MAJA S.K. RATKJE-SULT

Maja S. K. Ratkje-Sult.

Rune Grammofon.

By the time Maja S. K. Ratkje graduated from the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2000, the twenty-seven year old had already won one of the most prestigious awards in Norwegian music, an Edvardprisen. This came in 1999, when Waves 11b won an Edvardprisen in the contemporary music minor work category. This was the perfect start to her nascent career.

Maja’s recording career had begun in 1999, when improv quartet Spunk released their debut album Det Eneste Jeg Vet Er At Det Ikke Er En Støvsuger in 1999. Back then, Maja was still studying for her diploma in composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. However, by the time Maja graduated, she was already thinking of her musical future.

A year later in 2001, Spunk released their next album Filtered Through Friends. Just like their debut album, Filtered Through Friends was heralded a groundbreaking album. Later in 2001, Maja won another prestigious award, the Arne Nordheims Composer Prize. Maja’s star was in the ascendancy.

And so it proved. 2002 was an important year in Maja’s career. Not only did Spunk release their third album Den Øverste Toppen På En Blåmalt Flaggstang, but Maja released her debut solo album Voice. It was released on Rune Grammofon, who recently released Maja S. K. Ratkje new album Crepuscular Hour. It’s one of the most ambitious albums of Maja’s long and illustrious career.

Later in 2002, formed noise duo Fe-Mail with Hild Sofie Tafjord. Fe-mail and eleased their debut album Syklubb Fra Hælvete. It was a low profile release, with just 500 vinyl copies of the album pressed. However, by 2004 Syklubb Fra Hælvete was released on CD in America by Important Records. 

2004 would prove to be another important year in Maja’s career.  Fe-Mail returned with their sophomore album All Men Are Pigs. It featured another leading light of the Norwegian experimental music scene, Lasse Marhaug. The result was a captivating collaboration. The same cane be said of another album Maja released in 2004.

Already, Maja  was collaborating with other artists. She had featured on the album Sinus Seduction, which was released in 2002. Two years later, in 2004, Maja  released Majaap, which was her first collaboration with Dutch composer and sound poet Jaap Blonk. By then, Maja had won the second Edvardprisen of her career, when  No Title Performance and Sparkling Water won the open category. For Maja, was further recognition that she was one of Norwegian music’s most innovative composers, musicians and performers. 

Buoyed by having won her second Edvardprisen in 2004, Maja’s career continued apace. She released Post-Human Identities, her second collaboration with Jaap Blonk in 2005. Then in November 2005, Spunk returned after a three year break with their fourth album En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom. It was a welcome return from the improv quartet. En Aldeles Forferdelig Sykdom was a reminder of an exciting and innovative group. Equally innovative was Maja’s sophomore solo album, which was released in 2006.

For Maja, 2006 proved to be one of the busiest years of her career. Fe-Mail, who released their third album Bixter Toad. Then later in 2006, Maja released Ballads, her collaboration with John Hegre. However, one of the most anticipated albums of 2006 was Maja’s sophomore albium Adventura Anatomica. It was a cerebral, challenging and groundbreaking fusion of abstract, avant-garde, experimental and noise. Adventura Anatomica proved to be worth the four year wait.

There was  no four year wait for Maja’s third album. Instead, Telp was released in 2007, and was the start of a four year period where Maja released an album each year. River Mouth Echo was released in 2008, with Cyborgic following in 2009 and Danse Macabre in 2010. During this period, the only side project Maja was involved with, was Kantarell, Spunk’s fifth album. It would be another four years before Spunk returned.

Over the next few years, Maja collaborated with a variety of artists. She collaborated with the ensemble Poing on the 2011 album Watch Auf. Then as 2012 dawned, the album Treasure Hunt was released in January. It was a collaboration between Ikue Mori, Simon Balestrazzi, Sylvie Courvoisier, Alessandro Olla and Maja. However, in 2013 a project that began in 2008 came to fruition.

This was the album Janus, which Joachim Montessuis and Maja had been collaborating on since 2008. It wasn’t until 2013 that the album was complete, and released. Janus was one of the most ambitious albums Maja had been involved in. Experimental mouth music, sonic poetry and improvised electronics were combined on Janus. However, it wasn’t the only collaboration Maja released during 2013.

Her  other collaboration was Scrumptious Sabotage. It was  a collaboration between Maja and Ikue Mori. They had collaborated as part of a collective on the album Treasure Hunt in 2012. Following the Treasure Hunt project, Ikue Mori and Maja began work on Scrumptious Sabotage. It was released to critical acclaim in 2013. The following year, featured another collaboration, and a comeback.

Maja’s next collaboration came in 2014, when she released Maja S. K. Ratkje In Dialogue With Eugeniusz Rudnik. This album of Musique Concrète was released to critical acclaim, and further reinforced Maja’s reputation as a musical pioneer. That included the music she released with Spunk. 

Five years after Spunk released their last album, they returned in 2014 with not one, but two albums. The first was their studio album Adventura Botanica. It was followed by Live In Molde, where Spunk were joined by French double bassist, vocalist, and composer Joëlle Léandre. She had involved in the European improv scene since for over thirty years, and released her debut album Taxi in 1982. Since then, Joëlle Léandre had released over one hundred albums, including countless collaboration. Live In Molde was just the latest. Maja had a long way to go before she caught up with Joëlle Léandre.

Maja made a start in July 2015, when Celadon was released. It was another collaboration. This time, Maja was joined by Jon Wesseltoft, Camille Norment and Per Gisle Galåen. Celadon was an album of avant-garde music where a quartet of sonic pioneers pushed musical boundaries to their limits. The resultant album was released to critical acclaim, and hailed as a truly ambitious album. So would an album Maja released in 2016.

As Maja prepared to release her first solo album for six years, a collaboration she had recorded in 2013 with Saka was released. Rasaka was released in February 2016, and was billed as Saka with Maja S. K. Ratkje. However, the next album Maja S. K. Ratkje released, saw her take the star billing. 

That’s no surprise. Crepuscular Hour is one of the most ambitious projects that Maja S. K. Ratkje has been involved with.  It was inspired by the phenomena of crepuscular rays, where rays of sunlight stream through gaps in clouds or any number of other obstacles. Having discovered and investigated  the phenomena of crepuscular rays, Maja S. K. Ratkje set about writing Crepuscular Hour which would be performed by a rather unorthodox lineup of three choirs, three pairs of noise musicians,  a church organ and an impressive light installation. The result was an album where the music veers between dramatic and intense to ruminative, mesmeric and hypnotic and becomes ethereal and elegiac and other times, spiritual and serene. It was a captivating,  ambitious and innovative album which pushed musical boundaries and was a sonic and visual feast. However, the big question was how would Maja S. K. Ratkje followup Crepuscular Hour?

Three years after the release of  Crepuscular Hour, Maja S. K. Ratkje was back with the followup Suit, a  a balletic interpretation of a Knut Hamsen novel which was premiered in Oslo in spring of 2018. Sult which has just been released by the Rune Grammofon label, and is another ambitious and innovative album from a true musical maverick and pioneer.

The music on Sult was originally created for the ballet Hunger by director Jo Strømgren for the Norwegian National Ballet. This was a first for  Maja S. K. Ratkje whose more used to playing live and recording albums. However, Maja S. K. Ratkje is a versatile, imaginative and inventive musician. 

Proof of that was the arsenal of instruments Maja S. K. Ratkje used to record Sult. This included an out of tune pump organ which had been heavily modified. Metal and PVC tubes were joined by a wind machine in S. K. Ratkje as she sang and played the pump organ, which she only learned to play relatively recently. Despite this, S. K. Ratkje is a confident player who is able to play the pump organ with both hands and feet, while singing. This was no mean feat as an array of disparate objects are transformed into makeshift musical objects. Among them are , a bass string, a bow, guitar strings, a resin thread and metal and glass percussion. This alternative orchestra accompanied S. K. Ratkje each night as she played live during each and every performance. It was a remarkable and breathtaking performance from S. K. Ratkje that had audiences spellbound each night. They were lucky to see the performances of Sult.

Later, the music was modified and recorded with Frode Haltli co-producing with S. K. Ratkje and became Sult. It stands alone, and works without the visual stimuli of Hunger, which was Knut Hamsun, the Norwegian author’s  breakthrough novel from 1890. 

It’s an atmospheric and semi-autobiographical novel  which takes place in the dusty city of Kristiania, which nowadays, is better known as Oslo. In Hunger and on Sult, street sounds are replicated on Sult are part of the backdrop as the story of a struggling and starving young writer takes shape. Little did Knut Hamsen know how important his breakthrough novel would be.

Nowadays, it’s said that the whole modern school of fiction starts with Hunger, with its twin themes about mental states and the irrationality of the human mind. These are subjects that writers would revisit over the next 129 years, following in Knut Hamsen’s footsteps. So would Maja S. K. Ratkje on Sult.

The best way to describe Sult is an ambitious and innovative album that is captivating and engaging. As Maja S. K. Ratkje plays the pump organ, it’s obvious that musically, it’s seen better days. This doesn’t matter because its creaky, dusty  and unpredictable sound is part of its charm. It’s augmented by the alternative orchestra where chain links, curved steel sheets and metal bars all play their part in the sound of Sult. 

So does Maja S. K. Ratkje’s playing style and vocal, which both dictates how Sult develops. Blurry organ chords and her improvised vocal join forces with the neo-mechanical sound of the alternative orchestra as the tracks take shape. They may not follow traditional song structures, but the music on Sult captivates, is enjoyable and isn’t short of a hook. Especially where while the organ adds a playful refrain during Sult. It’s a truly groundbreaking balletic soundtrack from  musical maverick and pioneer Maja S. K. Ratkje, who continues to push musical boundaries to their limits and sometimes beyond in pursuit of musical excellence, and succeeds in doing so on Sult.

Maja S. K. Ratkje-Sult.

 

FIREFALL-THEIR GLORY YEARS…AND BEYOND.

Firefall-Their Glory Years and,,,Beyond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firefall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Luna Sea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Elan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firefall-Their Glory Years and,,,Beyond.

 

HENRY GROSS-HIS SEVENTIES SOLO YEARS.

Henry Gross-His Seventies Solo Years.

When Henry Gross took to the stage with Sha Na Na at ‘7.30pm’ on Sunday, August the ‘17th’ 1969, the eighteen year old made history, he became the  the youngest person to perform at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Despite his relative youth, Henry Gross took  playing in front of 400,000 people in  his stride during Sha Na Na’s thirty-minute set that preceded the arrival of Jimi Hendrix. This was no surprise, as Henry Gross was already an experienced musician.  

Henry Gross was born on the ’1st’ of April 1951, in Brooklyn, New York. His mother was a music lover who encouraged Henry Gross’ love of music and later, nascent career.

By the time Henry Gross was thirteen, he had already played at the World’s Fair with his first band. Within a year, fourteen year old Henry Gross was a familiar face in the clubs of New York. This was a tough musical apprenticeship.

One of the clubs Henry Gross’ band played was owned by a major New York gangster who encouraged Henry to pursue his musical career. Playing the tough, rough and ready clubs of New York meant Henry Gross was ready for anything. However, when the summer came, Henry played to a very different audience.

When the school term ended, Henry Gross headed to the Catskill Mountains where he played at the resort hotels. This was other part of Henry Gross’ musical apprenticeship. 

By the time Henry Gross graduated from high school in 1969, his music apprenticeship was complete and  he headed to Brooklyn College. That was where Henry Gross founded Sha Na Na. 

Sha Na Na.

When Sha Na Na were founded, there was one word that many critics used to describe the nascent band…unique. They realised the importance of standing out from the crowd, so Sha Na Na billed themselves as a group: “from the streets of New York.” They wore leather jackets and gold lame. Their hair styles ranged from a pompadour to slicked back ducktails. Similarly unique were their shows. 

When Sha Na Na walked on stage they proceeded to combine song and dance, and the music they played was a mixture of fifties rock ’n’ roll and doo w0p. Sha Na Na managed to simultaneously revived and sent up rock ’n’ roll. This proved a popular draw, and before long, Sha Na Na were opening for some of the biggest names in music including  Dr. John, Grateful Dead, B.B. King, Canned Heat, Santana, Taj Mahal and The Kinks. That was how highly Sha Na Na’s peers thought of them. For Sha Na Na, this was just the start of their rise and rise.

Later in 1969, Sha Na Na released their debut album Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay. Although it only reached number 183 in the US Billboard 200, word spread about Sha Na Na. This lead to Sha Na Na being asked to play at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair.

The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair took place between the 15th and 17th August 1969, and was advertised as “three days of peace and music.” For Sha Na Na this would launch their career.

When the day came, Sha Na Na headed to the main stage where they  played a thirty-minute set that began on ‘7.30pm’ on Sunday, August the ‘17th’ 1969. For a relatively new band, this was the opportunity of  a lifetime, and  was like hitting a home run in the World Series. However, Henry Gross didn’t see it like this.

Standing at the side of the stage, Henry Gross watched some of the biggest names in music play. Then as Jimi Hendrix brought the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair to a close, Henry realised Sha Na Na wasn’t what he wanted to be doing. 

He thought about Sha Na Na, which featured twelve men and women dressed as if they’d stepped out of the fifties. However, psychedelia was King, and the fifties was another country. Musically, Henry Gross knew that the fifties was music’s past. Henry Gross also looked at the other members of Sha Na Na.

They were happy doing what they were doing, and Henry Gross knew They were good people. However, they weren’t taking things seriously. Henry Gross was different, and  wanted to make a living out of music. He knew had was a talented singer and songwriter, so, in 1970, Henry Gross left Sha Na Na.

The Solo Years.

Having left Sha Ne Na in 1970, Henry Gross signed to ABC-Dunhill Records in 1971, and soon, was working on his eponymous debut album. When he wasn’t working on his debut album, Henry Gross did some session work. One of the albums he played on was Jim Groce’s I Got A Name. It was released in 1973, and reached number two in the US Billboard 200. By then, Henry Gross had left ABC-Dunhill Records.

Henry Gross.

Having written and recorded his eponymous debut album, Henry Gross released by ABC-Dunhill Records in 1972. Henry Gross was reasonably well received by critics with tracks like My Sunshine and Loving You-Loving Me showing what Henry Gross was capable of. However, some critics felt that Henry Gross was a couple of tracks short of being a fine album. Prayer To All and You’ll Be Mine disappointed critics.While these tracks may not have been the strongest on the album, Henry Gross certainly showed how much potential  the young singer-songwriter had.

When Henry Gross was released in 1972, record buyers failed to spot that potential and  Henry Gross failed to chart. As a result, Henry was dropped by ABC-Dunhill Records. He wasn’t without a record contract long and signed to A&M in 1973.

Henry Gross.

ABC-Dunhill Records seemed to have been hasty releasing  Henry Gross, and he was snapped up by A&M. Henry Gross hadn’t been allowed to develop and mature as an artist by ABC-Dunhill, which   takes time. Sometimes, an artist doesn’t hit his stride until his second or in some cases, third album.

Now signed to A&M, Henry Gross began work on his sophomore album, which when it was completed, somewhat confusingly, was also entitled Henry Gross. It found favour amongst record critics.

On the release of Henry Gross in 1973, it was apparent that Henry was maturing as a singer and songwriter. Accompanied by a tight, talented band, Henry Gross worked his way through ten tracks. One of the highlights was Meet Me On The Corner, which gave Lindisfarne the biggest hit of their career.  Other highlights included Simone, The Ever Lovin’ Days and Lay Your Love Song Down, which all showcased Henry Gross as he evolved as a singer and songwriter. It was no surprise when Henry Gross was released, to widespread critical acclaim. Sadly, commercial success eluded Henry. 

Despite the undoubted quality of Henry Gross, the album failed to chart. For Henry Gross, this must have proved frustrating. After all, singer-songwriters were in vogue, and James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell and Carole King were enjoying critical acclaim and commercial success. Soon, so would Henry Gross.

Plug Me Into Something.

Although the commercial failure of Henry Gross’ sophomore album was disappointing,  it made him even more determined to succeed. Henry Gross went away and began work on his third solo album, Plug Me Into Something.

When Plug Me Into Something was released in 1975, it proved to be a coming of age for Henry Gross musically. Plug Me Into Something was hailed a career defining album for Henry Gross, and saw him continue to mature as a singer and songwriter. Proof of this were songs of the quality of One More Tomorrow, I’ll Love Her, All My Love and Tomorrow’s Memory Lane, which showed how far the twenty-four year old Henry Gross had come. 

When twenty-four year old Henry Gross he released Plug Me Into Something in 1975, he was still only twenty-four, and had grown and matured as a singer, songwriter and storyteller since leaving ABC three years earlier. His critically acclaimed third album  Plug Me Into Something  reached number twenty-six in the US Billboard 200 chart, which made it the most successful album of his career.  

Over at ABC-Dunhill Records, someone had some explaining to do. They had cut Henry Gross loose too early in his career. Adding to their embarrassment was that he was about to enjoy the most fruitful period of his career, starting with Release, which featured the biggest hit single of Henry’s career, Shannon. 

Release.

By the time Henry began work on his fourth album Release, he was in-demand as a session guitarist. Henry Gross had also left A&M Records, and signed  to Terry Cashman and Tommy West’s Lifesong Records. 

Signing to Lifesong Records must have been a culture shock for Henry Gross, who had  previously been signed to large labels, ABC-Dunhill Records and A&M Records. At Lifesong Records, the roster was smaller and meant each artist was treated as individual.Artists were no longer  part of the corporate machine, and the label’s two co-owners Terry Cashman and Tommy West would produce Release, Henry’s Lifesong Records’ debut.

For Release, Henry Gross penned a total of ten tracks, which included a song he wrote about the death of Carl Wilson’s red setter dog, Shannon. To onlookers, this seemed a strange subject for a song. Little did anyone know the effect Shannon would have. However, before Shannon was released as a single, it had to be recorded.

Recording of Release took place at The Record Plant, New York, between September and November 1975. Henry Gross was joined by a band that featured some session players. Once they had played their part, a horn and string section adding the finishing touches to Release, which was released in 1976.

When critics heard Release, they were won over by Henry’s fourth album. Release received widespread critical acclaim. Henry Gross’  blend of pop, soft rock and A&M pop found favour  with critics. Dissenting voices were very much in the minority. Everything was looking good for the release of Release.

That proved to be the case when Shannon was released as a single, it  reached number six in the US Billboard 100, number one in Canada and number thirty-two in the UK. Eventually, Shannon was certified gold in America alone. The sophomore album Springtime Mama, then reached number thirty-seven in the US Billboard 100. Then when Release, which was Henry Gross’ most eclectic album was was released in 1976, it reached number sixty-four in the US Billboard 200.

The only disappointment was that Release hadn’t reached the same heights as Plug Me Into Something. However, Release  featured Shannon which had just been certified gold and was regarded as most eclectic and finest album. Everything  in Henry Gross’ career had been building up to Release, and critics thought that this was the start of a lengthy period when critical acclaim and commercial success would come Henry Gross’ way. 

Show Me To The Stage.

After the commercial success and critical acclaim of Release, Henry started work on his fifth album. He wrote the ten tracks that became Show Me To The Stage, which  was recorded at The Record Plant, New York.

Recording took place between October 1976 and January 1977, at The Record Plant. Some of the musicians who played on Release returned for Show Me To The Stage. Once again, Tommy West and Terry Cashman took charge of production, and once recording of Show Me To The Stage was completed, in was released in 1977.

Five years after releasing his eponymous debut album in 1972,  Henry Gross released Show Me To The Stage. Critics regarded Show Me To The Stage as an album of two sides. Side one was something of a slow burner, cumulating in an intriguing cover of The Beatles’ Help.  It showcases the not just the production skills of Cashman and West, but their harmonies. Then on side two of Show Me To The Stage Henry can do no wrong. Hooks are in plentiful supply as side two has an uplifting and joyous with a feel-good, summery vibe. Critics forecast great things for Show Me To The Stage.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Show Me To The Stage stalled at just number 176 in the US Billboard 200. For Henry, his career had stalled. Worse still, he was back to where he was after his sophomore album. For Henry Gross this was a huge disappointment. 

Show Me To The Stage was one that got away for Henry Gross, and is an album deserved to far much better than it did. It’s without doubt the most underrated album of Henry Gross’ career. However, for  Henry Gross the most worrying thing was that he was  back to where he was after his eponymous sophomore album. His next album was the most important of his career. 

Love Is The Stuff.

Fortunately, Henry Gross still owed Lifesong Records one album, and this offered him the chance to redeem himself.  If his next album was successful, there was every possibility his contract would be extended and he could continue to rebuild his career.    

Meanwhile, Tommy West and Terry Cashman had decided that Henry Gross’ next album would be a live album, This was much cheaper to record than a studio album like Show Me To The Stage. Maybe, the pair had realised that Henry Gross’ career was already on the slide, and that if they poured money into recording a studio album, it was money they were unlikely to recover. However, with Henry Gross was booked to play twice at New York’s Bottom Line for the King Biscuit Flower Hour this was the perfect opportunity to record a live album.

Tommy West and Terry Cashman arranged for both of Henry Gross’ performances to be recorded, and one of these would become Show Me To The Stage. Eventually, it was the second of Henry Gross’ two appearances  at  New York’s Bottom Line for the King Biscuit Flower Hour was chosen by Tommy West and Terry Cashman. chose the second, where Henry Gross plays a selection of his best known and best-loved songs. The late shows saw Henry Gross playing nine songs, including Rock ‘N’ Roll I Love You, Come Along, Juke Box Song, Southern Band and his biggest hit single Shannon. This live set of some of his finest songs, Henry Gross hoped would rejuvenate his career upon its release in 1978.

Before Lifesong Records released Love Is The Stuff, critics had their say on an album which found Henry Gross switching between pop, rock and rock ’n’ roll. While most of the critics were won over by the album, some critics weren’t convinced by Love Is The Stuff.

When Love Is The Stuff was released in 1978, the album failed to even trouble the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200. This was a huge disappointment for Henry Gross, considering it was his swan-song for Lifesong Records.

Not long after Love Is The Stuff was released, Henry Gross was signed by CBS Records, who had given a distribution deal to Cashman and West’s label. Now signed to a major, who had the budget to promote his albums, this should’ve been the start of the rise and rise of Henry Gross. Sadly, Henry Gross’ only release for CBS was What’s In A Name, which was released by Capitol Records in 1981 and failed to chart. This was the end of Henry Gross’ time at CBS.

When Henry Gross returned six years later, with his new album I Keep On Rockin’ in 1987, he was signed to the Scandinavian label Sonet Records. Just like his previous album, commercial success eluded I Keep On Rockin’. It was a similar case when Sonet Records released She’s My Baby in 1989. After that,  Henry Gross left Sonet Records and in the early nineties, formed his own label Zelda Records.

By then, the success of the album Plug Me Into Something and his the single Shannon must have seemed a long time ago, However, it was only 1975, that critics were forecasting a great future for Henry Gross, who had been heralded as having the potential to become one of the great singer-singers of the seventies. 

Especially after the release of Plug Me Into Something in 1975, which featured his biggest hit single Shannon. However, it was all downhill after Plug Me Into Something, with Henry Gross never reaching the same nights. When Henry Gross released his fifth Show Me To The Stage in 1977, it was his last album to chart.The rise and then demise of Henry Gross had been equally rapid.

That was a great shame, as Henry Gross had released the best music of his career during the seventies. Plug Me Into Something and  Release were Henry Gross’ finest albums, while Show Me To The Stage and Love Is The Stuff  are both hidden gems.. They’re a reminder of Henry Gross, whose star briefly shawn brightly during the mid-seventies, when it looked  looked this truly talented troubadour was going to become one of great singer-songwriters of his generation.

Henry Gross-His Seventies Solo Years.

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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SANDY DENNY.

The Life and Times Of Sandy Denny.

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

What We Did On Our Holidays.

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

Unhalfbricking.

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

Liege and Lief.

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

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

Fotheringay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fotheringay.

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

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

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

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

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

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Fotheringay 2.

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

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

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

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The Solo Years.

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

The North Star Grassman and The Ravens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sandy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Like An Old Fashioned Waltz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rendezvous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gold Dust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Life and Times Of Sandy Denny.

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THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF JOHN WETTON.

The Life and Music Of John Wetton.

On the ’31st’ of January 2017, John Wetton passed away in Bournemouth, Dorset aged just sixty-seven. Music had lost another of its most talented and successful sons.  John Wetton had enjoyed success with seven  bands and as a solo artist. Hicareer began with Mogul Thrash, before he joined  Family, King Crimson, Uriah Heep  and then progressive rock supergroup UK. Next stop for John Wetton, was Wishbone Ash, before he joined another progressive rock supergroup, Asia. Their first two albums sold in excess of nine million copies. By then, John Wetton was one of the most successful musicians of his generation. This success would continued right up until John Wetton’s death, in his adopted home town of Bournemouth.

Despite spending much of his time in  Bournemouth, John Wetton was born on the ’12th’ June 1949, in Willington, Derbyshire. However, during John’s childhood, the Wetton family moved  to Bournemouth. That was where John discovered music and later, would serve his musical apprenticeship.

It was also in Bournemouth that John Wetton  first met Richard Palmer-Jones. They were members of The Corvettes, The Palmer-James Group, Tetrad, and Ginger Man. After that, John Wetton joined  Mogul Thrash. That’s where he made his breakthrough.

Mogul Thrash-Mogul Thrash.

Mogul Thrash were a progressive rock band, who had evolved out of Brotherhood. They released their debut single Sleeping in the Kitchen in 1970. Then a year later, Mogul Thrash released their eponymous debut album in 1971. It was produced by Steampacket founder Brian Auger. On its release, Mogul Thrash was well received by critics. The future looked bright for Mogul Thrash. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

As Mogul Thrash was released, the group were locked in a legal battle with their management. It didn’t end well. Mogul Thrash had no option but to disband. So, 1971s Mogul Thrash proved to be group’s only album. For bassist John Wetton, and the rest of Mogul Thrash, this was a huge disappointment. Mogul Thrash looked like they were going places. Luckily, Family were looking for a bassist.

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John Wetton fitted the bill. Not only could he play bass, but he was a guitarist and vocalist. So, the multitalented  twenty-two year old joined Family. He played on their next two albums, starting with Fearless

Family-Fearless, 

Family’s fifth album, was released on 29th October 1971. This marked John Wetton’s Family debut. He played bass, guitars, and keyboards. Family were almost getting three musicians for the price of one. He would more than play his part in Fearless’ sound and success.

On its release,  Fearless  was well received by critics. The new lineup of Family seemed to have gelled quickly. Fearless was littered with highlights, including Spanish Tide, Save Some for Thee and Take Your Partners. So, it’s no surprise that Fearless sold well.

After its release, Fearless climbed the British and American charts. Eventually, it reached number fourteen in Britain and number 177 in the US Billboard 200. This was a first for Family. Never before had any of their albums charted in America. John Wetton it seemed, was Family’s good luck charm.

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Bandstand.

After the success of Fearless, Family returned to the studio, and recorded Bandstand at Olympic Studios, London. This was where they had recorded Fearless. Just like Fearless, Bandstand  was produced by George Chkiantz and Family. However, it marked a change in style for Family.

Bandstand was released in September 1972. It marked a stylistic departure for Family. Their music moved towards the mainstream. Partly, this was because Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney had accepted the standard method of songwriting. It made life a lot easier. However, this move towards the mainstream risked alienating Family’s fans.

Prior to Bandstand’s release, critics had their say. Critics liked Family’s more mainstream sound. The album was released to near critical acclaim. A few contrarian critics disagreed. However, the people that mattered were the record buying public.

As Bandstand hit the shops, the members of Family wondered how their new sound we he received? When the dust settled, Bandstand had reached number fifteen in Britain and number 183 in the US Billboard 200. This was almost the same as Fearless. It seemed their new sound had neither lost, nor gained, Family any new fans. However, before long, Family had lost their bassist.

By 1972, John Wetton had attracted the attention of King Crimson. They were prog rock royalty, and one of the biggest and most innovative bands of the prog rock era. So, when John was asked to join King Crimson, he couldn’t say no. He made his debut on Larks’ Tongues In Aspic.

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King Crimson-Larks’ Tongues In Aspic.

Larks’ Tongues In Aspic was King Crimson’s fifth album. The album marked an almost new lineup of King Crimson. This was the third lineup in the group’s history. Joining Robert Fripp were bassist John Wetton, ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford, percussionist Jamie Muir and David Cross, who played violin, viola, Mellotron, electric piano and flute. This new lineup saw the band head in a new direction. 

King Crimson incorporated different instruments, including percussion and African mbira. They moved away from their jazz sound, to a fusion of progressive rock and experimental music on what became Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. 

It was released in March 1973, to critical acclaim, reaching number twenty in the UK and number sixty-one in the US Billboard 200. With a new lineup and having released their strongest album in recent years, King Crimson looked as if they were about to become one of the biggest bands of the early seventies. 

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Starless and Bible Black.

Just about every prog rock band released a concept album. Starless and Bible Black, which is a quotation from the first two lines of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, was King Crimson’s concept album. The album is a commentary on the sleaziness and materialism that was blighting society. Richard Palmer-James, a former member of Supertramp, cowrote four of the songs on Starless and Bible, which saw King Crimson take a different approach to recording.

Unlike previous albums, there’s no drums on Starless and Bible. Despite the lack of drums, drummer Bill Bruford played percussion and cowrote three tracks. While he played on Starless and Bible, Jamie Muir didn’t. He’d left the band. Another change was that only the first two tracks on Starless and Bible, The Great Deceiver and Lament recorded in the studio. The rest of the tracks were recorded live, with the applause edited out. This was a very different approach from previous King Crimson albums.

Despite this, Starless and Bible Black was well received. Some critics hailed Starless and Bible Black as King Crimson’s best album since their debut. With its fusion of prog rock and experimental music, it was an ambitious and groundbreaking album. On its release in March 1974, it reached number twenty-eight in the UK and number sixty-six in the US Billboard 200. With King Crimson having released two consecutive critically acclaimed albums, it looked as if they were about to join the royalty that included Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. However, that wasn’t to be.

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Red.

Having just released to consecutive critically acclaimed albums,  Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and then Starless and Bible Black, critics and fans wondered what direction King Crimson seventh album Red would take? Being King Crimson, fans and critics had learnt to expect the unexpected. The first change was in the lineup. After their 1974 summer tour, David Cross left King Crimson. This meant the band was now a trio consisting of Robert Fripp, bassist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford. They cowrote much of Red.

Red featured just five tracks. Recording of Red began on 30th June 1974 at Olympic Studios, London and finished in August 1974. Four of the songs on Red were recorded live. The exception was One More Red Nightmare, which was recorded live. In the studio, Robert Fripp played guitar and mellotron. He was joined by bassist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford. They were augmented by a variety of musicians who often, played on just one track. These musicians played their part in not only what’s a landmark album, but an album that marked the end of an era.

On its release in October 1974, Red reached just number forty-five in the UK and number sixty-six in the US Billboard 200. Critics hailed Red as an innovative album. There are obvious similarities with Larks’ Tongues In Aspic and Starless and Bible Black in sound and quality. One change was the lack of the acoustic guitars that featured on previous albums. With its fusion of progressive rock and classic music, Red proved to be a hugely influential and innovative album. Sadly, it was the last King Crimson studio album to feature John Wetton.

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Uriah Heep-Return To Fantasy.

Having left King Crimson, John joined Uriah Heep. They had already realised seven albums since their 1970 debut …Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble. John was brought in to replace Gary Thain. He joined just in time to play on their eighth album Return To Fantasy. John it seemed had the Midas touch.

Return To Fantasy was recorded at Lansdowne Studios and Morgan Studios, London. Just like previous albums, Gerry Bron took charge of production. Initially, Mick Box thought found that the chemistry he had with Gary Thain was missing. However, soon, John was making his presence felt, playing bass, mellotron and adding backing vocals. He played an important part in Return To Fantasy’s success.

When critics heard Return To Fantasy, they hailed it a vast improvement on 1974s Wonderworld. Return To Fantasy was the album critics knew Uriah Heep were capable of recording. Critical acclaim accompanied Return To Fantasy’s release.

It wasn’t just critics who loved Return To Fantasy. So did the recording buying public. On its release on 30th June 1975,  Return To Fantasy reached number seven in Britain and was certified silver.  Return To Fantasy reached number thirty-eight in the US Billboard 200 charts, selling 450,000 copies. The new lineup of  Uriah Heep had just released their biggest selling album,  Return To Fantasy. The problem was following it up.

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High and Mighty.

Nearly a year later, Uriah Heep released High and Mighty on 8th June 1976. It was the last Uriah Heep album to feature vocalist David Byron. He had been battling with alcohol. Sadly, his drinking was beginning to affect the band. So, he was sacked after the release of High and Mighty.

What didn’t help, was that High and Mighty wasn’t well received by critics. Some critics slated the album. They weren’t impressed by the move towards the mainstream. Nor did the lack of lengthy tracks please critics. The longest song on High and Mighty was just under six minutes. This was quite unlike Uriah Heep. So was the chart placing.

High and Mighty stalled at number fifty-five in Britain. This was their lowest chart placing since their sophomore album, Salisbury. Across the Atlantic, American record buyers turned their back on Uriah Heep, with High and Mighty reaching number 161 in the US Billboard 200. For Uriah Heep, something had to give. 

David Byron was sacked by Uriah Heep. John Wetton decided that this also was the time to part company with Uriah Heep. He had plenty of session work and collaboration to keep him busy.

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For the next couple of years, John was kept busy. John played on Roxy Music’s 1976 album Viva! He also accompanied Bryan Ferry on 1976s Let’s Stick Together, 1977s In Your Mind and 1978s The Bride Stripped Bare.  This wasn’t John’s only collaboration with members of Roxy Music. 

Previously, John had played on Andy McKay’s 1977 album, Score. Then in 1978, Phil Manzanera  asked John to play on his 1978 album K-Scope. The pair had worked together on Phil’s 1975 debut Diamond Head. So, this was no surprise. Neither was John joining a new band UK.

UK-UK.

UK were another prog rock supergroup. Their lineup included John, Yes drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Eddie Jobson and guitarist Allan Holdsworth. This was the lineup that recorded two critically acclaimed albums. The first was UK.

Recording of UK took place between December 1977 and January 1978.  It was released in March 1978. Although critics gave UK glowing reviews, referring to the music as innovative and progressive, UK passed record buyers by. The four members of UK were going to give up.

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Danger Money.

Nearly a year to the day, UK returned with their sophomore album, Danger Money. It featured a new lineup of UK. Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth had left the group. Replacing them was Terry Bozzio. So, with UK reduced to a trio, they returned to the studio.

The new lineup were set record six songs at Air Studios, London. These songs were penned by John and Eddie. They were recorded between November 1978 and January 1979. Once Danger Money was recorded, it was ready for release in March 1979.

History repeated itself, when Danger Money was well received by critics, but failed to chart.  At least Nothing to Lose reached number sixty-seven in the British charts. Despite this modicum of success, it was a frustrating time for groups like UK. They certainly weren’t lacking in talent. Far from it. UK were a hugely talented group. Part of the problem was the changing musical landscape. 

The nihilist sound of punk and post punk was polluting the airwaves. Many critics were little more than cheerleaders for the talentless punks. It truly was the great rock ’n’ roll swindle. Its victims were talented prog rock groups who punks referred to as dinosaurs. However, little did they realise that in three years time, John Wetton would have the last laugh. Before that, UK released their swan-song.

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Night After Night. 

Danger Money was John Wetton’s final studio album with UK. He featured on their live album Night After Night. It was recorded during UK’s tour of Japan, in early June 1979. The album was recorded at Nakano Sun Plaza and Seiken Kan, in Tokyo. It was released in September 1979.

This was perfect timing. UK were about to head out on tour, supporting Jethro Tull on their American tour. So, the release of Night After Night was timed to coincide with the American tour. Sadly, Night After Night wasn’t a commercial success. This resulted in John leaving UK.

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John Wetton-The Solo Years

Caught In The Crossfire.

Following his departure from UK, John decided that now was the time to embark upon a solo career. So he began work on what became Caught In The Crossfire. 

Given John Wetton is a talented multi-instrumentalist, he was able to record much of Caught In The Crossfire himself. He played bass, guitars, keyboards and added vocals. To play the drum and percussion parts, John drafted in Simon Kirke of Bad Company. Another guest artist, was saxophonist Malcolm Duncan. They played their part on Caught In The Crossfire, John Wetton’s long-awaited debut album.

On its release in 1980, Caught In The Crossfire was well received by critics. Although quite different from his work with Family, King Crimson and Uriah Heep, it showed John’s versatility and ability to create ambitious and innovative music. Although the album sold well, it wasn’t a huge success. Despite that, ecord buyers awaited John’s sophomore album. It would be a long time coming.

There was a reason for this. John was a busy man. He worked with Roger Chapman on  their 1980 album Mail Order Magic and 1981s Hyenas Only Laugh for Fun. The former Family frontman had reinvented himself as a solo artist. However, later in 1981 John joined Wishbone Ash, where he replaced Martin Turner.

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Wishbone Ash-No Smoke Without Fire.

With Martin Turner leaving Wishbone Ash, the English rock group found themselves with a problem. They had an album to record, but had no bassist. This was where John Wetton came in. He joined in time to record No Smoke Without Fire. 

No Smoke Without Fire was a stylistic departure for Wishbone Ash. Previously, their music had taken on an American influence. Some fans didn’t take to this. What they wanted was Wishbone Ash to return to the prog rock of their past. Other fans wanted Wishbone Ash to return to their hard rocking best. With Derek Lawrence returning as producer, for the first time since 1972s Argus, they did both.

When No Smoke Without Fire was released later in 1978, the album has hailed Wishbone Ash’s heaviest album to date. Critics welcomed the inclusion of prog rock epic The Way Of The World. Wishbone Ash many thought were back.

Sadly, The Way Of The World stalled at number forty-three in Britain, and failed to chart in America. For John Wetton and the rest of Wishbone Ash, this was a huge disappointment. Especially considering The Way Of The World was John’s only album with Wishbone Ash. He left the group to join Asia.

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Asia-Asia.

Asia were another British prog rock supergroup. Its lineup featured John, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes. They were both members of Yes. The final piece of the jigsaw was Carl Palmer, or E.L.P.  With Asia’s lineup complete, they began working on their eponymous debut album.

Recording of Asia took place at the Townhouse Studios, London. For the five months between June and November 1981, the four members of Asia recorded nine tracks. Eventually, the album was finished and ready for release on 18th March 1982.

After their five months of hard work, reviews of Asia were mixed. This some critics felt, didn’t bode well for the release of Asia. They were wrong.

On its release, Asia’s 1982 eponymous debut album sold eight million copies worldwide, and reached number one in the US Billboard 200 charts. This lead to Asia being certified platinum four times over. John Wetton it seemed had the Midas touch.

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Alpha.

Following the commercial success of Asia, the four members of the band started work on their sophomore album Alpha. John and Geoff penned nine of the ten tracks. The other track, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, was a John Wetton composition. These tracks were recorded between February and May 1983.

It was never going to be easy following up Asia. The album had sold eight million copies. Unsurprisingly, Alpha wasn’t as popular. Again, reviews of Alpha were mixed. Critics pointed towards the change in sound. Asia, just like Family had done a decade earlier, had moved towards the mainstream. Part of Asia’s appeal, was their progressive sound. While it was less prominent, Alpha was still a commercial success.

On its release on 26th July 1983, Alpha reached number six in the US Billboard 200 and number five in Britain. This resulted in Alpha selling two million copies worldwide. Alpha was certified platinum in America and gold in Britain. Sadly, after Alpha, Asia never reached the same heights

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Astra.

There was a gap of two years between Alpha, and Asia’s third album Astra. It marked the end of an era. Astra was the last album to feature founding member John Wetton. He didn’t return until 2008s Phoenix. No wonder. All wasn’t well within Asia.

Astra had been two years in the making. Recording started in 1983. However, John left in September 1983, and was replaced temporarily by Greg Lake. He featured during some of Asia’s live shows. When John returned, Steve Howe departed. This was blamed on the tension between Steve and John. Replacing Steve, was Mandy Meyer, who brought a harder edge to Asia’s sound. 

Asia’s new lineup spent much of 1984 and 1985 recording Astra. The band moved between studios. Eventually, Astra was finished, and ready for release in November 1985.

When critics heard Astra, reviews were mixed. While some critics weren’t impressed, other called Astra a solid album. The jury were well and truly out. As usual, the record buying public had the deciding vote.

On its release, Astra stalled at number sixty-seven in the US Billboard 200 and number sixty-eight in Britain. This was a far cry from Asia and Alpha. 

Following Astra, John Wetton left Asia. While they enjoyed a degree of commercial success, Asia never reached the same heights. The lineup of Asia with John, Steve Howe, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer proved to be the classic lineup of Asia. We wouldn’t see their likes again until 2008s Phoenix. By then, John Wetton was enjoying a successful solo career. Before that, John and members of rock royalty collaborated on an album.

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John Wetton and Phil Manzanera decided to collaborate on an album where rock met pop. The resultant album, Wetton Manzanera was released on 1987. It was well received by critics. However, there was still no sign of John releasing his sophomore album. Eventually, it would be released in 1994.

The Solo Years-Part Two.

Battle Lines.

Fourteen years after John Wetton released his debut solo album Caught In The Crossfire, he returned with his sophomore album Battle Lines in 1994. It marked the return of a musical innovator.

Throughout his career, John was also an early adopter of technology. That was the case on Battle Lines. He made good use of the new technology that had become available. Keyboard parts were programmed and samples were used to create orchestral arrangements. With its mixture of technology and traditional instruments, Battle Lines was a captivating album.

Critics agreed. Battle Lines veered between beautiful and elegiac, to dramatic and innovative. Genres melted into one, as with elements of folk, folk rock, progressive  rock and rock  shine through. John and his small, talented band made a welcome return on Battle Lines.

Battle Lines, John Wetton’s long awaited sophomore album found him evolving musically and as a musician. This ensured his music continued to stay relevant in an ever-changing musical landscape. John’s fans welcomed the release of Battle Lines, but the album failed to find a wider audience. Despite this, John returned with a live album in 1995.

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Chasing The Dragon.

This was Chasing The Dragon, Johhn Wetton’s first live album. It was recorded during John’s 1994 Japanese tour. During the tour, John played songs from Caught In The Crossfire and Battle Lines. When the tour arrived in Osaka and Tokyo, John ensured that the tapes were running. These shows were recorded, and later, became Chasing The Dragon.

It features fifteen tracks from the  Osaka and Tokyo shows. This included Heat Of The Moment, Caught In The Crossfire, In The Dead Of Night, Only Time Will Tell, Hold Me Now and Battle Lines. John revisited the King Crimson back-catalogue on Starless and Book Of Saturday. This also made Chasing The Dragon an attractive proposition for King Crimson fans upon its release in 1995.

Upon its release, Chasing The Dragon proved popular. Alas, not enough for the album to chart. It was a similar story to John’s previous albums. Despite this, John continued to record and release live albums. This includes Live In Argentina 1996, which would become the first official bootleg that John Wetton released.

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Arkangel.

Two years after the release of Chasing The Dragon, John Wetton returned with a new solo album, Arkangel. It featured twelve tracks that had been recorded between 1995 and 1996 in five studios on two continents.

Part of Arkangel was recorded in Can-Am and Convent studios in Los Angeles, while other recording sessions took place at the Xero Studio, and Intimate studios. Some of  the Arkangel sessions took place at the Garage Studios, in East Grinstead, Sussex.  Gradually, the album started to take shape. That was no surprise, given the personnel that worked on the album.  Joining John were Robert Fripp, Steve Hackett, Richard Palmer-James and Billy Liesegang who co-produced some of Arkangel. It was released in 1997,

When Arkangel was released it was well received by critics. They were won over by a carefully crafted album of pop rock and progressive rock that oozed quality. Especially on tracks like the ethereal instrumental The Circle Of St Giles, Last Thing On My Mind, the rocky I Can’t Lie Anymore and the ballad Arkangel.  These songs were part of what was, without doubt,  one of John’s best solo albums. It set the bar high for future albums. 

Sinister.

As the new millennia dawned, John Wetton released his fourth solo album Sinister,  in August 2010.  Just like Arkangel, Sinister featured an all-star lineup. Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, John Mitchell and Gary Chandler. They play their part in what many regard as another of John Wetton’s finest solo albums. 

The musicians that feature on Sinister are among some of the most talented of their generation. This includes progressive rock royalty.  Gone are the samples and synths, as John returns to his rock roots. With its mixture of rock anthems and ballads, there was something for everyone on Sinister, where John Wetton and his all-star band roll back the years.

When Sinister was released, it was to praise and plaudits. Critics hailed the album as one of John Wetton’s finest solo albums.  For John this was the perfect way to start begin the fifth decade of his musical career.

Following Sinister, John released two collaborations with Ken Hensley during 2002, More Than Conquerors and One Way Or Another. The next year, John made a welcome return with his next solo album Rock Of Faith.

Rock Of Faith.

Rock Of Faith was released by John Wetton in 2003. It was his first solo album since  Sinister in January 200. However, Rock Of Faith was well worth the three year wait.

When critics heard Rock Of Faith, they described the album as a fusion of classic, rock, progressive rock and symphonic rock. For John, it was akin to a return to the seventies. What’s more it was a return to form for John Wetton. Seamlessly, John flits between ballads and rocky tracks on Rock Of Faith. In doing so, he combines musical genres, producing an album that’s beautiful, dramatic, soulful and wistful. John Wetton was maturing like a good wine, and would continue to do so.

After the release of Rock Of Faith, John released the first of two official bootleg albums during 2003. With John Wetton, it was a case of feast or famine

Live In Argentina 1996.

Live In Argentina 1996 was recorded on 19th of October 1996, at Broadway Theatre, Buenos Aries, during John’s South American tour. That night, John Wetton was accompanied by a small band. John plays bass, acoustic guitar and takes charge of lead vocals. He’s joined by drummer Thomas Lang, guitarist Billy Liesegang and keyboardist and vocalist Martin Orford. This small, but tight and talented band, John worked his way through seventeen tracks. They were recorded  and eventually, were released as Live In Argentina 1996.

Seven years passed before the release of Live In Argentina. When it was belatedly released in June 2003, Live In Argentina was a welcome reminder of John Wetton and his tight, talented band during their 1996 South American tour. It had been a memorable tour, and  Live In Argentina was a reminder of this. However, later in 2003, John Wetton released the second of his official bootleg albums, Live In Osaka 1997.

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Live In Osaka 1997.

In 1997,  John Wetton embarked upon his latest Japanese tour. He was, by then,  a popular artist in Japan, and was a regular visitor to the country. For his 1997 tour, there had been a change to the lineup of John’s band.  

Keyboardist and vocalist John Young had replaced Martin Orford. So when the tour began, keyboardist John Young  joined  drummer Thomas Lang,  guitarist Billy Liesegan while John played bass, acoustic guitar and added lead vocals. This was the lineup of John Wetton’s band that arrived in Osaka.

John Wetton had been booked to play  at the Club Quattro, in Osaka, on the 2nd of October 1997. That night, the tapes were running as John and his band worked their way through eighteen songs from his back-catalogue. They would eventually become Live In Osaka 1997.

Six years passed before Live In Osaka was released in 2003. Just like Live In Argentina 1996, Live In Osaka 1997 was a popular release among  John Wetton’s fans. Soon, copies of the two official bootleg albums sold  out and were highly prized among collectors. So would the third official bootleg album that John Wetton released, Live At The Sun Plaza Tokyo 1999.

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Live At The Sun Plaza Tokyo 1999.

Two years after his previous  tour, John Wetton made  a return visit to Japan in the summer of 1999.  By then, John’s popularity in Japan continued to grow. For his tour, John brought with him, the latest lineup of his band.

For John Wetton’s 1999 Japanese tour, his band featured a new drummer Steve Christey. He was joined by guitarist Billy Liesegan and keyboardist Martin Orford who had returned to the fold. They accompanied John who took charge of lead vocals and switched between acoustic guitar and bass. This was the lineup  that would take to the stage at the  Sun Plaza, in  Tokyo on  5th August 1999. .

As John Wetton and his band took to the stage, the tapes were running. That night, the stars were aligned as John and his band worked their way nineteen tracks. Their performance was almost flawless as they showcased their talented and versatility. Later,  John revealed that it was one of the favourite concerts of his solo career. It was fitting that it would be released as  Live At The Sun Plaza Tokyo 1999 

Live At The Sun Plaza was released a year later, in 2000. John Wetton’s fans welcomed the release of this latest live album. Before long, it was out of print. It would  a similar story when Live In Argentina and Live In Osaka 1997 were released in 2003.

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Raised In Captivity.

Eight years after his previous studio album Rock Of Faith,  John Wetton, returned  2011 with Raised In Captivity.  John Wetton was joined by some of his musical friends. This all-star cast would play their part in what would be John Wetton’s last studio album.

Joining John Wetton at CircaHQ Studios,in  Woodland Hills, California  in January 2011 was an all-star cast.  They had been members of some of the biggest bands in the world. This included former: Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett;  Asia keyboardist Geoff Downer; Deep Purple guitarist Steve Morse; Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye; Roxy Music violinist Eddie Jobson. Seamlessly, John Wetton and his and switch between musical genres throughout Raised In Captivity. There’s never a dull momen, as John draws inspiration from his musical past. Elements of progressive rock, classic rock and folk can be heard, as John and his musical friends play their part in a truly captivating album, Raised In Captivity.

When Raised In Captivity was released in 2011, it was well received by critics and hailed  as a welcome addition to John Wetton’s discography. Given the quality of music on Raised In Captivity, critics and music fans awaited the released of John Wetton’s next solo album.

Over the next couple of years, John Wetton continued to play live and collaborate with other artists. Despite being a professional musician for the best part of fifty years, John  seemed to have an insatiable appetite for music. He made guest appearances on several albums.

This included Ayreon’s The Theory Of Everything and Renaissance’s Grandine il Vento, which were both released during 2013. The same year, John toured with UK and took to the stage with District 97 at Reggie’s Music Joint, Chicago, on 17th October 2013,  Both the UK and District 97 shows were recorded and would later, be released as a live album.

Before that, Asia released their fourteenth studio album Gravitas, which was written and produced by John Wetton and  Geoff Downes. Gravitas was well received upon its released in  March 2014. So was District 97’s album One More Red Night: Live In Chicago, when it was released during October 2014. John who had just turned sixty-five,  seemed busier than ever.

As 2015 dawned, John Wetton would soon celebrate fifty years as a professional musician. There was no sign of him slowing down though. He was about to release four albums during the next twelve months. 2015 was going to be one of the busiest of recent years. The year started with the release of John Wetton And The Les Paul Trio’s album New York Minute in early March. Later in March, John released  The Studio Recordings Anthology. Three months later, Asia released Axis XXX Live San Francisco in June 2015. John’s final album of 2016 was  Live Via Satellite, which was released in October 2015.  It had been one of the busiest years of John Wetton’s career.

In January 2016, UK released their live album Curtain Call, which had recorded in 2013.  Just a  year after the release of Curtain Call,  came the news that John Wetton had passed away.

John Wetton had been suffering from colon cancer for some time. Sadly, John Wetton  passed away  on the ’31st’ of January 2017, in Bournemouth, in Dorset, aged just sixty-seven. Once again, music was in mourning. Music had lost another of its most talented sons. However, John Wetton left behind a rich musical legacy.

This included the music John Wetton recorded with  Mogul Thrash,  Family, King Crimson, Uriah Heep,  UK, Wishbone Ash and Asia. That is only part of the John Wetton story. He also enjoyed a successful solo career and collaborated with some of the biggest names in music.  Much of the music that John Wetton created during his fifty-two year career, was ambitious, innovative, progressive and timeless.  This includes the classic albums the he recorded with Family, King Crimson, Uriah Heep and Asia. They’re part of the rich musical legacy that John Wetton created, during a life making music.

The Life and Music Of John Wetton.

 

 

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE YOUNGBLOODS.

The Rise and Fall Of The Youngbloods

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

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

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

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

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

The Youngbloods.

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

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

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

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

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

Earth Music.

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

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

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

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

Elephant Mountain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rock Festival.

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

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

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

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

Ride The Wind.

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

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

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

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

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

Good and Dusty.

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

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

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

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

High On A Ridge Top.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rise and Fall Of The Youngbloods

MOTORHEAD-THE CLASSIC YEARS: 1977 TO 1983.

Motörhead-The Classic Years 1977-1983.

In My 1975,  Hawkwind’s tour bus arrived in Windsor, Ontario, at the Canadian-American border, but before the band could cross over into America, for the next part of their tour, the band were  subjected to a routine drugs search. For Hawkwind bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, this spelt disaster and resulted in his arrest on drug possession charges. For Lemmy it was the end of the road for him, and he was sacked by Hawkwind. This was the always thought, the excuse the other members of Hawkwind had been waiting for, to sack Lemmy  from the band.

On his return home to England, Lemmy started putting together a new band, which he initially called Bastard. This was what he planned to call the new band which featured guitarist Larry Wallis, who previously was a member of The Pink Fairies. Steve Took’s Shagrat and UFO.  He was joined by drummer Lucas Fox who joined Lemmy on bass in Bastard’s rhythm section. However, the group’s then manager Doug Smith explained that there was no way a group called Bastard would feature on prime time TV, and suggested the name Motörhead.

Not long after this, Motörhead signed to United Artists, which was also home to Lemmy’s former group Hawkwind. With the ink dry on the recording contract, Motörhead headed to Rockfield Studios in Wales to record their debut album.

During late 1975 and early 1976, Motörhead recorded what was meant to be their debut album. However, when United Artists heard the album, they refused to release it. This was a huge blow to Motörhead.

Just over a year later, and Motörhead’s lineup had changed beyond recognition by the ‘1st’ of April 1977. Drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor had replaced Lucas Fox who didn’t seem committed to the band. Guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke had also joined Motörhead as the second guitarist and would join up with Larry Wallis. However, not long after this, Larry Wallis left Motörhead. This was another blow to the band. 

So much so, that Motörhead decided to call time on their short but eventful career. However, they were determined to bow out in style with a farewell gig at London’s Marquee Club later in 1977.

Meanwhile, Ted Carroll was running Chiswick Records, the label  he formed not long after Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind. Ted Carroll also owned a record shop, where Lemmy was a regular visitor, buying rare singles. When Ted Carroll heard that United Artists weren’t willing to release Motörhead’s debut album, he decided to ride to the rescue.

Motörhead.

After negotiating Motörhead’s release from their contract with United Artists, Ted Carroll signed the bad to his label Chiswick Records. At first, Motörhead wanted to record their farewell gig at the Marquee Club. However, the owners of the Marquee Club wanted £500 to allow the recording to take place. That was out of the question, so Ted Carroll offered Motörhead the chance to record a single over two days at Escape Studios in Kent, England, with producer John “Speedy” Keen. That was the plan.

Between the ‘27th’ and ‘29th’ April 1977, Motörhead aided by some illicit substances recorded eleven tracks. When Ted Carroll heard the tracks, he paid for further studio time to complete Motörhead which features the classic lineup of drummer, Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke. They would write their name into musical history.

When Motörhead was released on the ’21st’ of August 1977, it reached forty-three in Britain and was later certified silver. Somewhat belatedly Motörhead’s recording career was underway.

Iron Fist and The Hordes From Hell At The Roundhouse-What’s Worth Words.

Nearly seven months after the release of Motörhead, Lemmy and Co. arrived at The Roundhouse on the ’18th’ February 1978. Parked outside was the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio. It had been hired by Chiswick Records’ owner Ted Carroll to record The Count Bishops next album. Motörhead’s then manager Tony Secunda asked if the band could use the mobile recording studio to record their set. An agreement was reached and two albums were recorded that night at The Roundhouse, which was Wilko Johnson’s fundraiser to preserve William Wordsworth’s manuscripts. However, strictly speaking Motörhead shouldn’t even be at The Roundhouse.

Contractual problems meant that Motörhead wasn’t allow to play at Wilko Johnson’s fundraiser. They had hatched a cunning plan, and decided to dawn the moniker Iron Fist and The Hordes From Hell. The audience was in for a surprise as they took to the stage later that evening.

As Iron Fist and The Hordes From Hell prepared to take to the stage, producer Duncan Cowell took his place in the Rolling Stones mobile recording studio, and prepared to record what would prove be a landmark concert. 

As Motörhead took to the stage, they launched into one of Lemmy’s compositions The Watcher. It gave way to Iron Horse and Born To Lose before Motörhead revisited Larry Wallis’ On Parole, which had been a staple of the band’s early shows. By then, Motörhead’s mixture of high adrenaline heavy metal, hard rock, blues rock and rock ’n’ roll was proving a popular combination. There was no stopping Motörhead as they launched into White Line Fever, which took marked the halfway point.

They followed White Line Fever with Keep Us On The Road which was penned by Motörhead and Mick Farren. It gave way the first of four cover versions, including a cover of Holland, Dozier and Holland’s Leaving Here which was given hard rocking makeover. Motörhead then covered John Mayall’s I’m Your Witchdoctor which was a staple of their live sets. So was  Train Kept A-Rollin’ had featured on Motörhead. Bringing this barnstorming performance to a close, was a cover of The Pink Fairies’ City Kids. Mick Farren then joined the band for a cover of Lost Johnny, which never made it onto the subsequent album when it was released  by Ted Carroll’s record label Big Beat on the ‘5th’ March1983.  By then, Motörhead, were enjoying a glittering career and everything the band touched turned to silver or gold. 

Overkill,

Following the success of Motörhead, which is now regarded as a genre classic, Motörhead returned on the ‘24th’ of March 1979 with their sophomore album Overkill. It was released on the Bronze label, and reached twenty-four in Britain. Soon, Overkill which is regarded in heavy metal circles as a minor class, became Motörhead’s second album to be certified silver. Soon, two became three.

Bomber.

Seven months later, Motörhead returned on the ’27th’ October 1979 with their third album Bomber. It was a difficult album to record, with producer struggling with heroin addiction. However, the album was completed and found favour with Motörhead’s legion of fans. This included both heavy metal fans and punks who were won over by Motörhead’s hard rocking sound. They were also won over by Bomber, which reached number twelve in Britain and was again, certified silver.

Ace Of Spades.

Having released two albums within the space of seven months, it was thirteen months before Motörhead returned with their fourth album Ace Of Spades. It was produced by Vic “Chairman” Maile, and featured a fusion of heavy metal, hard rock and speed metal. This found favour with critics, who called Ace Of Spades’ one of Motörhead’s finest albums. 

Prior to the release of Ace Of Spades, the title-track was released as a single, on October the ’27th’ 1980 and reached number fifteen in Britain. When the album Ace Of Space was released on the ‘8th’ of November 1980, it reached number four in Britain and was certified gold by March 1981. This was the most successful album of Motörhead’s career, and one that later, would be called a classic.

No Sleep ’til Hammersmith,

The same can be said of Motörhead’s first live album No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, which was released on the ‘27th’ of June 1981. It reached number one in Britain, and charted in everywhere from Germany to Norway and Sweden to New Zealand. No Sleep ’til Hammersmith was also the first Motörhead album to be released in America. Alas. the album failed to trouble the US Billboard 200.

Iron Fist.

Buoyed by the success of No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, Motörhead returned ten months later, with their first studio album in nearly two years, Iron Fist. It was the much-anticipated follow-up to Ace Of Spades which was produced by Vic Maile. He started producing Iron Fist, but didn’t return to project after Motörhead played some gigs in November and December 1981 with Tank. Replacing Vic Maile were Will Reid Dick, Eddie Clarke. They played their part in the success of Iron Fist, which was released on the ’17th’ of April 1982, and reached number six on the British album charts, and was certified gold. Across the Atlantic, Iron First reached 174 in the US Billboard 200. Motörhead were making some inroads into the lucrative American market.

What’s Worth Words.

After the release of Iron Fist, Motörhead began work on their next studio album Another Perfect Day. Before it was released, Motörhead would release their second live album, What’s Worth Words. By 1983, Motörhead were no longer managed by Tony Secunda. After some issues, he and Motörhead parted company and Doug Smith once again, became the band’s manager. He helped negotiate the release of What’s Worth Words on Ted Carroll’s Big Beat Records.

What’s Worth Words featured Motörhead’s barnstorming, speed fuelled performance at The Roundhouse on the ’18th’ February 1978. Unlike most live albums, there was no overdubbing, and What’s Worth Words, which was  a warts and all performance from Motörhead. 

It’s a snapshot in time, and features the material Motörhead played during the late-seventies and early eighties. After that, these songs hardly ever featured in Motörhead’’s sets. They were in the band’s past, a reminder of which is What’s Worth Words. It features the classic lineup of Motörhead at the peak of their powers.

Many critics agreed, and called What’s Worth Words one of the best live albums ever. It was a warts and all performance from Motörhead that was released on the ‘5th’ of March 1983, and reached seventy-one on the British album charts. This was disappointing considering that it’s one of Motörhead’s best live albums, and regarded as one of best live albums ever released.

Another Perfect Day

After the release of What’s Worth Words, Motörhead released Another Perfect Day three months later, on June the ‘4th’ 1983. It reached just twenty in the British album charts, and was the Motörhead’s first studio album not to be certified silver or gold. 

Sadly, none of the albums Motörhead released between Bastard in November 1983 and their twenty-second studio album Bad Magic in August 2015 were certified silver or gold. However, Motörhead enjoyed a glittering career between Motörhead in 1977 and Iron Fist in 1982, when they could do no wrong. It was the most successful period of their recording career.

That recording career lasted five decades and saw  Motörhead twenty-two studio albums  and thirteen live albums. Motörhead’s final live album was Clean Your Clock which was recorded on the ‘20th’ and ‘21st’ November 20 at Zenith, Munich as part of Motörhead’s European 40th Anniversary tour. These two concerts were last professional recordings of Motörhead. Sadly, just over a month later, then, Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister had passed away on the ‘28th’ of December 2015, just four days after his seventieth birthday.  

Highlights of the two concerts in Munich were released as Clean Your Clock was released in June 2016, and was band’s first posthumous. For Motörhead who had been one of the great rock bands of the past forty years it was the end of a line. With Lemmy there was no Motörhead, the group he had founded forty years earlier, after his sacking from Hawkwind. However, Lemmy had the last laugh, and enjoyed much more success than Hawkwind between 1975 and 2015,  when Motörhead were one of the hardest living and hardest rocking bands on planet rock. They released several classic albums, especially between 1978 and 1983 which was the most successful period of Motörhead’s hard rocking career. 

Motörhead-The Classic Years 1977-1983.

THE SEEDS: PUSHIN’ TOO HARD OST.

The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard OST,

Label: Ace Records.

When The Seeds were formed in Los Angeles in early 1965 by Sky Saxon, Daryl Hooper, Jan Savage, Jeremy Levine and Rick Andridge nobody had any idea just how influential the nascent garage band would be. Over the next four years, The Seeds released five albums, enjoyed four hit singles and pioneered mid-sixties garage rock and acid rock. The Seeds are nowadays regarded as one of the original freakbeat bands, who also coined the term “flower power” and paved the way for punk rock a decade later. However, by 1969 The Seeds were no more, with the latest lineup of the band deciding to call time on their career. It was the end of an era for an influential and innovative band who left behind a rich musical legacy which is celebrated on the critically acclaimed rockumentary The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard, which is also the title of a new compilation released by Big Beat, an imprint of Ace Records. 

Rather than just collect the singles and album tracks for Pushin’ Too Hard OST, the compilers have combined psychedelic classics with  hidden gems, alternate cuts and live tracks from The Seeds. Their classic Pushin’ Too Hard opens the compilation and is joined by Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, Evil Hoodoo, Mr Farmer, Up In Her Dream and A Faded Picture. There’s alternate takes of No Escape, Try to Understand, Satisfy You, Night Time Girl, The Gardener, Fallin’ Off the Edge of My Mind and The Wind Blows Your Hair.Then there’s live versions of Tripmaker  and Muddy Waters contributes Baby Please Don’t Go.The guest appearances continue as Neil Norman covers The Perfect Wave and Kim Fowley The Ballad of Sky Saxon. These tracks all feature on  Pushin’ Too Hard OST, which is a tantalising taste of The Seeds’ all too short career.

The Seeds began their musical adventure in Los Angeles, in 1965 , when five young musicians decided to found a new band. One member of the new band was charismatic vocalist Sly Saxon who was by far the most experienced member of the band. 

He had been a professional musician since the late-fifties and had been releasing singles as Richie Marsh since the early sixties. Sly Saxon who came from Salt Lake City, had moved to Los Angeles to further his musical career. However, he had been treading water until he saw an advert in 1965 looking for musicians to join a new band. This Sly Saxon hoped might be the breakthrough he had been looking for. That proved to be the case, and after an audition Sly Saxon became The Seeds vocalist. 

With the lineup of The Seeds finalised, the new band spent time honing their sound. Soon, though, they made their first tentative steps onto LA’s live scene where they secured regular gigs at the Los Angeles nightclub Bido Lito’s. The Seeds were a popular draw with music fans flocking to the venue to see this new band’s high octane performance. Already The Seeds were making their mark on the LA music scene.

Not long after that, The Seeds recorded what would become  their debut single Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. With the recording complete, charismatic frontman Sly Saxon started trying to interest record labels in the song. Mostly, it was a case of thanks but no thanks, until he entered the offices of GNP Crescendo Records. They listened to the song and promised Sly Saxon they would get back to him. By then, he and the rest of The Seeds knew not to get their hopes up.

This time it was different, with GNP Crescendo Records getting back to Sly Saxon and telling him how much they liked the song. Not only did they like Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, but they wanted to take The Seeds back into the studio and rerecord it with Marcus Tybalt.

The Seeds agreed and headed into the studio with Marcus Tybalt, where they rerecorded Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. It was then released by Crescendo and picked up by Santa Monica based radio station KBLA. Soon, other radio stations had picked up on Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, and this future cult classic became a regional hit in Southern California. After just a few months together, already The Seeds already had a regional hit single to their name which was a dream come true for the band.

While The Seeds celebrated the success of Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, guitarist Jeremy Levine announced that he was leaving the band for personal reasons. This was a huge blow for The Seeds who looked as if they were on the verge of making a breakthrough. 

With The Seeds now a quartet, they returned Los Angeles’ vibrant live scene, where people were starting to take notice of this, new up-and-coming band who had just scored a hit with Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. By then,  The Seeds’ popularity was rising and they became a firm favourite of audiences across LA. They were impressed by The Seeds’ high octane, energetic performances as they showcased the new garage rock sound that they were pioneering.

The Seeds.

Although The Seeds spent much of their time playing live, they were already working on their eponymous debut album. Frontman Sly Saxon had dawned the role of The Seeds’ songwriter-in-chief and had penned ten of the twelve tracks that featured on The Seeds. He also wrote Evil Hoodoo with Daryl Hooper and penned No Escape with Jan Savage and Jimmy Lawrence. These twelve tracks were recorded at Columbia Studios, in Hollywood.

At Columbia Studios, Sly Saxon co-produced The Seeds with Marcus Tybalt who had masterminded their debut single Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. When the recording sessions began, drummer Rick Andridge wasn’t  joined in the rhythm section by vocalist Sly Saxon who it was thought played bass on The Seeds recordings. Instead, Daryl Hooper who played keyboards, organ melodica and piano, laid down the bass parts using a bass keyboard. Meanwhile, Jan Savage took charge of the bass parts on The Seeds. Eventually, The Seeds had completed their much-anticipated eponymous debut album which would be released by GNP Crescendo Records.

In April 1966, The Seeds were just about to release their eponymous debut album The Seeds. Critics on hearing The Seeds were won over by this classic-in-waiting. The Seeds featured an irresistible fusion of fuzzy guitars, bubbling Hammond organ and Sly Saxon’s vocal which seems to have been inspired by everyone from Mick Jagger to Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. When The Seeds was released, it was to plaudits and praise, and nowadays, the album is regarded as a garage rock classic. Indeed, many critics believe that The Seeds is the finest garage rock album ever released. 

On its release, The Seeds sold well and reached 132 in the US Billboard 200. Meanwhile, a decision was made to reissue Pushin’ Too Hard which had been released in 1965. While it failed to chart first time round, this time, Pushin’ Too Hard reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and forty-four in Canada. Later in 1966, Can’t Seem To Make You Mine was also reissued and reached forty-one in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-three in Canada. Things were looking good for The Seeds, as their thoughts turned to their sophomore album A Web Of Sound.

A Web Of Sound.

By the time The Seeds began work on A Web Of Sound, they had been working tirelessly since early 1965. They were now a familiar face and favourite on LA’s live scene. All The Seeds hard work was paying off and they had established a reputation as one of the most innovative bands of the mid-sixties. The Seeds were known to push musical boundaries to their limits as they created music that was best described as eclectic. Despite that, many people still referred to The Seeds as a garage band. However, The Seeds added elements of acid rock, proto-punk and psychedelia to their music. Their sophomore album A Web Of Sound was going to be a very different album to The Seeds.

Just like their debut album The Seeds, Sly Saxon was songwriter-in-chief on A Web Of Sound. On Tripmaker and Rollin’ Machine, the mysterious Marcus Tybalt was credited as one of the songwriters. However, this was just an alias of Sly Saxon who wrote Mr. Farmer, I Tell Myself, Rollin’ Machine and Up In Her Room. Sly Saxon and Darryl Hooper teamed up to write Pictures and Designs, Tripmaker and A Faded Picture. The pair then wrote Just Let Go with Jan Savage. These eight tracks were recorded during July 1966.

The Seeds recorded A Web Of Sound at RCA Victor and Columbia Studios in Hollywood. The sessions started on the ‘5th’ of July 1966 with Sly Saxon using the alias Marcus Tybalt taking charge of production. This time around, drummer Rick Andridge was joined by Harvey Sharpe who was brought onboard for the A Web Of Sound. Completing the rhythm section was Jan Savage who laid down all the guitar parts. Darryl Hooper switched between celeste, organ and piano, while vocalist Sly Saxon added percussion and played piano. After twenty-four days A Web Of Sound was completed on the ‘29th’ of July 1966. It was a very different album to their debut The Seeds.

Critics on hearing A Web Of Sound, realised just how far The Seeds had come in a relatively short space of time. In just six month, their music had progressed, and it looked as if The Seeds were going to match their LA based contemporaries like The Doors and Love every step of the way. That was the case with A Web Of Sound, which was an album of two very different sides.

A Web Of Sound marked the start of a new chapter in The Seeds career, as they broadened their musical horizon on what was a much more eclectic album. The Seeds incorporated elements of acid rock, blues, garage rock, proto punk and psychedelic rock on album that was embraced by the hippies. They were won over by A Web Of Sound which they believed was an unconventional album that featured open-ended songs which appealed to their mindset. These songs eschewed the carefully plotted thoughts and didacticism of the majority of songs on the charts, and left plenty of room for interpretation. The Seeds songwriter-in-chief Sly Saxon was an unlikely hero for the hippies.

When A Web Of Sound was released in October 1966, the album wasn’t a commercial success initially. This changed after the reissue of Pushin’ Too Hard gave The Seeds another hit single. Suddenly, record buyers started investigating The Seeds’ sophomore album A Web Of Sound which had slipped under the radar. While it sold reasonably well, A Web Of Sound was a cult album that failed to replicate The Seeds. It was only later that A Web Of Sound would be embraced by a much wider audience.

By then, critics, cultural commentators and record buyers realised that A Web Of Sound was a stepping stone for The Seeds, as their sound continued to evolve on their third album Future. 

Future.

While The Seeds had pushed musical boundaries to their limits on The Seeds and A Web Of Sound, they blew these limits away on Future. The result was a mind-blowing fusion of psychedelia, garage, rock and pop that veered towards jazz and soul.Eclectic doesn’t even come close to describing Future. It’s a minor classic that is a long way from The Seeds roots as a garage band. However, listening to A Web Of Sound it’s obvious that The Seeds were in the process of changing.

When Future was released, it was to critical acclaim and the album reached the top hundred in the US Billboard 200. While this pleased The Seeds, the single A Thousand Shadows failed to match the success of previous albums. This was a disappointment for The Seeds who had produced heady and potent musical brew that showcased a truly talented and versatile band who were musical pioneers. That had been the case since they released The Seeds in April 1966.

After Future, The Seeds’ popularity slumped, and they became a victim of changing musical fashions. That wasn’t the only thing that was changing.

By mid-1968, The Seeds’ personnel began to change, and the other change was their name. The Seeds became Sky Saxon and the Seeds. In August 1968, Satisfy You was released as a single. 900 Million People Daily (All Making Love) was chosen as the B-Side and version 3 features

A fusion of psychedelia and rock, The Seeds seemed to be heading in the direction of The Doors on Satisfy You. While it failed to chart, it’s a storming reminder that for The Seeds, they had a future after Future.

Falling Off The Edge Of My Mind was the final single The Seeds released for GNP Crescendo. Wild Blood was chosen as the B-Side for The Seeds GNP Crescendo swan-song. Released in January 1969, Falling Off The Edge Of My Mind failed to chart. A fusion of country,  psychedelia and rock it saw The Seeds looking for a new direction. Ironically, the B-Side Wild Blood was a better track. Rocky, with a nod to The Rolling Stones, Sly struts his way through the track, as they bid their farewell to GNP Crescendo.

In 1969, The Seeds’ lineup changed. Guitarist Bob Norsoph and Don drummer Boomer replaced Jan Savage and Rick Andridge. Despite this change in lineup, Sky Saxon continued to use the name The Seeds. They didn’t release another single until August 1970. 

By then, the best way to describe The Seeds’ lineup is fluid. Various backing musicians came onboard. It was more a band entity than band. Bad Part Of Town was released as a single in August 1970, on MGM. It was rocky track with a psychedelic twist. However, it failed to chart and four months after the release of Bad Part Of Town, The Seeds released their final single.

Love In A Summer Basket was released in December 1970, and was The Seeds’ second single for MGM. Slow, moody, pensive, dramatic and trippy it’s the sunshine psychedelia that The Seeds specialised in a few years earlier. While Love In A Summer Basket failed to chart, their recording career ended on a high. On the flip side of Love In A Summer Basket, was Did He Die. A driving slice of rocky, psychedelia, it showed that The Seeds still had something to offer music. There was only one problem, music was changing. This meant The Seeds had to change.

For the next two years, The Seeds continued, with Sky Saxon keeping the group alive. However, The Seeds best days were between 1965 and 1967. During that period, they released a trio of genre-defying albums and showcased one of the most exciting and adventurous bands of the late sixties. The Seeds were, without doubt, musical pioneers and their three albums are proof of this. 

From 1966s The Seeds through 1967s A Web Of Sound and their 1968 swan-song Future, The Seeds weave their magic. They combine a disparate combination of musical genres and influences. Everything from rock, garage rock, psychedelia, folk, jazz, doo-wop, free jazz, proto-punk and even prog rock. With every listen to The Seeds trio of albums, further surprises and subtleties reveal their hidden secrets. Rather than seamlessly flowing from one genre-specific track to another, The Seeds become a musical chameleon. Every track is like a surprise, with hidden depths awaiting the listener. However, The Seeds finest moment was their final album, Future.

The only way to describe Future is a genre-sprawling album. Magpie-like, The Seeds seem to collect musical genres and influences, put them into their lysergic melting pot and sprinkle some secret ingredients. What comes out of The Seeds melting pot was Future. Under appreciated upon its release, that’s no longer the case. Now Future is perceived as a  mind-blowing, boundary breaking and genre-defying album, where The Seeds tore up the rule book and rewrote it. Future is essential listening for anyone interested in The Seeds’ music. So is the compilation Pushin’ Too Hard OST, which was recently released on Big Beat, an imprint of Ace Records.

Featuring twenty-one tracks, The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard, is the perfect introduction to The Seeds. It features psychedelic classics,  hidden gems, alternate cuts and live tracks. Many of the tracks on The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard  also feature on their trio of albums, The Seeds, A Web Of Sound and their classic album Future. For the newcomer to The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard is the perfect opportunity to dip your toe into the genre-defying music of The Seeds.

The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard,

REGGIE YOUNG-SESSION GUITAR STAR.

Reggie Young-Session Guitar Star.

Ace Records.

In many ways, session musicians are the unsung heroes of the music industry, and far too often, don’t get the credit that they deserve. They’re mostly anonymous musicians, who are musical hired hands who over the course of a year, will work with countless musicians in the studio or live. However, some of these anonymous musicians have gone on to greater things

This previously includes some of the legends of music, including everyone from Jimmy Hendrix to Jimmy Page. Then there were studio groups like MFSB and the great disco orchestras like The Salsoul Orchestra and John Davis and The Monster Orchestra which showcased the considerable skills of the session musician and enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. However, for every session musician that went on to enjoy a successful career, there were a dozen and more who were happy to stay in the shadows and enjoy a steady and sometimes lucrative career.

Sometimes, these unsung heroes were drafted in to play the part of a musician who was unable to play their instrument. These musical gunslingers would enter the studio, lay down their parts and tip their hat before the bewildered band member can work out how to open their guitar case.

One of the great session guitarists is Reggie Young, who has spent the past seven decades working with the great and good of music. This includes Elvis Presley, JJ Cale, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Neil Diamond and Dusty Springfield. They’re just a few of the musicians that Reggie Young has worked with during his long and illustrious career. His story began in  1936. 

The Reggie Young story began in Caruthersville, Missouri on December ’12th’ 1936, but he spent the first for teen years of his life in Osceola, an hour from Memphis. In his early teenage years, Reggie got a job bagging groceries. Little did he know at the time, that this would be his only job in ‘civvy’ street. The rest of his life would be spent making music. 

Things changed for Reggie Young when his family moved to Memphis in 1950 when his father Reggie Sr, got a job as a bookkeeper. For his first Christmas in Memphis, fourteen year old Reggie got his very first guitar. Now there were two guitarists in the Young household.

Reggie’s father already played Hawaiian guitar, and was a talented player, who would influence Reggie. He had already taught himself how to play lead guitar, through a scratch built amplifier a neighbour had built, when he decided to take some lessons. After one lesson which Reggie spent playing Three Blind Mice, he decided guitar lessons weren’t for him. Instead, he continued to teach himself, and knew that he could always his father, who would in some ways, would influence his playing style.

By then, Chet Atkins was the main influence on Reggie as his playing style developed. Later, his father’s playing style would influence Reggie and he would incorporate some of the  Hawaiian legato phrasing he had watched his father use. This would become one of Reggie’s trademarks. That would come later.

Having left high school, where Reggie was a couple of years ahead of Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, he embarked upon a career as a session musician. His first session was accompanying singing hairdresser Tommy Smith. That day, Reggie laid down a memorable solo on Magic Girl. This opened doors for Reggie around town.

Soon, other musicians were talking about this eighteen your old kid who had laid down the lead guitar solo during the Tommy Smith session. Reggie started accompanying Eddie Boyd at a weekly gig at the Eagle’s Nest. For Reggie, this was valuable experience as he honed his chops

In 1955, Reggie featured on  a single by Barney Burcham that was released on the Rodeo label. By then, Reggie and Jack Clement had started playing a weekly gig at the Kennedy Veteran’s Hospital For Incurables. However, Jack Clement was also a partner in Fernwood Records, and recorded a session with Reggie. The single much to Reggie’s relief was never released.

Not long after this, Reggie who was then into rock ’n’ roll, cut his debut single Rockin’ Daddy, which opened with Reggie’s  oft-copied guitar lick. The single gave Reggie a regional hit, and Elvis’ first manager Bob Neal booked him to appear on a package tour. Reggie headed out on tour with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Johnny Horton. When the tour stopped off in Nashville, Eddie Boyd cut his sophomore single and Reggie played on his first union session. By then of the day, he was $41.25 richer. However, by the end of the tour, Reggie had a new job.

During the tour, Johnny Horton and his guitarist had a disagreement, and Reggie took over the role. At the end of the tour, Reggie moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where Johnny Horton lived and was based. While Johnny Horton wasn’t the most successful musician that Reggie would ever work with, he gained a wealth of experience during his time with in his band. This came to an end in 1958 when Reggie was told he was about to be drafted.

After leaving Johnny Horton’s band, Reggie headed home to Memphis awaiting the letter every young man dreaded…the draft. It never arrived and Reggie joined Bill Black’s Combo. 

The new group headed to a new studio Royal Recording which was owned by Hi Records. On the Bill Black Combo’s first session, Reggie’s guitar played an important part in the sound and success of the instrumental that would become their first single, Smokie Pt. 1. When it was released, it reached number seventeen on the US Billboard 100 and number one on the US R&B charts. By then, Reggie had been drafted.

Still, he managed to join the rest of the Bill Black Combo when they made two appearances on the Dick Clark Show. With the permission of his company commander, Reggie played a thirty-one date tour with the Bill Black Combo. After that, he joined up with the rest of his unit to undergo basic training. 

Whilst his unit were doing their basic training in Ethiopia, the royalties for Smokie Pt. 1 were mounting up. Reggie had received a co-composer’s credit for his guitar part, instead of a session fee. This was a wise move for Reggie, and by the time his eighteen months service was over, he returned to the Bill Black Combo.

They continued to enjoy a string of hit singles right up until 1964. However, in 1964 Bill Black sold the name to the Bill Black Combo, and left the group. This meant that the founder wasn’t a member of the group that opened for The Beatles on their first American tour. By then, he was the only remaining member of the Bill Black Combo. The tour with The Beatles was an eye-opener, and Reggie met The Kinks and The Yarbirds. He hit it off with Eric Clapton, who shared Reggie’s love of the blues. However, as 1964 drew to a close, Reggie knew that the times they were a changing.

In 1965, Reggie’s tour of duty with the Bill Black Combo was over. Founder member Bill Black had been ill for eighteen months, and died on October ‘21st’ 1965, aged just thirty-nine. By then, music was changing and sadly, the Bill Black Combo were seen as part of music’s past.

Rock ’n’ roll was regarded as part of music’s past. The future was rock, which was seen as music’s future. Meanwhile, Reggie decided to return to working as a session musician.

After being part of a successful band for seven years, many musicians might have regarded this as a comedown. However, for Reggie Young it was the start of a new chapter. He started playing on Hi Records’ recording studio Royal Recording in 1965. For the next two years, Reggie’s guitar could be heard on singles bearing the Hi Records’ logo. However, in 1967 Reggie was on the move.

Next stop for Reggie Young was Chips Moman’s American Sound Studios, in Memphis. He started work at American Sound Studios in 1967, and one of his earliest sessions was on James Carr’s classic Dark End Of The Street. This was the first of many hit singles that Reggie would play on at American Sound Studios. 

Before long, Chips Moman decided to put together the American Sound Studios Band a.k.a. the Memphis Boys, who were one of the best studio bands of the late-sixties and early seventies. Reggie became the lead guitarist in the lead guitarist in, the Memphis Boys who were a truly prolific band. Over the next five years, the Memphis Boys worked with the great and good of music, and played on 120 hit singles. This includes Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto. However, by 1970 Chips Moman and Reggie had fallen out, and their relationship was never the same. Not long after this, things started to change at American Sound Studios.

Chips Moman made a decision to leave Memphis, and start over in Atlanta. Despite the fresh start, it was almost inevitable that Reggie would leave the Memphis Boys, and move on to pastures new. What surprised some people was that it took until 1972.

Having packed his bags, Reggie left Atlanta, en route to Memphis. For some reason, he decided to stop at Nashville and catchup with two old friends from Muscle Shoals, David Briggs and Norbert Putnam, who owned Quadraphonic Studio. They listened as Reggie recalled his departure from American Sound Studios. When he was finished, David Briggs asked Reggie: “you wanna work some?” When Reggie answer yes, a new chapter in his career began.

Nashville became his home, and he has lived and worked there ever since. One of the first sessions he played on in Nashville, was on Dobie Gray’s Drift Away. When it was released in 1972 it reached number five on the US Billboard 100, forty-two in the US R&B charts and was certified gold. The song rejuvenated Dobie Gray’s ailing career, and in the process, introduced Reggie to Nashville.

For the majority of the time, Reggie was playing country music, and this required him to change his playing style. Reggie was by then a versatile and talented guitarist, and seamlessly adjusted to country music. However, in 1973, Reggie returned to Memphis for one special session.

Reggie Young became part of the band that featured on Elvis Presley’s Stax sessions. By then, the King was no longer the singer he had encountered during the American Studio Sessions. He was surrounded by yes men and hangers-on, who hadn’t the courage to tell Elvis that the songs he was about to record weren’t good enough. Despite this, Reggie and his band gave their all, while Elvis phoned in some of the songs. As a result, it would be forty years before Elvis At Stax was released in 2013.

After working with Elvis at Stax, Reggie returned to Nashville, where he was one of the top session players. That was why Chips Moman came calling in 1977. By then, Chips Moman, had a studio in Nashville, and wanted Reggie to play on the session for Waylon Jennings’ 1977 single Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love). Reggie agreed and seemed to have the Midas touch. When the single was released later in 1977, it gave Waylon Jennings the biggest hit of his career so far. For Reggie, it was yet another hit he had played on.

He continued to play on sessions until things changed in the late seventies. Many of the Outlaws, including Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson started to bring their touring bands to play on recording sessions. For many session musicians this meant a huge drop in income. However, Reggie decided that if you can’t beat them, join them. He joined Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s bands when they headed out on tour.

On his first tour with an Outlaw, Reggie lost was the only person who lost money. The session work he had turned down, came to more than he received for the tour. It was an expensive lesson, and one that Reggie never made again. After that, he divided his time between touring and session work.

One of the most memorable tours came in 1990, when Reggie headed out on tour with the country supergroup The Highwaymen. With a lineup that featured Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson it was one of the concert tours of 1990. So popular were The Highwaymen, that they released a studio album The Road Goes On Forever in 1994. Reggie played on the album, and five years later, became joined Waylon Jennings’ band.

Although Reggie would spent much of his time doing session work, he still found time to tour with Waylon Jennings. Reggie joined the band in 1999, and was with the band right until Waylon Jennings played his final concert in 2002. The last song they played that night, was Drift Away, which featured just Waylon Jennings and Reggie Young. Sadly, on February ’13th’ 2002, Waylon Jennings passed away aged just sixty-five. That day, Reggie lost a good friend, who he had known for a long time.

By then, Reggie was sixty-six and showing no sign of slowing down. Over the next few years, he played sessions on albums by some of the biggest names in country music. He joined Glen Campbell, Hank Williams, George Strait, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers in the studio. Still, he continued to play on hit singles and successful albums. However, as the years went by, there was still one thing that Reggie Young had to do…record a debut album.

That was until Reggie Young released Forever Young in 2017, on Ace Records. Now two years later, Ace Records have released a new compilation Reggie Young-Session Guitar Star, which covers the first six decades of the guitarist’s guitarist career in Memphis and Nashville. That was where the twenty-four tracks on Reggie Young-Session Guitar Star were recorded, which feature some of the great and good of music. They all have one thing in common, they feature the guitar playing of Reggie Young a truly talented and versatile guitarist.

 

There aren’t many session guitarists that get to play alongside everyone from Elvis Presley, Bobby Bland and Johnny Cash to James Carr, Dusty Springfield, King Curtis, Solomon Burke, Merle Haggard and Jackie DeShannon. They’re just some of the names that feature on Session Guitar Star. There’s also Dobie Gray, JJ Cale, James and Bobby Purify, Little Milton and Waylon Jennings. Session Guitar Star features an all-star cast. There’s no doubt about that.

Session Guitar Star opens with Eddie Bond’s rockabilly classic Slip, Slip, and also features Bobby Bland’s peerless rendition of A Touch Of The Blues and then The Box Tops’ reinvention of Hank Snow’s I’m Movin’ On, which takes on new life. Very different is Joe Tex’s uber funky, leftfield version of Chicken Crazy. Hot on its heels is King Curtis’ inimitable brand of Memphis R&B on In The Pocket. However, one of the highlights of the compilation is the stunning country soul of James Carr’s More Love. That is just part of the story,  and there’s many more stellar songs still to come.

This includes Dusty Springfield’s beautiful, heartfelt reading of Goffin and King’s Don’t Forget About Me. Then there’s Elvis Presley’s frolicking version of Percy Mayfield’s Stranger In My Own Home Town. However, one of the most instantly recognisable tracks is Dobie Gray’s laid back and dreamy Drift Away. It’s made all the better by Reggie Young’s guitar playing. So is James and Bobby Purify’s Morning Glory and JJ Cale’s classic Cocaine.

Keeping it country are Merle Haggard’s I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink, country supergroup The Highwayman who contribute The Highwayman. Closing Session Guitar Star is the southern boogie of Waylon Jennings’ ‘Where Do We Go From Here, which closes the compilation on a memorable musical high.

Reggie Young’s has spent the last seven decades working as a professional musician. For most of his career, Reggie Young has been working with the great and good of music. That is no surprise, as he was one of the top guitarists in Memphis, Atlanta and for the last forty-seven years, Nashville. Year after year was spent touring and recording, including the twenty-four tracks on Session Guitar Star.

The tracks on Session Guitar Star feature the guitarist’s guitarist Reggie Young, at the peak of his powers, as he showcases his talent and versatility. Reggie Young is also a musical hired gun who for seven decades has helped make others sound good, as seamlessly switches between genres, including on the tracks on Session Guitar Star. 

Reggie Young-Session Guitar Star.

DIETER MOEBIUS-THE POST CLUSTER YEARS

Dieter Moebius-The Post Cluster Years.

Ten years after Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius formed Cluster in 1971, the first chapter in the Cluster story drew to a close 1981, after the release of their seventh studio album, Curiosum. Hans-Joachim Roedelius said: “Cluster had run its course. We decided to concentrate on other projects. There was no fall-out, Cluster just came to a natural end.” 

In the post-Cluster years, Dieter Moebius divided his time with a variety of projects, including a variety of collaborations and, his solo career. Dieter Moebius’ solo career solo career had to fit round his many other musical commitments. This included the albums Dieter Moebius recorded with  his friend Conny Plank.

Moebius and Plank.

Rastakraut Pasta.

In 1980, Dieter and Conny Plank entered Conny’s Studio to record seven tracks. They were joined by another giant of German music, Can bassist Holger Czukay. He played on Feedback 66, Missi Cacadou and Two Oldtimers. When the seven tracks were completed, Rastakraut Pasta was would be released later in 1980.

Critics hailed Moebius and Plank’s debut Rastakraut Pasta a truly groundbreaking album.  It was a fusion of avant-garde Kominische, industrial, electronica, experimental and dub reggae. This disparate and unlikely fusion of genres proved a potent musical pot-pourri, that proved popular with critics and record buyers. So much so, that Conny Plank and Dieter Moebius released a second album together.

Material.

The Moebius and Plank partnership returned in 1981 with their sophomore album, Material. It featured five songs recorded at Conny’s Studio. This time, there was no sign of Holger Czukay. Instead, the two old friends and musical pioneers worked together on another album of truly groundbreaking music that became Material.

Just like Rastakraut Pasta, Material was hailed as another album of groundbreaking, genre-melting music. Elements of avant-garde Kominische, industrial, electronica, experimental and dub reggae. This resulted in music that wasn’t just innovative, but way ahead of its time. Material was also a timeless album, and one that  resulted in what seemed like a queue of musicians wanting to collaborate with Dieter Moebius.

First in the queue was Gerd Beerbohm. They released their first collaboration, Strange Music in 1982. This was the first of two albums that the pair would record tougher. The followup Double Cut was released in 1983. That same year, Dieter Moebius released his debut album Tonspuren.

Tonspuren.

To record his debut solo album, Dieter Moebius headed for the familiar surroundings of Conny’s Studio, in Cologne.  He had made this journey countless times before, and in the second half of 1982, Dieter began recording ten soundscapes. With Conny looking on approvingly, and making a few suggestions, Tonspuren began to take shape. Once the album was recorded, Conny mixed Tonspuren. It was then released in 1983.

Just like his previous collaborations with Conny Plank, Tonspuren was released on Günter Körber’s Sky Records. It was the perfect label for an album of minimalist, experimental and ambient music.

Günter Körbe had setup Sky Records in 1975, and had never been afraid to release music that many labels would’ve shied away from. Many other German labels were only interested in commercial music. However,  Sky Records, just like Brain and Ohr before them, were determined to released groundbreaking music. This was how some critics described Tonspuren. 

Critics had awaited the release of Tonspuren with interest. They wondered what direction Dieter Moebius’ music would head? When they heard Tonspuren, with its minimalist, ambient and sometimes experimental sound, they knew. It was a captivating debut album, and critics awaited  Dieter’s sophomore album with interest. Sadly, they would have a long wait.

Sixteen years to be exact. Dieter Moebius would released several collaborations, and Cluster would’ve reunited before Dieter Moebius released his sophomore album.  By then, Dieter Moebius had reinvented himself, while music, and the way it was made had changed.

Following the release of Tonspuren, Dieter Moebius continued to collaborate with other artists, This included two collaborations with Karl Renziehausen. Dieter Moebius also wrote the soundtrack to Blue Moon in 1986. However, it was Conny Plank that Dieter Moebius collaborated with most often. They recorded three further albums with Conny Plank, This included 1983s Zero Set which featured Guru Guru drummer Mani Neumeier; 1995s En Route; and Ludwig’s Law which featured Mayo Thompson.  However, still, Dieter Moebius found time to reunite with Hans-Joachim Roedelius for the comeback of Cluster.

Apropos Cluster.

Recording of Cluster’s tenth album took place during 1989 and 1990. Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius recorded five tracks, including the twenty-two minute epic title-track. It was part of an album that was similar to Grosses Wasser.

That is the comparisons critics drew, when Apropos Cluster was released in 1991. The only difference was, that Apropos Cluster wasn’t as rhythmic as Grosses Wasser. Instead, it was understated, ethereal and thoughtful ambient music. The followup to Apropos Cluster was the first of three live albums that Cluster would release.

One Hour.

The first of the trio of live albums Cluster released during the nineties, was One Hour. It came about after Cluster improvised in the studio for four hours. This they edited this down to One Hour, and the result is a truly captivating album that was released in 1995.

One Hour features Cluster at their most imaginative as they take their music in the most unexpected directions. Curveballs are constantly bowled, as what sounds like the soundtrack to a surrealist film unfolds. Elements of ambient, avant-garde and modern classical music combine, resulting in one of the most intriguing albums in Cluster’s discography.

Two years later, in 1997, Cluster released the first of two live albums. The first was Japan 1996 Live. It was followed by First Encounter Tour 1996, which was their thirteen album, was the first double album Cluster had released. It would also be the last album they released for eleven years. During that period, Dieter Moebius released four further solo albums. The first of this quartet of solo albums was Blotch.

Blotch.

After a sixteen year period where he was constantly collaborating with other artists, the release of Blotch in 1999, marked the start of a period where mostly, Dieter Moebius would concentrate on his solo career. While there was the occasional excursion with Cluster, and a collaboration with Asmus Tietchens in 2012,  mostly, the period between 1999 and 2014 are best described as the solo years.

One thing that never changed during the solo the solo years, was Dieter Moebius’ determination to innovate. Helping Dieter Moebius to innovate, was the technology that hadn’t been available when he recorded his debut solo album, Tonspuren in 1983. Dieter Moebius embraced this new technology when he recorded Blotch, which featured  Tim Story. The result was his long-awaited comeback album, Blotch.

Blotch featured a series of playful mesmeric loop based tracks. They’re atmospheric and experimental, with Dieter Moebius adding bursts of speech and samples to the musical canvas. They were ‘painted’ by Dieter Moebius, who makes full use of musical palette, which included the new technology. Dieter Moebius’  willingness to innovate and embrace this new technology resulted in an album that was well worth the sixteen year wait.

When Blotch was released, Dieter Moebius was hailed as the comeback King. He had reinvented himself musically, and recorded a much more experimental, genre-melting album. Dieter Moebius had made good use of new technology, and added snatches of speech to the seven soundscapes. This proved a potent combination on album that fused everything from ambient and avant-garde, through to electronica and experimental to industrial, Krautrock and Musique Concrète. The result was an album of atmospheric, dramatic, futuristic and sometimes, ethereal, understated and beautiful music. These soundscapes were always cinematic and mostly, have a hypnotic quality on Blotch, the album that marked the return of Dieter Moebius.

Nurton.

Seven years after Dieter Moebius’ comeback, he returned in 2006 with the third album of his solo career, Nurton. The album was recorded a year earlier in 2005, with Dieter Moebius making good use of some of the technology that he had used on Blotch. One of Dieter Moebius’ secret weapons was the Korg Prophecy which replicated a variety of analog synths. This Dieter Moebius put to good use on Nurton. 

Dieter Moebius had pushed musical boundaries to their limit on Nurton. Just like he had throughout his career, he had turned his back on musical convention and structure. Instead, he let his imagination run riot, and  studio became a laboratory, where Dieter Moebius experimented.

The result was Nurton, which veers between moody and broody, to dark and dramatic, to ethereal and elegiac to understated and beautiful. Always, though, the best words to describe Nurton were futuristic, cinematic and hypnotic. Dieter Moebius had pulled out the stops on Nurton, which was a captivating album that painted pictures in the mind’s eye. Much of the music on Nurton was akin to a sci-fi soundtrack. Nurton also has a timeless quality, and featured some of the most ambitious, innovative and experimental music of Dieter Moebius’ career. He had set the bar high for the followup album, which was Kram, which was released in 2009.

Kram.

By the time Dieter Moebius came to record Kram, life was good for one of the leading lights of the German music scene. Somewhat belatedly, the music Dieter Moebius recorded with Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia was receiving the recognition it deserved at home and abroad. German music fans realised that  Dieter Moebius was one of their national treasures and had grown to appreciate his music. 

Dieter Moebius was still one of the leading lights of the Berlin music scene in 2008, when his thoughts turned to recording a new studio album. By then, Dieter Moebius and his wife Irene were dividing their time between Berlin and Majorca, where they could enjoy a much more agreeable climate. However, Dieter Moebius spent some of his time in Majorca working on new music.  He had a small mobile recording setup, which replicated the one he kept at him home in Berlin. 

This meant that whenever he felt inspired to make music, Dieter Moebius could enter his studio, and work on music for his latest project. In 2008, the project that Dieter Moebius was working on was his fourth studio album, which would eventually become Kram, which translates as “stuff”. The time he sent in his studios in Berlin and Majorca resulted in ten soundscapes which lasted nearly fifty-two minutes. These soundscapes became Kram, which when it was released, became Dieter Moebius’ first album in three years.

With the release of Kram fast approaching in 2009, it was changed days for Dieter Moebius. In the early days of his career, when albums by Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia failed to attract the attention of critics. Sometimes, they passed almost unnoticed, or received just a few reviews. By 2009, Dieter  Moebius was fifty-five and one of the elder statesmen of German music. He had been one of the pioneers in the late sixties, and forty years later, was still going strong and releasing ambitious and innovative music on Kram.

Critics upon hearing Kram, hailed the album one of Dieter Moebius’ finest hours as a solo artist. The album received praise and plaudits, with one of the founding fathers of modern German music creating a captivating album that was a musical roller coaster.

Kram is  best described as veering between understated, ruminative and elegiac to playful, joyous and tinged with humour, to charming and moderne. Other times, the music is mesmeric and hypnotic, before becoming dark and dramatic. Sometimes, the music becomes experimental and ambitious, while other times, Dieter Moebius unleashes a myriad of futuristic and sci-fi sounds. They join found and throwaway sounds, samples and Dieter Moebius’ trusty synths which he uses to create another genre-melting album which is sometimes cinematic, but captivates from the opening bars of Start to the closing notes of Markt.

During Kram, Dieter Moebius combines elements of ambient, avant-garde, the Berlin School, electronica, experimental music, Krautrock and even briefly rock. The result is an album that features Dieter Moebius at most ambitious and innovative. Proof of this are some of the highlights of Kram.

After three years away, Dieter Moebius returned with one of the finest solo albums of his career. Sadly, it would prove to the penultimate album of his long and illustrious career.

Ding.

Two years after the release of Kram returned with his fifth solo album Ding in 2011. He had recorded Ding a year earlier, in Berlin studio. Now he was ready to release the much-anticipated followup to Kram. By then, the music Dieter Moebius had created with Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia had never been as popular. This resulted in an upsurge of interest in his solo career.

Just like previous solo albums, Dieter Moebius had embraced the latest technology. This included a random loop generator, which he had put to good use during the making of Ding. The loops it generated, were combined with bifurcate rhythms, impalpable and ghostly voices and a myriad of assorted audio matter which became part of the eleven soundscapes on Ding.

When critics heard Ding, they realised that it was quite different from its predecessor. It was another ambitious album, where Dieter Moebius set about reinventing his music once again.  To do this, he combined elements of avant-garde with the Berlin School, electronica, experimental, industrial, Krautrock and Musique Concrète. There was also an array of hypnotic, industrial mechanical and robotic sounds on Ding, which was one of the most ambitious and experimental albums of Dieter Moebius’ solo career.

Just as he had been doing throughout his long and illustrious career, Dieter Moebius had created groundbreaking music and ambitious music on Ding. He embraced new technology, and used an array of samples, found sounds and leftfield sounds to create new and ambitious music. The music on Ding pushed musical boundaries to their limit, which amongst the most ambitious music released during 2011. That was what critics and record buyers had come to expect from sonic pioneer Dieter Moebius.  Sadly, Ding was the last album that Dieter Moebius released.

 

Musik für Metropolis.

The following year, 2012, Dieter Moebius was invited to perform music to accompany a screening of Fritz Lang’s legendary silent film Metropolis. For the screening, Dieter Moebius began work on producing new tracks and samples. These he would play on the night and treated with a myriad of effects during Dieter Moebius’ improvised performance. His performance was planned so that it would  provide the soundtrack to what was happening on the sliver screen. The Metropolis project took a lot of planning, but it was well worthwhile.

When the day of the screening of Metropolis arrived, Dieter Moebius made his way to the venue. With him, he took the equipment which he planned to put to good use that night. That was the case. It was a masterful and triumphant performance from Dieter Moebius, as he provided the perfect soundtrack for Metropolis. It had highlighted the drama and tension of Fritz Lang’s classic film. Buoyed by the success of his performance, Dieter Moebius began contemplating the next part in the Metropolis project.

All along, Dieter Moebius planned to record a full-length album featuring the music from the Metropolis project. Dieter Moebius began work on the Metropolis’ project, and continued to work on other projects. The sixty-eight year old still had an insatiable appetite for music, and immersed himself in the Metropolis’ project, which gradually started to take shape. Then tragedy stuck, when Dieter Moebius was diagnosed with cancer. 

Suddenly, music didn’t matter any more, as Dieter Moebius was fighting for his life. He battled bravely against cancer, fighting for his future and very life. Sadly, Dieter Moebius died on the ‘20th’ of July 2015’ after what had been a brave and lengthy battle against cancer. He left behind a richest musical legacy.

This included the albums he released with Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia, plus his many collaborations. They feature one of the founding fathers of modern German music doing what he did best, creating ambitious and innovative music. So do the five solo albums Dieter Moebius had released during his long and illustrious career. It should’ve six solo albums. Sadly, Dieter Moebius passed away before completing Musik für Metropolis.

Musik für Metropolis.

Two of Dieter Moebius’ friends and longtime musical partners had been discussing trying to complete Musik für Metropolis. To do this, Tim Story and Jon Leidecker would require the permission of Dieter Moebius’ widow, Irene. She granted her permission, and was fully supportive of the project.

Over the next few months, Tim Story, Jon Leidecker and Berlin based musician Jonas Förster worked on the Musik für Metropolis’ project. This was their way of paying homage to a true giant of modern German music, Dieter Moebius.

Less than years after the death of Dieter Moebius, Tim Story, Jon Leidecker and  Jonas Förster completed the Musik für Metropolis’ project. They had worked hard on the project and wanted to make Musik für Metropolis an album that Dieter Moebius would’ve been proud to put his name to. Once Irene Moebius had heard Musik für Metropolis and given her approval, the next step was to find a label who would were willing to release the album.

Fortunately, Hamburg-based label Bureau B had already agreed to reissue the five albums Dieter Moebius release Blotch, Nurton, Kram and Ding. They also agreed to release Musik für Metropolis which was Dieter Moebius’ swan-song.

When critics heard Musik für Metropolis  it was hailed as another ambitious and genre-melting album, where Dieter Moebius, fused  disparate musical genres. Elements of ambient, avant-garde and the Berlin School rub shudders with drone, electronica and experimental music. That is not forgetting industrial, Krautrock and musique concrète. They all become part of a musical tapestry, that is Musik für Metropolis. It was woven by the late, great Dieter Moebius.

He created four soundscapes that are variously atmospheric, dramatic, futuristic, melodic, menacing, mesmeric, poignant and full of tension. Always the cinematic music on Musik für Metropolis captivates and compels as Dieter Moebius paints pictures with music. This he does throughout Musik für Metropolis, which is a cinematic epic from one of the most important, innovative and influential musicians in the history of modern German music, Dieter Moebius.

He had spent six decades of his career creating ambitious and groundbreaking music. That was the case from his earliest days Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia, plus all the various collaborations that Dieter Moebius had been involved in. It was a similar case with Dieter Moebius’ solo career.

From Tonspuren in 1983 right through to  Musik für Metropolis, Dieter Moebius was always a musical pioneer and someone who pushed musical boundaries to their limits and sometimes way beyond. That was the case on the six solo albums that bare Dieter Moebius’ name. They’re a reminder of one the most important, influential and innovative musicians in the history of German music. Dieter Moebius was a  sonic pioneer and musical maverick, who constantly and continually sought to reinvent his music during the  six  albums he released during the solo years.

Dieter Moebius-The Post Cluster Years.

 

THE MURMAIDS-A STORY OF WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.

The Murmaids-A Story Of What Might Have Been.

Sadly, musical history is littered with groups that are remembered as one-hit wonders. Their brush with commercial success may have been brief, but at least they enjoyed a tantalising taste of what some established groups take for granted. As a result, after a group has enjoyed one hit single, they want another. This comes as no surprise.

Commercial success and the fame and money it can sometimes bring, are as powerful as any drug. Once experienced, a group can spend the rest of their career trying to reach the same heights. Sadly, often, they never comes close to enjoying  the same success.

Part of the problem is that a second hit single always proves to be tantalizingly just out of reach, and the group is destined to be remembered as a one-hit wonder. That was the case with The Murmaids, who had an enviable musical pedigree.

Two of The Murmaids, sisters Carol and Terry Fischer, came from a family that was steeped in music. The two previous generations of their family had been involved in the music industry all their lives. This included their  grandmother and her three sisters, who had been part of a vaudeville act, The Locus Sisters. However, Carol and Terry Fischer’s parents were also steeped in music. 

Carl Fischer had been a successful songwriter and arranger who had written You’ve Changed, which was recorded by Billie Holliday. Then during a ten-year period where Carl Fischer was Frankie Laine’s musical director, he wrote the jazz standard We’ll Be Together. Sadly, tragedy struck in 1954 when Carl Fischer died suddenly. With two young daughters to support, Terry Fischer Sr. returned to singing with big bands.

That was what Terry Fischer Sr. had been doing when she had first met Carl Fischer. She had sung with various big bands, and became the first female vocalist in Stan Kenton’s Orchestra. Now after the tragic death of her husband, Terry Fischer Sr. was back singing in the big bands. She was a talented vocalist and managed to pickup where she had left off. 

Little did Terry Fischer Sr. know that soon, a third generation of her family would be embarking upon a musical career. However, with such a strong musical pedigree, it was almost inevitable that Carol and Terry Fischer would embark upon a career in music. Music was family business.

Terry Fischer Sr. encouraged and supported her daughters, who were proving to be talented singers. They were active in their school’s glee club, and by high school, were music majors. It was around this time, that Carol and Terry met a young songwriter and producer, Mike Postil.

The future Mike Post had just graduated from Los Angeles University High, and had written some songs. Once he had recorded these songs, he would shop them around town. There was a problem though, Mike Post had nobody to sing backing vocals on his demos.

By 1963, Carol Fischer who was fifteen, and Terry Fischer who was seventeen, were living in Los Angeles. For some time, the sisters had been singing with seventeen year old Sally Gordon, who was a  friend and neighbour. With Terry Fischer Sr’s help, they were a polished and professional trio. This was what Mike Post was looking for.

When Mike Post met Carol, Terry and Sally, he knew that he had the backing vocalists that he had been looking for. They sang backing vocals on demos for producer Mike Post. Sometimes, Mike Post would bring them in to add backing vocals on some of his productions at Gold Star Studios. That was where Kim Fowley first came across the trio.

By 1963, producer and songwriter Kim Fowley, who was another alumni of Los Angeles University High, was working at Gold Star Studios as an in-house producer. He had already enjoyed hits with Nut Rocker and Alley Oop. However, the twenty-four year old was keen to forge a career as a producer. That was why he had taken the job at Gold Star Studios. 

That was also where Kim Fowley first heard the trio sing. Realising that they were talented, he offered to record them. This was the break the trio had been looking for, and they jumped at what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The trio’s first recording session with Kim Fowley was hardly a resounding success. He had them record a version of Alley Oop, but the song didn’t work. Despite that, Kim Fowley wasn’t going to give-up on the trio.

Fortunately, Kim Fowley encountered a talented, but as yet, unknown singer-songwriter, David Gates. The future founder of Bread was driving along one day, when he saw a hitchhiker. Curiosity got the better of David Gates. He stopped and picked up Kim Fowley. 

Soon, the two men got talking, and Kim Fowley volunteered that he was a producer. David Gates told him he was a songwriter, and had written a song for a girl group. He reached into the back seat, and produced a guitar, and proceeded to play Kim Fowley Popsicles and Icicles. When Kim Fowley heard the song, he had David Gates send him a demo, as he had someone in mind for the song.

Originally, Kim Fowley felt Popsicles and Icicles would be perfect for Skip Battin, who previously, had been one half of Skip and Flip. However, Skip Battin passed on the song. It was only Kim Fowley remembered the trio he had recorded at Gold Star Studios.

Kim Fowley even had a label lined up for the song. This was Chattahoochee Records, an imprint of Conte Records. It had been formed by Ruth Conte Yardum, with the help of Kim Fowley. Originally, it was to release singles by actor-singer John Conte. However, Conte Records had a pop imprint, Chattahoochee, which Kim Fowley owned a share in. This was the label Kim Fowley planned to release Popsicles and Icicles on. All he had to do was firstly to convince Ruth Conte Yardum about the merits of his masterplan, and then convince Terry Fischer Sr. that this was the right song for her singing trio.

Eventually, Kim Fowley managed to convince Ruth Conte Yardum that Popsicles and Icicles had the potential to be a hit, and that he could record the single for $100 using three high school students. Now Kim Fowley’s only potential obstacle was Terry Fischer Sr. He had to win her over, and her that Popsicles and Icicles had the potential to be a hit. Only then, could Kim Fowley book time at Gold Star Studios. Now he could concentrate on recording the trio’s debut single. However, the trio needed a name.

When the trio arrived at Gold Star Studios, they were now called The Murmaids. Terry Fischer was The Murmaids’ lead singer, and Carol and Sally would add harmonies. The Murmaids were shown the five tracks that Kim Fowley wanted them to record. This included Blue Dress, Bunny Stomp, Comedy and Tragedy and Huntington Flats. However, one track stood head and shoulders above the rest, the David Gates’ penned Popsicles and Icicles.

Given that funds were limited, it was always going to be touch and go whether The Murmaids could record two tracks in the time allotted. They managed to record Popsicles and Icicles but there was no time left to record a B-Side. This didn’t faze Kim Fowley.

Once Kim Fowley tallied up the costs, it came to $108. He hadn’t quite recorded the single for the $100 he had predicted. However, he was convinced he had a hit on his hands. That was despite not having recorded a B-Side. So Popsicles and Icicles was paired with a surf styled instrumental Bunny Stomp and released in late 1963.

When Popsicles and Icicles was released in early November 1963,  straight away, The Murmaids’ debut single was being played on the radio. From 119 in the US Billboard 100 on 9th  November 1963, Popsicles and Icicles reached sixteen by the 16th  November 1963. Eventually, in the charts of 11th December 1963, Popsicles and Icicles peaked at number three on the US Billboard and Cash Box charts. However, in Record World, Popsicles and Icicles reached number one. Little did The Murmaids realise that Popsicles and Icicles would become their only hit single, and they had just joined the ranks of the one-hit wonders.

For their sophomore single, another David Gates’ composition was chosen, Heartbreak Ahead. On the flip side was He’s Good To Me. Kim Fowley wasn’t going to let the record buying public forget The Murmaids, so released Heartbreak Ahead on Chattahoochee Records whilst Popsicles and Icicles was still in the top thirty. This backfired on Kim Fowley, and Heartbreak Ahead stalled at 116 in the US Billboard 100. After two weeks, at 116 in the US Billboard 100 it was a case of Heartbreak Ahead for The Murmaids.

They were on a roller coaster. Their debut single reached number three in the US Billboard 100, but the followup failed commercially. There was nothing wrong with the song. The Murmaids brought the lyrics to life. Much of the blame lay can be laid at aspiring pop impresario, Kim Fowley’s door.

Heartbreak Ahead was released far too soon, and Suddenly The Murmaids had two singles competing for radio play. Three if The Lady Bugs’ cover of How Do You Do It was counted.

Rather than concentrate his efforts on getting The Murmaids career back on track, Kim Fowley had Carol and Terry Fischer record How Do You Do It with Jackie DeShannon. How Do You Do It had given Gerry and The Pacemakers a number one single. The Lady Bugs version was released in February 1964, but failed to make an impression on the charts. This was a worrying trend.

Later in 1964, The Murmaids released their third single, Wild And Wonderful. It came from the pen of the Brill Building songwriting team of Ben Raleigh and Barkan. They had just written Lesley Gore’s She’s A Fool. For the B-Side, Sam Friedman’s Bull Talk. These two tracks were supposed to get The Murmaids’ career back on track.

On its release, Wild And Wonderful never came close to troubling the charts. Wild And Wonderful became The Murmaids’ second single that had failed to chart. Things weren’t looking good for The Murmaids.

After the success of Popsicles and Icicles, major record labels came knocking on The Murmaids’ door and wanting to buy out their contract with Chattahoochee. Terry Fischer Sr. who was managing the group’s career, decided that they should stay to Ruth Conte Yardum and her Chattahoochee Records. That proved to be a huge mistake.

As the summer of 1964 drew to a close, Terry Fischer and Sally Gordon were about to leave home, and head to college. They needed the royalties from  Popsicles and Icicles to pay their way through college. However, the royalties weren’t forthcoming. 

This lead to Chattahoochee Records having to circulate a memo to other record labels explaining why The Murmaids hadn’t been paid. The memo explained that the funds in a trust for each member of The Murmaids. However, Chattahoochee Records alleged that the agreement hadn’t been honoured by Terry Fischer Sr; and claimed that Sally Gordon had received her funds. The label further claimed that Terry Fischer Sr. had stipulated  she had the final say over the other two members participation in the group. However, even fifty-one years later, some of Chattahooche Records claims are disputed.

Recently, Terry Fischer claimed that when The Murmaids received their first royalty statement; “it showed that we were owed nothing at all!” The expenses charged by Chattahoochee Records amounted to $10,000, exactly the sum The Murmaids were owed. Further muddying the waters, was Kim Fowley’s claim that The Murmaids were in breach of contract for recording with The Rip Chords. However, their producer Terry Melcher disputes this claim. What was clear, was that all wasn’t well with The Murmaids and Chattahoochee Records.

Despite this, Chattahoochee Record decided to reissue Bull Talk. The former B-Side was about to enjoy its moment in the sun. There was a reason for this. Shirley Ellis’ single Name Game was riding high in the charts, and just about to reach the top twenty. By then, teenagers were adding the word “bull” to sentences, so that adults wouldn’t be able to understand what they were saying. Ruth Conte Yardum and Kim Fowley thought they could jump on the “bull” bandwagon, and score a novelty hit. That wasn’t the case. Despite this, ‘aspiring pop impresario’ Kim Fowley had another plan up his sleeve.

He decided to repress Popsicles and Icicles. However, he needed a B-Side, so drafted in five new girls who recorded as The Murmaids. They got to sing on the B-Side Comedy and Tragedy, by agreeing to phone a local radio station, and request Popsicles and Icicles. The song that was chosen was played non-stop for a week. However, Comedy and Tragedy wasn’t the only B-Side to the newly reissued Popsicles and Icicles.

When Popsicles and Icicles began garnering more radio play, three other versions of the single were pressed. Each had a different B-Side. Bunny Stomp was followed by Huntington Flats and Blue Dress. As as all this unfolded, the “real” Murmaids were “baffled.” Their group had essentially been hijacked by Kim Fowley and Chattahooche Records. Despite this betrayal, incredibly, Terry Fischer and the rest of the Murmaids returned to the studio.

With Popsicles and Icicles growing in popularity once again, The Murmaids went into the studio and recorded enough music for an album. However, that album was never released until 1980. To make matters worse, The Murmaids were never paid for the session. That wasn’t the end of The Murmaids saga.

Rubbing salt in the real Murmaids’ wound, was that two singles were released baring The Murmaids’ name. Whether any of the original lineup of The Murmaids sung on the two singles is the subject of debate? 

The first was Stuffed Animals, which featured Little White Lies on the flip side. On its release, Little White Lies claims to have been: “Produced and Recorded in Britain by Kim Fowley.” Who sung on the single is still disputed. However, when Stuffed Animals was released as a single, it failed commercially. So did the followup.

The Cathy Brasher penned Go Away was chosen as The Murmaids’ next single. On the flip side was Little Boys, which  Yvonne Vaughan wrote. When Go Away was released in 1966, the single failed to chart. That was all that was heard of The Murmaids until 1968.

After two years away, The Murmaids returned in 1968 with their swan-song Paper Sun. It was released on Liberty, with Song Through Perception on the B-Side. The only original member of The Murmaids was Sally Gordon. Even she couldn’t revive the group’s flagging fortunes. After five eventful, off and on years, The Murmaids were history.

Fast forward to 1980, and The Murmaids Resurface was belatedly released on the Chattahoochee Records. It featured previously unreleased including Don’t Forget, Alone, Three Little Words, Mr. Sandman, Playmates, So Young and You Cheated. At last, the songs The Murmaids had recorded for the album all these years ago, had been released. It was just a pity nobody bothered to tell Terry Fischer about the release of The Murmaids Resurface.

Terry Fischer only found out about The Murmaids Resurface when a friend discovered a copy at a record fare in the Mid West. They sent Terry Fischer a copy of The Murmaids Resurface. When Terry Fischer looked at the credits to The Murmaids Resurface the producer was Ruth Conte. This was just the latest twist to The Murmaids story. Seventeen years after they first signed to Chattahooche Records, The Murmaids was proving to be the gift that kept on giving.

That wasn’t the case for Terry Fischer and the other two Murmaids. Even today, they’ve no idea of how many records they really sold. That is somewhat ironic.

After the commercial success of Popsicles And Icicles, major labels were knocking on Terry Fischer Sr’s door wanting  to buy The Murmaids’ contract out, and sign them to their label. Terry Fischer Sr. decided to stay loyal to the label that gave The Murmaids’ their break. Sadly, that proved to be a huge  mistake.

If The Murmaids had signed to a major, they could’ve enjoyed a much more successful career. They wouldn’t be remembered as a one-hit wonder. The Murmaids, a talented trio, deserved much better. Certainly much better than happened next.

Less than a year later after spurning the advances of major labels, The Murmaids never received the royalties they were owed. This couldn’t have come at a worse time, as Terry and Sally Gordon were about to head off to college. By then, The Murmaids’ story was almost at an end. It had lasted around six months.

During that period, The Murmaids had played live a few times, and made a couple of appearances on television. After six months, The Murmaids’ story was all but over. That’s despite singles being released for another four years.

These singles were either songs the original lineup of The Murmaids recorded, or different lineups put together by musical ‘impresario’ Kim Fowley. The only other time Terry Fischer entered a recording studio as a Murmaid, was to record The Murmaids Resurface, which was belatedly issued in 1980. By then, The Murmaids had long joined the one-hit wonder club.

While the one-hit wonder club may not be the most exclusive club in the world, at least The Murmaids enjoyed a brief, but tantalising taste of fame and commercial success. Although it didn’t last long, nor proved particularly profitable, at least The Murmaids enjoyed their moment in the spotlight, and enjoyed what every band dreams of, a hit single.

The Murmaids-A Story Of What Might Have Been.

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FIVE DRUMMERS, FIVE GUITARISTS AND FOUR ALBUMS-THE STORY OF SEATRAIN.

Five Drummers, Five Guitarists and Four Albums-The Story Of Seatrain.

Although Seatrain were only together for four years and released four albums, there were five separate lineups of the band. Drummers and guitarists proved to be Seatrain’s Achille’s Heel. Seatrain featured five different drummers and guitarists between the release of their 1969 debut album Sea Train, and  their 1973 swan-song.  By then, Seatrain was a very different band to the one that started out in 1969.

Andy Kulberg was the only original member of Seatrain in the band. He had cofounded the band in 1968, and played on every album that Seatrain released. This included their 1973 swan-song Watch. However, by the time Watch was released by Capitol in 1973, the band’s lineup changed beyond recognition. It was the fifth and final change in Seatrain’s lineup since they were founded in August 1968.

Two of the founding members of Seatrain were drummer Roy Blumenfeld and bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg, who previously, had been members of the Blues Project. They had spilt-in after they played a starring role at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. The Blues Project went out on a high. 

By then, the Blues Project was no longer the band it once had been. Some of the members of the band had left the band before the Monterey International Pop Festival, and it was only a matter of time before the remaining members of the band went their separate ways. After the Monterey International Pop Festival decided the time had come to call time on Blues Project.

With Blues Project consigned to musical history, the members of the band embarked upon new projects. However, it wasn’t until the summer of 1968 that Roy Blumenfeld and Andy Kulberg form a new band, Sea Train.

Having formed Sea Train, Roy Blumenfeld and Andy Kulberg moved to Marin County, California in August 1968. That was where they met the other members of the band. This included former Mystery Trend guitarist John Gregory, ex-Jim Kweskin Jug Band violinist Richard Greene, saxophonist Don Kretmar and lyricist and backing vocalist Jim Roberts. He was the final piece in the jigsaw of what was the newest American roots fusion band, Sea Train.

With the new band’s lineup in place, Sea Train were keen to record their debut album. There was a problem though. Blues Project still owed their former label an album. Planned Obsolescence which was meant to be Sea Train’s debut album, was released on Verve Forecast as a Blues Project album. Once Planned Obsolescence was released in 1968, Blues Project had discharged their contractual obligations to Verve Forecast. Now Seatrain could begin work on their debut album Sea Train.

Sea Train.

By the time Sea Train began work on their eponymous debut album, the band had signed a recording contract. Not long after this, Sea Train got to work on their 1969 eponymous debut album.

For Sea Train’s eponymous debut album, Andy Kulberg and Jim Roberts formed a successful songwriting partnership, penning Sea Train, As I Lay Losing and Out Where The Hills. Meanwhile, Jim Roberts and John Gregory wrote Let the Duchess No, Portrait Of The Lady As A Young Artist and Rondo.Andy Kulberg contributed Pudding Street and Sweet’s Creek’s Suite. These songs would become Sea Train which would showcase the band’s unique brand of American roots fusion.

To create this sound, Sea Train would combine blues, bluegrass, folk and rock in the studio. They were joined by engineer and producer Henry Lewy, whose career was about to blossom. However, Sea Train decided to arrange and  produce their eponymous debut album, while Henry Lewy and Robert Di Sousa took charge of engineering duties. That was no surprise, as Sea Train featured some experienced musicians.

Two members of Sea Train’s rhythm section, drummer and percussionist Roy Blumenfeld and bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg were members of Blues Project, while guitarist and vocalist John Gregory had been a member of Mystery Trend. 

Violinist Richard Greene was a member of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. The other two members of Sea Train included,  saxophonist Don Kretmar and backing vocalist Jim Roberts. They recorded the eight tracks that would become Sea Train.

Once Sea Train was completed, Columbia began working towards the release of the album later in 1969. Little did they know that all wasn’t well within Sea Train. This would soon become clear. 

Before that, Sea Train was released later in 1969. By then, critics had their say on Sea Train, which showcased their own unique take on American roots fusion. This was essentially a combination of blues, bluegrass, country, folk, jazz and rock. Sea Train was well received by critics, who almost inevitably, drew comparisons with The Band and the Grateful Dead. However, when Sea Train was released, the album failed to find an audience. For Sea Train that was the last straw.

Not long after the release of Sea Train, the band split-up. They had been together less than a year, and had only released the one album. It looked like the end of the road for Sea Train.

Sea Train Mk II.

Not long after the Sea Train split-up in 1969, Andy Kulberg and Richard Greene decided to reform the group. They began the search for the second lineup of Sea Train. Soon, drummer Bobby Moses, guitarist Teddy Irwin and vocalist Red Shepherd were added to the lineup. Soon, so was saxophonist and bassist Don Kretmar. This became Sea Train Mk II…for the time being.

This lineup of Sea Train wasn’t together long. Before long, Sea Train were looking for a drummer and guitarist.

Sea Train Mk III.

Later in 1969, the search began for a Sea Train’s new drummer and guitarist. Various musicians were auditioned, and soon, the remaining members of Sea Train settled on new additions. 

Replacing drummer Bobby Moses was Billy Williams, while Elliot Randall became Sea Train’s new guitarist. Sea Train Mk III was complete.

Before long, Billy Williams and Elliot Randall left Sea Train. So did saxophonist and bassist Don Kretmar. Now Sea Train began the search all over again for new members.

Sea Train Mk IV.

One of the earliest recruits was guitarist Peter Rowan, who had cofounded Earth Opera in 1967. The next recruits were drummer Larry Atamanuik, and keyboardist and vocalist Lloyd Baskin. A decision was made that Jim Roberts would return to the fold, and continue to contribute lyrics. While this completed the lineup, there was still one more change to be made. 

No longer was the group known as Sea Train. Instead, they were known as Seatrain, which was also the title of the group’s next album for Capitol.

Seatrain.

With a new lineup and new name, Seatrain began work on what was their eponymous sophomore album. Just like on Sea Train, the Andy Kulberg and Jim Roberts played an important part in the songwriting process. They penned four of the eight songs, including Song Of Job, Broken Morning, Out Where the Hills and 13 Question. New guitarist and vocalist Peter Rowan chipped in with two songs, Home To You and Waiting for Elijah. Bookending the album was Lowell George’s Pack Of Fools and Ervin Rouse’s Orange Blossom Special which featured Oh My Love, Sally Goodin and Creepin’ Midnight. These songs would eventually become Seatrain. 

Before that, the band had to cross the Atlantic, and work with the one of the most successful producers in the history of popular music,..George Music. Home for the man who produced The Beatles, was the prestigious Air Studios. This was where Seatrain was recorded by the second lineup of the band. It featured a rhythm section of drummer Larry Atamanuik; bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg and guitarist and lead vocalist Peter Rowan. He shared the lead vocals duties with Lloyd Baskin, while Richard Greene played violin, viola and keyboards. Meanwhile, George Martin took charge of production, in played his part in what was a quite different album from their debut. Seatrain saw the group’s sound begin to evolve.

Once Seatrain was complete, critics were sent copies of the George Martin produced album. They were won over by a carefully crafted album of East Coast rock and country soul. This was a much more commercial sounding album.

And so it proved to be. When 13 Questions was released as a single in 1970, it reached forty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Despite the success of the single, Seatrain failed to trouble the charts upon its release later in 1970. This was a disappointment, given Seatrain was the best, and most accomplished album of the group’s career. 

The Marblehead Messenger.

Despite the commercial failure of Seatrain, Capitol never lost faith in the band. Capitol even hired George Martin to produce Seatrain’s third album, The Marblehead Messenger. It featured ten songs penned by members of Seatrain.

Just like on the two previous albums, the Andy Kulberg and Jim Roberts songwriting partnership wrote many of the songs on the album. This time around, they contributed six songs, Gramercy, The State of Georgia’s Mind, Marblehead Messenger, London Song, Losing All The Years and Despair Tire. Peter Rowan contributed a trio of songs, Protestant Preacher, How Sweet Thy Song and Mississippi Moon. Keyboardist Lloyd Baskin made his songwriting debut with Lonely’s Not the Only Way to Go. These songs were recorded with producer George Martin.

This time around, George Martin joined Seatrain at Seaweed Studios, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. By then, Seatrain were enjoying a settled lineup. They hoped changes in the lineup were a thing of the past, and that from now on in, the same band would feature on albums. This included a rhythm section of drummer Larry Atamanuik; bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg and guitarist and lead vocalist Peter Rowan. He shared the lead vocals duties with Lloyd Baskin, and Richard Greene switched between violin, viola and keyboards. Meanwhile, George Martin took charge of production on what proved to be a career-defining album.

Once The Marblehead Messenger was complete, critics had their say on Seatrain’s third album. It was another carefully crafted and cohesive album where Seatrain came of age musically. They were maturing as musicians, singers and songwriters. Meanwhile, the music on The Marblehead Messenger was melodic and featured poetic lyrics. Critics were in agreement that The Marblehead Messenger was Seatrain’s finest hour.

Buoyed by reviews, executives at Capitol thought that The Marblehead Messenger was the album that would introduce Seatrain to the wider record buying public. They were still one of music’s best kept secrets. Sadly, Seatrain remained one of music’s best kept secrets, and nowadays, The Marblehead Messenger is regarded as a hidden gem of an album. 

Despite the commercial failure of The Marblehead Messenger, Seatrain embarked upon their first British Tour. Some of the dates on their British tour found Seatrain supporting Traffic. While Seatrain were well received by British audiences, it would be the first and last time Seatrain toured Britain. The following year, 1972, there would be two departures from Seatrain

Seatrain Mk V. 

In 1972, Seatrain founding member Richard Greene and Peter Rowan left join Muleskinner. For Seatrain, this was a huge loss. Richard Greene was a talented multi-instrumentalist and Andy Kulberg’s songwriting partner. Peter Rowan was Seatrain’s guitarist and lead vocalist, and had produced some of his best performances on The Marblehead Messenger. This was another huge loss. So was the loss of drummer Larry Atamanuik, who decided to leave Seatrain after two albums. Suddenly, Seatrain were looking for three new members.

The search began, and various musicians were auditioned. Eventually, Seatrain settled on drummer Julio Coronado, keyboardist Bill Elliott and guitarist and vocalist Peter Walsh. This completed what was the fifth lineup of Seatrain. They would make their recording debut on Watch, which was Seatrain’s fourth album, but their debut for Warner Bros.

Watch.

Watch marked the start of a new chapter for Seatrain, and especially Andy Kulberg. He was the last of remaining founding members of Seatrain, and had been ever-present throughout the band’s career. 

Jim Roberts was another founding member of Seatrain, but hadn’t contributed to their third album The Marblehead Messenger. The last time Jim Roberts cowrote songs with Andy Kulberg was on Seatrain. However, with Richard Greene having left Seatrain, Jim Roberts and Andy Kulberg decided to renew their songwriting partnership.

The Jim Roberts and Andy Kulberg songwriting partnership contributed a trio of songs to Watch, including Pack of Fools, Freedom Is The Reason and North Coast. Andy Kulberg penned Scratch, and had written Abbeville Fair with Richard Greene, prior to his departure from Seatrain. Lloyd Baskin contributed  Bloodshot Eyes and We Are Your Children Too. They were joined by covers of Bob Dylan’s Watching The River Flow and Al Kooper’s Flute Thing, and became Watch which was produced by Buell Neidlinger.

For Seatrain Mk V, Watch was the first time the band had recorded together. The rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Julio Coronado; bassist and flautist Andy Kulberg and guitarist and vocalist Peter Walsh. They were joined by keyboardists Lloyd Baskin and Bill Elliot. Augmenting Seatrain were a number of session musicians.

This included a guitarist Paul Prestopino; banjo player Bill Keith; flautist Jill Shires; oboist Allan Vogel; tuba player Bob Stuart and a string section. They were joined by vocalists Wayne Daley, Sandra Lee and Sha Na Na. Producer Buell Neidlinger also played bass on Watch, which gradually took shape. It was a quite different album from The Marblehead Messenger.

Given how different an album Seatrain was, it was an album that surprised the critics, but still found favour with them. They excepted Seatrain to continue further down the road that began on Seatrain, and continued on The Marblehead Messenger. That wasn’t the case. The new lineup of Seatrain set about reinventing their music on Watch.

While critics were impressed with Watch, it failed find an audience amongst record buyers. Just like their three previous albums, Seatrain commercial success eluded Seatrain. It was a familiar story, and one that founding member Andy Kulberg had heard before. He knew that Watch was the end of the line for Seatrain.

Not long after the release of Watch, Seatrain split-up, this time for good. There was no comeback this time. Instead, Andy Kulberg rejoined the Blues Project who had reformed in 1971. After four albums and five lineups, the Seatrain were no more.

Sadly, Seatrain were the latest in a long line of bands who could’ve and should’ve reached greater heights. Despite their talent, commercial success eluded then. However, what didn’t help was that Seatrain went through five different lineups. With a settled lineup, who knows what heights Seatrain lead by Andy Kulberg might have reached? 

Instead, Seatrain remained a cult band, whose music was enjoyed and cherished by a small group of discerning record buyers. They remember the quartet of albums that Seatrain released between 1969 and 1973. Each of these albums were quite different.

This ranged from the American roots fusion of Sea Train in 1969; to the two carefully crafted albums that George Martin produced, Seatrain in 1970 and 1971s The Marblehead Messenger. Two years later, in 1973,  Seatrain returned with Watch, which was their most eclectic album. It was a fusion of Americana, blues, country, folk, gospel, pop, progressive rock, rock and soul, where Seatrain sought inspiration from American’s musical past and present. Despite the eclecticism of Watch, which was recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records, this couldn’t transform Seatrain’s fortune. Watch which is an underrated and oft-overlooked album, proved to be the swan-song, from one of America’s great lost bands,..Seatrain.

Five Drummers, Five Guitarists and Four Albums-The Story Of Seatrain.

THE JUNIE STORY: FROM OHIO PLAYER TO SOLO ARTIST, FUNKADELIC AND BEYOND.

The Junie Story: From Ohio Player To Solo Artist, Funkadelic and Beyond.

In 1970, most sixteen years in Drayton, Ohio, were still at high school and were making plans for college or the world of work. Some were worrying about being drafted, and heading for Vietnam to fight in a war that America was struggling to win. Meanwhile,  Walter “Junie” Morrison Jr. was living the musical dream. He had just joined The Ohio Players, who with Junie onboard, were about to become one of the most successful American funk bands of the early seventies. 

Junie joined in time to play on The Ohio Players’ 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 the nineteen year old.

He hoped that The Ohio Players might have a change of heart, and that he would rejoin their ranks. When this seemed unlikely, Walter decided to embark on a career as a solo artist, and signed a recording deal with Westbound Records, Junie went on to release a trio of albums as Junie for Westbound Records, When We Do, Freeze and Suzie Supergroupie. They’re a reminder of  Walter “Junie” Morrison, who was a truly talented songwriter, musician, producer and musical entrepreneur, who sadly, he passed away on January ’21st’ 2017, aged just sixty-two.  His story begins in America’s funk capital, Drayton, Ohio in 1954. 

The Early Years

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, and soon, started to learn 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 to study music, they didn’t think that sixteen year old Walter would leave school and join a funk band. That was what happened when the man who would become known as Junie joined The Ohio Players in 1970.

 

Pain.

Two years later, and Junie featured on The Ohio Players’ 1972 sophomore album Pain. It was a slick soulful, and sometimes, jazz-tinged and funky album, and was released to widespread 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. These would play their part in the sound and success of Pleasure.

Just like Pain, 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 topped the US R&B charts. This gave The Ohio Players biggest hit single of their career. Junie 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, Junie was asked to arrange the album, and just like the two previous albums, c0wrote and co-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 of Granny, which first featured on Pain and reappeared on Pleasure. His role in The Ohio Players’ organisation seemed to be 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. Although Ecstasy 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 career. Their next four albums went on to sell over 3.5 millions copies, with three being certified platinum and one gold. 

When Junie left The Ohio Players in 1973, there was no bad feeling. He continued to work on projects with members of the band. Although some of  these projects were low-key, the important thing for Junie, was that he was still working with the band and maybe, he would return to The Ohio Players ranks. As time passed by, this proved began to look  increasingly unlikely. However, when Junie later signed to Mercury Records, members of The Ohio Players worked with him on his solo albums. That was still to come.

Tight Rope.

Junie 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. Not for the first time, Junie was way ahead of the musical curve.

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. Instead Junie was forced to watch from the sidelines The Ohio Players fifth album 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 and was certified platinum. For Junie, this must have been a frustrating time, knowing that he had played his part in the rise and rise of The Ohio Players. 

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. This resulted in a second platinum disc for The Ohio Players, who were well on their way to becoming one of the biggest funk bands in world. For Junie, it was a case of what might have been. 

When We Do.

Realising that he was unlikely to be reunited with The Ohio Players, Junie began 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 his debut album, When We Do.

Junie who was a talented multi-instrumentalist, 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 started to take shape, as heartfelt ballads and uptempo tracks rubbed shoulders with each other on a truly eclectic album. Junie combined elements of disco funk, jazz, P-Funk, rock, samba and soul on When We Do, which marked a return to the eclectic and playful sound that featured on the trio of albums Junie recorded with The Ohio Players.

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 was a member of  The Ohio Players. Although they now had two million selling albums under their belt, critics noted that The Ohio Players had lost this playfulness. That wasn’t all they The Ohio Players had lost. Critics commented that their music   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.

Buoyed by the praise and plaudits the genre-melting When We Do had garnered, the album was scheduled for release later in 1975. Upon its release, Junie’s much-anticpated debut album sold reasonably well. However, despite its undeniable quality, and eclectic and playful sound,  When We Do, didn’t replicate the success of the three albums he recorded with The Ohio Players. However, the executives at Westbound thought When We Do 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. Over the days and weeks, Junie recorded an album that combined cartoon funk, soul and  funky jams with a tougher and occasionally, psychedelic sound. The result was another eclectic album, albeit one that showcased a very different sound on Freeze.

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.

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. 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 to help Junie rescue his ailing 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 proto-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.

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 and 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. Despite his relative youth, Junie had a wealth of musical experience. He had featured on three of  The Ohio Players’ album  and had released a trio of solo albums. Junie was an experienced, talented and versatile singer, songwriter, musician, arranger and producer. It wouldn’t be long before someone came calling, wanting to hire Junie.

Funkadelic

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.

The Solo Years Take Two.

Junie returned to his solo career in 1980, after writing playing his part in Funkadelic two million selling albums. 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.

A Change Of Career.

In the late 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.

Sadly, 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 to some extent, is still one of music’s best kept secrets. Somewhat belatedly, this seems to be starting to change, since hip hop producers have started to sample Junie’s music. This has resulted in some hip hop fans going in search of Junie’s albums, and rediscovering the five solo albums that he released during his career. However, the highlights of Junie’s solo career are the trio of albums he released  on Westbound Records, When We Do, Freeze and Suzie Supergroupie. They feature a musical prodigy at his innovative best, as Junie just like he did with The Ohio Players, creates music that is soulful and  funky, and also eclectic and playful.

The Junie Story: From Ohio Player To Solo Artist, Funkadelic and Beyond.

DEEP PURPLE’S JOURNEY TO ROCK TITANS.

Deep Purple’s Journey To Rock Titans.

Little did record buyers realise it,that the seventies was the  golden era for rock music. That was when rock music came of age. So did true titans of rocks, like Led Zed Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. As the seventies dawned, they become three of biggest bands in the world.

For the four members of Led Zeppelin, their lives were transformed when their debut album became one of the biggest selling albums of 1969. This was the start of the rise and rise of Led Zeppelin. They had released three albums that had sold over twenty-five million by the time Deep Purple made a commercial breakthrough.

It had taken four albums before 1970s Deep Purple In Rock transformed the fortunes of Deep Purple. For the next five years, commercial success and critical acclaim would be constant companions of  Deep Purple. Between 1970 and 1975 Deep Purple enjoyed worldwide success.  Deep Purple would also become one of hardest rocking groups of the seventies.

Vying with Deep Purple for the title of Kings of seventies rock were Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Just like Deep Purple, they were hugely successful and hard rocking bands. They were also the hardest living living rock groups. This lead to them being known as the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal.” The three groups seemed proud of their infamy, and wore it like a badge.

The “unholy trinity’s” penchant for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle was legendary. Excess and extravagance was an everyday occurrence. Similarly,  chaos and carnage was omnipresent as the “unholy trinity” toured the world. Each group seemed to determined to outdo the other. Hotel rooms were wrecked, televisions thrown out of windows  and copious amounts of drink and drugs consumed. This would ultimately come at a human cost later in the seventies with the death of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Until then, the party continued; and the “unholy trinity” continued to make what would be remembered as some of the best, and most memorable music of the seventies. They were living the dream. Especially Deep Purple, who had only been formed in 1968.

Deep Purple were formed in 1968 in Hertford. However, the story begins in 1967. That was when ex-Searchers drummer, Chris Curtis, contacted London based businessman, Tony Edwards, with a business proposition. Chris wanted to create a supergroup which he would name Roundabout. The idea behind the name was that the lineup was fluid. Members would come and go, on what was akin to a musical roundabout. Tony Edwards liked the idea and brought onboard Jon Coletta and Ron Hire. They named their new venture Hire-Edwards-Coletta (HEC) Enterprises. Now with financial backing, Chris Curtis started putting together Roundabout.

The first member of Roundabout was Jon Lord, a classically trained organist. He’d previously played with The Artwoods. Guitarist Richie Blackmore, who recently, had been working as a session musician is Hamburg auditioned. He too joined Roundabout. So did bassist Nick Simper, whose most recent band was The Flower Pot Men. Nick was a friend of Richie Blackmore. The two other members of Roundabout were also friends. Rod Evans was recruited as the lead vocalists. Previously, he was a member The Maze. Their drummer was Ian Paice. Nick became the final piece in the jigsaw. However, he was not the first choice drummer.

Originally, Bobby Woodman was meant to be Roundabout’s drummer. He was drummer when Rod Evans auditioned as vocalist. Richie Blackmore had seen Nick Paice playing before. Although just eighteen, Richie knew Ian Paice was a good drummer. So when Bobby headed out to buy cigarettes, Ian Paice was auctioned. Instantly, everyone realised Nick Paice was a better drummer. When Bobby returned with his cigarettes, he was no longer Roundabout’s drummer. However, at least Roundabout’s lineup was settled. Or so people thought.

Roundabout were kitted out with the finest equipment and lived at Deeves House in South Mimms, Hertfordshire. This was their home during March 1968. That was, until they headed out on a short tour of Denmark and Sweden. It was during this tour that Roundabout became Deep Purple.

It was Richie Blackmore that came up with the name Deep Purple. This was the name of his grandmother’s favourite song. That was the name he wrote on the blackboard, when everyone was asked to choose a new name for the nascent band. Deep Purple wasn’t the favourite though. That was Concrete God. However, the members of Roundabout decided against it. They felt the name was too harsh. So Roundabout became Deep Purple and began recording their debut album in May 1968.

Shades Of Deep Purple.

When Deep Purple entered Pye Studios, in Marble Arch, London Deep Purple in May 1968, they’d chosen ten songs for their debut album Shades Of Deep Purple. Seven songs were written by members of Deep Purple. The other three songs were cover versions. This included Joe South’s Hush, Lennon and McCartney’s Help! and Joe Roberts’ Hey Joe which is synonymous with Jimi Hendrix. These ten songs were recorded by the original version of Deep Purple. This included vocalist Rod Evans, drummer Ian Paice, bassists Nick Simper, organist Jon Lord and guitarist Richie Blackmore. Producing Shades Of Deep Purple was a friend of Richie’s, Derek Lawrence. Once Shades Of Deep Purple was recorded, it was released later in 1969

When critics heard Shades Of Deep Purple they weren’t impressed. Reviews were mostly negative. Since then, critics have rewritten history and most reviews of Shades Of Deep Purple are positive. Back in 1968, things were very different. Shades Of Deep Purple was perceived as unfocused. It was a  mix of psychedelia, progressive rock, pop rock and thanks to Richie’s guitar riffs, hard rock. That was why many critics disliked Shades Of Deep Purple. Record buyers had different ideas about Shades Of Deep Purple,

Shades Of Deep Purple was released in July 1968 in America. It reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 200 charts. This was no doubt helped by Hush reaching number four in the US Billboard 100 charts. Two months later, Shades Of Deep Purple reached number fourteen in Britain. For Deep Purple their debut album had been a commercial success and their lives transformed.

After the commercial success of the single Hush and Shades Of Deep Purple, Deep Purple were booked into a gruelling tour of America. Their American record company, Tetragrammaton, decided that Deep Purple should record another album. So Deep Purple headed into the recording studio in September 1968 to record The Book of Taliesyn.

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The Book of Taliesyn.

Time was against Deep Purple. There wasn’t long before their American tour began. Deep Purple only had five new songs written. They had to rely upon cover versions to complete The Book of Taliesyn. Neil Diamond’s Kentucky Woman, Lennon and McCartney’s We Can Work It Out and River Deep, Mountain High completed The Book of Taliesyn. It was released in America in December 1968,

Just like Shades Of Deep Purple, The Book of Taliesyn was a mixture of psychedelia and progressive rock. The only difference was it had a harder edge. Deep Purple’s trademark sound was evolving. Critics seemed to prefer The Book of Taliesyn. It received a much more favourable reception from critics. This was also the case upon  the release of The Book of Taliesyn.

Released in December 1968, The Book of Taliesyn reached number fifty-four in the US Billboard 200. Two singles were released in America. Kentucky Woman reached number thirty eight in the US Billboard 100 charts. Then River Deep, Mountain High stalled at number fifty-three in the US Billboard 100 charts. The Book of Taliesyn charted in Canada and Japan. It seemed word was spreading about Deep Purple. However, in Britain, The Book of Taliesyn failed to chart. That wasn’t the only problem Deep Purple would have.

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Deep Purple.

By 1969, Deep Purple were becoming a tight, talented band. Onstage and in the studio, they were growing and evolving. This included as songwriters. Although they’d only been together just over a year, they were a much better band. They’d released two albums and toured constantly. There was a problem though. Which direction should their music take?

Some members of Deep Purple wanted their music to take on a rawer, harder sound. This didn’t please everyone. Lead vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper were in the minority. Organist Jon Lord, guitarist Richie Blackmore and drummer Nick Paice wanted the band to change direction. With the band split, this wasn’t the best way to prepare for the recording of their third album Deep Purple.

For Deep Purple, the band were keen to turn their back on cover versions. Deep Purple only featured one cover version, Donavon’s Lalena. The eight tracks were all written by members of Deep Purple. Just like their first two albums, Deep Purple would be produced by Derek Lawrence.

Recording of Deep Purple took place during a two-month tour. Deep Purple had ensured they had some free days where they could record their third album during January and March 1969. Recording took place at the De Lane Lea Studio, London. They were familiar with the De Lane Lea Studio. Previously, Deep Purple had rerecorded The Bird Has Flown there. So, they were familiar with the room. This allowed Deep Purple to work quickly. With their reputation in America growing, Deep Purple wanted their eponymous album released as soon as possible.

As soon as Deep Purple was recorded, Deep Purple jumped on a plane and headed back to America. They rejoined the tour of the country that had claimed them as their own. There was a problem though. Tetragrammaton, Deep Purple’s American label hadn’t pressed the album. Worse than that, the label had financial problems. Within a year, they would be insolvent and filing for bankruptcy. Already, this was affecting Deep Purple. Their manager John Colleta headed home. He decided that this would save on a hotel room. Things it seemed, couldn’t get any worse for Deep Purple.

On the release of Deep Purple in June 1969, the album had a harder sound. Elements of blues, progressive rock and heavy metal combined on seven tracks. The exception was The Bird Has Flown. It veered off in the direction of classical music. Mostly, though, Deep Purple’s trademark sound was evolving. How would critics and fans respond to Deep Purple?

Given the problems with Tetragrammaton, it’s no surprise that Deep Purple wasn’t a commercial success. Tetragrammaton couldn’t afford to promote Deep Purple properly. Despite generally positive reviews from critics, Deep Purple stalled at 162 in the US Billboard 200 charts. It failed to chart in the UK on its release in November 1969. At least Deep Purple charted in Japan. Things looked up when Deep Purple was certified gold in Germany. That was the only good news Deep Purple enjoyed.

The tension that was within Deep Purple bubbled over after the release of their third album. This lead to vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper being replaced. In came vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover. Little did anyone realise that this would later, be perceived as the classic lineup of Deep Purple. It was also the lineup that recorded the album that saw Deep Purple make a commercial breakthrough in Britain, Deep Purple In Rock.

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Deep Purple In Rock.

With their new lineup, Deep Purple Mk II entered the studio for the second time. They made their recording debut on Concerto for Group and Orchestra which was a collaboration between Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. However, Deep Purple In Rock was the start of a new era in Deep Purple’s history.

Recording of Deep Purple In Rock took place at IBC, De Lane Lea and Abbey Road Studios. A total of seven songs were recorded. They were written by Deep Purple. These seven songs showcased the new Deep Purple. The music was heavier and more like what would be seen as their classic sound. This was essentially hard rock or heavy metal. It was after the success of Deep Purple In Rock that lead to Deep Purple being referred to as the third member of the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal.

Deep Purple released Deep Purple In Rock on 3rd June 1970. This was Deep Purple’s first album to be released to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. It was the first Deep Purple album to reach the top ten in Britain. Deep Purple In Rock reached number four in Britain. In America, Deep Purple In Rock only reached number 143 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Elsewhere, Deep Purple In Rock was a huge commercial success worldwide. 

From Europe to Argentina, America and Japan, Deep Purple In Rock was a huge success. This resulted in gold discs for Deep Purple in America, Argentina, Britain, France and Holland. For Deep Purple, Deep Purple In Rock was a game-changer. Their decision to change direction musically was vindicated. Now, Deep Purple were one of the biggest bands in rock music.  Little did Deep Purple realise that they were entering the most successful period of their career.

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Fireball.

Fireball was the first of three number one albums Deep Purple would have in Britain. Belatedly, Britain had “got” Deep Purple. They were their own, and were proud of that. The hard rocking quintet’s unique brand of hard rock was winning friends and influencing people. Having toured extensively, at last Deep Purple were now part of British rock royalty. This continued with Fireball.

Given Deep Purple extensive touring schedule, albums were recorded whenever the band had downtime. Fireball was recorded during various sessions that took place between September 1970 and June 1971. Recording took place at De Lane Lea Studios and Olympic Studios, London. Other sessions took place at The Hermitage, Welcombe, North Devon. During these sessions, seven tracks were recorded. Each of the tracks were credited to the five members of Deep Purple. Unlike other bands, everyone in Deep Purple played their part in the songwriting process. That had been the case since the first album Deep Purple Mk. II had recorded, Deep Purple In Rock. Just like Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball would be a commercial success.

Most critics gave Fireball favourable reviews. There were very few dissenting voices. Apart from later, members of Deep Purple. They felt Fireball wasn’t their best album. Record buyers disagreed.

Across the world, Fireball was a huge commercial success. Fireball was released in Britain in July 1971. Record buyers in America and Europe had to wait until September 1971. By then, Fireball had reached number one in Britain and was certified gold. Two singles were released in Britain. Strange Kind of Woman reached number eight and Fireball number fifteen. This was just the start of Fireball’s success.

When Fireball was released in America it reached number thirty-two in the US Billboard 200 charts and was certified gold. In Canada Fireball reached number twenty-four. Fireball proved one of Deep Purple’s most successful albums in Japan, reaching number sixty-six. Australians were won over by Fireball, when it reached number four. Deep Purple proved popular in Israel, where they enjoyed a top ten album. However, it was in Europe that Fireball burnt brightest. 

On Fireball’s release in September 1971, it reached number one in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Fireball reached the top ten in Finland, France, Holland, Italy Norway. Despite the widespread commercial success and critical acclaim Fireball enjoyed in Europe, the only gold disc awarded was in Holland. However, Deep Purple would make up for this with their sixth album, Machine Head.

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Machine Head.

By 1972, Deep Purple had established themselves as one of the hardest working bands in music. They seemed to be constantly touring. When they weren’t touring, they were recording. As a result, Deep Purple were about release their sixth album in less than four years, Machine Head.

Unlike their five previous albums, Deep Purple didn’t head into the recording studio. Instead, they brought the recording studio to them. They were booked to stay at the Grand Hotel, in Montreux Casino, Switzerland. So that’s where they brought the Rolling Stone’s sixteen track mobile recording studio to. Between the 6th and 21st December 1971, Deep Purple were meant to record their sixth album, Machine Head. However, there was a problem.

Lead vocalist Ian Gillan had contracted hepatitis. His doctors advised him to rest. For Deep Purple, this was a disaster. The hotel rooms and mobile recording studio was booked. They’d already had to cancel their forthcoming American tour. Cancelling the recording of their sixth album would be an utter disaster. No doubt realising the gravity of the situation, and buoyed by the excitement of starting recording a new album, Deep Purple decided to head to Switzerland.

Deep Purple landed in Switzerland on 3rd December 1971. Only one further concert had to take place at Montreux Casino. That was Frank Zappa’s now infamous concert. It took place on the 4th December 1971. During Frank Zappa’s set, an over enthusiastic member of the audience fired a flare. It hit the roof, causing the Montreux Casino to go on fire. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Unfortunately, the Montreux Casino was in no fit state to double as a makeshift studio. Luckily, the Montreux Casino’s owner Claude Nobs new a theatre nearby that could be transformed into a makeshift studio. So Deep Purple headed to the Pavilion, where they’d record a song based on the somewhat surreal experience at the Montreux Casino. This song would become a classic, Smoke On The Water.

For what became Machine Head, Deep Purple had six songs completed. They were all credited to the five members of Deep Purple. So would the unfinished song. It was provisionally titled “Title No. 1.” However, as the five members of Deep Purple spoke about the events at the Montreux Casino, bass player Roger Glover uttered the immortal words “Smoke On The Water.” A classic had been born. 

During a sixteen day period between the 6th and 21st December 1971, Deep Purple recorded their sixth album, Machine Head. The conditions weren’t ideal. The mobile recording studio was parked outside and cables run through the Pavilion. They ran along corridors and under doors. It was far from the ideal conditions to record an album. Coupled with Ian Gillan’s medical condition, it’s a wonder Deep Purple were able to even record an album, never mind a career defining album.

Machine Head was released on 25th March 1972. Reviews varied between favourable to glowing. Although reviews mattered, what counted was sales. There was no problem there. On its release, Machine Head reached number one in eight countries. This included Argentina, Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and Yugoslavia. In Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway andSweden, Machine Head reached the top ten. Across the Atlantic, Machine Head became Deep Purple’s most successful album, when it reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 charts. Given the commercial success of Machine Head, it received a plethora of gold and platinum discs.

Having reached number one in their home country, Machine Head was certified gold in Britain. Across the English Channel, Machine Head was certified gold twice. In Argentina, Machine Head was certified platinum. However, Machine Head was most successful in America, where it was certified double-platinum. However, this wasn’t the end of the commercial success. Machine Head featured two singles.

Never Before was chosen as the lead single in Britain. Although it reached number twelve, this seemed a strange choice. After all, Smoke In The Water was a classic in waiting. It reached number four in the US Billboard 100 charts. It wasn’t until 1977 that belatedly, Smoke In The Water was released as a single, where it reached number twenty-one. How it wasn’t released as a single in 1972, remains a musical mystery. However,  having released a career defining album, Machine Head, Deep Purple headed out on their Machine Head World Tour.

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Made In Japan.

The Machine Head World Tour would be one of the most gruelling tours Deep Purple had embarked upon. It was scheduled to last the rest of 1972 and into 1973. Deep Purple were a hugely successful band. That’s why music lovers in the four corners of the globe wanted to see and hear Deep Purple. That included in Japan.

By August 1972 Deep Purple had arrived in Japan. They’d been popular in Japan for most of their career. However, Machine Head transformed Deep Purple’s fortunes. This included in Japan. On the 15th and 16th of August 1972, Deep Purple took to the stage in Osaka. Then on 17th August 1972, Deep Purple landed in Tokyo. These three concerts were recorded and became Made In Japan, which was akin to a  a heavy rock masterclass from Deep Purple.

For anyone who couldn’t make the Machine Head World Tour, Made In Japan was the perfect reminder of a legendary tour. Especially the Japanese leg. Between the 15th and 17th August 1972, Deep Purple were at their hard rocking best. 

This continued wherever they went. However, there were a lot of people who wanted a reminder of this legendary tour. For others, who for whatever reason, couldn’t get to see Deep Purple, a double album entitled Made In Japan was almost as good. So Made In Japan was released in Britain in December 1972 and in America in April 1973.

When critics heard Made In Japan, even the most cynical and hardbitten rock critic had to compliment Deep Purple. They were no one of the three best heavy rock bands in the word. Led Zeppelin were the best and Deep Purple and Black Sabbath fought it out for second place. So well received was Made In Japan, that it was heralded as one of the finest live albums ever. Made In Japan further reinforced Deep Purple’s reputation as one of the greatest heavy metal bands.

On its release in December 1972, Made In Japan reached number fifteen in Britain and was certified gold. Made In Japan reached number one in Austria, Germany and Canada. In Norway, Made In Japan reached number seven. Then in April 1973, Made In Japan reached number six in the US Billboard 200. For Deep Purple, this resulted in even more gold and platinum discs.

Across the word, Made In Japan was a commercial success. After being certified gold in Britain, it was then certified gold in France. Made In Japan was then certified platinum in America, Austria, Germany and Italy. In Argentina, Made In Japan was certified double platinum. Just four years after they first formed, Deep Purple were one of the most successful rock bands in the world. Their 1972 legendary live album,  Made In Japan, is a reminder of Deep Purple at their very best.

Following Made In Japan, commercial success and critical acclaim continued for Deep Purple. There would also be changes in lineup, breakups and reunions. However, the classic lineup of Deep Purple features on Made In Japan. The classic line up of Deep Purple bid a farewell on 1973s Who Do We Think We Are.

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When Who Do We Think We Are.

Following the critical acclaim and commercial success of Made In Japan, Deep Purple were keen to build on the momentum created by their live opus. Fortunately, Deep Purple had already recorded a new studio album. It had been recorded in Europe, during summer and autumn 1972.

The five members of Deep Purple had penned seven new songs, and they were recorded during using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. It made its war to Rome, Italy in July and part of When Who Do We Think We Are was recorded there. Then in October 1972, When Who Do We Think We Are was completed in Frankfurt in Germany. With their new studio album completed, this should’ve been a time for celebration. It wasn’t though.

Far from it. The group was slowly being ripped apart by disagreements within Deep Purple. Tensions had been high when When Who Do We Think We Are was being recorded. Things got so bad, that members of the Deep Purple weren’t speaking to each other.  This resulted in a schedule having to be drawn up, so that warring band members could record their parts separately. Somehow, though, the five members managed to record the followup to Made In Japan. The big question was, would the internal strife affect quality of music on When Who Do We Think We Are?

When critics heard When Who Do We Think We Are, there was no consensus. Critics felt the quality of music was inconsistent. That was why reviews ranged from mixed to negative. Some critics accused Deep Purple of merely “going through the motions of making an album.” This was a far cry from previous albums.

When Who Do We Think We Are was released in January 1973, it reached number four in Britain. Across the Atlantic, the album proved successful, selling 500,000 copies within the first three months. This helped When Who Do We Think We Are reach number fifteen in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in gold discs in America and France. Compared with Deep Purple’s recent  success this was seemed slightly disappointing. To make matters worse, vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover left the band after Who Do We Think We Are. Deep Purple’s career looked like it was at a crossroads.

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With Ian Gillan and Roger Glover having left Deep Purple, this left a huge void. marked the end of an era for Deep Purple. Ian Gillan and Roger Glover were almost irreplaceable. They had played a huge part in Deep Purple’s rise to titans of rock.

From Deep Purple In Rock, right through to Made In Japan, Deep Purple enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success.  Deep Purple, and its classic lineup of  Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Roger Glover were one of the biggest bands in the free world. However, the departure of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover looked as if this spelt the end of  Deep Purple. Maybe it would be best if Deep Purple called it a day, while they were at the top. The last thing they wanted to do was besmirch their illustrious musical legacy. However, the three remaining members of Deep Purple weren’t ready to call it a day.

Instead, the two departing members of Deep Purple were soon replaced. A then unknown David Coverdale became Deep Purple’s vocalist, while Glen Hughes of Trapeze took over as bassist. They had big shoes to fill. However, with the help of the remaining members of Deep Purple, managed to do so during 1974. It was one of the busiest years of Deep Purple’s career.

Burn.

With the two new members of Deep Purple onboard, work began on the first album of Deep Purple Mk. III’s career. When work began on what became Burn the five members of the band  were involved. There was a problem though. Glenn Hughes had unexpired contractual obligations. This meant he couldn’t be credited on the album. Despite this, Glenn Hughes and the rest of Deep Purple cowrote five songs. The exceptions were Sail Away and Mistreated, which Richie Blackmore and David Coverdale cowrote. A200 which closed Burn, was written by Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. These songs were recorded in Montreux, in Switzerland.

Recording of Burn took place during November 1973. The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio had been hired, and made its way to Montreux. This was where the new  lineup of Deep Purple made its debut. Deep Purple Mk. III featured a rhythm section of drummer Ian Paice, bassist Glenn Hughes and guitarist Richie Blackmore. Augmenting the rhythm section, was keyboardist Jon Lord.  They provided the backdrop for new vocalist David Coverdale. He was part of a group that moved Deep Purple’s traditional sound forward. There was more of a boogie influence on Burn, which even featured elements of funk and soul. Once Burn was completed, Deep Purple would shortly showcase their new sound.

With Burn recorded, and the release scheduled for 15th February 1974. Before that, critics had their say on Deep Purple’s eighth studio album. Most of the critics were impressed with Deep Purple Mk. III’s ‘debut’ album. The hard rocking Burn set the bar high, as a hard  rocking Deep Purple kicked loose. There was no stopping them, as they incorporated elements of boogie, blues, funk and soul. Burn was an album where Deep Purple’s music began to evolve. However, how would their fans respond?

On the release of Burn on 15th February 1974, it reached number three in Britain and number nine in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in gold discs in America, Argentina, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden. Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice’s decision to continue continue with Deep Purple had been vindicated. Now their thoughts turned to Deep Purple’s second album of 1974, Stormbringer.

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Stormbringer.

Following the success of Burn, Deep Purple began work on a new album, Stormbringer.  It was a case of building on the momentum of Burn. So Deep Purple began work, writing and recording Stormbringer.

Soon, though, it became apparent that Stormbringer was quite different from Deep Purple’s previous albums. The first difference was that only Love Don’t Mean a Thing, High Ball Shooter and The Gypsy were credited to Deep Purple. Previously, entire albums were written by, and credited to, the entire band. This had worked well. However, things had changed on Burn. Maybe by then, musicians were realising who lucrative songwriting was, and why various songwriting partnerships sprung up within Deep Purple?

For Burn, the new members played a part in writing Stormbringer. Richie Blackmore wrote Stormbringer, Lady Double Dealer and Soldier Of Fortune with David Coverdale. He and Richie Blackmore cowrote You Can’t Do It Right with Glenn Hughes. Hold On was written by David Coverdale,  Jon Lord and Ian Paice. These nine songs were recorded in Germany,

Deep Purple returned to the studio in August 1974. This time though, they made the trip to Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland Studios, in Munich. It was becoming a popular recording studio, and would continue to be throughout the seventies. Many rock bands, including Led Zeppelin and Queen would record albums at Musicland Studios. Deep Purple were just the latest band to make the journey to Munich. That was where they recorded  a rock album with a difference. Before that, David Coverdale had made a discovery.

One of the songs Deep Purple cowrote, was the title-track Stormbringer. When David Coverdale cowrote the song, he claimed that he had no knowledge that Stormbringer was the name of a magical sword in Michael Moorcock’s books. This was a  somewhat embarrassing discovery. For Michael Moorcock, this was neither the first, nor last time Stormbringer would inspirer a musician. Hawkwind had been inspired, and later, so would Blue Öyster Cult, That was in the future. Before that, critics received advance copies Stormbringer.

Critics were in for a surprise when they received a copy of Deep Purple’s ninth studio album, Stormbringer. When they played the album, they discovered that the funk and soul influences that had been glimpsed on Burn, were now much more prominent on Stormbringer.  This came as a shock to critics. They had never envisaged one of the hardest rocking bands on planet rock, incorporating funk and soul into their music? Deep Purple’s stylistic change was about to backfire on them.

None of the critics were impressed by  Stormbringer. Reviews of Stormbringer called the album Deep Purple’s most disappointing album. There were few saving graces apart from Lady Double Dealer, which became goth metal favourite;  the uber rocky High Ball Shooter and wistful balladry of Soldier of Fortune. Deep Purple had failed to reach their usual high standards…by a long chalk. How would their faithful fans react?

When Stormbringer  was released in November 1974, it  reached number six in Britain and number twenty in the US Billboard 200. Stormbringer was certified gold in America, Britain, France and Sweden. Record buyers continued to buy Deep Purple’s albums, albeit not in the same quantities as during their classic era. Despite this, the two albums Deep Purple had released during 1074, meant it was one of the most successful years of band’s career. Sadly, 1975 was the beginning of the end. 

Come Taste The Band.

After releasing two albums that were certified gold on both sides of the Atlantic during 1974,  successes gave way to uncertainty in early 1975. Guitarist Richie Blackmore decided to leave Deep Purple. Another member of the classic lineup had left. With just two remaining, and Deep Purple having just released the worst album of their career, surely now was the time for one of the titans of rock to call time on their career? If they didn’t, they risked harming their reputation even further. Despite this risk, Deep Purple Mk. III soon became Deep Purple IV.

David Coverdale, one of the new recruits had approached Jon Lord to ask him to keep Deep Purple together. Jon Lord agree, and the search for a new guitarist began. It just so happened that David Coverdale new someone who suited the bill,  Tommy Bolin. He was drafted in and work began on Come Taste The Band which was written in Los Angeles.

For the first time ever, not one song on a Deep Purple album was written by the band.  Come Taste The Band. Indeed, only two of the nine songs were was written by the two remaining members of the classic lineup of Deep Purple. Ian Paice cowrote the album opener Comin’ Home with David Coverdale and Tommy Bollin. Jon Lord cowrote This Time Around/Owed to ‘G’ with Glenn Hughes and Tommy Bollin. The rest of the album, was the work of thew new members of Deep Purple.

Tommy Bollin and David Coverdale penned Dealer, I Need Love, Drifter and Love Child. David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes closed the album closer You Keep On Moving.  The other song on Come Taste The Band, was Lady Luck, which was written by David Coverdale and Jeff Cook, who was  Tommy Bollin’s usual songwriting partner. Just like at least one other track, this wasn’t a new song. 

At least two songs on  Come Taste The Band  weren’t new songs. Jon Lord later said that he thought that You Keep on Moving had been written in 1973 by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, and had been rejected for the Burn album. Lady Luck was another old song. It was going to make its debut on Come Taste The Band. However, there was a major problem. Incredibly, Tommy Bolin couldn’t remember the lyrics, and couldn’t get in touch with Jeff Cook. So David Coverdale rewrote some of the lyrics and Deep Purple recorded. the song. Fortunately, Jeff Cook approved the new lyrics and the pair shared the songwriting credits on Come Taste The Band.

With Come Taste The Band written, Deep Purple began to rehearse the album at Robert Simon’s  Pirate Sound Studios. Robert Simon was meant to be engineering Come Taste The Band. That was the plan. After problems about scheduling,  Deep Purple left Pirate Sound Studios, and headed to Musicland Studios.

No longer was Robert Simon going to engineer  Come Taste The Band. Co-producing  Come Taste The Band with Deep Purple was Martin Birch. Recording began on the 3rd of August 1975, and continued right through to the 1st of September 1975. By then, Deep Purple’s tenth album was complete. 

With Come Taste The Band recorded, EMI and Warner Bros, decided to release the album on Deep Purple’s Purple Records on 10th October 1975. Purple Records had released every Deep Purple album since 1971. Back then, though, Deep Purple were a musical goliath. Things were very different four years later.

Although Come Taste The Band saw Deep Purple return to a much more traditional hard rocking sound, the album was much more commercial sounding.  However, Come Taste The Band lacked one thing that most Deep Purple albums had, consistency and  quality. Critics described Come Taste The Band as a weak album. Given the reviews of Come Taste The Band, this didn’t auger well for Deep Purple.

And so it proved to be. In Britain, Come Taste The Band reached number nineteen and was certified silver. This equated to just 60,000 sales. Meanwhile, Come Taste The Band stalled at forty-three in the the US Billboard 200. There was no glittering prize this time around. This was disappointing. However, things got worse when two members of Deep Purple spent time in jail.

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After the release of Come Taste The Band, Deep Purple headed out on tour, to support their tenth studio album. All was going well until the band reached Jakarta, in Indonesia. Patsy Collins who was one of the team who looked security for Deep Purple was found dead. An inquiry found that Patsy Collins  that there were “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the death. The Indonesian police arrested Glenn Hughes and two others. They were taken to a local jail. To the rest of the band as if the four men were being framed. However, the promoter was determined that show must go on.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian promoter had arranged a second concert. There was a problem though; he was only willing to pay for one night. The Indonesian police seemed only to willing to ensure the show went ahead. They brought Glenn Hughes to the venue at gunpoint. The show went ahead, and then Glenn Hughes was returned to jail. Meanwhile, Tommy Bolin was given some morphine by the promoter. This would have consequences on the Japanese leg of the tour.

By then, a satisfactory solution had been found to the problem of the “charges.” Deep Purple’s management had to not only forego their fee, but pay add a further sum of money to the pot. This it was alleged was given the Indonesian police and army, who made sure Glenn Hughes was able to leave Indonesia. A relieved Deep Purple left Indonesia, en route to Japan.

On the flight to Japan, Tommy Bolin took the morphine the Indonesian promoter had given him. He promptly fell asleep for over eight hours. Unfortunately, he had fallen asleep on his arm, and when he woke up was unable to play guitar properly. With Tommy Bolin indisposed,  Jon Lord had to play many of the guitar parts on his keyboards and organ. This was just the latest problem that had beset Deep Purple. They seemed to be fated. So it was no surprise that when the tour ended, Deep Purple split-up until 1984.

Deep Purple Mk. IV called time on their career in the spring of 1976. Only Jon Lord  and Ian Paice remained from the lineup of Deep Purple that released Shades Of Deep Purple in 1968. Two years later, Deep Purple In Rock transformed the fortunes of Deep Purple.

For the next five years, commercial success and critical acclaim would be constant companions of  Deep Purple. Between 1970 and 1975 Deep Purple enjoyed worldwide success.  Deep Purple would also become one of hardest rocking groups of the seventies.

Vying with Deep Purple for the title of Kings of seventies rock were Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Just like Deep Purple, they were hugely successful and hard rocking bands. They were also the hardest living living rock groups. This lead to them being known as the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal.” The three groups seemed proud of their infamy, and wore it like a badge.

The “unholy trinity’s” penchant for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle was legendary. Excess and extravagance was an everyday occurrence. Similarly,  chaos and carnage was omnipresent as the “unholy trinity” toured the world. Each group seemed to determined to outdo the other. Hotel rooms were wrecked, televisions thrown out of windows  and copious amounts of drink and drugs consumed. They were living the dream.  That dream appeared to continue until Who Do We Think We Are.

By the time Deep Purple began work on Who Do We Think We Are, all wasn’t well within the band. Things had gotten so bad, that a schedule was drawn up that allowed band members to record on their own. Somehow, Deep Purple managed to complete Who Do We Think We Are, which was well received by critics and a commercial success. After that, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover left Deep Purple.  

The departure of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover looked as if this spelt the end of  Deep Purple. Maybe it would be best if Deep Purple called it a day, while they were at the top. Instead, Deep Purple continued but were never quite the same band.

Deep Purple released three albums after Ian Gillan and Roger Glover left. Burn was the best of the trio, but still didn’t come close to matching the quality of the albums Deep Purple released during their classic era. The other two albums,  Stormbringer and Come Taste The Band were disappointing albums.  By Come Taste The Band,  Deep Purple knew their time was up, and called it a day in the spring of 1976. It was the end of era, but not the end of Deep Purple.

Eight years later, the original lineup of Deep Purple eventually made a comeback, and released Perfect Strangers in 1984. During the eight year period Deep Purple were away, Led Zeppelin called it a day after the death of drummer John Bonham.  This left a huge void. When Deep Purple returned in 1984, this went some way to filling it. Good as the reunited Deep Purple were, they never released albums of the quality that they released between Deep Purple In Rock and Who Do We Think We Are. These albums were classics, and featured Deep Purple  at their hard rocking best. These albums have stood the test of time.

Over forty years later,  and many of Deep Purple Mk.II’s are now regarded as classic albums; while Deep Purple are now regraded as rock royalty. The same can be said of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, the other members of the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal. Their music is a reminder of the golden age of rock. Especially the music Deep Purple released between Deep Purple In Rock Who Do We Think We Are.

These albums feature the finest music of Deep Purple’s long career. During the period Deep Purple recorded these classic albums, their penchant for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle was legendary. It came with the territory. This was after all, rock ’n’ roll. Chaos and carnage was omnipresent and expected as Deep Purple toured the world. This never seemed to affect Deep Purple’s music. Just like  Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Deep Purple were the hard rocking, hard living, good time band, for whom commercial success and crucial acclaim were constant companions.

Deep Purple’s Journey To Rock Titans.

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MOTORPSYCHO-THE CRUCIBLE.

Motorpsycho-The Crucible.

Label: Rune Grammofon and Stickman Records.

Nowadays, not many bands stay together thirty years, but Motorpsycho who are one of Norway’s top bands have. They’re proof that longevity isn’t a thing of the past in the music business. Nor is releasing an album a year. That was common in the sixties and seventies, which for many people was the golden age of rock.

Sadly, nowadays, very few bands come close to releasing an album a year. Instead, many bands spend several years working on an album. However, there is one band still that average almost an album a year, Motorpsycho, who have just released their new album The Crucible on Rune Grammofon. It’s their twenty-second album and marks the welcome return of Motorpsycho and is the much-anticipated followup to The Tower. The Crucible Is the perfect way for Motorpsycho to celebrate thirty years of making music.

Motorpsycho were formed in Trondheim, central Norway in 1989. Since then, Motorpsycho have become a musical institution. They’re now veterans of the Norwegian music scene, and continue to influence a new generation of musicians. These new bands aspire to follow in the footsteps of Motorpsycho.

They’ve come a long way since releasing their debut album Lobotomizer in 1991. Since then, Motorpsycho have been a prolific band, averaging nearly an album a year. This includes studio albums, live albums, mini albums and collaborations. These albums have been released to critical acclaim and commercial success.

That is almost an understatement. Since the release of their fourth full length album Timothy’s Monster in 1994, Motorspycho’s last sixteen albums have reached the top ten in the Norwegian charts. Motorspycho’s music has also found an audience across Europe, with their albums regularly charting in Belgium, Germany and Holland. They’re also a hugely popular live band, and are familiar faces across Europe and further afield. Motorpsycho it seems, are one of Norwegian most successful musical exports. 

Meanwhile, back at home in their native Norway, Motorpsycho have scooped some of the most prestigious musical prizes. This includes an Edvardprisen and four Spellemannprisen Awards. These are the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Awards. Winning a Spellemannprisen is a huge honour. Most groups are lucky to be nominated for one award. So far, Motorpsycho have won four. It would be no surprise if Motorpsycho added to that number. Especially when they continue to release albums of the quality of The Crucible, which Is the perfect way for Motorpsycho to celebrate thirty years of making music.  

The Crucible was recorded at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales, during  August 2018 and saw drummer Tomas Järmyr, bassist and vocalist Bent Sæther and guitarist and vocalist Hans Magnus Ryan co-produce the along with Andrew Scheps and Deathprod. With five co-producers working on The Crucible, it could’ve been a case of too many cooks.

Thankfully it wasn’t, and when Motorpsycho heard The Crucible they were satisfied with what’s another ambitious and carefully crafted genre-melting album. While to some extent The Crucible picks up where The Tower left off, the music is much more ambitious, innovative and focused. The music is much wider lyrically speaking band Motorpsycho eschew traditional rock and pop song structures on what’s a much more dense and distinctive album where Motorpsycho combine elements of free jazz, Nordic Wave, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock on three tracks. 

This includes Psychotzar a near ten minute track, Lux Aeterna which come in at just under eleven majestic minutes and the album’s twenty-one minute epic, The Crucible. It’s a mind altering and otherworldly musical trip which is unlike the music that most groups are releasing just now. However, this is what critics and record buyers have come to expect of musical pioneers like Motorpsycho who never make the same album twice.

That takes some doing for a band like Motorpsycho, as The Crucible is their twenty-second album. Many bands who have been around as long as Motorpsycho would have resorted to remaking the same album, but not the veteran Norwegian rockers. They’re constantly coming up with new ideas and continually create innovative albums including The Crucible. It features much more ambitious compositions than previous albums, and is another landmark release from Motorpsycho. 

The Crucible is an album that packs a punch, and Motorpsycho’s hard rocking sound is reminiscent of Black Sabbath in their prime. That is only part of the story, and Motorpsycho’s progressive rock sound has ben inspired by King Crimson and Yes. However, unlike Yes, Motorpsycho don’t do sprawling epic albums, and don’t outstay their welcome, exiting stage left after three tracks lasting just over forty minutes where blistering rocky riffs and polytonal solos rub shoulders on The Crucible which shows the different sides to one of Norway’s leading bands who celebrate thirty years of making music in 2019.

Motorpsycho-The Crucible.

THE RISE OF JUDY COLLINS THE FIRST LADY OF FOLK 1961-1970.

The Rise Of Judy Collins The First Lady of Folk 1961-1970.

Judy Collins was never meant to become a folk singer. Originally, she had studied classical music and made her public debut when she was just thirteen. That night in Denver, Judy Collins played Mozart’s Concerto For Two Pianos. All Antonia Brico’s tuition and encouragement had been worthwhile. Her pupil she believed, was destined for greatness. There was a problem though.

Lately, Judy Collins had started to show an interest in folk music. This troubled Antonia Brico. She didn’t approve of her pupil’s growing interest in folk music. Antonia Brico didn’t want Judy Collins to stray from her path, which she hoped, could lead her to becoming one of the top classical pianists . After all, she was an outstanding and prodigious pupil. Judy Collins despite her youth and talent, was also determined; determined to pursue her interest in folk music. So she made the toughest decision of her young life, and discontinued her piano lessons with Antonia Brico.

Soon, Judy Collins had switched to guitar and was further embraced folk music. Previously, she had just dipped her toe in water. Now she dived in head-first, and discovered that the water was lovely. Initially, Judy Collins had discovered the music of Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger and traditional folk songs . This was just the start of Judy Collins’ love affair with folk music.

At home, music was almost omnipresent. Her father was a singer and disc jockey. He had moved to Denver, Colorado  from Seattle, Washington when Judy Collins was ten. She was born on 1st of May 1939, and was the eldest of five children. However, the Collins’ family move to Denver worked in Judy Collins’ favour. 

Musicians were always around the Collins’ household. They encouraged Judy Collins’ burgeoning interest in folk music. By the time she graduated high school, Judy was ready to make her debut as a folk singer.

Her debut took place at Michael’s Pub in Boulder, Colorado. Soon, though, Judy Collins was regular on the local folk scene. She played at Exodus folk club Exodus and at the University Of Connecticut. This resulted in Judy playing at campus parties and making appearances on college radio. That was where she met musicians like David Grisman and Tom Azarian. Soon, though, Judy was ready to head make the next step in her, and headed to the capital of American folk music, Greenwich Village.

Now settled in Greenwich Village, Judy Collins began to play in some of the best known folk clubs, including Gerde’s Folk City. Judy’s timing was perfect, the sixties folk boom began.

Suddenly, folk music was de rigueur. Record companies began to sign up some of the leading lights of the Greenwich Village folk scene. This included Judy Collins, who signed to Jac Holzman’s Elektra Records in early 1961.

Little did Judy Collins realise that this was the start of a thirty-five year relationship she would have with Elektra. During that period, Judy released In My Life, Wildflowers and Whales and Nightingales. They’ve recently been remastered and reissued by BGO Records as a two disc set. These three albums were released between 1966 and 1970. By then, Judy was an experienced and successful recording artist. Judy’s recording career began later in 1961, when she released her debut album A Maid Of Constant Sorrow.

A Maid Of Constant Sorrow.

Having signed to Elektra Records in early 1961, Judy Collins’ thoughts turned to her debut album. Elektra Records’ founder Jac Holzman was keen to record his latest signing’s debut album. So Judy began choosing suiting material for her debut album.

Eventually, Judy Collins had settled on twelve songs. Most were traditional songs, including the Scottish anthem Wild Mountain Thyme, the Irish standard The Prickilie Bush and a remake of  Man Of Constant Sorrow, which became A Maid Of Constant Sorrow. They were familiar songs on the folk scene, unlike Wars Of Germany, John Riley and Tim Evans. However, Tim Evans was penned by English folk singer and songwriter Ewan McColl. He was a familiar face on the folk scene, and later, would write one of Judy’s biggest hit singles. That was all in the future.

Before that, Judy Collins entered the studio with Jac Holzman who would produce her debut album. Accompanying Judy, was former Weavers’ guitarist Fred Hellerman and Erik Darling on banjo. They provided a sparse and understated accompaniment to Judy’s vocals on the twelve songs, which became A Maid Of Constant Sorrow.

With A Maid Of Constant Sorrow completed, Elektra Records scheduled the release of Judy Collins’ debut album in November 1961. Before that, critics had their say on A Maid Of Constant Sorrow. 

For many critics, Judy Collins was a new name. They immediately drew comparisons with Bob Dylan, given that many of the songs on A Maid Of Constant Sorrow were protest songs. Judy became a storyteller as she painted pictures with her voice. However, Judy was also an educator, introducing critics and record buyers to not just familiar songs and others which were much more obscure. Each of the songs showcased a talented vocalist, especially on A Maid Of Constant Sorrow, Wild Mountain Thyme, Know Where I’m Going and The Rising Of The Moon. Critics were won over by Judy Collins’ debut album, and A Maid Of Constant Sorrow was released to mostly positive reviews. 

This augured well for the release of A Maid Of Constant Sorrow in November 1961. Despite winning the approval of critics, A Maid Of Constant Sorrow wasn’t a commercial success. The album failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. However, Judy Collins’ debut album found favour within the burgeoning folk community. Given folk music’s popularity was rising, so should Judy’s. It might take a couple of albums though.

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Golden Apples Of The Sun.

Despite the disappointing sales of Judy Collins’ debut album, Jac Holzman wasn’t giving up on his latest signing. He was playing the long game, and sent Judy back into the studio to record her sophomore album, Golden Apples Of The Sun.

It followed a similar pattern to A Maid Of Constant Sorrow. Nine of the twelve songs on  Golden Apples Of The Sun were traditional songs. This included Bonnie Ship the Diamond, which Judy arranged. The other songs Judy decided to cover were Reverend Gary Davis’ Twelve Gates to the City, Sydney Carter’s Crow On The Cradle and Mike Settle’s Sing Hallelujah. These twelve tracks were recorded with producer Jac Holzman and a small band.

Just like the sessions for A Maid Of Constant Sorrow, the band of bassist Bill Lee and Walter Raim on guitar and banjo. Judy played guitar and piano and while laying down the vocals. Once the twelve songs were recorded, Golden Apples Of The Sun was scheduled for release in July 1962.

Before that, critics received their advance copies of Golden Apples Of The Sun. By then, folk music’s popularity was rising, and critics were paying more attention to the Greenwich Village folk scene. Already Judy Collins was one of the leading lights of the Greenwich Village folk scene. Most of the critics cast an approving eye over Golden Apples Of The Sun, and its mixture of traditional and new songs. They showcased a talented and versatile singer, who had the uncanny ability to bring a song to life. A great future was forecast for Judy Collins.

Alas, lightning struck twice for Judy Collins. When Golden Apples Of The Sun was released in July 1962, the album failed to chart. A small crumb of comfort was that Golden Apples Of The Sun was a popular album within the folk community. However, gradually, Judy was making inroads into the wider record buying public. It would be a case of third time luckily for Judy Collins.

Judy Collins 3.

After two albums which failed to chart, a few changes were made for Judy Collins’ third album. The first change was the type of songs Judy was covering. 

She covered two Bob Dylan songs, Farewell and Masters Of War. This was a shrewd move, given the popularity of Bob Dylan. Just like on her debut album, Judy again covered songs by Ewan McColl and Mike Settle. This time round, Judy covered Ewan McColl’s The Dove and Mike Settle’s Settle Down. They joined Pete Seeger’s Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season); Jim Friedman and Shel Silverstein’s Hey, Nelly Nelly and Come Away Melinda and covers of  two traditional songs, Bullgine Run and Ten O’Clock and All Is Well. These songs would become part of Judy Collins 3, which featured a new face.

When Judy Collins arrived at the studio in March 1963, Mark Abramson had been chosen to produce Judy Collins 3. He would go on to play an important part in the rise and rise of Elektra Records. Another new face was guitarist and banjo player Roger McGuinn. He would go on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim with The Byrds. However, in 1963, he was a session player, who joined bassist Bill Takas and Walter Raim. He also played guitar and banjo. Judy laid down guitar parts and played the piano, while adding the vocals on Judy Collins 3. It was completed by April 1963, but wasn’t released until later that year.

By the time that Judy Collins 3 was released later in 1963, Judy Collins’ star was in the ascendancy. She was already regarded as one of the best at interpreting traditional songs. Despite this, Judy had decided to cover many new contemporary songs on Judy Collins 3. She was equally at home covering new and contemporary songs. Critics were won over by Judy Collins 3’s mixture of traditional songs and covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Ewan MacColl. Part of the success of Judy Collins 3, was Judy’s decision to stay true to the originals. This pleased critics and record buyers.

When Judy Collins 3 was released, it reached 126 in the US Billboard 200. It was a case of third time lucky for Judy Collins, whose music was belatedly reaching a wider audience. However, it would be another two years before Judy returned with her fourth studio album. 

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The Judy Collins Concert.

Although Judy Collins didn’t release a studio album during 1964, she released her first live album The Judy Collins Concert. It was recorded on March 21st 1964, at Town Hall in New York City. That night, Judy worked her way through fourteen songs from some of her favourite songwriters.

Judy opened her set with Billy Edd Wheeler’s Winter Sky, and covered several two more of his compositions Red-Winged Blackbird and Coal Tattoo. Tom Paxton’s The Last Thing On My Mind, My Ramblin’ Boy and Bottle Of Wine joined Fred Neil’s Tear Down the Walls, John Phillips’ Me and My Uncle, Bob Dylan’s The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll and Ewan McColl’s Cruel Mother. These songs were joined  by Jim Friedman and Shel Silverstein’s Hey, Nelly Nelly and covers of traditional songs like Bonnie Boy Is Young and Wild Rippling Water. Accompanying Judy were bassist and cellist Chuck Israel and Steve Mandell on banjo and guitar. Judy switched between piano and guitar as she delivered a captivating set. It was being recorded by Elektra Records, and was produced by Mark Abramson. It became The Judy Collins Concert.

When The Judy Collins Concert was released in July 1964, the reviews of the album were mostly positive. Critics who  hadn’t yet heard Judy live, had the opportunity to do so, without even leaving the comfort of their favourite armchair. They praised what was an enchanting set which featured Judy Collins as she breathed life, meaning and emotion into familiar and traditional songs. Surely, The Judy Collins Concert would build on the success of Judy Collins 3?

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. The Judy Collins Concert failed to chart, which was a huge disappointment. After it seemed as if Judy had made a breakthrough with Judy Collins 3. However, it wasn’t just The Judy Collins Concert that didn’t sell well.

For much of the sixties, live albums didn’t sell in vast quantities. That would change in the seventies. By then, music had changed beyond recognition. Even in July 1964, music was changing in America, with the British Invasion bands arriving on American shores. How would Judy Collins react?

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Fifth Album.

Judy Collins didn’t return with her Fifth Album until November 1965. The only difference was that the album featured a bigger band, and a much more eclectic selection of instruments. Strings, a dulcimer and harmonica would augment Judy on Fifth Album.

Just like Judy Collins 3, Fifth Album featured mainly cover versions by some of her favourite songwriters. By 1965, Bob Dylan was still one of Judy’s favourite singer-songwriters. So much so, that she covered three of his songs, Mr. Tambourine Man, Tomorrow Is A Long Time and Mama, You Been on My Mind which became Daddy, You Been on My Mind. They were joined by Phil Ochs’ In the Heat of the Summer, Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain, Gil Turner’s Carry It On and a live version of Malvina Reynolds’ It Isn’t Nice. Other songs included Billy Edd Wheeler’s The Coming of the Roads and two traditional songs, So Early, Early In The Spring and Lord Gregory. These songs, and the rest of Fifth Album were recorded with producer Mark Abramson.

When recording began, Judy was joined by a bigger band. Strings were added to some of the tracks. A familiar face was bassist Bill Takas, who had played on previous albums. He was joined by two other bassists,  Bill Lee and Chuck Israels, who also played cello. 

They were joined by Richard Fariña on dulcimer and Lovin Spoonful founder John Sebastian on harmonica. Two guitarists featured on Fifth Album, Danny Kalb and Eric Weissberg who added harmonies. Judy as usual, accompanied herself on piano and guitar. Once her first studio album in two years was complete, Elektra Records announced its release in November 1965.

A lot had happened since Judy Collins had been away. The British Invasion bands dominated the American charts, the psychedelic era had begun. However, resolutely, Judy Collins stuck to her trademark acoustic sound.  Fifth Album won the approval of critics, who complemented Judy on her choice of song and delivery. It was hailed as her finest albums.  Fifth Album had the potential to be a career defining album.

When  Fifth Album was released in November 1965, it climbed the charts all the way to forty-six in the US Billboard 200. This was by far, the most successful album of Judy Collins’ career. That was until her next album.

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In My Life.

Buoyed by the commercial success of her Fifth Album, Judy Collins’ thoughts soon turned to the followup. This time though, her sixth album, In My Life. It marked a turning point in Judy Collins’ career, in more way than one.

The first was that In My Life was Judy Collins’ first album not to feature any traditional songs. Instead, she covered songs by some of the biggest names in music. This included Lennon and McCartney’s In My Life, Bob Dylan’s Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Randy Newman’s I Think It’s Going To Rain Today, Donavon’s Sunny Goodge Street and  Richard Fariña’s Hard Lovin’ Loser. Two Leonard Cohen songs featured on In My Life, Suzanne and Dress Rehearsal Rag. Another first, was the inclusion of a song penned by Jacques Brel. He was another of Judy’s favourite songwriters, and his composition with Alasdair Clayre La Colombe was included. These songs, and the rest of In My Life were recorded in London.

Sound Techniques studio was chosen to record In My Life. Judy Collins’ usual producer Mark Abramson was present, and directing operations. Joshua Rifkin arranged and conducted the orchestra. This was a first, Judy being accompanied by an orchestra who produced dramatic, widescreen backdrops for her vocals. They became In My Life, which was released in November 1967.

By the time that In My Life was released, Suzanne had already been released as a single. It was released in  1966, but failed to chart. Hard Lovin’ Loser didn’t do much better, when it crept into the US Billboard 100 at number ninety-seven. However, by then, the reviews of In My Life had been published.

In My Life received the best reviews of any album Judy Collins had released. Critics were won over by the change in style, and big, dramatic, orchestral arrangements. They framed Judy’s vocal, as she interpreted the twelve songs, and in many cases, brought something new to the songs. This just added to Judy’s reputation as one of the best interpretative singers of her generation. Songs came to life, and took on new meaning. Especially Suzanne, I Think It’s Going To Rain Today, Dress Rehearsal Rag, Sunny Goodge Street and even In My Life. However, throughout In My Life, Judy delivered a series of spellbinding and masterful performances. With critical acclaim accompanying the release of In My Life, this augured well for Judy Collins’ new album.

And so it proved to be. When In My Life was released in November 1966, the album reached forty-six in the US Billboard 200. In My Life surpassed the success of Fifth Album. Less than four years later, and In My Life was certified gold in 1970 after selling over 500,000 copies. However, after basking in the success of In My Life, Judy Collins began work on the followup, Wildflowers.

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Wildflowers.

Following the commercial success and critical acclaim of In My Life, Judy Collins began work on a new album, Wildflowers. She was determined to build on the success of In My Life. However, Wildflowers was unlike any of Judy’s previous albums.

Wildflowers was a turning point in Judy Collins’ career. It was the first album to feature songs penned by Judy. She wrote three of the ten songs on Wildflowers, including Since You Asked, Sky Fell and Albatross. These three songs were augmented by two covers of Joni Mitchell’s Michael from Mountain and Both Sides Now. Judy also covered a trio of Leonard Cohen songs, Sisters Of Mercy, Priests and Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye. Again, Judy covered a Jaques Brel song, La Chanson Des Vieux Amants (The Song of Old Lovers). The other song on Wildflowers  was a cover of the fourteenth century composition, A Ballata Of Francesco Landini. These songs were recorded in New York with producer Mark Abramson.

Just like In My Life, Joshua Rifkin was drafted in, and arranged nine the ten songs. The exception was Priests, which arranged by Robert Silvester and Robert Dennis. However, when it came to conducting Wildflowers, Joshua Rifkin took charge, hoping for a repeat of the commercial success and critical acclaim of In My Life. 

Before Wildflowers was released in October 1967, critics had their say on Judy Collins’ new album. Wildflowers featured Judy’s songwriting debut on Since You Asked, Sky Fell and Albatross. She proved to be a talented songwriter and storyteller. Judy brought these songs to life with the aid of Joshua Rifkin’s widescreen arrangements. That was the case as Judy covered songs penned by Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. They were tailor-made for Judy’s interpretative vocal style. Her delivery was heartfelt, impassioned and emotive. Similarly, whether it was drama, hope, heartache or happiness that was required, Judy Collins was capable of providing it on Wildflowers.  Critics hailed Wildflowers a fitting followup to In My Life.

They weren’t wrong. When Wildflowers was released in October 1967, it reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This was the highest chart placing of any Judy Collins. What had helped sales of Wildflowers was the success of the single Both Sides Now. It was released in early 1968, and reached number eight in the US Billboard 100, number six in Canada and thirty-seven in the Australian charts.  The followup Since You Asked, failed to repeat the success of Both Sides Now when it failed to chart. However, this wasn’t the end of the Wildflowers’ success.

When the Grammy Awards’ nominations were announced in 1969, Both Sides Now was nominated for the Best Folk Performance Or Best Folk Recording. This was a first for Judy Collins, and showed how far she had come in the last two years. Things got even better for Judy Collins, when Both Sides Now won Judy Collins her first Grammy Award. Then in 1969, Wildflowers was certified gold, and became Judy’s second album to sell over 500,000 copies. Life was good for Judy Collins, who was one of the biggest names in folk music. By then, Judy had released a new album, Who Knows Where the Time Goes.

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Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Despite the success of Wildflowers, Judy Collins decided to change direction on Who Knows Where the Time Goes? It featured elements of country rock and folk rock.Who Knows Where the Time Goes? was a much more eclectic album than previous Judy Collins’ albums, and featured covers of songs by some of the great and good of music.

This included Bob Dylan’s I Pity the Poor Immigrant, Leonard Cohen’s Story Of Isaac and Bird On The Wire, Robin Williamson’s First Boy I Loved and Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes? They joined Ian Tyson’s Someday Soon, Rolf Kempf’s Hello Hooray and the traditional murder ballad, Pretty Ballad. The only Judy Collins’ composition was My Father. These nine songs were recorded with a new band and new producer.

Recording began at Elektra Sound Recorders, Los Angeles, in 1968. This was  a first for Judy Collins. She had never recorded an album in L.A. Nor had she worked with David Anderle replaced Judy Collins’ longterm producer Mark Abramson on Who Knows Where the Time Goes? Joining the new producer was a new band. It included a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Jim Gordon, bassist Chris Ethridge and James Burton on electric guitar and dobro. Augmenting the rhythm section were Buddy Emmons on pedal steel guitar, pianist Mike Melvoin and Van Dyke Parks on piano and electric piano. Michael Sahl switched between organ, piano and harpsichord, keyboard, while Stephen Stills played bass and guitar. This new band plugged in, and took Judy’s music in a totally new direction. For a singer who had just enjoyed the biggest album of her career, this was a huge risk.

Judy Collins needn’t have worried. When critics heard Who Knows Where the Time Goes? they were immediately won over. Critics hailed the album a mini masterpiece. They welcomed an album that showcased a much more eclectic selection of songs. Hello Hooray was headed in the direction of rock, while Poor Immigrant was a move towards country rock. My Father was a masterful example of balladry, something Judy had excelled at throughout her career. However, among the album’s highlights were  the Story Of Isaac, which was cinematic and full of imagery. Along with a peerless cover Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire and the wistful, ethereal beauty of the title-track, these three tracks were among the highlights of Who Knows Where the Time Goes? It was described as one of the finest albums of Judy’s career, and was an album that introduced her music to a much wider audience.

The answer to that was yes and no. When Who Knows Where the Time Goes? was released in November 1968, and reached twenty-six in the US Billboard 200. However, by 1969, Who Knows Where the Time Goes? had been certified gold. This gave Judy Collins’ the third gold disc of her career. Her last album of the sixties had been a success. The only disappointment was the performance of the singles.

My Father was released as the lead single in 1968, but failed to chart. Someday Soon fared better, reaching fifty-five in the US Billboard 100 in 1969. This time, around there had been no top ten singles, but still Judy Collins was one of the most successful folk singers of her generation. 

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Recollections.

The only album that Judy Collins released during 1969, was the first compilation of her career, Recollections. It featured a selection of songs from Judy’s career so far. This included Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Early Morning Rain, Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season), Listen Now! Daddy You’ve Been On My Mind, Mr. Tambourine Man, The Last Thing On My Mind and Farewell. One of these songs was released as a single, and gave Judy a hit single.

Judy Collins’ cover Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) was released as a single in 1969, and reached sixty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Although it wasn’t the biggest hit of Judy’s career, it kept her in the public eye, while she pondered her next move. She wouldn’t release a new album until 1970.

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Whales and Nightingales.

Essentially, the sixties ended for Judy Collins in October 1968, when she released Who Knows Where the Time Goes? Since then, she hadn’t released a studio album. It wasn’t until August 1970 when Judy returned with Whales and Nightingales, album that owed more to Wildflowers than Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Whales and Nightingales saw a return to shorter songs, and Judy’s tradition folk sound. She had written Nightingale and cowrote Nightingale II with Joshua Rifkin. The rest of Whales and Nightingales comprised cover versions.

Among the cover versions, were songs by some of Judy Collins’ favourite singers and songwriters. This included Bob Dylan’s Time Passes Slowly, Joan Baez’s A Song For David and Pete Seeger’s Oh, Had I A Golden Thread. Other songs included a cover of Dominic Behan’s The Patriot Game, John Newton’s Christian hymn Amazing Grace and Prothalamium which Michael Sahl and Aaron Krame wrote. Judy chose two Jaques Brel compositions, including Marieke which he penned with Gerard Jouannest. The two men also wrote Son Of with Eric Blau and Mort Shuman. Augmenting these covers were a trio of traditional songs, Gene’s Song, Farewell to Tarwathie and Simple Gifts. These thirteen songs were recorded during 1970 with a familiar face.

Given Judy Collins was returning to her familiar folk sound, it made sense to reunite with her former producer, Mark Abramson. He had produced most Judy’s commercially successful  and critically acclaimed albums. The exception was Who Knows Where the Time Goes? That was the past. Whales and Nightingales was the future. 

Another familiar face was Joshua Rifkin, who arranged and conducted Sons Of, Prothalamium and Marieke. Judy also arranged a trio of tracks, Farewell To Tarwathie, Simple Gifts and Amazing Grace. One of these songs would become one of Judy Collins’ best known songs.

Once Whales and Nightingales was complete, Elektra Records scheduled the release for August 1970. The song that was chosen as the lead single, was a surprising one, Judy Collins’ cover of the Christian hymn Amazing Grace. When it was released in 1970, it reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 100 and number ten in the Australian singles’ charts. This augured well for the release of Whales and Nightingales.

Especially when Whales and Nightingales was well received by critics. Again they complemented Judy Collins on her judicious choice of songs, which she interpreted in her own unique way. This included Bob Dylan’s Time Passes Slowly, Joan Baez’s A Song For David and Pete Seeger’s Oh, Had I A Golden Thread. They were perfect for Judy, and brought out the best in her.

So did Farewell To Tarwathie, which featured one of the most imaginative arrangements on Whales and Nightingales. Judy was accompanied by a chorus of humpback whales, who provided a sparse, but almost haunting arrangement. These understated arrangements had always provided the perfect backdrop for Judy Collins’ vocals.

Whales and Nightingales featured two songs Judy Collins had written. The first was Nightingales, a beautiful song,which delivered against sparse, understated arrangements. So was and Nightingales II, which featured a lush, string-drenched, widescreen arrangement. However, one of the most powerful songs was Judy’s cover of Amazing Grace. It was akin to a soul-baring confessional. Critics agreed that Amazing Grace was one of the finest moments on Whales and Nightingales, which was a return to form from Judy,

When Whales and Nightingales was released in July 1970, the album reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 100. By 1971, the album had sold over 500,000 copies and had been certified gold. Judy Collins’ first album of the seventies, saw her pickup where she left off in 1968.

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After eight studio albums and one live album, Judy Collins was one of the most successful folk singers of her generations. Judy Blue Eyes’ last four album had been certified gold. This remarkable run began with 1966s In My Life, and included 1967s Wildflowers, 1968s Who Knows Where the Time Goes? and ended with 1970s Whales and Nightingales. During this period, it seemed Judy Collins could do wrong. She enjoyed several hit singles, including her cover of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. It won Judy her first Grammy Award in 1969. Judy Collins had come a long way since her debut album A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961.

While A Maid Of Constant Sorrow and its followup Golden Apples Of The Sun failed commercially, Jac Holzman and Elektra Records stuck with Judy Collins. They knew it would take two or three albums before Judy made a breakthrough. Their faith in Judy was richly rewarded, and by 1970, she was one of the most successful female singers of her generation. 

Judy Collins was also a pioneer of folk music. She had been around from the earliest days of the folk boom, and rode this musical elevator through the sixties. Throughout the decade, Judy flew the flag for folk music. That was despite the onslaught of pop, rock and psychedelia. Still, Judy stood firm. The only time she wavered, was in  1968s when she released Who Knows Where the Time Goes? It saw Judy enjoy a dalliance with country rock and folk rock. However, folk music was her true love, and she returned to the fold for Whales and Nightingales in 1970. Judy’s first album of the seventies was a triumphant returned, for the First Lady of Folk.

She had released some of the best music of her career between 1966 and 1970. This includes three of Judy Collins’ most successful albums were In My Life, Wildflowers and Whales and Nightingales.  These three albums were released between 1966 and 1970 and feature Judy Collins’ trademark folk sound. By then, Judy was one of the best interpretative singers of her generation. Seamlessly she brought songs to life, and they took on new meaning. That’s the case on In My Life, Wildflowers and Whales and Nightingales, which are the perfect introduction to Judy Collins, who is, without doubt, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of her generation.

The Rise Of Judy Collins-The First Lady of Folk 1961-1970.

DOLORES VARGAS-“LA TERREMOTO”-THE EARTHQUAKE.

Dolores Vargas-“La Terremoto” The Earthquake.

Ask anyone who saw Dolores Vargas at the peak of the powers in the early seventies and they almost go misty eyed as they describe a flamboyant performer who combined a unique and inimitable mixture of flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop with a wild, energetic and frenzied dancing style. Dolores Vargas’ performances had audiences spellbound, but it was her powerhouse of a vocal that resulted in her earning the nickname  “La Terremoto”  (“The Earthquake.”) At one point, in the early seventies, Dolores Vargas was being compared to  Tina Turner and some critics believed she was a far superior performer to Lola Flores. This was high praise, and it looked as if Dolores Vargas was going to become one of the biggest names in Spanish music. Sadly, Dolores Vargas didn’t enjoy the commercial success that her undoubted talented deserved.

Recently, though, there has been a resurgence of interest in Dolores Vargas’ music, with a new generation of record buyers discovering the delights of The Earthquake’s music. They were in good company and joined a small coterie of musical connoisseurs who hold “The Earthquake” in the highest regard. 

Her story began in Barcelona, Spain, when María de los Dolores Castellón Vargas was born on the ’16th’ May 1936 in Barcelona, Spain. Growing up, music played in important part in Dolores Vargas life. By the time Dolores Vargas was sixteen, she had already married her cousin José Castellón, a.k.a. Pepe who was a guitarist and composer. He wrote many of the songs Dolores Vargas recorded during her career. However, two more years passed before Dolores Vargas made her professional debut.

Eighteen year old Dolores Vargas made her debut in her brother’s show Brindis al cielo at the Theatre de Vega, in Madrid. Each night, patrons saw Dolores Vargas perform the rhumba Tiquaitan. This was the start of Dolores Vargas’ long career.

Two years later, in 1956, Dolores Vargas made her acting debut in the first of several folkloric films she appeared in, Veraneo en España in 1956. This was followed by Un Torero para la Historia in 1957. By then, it looked as if Dolores Vargas was set for a career on the silver screen. This changed in 1958.

Dolores Vargas and Pepe had travelled to Cannes in 1958, where she found herself sharing the stage with none other than Edith Piaf. She was so impressed with Dolores Vargas’ performance that the legendary French singer invited her new friend to America, where she arranged for her to appear on Ed Sullivan’s television show.

On the ‘19th’ of October 1958, Americans who tuned into Ed Sullivan’s television show on CBS saw Dolores Vargas make her debut on American television. So successful was Dolores Vargas’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show that she spent the next two years living in America.

During the time Dolores Vargas spent living in America, her recording career began. Her career began at Brunswick where she recorded her 1959 EP Dolores Vargas Vol. 2 on Brunswick. It’s one of the finest recording of Dolores Vargas’ American years. The same can be said of Dolores Vargas’ 1960 album for Decca “El Terremoto Gitano” (The Gypsy Earthquake). It was a tantalising taste of what was to come from The Earthquake.

After returning to Spain, Dolores Vargas signed to Barcelona based Belter Records in 1962. This was the start of the next chapter in her career, and for the next three years, Belter was home to one of the rising stars of Spanish music. 

Especially with Pepe supplying Dolores Vargas with new songs which she recorded during her first two years at Belter. Some of Pepe’s songs were released as singles between 1962 and 1964, while  others found their way onto the album Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto.” Alas, neither the singles, nor The Earthquake’s debut album for Belter were a commercial success, which was a disappointment for her.

Especially, as Dolores Vargas was about to become a mother for the first time in 1964. That year, her daughter Dolores “Lores” Castellón Vargas was born. Now that she was a mother, Dolores Vargas hoped that commercial success wasn’t far away.

As 1964 gave way to 1954, still commercial success continued to elude Dolores Vargas. This was hugely disappointing for Dolores Vargas who decided to leave Belter in 1965, and sign to Polydor. 

This turned out tone a wise move, as executives at Polydor began the process of modernising Dolores Vargas’ music. They realised that Dolores Vargas’ music had to evolve to stay relevant. However, they also realised that this change had to be gradual, so as not to alienate her fans.

Gradually, elements of rock, pop and soul were incorporated into Dolores Vargas’ music transforming this traditional form of music into something moderne and innovative. A new chapter in The Earthquake’s career began to unfold during Dolores Vargas’ three years stay at Polydor.

During that period, Dolores Vargas’ released a string of singles for Polydor, which documented how her music evolved. These changes  had just begun when Dolores Vargas’ first album for her new label came in 1965. This was the prophetically titled Spain’s Most Exciting Singer. Two years later, in 1967, Viva Flamenco! Una Antologia Del Baíle Flamenco was released by Polydor, but was Dolores Vargas’ swan-song for the label. 

When Dolores Vargas left Polydor in 1968, still a hit single continued to elude her. She was no nearer to making a breakthrough than she had been when she made her recording debut in 1959. This was a huge blow for Dolores Vargas. Despite that, she returned to Belter, and continued her search for a hit single.

The three years away from Belter had allowed Dolores Vargas to modernise her sound. Whether she would’ve been able to do this if she had remained at Belter is debatable. However, they signed a very different singer to the one that left the label three years earlier. Proof of this was Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” which was released in 1969, and saw the reinvention of The Earthquake continue.

As the seventies dawned, little did anyone realise that a golden period in Dolores Vargas’ career was about to begin. For the next five years she released what is regarded as some of the best music of her career. 

By 1970, the reinvention of Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” as she was billed, recorded a new EP. One of the songs on the EP was the cumbia La Piragua,which was written by the famous Colombian composer José Barros. In Dolores Vargas’ hands it’s transformed into an irresistible and mesmeric gypsy-tinged rumba which was totally different to everything that has gone before. Surely this was a game changer for Dolores Vargas?

When the EP was released in 1970, La Piragua which quite rightly received top billing. It was also released as a single during 1970 in the hope that it would transform Dolores Vargas’ flagging fortunes. Sadly that wasn’t the case when the EP and single failed to find an audience. For Dolores Vargas this was a huge blow.

Despite the disappointment, Dolores Vargas returned later in 1970 with the single Urtain, El K.O. Y Ole. Again, executives at Belter and Dolores Vargas had high hopes for the single. It was a hook laden ye-ye rumba that benefited from a big, bold arrangement. This it was hoped would provide Dolores Vargas with that elusive hit single. Sadly, despite the quality of the arrangement and lyrics dedicated to Spanish boxer Jose Manuel Ibar Azpiazu who was the European heavyweight champion, the single failed commercially. This was just the latest disappointment for Dolores Vargas.

When Dolores Vargas released A-Chi-Li-Pu as a single later in 1970, this just happened to coincide with the dawn of Catalan rumba and flamenco pop era. Dolores Vargas’ single A-Chi-Li-Pu charted, and started climbing charts and even outsells Encarnita Polo’s dance track Paco, Paco, Paco. At last, Dolores Vargas had enjoyed that elusive hit single, eleven years after making her recording debut in 1959. However, A-Chi-Li-Pu which has become an oft-covered song amongst Spanish artists doesn’t feature on the compilation.

Both A-Chi-Li-Pu and Urtain, El K.O. Y Ole featured on the album Dolores Vargas La Terremoto, which was released in 1970. This was the first album Dolores Vargas had released since enjoying her first hit single. However, it didn’t feature Dolores Vargas’ second hit single.

Buoyed by her first hit single, Belter got behind Dolores Vargas’ next single, which was a cover of Middle Of The Road’s hit single Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. It’s almost unrecognisable during what’s a captivating and sometime anarchic reinvention of what was originally a throwaway pop single. In Dolores Vargas’ hands, it’s transformed and takes on new life and meaning. Dolores Vargas’ cover of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep topped the Spanish charts, giving the thirty-five year old her second hit single.

For the followup, Dolores Vargas’ husband José Castellón wrote Anana Hip with Spanish singer, songwriter and composer, conductor, arranger  and producer Juan Carlos Calderón. When Dolores Vargas recorded Anana Hip, it African rhythms were added the arrangement as the song headed in the direction of funk rock. It features a vocal powerhouse from Dolores Vargas as this memorable and mesmeric slice of funk rock shows yet another side to a truly versatile singer.

After enjoying the most successful year of a career that had spanned three decades, Dolores Vargas was looking forward to 1972, and hoping that she would enjoy further success. Dolores Vargas released a trio of singles and an EP. One of her finest moments was the explosive and hook-laden El Ma-Ta-Ri-Le which features another vocal powerhouse from Dolores Vargas. Alas, it failed to find the audience it deserved and 1972 was proving to be a disappointing year for Dolores Vargas. 

Later in 1972, Dolores Vargas released El Toro De La Vida as a single. When Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” was released later in 1972, El Desgrasiao featured alongside El Ma-Ta-Ri-Le, La Hawaiana, Anana Hip, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep and La Piragua. Dolores Vargas would return to the album Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” in 1973, when she was looking for a new single.

During 1973, Dolores Vargas released three singles. This included Oh, La, La, which featured the Juan Erasmo Mochi composition El Despertador on the B-Side. Both songs were taken from the 1972 album Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” and oozed quality. Indeed, Oh, La, La which was written by her husband José Castellón is a truly joyous and irresistible song with a feel-good sound. Despite that, the single failed commercially and Oh, La, La was the one that got away for Dolores Vargas. 

1973 wasn’t a particularly successful year for Dolores Vargas, with none of her three singles charting. Two years had passed since her last single. Ironically, Dolores Vargas was releasing some of the best and most progressive music of her career. Maybe though, it was to progressive and innovative, and the record buying public didn’t understand or approve of what Dolores Vargas was doing to what they saw as Spain’s traditional music?

While Dolores Vargas had only released two singles during 1973, that number fell to two during 1974. This included Maria Lisi, where elements of flamenco and rhumba melted into one during a joyous and uplifting song. Despite its quality and a strong hook, it failed to trouble the charts. However, the next single Dolores Vargas released lifted her profile.

This was Macarrones which had been inspired by a type of sauce that accompanies macaroni. Although Macarrones was essentially a novelty song, it was one of two songs shortlisted to represent Spain in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. However, it was Peret who triumphed and won the day with Canta y sé feliz. While this was disappointing for Dolores Vargas who was now thirty-eight, being on the shortlist lifted her profile. Sadly, though, Macarrones wasn’t a commercial success, and it was now three years since her last hit.

When 1974 gave way to 1975, Dolores Vargas continued her search for a hit single. However, still commercial success eluded the two singles she released during 1975. However, one of the finest songs Dolores Vargas recorded during 1975 was the funky cinematic Gitana Real which sounded as if it belonged on the soundtrack to a Spanish thriller. Gitana Real which lent its name to Dolores Vargas 1975 album, also marked the end of the rhumba funk period. Sadly, Dolores Vargas’ album Gitana Real failed commercially which was leased a golden period for Dolores Vargas, and saw her release some of the best music of a career. By 1975, Dolores Vargas’ career had already spanned three decades and she was a vastly experienced singer. Despite her experience and considerable talent and versatility , Dolores Vargas had only enjoyed two hit singles between 1959 and 1975. This wasn’t much to show for an artist who had spent the last ten years reinventing herself musically.

The reinvention of Dolores Vargas began at Polydor in 1965, and continued when she returned to Belter in 1968. All her hard work paid off between 1970 and 1975, during what was a golden period for Dolores Vargas. She released ambitious and innovative music that included flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop. Dolores Vargas was on of the first artists to incorporate elements of pop, rock and soul into flamenco and rumba. 

It took a while before the record buying public understood, appreciated and embraced this new genre-melting sound. Some shortsighted traditionalists probably saw this as sacrilege, but failed to realise that if flamenco and rumba failed to evolve they risked becoming irrelevant. Musical pioneers like Dolores Vargas were determined that this wouldn’t happen, began to reinvent the music that meant so much to her. 

While Dolores Vargas who played her part in ensuring that flamenco and rumba remain relevant, the commercial success she enjoyed was only fleeting. After two hits in 1971, Dolores Vargas failed to reach the same heights during the period that Pharaway Sounds new compilation  “La Terremoto” Anana Funk Hip 1970-75 covers.

During that period, Dolores Vargas “The Earthquake” was a flamboyant performer who combined a unique and inimitable mixture of flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop. At one point, Dolores Vargas was compared to Tina Turner in her sixties prime. By then, many critics thought that Dolores Vargas was about to become one the biggest names in Spanish music. Sadly, Dolores Vargas enjoyed the commercial success that her undoubted talented deserved, and retired in 1987 after the death of her husband José Castellón. 

Following Dolores Vargas’ retirement, there was a resurgence of interest in The Earthquake’s music. This came after new generation of record buyers discovered some of Dolores Vargas’ old albums in record shops and second-hand shops. Straight away, they were won over by the delights of Dolores Vargas music, and joined an exclusive club that features a small coterie of musical connoisseurs with an educated musical palette who held The Earthquake’s music in the highest regard. 

Dolores Vargas watched on with interest as her music was discovered by a new and appreciative audience. They embraced the ambitious and innovative music Dolores Vargas recorded during her golden era when she combined a unique and inimitable mixture of flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop.

Dolores Vargas-“La Terremoto” The Earthquake.

LIGHTHOUSE-THE RISE OF LIGHTHOUSE-1969-1974

Lighthouse-The Rise Of Lighthouse 1969 1974.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the success of Lighthouse’s live debut, Vinnie Fusco knew that he had signed a band with a big future ahead of them. He wasted no time in taking Lighthouse into the studio to record their eponymous debut album which was written and recorded during 1969.

Lighthouse.

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

At Electric Ladyland Studios, the thirteen members of Lighthouse prepared to record their eponymous debut album.Taking charge of production was Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert who was Lighthouse’s musical director. After the sessions got up and running, it soon became apparent things weren’t going to plan. Rather than waste time and money, they should head home to Toronto and record the album there.

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

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

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

Suite Feeling.

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

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

Some recording sessions took place at Eastern Sound Studios, in Toronto. Other sessions  took place in Los Angeles, at RCA’s Music Centre Of The World. This time around, Lighthouse’s lineup numbered fourteen. This new and expanded lineup of Lighthouse recorded Suite Feeling, which was produced by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert.

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

With critics won over by Suite Feeling, it looked like their sophomore album was destined for the charts. Before that, Feel So Good was released as single but stalled at fifty-five on the Canadian RPM charts. This was a disappointment for Lighthouse. There was another disappointment in late 1969, when Suite Feeling failed to chart. It was another disappointment for Lighthouse.  Despite the disappointment, Lighthouse’s thoughts soon turned to their third album Peacing It All Together.

Peacing It All Together.

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

Recording took place at RCA’s Studio C, in New York, where Lighthouse Mk. III recorded Peacing It All Together.  There had been further changes to the band’s lineup and Lighthouse were back to being to a thirteen piece band. However, it wasn’t unlucky thirteen for Lighthouse.

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts of Movin’ On.

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

When it came to the choose the lead single, Lighthouse chose One Fine Morning and it reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 100 in 1971. Meanwhile, in Canada,  One Fine Morning reached number two and was certified gold. One Fine Morning also gave Lighthouse an international hit single.  At last, Lighthouse’s music was reaching the audience it deserved.  However, this wasn’t the end of the success for Lighthouse.

Buoyed by the success of One Fine Morning, Take It Slow (Out In The Country) was released as a single. Although it reached just sixty-four in the US Billboard 100, it reached number twelve in the Canadian charts. Lighthouse were making progress at last.

What Lighthouse released Thoughts of Movin’ On stalled at 157 in the US Billboard 200. That was a disappointment for the band. However, back home in Canada,  Thoughts of Movin’ On but was certified gold. Still, things would get better for Lighthouse.

Lighthouse Live! at the Carnegie Hall.

In February 1972, Lighthouse recorded Lighthouse Live! at the Carnegie Hall, in New York. Before its release Lighthouse Live!  won the approval of critics. That  came as no surprise, as the album featured a barnstorming performance from Lighthouse.

When Lighthouse Live  was released later in 1972, the album  stalled at 178 in the US Billboard 200. Across the border in Canada, Lighthouse Live! became the first Canadian album to be certified platinum. Lighthouse were now one of the biggest bands in their native Canada.

Sunny Days.

Later in 1972, Lighthouse returned with their sixth studio album Sunny Days. The band had high hopes for the album, especially after the success of Lighthouse Live! They were eventually reaping the rewards of years of hard work. 

While critics heard Sunny Days, it received praise and plaudits. Lighthouse seemed to maturing with each album they released. Their popularity continued to grow in Canada, with Sunny Days reaching number four. However, when Sunny Days was released in American, it reached just thirty-four in the US Billboard 100. America was proving a tough market to crack for Lighthouse. The other single from Sunny Days was You Girl which reached seventeen in Canada, but failed to trouble the US Billboard 100. This was a disappointment for Lighthouse.

So was  Sunny Days stalling at just 190 in the US Billboard 200 in 1972. Despite that, Sunny Days was certified gold in Canada and the Lighthouse success story continued apace.

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

Can You Feel It,

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

The decision to use multiple vocalists was one that could’ve backfired badly on Lighthouse. However, Can You Feel It was well received and the album was scheduled for released later in 1973.

Before that, Pretty Lady reached number nine in Canada and fifty-three in the US Billboard 100. For the followup Can You Feel It was released, and reached number nineteen in Canada. When Can You Feel It was released in 1973, the failed to chart in America. It looked as if Lighthouse were never going to crack the American market. In Canada, Can You Feel It sold well, but this time, there was no gold disc for Lighthouse. Still, though, the rise and rise of Lighthouse continued. They were one of Canada’s most successful bands by 1974. The last four years had been a roller coaster ride for Lighthouse. 

Good Day,

A year later, in 1974, Lighthouse returned with their eighth studio album Good Day in 1974. By then, the lineup had changed. Skip Prokop had switched to guitar on a permanent basis, and  Billy King was drafted in as the new drummer. Still, though, Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole shared lead vocal duties in an attempt to ensure there was a degree of continuity.

This was important for Lighthouse, given their previous album Can You Feel hadn’t replicated the success of previous albums. That had even been the case in their native Canada, where Lighthouse were a hugely popular band. They needed  Good Day to be a big success

When Good Day was released as a single in 1974, it stalled at a lowly sixty-eight in Canada. Things didn’t improve when the album Good Day was released. It failed to match the sales of previous albums it featured the song Wide-Eyed Lady, which quickly would become a favourite when Lighthouse played live.

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

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

In 1992,  Skip Prokop, Paul Hoffert and Ralph Cole reformed Lighthouse and twenty-five years later they’re still going strong. The reformed  band released a new  album Song of the Ages in 1996. Thirteen years later, and Lighthouse released  40 Years of Sunny Days a CD/DVD release  in 2009. The following year, Lighthouse released the  Best of Lighthouse-20th Century Masters in 2010. This was the perfect introduction to newcomers to one of Canada’s best bands, Lighthouse. 

In 2014, founder member Skip Prokop retired from Lighthouse. Waiting in the wings was son Jamie, who is a chip of the old block. He ensures Lighthouse keep on rocking as they tour Canada. Then in January 2018, Lighthouse will perform for the second time on the Moody Blues Cruise. That is nearly fifty years since the Lighthouse story began. 

They had released the best music of their career between 1969 and 1974. During that five-year period, Lighthouse were one of Canada’s most talented band and successful bands.They were led by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert who were Lighthouse’s songwriters-in-chief and producers. They were responsible for yen eight studio albums and one live album Lighthouse released between 1969 and 1974. These albums oozed quality as  Lighthouse switched seamlessly between and combined disparate musical genres.  

Lighthouse were musical master craftsmen, who deserved to reach greater heights during the RCA Victor years. They went on to enjoy further critical acclaim and the commercial success they deserved during the GRT years, when Lighthouse became one of Canada’s most successful bands.

Lighthouse-The Rise Of Lighthouse 1969 1974.

JIMI HENDRIX-THE MUSICAL GENIUS WHO CHANGED MUSIC.

Jimi Hendrix-The Musical Genius Who Changed Music.

On the 4th of July 1970, Jimi Hendrix journeyed 100 miles south of Atlanta. His destination was the second Atlanta International Pop Festival, which was being billed as the second Woodstock. That was where The Jimi Hendrix Experience were about play a starring role. 

When The Jimi Hendrix Experience arrived at the Atlanta International Pop Festival, they were greeted by a crowd estimated to be between 300,000-400,000. What is now remembered as the “last great rock festival” was an unlikely event for Jimi Hendrix to appear at.

Byron, in Atlanta was in the heart of old the Deep South. This was Klan country. Racial tensions were always threatening to bubble over. The organisers of the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival were well aware of this. So they made the conscious decision that the star of the show should be someone who appealed to everyone. This wasn’t going to be easy.

So the organisers set about thinking of an artist or band who would appeal to both sides of the racial, cultural and socio political divide. This wasn’t going be easy.

The organisers had to think how the audience would respond to certain artists, bands or situations. How would a rural audience in the Deep South feel about the so called long haired, hippie bands? Or how would they respond to black and white artists on the same bill? That could inflame an already volatile situation. While some promoters would’ve avoided this situation, the organisers of the Atlanta Pop Festival wanted to challenge the beliefs held by many of their potential audience. So, they booked a man who would unite the audience with the his music and his message of universal love, Jimi Hendrix.

It wasn’t just Jimi Hendrix that would star at the second Atlanta Pop Festival. No. On 4th of July 1970, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had reformed, and would playing a supporting role as Jimi Hendrix delivered a  musical masterclass.

Accompanied by bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix showman extraordinaire and guitar virtuoso had the huge audience spellbound as he worked his way through classics like Foxy Lady, Hey Joe and Purple Haze, plus a cover version of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower. Jimi even showcased songs from his next album, which was going to feature Room Full Of Mirrors, Freedom, Hear My Train A-Comin’ and Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) were heard by many for the first time. Then as fireworks exploded, Jimi launched into a rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. He wasn’t finished yet, and returned for an encore of Straight Ahead. When he left the stage that night, nobody realised that the second Atlanta Pop Festival would be the last major American concert Jimi Hendrix would play at. Ten weeks later on 18th September 1970, Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead. He was just twenty-seven. 

For Jimi Hendrix the last three years had been a whirlwind. He took music by storm when The Jimi Hendrix released their debut album Are You Experienced? in 1967. Music was never the same after the release of Are You Experienced?

Are You Experienced?

That was apparent from The Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 explosive debut album Are You Experienced. It featured the debut of the legendary power trio of drummer Mitch Mitchell, bassist Noel Redding and guitarist Jimi Hendrix. They fused rock and psychedelia on eleven tracks penned by Jimi Hendrix. 

The eleven tracks that became Are You Experienced, were recorded between October and April 1966. Three London studios were used, De Lane Lea Studios, CBS, and Olympic Studios. That’s where The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their debut album Are You Experienced, which was produced  by Chas Chandler. Once it was completed, it was released in Britain in May 1967.

When Are You Experienced was released, it was hailed as one of the greatest debut rock albums. It showcased an innovative fusion of rock and psychedelia. At the heart of the Are You Experienced’s sound was the freewheeling sound of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. He could do things other guitarists could only dream of. Add to the equation Jimi’s languid, charismatic vocal and it’s no surprise that Are You Experienced was such a huge commercial success.

When Are You Experienced was released in Britain, in May 1967, it reached number two. This resulted in a gold disc for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. No wonder. Are You Experienced featured future Jimi Hendrix classics like Foxy Lady, Third Stone from the Sun and Are You Experienced? Three months later, in August 1967, Are You Experienced was released in the US. It reached number five, and was certified platinum five times over. For Jimi, this was the start of a three year period where he could do no wrong.

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Axis: Bold As Love.

Seven months later, on 1st December 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience returned with their sophomore album Axis: Bold As Love in the UK. It featured thirteen tracks. Twelve were  penned by Jimi. These tracks showed Jimi evolving as a songwriter. He may have just been twenty-five, but he was a talented songwriter. Proof of this were tracks like Spanish Castle Magic, Wait Until Tomorrow, Castles Made of Sand and Bold As Love. They featured Jimi coming of age as a songwriter. These songs were recorded at Olympic Studios, London.

Recording of Axis: Bold As Love took place at Olympic Studios, London. The sessions took place during May, June and October 1967. Axis: Bold As Love had to be released during 1967. The contract that the Jimi Hendrix Experience had signed stipulated this. Ironically, the album was nearly lost. However, Axis: Bold As Love was only released in Britain in December 1967.

One night, Jimi Hendrix took the master tapes to side one home. Unfortunately, Jimi left them in a taxi. The master tapes were never found. This resulted in side one being mixed again. This didn’t delay the release of Axis: Bold As Love.

Axis: Bold As Love, was released in  Britain, on 1st December 1967. It was released to the same critical acclaim as Are You Experienced. Critics ran out of superlatives in an attempt to describe Axis: Bold As Love. Jimi was described as some sort of musical messiah, who had music’s future in his hands. Record buyers agreed with the critics description of Axis: Bold As Love.

When Axis: Bold As Love was released in Britain, it reached number five and was certified silver. Then on January 15th 1968, Axis: Bold As Love was released in America. However, Axis: Bold As Love hadn’t been released in America during 1967. 

There was a reason for this. The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s record company were scared this would affect sales of Are You Experienced. So Axis: Bold As Love wasn’t released in America until January 1968. When  it was released, it reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. Although not as successful as Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix was riding the crest of a musical wave.

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Electric Ladyland.

By October 1968, when The Jimi Hendrix Experience released Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was one of the most successful musicians in the world. His albums sold by the million, and when The Jimi Hendrix Experience played live, they were one of the hottest live acts. This showed when Electric Ladyland was released.

Unlike The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s two previous albums, Electric Ladyland was an ambitious double album. It featured sixteen songs. Thirteen songs were penned by Jimi. Two of the covers were Bob Dylan’s All Around The Watchtower and Earl King’s Come On (Let the Good Times Roll. These tracks, and the rest of Electric Ladyland were recorded at three recording studios.

Recording sessions took place between July and December 1967, then between January and April 1968. Three different studios in London and New York were used. This included Olympic Studios in London and Record Plant Studios and Mayfair StudiosNew York. Once the sixteen tracks were recorded, Electric Ladyland was released in October 1968.

As soon as critics heard Electric Ladyland, they realised that this was The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s. It oozed quality. Tracks like Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), All Along the Watchtower and Gypsy resulted in what was the greatest album of  The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s career. Critics hailed Electric Ladyland a career high for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Record buyers agreed.

When Electric Ladyland was released in Britain, on 16th October 1968, it reached number six and was certified gold. Nine days, later, on 25th October 1968 Electric Ladyland was released in America. It reached number one on the US Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum. The rise and rise of The Jimi Hendrix Experience continued.

Just like their previous two albums, their third album Electric Ladyland became a classic. Electric Ladyland was the album that The Jimi Hendrix Experience were always capable of making.  It was a coming of age for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They’d released the finest album of their three album career. Sadly, there was a twist in the tale. Electric Ladyland would be The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s final album. However, it was a fitting swan-song from a legendary power trio. 

Eight months after the release of Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their last concert on June 29th 1969. This took place at Barry Fey’s Denver Pop Festival. This was a three day event. Little did anyone know The Jimi Hendrix Experience would only play one further concert. They reunited in 1970, to allow Jimi to spread his message of universal love. However, before that, Jimi’s new trio, Band Of Gypsys, recorded their only album.

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Band of Gypsys.

After The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up, Jimi formed another trio, The Band Of Gypsys. The lineup featured drummer Buddy Miles, bassist Billy Cox and  Jimi on guitar. The Band of Gypsys recorded their only live album on 1st January 1970.

When the Band Of Gypsys took to the stage at Filmore East, in New York, on 1st January 1970, they had been busy. They’d written six new songs.  Jimi penned four tracks, including Who Knows and the funky, anti Vietnam War song Machine Gun. These two tracks comprise side one of Band Of Gypsys, He also wrote Power To Love and Message Of Love. Jazz drummer Buddy Miles, wrote Changes and We Gotta Live Together. These six tracks found the Band Of Gypsys moving in a different direction from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Elements of funk, R&B and soul shine through on Band Of Gypsys. This isn’t surprising, given Jimi’s bandmates’ past. However, Jimi’s trademark fusion rock and psychedelia is still present. What’s obvious, is that Jimi was keen to explore different musical directions. He wasn’t going to be tied to the one musical genre. Instead, he was willing to experiment musically. Band Of Gypsys was just the start.

When critics heard Band Of Gypsys, they were won over by the genre melting album. They realised that Band Of Gypsys was an ambitious album. Machine Gun, they felt, was the best track on Band Of Gypsys. It was the album’s centrepiece, and showed what Jimi Hendrix, musical maverick was capable of, even without  The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Just like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Band Of Gypsys was the perfect vehicle for Jimi.

Band Of Gypsys was released in Britain on 25th March 1970. It reached number six. Nearly three months later, on June 12th 1970, Band Of Gypsys was released in America, reaching number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Band Of Gypsys being certified double platinum. Jimi Hendrix it seemed could do no wrong. Everyone waited with baited breath to see what direction his career headed.

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After the release of Band Of Gypsys, Jimi returned the studio, where he began work on his next album. Jimi was  a prolific artist, and recorded many tracks over a relatively short space of time. So much so, that by the time he headed to the second Atlanta Pop Festival, which was held on the 4th of July 1970, there were many tracks in various states of completion. This was more than enough for several album’s worth of material. Some of the new songs newly reformed lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience planned to showcase at the Atlanta Pop Festival, which sadly would prove to be Jimi Hendrix’s swan-song.

Lesser musicians than Jimi Hendrix would’ve been nervous about playing at the heart of the Deep South. Not Jimi Hendrix. He relished the challenge of uniting a region divided. He planned to do so with the newly reformed lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. 

Sadly, bassist Noel Redding wasn’t going to take to the stage. Taking his place would be Band Of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox. At least Noel Redding The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s original drummer was by Jimi’s side as they took to the stage. What had been a legendary power trio were about to try to unite a region divided.

That’s what The Jimi Hendrix Experience went on to do. In the process, they wrote their place into music history by playing a starring role in what’s now remembered as the “last great rock festival.” Jimi Hendrix had united a region that had been divided. His message of unity, universal love and Freedom had him friends on both sides of the racial divide. Now Jimi Hendrix could concentrate on completing his next album. However, that never happened

On 18th September 1970, music was in mourning. Jimi Hendrix, it was announced, was dead.

Jimi Hendrix had been found around 11a.m. on the 18th September 1970, that Jimi Hendrix was found unresponsive at an apartment in the Samarkand Hotel, in Notting Hill, London. He was rushed to the St. Mary’s Abbot’s Hospital, but pronounced dead at 12.45p.m. Jimi Hendrix was just twenty-seven. However, music had lost one of the most influential and innovative guitarists of his generation. 

That’s despite Jimi’s solo career beginning just four years earlier. Since then, Jimi had released a trio of studio album and one live album. During that period, Jimi Hendrix took music  by storm, and vied for the title of rock’s greatest guitarist. Throughout his solo career, Jimi was a flamboyant showman, who growing up, modelled himself on T-Bone Walker. 

It was T-Bone who Jimi saw playing his guitar with his teeth.  When Jimi saw this, he took it as a challenge. This became part of Jimi’s routine. In years to come, Jimi played his guitar as if his life depended upon it. Jimi, on form, was like a man possessed. Some nights, Jimi played his guitar behind his back, played it with his teeth and as if trying to exercise some inner demons, set his guitar on fire. All this made Jimi one of the most exiting guitarists ever. However, Jimi was also a technically brilliant guitarists of his generation. That’s apparent on the trio of studio albums and live album that The Jimi Hendrix Experience released between 1967-1970. These albums feature musical maverick Jimi Hendrix at the peak of his powers, as he pushes musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond; and in the process, produces groundbreaking and timeless music that changed music forevermore.

Jimi Hendrix-The Musical Genius Who Changed Music.

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