much needed income. However, as all this empire building continued, tongues began wagging, including Michael Thevis.

Veterans of the Atlanta music scene watched, as the state-of-the-art studio took shape. This was the most advanced studio in Atlanta. It was a similar case with the rest of Michael Thevis’ musical empire.

No expense was spared as Michael Thevis expanded his musical emprire. He added to his record labels and Act One publishing company, the Jason Management booking agency and a film company. They became part of Michael Thevis’ musical empire. He was proud of his empire, and wasn’t shy about telling people about it.

Rather than keep a low profile, Michael Thevis ran his musical empire from a lavish suite of offices in Atlanta. They were featured in Billboard in May 1974, when the magazine ran a feature on the Atlanta music industry. A bullish Michael Thevis told Billboard of his latest takeover, and his expansion plans.

Michael Thevis’ most recently acquisition was the Moonsong publishing company, which he had purchased from Bill Brandon. This became part of the GRC’s publishing division, alongside Act One, Michael Thevis’ own publishing company. To run the newly expanded publishing division, Bill Brandon joined GRC, and became the publishing manager of GRC’s R&B division. However, the acquisition of Moonsong was just part of Michael Thevis’ grand plan.

Michael Thevis told Billboard of his plans to build a brand new twenty-eight story skyscraper in Atlanta. This would be where he ran his musical empire. It would have outposts in Nashville, Houston, Los Angles, New York and London. What made Michael Thevis’ seem all the more convincing, was when he booked eight pages of advertising in Billboard’s Atlanta special.

To most people, Michael Thevis came across as a legitimate businessman, who had big plans for the future, and for Atlanta. By then, everyone seemed to buy into Michael Thevis’ grand plan. He was the local boy who had made good. It was a case of hail the conquering hero.

Incredibly, though, nobody seemed to be paying close attention to the numbers. None of Michael Thevis’ record companies were particularly successful. They were neither consistently releasing hit singles, nor successful albums. So where was all the income coming from? Was it the publishing company, recording studio, booking company or film company? Nobody it seemed, was in a hurry to find out. Given Michael Thevis past and his reputation for violence, maybe that wasn’t surprising?

Originally, Michael Thevis’ film company financed legitimate films. This included the Zhui Ming Qiang in 1973, and  Seizure,  one of Oliver Stone’s earliest films. It was released in 1974. A year later, Michael Thevis had gone up in the world, and released Poor Pretty Eddy 1975. Every film was bringing greater riches Michael Thevis’ way. However, although Michael Thevis was trying to build a legitimate business empire, he had reverted to type. 

The film company he had acquired began producing pornographic films. If any journalist had even looked into activities of Michael Thevis’ empire, it could’ve come tumbling down. This looked unlikely in early 1975.

Country singer Sammy Johns had been signed to GRC for a couple of years. In  early 1973, Sammy Johns released Chevvy Van as a single. It was reported to have sold over three million copies. Given that a GRC artist had just enjoyed such a successful single, surely the label’s finances would be on a sound footing as 1975 progressed?

While most people  would’ve thought so, the truth was that many of GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records’ releases weren’t particularly successful, and hadn’t sold in vast quantities. That was despite the labels having impressive roster an impressive roster of artists. This included Dorothy Norwood, John Edwards, Judy Green, Joe Hinton, Jimmy Lewis, Jean Battle, Bill Brandon, Floyd Smith, Sam Dees and Loleatta Holloway. The roster was like a who’s who of Southern Soul, and GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records should’ve been among the most successful  labels in the South. Instead, the losses were mounting up. Michael Thevis’ record companies weren’t particularly successful. However, they had their uses though.

Running a regional record companies offered Michael Thevis an opportunity and facility to launder dirty money. He could’ve used dirty money to buy his own companies’ releases. These phantom record sales would only exist on paper, and would have the effect of laundering the dirty money through the company’s accounts. Once the money was in the record company’s accounts, tax could be paid on the profit that had been made. This would further legitimise any dirty money the company was making. Especially, as the FBI were still watching Michael Thevis.

GRC and the rest of Michael Thevis’ musical empire all came crashing down in late 1975. Michael Thevis’ attempt to build a legitimate business empire had failed. Soon, it emerged that Michael Thevis’ musical empire was always doomed to failure. It had been for three years, ever since the FBI starting investigating his business activities.

That was when Roger Dean Underhill was involved in a routine traffic stop. An eagle-eyed traffic officer noticed a small cache of stolen guns under the passenger seat. This resulted in Roger Dean Underhill being arrested. Rather than face the consequences, Roger Dean Underhill decided to inform upon his business partner, Michael Thevis. 

This lead to the start of a three year investigation that resulted, in the arrest and subsequent conviction of Michael Thevis. For all the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records, this was the beginning of the end.

All the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records were left high and dry. It was disaster for all the artists affected by the collapse. They were left without a label and some of the artists were also owed royalties, which in some cases, was a significant sum of money. For the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records they had no idea what the future held for them. 

It was a similar case for Michael Thevis’ whose grand plans were left in tatters. It looked like the beginning of the end for GRC, the company he had spent three years building.

It wasn’t the end of GRC. Michael Thevis’ wife Veld and son Michael Jr, took over the running of GRC. For a while, it was business as usual for GRC. However, for Michael Thevis things were about to get much worse.

He was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson, and distribution of obscene materials. The man who sparked the three year investigation into Michael Thevis, even testified in court. Roger Dean Underhill  took to the stand, and the FBI’s informant testified against his former business partner. He thought this was the right thing to do.

I was a decision Roger Dean Underhill would later live to regret. In 1978, Michael Thevis managed to escape from prison. Straight away, he was placed on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list. By then, Michael Thevis and some of his ‘associates’ had placed an open contract on Roger Dean Underhill.

When the hit came, the shooter was none other than Michael Thevis. He shot and killed Roger Dean Underhill and one of his associates. Not long after the murders, Michael Thevis was arrested and taken to a high security facility. The Scarface of Porn was the convicted of the two murders. Over thirty years later, and Michael Thevis is still serving his sentence, and parole looks unlikely for the man who founded the GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records.

The Rise and Fall Of A Musical Empire.

BOBBY HATFIELD-THE OTHER BROTHER: A SOLO ANTHOLOGY 1965-1970.

Bobby Hatfield-The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970,

When twenty-two year old Bobby Hatfileld met Bill Medley in 1962, and formed The Righteous Brothers little did the pair realise that this was the start of a journey that would see the pair become one of the most successful musical partnerships of the sixties. The most successful period of The Righteous Brothers’ career was between 1963 and 1965, when they formed a formidable partnership with producer Phil Spector. 

During that period, The Righteous Brothers released eight albums and a string of hit singles on Phil Spector’s Philles Records. This included classic singles like You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling in November 1964; and Unchained Melody in July 1965. Three months later, in October 1965, The Righteous Brothers parted company with Phil Spector and signed to Verve/MGM Records.

The split with Phil Spector was acrimonious, with Phil Spector suing The Righteous Brothers. Eventually, the case was settled out of court, with The Righteous Brothers paying Phil Spector $600,000. This allowed The Righteous Brothers to embark upon a new chapter of their career at Verve/MGM Records.

While this might have seemed like a brave new world for The Righteous Brothers, there was a downside to the move to Verve/MGM Records. No longer would The Righteous Brothers be working with Phil Spector. At first, it looked as if The Righteous Brothers could manage without Phil Spector, when (You’re My) Soul and Inspiration was released in February 1966, and reached number one in the US Billboard 100. This gave The Righteous Brothers’ the first gold disc of their career. When the album Soul and Inspiration was released later in 1966, it reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. However, that as good as it got for The Righteous Brothers.

They never reached the same heights during the rest of their stay at Verve/MGM Records. By 1968, The Righteous Brothers’ best days were behind them, and singles, like their twee cover of My Darling Clementine in 1967 and Here I Am in 1968 failed to chart. Meanwhile, the three albums The Righteous Brothers’ albums released between 1967 and 1968 all struggled in the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200. Music had changed, but The Righteous Brothers hadn’t. Maybe Bill Medley realised that, when he announced he was leaving The Righteous Brothers to resume his solo career in 1968 at MGM Records. It was the end of an era for The Righteous Brothers.

After Bill Medley signed to MGM Records, Bobby Hatfileld signed to Verve Records in 1968. With both Righteous Brothers resuming their solo careers, industry insiders wondered who the winner would be? It was going to be a close run race, that lasted five years.

Bobby Hatfield’s solo career has been documented on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970, which was recently released by Ace Records. The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970 features twenty-four songs. This includes Bobby Hatfileld’s first two singles, the entire Messin’ In Muscle Shoal album and seven previously unreleased tracks. As an added bonus, there’s also three song from The Righteous Brothers, including: Unchained Melody, Ebb Flow and (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons. It’s safe to say that The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970 is the most comprehensive overview of Bobby Hatfield’s solo career. It begins in 1965.

By the time Bobby Hatfileld’s solo career resumed, Verve Records had bought The Righteous Brothers and Bobby Hatfield’s recordings from Phil Spector’s Philles Records. This meant that the only company releasing Bobby Hatfield recordings would be Verve Records. This would included some of those recorded in Los Angeles, during his first recording session for Verve Records.

On the ‘15th’ March 1968, Bobby Hatfileld entered the studio to record his first solo recording for Verve Records. Five songs were recorded, including what became Bobby Hatfield’s debut single for Verve Records. This was a cover of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s beautiful ballad Hang Ups. Among the other songs recorded were Bobby Hatfield’s rueful cover of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s See That Girl, and a soul-baring cover of Goffin and King’s So Much Love. Previously unreleased versions of both tracks feature on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. It seemed released from the shackles of The Righteous Brothers, Bobby Hatfield was embracing this new start.

Three weeks later, in early April 1968, Bobby Hatfield returned  to the studio and recorded two more songs. This included the Bobby Hatfield composition Soul Cafe, which would feature on the B-Side of Hang Ups when it was released as a single.

In May 1968, Hangs Up was released in May 1968, but failed to make any impression on the charts. This was disappointing for Bobby Hatfield and executives at Verve Records. However, two months later, and Bobby Hatfield  was back in the studio.

When Bobby Hatfield entered the studio on ‘17th’ July 1968, it proved a productive session. He managed to record three songs, but none of these songs were ever released. This includes a cover of Harry Nilsson’s Paradise. Strings, horns and harmonies   accompanying Bobby Hatfield’s impassioned vocal on this beautiful ballad. Sadly, the song was never released, and makes its debut on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970.

Just a month after recording Paradise, Bobby Hatfield returned to the studio on ’21st’ August 1968 and cut three songs. This included In My Mind, which makes its debut on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. Another of the songs Bobby Hatfield recorded was Brothers which another of his own compositions. It was a poignant song that dealt with his time as one half of The Righteous Brothers. Brothers would become Bobby Hatfield second single for Verve Records, and featured a cover of What’s The Matter Baby on the B-Side.

When Brothers was released in October 1968, it also failed to find an audience. The song never even made it into the lower reaches of the charts. Bobby Hatfield’s solo career wasn’t going to plan.

Despite this, Verve Records weren’t about to turn their back on Bobby Hatfield. They scheduled another recording session for ’23rd’ December 1968. That day, Bobby Hatfield recorded four songs, including The Wonder Of You and I’ve Got My Eyes On You. The other two songs, My Prayer and Only You two, had previously given The Platters’ hit singles. This quartet of songs were intended to feature on Bobby Hatfield’s debut solo album. However, one of these songs became Bobby Hatfield’s next single.

The song chosen was Only You, which was released in February 1969, but stalled at a lowly ninety-five on the US Billboard 100. Only You doesn’t feature on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. Neither do the next two singles Bobby Hatfield released in his search for a hit single. 

Bobby Hatfield returned to the studio in early 1969, including U Wish I Didn’t Love You So Much. It featured on the B-Side of Bobby Hatfield’s next single My Prayer, which was released in April 1969. Just like Only You, My Prayer failed to chart, and the search for a single continued. 

In July 1969, Bobby Hatfield released his fifth single for Verve Records. This was Answer Me My Love, which featured I Only Have Eyes For You on the B-Side. It was a familiar story for Bobby Hatfield when Answer Me My Love never came close to troubling the charts. Little did Bobby Hatfield know that it was the final single he would release for Verve Records.

Later in 1969, Bobby Hatfield’s career took an unexpected twist. Having dissolved his partnership with Bill Medley, Bobby Hatfield recruited Jimmy Walker of The Knickerbockers’ as his replacement. The  new lineup of The Righteous Brothers released a new album, Re-Birth which failed to even trouble the charts. It was a similar case when The Righteous Brothers released Woman, Man Needs Ya as a single. For Bobby Hatfield, this was a huge blow and he resumed his solo career.

When Bobby Hatfield resumed his solo career, Bobby Hatfield had been moved from Verve Records to MGM Records. This was as a result of MGM Records’ decision to reduce its roster, and move all pop and R&B artists to the main label, MGM Records. With the label reducing its roster, it was a worrying time for Bobby Hatfield, who after two years of trying, was still looking for his first hit single. 

Despite this, Verve Records were still planning to release Bobby Hatfield’s debut album. A decision was made to send Bobby Hatfield to Rick Hall’s Fame Studios, in Muscle Shoals to record his debut album. It was hoped that Rick Hall could transform Bobby Hatfield’s fortunes. He had a good track record, and had worked with some of the biggest names in music. Now he was tasked with transforming the fortunes of Bobby Hatfield.

Having made the journey to Fame Studios, Bobby Hatfield began working with Rick Hall and his legendary studio band. However, it was chief engineers Mickey Buckins and Sonny Limbo who produced the sessions, with Rick Hall overseeing the recording. The sessions went smoothly, and before long, Bobby Hatfield had recorded more than enough tracks for an album. 

Back at Verve Records, work began on choosing the songs for  Bobby Hatfield’s debut album. Eventually, they settled on ten tracks which  included You Left The Water Running, Let It Be, If I Asked You, The Promised Land, Shuckin’ And Jivin’, I Saw A Lark, You Get A Lot To Like, Show Me The Sunshine, The Feeling Is Right and Messin’ In Muscle Shoals. These ten tracks would become Bobby Hatfield’s debut album Messin’ In Muscle Shoals.

With the Messin’ In Muscle Shoals ready for release later in 1970, a single was chosen from the album. It was decided to release The Promised Land, with Woman Go No Soul on the B-Side. However, at the last minute, the single was cancelled, and since then, Woman Go No Soul has lain unreleased. It makes an overdue debut on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. The cancellation of The Promised Land was a huge disappointment. Despite this Messin’ In Muscle Shoals was released, but just like Bobby Hatfield’s five singles, failed to find an audience. For Bobby Hatfield it was the end of the line.

After the commercial failure of Messin’ In Muscle Shoals, Bobby Hatfield left MGM Records. It’s unclear if he was dropped, or left of his volition. It was the end of an era, which found Bobby Hatfield’s career at a crossroads.

Four years later, in 1974, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield decided to resume their career as The Righteous Brothers. While Bill Medley hadn’t enjoyed a huge amount of commercial success, he had enjoyed more success than Bobby Hatfield. That would be the case when they later resumed their solo careers. As a result, the blue-eyed soul of Bobby Hatfield music is often overlooked. 

Hopefully, that will no be the case. Ace Records recently released The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970, which is, without doubt, the most comprehensive overview of Bobby Hatfileld’s solo career. It features twenty-four songs that Bobby Hatfield recorded for Verve Records and ultimately MGM Records. This includes Bobby Hatfileld’s first two singles and the entire Messin’ In Muscle Shoal album. There’s also seven previously unreleased tracks, including several hidden gems. They’re a reminder of Bobby Hatfileld’s blue-eyed soul. As an added bonus, there’s a trio of tracks from The Righteous Brothers, including their classic Unchained Melody, Ebb Flow and (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons. They were recorded while The Righteous Brothers were signed to Phil Spector’s Philles Records, which was the most successful period of their career. 

Sadly, Bobby Hatfileld was unable to replicate the commercial success that he enjoyed with The Righteous Brothers between 1963 and 1965. Looking back, it was a case of what might have been? Maybe if Bobby Hatfileld had been signed to another label, he would’ve enjoyed the commercial success his talent deserved? 

Certainly, another label would’ve chosen different material for his third, fourth and fifth single. The songs chosen were oft-covered and familiar songs, Only You, My Prayer and Answer Me My Love and don’t feature on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. Choosing these three familiar songs as singles was maybe Verve Records an attempt to tap into the market for nostalgia? This didn’t pay-off, as music was changing, and changing fast. Bobby Hatfield needed to change direction. This didn’t happen until he made the journey to Fame Studios, in Muscle Shoals to record his debut album Messin’ In Muscle Shoals. 

Sadly, it was another case of what might have been. By the time Messin’ In Muscle Shoals was released in 1970, MGM Records was reducing its roster. The MGM Records PR machined didn’t seem to get behind Messin’ In Muscle Shoals, and the album failed to find an audience. That marked the end of Bobby Hatfield’s time at Verve Records and MGM Records.

The Verve Records and MGM Records’ years are celebrated on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970, which is the perfect introduction to the blue-eyed soul of Bobby Hatfield’s solo career.

Bobby Hatfield-The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970,

RUPTURE-ISRAEL SUITE/DOMINANTE EN BLEU.

Rupture-Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu.

Over the last fifty years, bands and artists have penned ambitious concept albums about all manner of subjects. No subject matter it seems is off-limits when it comes to the concept album. There’s been concept albums about bureaucracy and censorship, death and dreams, evolution and revolution, heaven and hell, hurt and heartbreak, love and loss, power and politics and even wizards and warlocks. However, one of the most ambitious and powerful concept albums ever written and recorded was Rupture’s 1973 album Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. 

It was a very different to most concept albums, and set out to document the history of the Israel. Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu was released as a private press, in 1973. Very few copies of the album were released, which nowadays, is a spiritual jazz classic. However, it’s one of the rarest European jazz records of the past fifty years. Copies hardly ever come up for sale, and when they do, they’re beyond the budget of most record buyers. Fortunately, Sommor Records, an imprint of Guerssen Records, will reissue Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu on CD and LP on  the ‘2nd’ of June 2017. This is the perfect opportunity to discover one of rarest concept albums ever recorded.  The story behind Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu began in 1973.

That was when the French songwriter Boris Bergman decided to write and record a concept album that documented the history of Israel. This was very different to previous projects that Boris Bergman had been involved with.

By 1973, Boris Bergman was an experienced and well known songwriter. He was also a prolific songwriter, who from 1967 onwards, had been writing songs for some of the biggest names in French music. However, as the seventies dawned, Boris Bergman  was penning songs for Aphrodite’s Child, Nana Mouskouri, Sophia Loren, Demis Roussos, the New Seekers, Charles Aznavour, Nicoletta and Patrick Juvet. Already, Boris Bergman had written well over 200 songs. They had been recorded by an eclectic selection of artists. However, these songs were very different to the concept album twenty-eight year old Boris Bergman was about to write and record. 

Having made the decision to write and record a concept album based around the history of Israel, Boris Bergman decided to approach one of France’s top musicians, drummer, percussionist  and singer Sylvain Krief.

Just like Boris Bergman, Sylvain Krief already had a wealth of musical experience. He had played alongside many artists, including Michel Fugain, Charles Aznavour, Clark Terry and Bud Powell. Now Sylvain Krief was about to join Boris Bergman in his new project.

Having secured the services of Sylvain Krief, who would play drums, percussion and add vocals, soon, many other top musicians were joining the band that eventually, became Rapture. This included J.-F. Jenny-Clark who played contrabass, and previously, had worked with Don Cherry, Steve Lacy and Karlheinz Stockhausen. The next recruit was Total Issue guitarist Georges Locatelli, who played acoustic, electric and 12-string guitar. Multi-instrumentalist and future soundtrack composer Jean-Pierre Mas joined Rupture, and played electric piano, guitar, organ, percussion, piano and added vocals. Jean-Louis Chautemps was drafted in to play soprano saxophone on Israel Suite and flute on Entre Ses Cils. He became part of what was essentially a European jazz supergroup. They were joined by Le Big Bazar choir, and vocalists Michel Fugain and Nicole Croisille. They would spend the next three months recording Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu at Studio Davout, in Paris.

That was where Rupture recorded the six compositions that became Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. They were arranged by Sylvain Krief and Jean-Pierre Mas. This included Mes Histoires Bleues, Voyage Sous La Mer and Autrefois which were written by Jean-Pierre Kernoa and Jean-Pierre Mas. Jean-Pierre Kernoa wrote Alice Aux Miroirs and Entre Ses Cils with Sylvain Krief. He composed the music to Israel Suite while Boris Bergman wrote the lyrics. Israel Suite would feature on side one of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu when the album was released in 1973.

Once Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu was completed, it was decided to release the album as a private pressing. This Rupture were able to do with the help of the Futura label. Only a small number of albums were pressed, and when Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu was released, this genre-melting album has only heard by a small number of people. That was great shame, given then quality of music on Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu.

Israel Suite opens Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu and took up the entire first side of the original album. There’s an element of drama, as sounds emerge from the distance. Gradually, the grow in power, as the rhythm section combine with a wah-wah guitar. Suddenly, drum pounds and dialogue enters ominously. It’s akin to a newsflash, which adds to the drama. Meanwhile, the vortex  of sound is omnipresent until a piano enters. It’s played quickly and accompanies the dialogue. The tempo slows and quickens, highlighting and nuancing the dialogue subtly. By then, Rupture hove switched between and combined jazz, funk, rock and avant-garde. Soon, though, it’s all change.

When the choir enter, they combine pop and soul, as the all-star jazz group provide a flowing accompaniment. That’s until they reprise an earlier part of the suite, before heading in a direction marked jazz. The piano plays a leading role, while the contrabass joins with the drums in powering the hopeful and uplifting arrangement along. It breezes along, picking up speed before dialogue interjects, and an impassioned, wailing soprano saxophone plays a leading role as the track heads in the direction of fusion. Seamlessly, Rupture cope with the changes, before dialogue interjects adding another newsflash.

After the dialogue drops out,  much more understated and subdued jazz track emerges, while the soprano saxophone heads towards free jazz. It’s as if it’s reacting to the news and is pained and troubled by it. Later, the choir return and sing tenderly, before a gospel influence emerges. So does an impassioned solo, as the piano and rhythm section combine and drive the arrangement along. When the vocal drops out, Rupture enjoy another chance to showcase their skills and versatility as the tempo rises. The when it drops all that remains is a poignant piano, which accompanies dialogue. Soon, the track rebuilds with soulful vocals joining the dreamy arrangement as this eighteen minute Magnus Opus heads towards its conclusion.

Mes Histoires Bleues  bursts joyously into life, with the rhythm section, guitar and piano powering the jazzy arrangement along. They accompany Jean-Pierre Mas’  heartfelt and emotive vocal, while he adds a breathtaking, fleet fingered piano solo. It plays a starring role. Meanwhile, the rhythm section anchor the arrangement, and with the piano, add pregnant pauses, which add an element of drama. Soon, Rupture rebuild, and continue to combine jazz with elements of funk and fusion over two memorable and melodic minutes.

The tempo drops on Voyage Sous La Mer  which has a slow, spacious arrangement. Less is more, with just the contrabass and guitar accompanying an ethereal,  cooing backing vocal. This signals the arrival of, Jean-Pierre Mas’ tender, but wistful vocal. By then, an electric piano has been added, and is soon, joined by and replaced by a piano. It’s played quickly and confidently, and replaces the vocal. Still, though, the rest of Rupture play slowly adding a dreamy, ruminative backdrop. When the rueful vocal returns, the piano fills in the gaps it leaves, and in the process,proves the perfect foil and accompaniment during this beautiful, melancholy ballad.

As Alice Aux Miroirs unfolds, a bass plays and is joined by keyboards which are panned quickly and ghostly harmonies. They’re replaced by Sylvain Krief’s impassioned vocal. Meanwhile, the rhythm section and electric piano combine with harmonies as the arrangement builds. Soon, it changes and heads in the direction of fusion and rock. This allows Rupture to stretch their legs, and jam. Guitarist Georges Locatelli and keyboardist Jean-Pierre Mas play starring roles, with drummer also enjoying his moment in the sun as Rupture showcase their skills and versatility.

A shimmering electric piano opens Autrefois. It’s played slowly, before the baton passes to the drums. They’re joined by Jean-Pierre Mas’ vocal, as he reminisces about “the old days,” while the Choir add soulful harmonies. They prove to be the perfect  accompaniment to the vocal, as the vocal and harmonies take centre-stage. Later, when they drop out, Rupture jam, with the electric piano, bass and guitar enjoying their moment in the sun. Then when Jean-Pierre Mas and the Choir return, the rest of Rupture play a supporting role. That’s apart from the electric piano and bass which augment the impassioned vocal and soulful harmonies. They play their part in the sound and success of this beautiful, soulful ballad about “the old days.”

Closing Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu is Entre Ses Cils, which is another ballad. Just a piano plays as the rhythm section enter and a flute flutters above the arrangement. They accompany Sylvain Krief’s slow, emotive vocal. Meanwhile, the piano is at the front of the mix, while the bass meanders and the subtle flute adds a wistful sound. Later, as the tempo rises, the vocal drops out and the drums play a more important role. Still, though, the piano plays a leading role, while the flute augments it. That’s the case when Sylvain’s impassioned vocal returns, before the song reaches a dramatic and poignant crescendo, and in the process, closes one of the rarest concept albums ever recorded.

Very few copies of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu were pressed when the album was released. As a result, for many years, Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu remained one of music’s best kept secrets. Only a few connoisseurs of European jazz were aware of this genre-melting album’s existence.

Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu which featured Rupture switching between and fusing jazz, funk, fusion, free jazz, pop, psychedelia and rock. There’s even elements of avant-garde, gospel, progressive and soul on Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. It features Rupture, who were essentially a French jazz supergroup. They put their considerable talents to good use on Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu, which for far too long, was one of was one of music’s best kept secrets. Many jazz aficionados were even aware of the album’s existence. However, eventually, record buyers became aware of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu.

Just like many rare albums, it was like a gold rush as record buyers went in search of a copy of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. Despite searching record shops, dusty warehouses, second hand shops and thrift stores, very few crate diggers discovered that elusive copy of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. Those that had a copy weren’t for selling their copy. That was no surprise, given the quality of this

With each passing year, more record buyers discovered the delights of Rupture’s one and only album, Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. By then, the album was the Holy Grail for many record collectors. They couldn’t pass a record store or junk shop without searching the racks of records. It was all in vain, and for the majority of people searching for a copy of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu it looked like they would never find their own personal Holy Grail. That will change on  the ‘2nd’ of June 2017, when Sommor Records will reissue Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu on CD and LP. Now a copy of Rupture’s 1973 cult classic Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleuis within the budget of all record buyers.

The reissue of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu couldn’t have come at a better time. Two years have passed since the last recorded sale of Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. By then, the album had shot up in price, and was beyond the budget of most record buyers. This meant that record collectors were unable to hear Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu. That was a great shame. After all, Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu which finds Rupture documenting the history of Israel, is one of the most ambitious and powerful concept albums ever written and recorded. One listen to Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu and that will become apparent.

Rupture-Israel Suite/Dominante En Bleu.

AIRTO FOGO-AIRTO FOGO.

Airto Fogo-Airto Fogo.

During the seventies, Paris born drummer and percussionist Sylvain Krief was one of France’s top musicians. He was also a talented composer, arranger and producer who founded and lead two bands. The first of these bands was Rupture, who released the spiritual jazz classic Israel Suite/Dominante En Blue in 1973. 

Three years later in 1976, Sylvain Krief had founded a new band Airto Fogo, who had recorded a new album at Studio Davout in Paris. Little did they know that when Airto Fogo was released by Decca in 1976, it would go onto to become a cult classic. 

Nowadays, Airto Fogo is regarded as one of the greatest instrumental jazz-funk and rare groove albums committed to vinyl in Europe. However, while Airto Fogo was popular within the jazz-funk and rare groove community, the album didn’t sell in huge quantities. As a result, copies of the original album are extremely hard to find, and nowadays, change hands for upwards of £250. That is way beyond the budget of most collectors of jazz-funk and rare groove. Fortunately, Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records, will  reissue Airto Fogo on  the ‘2nd’ of June 2017, and the holy grail of European instrumental jazz-funk will be within the budget of most record collectors. This timeless cult classic transports the listener back to Paris, in 1976.

Three years after the release of Rupture’s critically acclaimed debut album Israel Suite/Dominante En Blue in 1973, drummer and percussionist Sylvain Krief was working on a new project, Airto Fogo. It would be an album of jazz-funk, which would feature some of Paris’ top musicians. Already, Sylvain Krief who had adopted the moniker Airto Fogo, had penned five tracks, Right On Bird, Tuesday In Jackson, Satine Dog, 1973 Carmne Avenue and Just Over. Three other tracks would feature on the album, including Lee Smocky’s High Stakers and On Tip Toe. They were joined by Shadowy and So Be It, which were penned by Gil Pawnee which it has been rumoured is an alias for bassist Gilles Papiri. These nine tracks would be recorded at Studio Davout, in Paris in 1976.

For the recording sessions, Airto Fogo had hand picked a band that featured some of Paris’ top musicians. Joining drummer and percussionist Arto Fago in the rhythm section was bassist Gilles Papiri. They were joined by Michel Coeuriot who switched between piano, keyboards and synths, while Jean Schultheis played percussion. The horn section featured saxophonist Jean-Pierre Thirault, trumpeter Kako Bessot and trombonist Christian Guizien. Lead by drummer, Airto Fogo the multitalented group combined jazz-funk with elements of Blaxploitation and Latin. Airto Fogo was a potent and heady brew, that should’ve proven successful.

When Airto Fogo was released later in 1976, it was to the same critical acclaim that accompanied Rapture’s Israel Suite/Dominante En Blue. However, while Airto Fogo found an audience amongst the jazz-funk and rare groove communities in France, Britain and Canada, the album didn’t sell in huge quantities. It was an underground album, at a time when disco was growing in popularity. As a result, many jazz, funk and soul albums weren’t finding the audience they so richly deserved. That was the case with Airto Fogo.

It was only much later that Airto Fogo started to find a wider audience. Partly, this was due to DJs at jazz-funk and rare groove club nights spinning tracks from Airto Fogo. Suddenly, dancers wanted to know what was the track they were dancing to. Many DJs were reluctant to reveal what was one of their secret weapons, reluctantly revealed that it was Airto Fogo. Soon, dancers and DJs were searching for their own copy of Airto Fogo. Meanwhile, the internet introduced record buyers across the world to Airto Fogo. However, finding a copy was almost impossible. Those who had a copy of the album weren’t selling, and collectors had bought up remaining copies. Suddenly, original French copies of Airto Fogo were changing hands for upwards of £250. Records collectors were desperate to add a copy of Airto Fogo to their collection. No wonder, as it’s one of the greatest European instrumental jazz-funk and rare groove albums. Here’s why:

Right On Bird opens Airto Fogo, and finds Airto Fogo toying with the listener. Tough keyboards join with a funky bass before a blazing saxophone soars above the arrangement. Soon, so do the rest of the horns, while thunderous drums power the arrangement along. Still, the keyboards and bass add a tough, funky sound. It’s omnipresent as the blazing horns dominate the arrangement. Then the saxophone breaks free, it unleashes a scorching solo. When it drops out, the drums nudge the arrangement along before the horns return. That’s until the saxophone breaks free one last time, and reaches new heights, as Airto Fogo powers his way around his drum kit accompanied by the tough, funky sound that comes courtesy of the bass and keyboards. All too soon, this blistering, blazing slice of jazz-funk is over, but it’s set the bar high for the rest of the album.

A dark pulsating keyboard opens High Stakers before the rhythm section, machine gun guitar and blazing horns are joined by stabs of shimmering Fender Rhodes. Soon, Airto Fogo is in full flight, and are unleashing their musical arsenal. This includes synths, choppy, funky guitar licks and glistening Fender Rhodes. Later, a growling synth takes centre-stage, adding a proto-boogie sound, while horns soar above the arrangement as the rhythm section power the cinematic track along. It sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to a seventies cop show. Meanwhile, horns and synths continue to play a leading role as Airto Fogo fuse jazz-funk, funk, fusion and proto-boogie before this uber funky and memorable cinematic opus reaches a crescendo.

Straight away, the rhythm section lock into a groove and provide the heartbeat to Tuesday In Jackson. They’re joined by growling, blazing horns,  while a guitar wah-wahs and keyboards add a tough sound to the arrangement. By then, the rhythm section and horns are playing as one. They’re augmented by the guitar and  keyboards who play important roles. Then midway through the track when a funky synth takes centre-stage, and is augmented by percussion. As the arrangement rebuilds,  the synth still enjoys its moment in the sun. When it drops out, blazing horns,  funky guitar and keyboards unite and Airto Fogo are in full flight. That’s still the case when the synth returns, and adds the finishing touch to  this uber funky track.

Gradually, the arrangement to Satine Dog builds, with instruments being added at just the right time. At first, a lone bass plays and is joined by stabs of growling horns, a Fender Rhodes, drums and a funky, chiming guitar. The final part of the musical jigsaw is the synth which again, takes centre-stage. It’s played slowly but effectively adding a cinematic sound as Airto Fogo jam. When the synth drops out, stabs of synths add an element of drama before the Fender Rhodes makes a brief appearance. Dramatic horns signal the return of the synth, which at one point, is joined by the Fender Rhodes, before this jam reaches a memorable and cinematic crescendo. 

A dark piano is joined by Latin percussion On Tip Toe. Soon, the rhythm section and searing guitar are joined by the horns. They play as one, while the rhythm section drive the arrangement along, and are joined by keyboards and a rocky guitar. When Airto Fogo apply the brakes, all that remains is percussion. That’s until Airto Fogo kick loose and a searing guitar, rhythm section and horns power this soulful slice of Latin-tinged jazz-funk towards the finishing line. In doing so, they create one of the highlights of Airto Fogo.

Stabs of horns, the rhythm section and a funky guitar open 1973 Carmen Avenue. They’re determined to grab the listener’s attention. Having done so, keyboards join with a jazz-tinged guitar and the Fender Rhodes. It’s the guitar that takes centre-stage, and unleashes a fleet finger solo. Fingers fly up and down the fretboard, while keyboards, horns and the Fender Rhodes join with the rhythm section which provides the heartbeat. However, it’s the guitar that steals the show, with what’s akin to a breathtaking musical masterclass. It encourages Airto Fogo to reach new heights.

Horns growl and climb slowly above the arrangement to Shadowy.  They’re joined by a rasping synth, chirping, chiming guitar and deliberate keyboards. Meanwhile, the rhythm section prove the heartbeat as the horns and synth play leading roles. Later, a blistering guitar enjoys its moment in the sun. So too do the  keyboards, albeit briefly. After that, the horns dominate the arrangement, and the rest of Airto Fogo play a supporting role, before Shadowy reaches its dramatic and memorable conclusion.

There’s an element of drama to So Be It, as a snarling synth joins with percussion, keyboards and rhythm section. The arrangement meanders menacingly along. When the horns and funky guitar enter, it’s all change. Suddenly, the darkness is gone. However, when the horns drop out, the dark, menacing sound returns as the arrangement prowls along. That’s until the return of the horns, and darkness gives way to light. Midway through the track, there’s a brief detour via jazz and Latin as the ever progressive Airto Fogo showcase their versatility. Seamlessly, they switch between genres, and at one point there’s a nod to the Blaxploitation soundtracks of early seventies. Later, an effects laden, funky guitar joins with keyboards and percussion before the horns soar dramatically above the arrangement. The guitar returns and joins with squealing horns as this innovative, genre-melting track reaches a dramatic ending.

Closing Airto Fogo is Just Over, where the thunderous drums anchor the 4/4 arrangement as a squawking bass, chiming guitar and tough keyboards join with the Fender Rhodes. Soon, the horns are added, and it’s obvious that they’re the final piece of the jigsaw. Airto Fogo lock down the groove and jam, playing as one. That’s until a scorching saxophone solo is unleashed. Soon, though, Airto Fogo is playing as one. While the horns play an important in Airto Fogo’s sound, the keyboards, guitar and bass all play starring roles in this melodic, memorable and dance-floor  track. It seems that Airto Fogo have kept the best until last.

Just Over is one of nine reasons why Airto Fogo is, without doubt, one of the finest  European instrumental jazz-funk and rare groove albums ever released. That may seem like high praise, but Airto Fogo is an almost flawless opus, where some of Paris’ top musicians create a cult classic in 1976. Sadly, Airto Fogo was the only album they recorded.

There was no followup to Airto Fogo, which was released by Decca, in 1976. Sylvain Krief who founded and lead Airto Fogo, decided not to record a sophomore album. Maybe that was for the best? After all, it would’ve been almost impossible to improve on Airto Fogo. The starts were all aligned when Airto Fogo was recorded and they had recorded an album that forty-one years later is regarded as the holy grail for collectors of European instrumental jazz-funk and rare groove albums.

That is no surprise given the quality of music on Airto Fogo. It’s primarily an album of jazz-funk and rare groove, but also incorporates elements of funk and fusion to jazz, Latin and rock. Seamlessly, the multitalented and versatile Airto Fogo switch between and combine disparate genres. In doing so, they create music veers between dark and dramatic, to joyous and uplifting, to melodic, memorable and dance-floor friendly. Sometimes, the music has a cinematic quality and on a couple of occasions sounds as if it belongs on a seventies police drama. Having said that, the music on Airto Fogo is truly timeless and forty-one years later, sound just as good as the day it was released.

Nowadays, Airto Fogo is receiving the recognition they so richly deserve for releasing one of the greatest European instrumental jazz-funk and rare groove albums. Having received the recognition it so richly deserved, there’s been another resurgence of interest in Airto Fogo. However,  it’s almost impossible to find a copy of Airto Fogo nowadays, and those that become available, change hands for upwards of £250. Fortunately, Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records will reissued Airto Fogo on  the ‘2nd’ of June 2017, and at last, this epic album, which is one of the greatest European instrumental jazz-funk and rare groove albums is available for everyone to enjoy and cherish.

Airto Fogo-Airto Fogo.

THOS. RAPP AND PEARLS BEFORE SWINE-CITY OF GOLD AND …BEAUTIFUL LIES YOU COULD LIVE IN.

Thos. Rapp and Pearls Before Swine- City Of Gold and…Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In.

By April 1971, Pearls Before Swine were preparing to release their fifth album City Of Gold, which was BGO Records recently released alongside …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In. City Of Gold would be Pearls Before Swine third release on Reprise Records, since signing to the label in 1969. However, City Of Gold would be the first album to be credited to Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine. 

That seemed only fair, given that Tom Rapp was the only original member of Pearls Before Swine left. The rest of the band left en masse in 1969, before Pearls Before Swine signed to Reprise Records. Since then, Pearls Before Swine consisted of Tom Rapp, his wife Elisabeth and session musicians that were brought onboard for recording sessions and tours. It was no surprise that Tom Rapp wanted equal billing with Pearls Before Swine. However, that hadn’t always been the case.

Pearls Before Swine was founded by Tom Rapp in Melbourne, Florida in 1965. The nascent band featured Tom Rapp and his high school friends Wayne Harley, Lane Lederer and Roger Crissinger. Tom Rapp quickly became the band’s songwriter-in-chief, and wrote the material that would feature on the demo that Pearls Before Swine sent to the avant-garde label ESP-Disk. By then, the band were sporting the name Pearls Before Swine, which they took from a quotation in The Bible (Matthew. 7:6). 

Not long after sending their demo to ESP-Disk, Pearls Before Swine were offered a recording contract by the label. This was what every new band dreamt of, and Pearls Before Swine signed on the dotted line. Soon, they began work recording their debut album, One Nation Underground with producer Richard L. Alderson.

One Nation Underground.

While Pearls Before Swine were a four piece band, they didn’t have a drummer. So session drummer and percussionist Warren Smith was drafted in before work began on One Nation Underground at Impact Sound, in New York. 

The sessions began on the ‘6th’ of May 1967, and were scheduled to last just four days. The band planned to record ten songs, including the six penned by Tom Rapp. He had written Another Time, (Oh Dear) Miss Morse, Drop Out, Morning Song, Regions Of May and Uncle John. Lead vocalist and guitarist Tom Rapp also two songs cowrote Ballad To An Amber Lady and I Shall Not Care. It took just four days for Pearls Before Swine to record One Nation Underground, and the session was completed on ‘9th’ May 1967.

Five months later, and Pearls Before Swine released their debut album One Nation Underground. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of this minor psychedelic folk classic. When One Nation Underground was released, it was soon, well on its way to becoming ESP-Disk’s most successful recording. It’s thought that One Nation Underground sold anywhere between 100,000 to 250,000 copies. This should’ve proven profile for Pearls Before Swine.

Alas, contractual problems meant that Pearls Before Swine received very little in the way of royalties. Later, a rueful Tom Rapp alleged: “we never got any money from ESP. Never, not even like a hundred dollars or something.” For Pearls Before Swine this must have been disheartening, especially as they were still under contract to  ESP-Disk. 

Balaklava.

In early 1968, Pearls Before Swine’s begun work on their sophomore album, Balaklava. By then, there had been a change in the band’s lineup. Jim Bohannon had replaced Roger Crissinger. Meanwhile, Tom Rapp continued in his role as Pearls Before Swine’s songwriter-in-chief.

For Balaklava, Tom Rapp wrote eight of the ten songs on the album and cowrote Translucent Carriages. The other song on the album was a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. These songs were recorded with producer Richard L. Alderson[ at Impact Sound in New York.

When the recording sessions began, Pearls Before Swine were augmented by session musicians. They added flute, English horn, piano, organ, guitar and strings. Overdubbing was used extensively, with recordings of Florence Nightingale and the original buglers from the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 added to Balaklava. They played their part in an album of evocative, cerebral and complex music which was full  of allegorical classical references. 

Just over a year after the release of One Nation Underground, Balaklava was released to the same critical acclaim as its predecessor in November 1968. Critics marvelled at the innovative way songs were arranged and the eclectic nature of instruments deployed on Balaklava. It was an album that the band were extremely proud of, and which critics hailed as more than a fitting followup to One Nation Underground. However, despite the critical acclaim Balaklava received, all wasn’t well within Pearls Before Swine.

Not long after the release of Balaklava, Tom Rapp managed to negotiate his way out of the contract with ESP-Disk. This left him free to sign with Reprise Records, which was home to many folk and folk rock artist. However, the rest of Pearls Before Swine didn’t follow Tom Rapp to Reprise Records and called time on their career with the band.

The rest of Pearls Before Swine had never played live during their time together. This wasn’t ideal for a band trying to make a breakthrough. After that, Pearls Before Swine consisted of Tom Rapp his wife Elisabeth and session musicians that were brought onboard for recording sessions and tours. The first album that this new lineup would feature on was, These Things Too. 

These Things Too.

Having signed to Reprise Records, Tom Rapp was keen to get to work on the next Pearls Before Swine album. This would eventually become These Things Too, which marked the start of the Reprise Records’ years.

For These Things Too, Tom Rapp wrote ten new songs. He also wrote Green And Blue and Mon Amour with his wife Elisabeth and added music to W. H. Auden’s poem Footnote. The only cover version on the album was Bob Dylan’s folk anthem I Shall Be Released. It was covered in the familiar surroundings of Impact Sound, in New York.

This was the same studio where Pearls Before Swine recorded their first two albums. They were produced by Richard L. Alderson, who returned to produce These Things Too. He helped put together the session musicians who would feature on the album. One of the musicians Richard L. Alderson brought onboard was Jim Fairs who previously, had been a member of the garage band The Cryin’ Shame. Jim Fairs played on These Things Too and co-produced the album. It featured jazz drummer Grady Tate, bassist Bill Salter, electric violinist Richard Greene, who later would join Seatrain. This small, but tight and talented band recorded the fourteen songs that became These Things Too.

The release of These Things Too was scheduled for September 1969. Before that, critics had their say on Pearls Before Swine’s Reprise Records’ debut. While the album was well received by critics, it didn’t receive the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Critics described These Things Too as a mystical and “dreamy” sounding album. Later, it turned out a reason for the album’s dreamy sound. Tom Rapp later admitted that These Things Too was the first Pearls Before Swine album that: “reflected drug use in the writing of the songs.” This was a first for Pearls Before Swine.

Nowadays, These Things Too has  been reappraised by critics, and is regarded as one of Pearls Before Swine’s most underrated albums.

It was also one of the Pearls Before Swine’s least successful albums. These Things Too didn’t sell in vast quantities, and was a disappointing start to Pearls Before Swine’s time at Reprise Records. 

The Use of Ashes,

By the time that Tom Rapp began writing Pearls Before Swine fourth album, The Use of Ashes he and his wife Elisabeth were living in the Netherlands. That was where Elisabeth was born and brought up. Tom and Elisabeth Rapp had sailed from New York to the Netherlands on the maiden voyage of the QE2. This was idyllic journey and one that was sure to provide inspiration for Tom Rapp.

On their arrival in the Netherlands, Tom and Elisabeth Rapp spent several months living in a house near Utrecht. That was where Tom Rapp began writing The Use of Ashes. 

Most of the ten songs that feature on The Use of Ashes were written by Tom Rapp in Utrecht. It was the first album he had written entirely himself. Elisabeth is credited as having helped pen God Save The Child, while Rocket Man was based on a short story by Ray Bradbury. Rocket Man was heard by Bernie Taupin, and would inspire him to write Rocket Man for Elton John. That was still to come.

Before that, a decision was made to record The Use of Ashes in Nashville. Peter H. Edmiston was brought onboard to produce the album,  and some of Nashville’s top sessions musicians would feature on The Use of Ashes. This included many of the members of the country rock band Area Code 615. They made their way to Woodland Studios, in Nashville where they spent much of March 1970 was spent recording material for The Use of Ashes. By the time the sessions were over, Pearls Before Swine had more than enough music for one album. However, the albums wasn’t complete and some sessions took place at Impact Sound, in New York. After that, The Use of Ashes was ready for release.

In August 1970, The Use of Ashes was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics hailed the album a return to form from Pearls Before Swine. They had reached the same heights as One Nation Underground and Balaklava. However, some critics preferred The Use of Ashes which featured country rock, folk rock and psychedelic folk. It was a much more eclectic album, which featured some of Tom Rapp’s finest songs. Especially The Jeweller, which was later recorded by This Mortal Coil, the cinematic Rocket Man and the jazz-tinged, playful Tell Me Why? One of the highlights was Riegal, a sobering song that was inspired by a newspaper article that told how 4,000 prisoners of war died after the prison ship MS Rigel was sunk. It’s a poignant song, that shows just how Tom Rapp was maturing as a songwriter. The Use of Ashes featured some of Tom Rapp’s finest songs. He seemed to have come of age as a songwriter, on what was Pearls Before Swine’s most successful album for Reprise Records. Things were looking up for Pearls Before Swine.

City Of Gold.

When it came time for Pearls Before Swine to begin work on their third album, and fifth album overall, Tom Rapp announced that he wanted equal billing with the band he had founded six years earlier in 1965.  From City Of Gold, onwards the band would be billed as Thos. Rapp and Pearls Before Swine. 

Much of what would become City Of Gold had already been recorded in Nashville, during the sessions for The Use of Ashes’ album. Further sessions would take place at Impact Sound, in New York with Tom Rapp taking charge of production. Eventually, eleven tracks featured on City Of Gold.

This included seven Tom Rapp compositions, including Once Upon A Time, Raindrops, City Of Gold, The Man, Casablanca Wedding and Did You Dream Of? Tom Rapp also added music to William Shakespear’s Sonnet #65. They were joined by cover versions Leonard Cohen’s Nancy, Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen’s Seasons In The Sun and Judy Collins My Father. These tracks became City Of Gold, which was Pearls Before Swine’s fifth album.

Once Upon A Time was scheduled for release in April 1971, and was a mixture of country folk, country rock and folk rock. The album was well received by critics, who noticed that Tom Rapp was continuing to mature as a singer and songwriter. He had come of age as a songwriter on The Use Of Ashes, and this continued on Once Upon A Time, much of which was recorded at the same time. 

While Once Upon A Time, features some of Tom Rapp’s finest lyrics, the cover versions are tailor made for Pearls Before Swine. Especially the spartan cover of Leonard Cohen’s Nancy, which features an impassioned vocal. It’s one of several heartfelt vocal from Tom Rapp on Once Upon A Time. Elisabeth gets a chance to shine on the cover of Judy Collins’ My Father. However, for much of the album, the spotlight shines on Tom Rapp.

He had matured into a talented storyteller by the time  Once Upon A Time was released in April 1971 Tom Rapp. who takes the listener on a journey on the songs that he had penned. Especially on songs like the poignant Once Upon A Time and Raindrops which is tinged with sadness. There was a cinematic quality to Casablanca and especially Wedding, which is a captivating and emotive song. However, it’s a case of keeping the best to last with Did You Dream, which is a perfect showcase for Tom Rapp’s as he delivers another heartfelt vocal that’s full of emotion. Just like he has done so often on  Once Upon A Time, he breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Sometimes, there’s a nod to Bob Dylan, and other times Neil Young. Mostly, though, Tom Rapp is happy in his own voice on Once Upon A Time.

Just like his two previous albums for Reprise Records,  Once Upon A Time didn’t sell in vast quantities. Pearls Before Swine had a loyal fan-base, but their music deserved to reach a much wider audience. That hadn’t happened so far. Tom Rapp was hoping that  things would change when …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In was released.

 …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In.

Recording of …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In had taken place in early 1971, so that Pearls Before Swine could embark on their first tour. That was highly unusual for a band that was formed in 1965. Most bands spent much of their time on the road. However, Pearls Before Swine weren’t most bands.

They were one of music’s best kept secrets, despite releasing five albums. Pearls Before Swine had still to make a breakthrough. Taking the band on the road it was hoped, would introduce Pearls Before Swine to a new audience. So with an all-star band that featured drummer Billy Mundi , guitarist Amos Garrett and pianist Bob Dorough, Tom and Elisabeth Rapp headed out on their first ever tour.

In November 1971, Pearls Before Swine were preparing to release their sixth album …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In. It featured eleven songs, including nine from the pen of Tom Rapp. Elisabeth Rapp wrote music to A. E. Housman’s Epitaph On An Army Of Mercenaries. The other song on …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In was a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire. These songs were recorded at three studios with producer Peter H. Edmiston.

Recording of …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In took place at A&R Studios and Aura Sound, New York, and at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock. This was where Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine recorded an album that moved towards what was a much more orthodox folk rock sound.

When critics heard …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In, they hailed the album as one of Pearls Before Swine’s best albums.  No wonder, as the music was beautiful, enchanting, evocative and captivating. The album opener Snow Queen, Butterflies, Simple Things, Island Lady and Freedom were among the album’s highlight of …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In. It was one

a cohesive album that showcased Tom Rapp’s skills as a singer, songwriter and storyteller. Just like on previous albums, he had the ability to breath meaning and emotion into the lyrics and make the songs come to life. This he did on throughout …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In, which surely, would introduce Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine to a much wider audience?

Sadly, that wasn’t to be, and when …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In was released was a familiar story. The album didn’t reach the wider audience that it so richly deserved. That was despite the popularity of folk rock. It seemed that Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine were destined to remain one of music’s best kept secrets.

After the release of …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In, Tom Rapp decided to embark upon career as a solo career. His debut solo album Familiar Songs, was released on Reprise Records in 1972. Despite what was another album of carefully crafted songs, it was a familiar story for Tom Rapp, when the album failed to find an audience. For Tom Rapp, Familiar Songs marked the end of era.

Not long after Reprise Records released Familiar Songs, they parted company with Tom Rapp. He signed to Blue Thumb Records, and released Stardancer later in 1972.  Stardancer featured the impassioned underground anti-war anthem Fourth Day Of July, which was part of an album that won the approval of critics. Despite this, still, commercial success continued to elude him.

Tom Rapp returned in 1973 with Sunforest, which featured a mixture of folk rock, art rock and jazz. Although Sunforest wasn’t as strong an album Stardancer it showcased a talented a singer-songwriter. When the album was released in 1973, it failed commercially and Tom Rapp’s talents were no nearer to finding a wider audience. For Tom Rapp this was hugely frustrating.

So much so, that after his contract with Blue Thumb Records expired, Tom Rapp turned his back on music. He enrolled at  Brandeis University and graduated in 1981. Tom Rapp then enrolled at University of Pennsylvania Law School and three years later, in 1984, embarked upon a career as a civil rights lawyer. This was the start of a successful legal career for Tom Rapp.

It wasn’t until 1997 that Tom Rapp returned to music, when he made a guest appearance at the Terrastock music festival. Although his comeback was successful, still Tom Rapp continued his career as a civil rights lawyer. However, two years later in 1999, Tom Rapp returned with a new album A Journal Of The Plague Year. This was the first album that Tom Rapp had released since Sunforest in 1973. Since then, Tom Rapp hasn’t released a followup to A Journal Of The Plague Year. Instead, he’s concentrated on his successful legal career. Law’s gain is music’s loss.

Twenty years have passed since Tom Rapp released A Journal Of The Plague Year. Since then, his quartet of solo albums and the six albums he released with Pearls Of Swine are starting to find a wider audience. This hopefully, will continue to be the case. Especially with BGO Records’ recent remastered reissue of City Of Gold and …Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In, which are the perfect introduction to Pearls Of Swine, who are one of the folk rock’s best kept secrets.

Thos. Rapp and Pearls Before Swine- City Of Gold and…Beautiful Lies That You Could Live In.

ANNELI DRECKER-REVELATION FOR PERSONAL USE.

Anneli Drecker-Revelation For Personal Use.

Anneli Drecker first came to prominence in 1987, when she was the lead singer of the Norwegian band Bel Canto. Back then, Anneli Drecker was just seventeen, but determined to make a career out of music. So Anneli Drecker made the brave decision to leave behind her Arctic hometown of Tromsø. This was a huge step into the unknown, but one that ultimately paid off for Anneli Drecker, who will release her fourth album Revelation For Personal Use on Rune Grammofon on ‘19th’ May 2017. Revelation For Personal Use is the perfect way for the Queen of Arctic Electronica to celebrate thirty years making music. It’s a career that started with a journey. 

When Anneli Drecker her hometown Tromsø, she knew that she wasn’t leaving alone. Instead, Anneli Drecker made the move to Bruxelles with the other two members of Bel Canto, Geir Jenssen and Nils Johansen. Soon, Bel Canto were part of Bruxelles’ thriving and vibrant indie scene. Bel Canto stood head and shoulders above the rest. It was only a matter of time before a record company came calling for Bel Canto. 

This soon proved to be the case when Belgian label Crammed Discs signed Bel Canto to their roster. Soon, Bel Canto were working on their debut album, White Out Conditions. Everything was going to plan until Bel Canto discovered a choir using the same name. So, Bel Canto were forced to release their debut album as Bel Kanto. This didn’t matter.

When White Out Conditions was released in 1987 by Crammed Discs, it was to critical acclaim. Critics and cultural commentators forecast a great future for Bel Kanto. 

They weren’t wrong. Three years later, in 1990, and Bel Canto were about to release their sophomore album Birds Of Passage. By then, Bel Canto were back using their original name. This just happened to coincide with Bel Canto releasing an award winning album.

When Birds Of Passage was released it was to widespread critical acclaim. Reviews of Birds Of Passage hailed the album one of the indie albums of 1990. Back home in Norway, the organisers of the Spellemannprisens, which are the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award, agreed. Birds Of Passage won Bel Canto their first Spellemannprisens. For Bel Canto, Birds Of Passage was a game-changer. 

Birds Passage was then released internationally, and before long,  Bel Canto star was in the ascendancy. However, what many critics remarked upon, was the ethereal quality of Anneli Drecker’s voice. It was almost inevitable that comparisons were drawn to the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser. Both were the lead singer of successful indie bands and were blessed with a unique ethereal, enchanting and engaging vocal style. This would take Anneli Drecker far. However, another two years would pass before Bel Canto returned with their much anticipated third album.

It wasn’t until 1992, that Bel Canto released their third album, Shimmering, Warm and Bright on Crammed Discs. Just like Bel Canto’s two previous albums, it was released to critical acclaim. Superlatives were exhausted by critics who continued to champion Bel Canto. Back home in their native Norway, Bel Canto won their second Spellemannprisen with Shimmering, Warm and Bright. The critics had been right when they said Bel Canto were a group going places. That proved to be the case, in more ways than one.

After releasing a trio of albums on Crammed Discs, Bel Canto were signed by Atlantic Records. After five years and three albums, Bel Canto were leaving their indie roots behind.

Another three years passed before Bel Canto released their fourth album, Magic Box in 1995. This was Bel Canto’s major label debut. Magic Box was released on Atlantic and in America, on the Atlantic imprint Lava. 

It seemed that making the move from indie to major hadn’t fazed Bel Canto. Nor did the fact that co-producing Magic Box was produced by Bel Canto were  Jah Wobble, Mark Ferda, and Ulf Holand. This all-star production team were responsible for yet another critically acclaimed and award winning album.

Magic Box was released to same critical acclaim that had accompanied previous Bel Canto releases. It also won Bel Canto the third Spellemannprisens of their career. Now Bel Canto were one of the few artists or groups to have won three Spellemannprisens. How could Bel Canto surpass this?

Just two years later, in 1998, Bel Canto returned with the fifth album of their career, Rush. While it failed to win Bel Canto another Spellemannprise, Rush was hailed by some critics as a better album than Magic Box. This was fitting, because following Rush, Anneli Drecker embarked upon a sabbatical from Bel Canto. 

Following Rush, Anneli Drecker decided to embark upon a solo career. It saw Anneli collaborate with some high profile musicians on Tundra. This included Hans Magnus Ryan and Bent Sæther of Motorpsycho, plus Martin Horntveth and Sjur Miljeteig. Former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde produced a track. So did Röyksopp. Torbjørn Brundtland of Röyksopp played on and produced four tracks. With this glittering array of talent aiding and abetting, Anneli Drecker, Tundra, promised to be one of the most anticipated debut albums of 2000.

It was no surprise that when Anneli released debut album her debut album Tundra in March 2000, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Critics were won over by Tundra’s more eclectic, genre-melting sound. Elements of electronica, rock and even post rock shine through on Tundra. As debut albums go, Tundra was the perfect album to launch Anneli Drecker’s solo career. However, Anneli’s solo career was put on hold after Tundra.

In September 2001, Röyksopp released their debut album Melody A.M. One of the songs, Sparks was written by Anneli Drecker and featured her vocal. Sparks played its part in the runaway success of Melody A.M, which was certified platinum in Norway, Britain and Holland. Later in 2001, Melody A.M. was nominated for, and won, the Spellemannprisen for the best electronic album. By then, Röyksopp’s Melody A.M. was a huge success. In the process, it introduced Anneli Drecker to a wider audience. 

Having toured Melody A.M. with Röyksopp, Anneli’s thoughts turned to Bel Canto’s sixth album, Dorothy’s Victory. It was produced by the three members of Bel Canto, and released in February 2002. Bel Canto, it seemed could do no wrong. 

When critics heard Dorothy’s Victory, it received the same glowing reviews as its predecessors. It was fitting that critical acclaim accompanied Dorothy’s Victory. This would prove to Bel Canto’s final album. Anneli never knew this, as she embarked upon the next chapter of her career.

Three years later, and Anneli Drecker released her sophomore album Frolic. It was released in April 2005, and marked a change in direction. Frolic was a much more downtempo album. This appealed to many critics, who lauded Anneli’s brave decision to reinvent herself. They wondered what direction Anneli’s third album would take? 

Another ten years passed before Anneli Drecker’s thoughts turned to her third album. During that ten year period  Anneli Drecker was busy. She joined A-Ha for two gruelling world tours. However, part of the time Anneli spent with Røyksopp.

Having recorded Melody A.M. with Røyksopp, Anneli Drecker joined them on several tours. A live album was released in 2006, Röyksopp’s Night Out. It featured Anneli’s vocals on What Else Is There? and Sparks, the two tracks she cowrote with Röyksopp. Four years later, Anneli rejoined Røyksopp for their third studio album Junior, which was released in March 2009. That would be the last Røyksopp album Anneli featured on. However, she continued to tour with them and also collaborated with a number of different artists.

That has been the case throughout Anneli Drecker’s career. Even during her early days with Bel Canto, many artists and DJs have collaborated with Anneli Drecker. This includes everyone from DJ Krush, Gavin Friday, and Jah Wobble, to Hector Zazou, Tim Simenon, Guy Sigsworth and Ketil Bjørnstad. Each of these artists have worked with Anneli Drecker. So have many others, including those that would go on feature on Anneli Drecker’s long awaited third album, Rocks and Straws.

It was an album that Anneli Drecker’s fans had been waiting ten long years for.While ten years was a long time to wait for an album, Rocks and Straws was well worth the wait. Rocks and Straws was a carefully crafted, career defining album, where Anneli Drecker pays homage to the town and region that shaped her. This the Queen of Arctic Electronica does in her own inimitable style on Rocks and Straws, which marked the comeback of Anneli Drecker.

Two years later, and Anneli Drecker makes a welcome return with her fourth solo album Revelation For Personal Use on Rune Grammofon on ‘19th’ May 2017. It’s a followup to Rocks and Straws, and finds the Queen of Arctic Electronica, continuing to pay homage to the town and region that shaped her. This time though, the songs on Revelation For Personal Use are based on lyrics by local cult poet Arvid Hanssen, which were translated to English by artist and writer Roy-Frode Løvland. This was the inspiration for the eight songs penned by Anneli Drecker. They were recorded at four studios in Oslo and Tromsø, and became Revelation For Personal Use.

Recording of Revelation For Personal Use took place at Kysten Studio and Propeller Studio, in Oslo, with further sessions taking place at Facing North Studio and Zenith Studio, in Tromsø. Anneli Drecker took charge of the arrangements, production and programming; played piano, organ, mellotron and vocals. She was accompanied by top Norwegian musicians.

The rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen; drummers Rune Arnesen and Wetle Holte who also played dulcimer; bassists Even Ormestad and Kjetil Dalland plus guitarist Eivind Aarset. They were joined by keyboardist Sindre Hotvedt, cellist Frida Fredrikke Waaler Wærvågen, vocalist Peter G. Aa. Drecker, who also featured on Rocks and Straws and vocalist Radik Tiuliush who also plays mouth harp. Per Martinsen programmed drum beats on Waiting Time, while Jon Marius Aareskjold, Jonas Lie Theis and Sindre Hotvedt were responsible for programming parts of Revelation For Personal Use. When it came to adding the strings, the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra were brought onboard. Once the album was recorded, Anneli Drecker and Jon Marius Aareskjold mixed Revelation For Personal Use. All that was left was the mastering, and Anneli Drecker’s much anticipated fourth album was ready for release.

As Blue Evening opens Revelation For Personal Use, various subtle sounds glide in and out of the arrangement. Latterly, the sound of waves breaking on a deserted beach is replicatd. This gives way to a piano and shimmering strings that soon, accompany Anneli’s heartfelt, ethereal vocal as she sings: “look how calm the waves are falling.” From there, Anneli paints vivid and poignant pictures as the arrangement unfolds. Meanwhile, a piano adds an element of drama, the rhythm section provides the heartbeat and swathes of strings shiver and quiver. They help frame Anneli’s vocal until it drops out, and then replicate the landscape that she’s being singing about. Still though, the drama continues to build. In the midst of the arrangement, is what sounds like waves breaking on the beach. Later, when the arrangement reaches a crescendo, only a piano and Anneli’s vocal remain. She sings: “sitting on the rock I call my own, go to hear the forecast chanted, and walk lonely to my home.” It’s a beautiful and poignant way to end this epic cinematic song.

Pizzicato strings and a guitar are joined by the rhythm section on Sun Wave. Their raison d’être is to set the scene for Anneli’s tender, joyous vocal. It’s accompanied by the piano and swathes of glacial strings. They provide the perfect accompaniment to Anneli’s impassioned vocal as the arrangement ebbs and flows. With just a minute to go, Anneli bowls a curveball, as the arrangement pauses, as if pondering changing direction. The tempo drops, before the arrangement cascades before Anneli’s vocal is carried along atop sweeping strings. Latterly, it’s pizzicato strings that can be heard before this joyous, celebratory song reaches a memorable crescendo.

Compared to the previous songs, Days has a much rockier sound as it bursts into life. Drums pounds, strings sweep and a searing guitar cuts through the arrangement. They disappear leaving just Anneli’s ruminative vocal and her piano. When they drop out, the arrangement explodes back into life, with the piano, pounding rhythm section, blistering guitar and sweeping strings playing leading roles in this cinematic song. It sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to a blockbuster. Later, emotion fills Anneli’s vocal, while dancing and later, pizzicato strings accompany her piano, as the arrangement continues to builds. Still, the orchestra and rhythm section play leading roles as Anneli delivers an impassioned vocal that’s a mixture of power, emotion on this flawless Magnus Opus.

On A Road marks another change of style. The arrangement is much more understated, with electronics playing their part in this soundscape. So do the drums that provide pulsating heartbeat, subtle strings and the piano. They accompany Anneli’s vocal that veers between wistful to breathy and sensual. Soon, it grows in power and is full of emotion. Meanwhile, the bass weaves its way across the arrangement as the piano, strings, drums and rocky guitar join Anneli in taking the song into anthem territory. Latterly, though, it’s just the piano and rueful, melancholy strings that accompany Anneli as this anthem-in-waiting.

Swathes of sweeping strings accompany Anneli’s piano on Raindrops, before her tender, ethereal vocal enters as memories come flooding back. The strings are the perfect accompaniment as the arrangement meanders melodically along. Then when a chiming guitar enters, it’s all change. It joins with the rhythm section, piano and pizzicato strings as the tempo rises. Gradually, they set the scene for Anneli, before she delivers an elegiac vocal. By then, the carefully crafted arrangement features a jangling guitar, swathes of strings, piano and the rhythm section. They join with Anneli in creating a radio friendly slice of cinematic pop perfection.

The arrangement to Snow almost skips along, as the piano plays. Soon, a melancholy cello ushers in Anneli’s quivering, shivering ethereal vocal. It’s beautiful and captivating. Meanwhile, the multilayered arrangement begins to unfold. Drums pound before a mellotron and dulcimer join a siren as Anneli’s vocal soars high above the arrangement. When it drops out, the piano and cello remain. Then when the vocal returns, they provide the perfect accompaniment as Anneli’s vocal grows in power and emotion, before reaching a poignant, ruminative crescendo.

Closing Revelation For Personal Use is the title-track, where a piano combines with slow, hypnotic drums and the cello. They provide the backdrop for Anneli’s dreamy vocal, which floats along atop the understated arrangement. Quivering, flourishes of cello accompany Anneli’s vocal, before the baton passes to Radik Tiuliush. He unleashes an impassioned, emotive scats before Anneli returns. Her heartfelt vocal is accompanied by the mouth harp, deliberate stabs of piano and the cello. Later, it’s Anneli’s turn to improvise, before Radik returns, scatting and playing the mouth harp. This adds a new dimension to the final song in this second homage to the town and region where Anneli Drecker was born.

Two years after releasing her third album, Rocks and Straws, the multitalented Anneli Drecker will returns with the followup Revelation For Personal Use on Rune Grammofon on ‘19th’ May 2017. Just like Rocks and Straws, it finds Anneli Drecker pays homage to the town and region that shaped her. This the Queen of Arctic Electronica does in her own inimitable style.

The result is Revelation For Personal Use, which manages to surpass the quality of Rocks and Straws. That was never going to be easy, but Anneli Drecker has returned with an album that’s variously breathtakingly beautiful, cerebral, ethereal, hopeful, incisive and joyous. Other times, the music is melancholy and wistful, and results in reflection on the lyrics. Sometimes though, there’s a mysterious quality to Anneli Drecker’s cinematic lyrics, as she paints pictures of the barren Arctic landscape where she was born and brought up with her inimitable ethereal vocal.

Effortlessly, Anneli Drecker breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics to the songs on Revelation For Personal Use. Her vocal veers between tender to dramatic and powerful. Sometimes, heartfelt and impassioned, while other times it’s tinged with sadness. That is no surprise, given how personal the songs on Revelation For Personal Use are. They’re about her hometown of Tromsø and the Arctic region where Anneli Drecker was born and brought up. They shaped Anneli Drecker before she embarked upon a highly successful musical career in 1987.

Thirty years later, and Anneli Drecker is regarded as one of the leading lights of the Norwegian music scene. She’s a singer songwriter, musician and producer, whose been crowned the Queen of Arctic Electronica. That is fitting, given Anneli Drecker’s impressive CV. 

Nowadays, Anneli Drecker is concentrating on her solo, career and is about to released her much anticipated fourth album Revelation For Personal Use. It showcases one of Europe’s most talented female singer-songwriters, Anneli Drecker. 

Her ethereal vocal has, quite rightly, been compared to Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser. Anneli Drecker belongs in such exalted company and can more than hold her own. While Kate Bush represents music’s past, Anneli Drecker represents music’s future.

That might seem strange given Anneli Drecker has been around since 1987. Despite that, Revelation For Personal Use is only Anneli Drecker’s fourth solo album. This is a new chapter in the Anneli Drecker story. Revelation For Personal Use is the finest album of Anneli Drecker’s solo career, and surpasses the quality of 2015s Rocks and Straws. That was never going to be easy. Rocks and Straws had set the bar high for future albums. Two years later, and the Queen of Arctic Electronica, Anneli Drecker, returns with her musical Magnus Opus, Revelation For Personal Use, which features music that ranges from memorable and melodic, to anthemic to heartbreakingly beautiful.

Anneli Drecker-Revelation For Personal Use.

 

KEB DARGE AND CUT CHEMIST PRESENT DARKSIDE: 30 SIXTIES GARAGE, PUNK AND PSYCH MONSTERS.

Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters.

“All things come to he who waits.” So said Violet Fane in her poem Tout vient ß qui sait attendre. That is very true. Especially for record buyers who spend a lifetime searching for obscure singles and LPs. After a while even the most determined crate digger is forced to admit defeat. Sadly, some singles and LPs are impossible to find, and the only way to hear them is if a record company decides to reissue the album or the singles as part of a compilation. 

This includes those found on Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters which was recently released by BBE Records. It’s is the second compilation that Keb Darge and Cut Chemist have compiled for BBE Records. The first was the critically acclaimed Lost and Found-Rockabilly and Jump Blues, which was released in 2007. Ten years later, and the dynamic duo return with Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters.

It’s the perfect introduction to what was an important era in American music. During the second half of the sixties, new bands were springing  up all over America, and recording singles like those that feature on Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters. These singles were often released in small numbers by independent labels, and nowadays, are almost impossible to find. They’re the type of singles that Keb Darge and Cut Chemist are constantly searching for.

Keb Darge however, is a relative newcomer to this intriguing and obscure genre, and came across it almost by accident whilst looking for Northern soul singles. He remembers: “DJ Shadow told me I would like garage years ago, but I didn’t listen.” This was a big mistake, but one that would eventually, would be rectified.

Three years ago, some collectors of garage decided to try and introduce Keb Darge to garage. They spun Keb some 45s that they though he would like. That proved to be the case and soon, he was hooked to Garage. Since then, Keb Darge had been constantly crate digging, hunting for hidden gems, obscurities, rarities and elusive, hard to find singles. This was what another DJ that Keb knew had been doing for many a year, Cut Chemist.

Unlike Keb Darge, who was a relative newcomer to the genre, Cut Chemist was a veteran collector who had amassed an admirable collection of garage 45s over the years. Many of these singles were rarities, which nowadays, change hands for ever increasing sums of money. These singles are beyond the budget of most record buyers, and the only way most people will hear them if someone was to compile a compilation. That was what Keb Darge suggested to Cut Chemist one day.

By combining their respective collections, Keb Darge and Cut Chemist had more than enough music for one compilation of Garage. Indeed, the hardest thing would be narrowing down their long-list to a shortlist that would feature on one CD or LP. Eventually, though, a shortlist of thirty songs was drawn up, and became Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters. It features obscurities, rarities and hidden gems and is the perfect introduction to the sixties garage music. Keb explains: “This compilation is not aimed at the many collectors of this wonderful style of music. I am a very late arrival on this scene, and still have a hell of a lot to learn, and buy. This is more for people like I was just three years ago, people oblivious to beauty, power, and excitement of the sixties garage sound.”

Choosing just thirty songs to introduce newcomers to the sixties garage sound can’t have been easy. Eventually, though, Keb Darge had chosen songs from Ty Wagner, The Banshees, The Deepest Blue, The Gentlemen, The Nobles, The Malibus, The Mach V, The Passions and Young Aristocracy. Meanwhile, Cut Chemist’s list included The Berkley Five, The Lyrics, The Spacemen, The Savoys, The Dogs, The Omens, The Chantes, The Spades, The Aventés and The Blue Velvets. These songs became part of Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters.

Cut Chemist’s Choices.

Nowadays, many music fans regard Ty Wagner’s 1965 single I’m A No-Count as his finest hour. Coming a very close second is Slander, which was penned by Ty Wagner and produced by Don Ralke. Slander was released on the Era label in November 1966, and is an atmospheric and eerie slice of surf psychedelia.

Anyone wanting a copy of Teddy and His Patches’ Suzy Creamcheese will have to part with the best part of £250. It was released on the San Jose based Chance label in 1967, and was the only single that Teddy And His Patches released. However, if a band is only going to release one single, make it one as good Suzy Creamcheese. It’s a riotous fusion of psych and punk, that lysergic, ruminative and dance-floor floor friendly. 

It wasn’t just blues and soul that was being produced in Windy City of Chicago during the sixties. Between 1966 and 1968, The Del-Vetts released a quartet of underrated singles. Their finest hour has to be Last Time Around, which was released on Dunwhich in June 1966. It’s a blistering example of proto-punk which deserved to find a much wider audience. Sadly, The Del-Vetts were way ahead of the musical curve.

From the get-go, The Deepest Blue’s Hammond organ powered Pretty Little Thing sounds as if it’s been inspired by the Rolling Stones. There’s also a nod to the Caretakers Of Deception who also feature on Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters.When Pretty Little Thing was released on the short-lived Los Angles’ label Blue-Fin Records in August 1966, the Rolling Stones had made their mark on American music.  Sadly, when The Deepest Blue released this storming slice of garage rock, it failed to find an auoence and proved to be their only single.

Two years after forming in Dallas, Texas, The Gentlemen released what proved to be their one and only single You Can’t Be True in December 1966. That might not have been the case had The Gentlemen chosen to release the B-Side It’s A Cry’n Shame. This Tom Brown production is a far superior song, and showcases a much heavier sound. It’s a fusion of garage and proto-punk, that may, to some extent, have been influenced sonically and stylistically by fellow Texans, the 13th Floor Elevators.

Captain Crunch and The Crew were formed in Drayton, Ohio in 1967 and were only together until 1968. However, they found time to release Nowadays People as a single on the Wildwood label. It’s a garage-psych-rock hidden gem, and is a welcome addition to Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters.

One of the Cut Chemist’s best choices is If I Could which was the B-Side to The Mach V’s only single Want To Stay. It was released in December 1967, on the Associated Artists label, which was based in Hendersonville, Tennessee. This makes sense, as The Mach V were from Savannah, Georgia. The organ driven psychedelia of If I Could is two majestic minutes of music which if you want a copy of the orginal, will cost in excess of £300.

Another group who released just one single, was the Young Aristocracy. They were formed in Tulsa, Oklahoma and released Don’t Lie in February 1967, on the Acropolis Record Company. This is another rarity, that will cost upwards of £150 for a copy. Hidden away on the B-Side is Look And See! It was written by Roger Burkitt and produced by Stephen Barncard who later, would work with The Grateful Dead, David Crosby, New Riders Of The Purple Sage and The Doobie Brothers. Stephen Barncard was at the start of his production career when he produced Look And See! He brings the drums to the front of the mix, where they drive the arrangement along, and plays its part in a lysergic, melodic and memorable song that could’ve only been produced in the late-sixties.

Keb Darge’s Choices.

The first of Keb’s choices is Larry and The Blue Notes’ In And Out, which explodes memorably into life. It was released by in July 1966. By then, Larry and The Blue Notes were familiar faces in the Fort Worth scene. They had enjoyed a hit with Night Of The Phantom in 1965. A year later, they released In and Out was penned by Larry Roquemore and Larry Slater. Alas, history didn’t repeat itself, and the single failed to match the success of Night Of The Phantom. Despite this, In and Out was released on five separate occasions by Charay Records, and is without doubt, Larry and The Blue Notes’ finest hour.

The Savoys were formed in San Diego, in the mid-sixties, and released a handful of singles. This includes a cover of So What which was written by Christopher Gaylord and produced by Don Ralke at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. It’s a defiant slice of garage rock featuring the vocal talents of Ray Clearwater a.k.a. Christopher Gaylord.

Another of the bands that only featured one single, are The Dogs. They released Don’t Try To Help Me on the Pennsylvania based Treasure label in 1967. It was penned by John Bowie, and features a despairing vocal on this garage rock hidden gem.

The Omens were a garage band formed byfive teenagers from Hammond, Indiana. They released Searching as a single on the Chicago based Cody label in July 1966. Searching was written by vocalist and guitarist Don Revercomb with bassist Larry Allen. Along with drummer Tim Jones, they drive the arrangement to this memorable anthem along. Sadly, it failed to find an audience upon its release, and makes a welcome return on Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters.

Joining the list of bands that released just one single, are The Chants a Dallas based garage band. Their one and only single was Hypnotized, which was penned by David Norfleet and released on the B. Ware label in 1966. It’s a blistering, memorable and melodic slice of garage rock that’s: “sure to put a spell on you.”

The Spades were a Florida based garage band who released I’m Alright on Ace Records in 1965. It’s a real rarity, and is much in demand by collectors. No wonder, given the quality of I’m Alright where garage meets proto-punk on this hidden gem.

In August 1965, The Avantes released what was their one and only single, Baby Go. It was penned by Kerry Gremp, and released on the short-lived Avant Records which it seems, was founded just to release Baby Go. Avant Records only pressed  only a limited amount of copies of Baby Go and very few copies of this mellow sounding tale of hurt and heartbreak are still in existence. The remaining copies of Baby Go are now highly prized amongst collectors. So the addition of Baby Go to Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters allows a much wider audience to discover the delights of this long forgotten single.

It’s The Blue Velvets, who were founded in Leawood, Kansas that close Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters with Don’t Leave Me This Way. It was released in 1965, on the Damon label, which was setup to release singles recorded at the Damon Recording Studio in Kansas City. Only 500 copies of Don’t Leave Me This Way were pressed and nowadays this garage gem is highly prized among collectors.

For anyone wanting an introduction to garage, then Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters is the perfect starting place. It features a mixture of familiar faces, obscurities, rarities and hidden gems chosen by Keb Darge and Cut Chemist. They chose fifteen songs each, which are the perfect introduction to the sixties garage music. This could prove to be the first step on a voyage of discovery into the world of sixties garage music.

That can prove expensive, for the collector who goes in search of original copies of singles. However, for the budget conscious collector, then compilations like Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters are the way to go. They allow newcomers to discover a tantalising taste of Keb describes as the: “beauty, power, and excitement of the sixties garage sound” on Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monster. 

Keb Darge and Cut Chemist Present Darkside: 30 Sixties Garage, Punk and Pysch Monsters.

 

THE BLUE NILE-PERFECTION PERSONIFIED.

The Blue Nile-Perfection Personified.

Enigmatic, reluctant and contrarian are words that best of describe The Blue Nile. They’re the complete opposite of most bands. The Blue Nile have been described as publicity shy. That’ is an understatement. Ever since Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and Paul Joseph Moore formed the Blue Nile, they’ve been one of the most low-profile bands in musical history. It seems that when they were formed thirty-five years ago, The Blue Nile ticked the “no publicity” box. This has proved a double-edged sword, and resulted in The Blue Nile becoming one of the most enigmatic groups ever. Their story began thirty-five years ago. 

The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, when two friends Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell, met Paul Joseph Moore, all of whom met at Glasgow University. Before forming the Blue Nile, Buchanan and Bell were previously members of a band called Night By Night. Try as they may, a recording contract eluded them. Night By Night’s music  wasn’t deemed commercial enough. So Paul, Robert and P.J. decided to form a new band, The Blue Nile.

Once The Blue Nile were formed, they set up their own record label Peppermint Records. It was on Peppermint Records that The Blue Nile released their debut single, I Love This Life. This single was then picked up and rereleased on the RSO label. Unfortunately for the Blue Nile, RSO became part of the Polygram label and I Love This Life disappeared without trace. Despite this setback, Blue Nile persisted.

Still, The Blue Nile kept writing and recording material after the merger of RSO with Polygram. Some of that material would later be found on A Walk Across the Rooftops. That was in the future.

Recording of The Blue Nile’s demos took place at Castlesound studio near Edinburgh. That’s home to the man whose often referred to as the fourth member of The Blue Nile, recording engineer Calum Malcolm. He was listening to recently recorded demos through the studio’s Linn Electronics system. It had recently had a new set of speakers fitted. So the company founder, Ivor Tiefenbrun, decided to visit Calum Malcolm to hear his thoughts on the speakers. That’s when Ivor Tiefenbrun first heard The Blue Nile. 

Calum Malcolm played Ivor Tiefenbrun a demo of Tinseltown In The Rain. Straight away, the founder of Linn was hooked. He decided to offer The Blue Nile a record contract to the label he was in the process of founding. Most bands would’ve jumped at the opportunity. Not The Blue Nile.

It took The Blue Nile nine months before they replied to Ivor Tiefenbrun’s offer. When they did, the answer was yes. The Blue Nile’s debut album A Walk Across The Rooftops would be released on Ivor Tiefenbrun’s new label Linn Reords.

A Walk Across the Rooftops.

Linn Records and The Blue Nile seemed a marriage made in musical heaven. Linn Records weren’t like a major label, pressurising The Blue Nile into making a decision and delivering an album within a certain timeframe. Instead, Linn Records allowed The Blue Nile to do what they did best, make music. From the outside, this looked as if it was working, and working well.

Years later, Paul Buchanan commented that during Linn Records didn’t operate like a record label. Mind you, he conceded that, during this period, The Blue Nile didn’t operate as a band. However, eventually, in May 1984 The Blue Nile’s debut album was released on Linn Records.

On the release of A Walk Across the Rooftops, it was released to critical acclaim. Critics described the album as a minor classic. A Walk Across the Rooftops was described as atmospheric, ethereal, evocative, soulful and soul-baring. It also featured the vocals of troubled troubadour Paul Buchanan. Despite the critical acclaim A Walk Across the Rooftops enjoyed, it wasn’t a huge commercial success, reaching just number eighty in the UK. However, since the A Walk Across the Rooftops has been recognised as a classic album. So has the followup Hats.

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Hats.

Unlike most bands, The Blue Nile weren’t in any rush to release their sophomore album Hats. There was a five year gap between A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. It was worth the wait. The Blue Nile had done it again. Hats was a classic. 

Featuring seven tracks, written by Paul Buchanan, Glasgow’s answer to Frank Sinatra He’s a tortured troubadour, whose voice sounds as if he’s lived a thousand lives. Producing Hats was a group effort, with Paul, Robert and P.J. taking charge of production duties. Guiding them, was Callum Malcolm. On the release of Hats, British and American audiences proved more discerning and appreciative of the Blue Nile’s sophomore album Hats.

On the release of Hats in the UK in 1989, it was critically acclaimed and commercial success, reaching number twelve in the UK. Then when it was released in America in 1990, audiences seemed to “get” Hats. Not only did it reach number 108 in the US Billboard 200 Charts, but The Downtown Lights reached number ten in the US Modern Rock Tracks charts. It seemed that The Blue Nile were more popular in America, than in Britain. Gradually, The Blue Nile’s music was beginning to find a wider and more appreciative album. Especially when The Blue Nile decided to embark upon their debut tour later in 1989.

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Although The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, and Hats was The Blue Nile’s sophomore album, the band had never toured. Partly, The Blue Nile seemed worried about replicating the sound of their first two albums. They needn’t have worried, with The Blue Nile seamlessly replicating the sonic perfection of A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats on the sold out tour. The Blue Nile’s star was in the ascendancy.

Their first ever tour had been a huge success. The Blue Nile had conquered Britain. However, The Blue Nile had also made a breakthrough in America. Hats had sold well, and their American tour had been successful. Most bands would’ve been keen to build on this and released another album before long. Not The Blue Nile.

Seven long years passed, where Blue Nile fans wondered what had become of Glasgow’s most enigmatic trio. However, they’d been busy. After Hats found its way onto American radio stations, The Blue Nile, who previously, had been one of music’s best kept secrets, were heard by a number of prestigious musicians. Among them were Robbie Robertson and Annie Lennox, Michael McDonald. After a decade struggling to get their music heard, The Blue Nile were big news. During this period, America would become like a second home to The Blue Nile, especially Paul.

Paul took to life in America, and in 1991, decided to make it his home. This just so happened to coincide with Paul’s relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette between 1991 and 1993. Hollywood starlets and Sunset Boulevard was a long way from Glasgow’s West End. In the midst of Paul’s relationship, disaster struck for The Blue Nile, they were dropped by their label.

Linn Records and Virgin decided to drop The Blue Nile. For some groups this would’ve been a disaster. Not for The Blue Nile. 

They signed a million Dollar deal with Warner Bros. While this sounded like the ideal solution for The Blue Nile, Paul made the deal without telling  P.J and Robert. He later explained that “none of the others were in town at the time.” With a new contract signed,  The Blue Nile began thinking about their third album, Peace At Last.

Peace At Last.

So the band started looking for the perfect location to record their third album. They travelled across Europe looking for the right location. This location had to be private and suit their portable recording studio. Cities were suggested, considered and rejected. Among them, were Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Venice. Being  The Blue Nile, things were never simple. Eventually, after much contemplation The Blue Nile ended up recording what became Peace At Last in three locations, Paris, Dublin and Los Angeles. For the first time, The Blue Nile recorded an album outside of their native Scotland.

For their first album for a major label, things began to change for The Blue Nile. They brought onboard drummer Nigel Thomas, a string section and a gospel choir. Peace At Last was going to be a quite different album to A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats. However, one things stayed the same, The Blue Nile continued to work with Calum Malcolm. With his help, Peace At Last was ready for release in June 1996. Before that, critics had their say.

Critics remarked upon the change of sound on Peace At Last. It had a much more understated, restrained sound. Acoustic guitars and piano play important parts. Still, The Blue Nile’s beloved synths remain. Occasionally, The Blue Nile add strings. There’s even a gospel choir on Happiness. Gone was the sound of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. Peace At Last showed a different side to The Blue Nile and their music, one that divided the opinion of critics and fans. Paul, Robert and P.J. were back, but it was a different sound. One constant was Paul’s worldweary vocal. Glasgow’s very own Frank Sinatra, Paul Buchanan plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee on songs about  love, love lost, betrayal, heartbreak, growing up and growling old. Paul was still the tortured soul, who wore his heart on his sleeve on Peace At Last.

On the release of Peace At Last, in June 1996, it reached just number thirteen and sold poorly. For The Blue Nile this was disappointing, given it was their major label debut. Worse was to come when the lead single Happiness failed to chart. The Blue Nile’s major label debut hadn’t gone to plan. Alas, Peace At Last was the only album The Blue Nile released on a major label.

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High.

Following Peace At Last, it was eight years before The Blue Nile released another album. High was released in 2004. During the last eight years, the three members of The Blue Nile had been leading separate lives. While P.J. and Robert were content  with their lives in the West End of Glasgow, while Paul had been spending his time between Glasgow and Hollywood. Now they were back and ready to record their fourth album, High. 

Once High was recorded, all that was left was for The Blue Nile to find a label to release the album. The Blue Nile had been dropped by Warner Bros. So with the completed album, The Blue Nile shopped High to various labels. Eventually, they settled on Sanctuary, which would release High in August 2004. However, before that, critics welcomed back The Blue Nille.

Eight years after the release of Peace At Last, critics remarked that High was a much more grownup album. Songs of family life and heartbreak sat side-by-side. Paul who had been suffering with illness and fatigue, seemed to have found a new lease of life. His lyrics are emotional, observational, cinematic and rich in imagery. They’re also poignant, and full hope, hurt and anguish. Meanwhile, Paul’s vocals were worldweary and knowing, while the music is emotive, ethereal and evocative. Critics love High. So did music lovers.

When High in August 2004, the album reached number ten in the UK. High proved to be The Blue Nile most successful album. This proved to be fitting.

High was The Blue Nile’s swan-song. Nobody realised this when the album was released. It was only as years passed without a followup to High, that the reality sunk. There would be no more music from The Blue Nile. One of the greatest bands of their generation were now part of musical history. 

Following High, critics thought that The Blue Nile would return, possibly after another lengthy break. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. The Blue Nile were no more. At least they did things their way. Right up until the release of High, The Blue Nile were enigmatic, almost reclusive and publicity shy. Mind you, The Blue Nile weren’t exactly your normal band. 

The rock ’n’ roll lifestyle favoured by other bands wasn’t for The Blue Nile. Their music was much more cerebral, and had a substance that much of the music recorded between 1984 and 2004 lacked. During that twenty year period, The Blue Nile only recorded four albums. These albums are unique. Musical fashions and fads didn’t affect The Blue Nile. Their attitude was almost contrarian. Albums were recorded slowly and methodically as the Blue Nile strived for musical perfection. 

Many have tried to achieve perfection. However, very few have come as close as The Blue Nile. Their debut album A Walk Across The Rooftops and the followup Hats, are nowadays both regarded as classic albums. Peace At Last and High show another side to The Blue Nile. There’s a much more grownup sound, to the albums. However, just like A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats, both albums showcase one of the most talented bands in Scottish musical history, The Blue Nile. 

While The Blue Nile never enjoyed the commercial success their music deserved, they stayed true to themselves. They never jumped onto a musical bandwagon in pursuit of fame, fortune or starlets. Quite the opposite. For The Blue Nile it was their way or no way. If an album took years to record, so be it. It was always worth the wait. After all, not many bands pursue perfection, and achieve that perfection four times. The Blue Nile did, and ended their career on a High.

The Blue Nile-Perfection Personified.

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FREDDIE NORTH-WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME: THE COMPLETE A-BET RECORDINGS…PLUS.

Freddie North-What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus.

Nine years after making his recording debut with The Rookies, Freddie North signed to Nashboro’s newly formed A-Bet imprint in 1967. This would be home to Freddie North for the next nine years, and where he would enjoy the most successful period of his career. It’s documented on a new compilation, What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records.  They’re a reminder of the Nashville born singer’s what was the most productive and successful period in Freddie North’s career.

Fredrick Carpenter was born in Nashville on ’28th’ May 1939 into a musical family. His father Fredrick was a successful and well respected gospel singer, so it was no surprise that growing up, Freddie decided to embark upon a musical career.

In Freddie’s case it wasn’t gospel he started singing. Instead, Freddie who had grownup listening to doo-wop, R&B and rock ’n’ roll formed a Freddie and some high school friends, The Rookies. They were soon signed to a local label, Athens and recorded Money Money Money and Take Me Back.  When the single was released, the group were billed as Freddie North and The Rookies and sold well. So much so, that Atlantic Records picked the single up. It looked as if Freddie North and The Rookies had a bright future ahead of them.

When the single was released on Atlantic Records’ East West imprint, it was credited to Freddie. This must can’t have pleased The Rookies, and the band split-up not long after this. 

Despite the disappointment surrounding The Rookies, Freddie’s career continued in 1960 when he recorded Okay, So What? with Charles “Buddy” Killen, who would go on to found the Dial label. That was a few months down the line, so  Charles “Buddy” Killen took Okay, So What? to the University label. Everyone had high hopes for the release, but even with an appearance on American Bandstand the single failed to sell. For Freddie this was another disappointment in his nascent career. 

Not long after this, Freddie decided to enrol at college and studied speech and drama. However, when he completed his course, Freddie ended up working for a cinema chain. This was one of several dead end jobs Freddie endured, including a spell as a singing waiter at the Executive Club. Still, Freddie hadn’t given up on his dream of making a career as singer.

Whilst working at the Executive Club, Freddie recorded Just To Please You as a single for Capitol Records. Meanwhile, Freddie was constantly in demand as a demo singer, and was a familiar face at many of Nashville’s recording studios. While this was good experience, it meant that Freddie’s career wasn’t progressing. When Freddie released It’s No Good For Me on the R.I.C. label, the single sunk without trace. Freddie’s career seemed to have stalled. These were worrying times for the twenty-five year old.

When it looked like Freddie wasn’t going to make it as a singer, with a heavy heart he made the decision to take a job at Nashboro which was Nashville’s biggest record company. This gave Freddie the safety net of a regular income. Freddie started off as a stockroom clerk, but soon, was climbing the corporate ladder and was the head of the press and promotion division. Still, though, Freddie continued to sing in Nashville’s clubs, in the hope that one day, he could resume his singing career. 

When the opportunity arose, it was closer to home than Freddie expected. Nashboro decided to setup a soul imprint A-Bet in 1966. The nascent label was primarily a label to showcase the work of arranger, producer songwriter, Bobby Holmes. Soon, A-Bet began recruiting artists to join their roster. One of the artists they approached to join A-Bet’s roster in January 1967 was their head of press and promotion Freddie North. He was the fourth artist to join A-Bet’s roster.

Soon, Freddie North entered the studio to record his A-Bet debut single. Two Bob Holmes compositions were chosen, including the uptempo (I’ve Got To) Hold Back which was chosen as the single. Tucked away on the B-Side was a soul-baring ballad Don’t Make Me Look So Bad. When the single was released in February 1967, disaster struck for Freddie North when (I’ve Got To) Hold Back failed to trouble the charts. Freddie North had been here before.

A-Bet were in no hurry to release a followup. Fourteen months passed before A-Bet released I Have A Dream which was penned by Jerry Keller and Dave Blume. When I Have A Dream had been inspired by Martin Luther King’s speech was released, it also failed to find an audience. For Freddie North this was another disappointment.

After the failure of I Have A Dream, sixteen months passed before Freddie North released his third single for A-Bet, Oh Lord, What Are You Doing To Me. This was a much covered Ballad penned by Luther Dixon and Bert Keyes, and was arranged  and produced by Bob Holmes. It features a vocal full of despair and showcases Freddie North’s vocal ability to breath meaning and emotion into the lyrics. So does the B-Side, Long Hard Road which is a ballad written by Bob Holmes. It’s one of his most underrated A-Bet sides. Sadly, very few people heard Oh Lord, What Are You Doing To Me and Long Hard Road, as the single failed to sell. This was becoming a familiar pattern, and something had to change.

For Freddie North’s first three singles for A-Bet, he had worked with producer by Bob Holmes. While the quality of music was indisputable, it hadn’t proven to be a successful partnership. It was decide later in 1969, that from thereon in, Freddie could produce his own sessions. 

The first sessions that Freddie North took charge of, saw him record six songs, Got To See If I Can Get Mommy, Love To Hate, a poignant cover of Rainy Night In Georgia and Thank That Woman. This was almost enough for Freddie North’s debut album. To complete the album, Freddie included two of his first three singles, I Loved Another Woman nd From The Blind Side, The Sun Comes Up and included his two previous singles, Oh Lord What Are You Doing To Me and I Have A Dream. These eight songs became Freddie North’s debut album The Magnetic North, which was released on A-Bet in March 1970. Alas, The Magnetic North failed to find the audience it deserved, and Freddie North was no nearer making a breakthrough.

Not long after the release of The Magnetic North, Freddie North returned with his fourth single for A-Bet, which was another soul-baring ballad, Thank That Woman. Hidden away on the B-Side was Love To Hate, a carefully crafted, orchestrated song which was produced by Freddie North. Sadly, Thank That Woman passed record buyers buy and Freddie North found himself n last chance saloon.

For his fifth single for A-Bet, Freddie North covered Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s Follow The Lamb which featured in their musical Look At The Lillies. The gospel-tinged Follow The Lamb was a strange choice for single for Freddie North, who was desperate to make a commercial breakthrough. Especially with the cover of Dave Hall’s wistful From The Blind Side tucked away on the B-Side. It was a much stronger track, and when Follow The Lamb was released in October 1970, it failed to make any impact on the charts. For Freddie North this marked the end of an era.

Follow The Lamb was the last single that Freddie North released on A-Bet. He had released five singles and an album on A-Bet, but hadn’t come close to enjoying commercial success. Things were so bad, that Freddie North was seriously considering turning his back on music. 

That was until Nashboro decided to found a new imprint in 1971,  Mankind, which would replace A-Bet. It was no longer an active label, and for the time being, artists signed to A-Bet would join Mankind. Helping to run the nascent label, was Jerry Williams Jr a.k.a. Swamp Dogg.

He had just recorded albums with Irma Thomas, Sandra Phillips and Doris Duke for the Wally Roker’s Canyon group of labels in Muscle Shoals. Nashboro president Bud Howells suggested that Freddie North move to Muscle Shoals and work with Jerry Williams Jr. This it was hoped, might result in a change of fortune for Freddie North.

Bud Howells’ suggestion that Freddie North move to Muscle Shoals, soon paid off. For Freddie North’s Mankind debut, Jerry Williams Jr had a song lined up. The song he suggested was the Garry US Bonds’ song She’s All I Got as a single, with the Jerry Williams Jr composition Ain’t Nothing In The News (But The Blues) on the B-Side. Alas, neither track features on What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus. However, when She’s All I Got was released on Mankind in July 1971, it charted and reached number ten on the US R&B charts and thirty-nine US Billboard 100. Eleven years after releasing his debut single, Freddie North had a hit single on his hands. 

Mankind were keen to build on the success of Ain’t Nothing In The News (But The Blues), and Freddie North released his sophomore album Friends. It featured Freddie’s next hit single.

For the followup to She’s All I Got, Freddie North recorded You And Me Together Forever, which featured Did I Come Back Too Soon (or Stay Away Too Long) on the B-Side. Again, neither track features on What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus. However, when Freddie North’s second Mankind single You And Me Together Forever was released in January 1972 stalled at twenty-six in the US R&B charts. Compared to Freddie’s A-Bet released, You And Me Together Forever was regarded as a success by those at Nashboro headquarters in Nashville. Now, Freddie North had to build on the success of his two hit singles.

Two months later in March 1972, Mankind released a promo of Freddie North’s recording of Did I Come Back Too Soon (Or Stay Away Too Long). However, the song never got made beyond the promo stage, and wasn’t released as a single.

In May 1972, Freddie North released the first of three singles in quick succession. Sweeter Than Sweetness was released in May 1972, but failed to trouble the charts. It was a similar case with Roll Over (Play Like Our Love Ain’t Dead) in June 1972 and Song # 29 (I’m Your Man) in September 1972. These three singles (which don’t feature on What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus) marked the end of the Jerry Williams Jr era.

By late 1972, Jerry Williams Jr had fallen out with Nashboro, and headed off in search of the next chapter in his chequered career. Jerry Williams Jr who was a talented singer, songwriter musician and producer never seemed to stay anywhere long, and never came close to fulfilling his potential. Meanwhile, Freddie North was desperate to return to the heights he had enjoyed early on in his career with Mankind.

Freddie North returned with a cover of the Frank Johnson and Carl Lumbus composition You’re Killing Me Slowly But Surely. It had been recorded at the Quinvy Studios where the Mankind sessions had taken place. Taking charge of production was 

David Johnson who had engineered the previous Mankind sessions. He was regarded as the natural heir to Jerry Williams Jr and produced You’re Killing Me Slowly But Surely which features a vocal that’s hurt-filled and full of despair. Despite its quality, the single failed to commercially when it was released in June 1973.

Two months later, Freddie North released a cover of Hugh King’s Lovin’ On Back Streets. It was the first Mankind single to produced by Freddie North. On the B-Side, was Love To Hate, which previously was the flip-side to the A-Bet single Thank That Woman in 1970. However, when Lovin’ On Back Streets was released in August 1973, it too, failed to find an audience. By then, two years had passed since You And Me Together Forever gave Freddie a hit single. He could really do with a hit single.

Later in 1973, Freddie North returned to producing his own singles. He produced the ballad Taking Her Love Ain’t Gonna Be Easy, which was arranged by Bergen White. While was one of the best singles that Freddie North had released since the early days of his career at Mankind, commercial success eluded Taking Her Love Ain’t Gonna Be Easy. For Freddie this must have been a frustrating time. 

After nearly three years without a hit to his name, Mankind released Cuss The Wind as a single with Love To Hate again featuring on the B-Side. Cuss The Wind was one of the Jerry Williams Jr productions that had lain unreleased for the best part of a two years. It’s a poignant ballad, where strings and horns frame Freddie’s vocal. Mankind had high hopes for the single, and an album entitled Cuss The Wind was compiled. 

Cuss The Wind featured eight tracks, including some songs that Freddie had already released on A-Bet. There were several new songs, including Cuss The Wind band the soul searching Southern Soul ballad My Whole World Ended. Songs of this quality it was hoped would bring commercial success Freddie North’s way.

Despite the quality of the single, it was a familiar story when Cuss The Wind failed to trouble the charts. When Mankind released Freddie North’s album in 1975, it took failed to find an audience. This was Freddie North’s second album of Southern Soul that passed unnoticed. For Freddie North, it was almost the end of the road at Mankind.

One further Freddie North single was released on Mankind in 1976, Rainy Night In Georgia. It was taken from Cuss The Wind, and featured Freddie North’s Loved Another Woman on the B-Side. Both were produced by Freddie North and showcased his skills as a singer and producer. However, when the single failed commercially, that was the end of the line for Freddie North and indeed Mankind.

Mankind closed its doors shortly after the release of Freddie North’s cover of  Rainy Night In Georgia. A year later in 1977, A-Bet also closed its doors for the second time. This time though, it was for good. Freddie North also left Nashoro in 1977, after eleven years service. He had decided to turn his back on music for good.

Freddie North was no more. Instead, Freddie North reverted to  his real name, Frederick Carpenter and started a ministry. While Pastor Frederick Carpenter occasionally sung in church, there would be no comebacks. The man once known Freddie North would never return to secular music. 

Although Freddie North was lost to secular music, he left behind a rich musical legacy, including the music on What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus. It features twenty-three tracks, including a quartet of previously unreleased Mankind recordings, including Running Back To You, Remember What I Told You To Forget, That’s How Much You Mean To Me and My Whole World Ended. Just Another Guy an A-Bet recording which first featured on the 1996 Kent Soul CD compilation Uptown Down South makes a welcome return on What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus. It’s  a lovingly compiled compilation of that documents what was the most productive and successful period of Freddie North’s career.

Sadly, Freddie North’s singles and three albums didn’t reach they audience that they deserved. Freddie North enjoyed just two hit singles during the nine years he spent at A-Bet and Mankind. However, there’s much more to this period of  Freddie North’s career than just two hit singles. Proof of this is What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus which features one of the most talented and underrated soul men of his generation, Freddie North.

Freddie North-What Are You Doing To Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings…Plus.

DONA ONETE-BANERO.

Dona Onete-Banzeiro.

Never give up on a dream. These are words of advice that Dona Onete heeded in 2013, when somewhat belatedly, the seventy-five year old ‘grande dame of Amazonian song’ released her debut album Feitiço Caboclo. Three years later, and Dona Onete returns with her sophomore album Banzeiro, which will be released on the ‘12th’ of May 2017 on Mais Um Discos. Banzeiro features further tales of life by the Amazon from Dona Onete who nowadays, is a cult figure in Brazil, and an ambassador for Amazonian culture. However, for Dona Onete  nowadays, life is very different to it once was.

Dona Onete was born in Amazonian region of Pará in Northern Brazil, in 1938. Growing up, Dona music started to play an important part in her life:“because everything was forbidden by my parents.” Soon, she was practising singing away from the gaze of her parents: “I was washing clothes by the river and one day I saw a dolphin and sung for him. The next day I sang again, and two dolphins came, then a whole family!” Soon, though, the: “teenage dreamer” was singing in front of a very different audience.

By the time Dona was fifteen, she was singing in local bars. This could’ve been the start of a promising musical career. However, these dreams were destroyed in her early twenties. “I was married at 22 and when I tried to sing at home my husband didn’t like it so I had to stop.” For Dona this looked like the end of her musical career.

While Dona turned her back on her singing career, her love affair with music continued. She began studying music indigenous to the Amazon region. Over the years that followed, Dona spent time researching the rhythms, dances and traditions of the Amazon’s indigenous people. This inspired Dona to start composing her own songs. However, the only problem was that she was still unable to sing at home. 

Fortunately, Dona was able to incorporate the songs that she had written into her work as a history teacher. The songs that she had written helped Dona to document the history of the Amazon region to her students. This is a source of pride to the people of the Amazon region. Sadly, that wasn’t always the case. Dona reflects: “nowadays indigenous people can be proud of their heritage but years ago this wasn’t the case.” However, her research couple with her teaching has helped change the attitude of a new generations towards their heritage. This was something to be proud of.

The work that Dona had carried out as a researcher and teacher would later prove useful when changed career in the early eighties. Dona decided left teaching to campaign for workers’ rights. Then when she retired in 1990, Dona became the region’s Municipal Secretary of Culture from 1993-1996. This was a role that she was perfectly suited to. “I helped local musicians and local culture that people didn’t value. I brought my culture to the fore.” While her spell as Municipal Secretary of Culture came to an end in 1996, ten years later, a new chapter in Dona’s career began.

In the early years of the new millennia, Dona’s second husband began to encourage his new wife’s love of music. At last, Dona was doing what she had wanted to do all these years before. Her big break came in 2006, when Dona was singing at a friend’s party and a local band her. They invited Dona to sing with them. Initially, she rejected their invitation, but eventually she was cajoled into singing with the band. This was the start of a new chapter in the sixty-eight year old’s career.

Before long, Dona Onete was a familiar face on the local music scene. Soon, Dona Onete attained celebrity status locally, partly because of her risqué lyrics. The rise and rise of Dona Onete continued with the release of her debut album, Feitiço Caboclo in 2013. By then, seventy-five year old Dona Onete was one of Brazil’s musical success stories. She was touring Brazil, playing in front of crowds that numbered thousands. They were won over by Dona Onete’s inimitable music which she describes as:  “traditional carimbo songs are about nature and tradition-I modernised it by singing about love and sex and taking influence from samba and pagode.” This sound began to attract the attention of critics and music lovers far and wide.

Critics across the globe were also won over by Dona Onete  and her debut album Feitiço Caboclo. Dona Onete was Brazil’s unlikeliest rising star. In 2015, the seventy-seven year old Dona Onete was booked to appear at the Womad festival, where she appeared on the main stage. A year later, in 2016, Dona Onete embarked upon her first American tour. Reflecting on that tour  she says: “sometimes, when you think you’ve given all you’ve got, you realise that, in fact, you have a lot more ahead of you.” That proved to be the case.

As she approaches her seventy-ninth birthday, Dona Onete returns with her sophomore album Banzeiro, which features twelve songs from the ‘grande dame of Amazonian song’. The music on Banzeiro is a unique fusion of Brazilian, African and Carribeean rhythms which feature in joyous and uplifting carimbós that have always been Dona’s trademark. However, these aren’t the tradition carimbo songs about nature and tradition. Instead, they’ve been given a makeover by Dona, who has also been influenced by samba and pagode whilst recording Banzeiro, the long-awaited followup to her debut album Feitiço Caboclo. 

Tipiti which opens Banzeiro is a showcase for the talented band that accompany Dona. They play their part in this irresistible and uplifting song that sets the bar high for the remainder of the album. Banzeiro explodes into life with horns, harmonies and percussion powering this feel good song along. Faceira and No Meio do Pitiú can only be described as joyous carimbós that are guaranteed to brighten up even the darkest day.

The inspiration from Cumbia-tinged Quiemoso e Tremoso came from an unlikely source, a type of seasoning Dona invented. This she believes reflects the multicultural mix of people from Pará. She reflects: “Quiemoso is a spice from the Africans that burns the mouth, jambu is a spice from the indigenous that makes the mouth tremble (tremoso), whilst the olive oil is from the Portuguese and holds it together.” 

There’s another story behind Lua Jaci. It tells the story of Dona visiting an island to give a concert. Dona remembers: “when I arrived they didn’t have a soundsystem – they were very poor people. All they had was this huge, beautiful moon. Lua Jaci” It’s a quite beautiful, cinematic and poignant song.

Coração Brechó (Heartbreaker) is one of the slower tracks, and features a soul-baring vocal from Dona, who sounds as if she’s lived the lyrics. The tempo rises on No Sabor do Beijo (The Taste of a Kiss), is another joyous sounding song, where Dona and her band give one of their best performances. 

Na Linha do Arco-Íris is a show of support to Dona’s fans in her native Brazil who are struggling with their sexuality. She encourages her fans to: “come out of the wardrobe, cross the line of the rainbow and be who you want to be.” 

Shimmering guitars and washes of organ set the scene for Dona’s vocal on Proposta Indecente, which features one of Dona’s finest vocals. It’s one of the highlights of Banzeiro.

Quando eu te Conheci (When I Met You) is a song that Dona wasn’t sure if she should record. The problem was the lyrics, which are risqué even by Dona’s standards. Eventually, she decided to record the song and include it on Banzeiro. It’s welcome addition to the album, albeit it will cause controversy in certain quarters in Dona’s native Brazil.

The piano lead Sonhos de Adolescente closes Banzeiro, and finds Dona reflecting on the dreams she had growing up. Her vocal is wistful and tinged with sadness, as if she’s reflecting on what might been. Especially if she was able to continue her musical career when she got married for the first time. For Dona Onete it’s a case of what might have been, on this poignant song.

For anyone with an interest in Latin music, then Dona Onete’s sophomore album Banzeiro, is sure to be of interest to them. Similarly, anyone who likes good music will enjoy Banzeiro which will be released on the ‘12th’ of May 2017 on Mais Um Discos, and is the much-anticipated followup to her debut album Feitiço Caboclo which was released in 2013. Four years later and seventy-nine year old Dona Onete, ‘grande dame of Amazonian song’ returns with what’s the finest album of her career, Banzeiro. 

It’s an album where no subjects are off limits. This includes songs about love and sex, hurt and heartbreak and the community that she’s spent her life. The music on Banzeiro is variously joyous, uplifting and irresistible, but also poignant, reflective and tinged with sadness and regrets. Sometimes the music is deeply moving, while other times, the songs on Banzeiro are a call to dance as Dona Onete and her multitalented cut loose, on songs that are guaranteed to get any party started. Banzeiro features the long-awaited, and much-anticipated, return of the ‘grande dame of Amazonian song’, Dona Onete, as she returns with twelve captivating tales of life and love in Brazil by the Amazon river. 

Dona Onete-Banzeiro.

BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE-STREET ACTION AND ROCK ’N’ ROLL NIGHTS.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive-Street Action and Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights.

For Bachman-Turner Overdrive, their seventh studio album Street Action, which  was released in February 1978 was the start of a new era for the band. Street Action was the first album not to feature Randy Bachman. 

He had left the band after the release of Freeways in February 1977. Initially Randy Bachman intended to disband Bachman-Turner Overdrive temporarily, while he worked on a solo album. Soon, it became apparent that this wasn’t going to solve the internal strife within the band. 

The rest of Bachman-Turner Overdrive wanted to change direction musically, in reaction to criticism that recent albums had been much of a muchness. What the rest of the band wanted to do, was change direction. That wasn’t going to happen  with Randy Bachman in the band, so he left the band he had cofounded.

Replacing Randy Bachman was April Wine’s former bassist Jim Clench. Bassist Fred Turner switched to rhythm guitar while Blair Thornton became the lead guitarist. It was decided that the newly recruited Jim Clench and Fred Turner would share lead vocal duties. Despite the band featuring drummer Robbie Bachman, the band were forced to embark upon a planned tour as BTO. This was going to cause problems.

Many people wouldn’t know who BTO were, and wouldn’t realise this was essentially Bachman-Turner Overdrive. However, that name couldn’t be used, because the group had entered into an agreement with Randy Bachman when he left the band. He wanted to retain the rights to his surname for his solo career. 

This meant that the rest of the band had no option but to tour as BTO. However, this came at a  price. With Randy Bachman retaining the rights to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the rest of the group had to buy the rights to BTO and the associated logo. It was a costly business, and one that had to pay off as BTO embarked upon their recording career.

The first album that BTO would record and release was Street Action in February 1978. It was followed in March 1979 by Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights. These two albums, Street Action and Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights were recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records on one CD, and document this new chapter in BTO’s career.

Street Action.

Having secured the rights to the BTO name, now the band could begin work on what was their seventh studio album. This time around Jim Clench, Blair Thornton, Fred Turner and Robbie Bachman penned nine new tracks which would become Street Action.

BTO headed to Can Base Studios, in Vancouver, Canada where they would record Street Action. Drummer and percussionist Robbie Bachman, bassist Jim Clench and rhythm guitarist Fred Turner joined lead guitarist Blair Thornton. As had been agreed, Jim Clench and Fred Turner share lead vocal duties. Rather than bring in an outside producer, BTO made the decision to produce the album themselves.

The four members of BTO knew the new sound that they were trying to create. They wanted to move away from the pop that featured on recent albums. It would be replaced by a much heavier, rockier sound. This BTO hoped would appeal to a much wider audience, especially the younger record buyers who enjoyed heavy metal. They were BTO’s new target audience.

Once the sessions at Can Base Studios were complete, BTO had succeeded in their mission to record a much heavier, rockier sounding album. This was very different from previous albums, and had the potential to introduce BTO’s music to a different, younger audience.

That became apparent from the opening bars of I’m In Love, which featured a very different band to the one lead by Randy Bachman. By comparison to other tracks, I’m In Love and later, For Love were concessions to BTO’s long-standing fan, but had widespread appeal. One of the album’s highlights was Down The Road, showcased BTO’s new, heavier sound. This continues on It Takes A Lot Of People and A Long Time For A Little While which features some of Blair Thornton finest rocky guitar licks. Street Action is another of the heaviest tracks, while Madison Avenue features BTO as they combine their old and new sounds on a radio friendly song. You’re Gonna Miss Me was a rocky anthem-in-waiting, while World Is Waiting For A Love Song was firmly aimed at a younger audience who had grownup listening to rock and heavy metal. BTO had transformed their sound in the space of one album.

This was a risky business, given the new sound might alienate BTO’s longstanding fans. However, it was a risk BTO wanted to take in an attempt to return to the upper reaches of the charts. This was where BTO had spent a good part of their career. However, when Freeways had stalled at seventy in the US Billboard 200, most of BTO realised that something had to change. The result of this change was Street Action.


While Street Action was well received by the many critics, the four members awaited the reaction of record buyers when the album was released in February 1978. BTO watched as Street Action stalled at a lowly 130 in the US Billboard 200. Things didn’t get any better when Down The Road was released as a single. It reached just ninety-one in the US Billboard 100. For the new lineup of BTO, this was a disastrous start to the latest chapter in their career. Street Action was the least successful album of BTO’s seven album career. Something would have to change.

Rock ’N’ Roll Nights.

When work began on the followup album to Street Action, a decision had been made to bring onboard various songwriters from outside of BTO. This was the first of the changes as BTO began work on Rock ’N’ Roll Nights.

Although outside songwriters would contribute towards BTO’s eighth album, members of the band still contributed towards Rock ’N’ Roll Nights. Fred Turner penned Heartaches, while Jim Clench contributed Rock and Roll Nights and End of the Line. Jim Clench teamed up with Blair Thornton to write Heaven Tonight. The pair then wrote Here She Comes Again with Prism’s Jim Vallance. He also contributed Jamaica and Rock and Roll Hell, and cowrote Amelia Earnert with Canadian songwriter David Simmonds. The other song on the album came from another Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams, who wrote Wastin’ Time. These songs would become Rock ’N’ Roll Nights, which was recorded at Mushroom Studios, in Vancouver, Canada.

While BTO had produced Street Action, this time Jim Vallance took charge of production. Whether this was BTO’s choice, or was a suggestion by Mercury Records is unclear. Mercury Records must have been getting nervous given neither Freeways nor Street Action sold in vast quantities. With this in mind, work began on Rock ’N’ Roll Nights.

BTO’s rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Robbie Bachman, bassist Jim Clench and rhythm guitarist Fred Turner. Blair Thornton played lead guitarist Blair Thornton, while Jim Clench and Fred Turner continued to share lead vocal duties. The only difference was the presence of producer Jim Vallance in the control room. He would play his part in the next chapter in the BTO story Rock ’N’ Roll Nights.

When BTO had completed Rock ’N’ Roll Nights, it became apparent that the decision to bring onboard producer Jim Vallance had paid off. The album opened with the driving anthemic sound of Jamaica, which would later be covered by Rick Springfield, albeit with slightly different lyrics. This set the bar high for the rest of the album. 

Heartache was a rocky ballad, where harmonies proved the perfect foil for a vocal powerhouse as the song headed into anthem territory. Heaven Tonight was a spirited, rocky track that should’ve appealed to BTO’s old and new fans. Rock And Roll Nights which Kiss would later cover, was one of the album’s  highlights. So was  Wastin’ Time, where Bryan Adams doesn’t spare the hooks. It’s tailor made for BTO. It’s a similar case with Here She Comes Again, which owes a debt of gratitude to You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. End Of The Line is a melancholy ballad, that’s another of the album’s highlights. Rock And Roll Hell is a stomping anthem that features BTO at their rockiest. Very different is the closing track, Amelia Earhart. It’s a carefully crafted, melodic and FM friendly song that should’ve appealed to BTO’s fans old and new. It was a similar case with Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights.

Things were looking good when critics hailed Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights as one of BTO’s finest albums of recent years. BTO promoted Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights by playing Heartaches and Jamaica on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. However, by then, disaster had struck for rock bands everywhere.

Disco was at the peak of its popularity when BTO released Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights in March 1979. If the album had been released five months later, disco would’ve been dead. By then, BTO had released Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights, which stalled at 165 in the US Billboard 200. Only 350,000 copies of Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights sold, making it BTO’s least successful album. When Heartaches was released as a single, it reached just sixty in in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-two in BTO’s native Canada. For BTO, this was just rubbed salt into the wounds.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights was, without doubt, the best album BTO had released in recent years. The decision to bring onboard outside songwriters, including Jim Vallance who also produced the album had paid off. Sadly, Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights was released at the wrong time.

With the disco at the peak of its popularity, many albums were being overlooked by record buyers. One of these albums was Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights, which was the last great album that BTO would release.

Sadly, Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights was the last album that BTO released on Mercury Records where the group had spent their entire career. BTO split-up after the release of Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights. Their legacy was eight studio albums, one live album and a best of BTO.

Five years later, and a new lineup of BTO lead by Randy Bachman returned with their ninth studio album Bachman–Turner Overdrive. The only other original member of BTO was Fred Turner. Apart from that, it was an almost unrecognisable lineup of BTO that featured on Bachman–Turner Overdrive. When the album was released in September 1984, it failed to make any impact on the charts. This time, it was the end of the road for BTO.

Never again would BTO release another studio album. BTO would reunite and tour, but never returned to the studio. Ironically, the last great album BTO released Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights, doesn’t feature founding member Randy Bachman who left the band after Freeways.

BTO only released two albums in the post-Randy Bachman era, Street Action and Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights which were recently remastered and reissued on one CD by BGO Records. Both albums show a different side to BTO, as they reinvent themselves as a hard rocking band. That’s apparent on Street Action, which is an underrated album, while Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights was the last great album BTO released.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive-Street Action and Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights.

BOB HOLMES’ NASHVILLE SOUL.

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. 

For many people, Nashville has always been synonymous with country music. It is, after all, the country music capital of America. However, back in the sixties and seventies, it wasn’t  just country music that was coming out of Nashville. So was soul, R&B and jazz. A reminder of that period can be found on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. 

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul features twenty-four songs wrote, arranged or produced by Bob Holmes. This includes songs from The Hytones,  Sandra King, Peggy Gaines, The Paramount Four, Roger Hatcher, Freddie North, Little Rock Brotherhood, Bill Brandon,  Gene Allison, Slim Harpo, The Golden Bond and Ruthie. They’re just a few of the artists that feature on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul, which covers the sixties and seventies. During this period, the Nashville soul, R&B and jazz scenes were flourishing. Playing an important in these scenes was Bob Holmes.

He was born Robert Lee Holmes Jr in Greenville, Mississippi, but moved to Memphis. Growing up, Bob and the rest of his family were regulars at the local church. That was Bob’s introduction to music, and where he started his musical education.

This came about after the music director at the church, arranged for Bob to have piano lessons. Before long, Bob was a proficient pianist, and this lead to him playing the piano at the Bethesda Baptist Church in South Memphis. Soon, though, Bob wanted to crossover and play secular music. This was something his mother was totally against. Despite this, Bob applied for and was accepted at Tennessee State University, in Nashville.

While Bob continued to play at churches in Nashville, he started to play different styles of music. Soon, he was playing in Nashville’s nightclubs and restaurants. That was where he met singer Peggy Gaines, who Bob would accompany as she sung in venues around Nashville. By then, Bob was a teacher at Pearl High School.

He took his role as an educator seriously, and was keen to impart his musical knowledge on his students. Bob who was a talented string arranger, founded Nashville’s first black string ensemble, and later taught jazz in schools and colleges in Tennessee. Then in 1960, Bob founded the Cremona Strings, which featured black school children who were mentored and tutored by Bob. Still, though, Bob found time to form his own group.

Although Bob was kept busy with his role as a teacher, he still found time to form his own string group, Jazz Excursion. One of the members of the band in the early days was Billy Cox, who would later find fame with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. That was still to come.

By the time Jazz Excursion were making their mark on the Nashville music scene, Bob’s skills as a string arranger were being put to good use in the city’s recording studios. Later, though, Bob would work as producer as well as an arranger, and twenty-four songs from the sixties and seventies feature on

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. This includes five previously unreleased tracks. Just like the other nineteen songs, they’re a reminder of Bob Holmes during career as an arranger and producer during what was a golden era for Nashville’s soul, R&B and jazz scenes.

Opening Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul is the Runaway Girl the first of two songs from The Hytones. They were discovered by Bob Holmes at a high school talent show.Their lineup featured Freddie Waters, Eddie Frierson and Arthur “Skeet” Alsup. Bob named the group The Hytones and became their producer. He wrote and produced Runaway Girl, which was recorded in 1965 but never released until it was released as a single by Kent Records in 2016 to commemorate their thirty-seventh anniversary. It’s a song that’s sure to prove popular on the Northern Soul scene. The Hytones’ other contribution is I’ve Got My Baby, which was released as a single in 1966 on the A-Bet label. This ballad was penned and produced by Bob Holmes, and features a vocal that’s an outpouring of emotion.

Singer Peggy Gaines and Bob Holmes worked together in 1961, when she was just seventeen. Within a year, Peggy Gaines had made her recording debut, and by 1969, was signed to Ted Jarrett’s Ref-O-Ree label. Td Jarrett produced Peggy Gaines’ 1969 single Just To Satisfy My Baby which was composed, arranged and conducted by Holmes. So was the B-Side, the joyous Sweet Way Of Living which features a powerful, emotive vocal from Peggy Gaines. Sadly, she never enjoyed the commercial success her talent deserved.

Roger Hatcher’s I Dedicate My Life To You is another song written, arranged and composed by Bob Holmes and produced by Ted Jarrett. It was released on Volt in 1972, and is a  features soul-baring vocal from Roger Hatcher on this beautiful paean. It’s one of the highlights of Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

The Paramount Four featured four classmates from Union High School in Gallatin, in Summer County. They recorded You Must Leave Her Because You Love Her in 1971, which was produced by Bob Holmes. However, the song lay unreleased until August 2010, when it made its debut on Deep Shadows (The Best Of Kent Ballads). Seven years later, this deep soul hidden gem returns for an encore on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

In February 1967, Freddie North released Hold Back as a single on the Excello imprint A-Bet. It was penned and produced by Holmes. So was the B-Side, Don’t Make Me Look So Bad, which is a beautiful ballad that for too long has been overlooked. Hopefully, that will change after featuring on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

By 1976, Bob Holmes had over a decade’s experience behind him. He was drafted in by producer Moses C. Dillard to help him arrange Bill Brandon’s 1976 single The Streets Got My Lady. Bob’s experience arranging strings was put to good use on this slick slice of dance-floor friendly modern soul where Bill Brandon combines emotion, hurt and social comment. The Streets Got My Lady was released on the Nashville based Piedmont label in 1976, and forty-one years later, is a timeless track.

Gene Allison’s recording career began in the mid-fifties, and by 1969, he was still going strong. He had signed to Ted Jarrett’s Ref-O-Ree label, and covered Somebody Somewhere. This was penned and produced by Ted Jarrett, but arranged by Bob Holmes. It’s soulful, funky and features a vocal powerhouse from  Gene Allison.

In 1972, Wendell Watts released The Love Bug as a single on Jiminie Records. Tucked away on the B-Side was Grooviest Thing This Side Of Heaven which was penned by Ted Jarrett and Bob Holmes who also arranged and conducted the band that accompanies Wendell Watts. He adds his vocal to this hook-laden slice of soul.

Roscoe Shelton was signed to the Ref-O-Ree label in 1969 when he recorded I Cant Love Nobody But You. It’s a Ted Jarrett composition that was arranged by Ted Holmes. Despite the quality of the song, it lay unreleased until 2002, when it was licensed by the Dutch label Black Magic. Fifteen years later, and I Cant Love Nobody But You makes a welcome appearance on  Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. It’s a reminder of a talented soul man, Roscoe Shelton.

Freddie Waters was another artist singled to Ted Jarrett’s Ref-O-Ree label, when he released The Winning Horse as a single in 1969. Hidden away on the B-Side was Don’t Let It Get You Down Boy, which was penned penned and arranged by Bob Holmes. Ted Jarrett took charge of production, while Freddie Waters unleashes a vocal that’s a mixture of frustration and despair.

Between 1966 and 1969, Johnny Truitt released a quartet of singles for Excello’s A-Bet imprint. However, the one that got away was a cover of Ed Townsend’s Crying Won’t Help You Now. It was produced by Bob Holmes and lay unreleased until it featured on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. It’s a powerful and poignant cover of a familiar song from Johnny Truitt.

Jimmy Church only ever released a handful of singles during the sixties. This included Right On Time, which was released on Southern Artists in 1965. On the B-Side was Right In The Palm Of Your Hand, a Bob Holmes production. It features an outpouring of emotion and despair from Jimmy Church on a single that as too good to languish on a B-Side. Someone at Sound Stage 7 realised this too, and in January 1967, Right In The Palm Of Your Hand released as a single.

Closing Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul is Ruthie’s 1980 single on Guiding Star, Let’s Try Love Again. It was penned by Robert Fisher and Bob Holmes, who arranged and produced this smooth, soulful ballad. As is often the case with compilations, the best has been kept until last. That is the case with Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul which features twenty-four songs, including five unreleased tracks is a reminder of Bob Holmes’ career as a songwriter, arranger, conductor and producer. Bob Holmes was also a talent spotter, who discovered several artists that featured on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. This included The Hytones, Sandra King, The Avons and Eddie Frierson. These artists were guided by Bob Holmes during their nascent careers. He wrote, arranged and produced songs for them, and help launch their careers, during what was a golden age for soul, R&B and jazz in Nashville.

At the heart of Nashville’s soul, R&B and jazz scene during the sixties and seventies was Bob Holmes. His talents were constantly in demand, and he worked with some of the giants of music, including JJ Cale, Cannonball Adderley and Duke Ellington. However, as the years passed, Bob Holmes didn’t just produce soul, R&B and jazz, but gospel, rock, classical and the music that made Nashville famous, country. Bob Holmes was a versatile and talented producer.

Still, though, Bob Holmes continued to teach within the public school system in Nashville, where he passed on his love of music. Many young people going through Nashville’s school system were fortunate enough to be taught by Bob Holmes. Music and education it seemed were Bob Holmes’ two passions in life. Sadly, Bob Holmes passed away on the ‘16th’ December 2000. However, Bob Holmes left behind a rich musical legacy, including the music that features on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. 

RAKKATAK-SMALL PIECES.

Rakkatak-Small Pieces.

Amongst locals, Jodhpur in central India is known as Sun City. With bright, sunny weather all year, it’s a popular destination for tourists. This included musician Anita Katakkar, who founded Rakkatak in Toronto, Canada in 2009. By the time she journeyed to Jodhpur,  Rakkatak had already released two albums. Soon, two would become three. That was all in future. 

Meanwhile, Anita wandered through the market in Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, enjoying the sights and sounds of Sun City. Especially, the local textiles that were for sale. This was something that the Jodhpur had been famous for, for centuries. Textiles from Jodhpur were still exported around the world. Still, though, they were displayed as they had always been, with small pieces of the fabric on display, allowing potential buyers to see and examine their bright colours and designs. When Anita saw the pieces of fabric, she stood and studied them, and it was then that she realised how similar they were to the music she had been making with Rakkatak. 

Anita explains: “like the fabrics, nothing is ever quite perfect when you make an album, and everything is stitched together with different threads.” “It felt like it summed up everything we’d been doing so well.” So much so, that when Rakkatak were looking for a title to their third album, Anita remembering her visits to the market in Mehrangarh Fort, decided to call the album Small Pieces. It’s a new chapter in a story that began eight years ago.

When Anita Katakkar founded Rakkatak in Toronto, Canada, in 2009, this was the next step in her career. This was a as a solo project for Anita, who had started to fuse Indian classical music and electronica using just her tabla and a sequencer. This was the next step in Anita’s musical journey.

Music is omnipresent in Anita’s life. Ut always has been. Especially traditional Indian music, which had always played an important part in Anita’s life from an early age. “My ancestry is Indian and Scottish,..and I heard plenty of Indian music growing up from my grandmother; that’s what started me. I began studying tabla here in Canada, then spent time in India learning more. Then I spent ten years as a member of the Toronto Tabla Ensemble. But once musicians like Talvin Singh and Tabla Beat Science started changing the way people heard Indian music, I began to explore the possibilities they opened up. I saw where I wanted to take the music. We had stories to tell.”

That was certainly the case with Anita, when she started to record what would eventually become her eponymous debut album. Rakkatak was released on October ’13th’ 2010, and was captivating marriage of classical tabla compositions,  shimmering instrumental melodies and subtle electronic soundscapes. This won the approval of critics, and in the process, helped launch Rakkatak’s career.

Nearly four year later, and Rakkatak returned with their much-anticipated sophomore album Open on April ‘1st’ 2014. By then, Rakkatak’s lineup now numbered three. Anita had been joined by bassist Oriana Barbato and sitar player Rex Van der Spuy. This resulted in Rakkatak’s music starting to evolve. However, Anita made sure that the band never lost sight of its Indian roots. They were still to the fore on Open, which was a fascinating fusion of different genres, instruments and influences. They played their part in the sound and success of Open.

Three years passed before Rakkatak returned with their third album Small Pieces. By then, Rakkatak was a duo, featuring Anita and Oriana Barbato. They had produced Small Pieces, which features six new songs and two cover versions. 

This includes a reworking of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood. The other cover version is  Rush’s YYZ, which strikes a chord with Anita.  “Rush is iconic in Canada…You wouldn’t think their style would merge with Indian classical music, but because of the rhythmic component and the odd time signatures, it works quite naturally. Since it’s a very drum-oriented piece, full of little explosions, it jibes perfectly with what we do. And as YYZ is the abbreviation for the Toronto airport, it also has a local connection to us.” More importantly, YYZ has a groove.

For Anita and the other members of Rakkatak, the groove is of the utmost importance. It’s at the heart of everything they write and play. Anita explains: “When I compose, I start with the taal, or time cycle. I’ll think about the mood and the melodic aspects, then figure out the mode and make a rough recording using a keyboard.” That was just the start.

The next part of the process finds Rakkatak working on the arrangement to a song. Gradually, each part of the song started to take shape. It was only when arrangement on Small Pieces was complete, that Rakkatak headed into the studio.

Despite having completed the arrangements before entering the studio, recording of Small Pieces took time. It was a much more complex albums, with a wider selection of instruments and guest artists playing their part in the recording of Small Pieces. Founder and bandleader Anita Katakkar played tabla, cajón, glockenspiel and harmonium, while bassist Oriana Barbato who also adds shakers and cabasa. They were joined by a cast of ten guest artists.

This includes Rex Van der Spuy, who played sitar on five tracks. The other guest artists included vocalist Samidha Joglekar; drummer Randolf Jiminez; violinist Jessica Deutsche; guitarist Philippe Tasci; keyboardist Reza Moghadass; sarode player Steve Ode and Joanna De Souza who plays manjira. Joanna Mack played sitar on Eesha’s Song and Sina Bathaie added santoor on Dreaming.  Anita remembers the sessions: “the solos–the features –were all recorded live, so I never knew quite what to expect. But that’s the beauty of music.” The addition of so many guest artists meant that it took over a year to record the eight tracks that would become Small Pieces.

With Small Pieces now complete,  Rakkatak were ready to release their first album in three years. Many of the songs on Small Pieces tell a story. Anita reflects that: “what we see, what we experience, this is what’s reflected in the music. It’s an outlet for feelings.” That is certainly the case, with Small Pieces, which is Rakkatak’s much-anticipated third album.

A Medley that features Norwegian Wood opens Small Pieces. This is fitting, given The Beatles love of Indian music during the mid to late sixties. Especially the late George Harrison, who immersed himself in Indian music and culture. He would’ve appreciated this captivating Medley, that eventually gives way to a cover of Norwegian Wood. Before that, the sitar, and tabla take centre-stage, while the sinuous bass winds its way across the arrangement. In the background, the glockenspiel plays a supporting role. Then at 2.14 it’s all change, as Rakkatak become the latest group to cover Norwegian Wood. It’s totally transformed , thanks to Rakkatak’s judicious choice of instrumentation. This is at the heart of the reinvention of a familiar song that takes on new life and meaning.

Dreaming is the first track to feature vocalist Samidha Joglekar. Her vocal soars above the understated arrangement, where a plucked sitar combines with hissing hi-hats. They add an element of drama, and set the scene for Samidha’s ethereal vocal. Soon, the arrangement builds, and the vocal drops out.It’s replaced by a dark, probing bass, sitar, tabla, santoor and manjira. They play their part in a meandering and atmospheric arrangement. The return of Samidha’s vocal adds to what’s a ruminative and dreamy soundscape. Later, the vocal drops out and the tabla adds an element of drama to this dreamy, ruminative and mesmeric soundscape

As the sitar sets the scene on Heliosphere, a rocky influence can be heard. Especially when the rhythm section join the fray. Meanwhile,  a fleet-fingered sitar solo plays a starring role, and is joined by a violin. Soon, the bass takes centre-stage, as the sitar drones and the tabla provides the pulsating heartbeat. Flourishes of scratchy  strings add the finishing touch before the tempo drops, and Rakkatak start to rebuild. The sitar joins with the tabla and wistful violin before the rhythm section power the arrangement along. Later, there’s another change in tempo, which allows the sitar it’s moments in the sun, before this progressive and compelling magical musical mystery tour reaches a crescendo.

Rakkatak pay homage to Canada’s most famous musical exports, Rush on YYZ. This is the perfect track to showcase what Rakkatak’s music all about. It’s essentially a fusion of Indian classical music  and Western influences. That soon becomes apparent as the track unfolds. Before that, a glockenspiel signals the entrance of the rhythm section, who quickly lock into the groove on this progressive rock classic. The song is perfect for Rakkatak, who enjoy, embrace and cope with the various changes in tempo, and reinvent this classic song. Soon, though, east and west combine as the tabla and manjira combine with the bass and chirping guitar. Suddenly, YYZ is transformed. Especially as the drums returns and join shimmering dreamy washes of eastern sounds. They play their in a part of what’s a captivating and mesmeric, genre-melting cover of a Rush classic.

Anita explains the tragic story behind: “Eesha’s Song was written as an elegy to a friend’s daughter who passed away before she was two years old.”  Tabla solos play an important part in the track. They, Anita explains; “were inspired by running up a big hill and barely being able to keep up, sort of like Eesha’s heart.” This explanation makes adds to the poignancy of Eesha’s Song, which is a beautiful tribute to a young girl, whose life was  cut tragically short.

The inspiration for Rain After The Fire, came after Anita watched  the coverage of the fires that devastated parts of Western Canada during the summer of 2015. It’s a slow, atmospheric and melancholy soundscape, before the tempo soon starts to rise. As the sitar plays, there’s an urgency to the Anita’s tablas. It’s as if she’s trying to replicate the devastation caused by fire as it destroys everything in its path. Then as the tempo drops, the rain has arrived and is dampening the spirits of the fire. By then, there’s a wistful sound as if those affected  by the fire and the devastation its caused are trying to come to terms with what they’ve lost, and how their lives will never be the same again. Quite simply, it’s another moving and cinematic soundscape from Rakkatak.

Thoughts Of You was written by Anita and vocalist Samidha Joglekar. Anita says: “it’s a love song to Lord Krishna. We envisioned Krishna with ebony skin and a comforting presence that weaves in and out of one’s dream and awakened state.” A slow, spacious bass ushers in Samidha’s beautiful, heartfelt vocal. Meanwhile, a sitar, tabla and bass frame Samidha’s ethereal vocal on this spiritual sounding song.

Riffing On 9 closes Small Pieces finds Anita revisiting her musical past. It’s a solo piece, where Anita returns to the days when she recorded with just her tabla and laptop. The result is a contemporary sounding jam, that’s a compelling fusion of eastern and western influences. There’s also a nod to the Asian Underground movement that inspired and influenced Anita as she embarked upon her career as Rakkatak.

That was eight years ago, and since then, Rakkatak have released three albums, including their third album Small Pieces. It’s the best album of Rakkatak’s career, and marks a musical coming of age for the Toronto based duo. Their unique and inimitable fusion of disparate genres, instruments and influences is a captivating and compelling sonic adventure that’s new and innovative.

While other musicians have combined eastern and western music, often the western influences outweigh the eastern. Not on Small Pieces, where Anita Katakkar ensures that Rakkatak don’t forget their musical roots. 

Anita is proud of her Indian roots, and they’ve always played an important part in Rakkatak’s sound. That was the case of on their two previous albums, Rakkatak and Open. It’s also the case on Small Pieces, which features music that’s beautiful, elegiac, ethereal,  mesmeric, poignant, ruminative and spiritual. There’s a reason for this, as many the songs have a story to tell. They range from moving and poignant, to tragic to spiritual. Other songs gave a cinematic sound, and set the listener’s imagination racing. Always though, the songs are of the highest quality as Rakkatak reach new heights on their career defining third  album, Small Pieces. 

Rakkatak-Small Pieces.

SWAMP POP BY THE BAYOU-LET’S GET TOGETHER TONIGHT.

Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight.

Recently, one of Ace Records’ longest running and most successful compilation series made a welcome return when Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight was released. It’s the seventeenth instalment in the By The Bayou series, and the third compilation of swamp pop. Just like the previous instalments in the By The Bayou series, it has been compiled and curated by Ian Saddler. He’s dug deep and discovered twenty-eight: “buckle-polishers and skirt-swirlers” for Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight. They’re a mixture hits and hidden gems, plus a trio of previously unreleased songs. These songs feature familiar faces and new names.

This includes a young Johnny Winter, who recorded Crazie Babie under the moniker Texas Guitar Slim. There’s also contributions from Rocket Morgan, Warren Storm, Rod Bernard, Chuck Hullier, Charlotte Hunter, Rod Bernard, Gabe Dean, Amery Lynn and Vince Anthony and The Blue Notes on Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight. Some of the artists feature more than once, with Rocket Morgan and Warren Storm featuring four times each. They’re responsible for “buckle-polishers and skirt-swirlers” that provide a tantalising taste of the music of that used to provide a soundtrack to life in South Louisiana and South East Texas area. That music is timeless, and nearly sixty years later, is finding a new and appreciative audience thanks to Ian Saddler’s By The Bayou series.

Rocket Morgan who opens Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight, spent his entire career signed to the Zynn label. His career began in October 1958, which he released his debut released You’re Humbuggin’ Me. On the B-Side was the confessional This Life I Live. Four months later, in February 1959, Rocket Morgan returned with Tag Along, which featured the soul-baring What Ya’ Gonna Do? on the B-Side. Later in 1959, Rocket Morgan released Too High A Price (To Pay For Love) as a single. Tucked away on the B-Side is I Know It’s A Sin featured on the B-Side, which features a flawless vocal from Rocket Morgan. He’s accompanied by two swamp pop legends, pianist Katie Webster and drummer Warren Storm, who provide the perfect accompaniment to Rocket Morgan. They feature on It’s Too Late, which has never been released before. It’s a welcome addition, and a reminder of a truly talented vocalist, Rocket Morgan, whose recording career lasted just two years. After that, Rocket Morgan turned his back on music after finding religion.

Gene Terry and His Down Beats only ever released two singles during the late fifties. Their debut was No Mail Today, which was released on Goldband Records in December 1958. Hidden away on the B-Side was a Never Let Her Go, a beautiful tale of hurt and heartbreak.

Warren Storm is one of the giants of swamp pop, so it’s fitting he contributes four songs. This includes the heartfelt paean I’ve Got My Heart In My Hand, which was the B-Side to So Long So Long (Good Bye Good Bye) which was released on the Nasco label in June 1959. Three years later, in 1962, Warren Storm had signed to the Zynn label. He released Jailhouse Blues as a single in 1962, the hurt-filled ballad You Don’t Want Me in 1963. The final contribution from Warren Storm is Thank You So Much, which was recorded early in his career but never released until 1984. That was when it found its way onto a Warren Storm compilation Mama Mama Mama 1958-1961 which was released by Flyright Records.

In January 1960, Rod Bernard released Let’s Get Together Tonight as a single on Mercury Records. Little did he realise that he had just made history. Let’s Get Together Tonight wwas  one of the first swamp pop singles ever releases. Four years later, in 1964, Rod Bernard released the Huey P. Meaux produced Papa Thibodeaux on the Copyright Records’ label. Tucked away on the B-Side was the hurt-filled ballad Play A Song For My Baby. It was regarded as a much stronger song that Papa Thibodeaux, and was the one that got away. 

Texas Guitar Slim is better known to most music fans as Johnny Winter. However, back in 1964, Johnny Winter’s career was in its infancy when he dawned the moniker Texas Guitar Slim. He released Teardrops In My Heart as a single on the Moon-Lite label. On the B-Side was Crazie Babie, which showcases Johnny Winter’s skills as a guitarist.

Charlotte Hunter only released the one single When There Is No One, which is an Alice T. Smith composition. When it was released on the K label, in 1957, Now Is The Time could be found on the B-Side. It’s a piano driven, swamp pop ballad that features a hopeful and heartfelt ballad from Charlotte Hunter.

By April 1959, Sidney Ester was a familiar face in the recording studios of South West Louisiana and South East Texas. He had already recorded a number of singles. However, in April 1959, Sidney Ester and The Dreamers’ released Let Me Walk With You on Eddie Shuler’s Goldband Records. It was penned by Sidney Ester and produced by Eddie Shuler. They were responsible for hook-laden slice of swamp pop that’s one of the highlights of Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight.

In 1965, Ken Lindsey went into the studio with producer Huey P. Meaux to cover Peppermint Harris’s I Got Loaded. It was released as a single later in 1965 on the Pic 1 label. It’s a memorable single with horns and piano accompanying Ken Lindsey on this oft-overlooked and underrated swamp rock track.

After releasing a trio of singles as Jivin’ Gene and The Jokers, the next single that Jivin’ Gene embarked upon a solo career. His debut solo single was You’re Jealous, which was released on Mercury Records in 1960. On the B-Side was the soul-baring ballad Go On, Go On. It features a vocal that’s full of emotion, insecurity and hurt.

When The Boogie Kings were founded in 1956, they were a trio that featured Doug Ardoin, Harris Miller, and Bert Miller. Two years later, the group was billed as Doug Ardoin and The Boogie Kings when they released Love Lost as a single on the Jin label in 1958. It features an outpouring of emotion during this swamp pop ballad from vocalist Doug Ardoin during this tale of betrayal. Later, The Boogie Kings would turn their back on swamp pop, and were transformed into a twelve piece blue-eyed soul band.

My final choice from Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight is Vince Anthony and The Blue Notes is Lucy Lou, another emotive swamp pop ballad. It was released as a single in 1958, on the Louisiana based Hilton label. This is the latest in a long line of songs on Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight that are a reminder of the glory days of swamp pop.

Ian Saddler has spent several years documenting the music of South West Louisiana and South East Texas on the By The Bayou series. This includes Cajun, zydeco and swamp pop which provided the soundtrack to life in South West Louisiana and South East Texas. However, before the release of Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight, there had only been two swamp pop compilations. The release of Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight brings that number to three.

Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight’s without doubt, is the finest compilation of swamp pop so far. Hopefully, there will be further instalments of swamp in Ace Records’ long running and successful By The Bayou compilation series. Especially if they match the quality of Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight, which is one of the best compilations in the series. It’s the perfect introduction to swamp pop and the music of South West Louisiana and South East Texas.

Suddenly, the music on Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight transports the listener back in time to the late fifties and early sixties. They hear songs from old friends, familiar faces and new names who are responsible for hits, hidden gems, obscurities and rarities. Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight with its mixture of “skirt swirlers and buckle polishers” is tantalising taste of the golden age of swamp pop, is guaranteed to get the party started. 

Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Let’s Get Together Tonight.

TEENAGE FANCLUB-SCOTLAND’S BIG STARS AND KINGS OF JANGLE POP.

Teenage Fanclub-Scotland’s Big Stars and Kings Of Jangle Pop.

Not many Scottish bands have enjoyed the longevity and commercial success that Teenage Fanclub have. Scotland’s Kings of jangle pop have been together four decades,  have released ten albums and toured the world several times.  Still though, Teenage Fanclub still going strong, and must be contenders for the 2017 Scottish Album of The Year Award with their tenth album Here.  It was released in 2016, twenty-eight years after the Teenage Fanclub story began.

It was in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, a small town twelve miles from Glasgow, that Teenage Fanclub were  born in 1989. The nascent band emerged out of Glasgow’s C86 scene, and had been inspired by West Coast bands like The Beach Boys and The Byrds. Another major influence on Teenage Fanclub were Big Star, who Teenage Fanclub would be later be compared to.

Unlike Big Star, Teenage Fanclub were a five piece band. The original lineup featured guitarist Norman Blake, lead guitarist Raymond McGinley, bassist Gerard Love, drummer and Francis MacDonald. Teenage Fanclub’s three principal songwriters shared lead vocal duties. That was the case on their debut album.

A Catholic Education.

Just a year after the band was founded, Teenage Fanclub released their debut album in 1990. A Catholic Education would later be described as a quite un-Teenage Fanclub album. The music was dark, harsh and peppered with cynicism and controversy. 

Most of the controversy stemmed from Teenage Fanclub’s decision to turn their sights on Catholic church. For a band from a city divided by religion, that was a controversial move, and one that could alienate people. What made the decision to “attack” the Catholic church, was that Teenage Fanclub prided themselves on being apolitical band. The other surprise for a band who admired The Byrds, The Beach Boys and Big Star was the sound of A Catholic Education.

For much of A Catholic Education, Teenage Fanclub unleashed a mixture of grunge and heavy metal. The only hint of what was to come from Teenage Fanclub was the Norman Blake penned Everything Flows. It was a glorious slice of power pop. This was something that Teenage Fanclub would return to later. Before that, A Catholic Education was released on June 11th 1991.

Before that, critics reviewed A Catholic Education. Reviews of the album were mixed, and very few critics forecast the critical acclaim and commercial success that came Teenage Fanclub’s way. When A Catholic Education was released by Matador, the album failed to even trouble the British or American charts. It was an inauspicious debut from Teenage Fanclub.

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The King.

Just two months later, and Teenage Fanclub released their sophomore album, The King. However, in reality, The King was a quickly assembled collection of tracks. 

The tracks that became The King had been recorded once Teenage Fanclub had completed what would be their third album, Bandwagonesque. Quickly, Teenage Fanclub recorded nine tracks, including covers of Madonna’s Like A Virgin and Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive. Once The King was recorded, Teenage Fanclub were hoping this would allow them to escape their contractual liability to Matador. This could have backfired. 

Teenage Fanclub owed Matador an album. If they accepted The King, then they had fulfilled their contractual obligations. There was the possibility that the album could be rejected, if Matador didn’t believe the album was of a certain commercial standard.

Fortunately, they didn’t. That’s despite covers of Madonna’s Like A Virgin and Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive. The King wasn’t exactly Teenage Fanclub’s finest hour. Despite this, Matador released in August 1991.

Reviews of The King hadn’t been favourable. Despite this, The King reached fifty-three in the UK charts. It was almost ironic. Very few critics thought that The King would even trouble the charts. Teenage Fanclub had the last laugh. Free from all encumbrances, the Teenage Fanclub signed to Creation Records.

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Bandwagonesque.

Now signed to Alan McGhee’s Creation Records, Teenage Fanclub like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, delivered the completed version of Bandwagonesque. It had been recorded at Amazon Studios, Liverpool, between 9th April to 12th May 1991. It featured twelve songs, were Teenage Fanclub came of age musically.

Just like previous albums, songwriting duties were split between the band members. Raymond McGinley wrote I Don’t Know; Norman Blake penned four songs;  Gerard Love wrote five and cowrote Sidewinder with Brendan O’Hare. The only track credited to Teenage Fanclub was Satan. Teenage Fanclub were maturing as songwriters and musicians.

When it came to choosing a producer for Bandwagonesque, the partnership of Paul Chisholm, Don Fleming and Teenage Fanclub returned. They were responsible for an album that stood head and shoulders above Teenage Fanclub’s two previous albums, Bandwagonesque.

On Bandwagonesque Teenage Fanclub’s trademark ‘sound’ began to take shape. It had been influenced by The Byrds and Big Star. Byrdsian, jangling guitars were joined by close, cooing, harmonies and a melodic fusion of indie rock and hook-laden power pop. Seamlessly, though, Teenage Fanclub could switch between laid back and melodic to a much more powerful, rocky sound. This would find favour with critics and record buyers.

Before Bandwagonesque was released, critics had their say on the album. For once, critics were in agreement, and there were no dissenting voices. Bandwagonesque critics agreed, was one of the finest albums of 1991. No wonder, with songs of the quality of The Concept, What You Do To Me, Star Sign, Alcoholiday and s This Music? For Teenage Fanclub, Bandwagonesque was a career defining album. Spin Magazine went further, and named Bandwagonesque its best album of 1991. Things were looking good for Teenage Fanclub.

Especially when Star Sign was released in August 1991, and reached number four on the US Modern Rock charts. Meanwhile, Star Sign stalled at just forty-four in the UK. The followup The Concept, a rocky anthem, reached a disappointing fifty-one in the UK, but reached number twelve on the US Modern Rock charts. Teenage Fanclub’s music was finding an audience in America for the first time. Maybe Teenage Fanclub’s third album would find them cracking America for the first time?

That was the case. When Bandwagonesque  was released on 19 November 1991, it reached number twenty-two in the UK, and 137 on the US Billboard 200. Teenage Fanclub it seemed, were going places.

Having toured Bandwagonesque, and enjoyed their newfound fame, eventually, Teenage Fanclub’s thoughts turned to their fourth album. This they would name after an album by one of their favourite bands.

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Thirteen.

Unlike most bands, Teenage Fanclub wasn’t reliant on one or two songwriters. Everyone contributed songs. That was the case with their fourth album, Thirteen, which was named after a song by Big Star.

The four members of Teenage Fanclub had all contributed songs for Thirteen. Gerard Love had penned five, Norman Blake four, Raymond McGinley two and Brendan O’Hare one. These thirteen songs would be recorded in Glasgow’s CaVa Studios.

When work began in October 1992, Teenage Fanclub had decided to produce Thirteen themselves. They had co-produced their first three albums, so felt ready to make the step up. The only problem was, it took six months to record Thirteen. This was quite unlike Teenage Fanclub. They usually recorded albums quickly. Maybe they were missing a co-producer?

If Teenage Fanclub had employed a co-producer, they would’ve been a sounding board for the band. They would’ve also ensured they didn’t spent too long on tracks, honing, polishing and perfecting them. That’s what seemed to have happened. Eventually, Thirteen was finished by April 1993. This left six months before the album was released.

Prior to the release of Thirteen, critics received their advance copies of the album. They didn’t like the album. That’s an understatement. Critics seemed to loathe the album. Reviews of Thirteen were scathing. That’s despite songs of the quality of Hang On, Norman 3, Radio and Song to the Cynic. For Teenage Fanclub this was a huge blow.

At least when the lead single from Thirteen, Radio was released in August 1993, it reached number thirty-one in UK. The followup Norman 3, was released in September 1993, but stalled at just fifty in the UK single’s charts. This was another disappointment for Teenage Fanclub. 

Despite the disappointing reviews and failure of the single Norman 3, Teenage Fanclub’s fortunes were set to improve. When Thirteen was released in October 1993, it reached number number fourteen in Britain. This meant Thirteen was Teenage Fanclub’s most successful British album. The only disappointment was that Thirteen failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. This wasn’t the only disappointment for Teenage Fanclub.

After the release of Thirteen, drummer Brendan O’Hare announced he was leaving Teenage Fanclub. The usual “musical differences” were cited, and Paul Quinn, the former Soup Dragons’ drummer was drafted in to replace Brendan O’Hare. For Teenage Fanclub, this was a worrying time. There was one small crumb of comfort though.

In February 1994, Hang On was released as the third and final single from Thirteen. It reached number nineteen on the US Modern Rock charts. Little did Teenage Fanclub realise that it was the last hit single they would enjoy in America.

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Grand Prix.

Although Thirteen had been the most successful album of Teenage Fanclub’s career, the scathing reviews hurt. They had spent six months recording, honing and perfecting Thirteen. To make matters worse, Brendan O’Hare had left the band. This was a testing time for Teenage Fanclub, as they began work on their fifth album.

For the new album, thirteen songs were written. Norman Blake wrote five songs, while Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley penned four each. These songs would become Grand Prix.

Recording of Grand Prix began on 5th September 1994. By then,  Teenage Fanclub had decided to employ a co-producer, David Bianco. He became their sounding board over the next month spent recording at The Manor, Shipton-On-Cherwell. Just over a month later, on the 9th October 1994, Grand Prix was complete. Little did they realise they had recorded one of their finest albums.

When critics heard Grand Prix, they were in no doubt, the album was a minor classic. It veered between melodic and melancholy, became ruminative and rocky. Grand Prix literally oozed quality, with About You, Sparky’s Dream, Don’t Look Back, Neil Jung and I’ll Make It Clear showcasing Teenage Fanclub’s considerable musical skills. They seemed to have been stung by the criticism of Thirteen, and returned with the best album of their career.

When Grand Prix was released on May 29th 1995, it was a hit on three continents. In the UK Grand Prix reached number seven, becoming the most successful album of their career. Elsewhere Grand Prix reached sixty-eight in Japan and fifty-seven in Australia. Teenage Fanclub were now one of the biggest indie bands in Britain. 

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Songs From Northern Britain.

What made the rise and rise of Teenage Fanclub all the more incredible was that they had only been formed in 1989. Since then, they had released five albums, and were popular across the globe. By 1996 Teenage Fanclub were ready to record a new album.

Just like previous albums, the band’s songwriters got to work. Norman Blake wrote three songs and cowrote Planets with former band member Francis MacDonald. Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley both wrote four songs. These songs were recorded at some of London’s top studios with co-producer David Bianco.

Some of Songs From Northern Britain was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, while other sessions took place at AIR Studios. Other sessions saw Teenage Fanclub head to leafy Surrey, and Rich Farm Studios. Eventually, Teenage Fanclub had recorded their sixth album, which was released in summer 1997.

Songs From Northern Britain which was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Britpop movement, saw Teenage Fanclub pickup where they left off on Grand Prix. It was another album of carefully crafted songs, including Start Again, Can’t Feel My Soul, Don’t Want Control of You and I Don’t Care. Despite an album that was variously cerebral, defiant, hook-laden, joyous, melodic, mellow, playful and reflective critics were undecided. Some loved the album, other loathed it. Rolling Stone which had been supportive of Teenage Fanclub, set their sights on the band. Not for the first time, were Rolling Stone left with egg on their face.

On 29th July 1997, Songs From Northern Britain was released. It reached number three in Britain, and became Teenage Fanclub’s most successful album. In Australia, Songs From Northern Britain reached number seventy. Elsewhere, including America, Teenage Fanclub continued to be a popular live draw. However, they sold more albums in Britain, than anywhere else.

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Howdy!

Buoyed by the success of Songs From Northern Britain, Teenage Fanclub were keen to begin work on the followup, Howdy! It was the first album of Teenage Fanclub’s post Creation years.

After Songs From Northern Britain, Teenage Fanclub signed to Columbia, which was owned by Sony. At last, Teenage Fanclub were signed to a major label. They would’ve had the financial muscle and expertise to help Teenage Fanclub make a breakthrough in new musical markets. This included America, which had embraced Bandwagonesque. Since then, commercial success eluded Teenage Fanclub stateside. Howdy! was a new beginning for Teenage Fanclub.

For their Columbia debut,Gerard Love, Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley had written four tracks each. They became Howdy! which was produced by Teenage Fanclub.

After two albums co-produced by David Bianco, Teenage Fanclub decided to produce the album themselves. They were now an experienced group, who were about to record their seventh album. Howdy! was recorded at Rockfield Studios between November 1998 and March 1999. In the midst of the Rockfield sessions, Teenage Fanclub adjourned to the London Astoria for some overdubbing. Once that was completed, Teenage Fanclub returned to Wales, to complete Howdy! After five months Howdy! was ready for release.

Now Columbia’s marketing machine sprung into action, preparing for an October 2000 release date. Before that, reviews of Howdy! were published. The reviews were mixed, with some critics writing scathing reviews, while others praised Howdy! Especially, songs like I Need Direction, I Can’t Find My Way Home, Near You and The Town and The City. On the back of the mixed reviews, Teenage Fanclub made their major label debut.

Howdy! was released in October 2000, but disappointingly, stalled at a lowly thirty-three in Britain. Elsewhere, things weren’t much better. Teenage Fanclub failed to make an impact in America, where they were still popular. However, Howdy! failed to make any impression in America. Things hadn’t gone to plan for Teenage Fanclub.  

Following the commercial failure of Howdy!, it came as no surprise when Columbia and Teenage Fanclub parted company. Teenage Fanclub were without a record label. However, it would five years before they released the followup to Howdy! Before that, they released a collaboration with Jad Fair. 

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Words Of Wisdom and Hope.

Following the release of Howdy!, Teenage Fanclub began work on a collaboration with Jad Fair, the former Half Japanese lead singer. They cowrote twelve songs which became Words Of Wisdom and Hope.

Most of Words Of Wisdom and Hope were recorded at Riverside Studios, Glasgow. Three songs were recorded in Finnieston, in Glasgow. By then, Teenage Fanclub and Jad Fair decided to co-produce the album. This could prove to be a case of too many cooks. The proof would be in the eating…by the critics.

Reviews of Words Of Wisdom and Hope were mixed. Some critics really disliked the album, and penned scathing reviews. Other reviews were mixed, with there seemingly no middle ground. Words Of Wisdom and Hope seemed to be an album critics loved or loathed. Record buyers had the casting vote.

Geographic Records release Words Of Wisdom and Hope in March 2002. The album wasn’t a commercial success, and both parties came away licking their wounds. It was unlikely that the project would be repeated. There was no appetite for a followup. A new Teenage Fanclub album was a whole new ball game.

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Man-Made.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Teenage Fanclub began work on their eighth album, Man-Made. Again, the album featured twelve songs with Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley contributing three songs each. Teenage Fanclub it seemed, was a bastion of musical democracy where each of the band’s songwriters got the opportunity to showcase their songwriting skills. With each album, Norman, Gerard and Raymond matured as songwriters. Given it had been four years since Howdy!, they had plenty of time to work on new songs. These new songs became Man-Made, which featured a new band member.

Ever since drummer Brendan O’Hare left after the release of Thirteen, Paul Quinn had been his replacement. However, Paul Quinn had left Teenage Fanclub, and was replaced by Francis MacDonald. He made his recording debut on Man-Made.

Recording of Man-Made took place at Soma Electronic Music Studios, Raymond’s House and Riverside Studios. This time around, Teenage Fanclub decided to draft in Portland based producer John McEntire. For the first time in eight albums, 

Teenage Fanclub played no part in the production. Maybe this would result in a change of fortune for Teenage Fanclub?

Man-Made was well received by most critics. They were impressed by the quality of songs like It’s All in My Mind, Nowhere, Only With You and Born Under A Good Sign. Still, there were a few critics that weren’t convinced by Teenage Fanclub’s comeback album. However, things were looking good for Teenage Fanclub, who had decided to found their own label. 

Rather than look for a new label in Britain, Teenage Fanclub decided to found their own label, PeMa. It would released Man-Made in Britain, while Merge Records would release the album in North America. Teenage Fanclub’s eighth album Man-Made, was released in Britain in May 2005, and reached number thirty-three in Britain. This was a slight improvement on Howdy! The only downside was the album’s failure to make an impression in America. Maybe things would be different next time around?

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Shadows.

Five years passed before Teenage Fanclub returned with the followup to Man-Made. Gone were the days when Teenage Fanclub released an album every two years. These days were long gone. Albums no longer were selling in the same quantities. Teenage Fanclub had discovered that when they released Man-Made. Despite that, Teenage Fanclub headed back into the studio in August 2008.

When Teenage Fanclub entered the studio, they had a new member. David McGowan who had played on several Teenage Fanclub albums, was promoted, and became a full member of the band. Teenage Fanclub were now five.

The five members of Teenage Fanclub entered the studio to record twelve songs. For Shadows, Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley had written three songs each. Recording took place at Leeders Farm, Norfolk. Raymond’s Place, Glasgow and Rockfield Studios, Monmouthshire. With Shadows complete, it would be another two years before the album was released.

It was announced by PeMa that Shadows would released on 31st May 2010. Before that, critics had their say on Teenage Fanclub’s ninth album. The reviews of the album were mixed, ranging from favourable to critically acclaimed. Mostly, critics agreed that Shadows was a return to form from Teenage Fanclub. They had released an album that was variously beautiful, melodic and timeless. 

On the release of Shadows, it reached number thirty in Britain. This meant that Shadows was the most successful album Teenage Fanclub had released since 1997s Songs From Northern Britain. Maybe Teenage Fanclub’s luck was changing?

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Here.

It seemed that Teenage Fanclub were in hurry to record their tenth album. The five members of the band went away and worked on various side projects. However, they knew that eventually, they would reunite to record Teenage Fanclub’s tenth album.

When the call came, Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley had written three songs each. They became Here, which was recorded at Vega Studio, near Carpentras, Provence and at Raymond’s place in Pollokshields, Glasgow. That was where Teenage Fanclub and friends recorded Here.

As recording began, Teenage Fanclub’s rhythm section included drummer Francis MacDonald, bassist Gerard Love and guitarists David McGowan and Norman Blake. Raymond McGinley took charge of lead guitar. Teenage Fanclub’s friends included harpist Helen Thompson and trumpeters Nigel Baillie and Robert Henderson. Strings came courtesy of cellist Elspeth Mackay and violinist and violist John McCusker. Producing Here, were Teenage Fanclub. Gradually, Here began to take shape. Songs were honed and eventually, Teenage Fanclub’s much anticipated tenth album was completed.

With Here completed, PeMa Records announced the release of Teenage Fanclub’s tenth album. It was due to be released in September 2016. Critics hailed the album Teenage Fanclub’s best album since Songs From Northern Britain 1997. So it was no surprise when the album reached number ten in Britain. Teenage Fanclub were back, with their most successful and best album in nineteen years. 

Six years after the release of their previous album Shadows, Teenage Fanclub return with what’s without doubt, there best album since 1997s Songs From Northern Britain. Now officially a five piece, Teenage Fanbclub return with a carefully crafted album where rocky anthems sit side-by-side with beautiful ballads. These two sides to Teenage Fanclub, combine to create with an album that stands head and shoulders above Shadows, Man-Made and Howdy! Teenage Fanclub are back, and back to their best.

This is fitting. Here was the tenth album of Teenage Fanclub’s career. 2016 was also the twenty-fifth album of Bandwagonesque, Teenage Fanclub’s genre classic. However, Here was  a welcome return to form from Teenage Fanclub with their long-awaited and much-anticipated tenth album, Here. It’s an album that oozes quality.

From the opening bars of I’m In Love, right through to the closing notes of Connected To Life, Teenage Fanclub never put a foot wrong. The songs are anthemic, beautiful, joyous, melodic and sometimes, even have a melancholy quality. Other times, the songs on Here, are dreamy, rocky and ruminative. Always, though, the songs on Here are memorable as Teenage Fanclub roll back the years on an album that surely, must be among the favourites to win the 2017 Scottish Album of The Year Award?

After all, Here marks a return to Teenage Fanclub’s golden years. These glory years were between 1991 and 1997. Back then, Teenage Fanclub could do no wrong. Albums like Bandwagonesque, Thirteen, Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain featured Teenage Fanclub at their very best, as they combined balladry,  jangle pop, power pop and rock. This turned Teenage Fanclub into one of the biggest names in Scottish music. Suddenly, the boys from Bellshill were touring the world on the back of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. Sadly, nothing lasts forever.

While Howdy! which was released in 2000,  didn’t match didn’t match the commercial success of previous albums, it’s a hidden gem in Teenage Fanclub’s discography. Similarly, Man-Made, which was released in 2004, didn’t match the success of previous albums it’s  one of Teenage Fanclub’s most underrated  albums. However, when Teenage Fanclub returned six years later with Shadows in 2010, it marked a return to form from the boys from Bellshill. By then,  Teenage Fanclub were no longer releasing an album every other year. 

Far from it. Ever since Man-Made, the gaps between Teenage Fanclub albums were getting longer. The members of  Teenage Fanclub were spending much of their time working on various side projects. However, eventually, though, the call came, and everyone returned to the mothership, Teenage Fanclub. Their most recent album was Here, which found  Teenage Fanclub’s Scotland’s big stars and Kings of jangle pop  rolling back the years to the glory years of Bandwagonesque, Thirteen, Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain.

Teenage Fanclub-Scotland’s Big Stars and Kings Of Jangle Pop.

SING IT HIGH, SING IT LOW: TUMBLEWOOD RECORDS 1971-1973.

Sing It High, Sing It Low: Tumbleweed Records 1971-1973.

Nowadays, it can be a risky business founding a new record label, and many hopeful music moguls are left licking their wounds. However, founding and running a record label has always been a risky business. It’s not a licence to print money, and never has been. 

Even back in the seventies, which was a golden age for music. Back then some albums sold in their millions, during an era when vinyl was King. During the seventies, some labels prospered, while sadly, many new labels folded after just a couple of years. That was happened to Denver based Tumbleweed Records, who were founded in 1971, and shut their doors two years later in 1973. By then, Tumbleweed Records had spent five million dollars and released just nine albums and a couple of singles, which sadly, failed to find an audience. Problems with distribution and marketing proved costly for Tumbleweed Records. It was the end of the road for Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk’s label that had produced some fantastic music. A reminder of that music can be found on Light In The Attic Records’ new compilation Sing It High, Sing It Low: Tumbleweed Records 1971-1973. It’s a reminder of two incredible years in Denver, where Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk followed their dream of becoming music mogul.

If it hadn’t been for the San Fernando Earthquake on February ‘9th’ 1971,  Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk might never have founded Tumbleweed Records. The events of February ‘9th’ had been devastating and terrifying. Suddenly, Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk began to have second thoughts about living and in Los Angeles. Maybe it wasn’t the best place to bring up a family? However, LA was where the music industry was situated on the West Coast, and Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk were music men.

Both Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk had worked for the ABC-Dunhill label in Los Angeles. However, after the San Fernando Earthquake the pair began to hatch a plan, that would see them leave LA behind.  

Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk wanted to found their own record label, but this they realised, was going to cost money, and a lot of it. They calculated that it would take five million US Dollars to found their own independent label in Denver, Colorado. The label they planned to call Tumbleweed Records, if they could convince the Gulf + Western Corporation to give them five million US Dollars. 

Having pitched their idea to executives at the Gulf + Western Corporation, they agreed to give Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk  the five million US Dollars they needed to found Tumbleweed Records. This seed capital would allow Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk to found Tumbleweed Records and get it up and running. This was something to celebrate.

With Tumbleweed Records up and running, the nascent label announced its arrived by buying a full page advert in Billboard Magazine. However, the magazine didn’t show Tumbleweed Records’ first signings. Instead, it featured a  picture of Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk and their respective families. While this was unusual way for a new label to announce their arrival, Tumbleweed Records was no ordinary label.

Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk and their families left LA and headed to Denver, Colorado. That was where a residential house became the headquarters for Tumbleweed Records. This was a very different environment to the major labels.

Both Larry and Bill were determined that Tumbleweed Records would be an artist friendly label. They fostered a communal atmosphere, which in some ways, harked back to the hippie era. Drugs were commonplace at Tumbleweed Records’ headquarters, including pot which was smoked openly. It was a firm favourite at Tumbleweed Records HQ. So much so, that roach clips were given out as promotional items when the label got up and running in 1971. 

This was the start of a two year roller coaster ride for Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk. With five million US Dollars in the bank, they began looking for talented artists who had slipped under the radar, and who they could turn into stars. Ten tracks from these artists feature on Sing It High, Sing It Low: Tumbleweed Records 1971-1973.

For Tumbleweed Records’ first release Canadian singer-songwriter Arthur Gee’s eponymous debut album was chosen.  He was allegedly had a penchant for LSD, and as a result, the two albums he released on Tumbleweed Records have a mellow, lysergic sound. This includes his eponymous debut album, which featured  Plain Talk. It showcases Arthur Gee’s trademark Acid Folk sound and truly talented singer-songwriter. Sadly, the album failed to find the audience it deserved.

Part of the reason for Arthur Gee’s lack of success was Tumbleweed Records’ poor promotion and distribution problems. This seemed like teething problems given Arthur Gee was Tumbleweed Records first release. However, these problems would persist over the two years.

Tumbleweed Records’ second release was from another singer-songwriter, Danny Holien whose music ranged from folk rock to psychedelic rock. He too, was a talented troubadour and his eponymous debut album was proof of that. Danny Holien was released later in 1971, and featured Hick and Colorado, a poignant folk-rock  ballad that was later released as a single in 1972. Alas, neither Danny Holien nor Colorado sold in vast quantities, and Tumbleweed Records were still looking for their first success story.

For Tumbleweed Records’ third album, they signed an already established artist Albert Collins. The only problems was, that the blues was no longer as popular as it had once been. So much so, that many saw the blues as yesterday’s music and no longer relevant. However,  some blues men had started adding some funky licks, in an attempt to move away from the more traditional blues sound. Even this failed to attract a new generation of record buyers to the blues in great numbers. This indued Albert Collins’ 1971 album of Texas blues There’s Gotta Be A Change. Alas, there wasn’t a change when Albert Collins’ There’s Gotta Be A Change failed commercially. 

After releasing three albums, commercial success continued to elude Tumbleweed Records. That was despite critically acclaimed reviews of the albums, which featured truly talented musicians. Each album, was beautifully presented and featured packaging that would put most labels to shame. Despite all this, many record buyers still hadn’t heard of Arthur Gee, Danny Holien or Albert Collins’ albums for Tumbleweed Records. Nor could these albums couldn’t be found in many local record shops. Still, promotion and distribution were proving problematic for Tumbleweed Records.

For Tumbleweed Records’ next release, the label turned to Dewey Terry, who in the fifties was one of half of the duo Don and Dewey. By 1972, Dewey Terry was a solo artist, but had still to release his debut album. Tumbleweed Records released Chief later in 1972, and came complete with a cover that flipped open like  flipped open like notebook.  This resulted in Chief being nominated for a  Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.  It contained an album that featured blues, funk and soul. One of the most soulful songs, was the wistful sounding Sweet As Sherry, while Do on My Feet (What I Did on the Street) was the funkiest.However, when Chief was released in 1972, it was a familiar story when the album failed to trouble the charts.

The next release bearing the Tumbleweed Records’ logo was Arthur Gee-Whizz Band’s album City Cowboy. It was released later in 1972, and featured elements of country, folk and rock. One of the highlights was dreamy, melancholy sound of Sunday Sherry, which showcased the considerable talents of Arthur Gee. He became the only artist to have two albums released on Tumbleweed Records. Unfortunately, neither were a commercial success, which was another blow to Arthur Gee, and Tumbleweed Records’ founders Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk. 

To boost sales, Tumbleweed Records released their first sampler, Tumbleweed Sampler in late 1972. It featured ten tracks from Tumbleweed Records’ artists, which Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk would introduce record buyers to the label. That would’ve worked, if record buyers could find copies of Tumbleweed Sampler. As a result, Tumbleweed Records’ search for a successful album continued into 1973.

By then, Tumbleweed Records had signed Rudy Romero, and he had recorded his debut album To The World. At the time, it was rumoured that former Beatle George Harrison had featured on four tracks on To The World. However, that has never been proved, and may have been hype. 

Tumbleweed Records certainly had high hopes for Rudy Romero, and pushed the boat out for To The World. They  pressed the album on white vinyl, which was another example of Tumbleweed Records were concentrating on presentation. Pressing an album on white vinyl was almost unheard of, as most albums were released on black vinyl. Sadly, this didn’t make any difference in sales, which again, were disappointing. 

Especially as Tumbleweed Records was making substantial inroads into the five million US dollars Gulf + Western Corporation had invested in the company. Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk badly needed an album or even a single to give the label a hit. This would inspire confidence in their major investor. Luckily, Tumbleweed Records had signed some talented artists who they hoped would transform the label’s fortunes.

This included Pete McCabe, whose music ranged from country rock to folk rock. He had recorded his debut album The Man Who Ate The Plant at the Record Plant, in Los Angeles. No expense it seemed, was spared when it came to Tumbleweed Records’ signings recording their albums. They were recorded at op studios. Similarly, no expense was spared on album covers.  Presentation was of the utmost importance for Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk. Pete McCabe’s The Man Who Ate The Plant featured a lavish gatefold cover, when it was released in 1973. One of the highlights was Late Letter, which features a soul-baring vocal from Pete McCabe. Sadly, The Man Who Ate The Plant didn’t find the audience it deserved. Time was running out for Tumbleweed Records.

Gulf + Western Corporation were beginning to get nervous by 1973. They had invested five million US dollars, and received no return. It wasn’t the best investment the company had made. Executives at  Gulf + Western Corporation were watching the Tumbleweed Records’ situation closely.

Michael Stanley’s eponymous debut album was the next release on Tumbleweed Records. It was released in 1973, and featured an all-star backing band. Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren and Rick Derringer accompanied Michael Stanley at the Record Plant in LA. One of their finest moments was Rosewood Bitters, which opened the album and was a tantalising taste of what Michael Stanley was capable of. Given the quality of the album, everyone at Tumbleweed Records had high hopes for Michael Stanley. Alas, commercial success eluded the album and soon, Tumbleweed Records were staring into the Abyss.

Little did anyone realise that Robb Kunkel’s Abyss would be the final album that Tumbleweed Records would release. It had been recorded by a talented band that included vocalist Danny Holien and percussionist Victor Feldman. They recorded ten tracks, including the piano lead ballad Turn Of The Century, which showcased a truly talented singer-songwriter. Unfortunately, Tumbleweed Records was on its last legs, and the problems with promotion and distribution persisted.  Abyss like so many Tumbleweed Records’ releases didn’t find the audience it deserved. 

Soon, though, things would get a lot worse for Tumbleweed Records. After nine albums and several singles, they had spent five million US dollars. With nothing left in their bank accounts, and Gulf + Western pulled the plug on Tumbleweed Records. With no income,  Tumbleweed had no option but to close their doors. It had been an admirable musical experiment that failed badly.

Tumbleweed Records had tried to foster an environment that was on artist friendly, and was a place that would encourage creativity. That was why Tumbleweed Records eschewed a traditional office for a residential house. They wanted their artists to drop by, and do what musicians did in the early seventies. This seemed to involve smoking  a lot of dope. However, this didn’t seem to affect the quality of music.

Most of the artist that Tumbleweed Records signed were talented, up-and-coming musicians. Especially, singer-songwriters like Arthur Gee, Danny Holien, Rudy Romero, Pete McCabe and Robb Kunkel. They released albums that deserved to find a much wider audience. Sadly, the problems that Tumbleweed Records with promotion and distribution impacted on sales. 

The lack of promotion meant many people hadn’t heard of the Tumbleweed Records’ releases. Some of those that had heard of the albums, were unable to find them in their local record shops due to distribution problems. These problems with promotion and distribution persisted throughout Tumbleweed Records’ lifetime.

Tumbleweed Records was an ambitious label, but one that only lasted two years. During that period, they released nine albums which were beautifully packaged and presented. Larry Ray and Bill Szymczyk both knew the important of packaging, presentation and production values. Tumbleweed Records looked and sound great. They should’ve stood out in record shops across America. Especially given the quality of music that features on most of the albums. This includes the ten tracks from these albums music can be found on Light In The Attic’s new compilation Sing It High, Sing It Low: Tumbleweed Records 1971-1973. It’s a reminder that founding and running a record label has always been a risky business, and certainly isn’t and never has been,  a licence to print money.

Sing It High, Sing It Low: Tumbleweed Records 1971-1973.