MANHATTAN SOUL VOLUME 3.

Manhattan Soul Volume 3.

Another of Kent Soul’s occasional series made a welcome return recently, when Manhattan Soul Volume 3 was released. This was the latest instalment in a  successful series that began back in February 2011. 

That when the first instalment in the Manhattan Soul series was released to praise and plaudits. No wonder. It featured an eclectic selection of classic songs, hidden gems and B-Sides from familiar faces, old friends and new names. Ballads and dancers rubbed shoulders on Manhattan Soul, which featured tracks from the vaults of some of the Big Apple’s great labels. This included Scepter, Wand and Musicor. Soul fans were won over by what was a quality compilation. Surely, there would be a followup to Manhattan Soul?

In late July 2012, Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records returned with Manhattan Soul Volume 2. It featured another twenty-four eclectic soul sides from the vaults of Scepter, Wand and Musicor. There was blue-eyed soul, crossover soul, deep soul and Northern Soul on Manhattan Soul Volume 2. Similarly, ballads and dancers could be found on a compilation that comprised singles, B-Sides, unreleased tracks, rarities and a handful of hidden gems. They all had one thing in common…quality. Critics were won over by this lovingly curated compilation. So were soul fans. Manhattan Soul Volume 2 proved a popular compilation.

Many who discovered the delights of Manhattan Soul Volume 2 thought it was only a matter of time before Manhattan Soul Volume 3 was released. They were in for a surprise. 

Over three years passed before Manhattan Soul Volume 3 was recently released by Kent Soul. Just like the previous volumes in the series, it features twenty-four tracks. They’re taken from the vaults of Scepter, Wand and Musicor. Compiler Ady Croasdell has even dipped into the vaults of Bunky and Dynamo for Manhattan Soul Volume 3. It features some a mixture of familiar faces and new names.

Among the artists on Manhattan Soul Volume 3 are Johnny Moore, The Shirelles, Tommy Hunt, The Platters, Van McCoy, Melba Moore and Big Maybelle. There’s also contributions from Ann Bailey, Earl King, Brenton Wood and Billy Byers.  Most of the tracks were released between 1962 and 1973. Others weren’t released until much later. Three unreleased songs make their debut on Manhattan Soul Volume 3. It’s a soulful treasure trove.

Opening Manhattan Soul Volume 3 is Dan and The Cleancuts’ Open Up Your Heart (And Let Me In). This is a real rarity that was penned by Raul Abeyta and Graeme Kronsber. It was arranged by Don Ralke and was a Malkin-Hoffman production. This beautiful soulful ballad was released on Scepter in 1966, and whets the listener’s appetite for what’s to come on Manhattan Soul Volume 3.

This includes Now That You’re Gone, which was the B-Side  Sonny Turner and Sound Limited’s 1972 single Chicago Woman.  It marked the solo debut of former Platters’ frontman Sonny Turner. He had lead The Platters since 1961. By 1972 Sonny Turner decided to embark upon and a solo career, and signed to Musicor Records. His debut single was Chicago Woman. However, tucked away on the B-Side was Now That You’re Gone which Sonny Turner cowrote and produced. It’s a heart-wrenching ballad that showcases a much more contemporary seventies soul sound from the former Platter frontman.

In November 1973, Ann Bailey released Sweeping Your Dirt Under My Rug on Wand. Hidden away on the flip-side was Fun City Woman. It was penned by Fran Robbins and Elliot Glen, while  Tash Howard took charge of production. There’s a Southern Soul influence as Ann Bailey unleashes an uber soulful vocal powerhouse on what was sadly, her one and only single.

The Charts released Nobody Made Me Love You as a single on Wand in 1966. It was written by Scott N. Douglas and Fred C. Dobbs. Robert DeCoteaux who later enjoyed a successful career as a producer arranged the single. It was produced by Bob Schwaid who by 1966, was an experienced producer. He put all his experience to good use on what’s a memorable and catchy song. Alas, it failed to find an audience and Nobody Made Me Love You proved to be The Charts’ final single.

There’s three unreleased tracks on Manhattan Soul Volume 3. The first is The Shirelles’ Two Stupid Feet. It’s a beautiful tender ballad that was produced by Luther Dixon. Sadly, the song wasn’t mixed in preparation for release. As a result, this hidden gem has lain in the Scepter vaults since then. It makes a welcome debut on Manhattan Soul Volume 3.

Burt Bacharach and Bob Hillard wrote Lover, which was recorded by Tommy Hunt. Rather than go to the expense of recording a backing track from scratch, a decision was made to recycle an existing one. The one they chose was the backing track to Chuck Jackson’s Any Day Now. It worked well and proved the perfect accompaniment to Chuck Jackson’s soul-baring vocal. Sadly, the song was never released until 1986, when it featured on the Kent Records compilation of Tommy Hunt’s songs Your Man. Twenty-one years later, and Tommy Hunt’s Lover makes a welcome return on Manhattan Soul Volume 3.

Nowadays, Allen Toussaint and Marshall E. Sehorn are regarded as legends of the New Orleans’ music scene. In the late sixties, they worked recorded an album with veteran singer-songwriter Earl King. He wrote much of the material on the album. This includes both sides of the single the he released for Wand in 1970. Tic Tac Toe was released as a single with A Part Of Me relegated to the flip-side. That was a great shame, as A Part Of Me is a beautiful, heart-wrenching Southern Soul ballad.

Many people will know Maurice Williams for the songs that he’s written. Among his best known songs are Little Darlin’, Stay and May I. Maurice Williams also enjoyed a successful career as a singer. He began as a solo artist before becoming The Zodiacs frontman. However, in September 1965, Maurice Williams released Nobody Knows as a single on Scepter. He’s accompanied by his former group The Zodiac on what’s a memorable and melodic uptempo song.

There’s only one track from the Bunky back-catalogue on Manhattan Soul Volume 3. That is How Could It Be which was the B-Side to The Esquires’ single I Know I Can. It was released in July 1968 but failed commercially. Who knows what might have happened if DJs had flipped over to How Could It Be. It’s a truly irresistible uptempo track that’s one that was penned by Gilbert Moore and produced by Bill Shepherd.

Harold Hopkins released Ooh Baby as a single on Wand in 1965. By then, Harold Hopkins was an experienced singer. He had been a member of the Royal Masters, and appeared on several singles. Indeed, it’s thought that it’s he Royal Masters that accompany Harold Hopkins on the sultry sounding Ooh Baby.

Another of the unreleased tracks on Manhattan Soul Volume 3 is The Tabs’ The Landlord. It’s one of four songs that The Tabs recorded for Wand around mid 1963. Since then, it’s lain in the Wand vaults. That’s until Ady Croasdell rescued My Landlord, which is a reminder of early sixties New York soul.

Sadly, Billy Byers’ recording career amounts to just two singles. This includes Remind My Baby Of Me, which was released on Scepter Records in October 1964. It was penned by Gary Geld, Andrew Scott and Peter Udel who had formed a successful songwriting partnership and They had written a string of hit singles. Remind My Baby Of Me was arranged by Ed Martin and produced by Stan Green had the potential to add to their tally of hits. Billy Byers delivers a hurt filled vocal where he lives the lyrics. Alas, when the single failed to make an impression on the charts, Billy Byers called time on his musical career.

It’s always interesting to hear a single recorded by an artist early in their career. In September 1966, twenty-one year old Melba Moore was about to release her debut single Does Love Believe In Me on Musicor Records. She’s accompanied by a carefully crafted and poignant arrangement where a Hammond organ, harmonies, piano and guitar play their part in the success of this dreamy ballad. It’s without doubt, one of the highlights of Manhattan Soul Volume 3.

Closing Manhattan Soul Volume 3 is Big Maybelle’s cover of If I Had You. It may have been recorded for Scepter Records in 1964, when Big Maybelle was signed to the label. However, it wasn’t released until October 1986 when the song made its debut on the Kent Records LP Big City Soul Sounds-NYC Soul Of The 60s. Twenty-one years later, and this impassioned cover of If I Had You closes Manhattan Soul Volume 3.

For soul fans that have waited patiently for the release of Manhattan Soul Volume 3, then it’s been worth the near four year wait. Manhattan Soul Volume 3 is without doubt, the finest instalment in the series. Compiler Ady Croasdell has dug deep into the vaults of Scepter, Wand and Musicor.  He’s even dipped into the vaults of Bunky and Dynamo for Manhattan Soul Volume 3. It features some a mixture of familiar faces and new names.

Manhattan Soul Volume 3 features an eclectic selection of classic songs, hidden gems, unreleased tracks, rarities and B-Sides from familiar faces, old friends and new names. There’s several beautiful, hopeful and heart-wrenching ballads on Manhattan Soul Volume 3. They rub shoulders with uptempo tracks and dancers. These tracks are taken from the vaults of some of the Big Apple’s great soul labels, and are and are a reminder of what was the golden age of soul. It’s remembered on Manhattan Soul Volume 3, which is another of Kent Soul’s occasional series that recently, made a welcome return.

Manhattan Soul Volume 3.

manhattensoul31000_7

r-4897537-1450957366-4783-jpeg

cdkend-459a

cdkend-459e

cdkend-459c

cdkend-459b

cdkend-459d

r-5102620-1460043798-8329-jpeg

r-1419201-1468149799-1229-jpeg

r-2535498-1351989257-8859-jpeg

r-8071886-1454628976-2960-jpeg

 

COZMIC CORRIDORS-COZMIC CORRIDORS.

Cozmic Corridors-Cozmic Corridors.

On 14th of October 2016, the Mental Experience label released Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 compilation. It featured seven tracks from the Pyramid Records vaults. For anyone with a passing interest in Krautrock, this was a welcome release. 

Pyramid Records was founded by Canadian artist Robin Page in Cologne. His nascent label released its first album in 1972. Over the next four years, Pyramid Records established a reputation for releasing ambitious and innovative albums. However, only 50-100 copies of these albums were pressed. They were either given away to Robin Page’s friends or sold in some of Cologne’s art galleries. Little did those that were given, or bought these albums realise that one day, they would be extremely valuable.

Nowadays, very few copies of these albums are still existence. On they rare occasion that copies of Pyramid Records’ releases are sold, it’s quietly and for large sums of money. This makes original copies of the Pyramid Records beyond the budget of most Krautrock connoisseurs. They welcomed the release of Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 last year. It however, was the musical equivalent of a amuse-gueule.

When Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 was released by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records they announced that they intended to release further albums recorded or released by Pyramid Records. That was a tantalising prospect. Especially when the first in this series of releases was a reissue of Cozmic Corridors’ eponymous debut album. It’s the perfect way to start this series.

The Cozmic Corridors story began in 1972. That was when work began on the Cozmic Corridors album. Early recording sessions took place at Robin Page’s art studio in Cologne.

Robin Page was a forty year old artist in 1972, and leading light in the Fluxus movement. He had moved from from England to Cologne, in Germany in 1969.  It turned out that Robin Page wasn’t the only expat in the city.

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

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

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

One person presented with a copy of PYR 001, was Toby Robinson who by 1972, had become friends with Robin Page. He was persuaded to provide the material for PYR 002. Essentially, this comprised a recording of sounds bounced from one tape recorder to another. Again, a master was cut, between 50-100 copies were either given away to Robin Page’s friends, or sold in Cologne’s art galleries and clubs. No copies of  PYR 001 nor PYR 002 seem to have survived. It’s a similar story with the label’s next two releases.

Neither the master tapes nor copies of PYR 003 and PYR 004 seem to have survived the passage of time. Instead, the first Pyramid Records release to survive is believed to be PYR 005. It’s one of just eleven Pyramid Records’ recordings that remain. These recordings were made between 1974 and 1976. That was all in the future.

In 1972, the group that would later become known as the Cozmic Corridors were in the early stages of recording an album for Robin Page’s Pyramid Records. Rather than head into a recording studio, the early sessions took place in Robin Page’s art studio. It could easily be transformed into a makeshift recording studio. Robin Page would then watch the band jam.

The members of the Cozmic Corridors were unlikely bedfellows. Especially Alex Meyer, who until joining the Cozmic Corridors had watched on with interest as sessions took place in Robin Page’s art studio. Alex Mayer wanted to participate in the sessions. However, he was out of luck. Nobody was in need of a keyboardist.  

Despite this, Alex Meyer took to parking his van outside Robin Page’s flat. This was no ordinary van though. It was also where Alex Meyer slept and stored his trusty keyboards.  Eventually, Alex Meyer’s persistence paid off and he was invited to become  a member of the Cozmic Corridors. 

Joining Alex Mayer in the Cozmic Corridors was drummer and percussionist Hans-Jürgen Pütz who also added a myriad of effects on the album. For Hans-Jürgen Pütz  the Cozmic Corridors proved a stepping stone musically. 

He replaced Thomas Hildebrand as Mythos’ drummer and made his debut on their 1975 sophomore album Dreamlab. Alas, this was the only album Hans-Jürgen Pütz recorded with Mythos. Six years later, Touch’s 1981 eponymous debut album was released. It had been recorded in the early seventies, and featured Hans-Jürgen Pütz’s debut as lead vocalist and producer. In the post-Cozmic Corridors’ years, Hans-Jürgen Pütz had a higher profile than the rest of the band.

Especially  mystery man Peter Forster, who played electric guitar, twelve-string guitar and violin.  Nothing is known about his identity. He’s remained something of a mystery man. However, he certainly was a talented guitarist. This had lead to speculation that Peter Forster is a nom de plume of a member of a high profile Krautrock band. That makes sense.

Often, the great and good of Krautrock headed to Dierks Studio, where Cozmic Corridors was completed. Many a night, members of the top Krautrock bands formed all-star bands. So it could well be that Peter Foster is the alias of a high profile Krautrock guitarist. There is another school of thought. This is that Peter Foster is yet another alias of Tony Robinson, who produced Cozmic Corridors. Alas. it seems the mystery surrounding Peter Foster will never be solved.

The final member of Cozmic Corridors was Pauline Lund. She was poet from Metz, in France. She was also a percussionist and vocalist, who added lyrics to the songs on Cozmic Corridors. Pauline Lund also featured on Temple’s eponymous debut album which was released in 1997. This was a year after Cozmic Corridors was belatedly released. However, back in 1972 the album was starting to take shape.

In Robin Page’s art studio, Alex Meyer wrote the music while Pauline Lund added lyrics. Gradually, the tracks began to take shape during 1972. It soon became apparent that each member of the band had hidden talents. 

Drummer and percussionist Hans-Jürgen Pütz also played cello and added a myriad of effects on the album. Meanwhile, Peter Foster played electric guitar, twelve-string guitar and violin. Keyboardist Alex Meyer switched seamlessly  Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, Minimoog and even added some chants. Pauline Lund added percussion parts and added the vocals. The recording took place in three locations with Tony Robinson a.k.a. The Mad Twiddler took charge of production. 

Much of the recording of Cozmic Corridors took place at Robin Page’s art studio during 1972. It was transformed into a makeshift studio. For Robin Page’s small record label, this saved running up large studio bills. Sometimes, though, Robin Page’s art studio wasn’t the right place to capture the sound the band envisaged. 

Tony Robinson had to think laterally to capture the correct sound. On one occasion, Tony Robinson borrowed a portable Nagra tape recorder from WDR. He and Alex Meyer headed to a derelict building in Cologne. It had the perfect acoustics to record some organ parts. After that, the rest of the recording sessions took place at Dierks Studo 

Eventually though, the time came for the recording sessions to move to Dierks Studio. By then, it was 1973. All that remained was for some parts to be overdubbed. This included Peter Foster’s guitars, some of Pauline Lund’s vocals, Alex Meyer’s chants and a myriad of noises.  Once the overdubbing was complete, the album was ready for release.

Sadly, Cozmic Corridors wasn’t released during the lifetime of Roin Page’s Pyramid Records. It closed its doors for the final time in 1976.

Later, Robin Page decided to emigrate to Canada. With him, he took Pyramid Records’ master tapes and the remaining albums. Almost nothing was left of Pyramid Records. It was as if they had never existed.  

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

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

Twenty years after Pyramid Records closed its doors, the German label Psi-Fi released Cozmic Corridors. Before long, it was impossible to find a copy of Cozmic Corridors. That has been the case since then. That was until Mental Experience decided to reissue Cozmic Corridors recently. It’s another welcome reissue from the Pyramid Records’ vaults.

Opening Cozmic Corridors is Dark Path. Straight away, the darkness descends as the Cozmic Corridors lead the listener down a Dark Path, destination unknown.  The music is moody, dramatic, eerie  and otherworldly.  Swirling ghostly synths encircle a keyboard as a drum sounds ominously. Later, screeching, jarring sounds add to the cinematic sound. Despite this, the music is mesmeric, melodic and is always cinematic. It’s as if Cozmic Corridors have been asked to produced a spine-tingling soundtrack to a gothic horror film. This they succeed in doing, and then some.

As a hypnotic organ plays, it replicates the Cozmic Corridors’ slow climb To The Summit.  Meanwhile, a synth beeps and squeaks as it skips quickly across the arrangement. Soon, the tempo rises, as sci-fi synth are added. At one point, the organ sounds as if it belongs in a cathedral. It’s accompanied by a buzzing synth. Before long, the organ takes centre-stage. The music conjures up pictures of climbers slowly, carefully and deliberately criss-crossing the Mountainside breathing in the cold, crisp air en-route to The Summit. Later, the synth takes charge, and replicates their triumphant arrival at The Summit as the organ seems to replicate the sound of breathing. At last, the Cozmic Corridors’ journey is at end. They’re responsible for an atmospheric and cinematic track that features the Cozmic Corridors at their most inventive.

After reaching The Summit, the Cozmic Corridors head down the Mountainside. A distant drone sounds, before drawing nearer. It grows in volume as if sending out a warning. Soon, sci-fi synths are added and the soundscape takes on an experimental and futuristic sound. When the bubbling synths disappear, they’re replaced by a drone which gives way to ruminative, moody strings.  They’re joined by an ethereal vocal as a cymbal rinses. Sounds flit in and out, adding to the dramatic, cinematic backdrop. As the descent continues see-saw strings join effects, the elegiac vocal and shimmering cymbal. Suddenly, otherworldly and rumbling sounds can be heard. Danger seems imminent as growling, grinding, droning and futuristic sounds combine with the ethereal vocal. Eventually, the Cozmic Corridors make their way down the Mountainside. It’s been a captivating and perilous journey where elements of avant-garde, Berlin School, experimental and modern classical are combined by the Cozmic Corridors.

Straight away, contrasts abound on Niemand Versteht. A Fender Rhodes briefly plays before a mesmeric organ dominates the arrangement. It’s punctuated by effects that add a contrast. So does the addition of a searing electric guitar and Pauline Lund’s soliloquy, which is delivered in German. When it drops out, urgent, jangling guitars join with a myriad of effects and the mesmeric seesaw organ. It leads a genre-melting jam, before the vocal returns. By then, the organ veers between dark and gothic to discordant as the track takes on an experimental sound. Cozmic Corridors are pushing musical boundaries to their limits and sometimes, way beyond. In doing so, they create an ambitious, dark, and otherworldly genre-melting soundscape. 

Closing Cozmic Corridors is Daruber. A drone ushers in an organ that adds a dramatic backdrop. Meanwhile, a glistening guitar combines with sounds that veer between shrill and serene. The multilayered arrangement is slow, lysergic and dreamy. That’s until Cozmic Corridors spring a surprise. Soon, the organ dominates the soundscape and is joined by dramatic harmonies. They that ebb and flow before briefly disappearing to reappear. There’s a darkness to the music. Especially as the organ prowls and dominates the arrangement. Later, though, it seems change is on the horizon during. Alas, it’s a false dawn during what’s  a dark and eerie eleven minute Magnus Opus.

Cozmic Corridors saved the best two last on their long lost cult classic. It’s been out of print for twenty-one years. Since then, copies of Cozmic Corridors have been almost impossible to find. It was only released on CD in 1996. Nowadays, copies of Cozmic Corridors are extremely hard to find.  If a copy comes up for sale, it can easily change hands for well over $100. That is beyond the budget of most Krautrock connoisseurs. Fortunately, Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records have reissued Cozmic Corridors. It’s available on CD and LP. This is the perfect opportunity to discover an ambitious album of innovative and genre-melting music.

Back in 1972 and 1973, Cozmic Corridors combined elements of avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental, Krautrock, modern classical and rock. They also seem to have drawn inspiration from a number of artists, including Terry Riley, Kluster and the early albums of Peter Michael Hamel and Klaus Schulze. Mostly, though, the Cozmic Corridors plough their own furrow and sculpt five captivating and cinematic soundscapes that were way ahead of the musical curve. If they had been released in 1975, a few lucky record buyers or recipients of Robin Page’s generosity would’ve heard an album of groundbreaking and innovative music. Who knows, it may have been picked up by one of the major German labels. Alas, Cozmic Corridors wasn’t released by Pyramid Records.

Twenty-three years after Cozmic Corridors was completed, the album was belatedly released in 1996. By then, many people have become bogged down by the controversy and speculation that surrounds the Pyramid Records’ story. The controversy continued, as did the debate and speculation. Many seemed determined to disprove that the music was recorded between 1972 and 1976. It was as if they were determined to be proved right. Similarly, so were those who believed in the Pyramid Records’ story. Both sides had lost sight of the important thing,..the music. 

People have become caught up in the Pyramid Records’ mythology that they were concerned with what happened quartet a century ago. Hopefully, the same people won’t make the same mistake again, and instead, will focus on the music that Mental Experience are about to release. This includes the recent reissue of Cozmic Corridors’ eponymous debut album, which is long lost Krautrock cult classic.

Cozmic Corridors-Cozmic Corridors.

r-9685319-1487242906-4494-jpeg

r-9685319-1487242907-5620-jpeg

r-9685319-1487242909-5529-jpeg

r-9685319-1487242918-3517-jpeg

ULAN BATOR-STEREOLITH.

Ulan Bator-Stereolith.

Nowadays, not many bands stay together twenty-four years. Those that do, must be doing something right. That’s  certainly the case with avant rock band  Ulan Bator. They’re avant rock survivors, who have continually reinvented themselves over the last three decades. This has ensured that Ulan Bator’s music has remained relevant. Ulan Bator’s music has often been described as  ambitious and groundbreaking. That could well describe Ulan Bator’s forthcoming new album Stereolith, which will be released by Bureau B on 24th February 2017.  It marks a welcome return of avant rock pioneers Ulan Bator.

Their story began in Paris, France in 1993. That was where guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist Amaury Cambuzat and bassist Olivier Manchion formed Ulan Bator. Little did they realise that this was the start of a twenty-four year musical adventure for Ulan Bator.

The adventure began when Ulan Bator were looking for somewhere to rehearse. They heard of an unused chalk mine on the outskirts of Paris. Most bands wouldn’t have considered rehearsing in a chalk mine. However, it was quickly becoming apparent that Ulan Bator were no ordinary band.

Not only were Ulan Bator happy to rehearse in the chalk mine, but eventually, began to transform it into their own bespoke recording studio. This took time, but paid off. Ulan Bator had their very own recording studio, where they would record their first three albums.

By the time Ulan Bator came to record their debut album, two had become three. Drummer Franck Lantignac had joined Ulan Bator and became the third permanent member of the band.

Franck Lantignac joined just in time to play on Ulan Bator’s eponymous debut album. It was released on Disques du Soleil in March 1995, and was well received by critics. Before long, Ulan Bator returned to the studio.

Later in 1995, Ulan Bator returned with their much anticipated sophomore album 2. It was released to critical acclaim at home and abroad. Critics in France were won over by 2. So too were critics in other parts of Europe and as far afield as America. Ulan Bator were being hailed as rising stars of French music.

Over the next two years, Ulan Bator’s star was in the ascendancy. So in July 1997, Ulan Bator headed into the studio and recorded their third album Végétale. Once the album  was mixed in October 1007, Végétale was released in late 1997. 

Unlike Ulan Bator’s two previous albums, Végétale was sung entirely in French. This went down well with critics. Végétale was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics spoke as one, calling Végétale Ulan Bator’s finest hour. However, one publication was particularly impressed by Végétale. This was the leading French music magazine Inrockuptibles. They were quickly becoming one of Ulan Bator’s biggest fans.

As 1997 drew to a close, Ulan Bator were able to look back with satisfaction on what had been the most important year of their career. Not only had Ulan Bator released Végétale, they had played a series of memorable sold out concerts with Faust. For the members of Ulan Bator, this was a dream come true. Just like Neu! and Can, Faust were one of the Krautrock groups that influenced Ulan Bator musically. Getting the opportunity to play alongside them, was a dream come true for Ulan Bator. This proved to be the start of long running friendship between Ulan Bator and Faust. Amaury Cambuzat would collaborate with Faust on their 2009 album C’est Compliqué. A lot would happen before that collaboration took place.

After the success of Végétale, Ulan Bator released the D-Construction EP in 1999. It found some of the leading lights of the electronic music scene remixing some of Ulan Bator’s music. This included Carl Stone, Erik M, Otomo Yoshihide and Scanner. The D-Construction EP introduced Ulan Bator’s music to a new audience. 

This was perfect timing, as Ulan Bator were about to release their fourth album in 2000. This was Ego Echo, which was produced by Michael Gira, whose previous credits included Swans and Angels Off Lights. It was the first Ulan Bator album not to be recorded in France. Instead, the band decided to move to Italy to record Ego Echo. Since then, Ulan Bator have based themselves in Italy. Ego Echo proved to be the start of a new chapter for Ego Echo.

With the new album complete, Michael Gira’s Young God Records released Ego Echo in America. Just like their previous albums, Ego Echo won the approval of critics. Ulan Bator’s determination to reinvent their music ensured that their music continued to be relevant. Their music also continued to find a wider audience. That was no surprise.

Ulan Bator were constantly touring, and introducing their music to a much wider audience. The constant touring was taking its toll on one member of Ulan Bator. Olivier Manchion decided to leave Ulan Bator. It had been one tour too many for Ulan Bator’s bassist.

This didn’t spell the end  of Ulan Bator though. Instead, Amaury Cambuzat continued to front Ulan Bator. Two years later, in 2002,  Ulan Bator now reduced to a duo of Olivier Manchion and Matteo Dainese returned with Ok: Ko. 

Despite the change in Ulan Bator’s lineup, Ok: Ko won over the critics. It was a new chapter in the band’s career. Again, Ulan Bator continuing their mission to constantly reinvent their music. The result was another ambitious album from avant rock survivors Ulan Bator.

They returned on 2003 with another new album Nouvel Air. It had been mixed by former Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie. The music on Nouvel Air managed to be both complex and accessible as Ulan Bator added a myriad of new instruments. This included a violin, slide guitar and saxophone. The result was a very different album, but one that proved popular among critics and music fans. 

Two year later, and Ulan Bator returned with a new album Rodeo Massacre in 2005.  It showcased what Ulan Bator described as a much more “direct” sound. This caught the attention of critics and music fans. Especially after two of the videos received heavy airplay on European MTV. Ulan Bator’s music continued to reach a new and wider audience. Despite this, Ulan Bator didn’t release a new album until 2010.

Three years later, and Ulan Bator released a compilation of music by the original lineup of the group. Ulaan Baatar featured music that Ulan Bator released between 1993 and 1998. This kept Ulan Bator’s fan-base happy until they returned with a new album. However, that wouldn’t be until 2010.

Meanwhile, change was afoot within the world of Ulan Bator. Founder member Amaury Cambuzat was preparing to launch his own record label, Acid Cobra Records. When it was launched in 2009, one of the first releases was a new Ulan Bator EP, Soleils which showcased the latest new lineup of Ulan Bator. Its lineup would continue to change over the next few years.

For Ulan Bator’s seventh album Tohu-Bohu, the group were reduced to  quartet. Amaury Cambuzat was joined by three of the musicians who had played on the Soleils EP. This included former Dilatazione drummer Alessio Gioffredi, who had been collaborating with Ulan Bator for some time. Tohu-Bohu was Alessio Gioffredi’s first album as a full-time member of the band. Joining him in Ulan Bator’s rhythm section was bassist Stéphane Pigneul, who had been a member of Object and Heligoland. The final piece in the musical jigsaw was guitarist and organist James Johnston, who previously, had been a member of Gallon Drunk, Lydia Lunch and Bad Seeds. Ulan Bator’s latest lineup made their much-anticipated debut on Tohu-Bohu.

After a five year absence, Ulan Bator returned with Tohu-Bohu in October 2010. Before the albums was released, Ulan Baton headed out on tour. They wanted to reconnect with their fans, having not released an album since 2005. Tohu-Bohu has been described by Ulan Bator: “as the perfect link between Serge Gainsbourg and contemporary avant-rock.” This added to the sense of anticipation, as the release of loomed large.

When Tohu-Bohu was released on Amaury Cambuzat’s Acid Cobra Records, it was to critical acclaim.  Critics hailed Ulan Bator’s genre-melting album Ulan Bator as one of their finest albums. It found Ulan Bator fusing of avant rock with elements of alt-rock with Krautrock, noise and post rock. It proved a popular fusion among critics and record buyers. Ulan Bator were back, and it seemed back to stay.

In late 2012, there was another change in Ulan Bator’s lineup. This time, Amaury Cambuzat was joined by drummer Nathalie Forget and bassist Diego Vinciarelli. The new lineup soon embarked upon a tour and then began work on a new album, En France/En Transe.

Three years after the release of Tohu-Bohu, the new lineup of Ulan Bator returned with En France/En Trance. It was another genre-melting album that found favour with critics and music fans. Ulan Bator were still one step ahead of the competition, as they celebrated their twentieth anniversary.

Another three years passed before Ulan Bator released what was their eleventh album, Abracadabra in 2016. By then, Ulan Bator’s lineup had continued to evolve. Amaury Cambuzat was joined by James Johnstone, Giordano Ceccotti and  Raffaella Matrisciano. Despite the lineup continuing to evolve, the music on Abracadabra ambitious and continued to push musical boundaries. That had been the case since Ulan Bator first stepped into a recording studio.

This continued when work began on Ulan Bator’s third album. By then, the lineup had changed again. Ulan Bator was  now a trio featuring Amaury Cambuzat, Mario Di Battista and Sergio Pomante. They were about to begin work on what was become Ulan Bator’s twelfth album Stereolith.

It had been written by Amaury Cambuzat whilst Ulan Bator toured their previous album Abracadabra. He also recorded drum, bass and guitar parts for Stereolith in hotel rooms, before and after shows. After the tour was over, the latest lineup of Ulan Bator entered the studio in March 2016.

This would be Ulan Bator’s home from home for the next seven months. Amaury Cambuzat took charge of production, played 

guitars, keyboards, synths and added vocals. Drummer Mario Di Battista also added tenor and electric saxophones. He was joined in the rhythm section by bassist Sergio Pomante. By October 2010, Stereolith was completed. All that remained was for Sergio Pomante to master the album.

 Four months later, and Stereolith will be released by Ulan Bator on the Hamburg based Bureau B label. This is a much anticipated release, and marks the welcome return of veteran French avant rockers, Ulan Bator.

On Fire opens Stereolith and straight away, Ulan Bator make an impression. Banks of dark charring keyboards and a buzzing bass synth are to the fore in this multi-layered arrangement.  They provide the backdrop for Amaury Cambuzat’s whispery, dramatic vocal. Soon, bells ring as drums pound and add to the dramatic backdrop, as the arrangement slowly unfolds.  It dissipates and rebuilds, with a myriad of electronics joining with a shimmering guitar and sound effects. Later, the genre-melting arrangement is stripped bare, and all that remains is an accompanied vocal. This proves effective and adds to the drama what’s a captivating track, where avant-rock is fused with elements of the Berlin School,  experimental music and post rock.

The drama continues on Stereolith, which showcases a moody, cinematic sound. It’s as if Ulan Bator have been asked to provide the soundtrack to a sci-fi film. Thunderous drums provide an ominous beat, while bursts of searing, scorching and chiming guitars join with washes of synths. Meanwhile, Amaury Cambuzat’s vocal adds to the drama and cinematic sound. Behind him, a funky, chiming guitar provides a contrast to the dark, ominous widescreen arrangement. Later, bursts of free jazz saxophone are drizzled above this dramatic, thought-provoking cinematic soundscape.

Straight away, Amaury Cambuzat’s love of Krautrock shines through on Blue Girl. It sounds as if it’s been inspired by Faust as  gongs ring out. They’re joined by dark industrials sounds,  a myriad of beeps and squeaks and a dark, broody piano. Meanwhile, Amaury’s vocal is like a stream of consciousness, that seems to have been inspired by Can’s Damo Suzuki. By then, Ulan Bator have locked into a tight groove.  Midway through the track its all change, and it’s as if the sun has come out. A vampish piano riff joins shimmering post rock guitars and synths that synths that sound as if they belong on a classic Popol Vuh album. It’s a potent and heady brew where Ulan Bator seamlessly combine avant-rock with Krautrock, the Berlin School and post rock.

An urgent buzzing bass synth joins with chiming, shimmering guitars on Ego Trip. They’re joined by maury Cambuza’s  who switches between French and English during this heartfelt confessional. He remembers the words that hurt so much: “she said you’re not a star.” Meanwhile, the arrangement is changing. This begins when a piano plays. Soon, a synth taps out a code before a drums and bursts of distant harmonies are joined by bass, guitar and a variety of electronics. Later, a  harpsichord is added to mix and this proves a masterstroke as the track heads into anthem territory.

NeuNeu is akin to a paean to Krautrock. Especially, early Kraftwerk and Neu! Pounding drums combine with banks of synths. Meanwhile,  Amaury’s distant vocal is laden in effects. Playing a starring role are the Michael Rother inspired guitars. They sit left and right of the mix, as it’s powered urgently along. Later, a braying free jazz saxophone is added, and they plays its part in this genre-melting jam. It’s a a five minute fusion of Krautrock, avant-garde, psychedelia and free jazz that’s one of the highlights of Stereolith.

An dusty Hammond organ plays as No Book begins to unfold. Soon, drums are played slowly and ominously, while a piano adds a contrast. Meanwhile, Amaury adds a ruminative, hurt filled vocal. Still, washes of swirling Hammond organ combine with drums that crack and the crystalline sound of the piano. Contrasts abound in this dramatic and poignant multilayered song.

In the distance a guitar plays while a cymbal shimmers on Icarus. This adds to what’s another atmospheric sounding song. Soon, searing guitars cut through the arrangement and march at the beat of the drums. Amaury adds a whispered vocal that sits amidst the layers of drums, shimmering guitars and washes of synths. Already avant-rock is combining with post rock. Later, there’s even a hint of alt-rock as the guitars threaten to cut loose. They’re briefly joined by a rumbling bass before all that remains is the guitars. Then all too soon the track is over, and all that remains is the memory of one Ulan Bator’s most atmospheric tracks.

A lone piano plays as Lost unfolds. It’s soon apparent that this is a very different song from the other on Stereolith.  Soon, the  piano is joined by wistful strings. When they briefly drop out, Amaury’s vocal enter and he sings: “it’s good to be loved.” Meanwhille the arrangement gradually takes shape. The strings return and accompany him. They rise and fall and accompanying Amaury’s rueful vocal. He remembers: “it’s good to be loved,” on what’s a quite beautiful song that shows another side to Ulan Bator.

Closing Stereolith is Dust where Ulan Bator ring the changes again. Churning, grinding, buzzing, beeping, squeaking synths are part of what’s akin to a musical merry-go-round. They provide the backdrop to slow, deliberate Amaury’s vocal. It’s enveloped by the rest of the arrangement.Later, it explodes into life and darkness and light rub shoulders with one another. Searing, scorching guitars join with the rhythm section and vocal. It seems that Ulan Bator are determined to close the album on a memorable high. This they certainly do.

Twenty-four years after Ulan Bator were formed in Paris, France in 1993, the band is still going strong. Ulan Bator have survived countless changes in lineup and are just about to release their twelfth album Stereolith on Bureau B on 24th February 2017. It’s one of the finest albums that Ulan Bator have released in recent years.

Ulan Bator are still lead by Amaury Cambuzat. He’s wrote, produced and played many of the instruments on Stereolith. He’s joined by two talented musicians who augment Amaury Cambuzat on Stereolith. The result is another album of ambitious, inventive and genre-melting music from Ulan Bator.

Just like on previous albums, Ulan Bator continue to pioneer their unique brand of experimental rock and roll. It’s a fusion of avant-rock, Krautrock, post rock and psychedelia. To this, Ulan Bator draw inspiration from avant-garde, the Berlin School, electronica, experimental and industrial music. There’s even brief excursions into alt-rock, balladry and free jazz on Stereolith, which has been inspired by a variety of artists.

This includes Kroutrock pioneers Can, Faust, Harmonia, Neu!, Krautrock and Popol Vuh. Often, the guitars on Stereolith seem to have been influenced by Michael Rother of Kraftwerk Neu! and Harmonia. Similarly, sometimes, Amaury Cambuzat’s songwriting and singing style seems to have been influenced by former Can lead vocalist Damo Suzuki. All these influences, are combined with Ulan Bator’s twenty-four years of experience to create music that’s variously cinematic, broody, dark, hopeful, hypnotic and mesmeric . Other times, there music is dramatic, joyous, lysergic and poignant, Always, though, the music on Stereolith is atmospheric.

That is the case throughout Stereolith. It finds the veteran  musical shape shifters Ulan Bator seamlessly switching between genres as they continue to captivate and create music that’s way ahead of the curve. Sometimes, Ulan Baton improvise and throw a series of curveballs. They take the listener on the equivalent of a magical mystery tour. It’s a case of expect the unexpected from Ulan Bator on Stereolith which is without doubt, one the best albums of their career. It finds Ulan Bator continuing to reinvent their music to ensure that it remains relevant. Music chameleons Ulan Bator succeed in doing so, on their much anticipated twelfth album, Stereolith.

Ulan Bator-Stereolith.

Impression

ulan-bator2-credit-fradib

ulan-bator1-credit-fradib

BOB STANLEY AND PETE WIGGS PRESENT ENGLISH WEATHER.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather.

Last year, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs were responsible for one of the best compilations of 2016, Saint Etienne Presents Songs For The Carnegie Deli. It featured twenty-four songs that Bob Stanley thought might, at one time, have provided a backdrop to life in a New York diner. This eclectic compilation was released to critical acclaim and found its way onto the lists of best compilations of 2016. With the ink hardly dry on these lists, it was announced that Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs were about to return with a new compilation.

The compilation in question was Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather. It was released by Ace Records and features eighteen tracks that were released between 1969 and 1976. These tracks bring back memories for Bob Stanley.

Especially of the weather, as he grew up in Newcastle. Bob Stanley remembers damp, dank,  grey and overcast days. It was always cold and wet. However, these days were perfect for spending time in record shops, discovering the music that was being released during what was a golden age musically. Some of that music features on  Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather.

Just like Saint Etienne Presents Songs For The Carnegie Deli,  Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather is another eclectic compilation. There’s music from the Canterbury Scene, folk, library music, pop, progressive rock and rock. This comes courtesy of Caravan, The Roger Webb Sound, Orange Bicycle, T2, Van Der Graaf Generator, John Cale, Camel, Daevid Allen, Matching Mole and Prelude. These are just some of the tracks on another captivating  compilation from Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs.

Opening Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather is Caravan’s Love Song With A Flute.  It’s a track from Caravan’s 1969 eponymous debut album. It was released by Verve Forecast, but failed to find an audience. That is despite songs of the quality of Love Song With A Flute. It’s a beautiful folk-tinged ballad from progressive rockers Caravan. They would eventually go on to become one of the leading lights of the Canterbury Scene.

The sixties and seventies proved to be the golden age of library music. It was usually recorded by groups of anonymous musicians. Some of these musicians went on to bigger and better things. They saw recording albums of library music as part of their musical apprenticeship. The music they recorded often became the theme tune to television programs or part of the soundtrack to films.  That was the case with The Roger Webb Sound, who released two albums of library music on the De Wolfe label. during 1971. This included Vocal Patterns, which features Moon Bird. Its atmospheric and cinematic sound transports the listener back to the seventies, when library music provided the soundtrack to many famous television programs.

In December 1971, The Parlour Band made the journey from Jersey to the mainland to record their debut album Is A Friend? This genre-melting album was released in 1972, but wasn’t a commercial success. Sadly, this was the only album The Parlour Band released.  Is A Friend? is now real rarity, that’s much in demand among record collectors. One of the album’s highlights was Early Morning Eyes. It’s a melodic fusion of the West Coast sound and progressive rock. This is a reminder of a band who should’ve reached greater heights, The Parlour Band.

Nowadays, T2 are remembered as a talented and hard rocking trio. They only completed the one album, It’ll All Work Out In Boomland. It was released by Decca in 1970, but failed to make an impression. One of the album’s highlights was J.L.T, which shows another side to T2. It’s propelled along by Peter Dunton’s drums,  while strings and horns play leading roles. Together, they play their port in a truly timeless track that features T2 at their innovative best. Sadly, T2 split-up while recording their sophomore album, which was later released as T2.

Bill Fey released his eponymous debut album in 1970. A year later, he returned with sophomore album Time Of The Last Persecution.  This should’ve been the start of a long and successful career. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and after Time Of The Last Persecution turned his back on music. Music was the loser. A reminder of what music lost that day, was ‘Til The Christ Come Back a track from Time Of The Last Persecution.  It’s a beautiful, emotive song that showcases a cerebral singer-songwriter. He wrote insightful, thought-provoking, spiritual and sometimes surreal lyrics that featured on his first two albums. Nowadays, they’re cult classics and a reminder of one of British music’s best kept secrets.

The inimitable Peter Hammill wrote Refugees, which featured on Van Der Graaf Generator’s 1970 album The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each. It’s a quintessentially English fusion of art rock, folk rock and progressive rock from the classic lineup of Van Der Graaf Generator. They deploy strings, woodwind and harmonies to create a poignant, pastoral and cinematic song with lyrics that are still relevant today.

John Cale left The Velvet Underground after the release of their sophomore album White Light/White Heat in 1968. Two years later,  in 1970, John Cale was about to release his  debut solo album Vintage Violence on Columbia. The album had cost just $15,000 to record.  When the album was released, the reviews were mostly positive. One of the highlights of Vintage Violence was the beautiful, string-drenched ballad, Big White Cloud. Just like the rest of Vintage Violence, it showed that for John Cale there was life after The Velvet Underground.

Belle Gonzalez recorded Bottles for her 1972 debut album Belle. It was released on Columbia, and sadly, was the only album Belle Gonzalez released. That was a great shame, as she was a talented singer who could bring songs to life. Proof of that is Bottles, which is a folk song set against an orchestral arrangement. This proves hugely effective, and is the perfect accompaniment to Belle Gonzalez’s impassioned vocal.

In 1973, progressive rockers Camel released their eponymous debut album. It was produced by Dave Williams, and was released on MCA Records. When Camel failed commercially, MCA Records didn’t take up the option to release Camel’s sophomore album. That day, one of the most successful British progressive bands slipped through MCA Records’ fingers. Never Let Go was the highlight of Camel, and a reminder of the heady days when progressive rock was King.

Although Daevid Allen was born in Australia, he’s synonymous with the Canterbury Scene. He was a member of Soft Machine, before forming Gong in 1968. During his time with Gong, Daevid Allen also juggled a successful solo career. In 1976, Daevid Allen collaborated on an album withSpanish folk-progressive rockers Euterpe. The resultant album, Good Morning was released on Virgin in 1976. It featured the dreamy, lysergic sounding Wise Man In Your Heart, which is the highlight of Good Morning.

Closing Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather is the cinematic sounding Evening Shade. It was composed by Alan Parker and Alan Hawshaw and appeared on their 1971 album Alternatives. This was one of two albums of library music they released on the Music De Wolfe label during 1971. Evening Shade with its ruminative, wistful and cinematic sound is a reminder of the musical delights to be found within albums of library music.

Just like Saint Etienne Presents Songs For The Carnegie Deli, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather is another captivating collection of eclectic music. From the moment the listener presses play, they’re transported back in time. Suddenly it’s the early seventies all over again. Suddenly, memories come flooding as music from the Canterbury Scene is followed by folk rock, library music, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock. Familiar faces and old friends are joined by new names and hidden gems. Always the emphasis is on quality on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather.

The time that Bob Stanley spent in Newcastle’s record shops was time well spent. That was all part of his musical education. Forty years later, Bob Stanley and  Pete Wiggs are happy to share some of the music they discovered back then on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather. It was released by Ace Records, and is Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs’ finest hour.

While Saint Etienne Presents Songs For The Carnegie Deli was one of the best compilations of 2016, it’s surpassed byBob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather. It’s guaranteed to bring back memories for anyone who grew up in the early seventies. They will remember much of the music on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather, which documents what was a golden age for music.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present English Weather.

englishweathercd_72d

cdchd-1484c

cdchd-1484a

cchd-1484b_1

51lwgv65ikl

r-2895738-1306152475-jpeg-2

r-6433027-1419102793-1853-jpeg

r-2458450-1285184771-jpeg

r-868229-1381771141-3414-jpeg

r-2625926-1293900626-jpeg

r-4940531-1392068416-6556-jpeg

r-7029588-1432066491-3416-jpeg

r-471077-1225015297-jpeg

r-3163843-1357907420-4379-jpeg

STONEGROUND-STONEGROUND AND STONEGROUND 3.

Stoneground-Stoneground and Stoneground 3.

The Stoneground story began in San Francisco in 1968. That was when Tim Barnes and Luther Billed and Mike Mau founded Stoneground. By late 1970, they had released their eponymous debut album, Stoneground. It’s joined by Stoneground 3 on  BGO Records’ recently reissued two CD set. These two albums document the early years of the Stoneground story.

When Stoneground were formed in 1968, the band was originally a trio. Its lineup featured guitarists Tim Barnes and Luther Billed and drummer Mike Mau. At first, Stoneground were happy playing as a trio. However, before long, Stoneground’s lineup began to expand.

This came about when Tom Donahue, a DJ and promoter who  Stoneground’s manger, introduced the band to the two remaining members of The Beau Brummels. They had been one of the pioneers the country rock sound. However, in 1968, The Beau Brummels, who had once been signed to Tom Donahue’s Autumn Records, were reduced to a duo. Since then, the band failed to reach the same heady heights they  once had. Maybe it was time for a new challenge?

So when Tom Donahue introduced Stoneground to The Beau Brummels’ vocalist Sal Valentino and guitarist and bassist John Blakely, the five musicians hit it off. They agreed to join forces as an expanded lineup of Stoneground. Soon though, five became nine.

Despite now being a five piece, Stoneground’s lineup was still not complete. Stoneground decided to add four female vocalists to the lineup. Annie Sampson, Lynne Hughes, Lydia Phillips, and Deirdre LaPorte were added to the lineup of Stoneground. 

This newly expanded lineup of Stoneground began to hone their sound. At first, they played in San Francisco and in the Bay Area. Their popularity grew, and soon, Stoneground being booked to play further afield. 

This resulted in Stoneground being booked to tour America and Europe. It was during that tour that Stoneground found the final piece of the musical jigsaw. This was keyboardist and bassist Pete Sears, who later, would join Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna. He became the tenth and final member of Stoneground.

Having returned home from what had been the longest tour of their career, Stoneground returned to playing in San Francisco. That was where they were spotted by an A&R executive from Warner Bros. They signed Stoneground, and early in 1970, entered the studio to record what became their eponymous debut album.

Stoneground.

Now signed to Warner Bros, Stoneground began work on their eponymous debut album in London, at Trident Studios during a UK tour. However, when Warner Bros heard the tracks they weren’t happy with them. This resulted in Stoneground having to rerecord their debut album.

This time,  Sal Valentino assumed the role of songwriter-in -chief.  The former Bueau Brummel penned Looking for You, Added Attraction (Come and See Me), Dreaming Man, Stroke Stand and Colonel Chicken Fry. John Blakely and Tom Donauhue wrote Brand New Start. The rest of Stoneground was made up of cover versions.

One of them was Reverend Gary Davis’ Great Change Since I’ve Been Born. It was joined by Ray Davies’ Rainy Day in June and John D. Loudermilk’s Bad News. The other cover version was John Mayall and Sonny Thompson’s Don’t Waste My Time. These tracks would become Stoneground.

Recording of Stoneground took place at Sunwest Studios, Los Angeles during early 1971. By then, Stoneground were an eleven piece band. Keyboardist and percussionist Ron Nagle had been added to Stoneground. This expanded lineup began work on Stoneground.

The rhythm section included drummer Mike Mau, bassist and rhythm guitarist John Blakeley and bassist and keyboardist Pete Sears.  Sal Valentino played electric and acoustic guitar while Luther Bildt played guitar and Tim Barnes added lead and bottleneck guitar. Keyboardist and percussionist Ron Nagle was joined by vocalists Annie Sampson, Lynne Hughes, Lydia Phillips, and Deirdre LaPorte. Taking charge of some of the lead vocals were Luther Bildt, Tim Barnes and Sal Valentino. He also co-produced Stoneground with the band’s manager Tom Donahue. Eventually, the album was complete and delivered to Warner Bros.

They had great hopes for Stoneground, and embarked upon an extensive promotional campaign.  This made sense. By then, Stoneground were already a  popular band with a loyal following. That is despite not releasing an album. However, Stoneground had spent much of their time playing live, and their lives shows were extremely popular. No wonder. Stoneground were a talented and versatile band who seamlessly switched between and combined genres.  They continued to do this on their eponymous debut album.

When of Stoneground were sent out to critics by Warner Bros, the band had become the travelling house band for the Medicine Ball Caravan. This was seen by some as Warner Bros trying to jump on the success of the concert film genre. However, Stoneground could walk the walk. Their eponymous debut album was proof of that.

As critics played Stoneground, they heard a captivating  fusion of blues, folk, pop, psychedelia, rock and soul. Seamlessly, Stoneground switch between and fuse musical genres and influences. To do this they deploy seven separate vocalists on what’s a genre-melting album where Stoneground showcase their considerable skills. 

That is apparent from the album opener Looking For You. It’s a thoughtful blues rock song penned by Sal Valentino. It sets the bar high, and whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of Stoneground.  Lynn Hughes delivers an impassioned vocal on  Great Changes Since I’ve Been Born with gospel-tinged harmonies for company.  Sal Valentino delivers a worldweary vocal on Ray Davies’ Rainy Day In June, as Stoneground reinvent a song that first featured on The Kinks’ 1966 album Face To Face. Stoneground’s version shows a very different side to the song, and is one of the best covers on the album.

Apart from covers, there’s  five songs penned by Sal Valentino on Stoneground. Three are back-to-back smack bang in the middle of Stoneground. This includes the mid-tempo paean Added Attraction (Come and See Me). It gives way to the beautiful, soul-baring ballad  Dreaming Man. It’s one of the album’s highlights. There’s a stylistic change on Stroke Stand. It’s a jaunty fusion of blues-rock, country and gospel-tinged harmonies. They’re fused to create another memorable track that showcases Stoneground’s versatility  

Lydia Phillips takes charge of the vocal on Bad News. She sounds as if she’s lived the lyrics as she combines emotion, power and passion. In doing so, she breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Soon, though, it’s all change. Stoneground fuse blues rock and gospel-tinged on Don’t Waste My Time and Colonel Chicken Fry. Both tracks are truly irresistible and feature Stoneground at their best. Closing Stoneground, is Brand New Start, an emotive, hopeful ballad where Annie Sampson wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s a beautiful song, and another reminder of a truly talented band who looked as if they were on the verge of making a commercial breakthrough.

After all, Stoneground was a tight, talented band who played with a fluidity that would be the envy of many bands. Stoneground’s potential shawn though on what was an accomplished and eclectic album. It was living up to Warner Bros heavy marketing campaign.

Despite the time and money spent on Stoneground, the album failed commercially. Although Stoneground were a popular live band, the album failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. For Stoneground and Warner Bros this was a huge disappointment. Soon, everyone’s thoughts turned to Stoneground’s sophomore album.

r-2675680-1355059424-5895-jpeg

Family Album.

After the release of Stoneground,  the band continued in their role as the travelling house band for the Medicine Ball Caravan. They would feature in the the Medicine Ball Caravan film. It documents a hippie caravan on an 8,000 mile road trip.  A total of 154 buses, truck and groups like Stoneground made the journey. When the soundtrack was released that accompanied the film, it featured three songs by Stoneground. This introduced their music to a wider audience.

So they hoped would their sophomore album. However, by the time work began on what became Family Album, there had been several changes in Stoneground’s lineup. 

Keyboardist and basset Pete Sears left to play on Rod Stewart’s album Every Picture Tells A Story. His replacement was keyboardist Cory Lerios. Two other departure were guitarist Luther Bildt and drummer Mike Mau. He was replaced by Stephen Price. This meant that Stoneground had been reduced to a ten piece band.  The new lineup would make their recording debut with Stoneground on the 8th of August 1971.

This recording session wouldn’t take place in the one of San Francisco’s recording studios. Instead,  it would take place in KSAN, a radio station in San Francisco, had booked Stoneground to play in what was a series of live broadcasts. Stoneground would take to the air on  KSAN in San Francisco on Sunday the 8th of August 1971.

For Stoneground, this was a huge booking. Potentially, they were about to be heard by their largest audience. So before they took to the air, Stoneground began to hone a potential setlist. 

When Stoneground arrived at KSAN in San Francisco on Sunday the 8th of August 1971, this was the first time the band had recorded as a ten piece. The rhythm section included drummer Stephen Price, bassist Brian Godual and John Blakeley on bass and rhythm guitarist  Sal Valentino played electric guitar, acoustic guitar and percussion. Meanwhile Tim Barnes added lead guitar and Cory Lerios keyboards. This left just the vocalists. Annie Sampson, Lynne Hughes, Lydia Phillips, and Deirdre LaPorte were joined by vocalists Tim Barnes and Sal Valentino. Once the band was setup, they began to work their way through what was a truly eclectic set in front of a specially invited audience of 200 people.

Stoneground opened their set with Get Rhythm which gave to Passion Flower. It was followed by a reworking of the traditional song Corrina and Johnny Cash’s Big River. They would later find their way onto side one of Family Album. 

Side two would later feature Won’t Be Long before Super Clown, was followed by  Mississippi John Hurt’s  Richland Woman,  Queen Sweet Dreams and the spiritual sounding Precious Lord. Nine tracks into a set that combined elements of from Americana to blues rock, country, folk, gospel rock and rock ’n’ roll Stoneground had the audience captivated. The audience watched on as Stoneground showcased their versatility and fluidity. 

They opened what became the third slide of Family Album with a cover of Bob Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh (It Takes A Train To Cry). It gave way to Hank Williams I Can’t Help It, and then No Doreen. However, with just three songs to go, Stoneground  up the ante on It’s Not Easy and If You Got To Go. Stoneground unleash a riotous reworking of Jerry Williams’ Total Destruction To Your Mind. After what was a  truly eclectic, fifteen song set, Stoneground take their leave. 

Later a decision was made to release the set that Stoneground had recorded at KSAN as part of a double album. It would take up the first three sides. The fourth side  featured five tracks Stoneground recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles.

This included Ron Nagle’s You Must Be One Of Us; Cory Lerios’ All My Life and Lynne Hughes’ Where Will I Find Love. It was followed  by a cover of the joyous sounding Gonna Have A Good Time.  Closing side four and Family Album was Jam It. It’s a near six minute jam penned by Stoneground where the ten piece band to showcase their considerable skills. 

With Family Album completed, Warner Bros began promoting Stoneground’s sophomore album. Copies of Family Album were sent out to critics. They hailed what was a truly eclectic album as a captivating album. It found Stoneground switching between genres and playing with freedom, fluidity and spontaneity.  Some critics called the album Stoneground’s finest hour. Later, Family Album was regarded by some critics as the band’s best recording. It showed very different sides to truly talented band.

On Family Album, Stoneground worked their way through a mixture of original songs and cover versions on an album that featured live tracks and songs recorded at the Record Plant.  Family Album showed the two sides of Stoneground. They were a talented band who many felt came into their own in the live setting. However, in the studio, Stoneground were capable of crafting memorable music like All My Life, Where Will I Find Love, Gonna Have A Good Time and Jam It. Given Family Album showed the two different sides to Stoneground, Warner Bros had high hopes for the album.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. When Family Album was released late in 1971, the album followed in the footsteps of Stoneground and failed to chart. It was another disappointment for Stoneground. However, their career continued at Warner Bros.

r-2998544-1311047514-jpeg

Stoneground 3.

The commercial failure of Stoneground’s sophomore album Family Album meant they were under pressure to come up with a successful third album. Stoneground had signed a three album deal with Warner Bros. This meant that they only ‘owed’ Warner Bros one more album. Should Stoneground’s third album fail commercially, then Warner Bros might take the opportunity to part company with the band. Stoneground were aware of this as they began writing their third album, which later, became Stoneground 3.

For Stoneground 3, Stoneground’s songwriter-in-chief, Sal Valentino contributed six carefully crafted songs. This included Dancin’,  Down To The Bottom, From A Sad Man Into A Deep Blue Sea, From Me, Lovin’ Fallin’and Heads Up. Other members of Stoneground contributed songs to Stoneground 3. Lynn Hughes wrote On My Own; Tim Barnes penned You Better Come Through; Deirdre La Porte’ contributed Ajax and Annie Sampson Gettin’ Over You. Cory Lerios wrote Butterfly and cowrote Everybody’s Happy with David Jenkins. These twelve tracks became Stoneground 3.

Recording of Stoneground 3 took place at Wally Helder’s in San Francisco. It was one of the city’s top studios, and was perfectly equipped to record the most important album of Stoneground’s career. Just like previous albums, Sal Valentino took charge of production. By then, Stoneground’s ‘sound’ had changed. Gone was the eclecticism of their two previous albums. This was replaced by a much more radio friendly, pop rock sound. The result was a much more focused album, Stoneground 3.

This Stoneground hoped would find favour with music critics and record buyers. Executives at Warner Bros must have been hopeful when they heard Stoneground 3. Here was an album that they could pitch to radio programmers. The only problem was that maybe the change of sound would alienate Stoneground’s existing fan-base? It was a risk that Stoneground and Warner Bros decided to take.

It looked as if it had paid off. Critics hailed Stoneground 3 the band’s most focussed album. Gone was the free wheeling eclecticism of their two previous albums. In its place were shorter, much more radio friendly songs. This ranged from pop-rock to blues rock and country. Ten of the twelve tracks on Stoneground 3 were less than four minutes. This Stoneground thought would be perfect for radio playlists. Especially as many of the songs were melodic and memorable. Hooks hadn’t been spared on an album where ballads and uptempo tracks rubbed shoulders. This critics forecast was a potent and heady brew, that could transform Stoneground’s fortunes.

Dancin’ set the bar hight on Stoneground 3, and showcases a melodic and memorable pop-rock sound. There’s even a hint of country, while soaring harmonies augment the vocal. They return  On My Own, and play a crucial role in this country-tinged confessional. Stoneground kick loose, unleashing horns, searing guitar and stabs of piano, which is a reminder of their free wheeling eclecticism. Very different is Ajax, a beautiful ballad where Deirdre La Porte is accompanied by soulful harmonies, horns and piano. They’re joined by a searing guitar on the bluesy soul-baring confessional Down To The Bottom. Closing side one is From A Sad Man Into A Deep Blue Sea, which was written by Sal Valentino. Again, there’s a confessional quality to the understated blues, which nowadays, is regarded as the highlight of his songwriting career. So it’s no surprise, it’s the highlight of Stoneground 3.

From Me opens side two and showcases a blues rock sound. Lovin’ Fallin’ is a beautiful, understated, soul-baring ballad. It gives way to Butterfly, which marks another stylistic change. Stonehouse seamlessly and successfully fuse blues and country. Then Annie Sampson delivers a defiant, feisty vocal on Gettin’ Over You. She’s accompanied by soulful harmonies and rocky guitars on a song where hooks haven’t been spared. Heads Up marks a return to blues rock. Augmenting the slide guitar and lead vocal are soulful, soaring harmonies. It’s another heady musical brew from Stoneground. They close side two with Everybody’s Happy, which is melodic, memorable and has a radio friendly pop-rock sound. This should’ve played a port in the success of Stoneground 3.

Sadly, when Stoneground 3 was released in late 1972, the album wasn’t a commercial success. That was despite Stoneground changing direction musically. This musical sacrifice had all been for nothing. Still, Stoneground 3 had sold poorly. Things weren’t looking good for Stoneground.

r-8363915-1482968239-3911-jpeg

Not long after the release of Stoneground 3, Warner Bros decided to drop Stoneground. By then, the tension was high within Stoneground. Outsiders thought that Stoneground weren’t long for the world.

And so it proved to be. Stoneground announced that they would play one final concert on January 6th 1973 at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. That proved to be the final time that the ten members of Stoneground took to the stage together.

Just a couple of weeks after Stoneground’s swan-song, Sal Valentino left the band. Stoneground had lost their songwriter-in-chief and producer. Surely things couldn’t get any worse? 

They did. Cory Lerios and Steven Price left Stoneground, and founded Pablo Cruise. Not long after this, four more members of Stoneground left. The only members of the band that reminded were Tim Barnes and Annie Sampson, who later in 1973, put together a new lineup of Stoneground. However, Stoneground’s best days were behind them.

Stoneground’s first three albums were the highlight of their career. This began with Stoneground in 1970. It was followed up by Family Album in 1971 and Stoneground 3 in 1972. These three albums feature Stoneground at the peak of their creative and musical powers. Stoneground and Family Album features Stoneground’s free wheeling, genre-melting sound. The quality continues on Stoneground 3, which is a much more focused album. It mixes pop-rock with blues rock and country. Just like  the free wheeling eclecticism of their first two albums, this proves a heady brew. Sadly, it find the audience it deserved.

It would be much later when Stoneground’s music began to find a wider audience. A new generation of record buyers began to discover the delights of Stoneground’s first three albums. Nowadays, these three albums are regarded are the highlights of Stoneground’s back-catalogue. These albums have been recently reissued. The first reissue was Family Album, which was released as a two CD set by BGO Records released in late 2016. BGO Records recently Stoneground  and Stoneground 3 as a two CD set. This is the perfect opportunity to discover or rediscover the two sides of Stoneground. Both the free wheeling eclecticism of Stoneground and the much more focused sound of Stoneground 3 feature on BGO Records’ digitally remastered two CD set.

Stoneground-Stoneground and Stoneground 3.

51olfjzlxil

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2016-PART 1.

The Best Compilations Of 2016-Part 1.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been looking back at the music released during 2016. The final part of this annual series looks at the compilations released during 2016.  Just like previous years,  thousands of compilations were released during 2016. They cover literally every musical genre. Quite simply, there was something for everyone. 

It’s a similar case on the list of The Best Compilations Of 2016. It features fifty compilations that cover countless genres. Literally, everything from avant-garde to zydeco features on The Best Compilations Of 2016. These compilations were released by record companies in Britain, America and Europe. They’re also what I regard as The Best Compilations Of 2016.

A Woman’s Way: The Complete Rozetta Johnson 1963-1975.

Between 1963 and 1975 Southern Soul singer Rozetta Johnson struggled to make a breakthrough. By 1975, she had enjoyed just two minor hit singles. So with a heavy heart, Rozetta Johnson decided to turn her back on music. She returned to college  and eventually, graduated with a BA in sociology. After graduating, Rozetta Johnston began work as a teacher at Ramsay High School. Little did the pupils know that their teacher had once been one of the best up-and-coming Southern Soul singers. Proof of this is Kent Soul’s A Woman’s Way: The Complete Rozetta Johnson 1963-1975.

It’s a comprehensive overview of Rozetta Johnson’s career. It features Rozetta Johnston at her very best as she breathes life, meaning and emotion into the songs. However, when they were released as singles, they failed to find an audience. Maybe it would’ve been different if they had been released on a  major label? Then Rozetta Johnston’s music might have found the audience it deserved. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and Rozetta Johnson was lost to music.

Later, she reinvented herself as a jazz singer, before returning to her first musical love, gospel. Sadly, three years after releasing a gospel album in 2008, Rozetta Johnson passed away on the 24th March 2011. Her music is remembered on A Woman’s Way: The Complete Rozetta Johnson 1963-1975, which is a celebration of one of the finest Southern Soul singers of her generation,..Rozetta Johnson.

r-9349790-1479053223-8020-jpeg

Alice Clark-The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972.

Alice Clark’s career began in 1968, and was over by 1972. During that four year period, Alice Clark recorded just sixteen songs during three recording session. This includes two singles and her 1972 album Alice Clark. These songs feature on BGP’s  The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972. It’s a mixture of beautiful ballads and uptempo songs. 

On each and every song, Alice breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Her delivers veers between heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring, to assured, hopeful and joyous. When Alice Clark stepped into a recording studio, she was transformed. No longer was Alice Clark the quietly spoken young mother that Billy Vera remembers. Suddenly, the God-fearing Alice Clark disappeared, and was replaced by one that wore her heart on her sleeve. She was comfortable sings songs about love and love lost, and could breath life and meaning into songs about hope, hurt, heartbreak and betrayal. Despite her ability and versatility, Alice Clark commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Alice Clark.

Chastened by the experience, Alice Clark turned her back on the music industry. Nobody seems to know what happened to her? Mystery surrounds what happened to this hugely talented singer, who should’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. Proof of this is The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972. It features one of soul music’s best kept secrets, and a singer who should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim,..Alice Clark.

r-4508466-1467368598-1390-jpeg

Aloha Got Soul.

For nearly two decades, the Hawaiian music industry was thriving.  This period was documented on Strut Records’ compilation, Aloha Got Soul. It documents the period between 1979 and 1985. During that period, Tender Leaf. Aura, Aina, Hal Bradbury, Mike Lundy, Nova, Brother Noland and Rockwell Fukino were all stalwarts of the Hawaiian music industry. They were part of the Hawaii’s thriving music scene.

Sadly, by the mid-eighties, DJ culture was born. Suddenly, DJs replaced live music. Incredibly, ‘music lovers’ preferred what was essentially a human jukebox to live music played by real musicians. Given there was no longer the same appetite for live music, many clubs closed their doors for the last time. No longer had up-and-coming artists a place to showcase their talents. It was the same for the bigger names in Hawaiian music as venues closed their doors. Everyone with Hawaiian music was affected. Record labels, recording studios, pressing plants suffered. So did arrangers, producers and songwriters. The Hawaiian music boom was over.

Thirty years after the boom in the Hawaiian music industry ended, interest in Hawaiian music continues to grow. For newcomers to Hawaiian of the seventies and eighties, Aloha Got Soul is the perfect primer. It’s a truly eclectic and lovingly compiled compilation, from Aloha Got Soul’s Roger Bong. He picked sixteen tracks that feature everything from disco, funk, rock, soul and traditional Hawaiian music. Aloha Got Soul is a tantalising taste of Hawaiian during its golden era.

r-8039258-1457780248-5043-jpeg

Betty Harris-The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul.

Betty Harris’ recording career lasted just eight years. It began in 1962 with the release of Taking Care of Business, and was over by 1970. After just three minor hit singles, Betty Harris called time on her career. The Florida-born singer decided to retire from music, to raise a family. That was the last that was heard from Betty Harris until 2005, when she hit the comeback trail. 

By then, several of Betty Harris’ singles had found a new audience. I Don’t Want to Hear It and I’m Evil Tonight were favourites within Northern Soul circles. Meanwhile, ballads like What’d I Do Wrong and Can’t Last Much Longer were favourites within the deep soul community. Belatedly, Betty Harris’ music was finding a wider audience. However, there’s more to Betty Harris than four songs.

That is apparent on the Soul Jazz Records compilation The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul. It shows the two sides to Betty Harris’ Sansu Records’ years. Ballads and uptempo tracks rub shoulders. This includes a couple of ballads that would later become deep soul classics, and several uptempo tracks that would find favour on the UK’s Northern Soul scene. These tracks are a reminder of the what proved to be the most productive years of Betty Harris’ career. It’s documented on The Lost Queen Of New Orleans Soul is the perfect primer to Betty Harris, who is one of New Orleans’ soul music’s best kept secrets.

r-9198657-1476524166-5976-jpeg

Bluesin’ By The Bayou-I’m Not Jivin’.

Over the last few years, Ian Saddler has compiled the By The Bayou series. This included Bluesin’ By The Bayou-I’m Not Jivin’, the third compilation of Louisiana blues. It comes complete with side serving of zydeco. There’s contributions from Henry Gray, Lightnin’ Slim, Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, Lonesome Sundown, Boozoo Chavis, Blue Charlie Morris, Jimmy Anderson, Chris Kenner and Johnny Sonnier. Many of these artists will be familiar to veterans of the By The Bayou series. There were a few surprises in store on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-I’m Not Jivin’.

Bluesin’ By The Bayou-I’m Not Jivin’ was another tantalising taste of Louisiana’s rich musical heritage. Familiar faces from previous volumes of the By The Bayou series sit next to newcomers. Similarly, singles, album tracks, unreleased tracks and hidden gems rub shoulders on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-I’m Not Jivin’. They’ve all one thing in common, their quality. 

That has been the case throughout the By The Bayou series. Ian Saddler has dug deeper than previous compilers. This has paid off. Now the By The Bayou series is one of Ace Records’ longest running and most successful series. Bluesin’ By The Bayou-I’m Not Jivin’ was the thirteenth instalment in the series. It’s one of the best in series. If Ian Saddler continues to find music of the quality of that on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-I’m Not Jivin’, then the By The Bayou series looks like it’ll run and run.

r-9046453-1473839822-1961-jpeg

Boppin’ By The Bayou-Drive-Ins and Baby Dolls.

Boppin’ By The Bayou-Drive-Ins and Baby Dolls was the sixteenth volume in the By The Bayou series.  Ian Saddler dug deep for the twenty-eight tracks. They’re taken from the vaults of some of Louisiana and South-East Texas’ best known producers. This includes some familiar faces, including J.D. Miller, Eddie Shuler, Sam Montel, Huey Meaux, and Joe Ruffino. Then there’s Pappy Daily, George Khoury, Diamond Jim Wheeler and Melvin Dodge. In their vaults, Ian Saddler’s discovered what’s been described as: “hot rockers, cool boppers and Cajun thumpers.“ They come courtesy of a mixture of old friends, familiar faces and new names.

Among them, are  Cookie Roberts, Fred Carter, Joe Jackson, Burl Boykin, Frankie Lowery, Zoro and The Zips, Doug Stanford, Terry Clement and Johnny Bass. They’re joined by Arnold Broussard, Tommy Todd, Rod Bernard and Jay Chevalier on what’s the sixteen instalment of the By The Bayou series, Boppin’ By The Bayou-Drive-Ins and Baby Dolls.

As usual, the emphasis was on quality on this  welcome addition to By The Bayou series. Ian Saddler dug deep in Louisiana and South-East Texas. He found hidden gems, which sit side-by-side with songs from familiar faces and new names. This includes singles, B-Sides and unreleased tracks. That’s not forgetting “hot rockers, cool boppers and Cajun thumpers.” They’re part of compilation that’s all killer and no filler, Boppin’ By The Bayou-Drive-Ins and Baby Dolls. 

r-9494581-1481555037-6716-jpeg

California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976.

The period between 1967 and 1976 was a golden age for soul and funk. Across America smaller labels were releasing singles that slipped under the musical radar. In California, Ace, Dore, Hill, Kent, Mesa, Money, Music City, Omnivore and Watts Way were just a few of the West Coast labels that were releasing soul and funk between 1967 and 1976. Songs from each of these labels featured on BGP’s twenty-two track compilation, California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976.

Among the artists on California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976, are Choice Of Colours, Brenda George, Z.Z. Hill, Little Johnny Hamilton and The Soul Pack, Chucky Thurmon,The Soul Sensations, Eddie Horan, Alvin Robinson and Rulie Garcia. They’re a reminder of the soul and funk being released on West Coast between 1967 and 1976.

California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976 is a compilation that oozes quality where the music is soulful and funky and sometimes, bluesy.  It’ll appeal to anyone with an interest in soul or funk. They’ll find a compilation where familiar faces sit side-by-side with new names. Similarly,  a trio of unreleased tracks rub shoulders with hidden gems on California Soul-Funk and Soul From The Golden State 1967-1976. It’s a tantalising reminder of what was a golden age for soul and funk in California.

r-8309461-1459091782-4892-jpeg

Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974.

Although the word innovator is often overused, it’s the perfect description of Gary Bartz NTU Troop, Azar Lawrence, Charles Earland, Roy Brooks, Joe Chambers, Carlos Garnett, Hampton Hawes and Oliver Nelson. They’re pioneers who pushed musical boundaries to their limits. That is apparent throughout Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 which was released by BGP.

Each track on Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 is an examples of groundbreaking spiritual jazz. Its building blocks were the music of the post bop era, and the free jazz of John Coltrane. To that, boogaloo beats were combined with elements of funk, rock and soul and even African and Middle Eastern influences. When this was combined, it was potent and heady brew, that became known as spiritual jazz. This new music was inventive and innovative. It was also way ahead of its time; and far removed from the music that other jazz musicians were making. It was also very different to the music most record buyers were used to, and it passed them by. 

Most record buyers didn’t understand this cerebral, groundbreaking music. It went over their head. Only a small, discerning group of record buyers “got” spiritual jazz.  Nowadays, a new generation of record buyers have discovered the delights of spiritual jazz. For newcomers to the genre, Celestial Blues-Cosmic, Political and Spiritual Jazz 1970 To 1974 is the perfect starting place.

r-8967352-1472422167-9762-jpeg

Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition.

After a seven year absence, Ace Records released the latest instalment in their Chartbusters USA series. This was Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition. It features twenty-four tracks released between 1963 and 1969. This includes songs from country music royalty. There’s no bigger names than George Jones, Hank Williams Jr, Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell. That is not forgetting Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Jeannie C. Riley and Buck Owens. These songs are just a few of the artists on a compilation that contains hits aplenty.

Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition is a snapshot of country music between 1963 and 1969. During this period, the Nashville Sound peaked in popularity and countrypolitan sound began to take centre-stage. Country music also began to crossover and reach a new audience. Each of the songs that feature on Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition crossover to some extent. Most were just minor crossover hits. A few became huge crossover hits. However, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, country music’s crossover appeal grew.

Many of the artists on Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition would go on to enjoy commercial success throughout the seventies. Country music’s crossover appeal grew, with more and more country singers reaching the upper reaches of the US Billboard 100. Belatedly, country music was reaching a wider audience. A reminder of this period can be found on Chartbusters USA-Special Country Edition, who features a who’s who of country music.

r-9493985-1481546573-9027-jpeg

Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976.

Pyramid Records was founded by Robin Page, around 1972 and was in existence until just 1976. During that period, Pyramid Records only ever released fifteen albums. No more than 50-100 copies of each album was released. These releases were either given away to friends, with the remainder sold in clubs or art galleries. 

Pyramid Records was never going to rivalled Brain Records nor Ohr. Nor was never meant to. Instead, Pyramid Records was a  small, private label that released music its founder Robin Page believed. A reminder of the music Pyramid Records  released can be found on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976m which was released by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records. It features seven tracks from the Pyramid Records’ vaults. They’ll whet the listener’s appetite for future reissues of albums released by Pyramid Records.

No wonder. Pyramid Record released groundbreaking music. Sadly, Pyramid Records doesn’t receive the credit it deserves. That’s because of mythology that surrounds the label. Maybe the music would receive the credit it deserved if the real identity of some of the musicians involved was known? There’s every chance that some well known musicians played on Pyramid Records’ releases, including those on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976. Regardless of whether that’s the case or not, the music on Cologne Curiosities-The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 is still innovative, inventive, timeless and  will influence another generation of musicians.

r-9011133-1473234306-9525-jpeg

 

THE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2016-PART 2.

The Best Compilations Of 2016-Part 2.

Come Back Strong-Hot Atlanta 4.

For anyone interested in Southern Soul, Come Back Strong-Hot Atlanta 4 was a must-have. It featured contributions from Sam Dees, John Edwards, Dee Irwin, Joe Hinton, Loleatta Holloway, Danny Johnson, Jimmy Lewis and Dorothy Norwood. That was just part of the story. There’s much more music to discover on Come Back Strong-Hot Atlanta 4. It features familiar faces, old friends and new names, plus singles, B-Sides and unreleased tracks. They all have one thing in common, their indisputable quality. 

That’s no surprise. Some of the best songwriters, musicians and producers were employed to write and produce the music on Come Back Strong-Hot Atlanta 4. Many of the artists on Come Back Strong-Hot Atlanta 4 went on to enjoy long and successful careers. Sadly, others never quite enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim they deserved. It was a case of what might have been.

Come Back Strong-Hot Atlanta 4 is a reminder of the music that Michael Thevis’ burgeoning musical empire left behind, after its sudden demise in late 1975. This was the end of what was a remarkable escape in Atlanta’s musical history. Part of the story is documented on Come Back Strong-Hot Atlanta 4, which is a tantalising reminder of Atlanta’s rich and vibrant musical scene during the early seventies.

r-9027967-1473527510-3949-jpeg

Conrad Schnitzle-Filmmusik 1.

After Conrad Schnitzler’s death in 2011, the job of organising his musical archive fell to Conrad Schnitzler’s former musical partner Wolfgang Seidel. He was appointed guardian of Conrad Schnitzler’s archive. This included everything from the master tapes to albums, to recordings of concerts that were committed to cassette. The archive was proving to be a treasure trove. Especially when Wolfgang Seidel discovered long-lost, hidden treasure.     

Tucked away in Conrad Schnitzler’s archive were two tapes which were mysteriously marked Filmmusik 1975 and Filmmusik 1980. Wolfgang Seidel dusted these down, and looked at them. However, there was no other information with the tapes. They were a mystery. When Wolfgang Seidel listened to the tapes  was transported back to 1975 and 1980.  Here was his old friend Conrad Schnitzler at his most accessible.

Some of that music featured on Bureau B’s compilation Filmmusik 1. It’s the perfect starting place for newcomers to Conrad Schnitzler’s music, and is a gateway album to the rest of his back-catalogue. This is sure to be the first step in a voyage of discovery through the delights of Conrad Schnitzler’s back-catalogue. However, this is no ordinary back-catalogue. Conrad Schnitzler’s back-catalogue is vast. He was a prolific solo artist and collaborator. The journey through Conrad Schnitzler’s back-catalogue brings to mind Loa’s quote that: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The first step in the journey through Conrad Schnitzler’s back-catalogue is Filmmusuk 1.

r-9293940-1478105474-3711-jpeg

Dan Penn-Close To Me-More Fame Recordings.

2016 saw Ace Records release Dan Penn-Close To Me-More Fame Recordings. It was the sequel to 2014s  The Fame Recordings. Just like The Fame Recordings, Close To-More Fame Recordings features twenty-four demos recorded by Dan Penn at Rick Hall’s Fame Studios. These are unlike most demos recorded during the sixties

For the twenty-four songs on Close To Me-More Fame Recordings, Dan Penn was accompanied by the legendary Memphis Shoals Rhythm Section. This included David Briggs, Junior Lowe, Roger Hawkins and Jimmy Johnson, to name but a few. They accompanied Dan Penn on songs he had written with Rick Hall, Donnie Fritts, Quin Ivy, Marlin Greene, David Briggs and Spooner Oldham. These songs were recorded between 1963 and 1966, and most have never been released before.

Although they’re ostensibly demos, they’re a cut above the usual demos. Close To Me-More Fame Recordings features the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section in full flight between 1963 and 1966. They accompanied a talented and singer and songwriter, Dan Penn. He could seamlessly switch between heart-wrenching ballads and more uptempo tracks. Despite his talent, commercial success eluded Dan Penn, and he enjoyed more success as a songwriter. Dan Penn decided to concentrate his efforts on songwriting. However, still, Dan Penn released the occasional album and played live. Just like Sam Dees, Dan Penn is: “a prolific songwriter and occasional performer.” 

r-8990724-1472880995-3079-jpeg

DJ Format’s Psych Out.

DJ Format’s Psych Out is unlike most psychedelia compilations. Rather than focus on just American or British psychedelia, DJ Format picks fourteen tracks from the four corners of the globe. So tracks that were originally released in America, Britain,  Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Peru, Poland, Singapore, U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia  can be found on DJ Format’s Psych Out. 

These tracks come courtesy of The Quests, The Tijuana Brats, The CT Four Plus, 49th Blue Streak, Bana Pop Band, Friar Tuck and His Psychedelic Guitar, Sergio Ferraresi and Pro Arte. This is the type of music that DJ Format wishes he could spin at clubs each weekend. Essentially, DJ Format’s Psych Out features tracks that would be part of his dream set. 

And what a set DJ Format’s Psych Out was. It was released by BBE Records and featured fourteen lysergic tracks from eleven counties. This globe-trotting musical journey begins in Singapore, and ends up behind the Iron Curtain in Yugoslavia. In between, DJ Format takes the listener on globe-trotting trip. Each of these countries contribute at least one memorable slice of heavy, fuzzed-out psychedelia. They feature on DJ Format’s Psych Out, which is a lovingly curated compilation that was, without doubt one of the best psychedelic compilations of 2016.

r-8665386-1466803330-8839-jpeg

Electri_City 2.

Ever since the late sixies, Dusseldorf has had a rich and vibrant music scene. It has been home to Michael Rother, Neu!, Wolfgang Reichmann, La Dusseldorf, Der Plan, Daf, Teja Scmitz, Die Krups, Rheingold and Pyrolator. They’re just some of the artists that featured on Gronland Recordscompilation Electri_City 2. It’s a further reminder of the city’s rich musical history.

Electri_City 2 is lovingly compiled and eclectic compilation of music from one of Germany’s musical cities, Dusseldorf. Everything from avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica,  experimental and industrial music sit side-by-side with Krautrock, new wave, post punk and synth pop. Often, several musical genres melt into one on the one track. The result is often a groundbreaking, genre-melting track. Some of these tracks were way ahead of their time. Indeed, it’s only now that the importance of this music is being recognised. Other tracks were truly innovative and went onto influence several generations of musicians. 

Especially groups like Neu!, La Dusseldorf and guitar virtuoso Michael Rother. They’re true musical pioneers, who were leaders not followers. Nearly forty years later, and their music continues to influence yet another generation of musicians. That is the case with many other artists on Electri_City 2. They all have one thing in common. That’s that their career began in one of Germany’s musical cities, Dusseldorf. Electri_City 2 is a lovingly compiled reminder of Dusseldorf’s illustrious musical past.

r-8901004-1471101312-2583-jpeg

Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad.

After relaunching Mainstream Records in 1970 as a jazz label, the lines between what was soul and jazz were blurring. Bob Shad decided that Mainstream Records should released a more eclectic selection of music, including soul, funk and jazz.  A reminder of this period in Mainstream Records’ history was celebrated on a Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It was released by Wewantsound. Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad  and is a fitting tribute to one of the great music men.

Having realised that music was changing, Bob Shad signed and released singles and albums by Alice Clark, Afrique, Art Farmer, Barry Miles, Blue Mitchell, Carmen McRae, Clark Terry, Ellerine Harding, Hadley Caliman and Shelly Manne. They’re among the fifteen tracks on Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It’s a reminder of Mainstream Records’ illustrious back-catalogue.

There’s soul, funk and jazz, plus hidden gems, familiar faces and old  fiends on Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It’s a celebration of the life of a music man, Bob Shad, who for over forty years, and five decades, always saw the bigger picture musically, and was one step ahead of the competition, in an ever-changing music industry.

r-9499401-1481642421-3608-jpeg

Get Me Home For Tea-Rare Psychedelic Rock From The UK.  

Although a record amount of albums were released for Record Store Day 2016, there were some albums that eluded many record collectors. This included Get Me Home For Tea-Rare Psychedelic Rock From The UK,  which was released as a limited edition of 2,000 by ORG Music.

Get Me Home For Tea: Rare Psychedelic Rock From The U.K. features twelve psychedelic and freakbeat tracks from the vaults of Parlophone. This includes Tomorrow, The Moles, The Idle Race, The Artwoods, The Brain, The Penny Peeps and The Game. These artists are just some of the artists that feature on Get Me Home For Tea-Rare Psychedelic Rock From The UK. It was a reminder of Britain’s psychedelic past.

For fans of psychedelia and freakbeat, Get Me Home For Tea: Rare Psychedelic Rock From The U.K.  was a must have release. Sadly, copies were and still are, like hen’s teeth. That was no surprise. Get Me Home For Tea: Rare Psychedelic Rock From The UK was a carefully curated,  quality compilation that features twelve hidden gems from the vaults of Parlophone.

r-8396195-1460812249-1011-jpeg

Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson. 

In 2015, Ace Records Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson as part of their Songwriters’ series. By the end of the year, it was their biggest selling release of 2015. This was something to celebrate. This was something to celebrate.

So to celebrate the success of Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson, Ace Records decided to release a vinyl edition of the compilation. This however, was no ordinary vinyl edition. Instead, the vinyl edition of Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson was pressed on 180 gram snowy white vinyl, and features a dozen of the compilation’s highlights. This includes Darian Sahanaja, Bobby Vee, Betty Everett, Carmen Mcrae, Nick Decaro and Kirsty MacColl.  They all pay homage to Brian Wilson, one of music’s greats.

That visionary is Brian Wilson, who has influenced two generations of musicians, including the artists who pay tribute to him on Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson. Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson was a fitting addition to Ace Recods’ Songwriters’ series, and is a fitting and poignant reminder of Brian Wilson at the peak of his powers. 

r-8997890-1472999516-2925-jpeg

Jay Strongman Presents Popcorn Heartbreak 1958-1964.

Throughout musical history, songwriters always revisit certain subjects. Especially, angst, betrayal, heartbreak and love lost. Countless songs have been written about these subjects. That has been the case since the birth of popular music. However, for many music lovers, the late fifties and early sixties was a golden age for songs about heartbreak. Twenty tracks from  that period featured on Jay Strongman Presents Popcorn Heartbreak 1958-1964 which was released by BBE Records.

Among the twenty artists who feature on Jay Strongman Presents Popcorn Heartbreak 1958-1964 are Hillard Street, Varetta Dillard, Jesse James, The Gainors, Dolly Lyon, Brook Benton and Cindy Devereaux. That’s not forgetting contributions from Anna King, Johnny Wells. Timi Yuro and Lew Conetta. Each of these artists have their own tale of heartbreak to share on Jay Strongman Presents Popcorn Heartbreak 1958-1964. 

The soulful sounding music on Jay Strongman Presents Popcorn Heartbreak 1958-1964 fell out fashion until the seventies. It was only when Belgian Popcorn DJs are looking for an alternative to disco that they discovered that these mid-tempo, soulful sounds from a decade earlier fitted the bill the perfectly. They became the soundtrack to slow dancing, late at night at Popcorn nights across Belgium; and soon further afield. Nearly forty years later, and Popcorn nights are still being organised in clubs. This is testament to this timeless music, which can be found on Jay Strongman Presents Popcorn Heartbreak 1958-1964.

71odb-czggl-_sl1200_

Keb Darge’s Presents The Best Of Legendary Deep Funk.

When Keb Darge’s Legendary Deep Funk Volume 3 was released to critical acclaim in 1999, many thought this was going to be a long running compilation series. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. There were no further instalments in the series. Fast forward to 2016, when BBE Records were celebrating twentieth anniversary during 2016. One of the most anticipated releases was Keb Darge Presents The Best Of Legendary Deep Funk, Keb Darge .

He had chosen twenty-one tracks from King Tutt, Harris and Orr, Soul Drifter, Record Player, Dee Edwards, Leon Gardner, Family Of Eve, Joe Washington, Sons Of The Kingdom, Golden Toadstools and Carleen and The Groovers. They feature on disc two, while  Disc one wa a seventeen mix from another BBE stalwart, Mr. Thing. The DJ and record collector showcased his considerable skills on the wheels of steel. These two discs marked the welcome return of Keb Darge’s much loved Legendary Deep Funk series.

Seventeen long years after releasing this last in his trio of compilations of deep funk, Keb Darge Presents The Best Of Legendary Deep Funk returned like a conquering hero. Keb Darge Presents The Best Of Legendary Deep Funk featured the creme de la creme of deep funk, from the genre’s founding father, Keb Darge.

71-qd9srhvl-_sl1200_

THE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2016-PART 3.

The Best Compilations Of 2016-Part 3.

Kev Beadle Presents The Best Of Inner City Records.

In 1976, music industry veterans Irv Kratka and Eric Kriss founded Inner City Records. What they didn’t know about the music industry, wasn’t worth knowing. This looked like a musical marriage made in heaven. By 1979, Inner City Records was voted Record Label Of The Year. Inner City Records’ star was in the ascendancy. However, by 1981, Inner City Records shut its door for the last time. Nowadays, the albums Inner City Records released are prized possessions among DJs and record collections. 

Especially in London, which is home to DJ Kev Beadle. Last year, he compiled Kev Beadle Presents The Best Of Inner City Records. It was released by BBE and features Judy Roberts, Janet Lawson Quintet, Tom Lellis, The Jeff Lorber Fusion, Eddie Jefferson, Kellis Ethridge and Charlie Mariano. Kev Beadle Presents The Best Of Inner City Records is an eclectic compilation that’s a tantalising taste of Inner City Records’ back-catalogue.

Hopefully, there will be further compilations from Inner City Records’ back-catalogue. During its lifetime, Inner City Records released many groundbreaking albums. Especially among the avant-garde releases. Sadly, they’re prized items among collectors, so the nearest most people will come to these rarities is on Kev Beadle Presents The Best Of Inner City Records. That’s until another label decides to release some of those groundbreaking releases. Until then, Kev Beadle Presents The Best Of Inner City Records is the perfect introduction into Inner City Records

61lkb0grcsl-_sl1200_

Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971.

Ever since the earliest days of The Kinks’ career, Ray and Dave Davies had written songs for other artists. When The Kinks signed to RCA Records in 1971, Ray and Dave Davies were successful songwriters. They had written for artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Everyone from Dave Berry, Peggy Lee, Petula Clark, The Pretty Things, Bobby Rydell, Duster Bennett, Marianne Faithfull, The Knack to Herman’s Hermits had recorded songs penned by one or other of the Davies’ brothers. Twenty-six featured on Ace Records’ compilation Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971.

It shows how the Davies’ brothers songwriting skills evolved. Many of the songs on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971 were never recorded by The Kinks. Others songs were recorded by other artists before The Kinks decided to record them. Some songs are very different to what The Kinks were releasing during that period. They’re the polar apposite to the raw power of early Kinks songs. Instead, the songs have a much more traditional song structure, and range from melodic pop to much more sophisticated songs. This makes sense.

Ray and Dave Davies’ were maturing and evolving as songwriters.  Their songs veer between cerebral and cinematic to satirical, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Sometimes, there was a degree of cynicism or melancholia in The Kinks’ carefully crafted songs, including those on inked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971, which celebrate the songwriting careers of Ray and Dave Davies.

71i8lqngrbl-_sl1201_

Kollection 06: Cluster 1971-1981 Compiled By John McEntire.

One of the most important, influential and innovative bands in German music were Cluster. Last year, Bureau B released a compilation of Cluster’s music, Kollection 06: Cluster 1971-1981 Compiled By John McEntire. It documents Cluster’s career between Cluster in 1971 right through to 1981s Curiosum. To do this, John McEntire chose eleven of the finest moments from the first ten years of Cluster’s career. Three of these tracks have been edited so that the eleven tracks can fit on one CD.  The result is the perfect introduction to Cluster.

Especially for newcomers to Cluster. They might be unsure where to start in Cluster’s impressive back-catalogue. Kollection 06: Cluster 1971-1981 Compiled By John McEntire is an overview of their first eight studio albums. It’s a reminder of a pioneering group who have influence several generation of musicians.

There’s a reason for this. Cluster weren’t afraid to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. Musically, Cluster were willing to go, where others musicians feared to tread. That’s apparent on Kollection 06: Cluster 1971-1981 Compiled By John McEntire covers. During that period, Cluster released eight studio albums, including several Krautrock classics. Each of these albums featured ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting music that even four decades later, is truly timeless. One listen to Kollection 06: Cluster 1971-1981 Compiled By John McEntire and that will become apparent.

814vz4mz1ll-_sl1500_

Linda Jones-Precious: The Anthology 1963-1976. 

The story of Linda Jones is one of triumph and tragedy. Growing up, Linda Jones was diagnosed with diabetes. Despite this, Linda Jones went on to forge a successful career as a soul singer. Her breakthrough single, was Hypnotised, which reached twenty-one in the US Billboard 100 and number four in the US Billboard R&B charts in 1967. Suddenly, great things were being forecast for Linda Jones. These forecasts proved prescient.

As 1972 dawned, Linda Jones was a successful soul singer. Sadly, she slipped into a diabetic coma on the 14th February 1972. Later that day, she was pronounced dead aged just twenty-seven. Tragedy had robbed soul music of his its talented and promising singers, Linda Jones. Her career is documented on a new compilation, Precious: The Anthology 1963-1976, which was released by Kent Soul. It celebrates the life and music of Linda Jones.

She’s  now remembered for possessing one of the finest and most versatile voices in soul music. If she had lived, Linda Jones had the potential to rival Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Irma Thomas for the title Queen of Soul. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, and Linda Jones died far too young. However, she left behind a rich musical legacy. This includes the music that features on Precious: The Anthology 1963-1976. It’s the perfect introduction to another of soul music’s best kept secrets, Linda Jones.

7139azlyhkl-_sl1200_

New Breed Workin’-Blues With A Rhythm.

2016 saw the release of the sixth instalment in the New Breed series. New Breed Workin’-Blues With A Rhythm was released on Kent Dance and was compiled by the hardest working man in music, Ady Croasdell. He has dug deep into the vaults of labels like Frisco, Cleveland, Dore, Brent, Kent, Krafton, RPM, Music City and Cator to find the twenty-four tracks that feature on New Breed Workin’-Blues With A Rhythm.

After much contemplation, Ady Croasdell settled on a mixture of familiar faces, new names, hidden gems and rarities. There;s contributions from from Danny White, Pee Wee Foster, B.B. King, Bertha Tillman, Nookie Boy, Mary Johnson, Cool Papa Jarvis, Billy Ray, Richard Berry and Chet “Poison” Ivey. There were also eight tracks that have never featured on CD before. They’re a welcome addition to New Breed Workin’-Blues With A Rhythm. Especially, with veterans collectors of R&B.

They’re always looking for something new to add to their burgeoning collection. So New Breed Workin’-Blues With A Rhythm will be a welcome addition to their collection. No wonder. Just like previous volumes, New Breed Workin’-Blues With A Rhythm oozes quality. That’s down to Ady Croasdell’s crate-digging skills. He combines old friends, familiar faces, new names, hidden gems, rarities and unreleased tracks on  New Breed Workin’-Blues With A Rhythm, which is a welcome addition to the New Breed series.

r-8080463-1454765661-6533-jpeg

New Orleans Funk Volume 4-Voodoo Fire In New Orleans 1951-77.

Bourbon Street, one if the Big Easy’s best known streets is full  of tourists enjoying a taste of Mardi Gras. They enjoy the local delicacies of beignets, gumbo and jambalaya. Meanwhile, music fills the air of one of America’s musical capitals. They’re all part and parcel of New Orleans’ rich musical heritage. Tourists are seduced by this heady brew of musical genres. This is the real sound of New Orleans. It features on New Orleans Funk Volume 4-Voodoo Fire In New Orleans 1951-77, which was released by Soul Jazz Records.

New Orleans Funk Volume 4-Voodoo Fire In New Orleans 1951-77 features familiar faces, old friends and new names. This includes Eldridge Holmes, Gus ‘The Groove’ Lewis, Chocolate Milk, Lou Johnson, Norma Jean, Johnny Adams, Clifton Chenier and His Red Hot Louisiana Band, Eddie Bo, Betty Harris and Zilla Mayes. While ostensibly a funk compilation, New Orleans Funk Volume 4-Voodoo Fire In New Orleans 1951-77 features some soulful sides recorded in the Big Easy. 

That’s why funky and soulful describes the music that can be found on New Orleans Funk Volume 4-Voodoo Fire In New Orleans 1951-77. It’s the perfect introduction to this sub-genre this series of lovingly curated compilations. They feature familiar funky and sometimes soulful songs. They’re augmented by a few hidden gems, that are part of New Orleans’ rich musical heritage.  

715jsddtxl-_sl1200_

Nuggets Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults.

The release of Nuggets Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults was a welcome reminder of Rhino’s much loved Nuggets compilation series. This series began in 1984 when Nuggets,  Volume 1: The Hits was released. Little did anyone know that the Nuggets series would last twenty-five years, and include fifteen LP, five box sets and two CD compilations. Like all good things, the Nuggets series had to come to an end. The final chapter in the story was Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets: 1965–1968, which was released in 2009. Since then, it’s been all quiet on the Nuggets’ front.

With seven years passing since the release of Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets: 1965–1968, it seemed unlikely that there would another instalment in the series. That was until the list of Record Store Day 2016 releases was announced. That’s when eagle-eyed spotted the release of Nuggets Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults, a double album featuring twenty-four tracks from familiar faces and new names alike.

There’s contributions from The Misty Wizards, The Last Exit, Adrian Pride, The Association, The Salt, Kim Fowley, The Tokens and Lee Mallory. That’s not forgetting The Glass Family, The Holy Mackerel and The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Quite simply, Nuggets Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults is a veritable psychedelic feast and a trip down memory lane.

r-8394548-1460776400-3781-jpeg

Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country.

Country music has always been inextricably linked with soul music. In some cases, the two go hand-in-hand. This has been documented by Ace Records on their Where Country Meets Soul series. The most recent instalment was Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country. It finds country artists covering soul and R&B songs. There’s even a few classics thrown in for good measure, as the great and good of country music reinvent some familiar songs.

Playing a starring role on Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country, are Hank Williams Jr., Waylon Jennings And Willie Nelson, Anita Carter, Skeeter Davis, Don Gibson, Ronnie Milsap, Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and the one and only Man In Black, Johnny Cash. These are just a few members of the great and good of country music who feature on On Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country. With a compilation that oozes quality.

With its star-studded lineup, Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country is the perfect addendum to Ace Records’ Where Soul Meets Country series. Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country also “complements” the three previous volumes of Where Soul Meets Country series. Just like Out Of Left Field-Where Soul Meets Country, they belong in the collection of anyone interested in soul or country music.

r-8663357-1466161585-5076-jpeg

Pat Thomas-Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics.

During a long and illustrious career that has spanned six decades, Ghanaian highlife master Pat Thomas, became known as the “the golden voice of Africa.” Now aged sixty-five, and one of the veterans of African music, Pat Thomas continues to make music. That’s no surprise.

All Pat Thomas ever wanted to do was sing highlife. He’s been doing since his career began in 1966. Since then, Pat Thomas has reinvented himself musically several times. He’s recorded everything from big band highlife in the late sixties, right through to the burger highlife of the early eighties. After this, the reinvention of Pat Thomas continued. It’s documented on Strut Records Pat Thomas retrospective, Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics. It features twenty-three tracks, including two previously unreleased tracks from “the golden voice of Africa.”

This includes previously unreleased tracks from Ebo Taylor featuring Pat Thomas. There’s also songs from Pat Thomas’ time with the Broadway Dance Band, and collaborations with The Ogyatanaa Show Band, The Black Berets, The Big 7,” The Sweet Beans and  Marijata. Then on disc two, there’s further collaborations with Ebo Taylor, Marijata and a track from Super Sounds Namba’s album Super Sounds. This must make Coming Home-Original Ghanian Highlife and Afrobeat Classics the definitive overview of Pat Thomas’ career. Especially for newcomers to Ghanaian highlife master Pat Thomas, “the golden voice of Africa,” in his musical prime

r-9046800-1473855277-6470-jpeg

Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul.

Having founded Pied Piper Productions, Sheldon “Shelley” Haines brought onboard to former Funk Brothers Jack Ashford and Mike Terry. They had both been important members of Motown’s house band and had played on countless hit singles. Despite this, they felt they weren’t receiving the renumeration they deserved. When the pay dispute couldn’t be resolved to their satisfaction Jack Ashford and Mike Terry, left Motown and joined Sheldon “Shelley” Haines Pied Piper Productions.

At Pied Piper Productions, Jack Ashford and Mike Terry worked with Nancy Wilcox, The Cavaliers, The Hesitations, Lorraine Chandler, Freddy Butler, September Jones, Mikki Farrow and Tony Hester, who all feature on Ace Records’ Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. They were among the artists that were discovered, careers that were rejuvenated and stars were born. 

Sheldon “Shelley” Haines’ decision to bring Jack Ashford and Mike Terry to Pied Piper Productions was vindicated. For a few short years, they were a potent and successful partnership. Proof of this is the music on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. It’s a compilation that will appeal to anyone who likes their music soulful.

r-9141718-1475498690-2820-jpeg

THE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2016-PART 4.

The Best Compilations Of 2016-Part 4.

Pink Floyd-Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972.

One box set that divided opinion during 2016, was Pink Floyd’s The Early Years 1965–1972. It featured eleven CDs, DVDs, blu-ray discs, vinyl, and memorabilia. There was everything from unreleased material to live recordings and non-album singles. The Early Years 1965–1972 was marketed as the most comprehensive overview of the first five years of Pink Floyd’s recording career. However, it came at a price, £375. The Early Years 1965–1972 was the most expensive box set of recent years. Many people decided to buy instead Pink Floyd-Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972.

This double album was essentially a sampler of the box set. There was a single, B-Side, unreleased tracks, remixes, radio sessions, jams and songs that were work in progress. However,  during the five years the compilation covers, Pink Floyd evolve and mature into a much tighter band. That’s apparent thought Pink Floyd-Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972, which is the perfect introduction to Pink Floyd’s long and illustrious career.

For many people, The Early Years 1965–1972 would be overkill. Some people may only want some of the material. That will soon be possible when six forthcoming volumes from the box set will be released. Meanwhile, Pink Floyd-Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967–1972 is a tantalising taste of what’s in store on these six volumes from The Early Years 1965–1972 box set. 

r-9339620-1479017802-3851-jpeg

Red Square-Rare and Lost 70s Recordings.

Red Square were formed in 1974, and imploded in 1978. By then, Red Square hadn’t even released an album. Their modest discography consisted of just two self-released cassettes. However, Red Square reformed in 2008, and are making up for lost time.  Rare and Lost 70s Recordings which was released by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records is just the latest release from the avant-rock pioneers, who have influenced several generation of musicians.

Even today, bands cite Red Square as one of the bands who influenced them. Rare and Lost 70s Recordings features Red Square at the peak of their powers between 1976 and 1978. During that period, Red Square were one of leading lights of the avant-rock and free-improv scenes. Red Square created groundbreaking music that should’ve reached a much wider audience. Alas, record companies were reluctant to sign Red Square. They were perceived as having an “attitude,”  and their music was deemed to extreme to be commercial. None of the British record companies were willing to take a chance on Red Square.

As a result,  Red Square’s music failed to find the audience it deserved. Instead, it was enjoyed by a small, discerning and appreciative audience. These musical connoisseurs recognised the importance of Red Square’s music. Nowadays,  Red Square is belatedly receiving the recognition, plaudits and critical acclaim their music deserves.  However, for newcomers to Red Square,  Rare and Lost 70s Recordings is the perfect starting place.

r-8317533-1459242870-1068-jpeg

Rhythm ’N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Nights Of Sin, Dirty Deals and Love Sick Souls.

Last year, Ace Records released Rhythm ’N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Nights Of Sin, Dirty Deals and Love Sick Souls. This was the fifth volume of Louisiana R&B. It features twenty-eight tracks, that included familiar faces, rarities, alternate takes and unreleased tracks. 

This includes contributions from Chris Kenner, Lester Robertson, Barbara Lynn, Jay Nelson, Leroy Washington, Little Victor, Big Walter Price and Classie Ballou. Some of the artists on Rhythm ’N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Nights Of Sin, Dirty Deals and Love Sick Souls feature more than once.  Often, their first contribution is so good, that they return for an encore on Rhythm ’N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Nights Of Sin, Dirty Deals and Love Sick Souls. It’s a welcome addition to what’s now one of the most successful and longest running compilation series, By The Bayou.

Rhythm ’N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Nights Of Sin, Dirty Deals and Love Sick Souls is the fourteenth instalment in the By The Bayou series. Still, there’s no let up in quality. Ian Saddler knows where to find rarities, hidden gems and unreleased tracks that ooze quality. They’re his secret weapons for the By The Bayou series. It’s the compilation series that looks as if it will run and run. Especially if Ian Saddler continues to compile compilations as good as Rhythm ’N’ Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Nights Of Sin, Dirty Deals and Love Sick Souls.

Saint Etienne Presents Songs For The Carnegie Deli.

Nowadays, The Carnegie Deli is a culinary institution. That’s why many visitors to the Big Apple beat a path to its door. This included Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne in 1991. He had heard of the legendary deli, and promised himself that on his next visit to New York, he was going to eat at The Carnegie Deli. Bob wasn’t disappointed. It was everything he expected, and much more. This set Bob Stanley thinking, what kind of music was played in The Carnegie Deli, and similar diners over the years?

Soon, Bob Stanley was thinking of songs that might, at one time, have provided a backdrop to life in a New York diner. Before long, Bob Stanley had a list of possible songs that might have provided the soundtrack to life in The Carnegie Deli. This was a purely academic exercise. Nothing he thought, would come of it. That was until Ace Records asked Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs to compile Saint Etienne Presents Songs For The Carnegie Deli.

So Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs delved into the vaults of Smash, United Artists, Wand, Sue, Barry, Cameo, GWO and Arock and picked twenty-four tracks. Among them, were contributions from Irma Thomas, Chuck Jackson, Lou Johnson, The Chiffons, Baby Washington, Junior Lewis, David Coleman, Lesley Gore, The Shirelles and The Hesitations. They’re just a taste of the musical delights in store for listeners on Saint Etienne Presents Songs For The Carnegie Deli. 

r-8054740-1454264996-5570-jpeg

Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The  Lee Hazlewood Songbook.

Lee Hazlewood dreamt of being a songwriter. Even when he was working as a DJ. Many thought that this was a pipe dream. However, Lee Hazlewood had the last laugh.  His songs were recorded by artists over a fifty a year period. This includes several generations of musicians that featured on Ace Records’ Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The  Lee Hazlewood Songbook. 

Everyone from country and folk singers to crooner and indie rockers went on to cover Lee Hazelwood’s songs. Proof of this is Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook. It features an eclectic selection of artists, including Waylon Jennings, Billie Dearborn, Sanford Clark, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sanford Clark, Mark Morriss, Gold Leaves and Primal Scream. They covered these between 1959 and 2012. Sadly, on August the 4th 2007, Lee Hazlewood passed away aged seventy-eight. Even after his death, artists continue to inspired and influenced by Lee Hazlewood. 

Many of the artists that have been influenced and inspired by  Lee Hazlewood weren’t even born when he first wrote and recorded some of the songs on Son-Of-A-Gun and More From The Lee Hazlewood Songbook. However, many of his songs have a timeless quality, and fifty years after they were first released, artists are covering them. Sometimes, they stay true to the original, other times, they reinvent the song. Lee Hazlewood, a musical pioneer would’ve approved of that.

r-9006819-1473157343-5686-jpeg

Space Echo-The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed!

The ‘story’ behind the equipment that made the music on Space Echo-The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde is one that has been exaggerated and grown legs over the years. In some ways, this tall tale gets in the way of the music on Space Echo-The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed!

It was released by Analog Africa and is the perfect introduction to the Cabo Verdean music scene after it gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. After that, the Cabo Verdean music scene flourished, with artists and bands combining musical genres and influences to create new and exciting music.  Often, the basis for this music is the of Cabo Verde’s past. Other times, the music is made by the latest technology, which locals will claim are similar to those that were supposedly found on that mysterious boat in a field in mid 1968. However, this new music resulted in Cabo Verdean music scene flourishing.

Cabo Verde enjoyed an eclectic and vibrant music scene after independence in 1975. During that period, Cabo Verde cultural capital blossomed as a new generation of musicians got the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents. A reminder of their music can be found on Space Echo-The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde, which hopefully, is the first in a series compilations documenting Cabo Verde’s rich musical past.

r-8635325-1465609627-6068-jpeg

Sun Ra-Singles The Definitive 45s Collection.

One of the most-anticipated compilations of 2016 was Strut Records’ Singles The Definitive 45s Collection.  It documents the music of a true visionary. He had spent the last six decades releasing groundbreaking music. This includes on 125 albums and the countless singles that Sun Ra released. A tantalising taste of these singles feature on the Singles The Definitive 45s Collection box set. It’s a lovingly curated compilation that will appeal to veterans of and newcomers to Sun Ra’s music. 

Sun Ra was one of most enigmatic and innovative musicians of the 20th Century. For nearly forty years, Sun Ra and His Arkestra pushed musical boundaries. Sun Ra was a perfectionist and relentless taskmaster. With some of most talented, inventive and adventurous musicians of their generation, Sun Ra set about honing the Arkestra’s sound. He was demanding and set exacting standards. Second best was no use to Sun Ra, who was a musical pioneer.

His music is celebrated on Singles The Definitive 45s Collection box set, where Sun Ra combines Egyptian history with space-age cosmic philosophy and freeform jazz. Sun Ra was more than a musician, bandleader, composer. He was also a cosmic philosopher, writer and poet. Despite his many talents, Sun Ra is best remembered for a musical career that spanned six decades. The music Sun Ra wrote and recorded was innovative, inventive and influential, and is why nowadays, he’s regarded as one of the most important figures in jazz. 

r-9226540-1480185678-5427-jpeg

Super Duper Love-Mainstream Hits and Rarities 1973-76. 

In 1970, Bob Shad decided to relaunch Mainstream Records. For the next three years  Bob Shad concentrated on releasing traditional jazz. By 1973, there had been a blurring of the lines between what was soul and jazz. This resulted in Mainstream Records’ musical policy changing, and the label releasing a much wider selection of music. This included the music on Super Duper Love-Mainstream Hits and Rarities 1973-76, which was released by Kent Soul

Super Duper Love-Mainstream Hits and Rarities 1973-76 features twenty-four tracks from Mainstream Records and its various subsidiaries. Familiar faces and new names sit side-by-side, including Afrique, Linda Perry and Soul Express, Lenny Welch, Sandra Phillips, Calvin Arnold, J.G. Lewis, Doris Duke, The Eleventh Commandment, Darlene Jackson, The Dramatics and Ellerine Harding. These are just a few of the artists on Super Duper Love-Mainstream Hits and Rarities 1973-76.

It features deeply soulful songs, including ballads and uptempo love songs. There’s everything from songs about betrayal and love lost, to songs about hope, hurt and heartache. Many of these songs will tug at the heartstrings. Some will make the listener cry while others will make them laugh. However, even song on Super Duper Love-Mainstream Hits and Rarities 1973-76 is of the highest quality. It’s also the perfect companion to Mainstream Modern Soul 1969-1976.  Both compilations show the soulful side Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records.

r-9309251-1478359202-2971-jpeg

Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Troubles, Tears and Trains.

While Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Troubles, Tears and Trains was the thirteenth instalment in Ace Records’ By The Bayou series, it was only the second compilation of swamp pop. It finds compiler Ian Saddler returning to the vaults of J.D. Miller, Eddie Shuler, Floyd Soileau, Sam Montel, Huey Meaux and Joe Ruffino, Pappy Daily, Murray Nash and Jim Rentz. Ian Saddler even looked for hidden gems with the Hitt and Mercury labels. He struck gold.

Among the treasure unearthed by Ian Sadlder are: six unreleased songs from swamp pop royalty Warren Storm plus Frankie Lowery, The Boogie Kings, Larry Hart, Frankie Lowery and Buck Rodgers. There’s also a trio of alternate tracks. The other nineteen tracks are real rarities. They’re a mixture of skirt swirlers and buckle polishers. For those unfamiliar with the parlance of swamp pop, skirt swirlers are the uptempo dance tracks; while buckle polishers are the slow songs. Providing the skirt swirlers and buckle polishers are Roy Perkins With Jerry Starr and The Clippers, Dale Houston, Phil Clay, John Fred, Gene Dunlap and The Jokers,Warren Storm, Dale Houston, Johnny Preston and Jay Richards.

Just like previous volumes in the By The Bayou series, familiar faces and new names rub shoulders on Swamp Pop By The Bayou-Troubles, Tears and Trains. This captivating compilation of skirt swirlers and buckle polishers from the land of “gaters and gumbo” is guaranteed to get any party started.

r-9141876-1475500979-9593-jpeg

The Girls Want The Boys! Swedish Beat Girls 1964-1970.

Sweden has always had a rich musical heritage. That was the case between 1964 and 1970. That was the era of the beat girls. This period was documented on The Girls Want The Boys! Swedish Beat Girls 1964-1970, which was released by Ace International. It features twenty-four tracks from eighteen artists.

They’re a mixture of familiar faces and new names. Two of the biggest names were Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad in their pre-Abba days. Other include Eleanor Bodel, Lena Junoff, Doris, Mona Wessman, Britt Bergstrom, Sunnygirls, MAK Les Soeurs, Suzie and Susanne Wigforss. They were some of the most successful Swedish Beat Girls between 1964 and 1970. 

As the seventies dawned, some artists went on to greater things. Other artists, including Eleanor Bodel, turned their back on music. She had enjoyed her short, but successful musical career, but decided to return to her studies. Some artists had no option, as their career stalled or ground to a halt. For some artists, including Bella and Me, recording a single hadn’t been something they planned to do. A chance meeting resulted in them recording their one and only single Whatever Happened To The 7-Day Week. They never recorded another single.  Britta Bergström and Suzie were truly prolific artists. Both feature on The Girls Want The Boys! Swedish Beat Girls 1964-1970, which is the first retrospective of the Swedish Beat. Let’s hope it’s not the last.

r-9384656-1479630146-8646-jpeg

THE BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2016-PART 5.

The Best Compilations Of 2016-Part 5.

The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits.

For many people, the golden age of country music was the late fifties and early sixties. During that period, country music provided the soundtrack to much of American life. Providing the soundtrack were giants of country music like Johnny Cash, Don Gibson, Carl Perkins, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis and Marty Robbins. Their singles regularly topped the country charts and crossed over into the US Billboard 100.  Songs from each of these artists feature on a recently released compilation by Ace Records, The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits.

This is the long-awaited followup to The Golden Age Of American Country Music: The Country Hits, which was released back in 2008. Fast forward eight years, and The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits features another twenty-eight hits from some of the giants of country music. Essentially, The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits features a who’s who of country music. There’s also contributions from Jim Reeves, Patti Page, Stonewall Jackson, Ray Price, Bill Anderson and Carl Smith on The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits. 

It’s a compilation that epitomises everything that’s good about country music. That comes as not surprise. The Golden Age Of American Country Music: More Country Hits features many of the giants of country music, who were responsive for the rise and rise of country music.

81kxmquarul-_sl1222_

The Independents.-Just As Long-The Complete Wand Recordings 1972-74. 

Charles Jackson and Marvin Yancy first met at the Chicago’s Black Writer’s Workshop. When they got talking, they discovered they had much in common. They began to write together, they proved a potent partnership. Two heads were definitely better than one.  Having penned some songs, Charles hit on the idea of forming a group. Secretly, he had dreamed of becoming a singer. So Charles approached Marvin about forming a group. He agreed, they began the search for the rest of the nascent group. Before long, two stalwarts of Chicago soul scene,  Helen Curry and Maurice Jackson had agreed to join the nascent group that became The Independents. 

Over the next two years, The Independents enjoyed eight hit singles in the US R&B charts, and five in the US R&B charts. This included four top ten singles, including the number one single Leaving Me. It was one of The Independents’ trademark ballads, which was certified gold after selling over 500,000 copies. However, Leaving Me is just one of twenty-two tracks that feature on Just As Long-The Complete Wand Recordings 1972-74. 

It was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records and includes singles, B-Sides, album tracks and a remix. The twenty-two tracks on Just As Long-The Complete Wand Recordings 1972-74 include the best and most beautiful music in the three year career of Chicago’s very own The Independents. 

81xz8vrwkml-_sl1221_

The Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco.

Since 2014, DJ Supermarkt has been curating the Too Slow To Disco series. Last year, rather that release Too Slow To Disco Volume 3, to focus on The Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco. It’s a nineteen track compilation released by the How Do You Are label. The Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco features Evie Sands,  Rickie Lee Jones, Melissa Manchester, Valerie Carter, Carole Bayer Sager, Carly Simon, Lauren Wood, Carole King and Lynn Christopher. This was a tantalising taste of the music awaiting the listener on The Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco.

Classics, hidden gems and rarities sit side-by-side on The Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco. Many of the tracks aren’t the artists biggest hits. Instead, many are album tracks. This makes a pleasant change. Usually, compilers look no further than singles. However, that’s not DJ Supermarkt’s style. He eschews the obvious for long forgotten album tracks.  Many people won’t remember these tracks. They’ll only be remembered by diehard fans. Not any more. Now a new generation of music lovers will get the chance to hear these hidden gems. They’re part of a  voyage of discovery, where newcomers will discover the delights of the West Coast sound, including The Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco.

r-8455180-1461949954-9313-jpeg

The Microcosm): The Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986. 

As the seventies dawned, a new musical movement started to take shape across Europe. This new musical movement continued right through to the mid-eighties. By then,  it was a pan European musical movement. The tentacles of this new musical movement had spread far and wide, and showcased the combined and considerable talents of artists who created ambitious and innovative music. This music is documented on (The Microcosm): The Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986, which was released by Light In The Attic Records.

It’s  the perfect introduction to the pioneers of this new, pan European musical movement. It showcases the music Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Ralph Lundsten, Ash Ra, Tempel, Ariel Kalma, Bernard Xolotl, Enno Velthuys, Peter Michael Hamel and Deuter. They’re among the fourteen artists that feature on (The Microcosm): The Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986. Each produced ambitious and innovative music, and can be described as a visionary.

Despite this, the music failed to find an audience. It was only many years later, that the music on (The Microcosm): The Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 somewhat belatedly, began to find the audience it deserves. Still though, there are many record buyers still to discover the delights of this pan European musical movement. Maybe (The Microcosm): The Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986 will introduce them to this body of groundbreaking music, and they’ll embark upon a musical voyage of discovery?

r-9521875-1485231978-9070-jpeg

The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968  

Between 1964 and 1968, countless hidden gems found their way on to B-Sides of Stax and Volt singles. Since then, none of these B-Sides have been released on CD before. That’s until now. Twenty-four B-Sides from Stax and Volt’s blue period are celebrate on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968, which was released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. 

The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968 features tracks from some of the biggest names on Stax and Volt’s roster during the blue period. This includes Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, William Bell, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Jefferson, Dorothy Williams, Oscar Mack, Eddie Floyd and Lynda Lyndell. They’re just a few of the artists that feature on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968, which is a reminder of the delights tucked away on B-Sides during Stax and Volt’s blue period.

Often, the B-Side to a Stax or Volt single surpassed the quality of the single. Those that flipped over were richly rewarded, and heard joyous, uptempo, dance tracks or heartbreaking ballads. Twenty-four of Stax and Volt’s finest B-Sides feature on The Other Side Of The Trax-Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968. These songs are a reminder to always flip over to the B-Side, as musical gold may be awaiting discovery. 

r-8080377-1454764086-7431-jpeg

The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults.   

Last year, Sainsbury’s jumped on the burgeoning vinyl bandwagon, and have released a series of limited editions. This includes The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults, which was released as a double album by Charly, and retailed exclusively through Sainsbury’s. Only 1,000 copies were pressed on 180 gram orange heavyweight vinyl. It’s a quality release and a reminder of one of the most important record labels in musical history.

It’s the label where rock ’n’ roll was born, and that was home to everyone from Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis to Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and the Silver Fox Charlie Rich. That’s not forgetting Warren Smith, The Miller Sisters, Billy Lee Riley and Earl Hooker. They all feature on The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults. Some of their best known tracks feature on this double album, and will be instantly recognisable to music lovers of all ages. They’re joined by some hidden gems from the Sun Records’ back-catalogue. It’s a captivating compilation.

For newcomers to Sun Records, The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults, it’s the perfect starting place for anyone whose yet to discover the delights of Sun Records. This should be part of their musical education. After all, Sun Records was one of the most important labels in the history of music.

s-l1600

Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977 .

Although funk and jazz compilations are plentiful, Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977 stood head and shoulders above the competition. They were mere also-rans compared to Things Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977. It’s the second, and best instalment in BGP Records’ Things Gonna Get Better series.

Dean Rudland a veteran of countless critically acclaimed compilations compiled Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977. It was the latest in a long line of quality compilations to bear Dean Rudland’s name. Not for the first time, Dean Rudland has compiled what can only be described as a must have compilation for fans of jazz and funk. That’s no surprise.

Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977 featured everyone from Funkadelic, Vernon Garrett, Richard “Groove” Holmes and Idris Muhammad to Lonnie Liston Smith, Don Julian and The Larks, Harold Alexander and Pretty Purdie and The Playboys. The twenty tracks are a mixture of singles, B-Sides, album tracks and Dave Hamilton’s unreleased track What’s The Matter With The World. This results in a compilation that oozes quality, and will be a welcome addition to any record collection, Gonna Get Better: Street Funk and Jazz Grooves 1970-1977.

r-8177046-1456588739-2342-jpeg

Tim Buckley-Lady, Give Me Your Key-The Unissued 1967 Sessions.

For anyone with even a passing interest in Tim Buckley’s music, then Light In The Attic’s Lady, Give Me Your Key-The Unissued 1967 Sessions was the equivalent of the Holy Grail. It featured thirteen previously unreleased tracks. This included six songs from a long-lost acetate and seven songs the Oak Court Demo Tape. Listening to Lady, Give Me Your Key-The Unissued 1967 Sessions is the equivalent of time travel. 

Suddenly, it’s late 1966, early 1967 and the listener is transported to Larry Beckett’s LA apartment. Larry sets up his reel-to-reel tape recorder. This he does during several sessions. The songs he records Tim Buckley singing became the Oak Court Demo. These songs are work in progress. Having said that, they’re of historical importance. Especially to anyone interested in Tim Buckley’s music. Two of the songs on the Oak Court Demo, Once I Was and I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain would later be transformed, into Tim Buckley classics. These versions on Lady, Give Me Your Key-The Unissued 1967 Sessions show these songs evolving. It’s a similar case with the songs on The Acetate recorded at Madison Studios. They’re a fascinating insight into Tim Buckley’s nascent recording career. 

Somewhat belatedly, these thirteen songs are available for all to hear on  Lady, Give Me Your Key-The Unissued 1967 Sessions. For Tim Buckley fans they’re regarded as a  musical Holy Grail.

r-9189819-1476358762-4420-jpeg

Venezuela 70-Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth-Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s.

Last year, Soul Jazz Records released  Venezuela 70-Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth-Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s. It was compiled by Toni Arrelano and featured music from Pablo Schneider, Fernando Yvosky, Vytas Brenner, Angel Rada, Miguel Angel Fuster and Apocalipsis. These artists are largely unknown outside of their home country, but were part of what was a golden age in Venezuelan music.

During the seventies, Venezuelan artists released groundbreaking and genre-melting music. To do that, they drew inspiration from, and combined disparate musical genres, influences and instruments. Everything from avant-garde to Berlin School, electronica and experimental has been combined with funk and fusion plus Krautrock, Latin, progressive rock, psychedelia, rock and space rock. All these genres can be heard throughout Venezuela 70-Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth-Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s. They’re combined by artists and groups who pushed musical boundaries and created ambitious and exciting music. Sadly,this music is largely unknown outside of their home country. That’s a great shame.

Especially considering the quality of music that is on Venezuela 70-Cosmic Visions Of A Latin American Earth-Venezuelan Experimental Rock In The 1970s. It’s the perfect introduction to Venezuelan music of the seven tie and features  some of the most talented musicians in Venezuela’s thriving music scene during what was a golden age.

r-8768454-1468360815-8978-jpeg

Where The Girls Are Volume 9.

 

There aren’t many compilations that are still going strong after nine volumes and nineteen years. That is apart from the Where The Girls Are series.  Last year, Where The Girls Are Volume 9 was released by Ace Records. It’s another captivating compilation that features The Rag Dolls, Diane Christian, Popsicles, Evie Sands, Lovelites, The Francettes, The Penny Sisters and The Blossoms With Billy Strange. This is just a tantalising taste of the delights in store on for listeners on Where The Girls Are Volume 9.

Just like the previous volumes in the Where The Girls Are series, the emphasis was on quality music. It’s guaranteed to bring memories flooding back. The listener never knows what compiler Mick Patrick has in-store. He’s dug deep into the vaults of numerous labels, including Ballyhoo, Bandera, Bell Records, Cameo, Decca, Flip, Mint, Parkway and Vault and unearthed hidden gems and old favourites.

There everything from pop to soul and the classic sixties girl group sound. There’s even a couple of would-be dance crazes on Where The Girls Are Volume 9. It’s a welcome addition to one Ace Records’ longest running and critically acclaimed  series, Where The Girls Are. 

r-8187209-1457464862-2954-jpeg

 

CROMWELL-AT THE GALLOP.

CROMWELL-AT THE GALLOP.

By 1975, Dublin had an eclectic and vibrant music scene. There literally was something for all musical tastes. This ranged from the traditional showbands that had long been part of the Irish music scene, right through to traditional Irish music and sentiment-laden pop music. However, this was only part of the story. 

At the other end of the musical spectrum was Dublin’s most successful music export, Thin Lizzy. Lead by the inimitable Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy’s hard rocking sound won them fans the world over. Then there was Horslips, the founding fathers of the Celtic rock sound. They had just released their fourth album and were one of Ireland’s most successful bands. Meanwhile, another Dublin based band Cromwell were about to release their debut album At The Gallop on their now Cromwell label. 

The local critics who had heard At The Gallop, forecast a bright future for Cromwell. They had honed their hard rock sound over the last few years. Now that Cromwell had come of age musically, surely it was only a matter of time before they made the journey over the water, where they would sign for one of the London based major labels. Maybe then, Cromwell would follow in the footsteps of Ireland’s most famous sons like Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher?

Alas, that wasn’t the case. Cromwell’s debut album wasn’t the success that critics had forecast. Neither did Cromwell make the Journey to London to sign for a major label. Nor did Cromwell release a followup to At The Gallop. After releasing five singles and one album, the Cromwell story was at an end. Their discography consists of five singles and one album. However, what an album At The Gallop is.

Nowadays, At The Gallop is regraded a cult classic, and a long-lost hidden gem. It’s also an extremely rare album. Original copies change hands for upwards of €400. This meant for far too long, At The Gallop was beyond the budget of most record buyers. That changed recently, when Got Kinda Lost, an imprint of Guerssen Records reissued Cromwell’s long-long lost cult classic At The Gallop. It’s a welcome reminder of one of the most underrated and talented bands of the early seventies, Cromwell. Their story began in Dublin 1970.

As a new decade dawned, a new band was born in Drumcondra, in Dublin in 1970. Originally, Cromwell was a quintet, based around the three Kiely brothers who previously had been members of Julian’s Heirs. Cromwell was a new start for the Kiely brothers. Dave Kiely became Cromwell’s frontman, while Desmond became the bassist and Michael the rhythm guitarist. They were joined drummer Derek Dawson and lead guitarist Patrick Brady. With the lineup complete, Cromwell were soon making their first tentative steps onto the local live circuit.

Cromwell made their live debut at an open air concert, in Swords, just north of Dublin. This was the start of a period where Cromwell were constant features of the local live circuit. They played pubs, clubs and dance halls, which allowed Cromwell to hone their sound. However, by November 1971, Cromwell were reduced from a quintet to a trio when Dave and Demond Kiely Kiely exited stage left. The two brothers had decided to pursue other opportunities.

Now that Cromwell were reduced to a trio, there were some changes. Michael Keily switched from rhythm guitar to bass. Cromwell’s sound became heavier and rockier. This was more in keeping with the sound that was popular on both sides of the Atlantic. For Cromwell, they were one step nearer to finding their true sound. 

Meanwhile, when Cromwell played live, their setlist included covers of songs The Who, Rolling Stones and Granny’s Intentions. To this, Cromwell added covers of twelve-bar blues. Gradually, it seemed Cromwell were moving towards what would become their trademark sound. Maybe the addition of a new vocalist would prove to be the finishing touch?

When Cromwell went looking for a new vocalist, their luck was in. They managed to secure the services of Droghedaean born vocalist Mick O’Hagan. He had an impeccable musical pedigree. His father was famous Irish tenor Patrick O’Hagan, and his brother was Johnny Logan who would later, win the Eurovision Song Contest. However, when  Mick O’Hagan joined Cromwell, he was regarded as Ireland’s premier blues and rock vocalist. Surely, he was the final piece in the jigsaw?

That should have been the case. The new lineup of Cromwell began playing live. By then, drummer Derek Dawson, bassist Michael Kiely and lead guitarist Patrick Brady were just nineteen. However, they played like seasoned veterans. With Mick O’Hagan as Cromwell’s new frontman, it looked like Cromwell were heading for bigger and better things. 

Local hero Rory Gallagher certainly thought so, and booked Sleepy Hollow and Cromwell to open for him on his 1972 Irish tour. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. Cromwell’s music would be heard by a much wider audience, and maybe, A&R men would be in the audience?

If they were, they didn’t see Mick O’Hagan. He quit Cromwell just before the band headed out on tour with Rory Gallagher. Despite this disappointment, Cromwell headed out on tour with lead guitarist Patrick Brady taking charge of lead vocals. This continued when Cromwell returned from touring with Rory Gallagher. 

Cromwell continued to play live. By now, Cromwell were heading much further afield. They were now touring the Emerald Isle and were regarded as one of the rising stars of the Irish music scene. So it made sense for Cromwell to record their first demo.

To record the demo, this necessitated a trip to Belfast, in Northern Ireland. This was at the height of the troubles. Three young men, who looked as if they belonged in a rock group were always going to attract the scrutiny of the British Army. When Cromwell crossed the border, their van was stopped. The three members of Cromwell were searched at gunpoint. Meanwhile, their van and the equipment it held was searched. This was the case each and every time Cromwell made the journey from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. Considering Cromwell were heading to Belfast to record a demo, this wasn’t the best preparation.

Having arrived in Belfast, Cromwell made their way to the recording studio. That was where Cromwell recorded songs penned by the Patrick Brady and Michael Kiely songwriting partnership. It was beginning to blossom, and over the next few years, would be fruitful source of material.

With the demo recorded, Cromwell started trying to attract the attention of British record labels. This was the only option. Ireland didn’t have the successful music industry that it now has. So Irish bands had no other option but to sign to British labels. However, not every band signed to British labels.

After recording the demo, Cromwell tried to attract the attention of British based record labels. It was to no avail. So Cromwell returned to playing live. They travelled far and wide, following in the footsteps of Ireland’s two great bands, Rory Gallagher’s Taste and Thin Lizzy.

Usually, Cromwell weren’t short of gigs. Sometimes, though when gigs were hard to come by, Cromwell went in search of places to play. Cromwell weren’t averse to heading off the beaten track, and into small towns where no rock bands ever played. The three members of Cromwell were welcomed with open arms, by youths starved of music that was relevant to them. It was a heartening site. 

The only problem for Cromwell was the 1973 oil crisis. Suddenly, petrol was rationed and the price soared. Fortunately, Cromwell were always able to secure an extra can of petrol which they stored with the equipment in their van, before heading out to gigs. Cromwell’s mission to take rock music to every town and village in Ireland continued. 

Later in 1973, Cromwell’s thoughts turned to releasing a single. The three members of Cromwell had come to the conclusion that if a record label wasn’t going to sign them, they would release a single on their own label. That day, Cromwell followed in the footsteps of The Beatles and Rolling Stones and their Cromwell label was born.

Later in 1973, the nascent Cromwell label released its first single, Guinness Rock. This was the first single that Cromwell had released since they were formed three years earlier in 1970. Guinness Rock garnered some radio play locally, while the band were featured on RTE, the Irish national broadcaster. One of the Irish magazines  New Spotlight championed Cromwell and their music. This paid off when Cromwell released their sophomore single. 

This was Stomp Stomp Stomp which was released in 1974. It sold well and reached number eleven in the Irish single’s charts. For Cromwell, this was something of a coup, and introduced the band’s music to a new and wider audience. 

Following the success of Stomp Stomp Stomp, Cromwell released Deal Me In. It failed to replicate the success of Stomp Stomp Stomp. For Cromwell this was a disappointment.

They didn’t release another single until You Got It Made in 1975. It would feature on Cromwell’s debut album At The Gallop, which was released later in 1975.

At The Gallop featured ten hard rocking tracks from the Patrick Brady and Michael Kiely songwriting partnership. They were recorded by drummer Derek Dawson, bassist Michael Kiely and lead guitarist Patrick Brady who took charge of the lead vocals. They were by then a tight and talented trio who many thought had a bright future ahead of them.

So much so, that some local critics thought that Cromwell were about follow in the footsteps of Ireland’s most famous sons like Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Cromwell’s debut album At The Gallop wasn’t the success that critics had forecast. However, At The Gallop is a timeless cult classic that’s won over a new generation of rock fans. That is no surprise.

From the opening bars of Ireland (The Wild One), which opens At The Gallop, there’s a sense of anticipation. A chugging guitar joins with a droning bass and drums. Soon, the rhythm section have locked into a tight groove as Michael delivers a vampish vocal. Straight away, he’s embraced the roll of frontman. Sometimes, his vocal is reminiscent of Phil Lynott. Soon, he’s delivering a coquettish vocal that brings the lyrics to life. So much so, that’s it’s possible to imagine the knife wielding Wild One as she: “cuts loose.” Later, a crystalline guitar replaces the vocal and Cromwell showcase their considerable skills. That’s until the vampish, coquettish vocal returns, and the track reaches a crescendo. It’s tantalising taste of what’s to come on At The Gallop.

Just the drums and then bass open Down On The Town. Soon, they’re joined by a strutting, preening, Jagger-esque vocal and chirping guitars. Suddenly, Cromwell have been transformed into Dublin’s answer to the Rolling Stones. There’s even Keith Richards’ inspired guitar licks and harmonies that sound as if they belong on a vintage Stones album. It’s a reminder of what the Rolling Stones sounded in their heyday. Later, a searing guitar and drum rolls augment the strutting, vampish vocal, as Cromwell enjoy one of their finest moments

A searing guitar soars above the slow, steady rhythm section and piano on First Day. They provide the backdrop for a heartfelt, tender vocal on this rocky ballad. Soon, it heads into anthem territory, and is reminiscent of the sound that Supertramp would later find success with. Later, when the vocal drops out, Patrick steps forward and unleashes another blistering guitar solo. It soars above the arrangement before the vocal returns. It’s joined by harmonies, before they both drop out. The guitar takes centre-stage as this beautiful ballad  reaches a poignant and memorable crescendo.

A lone bass opens You Got It Made, before a searing guitar, drums and flourish of piano set the scene for the vocal. By then, Cromwell are at their tightest, as they accompany the vampish, theatrical vocal. It’s reminiscent of Roxy Music and 10CC. Meanwhile, the rest of Cromwell draw inspiration from the New York Dolls and the Rolling Stones as they cut loose. Augmented by the piano, Cromwell are soon in full flight. Quite simply, it’s a joy to behold, and is a reminder of what for many was, the golden age or rock.

After Cromwell are counted in on At The Gallop, they turn their attention to country rock. The tempo rises as Cromwell burst into life. As the rhythm section lock down the groove, washes of  slide guitar accompanies the swaggering, joyous vocal. It’s soon accompanied by harmonies, and later a blistering guitar. That’s not forgetting the washes of slide guitar. They play a leading role in the sound and success of this slice of good time country rock

Guinness Rock was Cromwell’s debut single in 1973. A pulsating bass sits atop the drums. Meanwhile, Michael unleashes  blistering, effects laden guitar riffs as Cromwell combine blues and rock. Then after forty-seconds, a powerhouse of a vocal enters. It’s augmented by harmonies, as the rest of Cromwell unleashes a hard rocking backdrop. Searing, scorching fuzzy guitars are to the fore, while the rhythm section drive this glorious rocky anthem along. It was the song that in 1973,  introduced Irish rock fans to Cromwell, who looked destined for greatness.

After six songs, Cromwell decide to throw a curveball with  Hoodwinked. It’s an instrumental, where Cromwell showcase their talents. Hoodwinked is a slow bluesy track. The rhythm section and piano provide the backdrop for Patrick’s heart wrenching guitar solo. Although it takes centre-stage, the rest of Cromwell play their part in what’s a beautiful bluesy instrumental.

Nothing Left To See is another of At The Gallop’s ballads. Again, washes of slide guitar join with the rhythm section and acoustic guitar. They’re soon joined by a searing guitar, before a hurt-filled, emotive vocal enters. It sounds as if it’s lived and survived the lyrics. Meanwhile, harmonies, Hammond organ, slide guitar and acoustic guitar combine with the rhythm section. When the vocal drops out, the guitar proves the perfect replacement. As the vocal returns hurt has been replaced by hope, as seamlessly, Cromwell combine country rock with blues on this beautiful ballad.

Deal Me In has an understated introduction. Just an acoustic guitar and bass accompany, an emotive, soul-baring vocal. Soon, it’s joined by a slide guitar. By then, blues and country rock are being combined by Cromwell. Later, when the vocal drops out, Patrick unleashes another searing guitar solo. It goes on to play a leading role in the song, and proves the perfect foil for the vocal on Deal Me In.

Closing At The Gallop is Dawson’s Fun Palace. It’s a musical sketch from Cromwell. A radio announcer announces the start of “Dawson’s Fun Palace,” and for the next three minutes, it’s like listening in on a party. Meanwhile, in the distance, Cromwell provide a musical accompaniment. Later, when the door opens on Dawson’s Fun Palace, the listener hears the birdsong as a new day days. Cromwell have enjoyed quite a party at Dawson’s Fun Palace.

Cromwell’s and their debut album At The Gallop was guaranteed to get any party started. It was an irresistible fusion of musical genres and influences. Everything from swaggering, strutting, good time, seventies rock ’n’ roll rubs shoulders with blues, country rock and beautiful ballads on At The Gallop. Similarly, Cromwell were inspired by everyone from early seventies Rolling Stones’ albums to Thin Lizzy Mott The Hoople, The Faces and the Flamin’ Groovies’ 1971 album Flamingo. This potpourri of musical genres and influences should’ve transformed the fortunes of Cromwell.

After all, Cromwell were one of the top bands in the Irish music scene. They looked as if they were about to follow in the footsteps of two of Ireland’s most successful recent musical exports, Taste and Thin Lizzy.

Alas, despite the undoubted quality of the music on At The Gallop wasn’t a huge commercial success. There was some interest locally, in Dublin and in other parts of Ireland. This must have been a bitter blow. Especially given Cromwell had spent years touring Ireland, playing towns, cites and even villages. They took rock music to places it had never been before. For the three members of Cromwell, it must have been a huge disappointment. They had spent years working towards releasing their debut album.

What Cromwell were aware of, was that the market for rock music wasn’t as strong as in Britain. Rock music was still frowned upon by the establishment in Ireland, which didn’t even have a fledgling music industry. It would be some time before the Irish music industry took shape. However, in 1975, things were very different in Britain. Maybe Cromwell’s debut album At The Gallop, Cromwell would attract the interest of major labels based in London?

At The Gallop could’ve and should’ve acted as Cromwell’s calling card, and opened the doors to major labels in London. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. None of major labels based in London came calling.  

Cromwell only released one further single, First Day. It was released later in 1975 and proved to be Cromwell’s swan-song. They neither released another single, nor album. The Cromwell story was all but over, and before long, the band called time on their career. For Cromwell, the dream was over.

Since then, a new generation of record buyers have discovered At The Gallop. It’s a musical hidden gem that’s a reminder of one Ireland’s great lost groups, Cromwell. Nowadays, their one and only album At The Gallop is regarded as a cult classic. However, it’s also an extremely rare album. Original copies change hands for upwards of €400. This meant for far too long, At The Gallop was beyond the budget of most record buyers. That changed recently, when Got Kinda Lost, an imprint of Guerssen Records reissued Cromwell’s long-long lost cult classic At The Gallop. It’s a welcome reminder of one of the most underrated and talented Irish bands of the early seventies, Cromwell who were the heir apparent to Thin Lizzy. 

CROMWELL-AT THE GALLOP

r-9641363-1484070083-9566-jpeg

r-5052961-1433000348-5690-jpeg

r-5052940-1433000634-1311-jpeg

r-5052936-1433000499-8541-jpeg

r-5052925-1433000900-6188-jpeg

r-5052925-1433000894-7817-jpeg

KLAUS DINGER AND JAPANDORF-JAPANDORF.

KLAUS DINGER AND JAPANDORF-JAPANDORF.

By 2007, sixty-one year old Klaus Dinger was a veteran of German music. He had been a member of three of the most important, influential and innovative German groups of the past forty years, Kraftwerk, Neu! and La Düsseldorf. Despite enjoying such a long and successful career, Klaus Dinger hadn’t lost his appetite for making music. 

That was why in the summer in 2007, Klaus Dinger found himself in the Zeeland Studio. He watched on as all the equipment from his Lilienthal Studio was moved into Zeeland Studio. This was in preparation for the recording of a new album with Japandorf.

Despite being a veteran of more recording sessions than he cared to remember, there was still an  air of excitement and anticipation as preparation for the recording session got underway. This could, after all, be the album that transformed the fortunes of Klaus Dinger and Japandorf.

They had been collaborating since 1998. Since then, they had recorded two albums. Despite his best efforts, Klaus Dinger couldn’t interest a record company in either of the albums he had recorded with Japandorf. This was hugely frustrating for a man who had been a member of three of the most important groups in German music. Especially since he hadn’t released an studio album for nine years.

The last new studio album that Klaus Dinger had released was Year Of The Tiger, the fourth album from La! Neu? It was released in 1998, and proved to be the last studio album that La! Neu? released. Meanwhile, Klaus Dinger was locked in a lengthy and expensive legal battle.

That had been the case since 1997. Right through to 2004, Klaus Dinger was locked in a legal despute with Warner/East West. At stake were the mechanical rights to the three albums Klaus Dinger had recorded with La Düsseldorf. Eventually, after seven long years, Klaus Dinger triumphed. This was a weight off his mind.

A year later in 2005, Klaus Dinger was still working on Viva Rimix 2010 and Japandorf at his Lilienthal Studio. Both were time consuming projects. They took their toll on Klaus Dinger’s finances. Things got so bad, that he had give up half of his Lilienthal Studio. This helped his cash-flow. 

So should a CD reissue of La Düsseldorf’s album Mon Amour during 2006. When Klaus Dinger failed to agree to terms of the contract regarding the bonus track, Warner stopped distribution of the album. For Klaus Dinger this was a huge blow. A successful reissue of Mon Amour would’ve given Klaus Dinger a welcome injection of cash. Especially since Klaus Dinger and Japandorf were preparing to record their third album during 2007.

By summer of 2007, Klaus Dinger and Japandorf were about to begin work on their third album at Zeeland Studio. Klaus Dinger’s recording equipment had been moved lock, stock and barrel from Lilienthal Studio to Zeeland Studio. Now Klaus Dinger who was about to produce Japandorf, was joined by the four members of Japandorf. They were no strangers to a recording studio, and had previously recorded two album albums with Klaus Dinger.Soon, two would become three.

At Zeeland Studio, Klaus Dinger was joined by Japandorf. Their lineup featured drummer Kazuyuki Onouchi, keyboardist Satoshi Okamoto and vocalists Masaki Nakao and Miki Yui. Klaus Dinger switched between bass and guitar. Together, Klaus Dinger and Japandorf planned to record a trio of songs that they had been working on over the past eight years. This included Immermannstraße, Udon and Spacemelo. During the Zeeland Studio sessions in the summer of 2007, these three songs were recorded by Klaus Dinger and Japandorf. The recording of Japandorf was well underway.

Over the next few months work continued on Japandorf at Dingerland-Lilienthal Studio. The sessions continued right into the spring of 2008. From February to March, Klaus Dinger and Japandorf recorded Cha Cha 2008, Sketch No. 4 and Sketch No. 1_b. The final song that Klaus Dinger wrote and recorded was Karnival. It also features Klasu Dinger’s final vocal. Little did anyone realise that this was the last song that Klaus Dinger would write or record. He sounded in good health as he laid down his vocal on Karnival.

Gradually, Japandorf was beginning to take shape. Klaus Dinger and Japandorf had already recorded seven tracks. While this wasn’t quite enough for an album, a few more tracks and Japandorf would be complete and ready for release.

Sadly, Klaus Dinger never lived long enough to see Japandorf released. Tragedy struck on Good Friday, 2008. Klaus Dinger passed away on the 21st of March 2008. He was just three days short of his sixty-second birthday. German music had lost one of its most talented sons.

Suddenly, completing or releasing an album paled into insignificance. One of the members of Japandorf, Miki Yui, had lost her partner of eight years. This added to what was a tragic set of circumstances.

The death of Klaus Dinger looked like the end of the Japandorf story. That wasn’t the case. In 2009, Klaus Dinger’s recording equipment was moved from Zeeland Studio to Lilienthal Studios. After that, Miki Yui and Kazuyuki Onouchi began work on finalising Japandorf’s last three albums. They co-produced the three albums. This included Japandorf.

Five further tracks were added to the seven that Klaus Dinger and Japandorf had already recorded. Eventually, Japandorf was completed by 2011. Miki Yui and Kazuyuki Onouchi both received a co-producer’s credit. Kazuyuki Onouchi also mixed Japandorf, which was now ready to release.

Originally, Klaus Dinger had planned to release Japandorf as a La Düsseldorf album. Klaus Dinger envisaged that Japandorf would be the long awaited followup to La Düsseldorf’s third album Individuellos, which had been released in 1980. However, there was a problem. Hans Lampe who had been Klaus Dinger’s partner in  La Düsseldorf, hadn’t played on Japandorf. He was reluctant to allow Japandorf to be released as a La Düsseldorf album. As the release of Japandorf drew closer, Hans decided to block the release. This was another  huge blow.

Eventually, a decision was made to release credit Japandorf to Klaus Dinger and Japandorf. Given this was who had recorded the album between 2007 and 2008, this seemed an equitable solution.

On March 25th 2013, Japandorf was released by Grönland Records. This was a poignant date. Klaus Dinger passed away five years earlier on the 21st of March 2008. Japandorf was the album that he hoped would revive his fortunes. Sadly, he never lived to see the album released. 

When Japandorf was released, most critics were won over by what was a genre-melting album. Japandorf found Klaus Dinger and Japandorf switching between and seamlessly combining musical genres. Elements of avant-garde experimental music, Krautrock, pop, post punk, psychedelia, rock and space rock can be heard on Japandorf. It’s a musical roller coaster, where Klaus Dinger and Japandorf throw a series of curveballs, as they change tack musically. However, Japandorf was also  a very personal album.

Klaus Dinger drew inspiration for Japandorf from Düsseldorf, the city he was born and spent most of his life. Similarly, there’s several references to Japan and Düsseldorf’s Japanese community. This includes Immermannstraß, which was home to many members of Düsseldorf’s Japanese community. However, on Japandorf, Immermannstraß becomes a  glorious fusion of Krautrock and pop. This sets the bar high for the rest of Japandorf.

Immermannstraß gives way to Doumo Arigato, which is the first of two field recording. This one was recorded in a Japanese bookstore on Immermannstraße. It’s followed by Sketch No. 1_b blistering slice of uber rocky music. Effects are deployed as Klaus Dinger aided and abetted by Japandorf roll back the years.

The quality continues on Udon, which was recorded at Zeeland studios in summer 2000. One of Klaus’ close friends Nakao joined the recording sessions. As the tapes rolled and Klaus began playing his guitar, he announced that Nakao would: “now Nakao will tell us how to cook Udon.” That’s what he proceeded to do. Alas, the song lay unfinished until 2007, when Klaus decided to complete Udon. It’s another of highlights of the album. 

Having said that, Kittelbach Symphony is a truly beautiful, elegiac thoughtful and wistful track. There’s also cinematic sound to Kittelbach Symphony, which shows another side to Klaus Dinger and Japandorf.

Very different is Cha Cha 2008. It’s a much more experimental sounding track. Elements of Krautrock, dub and experimental music can be heard during. Later though, the track takes on much more rocky sound that’s not unlike No. 1_b. From there, Klaus explains Ai that the character on the front cover of the album means love. After that, Sketch No.4 is another effects laden fusion of Krautrock, psychedelia and space rock. At the heart of the track’s success, is Klaus’ guitar playing. He unleashes blistering, machine gun riffs during what can only be described as a virtuoso performance during this ten minute epic.

Spacemelo was a rerecording of a song from Miki Yui’s 2001 solo album Magina. Klaus reinvents the track by inverting the melody and a new song, which is also called Spacemelo was born. Klaus plays the melody on his guitar, while a piano accompanies Miki’s tender vocal. Everything falls into place and creates a beautiful, melodic song. 

This Klaus follows up with Karnival, a very different sounding song. It’s about the carnival that happens each February in Düsseldorf. It’s a fusion of post punk and rock with a singalong vocal. The post punk influence is fitting, given the influence Neu! had on the punk and post punk generation. However, there’s also a poignancy to Karnival. It was the final song that Klaus wrote, and the last song to feature his vocal.

Osenbe was recorded at Zeeland, with Klaus and Japandorf sitting round the outdoor fireplace. Klaus strums his acoustic guitar, and with Japandorf accompanying him, sings of Osenbe is a type of rice cracker made in Japan. This gives way to Andreaskirche, which is the second field recording on Japandorf. It features a ecording of the church bells of Andreaskirche where a young Klaus Dinger was a was a member of the choir. It’s a poignant and thoughtful way to end what was Klaus Dinger’s swan-song Japandorf.

It brought to an end a recording career that began in 1971, when Klaus Dinger played on Kraftwerk’s eponymous debut album. This was the start of a long and illustrious musical career. Klaus Dinger cofounded Neu! with Michael Rother in 1971, before  and then confounding La Düsseldorf and later La! Neu? Over a thirty-seven year recording career, Klaus Dinger established a reputation as a musical pioneer, who created groundbreaking music. That was the case right up until Klaus Dinger and Japandorf released their swan-song Japandorf.

Five years after his untimely death, Japandorf’s genre-melting sound was hailed as a fitting swan-song to Klaus Dinger’s long and illustrious career. Japandorf was a captivating album where Klaus Dinger and Japandorf through a series of curveballs. It was a case of expect the unexpected as Klaus Dinger and Japandorf switched between and seamlessly fused musical genres. Everything from Krautrock, pop, post punk and rock rubs shoulders with avant-garde, experimental music, psychedelia and space rock. Japandorf was a potent and heady musical brew that one can’t help but drink deep. It was also an album to cherish and a fitting swan-song from one of the pioneers of German music, Klaus Dinger. 

KLAUS DINGER AND JAPANDORF-JAPANDORF.

r-4536273-1367692580-6919-jpeg

r-4536273-1367692587-1248-jpeg

r-4536273-1442639513-6288-jpeg

REQUIEM-FOR A WORLD AFTER.

REQUIEM-FOR A WORLD AFTER.

For six months, George A. Speckert and Massimo Grandi laboured long and hard in Sparky Studios to record Requiem’s debut album For A World After. Eventually, the two men had completed what was an ambitious and innovative concept album, For A World After.  It had been written by George A. Speckert and “tells the story of world annihilation through nuclear war.”  Requiem had recorded a powerful and poignant musical statement.

Now that For A World After was completed, 1,000 copies were pressed. They were released on David Cassidy’s Daviton label later in the autumn of 1981. Sadly, when For A World After was released as a private press, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. For George A. Speckert and Massimo Grandi all their hard work, dedication and perseverance had been for nothing. It was a huge disappointment. 

It was only much later that For A World After that For A World After began to find the audience it so richly deserved. However, there was only one problem. Copies of For A World After were almost impossible to find. When they became available, the price was beyond most record buyers. What was needed was a reissue of For A World After.

That’s what happened recently, when Requiem’s debut album For A World After was reissued by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records. It’s a welcome reissue of a genre-melting, cult classic. Requiem fused elements of ambient, Berlin School, Krautrock and psychedelia on For A World After. In doing so, Requiem reference  Berlin School pioneers, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Conrad Schnitzler, Dieter Moebius, Popol Vuh and Michael Hoenig. It’s a captivating album, and very different from the music that originally dreamt of making.

When George A. Speckert was seven, he told his parents that he want to play the viola in an orchestra. This came as something of a surprise as George had never played the viola. Despite this, the Speckerts encouraged and helped their son to follow his dream.

So did George’s next door neighbour, a classically trained musician. He took George along to performances by the philharmonic orchestra. By then, George was receiving music lessons, and night after night, week after week, was practising on his viola. The weeks became months, and the months became years. Still, George continued to dedicate himself to music. He was determined that one day, he was going to make a career out of music.

By the time that George headed to university in Evansville, Indiana, he was already a classically trained musician. University was the next part of George’s musical education. It was also where love blossomed for George A. Speckert.

During his time at university, George fell in love with his German pen friend. Once he had graduated, George headed to Germany to be with his future wife. However, this meant sacrificing his dream of playing viola in an orchestra.

Instead, George got a job as a music teacher in the village of Bünde, in North Rhine-Westphalia. The only problem was there was no call for a viola teacher, so George found himself teaching piano and the basics of composition. Soon, George was climbing the career ladder, when he became music director in the nearby city of Löhne. 

Despite being a more prestigious post, George became frustrated at the amount of paperwork he having to do on a daily basis. This was stifling his creativity. After a while, George decided to rethink his plans.

He decided to spend half his time working as a school administrator, and the other half writing, recording and producing music. This was the best of both worlds for George A. Speckert. 

Before long, he was a familiar face within the local music scene. George wrote songs and worked as a producer. Sometimes, he would work with local school bands. This could range from writing a song, producing their music or even programming a synth. Not that synths were commonplace. They were beyond the budget of most bands.

The first time that George A. Speckert came across a synth was when he was producing a children’s record. George had been booked to produce We Are The Wives Of The Wanted.  He also ended up accompanying the three girls on synth. This was a first, and was something of a eureka moment for George A. Speckert.

Suddenly, George A. Speckert wanted to know more about synths and the nascent musical technology. He also realised what was possible with synths and the new musical technology. Soon George realised, that the nascent technology would allow him to record an album. That was still something of a pipe dream.

Before George could even contemplate recording an album, he had to buy the necessary equipment and learn how to use it. Fortunately, he knew of a shop in Herford, in North Rhine-Westphaliathat that sold synths.  It was owned by another American expat, David Cassidy. He also owned a recording studio and record label. Both would play an important part in the story of Requiem’s debut album For A World After. That was still to come.

On his first visit to David Cassidy’s music shop, he helped George choose a suitable synth. Little did George realise that this was the start of a musical voyage of discovery. It was also the start of an expensive six month period for George. Over the next six months, George assembled an array of synths, plus a keyboard, sequencer, drum machine, organ and Fender Rhodes. This proved expensive, and used up much of George’s disposable income. The rest he kept in reserve for recording his debut album.

Having bought the equipment, George set about discovering how to use it. Soon, he was immersing himself into the world of synths, sequencers and samplers. For a newcomer to the nascent technology, it was a steep learning curve. Soon, though, George began to realise the opportunities that the new technology offered. This would soon include recording Requiem’s debut album For A World After. 

Inspiration for For A World After came about after George spoke to a friend who worked for the German government and the possibility of an atomic bomb being dropped on Germany. They were worried about the possibility of a third world war, between the East and West. It was after all, the height of the Cold War. George listened as his friend explained that if an atomic bomb was dropped, there would be no survivors. This was a horrifying thought, but one that inspired George to write a concept album, For A World After. 

During For A World After George: “tells the story of a world annihilation through nuclear war.” This begins with the two aggressors unable to set aside their cultural or ideological differences. Soon, they’re unleashing an arsenal of bombs and rockets. Before long, the world is totally obliterated. However, like a phoenix from the ashes, the world and civilisation rebuilds. After the Destruction and Devastation, the world gradually rebuilds. This George planned on doing over six cinematic soundscapes lasting forty minutes. 

To make provide the soundtrack to this third world war, George planned to deploy his newly assembled arsenal of instruments. This included a Korg MS 20 mono-synth; Korg SQ-10 sequencer; Casioton CT 201 electronic keyboard; Crumar DS-2 mono-synth with a polyphonic string section; Jupiter 4 polyphonic synth; Crumar Multiman orchestrator and a Yamaha CS5 mono-synth. To this, George added a drum machine, organ and Fender Rhodes. They had all see better days, but would be utilised by George during the recording of For A World After. He would play each of these instruments.

The only other musician who featured on For A World After, was Italian guitarist Massimo Grandi. He had been introduced by David Cassidy, who owned the music shop George bought all his equipment from.  Massimo Grandi’s guitar would prove to the finishing touch to For A World After.

With Massimo Grandi onboard, work could begin on Requiem’s debut album, For A World After. They spent six months recording when the album at Sparky Studios. Massimo laid down the guitar parts, while George took charge of keyboards, synths and the rest of the nascent technology. David Cassidy engineered the sessions and fulfilled the role of producer. Gradually, the album began to take shape. Eventually,  six tracks lasting just over forty minutes were completed. All that reminded was for David to master For A World After.

After this, 1,000 copies of For A World After were pressed. It was released as a private press on David Cassidy’s Daviton label. George managed to secure a distribution deal for Requiem’s debut album. Alas, For A World After wasn’t huge a commercial success. That is despite the music being ambitious, cerebral, challenging and innovative.  For the two members of Requiem, it was a huge disappointment. They had dedicated six months of their lives to For A World After. It would be much later when For A World After eventually found the audience that it deserved. 

Opening For A World After, is Destruction.  It portrays the world on the brink of destruction. From the distance a slow and moody arrangement unfolds. A code being tapped out on a synth, before  rockets soars above the arrangement. There’s a sense of foreboding as synths replicate a siren. It seems that the first bomb has dropped, and what was once a nightmare scenario has become reality.  Ethereal synths are joined by a crystalline guitar solo and replicate the post nuclear landscape. Still, the sirens sound, despite there being very little, if any chance of anyone surviving the resultant nuclear winter. Drumbeats signal its onslaught, while rockets and bombs seem determined to obliterate humanity. Synths add a dramatic and urgent backdrop, while others replicate sirens, rockets and bombs. Surely, nobody can escape from this onslaught as third world war plays out? It’s a realistic, poignant  and cinematic portrayal and reminder of the Cold War era and what was the nightmare scenario.

Somehow, a few survive the onslaught of bombs and rockets.  They’re left to face the Devastation. People have been injured, mutilated or poisoned by the bombs that have been dropped. Towns and cities are reduced to rubble. Requiem set about creating a dark, dramatic and bubbling soundscape. Listening to it unfold, it’s sounds as if the listener is looking down from a helicopter on the trail of Devastation. As the listener is taken on a journey, slow, buzzing synths and the occasional guitar create a dark, despondent backdrop. Sometimes, it sounds as if the sound of bird song can be heard. They seem to be one of the survivors. Later, there’s a rueful, wistful sound as Requiem successfully create a post nuclear soundscape. There’s a sense of despondency and hopelessness  as synths glide and bubble and the drama builds. So does the bleakness that’s replicated by a bass synth. By then, the full scale of the Devastation becomes apparent to the survivors.

It’s only having surveyed the Devastation, that there’s a Realisation by the survivors that civilisation has destroyed itself. Suddenly, the survivors are left confused and despairing at the cruelty, damage and Devastation that mankind has caused. A bass synth is played quickly as washes of futuristic music assail the listener. They’re akin to the thoughts that assail the listener as that they’re struggle to make sense of what they’ve discovered. Fittingly, the arrangement becomes dark, ominous and takes on a sci-fi sound. This suits the mood of the survivors. Synths are to the fore, and glide darkly and ominously along. Meanwhile, an effects laden Michael Rother inspired guitar is addd. Still, the bass synth dominates the arrangement, while the guitar and glacial, ethereal synths play a supporting role. As the sound draws to a close, the darkness seems to dissipate. Maybe there’s hope for the future?

Relevation finds the survivors analysing what’s happened in an attempt to make sense of it. Many years have passed since that fateful day. Everyone has accepted what happened and are determined to learn from their past mistakes. They’re determined that this will never happen again. Meanwhile, the soundscape begin to unfold, and a pulsating bass synths joins with gusts of wind and  sci-fi sounds. A searing, rocky guitar joins elegiac, ethereal synths. Some of the sounds used, are almost reminiscent of Destruction.  However, there’s a sense of hope, hope for the future as the guitar plays. One can’t help but wonder whether the gusts of winds signal a rebirth, and a new beginning for the survivors? Especially as the drama builds. Soon, the pulsating bass slows down and the guitar hangs in air. It’s as if it’s signalling a new beginning.

It does. Construction marks a new beginning as the People Of The World design and build new buildings. This is part of rebuilding of the post war infrastructure. Straight away, there’s a  Krautrock influence in the drums. Meanwhile, notes and chords are picked out on the banks of synths. Sometimes, stabs of synths add to what’s a hopeful and upbeat backdrop. It’s very different to what’s g before. Synth strings are used to sweeten the soundscape. Briefly, the synths used are reminiscent of those used during Kraftwerk’s classic period. Augmenting the banks of synths is Massimo’s guitar. He unleashes  a  blistering guitar solo which cuts across the arrangement.  It’s the perfect foil for George’s synths, during the joyous backdrop to this new beginning.

Closing For A World After is Creation. Having constructed the material things, the People Of The World decide to reconstruct their thoughts and spirits. They decide that tolerance, freedom of thought, communication and understanding are crucial to this work of this “Brotherhood” where everyone is happy. Synths are to the fore, with waves of synths pulsating, ebbing and flowing. Meanwhile, the lead synth piays the leading role in  what could be this utopian land’s anthem. There’s a sense of hope and poignancy  as the music unfolds. It marks the start of a new era for the People Of The World.

After six soundscapes lasting just over forty minutes, Requiem’s poignant concept album For A New World is over. It: “tells the story of world annihilation through nuclear war,” the aftermath, and how the People of the World having learnt from their mistakes, and rebuilt a new and better world. Out of despair, despondency and Devastation, came a new beginning and hope for the future. However, when Requiem released For A New World in 1981, it was poignant and thought provoking album.

Back in 1981, it was still the Cold War era, and a generation on both sides of the Iron Curtain lived in fear of nuclear war. For A New World is a reminder of these days, and what was the worst case scenario. Requiem replicate the Destruction, Devastation and the Realisation that mankind brought about the destruction of the civilisation. Then Requiem replicate the Construction and Creation of the post war landscape. To do this, George A. Speckert deployed banks of synths and the latest in musical technology. Adding the finishing touch was Massimo Grandi’s guitar. Together, they were responsible for what is nowadays regarded as a lost classic.

When For A New World was released, the 1,000 copies failed to sell. That was despite being ambitious, cerebral, challenging concept album. For A New World was  genre-melting, cult classic that stood head and shoulder above the competition. Requiem fused elements of ambient and avant-garde with Berlin School, electronica, experimental, Krautrock, psychedelia and rock. Similarly, Requiem drew inspiration from Berlin School pioneers, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Conrad Schnitzler, Dieter Moebius, Popol Vuh and Michael Hoenig. The result was a captivating and cinematic album, that was a heady and potent brew of musical genres and influences It should’ve introduced Requiem’s music to a much wider audience.

Sadly, it was a familiar story. Just like many private presses released on small labels, the Daviton label lacked the financial muscle to promote For A World After. However, George A. Speckert wasn’t going to give up without a fight. He negotiated a distribution deal which helped sales. Still, though, Requiem failed to sell the 1,000 copies of For A World After. Record buyers in 1981 missed out on hearing an ambitious, captivating, cerebral and challenging album of innovative and cinematic soundscapes. 

It was only much later that Requiem’s For A World After began to attract the attention of record buyers. Soon, the album had attracted a cult following. Alas, by then, copies of For A World After beyond the budget of most record buyers. Copies of For A World After were changing hands for upwards of $500. This meant that a new generation of record buyers were unable to discover this cinematic and thought provoking concept album For A World After. Fortunately, this was recently rectified, when Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records reissued Requiem’s debut album For A World After. 

For anyone interested in Krautrock or the Berlin School of Electronic music, then Requiem’s debut album For A World is a cerebral cult classic. For A World is also a cinematic hidden gem that’s a powerful reminder of the dark days of Cold War era, when Destruction and Devastation loomed large in the lives of people on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

REQUIEM-FOR A WORLD AFTER.

r-2656809-1307687100-jpeg

r-2656809-1307687111-jpeg

r-2656809-1362676276-1211-jpeg

THE BEST VINYL REISSUES OF 2016-PART 1.

THE BEST VINYL REISSUES OF 2016-PART 1.

Black Moon Circle-Sea Of Clouds.

April 2016 saw Norwegian space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle make their debut at the prestigious  Roadburn Festival. This was prefect timing. That day, Black Moon Circle released their fourth album Sea Of Clouds via Crispin Glover Records. It was a much anticipated release, that also featured bassist Øyvin Engman vocal debut. The result was a album of melodic and anthemic songs. They were also hard rocking.   

This is what we’ve come to expect from Black Moon Circle. They revisit their hard rocking brand of psychedelic, space rock on Sea Of Clouds. It’s a fusion of heavy metal, Krautrock, avant-garde, free jazz and post rock. Black Moon Circle have also drawn inspiration from everyone from Black Sabbath, Can and Deep Purple to Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind and Motorpsycho. These disparate musical genres and influences were fused to create Sea Of Clouds.  

It features music that’s dramatic, futuristic, moody, otherworldly and gloriously rocky. Sometimes, Sea Of Clouds features Black Moon Circle at their hard rocking best. Sea Of Clouds is also “intense.” There’s always been an intensity to Black Moon Circle’s music. It’s as much a part of Black Moon Circle’s music as the layers of fuzzy guitars, spacey, lysergic synths and futuristic sci-fi sounds. That’s the case throughout Sea Of Clouds, which shows another side to space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle. It’s their most accessible album and is a glorious assault on the sensory system from  genre-melting innovators Black Moon Circle,

r-9647794-1484165682-1120-jpeg

Black Moon Circle-The Studio Jams Volume 2.

In mid-November,  Black Moon Circle released The Studio Jams Volume 2 via Crispin Glover Records. It’s the second in a  trilogy of Studio Jams and Black Moon Circle’s second album of 2016. Just like the Trondheim based psychedelic space rock pioneers’ previous albums, they fuse musical genres as they push musical boundaries.  

The basis for Black Moon Circle’s music is the classic rock of the sixties and seventies, psychedelia and space rock. To this, Black Moon Circle add elements of avant-garde, electronica, experimental,  free jazz, Krautrock and post rock. Seamlessly, these disparate musical genres and influences merge into something new and innovative. It’s cinematic, dramatic, futuristic, moody, rocky and as Øyvin Engan says, “intense.” This intensity is deliberate. It comes courtesy of the four members of Black Moon Circle. They deploy layers of fuzzy guitars, spacey, lysergic, futuristic, sci-fi synths and a mesmeric rhythm section. They create two “lengthy jams” which features  “heavy riffage and the extensive use of effects.” They’re used extensively and put to good use by Black Moon Circle. 

They’re one of the most exciting, talented and innovative Norwegian groups. They remind me of their fellow countrymen, Motorpsycho and Moster! However, Elements of Can, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind, early Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing shine through on The Studio Jams Volume 2 . This hard rocking opus, finds the Trondheim-based psychedelic space rockers Black Moon Circle, reaching new heights on The Studio Jams Volume 2.

r-9406017-1480003063-8411-jpeg

Bram Stoker-Heavy Rock Spectacular,

Often, Record Store Day sees the release of several cult albums. 2016 was no different. Bram Stoker’s 1972 album Heavy Rock Spectacular was reissued by Talking Elephant Records on coloured vinyl. This was a welcome reissue and a reminder of a band who should’ve reached greater heights.

Bram Stoker were formed organist Tony Bronsdon in Bournemouth, in 1969. Three years later, Bram Stoker were enjoying a modest amount of success and about to release their debut album Heavy Rock Spectacular in 1972. It’s a carefully crafted epic where four virtuoso musicians combine progressive rock with elements of jazz and classical music. The result was Bram Stoker’s debut album Heavy Rock Spectacular, which sounded not unlike The Nice.

Alas, when Heavy Rock Spectacular was released by Windmill Records, it failed to find an audience. Later, Bram Stoker’s carefully crafted progressive rock epic began to acquire a cult following. They appreciated Heavy Rock Spectacular, which nowadays, is regarded as one of the lost classics from the progressive rock era.

r-1779642-1421004910-6281-jpeg

Deep Purple-Deep Purple In Rock.

Between 1970 and 1975 Deep Purple enjoyed worldwide success. Their albums sold by the million and Deep Purple became one of “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal.” However, the album that started this run of commercial success was Deep Purple In Rock.  It was  reissued as a limited edition of 1,000 on marbled vinyl by Harvest as part of their Vinyl Collector series. Deep Purple In Rock was a game-changer for Deep Purple.   

When Deep Purple In Rock in 1970 was released in 1970, it proved to be Deep Purple’s breakthrough album. This was the start of five years of commercial success and critical acclaim. During that period, Deep Purple challenged Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath for supremacy as most successful and hard rocking band. There was also another competition going on. This was to see which of the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal” was the hardest living band. It was a close fought and hard won contest.  

Over the years, Deep Purple’s penchant for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle was legendary. It came with the territory. This was after all,  rock ’n’ roll during the early seventies. Chaos and carnage was omnipresent and expected as Deep Purple toured the world. This never seemed to affect Deep Purple’s music. Proof if any is needed, is Deep Purple In Rock. It features Deep Purple at their hard rocking best.

r-8668461-1468000018-5295-jpeg

Dexy’s Midnight Runners-Searching For The Young Soul Rebels.

Last year, retailers everywhere seemed to be jumping on the vinyl bandwagon. Even supermarkets like Tesco were selling vinyl. However, being experts at marketing, the vinyl they sold had a USP. This included Dexy’s Midnight Runners-Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, which was a limited editions pressed on green vinyl. It marked the debut of Dexy’s Midnight Runners who were led by Kevin Rowland.

He founded Dexy’s Midnight Runners in Birmingham 1978. Within two years, they were signed to EMI and preparing to release their debut album Searching For The Young Soul Rebels in July 1980. It was a fusion of blue eyed soul, Celtic soul, folk, new wave and pop. The  influence of punk and Northern Soul could also be heard on Searching For The Young Soul Rebels.  However, before its release, Geno was released as a single and topped the UK charts. For Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ this was a game-changer. 

When Searching For The Young Soul Rebels was released, most of the reviews were positive. There was the odd dissenting voice. Despite this, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, reached number six in the UK and was certified silver. Since then, many regard Searching For The Young Soul Rebels as Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ finest hour. No wonder. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels is regarded as one of the greatest debut albums of the eighties, and was a time capsule of Britain in 1980.

r-8613567-1465147704-2455-jpeg

Frightened Rabbit-Painting Of A Panic Attack.

Three years after they released their previous album Pedestrian Verse, Glasgow based Frightened Rabbit returned recently with their fifth album Painting Of A Panic Attack. It was released on Atlantic Records, is a mixture of anthems and ballads. Mostly, though, anthems are to the fore on Painting Of A Panic Attack. 

Just like the ballads on Painting Of A Panic Attack, they feature lyrics that are variously cerebral, cinematic, dark, insightful and wistful. Lead singer and songwriter Chris Hutchison, brings these lyrics to life. He’s a storyteller who breathes emotion and meaning into the lyrics. That’s the case whether it’s on the ballads or anthems. There’s hooks aplenty on the anthems, which will be favourites when Frightened Rabbit play live. 

They’ve been doing a lot of that recently. That will continue to be the case. Frightened Rabbit are also well on their way to becoming one of the most successful current Scottish bands. They’ve also released one of the best albums of their thirteen year career. That album is Painting Of A Panic Attack, which is an assured and accomplished album from Frightened Rabbit who are equally comfortable delivering ballads as they are hook-laden anthems.

r-8362290-1485114691-5799-jpeg

Get Me Home For Tea-Rare Psychedelic Rock From The UK.  

Although a record amount of albums were released for Record Store Day 2016, there were some albums that eluded many record collectors. This included Get Me Home For Tea-Rare Psychedelic Rock From The UK,  which was released as a limited edition of 2,000 by ORG Music.

Get Me Home For Tea: Rare Psychedelic Rock From The U.K. features twelve psychedelic and freakbeat tracks from the vaults of Parlophone. This includes Tomorrow, The Moles, The Idle Race, The Artwoods, The Brain, The Penny Peeps and The Game. These artists are just some of the artists that feature on Get Me Home For Tea-Rare Psychedelic Rock From The UK. It was a reminder of Britain’s psychedelic past.

For fans of psychedelia and freakbeat, Get Me Home For Tea: Rare Psychedelic Rock From The U.K.  was a must have release. Sadly, copies were and still are, like hen’s teeth. That was no surprise. Get Me Home For Tea: Rare Psychedelic Rock From The UK was a carefully curated,  quality compilation that features twelve hidden gems from the vaults of Parlophone.

r-8396195-1460812249-1011-jpeg

Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson. 

In 2015, Ace Records Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson as part of their Songwriters’ series. By the end of the year, it was their biggest selling release of 2015. This was something to celebrate. This was something to celebrate.

So to celebrate the success of Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson, Ace Records decided to release a vinyl edition of the compilation. This however, was no ordinary vinyl edition. Instead, the vinyl edition of Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson was pressed on 180 gram snowy white vinyl, and features a dozen of the compilation’s highlights. This includes Darian Sahanaja, Bobby Vee, Betty Everett, Carmen Mcrae, Nick Decaro and Kirsty MacColl.  They all pay homage to Brian Wilson, one of music’s greats.

That visionary is Brian Wilson, who has influenced two generations of musicians, including the artists who pay tribute to him on Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson. Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson was a fitting addition to Ace Recods’ Songwriters’ series, and is a fitting and poignant reminder of Brian Wilson at the peak of his powers. 

r-8997890-1472999516-2925-jpeg

Jethro Tull-Aqualung.

In 1971, Jethro Tull released what would become their first classic album, Aqualung. It was Jethro Tull’s most ambitious and cerebral album, Aqualung. It was a concept album that examined ”the distinction between religion and God.” This seemed an unlikely subject for an album, even a seventies concept album. 

It found Jethro Tull combined progressive rock with folk, blues, hard rock and even psychedelia. The music features Jethro Tull at their most cerebral, and became the band’s most successful album. In America alone, Aqualung sold three million copies, and seven million copies worldwide. Suddenly, Jethro Tull were one of the biggest selling bands in the world.

The success of Aqualung was a game-changer for Jethro Tull. They were now one of the biggest bands opt the seventies. That’s where they remained for much of seventies. For a while, it seemed that everything Jethro Tull touched to silver, gold or platinum. However, Aqualung was one of Jethro Tull’s finest hours, and set the bar high for future albums

r-708318-1153567178-jpeg

Jethro Tull-Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die.

For Record Store Day 2016, Rhino released Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die. It was originally released in 1976, and was another concept album where Jethro Tull told the story of an ageing rock star, who found fame when musical tastes changed. This was prophetic.

By the time Jethro Tull released Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die, they were one of the most successful progressive rock bands. However, music was changing, with the birth of punk. This impacted on sales of the Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die, and there were no gold, silver or platinum discs. Since then, Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die is regarded as a hidden gem in Jethro Tull’s back-catalogue. It’s also one of the most underrated albums in Jethro Tull’s illustrious back-catalogue.

On Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die Jethro Tull combined  folk, jazz and classical with progressive rock. The result was a cohesive, cerebral concept album that deserved to find a wider audience. Alas, it wasn’t to be. As a result, Jethro Tull never released another concept album. That was a great shame, as they were past masters of the concept album. A reminder of that is Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die. a hidden gem in Jethro Tull’s back-catalogue.

r-1873412-1396034382-8908-jpeg

THE BEST VINYL REISSUES OF 2016-PART 2.

THE BEST VINYL REISSUES OF 2016-PART 3.

John Marty-Solid Air.

During his long and illustrious career, John Martyn released two classic albums for Island Records, including Solid Air in 1973. It was reissued twice during 2016. In May, Island Records reissued Solid Air as part of their Half-Speed Mastering series. Then Universal-Island Records Ltd supplied HMV 1,000 copies of Solid Air on green vinyl for their Vinyl Week initiative. This offered another opportunity to discover Solid Air.

When John Martyn released Solid Air in 1973, it was hailed a an almost flawless album and instant classic. He sets the bar high on the album opener Solid Air, a poignant, beautiful and deeply moving song he hd written about written about his friend Nick Drake, who had recently passed away. This set the bar high. John Martyn maintains his high standard on  Over the Hill, John’s cover of Skip Spence’s Don’t Want To Know, Go Down Easy, Dreams By The Sea and Man In The Station. They’re are among the highlights of Solid Air where John Martyn switches between folk, blues and rock..

The result is captivating and near flawless album where one is transfixed, enthralled by its beauty and subtlety. Solid Air is akin to a magical musical journey with John Martyn, who came of age on Solid Air, which is a seminal album. Four years later, he released his second classic album One World. However, Solid Air, which is a timeless classic will always be remembered as John Martyn’s finest hour.

r-8664390-1472419621-8521-jpeg

King Creosote-Astronaut Meets Appleman.

During his twenty-one year carer, King Creosote has been a one man music making machine. Despite that, each new album from Fife based singer-songwriter eagerly awaited. Especially an album as eclectic as Astronaut Meets Appleman. 

It’s one of the most eclectic albums of King Creosote’s long and illustrious career. They combine elements of folk, indie rock, perfect pop and psychedelia on Astronaut Meets Appleman. It features balladry, paeans, rockers and hook-laden anthems. King Creosote are equally happy delivering ballads, as they’re heading into anthem territory. That’s no surprise. Kenny Anderson’s worldweary voice is perfect for the ballads on Astronaut Meets Appleman. 

The result is an album that’s a fitting followup to From Scotland To Love, which was King Creosote’s previous release on Domino Records. It’s a welcome addition to King Creosote’s burgeoning back-catalogue. Astronaut Meets Appleman is also a tantalising taste of the inimitable King Creosote, who after twenty-one years and over forty albums, are belatedly receiving the critical acclaim and recognition that their music so richly deserves

r-8987283-1472819728-8904-jpeg

Manic Street Preachers-Everything Must Go.

As part of their Vinyl Week initiative, HMV released Music On Vinyl’s reissue of Manic Street Preachers’ fourth album Everything Must Go. It was released in 1996 and was the Manic Street Preachers’ first album since the disappearance of lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards. Ironically, Everything Must Go became the Manic Street Preachers’ most successful album.

Everything Must Go was released to critical acclaim and sold over two million copies. This was the start of the rise and rise of the Manic Street Preachers. They showcase a new sound on Everything Must. Gone were the introspective and autobiographical lyrics.  The Manic Street Preachers turned their back on the stark, dark, disturbing and minimalist sound of their previous album The Holy Bible.  It was as if the Manic Street Preachers had reinvented themselves in the wake of the disappearance of Richey Edwards.

For Everything Must Go, the lyrics were inspired by history and politics. The music was much more melodic and album which features rock anthems. Even  the instruments deployed were different Strings and synths are to the fore on Everything Must Go, which has a much more commercial and accessible sound. Critics welcome the Manic Street Preachers’ new sound on Everything Must Go. They hailed they album a genre classic. Nowadays, Everything Must Go regarded as one of the best British albums of the nineties, and the album that transformed the Manic Street Preachers fortunes.

r-8667461-1466436684-3414-jpeg

Masterpieces Of Modern Soul.

Last year, Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records, decided that now was the time, to start releasing Masterpieces Of Modern Soul series on vinyl. The first instalment in this series is simply entitled Masterpieces Of Modern Soul and features twelve tracks. This includes Act 1, The Mayberry Movement, Gail Anderson, Nightchill, The Hesitations, Street People and Herman Davis. This as you’ll realise, is a tantalising taste of what’s in-store for soul fans as the Masterpieces Of Modern Soul series.

For anyone whose interested in modern soul, or soul in general, then Masterpieces Of Modern Soul will be the perfect addition to a record collection. It’s a release that oozes quality and sound great.

It features twelve delicious slices of modern soul. This makes Masterpieces Of Modern Soul is a mouthwatering proposition for soul fans. Familiar faces, rub shoulders with minor classics and hidden gems. Similarly, some of the biggest names in soul sit side-by-side with one hit wonders and contenders. However, they all have one thing in common…quality. They’re the perfect introduction to modern soul,  and the Masterpieces Of Modern Soul  series as it joins the vinyl revolution.

r-8048995-1454166851-5040-jpeg

Michael Chapman-Savage Amusement.

For Record Store Day 2016,  Secret Records reissued Michael Chapman’s Savage Amusement. This was fitting as Savage Amusement was released forty years previously in 1976.  It was a stylistic departure for Michael Chapman.  He fused blues, country, folk, folk rock, gospel, rock and soul. Michael Chapman also drew inspiration from Bob Dylan’s 1975 classic album Blood On The Tracks and Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel’s 1975 album The Best Years of Our Lives. Sadly, Savage Amusement never enjoyed the same success as Blood On The Tracks nor The Best Years of Our Lives.

Michael Chapman’s fans were divided by Savage Amusement. Some welcomed the change of sound, and realised that Savage Amusement was a lost classic. Others were shocked at Savage Amusement’s stylistic departure. They took some appeasing when touring Savage Amusement. Since then, Savage Amusement has continued to divide Michael Chapman’s loyal fans. 

For newcomers to Michael Chapman, Savage Amusement is a very accessible album. Although quite different from some of Michael’s previous albums, Savage Amusement oozes quality. From the opening bars of Shuffleboat River Farewell, right through to the closing notes of Devastation Hotel, Savage Amusement is a captivating and oft-overlooked minor classic from  one of British music’s best kept secrets, Michael Chapman.

r-1665240-1237070210-jpeg

Mogwai-Atomic

When filmmaker Mark Cousins decided to make the documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, post rock pioneers Mogwai  were commissioned to write the soundtrack. It was the perfect backdrop to Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, which was a personal and poignant cinematic memoir. However, after the documentary was aired in the summer of 2015, Mogwai decided to rerecord the whole of the Atomic soundtrack. This might have seemed like a strange decision. However, when the rerecorded version of Atomic was released by Rock Action Records in April 2016, Mogwai’s decision to rerecord the album was vindicated.

Atomic was a mesmeric fusion that captivates and compels. The listener is taken on a musical journey, one that veers between dramatic and dreamy, to surreal and trippy, to beautiful, pensive and understated to melancholy and melodic. Other times the music is dramatic, moody and broody. One thing the music never is, is boring. Not at all. Certainly not with Mogwai providing the soundtrack to Atomic. 

Subtleties and surprises are constantly sprung. Mogwai certainly aren’t afraid of changing direction. Using the musical equivalent of a handbrake turn, the Mogwai Young Team perform a volte face. That’s what makes Atomic such a captivating and groundbreaking soundtrack from Glasgow’s famous five…Mogwai.

r-8330957-1472364634-6709-jpeg

Nuggets Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults.

The release of Nuggets Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults was a welcome reminder of Rhino’s much loved Nuggets compilation series. This series began in 1984 when Nuggets,  Volume 1: The Hits was released. Little did anyone know that the Nuggets series would last twenty-five years, and include fifteen LP, five box sets and two CD compilations. Like all good things, the Nuggets series had to come to an end. The final chapter in the story was Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets: 1965–1968, which was released in 2009. Since then, it’s been all quiet on the Nuggets’ front.

With seven years passing since the release of Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets: 1965–1968, it seemed unlikely that there would another instalment in the series. That was until the list of Record Store Day 2016 releases was announced. That’s when eagle-eyed spotted the release of Nuggets Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults, a double album featuring twenty-four tracks from familiar faces and new names alike.

There’s contributions from The Misty Wizards, The Last Exit, Adrian Pride, The Association, The Salt, Kim Fowley, The Tokens and Lee Mallory. That’s not forgetting The Glass Family, The Holy Mackerel and The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Quite simply, Nuggets Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults is a veritable psychedelic feast and a trip down memory lane.

r-8394548-1460776400-3781-jpeg

Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul.

Having founded Pied Piper Productions, Sheldon “Shelley” Haines brought onboard to former Funk Brothers Jack Ashford and Mike Terry. They had both been important members of Motown’s house band and had played on countless hit singles. Despite this, they felt they weren’t receiving the renumeration they deserved. When the pay dispute couldn’t be resolved to their satisfaction Jack Ashford and Mike Terry, left Motown and joined Sheldon “Shelley” Haines Pied Piper Productions.

At Pied Piper Productions, Jack Ashford and Mike Terry worked with Nancy Wilcox, The Cavaliers, The Hesitations, Lorraine Chandler, Freddy Butler, September Jones, Mikki Farrow and Tony Hester, who all feature on Ace Records’ Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. They were among the artists that were discovered, careers that were rejuvenated and stars were born. 

Sheldon “Shelley” Haines’ decision to bring Jack Ashford and Mike Terry to Pied Piper Productions was vindicated. For a few short years, they were a potent and successful partnership. Proof of this is the music on Pied Piper-The Pinnacle Of Northern Soul. It’s a compilation that will appeal to anyone who likes their music soulful.

r-9141718-1475498690-2820-jpeg

Sun Ra-Jazz-In Some Far Place: Roma ’77-Vinyl.

For anyone interested in Sun Ra’s music, Record Store Day 2016 was a veritable musical feast. A trio of Sun Ra albums were released that day. This includes In Some Far Place: Roma ’77 which was released by Strut Records. It’s available in various formats, including two LPs and two CDs. They feature Sun Ra at his groundbreaking best.

When Sun Ra arrived in Rome in 1977, the lineup of his band was very different to the fifties and sixties. Now Sun Ra lead five piece band. Despite their reduced numbers, Sun Ra and his band were still able to unleash a breathtaking performance. That was the case that night in Rome. 

Accompanied by a talented and versatile band, Sun Ra worked his way through an eighteen track set. During that set, they combine Egyptian history, space-age cosmic philosophy and free jazz with avant-garde and space-age jazz. The music was ambitious, challenging, inventive, lysergic, melodic, spacious and full of subtleties, surprises and nuances. It seemed that the original version of a track was merely the starting point, as Sun Ra thew curveballs and headed in unexpected directions. In Some Far Place: Roma ’77 features a captivating performance from Sun Ra who forty years ago, was at his creative zenith.

r-8710889-1470581437-5606-bmp

Sun Ra-Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1.

During a career that spanned six decades, it’s estimated that Sun Ra released around 125 albums. This includes Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1 which was released by Poppydisc for Record Store Day 2016. It was one of three Sun Ra albums released for Record Store Day 2016. 

Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1 is quite different from the other two albums. It’s a studio album that was recorded at Universal Recording, Chicago, on July 12th 1956. Back then, the enigmatic bandleader was leading a multitalented and versatile eleven-piece band. They showcased Sun Ra’s musical philosophy which took shape after a life-changing experience in 1937. Sun Ra claimed he had been transported to Saturn, where he spoke to the Angel Race. They warned him the world was heading for chaos and Sun Ra could make a difference with his music. 

That is what Sun Ra decided to do. His music became a fusion of Egyptian history, space-age cosmic philosophy and free jazz. To this, Sun Ra added post bop on  Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1. This ensured that Sun Ra’s music stayed relevant. That was always the case.  Sun Ra was always one step ahead of other musicians, who musically,  he left trailing in his wake.  An example of this is Jazz By Sun Ra Volume 1, which is album of ambitious, inventive and innovative music from a man who would become a giant of jazz, Sun Ra.

r-517197-1461716325-1646-jpeg

THE BEST VINYL REISSUES OF 2016-PART 3.

THE BEST VINYL REISSUES OF 2016-PART 3.

Sun Ra-Spaceways.

The third of the trio of Sun Ra albums released for Record Store Day 2016 was Spaceways. It was released by Org Music on blue vinyl as a limited edition of 2,500.  Originally, though, Spaceways could be found on disc two of Calling Planet Earth, a three CD box set released in 1998. The five tracks on disc two became Spaceways.

It features recordings of by Sun Ra and His Arkestra from 1966 and 1968. During each performance featured on Spaceways, Sun Ra is accompanied by over twelve members of his multitalented Arkestra. They join Sun Ra as he seamlessly combines Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz.

For Sun Ra, the original version of the five tracks on Spaceways were merely the starting point. What they became, was anyone’s guess? Sun Ra and His Orchestra took the listener on a voyage of discovery, where they were determined to innovate, and reinvent each track. This meant his music headed in the most unexpected directions. Sometimes, it’s a roller coaster ride, and a case of expect the unexpected. After all, all Sun Ra was one of music’s mavericks who was determined to do things his way. The music becomes spacey and sometimes lysergic as Sun Ra and His Arkestra seamlessly combine Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz on Spaceways. It’s a potent and heady brew, that’s a memorable reminder of a musical pioneer, Sun Ra.

r-8396098-1460812072-2645-jpeg

Ted Coleman Band-Taking Care Of Business.

By 1979, Ted Coleman was living in New Jersey, and had founded his own band, the Ted Coleman Band. They had already established a reputation locally, and were regarded as one of the rising stars of what was a thriving and eclectic local music scene. The next step for the Ted Coleman Band was to record their debut album, Taking Care Of Business, which was released by BBE. It was recorded back in 1979.

It featured a talented band who combined funk, jazz, Latin and soul. There’s even the occasional rocky guitar lick thrown in for good measure on Taking Care Of Business. Mostly, though, the music on Taking Care Of Business is funky, jazz-tinged and soulful. It’s also dance-floor friendly. This is in part to the irresistible Latin rhythms and funky rhythm section. They’re part of the multitalented Ted Coleman Band that featured on Taking Care Of Business.

Alas, when Taking Care Of Business was released in 1980, the album never found the audience it deserved. JSR  was a relatively new company, and neither had the resources nor marketing expertise to promote the album. Neither did the Ted Coleman Band. As a result, the album disappeared without trace. Nowadays, this hidden gem of an album Taking Care Of Business has acquired a cult following and is belatedly finding the audience it deserves. It’s a case of better late than never

r-2280914-1274183254-jpeg

Teenage Fanclub-Bandwagaonesque.

During 2016, HMV released Music On Vinyl’s  limited edition of  Teenage Fanclub’s third album Bandwagaonesque as part of its Vinyl Week initiative. Bandwagaonesque was released on pink vinyl twenty-five years after years after its initial release in November 1991.

Critical acclaim accompanied Bandwagonesque’s released. It was the first album to feature Teenage Fanclub’s melodic, hook-laden brand of power pop. With their Byrdsian jangling guitars and tight harmonies, Bandwagonesque stood head shoulders above A Catholic Education and The King. Granted, Teenage Fanclub could still rock out, and enjoyed the odd excursion into grunge, however, Bandwagonesque was Teenage Fanclub’s finest moment…by far. Record sales backed this up.

Bandwagonesque charted on both sides of the Atlantic and introducing the Teenage Fanclub’s music to a much wider and appreciative audience. After this, the Teenage Fanclub embarked upon the most successful period of their career. Their unique fusion of indie rock and melodic, hook-laden power pop proved popular in America, Europe and Australia. Teenage Fanclub were one of the most popular British indie bands of that era, with their music influencing a generation of new bands.  However, the Teenage Fanclub’s finest hour was Bandwagonesque, which nowadays, is quite rightly regarded as a genre classic.

r-8667450-1466246375-7530-jpeg

Teenage Fanclub-Here.

After a six year absence, Glasgow’s very own Kings of jangle pop, Teenage Fanclub returned with their much anticipated tenth album, Here. It was the long awaited followup to 2010s Shadows. Since then, the members of Teenage Fanclub have been spending much of their time working on various side projects. Eventually, the call came, and everyone returned to the mothership, Teenage Fanclub. That has been home to the Bellshill boys since 1989. This homecoming was going to be special.

From the opening bars of I’m In Love, right through to the closing notes of Connected To Life, Teenage Fanclub never put a foot wrong. The songs are anthemic, beautiful, joyous, melodic and sometimes, even have a melancholy quality. Other times, the songs are dreamy, rocky and ruminative. Always, though, the songs on Here are memorable as Teenage Fanclub roll back the years. 

So good is the music on Here, that it’s akin to a return to Teenage Fanclub’s golden years between 1991 and 1997. Back then, Teenage Fanclub could do no wrong. That’s the case on Here, which was released on Teenage Fanclub’s own PeMa label. It’s a welcome return to form, from Teenage Fanclub who are enjoying an Indian Summer in their twenty-seven year career. Here finds Teenage Fanclub combining balladry, perfect pop and jangle pop with rock and even a hint of country. It’s a flawless fusion where Teenage Fanclub back the years on what’s their best album in nearly twenty years, Here.

r-9021790-1473461635-2414-jpeg

The Charlatans-The Limit Of The Marvellous.

Between 1964 and 1969, The Charlatans’ star shawn bright. They were larger than life mavericks who looked like a cross between 19th Century, wild west outlaws and Victorian dandies. This carefully cultivated image soon began to prove popular with the audience at their gigs. Soon, they arrived dressed in similar attire. Meanwhile,The Charlatans were embracing the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. LSD and pot were part of The Charlatans’ diet. It fuelled The Charlatans as they took San Francisco by storm. Commercial success and critical acclaim looked a formality. It wasn’t to be.

By 1969, The Charlatans were no more. They were just the latest band that should’ve enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. However, for whatever reason, commercial success passes these bands by. That was the case with The Charlatans whose music wa celebrated on The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was recently reissued by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records on red vinyl. It’s a fitting reminder of The Charlatans’ finest songs.

Their musical legacy amounted to one album and two singles. It features on The Limit Of The Marvellous. It’s the perfect introduction to musical mavericks The Charlatans, who having taken San Francisco by storm, should’ve found fame and fortune. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. After several breakups, makeups and changes in lineup, The Charlatans, called time on a career that promised much, but ultimately, through bad luck and misfortune, came to little.

r-8258372-1458169589-8125-jpeg

The Damned-Machine Gun Etiquette.

By the time work began on Machine Gun Etiquette, The Damned were a democracy as far songwriting went. They wrote songs with lyrics that were clever, controversial, witty and sometimes, full of social comment. Machine Gun Etiquette found The Damned combining music from the sixties, seventies and eighties.

The Damned fused sixties garage rock, pop, punk and psychedelic rock. There was also a more experimental sound Machine Gun Etiquette. It seemed as if The Damned were in the process of finding themselves musically. Helping them to do so, was producer Roger Armstrong. He and The Damned proved a successful partnership.

So much so, that when Machine Gun Etiquette was released it was to critical acclaim. So critics called the album a classic. When Machine Gun Etiquette was released, it was certified silver and became The Damned’s most successful album. They had released one of the most accessible album and finest albums of their career, Machine Gun Etiquette which was reissued on by Ace Records.

r-934998-1194102291-jpeg

The Damned-The Black Album.

 Having just released the most successful album of their career, and one that was hailed a classic, The Damned got to work on their fifth album. Most bands would’ve have decided to pickup where they left on Machine Gun Etiquette. However,The Damned weren’t most bands. Instead, they were about to head off on a musical journey through disparate genres.

The Black Album find The Damned moving towards goth rock, which they went on to embrace throughout the eighties. There’s also a psychedelic influence to The Black Album, as The Damned begin to move away from their punk roots. They didn’t cut the ties entirely, for fear of alienating their older fans, who had been around since The Damned released  their debut album in 1976. A lot had happened since 1976. 

Forty years later, and incredibly, The Damned are still going strong.They’ve had their ups and downs, but still keep making music and have released over thirty albums since The Black Album. However, The Black Album and its predecessor Machine Gun Etiquette are both reminders of The Damned in their prime, when they swaggered their way through albums, displaying a devil may care, rebellious attitude. This resulted in some of the most memorable music of their forty year career. Thos included the classic album Machine Gun Etiquette, and the album where The Damned came of age musically, The Black Album which featured a much more sophisticated and eclectic style.

r-510965-1194028667-jpeg

The Idle Race-The Limit Of The Marvellous.

For many musical connoisseurs, one of the highlights of  Record Store Day 2016, was Parlophone’s reissue of The Idle Race’s sophomore album The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was the followup to The Birthday Party, and found The Idle Race continue to combine pop, rock and psychedelia. They were lead by one of the most successful musicians of the seventies, Jeff Lynne.

He wrote seven of the eleven songs on The Limit Of The Marvellous. That wasn’t his only role with The Idle Race. Jeff Lynne arranged and produced The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was heavily influenced by The Beatles.  They would continue to influence Jeff Lynne when he lead the Electric Light Orchestra. Sadly, The Limit Of The Marvellous never enjoyed anything like the success of Electric Light Orchestra. 

Indeed, none of The Idle Race’s albums were particularly successful. However, The Limit Of The Marvellous is a cohesive and accomplished album which is long on hooks. It finds Jeff Lynne maturing as a songwriter and producer, on The Limit Of The Marvellous which nowadays, is regarded as The Idle Race’s finest album.

r-2457637-1285150397-jpeg

The Pictish Trail-Future Echoes.

Four years after the release Secret Soundz Volume 2, in 2012, The Pictish Trail returned with the much-anticipated followup, Future Echoes. It was released on The Pictish Trail’s Lost Map Records, and is the first album The Pictish Trail has released since the demise of Fence Records.  However, The Pictish Trail picks up where he left off on Secret Soundz Volume 2.

Future Echoes finds The Pictish Trail combining elements of disparate genres, and weaving them into a musical tapestry. To do this, The Pictish Trail fuses folk, indie pop, dance music and electronica. Other ingredients include indie rock and even psychedelia. They become Future Echoes, an album where ballads and uptempo songs side by side. Together, they create a potent and heady musical brew. It’s akin to a journey on an emotional roller coaster.

During that journey, the songs on Future Echoes are beautiful, catchy, joyous melodic and memorable. Others are cinematic, dark, dramatic and melancholy. Very occasionally the darkness descends, and on Far Gone (Don’t Leave) the lyrics make for uneasy listening. Sometimes, The Pictish Trail heads into anthem territory, and his hook-laden songs prove irresistible. Other times, he showcases his versatility on Future Echoes’ ballads. Transformed into a balladeer, The Pictish Trail breaths meaning and emotion into the lyrics. They’re a reminder that The Pictish Trail, whose one of Scottish music’s best kept secrets, is a versatile and talented singer who seems to mature with age. 

r-9065939-1474175501-1554-jpeg

The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults.   

Last year, Sainsbury’s jumped on the burgeoning vinyl bandwagon, and have released a series of limited editions. This includes The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults, which was released as a double album by Charly, and retailed exclusively through Sainsbury’s. Only 1,000 copies were pressed on 180 gram orange heavyweight vinyl. It’s a quality release and a reminder of one of the most important record labels in musical history.

It’s the label where rock ’n’ roll was born, and that was home to everyone from Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis to Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and the Silver Fox Charlie Rich. That’s not forgetting Warren Smith, The Miller Sisters, Billy Lee Riley and Earl Hooker. They all feature on The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults. Some of their best known tracks feature on this double album, and will be instantly recognisable to music lovers of all ages. They’re joined by some hidden gems from the Sun Records’ back-catalogue. It’s a captivating compilation.

For newcomers to Sun Records, The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults, it’s the perfect starting place for anyone whose yet to discover the delights of Sun Records. This should be part of their musical education. After all, Sun Records was one of the most important labels in the history of music.

s-l1600

The Velvet Underground-Loaded-Vinyl.

During 2016 limited edition vinyl pressings were all the rage. One of the albums rereleased by HMV as a limited edition was The Velvet Underground’s fourth album Loaded. This classic album that was meant to be “loaded with hits.” Instead, it proved to be The Velvet Underground’s swan-song. However, it was no ordinary swan-song.

Most critics were won over by Loaded. It followed in the footsteps of The Velvet Underground, which showcased a much more populist, commercial sound. Among  Loaded’s highlights were the hook-laden, Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll. When Loaded was released, it failed commercially. Alas, the album wasn’t: “loaded with hits.” However, Loaded  deserved to fare better. Especially as The Velvet Underground had sacrificed and suppressed their true sound to deliver an “album loaded with hits.” 

While Loaded wan’t an “album loaded with hits,” it had everything going for it. It benefited from a much more commercial sound, and plethora of hooks. This meant that Loaded was The Velvet Underground’s most accessible album. It was also their swan-song. However, The Velvet Underground left behind a rich legacy. That’s despite only recording four studio albums. Each is a classic. From The Velvet Underground and Nico to Loaded, each album features shamanistic performances from those musical shape shifters and high priests of music, The Velvet Underground.

r-894229-1171240705-jpeg

Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov-Vaucanson’s Muse.

Buoyed by the success of their critically acclaimed tour, Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov entered the studio and recorded Vaucanson’s Muse back in November 2013. However, it was nearly three years before the album was released in late October 2016. Vaucanson’s Muse which was released via Not Applicable’s Bandcamp Page was well worth the three year wait.

From the opening bars of On A Carpet Of Leaves Illuminated By The Moon, right through to the closing notes of Sea Interval,  Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov push musical boundaries. To do this, they combine elements of ambient, avant-garde, experimental and improvised music. The result is music that’s variously cinematic, edgy, eerie, futuristic, melodic, melancholy and ruminative. It’s also music that’s guaranteed to set the listener’s mind racing, as Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov take the listener on a sonic voyage of discovery.

All the listener has to do, is submit to the music, and enjoy its nuances, subtleties and its plentiful supply of surprises. If they do, they will be richly rewarded. Vaucanson’s Muse finds two musical innovators uniting, to create a groundbreaking album of music, where Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov follow in the footsteps of the pioneers of graphic scores.

r-7515870-1443092477-4549-jpeg

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 1.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 1.

During 2016, the reissue market seemed stronger than ever. Every week, hundreds of albums were reissued by labels big and small. They range from classic albums to hidden gems. There’s plenty of both on this eight part series, the best reissues of 2016.

Adelbert Von Deyen-Atmosphere.

Having released Norborg, there was no chance that Adelbert Von Deyen would rest on his laurels. He was already contemplating his third album. This would be an album where Adelbert sonically explored the subject of Atmosphere, which lent its name to the album. To help Adelbert on what was essentially a concept album, he enlisted the help of a few musical friends.

With a little help from his friends, Adelbert recorded Atmosphere. Critics hailed Atmosphere to be Adelbert’s Magnus Opus. It also featured the hit single Time-Machine, which sold 50,000 copies. When Atmosphere was released, it became Adelbert’s most successful album.  It was the result of many months of hard work and dedication. In his home studio, Adelbert honed and sculpted Atmosphere. It’s variously atmospheric, beautiful, cinematic, elegiac and ethereal. Occasionally drama and darkness is introduced. So too are  futuristic, sci-fi sounds. Sometimes the soundscapes reveal a  melancholy, wistful sound. They’re sometimes ruminative and invite introspection and reflection on Atmosphere where Adelbert Von Deyen reveals nuances secrets and subtleties aplenty.

He was well on his way to becoming one of Germany’s most successful musicians. Adelbert Von Deyen helped  popularise the music of the Berlin School of electronic music. This he did with his hit single Time-Machine, and albums like Atmosphere which was reissued by Bureau B. Atmosphere fused ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental and Krautrock, and was a career defining album from Berlin School pioneer, Adelbert Von Deyen.

r-426419-1172153425-jpeg

Adelbert Von Deyen-Norborg. 

After the commercial success of Sternzeit, Adelbert Von Deyen was able to give up his job and devote his energies to making music. This was a dream come true for Adelbert Von Deyen, who had become something of a celebrity in his home town of Lübeck. However, Adelbert Von Deyen wasn’t going to let his newfound celebrity status go to his head. Not when he had his sophomore album Norborg to record.

Norborg is evocative, ethereal, elegiac and has a cinematic quality. So much so, that it’s possible to imagine the moon rising over Norborg as nature and the elements take centre-stage on Moonrise. Synths swirl, replicating the gusts of eddying winds, before the sound of seagulls battle the buffeting winds. Meanwhile, Adelbert Von Deyen continues to improvise, sculpting and carefully creating the ruminative, introspective, meditative and sometimes dramatic soundscape that is Moonrise. Iceland where Adelbert recreates the ferocious blizzard he witnessed during his holiday in Norborg. What follows is the perfect musical storm. It builds, ebbing and flowing, veering between dramatic to wistful and melancholy. Always, there’s a cinematic quality to this ambient soundscape. 

It finds Adelbert successfully combining ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School and electronica on his much-anticipated sophomore album Norburg which was reissued by Bureau B. Norborg’s ethereal beauty was sure to find an audience, and that proved to be the case. When Norborg was released by Sky Records in 1979, unsurprisingly, it was to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success.

r-322302-1172153726-jpeg

Adelbert Von Deyen-Sternzeit.

In 1977, Adelbert Von Deyen was working as a retoucher for a Berlin newspaper. While this kept him busy during the day, Adelbert had plenty of free time in the evenings. Wanting to put his free time to good use, Adelbert decided to take up a hobby. The hobby Adelbert Von Deyen chose was music. He assembled an array of musical equipment which he quickly mastered. So much so, that within a year, Adelbert Von Deyen had recorded what would become his debut album Sternzeit. It was released by Sky Records, and was reissued by Bureau B.

Sternzeit was the result of eight months work of hard work and dedication by Adelbert Von Deyen. He worked long hours crafting and sculpting two lengthy complex, multilayered soundscapes. They’re variously atmospheric, cinematic, dramatic, elegiac and ruminative. There’s also beauty, darkness and sense of melancholia on Sternzeit, as it reveals its secrets, subtleties and nuances. The result is compelling album which would later, and quite rightly, be hailed a Berlin School classic. No wonder. 

The music on Sternzeit was groundbreaking and way ahead of its time. That was the case with many within the Berlin School. However, Adelbert Von Deyen would become a leading light of the Berlin School, and his music would go on to influence two generations of musicians. However, Sternzeit, which was recently released by Bureau B, was just the first chapter in Adelbert Von Deyen’s long and illustrious career.

r-505626-1364230422-8640-jpeg

AK Musick-AK Musick.

Hans Kumpf formed his new improv collective whilst he was at teacher training college. This he called AK Musick. There were two reasons for this. AK was an abbreviation of the German word for workshop; while Musick was a mixture of the English and German words for music. Now the nascent band had a name, Hans Kumpf began setting out AK Musick’s musical philosophy. The new collective would take a different approach to music. They were determined to: “make music in a very democratic way,” with each member having their say and everyone’s opinion proving equally valid. With their musical philosophy in place, AK Musick began making music and released their eponymous debut album in 1972.

It’s a fusion of disparate influences, instruments and genres. This includes avant-garde, experimental, free jazz and elements of African, Berlin School, industrial and Krautrock. The music of avant-garde composers Johannes Fritsch and especially Helmut Lachenmann influenced AK Musick. They recorded ambitious, experimental and innovative music. Sadly, the music on AK Musick was  way ahead of its time.

Record buyers failed to understand this groundbreaking, genre-melting album. It was only much later that AK Musick received the recognition that their music so richly deserved. Nowadays, a new generation of music fans have discovered AK Musick. It was reissued by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records, forty-four years after the release of AK Musick on Hans Kumpf’s AKM Records.

r-9233028-1477088657-5888-jpeg

Baumann/Koek-Baumann/Koek.

Baumann/Koek had a dream. That dream was to release an album. So they bought musical equipment and recorded their eponymous debut album. This they took the album to Conny Plank to mix. Once he had sprinkled his magic dust, Baumann/Koek decided to self-release their eponymous debut album. They had 1,000 albums pressed and Baumann/Koek was released in 1978.

Before long, Baumann/Koek was selling well within Germany. It was then that the Swabian wholesaler Jaguar Records offered to distribute Baumann/Koek worldwide. This seemed like too good an offer to refuse. Sadly, it was. Not long after Jaguar Records took over the worldwide distribution of Baumann/Koek, the company became insolvent. Soon, Jaguar Records was declared bankrupt. For Baumann/Koek this was a huge blow. They decided that they couldn’t risk any more of their capital releasing another album.

That was great shame, given the quality of music on Baumann/Koek. It’s veers between cinematic and dramatic, to elegiac and ethereal to hypnotic and mesmeric. Sometimes the music is hook-laden, irresistible and melodic. Especially as the listener is swept along atop synth strings. Then as Baumann/Koek draws to a close, a slice of boogie unfolds and Baumann/Koek rock into the distance. Sadly, there was no encore. However, Bureau B reissued Baumann/Koek in 2016. It’s a hidden gems of the Berlin School and a  timeless, cult classic that should’ve marked the beginning a successful career for Baumann/Koek.

r-1488716-1223628461-jpeg

Beach Boys-Pet Sounds-50th Anniversary Edition.

When The Beach Boys released their eleventh album Pet Sounds in  May 1966, it was to mixed reviews. Worse was to come. Pet Sounds then failed to match the commercial success of previous albums. Despite that, critics still called Pet Sounds a commercial success. Still though, critics didn’t realise that Pet Sounds was a groundbreaking, classic album. That would only become apparent later.

Why critics failed to realise this seems strange? Brian Wilson had collaborated with Tony Asher on what was a truly ambitious, epic album. Pet Sounds features symphonic, multi-layered arrangements. They feature layers of harmonies, harpsichords,  flutes, theremins, organs, a variety of stringed instruments and sound effects. So do barking dogs, bicycle bells and the sound of trains. They’re part of a lysergic musical collage. However, sometimes, Brian Wilson looks to the past for inspiration, Especially, Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound production style. It played its part in the sound and success Pet Sounds, which celebrated its fiftieth birthday in 2016.

This resulted in yet another reissue by UMC of the cash cow that’s Pet Sounds as a two CD set. That’s no surprise, given  Pet Sounds is now regarded as a psychedelic classic and an album that inspired and influenced several generations of musicians. Pet Sounds was also The Beach Boys finest hour. Never again, would they even come close to reaching the heights of Pet Sounds, which nowadays, it seems are Brian Wilson’s favourite words.

r-8634071-1465611619-1810-jpeg

Billy Joel-The Stranger.

When Billy Joel released his fifth album The Stranger on 29th September 1977, it proved to be a game-changer. His previous albums had been moderately successful. However, The Stranger was Billy Joel’s breakthrough album. It was released to critical acclaim and reached number two on the US Billboard 200.  The Stranger sold ten million copies in America alone, and was certified diamond. Elsewhere, The Stranger was a huge seller in Canada, France, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and in the UK. After six years, Billy Joel was one of the most successful singer-songwriters. Surely, things couldn’t get any better?

Billy Joel released Just The Way You Are on 26th September 1977, This beautiful paean reached number two and was certified gold. Then in 1978, Just The Way You Are won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Incredibly, Just The Way You Are was just one of four singles from The Stranger.

It marked the coming of age of Billy Joel. He had matured as a singer-songwriter over the past six year. Proof of that were songs like Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), Just the Way You Are, She’s Always A Woman and Only The Good Die Young. However, produced Phil Ramone innovative production methods played an important part in The Stranger. It was the most successful album of Billy Joel’s career, and nowadays, The Stranger which was reissued by Columbia regarded as a classic album.

r-1108650-1441271466-9874-jpeg

Bram Stoker-Heavy Rock Spectacular,

Often, Record Store Day sees the release of several cult albums. 2016 was no different. Bram Stoker’s 1972 album Heavy Rock Spectacular was reissued by Talking Elephant Records on coloured vinyl. This was a welcome reissue and a reminder of a band who should’ve reached greater heights.

Bram Stoker were formed organist Tony Bronsdon in Bournemouth, in 1969. Three years later, Bram Stoker were enjoying a modest amount of success and about to release their debut album Heavy Rock Spectacular in 1972. It’s a carefully crafted epic where four virtuoso musicians combine progressive rock with elements of jazz and classical music. The result was Bram Stoker’s debut album Heavy Rock Spectacular, which sounded not unlike The Nice.

Alas, when Heavy Rock Spectacular was released by Windmill Records, it failed to find an audience. Later, Bram Stoker’s carefully crafted progressive rock epic began to acquire a cult following. They appreciated Heavy Rock Spectacular, which nowadays, is regarded as one of the lost classics from the progressive rock era.

r-1779642-1421004910-6281-jpeg

Canned Heat-One More River To Cross.

After releasing nine albums for Liberty Records, Canned Heat signed to Atlantic Records in 1973. Later in 1973, Canned Heat released their tenth studio album One More River To Cross, which was reissued by BGO Records. Canned Heat hoped that One More River To Cross was the start of a new era for the band. 

Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett’ were brought onboard to produce One More River To Cross. They also brought along the Memphis Shoals Horns. This was part of their makeover of Canned Heat’s sound. They seamlessly switch between and combine blues and boogie with funk, R&B, rock and Southern Soul. Ballads, blues and boogie sat side-by-side with funky jams, R&B and rock ’n’ roll. There was something for everyone. Alas, One More River To Cross failed commercially.

Canned Heat’s relationship with Atlantic Records was brief and expensive. However, One More River To Cross is one of the most underrated albums Canned Heat released between 1967 and 1973. Canned Heat seemed to have been reinvigorated by the change of studio and producer on One More River To Cross, which is an of-overlooked hidden gem of an album.

r-2101276-1297631024-jpeg

Circles-Circles.

Across  Germany, each city had a vibrant underground musical scene.  That was the case in Frankfurt, where Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann were making music as Circles, and in 1983, were about to release their eponymous debut album. Circle was reissued by the Mental Experience label, w an imprint of Guerssen Records and is a reminder that there was life after Krautrock. 

When Circles was released, it was well received by critics. They recognised oy was a groundbreaking album from one of the most talented groups in the post-Krautrock era. Despite the reviews, Circles didn’t sell well, and remained an underground album. Record buyers missed out on a groundbreaking, genre-melting album. It’s a fusion of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, free jazz, psychedelia, rock and Eastern music. Krautrock has also inspired and influenced Circles. Especially, groups like  Anima, Embryo and Cosmic Jokers, a plus Dueter and Irmin Schmidt. Sometimes, the influence is brief, other times it’s more it’s noticeable as a captivating, innovative and genre-melting album unfolds.

Circles features everything from Faustian collages to captivating soundscapes. They’re variously futuristic, lysergic, mesmeric, hypnotic and  dreamy. They’re also part of an album stood head and shoulders above the musical competition. Alas, only a few discerning musical connoisseurs were aware of Circles. They realised it was an album that deserved to be heard by a much wider audience. This wouldn’t happen until much later, and nowadays Circles is receiving the recognition it so richly deserves.

r-1645724-1431944612-4220-jpeg

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 2.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 2.

Circles-More Circles.

Just a year after the release of their eponymous debut album, Circles returned in 1984 with their sophomore album, More Circles. Again, Circles had put their impressive of array of technology and traditional instruments to good use on More Circles. It features the coming of age of Circles. 

They were at their most inventive and innovative. Circles combine everything from ambient and avant-garde to electronica, experimental and free jazz to Krautrock, psychedelia and rock. There’s even hints of Eastern music as Circles take the listener on a musical adventure. During that adventure, Circles draw inspiration from, and pay homage to Krautrock royalty. This includes everyone from Amon Düül II, Can, Cluster, Kluster, Neu! and Harmonia. Other influences include Michael Rother, Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay. They all seem to inspire Circles. So do do Fripp and Eno. The result was  a second genre classic, that failed to find the audience it deserved.

More Circles features more groundbreaking music from two musical pioneers, Circles. This was the start of a lifetime making music together. Circles started as they meant to go on, creating music that was ambitious, innovative, inventive and went on to influence further generation of musicians. Circles also played a part in the reinvention of German music in the post Krautrock era. However, More Circles, which was reissued by the Mental Experience label, an imprint of Guerssen Record, showed that there was life after Krautrock.

r-863450-1395247586-6185-jpeg

Clarence Carter-This Is Clarence Carter and The Dynamic Clarence Carter.

The Clarence Carter story is one of triumph over adversity. Shortly after his birth, doctors discovered that Clarence Carter was blind. Despite this, Clarence Carter forged a successful career as a soul singer. He signed to Fame Records in 1966, and soon, Rick Hall was transforming Clarence Carter’s career. By 1968, Clarence Carter had released five hit singles, including Funky Fever which was certified gold. After the success of Funky Fever, Rill Hall’s thoughts turned to  Clarence Carter’s debut album.

Later in 1968, This Is Clarence Carter was released. It had been well received by critics, but stalled at forty-nine in the US R&B charts. The followup, The Dynamic Clarence Carter reached twenty-two in the US R&B charts and featured the hit single Snatching It Back. With a voice that could breath meaning and emotion into lyrics,  Clarence Carter was on a roll, and thanks to Rick Hall, was well on his way to becoming one of the stars of Southern Soul.

Right up until 1970, it seemed that Clarence Carter could do wrong. Rick Hall had transformed the career of Clarence Carter on This Is Clarence Carter and The Dynamic Clarence Carter. They were reissued on one disc by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. These two albums are a tantalising taste of Clarence Carter, who triumphed over adversity to become one of the stars of Southern Soul during the late sixties.

r-8304356-1458997575-3593-jpeg

Clear Light-Clear Light.

With the new wave of psychedelic rock unfolding before their eyes, Elektra Records decided to sign some of the genre’s most promising acts.  Soon, San Francisco’s based The Doors had signed to Elektra Records. So too, were Los Angeles’ based Love. They were joined in 1967 by another L.A. based Clear Light. This was quite a feat, as they had only been together since early 1966. Despite this, when Clear Light released their eponymous debut album Clear Light later in 1967, it was hailed a psychedelic classic. However, the story was over almost before it had begun.

Sadly, Clear Light only ever released the one album. However, Clear Light is a psychedelic classic. It showcases a talented and versatile band that could’ve and should’ve reached greater heights. Clear Light were certainly not lacking in talent. Sadly, just over two years after Michael Ney first met Robbie Robinson, the adventure was over. A lot had happened since then. 

The lineup changed several times. So had the name. Managers had come and gone, and Clear Light had recorded a stonewall psychedelic classic. Sadly, Clear Light is one of music’s best kept secrets, and is only appreciated by a discerning few musical connoisseurs, who have discovered this psychedelic classic. Maybe Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records, 2016 expanded reissue of Clear Light, will bring this classic album to the attention of a wider audience?

r-1332418-1251662340-jpeg

Dan Fogelberg-High Country Snow and Exiles.

By the time Dan Fogelberg released High Country Snow in 1985, he had released eight albums which had sold 10.5 million copies. Despite this, Dan Fogelberg decided to change direction and record a county album, High Country Snow. This was a huge risk. However, it paid off.

When High Country Snows was released in 1995 it was to critical acclaim. Critics were surprised by the change in direction, but backed by a tight, talented band recorded what was a seminal newgrass album. It sold over 500,000 and was certified gold. Despite the success of High Country Snows, Dan returned to his “old” sound on his tenth album Exiles. It’s a fusion of AOR and soft rock where beautiful ballads rub shoulders with the occasional  vocal powerhouse on Exiles. Critics were won over by Exiles, which received positive reviews. However, Exiles stalled at forty-eight in the US Billboard 200. For Dan Fogelberg, it was the one that got away.

Thirty-one years later, High Country Snow and Exiles were reissued by BGO Records on one CD.  They show two different sides to Dan Fogelberg. There’s the newgrass on High Country Snow and the AOR of Exiles. Both albums have one thing in common…quality. They’re the perfect introduction to Dan Fogelberg, a hugely talented and much missed singer-songwriter.

51ay9rz6orl

Deep Purple-Deep Purple In Rock-Vinyl.

Between 1970 and 1975 Deep Purple enjoyed worldwide success. Their albums sold by the million and Deep Purple became one of “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal.” However, the album that started this run of commercial success was Deep Purple In Rock.  It was  reissued as a limited edition of 1,000 on marbled vinyl by Harvest as part of their Vinyl Collector series. Deep Purple In Rock was a game-changer for Deep Purple.   

When Deep Purple In Rock in 1970 was released in 1970, it proved to be Deep Purple’s breakthrough album. This was the start of five years of commercial success and critical acclaim. During that period, Deep Purple challenged Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath for supremacy as most successful and hard rocking band. There was also another competition going on. This was to see which of the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal” was the hardest living band. It was a close fought and hard won contest.  

Over the years, Deep Purple’s penchant for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle was legendary. It came with the territory. This was after all,  rock ’n’ roll during the early seventies. Chaos and carnage was omnipresent and expected as Deep Purple toured the world. This never seemed to affect Deep Purple’s music. Proof if any is needed, is Deep Purple In Rock. It features Deep Purple at their hard rocking best.

r-8668461-1468000018-5295-jpeg

Dexy’s Midnight Runners-Searching For The Young Soul Rebels-Vinyl.

Last year, retailers everywhere seemed to be jumping on the vinyl bandwagon. Even supermarkets like Tesco were selling vinyl. However, being experts at marketing, the vinyl they sold had a USP. This included Dexy’s Midnight Runners-Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, which was a limited editions pressed on green vinyl. It marked the debut of Dexy’s Midnight Runners who were led by Kevin Rowland.

He founded Dexy’s Midnight Runners in Birmingham 1978. Within two years, they were signed to EMI and preparing to release their debut album Searching For The Young Soul Rebels in July 1980. It was a fusion of blue eyed soul, Celtic soul, folk, new wave and pop. The  influence of punk and Northern Soul could also be heard on Searching For The Young Soul Rebels.  However, before its release, Geno was released as a single and topped the UK charts. For Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ this was a game-changer. 

When Searching For The Young Soul Rebels was released, most of the reviews were positive. There was the odd dissenting voice. Despite this, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, reached number six in the UK and was certified silver. Since then, many regard Searching For The Young Soul Rebels as Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ finest hour. No wonder. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels is regarded as one of the greatest debut albums of the eighties, and was a time capsule of Britain in 1980.

r-8613567-1465147704-2455-jpeg

Dieter Moebius-Blotch.

Nowadays, Dieter Moebius is regarded as a pioneer of the Krautrock era. He co-founded  Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia, and then went on release a series of collaborative albums. Still, though, he found time to enjoy a release a series of solo album. However, between 1999 and 2014 Dieter Moebius concentrated on his solo albums. This included his sophomore album Blotch which was reissued by Bureau B.

On Blotch, Dieter worked on a series of playful mesmeric loop based tracks. They’re atmospheric and experimental, with Dieter adding bursts of speech to the musical canvas. He combines everything from ambient and avant-garde, through to electronica and experimental sits side-by-side with industrial, Krautrock and musique concrète. The result was an album that was very different to different to Dieter’s debut album, Tonspuren.

Gone was the minimalist, ambient and sometimes, experimental sound of Tonspuren  It was replaced by music that was atmospheric, dramatic, futuristic and sometimes, ethereal, understated and beautiful. Always, though, Blotch is captivating. It’s a case of expect the unexpected, as Dieter Moebius bowls a series of curveballs. As he does, the music is always cinematic and mostly, hypnotic. Just like so much of the music Dieter had released, the music on Blotch was captivating, innovative, timeless and went on to influence further generations of musicians. Blotch marked the return of the comeback King Dieter Moebius, sixteen years after he released his debut album, Tonspuren.

r-303165-1302628809-jpeg

Dieter Moebius-Nurton.

Seven years after releasing his sophomore album, Blotch Dieter Moebius returned with his third album Nurton, which was reissued by Bureau B. It’s another genre-melting track from Dieter Moebius. He fused elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, industrial, Krautrock and musique concrète. There’s even a hint of African percussion on Born Neo. Along with these other disparate influences they play their part in what’s the most ambitious and experimental album of Dieter Moebius’ solo career, Nurton.

Dieter Moebius set out to push musical boundaries on Nurdon. He was like an artist, except that the tape was his canvas. However, Dieter had a much richer and vibrant palette available. Using his trusty trio of synths, loops and a myriad of left field and sci-fi sounds, Dieter got to work. Just like he had throughout his career, he turned his back on musical convention and structure. Instead, he let his imagination run riot. His studio became a laboratory, where Dieter experimented. Often, he unleashed an arsenal of sounds which punctuate the arrangement. They result in music that’s often futuristic, cinematic and hypnotic album. That’s not all.  

The music on Nurdon veers between moody and broody, to dark and dramatic, to ethereal and elegiac to understated and beautiful. Always, Nurton sounds futuristic, cinematic and hypnotic. It’s like the soundtrack to a sci-fi film. Nurton is also one of the most ambitious, experimental and innovative albums of Dieter Moebius’ solo career.

r-997617-1302628928-jpeg

Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Brain Salad Surgery-Deluxe Edition.

When Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded their fourth album, Brain Salad Surgery, the trio were determined to record an album that they could replicate live. That hadn’t been the case with their  three previous albums. They were complex albums which the trio found difficult to recreate live. Something had to change. So, Brain Salad Surgery, which was rereleased by BMG as, marked the start of a new era for Emerson, Lake and Palmer as the fused progressive rock, jazz and classical music. 

Brain Salad Surgery was a window into the inventive and innovative world of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. During Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson, Lake and Palmer take the tracks in a variety of directions. Sometimes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer bowl a series of curveballs. You never foresaw what follows. Mind you, that’s what one had come to expect from one of the most groundbreaking groups of the seventies.

A reminder of this is Brain Salad Surgery, which features Emerson, Lake and Palmer are at their most inventive and innovative.  It was as if everything had been building up to Brain Salad Surgery. By the time Emerson, Lake and Palmer released Brain Salad Surgery they were  a tight, visionary band. Their fusion of progressive rock, jazz and classical music resulted in an ambitious, powerhouse of an album, Brain Salad Surgery which features Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers.

r-9624181-1483853456-8119-png

Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Tarkus-Deluxe Edition.

It was a case of striking when the iron was hot for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They returned to Advision Studios, in London to record what became their sophomore album Tarkus. It was much more of a “band” album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were now a tight, musical unit. This was very different from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which was more like an album of solo pieces. Tarkus saw the birth of Emerson, Lake and Palmer as one of the giants of progressive rock.

Tarkus was released to critical acclaim in June 1971.Critics realised that Tarkus marked a much more united Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were well on the way to finding their trademark sound. Gone were ballads and jazz-tinged tracks. Instead, it was progressive rock all the way. Record buyers were won over by Tarkus. It reached number one in the UK. Over the Atlantic, Tarkus reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Emerson, Lake and Palmer had released the best, and most successful album of their nascent career.

Last year, Tarkus was reissued by BMG a two disc set. Disc two features The Alternate Album. For fans of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, this will be a welcome addition to the reissue of Tarkus. It’s still regarded as was one of the most ambitious, cohesive and innovative albums, from Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

r-8831156-1469692095-2831-jpeg

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 3.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 3.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Trilogy-Deluxe Edition.

For fans of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 2016 was a good year. Much of their back-catalogue was remastered and reissued by BMG as CD sets. This included Trilogy, where Emerson, Lake and Palmer were determined to push musical boundaries. It was a progressive rock, but with a twist. 

An example of this was the inclusion of Abaddon’s Bolero on Trilogy. Rather than the usual 3/4 rhythm a Bolero would have, it was turned into a march by using a 4/4 rhythm. Emerson, Lake and Palmer pioneered the beating heart sound on Trilogy. Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Queen would all go on to use it. However, Carl Palmer pioneered this on Endless Enigma Part One. Once again, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were demonstrating that they were one of the most innovative progressive rock bands. Their efforts and innovativeness were richly rewarded.

On its release in July 1972, Trilogy reached number two in the US. As usual, Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed more success in the US. Trilogy reached number five in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. In the space of just two years Emerson, Lake and Palmer were one of the most successful progressive rock bands, and had just released a complex, innovative, genre-melting album. It found Emerson, Lake and Palmer embracing the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection, on  what was their most ambitious album, Trilogy.

r-7834936-1449789799-2777-jpeg

Eric Burdon and The Animals-Every One Of Us.

1968 was without doubt, the busiest year of Eric Burdon and The Animals’ career. They released a trio of albums. The second album in the trio was Every One Of Us, which was reissued by BGO Records during 2016. It’s a welcome reissue, because Every One Of Us, was never released in Britain. 

When Every One Of Us was released in August 1968, this accomplished album of psychedelic blues stalled at just 152 in the US Billboard 200. This was a huge disappointment, considering the quality of the music and musicianship. The critics had thought that Every One Of Us would fare much better.

Critics hailed Every One Of Us as one Eric Burdon and The Animals finest albums since the release of Eric Is Here in March 1967. Even when Love Is was released in December 1968 it failed to match the quality of Every One Of Us. Love Is proved to be Eric Burdon and The Animals’ swan-song, and the third of three albums the band released during 1968. However, their finest moment of 1968 was Every One of Us. It’s an oft-overlooked, highly accomplished and vastly underrated album of psychedelic blues from Eric Burdon and The Animals, which was one of their finest moments.

r-9234744-1477124603-7794-jpeg

Firefall-Firefall, Luna Sea and Elan.

After spending nearly two years trying to make a breakthrough, Firefall caught the attention of Atlantic Records. They signed Firefall, who released three albums for Atlantic Records, Firefall, Luna Sea and Elan. These three albums sold 1.5 million units in America. This was the result of three years of constantly touring and recording. However, it had caught up on the band. Firefall were almost burnt out. At least they had 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. They had rerecorded two of their three albums, and embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. That prove expensive, and something that Firefall would regret. Especially as Firefall never reached the same heights as their first three albums.

Firefall, Luna Sea and Elan which were reissued by BGO Records as a double album, where the most successful albums of Firefall’s career.They were a fusion of AOR folk rock, country and rock. This proved a popular combination, and sold 1.5 million copies. Sadly, the 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 never fully recovered.Never again, did Firefall close to rescaling the heights of Firefall, Luna Sea and Elan, which feature Firefall at their very best, when anything seemed possible for the Colorado-based band.

61puauc9xal

Fleetwood Mac-Mirage (Deluxe Edition).

On 18th June 1982, Fleetwood Mac released their thirteenth studio album Mirage. It was very different from its predecessor Tusk, which showcased a more experimental sound. Mirage saw Fleetwood Mac head in the direction of a radio friendly, AOR sound. 

Mostly, this proved popular amongst critics. Some however weren’t convinced and there were a few dissenting voice. Despite this, when Mirage was released it sold over three million units and outsold Tusk. Mirage also yielded five  singles, including Hold Me, Gypsy, Love In Store, Oh Diane and Can’t Go Back. The success of Fleetwood Mac continued apace.

Given the success of Mirage, it was no surprise that the album was released by Rhino as a double album during 2016. The second disc includes thirteen live tracks, B-sides, outtakes and songs that didn’t make it onto Mirage. For fans of Fleetwood Mac, this is the perfect upgrade to their original copies of Mirage. It finds Fleetwood Mac return to the mainstream, after their dalliance with experimental the sound of Tusk.

r-9146645-1475591286-6229-jpeg

Free-Fire and Water.

On 26th June 1970, Free released their third album Fire and Water. Critical acclaim accompanied an album that was a mixture of blues rock, classic rock and hard rock. This was Free’s most cohesive album. That was the case from the opening bars of Fire and Water to the closing notes of All Right Now. A number of tracks on Fire and Water stood out. This included the rocky album opener Fire And Water and the ballads Oh I Wept, Heavy Load and Don’t Say You Love Me. However, the song that had hit written large all over it, was the album closer All Right Now. That proved to be the case.

When Fire and Water was released on 26th June 1970, the album reached number two in the UK and seventeen on the US Billboard 200. When All Right Now was released as a single, it reached number two in the UK and four on the US Billboard 100. This resulted in Free being asked to appear on the final day  the Isle of Wight Festival.

On Sunday 30th June, 600,000 people watched as Free opened their nine song set. It featured a trio of songs from Fire and Water. This included Mr. Big, Fire and Water and All Right Now. By the end of the set,  Free, were well on their way to becoming one of the biggest in the world. Fire and Water and All Right Now had transformed Free’s career.

r-447957-1413920008-3631-jpeg

Free-Tons Of Sobs.

When Free recorded their debut albumTons Of Sobs, they were still teenagers. However, they played like seasoned veterans on Tons Of Sobs which was reissued by Island Records. They paired Free with producer Guy Stevens. and allocated a budget of just £800 to produce Tons Of Sobs

With such a limited budget, Guy Stevens decided to take a minimalist approach to recording Tons Of Sobs. This he hoped, would allow him to replicate how Free sounded live. Their sets showcased the blues rock sound that was then popular in late-1968. Guy Stevens succeeded in replicated Free’s live sound. Tons Of Sobs was featured a raw and raucous blues rock sound. However, not everyone was impressed by Tons Of Sobs.

While most critics were won over by the latest British blues rock band, some critics weren’t convinced. Neither were record buyers. When Tons Of Sobs was released, it crept into the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200 in March 1969. Most music fans missed out on Free’s debut album, Tons Of Sobs.  It documents what Free sounded like as they began their  musical journey. Eventually, Free would become one of the great British rock groups of the early seventies. Tons Of Sobs is taste of what was to come from Free.

r-1773192-1437165818-3506-jpeg

Gandalf-Magic Theatre.

Buoyed by the success of To Another Horizon, Gandalf began work on his fourth album, Magic Theatre. Just like To Another Horizon, this was another concept album that was inspired by Hermann Hesse’s 1927 novel Steppenwolf. It inspired Magic Theatre, where Gandalf’s music head further in the direction of progressive rock and showcased a symphonic rock sound.

Critics hailed the Magic Theatre a musical triumph. It was an other ambitious album where Gandalf brought Steppenwolf to life. During Magic Theatre, the chameleon-like Gandalf continued to reinvent his music. That had been the case throughout his career. Magic Theatre was no different. It was as if Gandalf was scared that if he stood still musically, his music would cease to be relevant. There was no chance of that happening. He was musical pioneer, who combined a disparate selection of musical genres, instruments and influences. Gandalf also drew inspiration from many sources, including his travels and literature. Both played their part the sound and success of Magic Theatre.

Upon the release of Magic Theatre, the Gandalf success story continued apace. The album sold well, and found an audience not just in Austria, Italy and Germany, but across Europe and into Britain. This  success continued, as Gandalf released over thirty albums. However, many music fans regard Gandalf’s early albums as some of his best. This includes Magic Theatre, which was reissued by Esoteric Recordings. It’s a reminder of  Gandalf, a music pioneer and “painter of musical landscapes.”

r-617586-1434937914-1649-jpeg

Gandalf-To Another Horizon.

Nowadays, Gandalf is regarded as one of Austria’s most accomplished, innovative and successful musicians. He’s a talented multi-instrumentalist, who is a one of Austria’s most prolific artists. He has released over thirty albums between 1981 and 2016. That’s despite not releasing his debut album Journey To Another Land until 1980, when he was twenty-nine. Three years later, Gandalf released his third album To Another Horizon, which was a cerebral concept album which was reissued by Esoteric Recordings.

By then, Gandalf was a successful musician, with his sophomore album Visions transforming his fortunes. This success continued when Gandalf released To Another Horizon. Gandalf’s music headed in the direction of progressive rock and space rock . This was a stylistic departure for Gandalf. However, there were still  elements of ambient, avant-garde, classical, eighties-electronica,  experimental and folk  on To Another Horizon. This mixture of the old and new proved successful.

When To Another Horizon was released, it was to critical acclaim. It was heralded as Gandalf’s most ambitious and progressive album. Record buyers agreed and the rise and rise of Gandalf continued. That was no surprise. The music on To Another Horizon. veers between understated, thoughtful and pastoral to dramatic and cinematic to futuristic and progressive. To Another Horizon is a truly captivating concept album that straddled various themes and genres. Its more progressive sound introduced Gandalf’s music to a much wider audience and was his most successful album of a three album career.

r-590079-1290434054-jpeg

Gary Bartz-Ju Ju Man and Love Song.

By 1976, saxophonist Gary Bartz’s reputation was on the rise.This came as no surprise to those within the jazz community. Already, Gary Bartz had accompanied  some of the giants of jazz. In 1976, he released his third solo album Ju Ju Man  and Love Song in 1978. They were reissued on one CD by Fresh Sounds Records. They’re a reminder of a multitalented reedman.

Ju Ju Man was very different to previous albums, and was an album of straight ahead jazz. This many jazz fans thought was yesterday’s sound. However, Gary Bartz was perfectly suited to this sound. It was the perfect showcase for one of the most talented reedman of his generation, Gary Bartz plays with power, passion inventiveness and control. Time after time, he came into his own. This was the case on Music Is My Sanctuary, and its followup, Love Song. 

Backed by a tight, talented and versatile band, Gary Bartz showcases his versatility on Love Song. The music is funky, jazzy, soulful and dance-floor friendly. It should’ve been a commercial success. Alas, it wasn’t to be, and Love Song remained one of the hidden gems in Gary Bartz’s back-catalogue. Nowadays, Gary Bartz’s music has found a wider audience. However, for those yet to discover Gary Bartz’s music, a good starting place are  Ju Ju Man and Love Song.  Both feature Gary Bartz’s at the peak of his musical powers. 

51lughzkjml-_ss500

Geoff Muldaur-Is Having A Good Time and Motion.

In 1975, Geoff Muldaur released his much anticipated sophomore album, Is Having A Wonderful Time on the Reprise Records imprint. It was an eclectic album with widespread commercial appeal. So was the second album Geoff released for Reprise Records. Sadly, it was the last album Geoff Muldaur would release on Reprise Records.

Neither Is Having A Good Time nor Motion were a commercial success. That is despite showcasing a talented and versatile singer. On Is Having A Wonderful Time, Geoff and his band combine elements of blues, boogie-woogie, country, folk,  gospel, R&B and rock. Then on Motion, Geoff is steered in different directions by his new producer Trevor Lawrence. Motion takes on a much slicker, radio friendly, commercial sound. Geoff combines AOR and country with gospel, pop and rock. Ballads rub shoulders with uptempo tracks on Motion which should’ve caught the imagination of the record buying public. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

After just two albums, Is Having A Wonderful Time and Motion, Geoff Muldaur left Warner Bros. It was a case of what might have been for Geoff Muldaur? He was and still is a hugely talented and versatile vocalist. That’s apparent from his much anticipated sophomore album Is Having A Wonderful Time, and the followup Motion. They showcase the different sides to Geoff Muldaur on two hidden musical gems, Is Having A Wonderful Time, and the followup Motion. They  reissued on one CD by BGO Records. 

51rny0p01tl

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 4.

THE BEST REISSUES OF 2016-PART 4.

Gordon Lightfoot-Dream Sweet Rose, Midnight and Salute.

For Gordon Lightfoot, the seventies proved to be the most successful period of his career. Commercial success and critical acclaim were constant companions for the man that was dubbed “Canada’s greatest songwriter.” This success many thought would continue into the eighties. Gordon Lightfoot’s first albums of the eighties was 1980s Dream Sweet Rose, which was followed by Midnight in 1981 and Salute in 1983. These three albums were reissued by BGO Records as a two CD set.

As the eighties dawned, Canada’s “folk-rock legend” Gordon Lightfoot decided to change direction on Dream Sweet Rose. He headed in the direction of AOR. Despite its slick polished sound, this didn’t go down well with his fans. Despite this, Gordon Lightfoot headed further down the marked AOR on Midnight and Salute. However, he doesn’t turn his back on country and folk. As a result, Shadows and Salute are both eclectic albums, which show the different sides to Gordon Lightfoot. Sadly, neither Shadows nor Salute were particularly successful, and are two of the hidden gems in Gordon Lightfoot’s extensive back-catalogue.

They’re a reminder of the man dubbed “Canada’s greatest songwriter” during the seventies. Despite the lack of success this trio of albums are slick, polished and eclectic. Seamlessly  Gordon Lightfoot switches between and incorporates everything from AOR, country, folk, folk-rock and rock. They’re a reminder, if any was needed, of why Gordon Lightfoot was and remains, “Canada’s greatest songwriter” and “folk rock legend.”

61l5v-e5hll

Holger Czukay-Movie!

When Holger Czukay released his sophomore album in 1979, it was entitled Movies. Thirty-seven years later, and much has changed. Movies which is new entitled Movie!, was reissued by Gronland Records. It comes complete with a new album cover, and an instrumental version of Cool In The Pool. The original version of Cool In The Pool is a truly irresistible, hook-laden track. This whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of Movie.

It features a musical pioneer at the peak of his powers, on a genre-melting album. Holger combines elements of Afro-Reggae, avant-garde, disco, funk,  pop, progressive rock, rock and world music. These genres are combined by Holger, as he incorporates a myriad of musical instruments, sounds and samples. Indeed, sampling and editing, which Holger pioneers back in the early days of Can, played an important part in the sound and success of Movie! 

Samples are part of a musical jigsaw which Holger had to put together.Seamlessly, Holger puts all various parts together in a way that the music on Movie! makes sense. The result is an album that’s variously beautiful, captivating, cinematic, dramatic, hook-laden, irresistible and melodic. After three year years away from making music, Holger Czukay returned with Movie! a career defining album. Movie! is the album that marked the return of one the most innovative and progressive musicians of his generation, the comeback King Holger Czukay.

r-8601037-1464882757-9735-jpeg

James Luther Dickinson-Dixie Fried.

Nowadays, James Luther Dickinson is better known as Jim Dickinson, who produced everyone from Big Star to Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan. Back in 1972, Jim Dickinson released his debut album Dixie Fried on Atlantic Records. It could’ve launched his solo career. However, by then, fate seemed to have conspire against Jim Dickinson. He was persona non gratis at Atlantic Records. They had already held back on releasing the album for a year, and when  Dixie Fried was released. Atlantic Records then failed to promote Dixie Fried. Unsurprisingly their half hearted promotion of Dixie Friend meant the album failed commercially. It was a case of what might have been?

Dixie Fried showcased a truly talented singer-songwriter. He combines Americana, country, jazz, gospel, jazz, rock and soul on Dixie Fried. The influence of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Dr John can also be heard. Each of these artists influence James Luther Dickinson, as with the help of a multitalented band and backing vocalists, he records what’s a potent and heady brew, Dixie Fried, which is a true hidden gem of an album.

Sadly, for far too long, James Luther Dickinson’s debut album Dixie Fried was unavailable on CD. Last year Dixie Fried was reissued by Future Days Recordings. This is a welcome reissue. Maybe somewhat belatedly, Dixie Fried, a delicious musical potpourri of genres and influences will find the audience James Luther Dickinson’s debut album so richly deserves, and should’ve enjoyed in 1972.

r-9162725-1480447113-8913-jpeg

Jethro Tull-Aqualung-Vinyl.

In 1971, Jethro Tull released what would become their first classic album, Aqualung. It was Jethro Tull’s most ambitious and cerebral album, Aqualung. It was a concept album that examined ”the distinction between religion and God.” This seemed an unlikely subject for an album, even a seventies concept album. 

It found Jethro Tull combined progressive rock with folk, blues, hard rock and even psychedelia. The music features Jethro Tull at their most cerebral, and became the band’s most successful album. In America alone, Aqualung sold three million copies, and seven million copies worldwide. Suddenly, Jethro Tull were one of the biggest selling bands in the world.

The success of Aqualung was a game-changer for Jethro Tull. They were now one of the biggest bands opt the seventies. That’s where they remained for much of seventies. For a while, it seemed that everything Jethro Tull touched to silver, gold or platinum. However, Aqualung was one of Jethro Tull’s finest hours, and set the bar high for future albums

r-708318-1153567178-jpeg

Jethro Tull-Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die-Vinyl.

For Record Store Day 2016, Rhino released Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die. It was originally released in 1976, and was another concept album where Jethro Tull told the story of an ageing rock star, who found fame when musical tastes changed. This was prophetic.

By the time Jethro Tull released Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die, they were one of the most successful progressive rock bands. However, music was changing, with the birth of punk. This impacted on sales of the Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die, and there were no gold, silver or platinum discs. Since then, Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die is regarded as a hidden gem in Jethro Tull’s back-catalogue. It’s also one of the most underrated albums in Jethro Tull’s illustrious back-catalogue.

On Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die Jethro Tull combined  folk, jazz and classical with progressive rock. The result was a cohesive, cerebral concept album that deserved to find a wider audience. Alas, it wasn’t to be. As a result, Jethro Tull never released another concept album. That was a great shame, as they were past masters of the concept album. A reminder of that is Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die. a hidden gem in Jethro Tull’s back-catalogue.

r-1873412-1396034382-8908-jpeg

Jimi Hendrix-Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69.

In April 1969, Jimi Hendrix embarked upon a new chapter in his career with The Band Of Gypsy’s. They were been booked to appear at The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, where they stole show with a breathtaking performance. After the Band Of Gypsy’s barnstorming performance at Woodstock, where they stole the show, Jimi’s new band experimented with the expanded lineup. However, the Band Of Gypsy’s were reduced to a  trio for four appearances at the Fillmore East on 31st December and 1st January 1970.

The first of these shows is documented on Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69. It features another breathtaking performance. Everything from blues, funk, jazz, psychedelia, R&B, rock and soul were combined by the Band Of Gypsy’s. They even pioneered funk rock, and took diversions into fusion, as the Band Of Gypsy’s showcased their versatility and talent. Jimi’s finest moment comes mid-set, on Machine Gun, where his guitar unleashed a myriad of sounds. It’s akin to being caught in a battlefield. A newly enlivened Jimi Hendrix reaches new heights,

 He also embraced his role as the Band Of Gypsy’s bandleader, leading  from the front, playing with flair and flamboyance, and urgency, invention and imagination. Jimi Henrdrix unleashes a masterful, virtuoso and spellbinding performance throughout  Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69, which is a reminder of one rock’s greatest every guitarists at his creative zenith.

r-9128771-1475318854-3055-jpeg

John Marty-Solid Air-Vinyl.

During his long and illustrious career, John Martyn released two classic albums for Island Records, including Solid Air in 1973. It was reissued twice during 2016. In May, Island Records reissued Solid Air as part of their Half-Speed Mastering series. Then Universal-Island Records Ltd supplied HMV 1,000 copies of Solid Air on green vinyl for their Vinyl Week initiative. This offered another opportunity to discover Solid Air.

When John Martyn released Solid Air in 1973, it was hailed a an almost flawless album and instant classic. He sets the bar high on the album opener Solid Air, a poignant, beautiful and deeply moving song he hd written about written about his friend Nick Drake, who had recently passed away. This set the bar high. John Martyn maintains his high standard on  Over the Hill, John’s cover of Skip Spence’s Don’t Want To Know, Go Down Easy, Dreams By The Sea and Man In The Station. They’re are among the highlights of Solid Air where John Martyn switches between folk, blues and rock..

The result is captivating and near flawless album where one is transfixed, enthralled by its beauty and subtlety. Solid Air is akin to a magical musical journey with John Martyn, who came of age on Solid Air, which is a seminal album. Four years later, he released his second classic album One World. However, Solid Air, which is a timeless classic will always be remembered as John Martyn’s finest hour.

r-8664390-1472419621-8521-jpeg

Judy Collins-In My Life, Wildflowers and Whales and Nightingales.

By 1970, Judy Collins had released  eight studio albums and one live album. She was now one of the most successful folk singers of her generations. Her last four albums had been certified gold. This remarkable run began with 1966s In My Life, and included 1967s Wildflowers, 1968s Who Knows Where the Time Goes? and ended with 1970s Whales and Nightingales. Three of these albums, In My Life, Wildflowers and Whales and Nightingales were released by BGO Records as a two CD set. They’re a reminder of a golden period in Judy Collins career.

Judy Collins was a pioneer of folk, who had flew the flag for folk throughout the sixties. That’s despite the onslaught of pop, rock and psychedelia. Still, Judy stood firm. The only time she wavered, was when she released Who Knows Where the Time Goes? It saw Judy enjoy a dalliance with country rock and folk rock. However, folk music was her true love, and she returned to the fold for Whales and Nightingales in 1970. Judy’s first album of the seventies was a triumphant returned, for the First Lady of folk.

She had released some of the best music of her career between 1966 and 1970.  By then, Judy was one of the best interpretative folk singers.  Proof of that can be found on In My Life, Wildflowers and Whales and Nightingales, which are the perfect introduction to Judy Collins, who is, without doubt, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of her generation.

51ngo32yvfl

Klaus Schulze-Cyborg.

When Klaus Schulze released his sophomore album Cyborg in 1973, most critics recognised that it was an important, innovative and influential album, it passed most record buyers by. Especially in Klaus’ native Germany, where he was one of a new wave of musicians who were writing a new chapter in the country’s musical history. It was only later that most German’s discovered the music of the Berlin School and Krautrock.

Cyborg which was reissue by MiG Music was later regarded as a Berlin School classic. However, Cyborg also references Krautrock, plus ambient, avant-garde, drone, experimental and musique concrète. This genre-melting album features Klaus Schulze at his innovative best.  He pushes musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes way beyond. To do this, Klaus used his various modified musical instruments and his excerpts from his tapes from Colluquim Musica Orchestra. These tapes added “spice” to this captivating genre classic. 

It’s variously understated, broody, moody, dark, dramatic and gothic. Other times, the music is futuristic and full of otherworldly and sci-fi sounds. Sometimes, though, the music is beautiful, elegiac and ethereal. Occasionally, the music is eerie, mesmeric and ruminative. Just like Klaus Schulze’s debut solo album Irrlicht, Cyborg has a cinematic sound. Both features cinematic, multilayered  soundscapes. They are full of nuances, subtleties and surprises aplenty. The result is Cyborg, an epic cinematic space symphony, which features musical maverick Klaus Schulze at his innovative best on a timeless genre classic.

r-219771-1298430106-jpeg

Klaus Schultze-Irrlicht.

Being a member of a band didn’t seem to suit Klaus Schulze. He had been a member of Tangerine Dream and then Ash Ra Tempel. However, Klaus Schulze found that the endless discussions got in the way of the important thing, making music. So Klaus Schulze embarked upon a solo career, and released his debut album Irrlicht in April 1972. 

When  Irrlicht was released, it was welll received by some critics. Many critics failed to “get” Irrlicht. Quite simply, Irrlicht was one the most innovative albums of 1972. The music on Irrlicht was understated, broody, moody, dark, dramatic and gothic. It was also chilling, eerie, meditative and ruminative. Constantly, Irrlicht has a cinematic sound and is like a twenty-first Century space symphony from a true musical pioneer, Klaus Schulze. 

He was making tentative steps in what would be a long and illustrious solo career. That career has lasted six decades and over sixty albums. Nowadays, Klaus Schulze is now regarded as a musical pioneer whose music has influenced several generations of musicians. Klaus Schulze is also regarded as one of the most important and influential artists in the Berlin School of electronic music. His groundbreaking debut album Irrlicht, which was reissued by MiG, is regarded as a Berlin School classic.

r-74279-1431072204-6120-jpeg