CHARLEY PRIDE-YOU’RE MY JAMAICA, ROLL ON MISSISSIPPI, EVERYBODY’S CHOICE AND CHARLY PRIDE LIVE.

Charley Pride-You’re My Jamaica Roll On Mississippi, Everybody’s Choice and Charley Pride Live.

Label: BGO Records.

By the time Charley Pride was preparing to release his new album You’re My Jamaica in 1979, he was one of the most successful country singers. He had already enjoyed twenty-one number one singles and eleven number one albums on the US Country charts, while eleven of Charley Pride’s albums had been certified gold. It was a remarkable transformation for the onetime ball player from Sledge, Mississippi, had come a long way since he released his debut album Country in 1966. 

In the space of just thirteen years, Charley Pride had become one of RCA Victor’s biggest selling artist. The only artist who outsold Charley Pride was Elvis Presley, who had died two years ago. With Charley Pride now RCA Victor’s biggest selling living artist, the company were relying on him to continue to release successful albums and hit singles. However, there had been a worrying trend over the last three years.

Nearly six years had passed since Charley Pride had enjoyed a number one album with Amazing Love in October 1973. Since then, six of the seven album Charley Pride released had made the top ten in the US Country charts. However, during the same period, Charley Pride had enjoyed eight number one singles in the US Country charts.  Charley Pride still had the Midas Touch, and it was only a matter of time until one of his albums returned to the top of the US Country charts. His next album was You’re My Jamaica which is one of four albums on a two CD set released by BGO Records. You’re My Jamaica is joined by Roll On Mississippi, Everybody’s Choice and Charley Pride Live, and covers the period between 1979 and 1982. Charley Pride was hoping he would enjoy his elusive twelfth number one album during this period.

You’re My Jamaica.

For what would be his last album of the seventies, Charley Pride decided to record an album that would find an audience way beyond the country music fans. He had been one of a small number of country artists whose music crossover appeal. Some fans of popular music had been won over by Charley Pride’s music over the past thirteen years. This time around, Charley Pride decided that his latest album should have widespread popular appeal. 

For what became You’re My Jamaica, Charley Pride chose ten songs to cover. These songs had one thing in common, they would appeal to fans of country music, and would also have crossover appeal. This included Bob Mc Dill’s What’re We Doing, Doing This Again. Charley Pride decided to cover a trio of songs penned by Kent Robbins, You’re My Jamaica, One More Time and I Want You. They were joined by the Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan composition Missin’ You. It was a song that Charley Pride had high hopes as he headed into the studio.

Just like previous albums, Charley Pride and Jerry Bradley co-produced You’re My Jamaica. They were joined at Music City Music Hall Studio in Nashville, by some of the city’s top session players, and The Jordanaires. Nine of the ten songs on You’re My Jamaica were recorded in Nashville, The exception was You’re My Jamaica, which was recorded Audio International in London. Now the album was complete, and ready for release.

Critics on hearing You’re My Jamaica, remarked upon an album that should appeal not just to country music fans, but fans of popular music. This hadn’t been easy. Charley Pride was trying to appeal to two different audiences. In doing so, Charley Pride took care not to alienate his loyal fans. They had supported him since he released his debut album Country in 1966. However, on You’re My Jamaica included songs that appealed to both fans of country music and popular music. 

There were a number of country ballads on You’re My Jamaica, which was something that Charley Pride excelled at. This included No Relief In Sight, Heartbreak Mountain, To Have And To Hold, Let Me Have A Chance To Love You (One More Time) and I Want You. There were other ballads on the album, including the string-drenched What’re We Doing, Doing This Again and the soul-baring Missin’ You. Both had crossover appeal, and had the potential to introduce Charley Pride to a much wider audience. So had You’re My Jamaica, which was very different to the rest of the album. However, it featured the all important hook. This would prove important when it was released as a single.

You’re My Jamaica was chosen as the lead single, and released later in 1979. Not only did it reach number one in the US Country charts, but the Canadian Country charts. This augured well for the release of the album. When You’re My Jamaica was released, it reached number eleven in the US Country charts and number six Canadian Country charts. While You’re My Jamaica had missed out on the top ten in the US Country charts, which was disappointing, further success wasn’t far away. Missin’ You was then released as a single, and reached number two in the US Country and Canadian Country charts. What proved to be Charley Pride’s last album of the seventies, was seen as a success.

There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me.

As a new decade dawned, Charley Pride returned with his first album of the eighties, There’s a Little Bit of Hank In Me. It was released in January 1980, but had been recorded during the second half of 1979.

There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me was recorded at Castle Studio, Nashville with producer Fred Rose. Charley Pride was accompanied by some of Nashville’s finest sessions players as Charley Pride paid tribute to country music legend Hank Williams. Charley Pride covered twelve of Hank Williams best known songs. He breathed life, meaning and emotion into songs like Mind Your Own Business, Honky Tonk Blues, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Why Don’t You Love Me and You Win Again. These songs became There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me.

When There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me was released in January 1980, it was to widespread critical acclaim. The album reached number one in the US Country charts and was certified gold in Canada. Honky Tonk Blues was released as the lead single and reached number one in the US and Canadian Country charts. You Win Again gave Charley Pride another number one single in the US Country charts, but reached just number two in the Canadian Country charts. Charley Pride had started the eighties as he meant to go on.

Roll On Mississippi.

Despite the success of There’s A Little Bit Of Hank In Me, Charley Pride wasn’t in any hurry to release a new album. The rest of 1980 passed without a letter home from Charley Pride. However, in the spring of 1981, Charley Pride returned with his new album Roll On Mississippi.

For his new album, Charley Pride chose another Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan composition Roll On Mississippi. He hoped that it would follow in the footsteps of Missin’ You. Charley Pride also covered You Almost Slipped My Mind which was penned by Don Goodman and Troy Seals. They joined another eight songs which Charley Pride and producer Jerry Bradley hoped would have crossover appeal.

Just like You’re My Jamaica, Charley Pride and Jerry Bradley co-produced You’re My Jamaica at Music City Music Hall Studio in Nashville. They were joined by some of Nashville’s top session players, while The Jordanaires again, added vocal accompaniment and were joined by The Nashville Edition. Sweetening the sound was The Shelly Kurland Strings. Once the album was complete, RCA Victor scheduled the release for the spring of 1981.

Critics on hearing Roll On Mississippi, were won over by another album that had crossover appeal. This included the ballad Roll On Mississippi, which not only tugged at the heartstrings, but had single written all over.  Just like You’re My Jamaica, Roll On Mississippi featured a number of beautiful, emotive and heart wrenching ballads. Among them were I Used To Be That Way, Taking The Easy Way Out, plus She’s As Good As Gone, He Can Be An Angel, Fall Back On Me which were sweetened by lush strings. Make It Special Again was an uptempo song with crossover appeal, while the tempo drops on the hurt-filled country ballad You Beat ‘Em All. Ghost-Written Love Letters has made in Nashville written all over it. Bookending the album was a carefully crafted, ballad You Almost Slipped My Mind, where Charley Pride sounds as if he’s experienced the hurt and loss. Roll On Mississippi was well worth the fourteen month wait.

Before the release of Roll On Mississippi, the title-track was released as a single, reaching number seven in the US Country charts and two in the Canadian Country charts. When Roll On Mississippi was released in March 1981, it stalled at seventeen on the US Country charts. This was Charley Pride’s lowest chart placing since The Pride of Country Music in June 1967. For Charley Pride this was a disappointing, especially considering the quality of the album. However, when You Almost Slipped My Mind was released as a single, it reached number four in the US Country charts and five in the Canadian Country charts. This was another top five hit for Charley Pride. He could only hope that his next album would prove more successful.

Greatest Hits.

Later in 1981, Charley Pride returned with the fifth Greatest Hits album of his career so far. Not all the songs on the album were Greatest Hits. Charley Pride’s cover of Wayland Holyfield and Norro Wilson’s Never Been So Loved (In All My Life) hadn’t been released yet. This would soon change.

In June 1981, Never Been So Loved (In All My Life) was released as a single and reached number one on the US and Canadian Country charts. This helped Charley Pride’s latest Greatest Hits album reached number 185 in the US Billboard 200 and number eight in the US Country charts. It looked like Charley Pride’s luck was changing.

Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice.

For Charley Pride, 1982 was another busy year, that saw him release another two albums. The first of these albums was Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice. It saw Charley Pride dig deep into the songbooks of some of country music’s best songwriters.

This included Kent Robbins who had provided Charley Pride with several hit singles. Charley Pride hoped that I Don’t Think She’s In Love Anymore would give him another hit single. Charley Pride  had covered many of Ben Peters’ songs, and this time around, chose two of his songs You’re So Good When You’re Bad and Cup Of Love. They joined John Schweers’ Love Is A Shadow and Harold Dorman’s Mountain Of Love. These were just five of the songs that Charley Pride recorded for Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice.

When recording began, there was no sign of Jerry Bradley, who had produced so many of Charley Pride’s album. Instead, Charley Pride would co-produce Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice with Norro Wilson. With a crack band of Nashville session players, recording got underway in the familiar surroundings of Music City Music Hall Studio. This time, there was no sign of The Jordanaires, although strings were used to sweeten four of the songs. It was the start of a new era for Charley Pride.

Critics had heard that Charley Pride had been working with new producer Norro Wilson, and awaited the results of their first album together. The album opener I Don’t Think She’s In Love Anymore showcased a much more contemporary sound. However, it had hit written all over it. It gives way to the rueful ballad I See The Devil In Your Deep Blue Eyes. You’re So Good When You’re Bad is another song that showcases the new, contemporary sound. It’s also got crossover appeal, and has a much more commercial sound. This commercial sound continues on When She Dances and Mountain Of Love which are both carefully crafted ballads. Oh What A Beautiful Love Song is the perfect description of this string drenched ballad.

By contrast, I Haven’t Loved This Way In Years has a minimalist arrangement that allows Charley Pride’s vocal to take centre-stage. The balladry continues with a cover of Ben Peters’ Cup Of Love and Love Is A Shadow. Closing the album was I Hope (You Never Cry Again), which was one that Charley Pride’s longterm fans would embrace and enjoy. It brought to an end Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice, which oozed quality.

Prior to the release of Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice, I Don’t Think She’s In Love Anymore was released as a single and reached number two in the US Country charts and number one in the Canadian country charts. This augured well for the release of Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice. When it was released, it reached number ten on the US Country charts. For Charley Pride this was an improvement on Roll On Mississippi. Especially when Mountain Of Love reached number one on the US and Canadian Country charts. Then You’re So Good When You’re Bad gave Charley Pride his twenty-seventh US Country number one and reached number two in the Canadian Country charts. Charley Pride’s first album with Norro Wilson had resulted in two more number one singles in America and Canada, and top ten album. Things were looking good for Charley Pride.

Charley Pride Live.

Given the success of Charley Sings Everybody’s Choice, many artists would’ve returned to the studio and recorded another album. Not Charley Pride, who sometimes, seemed almost contrarian. An example was waiting fourteen months to release the followup to You’re My Jamaica. Some critics thought that was a strange decision at the time. However, Charley Pride was his own man, and later in 1982, decided to release his second live album Charley Pride Live.

Charley Pride had released his first live album Charley Pride In Person, thirteen years earlier in 1969. It reached number two, sixty-two in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Charley Pride Live had a lot to live up to.

Charley Pride Live was recorded at the Grand Ole Opry, and featured fifteen songs. Fittingly, he opened the set with A Whole Lotta Things To Sing About, before covering the ballads Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’ and Just To Be With You, before Charley embarks on a cover of My Love Is Deep, My Love Is Wide and then an emotive reading of Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone. After that, Charley Pride revisited  songs like Since You Came Into My Life, Why Baby Why, Tennessee Girl and his 1981 hit single You’re My Jamaica. It gave to a heartfelt renditions of It’s So Good To Be Together and I Discovered You. When he delivers Let Me Live, Charley Pride’s vocal oozes emotion. However, there’s still one more song left When I Stop Leaving (I’ll Be Gone). After that, Charley Pride takes his leave.

When Charley Pride Live was released later in 1982, the album was received by the critics. Alas, Charley Pride Live stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Country charts. However, when Why Oh Why was released as a single, it reached number one  in the US Country charts and number four in the Canadian Country charts. By now, Charley Pride had amassed twenty-eight number one singles in the US Country charts. While country music was changing, Charley Pride was still one of its biggest names.

That had been the case since 1966, when Charley Pride released his debut album Country. Since then, he had enjoyed sixteen years of uninterrupted commercial success. He had enjoyed twenty-eight number one singles and twelve number one country albums in America by the time he released Charley Pride Live in 1982.  This made Charley Pride one of country music’s biggest names. During this period, Charley Pride was in his prime musically.

A reminder of Charley Pride in his prime can be found on BGO Records’ recently released two CD which features You’re My Jamaica, Roll On Mississippi, Everybody’s Choice and Charley Pride Live. These four albums were released between 1979 and 1982, and although they didn’t sell in the same quantities as the albums Charley Pride released between 1966 and 1973, feature a giant of country music at the peak of his powers.

Eleven year after releasing Charley Pride Live in 1982, which was recorded at the Grand Ole Opry, Charley Pride accepted that venerable institution’s longstanding invitation and joined the Grand Ole Opry. He had come a long way since he made his debut as a guest artist at the Grand Ole Opry in 1967.  Back then, he was the first African-American to play at the Grand Ole Opry. Fifty years later, and only Charley Pride and Darius Rucker are the only two African-American members of the Grand Ole Opry. That is one of the biggest honours for a country music.

Nowadays, Charley Pride is seventy-nine years old, and is regarded as a legend of country music. He’s sold over seventy-million albums, and is still, RCA Victor’s second biggest selling artist of all time. Only The King, Elvis Presley outsold Charley Pride. Ironically, Charley Pride never dreamt of making a career out of music, and instead, had hoped  make a living as a baseball player. While that dream never came true for Charley Pride, the man form Sledge, Mississippi is the living embodiment of the American Dream.

Charley Pride-You’re My Jamaica Roll On Mississippi, Everybody’s Choice and Charley Pride Live.

VOIGT/465-SLIGHTS STILL UNSPOKEN.

Voight/465-Slights Still Unspoken.

Label: Mental Experience.

The story of Voight/465 is a case of what might have been. They were formed in Sydney, Australia in 1976, and spent the next three years trying to make a breakthrough. By May 1979, things were looking up for Voight/465 and they looked on the verge of a breakthrough. Their single State was being played on radio in London and Sydney. Not long after this, Voight/465 secured a residency in Sydney, and even embarked upon a short tour of Melbourne. Voight/465 were playing better than ever before, and had built up a loyal following. Surely, nothing could go wrong? 

Unfortunately it did. What started off as a discussions about the future direction of Voight/465 resulted in bassist Lindsay O’Meara leaving the band. Given how important a part he was in Voight/465’s sound, the rest of the band knew that they couldn’t continue without out him. Voight/465 called time on their career, after being tantalizingly close to making a breakthrough.

Although it looked like had been consigned to musical history, discussions were taking place between the band members to reunite one last time. They wanted to document the life and times of Voight/465. After much cajoling, the five band members agreed to record what became an album at Axtent Studios, in suburban Kogarah. That album was Slights Still Unspoken which was released on the Unanimous Weld Enunciations in 1979. Thirty-eight years later, and Slights Still Unspoken was recently reissued by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records. Sadly, Slights Still Unspoken marked the end of the road for Voight/465.

Things had looked very different, three years earlier in 1976, the year that punk arrived in Australia, and across the country new bands were being formed. Many were short-lived, and never came close to playing live, never mind recording a single. A few, including Voight/465 went on to make their on the Australian music scene.

Voight/465 was formed by a group of friends in Sydney in 1976. The original lineup of the band included bassist Lindsay O’Meara, guitarist Rod Pobestek, keyboardist and vocalist Phil Turnbull plus vocalist Rae Bryom. They had been inspired by the music of Can, Faust, Henry Cow, Pere Ubu, Slapp Happy, Syd Barrett, The Stooges and early Roxy Music five friends decided to form a band. These influences would play their part in one of the first wave of post-punk bands in Australia.

The newly formed Voight/465 set about honing their sound, and over the next few weeks and months, gradually the nascent’s band started to emerge. It a raw, abrasive and genre-melting sound that over the next couple of years, would incorporate elements of art rock, avant-garage, DIY, electronica,  improv,industrial, Krautrock, noise, post-punk and psychedelia. This new sound would gradually find favour with Sydney’s post-punk scene.

By 1978, Voight/465 were one of the leading light of Sydney’s thriving and vibrant post-punk scene. They had spent the last two years creating their own scene. In the early days when Voight/465 couldn’t find somewhere to play live, they found makeshift venues. This included a free open air gig at Bigge Park, in Liverpool, a suburb of Western Sydney. Later they graduated to playing pubs and clubs on the local circuit. This was akin to their musical apprenticeship, and allowed the band’s sound to evolve. The next step was to record their debut single.

Unlike many post-punk bands, Voight/465 hadn’t rushed into recording their debut single. Instead, they waited until the group had matured, and its sound had evolved. By then, Voight/465 had also matured as songwriters. They had penned State, which they planned to record as their debut single, with A Secret West on the B-Side. Voight/465 booked a local studio to record their debut single.

This was Axent Studios, which was based in Kogarah, a suburb of Sydney. Joining Voight/465 was a local musician Ross McGregor, who would co-produce State and A Secret West. State was raw and rocky, but was melodic and showcased a truly talented post punk band. The B-Side, A Secret West, was a much more experimental sounding track, that showed the pop psych side of Voight/465. These two tracks were recorded during one session, and would showcase the different sides Voight/465.

When State was pressed, it was as a limited edition of just 547. As a result, copies of State are now incredibly rare, and have changed hands for Aus$325. When State was released, it was on a local label Unanimous Weld Enunciations. Singles were sold locally and at gigs. A few were sent to DJs, and would later spread the word about Voight/465.

Buoyed by having released their debut single State, Voight/465 were full of energy and enthusiasm. They played several gigs and in August 1978, managed to convince the owners of French’s Wine Bar to allow them to play live. For the show, Voight/465 took along a slide projector, which would show a lysergic light show. This was all very Pink Floyd circa 1967, and something that Voight/465 thought would appeal to the patrons.

As Voight/465 took to the stage the venue was just about full. When started to play, it looked like they had won over the audience. Then came the lysergic light show, which proved to be their undoing. Suddenly, the audience turned on Voight/465 and someone through a glass tankard at the band. Ross Turnbull remembers the shouts of: “you bunch of hippies.” For a group with impeccable post punk credentials that one hurt. Especially when Voight/465 realised that the hecklers were fans of Voight/465. The only small crumb of comfort was that the band got paid. However, the fallout continued the next day.

To make matters worse, the events at French’s Wine Bar resulted in drummer Bruce Saddler leaving Voight/465 the next day. What should’ve been a successful show had cost the band their second drummer. Now the search began for a replacement.

Eventually, Voight/465 settled on Mark Boswell, who was chosen as Bruce Stadler’s replacement. He soon had settled into life as Voight/465’s drummer, and was ready to make his debut.

Mark Boswell made his Voight/465 debut at Garibaldi’s, an Italian community centre in East Sydney that had seen better days. That didn’t matter to Voight/465, who were one of the bands supporting The Thought Criminals. When Voight/465 started to play, they soon, had won over the audience. So much so, by the time that Voight/465 left the stage, it was a to a standing ovation. That night, Voight/465’s music was discovered by a whole new audience.

That came as no surprise. After the events at French’s Wine Bar, Voight/465 went in search of like-minded people. Suddenly, they were preaching to the converted and playing in front of audiences who were part of Sydney’s post-punk scene. This made a huge difference, and soon, Voight/465’s star in the ascendancy.

Suddenly, things started to fall into place for Voight/465. The group moved into a new rehearsal room in October 1978 in Darlinghurst. At last, they could practise anytime they wanted. This was very different to the two previous years, where they were constantly hunting for places to practice and work on new songs. Not any more, now that Voight/465 had their own practise area. They also hoped to interest a record company in their music.

Although there were a number of record companies in Sydney, Voight/465’s bassist Lindsay O’Meara was about to embark upon a journey overseas, where he hoped to interest record companies in their single State b/w A Secret West. The five members of Voight/465 had high hopes for the single, and hoped that when Lindsay O’Meara returned, it would be with several offers of recording deals.

Before Lindsay O’Meara headed off on his journey, Voight/465 decided to play one more gig. Just like many of gigs that Voight/465 had played, it would be financed by the band. The venue they choses wasn’t in one of Sydney’s many pubs or clubs. Instead, in the spirit of ’76, it was at the Western Distributor construction site in Pyrmont. 

This was somewhere that was off-limits for the public. That was no surprise, given huge electricity pylons crisscrossed the makeshift venue. However, someone managed to secure entry into the site, and the band started setting up their equipment. Soon, Voight/465 were ready to play. That was when things started to go awry.

As the band took to makeshift stage, most of the band weren’t feeling well. They had caught a flu bug from Ross Turnbull, but didn’t want to disappoint their fans by cancelling. The show had to go on. To make matters worse, the band were experiencing problems with their PA. After a lengthy delay, eventually, Voight/465 took to the makeshift stage, and when they looked down, the crowd numbered no more than fifteen, including a couple of curious kids. Not long after Voight/465 started to play, site security turned up the gig was over before it began. However, Voight/465 managed to squeeze in I Wanna Be Your Dog as an encore. For Voight/465 it had been a night to forger. Especially when they realised that they had lost Aus$64.

While the Pyrmont gig was a disappointment, soon, Lindsay O’Meara returned from his travels, and had some good news. Although he hadn’t received any offers of recording contracts, it turned out that John Peel had been playing State on BBC Radio one show, and the song was being on the Australian radio station 2JJ. Buoyed by this news Voight/465 decided to concentrate their efforts, and see if they could make a breakthrough. It certainly seemed tantalizingly close.

Over the next month, things started to fall into place for Voight/465. They secured a residency at the Sussex Hotel in May 1979, and proved a popular draw. Those who paid the Aus$1 entry fee, saw Voight/465 at the peak of their powers. The band had never played as well. It was as if everything had been leading to this. Later, in May 1979, Voight/465 embarked upon a short, but successful tour of Melbourne. Just like their performances at the Sussex Hotel, the gigs they played in Melbourne are regarded as some of the band’s finest performances. It seemed that Voight/465 were on the verge of a breakthrough.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. After having enjoyed a hugely successful time during May 1979, Voight/465 started discussing their future musical direction. There had already been disagreements about the band’s future direction. Some of Voight/465 wanted to play rock, while others in the band wanted to focus solely on improv. This was something that Voight/465 had already explored and incorporated as part of their genre-melting sound. However, what had started off as a discussions about the future direction of Voight/465 resulted in bassist Lindsay O’Meara leaving the band. 

Given how important a part Lindsay O’Meara played in Voight/465’s sound, the rest of the band knew that they couldn’t continue without out him. Voight/465 called time on their career, despite being tantalizingly close to making a breakthrough.

After making the decision to split-up, the band started to regret that they had never documented the life and times of Voight/465. Now it was too late. Or was it? 

Eventually, the five members of Voight/465 started to talk about reuniting for the sole purpose of documenting their musical lives together. It took much cajoling and convincing, but the members of Voight/465 agreed to put their differences to once side to record an album together.

To record the album, Voight/465 returned to Axtent Studios, in suburban Kogarah. That was where the session for the album Slights Still Unspoken was recorded. The album was recorded quickly, with Voight/465 drawing inspiration from a variety of bands, whilst fusing elements of art rock, avant-rock, electronica, improv, industrial, Krautrock, noise, post-punk, psychedelia and punk. Over the course of the session, an emboldened Voight/465 strut their way through the ten songs that would eventually become Slights Still Unspoken. 

Voight/465 play with power and  intensity, and sometimes with freedom and fluidity. Other times, their playing is inventive and innovative as they throw curveballs and take the music is a very different direction. Sometimes, they experiment and  improvise as they take the listener on a voyage of discovery. For what was their swan-song, up the ante and play as if their very lives depended upon it during that final session at Axtent Studios, where they documented three years of making music. 

They play with power and intensity on the album opener Voices A Drama, where post punk meets art rock in this anthem-in-waiting. This gives way to the genre-melting Red Lock On See Steal, which features Voight/465  at their most inventive and innovative, as they seamlessly fuse elements of Krautrock, industrial, electronica and psychedelia. In doing so, they reveal the other side of Voight/465. A Welcome Mystery is reminiscent of Voices A Drama, with art rock and post-punk playing their part in another anthemic track. Imprint is a jittery fusion of post punk and punk, that brings memories of ’76. Many Risk bursts into life, and finds the two sides of Voight/465 becoming one. It’s not just rocky, melodic, memorable and mesmeric, but showcases the much more experimental side of Voight/465. Elements of Krautrock, industrial, art-rock and post-punk combined and close side one.

Voight/465 play with power, intensity and inventiveness on Is New Is, as they use punk and post punk as the building blocks for the track. To this they head briefly in the direction of improv, before lysergic washes of Hendrix-inspired feedback transform the track. Briefly, 4 Hours meanders, before this choppy and punchy post punk gradually begins to reveal it secrets. It’s one of the highlights of the album. At just a minute long, P is the musical equivalent of an amuse-bouche. P’s hypnotic and strangely melodic sound is sure to tantalize. F1 finds Voight/465 experiment and improvise as they take the listener on a voyage of discovery during this seven minute epic. Closing the album was Winchsoul, where the two sides of Voight/465 unite. Elements of improv and rock are combined with post punk as Voight/465 close Slights Still Unspoken on a high.

These ten songs that were recorded at Axtent Studios would  eventually become Slights Still Unspoken which was Voight/465’s debut album. Slights Still Unspoken was released in September 1979, and was released by Unanimous Weld Enunciations. Two different pressings of the album were released. The first features a white picture sleeve cover, while the second version has an orange coloured album cover with different artwork. Nowadays, both are incredibly rare and highly collectible. So much so, that original copies of Slights Still Unspoken are beyond the budget of most record buyers. 

Thankfully, Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records has recently released Slights Still Unspoken. It’s available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download. The newly released CD and version of Slights Still Unspoken on features the ten tracks on the album, plus Voight/465’s debut single State and the B-Side A Secret West. So does the LP version of Slights Still Unspoken. However, the LP includes a free digital download coupon, that is akin to a ticket to a magic kingdom.

The download code give the proud owner access to five bonus tracks. Some were recorded live, while others were recorded in the studio. However, three bonus tracks stand head and shoulders above the rest. They’re not just bonus track, but barnstorming cover versions recorded between 1978-1978, which  feature Voight/465 in full flight. These cover versions includes Remake/Remodel, which is a track from Roxy Music’s 1972 eponymous debut album. A Rainy Day Sunshine is a track from Krautrock pioneers Faust’s 1972 sophomore album So Far. The other cover version is Connection, which featured on Can’s album Unlimited Edition. These three tracks are an irresistible reminder of Voight/465 and their genre-melting sound, and are a reminder of one of the greatest bands to emerge out of Sydney’s post-punk scene.

Despite that, Voight/465 went their separate ways after the release of Slights Still Unspoken. There were no last-gasp attempts to rescue the group. By then, the damage had been done, and some members of Voight/465 had moved on. It was the end of era, for the five members of Voight/465, who if things had been different, could’ve gone on to greater things. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Instead, Voight/465’s musical legacy was  Slights Still Unspoken, which features a band at the peak of their powers. It features Voight/465 the day they reunited to record what wasn’t just their debut album, but was also their swan-song, Slights Still Unspoken, which album that documents their place in Sydney’s musical history.

Voight/465-Slights Still Unspoken.

 

INNERPEACE-RARE SPIRITUAL FUNK AND JAZZ GEMS: THE SUPREME SOUND OF PRODUCER BOB SHAD.

Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad.

Label: Wewantsounds.

During his long and successful career, Bob Shad always managed to see the big picture musically, and as a result, was always step ahead of the competition. In doing so, this allowed him to survive and thrive for forty years within the fiercely competitive music industry. This included the years he spent running Mainstream Records.

Bob Shad founded Mainstream Records as a jazz label in 1964. By 1965, Bob Shad realised that music was changing, and decided to that Mainstream Records should release a much wider and eclectic selection of music. This would include rock music. For the next five years, Mainstream Records’ new roster proved popular and profitable. That changed in 1970. When the label went into the red, Bob Shad decided to relaunch Mainstream Records. 

The newly relaunched Mainstream Records would feature a newly designed label and would release just jazz albums, and even the occasional single. Bob Shad had devised a criteria for the albums he was willing to release. They had to be traditional jazz albums. Bob Shad wasn’t willing to release albums that featured synths and electronics. Soon, he realised this was unrealistic as fusion’s popularity was on the rise. The new policy didn’t last long. Another change was that Mainstream Records began to release soul and jazz.

That came as no surprise. By then,there had been a blurring of the lines between what was soul and jazz. Even critics and record buyers were confused. This blurring of the lines resulted in Mainstream Records’ musical policy changing, and the label releasing a much wider selection of music including the eleven tracks on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad, which was recently released by Wewantsounds. It’s the followup to Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. These two compilations are a reminder of the ambitious, inventive and eclectic music that Bob Shad’s newly relaunched Mainstream Records released post 1971. However, when Bob Shad’s career began, music was very different.

Bob Shad’s career began as a session musician in the forties. For Bob Shad this was just the start of his career. He didn’t plan on spending his life as a session player. He knew that he was destined for greater things. Although he was just a session musicians, Bob Shad made it his business to know everyone within the New York music scene. Soon, he knew everyone that mattered. Whether it was Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker or Coleman Hawkins, Bob Shad knew them. There was a reason for this. Bob Shad was looking to the future.

Bob Shad didn’t want to remain a session player. The role of musical hired gun wasn’t for Bob. He had ambition and saw the bigger picture. Soon, Bob Shad was working as a producer in post-war New York. Mostly, Bob was producing R&B. This was just the next step in Bob’s game-plan.

In 1948, Bob founded his first label  Sittin’ In With. He was inspired to do this because of his love of jazz. This resulted in Bob discovering the blues. With his portable tape recorder, Bob Shad headed to the South and taped some of the greatest names in blues music including Lightnin’ Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and Smokey Hogg. Having recorded one blues player, they would tell Bob about another. He continued to crisscross the South taping some of the legendary blues players. When he had eventually returned to the Big Apple, Bob Shad started to release these singles on his own labels. 

Somehow, Bob Shad still found time to freelance. Some of the artists he discovered were released on other labels. This includes Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Savannah Churchill. While these records sold in vast volumes, Bob didn’t make much money. It taught him an important lesson. That was only to release music on his own labels.

Despite founding  a series of labels during the early fifties, Bob Shad agreed to work full-time for Mercury Records. Still, Bob Shad founded a series of labels. This included the Castle, Harlem, Jackson,  Jade, Jax and Spirituals’ labels. He realised the importance of having separate labels for separate genres of music. Bob Shad realised that when record buyers saw a label, they had to know what type of music it would release. This was the case throughout his career.

By 1958 had tired of being a company man, and decided to focus entirely on his own labels. Bob Shad founded further labels, including Shad, Time and Warner. Then in 1959, Bob founded Brent Records which for eight years, was Bob Shad’s soul label. Between April 1959 and October 1967, Brent released seventy-five singles. However, midway through this, in 1964, Bob Shad released a new label Mainstream Records.

When Bob founded Mainstream Records in 1964, it was originally a jazz label, which mainly released albums and a few singles. However, by 1965, rock was King and Bob Shad decided that Mainstream Records should release a wider range of music. This included rock. 

For the next five years, Mainstream Records’ new roster proved popular and profitable. That was until 1970, when Mainstream Records started to lose money. Bob Shad knew he had to take action, and soon, he had hatched a plan  to relaunch Mainstream Records.

The newly relaunched Mainstream Records would feature a newly designed label and would release just jazz. Mostly, Bob Shad intended to return to releasing mostly albums, with the occasional single. However, Bob Shad had a criteria for the albums he was willing to release. 

He was going to only release what he saw as traditional jazz albums. Bob Shad didn’t want to release albums where synths and electronics featured. This was somewhat unrealistic given that fusion’s popularity was growing. It was no surprise that this new policy didn’t last long. However, that wasn’t the only change in Mainstream Records’ policy. The newly launched label began to release soul and jazz.

This came as no surprise. By then, the there had been a blurring of the lines between what was soul and jazz. Even critics and record buyers were confused. However, this blurring of the lines resulted in Mainstream Records’ musical policy changing, and the label releasing a much wider selection of music.

This included Harold Land,Roy Haynes, Charles Williams, Buddy Terry, Hadley Caliman, Frank Foster and Pete Yellin. That isn’t forgetting Dave Hubbard, Sonny Red, Lamont Johnson and Shelly Manne. Tracks from these eleven artists feature on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It’s tantalising taste and reminder of the spiritual sounding music that Mainstream Music were producing from 1971 onwards.

Bob Shad at Mainstream Music wasn’t the only producer making this music. Bob Shiele at Flying Dutchman Productions and Creed Taylor at CTi were both producing style of music. Each producer gave it their own twist. The recipe for this music included the spiritual jazz of the early seventies and modal jazz chords. To this, a myriad of Eastern influences and funky beats were added. Producers like Bob Shiele, Creed Taylor and Bob Shad gave this musical dish a stir, and added a few other ingredients.

That was what Bob Shad started doing in 1971, when he released the first of the MRL 100 jazz series. Little did he realise that he would end up releasing nearly 100 albums. While these albums featured ambitious, inventive and inimitable music, some of it had been inspired by music’s past. 

This ranged from the blues which Bob Shad had crisscrossed the South recording much earlier in his career. Other albums in the MRL 100 jazz series seemed to draw inspiration from big band music and jazz. However, much of the music on that Bob Shad recorded for the MRL 100 jazz series was unique and groundbreaking. Some of it was way ahead of its time. Eleven tracks from the MRL 100 jazz series feature on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad.

It opens with Harold Land’s In The Back, In The Corner, On The Dark (aka Blues For Oliver The Tall Pilgrim). It’s a track from the 1972 album Damisi, where Harold Land is accompanied by a stellar selection of top class session players. This includes drummer Leon Ndugu Chancler, bassist Buster Williams and Bill Henderson on electric piano. They accompany tenor saxophonist Harold Land as he incorporates elements of modal and fusion on this memorable example of spiritual funk.

A year after releasing Hip Ensemble on Mainstream Records, drummer Roy Haynes returned with Senyah. It shown a new light on Roy Haynes, as he reinvented his music with the help of producer Bob Shad. One of this critically acclaimed album’s highlights was the title-track, Senyah. Roy Haynes and his multitalented band kick loose and showcase their considerable talents. Especially,  tenor saxophonist George Adams, the fluid and understated sound of  Roland Prince’s guitar and Carl Schroeder on the  electric piano. They play starring roles in this blistering,  post bop masterpiece.

In 1972, Charles Williams released Stickball, which was his third album for Mainstream Records which featured Iron Jaws. It was also released as a single in 1972, but failed to make an impression on the charts. That is a great shame. Iron Jaws is a near seven minute, jazz-funk workout, where the Charles Williams and his all-star band enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs.  Gradually, this nuanced, slow burner, starts to reveal its secrets as organist Don Pullen and guitarist Cornell Dupree play leading roles. They play their part in a mesmeric and spiritual sounding epic that isn’t was one of the highlights of Stickball.

Buddy Terry had signed to Mainstream Records in 1971, and released Awareness, which was his third album. The followup Lean On Him was released in 1972, and featured Buddy Terry and a band that featured the crème de la crème of sessions players. They enjoy the chance to shine on what was the highlight of Lean On Him, Inner Peace. It’s a ten minute spiritual funk epic that ebbs and flows, rising and falling and in the process revealing its beauty, secrets and subtleties. Quite simply,  Inner Peace is a spiritual funk classic, and that epitomises everything that is good about the genre.

It wasn’t until Hadley Caliman signed to Mainstream Records that he recorded his debut album. Bob Shad spotted the potential in the tenor saxophonist and flautist, and knew that Hadley Caliman was ready to make the step up from sideman to bandleader. He led a sextet on his 1971 eponymous debut album. It opened with Cigar Eddie, which is a story of two a blistering but beautiful and impassioned tenor saxophone solos. When the first drops out, John White Jr lays down a flawless, fluid guitar solo. Hadley Caliman then returns and plays with fluidity, control and emotion on this beautiful and uplifting interpretation of spiritual jazz.

When Frank Foster released The Loud Minority in 1974, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. This only came later, when a new generation of record buyers discovered the track  Requiem For Dusty. Suddenly, DJs, sample hungry hip hop producers and jazz fans started looking for copies of The Loud Minority. Before long, the album was a cult classic. That is still the case today, with Requiem For Dusty a favourite of many a DJ. They’ve been won this glorious musical tapestry where Frank Foster weaves the big band sound with funk, fusion and modal jazz. The result is a vivid, joyous and truly irresistible sounding track where Frank Foster and his all-star band kick loose.

Having signed to Mainstream Records, saxophonist Pete Yellin released his debut album Dance Of Allegra in 1972. It featured four lengthy tracks, including Mebakush, a nine minute suite. It’s the perfect showcase for the septet that Pete Yellin leads. They enjoy their moment in the spotlight, and embrace they opportunity to improvise on this soulful, ruminative and spiritual epic that is guaranteed to invite reflection.

When Bob Shad signed saxophonist Dave Hubbard, he too,  was still to release his debut album. That would change in 1971 he released his eponymous debut album. It featured BC, which was released as a single in 1972. BC was the perfect showcase not just for Dave Hubbard and his tight and talented band. They all play their part in the sound and success of BC. Especially Albert Dailey’s fleet-fingered, shimmering electric piano solo. It comes close to sealing the show. However, Dave Hubbard’s playing is fast, fluid, as he combines power and passion. Always, though he’s in control as his saxophone breezes alone, playing a leading role in this spiritual jazz hidden gem.

Alto saxophonist and flautist Sonny Red came to prominence during the hard bop era. By 1971, music had changed, and Sonny Red was trying to reinvent himself with the help of Bob Shad. He had signed him to Mainstream Records, and in 1971 he released his eponymous album. It opens with Love Song, which Sonny Red wrote using his real name, Sylvester Kyner. While each member of the band plays their part, the triumvirate of pianist Cedar Walton and Sonny Red on tenor saxophone and flute are at the heart of the action. They carve out a beautiful, captivating, mesmeric and spiritual jazz opus.

LaMont Johnson released his debut album Sun, Moon and Stars on Mainstream Records in 1972.  It featured Libra’s Longing, which closed the album. As is often the case, it was a case of keeping the best until last.  Libra’s Longing ebbs and flows taking twists and turns as it reveals a myriad of surprises and subtleties. Elements of a much more tradition jazz sound combines with funk and even a hint of jazz-funk as LaMont Johnson and his band play with freedom, fluidity and invention. Libra’s Longing is a reminder of LaMont Johnson’s oft-overlooked album Sun, Moon and Stars.

Closing Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad is Shelly Manne’s 1972 album Mannekind has long been a favourite of sample-hungry hip hop producer. However, there’s much more to Mannekind than a source of samples. It’s also one of the best albums of albums released on Mainstream Records in 1972. A reminder of Mannekind is Infinity, forty-four seconds of inimitable percussive sounds that can be found on many hip hop albums.

The eleven tracks on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad are a reminder of the quality of  music that Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records consistently and constantly released throughout its fourteen year history of Mainstream Records. It was founded by Bob Shad in 1964, and closed its doors in 1978. During that fourteen year period, Bob Shad ensured that Mainstream Records remained relevant. 

During that period, music was constantly changing. Bob Shad saw what this happening, and decided to change direction musically. This was something that many independent labels shied away from. However, Bob Shad embraced changed and knew that the only way Mainstream Records to stay relevant and ergo solvent, was to release different type of music.

By the early seventies, the lines between what was soul and jazz were blurring. Bob Shad decided that Mainstream Records should release a much more eclectic selection of music, including soul, funk and jazz. This included the spiritual funk and jazz that features on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It features a mixture of new names like Hadley Caliman, Pete Yellin, Dave Hubbard, plus familiar faces like Shelly Manne and Sonny Red, who with Bob Shad’s help, were in the process of reinventing their music. Whether they were newcomers or veterans, they were all creating ambitious inventive and spiritual funky and jazz.

The recipe for this music included the spiritual jazz of the early seventies, modal jazz chords,  funky beats and a myriad of Eastern influences. Given a stir by producer Bob Shad, and this delicious musical stew featured on Mainstream Records MRL 100 jazz series. Eventually, the series numbered nearly 100 albums. This includes the eleven albums that provided the music on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad, which was recently released by Wewantsounds. It’s the second in what hopefully, will be a long-running series that looks back at the music Mainstream Music released during the seventies

After  Bob Shad relaunched Mainstream Records in 1971, the success story continued. Meanwhile, some of his competitors were shutting their doors. Meanwhile, Bob Shad continued to rejuvenate the career of artists whose careers had stalled, and launch the career of the new, up-and-coming artists. To do this, Bob Shad didn’t hesitate to employ top quality musicians, arrangers and producers. Especially when he believed in an artist and saw that they had untapped potential. 

With Bob Shad’s help and guidance, older artists reinvented themselves, while new and up-and-coming artists released new and innovative music. At last, some of the new artists were fulfilling their potential and enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim that their music deserved. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Sometimes, the commercial success eluded albums, and it wasn’t until later they were discovered by a new generation of record buyers. Sometimes, the problem was that the album was way ahead of the curve, and record buyers failed to understand groundbreaking albums. Another problem was that Mainstream Records was a small fish in a big pond.

Major labels and independent labels funded by majors had much bigger budgets, to promote and distribute their releases. Bob Shad was fighting a losing battle. Still, he continued his search for talented artists that might bring Mainstream Records that elusive hit single, as the label released a much wider and eclectic selection of music. This included music on Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Bob Shad.

Despite releasing music that was ambitious, inventive, innovative and timeless, Mainstream Records never enjoyed the commercial success that the music so richly deserved. Instead, Mainstream Records was an underground label, whose music was enjoyed by cultured coterie of musical connoisseurs. 

Although Mainstream Records never enjoyed the widespread success that its music deserved, the company continued to release albums until 1978. Then after fourteen years, Bob Shad decided the time had come to close Mainstream Records’ doors. That day music lost one of its great labels.

Mainstream Records was relaunched in the early nineties by another member of this musical dynasty,Tamara Shad. Sadly, one man was missing when Mainstream Records reopened its doors…Bob Shad. Sadly, he had passed away on March 13th 1985. Bob Shad was just sixty-five, but had enjoyed a long and successful career. He had founded numerous labels, including Mainstream Records in 1964.

Fifty-three years later, and the music Mainstream Records released between 1964 and 1978 lives on. It’s more popular than ever, and with every year that passes more people discover the delights of Mainstream Records’ illustrious back-catalogue. This ranges from DJs and sample-hungry hip hop producers to a new generation of music fans. 

Many of them have discovered Mainstream Records through recent reissues and compilations, including Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It’s the recently released followup to Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad, which was released in late 2016. These two compilations are the perfect introduction to the ambitious, innovative and timeless music that Mainstream Records released after its relaunch in 1970. They’re also a reminder and celebration of a legendary music man Bob Shad, and what’s regarded as his greatest and most enduring label,..Mainstream Records.

Innerpeace-Rare and Spiritual Funk and Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad.

ZEPHYR-ONE OF THE BEST BANDS YOU’VE NEVER HEARD.

Zephyr-One Of The Best Bands You’ve Never Heard.

Like many bands who don’t reach the heights that their music deserves, the story of Zephyr is one of what might have been. They released a trio of albums between 1969 and 1972, which nowadays, have a cult following including Zephyr, Back To Colorado and Sunset Ride. These two albums feature one of the best bands you’ve never heard. Their story began in 1969.

That was when Zephyr formed in Boulder, Colorado by eighteen year old guitarist Tommy Bolin, keyboardist John Faris, drummer Robbie Chamberlin, bassist David Givens and his wife Candy Givens, who became the lead vocalist and harmonica player. They were all talented musicians who shared a love of music. Their talent and love of music shawn through as they began to play live.

By then, the nascent band, had been named Zephyr, purely because the it “sounded ethereal.” Soon, the newly named Zephyr were honing their sound on the Boulder music scene. It was a mixture of blues, jazz and rock. This proved popular, and soon, Zephyr were playing all around Colorado. They had quickly built up  loyal following and were already working on their eponymous debut album. 

Zephyr.

Zephyr began work on their debut album not long after the band were formed. It was as if the five members of Zephyr were making up for lost time. They were determined that Zephyr should fulfil its potential.

Each member of the band was a talented musician. Although each member of the band came from different musical backgrounds, they had played blues and rock ’n’ roll. That was the commonality that they shared. Some of the members of Zephyr were also budding songwriters.

Especially Tommy Bolin, David Givens and his wife Candy Givens, who wrote six of the nine tracks on Zephyr. Tommy Bolin and Candy Givens wrote Sail On and Huna Buna. David Givens penned Boom-Ba-Boom and wrote Cross The River with his wife Candy Givens. They wrote Somebody Listen with John Faris while Hard Chargin’ Woman was credited the five members of Zephyr. The other two tracks on Zephyr were cover versions. This included  Dee Clark’s Raindrops and Joe Primrose a.k.a. Irving Mills’ St. James Infirmary Blues. To record their eponymous debut album, Zephyr headed to Los Angeles.

Their destination Wally Helder Studios, which was one of L.A.’s top recording studios. It was a far cry from the basement of Cindy Givens’ parent’s house, where some of the songs had been arranged. Zephyr were going up in the world. Especially since Bill Halverson was about to produce Zephyr. 

This was a big deal for the Zephyr who were still a relatively new band. They had come a long way in a short space of time. However, they were already a tight band. The rhythm section featured drummer Robbie Chamberlin, bassist David Givens and guitarist Tommy Bolin. John Faris switched between organ, piano and flute, while lead vocalist Candy Givens also played harmonica. Producer Bill Halverson was tasked with capturing the energy of Zephyr who were a charismatic and versatile band. It wasn’t going to be easy, but Bill Halverson succeeded in doing so.

Later in 1969, Zephyr was released on the Probe label, which was an imprint of ABC Records. The album received plaudits and praise upon its release. Praise was heaped on lead vocalist Candy Givens and virtuosos guitarist Tommy Bolin. They were regarded as key to the sound and success of Zephyr as they switched between musical genres. 

Almost seamlessly, Zephyr switched from blues to rock ’n’ roll and sometimes, became a jam band. Regardless of which style Zephyr played, their energy, enthusiasm and charisma shawn through. It seemed that Zephyr had been influenced by MC5, Ram Jam, Iron Butterly and even Cream, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and John Mayall and The Blues Breakers. All these influences shown through on Zephyr, which should’ve found a much wider audience.

Upon its release later in 1969, Zephyr wasn’t a hugely successful album. It sold reasonably well in Boulder and across Colorado. However, it failed to find an audience further afield. Considering Zephyr had only been together less than a year, and it was only their debut album, they were well ahead of the musical curve.

Back To Colorado.

It wasn’t until late 1970 that Zephyr began work on their sophomore album Back To Colorado. By then, Zephyr had moved from Probe to Warner Bros. Zephyr it seemed, were going up in the world. However, this wasn’t the only thing that had changed.

Zephyr’s lineup had changed. Robbie Chamberlin, Zephyr’s original drummer had left and been replaced by Bobby Berge. This was the first of several changes in Zephyr’s lineup. What hadn’t changed, was that most of the songs on Back To Colorado had been written by members of Zephyr.

This included David and Candy Givens. They wrote Miss Libertine; while David Givens penned Night Fades Softly and The Radio Song and Candy Givens contributed At This Very Moment. She also wrote Going Back To Colorado with John Tesar and Tommy Bolin. The John Tesar and Tommy Bolin songwriting partnership wrote Keep Me and I’ll Be Right There. Tommy Bolin who seemed to be blossoming as a songwriter, also penned and Showbizzy. These ten tracks would become Back To Colorado, which was recorded in late 1970.

For the recording of Zephyr’s Warner Bros debut, Electric Ladyland Studios, in New York was booked. It was one of the Big Apple’s top studios, and where many classic albums had been recorded. Producing Zephyr’s sophomore album Back To Colorado was Edward H. Kramer, who took a hands on approach to recording an album.

When recording of Back To Colorado began, the rhythm section now featured new drummer Bobby Berge, bassist David Givens and Tommy Bolin who played all the guitar parts and vibraphone. Zephyr’s multi-instrumentalist John Faris, played organ, piano, flute, soprano saxophone and sung the lead vocal on Take Me Love. Candy Givens took charge of eight of the nine remaining lead vocals and played harmonica. Augmenting Zephyr were backing vocalists;  Buzzy Linhart who added the lead vocal on The Radio Song and Paul Conley who played a Moog synth. Producer Edward H. Kramer played piano, clarinet and percussion on Back To Colorado, where he helped Zephyr reinvent themselves musically. Eventually, Back To Colorado was completed, and was released in 1971.

Before the release of Back To Colorado, critics received a copy of the album. They discovered a quite different album from Zephyr. Back To Colorado had a much more experimental sound,  and found Zephyr move away from the blues rock and jams that peppered their eponymous debut album. The only time the blues rock sound featured, was on the title-track and Showbizzy. For the rest of Back To Colorado, Zephyr move towards a Southern Californian sound. 

Most of music has a much more mellow and laid back folk-rock sound. Occasionally jazz and psychedelia can be heard Back To Colorado. Mostly, though, there’s a late-sixties influence throughout Back To Colorado. This harks back to the hippy era, when peace, love, understanding and revolution were the order of the day. That is still the case on Back To Colorado, as Zephyr rekindle the spirit of the sixties. Especially on Miss Libertine and See My People Come Together where Tommy Bolin unleashes one of his finest solos. Despite his guitar not featuring as prominently on Back To Colorado, he still plays a starring role throughout Back To Colorado. 

So does vocalist Candy Givens, despite some of her vocals attracting criticism back in 1971. Forty-six years later, and some of the criticism seems somewhat unjust.  On Back To Colorado, Candy Givens showcases her talent and versatility. Sometimes, she draws inspiration from, and seems determined to channel the spirit of Janis Joplin. Other times, she eschews power and different side of Candy Givens can be heard. Proof of that is Candy’s vocals on Keep Me, I’ll Be Right Here and At This Very Moment. They range from tender, sultry, powerful, soulful, impassioned and earnest. Cindy Givens had the ability to breath left, meaning and emotion into lyrics. This she did a number of times on Back To Colorado, which was released later in 1971.

When Back To Colorado was released in 1971, the reviews were mixed. There was no consensus amongst critics. Some liked Zephyr’s new sound, while others preferred the their eponymous debut album. It was a similar case with record buyers, with some embracing their new sound and others preferring their debut album. As a result, Back To Colorado failed to chart, which was a huge disappointment for Zephyr.

One member of Zephyr decided to call time on his career with Zephyr. Twenty year old Tommy Bolin left Zephyr, leaving the band without a guitarist. David Givens found his replacement in Jock Bartlett, who was a member The Children, who often supported Zephyr. He would make his debut Sunset Rise.

Sunset Ride.

When work began on Zephyr’s third album, Sunset Ride, there had further changes to the band’s lineup. Drummer Bobby Berge left after just one album, and was replaced by P.M. Wooten. John Alfonse was brought onboard to play congas. However, the biggest loss was multi-instrumentalist John Faris. He played keyboards, flute and saxophone and had played a part in the songwriting process. Replacing John Faris, was Dan Smyth who played organ and piano. It was a very different lineup of Zephyr that began work on Sunset Ride.

Only Candy and David Givens remained from the original five members of Zephyr. The changes in the lineup left a void when it came to writing Sunset Ride. Especially the departure of Tommy Bolin, who was one of Zephyr’s principal songwriters. For Sunset Ride, Candy and David Givens wrote the most of the album. They wrote I’m Not Surprised and Someone To Chew Together. David Givens penned No Time Lonesome, Moving Too Fast and wrote Sold My Heart with Jock Bartley. Cindy Givens contributed Sierra Cowgirl and Sunset Ride and joined with A. Armstrong and Jock Bartley to write Winter Always Finds Me. New recruit Dan Smyth made his songwriting debut when he wrote Chasing Clouds. The other track on Sunset Ride was a cover of Billy Edd Wheeler’s High Flying Bird. These ten tracks would become Sunset Ride.

When Zephyr began recording Sunset Ride, there was no sign of  Edward H. Kramer.  Instead, David Givens and Zephyr produced Sunset Ride. It marked the debut on the third lineup of Zephyr. The  rhythm section was changed beyond recognition, with drummer P.M. Wooten joined bassist David Givens who played acoustic guitar on Someone To Chew and sung on No Time Lonesome. The third member of the rhythm section was guitarist Jock Bartlett, whose vocals feature on Sold My Heart and Winter Always Finds Me. The other two newcomers were organist and pianist Dan Smyth and conga player John Alfonse congas. Candy Givens took charge of the lead vocals, played harmonica and piano on I’m Not Surprised, Sierra Cowgirl and Sunset Ride. Augmenting Zephyr was violinist Bobby Notkoff, who featured on No Time Lonesome. This new lineup of Zephyr decided to combined the old and new on Sunset Ride.

Once Sunset Ride was completed, Warner Bros. sent copies of Zephyr’s third album to music critics. They discovered a very different album Back To Colorado.  Zephyr returned to the sound of their eponymous debut album. There were two difference though. The first was that Tommy Bolin’s flashy guitar licks were missing. As a result, Candy Givens wasn’t tempted to compete with them. She reigned in the power and delivers much more restrained vocals than featured on Zephyr. Candy also seems to relish the opportunity to  showcase her versatility which began to blossom on Back To Colorado. Sunset Ride was a new start for Zephyr.

They begin with blues rock of I Am Not Surprised where Candy delivers a much more restrained, but just as effective vocal. That is the case on Someone To Chew and High Flying Bird. Boulder born guitarist Jock Bartlett eschews the flashy solos of Tommy Bolin, and in doing so, leaves more room for Candy’s vocal. No longer is she competing with the guitar. Soon though, it’s all change.

Time Lonesome showcases a much more mellow, but wistful sound. Moving Too Fast has a rockier sound, while Candy delivers a sultry vocal and plays blues harmonica. Sold My Heart is an understated, acoustic song which shows a totally different side to Zephyr. On Sierra Cowgirl, Candy’s filmic lyrics conjure up pictures of the Wild West. Chasing Clouds is a slow, thoughtful song that feature a tender vocal from Candy.  Sunset Ride flows melodically and ethereally along as Candy scats above the cascading arrangement. Winter Always Finds Me which closes Sunset Ride is something of a slow burner. Its experimental, genre-melting sound  gradually reveals its secrets, and when it does, it’s well worth the wait. Zephyr were back, with what was a return to form.

So good was Sunset Ride, that some critics felt it rivalled Zephyr’s eponymous debut album. It was also a more eclectic, but cohesive album. Whether it was blues rock, country, folk rock, pop or rock there was something for most tastes. Alas, when Sunset Ride was released in 1972, the album failed to trouble the charts. History had repeated itself for Zephyr. It was the last straw.

Not long after the release of Sunset Ride,  Zephyr split-up. They had been together just three years, had three different lineups and released three albums. This includes Zephyr, Back To Colorado and their swan-song Sunset Ride, which sees Zephyr’s music develop over the three-year period they were together.

Back To Colorado was a much more experimental album, that had been influenced by South Californian music and the hippy ideals of the late sixties. It’s an underrated album that marked the swan-song of guitar virtuoso Tommy Bolin. He and lead vocalist Candy  Givens were key to the sound and success of Zephyr. The only problem was Tommy Bolin’s guitar sometimes dominated the arrangements, forcing Candy Givens to complete with the guitars. That wasn’t the case on Back To Colorado, where Tommy Bolin’s guitar was reigned in. After Back To Colorado, he  left Zephyr and formed the jazz-rock  group Energy. Ironically, Candy  Givens continued to blossom.

Although many critics remember Candy Givens  as someone who unleashed a series of vocal powerhouses, that wasn’t always the case. She was a talented and versatile vocalist, who was capable of switching between different musical genres. She proved this to some extent on Back To Colorado, and blossomed on Sunset Ride. It was the album that could’ve and should’ve transformed the career of  Zephyr. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and they spilt-up not long after the release of Sunset Ride. That looked like the end of the road for Zephyr. 

Ten years later, and Zephyr hit the comeback trail, and released their fourth album Heartbeat in 1982. Sadly, by then one of the founding members of Zephyr had been dead for nearly six years. Virtuoso guitarist Tommy Bolin has died of a drugs on ‘4th’ December 1976, aged just twenty-five. He had played an important part in the Zephyr story. So had Candy Givens, who passed away in 1984. After the death of Candy Givens, Zephyr called it a day for good. 

Zephyr’s legacy was the four albums they released between 1969 and 1982. This includes Back To Colorado and Sunset Ride, which feature one of the best bands you’ve never heard, Zephyr.

Zephyr-One Of The Best Bands You’ve Never Heard.

MIKE CITY-PRESENTS THE FEEL GOOD AGENDA VOLUME 1.

Mike City-Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1.

Label: BBE.

Mike City’s big break came seventeen years ago in 2000, when he wrote and produced Carl Thomas’ number one hit I Wish. This proved to be a game-changer for Mike City. Suddenly, people within the music industry started to take notice of Mike City, who had been forging a career as a songwriter and producer. However, writing and producing a number one gave Mike City’s career a major boost.

Soon, Mike City was being asked to work with some the major names in hip hop, R&B and soul. This included Brandy, Rihanna, Angie Stone and Jamie Foxx. Mike City was going up in the world.

The rise and rise of Mike City continued when he cowrote Heard It All Before for Sunshine Anderson. It gave her a top ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 2001. Heard It All Before was one of five song Mike City cowrote for Sunshine Anderson’s 2001 debut album Your Woman. When it was released it sold over 750,000 copies in America and was certified gold. Mike City seemed to have the Midas touch

Philly born singer, songwriter and producer Mike City had also come a long way in a short space of time. He started off as a singer, but later switched to drums and bass, then decided to try keyboards. This was all good experience for when he launched his production career. However, recently, Mike City returned with his long-awaited sophomore album Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1 on BBE. It’s the followup to 1998s City Limits. It must seem like another country to Mike City.

Having written hit singles for Carl Thomas and Sunshine Anderson, suddenly, Mike City was much in-demand, and soon, was writing songs and producing some of the biggest names in hip hop, R&B and soul. This included writing a trio of songs for Lala Hathaway’s fourth album Outrun The Sky in 2004. A year later, Mike City penned Like It Was Yesterday for Brandy’s fourth album Afrodisiac. Then in 2006, wrote Dem Haters for Rihanna’s sophomore album A Girl like Me. Mike City had come a long way since he wrote and produced I Wish for Carl Thomas.

2006 saw Mike City was reunited with Sunshine Anderson. He was one of the co-producers of her sophomore album Sunshine At Midnight, and wrote four tracks. When Sunshine At Midnight was released, the album sold around 175,000 copies. There was no second gold disc for Sunshine Anderson. However, the success continued for Mike City.

He worked on Brandy’s 2008 album Human, and the same year, wrote Say It Ain’t So for Musiq Soulchild.  2009 saw Mike City contribute It Wasn’t Me to Urban Mystic’s album GRIII: Old Skool 2 Nu Skool, and produce a track for rapper Mack 10’s album Soft White. This brought to an end a decade where Mike City had spent working with some of the biggest names in hip hop, R&B and soul. He must have been hoping this success would continue.

The new decade started as the old one ended, with Mike City working with some big names artists during 2011. He cowrote and produced Shut Up for Ledisi’s fifth studio album Pieces Of Me. Mike City also worked on Lalah Hathaway sixth album Where It All Begins; Anthony Hamilton’s fifth Back to Love; Carl Thomas’ fourth album Conquer. 2011 had been a busy year for Mike City.

So was 2012, with Mike City much in demand. By then, he had established a reputation as a versatile songwriter and producer, who was equally at home working with hip hop, Nu Soul, pop, R&B and soul artists. Mike was known for his distinctive vocal arrangements and melodic production style. It was no surprise that he was asked to work with many high-profile artists. He contributed two songs to Dwele’s album Greater Than One, while another two of Mike’s songs found their way onto Angie Stone’s sixth studio album Rich Girl. He also found time to work with Faith Evans and Mashonda. However, the biggest name he worked with during 2012 was Brandy. Mike City cowrote and produced Music which featured on the Deluxe Edition of Two Eleven. As 2012 drew to a close, Mike City had enjoyed another successful year.

The only problem with working on so many albums was that Mike City was never getting the chance to record the followup to City Lights. While this was frustrating, Mike City was a high-profile songwriter and producer. This was something many kids back in the Philly would’ve dreamt of. To them, Mike City was living the dream, and would continue to do so.

In 2013, Mike City got the opportunity to work with Maysa, who was now one of the leading lights of the Nu Soul scene. She had previously been involved in the smooth jazz scene and worked with British R&B and soul band Incognito. However, she was about to record her tenth solo album since debut Maysa in 1995. Mike City wrote This Much for Blue Velvet Soul. It gave Maysa her most successful album since Metamorphosis in 2008.  Playing a small part in the album’s success was Mike City.

As 2014 dawned, Mike City began work on two high-profile projects. He penned Give It for Leela James 2014 album Fall For You, and then co-produced two songs on Faith Evans’ album Incomparable. Despite spending much of his time writing and producing for other people, Mike City found the time to collaborate with house producer Mark Francis.

He had been looking for someone to add vocals on his two tracks on his London Girls’ EP, and realised that Mike City fitted the bill. Mike City laid down the vocals on London Girls and It Keeps Things Interesting. These two tracks, became part of the Mike Francis’ London Girls EP, which was released in December 2014. This proved to be the first of three collaborations between the two men.

When Mike Francis was recording his Time Moves On EP, Mike City was drafted in to add vocals on Time Moves On and My Finger. These two songs became part of the Time Moves On EP, which was released in April 2015. However, the Mike Francis and Mike City partnership would return in 2016.

Ten months later, Mike Francis was preparing to release his I Need Your Love EP. Mike’s vocals featured on three of the four tracks, including the two mixes of I Need Your Love and Taking Over. These songs were released in February 2016 as the I Need Your Love EP. Mike’s return behind the microphone must have set him thinking about recording his sophomore album.

Before that, Mike City produced Trouble with Love for Amerie’s Drive EP, which was released in May 2016. By then, his star was in the ascendancy.

Recently, Mike City had been writing, producing and adding vocals to soulful house tracks. He was regarded as one of the top producers in the soulful house scene. However, Mike City was a versatile producer, who was capable of producing quality music across a variety of genres. Previously, he had worked on hip hop, Nu Soul, pop, R&B, rap, soul and now soulful house. Mike City was a versatile producer. Now he decided to put his versatility and experience to good use on his much-anticipated sophomore album, which eventually became Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1.

For the recording of his sophomore album, Mike City was able to call on some of the artists he had worked with over the last sixteen years. Mike City made calls to Maysa, Dwele, Carl Thomas and Crystal Johnson. Among the other names Mike City invited to work on his sophomore album were Teedra Moses, Terri Walker and Junior, who was one of the biggest names on British soul scene. These artists joined Mike City and played their part in recording Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1, which was recently released by BBE.

Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1 opens with I Rock Wit U which features Dwele. It bursts into life with pounding drums, stabs of synths and percussion setting the scene for Dwele’s tender vocal. Mike City seems keen to make an impression, and meanwhile, carefully crafts the arrangement. Drums provide the heartbeat, while synths flit in and out, and are augmented by tough keyboards, percussion and whistles. It’s the perfect backdrop for Dwele’s soulful vocal on this delicious slice of sunshine soul.

Straight away, Everybody Loves A Winner showcases a melodic and memorable sound. Filters are added to the shimmering keyboards and big, bold drums before Mike’s vocal enters. Soon, he’s joined by a funky bass and stabs of horns. Later, strings and harmonies are added as the arrangement ebbs and flows. By then, a melodic, anthem-in-waiting is unfolding.

100 Miles features vocalist Carl Thomas. His vocal is ushered in by  a pounding 4/4 beat while glistening, mesmeric keyboards are drizzled across the arrangement. Soon, another layer of keyboards add a contrast, while Carl adds an impassioned, hopeful vocal. As He even answers his own call, and seamlessly the vocals melt into one, and play their part in smooth and memorable slice of Nu Soul.

As drums provide the heartbeat, a funky bass, keyboards and even some sci-fi sounds combine on When I Luv. Soon, Faith Evans is delivering soulful, sultry vocal and is accompanied by Mike City. Their vocals work well, and sit together in the mix. Just like other tracks, the drums make their presence felt. They sound as if they’ve been mixed with the dance-floor in mind. However, they don’t overpower the arrangement. Especially, the holy trinity of the keyboards, harmonies and vocals, which play their part in the sound and success of the track. No wonder, with diva Faith Evans rolling back the years.

There’s almost an eighties sound to the keyboards and drums, before a whoosh signals the arrival of Teedra Moses’ vocal on Been Too Afraid. Reverb has been applied to her vocal, and is used subtly, before she duets with Mike. By then, a squelchy bass synth plays its part in the retro, old school arrangement. However, it’s Teedra Moses’ heartfelt and soulful vocal that steals the show, on a track that shows another side to Mike City’s production style.

Filters have been applied to the synths as hi-hats hiss and are joined by thunderous drums. They’re soon joined by Maysa who duets with Mike, on this dance-floor friendly song. Maysa also rolls back the years, and is one of the stars of the album as she delivers a joyous, soulful vocal. It’s as if Mike is spurred on, and raises his game. They’re joined by harmonies, hypnotic, jagged synths, an electric piano and percussion. Together, they play their part in one of the most memorable and melodic songs on the album.

The tempo increases on the piano led Up To It, where Mike takes charge of the vocal. This time, the drums are mixed further back leaving space for the piano and growling bass synth. It doesn’t overpower the rest of the arrangement, which later includes another synth and a sprinkling of percussion. Still, the piano leads the way, and proves the perfect accompaniment for Mike. Indeed, the song would work just as well, if not better with the piano, drums and even subtle percussion accompanying the vocal. Meanwhile, Mike continues to deliver what are some of the best lyrics on the album, which are like a mini soap opera set melodic and hooky music.

Layers of drums and washes of crystalline and sci-fi synths usher in Crystal Johnson’s vocal on More Of Me. Soon, she’s joined by Mike and their vocals sit well together. Meanwhile, a growling, pulsating bass synth has been added to the multilayered, dance-floor friendly song.

Washes of synths are joined by a melancholy horn as Here Together unfolds. Soon, bass synth is added as drums crack, as Mike delivers the vocal. He’s joined by Terri Walker, and soon,  her coquettish vocal is transforming the song. It’s the final piece in the musical jigsaw. Suddenly, a  hook-laden, dance-floor friendly slice of bedroom soul has taken shape, where music’s past and present unite.

The name Junior is a blast from music’s past. Back in the eighties, he was one of the stars of the British soul scene. He makes a comeback on Sang and Dance. A growling, buzzing bass synth cuts through the arrangement, before horns soar above the arrangement and drums crack. They’re joined by Junior, whose accompanied by soulful harmonies. Later, horns and pizzicato strings are added and accompany Junior. Latterly, vibes are added and with the pizzicato strings play their part of another slice of dance-floor friendly, soulful music.

Closing Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1 is You’re In Heaven, which features Lalah Hathaway. Keyboards shimmer and join with synths, a funky bass and marching drums. Soon, Mike delivers a heartfelt vocal, before he’s joined by Lalah. Straight away, she ups the ante. That comes as no surprise, as she is one of the most underrated Nu Soul singers. They duet, and later, she enjoys her moment in the spotlight. After that, drums, bass and synths continue to provide the backdrop for the vocals, as they deliver what’s best described as soul with a social conscience.

Nineteen years have passed since Mike City released his debut album Limits in 1998. Much has happened to the Philly born singer, songwriter, musician and producer, including working with some of the biggest names in music. Some of them feature on Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1, which marks the return of Mike City as a solo artist. 

With the help of Maysa, Lalah Hathaway Faith Evans, Crystal Johnson and Dwele, Mike City recorded his much-anticipated sophomore album Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1. It finds Mike City and friends combining elements of Nu Soul and R&B with funk, soulful house, hip hop, electronica and sometimes, a much more traditional soul sound on Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1. It’s essentially a mixture of music’s past and present. 

Mostly, though, Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1 is a 21st Century album that showcases Mike City’s skills as a songwriter, producer, singer and musician. He wrote, produced, played on, added vocals and mixed Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1. Mike City is a talented 21st Century musician, who has come a long way since he released his debut solo album City Limits. Since then, he’s rubbed shoulders with the great and good of music and has over 200 credits to his name. It’s no wonder that his solo career has taken a back seat. Thankfully, he found the time to write and record the twelve tracks on Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1.

It includes some of the great and good of music that Mike City has worked with over the past two decades. Mike City has written and produced songs for many of these artists. They return the favour on Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1, which marks the return of Mike City. Along with his talented friends, which includes musical A-listers, and the occasional name from music’s distant past, Mike City returns with his carefully crafted, long-awaited and much-anticipated sophomore album Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1 which showcases the multi-talented Philly born singer, songwriter, musician and producer.

Mike City-Presents The Feel Good Agenda Volume 1.

CAN-THE SINGLES.

Can-The Singles.

After releasing eleven albums in eleven years, Can called time on their career in 1979. By then, Can were rightly regarded by critics as one of the most important, influential and innovative bands of the Krautrock era. However, like many of the Krautrock bands, Can hadn’t enjoyed the commercial success that their music had deserved. While their music found an a small, but discerning audience in Britain and France, Can, like many of the other Krautrock bands had failed to find audience in Germany. Eventually, though, things would change.

Thirty-eight years later, there has been a resurgence of interest in Krautrock, and especially some of the genre’s leading lights. This includes Can, who are now regarded Krautrock royalty. At last, groups like Can are receiving the recognition their music deserves. Despite this, many people who are just discovering Can’s music, are often unsure where to start? 

Most critics and connoisseurs of Can’s music will have their own opinion with which albums are the perfect introduction. However, some music fans like to start with a compilation, which gives them an overview of a band’s music. Newcomers to Can will see that there are several compilations available, including Opener, the Cannibalism and Anthology-25 Years. While these compilations have their merits, the proliferation of Can compilations leaves newcomers to their music wondering where to start? Maybe the answer is a new compilation released by Spoon Records, The Singles. It’s a twenty-three track overview that covers Can’s entire career which started in 1968.

Can were formed in 1968, by Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt. Both had been students of Karlheinz Stockhausen and graduated in 1966. By then, Irmin Schmidt was twenty-nine. He was born in Berlin on ‘29th’ May 1937, and grew up playing piano and organ. Soon, it was apparent that he was a talented musician, and came as no surprise that Irmin headed to the conservatorium in Dortmund, to study music. This was just the start of Irmin’s studies.

From there, Irmin moved to Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, before moving to Austria, and the Mozarteum University of Salzburg. The final part of Irmin’s musical education took place in Cologne, where Irmin met Holger.

The two future founding members of Can were studying composition  under Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Cologne Courses For New Music. Between 1962 and 1966, Irmin and Holger studied composition. However, after they graduated, their lives headed in different directions.

Holger Czukay became a music teacher, and began a career educating a new generation of young Germans. Meanwhile, Irmin headed to New York. 

During his time in New York, Irmin  spent time with avant-garde musicians like Steve Reich, Terry Riley and La Monte Young. Soon, Irmin Scmidt was aware of Andy Warhol and Velvet Underground. This inspired him to form his own band when he returned home to Cologne. 

By the time Irmin Scmidt returned home, Holger Czukay what he described to me “as a life-changing moment…the music of the past and present came together.” At last; “here was music that made the connection between what I’d studied and I was striving towards.” With the innovative use of bursts of radio and the experimental sound and structure, “I went in search of similar music.”

He found Velvet Underground, who made a huge impact on Holger. So much so, that he still remembers hearing Velvet Underground for the first time. “They were different…and really influential. They influenced the music I made.” This would include the music Holger Czukay made with Can.

When Irmin Scmidt returned home, he decided to form a band with his old friend Holger Czukay. So in Cologne in 1968, Can was born.  

Pianist and organist Irmin Schmidt formed Can with American avant-garde flautist David C. Johnson and bassist Holger Czukay. Up until then, the trio had exclusively played avant-garde classical music. Now their ambitions lay beyond that. Their influences included garage, rock, psychedelia, soul and funk.  So they brought onboard three new members of the group, which started life as Inner Space, and then became The Can. Eventually, they settled on Can, an acronym of communism, anarchy, nihilism

The first two new additions were guitarist Michael Karoli and drummer Jaki Liebezeit. Vocalist and New York-based sculptor Malcolm Mooney joined the band midway through 1968. By then, they were recording material for an album Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom. Two tracks, Father Cannot Yell and Outside My Door were already recorded. Unfortunately, record companies weren’t interested in Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom. As a result, it wasn’t released until 1981, when it was released as Delay 1968. Undeterred, Can continued to record what became their debut album, Monster Movie.

Despite not being able to interest a record company in Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom, Can were confident in their own ability. So Can continued recording what would become their debut album Monster Movies. However, soon, there was a problem.

David C. Johnson left Can at the end of 1968. He was disappointed at the change in musical direction. Little did he realise that he’d lost the chance to be part of one of the most groundbreaking band’s in musical history, Can and one of their most influential albums…Monster Movie.

Monster Movie.

Monster Movie had been recorded in Schloss Nörvenich, which is a 14th Century castle in North Rhine-Westphalia. Can recorded Monster Movie  between 1968 and 1969. Gradually, it took shape and eventually, and the album was ready for released.

When Monster Movie was released August 1969, Can were still billed as The Can. This would soon change. So would music with the release of their debut album Monster Movie.

Can’s career started as they meant to go on, when they released what was a groundbreaking, genre-melting opus. Monster Movie was a fusion of blues, free jazz, psychedelia, rock and world music. There was one influence that shown through, the music  of the Velvet Underground influence. It’s as if Can have been inspired by Velvet Underground and pushed musical boundaries to their limits.

Throughout Monster Movie, Can improvised, innovated and experimented. Multilayering and editing played an important part in Monster Movie’s avant-garde sound. So did spontaneous composition, which Can pioneered. 

Spontaneous composition was hugely important in Can’s success. Holger Czukay remembers: “that the members of Can were always ready to record. They didn’t take time to think. It was spontaneous. The music flowed through them and out of them.” Holger remembers that he was always: “given the job of pressing the record button. This was a big responsibility as the fear was failing to record something we could never recreate.” In some ways, Can were an outlet for this outpouring of creativity, which gave birth to a new musical genre.

This new musical genre was dubbed Krautrock by the British music press. Not only was Monster Movie the album that launched Can’s career, but marked the birth of a new musical genre, Krautrock. The founding father’s of Krautrock was Can.

Soundtracks.

Having released their debut album Monster Movie in August 1969, Can returned with their sophomore album in 1970, Soundtracks. Essentially, Soundtracks was a compilation of tracks Can wrote for the soundtracks to various films. It’s the album that marked the departure of vocalist Malcolm Mooney. Replacing him, was Japanese busker, Kenji Damo Suzuki. He features on five of the tracks, contributing percussion and vocals. The addition of Damo wasn’t the only change Can were making.

Soundtracks was a coming of age for Can. It marked a move away from the psychedelic jams of Monster Movie  and a move towards their classic sound. That saw the music becoming much more experimental and avant-garde. The music took an ambient, meditative, mesmeric and thoughtful sound. This had already featured on 1969 Can’s debut single Soul Desert, which featured She Brings The Rain the B-Side. Alas, the single didn’t even trouble the charts, and nowadays, is a prized item among collectors. However, for Can an important period of their career had begun. 

The release of Soundtracks marked the beginning of what became known as Can’s classic years, when albums like Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days were released. During this period, Can released the golden quartet and it seemed, could do no wrong.

Tago Mago.

The first instalment in the golden quartet was Tago Mago, which  was the first album where Kenji Damo Suzuki was a permanent member of Can. He and the rest of Can spent a year in the castle in Schloss Nörvenich. It was owned by an art collector named Mr. Vohwinkel who allowed Can to stay at Schloss Nörvenich rent free. For what Holger described as: “a poor man’s band,” this was perfect. 

Holger remembers Can during this year as: “just jamming and seeing what took shape. Songs started as lengthy jams and improvised pieces.” This Holger says: “how Can always worked” After that, Holger edited the songs which became and the mini masterpieces  featured on Tago Mago, which was four months in the making.

For four months between November 1970 and February 1971, Can recorded what would become one of their most innovative and influential albums, Tago Mago. 

It was a double album that featured seven groundbreaking tracks. Tago Mago was released in February 1971. and straight away, critics realised the importance of Tago Mago. Here was a game-changer of an album. It has an intensity that other albums released in 1971 lacked. Jazzier with an experimental sound, the music is mysterious, mesmeric and multilayered. It’s innovative, with genres and influences melting into one. Nuances, subtleties and surprises reveal themselves. No wonder,  Can were at the peak of their creative powers as they deliver what was regarded as an avant-garde masterclass.

This comes courtesy of jazz-tinged drumming, improvised guitar playing and showboating keyboard solos. Then there was Kenji Damo Suzuki’s unique vocal style. All this, resulted in an album that was critically acclaimed, influential and innovative. 

Released to widespread critical acclaim in 1971, Tago Mago was the start of a golden period for Can. Their reputation as one of the most innovative groups of the seventies started to take shape. Can had released one of the most innovative albums, Tago Mago. Holger remembers the reaction to Tago Mago. “I knew Tago Mago was an innovative album, but I never realised just how innovative an album it would become?

On Tago Mago’s release, it was hailed as their best album yet. Although they didn’t regard themselves as a singles band, Can still released singles to promote Tago Mago. In Britain, Spoon was released as a single, with I’m So Green on the B-Side. Meanwhile, in Germany Turtles Have Short Legs a non-album track had been released as a single with Halleluwah on the B-Side. The other single was I’m So Green, which featured Mushroom on the flip-side. While none of the singles made any impact on the charts, Tago Mago had already left its mark on music.

Since then, several generations of musicians have been inspired by Tago Mago, a true Magnus Opus, that belongs in every record collection. So does the followup Ege Bamyasi.

Ege Bamyasi.

Before Can began even began to think of their next album, they enjoyed their first hit single. They had released Spoon as a single in 1972, with Shikaku Maru Ten on the B-Side. It reached number six in Germany, selling over 300,000 copies. That was helped no end, by the single being used as the theme to a German thriller Das Messer. It seemed nothing could go wrong for Can. Can were on a roll. 

With the money they had made from Spoon, they started to think about recording their next album. The only problem was they hadn’t anywhere they could record an album. This was a huge problem. While most bands would’ve hired a recording studio, it had taken many months for Can to complete previous albums and hiring a studio for such a lengthy period would prove prohibitively expansive  It made more sense to hire a space that could be turned into a makeshift studio. A decision was made to advertise to see if anyone had a suitable space to record Can’s next album. Their luck was in, when Can were offered the opportunity to hired a disused cinema to record their fourth album, which became Ege Bamyasi.

Recording began in the disused cinema, which doubled as a recording studio and living space. The sessions at Inner Space Studio, in Weilerswist, near Cologne didn’t go well. Irmin Schmidt and Kenji Damo Suzuki took to playing marathon chess sessions. As a result, Can hadn’t enough material for an album. This resulted in Can having to work frantically to complete Ege Bamyasi. Despite this, Can were still short of material. It was then that a decision was made to add their hit single Spoon, which meant that Ege Bamyasi was, at last, completed.

Ege Bamyasi was a fusion of musical genres. Everything from jazz, ambient, world music, psychedelia, rock and electronica melted into one. When it was Ege Bamyasi released in November 1972, it was to the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Critics were won over by Can’s fourth album. It was perceived as a more accessible album than its predecessors. Just like Can’s previous albums, the quality of music was consistent.

Critics hailed Can as one of the few bands capable of creating consistent and pioneering albums. They were one of the most exciting bands of the early seventies. Can were continuing to innovate and influence musicians and music lovers alike. Just like its predecessor, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi is an essential part of any self-respecting record collection. Having released two consecutive classic albums and their first single, it seemed nothing could go wrong for Can.

Future Days.

Despite Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi being referred to as two of the most influential albums ever released, Holger Czukay prefers Future Days. This is the album he calls: “my favourite Can album.” It was the third in Can’s golden quartet, and marked a change in direction from Can.

Future Days saw Can’s music head in the direction of ambient music. The music is atmospheric, dreamy, ethereal, melancholy, expansive and full of captivating, mesmeric rhythms. It’s also pioneering and progressive, with elements of avant-garde, experimental, psychedelia and rock melting into one. Rather than songs, soundscapes describes the four tracks. Future Days and Bel Air showcase Can’s new sound. Bel Air was the Future Day’s epic. It lasted just over nineteen minutes, and takes the listeners on an enthralling  musical journey. Bell Air was the final part of Future Days, which was another opus from Can.

When Future Days was released in August 1973, it was immediately hailed a classic by music critics. The move towards ambient music may have surprised some Can fans. However, Can, just like Brian Eno were one of the early pioneers ambient music in the seventies. This move towards ambient music must have pleased Holger’s guru Karlheinz Stockhausen. He must have looked on proudly as Can released the third of a quartet of classic albums. Two months the release of Future Days, Moonshake was released as a single in October 1973, with Future Days on the B-Side. Alas, it didn’t replicate the success of Spoon. Despite that, Can would continued to enjoy critical acclaim when they released the final album in the golden quartet, Soon Over Babaluma in 1974.

Soon Over Babaluma.

Soon Over Babaluma marked the end of Can’s golden period. It was the end of a period where they were releasing some of their most innovative and groundbreaking music. There was a change of direction on Soon Over Babaluma. Can were without a vocalist. 

Kenji Damo Suzuki had left Can and married his German girlfriend. He then decided to become a Jehovah’s Witness. Despite the lack of a vocalist, Can continued as a quartet, and released Soon Over Babaluma in November 1974.

When Soon Over Babaluma was released in November 1974, the album quite rightly received praise and plaudits from both critics and cultural commentators.With a myriad of beeps, squeaks and sci-fi sounds, Soon Over Babaluma is like  musical journey into another, ‘21st’ Century dimension. A musical tapestry where layers of music are intertwined during five tracks on Soon Over Babaluma. A month later, Dizzy Dizzy was released as a single with Come Sta La Luna on the B-Side. This was the final single Can released from the golden quartet.

The golden quartet ended with another album classic album from Can. Soon Over Babaluma followed in the ambient footsteps of Future Days and brought to a close the most fruitful period of Can’s career. Following the “golden quartet,” Can didn’t go into decline. Instead, Can continued to reinvent themselves and their music. 

Landed.

Can’s next album, Landed, was released in September 1975. It had been recorded between February and April 1972 at Inner Space Studios. Just like previous albums, Can produced Landed. Holger and Tony Robinson mixed the first four tracks at Studio Dierks, Stommeln. The other two tracks were mixed by Holger at Inner Space Studios. These six tracks marked a change of direction from Can. 

As well as a change in direction musically, Landed was the first Can album to be released on Virgin Records. Gone was the ambient sound of Soon Over Babaluma. Only Unfinished on Landed has an ambient influence. Instead, Landed showcased a poppy, sometimes glam influence. This was apparent on the singles Hunters and Collectors, and Silent Night Cascade Waltz which featured Vernal Equinox on the B-Side. Both songs showcased Can’s new sound. With uptempo, shorter songs, Landed was a much more traditional album. How would the critics react?

Critics were divided about Landed. Some critics saw Landed as the next chapter in the Can story, while others praised the album as adventurous, eclectic and innovative. Others thought Can were conforming. Surely not?

Flow Motion.

Just over a year after the release pot Landed, Can returned with Flow Motion, which was their eight album. As usual, it was recorded at Inner Space Studios and was produced by Can, Flow Motion was an album that drew inspiration from everything from funk, reggae, rock and jazz. It was a truly eclectic, genre-melting album. It’s also one of Holger Czukay’s favourite Can albums. 

Holger remembers Flow Motion as an: “innovative and eclectic” album. He calls it: “one of Can’s underrated albums.” Flow Motion marked a another change in Can’s way of working.

Released in October 1976, Flow Motion featured lyrics written by Peter Gilmour. This was a first. Never before, had anyone outside the band had written for Can. It worked. Can enjoyed their first UK single I Want More which I Want More which featured…And More on the B-Side. I Want More would later be recorded Fini Tribe and then Italo disco group Galaxis. With what was just their second hit single in seven years, maybe Can were about to make a commercial breakthrough?

Saw Delight.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Saw Delight which was released in March 1977, wasn’t the commercial success many people forecast. That was despite the new lineup of Can embracing world music. 

Joining Can were bassist Rosko Gee and percussionist and vocalist Rebop Kwaku Baah. They’d previously been members of British rock band Traffic. Rosko Gee replaced Holger on bass. Holger decided to add a percussive element, Holger added a myriad of sound-effects. This was Holger at his groundbreaking best. Experimental sounds including a wave receiver was used. The result was one of the most ambitious albums Can had released.

The new lineup of Can was responsible for a  bold, progressive and experimental album. While Saw Delight was well received by critics, it wasn’t a commercial success. The problem was, Saw Delight was way ahead of its time. If it had been released in the eighties, like albums by Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel, it would’ve been a bigger commercial success. Sadly, by then Can would be no more. That was still to come. 

Later in 1977, Can released Don’t Say No as a single. It featured Return on the B-Side. Alas, Can didn’t enjoy the third hit single of their career. When Can returned with their next album Out Of Reach, all wasn’t well within the Can camp.

Out Of Reach.

Nine years after Can had released their debut album, Monster Movie, they released their tenth album, Out Of Reach. It was released in July 1978. The title proved to be a prophetic. After all, commercial success always seemed to elude Can. Not only did Out Of Reach fail commercially, but the Out Of Reach proved to be Can’s most controversial album. 

So much so, that they disowned Out Of Reach. On Out Of Reach Holger was left to add a myriad of sound-effects. Bassist Rosko Gee and percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah of Traffic returned. They were part of the problem. Holger confirms this. “During the recording of Out Of Reach, I felt an outsider in my own group. I was on the outside looking in. I was on the margins. All I was doing was add sound-effects.” For Holger, he felt his group had been hijacked by Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah. Things got so bad, that Holger quit Can. 

Sadly, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah dominated Out Of Reach. Gone was the loose, free-flowing style of previous albums. Even Jaki Liebezeit’s play second fiddle to Baah’s overpowering percussive sounds. The only positive thing was a guitar masterclass from Michael Karoli. Apart from this, things weren’t looking good for Can. It was about to get worse though.

The critics rounded on Out Of Reach. They found very little merit in Out Of Reach. Gee and Baah were rightly blamed for the album’s failure. Even Can disliked Out Of Reach. They later disowned Out Of Reach. Despite this, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah remained members of Can.

Unable to play with the necessary freedom Can were famed for, the two ex-members of Traffic stifled Can. Rebop’s percussion overpowers Jaki’s drums, which have always been part of Can’s trademark sound. At least Michael’s virtuoso guitar solos are a reminder of classic Can. A nod towards Carlos Santana, they showed Can were still capable of moments of genius. Sadly, there wouldn’t be many more of these.

Some time after the release of Out Of Reach, Can decided to release a new single. However, it wasn’t one of the songs from Out Of Reach. Instead, it was reworked version of Jacques Offenbach’s Can Can. This was somewhat surreal, and far removed from the music critics and record buyers expected from Can. They had moved far away from the music that featured on their golden quartet. Can’s loyal fans wondered what the future held for Can. Sadly, Can would breakup after their next album. 

Can.

Following the commercial failure of Out Of Reach, the members of Can began recording what became their tenth album, Can. Remarkably, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah were still part of Can. Sadly, Holger was not longer a member of Can. He had left during the making of Out Of Reach. His only involvement was editing Can. This was a travesty.

Allowing Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah to remain members of Can while Holger left the band he cofounded was a massive mistake. Faced with the choice or losing Holger or keeping Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah in Can, should’ve been a no-brainer. Incredibly, Holger was marginalised further.

Neither Rosko Gee nor Rebop Kwaku Baah were suited to a band like Can. Both came from a very different musical background, and as a result the decision to hire them initially was flawed and questionable. Their playing on Out Of Reach was odds with the way Can played. They had spent their career playing with freedom that resulted in inventive and innovative music. The much more rigid style of Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah stifled the other members of Can. To make matters worse, their playing overpowered the rest of Can, and was one of the reason’s for the album’s failure. Yet when recording of Can began, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah remained.

Can, which is sometimes referred to as Inner Space, was released in July 1979. Again, critics weren’t impressed by Can, and the album received mixed reviews. No longer was Can the critic’s darlings. 

The music on Can was a fusion of avant-garde, electronica, experimental, psychedelia and rock. Add to that, a myriad of effects including distortion and feedback, and here was an album that divided the opinion of critics. While the critics agreed, it was better than Out Of Reach. They also agreed that Holger was sadly missed. 

Even Holger’s renowned editing skills couldn’t save Can. Try as he may, he could only work with what he was given. He did his best with Can, which the eleventh album from the group he co-founded. By the time Can was released, Holger: “had come to a realisation, that it was time to go his own way.” Holger describes this as “necessary.” 

Can had split-up after the release of Can. That was their swan-song. However, even before that, Holger: “felt marginalised, this had been the case since Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah became part of Can. They had hijacked Can,” and ultimately, this lead to the death of a great and innovative band. 

With Can now part of musical history, Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit set about reinventing themselves. Music critics wondered whether they would form new bands or embark upon solo careers? Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay and Michael Karoli all embarked upon solo careers. However, Can left behind a rich musical legacy that included the eleven albums they released between 1969 and 1980. 

During that period, Can had enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. They were musical pioneers, who pushed musical boundaries and continued to release most ambitious and innovative music. This included their golden quartet of classic albums,Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, Future Days and Soon Over Babaluma. Each of these albums were regarded by critics as classics, and were a reminder of what Can had been capable of in their prime. Sadly, that was in the past.

Delay 1968.

Just a year after the release of Can, and the death of the group, Delay 1968 was belatedly released. This was the album that Can tried to release in 1968 as Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom. Despite approaching several record companies, they rejected opportunity to release an album that was way ahead of its time. Sadly, this meant that Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom languished unreleased in Can’s  vaults. 

Thirteen years later, and belatedly Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom was released as Delay 1968. It was a reminder of Can as they prepared to embark upon their career. Delay 1968 was an ambitious and progressive album, where elements of avant-garde, psychedelia, rock, experimental and what became known as Krautrock. At long last, critics and record buyers were able to understand just how Can’s career took shape. 

Delay 1968 was the missing piece of the jigsaw, and was the album that should’ve launched Can’s career. It showcased Can as their career began, and was a stepping-stone that lead to Monster Movie.  Very few record buyers realised this, and thought that Monster Movie was the first album Can recorded and released.

Obviously that wasn’t the case, because Can had already recorded Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom, which just like much of Can’s music, was way ahead of the musical curve. This became apparent when Delay 1968 was released in 1981. It was an important album, which may have changed musical history?

Suddenly, there were lots of unanswered questions. The first was if Can hadn’t recorded Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom, would their career have progressed in the way it had? One can  speculate whether Can would’ve  gone on to release their golden quartet of classic albums if they hadn’t released Prepare To Meet Thy Pnoom? It was only when Delay 1968 was belatedly released in 1981 that critics realised the importance of the album.However, by then, it seemed that Can’s career was over. Or was it?

Rite Time.

Five years later, in December 1986, Can were reunited, and began work on their comeback album Rite Time in the South of France. Many within the music industry thought that Can would never record another album. However, time seemed to heal the wounds and the five members of Can decided to record their twelfth album.

For the recording sessions, normal service was restored. Can’s lineup featured Jaki Liebezeit, Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli and Irmin Schmidt, who had written eight new songs. They were joined in the studio by the vocalist Malcolm Mooney. However, Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baah were nowhere to be seen. They were’t part of the reunion that marked the return of Can.

Once the eight songs that would eventually become Rite Time were recorded, three years passed before the album was released. During this period, Can undertook extensive editing of Rite Time. As a result, when the album was eventually released, it was a different album to the one Can had originally envisaged.

Critics on hearing Rite Time, discovered that Can hadn’t tried to replicate their classic sound. That remained firmly in the past. Instead, Can continued to reinvent their music. Especially on songs like Give The Drummer Some, which  showcased Can’s funky side, while the single Hoolah Hoolah was tinged with humour. Only the album closer In The Distance Lies The Future, hints at Can’s previous abstract, ambient sound. While Rite Time wasn’t the finest album of Can’s career, critics thought it was an improvement on Can and Out Of Reach. 

When Rite Time was eventually released in October 1989, the album sold reasonably well. Despite the resurgence of interest in Can’s music and Krautrock in general, the album wasn’t a huge seller. Nor was the single Hoolah Hoolah, which was the last single that Can would release.

Can would never again return to the studio, and Rite Time in 1989 was their swan-song. It was thirteenth studio album, and was released twenty-one years after Can was formed in 1968. Much happened during the next twenty-one years.

Can went on to  release albums ambitious, progressive and innovative music. That is why nowadays, Can is considered Krautrock royalty, and sit proudly at Krautrock’s top table, alongside Neu!, Cluster, Harmonia and Kraftwerk. That is where they belong.

After all, the Krautrock Kings Can’s influence on music can’t be underestimated. They’ve influenced and inspired several generations of musicians, and that is still the case today. Even today, a new generation of musicians regularly cite Can as a major influence on their music. As a result, many music fans are discovering Can’s music for the first time.

The problem newcomers to Can’s music are  faced with, is where to start? They’ve released thirteen studio albums and several compilations, including The Singles which was recently released by Spoon Records. Many music fans use albums like The Singles as a gateway to a band they’re unfamiliar with. While The Singles will give them an introduction to Can’s music, it’s a case of caveat emptor. Many of the twenty-three songs on The Singles are edits of the original songs. To  include the complete versions of each song would’ve resulted in two, maybe even three discs. However, by using edits, twenty-three of Can’s singles fit onto one CD, but three LPs. However, The Singles is a good overview and introduction to Can’s career. 

After The Singles compilation, the next Can albums to buy are golden quartet of classic albums including Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, Future Days and Soon Over Babaluma. Then I would suggest Monster Movie and Soundtracks. These are Can’s best albums, and belong in every record collection. 

Having discovered the delights of Can through The Singles, this will probably result in the start of a voyage of discovery through their back-catalogue. During this musical voyage of discovery, newcomers to Can’s music will discover albums of groundbreaking music from one of the giants of Krautrock, whose  music is important, influential and innovative.

Can-The Singles.

SKEETER DAVIS-LET ME GET CLOSE TO YOU.

Skeeter Davis-Let Me Get Close To You.

Label: Playback Records.

Nowadays, Skeeter Davis is remembered and regarded as one of country music’s pioneers. She was one of the first women in country music to enjoy commercial success as a solo artist. This proved to be a game-changer. 

Skeeter Davis paved the way for several generations of female country singers to enjoy a successful career as a solo artist. However, not only was Skeeter Davis a successful singer, but a successful songwriter, but a role model for  young, up-and-coming female singer-songwriters. She inspired and influenced some of the biggest names in country music, including Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. They’ve both acknowledged the influence that Skeeter Davis had on their careers. Ironically, though, Skeeter Davis was very nearly lost to country music.

If that had been the case, then Skeeter Davis would never have enjoyed thirteen top thirty US Country hits between 1957 and 1963. This included Skeeter Davis’ 1962 million selling single The End Of The World and was certified gold. It was Skeeter’s first crossover single, and was followed by I Can’t Stay Mad At You in 1963. This rounded off a successful year. 

As 1963 gave way to 1964, Skeeter Davis wondered how she would surpass what had been one of the most successful years of her career? She returned with one of the finest albums of her career, Let Me Get Close To You, which was recently rereleased by Playback Records. However, by the time Skeeter Davis released Let Me Get Close To You much had happened to the thirty-three year old star.

The Skeeter Davis story began in Dry Ridge, Kentucky on ‘30th’ December 1931, when Mary Frances Penick was born. Growing up, young Mary was an energetic child, prompting her grandfather to nickname her Skeeter. This stuck, and suddenly Mary became Skeeter. This was the name she would use when her solo career began.

Before that, Skeeter met Betty Jack Davis at the Dixie Heights High School, and the two became firm friends. The pair sang together in high school, and at the Decoursey Baptist Church. Later, the formed a duet The Davis Sister, which launched Skeeter’s career.

In 1951, The Davis Sisters were asked to travel to Detroit, to sing on WJR’s program Barnyard Frolics. This was the break that The Davis Sisters were looking for. Things got even better for The Davis Sisters when  they were signed to RCA Victor later in 1951. 

Although signed to RCA Victor, The Davis Sisters spent time acting as backing singers for The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. They saw the potential in The Davis Sisters, and in 1953, encouraged them to get in touch with Stephen H. Sholes a producer at RCA Victor.

When Stephen H. Sholes heard The Davis Sisters harmonies, he offered them a recording contract. This they accepted and on May ’23rd’ 1953 The Davis Sisters entered the studio and recorded five songs, including I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know. It was released as The Davis Sisters’ first single the summer of 1953, and reached the top twenty in the US Billboard 100 and spent eight weeks number one on the US Country charts. Many industry insiders thought that this was the start of the rise and rise of The Davis Sisters.

Sadly, tragedy struck on August ‘1st’ 1953, when The Davis Sisters were involved in a terrible automobile accident. Betty Jack Davis died in the accident and Skeeter Davis sustained serious injuries. 

Despite still recovering from her injuries, Skeeter was had been traumatized by the accident, was told by Betty Jack Davis’ overbearing mother that The Davis Sisters should continue. This was the last thing on Skeeter’s mind. She had lost her best friend, and suffered from serious injuries. However, Mrs Davis wasn’t going to be dissuaded, and told Skeeter that her other daughter Georgia Jack was now her partner in The Davis Sisters. Skeeter felt she was being manipulated, but had nobody to turn to. Both her parents were then drinking heavily, and reluctantly, Skeeter agreed that The Davis Sisters should continue.

The Davis Sisters continued for three more years, and even spent time touring with a young Elvis Presley. However, The Davis Sisters never came close to replicating the success of I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know. 

By 1956, Skeeter who was then twenty-five, made two announcements. Not only was she getting married, but she had decided to retire from music. It looked like Skeeter’s career was over.

Just over a years later, Skeeter decided to make a comeback, and returned to country music in 1957. This time, it wasn’t as one half of The Davis Sisters, but as a solo artist. Skeeter started off touring with Ernest Tubb, and later in 1957, started working with guitarist and producer Chet Atkins.

In September 1957, Skeeter recorded what would become her debut solo single, Lost to a Geisha Girl. When it was released in December 1957, it reached number fifteen on the US Country charts, and launched Skeeter’s solo career. Little did anyone realise that this was the start of the rise and rise of one of the most successful female country singers.

Just two years after her comeback, Skeeter cowrote Set Him Free, which was released as a single in February 1959. It reached number five in US Country charts, and was later nominated for a Grammy Award. Five months later, in July 1959, Skeeter released Homebreaker as a single, which reached fifteen in the US Country charts. Skeeter then released her debut album I’ll Sing You A Song and Harmonize Too in November 1959. This rounded off one of the most successful years of Skeeter’s career. She enjoyed two singles, released her debut album and joined the Grand Ole Opry. Skeeter’s star was in the ascendancy.

Skeeter’s success continued in 1960, when she enjoyed a trio of hit singles. Her poignant reading of Am I That Easy To Forget reached number eleven in the US Country charts. Then when (I Can’t Help You) I’m Falling Too was released in July 1960, it reached number two in the US Country charts and thirty-nine on the US Billboard 100. This was Skeeter’s first crossover hit and the fourth hit single of her career. Soon, four became five when My Last Date (With You) was released in December 1960, and reached number four in the US Country charts, but twenty-six on the US Billboard 100. This was the perfect way to close the most successful year of Skeeter’s career.

As 1961 dawned, Skeeter released her sophomore album Here’s The Answer in January. It featured cover versions of hit singles by country artists, with Skeeter singing the answer songs. She breathed life, meaning and emotion into the songs, which showcased her ability to interpret a song. So did the two hit singles she released during 1961. When The Hands You’re Holding Now was released in March 1961, it reached number eleven in the US Country charts. The followup was Optimistic, which was released in September 1961, and reached number ten in the US Country charts. Skeeter’s partnership with Chet Atkins was proving fruitful.

The Chet Atkins and Skeeter Davis partnership were responsible for another trio of hits during 1962. Where I Ought To Be was released in January 1962, and reached number nine in the US Country charts. The followup The Little Music Box stalled at just twenty-two, before Skeeter returned with the biggest and most important hit of her solo career.

This was The End Of The World, which would introduce Skeeter Davis to a much wider audience. The End Of The World was a maudlin song that dealt with loss. Many people who weren’t fans of country music normally wouldn’t have listened to a heartbreaking song about loss that was delivered with honesty and emotion. However, the way Chet Atkins and Skeeter recorded the song was a game-changer. They added swathes of lush strings which defused the maudlin nature of the song, and complemented Skeeter’s soul-baring vocal. The result was a country song that would find a much wider audience. It also features on Let Me Get Close To You and is a reminder of one of Skeeter’s classic songs.

The End Of The World was an example of the new countrypolitan sound, which combined country with pop stylings. It introduced Skeeter to a much wider audience. Not only did The End Of The World reach number two in the US Country charts and US Billboard 100, it topped the Adult Contemporary charts and reached number four in the US R&B charts. Skeeter had crossed over and found a new audience within pop and R&B audiences. However, this resulted in cries of sellout from some of her loyal country fans. Despite this,  this was it seemed that Skeeter Davis could do wrong.

Buoyed by the success of The End Of The World, Skeeter released her third album in March 1963, Skeeter Davis Sings The End Of The World. It was followed by I’m Saving My Love, which was released in April 1963, and is one of the bonus tracks on Let Me Get Close To You. When it was released I’m Saving My Love was released it reached number nine on the US Country charts and forty-one in the US Billboard 100. This was followed by a cover of Goffin and King’s I Can’t Stay Mad at You, which gave Skeeter a crossover hit when it was released in August 1963. It reached fourteen on the US Country charts, seven on the US Billboard 100 and two in the Adult Contemporary charts. Just two months later, Skeeter released her fourth album Cloudy, With Occasional Tears which reached eleven in the US Country charts. Skeeter Davis’ success continued apace.

In January 1964, Skeeter released a cover of Peter Udell’s wistful country ballad He Says The Same Things To Me. It reached seventeen in the US Country charts and forty-seven in the US Billboard. Tucked away on the B-Side was How Much Can A Lonely Heart Stand which is one of the Gonna Get Along Without You Now. It’s a real hidden gem, marries the countrypolitan sound with the girl group sound that was popular in 1964. This was something that Skeeter would return to.

 Two months later, in March 1964, Skeeter released carefree poppy cover of Milton Kellum’s Gonna Get Along Without You Now. It reached number eight on the US Country charts, and surprisingly, given its radio friendly sound reached just forty-eight on the US Billboard 100. On the B-Side was the tender, hurt-filled cover of Now You’re Gone, which is another of the bonus tracks on Let Me Get Close To You.

After the success of Gonna Get Along Without You Now, Skeeter decided to cover Goffin and King’s Let Me Get Close To You for her next single. It was another commercial sounding single with crossover appeal. Hidden away on the B-Side was a hurt-filled version of The Face Of A Clown which is another of the bonus tracks on Let Me Get Close To You. When Let Me Get Close To You was released, many industry insiders thought that it would follow in the footsteps of Gonna Get Along Without You Now. Alas, the single stalled at forty-five on the US Country charts when it was released in July 1964. For Skeeter this was a disappointment.

Despite this disappointment, Skeeter returned with a cover of a rueful and melancholy cover of What Am I Gonna Do With You. An upbeat and breezy cover of Don’t Let Me Stand In Your Way was chosen for the B-Side. Despite the quality of both sides, (which feature on Let Me Get Close To You) What Am I Gonna Do With You reached just thirty-eight in autumn 1964. This was especially disappointing for Skeeter who was about to release her fifth album Let Me Get Close To You in December 1964.

For Let Me Get Close To You, twelve tracks that had been recorded been June 1962 and June 1964 were chosen. Some of these songs were familiar, and already had been releases as singles including  Gonna Get Along Without You Now, I Can’t Stay Mad at You,  Let Me Get Close to You and He Says The Same Things To Me. They were joined by eight other songs that had been recorded during sessions that took place between June 1962 and June 1964.

Of the eight ‘new’ songs, this included the beautiful, orchestrated, hurt-filled ballad Now I Lay Me Down To Weep which Skeeter wrote with Carolyn Penick. It’s followed by a cover of Dottie and Bill West’s Didn’t I, where Skeeter delivers a melancholy and rueful vocal where sadness and despair shine through. Skeeter’s cover of J O Duncan’s My Sweet Loving Man is upbeat, poppy and irresistibly catchy, and more than hints at the girl group sound that was popular when the song was recorded. Then Borney Bergantine and Better Patterson’s My Happiness sounds as if was tailor-made for Skeeter. Especially with lush strings accompanying her hurt-filled vocal.  However, this is just part of the story.

The tempo drops on a cover of Johnny Tillotson and Lucille Cosenza’s Another You. It’s another tale of love lost, where flourishes of strings augment Skeeter’s vocal as elements of the countrypolitan and girl group sound combined successfully to create a beautiful ballad. Skeeter’s cover of Nancie Mantz and Keith Colley’s Ladder Of Success is another song that has been inspired by the girl group sound. Although very different to Skeeter’s early recordings, it shows a different side to a versatile and talented singer. When Skeeter covers Betty Sue Perry’s ballad Ask Me it’s understated and nuanced, with just a Spanish guitar, strings and harmonies accompanying her. Closing the album is another Goffin and King number Easy To Love, So Hard To Get, which has a slick, commercial and radio friendly sound. Skeeter it seemed had kept one of her finest moments until last on Let Me Get Close To You.

Before the release of Let Me Get Close To You, critics had their say on the album. It received plaudits and praise as Skeeter Davis switched between and combined elements of different musical genres on the twelve songs. Elements of country, countrypolitan, the girl group sound and pop can be heard on Let Me Get Close To You, where Skeeter moves seamlessly from ballads to uptempo songs. This augured well for the release of Let Me Get Close To You.

When Let Me Get Close To You was released in December 1964, the album sold reasonably well, and to some extent, introduced Skeeter Davis’ to a new audience. The success that she had been enjoying since her comeback looked as if it was going to continue. Especially after the success of the last five years, which cumulated with the release of Let Me Get Close To You.

Let Me Get Close To You was recently rereleased by the Australian label Playback Records. They’ve included on this lovingly curated album thirteen bonus tracks. Some of the bonus tracks are incredibly rare, including La La La which has never been released before. I Don’t Want To Love You is another song that wasn’t released when it was recorded. Instead, it made its debut on The Pop Hits Volume Two in 2006. It makes a welcome return on Let Me Get Close To You. So are two songs that were released in the mid-sixties.

The first is Sunglasses, which was released as a single in 1965. It’s another tale of love lost that stalled at just thirty on the US Country charts. A year later, in 1966, Skeeter contributed On And On And On to a compilation entitled Country Girls Sing Country Songs. It’s another of the hidden gems on Let Me Get Close To You, which is the perfect introduction to Skeeter Davis.

She was one of the true legends of country music, who released thirty-one studio albums during her long and illustrious career. That isn’t forgetting four tribute albums, five collaborative albums, fifteen compilations and fifty-seven singles. Given the sheer amount of music that Skeeter Davis recorded, a newcomer to her music would have no idea to start. Playback Records’ reissue of Let Me Get Close To You is the place to start.

Not only does it include one of the finest albums Skeeter Davis released during the sixties, it features thirteen bonus tracks. This ranges from singles, B-Sides, tracks from compilations and even an unreleased track. These songs were all recorded during the first half of the sixties, when country music was changing.

By then, the countrypolitan sound was growing in popularity, and Skeeter was one of its finest purveyors. This introduced her music to a much wider audience, and suddenly, her music had been discovered by pop and R&B fans.  Right up until late 1964, Skeeter Davis was one of the most successful country singers. She had enjoyed fifteen top thirty US Country singles, fourteen of which reached the top twenty and eight reached the top ten. There was also the small matter of her million selling single The End Of The World. However, nothing lasts forever.

Even by the second half of 1964, Skeeter’s singles were no longer reaching the upper reaches of the charts. Although Skeeter was just thirty-three, her singles would never reach the same heights. However, her recording career continued until the late-eighties. However, her last album to chart was 1973s I Can’t Believe That It’s All Over. Sadly, it was all over for Skeeter Davis as far as chart success was concerned. 

She continued to play live right up until her death on September ’19th’ 2004, aged just seventy-three. That day, country music lost not just a legend, but a musical pioneer, who had played her part in changing country music history. Not only did Skeeter Davis pioneering the countrypolitan sound, but paved the way for several generations of female country singers to embark on solo career. They owe a debt of gratitude to the late, great Skeeter Davis whose 1964 critically acclaimed fifth album The End Of The World has been reissued by Playback Records and is a reminder of a country music pioneer at the peak of her powers.

Skeeter Davis-Let Me Get Close To You.

Arve Henriksen-Towards Language.

Arve Henriksen-Towards Language.

Label: Rune Grammofon.

Currently the most overused word in the English language is innovative. Especially, it seems by certain music journalists, who recently, have developed a tendency overuse and misappropriate the word. However, there are a few groundbreaking musicians whose music deserves to be called innovative. This includes the Norwegian jazz trumpeter Arve Henriksen.

He first featured on Bjørn Alterhaug’s 1991 album Constellations. Ten years later, Arve Henriksen released his much-anticipated debut album Sakuteiki in 2001. By then, Arve Henriksen’s mission to reinvent the jazz trumpet was well underway.

Since then, Arve Henriksen’s raison d’être has been to push musical boundaries to their limits and challenge musical norms. As a result, he’s taken the jazz trumpet to destinations that it has previously never dared visit on his eight previous solo albums. Recently, though, eight albums became nine when Arve Henriksen released Towards Language on Rune Grammofon. It finds Arve Henriksen reuniting with his longterm musical partners Erik Honoré and Jan Bang, who featured on his fifth album Places Of Worship in 2013. Since then, he’s released four more albums.

In total, Arve Henriksen has released nine solo albums between 2001 and 2017.  However, that is just part of the Arve Henriksen story.  He’s also one of the hardest working men in Norwegian music. Arve Henriksen made his recording debut on Bjørn Alterhaug’s 1991 album Constellations. Much has happened since then, and now Arve Henriksen has over 270 credits to his name. He’s worked as an arranger, producer, songwriter, vocalist and of course as a sideman.

Arve Henriksen has been the go-to-guy for musicians looking for an inventive, imaginative and innovative trumpeter. This includes some of the biggest names in music, including Japan’s David Sylvian, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Ian Ballamy’s Food, Terje Rypdal and Jon Balke. They watch on as Arve Henriksen deploys an array of effects and electronics during sessions and in the process, reinventing how to play the trumpet. In doing so, Arve Henriksen sets the bar high for other trumpeters.

When Arve Henriksen isn’t working as a sideman, he’s also a member of the Norwegian jazz group Supersilent. They were formed in 1997, and feature Arve Henrikse, Helge Sten a.k.a. Deathprod, and Stale Storløkken. Supersilent has released eleven albums between 1998 and 2016. Their most recent album was 13, which was released to critical acclaim in 2016. This is something that Arve Henriksen has gotten used to over the years.

Arve Henriksen’s solo albums have enjoyed plaudits and praise since he released his debut album Sakuteiki in 2001. By then, he was already an experienced musician who had spent ten years playing on other people’s albums, and had released five albums with Supersilent. Sakuteiki was an innovative, groundbreaking combination of classical, experimental and jazz, which was released on Rune Grammofon. This brought Arve Henriksen to the attention of a much wider audience. 

Three years later in 2004, Arve Henriksen returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album, Chiaroscuro. The reason for the delay was Arve’Henriksen’s schedule. He seemed to have been working nonstop for the best part of three years. This included working with John Balke, Wunderkammer, Food, Sinikka Langeland, and recording and releasing Supersilent’s new album 6 in 2003. However, when Chiaroscuro was released, this genre-melting album proved to be well worth the wait. Although it was only Arve Henriksen’s sophomore album, his reputation was already growing.

After another three-year gap, Arve returned with his third solo album Strjon in March 2007. Futuristic and experimental, Arve Henriksen continued to release music that was way ahead of the musical curve. Arve Henriksen couldn’t have been signed to a better label than Rune Grammofon. They were a label that embraced adventurous and avant-garde music.

Proof of this was Solidification, a box set of Arve Henriksen’s music, which was released by Rune Grammofon in December 2012.  Solidification featured his first three albums plus his critically acclaimed fourth album Chron. It was another album of ambitious and groundbreaking music from a true musical pioneer. He was about to embark upon on the most prolific periods of his solo career.

Just eleven months after the release of Solidification, Arve Henriksen returned with his fifth album Places Of Worship in October 2013. It was described as: “a series of tone poems and mood pieces,” and was  reflective of Norwegian geology.  The music reflected the countryside and environment, especially the religious buildings and ruins that can be found throughout Norway. It’s understated, ethereal, haunting, reflective, sacred and fearful. Places Of Worship which was released to critical acclaim, saw Arve Henriksen continue to create innovative music.

After the release of Places Of Worship, Arve Henriksen was nominated for the most prestigious award in Norwegian music, a Spellemannprisen. This is the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award, and Places Of Worship was nominated for the best jazz album of 2013. However, it was a case of so near yet so far for Arve Henriksen.

Undeterred, Arve Henriksen returned in 2014 with two solo albums. The first of these was Chron + Cosmic Creation which was released in March 2014, and proved to be a truly ambitious album. Not only does it follow and expand upon Places Of Worship, but this album of audio exploration found Arve Henriksen entering deep space and conveying a sense of the eternal. This powerful album that won praise and plaudits from critics. So did the followup, The Nature Of Connections, which was released in August 2014. Arve Henriksen was joined by a band that featured some of Norway’s top musicians. They also wrote each of pieces that featured on this critically acclaimed, genre-melting album. It seemed that Arve Henriksen could do no wrong.

Since the release of The Nature Of Connections, the hardest working man Norwegian music has been busier than ever. However, he found time to record his ninth solo album Towards Language, which sees Arve Henriksen reuniting with his longterm musical partners Erik Honoré and Jan Bang. 

The three men had last worked together on Arve Henriksen’s critically acclaimed 2013 album Places Of Worship, but were reunited at Amper Tone Studio on the ‘23rd’ and ‘24th’ of August 2016. They were joined by guitarist Eivind Aarset, and over the next two days, nine songs took shape.  

Five of the nine tracks on Almost Language were penned by Arve Henriksen,  Jan Bang and Eivind Aarset. This includes Groundswell, Towards Language, Demarcation Line, Hibernal, Realign and Vivification.  

Patient Zero was based on the Eivind Aarset composition Empathic Guitar, while Transitory was based upon a theme by Manuel De Falla. Paridae which closed Almost Language, is a tradition song. These songs were recorded at Amper Tone Studio.

When recording got underway, the album was recorded by Johnny Skalleberg and produced by Jan Bang. This left Arve Henriksen free to play the trumpet, add vocals and the all important electronics that were a feature of his albums. Meanwhile, Erik Honoré  played synths, while Jan Bang took charge of live-sampling, sampling and electronics, They were joined by the fourth member of the band, guitarist Eivind Aarset who also added electronics.  Then when it came time to record Paridae, Anna Maria Friman was drafted in to add vocals on Paridae. By the end of the ‘24th’ of August 2016, Towards Language was almost complete.

All that remained was for Jan Bang and Erik Honoré to mix Towards Language, and then Helge Sten could master Arve Henriksen’s much-anticipated ninth album.

A year later, and Arve Henriksen released Towards Language, which was his first solo album in nearly three years. As he promotes the album, Arve Henriksen takes care mention everyone that worked on Towards Language, and all: the “musicians and producers that have encouraged and inspired” him during his long and illustrious career. Arve Henriksen isn’t someone who grabs the limelight, and is happy to share the credit what he has achieved over the years. Twenty-six years after he played on his first session, Arve Henriksen is one of the leading lights of the Norwegian music scene, and as Towards Language demonstrates, an innovative musician.

Patient Zero which opens Towards Language is two minutes of mellow, ruminative music. At first, just a strummed guitar plays, before the rueful trumpet plays.  As it takes centre-stage, washes of weeping guitar and subtle synths are added. Together, they play their in a melodic and melancholy soundscape that invites reflection.

As Groundswell unfolds, the trumpet is played slowly and tenderly. Effects are deployed and help create a rasping sound. It’s joined by washes of dreamy synths, a guitar that is almost caressed and the bass synth adds the soundscape’s slow heartbeat.  Just like the rest of the arrangement, it’s a case of less is more, as the mesmeric and understated soundscape meanders melodically along, showcasing a dreamy and laid-back sound. That is still the case as the volume increases, as Groundswell continues to reveal its secrets. Arve plays with power and passion, and his trumpet brays and rasps. Behind him, ethereal synths float along and play their part in this beautiful, meandering and dreamy soundscape.

Towards Language is quite different from the two previous tracks, and by comparison, has a much more experimental sound. Churning, gurgling percussive sounds join dark droning keyboards and a high, effects-laden vocal. It’s panned across the soundscape, and sits hard left, while the synths set hard right. Meanwhile, the gurgling, percussive fills the rest of this inventive soundscape as latterly, the vocal becomes ethereal, heartfelt and emotive.

A wash of synths float in on Demarcation Line, but give way to the subtle, wistful and rueful trumpet.  It takes centre-stage, and is augmented by gurgling, beeping, squeaking sounds. Later, subtle washes of synths and a prowling bass provide the backdrop for the beautiful, heart-wrenching sound of a braying, rasping trumpet. Soon, it soars high above the arrangement, while washes of shimmering synths and a probing bass are augmented by an array of disparate sounds. They’re all part of the rich musical tapestry that is Demarcation Line.

At first, a lone wistful trumpet plays on Transitory, but soon, is joined by a second trumpet. They carry out a conversation, that seems to be filled with sadness and midway through the track, an element of drama. The trumpet is played with power, as if laying bare its soul. Meanwhile, the other trumpet adds to the melancholy, anguish and drama on this powerful and poignant track. It manages to convey what a thousand words couldn’t say.

There’s a sadness as the synths play on Hibernal. They replicate the sound of a church organ, while the sound of a bell ringing ominously is replicated. Soon, they’re joined by Arve’s impassioned trumpet. Its plaintive cry soars high above the arrangement, as the synths play and the bell rings. By then, another heart-wrenching and cinematic soundscape is taking shape. The music paints pictures, and scenarios unfold. Always, there’s a sense of sadness and loss. Having said that, there’s still an inherent beauty to this seven minute epic soundscape.

It’s Arve Henriksen much-anticipated ninth solo album, from one of the leading lights of the Norwegian music scene. Arve Henriksen has spent the best part of three decades reinventing how to play the trumpet. He’s the latest in a long line of innovative trumpeters, and on

Towards Language continues to take the trumpet to destinations its previously never dared visit. His playing in inventive, imaginative and innovative on what’s described as a jazz album.

That is something of an understatement. Towards Language is much more than a jazz album. It’s a genre-melting epic where Arve Henriksen and his band combined elements of ambient, avant-garde, with electronic, experimental, improv industrial music and even modern classical and free. The result is a truly groundbreaking and thoroughly modern album.

It finds Arve Henriksen and his band combining traditional instruments and technology on Towards Language. This includes a variety of electronics instruments, including samplers. Add to this,  a myriad of samples and found sounds, and this is enough to provide the backdrop for Arve Henriksen’s trumpet. These backdrops frame Arve Henriksen’s trumpet and allow it to shine as he continues to make tomorrow’s music, today.

This they did over a two-day period at Amper Tone Studio, where Arve Henriksen and his band created nine carefully crafted soundscapes. They range from understated and subtle, to thoughtful and ruminative, to melancholy and wistful. It’s also dark, dramatic and eerie, but also beautiful and ethereal. Always, the music is cinematic and cerebral. The music on Towards Language invites reflection, and is very much cerebral, mood music. Towards Language is music to immerse oneself in, and embark on a Homeric musical Odyssey as Arve Henriksen paints pictures with his music. He takes the listener on captivating journey where the cinematic music is full of vivid imagery on Towards Language. This is what we’ve come to expect of Arve Henriksen.

He’s a world-class musician, and a musical pioneer, who has spent his career pushing musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes way beyond. Arve Henriksen has also continued to challenge musical norms,  as the keeper of Miles Davis’ flame continues on his mission takes jazz music to places it has never previously dared visit before.  This Arve Henriksen continues to do on Towards Language, which features imaginative, inventive and groundbreaking music. Towards Language marks the welcome return a Arve Henriksen who continues to create innovative music on this genre-melting opus, which was recently released by Rune Grammofon.

Arve Henriksen-Towards Language.

Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes-Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes.

Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes-Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes.

Label: Community Music Records.

When Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes first met at a party in West Virginia, it was rather fitting that music filled the room. As they started to talk, the two men realised just how much had in common. They had a similar taste in music, and had both already embarked upon a career as singer-songwriters. 

Sam Gleaves had released his debut album in 2015, and already his music was started to find a wider audience. Tyler Hughes had just graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies in 2015. Now he was dividing his time between his solo career and working with the Empty Bottle String Band. Despite his already busy schedule, Tyler Hughes would soon embark upon a new project with his new friend Sam Gleaves.

At first the pair played live locally, and in doing so, continued the tradition of duet singing that for many generations, has been a feature of Virginia. Their tenor voices, Sam Gleaves’ guitar and Tyler Hughes banjo proved a potent, powerful and popular combination as they brought some of their favourite songs to life. Eventually, the pair decided that the next step was to record an album tougher. Just a few days ago, they release their eponymous debut album Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes on Community Music Records. It’s the next chapter in the story of two young and talented musicians from South Western Virginia.

That is where Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes were both born and brought up. Sam was born in Wytheville, Virginia, and growing up, was steeped in the traditional Appalachian music. He was fortunate to be mentored by some of the leading exponents in Appalachian music including Jim Lloyd and ballad singer Sheila Kay Adams. These musicians would later influence Sam when he embarked upon a career as singer-songwriter. 

Before that, Sam graduated from Berea College with a degree in Folklore from Berea College. However, during his student years, he spent four years as a member of the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble. This was all part of his musical education.

After leaving Berea College, Sam’s career began in earnest. He based himself in Berea, Kentucky, and has travelled the world playing live. This includes touring Canada, Britain, Ireland and Japan, and Canada. During his travels, Sam has played alongside 

some of the biggest names in folk and country music, ranging from Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, to John McCutcheon, Si Kahn and Peggy Seeger. For Sam, whose star was in the ascendancy, playing alongside such big name musicians was invaluable experience.

Especially as Sam had decided to record his debut album. He went into the studio with Cathy Fink, who produced what became Ain’t We Brothers. When it was released in late 2015, it received praise and plaudits, and was played on NPR. Before long, Ain’t We Brothers started to be heard by a much wider audience. By then, great things were being forecast for Sam. 

Appalachian novelist Lee Smith described Sam as: “the best young songwriter around . . . courageous as hell and country to the bone.” This was high praise for Sam, who looked as if he was well on his way to enjoying a successful solo career. Things changed after Sam’s chance meeting with Tyler Hughes. After that, Sam was juggling his solo career with his partnership with Tyler.

Just like Sam, Tyler Hughes is a native of Virginia. However, Tyler was born and raised in Big Stone Gap, a small town which is situated in the Appalachian mountains in Southwest Virginia. By the time Tyler was twelve, his love affair with old-time and country music had already began. Soon, he was performing locally, and as the years passed, he would perform across the East coast. At home, Tyler spent his time listening to the old-time, bluegrass, and country music that is still hugely popular in Southwest Virginia. It was something that he was passionate about.

So much so, that when Tyler headed to East Tennessee State University, he had enrolled on a Bachelor’s Degree in Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies. Over the next few years, Tyler immersed himself in the music that he had spent much of his life playing and listening to. In 2015, Tyler graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies. 

After returning home to Big Stone Gap, Tyler embarked upon a career as a singer-songwriter. He was also a member of the Empty Bottle String Band, who were based in Johnson City, Tennessee. Playing with the Empty Bottle String Band, and trying to establish himself as a singer-songwriter took up much of Tyler’s time. Despite this, when he received an invitation to a party in West Virginia, Tyler decided to accept the invitation, and enjoy some downtime. 

As Tyler arrived at the party, just like every party in Virginia, music filled the air. Not long after he arrived at the party, Tyler started talking to another guest. This was Sam Gleaves, and soon, the two men realised that they shared much in common. Both men were from similar backgrounds and grew up within similar circles. However, the main thing Tyler and Sam had in common, was their love of music. Tyler remembers: “we loved all the same people,” recalls Tyler. “We had all the same major influences and admiration…It’s not too often you meet young men from our area who love Jeanette Carter, or some of the other people who wrote the songs on our album.” Sam recalling the first meeting remembers: “we were drawn to the same kind of expression.” This was no surprise.

Both Tyler and Sam had grownup in similar communities, where they learned to play the music they loved. In Sam’s case, this was a guitar, while Tyler gravitated towards the banjo. 

After Tyler mastered the banjo, he started to play live, singing and accompanying himself on the banjo. Still, Tyler found time to enjoy flatfooting, a traditional Virginian percussive dance tradition. This was all part of the region’s musical and cultural heritage, that Tyler embraced and enjoyed. 

Meanwhile, Sam’s solo career was blossoming after the release of his debut solo album Ain’t We Brothers. This was a mixture of songs penned by Sam and some traditional songs. When it was played on NPR, they hailed the album a: “traditional revolution” in Southern roots music. This was high praise, considering the area’s musical tradition.

Southwestern Virginia has long had a tradition for producing progressive singers and songwriters. Just like local historians, they’ve observed and documented life in Southwestern Virginia for countless generations. The way that these local storytellers do this differs. Some songs are bleak portrayals of the hardship and travails of life, while others are heartfelt and full of compassion. Other songwriters use humour as they tell their stories. However, many of these songs can be heard for the first time at local parties.

These aren’t lavish affairs, that take place in some parts of America. Instead, they take place in local people’s homes in Southwestern Virginia. Families and neighbours gather together, and when it comes time for everyone to dance, they head to the parlour. The furniture is pushed to the side of the room, and carpets roll up. A bidding singer-songwriter like Sam or Tyler in years gone by, will entertain the guests with their songs chronicling local life and sometimes, love and love lost in Southwestern Virginia. This is an old tradition, and one that continues to this very day.

Tradition plays an important part in daily life in Southwestern Virginia. Especially when it comes to music. Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes are proof of that. Having met and become friends, the next step was start singing together. Soon, Sam and Tyler were continuing an age-old tradition of duet singing. This has long been part of a Southwestern Virginia’s musical heritage.

Straight away, it became apparent that Sam and Tyler were perfectly suited to duet singing. Their tenor voices blended together perfectly, while Sam’s guitar and Tyler’s banjo provide the perfect backdrop. Soon they became a popular live act on the local scene as that showcased the music of the Appalachia region. This music is rich and diverse, and Sam and Tyler were already practised exponents. They were the latest generation to showcase this cerebral, eloquent, heartfelt, intelligent and thought-provoking music. 

Many of the songs that Sam and Tyler played live, had already  been played by several generations of musicians. The pair it seemed, were walking a road that was already well-travelled. Despite this, they managed to bring something new to the music. To do this, Sam and Tyler drew inspiration from those that had mentored them, and the singers and songwriters that had gone before them. This brought them success in a relatively short space of time.

So much so, that Sam and Tyler decided that it was time for them to record their debut album. Given the rise in their popularity, this made sense. When it came to choosing the songs for the album, the pair wanted to choose songs that spoke about life in South Western Virginia and the people who lived there. 

For the album, Sam wrote Stockyard Hill and Tyler contributed When We Love. Sam and Tyler decided to cover two well-known two traditional songs, Georgia Row and Mister Rabbit. They were joined by Wade E. Mainer’s I Can’t Sit Down; James Oppenheimer’s Bread and Roses; Tom T. Hall’s I Washed My Face In The Morning Dew; Kate Peters Sturgill’s My Stone Mountain Home and Maybelle Carter’s Lonesome Homesick Blues. Other tracks included Boudleaux Bryant’s Well I Guess I Told You Off, Janette Carter’s Living With Memories and Anndrenna Belcher’s Mama Paint Me A Picture. The other tracks included Sleepy Eyed John and Tear Down The Fences. These songs were recorded with a familiar face.

This was none other than veteran roots singer, songwriter, musician and producer, Cathy Fink, who had previously produced Sam’s debut album Ain’t We Brothers. She returned to produce and later, mix Sam and Tyler’s debut album. This was something she was keen to do, having been impressed by how dedicated Sam and Tyler when they sung together. “When I heard them sing together, one of the things I loved from the start was the continuous respect, the love of tradition they feel, and what it can bring to us today.” Sam and Tyler were determined to bring new life to the songs, and ensure that they remained relevant.

When the sessions began, they were unlike many sessions Cathy Fink had worked on. It was just Sam and Tyler that entered the studio. Not only did they lay down the lead vocals and add harmonies, but both men were talented multi-instrumentalists and played all the instruments on the album. Sam played guitar, baritone guitar and mandolin. Tyler played banjo, gourd banjo, autoharp and played guitar on Well I Guess I Told You Off and Mama Paint Me A Picture. Together, the two multitalented musicians with the help of producer Cathy Fink and recordist Jim Robertson had recorded what would later become Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes.

Eventually, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes was released in mid-June 2017. The two friends had come a long way since they first met at that party in West Virginia. They had recorded a captivating and powerful album that the music was relevant to life in 2017. This was something that Tyler wanted to do. He explains: “like a majority of people, I was quite disappointed with the ways of the world in 2016…Seeing this wave of anger brought to the surface of society, and not just here, but abroad as well. I thought about how people really don’t mean to bring such hate to the surface. Often humans are self-centred, we don’t think of how our words and actions affect those around us. I tried to address some of those thoughts.” This he managed to do on When We Love, a carefully crafted song with a positive message. It showcases Tyler’s skills as a songwriter, and impressed his Sam.

He remembers: “in so few words, he stated this welcoming message. I was inspired by this.” However, to augment the two songs that Sam and Tyler had penned: “we included older songs addressing political concerns, and we wanted our original tunes to dovetail with that.” This they have managed to do successfully, in such a way that the music on the album isn’t just relevant to people from South Western Virginia, but much further afield. That is apparent throughout Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes.

Many of the songs on Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes feature understated arrangements. It’s a case of less is more, including on Stockyard Hill, which opens the album. It was penned by Sam, and incorporates the words of his great-aunt, which are transformed, and become an uplifting song about Appalachian life. This gives way to Tyler’s hopeful sounding song When We Love. Again, it features an understated backdrop which allows Sam and Tyler’s tender, heartfelt vocals and close harmonies to take centre-stage on this beautiful, hopeful song.

Georgia Row is the first of two traditional songs. Just a guitar, banjo and fiddle accompany the vocal on a song that is a reminder of Virginia’s rich musical heritage. So is Mister Rabbit, where Sam and Tyler resist the temptation reinvent the wheel. Instead, they stay true to original, as they incorporate elements of blues and folk. Staying true to a song is important for Sam and Tyler. Sam describes how they recorded the songs on the album: “usually one of us knows the song by heart…One of us will learn the whole song and one of us will sing it, backstage or around the house. We learn from each other in person, not by sending links via email. I find learning this way is so much better and more enjoyable.” This way of working has proven to be successful for Sam and Tyler.

Especially on the joyous and spiritual sounding I Can’t Sit Down, which features some of Sam and Tyler’s best vocals. They feed off each other and reach new heights. Sam and Tyler then deliver a powerful and poignant cover of the labour anthem Bread and Roses. This gives way to another powerful and moving song, the oft-covered I Washed My Face In The Morning Dew. Here, Sam and Tyler bring to life the sadness, injustice, cruelty and sheer hypocrisy in the lyrics. Then on My Stone Mountain, there’s a yearning in Sam and Tyler’s vocals as if they can understand and relate to missing somewhere so badly. It’s a similar case on Lonesome Homesick Blues which features some of the best close harmonies on the album. Sam and Tyler sound as if they’ve experienced the loneliness and feeling homesick in the lyrics. The result is a heart-wrenching reading of lyrics that many people will be able to relate to. This is just the latest in a long of moving, emotive and poignant songs.

Sam and Tyler then stay true to original version of Well I Guess I Told You Off, which was written by Georgia born Boudleaux Bryant. 

They deliver a mischievous rendition of the song that is tinged with humour. It’s followed by two beautiful, poignant ballads Living With Memories and Mama Paint Me A Picture. On both songs, Sam and Tyler deliver a tender, heartfelt and rueful vocals. Sleepy Eyed John is a reminder of the type of song that will be heard at a party in South Western Virginia. As the fiddle drives the song along, Sam and Tyler trade vocals. Closing the album is song that is particularly  relevant Tear Down The Fences. It’s a call for people to find common ground that was  written by bluegrass legend Ola Belle Reed. She has inspired both Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes, so it’s particularly fitting that one of her song closes the album.

After fourteen songs lasting just thirty-nine minutes, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes debut album draws to a close. It features two truly talented singers, songwriters and musicians, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes. They showcase their considerable talents and versatility on their eponymous debut album.

Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes seamlessly flit between and combine elements of disparate musical genres. This ranges from folk and country, to blues and bluegrass. They’re part of an album  which is a mixture of ballads and uptempo songs. They sit side-by-side, and Sam and Tyler are equally comfortable as delivering ballads as the uptempo songs. However, Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes are at their best on the ballads, where they breathe life, meaning and emotion to the songs. 

The majority of songs on Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes are cover versions. Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes only contribute one song each. This is enough to realise that they’re both talented songwriters. Maybe on their sophomore album, they’ll include more of their own compositions? However, on Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes the pair wanted to include songs are part of Virginia’s rich musical heritage. Some of the songs are full of social comment, while others deal with subjects like homesickness, loneliness and the past. These songs aren’t reinvented and Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes stay true to the originals. Tradition is important to Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes.

Cathy Fink who produced Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes confirms this. “Studying tradition can help a songwriter learn how to take an important issue and translate it into a very universal song, when serendipity and luck mixes with a deep knowledge and love of tradition. It’s important that song is mixed in with traditional and tradition-based music. It’s all of a piece.” This has influenced their eponymous debut album and played its part in its sound and success. Hopefully, will continue in the future.

Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes cherish and embrace their musical heritage. It’s something that they’re both proud of, and something has influenced their eponymous debut album. This ranges from the songs that they’ve chosen, the type of instruments that they used and their decision to continue the tradition of duet singing. 

Sam and Tyler are perfectly suited to duet singing, and their rich tenor voices blend together perfectly on their eponymous debut album. Meanwhile Sam’s guitar and Tyler’s banjo provide the perfect backdrop for their vocals. It’s no surprise that they were soon a popular act on the local live scene, as they showcase the music of the Appalachia region. Its music is rich and diverse, and Sam and Tyler are already practised exponents as they showcase the beautiful, cerebral, eloquent, heartfelt, intelligent, poignant and thought-provoking music on Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes.

Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes-Sam Gleaves and Tyler Hughes.

Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider-Tiergarten.

Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider-Tiergarten.

Label: TAL.

Nowadays, musical collaborations are much more commonplace than ever before. Partly, that is because of the new musical technology that is available to artists. This has totally transformed the way that albums are now recorded. 

It’s now possible to record an album on a laptop using just a DAW with a handful of VSTs and a selection of samples. As a result, two artists collaborating on an album no longer need to record it within the environs of a traditional recording studio. Indeed, the two artists don’t even need to be in the same city, country or continent.

If they’ve access to high-speed broadband artists can collaborate remotely on album. That is how many artists are recording an album in 2017. However, when Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider decided to record an album together, they used decided to use just a few vintage analogue synths. The resultant album Tiergarten, was recently released on the TAL label. Tiergarten will be familiar with anyone who has visited Berlin. It’s the park in the centre of Berlin, which lent its name to  the first album that Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider have collaborated on. That is despite the pair enjoying a friendship that began in the late-eighties.

The friendship between Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider began in the late eighties, when they were studying fine arts at Düsseldorf Academy. Katharina Grosse was painting and Stefan Schneider was studying photography when they first met. Soon, the pair had struck up a firm friendship continued after they graduated from Düsseldorf Academy.

After leaving Düsseldorf Academy, Katharina Grosse embarked  upon a career in the fiercely competitive world of art. Over the next few years, gradually, she forged her own unique and unmistakable style. Nowadays, Katharina Grosse is a world-famous visual artist, whose known for inventive and innovative use of materials and colour. 

Especially when she creates her brightly coloured acrylic paintings and installations. They’re often created using an industrial air brush and mounds of pigmented dirt. The resulting partings are bold, and sometimes, psychedelic that that the viewer can immerse themselves in. To some extent, it’s an interactive experience, and one that art lovers across the world have experienced and enjoyed.

During her career, Katharina Grosse has exhibited at some of the most prestigious art galleries, ranging from New York’s MoMA PS1 to Chicago’s Renaissance Society and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Meanwhile, Katharina Grosse’s paintings can be found in Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Kunsthaus in Zürich, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Nowadays, Katharina Grosse is one of the leading lights of the German art scene, and divides her time between Berlin and Düsseldorf. That was where  she collaborated on Tiergarten, with her old friend Stefan Schneider.

After he graduated from Düsseldorf Academy, Stefan Schneider embarked upon a career as a musician. This came as no surprise, to some people who knew him. Stefan Schneider had already been a member of the Düsseldorf based rock group Sons Of Care, and avant-pop group Deux Baleines Blanches since the mid-eighties. He featured on their two albums,  Singende Drähte in 1986, and Songs From The Willow in 1989. Little did anyone realise that this was the start of a long and successful career.  

Three decades later, and Stefan Schneider has over 240 credits to his name. This includes worked as an arranger, producer, remixer, sideman, songwriter and vocalist. Stefan has also worked on various collaborations and been a member of several bands. This includes Kreidler, who he cofounded in Düsseldorf in 1994, with former members of Deux Baleines Blanches. Stefan was a member of Kreidler until 1998, when he left to focus on his side-project, To Rococo Rot. By then, Kreidler were well on their way to becoming one of the most innovative and influential German bands of their generation.

Leaving a successful band like Kreidler was always risky, but Stefan’s career blossomed. He divide his time between a variety of disparate projects. This included To Rococo Rot the Berlin based post rock and electronic band he cofounded in 1995. They’ve now released ten albums, including their most recent album Instrument, which was released in 2014. However, To Rococo Rot is only part of Stefan’s career.

He was also a ember of several other bands. This included  Music AM, who released a trio of albums between 2004 and 2006. Stefan was a member of September Collective, who released three albums between 2004 and 2009. Still though, Stefan found time to collaborate on a several high-profile collaborations.

This includes two albums with Bill Wells, Annie Whitehead and Barbara Morgenstern, Pick Up Sticks in 2004 and Paper Of Pins in 2009. A year later, Stefan and Bill Wells returned in 2010 with a new album, Pianotapes. However, in 2011 Stefan released the first of two critically acclaimed albums with one of the legends of German music, Hans-Joachim Roedelius. Their debut  Stunden was released in 2011, with Tiden following in 2013. Stefan’s next collaboration was with Sven Kacirek and the pair released Shadows Documents in 2014. These are just a few of the artists Stefan has worked with. 

Stefan has also recorded with, and performed alongside, some of the biggest names in music. This includes Faust’s Hans-Joachim Irmler; Kraftwerk and NEU!’s Klaus Dinger; Martha Wainwright; Saint Etienne; The Pastels and virtuoso drummer John McEntire of Tortoise, The Sea and Cake. These are just a few of the disparate artists that Stefan has with over the last three decades.

One artist that Stefan had worked for several years was Jay Patrick Ahern.This had released a string of E.P.s as the Hauntologists since 2008, but had never got round to releasing their debut album. This changed in 2015, when the Hauntologists, eventually released their eponymous album. By then, Stefan was working on a new album with his old friend Katharina Grosse.

By 2015, Katharina Gross and Stefan Schneider had reached the top of their respective fields. Katharina Gross was a world-famous visual artist, while Stefan Schneider was a groundbreaking and influential musician whose music had a worldwide audience. The two friends had come a long way since they graduated from Düsseldorf Academy. They had never lost touch, and had even performed together between 2008 and 2015.

Often, this was within Katharina Gross’ painted and sculpted environments. The music they made complemented and enhanced her art. Having performed together, the next natural step was for Katharina Gross and Stefan Schneider to record an album together. This became Tiergarten.

The idea to record Tiergarten came about a couple of years ago, and over the next two years, the pair set about recording nine instrumental tracks. These tracks were recorded by Katharina Gross and Stefan Schneider. No other musicians were brought onboard to record Tiergarten. This was a conscious decision. So was the decision to use just a small selection of equipment of analogue synths. It would’ve been easy to head to one of the top studios, where they could use a wide selection of classic synths. That wasn’t the way Katharina Gross and Stefan Schneider approached the recording of Tiergarten. They took a very different approach.

Prior to the recording sessions, Katharina and Stefan recorded ideas for songs separately. This to many people might seem like an unusual way to approach an album. However, Katharina and Stefan aren’t most people. They’ve enjoyed a long and close friendship and  almost intuitively, know how the other functions musically. It’s like a musical equivalent of yin and yang. After they’ve recorded an idea for a track, they knew after listing to it, whether it would work as part of the Tiergarten project. 

When the pair met, they listen to each other play live, and then began to form collections of sound that become part of an exhausting and vigorous musical conversation. This Katharina is keen to point out that they did: “without fixations.” Instead, they play their small selection of analogue synths with freedom and fluidity, and in the process, let their imaginations run riot. The result was captivating music that is full of twists and turns, and subtleties and surprises. It’s the musical equivalent of a magical mystery tour around Berlin . That is fitting given the title of Katharina and Stefan’s first collaboration. 

After spending two years of recording separately and together, they had eventually completed the album. All that remained was to think of a title for the album. Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider decided to follow in the footsteps of Neu!, David Bowie and Brian Eno, and name their album after part of Berlin. That day, Tiergarten was born. 

Tiergarten is the largest and most popular inner city park in Berlin. There are 520 acres for Berliners to enjoy and explore. Its history can be traced back to 1527, when it was founded by the Elector of Brandenburg as a hunting area. Since then, Berlin has grown around Tiergarten, and means different things to different people.

When Walter Benjamin published his memoirs Berlin Childhood Around 1900: Hope In The Past in 1938, he could well be thinking of Tiergarten when he wrote the first two sentences. “Not to find one’s way around a city does not mean much. But to lose one’s way in a city, as one loses one’s way in a forest, requires some schooling.” That is an adventure one would prefer to avoid. However, Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider’s debut album Tiergarten is a musical adventure to enthrall, embrace and enjoy.

As Blueberry opens Tiergarten, a dark, moody bass synth pulsates  while what sounds like birdsong joins with squeaks and beeps. They’re part of slow, moody, dramatic and cinematic soundscape that emits a menacing sound. Meanwhile, fluttering, sweeping and squeaking sounds flit in and out as the arrangement meanders along.  By then, sci-fi and otherworldly sounds are being unleashed. Later, the soundscape takes on an understated sound, but continues to captivate. Still though, there’s an element of drama. Especially as beeps, squeaks and cheeping sounds escape from an arrangement. They give way to whirring sounds that soars above arrangement, as if making its escape during this eight minute cinematic epic.

Understated described Aufglühen as it starts to unfold. However, its cinematic sound is guaranteed to set the listener’s imagination racing. Suddenly, scenarios start to unfold as futuristic sound emerge from the analogue synths. Initially, it sounds  as if it’s the soundtrack to movie about intergalactic warfare. Later, it sounds as if it’s a soundtrack to space travel, or a modern-day explorer in search of a lost alien race. Latterly, the music is moody, with element of drama as Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider paint pictures with their powerful yet understated music.

Despite being just a minute long, Schattenmodell is full of imagery. That is the case from the opening bars, when it sounds as if the futuristic synths are replicating inter-planetary warfare. This would be perfect  for the soundtrack to a sci-fi computer game. So are the array of beeps, squeaks, buzzes and shrill sounds that appear during the second half of this short but compelling soundscape.

A drone sits above the arrangement to Bright, while a myriad of sounds flit in and out. This ranges from a hissing sound to what sounds like sirens and later, an eerie and moody sound. Soon, they’re joining by crackling, bristling and beeping sounds. Later, sounds whoosh and whirr, while other times an otherworldly sound emerges. These sounds are used subtlety, and it’s a case of less is more. As a result, there’s always a degree of darkness drama as the soundscape reveals it secrets and surprises.

Yes No Why Later is the second of two short soundscapes. It quickly reveals an experimental sound, as Katharina and Stefan toy with their synths. Soon, a myriad of beeps and squeaks join buzzes and shrill, shrieking sounds. Later, a bass synths is joined by beeps, squeaks and crackles during this musical voyage of discovery.

Hypnotic beeps are emitted from Das Herz Am Schlagen, and take centre-stage, while a myriad of disparate sound drift in and out. This ranges from crackling and rustling sounds to whirrs and whooshes to later, sci-fi sounds. Mostly, they’re used subtly and compliment the mesmeric, bubbling beeps. Gradually, though, the music takes on a robotic sound, and the array of sounds that are deployed are no longer as subtle. However, an increase in volume allows them to seamlessly become part of a musical tapestry. Later, it’s all change as the soundscape  becomes understated, and beeps, crackles, whirrs and gently pulsates during one of their most innovative tracks on Tiergarten..

Straight away, futuristic sounds emerge from Strömung, and conjure up images of images of space travel. Partly that is due to the sound of  synths gliding high above the arrangement. Soon, this is replaced by crackling, beeping and squeaking sounds. They’re joined by whirring, whining, grinding and droning sounds that became part of this futuristic soundscape. Again, there’s an element of drama. Later, though, the soundscape floats along, before a dark, moody sound briefly appears only to disappear. All too soon, this captivating musical journey is over. In the space of six minutes, Strömung says more  than a thousand words can.

Dark moody synths drones on Lilie which closes Tiergarten. Meanwhile, subtle sounds whoosh, whir and beep hypnotically. They’re part of one of the most cinematic tracks on Tiergarten, which sounds as if it’s been influenced Cluster and Kraftwerk. 

Both bands created groundbreaking music during their long and illustrious careers. So did Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider during the two years they spent recording Tiergarten. It features nine carefully crafted soundscapes that last just forty minutes. That is how long albums used to last when vinyl was King. Alas, this changed when CDs were introduced. 

Suddenly, artists and bands were releasing sprawling albums that featured fourteen or fifteen tracks and lasted seventy minutes. What many artists failed to realise was that several of the tracks should’ve never have made it onto an album. They certainly wouldn’t have made it onto an LP, which given its time constraints featured only an artist’s finest music. That is the case on Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider’s debut album Tiergarten, which was recently released on the TAL label.

They have approached Tiergarten as if it was a vinyl album from the seventies. Only the finest music that Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider recorded during a two-year period made its way onto Tiergarten. This makes Tiergarten an old school album. It’s also a captivating and cinematic genre-melting album.

Tiergarten finds Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider combining disparate musical genres to create an album of inventive and innovative music. This includes elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, experimental music and Krautrock. Elements of all these musical genres play their part in an album that is the musical equivalent of a magical mystery tour.

During this magical mystery tour, the music on Tiergarten veers between atmospheric, to dark and eerie to menacing and moody.  Sometimes, the music is cerebral, thoughtful, thought-provoking and ruminative. Other times, the music is understated and subtle, with Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider taking a less is more approach.  For much of the time, the music showcases a futuristic, sci-fi and otherworldly sounds. Always, though, the music on Tiergarten has a cinematic sound, and is  guaranteed to set the imagination racing. Quite simply, Tiergarten is a musical voyage of discovery, which is full of twists and turns, and subtleties and surprises aplenty. 

The two years that Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider spent recording Tiergarten, was definitely two years well spent. They have created a truly groundbreaking album where they push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond. That is despite limiting themselves to a small selection of vintage analog synths. They play their part in Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider’s cinematic, genre-melting musical opus, where the two old friends take the listeners on a magical mystery tour through Tiergarten.

Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider-Tiergarten.

BIG STAR-POWER POP PIONEERS.

Big Star-Power Pop Pioneers.

Sadly, in music, talent doesn’t guarantee commercial success. If it did, Big Star would’ve been one of the biggest bands in musical history. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Lady luck failed to smile on Big Star when they released a trio of albums between 1972 and 1978. Despite this,  Big Star are nowadays regarded as one of the most important and influential bands in musical history. That is why Big Star have gone to influence several generations of bands. Their story began in 1971, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Memphis was twenty-one year old Alex Chilton’s hometown. It’s where his career began five years earlier in 1966, when he recorded his debut solo album. Just a year later, seventeen year old Alex Chilton became the lead singer with The Box Tops. 

Alex Chilton was The Box Top’s lead singer between 1967 and 1970. During that period, The Box Tops enjoyed a number one single with The Letter. However, by 1970, Alex’s time with The Box Tops was over. Soon, though the twenty year old   was offered the chance to join one of the biggest bands of that time.

This was none other than Blood, Sweat and Tears. They approached Alex, asking if he would consider joining as their lead singer. That wasn’t going to happen. Incredibly Alex rejected the idea out of hand, saying Blood, Sweat and Tears were “too commercial.” Not long after this, Alex Chilton met Chris Bell.

Alex Chilton and Chris Bell had known each other for a while. Both men spent time at Ardent Recording  Studios, Memphis. That was where Alex Chilton first asked Chris Bell to collaborate with him. Originally, Alex Chilton’s idea was that he and Chris Bell would become a duo like Simon and Garfunkel. Chris Bell however, rejected the idea out of hand, and instead, asked Alex Chilton to join his band IceWater. 

IceWater’s lineup featured guitarist Chris Bell, drummer Jody Stephens and bassist Andy Hummel. Alex having heard the group’s music, liked it. However, he felt he that ge could improve IceWater’s music.  When Alex arrived at the next Icewater session, he brought along a new song that he had written, Watch The Sunrise. The other members of IceWater liked what they heard, and soon, IceWater had a new addition, Alex Chilton.

Compared to the rest of the members of Icewater, Alex seemed a musical veteran. He already had a wealth of previous musical experience, and  before long, Alex was making his presence felt. This included suggesting that Icewater changed their name to Big Star.

This came about during a recording session, when Alex headed out to the local Big Star Markets for some food. He ended up in the  Big Star Markets were a chain of stores across Memphis. Their logo was a five-pointed star. Within the five-pointed star was Big Star Markets. Seeing this logo was a eureka moment for Alex Chilton. 

Once in the store, he realised that Big Star was a name that matched his ambitions for his new band. The five-pointed star would make the perfect logo for the band. That was, as long as he didn’t infringe the copyright. They wouldn’t, as long as they didn’t put Big Star within the five pointed star. With these ideas flying around his head, Alex returned to the studio to convince the rest of IceWater to change their name to Big Star.

Not long after this, IceWater changed their name to Big Star. By then, the band had already written several new  songs, including Thirteen and Watch The Sunrise, would appear on their debut album, Number One Record.

Number One Record.

By April 1972, Big Star were ready to release their debut album, Number One Record. Big Star had signed a recording contract with Ardent Records, and the company founder John Fry was keen record the band’s debut album Number One Record. 

Initially, all four band members of Big Star were going to contribute songs for Number One Record. It didn’t pan out that way, and instead, Alex and Chris wrote eleven of the twelve tracks. The exception was The India Song, penned by Andy Hummel. These twelve tracks would become Number One Record.

Recording of Number One Record took place at Ardent Studios Memphis. The rhythm section of drummer Jody Stephens and bassist Andy Hummel were joined by the twin guitars of Alex and Chris. Augmented by Terry Manning’s piano, Number One Record, which was produced by Jon Fry began to take shape.

During the Number One Record sessions at Ardent Studios, Big Star became one of the first groups to use a sixteen track tape recorder. This allowed Big Star to experiment and learn how best to best use the new technology to their advantage. The result was a polished album of power pop, featuring elegiac harmonies. 

By the time Number One Record was due for release in June 1972, critics already loved Big Star’s music. The release of Number One Record further cemented critics love affair with Big Star. Released to critical acclaim, many, critics including Billboard and Cash Box thought that Big Star were on their way to becoming music’s next big thing. Record World Magazine went as far to say that Number One Record “was one of the albums of 1972.” Surely, Big Star were on the verge of greatness when they released Number One Record?

Sadly, when Number One Record was released in June 1972, there were problems with distribution. Stax Records couldn’t get copies of Number One Record into record shops. For Big Star, this was hugely frustrating. Especially, after such critically acclaimed reviews. This resulted in plenty of demand for Number One Record. Big Star watched on feeling helpless, as Number One Record sold less than ten thousand copies. For Big Star, this was a disaster. Things would get even worse.

Eventually, Stax signed a deal with Columbia Records to distribute their whole catalogue. However, Columbia didn’t seem interested is using the independent distributors previously used by Stax. This resulted in Number One Record being removed from the stores who previously sold Stax releases. After this tensions arose within Big Star.

Following the problems regarding the distribution of Number One Record, tensions arose within the band. Fights erupted between band members, instruments were destroyed and Chris Bell left the group, to  record his own solo album. Not long after this, Big Star split-up, for the first time.

After a few months, Big Star decided that it was time to reform the band.  However, all  wasn’t well within Big Star. Onlookers watched on as a myriad of problems threatened to destroy Big Star.  There was drug abuse, instruments destroyed, band members became ill and even a master tape went missing. Again the band spilt up. 

Radio City.

Eventually, Big Star reconvened and Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel decided to record an album as a three-piece band. This would become Radio City.

For Radio City, Alex Chilton wrote six tracks and cowrote four others, including three with  Andy Hummel, who contributed Way Out West. Alex and Andy wrote Daisy Glaze with Jody Stephens. One name was missing though, Chris Bell. It later emerged that Chris Bell did help write some songs on Radio City, but wasn’t credited. This includes O My Soul, and the Big Star classic Back of a Car. Chris’ omission would prove an expensive one. However, during the period Radio City was written and recorded, Chris was no longer a member of Big Star. 

Recording of Radio City took place at Ardent Studios, Memphis in the autumn of 1973. John Fry and Big Star co-producer Radio City, which was Big Star’s first album as a trio. This being Big Star, things didn’t go to plan. 

Alex, Jody and Andy only recorded part of Radio City. With nine tracks completed, Alex was left without a rhythm section. So, to complete Radio City, Alex brought in the rhythm section of drummer Richard Rosebrough and occasionally, bassist Danny Jones. Together, they finished recording Mod Lang, She’s A Mover and What’s Going Ahn. Eventually, Radio City was released in February 1974.

Just like Number One Record, Radio City was released to widespread critical acclaim. Radio City was seen as Big Star’s breakthrough album. It was described as commercial, polished and even brilliant and addictive. Surely, Big Star were about to make a breakthrough with Radio City?

Sadly, not. History repeated itself when Stax Records failed to get Radio City into record shops. Stax Records’ disagreement with Columbia Records made a bad situation worse. What many regarded as a future classic, and the definitive power pop album was stuck in a distributor’s warehouse. Eventually, when Stax Records counted sales of Radio City, the sales amounted to just twenty thousand. For Alex Chilton and Co. this was a huge body blow. 

Third/Sister Lovers.

When Big Star returned to the recording studios in September 1974 to record what would eventually become Third/Sister Lovers, Big Star’s numbers were reduced. Andy Hummel had left the band. It was a case of and then there were two.

For Third/Sister Lovers, Alex contributed twelve of the fourteen tracks. Jody Stephens penned For You, and  the other track was a cover of The Velvet Underground classic Femme Fatale, penned by Lou Reed. These tracks would become Third/Sister Lovers, which was produced by Jim Dickinson.

With just Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens remaining, Big Star entered the recording studio for what would proved to be the last time. Given their numbers were reduced, the two members of Big Star had to bring onboard various session musicians and a few friends.

This included drummer Richard Rosebrough, Alex’s girlfriend, vocalist Lesa Aldridge and guitarist Steve Cropper. With Jim Dickinson producing Third/Sister Lovers, Big Star proceeded to produce music that was variously beautiful, ethereal, experimental, haunting and innovative. That’s not surprising. Many of the songs were Alex had written were deeply personal. Many onlookers thought that Third/Sister Lovers wasn’t going to be a Big Star album.

At the time, Third/Sister Lovers looked more like an Alex Chilton solo album. Other onlookers remember seeing the session sheets naming the band as Sister Lovers. However, this was a reference to Alex and Jody dating sisters Lesa and Holliday Aldridge. Eventually, however, Third/Sister Lovers was completed on 13th February 1975, when Larry Nix completed the mastering. However, it would be another three years before Third/Sister Lovers was released.

Following the completion of Third/Sister Lovers, producer Jim Dickinson and John Fry headed to New York looking for a record label willing to release Big Star’s third album. By then, Big Star were history. Despite this, 250 copies had been pressed for promotional purpose. Sadly, nobody expressed an interest in releasing Third/Sister Lovers. Record company executives didn’t understand Third/Sister Lovers. The music seemed too stark, emotive and occasionally, disturbing. In a way, that’s not surprising. 

Alex Chilton wasn’t in a good place during the recording of Third/Sister Lovers. Third/Sister Lovers was a cathartic album, where he unburdened himself. This made Third/Sister Lovers a very personal album. However, within Third/Sister Lovers there was beauty. It wasn’t until 1978, that Third/Sister Lovers’ beauty was heard.

Eventually, three years after Third/Sister Lovers was completed, the album was released. Previously, Third/Sister Lovers was perceived as uncommercial by record companies. Neither Alex nor Jody had shown any interest in releasing Third/Sister Lovers. Then there were the continuing financial problems. That’s why three years passed before the release of Third/Sister Lovers.

Prior to the release of Third/Sister Lovers, the critics had their say. Critics recognised the  Third/Sister Lovers’ potential when the group were promoting it. Many wrote paeans exalting the  Third/Sister Lovers’ beauty. However, it was only in later years that many critics realised the importance of Third/Sister Lovers. By then, it was being hailed as a minor classic. So were Number One Record and Radio City. Big Star were by then, one of the most influential bands in musical history. Not in 1978.

On the release of Third/Sister Lovers commercial success eluded what became Big Star’s third album. While many saw this a disaster for Big Star, much worse was around the corner.

Not long after Third/Sister Lovers was eventually released, tragedy struck, and Chris Bell died in a car crash. It was a tragedy for music and Big Star. They lost one of their creative forces and music lost one of its most talented sons. Sadly, after the tragic death of Chris Bell, that was the last anyone heard of them for fifteen years.

Over the next fifteen years, interest in Big Star started to grow. A new generation had discovered their trio of albums, including many young musicians. Suddenly, bands were citing Big Star as a major influence on their music. Somewhat belatedly, Big Star’s music was finding the audience it so richly deserved. Given the recent resurgence in interest in Big Star’s music, it was no surprise that the group reformed in 1993.

Two of Big Star’s original members, Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens, were joined by guitarist Jon Auer and bassist Ken Stringfellow. Big Star made a welcome comeback  at the University of Missouri Music Festival. To celebrate the return of the comeback Kings, Big Star, the tapes were running and the concert was recorded. It was released later in 1993 as Columbia: Live At Missouri.

After their initial comeback, the new line up began to tour extensively. Big Star were back and were more popular than ever. It was tragic that Chris Bell wasn’t alive to see the group that he had cofounded receive the recognition they were receiving. However, for Big Star life went on and they returned with a new album in 2005. 

In Space.

In Space consisted mostly of new songs, songs written by Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. When In Space was released, critics awaited an album of power pop perfection. However, critics were expecting too much. While the first album since the death of Chris Bell was well received by critics, who welcomed the return of Big Star it didn’t quite match their expectations. At least Big Star were back and making music.

Sadly after over ten years of belated success and recognition, Alex Chilton died of a heart  attack on 19 July 2010. That day, music lost one of its most creative and greatest musicians. His genius can be heard on Big Star’s first three albums Number One Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers.

Seven years after the death of Alex Chilton, the rresurgence in interest in Big Star continues. Nowadays, Big Star’s trio of albums were considered minor classics, which feature in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Meanwhile, Big Star were being hailed as one of the most influential, innovative and inventive bands in musical history.

Belatedly Big Star’s trio of albums have been recognised as the classics they were. One listen to Number One Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers and it’s apparent that they’re  classic albums from power pop pioneers Big Star at the peak of their powers. 

Big Star-Power Pop Pioneers.

WILD HONEY-TORRES BLANCAS.

Wild Honey-Torres Blancas.

Label: Lovemonk Records.

Just over four years ago, Wild Honey released their much-anticipated sophomore album Big Flash in April 2013. This was the followup to Wild Honey’s 2009 debut album Epic Handshakes and A Bear Hug. While it was released to plaudits and praise, Big Flash marked the coming of age of Guillermo Farré the man behind Wild Honey.

When it came to recording his sophomore album Big Flash, Spanish singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Guillermo Farré found himself working alongside Stereolab’s Tim Gane. For Guillermo Farré this was almost surreal, and if the truth be told, was a dream come true. When it comes to Stereolab, Guillermo Farré admits that he is something of a superfan. The chance to travel to Berlin and work with Tim Gane in his Berlin studio was too good to refuse. It also proved to an important part of his musical education.

From the outside, Tim Gane’s Berlin studio may not look much, but looks can be deceiving. The studio is  well equipped, with a wide selection of instruments and equipment. Tim Gane was keen to show his new pupil how it worked, and Guillermo Farré proved to be a quick learner. He was enjoying learning from his former idol, who he now regarded as a friend and mentor. What Guillermo Farré was learning was invaluable, and played its part in the sound and success of Big Flash. It was released to widespread critical acclaim in the spring of 2013, and marked the coming of age for Wild Honey.

Just over four years after Big Flash, Wild Honey make a welcome return with Torres Blancas, their long-awaited and much-anticipated third album which was recently released by Lovemonk Records. It features another member of Sterolab, Sean O’ Hagan, whose lush, orchestrated arrangements are a feature of Torres Blancas. So too are Guillermo Farré’s expressive vocals, which are sung in Spanish, rather than English. This is just the latest thing that has changed since the release Big Flash.

During the last four years, Guillermo Farré has come to terms with what could be described as a mini midlife crisis. By the time he reached his mid-thirties, Guillermo Farré and found himself at a crossroads in his life. Suddenly, he was racked with uncertainty, and found himself questioning just about everything in his life. This ranged from where he lived, to his lifestyle,  his family and friends and even, how he was making a living. For Guillermo Farré the future looked uncertain.

Fast forward to 2017, and that uncertainly is long gone. Guillermo Farré was a much more relaxed and happier man. He’s no longer racked by uncertainty and has accepted the cards that he’s dealt. Life is good, as Wild Honey completed their third album Torres Blancas, which marks the return of a newly revitalised and rejuvenated Guillermo Farré.

For Wild Honey’s third album Torres Blancas, Guillermo Farré wrote ten new songs. He also took charge of production, and is responsible for the multilayered arrangements on the ten carefully crafted songs. They feature Guillermo Farré and a few of his musical friends. 

Not only does Guillermo Farré takes charge of lead vocals, he also plays guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, synths, percussion and uses samplers on the album. He’s joined by backing vocalist Anita Steinberg, who has been part of Wild Honey since day one. They were joined by a few of Wild Honey’s musical friend.

This included Wild Honey’s rhythm section, which featured drummer José María Rubio and bassist Javier Lorente. Drummer  Lor Adrián Ceballos plays on the two tracks that bookend the album. Raúl Gil plays trumpet and flugelhorn, while Sterolab’s Sean O’ Hagan adds lush orchestrated arrangements on four tracks. Isabel F. Reviriego was drafted in to add the vocal on Horoscopo. Joining this small, but talented group of vocalists and musicians was a ‘bedroom pop genus’.

This was LA based produced Maston, who plays a part in the production process and deploys a myriad of effects. This includes tape delays and detuned Wurlitzer organs, which adds a tropicalia vibe. Guillermo Farré describes this as  “creating that feel of music made under the sea”. Torres Blancas is a very special album.

It took its title from a  huge residential building in Northern Madrid, that Guillermo Farré walked past every day in life for fifteen years. Sometimes, Guillermo Farré hardly noticed the building’s presence, while other times, he ridiculed it. Not any more though, as the newly rejuvenated Guillermo Farré has grown to love the building. He appreciates its beauty and takes pride of the its place on Madrid’s skyline. It’s certainly a building he’ll even forget, having named Wild Honey’s third album after Torres Blancas.

The ballad El Volcán de Montserrat opens Torres Blancas. Just a lone piano plays before a chiming guitar joins. So too, does a crackling sound that replicates worn vinyl. Soon, the rhythm section join and accompany Guillermo’s tender, heartfelt vocal. Meanwhile, while washes of synths and a piano accompany flit in and out. They accompany the cooing, ethereal vocal as this beautiful slice of pop perfection reveals its secrets.

As Torres Blancas begins to unfold, it’s as if a code is being tapped out. Suddenly, it’s all change as lush strings sweep in, and join the rhythm section and  shimmering Byrdsian guitar. It accompanies Guillermo’s tender, wistful vocals. Soon, though, lush strings dance, keyboards glisten and the effects-laden guitar still shimmers. Gradually, the arrangement builds, while the rhythm section making their presence felt. They take care not to overpower the vocal and harmonies, while the strings play a leading role. They’re part of a carefully crafted arrangement where elements of sixties sunshine pop sound and psych combine to create a dreamy, rueful backdrop for Guillermo’s vocal.

Dramatic drums rumble and accompany a chiming, chirping guitar on Ojo de Cristal, and soon, are joined by crystalline synths. Meanwhile, Guillermo adds a hazy, lysergic vocal as the arrangement takes shape. This includes harmonies and dancing strings that soon, replace the vocal. Later, keyboards shimmer as the lush strings dance, while drums are caressed and shakers accompany a tender vocal. By then, all the pieces in this musical jigsaw have fallen into place, on a carefully crafted song where it sounds as if Wild Honey have drawn inspiration from the Beach Boys and Prefab Sprout.

Found sounds, including birdsong, are deployed before the band are counted in on Mapas de Zonas Desiertas. Soon, the arrangement is sashaying along. Drums crack, and join lysergic keyboards, an organ and the rhythm section. It drives the arrangement along, and help provide the backdrop for Guillermo’s ruminative vocal. This time, the arrangement is quite different from previous songs. More effects have been used, and play their part in a dreamy, psychedelic arrangement. Later, it’s like taking a trip on a psychedelic merry-go-round, as Wild Honey like modern-day Merry Pranksters provide the musical accompaniment.

The drums that open Horóscopo sound as if they belong on a dance track, and are quite different from those used on previous tracks. They’re soon joined by melancholy keyboards that create a dreamy backdrop for another of Guillermo’s tender vocals. Soon, he’s accompanied by ethereal harmonies, sci-fi synths and a shimmering guitar. Meanwhile, the mesmeric drums fit perfectly into the arrangement, joining with the guitar, keyboards and ethereal harmonies in  creating a quite beautiful, melodic and memorable song.

Desenfocada opens with a much tougher sounding guitar, before Wild Honey return to their usual indie pop sound. While the guitar is still present, it’s mixed further back in the arrangement and is joined by the rhythm section, a glistening guitar and Guillermo’s joyous vocal. Later, when it drops out, the rest of Wild Honey showcase their skills. As the bass weaves across the arrangement, drums provide the heartbeat and the guitars are lysergic, crunchy and rocky. When the vocal returns, the arrangement is briefly stripped bare, but soon, guitars chime and drums pound which is the signal for the arrangement rebuilds. Guillermo’s tender vocal  continues to play its part in the sound and success of this indie pop anthem.

The tempo drops on Leopardo, with the rhythm section playing slowly as  guitars glisten as Guillermo adds another heartfelt vocal. When swathes of wistful strings sweep across the arrangement. They’re the perfect addition, and join with the rhythm section who provide the heartbeat, while washes of guitar are drizzled across the arrangement. Later, when the vocal drops out, they combine what’s one of the best songs on Torres Blancas.

Reverb Infinita is another ballad, and as the title suggest, reverb is used throughout the song. It’s not overused, and doesn’t spoil another beautiful ballad. Less is more in more ways than one. The band take care not to overpower the heartfelt vocal and ethereal harmonies. However, when they drop out the rest of Wild Honey step out of the shadows and again.The rhythm section and chiming, glistening guitar showcase their skills. Then when the vocal returns, they begin to play softly. Later, it drops out and leaves the rest of band to create a shimmering, lysergic wash of beautiful, captivating music.

Closing Torres Blancas is the ballad Siguiendo a Desconocidos. Keyboard tinkle as the song begins to reveals its secrets. They’re joined by horns while the distant keyboard sparkle as a guitar is strummed and accompanies Guillermo’s wistful vocal.  By then, drums have been added, and almost gallop long, while the rueful strings and then melancholy horns add contrasts. They take centre-stage, after the vocal drops out. A shimmering guitar is added to the melancholy sounding arrangement. The addition of synths signal the return of the vocal which is accompanied by ethereal harmonies. As the arrangement meanders along, the vocal drops out, leaving the rest of Wild Honey to create a melancholy and thoughtful backdrop. It seems that Wild Honey have kept one of the best songs until last.

After four years away, Wild Honey return with Torres Blancas, which is a career defining album from the newly rejuvenated and reinvigorated Guillermo Farré. He and his musical friends are responsible for what’s  without doubt the finest album of Wild Honey’s three album career. It seems that Wild Honey have matured, and produced what can only be described as a lovingly created and carefully crafted album of perfect pop.

Although Guillermo Farré has masterminded the rise and rise of Wild Honey, it’s far from a one man band.  Each and every musician and vocalist in this small, but talented and versatile band played their part in the success of the album.This included Stereolab’s Sean O’ Hagan who was responsible for the lush orchestrated arrangement. They transform the songs, and play their part in this career defining opus. So to some extent, does LA based producer Maston, who played a part in the production process and added effects on this genre-melting album.

Wild Honey combine elements of sixties sunshine pop and psychedelia, with tropicalia, indie pop and dream pop. Sometimes, a rockier sound briefly emerges, but mostly a much more poppy sound is to the fore. Obviously, Wild Honey is another band that have been influenced by the Beach Boys. However, The Byrds and Big Star have both influenced Wild Honey. So too have Stereolab, who have influenced Wild Honey’s last two albums. Another band that may have influenced Wild Honey’s brand of perfect pop include Prefab Sprout. There’s many similarities between the two bands.

Both  Prefab Sprout and Wind Honey are purveyors of carefully crafted, hook-laden perfect pop. Just like Prefab Sprout, Wild Honey create cerebral, melodic and memorable music. It’s veers between joyous, uplifting and anthemic, to ruminative  wistful and emotive. Other times the music is beautiful, captivating and tugs at the heartstrings. Especially when Guillermo Farré lays bare his soul on Torres Blancas, which was recently released by Lovemonk Records. It finds Wild Honey reach new heights.

Quite simply, Torres Blancas which is the latest, is also the greatest album of Wild Honey’s three album career. It surpasses the quality of Wild Honey’s two previous albums, Epic Handshakes and A Bear Hug and Big Flash. They were merely the musical equivalent of an amuse-bouche. By comparison, Torres Blancas is a musical feast that comprises only the very finest of ingredients. When they’re combined, the result is Torres Blancas, a  carefully crafted album of melodic and memorable perfect pop from Wild Honey, which is a career-defining mini-masterpiece.

Wild Honey-Torres Blancas.

THE ORCHESTRA SOLEDAD-VAMONOS/LET’S GO.

The Orchestra Soledad-Vamonos/Let’s Go!

Label: BBE.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, 2.6 million people lived within Brooklyn’s seventy-one square miles. By 1970, it was largest and most densely populated of New York’s five boroughs. Brooklyn was also a cultural melting pot, with Irish, Italian, Jewish, Greek, Chinese, Polish, Russian and Latino neighbourhoods.  They all had their own individual cultures and listened to their own music. In the Latino neighbourhood, this included their very own salsa band.

Brooklyn’s salsa band was The Orchestra Soledad, which was led by trombonist and singer Hector Ramos. He also wrote and arranged much of the music that The Orchestra Soledad played when they appeared live. The salsa music they played may have been brash and energetic, but audiences found it the irresistible.  It was played by young and talented local musicians from the neighbourhood. Some of them had dreams and aspirations that The Orchestra Soledad would follow in the footsteps of the Fania All Stars, who had already released two live albums. However, when the time came for The Orchestra Soledad to record and release an album, it proved to be a much more low-key release.

When The Orchestra Soledad  released their debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go! in 1970, it was on one of Chicago’s small, lesser known labels Futuro Records. They weren’t a prolific label and released less than a dozen releases. This includes The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which will be reissued on vinyl and download by BBE on ‘16th’ June 2017. The reissue of Vamonos–Let’s Go! will be welcomed by many music fans, as this extremely rare and collectible album has been out of print since 1970. BBE are the first label to officially release Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which was recorded forty-seven years ago in 1970. 

Having made the decision to record their debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go!, a new chapter in the history of The Orchestra Soledad began. They Orchestra Soledad had been together a while, and were popular locally. When The Orchestra Soledad played live, it was always to packed houses. They were popular not just within Latino community in Brooklyn, but the wider community.  Recording their debut album made sense, and Hector Ramos and the rest of The Orchestra Soledad hoped that their popularity would translate to record sales. That was in the future. There was still the small matter or recording their debut album.

For what became The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go!, Hector Ramos wrote Cuero,  Vamonos/Let’s Go, Problems, Just Like A Fool, Candela and Uptight. Hector also cowrote the three other songs on the album. He and William Corridor penned El Ritmo Soledad, while Hector Ramos and Raymond Gonzalez  cowrote I’ll Make You A Queen. The album closer La Puerta Esta was a collaboration between Hector Ramos  and Miguel Fulu. These songs would become The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go!

To record Vamonos/Let’s Go!, The Orchestra Soledad made their way to a local recording studio.  Bandleader, first trombonist and lead vocalist Hector Ramos had arranged the nine songs, but the album was produced by H Hernandez. Meanwhile, the rhythm section featured bassist William Corridor and drummer and conga player Mike Curcado. They were joined by bongo player Tito Rodriguez; Raul (Ray) Rosa on timbales and pianist organist and vocalist Miguel Fulu. Raymond Gonzalez was another of the vocalists, who with the rest of the vocalists, formed the chorus. Tony Torres was the second trombonist, and completed the lineup of The Orchestra Soledad that recorded Vamonos/Let’s Go!.

With Vamonos/Let’s Go! completed, the album was released later in 1970. Sadly, it wasn’t the success that The Orchestra Soledad had hoped. While copies of Vamonos/Let’s Go! sold within the borough of Brooklyn, that was as good as it got for The Orchestra Soledad. For the younger members who had dreamt of following in the footsteps of the Fania All Stars, their hopes were dashed. It looked like they were destined to forever be part of the neighbourhood salsa band. The dream was over.

After that, Vamonos/Let’s Go! became just another musical curio that sometimes, crate diggers in New York stumbled across in record shops, boot sales and local flea markets. With its bright and distinctive cover, most dedicated crate diggers took a chance on Vamonos/Let’s Go!  and paid their money. This proved to be a wise investment.

As the years passed by, copies of the original album were almost impossible to find. However, DJ Amir stumbled across a copy of Vamonos/Let’s Go! in a shop not far from the Bushwick home of Hector Ramos. When he saw the copy of Vamonos/Let’s Go! he was spellbound by the striking cover with its bright and striking artwork. DJ Amir had already decided to take a chance on Vamonos/Let’s Go! That was when DJ Amir saw a trophy for sale. When he picked it up, it turned out to be a battle of the bands’ trophy that The Orchestra Soledad had won during their heyday. For the second time in the space of minutes he had struck musical gold.

When DJ Amir returned home, he put Vamonos/Let’s Go! on his turntable to check out his latest find. Straight away, he was won over by Brooklyn’s onetime neighbourhood salsa band. The sound of The Orchestra Soledad in full flight was an irresistible one. Granted the music was brash, but it was joyous, energetic and akin to a call to dance. This was when he decided that music this good, deserved to be heard by a much wider audience.

DJ Amir was so impressed with the music on Vamonos/Let’s Go!, that he decided to include El Ritmo Soledad on a compilation he was compiling for BBE, Buena Música Y Cultura (Good Music And Culture: Rare Latin Sounds From Across The Americas). Somewhat belatedly, The Orchestra Soledad’s music was being heard by a wider audience.

After featuring on Buena Música Y Cultura (Good Music And Culture: Rare Latin Sounds From Across The Americas), BBE decided to reissue The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go! BBE’s timing was perfect, as demand was still outstripping supply when it came to copies of Vamonos/Let’s Go! Many record buyers wanted to add a copy of the album to their collection, but copies were few and far between. When a copy came up for sale, it sold for in excess $600. That puts a copy of Vamonos/Let’s Go! beyond most record buyers. However,  all record buyers will be able to afford a copy of BBE’s reissue of Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which takes the listener back to 1970, and the irresistible salsa sound of The Orchestra Soledad’s that filled the air in Brooklyn. 

El Ritmo Soledad opens Vamonos/Let’s Go! and sashays along, with the percussion and drums combining with the tack piano. They’re soon joined by an impassioned vocal, and after a flourish of piano, raw, growling horns. By then, The Orchestra Soledad is in full flight, with the chorus providing the perfect foil for the lead vocal. Meanwhile, an irresistible mixture of drums, jangling percussion, piano and braying horns combine with the vocal. Together they create an irresistible examine of early seventies salsa, Brooklyn style.

The tempo drops on the soulful ballad I’ll Make You A Queen. As a Hammond organ plays, drums are caressed and cooing harmonies accompany the tender, heartfelt vocal on this beautiful paean. Later, the chorus enters, before percussion augments the rasping horns which take centre-stage. When the vocal returns, it’s still heartfelt, but needy and soulful, as the chorus accompanies it. Before long, the vocal and chorus drop out, but the horns return as this beautiful, ballad draws to a close. It’s sure to have been played many a time in Brooklyn’s Latin quarter when it was time for the last dance.

Percussion plays before Cuero bursts into life. Stabs and flourishes of piano join with the growling horns, percussion and drums. Soon, the chorus delivers a joyous, but urgent vocal. By then, The Orchestra Soledad is playing as if their life depends upon it. It’s impressive and explosive performance. However, stabs of horns signal a breakdown where the piano augments the percussion before stabs of horns enter, and the rest of the track begins to unfold. As drums pounds brief , percussion gallops and the piano is played with urgency and it’s almost impossible to keep still during this call to dance.

Braying horns, galloping, rattling percussion and bursts of pounding drums combine on Vamonos/Let’s Go. They’re joined occasional flourish of piano, which helps power the uptempo arrangement along. Meanwhile,  the lead vocal is accompanied by the joyous sound of the chorus accompanying the lead vocal.  Later, the chorus and then jangling, tack piano enjoy their moment in the sun. Soon, stabs of blazing horns are added as the song continues to reveal its secrets and subtleties. Horns bray and blaze as the rest of The Orchestra Soledad propel the arrangement along. Occasionally the vocalists briefly interject, but mostly they sit back and enjoy The Orchestra Soledad who are in the groove, and reach new heights on this six-minute musical epic.

As La Puerta Esta unfolds, horns growl while the piano, percussion and drums lock down the groove.  Soon, a tender, heartfelt vocal is added, before stabs of blazing horns punctuate the arrangement and grow in power. So does the vocal, which is accompanied by the chorus and jangling piano. Just like the horns, it adds rawness to the sound. Later, the arrangement becomes understated, with the bass and percussion augmenting the piano as it takes centre-stage. Soon, the vocal and  chorus, return, and feed off each other. When they exit stage left, the rest of The Orchestra Soledad take charge, and showcases their skills. Before long, the vocal and chorus return, only to disappear as this truly memorable sashaying salsa reaches a crescendo.

The tempo drops on Problems, which starts off as a ballad. Drums rattle as the bass probes and weaves its way under the jangling piano. Taking centre-stage is an impassioned and emotive vocal, which is accompanied by the piano. At 1.36 it’s all change, and the arrangement bursts into life. The rhythm section and piano power the arrangement along as horns blaze. By then, the vocal is urgent but soulful, with the chorus matching it every step of the way. What started off as a ballad has been transformed and is joyous, irresistible and dance-floor friendly. It showcases The Orchestra Soledad’s skills.  Especially pianist Miguel Fulu who delivers a spellbinding solo. Later, the rest of The Orchestra Soledad accompanies the lead vocal and chorus, as this magical musical mystery tour reveals the rest of secrets.

While the organ plays slowly, a soul-baring, heartbroken vocal is added to Just Like A Fool. It’s accompanied by the chorus, while percussion and organ provide the perfect backdrop. Here, it’s a case of less is more, and allows the vocal and chorus to take centre-stage on this heart-wrenching tale of love, and love lost.

Just drums and percussion gallop across Candela’s understated arrangement. They accompany an impassioned vocal as the tempo starts to rise. Soon, the braying horns enter, before the rest of The Orchestra Soledad return.  By then, they play as one, as the vocal flits it and out. After the horns enjoy their moment in the sun, the piano and percussion combine and are joined by the vocal. It’s augmented by the chorus. Later, horns growl, drums pound and a flourish of piano signals the return of the vocal and chorus. They play their part in the sound and success of another irresistible and dance-floor friendly track.

The piano lead Uptight closes Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which sees the tempo drop. Horns bray as the piano joins percussion as the arrangement meanders along. They’re joined by the bass as the rueful, melancholy sound takes shapes. Stabs of horns punctuate the arrangement, while the piano takes centre-stage. They’re soon joined by rasping horns and together create a beautiful, but wistful sounding track. Later, the impassioned sound of the chorus adds the finishing touch, on what’s another of the album’s highlights. It seemed that have kept one of the best until last.

After nine tracks that showcase the considerable talents of The Orchestra Soledad, their 1970 debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go! is over. It features what was Brooklyn’s finest salsa band, as they switch seamlessly between uptempo tracks and heartfelt ballads. The Orchestra Soledad who were a versatile and talented band were equally at home playing uptempo tracks and heartfelt ballads. That is no surprise, as The Orchestra Soledad featured a mixture of experienced musicians and some of the best up-and-coming young musicians. 

They hoped that Vamonos/Let’s Go! was the start of what would be a long and successful career. Music was one way out the crowded and sometimes dangerous streets of Brooklyn. 

For one of the older, and more experienced musicians, he hoped that the release of Vamonos/Let’s Go! would kickstart his career. Puerto Rican singer, musician and bandleader Tito Rodriguez rose to during the fifties and sixties. By 1970,  he was living in Brooklyn, and was hoping that the release of Vamonos/Let’s Go! would give his career a boost.

Sadly, Vamonos/Let’s Go! never found the audience it deserved, and The Orchestra Soledad never recorded another album. The dream was over for The Orchestra Soledad.

Sadly, after the release of Vamonos/Let’s Go! Tito Rodriguez never enjoyed the same success as he had during the fifties and sixties. A Tito Rodriguez continued to record right up until his death in 1973, aged just fifty. Vamonos/Let’s Go! was just one of many albums that Tito Rodriguez played on in the later years of his career.

Forty-seven years after the release of Vamonos/Let’s Go!, there’s been a resurgence of interest in this hidden gem of an album. The Orchestra Soledad’s debut album showcased the skills of the Brooklyn based salsa band. Their music is irresistible, joyous, dance-floor friendly, beautiful and soulful. However, Vamonos/Let’s Go! is an extremely rare album that changes hands for upwards of $600. This meant that Vamonos/Let’s Go! was beyond the budget of most record buyers. Thankfully, that is no longer the case, with BBE about to reissue Vamonos/Let’s Go! on vinyl and download by BBE on ‘16th’ June 2017. Somewhat belatedly, record buyers everywhere will have the opportunity to discover the delights of Vamonos/Let’s Go!, which features the greatest salsa band you’ve never heard…The Orchestra Soledad.

The Orchestra Soledad-Vamonos/Let’s Go!

JUNIE-THE COMPLETE WESTBOUND RECORDINGS 1973-1976.

Junie-The Complete Westbound Recordings.

Label-Westbound Records.

By 1973, nineteen year old Walter “Junie” Morrison Jr. was a member of one of the most successful funk bands of the early seventies…The Ohio Players. He had joined as a sixteen year old, and played on their sophomore album Pain, which was released in February 1972. Pain proved to be The Ohio Players’ breakthrough album, and was certified gold. The success continued with Pleasure in December 1972, which featured the number one US R&B single Funky Worm. Nine months later,The Ohio Players released Ecstasy in September 1973, which was their swan-song for Westbound. They then parted company  with Westbound, and with Walter “Junie” Morrison. This was a huge blow for nineteen year old.

He hoped that The Ohio Players might have a change of heart, and he would rejoin their ranks. When this seemed unlikely, Walter decided to embark on a career as a solo artist. He signed a recording deal with Westbound Records, and went on to release a trio of albums as Junie for Westbound Records. These three albums, When We Do, Freeze and Suzie Supergroupie which were recently rereleased as a two CD set entitled The Complete Westbound Recordings. It was released by Westbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records. They showcase Walter “Junie” Morrison who was a truly talented songwriter, musician and producer. Sadly, he passed away on January ’21st’ 2017, aged just sixty-two.  

Walter Morrison Jr was born in Drayton, Ohio in 1954, and at early age showed an aptitude for music. At school, Walter sang and played the piano, but soon, was learning a variety of other musical instruments. Given his prodigious talent, it was no surprise that Walter eventually became the school choir director and orchestra conductor. This many thought was the start of Walter’s musical career.

While his teachers may have envisaged Walter heading to college or university, they didn’t think that sixteen year old Walter would leave school and join a funk band. He joined The Ohio Players in 1970.

Pain.

Two years later, Walter featured on The Ohio Players’ 1972 sophomore album Pain. It featured a slick soulful, and sometimes, jazz-tinged and funky album that was released to critical acclaim. When Pain was released in February 1972, it reached 177 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-one on the US R&B charts. This was enough to earn The Ohio Players’ their first gold disc.

Pleasure.

Ten months later,The Ohio Players released Pleasure in December 1972. The album was still soulful and funky, and sometimes moved in the direction of jazz. However, The Ohio Players revived the vocal harmonies that had been part of their original sound. They added to the radio friendly sound of some of the songs on Pleasure. Other songs were the result of late-night jam sessions. Again, critics were won over by Pleasure, and the album received plaudits and praise. It reached sixty-three on the US Billboard 200 and four on the US R&B charts. When Funky Worm was released as a single, it reached number fifteen on the US Billboard 100 and one on the US R&B charts. This gave The Ohio Players biggest hit single of their career. Walter who was still only eighteen, was part of one of the most successful funk groups of the early seventies.

Ecstasy.

When The Ohio Players came to record their fourth album Ecstasy, Walter arranged the album, and just like the two previous albums, wrote and produced the album with the rest of the band. That was apart from Not So Sad and Lonely and Food Stamps Y’all. Walter continued to voice the character Granny, which first featured on Pain and reappeared on Pleasure. His role in The Ohio Players’ organisation was growing in importance. 

When Ecstasy was released in September 1973 the album was well received by critics, who poured praise on another carefully crafted album of soul and funk. It reached seventy on the US Billboard 200 and nineteen on the US R&B charts. While this didn’t quite match the success of Pleasure, the rise and rise of The Ohio Players continued. 

One man wouldn’t be part of The Ohio Players when they left Westbound, and signed to Mercury was Walter “Junie” Morrison.  The Ohio Players and Walter parted company, and he missed out on the most successful part of The Ohio Players. Their next four albums sold over 3.5 millions copies, with three being certified platinum and one gold. 

When Walter left The Ohio Players in 1973, there was no bad feeling. He continued to work on projects with members of the band. Sometimes these projects were low-key, but when Walter later signed to Mercury members of The Ohio Players worked with him on his solo albums. That was still to come.

Walter was keen to begin the next chapter of his career, and headed into the studio to record his debut single. The result was two new songs, the single Tight Rope, which was soulful and funky with a clavinet adding a tougher edge. This was reminiscent of the type of music Stevie Wonder was recording circa 1973. On the B-Side was Walt’s Third Trip, which was an ambitious track that incorporated elements of disparate genres. Although it was jazz-tinged, funky and soulful, it’s best described as symphonic and sounds like the type of music the disco orchestras would produce later in the decade. Both songs are which are among the bonus tracks on disc two of The Complete Westbound Recordings.

Later in 1973, Tight Rope was  released as a single, with Walt’s Third Trip consigned to the B-Side. However, the single failed to trouble the charts, and Junie’s career at Westbound got off to an inauspicious start.

Rather than begin work on his debut album, Junie decided to hold off, just in case he was asked to rejoin The Ohio Players. This didn’t happen, and he watched as Skin Tight was released in April 1974, and reached number eleven in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B charts. Skin Tight went on to sell over a million copies. 

Seven months later, The Ohio Players released Fire, which reached number one on the US Billboard 200 and the US R&B charts, and again, sold over a million copies. For Junie, it was a case of what might have been. 

When We Do.

Realising he was unlikely to be reunited by The Ohio Players, Junie had begun work on his debut solo album When We Do. He had written eight new songs, which with Skin Tight and Walt’s Third Trip would form the basis for When We Do.

Junie was a talented multi-instrumentalist, and was able to lay down many of the instruments himself. However, when it came to add the strings, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra were contracted. They featured on several tracks, including Junie, The Place, Anna and Walt’s Third Trip. Gradually, When We Do was talking shape, with ballads and uptempo tracks rubbing shoulders with each other on a truly eclectic album.

Critics on hearing When We Do, were reminded of a playful nature of the music that was a feature of the trio of albums that Junie recorded with The Ohio Players. Although they now had two million selling albums under their belt, they had lost this playfulness. That wasn’t all they The Ohio Players had lost. Their music critics had noted was no longer as eclectic as it had been with Junie onboard. However, critics noted that Junie had incorporated this playfulness and eclecticism to When We Do, which was well received upon its release.

Eclecticism was a feature of When We Do, with Junie combining elements of disco funk, jazz, P-Funk, rock, samba and soul. Junie the opening track, starts off light and playful, before keyboards add a tougher, funky, sound. Soon, though, strings dance and add a contrast to the keyboards, before the female vocal adds the light playful sound. Loving Arms features a heartfelt needy and soulful ballad by Junie. Johnny Carson Samba is an inventive fusion of jazz and samba. The Place is a genre-melting tracks where Junie aided and abetted by his backing vocalists and strings, combine disco, funk, jazz, rock and soul. It’s without doubt one of the album’s highlights. Anna is a tender ballad, where Junie’s arrangement is reminiscent of Thom Bell. 

Soulful and funky describes the single Tight Rope, which for Junie, was the one that got away. You and You is a tender, paean that shows Junie at his most soulful. This gives way to When We Do, where Junie and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra fuse elements of funk, soul, rocky guitars and disco strings. Married Him is another ballad, where the descending bass line, harmonies and strings are at the heart of the song’s success. Closing the album was Walts Third Trip, which had been relegated to the B-Side of the single Tight Rope. It’s one of the hidden gems on When We Do, and showcases just what Junie was capable of.

On the release of When We Do in 1975, while the album wasn’t  a huge success, it sold reasonably well. This executives at Westbound thought was a good start to Junie’s career, and soon, he began recording his sophomore album, Freeze.

Freeze.

When it came to record Freeze, Junie dispensed with services of sidemen, strings and backing vocalists. He became a one-man band, writing, recording and producing the eight new tracks at Ardent Studios, in Memphis. These eight tracks became Freeze, which featured a very different sound.

Critics on hearing Freeze, noticed a stylistic change on some of the songs on Freeze. While some of the songs were similar to those on When We Do, including the ballads World Of Woe, Junie had reinvented himself on several songs. To do this, Junie deployed effects during several songs, including a  vocoder on Musical Son and Super J. Junie also revisited the character Granny on Granny’s Funky Rolls Royce. This was a character from his days with The Ohio Players. Freeze with its mixture of the familiar and Junie’s new sound, found favour with critics, who hailed the album inventive and innovative.

That is apparent straight away, with Junie deploying effects on Freeze, which results in a tougher, funkier, but still soulful sound. Cookies Will Get You is a lysergic sounding song, with a talking cookie sharing lead vocal duties on this slice of cartoon funk. Not As Good As You Should is a funky jam, that’s one of the album’s highlights. Musical Son finds Junie deploying a vocoder, on an uptempo funk workout. The vocoder returns on Super J, a soulful slice of mid tempo funk. World Of Woe is a beautiful ballad on the album, and features a needy, hopeful vocal. It’s without doubt one of the album’s finest moments. Junie revisits the character of Granny from his days with The Ohio Players on the cartoon funk of Granny’s Funky Rolls Royce. Closing Freeze is Junie II, a funky, soulful song where Junie seems to improvise, as he delivers a vocal powerhouse.

Freeze was a stepping stone for Junie, as he started to reinvent his music. However, the big question was how would record buyers react to Freeze? Before that, an edit of Granny’s Funky Rolls Royce was released as a single, with an edit of Super J on the B-Side. (Both edits are among the bonus tracks on disc two of The Complete Westbound Recordings). When Granny’s Funky Rolls Royce was released as single, it too, failed to find an audience. Worse was to come when Freeze was released in the second half of 1975, and it didn’t come close to troubling the charts. For Junie and executives at Westbound, this was a worrying development. Despite this, Junie was allowed to begin work on his third album, Suzie Super Groupie.

Suzie Super Groupie.

For Suzie Super Groupie, Junie returned to Detroit, and Pac Three Studio where he had recorded When We Do. That was where the nine songs on Suzie Super Groupie took shape. Just like previous albums, they had been penned and produced by Junie. However, this time, Junie was joined by band that included several members of the Crowd Pleasers. Their raison d’être was helping Junie rescue his career.

He realised that if Suzie Super Groupie failed commercially, there was every chance he would be dropped by Westbound Records. For the twenty-two year old, this would be a disaster, and could spell the end of his career. However, with a talented and versatile band behind him, Junie was responsible for an album that was slick, smooth and soulful, but also headed in the direction of boogie, funk and jazz. He waited with bated breath to hear what critics made of Suzie Super Groupie.

When critics heard Suzie Super Groupie, they preferred the album to Freeze. It was a much more eclectic album, that eschewed many of the effects and synths that featured on Freeze. They had been replaced by a talented band that who provided the perfect backdrop to Junie on his genre-melting album. Suzie Super Groupie was hailed as a return to form, and the album that had the potential to launch Junie’s career.

Suzie Super Groupie was released in 1976, and history repeated itself once again. Sales of Suzie Super Groupie were disappointing, and Junie knew that the end  of his time at Westbound Records could well be near. That was despite the quality of Suzie Super Groupie.

The tender soulful sound of Suzie Super Groupie a thirty-two second amuse-bouche opens the album, and gives way to the soulful, funky sound of Suzie Thundertussy. One of the album’s highlights is If You Love Him, a soulful ballad, where rueful horns punctuate the arrangement. What Am I Gonna Do marks a return to the funky side, with Junie’s vocal referencing Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone. Super Groupie with x-rated lyrics heads in the direction of funk rock, while Suzie combines funk and disco. Stone Face Joe is propelled along by a boogie rhythm, while horns blaze and Junie plays his piano and later, adds a knock about vocal, on this fusion of music and theatre. Spirit is a  slow burner, that starts off as a ballad, but heads in the direction of a funk rock as Junie takes his leave after this seven minute epic.

Not long after the release of Suzie Super Groupie, Junie left Westbound Records. This was almost inevitable. Junie knew before the release of Suzie Super Groupie that the album had to sell well. If it didn’t Westbound Records wouldn’t renew his contract. After all, no record company that wanted to stay solvent, would continue to allow an artist continue to release albums that failed to sell. It didn’t matter that they were of the quality of When We Do, Freeze and Suzie Supergroupie which were recently rereleased as a two CD set entitled The Complete Westbound Recordings. It was released by Westbound Records, an imprint of Ace Records. They showcase a truly talented musician as he tried to make a commercial breakthrough. 

When Junie left Westbound Records, the musical prodigy was still only twenty-two. However, he had already released three albums with The Ohio Players and three solo albums. Junie was an experienced, talented and versatile who was a singer, songwriter, musician, arranger and producer. It wouldn’t be long before someone came calling, wanting to hire Junie.

That proved to be the case. In 1977, Junie was appointed musical director of Funkadelic, and made his debut on One Nation Under A Groove in 1978. The addition of Junie helped transform the fortunes of Funkadelic, when One Nation Under A Groove reached number sixteen on the US Billboard 200 and one on the US R&B charts. This gave Funkadelic and Junie their first platinum disc.

Uncle Jam Wants You was released a year later in September 1979, and reached number eighteen on the US Billboard 200 and two on the US R&B charts. Funkadelic received their first gold disc. However, after just two albums with Funkadelic, Junie and the band parted company.

Junie returned to his solo career in 1980, after writing two number one singles. Suddenly, Junie was hot property, with record companies fighting for his signature. Eventually, he signed to Columbia and released two albums. However, neither Bread Alone in 1980, nor Junie 5 in 1981 found an audience. Three years later, Junie returned with Evacuate Your Seats in 1984, but it was a familiar story when the album passed record buyers by. For Junie, this prompted a change of career.

In the lat eighties, Junie decided to relocate to London, where he founded the Akashic record label. Junie also worked as a songwriter, and wrote songs for Soul II Soul, Sounds Of Blackness and God’s Property. Later, Junie moved into production, and worked with a variety of artists, including James Ingram. By the mid-nineties, Junie was reunited with someone from his past.

This was none other than George Clinton, and the pair began the first of several collaborations. Then in 2004, Junie returned with what would be his final solo album When The City, which was released on his own label Juniefunk. Little did anyone realise that this was the last that would be heard of Junie.

By then, Junie’s music started to find an audience within the hip hop community. They realised that Junie’s music was ripe for sampling. On some of the songs on The Complete Westbound Recordings, Junie literally invites hip hop producers to sample his music. This was an invitation they accepted, and this has continued up until relatively recently. In 2016, songs from Kayne West’s album Life Of Pablo and Solange Knowles’ A Seat At The Table feature samples of Junie’s music. These two high-profile artists introduced Junie’s music to a new generation of record buyers. Not long after this,  Walter “Junie” Morrison passed away on January ’21st’ 2017, aged just sixty-two. Music had lost a truly talented singer, songwriter, musician, arranger and producer, who is still one of music’s best kept secrets. Thankfully, maybe not for much longer. The recent release of Junie’s first three albums on  The Complete Westbound Recordings, is the perfect introduction to his music, and  features Junie at his  playful, soulful,  funky and innovative best.

Junie-The Complete Westbound Recordings.

JERRY LEE LEWIS-TOGETHER, LIVE AT THE INTERNATIONAL LAS VEGAS, IN LOVING MEMORY:THE JERRY LEE LEWIS GOSPEL ALBUM AND KEEPS ROCKIN.

Jerry Lee Lewis-Together, Live At The International Las Vegas, In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album and Keeps Rockin’.

Label:BGO Records.

Jerry Lee Lewis will always be remembered as one of music’s great survivors. He has enjoyed a long and chequered career, that although successful has often proved controversial. So much so, that at one time, Jerry Lee Lewis was a musical pariah.  

The Jerry Lee Lewis story began when the twenty-one year old, travelled all the way from Ferriday, Louisiana to Memphis, Tennessee. When Jerry arrived in Memphis, Sam Phillips was Florida. However, producer and engineer Jack Clement had Jerry record a version of Ray Price’s Crazy Arms and a Jerry Lee Lewis original, End of The Road. This was the start of Jerry Lee Lewis’ career at Sun Records.

A month later, Jerry made the return trip to Memphis, and started what was, the first of many, recording sessions. Jerry wasn’t just a solo artist, but a session player. He played on tracks by Billy Lee Riley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. However, a year later, in 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis made his breakthrough.

A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On was recorded in February 1957, and released as a single in May 1957. It reached number three in the US Billboard 100 charts and number one in the US R&B charts. This transformed The Killer’s career. Suddenly, he was rock ’n’ roll royalty, and rubbing shoulders with Elvis.  This success continued.

In November 1957, Jerry released Great Balls Of Fire, which featured in the 1957 movie Jamboree. It sold one million copies within the first five days of its release. Eventually, Great Balls Of Fire sold in excess of five million copies. However, still, Jerry Lee Lewis had his critics.

America’s moral guardians chastised Jerry Lee Lewis for lyrics that they deemed crude, suggestive and had sexual undertones. His performances some commentators suggested, were lewd. Ironically, Jerry Lee Lewis wasn’t entirely comfortable with the lyrics he was singing.

Unknown to many people, Jerry Lee Lewis was a devout Christian. His faith was important to him. When he cut songs like A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Jerry Lee Lewis had a crisis of confidence. However, music was now his career. He had made his choice back in 1956. Since then, his life had changed beyond recognition. He was hero worshipped by the first generation of teenagers. That was, until controversy entered his life.

May 1958 will forever be etched in Jerry Lee Lewis’ memory. So will the name Ray Berry. He enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame during Jerry’s 1958 British tour. Ray Berry made a disturbing discovery. Jerry’s third wife, Myra Gayle Brown, it transpired, was only thirteen when they married. Myra was Jerry’s first cousin, once removed. Straight away, Jerry Lee Lewis’ management set about firefighting the situation, but only made the situation worse.

Jerry’s management claimed that Myra was fifteen when the marriage took place. So did Jerry and Myra. This didn’t placate a horrified public. After all, a world-famous rock ’n’ roller had married a minor. It was essentially, career suicide.

Soon, Jerry Lee Lewis’ British tour was cancelled. He’d only played three dates. When he got back home, Jerry Lee Lewis incurred the wrath of the American music industry. He was blacklisted from American radio, and was no longer a familiar face on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Jerry’s fans turned their back on their former idol.

Right up until 1963, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded for Sun Records. He continued to released records. When they failed to sell,  Sun tried releasing Jerry’s singles as The Hawk. Radio stations quickly realised who The Hawk was, and dropped the singles from their roster. For Jerry, his career had hit the buffers.

Before the scandal, Jerry had been able to command $10,000 per night. Now bookings were few and far between, and he was lucky to be picking up $250 per night, in some of the less salubrious nightspots. It seemed that the party was over for Jerry Lee Lewis.  

In 1964, six years after he committed career suicide, Jerry was on the comeback trail. He was still seeking redemption, but was persona non gratis in his home country.  Jerry Lee Lewis decided to try to rebuild his tattered reputation in Europe. So, in 1964, Jerry and The Nashville Teens had agreed to appear at The Star Club, Hamburg. That night, Jerry powered his way through thirteen tracks. It was a peerless performance, which was recorded for posterity. 

Later in 1964, that legendary concert was released as Live at the Star Club, Hamburg. Released to critical acclaim, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg was a tantalising reminder of what the man they called The Killer, was capable of. However, to many Americans, Jerry Lee Lewis was still persona non gratis. They never could, and never would, forgive him. 

Despite the period when he was persona non gratis Jerry Lewis continued to record and release singles and albums on the Smash label, which was an imprint of Mercury. The singles never troubled the charts, and only his most loyal fans continued to buy The Killer’s albums. No longer was Jerry Lewis enjoying the success he once had. It looked like his career was over. That was until his comeback in 1968.

By then, Jerry Lewis had reinvented himself as a country singer in 1968, and released Another Place, Another Time, which was billed as his ‘comeback’ album. It featured two top ten country hits. Another Place, Another Time reached number four, and What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me reached number two. The one time musical pariah was now the comeback King.

The comeback continued later in 1968, when Jerry Lee Lewis released She Still Comes Around. It featured another two top five country singles. She Still Comes Around (To Love What’s Left of Me reached number two in the US Country charts, and when To Make Love Sweeter for You released in November 1968, it reached number one in the US Country charts. It seemed that Jerry Lee Lewis’ comeback was complete.

After reinventing himself in 1968, and transforming his career, Jerry Lee Lewis’ comeback continued in 1969. Still Jerry Lee Lewis found time to records an album with his sister Linda Gail Lewis. That album was Together, which is one of four albums that features on a two CD set released by BGO Records. These albums are Together, Live At The International Las Vegas, In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album and Keeps Rockin’. The period that these four albums cover, 1969 to 1978, and saw Jerry Lee Lewis’ career take another unexpected turn. This latest chapter in the Jerry Lee Lewis’ story began in 1969.

Together.

Jerry Lee Lewis wasn’t the only singer in the Lewis family. His younger sister Linda Gail Lewis, who was only twenty-one, had followed in The Killer’s footsteps. She had been signed by Smash, and had released her debut solo album The Sides Of Linda Gail Lewis. It had failed to trouble the charts, which disappointed not just Linda Gail Lewis but executives at the Smash label. Soon, though, they had hatched a plan to give Linda Gail Lewis’ career a boost.

A decision was made that Jerry Lee Lewis and Linda Gail Lewis record an album together. Given Jerry Lee Lewis had just made a successful comeback, this would give Linda Gail Lewis’ career the type of boost most young singers could dream of. With the two Lewis siblings in agreement, work began on what would become Together.

Fortunately, Jerry Lee Lewis and Linda Gail Lewis had already recorded together, and could use some of these songs. However, it soon became apparent that they didn’t have enough for an album. 

Eventually, a shortlist of eleven songs were chosen. This included songs that had already been recorded, plus some songs that would be recorded in Nashville. These songs had been chosen especially so that they would suit Jerry Lee Lewis and Linda Gail Lewis’ voices. 

This included Lee Fikes’ Milwaukee Here I Come; Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber’s Jackson; Buck Owens’ Crying Time and Nat Stuckey’s Sweet Thang. They were joined by Penny Jay’s Don’t Le Me Cross Over; David Lazar, Larry Ehrlich, Paul Clayton and Tom Six’s Gotta Travel On; Fred Rose’s We Live In Different Worlds; Donald Murray’s Earth Up Above and Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven. Linda Gail Lewis wrote the two other songs on Together. She penned Don’t Take It Out On Me with Kenny Lovelace, who was a member of Jerry Lee Lewis’ band. The pair also wrote Secret Places with Cecil J. Harrelson. Some of these songs were recorded in Nashville with producer Jerry Kennedy.

Joining Jerry Lee Lewis and Linda Gail Lewis to record the rest of Together, was a band that featured some of Nashville’s top session players. With Jerry Kennedy taking charge of production, recording of Together began on ‘13th’ June 1969. The Lewis’ siblings proved a potent partnership, as they recorded country classics, familiar songs and new songs.  Linda Gail Lewis proved the perfect foil for her elder brother, with their voices blending together seamlessly. Although she had only released one album, Linda Gail Lewis was already an experienced singer and that shines through on Together.

When critics heard Together, the album was well received and received praise and plaudits. Especially songs like Don’t Take It Out On Me, the cover of Crying Time, Secret Places and We Live In Two Different Worlds. While a rousing version of Roll Over Beethoven closed Together, it wasn’t the highlight of the album. That was the cover of Don’t Let Me Cross Over. It stood head and shoulders above the rest of the songs on Together.

Executives at Smash realised this, and Don’t Let Me Cross Over was released as a single. It reached number nine on the US Country charts in 1969, giving Linda Gail Lewis her first hit single. For her brother, this was just the latest hit single since his comeback began in 1968. When Together was released, the album was billed as Jerry Lee Lewis and Linda Gail Lewis. It reached number eight in the US Country charts, and gave Linda Gail Lewis’ career another boost. For Jerry Lee Lewis, his comeback continued apace.

Live At The International Las Vegas, 

By 1970, Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the biggest names in country music. It was a far cry from when he was playing dive bars for $250.  That was in the past, and somewhere Jerry Lee Lewis had no wish to revisit. Now he was appearing on television shows, festivals and was playing at some of the top venues in America. This included the International Hotel in Las Vegas.

Jerry Lee Lewis had been invited to play at the International Hotel in 1970. This was where Jerry Lee Lewis had watched Elvis Presley play a year earlier in 1969. The King had headed  to Columbus, Ohio, to personally invite The Killer see him play live at the International Hotel. That night, Kenny Lovelace introduced Jerry Lee Lewis to the audience, who gave him a standing ovation. This was very different the reception he would’ve received a decade earlier.  A year later, in 1970, The Killer and The King would both play at the International Hotel.

When Jerry Lee Lewis returned to play at the International Hotel both he was playing in the lounge, which held around 2,500 people. Meanwhile, Elvis Presley was playing in the main room in front of 3,000. However, only Jerry Lee Lewis was recording his show, which would be released as Live At The International Las Vegas.

As he took to the stage at The International, The Killer’s band featured drummer Morris Tarrant, bassist Eddie DeBruhl, guitarists Buck Hutcheson and Kenny Lovelace who also played fiddle. Ned Davis played steel guitar while Jerry Lee Lewis sat behind the piano. Soon, Jerry Lee Lewis began working their way through a selection country classics. 

This began with a rueful version of She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye, which gave way to an uplifting cover of Hank Williams’ Jambalaya. Then on She Still Comes Around (To Love What’s Left of Me, Jerry Lee Lewis delivers a worldweary vocal, before following this up with Drinking Champagne and a cover of the Bob Willis classic San Antonio Rose. By then, The Killer, who was by then a veteran performer, has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. What better time to cover Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein’s Once More with Feeling. Jerry Lee Lewis breathes life and meaning into the lyrics, in what’s the highlight of the set so far.

Soon, he’s joined by Linda Gail Lewis and the pair duet on When You Wore a Tulip (And I Wore a Big Red Rose) and then Take These Chains from My Heart. It’s another of the highlights of the set, with Linda Gail Lewis proving the perfect foil for her elder brother. When she leaves the stage, Jerry Lee Lewis delivers a jaunty cover of Tom T. Hall’s The Ballad of Forty Dollars. This leaves just Flip, Flop and Fly, which started life as a jump blues, which was originally  recorded by Big Joe Turner and later, Elvis Presley. The Killer’s version is powered along by his piano, as he rolls back the years. Suddenly, The Killer of old is back, before he exits stage left.

When Live At The International Las Vegas was released in 1970, it won over critics. The album was a tantalising reminder of just how good a live performer Jerry Lee Lewis was. He put his three decades of experience to good use that night in Vegas, and was the star of the two shows that took place at The International. 

Buoyed by the critical acclaim Live At The International Las Vegas received, the album was released in 1970 and reached number five in the US Country charts. Live At The International Las Vegas also reached 149 in the US Billboard 200. This was par for the course for Jerry Lee Lewis, who was much more popular in country music circles. However, this was about to change.

In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album.

On ‘11th’ December 1970, many Americans could’ve been forgiven for thinking that it was April Fool’s Day. One of the lead items on the news was that Jerry Lee Lewis had decided to turn his back on rock music, and had cancelled all future shows. Jerry Lee Lewis was now going to concentrate on gospel music. While this shocked many Americans, the rest of the statement left them reeling. The Killer had: “vowed never to set foot inside a nightclub again.” He also promised to never look at another woman, pop another pill or drink again. To call this a Damascene conversion was an understatement. Meanwhile, Americans wondered what had got into The Killer?

It turned out that  Jerry’s third wife, Myra Gayle Brown, who was also his cousin once removed, had filed for a divorce. This was a huge blow to Jerry Lee Lewis, who it seemed was suffering a crisis of confidence. 

He had returned to his faith, which during the early years of his career, he kept quiet about. Being a devout Christian didn’t go with his hard living reputation in the late-fifties. Things had changed since then, and now he was much more open about his faith. So much so, that he recorded In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album.

To record his first gospel album, Jerry Lee Lewis headed to Nashville, where he and his sister Linda Gail Lewis would produce that eventually became In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album. Linda Gail Lewis had also penned In Loving Memories, Gather ‘Round Children and I Know That Jesus Will Be There with Cecil Harrelson. They joined songs like The Lily of the Valley, The Old Rugged Cross, I’ll Fly Away and If We Never Meet Again/I’ll Meet You in the Morning. These songs saw Jerry Lee Lewis joined by band of top session players.

Once In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album was complete, it was delivered to Mercury Records for release in 1971. Executives at Mercury Records knew that a gospel album, even one by The Killer was going to be a hard sell. As a result, it wasn’t top of their priorities when it came to releases.

When critics heard In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album, they were impressed by what was The Killer’s first gospel album. It was unlike many of the gospel albums being released in 1971, and combined gospel and country music. In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album was a gospel album recorded in Nashville, and was very different to Jerry Lee Lewis’ recent albums. 

In a way, Jerry Lee Lewis was returning to one of his first musical loves…gospel music, and combining this with his new musical love…country music on In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album. The two genres combined well, especially on the three songs his sister contributed In Loving Memories, Gather ‘Round Children and I Know That Jesus Will Be There, where her vocal steals the show. Along with songs like In Loving Memories, He Looked Beyond My Fault and Too Much to Gain to Lose, Jerry Lee Lewis’ had managed to reinvent himself as a gospel singer. 

By the time that In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album was released in 1971, Jerry’s estranged wife Myra Gayle Brown had made her feelings clear about her ex-husband’s Damascene conversion. “It won’t last. He’s only doing this to get me back.”

That was what executives at Mercury Records were also hoping. Jerry Lee Lewis’ decision to reinvent himself as a clean living, gospel singer, had cost Mercury Records one of the biggest names and hottest properties in country music to gospel music.

When In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album was released in 1971, it failed to even trouble the US Billboard 200, and stalled at eighteen in the US Country charts. It was Jerry Lee Lewis’ least successful album since Soul My Way in 1967. For executives at Mercury Records this was a huge disappointment. However, Jerry Lewis was happy with his first album as a gospel singer. This was how he saw the future. 

Keeps Rockin’.

By 1978, Jerry Lee Lewis was no longer the clean living, gospel singer he had been in 1971. He hadn’t been for several years. The hard living, Killer was back. His sales were declining, and no longer did Jerry Lee Lewis’ albums and singles reach the upper reaches of the country charts. To make matters worse, Jerry Lee Lewis’ behaviour had become unpredictable over the last few years. In many ways, Jerry Lee Lewis was longer seen as one of the assets on Mercury Records’ balance sheet. For some of the executives at Mercury Records, they were relieved that Jerry Lee Lewis only owed the company one more album. After that, they could cut him loose and wash their hands of the veteran singer. 

For what Jerry Lee Lewis knew was potentially his Mercury Records swan-song, he decided to return to rock ’n’ roll. This came as a surprise to many within Mercury Records.

For Keeps Rockin’, Jerry Lee Lewis chose eleven songs, ranging from new songs like I’ll Find It Where I Can, to much more familiar songs.  This included Blue Suede Shoes, I Hate You, Lucille, The Last Cheater’s Waltz, Sweet Little Sixteen, Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes and somewhat ironically, Before The Night Is Over. These were some of the songs that Jerry Lee Lewis would record in Nashville.

Joining Jerry Lee Lewis, was producer Jerry Kennedy and some of Nashville’s top session players. Even The Jordanaires were drafted in to add backing vocals on Keeps Rockin’, where Jerry Lee Lewis revisits his past. This hadn’t proven successful when he released The Return of Rock in 1965. Jerry Lee Lewis was hoping Keeps Rockin’ would prove more successful.

When critics heard Keeps Rockin’, a worldweary Jerry bowls a curveball on I’ll Find It Where I Can, where he returns to country music. It’s one of the highlights of the album. After that, he revisits his rock ’n’ roll past on a blistering versions of Blue Suede Shoes, Lucille and Sweet Little Sixteen. There’s a return to country music on rueful take on I Hate You, Arkansas Seesaw, The Last Cheater’s Waltz, Wild and Wooly Ways, Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes and a piano driven version of Pee Wee’s Place. Closing Keeps Rockin’ was Before The Night Is Over, where The Killer switches to electric piano and is accompanied by gospel-tinged harmonies. It’s an underrated song, and one that Jerry Lee Lewis knew could spell the end of his time at Mercury Records.

Keeps Rockin’ was released in 1978, but stalled at forty in the US Country charts. This was a far cry from when Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the most successful artists in country music. 

After Jerry Lee Lewis reinvented himself as a country singer in 1968, it seemed he could do no wrong between 1968 and 1973. He enjoyed sixteen top ten in the US country charts, while another five albums reached the top twenty.The Killer was one of the hottest properties in country music. Things changed between 1974 and 1978.

No longer was Jerry Lee Lewis as prolific as he had once been. Nor was he enjoying the same success when he released an album. Only Boogie Woogie Country Man in 1975 and Country Class in 1976 reached the top twenty. The rest of The Killer’s albums languished in the lower reaches of the top forty in the country charts. It was changed days for The Killer, and there was no sentiment in music.

After the release of Keeps Rockin’, Mercury Records didn’t renew The Killer’s contract. He had spent a total of fifteen years Mercury Records. This started in 1963, when Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the most successful American musicians. However, everything changed in 1964, when it was discovered that Jerry Lee Lewis’ wife, Myra Gayle Brown, was only thirteen when they married. To make matters worse, she was Jerry Lee Lewis’ first cousin, once removed. The controversy surrounding  Myra Gayle Brown lead to Jerry Lee Lewis being cast out into the musical wilderness between 1964 and 1968.

This wilderness years ended in 1968, when Jerry Lee Lewis reinvented himself as a country singer, and for the next five years, enjoyed one of the most successful periods of his career. 

Three albums from this period are part of a two CD set recently released by BGO Records. The set starts with Together, which Jerry Lee Lewis and is sister Linda Gail Lewis released in 1970. Later in 1970, they released Live At The International Las Vegas in 1970. After a Damascene conversion, In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album was released in 1971. Completing is Keeps Rockin’ which was released in 1978, and brought to a close the Mercury years

BGO Records’ two CD set is a reminder not just of Jerry Lee Lewis’ country years, but just how versatile an artist he was. Seamlessly, he switched between country, gospel and rock ’n’ roll, as he showcases his considerable skills. However, the period between 1968 and 1978 was a roller coaster ride for The Killer. He went from being one of the hottest properties in country, to turning his back on rock ’n’ roll and embarking on a career as a gospel artist. By 1978, Jerry Lee Lewis’ career was on the slide, but his Mercury Records’ swan-song Keeps Rockin’ is one of the hidden gems in his back-catalogue.

For much of his career, Jerry Lee Lewis was a prolific artist. Especially during the fifteen years he spent at Mercury Records. That was where Jerry Lee Lewis recorded some of the best albums of his long and illustrious career. A number of these albums have been reissued by BGO Records, and are a reminder of Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the pioneers of rock ’n’ roll, turned country singer, who will forever be known as The Killer.

Jerry Lee Lewis-Together, Live At The International Las Vegas, In Loving Memory: The Jerry Lee Lewis Gospel Album and Keeps Rockin’.

ON BROADWAY: THE SONGS OF BARRY MANN AND CYNTHIA WEIL.

On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil.

Label: Playback Records.

Ever since The Brill Building was built-in 1931, it has been synonymous with the music industry. Its eleven floors housed music industry offices and recording studios. The Brill Building was also home to some of the greatest songwriting teams in musical history.

Especially from the late-fifties and  sixties, when everyone from Bacharach and David, Lieber and Stoller and Gerry Goffin and Carole King called the Brill Building Home. They made their name at The Brill Building. So did Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who were one of the most prolific and successful songwriting partnerships of their generation.

Composer Barry Mann and lyricist Cynthia Weil first met in 1959, when they were working for Aldon Music, the music publishing company that had been founded by Don Kirshner and Al Nevins in 1958.  When Cynthia Mann arrived at  Aldon Music, she was an aspiring lyricist who was  looking for a songwriting partner. So was Barry Mann, who was in the early stages as his career as a composer. After their initial meeting,  where the pair hit it off, they formed what would become one of the successful songwriting partnerships in the Brill Building.

The Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil songwriting was just the latest successful songwriting partnership formed in the Brill Building. This included Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Each of these songwriting partnerships were given their own individual cubicles within the Brill Building. 

Within each cubicle, was a piano, where songs would take shape. Barry Mann would sit at the piano while Cynthia Weil wrote the lyrics to the songs. One of their compositions, Forty Winks Away featured on the B-Side of Neil Sedaka’s top ten single Stairway To Heaven. This was a boost to the nascent songwriting partnership’s confidence, and would the first of many songs from the pen of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil that reached the upper reaches of the charts.

In 1961, the Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote several hit singles, including two for Tony Orlando, including Bless You and Happy Times Are Here To Stay which Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote with Gerry Goffin. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil also wrote Echoes with Carole Bayer Sager which gave Teddy Randazzo a hit single in 1961.  It was the most successful year of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s career so far.

It was also the year that Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were married. Fifty-six years later, they’re still together, and regarded as one of the greatest songwriting partnerships in the history of popular music. 

Their partnership is celebrated on a new compilation released by Playback Records, On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil. It features twenty-eight rare and classic songs from the Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil songwriting partnership. This includes songs from The Executives, The Crystals, Skeeter Davis, The Shirelles, The Paris Sisters, Walter Jackson, Glenn Yarbrough, Dionne Warwick, Roy Hamilton, BJ Thomas, The Delfonics and Jackie Wilson. These are just some of the songs that can be found On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil. It’s packed full of quality music, including songs from familiar faces and new names.

Fittingly, given Playback Records is an Australian label,  it’s an Australian group The Executives, that open On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil with It’s A Happening World. It’s a Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil composition, that was released as a single on Festival Records in 1968. Despite being a carefully crafted and joyous sixties pop song, that epitomises the spirit of the sixties, it stalled in the upper reaches of the Australian charts. It’s A Happening World also featured on The Executives’ 1968  eponymous debut album, and was one of the highlights of the album.

Many of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s songs have been covered by many artists. That was the case with Come On Over To My Place, which was originally released as a single by The Drifters in 1965. Their version failed to make an impression on the charts, and soon, other artists began to cover Come On Over To My Place. This included Philly based singer Dewey Edwards. He released his cover of Come On Over To My Place on America on Cameo Parkway in 1965.  Although it didn’t give Dewey Edwards a huge hit, it’s one of the best and most memorable covers of Come On Over To My Place.

After signing to Phil Spector’s Philles Records in 1961, The Crystals would enjoy the most successful period of their career over the next two yeas. Between 1961 and 1963 The Crystals enjoyed six top twenty hit singles, and released their debut album Twist Uptown in 1962. It featured the original version of On Broadway, which was produced by Phil Spector. He had worked as a songwriter at the Brill Building, and knew Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Leiber and Stoller who wrote On Broadway. By 1962, Phil Spector was a successful and groundbreaking producer, who had honed his own unique production sound. This he put to good use on Twist Uptown, and songs like On Broadway. Meanwhile, The Crystals breathe life and meaning into this song about city life, as they sing of “dreams come true every day,” during what’s the most realistic portrayal of the original lyrics.

Danny and Diego were a New York based duo, who were discovered by Stan Kahan. In 1965, they became the latest group to cover Glitter and Gold. When  it was released as a single on the Musicor, this pop rock anthem-in waiting failed to find the audience it deserved. Since then, it’s been an oft-overlooked  hidden gem, that is a welcome addition to On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil.

British singer Julie Grant followed in the footsteps of The Cookies and released  Baby Baby (I Still Love You) as a single. It was penned by Cynthia Weil and Russ Titleman, with Tony Hatch taking charge of production. He’s responsible for a slick girl group sound that was released on Pye on 1965. Sadly, commercial success eluded Baby Baby (I Still Love You), and it was the one that got away for Julie Grant.

The period between 1958 and 1963 was the most successful of The Shirelles’ career. However, when their producer Luther Dixon left Scepter Records in 1963 their career stalled. To add to The Shirelles’ woes, the British Invasion of 1964 saw their music fallout of fashion. A year later in 1965, The Shirelles sued Scepter Records, and went on strike. However, Scepter Records had plenty of unreleased recordings of The Shirelles in the vaults. Some of these recordings became The Shirelles’ first album in two years, Hear and Now.  It was released on Scepter Records’ budget label Pricewise in 1965. One of the songs on Hear and Now was The Gospel Truth which Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote with Mike Anthony. Although it features The Shirelles’ trademark girl group sound, The Gospel Truth swings and has a gospel influence. Not long after the release of Hear and Now, Scepter Records settled out of court with The Shirelles, and they resumed their recording career.

Keith Powell was born in Birmingham, England and made his recording debut in 1963. Two years later, in 1965, and  Keith Powell released a cover Goodbye Girl, which had originally been recorded by Billy Carr.   Goodbye Girl was released as a single on the Piccadilly label, which was an imprint of Pye. Sadly, the single failed to trouble the charts, despite the quality of this soul-baring single.

Walter Jackson had been signed to Okeh since 1964, and by 1967, had released two albums. His third album was Speak Her Name, which was released on Okeh in 1967. It featured Not You, which was penned by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. On Not You, Walter Jackson a soul-baring vocal that is one of the finest moments on Speak Her Name.

The Animals were the first band to record We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, and their version is regarded by many critics as the definitive version of the song. However, bluesman Chuck Day and The Young Gyants reinvented the song in March 1967, when it featured on the B-Side of his Cameo Parkway single Tom Dooley. It’s bluesy and soulful with gospel-tinged harmonies. Chuck Day and The Young Gyants are responsible for a powerful and emotive reading of We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, that shows a new side to this classic song.

In 1969, Dionne Warwick travelled to Memphis to record her new album Soulful with Chips Moman, at his American Sound Studios. This was a first, as usually, Dionne Warwick worked the songwriting and production team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David at Scepter Records. Not on Soulful, which saw Dionne Warwick, move away from pop stylings of previous albums. Replacing this was a much more Soulful sound. Dionne Warwick’s new sound proved popular when  Soulful was released by Scepter Records in 1969. It reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the US R&B charts. One of the highlights of Soulful was Dionne Warwick cover of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, which  Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote with Phil Spector. Dionne Warwick brings the lyrics to this oft-covered classic song to life, delivering the lyrics as if she’s lived and survived them.

During his career, B.J. Thomas covered several Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil songs, including the hits I Just Can’t Help Believing and Rock and Roll Lullaby. However,  the ballad This Is A Love Song was the one that got away. It was recorded by B.J. Thomas but never released until it found its way onto a compilation in 2006. Belatedly B.J. Thomas’ beautiful, heartfelt rendition of This Is A Love Song was released, and this long-lost, hidden gem was heard for the first time.

In 1970, The Delfonics, who were one of the pioneers of the Philly Soul, released their eponymous debut album on Stan Watson and Sam Bell’s Philly Groove Records. One of the songs on The Delfonics, was Barry Mann’s When You Get Right Down To It. Just like the rest of the album, it was arranged by producer Thom Bell with Stan Watson and Sam Bell taking charge of the production. When The Delfonics was released in 1970, it was the best album of group’s career so far. Especially with songs of the quality of the ballad When You Get Right Down To It, which is a truly timeless song, and a reminder of everything that is good about Philly Soul.

On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil closes with Jackie Wilson’s cover of Nobody But You. This became the title-track to Jackie Wilson’s 1976 album on Brunswick. By then, the man they called Mr. Excitement was no longer as popular as he had been during his sixties heyday. Still, though, Jackie Wilson was able to make good use of his four octave vocal range. On the ballad Nobody But You, he unleashes a soulful, vocal powerhouse where he combines power and passion on what was, without doubt, one of the highlights of his 1976 album. It’s also ensures that On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil ends on a high.

Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil were one of the greatest songwriting partnerships in the history of popular music. They’ve enjoyed a long and successful career, and were one of the most prolific and successful of the songwriting partnerships formed in the Brill Building. While some of the  Brill Building songwriting partnerships faltered, Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil went from strength to strength, and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987. Nowadays, Barry Mann And Cynthia Wei are regarded as one of the greatest songwriting partnerships in the history of popular music.

Over the past fifty years, Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil have written countless classic. So many, that it would take a box set to feature ever one of these classic songs. These are just a few of the songs that Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil have written since their songwriting partnership began in 1959. These songs are part of a lifetime’s work. 

Many of the songs written by Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil have been recorded by the great and good of music. They’ve enjoyed hit singles, gold discs and Grammy Awards. Often, a career  has been transformed after recording a Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil composition. Similarly, many an ailing career has been rejuvenated after recording one of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil’s songs. However, despite all their achievements, Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil are incredibly modest and play down everything that they’ve achieved.  

To celebrate all that Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil have achieved, Playback Records recently released On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil. It’s a lovingly curated compilation that features twenty-eight songs penned by Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil. 

This ranges from some of their classic songs, to oft-overlooked hidden gems. On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil features songs from familiar faces, old fiends and new names. Sometimes, the most obvious version of the song is eschewed, and a lesser known cover is chosen. Several times  Playback Records strike music gold, in their search through the Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil songbook. Sometimes, artists stay true to the original song, while other times, a familiar song is reinvented and heads in a new and totally unexpected direction. Suddenly, a familiar song takes on new life and meaning. This happens several times during On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil, which is without doubt, the best compilation of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil’s music released in recent years.

On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil is a fitting celebration of one of the greatest songwriting partnerships in the history of popular music. They’ve come a long way since they first met in the Brill Building in New York. Little did they realise when they met that day in the Brill Building, that they would become one of the most celebrated,  successful and prolific songwriting partnerships in the history of popular music?

On Broadway: The Songs Of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil.

 

JEANETTE JONES-DREAMS ALL COME TRUE.

Jeanette Jones-Dreams All Come True.

Label: Playback Records.

The history of soul music is littered with artists who could’ve and should’ve gone on to greater things, but for whatever reason, commercial success and critical acclaim passed them by. That, sadly, was the case with Jeanette Jones.

She had talent in abundance, and a voice that was a mixture of power, passion, emotion and sheer soulfulness. Sadly, Jeanette Jones’ recording career was all too brief, and amounts to just one single, Darling, I’m Standing By You. It was released on the Golden Soul label in 1969, and the two years later, was reissued by Kent. Nothing came of the single. 

Jeanette Jones’ last recording session was in 1974, when she recorded a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg. Sadly, that was the last time she entered a recording studio. It was also the end of Jeanette Jones’ musical career. For Jeanette Jones, the dream was over.

Since then, Jeanette Jones has remained an enigmatic and mysterious figure. Very little is known of her life pre and post music. Nowadays, it is thought that Jeanette Jones lives quietly in San Francisco. That was where the twenty songs on Playback Records’ new Jeanette Jones compilation Dreams All Come True was recorded.  Dreams All Come True is the most compressive overview of her career, and covers the times she spent with The Mill Valley Bunch, The Voices Of Victory Choir and her solo carer. These twenty songs document the Jeanette Jones’ musical career.

Details of Jeanette Jones’ early life are somewhat sketchy. It’s thought that she was born and brought up in San Francisco. That was certainly where Jeanette Jones first discovered music. 

Just like many future soul singers, Jeanette Jones first started singing in church. That proved to be Jeanette Jones’ gateway into music. However, it was with the Voices Of Victory gospel choir that Jeanette Jones’ first came to prominence.

Cora Wilson had formed The Voices Of Victory gospel choir in 1962. Hers was no ordinary choir though. The Voices of Victory gospel choir featured sixty singers, who travelled the West Coast in their own bus. They sang in churches and at gospel conventions. It was an impressive sight and sound. Especially when the soloists enjoyed their moment in the spotlight. By 1965, one of the soloists was Jeanette Jones.

She was the owner of an impressive and powerful voice. When  Jeanette Jones stepped into the spotlight, she combined, power, passion and emotion. Given the her vocal prowess, it was no surprise that Jeanette Jones was one of the stars of The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. Everyone who heard them realised this. So too would Leo Kulka at Golden State Recorders.

Leo Kulka first encountered Jeanette Jones in November 1965. Cara Wilson had booked Golden State Recorders to record an album by The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. Given the size of the choir, Leo Kulka decided to use Golden State Recorders’ larger studio in Harrison Street. After the recording session, Cara Wilson planned to have a limited number of albums pressed, and they would be sold after concerts. In a way, Cara Wilson was just testing the water, to see if there was a market for albums featuring her choir. Soon,  Leo Kulka realised that Cara Wilson was underselling her choir.

As the recording session got underway, Leo Kulka immediately realised just how good The Voices Of Victory gospel choir were. Cara Wilson’s choir wasn’t just one of the best in the state, but one of the best on the West Coast. Music this good deserved to be heard by a much wider audience. Especially as they recorded through He’ll Understand, Lord I’ll Go, There Is No Failure In God, Lord I’ll Cry Out and There Is A Fountain which feature on the Dreams All Come True compilation. So does Why which features Jeanette Jones on lead vocal.

When Leo Kulka heard Jeanette Jones’ lead vocal on Why, her voice stopped Leo Kulka in his tracks. It was a cut above the rest of the soloists. Jeanette Jones was capable of singing with power, but was always in control as she delivered the lyrics with emotion and sincerity. From the moment Leo Kulka heard Jeanette Jones sing, he promised himself he was going to sign her. So once the recording session was over, Leo Kulka approached Jeanette Jones, with a view to signing her.

Jeanette Jones wasn’t interested in signing a recording contract. She had no intention in crossing over, and instead, wanted to continue to do what she saw as the “Lord’s work” with The Voices Of Victory gospel choir. This must have  come as a surprise to Leo Kulka.

Back in 1965, most singers, including gospel singers, dreamt of signing a recording contract. Even if this meant crossing over from gospel to secular music. Jeanette Jones it appeared was the exception. That was until late 1967.

It wasn’t until late 1967, that  Leo Kulka next encountered Jeanette Jones. By then, things had changed for Jeanette Jones. Not only had she crossed over, and was singing secular music, but she also had acquired a manager, Jay Barrett. 

He didn’t come from a musical background. Instead, he was a banker who was based in Palo Alto. Although a relative newcomer to the music industry, Jay Barrett wasn’t content to be a manager, he also dreamt of forging a career as a songwriter. Jeanette Jones he hoped would go on to record some of these songs. So he went away to work on a proposal.

By then, Jeanette Jones had signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden Soul label. Leo Kulka was vastly experienced, and would be able to guide Jeanette Jones through the early stages of her recording career. Soon, though, Soon, Jay Barrett came up with a proposal. It stated that if Jeanette Jones was willing to record Jay Barrett’s songs, then he was willing to part finance the recording of a demo. This would be recorded Leo Kulka’s Golden State Recorders. Leo Kulka agreed to this, and began preparing for his first session with Jeanette Jones.

The recording session was scheduled to take place in February 1968. No expense was spared, and Leo Kulka began to put together an extensive backing band. There was a problem though. The songs that Jay Barrett had written were unsuited to Jeanette Jones in their present form.

They were poppy, and sounded like a remnant from earlier in the sixties. Soon, though, Leo Kulka had worked out a solution,..backing vocalists. So Leo Kulka put in a call to Ramona King and her brother Cleo. 

Ramona King’s career began in 1962, when she signed to Eden Records. Since then, she had spent time at Warner Bros. Records, Amy and most recently, Action Records. Leo Kulka explained that he needed backing vocalists to accompany Jeanette Jones and help her add some much-needed soulfulness to Jay Barrett’s songs. The Kings agreed, and when the recording sessions began, found themselves at Golden State Recorders.

At that first recording session, Jeanette Jones recorded a couple of Jay Barrett songs, Jealous Moon and Quittin’ The Blues. With the large ensemble accompanying her, the two songs were soon in the can, They were produced by Leo Kulka, with Jay Barrett receiving a co-production credit. The next step, was to try to interest another label in the songs.

Leo Kulka began shopping Jealous Moon and Quittin’ The Blues to various labels. However, none of the labels expressed an interest in releasing the songs. For Leo Kulka, this was a huge disappointment. So he dug deep into his contact book.

The man he decided to consult was Larry Goldberg, an independent producer based in Los Angeles. Larry Goldberg was part talent scout, part producer. Part of his time was spent finding and developing artists. Other times, he shopped his artists to major labels. Just like Leo Kulka, Larry Goldberg was vasty experienced. He also thought he might have the answer to Leo Kulka’s problem.

The answer Larry Goldberg thought, might lie in three backing tracks. This included the Ben Raleigh penned Break Someone Else’s Heart. Another possibility was Andy Badale and Albert Elias’ I Want Action, which had recently given Ruby Winters a hit. The third and final songs was Sam Russell’s Cut Loose, which had been arranged by H.B. Barnum. Having listened to the three pop soul cuts, Leo Kulka agreed that they had the potential to solve his problem. So he gave Jeanette Jones a call, and she made her way to Golden State Recorders.

Although Jeanette Jones was signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden Soul label, she was still singing with the Voices Of Victory gospel choir. Maybe she was keeping her options open, given the life of a professional singer could sometimes, be perilous? Careers were often short, and could be, unpredictable and unprofitable. Jeanette Jones must have realised this after her first recording session. Now was time to try once again.

Having listened to the trio of backing tracks, Jeanette Jones set about laying down vocals. She combined power and emotion, delivering an almost defiant vocal on Break Someone Else’s Heart. Then on Cut Loose, Jeanette Jones delivers a vocal tour de force, as horns and harmonies  accompany her vocal on this stomper. On the final song, I Want Action Jeanette Jones again combines power and emotion as she delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. Once the vocals were recorded, Jeanette Jones had done her part. Now it was over to Leo Kulka.

His job was to shop the songs to various labels. Given the quality of the songs, Leo Kulka must have been confident of securing a deal for Jeanette Jones. Despite his best efforts, none of the labels he approached were interested in releasing the songs. Lightning had struck twice for Jeanette Jones.

She returned to the Voices Of Victory gospel choir. By the spring of 1969, Jeanette Jones was now fronting the Voices Of Victory gospel choir. They were still one of the biggest and most successful gospel choirs on the West Coast. Despite this, Jeanette Jones returned to Golden State Recorders.

Still Jeanette Jones hadn’t given up on her dream of making a career out soul music. So she headed to Golden State Recorders. That was where she first encountered singer-songwriter Wally Cox. Leo Kulka had asked him to write a song that would showcase Jeanette Jones’ conferable vocal talents. He delivered a trio of songs, including Darling, I’m Standing By You. It was tailor-made for Jeanette Jones.

At Golden State Recorders, Jeanette Jones prepared to record  Darling, I’m Standing By You. With Leo Kulka producing, Jeanette Jones delivered a spine-tingling, soul-baring, testifying vocal. Backing vocalists accompany her every step of the way, as Jeanette Jones combines gospel and soul, on what was a career defining moment. 

Meanwhile, Wally Cox went away and wrote two new songs. The Thought Of You was a beautiful mid-tempo ballad, that again, seemed tailor-made for Jeanette Jones. She’s in a reflective mood, as she gives thanks for the love she’s found. Unlike some of the soul being released in 1969, it had a much more modern, contemporary sound. Wally Cox’s other composition was I’m Glad I Got Over You, which features a defiant Jeanette Jones as she delivers another vocal powerhouse against an urgent, driving arrangement. It’s another song with a much more contemporary sound, that could’ve and should’ve transformed Jeanette Jones’ career. Leo Kulka realised this.

So much so, that he was willing to release Darling, I’m Standing By You and The Thought Of You on his own record label, Golden Soul. Leo Kulka hoped that the local R&B and gospel and radio stations would pickup on the single. This Leo Kulka hoped, would result in him being able to cut a distribution deal with a major label. That was the plan.

Leo Kulka had 1,000 copies of Darling, I’m Standing By You and The Thought Of You pressed. These copies he hoped would sell out, and the single would be picked up radio stations in the San Francisco area. However, the 1,000 copies of Darling, I’m Standing By You failed to sell, and Leo Kulka was back to square one.

While many people would’ve called it a day, Leo Kulka decided to use the single to shop Darling, I’m Standing By You to major labels. He took the single to Atlantic, but they turned the song down. Motown then passed on Darling, I’m Standing By You. Things weren’t looking good for Darling, I’m Standing By You, and Jeanette Jones’ career.

She had been trying to make a breakthrough since 1967, and was no nearer to doing so. Things however changed in 1971, when the Bihari brother agreed to release some of Leo Kulka’s releases on their Kent Records and Modern Records’ labels. One of the singles they chose to release was Jeanette Jones’ Darling, I’m Standing By You. Maybe, Jeanette Jones’ luck was changing?

Alas it wasn’t to be. Darling, I’m Standing By You failed commercially, and quickly, the single disappeared without trace. For Leo Kulka and Jeanette Jones it was a frustrating time. The single, Leo Kulka felt, hadn’t received sufficient promotion by Modern Records. So it was no surprise when it failed for commercially. By then, Jeanette Jones was beginning to rethink her future.

Following the commercial failure of Darling, I’m Standing By You, Jeanette Jones started to work as a session singer. She also worked with Mike Bloomfield on his Mill Valley Bunch project. Jeanette Jones takes the lead on the soul-baring ballad What Would I Do Without My Baby and unleashes a vocal powerhouse on Ooh Ooh Ooh, La, La, La which has been remixed. Both songs feature on the Mill Valley Bunch’s one and only album, Casting Pearls, which was released on Verve Records in 1972. Soon, though, Jeanette Jones began to look beyond music.

Jeanette Jones began to do some voiceover work, and was chosen as the voice of the Swiss Colony Wine radio campaign. It was also around this time, that Jeanette Jones began to do some modelling. This kept her busy, and gradually, Jeanette Jones seemed to lose interest in music. Indeed, she only returned to Golden State Recorders one more time.

This was in 1974, when Jeanette Jones headed to Golden State Recorders to record a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, who a friend of both Mike Bloomfield and Leo Kulka. During that last session, Jeanette Jones cut two tracks penned by Gerry Goffin and Barry Goldberg. The first was You’d Be Good For Me a pulsating slice of uber funky music. Very different was What Have You Got To Gain By Losing Me? It’s a truly beautiful, heart wrenching ballad that showcased Jeanette Jones’ ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into a song. Sadly, after the publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, Jeanette Jones turned her back on music.

Since then, nothing has been heard of her, and the Jeanette Jones’ story is a case of what might have been. She could’ve and should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. Jeanette Jones certainly didn’t lack talent. Quite the opposite

Jeanette Jones was a hugely talented singer, who had the ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. She could combine power and passion, and seamlessly switch between ballads and uptempo tracks. Despite her undoubted talent, sadly, Jeanette Jones never made a breakthrough. It was a case of what might have been.

That is despite Leo Kulka championing Jeanette Jones. He produced her, and then shopped the songs to bigger labels. Sadly, only once did a single get picked up by a bigger record, Darling, I’m Standing By You. Even when that happened in 1971, Modern Records didn’t promote the single sufficiently. Maybe this led to Jones considering her future?

After four years struggling to make a breakthrough, maybe reality kicked in and Jeanette Jones realised that not all dreams come true? It was certainly around this time that Jeanette Jones began to work as a session singer. After this, the only time Jeanette Jones returned to a recording studio was to record a publishing demo for Barry Goldberg, Ironically, during that session, Jeanette Jones recorded one of her finest songs What Have You Got To Gain By Losing Me? It’s a poignant reminder of Jeanette Jones, and features on Dreams All Come True, which was recently by Playback Records. Dreams All Come True is the most comprehensive overview of Jeanette Jones’ career and the perfect introduction to her music. The twenty tracks on Dreams All Come True, also document what was a case of what might have been.

What if Jeanette Jones has signed to Leo Kulka’s Golden State in 1965, when he recorded The Voices Of Victory gospel choir? Maybe she would’ve gone on to enjoy a successful career as a soul singer?and gone on to enjoy the success However, Jeanette Jones wanted to continue doing the “Lord’s work.” 

Maybe by the time she changed her mind in 1967, it was too late? Music was changing, and changing fast. Suddenly the musical landscape was totally different. By 1967, pop and rock dominated the musical landscape, and the psychedelic revolution was well underway. While soul was still popular, it was nowhere near as popular as pop or rock. Some soul labels, including Stax and Motown were still releasing hit singles by 1967 and would continue to do until over the next four years. Meanwhile, Atlantic Records’ ‘soul years had finished in 1967, but the label had just released Aretha Franklin’s Atlantic Records’ debut I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You in 1967. This was the start of Aretha Franklin’s Atlantic Records years, which was the most successful period of her career. Sadly, many other talented soul singers struggled to make a breakthrough during this period. This included Jeanette Jones.

Despite her undeniable talent, and her ability to breath life and meaning into a song, commercial success eluded Jeanette Jones.The question is why? Maybe if Leo Kulka had managed to interest a major label in Jeanette Jones, things would’ve been very different? However, there is also the possibility that Jeanette Jones was neither driven nor determined enough to make a career out of music. It could be that Jeanette Jones wasn’t comfortable singing secular music, given her background in gospel music? There’s any number of reasons why commercial success eluded Jeanette Jones.

Deep down, maybe Jeanette Jones knew that enjoying a successful career as a soul singer was a long shot, and very few succeeded? That is doubtful, and if it that was the case, it would be ironic, as Jeanette Jones had what it took to enjoy a long and successful career in music.  Dreams All Come True is proof of this, and is a reminder of Jeanette Jones who could’ve, and should’ve, gone on to greater things. Sadly, commercial success and critical acclaim passed Jeanette Jones by who is proof that not All Dreams All Come True.

Jeanette Jones-Dreams All Come True.

VASHTI BUNYAN-THE QUEEN OF PSYCH FOLK.

Vashti Bunyan- The Queen Of Psych Folk

Vashti Bunyan was just twenty when she was “discovered” by Andrew Loog Oldham. This wasn’t the direction Vashti envisaged her career heading when she left her London home and headed to the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, the art school at Oxford University. 

Alas, the dreaming spires of Oxford University weren’t for Vashti Bunyan. It was a familiar story. Vashti failed to turn up for classes and eventually, was expelled from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. For Vashti Bunyan, this proved to be the start of a new chapter in her career.

With the folk boom well underway  Vashti who was just eighteen, headed to New York in 1963. This was just after Bob Dylan had just released his classic album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. In New York, Vashti discovered Bob Dylan’s music. The gateway to Bob Dylan’s music was his opus, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Having immersed herself in Bob Dylan’s music, Vashti realised what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She wanted to be a musician.

So Vashti headed home to London. It was there that she encountered Andrew Loog Oldham, The Rolling Stones’ manager. He spotted Vashti’s potential and became her manager. In June 1965, Vashti Bunyan released her debut single as Vashti.

This was no ordinary single. It was a single penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind had originally been released by The Rolling Stones on 13th February 1964. Just sixteen months later, the Jagger-Richards’ penned Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind was released in June 1965 on Decca. For Vashti, this was an inauspicious debut. It failed to chart. Maybe her sophomore single would fare better?

It wasn’t until May 1966, that Vashti Bunyan released her sophomore single. This was Train Song. Produced by Peter Snell, Train Song was released on Columbia. Lightning struck twice. Train Song disappeared without trace. For Vashti, her nascent musical career seemed to have stalled. 

For the next two years, very little was heard of Vashti. Her only appearance was on The Coldest Night of the Year, a track from Twice as Much’s sophomore album That’s All. That proved to be an ironic title, as that’s all that was heard from Vashti during that period of her career.

Although Vashti records other songs for Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records during this period, they were never released. Instead, the languished in the Immediate Records’ vaults, For Vashti, this must have been disappointing and disheartening. Maybe that’s why Vashti  and her then partner, Robert Lewis, decided to head off on a road trip.

This was very different to Jack Kerouac’s legendary road trip in On The Road. Vashti and Robert headed off to the Hebridean Islands by horse and cart. That was where singer- songwriter Donavan, a friend of Vashti, had planned to established a commune. This trip proved to be inspirational for Vashti.

During the road trip to the Hebridean Islands, Vashti wrote the songs that featured on her 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day. It would be produced by Joe Boyd, who Joe met at Christmas, 1968. 

It was through a mutual friend that Vashti and Joe Boyd met. When Joe saw the songs, he immediately offered Vashti the chance to record an album of her travelling songs for his Witchseason Productions. However, this didn’t happen immediately.

Just Another Diamond Day.

A year later, in 1969, Vashti returned to London to record her debut album Just Another Diamond Day, with Joe Boyd. Vashti had no band, but this didn’t matter. An all-star folk band would join Vashti in the studio to record on Another Diamond Day. 

This included Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol from Fairport Convention. They were joined by the Incredible String Band’s Robin Williamson. The final piece of the jigsaw was string arranger, Robert Kirby. Just like Joe Boyd, Robert Kirby would go on to work with Nick Drake. Before that, they worked on Just Another Diamond Day, which was recorded at Sound Techniques Studios, in London. Just Another Diamond Day was then released in December 1970.

When Just Another Diamond Day was released in December 1970, it was well received by critics. They appreciated Vashti Bunyan’s new sound. She was now a fully fledged folk singer. This suited Vashti. Just Another Diamond Day veered between pastoral, ethereal, lush, understated, rural, melancholy, cerebral and cinematic. Sadly, when Just Another Diamond Day was released, it failed commercially. Vashti took this badly.

She retired from music after the commercial failure of Just Another Diamond Day. At first, Vashti stayed in one of The Incredible String Band’s Glen Row cottages. After that, Vashti moved to Ireland, and then settled in to Scotland. For the next thirty years, Vashti settled into family life. She had three children. As her children grew up, little did Vashti realise that somewhat belatedly, Just Another Diamond Day found the audience it so richly deserved.

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Since her retirement in 1970, gradually, Another Diamond Day found the audience it deserved. It was reappraised by a new generation of music lovers and critics. Among Just Another Diamond Day’s fans, were a new generation of musicians who had been influenced by Vashti Bunyan. They realised that Just Another Diamond Day, which was reissued in 2000, was a long-lost classic. Eventually, Vashti Bunyan decided to make a welcome return to music in 2002.

This started with Vashti making guest appearances on Piano Magic’s 2002 single Writers Without Homes. Two years later, Piano Magic and Vashti collaborated on the Saint Marie E.P. This was just the start of a string of guest appearances and collaborations that Vashti made.

Vashti’s next collaboration was on Devendra Banhart’s 2004 album Rejoicing In The Hands. This was quite fitting as nowadays, Vashti is credited as the the Queen of Psych Folk and Devendra Banhart is one of her disciples. It was a case of two generations of psych folk singers collaborating. This wasn’t the last of Vashti’s collaborations.

A year later, Vashti worked with another band who were influenced by her music. This was Animal Collective. Vashti appeared on their 2005 E.P. Prospect Hunter. However, the most important release for Vashti in 2005 was her sophomore album Lookaftering.

Lookaftering.

It had been a long time coming. Thirty-five years to be precise. However, eventually, Vashti made a very welcome return to the studio. The result was her sophomore album Lookaftering.

On Lookaftering, Vashti was joined by some of the artists she had influenced. This included Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. A familiar face was Robert Kirby, who played such an important part in Vashti’s 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day. He played trumpet and French horn on Lookaftering, which was released in October 2005.

Just like when Just Another Diamond Day was released December 1970, Lookaftering was released to critical acclaim. Lookaftering was released to an appreciative audience. Understated, ethereal, cerebral, beautiful and ruminative, Lookaftering was a return to form from a reflective, philosophical Vashti. Older and wiser, Vashti Bunyan had matured with age. Surely, it wouldn’t be long before Vashti released her third album?

That’s proved not to be the case. Nine years have passed since Vashti released Lookaftering, Valerie released her third album Heartleap in October 2014. 

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Heartleap.

Heartleap features nine songs written by Vashti. She plays acoustic guitar and is accompanied by a small, talented band. This includes strings courtesy of Fiona Bruce, Ian Burdge and Gillian Cameron. Guitarists Garth Dickson and Andy Cabic are joined by Jo Mango on kalimba and dulcimer. Saxophonist Ian Wilson also plays recorder. Devendra Banhart, who featured on Lookaftering, makes a welcome return, adding backing vocals. These musicians played their part in the recording of Heartleap.

When Heartleap was released, critics hailed the album as a return to form from Vashti Bunyan. Thirty-five years after turning her back on music, and twelve years since she stepped back into the limelight, the Queen of Psych Folk was back, and better than ever.

Across The Water opened Heartleap, and is a  mixture of ethereal beauty and melancholia. This set the scene for  the pastoral beauty of  Holy Smoke. Mother then features a reflective Vashti, as remembers her mother sitting playing her piano and smiling. Sadness and melancholia fill Vashti’s voice on this beautiful autobiographical song. Very different is Jellyfish,  a dreamy, lysergic song. It gives way to Shell,  a captivating song, where Vashti veers  between storyteller and philosopher. Imagery and metaphors are omnipresent as a worldweary Vashti delivers cerebral lyrics.  The Boy features moving lyrics that have a cinematic quality.  So do the lyrics to Gunpowder, another reflective  song, where a rueful Vashti sings of  love and love lost. Blue Shed finds Vashti accompanied  by a  lone piano who  longs to be alone. There’s a change of mood on Here, a beautiful, joyous paean, which features a whispery vocal from Vashti. Heartleap closes with the title-track, where Vashti’s breathy vocal, delivers beautiful lyrics that are akin to a stream of consciousness. This crowned Vashti Bunyan’s comeback album Heartleap, an album that could’ve and should’ve transformed her career.

Sadly, when Heartleap was released in October 2014, the album passed most people by despite its undeniable quality.  Heartleap failed to find the wider audience it deserved. For Vashti who was then sixty-nine, this must have been hugely disappointing and frustrating. Especially considering the quality of music on Heartleap

Heartleap was an album that oozes quality and ethereal beauty. That’s the case from the opening bars of Across The Water, to the closing notes of Heartleap. It’s best described as dreamy, melancholy, beautiful, ethereal, haunting, cerebral and wistful. Elements of ambient, folk, jazz, freak folk and psychedelia can be heard during the ten songs on  Heartleap. It’s a potent and heady brew, that features thirty-four flawless minutes of music, as Vashti Bunyan showcases her considerable talents during a career defining opus.

Incredibly, Heartleap is only Vashti Bunyan’s third album, despite her career beginning back in 1965. After the commercial failure of her debut 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day, Vashti turned her back on music.  It was thirty-five years until we heard from Vashti Bunyan. She released Lookaftering in 2005. Many thought Vashti was back for good. However, since then, she flitted out of our lives for another nine years. Although she dabbled in music, she never released another album until Heartleap in 2014. Sadly, that looks like being Vashti Bunyan’s swan-song.

Three years after the release of Heartleap, Vashti Bunyan  is now seventy-two. Her legion of loyal fans would love Vashti to return with her fourth album. However, it must be incredibly frustrating releasing albums of the quality of Just Another Diamond Day, Lookaftering and her career defining album Heartleap and watch them fail to find the audience they so richly deserve. That’s a great shame, as Vashti Bunyan has always a been hugely talented singer and songwriter.

That was the case in 1970, when she released Just Another Diamond Day, an album which was ahead of the musical curve. It was only much later that the Queen of Psych Folk’s debut album was discovered by a new generation of music lovers, critics and musicians. They flew the flag for Vashti Bunyan when she released Lookaftering and Heartleap. At last,  the Queen of Psych Folk was back and was still a musical pioneer.  Sadly, though, outside her loyal coterie of fans, Vashti Bunyan is largely unknown. Most people are still unaware of  the trio of albums Vashti released between 1970 and 2014. Just Another Diamond Day, Lookaftering and Heartleap are best described as true hidden gems, that have yet to be discovered by the wider record buying public. Maybe, one day soon, a much wider audience will  discover the musical delights of Vashti Bunyan, and no longer will the Queen of Psych Folk  be referred to as one  of music’s best kept secrets?

Vashti Bunyan- The Queen Of Psych Folk.

DJ MARKY-INFLUENCES VOL 2.

DJ Marky-Influences Vol. 2.

Label: BBE.

DJ Marky has come a long way since he started DJ-ing in his hometown of São Paulo, Brazil over twenty-five years ago. He made his DJ-ing debut at the age of the tender age of twelve. Little did he know that he had just made his first tentative steps in what would be a long and illustrious DJ-ing career. 

Nowadays,  DJ Marky is regarded as one of the world’s leading DJs. Night after night, audiences worldwide are wowed by DJ Marky’s eclectic DJ sets that include everything from traditional Brazilian music, disco and acid jazz, to early house and drum ’n’ bass. However, DJ Marky isn’t just a DJ. Since 1999, he’s been releasing mix CDs and has also released several compilations. This includes Influences Vol. 2, a compilation album and DJ mix which was recently released on BBE. Influences Vol. 2 is a two CD set which showcases some of DJ Marky’s favourite music and his mixing skills. It has taken over twenty-five years to perfect.

It was in 1992 that Marky Mark as he was then known, started spinning drum ’n’ bass with a hardcore edge. The only problem was that this didn’t have the same widespread appeal as the more mainstream sound. Marky Mark was so disheartened that he almost gave up. However, he carried on and was determined to make a career as a DJ.

Gradually, things started to improve for Marky Mark. His popularity grew and soon, he was regarded as one of the rising stars of Brazilian DJ-ing. This resulted in Marky Mark being asked to compile a compilation for a São Paulo based label. In 1996, Marky Mark Any Time a compilation of drum ’n’ bass was released. For Marky Mark it was the first of many albums he would be involved in.

Two years later, in 1998, British DJ Bryan Gee spotted Marky DJ-ing in a club in São Paulo in 1998. Bryan Gee watched as Marky Mark showcased his incredible scratching skills. It was then that he realised that Marky Mark was a cut above most of the DJs he saw week-in, week-out.  After Marky Mark had finished his set, Bryan Gee invited Marky Mark to play in London. This was the start of the rise and rise of the man born Marco Antônio Silva.

When Marky Mark started playing in London, dancers and DJs were impressed by his vibrant, melodic and eclectic sets. This was the shot in the arm the British drum and bass scene was needing at that time. It had started to stagnate, but the arrival of Marky Mark raised the bar.

After his successful DJ-ing debut in Britain, and the success he was enjoying at home in Brazil, it was only a matter of time before he recorded his own mix album. This was something many DJs were doing at that time. Not only was it a profitable venture for many DJs, but it raised their profile.  Marky Mark decided the time was right to record his first commercial mix album.

To do that, Marky Mark didn’t head into a top club or even a recording studio. Instead, he chose a pile of albums and set up two turntables and his mixer in his house. When he was ready, he pressed record and recorded what eventually became Working The Mix. With the mix complete, Marky Mark decided to see if a record company would release it.

He took it to A&R executives at Paradoxx Music, in São Paulo, and they were won over by his selection of songs and elaborate mixes. Paradoxx Music agreed to release Working The Mix in 1999, which became his first commercial release. When it was released the album was a commercial success. However, things were about to get even better.

Later in 1999, Marky Mark was crowned the Best New DJ in Britain. By then, Marky Mark well on his way to becoming one of the top DJs in Britain and Brazil. Marky Mark had come a long way in seven years.

As the new millennia dawned, Marky Mark was busier than ever. His services as a DJ were constantly in demand. Despite that, Marky Mark found time to record a new mix album and compile a new compilation of drum ’n’ bass. When the Audio Architecture  mix album was released in 2000, Marky Mark was now billed as DJ Marky. His other release in during 2000 was his second compilation, Flash Drum ‘N’ Bass By DJ Marky Mark. The newly rebranded DJ Marky had just enjoyed one of the busiest years of of his career so far.

There was no sign of DJ Marky slowing down in 2001, and he released two more mix albums. This included The Brazilian Job, a drum ’n’ bass mix album, and Audio Architecture: 2, which was a  more eclectic mix. It featured drum ’n’ bass, broken beat and jungle. Both albums were welcomed by DJ Marky’s constantly growing fan-base.

Three years passed before DJ Marky returned with another new mix album. This was Bingo Sessions Volume 2, a drum ’n’ bass mix which was released in 2005. It was followed by The Master Plan another drum ’n’ bass mix in 2007. By then, DJ Marky was well on the way to becoming one of the most successful DJs in the world. 

Despite living the life of a globetrotting DJ, DJ Marky still found time to compile the first instalment in the Influences’ series for BBE. The two disc set featured a compilation and DJ Marky’s most eclectic mix, which  featured disco, drum ’n’ bass and funk, to house, jazz-funk and Latin music. When it was released in 2008, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Influences was by far, the best and most eclectic and compilation mix album of DJ Marky’s career.

Two years later, and DJ Marky was back with not one but two mix albums, including Fabriclive 55. The other release was a  new compilation and mix album for BBE, where DJ Marky hooked up with 4Hero, an old DJ-ing friend he met in the late-nineties. 4Hero + DJ Marky released The Kings Of Drum and Bass to critical acclaim on BBE in 2010.

After the released of The Kings Of Drum and Bass in 2010, DJ Marky’s career continued to reach new heights. Still, though, he knew that there were things he hadn’t accomplished. This included releasing his debut album. Eventually, in 2015 My Heroes was released. Since then, he’s spent most of his time DJ-ing, but found time to compile Influences Vol. 2 for BBE.

Influences Vol. 2 is a two CD set, with CD one featuring an eighteen track mix by DJ Marky. His mixing is absolutely flawless as he mixes  his way through eighteen songs. This ranges from acid jazz, Chicago house,  disco, drum ’n’ bass,  funk, jazz-funk, Latin, jazz and  traditional Brazilian music. It’s a seamless mix that showcases DJ Marky’s musical taste.

CD One-Mixed.

DJ Marky’s mix opens with the soulful sound of William DeVaughn’s 1974 single on Roxbury Records, Blood Is Thicker Than Water, which gives way to the soulful disco of Maryann Farra and Satin Soul’s You Got To Be The One. This was the title-track to their 1976 debut album which was released on Brunswick. After that, DJ Marky drops The Pasito Allstars’ Cosa Nostra, which is an irresistible slice of soulful, funky, Latin music. It’s followed up by a track from one of the leading lights of the acid jazz scene, The Brand New Heavies featuring N’Dea Davenport. Dream Come True originally featured on their 1991 debut album The Brand New Heavies, but DJ Marky has chosen the Joey Negro Reality Mix. It’s the perfect addition and is followed the funky disco sound of Benelux and Nancy Dee 1979 single Switch. Gradually, the mix is building as Clyde Alexander and Sanction’s 1980 disco single enters. By then, it’s obvious that DJ Marky has impeccable musical taste.

From there, it’s time to jack as DJ Marky remembers the early days of Chicago house. He’s a picked a trio of classic tracks, staring with Phortune’s 1991 single on String Free on Hot Mix 5 Records. It’s followed by the K and T Dance Mix of Maurice’s This Is Acid, which was released on Vendetta Records in 1988. The same year, Easy Street Records released Hardhouse’s Check This Out. After this journey into early house, DJ Marky seamlessly mixes into Galaxy 2 Galaxy’s Timeline which was released on Submerge in 2006. So was Laurentius’ deep house single Karate Samba. Suddenly, the mix is building thanks to this laid-back, mellow slice of musical sunshine. This is a signal that things are about to change.

The tempo rises The Manuel Azevedo Quartet’s Futebol De Bar which was released on Freestyle Records in 2015. It’s four irresistible and uplifting minutes of Latin jazz. From there, the tempo continues to rise on Double Dee featuring Dany’s house anthem Found Love. It was originally released as a single in Italy on Five Record Indipendent in 1990, and in 1991 featured on the album Dee Dee. Briefly, DJ Marky allows dancers to draw breath before  Manfredo Fest’s 1979 single for Bluebird Jungle Kitten bursts into life. By then, Latin jazz and jazz funk melt into on this hidden gem. Soon, though, DJ Marky is changing direction again.

is, the mix heads in the direction of drum ’n’ bass. First in a quartet of drum ’n’ bass tracks is  Skanna’s Find Me, a track from the Find Me (The Remixes) EP, which was released on Skanna in 1995. Seamlessly this mixes into a Remix Pt I of Origin Unknown’s Truly One, which was the B-Side to their 1998 single on Ram Records Valley Of The Shadows. The two songs are like a musical yin and yang, and mix perfectly. DJ Marky’s track selection is peerless, as he pieces together what’s akin to a musical jigsaw. As the tempo continues to rise, he adds  DJ Die Gnarly Mix of Roni Size Reprazent’s Watching Windows is added. It’s taken from the Watching Windows EP released on Talkin’ Loud in 1997. Having mixed his way through seventeen songs, DJ Marky reaches for his last selection Influx Datum’s Meant Love, which was the B-Side to Dayz Of Glory which was released on Headquarters in 2002. Fittingly, this is another slice of drum ’n’ bass, which DJ Marky has spent his career his spinning. However, Meant Love has a soulful and melodic sound, and ensures that DJ Marky’s eighteen track mix ends on a high.

CD Two-Unmixed.

Only twelve songs feature on the CD Two, the unmixed disc. They’re all full-length tracks unlike on disc one, where sometimes, DJ Marky mixes before the end of the track. This isn’t unusual, as DJs are always looking for the perfect mix out point. Seven of the eighteen songs from CD One feature on CD Two including: Benelux and Nancy Dee’s Switch, Clyde Alexander and Sanction’s Got To Have Your Love, Influx Datum’s Meant Love, The Brand New Heavies featuring N’Dea Davenports’ Dream Come True, Manfredo Fest’s Jungle Kitten, Skanna’s Find Me and Lars Bartkuhn’s Karate Samba. They’re joined by five new tracks.

The first of those is Esther Williams’ Last Night Changed It All (I Really Had A Ball). This is a track from her 1976 album Let Me Show You, which was released on the Friends and Co label. It’s a soulful slice of disco that forty-one years later, still sounds as good as the day it was released.

The Armed Gang were an Italo synth-funk band, who released Are You Ready as a single on Musix Records in 1983. It was popular not just in Europe, but in Brazil. Later in 1983 The Armed Gang released their one and only album The Armed Gang By them, they were billed as Kenny Claiborne and The Armed Gang. Without doubt, the finest track on the album was Are You Ready?

Given DJ Marky’s love of early house, it’s no surprise to see Jack Frost and The Circle Jerks’ Clap Me included. It was released on the legendary Chicago house label Trax Records in 1988. Clap Me is a reminder of the early days of the house revolution. So too is Cultural Vibe’s 1986 single for Easy Street Records, Ma Foom Bey. It’s Chicago house with a spiritual twist.

Closing CD Two of Influences Vol. 2 is Rotation, a techno track from veteran producer Dave Angel. It was originally released in 1993 on Rotation Records, as part of the Royal Techno EP on Rotation Records. Rotation is just another example of how eclectic DJ Marky’s musical taste is on Influences Vol. 2.

DJ Marky has chosen twenty-three tracks for Influences Vol. 2, which was recently released by BBE. It’s the long-awaited followup to Influences, which was released back in 2008. Nine years later, and DJ Marky is one of the world’s top DJ. That is no surprise, given his performance on the mix on CD One,  shows just why he is one of the world’s leading DJs.

He takes eighteen tracks and seamlessly mixes them during what’s a flawless performance during an eclectic mix. DJ Marky takes the listener on a musical journey, full of twists and turns. During that journey, DJ Marky plays Acid Jazz, Chicago house, disco, drum ’n’ bass, funk, jazz-funk, Latin jazz and Philly Soul. As the journey unfolds, DJ Marky makes some difficult transitions, but manages to find the perfect play to mix in and out it. However, everything falls into place as the mix builds, and eventually, DJ Marky reaches his destination Influences Vol. 2.

Then on CD Two, which is unmixed there’s twelve tracks, including five that weren’t in the mix. There’s more Chicago house and disco, plus Italo synth-funk and techno as DJ Marky showcases his eclectic and impeccable musical taste. He’s obviously someone who has a passion for music, and not just the type of music he spins.  Instead, DJ Marky seems to enjoy a wide range of music, and wants to share his love of music on Influences Vol. 2.  

It features a mixture of familiar faces, new names and hidden gems. Influences Vol. 2 is sure to appeal to a wide range of music fans. That isn’t always the case, as nowadays, many compilations are genre specific, and only appeal to people who enjoy that type of music. However, given the eclectic nature of Influences Vol. 2, DJ Marky’s seamless mixing and impeccable musical taste, it’s a compilation that’s guaranteed to appeal to a wide range of music fans. One listen and you’re sure to agree.

DJ Marky-Influences Vol. 2.

NON BAND-NON BAND.

Non Band-Non Band.

Label: TAL

In the summer of 1978, a musical revolution took place in Japan, which changed music forevermore,..punk. The Japanese punk rockers were christened Tokyo Rockers, and initially were disregarded by the mainstream music industry. Record company executives made the mistake of thinking that the Japanese punk movement was just a passing fad, and that before long, it would be replaced by another musical movement. How wrong they were.

Left to their own devices, a vibrant and thriving underground music scene was born. Over the next few years, the Tokyo Rockers headed to underground clubs, which were similar to the ones frequented by British punks just a couple of years earlier. The Tokyo Rockers saw an eclectic selection of bands ranging from the new punk groups through to avant-garde bands and even on occasions, indie rockers. It was a fascinating scene populated by of independent and individualistic musicians who were keen to make an impression on the audiences. Some bands however, stood out from the crowd, including Maria 023, a male-female duo.

Maria 023 were just one of many bands who had caught the imagination of the Tokyo Rockers. Their lineup featured Genet and the bassist Non. She and Genet released the EP, Maria 023, which was released on  Gozira Records in 1978, featured Theme and Human Being with Machine Sex and Face To Face on the B-Side. This was their one and only release, because Maria 023 proved to be a short-lived band.

During the short time that Maria 023 were together, they made a lasting impression on the Tokyo Rockers. Especially Maria 023’s  bassist Non, who had come close to becoming a cult figure. However, when Maria 023 split-up, nothing was heard of Non until August 1979.

Non made her comeback at a legendary concert, Drive To 80s. Nobody was aware that Non was about to make her comeback that night, until she took to the stage. Accompanied by just her bass, she stood centre-stage, and sung several new songs during an intense, emotive and highly charged performance. When Non left the stage that night, little did she know that this was the start of a new chapter in her career.

Over the next few months, Non played a series of solo gigs. Non would pitch up at the venue with just her bass, and sing her new songs. By then, she was a talisman figure and role model amongst the female Tokyo Rockers. They admired and were inspired by Non, who they saw as a strong, independent young woman. For many female Tokyo Rockers, Non was everything they wanted to be, if they had been able to cast off their inhibitions. As a solo artist, she was already one of the leading lights of the Japanese punk movement. Soon, though, Non would form a band that would write their way into Japanese musical history…Non Band.

It was almost inevitable that Non would make the move from solo artist to founding her own, new band. Just like many new bands, it took several changes in lineup before they arrived at a settled lineup. By then, the Non Band’s lineup featured drummer Mitsuru Tamagak, bassist Non and Kinosuke Yamagishi who switched between clarinet and violin. This was the classic lineup of the Non Band, and the one that found the group at the peak of their musical powers. However, music was changing within Japan.

By then, the Japanese punk and new wave rock scene was evolving, and moving in a new direction. Many new bands were also being formed, including the second generation of bands. This was similar to what had happened in Britain. Just like in Britain, many new independent labels were also being formed and offered bands, old and new, an outlet for their music. This included Telegraph Records, which had been formed by Jibiky Yuichi in 1981. He then started putting together a distribution network for the records he planed to release. 

Ever since forming Telegraph Records, Jibiky Yuichi had been watching the progress of Non Band. He was a fan of their music, and deep down, had always hoped that one day, he would be able to release a Non Band album. However, with so many new independent labels being founded, the best bands could have their pick of labels. The Non Band were one of the best bands, and convincing the Non Band to sign to a relatively new label wasn’t going to be easy.

Jibiky Yuichi proved persuasive and the Non Band eventually signed to Telegraph Records. Having signed a recording contract, the next step was for the Non Band to record their debut album.

Recording began at the Mod Studio, in Tokyo, in October 1981. The Non Band’s lineup featured drummer and percussionist Mitsuru Tamagak, Non who played bass, guitar and added vocals, plus  Kinosuke Yamagishi who played clarinet, violin and mandolin. They were augmented by Chiko Hige who played mini keyboards plus Kummy and Mitsuwa who added the chorus. Producing the album was the Non Band, who completed their eponymous debut album in November 1981.

Three months later, and the Non Band and Telegraph Records were preparing to released their eponymous debut album in February 1982. This was step into the unknown for Non Band, while Telegraph Records the album was the label’s fifth release. Unlike most albums being released in 1982, a decision had been made to release Non Band as a ten inch album. It featured six songs from the Non Band, which it was hoped would introduce their music to a wider audience.

Jibiky Yuichi who owned Telegraph Records, knew that at best, a release like Non Band would sell around 1,000 copies. If Non Band sold anything like 1,000 copies the album would be deemed a success. When Non Band was released, the album surpassed even Jibiky Yuichi’s expectations. After repressing Non Band several times, the numbers were added up, and Jibiky Yuichi announced that the album had sold 2,000 copies. Non Band had a hit album on their hands. Soon, their popularity soared and Non Band was receiving critically acclaimed reviews. Thirty-five years later, and Non Band is a genre classic, which was recently on the Düsseldorf based TAL label. The success of Non Band marked the start of rise and the Non Band.

Opening Non Band is their theme tune Duncan Dancin’, whose title refers to the famous dancer, Isadora Duncan. It bursts into life, and is powered along by ohayashi rhythms that normally can be heard during the summer Neputa festival in Hirosaki. Stabs of scratchy free jazz clarinet accompany the hypnotic rhythms and usher in Non’s coquettish vocal. She’s briefly accompanied by the chorus, who disappear and reappear as the arrangement continues to reveal its secrets. This includes the plucked bass, shimmering guitar and Non’s scatted vocal. By then, a truly unforgettable, genre-melting dance track is unfolding. Later, Non unleashes a fleet fingered, funky bass, and latterly, a vocal powerhouse as this irresistible song reaches a memorable crescendo.

A dark menacing bass, otherworldly violin and drums play slowly on Ghetto. Against this backdrop, Non delivers a vocal that veers between breathy and tender to sultry and powerful. By then, the frustration of Ghetto life has gotten to her and her vocal is the equivalent of Primal Scream Therapy. When the vocal drops out, just occasional bursts of dramatic drums, a weaving bass and eerie violin plays. Then when Non returns, her vocal is a mixture of emotion, frustration, anger and sadness. Sometimes, there’s a nod to Siouxsie Sioux in Non’s delivery. Later, as Non exits stage left, the rest of Non Band enjoy their moment in the sun, creating a melodic, urgent and latterly, dramatic backdrop to one of the album’s highlights.

A mesmeric bass plays on Wild Child (Can’t Stand It) before a gypsy violin dances and drums pound. They accompany Non as she dawns the role of the Wild Child, and unleashes a defiant, powerful vocal. She seems to have embraced the role of Wild Child fully as the tempo and drama builds. Non becomes the enfant terrible as she spits out the vocal. Eventually, calm us restored and she sings softly, before exploding into life. Meanwhile, the band showcase their considerable skills and versatility, as they provide the backdrop for what’s akin to musical theatre from the enfant terrible of the Tokyo Rockers.

As Solar unfolds, the thunderous bass is joined by the mesmeric drums and the ruminative sound of the violin. Soon, they’re joined by Non, who joyously delivers the lyrics. Meanwhile, drums crack, as the bass weaves its way across the arrangement and joins the dreamy violin. When a drum cracks, the bass becomes funky, jerky and abstract as the violin dances for joy. Non’s vocal is a mixture of power and enthusiasm, as genre melt into one. Still, the song continues to reveals its secrets as it flows along. Later, the rhythm section and violin play leading roles during as Non’s scatted vocal flits in and out during a captivating song that features Non Group at their best.

Dance Song starts slowly, with the rhythm section exploring the groove, while Non releases an urgent vocal. It drifts in and out, leaving the rhythm section and shakers. Soon, it’s back to stay, and a braying, groaning clarinet adds a contrast and the tempo rises. Drums power the arrangement and backing vocal accompany Non’s urgent vocal. Her bass is joined by drums that crack, while the clarinet threatens to head in the direction of free jazz. All the time, drums provide a 4/4 rhythm that powers this urgent, joyous genre-melting track that straddles punk, post punk, funk, pop and jazz.

Drums gallop along on あわのうた~Bap Pang which closes Non Song. Soon, they’re joined by a scratchy, but melodic violin before Non sings softly. Meanwhile, the drums skip along, providing the perfect foil for the violin that takes centre-stage. Even the addition of the toy keyboards, works and adds to the song. They add a hypnotic sound, as Non continues to sing softly. Midway through the song it starts to taken on experimental sound. The sound of someone knocking on a  window, shakers,  scrabbled drums and a bounding bass are game-changers. Suddenly, it’s all change as the Non Band embark upon a short experimental jam. When they come out the other side, the rhythm section power the arrangement along, as the urgent violin and Non’s vocal join with keyboards and backing vocals as the song heads for the finishing line. It’s been a six-minute magical musical mystery tour, with surprises aplenty in-store  on the song that closes Non Band, a timeless, genre classic.

Although Non Band were primarily a punk group, their eponymous debut album was much more than a punk album. There were elements of the post punk and new wave sounds, and occasional diversions into funk, free jazz, traditional Japanese music and even some poppy hooks. Very occasionally, Non Band took on a jazz and experimental sound and headed in the direction of avant-garde. Mostly, Non Band evokes the spirit of ’78, when the punk arrived in Japan. However, music had changed by late 1981 when Non Band was recorded, and this explains why it’s such a genre-melting album. Non Band was much more than a punk album, that launched the career of punk pioneers Non Group.

Following the success of Non Band, it was a case of hail the conquering heroes when the group took to the stage. By then, Non Band’s lineup had been expanded when two female rockers joined the group. Guitarist Kummy and keyboardist Mitsuwa joined Non Band at what proved to be the peak of their powers.

Everyone within the Tokyo Rockers’ scene expected the Non Band to go on to even greater success. Non Band was surely, the first of many critically acclaimed albums. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Six months after the release of the Non Band, the Non Band was no more.

When members of the band departed, Non struggled to find suitable replacements. Eventually, she realised that it was an uphill struggle, and the Non Band disbanded. It was the end of the line for a truly innovative band. They went out at the peak of their powers, unlike some of their British counterparts who in similar circumstances, struggled on and became a parody of their former selves.  Not the Non Band. They weren’t going to fade away,  and went out at the top.

Non drifted away from the Tokyo Rockers’ scene, and returned home to Hirosaki in the south-west Aomori Prefecture, of Japan.  This was the start of another new chapter in Non’s life. She settled down and raised two children, and eventually, took over the running of the family business. The former Tokyo Rocker now found herself running an arts supplies business. While she was happy in her new life, it was almost inevitable that Non would one day, contemplate a comeback.

It wasn’t until 1999 that Non started to think about her former life as a musician. She realised that she missed music, and began putting plans in place for the second coming of Non. 

Twenty years after her triumphant comeback at Drive To 80s in August 1979, Non went in search of like-minded musicians. She found Keiji Haino and Tatsuya Yoshida, who Non invited to her home in Hirosaki. They began playing live together, and sometimes, Non played solo gigs. The second coming of Non was well underway.

For Non it was a new chapter in a story that started over twenty years earlier. However, it was a story that would run and run. 

Non returned to Tokyo, where she had made her name in the late-seventies, but this time as a solo artist. Fans of the Non Band awaited her first appearance in Tokyo in two decades. As Non took to the stage, she was welcomed by fans old and new. It was a triumphant return, and Non’s comeback was almost complete. 

The only thing that Non still had to do was release her debut solo album. That came in 2002, when Non released her much-anticipated debut album Ie. It received praise and plaudits, thanks to songs like Vagabond, Love Song and OK Song. Non’s comeback was complete. However, now that Non was back, she was here to stay, she was about to hatch a new plan.

Despite establishing herself as a successful solo artist, Non had unfinished business from twenty years ago. She decided it was time to make two phone calls. However, she didn’t know what response she would receive when she called Mitsuru Tamagak and Kinosuke Yamagishi. They were pleased to hear from Non, and agreed to reform the Non Band.

Just like their final performances in 1982, the original trio was expanded, with accordionist Emi Sasaki joining the Non Band. The newly expanded lineup of the Non Band booked a few comeback gigs, after twenty years away.

When the Non Band played their comeback gigs after twenty years away, it was to a wider fan-base. Since the Non Band had been away, a new generation had discovered their eponymous debut album. It was now a genre classic, that had won over two generations of music fans. These fans flocked to see the Non Band when they hit the comeback trail. They noticed that the Non Band had matured as musicians and as a group. The Non Band played with the same power, passion and intensity, and dazzled fans old and new during their comeback gigs. For the Non Band, their comeback had been a huge success. 

After the comeback gigs, the Non Band decided that they were back for good. There was a caveat though. They weren’t going to embark on gruelling tours each year, and instead, would play just a few gigs each years. This was what the Non Band have been doing ever since, and in 2012, a live album Non Band Liven’ 2009-2012 was issued on Jibiky Yuichi’s Telegraph Records which had also made a comeback. The release of Non Band Liven’ 2009-2012 was a reminder of just how good a live band the Non Band were.

While the Non Band continued to play a few gigs each year, Non continued to work as a solo artist, and in 2014, self-released her long-awaited sophomore album Non Solo Song Book. It featured seventeen new songs, including Earth Song, ほいかん and 善でも悪でもない精霊 which featured the All Aomori Survivors, who had all survived the 2011 tsunami. They played their part in the sound and success of the Non’s sophomore album. When  Non Solo Song Book was released in 204, it was welcomed by Non’s fans. So would another album three years later.

Three years later, in 2017, interest in the Non Band is greater than ever. Especially, their eponymous debut album Non Band, which was recently released by the Düsseldorf based TAL label on 12” vinyl and as a digital download. TAL’s decision to reissue Non Band on 12” rather than the original 10” vinyl has resulted in far superior sound quality. This is the definitive reissue of Non Band, and the one that fans of the Non Band have been waiting for. It’s the way to rediscover Non Band, and is sure bring back memories for the original Tokyo Rockers. Non Band will also introduce the album to new generation of record buyers, who weren’t around when the album was originally released. They too, will discover the delights of Non Band, and their groundbreaking eponymous debut album, which is a timeless genre classic, that in February 2017 celebrated its thirty-fifth birthday. That’s certainly something to celebrate, and what better way to do so that with a copy of TAL’s new reissue of Non Band?

Non Band-Non Band.