HOLDING THINGS TOGETHER-THE MERLE HAGGARD SONGBOOK.

Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook.

Label: Ace Records.

For the latest instalment in their Songwriter Series, Ace Records turn the spotlight on the late Merle Haggard, who was one of the finest exponents of the Bakersfield Sound. Hag as he was known, eschewed the increasingly slick and homogenized country music that was coming out of Nashville in the early sixties. That sound wasn’t for Merle Haggard, who was one of the pioneers of the Bakersfield Sound, which provided an alternative for fans of country music.

By then, Merle Haggard was already a prolific songwriter who had enjoyed a string of hit singles. Merle Haggard was also blessed with a unique and truly memorable voice that could breathe life, meaning and emotion into the songs he recorded.

In total, Merle Haggard recorded over 100 singles which charted on the Billboard country Charts between 1962 and 1990. Around three-quarters of these songs plus many album tracks were written by Merle Haggard. Many of these tracks were then covered by other country artists, and a new generation of rock stars who had been playing them live. They then decided to cover one of Hag’s songs, which features on Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook,which was recently released by Ace Records as part of their Songwriter Series.

The best way to describe Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook is an eclectic selection of songs that features everyone from Gram Parsons, Bettye Swann, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Grateful Dead, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Tammy Wynette, Brenda Lee, Dean Martin, Dolly Parton, The Everly Brothers, Country Joe McDonald, Hank Williams Jr and Emmylou Harris. This all-star cast play their part in the success of Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook, which is a truly eclectic collection of songs.

Opening Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook is The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis who contributes a cover of Swinging Doors. It gives way to the Singing Cowboy, Roy Rogers who contributes Okie From Muskogee. Things get soulful when Bettye Swann, one of soul’s best kept secrets, delivers an emotive reading of Just Because You Can’t Be Mine. There’s a return to country music with Tammy Wynette’s cover of The Legend Of Bonnie And Clyde.

Gram Parson features three times on Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook. This includes on The Byrds’ Life In Prison from their album Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. He also was a member of The Flying Burrito Bros when they recorded White Line Fever and The International Submarine Band when they laid down I Must Be Somebody Else You’ve Known. These three tracks are a reminder of a truly talented singer who never got the opportunity to fulfil his huge potential.

There’s a number of other familiar faces on Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook, including Lynyrd Skynyrd who contribute Honky Tonk Night Time Man. They’re joined by Brenda Lee who covers Everybody’s Had The Blues, the Grateful Dead interpret Mama Tried and Dean Martin delivers a version I Take A Lot Of Pride In What I Am. Other familiar faces include Dolly Parton who covers Life’s Like Poetry and The Everly Brothers Sing Me Back Home. Elvin Bishop’s version of I Can’t Hold Myself In Line, Country Joe McDonald’s reading of Rainbow Stew and Hank Williams Jr’s rendition of I’d Rather Be Gone are all welcome additions. So are Living With The Shades Pulled Down by George Thorogood and The Destroyers and Emmylou Harris’ poignant and powerful cover of The Bottle Let Me Down which closes Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook on a high.

While many music fans and even critics remember the man who many simply referred to as Hag, as a giant of country music and one of the finest purveyors of the Bakersfield Sound, his songs were covered by all types of singers and bands. There’s everything from country, blues, psychedelia and soul on Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook which was recently released by Ace Records. It’s a truly eclectic selection of songs penned by Hag, and even features Holding Things Together by Merle Haggard and The Strangers. Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook a reminder of a truly talented singer and songwriter who was one of the giants of country music, and is a welcome inductee into Ace Records Songwriter Series. 

Holding Things Together-The Merle Haggard Songbook.

 

JETHRO TULL- THE FIRST ELEVEN ALBUMS.

Jethro Tull The First Eleven Albums.

By April 1978, Jethro Tull was still one of the most successful British bands of their generation, and were about to release their eleventh album of their career, Heavy Horses. It was the second album in a trilogy of folk rock albums and Jethro Tull hoped that Heavy Horses, would build on the success of Songs From The Wood which had been released in February 1977. It was the first instalment in Jethro Tull’s folk rock trilogy, which was a new chapter in their career which began fifteen years earlier.

The origins of Jethro Tull can be traced to Blackpool,  Lancashire,  in 1962, where Ian Anderson formed his first group Blades, which was originally a four piece, featuring Ian Anderson on vocals and harmonica. A year later in 1963, Blades was a quintet and in 1964 the group was a sextet who played blue-eyed soul. However, by 1967 blades decided to spread their wings and  head to London.

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

Before that, the nascent band had to settle on a name, and various names were tried, only to be rejected. Then someone at a booking agent christened the band Jethro Tull, after the eighteenth century agriculturist. Little did anyone realise that the newly named Jethro Tull would become one of the biggest bands in the world over the next decade. 

Not long after becoming Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson acquired his first flute. Up until then, he had played harmonica and was trying to learn to play the guitar. Soon, , Ian Anderson realised that wasn’t a great guitarist, and having realised that the  world had enough mediocre guitarists, decided to expand his musical horizons and bought a flute. Little did he realise this would be one of Jethro Tull’s trademarks.

After a couple of weeks, Ian Anderson had already picked up the basics of the flute. He was learning as he played. While this wasn’t ideal, it was the only way that possible. Especially with things happening so quickly for Jethro Tull who would soon release their debut single.

Sunshine Day was penned by Mick Abrahams, with Derek Lawrence taking charge of production. However, when their debut single was pressed, Jethro Tull realised that an error meant the  single was credited to Jethro Toe. To make matters worse, Sunshine Day wasn’t a commercial success and failed to trouble the charts. Despite this disappointment, thing got better when Jethro Tull released their debut album This Was.

This Was.

Recording of This Was took place at Sound Techniques in London, with the sessions beginning  on the ‘13th’ of June 1968, and finishing on  the ‘23rd’ of August 1968. By then,  Jethro Tull had only £1,200 was spent recording their  debut album This Was. This money would soon be recouped when This Was released. 

Prior to the release of  Jethro Tull’s  debut album This Was critics had their say on the album. The majority of the critics were impressed by This Was which was a fusion of blues rock, R&B and jazz. This pleased Jethro Tull and their management, who decided to launch This Was at the Marquee Club, in London.

Jethro Tull was only the third band to launch their debut album at the Marquee Club, and would follow in the footsteps of  the Rolling Stones and The Who. Both bands were  amongst the biggest bands in the world by 1968, and so would Jethro Tull.

On the ‘25th’ October 1968 Jethro Tull released This Was, which reached number ten in the UK. Three months later,  Jethro Tull released This Was in America on the ‘3rd’ of February 1969 and it reached sixty-two in the US Billboard 200. 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.

By then, Mick Abrahams left the band after he and Ian Anderson disagreed over the future direction of Jethro Tull. The sticking point was that Mick Abraham wanted Jethro Tull to stick with blues rock, while Ian Anderson realised there was no real future in blues rock. He wanted to take Jethro Tull to explore a variety of musical genres. As a result, Mick Abrahams left Jethro Tull and was replaced by Michael Barre. Little did either Mick Abraham nor Michael Barre realize that Stand Up marked the start of a period where Jethro Tull would sell over sixty-million albums.

Stand Up.

With new guitarist Michael Barre onboard, work began on Jethro Tull’s sophomore album Stand Up, which was a much more eclectic album to This Was. Ian Anderson who was now Jethro Tull’s primary songwriter, penned nine of the ten tracks and drew inspiration from everything from blues rock, Celtic, classical, folk and rock. These 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 on the ‘17th’ of April 1969, and continued through to the ‘21st’ of May 1969. Three months later, and Stand Up was released.

Before the release of Stand Up in September 1969, the reviews of Jethro Tull’s sophomore  album were positive, with the musicianship and production receiving praise from critics. They also noted that the Jethro Tull’s music was starting to evolve, although Stand Up still featured blues rock sound. Elsewhere on Stand Up, Jethro Tull had started to expand their musical palette and  this struck a nerve with critics and record buyers.

On Stand Up’s release in the UK on the ‘1st’ of August 1969  Jethro Tull’s sophomore album. topped the charts.  When Stand Up was released on the ‘29th’ of September 1969 it reached number twenty in the US Billboard 200 Charts and was certified gold. This was the start of  a golden period in Jethro Tull’s career. 

Benefit.

Following the commercial success of Stand Up, Jethro Tull returned to Morgan Studios, in London, on the ‘3rd’ of September 1969 and spent the next five months recording ten new tracks which were penned and produced by Ian Anderson. By the ‘25th’ of  February 1970 Jethro Tull had completed Benefit, which was much more experimental and darker album and the first album of the progressive rock years.

Before the release of Benefit, the critics had their say on Jethro Tull’s third album, which they noted had a much more experimental sound as the band flitted between progressive rock and  folk rock. Ian Anderson had allowed Jethro Tull more freedom to express themselves as he also wanted Benefit to have a live sound. This shawn through, as does Benefit’s darker sound which Ian Anderson claimed was because of the pressure of a forthcoming American tour, and his disillusionment with the business side of the music industry. However, the new sound didn’t affect sales.

Jethro Tull released Benefit on the ‘20th’ of April 1970, and it reached number three in the UK, and eleven in the US Billboard 200 Charts. Just like Stand Up, Benefit was much more popular stateside than in the UK. It seemed American record buyers “got” Jethro Tull more than their British counterparts. This would the case when Jethro Tull released their first classic album, Aqualung.

Aqualung.

By December 1970, Jethro Tull had just returned from a gruelling American tour, and were about to head into the studio to record their fourth album Aqualung. This wasn’t  ideal, and already, Ian Anderson wasn’t enjoying the months away from home. He missed his friends and family which was one of the downsides of being a member of one of the most successful rock bands in the world. To make matters worse, while his  friends and family were readying themselves for the forthcoming festive season, Ian Anderson and the rest of Jethro Tull were about to begin recording their fourth album, and their second progressive rock album, Aqualung.

Despite Jethro Tull’s gruelling touring schedule, Ian Anderson’s creativity hadn’t been stifled, and he returned with the lyrics to the band’s  most ambitious and cerebral album, Aqualung. It was a concept album that examined ”the distinction between religion and God.”  This seemed an unlikely subject for an album, even a seventies concept album. However, Aqualung, which feature two new band members was a game-changer of an album.

Joining Jethro Tull arrived at Island Studios in December 1970, where Ian Anderson and Terry Ellis took charge of production were new recruits, keyboardist John Evans and bassist Jeffrey Hammond. Both were looking forward to  recording their first album with their new band, which was another album of progressive rock that featured elements of folk rock. Aqualung  took until  February 1970 to complete, but was worth the wait as it was Jethro Tull’s most cerebral and philosophical album and also their most successful album.

Once Aqualung was completed, neither Chrysalis in Britain, nor Reprise in America wasted time in releasing Jethro Tull’s fourth album. Given the subject matter, there must have been a degree of trepidation amongst the executives at both record companies as concept albums were controversial. However,  a concept album that examined ”the distinction between religion and God” could prove hugely controversial and there could be a huge backlash against the album given its subject matter.

As copies of Aqualung were sent out to critics, executives at Chrysalis and Reprise awaited their reviews with bated breath. They need not have worried as most of the reviews were positive, with critics remarking upon the quality of the music, the standard of the musicianship and Ian Anderson’s thought-provoking and cerebral lyrics. Many critics hailed  Aqualung  as Jethro Tull’s finest album and a  progressive rock classic. Record buyers agreed.

On the release of Aqualung on the ‘19th’ of March 1971, it reached number four in the UK. Meanwhile, Aqualung reached seven in the US Billboard 20 and was certified triple platinum in America. Elsewhere, Aqualung reached number five in Germany, and was certified gold and Jethro Tull’s fourth album sold  seven million copies worldwide. This transformed Jethro Tull’s fortunes, who now one of the biggest rock bands in the world. 

For the two new members of Jethro Tull, this must have been hard to take in. Suddenly, they were part of a band who had just sold over seven million albums which must have seemed surreal for the newcomers.  Meanwhile,  another member of Jethro Tull decided to call it a day after the success of Aqualung.

Drummer Clive Bunker had been a member of Jethro Tull since the early days and it wasn’t going to be easy to replace him. He had decided to bow out after Jethro Tull’s most successful album, and must have known that following up Aqualung wasn’t going to be easy.

Thick As A Brick.

After the commercial success and critical acclaim of Aqualung, critics, record company executives and the record buying public wondered what Ian Anderson had in-store for the fifth Jethro Tull album?As always, it was a case of expect the unexpected.

What nobody expected, was that Ian Anderson would pen one lengthy track that took up both sides of Thick Of A Brick. Side one of the original album featured Thick as a Brick Part I, while side two featured Thick as a Brick Part II. This song of two parts comprised Jethro Tull’s latest concept album which was recorded at Morgan Studios, in London during December 1971 and was the first to feature new drummer, Barriemore Barlow.

Following critics conclusion that Aqualung was a “concept album,” Ian Anderson decided to have some fun at the critic’s expense. He decided to “come up with something that really is the mother of all concept albums.” Among his influences were Monty Python and the movie Airplane. Just like Airplane poked fun at the cinema goers, filmmakers and critics, Thick Of A Brick saw Jethro Tull poke fun at their audience and music critics. However, Jethro Tull weren’t laughing at their audience, they were laughing with them and maybe, were laughing at other groups.

Later, Ian Anderson would say Thick As A Brick was a reaction against the concept albums being released by groups like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. That would explain why Ian Anderson produced an album that he later described as “bombastic” and “over the top.” 

Thick As A Brick was recorded in a day. It was meant to be an adaptation of an epic poem written by a fictional eight year old prodigy, Gerald Bostock. Ian Anderson even went as far as giving the fictional Gerald Bostock a co-credit. The poem was meant to be pseudo Homeric, but with a bombastic, humorous style. The album came wrapped in a cover that replicates a comedic newspaper and  features the poem penned by the child prodigy. Although Thick As A Brick’s album cover and the album had spoof written all over it, many people didn’t get Jethro Tull, or more specifically, Ian Anderson’s unique style of humour. It was way too subtle.

With Thick As A Brick complete, and the fictional Gerald Bostock’s epic poem brought to life, copies of the album were sent out to critics. They hailed the album one of Jethro Tull’s finest. The music on Thick As A Brick was groundbreaking, innovative, slick and sophisticated. Most critics were won over by music that was complicated, but tinged with subtle humour. Incredibly, some critics failed to find the funny side of Thick As A Brick, and bought it hook, line and sinker. They failed to see that Jethro Tull were poking fun at the concept album, and laughing along with their audience at what Ian Anderson perceived as its pomposity. However, what very few critics overlooked was Jethro Tull’s first true progressive rock offering.

Thick As A Brick marked the completion of Jethro Tull’s move towards progressive rock which they had toyed with on their two previous albums. On Thick As A Brick they embraced  progressive rock fully, on album  which featured numerous musical themes, changes in time signature and tempo shifts. This proved popular with their legion of fans.

When Thick As A Brick  was released on the ‘10th’ of March 1972 it reached number one in Australia, Canada and the US Billboard 200 charts. Back home in Britain, Thick As A Brick reached number thirteen which wasn’t unlucky for Jethro Tull. Thick As A Brick  proved to be Jethro Tull’s most popular album in Britain and was certified silver. Meanwhile Thick As A Brick was certified gold in America and Ian Anderson’s parodic concept album saw Jethro Tull triumph again, as they became progressive  rock pioneers.

A Passion Play.

In March 1973, Jethro Tull returned to Morgan Studios, where they began work on their sixth album A Passion Play. It was another concept album where individual songs were arranged into a single continuous piece of music that followed the progress of the spiritual journey of Ronnie Pilgrim in the afterlife. Just like Aqualung, it was an ambitious and innovative album that was cerebral and through-provoking.

By the time work began on A Passion Play, the members of Jethro Tull were contemplating moving to France to escape the punitive tax rates that were imposed on high earners like rock stars. Jethro Tull had even identified the Château d’Hérouville as a potential venue to record A Passion Play which was meant to be a double album.

Eventually, Jethro Tull had only enough material for three sides of the double album, and they decided that A Passion Play should be a single album. One of the tracks, The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles seems to have been inspired by Prokofiev’s Peter and The Wolf, while other parts of A Passion Play are reminiscent of to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and John Milton’s A Passion Play, as Jethro Tull decided to head further down the road marked progressive rock. However, they also incorporated elements of traditional English folk music and played an array of disparate instruments on A Passion Play which was scheduled for release in July 1973.

Prior to the release of A Passion Play, critics had their say on Jethro Tull’s sixth album, but the majority of reviews were highly critical of the album. Although none of the critics were won over by A Passion Play, but record buyers were.

Despite the poor reviews, A Passion Play still reached thirteen in the UK on its release on the ‘13th’ of July 1973 and was certified silver. Ten days later, A Passion Play was released in North America on the ‘23rd’ of July 1973 and reached number one in Canada and the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Jethro Tull had triumphed over adversity for Jethro Tull, and had now old in excess of five million albums in America alone.

War Child.

Following the criticism of A Passion Play, it looked as like the end of the road for Jethro Tull, and it was rumoured that Ian Anderson was going to disband the group. However, eventually, Jethro Tull returned in October 1974 with a new album War Child.

Some of the tracks that hadn’t been used on Aqualung and A Passion Play resurfaced on War Child, which had been recorded in Morgan Studios, London, and in the Château d’Hérouville. Despite the poor reviews of A Passion Play, it was a much more relaxed Jethro Tull that recorded the new tracks at Château d’Hérouville that would feature on War Child. 

It was meant to be a double album that accompanied a film project The War Child, which was described as a metaphysical black comedy based on a teenage girl in the afterlife, who meeting characters based on God, St. Peter and Lucifer who were portrayed as shrewd businessmen. However, the film was abandoned after failing to find a major movie studio willing to finance it. This left just War Child.

When War Child was finished, it followed in the footsteps of A Passion Play, and was another album of orchestrated album of progressive rock that sometimes, headed in the direction of a more traditional rock sound. However, just like A Passion Play, critics disliked War Child, and wrote scathing reviews of the album. No longer were Jethro Tull the darlings of the critics.

Despite that, War Child was released on the ’14th’ of October 1974, and reached fourteen in the UK and two on the US Billboard 200. This was enough for another gold disc for Jethro Tull, who knew that they needed to change tack for their next album.

Minstrel In The Gallery.

By the time Jethro Tull began work on their eighth album Minstrel In The Gallery, they were one of the biggest selling groups of the seventies. However, this came at a cost to songwriter-in-chief and lead vocalist, and the constant cycle recording an album and then touring it, had cost him his marriage. Commercial success and critical acclaim had come at cost, by April 1975, Ian Anderson’s marriage to Jennie Franks had ended in divorce. It wasn’t a good time for the Jethro Tull frontman.

When Ian Anderson began work on what became Minstrel In The Gallery, it proved a cathartic experience, he wrote about his divorce, and the pressures of having to constantly, write, record and tour. These songs were recorded between the ‘5th’ of May 1975 and the ‘7th’ of June 1975 at Maison Rouge Mobile Studio, in Monaco. Ian Anderson had brought onboard a string quartet, to replace the orchestra that featured on the two previous albums. This he hoped would help transform Jethro Tull’s fortunes.  Once Minstrel In The Gallery was completed, it was scheduled for release in September 1975. Before that, the critics had their say.

The reviews of Minstrel In The Gallery were hardly glowing and some critics slated the album. Rolling Stone’s unnamed critic didn’t hold back. Their review called Minstrel In The Gallery “instantly forgettable.” However, Rolling Stone weren’t alone, and only a few reviews were favourable and the majority of the reviews were mixed. No longer was Jethro Tull’s fusion of progressive rock, folk rock and hard rock as popular amongst the critics. It was a different case with the record buying public, who had the final say.

On its release in Britain on the ‘5th’ of September 1975, Minstrel In The Gallery reached number twenty and was certified sliver. Three days later, Minstrel In The Gallery was released on the ‘8th’ of September 1975 and reached number two in the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold. Meanwhile, in Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden, Minstrel In The Gallery sold well and Jethro Tull were still one of the biggest bands of the seventies, thanks to Minstrel In The Gallery.

Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die!

After the gruelling Minstrels In The Gallery tour, bassist Jeffrey Hammond was exhausted. Life with Jethro Tull seemed to be a schedule of record an album, then tour the album. It was non-stop and Jeffrey Hammond wanted to slow down,  so, after the Minstrels In The Gallery tour, he announced he was leaving to become an artist. For Jethro Tull, this presented a problem, as they were about to record their ninth album Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die!

Fortunately, John Glascock was recruited and joined Jethro Tull just in time to record their latest concept album Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die! at Radio Monte Carlo, using the Maison Rouge Mobile Studio. This wasn’t the same studio that Jethro Tull had used to record Minstrels In The Gallery. However, Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! which was recorded between the ’19th’ of November 1975 and the ’27th’ of January 1976 was a very different album to its predecessor.

Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die! told the story of Ray Lomas,  an ageing rock star, who had retired from music, when the music he played fell out of fashion. Still, Ray Lomas was a greaser who wasn’t going to have a makeover. Not even when he went onto the “Quizz” show and won the jackpot. Even money however, didn’t bring Ray Lomas happiness.

After winning the money, Ray Lomas tries to commit suicide, and like the Sleeping Beauty, he falls into a deep sleep. When Ray Lomas wakes up, the greaser fashion is back in style, and he makes a comeback. Never did he lose faith that his style would come back into fashion. This was the story that Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die was attempting to tell and which featured on cartoon printed on the album cover. However, not everyone was impressed by Jethro Tull’s latest concept album.

Critics on hearing Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die weren’t impressed with the album, and felt that the plot lacked clarity and Ian Anderson may have been a gifted lyricist, but wasn’t a  storyteller. The reviews of Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die ranged from poor to mixed, but not all of these reviews were an honest reflection on the music on the album. 

The rise of punk, which was the antithesis to progressive rock, resulted in groups like Jethro Tull being labelled musical dinosaurs by a new breed of gunslinger critics. They perceived Jethro Tull as remnants of the music’s past and slated their albums. This affected sales of Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die.

When Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die was released on the ’23rd’ of April 1976, it stalled at fifteen in the UK. Three weeks later, on the ’17th’ of May 1976 Too Old To Rock ’N’ Roll: To Young To Die reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 200, and this time there was no gold disc for Jethro Tull. By then, Jethro Tull realised that they had to change direction and  soon, the folk rock years would begin.

Songs From The Wood.

Following the disappointment of Too Old To Rock N’ Roll: Too Young To Die, Jethro Tull decided to reinvent their music and move in the direction of folk rock. This new era began at Morgan Studios, in London where between September and November 1976 Jethro Tull recorded the nine songs that became Songs From The Wood.

It’s an album that is rich in imagery from medieval Britain, while Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain seems to have inspired Ian Anderson as he wrote Songs From The Wood. Songs Jack-In-The Green, Cup Of Wonder and Ring Out Solstice Bells are full of medieval imagery and transport the listener back in time to another time and another place. Meanwhile, Velvet Green and Fire At Midnight showcase what’s best described as an ornamental folk arrangements while Pibroch (Cap in Hand) has a much more experimental sound. However, despite the strong folk influence on Songs From The Wood, Ian Anderson was quick to dismiss this description as irrelevant, and instead saw the album as Jethro Tull reaffirming their British identity. 

With Songs From The Wood complete, critics had their say on Jethro Tull’s first folk rock album. The majority of the albums were positive, and this made a change from recent Jethro Tull albums which had been slated by critics. It looked as if their luck was changing.

When Songs From The Wood was released on ’4th’ of February 1977, it reached number twenty in the UK and eight in the US Billboard 200. This was enough for gold discs on both sides of the Atlantic, as Jethro Tull announced their return with Songs From The Wood which marked the start of the folk rock years.

Heavy Horses.

Buoyed by the success of Songs From The Wood, Jethro Tull began work on their second folk rock album, Heavy Horses. Although Ian Anderson was still Jethro Tull’s songwriter-in-chief Martin Barre and David Palmer who both contributed to Heavy Horses. Mostly, though, Heavy Horses was an album written by Ian Anderson  and which featured telluric, imaginative and esoteric themes than those that feature on Songs From The Wood.

Journey Man saw Ian Anderson writing about how humans have to conform each and every day of their life. On a lighter note, Rover was dedicated to Ian Anderson’s dog and …And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps for his cat and No Lullaby was written for his young son, James. However, other songs found Ian Anderson contemplating the ever-changing and disappearing world which prove poignant and powerful. Meanwhile, Acres Wild and Weathercock find Ian Anderson hoping and pleading that better days are ahead for planet earth. Then there’s Heavy Horse, which is the second of two complicated suites that is comparable to the music on Aqualung, as it progresses from a  piano led ballad to the galloping arrangement which Ian Anderson knew that the older and more experienced lineup of Jethro Tull would cope with admirably as they began recording their eleventh album in May 1977.

This time, Maison Rouge Studio, in Fulham, London, was where Jethro Tull recorded their much-anticipated eleventh album Heavy Horses between May 1977 and January 1978. By then, Jethro Tull’s rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Barriemore Barlow, bassist John Glascock and guitarist Martin Barre. John Evan played piano and organ while David Palmer played  pipe organ, keyboards and  took charge of the orchestral arrangements. Ian Anderson played flute, mandolin, acoustic and occasionally electric guitar. Augmenting Jethro Tull was Curved Air violinist Darryl Way who featured on Acres Wild and Heavy Horses. He played his part on what was another carefully crafted, cerebral and thought-provoking album.

On Songs From The Wood, Jethro Tull decided to reinvent their music again, by eschewing the folk lyrical content that featured on their previous album, Songs From The Wood. It was replaced by a much more realistic outlook at a wold that was changing, and changing fast. Despite that, Heavy Horses was dedicated by Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull to the: “indigenous working ponies and horses of Great Britain.” 

With Heavy Horses completed, critics were keen to hear the followup to Songs From The Wood, and were pleasantly surprised to hear Jethro Tull at their tightest for many years rocking hard on an album of folk rock that sometimes headed in the direction of progressive rock. It seemed that progressive rock wasn’t in Jethro Tull’s past despite their recent reinvention as a folk rock band. However, Jethro Tull unlike many of their contemporaries weren’t willing to embrace punk and post punk in an attempt to win back listeners.

Instead, Jethro Tull stuck to their guns, and recorded Heavy Horses which was the folk rock album they had always intended to record. Granted, it was a harder rocking album and much more progressive album than Songs From The Wood, and won that found favour with critics.

Just like Songs From The Wood, critics lavished praise and critical acclaim on Heavy Horses and especially the instrumental arrangements, esoteric, cerebral and thought-provoking lyrics and when Jethro Tull decided to kick loose and rock hard. However, winning over critics was only half the battle, and Jethro Tull had still to win over record buyers with Heavy Horses.

They need not have worried, because when Heavy Horses was released on the ’10th’ of April 1978, it reached twenty in the and nineteen in the US Billboard 200. This was enough for a silver disc in the UK and a gold disc in America. However, that wasn’t the end of the story of Heavy Horses which was also certified gold in Canada. Record buyers just like critics in Britain and North America had been won over by Jethro Tull’s latest folk rock album.

Heavy Horses which was the second of Jethro Tull’s folk rock trilogy, continues where Songs From The Wood left off, and finds Ian Anderson continuing their return to form. They were once again enjoying commercial success and critical success and had now sold in excess of seven million albums in America alone. Jethro Tull had come a long way since their early days as a blues rock band, and were still one of the most successful British bands of the seventies.

Ironically, Jethro Tull was still more popular in America than in Britain, where record buyers never seemed to ‘get’ their music. That was the case during their progressive rock years, and also when they reinvented themselves as a folk rock group. This began with Songs From The Wood, which was the next chapter in Jethro Tull’s folk rock years and continued on on their eleventh album Heavy Horses. The chameleon like Jethro Tull had returned with another carefully crafted, cerebral, progressive and thought-provoking folk rock album which features them at their hard rocking best on the last chapter in the first eleven .

Jethro Tull The First Eleven Albums.

 

TIM MAIA- THE FIRST TEN ALBUMS: 1970-1978.

Tim Maia-The First Ten Albums: 1970-1978: . 

By 1978, charismatic Brazilian singer-songwriter Tim Maia’s career was at a crossroads and he was worried about what the future held for him. Tim Maia found himself financially embarrassed, after  a couple of musically barren years. 

He had spent much of the money he earned on cars, musical instruments and the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. This Tim Maia had embraced almost defiantly over the last few years, and this proved to be part of his undoing,

Things  had been going from bad to worse over the last few years as he found himself being chased by bailiffs and debt collectors on a daily basis. It was a far cry from the critical acclaim and commercial success that Tim Maia had enjoyed earlier in his career. That seemed a long time  for Tim Maia who was still only twenty-eight.

Tim Maia, who was born in Rio De Janeiro on September the ‘28th’ 1942.Tim Maia was the eighteenth of nineteen children. Aged just six, Tim Maia earned a living delivering homemade food which his mother cooked. This Tim Maia hoped would be the nearest he ever got to an ordinary job. After that, Tim Maia decided to devote himself to music which offered him an escape from the grinding poverty that was around him. 

It turned out that Tim Maia was a prodigiously talented child, who wrote his first song as an eight year old. By the time he was fourteen, Tim Maia had learnt to play the drums and formed his first group Os Tijucanos do Ritmo. They were only together for a year, but during that period, Tim Maia took guitar lessons and was soon a proficient guitarist. This would stand him in good stead in the future.

In 1957, Tim Maia domed vocal harmony group, The Sputniks who made a television appearance on Carlos Eduardo Imperial’s Clube do Rock. However, the group was a short-lived, and Tim Maia embarked upon a solo career. This lasted until 1959, when seventeen year old Tim Maia made the decision to emigrate.

Tim Maia decided to head to America, which he believed he was the land of opportunity and headed to New York with just twelve dollars in his pocket. On his arrival, Tim Maia who was unable to speak English, managed to bluff his way through customs, telling the officials that he was a student called Jimmy. Incredibly, the customs officer believed him and Tim Maia made his way to Tarrytown, New York, where he lived with extended family and started making plans for the future. By then, Tim Maia had decided he would never return to Brazil.

During his time in New York, Tim Maia held down a variety of casual jobs and it has been alleged that he even augmented his meagre earnings by committing petty crimes. However, Tim Maia also learnt to speak and sing in English, which lead to him forming a vocal group The Ideals.

During his time with The Ideals, they decided to record a demo which included New Love which featured lyrics by Tim Maia. When The Ideals entered the studio, percussionist Milton Banana made a guest appearance. Sadly, nothing came of the demo, although Tim Maia later resurrected New Love for his album Tim Maia 1973. Before that, things went awry for Tim Maia and he was eventually deported.

Confusion surrounds why and when Tim Maia was deported from America, and there’s two possible explanations. The first, and more rock ’n’ roll version is that Tim Maia was arrested on possession of cannabis in 1963, and deported shortly thereafter. That seems unlikely given how punitive penalties for possession of even a small quantity of cannabis were in the sixties. Indeed, it’s highly unlikely that Tim Maia would’ve deported, without having to serve a jail sentence first. This lends credence to the allegation that Tim Maia  was caught in a stolen car in Daytona, Florida, and after serving six months in prison, he was deported back to Brazil in 1964.

Now back home in Brazil, Tim Maia’s life seemed to be going nowhere fast. He was fired from several jobs, and was also arrested several times. It was no surprise when Tim Maia decided to move to São Paulo, where he hoped that he could get his career back on track.

Having moved to São Paulo, Tim Maia, hoped he would be reunited with Roberto Carlos who had been a member of The Sputniks. Ironically, it was Roberto Carlos who Tim Maia had insulted before he left The Sputniks. Despite leaving several messages, Roberto Carlos never returned Tim Maia’s calls and he had no option but to try to make his own way in the São Paulo music scene. 

Tim Maia’s persistence paid off, and soon, he had featured on Wilson Simonal’s radio show, and then appeared alongside Os Mutantes on local television. Despite making inroads into the São Paulo music scene, Tim Maia was determined to contact Roberto Carlos and sent him a homemade demo. Eventually, Tim Maia’s persistence paid off.

When Roberto Carlos heard the demo, he recommended Tim Maia to CBS who offered him a recording deal for a single, and an appearance on the Jovem Guarda television program. However, when Tim Maia’s released his debut single Meu País in 1968, it failed to find an audience.

Tim Maia tried a new approach with his sophomore single and recorded These Are the Songs, in English. It was released later in 1968, but again, commercial success eluded Tim Maia. Things weren’t looking good for the twenty-six year old singer.

Fortunately, Tim Maia’s luck changed when he wrote These Are the Songs for Roberto Carlos, which gave his old friend a hit single. At last, things were looking up for Tim Maia.

Things continued to improve when Elis Regina became captivated by Tim Maia’s song These Are the Songs. This led to Elis Regina asking Tim Maia to duet with her on the song. Tim Maia agreed and they recorded the song in English and Portuguese, which the song featured on Elis Regina’s 1970 album Em Pieno Veroa. Recording with such a famous Brazilian singer gave Tim Maia’s career a huge boost, and soon, he was offered a recording contract by Polydor. 

Having signed to Polydor in 1970, and somewhat belatedly recorded his debut album Tim Maia 1970. Although it showcased a talented, versatile and charismatic singer, who married soul and funk with samba and Baião. This groundbreaking album spent twenty-four weeks in the upper reaches of the Brazilian charts and launched Tim Maia’s career.

The following year, Tim Maia returned with his sophomore album Tim Maia 1971, where elements of soul and funk were combined with samba and Baião There were even hints of jazz, psychedelia and rock, during what was an ambitious and innovative album of genre-melting music which was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. Tim Maia 1971 also featured two hits singles Não Quero Dinheiro (Só Quero Amar) and Preciso Aprender a Ser Só. Tim Maia’s star was in the ascendancy, and it looked as if he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest stars in Brazilian music. 

After the success of his sophomore album, Tim Maia headed to London to celebrate  after years of struggling to make a breakthrough. For the first time in his career he was making a good living out of music, and Tim Maia was determined to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of his label. However,  it was during this trip to London, that he first discovered his love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. 

Realising that he was only here for a visit, Tim Maia embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and almost defiantly, lived each day as if it was his last. He hungrily devoured copious amounts of drugs and alcohol which became part of Tim Maia’s daily diet. Fortunately, his new-found lifestyle didn’t seem to affect Tim Maia’s ability to make music. That was until Tim Maia discovered a new drug that would prove to be his undoing.

In London, Tim Maia discovered LSD He became an advocate of its supposed mind opening qualities. He took 200 tabs of LSD home to Brazil, giving it to friend and people at his record label. Little did Tim Maia know, but this was like pressing the self destruct button. 

Over the next two years, he released two further albums, Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973 which were released to critical acclaim and commercial success in Brazil. The only problem was that after the success of Tim Maia 1973, Tim Maia became unhappy at the royalty rate he was receiving from his publisher. This lead to him founding his own publishing company Seroma, which coincided with Tim Maia signing to RCA Victor

They had offered Tim Maia the opportunity to record a double album for his fifth album. He was excited by this opportunity and, agreed to sign to RCA Victor, and soon, began work on his fifth album. Somehow, Tim Maia was still seemed able to function normally on his daily diet of drink and drugs. Before long, he had already recorded the instrumental parts, and all that was left was for Tim to write the lyrics. 

Seeking inspiration for the lyrics, Tim Maia decided to visit one of his former songwriting partners Tibério Gaspar. That was where Tim main found the book that would change his life, but sadly,  not for the better. The book was Universo em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment), which revolved around the cult of Rational Culture who didn’t believe in eating red meat or using drugs. Given Tim Maia’s voracious appetite for drink and drugs, he seemed an unlikely candidate to join the cult. However, sadly, he did.

Straight away, the cult’s beliefs affected Tim Maia and his music. Ever since he joined the cult of Rational Energy, he beam fixated on UFOs, Tim was now clean-shaved, dressed in white and no longer drank, ate red meat, smoked or took drugs. Always in his hand was a mysterious book. Tim Maia was a changed man, and even his music changed.

The lyrics for his fifth album, and RCA Victor debut, were supposedly about his newly acquired knowledge that came courtesy of Universo em Desencanto. With the ‘lyrics’ complete, Tim Maia’s vocals were overdubbed onto what became Racional Volumes 1 and 2. With the album completed, Tim took it to  RCA Victor who promptly rejected the album. 

RCA Victor’s reason for rejecting the album was that it wasn’t of a commercial standard. To make matters worse, the lyrics made absolutely no sense. There was  only one small crumb of comfort, and that was that Tim Maia’s voice was improving. That hardly mattered for RCA Victor, who weren’t going to release the album. For RCA Victor, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 was huge disappointment. 

That was until Tim Maia offered to buy the master tapes from RCA Victor, so that he could release the album independently. RCA Victor accepted his offer, which allowed them to recoup some of their money. Having bought the master tapes, Tim Maia set about releasing Racional Volume 1 in 1975. Sadly, it didn’t enjoy the same critical acclaim and commercial success of Tim Maia’s four previous albums. Suddenly, many of Tim Maia’s fans thought he was no longer the artist he once was. 

After releasing Racional Volume 1 in 1975, Tim Maia returned in 1976 with his sixth album Racional Volume 2. Lightning struck twice when Racional Volume 2 failed to impress the critics and was a commercial failure. Nowadays, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 are cult classics, whereas in 1976 they tarnished Tim Maia’s reputation. Maybe this was the wakeup call he needed?

In 1976, Tim quit the cult after the release of Racional Volume 2. By then, he had fallen out with its leader and felt as if he had been duped. So much so, that Tim Maia wanted the master tapes to Racional, Volumes 1 and 2 destroyed. The two albums were part of his past, and now Tim Maia was ready and wanted to move forward.

Tim Maia’s music changed after Tim Maia Racional, Volumes 1 and 2 as he entered what was the most prolific period of his career. This began with the release of Tim Maia in 1976, which saw the thirty-four year old combine soul, funk and MPB (música popular brasileira). However, although Tim Maia proved reasonably popular upon its release, it didn’t match the success of his first four albums.

After the disappointment of his previous album, Tim Maia returned in 1977 with eighth album which he once again, decided to call Tim Maia. It found Tim Maia combining soul, funk and Latin influences on what’s an underrated album. Sadly, Tim Maia failed commercially and thirty-five year old Tim Maia was a worried man.

Ever since he had been signed by Polydor and received his first advance, Tim Maia had lavished large sums of money on everything from cars and musical instruments to his continued love of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. The rest of Tim Maia’s money was used to pay various fines he ran up, and to pay lawyers bills that had accumulated over the last few years. This came at a price, and by 1977, Tim Maia realised that he was insolvent. Almost every day, Tim Maia was forced to play a cat and mouse game as he left his flat as bailiffs and debt collectors who were constantly chasing him for unpaid bills. It was a worrying time for Tim Maia. However, Tim Maia knew that if he could record another successful album then all his financial problems would be solved.

Fortunately, there was still a small sum of money left from the advance Tim Maia had received from Polydor, and he decided to use this to record his ninth album. Unlike previous albums, he decided to record the album in English, which was something Tim Maia had always dreamt of. Using the last of his advance, he put a band together and recorded Tim Maia en Ingles. When the album was released in early 1978, Tim Maia en Ingles sold less than 10,000 which was nothing compared to what his other albums had sold. This was another financial disaster for Tim Maia whose finances went from bad to worse. 

With no money, and his popularity at an all-time low, the future wasn’t looking good for Tim Maia who watched as Brazil was won over by disco. The film Saturday Night Fever had just been released in Brazil, and records by Chic, Gloria Gaynor, KC and The Sunshine Band and Kool and The Gang were filling dancefloors in clubs across the country. Little did Tim Maia that two of the leading lights of Brazilian music were hatching a plan for him to record a disco album.

Lincoln Olivetti was one of the top arrangers in Brazil, while Guti Carvalho one of the country’s leading producers and they were keen to record a disco album with Tim Maia. They were both aware that the maverick singer was one of Brazil’s most talented singers, but were also aware of the reputation of being unpredictable. Their job was to harness Tim Maia’s talent and help him record an album where he reached the heights of his first four albums. However, to do that, required the backing of a record company.

Guti Carvalho approached Warner Bros in the hope that they would be interested in signing the flawed genius Tim Maia. However, they were well aware of his past and knew what had happened when he signed to RCA Victor. However, eventually, they decided to take a chance on Tim Maia, and he signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. His debut for his new label was Disco Club, which was arranged by Lincoln Olivetti and produced by Guti Carvalho.

Backed by a band that featured top musicians, the initial recording sessions went well until there a problem arose. When Tim Maia went to listen to the playback of Pais E Filhos he wasn’t impressed by what he heard, so producer Guti Carvalho opened the microphone to ask Miguel Cidrás to listen to the playback. Not knowing the microphone was open, Tim Maia explained that he felt his voice was being overpowered by the strings, and would rather have one of his friend arranging the strings. Miguel Cidrás heard every world and raced into the studio and grabbed Tim Maia by his tie and through him to the ground and it’s alleged started choking him. It took Guti Carvalho and Piau to get Miguel Cidrás off of Tim Maia.

As Tim Maia gasped for breath, he made it clear that he wanted Miguel Cidrás to play no further part in the session. He was gone for good as far as Tim Maia was concerned. Meanwhile, Miguel Cidrás was furious at this act of disrespect, but Warner Bros realised that the session couldn’t continue with him and at great expense paid the Argentinean arranger off. Things only lightened up when Tim Maia’s friend Mauricio do Valle arrived at the session and produced a large bag of cocaine. Suddenly, things started to return to normal.

After that, Tim Maia’s tenth album Disco Club began to take shape, and over the next few days and weeks, the musical maverick recorded what was one of his finest albums. It combines disco with funk, soul, MPB and occasionally jazz and rock. Disco Club’s slick, polished and hook-laden sound found an audience across Brazil when it was released later in 1978. Tim Maia’s Disco Club became one of the most successful albums of his career. 

The Brazilian soul man was back with what’s one of the finest album that Tim Maia released during a career that spanned three decades and thirty-four albums. Disco Club marked the return of the maverick soul man whose career had been a roller coaster since making a commercial breakthrough with Tim Maia 1970. 

Since then, he had embraced become one of the most successful Brazilian singers of the early seventies, defiantly embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, joined a cult and spent all the money that had earned. That was why Tim Maia found himself playing a game of cat and mouse with bailiffs and debt collectors before releasing Disco Club. However, apart from joining the cult, Tim Maia enjoyed every minute of the past eight years Tim Maia knew he was only here for a visit and set out to live life to the full.

That was just as well as Tim Maia passed away on March the ‘15th’ 1998, aged just fifty-five. Sadly, by then, Tim’ Mai’s shows and behaviour had become predictable, and that had been the case since his 1976 post-Racional comeback. 

Tim Maia was never the same man or musician after his dalliance with the cult of rational behaviour. However, Disco Club was one of the finest albums Tim Maia released after his post-Racional comeback. Just like  his first four albums Disco Club is a poignant reminder of one of Brazilian music’s most talented sons at the peak of his power.

Since his death in 1998, Tim Maia’s music has been a well-kept secret outside of his native Brazil, and even within Brazil, many people still aren’t aware of Tim Maia’s music. However, older record buyers still talk about the maverick singer-songwriter in hushed tones and remember the flawed genius that was Tim Maia who could’ve, and should’ve, been a huge star outside of his native Brazil. Sadly, something held him back, and stopped Tim Maia from enjoying the widespread commercial success and critical acclaim that his music richly deserved. That is despite Tim Maia being a hugely talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer who was capable of producing several classic albums,  during  his long and eventful career.

Tim Maia-The First Ten Albums: 1970-1978: . 

NICOLETTE LARSON-THE WARNER BROS YEARS.

Nicolette Larson-The Warner Bros Years.

Nowadays, far too many people are scared to follow their dream and instead, settle for second best and the drudgery of working 9-5. Sadly, it’s only much later, when it’s too late, that they realise what they gave up and what might have been. Nicolette Larson was determined that wasn’t going to happen to her and after spending three semesters at the University Of Missouri and working various dead-end jobs, left to pursue a career in music. This must have left her friends and family shaking their heads and sagely saying that it was a decision that Nicolette Larson would live to regret. 

How wrong they were. Over the next few years, Nicolette Larson sang backing vocals for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Eric Anderson, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young. Later, she added harmonies on albums by Marcia Ball, Norton Buffalo and Rodney Crowell. By then, Nicolette Larson had been signed to the country division of Warner Bros, and in 1978 her debut album Nicolette was certified gold. It was the next chapter in the Nicolette Larson story, which began twenty-six years earlier.

Nicolette Larson was born in Helena, Montana on July the ’17th’ 1952, and led a somewhat a nomadic existence growing up. This couldn’t be helped, as her father worked for the US Treasury, and was often transferred to other towns and cities. Sometimes,  Nicolette was just starting to make friends and settling into a new school, when the Larson family were on the move again. By the time Nicolette Larson graduated high school, the Larson family were living in Kansas City, Missouri. Next stop for Nicolette Larson was the University Of Missouri. 

Having enrolled at the University Of Missouri, it wan’t long before Nicolette Larson realised that student life wasn’t for her. After spending what must have been three long semesters studying at the University Of Missouri, Nicolette Larson decided to leave academia behind.

Things didn’t get much better for Nicolette Larson, over the next few weeks and months, worked a variety of dead-end jobs in Missouri. She waited tables and experienced the nine to five drudgery of working in an office. Eventually, Nicolette Larson decided to follow her dream, and pursue a career in music. 

This Nicolette Larson knew wasn’t going to be easy, and was going to take time, persistence and dogged determination. It also meant that she would need to leave Missouri behind, and head to one of America’s musical cities, and eventually, settled on San Francisco, which had a thriving music scene.

That had been the case since the birth of rock ’n’ roll.  Nicolette Larson’s first job in San Francisco, was in one of the city’s many record stores. In her spare time, Nicolette Larson volunteered at the Golden Gate Country Bluegrass Festival. 

As Nicolette Larson watched the artists perform at the Golden Gate Country Bluegrass Festival, she became even more determined to become a singer. So much so, that she was willing to travel to Canada to make her debut opening for vocalist Eric Anderson in Vancouver, British Columbia. Buoyed by having made her professional debut as a singer, Nicolette Larson returned home, and began looking for work as a singer.

Fortunately, Hoyt Axton was looking for backing singers to join his band, Hoyt Axton and The Banana Band, who were due to open for Joan Baez on her 1975 Diamonds and Rust tour. Nicolette Larson passed the audition, and joined Hoyt Axton and The Banana Band the tour. During the tour, Nicolette Larson made a big impression on Hoyt Axton was also producing country rock band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s album Tales From The Ozone. He was looking for singers to add backing vocals.

Nicolette Larson and Guthrie Thomas fitted the bill, and they both made her debut on Tales From The Ozone. It was released in 1975, and was just the first of a number of artists Nicolette Larson worked with. Often though, Nicolette Larson worked with Guthrie Thomas, and other times she worked alone.

Having worked with Hoyt Axton and Guy Clark in 1976, soon word was spreading about this new backing vocalist Nicolette Larson who was working with some big name musicians. This included Billy Joe Shaver, Gary Stewart, Jesse Colin Young, Jesse Winchester Mary Kay Place and Rodney Crowell. Nicolette Larson recorded another album with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. However, in 1977 Nicolette got the opportunity to work with two of the biggest names in music.

The first was Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris who was about to record her 1977 album Luxury Liner. She brought Nicolette Larson onboard to sing backing vocals on the album. Her finest moment on the album came on Hello Stranger, where Nicolette features prominently and plays a starring role. During the recording sessions for Luxury Liner, Nicolette Larson met Linda Ronstadt and the two women became firm friends. This resulted in Nicolette getting the opportunity of a lifetime.

One day, Neil Young phoned Linda Ronstadt to ask if she could recommend a female vocalist to sing on what became his American Stars ’N’ Bars album. Little did Linda Ronstadt know, that she was the third person Neil Young had asked that question. Just like the first two, Linda Ronstadt replied “Nicolette Larson.” That made Neil Young’s mind up, and Nicolette Larson got the call to head to his ranch and cut vocals for American Stars ’N’ Bars.

Joining Nicolette Larson for the American Stars ’N’ Bars’ sessions, was Linda Ronstadt, and the pair harmonised, while Neil Young laid down the vocals and played guitar. When Stars ’N’ Bars was released, Nicolette and Linda Ronstadt were billed as The Bullets. However, only one of The Bullets would return to sing on Neil Young’s next album.

In November 1977, Neil Young was recording Comes A Time in Nashville, and Nicolette Larson was asked to join what was an all-star cast. She contributed harmonies on eight of the ten tracks on Comes A Time was released in October 1978, and played an important part in Nicolette’s future.

Before that, Nicolette Larson continued to work as a backing vocalist, and 1978 got off to a good start when Emmylou Harris’ Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town album reached number three in the US Billboard 100, and was certified gold. Meanwhile, Nicolette Larson also added harmonies to albums by Marcia Ball, Norton Buffalo and Rodney Crowell before Neil Young’s Comes A Time was released in October 1978. However, it wasn’t the most successful album Nicolette Larson featured later in 1978.

That honour fell to The Doobie Brothers’ Minute By Minute, where Nicolette Larson added harmonies on two tracks. When Minute By Minute was released on ‘1st’ December 1978 it reached  number one album, was certified triple platinum and won four Grammy Awards. However, by the time Minute By Minute was released Nicolette Larson’s career had begun. 

By then, Nicolette Larson had already signed to the country division of Warner Bros.  This came about after she had worked with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and Neil Young. Executives at Warner Bros realising that Nicolette Larson was a talented artist with huge potential, wasted no time in signing her to their country division. They then paired Nicolette Larson with a top producer Ted Templeman. 

Nicolette Larson had already worked with Ted Templeman before, on The Doobie Brothers’ album Little By Little. He was already one of the most successful producers of the late-sixties and seventies. He had worked with Van Morrison, Little Feat, The Doobie Brothers, Captain Beefheart, Montrose, The Beau Brummels and Carly Simon. Ted Templeman next assignment was producing Nicolette Larson’s debut album Nicolette.

Nicolette.

Having signed to Warner Bros, work began on Nicolette Larson’s debut album Nicolette. The ten tracks that were chosen for the album, were  all cover versions as Nicolette Larson wasn’t known as a songwriter. As a result, Nicolette Larson and Ted Templeman began choosing songs that would suit Nicolette’s voice. 

This included Neil Young’s Lotta Love; Jesse Winchester’s Rhumba Girl; Sam Cooke’s You Send Me; Lauren Wood’s Can’t Get Away From You; Bill Payne’s Give a Little; Adam Mitchell’s French Waltz and Bob McDill’s Come Early Mornin’. They were joined by Bob Hillard and Burt Bacharach’s Mexican Divorce; Holland, Dozier, Holland’s Baby Don’t You Do It; Adam Louvin’s Angels Rejoiced and Glen Frey and JD Souther’sLast in Love which would close Nicolette. Before that, these Nicolette was recorded with an all-star band

When it came to recording Nicolette, a huge cast of musicians and backing vocalists were involved in the recording. This included musicians who Nicolette had previously worked with. Both Linda Ronstadt and Michael McDonald added backing vocals on Nicolette. Meanwhile, members of  Little Feat and The Doobie Brothers, two the most successful bands of the seventies made guest appearances alongside bassist Klaus Voormann; guitarist Herb Pedersen, Memphis Horns’ saxophonist Andrew Love and Eddie Van Halen  laid down a guitar solo on Can’t Get Away From You. Meanwhile, Ted Templeman took charge of production of Nicolette which was completed in time to be released in the autumn of 1978.

The release of Nicolette was scheduled for September the ‘29th’ 1978, but before that, critics had their say on Nicolette. The reviews of Nicolette were all positive, with Nicolette Larson’s blend of pop, rock, soul, country and folk proving popular amongst critics. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Nicolette which reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the Canadian charts. This resulted in gold discs in America and Canada. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success. 

Meanwhile, Lotta Love had reached number eight on the US Billboard 100 and number one on the US Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Across the border in Canada, Lotta Love reached number four, and number one in the Adult Contemporary chart. This was the perfect start for Nicolette’s carer.

The followup to Lotta Love, Rhumba Girl reached forty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-eight on the US Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Meanwhile in Canada, Rhumba Girl reached fifteen and number four in the Adult Contemporary charts. Soon, two hits would become three.

The final single from Nicolette, Give A Little reached number nineteen in the US Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts. That was the third hit single from Nicolette which had just been certified gold. This was the perfect start to Nicolette Larson’s solo career, and was no surprise to those who had heard her debut album, which whetted the listener’s appetite for her sophomore album.

In The Nick Of Time.

For In The Nick Of Time, Ted Templeman returned to produce the album. Ten tracks were chosen, including Just in the Nick of Time which Nicolette cowrote with Ted Templeman and Lauren Wood. She had written Can’t Get Away from You for Nicolette, and contributed Breaking Too Many Hearts and Fallen to In The Nick Of Time. They were joined by songs from successful songwriting partnerships.

Just like Nicolette, In The Nick Of Time featured a track from Holland, Dozier, Holland, Back in My Arms. It was joined by Dancin’ Jones which Lieber and Stoller wrote with John Sembello and Ralph Dino. They were joined by Michael McDonald and B.J. Cook Foster’s Let Me Go, Love; Richard Torrance and John Haeny’s Rio de Janeiro Blue; Bobby Troup’s Daddy; Karla Bonoff’s Isn’t It Always Love and Lowell George’s Trouble. These songs would become In The Nick Of Time, where Nicolette, was once again, joined by an all-star band.

At the core of Nicolette’s band for the recording of In The Nick Of Time, once again were Little Feat’s guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Bill Payne. They were joined by The Doobie Brothers’ live drummer and percussionist Bobby LaKind. Making guest appearances were The Memphis Horns; guitarist Ronnie Montrose; keyboardist Van Dyke Parks and Michael McDonald who duetted with Nicolette on Let Me Go, Love. This glittering array of musical talent joined Nicolette and producer Ted Templeman in recording In The Nick Of Time. However, could and would it match the commercial success and critical acclaim of Nicolette?

That was never going to be easy. Nicolette had received critically acclaimed reviews, and was certified gold. Throughout Nicolette, her enthusiasm is infectious. It was as if she was determined to grasp this opportunity with both hands. That was the case, as she brought each song to life, breathing meaning into the lyrics. However, the reviews of In The Nick Of Time weren’t as positive 

Partly, this was because music was changing, and so were the critics. A new breed of cynical, gunslinger critics turned their guns on any type of music that was remotely establishment sounding. This included progressive rock, classic rock and even singer-songwriters like Nicolette Larson. Many albums didn’t stand a chance, and weren’t judged on their merits. Instead, the critic’s prejudice affected their judgement, and this didn’t bode well for Nicolette Larson’s sophomore album In The Nick Of Time.

On the release of In The Nick Of Time in 1979, the album stalled at forty-seven in the US Billboard 200, and seventy-one in Canada. There were no gold discs for Nicolette Larson this time around. To add to the disappointment neither the lead single Dancin’ Jones nor the followup Back in My Arms charted. This was a huge disappointment as In The Nick Of Time was an album that deserved to fare much better?

In The Nick Of Time was very different album to Nicolette, and found the twenty-seven year old singer widening her musical horizons. Whether this was Nicolette Larson’s decision is another matter? There was no need for her to change direction as Nicolette had just sold over 500,000 copies. Despite that, a quartet of dance-floor friendly tracks were added to In The Nick Of Time, which featured everything from disco, jazz, soul, pop and AOR. This executives at Warner Bros hoped would be a winning formula.

While disco was still popular when In The Nick Of Time was recorded, by July 1979 it was a musical pariah by the time the album was released. The decision to reinvent Nicolette Larsson as a disco diva backfired.

The problem with In The Nick Of Time was that it wasn’t the album that Nicolette Larson’s fans expected. They didn’t want to hear dance tracks, even ones as good as those on In The Nick Of Time. Instead, they liked the ballads, soulful songs and jazz-tinged tracks on In The Nick Of Time, and wanted an entire album of similar songs. Essentially, if Nicolette Larson had released another album of AOR, country, folk, pop and rock maybe  In The Nick Of Time would’ve been a more successful album? As a resultNicolette Larson knew that she would have to reinvent herself on her third album Radioland.

Radioland.

Following the disappointing performance of In The Nick Of Time, work began on Radioland. Ted Templeman was retained to produce Radioland which featured nine songs from a variety of songwriters and songwriting partnerships.

This including the Andrew Kastner penned How Can We Go On and Straight From The Heart, and who teamed up with  Larry John McNally and Nicolette Larson to write When You Come Around. Lauren Wood who had contributed to Nicolette Larson’s two previous albums contributed Been Gone Too Long. These songs were joined by Adam Mitchell’s Fool For Love; Lowell George’s Long Distance Love; Allen Toussaint’s Tears, Tears And More Tears; Sumner Merings’ Radioland and Annie McLoone’s Ooo-Eee. These songs became the album that could make or break Nicolette Larson’s career…Radioland.

When work began on Radioland, many of the same musicians that worked on Nicolette Larson’s first two albums were present. Little Feat’s guitarist Paul Barrere and Bill Payne who this time around, played synths. They were joined by The Doobie Brothers’ guitarist Patrick Simmons and their live drummer Bobby LaKind, who added percussion. Making a guest appearance was Linda Ronstadt who added backing vocals. Meanwhile, the rhythm section two top session players, drummer Rick Shlosser and bassist Tiran Porter, who provided Radioland’s heartbeat. Just like Nicolette’s two previous albums, Ted Templeman took charge of production. Little did he know it would be for the last time. 

Reviews of Radioland were mainly positive, with critics much more impressed by the change in sound. Stylistically, it was closer to Nicolette Larson’s debut album as element of pop, rock and soul joined funk, fusion and jazz on an album where ballads and rubbed shoulders with uptempo tracks. Radioland was a return to form from Nicolette Larson.

Despite this, when  Radioland was released in 1980, the album stalled at sixty-two in the US Billboard 200, and failed to chart in Canada. Sadly, it was a familiar story with the singles Ooo-Eee, When You Come Around and Radioland failing to troubled the charts. This was hugely disappointing for Nicolette and Ted Templeman. Indeed, for Ted Templeman it was the last time he worked with Nicolette Larson. His swan-song was Radioland. It’s one of the most underrated albums of Nicolette Larson’s career which was definitely at the crossroads.

All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.

A year after the release of Radioland, Nicolette Larson began work on her all-important fourth album All Dressed Up and No Place To Go. There was a lot riding on this album, which had the potential to make or break her career. 

This time though, there was no sign of Ted Templeman who had produced Nicolette Larson’s first three albums. He had stepped down, although he is given a credit as executive producer of All Dressed Up and No Place To Go. Replacing Ted Templeman was singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Andrew Gold. He was tasked with transforming Nicolette Larson’s fortunes on All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.

For All Dressed Up and No Place To Go Nicolette Larson and Andrew Gold chose ten tracks which were a mixture of cover versions and new songs. This included Nicolette Larson and Andrew Gold’s I Want You So Bad. It was joined by Andrew Gold’s Still You Linger On, Andrew Kastner’s Just Say I Love You, Lowell George’s Two Trains and Paul Barrere’s Love, Sweet, Love. They were joined by Allee Willis and Patrick Henderson’s Talk To Me; Craig Doerge, Jackson Browne and Rosemary Butler’s I’ll Fly Away (Without You); Ivor Raymonde and Mike Hawkers I Only Want To Be With You; Kathy Wakefield and Leonard Caston’s Nathan Jones and Gary Ogan and Leon Russell’s Say You Will. These tracks would become All Dressed Up and No Place To Go which was Nicolette Larson’s fourth album.

Recording took place at Sunset Sound, in Los Angeles between  October 1981 and January 1982. This time around, Nicolette Larson’s band featured a rhythm section of drummer Rick Schlosser, bassist Scott Chambers and guitarist Fred Tackett. That was apart from on Want You So Bad, where drummer Michael Botts and bassist Bob Glaub and guitarist John McFee replaced the usual rhythm section.

Joining the rhythm sections were Mark Jordan who switched between organ and Fender Rhodes; Billy Payne on synths; Arno Lucas on congas, tambourine and timbales; conga player Bobby LaKind, trumpeter Lee Thornberg and saxophonist Jim Horn. Meanwhile, producer Andrew Gold also played acoustic, electric and slide guitar, piano, percussion synths and added backing vocals. Other backing vocalists included Linda Ronstadt, Valerie Carter, Julia Tillman, Maxine Willard and Wendy Waldman. They spent three months recording All Dressed Up and No Place To Go which Nicolette Larson hoped would transform her career.

Critics on hearing All Dressed Up and No Place To Go were impressed with what was slick, carefully crafted and tasteful album that played to Nicolette Larson’s strengths. This was her versatility and her ability to breath life and meaning into the lyrics of a wide variety of songs. That was the case on All Dressed Up and No Place To Go. 

Given the quality of music on  All Dressed Up and No Place To Go, the albums should’ve transformed Nicolette Larson’s career. Sadly, the album stalled at seventy-five in the US Billboard 200 and ninety-five in Australia. When I Only Want To Be With You was released as the lead single it reached fifty-three in the US Billboard 100 and gave Nicolette Larson a top ten hit in the US Adult Contemporary charts when it reached number nine. This was a small crumb of comfort for Nicolette Larson, whose fourth album hadn’t reached the audience it deserved. This was a huge disappointment for Nicolette Larson and producer Andrew Gold.

For Nicolette Larson the disappointing sales of All Dressed Up and No Place To Go spelt the end of her time at Warner Bros. After four albums she left Warner Bros later in 1982, and after that, signed to MCA Records, where she released …Say When in 1984. Sadly, Nicolette Larson never ever replicated the success of her 1978 debut album Nicolette.

After the released of Nicolette in 1978, which was certified gold and featured three hit singles, it looked as if this was the start of a long and successful career for Nicolette Larson. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. 

The decision to combine disco with AOR, gospel, jazz, pop rock and soul on 1979s  In The Nick Of Time was one which Nicolette Larson would regret. Maybe this was part of a plan to market Nicolette Larson to a much wider audience? However, when it failed to replicate the success of her debut album Nicolette, twenty-seven year old Nicolette Larson’s career was at the crossroads.

This might never have happened if whoever was advising  Nicolette Larson hadn’t encouraged her to change direction musically. While it’s a slick and electric album, the excursions into dance music on In The Nick Of Time alienated part of her core audience. When this happened, it was difficult for Nicolette Larson to win her former fans back

When Nicolette Larson returned in 1980 with Radioland, some of the music was much more like that on Nicolette. However, there was still the occasional dance track on the third and final Nicolette Larson album that was produced by Ted Templeman. Lightning struck twice when Radioland failed to chart. Maybe after the commercial failure of In The Nick Of Time, producer Ted Templeman should’ve been replaced, and new blood brought in?

Andrew Gold was brought onboard for All Dressed Up and No Place To Go and was responsible for a slick and carefully crafted album were Nicolette Larson showcases her talent and versatility. Sadly, despite All Dressed Up and No Place To Go being one of the finest albums of Nicolette Larson’s career, it never enjoyed the success it deserved. 

Sadly, that was the story of Nicolette Larson’s career, and a singer who had potential and talent to become one of the greatest singers of the late-seventies and early eighties never fulfilled her potential. However, the four albums that Nicolette Larson released on Warner Bros features the best music of her career.

Sadly, Nicolette Larson’s career was cut tragically sort.  Fifteen years after the release of All Dressed Up and No Place To Go, Nicolette Larson passed away on December the ‘16th’ 1997, aged just forty-five. That day, music lost a truly talented singer who could’ve and should’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. However, Nicolette Larson left behind a rich musical legacy, including the four albums she released on Warner Bros, including All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.

Nicolette Larson-The Warner Bros Years.

 

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TRASHCAN SINATRAS.

The Life and Times Of The Trashcan Sinatras.

Nowadays, very few bands get to celebrate their tenth anniversary, never mind their twentieth or thirtieth. Especially bands formed in the eighties.  Many were short-lived affairs, who released a couple of albums, before calling it a day. Some crashed and burned amidst rancour and anger. Often, money was at the heart of the problems. Others bands retired, after lifestyle problems intervened. However, there was another problem with eighties bands.

During the eighties, many bands became reliant upon a ‘sound.’ At the heart of it, were drum machines and synths. This sound, didn’t have the longevity that guitar bands would enjoy. Many of them, are still going strong, including Scotland’s very own Trashcan Sinatras who  were formed in 1986. However, during these thirty-three years the Trashcan Sinatras have had more  than a few ups and downs.

That was when in Irvine, in Ayrshire The Trash Can Sinatras were born. The original lineup featured a rhythm section of drummer Paul Forde, bassist Frank Reader and guitarist George McDaid. Completing the lineup was guitarist and vocalist Davy Hughes. With the lineup in place, the band started thinking of a name for the nascent band. It was then the band’s thoughts turned to memories of a music class at school.

Memories came flooding back of the students improvising on a myriad of makeshift instruments. This included some trash cans. It was then that someone mentioned Frank Sinatra. Suddenly, The Trash Can Sinatras were born. The newly named band then began to hone their sound. However, by late 1986, early 1987 a few changed in The Trash Can Sinatras’ lineup.

Among the newcomers were lead guitarist Paul Livingston and rhythm guitarist John Douglas. They were joined by drummer Stephen Douglas. That wasn’t the of the changes. Davy Hughes switched to bass and Frank Reader switched to acoustic guitar and became The Trash Can Sinatras’ vocalist. This would the lineup of the band until 1998. However, with a settled lineup in place, The Trash Can Sinatras began playing live.

Initially, The Trash Can Sinatras were a covers band, who played on the Ayrshire pub and club circuit. This was where The Trash Can Sinatras honed and tightened their sound. It was akin to a musical apprenticeship, and one that stood them in good stead. Especially one night in Kilmarnock, where the Trash Can Sinatras’ lives were changed forever.

For The Trash Can Sinatras, the gig in Kilmarnock started off as just another booking. Little did they realise that Simon Dine was in the audience. He watched with interest, as The Trash Can Sinatras worked their way through their set. By then, The Trash Can Sinatras were regarded as a band with potential, who were destined for greater things. Soon, A&R executives would be catching the shuttle from London. So Simon Dine decided to steal a march on the competition.

Before long, The Trash Can Sinatras s were signing with Go! Discs. After signing on the dotted line, The Trash Can Sinatras decided to invest their advance wisely. They bought their own recording studio in Kilmarnock, which they called Shabby Road. This made sense, and would pay off in the long run.

Especially since The Trash Can Sinatras were about to head into the studio to begin recording their debut single and album. This would take time, but eventually, was worth it.

Cake.

The benefit of owning their own recording studio, meant that The Trash Can Sinatras weren’t watching the clock, and knowing that every hour was costing the band money. Instead, the Trash Can Sinatras could spend as long as they wanted working on the ten songs that they had written for their debut album, Cake.

At Shabby Road studios, The Trash Can Sinatras were joined by several session musicians. They augmented the Trash Can Sinatras, adding strings, keyboards, piano and percussion. The two other people who joined The Trash Can Sinatras, were producers Roger Bechirian and John Leckie. 

Roger Bechirian produced Obscurity Knocks, Thrupenny Tears, The Best Man’s Fall and Funny. John Leckie who mixed Cake produced Even The Odd and Circling The Circumference. The Trash Can Sinatras produced Maybe I Should Drive, Only Tongue Can Tell, You Made Me Feel and January’s Little Joke. Once the ten tracks were completed, Cake was released in 1990.

It had taken the best part of three years to complete Cake. However, it was well worth it. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Cake. The Trash Can Sinatras’ lyrics were cerebral and witty; while their tight, Byrdsian harmonies were the perfect foil for Frank Reader’s vocals. The result was pop perfection from Irvine’s soon to be famous five. A great future was forecast for The Trash Can Sinatras, who were regarded as Scottish music’s next big thing.

When Cake was released on June 25th 1990, the album reached seventy-four in the UK, and 131 in the US Billboard 200. This was helped by the success of the lead single Obscurity Knock. It reached number eighty-six in the UK, and number twelve in the US Modern Rock charts. The followup Only Tongue Can Tell reached number seventy-seven in UK, and number eight in the US Modern Rock charts. Later, in 1990, the only disappointment came when Circling The Circumference failed to chart. However, Cake had been a successful debut album for The Trash Can Sinatras.

After the release of Cake, The Trash Can Sinatras embarked upon their first tour of the UK and North America. With Cake spending three months on the US Billboard 200, The Trash Can Sinatras’ spent much of their time touring America. It was a far cry from playing cover versions in a Kilmarnock pub. However, the story was only beginning.

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I’ve Seen Everything.

Three years passed before The Trash Can Sinatras returned in 1993, with their sophomore album I’ve Seen Everything. By then, bassist George McDaid had left, and was replaced by Davy Hughes. He and the rest of The Trash Can Sinatras penned the fourteen songs new songs that became I’ve Seen Everything. They were recorded at the band’s Shabby Road studio, in Kilmarnock.

Joining The Trash Can Sinatras at Shabby Road, was a new producer, Ray Shulman. He seemed an unlikely choice to produce The Trash Can Sinatras. Ray Shulman was the former bassist of pioneering progressive rockers Gentle Giant. Their music was very different to The Trash Can Sinatras. Despite this, it proved a successful partnership.

When I’ve Seen Everything was released in 1993, plaudits and praise accompanied the release of this masterclass in perfect pop. The Trash Can Sinatras had matured as a band since their 1990 debut album Cake. Their witty wordplay and harmonies were still trademarks of the band’s sound on what was an eclectic album, I’ve Seen Everything. It was released in 1993.

I’ve Seen Everything reached number fifty, but failed to chart in America. This was disappointing for The Trash Can Sinatras. However, Hayfever reached number eleven in the US Modern Rock charts and sixty-one in the UK. The followup single was I’ve Seen Everything. Despite its undoubtable quality, it failed to chart. For The Trash Can Sinatras this was another disappointment. However, headed out on tour, determined to win fiends and influence people.

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A Happy Pocket.

After another three years, The Trash Can Sinatras returned with their third album, A Happy Pocket in 1996. It featured another fourteen songs from the pen of The Trash Can Sinatras. They had recorded and produced the album at Shabby Road, where they were joined by some of their musical friends. This included former Love and Money keyboardist Paul McGeechan and violinist David Crichton. However, one difference was that this time round, several mixers were used on A Happy Pocket.

Rather than employ one person to mix A Happy Pocket, different mixers were used. This included Larry Primrose who mixed six song and engineered two. Hugh Jones and Helen Woodward mixed four of songs; while Vincenzo Townsend engineered and mixed I Must Fly and Steve Whitfield mixed Make Yourself At Home. Using so many different mixers was something that critics commented on.

While A Happy Pocket was well received by critics, they felt that it didn’t quite match the quality of their first two albums. They were now regarded as cult pop classics. Part of the problem was the overuse of overdubbing and the mandolin. The other problem was using so many different mixers. This some critics felt, resulted in A Happy Pocket sounding like a compilation, rather than an album. Some critics felt some of the tracks had an unfinished sound, and were almost like demos.

However, A Happy Pocket featured several tracks that featured The Trash Can Sinatras at their very best. Especially, The Safecracker, Twisted and Bent, How Can I Apply…? and The Therapist. These tracks featured musical masterclasses from The Trash Can Sinatras, and featured hooks aplenty. It was against this backdrop that A Happy Pocket released.

When A Happy Pocket was released in 1996, the album failed to chart. Neither did any of the singles. The lead single was The Main Attraction, which was followed up by Twisted And Bent and How Can I Apply…? To Sir, With Love was the final single released from A Happy Pocket, and not only did it fail to chart. This was just the start of a period where nothing seemed to go right for The Trash Can Sinatras.

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After the release of A Happy Pocket, The Trash Can Sinatras decided not to tour North America. Instead, they toured the UK and Japan, where they were a popular band. However, on their return, The Trash Can Sinatras were in for a surprise, and not a pleasant one.

In 1996, Go! Discs was acquired by Universal Music. One of the first things that happens after the takeover, is a record company’s roster is examined with a fine tooth comb. There are always casualties. Sadly, one of the casualties were The Trash Can Sinatras. They were dropped by Universal. This was a huge blow for the band.

So was the loss of bassist Davy Hughes. He departed in 1996, and returned in 2001. Before that, things would get a lot worse for The Trash Can Sinatras.

Especially when The Trash Can Sinatras realised that they would have to sell their beloved Shabby Road studios. Now they had lost the studio where they had recorded their first three albums. This could prove expensive in the long run. However, worse was to follow.

So perilous was The Trash Can Sinatras’ finances, that they had no option but to declare bankruptcy. It was a huge blow, and one that many bands wouldn’t recover from. However, The Trash Can Sinatras weren’t most bands.

For the next three years, The Trash Can Sinatras decided to keep a relatively low profile. They didn’t play live until 1999, when they toured the UK and Ireland. The Trash Can Sinatras then released their first live album, Chewing A Brick. Later in 1999, The Trash Can Sinatras embarked upon a tour of Japan. During that tour, they released a cover of Randy Newman’s Snow on Sony Japan. Not long after this, a new era began for The Trash Can Sinatras.

After all that had happened during the last few years, The Trash Can Sinatras decided to head to Hartford, Connecticut where they would record their fourth album, and then play a series of live dates. The recording sessions took place between March and June 2000. During that period, around twelve songs were recorded. This was more than enough for an album. However, when The Trash Can Sinatras returned home and listened to the ‘album’, the band realised that it was much too dark and subdued an album. This wasn’t what they wanted. So a decision was made to scrap the album, and start again.

Weightlifting.

2001 was when The Trash Can Sinatras began work on what became Weightlifting. During that year, they wrote new songs and recorded demos at Riverside Studios, in Glasgow. This was a new experience. Previously, The Trash Can Sinatras had recorded at their Shabby Road studio. Now the meter was running as The Trash Can Sinatras recorded their demos. Over the next year, twelve songs were recorded. This was the start of the comeback.

In 2003, The Trash Can Sinatras decided to return to the live circuit in earnest. They started playing concerts and festivals across Scotland. By then, The Trash Can Sinatras’ fourth album was well on its way to completion.

What became Weightlifting, featured twelve songs which were written by the band. These songs were produced by The Trash Can Sinatras and Simon Dine. Once the album was recorded, it was ready to mix, 

Andy Chase of The Ivy, who was also a respected producer, was hired to mix Weightlifting. When he had finished mixing Weightlifting, the album was scheduled for release in August 2004.

Before that, The Trash Can Sinatras headed out on tour. They played in Spain, London and then headed to America in March 2004. The Trash Can Sinatras played a sellout show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, and then headed to Austin, Texas to play at the South By Southwest festival. Again, The Trash Can Sinatras played a barnstorming set, and the comeback continued. However, there was a surprise in store.

When critics received copies of Weightlifting, they realised that the band had changed their name. Weightlifting was the first album from the newly renamed Trashcan Sinatras. It was also a carefully crafted album of joyous jangle pop. Fittingly Welcome Back opened the album, and set the tone for what was a return to form from the Trashcan Sinatras. They stuck to what they knew, and refrained from gimmicks in their latest pursuit of hook-laden perfect pop. Among the highlights, were string drenched, soulful ballads like Got Carried Away, What Woman Do To Men and A Coda.There’s brief excursions into heavy metal, stoner and a pastor sound. Mostly, it’s the Trashcan Sinatras doing what they do so well, jangle pop. With critical acclaim accompanying Weightlifting, things were looking good for the Trashcan Sinatras.

After a summer spent touring and promoting their fourth album Weightlifting, the Trashcan Sinatras were almost ready to release their first album in eight years. When Weightlifting was released on 31st August 2004, the album failed to chart in the UK and America. To add the Trashcan Sinatras’ woes, neither of the singles, All The Dark Horses nor Wild Mountainside charted. It was a disappointing result for an album that oozed quality. However, weren’t beaten. Not by a long shot. 

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In The Music.

Following the release of Weightlifting, there were a couple of changes in the Trashcan Sinatras’ lineup. Bassists Davy Hughes had left the band in 2005. His replacement was Grant Wilson joined in 2006, but departed in 2008. Replacing Grant Hughes on bass was Frank DiVanna. However, with a settled lineup, the Trashcan Sinatras returned in 2009, with their long-awaited fifth album In The Music.

The Trashcan Sinatras had written ten new songs for In The Music. They had been recorded with producer Andy Chase, who had mixed Weightlifting .Recording of In The Music took place at Stratosphere Sound, New York between November 2007 and February 2008. Further sessions took place in Martha’s Vineyard in July 2008. That was when Carly Simon added backing vocals to Should I Pray? Once the album was complete, the release was scheduled for 2009.

Before that, critics had their say on In The Music. It was well received by even the hardest nosed critics. They were won over by the album’s much more understated, grownup sound. The songs were carefully crafted and the music was lush, polished and soulful. Some critics regarded the album as almost flawless, and a mature and magnificent album of pop perfection. Surely this would get the Trashcan Sinatras back onto the charts?

The Trashcan Sinatras were taking no chances, and embarked upon a tour that began in July 2009 and lasted four months. By November 2009, the tour was over and In The Music had been released on 14th September 2009. Lightning struck twice, and In The Music failed to chart. For the Trashcan Sinatras, it was another in a long line of disappointments. As a result, seven years passed before the Trashcan Sinatras returned with Wild Pendulum,

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Wild Pendulum.

In October 2014, The Trashcan Sinatras announced that they were about to begin recording their sixth album. Wild Pendulum would be a thoroughly modern album, which the band announced, fans could pre-order via PledgeMusic. Fans could buy various packages, and would received updates of the project. It was written and recorded during 2015.

As usual, the twelve songs that became Wild Pendulum, were written by the Trashcan Sinatras. The album was then recorded at ARC Studios, in Omaha, Nebraska. That was where the Trashcan Sinatras got to work.

The rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Stephen Douglas, bassist Frank DiVanna and rhythm guitarist John Douglas. Paul Livingston played lead and acoustic guitar, Stevie Mulhearn added keyboards and Francis Reader took charge of vocals. Augmenting the Trashcan Sinatras’ core band were Nathaniel Walcott on piano, organ and clarinet and guitarist Simon Dine who also adds “sonic scenery. Producer Mike Mogis played guitars, pedal steel and percussion. However, there were still pieces of the jigsaw missing.

So series of guest artists were drafted in. Pianist Ben Brodin played on All Night; harmonica player Dustin Arbuckle plays on Ain’t That Something and vocalist Susan Sanchez who features on I’m Not The Fella and What’s In The Box? Just like previous Trashcan Sinatras albums, strings play an important part. So a string section were brought onboard. Wild Pendulum was nearly complete.  Christopher Thorn then took care of some addition recording  at Fireside Sound in L.A. Now Mike Mogis could mix the album and Howie Weinberg mastered Wild Pendulum in Laurel Canyon. Once this was complete, the Trashcan Sinatras could make an important announcement.

The Trashcan Sinatras announced that Wild Pendulum was complete, and ready for release in January 2016. That was the plan.

Unfortunately, the release of Wild Pendulum was delayed until March 2016. However, the Trashcan Sinatras were out of luck. There was yet another delay, and the release was put back again. For the Trashcan Sinatras it was a frustrating time. Especially, as they were about to embark upon some sonic experimentation on their long-awaited, and much-anticipated sixth album, Wild Pendulum.

When Wild Pendulum was released, it was quite unlike previous Trashcan Sinatras’ albums. Their last couple of albums were a reminder that the Trashcan Sinatras were one of the finest indie pop bands of their generation. Their unique and enchanting brand of jangle pop had flitted in and out of their fan’s lives for the past thirty years. During that period, The Trashcan Sinatras had steadfastly refused to change direction. Why should they? They were, without doubt, one of the finest purveyors of jangle pop. Despite this, the Trashcan Sinatras’ last three albums hadn’t matched the commercial success of their first two alums. So they decided to change direction.

For Wild Pendulum, Simon Dine of Adventures In Stereo, a longtime confidant of the group  was drafted in to add some ‘sonic scenery.’ This was a stylistic departure from the Trashcan Sinatras. So was Simon Dine’s use of samples, loops, found sounds and horns. Combined with Mike Mogis’ much richer and fuller arrangements, Wild Pendulum was step into the unknown for the Trashcan Sinatras. It may have been one short step for mankind, but a giant leap for the Trashcan Sinatras.

Some things hadn’t changed though. Still the Trashcan Sinatras were capable of carefully crafting hook-laden, perfect pop. Let Me Inside (Or Let Me Out) which opened Wild Pendulum, was a statement of intent. The Trashcan Sinatras old and new sounds combined. From there, Best Days On Earth is a beautiful and joyous anthem. The hooks haven’t been spared on Ain’t That Something, which features Trashcan Sinatras’ trademark harmonies play. This results in a melodic and memorable anthem. Equally memorable is Autumn, a musical epic, where swathes of the lushest strings sweep above Francis Reader’s vocal. Variety it seems is the spice of life for the Trashcan Sinatras.

All Night finds the Trashcan Sinatras heading for the dance-floor. This is a first. Who would’ve ever believed The Trashcan Sinatras would ever make a dance track? They have; but do it their way.  Normal service is resumed on Family Way wheres pizzicato strings accompany Francis, as he combines clever wordplay, hooks and harmonies. It’s a potent combination, and is a reminder of everything that’s good about the Trashcan Sinatras. After this, it’s all change.

The tempo drops on I’m Not The Fella. It’s reminiscent of Prefab Sprout in their prime, as the Trashcan Sinatras roll back the years. Cinematic describes Waves (Sweep Away My Melancholy), where Francis Reader paints pictures with the lyrics against a much fuller arrangement.  All too soon, Wild Pendulum is almost over. I See The Moon has a much more understated sound and this allows Francis Reader tender, thoughtful vocal to take centre-stage as he reflects, and delivers a needy, hopeful vocal on this pensive ballad. The Trashcan Sinatras have kept one of the best until last, on what’s their best album since Cake in 1990.

Despite Wild Pendulum being the best album the Trashcan Sinatras have released in twenty-six years, it passed record buyer by. On both sides of the Atlantic, Wild Pendulum failed to chart. This was the Trashcan Sinatras’ fourth consecutive album to fail to chart. Twenty-three years had passed since the Trashcan Sinatras’ 1993 sophomore album I’ve Seen Everything charted. Given the quality of Wild Pendulum, this must have been a massive disappointment for the Trashcan Sinatras. 

Especially since tweaked their sound, and given it a moderne makeover. To some extent, the Trashcan Sinatras had reinvented themselves on Wild Pendulum. Sonic scenery, samples, loops, horns and found sounds have been combined on Wild Pendulum. There’s even a dance-track on Wild Pendulum. That was a first. It sits side-by-side with anthems, beautiful ballads and perfect pop. Still, the Trashcan Sinatras were one of the finest purveyors of perfect pop extraordinaire. This thee Trashcan Sinatras have been doing since 1986.

As the Trashcan Sinatras celebrated their thirtieth anniversary, sadly, the wider record buying public have yet to discover the delights of the Trashcan Sinatras. They’re still one of music’s best kept secrets. That’s a great shame, as the Trashcan Sinatras are one of the most talented Scottish bands of the last thirty years. 

They seemed destined for greatness, but sadly, their career has taken a few twists and turns. The Trashcan Sinatras were dropped by their record company; had to sell their recording studio; were declared bankrupt; had to change their name and even abandoned an album. That’s not forgetting several changes in lineup. Still though, the Trashcan Sinatras come back for more, and recently, have come back stronger.

What better way for the Trashcan Sinatras to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary, than with a new album like  Wild Pendulum.  It  featured Irvine’s finest purveyors of jangle pop at their pioneering best, as they reinvent themselves. To do that, the Trashcan Sinatras combined hooks and harmonies with samples and sonic scenery. One thing that hadn’t changed, was the Trashcan Sinatras’ use of clever wordplay. It’s been a trademark of the Trashcan Sinatras’ music for thirty years. Hopefully that will continue to be the case in the future, as the Trashcan Sinatras continue to do what they do best, make music.

That’s what the Trashcan Sinatras have been doing for the past thirty-three years, and during that period, Irvine’s most famous sons, the Trashcan Sinatras, have been one of the finest purveyors of flawless  jangle pop. Long may that continue to be the case.

The Life and Times Of The Trashcan Sinatras.

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IRMA THOMAS-IN BETWEEN TEARS RECORD STORE DAY 2019.

Irma Thomas-In Between Tears-Record Store Day 2019.

Label: Reel Music.

There’s not many artists whose career spans six decades but Irma Thomas’ does. The Soul Queen of New Orleans  released her debut single (You Can Have My Husband But) Don’t Mess With My Man on the Ron label in 1960, and since then, has recorded for some of the best know soul labels, including Minit, Chess and Imperial. Irma Thomas was a contemporary of artists like Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick, but unlike her contemporaries, never found the mainstream success they enjoyed. Despite that, Irma Thomas has enjoyed a longevity that is the envy of many singers. 

Sadly, her longevity didn’t translate into commercial success, but Irma Thomas is a hugely respected artist who has released over a dozen albums and over thirty singles. One of these albums was Irma Thomas’ third album In Between Tears, released in 1973 on the Fungus record label. In Between Tears was recently rereleased by Reel Music for Record Store Day 2019. It’s a reminder of what was Irma Thomas’ comeback album.

In Between Tears was Irma Thomas’  first album in four, long years. After a hurricane wreaked havoc on her beloved New Orleans in 1969, she had to move Los Angeles. Once there, her musical career was put on hold, with Irma Thomas working in the retail sector. That was until 1973, when Irma Thomas  released the single She’ll Never Be Your Wife on the Fungus label. Her comeback was complete when she entered the studio with producer Swamp Dogg  to record In Between Tears.

For In Between Tears, Swamp Dogg wrote all but one of the tracks. He also put together a tight and talented band. The rhythm section included bassist Robert Popwell, drummer Squirm and guitarist Duane Alman and Jesse Carr. Swamp Dogg played piano, Paul Hornsby organ and The Swamp Dogg Band supplied the strings. In total, seven tracks were recorded. They became In Between Tears.

When In Between Tears was released in 1973, Irma Thomas’ comeback album wasn’t the  success that she had hoped. However, like so many albums that aren’t a commercial success on their release, they’re only appreciated years later. That was the case the In Between Tears.

Back in 1973, people were wondering why In Between Tears hadn’t been a bigger commercial success. Had Irma Thomas’ absence from the music industry affected her music, or was it the change in style and  sound on Between Tears? After all, Swamp Dogg has his unique production style,  one that wasn’t necessary suited to Irma Thomas.

After four years away from the recording studio, Irma Thomas had lost none of her enthusiasm, energy and talent. On In Between Tears she delivers each song with a mixture of emotions. One minute she’s heartbroken and despairing, the next, she’s feisty, full of defiance and bravado. During some songs, there’s a world-weary sound to her voice, as if she’s lived a dozen lives, when in reality, she was only thirty-two. This demonstrates one of Irma’s talents, the ability to bring the story behind the lyrics to life. When she does this, she becomes a masterful storyteller. Of the nine songs on the album Swamp Dogg, aka Jerry Williams Jr. wrote of cowrote eight of them. Not only that, but he produced the album as well. With a crack band behind her, the result was an album that deserved to do so much better. Unlike many albums, this album is long on quality and short on filler.

Sadly, In Between Tears wasn’t a commercial success. That’s no refection on the music  on In Between Tears. Maybe the partnership betweenThe Soul Queen of New Orleans and Swamp Dogg was doomed to failure? Swamp Dogg had his trademark production style which didn’t exactly fit with Irma Thomas’  elegant and sophisticated style. Despite this unlikely musical marriage, In Between Tears worked. It allowed Irma Thomas to step out of her comfort zone and demonstrate her versatility. As she did this, she was transformed into a master storyteller, one who sounded like she’d lived the lyrics a thousand times. Providing a dramatic backdrop was Swamp Dogg’s band. Together, they created In Between Tears, a true hidden gem in Irma Thomas’ back-catalogue.

Since its original release in 1973, In Between Tears has been rereleased several times,  by a variety of labels. The latest label to do this is Reel Music pm Record Store Day 2109. This is a welcome reissue, and one that gives music fans everywhere, the opportunity to discover In Between Tears, a cult classic from Irma Thomas’ The Soul Queen of New Orleans.

Irma Thomas-In Between Tears-Record Store Day 2019.

TOMMY HUNT-THE COMPLETE MAN: 60s NYC SOUL SONGS.

Tommy Hunt-The Complete Man: 60s NYC Soul Songs.

Label: Kent.

Mention the name Tommy Hunt, and many soul fans will think of the music that the Pittsburgh-born singer recorded for Scepter in the early sixties. That was where Tommy Hunt came to prominence as a solo artist. However, this wasn’t Tommy Hunt’s first encounter with fame.  

He was a member of The Flamingos when they released their biggest hit single I Only Have Eyes for You in 1959. Just a year later, Tommy Hunt left The Flamingos, citing the age-old excuse musical differences. Leaving a successful group could’ve been a disaster for Tommy Hunt, but this wasn’t the case.

Just a few days after leaving The Flamingos, Luther Dixon signed Tommy Hunt to Scepter. Soon, Lady Luck had smiled on Tommy Hunt, when a radio DJ mistakenly spun Human,  the B-Side of Parade Of Broken Hearts, which gave him his biggest hit of 1961.

A year in 1962, Tommy Hunt  released And I Never Knew as a single, which featured the debut of Bacharach and David’s I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself on the B-Side. It would later be recorded by everyone from Dusty Springfield to Art Garfunkel. However, in 1962 it was Tommy Hunt who first recorded this future classic for Scepter. 

Many of Tommy Hunt’s Scepter recordings featured on a Kent compilation The Biggest Man which was released in 1997. Twenty-two years later, and Kent, an imprint of Ace Records released The Complete Man: 60s NYC Soul Songs which features twenty-five tracks from Tommy Hunt, including more from the Scepter and Dynamo vaults plus his highly regarded mid-sixties Atlantic and Capitol singles. The Complete Man: 60s NYC Soul Songs is a veritable feast of soulful music.

Among the tracks from the Scepter vaults on The Complete Man: 60s NYC Soul Songs are the  Billboard 100 hit The Door Is Open, the album track You’re So Fine and the rare alternate B-Side How Young Is Young. 

They’re joined by various unissued tracks including Van McCoy’s What’s The Matter Baby which Tommy Hunt originally recorded in 1963 with a different arrangement.  Lonely For You was written by Van McCoy and Luther Dixon who signed and produced Tommy Hunt on Scepter, and just like One Of These Days is a quality beat ballad. Girls Are Sentimental and Who You Gonna Thrill Tonight are both the type of romantic ballads recorded in New York studios circa 1962. Just like the other newly found tracks, they’re all orchestrated.

It’s not just ballads on The Complete Man: 60s NYC Soul Songs, Tommy Hunt works his way through various uptempo soul songs. Among them are Oscar Brown Jr’s The Work Song, Never Love A Robin’ and from the Scepter vaults The Pretty Part Of You which is a 100 Club favourite. 

They’re joined by Tommy Hunt’s four immediate post-Scepter recording. This includes I Don’t Want To Lose You and Hold On which were recorded in Chicago and released on Atlantic in 1965. Then I’ll Make You Happy and The Clown were issued on Capitol in 1966. It’s the first time these four cuts have been released and the sound quality is of the highest standard, as one expects from a Kent release. Many of the other tracks on The Complete Man: 60s NYC Soul Songs have never been released on CD before, so this is the first time Tommy Hunt fans will be able to enjoy this latest veritable feast of soulful delights from the Pittsburgh-born soul man.

Tommy Hunt-The Complete Man: 60s NYC Soul Songs.

TONY BANKS-HIS LIFE AFTER GENESIS.

Tony Banks-His Life After Genesis.

All too often, Tony Banks has been referred to as “the keyboard player from Genesis.” This is doing the sixty-seven year old a huge disservice. Tony Banks is a multi-instrumentalist, whose just as comfortable playing guitar as his playing piano, Hammond organ, synths or Mellotron. Seamlessly, Tony Banks could switch between musical instruments. That and his ability to innovate, played an important part in Genesis’ success. However, while Genesis dominated a large part of Tony Banks’ career, it’s just part of the story.

By the Genesis split-up in 1998, after thirty-one years together, Tony Banks was already an established solo artist. He released his debut album A Curious Feeling in 1979. After that, Tony Banks released another nine albums. They showed the different sides to Tony Banks.

As well as solo albums, Tony Banks released soundtracks and orchestral albums. Then there’s the albums Tony recorded with his  Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. projects. These albums show Tony Bank’s versatility and ability to innovate over five decades. During this period, Tony Bank’s career has taken a few twists and turns.

A Curious Feeling.

For the past twelve years, Tony Banks had concentrated on making Genesis one of the biggest bands. He had cofounded the band in 1967, and by 1979, the only original members of the band were Tony and Mike Rutherford. The most recent departure was guitarist Steve Hackett, who left in 1977. This left Tony, Mike and Phil Collins, whose first album was a trio was 1978s …And Then There Were Three… The following year, Tony released his first solo album, A Curious Feeling

Before heading off to Polar Music Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, Tony Banks had written eleven tracks. They became A Curious Feeling, a progressive rock concept album. The concept for the album was Daniel Keyes’ short story Flowers for Algernon. Recording of A Curious Feeling took place during the spring and summer of 1979. Accompanying Tony were drummer Chester Thompson and vocalist Kim Beacon, while Tony Banks and David Hentschel produced A Curious Feeling. It was released on 8th October 1979.

When A Curious Feeling was released, the reviews were scathing. This was no surprise. 1979 was the height of the post punk era. Critics slated anything that represented the musical establishment. Tony never stood a chance at the hands of the the new breed of gunslinger critics. They neither to recognised nor were willing to acknowledge the quality of music on A Curious Feeling.

Despite the protestations of the gunslinger critics, A Curious Feeling reached number twenty-one in Britain and number 171 in the US Billboard 200. Tony Banks was vindicated in his decision to release his debut album. However, it would be five years before he released the followup.

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The Wicked Lady.

After a gap of five years, Tony Banks released the first of two albums during 1983. The first was a remake of the soundtrack to Wicked Lady. It had originally been released in 1945, and featured Margaret Lockwood. An estimated 18.4 million million people saw The Wicked Lady, which was based on Magdalen King-Hall’s novel The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton. Thirty-eight years later, and Tony Banks collaborated with the National Philharmonic Orchestra on the remake of The Wicked Lady.

While Tony Banks featured on side one of the remake of The Wicked Lady, the National Philharmonic Orchestra featured on the second side. This unlikely collaboration found favour with critics. 

When The Wicked Lady was released in April 1973, critics were impressed by the Tony Banks produced soundtrack. Especially, the second side. Its drama and complexity found favour with critics. Tony’s vision and creativity had been put to good use on The Wicked Lady. However, later in 1983, Tony released the followup to A Curious Feeling, The Fugitive.

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The Fugitive.

Just like A Curious Feeling, Tony wrote the nine tracks on The Fugitive. This time around, Tony recorded The Fugitive closer to home. The Farm in Surrey, Genesis’ studio, was the venue for the recording of Tony’s sophomore album. To coproduce The Fugitive, Stephen Short was drafted in. Recording began in 1982.

Tony began recording the album at home, on an eight-track studio in 1982. He laid down the basic tracks. Then in 1983, recording began at The Farm. This time around, Tony took charge of the vocals. He was joined by Genesis’ touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer, bassist Mo Foster and drummer Steve Gadd. On Charm, no drummer was used. Instead, Tony used a Linn LM-1 drum machine. Eventually, the nine tracks were complete, and The Fugitive was released in late June 1983. By then, Genesis were preparing release their eponymous album in October 1983.

It was a battle of the albums, one that The Fugitive lost. Reviews of The Fugitive were mixed. Some critics like the sparseness of the arrangements, and were won over by Tony’s vocals. Up until then, they were a well kept secret. That was until The Fugitive was released.

The Fugitive was released in late June 1983, and stalled at number fifty in the British charts. After just two weeks, The Fugitive disappeared from the charts. Since then, The Fugitive has become a rarity. So did Tony Banks solo albums. Genesis were on the cusp of worldwide domination, where commercial success and critical acclaim was omnipresent.

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Soundtracks.

So it wasn’t until 1986 that Tony Banks next released an album.  Soundtracks featured tracks from two soundtracks that Tony Banks had been involved with. The first was Starship. It was released in December 1984, and is also known as Lorca and the Outlaws. Quicksilver was the other soundtrack. Tony was just one of a number of artists who contributed tracks to Quicksilver. Tracks from both these albums made their way onto Soundtracks.

When Soundtracks was released in March 1986, reviews were mixed. Critics noted that the quality of music was mixed, with the poppier sounding tracks lacking that all important hook. Given the reviews, it was no surprise when Soundtracks wasn’t a commercial success. Maybe this was why Soundtracks wasTony Banks’ final soundtrack album? For his next album, Tony was inspired by the success his friend Mike Rutherford was enjoying with his “other” band.

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Bankstatement.

When he wasn’t busy with Genesis, Mike Rutherford was busy with his new group, Mike and The Mechanics. They were enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim. This inspired Tony Banks to form his own band, Bankstatement.

Essentially, Bankstatement were a trio featuring Tony, Alistair Gordon and Australian born singer-songwriter Jayney Klimek. Each of the three vocalists shared vocal duties. They were augmented in the studio by a band that included former Genesis guitarist Steve Hillage. He co-produced Bankstatemen with Tony. Recording took place during 1988 and 1989. A total of eleven songs penned by Tony Banks were recorded. These songs became Bankstatement, which was released in August 1989.

On the release of Bankstatement, the album was well received by critics. They recognised the quality of what was carefully crafted pop songs. Despite the reviews, neither Bankstatement, nor the three singles charted. Following the commercial failure of Bankstatement, the project never released a followup. Instead, Tony’s next album was his third solo album, Still.

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Still.

Five years had passed since Tony released The Fugitive, his second solo album. Since then, he had been busy with Genesis and released an album with Bankstatement. A solo album was overdue. So in 1990, Tony Banks began recording what would become Still.

Unlike Tony’s two previous solo albums, Tony didn’t write each of the entire album Instead, Tonye wrote seven and cowrote Red Day On Blue Street and I Wanna Change The Score with Nik Kershaw. Tony cowrote Another Murder of a Day with Fish from progressive rock band Marillion. They were just two of the guest vocalists on Still.

The other two vocalists were Jayney Klimek and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. Along with Nik Kershaw and Fish, recording of Still got underway in 1990, and was completed in 1991. The album was scheduled to be released later in 1991.

Originally, Still was going to be called Still It Takes Me by Surprise, after one of the tracks on the album. However, it was shortened to Still, and released in April 1991. Reviews of Still were mixed. However, Giant Records had high hopes for Still. They promoted the album heavily. Despite their best efforts, Still didn’t sell well in Britain. That was the case a year later, when Still was released in America in April 1992. Since then, Still is regarded by some as Tony Banks best albums. Following the disappointing sales  ofStill, Tony Banks would to reinvent himself. 

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Strictly Inc.

The latest reinvention of Tony Banks came in 1995, when he released Strictly Inc. It was a collaboration between Tony and Jack Hues, the lead singer of Wang Chung. They were joined by a rhythm section of drummer John Robinson, bassist Nathan East and guitarist Daryl Stuermer. Jack Hues played guitar and Tony took charge of keyboards. Ten tracks were recorded between 1994 and 1995, and became Strictly Inc. which was released later in 1995.

Strictly Inc. was released on 11th September 1995. Critics weren’t impressed by Strictly Inc. The highlight of the album critics said, was Tony’s keyboard playing. Layers of keyboards were stacked one on top of another, melting seamlessly into one. They were augmented by Jack’s vocals. However, critics felt that vocals were no match for Tony’s keyboards. Unsurprisingly, when Strictly Inc. was released it failed commercially. That was despite Strictly Inc. bearing the band member’s names.

That was against Tony Bank’s wishes. He wanted Strictly Inc. not to feature the band member’s names. While this would’ve added an air of mystery, it would’ve also meant that cynical critics couldn’t take a swipe at Tony. They weren’t impressed by Strictly Inc. Nor were record buyers. So much so, that Virgin Records never bothered to release Strictly Inc. in America.  Given the response of critics to Strictly Inc,Tony decided to reinvent himself  yet again.

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Seven: A Suite For Orchestra.

In the nine years between Tony Banks releasing Strictly Inc. and the release of Seven: A Suite For Orchestra in March 2004, a lot had happened. Genesis had split-up in 1998. After thirty-one years together, the trio went their separate ways. Five years later, Tony began work on Seven: A Suite For Orchestra in 2003.

Seven: A Suite for Orchestra was a first for Tony Banks. He had never released a classical album. Tony penned the seven suites, and played piano on Spring Tide, The Ram and The Spirit of Gravity. Accompanying him were the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mike Dixon. Producing Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was Tony and Nick Davis, who Tony knew from his work engineering and producing Genesis. The pair finished Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was completed in 2004, it was released in March 2004.

When Seven: A Suite For Orchestra was released in March 2004, some critics were surprised by this stylistic departure from Tony Banks. However, Tony had written soundtracks and orchestral pieces before. He took this further on Seven: A Suite For Orchestra. Despite this, Seven: A Suite For Orchestra didn’t catch the imagination of record buyers. It was too far removed from what people expected of Tony Banks. Sales were disappointing, and successful continued to elude Tony Banks. It was too far removed from what people expected of Tony Banks. So much so, it would be eight years before Tony returned with the followup to Seven: A Suite For Orchestra.

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Six: Pieces For Orchestra.

It wasn’t until April 2012 that Tony Banks returned with his second classical album, Six: Pieces For Orchestra. Eight years had passed since the release of Seven: A Suite For Orchestra. However, Tony had been busy.

He wrote the six suites on Six: Pieces For Orchestra. Again, Tony and Nick Davis co-produced Six: Pieces For Orchestra. It features the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. They’re conducted by Paul Englishby. Two soloists play an important part in this evocative, haunting and bewitching album. It features two of Tony Banks’ finest classical works. This is further proof, if any was needed of Tony Banks versatility and ability to reinvent himself. 

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This versatility allowed Tony Banks to reinvent himself several times between the release of A Curious Feeling in 1979 and Six: Pieces For Orchestra in 2012. During that period, Tony Banks solo career has taken numbers twists and turns. He’s released three solo albums, two soundtrack albums, two, orchestral albums and formed two bands, Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. In total, Tony Banks has released nine albums between 1979 and 2012. That’s pretty good going, considering Tony Banks was still a member of Genesis until 1998.

This meant that up until 1998, Tony Banks had fit his solo career around Genesis’ recording and touring schedule. They were one of the most successful bands on planet rock. Genesis’ albums sold by the million, so Genesis’ took priority. Solo careers and side projects were when the band had some downtime. During that period, Phil Collins enjoyed a hugely successful solo career, while Mike Rutherford’s band Mike and The Mechanics were also enjoying commercial success. However, Tony Banks never reached the same heights as his bandmates and friends.

While Tony Banks is undoubtably a talented and versatile musician, he never enjoyed the commercial success his talents deserved. Maybe his constant determination to reinvent himself musically worked against him? If he had forged out his own unique sound, then maybe Tony Banks’ would’ve gone on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim? This might have taken a couple of albums, but would’ve paid off in the long run. It certainly paid off for his former bandmates in Genesis, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford. However, this wasn’t for Tony Banks. Instead, he wanted to explore new musical frontiers.

Tony Banks went on to write soundtracks, classical albums and formed two short-lived bands. Each of these projects took Tony Banks’ career in a different direction. Even his three solo albums A Curious Feeling, The Fugitive and Still are quite different stylistically, and show different sides to Tony Banks’ music.

It’s a career where Tony Banks has explored everything from art rock, classical, pop, progressive rock, rock, soft rock and symphonic rock. No two albums were the same, as Tony Banks sought to reinvent himself. He certainly succeeded in doing so during a long and varied career.

Sadly, Tony Banks didn’t come close to enjoying the commercial success that came Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford’s way. However, throughout his solo career, Tony Banks was a musical maverick, who created ambitious and pioneering music. To do this, Tony Banks often flitted between, and combined disparate musical genres. The result was ambitious music that pushed musical boundaries. Sometimes this music failed commercially and divided the opinion or critics and record buyers. Maybe, part of the problem was Tony Banks had the safety net of Genesis?

Given the success Genesis enjoyed, Tony Banks wasn’t relying on his solo career putting food on the table. So he was able to experiment, and sometimes, indulge himself musically? Virgin Records and Atlantic, who released Genesis albums in Britain and America respectively, were willing to indulge a member of one of their most successful signings by releasing albums Bankstatement and Strictly Inc. 

Both albums failed commercially and weren’t well received by critics. The cost of these albums would be a drop in the ocean compared to what Genesis were earning for Virgin Records and Atlantic. However, while Strictly Inc. was a low point in Tony Banks’ career, at least he was willing to head in new directions musically, and release ambitious music.

That was the case throughout Tony Banks’ thirty-three year solo carer. Constantly, Tony Banks released ambitious and pioneering music, where he continually pushed musical boundaries, and in the process proved that there was life after Genesis.

Tony Banks-His Life After Genesis.

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THE LIFE AND CAREER OF NORMA WINSTONE.

The Life and Career Of Norma Winstone.

There aren’t many British jazz singers who have enjoyed the longevity, commercial success and critical acclaim that Norma Winstone MBE has. Her career has lasted over fifty years. Despite all the commercial success, critical acclaim and awards, the seventy-seven year old singer shows no signs of slowing down. Norma Winstone isn’t just a talented singer, but also a gifted lyricist. Many people will find this ironic, as Norma Winstone is best known for her wordless improvisations which have been a trademark of her career.

Norma Winstone was born on the ’23rd’ of September 1941, in Bow, in East London, which was devastated by a German bombers during World War II. However, as normality returned to London in the post war years, the young Norma Winstone started to play the piano. This would stand her in good stead later in life   

By the early sixties, Norma Winstone started singing in bands in the clubs around Dagenham in Essex. Over the next few years, Norma Winstone served what was akin to a musical apprenticeship,  as she became a familiar face on the London club scene. That was where Norma Winstone learned to control her vocal which wasn’t just pure but at times powerful. This she had honed on the club scene, and by the time she met pianist and composer Michael Garrick in 1968, was ready to move on.

Michael Garrick had spotted Norma Winstone’s potential the first time he first heard her sing that night in 1968. After she came of the stage, Michael Garrick introduced himself to Norma Winstone and asked her to sit in with his band at a forthcoming gig. When she agreed, he wrote out a list of songs that she had to learn.

On the night of the concert, Norma Winstone took to the stage with Michael Garrick’s band, and began singing the songs she had been asked to learn. Michael Garrick was so impressed after hearing her sing, that he asked her to sing a few more songs and take over from the saxophonist who had recently left the band. The only problem was that when Norma Winstone looked at the parts, there were no lyrics. Instead, there were some written melodies, and on occasions the saxophonist had riffed on a lone chord. Many singers would’ve been put off by the lack of lyrics. Not Norma Winstone who started to improvise, using the vowel based wordless improvisation that she would become famous for. Those in the audience had witnessed musical history being made.

A year after joining forces with Michael Garrick in 1968, Norma Winstone made her recording debut on the Joe Harriott and Amancio D’Silva Quartet’s 1969 album Hum Dono. This was the first of over 150 appearances Norma Winstone would make over the next fifty years.

In 1970, The Michael Garrick Sextet With Norma Winstone released the British jazz classic The Heart Is A Lotus. A year later, Norma Winstone was voted the top vocalist in the Melody Maker jazz poll. Having sung on two important British jazz albums, Norma Winstone was now an award-winning vocalist.

The following year, 1972, Norma Winstone released her much-anticipated debut solo album Edge Of Time. It featured the great and good of British jazz, on what’s regarded as one of Norma Winstone’s finest solo albums. However, it would be a while before Norma Winstone released the followup.

After releasing Edge Of Time, Norma Winstone was a member of Ian Carr’s Nucleus when he recorded the jazz rock concept album Labyrinth, which was based on the Greek myth about the Minotaur. When Labyrinth was released in 1973, the album became a cult classic and introduced Norma Winstone to a new audience. So did the years she spent with a new band Azimuth.

By 1977, Norma Winstone was a member of the British jazz trio Azimuth, which featured pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. Azimuth released their debut eponymous debut album to widespread critical acclaim in March 1977 and it was hailed a British improv classic.

Azimuth returned with the atmospheric improv of The Touchstone  in 1978. The group’s third album was Départ which was a collaboration with American guitarist Ralph Towner, which was released in 1980. It would be another five years before Azimuth returned with a new album.

Over the next five years, Norma Winstone worked on a number of projects, but still found time to record Azimuth’s fourth album. This was Azimuth ’85, which was released in March 1985. Nothing more was heard of Azimuth  until 1995 when they released How It Was Then… Never Again which was the band’s swan-song.

Two years later, Norma Winstone returned with her long-awaited sophomore album Somewhere Called Home in 1987. It was released to the same critical acclaim as Edge Of Time fifteen years earlier in 1972.

Norma Winstone seemed in no rush to release her third solo album, and over the next eight years, recorded albums with Vocal Summit and the Norwegian jazz band Fairplay. She also recorded Freedom Jazz Dance with Mona Larsen which was credited to NormaMona, when it was released in July 1995. However, later in 1995, Norma Winstone released her third solo album Well Kept Secret in 1995. It had been well worth the wait, and featured Norma Winstone at her very best. 

Just three years later, in 1998, Norma Winstone returned with her fourth solo album Manhattan In The Rain which was released to critical acclaimed. So was Norma Winstone’s collaboration with pianist John Taylor .. Like Song, Like Weather when it was released a year later in 1999. As the new millennia approached, Norma Winstone was one of the top female jazz singers not just in Britain, but Europe.

As new millennia sawed, this was the start of one of the busiest periods of Norma Winstone’s career. She worked on other artists and groups albums, and collaborated on several projects. This included  Songs and Lullabies which was a collaborations between Fred Hersch and Norma Winstone which was released in 2003. The same year, Norma Winstone, Glauco Venier and Klaus Gesing released the album Chamber Music. It was just the latest project that featured Norma Winstone’s vocals.

While she was kept busy over the next three-year, Norma Winstone was joined by The NDR Big Band on her 2006 album It’s Later Than You Think. The same year, Norma Winstone renewed her acquaintance with the man who gave her big break, Michael Garrick. Norma Winstone became the featured vocalist on the Michael Garrick Jazz Britannia Orchestra’s 2006 album Children Of Time. It was like old times for the two old friends and colleagues.

On the ‘23rd’ of February 2006 and then on the ‘14th’ of December 2006, Norma Winstone joined forces with the Stan Tracey Trio and Bobby Wellins to record twenty tracks that later became the double album Amoroso…Only More So. The album featured what was essentially a British jazz supergroup, who sadly, released only album in 2007. The same year, Norma Winstone was awarded an MBE for her services to music.

In 2008, Norma Winstone returned with her fifth solo album Distances, which marked her return to ECM Records. Just like previous albums, Distances was released to plaudits and praise. 

It was a similar case when the Michael Garrick Jazz Orchestra which featured Norma Winstone released Yet Another Spring in July 2009. This was forty years after Norma Winstone first sat in with Michael Garrick’s band in 1969. A lot had happened since then, and Norma Winstone was regarded as one of the legends of British jazz. 

Two years later in 2011, Here’s A Song For You was released by Mike Gibbs with The NDR Big Band featuring Norma Winstone. By then, Norman Winstone had featured on around 150 albums, and had just celebrated her seventieth birthday. However, she wasn’t ready to retire.

The following year, Kenny Wheeler, another of Norma Winstone’s old friends invited her to part in a new project he was working on with the London Vocal Project. That was how Norma Winstone found herself at the Red Gables Studio, London between the ‘4th’ and ‘8th’ of June 2012.  During that four-day period, Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone and London Vocal Project recorded the album Mirrors, which was released in 2013. However, the next project Norma Winstone would work on, was a solo album.

Dance Without Answer was released on ECM Records in 2014, and found favour with critics who lauded the album. Despite the quality of the music on Dance Without Answer, it would be the best part of four years before Norma Winstone released the followup .

Over fifty years after seventy-six year old Norma Winstone’s singing career began, the veteran singer and lyrics released the critically acclaimed album Descansado: Songs For Films on ECM Records in 2018. It featured her trademark wordless improvisations and on other tracks, showcased a talented vocalist, who wrote some poignant and powerful lyrics. They were a reminder, if any was needed that Norma Winstone is much more than just a talented singer, and is also a gifted lyricist.

Many people will find this ironic, as Norma Winstone is best known for her wordless improvisations. That has been the case throughout a long and illustrious career of one of the greatest British jazz vocalists of her generation, Norma Winstone.

The Life and Career Of Norma Winstone.

THREE DAY WEEK-WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT 1972-1975.

Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975.

Label: Ace Records.

In 1973, both Britain and America were experiencing one of the worst years since the end of World War II. The Vietnam War still raged, while the civil rights movement continued to fight for equality and an end to the racial discrimination that blighted America. To add to America’s woes, the Watergate investigation continued, that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon  on August the ‘9th” 1974.

Meanwhile, 1973 started badly when Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath took Britain into the EEC in January 1973. This the Europhile Prime Minister claimed was the finest moment of his career. However, Britain joining the EEC was much to the chagrin of many politicians and voters.

The British public were denied a vote until the 7th’ 1975, when they voted to remain members of the EEC. Meanwhile, Britain  was facing yet another crisis. This was nothing new, during a four-year long depression.

By October 1973, there was a Three Day Week in Britain, after the Conservative government limited pay rises. This resulted in a miners strike.

The miners had threatened to strike in early 1972, and were awarded a pay rise. In doing, so this meant that the three-day week Prime Minister Edward Heath threatened to introduce in manufacturing and industry to hold onto Britain’s energy reserves  was averted. While what many business leaders and politicians were relieved, others realised that Edward Heath had given into the union barons, who would be back for more.

And so it proved to be, after the miners slipped from the top of the industrial league to eighteenth. By then, civil servants, medical staff, railway and dock workers were on strike, and the miners withdrew their labour again. The superannuated union barons were causing chaos, and on New Year’s Day 1974 the three-day week began.

It lasted until the ‘7th’ of March 1974, and for that period, there were power cuts and blackouts in houses across Britain. Suddenly, the demand for candles and torches was on the rise. Even television was affected and the three channels closed down at 10:30 pm, and many people decided to have an early night. Nine months later, and nurses and doctors noticed that there was spike in the birth rate. 

Much has been written and said about the three-day week, but it has never inspired a compilation. That is until recently when  Ace Records released Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975. It’s lovingly compiled compilation that features twenty-six eclectic tracks.

The Strawbs open Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975, with Part Of The Union which is tinged with a sense of ambivalence. This must have struck a nerve with many people as the single arched number two in Britain.

Small Wonder contributed the rocky Ordinary Boy, while The Kinks’ When Work Is Over and The Sutherland Bros Band are both welcome additions.

Despite the inspiration for the compilation, there aren’t many overtly political songs. The exceptions are Phil Cordell’s Londonderry, the Edgar Broughton Band’s Homes Fit For Heroes  and Pheon Bear’s War Against War, which was released in 1973, but sounds as of it’s from the early sixties folk boom.

There’s a number of familiar faces on Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975 including The Troggs’ who contribute I’m On Fire. It’s joined by Mungo Jerry’s Open Up, Hawkwind’s Urban Guerilla and What Ruthy Said by Cockney Rebel.

Other songs tap into the feelings of the time, ranging from a sense of despair and helplessness to irreverence like Lieutenant Pigeon’s And The Fun Goes On. It’s joined by Robin Goodfellow’s Why Am I Waiting which features a vocal filled of frustration. Climax Chicago’s Mole On The Dole and I Feel So Down by Barracuda will bring back memories of what it was like to live through this time.

Very different is the Northern Soul Dance from Wigan’s Ovation. This was a private press released in 1975, at the height of the Northern Soul boom.

Closing Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975 is Stardust by Davis Essex. It’s the title-track from the 1974 film, which was the followup to That’ll Be The Day, which features the further adventures of Jim Maclaine and had the ts tagline: “Show me a boy who never wanted to be a rock star and I’ll show you a liar.” It was the perfect antidote to what was a depressing time for many British people.

Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975 which was compiled for Ace Records by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs of Saint Etienne. This is the latest lovingly curated and eclectic compilation that takes as its inspiration events in recent history in Britain, America and France. 

The period Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975 covers, saw Britain lurch from one political crisis to another. This included the three day week which is wrongly romanticised. Britain was teetering on the brink, as strikes caused chaos and unemployment and inflation rose. However, still British artists and bands continued to create some of the best music being released between 1972 and 1975. 

British bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple as  Genesis,enjoyed commercial success in North America, as rock and progressive bands flew the flag for British music. They were amongst the biggest and most successful British bands, That was just part of the story of British music during this period, and as Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975 shows while Britain teetered on the brink, the music scene was thriving vibrant and eclectic during what was a golden period.

Three Day Week-When The Lights Went Out 1972-1975.

ROGER WATERS-THE SOLO YEARS.

Roger Waters-The Solo Years.

Following the departure of Syd Barrett from Pink Floyd, bassist Roger Waters became the group’s creative force. This was the case from Pink Floyd’s third album, Ummagumma, which was released in 1969, right through to 1983s The Final Cut. After  the release of The Final Cut, Roger Waters left Pink Floyd. It was a bitter breakup. However, things had been coming to a head for some time.

Richard Wright, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd had been sacked from the band. As a result, he didn’t feature on The Final Cut. It was the only Pink Floyd album that he didn’t feature on. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

Pink Floyd had been a group divided since 1978. That was when the members of Pink Floyd found out the perilous state of their finances. Some of the investments made on their behalf went south. Amid accusations of financial negligence, Pink Floyd needed to recoup some of the money they had lost. So, Roger Waters presented the other members of Pink Floyd with two propositions. 

The Wall.

The first was the script to The Wall, Pink Floyd’s 1979 concept album. Roger Waters’ other proposition was The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. After giving both propositions some consideration, The Wall won out, and The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking became Roger’s 1984 solo debut album. However, from that day on, things weren’t well within Pink Floyd.

Keyboardist Richard Wright’s contribution to The Wall was criticised by Roger Waters. He was accused of not contributing enough and being uncooperative. Eventually, a deal was struck that Rick Wright would remain a member of Pink Floyd until The Wall was complete. That was just as well.

When The Wall was released in 1979, on 21st March 1983, it was to critical acclaim. Soon, The Wall became Pink Floyd’s biggest selling album. Incredibly, The Wall outsold even Dark Side Of The Moon. In Britain, The Wall reached number three and was certified double platinum. Across the Atlantic in America, The Wall reached number one on the US Billboard 200, selling twenty-three million copes, resulting in the album being certified platinum twenty-three times over. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

Elsewhere, The Wall reached number one in Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Holland and New Zealand. This resulted in The Wall being certified eleven times platinum in Australia; diamond in France; seven times platinum in Germany; fourteen times platinum in New Zealand; three times platinum in Switzerland, two times diamond in Canada; fourteen times platinum in New Zealand. If The Wall was Rick Wright’s swan-song, it was a profitable one. Roger Water’s final album with Pink Floyd never came close to being the same commercial success.

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The Final Cut.

Nearly four years passed before the release of The Final Cut. This was the first Pink Floyd album without Rick Wright. Most of the lyrics and music was penned by Roger Waters. Just like The Wall, The Final Cut was a very personal album for Roger. It was exploring what Roger believed was the betrayal fallen servicemen, including his father, who died while serving during World War II. The only other member of Pink Floyd to contribute to The Final Cut was David Gilmour. He cowrote Not Now John. Mostly, The Final Cut was Roger Water’s work. It was scheduled for release on 21st March 1983.

On the release of The Final Cut, it was accompanied by a short film. It was produced by Roger Waters and directed by Willie Christie. The film featured four songs from The Final Cut, The Gunner’s Dream, The Final Cut, The Fletcher Memorial Home and Not Now John. However, despite the final and what was a powerful and moving album, The Final Cut didn’t win favour with critics and cultural commentators. Reviews were mixed, as the release date loomed.

When 21st March 1983 came around, The Final Cut was released. The Final Cut reached number one in Britain and number six on the US Billboard 200. This resulted in a platinum disc in Britain and The Final Cut was certified double platinum in America. Elsewhere, The Final Cut hadn’t sold in the same vast quantities as The Wall. However, at least The Final Cut was certified gold in Austria, France and Germany. Pink Floyd didn’t even bother touring The Final Cut. Instead, they turned to their various solo projects.

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The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking.

In Roger Waters’ case, this was The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. This was the project he had presented Pink Floyd with in 1978. It was another concept album from the pen of  Roger Waters. It’s set in California, and focuses on a man in the throes of a midlife crisis. He’s on a road trip through California, where he dreams of committing adultery with hitchhikers. Other times, he’s beset by fears and paranoia. All this takes place between 04:30:18 AM to 05:12 AM. To bring this to life, Roger called upon some of his musical friends.

This included guitarists Eric Clapton and Ry Cooder. They were joined drummer and percussionist Andy Newmark, percussionist Ray Cooper and saxophonist David Sanborn. Pianist Michael Kamen co-produced The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. It was recorded between February and December 1983. Once the recording was complete, The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking was released on 30th April 1984.

Before the release of The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking, the critics had their say. Reviews were mixed. Some critics were impressed with The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. Others hated it, and didn’t shy away from saying so. One of the fiercest critics was Rolling Stone magazine. They gave The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking their lowest rating. This was a huge body blow for Roger Waters. He wanted his solo career to get off to a successful start.

When The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking was released on 30th April 1984, it stalled at number thirty-one on the US Billboard 200, where it was certified gold. In Britain, The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking reached just number thirteen in Britain. The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking hadn’t been the success Roger had hoped. 

Things went from bad to worse for Roger. He was due to The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking in 1984 and 1985. The tour began in Stockholm on June 16th 1984. Eric Clapton was part of Roger’s new band. They were going to play new songs, songs from The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking and Pink Floyd classics. However, quickly, it became apparent that the tour wasn’t a success. 

Ticket sales were poor, and some of the concerts at larger venues were postponed. It was only when Roger began playing smaller venues, that the sold out signs went up. Eventually, when the tour was over, Roger Waters realised he had lost £400,000 on the tour. That was a conservative estimate. To add to Roger’s problems,  the ghost of Pink Floyd was still making its presence felt.

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Pink Floyd-The End Of The Roger Waters’ Years.

Following the release of The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking, Roger Waters announced that Pink Floyd would not be reuniting. The only problem was, he hadn’t discussed this with the other members of Pink Floyd. He also wanted to dismiss Pink Floyd’s manager Steve O’Rourke. In his place, Roger employed Peter Rudge to look after his affairs. For the other members of Pink Floyd, all this came as a surprise. However, Roger Waters wasn’t finished.

He wrote to EMI and Columbia, and told them that he had left Pink Floyd, and wanted to be discharged from his contractual obligations. Roger Waters had left Pink Floyd, and in the process, tried to wreck the possibility of the band rising like a phoenix from ashes. This was bound to end up in either tears, or court.

Later, Roger Waters said that, if he other members of Pink Floyd made an album using the band’s name, he thought that they would be in breach of contract. This could result in their royalty payments being suspended. Further, Roger alleged that the other members of Pink Floyd had forced him from the band, by threatening to sue him. While all this was going on, Pink Floyd and its members past and present were in a state of flux. Nobody was making music. A resolution had to be found. So, Roger Waters headed to the High Court in London.

Roger Waters wanted to dissolve Pink Floyd, and also prevent the use of the band name. He believed the band were “a spent force creatively.” However, he was in for a surprise. 

His lawyers discovered that the Pink Floyd partnership had never been formally confirmed. It was therefore impossible to dissolve something that never existed in the first place. Despite this, Roger Waters returned to the High Court. 

This time, he was trying to stop the other members of the band using the Pink Floyd name. Again, he lost out, and Dave Gilmour stated that “Pink Floyd would continue to exist.” With that, the leadership of Pink Floyd passed from Roger Waters to Dave Gilmour. Roger Waters returned to his solo career.

Radio K.A.O.S.

With Pink Floyd returning to the studio, so did Roger Waters. He had penned another concept album Radio K.A.O.S. It was based upon key policies of late eighties politics, especially monetarism. Roger also takes aim at the then Iron  Lady, Margaret Thatcher. He was an outspoken critic of Thatcher on The Final Cut. Four years on, and he was equally outspoken. Other subjects Roger tackles include the Cold War, eighties popular culture and world politics. These subjects are seen through the eyes of Billy.

On Radio K.A.O.S., Billy is a mentally and physically disabled man from Wales. His brother Benny, is sent to prison after protesting against the government after he loses his job as a miner. This Benny is told, is the result of market forces. With Benny in prison, there’s nobody left to look after Billy. So he has to live with his uncle David in Los Angeles. Radio K.A.O.S. eavesdrops on Billy’s Billy’s mind and worldview, as he converses with Jim a DJ at a fictitious L.A. radio station, Radio K.A.O.S. This story is brought to life by Roger and what he called his Bleeding Heart Band.

Between October and December 1986, Radio K.A.O.S. was recorded at the Billiard Room, London. Accompanying Roger, was a large band. This included many well known names, including guitarist Andy Fairweather Low, vocalist Paul Carrack and saxophonist Mel Collins. Clare Torry who featured on Great Gig In The Sky, from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, featured on two tracks. Surely with such an all-star band accompanying Roger, Radio K.A.O.S. would be released to critical acclaim and commercial success?

The first most people knew about Radio K.A.O.S. was a press release from EMI, on on 6 April 1987. It announced that Roger Waters’ sophomore solo album, Radio K.A.O.S. would be released on 15th June 1987, and originally, it was hoped that this rock opera would become a film, stage show and live album. First of all, Radio K.A.O.S. would be released as a studio album.

Just like The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking, reviews of Radio K.A.O.S. were mixed. At least Rolling Stone were more positive about Radio K.A.O.S. However, it was a long way from Pink Floyd’s glory days.  

So were the sales of Radio K.A.O.S. It stalled at number fifty in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty-five in Britain. Elsewhere, Radio K.A.O.S. didn’t sell in vast quantities. To rub salt into the wound, five months later, on 7th September 1987, Pink Floyd returned with their first album since Roger Waters left, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. This coincided with the Radio K.A.O.S. tour

The Radio K.A.O.S. tour began in mid-August 1987, and finished at the end of November 1987. Everywhere he went, copies of Pink Floyd’s comeback album, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason were for sale. It had been released on 7th September 1987, reaching number three in Britain and in the US Billboard 200. A Momentary Lapse Of Reason was certified gold in Britain, and four times platinum in America. Having sold four million copies in America alone, the success continued throughout the world. Gold and platinum discs came Pink Floyd’s way. In Canada, Australia and New Zealand, through Europe, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason was a huge success. As the Radio K.A.O.S. winded its way across the globe, Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse Of Reason continued to outsell Radio K.A.O.S. Roger’s solo career wasn’t the commercial success he had hoped.

Later, Roger admitted that he wasn’t a fan of Radio K.A.O.S. He felt the album sounded “too modern.” That was down to Roger and Ian Ritchie’s production. It spoiled Radio K.A.O.S. for the man who masterminded the project. Maybe that’s why Radio K.A.O.S. wasn’t a huge commercial success? However, Roger hoped that his next album would see him rubbing shoulders with his old comrades commercially.

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The Wall-Live In Berlin.

To celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall eight months earlier, Roger Waters performed The Wall-Live In Berlin on 21st July 1990. Roger Waters financed the project, and put together an all-star cast. Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, The Scorpions, Snowy White and Bryan Adams were just some of the names that made a guest appearance. The concert was staged in what had been no man’s land between East and West. 350,000 people watched the sellout show which recorded and filmed. It would be released a month later on 21st August 1990.

This was a really fast turnaround. The Wall-Live In Berlin was recorded, produced, mastered and marketed within a month. This was a big ask. Ultimately, it proved too ambitious.

Having financed the project himself, the plan was that once Roger Waters had recouped his expenses, the profits from the live album and film, profits would go the Memorial Fund For Disaster Relief, a British charity founded by Leonard Cheshire. However, it was a case of the best laid plans of mice and men.

Sales of The Wall-Live In Berlin were disappointing. In Britain, The Wall-Live In Berlin reached number twenty-seven. Across the Atlantic, the album stalled at just number fifty-six in the US Billboard 200. Elsewhere, sales were disappointing. They failed to meet the projections. This had disastrous consequences for the charity.

With the sales not meeting expectations, the charity incurred heavy losses. This resulted in the trading arm of the charity, Operation Dinghy, being wound-up a couple of years later. By then, Roger Waters had released his third studio album, Amused To Death which was recently released on double vinyl by  Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings.

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Amused To Death.

Just like his two previous albums, Amused To Death was a concept album. Roger had been working on Amused To Death since 1987.  The inspiration for Amused To Death came from Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves To Death.

By the time the concept was complete, it revolves around the a monkey who randomly switches between television channels. As channels change, different subjects are discussed. Among them are the Gulf War, World War I, the bombing of Jordan and Libya, and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. A total of fourteen tracks feature on Amused To Death. It was recorded between 1987 and 1992.

Recording Amused To Death at various London studios. This includes The Billiard room, Olympic Studios, CTS Studios, Angel Studios and Abbey Road Studios Just like Roger’s two previous solo albums, Amused To Death features a large backing band.

Some feature throughout Amused To Death, others feature on just one or two tracks. Many are well known names. Among them are guitarists Jeff Beck, Andy Fairweather Low, Steve Lukather and B.J. Cole, bassist Randy Jackson and drummer Jeff Porcaro. John “Rabbit” Bundrick plays Hammond organ, while vocalists include Don Henley and Rita Coolidge. Once the tracks were recorded, it was mixed in QSound.

There was a reason for this. It was to enhance the spatial feel of the album. Especially, the sound effects used on Amused To Death. There’s a rifle range, sleigh bells, cars, planes, horses, crickets and dogs. They come to life on Amused To Death. It was produced by Roger and Patrick Leonard. Given the problems with production on Radio K.A.O.S. he wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. It had proved a costly mistake, one they weren’t going to repeat.

After five years of work, Amused To Death was released on 7th September 1992. Given the reception The Pros and Cons Of Hitchhiking and Radio K.A.O.S. received, Roger awaited the reviews with bated breath. Reviews were favourable of what was a cerebral, poignant and thoughtful album.

After the favourable reviews, Amused To Death reached number eight on the British charts. This resulted in a silver disc, marking sales of 60,000. While it was a far cry from his days with Pink Floyd, it showed that Roger Waters’ solo career was on the right track. 

In America, this proved to be the case. Amused To Death reached number twenty-one on the US Billboard 200. He even enjoyed a hit single, when What God Wants, Part I reached number four on the Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. After three albums and eight years, Roger Waters was forging a successful solo career. Record buyers awaited Roger Waters’ fourth studio album.

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In The Flesh-Live.

They waited a year. A year became two, three, four, five and six. Still there was no sign of Roger Waters’ fourth studio album. He returned on 5th December 2000, with a new live album, In The Flesh-Live.

This was a double album featuring recordings from Roger Waters’ three year In The Flesh Tour. It features tracks from what Roger Waters the two classic albums he had worked on: “Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall” There’s also tracks from his most recent solo album Amused To Death.” These tracks were recorded between the 16th and 27th June 2000 at concerts in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Irvine, California and Portland, during the American leg of the tour. They would eventually become part of a sprawling twenty-four track double album In The Flesh-Live.

James Guthrie was brought onboard to produce In The Flesh-Live. It was to be released as a LP, CD, DVD and SACD. This meant that a stereo and  5.1 mixes were required.  This could’ve proved time-consuming. However, the album was ready for  released on 5th December 2000. The only problem was that the reviews were mixed.

Rolling Stone magazine, especially took a dislike to In The Flesh-Live. They found very little merit in the album. The opinion of other critics was divided. Reviews ranged from lukewarm to mixed, while some critics  praised the album.  As usual, record buyers had the last say on In The Flesh-Live.

When In The Flesh-Live was released, it stalled at a lowly 136 in the US Billboard 200 and 170 in the UK. This was the least successful album of Roger Waters’ solo career. Elsewhere, sales of In The Flesh-Live were disappointing. The only places where the album reached the top twenty were Holland, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.  Commercially, In The Flesh-Live had been a  disappointment for Roger Water.

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Ça Ira, 

After the disappointment of  In The Flesh-Live, nothing was heard of Roger Waters until 2005. Then in 2005 Roger Waters released  Ça Ira, a three act opera that was also a concept album about the early part of the French Revolution.  .

Ça Ira had been written by two friends of Roger Waters, Étienne Roda-Gil and Nadine Roda-Gil. They asked Roger Water to set their French libretto to music. This he agreed to do, and brought Rick Wentworth onboard to co-produce Ça Ira. It was ambitious project that was eventually completed in 2005. The release of Ça Ira was scheduled for the 26th of September 2005.

Before that, reviews of Ça Ira were mixed. Although  Roger Waters’ composition was praised, the opera was regarded by critics as too narrative. This made staging the opera difficult, and means that the flow is constantly disrupted. Meanwhile, critics were divided about Ça Ira’s plot. Some critics regarded the plot as either to difficult to follow, or too simplistic. There was no consensus to the reviews of Ça Ira, as the release loomed.

Upon the release of Ça Ira, it was only a commercial success in one country. Sales in France were minimal, and Ça Ira stalled at 187. In Poland, Ça Ira reached number twelve and was certified platinum. This was seen as  a Pyrrhic victory, given the time and money it took to write and record  Ça Ira. For Roger Waters, it was another disappointment,

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After  Ça Ira,  Roger Waters seemed to be in no hurry to return to the recording studio. The years passed by and still, there was no sign of a followup to Amused To Death. Meanwhile, Rogers’ former comrades had been busy.

In 2014, Pink Floyd returned with a new album The River. This was Pink Floyd’s first solo album in twenty years.  It was released to critical acclaim and commercial success.  Still, there was no sign of Roger Water releasing a new studio album. However, Roger Waters was about to release a new film version of the The Wall.

 Roger Water: The Wall.

Roger Waters had toured The Wall between 15th September 2010 and 21st September 2013. The six legs of this 219 date tour took just over three years and grossed US $458.6 million. Some of the concerts had had been filmed and recorded. They would eventually become the version of The Wall that was premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on 6 September 2014. It would be just over a year before the film and soundtracks were released. Before that, the spotlight shawn on another member of Pink Floyd. 

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David Gilmour-Rattle That Lock.

David Gilmour had been busy. The man who replaced Roger Waters as Pink Floyd’s creative force, had recorded a new solo album, Rattle That Lock. It was due for release on the 18th of September 2015.  This was the fourth album of David Gilmour’s career that began in 1978.

Since then, David had been juggling his solo career alongside his work with Pink Floyd; playing on albums by some of the biggest names in music and his successful production career. That explained why David had released just four albums in thirty-seven years.  Each had been commercially successful. Rattle That Lock was no different, and released to critical acclaim. Soon, Rattle That Lock was well on its way to being certified gold. This was the first strike in the battle of the Pink Floyd solo albums.

 Roger Water: The Wall.

Just elven days after the release of Rattle That Lock, the concert film of Roger Waters: The Wall was released on 29th September 2015. However, the soundtrack wasn’t released until 20th November 2015. Maybe Legacy who were releasing Roger Waters: The Wall weren’t wanting the release of the two albums billed as a shootout between the two former bandmates? If that was the case, this was a wise move.

Roger Waters: The Wall didn’t replicate the commercial success of previous albums. The album stalled at a disappointing 134 in the US Billboard and fifty-three in the UK. In Australasia,  Roger Waters: The Wall reached thirty-eight in New Zealand and forty-six in Australia. Across Europe, the album reached twenty-nine in Austria; twenty-two in Germany; eleven in Norway and twenty in Switzerland. This was a disappointing outcome. Especially as David Gilmour’s Rattle Than Lock was selling well across the world and would be certified gold in the UK.  Just like at the High Court, David Gilmour had triumphed again.

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Since the release of Roger Waters: The Wall in November 2015,  there is still no sign of Roger Waters releasing a new studio album.  He’s now seventy-three, and twenty-four years have passed since the release of Amused To Death. It was the third solo album from Roger Waters. Nowadays, it seems that Roger Waters prefers touring than recording.

He’s embarked upon several lengthy  tours, with In the Flesh and Roger Waters: The Wall both lasting three years. These tours find Roger Waters playing to huge audiences that span several generations. Night after night, he rolls back the years, combining music from his years with Pink Floyd his solo material. This includes his trio of solo albums, The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking, Radio K.A.O.S. and Amused To Death. They’re  ambitious and complex albums that took several years to write and record. Despite this, they never received the recognition they deserved.

Some critics didn’t seem willing to give Roger Waters’ solo albums a fair hearing. Led Zeppelin and to some extent Black Sabbath had been down the same road. They had suffered at the hands of the self-same critics and publications, and had been left shaking their heads. 

What must have proved disappointing for Roger Waters, were the sales of his three albums. They never found the audience they deserved. Especially in in the lucrative American market. Only The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking was certified gold. That was as good as it got for Roger Waters in America.  It wasn’t much better in Britain, with Radio K.A.O.S. and Amused To Death being certified silver. It was a long way from his days with Pink Floyd, when Roger Waters was able to decorate his walls with  gold, platinum and diamond discs. However, he was never going to replicate the success of Pink Floyd.

No one member of Pink Floyd was capable of doing that. This success came as part of a collective, that became one of the most pioneering bands sixties and seventies. Alas, Pink Floyd ended in tears and tantrums. An appearance at the High Court in London spelt the end of Roger Waters’ time with Pink Floyd.

Life after Pink Floyd wasn’t as successful for Roger Waters. He may have been Pink Floyd’s leader after the departure of Syd Barrett, but none of the music the band made would’ve been possible without Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright. No man is an island. Maybe Roger Waters only realised this after his departure from Pink Floyd. However, Roger Waters still managed to release a triumvirate of ambitious and to some extent, underrated studio albums during his solo years which has spanned the last four decades.

Roger Waters-The Solo Years.

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THIS IS LOWRIDER SOUL 1962-1970.

This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970.

Label: Ace Records.

Between 1962 and 1970, there was an increase in popularity of soulful ballads in Southern California. These slow jams were played in the clubs in Southern California and could be heard in cars during this eight year period. Initially, it was the Mexican, Central and South American immigrants who had settled around east Los Angeles that embraced the soulful ballads. Their popularity has grown since then.

Since then, the popular of soulful ballads has grown, and now, are favourites of soul fans and record collectors around the world. Some record buyers were drawn to the music after being fascinated by the titles of the songs that were finding favour amongst the lowrider set. 

The lowrider scene was named after the members  love of classic American automobiles, which were customised as used to cruise the streets of LA. This became really popular between the early sixties and the dawn of the seventies which is the period that Ace Records’ new compilation This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970 covers.

This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970 features twenty-four tracks including the blue eyed soul of Aesop’s Fables’ 1967 single on Atco, Take A Step. This is the start of what’s a soulful compilation.

Doo wop  is represented on This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970 by The Vows’ I Wanna Chance, while The Four Tees’ sweet soul harmony ballads One More Chance is a  welcome addition.

There’s numerous lowrider classics including Brenton Wood’s Where Were You, Lee Williams and The Cymbals’ Til You Come Back To Me, Barbara Mason’s Oh, How It Hurts, The Whispers’ As I Sit Here and The Ambassadors’ I Really Love You. These classics are joined by some lesser known tracks that ooze quality. Among them are The Lovelles’ Pretending Dear, The Attractions’ Find Me, The Charmels’ As Long As I’ve Got You, Jeff Dale’s Don’t Forget About Me Baby, The Webs’ It’s So Hard To Break A Habit, Reuben Bell with The Casanovas’ It’s Not That Easy  and Crying All By Myself by William Bell. 

Closing This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970 is I’m Just Passing Time by Melvin Hicks and The Versatiles which closes the compilation is soulful style. 

It’s a welcome reminder of the lowrider scene scene which became popular in the early sixties and grew in popularity right through to 1960. That is the period that Ace Records’ compilation This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970 covers. 

This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970 us a lovingly compiled compilation that features everything from lowrider classics to unreleased sings and some lesser known slow jams that literally ooze quality. All these classy cuts make This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970 a must-have for anyone who likes soulful ballads, slow jams and smoochy music.

This Is Lowrider Soul 1962-1970.

MANCHESTER-A CITY UNITED IN MUSIC.

Manchester-A City United In Music.

Label: Ace Records.

Mention Manchester, and most people think of two things music and soccer,  and specifically God’s own team Manchester City who for too long, were perceived as the city’s second team. That wasn’t always the case and isn’t the case any more.

Between 1966 and 1975, Manchester City won eight honours, starting with the Second Division in the 1965-1966 season. This was the start for the renaissance men, and soon, a team that over the next few years featured Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee, Francis Lee and the enigmatic and occasional genius Neil Young were soon winning games and friends across England and Europe. 

 Meanwhile, across the city Tommy Docherty who was appointed manager of Manchester United in 1972, saved the from relegation from Division One  in 1973. His luck ran out when the team were relegated in 1974. However, Manchester United were promoted at the first attempt in 1975  and won the FA Cup in 1976 when they defeated Southampton. Manchester won the FA Cup two more times over the next ten years as Manchester City’s fortunes faded.

Fast forward to 2019 and Manchester City look as if they could win the quadruple that has evaded every other team in Premier League history. Manchester City are back on top, but it’s a different game and not the game that was played at Maine Road. Money has changed, and some would say ruined football which helped make Manchester famous the world over.

So did music, including the many of the forty-five artists and bands on Manchester-A City United In Music, a two CD set which has just been released by Ace Records. Manchester-A City United In Music features many familiar faces, cult songs, hidden gems and what will be new names to many music lovers. It’s a veritable musical feast and the perfect reminder to one of the Britain’s great sporting and musical cities. Here’s why;

Disc One.

Opening disc one of Manchester-A City United In Music is Dirty Old Town by folk singer Ewan MacColl which features Peggy Seeger. They’re joined by sixties stars Freddie and The Dreamers who contribute If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody while The Hollies’ Baby That’s All is a welcome addition. So is Crawling Up A Hill by John Mayall and The Blues Breakers who over fifty years later are still going strong. It’s a similar case with future Vinegar Joe front-woman Elkie Books’ Nothing Left To Do But Cry. 

Among the other familiar faces on disc one are Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders’ whose The Game Of Love is joined by Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames’ In The Meantime and Herman’s Hermits’ This Door Swings Both Ways. Progressive rockers Barclay James Harvest’s Mocking Bird is a reminder of a band that sometimes don’t receive the credit they deserve. It’s a similar case with 10cc who released a string of carefully crafted and polished hit singles and successful albums. A reminder of 10cc at their very best is Life Is A Minestrone. Closing disc one is Mr Cool by Sweet Sensation from the 1975 album Sad Sweet Dreamer which is an oft-overlooked album.

Disc Two.

Disc Two of Manchester-A City United In Music opens with Orgasm Addict by Buzzcocks and gives way to You’re A Bore and Slaughter and The Dogs and John Cooper Clarke and The Curious Yellows’ Innocents. I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk by The Freshies is included and so is Leave The Capitol by The Fall who were led by the inimitable Mark E Smith.

Welcome additions include Joy Division’s Dead Souls, New Order’s classic Thieves Like Us and Simply Red’s Come To My Aid. They’re joined by The Stone Roses’ anthemic I Wanna Be Adored, Inspiral Carpets’ This Is How It Feels, the Happy Mondays’ Kinky Afro and Johnny Marr’s New Town Velocity. Closing Manchester-A City United In Music is one of the compilations highlights, is the swaggering anthem Rock ‘n’ Roll Star by Oasis. It closes Manchester-A City United In Music on a resounding high.

For anyone who wants to know more about the Manchester music scene over the past fifty years, then Manchester-A City United In Music is a good place to start. This lovingly compiled two CD set features forty-five eclectic tracks that show the different sides to the Manchester music scene. 

Manchester-A City United In Music features superstars, new names, familiar faces and forgotten heroes of yesteryear. They’re joined one hit wonders and nearly men on a compilation that has been five years in the making. It’s been well worth the wait, and Manchester-A City United In Music is another winner from Ace Records and joy to behold like Neil Young’s winner in the 1969 FA Cup Final.

Manchester-A City United In Music.

ARTHUR BLYTHE-THE COLUMBIA YEARS.

Arthur Blythe-The Columbia Years.

Nowadays, prodigy is one of the most overused words in the English language, and all too often it’s used to describe young children who show a modicum of talent in sport and music. Sadly, and all too often, those that were described as a prodigy never fulfil their supposed potential. The young ball player ends up parking cars, and the prodigious violinist ends his days pumping gas. However, there are some prodigies who fulfil their potential, including alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe.

He was born in Los Angeles on July 5th 1940, and when he was nine, Arthur Blythe discovered the alto saxophone. Soon, he was taking lessons with a family friend and saxophonist Junior Foster. He taught Arthur Blythe, and watched as he progressed from elementary school orchestra to the marching band. Within a few years, Arthur Blythe’s life would change when he discovered jazz in his mid-teens. This was a game-changer for Arthur Blythe.

Up until then, Arthur Blythe loved R&B music. That had been his music. This changed when Arthur Blythe discovered jazz. By then, Arthur Blythe was being taught by Kirkland Bradford, who had played in Jimmie Lunceford’s swing band. However, it wasn’t swing that Arthur Blythe gravitated towards. 

Instead, it was the music of Thelonius Monk and then John Coltrane. It was only later, that Arthur Blythe discovered one of the greatest jazz saxophonists…Charlie Parker. By then, Arthur Blythe lived and breathed jazz. At last, he had discovered his purpose in life,  playing jazz saxophone.

The Early Years.

By the mid-sixties, Arthur Blythe went in search of like-minded musicians. He found them at The Underground Musicians and Artists Association, which had been founded by pianist and composer Horace Tapscott. This was the perfect environment for an up-and-coming musician like Arthur Blythe. Each day, he was  surrounded by innovative and influential musicians, and this led to him making his recording debut.

Horace Tapscott was looking for someone to play alto saxophone on his 1969 debut album and first album as bandleader, The Giant Is Awakened.Having gotten to know Arthur Blythe over the last few years, his friend from the Underground Musicians and Artists Association got the call. He was officially a member of the Horace Tapscott Quintet.

The Giant Is Awakened.

With Arthur Blythe onboard, the Horace Tapscott Quintet headed to the studio to meet producer Bob Thiele. He also owned Flying Dutchman Productions, the label the Quintet were signed to. This was an exciting time for everyone involved. Especially Arthur Blythe, who was making his recording debut; and Horace Tapscott who thought he was going to allowed to help mix the album. Before that, the album had to be recorded.

Recording took place between the 1st and 3rd of April 1969. Over the three days, the Quintet recorded four Horace Tapscott compositions with producer Bob Thiele. The veteran producer had worked with some of the biggest names in jazz, and was the perfect person to coax and cajole the best performance from the nascent Quintet. He certainly brought out the best in Arthur Blythe, whose performances were being committed to tape for the first time. Once the sessions were over, it should’ve been a time to celebrate.

Alas, the celebrations were cut short, when it became clear that Horace Tapscott wasn’t going to be involved in mixing of The Giant Is Awakened. Horace Tapscott wasn’t best pleased, and for a musician that had always been suspicious of the music industry this was the last straw. He turned his back on the recording industry for ten years. This was ironic.

When The Giant Is Awakened was released later in 1969, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Sadly the Horace Tapscott Quintet would never released another album. However, Arthur Blythe had enjoyed recording The Giant Is Awakened, and was keen to repeat the experience. 

Three years later, in 1972, Arthur Blythe returned to the studio. This time, it was with Julius Hemphill on his album Coon Bid’ness. It was an ambitious and innovative album where avant-garde and jazz combine. When it was released later in 1972, it was to critical acclaim. For the second time, Arthur Blythe had played an important part in the success of an album.

In 1974, two became three when Arthur Blythe joined Azar Lawrence for the recording of what was, a truly groundbreaking album of spiritual jazz, Bridge Into The New Age. Arthur Blythe didn’t seem of place alongside Azar Lawrence, Woody Shaw and Hadley Caliman. Despite this, Arthur Blythe’s career took an unexpected twist.

Just like many jazz musicians, Arthur Blythe had headed to New York, which was then, regarded as the American jazz capital.By the mix-seventies, was struggling to make a career out of music. Competition was fierce, and Arthur Blythe had no option but to take a job as a security guard. This was only temporary. Fortunately, he was soon hired by avant-garde vocalist Lean Thomas.

He was establishing a reputation as a leading light of avant-garde scene. Leon Thomas had also recently worked with a man from Arthur Blythe’s past, Bob Thiele. Their paths would cross again in the future. Meanwhile, Arthur Blythe and joined Leon Thomas’ band, and that was where he was ‘spotted’ by one of the biggest names in jazz,..Chico Hamilton.

He played on Chico Hamilton’s 1975 album for Blue Note, Peregrinations, and the 1976 followup Chico Hamilton and The Players. Right through to 1977, Arthur Blythe played alongside Chico Hamilton. Right up until  Arthur Blythe’s solo career began in 1977, his talents were constantly in demand and saw

Before that, Gil Evans Orchestra were looking for an alto saxophonist in 1976. Arthur Blythe answered the call, and would spend several years working with the Gil Evans Orchestra. When he was neither working with Chico Hamilton nor the Gil Evans Orchestra, worked with a variety of jazz musicians.

This included recording an album with Woody Shaw in 1977, This was The Iron Men, which featured Anthony Braxton. However, The Iron Men wasn’t released until 1980. By then, Arthur Blythe had embarked upon a solo career.

The Grip.

Arthur Blythe solo career began in early 1977, when having signed to the indie label India Navigation, he recorded his debut album The Grip on February 26, 1977. Unlike most debut albums, The Grip was a live album which was recorded at the Brook, in New York.

The Grip was an ambitious and adventurous album of free jazz. That was no surprise, as Arthur Blythe had put together a band that featured some of the most creative, free spirits on the New York jazz scene. Drummer Steve Reid provided the heartbeat, while Bob Stewart on tuba, trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, cellist Abdul Wadud and percussionist Muhamad Abdullah joined Arthur Blythe. They were responsible for a debut album that won over critics.

When The Grip was released later in 1977, praise and plaudits accompanied the release of a truly groundbreaking album. Arthur Blythe’s band went further than any of his contemporaries. Critics were enthralled by such ambitious and adventurous album. What was all the more remarkable was that it was a live album. There were no second chances. That was the case with the other live album recorded on 26th February 1977.

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Metamorphosis.

The same night that The Grip was recorded at The Brook, the tapes were left running and a second live album was recorded, Metamorphosis. It was also released later in 1977, and just like The Grip, Metamorphosis, was another  album that found favour with critics. They were impressed by Arthur Blythe’s distinctive and unique sound, as he and his band of musical free spirits took the listener on an another musical adventure. For critics and the record buyers who discovered Metamorphosis, it was a tantalising taste of what was to come from Arthur Blythe.

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Bush Baby.

Despite having recorded and released two live albums early in 1977, Arthur Blythe wasn’t willing to rest on his laurels. Instead, he featured on Synthesis’ debut album Six By Six. Then he signed a contract with the Adelphi label, and  headed into the studio in December 1977.

For his first studio album, Arthur Blythe four new compositions, They would be recorded by a trio. This featured Bob Stewart on tuba and Ahkmed Abdullah on congas. Sitting atop the arrangement was the unmistakable sound of Arthur Blythe’s alto saxophone. With the four compositions recorded, Bush Baby was released in 1978.

Before the release of Bush Baby, critics had their say on the album. Just like his two live albums, critics remarked upon Arthur Blythe’s adventurous spirit. They also remarked that already, Arthur Blythe was a versatile musician. He could seamlessly switch between playing soulfully, to playing with an unbridled intensity. Critics were won over by Bush Baby which was released in early 1978. Equally impressed by Arthur Blythe, were Columbia Records, who signed him in 1987. This was the start of a new era.

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In The Tradition.

Having signed to Columbia Records, Arthur Blythe got the opportunity to renew his acquaintance with producer Bob Thiele. He was drafted in to produce Arthur Blythe’s Columbia Records’ debut, In The Tradition.

For In The Tradition, Arthur Blythe composed Break Tune and Hip Dripper. The rest of the tracks were cover versions, which took Arthur Blythe back to his teenage years. This included Fats Wallers’ Jitterbug Waltz which had been a favourite when R&B was Arthur Blythe’s passion. The other songs included a cover of Duke Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood, and Caravan, which the Duke penned with Irving Mills and Juan Tizol. Fittingly, the album closer was Naima, which was written by John Coltrane who was one of the artists who inspired Arthur Blythe. These six tracks were recorded at Mediasound Studios, in New York.

At Mediasound Studios, the free spirits that played on Arthur Blythe’s first three albums were absent. Replacing them, were a rhythm section of drummer Steve McCall and bassist Fred Hopkins. Completing Arthur Blythe’s quartet were pianist Stanley Cowell. Once In The Tradition was complete, Bob Thiele didn’t make the same mistake twice.

Not only did Bob Thiele co-produce In The Tradition with Arthur Blythe, but he allowed him play a part in the mixing of the album. He must have remembered the confusion surrounding the Horace Tapscott Qunintet’s The Giant Is Awakened. So, Arthur Blythe mixed In The Tradition with Doug Epstein. Then later in 1978, Arthur Blythe’s Columbia debut was released.

Critics were in for a surprise when they heard In The Tradition. This time, there were neither sonic experiments, nor musical adventures from Arthur Blythe. Instead, as the title suggested, the album had a much more traditional sound. The quartet embraced and enjoyed this return to a more traditional sound. It allowed the quartet to showcase their considerable skills. This was something critics remarked upon, praising and lauding the standard of musicianship on display on In The Tradition.It was to critical acclaim later in 1977.

The only disappointment was that In The Tradition didn’t chart in the US Billboard 200. However, it found an audience within the jazz community, who wondered what direction Arthur Blythe was heading next?

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Lenox Avenue Breakdown.

Arthur Blythe returned to Mediasound Studios later in 1978, with four new compositions. They would become Lenox Avenue Breakdown, which featured an expanded lineup of Arthur Blythe’s band.

This time around, Arthur Blythe was working with a septet, which featured some top jazz musicians. The rhythm section alone featured drummer Jack DeJohnette, bassist Cecil McBee and guitarist James Blood Ulmer. They were augmented by the familiar face of Bob Stewart on tuba, flautist James Newton and percussionist Guilherme Franco. Producing this all-star lineup, was a man used to big occasions, Bob Thiele. He coaxed and cajoled a masterful performance out of the septet. It was worth every ounce of effort and energy that had been expounded. After this, it was over to Arthur Blythe to mix Lenox Avenue Breakdown. Then Arthur Blythe’s Magus Opus was almost ready for release.

Before that, critics had their say on Lenox Avenue Breakdown. Critics thought the band had been together for years. However, they were a new band, and had been together just a week when Bob Thiele pressed play. He watched as the septet delivered a masterful performance on an album of innovative and influential contemporary jazz. 

Bob Stewart the longest-serving member of Arthur Blythe’s band, played an important part on Lenox Avenue Breakdown. Especially on the title-track, a thirteen minute epic, where he delivered what’s considered one of the finest tuba solos in modern jazz. That’s just one reason why Lenox Avenue Breakdown is the album’s centrepiece. However, the new band all play their part on album that critics exhausted superlatives on. 

It was variously hailed a masterpiece and a modern classic. In a later review, The Penguin Guide To Jazz said: “one of the lost masterpieces of modern jazz.” Sadly, that was the case.

When Lenox Avenue Breakdown was released in 1979, the album never troubled the US Billboard 200. Even in the US Billboard Jazz Albums Charts, Lenox Avenue Breakdown reached just thirty-five. Arthur Blythe’s Magnus Opus, was indeed: “one of the lost masterpieces of modern jazz.” 

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Illusions.

Having spent 1979 and early 1980 working as a sideman, this allowed Arthur Blythe to get over the commercial failure of Lenox Avenue Breakdown. Arthur Blythe must have known it was the best album of his career. Critics had called it a masterpiece and a classic. Now he had it all to do again, in the hope that commercial success wouldn’t continue to elude him. So Arthur Blythe returned to the studio in April 1980.

When recording Illusions began, the changes had been rung, Rather than Mediasound Studios, Illusions was being recorded at CBS Recording Studios, New York. Producing the album, was  Arthur Blythe and Jim Fishel. There was no sign of Bob Thiele, nor the septet that featured on Lenox Avenue Breakdown.

While it was still a septet that featured on Illusions, this time there were several new faces. Even two different drummer were used on the album, each playing on three tracks. This meant the rhythm section featured drummers Steve McCall and Bobby Battle, bassist Fred Hopkins and guitarist James Blood Ulmer. Tubaist Bob Stewart returned, and was joined by cellist Abdul Wadud who had featured on Arthur Blythe’s first two albums. Completing the lineup was pianist John Hicks. They spent much of April and May recording Illusions. Once it was complete, critics were in for a surprise.

On Illusions, critics realised, that Arthur Blythe had used two different quartets. Musicians were swapped in and out, depending on the track. The result was an album of innovative and inventive jazz, where Arthur Blythe are at the peak of their powers. Arthur Blythe as a composer, bandleader and musician, was at his creative zenith, as he pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. It was a fitting followup to Lennox Avenue Meltdown, Arthur Blythe’s Magnus Opus. However, while the music on Illusions was innovative and inventive, Columbia would’ve preferred an album that appealed to a much wider audience.

When Illusions was released, just like Arthur Blythe’s two previous albums, it failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. To make matters worse, Illusions didn’t even match the success of Lennox Avenue Meltdown, which reached thirty-five in the US Billboard Jazz Album Charts. For Arthur Blythe, this was a huge disappointment.

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Blythe Spirit.

Arthur Blythe returned to CBS Recording Studios, in New York in 1981. This time around, Arthur Blythe had four new compositions, Contemplation, Faceless Woman, Reverence and Spirits in the Field. The other three tracks included George and Ira Gershwin’s Strike Up the Band; Johnny Burke and Erroll Garner’s Misty and a rework of the traditional gospel song Just a Closer Walk With Thee. These songs were recorded by a band that featured familiar faces and new names.

The rhythm section featured drummers Steve McCall and Bobby Battle, bassist Fred Hopkins and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. Tubaist Bob Stewart returned, and was joined by cellist Abdul Wadud and pianist John Hicks. Just like on Illusions, different musicians featured on the seven tracks. They would become Blythe Spirit, which produced by Jim Fishel and Arthur Blythe. It was a quite different album, from Arthur Blythe.

Critics realised this, when they received their advance copy of  Blythe Spirit. Elements of avant-garde were combined with hard bop and R&B on Blythe Spirit Arthur Blythe. Some of the tracks featured a trio, while others featured quartet or quintet. They were responsible for tracks the veered between conventional like Misty, and a much more adventurous approach. Especially on the swinging take of Just A Closer Walk With Thee. Strike Up The Band was given an unlikely makeover, while the Arthur Blythe compositions are best described as genre-melting, and innovative. This resulted in an album that was well received by critics, but failed to find a wider audience.

Just like Illusions, Blythe Spirit failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. Illusions never even reached the US Billboard Jazz Album Charts. It was another disappointment for Arthur Blythe, and of course, Columbia.

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They had placed their faith in Arthur Blythe, and gave him the freedom to release albums that featured ambitious, inventive and innovative. Sometimes it was almost experimental, as Arthur Blythe became a sonic explorer and took his music in unlikely directions on his first four albums for Columbia. However, Columbia weren’t about to give up on Arthur Blythe.

Elaborations.

When Arthur Blythe began work on Elaborations he was at his creative peak, and full of new ideas. Arthur Blythe was constantly looking to reinvent his music and take in new directions. He was truly one of jazz’s pioneers, and the music he recorded at Columbia is a reminder of that. This includes Elaborations.

For Elaborations, Arthur Blythe composed five of the six tracks. This included Elaborations, Metamorphosis, Shadows and The Lower Nile. The only cover version on Elaborations was One Mint Julep which was written by Rudolph Toombs. These six tracks were recorded at CBS Recording Studios, in New York.

When the sessions for Elaborations began at CBS Recording Studios, in New York, Arthur Blythe was joined by co-produced by Jim Fishel. Elaborations would be the third Arthur Blythe album he had co-produced. He came onboard for the recording of Illusions in 1980 and returned for the recording of Blythe Spirit in 1981. The pair worked well together, and they reconvened for the recording of Elaborations. Joining them were some top session musicians.

Arthur Blythe’s band featured a rhythm section of drummer Bobby Battle and bassist Wilber Morris who played on Sister Daisy and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. They were joined by cellist Abdul Bob , Bob Stewart on tuba and Muhammad Abdullah who played congas on Sister Daisy. This talented and experienced band accompanied Arthur Blythe’s alto saxophone on Elaborations. When the sessions were over, the release was scheduled for later in 1982.

Before that, critics had their say on Elaborations, which was Arthur Blythe’s fifth album for Columbia. Critics were won over by Elaborations which was another ambitious and criticality album from one of the few remaining jazz pioneers.

Despite that, and the praise and plaudits Elaborations received, it wasn’t a commercial success upon its release in 1982. By then, Arthur Blythe had built up a loyal fan-base that followed his career with interest. They also bought all of the album he had released since 1977. The problem was, there wasn’t enough of them. Deep down though, forty-three year old Arthur Blythe knew his music had to find a wider audience.  

Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk.

For his sixth album for Columbia, Arthur Blythe decided to pay homage to one of the true legends of jazz Thelonious Monk. He  had passed away in 1982, and Arthur Blythe wanted to pay his own tribute to one of the greatest jazz musicians on Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk. This was fitting in more ways than one.

Just like Thelonious Monk, many critics and cultural commentators regarded Arthur Blythe as an avant-garde musician rather than a jazz musician. This wasn’t the only similarity between Monk and Arthur Blythe. The two men had signed to Columbia, in the hope that their music would find a wider audience. So far, this hadn’t happened for Arthur Blythe. Maybe Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk would be a game-changer?

Prior to recording  Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk, Arthur Blythe had spent some time going through Monk’s compositions. He wanted to find songs that would translate from Monk’s piano to Arthur Blythe’s alto saxophone. Eventually, he settled on We See, Light Blue, Off Minor, Epistrophy which Monk wrote with Kenny Clarke, Coming On The Hudson and Nutty. These songs would become Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk, which Arthur Blythe produced himself.

This time around, there was no sign of Jim Fishel who had co-produced three albums with Arthur Blythe. Instead, Arthur Blythe took charge of production, and guided his band through the six songs on Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk. However, Arthur Blythe’s band featured many familiar faces.

Arthur Blythe’s core band featured the musicians that had featured on Elaborations. The rhythm section of drummer Bobby Battle and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. They were joined by cellist Abdul Wadud, Bob Stewart on tuba and Muhammad Abdullah who played congas. This was a talented, experienced and versatile band who would play their part on what was a fitting homage to Thelonious Monk.

The time that Arthur Blythe had spent choosing the right songs for his homage to Monk had been time well spent. Critics hailed the album a fitting tribute to one of the true legends of jazz. However, this wasn’t a slavish copy of the Monk’s originals. Instead, each composition was given a twist on Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk, which found favour among critics. They hailed it one of Arthur Blythe’s finest moments.

After receiving critically acclaimed reviews, Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk was released by Columbia in 1983. Sadly, it followed in the footsteps of his previous albums, and failed to find the audience it so richly deserved. By then, Arthur Blythe and executives at Columbia knew something had change.

Put Sunshine In It.

By the early eighties, jazz was no longer as possible as it had once been. It had been overtaken by other musical genres, and jazz was heading in the same direction as the blues some fifteen years earlier. Something had to change to save jazz from irrelevancy. 

Fortunately, Dr. George Butler Columbia’s head of jazz was a man with a plan. He had been looking at who synths, sequencers, samplers, and drum machines could be used in jazz. This could be the start of a brave new world for the genre. However, moving in this direction could backfire for an artist, and could result in an album that lacked authenticity, tradition and soul. It could also proved to be a musical white elephant, and a blot on an artist’s CV. As a result, there weren’t going to be many people willing to record a jazz album using the new technology. That was until Dr. George Butler persuaded Arthur Blythe to be a guinea pig, and record the most experimental album of his career Put Sunshine In It.

For Put Sunshine In It, Arthur Blythe penned six new tracks for the most experimental album of his career. There must have been a degree of trepidation as he began work on an album that was totally different from anything he had released before. Despite that, the bandleader, composer and alto-saxophonist came up with six new songs   including Tumalumah, Put Sunshine In It, Uptown Strut, Silhouette, # 5 and Sentimental Walk (Theme-Diva). These songs would feature on Put Sunshine In It.

A familiar face returned for the recording of Put Sunshine In It, co-producer Jim Fishel. He hadn’t worked on Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Plays Thelonious Monk, which Arthur Blythe produced himself. However, with the addition of the new technology this was uncharted territory for Arthur Blythe. He was joined by his usual band which included a rhythm section of drummer Bobby Battle and bassist Wilber Morris who played on Uptown Strut and guitarist Kelvyn Bell. They were joined by cellist Abdul Wadud, Bob Stewart on tuba and Muhammad Abdullah who played congas on Uptown Strut. This talented and experienced band accompanied Arthur Blythe’s alto saxophone on what was an ambitious and experimental album.

When the recording of Put Sunshine In It took place, tuba player Bob Stewart felt that Arthur Blythe’s heart wasn’t in the album. The band recorded their parts over a backing track that had already been programmed and recorded. This wasn’t the way album Arthur Blythe recorded an album and it wasn’t the album he had wanted to record. Instead, he would’ve rather stuck with the acoustic sound of previous albums. This offered Arthur Blythe the freedom to experiment and reinvent his music on each album. However, Dr. George Butler had persuaded Arthur Blythe to record an album where his band was augmented by a myriad of technology. 

It was as if Dr. George Butler was planning to market Arthur Blythe as Columbia’s r answer to David Sanborn. What Dr. George Butler failed to grasp was that Arthur Blythe had no wish to be a David Sanborn clone. He would rather have left this to lesser musicians, lacking in pride and self-worth. However, after releasing six album that hadn’t reached a wider audience, Arthur Blythe delivered the album Columbia wanted.

Deep down, he must have known that if the album wasn’t a success, he could return to recording albums with his acoustic band. That was the music that Arthur Blythe enjoyed making and believed in. Despite the technology, Arthur Blythe’s acoustic band featured on Put Sunshine In It. It was a learning experience for the musicians involved. They were introduced to new technology that would soon play a major part in recording albums. Maybe not for alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe though?

Critics were surprised by the direction that Arthur Blythe’s music had headed in on Put Sunshine In It. Some welcomed the stylistic change, but many critics and commentators recognised that Arthur Blythe’s playing was still of the same high standard on an album that was a marriage of his acoustic band and the latest musical technology. Arthur Blythe had been encouraged to make use of technical tracery and overdubbing, which was a first for him. The result was a jazz album that was obviously recorded in the eighties. That is because of the technology used in the making of the album. It has an unmistakable eighties sound. Having said that, Put Sunshine In It has aged well, unlike much of the music released in the eighties.

When Put Sunshine In It was released in 1984, the album wasn’t a success. Even some of’s most loyal fans weren’t won over by the album. It had been an idea that was doomed to failure from the very start. The only person who failed to realise this, was Dr. George Butler, who was Columbia’s head of jazz. 

In some record companies the failure of Put Sunshine In It would’ve cost Dr. George Butler his job. His idea to reinvent Arthur Blythe had backfired. He had press-ganged Arthur Blythe into recording an album he didn’t want to record. The result was the Put Sunshine In It, which was the least successful album of the alto saxophonist’s career.  Despite this Dr. George Butler held onto his position as Columbia’s head of jazz. For Arthur Blythe this was a worrying time.

With Dr. George Butler continuing as Columbia’s head of jazz,  Arthur Blythe no longer had  the same artistic freedom that he had enjoyed up when Bruce Landvall was in charge. He had left Columbia in 1982. Gone were the days when Arthur Blythe could record ambitious and innovative albums, and could continue  to reinvent his music on each album.

It was another two years before Arthur Blythe returned in 1986 with his eighth album for Columbia, Da-Da. While it was well received by critics, it failed to find a wider audience. It was a same case with Arthur Blythe’s Columbia swan-song Basic Blythe in 1987. That was the ninth album that Arthur Blythe had recorded for Columbia in nine years.

After the release of Basic Blythe in 1987, Arthur Blythe left Columbia. Although Arthur Blythe’s career continue and he released another nine more albums between  1991 and 2003. While Arthur Blythe continued to release albums of ambitious music, his most productive years were spent at Columbia. That was where Arthur Blythe recorded and released the best music of his four decade career. This includes the  seven albums he released between  1978s In The Tradition  and 1983s Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk. They feature the finest music Arthur Blythe’s career and are reminder of the legendary alto saxophonist at the peak of creative powers.

Sadly, legendary bandleader, composer and alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe passed away earlier this year on March the ’27th’ 2017,  aged seventy-six. By then, Arthur Blythe was largely unknown outside of a small coterie of jazz aficionados who appreciated the music of this true jazz great. For newcomers to Arthur Blythe’s music, the perfect place to start is the music he released during his Columbia years and especially between  1978s In The Tradition  and  Light Blue: Arthur Blythe Plays Thelonious Monk in 1983.

Arthur Blythe-The Columbia Years.

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOGALLAR

The Life and Times Of Moğollar.

In 1976, one of Turkey’s most successful bands, Moğollar, called time on their career. By then, the Anadolu Pop heroes had been together for nearly a decade. For their  swan-song,  Moğollar decided to change direction musically, and release an album of instrumental progressive rock. This made sense, as currently, Moğollar didn’t have a lead vocalist. Alas, this was nothing new. 

Throughout their career, Moğollar seemed to encounter problems with vocalists. They seemed to come and go, never staying long. However, changes to Moğollar’s lineup was nothing new. It had always been somewhat ‘fluid’. Still, Moğollar carried on as normal. That was the case when Moğollar. Later, in 1976, they released their swan-song Moğollar, which ensured that Moğollar bowed out in style. . It’s a reminder of one Turkey’s greatest groups, Moğollar.

Silüetler.

Their story began in Istanbul, in 1964, when twenty year old guitarist, Mesut Aytunca and Erol Bilem formed Silüetler. In the early days of Silüetler, they were inspired by one of the popular British group, The Shadows. Soon, Silüetler were popular draw within the local music scene. This gave them the confidence to enter various Turkish music competition.

By 1965, Silüetler were faring well in the competitions they entered. Although they hadn’t won, they were always challenging for the top spot. One of the most prestigious competitions was the Altin Mikrofon. Entrants were encouraged to combine Turkish lyrics with Western instrumentation. When Silüetler entered the Altin Mikrofon competition in 1965, they were third. It was a case of so near, yet so far.

A year later, and Silüetler were better prepared for the Altin Mikrofon competition. They had spent much of 1966 recording and touring. The extensive touring allowed Silüetler to hone the Anatolian rock sound that they had pioneered. This fusion of Turkish folk and rock music proved popular wherever Silüetler played. It also proved popular when Silüetler took to the stage at the 1966 Altin Mikrofon. When the winner was announced, it was no surprise when Silüetler won the first prize. Their star was in the ascendancy.

The only problem was that Mesut Aytunca had a tendency to change Silüetler’s lineup to ensure the music stayed relevant. Musicians seemed to come and go. In 1967, two new arrivals were rhythm guitarist and vocalist Aziz Azmet and organist Murat Ses. They were both talented musicians, and were welcome additions to Silüetler. 

Within a matter of months, the two new arrivals were plotting the musical equivalent of a coup d’état. Aziz Azmet and organist Murat Ses had been planning to form a new band, Moğollar. Before the end of 1967, Aziz Azmet and Murat Ses had recruited nearly ever member of Silüetler. The only man that remainder was one of the two, founder members Mesut Aytunca. His constant changing of Silüetler’s lineup had backfired spectacularly.

Moğollar.

This was something that the members of Moğollar in 1967 should’ve have learnt from. That wasn’t the case. Within a matter of months, started to change. It wasn’t the occasional change in lineup. Instead, Moğollar seemed to be constantly changing. So much so, that fourteen different musicians were members of Moğollar between 1967-1974.

Complicating matters further, was that some of the members of Moğollar were also successful solo artists. They would often head off on tour or into the studio to record an album. These were interesting times for Moğollar.

By 1968, Moğollar were already a popular live draw in Izmir, where they played in clubs and even at fairs. This the members of Moğollar knew, was all good experience for the nascent band. Moğollar wanted to hone their sound, especially with the Altin Mikrofon competition fast approaching. They had set their sights on wining it. However, Moğollar had to settle for third prize. Considering  Moğollar were still a relatively new band, their Dutch manager Anton Oskamp told the band that this was a good result.

Following the Altin Mikrofon competition, Moğollar embarked on a lengthy and gruelling tour of Eastern Turkey. During the tour, Moğollar would play in towns where no rock bands had previously played. In some of the towns, the inhabitants had never heard rock music before. Moğollar were about to become musical pioneers, as they introduced their music to a new and wider audience.

As the tour of Eastern Turkey progressed, so did Moğollar’s interest in Turkish folk music. Soon, Moğollar began to expand the array of instruments they took to the stage with. This began when guitarist Cahit Berkay started buying a variety of traditional Turkish instruments including a baglama, kemence, tambura and three string violin. They would augment the instruments that Moğollar usually took to the stage with.

Gradually, Moğollar’s sound was evolving. Suddenly, the way Moğollar approached music began to change. They began using Western instruments to play parts in song that normally, a traditional instrument would play. This new sound  was born during the tour of Eastern Turkey, but took shape  over the next couple of years. In 1970, Taner Öngür christened, the new sound Anadolu Pop in an article in Hey magazine.

Despite Taner Öngür coining the term Anadolu Pop, he isn’t regarded as the architect of Anadolu Pop. Instead, Moğollar’s organist and songwriter-in-chief, Murat Ses’ credits his wife Nihal Ses as the true architect of Anadolu Pop. It was pioneered by Moğollar, who were the most successful purveyor of the genre.

By 1970, Moğollar were a hugely successful band. They wanted to taste commercial success and critical acclaim further afield. Even if this meant leaving Turkey, and living in Europe. Members of Moğollar were sent to various European cities to try and find a new base for the band. After considering several cities, Moğollar settled on Paris.

This was purely because Barış Mango lived in Paris, and offered Taner Öngür somewhere to stay. Suddenly, Paris looked very appealing for Moğollar’s new European base. The rest of Moğollar found accommodation elsewhere in Paris. Now they could begin looking for a recording contract.

Not long after Moğollar arrived in Paris, they looked through the telephone book and made a list of all the record companies based in the city. They started phoning each one, in the hope that one of the record companies, would offer them a contract. Eventually, CBS offered Moğollar a three year contract. This was the start of a new chapter for Moğollar.

Danses Et Rythmes De La Turquie D’Hier À Aujourd’hui.

Soon, Moğollar went into the studio to record Hitchin’, their first single for CBS. When Hitchin’ was released, it became the first single that Moğollar had recorded in English. Later in 1971, Moğollar released their debut album Danses Et Rythmes De La Turquie D’Hier À Aujourd’hui in France and Turkey. It featured new songs from. This won them the Grand Prix du Disque award, and  Moğollar’s star was in the ascendancy.

Following the release of Grand Prix du Disque, Moğollar started planning a tour. Before the tour could begin, Moğollar began looking for a new lead vocalist. After a couple of singers turned them down, Barış Mango agreed to tour with Moğollar. 

It was tantalising prospect, that two of the leading lights of Turkish music were about to head out on tour. Everyone involved was similarly excited. So much so, that Moğollar decided to changed the band name to Manchomongol for the tour. It got underway later in 1971.

One member of Moğollar was missing, Engin Yörükoğlu. He had returned home to Istanbul to get married, but didn’t rejoin Moğollar. Instead, he remained in Istanbul until 1972, when he joined Barış Mango and Kurtalan Ekspres. That would prove ironic.

The tour wasn’t as enjoyable as Moğollar and Barış Mango had hoped. They thought that two titans of Turkish music touring, was going to be the experience of a lifetime. After four long months, that was far from the case. A turning point came in Kütahya, when someone took offence to Barış Mango’s long hair and blew the tour van up. Everyone was shaken by this. Not long after this, Barış Mango caught mumps and had to leave the tour.

Trying to find a replacement at short notice wasn’t easy. However, they recorded with Selda and Ersen and then began touring with Cem Karaca. That tour would last two years. Sadly, one of the members of Moğollar would’ve left the band before the tour ended.

This was organist and songwriter-in-chief Murat Ses. He was looking through Hey magazine in 1972, when he noticed an article about Moğollar. As Murat Ses read the article he was in for a surprise. Guitarist Cahit Berkay had announced that Murat Ses had left Moğollar. The reason given, was he no longer wanted to play concerts in small villages in Eastern Turkey. This was all news to Murat Ses. That day, he was unceremoniously ousted from the band he cofounded.

What those who plotted Murat Ses’ removal had overlooked, was his importance within Moğollar. Not only did he write the majority of the songs, but his organ played an important part in Moğollar’s music. The loss of Murat Ses could be a turning point for Moğollar. However, some saw this as just the latest change in Moğollar’s lineup.

After Murat Ses’ departure from Moğollar, Cahit Berkay became Moğollar’s de facto leader. Before long, most of the band were working on side projects. That was apart from Cahit Berkay. As time passed by, he decided the time was right for Moğollar to try and make a breakthrough in the European market. If that was going to happen, Cahit Berkay had to convince one former member of Moğollar to return to the fold.

That was Engin Yörükoğlu. He was still living in France, so Cahit Berkay journeyed from Istanbul to see his old bandmate. This was something of a mercy mission, as Moğollar seemed to be teetering on the brink. Maybe if Engin Yörükoğlu rejoined Moğollar, then it would have a  future?

At the meeting in France, Engin Yörükoğlu agreed to rejoin Moğollar. Three years after the release of their debut album, Moğollar were about to begin work on their sophomore album. Before that, Cahit Berkay returned home to Istanbul with the news that Engin Yörükoğlu was rejoining Moğollar.

When the rest of Moğollar heard the news, they began packing their instruments onto a pickup truck. This included Romain Didier, who would play Fender Rhodes and Minimoog. They would then be joined by Engin Yörükoğlu in the studio.

Hittit Sun.

Before that, Cahit Berkay assumed the role of songwriter-in-chief. He penned nine of the eleven songs. Romain Didier contributed Rue De L’orient, while Moğollar covered the traditional song White Dear. These eleven songs would eventually become Moğollar’s sophomore album Hittit Sun.

As work began on Hittit Sun, Moğollar’s music moved towards progressive rock and jazz. This was very different to their usual Anadolu Pop sound. It was no surprise. Music had changed since Moğollar released their debut album in 1971. Moğollar knew they had to reinvent their music to stay relevant. However, how would their fans respond?

When Moğollar’s sophomore album was released in Turkey in 1975, it was entitled Düm-Tek. By then, four years had passed since they had released their debut album. Düm-Tek wasn’t a commercial success in Turkey. Elsewhere, the album was released as Hittit Sun. Despite what was an ambitious and accomplished album, Hittit Sun failed to find an audience. It was a disaster for Moğollar.

Moğollar.

Despite the commercial failure of Hittit Sun, Moğollar weren’t willing to give up on their dream of making a commercial breakthrough in Europe. It was looking increasingly unlikely, but Moğollar were determined to give it one more go. 

So work began on Moğollar’s third album in 1976. It featured Turkish folk songs; Azerbaijani folks song, classical pieces and B-Sides. The album opener Kâtip Arzuhalim Yaz Yare Böyle was from the days of Manchomongol in 1971. These tracks would eventually become Moğollar’s eponymous third album.

For Moğollar, the sound had been stripped back to just the rhythm section and keyboards. By then, drummer and percussionist Engin Yörükoğlu and rhythm guitarist Cahit Berkay were the longest serving members of Moğollar. The rest of the band were relative newcomers. Again, they took charge of arranging the eleven tracks that later in 1976, became Moğollar.

When Moğollar was released on the Diskotür label  in 1976, it followed in the footsteps of Hittit Sun and failed commercially. For Moğollar the dream was over. The band decided to call it a day. Moğollar was their swan-song. 

Sadly, for Moğollar their eponymous third album was the end of what had been a long and eventful musical journey. They left behind a rich musical legacy, which included  was around twenty singles and three albums. The last of this trio of albums was Moğollar.

It’s a captivating fusion of ancient Anatolian melodies and instruments which is combined with elements of classical music, progressive rock and psychedelia. Add to that, Eastern sounds and bursts of fuzzy guitar. The result is a heady  brew that comprises Turkish folk songs; Azerbaijani folk song, classical pieces and B-Sides. Sadly, Moğollar wasn’t a commercial success.

When Moğollar followed in the footsteps of Hittit Sun, and failed to find the audience it so richly deserved, that was the last straw for Moğollar. They called time on their career. 

After eight years together, Moğollar the remaining members of the band went their separate ways. The Moğollar was a case of what might have been. They never really built on the commercial success and critical acclaim that their 1971 debut album Danses Et Rythmes De La Turquie D’Hier À Aujourd’hui.

The problem was, that Moğollar waited too long to release their sophomore album Hittit Sun. By 1975, music had changed. Moğollar knew they had to change direction to stay relevant. Moving away from their original sound seemed to alienate their fan-base. To make matters worse, Hittit Sun passed the wider record buying public by. They missed out on ambitious and accomplished album, that has since become a cult album. 

Sadly, history was to repeat itself a year later when Moğollar was released. Like many albums that passed record buyers by first time round, it started to find an audience long after its release. Noways, original copies of the album are hard to come by. When they become available, it’s for large sums of money that’s beyond most record buyers. Fortunately.  It’s a reminder of one Turkey’s greatest groups, as the first chapter in the Moğollar came to an end.

When the Moğollar split-up in 1976, it looked like the end of the line for the group. However, eighteen years later and Moğollar reformed. They released five new studio albums between 1994 and 2009. Not only were Moğollar back to stay, but they were popular than ever. While this was a welcome return, for many of their fans Moğollar’s first three albums feature the band at their very best. This includes Moğollar, where a myriad of disparate music influences and instruments are combined to create a heady, mesmeric and delicious musical brew.

The Life and Times Of Moğollar.

 

 

CYCLONE! GALLIC GUITARS A-GO-GO 1962-66.

Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66.

Label: Ace Records.

In the early sixties, rock ’n ’roll arrived in France, and was immediately embraced by a new generation of French musicians with an intensity. Among the first wave of French rock groups were  Les Chats Sauvages and Les Chaussettes Noires, who nowadays, are regarded as having set the scene for the yé-yé singers and bands that followed in their footsteps.

Before that, many French bands adopted the rockabilly and rock’ n’ roll sounds that led to new a generation of Gallic teens forming their own groups. Many were inspired groups by The Shadows, who nowadays many people think were merely Cliff Richard’s backing band.That is just part of the story of The Shadows.

During the early sixties, The Shadows were without doubt, the most successful British instrumental rock group. The Shadows were also a hugely influential group, who inspired a generation of musicians across Europe to form new groups.  This included in the French capital, Paris.

In France, the competition in towns and cities for the title of top instrumental band was fierce. Especially in Paris, and at one particular venue the Golf Drouot, which was variously a venue for mini golf as well as a tearoom and in the evening, a nightclub. That was where every self-respecting French band wanted to play. When they took to the stage at  Le Temple Du Rock, which was owned by Henri Leproux, they knew they had arrived. 

Le Temple Du Rock was soon playing an important part in the second wave of French rock ’n’ roll, which is documented on Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66, which was recently released by Ace Records. Many of the bands on Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66, took to the stage at Le Temple Du Rock. Some of these bands feature well known songwriters, musicians and producers. Sadly, many of these instrumental groups have been forgotten about even by French music fans, who preferred their American and British counterparts. However, the twenty-five tracks on Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66 is a reminder of this four year period the music was grimier, noisier and not as refined  as the similar types of music being released in Britain, America and Italy. There were several  reasons for this.

This included the equipment being used and the skill and experience of the recording engineer. Another thing to take into account were the effects used on recordings. These variables added to the vibe and feeling of the tracks on Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66 which features musical pleasures aplenty.

Hully Bach by Les Fantômes opens Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66 in style and sets the bar high. Rising to the challenge are Les Lionceaux’s SLC Jerk, Les Players’ Manhunt and Les Français’ Palpitations. That isn’t forgetting’ Les Aiglon’s Stalactite and Les Fantômes’ Fort Chabrol which are welcome contributions. The same can be said of Les Guitares’ Neptune and Joey amd The Showmen’s Surf Train who are riding the crest of a wave with this homage to the classic American surf sound which features a nod to The Shadows. That is just part of the story of Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66

Les Guitares Du Diable contribute Le Bastion, The Four Dreamers’ the cinematic sounding Attila and Les Sunlights’ Andalucia. Then Les Monégasques add the jaunty sounding instrumental Flirt Avec Le Vent (Countdown while The Four Dreamer closes Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66 with the hidden gem To Venus. 

After twenty-five tracks it’s apparent that Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66 is another quality compilation from Ace Records, who turn their attention to this oft-overlooked genre of music. Many of these Gallic rock ’n’ roll instrumentals are long-forgotten hidden gems that deserve to be heard buy a new audience.

Hopefully, that will be the case and a new generation of music lovers will enjoy the twenty-five instrumentals on Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66, which is a lovingly curated compilation that is a reminder of the second wave of French rock ’n’ that took Paris by storm in the early sixties and in the process, transformed French music.

Cyclone! Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ALICE CLARK?

Whatever Happened To Alice Clark?

Sadly, all too often, hype and image has triumphed over talent, while commercial success and critical acclaim eludes truly talented artists. Chastened by the experience, many of these artists turn their back on the music industry. They’re content to return to civvy street, free from a world populated by A&R executives, PR companies and radio pluggers. At least the artist knows that they gave it their best shot. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Now they begin the first day of the rest of their life.

This is what happened to Brooklyn born soul singer Alice Clark. Her career began in 1968, and was over by 1972. During that four-year period, Alice Clark recorded just fifteen songs during three recording session. This includes two singles, and her 1972 album Alice Clark. After commercial success eluded her, Alice Clark career turned her back on music. Since then, Alice Clark has remained  one of the soul music’s best kept secrets.  She’s also one of music’s music enigmatic figures.

Very little is known about Alice Clark. Indeed, her story is almost shrouded in mystery. All that’s known, is that Alice Clark was born in Brooklyn, and shared the same manager as The Crystals. It was her manager that introduced Alice to singer-songwriter Billy Vera. 

The meeting took place at   Billy Vera’s publishers, April-Blackwood Music. That afternoon, Billy spent time teaching her some songs that he had written. These songs would be recorded in 1969.

By the time the recording session took place, Alice Clark had taken to occasionally phoning Billy Vera. However, Alice who seems to have been a private person, only ever made small talk. Despite this, Billy remembers: “I got the impression her home life wasn’t that great.” He remembers that Alice: “had kids and belonged to a religious order.” These are the only thing Billy can remember about Alice. However, what nobody who heard Alice as she made her recording debut will forget is…her voice.

For the 1969 session, Jubliee’s studio was chosen. Billy Vera who wrote and would produce the three tracks put together a tight and talented band. The rhythm section featured drummer Earl Williams, bassist Tyrell and guitarists Butch Mann and Billy Vera. They were augmented by trumpeter Money Johnson and backing vocalist Tasha Thomas. This was the band that accompanied Alice Clark on You Got A Deal, Say You’ll Never Leave Me and Before Her Time. Alice Clark delivered confident and assured performances. Two of these songs became Alice’s debut single.

With the three songs recorded, the Rainy Day label decided to release You Got A Deal in January 1968. It was a driving slice of soul, with a feisty, vocal from Alice. Horns and harmonies accompany Alice as she’s transformed into a self-assured soul singer. The flip side was Say You’ll Never, a quite beautiful ballad. A number of radio stations began playing the song. Despite this, Alice Clark’s first single wasn’t a commercial success. It was an inauspicious start to Alice’s career.

Nothing was heard off Alice Clark until March 1969. By then, Alice had recorded her sophomore single. This was the George Kerr, Michael Valvano and Sylvia Moy penned You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me). On the flip-side was Arthur Mitchell and Eddie Jones’ Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed). The two songs were produced by George and Napoleon Kerr. This GWP Production was released on Warner Bros. Alice Clark was going up in the world.

Alas commercial success continued to elude Alice Clark. When You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) was released as a single, it failed to trouble the charts. That was despite featuring impassioned, hurt-filled vocal.  Tucked away on the B-Side was another ballad, Heaven’s Will (Must Be Obeyed). It  features a heartfelt vocal from Alice Clark where the secular and spiritual collide. Both sides of Alice Clark’s sophomore single showcased a truly talented singer. Sadly, very few people heard the single. Alice Clark was still one of music’s best kept secrets. 

For the next couple of years, Alice Clark was cast out into the musical wilderness. Then Bob Shad at Mainstream Records decided to take a chance on Alice Clark. Mainstream Records were moving into the soul market, are were signing artists. He decided that Alice Clark fitted the bill, and signed her to Mainstream Records.

Soon, work began on Alice Clark’s debut album. A total of ten tracks were chosen. This included a trio of Bobby Hebb songs, Charms Of The Arms Of Love, Don’t You Care and Hard, Hard Promises. Among the other songs were Jimmy Webb’s I Keep It Hid; Petula Clark and John Bromley’s Looking At Life; Leonard Caston’s Don’t Wonder Why; Juanita Fleming’s Never Did I Stop Loving You and Earl DeRouen’s Hey Girl. The other songs chosen were John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Maybe This Time and Leon Carr and Robert Allen’s It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone. These songs became Alice Clark.

With the material chosen, producer Bob Shad set about putting a band together. Apart from guitarist Ted Dubar, the identity of the rest of the band are unknown. However, Ernie Wilkins was drafted in to arrange the songs on Alice Clark. When it was recorded, the release was scheduled for later in 1972.

By then, three years had passed since a record bearing Alice Clark’s name had been released. You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) had disappeared without trace upon its release in March 1969. Everyone must have been hoping that history wouldn’t repeat itself. Alas, it did. 

I Keep It Hid was chosen as the lead single, with Don’t Wonder Why featuring on the B-Side. On its release, I Keep It Hid sunk without trace. Worse was to come. When Alice Clark was released, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Very few copies of Alice Clark sold. That was a great shame.  

During the three years that Alice Clark had been away, she grown and matured as a singer. Despite this, there was to be no followup album. After Alice Clark failed commercially, Alice turned her back on music. Never again did this talented and versatile vocalist return to the studio. Alice Clark was lost to music.

During her four-year career, Alice Clark had recorded just fifteen tracks. They’re a mixture of beautiful ballads and uptempo songs. On each and every song, Alice breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Her delivers veers between heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring, to assured, hopeful and joyous. It seems when Alice Clark stepped into a recording studio, she was transformed. 

No longer was Alice Clark the quietly spoken young mother that Billy Vera remembers. Suddenly, the God-fearing Alice Clark disappeared, and was replaced by one that wore her heart on her sleeve. She was comfortable sings songs about love and love lost, and could breathe life and meaning into songs about hope, hurt, heartbreak and betrayal. Despite her ability and versatility, Alice Clark commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Alice Clark.

Chastened by the experience, Alice Clark turned her back on the music industry. Nobody seems to know what happened to Alice Clark? Mystery surrounds this hugely talented singer, who should’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

By 1973, You Hit Me (Right Where It Hurt Me) became a favourite on the UK Northern Soul scene. Apart from that, very few people had heard of Alice Clark or her music. It would be a  while before this changed.

As the years passed by, a few copies of Alice Clark found their way into bargain bins. Curious record collectors who chanced upon a copy of Alice Clark decided to take a chance on this little known album. Having paid their money, they discovered one of soul music’s best kept secrets,..Alice Clark. They were the lucky ones. 

Since then, Alice Clark has become a real rarity. Anyone wanting an original 1972 copy of Alice Clark on Mainstream, will need to search long and hard. If they can find a copy, it will take at least $500 to prise it out of the hands of its owner. It feature a truly talented  singer who could’ve and should’ve enjoyed widespread commercial success and critical acclaim. Sadly, for Alice Clark that wasn’t to be.

Instead, commercial success eluded Alice Clark, and in 1972, she turned her back on music. Since then, nothing has been heard of Alice Clark. Mystery surrounds Alice Clark’s life after she turned her back on music. She seems almost to have vanished into thin air. That’s a great shame. Especially given the resurgence in interest in her music and Ace Records recent release of The Complete Studio Recordings 1968-1972. Belatedly, Alice Clark’s music is finding the wider audience that it so richly deserves. What her newfound fans would like to know is whatever happened to Alice Clark?

Whatever Happened To Alice Clark?

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THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE BETA BAND

The Life and Times Of The Beta Band.

The Beta Band was formed in Edinburgh in 1996, and a year later, in July 1997 released their Champion Versions EP, which was the first of a trio of innovative EP’s the folktronica pioneers released.

In March 1998 The Beta Band released their sophomore EP The Patty Patty Sound, with Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos following in July 1997. By then, critics were starting to take notice of The Beta Band whose popularity was growing. 

Nearly two years later, The Beta Band was released to widespread critical acclaim in June 1999, and everyone at Regal Records celebrated as The Beta Band reached number nineteen in the UK, However, not everyone was happy with the album.

Despite their eponymous debut album giving them a hit in the UK, Steve Mason  of The Beta Band called the album: “fucking awful” and  “it’s definitely the worst record we’ve ever made and it’s probably one of the worst records that’ll come out this year.” Steve Mason then said in an interview with NME that the album had: some terrible songs,” and they weren’t e “fully realised or fully even written. Half-written songs with jams in the middle” The Beta Band seemed determined to sabotage their career at Regal Records.

To make matters worse, The Beta Band seemed in no hurry to record their sophomore album. Steve Mason recorded and released the No Style EP under his King Biscuit Time EP moniker. After this, Steve Mason and the rest of The Beta Band’s thoughts turned to their sophomore album Hot Shots II, which has just been reissued by Because Music.

Eventually, The Beta Band decided it was time to return to the studio, and this time brought onboard British producer Colin Emmanuel, aka C-Swing, who oversaw production of what eventually became Hot Shots II.

During the Hot Shots II sessions, The Beta Band recorded ten new tracks with C-Swing. The tracks were very different to those on The Beta Band. Some of the songs were much quieter and a less is more approach to production was the order of the day. This allowed the songs to breath, with less ‘obstacles’ obscuring the key parts of the songs. Some of the songs were slow and dark and featured descending chords as The Beta Band continued to innovate.

Critics were won over by Hot Shots II, and hailed  The Beta Band’s sophomore album as one of the albums of 2001. Hot Shots II was hailed as The Beta Band’s finest hour. 

Buoyed by the critical acclaim, Hot Shots II was released in July 2001. Hot Shots II reached number thirteen in the UK and sneaked into the US Billboard 200 at 200. It also reached fourteen in the US Heatseekers chart and eleven in the Independent album charts. The Beta Band looked on the verge of breaking into the lucrative American market. Sadly, they only produced one more album.

This was Heroes To Zeros which was The Beta Band’s swan-song. The Beta Band began demo sessions for what later became Heroes To Zeroes in September 2002. They then entered the studio with producer Tom Rothrock in 2003 and completed a number of tracks. There was a problem though.

Neither The Beta Band nor executives at Regal Records were happy with the recordings and producer Nigel Godrich was brought in to mix the album, which was finally finished in early 2004. 

The lead single, Assessment, was released on the ’12th’ of April 2004 and reached number thirty-one in the UK. Two weeks later, the album Heroes To Zeros was released on the ‘26th’ of April 2004 and reached number eighteen in the UK. This would normally be something to celebrate.

Heroes To Zeros featured music that had a much more dense and direct sound but strikes a balance between The Beta Band’s more traditional sound and music that was way ahead  of the musical curve. However, some of the music on Heroes To Zeros saw The Beta Band turn their attention to creating pop music.

It was obvious that Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was still a huge influence on The Beta Band and especially tracks like Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villain. So were albums like 20/20 and Friends. However, The Beta Band were also forging ahead with their own sound, which was intricate and multilayered. They were best qualified to produce the album and bring their new ideas to life. 

To do this, The Beta Band adopted a variety of production techniques to bring out the best in what was an idiosyncratic band. No other producer would’ve been able to achieve what The Beta Band did on Heroes To Zeros. 

Many of the songs on Heroes To Zeros ended up very different from the initial ideas recorded by The Beta Band. They honed the songs on Heroes To Zeros which open with Assessment and closed with Pure For. Heroes To Zeros featured The Beta Band at the peak of their creative powers on their self-produced swan-song.

By the time The Beta Band released Liquid Bird, as their second single from Heroes To Zeros, many critics had realised that the song was based on a sample of the Siouxsie and The Banshees’ song Painted Bird. This could’ve been an expensive mistake for The Beta Band.

Despite this mistake, The Beta Band released Out-Side, their second from Heroes To Zeroes in July 2004. When it stalled at fifty-four in the UK charts, little did critics or record buyers realise that the end was neigh for The Beta Band. 

They announced their breakup on their website on the ‘2nd’ of August 2004.  Despite that, The Beta Band performed at the Summer Sundae festival and embarked upon a farewell tour which drew to close in Edinburg, at the Liquid Rooms on the ‘5th’ of December 2004. This was the end of the story for The Beta Band.

Their swan-song Heroes To Zeros was the only album that The Beta Band produced themselves, since signing to an imprint of a major label. They hadn’t been happy with their first two albums and often made their views known in the music press. 

Usually, this was before the album was even released. As they made these comments, members of The Beta Band seemed to forget that they still had help promote their latest release.  Executives at Regal Records must have been left shaking their heads in exasperation. Despite the comments of the members of The Beta Band, their three albums were all commercially successful. However, the big question is how successful could The Beta Band have been if they had played the PR game, and reigned in their outspokenness, maverick tendencies and tendency to self sabotage. 

Looking back, The Beta Band weren’t suited to being signed to a big label, and would’ve been better suited to a smaller indie label or even self-releasing their albums through their own label.  Maybe they would’ve enjoyed a longer career and released more that three albums, including their critically acclaimed, self-produced swan-song Heroes To Zeros? 

It features the inimitable genre-melting sound of folktronica pioneers The Beta Band at the peak of their creative powers on Heroes To Zeros their self-produced swan-song where the outspoken musical mavericks realise their potential. 

The Life and Times Of The Beta Band.

THE CHARLATANS-THE MUSICAL MAVERICKS AND DANDIES WHO HAD IT ALL.

The Charlatans-The Musical Mavericks and Dandies Who Had It All.

Between 1964 and 1969, The Charlatans’ star shawn brightly, and the larger than life musical mavericks dressed like ‘19th’ Century outlaws, and embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. L.S.D. and pot were part of The Charlatans’ diet. It fuelled The Charlatans as they took San Francisco by storm, and commercial success and critical acclaim looked a formality. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

By 1969, The Charlatans were no more. They were just the latest band that should’ve enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. However, for whatever reason, commercial success passes these bands by. That was the case with The Charlatans whose story begins in the summer 1964.

That’s when The Charlatans were formed in San Francisco, by autoharp player George Hunter, and bassist Richard Olsen. Soon, they were joined by lead guitarist Mike Wilhelm; keyboardist Mike Ferguson and drummer Sam Linde. With the lineup complete, The Charlatans began to practice. Before long the the band realised they had a problem.

The Charlatans had an achilles heel. This was drummer Sam Linde. He just wasn’t good enough for the band moving forward. So a decision was made to replace Sam Linde. His replacement was none other that Dan Hicks. With a new, improved lineup in place, The Charlatans moved forward.

When The Charlatans began to play live, they looked like a cross between 19th Century, wild west outlaws and Victorian dandies. This image wasn’t just thrown together. It was carefully cultivated. Despite this, it soon began to prove popular with the audience at their gigs. They arrived dressed in similar attire. Little did The Charlatans realise that their stage clothes would influence the a generation.

With the hippie counter culture about to blossom, The Charlatans image would go on to influence a generation. They would dress like dandies and outlaws. By then, The Charlatans a familiar face in the San Francisco music scene.

In June 1965, The Charlatans had secured a six week residency at at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada.. For this residency, two members of The Charlatans had to produce a concert poster. What Mike Ferguson and George Hunter came up with, is regarded as the first psychedelic rock poster. Since  then, ordinal copies of The Seed have become prized items among collectors of psychedelia. However, the Red Dog Saloon residency marked a first for The Charlatans.

During the residency, the five members of The Charlatans took L.S.D. for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last. Soon, The Charlatans had a penchant for acid, and were tripping whenever they could. Despite their penchant for acid, The Charlatans weren’t an acid rock band. They were much more than that.

Instead, The Charlatans’ music would veer between folk rock, country rock and psychedelia over the next four years. Their recording career should’ve began in September 1965.

Fresh from their residency at the Red Dog Saloon, The Charlatans had an audition Autumn Records September 1965. They didn’t sign to Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue’s label. He was a local DJ, promoter and producer. However, The Charlatans didn’t sign to Autumn. There were disputes between Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue and The Charlatans over what they would record and money. Soon, though, it became apparent that The Charlatans had had a close escape.

Autumn Records was teetering on the edge of insolvency. Financially, the cupboards were bare. Eventually, Warner Bros. bailed Autumn Records out, and The Charlatans lived to fight another day. 

As 1966 dawned, The Charlatans signed to Kama Sutra Records. The Charlatans wasted no time in recording a number of songs. Once the recording sessions were complete, The Charlatans had decided that they wanted to release Codine as their lead single. That executives at Kama Sutra Records said wasn’t going to happen. 

They obviously hadn’t listened to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song about the dangers of drugs. Mistakenly, executives at Kama Sutra Records thought that Codine glorified or encouraged drug taking. So Codine wasn’t releases as a single. It features on he Limit Of The Marvellous. So does The Shadow Knows and 30-20 as The Shadow Knows E.P.

Instead of Codine, The Shadow Knows was chosen as the lead single. On the B-Side was 32-20. When The Shadow Knows was released by Kapp Records in October 1966, the label failed to adequately promote The Charlatans’ debut. Unsurprisingly, The Charlatans debut single failed. This was The Charlatans’ one and only release on Kama Sutra Records. The remainder of the songs weren’t released until 1996, when they resurfaced on the Amazing Charlatans’ album.

Following their departure from Kama Sutra Records, The Charlatans’ lineup changed. Mike Ferguson was sacked in 1967, and replaced by Patrick Gogerty. Not long after this, Dan Hicks vacated The Charlatans’ drum stool. He moved to rhythm guitar and became the lead vocalist, singing many of his own compositions. It was a time of transition for The Charlatans.

During this period, The Charlatans were mostly playing live. They didn’t have a record contract, and watched as many of their contemporaries signed with record companies and enjoyed successful careers. This was galling as The Charlatans had played at the Fillmore Auditorium, California Hall, Avalon Ballroom and Longshoreman’s Hall. They were a popular live draw, and had been since their live debut in 1965. By 1968, The Charlatans must have wondered if a record contract would elude them?

By then, The Charlatans had embraced the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle fully. Their dropped L.S.D. and smoked pot regularly. Many who enjoyed the same diet of drugs would become acid casualties. Not The Charlatans. They were still one of San Francisco’s top live bands. Then in 1968, one of The Charlatans called it a day.

In 1968, Dan Hicks decided to form his own band, Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks. This was always going to happen. It was almost written in the stars. Dan Hicks was a talented singer, songwriter and musician. He seemed destined for greater things. However, this left a huge void in The Charlatans. Filling it wouldn’t be easy.

Worse was to come. Throughout 1968, arguments were commonplace within The Charlatans’ camp. Gradually, the escalated, and reached a breaking point. However, Mike Wilhelm, Richard Olsen and Terry Wilson had a cunning plan.

To all intents and purposes, it looked as if they had decided to disband The Charlatans. However, the cunning plan was that shortly afterwards, they would reform The Charlatans without George Hunter. It was a musical coup d’état. This would ultimately backfire on The Charlatans.

At first, things looked up for The Charlatans. They drafted in a new keyboardist and vocalist, Darrell DeVor. Not long after this, The Charlatans secured a deal with Phillips, and began recording their debut album. 

Recording of what became The Charlatans took place at Pacific High Recorders, San Francisco. Dan Healy co-produced what became The Charlatans with the band. Eleven songs were recorded. Five were cover versions and six were written by members of The Charlatans Mike Wilhelm penned Ain’t Got the Time and The Blues Ain’t Nothin’; while Richard Olsen contributed When I Go Sailin’ By. New recruit Darrell DeVore wrote Easy When I’m Dead, Time to Get Straight, Doubtful Waltz and When the Movies Are Over. However, when the album was released, The Charlatans luck changed.

By then, music had changed, and the music on The Charlatans was beginning to sound dated. As a result, The Charlatans failed commercially. So did the the Van Dyke Parks’ penned lead single High Coin. To make matters worse, one of The Charlatans had been busted on a drugs charge.

Drummer Terry Wilson had been caught in possession of marijuana. In 1969, this was a serious offence in America, where the drug laws were quite strict. So when Terry Wilson received a prison sentence he had to leave The Charlatans. This resulted in a u-turn from two members of The Charlatans.

Mike Wilhelm and Richard Olsen agreed to join a reunited lineup of The Charlatans. Mike Ferguson who had previously been sacked returned. So did George Hunter who had been ‘misled’ into thinking that The Charlatans had disbanded in 1968, even was willing to let bygones be bygones. Even Dan Hicks returned to the fold. 

While The Charlatans continued as a quintet until the end of 1969, the writing was on the wall. The Charlatans’ music was regarded as outdated, and yesterday’s sound. It was almost inevitable that The Charlatans would split-up at the end of 1969. This was the end of the road for The Charlatans.

Four years earlier, the future looked bright for The Charlatans when they enjoyed their six week residency at  Red Dog Saloon. When they returned to San Francisco, The Charlatans looked as if they were going to join the elite of city’s music scene. They had the talent, and their music which veered between country rock to folk rock and psychedelic rock should’ve found a wider audience. 

Sadly, The Charlatans struggled to get a record deal. The time they spent at Kama Sutra Records resulted in The Charlatans recording the best music of their five year career. 

Little did Kama Sutra Records realise that, they had captured The Charlatans at the peak of their powers. At that moment in time, their music was bang on trend. That was the time to release an album, not 1969.

When The Charlatans released their eponymous debut album for Phillips in 1969, their music hadn’t evolved. Instead, it sound outdated to record buyers who had moved on musically. Sadly, The Charlatans hadn’t. They came late to the party with an album that would’ve fared better if released in 1967. However, by then, the end was neigh for The Charlatans.

Despite getting the classic quintet together, The Charlatans’ story was over by late 1969. Their musical legacy amounted to one album, two singles and material they had recorded for Kama Sutra Records. It was a case of what might have been.

Fiver years earlier, ,usical mavericks The Charlatans, had taken San Francisco by storm. They should’ve found fame and fortune. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. After several breakups, makeups and changes in lineup, The Charlatans, called time on a career that promised much, but ultimately, through bad luck and misfortune, came to little.

The Charlatans-The Musical Mavericks and Dandies Who Had It All.

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HALLELUJAH-THE SONGS OF LEONARD COHEN.

Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen.

Label: Ace Records.

On the ‘21st’ of October 2016, Canadian singer-songwriter, novelist and poet Leonard Cohen released what was to be his swan-song You Want It Darker to widespread critical acclaim. Sadly, just seventeen days later Leonard Cohen passed away on the ‘7th’ of November 2016, aged eighty-two.  That day, music lost a true great, whose recording career had spanned nearly fifty years. 

During that time, Leonard Cohen released fourteen studio albums and eight live albums. They’re a remainder of one of music’s most enduring and cerebral singer-songwriters. Leonard Cohen constantly asked the big questions and tackled subjects other singer-songwriters shied away from. That was the case right up until his swan-song You Want It Darker. 

On You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen revisited the subject of death and God. Maybe Leonard Cohen found this therapeutic or cathartic? After all, he knew he was dying as he recorded You Want It Darker. It may be that Leonard Cohen this was Leonard Cohen’s may of coping with death. This is similar to Dylan Thomas writing the villanelle Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. However, Leonard Thomas didn’t: “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

He was rueful, reflective, offered advice and gave thanks on If I Didn’t Have Your Love, which was one of nine songs on You Want It Darker. It was the swan-song of one of the greatest lyricists in the history of modern music, Leonard Cohen whose songs are celebrated on Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, a new compilation that has just been released by Ace Records.

Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen is the latest instalment in Ace Records long-running and critically acclaimed Songwriters series. There’s a total of eighteen tracks from such luminaries as Jeff Buckley, KD Lang, Rufus Wainright, Marianne Faithfull, Madeleine Peyroux, Dion, Judy Collins, Ron Sexsmith, Nina Simone, Lee Hazlewood, David Blue and Joe Cocker. They’re just a few the artists that feature on Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, which features two tracks that the great man never recorded. Each of the songs on Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen is a reminder of one of the greatest lyricists of his generation.

Jeff Buckley’s breathtakingly beautiful and cover of Hallelujah from his debut album Grace opens Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, and sets the bar high for what follows. 

This includes KD Lang’s cover of Bird On A Wire and Rufus Wainright’s live version of Chelsea Hotel No.2. Both artists breathe new life and meaning into two familiar songs. So does Marianne Faithfull on Tower Of Song and Madeleine Peyroux’s masterful interpretation of Dance Me To The End Of Love, which is a welcome addition as she pays homage to her musical hero.

The first artist to cover a Leonard Cohen song was Judy Collins in 1967, who was well on her way to being crowned Queen of folk. Her contribution is heartfelt, wistful and quite beautiful cover of Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

Another highlight is Heart With No Companion by Ron Sexsmith, while Nina Simone personalises Suzanne  and Lee Hazlewood takes Come Spend The Morning in a new direction. It’s a similar case with David Blue’s cover of Lover, Lover, Lover and Joe Cocker’s stunning version of First We Take Manhattan. Closing Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen is a reinvention ofAvalanche by Leonard Cohen aficionado Nick Cave Featuring The Bad Seeds who closes this lovingly curated and quality compilation on a resounding high as he pays homage to one of his heroes.

Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen is a reminder of one of the greatest lyricists of his generation, who passed away on the ‘7th’ of November 2016, aged eighty-two. That day, music lost a true great, Leonard Cohen, whose recording career had spanned nearly fifty years. 

During that period, countless artists and bands covered Leonard Cohen’s songs. This included the eighteen eclectic recordings on Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen which features an array of talented artists who interpret the songs of one of the greatest lyricists of his generation and Canada’s poet laureate. 

Hallelujah-The Songs Of Leonard Cohen.