FIREFALL’S GLORY YEARS…AND BEYOND.

Firefall’s Glory Years and,,,Beyond.

When Gram Parsons and The Fallen Angeles headed out on tour in 1973, little did anyone realise that this tour would be God’s Own Singer’s  swan-song. By then,  twenty-six year old Gram Parson had embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle and had an insatiable appetite for drink and drugs. Sadly, this would result in  Gram Parson’s death on September 19th 1973. 

A post-mortem  found that the cause of Gram Parsons’ death was an overdose of morphine and alcohol. Sadly, the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that Gram Parsons had embraced, had resulted in his death, aged just twenty-six. Gram Parsons’ friends, family and band struggled to come to terms with his death. This included Rick Roberts.

He had known Gram Parsons since they had been members of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Gram Parsons had been one of the founding members in 1968, and Rick Roberts had joined in 1970. Then when Gram Parsons embarked upon a solo career, Rick Roberts left The Flying Burrito Brothers and became a member of The Fallen Angels, Gram’s backing band. That was until that fateful night in September 1973.

Eventually, after Gram Parson death, Rick Roberts began to think of the future. By then, Rick Roberts was back home in Colorado. So too was Jock Bartley, who had replaced Tommy Bolin in Zephyr. They had first met when Gram Parsons and The Fallen Angels were playing two nights in the same venue in New York. Since then, they had kept in touch.

Now back home in Colorado, Rick Roberts and Jock Bartley were reunited. One day, Rick Roberts arrived as Jock Bartley was playing his guitar. Rick Roberts watched as Jock Bartley unleashed a virtuoso  performance. This lead to Rick Roberts suggesting they practise together.

Soon, Rick Roberts and Jock Bartley were practising together regularly. Before long, they began to think about forming a band together. So they began to think of possible additions. The first name on their list was Mark Andes, a bassist and singer.

Mark Andes had previously been a member of Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne. That was until he decided to retire, albeit temporarily, and went to live in the rocky mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado. Rick Roberts and Jock Bartley were hoping to tempt Mark Andes out of retirement. They succeeded, and bassist Mark Andes joined the nascent band. This left just three possible names on the list.

The first was Larry Burnett, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who Rick Roberts had met Larry on his travels. When Rick Roberts was putting a new band together, he decided the Larry Burnett fitted the bill.

So did keyboardist and guitarist Mark Hallman, who knew Mark Andes from the band Navarro. However, when Mark Hallman was asked to join Firefall, he rejected the opportunity, and eventually joined Carole King’s backing band. While this was a disappointment, the search for a drummer went on.

Various local drummers were auditioned, but failed to make the grade. Eventually, Rick Roberts decided to phone an old friend…Chris Hillman. He had an impressive C.V, and previously had been a member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. That was where he met Rick Roberts. However, since leaving The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Hillman had lived first in Hawaii and then in Washington. When Rick phoned Chris Hillman, he agreed to head to Colorado and joined Firefall.

For their first year together, Firefall played in the pubs and clubs around Colorado. Quickly, Firefall became a popular draw in Boulder and Aspen, where the nascent band honed and tightened their sound. After just over a year of playing live, Firefall decided to record a demo.

The three song demo Firefall recorded was produced by Chris Hillman, and shopped to the major labels. When it failed to find a taker, things weren’t looking good for Firefall.

So much so, that in 1975, Rick Roberts, Jock Bartley and Mark Andes were drafted in to Chris Hillman’s band for several performances. This included a gig at The Other End in New York, during June 1975. Not long after the band arrived in New York, Chris Hillman became ill, and couldn’t continue the tour. So Larry Burnett and The Byrds’ drummer were drafted in to play at The Other End and finish the tour.

In the audience that night at The Other End, was Atlantic Records’ A&R executive. He listened to Firefall’s demo tape, and then made his way to the front of the stage. After Firefall’s set, the Atlantic Records’ A&R executive headed backstage and signed Firefall on a multi-album contract. At last, Firefall were signed to a major label.

There was a problem though. Rick Roberts had agreed to head out on tour with Stephen Stills during the summer of 1975. This meant the recording of Firefall’s eponymous debut album had to be postponed until Rick’s return. It wasn’t until late 1975 that work on Firefall could begin.

Firefall.

After Rick Roberts returned from touring with Stephen Stills, a decision was made that David Muse should also join Firefall in the studio. He was a talented multi-instrumentalist, who could seamlessly switch between saxophone, flute, keyboards and harmonica. David Muse would add a new dimension to Firefall’s sound. So would Jim Mason, who had been chosen to produce Firefall’s debut album.

For Firefall’s eponymous debut album, Rick Roberts penned the album opener It Doesn’t Matter with Stephen Stills and Chris Hillman. He was no longer a member of Firefall, and had been replaced by Michael Clark. Rick Roberts also wrote Livin’ Ain’t Livin’, Dolphin’s Lullaby,You Are The Woman and Mexico. Larry Burnett wrote Love Isn’t All, No Way Out, Cinderella, Sad Ol’ Love Song and Do What You Want. These songs were recorded at Criteria Studios, in Miami.

When Firefall arrived at Criteria Studios, the lineup featured a rhythm section of drummer Michael Clark; bassist Mark Andes; and Larry Burnett on electric and acoustic rhythm guitar. Jock Bartley added lead, slide and pedal guitar; while Rick Roberts added acoustic guitar. New recruit David Muse played piano, clavinet, synths, flute, tenor sax and harmonica. Guest artist Joe Lala was drafted in to add a myriad of percussion. The man tasked with producing Firefall was Jim Mason.  Once the album was recorded and mastered, the release of Firefall was scheduled for May 1976.

Before that, critics had their say on Firefall. They were won over by a polished and accomplished album where soft rock rub shoulders with folk rock, country and Americana.  It Doesn’t Matter opened the album, and was a  slice of Californian soft rock, which whetted the listener’s appetite for the rest of Firefall. This included songs like No Way Out and the ballads Dolphin’s Lullaby, Love Isn’t All and Sad Ol’ Love Song, which lead to comparisons with The Eagles. However, for many critics, one song stood head and shoulders above the rest, the soft rock classic You Are the Woman. It oozed quality, and had single written all over it. So did Livin’ Ain’t Livin’ and the wistful country rock ballad Cinderella. These songs  showcased a tight, talented and versatile band who put all their years of experience to good use on Firefall.  It was released to critical acclaim in May 1976.

When Firefall was released, it reached number twenty-eight on the US Billboard 200, and sold in excess of 500,00o0 copies. This resulted in Firefall being certified gold. By then, Firefall were being compared to The Eagles and Poco. This was a lot to live up to. However, more success had come Firefall’s way and they had just enjoyed their first hit single.

You Are The Woman had been released as a single, and reached number nine on the US Billboard 100 and number six on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts. Livin’ Ain’t Livin’ then reached forty-two in the US Billboard 100, while Cinderella reached just thirty-four in the US Billboard 100.This wasn’t a true reflection on the song. The problem was that radio stations were unwilling to play the single, because of its controversial lyrics. Despite the lack of radio play, it gave Firefall a minor hit single. With three hit singles and an album that had just been certified gold, Firefall were one of music’s rising stars. They embarked on their first lengthy tour. 

Over the next two years, Firefall were constantly touring. They shared the bill with everyone from Leon Russell to The Doobie Brothers and Tom Waits to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Roy Buchanan, the Electric Light Orchestra and The Band. However, Firefall had to fit in the recording of their sophomore album Luna Sea.

MI0001917915

Luna Sea.

Originally, the working title for Firefall’s sophomore album was Tropical Nights. Just like their eponymous debut album, it was scheduled to be recorded at Criteria Studios, in Miami where David Muse would make his debut as a full-time member of Firefall. However, percussionist Joe Lala, who returned for the recording of Luna Sea, was still a guest artist.

So were The Memphis Horns, who join Firefall at Criteria Studios when recording of their sophomore album got underway. Firefall were also joined by Poco’s Timothy B. Schmidt and a trio of female backing vocals. They joined percussionist Joe Lala, and the newly expanded lineup of Firefall. Again, Jim Mason had been drafted in to produce the album. Everything seemed to go to plan, and within a month,  Firefall’s sophomore album was completed. However, there was a problem.

Once the album was completed, it was sent to Atlantic Records. They decided after hearing the final mix, that the album would have to be recorded.

This time, Fireball headed to Los Angeles, where some of the songs on Luna Sea were rerecorded. Other songs were discarded, and replaced by new songs. By the time Luna Sea was complete, Rick Roberts had written four songs, and Larry Burnett three songs. They also cowrote Even Steven, while Just Think and Piece Of Paper were credited to Firefall. This was the first time the band had written songs together. Both made their way onto Luna Sea, which was released in 1977.

Prior to the release of Luna Sea, critics received advance copies of the album. Just like Firefall, Luna Sea was  a slick, polished and accomplished album that attracted critical acclaim from critics. Again, soft rock rubbed shoulders with folk rock, country and Americana. So Long the album opener, was a guitar driven slice of soft rock. It gives way to one of Luna Sea’s highlights, Just Remember I Love You. Just like Someday Soon and Only A Fool, it’s a beautiful country-tinged ballad, that’s reminiscent of The Eagles. These ballads offer ample opportunity for Firefall to showcase their trademark close harmonies. However, other tracks find Firefall showcasing their versatility.

Someday Soon is a fusion of blues and country; while Just Think finds Firefall heading in the direction of blues rock. Getaway features The Memphis Horns, who add stabs of horns on a track that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on an Eagles album. Head On Home,  a mid tempo country rocker, where the trio of female backing vocalists add the finishing touches. Very different is Piece Of Paper, which is a melancholy ballad. It features Firefall at their best. This leaves just Even Steven, another catchy country rock track, which bookends Luna Sea perfectly. 

When Luna Sea was released in 1977, it reached twenty-seven in the US Billboard 200. The lead single, Just Remember I Love You reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100, and number one in the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts. However, the followup So Long, stalled at just forty-eight in the US Billboard 100. Despite this, Luna Sea had built on the success of Firefall. The future it seemed looked bright for Firefall

MI0001917915

Elan.

Behind the scenes, it was a different story. All was not well within Firefall. The band had spent nearly two years touring nearly nonstop. That had been the case since the release of Firefall in May 1976, right through to 1978 when the band’s thoughts turned to recording their third album Elan. By then, Firefall had toured with the great and good of music. This included opening for Fleetwood Mac on their Rumours’ tour. For Firefall, this should’ve introduced their music to a wider audience. Instead, it almost tore Firefall apart.

During the two years of nonstop touring, some of the members of Firefall had acquired expensive habits. Rick Roberts, Larry Burnett and Michael Clarke all began to drink heavily and began to experiment with drugs. Soon, things had escalated, and drink and drugs became a problem within Firefall, as Rick Roberts, Larry Burnett and Michael Clarke all became heavy drug users. This started to affect the group dynamics. To further complicate matters, Firefall were having problems with their management. For a group who were at the peak of their popularity, and about to record their third album, this didn’t bode well.

For their third album, Firefall decided to bring a new producer onboard. This was a huge risk, as Jim Mason had played an important  part in the rise and rise of Firefall. However, their minds were made up, and Tom Dowd was brought onboard to produce Elan.

By 1978, Tom Dowd had an enviable track record. His career began in 1947, and over the last thirty-one years he had produced everyone from Charlie Mingus and Cream to Dusty Springfield and Eric Clapton, to Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers, Chicago and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Now Tom Dowd was tasked with uniting a band divided.

For Elan, ten new songs had been penned. Just like Firefall’s two previous albums, they came from the pen of Larry Burnett and Rick Roberts. This time around, Larry Burnett wrote three songs, while Rick Roberts wrote five new songs. Rick also wrote Sweet and Sour with Jock Bartley; and Anymore with Mark Andes. These tracks were recorded at Criteria Sound with Tom Dowd.

When recording began at Criteria Studios, Miami, Firefall were joined by drummer Jim Keltner, vocalist Laura Taylor and percussionist Steve Forman. They would augment Firefall as they recorded ten new tracks. However, the Firefall and Tom Dowd partnership proved not to be the dream team everyone had hoped.

While the members of Firefall got on well with Tom Dowd, the problem was he had a different ‘vision’ for the band. They were content to stick with the formula that had served them well for two albums. Rather than trying to sort out their differences, Firefall continued to record Elan. Eventually, Firefall’s new management company decided to intervene. By then, Elan was recorded, and a large amount of money had been spent. This was money wasted, in light of what happened next.

Firefall’s management company approached Mick Fleetwood, who the band had recently befriended. He was part of one of the most successful bands in the world, and listened as Firefall told him that they weren’t happy with their third album. Eventually, he agreed to speak to executives at Atlantic Records, in the hope that they would allow Firefall to rerecord Elan.

When Mick Fleetwood got in touch with Atlantic Records, they agreed to let Firefall rerecord  Elan. There was a catch though, Firefall would have pay for the rerecording of their third album. While this put the band into debt, they were willing to do so.

For the rerecording of Elan, Atlantic Records brought onboard Howard and Ron Albert to coproduce the album. The sessions took place at Criteria Sound in Miami, and the Record Plant in Los Angeles. By the time the sessions were complete, Elan was transformed and was a very different album. Firefall’s decision to rerecord  Elan paid off.

Before the release of Elan, critics had their say on Firefall’s third album. They hailed the album Firefall’s finest hour. That  was not surprising given the quality of songs on Elan. It features the heart wrenching ballad Strange Way. It’s one of several beautiful ballads, including  Baby, Goodbye, I Love You and Sweet Ann. They’re joined by the mid-tempo country rocker Sweet And Sour; the blues rock of  Wrong Side Of Town; the country rock ballad Count Your Blessings and Get You Back which features Firefall at their rockiest. Coming a close second was the country rock of  Anymore. Closing Elan was the bluesy rocker Winds Of Change. While Elan was different from their two previous albums, critics agreed it had one thing in common…quality.

When Elan was released in 1978, it reached number twenty-seven in the US Billboard 200, and was certified platinum. The lead single Strange Way reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100, while Goodbye, I Love You stalled at number forty-three. Despite this, Firefall had just enjoyed the most successful album of their career. It should’ve been a time to celebrate.

MI0000081548

Sadly, it wasn’t. The three years Firefall had spent constantly touring and recording, had caught up on the band. Firefall were almost burnt out. Michael Clarke was drinking heavily, and sometimes,  missed shows. Other times, Michael was ‘unfit’ to play. It got that German drummer Dan Holsten was on standby, and was ready to replace Michael Clarke. However, before long, Firefall realised there was another problem.

After three successful albums, which had sold over 1.5 million copies in America alone, the members of Firefall must have thought there was a  nice nest egg awaiting them. Alas, that proved not to be the case.

Firefall’s finances weren’t in the best of health. That wasn’t surprising as they had rerecorded two of their three albums, and embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. All this was expensive, and was something that Firefall would regret in the future. 

The band had just enjoyed the most successful period of they career between 1976 and 1978. They had sold nearly two million albums in America alone and resulted in seven hit singles. It looked as if Firefall was going to become one of the biggest American bands of the late-seventies. Sadly, it turned that Firefall’s glory days were behind them.

Following Elan, Firefall released Undertow in 1979 and Clouds Across The Sun in 1980. Neither album replicated the success of Firefall’s first three albums, and it looked as if  Firefall’s career was on the slide. Especially when Atlantic Records dropped Firefall just a couple of years after they Elan was certified platinum. It was a case of how the mighty had fallen. For Firefall, it looked as if this was the end of the road for Firefall.

Then in early 1982, Jock Bartley began putting together a new lineup of Firefall. With the new lineup complete,  Firefall signed to Atlantic Records, and released Break Of Dawn in 1982. This was followed by and a year Mirror Of The World in 1983. Commercial success eluded both albums, which never came close to replicating the the success of Firefall’s first three albums. Soon,  history repeated itself again when Firefall were dropped again by Atlantic Records.  It would be another eleven years before they released another studio album.

By the time Firefall released Messenger in 1994, they were a very different band. However, this didn’t stop Jim Mason returning to the produce Messenger. It featured Firefall’s usual mixture of  ballads and rockier songs. When Messenger was complete, it was released on Redstone Records, and regarded as a return to form from Firefall. Some critics went as far as compare Messenger to their early albums. While this was stretching things somewhat, Firefall’s fans welcomed the release of Messenger. It was just the latest chapter in the Firefall story. Surely, another album would follow be released and build on Messenger?

It was another  thirteen years before Firefall returned with Colorado to Liverpool–A Tribute To The Beatles in 2007. Two years later in 2009, Firefall Reunion Live was released some forty-three years after Firefall released their eponymous debut album. Firefall were still making music, and still continue to do so.

Seven years later, and Firefall continue to play live. The only original members of the band that remain are Jock Bartley, Mark Andes and David Muse, who featured on Firefall, but only became a permanent member on Luna Sea. They’ve not lost their appetite for music, and continue to play live and bring back memories of Firefall’s glory days.

Firefall’s glory days were  between 1976 and 1978, when they released a triumvirate of critically acclaimed albums that sold the best part of two million copies in America alone. This started with  Firefall in 1976, with  Luna Sea following in 1977  and  Elan a year later in 1978. It marked the end of Firefall’s glory years, which should’ve lasted much longer.

Three years of constant touring  and recording took their toll on Firefall. So did the lifestyle problems and problems with their new management company. After three critically acclaimed albums, Firefall’s career went into decline and they never fully recovered. Sadly, Firefall would never come close to reaching the heights of Firefall, Luna Sea and Elan, which feature Firefall at their very best during their glory years, when anything seemed possible for the Colorado based band.

Firefall’s Glory Years and…Beyond.

 

Advertisements

SANDY DENNY-FROM FOTHERINGAY TO THE SOLO YEARS.

Sandy Denny-From Fotheringay To The Solo Years.

In December 1969, an announcement was made that Sandy Denny had left Britain’s leading folk band, Fairport Convention. This came as a shock to many as Fairport Convention, who were Britain’s first electric folk band, popularity been rising over the past two years. Playing her part in the rise and rise of Fairport Convention was Sandy Denny who had previously been a member of The Strawbs. Sandy Denny joined Fairport Convention  in  1968 when she replaced Judy Dyble.

What We Did On Our Holidays.

Sandy Denny made her Fairport Convention debut on the band’s  sophomore album What We Did On Our Holidays, which was recorded at Kingsway and Olympic Studio No. 1 between June and October 1968. When What We Did On Our Holidays was released in January 1968, the album marked a moved towards folk rock. Playing an important part in the sound and success of What We Did On Our Holidays were Sandy Denny’s haunting ethereal, vocals. They would play their part in the rise and rise of Fairport Convention.

Unhalfbricking.

Just  six months later, Fairport Convention returned with their third album Unhalfbricking in July 1969. It had been recorded between January and April 1969 at Sound Techniques and Olympic Studios in London. During these sessions, Fairport Convention moved away from the American folk influence to a much more traditional English folk sound on Unhalfbricking. When it was released, it was hailed as the finest album of Fairport Convention’s three album career. Just like on What We Did On Our Holiday, Sandy Denny beautiful, elegiac and emotive vocals played an important part in the albums sound and indeed success. Even after just two albums with Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny was playing an important part in the band she had joined just a year earlier.

Liege and Lief.

Five months later, in December 1969, Fairport Convention returned with their fourth album Liege and Lief, which was their third album of the year. The majority of Liege and Lief was recorded on the ‘16th,’ ‘19th,’ ‘22nd’ and  ‘29th’ of  October 1969. Two days later, the final session taking place on the ‘1st’ of November 1969. Just over a month later, Liege and Lief was released in December 1969,

Liege and Lief was an album of songs that had been adapted from traditional British and Celtic folk, and this future folk classic found favour with critics and fans. The album reached seventeen in the British charts. However, by then, Sandy Denny had announced her departure from  Fairport Convention in later December 1969. The reason Sandy Denny gave for her departure from  Fairport Convention was that she wanted  to hone her songwriting skills. That was the plan.

Fotheringay.

Not long after her departure from Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny decided to form a new band, Fotheringay. So in early 1970, Sandy Denny started looking for musicians to join hew new band. One of the first musicians she brought onboard was Trevor Lucas, an Australian guitarist. 

Trevor Lucas was now based in Britain, where he was a familiar face in the British folk scene. Previously, Trevor Lucas was a member of another folk-rock group Eclection. That was when Trevor Lucas first met Sandy Denny. The pair started dating in May 1969, and eventually, married in 1973. However, Trevor Lucas’s career began back in Australia, in the early sixties.

Back then, Trevor Lucas was still a solo artist. He released his debut solo album See That My Grave Is Kept Clean in 1964. Then on New Year’s Eve Trevor Lucas boarded a ship and made the journey from Australia to Britain. That was when he became a member of Eclection, and met drummer Gerry Conway.

Eclection were a folk-rock band, who were formed in 1967, and broke up two years later in 1969. However, by then, Trevor Lucas and Gerry Conway were firm friends. They renewed their musical partnership in Fotheringay.

Gradually, Sandy Denny’s new band Fotheringay was starting to take shape. The final pieces in the musical jigsaw were two former members of The Poet and The One Man Band. Guitarist Jerry Donahue had moved from Manhattan to Britain, where he quickly became stalwart of the folk scene. This wasn’t surprising as Jerry Donahue came from a musical family. His father was a Sam Donahue, the well known big band saxophonist. However, Jerry Donahue wasn’t inspired by the music his father played, and preferred, Gerry McGee, Earl Scruggs, Chet Atkins and Duane Eddy. They  all inspired Jerry Donahue who joined Fotheringay in 1970 with Edinburgh born bassist Pat Donaldson.

By 1970, Pat Donaldson was a familiar face in the London music scene. He had moved to London in the early sixties, and since then, had had been a member of Bob Xavier and the Jury, Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band and the reformed Dantalian’s Chariot. Fotheringay was just the latest group the twenty-seven year old would bassist work with. 

With the lineup of her new band finalised, all Sandy Denny needed was a name for the band. She decided on Fotheringay, after Fotheringay Castle where Mary Queen Of Scots was imprisoned. With its lineup complete and a name in place, Sandy Denny’s new band could begin work on their debut album.

Fotheringay.

Sandy Denny didn’t waste any time recording Fotheringay’s debut album. She wrote four tracks and cowrote Peace in the End with Trevor Lucas. He also penned The Ballad of Ned Kelly. Other tracks included covers of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Way I Feel, Bob Dylan’s Too Much Of Nothing and Banks of the Nile. These ten tracks were recorded between February and April, 1970 at Sound Techniques, in London with Joe Boyd producing what became Fotheringay.

Once Fotheringay was completed, the album was released in June 1970. It was one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year. Critics and record buyers eagerly anticipated the release of Fotheringay. 

They weren’t disappointed. Critics hailed the album a masterful debut. Sandy Denny was back, and better than ever. Her enchanting, ethereal vocal was complimented by a tight, talented band. Fotheringay won over critics and was released to critical acclaim.

Fotheringay sold well upon its release in June 1970, and reached number eighteen in Britain. Good as this was, it wasn’t good enough for Island Records. Their expectations and Fotheringay’s differed. Island Records had hoped the album would be one of the label’s biggest selling albums of 1970. That wasn’t the case, and soon, executives at Island Records’ stared pressurizing Sandy Denny to embark upon a solo career.

Sandy Denny was determined to try to make a go of her new band, and dug her heels in. She felt that Island Records expectations were unrealistic, and that would take a couple of albums before Fotheringhay’s music found a wider audience.  Soon, work began on what was meant to be Fotheringay’s sophomore album.

r-738067-1300210265-jpeg

Fotheringay 2.

A total of eleven tracks were meant to feature on Fotheringay’s sophomore album. This time, Sandy Denny only wrote two songs. Trevor Lucas and Pete Roach penned Knights of the Road and Restless. Among the other tracks were traditional songs, a cover of Bob Dylan’s I Don’t Believe You and the Dave Cousins’ composition Two Weeks Last Summer. These eleven tracks were recorded by an expanded lineup of Fotheringay.

Joining the usual lineup of Fotheringay was Linda Thompson, who was going to add backing vocals when the sessions began in November 1970. The sessions continued into December 1970. Everyone thought that things were going to plan. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

In January 1971, it was announced that Fotheringay were no more. The band split-up and what would eventually become Fotheringay 2 was shelved. It wasn’t released until 2008. With Fotheringay  now consigned to musical history, Sandy Denny embarked upon a solo career.

r-4283797-1451540995-3831-jpeg

The Solo Years.

Sandy Denny signed to Island records, and soon, began to work  on to release her debut solo album, The North Star Grassman and The Ravens. For Sandy Denny, this was the start of a new and exciting chapter in her career.

The North Star Grassman and The Ravens.

After Fotheringay split-up, Island Records were keen for the latest signing to enter the studio. Sandy Denny, Island Records believed, could become one of the company’s biggest selling artists. When Sandy Danny entered the studios in March 1971, it was with the weight of expectation on her shoulders.

By then, Sandy Denny was maturing as a songwriter. This was what she had planned to hone her songwriting skills after she left Fairport Convention in December 1969. By March 1971 she was an accomplished songwriter and had written eight of the eleven songs on The North Star Grassman and The Ravens. This included Late November and John The Gun which had been recorded for the Fotheringay  2 sessions. Among Sandy’s other compositions, were The Sea Captain, The Optimist, Next Time Around, Wretched Wilbur, The North Star Grassman and The Ravens and Crazy Lady Blues. They joined a rework of the traditional song Blackwaterside; Bob Dylan’s Down In The Flood and Charles Robins’ Let’s Jump The Broomstick. These songs were recorded over a three-month period with some familiar faces.

The recording sessions began in March 1971, at Sound Techniques, with Sandy Denny, John Wood and Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson tanking charge of production. Just two songs were recorded there, Blackwaterside and Let’s Jump The Broomstick. Then things were moved in-house and the rest of the sessions took place at Island Studios, in London.

At Island Studios, Sandy was accompanied on some of the tracks, by the rest of Fotheringay. Other musicians were drafted in when needed. This included Buddy Emmons on pedal steel guitar; drummer Roger Powell; bassist Tony Reeves; violinist Barry Dransfield and Ian Whiteman on piano and flute organ. Royston Wood and Robin Dransfield added backing vocals on John The Gun. Richard Thompson played accordion, bass, electric and acoustic guitar. His vocal featured on Down In The Flood. Harry Robertson arranged the strings on Next Time Around and Wretched Wilbur. By May 1971, The North Star Grassman and The Ravens was complete. It would be released four months later.

Before the release of The North Star Grassman and The Ravens, critics had their say on Sandy Denny’s debut solo album. With its mixture of Sandy Denny compositions, and cover versions, it was a truly captivating album. Sandy’s vocals were compelling, as she breathed meaning and emotion into lyrics. Among the highlights were John The Gun, Late November, the wonderfully wistful Next Time Around and The North Star Grassman and The Ravens. That’s not forgetting Down In The Flood, where the interplay between Richard Thompson’s guitar and Sandy’s vocal is masterful. The only song some critics felt let the album down slightly, was Let’s Jump The Broomstick and Down In The Flood. Still, though, The North Star Grassman and The Ravens was a hailed a musical masterpiece and minor folk rock classic. Sandy Denny it seemed, could do no wrong.

When The North Star Grassman and The Ravens was released in September 1971, the album didn’t sell in the huge quantities that Island Records had hoped. They seemed to envisage Sandy Denny enjoying the commercial success that Joni Mitchell was enjoying. That wasn’t to be. However, Sandy Denny was enjoying the same critical acclaim that her American counterpart was enjoying.

r-5366723-1391619629-3502-jpeg

Sandy.

There was no rest for Sandy Denny after she returned from a tour to promote the release of her debut album, The North Star Grassman and The Ravens. Two weeks later, in November 1971, Sandy Denny began recording his sophomore album Sandy at Sound Techniques and Island Studios.

By then, Sandy Denny had been busy, and had written eight new songs. This included It’ll Take a Long Time, Sweet Rosemary, For Nobody to Hear, Listen, Listen, The Lady, Bushes and Briars, It Suits Me Well and The Music Weaver. These songs joined covers of Bob Dylan’s Tomorrow Is A Long Time, and the traditional song The Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood, which Richard Fariña had written lyrics for. These songs were recorded by a band that featured  familiar faces and new names.

The first change was that Trevor Lucas had been hired to produce Sandy. John Wood who had played such an important part in the sound and success of The North Star Grassman and The Ravens was relegated to engineer. Similarly, Richard Thompson’s only part in Sandy was playing on five songs. However, one thing hadn’t changed, where the studios that were used.

Just like with Sandy Denny’s debut album, recording took place at Sound Techniques and Island Studios. When the first sessions took place in November 1971, Sandy was joined by British folk royalty, including Fotheringay bassist Pat Donaldson. He was joined by four members of Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson on mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar, vocalist Linda Thomson, violinist Dave Swarbrick and Trevor Lucas on acoustic guitar. They were joined by some new names.

This included The Flying Burrito Brothers’ pedal steel player Sneaky Pete Kleinow. He was joined by organist and pianist John Bundrick. Both men played on It’ll Take A Long Time and Tomorrow Is A Long Time. The final member of Sandy Denny’s band was John Kirkpatrick who played concertina on It Suits Me Well. Now the recording could get underway.

With an all-star band for company, Sandy Denny recorded the ten songs over five sessions held during November 1971 and then in April and May 1972. Once the ten songs were recorded, the strings and horns were added.

Harry Robertson was brought in to arrange the strings on Listen, Listen, The Lady and The Music Weave. Allen Toussaint was drafted in to arrange the horns on For Nobody to Hear. Rather than travel to Britain, Allen Toussaint recorded the horn section at the Deep South Studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Once the strings and horns were added, and Sandy was mixed and mastered, the album was ready for release.

Before that, critics received their advance copy of Sandy. The promotion of Trevor Lucas to the position of producer had paid off. He managed to combine the two sides of Sandy Denny’s music. This was the traditional folk sound, and the more modern folk rock sound. Part of this was in the choice of instruments. Traditional instruments like a mandolin and acoustic guitar harked back to folk music’s past; while the pedal steel and Hammond organ were its future. However, key to the success of Sandy were Sandy Denny’s skills as a singer and songwriter. 

Some of Sandy’s finest moments were on Listen, Listen, where strings and a mandolin accompany her vocals, and on The Lady, where Sandy delivers a heartfelt vocal. Then on Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood, the lushest of strings provide the perfect backdrop for Sandy. It was a similar case with the horns on For Nobody to Hear. Bob Dylan’s oft-covered Tomorrow Is A Long Time takes on new meaning thanks on Sandy. Critics were calling Sandy a minor classic. Surely the album would bring commercial success Sandy Denny’s way?

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. When Sandy was released in September 1972, history repeated itself and Sandy was the commercial success that Island Records was hoping for. This was a huge disappointment for Sandy Denny, and it would nearly two years before she returned with her third album Like An Old Fashioned Waltz.

r-1855074-1262693364-jpeg

Like An Old Fashioned Waltz.

After returning from a tour where she was promoting her sophomore album Sandy, Island Records wanted Sandy Denny to head back into the studio. The recording then touring schedule was relentless. However, the tour gave Sandy time to think.

She decided that she wanted to make her impression musically. Sandy Denny had been rubbing shoulders with two Britain’s biggest musical exports, Led Zeppelin and The Who. She had performed with both bands, and saw how the other half lived. By the end of the tour, Sandy Denny had decided that she wanted to enjoy a taste of the commercial success both bands were enjoying. This was music to executives at Island Records’ ears.  However, Sandy Denny was still disappointed by the commercial failure of her first two albums. It seemed folk rock wasn’t going to make Sandy Denny rich. That was when she realised that she would have  broaden her appeal if she wanted to enjoy the commercial success she wanted.

In her heart of hearts, Sandy Denny knew her music had to change if it was to appeal to a much wider audience. So for her third album Like An Old Fashioned Waltz, Sandy decided to make some changes. Elements of pop and jazz would join her usual folk rock sound on her next album, Like An Old Fashioned Waltz. Despite deciding to change direction musically, Sandy decided to stick with Trevor Lucas who had produced Sandy.

It would’ve been awkward if Sandy Denny decided to change producer, as Trevor Lucas and Sandy Denny were married during 1973. The only change Sandy Denny made, was to bring John Wood back as co-producer. They would co-produce Like An Old Fashioned Waltz in London and Los Angeles.

For Like An Old Fashioned Waltz, Sandy Denny had written eight new sings. The only cover versions were Doris and Fred Fisher’s Whispering Grass and Sammy Cahn, Saul Chaplin and L.E. Freeman’s Until The Real Thing Comes Along. Sandy Denny remembered the two songs  from her father’s record collection, and gave them a jazzy makeover. These songs were recorded in Sound Techniques and A&M Studios, Los Angeles, between May and August 1973.

Again, the great and good of folk music were present for the recording of Like An Old Fashioned Waltz.  Sandy Denny was joined by former Fotheringay bassist Pat Donaldson, and six members of her former group Fairport Convention. This included  Richard Thompson on mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar, guitarist Jerry Donahue, bassist Dave Pegg, drummer Dave Mattacks, violinist Dave Swarbrick and Trevor Lucas on acoustic guitar. They were joined by some old faces and new names.

The old face was John Bundrick, who played on Sandy. This time around, he played organ, piano and clavinet. New names included bassist Danny Thompson, who had previously worked with Nick Drake and John Martyn. Joining Danny Thompson was drummer Gerry Conway and saxophonist Alan Skidmore. Sandy Denny’s band was shaping up nicely. Other new names included  Diz Disley on acoustic guitar; organist Jean Roussel and pianist Ian Armit. They were part of a band that spent three months recording  Like An Old Fashioned Waltz in L.A. and London. The album was completed in August 1973. This meant that Like An Old Fashioned Waltz would be released in late 1973. Or it should have been.

That was if Sandy Denny hadn’t dropped a bombshell. She announced that she was rejoining Fairport Convention, and embarked upon a tour that lasted from Autumn 1973 to June 1974. Suddenly, Island Records’ plans were in disarray.  Eventually, Island Records scheduled the release of An Old Fashioned Waltz for June 1974.

When critics heard An Old Fashioned Waltz, they were struck by how personal album it was. Many of the songs on An Old Fashioned Waltz dealt with things that preoccupied and worried Sandy Denny. This included everything from loss and loneliness, the changing of the season, a fear of the dark and ironically, the passing of time.  An Old Fashioned Waltz was also a very different album from her two previous album with its jazz and pop stylings. On a number of tracks the lushest of strings joined a subtle piano in creating a ruminative and wistful album. Highlights included the album opener Solo, Friends, Dark The Night, At the End Of The Day and No End, which gave some insight into who Sandy Denny was as a person. However, Like An Old Fashioned Waltz divided the opinion of critics.

While some reviews were positive, the usual suspects like self-styled Dean of American Rock Critics wasn’t impressed. In his Village Voice review he called Like An Old Fashioned Waltz a “slugging album.” Other critics took a more favourable view of Like An Old Fashioned Waltz. Some felt this was the album was destined to change Sandy Denny’s fortunes.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. When Like An Old Fashioned Waltz was released in June 1974, commercial success eluded the album. Whispering Grass was chosen as the lead single, and was released in 1973. This was a strange choice, as it wasn’t one of the stronger songs on the album. Unsurprisingly, it failed to catch the attention of record buyers. Worse was to come when the release of Like an Old Fashioned Waltz as a single was cancelled. For Sandy Denny, her dreams of becoming one of the biggest names in music had come to nothing. With her dreams in tatters, Sandy Denny rejoined Fairport Convention for the third and final time.

r-1907897-1262778108-jpeg

Sandy embarked upon a world tour with Fairport Convention. Trevor Lucas, Sandy’s husband had also rejoined Fairport Convention. For the time being, her solo career was on hold. Then as 1975 drew to a close,  Sandy’s thoughts turned to her solo career, and her fourth album Rendezvous.

Rendezvous.

As 1975 gave way to 1976, Sandy Denny began writing Rendezvous. She penned Gold Dust, Take Me Away, One Way Donkey Ride, I’m A Dreamer, All Our Days and No More Sad Refrains. The other three songs on Rendezvous were cover versions. This included Richard Thompson’s I Wish I Was a Fool For You (For Shame of Doing Wrong); Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Candle In The Wind and Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds’ Silver Threads and Golden Needles. Recording of these songs began in April 1976.

By then, Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas had decided to try one more time, to move Sandy Denny’s music towards the mainstream. They had tried this on Like An Old Fashioned Waltz, which featured jazz and pop stylings. For the latest reinvention of Sandy Denny’s music, her music took on a contemporary rock sound on Rendezvous. This was very different from Sandy Denny’s previous albums.

Rendezvous was recorded between April and June 1976 at Island Studios Basing Street and Hammersmith; CBS Studios in London; Strawberry Studios  in Stockport and  Sound Techniques in Chelsea, London. Accompanying Sandy was a band the featured over thirty musicians and backing vocalists.

This included Sandy Denny’s former colleagues in Fairport Convention, guitarist Jerry Donahue and Richard Thompson, bassist Dave Pegg, drummer Dave Mattacks and Trevor Lucas on acoustic guitar. They were joined reggae guitarist Junior Murvin, John Bundrick on synths and piano; Steve Winwood on organ, piano and clarinet and former Fotheringay bassist Pat Donaldson. Adding backing vocals were Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle; Kay Garner and Clare Torry, plus  Sue Glover and Sunny Leslie. Even The Silver Band made a guest appearance on Silver Threads and Golden Needles. Much of Rendezvous had been recorded between 23rd of April and 7th of June 1976 at Basing Street and Island Studios.

When everyone arrived at the studio, Harry Robertson had arranged the strings on Candle In The Wind, I’m a Dreamer and All Our Days. Steve Gregory had arranged the horns on Take Me Away. Even The Silver Band’s appearance on Silver Threads and Golden Needles required the Robert Kirby to be brought onboard. John Wood again, returned to the role of engineer as Trevor Lucas produced Rendezvous. Now the sessions began. Straight away, there was a problem.

During these sessions, Sandy Denny’s voice neither the same purity nor ethereal quality. During the Fairport Convention tour, she had been drinking and smoking heavily. Sadly, this had taken its toll on Sandy Denny’s voice.  Still Sandy Denny was able to unleash a powerful vocal, and was always in control. On other tracks, Sandy Denny continued to breathe life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. Sandy Denny was still a one of the most talented singer, songwriter and storyteller’s of her generation. However, once Sandy Denny had recorded her vocal parts, she left the studio. Little did anyone who was present that day realise that Sandy Denny would never, ever, enter a studio again.

Despite Sandy Denny having recorded her vocals, Rendezvous was still not complete. Another session took place between the 9th and 18th of June 1976. By then, Trevor Lucas was at the overdubbing stage. He added layers of string, and also overdubbed layer after layer of backing vocals and instruments. This would prove controversial.

With the album completed in July 1976, the original album title was Gold Dust. The release date was originally scheduled for October 1976. However, the release date kept being postponed, and six months later,  when the album was eventually released in May 1977, it was  entitled Rendezvous. It was an album that didn’t win over critics.

Many critics felt Rendezvous had been overproduced. This was the result of Trevor Lucas’ constant overdubbing of layers of strings, backing vocals and instruments. There were too many strings, backing vocalist and the lead guitars and they threatened to overpower Sandy Denny’s vocals. That was a great shame, given the quality of Sandy’s songwriting, and vocals. If Trevor Lucas had taken a less is more approach, Rendezvous would’ve been a much better album. However, it was not without some fine moments.

Among them, where Gold Dust took on a Caribbean influence. Take Me Away and I’m A Dreamer became soulful torch songs. All Our Days  was a seven minute pastoral epic, which seemed to draw inspiration from Vaughan Williams. I’m A Dreamer, All Our Days and No More Sad Refrains all showcased Sandy Denny’s talents as a singer and songwriter. However, when Rendezvous was released in May 1977, it was to mixed reviews. 

When Rendezvous was belatedly released, the album passed record buyers by. It became Sandy Denny’s least successful album. The dream was almost over.

r-2062012-1464004178-3922-jpeg

Gold Dust.

Not long after the release of Rendezvous, Island Records quietly dropped Sandy Denny. Despite being without a record label, she went ahead with plans to record a live album, Gold Dust. 

After the release of Rendezvous, Sandy Denny headed out on tour to promote the album. The last date on the tour was at the Royalty Theatre in London on 27th November 1977. That night the tapes rolled.

Sandy Denny accompanied by her band, worked their way through the seventeen songs. Closing the set was a spine-tingling version of one of Sandy’s best songs Who Knows Where the Time Goes? That proved to a poignant way to end what was Sandy’s last public performance was on Gold Dust, which was released somewhat belatedly in 1998. 

r-428063-1112063266-jpg-2

After Rendezvous failed commercially, Island Records dropped Sandy. She was already drinking heavily, smoking and snorting cocaine. Soon, her behaviour became erratic. By then, Sandy Denny’s daughter Georgia was born prematurely. Despite having just become mother, Sandy Denny’s life was becoming increasingly chaotic. Richard Thompson remembers Sandy Denny: “was crashing the car and leaving the baby in the pub and all sorts of stuff.” This was a worrying time for Sandy Denny’s friends and family.

In late 1978, Sandy Denny journeyed to Cornwall, with her young daughter Georgia and her parents. During the holiday, Sandy Denny fell down a flight of stairs and hit her head on concrete. After the accident, Sandy Denny started to suffer from severe headaches. When Sandy Denny consulted a doctor, they prescribed her a strong painkiller Dextropropoxyphene  which wasn’t to be taken with alcohol. Despite this warning, Sandy Denny  continued to drink.  This was a recipe for disaster.

Just a few weeks later, tragedy struck on the ‘17th’ of  April 1978.  That night, Sandy Denny was admitted to the Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon. She fell into a coma, and four days later, on the ‘21st’ of April 1978, Sandy Denny died. A post-mortem found that the cause of Sandy Denny’s death was a brain haemorrhage and blunt force trauma. It’s likely that when Sandy Denny fell, this played a contributory factor in her death. Tragically, Sandy Denny was only thirty-one when she died. 

That day, the career of one of the finest British folk singers of her generation was cut tragically short. Music was in mourning at the loss of Sandy Denny who had achieved so much  in a short space of time. This included a brief spell with The Strawbs, before becoming the lead singer of Fairport Convention. After her departure from Fairport Convention in December 1969, Sandy Denny founded Fotheringay and then embarked upon a solo career, releasing a quartet of albums between 1971 and 1977. Just a year later, and Sandy Denny was dead, aged just thirty-one.

Music lost a hugely talented singer and songwriter. There is no doubt about that. Sandy Denny stood head and shoulders above many of her contemporaries, including some she had shared a stage with during her short career. The loss of Sandy Denny like Nick Drake five years earlier was a tragedy, and a case of what might have been?

Despite her relatively youth, Sandy Denny played a huge part in the British folk scene. She had played a huge part in the success of Fairport Convention, and founded Fotheringay. Their music has only recently received the recognition it deserved. So to some extent have Sandy Denny’s solo albums. It’s only recently that they’ve been reevaluated and started to finds a wider audience. They are a reminder of  British folk music’s greatest ever folk singer, Sandy Denny, who passed away thirty-nine years ago. As Sandy Denny sang in her finest song Who Knows Where Time  Goes?

Sandy Denny-From Fotheringay To The Solo Years.

12235091_930463570340506_4676048110597661103_n

12510482_955305571189639_1573488987499336891_n

10409734_695047317215467_790281178290748124_n

11156221_840441969342667_8339833984861244464_n

DJ VADIM AND BLACKSTONE-DOUBLE SIDED

DJ Vadim and Blackstone–Double Sided.

Label: BBE.

The first time that Californian singer-songwriter Katrina Blackstone collaborated with Barcelona-based hip hop producer DJ Vadim, was on his 2014 album Dubcatcher. Katrina Blackstone was part of what was an all-star cast of vocalists and MCs that featured on the album.  She joined YT on Give It Up and Serocee on Magnetic. These two songs were among the highlights of Dubcatcher, and showcased a truly talented singer who had a big future ahead of her. DJ Vadim realised that too.

Not long after the release of Dubcatcher, DJ Vadim embarked upon another lengthy tour, and invited Katrina Blackstone to join the tour. Since then, DJ Vadim and Katrina Blackstone have toured the world and when time permitted recorded a number of tracks. Eventually, the pair had recorded enough tracks for their first full-length album  Double Sided which has just been released on BBE and marks the debut DJ Vadim and Blackstone. However, Double Sided is no ordinary hip hop album.

Indeed, Double Sided is a hip hop album with a difference. While many hip hop albums featured a myriad of samples, DJ Vadim and Katrina Blackstone have taken a very different approach. They’ve used an array of guitars, synths and drum machines to record Double Sided. They provide to a backdrop to Katrina Blackstone’s vocals on this album where the hooks certainly haven’t been spared. There’s everything from dubby down-tempo grooves to upbeat Afro-boogie on Double Sided, which is the first much-anticipated debut album DJ Vadim and Blackstone.

For those unfamiliar with Katrina Blackstone, she was born in Tennessee, and after graduating from high school, enrolled at the prestigious New School University in New York where she studied vocal performance and jazz. Having graduated, Katrina Blackstone headed to the San Francisco, where her musical career began.

Since then, she’s been a familiar face on the indie-electronic scene, and had worked with, and alongside, a variety of artists and producers. This included collaborating with Bluetech on his 2010 album Love Songs To The Source, where Katrina Blackstone also collaborated with Dr Israel. Katrina Blackstone also worked with Killah Priest on the Legba’s Light project was created by Ron Carter, Brian Jackson and Mike Clark. Sadly, the project was never released. More recently, Katrina Blackstone has been working with veteran hip hop producer DJ Vadim.

The future DJ Vadim was born Vadim Peare in St. Petersburg, Russia. At the age of three, he and his family moved to London, which became a home from for Vadim Peare. It was also where later, Vadim Peare beam DJ Vadim. 

By 1994, the future hardest working man in hip hop had just founded his own record company Jazz Fudge. Just a year later, in 1995, DJ Vadim released his debut album Headz Ain’t Ready on his nascent Jazz Fudge label. However, later in 1995, DJ Vadim signed to the Ninja Tunes label, and released four albums between 1996 and 2002. 

Nowadays, these albums are referred to as the U.S.S.R. Quartet. The first of the U.S.S.R. Quartet was U.S.S.R. Repertoire (The Theory Of Verticality), which was released in 1996 to critical acclaim. It was a similar case when U.S.S.R. Reconstruction (Theories Explained followed in 1997 and U.S.S.R. Life From The Other Side in 1999. Completing this important and innovative quartet was U.S.S.R. The Art Of Listening in September 2002. Just the like the rest of the U.S.S.R. Quartet, it featured DJ Vadim pushing musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes beyond. In dong so, this launched DJ Vadim’s career.

Five long years passed before DJ Vadim returned with a new album.  During that five-year period, During that period, DJ Vadim was busier than ever, producing, DJ-ing and collaborating with numerous artists, including The Herbaliser, Fat Freddy’s Drop and The Super Furry Artists. After working with so many other artists, the time came for DJ Vadim was ready to make his comeback.

Having decided to make a comeback, DJ Vadim signed to one of Britain’s leading independent labels BBE. It would become home for DJ Vadim for the next ten years. His career began in April 2007 with the release of The Soundcatcher, with The Soundcatcher Extras following in November 2007. Both albums marked the welcome return of a pioneering producer who had been away too long. 

Sadly, just when everything seemed to be going well for DJ Vadim, tragedy struck during 2007, when he was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, Ocular Melanoma. Thankfully, DJ Vadim recovered from Ocular Melanoma, and within two years was ready to return with a new alum.

DJ Vadim returned with his eighth album U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun in April 2009. It was a glimpse of what hip hop had been missing for the past two years. The release of Can’t Lurn Imaginashun marked the welcome return DJ Vadim, who would spend the next collaborating with a number of artists and crisscrossing the globe DJ-ing.

Over the next two years, DJ Vadim was one of the hardest working men in hip hop. He divided his time between DJ-ing, collaborations and recording his eagerly awaited ninth album, DJ Vadim Presents The Electric’s Life Is Moving. When it was released in March 2011, DJ Vadim’s four album for BBE was hailed as a fitting followup to U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun. Critics and hip hoppers everywhere loved the album, which was an album of vintage hip hop from a hip hop veteran. 

Just over a year-and-a-half later, DJ Vadim made a welcome return with his new album Don’t Be Scared in October 2012. Again, critical acclaim accompanied Don’t Be Scared which was the tenth album DJ Vadim had released since releasing his debut album Headz Ain’t Ready in 1995. This was pretty good going, considering DJ Vadim hadn’t released an album between September 2002 and April 20007. DJ Vadim had essentially released ten albums in eleven years. It was no surprise that many within the hip hop community were calling DJ Vadim the hardest working man in

When DJ Vadim returned with the followup to Don’t Be Scared in June 2014, hip hoppers everywhere were confused as Dubcatcher wasn’t a hip hop album. Instead it was an album of dancehall reggae. That was only part of the story. Dubcatcher encompassed everything from bass culture, boogie, boom bap rap, roots music, soul and UK 2 step soul. Essentially, Dubcatcher is a genre-melting album that featured an extensive cast guest artists. This included Katrina Blackstone who joined YT on Give It Up and Serocee on Magnetic. Katrina Blackstone was one of the stars of Dubcatcher, and would work with DJ Vadim over the next few years.

When DJ Vadim headed out on tour, he was often joined by the Californian singer-songwriter Katrina Blackstone. The pair forged a successful partnership, and when time permitted, they recorded a number of tracks together. Some of these would eventually find their way onto DJ Vadim and Blackstone’s album Double Sided. Before that, DJ Vadim would release two more albums.

The first of these albums was Grow Slow, which was a collaboration between DJ Vadim and Sena. It was released in June 2015, and by then, the pair had known each other for ten years. DJ Vadim and Sena had first met at a festival in Budapest in 2005, and soon, the pair were working together. This cumulated in the release of Grow Slow, where the hardest working man in hip hop and Ghana’s musical First Lady collaborated on an album that was guaranteed to get any party started. 

Just eight months later, DJ Vadim returned with the sequel to Dubcatcher, Dubcatcher II-Wicked Ma Yout. It was released in February 2016 and found favour with critics. Since then, DJ Vadim’s many fans have awaited his next album.

Some of his fans were expecting another collaboration with Sena,  given the reviews of Grow Slow. However, the smart money was on a collaboration with Katrina Blackstone who had played a starring role on Dubcatcher. It was obvious to some within the music industry that she had a big future ahead of her. 

When the time came for DJ Vadim to record his fourteenth album, he chose Katrina Blackstone  to costar on his next album Double Sided. This was no surprise, as Katrina Blackstone, whose  a versatile vocalist who can breathe life and meaning into lyrics. Seamlessly, she moves between crystalline and tender to powerful, soul and sassy. Katrina Blackstone puts her vocal prowess to good use on Double Sided, a hip hop album with a difference.

Unlike many hip hop producers who rely mostly on samples when they’re recording a new album, DJ Vadim decided to take a different approach on Double Sided. He eschewed samples and brought to the studio an array of guitars, synths and drum machines to record Double Sided. They provide the backdrop to Katrina Blackstone’s vocals. She’s joined by a number of guest artists, including Aima The Dreamer on Choose and That’s Not Me; Tiggy Tafari on No No; Parly B on Stand Up; Dakini Star on Magnetic and Pugs Atomz on the album closer Shoop Shoop. It’s the last of fourteen tracks on Double Sided, which is the fourteenth album from DJ Vadim. However,  Double Sided is the first album where DJ Vadim and Blackstone takes equal billing. Hopefully, it’s not the last.

Opening Double Sided is Burning Love where buzzing synths, handclaps and harmonies prove the perfect foil for Blackstone’s sassy, soulful vocal. It returns on Double Sided, which features squelchy, buzzing and beeping synths, handclaps and percussion. They provide the backdrop for Blackstone as she struts her way through the track delivering another sassy vocal.

The tempo drops on Luv 2 Luv, as chirping, chiming guitars, crisp beats and synths accompany Blackstone. As she delivers an impassioned, soulful vocal, cooing harmonies accompany her as Nu-Soul meets hip hop. 

MC Alma The Dreamer makes the first of two appearances on Choose, adding a breathy, sensuous vocal as Blackstone unleashes a powerhouse of a vocal against washes and stabs of synths. Later, MC Alma The Dreamer adds one of her trademark vocal which is the perfect foil for Blackstone. It becomes impassioned as Alma The Dreamer  also adds a soulfulness to the track. Alma The Dreamer returns on the hook-laden That’s Not Me, which is a melodic and memorable track that will strike a note with many women.

Another of guest artist Tiggy Tafari features on No No No which was penned by Willie Cobbs and Dawn Penn. It was the title-track of her 1994 debut album, and twenty-three years later it’s given a makeover by Blackstone and Tiggy Tafari. They take this familiar song where  dancehall, soul and hip hop are combined by DJ Vadim and Blackstone.

Re Run sees the tempo drop again, as DJ Vadim and Blackstone combine hip hop, soul and later, even a hint of dub. Keyboards, crisp beats and effects accompany one of Blackstone’s most soulful vocals. Later, DJ Vadim unleashes effects and Blackstone’s soulful vocal briefly becomes dubby. Still, though, it’s one of the highlights of Double Sided. The same can be said of Been Waiting All Night, where drums and a bass synth play leading roles in the arrangement as Blackstone delivers a vocal that is full of frustration on Been Waiting All Night. Especially as she sings: “I’ve Been Waiting All Night for you to call, waiting all night to phone, I need to know the truth.” As she does, Blackstone brings the lyrics to life and it’s as she’s lived them as Nu Soul meets electronica and hip hop.

Doncaster based Parly B has been involved in various collaborations over the last couple of years. They range from reggae, dubstep and Jungle. He joins Blackstone on Stand Up which is fusion of hip hop, soul, reggae, dub and drama, as two of music’s rising stars unite to create a slice of musical ear candy. The the tempo drops on Ride Slow, where drums and synths combine before effects are added to the arrangement. They create the perfect backdrop for Blackstone as she delivers a sassy, sultry vocal. 

Magnetic features another guest artist, Dakini Star from Oakland, California. She’s a versatile artist and has worked on various projects over the past few years. The soulful MC joins Blackstone on a genre-melting track where dancehall, electronica, hip hop and Nu Soul melts into one. Another genre-defying track is How Long, where elements of dancehall, dub, electronica, hip hop and Blackstone’s unique Nu Soul sound combine. It’s a heady brew. It’s a similar case on Shoop Shoop where Chicago based Pugs Atomz MC joins Blackstone on Pugs Atomz. They play their part in an unforgettable hook-laden track. Rewind which closes Double Sided, and features one of Blackstone’s best vocals. It’s heartfelt, needy and deeply soulful and one of her finest moments on Double Sided, which ends on a high.

Three years after Blackstone made her debut on DJ Vadim’s Dubcatcher album, the pair have equal billing on Double Sided. This is reminder of why Blackstone is regarded as one of music’s rising stars. She has a big future ahead of her, and proof if any was needed are the fourteen tracks on Double Sided. 

DJ Vadim unleashes an array of drum machines, synths and guitars, which are augmented by five guest artists. This includes familiar faces like Alma The Dreamer and new names Parly B. They all play their part in the sound and success of Double Sided. Playing a starring role is Blackstone, who breaths life, meaning and emotion into this genre-melting album Double Sided.

For most of the time, Blackstone’s vocal is soulful, and veers between traditional soul and Nu Soul. This is combined with DJ Vadim’s trademark hip hop sound and a few secret ingredients. Among them, are Afro-boogie, dancehall, downtempo, dub, electronica, reggae and sometimes, even a hint of funk. Just like most of DJ Vadim’s thirteen previous albums, Double Sided, is much more than a hip hop album. 

There’s a soulfulness on Double Sided that is missing on many new hip hop albums. This soulfulness comes courtesy of Katrina Blackstone who costars with DJ Vadim on Double Sided. DJ Vadim and Blackstone are joined by a stellar cast of guest artists on their genre-melting collaboration  Double Sided, which is a deeply soulful album thanks to the addition of  Katrina Blackstone.

Singer-songwriter Katrina Blackstone has a big future ahead of her. Hopefully, Katrina Blackstone will return with her debut solo album sooner rather than later. She’s a talented singer-songwriter, who studied vocal performance and jazz at the prestigious New School University in New York. With a background in jazz, maybe she should return to her roots and showcase a much more organic sound on her debut album? This would give Katrina Blackstone the chance to showcase her skills as a singer and songwriter. Especially with a band that features some of top session players. They would provide a much more organic backdrop for Katrina Blackstone,  rather than the myriad of synths and drum machines that feature on Double Sided. This would certainly show another to Oakland based diva—in-waiting Katrina Blackstone

Having said that, the synths and drum machines play their part in the sound and success of Double Sided which is without doubt one of the best albums  he’s released on BBE. There’s a reason for this, the addition of  Katrina Blackstone. She steps out of the shadows and takes centre-stage where she plays a starring role on Double Sided, which  is the much-anticipated collaboration between DJ Vadim and Blackstone.

DJ Vadim and Blackstone–Double Sided.

ANDINA: HUAYNO, CARNAVAL AND CUMBIA-THE SOUND OF THE PERUVIAN ANDES 1968-1978.

Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978.

Label: Tiger’s Milk Records/Strut.

Five years ago in 2012, award-winning Peruvian chef, DJ, restaurateur and art collector Martin Morales cofounded Tiger’s Milk Records with former Soundway Records label manager and PR guru Duncan Ballantyne. The nascent Tiger’s Milk Records’ raison d’être was to release Peruvian music. This was something that Martin Morales had always been passionate about. 

Martin Morales was born in Peru, and lived in the coastal city of Lima until he was a teenager. After leaving Peru, Martin Morales spent some time traveling before he eventually settled in London, where he started a new life. 

Soon, Martin Morales was introducing Londonders to the delights of Peruvian food. This was something that Londoners embraced, and nowadays Martin Morales is the proud owner of four award-winning London restaurants which are part of his company Ceviche. It also owns an art gallery and Tiger’s Milk Records.  Martin Morales has come a long way since he first set foot in the Britain, and earlier in 2017 won a GQ Food & Drinks 2017 Innovator of the Year award. However, he’s not turned his back on his native Peru

Still, Martin Morales regularly journeys between London and Peru in search of new recipes and inspiration for future projects. The other thing that Martin Morales searches during these journeys to his homeland is the Peruvian music he’s so passionate about. A favourite destination for Martin Morales is the Andes.

This is an area that dubstep producer and DJ Mala is familiar with, and featured on his 2016 album Mirrors. It was released by Giles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings. This was a coincidence as it was Giles Peterson who had introduced Martin Morales to DJ Mala two years previously. 

The pair struck up a friendship, and DJ Mala became Martin Morales’ musical guide when the pair journeyed to Peru in search of new and exciting music. During this journey, DJ Mala told Martin Morales about Peru’s illustrious musical history, and introduced him to all manner of hidden musical treasure. Since then, Martin Morales has made many more journeys to the Andes where he’s spend some of his time searching for the music he’s some passionate about. This music Martin Morales wants to introduce to a new and wider audience. 

His vehicle for doing this, is the label he cofounded with Tiger’s Milk Records Duncan Ballantyne. It’s released a number of critically acclaimed albums and compilations, including Peru Maravilloso: Vintage Latin Tropical and Cumbia, Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade, Peru Boom (Bass, Bleeps and Bumps from Peru’s Electronic Underground) and Kanaku Y El Tigre’s 2015 debut album Quema Quema Quema. However, Tiger’s Milk Records latest releases Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 allows Martin Morales to combine his passion for Peruvian music and food.

Tiger’s Milk Records latest compilation is Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978, which was compiled by Martin Morales, Duncan Ballantyne and Peruvian crate digger Andres Tapia del Rio. Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 will be co-released by Tiger’s Milk Records and Strut on the ‘20th’ of October 2017. This is perfect timing.

Earlier this month, on the ‘5th’ of October 2017, Martin Morales has just released a new cookbook Andina: The Heart of Peruvian Food: Recipes and Stories From The Andes. The music on Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound of the Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 is the perfect musical accompaniment when trying one of Martin Morales’ recipes. Food just like music, is one the award-winning chef’s passions.

Martin Morales has strong connection to the Andes, and remembers his visits with affection. “Growing up in the coastal city of Lima, it was my grandmother who kept our family’s connection to the mountains alive. Our visits to her home high up in the Andes in the province of La Libertad and the fascinating eighteen hour trips we made to reach her passing through villages and towns, sounds and flavours, imparted in me a strong sense of the Andes’ traditions, creativity and rich artistic textures.” There’s also the various types of music that provided a soundtrack to life in the Andes, including a variety of hybrids which seemed to be in a state of constant flux.

That was the case between 1968 and 1978, which Tiger’s Milk Records’ latest compilation covers. Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 features seventeen tracks that made their debut on Peruvian labels like Iempsa, Sono Radio and El Virrey. They’re part of what’s a tantalising taste of the music that provided the soundtrack to life in the Andes between 1968 and 1978. This the compilers are keen to point out, isn’t a definitive overview of Andean music. That would be impossible. However, it’s the perfect introduction to Andean music…and more. 

There’s also contributions from several artists who were based in the coastal city of Lima. This is fitting, as it was where one of the compilers Martin Morales grew up, and spent the formative years of his life. Maybe some of the songs on Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978, which is eclectic compilation will be a reminder of the music that provided the soundtrack to his youth?

The seventeen songs on Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 showcase the various different genres and musical hybrids that were around during this  ten-year period. That is the case from throughout the compilation. 

Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 opens with a track from Los Demonios Del Mantaro who were from the Mantaro Valley in Junin. Their debut album La Chichera Y Otros Exitos featured La Chichera. It finds Los Demonios Del Mantaro seamlessly fuse Peruvian cumbia and huayno sounds. It’s a similar case with Los Compadres Del Ande’s Todos Vuelven, Los Bárbaros del Centro’s La Celosa and Los Walker’s De Huánuco’s Todos Vuelven.  It was originally recorded by César Miró in 1943, but Los Walker’s De Huánuco reinvent this musica criolla song, and take in a new direction as they combine cumbia and huayno. In doing so, they create another track that sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.

Many songs on Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 feature Peruvian cumbia where groups add a tropical, Colombian style with Andean huayno rhythms and rocky electric guitars. This includes Los Bilbao’s Zelenita del Año 2000 where a shimmering guitar sets the scene for what’s without doubt one of the highlights of the compilation. There’s a hesitancy to the electric guitar on Descarga Huanuqueña’s Los Jewelees as it teases the listener. Soon, the guitar wah wahs as percussion, bass and later drums provide the perfect accompaniment to this piece of musical treasure. There’s plenty more hidden gems and musical treason on Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978.

Among the hidden gems is Peruanita’s Recuerda Corazón where percussion accompanies an accordion and impassioned vocal. It gives way to Los Bárbaros Del Centro’s Loca Loquita where a braying, blazing horn plays a leading role in this captivating fusion of disparate styles. This is followed by Los Compadres Del Ande’s cumbia single El Lorcho, where percussion and violins create an filmic backdrop on this irresistible reminder of from the Ande’s musical past. Manolo Avalos’ Rio de Paria is also a charming reminder on an earlier musical age, and a welcome addition to the compilation.

The same can be said of Lucho Neves Y Su Orquesta’s Caymeñita, where the bandleader’s pounding piano combines with percussion and stabs of brassy horns. They create a soulful call to dance that made its debut on the Lucho Neves Y Su Orquesta’s album Lima De Noche, which was released the Sono Radio label, which was based in Lima. Just like in the Andes, music was constantly evolving between 1968 and 1978.

Many of the bands that feature on Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 were playing  their part in reinventing traditional Peruvian music. An example is Los Sabios del Ritmo’s Cholita, which was originally recorded in the criollo style. When Los Sabios del Ritmo covered the song, they decided modernise it by adding an Andean rhythm. In doing so, this totally transformed this traditional song. To do this, Los Sabios del Ritmo saw the song with fresh eyes, and the Afro-Peruvian original took on a Quechua-styled, Afro-Colombian sound. It’s one of many examples of how new generation of Peruvian artists and bands were combining traditional Latin American and African influences. 

Other songs take Peruvian music in very different directions. This includes Alicia Maguiña Con Mario Cavagnaro Y Su Sonora Sensación’s Perla Andina. It’s a cumbia which features a magnificent big band arrangement on what’s essentially an homage to the Andes.

Another genre of music that was popular in Peru between 1968 and 1978 was folk music. A reminder of this is Huiro Y Su Conjunto’s Cumbia en los Andes. However, there’s also another type of folk music that popular in Peru during this period. It can be recognised by atmospheric sounds that come courtesy of wind instruments and plucked harps, as artists marry huayno and carnaval. That is what Conjunto Kori Cinta de Huancavelica does on Toyascha. There’s a sadness is her voice as she delivers the lyrics in Quechua, while a harp accompaniment. This beautiful,  ruminative sounding song brings Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 and ensures it ends on a high.

Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 is a lovingly curated compilation that was compiled by a triumvirate of Peruvian musical aficionados, Martin Morales, Duncan Ballantyne and Peruvian crate digger Andres Tapia del Rio. They carefully selected the seventeen eclectic tracks that were released between 1968 and 1978, when music in Peru was constantly evolving. That was the case in the Andes, where the majority of the songs are from. Others are from Lima, where Martin Morales was born and spent his formative years. Now, though, he’s based in London which is also home to Tiger’s Milk Records.

It was founded five years ago, and on the ‘20th’ October 2017, Tiger’s Milk Records and Strut will co-release Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978. It’s the first in a series of compilations of releases that Tiger’s Milk Records plan to release. Future compilations will focus on music from the Amazon and the coast of Peru. That is something to look forward to. Especially if these compilations are the quality of Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978 is one of the finest releases from Tiger’s Milk Records. This is the perfect way for Tiger’s Milk Records to celebrate their fifth anniversary. Many record labels often don’t last five years. However, Tiger’s Milk Records consistently release quality compilations and artists albums. The emphasis seems to be on quality rather than quantity. This is a philosophy that has served Tiger’s Milk Records well, and is sure to do so in the future

Tiger’s Milk Records is also part of Martin Morales London-based company Ceviche, which owns four award-winning restaurants and an art gallery. Recently, Martin Morales has added another string to his bow, when he published a new cookery book Andina: The Heart of Peruvian Food: Recipes and Stories From The Andes earlier this month. This is the perfect opportunity for those outside of London to try some of the Martin Morales’ award-winning recipes. The perfect soundtrack to such culinary adventures is  Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978, which features a myriad of musical treasures and hidden gems.

Andina: Huayno, Carnaval and Cumbia-The Sound Of The Peruvian Andes 1968-1978.

 

BOBBY BYRD-HELP FOR MY BROTHER: THE PRE-FUNK SINGLES 1963-1868.

Bobby Byrd-Help For My Brother: The Pre-Funk Singles 1963-1968.

Label: BGP.

During a long and successful career Bobby Byrd was a musician, producer, songwriter and talent scout. He was also one of the founding fathers of funk, and the man who discovered the future hardest working man in show business, James Brown in 1953. This was the start of a twenty year association with James Brown that ended in 1973. By then, Bobby Byrd was a enjoying a successful solo career that began a decade earlier in 1963.

Twenty-eight year old Bobby Byrd had released his debut solo single I Found Out on Federal in April 1963. This was the start of a successful solo career that lasted twenty years and spanned three decades. Recently, BGP released a new compilation Help For My Brother: The Pre-Funk Singles 1963-1968 that documents the first five years of Bobby Byrd’s solo career. His career began eleven years earlier in 1952.

That was when Bobby Byrd founded a new gospel group, The Gospel Starlighters. This came as no surprise to those that knew eighteen year old Bobby Byrd, who was born in Toccoa, Georgia, on August the ’15th’ 1934. His parents were deeply religious and were active members of their local church. Growing up, the young Bobby Byrd was an active member of his local church choir and had been a member of the gospel group, The Zioneers. However, by 1952, Bobby Byrd was ready to found his own gospel group, which he named The Gospel Starlighters.

Joining Bobby Byrd in The Gospel Starlighters was his sister Sarah. Before long, The Gospel Starlighters were a popular draw when they sang locally. However, it wasn’t long Bobby Byrd was expanding his repertoire, and started to sing secular music. Bobby Byrd knew that the elders had his local church disapproved of secular music so crossed the county line to sing R&B.

Bobby Byrd joined a South Carolina based group The Avons, whose  lineup featured Nafloyd Scott, Fred Pulliam and Doyle Oglesby. The final piece of the jigsaw was Bobby Byrd who sang lead vocals and played piano and organ. For Bobby Byrd, this was his introduction to secular music and R&B.

In 1953, Bobby Byrd decided to attend a local baseball game. His decision to head to the ball game changed the course of his career. At the game, Bobby Byrd met convicted felon James Brown, who was an inmate at Alto Reform School. He had been sentenced as a sixteen year old in 1948. Despite that, Bobby Byrd wanted to help James Brown.

This resulted in the Byrd family overseeing Brown’s parole when he was released from Alto Reform School. By then, Bobby Byrd was still leading his own group who sung mostly cover versions. They were known locally as the Bobby Byrd Group. However, in 1954, the group became The Famous Flames, which was the group that James Brown asked to join.

By then, The Famous Flames were a popular draw, and were never short of bookings. They were managed by Barry Tremier who got them bookings in Georgia and South Carolina. Despite enjoying a degree of success some changes were made to The Famous Flames’ lineup and James Brown became the group’s new drummer.

Before long, James Brown wanted to become the group’s lead singer. Eventually, Bobby Byrd who was the lead singer relented and James Brown became The Famous Flames’ new frontman. By then, they were managed by Little Richard’s manager Clint Brantley.

When Little Richard made a breakthrough, The Famous Flames’ manager suddenly was spending all his time managing the rock ’n’ roller. Things changed when Little Richard signed to Speciality. Suddenly, Clint Brantley turned his attention to his other group, The Famous Flames, whose line was about to change.

Two of the original members of the group, Fred Pulliam and Doyle Oglesby, were replaced by Nashpendle Knox and Johnny Terry another alumni of the Alto Reform School. This new lineup of The Famous Flames recorded a demo of Please Please Me in late 1955. 

Please Please Me was a song that The Famous Flames had been part of their stage show for some time. Gradually, the song took shape, and eventually, they felt the song was ready to record. When Ralph Bass at King heard the demo, he decided to offer The Famous Flames a recording contract.

Ralph Bass was head of King’s Federal imprint, which would sign Bobby Byrd in 1963. That was still to come. Meanwhile, Please Please Me was recorded and released as a single on Federal later in 1955. That was when the problems started.

Please Please Me should’ve been credited to The Famous Flames. Instead, it was credited to James Brown and The Famous Flames. This was because Federal saw James Brown as the star of the group. That wasn’t only problem with Please Please Me. It should’ve been credited The Flames, who Bobby Byrd believed cowrote the song. However, Please Please Me was credited to James Brown and Johnny Terry, the Alto Reform School graduates. This must have been galling for Bobby Byrd as he watched the single The Flames cowrote reach number six in the US R&B charts. Bobby Byrd had been betrayed.

This resulted in a feeling of mistrust within The Flames. Rather than remove James Brown and Johnny Terry from The Flames straight away, the group limped on until April 1957. Somewhat belatedly, James Brown was asked to leave the group.

Despite being asked to leave The Flames, James Brown continued to use The Flames’ name. Despite that, his career stalled, and Syd Nathan the owner of King was starting to lose patience with James Brown.

Meanwhile, the rest of The Flames were now calling themselves Byrd’s Drops Of Joy. Just like James Brown, commercial success continued to elude Byrd’s Drops Of Joy. Eventually Bobby Byrd decided return to work with James Brown. Given what had happened a few years earlier, this was a surprising decision.

Not long after the pair were reunited James Brown released Try Me in late 1958, which gave him the first sixteen US R&B number ones. This was just in time, as King label owner Syd Nathan was beginning to think Please Please Me was a one-off hit.

After the success of Try Me, James Brown and The Famous Flames made their debut at the Harlem Apollo. This was the biggest show of their career. It was the first of many appearances James Brown would make at the Harlem Apollo.

After making his debut at the Harlem Apollo, James Brown and his revue headed out on the road. They were constantly in demand and crisscrossed America playing live. That was despite just one hit in 1959, I Want You So Bad which reached twenty in the US R&B charts. Apart from that, the hits dried up for James Brown during 1959.

Things improved during 1960, with James Brown four top twenty hits with I’ll Go Crazy, Think, You’ve Got The Power and This Old Heart. Much of 1960 was spent playing live, and his revue was taking shape. James Brown was a hard taskmaster and set high standards for members of the revue. This included the singers, who since 1959, had started to release singles.

The first to do so was bandleader James Davis, who released Doodlebug, which was credited to Nat Kendricks and The Swans in 1959. It reached the top ten in the US R&B charts. Then in 1960, Baby Lloyd became the first vocalist to front a James Brown 

Production, when I Need Love was released on Atco. It was the first of many James Brown Productions released over the years. This included the James Brown Productions on the Bobby Byrd compilation Help For My Brother: The Pre-Funk Singles 1963-1968.

Between 1960 and 1963, seven of James Brown singles reached the top ten in US R&B singles charts. Another six reached the top twenty in the US R&B singles charts. For James Brown, this was the most successful period of his career. It gave him an advantage when he entered negotiations with Syd Nathan the owner of King. As a result, a number of James Brown Productions were released between 1961 and 1963. One of the artists who was produced by James Brown was Bobby Byrd, who signed to Federal in early 1963.

Bobby Byrd’s first single for was I Found Out which he penned with James Brown and Johnny Terry. On the B-Side was  They Are Sayin’ a Bobby Byrd and James Brown composition. The funky, soulful mid-tempo I Found Out was released on Federal in April 1963, and featured a heartfelt vocal from Bobby Byrd. However, the single failed to find the audience it deserved and Bobby Byrd didn’t release another single for Federal between 1963 and 1968.

For the remainder of 1963, Bobby Byrd’s solo career was put on hold. James Brown was in the midst of negotiations with King, and at the end of 1963, signed a deal with Mercury. Part of the deal was that Mercury would release all James Brown Productions on their Smash and Blue Rock imprints.

I’m Just A Nobody Parts 1 and 2 was Bobby Byrd’s debut for Smash. This was another Bobby Byrd and James Brown composition, and it was released in early 1964. It featured Bobby Byrd at his most soulful, as he delivers a needy, hopeful vocal against an arrangement that features an accordion. Sometimes, Bobby Byrd sounds like James Brown on Please Please Me on what’s one of the finest singles he released on Smash. However, Bobby Byrd had no way of knowing how well his singles were performing, as Billboard had stopped compiling the US R&B charts between 1963 and 1965. 

For his next single, Bobby Byrd joined forces with Anna King on Baby Baby Baby. It’s a James Brown and Jimmy Crawford song that was arranged by Sammy Lowe. They two members of the James Brown revue were responsible for a barnstorming version of Baby Baby Baby. They trade vocals and prove a potent partnership. Alas, when the single was released in April 1964, it was only a minor hit in Britain and America. However, it’s stood the test of time.

James Brown and Ted Wright wrote I Love You So which became  Bobby Byrd’s next single. On the B-Side was the Howard Biggs’ composition Write Me A Letter. When I Love You So was released in May 1964, it featured a heart-wrenching, emotive vocal from Bobby Byrd. The flip-side Write Me A Letter is very different from anything Bobby Byrd had recorded as he drops his vocal and unleashes rough, gruff vocal on this dance track. It shows Bobby Byrd’s versatility. However, still Bobby Byrd’s breakthrough single continued elude him.

Having recorded songs penned by other people on his last two singles, Bobby Byrd wrote the ballad I’ve Got A Girl with Ted Wright. It features another heartfelt vocal where Bobby Byrd combines emotion and power. On the B-Side was the uptempo dancer I’m Lonely which Bobby Byrd and Sylvester Keels penned. I’ve Got A Girl was released in September 1964, but again, failed to find an audience. This was frustrating for Bobby Byrd who continued to release singles that oozed quality.

That was the case with We Are In Love a Bobby Byrd and Bobby Jones composition. They wrote the B-Side No One Like My Baby with Walter Foster. When We Are In Love was released in January 1965, it features a swinging, uptempo arrangement and stab of blazing horns. They played their part in the success of We Are In Love which reached number fourteen in the newly reinstated US R&B charts. After five attempts Bobby Byrd had his first hit single.

Buoyed by the success of We Are In Love, Bobby Byrd and Ted Wright wrote  Time Will Make A Change and the The Way I Feel. When the two songs were recorded, Time Will Make A Change which sounds as if it was based on I Found Out, was chosen as the single. It was released in May 1965, and features a soul-baring vocal, cooing harmonies and bursts of horns. This was a potent combination, but not enough to give Bobby Byrd another hit single. 

The Bobby Byrd and Ted Wright songwriting partnership reconvened and wrote the heart-wrenching bluesy ballad Let Me Know and the understated soul of You’re Gonna Need My Lovin’. It was Let Me Know that was released by Smash in September 1965. Despite being one of Bobby Byrd’s finest singles for Smash, history repeated itself and the single failed to find the audience it deserved.

Meanwhile, James Brown had returned to King in the summer of 1965, and would enjoy a top five single with I Got You (I Feel Good) towards the end of the year. The self-styled Godfather of Funk was enjoying much more success than the man who discovered him Bobby Byrd. 

He returned in January 1966 with a cover of Oh, What A Night. In Bobby Byrd’s hands the song becomes a beautiful, tender ballad with a horn chart that harked back to a different era. On the B-Side was the Nat Jones and James Brown composition Lost In The Mood Of Changes. However, when the single was released, it failed commercially. It may have been Oh, What A Night was at odds with musical tastes in 1966? By then, the psychedelic era was in full swing, and musical tastes were changing, and changing fast.

Another eight months before Bobby Byrd returned with a new single. Meanwhile, James Brown was working with his latest signing Vicki Anderson. She would release Wide Awake In A Dream on De Luxe in June 1966.

Three months later, Bobby Byrd returned with a cover a cover of Nat Jones’ Ain’t No Use in September 1966. Brash horns and harmonies accompany Bobby Byrd as he unleashes a vocal that is a mixture of power and emotion. Tucked away on the B-Side was Let Me Know a heartfelt ballad penned by Bobby Byrd and Ted Wright. Both sides showcased a truly talented vocalists who should’ve been enjoying a successful career. Sadly, when Ain’t No Use was released, it failed commercially. For Bobby Byrd this was the last single he released on Smash.

In 1967, Bobby Byrd signed to King and released I’ll Keep Pressing On. It was a string drenched ballad where Bobby Byrd lays bare his soul. Despite the quality of I’ll Keep Pressing On, the single never troubled the charts. This was an inauspicious start to Bobby Byrd’s career at King.

For his second single for King, Bobby Byrd recorded Funky Soul a two-part dancer written by James Brown, Bud Hobgood and James Crawford. Funky Soul #1 Part 1 was released in September 1967, with Funky Soul #1 Part 2 on the B-Side. It found Bobby Byrd delivering his vocal over a trademark James Brown groove. While this was different to his last couple of singles, still commercial success eluded Bobby Byrd.

Nothing more was heard of Bobby Byrd until February 1968, when  he released a duet with James Brown, You’ve Got To Change Your Mind. Despite the presence of James Brown, the single wasn’t the success that many had forecast. Hidden away on the B-Side was the Bobby Byrd, James Brown and Bud Hobgood composition I’ll Lose My Mind. Stabs of horns punctuate the arrangement as cooing harmonies accompany Bobby Byrd. His vocal veers between tender to powerful and emotive, and occasionally, he resorts to James Brown inspired yelps on this hidden gem.

The final single on Help For My Brother: The Pre-Funk Singles 1963-1968, was a cover of My Concerto. On the B-Side was You Gave Me Hope, which Bobby Byrd wrote with James Brown and Bud Hobgood. However, when the rueful ballad My Concerto was released on King later in 1968, it failed to chart. For Bobby Byrd this marked the end of his spell at King.

The two years Bobby Byrd had spent at King had been an unsuccessful, and none of the singles came close to troubling the charts. When Bobby Byrd looked back at the five years period that is documented on Help For My Brother: The Pre-Funk Singles 1963-1968 he must have felt that he had underachieved. 

He was a talented singer and songwriter, but only enjoyed just one US R&B hit single with We Are In Love in 1965. Many of the other singles he released for Federal, Smash and King should’ve fared better. However, by then, soul was no longer as popular as it once had been. 

Musical tastes were changing, and many saw soul as yesterday’s music. Pop, psychedelia and rock were now the musical flavours of the month. It looked as if soul was about to follow in the footsteps of blues and jazz, which was no longer as popular as they had once been. Just like soul, they had to evolve or risk irrelevance.

Out of necessity, fusion and psychedelic soul were born in the late sixties. This ensured that jazz and soul remained relevant, and lived to fight another day. 

Despite music continuing to evolve, Bobby Byrd’s music stood still. He continued to record ballads, blues, dancers and the occasional funk track. While many of the these tracks oozed quality, they failed to find an audience. Maybe James Brown as the wrong producer for Bobby Byrd, and he needed someone who would’ve tried to take his music in a different direction? 

Maybe Federal, Smash and King were the wrong labels for Bobby Byrd? At these labels, Bobby Byrd was always in James Brown’s shadow. Sometimes, it seemed James Brown was trying to work with too many artists at the one time, and other times, he was working with his latest signing or next big hope. Meanwhile, singers like Bobby Byrd had wait their turn until the ‘great man’ would grant him an audience with him.

As a result, it was no surprise that after the release of My Concerto in 1968, Bobby Byrd parted company with James Brown. So had Vicki Anderson, who Bobby Byrd would later marry. The pair released a single Here Is My Everything on ABC. 

Just over a year later in 1969, James Brown and Vicki Anderson returned to the James Brown revue in 1969. This time round, Bobby Byrd was James Brown’s right hand man. A year later in 1970, Bobby Byrd played an important role in the sound and success of James Brown biggest hit single Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine. 

In August 1970, Bobby Byrd returned to the charts with I Need Help (I Can’t Do It Alone) Pt.1. This was his first hit in five years. Soon, two became three when I Know You Got Soul was released in May 1971, and gave Bobby Byrd his third hit single.  

Two years later, and Bobby Byrd parter company with James Brown for the last time. Their partnership had lasted for the best part of twenty years. During that period, James Brown enjoyed a string of hit singles and successful albums. Sadly, Bobby Byrd didn’t enjoy anywhere like the same success.

Many of Bobby Byrd’s singles failed to find the audience they deserved, and slipped under the musical radar. This included many of the singles on Bobby Byrd-Help For My Brother: The Pre-Funk Singles 1963-1968, which was released by BGP, an imprint of Ace Records. These singles and the B-Sides are a reminder of one of the most underrated soul men of early sixties, Bobby Byrd who could’ve and should’ve reached greater heights, if things had been different.

Bobby Byrd-Help For My Brother: The Pre-Funk Singles 1963-1968.

ELIANA CUEVAS-GOLPES Y FLORES.

Eliana Cuevas-Golpes y Flores. 

Label: Alma Records.

It was twenty years ago in 1997, when Venezuelan singer, songwriter and bandleader Eliana Cuevas arrived in Toronto, Canada, which she now calls home. Since then, Eliana Cuevas’ career has flourished, and the award-winning singer-songwriter is now one of the most successful Latin American singers of her generations. She regularly tours Europe, Asia and Japan, where she plays songs from her five albums. This includes Golpes y Flores which was recently released by Alma Records. Golpes y Flores is essentially a love letter to her homeland of Venezuela where Eliana Cuevas was born and brought up. However, Golpes y Flores was recorded in Canada, which has been home to Eliana Cuevas for twenty years.

By the time that Eliana Cuevas arrived in Toronto, she was immersed in music, and had been since an early age. Eliana Cuevas was born into a musical family in Venezuela, and grew up listening to a soundtrack of Brazilian music, joropo, pop and salsa. Before long, Eliana Cuevas wasn’t content just to listen to music, and by the age of nine, had written her first song. Little did anyone realise that this was how she would make a living later in life.

Eliana Cuevas career as a musician began when first moved to Toronto. This was where she planned to embark upon a musical career. There was a problem though, Eliana Cuevas was too young to play in Toronto’s top jazz clubs. This wasn’t going to stop Eliana Cuevas, and with the help of a fake ID, she gained entry to Toronto’s top jazz clubs. Soon, she was singing with various Brazilian, flamenco and jazz groups, which proved good experience for Eliana Cuevas.

In 2001, Eliana Cuevas released her eclectic debut EP Cohesión, which showcased a versatile and talented singer-songwriter. Two years later, and became an award-winning artist when she won the Latin American Achievement Award as Vocal Artist of the Year. This was the first of several awards Eliana Cuevas would win over the next thirteen years.

Three years after releasing her Cohesión, EP in 2001, and Eliana Cuevas returned with her debut album Ventura in 2004. It was a captivating album, and one where Eliana Cuevas tackled a variety of different subjects. This prompted those with the Toronto music scene to take notice of this up-and-coming singer-songwriter.   

In 2006, The Eliana Cuevas Quintet embarked upon her first tour of Germany. She was well received and since then, has toured mainland Europe many times. Eliana Cuevas has always been a popular live draw, and her albums have been well received. 

Three years after the release of her debut album Ventura, Eliana Cuevas returned with her much-anticipated sophomore album Vidas in 2007. It was well received by critics, who started referring to Eliana Cuevas hailed as Canada’s Latin Music Queen.

Later in 2007, Eliana Cuevas won the Toronto Independent Music Award for Best World Music Artist. Meanwhile, Eliana Cuevas’ popularity was growing.

Not long after the release of Vidas, Eliana Cuevas’ music started to find an audience much further afield. From Venezuela to Germany, Canada’s Latin Music Queen started to reach a wider audience. By then, Eliana Cuevas’ star was in the ascendancy. 

So much so, that in 2009, Luna Liena an anthology of Eliana Cuevas’ music was released and introduced Canada’s Latin Music Queen to a new and wider audience. By then, Eliana Cuevas was regularly touring Australia, Asia and Europe and working with artists of the calibre of Alex Cuba, Jesse Cook and Jane Bunnett. Somehow Eliana Cuevas found time to front the Caribbean Jazz powerhouse CaneFire, the Jorge Miguel Flamenco Ensemble, and work with composer Darren Sigesmund. Still Eliana Cuevas found time to record her a new studio album. 

By the time Espejo was released in 2013, Eliana Cuevas had been working with some top artists, and become a mother for the first time. Four years after the release of the Luna Liena anthology, Eliana Cuevas returned with Espejo in 2013. It was her first album of new songs since Ventura in 2007.  Espejo which was released to critical acclaim, marked a turning point in Eliana Cuevas’ career. 

Eliana Cuevas explains: “I’d reached a point in my life and career where I wanted to take a few more chances. I decided to explore more of my range as a vocalist and a composer. I wanted to experience something new, even in the recording process itself. If you don’t challenge yourself, art can get stale. On my previous albums, the sound was very much focused on being able to reproduce the songs and arrangements live. On this one, I wanted to do something unique for each piece, but we have still been able to adapt them live.” This was the case with songs on Espejo, which became Eliana Cuevas’ most successful album.

Part of the success of the albums was down to the successful musical partnership Eliana Cuevas had forged with her husband Jeremy Ledbetter, who produced Espejo. “He knows me so well. If I need an extra push, he knows I don’t need sugar-coating. I can take it! If you are not really close with someone, you may not feel comfortable pushing like that.”  With Jeremy Ledbetter producing Espejo and writing El Tucusito, the result was another award-winning album.  

In 2014, Eliana Cuevas’ third studio album Espejo won the Independent Music Award for Best Latin Album. Eliana Cuevas’ also won Toronto Independent Music Award for Best World Music Artist in 2014.

Three years passed before Eliana Cuevas returned with her fourth studio album Golpes y Flores. It was the album that Eliana Cuevas’ legion of fans had been waited three long years for. They knew that Golpes y Flores would be well worth the wait.,

Golpes y Flores was also an album that was a love letter to her homeland of Venezuela. Eliana Cuevas explains:  “Venezuelan music is very rich and I wanted to showcase some of what my country has to offer musically speaking. I was keen to feature traditional Afro-Venezuelan rhythms and mix those in with what I do here in Canada.”  To do this, Eliana Cuevas worked with some top musicians.

This included some of the best and most accomplished Venezuelan percussionists, including Adolfo Herrera and Yonathan “Morocho” Gavidi. They were joined by Eliana Cuevas’ usual band, which features some of Canada’s top musicians including drummer Mark Kelso and bassist George Koller and percussionist Daniel Stone. They’re joined by a stellar cast of guest artists which included violinist Aleksandar Gajic, saxophonist Luis Deniz drummer Marito Marques and cellists Peter Cosbey and Jonathan Tortolano. These musicians were part of the tight, talented and versatile band that provide a sympathetic and empathic backdrop for Eliana Cuevas’ vocals on Golpes y Flores which was arranged and produced in Toronto by Jeremy Ledbetter.

He also cowrote three of the songs on Golpes y Flores with Eliana Cuevas. These songs, include the album opener Alegria which features an impassioned vocal from Eliana Cuevas.  Jeremy Ledbetter and Eliana Cuevas also wrote No Se Puede,and Mi Linda Maíta. These three songs were joined by another seven penned by Eliana Cuevas, who seems to mature as a songwriter on every album. She draws inspiration from both personal experience and the world around her.

This is evident on A Tear On The Ground, which was inspired by Eliana Cuevas’ family visiting India. She remembers:  “It was a very spiritual experience, I spent a few days doing yoga at an ashram that was right by a lake that had a sign warning people to be careful of the crocodiles. It was a beautiful quiet place where I could go to meditate and it inspired me to write.”  The songs it inspired A Tear On The Ground, features one of Eliana Cuevas’ best vocals. It has a purity and soulfulness, as her all-star band match her every step of the way on what’s one Golpes y Flores’ highlights.

One of the most moving songs on Golpes y Flores is Mi Linda Maita, which is dedicated to Eliana Cuevas’ grandmother.  “She passed away a couple of years ago, and I wanted to honour her.” This she does on a moving and poignant song. 

Another song that Eliana Cuevas was inspired to write was Poderosa. It: “is about the strength women have and their ability to make life. I wrote it as I was pregnant with my second daughter.”  During this celebration of life, there’s a joyousness to Eliana Cuevas’ vocal as keyboards, horns and percussion accompany her. Fittingly, Golpes y Flores is dedicated to Eliana Cuevas’ two daughters.

Golpes y Flores is essentially Eliana Cuevas’ love letter to her home country, Venezuela. Sadly, all is not well in Venezuela currently. Eliana Cuevas says: “it is not a secret there are problems there right now, but not enough people know how rich Venezuelan music truly is and I’d like to show the world some of the beauty my country still has to offer despite all of the problems it is currently facing.”  The music on Golpes y Flores is the perfect introduction to the delights of Venezuelan music.

An important part of Venezuelan music is the rhythms, which Eliana Cuevas references in the album’s cryptic title. Eliana Cuevas explains. “’Golpes’ means hit, often referring to rhythms, while ‘flores’ means flowers. To me, the title suggests a combination of the sophistication, beauty and gentleness of flowers and the strength and force of the Afro-Venezuelan rhythms.” These rhythm play an important part in the sound and success of Golpes y Flores.

Playing an important part in the rhythms on Golpes y Flores are various percussionists that feature on the album. They provide an accompaniment to Eliana Cuevas as she breathes life and meaning into the lyrics on Golpes y Flores.

That is the case on the beautiful, heart-wrenching ballad Te Encontraré, and on El Manantial which features a heartfelt, soulful vocal from Eliana Cuevas. It’s another of her finest vocals and showcases a truly talented and versatile vocal.

Proof of this Seré Libre, where the tempo rises and Eliana Cuevas delivers an emotive vocal. Her vocal veers between tender to emotive and powerful while percussion helps powers the arrangement along, and keyboards adds an atmospheric backdrop. Despierta finds Eliana Cuevas combining Afro-Venezuelan rhythm and jazz as she delivers another heartfelt and emotive vocal.  Straight away, here’s a degree of drama on Nunca Jamás where strings and percussion play leading roles in the arrangement. Meanwhile, Eliana Cuevas’ vocal is full of drama as she lives the lyrics and brings them to life. Closing Golpes y Flores is No Se Puede where Canada’s Latin Music Queen unleashes a vocal masterclass as this beautiful song reveals its secrets over the course of five magical minutes. In doing so, Eliana Cuevas closes Golpes y Flores on a high.

After ten songs lasting sixty-four minutes, Golpes y Flores which is Eliana Cuevas’ fourth studio album and fifth overall is over. It’s a career defining album from the Toronto-based Venezuelan singer, songwriter and bandleader Eliana Cuevas. She reaches new heights on Golpes y Flores, which is a love letter to essentially a love letter to her homeland of Venezuela. 

During this carefully crafted love letter to her homeland Eliana Cuevas puts to good use twenty years worth of experience. Backed by an all-star band that features musicians from her native Venezuela and Canada which has been home to Eliana Cuevas since 1997. Despite that, the foundation for Golpes y Flores are Afro-Venezuelan rhythms which come courtesy of some of  Venezuela’s top percussionists. With the rest of the band, the combine elements of folk, jazz, pop, soul and of course, Eliana Cuevas’ poetic songwriting. This is a potent combination, with the band providing a backdrop as Eliana Cuevas works her way beautiful ballads and uptempo tracks produced by Jeremy Ledbetter.

He’s also Eliana Cuevas’ husband, and the pair have been collaborating for many years. The couple wrote three of the songs on Golpes y Flores, and have forged a successful partnership. Their finest hour is Golpes y Flores which was recently released by Alma Records, and finds Canada’s Latin Music Queen Eliana Cuevas reaching new musical heights.

Eliana Cuevas-Golpes y Flores.

THE DETROIT EMERALDS-I THINK OF YOU: THE BEST OF THE WESTBOUND SINGLES 1969-1975.

The Detroit Emeralds-I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975.

Label: Westbound Records.

From the late sixties right through to the mid seventies, there was a resurgence in popularity in soul music on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of the most popular groups and artists were from cities like Atlanta, Detroit, Memphis, New York and Philly. These cities were America’s soul capitals, and were home to some of the most successful  independent record labels. This included Westbound Records which was founded by Armen Boladian in Detroit, in 1968. 

A year later, in 1969, Armen Boladian signed The Detroit Emeralds who would spend the next nine years  signed to Westbound Records. During the nine years they were signed to Westbound Records, The Detroit Emeralds released five albums between 1971 and 1978. However, the most successful period of The Detroit Emeralds’ career was between 1969 and 1974.

During that five-year period, The Detroit Emeralds enjoyed commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic. In America and Britain, The Detroit Emeralds’ enjoyed hit singles between 1969 and 1974. Even when the hit singles dried up, The Detroit Emeralds continued to be a popular live draw on both sides of the Atlantic. That would be the case right up until they released their final album Let’s Get Together in 1978. Shortly after the album was released, The Detroit Emeralds ended their nine years stay at Westbound Records. It was the end of era.

The first five years of The Detroit Emeralds’ stay at Westbound Records was the most popular. It’s celebrated on I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975, which was recently released by Westbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records. It features the eleven singles and B-Sides  The Detroit Emeralds released between 1969 and 1975. However, by the time The Detroit Emeralds signed to Westbound Records, they were already an experienced group whose story began in Little Rock, Arkansas.

That was home to the four Tilmon brothers, Ivory, Abrim, Raymond and Cleophus who decided to form a vocal harmony group in the early sixties.  This group the brothers called The Emeralds. They spent the first few years playing in venues near their home in  Little Rock, Arkansas. Eventually, though, two of The Emeralds decided the time had come for the group to spread their wings and move to Detroit.   

Two of the brothers, Raymond and Cleophus, decided they didn’t want to relocate to Detroit. This presented a problem for Ivory and Abrim Tilmon. Fortunately, their  friend James Mitchell agreed to join The Emeralds and the trio made the move to Detroit.

Now based in Detroit, The Emeralds decided to change the group’s name to The Detroit Emeralds. This just happened to coincide with their first hit single.  

Show Time was released in 1968, on the Ric Tic label and reached number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts. This was the first of a trio of singles The Detroit Emeralds released for Ric Tic. Soon, Shades Down and (I’m An Ordinary Man) Take Me The Way I Am followed and these three singles marked the start of a ten-year musical journey for The Detroit Emeralds.Two years later, The Detroit Emeralds’ career began in earnest. Before that, their career stalled. 

Having released three singles for Ric Tic, suddenly, the label was taken over by Motown. For The Detroit Emeralds, that was a disaster. Like so many other Ric Tic artists, The Detroit Emeralds were lost in the Motown machine. Soon, The Detroit Emerald realised that they had no future at Motown

After buying Ric Tac, Motown began a cull of artists and groups on their new acquisition’s roster. Every group apart from The Fantastic Four were released from their contract. For most of these artists and groups, this a disaster. Fortunately, a new label was waiting in the wings to sign The Detroit Emeralds, and they were keen to join a label that wanted to sign them.

This new label was Westbound Records, which signed The Detroit Emeralds in 1969. They were one of two groups who joined the label. The other was Funkadelic and these two labels would play an important part in the future of Armen Boladian’s Westbound Records.

For their Westbound Records’ debut, The Detroit Emeralds recorded Holding On which was penned by Norma Toney and Herman Weems. It’s a classy slice of mid-tempo soul that has made in Detroit written all over it. It’s a hint of what The Detroit Emeralds were capable of. On the B-Side was Things Are Looking Up an Abrim Tilmon composition. This was the start of his career as The Detroit Emeralds’ songwriter-in-chief. 

When Holding On Was released, in late 1969, it failed to find the audience it deserved. This was a disappointment for The Detroit Emeralds, who would record their next single in another of America’s soul capitals…Memphis. 

By the time The Detroit Emeralds came to record their sophomore single, Armen Boladian had come to an agreement with Memphis’ based Willie Mitchell. The great producer would produce some of Westbound Records’ artists, including The Detroit Emeralds.

When The Detroit Emeralds embarked upon a tour in 1970, the tour swung through Memphis. This was the perfect opportunity for The Detroit Emeralds record some songs with Willie Mitchell. The Detroit Emeralds added their vocals to rhythm tracks which were then sweetened with the addition of strings, and a variety of other instruments back in Detroit. This approach worked, and resulted in The Detroit Emeralds’ first hit single on Westbound Records. 

The songs that were chosen for The Detroit Emeralds next single were I Bet You Get The One (Who Loves You) and If I Lose Your Love. Both were penned by Abrim Tilmon and James Mitchell, who would occasionally write songs together. Mostly, though, Abrim Tilmon wrote by himself. Meanwhile, producer Willie Mitchell to work his magic, and sprinkle some his trademark Hi Records’ sound to If I Lose Your Love.

Both of the sides that The Detroit Emeralds recorded in Memphis were strong contenders to release as a single. Eventually, the uptempo I Bet You Get The One (Who Loves You) was released as a single by Westbound Records in December 1969. Although Westbound Records were promoting I Bet You Get The One (Who Loves You), DJs and retailers started contacting the label to say that it was the heart-wrenching ballad If I Lose Your Love which was attracting the attention of listeners and record buyers. 

This prompted Westbound Records to repress the single and If I Lose Your Love was released as a single. When If I Lose Your Love was released as a single in January 1970, it reached number thirty-two in the US R&B Charts. This was The Detroit Emeralds first single for Westbound Records. Soon, one became two.

In May 1970, The Detroit Emeralds released the William Garrett composition I Can’t See Myself Doing Without You as a single. Again, the understated arrangement had a similar Memphis sound that is not unlike those on Al Green’s early albums. Tucked away on the B-Side was Just Now And Then, a beautiful ballad penned by Abrim Tilmon, who was coming of age as a songwriter. 

When I Can’t See Myself Doing Without You was released as a single, it reached number forty-one in the US R&B Charts during the summer of 1970. The Detroit Emeralds were two for three when it came to singles.  However, this was nothing compared to what would follow in 1971.

For their first single of 1971, The Detroit Emeralds released Do Me Right. It was penned by Abrim Tilmon and produced by Willie Mitchell and features the Hi Rhythm Section, horns and strings. They play their in a truly irresistible, hook-laden single that was a hit-in-waiting. Hidden away on the B-Side was the Abrim Tilmon penned ballad Just Now And The. It’s  punctuated by subtle horns and strings, as The Detroit Emeralds do what they do best…balladry. Alas, it was consigned to the B-Side of Do Me Right.

When Do Me Right was released in January 1971 it reached forty-three in the US Billboard 100 and number seven in the US R&B Charts. This was by far The Detroit Emeralds’ biggest single, and the first to crossover into the US Billboard 100. The Detroit Emeralds’ career was starting to take off.

Buoyed by the success of Do Me Right, The Detroit Emeralds returned in June 1971 with Wear This Ring (With Love), a gorgeous soul-baring ballad written by Abrim Tilmon and James Mitchell, who successfully deploys Hi Rhythm Section, horns and strings. On the B-Side, was I Bet You Get The One (Who Loves You). When Wear This Ring (With Love) was released, it reached number ninety-one in the US Billboard 100 and number eighteen in the US R&B Charts. This wasn’t the end of the success The Detroit Emerald enjoyed during 1971.

Later in 1971, The Detroit Emeralds released their debut album Do Me Right. It reached number 151 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-three in the US R&B Charts. The Detroit Emeralds had enjoyed the most successful year of their career.  

1972 saw The Detroit Emeralds picking up where they left off in 1972. Abrim Tilmon wrote You Want It, You Got It, which was essentially inspired by Do Me Right. With a memorable riff and a higher tempo, everything was in place for a hit single. Hidden away on the B-Side was Till You Decide To Come Home, another Abrim Tilmon composition. Horns and strings accompany a rueful, hurt-filled vocal on another song that was almost too good to be a B-Side.

When You Want It, You Got It was released in 1972, the Abrim Tilmon production reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and number five in the US R&B Charts. Hot on then heels of their most successful single was The Detroit Emeralds release their sophomore album You Want It, You Got It. It surpassed the success of their debut album Do Me Right, and reached seventy-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-seven in the US R&B Charts. It seemed that The Detroit Emeralds could do no wrong.

May 1972 saw The Detroit Emeralds return with a new single, Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms). It was penned and produced by Abrim Tilmon and arranged by Johnny Allen. On the B-Side was another Abrim Tilmon composition I’ll Never Sail The Sea Again. When Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms) was released in 1972, it reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 100 and number four in the US R&B Charts. This was the biggest hit of The Detroit Emeralds’ career.

Their final single of 1972s was the Feel The Need In Me, which was written and produced by Abrim Tilmon. The arrangement of the pop soul of Feel The Need In Me hinted at the songs they recorded in Memphis with producer Willie Mitchell. On the B-Side was the ballad There’s A Love For Me Somewhere which was written and produced by Abrim Tilmon. However, when it was released late in October 1972, Feel The Need In Me stalled at 110 in the US Billboard 100 and number twenty-two in the US R&B Charts. Little did The Detroit Emeralds realise, that they had just enjoyed the most successful year of their career. 

After enjoying a year where they had released their most successful album and three hit singles, The Detroit Emeralds failed to replicate that success during 1973.  Things started well when You’re Gettin’ A Little Too Smart was released in May 1973 and reached number ten in the US R&B Charts. However, The Detroit Emeralds’ third album I’m In Love, failed to replicate the success of its predecessors. It stalled at number 181 in the US Billboard 200, but reached number twenty-seven in the US R&B Charts in 1973.  This was a disappointment for The Detroit Emeralds.

So was the reissue of You Want It, You Got and then I Think Of You failing to chart. Things didn’t improve when the Sam Beatty and Tom Graczyk composition Lee stalled at a lowly seventy-nine in the US R&B Charts. This uptempo track featured the Abrim Tilmon penned ballad What’cha Gonna Wear Tomorrow on the B-Side. By then, all wasn’t well within The Detroit Emeralds, and they almost split-up later in 1973. 

Things started to go wrong for The Detroit Emeralds during late 1973. By then, The Detroit Emeralds were touring Britain, and would do so again in 1974. Not long after the 1974 tour, The Detroit Emeralds split up.

When Abrim Tilmon left The Detroit Emeralds to pursue a solo career. He billed himself as AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds. There was only problem, James Mitchell had sung the lead vocal on The Detroit Emeralds’ biggest hits. Fortunately, Abrim Tilmon’s vocal wasn’t unlike James Mitchell’s and he sounded similar to his former bandmate.

The first AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds released was the uptempo Set It Out, which he wrote with Belda Baine and Louis Crane. On the B-Side was Abrim Tilmon’s composition I’m Qualified. However, Set It Out failed to find an audience and AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds’ debut single sunk without trace.

In 1975, AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds returned with their sophomore single Rosetta Stone. This was a song from Barry Blue’s 1973 debut album Hot Shots which he had written with Dave Jordan. Two years after it featured on Hot Shots, it became AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds second single. On the B-Side was Yes, I Know I’m In Love, which was penned by Belda Baine, Louis Crane, Ronald Lawrence and Abrim Tilmon. However, Rosetta Stone didn’t replicate the success of The Detroit Emeralds’ earlier single, and Abrim Tilmon’s career was at a crossroads. He wasn’t alone.

Meanwhile Ivory Tilmon and James Mitchell decided to form a new group, and added Carl Johnson of Chapter Eight. Straight away there was a problem, as they couldn’t use The Detroit Emeralds’ name. It had been copyrighted by Westbound Records, who now owned the name. So, when Ivory, James and Carl signed to Fee Records, they were called Now. However, neither Abrim Tilmon’ nor Now were enjoying much in the way of success.

As 1975 gave way to 1976, The Detroit Emeralds had enjoyed the most successful part of their career. They released nine singles and three albums for Westbound Records between late 1969 and 1974. During that period, Abrim Tilmon was The Detroit Emeralds’ songwriter-in-chief and James Mitchell took charge of lead vocal on  the majority of their biggest hits. With the rest of The Detroit Emeralds adding harmonies, this was a successful combination and one that brought success their way.

Sadly, this commercial success lasted just five years before The Detroit Emeralds split-up. Ironically, neither AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds nor Now replicated the success they had previously enjoyed. The three members of The Detroit Emeralds could’ve enjoyed further success if they had stayed together in 1974. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

At least The Detroit Emeralds enjoyed nine US R&B hits and four hits in the US Billboard 100. These hits feature on I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975. They’re joined by AC Tilmon and The Detroit Emeralds’ two singles, and a UK Edit of I Think Of You. This closes I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975 which was recently released by Westbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records. It’s the first time all  of The Detroit Emeralds’ Westbound singles and B-Sides released between 1969-1975 have featured on one compilation. 

I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975 is a welcome released and a reminder of one of the soul groups who enjoyed hits on both sides of the Atlantic between the late-sixties and mid-seventies. During the period that I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975 covers, The Detroit Emeralds released what’s without doubt, the best music of their long career.

The Detroit Emeralds-I Think Of You: The Best Of The Westbound Singles 1969-1975.

THE RISE AND DEMISE OF SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE.

The Rise and Demise Of Sly and the Family Stone.

Between 1966 and 1976, psychedelic soul pioneers Sly and The Family Stone released eight studio albums and their first Greatest Hits album. These albums showcased Sly and the Family Stone’s genre-melting music, which took as a starting point psychedelic soul and added funk and rock to this heady musical brew. This proved an irresistible for many record buyers. However, that was only part of the story of Sly and the Family Stone whose message was one of peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism

There’s much more to the story of Sly and the Family Stone. It’s also a story that features gangsters, death threats, drugs and racist thugs who infiltrated one of the greatest bands of the late-sixties and early seventies.  All this played a part in the rise and demise of  Sly and the Family Stone.

Their story began in 1966, when Sly Stone formed Sly Stone and The Stoners which featured his friend Cynthia Robinson on trumpet. Meanwhile, Sly Stone’s brother Freddie Stone was also founding a new group Freddie and The Stone Souls. Its lineup included drummer Gregg Errico  and saxophonist Ronnie Crawford. Saxophonist Jerry Martini who was a friend of Sly Stone’s, suggested that the Sly and Freddie Stone should combine the two bands. This made sense, and Sly Brothers and Sisters was born. However, in October 1966 Sly Brothers and Sisters became Sly and the Family Stone.

Soon, Vanetta Stewart, Mary McCreary and Elva Mouton who had their own gospel group The Heavenly Tones approached Sly Stone about joining the nascent group. He agreed and they became Little Sister, who became Sly and the Family Stone’s backing vocalists.

It wasn’t long before Sly and the Family Stone came to the attention of record companies. This happened after a gig at the Winchester Cathedral, which was a night club in Redwood City, California. After the show, CBS Records David Kapralik executive approached Sly and the Family Stone. He had heard the group’s set and wanted to sign them to CBS’s Epic Records label. Soon, a deal was concluded and Sly and The Family Stone began work on their debut album A Whole New Thing.

A Whole New Thing.

In October 1967, Sly and the Family Stone prepared to release their debut album A Whole New Thing. It had been recorded live in the studio and found Sly and The Family Stone fusing soul and funk. Although reviews of the album were mixed, a number of musicians, including Mose Allison and Tony Bennett were won over by the album. Alas, when A Whole New Thing was released, it failed to chart. This was a disappointing start to Sly and the Family Stone’s recording career.

Dance To The Music.

After the commercial failure of A Whole New Thing, CBS executive Clive Davis asked Sly Stone to make his music more poppy. This he hoped would find favour with DJs and record buyers. Sly Stone decided to write music that would please his employer, and come up with what was essentially a musical formula. Still, though, it allowed Sly and the Family Stone to spread their message of peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism and reach a much wider audience.

The song that Sly Stone wrote was the anthemic Dance To The Music. When it was recorded, new vocalist and keyboardist Rose Stone  made her debut. On it release, Dance To The Music reached number eight in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts. This was Sly and The Family Stone’s psychedelic soul debut, which was copied by many within the music industry.

In April 1968, Sly and the Family Stone returned with their sophomore album Dance To The Music. This album of psychedelic soul was released to critical acclaimed and is now regarded as an influential and innovative album. Dance To The Music reached 142 in the US Billboard 200 and eleven in the US R&B charts. Sly and The Family Stone’s career was underway.

Life.

Sly and The Family Stone was keen to build on the success of Dance To The Music, and four five months later returned with their third album Life. While it was well received by critics and featured songs of the quality of Fun,  Love City and M’Lady, Life failed to replicate the success of Dance To The Music. Instead, it stalled at a lowly 195 on the  US Billboard 200. It was a case of one step forward and two back for Sly and The Family Stone.

Stand.

After the disappointing sales of Life, Sly and The Family Stone began work on the band’s fourth album Stand. It was written and produced by lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone. He and the rest of Sly and The Family Stone had surpassed their previous efforts.

When critics heard Stand the hailed the album Sly and The Family Stone’s finest hour, pointing at the quality of songs like Sing A Simple Song, I Want To Take You Higher, Stand  and Everyday People. Stand was a classic in-waiting and would transform Sly and The Family Stone’s career.

Everyday People was released as the lead single from Stand in 1969, and topped the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts. This augured well for the release of Stand. When it was released in May 1969, Stand reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and three in the US R&B charts. By November 1969 Stand had sold over 500,000 copies, was certified gold. Seventeen years later, and Stand was certified platinum. Now Stand was sold over three million copies and is one Sly and The Family Stone’s most successful albums.

Woodstock.

Following Stand, Sly and The Family Stone were one of the stars of Woodstock.Their early morning set on ‘17th’ August 1969, was one of the highlights of Woodstock. This further cemented their huge popularity. 

After Woodstock, Sly and The Family Stone’s profile was at an all time high. Their record company CBS was desperate for a new album.Deadlines for a new album were set, and deadlines were missed. For CBS, this was frustrating as Sly and The Family Stone  had never been as popular. If the band had completed their album on time, it could’ve been their biggest selling album. When CBS realised that a new album wasn’t going to be imminent, a Greatest Hits album was released in 1970.

Greatest Hits.

Sly and The Family Stone’s first Greatest Hits album was released in November 1970, and featured the five singles  from Dance To The Music, Life and Stand. They were augmented B-Sides and trio of new tracks. This included Hot Fun In The Summertime, Everybody Is A Star and Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). These twelve tracks became Sly and The Family Stone’s Greatest Hits album which was released to satisfy consumer demand.

On its release, Greatest Hits reached number two in the US Billboard 200 and reached number one on the US R&B charts. Sly and The Family Stone’s first Greatest Hits album went on to sell five million copies, and was certified platinum five times over. This surpassed the success of Stand, and reinforced that fact that Sly and The Family Stone was one of the most popular American bands. However, all wasn’t well within Stand, Sly and The Family Stone.

At this time, relationships within the band were at an all time low, especially among  Sly and Freddie Stone and bassist Larry Graham. Tense doesn’t come close to describe their relationship. Ironically, Larry’s bass playing would be crucial to the success of what became There’s A Riot Goin’ On. It provided the heartbeat to the album. Sadly, the tension between the band members wasn’t the only problem surrounding Sly and The Family Stone.

Drug use was rife within Sly and The Family Stone, and allegations were made that that Sly Stone spent most of his waking hours taking drugs. When the band were touring, Sly Stone carried a violin case full of drugs everywhere the band went. The drug use had worsened ever since Sly and The Family Stone had relocated to California. Since then, PCP and cocaine were the drugs of choice for the band. This started to affect the recording schedule and tours. 

Sly Stone’s moods started to change, and he swing between upbeat and happy, to suddenly moody and broody. Onlookers noted that his behaviour  started to become erratic. Between concerts, it was reported that he spent much of his time taking drugs. For a band who’d just enjoyed two hugely successful albums, Sly and The Family Stone were shooting themselves in their foot at every turn. 

Controversy then arose when Sly Stone became friendly with The Black Panthers. Soon, this was said to be affecting Sly and The Family Stone’s music. They wanted the band’s music to be more militant, both lyrically and musically. The Black Panthers also felt that Sly and The Family Stone should reflect the movement’s beliefs. Even more controversial was that The Panthers demands that Sly Stone fire the two white instrumentalists Greg Errico and Jerry Martini. Their replacements, The Panthers said, should be black musicians. Their final request, was that manager David Kapralik be sacked. Replacing him, should be a black manager who would represent the group. Soon, politics were the least of Sly Stone’s problems, when he became involved with gangsters.

This came about when Sly Stone was looking for someone to manage his affairs. To do this, he could’ve hired any of the Los Angeles’ top music managers. Instead,  Sly Stone hired two of his streetwise acquaintances Hamp “Bubba” Banks and J.B. Brown, as his personal managers; However, it was alleged that their was more to the role of Sly Stone’s manager than looking after his affairs. They would also have to source his drugs and  protect him from his supposed ‘enemies’. This included members of The Family and some of his staff. The perfect people to do this were the gangsters that Hamp “Bubba” Banks and J.B. Brown were alleged to have hired. 

With the problems Sly Stone’s problems with drugs, The Black Panthers and gangsters it was a tumultuous time for the band. Especially when drummer Greg Errico decided to leave Sly and The Family Stone. By then, a rift had developed between Sly Stone and members of The Family, who were disappointed with the loss of  Greg Errico.

This was a huge disappointment given how important his role within the band. However, it also meant that The Black Panthers had gotten their wish and removed one of the two white musicians from the band. It was a sad for Sly and The Family Stone, whose music was meant to be about peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism. Ironically, Sly Stone had let The Black Panthers which was a  virulently racist and anti-semitic organisation infiltrate the band, and intimidate the two white members of the band. So much so, that Greg Errico left  Sly and The Family Stone. This was the backdrop for the recording of new album in 1970 and 1971. Sly and The Family Stone were up against it when recording of There’s A Riot Goin’ On began.

There’s A Riot Goin’ On.

When recording of There’s A Riot Goin’ On began at the Record Plant, in Sausalito, in 1970  Sly and The Family Stone’s popularity was at an all-time high. CBS wanted a new album from Sly and The Family Stone. However, it soon became apparent that was easier said than done. 

Tensions were high within Sly and The Family Stone as they began recording There’s A Riot Goin’ On. There were also the various problems within Sly Stone’s life. Gangster and The Black Panthers were regular visitors to the studio as Sly and The Family Stone began recording the twelve songs penned by Sly Stone. Just like previous albums Sly Stone was also arranging and producing There’s A Riot Goin’ On.  However, there was a distinct lack of progress, the sessions continued into 1971.

By then, deadlines had been set, but were constantly missed. The executives at CBS were frustrated at the lack of progress. Adding to their woes was the departure of drummer Greg Errico. He was replaced for the rest of the sessions by Gerry Gibson. Eventually, amidst rancour, tension and a haze of drugs, the genre-melting opus There’s A Riot Goin’ On was completed in 1971.

When executives at CBS heard There’s A Riot Goin’ On, it was a delicious fusion of funk, soul, rock, psychedelia and jazz.  They scheduled the release of There’s A Riot Goin’ On for November 1971. Ironically, There’s A Riot Goin’ On wasn’t immediately recognised as a classic album. 

Initially, There’s A Riot Goin’ On divided the opinion  of critics. Some hailed the album a masterpiece, while others weren’t won over by the change of sound and style. There’s A Riot Goin’ On was the result of the long sessions where Sly Stone honed the album’s sound. This involved lengthy overdubbing sessions, which gave the album its multilayered sound. The music had a darker, harder edge than the soulful sounding Stand. Gone also was the optimism of previous albums. In its place was music that was pessimistic, even nihilistic as it describes a world that’s gone wrong. In reality, this was more a description of Sly and The Family Stone by 1971. However, with critics opinions  divided over There’s A Riot Goin’ On, record buyers had a casting vote.

On There’s A Riot Goin’ On release in November 1971, it topped the US Billboard 200 and US R&B Charts. By November 1972 the album was certified gold in and later was certified  platinum. Meanwhile, Family Affair was released as the lead single from There’s A Riot Goin’ in November 1971. It reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts, and was certified gold. There’s A Riot Goin’ On may have taken the best part of two years to record in far from idea circumstance, but it transformed the  career of Sly and The Family Stone. 

While There’s A Riot Goin’ On transformed  Sly and The Family Stone’s career all wasn’t well behind the scenes.  Jerry Martini approached  Sly Stone and his managers about money that he believed was owed to him. This didn’t go down with Sly Stone’s ‘managers’ and Pat Rizzo was lined up as a potential replacement for Jerry Martini. He had made the fatal mistake of questioning the ‘Family’s business practices. Despite that, Jerry Martini remained part of the band. However, if he ever asked the same question then Pat Rizzo would replacement.

Meanwhile. the relationship between Sly Stone and Larry Graham was an all-time low. Things came to a head after a concert when a huge fight broke out between Sly Stone and Larry Graham’s entourages. The cause of this was allegations being made by Bubba Banks and Eddie Chin. They alleged that they heard that Larry Graham had hired a hit man to kill Sly Stone. This was a laughable allegation, and more likely invented by the ‘business managers’ to drive a wedge between the two musicians. It worked, and later that night, Larry Graham and his wife had to climb out of a hotel window, and were driven to safety by Pat Rizzo. Larry Graham knew his time with Sly and The Family Stone was over, and went on to found his own successful group, Grand Central Station. Meanwhile, Sly and The Family Stone began work on a new album.

Fresh.

Given the success of On There’s A Riot Goin’ On, executives at CBS were keen for Sly and The Family Stone to record  a followup quickly. However, it took nineteen month before Sly and The Family Stone returned with their sixth studio album Fresh in June 1973.  

By then, Sly and The Family Stone were beset by more problems.  Sly Stone’s drug use had escalated, and his drug of choice for the recording of Fresh was cocaine. Sly and The Family Stone’s other problem was the loss of their original rhythm section. As a result, session drummer Andy Newmark was drafted in  and joined Sly Stone in the rhythm section. Replacing Greg Errico wasn’t going to be easy, and several drummers would enjoy brief spell in Sly and The Family Stone’s rhythm section. Sly Stone  laid down the bass and guitar parts plus piano, organ, harmonica and vocals. Together, Sly and The Family Stone’s new rhythm section recorded the syncopated and complex rhythms. They were part of quite different album, and one showcased a much more stripped down sound. 

Once the album was recorded, Sly Stone constantly remixed the tracks on Fresh. It became the second consecutive album to be delayed by Sly Stone’s constant remixing.

Even after Sly Stone handed over the master tapes he continued to remix Fresh. As a result,  several versions of each track on Fresh exist. 

When critics heard Fresh it as well received by the majority of critics. They were won over by tracks of the quality of If You Want Me To Stay, Frisky, Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) and Babies Makin’ Babies. Fresh was a much more upbeat album, and had the same funkiness as There’s A Riot Goin’ On. It was no surprise that a number of  high-profile musicians had been won over by Fresh.

Jazz legend Miles Davis was so impressed In Time which opened Fresh, that he made his band spend thirty minutes listening to the song. Brian Eno thought that Fresh signalled a change in recording history saying it was an album: “where the rhythm instruments, particularly the bass drum and bass, suddenly [became] the important instruments in the mix.”. Later, P-Funk pioneer George Clinton called Fresh one of his favourite albums. However, when Fresh was released in the summer of 1973, it was receiving praise from critics and musicians alike. It was against this backdrop that Fresh was released.

When Fresh was released on June the ‘30th’ 1973, the album reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 and topped the US R&B charts. This resulted in a gold disc for Sly and the Family Stone who were now one of the most successful soul and funk bands of the seventies.

Small Talk.

In 1974, Sly and The Family Stone headed to the Record Plant in Los Angeles to record their seventh studio album Small Talk. By then, Sly Stone had penned ten tracks and cowrote Small Talk with W. Silva. Just like previous albums, Sly Stone arranged and produced Small Talk, which was a stylistic departure from Sly and the Family Stone.

The release of Small Talk was scheduled for July 1974. Before that, critics had their say on album.  They discovered another album of soulful and funky music. What was different was a much more laid-back and mellow sound. Strings were used effectively and softened the sound and changed the mood of the music. Sometimes they replaced the horns which had been a feature of Sly and the Family Stone’s music. Gone also was the fuller arrangements on a number of tracks, to be replaced by a much sparser sound. Another change was the use studio chatter on around half the songs on Small Talk. This added a degree of spontaneity to the album. Its highlights included the ballad Mother Beautiful, Can’t Strain My Brain, Time For Livin’ and Wishful Thinkin’ plus the funky Loose Booty and Livin’ While I’m Livin’. Small Talk was another album of quality music from Sly and the Family Stone. However, the big question was what would record buyers think of Sly and the Family Stone’s new sound?

When Small Talk was released in July 1974, it reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 200, but never troubled the US R&B charts. Despite that, Small Talk was certified gold. By then, Frisky had been released as the lead single and reached thirty-two in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-nine in US R&B charts. Loose Booty then stalled at eighty in the US Billboard 100 and ninety in US R&B charts. However, this was the least of Sly Stone’s worries.

Ever since the dawn of the seventies, Sly Stone or other band members would often fail to turn up to play at gigs. Other times, they refused to play or passed out after taking a cocktail of drugs. After a while, this started to affect Sly and the Family Stone’s bookings. No longer was the band able to command the same sums of money they once had. When promoters were willing to book Sly and the Family Stone, they were only willing to pay smaller sums of money. This was no surprise. 

Often when Sly and the Family Stone played live, the audience rioted if the band failed to turn up for the gig. It was a similar case if Sly Stone walked off the stage or the band failed to finish their set. Suddenly, chaos reigned and There’s A Riot Goin’ On. This made life difficult for Ken Roberts who was Sly and The Family Stone’s promoter and later general manager. Many promoters wouldn’t hire Sly and The Family Stone due to the problems they brought with them. 

Despite the package they brought with them, Sly and The Family Stone hired the Radio City Music Hall, in New York. This was one of the Big Apple’s most prestigious venues. When Sly and The Family Stone took to the stage on the ‘15th’ of January 1975, the venue was only one-eighth occupied. For Sly and The Family Stone this was a disaster and the band had to scrape together the money to get home.

On their return to California, a decision was made to dissolve Sly and The Family Stone. After eight years, and eight million albums Sly and The Family Stone was no more. However, Sly Stone continued as a solo artist.

High On You.

Ten months after that fateful nights at Radio City Music Hall, Sly Stone released his debut solo album High On You on November the ‘8th’ 1975. It featured ten new songs penned by Sly Stone, and featured  most of the former members of The Family Stone.

This included Freddie Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Dennis Marcello and Little Sister. They were augmented by various session musicians and guest artists as work began at Columbia Studios and the Record Plant in Los Angeles. Sly Stone played many instruments and again, used multi tracking to record multilayered songs. This time, Sly Stone worked quickly and the album was ready for release in late 1975.

When High On You was released on November the ‘8th’ 1975 this was the start of new chapter for Sly Stone. It was his debut solo album and he was eager that the album would be well received by critics. They were impressed by High On You, which was a funkier album than Small Talk.

Especially songs like I Get High On You where which was a fusion of funk proto-boogie, the sinuous Crossword Puzzle and the accusing Who Do You Love? There was a departure into soul on the string drenched ballad That’s Loving’ You. It’s a reminder of Sly Stone’s versatility as he’s transformed into a soul man. Green Eyed Monster Girl is an organ driven jam that shows Sly Stone hadn’t lost his touch. Organize sounded like vintage Sly and The Family Stone, while Le Lo Li and My World are a return to the soulful side. So Good To Me finds Sly Stone fusing soul and funk before he takes a bow on Greed. Given the quality of music on High On You surely it would launch Sly Stone’s solo career?

On the release of High On You, it reached forty-five on the US Billboard 200 and eleven in the US R&B chart. This time there was no gold disc for Sly Stone. When I Get High On You was released as a single in 1975, it stalled at fifty-two on the US Billboard 100 and fifty-eight in the US R&B chart. Alas, that was as good as it got for Sly Stone. Le Lo Li was released later in 1975, but failed to chart. It was a similar case when  Crossword Puzzle was released in 1976. However, on the whole, High On You was a successful start to Sly Stone’s solo career.

Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back.

Just over a year after the release of High On You, Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back was released on December the ’18th’ 1976 and heralded the return of Sly and The Family Stone. It was very different lineup of the group that sold eight million album between 1969 and 1973. 

There was only remaining member of The Family Stone left, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson. She was joined by Vet Stone and Elva Mouton who previously, were members of Little Sister who were Sly and The Family Stone’s backing vocalists. They were going up in the world and were now members of The Family Stone. Joining them in The Family Stone were a number of new faces, plus guest artist Peter Frampton who plays guitar on Let’s Be Together. He joined Sly and The Family Stone at Columbia Recording Studio in San Francisco.

By then, Sly Stone had penned new songs. They were recorded by what was essentially a new lineup of Sly and The Family Stone. What didn’t change was that Sly Stone took charge of production at Columbia Recording Studio. However, when Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back was recorded, it wasn’t Sly Stone who mixed the album. Instead, the tapes were  sent to Joe Tarsia at Sigma Sound Studios in Philly. He was mixing many of the successful Philly Soul albums for Gamble and Huff and Thom Bell. Executives at CBS must have been hoping that some of this success would rub off on Sly and The Family Stone.

Before Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back had their say on Sly and The Family Stone’s comeback album. It featured their usual fusion of soul and funk, which was joined by Latin, proto-boogie. Mostly, Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back was well received by critics. However, what would record buyers make of Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back?

When Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back was released by Epic, it failed to chart in the US Billboard 200, The last time this had happened was in 1967, Sly and The Family Stone released their debut album A Whole New Thing. Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back wasn’t triumphant return that Sly Stone or executives at Epic had hoped. To make matters worse, the only single released from Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back, Family Again failed to chart. Sly Stone must have known what was about to happen next.

In 1977, Epic released Sly Stone from his recording contract. He had spent ten years at Epic, and released eight studio albums and the 1970 Greatest Hits’ album. These nine albums sold in excess of eight million copies. However, that was the past. There was no sentiment in music and Sly and The Family Stone left Epic in 1977.

The most successful period of Sly and The Family Stone’s career was between 1969 and 1974. This golden period started with the release of Stand in 1969, with Sly and The Family Stone’s first Greatest Hits album following in 1970. A year later, Sly and The Family Stone release their Magnus Opus There’s A Riot Goin’ On which is a classic album. So was the followup Fresh which was released in 1973. The final album from a period where Sly and The Family Stone could do no wrong was 1974s Small Talk, and are a reminder of the band’s golden period. 

Sadly, many people concentrate on Sly and The Family Stone most successful albums, especially those released between 1969 and 1974. In doing so, they’re overlooking albums like A Whole New Thing, Dance To The Music and Life which were released between 1967 and 1968. These three albums find Sly and The Family Stone pioneering and honing their trademark psychedelic soul sound. By then, Sly and The Family Stone were ready to embark upon a five-year period where they could do wrong. That period ends with 1974s Small Talk, which was certified gold. This was the end of a five-year period where commercial success and critical acclaim had been constant companions to Sly and The Family Stone. 

Lead by the inimitable musical maverick Sly Stone, Sly and The Family Stone were musical trailblazers who pioneered the psychedelic soul sound. Soon, many other musicians and bands were following in their footsteps, including The Temptations and The Undisputed Truth. However, neither group came close to replicating Sly and The Family Stone’s unique, genre-melting sound. It found favour with critics and record buyers and even today, fifty years after Sly and The Family Stone released their debut album A Whole New Thing in 1967, they continue to inspire and influence a new generation of musicians. 

 By 1976, the dream was over and Sly and The Family Stone’s comeback album Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back had failed to chart. By then, much had happened to Sly and The Fly Stone, including much that made a mockery of their message of message  peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism

During the ten-year period Sy and The Family Stone had been together, there had been stories of involvement with gangsters, brawls and bickering and backstabbing between members of  Sy and The Family Stone. This resulted in Greg Errico and Larry Graham leaving Sy and The Family Stone. There were also death threats, while drug taking was rife. Indeed at one point, it was alleged that Sly Stone spent most of his making hours taking drugs. However, the most disturbing part of the  Sy and The Family Stone story were the racist thugs who infiltrated one of the greatest bands of the late-sixties and early seventies. The Black Panthers’ racist and anti-semitic views made an absolute mockery of peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism. This was just another bad decision that Sly Stone that hindered the progress of  Sly and The Family Stone.

While Sly and The Family Stone are regarded as one of the most successful soul and funk bands of the late-sixties and early seventies, maybe they underachieved? Of the eight million albums Sly and The Family Stone sold, five million albums were copies of their 1970 Greatest Hits’ album. This meant that the eight studio albums that  Sly and The Family Stone released sold just three million copies. The psychedelic soul pioneers 1971 Magnus Opus There’s a Riot Goin’ On sold a million copies and was certified platinum. Sadly, Sly and The Family Stone never again reached the same heights.  

Sometimes, Sly and The Family Stone’s problems with gangsters, death threats, drugs and racist thugs got in the way of making music. This meant that they sometimes never reached the heights that they should’ve. They had shown what they were capable of with their platinum certified albums Stand! and There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Sadly, five years after the release of There’s a Riot Goin’ On in 1971, Sly and The Family Stone released Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back in 1976. When it failed to chart, this was the end of the road for Sly and The Family Stone. After ten years together and classic albums like Stand!, There’s A Riot Goin’ On and Fresh it was the end of the road for the psychedelic soul pioneers. 

A year later, in 1977,  Epic dropped Sly and The Family Stone, who had released eight studio albums and their first Greatest Hits album since signing to the label in 1967. The following ten years were a roller coaster ride with Sly and The Family Stone releasing classic and often, being embroiled in controversy. This controversy hampered Sly and The Family Stone and to some extent, stopped them from fulfilling their potential, and enjoying a longer and more successful career. Some of the controversy also made of mockery of Sly and The Family Stone’s ‘message’ of peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism. This this has been forgotten in the mists of time.

Forty years after Sly and The Family Stone were released from their contract by Epic, and Sly Stone is now seventy-four. Just like Icarus, Sly Stone flew too close to the sun, and nowadays,  is a pale shadow of his former self. The years of hard living and drug taking have taken their toll on this former musical pioneer. Incredibly, his best days were behind him by 1976, when he was just thirty-three. Never again would Sly Stone reach the same heights as he had with  Sly and The Family Stone. Their finest moments were their triumvirate of classic albums Stand!, There’s A Riot Goin’ On and Fresh, which show what  Sly and The Family Stone were capable of in their prime.

The Rise and Demise Of Sly and the Family Stone.

FIFTEEN YEARS OF THE SOULJAZZ ORCHESTRA.

Fifteen Years Of  The Souljazz Orchestra.

When The Souljazz Orchestra was founded in Ottawa, Canada, in 2002 none of its members had any idea where they would or what they would be doing in fifteen years time. They didn’t even know if The Souljazz Orchestra would still be together? The Souljazz Orchestra could’ve been consigned to musical history by 2017. 

Fast forward fifteen years, and The Souljazz Orchestra are still together and are one of the leading lights of the Canadian music scene. They’ve been  nominated for three Juno Awards in their native Canada, released seven albums and have just embarked on their 2017 Autumn Tour. 

Music fans in Britain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Switzerland and later Canada will witness The Souljazz Orchestra taking to the stage, and unleashing their inimitable sound. It comes courtesy of blazing horns, vintage keyboards, a myriad of percussion and a pulsating rhythm section that provides The Souljazz Orchestra’s heartbeat. In full flow, The Souljazz Orchestra is an irresistible and impressive sound that has won over music fans across the globe. That has been the case since 2002.

That was when The Souljazz Orchestra was founded in Ottawa, Canada. They spent the next three years honing their and playing live. Then in 2005, The Souljazz Orchestra released their debut album Uprooted on Funk Manchu Records. It featured nine tracks that showcased The Souljazz Orchestra unique potpourri of musical genres and influences.

By 2007, The Souljazz Orchestra had been together five years and were a familiar face on the live scene. They had started playing locally in and around Ottawa, but gradually spread their wings and were playing venues further afield. Soon, The Souljazz Orchestra’s popularity was growing. This was perfect timing, as The Souljazz Orchestra returned with their sophomore album Freedom Must Die in 2007. It was the first of two albums The Souljazz Orchestra would release the Toronto based indie record label Do Right! Music. Freedom Must Die was well received by critics. 

So was their genre-melting third album Manifesto, which was released by Do Right! Music in 2008. Manifesto was captivating and powerful album full of social comment. Critics called Manifesto the finest album of The Souljazz Orchestra’s career. It was also their swan-song for Do Right! Music.

When The Souljazz Orchestra returned with their fourth album Rising Sun in 2010, they had signed to Strut Records, which has been their home ever since. 

Rising Sun featured a different side of The Souljazz Orchestra. It was an acoustic album, which  was something of a stylistic departure for The Souljazz Orchestra. Despite that, Rising Sun found favour with critics who were won over by The Souljazz Orchestra’s new sound. So were the judges of Canada’s most prestigious musical award…the Juno’s. The Souljazz Orchestra were nominated for Instrumental Album of the Year. Alas, it was a case  of so close yet so far.

Two years later, The Souljazz Orchestra returned with their fifth album Solidarity in 2012. It marked another change of direction from The Souljazz Orchestra. Gone was the acoustic style of Rising Sun. Replacing it, was  an electric, vocal driven style. Joining The Souljazz Orchestra were a number of guest artists. They played their part in what was The Souljazz Orchestra’s most eclectic album. Solidarity was a journey through African, Caribbean and Latin music with detours via jazz and soul. The result was an album that had raw lo-fi, analogue sound. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and was a perfect way for The Souljazz Orchestra to celebrate their tenth anniversary.

There were further celebrations when Solidarity was nominated for a Juno Award for the World Music Album of the Year. This was the second time The Souljazz Orchestra had been nominated for a Juno. Sadly, it was another disappointment for the Ottawa based musical collective.

Despite the disappointment of failing to win their first Juno Award, The Souljazz Orchestra continued their musical voyage of discovery. Some of the members of The Souljazz Orchestra went away and worked with some of the most talented musicians in Cuba, Haiti, Nigeria and Rwanda. These master musicians would influence The Souljazz Orchestra’s sixth album Inner Fire.  

When Inner Fire was released in 2014, it was a compelling fusion of musical influences and genres. Inner Fire had been clearly influenced by the master musicians the members of The Souljazz Orchestra worked with. They absorbed musical influences like a sponge, and they played their part in what was a musical melting pot. It was given a stir by The Souljazz Orchestra, and the result was a tantalising and tasty dish that was one of the finest the Ottawa based collective had cooked.

Although The Souljazz Orchestra had just released one of the finest albums in 2014, they were determined not to make the same album twice. Instead, the members of The Souljazz Orchestra were determined to introduce new musical genres and influences as work began on Resistance, Pierre Chrétien explained: “we approached this album with a fresh ear. We were keen to build on the band’s sound and message, so I brought in some of the French Caribbean and Francophone West African influences that I’ve loved since my youth.” 

To do this, Pierre and the rest of The Souljazz Orchestra fused elements Coupé-Décalé, Zouk, and Ndombolo to their usual mixture of Afro-beat, funk, jazz and soul. The result was Resistance, which one minute was full of social comment, the next dance-floor friendly and joyous as The Souljazz Orchestra showcase their impressive and irresistible sound. When Resistance was released in 2015, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Critics hailed Resistance as The Souljazz Orchestra’s finest hour.

When the nominations for the Juno Awards were released in 2016, The Souljazz Orchestra had been nominated for the World Music Album of the Year. Surely, this was The Souljazz Orchestra’s year, as they had released what was regarded as their finest album? Sadly, it was a case of close but no cigar for The Souljazz Orchestra. 

Just over a year after The Souljazz Orchestra lost out on their first ever Juno Award, the Ottawa based collective is back with the much-anticipated seventh album of their fifteen year career, Under Burning Skies. It finds The Souljazz Orchestra continuing to reinvent their sound.

On Under Burning Skies, The Souljazz Orchestra introduce some tropical influences to their music. There’s also the introduction of soul and jazz on Under Burning Skies, as The Souljazz Orchestra continue to push musical boundaries.

To do this, The Souljazz Orchestra unleash their unique and inimitable musical arsenal. As usual, this features braying blazing horns. To this, The Souljazz Orchestra add vintage synths and early eighties drum machines. They add lo-fi disco, boogie and electro influences to Under Burning Skies which has an organic analogue sound. Just like previous album The Souljazz Orchestra’s lyrics are full of social comment. They seem to come into their own and shine during turbulent times. The Souljazz Orchestra’s lyrics on Under Burning Skies certainly pack a lyrical punch. That has been the case throughout their career, and is the case throughout Under Burning Skies.

The Souljazz Orchestra is like a fine wine and improves with age. They celebrated their fifteenth anniversary with the release of their seventh album Under Burning Skies on Strut Records, It’s without doubt the finest album of The Souljazz Orchestra’s career. This is something that has been said before. However, with every album the Ottawa based musical collective reach new heights.

What makes the rise and rise of The Souljazz Orchestra even more remarkable is their decision to eschew the latest musical equipment, and instead, use an eclectic selection of instruments. Many of these are instruments are long-lost, sometimes unloved junk shop finds. This doesn’t matter, as The Souljazz Orchestra is capable of creating incredible music with these instruments. That is the case on Under Burning Skies and has been the case for fifteen years as The Souljazz Orchestra continue to create a potent, heady and irresistible music brew. Long may that continue.

Fifteen Years Of  The Souljazz Orchestra.

LINDA PERHACS-I’M A HARMONY.

Linda Perhacs-I’m A Harmony.

Label: Omnivore Recordings.

There aren’t many artists that wait forty-four years before releasing their sophomore album. That was the case with one of music’s best kept secrets, Linda Perhacs, who returned with her much-anticipated comeback sophomore album The Soul Of All Natural Things in March 2014. It was the followup to her debut album Parallelogram, which was released by Kapp Records in 1970, but failed to find the audience it deserved. Now Parallelogram is regarded as a seminal psychedelic folk classic, and Linda Perhacs one of the genre’s finest exponents. Proof of that is her third album I’m A Harmony, which was recently released by Omnivore Recordings and marks the welcome return of the seventy-four year old Queen of psychedelic folk Linda Perhacs. Her story is a fascinating one, and began in 1943. 

Linda Long was born in Mill Valley, which lies just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in 1943. By the time she was six or seven, Linda was able to write quite complicated compositions. She was a gifted and prodigious child. However, as is often the case with gifted children, her teachers maybe didn’t realise this at the time. This didn’t stop Linda Long enrolling in the University of Southern California.

At the University of Southern California, Linda majored in dental hygiene, which allowed her to work and study. Her course also allowed Linda Long to explore what was unfolding around her in San Francisco. 

This included the new counterculture which began in the early sixties in London, New York and San Francisco, which was a hotbed of early countercultural activity. It was also home to Linda. Suddenly, she was exposed to a many different sub-cultures and the modern incarnation of Bohemianism. It was the same with art and music, and for Linda, this was creatively stimulating. So much so, that it would change the course of her life.   

Having graduated from University of Southern California, Linda began working as a periodontist. During this period, Linda immersed herself in the various philosophies that were popular at the time. Essentially, she taught her to mediate and rid herself of any negative energy. This helped not just Linda but many of her patients. It may also have helped Linda develop as songwriter. 

Away from work, Linda Perhacs and her sculptor husband used to enjoy long walks in the city’s public parks. It was during these walks that Linda was first inspired to write songs. This was something Linda hadn’t done since she and her husband moved to Topanga Canyon

Indeed, Linda hadn’t written songs for a while. Throughout her University days, Linda hadn’t been involved in making music. However, she loved music. Topanga Canyon was full of artists and musicians and it was the perfect place for an aspiring singer-songwriter. With an environment that inspired her, and the sense of hope that was prevalent during the second half of the sixties, this marked the cultural blossoming of Linda Perhacs. 

What also inspired Linda was the time she spent travelling across part of America. She spent time travelling up the Big Sur coastline, right through Mendocino, the Pacific north-west and to Alaska. This was Linda Perhacs very own road trip. So was a trip to Chimacum, on the Olympic Peninsula. These journeys were what inspired Linda to write songs. Linda stresses that it was these journeys that inspired her, and that drugs played no part in stimulating her creativity. Her songs come from her experiences in life. 

This includes the colours, patterns and shapes that she’s seen since she was a child. Again, they’re not the result of recreational drugs. Instead, they’re a phenomenon that many people experience. These colours, patters and shapes inspired Linda, who soon, would be one step nearer releasing her first album.

Linda was, by now, working in the office of a Beverley Hills’ periodontist. That was where Linda met film soundtrack composer Leonard Rosenman and his wife Kay. When they came into the office, Linda would ask them about their forthcoming projects. Then one day Leonard said to Linda “I can’t believe that clinical work is all you do?” That was when Linda told them about her music and played a tape of one of her songs. These were songs she’d recorded during her travels. Leonard took the songs home to listen to them, and the next day, Linda was offered a record contract.

When Linda handed Leonard the tape, she thought that Leonard was wanting to hear a glimpse of the type of music younger people were making. After all, Leonard had a lot of projects on the go. However, that didn’t stop him offering to produce Linda’s debut album. The song that made him make that offer was Parallelograms, which would become the title-track of Linda’s debut album. Leonard referred to this track as a “visual music composition.”

Leonard who’d been a composer all his life, had never been able to achieve this. Linda had. He explained that Parallelograms was different from the other tracks. Each of the component parts were interactive to the composer as three-dimensional sound. It’s akin to sculpting with ice, where the result is essentially a type of light and dance. For Linda, this was the way she’d always written. However, now Linda was going to take this one step further and record the album that would become Parallelograms. 

Parallelograms.

For Linda Perhacs’ debut album, ten of the tracks she had written were chosen. They were joined by Hey, Who Really Cares? which Linda cowrote with Oliver Nelson. These eleven tracks became Parallelograms which was produced by Leonard Rosenman, who brought in an all-star cast of musicians.

When recording of Parallelograms began, Leonard Rosenman and Linda were aiming to sculpt a series of soundscapes full of textures, colours and shapes. The music Linda hoped, would be “softer and ethereal.” Accompanying her were some legendary musicians. This included percussionists Shelley Mann and Milt Jackson. They were joined by Reinie Press on electric bass and Fender guitar and Steve Cohn on lead and 12-string guitar. John Neufield played flute and saxophone, while Leonard Rosenman added electronic effects and Tommy harmonica. Brian Ingoldsby was tasked with using an electrified shower hose for horn effects. As Parallelograms took shape, it was already apparent that it was no ordinary album. Instead, Parallelograms proved to be a truly groundbreaking album.

Before its release in 1970, critics received an advance copy of Parallelograms. Some of the resultant reviews realised the importance of Linda Perhacs’ debut album. Here was a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician who had discovered her musical soul-mate in producer Leonard Rosenman. He was an ambitious, innovator who wanted to push musical boundaries to their limits on Parallelograms which he described as “visual music composition.” Intrigued, critics investigated Parallelograms.

They discovered a beautiful, understated and enchanting album. From the opening bars of Chimacum Rain, right through to the closing notes of Delicious, Linda Perhacs breathed life, meaning, beauty and emotion into Parallelograms. It was an absolutely captivating listen,  and an album where the listener was spellbound. That wasn’t surprising, as Parallelograms featured hopeful, captivating, ethereal and dreamy music. Parallelograms also featured ambitious and innovative genre-melting music

Parallelograms was a flawless fusion of Americana, country, folk, pop, psychedelia and rock. There’s even hints of ambient, drone pop, experimental and jazz. It was potent and heady brew; and one that should’ve launched Linda Perhacs’ career.

Sadly, when Parallelograms was released, Linda Perhacs’ psychedelic folk classic wasn’t the huge commercial success it should’ve been.  This wasn’t helped by the record company’s failure to promote Parallelograms. As a result, Linda, like so many other hugely talented artists, failed to enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim her undoubted talent deserved. So Linda returned to her job as a periodontist. 

Meanwhile, music industry insiders and the those that had bought Parallelograms awaited Linda Perhacs’ sophomore album. A year passed, and there was no sign of the followup to Parallelograms. Linda was still working as a dental nurse, and had settled back into her life pre-Parallelograms. Two and three years passed, and still, there was no sign of another album from Linda Perhacs. Three years became five, and five became ten. By then, fans of Linda Perhacs had all but given up hope that she would release  another album.

Nothing was heard of Parallelograms and Linda Perhacs until the nineties. By then, Parallelograms had become a cult classic when a new generation of record buyers had discovered the album. Interest in Parallelograms grew with each year. Somewhat belatedly, record buyers realised that Parallelograms was a seminal, lost classic and Linda Perhacs should’ve enjoyed a long and successful career. It was only later that Linda Perhacs realised what might have been.

It was only later in life that Linda Perhacs admitted that much as she loved music, she didn’t seem to have the drive required to make a career as a musician. She did, however, have the talent. Linda was blessed with an abundance of talent. That had been apparent on Parallelograms, and eventually, on Linda Perhacs’ long-awaited comeback album. 

Having spent her career working as a dental hygienist, Linda decided to make her musical comeback. She’d spent a lifetime observing people and the world. This meant she had gathered a wealth of material for her not just her sophomore album, but a series of albums. However, first things first, Linda had to get round to releasing the followup to Parallelograms. This became The Soul Of All Natural Things.

The Soul Of All Natural Things.

For Linda Perhacs long-awaited comeback album The Soul Of All Natural Things, she wrote four tracks, The Soul Of All Natural Things, Intensity, Prisms of Glass and Song of the Planets, and cowrote the rest of the album with various songwriting partners. Linda and Chris Price wrote Children, and cowrote River Of God, Freely, Immunity and Song of the Planets with Fernando Perdomo. He and Linda also collaborated on Daybreak. These ten tracks became The Soul Of All Natural Things, which was recorded between September 2012 and April 2013.

Recording of The Soul Of All Natural Things took place at Reseda Ranch Studios, Reseda in California. Linda’s core band included Chris Price on backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, programming and effects. Fernando Perdomo contributed bass, guitars, keyboards and percussion. Julia Holter and Ramona Gonzales added vocals and keyboards. Co-producing The Soul Of All Natural Things were Chris Price, Fernando Perdomo and Linda. Once The Soul Of All Natural Things was completed, Linda’s long-awaited sophomore album was scheduled for release in March 2014. After a forty-four year absence, Linda Perhacs was back.

By then, a new generation of critics were already familiar with the story of Linda Perhacs‘ debut album, Parallelograms. These critics penned critically acclaimed reviews, and hailed Linda Perhacs the comeback Queen. 

Although forty-four years have passed since Linda Perhacs released her debut album Parallelograms, she picked up where she left off on The Soul of All Natural Things. Accompanied by some of the best young musicians Los Angeles has to offer, they played their part in a flawless fusion of classic rock, folk, pop and psychedelia. There’s even diversions via ambient, experimental, jazz and drone pop during what’s another captivating and innovative album.

Just like on Parallelograms, Linda Perhacs proves to be a versatile vocalist. Her vocal veers between tender and breathy to elegiac, ethereal and emotive. Sometimes, there’s a fragility and sense of confusion, frustration and melancholia in Linda’s voice. Other times, her vocal becomes impassioned, hopeful and hurt-filled. The on Immunity, Linda’s vocal is louder, stronger and full of sincerity. Just like on other tracks this allows her to breathe meaning into the lyrics. Meanwhile, Linda’s accompanied by a choir of lysergic angels who add cascading harmonies, while crystalline guitars and lush strings join with the rest of Linda’s band. They play their part in the sound and success of The Soul Of All Natural Things. 

The music on The Soul Of All Natural Things veers from bewitching to beautiful, to cinematic and cerebral. Other times, the music is powerful and spacious, but has an intensity. However, for much of The Soul Of All Natural Things the music is dreamy, ethereal and lysergic. That was the case with Linda Perhacs’ debut album, Parallelograms. Both feature a truly talented vocalist. So does Linda Perhacs’ eagerly awaited third album I’m A Harmony.

I’m A Harmony.

Three-and-half years after the release of long-awaited and comeback album The Soul Of All Natural Things, Linda Perhacs was on the comeback trail again when she recently released album I’m A Harmony.  By then, her legion of fans were wondering if and when Linda was going to return with a new album? 

What many of her fans didn’t realise, was that seventy-four year old Linda was still working as a dental hygienist and in her spare time, writing and recording I’m A Harmony. This was the reality of life as a musician in 2017.  

When Linda began work on I’m A Harmony, she was joined by some familiar faces and also, a number of new names. Among the familiar faces were a number of well known songwriters, vocalists and producers including Fernando Perdomo, Julia Holter and Chris Price. They were joined by Pat Sansone of Wilco and The Autumn Defense who would co-produce I’m A Harmony with Fernando Perdomo and Linda Perhacs. They were joined by other songwriters, vocalists and producers who were all new names.

Among the new names who joined Linda Perhacs when work began on I’m A Harmony were Pat Sansone and John Stirratt of The Autumn Defense and Wilco; Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche of Wilco and Devendra Banhart who adds a soliloquy on We Will Live. They’re joined by John Pirrucello, James Haggerty, Leddie Garcia, Greg Wiezorek and vocalists Michelle Vidal and Durga McBroom. This all-star band would record the eleven songs that became I’m A Harmony.

Unlike her two previous albums, where Linda Perhacs wrote most or many of the songs on her own, she cowrote the eleven songs with various songwriting partners. This included Crazy Love with Pat Sansone and Wash My Soul In Sound with Mark Pritchard. Linda Perhacs wrote I’m A Harmony, Take Your Love To A Higher Level and One Full Circle Around The Sun with Fernando Perdomo, and the pair cowrote Winds Of The Sky, We Will Live and Eclipse Of All Love with Chris Price. He and Linda penned The Dancer with Julia Holter who cowrote Beautiful Play and Visions with Linda. These eleven songs would form the basis for I’m A Harmony. 

Recording took place at Reseda Ranch Studios, Reseda in California and Tiny Door Studios in Nashville, with additional recording taking place at Julia Holter’s studio and The Session Rooms. This was where Linda Perhacs was joined by her band and guest artists as they began recording I’m A Harmony. It was co-produced by Linda Perhacs, Fernando Perdomo and Chris Price. They were augmented by Julia Holter on Beautiful Play, and she was joined on I’m A Harmony by was Chris Price who also does additional production work on Eclipse Of All Love. Mark Pritchard was drafted in and did additional production on You Wash My Soul In Sound. Each of these producers played their part on I’m A Harmony, which was eventually completed and scheduled for release in autumn 2017.

When I’m A Harmony was released recently, it received the same critical acclaim the greeted the release of  The Soul of All Natural Things in March 2014. I’m A Harmony which received plaudits and praise from critics on both sides of the Atlantic saw the comeback Queen make a welcome comeback. That was no surprise.

Opening I’m A Harmony is Winds Of The Sky, which features guitarist Nels Cline. His plucked guitar and washes of synths accompany Linda’s whispery vocal, before the rhythm section, cooing harmonies and percussion enter, as the dreamy arrangement floats along. Soon, reverb has been added to Linda’s tender vocal adding to the atmospheric, lysergic sound. Later, it’s all change as the arrangement builds. The rhythm section power the arrangement along, and are joined by cascading harmonies and acoustic guitar. They’re joined by a searing guitar which cuts through the arrangement. It’s part of the backdrop for Linda’s elegiac vocal as the Queen of psychedelic folk picks up where she left off on The Soul of All Natural Things.

A plucked guitar sets the scene for elegiac harmonies on We Will Live that set the scene for Linda’s hopeful vocal on this beautiful ballad. It meanders along, with Julia Holter adding cooing and cascading harmonies. They join the acoustic guitar and provide the perfect accompaniment for Linda’s heartfelt, hopeful, Later, Devendra Banhart adds a soliloquy which provides the final piece of this beautiful, melodic and memorable musical jigsaw.

Julia Holter joins Linda on I’m A Harmony and adds keyboards, backing vocal. She also shares the lead vocal with Linda, and they create a dream, choral vocal. Adding a contrast is the dark ominous sound of the keyboards, galloping drums and later, almost eerie harmonies. Meanwhile, a jazz-tinged saxophone is sprayed across the arrangement as the arrangement becomes busy, urgent and almost chaotic as it veers in direction of free jazz. Later, it becomes understated as the ethereal vocals take centre-stage. Still, there’s one more surprise as Linda adds an emotive and tender vocal to this eight minute opus.

From the opening bars of The Dancer, Linda delivers a slow, tender vocal on this cinematic song. Soon, Linda is painting pictures against an understated arrangement that features an acoustic guitar, percussion and washes of synths. The band take care not to overpower Linda’s vocal as she tells the story of mysterious and enigmatic character The Dancer. It’s one of the highlights of I’m A Harmony, and features one of Linda’s best vocals.

As Crazy Love unfolds, an acoustic guitar sets the scene for Linda’s breathy vocal. Soon, a weeping slide pedal steel has joined the shuffling, understated arrangement. They provide the perfect accompaniment for Linda, with the less is more approach proving successful. Midway through the song, the arrangement builds and Linda’s vocal soars above the arrangement as she breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. When her vocal drops out, it’s briefly replaced by an acoustic guitar. Then when she returns her vocal veers between understated and occasionally powerful and deliberate. By then, the rhythm section, acoustic guitar and weeping pedal steel have joined Linda, as the song heads towards its crescendo. As it does, Linda combines emotion and enthusiasm on this hook-laden track. It’s another of the finest moments on I’m A Harmony.

Drums and keyboards combine with Linda’s ethereal scatted vocal on Take Your Love To A Higher Level. Soon, it becomes a soliloquy, before she’s joined by an acoustic guitar and delivers an emotive, impassioned vocal. Soon, the rest of the band enter and the arrangement builds. By then, it’s obvious that something special is unfolding. Soon, the arrangement becomes understated with drums, keyboards and guitar accompanying as Linda almost pleas “Take Your Love To A Higher Level” in this beautiful emotional roller coaster.

Multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone joins Linda on Eclipse Of All Love. Not only does he play drums, keyboards, guitar, percussion, adds backing vocals and shares the lead vocal. Before that, he plays the keyboards and becomes a one man rhythm section. This provides the accompaniment for the two cascading vocals that sit well together. Later, a chirping and crystalline guitar takes centre-stage, before  Linda and Pat and deliver a slow, deliberate and rueful hurt-filled vocal.

With just an acoustic guitar for company as One Full Circle Around The Sun unfolds, Linda delivers a vocal that veers between tender and emotive. Later, Linda’s vocal is full of hope as she sings: “life can be a prayer of love, a prayer you leave behind, to give the hope that we need, to help the world to survive.” As this beautiful, thought-provoking ballad draws to a close there’s joy in Linda’s voice as she sings: “with One Full Circle Around The Sun, how amazing you’ve become.” This is a reminder if any was needed Linda Perhacs’ talents as a singer and songwriter.

There’s a dreamy sound Beautiful Play as Julia Holter adds harmonies and an acoustic guitar accompanies Linda’s tender, elegiac vocal. Meanwhile, the arrangement literally floats along,as  keyboards and guitars combine with harmonies. They frame what’s another vocal masterclass from the Queen of psychedelic folk, Linda Perhacs.

Visions is another longer track, and lasts seven minutes. Straight away, there’s a lysergic sound as breathy, cooing and elegiac vocal floats above a spartan arrangement. It gives way to a picked guitar and drums played with hand. They’re joined by shimmering keyboards and Linda’s vocal. Reverb has been added, and sometimes, the vocal becomes dubby. Soon, cooing harmonies join the glistening keyboards as the arrangement meanders along and gradually reveals its secrets and surprises. This ranges from percussion, a weeping guitar, a dubby vocal, drums and chirping acoustic guitar. They’re all part of a carefully crafted psychedelic folk epic. 

A lone acoustic guitar opens You Wash My Soul In Sound closes I’m A  Harmony. It sets the scene for Linda’s vocal during this filmic song. So do the harmonies that join the acoustic guitars and provide the understated backdrop for Linda’s tender, heartfelt vocal. The spartan but beautiful and effect arrangement allows Linda’s vocal to take centre-stage, where it belongs. It’s one of Linda’s finest moments on I’m A  Harmony, and ensures the album ends on a high.

Three years after the release of her long-awaited and much-anticipated sophomore album The Soul of All Natural Things in March 2014, Linda Perhacs picked up where she left off on I’m A  Harmony. It finds the Queen of psychedelic folk joined by a band that features some talented musicians, they play their part in what can only be described as flawless genre-melting album where Linda Perhacs and her band combine elements of folk, pop and psychedelia. There’s also elements of ambient, avant-garde, experimental, free jazz and jazz on I’m A Harmony which Linda Perhacs co-produced with Chris Price and Fernando Perdomo. Together, they’re responsible for I’m A  Harmony, a carefully crafted album which was recently released by Omnivore Recordings. 

I’m A  Harmony is only the third album that Linda Perhacs has released since she released her debut album Parallelogram in 1970. Sadly, Linda Perhacs has never reached the heights her talent deserved. Maybe, after the commercial failure of Parallelograms, Linda lost her appetite for music? Who knows? She certainly admits to not being the most driven musician. That is a great pity, as she has so much potential. She could’ve and should’ve  enjoyed a long and successful career. Especially, with the Laurel Canyon scene so popular so popular when Linda released Parallelograms. Sadly, for whatever reason, Linda didn’t enjoy the critical acclaim and commercial success her talent deserved. Maybe, somewhat belatedly, Linda Perhacs’ is enjoying an Indian Summer?

That comes as no surprise, given the quality of music Linda Perhacs continues to release five decades after she released her debut album Parallelogram. Her latest opus I’m A Harmony veers between ambient and atmospheric to bewitching to beautiful, to cinematic and cerebral, right through to elegiac and ethereal. Other times, the music on I’m A Harmony is melodic and memorable and other times, poignant and powerful. I’m A Harmony marks the return of the Queen of psychedelic folk with a genre classic in-waiting I’m A Harmony, which is a fitting follow to Linda Perhacs’ two previous  flawless cult classics, Parallelogram and The Soul Of All Natural Things.

Linda Perhacs-I’m A Harmony.

SUSANNE SUNDFOR-MUSIC FOR PEOPLE IN TROUBLE.

Susanne Sundfør-Music For People In Trouble.

Label: Bella Union.

Although Susanne Sundfør only embarked upon a musical career in 2005, the thirty-one year old is already one of Norway’s most successful singer, songwriter and producers. Her last four studio albums have topped the Norwegian charts, including her recently released fifth album Music For People In Trouble which was released by Bella Union. Music For People In Trouble sees the rise and rise of Susanne Sundfør continue.

Susanne Aartun Sundfør was born on the ’19th of March 1986, in Haugesund, in Norway. Her grandfather is the academic, theologian and linguist Kjell Aartun. However, it was neither religion nor languages that Susanne Sundfør became interested in growing up. Instead, it was music.

By the age of six, Susanne Sundfør was already taking music lessons.Initially, Susanne Sundfør played the tambourine and sang. This however, piqued her interest and by the age of eight, she started to play the violin. A year later, nine-year old Susanne Sundfør started to take piano lessons. When she was twelve Susanne Sundfør started to take singing lessons. While music was playing an important part in Susanne Sundfør’s life it was still a hobby. She wasn’t spending every waking minute practising. 

Things would change when Susanne Sundfør attended a music high school, and the next part of her musical education began. Despite her musical background, when Susanne Sundfør left high school, she didn’t study music at university. Instead, she studied English and Art at the prestigious University of Bergen. However, by 2005, nineteen year old Susanne Sundfør’s musical career began.

English singer-songwriter Tom McRae was about to embark upon a tour of Norway in 2005, and was looking for a support act. Susanne Sundfør was chosen, and each night his Norwegian tour, she opened for Tom McRae. This was the break that Susanne Sundfør had been looking for, and launched her nascent career.

In 2006, Susanne Sundfør headed out on tour with the Norwegian alternative rock band Madrugada. Each night, she joined the band when they sung their 2005 single Lift Me. It started life as a duet with singer Ane Brun, but was transformed with the addition of Susanne Sundfør. The experience she gained touring with Madrugada was vital, as Susanne Sundfør’s thoughts turned to her solo career. 

Later in 2005, Susanne Sundfør released her debut single Walls in November. It reached number three in the Norwegian charts and in the process, launched Susanne Sundfør’s solo career.

Susanne Sundfør.

Sixteen months later, and Susanne Sundfør was signed to Warner Norway, and was preparing to release her eponymous debut album. It featured eleven songs penned by Susanne Sundfør. These songs were produced by Geir Luedy, and featured a band that included some top Norwegian musicians including Morten Qvenild, who played synths and autoharp on Susanne Sundfør album of folk pop.

When Susanne Sundfør was released on the ‘19th’ of March 2007 to praise and plaudits. It entered the Norwegian charts and climbed all the way to number three. The album which Susanne Sundfør described as: “folk inspired” alum showcased a truly talented singer-songwriter who had a great future ahead of her. 

Take One.

Just under two years later, Susanne Sundfør returned with her first live album Take One on the ‘10th’ of March 2008. Susanne Sundfør hadn’t been planning to release an acoustic album, but her legion of fans wanted to hear the songs on her eponymous debut album in their original form. They remembered Susanne Sundfør playing the songs live, with just a piano for company and wanted a reminder of these days. 

Susanne Sundfør decided that seen there was demand for a live album, that she would record and then release an album of acoustic versions from her eponymous debut album. The only change that was made was Morocco was omitted, and replaced by an Interlude which knitted the album together. With just a piano or guitar for company, Susanne Sundfør worked her way through the eleven tracks on Take One.

Take One was produced by Susanne Sundfør and Geir Luedy, and was released by the Bergen based label Your Favorite Music. On the ‘10th’ of March 2008, Take One was released and reached thirty-two in the Norwegian charts. It gave Susanne Sundfør’s fans a reminder of her early days when she was starting out as a singer. By then, she was already thinking about her sophomore album. 

The Brothel. 

Another two years passed before Susanne Sundfør returned with her much-anticipated sophomore studio album The Brothel on the ‘15th’ of March 2010. It featured ten new songs, with Susanne Sundfør writing nine and writing As I Walked Out One Evening Lars Horntveth. These ten songs became The Brothel, were Susanne Sundfør changed direction musically.

With a band that featured many of Norway’s leading musicians, including Jørgen Træen, Gard Nilssen, Morten Qvenild and Helge Sten whose vocal features on six tracks. He and the rest of this multitalented and versatile band and producer Lars Horntveth help Susanne Sundfør reinvent her music. Gone was the piano driven folk pop, to be replaced by a much ambitious fusion of art-folk and electronic music. This new sound marked the start of new era for Susanne Sundfør.

Critical acclaim accompanied the release of The Brothel, which was hailed as an ambitious and innovative album. When it was released by EMI Norway, it reached number one and was certified platinum. This wasn’t the end of the success for Susanne Sundfør.

Later when the nominations for Spellemannprisen, which are seen as the Norwegian Grammy Awards were announced, Susanne Sundfør had been nominated for two categories. Susanne Sundfør was nominated for the Best Lyrics and Best Composer. When the winners were announced, Susanne Sundfør won a Spellemannprisen for the Best Composer. This was a huge honour, and rounded off the most successful year of Susanne Sundfør’s career. 

A Night At Salle Pleyel.

Having enjoyed the most successful year of her career, Susanne Sundfør was kept busy during 2011. She was the guest vocalist on the title-track to Nils Petter Molvær’s 2011 album Baboon Moon. Susanne Sundfør was also commissioned to record a live instrumental album for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Oslo Jazzfestival. 

The remit for what became A Night At Salle Pleyel was that Susanne Sundfør had to write forty-four minutes of music. Apart from that, Susanne Sundfør was free to use whatever instruments she wanted. Initially, she decided to write a piece for a string quartet. However, midway through writing the piece, Susanne Sundfør changed her mind and it became a piece for five synths.

When the commissioned piece was written, it was recorded at Sentrum Scene, in Oslo, Norway on the ‘18th’ August 2008. Joining Susanne Sundfør on stage were four other synth players, including Ådne Meisfjord, Morten Qvenild, Øystein Moen and Christian Wallumrød. They stood behind banks of synths and played six Movements that lasted forty-seven minutes.

Three months later, and A Night At Salle Pleyel was released on EMI Norway on the ‘18th’ November 2008. A Night At Salle Pleyel was Susanne Sundfør’s second live album, and hailed as ambitious fusion of electronic, experimental and classical music. It also showed another side of Susanne Sundfør, who was a versatile and talented musician. However, this side of Susanne Sundfør’s music was one she has decided to keep separate from her solo career which resumed in 2012.

The Silicone Veil.

Two years after the release of her number one, platinum certified and award-winning album The Brothel, Susanne Sundfør returned with The Silicone Veil, which was her third studio album, and fifth album overall. It featured ten songs penned by Susanne Sundfør which showcased her talent and versatility as a singer, songwriter and producer.

When Susanne Sundfør recorded The Silicone Veil at the Pooka Studio and Kikitépe Tearoom Studio, once again, she co-produced the album with Lars Horntveth. It was her most eclectic album that took as a starting point electro-folk and incorporated elements of art pop, baroque, dream pop, Scandinavian electronica, synth pop and even a hint of baroque pop. Given the eclecticism of The Silicone Veil, Susanne Sundfør got the opportunity to showcase her full and impressive vocal range. Whether it was on orchestrated arrangements, or against an electronic backdrop Susanne Sundfør breathed life, meaning and emotion to life the lyrics to her ten compositions. They looked at a wide range of subjects which Susanne Sundfør described as: “apocalypse, death, love and snow.” They found favour with critics when The Silicone Veil was released.

The Silicone Veil was scheduled for release on the ’23rd’ of March 2012. It was Susanne Sundfør’s first album to be released in Britain, where it was hoped her music would find a new and wider audience. Before that, critics had their say on The Silicone Veil. They were won over by The Silicone Veil, which was regarded as her finest hour.

That was no surprise, given the carefully crafted, genre-melting arrangements, and lyrics that approached and challenged such a wide range of subjects. Susanne Sundfør wasn’t afraid to deal with subjects that lesser artists would’ve shied away from. That wasn’t Susanne Sundfør’s style. She was made of sterner stuff and wrote cerebral, engaging and thought-provoking lyrics that she delivered with a mixture of confidence, boldness and emotion. The music on The Silicone Veil veered between melancholy and wistful, but was beautiful, imaginative and playful. Sometimes, Susanne Sundfør sung of romance and intrigue during cinematic songs that painted pictures. Without doubt, The Silicone Veil was one of Susanne Sundfør’s finest albums.

It was no surprise that when The Silicone Veil was released on the ’23rd’ of March 2012 the album reached number one in the Norwegian charts. This was Susanne Sundfør’s second consecutive number one album. She hoped that two would become three when she returned with her third album Ten Love Songs.

Ten Love Songs.

Not long after the release of The Silicone Veil, Susanne Sundfør began writing her fourth studio album which later, became Ten Love Songs. Originally, Susanne Sundfør intended to write an album that dealt with the subject of violence. However, just like when Susanne Sundfør was writing the common A Night At Salle Pleyel, the album became something very different.

After spending some time in New York where she tried to write songs for what became Ten Love Songs, Susanne Sundfør returned home. It hadn’t been a successful trip, and she had little to show for her time spent in the Big Apple. 

Now at home in Oslo, Susanne Sundfør began to write the songs that would feature on Ten Love Songs. Before long, she noticed two themes developing…love and relationships. By then, Susanne Sundfør had decided to head in a different direction musically. This was only part of the story as Susanne Sundfør changed direction again.

Ten Love Songs would be a much more pop orientated album. This required Susanne Sundfør to write in a different way. She knew the songs would have to be much more repetitive and have a different and more direct musical and lyrical structure. This was very different to her previous studio albums. This however, wasn’t the only change Susanne Sundfør was about to make.

Having written Ten Love Songs, Susanne Sundfør was determined to involve herself in every aspect of making an album. She wanted to involved not just in the production, but the recording, orchestration,  editing and mixing Ten Love Songs. This was a huge amount of work. However, Susanne Sundfør knew this and wanted to know more about how the album was recorded.

Recording of Ten Love Songs took place between 2012 and 2014, and just like previous albums, Susanne Sundfør was joined by some of Norway’s top musicians. Two of the recordists that worked on the album were Jørgen Træen and Morten Qvenild, who were both talented musicians who had worked with Susanne Sundfør on previous albums. Co-producing the album was Susanne Sundfør was Lars Horntveth. However, Susanne Sundfør bought different producers onboard to work on different tracks, including Anthony Gonzalez, Jonathan Bates and Röyksopp. As a result, other sessions took place in America and France. By late 2014, Ten Love Songs was completed and Susanne Sundfør had been involved with every part of the music making process. She was exhausted, but it had been a rewarding learning experience.

With Ten Love Songs completed, Warner Music Norway scheduled the release of the album for the ’16th’ of February 2015. By then, nearly three years had passed since 16 February 2015 Susanne Sundfør had released an album. Her legion of fans eagerly awaited Susanne Sundfør’s fourth solo album Ten Love Songs. So did critics.

Critics were greeted with an album that had two main themes. However, there was more to Ten Love Songs than love and relationships. Instead, the album death with extremes of love and violent hatred. That hadn’t always been Susanne Sundfør’s concept for the album.

Two of the songs, Accelerate and Trust Me had been written before the release of The Silicone Valley in March 2012. These two songs were meant to be the focus of the album, which was meant to revolve around scenarios that included statues, buildings and weaponry. However, when Susanne Sundfør wrote Fade Away that was the turning point.

After that the album’s central themes were said to be love and relationships. This Susanne Sundfør clarified: “the lyrics are never really about the topic of “love” that was “corny” at the time of its release, but rather the extreme topics about sex and violence that was discussed in the media.” Ten Love Songs was in reality an album about extremes of love and violent hatred. As a result, there’s a darkness to the music as Susanne Sundfør deals with loss, grief and even the compulsive nature of love. These were subjects many songwriters were afraid to deal with and many of Susanne Sundfør’s fans had experienced. These lyrics were delivered against another eclectic album.

While Ten Love Songs was described as a pop oriented album, it featured a myriad of different musical genres and influences. Everything from art pop, baroque pop, EDM, electro pop, electronica, Europop, industrial, Italo disco, synth pop and a much more experimental pop sound was incorporated on Ten Love Songs. Given the subject matter of Ten Love Songs, there’s a cold, almost bleak sound to some songs. This works and bring a sense of reality to the cinematic lyrics. On some songs, there’s an eighties influence partly because of the synths and drum machines used. Other songs are irresistibly catchy including the Europop of Kamikaze and the EDM of Silencer. These tracks grab the listener’s attention straight away, and like Fade Away, Delirious and Accelerate were radio friendly. Susanne Sundfør had also written an album that critics received critical acclaim and was called one best albums of 2015. It also found favour with Susanne Sundfør’s many fans.

When Ten Love Songs was released, it topped the Norwegian charts, and was certified gold. Ten Love Songs was Susanne Sundfør’s third consecutive studio album that had reached number one in Norway. In Sweden, Ten Love Songs reached number forty-seven and seventy-eight in Britain. Susanne Sundfør’s music was starting to find a much wider and appreciative audience. They would welcome Susanne Sundfør’s fifth studio album Music For People In Trouble when it was released.

Music For People In Trouble.

Buoyed by three consecutive number one albums in Norway and a gold disc for Ten Love Songs, Susanne Sundfør decided to begin work on her fifth studio album, and seventh album overall, Music For People In Trouble. It marked another stylistic departure for musical chameleon Susanne Sundfør.

By the time work began on Music For People In Trouble, she had recovered from the making of Ten Love Songs. After the album was completed, Susanne Sundfør was exhausted, anxious, suffering from flu and depressed. However, after some rest and recuperation, and some time travelling the world and had experienced life everywhere from North Korea to the Amazon jungle. After her adventures, 

Susanne Sundfør was ready to write and record her fifth album Music For People In Trouble. It was going to be a very different album to its predecessor Ten Love Songs.

Music For People In Trouble was a much easier album for Susanne Sundfør to write. She later said it was the easiest album to write since her 2007 eponymous debut album. Inspiration for the album came from Part of the inspiration for Music For People In Trouble 

was Susanne Sundfør’s travels and two books she read during the time she spent writing the album. This included Lawrence M. Krauss’ A Universe From Nothing and Robert Bly’s anthology of poetry News Of The Universe, which was food for thought for Susanne Sundfør.  

Some of the songs were written as Susanne Sundfør sat in bed, in her home in Dalston, East London. These were what Susanne Sundfør later called “guitar songs.” After this, Susanne Sundfør headed to Los Angeles where she wrote another two more songs, Good Luck Bad Luck and No One Believes In Love Anymore. Just like the songs that she had written in London, the songs came easy to Susanne Sundfør. They seemed to flow through and out of her as she surveyed the world around her. With two new songs written, Susanne Sundfør returned to London, where she penned Mountaineers. However, Susanne Sundfør’s travels weren’t at an end and she headed to Woodstock, in the outskirts of New York where she wrote Bedtime Stories in a log cabin. The final song that Susanne Sundfør wrote for Music For People In Trouble was The Golden Age, which she recorded with the help of her longterm collaborator Jørgen Træen.

They set out to record a very different album to Ten Love Songs. it saw Susanne Sundfør return to her roots, on album that married art pop and folk. Music For People In Trouble featured stripped back, understated and spartan arrangements, that eschewed the synths and technology of previous albums. By then, Susanne Sundfør admitted she was: “tired of technology”: I wanted to feel like I was a musician again. But also, what I wanted to say needed something organic to convey it.” To create that organic sound, a piano, flute, clarinet and acoustic guitar joined a rhythm section that featured a double bass. Susanne Sundfør was going on an odyssey back to her roots.

Recording of Music For People In Trouble, which was co-produced by Susanne Sundfør and Jørgen Træen, took place at a number of studios. This included Duper Studio, Bergen; NRS Recording Studio in Catskill, New York; Tropical Hi-Fi Studio; Bella Union Studios; Amper Tone Studio and Propeller Music Division, in Oslo. Joining Susanne Sundfør were some talented and versatile musicians. They were occasionally augmented by samples, found sounds and electronic textures. Susanne Sundfør said they: ”take the songs into experimental territory,” such as “trickling water sounds, wiry bleeps and animal peeps.” Some of these were inspired by, and reminded Susanne Sundfør of her recent travels. Other sounds ranged from dry and industrial, to innocent and romantic and played their part in what was a personal, poignant and powerful album from Susanne Sundfør.

Susanne Sundfør’s fifth studio album saw her marry art-pop and folk with avant-garde, country, electronica, experimental, folk, industrial, jazz, musique concrète on Music For People In Trouble. It was a very different album from Ten Love Songs, and another album of grownup music. This was what Susanne Sundfør excelled at. She was a storyteller par excellence who neither shied away from uncomfortable subjects nor controversy on her albums of cerebral and thought-provoking music. That was the case with Music For People In Trouble.

It opened with the acoustic sound of Mantra, which Susanne Sundfør describes as a song where: “all the objects in the song often have ominous or negative connotations in history” and she “wanted to give them a more positive meaning.” This she does against a spartan arrangement while she delivers an ethereal, soul-baring vocal that sets the bar high for the rest of the album. 

A slide guitar adds an atmospheric backdrop to Reincarnation where Susanne Sundfør questions and ponders the mortality and the nature of love. It’s a moving and thought-provoking song. Good Luck Bad Luck is a song about and relationship at end and love lost. Fittingly, Susanne Sundfør delivers the lyrics against an understated, smokey late night arrangement. The way Susanne Sundfør delivers the lyrics it’s as if she’s lived and survived the heartbreak. 

Very different is the eight minute opus The Sound Of War, which is a powerful folk song where Susanne Sundfør paints pictures of the  destruction and chaos caused by war. Having sung of “the buzzing of the drones,” drones replicate the destruction and chaos that Susanne Sundfør’s had been singing about. Gone is the birdsong and mountain stream that could be heard earlier in the song, which resonates and proves poignant with the war pigs ready to unleash The Sound Of War.

Music For People In Trouble is an experimental sounding, It’s glitchy, with beeps, squeaks, sound effects and then samples of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge and naturist Andres Roberts give way to a pastoral plucked acoustic guitar as this lysergic experiment reveals the rest of its secrets. With its marriage of avant-garde, electronica, experimental folk, jazz and musique concrète, this is one of the most ambitious and challenging genre-melting tracks on Music For People In Trouble.

Bedtime Story starts off a beautiful piano lead track where a soft, swirling clarinet, samples and found sounds accompany Susanne Sundfør as she sings of the boredom and frustration caused by insomnia. Later the song becomes almost eerie and ruminative, although there’s still an elegiac quality in Susanne Sundfør’s vocal. 

Undercover was inspired by Dolly Parton, and unsurprisingly, has a country influence. Susanne Sundfør’s hurt-filled vocal is delivered against a piano, as the song takes on a cinematic quality. Later, as the arrangement builds, her voice soars high above the arrangement as Susanne Sundfør combines emotion, hurt and power. This proves a poignant and powerful combination. Equally powerful is the melancholy piano lead ballad No One Believes In Love Anymore, where Susanne Sundfør almost cynically and sadly mourns the loss of romance. 

The Golden Age is another genre-melting track where avant-garde, electronica, folk and jazz are combined over the course of four minutes. A thoughtful reading of poetry gives way to Susanne Sundfør’s vocal, which is delivered against an arpeggio played on a keyboard. It ebbs and flows as Susanne Sundfør delivers a heartfelt, ethereal vocal. Closing Music For People In Trouble is Mountaineers, which features John Grant. It’s Susanne Sundfør plays the leading role, as she delivers an emotive powerhouse, as the arrangement reaches a dramatic crescendo as synths and drones accompany the pair. It ensures Music For People In Trouble ends on a high.

When Music For People In Trouble was released, it went straight to number one in Norway. This was Susanne Sundfør’s fourth consecutive number one album. After a few weeks, Music For People In Trouble had reached 124 in Belgium and ninety-three in Britain. However, an album of the quality of Music For People In Trouble was destined to climb the charts.

Just like Susanne Sundfør’s previous albums, Music For People In Trouble was a carefully crafted album of genre-melting music that featured cerebral and thought-provoking music. It asks a series of questions, and deals with a variety of scenarios and subjects. Some of them will ring true with those that buy the album. They’ll have suffered the same hurt and heartbreak, or feel the same way about love or romance. Similarly, The Sound Of War brings home the seriousness of the current situation, where two megalomaniacs could bring about World War III and oblivion for large parts of the world. Elsewhere on Music For People In Trouble, Susanne Sundfør embarks upon musical experiments, as she embraces avant-garde. This is all part of a genre-melting album. 

Seamlessly,  Susanne Sundfør flits between and fuses musical genres and influences as she creates another album of ambitious, atmospheric, beautiful and cinematic music. Piano led ballads sit side-by-side with more epics and more experimental songs, as Susanne Sundfør, who is one of Norway’s most successful artists, showcases his skills as a singer, songwriter and producer. The result was Music For People In Trouble a very personal, poignant and powerful album which features Susanne Sundfør at the peak of her powers musically.

Susanne Sundfør-Music For People In Trouble.

RONNIE MILSAP-OUT WHERE THE BRIGHT LIGHTS ARE GLOWING, THERE’S NO GETTIN’ OVER ME, KEYED UP AND ONE MORE TRY FOR LOVE.

Ronnie Milsap-Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing, There’s No Gettin’ Over Me, Keyed Up and One More Try For Love.

Label: BGO Records.

As Ronnie Milsap celebrated his thirty-eighth birthday on January the ’16th’ 1981, he was well on his way to becoming one of the most successful country singers of his generation. Life had been tough for Ronnie Milsap, who had over overcome everything that life had thrown him.

Ronnie Milsap was born in Robbinsville, North Carolina in 1943, and  congenital disorder meant that he was almost blind from birth. When he was just an infant, Ronnie Milsap’s mother abandoned her young song. He was brought up by his grandparents in the Smoky Mountains. They were poor, and life was tough for Ronnie Milsap. When he was five, Ronnie Milsap was sent to the Governor Morehead School For The Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina.

That was where Ronnie Milsap developed a love of music, and he used to sit and listen to late night broadcasts of gospel, R&B and the country music which later, transformed his life. By the age of seven, his teachers noticed that Ronnie Milsap’s musical talent, and soon, he started to study classical music at Governor Morehead and learned several instruments, including the piano which would later become a feature on his albums. 

Before that, music was transformed with the arrival of Elvis Presley. Just like many teenagers, Ronnie Milsap who was a high school student, formed his own band The Apparitions. This gave Ronnie Milsap a tantalising taste of life as a musician.

After high school, Ronnie Milsap won a full scholarship to Young Harris College in Georgia, where he planned to study to become a lawyer. However, music intervened and he joined a local R&B band The Dimensions. This meant that Ronnie Milsap was juggling his studies and his nascent musical career.

The Dimensions were a popular band and before long, Ronnie Milsap was playing in venus all over the Atlanta area. By the autumn of 1964, Ronnie Milsap could no longer juggle college and his burgeoning music career. He had been offered a scholarship to law school, but declined and pursue a full-time career in music.

Not long after this, Ronnie Milsap met his future wife Joyce Reeves at a dinner party. The pair married in 1965 and by then, Ronnie Milsap’s solo career was well underway.

In 1965, Ronnie Milsap had signed for the New York based label Scepter Records. Ronnie Milsap released a number of singles for the label over the next couple of years. Most failed to find an audience, apart from Never Had It So Good which reached nineteen in the US R&B charts, and gave Ronnie Milsap his first hit single. Little did he know that it was the first of many over the next fifteen years. 

By 1980, Ronnie Milsap had enjoyed twenty-two hit singles in the US Country charts between 1973 and 1980. Twenty-one of these had reached the top ten and sixteen had topped the US Country charts.  Ronnie Milsap had also released twelve albums between 1971 and 1980, and nine of these albums had reached the top ten on the US Country charts, while 1975s Night Things was certified gold in Canada and 1976s Ronnie Milsap Live, 1977s Was Almost Like A Song and 1978s Only One Love In My Life were all certified gold in America having sold over 500,000 copies. Ronnie Milsap’s Greatest Hits album was released in 1980, and was certified platinum in Canada and double-platinum in American after selling two million copies. By then, Ronnie Milsap’s sound had started to change, and his albums featured string drenched pop ballads, which would bring him crossover success over the next few years.

During the period between 1981 and 1984,  Ronnie Milsap released five albums. Four of these albums, Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing, There’s No Gettin’ Over Me, Keyed Up and One More Try For Love feature on a two CD set recently released by BGO Records. It sees the rise and rise of Ronnie Milsap continue.

Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing.

Sixteen years after his career began in 1965, Ronnie Milsap was one of the biggest names in country music. Despite the success he was enjoying, Ronnie Milsap was keen to pay homage to one of the giants of country music, Jim Reeves on twelfth album, Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing.

Jim Reeves had died the year before Ronnie Milsap’s recording career began. He died on ‘31st’ July 1964, when his private plane crashed. However, during his lifetime, Gentleman Jim Reeves was a prolific artist and recorded a huge amount of music. So much so, that his albums were released and charting during the seventies and eighties. As a result, he was one of biggest selling country artists.

For Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing, Ronnie Milsap decided to record ten songs that Jim Reeves had recorded during his career. Among them, were Marvin Moore and George Campbell’s Four Walls, Leon Payne’s Pride Goes Before A Fall, Joe Allison and Audrey Allison’s He’ll Have To Go, Harlan Howard’s I Won’t Forget You, Werly Fairburn I Guess I’m Crazy (For Loving You), Roger Miller and Bill Anderson’s When Two Worlds Collide and Red Sovine and Dale Noe’s Missing You. These songs were joined by two Jim Reeves’ compositions I’m Gettin’ Better and Am I Losing You? Two new compositions Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing and Dear Friend found their way onto Ronnie Milsap’s homage to Jim Reeves.

Recording of Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing took place at Woodland Sound Studio, in Nashville, Tennessee. Co-producing the album were Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins, who were joined by some of Nashville’s top session players. This included Bobby Gene Emmons and Bobby Ogdin who played Fender Rhodes, vibes players Charlie McCoy and Farrell Morris and Richard Ripani who like Ronnie Milsap played synths. They were joined by backing singers and strings as Ronnie Milsap began recording a thoroughly modern country record with crossover appeal.

When Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing was released in 1981, Ronnie Milsap’s carefully crafted tribute to Gentleman Jim Reeves was well received by critics. It was a mixture of country and pop, which meant that Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing was sure to have crossover appeal. Especially when the album featured many string-drenched ballads, which were augmented by a couple of uptempo tracks. On the ballads, Ronnie Milsap breathed life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics on what was a poignant tribute to a giant of country music. However, one song stood head and shoulders above the rest…Am I Losing You?

When it came to release a single from Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing in early 1981, the song that was chosen was Am I Losing You? It reached number one in the American and Canadian Country charts. For Ronnie Milsap this was his seventeenth number one in the US Country charts. That wasn’t the end of the success for Ronnie Milsap. Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing reached number six in the US Country charts and eighty-nine in the US Billboard 200. This was Ronnie Milsap’s most successful album in the US Billboard 200. He was now enjoying the crossover success he worked so hard towards. 

There’s No Gettin’ Over Me. 

Later in 1981, Ronnie Milsap returned with his thirteenth album There’s No Gettin’ Over Me, which was co-produced by Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins. They were joined by some of Nashville’s top musicians in the city’s Woodland Sound Studio. That was where they recorded the ten songs that became Ronnie Milsap’s thirteenth album There’s No Gettin’ Over Me.

When recording of There’s No Gettin’ Over Me began, Ronnie Milsap had carefully chosen ten songs that he hoped wouldn’t just appeal to fans of country music, but would also have crossover appeal. This included Everywhere I Turn (There’s Your Memory which was penned by Naomi Martin and Archie Jordan, who wrote It’s All I Can Do with Richard Leigh. Archie Jordan also wrote Jesus Is Your Ticket To Heaven and It Happens Every Time (I Think of You). They were joined by (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me which was penned by Walt Aldridge and Tom Brasfield, who also cowrote It’s Written All Over Your Face with Robert Byrne. It was joined by I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World which was written by Kye Fleming, Dennis Morgan and Charles Quillen, who cowrote I Live My Whole Life At Night with John Schweers. Other tracks included Suzy Storm and Barbara Wyrick’s Too Big for Words, which would become There’s No Gettin’ Over Me, which was a landmark album for Ronnie Milsap.

Critics on hearing There’s No Gettin’ Over Me hailed the album as one of Ronnie Milsap’s finest hours. By then, he was in his middle period, and was extend his appeal beyond country music fans. Ronnie Milsap was trying to appeal to a wider audience with his pop stylings on There’s No Gettin’ Over Me. It was an album of the highest quality, and was sure to do so win over a new legion of fans for Ronnie Milsap. There’s No Gettin’ Over Me featured slick, carefully crafted arrangements and songs where Ronnie Milsap’s voice exudes humility, confidence and sometimes, empathy and emotion. It was a powerful, poignant, beautiful and sometimes, uplifting album of crossover country music and pop. Among its many highlights were (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me, It’s All I Can Do  and I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World. Record buyers agreed.

When (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me was released as the lead single, it topped the US and Canadian Country charts and reached number five in the US Billboard 100. This made (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me Ronnie Milsap’s most successful single. Then when the album (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me was released later in 1981, it reached thirty-one in the US Billboard 200 and topped the US and Canadian Country charts. (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me went on to sell over 500,000 copies and was certified gold, and became Ronnie Milsap’s most successful album. The second single released from the album was I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World, which reached number twenty in the US Billboard 100, but again, topped the US and Canadian Country charts. It seemed that Ronnie Milsap could do no wrong.

Inside.

Replicating the success of Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing and There’s No Gettin’ Over Me wasn’t going to be easy as Ronnie Milsap released his fourteenth studio album in 1982. It featured ten cover versions which were co-produced by Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins. 

When critics heard Inside, they were won over by another album of crossover country and pop. Among the album’s highlights, were  Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard’s Any Day Now, Mike Reid’s Inside and Ralph Murphy and Bobby Wood’s He Got You.  Again, strings played an important part in the arrangements and gave the album crossover appeal. Ronnie Milsap hoped that Inside would find favour beyond fans of country music.

The lead single from Inside was Any Day Now, which reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 100 and topped the US and Canadian Country charts. Inside reached number sixty-six on the US Billboard 200 and four on the US Country charts. He Got You was then released as a single and stalled at fifty-nine on the US Billboard 100 and number one on the US Country charts. Across the border in Canada, He Got You reached two in the Country charts. Normal service was resumed when the single Inside topped the US and Canadian Country charts. By then, Ronnie Milsap was one of the biggest names in country music.

Keyed Up.

Buoyed by the success of Inside, Ronnie Milsap’s thoughts turned to his fifteenth studio album Keyed Up. He was keen to build on the success of Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing, There’s No Gettin’ Over Me and Inside. He was now one of most popular country artists, but unlike many of his contemporaries, had that all important crossover appeal. This he hoped would continue with his next album.

For Keyed Up, Ronnie Milsap chose ten songs. This including four from the pen of Mike Reid who wrote Stranger In My House and Show Me. He cowrote Is It Over with Charles Quillen and We’re Here To Love with Troy Seals. The Kyle Fleming and Dennis Morgan songwriting partnership contributed Redneck At Heart and Feelings Change, while Michael Stewart and Dan Williams wrote Don’t You Know How Much I Love You. These were some of the songs that featured on Keyed Up, which was co-produced by Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins.

They were responsible for another slick, carefully crafted album of crossover country, pop and rock. Just like previous albums, ballads and uptempo tracks rubbed shoulders on an album that was long on quality. It was no surprise that Keyed Up found favour with critics. Especially with songs of the quality of the string-drenched ballad Show Me, and the hurt-filled ballads Stranger In My House and Don’t You Know How Much I Love You. They were a tantalising taste of the quality of music on Keyed Up.

Stranger In The House was released as the lead single in 1983, reaching twenty-three in the US Billboard 100, five in the US Country charts and number one in the Canadian Country charts. Keyed Up reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 200 and two n the US Country charts. The single Don’t You Know How Much I Love You the stalled at fifty-eight in the US Billboard 100, but topped the US and Canadian Country charts. So did Show Her, the third single released from Keyed Up. It was one of Ronnie Milsap’s most successful albums, and had featured two number ones in the US and Canadian Country charts. The rise and rise of Ronnie Milsap continued. 

One More Try For Love.

Having found a successful formula, most artists would’ve been reluctant to change anything. However, Ronnie Milsap wasn’t most artists and was keen to keep up to date with an ever-changing musical world.

For One More Try For Love, Ronnie Milsap chose ten songs written by some of the songwriters who had played a part in his success. This included Mike Reid who contributed Still Losing You, Prisoner Of The Highway and I Might Have Said. He also cowrote She’s Always In Love with Michael D. Stewart and Dan E. Williams who wrote Suburbia. Archie Jordan wrote I’ll Take Care Of You, while Quentin Powers, Susan Longacre and Gary Prim cowrote Night By Night where Ronnie Milsap duetted with Lisa Silver. Robert Byrne cowrote the title-track One More Try For Love with Brandon Barnes. These songs became One More Try For Love where the changes were rung.

This included a change in Ronnie Milsap’s production partner.  Rob Galbraith was brought in and replaced Tom Collins. For many within the music industry in Nashville this case as a surprise.

Over the years, Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins had forged a successful production partnership. The pair was responsible for many of Ronnie Milsap’s best, and most successful albums. The pair had worked together for the best part of a decade.

Ronnie Milsap first met Tom Collins when he and Jack D. Johnson co-produced Ronnie Milsap’s 1973 sophomore album Where My Heart Is. This was the start of a long-lasting working relationship and friendship. Tom Collins and Jack D. Johnson returned to coproduce 1974s Pure Love and 1975s A Legend in My Time. 

The pair was usurped by Dan Penn and Chips Moman for Ronnie Milsap’s fifth studio album. Ironically, it wasn’t Ronnie Milsap’s finest hour, and Tom Collins and Jack D. Johnson were back behind the control desk for Night Things later in 1975. However, David Nives was brought in to produce 20/20 Vision album in 1976 which featured two US Country number ones in the US Country charts. 

Despite this success, Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins embarked on what would be a successful production partnership. They made their debut on 1977s It Was Almost Like a Song, and continued on 1978s Only One Love In My Life and 1979s Images. There was a change in production partner for Milsap Magic, when Ronnie Milsap was joined by Rob Galbraith.

The Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins return in time to record 1981s Out Where the Bright Lights Are Glowing. This was the start of a run of four albums where Ronnie Milsap commercial success and critical acclaim. Despite that Ronnie Milsap and Rob Galbraith co-produced One More Try For Love. 

When work began on Ronnie Milsap’s sixteenth studio album his production partner Rob Galbraith decided to use the latest equipment to electronic alter the vocals on several tracks. It seemed even that last bastion of musical tradition Nashville, wasn’t immune to eighties technology. Among the tracks Rob Galbraith used the effects on, were She Loves My Car and Suburbia. This seemed a strange decision, as Ronnie Milsap was one of country music’s top vocalists. It seemed an ill-conceived idea, but fortunately, Rob Galbraith used the effect sparingly,  and critics would later deem its use a success. 

When critics heard One More Try For Love, they discovered a quite different album. Still, the album was well received by critics who noticed that many of the lush strings of previous albums were gone. They made brief appearances on an album that showed the different sides of Ronnie Milsap.

Some songs moved in the direction of AOR including One More Try For Love,  Still Losing You, Suburbia and I Might Have Said. I Missed You, I’ll Take Care Of You and Night By Night combined pop stylings with elements of country music. However, other songs including She Loves My Car, She’s Always In Love featured the ubiquitous eighties drums, synths and effects. It seemed that Rob Galbraith was trying to reinvent Ronnie Milsap’s sound. This was a strange decision, as Ronnie Milsap was enjoying the most successful period of his career. He didn’t need to follow passing musical trends, in pursuit of further commercial success.

The lead single Still Losing You was released, but failed to chart on the US Billboard 100. However, it  topped the US and Canadian Country charts in 1984. When One More Try For Love was released in 1984, it stalled at a lowly 180 in the US Billboard 200 and ten on the US Country charts. For Ronnie Milsap this was a huge disappointment. So was Prisoner Of The Highway failing to trouble the US Billboard 100. It still reached number six on the US Country charts and nine on the Canadian Country chart. She Loves My Car then reached eighty-four in the US Billboard 100, and was the first country single to feature on MTV. One More Try For Love wasn’t the success that everyone at RCA Records had hoped, and the decision to reinvent Ronnie Milsap had backfired, despite the quality of music on the album.

Ironically, right up until One More Try For Love, Ronnie Milsap had been enjoying the most successful period of his career. He had been an almost permanent feature in the top ten of the US Country album charts since his 1973 sophomore album Where My Heart Is. The only album that failed to reach the top ten was the Dan Penn and Chips Moman produced A Rose By Any Other Name. Apart from that, Ronnie Milsap could do no wrong.

Before the release of One More Try for Love, Ronnie Milsap had enjoyed twenty-three number ones in the US Country charts and eighteen in Canada. Ronnie Milsap had released fifteen studio albums and one live album between his 1971 eponymous debut album and 1983s Keyed Up. Thirteen of these albums had reached the top ten on the US Country charts, while 1975s Night Things was certified gold in Canada and 1976s Ronnie Milsap Live, 1977s Was Almost Like a Song and 1978s Only One Love in My Life and 1981s There’s No Gettin’ Over Me were all certified gold in America. In 1980, Ronnie Milsap’s Greatest Hits was certified platinum in Canada and double-platinum in American after selling two million copies. It was no wonder many people wondered why Ronnie Milsap changed direction on One More Try For Love.

Many people saw Ronnie Milsap’s to change direction on One More Try For Love as a huge mistake. Although it was a mixture of his old and new sounds, the change in direction alienated many of his fans who had enjoyed his mixture of pop, AOR and country. While this was still present on One More Try for Love, so were eighties drums, synths and effects. This was something that many of Ronnie Milsap’s fans thought didn’t belong on One More Try For Love, which was the end of an era.

Never again would Ronnie Milsap enjoy the same success has he had enjoyed up until Keyed Up. Sadly, the Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins partnership were never reunited. Granted Tom Collins, Ronnie Milsap and Rob Galbraith co-produced 1985s Lost In The Fifties Tonight and 1989s Stranger Things Have Happened. However, three is often a crowd when it came to production, and Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins never worked together again as a partnership.

Ronnie Milsap and Tom Collins co-produced three of the four albums that feature on BGO Records two CD set, including Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing, There’s No Gettin’ Over Me and Keyed Up. These three albums are  joined by One More Try For Love which was co-produced by Ronnie Milsap and Rob Galbraith. Although some of the tracks on One More Try For Love show Ronnie Milsap receiving an eighties makeover as elements of electronica and rock combine, most of the music is a mixture of AOR, country and pop. This was the same type of music that featured on Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing, There’s No Gettin’ Over Me and Keyed Up. They feature music that is slick, carefully crafted, melodic and memorable. It’s also the perfect introduction to Ronnie Milsap.

By the time  One More Try For Love was released in 1984, Ronnie Milsap was forty-three and one of the biggest names in country music. To do that, Ronnie Milsap had overcome a serious disability, and went on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim during the seventies and early eighties where he became a giant of modern country music.

Ronnie Milsap-Out Where The Bright Lights Are Glowing, There’s No Gettin’ Over Me, Keyed Up and One More Try For Love.

 ERLEND APNESETH TRIO-ARA.

Erlend Apneseth Trio-Åra.

Label: Hubro Music.

Just a year after the Erlend Apneseth Trio released their critically acclaimed debut album Det Andre Rommet, they recently returned with their sophomore album Åra, which was released on Hubro Music. Åra finds the talented triumvirate return with another album of original music that is regarded as an almost perfect improvised update of the post modern string trio.

It’s led by twenty-seven year old Erlend Apneseth who is already regarded as one of Norway’s top young Hardanger fiddlers. Joining Erlend Apneseth in his Trio are drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and guitarist Stephan Meidell. Together, the become the Erlend Apneseth Trio who switch seamlessly between musical genres and push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond on Åra. The result is another ambitious album of genre-melting music from the Erlend Apneseth Trio who are led by one of the pioneers of Norwegian music.

Erlend Apneseth was born on the ’11th’ of August 1990, in Jølster, in Sogn og Fjordan, a county in Western Norway. It’s a small town with a population of just over 3,000 that is a popular destination for skiers. It was also where Erlend Apneseth first picked up the Hardanger fiddle and began a journey that would see him become an award-winning musician. That was still to come.

Before that, Erlend Apneseth enrolled at the prestigious Ole Bull Akademiet in Voss, Norway, where he studied traditional Norwegian folk music. Erlend Apneseth’s turbo at the Ole Bull Akademiet was none other than Håkon Høgemo, another Hardanger fiddler who had already released a quartet of solo albums and featured on many other albums. He mentored Erlend Apneseth during his time at the Ole Bull Akademiet. By the time Erlend Apneseth graduated, he was ready to embark upon a musical career.

The first many people heard of Erlend Apneseth was when he won Grappa’s New Artist Award in 2012. Buoyed by winning such a prestigious award, Erlend Apneseth began work on his debut album Blikkspor. 

Prior to the release of Erlend Apneseth’s debut album Blikkspor, he was one of five folk musicians under the age of twenty-five nominated for the Fureprisen award. This was one of the most prestigious prizes in Norwegian music, and one that came with a first prize of 50,000 Norwegian Kroner.  

At the award ceremony in June 2013, the five young, up-and-coming musicians waited to hear who had won the Fureprisen award. When the announcement came, Erlend Apneseth won the Fureprisen award and the first prize of 50,000 Norwegian Kroner. This augured well for the release of his debut album Blikkspor in October 2013.

Blikkspor.

Blikkspor had been recorded at and mixed at Rainbow Studio during April and August 2013. The album was recorded with the help of a few of his musical friends, including trumpeter Arve Henriksen who also produced Blikkspor. When it came to record Sommarflukt, which closed Blikkspor, Erlend Apneseth brought onboard drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and guitarist Stephan Meidell. They worked well together, but little did the  three musicians realise that they would become part of one of the most exciting and innovative trios in the Norwegian music scene.

Before that, Blikkspor was released by Hubro Music, in October 2013. Critical acclaimed accompanied the release of Blikkspor, which was described as an ambitious album of groundbreaking and genre-melting music that announced the arrival of innovative musician.  It was also a tantalising taste of what Erlend Apneseth was capable of. Critics awaited his sophomore album with interest.

Critics and record buyers had to be patient, as Erlend Apneseth was busy over the next couple of years. He found himself collaborating with musicians from a variety of different backgrounds, including folk, improv, jazz and rock. Groups big and small were joined by the Jølster born fiddler. So were  folk singer Torgeir Vassvik and poet Erlend O. Nødtvedt. For Erlend Apneseth it was a case of have fiddle will travel, as he worked with a variety of different artists and bands.  Erlend Apneseth even enjoyed a spell as a soloist with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

Meanwhile, Erlend Apneseth was winning further awards that boosted his burgeoning CV. This included the Øivind Bergh Memorial Award  and the Music Scholarship from Sparebanken Vest in 2014. The third award that Erlend Apneseth won in 2014 was the Ingerid, Synnøve and Elias Fegerstens Foundation For The Norwegian composers and Performing Musicians. Winning these three awards boosted Erlend Apneseth’s as his thoughts turned to recording a new album.   

Det Andre Rommet.

While Blikkspor was credited to Erlend Apneseth, his next album was credited to the Erlend Apneseth Trio. Its origins can be traced to the recording of Blikkspor, and when Erlend Apneseth brought drummer Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and guitarist Stephan Meidell onboard to feature on the album closer Sommarflukt. Erlend Apneseth hit it off with the two musicians, and asked them if they wanted to join him in a trio? They agreed, and that day, the Erlend Apneseth Trio was born. 

Since then, the Erlend Apneseth Trio had been playing live, and the supergroup was honing their sound. Having played together for the best part of two years, the Erlend Apneseth Trio still hadn’t recorded their debut album. That would soon change.

For Det Andre Rommet, a total of ten tracks were written. Erlend Apneseth wrote Trollsuiten, Dialog, Sapporo, St Thomas-klokkene, Hugskot and Draum Om Regn. The other four tracks, Under Isen, Det Andre Rommet, Nattkatt and Magma St. Thomas-klokkene, were written by the Erlend Apneseth Trio. These tracks would become their debut album Det Andre Rommet

The Erlend Apneseth Trio recorded their debut album Det Andre Rommet at Hallibakken Lydproduksjon between the ‘9th’ and ‘12th’ if March 2015. A total of ten tracks were recorded and would become Det Andre Rommet.

When Det Andre Rommet was released by Hubro Music in early July  2016, it was to widespread critical acclaim. The three musical mavericks had created an a groundbreaking and innovative album where they fused elements of avant-garde, improv, jazz, Musique Concrète and even rock. This resulted in an album that has the capacity to captivate as the Erlend Apneseth Trio spring surprises, as they take the listener in new and unexpected directions. Often, it’s Erlend Apneseth’s Hardanger fiddle that takes the listener on the emotional roller coaster that is Det Andre Rommet was. It was hailed one of the finest Norwegian albums at the end of 2016. By then, Erlend Apneseth’s thoughts had turned to his sophomore solo album.

Nattsongar.

As 2017 dawned, Erlend Apneseth entered the Engfelt Forsgren Studio on the ‘5th’ of January 2017 to record his sophomore album Nattsongar. Just like his debut album Blikkspor, Erlend Apneseth brought onboard some of his musical friends. This included Stein Urheim, Ole Morten Vågan and Hans Hulbækmo. They were part of the band that spent the next three days recording eight of the nine tracks on Nattsongar, which was completed on the ‘7th’ of January 2017. 

Three months later, Erlend Apneseth’s sophomore album Nattsongar was released to the same critical acclaim as his debut album Blikkspor. Just like Blikkspor, Nattsongar was hailed as an ambitious and innovative album from Erlend Apneseth when it was released on the Heilo label, an imprint of Grappa Musikkforlag AS which also owns Hubro Music. It would release the Erlend Apneseth Trio’s sophomore album Åra later in 2017.

Åra.

Just over a year after the release of their critically acclaimed debut album Det Andre Rommet, the Erlend Apneseth Trio make a welcome return with their sophomore album Åra. It features ten new tracks from the Erlend Apneseth Trio.

For Åra, Erlend Apneseth wrote five of the tracks on Åra, including Utferd, Tundra, Undergrunn, Sakura and Klokkespel. Guitarist Stephan Meidell contributed Øyster, while Stryk and Bølgebrytar were written by the Erlend Apneseth Trio. Lysne was written by poet Erlend O. Nødtvedt, who also adds the vocal. The other track on the album is Saga which began life when the Erlend Apneseth Trio found an archive recording of an unknown musician playing a saw. This the Erlend Apneseth Trio decided to use as the basis for the track that became Saga. These ten tracks were recorded by the Erlend Apneseth Trio in early January 2017.

Recording of Åra took place at Jørgen Træen’s Duper Studio in Bergen during January 2017. Drummer and percussionist Øyvind Hegg-Lunde provided the heartbeat while guitarist Stephan Meidell also took charge of sampling. Erlend Apneseth played Hardanger Fiddle and co-produced Åra with the Norwegian musician Andreas Meland whose responsible for the Hubro Music. When Åra was completed, all that remained was for the album to be mixed and mastered.

Jørgen Træen mixed Åra at Lydgrotten Studio, Bergen, during May 2017.  Then Helge Sten a.k.a. Deathprod mastered Åra at Audio Virus Lab, June 2017. Now Åra was ready for release.

Four months later, and Åra was released by Hubro Music, and finds the Erlend Apneseth Trio. It’s an almost flawless improvised album, where the Erlend Apneseth Trio modernise the contemporary format of the post-modern string trio. It takes on new meaning on Åra, which has been compared to a Nordic retort to Tin Hat or Trio Taksim where the Erlend Apneseth Trio seamlessly switch between disparate musical genres on their second album of groundbreaking music.

Opening Åra is Utferd, which gradually reveals its secrets. Initially, the soundscape is reminiscent of an orchestra as it tunes up. Soon, though,the unmistakable sound of the Hardanger Fiddle emerges from the soundscape and adds a rueful, wistful sound. It’s joined by urgent  percussion and pitter patter drums. They become urgent as they propel the improvised arrangement along. By then, the Hardanger Fiddle wheeze and whines while distant percussion can be heard. Later, the soundscape becomes understated and melodic as calmness descends, after the captivating musical storm.

Straight away, there’s an understated, minimalist and even an Eastern sound to Tundra as a plucked fiddle and washes of guitar combine with  the rhythm section. It takes care not to overpower other instruments, as the Erlend Apneseth Trio carefully craft a ruminative, cinematic soundscape that meanders along, all the time painting pictures in the mind’s eye.

The guitar on Øyster sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to a Wim Wenders’ film. It shimmers and glistens, while the Hardanger Fiddle quivers and then plays with a degree of urgency. Sometimes, it plays second fiddle to the guitar, while other times, they combine and create a moving and poignant backdrop. Meanwhile, drums and percussion are used sparingly, allowing the Hardanger Fiddle and guitar to take centre-stage. They create a track that sounds as if it belongs in the remake of a Spaghetti Western. Later, this moody, moving and poignant soundscape dissipates allowing time for reflection.

Stryk features the Erlend Apneseth Trio at their inventive and innovative best. To create this soundscape they combine a droning fiddle and washes of guitar. Sometimes, the guitar threatens to feedback, but this never happens. Instead, it’s part of the Erlend Apneseth Trio’s carefully sculpted soundscape that veers between dark, eerie and chilling to moody and broody. Always though, the soundscape is cinematic and would be perfect soundtrack for a short film.

Erlend Apneseth’s Hardanger Fiddle sets the scene on Undergrunn. Straight away, there’s a sense of sadness as it takes centre-stage and tugs at the heartstrings. Midway though the track, it’s all change as the drums create a raga backdrop. It locks down a groove and provides a contrast to the fiddle. Soon, washes of jagged, angular, improvised guitar are added. Later, it’s just subtle drums and a scratchy guitar that combine to create mesmeric backdrop, to what’s been a magical musical mystery tour.

Bølgebrytar finds the Erlend Apneseth Trio let their imagination run riot as they combine instruments, found sounds and samples. They flit in and out this soundscape. This ranges from a plucked, chirping fiddle and jangling, shimmering guitar to the samples of traffic and lorry. These became part of another carefully constructed and imaginative soundtrack that seamlessly combines avant-garde, free jazz and Musique Concrète in such a way that it makes perfect musical sense.

Saga features the sound of someone playing a saw. It produces an eerie, haunting sound. Adding to the sense of unease is the jangling bells and the jarring, screeching fiddle. As various instruments and found sounds are added, a dark, ominous sound emerges from the soundscape. Especially when the otherworldly haunting sound of the saw reappears. Adding the earlier sense of unease is the sound of something being sawn, and falling to the floor. This gives way to the muffled sound of bells ringing, against a crackly analogue backdrop. It’s part of the most chilling and atmospheric soundscape on Åra.

In the distance, fingers fly up and down the fretboards on Lysne, and gradually, the music draws neared and starts to reveal its secrets. Reverb has been added as the guitar and plucked fiddle combine with drums. They usher in poet Erlend O. Nødtvedt’s impassioned soliloquy. Just like the rest of the arrangement, it gradually grows in power. Meanwhile, drums and percussion provide the heartbeat to this powerful and moving multicultural soundscape from the Erlend Apneseth Trio.

Sakura has an understated introduction as the Erlend Apneseth Trio play within themselves. Pizzicato strings combine with drums and percussion while electronics crackles. Gradually, the soundscape starts to reveal its secrets. This includes drums and percussion which are played softly and join with an Eastern inspired fiddle, chirping, chiming guitar and the crackling electronics create musical fireworks Later, the fiddle becomes wistful as its plaintive cry provides what sounds like the soundtrack to a battle as the bell tolls, but for whom?

Klokkespel closes the Erlend Apneseth Trio’s sophomore album Åra. As a guitar chimes, the wistful sound of Erlend Apneseth’s fiddle takes centre-stage. It plays a leading role in the sound and success of this beautiful heart-wrenching track that closes Åra. 

Just over a year after Erlend Apneseth’s modest supergroup released their critically acclaimed debut album Det Andre Rommet, the supremely talented and versatile Erlend Apneseth Trio return with their sophomore album Åra. It’s ambitious, innovative and genre-melting opus that surpasses the quality of Det Andre Rommet. That was never going to be easy, but the Erlend Apneseth Trio features three of Norway’s top musicians Erlend Apneseth, Øyvind Hegg-Lunde and Stephan Meidell. They continue to push musical boundaries to their limits and beyond by combining disparate musical genres.

This includes elements of ambient, avant-garde, drone, experimental, free jazz, improv, jazz, Musique Concrète, Nordic Wave and rock. To this, the Erlend Apneseth Trio add found sounds, samples and Eastern sounds and guest artist Erlend O. Nødtvedt. When all this is combined the result is album of ten soundscapes that veer between abstract to atmospheric to broody and moody, to chilling, dark, eerie and otherworldly. Sometimes the music is beautiful, emotive and heart-wrenching, while other times it’s poignant and powerful. Sometimes, the music is thoughtful and ruminative and invites reflection. Often it’s cinematic as the Erlend Apneseth Trio paints pictures with their carefully crafted soundscapes. They’ve been created by master musicians who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of musical perfection.

The Erlend Apneseth Trio come tantalizingly close on Åra, which is another groundbreaking album of inventive and imaginative music from a pioneering group of like-minded musicians who reach new heights in their continuing pursuit of musical perfection. So much so, that in years to come Åra is will be remembered as a career-defining album from the Erlend Apneseth Trio and the album that future albums will be compared to.

Erlend Apneseth Trio-Åra.

EL TURRONERO-NEW HONDO.

El Turronero-New Hondo.

Label: Pharaway Sounds. 

All to often, music that was way ahead of its time failed to find the audience it deserves. It’s only much later when the music is reevaluated by a new generation of record buyers who realise and recognise the importance of the music. That has been the case time after time, during the last twenty years with obscure and overlooked albums being rediscovered. 

Belatedly, these albums are reissued and embraced by a much more knowledgeable and appreciative audience. They’ve a much more educated musical palette, and a far more eclectic taste in music than the record buyers who overlooked these lost genre classics and hidden gems first time around. As a result, many albums that failed to find the audience they deserved first time around, are being rediscovered by a new generation of record buyers. That is the case with El Turronero’s album New Hondo which was recently reissued by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records. 

When El Turronero released New Hondo on Belter Records in 1980, Manuel Mancheño Peña it was the seventh album of the thirty-three year old flamenco singer’s career. It began two decades earlier, when Manuel Mancheño Peña was just seventeen.

Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ was born in Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz, on August the ‘15th’ 1947. However, Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ was brought up in Ultrera. He was brought up in the ways of flamenco, and eventually, eventually would become a cantaor, a flamenco singer. 

That was no surprise as Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ was singing from an early age. His parents sold nougats at fairs, and when Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ accompanied them, his mother would ask her son to sing? This he would do, and this was good practise for when Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ embarked upon a career as a flamenco singer.

Growing up, Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ immersed himself in flamenco music, and began listening to three of the most popular singers of that time, El Perrate Fernanda, Bernarda and Manuel de Angustias. Soon, Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ decided to emulate the three cantaor singers. 

That was when Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ first met the guitarist Diego del Gastor. He would accompany the aspiring cantaor, and when he moved to Madrid in 1963. The two months  Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ spent in Madrid were tough. 

The first person the young cantaor auditioned for told him he was “useless,” which would’ve knocked many young singer’s confidence.  However, Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ was made of stronger stuff, and this made him even more determined to make it as a cantaor. Fortunately, Gitanillo de Triana saw Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’s potential, and hired the young cantaor for two months. He sang each day until the club closed down. This was good experience for Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero.’ 

After this, Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ returned to Seville, where he spent a month at Las Cavas de Nemesio. This was good experience for Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero.’ However, it wasn’t particularly profitable and he was almost penniless. It was around that time that Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ met flamenco dancer Antonia Gades, and the pair would later travel the world. Before that, Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ was called up for military service.

Having completed his military service, Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ and Antonia Gades spent four-and-half years travelling the world. By the time, he returned to Madrid Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ had established himself as a flamenco singer. In Madrid he befriends Camaron de la Isla and also, flamenco dancer Carmen Montiel, and soon, the pair become a couple.

By the seventies, Manuel Mancheño Peña ‘Turronero’ had met guitarist and composer Paco Cepero and embarked upon a recording career as El Turronero.  His debut album Y Primero El Compás-Canta El Turrón was released in 1970, with Cantes Viejos Temas Nuevos following in 1973 and Huele A Romero in 1975. 

El Turronero was already a hugely popular singer and a familiar face at festivals across Spain. Audiences watched as the versatile El Turronero switched between flamenco palos, Bulerias, Debla, Fandangos, Romera,  Seguiriyas, Sevillanos, Soleares, Tarantos and Tentos. El Turronero with the help of Paco Cepero, started to update theme of cantes bringing the lyrics up-to-date and adding a progressive sound. Sometimes, the lyrics were full of social comment, and spoke for those that had no voice. This was dangerous in a dictatorship.

Spain started to change after the death of dictator Francisco Franco on the ’20th’ of November 1975, and gradually, the country became a parliamentary monarchy. As Spain started to change, its music industry moved from Barcelona to Madrid, which was also home to El Turronero.

In 1976, El Turronero released his fourth album Vente Conmigo, Niña which was an eclectic album that featured a mixture of Bulerías, Fandangos, Romera, Siguiriyas, Tangos and Tarantos. This was what El Turronero’s fans expected from him. He was a versatile and talented singer, whose progressive lyrics provided a voice for the Spanish people. To many the twenty-nine year old El Turronero was a hero who spoke for and to them.

By 1978, El Turronero was signed to Belter Records, which was Spain’s biggest record company. Belter Records and its imprint Olivo would be home to El Turronero for the next three years. In 1978, El Turronero released two albums, including Asi Lo Siento which was released on the Olivo label, which specialised in flamenco music. The other album El Turronero released was El Cante Del Turronero which was released on Belter Records. Just like previous albums, both albums were eclectic and showcased the versatile cantaor who it seemed, could do no wrong.

The following year, 1979, was a landmark year for Spanish music, which was evolving. Camaron had just released La Leyenda Del Tiempo, which nowadays, is regarded as the album that started the New Flamenco movement. Ironically, La Leyenda Del Tiempo was pilloried by critics who failed to see the importance of what was an important and innovative album where Camaron fused jazz, rock and flamenco. This was a game-changer for Spanish music. 

Meanwhile, El Turronero released his sixth album Mi Sangre on the Olivo label in 1979. Just like previous albums, Mi Sangre saw El Turronero flit between Bulerías, Fandangos, Romera, Siguiriyas, Tangos and Tarantos. This was the type of music that El Turronero had been making with Paco Cepero’s help since 1970. However, when El Turronero returned in 1980 with New Hondo, it marked the start of a new era for one of Spain’s leading cantaor singers.

As the eighties dawned, El Turronero was also ready to change direction musically. These albums features songs penned by flamenco guitarist Paco Cepero who played on the album. He played his part in the albums that El Turronero released between 1970 and 1979. Although each album was eclectic, and showcased a variety of different styles, by 1980 El Turronero had come to the conclusion that his music couldn’t stand still, and it had to evolve. 

Camaron had realised that a year earlier when he released La Leyenda Del Tiempo on 1979. Now El Turronero was about to follow in Camaron’s footsteps. However, this wasn’t a decision that El Turronero took lightly. He remembered what had happened to his friend when he released La Leyenda Del Tiempo. His innovative fusion of jazz, rock and flamenco incurred the wrath of critics who failed to understand the album.Neither did record buyers, and La Leyenda Del Tiempo failed commercially. Despite this, El Turronero made the decision to change direction musically on New Hondo.

This wasn’t the only change that El Turronero would make on New Hondo. On previous album, his friend guitarist and composer Paco Cepero had contributed a number of songs. However, on New Hondo Paco Cepero’s only contribution was Sufrimiento which he cowrote with José Carrasco Domínguez. The rest of the songs on New Hondo were written by two songwriters.  Juan Barcons Moreno penned Las Penas, Si Yo Volviera A Nace, Tiene Bigotes, Yo Soy Nube Pasajera, Navegan Mis Pensamientos and A Nadie Se Le Ha “Ocurrio.” They were joined by Eres Lava De Un Volcan, Y La Razón and Mis Venas which were written by José Carrasco Domínguez. These song became New Hondo, which was recorded in Madrid.

Recording of New Hondo took place at Estudios Belter, which was founded in 1965, and was one of Spain’s top studios. Taking charge of production was Juan Barcons who also played keyboards and added backing vocalists. The rest of El Turronero’s band featured some of city’s top musicians, including a rhythm section of drummer G. Martínez, Fernando Cubedo on contrabass and Max Sunyer on electric guitar. They were joined by percussionist Coco and acoustic guitarist Josep Maria Bardagí. One man was missing when New Hondo was released … Paco Cepero. He didn’t feature on his friend El Turronero’s most ambitious album.

Prior to the release of New Hondo later in 1980, critics had their say on the album that marked the reinvention of El Turronero. Just like Camaron’s 1979 album La Leyenda Del Tiempo, critics didn’t understand New Hondo. It saw producer Juan Barcons  and El Turronero set out to modernise traditional flamenco music. This was a controversial decision, and one that didn’t find favour with critics who failed to understand New Hondo nor its importance.

When Juan Barcons and El Turronero set out to record New Hondo, their plan was to record album that modernised traditional flamenco music. It had changed very little until relatively recently. This included Camaron’s album La Leyenda Del Tiempo in 1979. However, New Hondo wasn’t going to be fusion of flamenco, jazz and rock. Instead, it was an ambitious genre-melting album that drew inspiration from a variety of musical genres. 

For El Turronero his starting point on New Hondo was flamenco. Just like on his previous albums,  he switched between different types of flamenco, some of which came from different parts of Spain. Among them, were Bamberas, Bulerías, Jaberas, La Caña, Malagueña, Seguiríyas and Tangos. These types of flamenco were combined with a variety of musical genres from the sixties, seventies and early eighties. This included funk, psychedelia, rock and Philly Soul, which had provided the soundtrack to much of the seventies. So had disco, especially between 1976 and 1979. A feature of both genres were swathes of lush strings. They can be heard on several tracks on New Hondo. Disco also inspired some of the drums tones that featured on New Hondo. The other influence is boogie, which following disco’s demise in the summer of 1979, became a favourite of dancers and DJs. All these genres can be heard on El Turronero’s pioneering album New Hondo, which features lyrics full of social comment.

El Turronero sets the bar high with the album opener Las Penas, which would later become a cosmic disco classic. It’s one of several tracks that feature  lush sweeping, swirling strings. They’re combined with La Caña style of flamenco, funk and soulful harmonies as El Turronero delivers a soul-baring vocal. This is followed by the psychedelic funk of Si Volviera A Nacer which is another of New Hondo’s highlights. It features an electric sitar and an impassioned vocal from El Turronero as he transforms flamenco and takes it in a totally new direction. 

The tempo drops on Tiene Bigotes which features sweeping disco strings. What doesn’t change is the emotion and passion in El Turronero’s vocal on this Tanguillos. 

Dancing disco strings return on Yo Soy Nube Pasajera, where a funky bass helps propel the arrangement along and harmonies accompany El Turronero as he seamlessly switches to the Bamberas style of flamenco. Still he breathes life, meaning and emotion into this hook-laden dance-floor filler.

There’s another change of style on Navegan Mis Pensamientos, where soulful harmonies set the scene on this example of the Alegrías style of flamenco. El Turronero copes admirably with one of the most complex arrangements on New Hondo. It features a slapped bass and rock inspired guitar as El Turronero complies power and passion. In doing so, he demonstrates his versatility and talent. The tempo drops on A Nadie Se Le Ha “Ocurrio,” as El Turronero tackles a Bulerías on this hip shaking fusion of funk and boogie. El Turronero then delivers one of his most heartfelt, emotive and soulful vocal on Eres Lava De Un Volcan which is an example of the Jaberas style of flamenco. Then on Sufrimientos, which features a laid-back and lushly orchestrated arrangement, El Turronero accompanied by harmonies adds the finishing touch to a beautiful ballad.

It’s all change on Y La Razón a Seguiríyas, where the bass adds a tough, funky sound as El Turronero combines power and emotion. Meanwhile, disco strings sweep and swirl as El Turronero continues in his mission to reinvent flamenco. Closing New Hondo was the ballad Mis Venas Malagueña which is a Malagueña, a type of flamenco from the Andalusia region. Just like on so many other tracks on new Hondo, it features a vocal masterclass from El Turronero, who showcases his versatility and as he copes with another change of style and closes this genre classic on a high.

Sadly, when New Hondo was released in 1980 by Belter Records, the album wasn’t well received by critics. To make matters worse, the album failed to find an audience and sold badly. It a similar case when the future cosmic disco classic Las Penas was released as a single in 1980. The single failed commercially and soon, found its way into bargain bins. 

Now thirty-seven years later, and New Hondo has been rediscovered by a new generation of record buyer and is regarded as a genre classic. Similarly, Las Penas is a cosmic disco classic and favourite of DJs and dancers. Original copies of New Hondo and Las Penas are rarities and change hands for large sums of money. Fortunately, New Hondo was recently reissued by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records. This is the perfect chance to discover or rediscover the most ambitious album of El Turronero’s career.

By then, El Turronero was an experienced cantaor singer with a legion of fans across Spain. They travelled to see him in concert and at festivals, and bought his albums. That was until his ambitious,  groundbreaking and genre-melting album New Hondo, where El Turronero set about reinventing flamenco. As a starting point, he took a number of different styles of flamenco and combined this with boogie, disco, funk Philly Soul, psychedelia, rock and social comment. Then when El Turronero fused several genres, the result was the cosmic disco classic of Las Penas and the psychedelic funk of Si Volviera A Nacer. They’re among the highlights of New Hondo, which marked the reinvention of El Turronero and flamenco.

Not everyone welcome the reinvention of El Turronero, who was one of the most popular cantaor singers of his generation. His fans didn’t want him to change direction, and liked his music the way it was. El Turronero could’ve continued to churn out similar albums year after year. This would’ve been a popular and decision amongst El Turronero’s legion of fans, but would’ve been soul-destroying for a singer of his calibre. Just like Camaron who had he released La Leyenda Del Tiempo a year earlier in 1979,El Turronero style was ready to reinvent his music and indeed flamenco.

At the back of El Turronero’s mind was that changing direction risked alienating his fans. Sadly, that was the case, and New Hondo was his least successful album El Turronero had released. However, El Turronero was willing to take that risk, as he determined to change direction musically and hopefully reinvent flamenco. Sadly, it was a decision that didn’t payoff in the short-term.

Eleven years after the death of El Turronero in 2006, his groundbreaking and genre-melting album New Hondo is receiving the critical recognition it so richly deserves. New Hondo was a landmark album from El Turronero and  had the potential to transform the future of flamenco music. New Hondo followed in the footsteps of Camaron’s 1979 album La Leyenda Del Tiempo and  both albums are regarded as game-changing albums. Especially  El Turronero’s New Hondo, which is regarded as important, innovative and timeless genre-melting album from a true musical pioneer who was willing to risk his popularity to transform flamenco music.

El Turronero-New Hondo.

THE RISE AND DEMISE OF THE YOUNGBLOODS.

The Rise and Demise Of The Youngbloods

By 1965, bassist and vocalist Jesse Colin Young was twenty-four and had already enjoyed a degree of success as a folk singer. He had already released two albums The Soul Of A City Boy in 1964, and Young Blood in 1965. However, Jesse Colin Young’s solo career was in the past. 

Things changed when Jesse Colin Young met twenty-two year old guitarist Jerry Corbitt, a former bluegrass musician. The pair decided to form a band, which they named The Youngbloods. Initially, The Youngbloods was a duo, with Jesse Colin Young playing bass and Jerry Corbitt switching between piano, harmonica and lead guitar. This initial lineup of The Youngbloods made their debut on the Canadian circuit. However, before long, Jerry Corbitt introduced Jesse Colin Young to Banana.

This was none other than Lowell Levinger, a bluegrass musicians who was born Lowell Levinger  III. However, the nineteen year old multi-instrumentalist was known within the music community Banana. Jerry Corbitt thought that Banana could flesh out The Youngbloods’ sound. Especially since Banana could play banjo, bass, guitar, mandola, mandolin and piano. Once Jesse Colin Young met Banana, he became the third and final member of the band. 

After that, things happened quickly for The Youngbloods. Having made their live debut at Gerde’s Folk City, in Greenwich Village, within a matter of The Youngbloods were the house band at the prestigious Cafe au Go Go. By then, The Youngbloods had already signed their first recording contract.

Having signed to RCA Records, The Youngbloods discovered that the record label were unsure how to market the band. At one point, RCA Records tried to market The Youngbloods as a bubblegum pop act. However, in 1966, The Youngbloods released their debut single, Rider, which failed to chart. The followup was Grizzly Bear, which reached fifty-two in the US Billboard 100. Both of these single featured on The Youngbloods’ eponymous debut album.

The Youngbloods.

Work began on The Youngbloods’ eponymous debut at RCA Victor’s Studio B in New York, in late 1966. This was the start of a new chapter in their career. By then, founder member Jesse Colin Young was regarded as the focal point of the band. He was the band’s lead singer, and later, would become the band’s songwriter-in-chief. That was still to come.

For The Youngbloods, Jesse Colin Young only penned two songs, Tears Are Falling and Foolin’ Around (The Waltz). Jerry Corbitt contributed just the one song, All Over The World. The remainder of the songs were covers of old blues and folk songs. This included Blind Willie McTell’s Statesboro Blues, Jimmy Reed’s Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby, Mississippi John Hurt’s C.C. Rider, Fred Neil’s The Other Side of This Life and Chet Powers’ Get Together. These songs were recorded at RCA Victor’s Studio B, with producer Felix Pappalardi.

Once the album was recorded, The Youngbloods was scheduled for release in January 1967. When critics heard The Youngbloods, they lavished praise and plaudits on what was primarily an album of folk rock, with excursions into the blues and pop. Ballads and rockers sat cheek by jowl on The Youngbloods, which allowed the band to showcase their talent and versatility. Critics forecasted a bright future for The Youngbloods..

When The Youngbloods was released later in January 1967, the album reached 131 in the US Billboard 200. This wasn’t bad for a band who were only formed in 1965. The Youngbloods showed what the band were capable of. So did one of the singles released later in 1967.

Six months after the release of their eponymous debut album, The Youngbloods released their cover of Chet Powers’ Get Together in July 1967. It was an anthem-in-waiting about universal brotherhood that had the potential to launch The Youngbloods’ career. Mercury Records had high hopes for Get Together, but the single stalled at a sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. This was disappointing. Get Together hadn’t reached the heights that executive at Mercury Records had hoped…yet.

Earth Music.

Having released their debut album earlier in 1967, The Youngbloods began work on their sophomore album Earth Music. Just like their eponymous debut album, Earth Music was a mixture of covers and original songs. 

Six of the songs on Earth Music was penned by members of The Youngbloods. Jesse Colin Young wrote All My Dreams Blue, Long and Tall and Wine Song. He also cowrote Sugar Babe. Jerry Corbitt penned Don’t Play Games and cowrote Dreamer’s Dream with Lowell Levinger who also wrote Fool Me. The remainder of the songs on the album were cover versions including Robin Remaily’s Euphoria, Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business and Tim Hardin’s oft-covered classic Reason To Believe. Again, these songs were recorded with producer Felix Pappalardi at RCA Victor’s Studio B in New York, and later,  became Earth Music.

Later in 1967, Earth Music was released to widespread critical acclaim. It was album that veer between folk rock to country and pop. There was even elements of jazz and psychedelia  during an album of carefully crafted songs. Especially the cover of Euphoria, the mellow sounding All My Dreams Blue, Sugar Babe, Wine Song and a captivating cover of Tim Hardin’s Reason To Believe. Critics remarked on how the group were already maturing musically. Already some critics were comparing The Youngbloods to Lovin’ Spoonful. That came as no surprise, as The Youngbloods were about to release an album of carefully crafted and compelling songs that were playful and irresistibly catchy. Surely, an album of the quality of Earth Music would take The Youngbloods to the next level?

When Earth Music was released later in 1967, the unthinkable happened and the album failed to chart. Things got even worse when Fool Me was released as a single, and also failed to chart. For The Youngbloods this rubbed salt into a very painful wound. 

Elephant Mountain.

Nearly wo years passed before The Youngbloods returned with their third album. By then, there had been a change in the band’s lineup. Jerry Corbitt had left The Youngbloods to embark upon a solo career. Eventually, The Youngbloods settled on  drummer Joe Bauer as Jerry Corbitt’s replacement. Meanwhile, Jesse Colin Young was well on his way to becoming The Youngbloods’ songwriter-in-chief.

Jesse Colin Young wrote eight of the fourteen songs on Elephant Mountain. He also wrote Double Sunlight, Turn It Over, Trillium and Black Mountain Breakdown with the other two members of The Youngbloods. Lowell Levinger wrote On Sir Francis Drake, while Rain Song (Don’t Let the Rain Bring You Down) was penned by Jerry Corbitt, producer Felix Pappalardi and Gail Collins. These songs would be recorded on the West Coast at RCA’s Music Center of the World in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

Joining The Youngbloods were some guest artists, including Jerry Corbitt, fiddle player David Lindley, vibes player Victor Feldman, trumpeter Joe Clayton and tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson. They played their part in what was another carefully crafted album, Elephant Mountain.

When Elephant Mountain was released, critics again, lavished praise on the album. Given the quality of music, this was no surprise. They ranged from jazz-tinged acoustic ballads like Sunlight and Ride The Wind to captivating and playful songs like Smug and Beautiful and the bluesy, hard rocking Sham. Two songs were very different to anything The Youngbloods had written. Darkness, Darkness dealt with subject of depression, while Quicksand was a song about suicide. However, Rain Song (Don’t Let the Rain Bring You Down) was a return to the jug band songs like Euphoria and The Wine Song. It was part of what many critics regarded as The Youngbloods’ finest album.

When Elephant Mountain was released in 1969, the album reached 118 in the US Billboard 200. This meant that Elephant Mountain was The Youngbloods’ most successful album. Despite this, the lead single Darkness, Darkness and the followup Sunlight failed to chart. However, a song from the past would transform The Youngbloods’ fortunes.

In July 1969, The Youngbloods rereleased their 1967 Get Together. It had featured on radio and television commercials by the National Conference for Christians and Jews. These adverts were a call for brotherhood. They also paved the way for The Youngbloods first million selling single. Get Together entered the chart and started climbing all the way to  number five in the US Billboard 100. This was by far, the biggest hit single of The Youngbloods’ career. Despite the success of Get Together, The Youngbloods seemed to be in no hurry to release their fourth studio album.

Rock Festival.

Instead, The Youngbloods embarked upon a lengthy American tour in the spring of 1970, which lasted well into the summer months. The plan was to record several dates on the tour, and release them as The Youngbloods’ first live album, Rock Festival

Between March and July 1970, the tapes were running during five concerts. The first was on March ’29th’ 1970 at The Family Dog, in San Francisco. Three weeks later, the concert at The Barn in Marshall, California on ‘16th’ April 1970 was recorded. Two nights later, on ‘18th’ April 1970, the tapes were running at the Santa Clara University. Then when The Youngbloods played at Provo Park in Berkeley, California on ‘19th’ May 1970. There was one final recording session on July ’21st’ 1970, at Pacific High Recording in San Francisco. At last, The Youngbloods’ fourth album was ready for release.

When The Youngbloods released Rock Festival later in 1967, it was to the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Rock Festival was another eclectic album, where The Youngbloods showcased their versatility. However, it’s a quite different album from their three studio albums. Rather than play to the audience, and win them over with some of their best known songs, The Youngbloods headed in new directions with covers of a traditional song including Fiddler A Dram and the free jazz workout Ice Bag. 

When Rock Festival was released in 1970, it reached number eighty in the US Billboard 200. This made Rock Festival The Youngbloods’ most successful album. So much so, that a year later, The Youngbloods  decided to release a second live album, Ride The Wind.

Ride The Wind.

Most bands wouldn’t have released two consecutive live albums. However, it was a case of need’s must. The Youngbloods still hadn’t completed work on their fourth studio. They had even released The Best Of The Youngbloods as a stopgap. However, this had backfired when The Best Of The Youngbloods reached just 144 in the US Billboard 200. Given the success of Rock Festival earlier in 1970, a decision was made to release a second live album, Ride The Wind as a stopgap. That would keep their fans happy while The Youngbloods completed their new studio album.

Fortunately, The Youngbloods had recorded a number of shows over the years. This included three shows that took place in New York over three nights in November 1969. The first concert took place on ‘26th’ November, with the other concerts taking place on ’28th’ and ’29th’ November 1969. Six songs from these concerts were chosen for Ride The Wind. This included Jesse Colin Young’s Ride The Wind, Sugar Babe, Sunlight and Beautiful. They joined covers of Chester Powers’ Get Together and Fred Neil’s Dolphin on Ride The Wind.

Critics on hearing Ride The Wind, lavished praise and plaudits on The Youngbloods’ second live album. It was a very different album, and found The Youngbloods improvising and taking songs in a new direction. So much so, that some, bore very little resemblance to the original version.

Ride The Wind becomes a ten minute epic, and gives way to a jaunty, playful version of Sugar Babe. Sunlight soon takes on a pastoral sound, before The Youngbloods reinvent Fred Neil’s The Dolphin, which becomes a near flawless eight minute jam. The Youngbloods stay true to the original version of their million selling anthem Get Together, before Jesse Colin Young’s vocal plays a starring role in Beautiful, which becomes a funky workout. It closes Ride The Wind, which was released later in 1970.

Despite the undoubted quality of Ride The Wind, the album stalled at 157 upon its release in 1970. This was a disappointment for The Youngbloods. However, they had just completed recording their fourth album Good and Dusty, which they hoped would get their career back on track.

Good and Dusty.

When The Youngbloods returned with Good and Dusty, it featured a new, expanded lineup of the band. Harmonica player Richard Earthquake Anderson had joined the band and made his debut on Good and Dusty.

It was an album that featured cover versions of familiar songs including Johnny Otis’ Willie and The Hand Jive, Sonny Boy Williamson II’s Pontiac Blues, When Will The Circle Be Unbroken and Lieber and Stoller’s I’m A Hog For You Baby. This time round, Jesse Colin Young had only penned two songs Drifting and Drifting and Light Shine. Recording of these songs began at Raccoon Studios B on June ‘9th’ 1971. It took just over a month for The Youngbloods to record the thirteen songs on Good and Dusty, which was completed on July ’15th’ 1971. Good and Dusty was released later in 1971.

Just like The Youngbloods’ previous albums, Good and Dusty won over critics. They were impressed by an album that looked back at America’s musical past. Covers of old blues songs and song from the fifties feature on Good and Dusty. 

When The Youngbloods released Good and Dusty in 1971, the album stalled at a lowly 160 in the US Billboard 200. This was  a huge disappointment. Things didn’t get any better when Light Shine was released as a single. Despite being one of The Youngbloods’ best ballads, it didn’t even trouble the charts. This rubbed salt into the wound.

High On A Ridge Top.

After the release of Good and Dusty, The Youngbloods returned with High On A Ridge Top in 1972. Just like previous albums, it featured just one new song Jesse Colin Young’s Dreamboat which rubbed shoulders with nine cover versions. Among them were Esther Navarro’s Speedo, Jimmy Reed Going By The River, Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released, Lennon and McCartney’s She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, Richie Valens’ Donna and Robert Johnston’s Kind Hearted Woman. These were some of the ten songs that became The Youngbloods fifth studio album High On A Ridge Top.

Prior to the release of High On A Ridge Top, critics had their say on the album. It was well received by the majority of critics. However, when High On A Ridge Top was released in 1972,  it stalled at a lowly 185 in the US Billboard 200. For The Youngbloods it was a disappointing end to their career.

Not long after the release of High On A Ridge Top, The Youngbloods split-up, with each band member embarking upon a solo career. This was just three years after The Youngbloods released their million selling single Get Together.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, that was where things started to go wrong for The Youngbloods. Most bands would’ve been keen to have built upon the momentum created by Get Together, and began work on a new studio album straight away. However, it took The Youngbloods two years to release Good and Dusty which was the followup to Elephant Mountain. 

They should’ve built on the momentum created by Get Together, and released an album as soon as they could. However, by waiting two years, the momentum was lost. That was despite The Youngbloods releasing two live albums.

These two live albums Rock Festival and Ride The Wind, weren’t the stopgap albums that many bands release between studio albums. Both  Rock Festival and Ride The Wind showcase just how good a live band The Youngbloods were. Especially on Ride The Wind, where The Youngbloods improvise and reinvent  take the six songs in new and sometimes unexpected directions. This shows another side to The Youngbloods on  what’s an oft-overlooked and hugely underrated live album.

It’s a similar case with Good and Dusty, which was The Youngbloods’ long-awaited fourth studio album. It features  songs like That’s How Strong My Love Is, Circus Face, Good and Dusty and Light Shine which are hidden gems within The Youngbloods’ back-catalogue. These songs are a reminder of The Youngbloods who are an oft-overlooked group. 

Most people know The Youngbloods’ million selling single Get Together. However, that’s just one chapter in the story of a band that released five studio albums and two live albums. The Youngbloods’ albums were released to widespread critical acclaim between 1967 and 1972,  but sadly, never they enjoyed the commercial success that they so richly deserved. Eventually after releasing their fifth studio album Good and Dusty, The Youngbloods called time on their career, and embarked upon solo careers. This came just two years after they had enjoyed a million selling single with Get Together. By then, the rise and demise of The Youngbloods was complete just seven years after Jesse Colin Young met Jerry Corbitt.

The Rise and Demise Of The Youngbloods

ROBERT BUCHANAN-FROM THE BLUE NILE TO THE SOLO YEARS.

Robert Buchanan-From The Blue Nile To The Solo Years.

Enigmatic, reluctant and contrarian are words that best describe The Blue Nile, who were the complete opposite to most bands. To say that tThe Blue Nile were publicity shy is something of an understatement. Ever since Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and P.J. Moore formed the Blue Nile in 1981, they’ve been one of the most low-profile bands in musical history. It seems that when they were formed they ticked the “no publicity” box. This has proved a double-edged sword, and resulted in The Blue Nile becoming one of the most enigmatic groups ever. Their story began at the prestigious Glasgow University.

Paul Buchanan was born on ‘16th’ of April 1956 in Edinburgh, Scotland but his family moved to Glasgow when the future Blue Nile frontman was still a child. That was where he met his lifelong friend Robert Bell.  The pair grew up together, and when it came to head to university, they both enrolled at Glasgow University.

That was where Paul Buchanan studied literature and medieval history, while Robert Bell was a mathematics undergraduate. Glasgow University was also where Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell first encountered Paul Joseph Moore, who was studying electronics. P.J. Moore had also grown up in the same part of Glasgow as Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell, but their paths didn’t cross until they were all undergraduates. By then, Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell’s musical careers were well underway.

Prior to forming The Blue Nile, Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and P.J. Moore were previously members of another short-lived Glasgow based band, Night By Night. It was originally name McIntyre, in homage to the John McIntyre Building, which was the name of Glasgow University’s administrative offices. Soon, McIntyre became Night By Night and the nascent band made its first tentative steps  in the Glasgow music scene.

Later, Paul Buchanan admitted that Night By Night only played live on two or three occasions. The band was never a familiar face on the Glasgow music scene. Nor did Night By Night secure that elusive recording contract. They were told that their music wasn’t seen as commercial enough. That wasn’t the Night On Night’s only problem. 

Part of the problem was Night By Night’s fluid lineup. Members joined and left the band, and by 1981 the last men standing were  Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and P.J. Moore. They decided not to bother recruiting another band member, and swapped a guitar for an effect pedal. Their next move was to borrow a drum machine, which was only able to play Hispanic American music. With these new additions to their lineup, a new band was born.

For the nascent band, necessity was the mother of invention, and they began to play live. They had no option as they badly needed the money. Soon, they were playing cover versions around the city. Part of their lineup was the drum machine which provided Hispanic American rhythms. Despite this, people recognised the songs the band played and they escaped relatively unscathed. It had been a learning experience as their new band was christened The Blue Nile.

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

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

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

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

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

A Walk Across the Rooftops.

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

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

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

R-266925-1319729641.jpeg

Hats.

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

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

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

R-53931-1273704833.jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace At Last.

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

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

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

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

R-75585-1263997965.jpeg

High.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Solo Years.

Eight years after the release of 2004s The Blue Nile’s swan-song High, Paul Buchanan returned in May 2012 with his long-awaited and much-anticipated debut solo album, Mid Air. It was a very different sounding album from Paul Buchanan, who had changed in the eight intervening years. 

Mid Air featured an  older and wiser Paul Buchanan who was now fifty-six. From and from the music on Mid Air, Paul Buchanan had spent much of his time reflecting on life and everything it has thrown him. Whether it was love or loss or pain and death, it has affected Paul Buchanan and influenced the music on Mid Air.

This included the death of one of Paul Buchanan’s closest friends, which has caused him pain and hurt. It also made Paul Buchanan reflect on mortality and  the breakup of The Blue Nile which  had caused him pain and hurt. The Blue Nile were more than just a band, they were members had been three close friends for over thirty years.  Paul Buchanan thought that The Blue Nile would last forever and its breakup was yet another loss that scarred him emotionally. The demise of The Blue Nile and everything that’s happened to Paul Buchanan between 2004 and 2013 shaped the music on Mid Air.

Mid Air featured  fourteen songs written by Paul Buchanan in his flat in Glasgow’s West End. With just a piano in his kitchen for company, Paul Buchanan spent the early hours of many a night writing the songs on Mid Air Rather than write the songs on his trusty guitar, he preferred the immediacy of the piano. He could just sit down whenever he wanted, working on an idea for a song. Eventually, Paul Buchanan had fourteen songs written, and the recording took place mostly in his Glasgow flat, but also at a studio in Glasgow.

Recording of Mid Air took place over a period of two years and was recorded by Cameron Malcolm, son of Calum Malcolm The Blue Nile’s former producer. Joining  Paul Buchanan was his oldest friend Robert Bell, The Blue Nile’s bassist. Two of the three members of The Blue Nile were back in the studio and working  on Mid Air. Eventually, after two long years, Mid Air was released on 21st May 2012. 

Just like The Blue Nile’s debut album twenty-eight years previously, Mid Air was released to critical acclaim. Critics welcomed the return of the former Blue Nile frontman, as he embarked upon a solo career. 

On the release of Mid Air, the album reached number fourteen in the UK. This meant that Mid Air had almost matched the success of The Blue Nile’s most successful album High, which had reached number ten in the UK. In his native Scotland, Mid Air reached number one, while it reached number four in Ireland. It seems that fans loved the older, wiser and more pensive Paul Buchanan that features on Mid Air.

Mid Air was without doubt, a very personal album from Paul Buchanan. Sometimes Glashow’s own troubled troubadour  lays bare his soul, while other times he’s searching for answers to what life had thrown him since The Blue Nile released their swan-song High in 2004.  Other times,  it was as if Paul Buchanan was  searching for the meaning of life itself as he delivers a series of worldweary vocals on Mid Air. It’s a really mature, grown-up album from Paul Buchanan,

He was  fifty-six when Mid Air was released, and his world-weary voice has matured with age. So have his talents as a songwriter. In many ways, Paul Buchanan has become Scotland’s answer to Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Not only has age resulted in wisdom, but  fourteen tales of life, love and loss. To put this into perspective, it took The Blue Nile eight years and two albums to produce fourteen tracks, whereas Mid Air took but two years from start to finish. 

Many critics hoped that Paul Buchanan would return with his sophomore solo album before he turned sixty. Sadly, that wasn’t to be and  Paul Buchanan turned sixty on 16 April 2016. That day, the former Blue Nile  was eligible for free travel around Glasgow’s West End where he still lives. Later in 2016, it was the thirty-fifth anniversary of the founding of The Blue Nile in 1981. Still there was no sign of the reissue of The Blue Nile’s 2004 swan-song High. 

Just over a year later, and still there’s no sign of the reissue of High. Nor is there any sign of  Paul Buchanan returning with his long-awaited sophomore album. By now, critics and record buyers know that things take time in the world of The Blue Nile. Maybe Paul Buchanan will return with the followup to Mid Air by the time he’s sixty-five? Let’s hope so, as Glasgow’s troubled troubadour has traveled the same roads as  many of the people who bought The Blue Nile’s four albums and Mid Air.

They want to hear more of Paul Buchanan’s engaging and emotive music which speaks to and for them. Especially as Paul Buchanan explores subjects that are relevant to their lives nowadays. This ranges  from  love and loss, to heartbreak, hurt and hope right through to regret and sadness. These are the subjects and emotions that Paul Buchanan’s older, more mature audiences are experiencing and thinking about in 2017.  While The Blue Nile’s music still strikes a chord with them, and always will, they need someone to put into words what they’re now feeling and experiencing. One man capable of doing that is  Paul Buchanan, who has similar experiences and has travelled the same roads and can articulates their experiences and emotions. That is what  Paul Buchanan has spent a lifetime doing, and hopefully what Glasgow’s troubled troubadour will continue to do on his long-awaited and much-anticipated sophomore album.

Robert Buchanan-From The Blue Nile To The Solo Years.

 

THE JAMES L’ESTRAUNGE ORCHESTRA-EVENTUAL REALITY.

The James L’Estraunge Orchestra-Eventual Reality. 

Label: BBE.

For the best part of six decades, Scotland has enjoyed a thriving and vibrant music scene, and produced many artist and bands that went on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim. This started back in the sixties, when Sunshine Soldier Donavon enjoyed a string of successful singles and albums. He was just one of a number of Scottish artists and bands who forged a successful musical career during the sixties. However, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, a new wave of Scottish artists and bands were about to enjoy commercial success at home and abroad.

This included the Average White Band, Maggie Bell, Nazareth and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, who were among Scotland’s most successful musical exports.  

As the eighties dawned, the Scottish music scene was thriving in the post punk years. There was also an air of optimism, with new labels being founded, including Postcard Records which was founded by Alan Horne in 1979. By 1980, the nascent label was releasing singles by Josef K and Orange Juice, who would become one of the most successful Scottish groups of the eighties. So were Aztec Camera, Cocteau Twins, Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, Love and Money, Simple Minds, The Blue Nile and The Jesus and Mary Chain. They were, without doubt, among the biggest names in Scottish music, and their career continued into the nineties and in some cases, way beyond.

During the nineties, groups like Belle and Sebastian, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub,  The Pearlfishers and The Trashcan Sinatras were all releasing critically acclaimed and successful albums. Meanwhile, the Beta Band, King Creosote and Mogwai were embarking upon what would be successful careers.

Over the next few years, the Beta Band, King Creosote and Mogwai careers blossomed, while the next generation of Scottish bands embarked upon what would ultimately be successful careers. Among them, were Frightened Rabbit, The Phantom Band and The Twilight Sad. Each of these bands were hoping that they would be the one the made the big breakthrough.

Sadly, by 2017 none of these bands have hit the heights that they had hoped. Neither have some of the newer bands including Admiral Fallow, Errors, Miaoux Miaoux and The Unwinding Hours. The only one new band that might go on to great things are swaggering rockers The Temperance Movement. They’re seems as Scottish’s rock’s great hope during what’s been an extremely disappointing couple of years for Scottish music. 

The only new names that are enjoying commercial success are Chvrches, plus former shelf stacker, turned DJ and ‘producer’ Calvin Harris. Saving the day for Scottish music over the last couple of years have been Mogwai, King Creosote and comeback Kings and musical veterans Teenage Fanclub and Trashcan Sinatras. Maybe though things are improving for Scottish music, and the days of third-rate, twee music could be over?

The first hint that things were improving was the release of Mogwai’s critically acclaimed ninth studio album Every Country’s Sun. Now just a couple of weeks later, and Scottish music’s latest great hope The James L’Estraunge Orchestra have released their much-anticipated debut album Eventual Reality on BBE. It’s an album with a fascinating backstory.

This story began three years ago in 2014, when producer and musician Ricky Reid and his partner decided to leave the city behind and make a new life:  “away from the constant, incoherent noise of the world.”  By then, Ricky Reid was a veteran of the Edinburgh music scene, and had spent twenty years in various bands. 

Among them was The Soul Renegades, which featured Ricky Reid and  Craig Smith. They released a number of singles between 1998 and 2013 for labels like Restless Soul, Local Talk and Rainy City Records. Ricky Reid was also vocalist and keyboardist in the 6th Borough Project, and featured on their 2014 album Borough 2 Borough. He’s also worked as a vocalist, songwriter and producer. However, by 2014 twenty years of city life was taking its toll on Ricky Reid.

By then, Ricky Reid was dreaming of making a new start in the beautiful Scottish countryside far from Edinburgh. Soon, Ricky Reid and his partner had decided to make this dream a reality. For Ricky Reid, the day he left the city behind couldn’t come quickly enough.

Eventually, the day came, and Ricky Reid was pleased and relived to be leaving city life behind, and heading to the tranquil and beautiful countryside in the highlands of Scotland. This was the new start that he had been dreaming of. It was where Ricky Reid and his partner were about to call home, and where he was about to setup his studio.  

As he unpacked the array of equipment he had gathered over the years, he realised how different country life was going to be. Ricky Reid realised that the views were spectacular and the air clean and fresh. Country life was going to be different to his old life in Edinburgh.

Especially living in a log cabin that had neither a television nor internet access. The log cabin was a distraction free zone, which Ricky Reid hoped would allow him to hone his skills as a producer. Soon, Ricky Reid was joined by some of his old friends. Little did he know that his new surroundings would prove inspirational for Ricky Reid and his friends.

Over the next few months, curiosity got the better of some of Ricky Reid’s musician friends. They wanted to see where their old friend was living, and decided to visit him. When they arrived they must have been dismayed to find that there was neither a television nor internet. Fortunately, they brought with them their instruments. It was going to be like the old days when Ricky Reid lived in the city and his friends arrived round for a late night jam sessions. The only difference was there were no neighbours to complain about the noise and the view surroundings were very different.

In the evenings, Ricky Reid and his musician friends headed into the log cabin that had been converted into a recording studio. The equipment was setup and Ricky Reid decided to record the sessions, just in case they produced anything special. As Ricky Reid pressed play and the makeshift band played, it was as if they were inspired by their surroundings. Something special started to happen and the music flowed through and out of the musicians. Fortunately, the tapes kept running and Ricky Reid managed to capture these performances for posterity.

There were several similar jam sessions which took place over the next few weeks and months. Just like the very first jam session that took place in his log cabin, they were taped by Ricky Reid. Once the series of jam sessions were at end, Ricky Reid began to piece together the tapes. 

This he realised would allow him to hone his skills as a producer. While Ricky Reid had a few production credits to his name, he lacked the experience of some of the big hitters in Scottish music scene, including Paul Savage and Tony Doogan. They had been honing their skills as a producer for several decades. Working on the tapes of the jam sessions would be good experience for Ricky Reid.

With no distractions, Ricky Reid was able to concentrate all his efforts on producing what eventually became The James L’Estraunge Orchestra’s debut album Eventual Reality. This was something that Ricky Reid had never been able to do before. For Ricky Reid this was a creative awakening, where: “I’ve become a conduit for something different” and this was something different to what: “I’ve ever experienced before.” 

Over the next weeks and months, Ricky Reid spent much of his time piecing together the various jam sessions that had taken place in his home studio. Gradually, Ricky Reid started to see the wood from the trees, and the album started to take shape. During that period, Ricky Reid matured as a producer and learnt a lot, not just about production, but about himself. He came to realise what he was capable of as he was putting the finishing touches to The James L’Estraunge Orchestra’s debut album Eventual Reality. 

When Eventual Reality was complete, all that Ricky Reid needed to do was find a record company willing to release the album. That was easier said than done in the current economic climate. However, BBE who celebrate their twenty-first birthday this year, agreed to release Eventual Reality.

Rather than release the album using his own name, Ricky Reid decided it was only fair to credit the various musicians involved in the project.  As a result, The James L’Estraunge Orchestra was born. They sound like a seventies disco orchestra from Philly or New York rather than from Edinburgh in Scotland. James L’Estraunge certainly doesn’t sound as if he’s from Edinburgh, especially Leith, Pilton, Broomhouse and Wester Hailes. He’s even bit too exotic even for Morningside or Corstorphine. Indeed, the music on The James L’Estraunge Orchestra’s album Eventual Reality certainly sounds quite unlike music anything else coming out of Scotland. It showcases a talented group of musicians as they make the nine  genre-melting tracks that became Eventual Reality.

Eventual Reality opens with the title-track a seven minute epic where chugging, buzzing and ethereal synths meander along and create a thoughtful sounding backdrop. This is fitting as the track tells the story of a musician trying to make sense of life, and attempting to reconcile his past and present from his newfound rural idyll. At 1.00 filters are added and soon, drums pound as the arrangement chugs along. Before long, futuristic sounds, crashing drum rolls, guitars and swathes of strings are added as the arrangement builds. Eventually, the Orchestra is in full flight as stabs of keyboards, braying horns and layers of dancing strings combine to create a stirring, sometimes dramatic and impressive sound. Later, a fleet fingered piano solo combines with strings, drums and synths. Having reached a crescendo, this stirring, melodic and cinematic track starts to dissipate leaving just the memory of this impressive, multilayered genre-melting soundscape.

Shimmering, twinkling keyboards, hesitant drums and percussion opens Me and The Bear. They’re joined by the bass as the Orchestra play with a fluidity. Then at just the right moment strings and  lone horn are added. Meanwhile, the a mesmeric piano plays a leading role as the bass bound across the arrangement. By then sci-fi and bubbling synths have been added as the drums and later stabs of horns join the flowing, mesmeric and elegiac multilayered arrangement as it reveals its many secrets.

Found sounds recorded on the streets of Melbourne open Closer, and give way to the rhythm section and keyboards. Soon, drums power the arrangement along, and strings are added as Ricky Reid adds a vocal. He’s accompanied by backing vocals as he unleashes a vocal powerhouse. Behind him, strings dance and the deliberate keyboards combine with drums which sensibly have been pushed back in the mix. This allows the keyboards and vocals to take centre-stage. So do the  drums, horns and keyboards as the solos come round. They’re joined by lush sweeping strings as the Orchestra jam, and showcase their considerable skills on this anthemic and empowering song that quite rightly, was chosen as the lead single. 

Atmospheric describes the introduction to We Rise as the sound of waves breaking on a beach can be heard, against a percussive backdrop. Meanwhile, a distant bass and keyboards play. Soon, the keyboards enters, and flourish signals it’s time for the rhythm section to enter. They’re soon joined by sweeping, swirling and dancing strings  and later a scorching, blazing horn. The final piece of the jigsaw is Ricky Reid’s vocal, and he’s again joined by backing vocalist Emerald Anne Jade. Reverb is added to Ricky Reid’s vocal, which becomes dubby as the arrangement becomes dream as it dissipates and the sound of waves breaking on a beach return. This bookends this carefully crafted track that veers between atmospheric to lush and slick and is melodic and memorable.

The tempo drops on See You Tonight which many people of a will be able to relate to, as it deals with the loss of youth. As the rhythm section combine with keyboards and guitar they create a thoughtful backdrop that sets the scene for Ricky Reid’s vocal. He sounds uncannily like a young Chris Rea as he delivers a tender, soul-baring vocal. Harmonies, horns, lush strings, chirping guitar join with glistening keyboards as drums create a slow, steady beat. Care has been taken that they don’t overpower the best vocal on the album. Later, when the vocal drops out keyboards join with a lone, melancholy horn add to the late night sound, When the vocal returns they add the final touch to this beautiful, heart-wrenching paean.

There’s a degree of urgency to the drums that open Autumn Falls. Soon, they’re joined by shimmering keyboards, rhythm section and  glistening guitar. Strings are added to the mix as the arrangement builds and the Orchestra jam. They play as one and then when the solos come round, some members enjoy their moment in the sun. This includes the drums and fusion influenced keyboards, as strings dance. Subtle chirping, cheeping guitar and bass interact and are like yin and yang during a track this captivating track. Sadly, after nearly seven minutes this impressive combination of timbres is over as The James L’Estraunge Orchestra seamlessly combine jazz, fusion, electronica and disco strings.

Thunderous and urgent drum rolls propel the arrangement to It’s Happened Before along before a dark, dramatic and ominous piano is joined by glistening keyboards and sweeping string. This results in a cinematic sound. Especially as horns interject and the combine with the strings. By then, it’s as if The James L’Estraunge Orchestra have been asked to provide a track to a thriller. Later, synths and guitar are added as the arrangement continues to build. Keyboards then inject an urgency as strings sweep and horns add a dark, rueful sound. They’re part of what can only be described as a cinematic epic from The James L’Estraunge Orchestra.

There’s a tragic story behind The Call came from an incident that happened near Ricky Reid’s home: “ it was written after a local car accident ended in tragedy for a young girl visiting the area. She was trapped underwater after driving off the road, which shocked the village and provoked this emotive, free form track” Just a lone piano plays slowly and deliberately before found sounds are fused with elements of what John Cage called small music. They create a minimalist backdrop to the piano until the midway point. Then a jarring drone cuts and angular creaking sounds are added and add an avant-garde sound. Later, strings sweep and swirl and a melancholy horn brays as The James L’Estraunge Orchestra paint pictures with their music.

Ricky Reid’s decision to cover Harvey Mason Jr.’s Groovin’ You is a brave one, as it’s a jazz-funk classic. It’s also the definitive version. There’s no way this track can be bettered. However, it can be reworked and reinvented. That is what The James L’Estraunge Orchestra do. Drums click and crack as a deliberate piano combines with a plucked bass that replaces the bounding bass in the original. Soon, braying horns are added as the track takes on a looser jazzier sound. Later, strings sweep, swirl and dance, horns blaze and bray and a jazzy guitar solo gives way to drums that are slapped. All the time the arrangement is building, and bandleader Ricky Reid encourages his Orchestra to reach greater heights. There’s even a pregnant pause before the band kick loose and head for home. By then, they’re in full flight and sound determined to close Eventual Reality on a high. In doing  so, they pay homage to a legendary drummer, composer and producer Harvey Mason Jr.

Although Groovin’ is the last of the original tracks, there’s also an Instrumental and Radio Edit of Closer. These eleven tracks feature on The James L’Estraunge Orchestra’s critically acclaimed debut album Eventual Reality, which has just been released on BBE. 

Eventual Reality showcases is the first album since Ricky Reid has recorded and produced since he left Edinburgh behind and headed to a rural idyll in the highlands of Scotland. The album was born in a log cabin, when Ricky Reid and some of his friends started jamming. Just three years later, and these tracks were released as Eventual Reality. It’s a carefully crafted, genre-melting album where Ricky Reid and friends combine elements of avant-garde, electronica, funk, fusion and jazz, with disco, jazz-funk and small music. The result is a potent and heady brew from The James L’Estraunge Orchestra.

It finds beautiful ballads siting side-by-side with anthems and  atmospheric and cinematic soundscapes. There’s also irresistible instrumentals and songs where the hooks certainly haven’t been spared. Each and every song on Eventual Reality is different, and they veer between anthemic, joyous and uplifting to beautiful and heart-wrenching to poignant, ruminative and thoughtful. Often there’s a message or story to the song, and The James L’Estraunge Orchestra breathe life and meaning into these cinematic soundscapes and songs. 

These songs are part of The James L’Estraunge Orchestra’s long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album Eventual Reality which is full inventive, melodic and memorable music. It’s also a reminder that there are still talented and musicians in Scotland, like those in The James L’Estraunge Orchestra Maybe things are looking up for the Scottish music scene which has been in the doldrums for a couple of years? Let’s hope so. Meanwhile, The James L’Estraunge Orchestra’s debut album Eventual Reality must be an early contender for the Scottish Album of The Year Award in 2018? 

The James L’Estraunge Orchestra-Eventual Reality.

KEV BEADLE PRESENTS PRIVATE COLLECTION VOLUME 3.

Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3.

Label: BBE.

Just over three years have passed since BBE released Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 2 to plaudits and praise in July 2014. Since then, much has changed in the life of DJ, club promoter, compiler and inveterate crate-digger Kev Beadle. 

The unthinkable happened in 2016 when the veteran DJ decided that the time had come to hang up his headphones. This came as a shock to many, who thought that this day would never come. After all, Kev Beadle’s life had revolve around music for four decades. It was what he knew and loved. Right up until the day he announced his retirement, Kev Beadle was a familiar face on the jazz-dance scene. However, after a life spent behind the wheels of steel, Kev Beadle had decided the time had come pass the baton on to the next generation of DJs. Before he bowed out, the veteran DJ decided to compile one last compilation for BBE, Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3 which was released today. It’s Kev Beadle’s swan-song, and finds him bowing out with another compilation of the private presses he’s so passionate about.

Kev Beadle like many DJs, record collectors and music lovers have dedicated themselves to discovering the best of these private pressings. He’s dedicated his life to the pursuit of these long-lost and oft-overlooked hidden musical gem. There are many private presses in Kev Beadle’s enviable record collection, and some of these have feature on the first two volumes of Kev Beadle Private Collection. 

For Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 3 the veteran DJ has dug deep into his collection and chosen twelve jazz-dance private presses from the seventies and eighties. This includes tracks from Roy Haynes, Banda Metalurgia, Belair, Francisco Mora Catlett, Louis Hayes, Lee Willhite, Finn Savery Trio, Ira Sullivan and Webster Lewis. These tracks feature on Kev Beadle Private Collection Volume 3 which sees one of London’s top DJs and compilers take his last bow. He’s enjoyed a long and successful career.

Ever since the eighties, Kev Beadle’s life has revolved around music, especially jazz and soul. For Kev Beadle, some of his earliest musical memories are heading to London clubs like The Horseshoe, on Tottenham Court Road where Paul Murphy DJ-ed. After that,  Kev Beadle was hooked, and embarked upon a voyage of discovery, scouring record shops, dusty basements and thrift stores for hard-to-find tracks. His burgeoning record collection would stand him in good stead for the future.

Soon, Kev Beadle was on the other side wheels of steel playing tracks from his rapidly expounding record collection. Before long, Kev Beadle had graduated to playing at London’s legendary Wag Club. This was where he met Giles Peterson, Bob Jones and Chris Bangs. For Kev Beadle, this was the next step in his musical education. They introduced Kev Beadle to new music and helped him on DJ-ing journey.The DJs also enjoyed a good-natured rivalry, seeing who could break a track first. Not long after this, three of the DJs made musical history.

This came about when Giles Peterson, Bob Jones and Kev Beadle started the Talkin’ Loud sessions at Dingwalls, on Sunday afternoons. Before long, the word was out that the Talkin’ Loud sessions were the place to go to hear soul and jazz rarities. New tracks were discovered and soon, the Acid Jazz scene exploded. 

Out of this came the Acid Jazz label, which in 2012, celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. These Sunday afternoons at Dingwalls would become legendary. Open-minded, music hungry music fans, heard and enjoyed, old soul and jazz tracks being unearthed almost on a weekly basis. Out of these afternoons, a whole scene was born, with Kev Beadle at its heart. 

Before long, Kev Beadle had embarked upon a career within the mainstream music industry. Over the years, he worked in many roles within the music industry, including A&R and promotion. He’s also managed labels and run his own, sadly missed label Clean Up. Like many DJs, Kev Beadle has also added production to his ever-expanding CV, under the pseudonym Messengers. Then there’s the  myriad of compilations that Kev Beadle has compiled.

During Kev Beadle’s career, he’s compiled compilations for a variety of different labels including Blue Note, Cadet and of course BBE. For Cadet, Kev compiled The Best of Terry Callier On Cadet which introduced many people to one of music’s best kept secrets. Kev Beadle was also responsible for the five volumes of Cadet Grooves and three volumes of Blue Note’s Capitol Rare. Then there was Kev Beadle’s BBE debut.

This was Nu Jazz Generation II, which was released on BBE back in 2000. Thirteen years later, Kev made his BBE comeback with Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection in March 2013. Just over a year later,  Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 2 followed in July 2014. By then, Kev Beadle was one of London’s top DJs and had been for many years.

DJ-ing, which has been a mainstay of Kev Beadle’s career for four decades and although he was approaching veteran status he prided himself as having his finger on the pulse when it came to music. He was equally comfortable playing in clubs or DJ-ing on radio. However, it’s club DJ-ing that many people will know the name Kev Beadle. 

Ever since he made his debut in the eighties, Kev Beadle has been spinning soul and jazz. Despite his love of jazz and soul, he’s never afraid to investigate other musical genres, and Kev Beadle’ has will happily spin music from a variety of disparate genres. Sometimes, he digs deep into his collection and spins an eclectic set where the music of the past and present rub shoulders. However, for Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3, the veteran DJ chooses twelve private presses from the seventies and eighties.

These über rare tracks on Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3 are considered classics within the jazz-dance community.  Sadly, given their rarity, they’re only available to DJs, dancers and crate-diggers with deep pockets or a sympathetic bank manager.  For those who can’t afford the original tracks a copy of Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3 features these twelve rarities. This includes a number of energetic, syncopated musical workouts that have previously tested the stamina of dancers in clubs the length of breadth of Britain. Sometimes, the calm descends and Kev Beadle drops some of the smoothest Latin grooves. Quite simply, there’s something for everyone on Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3.

Opening Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3 is Quiet Fire, which featured on drummer Roy Haynes’ 1977 album Thank You Thank You which was released on the Galaxy label. Quiet Fire was penned by George Cables and is the perfect way to open the compilation. It’s something of a slow burner with a minute of Kenneth Nash’s percussion then giving way to a masterclass from veteran drummer Roy Haynes. Augmented by pianist George Cables and bassist Cecil Bee they lock into a groove as this track unfolds. Once this tight, talented band is in full flight, they’re sure to push even dedicated dancers to their limit on a track that sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation. 

Maryke is a track from Devil Dance, which was a collaboration between Chicago born bandleader, composer and producer John Thomas and Lifeforce. Devil Dance was released on the German label Nabel in 1980 and was the firs of two albums John Thomas and Lifeforce. One of the highlights of their debut album was Maryke, an urgent, percussive and melodic fusion workout.

There’s no drop in tempo on Lá Em Guayaquil a track from Banda Metalurgia’s 1982 eponymous self-released album. Instead the tempo rises on this joyous genre-melting track. It’s propelled along by the rhythm section and a myriad of percussion while stabs of urgent horns soar above the arrangement. Meanwhile, Banda Metalurgia combine Bossa Nova, fusion and jazz on this energetic, syncopated musical workout that is guaranteed to tempt even the most reluctant dancer onto the dance-floor.

Belair’s Samba for a Cold Warrior is taken from their 1980 album Relax, You’re Soaking In It, which was released on the Belby Wetterman label. This private pressing is one of the most expensive on the compilation, with copies changing hands between £125 and £225. Samba for a Cold Warrior which was penned by Eddie Guthman, is one of the highlights of the this hard-to-find album. Seamlessly, Belair marry elements of jazz, fusion and Latin music on this tantalising taste of the delights that feature on Relax, You’re Soaking In It. 

In 1986, drummer and composer Francisco Mora Catlett released his debut album Mora! on his own AACE label. One of the highlights of this oft-overlooked hidden gem is Samba De Amor. It’s an uplifting, joyous, energetic and dance-floor friendly Latin-jazz workout where Francisco Mora Catlett and his band also test the stamina of dancers. They’re pushed to their limits on what’s without doubt one of the highlights of Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3.

The Louis Hayes Group recorded Little Sunflower for their 1979 album Variety Is The Spice. It was released on the Gryphon Productions label and featured an all-star band. Joining drummer Louis Hayes was bassist Cecil McBee, flautist Frank Strozier and vocalist Leon Thomas who features on two tracks. This includes Little Sunflower where Frank Strozier’s flute for company he delivers a tender, impassioned vocal that plays its part in the sound and success of this percussive soul-jazz hidden gem. 

It was in 1981 when Lee Willhite released his debut album First Venture on Big Tampa Records. It opened with a cover of The World Is a Ghetto, where Lee Willhite’s soulful, thoughtful and despairing vocal is accompanied by a tight and talented band. They complement Lee Willhite’s vocal and are yin to his yang on this thought-provoking cover of a familiar song.

When Clarice Labbe and Charlie Hampton were recording their debut album Clarice Swings With Charlie Hampton, one of the songs they chose was No Other Love But You. It’s one of the album’s highlight which was released on J.M.T. in 1980. Thirty-seven years later, and  Clarice Swings With Charlie Hampton is real rarity that changes hands for upwards of £75. It’s no wonder, given the quality of the music on No Other Love But You. Clarice Labbe’s vocal and Charlie Hampton piano prove to be the perfect and potent partnership, playing their part in the sound success of No Other Love But You which is three memorable minutes of soul-jazz that swings, and them some.

Just like many private presses, Ronald Snijders released his third album Black Straight Music in 1981, it was on his own label. This was Black Straight Music which released each and every album he released during a career spanned four decades. By 1981, the Dutch flutist, composer and producer had just turned thirty. He was born in Paramaribo, Suriname and aged seven followed in his father’s footsteps when started to play the flute. Soon, he could play guitar, saxophone, piano and percussion. That was a quite a feat for a self-taught musician. Later, Ronald Snijders is credited as inventing African Surinam kawinajazz. Sadly, the man whose regarded by Jazz Nu as: “most swinging flutist in the Netherlands” never enjoyed the success his music deserved. A reminder of this hugely talented musician is Latinetta a track from Black Straight Music which shows features  Ronald Snijders in full flight and swinging.

Three years after released their debut album New York Series in 1976, the Finn Savery Trio returned with their sophomore album Waveform. It was released on the Metronome label and features the Danish fusion group showcasing their considerable skills. One of the highlights of this hugely underrated album is Misturada, which is reminder of just what the Finn Savery Trio were capable of.

It’s no exaggeration to call American musician and composer Ira Sullivan a multi-instrumentalist. He’s equally comfortable playing flugelhorn, trumpet and alto, soprano, and tenor saxophone. Ira Sullivan also played percussion during a lengthy and illustrious career. By 1983, Ira Sullivan was fifty-two and had already released a number of albums. However, Strings Attached which was released in 1983 was his first album for the Strings Attached label. It features The Kingdom Within You, which features  a vocal from violinist Nicole Yarling. Her vocal and violin combines with Ira Sullivan’s horn and together they play an important part in this beautiful, dreamy soul-jazz track that floats effortlessly along.

On the ‘30th’ and ‘31st’ of July 1971 Webster Lewis and The Post-Pop, Space Rock, Be-Bop, Gospel Tabernackle Chorus and Orchestra BABY! took to the stage at the Club 7 Oslo, Norway. That night, they recorded seven tracks that became their Live At Club 7 double album.  This includes Do You Believe, a twenty-two minute Magus Opus which opened the original album, which nowadays is worth £750. However, it’s an alternative version that closes Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3. Still, Do You Believe, is an ambitious and innovative track where soul-jazz and free jazz combine during this genre-melting epic. It closes the compilation in style.

After twelve tracks that are regarded as classics to regulars on London’s jazz dance scene, Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3 comes to a close. Maybe this third instalment in this popular and critically acclaimed series is at end, given club promoter, crate-digger, DJ and compiler Kev Beadle has decided to hang up his headphones and retire. That is a great shame, as Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3 is the best volume in the series. 

Most people won’t be familiar with many of the private presses on Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3. However, after a couple of listens, they’ll sound like old friends. This includes the energetic, syncopated musical workouts that have previously tested the stamina of dancers in clubs the length of breadth of Britain. They’re joined by some of the smoothest Latin grooves. The result is a delicious musical potpourri which sees Kev Beadle bow out in style. However, what will come of the veteran DJ?

Like many newly retired people, Kev Beadle has much to look forward to. There’s trips to B&Q, decorating his house from top to bottom and outings in the car with his nearest and dearest. Then as Kev Beadle sits down to his lunch he will start to take an interest in antiques programs presented by permatanned presenters, and maybe even start  taking an interest in the contents of the SAGA magazine? This is what the future holds for newly retired DJs, including Kev Beadle. However, there’s an alternative to this. 

After recharging his batteries, Kev Beadle could start putting together Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 4. Doubtless he would still have plenty of time for B&Q and Bargain Hunt. Meanwhile, music fans can enjoy the delights of Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3 with its smooth Latin grooves and energetic, syncopated musical workouts. 

Kev Beadle Presents Private Collection Volume 3.

 

 

RON KADISH-TALES FROM UNDER.

Ron Kadish-Tales From Under.

Label:  Kadishtunes.

Twenty-four years ago, in 1993, bassist Ron Kadish dropped out of graduate school and embarked upon a career as a freelance musician. This could’ve been the biggest mistake of his life, and a decision he lived to regret. Fortunately, this throw of the dice paid off, and Ron Kadish’s life has revolved around music ever since.

Since the bassist, bandleader, composer and educator left graduate school in 1993, Ron Kadish has based himself in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana. It’s where he calls home, and where he returned to, from tours with the great and good of music. This included The Moody Blues, John Mellencamp,  John Denver,  Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sarah Mc Lachlan, and Paula Cole. These are just a few of the many bands and artists that Ron Kadish has shared a stage with over the past three decades.

Nowadays, much of Ron Kadish’s time is spent in Bloomington, where he’s a familiar face in the city’s vibrant music scene, and teaches a new generation of musicians. Bloomington is also where Ron Kadish’s recently released debut album Tales From Under was born. It sees Ron Kadish take centre-stage and showcase his talent and versatility on Tales From Under. It’s an album that has been a lifetime in the making.

Like most musicians, Ron Kadish’s love affair with music began when he was growing up in New Jersey. That was where Ron Kadish started to play the electric bass. By then, he was a high school student and  thinking about music school. However, after a conversation with the man he credits as his inspiration, Ron Kadish realised that he would have to expand his skill set. 

Ron Kadish remembers that day: “My private lesson teacher when I was in high school in New Jersey, was journeyman bassist Ron Naspo, who said to me. “If you want to go to music school and make a living playing music, it won’t be enough to just play electric bass, you’ll have to play double bass too.” Realising that Ron Naspo was right, Ron Kadish started to learn to play the double bass. 

This would stand him in good stead when he headed off to music school, and later, when Ron Kadish embarked as a career as freelance musician. Later in his career Ron Kadish remembers meeting Ron Naspo, whose advice had transformed his career: “A few years ago my parents hired Ron’s jazz trio to play at their anniversary and I sat in on his double bass. He told me I turned out pretty well, which was really great to hear.” That was still to come.

As Ron Kadish started to hone his playing style, he sought inspiration from a variety of musicians. A true music lover, he lists the many musicians that have influenced him:  “There are so many…..Mingus, Ron Carter, Avashai Cohen, Jaco, Bruce Bransby, Edgar Meyer… that’s just the obvious bass players….Wayne Shorter, Miles, Jimi, Malian desert blues musicians, Nigerian Afrobeat like Fela, Weather Report is a huge influence, the street musicians I used to see in Jerusalem and New York….everybody who sounds good is influential if you take the time to listen to them.” That is good advice for any aspiring musicians and has stood Ron Kadish in good stead.

After high school, Ron Kadish headed to music school as planned. By 1993, he was in graduate school, and had cofounded the educational Middle Eastern ensemble Salaam. However, Ron Kadish was becoming restless. He wanted to experience life as a working musician. With a heavy heart, he made the decision to leave graduate school and embark upon a career as a freelance musician. 

This could’ve ended in tears for Ron Kadish. Fortunately, he was a talented and versatile musician who was capable of working with a wide variety of musicians. Over the next few years, Ron Kadish worked with everyone from touring string sections right through to John Denver and The Moody Blues. Other times, Ron Kadish also found himself part of the rhythm sections backing Mark Robinson, Merrie Sloan, and even the stalwarts Bloomington’s local music scene. Ron Kadish was a man for all musical seasons.

His versatility has allowed Ron Kadish to jam with musicians from all over the world. He’s jammed in hotel rooms with the Master Musicians of Jajouka and in 1997, jammed onstage at the Lillith Fair Festival tour with holy trinity of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sarah McLachlan, and Paula Cole. Ron Kadish has also slotted into the rhythm section of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and even recorded demos with John Mellencamp. As CVs go, Ron Kadish’s CV is a particularly impressive one.

That is no surprise, as Ron Kadish has spent twenty-four years touring America and Europe. During that period, Ron Kadish has played venues of all shapes and sizes. In the early days, the venus were small, but later, he played in concert halls and auditoriums as he took to the stage with musical legends. Then when Ron Kadish returned home to Bloomington, he worked with the next generation of musicians.

This is something Ron Kadish has been doing since 1992. That was when he started his own studio and began teaching students. By 1993, he was hired by Indiana State University and taught double bass there until 1999. Many of Ron Kadish’s students went on to some of America’s most prestigious music schools, while others went on to become professional musicians.

Having left Indiana State University in 1998, Ron Kadish and the rest of the educational Middle Eastern ensemble Salaam, started touring elementary and junior high schools in Indiana. This they continued to do right up until 2004. 

It was no surprise that Ron Kadish spent six years helping to educate the young people in Indiana. Ron Kadish knew the importance of education, and was well a qualified and talented musician. By then, he held a BM in Double Bass Performance and a MM in Jazz Studies from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He had also studied at the prestigious Berklee School of Music and the Steans Institute at Ravinia. These were important additions to his burgeoning CV.

In 2013, Ron Kadish gave up his studio after twenty-one years. By then, he was busier than ever. He was touring with Lonely Street Production, who are based in Tucson, Arizona and with various jazz and world fusion artists. Ron Kadish also works with a variety of nostalgia acts and is the principal bass chair in the Danville Symphony Orchestra. Still, Ron Kadish works as a composer and finds time to lead and participate in many musical projects, ranging from composer workshops to jam sessions and Broadway-bound musicals. It seems that Ron Kadish is one of the hardest working men in music. It’s no surprise that he’s never got round to releasing a debut album.

It was something that Ron Kadish had never quite got round to. He’s spent most of career working with other people and teaching a new generation of musicians. One of the people who have influenced and inspired Ron Kadish’s career was the late, David Baker. 

He was a jazz musician and educator, and is the man who Ron Kadish calls his mentor. Prior to his passing, the two men often spoke at length about music. David Baker had also helped to guide Ron Kadish’s burgeoning career. That was despite Ron Kadish being an experienced and talented musician, who could seamlessly switch between musical genres, including jazz and rock. However, since the passing of David Baker, Ron Kadish has spent much time thinking about stepping out of the shadows and taking centre-stage.

Embarking on a solo career wasn’t something to take lightly, but by then, Ron Kadish was using his spare time to write music. When Ron Kadish sat down to write a new piece of music, he used the techniques he the learnt from David Baker. This is quite different to the way most jazz musicians write. Ron Kadish unsurprisingly starts from starts from under by writing the bass parts. He explains: “I write a lot of my melodies on the bass. Most of the time when I’m working on a melody, I’ll sit down with the bass and the bow and work it out. It’s practical for me. I can edit myself without thinking. Piano distracts me with the mechanics of the process. With the bass, I just play it.” That was the case with the tracks on Ron Kadish’s new debut album Tales From Under.

Ron Kadish has been working on a number of the tracks on Tales From Under for a number of years, and has workshopped them at various places. This includes Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, where David Baker encouraged Ron Kadish to bring along the track that eventually became A Rose for Viola. Even today, Ron Kadish is a familiar face at local music workshops, where he plays, hones and refines his compositions. Eventually, with a number of compositions complete, and with some time on his hands, Ron Kadish decided the time had come to enter the studio.

At last, the time was right for Ron Kadish to record his debut album, which later, became Tales From Under. To record his long-awaited debut album, Tales From Under called some of his friends from the Bloomington music scene. Ron remembers: I wanted to work exclusively with Bloomington musicians. It’s not widely known, but there is a wide variety of talent in this town, and a sizeable portion of that talent is truly excellent. I wanted this to be a collaborative project, where everyone has a musical say, where I know everyone. I had to trust them.” 

One of the musicians involved in the project was Janice Jaffe, who Ron Kadish knew really well, after spending years improvising together. The two musicians seem to bring out the best in each other, and when they play together reach new musical heights. During an exchange of musical ideas Ron Kadish and Janice Jaffe came up with the five Interludes on Tales From Under and Original Numbers. Janice Jaffe also wrote the lyrics to A Rose For Viola. These were among the nine tracks that Ron Kadish and his band recorded in the studio.

Joining Ron Kadish and Janice Jaffe were some talented local musicians. This included the Indianapolis-based oud player Victor Santoro. He joined Bloomington’s one and only nai guy, Joe Donnelly. They were part of Ron Kadish’s tight, talented and versatile band when Tales From Under was recorded. The pair is responsible for the graceful sound and timbral variety on Edge Of Calm. Meanwhile, bandleader Ron Kadish and his band were showcasing their considerable talent and ability to seamlessly change direction and switch between musical genres.

This they were able to do seamlessly, as they moved between avant adventures to down-and-dirty vamps. However, it’s the ethereal Up From The Deep Down From The Sky that opens Tales From Under, and gives way to one of the album’s highlights Tutto Boogaloo. This allows the band to showcase their talent during the solos. By the end of the track, the Bloomington-based has shown what they’re capable of. So has bandleader Ron Kadish.

Tales From Under features music from the last century, and features everything from boogaloo to Middle Eastern classical music. Often, it’s a case of opposites attracting. Especially, when Janice Jaffe’s vocal provides a counterpoint to Ron Kadish’s bass. He has  honed his own unique style, where his bow delves deep into the lower depths of the double bass’ register. The combination of the bass and vocal is a powerful and poignant one. That is deliberate:  “I wanted to let the extremes come together. I wanted a snapshot to capture all the different pieces and directions I’ve explored over the years, without jolting the listener.”  The result is a truly eclectic and captivating album from a master musician.

Proof of that is A Rose For Viola a beautiful ballad where Janice Jaffe’s vocal takes centre-stage, and the rest of the band provide a Latin tinged backdrop. It’s followed by Interlude One, an understated track where Ron Kadish’s bass provides the counterpoint to Janice Jaffe’s ethereal, cooing vocal. Victor Santoro and Joe Donnelly then play leading roles in the graceful sound and timbral variety of The Edge Of Calm. On Second Interlude Janice Jaffe scats as Ron Kadish plucks his bass. It gives way to the ten minute epic Groovi Sandi, where some Bloomington’s finest stretch their legs during this genre-melting jam. When the solos come round, each musician enjoys their moment in the sun, and play their part in the sound and success of this funky, jazz-tinged opus. 

Very different is Interlude III where the wistful sound of Ron Kadish’s bass provides the backdrop to Janice Jaffe’s vocal which has an Eastern influence. All too soon, Interlude III is over leaving just the memory of this intriguing Interlude. Light For The Lost ebbs and flows, with the tempo rises and falls as a saxophone soars above the arrangement. Soon, Ron Kadish’s double bass is playing a leading role as his fingers flit up and down the fretboard and plucks quickly, confidently and sometimes deliberately. By then, here’s a much more experimental, avant and mesmeric sound that is combined with the jazzy horn on this truly ambitious musical adventure. It’s followed by the ethereal sounding Interlude 4, before the joyous and irresistible  The Fun Never Stops! bursts into life. After that, the jazzy Last Interlude features another scatted vocal from the talented Janice Jaffe. 

The Dream Of The Double Bass has a much more experimental sound, with Ron Kadish’s mournful, melancholy and otherworldly bass. Later, Ron switches to electric bass and adds a pulsating heartbeat as the Dream continues. It’s another of the highlights of Tales From Under. Original Numbers is another short track where of Janice Jaffe and Ron Kadish improved. Ron’s bass provides a counterpoint to Janice’s urgent, scared and improvised vocal. Closing Tales From Under is Skunitological Conclusions. Here, Ron Kadish’s jaggy, angular and avant bass line takes centre-stage during this engaging, hypnotic and innovative track. It ensures that Tales From Under closes on a high.

Twenty-four years after embarking upon a career as a freelance musician, Ron Kadish has released his long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album, Tales From Under. This he did with a little help from his friends. These friends are some of the leading lights of Bloomington’s vibrant music scene. They provide the backdrop for Ron Kadish on his genre-melting debut album. 

Seamlessly, Ron Kadish and his band switch between, and combine, elements of avant-garde, boogaloo, experimental, funk, jazz, Latin and Middle Eastern classical music. Meanwhile, Ron Kadish and his band, which includes the talented vocalist Janice Jaffe, create music that is variously beautiful, bewitching, captivating, ethereal, joyous and uplifting. Other times, the music is enchanting, hypnotic, thoughtful and wistful. Always, the music on Tales From Under is ambitious, innovative and is guaranteed to engage the listener as they embark on a bewitching musical adventure that lasts fifteen tracks and fifty-one magical minutes. During that time, bassist, bandleader, composer Ron Kadish showcases his talents and versatility on his long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album Tales From Under.

Ron Kadish-Tales From Under.

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE-SMALL TALK, HIGH ON YOU AND HEARD YA MISSED ME, WELL I’M BACK.

Sly and the Family Stone-Small Talk, High On You and Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back.

Label: BGO Records.

As Sly and the Family Stone prepared to release their seventh studio album Small Talk in July 1974, they were enjoying the most successful period of their career.They had been enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim since 1969, and the band’s founder Sly Stone hoped that this would continue with Small Talk, which is one three albums released as a two CD set by BGO Records. Small Talk is joined by High On You and Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back which documents the later years of Sly and the Family Stone’s career. 

By the time that Small Talk was released, Sly and the Family Stone was regarded a groundbreaking group with their genre-melting music. It took as a starting point psychedelic soul and added funk and rock to this heady musical brew. This proved an irresistible for many record buyers. However, that wasn’t always the case.

The Sly and The Family Stone story began in 1966, when Sly Stone formed Sly Stone and The Stoners which featured his friend Cynthia Robinson on trumpet. Meanwhile, Sly Stone’s brother Freddie Stone was also founding a new group Freddie and The Stone Souls. Its lineup included drummer Gregg Errico  and saxophonist Ronnie Crawford. Saxophonist Jerry Martini who was a friend of Sly Stone’s, suggested that the Sly and Freddie Stone should combine the two bands. This made sense, and Sly Brothers and Sisters was born. However, in October 1966 Sly Brothers and Sisters became Sly and the Family Stone.

Soon, Vanetta Stewart, Mary McCreary and Elva Mouton who had their own gospel group The Heavenly Tones approached Sly Stone about joining the nascent group. He agreed and they became Little Sister, who became Sly and the Family Stone’s backing vocalists.

It wasn’t long before Sly and the Family Stone came to the attention of record companies. This happened after a gig at the Winchester Cathedral, which was a night club in Redwood City, California. After the show, CBS Records David Kapralik executive approached Sly and the Family Stone. He had heard the group’s set and wanted to sign them to CBS’s Epic Records label. Soon, a deal was concluded and Sly and The Family Stone began work on their debut album A Whole New Thing.

A Whole New Thing.

In October 1967, Sly and the Family Stone prepared to release their debut album A Whole New Thing. It had been recorded live in the studio and found Sly and The Family Stone fusing soul and funk. Although reviews of the album were mixed, a number of musicians, including Mose Allison and Tony Bennett were won over by the album. Alas, when A Whole New Thing was released, it failed to chart. This was a disappointing start to Sly and the Family Stone’s recording career.

Dance To The Music ,

After the commercial failure of A Whole New Thing, CBS executive Clive Davis asked Sly Stone to make his music more poppy. This he hoped would find favour with DJs and record buyers. Sly Stone decided to write music that would please his employer, and come up with what was essentially a musical formula. Still, though, it allowed Sly and the Family Stone to spread their message of peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism and reach a much wider audience.

The song that Sly Stone wrote was the anthemic Dance To The Music. When it was recorded, new vocalist and keyboardist Rose Stone  made her debut. On it release, Dance To The Music reached number eight in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts. This was Sly and The Family Stone’s psychedelic soul debut, which was copied by many within the music industry.

In April 1968, Sly and the Family Stone returned with their sophomore album Dance To The Music. This album of psychedelic soul was released to critical acclaimed and is now regarded as an influential and innovative album. Dance To The Music reached 142 in the US Billboard 200 and eleven in the US R&B charts. Sly and The Family Stone’s career was underway.

Life.

Sly and The Family Stone was keen to build on the success of Dance To The Music, and four five months later returned with their third album Life. While it was well received by critics and featured songs of the quality of Fun,  Love City and M’Lady, Life failed to replicate the success of Dance To The Music. Instead, it stalled at a lowly 195 on the  US Billboard 200. It was a case of one step forward and two back for Sly and The Family Stone.

Stand.

After the disappointing sales of Life, Sly and The Family Stone began work on the band’s fourth album Stand. It was written and produced by lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone. He and the rest of Sly and The Family Stone had surpassed their previous efforts.

When critics heard Stand the hailed the album Sly and The Family Stone’s finest hour, pointing at the quality of songs like Sing A Simple Song, I Want To Take You Higher, Stand  and Everyday People. Stand was a classic in-waiting and would transform Sly and The Family Stone’s career.

Everyday People was released as the lead single from Stand in 1969, and topped the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts. This augured well for the release of Stand. When it was released in May 1969, Stand reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and three in the US R&B charts. By November 1969 Stand had sold over 500,000 copies, was certified gold. Seventeen years later, and Stand was certified platinum. Now Stand was sold over three million copies and is one Sly and The Family Stone’s most successful albums.

Woodstock.

Following Stand, Sly and The Family Stone were one of the stars of Woodstock.Their early morning set on ‘17th’ August 1969, was one of the highlights of Woodstock. This further cemented their huge popularity. 

After Woodstock, Sly and The Family Stone’s profile was at an all time high. Their record company CBS was desperate for a new album.Deadlines for a new album were set, and deadlines were missed. For CBS, this was frustrating as Sly and The Family Stone  had never been as popular. If the band had completed their album on time, it could’ve been their biggest selling album. When CBS realised that a new album wasn’t going to be imminent, a Greatest Hits album was released in 1970.

Greatest Hits.

Sly and The Family Stone’s first Greatest Hits album was released in November 1970, and featured the five singles  from Dance To The Music, Life and Stand. They were augmented B-Sides and trio of new tracks. This included Hot Fun In The Summertime, Everybody Is A Star and Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). These twelve tracks became Sly and The Family Stone’s Greatest Hits album which was released to satisfy consumer demand.

On its release, Greatest Hits reached number two in the US Billboard 200 and reached number one on the US R&B charts. Sly and The Family Stone’s first Greatest Hits album went on to sell five million copies, and was certified platinum five times over. This surpassed the success of Stand, and reinforced that fact that Sly and The Family Stone was one of the most popular American bands. However, all wasn’t well within Stand, Sly and The Family Stone.

At this time, relationships within the band were at an all time low, especially among  Sly and Freddie Stone and bassist Larry Graham. Tense doesn’t come close to describe their relationship. Ironically, Larry’s bass playing would be crucial to the success of what became There’s A Riot Goin’ On. It provided the heartbeat to the album. Sadly, the tension between the band members wasn’t the only problem surrounding Sly and The Family Stone.

Drug use was rife within Sly and The Family Stone, and allegations were made that that Sly Stone carried a violin case full of drugs everywhere the band went. The drug use had worsened ever since Sly and The Family Stone had relocated to California. Since then, PCP and cocaine were the drugs of choice for the band. This started to affect the recording schedule and tours. 

Sly Stone’s moods started to change, and he swing between upbeat and happy, to suddenly moody and broody. Onlookers noted that his behaviour  started to become erratic. Between concerts, it was reported that he spent much of his time taking drugs. For a band who’d just enjoyed two hugely successful albums, Sly and The Family Stone were shooting themselves in their foot at every turn. 

Controversy then arose when Sly Stone became friendly with The Black Panthers. Soon, this was said to be affecting Sly and The Family Stone’s music. They wanted the band’s music to be more militant, both lyrically and musically. The Black Panthers also felt that Sly and The Family Stone should reflect the movement’s beliefs. Even more controversial was that The Panthers demands that Sly Stone fire the two white instrumentalists Greg Errico and Jerry Martini. Their replacements, The Panthers said, should be black musicians. Their final request, was that manager David Kapralik be sacked. Replacing him, should be a black manager who would represent the group. Soon, politics were the least of Sly Stone’s problems, when he became involved with gangsters.

This came about when Sly Stone was looking for someone to manage his affairs. To do this, he could’ve hired any of the Los Angeles’ top music managers. However, it was alleged that their was more to the role of Sly Stone’s manager than looking after his affairs. They would also have to protect him and source him drugs. The perfect people to do this were the gangsters that Sly Stone hired. 

With the problems Sly Stone’s problems with drugs, The Black Panthers and gangsters it was a tumultuous time for the band. Especially when drummer Greg Errico decided to leave Sly and The Family Stone. This was a huge disappointment given how important his role within the band. However, it also meant that The Black Panthers had gotten their wish and removed one of the two white musicians from the band. It was a sad for Sly and The Family Stone, whose music was meant to be about peace, brotherly love, and anti-racism. Ironically, Sly Stone had let The Black Panthers which was a  virulently racist and anti-semitic organisation infiltrate the band, and intimidate the two white members of the band. So much so, that Greg Errico left  Sly and The Family Stone. This was the backdrop for the recording of new album in 1970 and 1971. Sly and The Family Stone were up against it when recording of There’s A Riot Goin’ On began.

There’s A Riot Goin’ On.

When recording of There’s A Riot Goin’ On began at the Record Plant, in Sausalito, in 1970  Sly and The Family Stone’s popularity was at an all-time high. CBS wanted a new album from Sly and The Family Stone. However, it soon became apparent that was easier said than done. 

Tensions were high within Sly and The Family Stone as they began recording There’s A Riot Goin’ On. There were also the various problems within Sly Stone’s life. Gangster and The Black Panthers were regular visitors to the studio as Sly and The Family Stone began recording the twelve songs penned by Sly Stone. Just like previous albums Sly Stone was also arranging and producing There’s A Riot Goin’ On.  However, there was a distinct lack of progress, the sessions continued into 1971.

By then, deadlines had been set, but were constantly missed. The executives at CBS were frustrated at the lack of progress. Adding to their woes was the departure of drummer Greg Errico. He was replaced for the rest of the sessions by Gerry Gibson. Eventually, amidst rancour, tension and a haze of drugs, the genre-melting opus There’s A Riot Goin’ On was completed in 1971.

When executives at CBS heard There’s A Riot Goin’ On, it was a delicious fusion of funk, soul, rock, psychedelia and jazz.  They scheduled the release of There’s A Riot Goin’ On for November 1971. Ironically, There’s A Riot Goin’ On wasn’t immediately recognised as a classic album. 

Initially, There’s A Riot Goin’ On divided the opinion  of critics. Some hailed the album a masterpiece, while others weren’t won over by the change of sound and style. There’s A Riot Goin’ On was the result of the long sessions where Sly Stone honed the album’s sound. This involved lengthy overdubbing sessions, which gave the album its multilayered sound. The music had a darker, harder edge than the soulful sounding Stand. Gone also was the optimism of previous albums. In its place was music that was pessimistic, even nihilistic as it describes a world that’s gone wrong. In reality, this was more a description of Sly and The Family Stone by 1971. However, with critics opinions  divided over There’s A Riot Goin’ On, record buyers had a casting vote.

On There’s A Riot Goin’ On release in November 1971, it topped the US Billboard 200 and US R&B Charts. By November 1972 the album was certified gold in and later was certified  platinum. Meanwhile, Family Affair was released as the lead single from There’s A Riot Goin’ in November 1971. It reached number one in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts, and was certified gold. There’s A Riot Goin’ On may have taken the best part of two years to record in far from idea circumstance, but it transformed the  career of Sly and The Family Stone. 

Fresh.

Given the success of On There’s A Riot Goin’ On, executives at CBS were keen for Sly and The Family Stone to record  a followup quickly. However, it took nineteen month before Sly and The Family Stone returned with their sixth studio album Fresh in June 1973.  

By then, Sly and The Family Stone were beset by more problems.  Sly Stone’s drug use had escalated, and his drug of choice for the recording of Fresh was cocaine. Sly and The Family Stone’s other problem was the loss of their original rhythm section. As a result, session drummer Andy Newmark was drafted in  and joined Sly Stone in the rhythm section. He laid down the bass and guitar parts plus piano, organ, harmonica and vocals. Together, Sly and The Family Stone’s new rhythm section recorded the syncopated and complex rhythms. They were part of quite different album, and one showcased a much more stripped down sound. 

Once the album was recorded, Sly Stone constantly remixed the tracks on Fresh. It became the second consecutive album to be delayed by Sly Stone’s constant remixing.

Even after Sly Stone handed over the master tapes he continued to remix Fresh. As a result,  several versions of each track on Fresh exist. 

When critics heard Fresh it as well received by the majority of critics. They were won over by tracks of the quality of If You Want Me To Stay, Frisky, Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) and Babies Makin’ Babies. Fresh was a much more upbeat album, and had the same funkiness as There’s A Riot Goin’ On. It was no surprise that a number of  high-profile musicians had been won over by Fresh.

Jazz legend Miles Davis was so impressed In Time which opened Fresh, that he made his band spend thirty minutes listening to the song. Brian Eno thought that Fresh signalled a change in recording history saying it was an album: “where the rhythm instruments, particularly the bass drum and bass, suddenly [became] the important instruments in the mix.”. Later, P-Funk pioneer George Clinton called Fresh one of his favourite albums. However, when Fresh was released in the summer of 1973, it was receiving praise from critics and musicians alike. It was against this backdrop that Fresh was released.

When Fresh was released on June the ‘30th’ 1973, the album reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 and topped the US R&B charts. This resulted in a gold disc for Sly and the Family Stone who were now one of the most successful soul and funk bands of the seventies.

Small Talk.

In 1974, Sly and The Family Stone headed to the Record Plant in Los Angeles to record their seventh studio album Small Talk. By then, Sly Stone had penned ten tracks and cowrote Small Talk with W. Silva. Just like previous albums, Sly Stone arranged and produced Small Talk, which was a stylistic departure from Sly and the Family Stone.

The release of Small Talk was scheduled for July 1974. Before that, critics had their say on album.  They discovered another album of soulful and funky music. What was different was a much more laid-back and mellow sound. Strings were used effectively and softened the sound and changed the mood of the music. Sometimes they replaced the horns which had been a feature of Sly and the Family Stone’s music. Gone also was the fuller arrangements on a number of tracks, to be replaced by a much sparser sound. Another change was the use studio chatter on around half the songs on Small Talk. This added a degree of spontaneity to the album. Its highlights included the ballad Mother Beautiful, Can’t Strain My Brain, Time For Livin’ and Wishful Thinkin’ plus the funky Loose Booty and Livin’ While I’m Livin’. Small Talk was another album of quality music from Sly and the Family Stone. However, the big question was what would record buyers think of Sly and the Family Stone’s new sound?

When Small Talk was released in July 1974, it reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 200, but never troubled the US R&B charts. Despite that, Small Talk was certified gold. By then, Frisky had been released as the lead single and reached thirty-two in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-nine in US R&B charts. Loose Booty then stalled at eighty in the US Billboard 100 and ninety in US R&B charts. However, this was the least of Sly Stone’s worries.

Ever since the dawn of the seventies, Sly Stone or other band members would often fail to turn up to play at gigs. Other times, they refused to play or passed out after taking a cocktail of drugs. After a while, this started to affect Sly and the Family Stone’s bookings. No longer was the band able to command the same sums of money they once had. When promoters were willing to book Sly and the Family Stone, they were only willing to pay smaller sums of money. This was no surprise. 

Often when Sly and the Family Stone played live, the audience rioted if the band failed to turn up for the gig. It was a similar case if Sly Stone walked off the stage or the band failed to finish their set. Suddenly, chaos reigned and There’s A Riot Goin’ On. This made life difficult for Ken Roberts who was Sly and The Family Stone’s promoter and later general manager. Many promoters wouldn’t hire Sly and The Family Stone due to the problems they brought with them. 

Despite the package they brought with them, Sly and The Family Stone hired the Radio City Music Hall, in New York. This was one of the Big Apple’s most prestigious venues. When Sly and The Family Stone took to the stage on the ‘15th’ of January 1975, the venue was only one-eighth occupied. For Sly and The Family Stone this was a disaster and the band had to scrape together the money to get home.

On their return to California, a decision was made to dissolve Sly and The Family Stone. After eight years, and eight million albums Sly and The Family Stone was no more. However, Sly Stone continued as a solo artist.

High On You.

Ten months after that fateful nights at Radio City Music Hall, Sly Stone released his debut solo album High On You on November the ‘8th’ 1975. It featured ten new songs penned by Sly Stone, and featured  most of the former members of The Family Stone.

This included Freddie Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, Dennis Marcello and Little Sister. They were augmented by various session musicians and guest artists as work began at Columbia Studios and the Record Plant in Los Angeles. Sly Stone played many instruments and again, used multi tracking to record multilayered songs. This time, Sly Stone worked quickly and the album was ready for release in late 1975.

When High On You was released on November the ‘8th’ 1975 this was the start of new chapter for Sly Stone. It was his debut solo album and he was eager that the album would be well received by critics. They were impressed by High On You, which was a funkier album than Small Talk.

Especially songs like I Get High On You where which was a fusion of funk proto-boogie, the sinuous Crossword Puzzle and the accusing Who Do You Love? There was a departure into soul on the string drenched ballad That’s Loving’ You. It’s a reminder of Sly Stone’s versatility as he’s transformed into a soul man. Green Eyed Monster Girl is an organ driven jam that shows Sly Stone hadn’t lost his touch. Organize sounded like vintage Sly and The Family Stone, while Le Lo Li and My World are a return to the soulful side. So Good To Me finds Sly Stone fusing soul and funk before he takes a bow on Greed. Given the quality of music on High On You surely it would launch Sly Stone’s solo career?

On the release of High On You, it reached forty-five on the US Billboard 200 and eleven in the US R&B chart. This time there was no gold disc for Sly Stone. When I Get High On You was released as a single in 1975, it stalled at fifty-two on the US Billboard 100 and fifty-eight in the US R&B chart. Alas, that was as good as it got for Sly Stone. Le Lo Li was released later in 1975, but failed to chart. It was a similar case when  Crossword Puzzle was released in 1976. However, on the whole, High On You was a successful start to Sly Stone’s solo career.

Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back.

Just over a year after the release of High On You, Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back was released on December the ’18th’ 1976 and heralded the return of Sly and The Family Stone. It was very different lineup of the group that sold eight million album between 1969 and 1973. 

There was only remaining member of The Family Stone left, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson. She was joined by Vet Stone and Elva Mouton who previously, were members of Little Sister who were Sly and The Family Stone’s backing vocalists. They were going up in the world and were now members of The Family Stone. Joining them in The Family Stone were a number of new faces, plus guest artist Peter Frampton who plays guitar on Let’s Be Together. He joined Sly and The Family Stone at Columbia Recording Studio in San Francisco.

By then, Sly Stone had penned new songs. They were recorded by what was essentially a new lineup of Sly and The Family Stone. What didn’t change was that Sly Stone took charge of production at Columbia Recording Studio. However, when Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back was recorded, it wasn’t Sly Stone who mixed the album. Instead, the tapes were  sent to Joe Tarsia at Sigma Sound Studios in Philly. He was mixing many of the successful Philly Soul albums for Gamble and Huff and Thom Bell. Executives at CBS must have been hoping that some of this success would rub off on Sly and The Family Stone.

Before Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back had their say on Sly and The Family Stone’s comeback album. It featured their usual fusion of soul and funk that had been successful since 1969. However, this time around, the reviews were  mixed. The jury was out on Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back. 

Opening Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back was the title-track where Sly and The Family Stone combine elements of soul, jazz and Latin music with tougher, funkier sound. It gives way What Was I Thinkin’ In My Head where Sly and The Family Stone revisit their trademark fusion of funk and soul. Then on Nothing Less Than Happiness, Blessing In Disguise and the string drenched Everything In You Sly and The Family Stone return to their soulful side. Sometimes, the harmonies add a gospel influence. Very different is Mother Is A Hippie, which features proto-boogie synths. They play their part on song that sounds if it belongs on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Let’s Be Together and The Thing could only have been written and produced by Sly Stone as he and his Family continue to combine soul and funk. Fittingly, the über funky Family Again closes Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back. It’s something a hidden gem in  Sly and The Family Stone’s back-catalogue. However, in 1976 the jury were out on  Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back, and record buyers had the final say.

When Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back was released by Epic, it failed to chart in the US Billboard 200, The last time this had happened was in 1967, Sly and The Family Stone released their debut album A Whole New Thing. Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back wasn’t triumphant return that Sly Stone or executives at Epic had hoped. To make matters worse, the only single released from Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back, Family Again failed to chart. Sly Stone must have known what was about to happen next.

In 1977, Epic released Sly Stone from his recording contract. He had spent ten years at Epic, and released eight studio albums and the 1970 Greatest Hits’ album. These nine album had sold in excess of eight million copies. However, that was the past. There was no sentiment in music and Sly and The Family Stone left Epic in 1977.

The most successful period of Sly and The Family Stone’s career was between 1969 and 1974. This golden period started with the release of Stand in 1969, with Sly and The Family Stone’s first Greatest Hits album following in 1970. A year later, Sly and The Family Stone release their Magnus Opus There’s A Riot Goin’ On which is a classic album. So was the followup Fresh which was released in 1973. The final album from a period where Sly and The Family Stone could do no wrong was 1974s Small Talk, which is one three albums released as a two CD set by BGO Records. 

Small Talk is joined by 1975s High On You which was Sly Stone’s debut solo album. It’s an oft-overlooked and underrated album from one music’s pioneers and innovators. However, his solo career was brief and a year later, Sly and The Family Stone were back in 1976 with their eighth album Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back. It’s one of the hidden gems on in Sly and the Family Stone’s back-catalogue, and features several  songs that are a reminder of the band’s golden period. 

Sadly, many people concentrate on Sly and The Family Stone most successful albums, especially those released between 1969 and 1974. In doing so, they’re overlooking albums like A Whole New Thing, Dance To The Music and Life which were released between 1967 and 1968. These three albums find Sly and The Family Stone pioneering and honing their trademark psychedelic soul sound. By then, Sly and The Family Stone were ready to embark upon a five-year period where they could do wrong. That period ends with 1974s Small Talk, which was certified gold. This was the end of a five-year period where commercial success and critical acclaim had been constant companions to Sly and The Family Stone. While High On You and Sly and The Family Stone’s Epic swan-song their Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back didn’t enjoy the same commercial success they’re an important part in the story of Sly and The Family Stone.

Lead by the inimitable musical maverick Sly Stone, Sly and The Family Stone were musical trailblazers who pioneered the psychedelic soul sound. Soon, many other musicians and bands were following in their footsteps, including The Temptations and The Undisputed Truth. However, neither group came close to replicating Sly and The Family Stone’s unique, genre-melting sound. It found favour with critics and record buyers and even today, fifty years after Sly and The Family Stone released their debut album A Whole New Thing in 1967, they continue to inspire and influence a new generation of musicians. 

Sadly, just like Icarus, Sly Stone flew too close to the sun, and nowadays,  is a pale shadow of his former self. The years of hard living and drug taking have taken their toll on this musical pioneer. He’s now seventy-four and is remembered for classic albums like There’s A Riot Goin’ On and Fresh. However, there’s much more to Sly and The Family Stone’s Epic years than these two albums, including Small Talk, High On You and Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back.

Sly and the Family Stone-Small Talk, High On You and Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back.