THE BATHERS-KELVINGROVE BABY.

The Bathers-Kelvingrove Baby.

Label: Marina Records.

Format: CD.

The Bathers were formed in Glasgow, in 1985, by singer, songwriter and troubled troubadour Chris Thomson and released six albums between 1987 and 1999. Their fifth album was Kelvingrove Baby, which which was recently reissued by Marina Records is a a minor classic that’s one of the finest Scottish albums ever released. Sadly, Kelvingrove Baby and The Bathers is a story of what might have been.

With Chris Thomson at the helm, the Glasgow-based band could’ve and should’ve been one the biggest Scottish bands ever. After all, The Bathers music is articulate, beautiful, dramatic, ethereal, elegiac, emotive, languid, literate and melancholy. This is music for those that have loved, lost and survived to tell the tale.

Sadly, The Bathers never reached the heady heights their music deserved. As a result, the six albums The Bathers released between 1987s Unusual Places To Die and 1999s Pandemonia, never reached the audience it deserved. For Chris Thomson, history was repeating itself.

The Bathers were formed in Glasgow in 1985. They formed after Chris Thomson’s previous group Friends Again split up. Initially, The Bathers were a vehicle for singer-songwriter Chris Thomson. However, in 1987, The Bathers secured their first record deal with Go! Discs Records, and released their debut album Unusual Places To Die.

Unusual Places To Die. 

For their debut album Unusual Places To Die, Chris Thomson penned ten tracks. These tracks were recorded by The Bathers’ original lineup. This included bassist Sam Loup, drummer James Locke and Chris on guitar and keyboards. Joining The Bathers, were Michael Peden of The Chimes, Douglas Macintyre and James Grant of Love and Money. They played walk on parts on Unusual Places To Die, which was released later in 1987.

When Unusual Places To Die was released in 1987, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Chris Thompson’s songs seemed to strike a nerve with critics. They described the music as variously engaging, emotive and dramatic. One critic went as far to wonder whether Unusual Places To Die was the work of a genius? Despite this critical acclaim Unusual Places To Die wasn’t a commercial success. This was nothing to do with the music though.

Instead, Unusual Places To Die fell victim to the internal politics within the record company. As a result, sales of Unusual Places To Die were poor. Given the critical response to Unusual Places To Die, this was disappointing. So, it wasn’t a surprise when The Bathers switched labels for their sophomore album, Sweet Deceit.

Sweet Deceit.

After the Go Discs! internal problems sabotaged the release of Unusual Places To Die, The Bathers moved to Island Records, where the recorded Sweet Deceit.

Sweet Deceit was an epic album, featuring fifteen tracks. Chris wrote thirteen of the tracks, and cowrote the other two. He co-produced Sweet Deceit with Keith Mitchell, and the album was released in 1990.

Three years had passed since Unusual Places To Die was released. The Bathers were back, and according to critics, better than ever. Sweet Deceit was described as impressionistic, beautiful and spellbinding. One critic, quite rightly referred to the album as a mini masterpiece. However, The Bathers had been here before with Unusual Places To Die.

On Sweet Deceit’s release, lightning struck twice for The Bathers. Sales of Sweet Deceit were disappointing. Despite the critically acclaimed reviews, Sweet Deceit seemed to pass record buyers by. For The Bathers, this was a huge disappointment. 

Especially when Island Records didn’t renew The Bathers’ contract. There would be another gap of three years before we heard from The Bathers again. However, Chris Thomson was still making music.

Following Sweet Deceit, Chris Thomson joined with two former members of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Stephen Irvine and Neil Clark, to create a Scottish supergroup, Bloomsday. They released just one album, Fortuny, which is now regarded as a classic Scottish album. Just like The Bathers two previous albums, Bloomsday’s debut album, Fortuny, was released to critical acclaim. Unfortunately, commercial success eluded Fortuny. However, a more fruitful period was round the corner for The Bathers. 

Lagoon Blues.

After signing a record contract with a German record label Marina, the group released three albums in a four year period. In 1993, they released Lagoon Blues which was their Marina debut.

Just like Sweet Deceit, Lagoon Blues was another epic album penned by Chris Thompson. It featured sixteen songs, which were the perfect showcase for Chris Thomson’s vocal. Accompanied by what was essentially The Bathers and friends sixteen tracks were recorded at Palladium Studios, Edinburgh and mixed at Palladium Studios and Cava Studios, Glasgow. Once Lagoon Blues was completed, it was released in 1993.

On its release in 1993, critics remarked that Lagoon Blues was a more eclectic album. There were diversions into jazz-skiffle on Pissor, while the album opener Lagoon Blues showcased a string quartet. The strings would play an important part on Lagoon Blues, which was hailed as poetic, elegant, sumptuous and intense. The same critical acclaim accompanied Lagoon Blues, however, this time The Bathers’ music found a wider audience. It seemed after three albums, The Bathers’ star was in the ascendancy.

Sunpowder.

For The Bathers’ fourth album, and followup to Lagoon Blues, they returned with Sunpowder. It marked the debut of a new lineup of The Bathers. 

Sunpowder marked The Bathers’ debut of drummer and percussionist Hazel Morrison, keyboardist Carlo Scattini and string players Ian White and Mark Wilson. These new additions would change The Bathers’ sound greatly. Many people refer to this as the classic lineup of The Bathers. This classic lineup, plus guest artist ex-Cocteau Twin, Liz Fraser, who features on four tracks, made its debut on Sunpowder.

For Sunpowder, Chris Thomson had written eleven new songs. They were recorded a at Palladium Studios, Edinburgh. Chris Thomson and Keith Mitchell produced Sunpowder, which was released in 1995.

When Sunpowder was released, it received the same critical acclaim as The Bathers’ three previous albums. Sunpowder was called sumptuous, sensual, dramatic and ethereal. Liz Fraser, an honorary Bather was the perfect foil to Chris Thomson forever the troubled, tortured troubadour. The result was, what was The Bathers most successful album, Sunpowder. That however, would change with Kelvingrove Baby.

Kelvingrove Baby.

Kelvingrove Baby would be The Bathers’ Marina swan-song. They were certainly eaving the German label on a high.

Chris Thomson had written thirteen new songs for Kelvingrove Baby, which was recorded in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was at these locations that The Bathers’ expanded lineup reconvened.

Picking up where they left off, were The Bathers’ new lineup, plus a few friends. The Bathers’ rhythm section included bassists Sam Loup, Douglas MacIntyre and Ken McHugh, drummers Hazel Morrison and James Locke, who also played percussion. Joining them in the rhythm section were guitarist Colin McIlroy. They were joined by accordionist, pianist and and organist Carlo Scattini, string players Ian White and Mark Wilson. Fermina Haze plays organ, James Grant of Love and Money plays acoustic guitar and with with Hazel Morrison and Justin Currie of Del Amitri, adds backing vocals. Chris Thomson plays acoustic guitar, piano and adds his unmistakable vocals. He produced most of Kelvingrove Baby, apart from Thrive, which was produced by James Locke. Once Kelvingrove Baby was completed, it was released in 1997.

Just like each of The Bathers’ four previous albums, Kelvingrove Baby was released to overwhelming critical acclaim. Kelvingrove Baby was hailed The Bathers’ finest hour. It seemed everything had been leading up to Kelvingrove Baby.

Opening Kelvingrove Baby, is the James Locke produced Thrive. Just a strummed acoustic guitar takes centre-stage, while subtle washes of keyboards flit in and out. They provide the backdrop for Chris Thompson’s vocal. For the first time on Kelvingrove Baby, he dawns the role of troubled troubadour, playing it to perfection. It’s as if he’s experience, lived through, and survived someone leaving him. His vocal is full of emotion of swells of strings sweep in. They’re the perfect accompaniment as he delivers the lyrics “up on the west coast waiting, I wear the rain like tears.” In doing so, the hurt and loneliness is there for all to see and hear.

Girlfriend is akin to a devotional from the pen of Chris Thomson. A piano and bass probe, while a cymbal is caresses. This sets the stage for a tender, emotive vocal and there’s almost disbelief in his voice that he’s found someone to call his own. He’s fallen head over heels, hence lyrics like “I’m the kind of guy, whose dreams rise unashamed, who will love you ’til the end, cos you’re my girlfriend.” With just a subtle,  meandering piano, understated drums, washes of ethereal harmonies and crystalline guitar, Chris Thomson delivers a heartfelt devotional.

If Love Could Last Forever is the perfect showcase for The Bathers’ unique brand of cerebral, literate and poetic pop. After all, who apart from The Bathers write: “they flutter down like fireflies, tugging at your sleeves, somehow rise to shame you, bring you to your knees?” It’s a beautiful, soul-searching song about love. That’s the case from the opening bars, when an acoustic guitar is strummed, a guitar chimes and drums mark the beat.  Then, longingly and hopefully, Chris, accompanied by cooing harmonies, sings “ If Love Could Last Forever, forever and a day.”  Effortlessly, Chris Thomson breathes life, meaning and emotion into what’s a timeless paean.

While East Of East Delier has an understated arrangement, it allows Chris to unleash his full and impressive vocal range. Drums are caressed and a piano meanders. Meanwhile, a bass adds an element of darkness. This  is reflected in the hurt, loneliness and regret in Chris Thomson’s vocal. His vocal soars above the arrangement, with frustration omnipresent at the love he once had and lost.

Accompanied by firmly strummed acoustic guitar No Risk No Glory, unfolds. A guitar chimes as fingers flit up and down the fretboard. Meanwhile, Chris Thomson’s vocal is a mixture of power, emotion and hurt. The hurt is obvious from the moment he sings “I was born to love her,” it’s a case of infatuation and unrequited love. With harmonies, an accordion and guitars for company he delivers a cathartic outpouring of hurt. He wouldn’t have it any other way, singing ruefully “no risk, no glory.”

Dramatic and moody describes the dark, but sparse piano lead introduction to Once Upon A Time On The Rapenburg. If a picture tells a thousand stories, so does a piano. It sets the scene for Chris Thomson as once again, he dawns the role of troubled troubadour. With shimmering strings and a deliberate gothic piano for company he remembers the love affair that almost was.

Kelvingrove Baby is the centre-piece of Kelvingrove Baby. It’s a seven minute epic about an unnamed femme fatale from Glasgow’s West End who toyed with Chris Thomson’s affections. From just a strummed guitar and subtle piano, the arrangement builds. The piano plays a more prominent role, adding an element of drama. After ninety seconds drums pound and ethereal harmonies sweep in. They give way to a worldweary, lived-in vocal. Meanwhile, Hazel Morrison adds ethereal, elegiac harmonies. This seems to spur Chris Thomson on and using his wide vocal range, he unleashes a needy vocal tour de force. Hopefully, he sings “someday I know, that you’ll be back…I don’t know, maybe then you can be my Kelvingrove Baby.” Behind him, the epic, ethereal and dramatic arrangement is the perfect accompaniment for what’s without doubt, The Bathers’ finest hour on Kelvingrove Baby.

Memories come flooding back to Chris Thomson on Girl From The Polders. Instantly, he’s transported back to another time and place. That’s when they first met, and where “I first kissed you.” With the rhythm section and piano providing a backdrop he delivers another hopeful, needy vocal. He hopes that when summer returns, and heads back to Poolewe, his “songbird, melodious and pure,” is there. 

Against a backdrop of quivering strings, Chris Thomson delivers a vocal on Lost Certainties that’s equal parts power, passion, frustration and sadness. Below the vocal and strings, the rhythm section drives the arrangement along, adding to the drama and intensity of this soul-baring refrain about a bewitching woman.

After the intensity of Lost Certainties, Dial has a much looser, laid-back sound. Chris Thomson eschews the power of the previous track, as The Bathers deliver an understated, spacious, melodic track. Hazel Morrison, James Grant and Justin Currie add harmonies as Chris Thomson almost croons his way through Dial.

Orchestral strings and a pounding rhythm section set the scene for the vocal on The Fragrance Remains Insane. There’s an intensity in Chris’ lovelorn vocal, on this tale of love gone wrong. He’s struggling to come to terms with the breakup of his relationship, despite his claims “that I’m not crazy about you.”

If Chris Thomson had been born twenty years earlier he would have been a crooner. That’s apparent on Hellespont In A Storm, where he literally croons his way through the track. Accompanied by washes of accordion, swathes of strings, a subtle rhythm section and acoustic guitar. As Chris croons, emotion and regret are omnipresent. Especially when he sings “spread your wings, above you, the time has come to fly away, where I can’t follow.” Given this is the ultimate sacrifice, the beauty and emotion is almost overwhelming.

The piano lead Twelve, closes Kelvingrove Baby. Chris lays bare his soul, accompanied by his trusty piano. Later, swathes of lush strings sweep in. They provide the accompaniment to a telephone conversation, on this story of everlasting love.

For The Bathers, Kelvingrove Baby was a musical coming of age. It’s as if everything they’d been working towards was leading to Kelvingrove Baby. The music was variously atmospheric, cerebral, dramatic, ethereal, heartfelt, hopeful, literate, needy and sensual. It’s also tinged with pathos, regret and sadness. No wonder, given the tales of love found and lost. They’re brought to life by The Bathers’ very own troubled troubadour Chris Thomson. Along with the rest of The Bathers, they’re responsible for Kelvingrove Baby, a truly enthralling album.

On Kelvingrove Baby, the music is captivating. So much so, that you’re drawn into Kelvingrove Baby’s lush, atmospheric sound. Having captured your attention, The Bathers don’t let go. Before long, the listener has fallen in love. They fall in love with music that’s hauntingly beautiful, emotive, dramatic and pensive. Much of this is thanks to Chris Thomson’s peerless vocal performances. He plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee. His worldweary, emotive, heartfelt and impassioned vocal sounds as if it’s lived the lyrics he’s singing about. Lived them not just once, but several times over. As a result, Kelvingrove Baby is akin to a snapshot into Chris Thomson’s life, and very soul. Indeed, Kelvingrove Baby sounds a very personal album from The Bathers’ troubled troubadour, Chris Thomson. Kelvingrove Baby was a career high from The Bathers. However, two years later, somehow, The Bathers managed to top Kelvingrove Baby.

Pandemonia, which was released in 1999, was The Bathers’ swan-song. Just like Kelvingrove Baby, the critically acclaimed Pandemonia, should’ve transformed The Bathers’ career. Sadly, despite oozing quality, The Bathers’ cerebral, literate and melodic brand of chamber pop failed to find the wider audience it deserved. As a result, The Bathers remained almost unknown apart from loyal band of discerning music lovers. 

After Pandemonia, most people expected The Bathers to return after a couple of years with their seventh album. That wasn’t to be. Two years became three, became five, ten and fifteen. Now, twenty years have passed since the release of Pandemonia. Throughout the last twenty years, there have been rumours that another Bathers album is in the pipeline . However, Chris Thomson who nowadays is working as a gardener in Glasgow said in a recent interview that a new album from The Bathers was forthcoming and hopefully would be released in 2021. Let’s hope that’s the case for a band that could’ve and should’ve been one of Scotland’s most successful bands. 

Alas, The Bathers are unlike most bands. They’re enigmatic, almost reclusive and publicity shy. Quite simply, The Bathers aren’t exactly your normal band. Not for them the rock “n” roll lifestyle favoured by other bands. In many ways, musical fashions and fads didn’t affect them. Their attitude was almost contrarian. Albums were recorded slowly and methodically. It was as if The Bathers were striving for perfection. On Kelvingrove Baby and Pandemonia, they almost achieved the impossible. What’s more they did it their way.

This means The Bathers aren’t willing to jump onto a musical bandwagon in pursuit of fame, fortune or starlets. Quite the opposite. It seemed to be their way or no way, in the pursuit of musical perfection. By perfection this means music that cerebral, dramatic, emotive, ethereal, literate and melodic. That describes The Bathers’ fifth album Kelvingrove Baby perfectly where   The Bathers strive for perfection and very nearly achieve the impossible. 

The Bathers-Kelvingrove Baby.

NIMBUS SEXTET-DREAMS FULFILLED .

Nimbus Sextet-Dreams Fulfilled.

Label: Acid Jazz Records.

Format: LP.

The roots of the Glaswegian-based contemporary jazz combo can be traced to Scotland’s capital Edinburgh, where pianist, keyboardist and bandleader Joe Nichols was studying at Edinburgh University. That was where he met his long-time collaborators drummer Alex Palmer and bassist Mischa Stevens. They’ve been performing together since then.

In 2018, Nimbus Sextet’s lineup was almost complete when saxophonist Martin Fell and trumpeter Euan Allardice joined the group. The final piece of the musical jigsaw was the addition of James Mackay. And now there were six.

Since then, Nimbus Sextet have been honing their sound and playing live in Scotland and further afield. However, one of the most important gigs of the band’s nascent career was supporting  Gilles Peterson at Glasgow’s much-missed Sub Club. Watching the band play was Wayne A. Dickson of Groove Line Records who spotted their potential and during the gig was convinced the Acid Jazz Records would be interested in signing Nimbus Sextet. They were and Wayne A. Dickson, who has a wealth of music industry experience is now managing Nimbus Sextet.

With his help and encouragement and a lot of hard work on their own part Nimbus Sextet are going from strength-to-strength. They embarked upon a UK tour in February and March of 2020. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to see Nimbus Sextet live will agree that it’s an impressive sight and sound. The starting point for their music is jazz which heads in the direction of fusion and jazz-funk and also incorporates elements of funk neo-soul and world music. Live Nimbus Sextet take the audience on a musical adventure and are at their best when they improvise. It allows this talented and versatile group to showcase their considerable skills as the musical alchemists reinvent the material they’ve written over the last couple of years.

This includes the lead single from Nimbus Sextet’s forthcoming album Dreams Fulfilled which was recently released by Acid Jazz Records. During Trap Door Nimbus Sextet showcase their unique take on jazz. They fuse everything from funk and fusion to jazz-funk during this hook-laden and truly memorable and melodic single Trap Door.

Buoyed by the success of Trap Door, Nimbus Sextet returned with their much-anticipated sophomore single Lily White, which features vocalist Anthony Thomaz. It’s a song  that was written in the winter of 2018 before saxophonist Martin Fell joined the group. He was travelling by train from Glasgow to Leeds and  the vibrations of the train inspired what became the song’s rhythms. Then as he gazed out at the snow flecked fields this provided the inspiration for the song’s main theme. Soon, the song started to take shape, and once it was completed all the saxophonist needed was a vehicle for it.

When Martin Fell joined Nimbus Sextet he let the rest of the group hear the song. They spotted the song’s potential and decided to recorded it for their debut album Dreams Fulfilled. Joining the group was Anthony Thomaz who delivers a smooth, soulful and sassy vocal. He paints pictures and brings the lyrics to life with a neo-soul vocal. Meanwhile the rest of the group combine elements of jazz-funk, fusion, and jazz as they provide the perfect backdrop for this melodic and memorable song that showcases the combined and considerable talents of  Nimbus Sextet.

Understated, atmospheric and cinematic are words that spring to mind as Deep Dark Blue Lights starts to reveal its secrets. So does wistful and melancholy. Meanwhile Nimbus Sextet’s playing is initially restrained as the rhythm section and wheezing keyboards combine to create a rueful slice late-night jazz. A fleet-fingered and funky bass signals it’s time to change direction and a blazing, quivering horn soars high above the arrangement. It’s joined by rolls of thunderous drums and banks of keyboard before a curveball is thrown and the tempo drops but there’s an element of drama. Soon, elements of jazz, funk, fusion and the influence of Herbie Hancock can be heard before this captivating and  genre-melting eight minute epic reaches a crescendo. It’s been a roller coaster ride. 

From the get-go, there’s a sense of sadness and melancholy on Klara. This comes courtesy of the soul-baring soliloquy. It begins with the line: “why can’t you see what you’re doing to me” and soon hurt and heartache is there for all to hear. When the soliloquy drops out, the jazzy arrangement meanders along with a probing piano playing a leading role as the rhythm section provide an understated backdrop. This less is more approach is perfect and as the piano leads from the front and the band jam. Later, the arrangement is stripped bare and the trumpet enters joining forces with a jazz-tinged guitar, the rhythm section and piano . With less than a minute to go the trumpet is played with power and passion and helps brings this beautiful  track to a close. It’s without doubt one of the album’s highlights.

Séance is another of the slower tracks on the album. Keyboards give way to the horns which then flutter as the rhythm section provide the arrangement’s heartbeat. It has a wistful sound as the arrangement meanders along the horns occasionally flutter before the arrangement returns to its previous pedestrian sound. This allows the listener to reflect and ruminate. Later, the horns are played with speed and power adding a hopeful sound as the band jam and the track is transformed. It head in the direction of fusion when  a blistering guitar is unleashed before returning to the earlier wistful sound. In doing so, this show’s Nimbus Sextet’s versatility during a track that’s full of twists and turns as well as subtleties and surprises.

The piano play a leading role on Dreams Fulfilled and is joined by the rhythm section during this understated and spacious arrangement that gradually reveals its secrets. Drums punctuate the arrangement, hi-hats ring out and a muted horn plays and accompanies the piano which is played deliberately and plays a starring role.  Later, it’s played tenderly as is the alto saxophone. Not for long though and soon it’s being played with power as it soars high above the arrangement and along with the piano plays a starring role as the band jam for the last time. They enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs before just Joe Nichols’ piano remains for the final minute and he adds a flamboyant flourish before taking his leave on this stunning nine minute cinematic opus  which closes Dreams Fulfilled on a high.

Nimbus Sextet’s recently released debut album Dreams Fulfilled was much-anticipated and certainly doesn’t disappoint. The two singles Trap Door and Lily White are an important part of the album’s narrative and a tantalising taste of what was to come from the Glasgow-based group. However, these are just two of the six tracks that were recorded at Luigi Pasquini’s Anchor Lane Studios, in Glasgow. The result was an album that showcase a talented and versatile band who can seamlessly switch between and combine disparate musical genres and influences.

Jazz is at the heart of each and everyone of Nimbus Sextet’s songs on Dreams Fulfilled. They combine elements of funk, fusion, jazz-funk, Neo-Soul and world music during the six tracks on Dreams Fulfilled. Sometimes, the influence of Herbie Hancock can be heard in pianist and keyboardist Joe Nichols’ playing. In the rhythm section bassist Mischa Stevens has obviously been inspired by classic funk keep things funky with fleet fingered solos. However, it’s unfair to single two band members out as everyone plays their part in the sound and success of Dreams Fulfilled. 

It’s a captivating  musical journey where the music veers between smooth and soulful to hook-laden, melodic and  memorable to beautiful and joyous right through to understated, atmospheric and cinematic. Sometimes, the music is wistful and rueful and allows the listener to reflect, ruminate and contemplate. Dreams Fulfilled shows the different sides to Nimbus Sextet who  are one of the rising stars of Scotland’s vibrant and eclectic music scene and look like becoming one of the success stories of the forthcoming decade. Especially if they can continue to record albums of the quality of Dreams Fulfilled which showcases Nimbus Sextet’s versatility during a carefully crafted, genre-melting album that’s full of twists and turns and subtleties and surprises.

Nimbus Sextet-Dreams Fulfilled.

https://smarturl.it/Dreams_Fulfilled

LOFTS AND GARAGES-SPRING RECORDS AND THE BIRTH OF DANCE MUSIC.

Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music.

Label: BGP.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘30th’ October 2020.

As 1979 dawned, the tide was turning against disco, which had been one of the musical success stories of the late-seventies, and had provided the soundtrack to dance floors across the world. That was about to change. 

Its critics stated that some disco was formulaic, while others thought the music was mechanical. An article in Time magazine went much further, describing disco as a “diabolical thump-and-shriek.” Another of disco’s biggest critics was Steve Dahl, a Chicago based DJ. 

Up until Christmas Eve 1978, Steve Dahl had a show on WDAI in Chicago. This changed when WDAI’s owners read about New York’s WKTU-FM, a struggling rock station that decided to change format in 1978 and began to play disco. Suddenly, the ratings were soaring. The owners of WDAI decided to follow in the footsteps of WKTU-FM, and on Christmas Eve 1978, Steve Dahl was fired.

Talented DJs like Steve Dahl were never out of work for long, and soon, he was hired by the album rock station WLUP. Not long after starting at WLUP, Steve Dahl realised that the anti-disco backlash had begun. Soon, he started mocking rival station WDAI’s Disco DAI slogan on air, changing the slogan to Disco Die. This was just the start of Steve Dahl’s carefully orchestrated campaign.

Before long, the DJ had created his own mock organisation the Insane Coho Lips, which was Steve Dahl’s very own anti-disco army complete with a motto. This was that: “Disco Sucks.”

The anti-disco backlash gathered pace and led to the Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, the home of the Chicago White Sox on the ’12th’ of July 1979. 

Everyone who brought a disco record was admitted for ninety-eight cents. Crowds flocked from far and wide to watch the disco records being blown up at half-time during a double-header between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. 

For many in the crowd that night, seeing the crate of disco records blown up was the highlight of the evening. Pressing the detonator was Steve Dahl. After the explosion, many in the crowd rushed onto the field and the pitch was damaged, which resulted in the Chicago White Sox having to forfeit the game. However, Chicago White Sox weren’t the only losers, because that night, disco died.

After that, record companies lost interest in disco, and record companies began looking for the “next big thing.” The times they were a changing in dance music and so were DJs.

This had been the case since the seventies during the disco era, when many DJs had a much higher profile than their predecessors and assumed the role as tastemakers. Some of the highest profile DJs were David Mancuso at The Loft and Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage, plus Walter Gibbons and Frankie Knuckles who straddled the disco and house era. Many of the DJs were regarded as high priests of music and their DJ box as their pulpit, and dancers came to the worship at the altar. 

That was still the case in New York in what was regarded as the post disco era. Many music journalists seemed to be celebrating the demise of disco.However, disco’s death was exaggerated and it would go on to make a full recovery.

Before that, DJs in the Big Apple began spinning an eclectic selection of music. This included Afro-funk, boogie, Chicago House, Latin rock, mid-tempo Miami productions and extended mixes of Norman Whitfield productions. Some DJs even sprinkled their sets with classic funk, soul and even a few disco tracks. Others were looking for something different and new.

Especially Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage who at the time was one of the high profile DJs in the Big Apple. However, after the demise of disco he like many other DJs was looking for new music to play in his sets. He knew a number of American cities had a vibrant music scene and this included Chicago where house music was born and New York which was home to Spring Records.

The Rifkind brothers had founded Spring Records in 1967 which was an independent label that initially specialised in soul and funk music and was home to Joe Simon, Millie Jackson and the Fatback Band. Spring Records wasn’t just successful in America, its releases sold well in other parts of the world. Partly, this was because of the financial support it received from Polygram and its successor Polydor.

This success continued into the disco era. Spring Records which was based in New York was perfectly placed to climb onboard the disco bandwagon. Joe Simon, Millie Jackson and the Fatback Band all enjoyed a commercial success during the disco era. The label also signed Krystal and Renee Pryor who also enjoyed a degree of commercial. However, by 1979 executives at Spring Records were thinking about the future.

Spring Records executive producer Alan Schivek signed Busta Jones who released the Gino Soccio produced single (You) Keep On Making Me Hot later in 1979. It had a much slower tempo and hinted at the music that the label would release in the future.

In 1980, Spring Records’ executive producer Alan Schivek made three new signings. They were Arthur Baker, Michael Jonzon and Maurice Starr and who would become three of the most influential producers of the post disco era.

While some of the productions featured on the main Spring Records label, others featured on a new imprint Posse Records. It was founded in 1979 and was the latest addition to the Spring and Event Records’ family. The new label was run by Bill Spitalsky who was the company’s president. Some of the Posse Records productions feature on Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music which will be released by BGP on the ‘30th’ of October 2020. It features ten tracks including contributions by C-Brand, Ritz, Fonda Rae, Fatback, Glory, Blaze, Body and Lonnie Youngblood. These tracks were played in clubs across the Big Apple including The Loft and Paradise Garage and played their part in the development of modern dance music.

C-Brand was founded in Detroit by Michael Calhoun and Warnsby Stegall who produced the long version of the group’s second single Wired For Games which was released in 1982. It was their debut single on Spring Records and the followup to (Shake Your) A-S-S-E-T-S which was released on Detroit International and was a mixture of soul and funk. Wired For Games had a much more contemporary sound and saw elements of boogie, funk, soul, disco strings and electronica seamlessly mixed by producers Michael Calhoun and Warnsby Stegall during this eight minute joyous dancefloor filler and is the perfect way to open Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music.

In 1981, Ritz released the vocal version of Workin’ Out as their sophomore single on Posse Records. It was written and produced by the Boston trio of Arthur Baker, Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun. They fuse funk, boogie and a soulful vocal to create a track that led to the electro dance movement.

Fonda Rae released two singles on Posse Records including Live It Up. The short vocal version of a track written by Fonda Rae and Freddie Perez which they produced by Danny Weiss. The vocal has been influenced by classic disco and the arrangement is an early example of boogie with a hint of piano house. It’s a potent mix and one that has stood the test of time.

Feel was a studio soul-boogie duo that showcased the talents of Chris Hills and Danny Weiss who arranged and produced The Players Association in the eighties. They released a quartet of singles including Got To Have Your Lovin’ on Posse Records in 1983. It’s a fusion of boogie, electro, funk and a sassy, soulful vocal. Alas, commercial success eluded this single which was popular in clubs in New York and further afield.

Mynk only released the one single on Posse Records, Get Up An’ Dance (Dance With Me) in 1981. It was written by Gerry Thomas who produced the single with Bill Curtis. It’s the vocal version is included on the compilation and this boogie track was a favourite of DJs and dancers in Britain and America.

By 1984, The Fatback Band were known as Fatback and released Spread Love as a single on Spring Records. It was taken from their 1983 album Is This The Future? On the vocal version of Spread Love Fatback combine electro, funk and a dubby, sensuous vocal as they continue to reinvent their music.

Although Glory released Let’s Get Nice as a 12” single on Posse Records in 1981, it’s the 7-inch vocal version that features on Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music. It’s a funky slice of electro where a vocoder is used throughout the song. It’s effective and works well on this oft-overlooked rarity.

Blaze was an electro hip hop collaboration between Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun. They wrote and produced the vocal version of We Come To Jam which was released as a single on Posse Records in 1982. It’s an innovative and memorable fusion of boogie, electro, funk, hip hop and soul from Blaze that sadly, was their only release.

In 1985, Body released Have Your Cake as a 12 single on Posse Records. There were three versions including the vocal version. It was written by Yvette Flowers with Kenny Beck who produced the single. There’s a Germanic sound before elements of house and a soul vocal combine on this underrated dance track.

Sing A Song was released by saxophonist and bandleader Lonnie Youngblood as a single on Spring Records in 1985 closes Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music. He delivers a heartfelt and soulful vocal as backing vocalists accompany him and the arrangement combines elements of funk and mesmeric electronica. It’s a case of saving one of the best until last on the compilation.

Despite Spring Records and its Posse Records imprint releasing groundbreaking singles by some of the most important, influential and innovative producers of the time, commercial success eluded the singles on Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music. These singles were popular amongst DJs and dancers in clubs in America and further afield. This included in Britain, where DJs discovered the delight of the new sound that was being released by Spring Records and its Posse Records imprint.

The music that Spring Records was releasing was evolving and was very different to what it released in the seventies. It had released soul, funk and Southern Soul before its dalliance with disco later in the seventies. As the eighties dawned dance music was very different in the post disco years. Gone were the disco orchestras with their lush string arrangements and horns which were replaced by synths and drum machines on new the boogie, Chicago House and electro singles. This was dance music for the post disco generation.

Alas, it turned out that disco wasn’t dead, it was just enjoying a deep sleep. When it awoke from its slumbers disco went underground and was embraced and enjoyed by new and old fans alike. Since then, disco’s popularity has continued to grow until the present day.

The same can said of dance music in all its forms. Over the last twenty-five years there’s been a huge increase in interest in dance music. Hardly a week goes by without the release of a new  compilation of dance music. Ironically, this includes the many disco compilations that are released each year. That’s despite the supposed death of disco in 1979.

Apart from disco, there are many dance music compilations are released each week. Many feature a selection of dance classics and others are a retrospective of the most important dance labels. These are the labels that shaped modern dance music and this includes Spring Records and its Posse Records imprint which are celebrated on the new BGP compilation Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music.

Lofts and Garages-Spring Records and The Birth Of Dance Music.

HAPPY TIMES-THE SONGS OF DAN PENN AND SPOONER OLDHAM VOL 2.

Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘30th’ October 2020.

One of the greatest songwriting partnerships of the past sixty years is without doubt Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. The pair met at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals in the mid-sixties and went on to form a formidable songwriting partnership.

Over the next few years the pair wrote hit singles for Arthur Conley, Dionne Warwick, Etta James, Irma Thomas, James Carr, Joe Simon Percy Sledge, Solomon Burke and The Sweet Inspirations. Many of the songs that Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham wrote are now known as Southern Soul and the pair were architects of the genre.

The Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham songwriting partnership was a versatile one, and they also wrote country, pop and rock songs. BJ Thomas, Charlie Rich and The Box Tops were beneficiaries of the pair’s songwriting partnership.

Sometimes, the pair joined forces with other songwriters and this brought further success their way. By the time the Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham songwriting partnership came to an end in the early seventies, they had achieved more than many songwriters achieve in a lifetime.

Nearly fifty years after this exclusive songwriting partnership came to end Ace Records are about to release Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 on ‘30th’ October 2020. It’s the much-anticipated followup to Sweet Inspiration: The Songs Of Dan Penn And Spooner Oldham which was released in 2011 and featured some of the pair’s best known songs.

Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 turns its attention to the pair’s lesser known songs and features contributions from Arthur Conley, Bill Brandon, BJ Thomas, Bobby Womack, Don Varner, June Conquest, Merlee Rush, Percy Sledge, Ronnie Milsap, Spooner’s Crowd, The Box Tops, The Yo Yo’s and Wilson Pickett. These tracks are a mixture of unreleased tracks, singles, B-Sides and album tracks and is another reminder of one of the great songwriting partnership Dan Penn And Spooner Oldham.

June Conquest opens Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 with I Do. It was produced by Rick Hall and Staff at Fame Studios in 1966 and was regarded as a potential single. However, this soulful dancer which seems to have been influenced by Motown lay unreleased until 2012 when this soulful dancer made its debut on all Of Fame (Rare And Unissued Gems From The Fame Vaults).

In 1967, The Box Tops which featured future Big Star vocalist Alex Chilton, released their biggest hit single The Letter. Tucked away on the B-Side was the Dan Penn production Happy Times which is a vastly underrated example of pop-soul.

In 1966 Sandy Posey from Jasper, Alabama, released her debut album Single Girl on MGM Records. The most powerful track on the album which was produced by Chips Moman was  Hey Mister. It features a vocal full of despair and hurt as she breathes meaning and emotion into the harrowing lyrics.

When Arthur Conley released his third album Soul Directions on Atco, in 1968, it opened with You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy. The song had originally been recorded by Jimmy Hughes in 1965. However, this latest Southern Soul cover featured a vocal full of sadness, regret and a sense of melancholia.

The Power Of Love was recorded by Don Varner at Quinvy Studios in early 1967 but this Motown influenced song lay unreleased until 1989. That was when it featured on a Charly compilation Rainbow Road-Rare Soul From The Quinvy/Broadway Sound Studio Volume 5. At last, this long-lost hidden soulful gem was available for all to hear. It makes a welcome return on Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol 2.

I Need A Lot Of Loving was released as a single on Goldwax in 1966. Lead vocalist Louis Williams sounds as if he’s paying homage to Sam Cooke on this single which it was hoped would result in a change of fortune for the label.

The late Bobby Womack was one of the greatest soul singers of his generation. Proof of this is Broadway Walk which Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham wrote with Darryl Carter and was released as a single on Minit in October 1967. It’s now regarded as one of Bobby Womack’s finest performances as he vamps his way through the lyrics to this soulful slice of Memphis funk.   

Cousins James and Bobby Purify formed a soul duo in 1965 and by 1966 had signed to Bell Records. In 1967, they released The Pure Sound Of The Purifys-James and Bobby which featured the beautiful ballad Hello There. It’s another hidden gem that is a welcome addition on the compilation.

By 1968 Dee Dee Sharp had signed to Atco and was working with producer Tom Dowd. He produced Help Me Find My Groove which is a stunning slice of gospel-tinged Southern Soul.

It was hoped that The Goodies would be Memphis’ answer to The Shangri-Las. Sadly, things didn’t turn out that way. By the time Stax sent them to record with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham their career was teetering on the brink. They wrote and produced the ballad Goodies which has a vocal that sounds as if it’s been influenced by The Shangri-Las. Despite this, and an arrangement that was recorded at American Studios commercial success eluded this carefully crafted single.

In 1969, BJ Thomas recorded I’ll Pray For Rain for his album Young and In Love which was released on Scepter Records. It’s a compelling ballad with an impassioned vocal that showcases a truly talented singer.

Closing Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 is I’ll Be Your Baby by Spooner’s Crowd. It’s an instrumental that features Dan Penn on piano and is played waltz time. It was proceed by Rick Hall and released on Cadet in 1966 but failed to find an audience. This oft-overlooked track is the perfect way to close a compilation that pays homage to two songwriting greats.

Nine years after the release of the critically acclaimed compilation Sweet Inspiration: The Songs Of Dan Penn And Spooner Oldham, Ace Records are about to release then much-anticipated followup. This is Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 which features twenty-four of the pair’s lesser known tracks. There’s tracks that lay unreleased, B-Sides, album tracks and singles that failed to find the audience they deserved. They all have one thing in common quality.

That’s no surprise as these songs were written by one of the greatest songwriting partnerships of the past sixty years. They were all produced by top producers who brought out the best in artists who were either well known names or making their way in the world of music. The result is a compilation that oozes quality and Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2 and is a fitting followup up to Sweet Inspiration: The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham.

Happy Times-The Songs Of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Vol. 2.

THIS IS FAME 1964-1968.

This Is Fame 1964-1968.

Label: Kent Soul.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ’30th’ October 2020.

Back in the sixties, many record companies sent their artists to the Fame Recording Studios, in Muscle Shoals which was home to Rick Hall and the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. They had previously transformed ailing careers and worked on million selling albums and Rick Hall was fast becoming the go-to producer for the biggest names in soul. He and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section had worked with Aretha Franklin, Arthur Alexander, Arthur Conley, Candi Staton, Etta James, Otis Redding and Wilson Picket. However, that was just part of he story.

Rick Hall and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section had also worked with Jimmy Hughes, Clarence Carter, Art Freeman, Jeanie Greene, Dan Penn, George Jackson, Billy Young, June Conquest and James Barnett. They’re just some of the artists that feature on This Is Fame 1964-1968 which will be  released on Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records on  the ’30th’ October 2020. It’ll be a welcome release for anyone who loves soul and especially Southern Soul. The story began over sixty years ago.

The story starts during late fifties when Rick Hall, Tom Stafford and Billy Sherill founded a record label, and built their first studio above the City Drug Store in Florence, Alabama. However, by the early sixties this nascent partnership had split-up resulting in Tom Stafford and Rick Hall needing a new studio. 

They decided to move to what had been a tobacco warehouse in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Having settled in the new studio, it wasn’t long before  Rick Hall soon recorded what would be his first hit single, Arthur Alexander’s You Better Move On. Wisely, he decided to invest the profit in a better studio, and moved to their current location Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The first hit single Rick Hall recorded in his new studio was Jimmy Hughes’ Steal Away. Little did Rick Hall know it back then, but soon his new studio would see artists coming from far and wide to record at Fame.

After Rick’s success with Jimmy Hughes, word got out that Fame was the place to go to record a new single or album. Quickly, everyone from Tommy Roe to The Tams, and from Joe Tex, Joe Simon, George Jackson and Clyde McPhatter right through to Irma Thomas, Etta James and Mitty Collier. Even Aretha Franklin recorded at Muscle Shoals. Indeed, it was at Muscle Shoals that Jerry Wexler brought Aretha Franklin, to record her 1967 album I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You. However, why did all these artists choose to head to Muscle Shoals to Fame?

Part of the reason was the session musicians that worked with Rick Hall. This included the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns. They were some of the hottest and tightest musicians of that era. This included drummer Rodger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, guitarist Jimmy Johnson and keyboardist Barry Beckett. When they recorded together, they were one of the finest backing bands ever. Between 1961 and 1969, when they departed from Fame to found the rival studio Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. However, for eight years, they helped make Fame Records Southern Soul’s greatest label. They can be heard on numerous singles and albums. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns can also be found on many of the tracks on This Is Fame 1964-1968.

Opening This Is Fame 1964-1968 is Jimmy Hughes’ 1964 single Steal Away. This is fitting, as it’s the single that transformed Rick Hall and the Fame Recording Co’s fortunes. When Steal Away, was released  it gradually, began to climb the charts. Eventually, reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the US R&B chart. Buoyed by the success of Steal Away, Jimmy Hughes had the confidence to quit his job in Robbins Rubber factory. He recorded his debut album Steal Away, which became the first album to be released bearing the Fame logo. However, Steal Away is also stonewall Southern Soul classic that even fifty-two years later, is truly timeless.

By the time Clarence Carter released She Ain’t Gonna Do Right in 1967, he had enjoyed two hit singles. Clarence had signed to Fame Records in late 1966. His first solo single was Tell Daddy, which reached number thirty-five in the US R&B charts. The followup Thread The Needle reached number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-eight in the US R&B charts. Later in 1967, he covered Dan Penn and Lindon Oldham’s She Ain’t Gonna Do Right. It was produced by Rick Hall and Staff, and released later in 1967. Sadly, two didn’t become three for Clarence Carter, when She Ain’t Gonna Do Right failed to chart. That’s despite being an irresistible slice of soul-baring Southern Soul.

Otis Clay was and still is one of soul music’s best kept secrets. He had an abundance of talent, and should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. Proof of this his cover of Don Covay’s That Kind Of Lovin’, which was produced by Rick Hall and Staff. It was the B-Side to Do Right Woman, Do Right Man. When it was released as a single by Cotillion in October 1968 it failed to trouble the charts. This became a familiar story for Otis Clay who only enjoyed five minor US R&B hits during his career. Sadly, Otis Clay died in January 2016, and That Kind Of Lovin’, is the perfect reminder of one of the most talented Southern Soul men in full flight.

James Barnett only ever released the one single on Fame Records, Keep On Talking. It’s a Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham composition which was released as a single in January 1966. Alas, commercial success eluded Keep On Talking and most people expected the single to fade into obscurity. That wasn’t the case though. Later, James Barnett’s  Keep On Talking found an audience within the UK Northern Soul scene, where even today, it’s still a favourite of dancers and DJs.

By August 1967, Jimmy Hughes was about to bid farewell to Fame Records. His swan-song was a cover of Hi-Heel Sneakers, which was produced by Rick Hall and Staff. When Hi-Heel Sneakers was released as a single, it failed to chart. This was Jimmy Hughes’ second single that failed to trouble the charts. Record buyers missed out on a barnstorming performance from Jimmy Hughes on this oft-covered song. However, it’s a welcome addition to This Is Fame 1964-1968.

Jeanie Greene was one of the female vocalists who made the journey to Muscle Shoals, and recorded at Fame Recording Studios. One of the songs she recorded was Don’t Make Me Hate Loving You. It was never released until it found its way onto Ace Records’ three CD box set The Fame Studios Story 1961-1973 in November 2011. Nearly nine years later and Jeanie Greene’s impassioned plea makes a welcome return. She’s joined by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section as she combines gospel and Southern Soul on this beautiful and moving ballad.

George Jackson played an important role in the rise and rise of Fame Records. He was a prolific songwriter, whose songs were covered by many artists. However, George Jackson also enjoyed a lengthy recording career. One of the labels he was signed to was Fame Records where he recorded Back In Your Arms. It’s a heart-wrenching Southern Soul ballad with gospel tinged harmonies. Incredibly, Back In Your Arms was never released as a single. That’s despite being a beautiful and timeless Southern Soul ballads that one will never tire of. It was definitely the one that got away for George Jackson.

Having enjoyed a hit single with Tell Daddy earlier in 1967, Clarence Carter began working on the followup. He wrote Thread The Needle, which was produced by Rick Hall and Staff. It was released later in 1967 as Clarence Carter’s sophomore single on Fame Records. Thread The Needle reached number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-eight in the US R&B charts. Stylistically and sonically it’s not dissimilar to Tell Daddy and there’s even a nod to Sam and Dave and even Otis Redding on what’s another of Clarence Carter’s finest moments at Fame Records.

Art Freeman only ever released two singles on Fame Records.His second and final single, A Piece Of My Heart was his finest moment. It was released in March 1967 but failed to make any impression on the charts. Fifty-three years later, and A Piece Of My Heart is a welcome addition to This Is Fame 1964-1968. Quite simply, it epitomises everything that’s good about Southern Soul. It’s also an introduction to another of Southern Soul’s nearly men, Art Freeman who should’ve reached greater heights.

June Conquest’s recording career lasted just eight years. During that period, she released just six singles. This included one single on Fame Records, Almost Persuaded. It was a Rick Hall production that was released in 1964. When it wasn’t a commercial success June Conquest was dropped by Fame Records. This seemed somewhat hasty, as June Conquest was obviously a talented vocalist. She doesn’t so much deliver lyrics but live them. Her vocal is a mixture of melancholia, sadness and disappointment on Almost Persuaded which is a real hidden gem. That’s almost an understatement. It’s much better than that and is essential listening for anyone who likes their music soulful.

The only single James Barnett released on Fame Records was Keep On Talking. It was released in January 1966, but failed to even trouble the lower reaches of the charts. That was the end of James Barnett’s career at Fame Records. However, tucked away on the B-Side was Take A Good Look. It’s a beautiful Southern Soul ballad, where the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Horns provide an understated backdrop. This allows James Barnett’s vocal to take centre-stage, as he lays bare his soul for all to hear. The result is another tantalising taste of James Barnett, and one of the highlights of This Is Fame 1964-1968.

Closing This Is Fame 1964-1968, is Jimmy Hughes’ I Worship The Ground You Walk On. It’s a Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham composition which was released as a single in 1966. It reached twenty-five on the US R&B charts, and gave Jimmy Hughes’ his fourth hit single. It’s one of his finest moments, with Jimmy Hughes’ vocal akin to a confessional on this beautiful Southern Soul ballad.

It’s nearly nine years since Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records began their comprehensive reissue of the music recorded at Fame Recording Studios, in Muscle Shoals. The next instalment is  This Is Fame 1964-1968 which features twenty-four songs produced by Rick Hall and featuring the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. With songs from Jimmy Hughes, Clarence Carter, Art Freeman, Jeanie Greene, Dan Penn, George Jackson, Billy Young, June Conquest and James Barnett,  This Is Fame 1964-1968 is Southern Soul at its best. 

Familiar faces and new names rub shoulders on This Is Fame 1964-1968. There’s singles, B-Sides and unreleased tracks on This Is Fame 1964-1968. That’s not forgetting more than a few hidden soulful gems. They’re among the twenty-four reasons for vinyl enthusiasts to buy This Is Fame 1964-1968. It’s a reminder, if any was needed, of one of Southern Soul’s premier labels, Fame Records, during what was its most successful years. 

Key to the success of Fame Records were producer Rick Hall, and his house band the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. They can be heard throughout This Is Fame 1964-1968, which is a welcome addition to Ace Records ongoing and lovingly curated reissue program. 

This Is Fame 1964-1968.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CULT CLASSIC-GALACTIC EXPLORERS-EPITAPH FOR VENUS.

Cult Classic: Galactic Explorers-Epitaph For Venus.

A great deal of mystery, speculation, and even cynicism surrounds the recording and belated release of  Galactic Explorers’ debut album Epitaph For Venus. Nobody seems to know what year the album was recorded and it’s thought that the album was released between 1972 and 1976 which was when Robin Page’s Pyramid Records was in existence. However, just like any album that was recorded by Pyramid Records, the album is sure to provoke debate within Krautrock circles.

The story began just over twenty years ago with the rediscovery of the Pyramid Records’ tapes. These newly discovered taps had been missing for the best part of twenty years. This should’ve  been an exciting musical discovery, and one that was welcomed by all Krautrock connoisseurs. Instead, the discovery of the  Pyramid Records’ tapes was the start of a debate that still rages over twenty years later.

When the Pyramid Records’ tapes first resurfaced just over twenty years ago, this was an exciting discovery. After all, it wasn’t every day that a hitherto small, unknown private record label’s back-catalogue was discovered? This was what Cologne based Pyramid Records had been. 

Pyramid Records was founded by British expat Robin Page, in 1972. By then, Robin Page was forty and one of the leading lights  in the Fluxus arts movement. He had moved from London, England to Cologne, in Germany in 1969 which had been his home ever since. However, Robin Page wasn’t the only expat living in Cologne. 

So was Tony Robinson, a South African, who had travelled from Cape Town, to Germany to work with the legendary Karlheinz Stockhausen, the Godfather of modern German electronic music at the WDR Studio. This was akin to serving an engineering apprenticeship, and would serve Tony Robinson well. When he left Karlheinz Stockhausen’s employ, Tony Robinson went to work at Dierks Studio in Cologne. That was where the future Genius P. Orridge would meet Robin Page.

By then, Robin Page was a successful and established artist. He was a leading light in the Fluxus movement, and was regarded as a groundbreaking artist. Robin Page used humour within his work, which sought to challenge what was regarded as good taste within the art establishment. Before long, Robin Page’s painting found an audience, and became particularly sought after. This was what Robin Page had dreamt of and worked towards since ‘leaving’ art college in Vancouver. His new-found success and financial security allowed Robin Page to work towards fulfilling another of his dreams, making music.

Robin Page was serious about making music and even had a recording studio in the basement to what looked like to anyone passing by, a derelict building. Deep within its bowels, was Robin Page’s recording studio where Pyramid Records first album was recorded. It was then pressed by a Turkish entrepreneur, who just happened to keep his cutting lathe within the same building. Although was more used to producing bootlegs, but was able to cut what became PYR 001, Pyramid Records’ first release. It came wrapped in a cover designed by a local student. History had just made with the release of Pyramid Records’ first release.

Soon, Robin Page’s nascent label had established a reputation for releasing ambitious and innovative albums. However, Pyramid Records was only in existence until 1976. During that four-year period, Pyramid Records only ever released fifteen albums. These albums were pressed in small quantities. Usually, no more than 50-100 copies of each album was pressed. 

Once the albums were ready for release, founder Robin Page gave away many of the copies to his friends, while the remainder were sold in Cologne’s clubs or art galleries. None of the Pyramid Records’ releases found their way into Cologne’s many record shops. To some extent, that explains why nobody seemed to have heard of Pyramid Records, which was an underground label.

One person who was presented with a copy of PYR 001, was Toby Robinson who by 1972, had become friends with Robin Page. He was persuaded to provide the material for Pyramid Records second release, which bore the serial number PYR 002. 

Essentially, Tony Robinson’s album comprised a recording of sounds bounced from one tape recorder to another. When the recording was complete, Robin Page went to visit his had a master cut, and  between 50-100 copies were either given away to Robin Page’s friends, or sold in Cologne’s art galleries and clubs. No copies of  PYR 001 nor PYR 002 seem to have survived. It’s a similar story with the label’s next two releases.

Neither the master tapes nor copies of PYR 003 and PYR 004 seem to have survived the passage of time. Instead, the first Pyramid Records release to survive is believed to be PYR 005. It’s one of just eleven Pyramid Records’ recordings that remain  in the vaults. These recordings were made between 1974 and 1976. This contradicts the claims in 1996 that the Galactic Explorers’ album Epitaph For Venus took place in 1972 and 1973.

Many of the bands released albums on Robin Page’s Pyramid Records were part of the Krautrock scene. That was apart from The Nazgul and the Galactic Explorers. Their music was very different and had a much more avant-garde sound. Other noticeable influences include that of Karlheinz Stockhausen who had influenced many of the leading lights of the German music scene, and even the Fluxus movement. All this had influenced the three Galactic Explorers.

Very little is known about the members of the Galactic Explorers. It’s believed that Johannes Lutz, Holst Seisert and Reinhard Karwatky are all aliases. One claim was the some of the musicians who played on the Pyramid Records’ sessions were well-known musicians, who were members of top Krautrock bands. They played in the Pyramid Records’ sessions after they had finished playing with their respective bands. As a result, they had to dawn aliases when the albums were released. It may be that other musicians featured on the Galactic Explorers’ album Epitaph For Venus.

Only three musicians are credited as playing on Epitaph For Venus, which was produced by Tony Robinson. Johannes Lutz played Minimoog and Hammond organ, Holst Seisert played Fender Rhodes and synths and Reinhard Karwatky added electric organ, percussion and synths. However, snatches of guitar and bass can be heard on Epitaph For Venus. However, who played them is a mystery. So is when the sessions took place.

When Epitaph For Venus was originally released in 1996, it was claimed that the album was recorded during 1972 and 1973. This contradicts the claim that the eleven Pyramid Records’ tapes that survived were recorded between 1974 and 1976.This makes it more likely that Epitaph For Venus was recorded between 1974 and 1976. By then, the group that inspired the Galactic Explorers’ name had released their trio of albums.

Inspiration for the name Galactic Explorers most likely came from The Cosmic Jokers, whose lineup featured top German musicians including Dieter Dierks, Harald Großkopf, Jürgen Dollase, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Göttsching. They spent the three-month period between February to May of 1973 taking part in psychedelic jam sessions. The musicians drinks had been spiked with LSD, and as they played at Studio Dierks, which was owner Dieter Dierks and where Tony Robinson once worked, The Cosmic Jokers noticed that the sessions were being surreptitiously recorded. These sessions resulted in three albums The Cosmic Jokers and Sternenmädchen’s Planeten Sit-In, The Cosmic Jokers and Galactic Supermarket.

If the Galactic Explorers were indeed inspired by The Cosmic Jokers, then this would suggest that the album was recorded at least after May 1973 when the recording sessions ended. It may be that the Galactic Explorers recorded their album after 1974, when The Cosmic Joker released their debut album? However, playing Devil’s Advocate, it could be that the group was named the Galactic Explorers at a later date by someone involved in the sessions? After all, not everyone was convinced by the Pyramid Records’ story.

Pyramid Records closed its door for the final time in 1976. Not long after that, Robin Page decided to emigrate to Canada. With him, he took Pyramid Records’ master tapes and the remaining albums. Almost nothing was left of Pyramid Records. It was as if the label had never existed.  

That was until nearly twenty years later, when Tony Robinson approached Virgin Records with some of Pyramid Records’ master tapes. This resulted in the release of Unknown Deutschland-The Krautrock Archive Volume 1 in 1996. Later that year, two further volumes were released. This further fuelled the mythology and speculation that built up around Pyramid Records. 

Since then, the Pyramid Records’ story has been debated ad infinitum. Sadly, far too many people have become bogged down by the controversy and speculation that surrounds the Pyramid Records’ story. It’s as if they’re determined to disprove that the music was recorded between 1972 and 1976. In doing so, all they’re doing is adding fuel to the fire, and fuelling the debate and speculation. That is a great shame, because for too long, people have become caught up in the Pyramid Records’ mythology. In doing so, they lose sight of the important thing, the music. 

This includes the fifteen albums Pyramid Records released between 1972 and 1976, albums that have still to be released and albums that made their belated debut twenty years after Pyramid Records closed its doors for the final time. This includes the Galactic Explorers album Epitaph For Venus, which was made its debut  in 1996 and showed a different side to the music that Pyramid Records’ released.

Lunarscape is an eighteen-minute epic that opens Epitaph For Venus. It drones and whines as otherworldly and futuristic sounds emerge from the soundscape. Soon, bubbling sounds cascade melodically and urgently. Meanwhile, subtle sounds glisten, bubble and shimmer as this captivating soundscape becomes mesmeric, as it continues to reveal its secrets. Before long, the mix is an ethereal vortex that draws the listener in. By then, an electric guitar can be heard deep in the mix amongst washes of synths and a Fender Rhodes. Constantly, sounds flit in and out, with some making only the briefest of appearances. Later, darkness emerges from the hypnotic mix. Especially when an electric organ drones and feedback howls briefly. Still, there’s an elegiac and futuristic sound as washes of synths emerge from the mix. So do a myriad of ominous, droning, sci-fi and cascading sounds. They’re part of a lysergic, cinematic soundscape that paints pictures, continues to captivate and captures the listener’s imagination. All the listener is left to do, is provide the script to this captivating and futuristic cinematic soundscape.

Understated describes Ethereal Jazz as it unfolds and sounds are emitted from the soundscape. Bubbling synths, hissing hi-hats, a chanted vocal and bursts of Fender Rhodes combine. Sometimes, there’s an Eastern influence as the genre-melting arrangement grows in power and cascades along. Avant-garde is combined with electronica, experimental and improv in a soundscape where synths are to the fore. They’re joined by a Fender Rhodes, shimmering  cymbals and various beeps, squeaks and otherworldly sounds. Sometimes, cymbals crash, adding an element of drama. They joined the Fender Rhodes, while effects are used heavily to manipulate sounds. Meanwhile, the soundscape continues to bubble and meander hypnotically along. Gradually, though, the tempo rises and there’s an urgency, before the music become eerie, dramatic and spacious. It’s a case of less is more, as the sound storm blowing is replicated and is accompanied by a slow, shimmering Fender Rhodes and synths. They combine to create a moody, dramatic and ruminative ending to this sixteen minute opus.

Venus Rising closes Epitaph For Venus, where a dark, dramatic sound bubbles ominously. Soon, a droning synth is added and adds to the drama as the soundscape reverberates and eerie and futuristic sounds are emitted. By then, it sounds as if the Galactic Explorers have been asked to provide the soundtrack to a short sci-fi film. They take the listener on a trip on a spacecraft which soars high into the night sky. Always though, there’s a degree of drama which continues to build as this journey to a distant planet continues. Just like the two previous soundscapes, there’s a cinematic quality which sets the imagination racing as the Galactic Explorers take the listeners to infinity and beyond.

Sadly, Pyramid Records  only released fifteen albums during the four years it was in existence, and Epitaph For Venus spent over twenty years in the Pyramid Records vaults. For whatever reason, Robin Page’s Pyramid Records never got round to releasing Epitaph For Venus. It was the one that got away for the Cologne based label.

It seems strange that Epitaph For Venus was never released by Pyramid Records? Here was a cinematic opus that was variously dark, dramatic, eerie, futuristic,  hypnotic, melodic and mesmeric. Other times, sci-fi and otherworldly sounds are added as the Galactic Explorers take the listener on a captivating and genre-melting journey during this carefully sculpted album.

Using just synths, a Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, electric organ and percussion the Galactic Explorers create what was a cinematic epic. It marries elements of avant-garde with elements of ambient, Berlin School, experimental music, Musique concrète and rock. Although there’s a Krautrock influence on Epitaph For Venus, it’s not as apparent as other albums that bore the Pyramid Records’ name. Just like The Nazgul’s album, the Galactic Explorers’ album Epitaph For Venus showcases a much purer Kominische avant-garde sound that shows a very different sound to the Pyramid Records’ sound. This is a move away from the Krautrock that can be heard on the majority of albums Pyramid Records recorded and released.

Epitaph For Venus is also one of the hidden gems in the Pyramid Records back-catalogue. Sadly, the music that Pyramid Records released and recorded doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. That is despite producing albums of groundbreaking and innovative music. This includes the Galactic Explorers’ debut album Epitaph For Venus. If it had been released on Brain or Ohr, it would received critical acclaim. Sadly, that isn’t the case. 

Instead, a small cabal of so-called, self-important musical experts are hellbent on disproving the Pyramid Records’ story. What they forget, is that during the seventies, there were many small labels that operated under the radar in cities across Europe. They released albums in small quantities, including albums that were later reissued. When these albums were reissued they weren’t subject to the same scrutiny as the albums recorded and released by Robin Page’s Pyramid Records. 

Maybe that will start to change as a new generation of record buyers discover the music Pyramid Records recorded and releases between 1972 and 1976? Hopefully, these record buyers will concentrate on the music Robin Page’s label released, rather than the rumour, speculation and myth that surrounds Pyramid Records. If they do, they will discover some groundbreaking and innovative music, including the Cozmic Corridors’ eponymous debut album, and one of Pyramid Records’ finest moments, the Galactic Explorers’ debut album Epitaph For Venus.

Cult Classic: Galactic Explorers-Epitaph For Venus.

CLASSIC ALBUM: JOHN COLTRANE-A LOVE SUPREME.

Classic Album: John Coltrane-A Love Supreme.

On December 9th 1964, four musicians made their war to the Van Gelder Studio, on 445 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood CliffsNew Jersey. They were scheduled to record an album with engineer Rudy Van Gelder who was already veteran of countless recordings, and had worked with some of the biggest names in jazz. This included John Coltrane, who was about scheduled to record a new album, which became A Love Supreme.

When John Coltrane arrived at Van Gelder Studio, he was accompanied by bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer and percussionist Elvin Jones and pianist McCoy Tyner. For most musicians, they would’ve looked at this as just another recording session. Not John Coltrane.

While John Coltrane was still only thirty-eight, he was a veteran of over thirty albums, including many groundbreaking albums and had been at the forefront of new musical movements including bebop, hard bop and post bop. However, his solo career was just part of the John Coltrane story.

He had also accompanied some of the legends of jazz including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Nothing fazed John Coltrane. In racing parlance, John Coltrane was a thoroughbred who had gone course and distance countless times. It was the same with the band John Coltrane had assembled. 

Jimmy Garrison was thirty-one, and had accompanied everyone from Ornette Coleman, Philly Joe Jones and Jackie McLean, to Lee Conitz, McCoy Tuner and John Coltrane. However, Jimmy Garrison had only released one album as bandleader, Illumination! which was released in 1964, and credited to Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. By then, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones had formed a successful  partnership as the go-to rhythm section for top jazzers.

Just like Jimmy Garrison, thirty-seven year old Elvin Jones was already an experienced musician.  He had released a trio of solo albums and played on around fifty albums. This included several jazz classic, including Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain, John Coltrane’s My Favourite Things and Freddie Hubbard’s Ready For Freddie. Any jazz musician looking for a drummer knew to call Elvin Jones. It was the same with McCoy Tyner.

Although McCoy Tyner was only twenty-six, and the youngest member of John Coltrane’s band, he was already released five albums for Impulse! McCoy Tyner had also played on albums by the great and good of jazz. This included Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan and Stanley Turrentine. Then in 1962, McCoy Tyner became an integral part of John Coltrane’s band.

Since then, John Coltrane’s quartet had spent time honing their sound. During this period, John Coltrane’s sound had evolved. John Coltrane was never one to stand still. That was for lesser musicians. He was determined to innovate, and push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes beyond. That’s what would happen at Van Gelder Studio, on 9th December 1964.

When John Coltrane entered Van Gelder Studio, he was ready to fuse the music of the past, present and future. Hard bop, free jazz, avant grade and modal jazz were melt into one on what’s now regarded as the finest album of his career, A Love Supreme which was recorded in just one day.

With John Coltrane’s quartet assembled in Van Gelder Studio, they began setting up for the session. John Coltrane had written a four part suite, which began with Part 1: Acknowledgement. It was followed by Part 2: Resolution. These two tracks would eventually fill side one of A Love Supreme. On side two, was the eighteen minute epic, Part 3: Pursuance/Part 4: Psalm. The final part, Psalm, is a devotional, or wordless poem, which John Coltrane planned to narrate using his saxophone. Some musicologists have suggested that John Coltrane’s inspiration were the sermons of African-American preachers. This could be the case, as the track ends with John Coltrane giving thanks, saying: “Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen.” This more than hinted that A Love Supreme was a spiritual album. 

By then, John Coltrane had fallen under the spell of Ahmadiyya Islam. Some critics and music historians see this as an influence. However, essentially, A Love Supreme was about John Coltrane’s own personal struggle for purity. He expresses his thanks and gratitude for talent bestowed upon him, and perceives the tenor saxophone he plays as being owned by a higher, spiritual power. A Love Supreme part confessional, part hymnal. 

Having explained the concept behind A Love Supreme, the quartet received their parts. They were a guide, and left plenty of room for the quartet to express themselves on what was going to be a genre-defying album, A Love Supreme. It saw hard bop, free jazz, avant grade and modal jazz combined by John Coltrane’s quartet.

The quartet featured double bassist Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones on drums, timpani and gong and pianist McCoy Turner. John Coltrane was bandleader, vocalist and wielded his trusty tenor saxophone. By the end of the 9th December 1964, A Love Supreme was complete. However, the quartet returned the following day.

On the 10th December 1964, two alternate takes of Acknowledgement were recorded. Archie Shepp played tenor saxophone and Art Davis double bass. Neither take made its way onto A Love Supreme. However, the versions recorded by the classic quartet that stand head and shoulders above the alternate takes. That’s why the tracks recorded on the 9th December 1964 that feature on A Love Supreme which was released in February 1965.

Back in 1965, record companies didn’t need months to plan a P.R. campaign to accompany an album’s release. Instead, albums were recorded, then released a couple of months later. This was the case with A Love Supreme. Before that, critics and cultural commentators had their say. 

Critics on hearing A Love Supreme, were spellbound. Quickly, critics realised that they were hearing John Coltrane remake jazz history on A Love Supreme. That was the case from Elvin Jones hits the gong, and washes of cymbals resonate. Then comes that familiar four note motif on Jimmy Garrison’s bass. Even by then, some perceptive critics realised that something special was unfolding. Soon, John Coltrane was playing his tenor saxophone as if his very soul depended on A Love Supreme’s success. 

By then, John Coltrane was unleashing his legendary “sheets of sound;” his playing combining power and passion. However, not once does John Coltrane resort to showboating. He plays with a humility, but still, there’s a joyousness as he gives thanks.

From there, John Coltrane gives thanks on A Love Supreme. The album is essentially, a thirty-four minute hymnal, where John Coltrane bows down, and gives thanks for the talent bestowed upon him. By then, the classic Coltrane quartet sweep the listener along, as they flit between, and sometime, fuse elements of hard bop, free jazz, avant grade and modal jazz. It’s truly mesmeric, and it’s as if John Coltrane has been touched by genius. Sometimes, there’s a ferocity to John Coltrane’s playing. However, it’s just his way of show his gratitude and appreciation, at being one of the chosen few, one of a higher power’s jazz messengers.

By Psalm, which closes A Love Supreme, John Coltrane offers up a devotional, or wordless poem. Rather than using words, John Coltrane narrates using his saxophone. As he does, he offers his most precious possession, his tenor saxophone as a token of esteem for the talent that’s been bestowed upon him. By the end of Psalm, John Coltrane is almost exhausted and spent, but gives thanks, saying: “Elation. Elegance. Exaltation. All from God. Thank you God. Amen.” This brings to an end one of the most powerful albums any music lover will experience, enjoy and embrace, A Love Supreme.

Incredibly, despite critically acclaimed reviews, which referred to A Love Supreme as a groundbreaking album, and classic-in-waiting, this landmark album wasn’t a huge commercial success. Instead, around Impulse! sold around 30,000 copies of A Love Supreme. This was par for the course for the albums John Coltrane released on Impulse!

By 1970, 500,000 copies of A Love Supreme had been sold. This resulted in A Love Supreme being certified gold. Sadly, John Coltrane didn’t see this momentous event.

On July 17th 1967, John Coltrane died, aged just forty. By then, he had recorded over fifty albums, including classics including 1958s Blue Train, which was the only album John Coltrane released on Blue Note Records. However, it was later certified gold. Then in 1959, John Coltrane released his first classic album for Atlantic Records, Giant Steps. Two years later, My Favourite Things followed in 1961. Then in 1965, came the album that came to define John Coltrane’s illustrious career, A Love Supreme.

It’s fifty-three years since John Coltrane died. By then, he was in the prime of his musical life and could’ve and should’ve gone on to be at the forefront of jazz as the genre continued to reinvent itself for two maybe three more genres. However, John Coltrane at spent his career as a pioneer of jazz, ensuring the genre neither stood still, nor became irrelevant. There was no chance that jazz was going to go the way of the blues. Not with musical pioneers like John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman producing groundbreaking music. Sadly, John Coltrane never got the opportunity to embrace the change in jazz that took place during the late-sixties and early seventies. However, Joh Coltrane left behind a rich musical legacy.

Considering he died when he was just forty, it was remarkable that John Coltrane had managed to record over fifty albums. That’s not forgetting the albums he played on as sideman as part of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk’s bands where he learnt from two giants of jazz and masters of their career. However, when he stepped out their shadows, John Coltrane was also capable of creating groundbreaking, innovative music, that changed the course of jazz history, including his Magnus Opus, A Love Supreme.

Classic Album: John Coltrane-A Love Supreme.

 

 

 

LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY-LOLEATTA AND CRY TO ME.

Loleatta Holloway-Loleatta  and Cry To Me.

Label: Kent Soul,

Format: CD. 

Release Date: ’30th’ October 2020.

Before being transformed into a disco diva by guitarist, songwriter, arranger and producer Norman “The Machine” Harris at Salsoul imprint Gold Mind Records, Loleatta Holloway released two albums of Southern Soul for Michael Thevis’ Aware Records. The first was also her debut album Loleatta , which was released in 1973. It was followed two years later in 1975 by her sophomore album Cry To Me, which brought Loleatta Holloway’s Aware Records’ years to an end. 

Now forty-five years later and Kent Soul an imprint of Ace Records will release Loleatta and Cry To Me on one CD along with three bonus tracks on  the ’30th’ October 2020. This is the first time these two oft-overlooked albums have been reissued on CD. They show another side to Loleatta Holloway.

She was born in the Windy City of Chicago, on November the ‘5th’ 1946, and just like Minnie Ripperton and Aretha Franklin her talent was noticeable from an early age. Growing up, music was always part of Loleatta Holloway’s life. 

Her first involvement with music was when she joined her mother’s gospel group. Her time with The Holloway Community Gospel Singers was akin to a musical apprenticeship. 

That was also the case for another young singer that Loleatta Holloway met whilst singing with her mother’s gospel group. This was a young Aretha Franklin who later, would influence Loleatta Holloway’s vocal style and phrasing.

In 1967, Loleatta Holloway was asked by Albertina Walker to join The Caravans, the gospel group she founded in the fifties. She agreed, and later, that year, The Famous Caravans as they were now billed, released their critically acclaimed album Help Is On The Way. Loleatta Holloway’s recording career was underway.

For the next four years, she was a member of The Caravans and on their 1969 album Think About It takes charge of the lead vocal on two tracks. However, by 1971 Loleatta Holloway was ready to embark on a new chapter in her career.

She had decided to change direction and form her own musical review. This she named Loleatta Holloway and Her Review which headed out on tour. However, back home in Chicago she  acted in the musical revue Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope which was how she met future husband and manager Floyd Smith, who arranged for Loleatta Holloway to record her first secular tracks. 

This was a cover of a Gene Chandler song Rainbow 71, which was released on the Apache label in 1971. Later, they leased to Galaxy who were able to distribute the single nationwide. However, the song failed to chart and Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio.

Her next single was Bring It On Up, originally the B-side to Sentimental Reasons. It was around this time that Michael Thevis became aware of Loleatta Holloway, and he signed for his new Atlanta based Aware label.

Now that he had signed Loleatta Holloway, Michael Thevis wasted no time recording her first single for his new label. This was Mother Of Shame, which was released in May 1973, and reached number sixty-three in the US R&B Charts. Although it was only a minor hit, Loleatta Holloway entered the studio with producer Floyd Smith to record her debut secular album. 

Loleatta.

This was Loleatta, which was recorded at the Sound Pit Studios, in Atlanta, Georgia. The album was produced by Floyd Smith who penned Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool and cowrote Only A Fool with William Johnson. They were joined by a cover George and Ira Gershwin’s The Man I Love, Syl Johnson’s We Did It, Charles Jackson and Marvin Yancy’s Our Love, Barry Despenza and Carl Wolfolk’s Can I Change My Mind, Ashford and Simpson’s Love Woke Me and Van McCoy and Clyde Otis’ Remember Me. Sam Dees who wrote a number of tracks for artists signed to Aware and its various imprints penned  So Can I and cowrote Mother Of Shame with Jesse Lewis and Cleveland Yelder. Accompanying Loleatta Holloway when she recorded these ten tracks  were The “Homegrown” Rhythm Section. Once the album was completed, it was released later in 1973.

By July 1973, DJs were playing Our Love which was on the B-Side of Mother Of Shame. It eventually reached forty-three in the US R&B charts and game Loleatta Holloway her second hit single.

Buoyed by the success of Our Love, Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool was released as a single. Despite being one of the strongest song on the album and an obvious choice for a single it failed to chart. This was a disappointment for Loleatta Holloway and Floyd Smith who wrote and produced the song.

There was further disappointment when Loleatta was released later in 1973 and failed to chart. That was despite the album receiving positive reviews from the critics that reviewed Loleatta 

On the album opener The Man I  Love, Loleatta Holloway delivers a hopeful and heartfelt vocal against an understated arrangement that combines jazz and soul. It’s a beautiful ballad that showcases her versatility.

Loleatta Holloway combines joy and power during an emotionally charged reading of reading of Syl Johnson’s lyrics on We Did It where horn blaze, backing vocalists soar above the dancefloor friendly arrangement.

Strings sweep in and drums pound to signal the arrival of Loleatta Holloway’s soulful vocal powerhouse on Our Love. She’s accompanied by soaring harmonies as she wonders and worries whether there’s any future in the relationship she’s in on this three minute mini-drama.

There’s more drama on Can I Change My Mind where horns soar above the arrangement while the vocal is mixture of power and regret. She regrets leaving her partner and wants to change her mind and “I would like to start over again, I would like to change my mind.” By then, there’s despair and emotion fill Loleatta Holloway’s voice a she breathes life and meaning into the lyrics.

Part Time Love, Full Time Full was written by Floyd Smith and is a track that features an impassioned and emotive reading of lyrics as Loleatta Holloway sings of her cheating man. Meanwhile, the band combine washes of Hammond organ, horns, cooing harmonies and the  rhythm section to create an atmospheric backdrop and this stunning example of Southern Soul. It features a soul-baring vocal and is one of the album’s highlights.

Then on the ballad So Can I pride fills Loleatta Holloway’s voice is  full of emotion and pride at being able to live without her cheating partner.

The tempo drops on Only A Fool and against an atmospheric backdrop Loleatta Holloway sings about her dysfunctional relationship as female backing vocalists seem to sympathise. All the time, the vocal which is full of emotion, frustration and defiance.

Love Woke Me Up has a much more understated piano-led arrangement and features a tender, heartfelt and soulful vocal. Soon, backing vocalists accompany Loleatta Holloway as she combines soul and gospel as she confesses “haven’t had a heartache today”

The arrangement to Mother Of Shame almost gallops along combining funk, soul and even a Latin influence before Loleatta Holloway unleashes an angry and frustrated vocal. The father of her child left her and she finds herself: “standing in the welfare line hoping they’ll feel the child.” When they won’t sings to the man who left her: “the welfare people are laughing at me I wish you could see now I’m a Mother Of Shame.” She remembers her parents telling her: “I should have you locked up in jail.” Despite all this, she tells him: “I love you, I miss you and I need you” as she delivers an emotive vocal during this latest slice of cinematic soul.

Closing Loleatta is the ballad Remember Me. Strings are to the fore before drums signal the entrance of the vocal and a piano accompanies Loleatta Holloway as memories come flooding back. She remembers  a relationship and a man who said she “was the he always loved and you swore by the stars above or don’t you recall.” By then, sadness falls her voice as she wonders: “if you ever loved me at all” on this beautiful string-drenched ballad.

The album featured a series of vocal masterclasses from Loleatta Holloway who sounded as if she had lived the lyrics. She breathed life, meaning and emotion into the songs on Loleatta and was like actress in a play on the tales of love and love gone wrong. Sadly, very few people heard Loleatta when it was released in 1973 and this was a huge disappointment for Loleatta Holloway. The twenty-seven year old hoped that the followup fared better.

Cry To Me.

In the spring of 1974, Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio to record her next single.The song that had been chosen was a Sam Dees’ composition Help Me My Lord. It found Loleatta Holloway strutting her way through the track delivering a vocal powerhouse as she combines Southern Soul and gospel. 

Then Loleatta Holloway delivers a defiant vocal that is a mixture of anger and frustration on Frederick Knight’s The World Don’t Owe You Nothin’. It features a funky, soulful arrangement that is the perfect backdrop to this mini soap opera. However, despite being the stronger of the two tracks it was destined for the B-Side.

This decision came back to haunt Aware Records when  Help Me My Lord was released as a single and failed to chart. Despite this, Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio to record the rest of her sophomore album Cry To Me.

Another eight tracks were chosen for the album including Sam Dees’ I Know Where You’re Coming From and The Show Must Go On. They were join ed by David Camon’s Cry To Me; Curtis Mayfield’s Just Be True To Me; Johnny Jacobs and Ronnie Walker’s Something About The Way I Feel; A. Jerline Williams and William Johnson’s I Can’t Help Myself and Jo Armstead’s Casanova. The other track was the Loleatta Holloway composition I’ll Be Gone. These tracks were recorded at the Sound Pit Studios, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Just like Loleatta, Cry To Me was produced by Floyd Smith. Accompanying Loleatta Holloway at the Sound Pit were The “Homegrown” Rhythm Section. Just like her debut album they played an important part in the album’s sound.

This includes on the album opener Cry To Me where a piano plays slowly, guitars chime and combine with the rhythm section as Loleatta Holloway delivers a soliloquy. She’s heartbroken and sings about how her relationship is breaking up against an arrangement that is a mixture of power and drama. Strings sweep in while the rhythm section add drama and backing vocalists accompany a powerful, soul-baring vocal. It’s almost impossible not to to get caught up in the emotion and sadness of what’s one of the album’s highlights.

The Show Must Go On was written by Sam Dees who originally recorded this ballad. Loleatta Holloway delivers a hurt-filled soliloquy against Floyd Smith’s arrangement. By the time the vocal enters, the rhythm section, sweeping strings horns, gospel-tinged backing vocalists, vibes and even applause accompany a defiant, dramatic soul-baring vocal.

I Know Where You’re Coming From is a song about a relationship breakup with a twist in the tale. Loleatta Holloway delivers a soliloquy as a guitar chimes and a bass cuts through the arrangement. Meanwhile, soaring backing vocals join Loleatta Holloway as she reassures her friend: “I Know Where You’re Coming From” before singing: “why don’t you take my hand and be my man” on this timeless slice of sassy Southern Soul. 

There’s a sense of drama to the ballad Just Be True To Me. It features an arrangement where strings sweep and horns rasp as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Meanwhile, Loleatta Holloway delivers a heartfelt and impassioned vocal that becomes needy and hopeful when she sings: “Just Be True To Me” on this beautiful ballad.

The tempo rises slightly on Something About The Way I Feel as the rhythm section, horns and vibes set the scene for an impassioned vocal. Loleatta Holloway reflects about the past and what she’s been through with her partner. She’s accompanied by backing vocalists that prove to be the perfect foil as the song swings and she gives thanks for the love she’s found, what she has and “the way I feel.” It’s a beautiful paean where the future disco diva paints pictures with the lyrics.

I’ll Be Gone is another ballad and the only song on the album written by Loleatta Holloway. She warns on this tale of love gone wrong that: “I can’t let you keep on hurting me for I’ll Be Gone.” Her vocal is bristling with emotion and hurt as the rhythm section add a degree of drama and are joined by a crystalline guitar, vibes plus sweeping and pizzicato strings. They provide the perfect backdrop as Loleatta Holloway delivers an ultimatum to her cheating, no good man.  

Dramatic describes the introduction to I Can’t Help Myself before it sets the scene for Loleatta Holloway’s vocal. There’s a degree of confusion in her voice as she’s fallen for the wrong guy. “I never thought I could  fall in love with a guy like you, although I know you could never be true, I find myself wanting to live with ‘cos I love you, I can’t help myself.” Meanwhile, backing vocals soar above the arrangement and coo, as drums pound, a guitar chimes, strings sweep and horns rasp. It’s one of the best arrangements on the album and the perfect accompaniment for the vocal.  

Stabs of horns, backing vocalists and the rhythm section combine to create a dramatic backdrop before Loleatta Holloway unleashes a powerful, emotive vocal on Casanova. She tells her parter “Casanova your playing days are over.” Meanwhile, the backing vocalists sing “it’s over, it’s over baby” as strings sweep and swirl and the drama builds during this four minute soap open. It’s one of the eight tracks recorded at the Sound Pit and is without doubt one of the highlight Cry To Me.

With the rest of the album completed, Cry To Me was scheduled for release later in 1975. Loleatta Holloway must have been hoping that it would fare better than her debut album. 

Things were looking good when Cry To Me was released as a single in January 1975 and reached sixty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and ten in the US R&B charts. 

In June 1975, I Know I Where You’re Coming From was released as a single and stalled at sixty-nine in the US R&B charts. It was a case of one step forward and two steps back for Loleatta Holloway.

She released her sophomore album Cry To Me later in 1975 and although it was well received by critics but like her debut failed to trouble the charts. The problem was this future Southern Soul classic hadn’t been promoted properly. However, this time there was a reason for the lack of promotion. 

All wasn’t well at Aware and the label was teetering on the brink. Despite this, Casanova was released as a single but failed to find the audience it deserved. Not long after this, Aware and the rest of Michael Thevis’ empire folded.

All the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records were left high and dry. 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. These artists had no idea what the future held for them. 

In the case of Loleatta Holloway she was signed to Salsoul imprint Gold Mind Records by Norman Harris. This was the start of a new chapter Loleatta Holloway who was transformed into a disco diva at her new label.

This was very different to the two albums of Southern Soul Loleatta Holloway had recorded at Aware. Sadly, neither Loleatta nor Cry To Me was a commercial success  when they were released. It was only much later that the two albums started to find a wider audience. 

Cry To Me is an almost flawless album from Loleatta Holloway. Most of the songs on were tailor made for Loleatta Holloway and play to her strengths. She delivers vocals that veer between dramatic, emotive, heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring to defiant, hopeful and sassy as she struts her way through the lyrics about love and love gone wrong. Other times, the vocals are needy and hopeful as Loleatta Holloway brings the lyrics to life. Especially when accompanied by Floyd Smith’s timeless arrangements. They add to the drama and theatre of the songs on Cry To Me and are play their part in the sound and success of the album.

Sadly, Aware was the wrong label for Loleatta Holloway and the two albums weren’t promoted properly. Especially Cry To Me which was released just before Michael Thevis’ house of cards collapsed. This was a great shame and meant that very few people got to hear Cry To Me. For Loleatta Holloway it was a case of what might have been?

Forty-five years later, and Loleatta Holloway’s music is more popular than ever. Although she’s better known as a disco diva the two albums she recorded for Aware are belatedly receiving the recognition they deserves and this includes Loleatta Holloway’s Southern Soul classics Loleatta and her sophomore album  Cry To Me.

Loleatta Holloway-Loleatta  and Cry To Me.

TIM BOWNESS-LATE NIGHT LAMENTS.

Tim Bowness-Late Night Laments.

Label: Inside Out Music.

Format: LP with CD.

When English singer, songwriter and producer Tim Bowness released his debut album My Hotel Year in 2004, he was already forty and was best known for his work the art pop duo No-Man which he had cofounded with Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson. The group was founded in 1987 and by 2004 had already released five studio albums had established a large, loyal following. Despite that, the two members of No-Man  continued to work on other projects.

By then, Tim Bowness was also a member of Samuel Smiles, Henry Fool and Centrozoon and had started to collaborated with Peter Chilvers. He had previously collaborated on an album with Richard Barbieri, been a guest vocalist on albums by Saro Cosentino and Alice and produced A Marble Calm. This kept life interesting for Tim Bowness. However, the one thing that he still had to do was release a solo album.

My Hotel Year.

In the autumn of 2003, Tim Bowness entered the studio to begin work on his debut solo album. The sessions continued until the summer of 2004 and he was joined by a number of his musical friends including former Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper, Roger Eno, Markus Reuter and Stephen Bennett of Henry Fool. Eventually, eleven tracks were recorded and the album was scheduled for release later in 2004.

Tim Bowness’ much-anticipated debut album My Hotel Year was released by One Little Indian in the second half of 2004  and was ostensibly an album of art rock that included elements of indie rock, experimental music and leftfield sounds. The album  was well received by critics but failed to make any impact on the UK charts. It was a disappointing start to Tim Bowness’ solo career, and it was another ten years before he returned with the followup.

Abandoned Dancehall Dreams.

Even then, the album might not have been made if it wasn’t for a problem with No-Man’s schedule. When their 2014 album was postponed, Tim Bowness decided he could use the songs for his sophomore solo album.

He knew he would have to rework the songs that eventually feared on Abandoned Dancehall Dreams. The recording sessions took place during 2013 and into 2014. Many parts of the original songs feature the album and so does his friend and partner in No-Man partner Steven Wilson, the rest of the No-Man live band, King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto and Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin. As well as playing on the album, Steven Wilson also mixed Abandoned Dancehall Dreams.

Nearly ten years after releasing his debut album, Tim Bowness released Abandoned Dancehall Dreams on the ’23rd’ of June 2014. The album received positive reviews from the majority of music journalists, especially those specialising in progressive rock and rock. Critics were won over by album that combined elements of art pop and art rock as well as dream pop and progressive rock and reached number eighteen in the UK rock chart. This was progress for Tim Bowness and he soon began working on the followup album Stupid Things That Mean The World.

Stupid Things That Mean The World.

Later in 2014, returned to the studio and continued to work on his third album Stupid Things That Mean The World into 2015. He was joined by musical luminaries like Peter Hammill, Phil Manzanera, Pat Mastelotto, Colin Edwin and David Rhodes the former guitarist and vocalist in Random Hold who had spent the past thirty-five years working with Peter Gabriel. It was a multitalented and versatile band that recorded an album of art rock and progressive rock with Tim Bowness.

When Stupid Things That Mean The World was released on the ’17th’ of July 2015 critics were won over by Tim Bowness’ third album. Some felt that it was the finest album of his career and it was no surprise when it reached number ten in the UK Rock chart and nine in the new UK Progressive Rock chart. This meant that Stupid Things That Mean The World was the most successful album of Tim Bowness’ career.

Lost In The Ghost Light.

In autumn 2016, Tim Bowness returned to the studio to begin work on his fourth album Lost In The Ghost Light. He was joined by some familiar faces including Colin Edwin, David Rhodes and Stephen Bennett plus guest appearances by Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and Kit Watkins formerly of Camel and Happy The Man. In total, eight new songs were recorded for Lost In The Ghost Light.

Lost In The Ghost Light was released on the ‘17th’ of February 2017. It was a concept album based upon the backstage and onstage thoughts of an ageing musician. Critics called the album the finest album of Tim Bowness’ career. Record buyers agreed, and the album reached number five in the UK Rock chart and eight in the UK Progressive Rock chart. However, Tim Bowness’ fans wouldn’t have long until he released another album.

Songs From The Ghost Light.

In August 2017, he returned with Songs From The Ghost Light which was a companion album to Lost In The Ghost Light. It was another album of art rock and progressive rock that featured different versions of the tracks on Tim Bowness’ fourth album. Its release was welcomed by his fans who eagerly awaited his next album.

Flowers At The Scene.

Recording of what became Flowers At The Scene took place during 2018 and featured Peter Hammill, 10cc’s Kevin Godley, XTX’s Andy Partridge, Colin Edwin as well as Jim Matheos, David Longdon and Dylan Howe. A total of eleven Tim Bowness’ compositions were recorded and his fifth solo album was scheduled for release in early 2019.

When Flowers At The Scene was released on the ‘1st’ of March 2019 it was to widespread critical acclaim as Tim Bowness continued to combine art rock and progressive rock on what was without doubt the finest album of his career. This carefully crafted album reached number five in the UK Rock and UK Progressive Rock charts making Flowers At The Scene his most successful album. Tim Bowness’ career was going from strength to strength.

Late Night Laments.

Buoyed by the success of Flowers At The Scene Tim Bowness began work on his sixth album which eventually became Late Night Laments. He wrote nine new songs which he recorded with a tight and talented band.

This included drummer and percussionist Evan Carson, double bassist Colin Edwin and guitarist and backing vocalist Kavus Torabi. They were joined by Tom Atherton on vibes and backing vocalist Melanie Woods. Adding synths were Richard Barbieri, Alistair “The Curator” Murphy and Brian Hulse who also played keyboards and guitar and co-produced the album Tim Bowness. He played synths, ukulele and added FX and samples on Late Night Laments.

When Tim Bowness released Late Night Laments on the ‘29th’ of August 2020 critics were greeted with a very different album than previous releases. Gone were most of the rock influences of previous albums. Electric guitars still feature on the album but as part of carefully crafted arrangements. So were an acoustic guitar, double bass, ukulele and percussion. The sonic sorcerer also used less in the way of FX and eschewed traditional drums and sometimes deployed a synth bass and eighties keyboards. All instruments intertwine during slow and lush arrangements where there’s both an intensity and fragility to the music.

They also showcase a talented songwriter who tackles a variety of subjects on Late Night Laments. There’s a sense of melancholy as he deals with the subjects of loss, love and emotions during this soul-baring album.

Late Night Laments opens with Northern Rain which features a heartfelt and emotive vocal from Tim Bowness. He throws a curveball as he sings: “You’re laughing” before adding a twist in the tale adding: it’s “a laughter close to crying.”  The slow, moody arrangement is the perfect accompaniment to his vocal on this atmospheric and cinematic sounding track that brings about a sense of nostalgia and sadness as he sings “The world we knew is dying, and maybe that’s okay.” 

Straight away, there’s a sense of darkness on I’m Better Now which features a whispered, almost sinister vocal that are companied by harmonies. They’re best described as unconventional and compliment the vocal which becomes sinister and menacing as Tim Bowness sings about a domestic murder. He’s like an actor playing and the studio is his stage and he role and he plays his part to perfection.

Darkline features an unusual selection of instruments that includes vibes, drums and later, a synth guitar similar to  the one on Yes’ Owner Of A Lonely Heart. This carefully crafted arrangement that is sounds as if it’s paying homage to The Blue Nile is the perfect accompaniment to a tender, whispery and fragile vocal full of emotion and regret and despair. It’s like a confessional and is powerful and poignant.

We Caught The Light is another track with a slow, understated arrangement where a chiming guitar accompanies the deliberate vocal. It’s accompanied by vibes, double bass and later becomes heartfelt and impassioned as a backing vocalist adds the perfect accompaniment. Later, a bell chime and sci-fi sounds adds an atmospheric hue to this carefully crafted song about generational warfare.

Moody and cinematic describes the introduction to The Hitman Who Missed. It features one of Tim Bowness’ trademark vocals as a beautiful double bass plays a leading role and is augmented by vibes, subtle keyboards and harmonies as acoustic and electronic instruments unite to create the backdrop to this filmic track where Tim Bowness’ paints pictures with his lyrics. The result is another of the album’s highlights.

Understated, wistful and even dreamy describes Never A Place which features a rueful vocal from Tim Bowness. His vocal is full of emotion and sadness as memories come flooding back and he delivers the lyrics like a stream of consciousness on this heartachingly beautiful song that’s the highlight of the album.

Although several songs on the album have an understated sound,  the arrangement to The Last Getaway has been stripped bare. Just a ticking beat and a slow deliberate piano and wailing, weeping synths accompanies the vocal. Again, it has a confessional quality as generational Tim Bowness explains: “Life’s adventures drove me wild.”

The slow, spacious arrangement to Hidden Life has been pared back and only the essential parts remain. This results in an atmospheric backdrop that features eighties drums that slap as synths and keyboards combine to accompany another vocal that paints pictures of another side of life.

One Last Call which closes Late Night Laments was written after rereading John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. He sang the song into his computer with the window open and the wind blowing as he tried to make sense of what he calls “flawed political and religious systems.” The next day overdubs were added to the song and one of the most beautiful songs on the album was complete.

Late Night Laments is quite different from Tim Bowness’ previous albums, and features atmospheric and lush arrangements that are slow sometimes spacious while other times there’s an intensity, fragility and sense of melancholy. These arrangements combine acoustic and synthetic instruments and often have a cinematic sound and provide the perfect backdrop for Tim Bowness’ vocals.

Sometimes, he’s like an actor as he plays a series of roles and often wears his heart on his sleeve as he delivers vocals full of  despair, hurt, sadness and regret, but on I’m Better it’s all change as he sounds menacing. Other times, the music is poignant, powerful and beautiful as Tim Bowness’ vocals are either soul-baring or confessionals on Late Night Laments which shows another side of singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer on his sixth album which is also one of his finest.

Tim Bowness-Late Night Laments.

 

QUICKSAND-HOME IS WHERE I BELONG.

Quicksand-Home Is Where I Belong.

Label: Magic Box.

Format: LP.

Musical history is littered with examples of groups who only ever released one album during their what proves to be a short-lived career. Especially, during the late-sixties and early seventies when many record companies had unrealistic expectations.

All too often, when a band’s debut album failed to find an audience they were unceremoniously dropped by their record label. This was yet another example of short-term thinking in the music industry. 

There could’ve been any number of reasons for an album to fail, and often the blame lay fairly and squarely at the door of the record company. In Britain and America there were many smaller labels that were run by enthusiastic amateurs who talked a good game but couldn’t deliver. Sadly, that’s still the case today and getting mixed up with these dreamers and fantasists can damage a band’s future prospects. 

Many bands who signed to smaller labels or imprint in late-sixties and early seventies would soon regret their decision. Often, a band was so desperate to release an album that they signed a one album deal, with the option of a second album. Straight away, this put the record label in a stronger position. If the album did well, they picked up the option and if it failed the band were dropped. All to often, bands didn’t understand that contract they had signed or knew the questions to ask before signing on the dotted line. They just wanted to release an album.

Fast forward a few months and the album has been recorded, mixed and mastered; the album cover designed and the LPs are being produced at the pressing plant and are due to be sent to the distributor. By then, the band has realised that all isn’t well behind the scenes at the label. It lacks the financial muscle and marketing expertise to properly promote an album. The owner is out of their depth and is floundering, and the band know that the album that they had spent so long working on had no chance of success. This they know was their one and only chance to release an album and if it fails to find an audience their dream is over and it’s back home and to the 9 to 5 life in the factory or office.

When the album is eventually released their worst fears come true when it sinks without trace. At the post mortem, the label owner blames the distributor, the PR company, retailers who failed to stock the album, critics who failed to review it and DJs who failed to play it. The band listen and know that the only person to blame is the label owner and wait to be told there won’t be a second album. They’ve just joined the ranks of the groups who only ever releases one album.

This includes Quicksand who were formed in Port Talbot, in South Wales, in 1969 and featured drummer Robert Collins, future Man and The Neutrons bassist Will Youatt, guitarist Jimmy Davies and keyboardist Anthony Stone. The group started life as a covers band but the time they signed to the Carnaby label in 1970 their music was evolving. 

Having signed to the Carnaby label Quicksand went into the studio with producer Terry Britten and recorded two Will Youatt compositions. Passing By was chosen as the single and Cobblestones relegated to the B-Side. Quicksand’s debut single saw the group move in the drection of psychedelic rock. However, the single wasn’t a commercial success and it was their only release on the Carnaby label.

Not long after this, Will Youatt left and was replaced by Phil Davies. This new lineup of Quicksand Mk II would go on to release their sophomore single.

Having left the Carnaby label, Quicksand concentrated their efforts on playing live and were familiar faces in clubs and concert halls all over Britain. Quicksand were putting in the hard yards and honing their sound in the hope that one of the many A&R men would spot them playing live. 

Their luck was in and they were signed to Dawn Records which was Pye’s “underground and progressive” label. This seemed the perfect home for Quicksand.

After signing to Dawn Records, Quicksand went into the studio with producer Tito Burns to record two Phillip Davis compositions for their sophomore single. The song chosen for the single was the joyous and optimistic sounding Time To Live which features the band’s trademark harmonies as they combine the West Coast Sound, fusion and progressive rock keyboards. On the B-Side was the hidden gem Empty Street, Empty Heart which is a quite beautiful folk rock track with a country influence that shows another side of Quicksand. These two tracks showed what the Dawn Records’ latest signing was capable of.

Sadly, when Time To Live was released later in 1973 the single failed to trouble the British charts. This must have been a disappointment for Quicksand who by then, had been together for over four years.

Despite the commercial failure of Time To Live, Quicksand returned to the studio to record six more tracks for their debut album Home Is Where I Belong. Hideaway My Song, Sunlight Brings Shadows, Overcome The Pattern/Flying, Home Is Where I Belong and Hiding It All were also written by Phillip Davies. The other track was Seasons/Alpha Omega which was written by former band member Will Youatt. Taking charge of production this time round were Geoff Gill, Glyn Jones and the members of Quicksand. The result was an eclectic sounding album.

It’s hard to believe that the track that Hideaway My Song which eventually opened the album Home Is Where I Belong was recorded by a group from Port Talbot, in South Wales. It has a  feelgood sound that sounds as if it’s been influenced by the California Sound which was popular at the time the album was recorded. 

Very different is Sunlight Brings Shadows where the tempo rises as Quicksand change direction and unleash an unrelenting example of heavy progressive rock. Key to its success are the driving rhythm section, blistering rock guitar, banks of keyboards and Quicksand’s trademark harmonies. 

Then Overcome The Pattern/Flying shows different sides to the group. It starts off as a progressive rock track with some stunning psychedelic guitar playing from Jimmy Davies before heading into freak out territory at the midway point. There’s a trippy sounding interlude before things become even more spacey, psychedelic and way-out. Lysergic doesn’t even come close to describing the second part of this musical trip. 

Home Is Where I Belong is one of the most commercial sounding tracks on the album. It’s rocky and progressive in parts, and is an uplifting song with a feelgood sound and strong hook. 

It’s all change on Seasons/Alpha Omega which is another track that lasts over eight minutes and allows Quicksand to showcase their considerable talents. Especially during the solos. Initially, there’s a nod to Pink Floyd before the band spring into action and the tempo rises. Soon, searing guitar, banks of keyboards, a galloping rhythm section and harmonies that compliment the lead vocal make an appearance.What follows is a masterful and majestic example of progressive rock. To non believers, the music may sound overblown and pompous but give it a chance and it’s soon apparent that this is the album’s progressive epic that shows just what Quicksand were capable of.

Quicksand have saved one of the best on Home Is Where I Belong. Hiding It All close a quite beautiful and moving progressive folk anthem that is sure to tug at the heartstrings and should’ve been released as a single. 

When Quicksand’s debut album Home Is Where I Belong was released in February 1974 there was no single to proceed it. The previous single Time To Live had been released in 1973 and hadn’t troubled the British charts. Home Is Where I Belong would’ve been a tantalising taste of the delicious main dish. However, Dawn Records decided just to release the album without a single to proceed or accompany it. This backfired badly when Home Is Where I Belong sunk without trace. For the members of Quicksand this was a disaster, and they must have feared for their future.

Sadly, Quicksand’s time at Dawn Records was at an end and they never returned with a followup to Home Is Where I Belong.  

Worse was to come when Quicksand split-up not long after the release of Home Is Where I Belong. By then, they had been together for five years and had released two singles and one album, Home Is Where I Belong. It’s the highlight of a career that promised so much.

Quicksand were a hugely talented and versatile band, and Home Is Where I Belong is proof of that. It’s usually described as a progressive rock album but it’s much more than that. There’s elements of the California Sound, country, folk rock, fusion, progressive folk, psychedelic rock and the West Coast Sound on Home Is Where I Belong. They seamlessly switched between and fused genres on a carefully crafted album that should’ve found a much wider audience.

That was despite being signed to Dawn Records which was Pye’s “underground and progressive” label. Maybe Dawn Records was the wrong label for Quicksand and they would’ve succeeded on a bigger label? 

Especially if the had played the long game by signing Quicksand on a longer deal and helped them break into the lucrative American and European markets. Quicksand were ostensibly a progressive rock band but could also write radio friendly anthems and beautiful ballads. Maybe their music would’ve been more successful in America? Given the American influences on the album and the popularity of progressive rock in early 1974 maybe record buyers in the land of the free might have embraced, enjoyed and appreciated Quicksand’s debut album Home Is Where I Belong?

Sadly, the album was never even released in America in 1974. This was an own goal from Dawn Records who could’ve licensed Home Is Where I Belong to an American label. However, as is often the case after an album fails commercially the label moves on to the next project. Sometimes labels lose interest and other times they’re reluctant to spend any more money or even invest any more time on an album that wasn’t a commercial success. That’s a great shame and is frustrating and heartbreaking for a band.

That must have been the case for the four members of Quicksand who never recorded a followup to Home Is Where I Belong. Sadly, very few record buyers, even fans of progressive rock discovered the delights of an album that had something for everything. Progressive rock epics and psychedelic freakouts rub shoulders with anthems and beautiful ballads on Quicksand’s long-lost Magnus Opus Home Is Where I Belong which rather belatedly is starting to find a new and wider audience.

Quicksand-Home Is Where I Belong.

LARAAJI-MOON PIANO.

Laraaji-Moon Piano.

Label: All Saints Records.

Format: LP.

When Laraaji recorded two albums  of spiritual keyboard improvisations at the First Unitarian Church, Brooklyn, on December the ’10th’  and ’11th’ 2018 he was fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition. He had always wanted to return the piano which was the first instrument he learned to play growing up in New Jersey in the fifties. His dream came true in  December 2018 when he recorded two albums which were engineered and mixed by Jeff Zeigler. The first to be released was Sun Piano in July 2020.

Just three months later and Laraaji returns with the followup Moon Piano which was recently released by All Saints Records. It’s a companion album to Sun Piano and features ten contemplative and ruminative soundscapes that encourage reflection. Sonically, it’s a very different album to Sun Piano. However, Laraaji enjoyed recording both albums. He  describes playing the piano as: “my music therapy.” This is something he has been doing since 1953, when he was just ten and living in New Jersey. 

Back then, he was still called Edward Larry Gordon and music was a big part of his life. He studied violin, piano, trombone and took singing lessons. Then at high school, the future Laraaji played in the school band and orchestra. Music was big part of his life.

His family attended the local Baptist church, where Laraaji heard choral and gospel music, as well as negro spirituals. At home though, he heard very different music.

Laraaji  sat and absorbed everything from jazz to R&B and rock ’n’ roll. However, it was the great piano players that inspired him including Oscar Peterson, Fats Domino and Ahmad Jamal. Over the next months and years, Laraaji spent much of his time listening to music. Still, though, he continued to play the violin, piano, trombone and sang. Music was his passion and it was no surprise that having graduated from high school this talented multi-instrumentalist decided to study music.

Having won a scholarship to study piano and composition, Laraaji headed to one of the most prestigious universities in America, Howard University, in Washington DC. During the next few years, he immersed himself in music, and also discovered marijuana for the first time. 

Then during his second year, Laraaji discovered psychedelic drugs which played an important part in opening his consciousness during his spiritual awakening. However, he would later use marijuana as an aide to the creative process. Before that, his friends and family were sure that Laraaji was destined to pursue a career in music. However, that wasn’t the case.

After graduating from Howard University, he decided not to pursue a career in music, which was a huge surprise to his friends, including this he had studied alongside. Instead, Laraaji decided to pursue a career as a standup comic. His love of comedy began in college, and when he left University, he and his comedy partner decided to head to New York to audition at the Bitter End, who regularly held talent shows.

The Bitter End seemed the perfect place to launch their new career. However, the night Laraaji and his comedy partner were meant to make their debut, his partner never turned up. After being left in the lurch, he had no option to make his debut as a solo artist. He was well received, and this was the start of his new comedy career. Soon he became a regular on New York’s thriving  comedy circuit.

Through his exploits as a comedian, Laraaji came to the attention of Ernestine McClendon, who was a respected theatrical agent. She took him under her wing and guided his nascent career. Soon, she was sending Laraaji to auditions, and before long, he found himself appearing on television commercials, theatre and even films. 

One of these films that Laraaji appeared in was Putney Swope, which was a comedy directed by Robert Downey which examined the of role race and advertising in America. Putney Swope was very different to anything he had appeared in before, as much of the film was improvised. This which was new to him, but something he coped with admirably in the film. 

In Putney Swope,  the chairman of an advertising company dies, and the firm’s executive board must elect someone to fill the vacant position. However, each member, is unable to vote for himself, and Swope who was the token African-American on the board is unexpectedly elected chairman. He decides to do things his way, and fires all the staff, apart from a lone white employee. Swope then renames the company Truth and Soul, Inc. and decides that he will no longer accept represents companies selling tobacco, alcohol and war toys. The film must have made a big impression on Laraaji, because when Putney Swope was released it inspired him to look at the role of the mass media. Looking for answers, he read books and learnt to meditate.

To help him, he turned to teachers who taught him how to meditate properly He soon was practising meditation and calisthenics. He was also using piano exercises as an outlet which was  how he discovered spontaneous music. Everything was improvised, off-the-cuff and experimental. Straight away, he realised the possibilities were endless. However, meditation was key to this. Soon, Laraaji was starting to realise just what he could do with music and art now that he had discovered meditation. Discovering meditation was akin to the first part of his spiritual awakening. Before long, the next part of his spiritual awakening took place.

Around 1974 or 1975, Laraaji found himself was living not far from JFK airport, and decided to go out for a walk in the evening. On his return home, he started hearing what he describes as: “the music of the spheres.” This was akin to a cosmic symphony where the music was joyous and celebratory. He became part of the music and was at one with the music. The whole experience had a lasting effect and was his spiritual and cosmic awakening. 

Suddenly, he understood things that had previously puzzled him. Things now started to make sense after what Laraaji refers to as: “a trigger for a cosmic memory.” It was as if he had been enlightened. However, he wanted to know more about what had happened, and decided to embarked on a course of study. 

To further understand what had happened to him, Laraaji embarked upon a study of Vedic teachings. Part of the Vedic teachings is that the yogis hear music in layers. When Larry heard this, he realised this what he had experienced and was why he was able to describe the music so vividly. His teachers told him that he had reached such a high level of consciousness that he was now able to see things differently from most people. It seemed his spiritual and cosmic awakening was almost complete. Now he decided that he wanted to recreate the music that he heard that night near JFK Airport.

At last, Laraaji was able to put his musical education to good use. He had always played music, even when he was working as a comedian and actor. Latterly, he’d been playing the Fender Rhodes, but was fed up having to transport such a heavy instrument. One night as he was preparing to go onstage, he told his “cosmic ear” that he would: “like a lighter instrument to share his musical consciousness with the world.” 

A few days later, Laraaji found himself in a pawn shop where he was ready to pawn his guitar when suddenly, out of nowhere, a voice told him to swap his guitar for a stringed instrument in the shop window. This he realised was an autoharp, which he was unable to play. However, he decided to swap his guitar for the autoharp, and he after that, he headed home, where he was determined to master this new instrument.

When Laraaji took the instrument home, he tuned it to his favourite piano chords and open guitar tunings. The effect this had, was to return it to what was essentially a zither, whose roots can be traced back the ancient, traditional instrument the kithara. Gradually, through a process of experimentation, he discovered what the autoharp was capable of. Then when he added an electric pickup, this was a game-changer, and he discovered that the possibilities were endless. He was able to begin creating the music that he had heard that fateful night, albeit with a little help from a friend. 

Not long after Laraaji begin playing the autoharp, he was strumming and plucking it like a guitar which seemed to him the way to play the autoharp. That was until he  met Dorothy Carter who was a hammered dulcimer artist and encouraged Larry to play his autoharp with hammers. The other thing Dorothy did, was invite Laraaji to the Boston Globe Music Fest where he met another innovator.

At the Boston Globe Music Fest, he met Steven Halpern who is one of the pioneers of New Age music. Meeting Steven exposed him to music that he never knew existed, and changed Laraaji’s way of thinking. He realised that music didn’t need to follow the structures that he had been taught as a child and at university. Music didn’t need to have a beginning, end or even a melody. Instead, it could be a freeform stream of consciousness. He also learnt that there was always room for experimentation and improvisation within music. For Larry this changed his approach to music. Inspired and confident in his ability to play the autoharp, he was ready to make his debut. 

The old saying that the world is a stage proved to be the case for Larry, who made his debut as a busker on the streets of New York in 1978. He had released his first album Celestial Vibration in 1978, which he hoped would introduce his music to a wider audience. 

A year later, Larry was still busking and had self-released his sophomore album Lotus-Collage in 1979. However, he was busking abet in a different location. This proved fortuitous, while other said it was fate.

Laraaji was now busking in Washington Square Park and on that fateful day, he sat on top of a blanket, cross-legged and with his eyes closed, played his zither using the open tunings he favoured. As a result, he never saw Brian Eno standing watching him play. The man who many called The Godfather of ambient music was transfixed as he watched Laraaji play. Little did Brian Eno realise when he walked through the park with Bill Laswell that he would come  across a fellow innovator. Recognising the potential that the busker had, Brian Eno wrote a message on a piece of paper which Laraaji as he was now calling himself found later.

The next day Brian Eno met with Laraaji and the two men spoke about ambient music and electronics. Straight away, they got on and three weeks Laraaji, was heading to Apple Studios, in Green Street, New York where he recorded Ambient 3 (Day Of Radiance).

Later in 1980, Laraaji was preparing to release Ambient 3 (Day Of Radiance), which it was hoped would launch his career and transform him from an underground artist to a successful experimental musician. The album was a groundbreaking fusion of ambient, avant-garde, dub, electronica, experimental, folk, New Age and world music, and was well released to critical acclaim. Sadly, the album wasn’t a commercial success, although nowadays it’s regarded a cult classic and one of Laraaji’s finest albums.

In 1981 Laraaji returned with his new album, I Am Ocean which was released on the Celestial Vibration label, and was the much-anticipated followup to Ambient 3 (Day Of Radiance). However, it failed to make much of an impression upon its release. Later in 1981, Laraaji was back to self-releasing his next album Unicorns in Paradise. This was something he would do regularly throughout his five decade career.

During that period, Laraaji would release over thirty solo albums. He was a prolific and innovative artist who pushed musical boundaries on his genre-melting albums. Some of these albums were released by record companies. This includes the British independent label All Saints Records who released his 1992 solo album Flow Goes The Universe.

Since then, Laraaji has released a number of other solo albums on All Saints Records, including Sun Gong, Bring On The Sun and Sun Transformations. His latest album is Moon Piano, which is the followup to Sun Piano. Just like Sun Piano, Moon Piano is very different to his previous albums. 

Instead of his usual effects laden cosmic zither jams, Laraaji returned to his first musical love on Moon Piano. It features ten of Laraaji’s spiritual keyboard improvisations. They were recorded in the First Unitarian Church, Brooklyn, on the ‘10th’ and ‘11th’ December 2109 by Jeff Zeigler. It was quite different to other Laraaji sessions.

Unlike other artists, Laraaji didn’t want the church to close while he recorded Moon Piano. Instead, he wanted it to be just another day in the lives of those who use and attend the First Unitarian Church. It’s situated in a busy part of Brooklyn and members of the community use the church each and every day of the year. This could cause problems when recording the album.

Laraaji decided that the sound of the people of Brooklyn going about their business outside of the church would be part of the recording. So would the various community groups used the First Unitarian Church’s facilities. That is why everyday city sounds can be heard throughout the album. This ranges from the sound of schoolchildren playing, to police car sirens, chairs scraping, a door slamming and Laraaji breathing can all be heard during the twelve improvised pieces that became Moon Piano. There was no overdubbing, and instead, the spontaneous recordings were recorded vérité style. 

This meant that only the smallest amount of artificial techniques was used to clean up what was captured by the microphones. As a result, both the full dynamic range and true spirit of the session are captured on Moon Piano. However, some of the longer pieces were edited by Christian Havins of Dallas Acid, who have collaborated with Laraaji. These shorter pieces are part of what’s a captivating and enchanting album where Laraaji at last fulfils his dream of releasing an album of piano improvisations.

Side One.

Opening Moon Piano is Prana Light where Laraaji plays slowly, carefully and somewhat hesitantly  on a melancholy sounding track where beauty is omnipresent. The arrangement from Stillness can be heard in the distance and gradually this cinematic soundscape unfolds and paints pictures in the mind’s eye. Sometimes, one can hear everyday as Laraaji plays. There’s a sense of sadness and a degree of drama as he sometimes seems to pound the piano during this  ruminative sound painting. Laraaji plays slowly choosing each note on Lightly with the utmost care. The result is a quite beautiful cinematic soundscape that tugs at the heartstrings. During A Quiet Journey which is one of the album’s highlights the listener  has the opportunity to reflect as Laraaji’s piano playing washes over them. Closing side one is Through The Moment where the soundscape’s inherent beauty is apparent from the opening bars. It’s tinged with hope and sometimes has a mesmeric as this minimalist soundscape meanders along revealing its secrets.

Side Two.

As Bathed In A Glow opens side two a stray creaking sound interjects and becomes part of the soundscape. It meanders along and sometimes Laraaji’s playing is hesitant as it veers between wistful, emotive and ruminative to  hopeful and dramatic during what’s akin to a three minute mini drama. Very different is the filmic sounding Pentatonic Smile which at 7:32 is the longest track on the album. It’s another track that paints pictures and one can picture a yacht gliding on a lake on a warm summer’s day. The sense of wellbeing continues on Feeling Lovely, which features one Laraaji’s best performances. As the soundscape unfolds and builds he combines beauty,  a degree of drama and emotion. Quite different is Trance Gaze Part 1 which is a short track where darkness and drama combine. Closing the album is Trance Gaze Part 2 which starts of slowly as Laraaji leaves space before there’s a degree of urgency and drama in his playing. Meanwhile, briefly the sounds of Brooklyn can be heard in the background  during this ruminative and  sometimes mesmeric soundscape that encourages reflection. It’s the perfect way to close the album. 

Forty-two years after Laraaji released his debut album, the seventy-seven year old releases his second album of spiritual keyboard improvisations, Moon Piano. It’s the much-anticipated followup to Sun Piano which was released to plaudits and praise in July 2020. Three months later Moon Piano which features another pieces that were recorded in the First Unitarian Church, in Brooklyn over two days in December 2019. During these two days, the  church was open and being used by the local community. The sound of the community, and the people of Brooklyn going about their business can be heard throughout Moon Piano. This plays its part on what’s an enchanting and captivating album where Laraaji returns to the piano which was his first musical love.

The music on Moon Piano veers between cinematic, dark, dramatic, emotive, healing, meditative, meandering, melancholy, mesmeric, ruminative, spacious and spiritual. It’s also a beautiful, melodic and timeless album that is the perfect companion to Sun Piano. 

Both Sun Piano and Moon Piano show a very different side to Laraaji who aged seventy-seven is still regarded as one of music’s best kept secrets. He’s a pioneering musician who has spent a lifetime creating groundbreaking music. However, on Moon Piano Laraaji once again returns to his first musical love, and the recording of these improvised spiritual piano sounds paintings was what he describes as “my music therapy.” The soundscapes on Moon Piano can salve and soothe a troubled and weary soul in these difficult times and allow the listener to contemplate, reflect and ruminate and sometimes offer hope for the future.  

Laraaji-Moon Piano.

CULT CLASSIC: RAMSEY LEWIS- SOLAR WIND.

Cult Classic: Ramey Lewis-Solar Wind.

Nowadays, very few recording artists spend sixteen years signed to the same label, but bandleader, composer and pianist Ramsey Lewis signed to Chess Records in 1956, and  his band Ramsey Lewis and The Gentlemen Of Swing their debut album later on the Argo Records imprint later that year. This was the first of nineteen albums that Ramsey Lewis released on Argo Records, before moving to the Chess Records imprint Cadet Records in 1965.

Ramey Lewis went on to release fourteen studio and live albums for Cadet Records between 1965 and 1972, and enjoyed million selling singles with The In Crowd Hang On Sloopy and Wade In The Water. With three gold discs to his name, Ramsey Lewis was one of the most successful jazz pianists, and was also enjoying something that many jazz musicians craved…crossover appeal.

By 1966, Ramey Lewis’ albums were regularly charting high in the US R&B and US Jazz charts as his popularity continued to grow. However, many of Ramsey Lewis’ albums were now charting the US Billboard 200, as his music continued to find a wider audience after the success of The In Crowd, Hang On Sloopy and Wade In The Water. This triumvirate of singles had introduced Ramsey Lewis’ music to a non-jazz audience who suddenly, were buying his albums. It looked like Ramsey Lewis had hit the musical jackpot.

Over the next few years, Ramsey Lewis’ popularity grew, and by the time he signed to Columbia Records in 1972, the thirty-seven year old pianist was one of the most prolific and successful jazz artists of his generation. Ramsey Lewis had released thirty-three albums for Argo Records and Cadet Records by the time he signed to Columbia was one of the most successful artists on Chess Records’ roster. However, with his time at Chess Records at an end, a new chapter began at Columbia.

Upendo Ni Pamoja.

Later in 1972, Ramsey Lewis released his Columbia debut Upendo Ni Pamoja which was a trio recording that featured drummer and percussionist Morris Jennings and bassist Cleveland Eaton. They worked their way through eight cover versions and Cleveland Eaton’s Trilogy of Morning, The Nite Before and Eternal Peace. It was part of album that received mixed reviews from critics, who believed that the album was a couple of tracks from being an essential album from Ramsey Lewis. He was hoping that his next album would fare better. 

It wasn’t long before Ramsey Lewis began work his next album which became Funky Serenity. It saw the musical chameleon continue to reinvent himself.

Funky Serenity.

After the mixed reviews of Upendo Ni Pamoja, Ramsey Lewis was determined to make an impression with his next album Funky Serenity. It would eventually feature a mixture of cover versions and songs penned by Ramsey Lewis, Cleveland Eaton and Morris Jennings. This included What It Is!, Serene Funk and Dreams. Violinist and percussionist Eddie Green who was drafted in to play on Funky Serenity contributed Kufanya Mapenzi (Making Love) and My Love For You. They were joined by covers of Homer Banks, Carl Hampton and Raymond Jackson’s (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right, Justin Hayward’s Nights In White Satin, Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s Betcha by Golly, Wow and Ralph MacDonald and William Salter’s Where Is The Love. These nine tracks were recorded by a quartet which was produced by Ramsey Lewis.

When recording of Funky Serenity began, drummer, percussionist and conga player Morris Jennings was joined by bassist Cleveland Eaton and Ramsey Lewis who played piano, electric piano and harpsichord. Violinist and percussionist Eddie Green was the final member of the quartet that recorded Funky Serenity.

When critics heard Funky Serenity, it was well received by critics who called the album an essential album from Ramsey Lewis. It was regarded as a much stronger album and  Ramsey Lewis’ Columbia debut, and finds him combining elements of blues, funk, gospel, pop, soul and even briefly, a hint of avant-garde. However, Funky Serenity was a reminder of why Ramsey Lewis was one of the most successful jazz pianists of his generation.

Kufanya Mapenzi (Making Love) sets the bar high on Funky Serenity before the ballad, If Loving You Is Wrong is given a jazzy makeover.  Very different is the gospel-tinged and funky What It Is!, which is a reminder of  Ramsey Lewis’ mid-sixties classic sound. My Love For You is a dreamy, mid-tempo ballad that ebbs and flows, before giving way to Nights In White Satin, where Ramsey Lewis drops the tempo and Ed Greene’s violin adds a brief avant-garde influence as they try to reinvent a classic. It’s all change on Serene Funk which is slow, bluesy and funky, as Ramsey Lewis pounds at the electric piano and plays a starring role. Initially, Dreams is atmospheric, eerie and otherworldly before heading in the direction of funk. This leaves just covers of Betcha by Golly, Wow and Where Is The Love which ensures that Funky Serenity closes on a high.

Buoyed by the reviews of Funky Serenity, an edited version of Kufanya Mapenzi (Making Love) was released as a single, but failed to trouble the charts. To make matters worse, when Funky Serenity was released in 1973, it failed to chart in the US Billboard 200 and US R&B charts. However, Funky Serenity reached number seven in the US Jazz charts, which offered a small crumb of comfort to executives at Columbia.

Ramsey Lewis’ Golden Hits.

After Funky Serenity’s failure to crossover, Ramsey Lewis came up with an interesting concept for his third album for Columbia. He wanted to reinvent some of his biggest and best known hits that he released on Argo and Cadet Records. This included his three biggest hits The In Crowd, Hang On Sloopy and Wade In The Water which would featured on Ramsey Lewis’ Newly Recorded All-Time Non-Stop Golden Hits, which later, became known as Ramsey Lewis’ Golden Hits.

Ramsey Lewis chose a total of nine tracks, which also included Blues For The Night Owl, Hi-Heel Sneakers, Carmen, Song Of Delilah, Slipping Into Darkness and Something You Got. They were joined by the three million selling singles The In Crowd, Hang On Sloopy and Wade In The Water, which were recorded later in 1973.

This time around, it was just a trio of drummer and percussionist Morris Jennings was joined by Cleveland Eaton on bass and standup bass and Ramsey Lewis who played piano and electric piano. Taking charge of production as the trio set about reinventing some of his best know songs was Ramsey Lewis.

When critics heard Ramsey Lewis’ Golden Hits, they were keen to hear the new versions of his three million selling singles. They didn’t have long to wait with a joyous, Caribbean influenced version of Hang On Sloopy opening the album. Wade In The Water the rhythm section proving an almost rocky backdrop to Ramey Lewis’ piano as he stayed true to his 1966 soul-jazz version. There’s also a funkified   version of Hi-Heel Sneakers and a remake of Ramsey Lewis’ first funk hit Slipping Into Darkness. However, closing the album was a The In Crowd  where a rocky rhythm section provides the backdrop for Ramsey Lewis who plays piano and harpsichord and closes the album on a high.

Upon the release of Ramsey Lewis’ Golden Hits later in 1974, the album sneaked into the US Billboard 200 and 198 and reached a disappointing fifty in the US R&B charts. However, at least Ramsey Lewis was back in the charts, and could begin work on a new album.

Solar Wind.

Solar Wind was a much more ambitious album from Ramsey Lewis, as he looked forward, rather than back. To do this, Ramsey Lewis added synths to his musical arsenal, and brought onboard some additional musicians.

The core band featured drummer and percussionist Morris Jennings, Cleveland Eaton on bass and standup bass and Ramsey Lewis who this time around, switched between keyboards, ARP and Moog. They were joined by drummers Carl Mars and Ron Capone, guitarist Steve Cropper, percussionist Calvin Barnes and James L. Herson on Moog. One of the new additions to Ramsey Lewis’ band wrote three of the tracks on Solar Wind.

This was Steve Cropper who joined forces with Carl Marsh to write Sweet and Tender You, Solar Wind and Love For A Day. Meanwhile Ramsey Lewis and Cleveland Eaton wrote Jamaican Marketplace, which was joined by five cover versions. This included Jim Seals and Dash Crofts’ Hummingbird and Summer Breeze, Sonny Rollins’ The Everywhere Calypso, Paul Simon’s Loves Me Like A Rock and Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Come Down in Time. These nine tracks were recorded by the extended band in Chicago and Memphis, and released in early 1974, with Ramsey Lewis, Cleveland Eaton and Steve Cropper all receiving production credits.

Critics on hearing Solar Wind were impressed by Ramsey Lewis’ third outing for Columbia, which found him moving away from the trio sound that served him well during the fifties and sixties. With a little help from his friends who were part of an expanded band, Ramsey Lewis had recorded a carefully crafted album that featured elements of jazz, funk, R&B, soul and much more.

Opening Solar Wind was  the uptempo Sweet and Tender You which was recorded in Memphis and was one of three tracks produced by Steve Cropper. Sonically and stylistically the track references Ramsey Lewis’ classic mid-sixties recordings for Chess Records. After this, the understated, but familiar strains of Hummingbird are a welcome addition, before giving way to Solar Wind, which is another slice of R&B that was made in Memphis but features a Motown backbeat. Ramsey Lewis heads to the Caribbean on Jamaican Marketplace and The Everywhere Calypso, before returning to familiar territory with three cover versions. There’s the jazz-funk of Summer Breeze, while gospel and soul-jazz combine on Loves Me Like A Rock and a pop-rock version of Come Down In Time. Closing Solar Wind was the filmic funk of Love For A Day.

After being well received by critics, Ramsey Lewis and executives at Columbia had high hopes for Solar Wind. However, upon its release in 1974 the album sunk without trace and Ramsey Lewis was back to square one. 

It was a frustrating time for Ramsey Lewis as his career at Columbia wasn’t going to plan.  In 1972, Upendo Ni Pamoja which was his debut for Columbia had failed to chart and so had the followup Funky Serenity in 1973. Then Ramsey Lewis’ Golden Hits  reached 198 in the US Billboard 200 and fifty in the US R&B chart in 1974. This was a small crumb of comfort to a man who had enjoyed million selling singles when signed to Chess. It was no wonder that Ramsey Lewis decided to change direction on Solar Wind.

Ramsey Lewis wasn’t going to rest on his laurels and wanted to try new things. This included the new technology that was playing an important part in music. On Solar Wind which was the thirty-eighth album of his career Ramsey Lewis used synths on an album for the first time. They brought a new dimension and sound to Solar Wind, which brought a new dimension to his music on this oft-overlooked album that nowadays is regarded as a cult classic..

For Ramsey Lewis, Solar Wind was the album that got away and had the potential to rejuvenate his career which had stalled. It was an album that referenced his classic sixties sound but also included elements of Caribbean music, funk, gospel, jazz-funk, pop-rock, R&B, soul, soul-jazz and Southern Soul. Solar Wind was a musical melting pot that featured a myriad of musical genres and influences as  musical chameleon Ramsey Lewis continued to reinvent himself and explore new musical ideas.

Cult Classic: Ramey Lewis-Solar Wind.

CULT CLASSIC : DAVID JOHANSEN-HERE COMES THE NIGHT. 

Cult Classic: David Johansen-Here Comes The Night.

Singer, songwriter and actor David Johansen first came to prominence as the lead singer of the seminal proto punk band the New York Dolls, in the early seventies. This was the start of a long and varied career for David Johansen, who after the demise of the New York Dolls embarked upon a solo career in 1978.

This period of his career is often overlooked,  especially his first three solo albums. He released his eponymous debut album in 1978 and followed this with In Style and Here Comes The Night in 1979. Both are oft-overlooked and underrated albums from David Johansen whose career began eight years earlier in 1971.

In October 1971, David Johansen joined the proto punk pioneers, the New York Dolls, and just two months later, they made their debut at a homeless shelter, the Endicott Hotel on Christmas Eve 1971. This was the start of the New York Dolls roller coaster career.

Seven month later, on July the ‘27th’ 1973, the New York Dolls released their hard rocking eponymous debut album to widespread critical acclaim. Despite the critical acclaim, New York Dolls stalled at just 116 in the US Billboard 200. This was a disappointment for everyone concerned, especially David Johansen who had assumed the role of the New York Dolls’ songwriter-in-chief. 

He had played a part in writing ten of the eleven songs on New York Dolls. David Johansen had written three songs and cowrote another seven on an album that later, would be hailed as a classic. New York Dolls was the first of two classic albums the band would release within a year.  

For the New York Dolls’ sophomore album Too Much Too Soon, lead singer and songwriter-in-chief David Johansen had written five of the ten songs on the album with various songwriting partners. Too Much Too Soon was produced by veteran producer Shadow Morton after the New York Dolls had voiced their dissatisfaction with Todd Rundgren’s production on their eponymous debut album.  The band hoped that a change of producer would result in a change of fortune for the band.

On May the ’10th’ 1974, the New York Dolls returned with their sophomore album Too Much Too Soon. It was released to the same critical acclaim as New York Dolls, and would also be hailed as a classic album in the future. Despite the critical acclaim Too Much Too Soon reached just a lowly 167 in the US Billboard 200 and this was a worrying time for the New York Dolls.

After the release of Too Much Too Soon, the New York Dolls embarked upon a national tour, which was fraught with problems. On their return home, the New York Dolls were dropped by their record company Mercury. However, the group continued to play live.

By 1975, the New York Dolls were being “managed” by British “musical impresario” Malcolm McLaren. By then, the New York Dolls found themselves playing much smaller venues as the group began to unravel. Drug and alcohol abuse was a problem within the New York Dolls, with Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and Arthur Kane embracing the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle fully. This would prove costly for Arthur Kane who occasionally, was too drunk to play live. When this happened roadie Peter Jordan took over on bass. That was the case for much of an eventful tour of Florida and Carolina during March and April of 1975. 

During the tour, Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan argued with David Johansen, and the two men left the band. Blackie Lawless was drafted in to replace Johnny Thunders and the New York Dolls finished their tour in Florida and Carolina in April of 1975. Not long after this, the New York Dolls split-up for the first time.

Just three months later, the New York Dolls reformed in July 1975 and toured Japan with Jeff Beck and Felix Pappala. This time, the lineup of the New York Dolls featured David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain,  Peter Jordan, drummer Tony Machine and former Elephant’s Memory keyboardist Chris Robison. After an uneventful and relatively successful tour of Japan, the New York Dolls returned to New York and began playing in venues in America and Canada. 

Everything seemed to be going to plan with the New York Dolls’ performance at the Beacon Theatre, in New York, in New Year’s Eve being hailed as one of their finest performances by critics. However, it wasn’t long before the New York Dolls pressed the self destruct button again.

After a drunken argument with Sylvain Sylvain, keyboardist Chris Robison was sacked, and replaced by Bobbie Blaine. He was a member of the New York Dolls when they played their last show on December the ’30th’ 1976. This was the end of the road for one of the most important and influential bands of the seventies. 

Solo Years.

After the demise of the New York Dolls, Malcolm McLaren wanted David Johansen to jump on the punk bandwagon. Fortunately, David Johansen resisted Malcolm McLaren’s overtures, and decided to divide his time between the David Johansen Band and the solo career that embarked upon in 1977.

With his former New York Dolls bandmate Sylvain Sylvain, David Johansen began writing then new songs that would form the basis for his live sets and eventually, his eponymous debut album. Before that, David Johansen had to secure a recording contract, and this wasn’t far away.

By the time Blue Sky Records, an imprint of Columbia Records signed David Johansen, he had already established a reputation as a talented performer, and was regarded as a singer who could have a big future ahead of him. With David Johansen signed to Blue Sky Records, he was paired with Richard Robinson, who would co-produce the former New York Dolls’ frontman’s eponymous debut album.

David Johansen.

When recording of David Johansen began, nine tracks had been chosen for the album. This included a trio of David Johansen compositions Pain in My Heart, Donna and Lonely Tenement. They were joined  Funky But Chic, Girls, Cool Metro and Frenchette which were penned by Sylvain Sylvain and David Johansen. He wrote Not That Much with Buz Verno and the pair wrote I’m A Lover with Johnny Ráo and Thomas Trask. These songs were recorded at The Record Plant, New York.

Joining David Johansen who took charge of lead vocals and played guitar, castanets and chimes, were drummer Frankie LaRocka, bassist Buz Verno and guitarists Johnny Ráo and Thomas Trask. This core band were joined by Sylvain Sylvain who played guitar on Cool Metro, organist Bobby Blain and percussionist Tony Machine who had all been part of the New York Dolls’ story. Other musicians included rhythm guitarist Joe Perry, saxophonist Stan Bronstein, violinist Scarlet Rivera and organist Felix Cavaliere, rhythm guitarist Joe Perry, saxophonist Stan Bronstein and vocalists Sarah Dash, Nona Hendryx, Gene Leppik and Jimmie Mack. Taking charge of production were Richard Robinson and David Johansen as his eponymous debut album was recorded during February 1978.

Three months later, in May 1978 David Johansen which was a carefully crafted album of tight, focused and hard rocking music. Gone was the sloppiness that had almost been a trademark of the New York Dolls, with David Johansen and his hand-picked band created a sharp and powerful backdrop for his vocals. They were very different and eschewed the camp, theatrical sound that had dismayed their critics. However, there was a nod to the New York Dolls on Funky But Chic while Cool Metro epitomises good time rock ’n’ roll. On Girls and I’m A Lover David Johansen’s vocal is full of machismo, before his vocal on Pain In My Heart is full of hurt and despair. Then on Donna and Frenchette, David Johansen lays bare his soul for all to see on his critically acclaimed eponymous debut album. 

Despite the quality of music on David Johansen, when the album was released in May 1978 it failed the chart. Even the single Funky But Chic never troubled the charts, which was another disappointment for David Johansen, who tow months later, recorded an album with The David Johansen Band.

The David Johansen Band.

This was no ordinary album though. Instead, The David Johansen Group Live was originally a promotional only album that was released by David Johansen in an attempt to help promote his solo career. It was recorded at The Bottom Line, in New York on July the ’21st’ 1978.

That night, The David Johansen Band featured David Johansen who took charge of lead vocals and played acoustic guitar on Frenchette. The rhythm section featured drummer Frankie LaRocka, bassist Buz Verno and guitarists Johnny Ráo and Thomas Trask. They were joined by Sylvain Sylvain who played guitar, piano and like the rest of the band added backing vocals. The band worked their way through eighteen tracks including cover  versions, songs David Johansen and the New York Dolls two albums. This included Babylon, where Johnny Thunders took to the stage with The David Johansen Band for the final song of what was a truly memorable set. It was no surprise that the recording of that night at The Bottom Line was eventually released commercially.

Initially, the album was meant to promote David Johansen’s career, but by 1983 The David Johansen Band was released on CD and found favour with critics. They were won over by The David Johansen Band’s performance five years earlier, and wondered aloud why it had taken five years to release the album? By then, David Johansen’s solo career was almost at an end. 

In Style.

After the disappointing sales of his eponymous debut album, David Johansen was forced to rethink his approach to his sophomore solo album In Style. Being realistic, he knew that there was no point in releasing David Johansen II, as there was every change that the album wouldn’t sell in vast numbers. David Johansen knew that if he wanted to enjoy commercial success, he was going to have to change direction musically. If he didn’t he wasn’t going to be signed to Blue Sky Records for long.

Face with that stark reality David Johansen began work on his sophomore album, which became In Style. David Johansen wrote Big City, Justine and In Style, and with his songwriting partner Sylvain Sylvain wrote She Knew She Was Falling in Love, Swaheto Woman, Wreckless Crazy and Flamingo Road. Just like on his eponymous debut album, David Johansen wrote songs with other songwriting partners. He penned Melody with Ronnie Guy, She with Buz Verno and You Touched Me Too with Johnny Ráo. These ten tracks became In Style, which was recorded at The Schoolhouse, Westpoint, Connecticut during 1979.

At The Schoolhouse producer and guitarist Mick Ronson joined David Johansen who was set to take charge of vocals and play guitar on In Style. His band featured a rhythm section of drummer Frankie LaRocka, bassists Buz Verno and Dan Hartman plus guitarists Johnny Ráo and Thomas Trask. They were joined by organist Tommy Mandel, pianists Ronnie Guy and Ian Hunter, saxophonist Stan Bronstein. Joining the rest of the band in adding backing vocals were Sylvain Sylvain, Gary Green and engineer Dave Still. With a new producer and a few changes to the lineup of his band David Johansen set about recording his sophomore album In Style.

When In Style was completed, Blue Sky Records scheduled the release of the album for later in 1979. In Style would mark the debut of David Johansen’s new more commercial, pop rock sound. Deep down, he knew that his music had to change to attract a wider audience. It was all very well making albums that albums uncommercial albums that found favour with the musical cognoscenti, but they didn’t pay the bills. Nor would their sales please executives at Blue Sky Records. David Johansen hoped his new pop rock sound that debuted on In Style would find favour with executives at Blue Sky Records, music critics and record buyers.

The majority of critics on hearing In Style were impressed by David Johansen’s new sound. Even Robert Christgua the self-styled Dean of American rock critics, grudgingly gave In Style a B+ in one of his usual pompous reviews. At least this was a sign that David Johansen was on the right road with In Style.

In Style was a much more polished and slick album with several radio friendly songs. Gone was the hard rocking, swaggering  sound of his eponymous debut album, and in its place was a much more eclectic album. 

Melody the album opener saw David Johansen move towards R&B, before She showcased an almost snarling, post punk sound. Big City which features saxophonist Stan Bronstein, stylistically sounds not unlike Bruce Springsteen. So too does Justine, which like Big City, is a memorable, melodic and anthemic track. Very different is You Knew You Were Falling In Love with its reggae beats, before Swaheto Woman heads in the direction of disco. In Style marks a return to the rocky sound of David Johansen, while You Touched Me combines soulful vocal with harmonies that have been influenced by sixties girl groups. Then on Wreckless Crazy David Johansen pays homage to the New York Dolls, before delivering a soul-baring vocal on the Flamingo Road a six-minute epic that closes the album In Style.

Buoyed by the reviews of In Style, the album was released in the autumn of 1979. Sadly, history repeated itself and In Style failed to chart. Neither did Swaheto Woman when it was released as a single. By then, it was too late to jump on the disco bandwagon, which had crashed earlier in 1979. The commercial failure of In Style resulted in David Johansen rethinking his future.

Here Comes The Night.

When David Johansen returned in 1981 with his third album Here Comes The Night, much had changed since the release of In Style. David Johansen had been working with new songwriting partners, producers and even his band had changed. Much of the changes were down to David Johansen’s decision to recruit a former Beach Boy.

This was Blondie Chaplin, who had been drafted in to the Beach Boys when Dennis Wilson injured his hand and was unable to play for the best part of two years. Two new musicians joined the Beach Boys on a temporary basis, drummer Ricky Fataar and guitarist Blondie Chaplin. After a while, Brian Wilson who was impressed by both musicians made them fully fledged Beach Boys. That was the case until Blondie Chaplin left the band in 1973.

Seven years later, in 1980, Blondie Chaplin, who had spent just a couple of years with the Beach Boys, was looking for someone to work with, when he met David Johansen. Blondie Chaplin told David Johansen how he admired him as a performer, and proposed that they work together. Despite having established a songwriting partnership with Sylvain Sylvain, David Johansen agreed, and in an instant, had marginalised his old friend and songwriting partner.

Straight away, Blondie Chaplin joined David Johansen’s band as they headed out on the road. This was so Blondie Chaplin could collaborate on songs with David Johansen. Eventually, the pair had written She Loves Strangers, You Fool You, My Obsession, Here Comes The Night, Suspicion and Rollin’ Job. The pair also wrote Party Tonight with Bobby Blain. David Johansen wrote Heart Of Gold, wrote Bohemian Love Pad with Sylvain Sylvain and Havin’ So Much Fun with Elliot Murphy. These songs were recorded by David Johansen’s new band at Sundragon Studios, New York where The Ramones and Suicide had recorded pioneering albums.

One man who was missing as the recording session began was Sylvain Sylvain, who had received the musical equivalent of a kiss on the left cheek. His replacement was Blondie Chaplin who played guitar and added backing vocals. The man he had replaced, Sylvain Sylvain, was working on his own burgeoning solo career, while David Johansen’s was much changed.

David Johansen’s band featured a rhythm section of drummer Tony Machine, bassists Ernie Brooks plus rhythm guitarist Elliot Murphy who also played harmonica. They were joined by organist and pianist Tommy Mandel, pianist Bobby Blain, percussionist Ulysses Delavega and Othello Molineaux who played steel drums. David Johansen and Barry Mraz took charge of production with Blondie Chaplin credited as giving “production assistance” on Here Comes The Night. 

As recording began, Barry Mraz brought the band into the studio and laid down the dominant guitar parts on each song on Here Comes The Night. Straight away, it became apparent that the two co-producers David Johansen and Barry Mraz were determined to record an album that would appeal to rock radio stations. 

Mostly, David Johansen and his band unleash a hard rocking music, especially on the album opener She Loves Strangers and My Obsession, which is a mixture of urgency and paranoia. Bohemian Love Pad a carefully crafted, hard rocking song tribute to the beatnik lifestyle, while You Fool You is a catchy song which could only have been recorded in the early eighties. However, It’s not all hard rocking songs, as Marquesa de Sade heads in the direction of nu-samba, and Rollin’ Job incorporates elements of  calypso. 

After that, there’s no stopping David Johansen as he unleashes vocal powerhouse on the über rocky Here Come The Night, before Party Tonight and Havin’ So Much Fun showcase a good time rock ’n’ roll sound. Closing Here Comes The Night was Heart Of Gold, one of the album’s highlights. The big question was, was Here Comes The Night as the album that would see David Johansen make a commercial breakthrough?

When Here Comes The Night was released later in 1979, the album failed to make any impression on the US Billboard 200. For David Johansen this was just latest disappointment for the former New York Dolls’ frontman.

He had been trying to make a breakthrough since releasing David Johansen in 1978. It had failed to find an audience, and neither did In Style nor Here Comes The Night. Both albums showcase a talented singer, songwriter and musician who spent the first three albums of his career trying to find his true sound.

As befitting a former member of the New York Dolls, David Johansen’s eponymous debut album featured a hard rocking sound, which he eschewed on In Style, which features a number of songs written with his songwriting partner Sylvain Sylvain. These songs play their part in the sound and success of an album that deserved to find a wider audience. 

After the commercial failure of In Style, David Johansen changed his songwriting partner, band and style. One person who was missed was Sylvain Sylvain, who had been David Johansen’s songwriting partner on his first two albums. He was usurped by Blondie Chaplin, on Here Comes The Night which was mostly, a hard rocking album, albeit with David Johansen throwing the occasional curveball. Sadly, Here Comes The Night followed in the footsteps of In Style, and failed to make any impression on the charts. However,  Here Comes The Night is hidden gems and a cult classic that is a reminder of David Johansen’s solo career, and proved that there was life after the New York Dolls.

Cult Classic: David Johansen-Here Comes The Night.

TAKEO MORIYAMA-EAST PLANTS.  

Takeo Moriyama-East Plants.

In 1983, Japanese jazz drummer Takeo Moriyama was thirty-eight and into his third decade as a musician when he released his 1983 cult classic East Plants. It’s highly prized by collectors of J-Jazz and one of his finest albums. His story began in 1945.

Takeo Moriyama was born on the ‘27th’ of January 1945, in Katsunuma, in the Yamanashi Prefecture. As a child, Takeo Moriyama played piano before switching to drums in his late teens. This resulted  in him taking a degree in percussion at the Tokyo University of the Arts.

In 1967, Takeo Moriyama joined Yosuke Yamashita’s group and embraced upon several international tours before leaving in 1975. This was all good experienced for Takeo Moriyama who was unsure about his future.

So much so, that Takeo Moriyama  was unsure whether he wanted to continue working as professional musicians, and instead decided to concentrate his efforts on teaching. Between 1975 and 1977, Takeo Moriyama stayed way from studio and never took to the stage. Many of his fans wondered if Takeo Moriyama would return to his former life as a professional musician?

 In  1977, Takeo Moriyama returned of from what was akin to a lengthy sabbatical and decided to found his own quartet. Soon, the Takeo Moriyama Quartet were touring West Germany, Italy and the USSR. This allowed the new group to hone their sound before recording a new albums.

This included the Takeo Moriyama Quartet’s 1977  live debut album Flush Up. Four years later, in 1981 they returned with followup, Smile.

It  was a very different album, and Smile that eschewed the eruptive improvisation of the past. Smile feature  a new  approach from drummer Takeo Moriyama whose  steady, sophisticated and unfussy style was perfect for his unique and inimitable style of composition.

When Takeo Moriyama returned with his My Dear album in 1982, pianist Fumio Itabashi was absent. He was recording and promoting his solo album Watarase. While the absence of Fumio Itabash was loss to Takeo Moriyama’s band, the bandleader knew that his pianist might not return for the followup Fast Plants.

East Plants.

By 1983, thirty-eight year old Takeo Moriyama was regarded as one of Japan’s finest jazz drummers.  He had been a musician since the sixties and was a vastly experienced drummer who  had .just signed to the Japanese VAP label. They would release Takeo Moriyama’s solo album East Plants later in 1983. 

East Plants featured six tracks, but only one Takeo Moriyama’s composition Kagelou. The rest of the album was written by saxophonist Toshihiko Inoue, and recorded  at CBS-Sony Roppongi Studio, in Tokyo.

Joining drummer Takeo Moriyama was bassist Hideaki Mochizuki, percussionist Yoji Sadanari plus Shuichi Enomoto and Toshihiko Inoue who switched between tenor and soprano saxophone on East Plants. Once the album was completed the release of East Plants was scheduled for later in 1983.

Sadly, when East Plants was released in 1983, the album passed record buyers. They missed out on what was later regarded as a J Jazz cult classic.

That was no surprise given East Plants featured several key features of Takeo Moriyama’s music. There’s the clearly connected and innovative rhythms, grooves that are accessible, balanced, controlled and elegant, while the arrangements are best described as open and orderly East Plants.

With no piano, the rhythm section are joined by  percussion and saxophones . They open the album with the title-track East Plants. Its build-up is similar to a raga as a mesmeric track unfolds and is one of East Plants’ highlights. There’s an urgency to Take where the band play with power and freedom as the saxophone plays a starring role. Kaze Kaze majestic example of modal jazz, while the ferocious post bop exertions of Fields is one of East Plants highlights.

Thirty-eight years East Plants after was release it’s an album that is highly prized by collectors of J-Jazz and is regarded as one of Takeo Moriyama’s finest albums. He’s joined by talented quintet on the album and they showcase their talent and versatility on the album. Each member of this multitalented quintet play their part in the sound and success of East Plants, which is Takeo Moriyama’s mystical sounding  opus which until recently, was an oft-overlooked hidden gem that is now regarded as a J-Jazz cult classic

 

CULT CLASSIC: TERRY REID-RIVER.

Cult Classic: Terry Reid-River.

Music is all Terry Reid has ever known. It’s been his life since he left St Ivo School, in St.Ives Cambridgeshire, in 1965 . By then, it was is if he was destined to become a musician and his breakthrough came when he joined Peter Jay’s Jaywalkers. 

By then, Terry Reid was just sixteen. He had been born in Huntingdon, on 13th November 1949. Growing up, Terry attended St. Ivo School, St.Ives, Cambridgeshire. That was where he joined a local band, The Redbeats.

It was when platting with The Redbeats, that Peter Jay, the drummer from a rival group, Peter and The Jaywalkers first spotted Terry Reid in action. Straight away, he realised he would be the perfect addition to Peter and The Jaywalkers. Peter Jay convinced Terry Reid to join his band, and soon, Terry was a Jaywalker.

Soon, Peter and The Jaywalkers’ star was in the ascendancy, when they were named as the support act for the Rolling Stones, when they played at the Royal Albert Hall. This was where Graham Nash of The Hollies first met Terry Reid.

The two musicians soon became firm friends, and Graham Nash suggested that Peter and The Jaywalkers should sign to the UK division of Columbia Records. Peter and The Jaywalkers didn’t have to think twice, and soon, were signing on the dotted line.

At Columbia Records, Peter and The Jaywalkers worked with producer John Burgess on their debut single, The Hand Don’t Fit the Glove. It was released by Columbia in 1967, and gave the band a minor hit. Unfortunately, by then, Peter and The Jaywalkers had split-up. After this, Terry Reid decided to pursue a solo career.

Fortunately, he come to the attention of producer and music impresario, Mickie Most. He produced Terry Reid’s debut single Better By Far. On its release in 1968, it found favour amongst DJs, who soon, began to play the single on their radio shows.  

That was when Mickie Most decided to take Terry Reid into the studio to record his debut album, Bang Bang, You’re Terry Reid. When it was released later in 1968, it was to widespread critical acclaim. However,  unfortunately the album passed record buyer by. Soon, so did the opportunity of a lifetime.

Terry Reid had come to the attention of Jimmy Page, who had just disbanded The Yarbirds. He was in the process of putting together a new band, The New Yarbirds, and was looking for a vocalist. Jimmy Page had set his sights on Terry Reid, and decided to recruit him for his new band. There was a problem though. 

It turned out that Terry Reid had agreed to tour America with Cream. Terry was the opening act, and as part of the tour, would play the prestigious Miami Pop Festival. Everything was agreed, and Terry was a man of his word. There was no way he could back out at the this late moment. So Terry recommended Robert Plant, a Birmingham based vocalist, as The New Yarbirds to Jimmy Page. Terry’s recommendation, changed musical history. He could’ve been part of one of the most successful rock bands ever, Led Zeppelin. Incredibly, lightning struck twice for Terry Reid.

1969 found Terry Reid’s star in the ascendancy. The American tour and his appearance at the Miami Pop Festival resulted in him becoming popular in America. Terry was also a familiar face in Britain during 1969. He opened for Fleetwood Mac and Jethro Tull, and released his sophomore eponymous album Terry Reid. Although it received positive reviews from critics, the album failed to find an audience. So later in 1969, Terry headed stateside where he opened for the Rolling Stones on their American tour. 

By then, Terry Reid a familiar face in America, and already built up a loyal fan-base. So touring America with the Rolling Stones allowed Terry Reid’s music to be heard by a much wider audience. Night after night, Terry opened for the Rolling Stones as they played sold-out shows coast to coast. The only Rolling Stones concert that Terry Reid didn’t play at, was their biggest and most controversial, the Altamont Music Festival.

Fortunately, Terry Reid wasn’t booked to appear on the bill of the hastily organised Altamont Music Festival. This meant he avoided the bloodshed, chaos and violence. Terry Reid had a lucky escape. However, he might not have been on the Rolling Stones’ tour if things had turned out differently with Deep Purple.

During their 1969 American tour, Deep Purple decided to change direction, and move towards a heavier, rockier sound. Vocalist Rod Evans the other members of Deep Purple though, wasn’t suited to this style. It was decided that Rod Evans would be replaced. He was already contemplating an alternative career as an actor. So Deep Purple went looking for a replacement. The man Richie Blackmore set his sights on was Terry Reid. 

Unfortunately, Terry Reid was still contracted to Mickie Most and had signed an “exclusive recording contract.” Mickie Most had two options. He could let him join Deep Purple, or hold him to his contract. Rather than letting him join Deep Purple, Mickie Most held him to his contract. After all, Mickie Most had plans for Terry Reid.

Musical impresario Mickie Most decided to reinvent Terry Reid, the man who would be known as superlungs as a balladeer. This didn’t go down well with Terry Reid who fell out with Mickie Most in December 1969. Again, Mickie Most reached for the “exclusive recording contract.”

The “exclusive recording contract” that Terry Reid had signed with Mickie Most didn’t expire until 1973. Things had deteriorated to such an extent, that Terry Reid was unwilling to record with Mickie Most and headed to California to take some time out.

Over the next few years, Terry Reid only played a few live shows. This included the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 and later that year, the second Atlanta Pop Festival. Then in 1971, Terry returned to play at the Glastonbury Fayre. Apart from that performance, he kept a low profile as he ran down Mickie Most’s “exclusive recording contract.” By 1973, Terry Reid was free at last.

River.

This left Terry Reid free to sign to Atlantic Records. Soon, he began work on what became River. 

For River, Terry had penned Dean, Things To Try, River and Dream. He cowrote Avenue with John Abercrombie; Live Life with Ray Davies and put lyrics to Miles Davis’ Milestones. These tracks Terry Reid recorded with his own band.

Recording began at Advision Studios, in London, with Eddy Offord producing the River sessions. Eddy Offord who went on to produce Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, was regarded as a perfect fit for Terry Reid. He was no stranger to electric blues, and had produced two albums for Taste, a trio which featured Rory Gallagher. The two albums 1969s Taste and On The Boards had turned out well. So given his track record, surely, the partnership of Eddy Offord and Terry Reid would work out well?

That should’ve been the case. So, with Eddy Offord booked to produce the River sessions, Terry Reid and his band arrived at Advision Studios. He added vocals and guitar during what were  long, drawn-out and frustrating sessions at Advision Studios.

For whatever reason, Terry Reid and his band didn’t hit the ground running. Usually, recording sessions ran smoothly, and weren’t long, drawn-out affairs. The River sessions was a frustrating time, with recording of what was meant to be the River a time-consuming and ultimately fruitless. There was a problem, but nobody seemed to know what? Maybe Eddy Offord was the wrong producer? That’s never became clear. What became clear, is that Terry Reid wasn’t happy with River. He  decided to scrap the album, and head to Los Angeles to rerecord River.

Terry Reid and his band arrived at Wally Helder’s, in Los Angeles. This time around, the band featured drummer Conrad Isidore, bassist Leo Miles and David Lindley on electric guitar, slide guitar and steel guitar. Willie Bobo added percussion on just the one track, River. Engineer Ed Barton acted as a de facto producer. Despite that, Tom Dowd was credited as producing five tracks that made it onto River. Once the sessions were completed at Wally Helder’s in L.A, Terry headed over to Miami, clutching the master tapes.

At Criteria Studios, the final master tapes were assembled. Only two songs produced by Eddy Offord, Dream and Milestones made it onto River. Five Tom Dowd productions made it onto the River, including Dean, Avenue, Things To Try, Live Life and River. These seven tracks became River.

Once River was complete, Terry Reid delivered the completed album to his new label Atlantic Records. They scheduled the release of River for later in 1973. Maybe after two false starts during the Mickie Most years, it would third time lucky for Terry Reid?

That looked like the case when critics heard River. They were hugely impressed by Terry Reid’s comeback album. After four long years, Superlungs was back, with album that married elements of blues rock, folk rock, Latin and rock. It was impressive fusion of styles, with Terry picking up where he left off on Terry.

Critics were won over by what was, without doubt, Terry Reid’s finest hour. As a result, critical acclaim accompanied the release of River. This bode well for River.

When River was released in 1973, it was well received by critics. Many critics preferred the looser sound of River. They saw River as Terry and his band were jamming and experimenting, seeing where the tracks took them. This was very different to his first two albums. Sadly, River wasn’t a commercial success. It stalled at just number 172 in the US Billboard 200 charts. For Terry Reid, this was hugely disappointing. Signed to Atlantic Records and with Tom Dowd producing  River, this could’ve and should’ve been the start of the rise and rise of Terry Reid. Since the release of River in 1973, it’s always been an underrated album.

Opening River is Dean where  guitar is panned right and Terry Reid scats and a crystalline guitar is panned left and provides a contrast to the other guitar. In the middle sits the worldweary, lived-in vocal. Providing the heartbeat are the rhythm section. Conrad Isidore drums and Leo Miles’ bass become one as the vocal continues to  grows in power and emotion becoming needy. Flanking the vocals are the guitars which are the perfect foil for each other and of a vocal powerhouse from th man they call superlungs.

The looser sound is apparent again on Avenue. It’s as if Terry Reid and his small band are just jamming and in search of ideas. It’s a case of seeing where the arrangement leads and this works. As they unleash searing, blistering licks the rhythm section drive the arrangement. Then all of a sudden, Terry Reid seems all in. His vocal sounds quite different to his two previous albums. It’s as if he’s lived a lot since then. Guitars scream and riff and cymbals constantly crash adding an element of drama to the whiskey soaked vocal. All the time, Terry Reid and his band push boundaries and fuse musical genres. Seamlessly rock, blues and even Southern Rock combine on this Avenue.

As Things To Try unfolds, Terry Reid and his band get to work. A steel and slide guitar are panned left as a  probing bass and acoustic guitar are panned right. Thunderous drums pound and sometimes, flamboyant drum rolls punctuate the arrangement. The vocal is gravelly and raspy and it’s hard to believe Terry was only twenty-four when he recorded River. Sometimes, his lyrics are akin to a stream of consciousness. It’s as they’re constantly evolving with each take. Behind him, his crack band of musicians who are in full flow and relish the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents on this genre-melting track where they’re at the peak of their powers. This is without doubt one of River’s highlights.

An acoustic guitar is strummed urgently on Live Life before percussion is added by Willie Bobo and a country-tinged guitar is panned left. The band are at their tightest and get straight down to business and the track just flows. Terry Reid’s vocal veers between tender to powerful and impassioned and sometimes, he sounds like Robert Plant. When his vocal drops out, the band combine country-rock, Southern Rock and blues. They even indulge in a mini jam, before the vocal returns. From there the arrangement veers between dramatic to flowing and briefly, takes on a West Coast sound, as Terry’s vocal powerhouse drifts in and out.

River has a much more understated, laid-back sound and melancholy describes the arrangement. It’s just crystalline guitars and a shuffling rhythm section that combine before a tender, thoughtful vocal enters. This shows another side to Terry Reid. His vocal is clearer as he delivers some of his finest lyrics on River. The arrangement is a fusion of jazz, folk and the West Coast sound as he dawns the role of balladeer. It’s a role that suits him and is the finest track on River.

The last two tracks feature just Terry and his trusty acoustic guitar. Dream features a wistful Terry Reid. Confusion, doubt and emotion fill his vocal. So does hurt. Later, his vocal grows in power. It’s as if he’s unleashing the pain he feels. This is apparent in the way he plays the guitar. He almost pounds the strings as he delivers a soul-baring vocal.

Milestones closes River. Again, it’s just Terry and his acoustic guitar and his finger flit up and down the fretboard. He seems unsure and the microphone picks up him breathing as he thinks about the direction the track is heading. Soon, he whistles and later, scats. It’s as if he’s trying to find an in. Eventually, his tender vocal pensive vocal enters. Quickly, it grows in power as hurt and pain is omnipresent. The playing and singing proves cathartic as he vents his feelings, hurt and pain. His vocal becomes a hurt-filled wail and in the midst of this cathartic outpouring and he plays a couple of wrong notes. This doesn’t seem to matter as it’s a breathtaking vocal that oozes emotion, hurt and pain it’s a potent and powerful way to close River.

Sadly, commercial success eluded River and Terry Reid continued to be one of music’s best kept secrets. Following the commercial failure of River, Atlantic Records cut their losses and he left the label.

By the time that Terry Reid released his eponymous sophomore album music had changed. Progressive rock, heavy metal, the West Coast Sound, folk and Southern Rock were popular but Terry Reid a true musical alchemist went his own way on River.

River sees Terry Reid combining elements of blues, rock, folk, jazz, the West Coast Sound and Southern Rock. Some influences are stronger than others as he and his band jam their way through River. It has a much looser sound than his two previous albums. That’s no surprise. 

During he recording of River, he and his band enjoyed lengthy jam sessions. It was a case of plug in and hit record. They played and saw where the track headed and that is apparent on River. Sometimes, it’s as if Terry and his band see where the track is heading and eventually they find an in. From there, a song takes shape. Especially on the first four tracks.

The first four tracks feature Terry Reid at his hard rocking best and he and the band feed off each other and drive each other on. Although he was only twenty-four, he was already an experienced bandleader  who had had talented musicians at his side as he lays down four explosive tracks. It quickly becomes apparent why Jimmy Page thought Terry Reid would’ve be the perfect fit for The New Yarbirds and  sometimes, on River he  sounds like Robert Plant. That’s until the last three tracks on River.

River is an album where we hear both sides of Terry Reid. The three final songs on River, feature a very different side to Terry Reid as he’s transformed into a balladeer and lays bare his soul on the three tracks. Dream and Milestones feature Terry and an acoustic guitar. It’s akin to an outpouring of hurt, pain and emotion. These tracks are amongst the highlights of River. There’s an element of irony in this as Mickie Most thought that Terry Reid had a future as a balladeer. This was something he resisted. 

Terry Reid balladeer was very different to what he envisaged for his future. He had different ideas what the future held for him. That’s what lead to the split with Mickie Most. On River,  Terry Reid has his cake and eats it  as he showcases his hard rocking side on the first four tracks and is transformed into a balladeer of the final three tracks. That’s why River is such a compelling album.

It provides an insight to Terry Reid as he matured as a singer, songwriter and musician. He was twenty-four when he released River  in 1973. His previous album Terry Reid, had been released in 1969, when he was just twenty. Much had happened in the previous four years. This included the dispute with Mickie Most. During that period, Terry Reid didn’t play many concerts but when he did, they were high profile dates, including the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival, the 1970 Atlanta II Pop Festival and the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre. This meant people never forgot Terry Reid. Sadly, when Terry Reid returned in 1973, his third album wasn’t a commercial success.

Released in 1973, River stalled at number 172 in the US Billboard 200 charts. River which showed the two sides of Terry Reid didn’t even match the success of his two previous albums. Terry must have rued his decision to turn down the opportunity to join Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. That was Terry Reid’s chance to become a member of rock royalty. He certainly had the talent. Sadly, Terry didn’t get the breaks. 

While Terry Reid enjoyed a successful career, he never quite fulfilled reached the heights he could’ve and should’ve. Things could’ve been very different. However, then he would never have recorded River, which shows the two sides of Terry Reid. 

Cult Classic: Terry Reid-River.

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ENO/CALE-WRONG WAY UP.

Eno/Cale-Wrong Way Up.

Label: All Saints Records.

Format: CD.

Brian Eno and John Cale first worked together in 1974, when they also recorded the album June 1, 1974. When it was released twenty-seven days later on the ‘28th’ of June 1974 it was credited to Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Brian Eno and Nico. Two of the three men who played on the album became friends and worked together on several occasions.

Sixteen years after Brian Eno and John Cale took to the stage at the Rainbow Theatre in London to record June 1, 1974 the two friends were reunited. Unsurprisingly there was sign of Kevin Ayers at Brian Eno’s Wilderness Studio, in Woodbridge, Suffolk when recording began in April 1990. The pair had history.

It’s alleged that the night before the recording of June 1, 1974 that John Cale found Kevin Ayers sleeping with his wife. That was why there was a tense atmosphere as the all-star band took to the stage and also explains the bemused stare that John Cale is giving Kevin Ayers on the album cover. The Velvet Underground cofounder took his revenge the following year.

When he was recording his solo album Slow Dazzle he included he wrote Guts which opens with the line: “The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife.” It was no surprise when Brian Eno and John Cale decided to record an album together Kevin Ayers played no part.

Instead, it was just Brian Eno and John Cale that began recording Wrong Way Up in April 1990. By then, they had written nine new tracks and Brian Eno had penned The River. These eleven  tracks were recorded between April and July 1990 and would eventually feature on Wrong Way Up.

At Wilderness Studio, Brain Eno sang lead and backing vocals and played bass, guitars, Indian drum, keyboards, little Nigerian organ, Linn M1, rhythm bed, Shinto bell and Yamaha DX7 synth. John Cale added backing vocals and played bass, dumbek, harp, horn, keyboards, piano, Omnichord, strings and viola. During the session, Brian Eno and John Cale were augmented by some of their musical friends.

This included drummer Ronald Jones who also played tabla, bassists Daryl Johnson and Dave Young who played guitar and rhythm guitarist Robert Ahwai. They were joined by violinist Nell Catchpole and Bruce Lampcov who added backing vocals and engineered John Cale’s vocals on Wrong Way Up.

The songs often took shape late at night as Brian Eno locked himself away and developed lyrics through singing sing nonsense words so he could create cadences which he then developed into syllabic rhythms. The next stage was to create phrases and then melodies. It was the way that Brian Eno worked and it worked for him.

So did the way the arrangements were crafted and complimented the vocals. A sequencer and synths were used and combined with what was an eclectic selection of traditional and ethnic instruments. They feature on Wrong Way Up which was produced by Brian Eno while John Cale only was given a co-producer’s credit. This raised eyebrows when the album was released in the autumn of 1990.

By then, the two men were openly admitting that they hadn’t gotten on during some or even much of the recording sessions. It also came to light that Brian Eno had allegedly called John Cale “irrational.” The sessions seem to have been difficult.

Later, John Cale recalled how Brian Eno: “would listen to what you said, but he really didn’t have much patience with it…I haven’t figured out yet what Brian’s notion of cooperation, or collaboration, is.”

John Cale also admitted during the session he was missing his wife and young daughter. He was suffering from “cabin fever” and the tension between made things worse. Things came to a head when John Cale alleges that he saw an irate Brian Eno coming towards with a chopstick clenched in his hand. After this, a panic-stricken John Cale phoned his manager to tell him he needed to book into a hotel. This Brian Eno has no memory of disputes. However, given all that had happened it was no surprise that with Wrong Way Up complete there was no plans to record a followup to the album that was released thirty years ago.

On the ‘5th’ of October 1990 Brian Eno and John Cale released their first collaboration Wrong Way Up to critical acclaim. Only a couple of contrarian critics found fault with what was a carefully crafted album of mainstream album with commercial appeal. Maybe the contrarian critics thought that Brian Eno and John Cale were selling out?

If that had been the case, Wrong Way Up wasn’t a particularly profitable venture as it failed to chart in Britain or America. Things didn’t improve when Been There, Done That was released as a single in America and failed to trouble the Billboard 100. However, it reached number eleven on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. That was as good as it got became when Word was then released in Britain and America it failed to chart. Brian Eno and John Cale’s collaboration Wrong Way Up had passed record buyers by.

Now thirty years later Wrong Way Up has been reissued by All Saints Records to mark the album’s thirtieth anniversary. It’s an album that was made despite the personality clashes between two musical icons. It could’ve been a recipe for disaster putting two strong willed characters in the same studio for three months while they recorded an album. However, the album was finished although there was no followup. That was a great shame.

Wrong Way Up featured music that was atmospheric, cerebral, hopeful and sometime cinematic and beautiful. It was an accessible album that featured elements of ambient stylings, art pop, art rock, electronic music, pop and progressive rock that features mainstream music that should’ve appealed to a wide audience. Proof of this is the album opener Lay My Love and Spinning way which are poetic pop penned by Brian Eno and both feature peerless electronic arrangements with the latter augmented by sweeping strings .

Very different is One Word where John Cale sings a line and is answered by Brian Eye. Then during the refrains, John Cale’s voice soars high above a choir of Eno’s on this thought-provoking and experimental track where art pop and electronica combine on a track that has an eighties sound.

In The Backroom was written by John Cale and is a mini-drama in four minutes. The arrangement is atmospheric, moody and cinematic as he paints pictures with his lived-in and weary vocal. It’s one of the highlights of the album.

Although Empty Frame was recorded in 1990 Empty Frame has an eighties sound in parts. This includes the drums and synths that feature on a track rich in imagery. It’s about a never-ending journey on a ship and ironically features the line: “We have no single point of view.” It’s part of what’s an incredibly catchy and memorable track that sounds a bit like OMD who were influenced by Brian Eno.

Cordoba came about after Brian Eno read Hugo’s Latin-American Spanish In Three Months. This inspired this chilling, cinematic song about two men planning to plant a bomb on a bus. John Cale’s delivery is haunting and the scenes unfold in front of the listener’s eyes and they’re left wondering did they plant the bomb or not?

Cinematic describes Footsteps which is a three mini drama written by John Cale who delivers the lyrics. He sings of slight of hand, danger, drama and double dealing on what sounds like

the soundtrack to a film that has yet to be made.

One can’t help wonder what inspired Been There, Done That which was written by John Cale? It’s upbeat and catchy from the get-go as synth pop and art rock combine as he reflects on his life and what he thought were the best o times: “Thinking we were having a ball.” It’s only when someone says: “Been There, Done That” does his older and wiser self realises: “Been there, don’t wanna go back.”

Boogie woogie piano opens Crime In The Desert and drives this John Cale composition along. He paints pictures about Tucson and  Guadalajara and tells the story of a mysterious lady murdered and her ideas stolen. All this is part of another catchy and cinematic track from the pen of John Cale.

Closing Wrong Way Up is the ballad The River which features one of Brian Eno’s finest vocals. It’s a quite beautiful and haunting song with an understated arrangement that is the perfect accompaniment to the vocal.

For anyone yet to discover Wrong Way Up, which was Brian Eno and John Cale’s one and only collaboration it’s recently been reissued to mark the album’s thirtieth anniversary. There’s also two bonus tracks Grandfather’s House and Palanquin which were recorded during the Wrong Way Up session.

It was a session beset by personality clashes and where chopsticks were perceived as a dangerous weapon by John Cale.  The recording of Wrong Way Up was no ordinary recording session and the pair didn’t get on. Despite that, they spent three months locked in Brian Eno’s Wilderness Studios and drew on their past experiences to record their first collaboration. To do that, they combined elements of ambient, art pop, art rock, electronic music, pop, progressive rock and synth pop on Wrong Way Up. It wasn’t the album critics and record buyers were expecting from the two musical icons.

Brain Eno and John Cale released what was an accessible album of mainstream music that should’ve had commercial appeal.Sadly, Wrong Way Up failed to find the audience it deserved. It’s only thirty years later that Wrong Way Up is starting to receive the recognition it deserved and that record buyers are embracing an album that music’s odd couple spent three months recording. It turned out to be time well spent.

Eno/Cale-Wrong Way Up.

DOUG CARN FEATURING THE VOICE OF JEAN CARN-SPIRIT OF THE NEW LAND.


Doug Carn Featuring The Voice Of Jean Carn-Spirit Of The New Land.

Label: Real Gone Music.

Format: CD.

Doug Carn was one of the first artists that Gene Russell and Dick Schory signed when they founded Black Jazz Records in 1971. His debut solo album Infant Eyes was the nascent company’s third release and featured vocals from his wife Jean Carn. Infant Eyes was the most successful of the six albums the label released during 1971. Buoyed by this success the Doug and Jean Carn began work on the followup.

This was Spirit Of The New Land, which was released in 1972 and billed as Doug Carn Featuring The Voice Of Jean Carn. It was recently reissued by Real Gone Music, and was a new chapter in the story of Doug Carn who was still only twenty-for when he released Spirit Of The New Land.

Doug Carn was born on July the ’14th’ 1948, in St. Augustine, Florida, and growing up music was all around him and was part of the culture around him at home. His mother was a musician, while his uncle was a bebop DJ who could scat the Dexter Gordon solos. It was no surprise that growing up, Doug Carn started listening to jazz and later, decided to learn an instrument.

Initially, Doug Carn took piano lessons and proved to be a quick learner and was soon able to play Bach Two-Part Inventions. That was when it was discovered that he wasn’t reading music and playing by ear. This resulted in Doug Carn being given an alto saxophone which he also mastered was able to play well. Already he was well on his way to becoming a multi-instrumentalist and it was no surprise when Doug Carn decided to study music at university.

He enrolled at Jacksonville University in 1965, and for the next two years studied oboe and composition. When Doug Carn graduated in 1967 he headed to Georgia State University where he completed his musical education in 1969. Later that year he made his recording debut as bandleader.

The twenty-one year old multi-instrumentalist was still living in Georgia and had founded the Doug Carn Trio. However, the new combo needed gigs and the young bandleader decided to visit a friend who ran a booking agency. When he entered the office he was greeted by the receptionist and secretary who was also a singer. This was Jean Carn who later become his wife. Before that, she started singing with the Doug Carn Trio who were about to make their recording debut.

Through the owner of the booking agency, Doug Carn was introduced to Herman Lubinsky the founder and owner of Savoy Records. This introduction turned out to be a gamechanger for the bandleader.

It turned out that the label had a session booked in Atlanta which was going to be produced by Fred Mendelsohn, the President of Savoy. He explained that there was every chance that there might be some spare time after he had recorded the gospel album, and if there was, they would use the time to record the Doug Carn Trio. That turned out to be the case.

That day in 1969, the Doug Carn Trio recorded what became their eponymous debut album. It was released later in 1969 on Savoy Records but wasn’t a commercial success. However, for Doug Carn recording the album was an invaluable experience as he prepared to move to LA as the sixties gave way to the seventies.

When he arrived in LA, Doug Carn started spending time with the members of Earth, Wind and Fire and this resulted in him playing on their first two albums. He played Hammond organ on Earth, Wind and Fire which was released on February 1971 and was certified gold. Doug Carn also played on The Need Of Love which was released in November 1971. By then, his solo career was well underway.

Earlier in 1971, Doug Carn had signed to Black Jazz Records and recorded and released his debut album Infant Eyes which featured his wife Jean Carn’s vocal. Infant Eyes was the most successful of the six albums that the nascent label released during 1971. Buoyed by the success of his debut album Doug and Jean Carn began work on the followup Spirit Of The New Land.

For his second album for Black Jazz Records Doug Carn wrote Dwell Like A Ghost, My Spirit, Arise and Shine, Trance Dance and New Moon. He also covered Miles Davis’ Blue In Green and  Lee Morgan’s Search For The New Land which he added lyrics too. These tracks became Spirit Of The New Land which was recorded with tight, talented and versatile band.

Recording of the album took place at Bell Studios, in New York, with Gene Russell taking charge of production. The band featured drummer Alphonse Mouzon, trombonist Garnett Brown, Earl McIntyre on tuba and Charles Tolliver played flugelhorn while George Harper switched between bass clarinet, flute and soprano saxophone. Jean Carn added vocals and Doug Carn played Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ and piano on Spirit Of The New Land.

When Spirit Of The New Land was released later in 1972, the album was billed as Doug Carn Featuring The Voice Of Jean Carn. For the first time, the Carn’s received equal billing on an album that was well received by critics and became Black Jazz Records’ best selling album of 1972.

That was no surprise given the standard of music on Spirit Of The New Land. It showcased the songwriting and keyboard skills of Doug Carn and provided a platform for Jean Carn’s impressive five octave vocal which breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics on what was an eclectic album. There were elements of jazz, funk and soul as well as jazz-funk, free jazz, fusion and soul-jazz on the seven tracks on Spirit Of The New Land.

It opens with the dramatic and atmospheric Dwell Like A Ghost where Jean Carn’s five octave vocal soars high above the arrangement as drums pound and power the arrangement along. This adds to the drama. Meanwhile, Doug Carn interjects and eerie, otherworldly sounds combine with free jazz horns on this ambitious genre-melting album opener.

Jean Carn’s vocal is soulful and impassioned as a shimmering Fender Rhodes combines with wailing horns and thunderous, pounding drums. Briefly, the arrangement becomes understated and the urgent vocal enters as the arrangement to this ten minute epic rebuilds and reveals its secrets. This includes a breathtaking saxophone solo which is accompanied by the Fender Rhodes and drums. Soon, the baton passes to the trombone before bandleader Doug Carn unleashes a fleet-fingered solo. His fingers dart across the keyboard and along with Jean Carn whose vocal heads in the direction of spiritual jazz he plays a leading role in the sound and success of this jazz opus. It  also features elements of jazz-funk and fusion and is one of the album’s highlights.

Sharp bursts of horns open Arise and Shine before Jean Carn’s joyous, jazzy vocal enters and she delivers lyrics full of social comment. Her vocal is a mixture of power and passion and soars above the arrangement before being replaced by the soprano saxophone and then bass clarinet take centrestage. Meanwhile, the tight talented and versatile band match them every step of the way. This includes washes of Hammond organ and drummer Alphonse Mouzon who unleashes drums rolls and pounds the hi-hat. Soon, it’s time for Doug Carn’s blistering solo which heads in the direction of soul-jazz. It’s one of his finest and when Jean Carn returns she’s joined by the bass clarinet and delivers the spiritual lyrics as the arrangement swings and then some.

Blue In Green was written by Miles Davis and features lyrics written by Doug Carn. They’re delivered by Jean Carn on this beautiful ballad which has an understated arrangement that features a flute, Fender Rhodes and drums. A less is more approach is taken and this allow the vocal to shine. It’s without doubt Jean Carn’s finest on Search For The New Land.

Very different is Trance Dance which is best described as avant-garde jazz which also features elements of African music, fusion and even elements of free jazz, funk and soul-jazz. Soon the tempo is rising and Doug Carn and his band allow the opportunity to stretch their legs and showcase their considerable talents as genres melt into one.

Search For The New Land was written by Lee Morgan and features lyrics that were written by Doug Carn. From the opening bars, there’s a degree of drama as Jean Carn unleashes a powerhouse of a vocal. It’s impassioned as she delivers lyrics that are full of social comment and sometimes spiritual. Meanwhile, Doug Carn interjects hopefully and stabs at the piano as the bass clarinet soars above the arrangement. They prove a potent combination before the saxophone replaces the clarinet and goes toe-to-toe with the jangling piano which Doug Carn then pounds, jabs stabs and adds flamboyant flourishes as he takes centrestage. Soon, Jean Carn rejoins and adds an impassioned plea on this twelve minute opus that is the centrepiece of the album.

The piano led New Moon closes Spirit Of The New Land and  joins forces with drums and bursts of quivering horns as the arrangement cascades and sometimes seems to race along. In doing so, it provides the perfect showcase for Doug Carn and his band who save one of their best performances for last.

When Spirit Of The New Land was released in 1972, it built on the success of Doug Carn’s debut solo album which was released in 1971. It was the most successful album that Black Jazz Records released that year, and so was Spirit Of The New Land. However, neither album sold tens of thousands of copies but both were successful for a small independent label. That was what Black Jazz Records was. It was also a label that had a vision.

Black Jazz Records that wanted “to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers.”  Doug Carn was only twenty-four when he released Spirit Of The New Land and his was Jean Carn was twenty-five. They had created an album that was an alternative to what Gene Russell and Dick Schory referred to as old school jazz. Spirit Of The New Land was a very different and new type of jazz album and featured everything from avant-garde, free jazz, funk, jazz-funk, fusion, soul, soul-jazz and spiritual jazz. These genres were combined by Doug Carn and Jean Carn who unleashed her five octave vocal on Spirit Of The New Land which at the time was their finest hour and set the bar high for future albums.

Doug Carn Featuring The Voice Of Jean Carn-Spirit Of The New Land.

KELLEE PATTERSON-MAIDEN VOYAGE.

Kellee Patterson-Maiden Voyage.

Label:Real Gone Music,

Format: CD.

When pianist Gene Russell and percussionist Dick Schory founded Black Jazz Records in Oakland, California, in 1971, the nascent label’s raison d’être was “to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers.” This was only part of their vision for their new label.

They were determined that Black Jazz Records would released an alternative to what they saw as the old school jazz that was popular at the time. They wanted to release an alternative to traditional jazz, and this included albums that featured political and spiritual influenced music. However, spiritual jazz was just part of the Black Jazz Records’ story and the label between 1971 and 1975 it released twenty albums that included everything from free jazz and funk to soul-jazz.

Fittingly, Black Jazz Records’ first release was Gene Russell’s sophomore album New Direction which was released in 1971. This was just the start of a prolific year for the label.

In their first year, Black Jazz Records also released Walter Bishop Jr’s Coral Keys, Doug Carn’s Infant Eyes, Rudolph Johnson’s Spring Rain, Chester Thompson’s Powerhouse and Calvin Keys’ Shawn-Neeq. By the end of 1971, the new label had released six albums in its first year. Other labels must have looked on enviously.

Cofounder Dick Schory had founded Chicago-based Ovation Records, which was a successful country and western label which  was providing funding for Black Jazz Records and distributing its releases. This gave the label a helping hand and meant it had an edge on its competitors.

The cofounders were determined that as wide an audience as possible hear the albums that the label was releasing so Gene Russell organised a promotional tour, In September 1971, Gene Russell and his Ray Lawrence who was his marketing consultant toured America giving interviews to newspaper journalists and featured on radio and newspaper where they showcased Black Jazz Records and its artists. This resulted in valuable publicity for the label.

By 1972, Black Jazz Records was adding new artists to their roster and signed Henry Franklin who released his album The Skipper later that year. This wasn’t the only new signing made that year. However, a familiar face returned with another album.

This was organist and pianist Doug Carn who was accompanied by his wife on his sophomore album Spirit Of The New Land. He would go on to release four albums between 1971 and 1975 and they were Black Jazz Records’ most successful releases.

The other album Black Jazz Records released in 1971 was The Awakening’s debut Hear, Sense and Feel in 1972. It wasn’t as busy a year as 1971, but Gene Russell and Dick Schory were concentrating on quality not quantity. However, the following year, 1973, was a much busier year for Black Jazz Records.

Cofounder Gene Russell returned in 1973 with Talk To My Lady which was his second album for Black Jazz Records. This was followed by Rudolph Johnson’s new album The Second Coming. However, the label’s third release of 1973 was Maiden Voyage the debut album from a new signing Kellee Patterson.

By the time Kellee Patterson signed to Black Jazz Records the young singer had achieved a lot during what was already a varied career.

Kellee Patterson was born Pat Patterson in the Midwest on the outskirts of  Chicago, but grew up Gary, Indiana. She started singing aged five, and growing up, won a number of local talent contests with her neighbours The Jacksons. While they won the male awards Kellee Patterson won the female awards. Given the success she enjoyed in the talent shows nobody was surprised when she became a professional singer.

When she was sixteen, Kellee Patterson made her professional debut as a singer, and by time she was at college she was singing with a group called Groovy and The Electra’s. Although they were essentially a rock group, Kellee Patterson sang covers of Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin songs. However, after a while she parted company with the band.

Not long after this, Kellee Patterson entered the 1971 Miss Indiana pageant under her real name. She became the first black woman to win the title and qualified for the Miss America pageant in 1972.

This turned out to be the boost that Kellee Patterson’s career needed. She made some television appearances in the Chicago area and also featured in The Streets Of San Francisco in 1972. However, after Kellee Patterson’s appearance in the Miss America pageant, word started spreading that she was a talented singer. Soon, several record companies began to offer recording contracts. This included Motown who she turned down to sign with Black Jazz Records in 1973.

Having signed with Black Jazz Records Kellee Patterson began work on her debut album which became Maiden Voyage. It was an album of eight cover versions. This included Earl DeRouen’s Magic Wand Of Love; John Lehman’ Look At The Child and Be All Your Own; Don Sebesky’s Soul Daddy (Lady) and Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. They were joined by Gordon Parks’ Don’t Misunderstand; Flip Nunez’s See You Later and Lani Hall’s You. They were recorded by Kellee Patterson and a talented band.

Maiden Voyage was recorded in Hollywood Spectrum Studios, Los Angeles, and produced by Gene Russell. The band featured double bassist John Heard, bassist Henry Davis, Sajih on congas and triangle which Billy Osborne also played. The rest of the band included pianist Ernest Van Trease, flautist George Harper, trumpeter Everett Turner and John Lasalle on tambourine. They  accompanied Kellee Patterson on her debut album Maiden Voyage.

When Maiden Voyage was released later in 1973, the album failed to attract the attention of critics and record buyers and  became of the of hidden gems in Black Jazz Records’ back-catalogue.

That was despite Maiden Voyage being the most mainstream and commercial sounding album that was released on Black Jazz Records between 1971 and 1975. However, compared to Kellee Patterson’s later albums, Maiden Voyage is very different. It has a tougher sound and is a more challenging album. Having said that it’s also a rewarding album of laidback and mellow jazz that’s also soulful. This is down to Gene Russell’s production and the band that feature on the album.

That’s the case on Magic Wand Of Love where the rhythm section provide an understated backdrop as a flute flutters above the arrangement accompanying Kellee Patterson’s heartfelt and impassioned vocal as she delivers lyrics full of social comment. One of the most beautiful songs on the album is the cover of the piano-led, jazz ballad Look At The Child. Very different is the boogaloo of Soul Daddy (Lady) which shows another side of Kellee Patterson. So does an atmospheric reading of Maiden Voyage which features lyrics written by Herbie Hancock’s sister. It meanders along shimmering keyboards, bass and stabs of trumpet accompanying the vocal during this journey in search of love.

One of the best ballads on Maiden Voyage is Don’t Misunderstand with its late-night, jazzy sound and a wistful vocal from Kellee Patterson. The tempo rises on See You Later which features a much more powerful, soulful and sultry vocal that’s full of emotion. Meanwhile, the arrangement sashays along and provides the perfect accompaniment for the vocal on this relationship song. Then the tempo drops on You as a flute flutters and ushers in the vocal on this beautiful paean and is the perfect showcase for Kellee Patterson’s vocal. So is Be All Your Own which closes Maiden Voyage where her vocal is soulful and impassioned and is accompanied by an understated arrangement that allows the vocal to take centrestage.

For Kellee Patterson, her debut album Maiden Voyage was the one that got away. Despite the quality of music on the album it failed to attract the attention of either critics or record buyers. It was a disappointing start her to recording career and she must have wondered whether she had signed to the right label?

Kellee Patterson must have wondered if things would’ve been different if she had signed to Motown who she rejected before signing to for Black Jazz Records? It was regarded as a much more fashionable label and one who wanted: “to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers” like her. The label also wanted to release an alternative to traditional jazz. Black Jazz Records must have seemed like an attractive alternative to Motown and the perfect label to launch her career.

On Maiden Voyage, Kellee Patterson there’s songs full social comment, beautiful ballads and mid-tempo tracks on what was a carefully crafted album that veers between jazz, soul and soul-jazz. It’s an album with no weak tracks and where Kellee Patterson showcases her vocal versatility. She breathe life, meaning and emotion into the eight tracks on Maiden Voyage which was the only album she released on Black Jazz Records.

Gene Russell closed the doors at Black Jazz Records for the last time in 1975, and by then, the label he had cofounded had released twenty albums. The most successful albums were the four released by Doug Carn which featured his wife Jean. Apart from these four albums, the remainder failed to find an audience until much later.

In the nineties, DJs and record collectors rediscovered the twenty albums released by Black Jazz Records. By then, many of the albums were rarities that changed hands for large sums of money. Those that owned the Black Jazz Records’ back-catalogue cherished what was a groundbreaking collection of albums and were reluctant to part with them. This includes Kellee Patterson’s debut album Maiden Voyage which has just been reissued by Real Gone Music and is the perfect introduction to a prodigiously talented vocalist who is another of jazz music’s best secrets.

Kellee Patterson-Maiden Voyage.

JACKIE MCLEAN-IT’S TIME!

Jackie McLean-It’s Time!

Label: Blue Note Records-Tone Poet Series.

Format: LP.

When Jackie McLean and his band journeyed to Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on August the ‘5th’ 1964, it was his fourteenth solo session for Blue Note Records and resulted in the album It’s Time! It which was recently reissued by Blue Note Records as part of their Tone Poet Series featured a new band and saw him revisit his old hard bop sound.

For the It’s Time! session, Jackie McLean had put together a new band. It still featured drummer Roy Haynes who at thirty-nine was the elder statesman of the band. The rest of the band were newcomers. This included thirty year old bassist Cecil McBee, pianist Herbie Hancock who was twenty-five and twenty-two year old trumpeter Charles Tolliver. They were due to record six new compositions that became It’s Time!

This included Das’ Dat, It’s Time and Snuff which were Jackie McLean compositions. They were joined by Cancellation, Revillot and Truth which were written by Charles Tolliver. The It’s Time session was engineered by Rudy Van Gelder and was produced by Alfred Lion and on August the ‘5th’ 1964.

The producer and engineer listened to what was a quite different album from Destination…Out!, which was regarded as one of the most innovative, progressive and experimental albums that Jackie McLean had recorded. He embraced the avant-garde on an album which was a fusion of post-bop and free jazz. It was thought that the followup would see him embrace free jazz fully. Instead It’s Time was an album of driving, swinging hard bop from his new band.

It’s Time! opened with Cancellation which is best described as an advanced example of driving hard bop. Horns add a fanfare while the rhythm section provide stop time rhythms and Herbie Hancock pounds his piano. Meanwhile, the almost abrasive sound of Jackie McLean’s alto-saxophone soars, wah wahs as his playing becomes fast and fluid. Charles Tolliver’s playing starts with the same fluidity but later heads in the direction of free jazz. It’s accompanied by a piano which veers between abstract, ruminative to dramatic, fluid and urgent as it’s played with speed and accuracy. Later, the band join forces and head for home never missing a beat during this breathtaking example of hard driving, angular and swinging hard bop.

Das’ Dat bursts into life and the quintet  play as one on what’s a more traditional example of hard bop. Its bluesy roots can be quite clearly heard as Jackie McLean revisits his part. The horns and piano that play leading rolls as the rhythm section ensure the track swings. When the solos come around, up first is a sultry swinging solo from the composer and bandleader. Next up is trumpeter Charles Tolliver who plays like a veteran. So does pianist Herbie Hancock whose fingers dance across the keyboards as the rhythm section provide a subtle backdrop. Then when the band reunite and head for home combining to create what can only be described as swinging, high kicking and hard bop par excellence.

It’s Time is another of the more progressive tracks on the album and the influxes of modal jazz can be heard. The quintet play at breakneck speed before it’s time for the solos and effortlessly Jackie McLean plays with speed and fluidity. Next up, is Charles Tolliver whose solo is inventive and imaginative before he builds up a head of steam and plays with speed accuracy All the time, the piano punctuates the arrangement and then Herbie Hancock delivers a fleet-fingered solo his fingers caress, jab, stab and dance across before he accompanies Cecil McBee’s bass. When  drummer Roy Haynes unleashes a solo his playing is subtle as he takes a polyrhythmic approach and plays an important part in the sound and success of what’s one of the album’s highlights.

Side Two.

Horns unite, blaze and soar on Revillot before uniting with the rest of the band playing with speed and an inventiveness. From the get-go the horns go head-to head and it’s akin to a musical duel with two master craftsman showcasing their considerable skills. They deliver spellbinding solos and everyone else plays a supporting role. Even Herbie Hancock whose play with speed, jabbing, stabbing and adding flamboyant flourishes before his playing becomes fluid and sometimes abstract. Despite that, it’s the horns that steal the show.

On Snuff the horns lead the way as drums punctuate the arrangement. Soon, it’s time for the solos and Jackie McLean steps up and plays his alto-saxophone with speed, fluidity and an inventiveness during a complex solo where it bobs, weaves and winds. Herbie Hancock accompanies him and plays a supporting role. He rises to the challenge and goes toe-to-toe with the bandleader answering the saxophonist’s call and does the same with trumpeter Charles Tolliver who unleashes one of his finest performances during a complex solo takes twists and turns. Herbie Hancock is inspired and raises his game adding further flamboyant flourishes and when his solo comes around he plays with speed, accuracy and inventiveness during a breathtaking performance. All too soon, the band reunite and it’s a race to the finishing post. It’s not hands and heels going into the final furlong. Instead, it’s a sprint finish and after a performance as good as this there’s only one winner…jazz.

Closing It’s Time! is the melancholy ballad Truth which was written by Charles Tolliver. Sometimes, the truth hurts and that seems to be the case here. His trumpet playing it emotive and has a worldweary soul-baring sound. Meanwhile, the rest of the band provides a sympathetic backdrop on this beautiful ballad that shows another side to the quintet.

Having recorded It’s Time! Blue Note Records scheduled a release for the summer of 1965. In late-June, early July It’s Time! was released in a Miles Reed album cover that would later be regarded as a design classic. The album was well received by the majority of critics who had expected Jackie McLean to fully embrace free jazz on It’s Time! They were surprised to hear an album of hard bop but welcomed its familiarity of  It’s Time. Sadly, the album passed jazz fans by, and they never heard Jackie McLean’s new quintet in full flight.

It was only much later that jazz fans discovered Jackie McLean’s It’s Time! By then, it was one of the hidden gems in his back-catalogue and one the most underrated albums that he recorded at Blue Note Records. It’s Time! is an album of hard driving and swinging hard bop from Jackie McLean that features a series of breathtaking performances and is bristling with energy that somewhat belatedly is starting to receive the recognition it so richly deserves.

Jackie McLean-It’s Time!

 

CULT CLASSIC: JUDY HENSKE-HIGH FLYING BIRD.

Cult Classic: Judy Henske-High Flying Bird.

It was in 1962, when Judy Henske was living in Los Angeles, that the Queen of the Beatniks first came to the attention of Elektra Records’ founder Jac Holzman. He had just setup the A&R and marketing operation in LA and was on looking for new artists to add to Elektra Records’ roster. The first night he saw Judy Henske sing he knew that he had to sign her. It wasn’t just her powerful voice, it was also her presence onstage and bawdy humour. Jac Holzman was sure that this was a winning combination and set about signing Judy Henske.

Eventually, it cost Jac Holzman $2,000 to sign Judy Henske to Elektra Records. His initial offer was $1,000 which he hoped would secure the signature of Judy Henske. However, he was so keen to sign Judy Henske that he was willing to double his initial offer to $2,000. That was enough to secure her signature. 

Not long after this, Judy Henske recorded her eponymous debut album in front of studio audience. Judy Henske was released on Elektra Records in 1962, with High Flying Bird following in 1963. By the time High Flying Bird was released in 1963, twenty-seven year old Judy Henske had come a long way since embarking upon a solo carer four years earlier.

The Judy Henske story began in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin where Judith A. Henske was born on December ’20th’ 1936. She attended Notre Dame Grade School and then Notre Dame-McDonell Memorial High School, before heading to Rosary College, River Forest, Illinois. After that, Judy Henske enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, and when she graduated moved to Ohio. 

Judy Henske began working in the office of Oberlin College, Ohio. That was where Judy Henske’s first starting making music. Her boyfriend left her and moved to India. However, he left behind his banjo and soon, she had taught herself to play it. This was the start of a musical voyage of discovery. Soon, she was playing Dixieland jazz and murder ballads. Not long after this, Judy Henske relocated. 

This time, she moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she worked for a while as a cook in a Quaker co-operative. During this period, she was able to find herself and grow as a person. After that, Judy Henske was on the move again.

In 1959, Judy Henske relocated to San Diego where she lived in a sloop in a yacht basin. Not long after her arrival in San Diego, she started singing in the coffee houses in Pacific Beach and soon, in Los Angeles. That was where she first encountered comedian Lenny Bruce. The pair often worked together, during the time Judy Henske spent in San Diego. However, after spending the best part of two years in San Diego she was ready for a change of scenery.

Judy Henske headed to New York, where she was asked to contribute four live songs that would appear on a compilation. The Coffee House was released on the Dorian label in 1959, and marked the debut of Judy Henske. Soon, she was moving from East Coast to the West Coast.

1960 saw Judy Henske arrive in Los Angeles. She was a stranger in town and the only person she knew of was Herb Cohen who was one of the leading lights of Sunset Strip folk scene. For a new folk singer who had arrived in LA, Herb Cohen was a good man to know. 

On her first night in Los Angeles, Judy Henske went looking for Herb Cohen. She met him outside of Cosmo Alley, one of two coffee shops Herb Cohen owned. When he saw his friend clutching her banjo he asked if she could play it? This lead to an impromptu audition and before he had hired Judy Henske and become her manager. She would receive $90 for playing at his other coffee shop, the Unicorn. 

At the Unicorn, she soon became the warmup act for Lenny Bruce. By then, she had acquired a strong stage presence, where in-between songs, Judy Henske’s bawdy humour entertained patrons. They were a tough crowd, but her put downs and her incredible powerful voice  captivated the patrons at Herb Cohen’s coffee shops. Before long, Judy Henske had developed an act which was a combination humorous monologues and music which made her a popular draw. 

Dave Guard and The Whiskeyhill Singers.

So much so, that Herb Cohen decided to send Judy Henske to one of the biggest coffee shops in Oklahoma City. That was where she was spotted in early 1961 by Dave Guard, who previously, had been a member of the Kingston Trio. He was about to form a new group The Whiskeyhill Singers and he asked Judy Henske to join his new folk group and sing the female lead vocal? Before she could agree, Judy Henske had to ask her manager Herb Cohen? When he gave the go ahead, Judy Henske joined The Whiskeyhill Singers.

Compared to her gigs at the Unicorn, and warming up for Lenny Bruce, The Whiskeyhill Singers were somewhat staid by comparison. Dave Guard brought to Judy Henske onboard The Whiskeyhill Singers to provide balance to the group. She was going to be yin to his yang, on their debut album.

This was Dave Guard and The Whiskeyhill Singers which was released on Capitol in 1962. By then, the group had honed their own, unique sound and style. It was hailed as often innovative by critics. However, Dave Guard and the Whiskeyhill Singers failed to find an audience upon its release. Nether did the singles Ride On Railroad Bill nor Plane Wreck At Los Gatos when they were released in 1962. Despite this, The Whiskeyhill Singers began work on their sophomore album.

How The West Was Won.

Before that, The Whiskeyhill Singers were asked to provide some songs to the How The West Was Won soundtrack. Originally, the producers of this MGM wanted to the Kingston Trio to feature on the soundtrack. However, when they heard that Dave Guard had a new group, The Whiskeyhill Singers they felt their sound was much more suited to the soundtrack. This resulted in the The Whiskeyhill Singer being asked to feature on the How the West Was Won soundtrack. For Judy Henske, and the rest of The Whiskeyhill Singers this was the break they were looking for.

The Whiskeyhill Singers began work on their sophomore album, which was completed later in 1962. However, The Whiskeyhill Singers 2nd Album was never released by Capitol Records. Nor long after that, Dave Guard called time on The Whiskeyhill Singers. It had been a short-lived, unfortunately, unsuccessful project that lasted just over six months. However, they had managed to record a lot of music during this period.

After the demise of The Whiskeyhill Singers, Judy Henske decided to return to Los Angeles, where the folk boom was continuing. She was able to pickup where she left off, singing at the Unicorn and at the Troubadour which was well on its way to coming one of LA’s top music venues. It was where many of the biggest names in music hung out, including some of the leading lights of the folk scene.

As the folk boom continued, many within the music industry were keen to profit from the genre’s popularity. Many music industry veterans were aware that folk music, like previous genres, was a bubble, that could burst at any minute. The trick was to make hay while the sun shined. This included compiling and releasing a slew of folk compilations. With Judy Henske’s star in the ascendancy, it was no surprise that she was asked to feature on a couple of these compilations.

This included featuring on folk compilations like   and Folk At The Troubadour. These compilations would introduce Judy Henske and the other artists to a much wider audience when they were eventually released. By then, twenty-six year old Judy Henske had made a big breakthrough. 

It was just another night when Judy Henske took to the stage at an LA club. She had honed her stagecraft and had onstage presence that was the envy of many less talented singers. Judy Henske made it look so easy as she unleashed her incredibly powerful voice. She brought meaning and emotion to lyrics and seamlessly switched between folk and blues. Then in-between songs, she embarked on a long, but carefully cultivated monologue. The patrons were won over by Judy Henske and so was Elektra Records’ founder Jac Holzman. 

He had just setup A&R and marketing operation in LA and was on looking for new artists to add to Elektra Records’ roster. That was why he was sitting in the club, as Judy Henske started to sing. Straight away, he knew that he had to sign her. Her combination of music, monologues and bawdy humour Jac Holzman was sure,  was a winning combination. Jac Holzman set about signing Judy Henske, and adding her to Elektra Records’ burgeoning roster.

Eventually, it cost Jac Holzman $2,000 to sign Judy Henske to Elektra Records. His initial offer was $1,000 which Jac Holzman was hoping would secure Judy Henske’s signature. When she hesitated, Jac Holzman reached over and scored out $1,000 and replaced it with $2,000. That was enough to secure the signature of Judy Henske, who joined Elektra Records’ roster of folk singers. 

Not long after this, Judy Henske recorded her eponymous debut album in front of studio audience. This was what Judy Henske had been working towards for three years.

 Judy Henske.

When Judy Henske joined Elektra Records, she joined Phil Ochs and Fred Neil, Judy Collins and soon, Tim Buckley. Jac Holzman was well on his way to securing the signatures of the creme de la creme of young American folk singers.

Not long after signing to Elektra Records, Judy Henske began preparing to record her debut album. Jac Holzman had decided to record the album in front of a large studio, with an invited audience. At first, Jac Holzman thought of recording just Judy Henske and her guitar. However, he wanted a bigger sound, so decided to hire an orchestra. 

Jac Holzman secured the services of Onzy Matthews, an experienced LA based bandleader. Meanwhile, guitarist John Forsha would trombonist John ‘Streamline” Ewing would lead the orchestra. They would accompany Judy Henske on eleven tracks.

For her debut album, Judy Henske chose two of her own songs, Hooka Tooka and Lily Langtree. Judy Henske arranged Low Down Alligator, Ballad Of Little Romy, Wade In The Water, I Know You Rider, Love Henry, Every Night When The Sun Goes In and wrote new lyrics to Salvation Army Song. They were joined by JC Johnston’s Empty Bed Blues and James Shelton’s Lilac Wine. These songs would be recorded in LA, and become Judy Henske’s eponymous debut album. 

Once Judy Henske had recorded her much-anticipated eponymous debut album, it was released on Elektra Records in 1962. Critics on hearing Judy Henske, realised she was a very special and versatile singer, and the album received praise and plaudits. 

While Judy Henske was well received by critics, who were appreciative of the album and a very special young singer who was making her debut, the album failed to find an audience outside of the folk community. While this was disappointing, Judy Henske and Elektra Records’ founder Jac Holzman were playing the long game.

High Flying Bird.

By the time it came time for Judy Henske to record her sophomore album High Flying Bird, she was a popular draw in Los Angeles and New York. It looked as if her star was in the ascendancy. This was the perfect time for Jac Holzman to send Judy Henske back into the studio.

When it came to recording High Flying Bird, Judy Henske penned Oh, You Engineer with Shel Silverstein. She also added new lyrics to a number of traditional songs, including Buckeye Jim, Columbus Stockade, Lonely Train, Duncan and Brady, Good Old Wagon and Charlotte Town. Judy Henske also arranged Blues Chase Up A Rabbit. The other songs included Billy Ed Wheeler’s High Flying Bird which was joined by Till The Real Thing Comes Along, Hoagy Carmichael’s Baltimore Oriole, Arthur Herzog Jr and Billie Holliday’s God Bless The Child and Bart Howard and John Peter Windsor’s You Are Not My First Love. These thirteen songs became Judy Henske’s sophomore album High Flying Bird.

This time around, Jac Holzman who oversaw production, decided to take a different approach. There was no orchestra on Flying Bird, just a small band that featured a rhythm section of drummer Earl Palmer, bassist Bill Montgomery and guitarist Jack Marshall. They were augmented by two familiar faces, trombonist John ‘Streamline’ Ewing and Jack Forsha who would play the twelve string guitar. This quintet accompanied Judy Henske who switched between banjo and guitar on the thirteen tracks. They were recorded in small studio in Los Angeles and became High Flying Bird.

When critics heard High Flying Bird, they were greeted by a very different side of Judy Henske. Gone is the orchestra that accompanied Judy Henske on her eponymous debut album. High Flying Bird featured a much pared back sound, where the arrangements play second fiddle to Judy Henske as she moves between tear jerking ballads and rousing, uptempo tracks where she kicks loose. High Flying Bird was a potent and heady brew and one that won over critics.

Just like Judy Henske, High Flying Bird proved popular within the folk community upon its release in 1963. The problem was, that Judy Henske’s music wasn’t finding a wider audience beyond the folk community. When Jac Holzman ran the numbers, he realised that High Flying Bird hadn’t sold enough copies to warrant offering Judy Henske another contract. For Judy Henske it was the end of the for her at Elektra Records.

After just two album, Judy Henske and High Flying Bird, one of the rising stars of the American folk scene found herself without a label. For Judy Henske her recording career was already at a crossroads.

It was ironic that she had released to accomplished albums, Judy Henske and High Flying Bird, which later, was credited as one of the albums that led to the folk rock genre. However, in 1963, nobody realised that Judy Henske had provided what was essentially the blueprint to folk rock. It was only much later, when music historians were tracing folk rock’s roots that they realised the importance and relevance of Judy Henske’s sophomore album High Flying Bird. 

After leaving Elektra Records, Judy Henske released Little Bit of Sunshine…Little Bit of Rain on Mercury Records in 1965. Just like her two Elektra Records albums, Little Bit of Sunshine…Little Bit of Rain failed to find a wider audience. Sadly, it was a similar case with The Death Defying Judy Henske, which was released on Reprise in 1966. 

Three years later, in 1969, and Judy Henske and her husband Jerry Yester, who was also a musician, released their cult classic Farewell Aldebaran in 1969. There was no followup, as the couple were about to embark upon a new musical venture.

By 1971, Judy Henske and Jerry Yester had founded Rosebud with Craig Doerge, John Seiter, and David Vaught. Rosebud released their eponymous debut album in 1971. However, following Rosebud’s release, the band played a couple of live shows, and split up. Judy Henske and Jerry Yester divorced, and she went on to marry and Craig Doerge in 1973. Not long after this, Judy Henske retired from performing and recording. 

Judy Henske was only thirty-even when she announced that she was retiring from music. She continued to write songs and eventually, after over twenty years away from music, Judy Henske was ready to make a comeback in the nineties.

Her comeback went so well, that Judy Henske released two studio albums 1999s Loose In the World and 2004s She Sang California. By then, Judy Henske’s music was finding a wider audience receiving the recognition it deserved. Especially her first two albums Judy Henske and High Flying Bird. They’re a reminder on Judy Henske at the peak of her powers when it looked like she was destined to become one of the biggest names in folk music. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and Judy Henske whose now eighty-three, and has been blind for the past thirteen years, didn’t enjoy the success her talent warranted. A reminder of Judy Henske’s considerable talent can be found on the two albums she released for Elektra Records Judy Henske and her the peerless High Flying Bird which nowadays, is regarded as an album that provided the blueprint to folk rock.

Cult Classic: Judy Henske-High Flying Bird.