Melissa Manchester-Home To Myself, Bright Eyes, Melissa and Help Is On The Way.

It was almost inevitable that Melissa Manchester would end up embarking upon a musical career. The Manchester family were a highly creative family, with music playing an important part in everyday life. So it was no surprise that Melissa Manchester signed to Bell Records in 1973. She released her debut album Home To Myself later that year. It was joined by Bright Eyes, Melissa and Help Is On The Way on a two-CD set released by BGO Records. They’re four of the five albums Melissa Manchester released between 1973 and 1976.

This three year period was a roller coaster ride for Melissa Manchester. An important factor in the rise of Melissa Manchester was her successful songwriting partnership with Carole Bayer Sager. It helped launch Melissa’s career in 1973 when Melissa released Home To Myself. That audience were here to stay when Bright Eyes was released in 1974. However, Melissa’s fortunes changed in 1975 when her third album Melissa sold 500,000 copies. The success continued when Better Days and Happy Endings was released in 1976. Sadly, Help Is On The Way failed to fulfil its potential and failed to match the success of Melissa’s two previous albums.

Nowadays, Help Is On The Way is one of the most underrated albums Melissa Manchester releasedThis quartet of albums are the perfect introduction to one of the most versatile and talented  singer-songwriters of her generation, Melissa Manchester.


Michael Chapman-Savage Amusement-Vinyl.

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

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

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


Mike Harrison-Mike Harrison, Smokestack Lightning and Rainbow Rider.

Not many people enjoy a career that’s spanned six decades. However, Mike Harrison has. Most people remember him as the lead singer of Spooky Tooth. He also released a trio of solo albums for Island Records between 1971 and 1973. Mike’s debut album was Mike Harrison which was released in 1971. Smokestack Lightning followed in 1972, with Rainbow Rider completing the Island Records trilogy in 1973. They were reissued as a double album by BGO Records.

Mike Harrison’s Island Records’ trilogy is a reminder of a talented and versatile singer-songwriter. His albums were a mixture of original compositions and cover versions. Ballads and uptempo songs sit side-by-side. They feature elements of blues, folk, gospel, rock and soul. Each shine through on Mike Harrison, Smokestack Lightning and Rainbow Rider which represent Mike Harrison’s all too brief solo career. Sadly, Mike Harrison never quite enjoyed the commercial success his music deserved. That’s a great shame.

These three albums Mike Harrison released for Island Records showcase a talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer.  Sadly, his music never found a wider audience. Instead, Mike Harrison, like Michael Chapman and to some extent John Martyn, is another  artist who is another of music’s best kept secrets.


Milt Jackson-Sunflower and Goodbye.

By the time Milt Jackson signed to Creed Taylor’s CTi Records, he was a musical veteran who had recorded thirty-six albums. He would record three more at CTi Records. This included Sunflower and Goodbye, which were reissued by BGO Records on one disc. On both  albums, Milt Jackson is joined by  an all-star band.

They helped reinvent Milt Jackson by combining elements of post bop, hard bop, funk and soul. This results in music that swings, and is melodic, harmonic and full of subtleties, surprises and nuances. Sunflower was released in 1973, reaching number five in the US Jazz charts. At a stroke, Milt Jackson’s fortunes had been transformed. Goodbye was released to critical acclaim  1974. It was an accomplished and polished album where Milt Jackson was joined by a band that featured seasoned jazzers. Sadly, Goodbye failed to replicate the commercial success of Sunflower. It’s a hidden gem where Milt Jackson blossoms musically.

Milt Jackson enjoyed an Indian Summer at CTi Records. On Sunflower and Goodbye, he’s buoyed by the all-star band, and delivers a series virtuoso performances on his trusty vibes. Then on other tracks, he’s content to let other remembers of the band shine on Sunflower and Goodbye.. They’re a welcome reminder of Milt Jackson, who was one of the greatest vibes players in jazz history.


Nicolette Larson-Nicolette Larson, In The Nick Of Time and Radioland.

Tired of the drudgery of the working 9 to 5, Nicolette Larson decided to pursue a career in music. This had always been her dream. She was determined to make this dream come true, and in 1978 Nicolette Larson released her debut album Nicolette on Warner Bros. This was followed by 1979s In The Nick Of Time and 1980s Radioland. These three album were reissued by BGO Records as a double album, where Nicolette showcases her versatility.

Whether it was A.O.R, country, folk, pop or rock, Nicolette Larson was equally comfortable. She wasn’t averse to delivering dance tracks. It seemed that Nicolette Larson was a truly versatile singer. Despite this, only her debut album Nicolette found a wider audience. Maybe Nicolette Larson would’ve enjoyed prolonged success if those who were advising her hadn’t encouraged her to change tack? It seems In The Nick Of Time, with its excursions into dance music alienated her audience. When this happens, it was difficult to win her former fans back. 

And so it proved. Although Nicolette Larson released another four albums, she never reached the heights of her debut album Nicolette. In wasn’t just the most successful album of Nicolette Larson’s career, but the best album of her seven album and ten year recording career. Indeed, the best albums of Nicolette Larson’s career are Nicolette, In The Nick Of Time and Radioland. They’re proof that dreams can come true.


Paul Marcano and LightDreams-10,001 Dreams.

In 1981, British Columbian band LightDreams released their debut album Islands In Space. It was a captivating psychedelic sci-fi odyssey where LightDreams explored cosmic ideology. Normally, an album like Islands In Space would’ve found favour with fans of psychedelia and progressive rockers who embraced cerebral, innovative and epic albums. That wasn’t the case and Islands In Space, failed commercially. Sadly, history repeated itself a year later.

LightDreams who were now billed as Paul Marcano and LightDreams, released their sophomore album 10,001 Dreams in 1982. It picked up where Islands In Space left off, and went as far as exploring what was described as “utopian outer space colonisation.” This had fascinated Paul Marcano since he first encountered the work and theories of author, physicist and space activist, Gerard K. O’Neill. His work and theories influenced Paul Marcano  and the groundbreaking, genre-melting music on 10,001 Dreams, which was rereleased by Got Kinda Los Records, an imprint of Guerssen Records. 

Elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, folk pop, Krautrock, progressive rock and rock can be heard throughout 10,001 Dreams. It’s a musical potpourri, where instruments and influences melt into one as Paul Marcano and LightDreams sculpt another captivating psychedelic sci-fi odyssey. Just like Islands In Space, 10,001 Dreams finds  Paul Marcano and LightDreams continuing to explore cosmic ideology. The result was an ambitious, innovative and cerebral Magnus Opus, that’s truly timeless, and deserves to find its way into any self-respecting sonic explorer’s record collection.


Phil Collins-Face Value.

Originally, Phil Collins was Genesis’ drummer. However, after the departure of Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins reluctantly became the lead singer of Genesis. It was a role he grew into and eventually, seemed to embrace and enjoy. So it was no surprise that he eventually decided to embark upon a solo career. Phil Collins released his debut album Face Value in 1981.

Critics didn’t know what to expect when they received Face Value. What they discovered was an album that switches between pop and rock to jazz and progressive rock. There’s even elements of blues, funk and African music on Face Value.  It’s a mixture of uptempo rocker and heart-wrenching ballads. They’re among the highlights of Face Value, as Phil Collins lays bare his soul after the breakup of a longterm relationship. For Phil Collins, there was a cathartic quality to Face Value, which launched his solo career.

Most critics were won over by Face Value, with some hailing the album a future classic. Meanwhile, over eleven million copies of Face Value were sold worldwide. Ironically, Face Value and indeed Phil Collins later fell out of favour. However, the reissue of Face Value is a reminder a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician’s finest album.


Simple New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84)-Deluxe Edition. 

When New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) was released in 1982, it transformed the fortunes of Simple Minds. They were on their way to becoming one of the biggest Scottish bands of the eighties.  Simple  Minds were reborn as stadium rockers after the release of (81–82–83–84), which was released  as a Deluxe Edition by Universal. It’s a reminder of one of Simple Minds’ finest hours. 

After struggling for four albums, Simple Minds came of age musically on New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It feature anthems like Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize and Someone Somewhere In Summertime that helped transform Simple Minds from also rans to superstars. 

Now, Simple Minds were well on their way to superstardom. There was no stopping them as they strutted and swaggered their ways through million selling albums of stadium rock. At last, Simple Minds were fulfilling their potential. They would enjoyed many a Glittering Prize, but one of the best was New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) in 1982.  It stood head and shoulders above the rest; and transformed Simple Minds’ career. They became stadium rockers and fully fledged colossi of planet rock.


Stoneground-Family Album.

By 1971, the San Francisco music scene was still vibrant. One of the newest names were Stoneground, who had quickly built up loyal following. Soon, Stoneground had signed to Warner Bros. and released their debut album in 1971. Then in late 1971, Stoneground released their sophomore album Family Album, which was reissued by BGO Records.

Family Album was very different to most albums. It was a double album, with three sides recorded live at in front on an invited audience at KSAN radio station in San Francisco. Eventually, three sides of the album were given over to Stoneground as they fused elements of Americana to blues rock, country, folk, gospel rock and rock ’n’ roll. The fourth sides was recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, and allowed the ten piece band to showcase their considerable skills. 

When Family Album was released, critics hailed it a truly eclectic and captivating album. It found Stoneground switching between genres and playing with freedom, fluidity and spontaneity.  Some critics called the album Stoneground’s finest hour. Later, Family Album was regarded by some critics as the band’s best recording. It showed two very different sides to one of San Francisco’s great forgotten groups. 


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

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

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

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


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