MAKOTA TERASHITA MEETS HAROLD LAND-TOPOLOGY.

Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land–Topology.

Label: BBE Music.

Hot on the heels of BBE Music’s critically acclaimed compilation J Jazz-Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1983 Volume 2, comes a reissue of Topology, a collaboration from 1983 between the young, up-and-coming,  Japanese pianist Makoto Terashita, and fifty-five year old American  hard bop and post bop tenor saxophonist Harold Land. He was by then, an elder statesman of jazz, and on Topology, which was  billed as Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land the two generations of jazzers recorded six tracks. These tracks became Topology, which although it’s one of the finest J Jazz albums of the eighties, is almost unknown outside of Japan. Only a few discerning connoisseurs of jazz were aware of the existence of Topology, which  is a welcome reissue and is a chance for to rediscover this collaboration between Makoto Terashita and Harold Land from 1983.

When Topology was recorded in 1983, Makoto Terashita was still in his early thirties, and had only recorded one album as bandleader, Great Harvest. It was released five years earlier, in 1978, and nowadays, is regarded as a J Jazz cult classic, and is a tantalising taste of what was to come from Makoto Terashita. He would go on to become one of the greats of J Jazz. 

By 1983, Harold Land was fifty-five, and was approaching veteran status, and was a vastly experienced tenor saxophonist who had played alongside many jazz greats as sideman including Bobby Hutcherson, Clifford Brown, Gerald Wilson and Max Roach. However, Harold Land was also an experienced bandleader, and by 1983, had released twelve solo albums for various labels including Mainstream, Pacific Jazz and Blue Note since making his recording debut in the fifties. 

Four decades later, he was still playing live and recording, and journeyed to Japan to record Topology with Makoto Terashita. He was already an incredibly gifted composer and had written five of the six tracks that would feature on Topology. The other, World Peace was written by Harold Land.  

These six tracks were recorded with a talented band that featured a rhythm section of drummer Mike Reznikof and bassist Yasushi Yoneki. They were joined by percussionist Takayuki Koizumi  and the two stars of the album pianist  Makoto Terashita and tenor saxophonist Harold Land. They recorded the six tracks that became the captivating collaboration Topology, which was billed as Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land.

Topology was released to plaudits and praise later in 1983 on the cult Aketa’s Disk label, but wasn’t a commercial success. Outside of Japan, Topology failed to make any impression, which was a great shame given the quality of music on Topology. 

When Topology was released, Makoto Terashita was still an up-and-coming pianist but played with a maturity despite his relative inexperience. By contrast, Harold Land was a veteran whose playing was inventive, confident and was versatile. His playing was also nuanced and full of subtleties throughout Topology.  

Topology opens with Dragon Dance an energetic spiritual jazz opus where  Makoto Terashita’s piano takes centrestage during the  introduction and showcases his considerable skills. It’s a tantalising taste of what’s to come. Harold Land kicks loose during Crossing, a heady and intoxicating slice of bop. Very difference is World  Peace, a ruminative Harold Land composition full of subtleties and nuances. Crossing  which closes Topology, is a nine minute epic, which breezes along, with Harold Lamb’s tenor saxophone playing a starring role on what’s one of the album’s highlights.

It was only much later that jazz afficianados discovered the delights  of Topology by Makoto Terashita and Harold Land. Topology which is now regarded as a J Jazz classic us a captivating collaboration between two truly talented jazz musicians. They may have come from difference backgrounds and were from different generations, but were responsible for enduring and engaging J Jazz classic Topology, which is belatedly is starting to find an audience and receive the recognition and critical acclaim it so richly deserves.

Makoto Terashita Meets Harold Land–Topology.

45 YEARS AGO IN 1974 BAD COMPANY RELEASED BAD COMPANY.

45 Years Ago In 1974 Bad Company Released Bad Company.

When Free split-up in for the second and final time in 1973, vocalist Paul Rodger and drummer Simon Kirke joined the latest rock supergroup Bad Company. Completing Bad Company’s lineup, were Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs and bassist Boz Burrell. They would become part of the most successful supergroup of the seventies.

From their 1974 debut album Bad Company, right through to 1979s Desolation Angels, Bad Company were one of the biggest selling bands on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain and America, Bad Company could do now wrong. Three of their five albums were certified gold in Britain. Across the Atlantic, Bad Company enjoyed four multi-platinum albums. They sold an estimated 13.5 million albums. This meant Bad Company were shoulders with the biggest, and most successful supergroups of the late-sixties and early seventies. The album that started this run of commercial success and critical acclaim, is Bad Company

Before long, Bad Company were signed to Led Zeppelin’s newly formed Swan Song label. Soon, they had acquired a manager, and this was Led Zeppelin’s manager, Peter Grant. He would guide Bad Company through the most successful period of their career. It began in November 1973.

That’s when Bad Company began recording their eponymous debut album. Recording began in November 1973, when Ronnie Lane’s mobile recording studio became available. This came about purely by chance.

Having released their fifth album in February 1973, Led Zeppelin were due to return to the studio in November 1973. So, they had hired Ronnie Lane’s mobile recording studio, which Led Zeppelin had sent to Headley Grange. However,  things didn’t go well. The recording session ground to a halt, and Bad Company who were about to record their eponymous debut album, used the studio time.

At Headley Grange, Bad Company would record the eight tracks that became their debut album Bad Company. Each of the eight tracks were written by members of the band. Drummer Mick Ralphs wrote Can’t Get Enough, Movin’ On and Ready for Love, which Mott The Hoople had already recorded. Mick and Paul Rodgers cowrote Don’t Let Me Down and Seagull. Vocalist Paul Rodgers contributed Rock Steady and The Way I Choose. He also cowrote Bad Company with drummer Simon Kirke. These eight tracks were recorded by Bad Company during November 1973.

Using Ronnie Lane’s mobile recording studio, Bad Company began recording and producing their debut album at Headley Grange. Vocalist Paul Rodger played rhythm guitar on Can’t Get Enough, piano on Bad Company and Don’t Let Me Down. He also played all instruments on Seagull. Bad Company’s rhythm section featured drummer Simon Kirke, bassist Boz Burrell and guitarist Mick Ralph. Augmenting Bad Company, were saxophonist Mel Collins, and backing vocalists Sue Glover and Sunny Leslie. They feature on Don’t Let Me Down. By the end of November 1973, Bad Company was completed. It would prove to be one of the most successful debut albums of the early seventies.

Before Bad Company was released, the critics had their say. They were won over by Bad Company’s spartan, stripped back brand of rock. There were no dissenting voices, just critically acclaimed reviews of Bad Company. Things were looking good for Bad Company.

Can’t Get Enough was chosen as the lead single from Bad Company. It reached number fifteen in Britain, number three in Canada and number five in the US Billboard 100. Then when Bad Company was released on June 26th 1974, it reached number three in Britain, number seven in Canada and number one in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Bad Company being certified gold in Britain and five times platinum in America. The second single from Bad Company was Movin’ On, which reached number thirty in Canada and number seventeen in the US Billboard 100. Bad Company, the third and final single released from Bad Company failed to chart. However, Bad Company, which I’ll tell you about, was one of the biggest selling albums of 1974. It was also just the start of the rise and rise of Bad Company.

Opening Bad Company is the classic, lead single Can’t Get Enough. Drummer Simon Kirke counts Bad Company, before the rhythm section and bursts of scorching guitars sets the scene for Paul’s needy, hopeful vocal. Soon, a fist-pumping, future rock classic is unfolding. It’s apparent the four members of Bad Company are talented and experienced musicians. They never miss a beat, as they fuse rock and blues. Later, guitarist Mick Ralph delivers a guitar masterclass. This inspires Paul. He goes on to deliver a swaggering, powerhouse of a vocal on this classic rock anthem.

Rock Steady was penned by Paul Rodgers. Bursts of rocky licks are unleashed, before Bad Company’s rhythm section enter. They join Mick Ralph’s guitar, providing the backdrop for Paul’s vocal. His vocal veers between soulful and thoughtful, to powerful, and bluesy. Backing vocalists accompany him, adding further bursts of backing soulfulness. Soon, though, Bad Company are ready to kick loose. That’s the signal for Paul’s vocal to drop out. The rest of Bad Company jam, allowing the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents. They’re at their rocky best. As the rhythm section lay down a rocky groove, guitarist Mick Ralph unleashes searing, crystalline licks. When Paul returns, again, he’s a man inspired. He struts, whoops and hollers his way through the rest of Rock Steady, as Bad Company look set to join supergroup royalty.

Originally, Mick Ralphs wrote Ready For Love for Mott The Hoople, his former band. They recorded it. This didn’t stop Mick’s new band reworking the track. Some saw this as a brave move, as there would be the inevitable comparisons. Bad Company stay true to the original. It’s a case of dropping the tempo, and turning Ready For Love into a thoughtful ballad. Paul delivers a pensive, pleading vocal and plays piano. Cooing harmonies sweep above the arrangement. Meanwhile, the rest of Bad Company seem to play within themselves. They take care not to overpower Paul’s vocal or piano. The piano plays in important part in the song. Especially during the breakdown, where piano carries the melody. Then when Paul’s vocal returns, Bad Company threaten to kick loose. However, they never do, allowing the listener to hear another side to Bad Company during this beautiful ballad.

Slowly, and dramatically, Don’t Let Me Down unfolds. Guitar riffs, drums rolls and subtle bursts of piano accompany Paul’s probing, questioning vocal. He pleads “Don’t Let Me Down,” laying bare his soul for all to hear. Meanwhile, cooing, sweeping, gospel tinged harmonies join searing guitars, piano and sultry saxophone. Then when the saxophone drops out, guitarist Mick Ralph unleashes one of his best solos. This inspires the rest of Bad Company on this fusion of rock, soul and gospel harmonies.

Hesitantly and gently, Bad Company begins to unfold. Paul’s vocal is tender, as he remembers his younger days. Meanwhile, a piano plays and the rhythm section play within themselves. That’s until Paul delivers the lyric: “that’s what they call me Bad Company.” That proves the signal for Bad Company to cut loose. This they do briefly, before returning to the understated sound. From there, they veer between the understated and rocky sound. In doing so, Bad Company enjoy the opportunity to showcase their versatility

The Way I Choose has an understated, thoughtful sound. As the rhythm section play slowly and subtly, a chiming, crystalline guitar accompanies Paul’s vocal. It’sfull of emotion. One minute he sings: “I don’t need nobody,” the next, “I only love you baby.” No wonder. His partner isn’t sure. Paul pleads; “answer my question, don’t say goodbye,” on this soul-baring paean.

After the balladry of The Way I Choose, Bad Company turn to good time rock on Movin’ On. From the opening bars, it’s apparent why it was chosen as a single. Hooks haven’t been rationed, on this rocky anthem. Bad Company combine the rhythm section and blistering guitars. They provide the backdrop for Paul’s strutting vocal. As he sings about life as a rock star on the road, harmonies are added. They’re the perfect foil for Paul’s vocal. Then when his vocal drops out, guitarist Mick Ralph delivers a blistering, searing solo. It’s one of his best. It drives Paul and the rest of Bad Company to greater heights on this rocky anthem.

Seagull closes Bad Company and disc one of the Deluxe Edition. It’s another understated song. Mostly, it’s just Paul’s vocal and his guitar. As he strums his acoustic guitar, Paul wistfully delivers the lyrics. He’s very different from the swaggering, strutting rocker on Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love and Movin’ On. That’s no bad thing. It shows that Bad Company weren’t one trick ponies, never would be. Instead, they were and most successful bands of the seventies.

Right through until 1979s Desolation Angels, Bad Company’s fifth album, they were one of the biggest selling bands on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain and America, Bad Company, it seemed, could do now wrong. Three of their five albums were certified gold in Britain. Across the Atlantic, Bad Company enjoyed four multi-platinum albums. In America alone, Bad Company sold an estimated 13.5 million albums. The album that started the rise and rise of Bad Company, was their 1974 eponymous album, Bad Company.

With its mixture of rocky tracks and ballads, Bad Company caught the imagination of the record buying public. Across Europe, North America, Australasia and Britain, Bad Company were the latest supergroup to become part of rock royalty. They were at the top for five years, right through until 1979. After that, the hits dried up for six years.

By then, Paul Rodgers had left Bad Company. He left in 1982, and played a huge part in Bad Company’s success. The former Free vocalist struck gold with his second band, Bad Company. However, Bad Company weren’t a one man band.

Far from it. Each of the four members of Bad Company player their part in the band’s success. That was the case on their debut album Bad Company, which was recently released as a Deluxe Edition by Rhino. The rhythm section of bassist Boz Burrell and drummer Simon Kirke provided Bad Company’s rocky heartbeat. Guitarist Mick Ralphs unleashed a series of blistering, scorching and crystalline solos. Adding the final piece to the jigsaw, was Paul Rodger’s vocal. It veered between needy and hopeful, to a strutting, swaggering powerhouse. Together, the four members of Bad Company became an unstoppable musical juggernaut.

From 1974, right through to 1979, Bad Company were rubbing shoulders with the great and good of rock music. They were one of the most successful British rock bands, and also, one of the most successful rock supergroups. While some supergroups released just a couple of albums, Bad Company enjoyed an unenviable longevity. Their recording career lasted twenty-two years and twelve albums. However, Bad Company’s most successful album was their 1974 eponymous debut, Bad Company which forty-one years later, is regarded as a classic album.

45 Years Ago In 1974 Bad Company Released Bad Company.

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KJETIL MULELID TRIO-WHAT YOU THOUGHT WAS HOME.

Kjetil Mulelid Trio-What You Thought Was Home. 

Label: Rune Grammofon. 

Prodigious describes twenty-eight year old Norwegian composer, bandleader and pianist Kjetil Mulelid, who graduated from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s jazz program in Trondheim in 2014. By then, he had already made his recording debut on Lauv’s album De Som Er Eldre Enn Voksne. Since then, Kjetil Mulelid has collaborated with Arve Henriksen, Eirik Hegdal, Kirsti Huke, Nils-Olav Johansen  and Ola Kvernberg, and has released albums as Kjemilie, Wako and the Kjetil Mulelid Trio who recently released their sophomore album What You Thought Was Home on  Rune Grammofon. This was the latest chapter in the Kjetil Mulelid story.

Having graduated from Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s jazz program in 2014, Kjetil Mulelid embarked upon a career as  a professional musician. Just a year later, his band Wako released their debut album The Good Story to plaudits and praise. They would release two more albums Modes For All Eternity  in 2017, and in 2018, Urolige sinn which showcased a talented band. However, by 2018, Kjetil Mulelid had founded another band.

This was Kjemilie, who released their critically acclaimed  debut album Hverdagene  in 2016. The following year 2017, Kjemilie returned with another album that found favour with critics, Bakkekontakt. It was one of a quartet of albums that showcased Kjetil Mulelid’s considerable skills.

Another was  Fieldfare’s eponymous album. However, the other was the Kjetil Mulelid Trio’s debut album Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House, which was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics compared Kjetil Mulelid’s playing on Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House to legendary pianists Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans. On what was a captivating and melodic album that combined elements of jazz, folk and even gospel, Kjetil Mulelid came of age musically. Critics awaited the followup.

Now two years later, the  Kjetil Mulelid Trio return with What You Thought Was Home, which features eight new compositions. Just like on Nearly Enough To Buy A House the compositions captivate and showcase a truly talented and versatile Trio. Led by pianist Kjetil Mulelid and joined by bassist Bjørn Marius Hegge and drummer Andreas Winther this truly talented Trio play effortlessly on what are sometimes rhythmically complex compositions. They’re also very beautiful and melodic, which are best described as sometimes cinematic and evocative that paint pictures in the mind’s eye. The music is sometimes energetic and rich in harmonies. However, while Kjetil Mulelid’s piano plays a starring role, and he plays with a maturity beyond his years, his rhythm section add layers of magical music as well as textures and tones. Their playing veers between calm and energetic, but is always effortless, as the compositions gradually unfold, revealing their secrets on a carefully crafted album that is beguiling and constantly captivates and has a distinctive Scandinavian sound. It showcases the Kjetil Mulelid Trio at the peak of their powers as they reach new heights on What You Thought Was Home, which is career defining album from the prodigiously talented Norwegian bandleader, composer and pianist who has a bright future ahead of him.

Kjetil Mulelid Trio-What You Thought Was Home.

LOTHAR OHLMEIER, ISAMBARD KHROUSTALIOV, RUDI FISCHERLEHNER-HYPERTIDE OVER KIRIBATI.

Lothar Ohlmeier, Isambard Khroustaliov, Rudi Fischerlehner-Hypertide Over Kiribati.

Label: Not Applicable Recordings.

Each week, a vast amount of new albums are released into the global musical marketplace by artists and bands from every corner of the world. This should mean that there’s a constant stream on ambitious and innovative music being released. Sadly, that isn’t the case, and sometimes, it’s as if time has stood still as artists and bands rehash the same sound that was popular twenty or thirty years ago. Their rationale seems to be that deep house, twee indie pop or hair metal was once popular, and brought fame and fortune to many artists and bands and can line their pockets with filthy lucre. However, times have changed, and record buyers are looking for new and groundbreaking music that will push musical boundaries to their limits and beyond. Thankfully, music like this is still being released.

This includes by the truly talented triumvirate of Lothar Ohlmeier, Isambard Khroustaliov, Rudi Fischerlehner, who have just released a new album Hypertide Over Kiribati, on Not Applicable Recordings. Hypertide Over Kiribati, which was recorded at Keller4 Tonstudio, Berlin, in March 2018, showcases the considerable talents of drummer Lothar Ohlmeier, Rudi Fischerlehner  on bass clarinet and Isambard Khroustaliov  whose specially is modular synths and computers. The trio recorded four tracks that last forty-nine minutes, and they  became Hypertide Over Kiribati. They’re a welcome reminder that there are still artists who are willing to innovate and release cerebral, genre-melting music that that is inventive and pushes musical boundaries to their limits. For that we should be grateful.

Lothar Ohlmeier, Rudi Fischerlehner  and Isambard Khroustaliov assure us that the not only is the hypertide is real, and so is Kiribati,  a real life paradise  in the central Pacific Ocean.  Tragically, the   hypertide threatens to submerge and decimate Kiribati. This Lothar Ohlmeier, Rudi Fischerlehner  and Isambard Khroustaliov compare with how we’re gradually the hypertide that will drown both the real and the virtual. This philosopher and computer scientist Jaron Lanier once described as: “a vast pointilist spew” of platform sterilised media that’s been robbed of any history or culture and no longer has any meaning.

Nowadays, artists and record companies place great importance on likes, plays, views and shares, fretting over a slew of stats in the internet age. As a result, many record companies are becoming much more choosy about what they release and are reluctant to release anything that isn’t populist. Hard luck if you’ve recorded a groundbreaking album of leftfield music that explores the relationship between music and computation. Sadly, you’re out of luck and that project is unlikely to be released by the majority of record labels. That’s a great shame.

Especially since there’s been many examples of experiments and of going back to the 20th century, and range from  jazz musicians exploring the creative uses of improvisation right through to the use of electronic instruments and technology in dance and music. This includes what were some of the earliest computers, which were issued by what were mostly classically trained composers who were pioneers who were looking to innovative and create new music that was very different from what had preceded it. The use of technology that was constantly evolving and continues ton evolve, has  freed several generations from constraints and allowed them to push musical boundaries to their limits and beyond. That is the case today, and is the case on Hypertide Over Kiribati.

It’s a very personal album by Lothar Ohlmeier, Isambard Khroustaliov and Rudi Fischerlehner who embarked upon a musical odyssey, and were determined to challenge what they call the:  “anonymising, anodising force of platform capitalism in music.” To do this they’ve recorded an album of ambitious, inventive and innovative genre-melting music where Lothar Ohlmeier, Isambard Khroustaliov and Rudi Fischerlehner fuse elements of avant-garde, electronica, electroacoustic, experimental, improv and jazz that pushes musical boundaries to their limits and sometimes beyond on album what’s hopefully the first of many albums by this truly talented triumvirate of musical mavericks and pioneers.

Lothar Ohlmeier, Isambard Khroustaliov, Rudi Fischerlehner-Hypertide Over Kiribati.

35 YEARS AGO IN 1984 SIMPLE MINDS RELEASED SPARKLE IN THE RAIN.

35 Years Ago  in 1984 Simple Minds Realised Sparkle In The Rain .

Success didn’t come easy for Glasgow’s very own Simple Minds. It took five years and five albums before they found commercial success and critical acclaim across Europe with New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). This was the start of the rise and rise of Simple Minds, and was also the start of their stadium rock era. The story began in Glasgow, Scatland’s musical capital in April 1982.

That’s when Simple Minds released the anthemic Promised You A Miracle as the lead single from New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It reached number eleven in the British charts. This was Simple Minds first British hit single. Soon, Promised You A Miracle took Europe by storm. This was the start of Simple Minds transformation from new wave pioneers, to stadium rock superstars.

Four months after the release of Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize was released as the followup. It reached number sixteen in Britain, and reached the top twenty in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden. Word was spreading about Simple Minds’ new sound. This was just in time for the release of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84).

Released on 13th September 1982, life was never going to be the same for Simple Minds after the release of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It reached number three in Britain, and was certified platinum. From Australia and New Zealand, to France, Holland and Sweden, right through to America and Canada, New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) sold well. In Canada, it was certified gold. For Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Michael MacNeil and Derek Forbes, it was a New Gold Dream come true. The only disappointment was when one of Simple Minds’ most anthemic tracks, Someone Somewhere in Summertime, stalled at number thirty-six in Britain. Apart from that, things had never been better for Simple Minds.

Or so it seemed. Simple Minds had been having problems with drummers on New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). The problem was, they didn’t have one. So, they’d used two drummers for the recording of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mike Ogletree played on four tracks, while Mel Gaynor played on the other six tracks. However, it was Mike Ogletree that headed out on tour with Simple Minds, to tour New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mike played on the first leg of the tour, and left in November 1982 to form Fiction Factory. That presented a problem for Simple Minds. 

The answer to their problem was Mel Gaynor. He’d played on New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). So, he knew many of the songs. Mel Gaynor was brought onboard, and became Simple Minds’ first non-Scottish member. However, Mel Gaynor’s drumming would prove a crucial part of Simple Minds future sound and success.

During the summer of 1983, Simple Minds played a series of high profile concerts. Many were in large stadiums, in front of fifty thousand people. This was no place for shrinking violets. So, Simple Minds cranked up the volume and went for it. Little did anyone realise, that Simple Minds were now bona fide stadium rockers.

One new song epitomised Simple Minds’ new sound… Waterfront. With its pulsating bass line, thunderous drums, and Jim’s strutting, preening vocal, Simple Minds literally swaggered their way through what was their latest anthem. This raised a few eyebrows. Were Simple Minds in the process of reinventing themselves?

That proved to be the case. The story began in September 1983 at Monnow Valley Studio in Rockfield, and At The Town House in London. That’s where work began on Simple Minds’ sixth album Sparkle In The Rain which was recorded over two months in 1983.

When Simple Minds arrived at Monnow Valley Studio, in Rockfield they had already recorded demos for six tracks at The Chapel studio in Lincolnshire. Other musical ideas had been recorded at Nomis Studios, London. So, when producer Steve Lillywhite arrived at Monnow Valley Studio, some of the hard work had already began. That, however, was only the starting point.

For the next three weeks, Steve Lillywhite and Simple Minds took their original recordings, and reshaped them. The early recordings were the genesis of the finished songs. Some recordings featured just Simple Minds’ new rhythm section. However, quickly, Mel Gaynor was proving to be an invaluable member of Simple Minds. He slotted seamlessly into Simple Minds’ rhythm section alongside bassist Derek Forbes and guitarist Charlie Burchill. Mick MacNeil played keyboards, and Simple Minds’ charismatic frontman, Jim Kerr took charge of lead vocals. This was the lineup of Simple Minds that transformed the demos into songs. Together, Simple Minds’ new lineup began transforming Simple Minds’ demos into fully fledged songs. It took just three weeks. After that, Simple Minds were on the move again. 

Their new home was Nomis Studios, London. That’s where producer Steve Lillywhite encouraged Simple Minds to complete the tracks. This meant vocalist Jim Kerr had to write the lyrics to their nine new tracks. To do this, Jim Kerr sought inspiration. Sometimes it came when he heard Charlie Burchill play guitar, other times when Mick MacNeil was playing keyboards. Soon, the lyrics for the nine tracks were completed, and ready to be recorded. The other track Simple Minds recorded, was a cover of Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. After two months, the reinvention of Simple Minds was almost complete. All that was left was for producer Steve Lillywhite to add his Midas touch to a couple of tracks. Only then, would  Sparkle In The Rain be ready for release.

Before the release of Sparkle In The Rain, Waterfront was released as the lead single on 4th November 1983. It reached number thirteen in Britain, and was a hit across the world. So was Speed Your Love To Me, which was released on 9th January 1984. Strangely, this stadium rocker only reached number twenty in Britain. However, at least it gave Simple Minds a taste of the direction their music was heading.

Nearly four months after Sparkle In The Rain was completed, it was ready for release on 6th February 1984. However, before the release of Sparkle In The Rain, critics had their say. Collectively, Simple Minds held their breath. How would critics respond to Simple Minds turning their back on the new wave sound of New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Mostly, Sparkle In The Rain was well received. The forever contrarian Rolling Stone and N.M.E. weren’t so sure of Sparkle In The Rain. They gave Sparkle In The Rain mixed reviews. This didn’t matter though.

When Sparkle In The Rain was released, on 6th February 1984, it soared up the British charts to number one, resulting in another platinum disc for Simple Minds. Across the Atlantic, Sparkle In The Rain was became Simple Minds most successful album, reaching number sixty-four in the US Billboard 200. That however, wasn’t the end of the commercial success.

Just like New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84), Sparkle In The Rain was a hit across the world. In Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland, Sparkle In The Rain reached the top twenty. Sparkle In The Rain was was certified gold in Canada and Germany. The reinvention of Simple Minds transformed their fortunes. They were now superstar stadium rockers, who were rubbing shoulders with the great and good of music. The album that transformed their career was Sparkle In The Rain, which I’ll tell you about.

Up On The Catwalk opens Sparkle In The Rain. It’s the first of the stadium rock anthems on Sparkle In The Rain. From the moment Mel Gaynor counts the band in, Simple Minds burst into life. Thunderous, jubilant drums and a pounding,sometimes ethereal and elegiac piano are at the heart of the arrangement. Other parts including Charlie’s guitar and Derek’s bass can be heard, but they’re neither as prominent nor important. The track could be stripped down to just the drums, piano and Jim’s swaggering vocal and still work. It would still be an hands in the air eighties anthem, that’s guaranteed to bring memories flooding back.

As soon as Book Of Brilliant Things unfolds, Mick’s keyboards and Mel’s drums go toe-to-toe. They’re joined by Charlie’s machine gun guitar. Jim vamps, clicking his fingers, as if encouraging Simple Minds to greater heights. What follows is the first of the songs with religious references. Jim Kerr is transformed into a street preacher, giving thanks for The Bible, his “Book Of Brilliant.” Joyously, he gives thanks for what it’s given. Despite that, he’s still the gallus, strutting stadium rocker. The rest of Simple Minds are at their tightest, hard rocking best. They never miss a beat, as their leader encourages them to even greater heights.

There’s no end of anthems on Sparkle In The Rain. Speed Your Love To Me is just the latest. It evolved out of hours of jamming, and eventually, fell into place. It’s one of Simple Minds’ finest hours. Again, Simple Minds burst into life, carrying the listener in their wake. Simple Minds’ rhythm section power the arrangement along, while Charlie unleashes blistering, searing guitars. They’ve got the same sound as Big Country. Charlie stabs at his keyboards. Later, his crystalline keyboards help carry Jim’s needy, hopeful vocal along on this irresistible anthem. 

The pulsating, hypnotic bass line as Waterfront unfolds is unmistakable. Then Simple Minds literally come crashing in. Their rhythm section, blistering guitars and keyboards unite, providing the backdrop for Jim’s vocal. When it enters, he paints pictures, pictures of Glasgow, late at night, after its heart was ripped out. Soon, memories of the once thriving industrial city come flooding back. Jim sounds angry and frustrated. So he should be. It’s his city, our city. With the rest of Simple Minds he vents his anger and frustration at those who tore the heart and soul out of a great city.

Simple Minds drop the tempo on East At Easter. Jim wrote some of the lyrics as the task force was setting sail for the Falklands. ironically, just Sparkle In The Rain was reissued, the task force sets sail for the Falklands again. Other lyrics Jim wrote after watching a documentary about Lebanon. They inspire Jim to deliver an impassioned vocal. Meanwhile, Mick’s soaring, crystalline synths and Derek’s pulsating bass play an important part in the arrangement. So do Mel’s drums, which help power the arrangement along to its wistful crescendo.

Lou Reed’s Street Hassle was originally, the opening track on side two of the vinyl edition of Sparkle In The Rain. With side one chock full of anthems, many people ignored side two. Those that got that far, often found side two something of comedown. There’s a sense of drama as the arrangement unfolds. It comes courtesy of Mick’s string synths. Soon, Street Hassle skips along to the sound of Mel’s drums. Jim’s vocal is understated, but sometimes dramatic. Washes of guitar and string synths provide a backdrop. Then just after two minutes, Simple Minds kick loose. Feeding off  Mick’s synth riff, searing, blistering guitars soar above the arrangement and strings dance, as Lou Reed’s Street Hassle is given a makeover by Simple Minds.

As Simple Mind’s rhythm section and keyboards combine White Hot Day bursts into life. Jim delivers a vocal powerhouse. Not to be undone, Charlie unleashes some of his best guitar riffs. Soon, the glisten and combine perfectly with the melodic nature of Mick’s synths. By then, things look like falling into place. However, before long Steve Lillywhite’s arrangement seems to struggle. As a result, the song fails to flow. It’s a fragmented, stop start performance, where Simple Minds try their best, but can’t quite rescue the situation. Even Jim Kerr agrees that the arrangement wasn’t the best, and that’s why he’s been reluctant to play the song live.

Some of the lyrics to ”C” Moon Cry Like A Baby came to Jim when he was on tour. He was standing on the balcony of a hotel, staring in bewilderment at the beauty in front of him. It was then he wondered how he got from the South Side of Glasgow to where he was?Chiming, chirping guitars, eighties drums and crystalline keyboards are joined by retro synths. It’s a song whose roots sonically, are in the early eighties. As Mel’s mesmeric drums provide the heartbeat, Jim delivers a a punchy, impassioned vocal. He voices his deepest fears. After this cathartic outpouring, Jim still believes that: “love can conquer all,” on this captivating track where we hear two sides to Simple Minds. The hard edgy sound of the arrangement, is very different from Jim’s soul-baring vocal.

After a hesitant start, Simple Minds combine elements of punk, new wave and rock ’n’ roll on The Kick Inside Of Me. The punk influence comes courtesy of Jim’s vocal. It soon, changes and references Lou Reed. Meanwhile, the rest of Simple Minds become an old fashioned rock ’n’ roll band. Strip away the new wave, dancing string synths and Simple Minds are at their hard rocking best. At times, the track has a “live” sound. That comes during Jim’s machismo fuelled vocal, accompanied by a hard rocking Simple Minds.

Shake Off The Ghosts closes Sparkle In The Rain. It’s another track with a hesitant start. Eventually, when it finds it direction, there’s a nod to U2. Glacial synths join the rhythm section as the arrangement glides along. Charlie adds some chiming guitars to this captivating instrumental.

Ever since Simple Minds released Sparkle In The Rain in 1984, for many people, it’s been the ultimate album of two sides. Side one was full of fist pumping anthems. Then side two was something of a slow burner. There weren’t as many hook heavy songs. That however, is somewhat simplistic.

The problem with Sparkle In The Rain, is that all the anthems come early in the album. Nobody thought to breakup the flow of the album. Maybe, if some of the songs from side two had been interspersed with the anthems, then it would’ve been perceived as a more balanced album? 

While the five songs on side one surpass the quality of songs on side two, side two wasn’t without its moments. Simple Minds’ reinvented Lou Reed’s Street Hassle. Then on ”C” Moon Cry Like A Baby Jim Kerr delivers a soul-baring vocal. The Kick Inside Of Me is best described as machismo fuelled, and Shake Off The Ghosts is a captivating instrumental. The only letdown is White Hot Day, which promises much, but fails to deliver. Even Jim Kerr will admit that.  That’s why Jim has been reluctant to play White Hot Day live. However, it’s the only time Simple Minds go wrong on Sparkle In The Rain. 

That’s pretty good going, considering Sparkle In The Rain marked the reinvention of Simple Minds. They left their electronic and new wave roots behind. Now, Simple Minds were well on their way to superstardom. There was no stopping them after Sparkle In The Rain, which was recently reissued by Universal as a double album. 

Following Sparkle In The Rain, Simple Minds were bona fide stadium rock royalty. For their next four albums, Simple Minds could do wrong. From 1985s Once Upon A Time, 1989s Street Fighting Years, 1991s Real Life and 1992s Good News From The Next World, commercial success and critical acclaim were omnipresent. With every album, Simple Mind’s popularity grew. Then by 1996s Néapolis, gone were the gold discs and hit singles. The writing had been on the wall since Good News From The Next World, which was only certified gold in Britain and Germany. Simple Minds had been at the top since 1982s New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). However, one of Simple Minds’ finest albums  is Sparkle In The Rain, where they reinvented themselves as a strutting, swaggering stadium rock band and went on to become one of Scotland’s most successful and enduring musical exports.

35 Years Ago  in 1984 Simple Minds Realised Sparkle In The Rain .

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IN 1979 LED ZEPPELIN RELEASED IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR.

In 1979 Led Zeppelin Released In Through the Out Door.

On 15th August 1979, Led Zeppelin released their eighth studio album In Through the Out Door, a and by then, they were one of the biggest selling bands in the world. Their first seven studio albums and their 1976 live album The Song Remains The Same, had sold eighty-three million copies in America alone. Worldwide Led Zeppelin’s albums had sold over 100 million copies. However, little did the four members of Led Zeppelin realise that In Through the Out Door marked the end of an era. 

In Through The Out Door was the last album to feature the original lineup of Led Zeppelin. Not for the first time, tragedy was about to touch Led Zeppelin. Things hadn’t been going well for Led Zeppelin since the 5th August 1975.

Before Led Zeppelin embarked upon an American tour, Robert Plant decided to take his family on holiday to Rhodes. Robert decided to hire a car so he could see the Island. Disaster struck on 5th August 1975, when the car spun off the road and crashed. He was taken to hospital where doctors discovered that Robert had broken his ankle and elbow. This resulted in the American tour being postponed. 

Presence.

With the American tour cancelled, Robert Plant began the lengthy period of recuperation. His convalescence began in Jersey, where Robert began writing some of the lyrics for Presence. When Robert moved Malibu, he continued to write the lyrics for Presence. By then, he was joined by Jimmy Page. The pair began to knock the lyrics into shape. Soon, the Page and Plant songwriting partnership had enough material for an album.

and Robert’s recuperation looking like being lengthy, he he decided to write the lyrics for Led Zeppelin’s next album. This made sense. However, with Robert confined to a wheelchair,  it wasn’t going to be easy for him to record his vocals.

Despite this, the early recording sessions for Presence took place at Hollywood’s SIR Studio. That’s where they spent the next month, working on the songs that became Presence. After a month, Led Zeppelin flew to Giorgio Moroder’s Musicland Studios, in Munich, Germany, which was perceived as the studio to record an album. Led Zeppelin were just the latest to make their way Musicland Studios.

As Led Zeppelin setup, onlookers something was missing. John Bonham’s drums and percussion were present. So were John Paul Jones four and eight string basses. Jimmy Pages’ array of guitars were setup in his corner of the studio. All Robert Plant brought was his trusty harmonica. Then it became clear what was missing, keyboards. It looked like Led Zeppelin were going to record an album without keyboards.

That’s what Led Zeppelin proceeded to do. Presence Plant and Page decided, should mark a change in Led Zeppelin’s sound. This should make Led Zeppelin’s return to hard rock. The riffs were much simpler, as Led Zeppelin moved towards guitar based jams. This was very different to some of the complex arrangements on Physical Graffiti. Another change was the lack of keyboards. Originally, they were meant to be absent. However, it was a case of needs must. Keyboards had to be used for the chorus on Candy Store Rock. Mostly, though, Presence was a much more stripped back, simpler  and spontaneous album than previous Led Zeppelin albums. There was a reason for this.

Led Zeppelin had to work quickly. The Rolling Stones were scheduled to record Black and Blue. So, Led Zeppelin had to work quickly. They laid the tracks down quickly. There was an element of spontaneity in the sessions. Once the tracks were laid down, three nights were spent adding overdubs. By the 25th November 1975, Led Zeppelin’s yet unnamed album was recorded and mixed. It hadn’t been the ideal sessions for Led Zeppelin.

Usually, Led Zeppelin would spend much longer than eighteen days recording an album. However, they were against the clock. 

If the album wasn’t recorded in time, Led Zeppelin would have to find another studio. They were determined not to have to do this, so they spent eighteen to twenty hours a day recording. Sometimes, members of Led Zeppelin fell asleep while mixing the album. Whoever was left awake, was left to mix the track. Somehow, Presence was recorded the album in eighteen days. Later, Robert Plant felt this showed.

With Robert Plant confined to a wheelchair, this made delivering his trademark vocals difficult. He couldn’t unleash the same power. As a result, Robert later though his vocal was  “pretty poor”…and “sounds tired and strained.” Robert also felt “claustrophobic” as Led Zeppelin recorded in Musicland’s basement studios. He was also still suffering from the accident that happened three months earlier. Despite this, Robert soldiered on and the Presence sessions were finished on time.

Somehow, Led Zeppelin had managed what many thought was impossible, and recorded and mixed an album in eighteen days. It was ready for release in early 1976.

Before Presence was released on 31st March 1976, critics had their say about Led Zeppelin’s latest album. Previously, many critics hadn’t been fans of Led Zeppelin. It didn’t matter that they were one of the most successful bands in the world, certain critics enjoyed panning new Led Zeppelin albums. So, it was no surprise that Led Zeppelin tended to avoid the press. No wonder. Just like previous albums, Presence wasn’t well received by critics. Some critics remarked that the songs were all similar. Gone was the diversity of previous albums. Other critics called Presence inaccessible, and a difficult album to like. While Led Zeppelin had had bad reviews before, this didn’t bode well for the release of Presence.

Presence wasn’t released until 31st March 1976. The album had been delayed while the sleeve was completed. By the time Presence was released, it had racked up the highest ever advance orders in Britain. This resulted in Presence reaching number one and being certified gold upon its release, and later, was certified platinum. Across the Atlantic, Presence eventually reached number one in the US Billboard 200. It was the slowest selling of Led Zeppelin’s seven album career. Eventually, Presence sold just three million copies, and was certified triple-platinum. Considering Physical Graffiti had sold sixteen million copies, Presence was seen as a failure in America. Elsewhere, sales of Presence were slow.

In Australia, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and Sweden, Presence entered the top ten. Presence didn’t sell as well in Canada, where Led Zeppelin had always been popular. Gold and platinum discs were in short supply. Apart from Britain and America, Presence didn’t sell enough copies elsewhere. Nor did the single released from Presence.

Candy Store Rock was chosen as Presence’s lead single. It was perceived as one of Presence’s highlights. However, it failed to chart in any of the countries it was released in. For Led Zeppelin, Presence was a disappointing album commercially. Especially given Led Zeppelin were at the peak of their powers. What was even more galling was that Led Zeppelin were unable to tour. If they had headed out on tour, maybe sales of Presence would improve? Given Robert Plant’s injuries, this wasn’t possible. So Led Zeppelin decided to complete the concert film The Song Remains The Same.

The Song Remains The Same.

Ever since late 1969, Led Zeppelin had been planning a documentary film about the band. A performance was filmed at the Albert Hall in London, on 9th January 1970. However, the sound quality wasn’t satisfactory, so the idea was shelved temporarily.

Then on 20th July 1973, Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant made contact with actor and director Joe Massot. He had previously filmed George Harrison’s Wonderwall. Joe was a friend of Peter Grant, and Jimmy Page. So when Peter Grant approached Joe about filming Led Zeppelin, he didn’t take much convincing. A month later, Joe was in New Your filming Led Zeppelin.

On 27th, 28th and 29th July 1973, Led Zeppelin were playing at    Madison Square Garden. The three nights were filmed on 35mm film with a twenty-four track quadraphonic mobile recoding studio. This cost $85,000, which the four members of Led Zeppelin financed. After the three shows at Madison Square Garden, progress slowed. This didn’t please Peter Grant.

He decided to bring another direction onboard Peter Clifton to complete the project in July 1974. So, Peter Grant sent someone to Joe Massot’s house to collect the film. Joe Massot however, was owed money, and decided to hide the film. This he thought would ensure he was paid. Instead, Joe’s editing machine was taken as collateral. Before long, it was stalemate and Joe served a writ.

Once the writ had been served, Led Zeppelin’s lawyers paid Joe Massot the money he was owed. He delivered the films, and Peter Clifton was given the job of completing the film.This included Led Zeppelin recreating the Madison Square concerts at Shepperton Studios in August 1974. Eventually, The Song Remains The Same was completed after three years work.

A premiere of The Song Remains The Same took place at Atlantic Records. The label’s founder and president, Ahmet Ertegun is reported to have fallen asleep during the screening. This didn’t bode well for the release of The Song Remains The Same.

On 20th October 1976, the film and soundtrack to The Song Remains The Same was released. Critics weren’t impressed with the soundtrack. They felt the album was over-produced, clumsy and awkward. Even the four members of Led Zeppelin weren’t fans of The Song Remains The Same. Jimmy Page felt that The Song Remains The Same: “wasn’t necessarily the best live stuff we have. I don’t look upon it as a live album…it’s essentially a soundtrack.” Given the subsequent recreating of the Madison Square concerts and subsequent, there’s more than an element of truth in this. However, record buyers had the casting vote.

When The Song Remains The Same was released, it reached number one in Britain and number two in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, The Song Remains The Same reached the top ten in the album charts in Canada, Japan and New Zealand. The Song Remains The Same was certified gold in France and Germany, platinum in Britain and four times platinum in America. With around five millions sales, The Song Remains The Same had been a success for Led Zeppelin. However, 1977 proved to be the most difficult years of Led Zeppelin’s career.

With Robert Plant fully recovered, Led Zeppelin were ready to embark upon their American tour. Things however, didn’t go to plan. In February 1977, Robert Plant was diagnosed with laryngitis. This resulted in the opening date being postponed from February to April 1977. This further impacted upon ticket sales.

When Led Zeppelin announced their 1977 American Tour, the tickets sold well. However, they didn’t sell in the same quantities they had two years earlier. Back then, Led Zeppelin were at the peak of their popularity. Two years later, Led Zeppelin tickets weren’t selling as well. The postponement impacted upon the band.

With Led Zeppelin’s equipment being shipped to America, the band had no equipment to practice with. For a month, Jimmy Page never picked up a guitar. So when Jimmy played the first few shows, he stepped on-stage with a degree of trepidation. However, the shows went to plan, until Led Zeppelin reached Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati concert was marred by a group of ticketless fans forced their way into the stadium. Within minutes, all hell broke out. It was like a mini riot at the Riverfront Coliseum. This wasn’t the end of the controversy.

Two months later, in June 1977, Led Zeppelin were due to play in Tampa. The concert began, but didn’t finish. A thunderstorm forced the cancellation of the concert. Then the following month, Led Zeppelin were embroiled in controversy.

 On 23rd July 1977 Led Zeppelin were playing in Oakland, California. The concert was promoted by Bill Graham. After the show, Led Zeppelin’s manger Peter Grant lead a group, which included John Bonham. They badly beat up one Bill Graham’s employees. This was just the latest example of darkness descending during the 1977 American tour. However, the events of three days later meant everything else paled into insignificance.

A couple of days after the events at Oakland, Robert Plant’s five year old son Karac contracted a stomach infection. Then on the 26th of July 1977 came the news, Karac Plant had died. His death was sudden and came without warning. Robert Plant was totally distraught. He struggled to come to terms with the death of Kovac. 

Following the death of Kovac, Robert Plant returned home. He was struggling to cope. The press and media covered the story closely. All Robert wanted to do, was be around his family. John Bonham proved supportive of Robert. Music no longer interested Robert Plant. At one point he applied, and was accepted for a career in education. Led Zeppelin it seemed were history. So it appeared were drugs.

Before the death of his son, Robert Plant, like the rest of Led Zeppelin lived the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. They were regarded as one of the hardest living bands in rock music.

Ever since the early days, Led Zeppelin were one of the hardest living bands in rock music. They embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Especially on tour. Led Zeppelin lived the rock ’n’ roll dream. Drink, drugs and debauchery was commonplace. So was destruction. The four members of Led Zeppelin weren’t averse to wrecking hotel rooms. Having trashed a room in the Tokyo Hilton, Led Zeppelin were banned from the chain for life. Hotel rooms weren’t just trashed. Television sets out of hotel windows. Another time, John Bonham rode a motorcycle the Continental Hyatt House, which Led Zeppelin nicknamed Riot House. However, it wasn’t just on tour Led Zeppelin embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.

When neither touring nor recording, Led Zeppelin lived the life becoming a rock star. Members of Led Zeppelin lived in mansions, drove fast cars and in Robert Plant’s case, flamboyant clothing and expensive jewellery. Robert Plant was every inch the rock star. He enjoyed the finer things in life, including holidays to the most glamorous of destinations. Robert Plant planned to give all this, and the rock ’n’ lifestyle up.

Later, Robert Plant claimed that following the death of his son, he quit the various drugs he was taking. Robert eschewed treatment, and went cold turkey. However, by the time Led Zeppelin began recording In Through The Out Door, he was addicted to heroin.

In Through The Out Door.

Sixteen months after the death of Robert Plant’s son, Led Zeppelin returned to the studio in November 1978. This was exactly three years since Led Zeppelin began recording their previous album Presence. Recording of Presence had taken just eighteen days. This time, Led Zeppelin would spend three weeks in November and December of 1978 recording In Through The Out Door. That’s quite incredible, given one member of Led Zeppelin was an alcoholic, and another a heroin addict.

By the time recording of In Through The Out Door began, John Bonham was an alcoholic. while Jimmy Page was addicted to heroin. This resulted in Led Zeppelin being split in two. 

Robert Plant and John Paul Jones were clean. Although the pair had enjoyed the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, they were clean. Neither were addicted to drink nor drugs when recording of In Through The Out Door began. They became the driving force of Led Zeppelin. Meanwhile, John Bonham and Jimmy Page became increasingly reliable. This resulted in John Paul Jones playing a bigger role in writing the songs that became In Through The Out Door.

Previously, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant proved a formidable songwriting partnership. That’s one of the reasons why by 1977, Led Zeppelin sold over 100 million albums worldwide. For In Through The Out Door, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant only penned one track, Hot Dog. They cowrote In The Evening, Fool In The Rain, Carouselambra and I’m Gonna Crawl with John Paul Jones. South Bound Saurez and All My Love. These seven tracks became In Through The Out Door, which was recorded in three weeks.

Gone were the days when Led Zeppelin spent months over an album. Instead, recording took began in November 1978 at Polar Studios, in Stockholm, Sweden. At Polar Studios, Led Zeppelin split in two. Jimmy Page and John Bonham teamed up. Sometimes, one or both of them failed to turn up for recording sessions. This meant that Robert Plant and John Paul Jones had to pick up the slack.

Bassist John Paul Jones was a happy man when the sessions began. Keyboards were back on In Through The Out Door. He played keyboards, piano, synths and mandolin. Jimmy Page added acoustic and electric guitars, and deployed his newly acquired Gizmotron effects device. He also produced In Through The Out Door. Recording took three weeks, with Robert Plant and John Paul Jones recording during the day. This allowed Robert Plant and John Paul Jones to tighten songs. However, when darkness descended, drummer John Bonham and guitarist Jimmy Page entered the studio. After three eventful weeks, recording of In Through The Out Door was complete in December 1978. Now the four members of Led Zeppelin could head home for Christmas. Little did they realise that the In Through The Out Door session were their final recording sessions together.

Once the holiday season was over, Led Zeppelin’s thoughts turned to their eighth album, In Through The Out Door. Hipgnosis who had designed previous Led Zeppelin albums needed to come up with an album cover. Each of their previous album covers were unusual. In Through The Out Door was no different. 

Storm Thorgerson Hipgnosis’ inspiration for In Through The Out Door’s album cover came from the bootleg albums which were popular around 1978-1979. Many came wrapped in a plain brown sleeve, with the title of the album stamped on it by a rubber stamp. This Storm Thorgerson and Led Zeppelin decided would be perfect for their eight album. It was entitled In Through The Out Door, which was Led Zeppelin trying to describe what they had been through in the last few years.

The last few years had been tough on Led Zeppelin. Obviously, the death of Robert Plant’s Karac son had been the worst experience of this period. However, during this period, Led Zeppelin were tax exiles, and were living far from their friends and family. This was also taking its toll on Led Zeppelin. This meant In Through The Out Door was the perfect description of what Led Zeppelin had been through. Maybe, Led Zeppelin’s luck would change when In Through The Out Door was released?

Originally, In Through The Out Door was scheduled to be released before Led Zeppelin played two concerts at the 1979 Knebworth Festival. However, when Led Zeppelin took to the stage on the 4th of August 1979, In Through The Out Door had been postponed. Instead, it was released on 15th August 1979.

Before the release of In Through The Out Door, critics had their say. Many of the reviews were poor. Despite this, In Through The Out Door reached number one in Britain and in the US Billboard 200. In Through The Out Door was certified platinum in Britain and six times platinum in America. Across the border, In Through The Out Door reached number one. This was also the case in Australia, where In Through The Out Door was certified platinum. Elsewhere, In Through The Out Door reached the top twenty in Austrian, French, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish album charts. In  West Germany, In Through The Out Door reached number twenty-eight. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success for Led Zeppelin.

Not for the first time, Led Zeppelin made history on the week beginning 23rd October 1979. In Through The Out Door, and each of Led Zeppelin’s previous albums charted in the US Billboard 200. Led Zeppelin repeated this feat a week later, on 3rd November 1979. Considering that critics had panned In Through The Out Door, Led Zeppelin were having the last laugh. However, were the critics correct to pan In Through The Out Door?

Opening In Through The Out Door is In The Evening. Jimmy Page’s low, droning washes of guitar combines with John Paul Jones’ bass. He uses his myriad of pedals to twist and torment the original sound. Meanwhile, John Bonham’s drums rumble in the distance. Gradually they grow in power, before Led Zeppelin unite. Robert Plant’s gritty, needy powerhouse of vocal is accompanied by blistering guitars. They quiver, soaring above the arrangement, as effects aplenty are deployed. Robert Plant struts his way through the arrangement. At 3.48, the arrangement explodes, and Led Zeppelin kick loose. After that the tempo drops, and a moody bluesy sound takes shape. That’s just a curveball, as Led Zeppelin return to their hard rocking sound. This Led Zeppelin doing what they do best

There’s no letting up on South Bound Saurez. This is just one of two Led Zeppelin tracks that Jimmy Page didn’t write or co-write. South Bound Saurez is built around John Paul Jones’ driving, honky tonk piano. Soon, a muted guitar and the rhythm section join the fray. Robert delivers a gnarled vocal, on a track that briefly borrows from A Whole Lotta Love. That’s no bad thing, as that’s a Led Zeppelin classic. Here, they unleash what’s a slice of good time rock ’n’ roll. This is just one of two Led Zeppelin tracks that Jimmy Page didn’t write or co-

Fool In The Rain marks a change of time signature. Led Zeppelin play in 12/8 time. This gives the song a Latin feel, John Paul Jones’ keyboards are at the heart of the arrangement. At first it’s the piano. The rest of the band play around him. Meanwhile, Robert delivers a deliberate, heartfelt vocal. Later, John Paul Jones flits between piano and keyboards, while a scorching guitar bounds along. Midway through song, the Latin influence becomes more apparent. A myriad of percussion and whistles are deployed, as Led Zeppelin show their versatility, one one of the hidden gems of their discography.

Jimmy Page’s guitar is counted in on Hot Dog. Soon, he’s unleashing blistering licks. John Paul Jones adds boogie woogie piano. Meanwhile, the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Robert’s vocal is a country-tinged vamp. The rest of Led Zeppelin add harmonies, before searing, scorching guitars punctuate the arrangement. This results in country music with a Led Zeppelin rocky twist.

As Carouselambra unfolds, synths are to the fore. They’re then joined by crunchy, scorching guitars combine and the rhythm section. They create a wall of sound. It dominates the arrangement. So much so, that it almost overpowers Robert’s vocal. Even the drums are dwarfed by the synth driven arrangement. At one point, the arrangement sounds like a carousel. That’s before this near eleven minute epic charges on, taking a prog rock twist. There’s twists and turns aplenty as Led Zeppelin show their creativity and imagination. Stylistic changes, and changes in tempo are deployed effectively. Similarly, Jimmy Page unleashes some of his best, crystalline licks, despite his battle against heroin. Led Zeppelin were down, but far from out.

All My Love sees the tempo drop and synths play a leading role as the song takes shape. The synth is accompanied by drums, chiming guitars and Robert’s impassioned vocal. Again, there’s a prog rock influence on All My Love. It was written in honour of Robert Plant’s son Karac. He delivers a vocal that’s heartfelt and emotive. When it drops out, the synths take charge. Then when Robert’s vocal returns, he combines the same emotion as he delivers a paean to his late son.

I’m Gonna Crawl closes In Through The Out Door. Again, the synths opens the song. The tempo has dropped, as the rhythm section and a chiming guitar combine. The drums create a mesmeric backdrop for Robert’s tormented vocal. He’s infatuated and unleashes a soul-baring vocal on this dramatic, rocky ballad. It features another vocal powerhouse from Robert, who in the space of two tracks, shows his versatility as a vocalist. Along with the rest of Led Zeppelin, they take what would be their final bow, on this dramatic, rocky ballad.

Little did the four members of Led Zeppelin realise it, but the In Through The Out Door sessions were the last time they would record together. 

On 25th September 1980 John Bonham was found dead. The previous day, he had drunk the equivalent of forty shots of 40% vodka. The day began, when John was heading for rehearsals, downed four quadruple vodkas. He continued to drink throughout the day. At the end of the day, Led Zeppelin headed to Jimmy Page’s house. When he went to bed, John had drunk 1.4 litres of 40% vodka. Despite putting him on his side, John Bonham was sick and choked on his own vomit. The next day, John Bonham was found dead, aged just thirty-two. In Through The Out Door was his swan-song.

In Through The Out Door also proved to be Led Zeppelin’s final studio album. Their final album, Coda which was released in 1982, was a compilation of unreleased tracks. Led Zeppelin’s final album was In Through The Out Door. 

In Through The Out Door wasn’t Led Zeppelin’s finest moment but has to be taken in context, as Jimmy Page was addicted to heroin and John Bonham was by then, an alcoholic. Led Zeppelin dug deep, and came up with an album that sees them flit between musical genres. There’s everything from blues, country, Latin, progressive rock and rock. Not just any rock, but Led Zeppelin at their heaviest. Sadly, if In Through The Out Door didn’t feature Led Zeppelin at their hard rocking best, what a fitting finale it would’ve been to the 100 million selling band. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

What put a lot of people off In Through The Out Door was the use of synths. Keyboards had long played an important part in the Led Zeppelin sound. Synths were something that divided opinion. Especially on In Through The Out Door. It’s quite different from their classic sound on Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses Of The Holy and Physical Graffiti. These six albums feature Led Zeppelin at their hard rocking best, and show just why Led Zeppelin have sold over 100 million albums. Led Zeppelin at their hard rocking best were, and are, one of the greatest bands in the history of rock. Led Zeppelin were at the top for ten years, and their swan song was  In Through The Out Door, may not have been their greatest album, but is one of their most eclectic, and shows fleeting moments of their previous genius.

In 1979 Led Zeppelin Released In Through the Out Door.

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IN 1979 VAN HALEN RELEASED VAN HALEN II

In 1979 Van Halen Released Van Halen II.

The Van Halen story began in the early seventies, when brothers, Eddie and Alex Van Halen had formed a band. Like many bands, they found it difficult to settle on a name and initially, they were called The Broken Combs, then changed the name to The Trojan Rubber Co. By then, The Trojan Rubber Co. had a settled lineup.

Their lineup featured Alex on drums and Eddie on guitar. They were joined by bassist Mark Stone and vocalist David Lee Roth, who they had hired a sound system from. Eddie had initially failed the audition. However, Eddie and Alex were realists. Money was tight, so if they brought David onboard, they would save having to hire a sound system. They also thought that David might improve as a vocalist. However, in 1974, The Trojan Rubber Co. changed its name and its lineup.

1974 was a pivotal year for The Trojan Rubber Co. By then, bassist Mark Stone had been replaced by bassist Michael Anthony. His audition was unorthodox. Only after Michael took part in an all night jam session, was he hired. So, Michael left local band Snake and joined The Trojan Rubber Co. Soon, The Trojan Rubber Co. changed its name to Mammoth, and then Van Halen. For the next three years, Van Halen spent honing their sound.

Van Halen played wherever they could. Backyard parties, clubs and dive bars, they weren’t proud. Far from it. They certainly were loud. Too loud some thought.

When Van Halen went to audition at Gazzarri’s, a bar on Sunset Strip, that was down on its luck, the owner Bill Gazzarri, told them they were “too loud, and refused to hire them.” However, Van Halen’s new managers stepped in. 

Mark Algorri and Mario Miranda had just been installed as Van Halen’s managers. They had also just taken over the booking at Gazzarri’s. So, Van Halen were installed as the house band. Not long after this, Van Halen entered the studio for the first time.

The four members of Van Halen headed to Cherokee Studios, which had recently housed Steely Dan. At Cherokee Studios, Van Halen recorded their demo tape. It would become their calling card, and see them play some of L.A.’s top clubs, including the famous Whisky-A-Go-Go.

Soon, Van Halen were a permanent fixture in L.A.’s top clubs. That’s where they continued to hone their sound. It’s also where they came to the attention of Kiss’ Gene Simmons. 

Gene Simmons had heard good things about Van Halen. So, he went to check out Van Halen. According to what he had heard, they were one of the rising stars of L.A.’s music scene. When Gene Simmons arrived at the Gazzarri club in the summer of 1976, he was won over by Van Halen. He knew they were going places.

So, Gene Simmons took Van Halen to Village Recorders in L.A. to produce a new demo tape. Overdubs then took place at Electric Ladyland in New York. Things were looking good for Van Halen. The only thing Van Halen baulked at, was Gene’s suggestion to change the band’s name to Daddy Longlegs. That was a step too far.  The next step was for Gene to take the newly recorded demo tape to Kiss’ management.

When Kiss’ management heard the demo, they were pretty disparaging about Van Halen. According to Kiss’ managers, Van Halen “had no chance of making it.” These words would come back to haunt them, after Van Halen sold over 50.5 million albums in America alone. However, with Kiss’ management not interested in signing Van Halen, Gene Simmons bowed out of the story. He would be replaced a year later by Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman.

Down but not out, Van Halen returned to the club circuit. For the next year, they continued to hone their sound on the club circuit. One night, in the middle of 1977, Van Halen were playing at the Starwood in Hollywood. There wasn’t much of an audience. However, little did Van Halen know, that two very special guests were in the audience, Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman of Warner Bros. Records. The pair liked what they heard and less than a week later, Van Halen had signed to Warner Bros. Records. Mo Ostin dispatched Van Halen to Sunset Sound Records with producer Ted Templeman, where recording of Van Halen I began.

Van Halen. 

Like many bands recording their debut album, Van Halen were fearless. They had no apprehension. Mind you, this wasn’t exactly a new experience. Van Halen had been in studios before, recording two different demo tapes. However, this was for real. The band had written nine tracks. The other two were covers of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me and John Brim’s Ice Cream Man. These eleven tracks would eventually become Van Halen’s debut album, Van Halen.

Recording of Van Halen began in the middle of September 1977. Van Halen’s rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony set about proving the album’s pulsating heartbeat. A week was spent recording Eddie’s guitar parts. Another two weeks were spent recording David’s vocals and the backing vocals. By  early October 1977, recording of Van Halen was all but complete. The decision was made not to do much in the way of over-dubbing. This meant Van Halen was much more like hearing Van Halen live. How would critics respond to this?

Before the release of Van Halen, critics had their say. For everyone at Warner Bros. Records, they held their breath. Back in 1978, critics could be venomous. It was hardly rock critic’s finest hour. They were in the throes of a love affair with punk. Many critics took great pleasure in trashing rock albums. The critics didn’t hold back when it came to Van Halen. Most of the reviews were negative. One of the worst reviews came from the so called doyen of critics, the contrarian Robert Christgau. The equally contrarian Rolling Stone were not fans of Van Halen. At least they admitted that Van Halen were going places. Mostly, the reviews panned Van Halen. However, soon, critics would be eating their words.

When Van Halen was released on 18th February 1978, it began climbing the charts. Eventually, it reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200 charts. Since then, Van Halen has sold over ten million copies and has been certified diamond. Back in 1978, rhis was just the start of the rise and rise of Van Halen, who critics had changed their mind about.

Gradually, critics changed their minds about Van Halen. Suddenly, they began to regard Van Halen as one of the best debut albums in the history of rock ’n’ roll. That’s the case today, with critics hailing Van Halen as a classic, and one of the greatest debut albums ever released. From that album, a trio singles were chosen.

Three singles were released from Van Halen. A cover of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 100. Runnin’ With The Devil Stalled at number eighty-four in the US Billboard 100. The final single released from Van Halen was Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love. It failed to chart. While the singles failed to replicate the success of Van Halen, it showcased the band at their hard rocking best.

Literally, Van Halen strut and swagger through the eleven tracks on their debut album Van Halen. It’s no surprise that rock and heavy metal fans were won over by Van Halen. It’s a track full of  some of Van Halen’s biggest songs, including  Runnin’ With The Devil, Eruption,  You Really Got Me, Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Jamie’s Cryin’ and Ice Cream Man.  Van Halen’s rhythm section of Alex and Michael provide the backdrop to Eddie’s blistering guitars  and David’s lived-in vocal. From the opening bars of Runnin’ With The Devil, right through On Fire, Van Halen win friends and influence people. The band who just a year ago, were being hailed L.A.’s best bar band, were on their way to becoming a one of the biggest bands on planet rock.

Van Halen II.

When Van Halen entered Sunset Sound Recorders, in Hollywood, on 11th December 1978, the the four members of the band must have wondered what had happened in the last ten months? They had gone from bar room band, to a million selling rock band. All of a sudden, they were one of the biggest bands in the America. They were being touted as the saviour of American rock. This was hard to comprehend. It also meant that Van Halen were under pressure to record a fitting followup to Van Halen.

Recording of what became Van Halen II began on 11th December 1978. Nine of the ten tracks were penned by Van Halen. Many of the tracks weren’t new songs. Instead, they featured on the Gene Simmons’ sessions. However, given Van Halen were under pressure to record their sophomore album, it’s no surprise that they chose to dust off these songs. The other track chosen for Van Halen II was Clint Ballard Jr.’s You’re No Good. These ten track were produced by Ted Templeman. By January 1979, Van Halen II was complete, and ready for release.

Given the negative reviews of their debut album, the four members of Van Halen must have awaited the reviews of Van Halen II with bated breath. Mostly, reviews of Van Halen II were positive. That’s apart from the “usual suspects,” who still, failed to be won over by Van Halen. They were in the minority. The majority of critics were impressed by Van Halen II’s upbeat, feel good sound. Especially tracks like Dance The Night Away and Beautiful Girls, which some critics referred to Van Halen II as perfect party music. One track however, was very different to the rest. 

This was the instrumental, Spanish Fly. It was perceived as the followup to Eruption on Van Halen. Spanish Fly however, is only a minute long, and featured Eddie Van Halen on an acoustic guitar. Rather than fingerpick, he uses a plectrum. This makes things doubly hard. Despite this, he delivers a guitar masterclass. Eddie deploys a variety of techniques, including finger tapping and tremolo picking. Those who had marvelled at Eruption, would be spellbound by Eddie’s performance on Spanish Fly.

That would be the case with Van Halen’s performance on Van Halen II. When Van Halen II was released on March 23rd 1979, copies of Van Halen II sold quickly. It was one of 1979s must have rock albums. Soon, Van Halen two reached number six in the US Billboard 200. Eventually, it sold five million copies in America, and was certified platinum five times over. Across the border, Van Halen II was certified double platinum in Canada. Meanwhile,  in France Van Halen II was certified gold. It seemed Van Halen could do no wrong. 

While that was the case with Van Halen’s first two albums, their singles were selling as well. While Dance The Night Away reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 100, Beautiful Girls stalled at number eighty-four. Just like many other rock bands before them, Van Halen looked like being an album’s band. Maybe that would change with their third album? 

Just a year after Van Halen began recording their sophomore album, the band began work on their third album, Women and Children First. It marked the beginning of a new chapter in the Van Halen story. It was released to critical acclaim and when it was released on March 6th 1980, t reached number six in the US Billboard 200. Eventually, it sold three million copies in America, and was certified triple-platinum. Elsewhere, Women and Children First was certified double platinum in Canada and gold in France. As Van Halen and everyone at Warner Bros. breathed a sigh of relief, still Van Halen weren’t selling singles in vast quantities. However, Van Halen with David Lee Roth at the helm were on on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands of their generation.

Van Halen were also a notoriously hard living band, and burnt the candle at both ends, replicating the excesses of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Just like Icarus, members of Van Halen sailed to close to the sun. However, Van Halen lived to tell the tale, and in the process, released some of the best rock music of the late seventies and early eighties. Sadly, all too soon, the David Lee Roth years were over, and Van Halen never scaled the same heights again. It had been good while it lasted, and classic albums Van Halen, Van Halen II and 1984, which feature the hard rocking Van Halen at the peak of their considerable musical powers.

In 1979 Van Halen Released Van Halen II.

JETHRO TULL RELASE STAND UP IN 1969.

Jethro Tull Release Stand Up In 1969.

When Jethro Tull were formed in December 1967, little did they realise that this was the beginning of an adventure that would last five decades. During this period, Jethro Tull went on to release thirty-eight studio albums. The Jethro Tull story is a remarkable one  with many twists and turns. and began in the North West of England.

The origins of Jethro Tull can be traced to Blackpool, in 1962, That’s when Ian Anderson formed his first group Blades. Originally a four piece, featuring Ian Anderson on vocals and harmonica, they became a quintet in 1963 and sextet in 1964. By that time, they were a blue eyed soul band. After three years, the band decided to head to London.

Having moved to London, the band split-up within a short time. Just Ian Anderson and bassist Glen McCornick were left. This proved a blessing in disguise. They were soon joined by blues guitarist Mick Abrahams and drummer Clive Bunker. This was the lineup that featured on their debut album This Was. That was still to come.

Before that, the band had to settle on a name. Various names were tried. Then someone at a booking agent christened them Jethro Tull, after the eighteenth century agriculturalist. Not long after that, Ian Anderson acquired his first flute.

Up until then, Ian Anderson played just harmonica and was trying to learn to play the guitar. He realized wasn’t a great guitarist though. So, decided the world had enough mediocre guitarists, decided to expand his musical horizons. So he bought his flute. Little did he realize this would be one of Jethro Tull’s trademarks. After a couple of weeks, Ian had picked up the basics of the flute. He was learning as he played. Not long after this, Jethro Tull released their debut single.

Sunshine Day was penned by Mick Abrahams, with Derek Lawrence producing the single. On its release, the single was credited to Jethro Toe. It seemed thing weren’t going right for Jethro Tull. The single wasn’t a commercial success and failed to chart. Despite this disappointment, thing got better when they released their debut album This Was.

This Was.

Recording of This Was took place at Sound Techniques in London. The sessions began on 13th June 1968, and finished on 23rd August 1968. Unlike later albums, Jethro Tull recorded This Was on a tight budget. Only £1,200 was spent recording Jethro Tull’s debut album This Was. This money would soon be recouped when This Was released.

Having released their debut album This Was in 25th October 1968, it reached number ten in the UK. This Was was well received by critics. They were won over by Jethro Tull’s fusion of blues rock, R&B and jazz. This lead to This Was being launched at the Marquee Club. 

Jethro Tull were only the third band to launch their debut album at the Marquee Club. The other two were The Rolling Stones and The Who. Both were now amongst the biggest bands in the world. They had certainly conquered America. So would Jethro Tull.

When This was released in the US on 3rd February 1969, it reached just number sixty-two in the US Billboard. This was seen as a success by Island Records in Britain and Reprise in America. Jethro Tull had made inroads into the most lucrative music market in the world. It was a successful start to Jethro Tull’s career, which was about to enter a period where critical acclaim and commercial success were almost ever-present. However, there was a twist in the tale.

Prior to the recording of Stand Up, Jethro Tull’s sophomore album, Mick Abrahams left the band. Mick and Ian Anderson disagreed over the future direction of Jethro Tull. The problem was, Mick wanted Jethro Tull to stick with blues rock. Ian Anderson realised there was no real future in blues rock. He wanted to take Jethro Tull in different directions, exploring a variety of musical genres. So Mick left Jethro Tull and was replaced by Michael Barre. Neither Mick nor Michael realised  that Jethro Tull’s sophomore album Stand Up would be a game changer for the band.

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Stand Up.

Following the departure of Mick Abrahams, who was replaced by Michael Barre work began on Jethro Tull’s sophomore album. It would be very different to This Was. 

Stand Up was a much more eclectic album. Ian Anderson, who was now the primary songwriter, penned nine of the ten tracks. He drew inspiration from everything from blues rock, Celtic, classical, folk and rock. The ten tracks became Stand Up, which was recorded over three months in 1969.

Recording of Stand Up took place at Morgan Studios and Olympic Studios. The sessions began at Morgan Studios on the 17th April 1969. Unlike many bands in the late sixties, Jethro Tull were a disciplined and organised band. Each morning, they arrived at the studios around 9am, and would work until 5pm. By then, they would worked on at least one, but more likely two songs. This disciplined and organised approach worked. Before long, the early sessions produced A New Day Yesterday, Back To The Family, Fat Man and Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square. Everything was going well until April 24th, when Jethro Tull were told that Morgan Studios was double booked.

Olympic Studios was free, so Jethro Tull made the journey to South London. It was well worthwhile, with Jethro Tull recording Bourée during their brief stay at Olympic Studios. The next day, April 25th, Jethro Tull returned to Morgan Studios.

Recording continued through to May 1969. Stand Up was almost finished. Three months later, Jethro Tull briefly reconvened at Morgan Studios in August 1969. Soon, Stand Up was ready for release in September 1969. Before that, critics had their say on Stand Up.

Before the release of Stand Up in September 1969, reviews of the album were positive. The musicianship and production were praised. So were Ian Anderson’s lyrics. Some of the songs dealt with his relationship with his parents. Especially on Back To The Family and For A Thousand Mothers. Other songs, including Fat Man and Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square, are best described as observational poetry. Then on We Used To Know, Ian Anderson remembers the early days of the band as they struggled to make a breakthrough. Ian Anderson it seemed, was already maturing as a songwriter. Meanwhile, Jethro Tull’s music was beginning to evolve.

Whilst there was still a blues rock sound on Stand Up, Jethro Tull were expanding their musical palette. Elements of Celtic, classical, folk and rock can be heard throughout the album. The blues rock of This Was, can be heard on A New Day Yesterday and Nothing Is Easy. Elsewhere, Jethro Tull stretch their legs musically. Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square combines elements of traditional Celtic with folk music. This folk sound features on Fat Man and Reasons For Waiting. However, on Bouree Back To The Family and Look Into The Sun Jethro Tull move towards folk rock. It’s combined with a more traditional rock sound on We Used To Know and  For A Thousand Mothers. This new and more eclectic sound struck a nerve with critics and record buyers.

On its release in September 1969, Stand Up reached number twenty in the US Billboard 200 Charts and number twenty in Britain. This resulted not just in the start of Jethro Tull’s first gold disc of their career and the beginning of a golden period in their career. 

Ironically, Jethro Tull were more popular in America than in Britain, where record buyers never seemed to ‘get’ their music. That was the case from their debut This Was and the followup Stand Up right though to their progressive rock years, and then when they reinvented themselves as a folk rock group. This was another chapter in Jethro Tull’s career, just like Stand Up was.

Stand Up was Jethro Tull’s sophomore album, and is underrated and oft-overlooked from the chameleon like band who went on to become one of the most successful and innovative British rock bands. Part of their success was their determination to constantly reinvent their music and innovate. This they succeeded in doing on Stand Up, which Jethro Tull released fifty years ago in 1969.

Jethro Tull Release Stand Up In 1969.

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MIRIAM MAKEBA-PATA PATA. 

Miriam Makeba-Pata Pata.

Label: Strut Records. 

Zenzile Miriam Makeba was born on the ‘4th’ of March 1932, in the Prospect Township, of Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa. The future singer, songwriter, civil rights activist and actress Miriam Makeba, was born to to Swazi and Xhosa parents. Sadly, Miriam Makeba’s father died when she was still a child, and as the eldest child had no option but to seek employment. This was expected of her.

At the age of seventeen, it’s thought that Miriam Makeba married for the first time. The marriage didn’t last long,  and it’s alleged, was abusive. A year later in 1950,  Miriam Makeba gave birth to her first and only child, and also survived breast cancer. 

During the fifties, Miriam Makeba whose talent for singing was spotted at an early age, began singing professionally. This  included with the Cuban Brothers, The Manhattan Brothers and The Skylarks, a girl group who sang jazz, popular music from the West and traditional African melodies which proved popular. However, soon Miriam Makeba’s career was about to change direction.

In 1959, the twenty-seven year old singer was cast in the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa. While she made only a short appearance in the film, this was enough for to lift her profile internationally. It wasn’t long before Miriam Makeba was singing in  New York, Venice  and London, where she met the man who would become her  mentor, Harry Belafonte.

The American singer started off mentoring Miriam Makeba, and Harry Belafonte went on to perform alongside her. However, in 1960, Miriam Makeba embarked upon a recording career that spanned five decades.

Miriam Makeba released her eponymous debut album in 1960 to plaudits and praise. The same year, Miriam Makeba’s mother died and when she tried to return home, was prevented from entering South Africa. This was because she had appeared in the f support of the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa.

In 1962, the thirty year old singer released The Many Voices Of Miriam Makeba, with The World Of Miriam Makeba following in 1963. It reached eighty-six in the US Billboard 200. The followup  The Voice Of Africa was released in 1964, but stalled at 122 in the US Billboard 200. Things got worse when 1965s Makeba Sings! failed to chart. However, a collaboration with her mentor Harry Belafonte fared better, when An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba reached eighty-five in the US Billboard 200 in 1965. The same year, The Magic Of Makeba failed to chart, and Miriam Makeba left RCA Victor.

Miriam Makeba released her Mercury debut The Magnificent Miriam Makeba released in 1966, but it also failed to chart. So did her ninth album All About Miriam, which was released in 1966. After this, Miriam Makeba left Mercury and signed to Reprise Records, which The Chairman Of The Board, Frank Sinatra founded in 1960.

Now signed to Reprise Records, Miriam Makeba released Pata Pata in 1967, which featured eleven songs that included everything from African music, jazz and soul. Pata Pata was hailed as one of Miriam Makeba’s finest albums and reached seventy-four in the US Billboard 200. This was Miriam Makeba’s most successful album which enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and fifty-two years later, is regarded as a genre classic. 

The  best known song on the album was the title-track  Pata Pata, which featured some new English lyrics, Just like the rest of the album, it was produced by Jerry Ragovoy who gave Pata Pata a makeover and the track was took on an airier, upbeat fusion of R&B and Afro-pop. Pata Pata was a game-changer, and reached number twelve in the  Billboard 100. While Pata Pata is Miriam Makeba best known song on the album,  many others are of a similar quality.

This includes the traditional Xhosa classic Click Song Number One ‘Qongqothwane) and a stunning and atmospheric versions of West Wind. It was joined Tilahun Gessesse’s Yetentu Tizaleny which Miriam Makeba first heard and  was taught during atrip to Addis to perform for Haile Selassie at the Organisation Of African Unity. These tracks are just a few of the highlights of what was a career-defining album for Miriam Makeba, who combined elements of jazz, Afro-pop, soul and world music on Pata Pata. It showcased the considerable talents of  Miriam Makeba who nowadays, many music critics regard as the greatest female vocalist in the history of African music.

Pata Pata which was remastered and has been rereleased by Strut Records is a welcome reissue of a genre classic, from legendary singer and songwriter  Miriam Makeba who was also an actress and civil rights activist and United Nations goodwill ambassador who enjoyed a five decade recording career. However, Pata Pata was the album that transformed Miriam Makeba’s career and was undoubtably her finest and best known album.

Miriam Makeba-Pata Pata.

FIFTY YEARS AGO CREAM RELEASED GOODBYE CREAM

Fifty Year Ago Cream Released Goodbye Cream.

It was in July 1966, when Britain’s first supergroup, Cream was born. Eric Clapton who was regarded as the greatest British blues guitarist of his generation, was looking beyond life with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. That was the group Eric Clapton had joined after his departure from The Yarbirds.

By July 1966, Eric Clapton was in his second spell with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. He originally joined in April 1965 and was a Bluesbreaker until August 1965. Three months later, Eric Clapton returned to the fold in November 1965. For the next eight months, Eric Clapton was a Bluesbreaker. During this period, John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers recorded their classic album Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton in April 1966.

Three months later, and Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton was released by Decca on the 22nd July 1966. Critical acclaim accompanied what’s regarded as a British blues classic. It reached number six in the UK charts. This should’ve been a reason to celebrate. However, Eric Clapton was neither happy nor feeling fulfilled musically.

Instead, he felt constrained musically. Eric Clapton was unable to stretch his legs within John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. There was certainly no room for invention. This was frustrating for Eric Clapton. So much so, that he was even considering forming his own band. However, Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton had just been released and looked like being the band’s most successful album. For Eric Clapton, his nascent career was at a crossroads. 

To take his mind off his problems, Eric Clapton decided to go and see blues guitarist Buddy Guy in concert. That night, Buddy Guy took to the stage with a trio. When Eric Clapton saw the trio live, he was so impressed that he decided to form a new band. They would also be a trio, Cream.

Having made the decision to leave John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton began looking for musicians to join his band. He knew drummer Ginger Baker, who was a member The Graham Bond Organisation. Ginger Baker was tiring of Graham Bond’s drug addiction and bouts of instability. So much so, that he was considering his future. 

When Eric Clapton approached Ginger Baker about joining his trio, the answer was yes. However, there was a catch. Eric Clapton had to agree to hire The Graham Bond Organisation’s bassist Jack Bruce. 

Eric Clapton already knew Jack Bruce and played alongside him on two occasions. The first came in November 1965 when Jack Bruce sat in with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers during November 1965. More recently, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce were part of Steve Winwood’s band Powerhouse, which also featured Paul Jones. During the two sessions, Eric Clapton had been impressed by Jack Bruce proficiency and prowess as a bassist. Jack Bruce who had previously enjoyed working with Eric Clapton, agreed to join the band. However, he was surprised that Ginger Baker had recommended him to Eric Clapton.

During their time with The Graham Bond Organisation, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce had a volatile relationship. The two members of the rhythm section were known to argue onstage. Sometimes, things got so bad that they traded blows. However, that was the past. Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce agreed to put their differences aside. A musical truce was declared. Suddenly, there was peace in our time. All for the good of the new group.

With the lineup complete, the nascent band set about establishing the ground rules. They envisaged that songs would be collaborations, with each member playing a part in writing the lyrics and music. Next on the agenda was a name for the group. It didn’t take long for them to come up with the name Cream. The music press had been describing the new band as the: “cream of the crop” of British musicians. Cream was essentially the first British supergroup. They were about to make what was their unofficial debut.

This took place on the 29th of July 1966, at the Twisted Wheel nightclub in Manchester. That night, it was hosting the Sixth Annual Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival. Cream were special guests, and in absence of new material, ran through a set of blues covers. Little did those in the audience realise that they had just witnessed history being made.

Just three months later, in October 1966, Cream took to the stage with another legend of sixties music, Jimi Hendrix. He was a fan of Eric Clapton’s was keen to jam with his new band on his arrival of London. Little did anyone realise that by the end of the sixties, both Cream and Jimi Hendrix would’ve become two of the biggest names of the late-sixties music scene.

Later in 1966, Cream were still experimenting musically. They had yet to decide who would be the group’s lead vocalist. Eric Clapton’s shyness meant he was reluctant to take charge of the lead vocals. Instead, Jack Bruce became Cream’s lead vocalist. However, during Cream’s lifetime, Eric Clapton would add harmonies and the lead vocal on a number of tracks.This included a track on Cream’s debut album Fresh Cream.

Fresh Cream.

Almost straight away, work began on Cream’s debut album, which later became  Fresh Cream. It featured ten songs. They were a mixture of new songs and cover versions.

The new songs included Jack Bruce’s N.S.U. and Dreaming. He cowrote Sleepy Time Time with his first wife and songwriting partner Janet Godfrey. She cowrote Sweet Wine with Ginger Baker, who wrote the instrumental Toad. Other songs included a cover of song Cat’s Squirrel, which was arranged by Cream and a quartet of blues classics. 

This included Willie Dixon’s Spoonful. Cream decided to cover Robert Johnson’s From Four Until Late which Eric Clapton arranged. It was joined by Rollin’ and Tumblin’ which Muddy Waters penned using his real name, McKinley Morganfield. The final blues classic was Skip James’ I’m So Glad. These songs were recorded over a three month period.

Recording of Fresh Cream took place between July and October 1966 at two separate studios in London. Some sessions took at Rayrik Studios, while others took place at Ryemuse Studios. Drummer Ginger Baker joined bassist Jack Bruce in the rhythm section. He also played harmonica, piano and took charge of seven of the eight lead vocals. Guitarist Eric Clapton added the lead vocal on Four Until Late. Meanwhile, Robert Stigwood produced what would later became Fresh Cream. It was completed by October 1966.

The release of Fresh Cream was scheduled for the 9th of December 1966. Before that, Cream released their debut single Wrapping Paper in October 1966 . It  was penned by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, but didn’t feature on Fresh Cream. Wrapping Paper showcased a psychedelic pop sound that Cream returned to. This proved popular and reached thirty-four in the UK charts. Things were looking good for Cream.

Nearer the release of Fresh Cream, critics had their say on the nascent supergroup’s debut album. Nearly every critic lavished praise and plaudits on Fresh Cream. They were won over by an album that ranged from blues rock to psychedelia and a much more hard rocking sound. Cream’s debut was an eclectic and accomplished album. Especially the psychedelic sound of N.S.U, the bluesy Sleepy Time and the Jack Bruce penned ballad Dreaming. Four Until Late shakes off his shyness and makes his debut on lead vocal on the cover Robert Johnson’s Four Till Late. However, one of Cream’s finest moments on Fresh Cream was their reinvention of I’m So Glad. It’s transformed into something that Skip James could never have envisaged. Given the critical reaction to Fresh Cream, it seemed that the future looked bright for Cream.

They prepared to release Fresh Cream on the 9th of December 1966 on Robert Stigwood’s new independent record label, Reaction Records. The same day, Cream released their sophomore single, I Feel Free. Just like their debut single, it didn’t feature on Fresh Cream. Despite that, I Feel Free reached number eleven in the UK and fifty-three in Australia. Meanwhile, Fresh Cream reached number six in the UK, ten in Australia and twenty in France. This resulted in Fresh Cream being certified gold in Britain and France. The success continued when Fresh Cream was released in America.

The American version of Fresh Cream was released by Atco. It featured a slightly different track listing. I Feel Free opened the album, with the British version of Fresh Cream following. This proved popular among American record buyers. Fresh Cream eventually reached thirty-nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. For Cream, this meant that their debut album Fresh Cream had been certified gold in three different continents. Critics wondered how they could they followup such a successful album? Cream returned with a classic album, Disraeli Gears.

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Disraeli Gears. 

Following the success of Fresh Cream, Cream headed out on tour. In March they landed in America, to play their first American tour. They were part of a package tour, and were booked to play nine dates at the Brooklyn Fox Theater in New York. 

Each day, Cream played three times. However, the early concerts weren’t well received. DJ turned promoter Murray the K wasn’t impressed. He placed Cream at the bottom of the bill. Towards the end of the run, they were reduced to playing just one song during each set. The New York part of their American tour had been a disaster. They wouldn’t forget Murray the K in a hurry. 

Having returned home from their American tour, Cream’s thoughts turned to their sophomore album. They had been writing what later became Disraeli Gears for some time. 

When Cream was formed, the plan had been for the band to collaborate on songs. Alas, none of the eleven tracks on Disraeli Gears were written by the three members of Cream. They arranged the traditional song, Mother’s Lament. Sometimes, the members of Cream wrote alone. Jack Bruce wrote We’re Going Wrong and Ginger Baker penned We’re Going Wrong. Mostly, the members of Cream wrote alone or formed songwriting partnerships with other musicians and songwriters.

Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton cowrote Sunshine Of Your Love with Pete Brown. It would become one of their known songs. So would Strange Brew, which Eric Clapton wrote with Felix Pappalardi Gail Collins penned. Meanwhile,Jack Bruce wrote Dance the Night Away, SWLABR and Take It Back with Pete Brown. Eric Clapton wrote just the one song. This was Tales of Brave Ulysses with Martin Sharp. However, Eric Clapton arranged Arthur Reynolds’ Outside Woman Blues. It was one of just three covers on Disraeli Gears. Another was World Of Pain, which the Felix Pappalardi and Gail Collins songwriting partnership wrote. Just like the rest of Disraeli Gears, it was recorded in New York, during May 1967.

The prestigious surroundings of Atlantic Studios, New York were where Cream began work on Disraeli Gears. This time around, Felix Pappalardi had replaced ‘musical impresario’ Robert Stigwood. Twenty-seven year old was a classically trained musician who having turned his back on classical music, became a successful singer, songwriter, bassist and producer. One of his biggest projects was producing Disraeli Gears. It was a much more complex album than Fresh Cream.

Ginger Baker played drums and percussionist and joined his cohort, bassist Jack Bruce in the rhythm section. Jack Bruce also played harmonica, piano and took charge of seven of the eight lead vocals. Eric Clapton switched between lead guitar, rhythm guitar and twelve-string guitar. He also added the lead vocal on Strange Brew, World of Pain and Outside Woman Blues. It seemed that Eric Clapton was well on his way to overcoming his shyness, as Cream changed direction musically.

Critics realised this when they received their promotional copies of Disraeli Gears. It took its name from a malapropism which alluded to the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Eric Clapton had been taking about buying a racing bike during a car journey. Mick Turner who was driving the car responded that it should have: “Disraeli Gears” when he meant derailleur gears. That malapropism gave birth to tittle of the album critics were holding. When they listened to Disraeli Gears, they soon realised that Cream were moving away from the blues’ roots. 

That was apart from on the cover of Blind Boy Reynolds’ Outside Woman Blues and Take it Back. It had been inspired by American students burning their draft cards. These were the only bluesy tracks on Disraeli Gears. Mostly, Cream moved towards psychedelia on Disraeli Gears. Tracks like Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love, Dance The Night Away, Tales Of Brave Ulysses and We’re Going Wrong found Cream embracing psychedelia on an album that stood head and shoulders above the competition. Critic acclaim accompanied the release of Disraeli Gears.

On 2nd November 1967, Cream released their sophomore album Disraeli Gears. In Britain, Disraeli Gears reached number six and was certified platinum. Meanwhile, Disraeli Gears reached number two in France and twenty in Norway. Halfway round the world, Disraeli Gears reached number one in Australia and was certified platinum. However, Disraeli Gears was a huge success across North America. It reached number ten in Canada and number four in America. By then, Disraeli Gears had sold over a million copies. This resulted in Cream receiving their first platinum disc in America. However, that wasn’t the end of the success for Cream.

They released Sunshine Of Your Love as a single in January 1968. It reached seventeen in the UK, eighteen in Australia, three in Canada and five in the US Billboard 100. This resulted in Sunshine Of Your Love  being certified gold in Britain, Australia and America. After just two albums, Cream were one of the biggest bands in the world. They were keen to build on this success, and began work on their third album, Wheels Of Fire.

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Wheels Of Fire.

For their third album Wheels Of Fire, Cream decided to release a double album. This was no ordinary album. The first album was recorded in the studio, while the second disc was entitled Live At The Fillmore. Wheels Of Fire was an ambitious project for one of the most successful bands in the world.

Some of the tracks that became part of disc one of Wheels Of Fire had already been recorded. Others were still to be recorded. A total of nine tracks were chosen.

This included White Room, As You Said, Politician and Deserted Cities of the Heart which were penned by the Jack Bruce and Pete Brown songwriting partnership. Ginger Baker formed a songwriting partnership with Mike Taylor, and cowrote Passing The Time, Pressed Rat and Warthog and Those Were The Days. They were joined by two cover versions, Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon’s Sitting on Top of the World and Booker T. Jones and William Bell’s Born Under A Bad Sign. These nine songs were recorded between July 1967 and June 1968.

The Wheels Of Fire sessions took place at a variety of studios. This included the IBC Studios during July and August 1967. From there, Cream headed Atlantic Studios, New York. They  spent January and February of 1968 recording at the famous studios. Later in 1968, Cream returned to Atlantic Studios, New York during June 1968. During the various sessions, Cream used a myriad of instruments.

Each member of Cream had expanded their musical arsenal. Ginger Baker played drums and percussionist. He also added bells, glockenspiel, timpani and add the spoken word part on Pressed Rat and Warthog. Bassist Jack Bruce played acoustic guitar, calliope, cello, harmonic and recorder. Jack Bruce took charge of the lead vocals. Meanwhile, Eric Clapton laid down the guitar parts. Augmenting Cream, was Felix Pappalard, who played organ pedals, Swiss hand bells, tonette, trumpet and the viola. This left just Live At The Fillmore to be recorded.

Despite being entitled Live At The Fillmore, only Toad was recorded at the Filmore in San Francisco on 7th March 1968. However, Toad is transformed and becomes a sixteen minute epic where Cream stretch their legs and improvise. At last, Eric Clapton had the freedom he missed so much during his last spell with John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers. After the show at the Filmore, Cream headed to another venue in San Francisco, Winterland. 

Just like at the Filmore, Cream were due to play two shows each night. On first show of 8th of March 1968, Cream’s set included Traintime a Jack Bruce composition. It made it onto  Live At The Fillmore. Two nights later, Cream played two more shows at Winterland. During the first show, Cream covered Robert Johnson’s Crossroad and Willie Dixon’s Spoonful. Eric Clapton’s takes charge of the vocal on Crossroads. Later in the set, Cream cover and transform Willie Dixon’s Spoonful. Cream enjoy the opportunity to improvise and take the song in new directions over a sixteen minute period. This was a tantalising taste of Cream live.

Critics agreed when they received their copies of Wheels Of Fire. They were won over by what was an ambitious double album of studio and live recordings. Cream seemed to be maturing as a band. Especially live, where they enjoyed deconstructing and reconstructing songs. That was the case with Spoonful and Toad, which featured Cream at their best live. Critical acclaim preceded the release of Wheels Of Fire

Wheels Of Fire was released during July 1968, and quickly became Cream’s most successful album. It reached number three in the UK, two in France, fifteen in Germany and sixteen in Norway. In Australia, Canada and America, Wheels Of Fire reached number one. This resulted in Wheels Of Fire being certified platinum in Australia, America and British. For Cream this should’ve been a reason to celebrate.

Sadly, all wasn’t well within Cream. It hadn’t been for some time. Musically, the three members of Cream were no longer on the same page. Eric Clapton was now interested in the music that Bob Dylan was producing. He also cast envious glances at Bob Dylan’s former backing band, The Band. He was interested in their music, and the way that it was heading. Meanwhile, the truce Eric Clapton had been brokered between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker was over. Their arguing was putting pressure on the very future of Cream. It was almost inevitable that the three members of Cream would decide to call it a day. 

What had hastened the demise of Cream was when Eric Clapton read a review of Cream in the contrarian publication, Rolling Stone. The reviewer in what was nothing more than a hatchet job of review, resorted to name calling. Cream the reviewer said were a: “master of the blues cliché.” When Eric Clapton read the review, he decided that it was the end of road for Cream.

They embarked upon a Farewell Tour that began in Oakland on 4th October 1968. The tour ended fifteen days later at the Forum,  Los Angeles, on the 19th of October 1969. That show was recorded, and became part of of Cream’s final album, Goodbye Cream.

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Goodbye Cream.

For their fourth and final album, the three members of Cream returned to London to record three tracks at IBC Studios in London. This included Badge, which Eric Clapton wrote with Beatle George Harrison. Doing That Scrapyard Thing was penned by the Jack Bruce and Pete Brown songwriting partnership. It had been a source of successful song’s during Cream’s lifetime. Ginger Baker contributed What a Bringdown. This meant that each of the members of of Cream wrote new song on their swan-song. 

Joining Cream at IBC Studios, was producer Felix Pappalardi. When recording Badge, Doing That Scrapyard Thing and What a Bringdown at IBC Studios, keyboards were used extensively.  This was a first. Cream were innovating to the end. Cream also used a Leslie speaker on Badge and Doing That Scrapyard Thing. This added to the psychedelic sound of both tracks. The three tracks that were recorded at IBC Studios became half of Goodbye.

The rest of Cream consisted of a trio of live tracks. They had been recorded at the Forum, in Los Angeles, on the 19th of October 1969. Skip James’ I’m So Glad, Jack Bruce and Pete Brown’s Politician and Walter Vinson and and Lonnie Chatmon’s Sitting on Top of the World featured Cream at their very best.

So much so, that when critics heard Goodbye, they hailed the live tracks as better as those on Wheels Of Fire. This was a glimpse of what Cream were capable of producing live. Similarly, the three songs recorded at IBC Studios were regarded as groundbreaking, and saw Cream reinventing their music. Badge critics said, was the standout track, and without doubt one Cream’s finest hours. It looked as if Cream were about to bow out at the top.

By the time Goodbye was released in March 1969, Cream had been dissolved. They played a farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall, in London. Despite this, Goodbye reached number one in the UK, three in France, nine in Germany and seven in Norway. In Australia, Goodbye reached number six. Meanwhile, Goodbye reached number five in Canada and number two in America. This resulted in Goodbye being certified platinum in the UK and gold in America and Australia. Cream bowed out at the top, with their fourth albums in just under three years. 

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Each of these albums were released to critical acclaim and went on to sell in vast quantities. Cream’s four albums were certified gold and platinum on three continents. Britain’s first supergroup became one of the country’s most successful bands.  Cream sold over fifteen million copies of  Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears and Wheels Of Fire and Goodbye. That’s why, nowadays,  Cream are regarded as rock royalty. 

They were also the first British supergroup. Other followed in Cream’s wake. However, Cream achieved more than most in just under three years. Each of their albums found Cream’s music evolving as they continued to create groundbreaking music. This ranged from blues rock to hard rock and psychedelia. The quartet of albums Cream’s released between December 1966 and March 1969 are a reminder of the first, and many say best British supergroup, Cream.

Cream-Britain’s First and Best Supergroup.

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FIFTY YEARS AGO DEEP PURPLE RELEASE DEEP PURPLE

Fifty Years Ago Deep Purple Release Deep Purple.

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.

Fifty Years Ago Deep Purple Release Deep Purple.

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FIFTY YEARS AGO IN 1969 FREE RELEASE TONS OF SOBS

Fifty Years Ago In 1969 Free Release Tons Of Sobs.

It’s not often that someone get the opportunity to witness history being made. Those that happened to be in the Nag’s Head pub, in Battersea, London on 19 April 1968 saw history being made. They watched as four young men took to the stage for the first time. What some members of the audience noticed was how young the band were. 

Two of the band didn’t look old enough to buy a round in the Nag’s Head. Especially the bassist. Andy Fraser was just fifteen. His partner in the rhythm section, drummer Simon Kirke, was eighteen. Lead guitarist Paul Kossoff was just seventeen, while the vocalist Paul Rodgers was just eighteen. Many of the regulars were veterans gig goers, and weren’t expecting much of the young band. They were in for a pleasant surprise as the young blues rock made their debut. However, nobody present that night what would happen over the next five years.

By November 1968, Alexis Korner had christened the nascent band Free. They would sign to Island Records in 1969, and later that year, recorded their debut album Tons Of Sobs. It would be released in 1970, and the first of six studio albums and one live album Free released between 1969 and 1973. During that period, the band broke up, the lineup changed several times and Free sold twenty-million albums. Sadly, Free split-up in 1973, and that was the end of the road for the hard rock pioneers. 

Tons Of Sobs.

Having recently signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, London-based blues rockers Free entered the Morgan Studios, in London with producer Guy Stevens. He had been allocated a budget of just £800 to produce what became Tons Of Sobs. This was going to be a challenge.

Free were one of the youngest bands Guy Stevens had worked with. Despite their youth, Free had spent the last few months playing live. This allowed them to hone their sound and set. That set Free would replicate at Morgan Studio.

Free’s set included a number of tracks by lead vocalist Paul Rodgers. He wrote Over the Green Hills (Pt. 1), Worry, Walk in My Shadow, Sweet Toot and Over The Green Hills. Paul Rodgers also cowrote three other tracks. This included Wild Indian Woman and I’m A Mover with Andy Fraser plus Moonshine with Paul Kossoff. The other two tracks were cover versions. They were St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s Goin’ Down Slow and The Hunter which was penned by the Stax Records’ house band by Booker T. and The MGs. This combination of cover versions and new songs would become Free’s debut album Tons Of Sobs.

With such a limited budget, Guy Stevens decided to take a minimalist approach to recording Tons Of Sobs. This he hoped, would allow him to replicate how Free sounded live. Their sets showcased the blues rock sound that was then popular in late-1968. 

When Free arrived in the studio, drummer and percussionist Simon Kirke joined bassist and pianist in the rhythm section. Meanwhile, Paul Kossoff switched between lead and rhythm guitar. Paul Rodgers took charge of the lead vocals. As Free played, they were loud, raw and far from polished. That was no surprise given Free’s youthfulness and inexperience. Given time and a bigger budget, Guy Stevens could’ve overcome this.There was a problem though. 

Island Records expected all producers to complete an album on time and within budget. It didn’t matter who the artists was, whether they were making their debut or were veterans. Guy Stevens succeeded, and Tons Of Sobs was completed in December 1968. However, given more time and money, Guy Stevens could’ve produced a much slicker, polished album. In a way, this was just as well, as Tons Of Sobs was representative of Free in the early part of their career.

Just three months after the completion of Tons Of Sobs, Island Records were preparing for the release of Free’s debut album. It was scheduled for release on 14th March 1969. The reviews had been mixed.

In Britain, Tons Of Sobs had been well received by critics. They were won over by Free’s raw and raucous blues rock sound. However, across the Atlantic, Rolling Stone magazine weren’t impressed by Tons Of Sobs. This was no surprise. The magazine seemed to dislike any British blues rock band. Free were just the latest to incur the wrath of Rolling Stone. This was disappointing, as it was an influential publication in America, and could affect sales of Tons Of Sobs.

Ironically, when Tons Of Sobs was released on 14th March 1969, the album fared better in America than Britain. Tons Of Sobs failed to chart in Britain, but crept into the US Billboard 200 at a lowly 197. For Free and Island Records, the commercial failure of Tons Of Sobs must have been a huge disappointment. Despite this, Free continued to record their eponymous sophomore album.

For Free, Tons Of Sobs was just the start, and they went on to release six studios albums and one live album during the five years they were together. During that period, there were highs and lows, bust ups and betrayals, and triumph and tragedy. Free had split-up once before, and the lineup had changed. However, the one constant had been the music.

Free’s music evolved throughout the five years they were together. They began as a blues rock band, before the music began to evolve. Briefly, Free’s music moved towards folk rock. Mostly, though, their albums showcased classic rock, folk rock or hard rock. However, Free never quite turned their back on their early blues rock sound. Sometimes, Free eschewed their hard rocking sound for heartfelt balladry. This showed another side to one of the pioneers of hard rock, Free. Their music found a wide and appreciative audience.

Over the five years Free were together, they hardly stopped touring. That was apart to record six studio albums. Free seemed happiest as they toured the world, playing live. They played 700 arena concerts and festivals. The classic lineup of Free, drummer Simon Kirke, bassist, guitarist Paul Kossoff and vocalist Paul Rodgers were one of the hardest working bands. They’re also one of the most successful.

By the time Free called time on their career, they sold twenty million copies of Tons Of Sobs, Free, Fire and Water, Highway, Free Live!, Free At Last and Heartbreaker. Sadly, though, sometimes, Free are overlooked in favour of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath or Deep Purple. However, they enjoyed much longer careers than Free. They seem to have slipped under the radar, and nowadays, most people remember only two of their biggest hits,  All Right Now and Wishing Well. That however, is just a tantalising taste of the music Free released between 1969 and 1973. 

During that four-year period, Free achieved more than most. After all, how many bands sell twenty-million albums during a four-year period? Free managed to do so during  a period where the competition was fierce. They were up against some of the biggest names in rock. Despite this, Free become one of the biggest and most successful British rock bands, and left behind a rich musical legacy that has stood the test of time including their debut album Tons Of Sobs.

Fifty Years Ago In 1969 Free Release Tons Of Sobs.

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FIFTY YEARS AGO TEN YEARS AFTER RELEASED STONEDHENGE.

Fifty Years Ago Ten Years After Released Stonedhenge,

When Ten Years After released their eponymous debut album in October 1967, it failed to make an impression on either side of the Atlantic. It was a disappointing start to Ten Years After’s recording career. Especially considering how well things had been going for Ten Years After. 

Ever since they had changed their name from Blues Yard to Ten Years After, their fortunes had changed. They had secured a residency at the Marquee, played a starring role at the Windsor Jazz Festival and then signed to Deram Records. It had been roller coaster ride. However, it was nothing compared to the next six years.

The story began in May 14th 1968, when Ten Years After played a small gig at the Klooks Kleek jazz club in London. Deram Records arranged for the concert to be recorded. This proved a masterstroke.

When Ten Years After took to the stage, they worked their way five genre-melting songs. Everything from blues and boogie to jump blues, rock and rock ’n’ roll were combined by Ten Years After. It was a truly barnstorming performance, and a perfect way to showcase Ten Years After’s considerable skills. Their performance would come to the attention of legendary American promoter Bill Graham, who began championing their music in America.

Three months later, Ten Years After released their live album Undead in August 1968, it proved a game-changer. It was heard by legendary promoted Bill Graham. He championed Ten Years After in America. As a result, Undead reached number 115 in the US Billboard 200. This was the start of a six year period when Ten Years After could do no wrong in the eyes of the American record buying public. 

From Stonedhenge right through to Ten Years After’s eighth and final studio album, Positive Vibrations, which was released in April 1974, Ten Years After spent much of their time in America. That wasn’t surprising. Ten Years After were much more popular stateside. They were the latest rock band to make it big in America. However, it was a far cry from the group’s early days, back in 1960.

That’s when Ivan Jay and the Jaycats were formed. They consisted of musicians from the Nottingham and Manfield area. This included vocalist Ivan Jay, guitarist and vocalist Alvin Lee and bassist Leo Lyons. In 1962, Ivan Jay became The Jaycats and later, Ivan and The Jaymen. Just as the name changed, so did the lineup.

Ivan Jay was the lead vocalists until 1962. He was replaced by Ray Cooper, who also played rhythm guitar. Drummer Pete Evans  joined in 1962, but left in 1965, to be replaced by Dave Quickmire. Then in 1965, Ric Evans became The Jaybirds drummer. The following year, 1966, The Jaybirds were on the move, and changed their name.

Like so many bands, The Jaybirds headed to London, where they became The Ivy League. Later, in 1966, keyboardist Chick Churchill joined The Ivy League. They soon came to the attention of future Chrysalis founder, Chris Wright. He became The Ivy League’s manager, who changed their name to Blues Trip. However, the quartet made their debut as Blues Yard.

Chris Wright got the newly named Blues Yard the job of opening for Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. That was their one and only concert as Blues Yard. Not long after this, Blues Yard became Ten Years After. This was the start of the rise and rise of Ten Years After.

Through the Chrysalis Booking Agency, Ten Years After secured a residency at the Marquee. This was a prestigious residency. Suddenly, people were taking notice of Ten Years After. However, it was their appearance at the Windsor Jazz Festival in 1967 that resulted in Ten Years After signing to the Deram, a subsidiary of Decca.

Ten Years After.

Now signed to Deram, Ten Years After began work on their eponymous debut album. Deram didn’t bother getting Ten Years After to record a single. Even then, it was obvious that Ten Years After were more of an albums band. So Ten Years After were sent into the studio to record their debut album.

For their eponymous debut album, Ten Years After chose a mixture of cover versions and new songs. Cover versions included Paul Jones’ I Want to Know, Al Kooper’s I Can’t Keep from Crying, Sometime, Willie Dixon’s Spoonful and the blues standard help me. Alvin Lee penned Feel It for Me, Love Until I Die and Don’t Want You, Woman. He also cowrote Adventures of a Young Organ with Chick Churchill and Losing the Dog with Gus Dudgeon. These ten tracks became Ten Years After.

Recording of Ten Years After took place at Decca Studios, London during September 1967. The rhythm section featured drummer Ric Lee, bassist Leo Lyons and guitar and vocalist Alvin Lee. Augmenting the rhythm section was keyboardist Chick Churchill. Producing Ten Years After were two experienced and practised producers, Mike Vernon and Gus Dudgeon. Once Ten Years After was completed, it was released in October 1967.

When Ten Years After was released in October 1967, the album was well received by critics. Many described the album as purely blues rock. That wasn’t quite the case.

Granted blues rock was the most obvious influence on Ten Years After. Other influences included Americana, country, jazz, psychedelia and rock. These influences shine through on Ten Years After, which was released in the Autumn of 1967.

Ten Years After was released on October 27th 1967 but the album failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic. While this was a disappointment for Ten Years After and everyone at Deram, critics forecast a bright future Ten Years After. And so it proved to be. However, that might not have proved to be the case if Ten Years After hadn’t recorded their live album Undead.

Undead.

Just seven months after the release of their eponymous debut album, Ten Years After were scheduled to play a small gig on May 14th 1968. The venue was the Klooks Kleek jazz club in London. Deram Records had arranged for the concert to be recorded, and released as a live album. This proved a masterstroke.

When Ten Years After took to the stage, they worked their way five genre-melting songs. Everything from blues and boogie to jump blues, rock and rock ’n’ roll were combined by Ten Years After. It was a truly barnstorming performance, and a perfect way to showcase Ten Years After’s considerable skills. Their performance would come to the attention of legendary American promoter Bill Graham, who began championing their music in America.

Three months later, Ten Years After released their live album Undead in August 1968, it proved a game-changer. It was heard by legendary promoted Bill Graham. He championed Ten Years After in America. As a result, Undead reached number 115 in the US Billboard 200. This was good news for Ten Years After, who had just completed their sophomore studio album Stonedhenge. With Bill Graham championing their music, they hoped that Stonedhenge would build on Undead.

Stonedhenge.

When work began on Stonedhenge, it was a familiar story. Alvin Lee was Ten Years After’s songwriter-in-chief, penning six songs, including  Going To Try, Woman Trouble, Skoobly-Oobly-Doobob, Hear Me Calling, A Sad Song, No Title. He also cowrote Speed Kills with Mike Vernon. Keyboardist Chick Churchill contributed I Can’t Live Without Lydia, while Leo Lyons wrote Faro. Drummer Ric Lee’s contribution was arranging Three Blind Mice. Along with the other nine tracks, it was recorded at Decca Studios, in West Hampstead, London.

Recording of Ten Years After took place at Decca Studios, London between the 3rd and 15th September 1967. The rhythm section featured drummer Ric Lee, bassist Leo Lyons and guitar and vocalist Alvin Lee. Augmenting the rhythm section was keyboardist Chick Churchill. Producing Ten Years After was Mike Vernon. Once Ten Years After was completed, it was released on 22nd February 1969. 

Before the release of Stonedhenge, critics had their say on Ten Years After’s second studio album. Their boogie rock sound was still present. So was the bluesy sound that featured on Ten Years After. However, producer Mike Vernon guided Ten Years After further down roads marked blues and jazz. He managed to do this, without Ten Years After forgetting their roots. There was something for everyone on Stonedhenge. Some critics compared Ten Years After to Canned Heat. This was ironic, as Ten Years After had just supported Canned Heat. They were enjoying the most successful period of their career. That was still to come for Ten Years After. It began with Stonedhenge.

When Stonedhenge was released on 22nd February 1969, it reached number sixty-one in the US Billboard 200 charts. This was a vast improvement on Undead, which reached number 115. The next chapter in the Ten Years After story had begun with Stonedhenge.

Going To Try opens Stonedhenge. Straight away, Ten Years are teasing the listener. From an understated introduction, a urgent arrangement unfolds. It’s a fusion of rock, blues and thanks to ethnic percussion, world music. There’s even a nod to prog rock, as continually, Ten Years After vary the tempo. From there, the musical mystery tour that’s Stonedhenge continues to tease and tantalise.

This starts with I Can’t Live Without Lydia, a short, jazz-tinged track. The jazz sound continues on Woman Trouble. It has a bluesy hue. Then on the jazzy Skoobly-Oobly-Doobob, Alvin Lee takes centre-stage. He scats and delivers a breathtaking guitar solo. Hear Me Calling which closed side one of Stonedhenge, features Ten Years After combining blues and boogie rock. They sound not unlike Canned Heat, the other purveyors of this sound.

Opening side tow of Stonedhenge was A Sad Song, which is a good description of this track. It has a slow, moody and somewhat haunting sound. It’s very much of its time, sounding as if it was recorded in the late sixties. Ten Years After combine elements of pop and rock with psychedelia and blues. Then Three Blind Mice, the children’s nursery rhyme, is transformed into a one minute drum lead instrumental. This is the weakest track on Stonedhenge. No Title, an eight minute jam more than makes up for Three Blind Mice. 

No Title is a slow burner where Ten Years After showcase a slow, broody and lysergic sound. Blues, rock and psychedelia are combined, before Ten Years After start to stretch their legs, and unleash one of their best performances on Stonedhenge. Faro sadly, is a tantalising taste of what might have been. It sounds as if it’s an idea for a song, rather than a completed song. With some time and effort, Faro could’ve been a track that rivalled No Title. Speed Kills completes the musical journey that’s Stonedhenge. As the train leaves the station, Ten Years After climb onboard and combine blues and country. The country influence comes courtesy of Alvin Lee’s mid-Atlantic vocal. Meanwhile, the rest of Ten Years After kick loose, and ensure that their sophomore album Stonedhenge ends on a high.

For the four members of Ten Years After, the last two years had been a roller coaster. Their 1967 eponymous debut album had failed commercially on both sides of the Atlantic. This was a huge disappointment. The members of Ten Years After had spent seven years getting this far. However, their luck was about to change.

When promoter Bill Graham heard Ten Years After’s first live album Undead, he began to champion their music. Across America, a generation of record buyers decided to investigate this new British band. This resulted in Undead reaching number 115 on the US Billboard 200 on its release in August 1968. By then, Ten Years After had finished recording Stonedhenge, which was recently released by Decca Music Group.

On its release in February 1969, Stonedhenge reached number sixty-one in the US Billboard 200 charts. This was the start of a year Ten Years After would never forget. They played at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1969. Next stop for Ten Years After was the Seattle Pop Festival later in July. Then on 17 August 1969, Ten Years After took to the stage at Woodstock, and played I’m Going Home. Their appearance would feature on both the soundtrack and movie. Ten Years After were about to become a musical phenomena. 

That would be the case right through until 1974. when Ten Years After split-up.  For six years Ten Years After were one of the biggest bands on both sides of the Atlantic. Although Undead was Ten Years After’s breakthrough album, it was their second studio album that brought the band to the attention of the wider record buying public. The American record buying public embraced Ten Years After for the next five years. Stonedhenge was the start of America’s love affair with Ten Years After and up until 1974 they could do no wrong, enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim.

Fifty Years Ago Ten Years After Released Stonedhenge,

 

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FIFTY YEARS AGO THE STOOGES RELEASE THE STOOGES

Fifty Years Ago The Stooges Release The Stooges.

James Newell Osterberg a.k.a. Iggy Pop had been the drummer in a number of bands based in Ann Arbor during his teenage years. This included The Iguanas and later, The Prime Movers. However, it was a chance meeting with blues drummer Sam Lay in Chicago that inspired the future Iggy Pop to form a new group to make a new type of blues music, which wasn’t a derivative of the past.

On his return to Detroit, James Osterberg started looking for the “right” musicians for his new band. This included drummer Scott Asheton, bassist Dave Alexander and guitarist Ron Asheton who James Newell Osterberg saw playing with the covers band The Chosen Few. He was recruited because James Newell Osterberg believed that: “I’ve never met a convincing musician that didn’t look kind of ill and kind of dirty, and Ron had those two things covered!” 

The three musicians joined James Osterberg in a new band that was originally called The Psychedelic Stooges. It would later change its name, and so would the lead singer. This came after the rest of the band started calling James Osterberg Pop after a local character who he resembled. However, it was only after seeing the MC5 that James Osterberg started calling himself Iggy Pop.

By then, The Psychedelic Stooges had played their debut gig at their communal State Street house on the ‘31st’ October 1967…Halloween. The best part of three months passed before The Psychedelic Stooges played their second gig in January 1968. It wasn’t long before The Psychedelic Stooges were familiar faces on the Detroit live scene.

This included sharing the bill with MC5 at the Grande Ballroom, in Detroit. During that concert, they were playing I Wanna Be Your Dog when Ron Asheton guitar neck separated from the body. As a new band, The Psychedelic Stooges’ instruments weren’t the best and they even used homemade instruments and used household including a blender and vacuum cleaner. Then there was The Jim-a-phone which was a homemade effects unit that was used to funnel feedback. The Psychedelic Stooges were a unique band who sometimes shocked the audience.

While The Psychedelic Stooges music was raw, primitive and wild, Iggy Pop’s behaviour was often confrontational and outrageous. He sometimes smeared his bare chest with peanut butter and hamburger meat and during gigs and took to stage diving. Other times, he cut his chest with shards of glass and on occasions exposed himself to the audience. Iggy Pop was unlike most singers and The Psychedelic Stooges were unlike most bands. 

Despite that, in 1968, Elektra Records signed The Stooges as they were now known. Elektra Records had sent DJ and publicist Danny Fields to watch the MC5 and that night, he also saw The Stooges. Realising the potential of both bands the MC5 and The Stooges were signed to Elektra Records.

While the MC5 was paid $20,000, The Stooges received just $5,000. The disparity between the rates of pay was a bone of contention between the members of The Stooges. However, they were soon sent into the studio to record their debut album The Stooges which was reissued for Record Store Day 2018 as a two  LP set. This version was the famous Detroit Mix of The Stooges which was mixed by John Cale, who produced the album.

The Stooges.

By thew time The Stooges entered The Hit Factory, in New York,  in April 1969, they intended to record five songs that were staples of their live sets. This included I Wanna Be Your Dog, No Fun, 1969, Ann and We Will Fall. During their sets, The Stooges would play each song for around two minutes, before improvising for several minutes. The Stooges thought that they could do this during the recording sessions .

Vocalist Iggy Pop, drummer Scott Asheton, bassist Dave Alexander and guitarist Ron Asheton recorded fives songs that are best described as a mixture brutalist garage rock and proto-punk. Once the five songs that The Stooges had recorded with producer John Cale were completed, they were handed over to executives at Elektra Records. For The Stooges this was a proud moment as they had completed their eponymous debut album.

Or so they thought. Unfortunately for The Stooges, when executives at Elektra Records heard the album they promptly rejected it. Their reason was that there weren’t enough songs for an album. When The Stooges were told about the lack of songs they bluffed, claiming that they plenty more songs they could record.

That wasn’t true. The Stooges had exhausted their supply of songs and were faced with the prospect of writing three songs overnight. This wasn’t going to be easy, but somehow, The Stooges wrote Real Cool Time, Not Right and Little Doll, which they played for the first time in the studio the following day.

With eight songs recorded, The Stooges had enough material for their eponymous debut album. They even had one song left over, Asthma Attack which didn’t make it onto The Stooges. Now that The Stooges was recorded, the next stage was mixing.

Producer John Cale took charge of the first mix, and used as a reference Lou Reed’s “closet mix” of The Velvet Underground’s eponymous third album, which had also been recorded at The Hit Factory, in New York, in April 1969. When it was handed over to executives at Elektra Records they rejected the mix.

The Stooges was then remixed by Iggy Pop and Elektra Records’ president Jac Holzman. This was the version of The Stooges that was released on August the ‘5th’ 1969.

Before that, critics had their say on The Stooges.The reviews of The Stooges weren’t good, and the  majority of critics struggled to find any merit in the album. Robert Christgau the self-styled ‘dean’ of rock critics reviewed The Stooges for the Village Voice and called the album: “stupid-rock at its best.” Edmund O Ward writing in the Rolling Stone said:  that The Stooges was: “loud, boring, tasteless, unimaginative and childish,” but did concede that he: “kind of liked it.” Most of the critics rejected The Stooges out of hand, which didn’t bode well for its release.

When The Stooges was released on August the ‘5th’ 1969, it was unlike anything else that had been released. It was a ferocious fusion of brutalist garage rock and proto-punk. Despite the quality of songs like 1969, I Wanna Be Your Dog, No Fun and Real Cool Time the album failed to find an audience. The problem was that neither record buyers nor critics understood The Stooges.

It was only later that critics started to change their mind about The Stooges. By then, The Stooges was regarded as one of forerunners of punk. The raw power and proto-punk sound of The Stooges inspired many on the early punk bands who cited Iggy Pop and Co. as an influence on the music they went on to make. 

Meanwhile, many critics who had slated The Stooges were now rewriting history. The Stooges was now regarded as a classic album and part of any self-respecting record collection. Some critics went as far as to say that The Stooges as a groundbreaking album that was way ahead of its time. The Stooges was held in such high esteem that it was ranked at “185” in Rolling Stones’ magazine’s list of the 500 best albums of all time.

By 2010, The Stooges were regarded as one of the most important and influential groups in the history of music. Meanwhile, their eponymous debut album was now seen as a classic album and a staple of numerous record collections. However, still The Stooges was reissued once more on CD and featured a bonus disc. It featured the original John Cale mix of The Stooges.

John Cale’s Detroit Mix of The Stooges was the first mix of the album, and the mixer’s reference was Lou Reed’s “closet mix” of The Velvet Underground. Whether this was what The Stooges wanted or envisaged is a different thing, as they were very different bands.However, even after a couple of listens it’s obvious that Lou Reed’s “closet mix” of The Velvet Underground was used by John Cale’s reference when he mixed The Stooges. 

Despite this different approach to mixing, the energy, defiance, raw power and rebelliousness is omnipresent as The Stooges swagger and tear through eight songs combining garage rock and proto-punk. The music was raw and primitive as The Stooges played as if their very lives depended upon it. This was a lo-fi recording, and it was important that John Cale’s mix didn’t try to make The Stooges something they were never going to be. Maybe the problem was that when John Cale used Lou Reed “closet mix” of The Velvet Underground he was trying to make The Stooges something they were never going to be?

Sadly, John Cale’s mix was rejected by Elektra Records and Iggy Pop and Jac Holzman’s remixed The Stooges. However, one can only speculate what would’ve happened if John Cale’s mix of The Stooges had been released in August 1968?

Instead, Iggy Pop and Jac Holzman’s mix featured on The Stooges and is quite different from John Cale’s original mix. However, fifty years after the release of The Stooges, and Iggy Pop and Jac Holzman’s mix is regarded by most critics as the definitive mix of this classic album.

Fifty Years Ago The Stooges Release The Stooges.

 

FIFTY YEARS AGO THE VELVET UNDERGROUND RELEASED THE VELVET UNDERGROUND.

Fifty Years Ago The Velvet Underground Released The Velvet Underground.

Following disagreements about The Velvet Underground’s future musical direction, John Cale left the group. This was almost inevitable because  for some time, John Cale and Lou Reed views about The Velvet Underground’s future differed. John Cale wanted The Velvet Underground to continue to innovate and create experimental music like White Light/White Heat, The Velvet Underground’s second album. Lou Reed, however, didn’t agree. 

Lou Reed believed that The Velvet Underground’s music should become more pop oriented. This he felt, would broaden their appeal. No longer would they be an art rock group whose music appealed to discerning music lovers. Eventually, Lou Reed won over the rest of The Velvet Underground. For John Cale this was hugely disappointing. So, he decided the only option was to leave The Velvet Underground.

Replacing John Cale in the The Velvet Underground was Doug Yule. He made his Velvet Underground debut on their 1969 eponymous album, which will be released on vinyl on 16th March 2015 as a double album by Universal Music. The Velvet Underground was the start of a new chapter in the band’s career.

This new chapter began in November 1968, at TTG Studios, Hollywood. That’s where ten songs penned by Lou Reed were recorded by the new lineup of The Velvet Underground. 

Lou Reed played piano, lead and rhythm guitar and added lead vocals. Sterling Morrison played rhythm and lead guitar. Maureen Tucker added percussion and sang lead vocal on After Hours. New member, Doug Yule, played bass, organ and sang lead vocal on Candy Says. These ten songs became The Velvet Underground, which debuted the band’s new sound.

The songs on The Velvet Underground were a mixture of ballads and rock songs. This was very different from The Velvet Underground’s first two albums. Lou Reed influence is writ large all over The Velvet Underground. That’s despite the production of The Velvet Underground being credited to the band. However, the rest of The Velvet Underground were happy with the change of direction.

Of the three other members of The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed had been the most vocal when it came to the band’s future direction. He was determined not to record White Light/White Heat II. So it seems, were the rest of The Velvet Underground. Percussionist Maureen Tucker was also willing to sacrifice the group’s old sound. She wanted to be part of a successful rock band. Especially now that Velvet Underground were signed to MGM Records. For the new lineup of The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground was a new start in more than one way.

On the release of The Velvet Underground in March 1969, the album was hailed to the most accessible of their career. Critics remarked upon the quality of the lyrics and vocals. The Velvet Underground was described as melodic and tuneful. It seemed that The Velvet Underground’s new sound had won over the critics. That wasn’t the case.

Lester Bangs, who, in 1969, was writing for Rolling Stone magazine, felt The Velvet Underground wasn’t as good as White Light/White Heat. However, he did concede that the much more accessible sound of The Velvet Underground would win over new fans.

That proved not to be the case. When The Velvet Underground was released in March 1969, it failed to chart. Neither  of the singles charted. What Goes On was the lead single. It failed to chart. Neither did Pale Blue Eyes, the follow-up. However, seventeen years later, in 1985, somewhat belatedly, The Velvet Underground reached number 197 in the US Billboard 200 charts. By then, The Velvet Underground had been hailed as one of the group’s finest moments. However, is that the case?

Opening The Velvet Underground is Candy Says. It’s a pensive ballad about Candy Darling, a transsexual actress who Andy Warhol ‘discovered.’ She would provide the inspiration to Lou Reed’s 1972 single Walk On The Wild Side. Doug delivers a tender, melancholy vocal. He tells the story of a tortured soul, who died in 1974, aged just twenty-seven. Accompanying him are subtle drums played by brushes, a probing bass and jangling guitars. They frame the vocal, allowing it to shine. The way he delivers lyrics like “I wish I could walk away from me,” it’s as if this resonates with Doug. He’s able to breath meaning and emotion into the lyrics.

What Goes On has a rockier sound. Lou’s vocal is grizzled, while the rhythm section and jangling guitars power the arrangement along. Lightning fast slap bass and guitars join forces with a Hammond organ, as Lou struts his way through the lyrics. Then when his vocal drops out, The Velvet Underground kick out the jams. Rock meets psychedelia as the two sides of the old Velvet Underground collide head on, before later, Lou returns. By then, the ghost of John Cale has made an appearance as The Velvet Underground’s past and present combines to create one of the highlights of  The Velvet Underground.

Drums and percussion combine with chiming, searing guitars on Some Kinda Love. They provide a pounding, pulsating, hypnotic backdrop for Lou’s drawling vocal. It’s a taste of what was to come from Lou Reed after The Velvet Underground. Guitars are panned left to right. Full use is made of the full stereo spectrum. As a result, the guitars envelop Lou’s vocal. The mesmeric drums provide the heartbeat, as Lou swaggers and drawls his way through Some Kinda Love.

An understated rhythm section and tambourine combine on Pale Blue Eyes another ballad. They provide the backdrop for Lou’s fragile, thoughtful vocal. Again chiming, crystalline guitars envelop his vocal. The rhythm section sit in the middle of the mix, providing the heartbeat. Meanwhile, Lou delivers a vocal on what’s a beautiful devotional that was inspired by Shelley Albin, Lou’s first love. 

Jesus, which closed side one of The Velvet Underground, has a thoughtful, understated sound. A spartan arrangement meanders into being. Just a guitar, bass and harmonies accompany Lou’s vocal. It veers between needy, desperate and hopeful as he sings: “Jesus help me find my proper place.” A driving, strident, confident guitar and a dark moody bass accompany Lou. So do harmonies. They sound similarly fragile, as if able to empathise with Lou’s plight.

Originally, Beginning To See The Light opened side two. It’s the perfect track to do so. It literally explodes into life, The Velvet Underground’s rhythm section and guitars driving the arrangement along. Lou takes his lead from them, and unleashes a swashbuckling vocal. Literally, it oozes confidence as he joyously half sings, half screams “I’m Beginning To See The Light.” The result is a hook laden anthem from The Velvet Underground that inspired thousands of other groups.

I’m Set Free sees the tempo drop, but the drama remains. It comes courtesy of a lone pounding drum. It sits in the middle of jangling guitars. Gradually, it grows in power, moving forward in the mix. In doing so, it matches Lou’s vocal every step of the way. Then when his vocal drops out, a shimmering guitar and pounding drum vie for your attention. They then join with harmonies and Lou’s hopeful, heartfelt vocal as the track reaches a crescendo.

Unlike many of the tracks on The Velvet Underground, That’s The Story Of My Life has an unmistakable sixties sound. However, it’s a sound that’s inspired two generations of bands. The jaunty arrangement skips along. Just the rhythm section and chiming guitars accompany Lou’s wistful, lived-in vocal. He’s come to terms with his life, and realised he can’t change anything. Despite the sixties sound, it’s a track that’s aged well and shows another side of The Velvet Underground.

The Murder Mystery is the only track on The Velvet Underground to feature the four band members. However, it’s a much more avant-garde track. This is more like the music John Cale would’ve created. This is down to the structure. During each verse, Lou and Sterling recite different verses of poetry simultaneously. One vocal is panned left, the other right. Then during the choruses, Maureen and Doug sing different lyrics and melodies simultaneously. They too, were panned either left of right. All this gives the track a much more experimental sound. Especially with the free jazz backdrop. It comes courtesy of rolls of drums, washes of Hammond organ and crystalline guitar. All this sounds like a homage to John Cale, The Velvet Underground’s former creative force.

Closing The Velvet Underground is After Hours. It’s an acoustic track and sounds like something from another era. Here, Maureen delivers the lead vocalist. She is accompanied by a strummed acoustic guitar that’s panned right. A bass is panned left, but is way too loud. It should sit further back in the mix. Even then, After Hours wouldn’t rise above average. It’s a far from an innovative track. The best way to describe After Hours is ironic, in a late-sixties hipster sort of way. This proves a disappointing way to close The Velvet Underground. 

When The Velvet Underground was released in March 1969, it marked the end of an era. For their first two albums, The Velvet Underground were one of the most innovative groups of the sixties. Their pioneering fusion of art rock, avant-garde, experimental, psychedelia and rock would inspire several generation of musicians. However, neither 1967s The Velvet Underground and Nico, nor White Light/White Heat were commercial successfully. This lead to a split in The Velvet Underground.

John Cale wanted The Velvet Underground to continue to create cutting-edge music. Lou Reed and Maureen Tucker eyed commercial success. They wanted to be part of a successful band. Even if this meant changing direction musically.

Lou Reed and Maureen Tucker won out. John Cale, left The Velvet Underground with his principles intact. He wasn’t in favour of The Velvet Underground releasing pop oriented music. He was an innovator, someone who was constantly ahead of the musical curve. Pop music didn’t interest him. So he went his own way.

The rest of The Velvet Underground brought onboard Doug Yule as John’s replacement. This was the lineup that recorded The Velvet Underground, an album of ballads and rocky tracks. It was meant to transform The Velvet Underground’s fortunes. However, fate intervened.

On The Velvet Underground’s release, it failed to chart. Lou and Maureen’s dreams of being part of a successful rock band lay in tatters. They’d sacrificed being part of one of the most innovative bands in musical history. It was all for nothing. Riches and fame still eluded The Velvet Underground. 

Since then, The Velvet Underground has found a wider audience. Nowadays, every self-respecting record collection contains The Velvet Underground’s albums. However, not every Velvet Underground album was created equally.

For the newcomer to The Velvet Underground, then 1969s The Velvet Underground is their most accessible album. It’s far from their best album. 1967s The Velvet Underground and Nico was The Velvet Underground’s finest hour. It features The Velvet Underground at their innovative and influential best. 1968s White Light/White Heat comes a close second. Again, it features The Velvet Underground pushing musical boundaries to their limits, on what was a truly groundbreaking album. So much so, that critics wondered what was coming next from The Velvet Underground?

They certainly didn’t expect The Velvet Underground, with its ballads and rock-oriented tracks. For many people, The Velvet Underground had sold out, and  sacrificed their creative force at the altar of fame and fortune. That was disappointing. After all, The Velvet Underground could’ve continued to transform music for years to come. Instead, they released just two more albums, 1970s Loaded and 1973s Squeeze. However, fifty years have passed since the release of The Velvet Underground. and the dust has well and truly settled, and this allows everyone to reevaluate The Velvet Underground. It’s a reminder of a pioneering group, as they evolved,  and changed direction musically. Beautiful, and sometimes, wistful ballads, rub shoulders with rocky, anthems on The Velvet Underground. This makes The Velvet Underground’ the most accessible album from one of music’s most innovative bands. However, one can’t help wonder what type of album The Velvet Underground would’ve released if they hadn’t sacrificed their creative force at the altar of fame and fortune?  

Fifty Years Ago The Velvet Underground Released The Velvet Underground.

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FIFTY YEARS AGO: LED ZEPPELIN RELEASE LED ZEPPELIN II.

Fifty Years Ago: Led Zeppelin Release Led Zeppelin II.

On 12th January 1969, the lives of the four members of Led Zeppelin were transformed when their debut album Led Zeppelin reached number ten in the US Billboard 200 and number six in the UK. Led Zeppelin was certified platinum in the US eight times over. In the UK and Australia, Led Zeppelin was certified double platinum. Across the world, Led Zeppelin was a huge commercial success, and was certified diamond in Canada and platinum in Spain. Gold discs came Led Zeppelin’s way in Holland, Switzerland and France. Suddenly, Led Zeppelin was one of the most successful albums of the late-sixties. 

Considering Led Zeppelin had only been formed In October 1968, made their success even more remarkable. Led Zeppelin rose out of the ashes of The Yardbirds. Guitarist Jimmy Page was the last remaining member of The Yarbirds. He also owned the rights to The Yarbirds’ name. However, he was also under contract to play several concerts in Scandinavia. So Jimmy Page began putting together a new band.

For his new band, The New Yarbirds, Jimmy Page brought onboard the rhythm section of bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham. Robert Plant became the vocalist. This was essentially a new band that toured Scandinavia. They honed their sound during that tour. After the tour, the newly named Led Zeppelin entered the studio, and recorded their eponymous debut album. Little did they realise how successful it would be.

Especially after the critics were less than impressed by Led Zeppelin. Their reviews were negative. Some of the highest profile critics rounded on Led Zeppelin. They felt Led Zeppelin offered nothing new. It had all been done before, and done better. Led Zeppelin had the last laugh though, when the album sold over eleven-million copies. There was only one problem, surpassing such a successful album.

For what became Led Zeppelin II,  nine songs were chosen. There was only one cover version on Led Zeppelin II, Bring It On Home, which was made famous by Sonny Boy Williamson II. The other eight tracks were penned by the band. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant cowrote What Is and What Should Never Be, Thank You, Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman) and Ramble On. They cowrote Moby Dick With John Paul Jones. The four members of Led Zeppelin wrote Heartbreaker. Two other songs Led Zeppelin wrote proved controversial, and expensive financially. 

The four members of Led Zeppelin wrote Whole Lotta Love. They were forced to give a credit to Willie Dixon in 1985. He felt there was a similarity to You Need Love, which had been recorded by Muddy Waters in 1962. There was a similar problem with The Lemon Song. 

Written by Led Zeppelin, The Lemon Song was alleged to have borrowed from Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor. Ironically,  Killing Floor borrows from Robert Johnson’s Travelling Riverside Blues. It in turn borrowed from Arthur McKay’s She Squeezed My Lemon. However, only Howlin Wolf was credited, under his real name Chester Burnett. This controversy was still to come. Before that, Led Zeppelin recorded their sophomore album Led Zeppelin II.

Recording of Led Zeppelin II took place at various studios in the UK and USA. Rather than record the album in one go, sessions took place between January and August 1969. In between, Led Zeppelin toured their eponymous debut. They were, after all, on their way to becoming one of the biggest rock bands of the first half of the seventies. The constant touring helped further hone Led Zeppelin’s sound when they entered the studio.

Jimmy Page played acoustic, electric and theremin on Whole Lotta Love. The rhythm section included bassist and organist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham who also played percussion and timpani. Robert Plant delivered a series of vocal powerhouses and played harmonica on the album that became Led Zeppelin II. It was released in October 1969.

Before Led Zeppelin II was released, Atlantic Records embarked upon a heavy promotional campaign. The advertising slogan Led Zeppelin-The Only Way To Fly and Led Zeppelin II Now Flying worked wonders. Advance orders of 400,000 in the US alone were place. So, it’s no surprise Led Zeppelin II reached number one on the US Billboard 200 charts, knocking Abbey Road off the top spot.  It spent seven weeks at number one and was in the US Billboard 200 for 130 consecutive weeks. By April 1970, three million copies of Led Zeppelin II had been sold. Eventually, Led Zeppelin II was certified platinum twelve times over in the US and four times platinum in the UK and Australia. The albums was certified nine times platinum in Canada. Across Europe, Led Zeppelin II was a huge success. Gold discs came the way of Led Zeppelin. This was helped by Whole Lotta Love.

Led Zeppelin had a strictly no singles policy. That was until Whole Lotta Love. The song was shortened and released as a single. This didn’t please Led Zeppelin. It did reach number four in the US Billboard 100 and was certified gold. Since then, it’s been remembered as stonewall Led Zeppelin classic. That’s the same as Led Zeppelin II. However, in 1970, critics took a different viewof Led Zeppelin II.

Just like Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II was released to mixed reviews. Rolling Stone magazine panned Led Zeppelin II. Many critics failed to realise that Led Zeppelin II was the template for heavy metal. Here was an album that gave birth to a new musical genre. Instead, critics accused Led Zeppelin of ripping off old blues’ singers. It was nothing new. They said the same about Led Zeppelin. Just like the did with Led Zeppelin, history would be rewritten by music critics.

Critics have managed to rewrite history over the next thirty-four years. Suddenly, Led Zeppelin II was a being hailed a classic album. Every critic was suddenly claiming to have realised that all along. Even Rolling Stone magazine, which wasn’t originally a fan of Led Zeppelin, put the album at number twenty seventy-five in their list of 500 greatest albums of all time. Nowadays, Led Zeppelin II is perceived as a stonewall classic by the same critics who panned the album originally.

The unmistakable Whole Lotta Love opens Led Zeppelin II. A loose blues riff opens the track. It comes courtesy of Jimmy Page’s 1958 Les Paul Standard guitar. Before long, the rhythm section join in, creating a chugging, pounding rhythm. Washes of guitar are panned from left to right. Then at 1.24 the track heads in the direction of free jazz and psychedelia. A theremin and drums combine with Robert’s orgiastic vocal. That’s until bursts of blistering guitar solos mix blues and heavy rock. They and the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Meanwhile Robert Plant vamps, pants and hollers as he unleashes a vocal powerhouse during five-and-half minutes of musical perfection.

Very different is the introduction  to What Is and What Should Never Be. It has a much more understated sound. Robert’s vocal is tender and seductive. He sings unaccompanied. When the arrangement sweeps in it’s subtle. Then it explodes into life. Robert’s vocal is a mixture of power and passion, as scorching guitars and driving, stomping rhythm section lock horns. Later, guitars are panned. They assail and surround you. By then, Robert unleashes another powerful vamp, as his vocal becomes a needy plea full of longing. The result is a rock ’n’ roll love song Led Zeppelin style.

The Lemon Song was one of two tracks that caused a lot of problems for Led Zeppelin. They were accused of borrowing from Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor. It proved a costly mistake. However, it resulted in a stunning marriage of blues and rock which was recorded in a room measuring sixteen foot square. This proves perfect for what  Led Zeppelin were trying to achieve. From the get-go, the music is moody, broody, dark and dramatic. Blistering guitars and a thunderous, pounding rhythm section provide the backdrop for Robert’s blues’ tinged vocal. He mixes emotion and poses as he delivers the innuendo laden lyrics. Meanwhile, John Paul Jones lays down some of the best and most intricate bass lines on Led Zeppelin II. It’s just another reason why it’s one of Led Zeppelin finest fusions of blues and rock.

Thank You is another track from the pen of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Even though this was only their second album, they were forming a successful songwriting partnership. Here, they fuse folk, rock and psychedelia. It’s a slower love song, which Robert wrote for his then wife Maureen. A Hammond organ, meandering acoustic guitar and the rhythm section combine. Mostly, Led Zeppelin resist the urge to kick loose. Sometimes, drums pound, guitars scream and Robert’s vocal soars. However, before long the track returns to its much more understated, beautiful sound.

Blistering machine gun guitar licks are unleashed as Heartbreaker unfolds. Before long, the rhythm section enter. Then Robert’s swaggers in. Like a musical outlaw, he struts his way through the track. Sometimes, he’s marching to the beat of John’s drum. As he delivers a swaggering vocal, the rest of Led Zeppelin become a power trio. Then later, Jimmy Page steals the show. He delivers a guitar masterclass. Remarkably, it’s totally improvised. It takes centre-stage before the rest of the band join in, and provide an explosive, dramatic, driving, performance which epitomises everything  that’s good about Led Zeppelin.

Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman) is a song about a groupie who  annoyed the band. Strangely, it’s smeant to be Jimmy’s least favourite Led Zeppelin song. He dawns a twelve-string guitar for the track. Enveloped by searing guitar riffs, pounding drums and crashing cymbals Robert vents his spleen about the Living Loving Maid. Frustration and anger fills his voice. Then Jimmy unleashes his twelve-string guitar. It quivers and shimmers, during this slice of good time rock ’n’ roll.

Just a lone guitar, drum and then  bass open Ramble On. Robert’s vocal is tender and wistful. “It’s time for me to go” he announces as his vocal grows in power. Soon, he’s delivering one of his trademark vocals. It’s a mixture of melancholia, memories and power. Meanwhile, the rest of Led Zeppelin veer between power and drama to understated and wistful. All the time, Robert’s laying bare his soul before he sings I guess I’ll “Ramble On.”

Moby Dick is an instrumental and sees Led Zeppelin’s rhythm section lock into a blues rock riff.  This allows Jimmy’s guitar to play the starring role. After that, it’s John’s drums that take centre-stage. He than plays the starring role, demonstrating why he was without doubt, one of the greatest rock drummers of the late-sixties seventies. When it’s time Jimmy’s guitar and John Paul Jones’ bass return as the track reaches its dramatic ending.

The bluesy Bring It On Home closes Led Zeppelin II. A bluesy harmonica joins the rhythm section before Robert’s vampish, theatrical vocal enters. Then midway through the song, Led Zeppelin kick loose. Sometimes, they briefly draw inspiration from Whole Lotta Love. After that, blistering, searing and scorching guitars and the rhythm section provide the backdrop for Robert’s vocal powerhouse. Then with just over twenty seconds remaining, there’s a return to the song’s bluesy roots. This seems fitting, as Bring It On Home showcases the blues rock roots of Led Zeppelin.

Although Led Zeppelin had only been together two years, they’d grown and matured as a band since their 1969 debut. They’d improved as musicians and songwriters. So much so, that it’s hard to believe that Led Zeppelin II was only their sophomore album. What’s even more incredible, is that Led Zeppelin had managed to surpass the commercial success of their eponymous debut album.

Having sold eleven million copies of Led Zeppelin worldwide, Led Zeppelin II surpassed this. It sold over twelve-million copies in America.  In total, Led Zeppelin II shipped nearly fourteen million copies worldwide. Led Zeppelin were now one of the biggest rock bands in the world. Incredibly, neither of Led Zeppelin’s first two albums had been well received by critics.

Many music journalists, including those at Rolling Stone magazine failed to realise that Led Zeppelin II would become a classic album. According to them, Led Zeppelin II was nothing new. It was a fusion of old blues’ licks and rock. This wasn’t the first time cynical critics got it wrong. It certainly wouldn’t be the last time. So, they developed a dose of collective amnesia.

Time and time again, collective amnesia struck music critics. Many of the critics that panned Led Zeppelin II, wrote fawning articles praising the album. What they wrote was what fourteen million music fans already knew. Since 1970, music critics have been frantically backtracking. Now, when they mention Led Zeppelin II, they make sure to call it a classic album. Belatedly, they were right.

Led Zeppelin II is a glorious fusion of blues, folk, psychedelia and rock. Just like many classic albums, Led Zeppelin II is almost flawless. It would provide the template for heavy metal. That’s apparent on Led Zeppelin II. The power trio of guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham prove the perfect foil for Robert Plant’s vocal powerhouses. In full flight, Led Zeppelin are peerless. They’ve no equal. They may have spawned a thousand imitators, but not one came close to Led Zeppelin in their pomp.

Back in 1970, when Led Zeppelin II was released, Led Zeppelin are the original hard rocking, hard living band. Led Zeppelin were living the dream. Just two years earlier, they were living in obscurity. Not any more. Now, Led Zeppelin had joined rock ’n’ roll royalty. Life they realised, was for the living. So, they lived life to its fullest. Soon, they became known as one of the hardest living bands in the history of rock. Wine, women, song and narcotics were constant companions. Life was one long party. They owed it to their fans to live the dream. Throughout that party, Led Zeppelin recorded some of the greatest rock music of the late-sixties seventies and all time. This includes Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II which will soon  celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, and belongs in any self-respecting record collection.

Fifty Years Ago: Led Zeppelin Release Led Zeppelin II.

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THE MONKEES-HEAD

The Monkees-Head.

Label: Rhino.

On September the ‘8th’ 1965, the Daily Variety contained an advert that said: “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.” This was a new sitcom that had been written by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider about a struggling rock band from Los Angeles. The new sitcom would follow the adventures of Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter as they searched for their big break. 437 musicians looking for their big break responded to the advert.

Eventually, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider whittled their way through the hopeful applicants, and settled on three Americans Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and British actor and singer Davy Jones. They became The Monkees, which Mickey Dolenz later described as: “a TV show about an imaginary band … that wanted to be The Beatles, [but] that was never successful.” 

While The Monkees never replicated the success of The Beatles,  Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider’s television show proved popular in America and further afield. It ran for three series’ between 1966 and 1968, with Americans tuning in to fifty-eight episodes that followed the adventures of Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter. During this period, The Monkees were one of the biggest selling bands in America. 

The Monkees recording career began in October 1966 with their eponymous debut album, and lasted four years. Less than four years later, The Monkees released their swan-song Changes, in June 1970. Within a year, The Monkees has split-up after releasing nine album in less than four years. 

These albums divided the opinion of critics, cultural commentators and record buyers, and continue to do so, forty-six years after The Monkees originally split-up. Some critics and record buyers regard The Monkees’ music as perfect pop, while others claim it as nothing more than bubblegum pop or manufactured pop. Both sides are firmly entrenched in their views about the merits or otherwise of The Monkees’ music. However, an oft-overlooked side of The Monkees’ career is their psychedelic era between 1966 and 1968. This was when The Monkees released some of the most memorable  music of their career. Before that, The Monkees released their debut single.

When The Monkees released Last Train To Clarksville as their debut single on ‘18th’ August, the single started climb the charts, and reached number one in Canada and on the US Billboard 100. This was enough to give The Monkees their first gold disc in America. However, tucked away on the B-Side of the single was a taste of the psychedelic side of The Monkees, Take A Giant Step. It would feature on The Monkees’ eponymous debut album.

The Monkees.

Just a month after The Monkees released their debut single, they released their debut album The Monkees in September 1966. Reviews of the album were mixed, with some critics still not convinced that The Monkees were a serious band. However, the positive reviews outnumbered the negative reviews of The Monkees. It started climbing the charts, and reached number one in Britain, Canada and on the US Billboard 200. The Monkees sold five million copies in America alone, and was certified platinum five times. Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter’s debut album had proven popular and appealed to a wide range of record buyers.

It wasn’t just fans of pop and rock that were won over by The Monkees. So were fans of psychedelic music. The Monkees’ psychedelic side first emerged on their eponymous debut album. Goffin and King’s Take A Giant Step and David Gates’ Saturday’s Child showcased the psychedelic sound of The Monkees, which was very different to other songs on the album. Maybe The Monkees had designs on becoming a serious band?

More Of The Monkees.

Just four months after the release of The Monkees, America’s version of the Fab Four returned with their sophomore album More Of The Monkees in January 1967. By then, what had been dubbed Monkeemania was in full swing. As a result, More Of The Monkees was rushed out to capitalise on the band’s popularity. This showed, and More Of The Monkees proved not to be the band’s finest hour.

Critics weren’t won over by More Of The Monkees, and their reviews reflected this. They weren’t alone. The Monkees weren’t happy with their contribution to More Of The Monkees. It consisted of adding the vocals, and very occasionally playing the instruments that they were meant to be playing. Mostly, though, the interments were played by members of the Wrecking Crew who stood in for The Monkees. They weren’t happy about this and wanted full artistic control.

Three weeks after the release of More Of The Monkees, Michael Nesmith began lobbying the creators of The Monkees to play their instruments on future records. Don Kirshner who had been brought onboard to secure music for The Monkees was against the idea of The Monkees playing their instruments on future records.Things came to a head a heated meeting between The Monkees, Don Kirshner and Colgems lawyer Herb Moelis. At one point, Michael Nesmith threatened to leave The Monkees. Given the album sales, there was only going to be one winner.

From their third album, The Monkees, not members of the Wrecking Crew would play their instruments. Executives at the Colgems label were scared of upsetting the cash cow that was The Monkees. While More Of The Monkees wasn’t the band’s finest hour, it reached number one in Britain, Norway, Canada and America. More Of The Monkees sold five million copies and was certified platinum five times over. This was pretty good for an album that many considered to be rushed out to cash in on the popularity of Monkeemania.

One of the finest songs on More Of The Monkees is She, which was penned by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Micky Dolenz adds a vocal on She, which featured The Monkees at their most lysergic. The psychedelic sound of The Monkees would return on their third album, Headquarters.

Headquarters.

Four months after the release of More Of The Monkees, came the release of The Monkees’ third album Headquarters in May 1967. Headquarters which was produced by Chip Douglas, was the first album where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control over their music. This came at a price.

After the dismissal of Don Kirshner, the songs that he had supervised were discarded. They wouldn’t feature on the album. Instead, it would only feature tracks where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control. Still, though, session musicians were occasionally used, but they seemed to be a thing of the past.

Another difference was that much of the albums was written by members of The Monkees. This included the Micky Dolenz penned Randy Scouse Git and For Pete’s Sake which was written by Peter Tork and Joey Richards. Both songs were sung by Micky Dolenz and featured the psychedelic side of The Monkees. The strongest of the two tracks was For Pete’s Sake, which marked the start of a  new era for The Monkees.

While most of the reviews of Headquarters were positive, some critics weren’t impressed by the first album where The Monkees enjoyed full artistic control. They felt some of the songs penned by members of The Monkees shouldn’t have made the cut. They wouldn’t if Don Kirshner had been around,and already it was apparent that his loss cost The Monkees dearly.

When Headquarters was released in May 1967 the album reached number two in Britain and Norway. In North America, Headquarters reached number one in Canada and in the US Billboard 100. However, the album sales were way down, with Headquarters selling ‘just’ two million copies. While this resulted in Headquarters being certified double platinum, the album had sold three million copies less than More Of The Monkees. To make matters worse, when Randy Scouse Git was released as a single, it never came close to troubling the charts. The Monkees had learnt an expensive lesson from Headquarters, that full artistic control came at a cost.

Two months after the release of Headquarters, The Monkees released a cover of Goffin and King’s Pleasant Valley Sunday as a single in July 1967. This example of perfect pop was one of the finest songs of The Monkees’ psychedelic era. It reached number three and was the fourth Monkees single to be certified gold. Maybe The Monkees’ luck was starting to change?

Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd.

There was no let up for The Monkees, who returned with another album in November 1967, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. It was a quite different album from Headquarters.

Unlike Headquarters, where seven out of the twelve songs were written by members of The Monkees, only three of thirteen songs were written by the band. The remainder was cover versions, including songs written by successful songwriters and songwriting partnerships. This included Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s Words, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s Love Is Only Sleeping and Goffin and King’s Star Collector. They were joined by Goffin and King’s Pleasant Valley Sunday. These songs would showcase the psychedelic side of The Monkees.

When they came to record Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd, session musicians were drafted in. They had featured to some extent on Headquarters, but played a bigger part in the recording of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. This made sense, as they weren’t accomplished enough musicians to record an entire album. The Monkees played their instruments on some of the songs, but elsewhere on the album, session musicians took their place. However, as the years went by, The Monkees improved as musicians.

The Chip Douglas produced Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd was released in November 1967, and was well received by most of the critics. However, The Monkees had their critics, who saw the them as nothing more than a made for television band. That was unfair, as The Monkees had just released one of the best albums, and an album that pioneered the use of the Moog synth. 

While Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd was released, it reached number five in Britain, four in Norway and three in Canada. In America, it became The Monkees’ fourth album to reach number one. However, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd ‘only’ sold two million copies in America, and was certified double platinum. Maybe The Monkees’ popularity had peaked? 

The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees.

Five months after the release of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd, The Monkees returned with their fifth album The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. It marked the start of a new era for The Monkees, who had rung the changes in their pursuit of full artistic control. The Monkees had dispensed with the services of producer Chip Douglas, who had produced  The Monkees first four albums. This was a huge risk.

By the time The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees was released, The Monkees television show had been cancelled. As a result, The Monkees were concentrating all their efforts on their music. Deep down, they wanted to be seen as a serious band. However, still, many critics and record buyers saw The Monkees as a manufactured, made for television band. They hoped that The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees would convince their critics that there was much more to them than that.

For their fifth album, members of The Monkees wrote six of the twelve tracks. This included Tapioca Tundra which was penned by Michael Nesmith. When it was recorded, The Monkees fused psychedelia and country. During the sessions, The Monkees continued to employ session musicians, who added backing vocals on some tracks. This was playing into the hands of The Monkees’ critics, who continued to accuse them of not being a ‘proper’ band. Their fans pointed The Monkees were a successful band, whose first four albums had sold in excess of fourteen million albums.

Before the release of The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees, critics had their say. The reviews were mixed, and again, there was no consensus amongst the critics. Some of the reviews were positive, while other were critical of The Monkees’ fifth album and the first they had produced themselves. With no consensus amongst the critics,record buyers had the casting vote.

The perfect pop of Daydream Believer was chosen as the lead single, and released in October 1967, It reached number one on the US Billboard 100 and was certified gold. Alas, Daydream Believer was the last of The Monkees’ nineteen singles to top the charts. However, the success of Daydream Believer augured well for the release of When The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees.

When The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees was released in April 1968, it failed to replicate the success of previous albums. The album failed to trouble the charts in Britain, where The Monkees had always been popular. It was a similar case in Canada, where The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees stalled at number six. In America, The Monkees was hoping that The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees would give them their fifth consecutive number one album. It was a case of close but no cigar, when The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees reached number three in the US Billboard 200.  For The Monkees this was another disappointment. Especially when they heard that the album had sold just over a million copies. While this was enough for a platinum disc, it was a far cry from when both The Monkees and More Of The Monkees sold five million copies. Monkeemania it seemed, was now a thing of the past.

Maybe not? In February 1968, The Monkees released Valleri as the second single from The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. The followup to Daydream Believer reached number three in the US Billboard 100 and was certified gold. Little did The Monkees realise that Valleri was their last single to be certified gold.

The followup to Valleri was D. W. Washburn, which was released   in June 1968. However, it stalled at number nineteen in the US Billboard 100. This was a sign of what was to come

Head.

Four months later, and The Monkees returned with a new single in October 1968. The song that had been chosen was Goffin and King’s Porpoise Song, which featured on the soundtrack to Head. The Monkees had been asked to provide the soundtrack, and with a few friends created a soundtrack that mixed satire and darkness. Porpoise Song was a taste of what The Monkees had in store for their fans. However, the single stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100, and became the second least successful single when it stalled at a lowly sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. This was worrying as Head was due to be released in late 1968.

Just like their previous albums, reviews of Head were mixed and there was no consensus among critics. While some critics loved  the albums, others loathed it. This was nothing new. However, Head was the first soundtrack album The Monkees had recorded, and it featured six songs, including the lysergic Porpoise Song. It’s one of the best songs on Head. These six songs were joined by Ken Thorne’s incidental music, dialogue fragments, and sound effects from the film. As a result, it was very different to previous albums and it was unfair to compare Head to The Monkees’ studio albums. That was what the critics had done.

On the release of Head in December 1968, the album stalled a lowly forty-five in the US Billboard and twenty-four in Canada. This was the lowest chart placing in either country. Across the Atlantic in Britain, Head was the second album that failed to trouble the charts. This was a worrying time for The Monkees.

Not long after the release of Head, Peter Tork left The Monkees, citing exhaustion. The Monkees had recorded six albums in less than three years. They also filmed three series of the television series The Monkees and toured extensively. It was no wonder Peter Tork was exhausted. However, leaving The Monkees proved costly, as he had four years remaining on his contract. After paying a large, six figure sum of money, Peter Tork was no longer a Monkee. However, he would feature on The Monkees’ swan-song Good Times!

Instant Replay.

Just four months after the release of Head in 1968, The Monkees returned with their seventh studio album Instant Replay in February 1969. Instant Replay was the first album The Monkees released after the departure of Peter Tork, and was the only one of the nine original studio albums that hadn’t featured in the original TV series.

By the tine work began on Instant Replay, Brendan Cahill had been appointed The Monkees’ new musical supervisor.  He was tasked with transforming the group’s fortunes. Brendan Cahill decided to look into The Monkees’ vaults for  songs that had been recorded when they were in the musical prime. This Brendan Cahill hoped would restore the group to the top of the US Billboard 200.

Eventually, Brendan Cahill settled on twelve songs that would become Instant Replay. These songs included Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s Through the Looking Glass, Don’t Listen To Linda, Me Without You and Tear Drop City. Two Goffin and King songs  Won’t Be the Same Without Her and A Man Without a Dream joined Carol Bayer Sager and Neil Sedaka’s The Girl I Left Behind Me.  The three remaining original members of the Monkees penned the rest of the album, Micky Dolenz wrote Just a Game and Shorty Blackwell, while  Michael Nesmith contributed Don’t Wait For Me and While I Cry. Davy Jones wrote You and I with Bill Chadwick. This mixture of cover songs and original material had been recorded over a period of thirty-one months.

Brendan Cahill chose some songs recorded in the summer of 1966 by the original lineup of The Monkees. They joined new songs recorded in 1968 and 1969, including A Man Without a Dream and Someday Man were produced by Bones Howe and recorded at Wally Heider’s studio. Bones Howe brought onboard some of the Wrecking Crew to accompany The Monkees. Eventually, Instant Replay was completed, it featured of twelve songs recorded between July 1960 and January 1969.

When Instant Replay was released in February 1969, reviews of the album were mixed. Its mixture of pop, psychedelia and rock didn’t receive the same reception as previous albums. This was a disappointment for The Monkees. 

When it came to releasing a lead single from Instant Replay, Brendan Cahill chose Tear Drop City, which was one of the songs from The Monkees’ vaults. Brendan Cahill decided to increase the tempo nine percent changing the song’s key from G to A-flat. Alas, that didn’t  help Tear Drop City which stalled at fifty-six in the US Billboard 1o0 and forty-seven in the UK. For The Monkees this was another disappointment. Things didn’t get much better when Instant Replay was released, and reached just thirty-two in the US Billboard 200, forty-five in Canada and twenty-six in Japan. This was another disappointment for The Monkees, who were no longer as popular as they had once been. Proof of this was the followup single to Tear Drop City was Someday Man, which reached eighty-one in the US Billboard 1o0 and forty-four in the UK. It was beginning to look as if The Monkees’ career was at a crossroads.

The Monkees Present.

By the time The Monkees began work on their eighth album The Monkees Present, which is sometimes known as The Monkees Present Micky, David, Michael, their popularity had peaked. As a result, Screen Gems were no longer as interested in The Monkees, who were no longer the cash cow they had once been. This resulted in The Monkees being left to their own devices when it came to producing the The Monkees Present.

Originally, The Monkees Present was meant to be a double album, which devoted one side to the album to each member of  The Monkees. That was until Peter Tork left The Monkees. To make matters worse, by the time it came to record the album, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones had all embarked upon solo careers. As a result, a decision was made that The Monkees Present would be a single album.

For The Monkees Present,  Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart only contributed Looking For The Good Time and Ladies Aid Society. They joined Michael Martin Murphey’s Oklahoma Backroom Dancer and Janelle Scott and Matt Willis’ Pillow Time. The rest of the album was penned by The Monkees, with Michael Nesmith contributing Good Clean Fun, Never Tell A Woman Yes and Listen To The Band. Micky Dolenz wrote Mommy and Daddy and cowrote Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye with Ric Klein. Davy Jones wrote If I Knew with  Bill Chadwick who penned French Song. These songs became The Monkees Present.

Just like Instant Replay, some of the songs had been recorded between August and  October 1966, when The Monkees were in their prime. The rest of the album was recorded between June 1968 and August 1969. The result was an album that combined it was hoped combined classic Monkees with their new music. Surely this would be a winning formula?

Sadly, that wasn’t the case when The Monkees Present was released in October 1969.  Critics weren’t impressed by what was one of The Monkees’ weakest album. They had eschewed their psychedelic sound and switched between  country rock, folk rock, pop and rock. The Monkees Present  wasn’t the most cohesive album The Monkees  had released, and was slightly disjointed. This didn’t bode well for the release of The Monkees Present.

Things didn’t get any better when the lead single Listen To The Band stalled at sixty-three in the US Billboard 100. Then when The Monkees Present was released in early October 1969 it stalled at a lowly 100 in the US Billboard 200, and became The Monkees’ least successful album. Adding to The Monkees’ woes was the single Good Clean Fun  struggling to eighty-three in the US Billboard 100. For The Monkees this was a worrying time.

Just when The Monkees thought things couldn’t get any worse, Michael Nesmith left the band. This left just Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz to fulfil The Monkees’ recording contract. 

Changes.

With just Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz remaining, recording The Monkees ninth studio album wasn’t going to be easy. However, the two remaining Monkees were reunited with producer Jeff Barry who cowrote much of the material on Changes.

Of the twelve songs on Changes, Jeff Barry wrote or cowrote six of them. He penned 99 Pounds and Tell Me Love and cowrote On My My, Do You Feel It Too and I Love You Better with Canadian singer-songwriter wrote Andy Kim. Jeff Barry and  Bobby Bloom wrote Ticket on a Ferry Ride and You’re So Good to Me. The Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart songwriting partnership contributed I Never Thought It Peculiar while Ned Albright and Steven Soles wrote Acapulco Sun and All Alone In The Dark. They joined Neil Goldberg’s It’s Got To Be Love and Micky Dolenz’s Midnight Sun on Changes.

Just like The Monkees two previous albums, Changes was a mixture of old and new songs. Some songs were recorded during sessions that place in October 1966 with others recorded in January and February 1967. The Monkees had recorded other songs between  July  and September 1969 and then  returned to the studio between February and April 1970. This allowed Colgems Records, a division of Columbia Records to put out an album as cheaply as possible. The only problem was the risk that it wouldn’t sound like a cohesive album when it was released in June 1970.

When critics heard Changes, they weren’t overly impressed with what was an essentially an album of bubblegum pop. Just like The Monkees two previous albums, Changes wash’t a cohesive album, and sounded like an assortment of tracks from the past four years. Even two remaining Monkees weren’t fans of Changes. Davy Jones called it his: “least favourite Monkees album” and  said he had: “terrible memories of making Changes.” By then, The Monkees was over as a group, and Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were merely fulfilling contractual obligations,

The Monkees went out with a whimper when Oh My My struggled into the lower reaches of the US Billboard 100 at ninety-eight. Then when Changes was released in June 1970, it stalled at 152 in the US Billboard 200. This was a new low for The Monkees.

On September ‘22nd’ 1970, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz recorded what was their swan-song as The Monkees. That day, they recorded Do It In The Name of Love and Lady Jane. However, Do It in the Name Of Love wasn’t mixed until February ‘ 9th’ 1971, and was released as a single later in 1971. However, Do It in the Name Of Love failed to chart and this was an inauspicious ending to The Monkees’ story.

The Monkees split-up in late 1971, and everyone thought that this was the end of a group who for five years, had divided the opinion of critics, cultural commentators and even music fans. However, in 1976, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz reformed the band and brought onboard  Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to makeup America’s once fab four.  This was the first of several Monkees reunions and revivals that have taken place over the past forty years. 

During their comebacks, The Monkees have recorded three new albums, including 1987s Pool It! ,1996s Justus and Good Times! in 2016. It was the album that saw The Monkees revisit their psychedelic sound,

Good Times!

After the commercial failure of Head, The Monkees didn’t  revisit their psychedelic side until 2016, when they were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their eponymous debut album. To celebrate the anniversary, a new album was commissioned, which became Good Times!

This was the twelfth album of The Monkees career, and the first album since the death of Peter Tork. He appears posthumously on Little Girl, alongside the remaining Monkees Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter on Good Times! It’s one of thirteen songs on Good Times!, which reached number twelve in the US Billboard 200. 

The songs on Good Times! are a mixture of old new and old. Some of the songs are penned by giants of music including the late, great Harry Nilsson and Neil Diamond. Others were written by successful songwriting partnerships like Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and the legendary Goffin and King. One of the new songs, Birth Of An Accidental Hipster,  was written by Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller and finds The Monkees revisiting their psychedelic side one last time.

The Monkees psychedelic years began in 1966 and lasted until 1969. However, it was between 1966 and 1968 that The Monkees released the best psychedelic music of their career. That coincides with what was the most successful period of The Monkees career. 

Some of the psychedelic music The Monkees made between 1966 and 1968 wasn’t overtly psychedelic. Instead, they find The Monkees moving in the direction of psychedelia. Maybe this was The Monkees seeking credibility in the eyes of critics and record buyers? 

Despite their dalliances with psychedelia, The Monkees never fully embraced the genre like other sixties bands. Maybe it was a relationship that lacked commitment? The Monkees certainly never released a psychedelic masterpiece. The Monkees soundtrack album Head, which was released in December 1968, certainly wasn’t a psychedelic masterpiece, and was an an album that critics either loved or loathed. It was one of The Monkees’ occasional dalliances with psychedelia, and looking back with the benefit of hindsight, Head was a much better album than many critics were willing to admit. It’s an ambitious and innovative genre-melting album, but one the took its on The Monkees, when Peter Tork left the group. It was the end of an era for The Monkees who were one of the most successful bands of that period.

While The Monkees may have never fully embraced psychedelia like many other sixties bands, ironically, this worked in their favour. The music on their first five albums, including the psychedelic side of The Monkees was accessible and was hugely popular, selling fifteen million copies in America alone. However, by December 1968, The Monkees had already enjoyed the most successful years of their career. 

In America six of The Monkees singles had been certified gold, while one album of their albums had been certified platinum, two double platinum and The Monkees and More Of The Monkees had been certified platinum five times over. Never again would The Monkees reach these heights again. 

The Monkees split-up in 1971, and later, made several comebacks. They even recorded three albums, including their swan-song Good Times! in 2016. By then, The Monkees had released nineteen singles, twelve studio albums and six live albums between 1966 and 2016. However, still, the most successful period of The Monkees  career was between 1966 and 1968. Sadly, the oft-overlooked Head wasn’t the commercial success that previous Monkees albums had been. 

For just over two years, The Monkees were one of the biggest bands in America. They had found a winning formula, with albums that featured pop, rock and sometimes psychedelia. Head featured all the and more from The Monkees is an oft-overlooked album America’s very own Fab Four The Monkees.

The Monkees-Head.

 

LA TORRE IBIZA: VOLUMEN TRES.

La Torre Ibiza: Volumen Tres.

Label: Hostal La Torre.

The nineties and early noughties were the golden age for what was referred to as Balearic, chill out or downtempo  music.  Many of these lovingly curated  compilations were released on smaller independent labels and featured a mixture of the new and old, from familiar faces and new names. Some of these compilations became successful series and  were released annually and were much-anticipated. However, some of the bigger independent labels and the major labels decided to jump on the bandwagon.

 Downtempo music hijacked by labels, who sensing an  easy way to make money, released all sorts of compilations with chill-out in the title. Sadly, the quality left a lot to be desired and it wasn’t long before many people turned their back on this style of music, saddened and were frustrated by the inferior quality of many of the releases.

What did not help, was certain established compilations started releasing poorer quality instalments of previously popular series’. This lead to this genre of music becoming much less popular, and some people treated the genre with what was almost contempt. That was a shame, because during the “golden age” many critically acclaimed compilations were released and have stood the test of time. 

Sadly, there’s not as many compilations of what’s nowadays referred to as Balearic or  downtempo  music.  The compilations that are released, are best often a mixed bag. However, one compilation that oozes quality is  La Torre Ibiza: Volumen Tres which was released by the  Hostal La Torre label. It’s a two LP set that features fifteen tracks., 

La Torre Ibiza: Volumen Tres is a lovingly curated and eclectic compilation, which opens with Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble’s dreamy, lysergic and jazz-tinged Alsema Dub. Very different is Mornings At Made’s, which is a cinematic, mesmeric  and beautiful track by Pacific Coliseum. It’s followed by Lambchop’s joys and uplifting Up With The People. 

By contrast, Satoshi and  Makoto’s  Crepuscule Leger scampers along and is a reminder of the golden age of downtempo music. It’s followed by Mac DeMarco’s  On The Level a dreamy  sounding minimalist track where synths, drums and the vocal play leading roles. Malcolm McLaren’s Obatala is another track that is reminiscent of the music being released during the golden age of downtempo music. 

Back in eighties and nineties, Tears For Fears were a hugely popular and successful band. However,  Head Over Heels” (Sketches From An Island Sunrise Mediation), which is a nine minute epic, shows another side to their music and is a carefully crafted remix that is one of the highlights of La Torre Ibiza: Volumen Tres.  So is Trance’s mesmeric and cinematic sounding Ambiente which conjures up visions of India as the sitar plays a leading role in this captivating arrangement. The Advisory Circle’s  Sundial veers between futuristic, dreamy, dubby and ruminative and is another highlight of the compilation. Richard Torrance’s Anything’s Possible is a genre-melting track that fuses elements of jazz, downtempo and indie rock. After Hours by Swing Out Sister with its jazz-tinged downtempo sound is a welcome addition and so is John Stammers’ Idle I’m (Colorama Coloured In Remix). It epitomises everything that is good about downtempo music and is the perfect way to close  La Torre Ibiza: Volumen Tres.

For veterans and newcomers to Balearic and downtempo compilations,  La Torre Ibiza: Volumen Tres which was released as a two LP set is a must have. It’s without doubt one of the best compilations of Balearic and downtempo music released this year. La Torre Ibiza: Volumen Tres Balearic oozes quality, and  is a lovingly curated collection of eclectic tracks that features familiar faces and new names, and will appeal to anyone who enjoys and appreciates the delights of Balearic and downtempo music.

La Torre Ibiza: Volumen Tres.

CATFISH HODGE-THE EASTBOUND AND WESTBOUND YEARS.

Catfish Hodge-The Eastbound and Westbound Years.

Great things were expected of Bob “Catfish” Hodge who was born into a musical family in Detroit, and began playing in clubs when he was still in high school. Before long, he was a regular in Detroit’s clubs despite not being able to read music. Music came naturally to Catfish and seemed to flow through him. Catfish  was a natural when it came to music. So it’s no surprise that  Bob “Catfish” Hodge decided to make a career out of music. 

Since then,  Bob “Catfish” Hodge has enjoyed a long and illustrious career. He first came to prominence as a member of Catfish who “coulda been a contender.” During the late-sixties, Catfish seemed destined for greatness and rubbed shoulders with The Stooges and MC5. Sadly, success eluded Catfish. After that Bob “Catfish” Hodge embarked upon a solo career.

Bob signed to Eastbound Records in the early seventies. As Catfish Hodge,he released his debut album Boogieman Gonna Get You in 1972. Two years later, Bob released his sophomore album Dinosaurs and Alleycats in 1974 and in 1975, Catfish released Soap’s Opera. It was released on Westbound and was Bob’s final release on the Eastbound and Westbound labels. After that, Bob signed to Adelphi Records. However, the three albums he released on Eastbound and Westbound are seen as the finest of his career. 

Music was Bob’s life, and he spent all of his spare time listening to music. When he wasn’t listening to music he was making music. Bob formed his first band as a senior in high school, after his friend Terry Kelly taught him how to play guitar. Terry also introduced Bob to a variety of artists, including Lonnie Mack, whose songs found their way into the setlist of Bob’s band. However, Terry wasn’t Bob’s only musical influence.

By the late-sixties, Bob was absorbing the sounds of Detroit, and he was a regular visitor to Motown. Along with his friends, Bob sat in his car listening to the music emanating from the studios. Sometimes, Bob and his friends managed to sneak past the security guards in and watch the recording sessions. They were able to watch artists like Smokey Robinson recording. Before long, they were discovered by an embarrassed guard and they’d be thrown out, until the next time. This was a regular cat and mouse game. Whilst watching these sessions, this only depended Bob’s determination to become a musician.

Aspiring musicians are only mortal and “can’t live by bread alone.” So on leaving school, Bob got a job working at a finance company. One of the job’s he was given was collecting money from customers who had missed a payment. This included a forgetful member of the Four Tops. Whenever he was on tour, he forgot to pay his bills. Bob would go and collect the payments. So Bob would’ve to take the forgetful Four Top, or his wife to Motown. At Motown, they’d pick up some money to pay the bill. Naturally, seeing what was another world close up, made Bob’s mind up, now was the time to make music his career.

Bob’s first job in the music industry was as a songwriter and producer. He penned and produced Capreez’s Over You, which was released on the Detroit label Sound. That was Bob’s introduction to the music industry.

Soon, Bob was working with three local bands. He hired an office and started trying to get them a record deal. One label that showed an interest was Vanguard. So, Bob caught the redeye to the Big Apple, and headed to see Maynard Solomon at Vanguard. Bob played him the tapes. Solomon like what he heard, but reckoned that Vanguard weren’t quite ready for rock ’n’ roll. After his meeting, Bob headed into Greenwich Village.

That night, Bob saw a still unsigned Jimi Hendrix playing in a coffee bar. After that, Bob headed to Bleecker, and s he passed by a club that was closed, he heard music. Curious, Bob looked in. There was Van Morrison rehearsing. For Bob, that was a eureka moment. At last, he knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Back home, Bob formed Wicked Religion, who evolved into Catfish. Before long, Catfish established a reputation as one of Detroit’s top live groups. They were soon rubbing shoulders with MC5 and The Stooges. Their raw blues rock sound was winning friends not just in Detroit, but Catfish further afield. This included in the offices of Epic

Kenny Hodges of Epic had heard good things about Catfish. The word in Detroit was Catfish were on their way to the top. So, Kenny signed Catfish to Epic. He wasn’t going to risk anyone beating him to their signature. The only problem would be, replicating Catfish’s famous live sound? 

For their debut album Get Down, Kenny Cooper was brought in to produce the album. A total of nine tracks were recorded. They were meant to showcase Catfish’s blues rock sound. On the release of Get Down in 1970, it wasn’t a commercial success and didn’t even come close to troubling the charts. Then someone at Epic came up with an idea of how to capture what Catfish were about musically. The idea was to record a live album.

So, Detroit’s Eastown Theatre was booked. In front of an enthusiastic audience, Catfish combined their own songs with two Motown covers, Nowhere To Run and Money. The concert became Catfish’s sophomore album, Catfish Live. Released in 1971, Catfish Live failed to chart. Still commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Catfish. Not only did Catfish Live fail to chart, but it spelt the end of Catfish.

The plaudits and commercial success that were about to come the way of MC5 and The Stooges passed Catfish by. They were about to become a footnote to Detroit’s musical history. That shouldn’t have been the case. Catfish had what it took to go from contenders to title holders. Who knows, maybe another record company would’ve got the best out of Catfish? Sadly, Catfish would split-up not long after the release of Catfish Live. 

Bob realised this was about to happen, and had been thinking about embarking upon a solo career. He started recording his first album as Bob Hodge. Catfish Hodge had yet to make his debut. As Bob Hodge, he released Empathy, which was recorded in a small studio in Memphis and released on Cupid Records, which was Catfish’s own record label. Bob optimistically, had 500 copies pressed. Empathy passed most people by. So Bob decided it was time for a change and hopped on a plane to London.

There was a reason for this. Bob was friendly with many British musicians, including the legendary Peter Green. In London, Bob stayed at the Earls Court hotel and wrote songs. Back then, Bob had hopes of become the next James Taylor. Instead, his music headed in a very different direction, when Bob wrote Boogie Man. So with another album written, Bob headed home, looking for a record deal.

Since Bob had been away, Detroit had changed. Motown had followed the sun to Los Angeles. This was now the age of the major label. No longer were independent labels thriving. Many were struggling to make ends meet. One independent label bucked the trend, Westbound Records.

Founded and run by Armen Boladian, Westbound Records and its subsidiary Eastbound Records were doing well. They were home to Denise LaSalle and The Detroit Emerald and Bob decided  to visit Armen Boladian. He’d heard Empathy and liked what he heard, and decided to take a chance on Bob. He gave him $500 and told him to record some demos.

Five songs were recorded at a small studio owned by a local band SRC. Then Armen wanted to see Bob play live. Bob just so happened to be playing in a local club. So Armen headed over to the club, accompanied by two members of Funkadelic, George Clinton and Calvin Simon. That night, Bob won over not just Armen, but the two members of Funkadelic. They encouraged Armen to send Bob to Toronto, where Funkadelic were recording America Eats Its Young. Armen agreed, and Bob headed to Toronto, where he recorded Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya.

Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya.

At Manta Recording Studios, in Toronto, Bob recorded Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya. Calvin Simon who’d encouraged Armen to record Bob produced Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya. Bob wrote seven of the eight songs. The other song was a cover of The Beatles’ Want You (She’s So Heavy). Accompanying Bob was a tight, talented band. This included a rhythm section of bassist William Landless, drummer Pat Freer and guitarists “Shakey” Al Werneken and Dallas Hodge. They were joined by pianist Bob Babitch and percussionist Jerry Paul. Producer Calvin Simon decided to add some punchy horns. This was an absolute masterstroke.

Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya was released in 1972. It marked the debut a the  newly named Catfish Hodge. It’s described as rock with  a hint of funk. Sadly, despite what’s a delicious fusion of blues, funk, jazz and rock, Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya failed to chart. This wasn’t helped by Westbound falling behind with the release of Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya. Locally, the album was a success. Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya was played on local radio. This resulted in Catfish playing bigger gigs and heading out to tour Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya. Westbound believing Catfish had a big future ahead of him, commissioned a second album, which became Dinosaurs and Alleycats.

Dinosaurs and Alleycats.

For Dinosaurs and Alleycats, eight tracks were chosen. Catfish wrote Color TV Blues and Living The Blues. He cowrote five of the other six tracks. The other track was a cover of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown’s Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out Of Tune. Some tracks were recorded at Manta Recording Studios, in Toronto. Other tracks were recorded in Detroit, at the Golden World Studio, which had been where so many Motown hits were recorded. It was much the same band accompanying Catfish.

Catfish’s band included a rhythm section of bassist William Landless, drummer Dave Chambers and guitarists “Shakey” Al Werneken and Dallas Hodge. They were joined by slide guitarist Bob McCarthy pianist Bob Babitch, plus backing vocalists and a horn section. Catfish played acoustic guitar, piano and organ. Once Dinosaurs and Alleycats was completed, it was released in 1974, two years after Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya.

Sadly, some things didn’t change. Dinosaurs and Alleycats failed to chart. This was despite Catfish changing direction. Whereas some of the arrangements on Boogie Man Gonna Get Ya are busy and sometimes, some of the arrangement on Dinosaurs and Alleycats are much more understated and spacious. Everything from  blues, funk, rock and feature on Dinosaurs and Alleycats, which marked a musical coming of age from Catfish Hodge.

Soap’s Opera.

A year after the release of Dinosaurs and Alleycats, Catfish began work on Soap’s Opera. It proved to be Catfish’s final album for Westbound Records was Soap’s Opera. It was released on their Eastbound imprint. Soap’s Opera featured ten tracks. Catfish wrote eight tracks. The other two tracks were covers of It’s All Over Now and Joni Mitchell’s For Free. Accompanying Catfish, was an all-star band.

This meant it was all change for Catfish. None of the band that played on his first two albums played on Soap’s Opera. The rhythm section included drummers Larry Zack, bassist David Kovarick and guitarist Bonnie Riatt. They were joined by Dr. John on piano and organ, Wayne Cook on keyboards and Sneaky Pete Kleinow played pedal steel. James Montgomery played harmonica and Rosemary Butler of the all-girl band Birtha sung backing vocals. The ten tracks became Soap’s Opera, which proved to be Catfish’s Westbound finale.

On its release in 1975, Soap’s Opera failed to chart. Catfish Hodge had changed direction again. He incorporated the West Coast sound to his usual fusion of blues and rock. However, just like Dinosaurs and Alleycats it left the listener wanting to hear more from Catfish Hodge. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

After the commercial failure of Soap’s Opera, Catfish Hodge left Westbound Records. He’d released a trio of albums, yet hadn’t made a commercial breakthrough. That’s despite the undoubted quality of the music on Boogieman Gonna Get You, Dinosaurs and Alleycats and Soap’s Opera. Each of these albums were very different.

On each album, Catfish’s music evolved. He wasn’t going to stand still. So, each album saw a new side of Catfish. By the time he released Soap’s Opera, Catfish had adopted the West Coast sound. This was totally different from the fusion of blues and rock that was Boogieman Gonna Get You. Then on Dinosaurs and Alleycats, musical genes and influences melted into one. Catfish also realised the importance of space. The arrangements were much more understated and spacious. Having said that, still occasionally, Catfish and his band cut loose. When they kicked loose, it was a glorious sound. Still, commercial success eluded Catfish Hodge. By 1975, Catfish was still trying to catch a break. Even when he jumped on the West Coast Sound bandwagon, commercial success and critical acclaim was nowhere to be seen. For Westbound Records, that was the end of the road.

For Catfish Hodge, his time at Westbound Records might be over, but his career was still in its infancy. Since 1975, Catfish Hodge has continued to release albums and tour. He’s one of the hardest working men in music. Now a musical veteran, Catfish Hodge has recorded a lot of music since Boogieman Gonna Get You, Dinosaurs and Alleycats and Soap’s Opera. However, these three albums are still regarded as the best music of Catfish Hodge’s long career and a tantalising reminder of a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician at the peak of his powers.

Catfish Hodge-The Eastbound and Westbound Years.

 

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J JAZZ VOLUME 2-DEEP MODERN JAZZ FROM JAZZ 1969-1983 -VINYL VERSION.

J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983-Vinyl Version.

Label: BBE Music.

Release Date: ‘6th’ September 2019.

Music is a universal language,  and something that binds us all, regardless of what part of planet earth we’re from, music is ever present, and a part of our life. It’s hard to imagine daily life without a musical soundtrack that can include everything from rock and pop, to folk and  funk, right though to blues, country, soul, house and jazz, and its many sub-genres. That includes J Jazz which over the past few years, has grown in popularity. This has been helped by labels like BBE Music releasing J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983 as a three LP and two CD  set. It was compiled by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden, and will be released on the ‘6th’ of September 2019. J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983 documents what was an important time in the development of Japanese jazz.

From the late-sixties, right through to the early eighties was a crucial period for the development of modern jazz in Japan. During that period, many Japanese composers and musicians and bands released ambitious and innovative music that astounded those who heard it. This included the Mabumi Yamaguchi Quartet, Mabumi Yamaguchi Quartet,  Teru Sakamoto Trio Plus One, Toshiyuki Miyama and The New Herd With Masahiko Sato, Nobuo Hara and His Sharps and Flats Orchestra and Akira Miyazawa. This is a tantalising taste of what awaits the listener on J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983. Critics and record buyers on hearing this music were amazed how far Japanese jazz had come in such a short space of time.

It was only twenty or thirty years earlier that Japanese music fans were banned from listening to jazz during the World War II. However, after Japan’s defeat and unconditional surrender in August 1945, the wartime ban on jazz was lifted. 

Jazz fans were now able to hear jazz on the radio, and watch the allied forces bands play jazz in concert halls across Japan. Some of the bands featured some of the top American jazz musicians who were serving their country. Sometimes, these musicians spent time collaborating with local jazz musicians who were keen to learn from some of the names they had only heard on the radio. However, in 1952 when the allied forces left Japan, and returned home musicians like Frank Foster, Harold Lamb and Oliver Nelson had formed firm friendships with local jazzers. By then, they had played an important part in the cultural rebirth of Japan.

Left to their own devices, a new era began for Japanese musicians who were determined to make up for lost time. Musically there had been no winners after six years of war. While jazz had been banned in Japan during the war, many British and American jazz musicians had been called up and were serving their country. Many jazz musicians had spent the war in army bands where they were usually out of harm’s way. Now they had returned home, and like their Japanese counterparts were making up for lost time.

By the mid-fifties, a jazz scene had developed in Japan, during what was later referred to as the “funky period.” However, much of the jazz music being made in Japan had been influenced by American jazz and particularly the West Coast cool jazz and East Coast hard bop. Many Japanese musicians were collecting albums on Blue Note and Prestige which heavily influenced them. It would only be later that some would find their own voice. 

Meanwhile, many of the top American jazz musicians no longer serving in the US Army, and had returned home. Some joined new or existing bands while some musicians put together new bands. Initially, they returned to their local circuit where they tried to pickup where they had left off. This changed a few years later.

In the late-fifties and early sixties, many of these musicians who had played in Japan during World War II were keen to return to a country where so many loved and appreciated jazz music. They made the long journey to Japan where they were reunited with some old friends.

During this period, Miles Davis, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and  Horace Silver all made the long journey to Japan where they received a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Whether any of these legendary musicians were aware at the time, they were playing a part in the cultural rebirth of Japan. Soon, many Japanese jazz musicians weren’t just content to copy Miles Davis, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Horace Silver sonically, but were determined copy them stylistically. Before long, Japanese  jazz musicians were soon sporting the same preppy Ivy League clothes as their American counterparts. 

Despite many people enjoying the visits of American jazz musicians, the Japanese authorities heard that some musicians had been arrested on drugs offences. They tightened the law as they didn’t want musicians with drug convictions visiting the new Japan and corrupting their youth. However, with the laws tightened, much fewer American jazz musicians visited Japan. Those that visited, played in packed concert halls and continue to influence Japanese jazzers. 

Not all Japanese jazz musicians were inspired by their American counterparts by the mid-sixties as homegrown musicians were making their presence felt. Especially pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and saxophonist and flautist Sadao Watanabe who were among the leading lights of the vibrant Japanese jazz scene.

Toshiko Akiyoshi had been invited to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1955. However, it took a year of wrangling, diplomacy and arm twisting before Toshiko Akiyoshi was able to enrol at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1956. By then, Toshiko Akiyoshi was already making a name for herself outside of her native Japan and would enjoy a long and successful career.

Five years later, Sadao Watanabe released his eponymous debut album on King Records. The following year, 1962, Sadao Watanabe followed in Toshiko Akiyoshi’s footsteps and enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He too was on the cusp of a successful career.

Back home in Japan, many other Japanese jazz musicians were content to draw inspiration from their American counterparts, but decided to forge a new style of modern jazz befitting the new modern Japan. Leading this movement in the late-sixties was Sadao Watanabe whose music was progressive, experimental,  exciting and ambitious and reflected the musical influences ad genre he had absorbed. Soon, Sadao Watanabe was influencing some of the musicians who were at the forefront of a jazz revolution.

Some of Japan’s top up-and-coming jazz musicians joined Sadao Watanabe’s band, where they learned from one of the country’s top jazzers. For these musicians this was akin to a musical apprenticeship, before they headed off to play their part in the jazz revolution that took place between the late-sixties and early eighties. It’s documented on J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983. 

Tony Higgins and Mike Peden, the compilers of J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan , dig deep into their impressive record collections and select a captivating and eclectic selection of tracks that span a fifteen year period. This includes Makoto Terashita meets Harold Land who open J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983 with Dragon Dance a deep spiritual jazz opus  from the 1984 Topology. This sets the bar high, but compilers Tony Higgins and Mike Peden are up to the challenge and include  several modal jazz tracks. This includes Daguri, the stunning title-track from the Kohsuke Mine Quintet 1973 modal offering on Victor, and the hidden gem Distant Thunder from the Mabumi Yamaguchi Quartet’s 1978 album Leeward on Union Records. It’s a welcome addition to the compilation. 

So is Vietnam a mid-tempo Bossa Nova tinged track from George Kawaguchi Big Four’s George and Sleepy album. Very different and quite beautiful, but wistful sounding  is Serenade To A Dimly Lit Street from Hiroshi Matsumoto and Hideo Ishikawa Quartet’s 1969 album Megalopolis. Then there’s  funk fusion courtesy of the Electro Keyboard Orchestra, who contribute 

Mother Of The Future from their 1975 eponymous album. It gives way to Teru Sakomoto Trio’s spartan and understated acoustic funk track Teru Teru Bozu (Black Keys) from  Let’s Play Jazz Piano Vol.3.

On a compilation as good as J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983 it’s hard to mention just a few of the tracks. However, it would be remiss of me not to mention the thunderous and filmic big band sound of Little Giant the title-track to Nobuo Hara and Sharps and Flats’ 1969 album.  Closing J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983 is the blistering post bop of Akira Miyazawa’s Brown Trout. It’s the perfect way to close what’s one of the best compilations of J Jazz that has been released over the last few years.

BBE Music have Tony Higgins and Mike Peden, the compilers of J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983 to thank for digging deep into their impressive record collections and selecting such a captivating and eclectic selection of Japanese  jazz. It’s a reminder of the golden age of J Jazz, and will appeal to anyone interested in Japanese jazz. Veterans of many a previous J Jazz compilation or album, and  are newcomers to Japanese jazz will enjoy the lovingly curated J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983. In fact, anyone with even a passing interest in Jn Jazz should be looking to add J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983 to their collections. It features ambitious, exciting and innovative jazz music, which pushed musical boundaries to its limits, and sometimes,  beyond. Sadly, much of the music on J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983 never found the audience it deserved, and it’s only relatively recently, in the internet age when a new audience discovered the delights of Japanese jazz from what was its golden age.

J Jazz Volume 2–Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969–1983.