THE WHO-LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL 1970

The Who-Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970.

Label: Ear Music.

During the late-sixties and early seventies, some of the most famous festivals took place and become part of musical history. By then, festivals were well established, with jazz fans attending many historic festival since the fifties and early sixties. This included the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, the Beaulieu Jazz Festival, the National Jazz and Blues Festival and the Reading and Leeds Festivals which were founded in 1961. They would become part of rock history later in the sixties.

By 1966, psychedelic music was growing and popularity and the Trips Festival took place in San Francisco between the ‘21st’ and ‘23rd’ of January. During the event Ken Keesey carried out his infamous Acid Tests at the Trips Festival. It was the first of several similar types of festivals.

This included the Mantra-Rock Dance and Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival which took place during 1967. So did the Monterey Pop Festival took place between the ‘16th and ‘18th’ of June 1967. Among the artists and groups that took to the stage were the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who and Ravi Shankar who were making their first appearances at major even in America. The audience also witnessed the first performance by Janis Joplin and Otis Redding at such a large-scale public event. Those in the audience were watching musical history being made.

It was similar case at the 1967  Monterey Pop Festival and Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park New York. However, the popularity of festivals was about to explode.

In 1968, the Newport Pop Festival became the first covert to have more than 100,000 paid attendees. Meanwhile, in Britain, the very first Isle of Wight Festival was held in 1968. However, in America many major cities had their own festival during 1968. This included the San Francisco Pop Festival, Los Angeles Pop Festival and the Miami Pop Festival which took place between the ‘28th’ and ‘30th’ of December and rounded of what was a vintage year for festivals.

So was 1969, as the amount of concerts beings staged grew. This included  the Newport 1969 Pop Festival took place between June the ’20th’ and ’22nd’ 1969. The same weekend, the Toronto Pop Festival took place during the Summer Solstice and following week, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac starred at the Bath Festival Of Blues. Across the Atlantic, the historic Denver Pop Festival took place the same weekend. It seemed that there was a festival every weekend during the summer of 1969.

This included  Mississippi River Festival and the first ever Atlanta International Pop Festival. However, on the ‘5th’ of July 1969, The Stones In The Park took place in front of an audience of between 250,000 and 500,000. This was just after the mysterious death of former Rolling Stone Brian Jones. Despite this tragedy The Stones In The Park became part of rock history.

It was a similar case with 1969, when The Woodstock Music and Art Fair which featured some of the biggest names in music. This included The Grateful Dead, Sly and The Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, The Band and Jimi Hendrix who closed what was an eventful and sometimes chaotic festival. 

Most festivals passed off without any problems including the Texas International Pop Festival and Toronto Rock and Roll Revival which featured John Lennon and Yoko Ono. However, as the sixties drew to a close this changed.

The Palm Beach Pop Festival was chaotic, while violence and three deaths marred the Altamont Free Concert which was attended by 300,000 people. The final festival of the sixties was the Miami Rock Festival which took place between the ‘27th’ and ‘29th’ December and there were forty-seven arrests and a member of the audience died after falling from a spotlight tower. It was way to end the sixties.

Despite there being chaos, violence and sometimes even deaths at concerts, still people wanted to attend concerts during 1970. New festivals were founded, old ones expanded and some made a welcome return. This included the second Atlanta International Pop Festival, the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music and the third Isle of Wight Festival.

Isle of Wight Festival 1970.

The third Isle of Wight Festival took place between Wednesday the  ’26th’ and Sunday ’31st’ of August 1970. Between 600,000 and 700,000 made their way to the Isle of Wight Festival to watch a lineup that featured a mixture of new names and the great and good of music.

During the first day, progressive rockers Judas Jump, singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson and the psychedelic rock band Mighty Baby took to the stage. However, problems with the PA meant the audience couldn’t hear the singer who was the first of several artists to be booed.

On Thursday the 27th’ of August 1970 Supertramp, Terry Reid, British blues rockers Groundhogs and progressive rockers Gracious entertained the audience. However, some of then higher profile artists arrived the following day.

This included Taste who featured Rory Gallagher who took to the stage on Friday the ‘28th’ of August 1970. Just like Chicago, and Family they were regarded as rising stars of music. Meanwhile, Tony Joe White had already enjoyed several hits, but was nowhere near as successful as Procol Harum who were one of the biggest names on the third day.

The lineup on Saturday the ‘29th’ of August 1970 was star-studded. It included Joni Mitchell who played a controversial set. Later, Miles Davis, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and The Doors took to the stage. While they received a rapturous reception, many in the audience were waiting for one particular band…The Who.

When The Who took to the stage at The Isle Of Wight Festival, they were one year and three months into their Tommy tour. They had released Tommy on the ’23rd’ of May 1969 and watched as it reached number two in Britain and four in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Tommy being certified gold in Britain, France and Italy and double platinum in America. Despite the success of Tommy, The Who continued to tour the album, and the latest stop on the tour was The Isle Of Wight Festival.

This was the second time The Who had played at The Isle Of Wight Festival since it began in 1968. However, this time the tapes were running, and their performance which included their 1966 rock opera Tommy and some of their best known songs was being taped. It meant that The Who and their management could release a live album in the future.

This took twenty-six years, before Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 was released as a two CD set by Columbia Legacy on the ’29th’ of October 1996. Twenty-three years later, Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 was released by Ear Music as limited gatefold numbered 3xLP and 2xCD set. This is a welcome reissue as the last time this album was released was for Record Store Day 2018.

For Record Store Day 2018 Volume 1 was a  double album while Volume 2 is a single album. They’re now a 3 LP set Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970, which also includes a 2CD set. This is a reminder of The Who’s famous performance at a famous festival, the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.

Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970.

The Who opened their performance at Isle of Wight Festival 1970 with Heaven and Hell, which gives way to I Can’t Explain and a six-minute cover of Mose Allison’s Young Man’s Blues which  closes side one. 

I Don’t Even Know Myself opens side two and features Water and Overture, which opens their rock opera Tommy. It continues on side three with The Who classic It’s A Boy, then 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Sonny Boy Williamson’s Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker) and Christmas which closes the third side.

Tommy continues on side four with The Acid Queen, before the compilers deviate from the original track listing of Tommy. On Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 a blistering version of Pinball Wizard comes before Do You Think It’s Alright and Underture is omitted. Instead, The Who breeze through Tommy Can You Hear Me? and There’s A Doctor, Go To The Mirror! and Smash The Mirror. Sensation, Sally Simpson and Welcome are all omitted from the set, but Miracle Cure, I’m Free, Tommy’s Holiday Camp and a defiant version  We’re Not Gonna Take It is extended to nearly ten magical minutes and is a memorable reminder of The Who at The Isle Of Wight. However, in footballing parlance it’s only halftime.

After playing the majority of Tommy the third LP features some of The Who’s favourite songs and their greatest hits. They open this part of the set with Summertime Blues which is synonymous with Eddie Cochran. However, The Who’s barnstorming version offers something different. It’s a similar case with the medley of Shakin’ All Over, Spoonful and Twist and Shout which gives way to Substitute which closes the fifth side.

The last side explodes into life with the The Who classic My Generation, and is followed by Naked Eye which is a welcome and some might think surprising addition. It first appeared on The Who’s 1974 album Odds and Sods. However, closing Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970  is a blistering versions of Magic Bus, before The Who take their bow.

The Who had released sixteen live albums before the Rock Classics released Live At The Isle Of Wight Volume 1 and Live At The Isle Of Wight Volume 2 for Record Store Day 2018. A year later and Ear Music reissued this seminal performance as a limited gatefold numbered 3xLP and 2xCD set as Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970. It’s a better buy as the two CDs feature The Who’s performance in its entirety. There’s twelve tracks on the first disc and eighteen on the second, and The Who give a barnstorming performance that was one of their finest and saw them write their way into musical history.

This was their second performance at The Isle Of Wight Festival since it was founded in 1968. It was also The Who’s best performance at The Isle Of Wight Festival. They had been playing roughly the same set for fifteen months, but when they took to the stage at The Isle Of Wight Festival were revitalised and show just why by 1970 The Who were regarded as one of the best British rock bands. Anyone who doubts this should checkout Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 which is proof, as if any was needed.

The Who-Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970.

 

 

 

 

 

MUSIC FROM JARVIS COCKER’S SUNDAY SERVICE.

Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service.

Label: Ace Records.

When it was announced in 2010, that former Pulp frontman, and songwriter-in-chief, Jarvis Cocker, was about to present a show on BBC 6 Music, his statement of intent was posted on the Corporation’s website: “It is my intention to fill these hours with as much dodgy opinion, crackpot theories, hare-brained schemes and beautiful, beautiful music as is humanly possible.” This wasn’t quite what Lord Reith, the BBC’s first Director General, envisaged when he said that the Corporation’s remit was  to: ”inform, educate and entertain.” 

For seven years, Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service radio show was one of the most popular programs on Radio 6 Music. It fulfilled  Lord Reith’s remit week-in, week-out, as its host informed, educated and entertained several generations of music fans with his inimitable and eclectic taste in music.  By the end of the program’s seven year run a generation of younger music fans had graduated Summa Cum Laude thanks to Jarvis Cocker’s musical masterclass. 

Sadly, in 2017, without warning, Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service was cancelled. After seven years, one of the finest shows on BBC Radio was no more.  By then, it had established a cult following and was much mussed by many people. For them, the day revolved around Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service and they would enjoy a captivating selection of eclectic and esoteric music. After it was cancelled, music fans the length and breadth of Britain and beyond mourned its passing. 

Two years later Ace Records recently released Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service on CD. It features twenty-three eclectic and esoteric tracks that are a reminder of a much missed radio show that brightened up even the dullest Sunday in Blighty.

Opening Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service. is Invasion Muzak by John Baker who was part of the groundbreaking BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Here’s a track that perfect to listen to on  a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s a beautiful pastoral  track that meanders along with what sounds like a cocktail piano combining with a myriad of electronic instruments. The result is a hidden gem of a track that will whet the listener’s appetite for what’s to come.

This includes a soul-baring cover of Beyonce’s Crazy in Love which was released by Antony and The Johnsons in 2009. There’s also a cover of Gary Numan’s Cars by The Katzenjammer from 2005.

A welcome addition is Don’t Wait Too Long by Bob Welch, formerly of Fleetwood Mac. It’s taken from his Three Hearts album which was  released on Capitol in 1978, and will appeal to drummers everywhere and to anyone with a penchant for soft rock in all its finery.

Another hidden gem is Day Glo a beautiful, understated track from Serafina Steer from her 2010 album Static Caravan. It’s a reminder of the many talented new artists who Jarvis Cocker played on his show during its seven year run.

In 1965, Morgana King released her album  It’s A Quiet Thing on Reprise. The title-track is one of the album’s highlights. No wonders as a breathtakingly beautiful and emotive vocal combine with a stunning orchestrated arrangement. It’s enough to stop anyone in their tracks.

Randy Newman’s Baltimore was a perfect showcase for Nina Simone’s vocal prowess when she covered the song .The song lent its name to her 1978 CTi album and is without doubt one of its finest moments. It’s also a reminder of a truly talented and versatile singer at the peak of her powers.

Waters Of March was written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and covered by Art Garfunkel on his 1975 Breakaway album. There’s more than a hint of sarcasm to his soliloquy  as he takes the track in a new direction. In doing so, this musical legend reveals a quite different side to his character on what’s  one of the highlights of his Breakaway album.

The Whole World’s Got The Eyes On You by The Legendary Tigerman is another track guaranteed to stop the listener in their tracks. All the instruments are played by the man himself on this genre-melting hidden gem that brings to mind Alan Vega and Marco Bolan.

Little Person was recorded by Deanna Storey and John Brion for the soundtrack to Synedoche, New York in 2008. It’s a spellbindingly beautiful  song and one of the highlights of Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service. 

Gymnopédie No.3 by The Camarata Contemporary Chamber Group is best described as pastoral, wistful and with an inherent beauty that tugs at the heartstrings.

Closing Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service is Headless Heroes’ True Love Will Find You In The End. It’s a stunning and emotive cover of what’s one of Daniel Johnston’s finest songs and  is the perfect way to close this compilation.

Nowadays, a record number of compilations are released each week. However, very few are of the quality of the lovingly curated Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service. It’s a reminder of a much-loved radio show was essential listening between 2010 and 2017, and was one of the best programs on BBC Radio. 

Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service which was curated by its host, and is a captivating collection of the eclectic and esoteric where the new and old sits side-by-side with   cover versions, hidden gems and well known tracks that are like old friends. They’re part of what’s without doubt a contender for compilation of the year. 

Music From Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service.

THE STAINED GLASS-THE STORY BEHIND ONE OF SAN FRANCISCO’S SEMINAL LOST GROUPS.

The Stained Glass-The Story Behind One Of San Francisco’s Seminal Lost Groups.

Sometimes, and despite their undoubtable talent, a band or artist fails to make the impact that their music deserves and It’s only much later, that critics and record buyers belatedly  realise how innovative they were. That was the case with The Stained Glass, who originally, started life as The Trolls. They were without doubt, way ahead of their time, but sadly, record buyers neither understood nor appreciated The Stained Glass’ music.  It passed record buyers by, and as a result, The Stained Glass split-up in 1969, just four years after they were formed in 1965. 

Nowadays, critics, cultural commentators and record buyers realise and appreciate the importance of The Stained Glass’ music. They were musical pioneers who could and should’ve  enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim . Sadly it wasn’t to be, and in 1967, the dream was over for one of San Francisco’s seminal lost group’s. Things had been very different just two years previously.

The Stained Glass’ story begins in San Jose in 1964. Rodger Hedge had just started at San Jose University. He arrived from Southern California, where he’d played bass and guitar in the Sen-Sa-Shuns a successful band who had supported the Righteous Brothers and Beach Boys. Opening for the Beach Boys must have been ironic, as Rodger had auditioned as their bass player. That wasn’t to be and he enjoyed a successful period in the Sen-Sa-Shuns. That gave him a taste of what a career as a musician would be like. So, on arrival at University, Rodger decided to form a band. He advertised locally, and straight away, Jim McPherson answered the advert.

Jim was a native of Chicago, and was studying radio and television journalism at San Jose University. Originally, he was a bassist, but when he realised how good Rodger was, switched to rhythm guitar. The next member to join the band was drummer Dennis Carrasco.

Dennis was recommended by Barry Wineroth of The Jaguars. He tipped Rodger and Dennis off about this musical prodigy. Unlike Rodger and Jim, Dennis was a native of San Francisco, but had lived in San Jose since 1960. He was younger than his prospective bandmates. In fact, he was still at Blackford High School. The age gap didn’t matter. As a drummer, Dennis was one of the best in San Jose. He’d started off playing in marching bands and after that, was working with The Stratatones and Blue Flames. With the Blue Fames, Dennis recorded some sessions. None of them were ever released. Now his luck looked like changing. Before that, they needed another member.

Although Rodger Hedge was a good guitarist, the band felt they needed another guitarist to play lead guitar. There were two candidates. One was John Sharkey, of the local group Syndicate Of Sound. The other was Bob Rominger, who’d recently moved to San Jose from Albuquerque, Mexico. He was a talented player, capable of unleashing some flashy licks. There was a problem though. Bob had only played in pickup bands. Despite that, he got the gig as lead guitarist. The band was complete. All they needed was a name. They hit upon The Trolls.

From their early days, The Trolls found work easy to come by. Originally, The Trolls played around the San Francisco area. Having established a reputation as a talented and popular band, they started playing further afield. Their performances featured mostly cover versions, with Rodger and Jim sharing lead vocal duties. Then after a while, The Trolls started adding their own original material. 

Jim McPherson was The Trolls’ songwriter and was influenced by the British invasion groups. The Kinks, Beatles, Animals, Rolling Stones and Zombies inspired Jim as a songwriter. So did Paul McCartney, who Jim admired for the way he structured songs. This seemed to rub off on Jim. However, Jim’s songwriting style is more like Bob Dylan and is perceptive, descriptive, surreal and left-field . He was part poet and philosopher. Occasionally, Rodger pitched in with a song, Mostly, it was Jim who wrote The Trolls’ songs. This includes the first songs they recorded.

Such Good Friends and She’s Not Right were the first songs The Trolls recorded. They originally featured on an acetate the group sent to local labels. Eventually, The Trolls released Such Good Friends and She’s Not Right, which has a strong British influence. On both tracks, The Trolls could easily be mistaken for one of the British Invasion groups. Not longer after The Trolls recorded their first two tracks, they released their first single.

The two songs chosen were the ballad How Do You Expect Me To Trust You and the harmonica driven Walkin’ Shoes, with its surreal, enigmatic lyrics. There’s still a British Invasion influence, on Walkin’ Shoes. With lyrics that sound like a homage to The Kinks, a bluesy Rolling Stone sound, especially with the harmonica, The Trolls seemed to have decided if you can’t beat the British Invasion groups, join them. However, apart from some radio play on local radio, The Trolls debut single passed almost unnoticed.

Despite their single failing commercially, The Trolls were one of the most popular live bands. They captured people’s imaginations and were winning them over with their mixture of covers and new songs. Despite their popularity, when The Trolls played in the Bay Area Battle of The Bands, it was to a disappointingly small audience. However, there was one man in the audience that would play a part in The Trolls’ future, Rene Cardenas.

Until Rene Cardenas saw The Trolls at The Battle of The Bands, he’d been publishing manager for Trident Productions. Having seen The Trolls live, he decided  to form his own company, Jackson Square Productions. The date was 25th April 1966. That day, Rene Cardenas promised to get The Trolls signed to a label. Two weeks later, The Trolls were on their way to Columbia’s Sunset Boulevard Studios, where they’d work with respected arranger Bernie Krause. 

At Sunset Boulevard Studios, Bernie Krause helped the band hone their material. He made a number of suggestions, including changing some of the lyrics to Broken Man, a fusion of pop, psychedelia and blues. The other tracks recorded were Second Day and Lonely Am I, which was penned by Bob Rominger. Following the sessions at Sunset Boulevard Studios, The Trolls made a decision that could’ve had a huge impact on their career. They changed their name. 

The Trolls were now called The Stained Glass Window. That proved somewhat cumbersome, so they became The Stained Glass. However, that was a result of the word Window being left off the group’s paperwork. Ironically, this mistake worked in their favor. Given the enigmatic nature of the group’s lyrics, this added to the mystery that surrounded the group. The only problem was, would people realize that The Trolls and The Stained Glass were one and the same?

Even after the change of name, The Stained Glass were busy. The Bay Area had many venues, all of which were on the look out for popular bands. A popular band meant a full venue and profitable night. Gradually, The Stained Glass found themselves playing to an older audience. Granted they were still playing to younger people, but mostly, their audiences were older. This suited their baroque infused fusion of pop and psychedelia. The Stained Glass were opening for bigger bands and it looked like a breakthrough was imminent. It wasn’t. The deal with Columbia wasn’t going to happen.

When Columbia passed on The Stained Glass, their manager Rene Cardenas started  looking elsewhere. He used his contacts and The Stained Glass were signed to RCA Victor by the second week in June 1966. Everything looked as it was going well. Then Rene and the RCA Victor producer assigned to The Stained Glass said they had to record a cover of If I Needed Someone. Written by George Harrison and taken from The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, this seemed strange. After all, hadn’t Rene been a fan of The Stained Glass’ own songs? Maybe RCA Victor and Rene thought a cover of a Beatles song equalled a hit single. On the B-Side was a remake of The Trolls’ How Do You Expect Me To Trust You?

Just before If I Needed Someone was released, it featured on The Beatles’ Yesterday and Today. Despite The Beatles’ version being released first, The Stained Glass’ single was a success in the Bay Area. This resulted in a tour round the East Coast, before The Stained Glass recorded their second single for RCA Victor.

At RCA Victor’s New York studio, The Stained Glass recorded My Buddy Sin a baroque tinged track that is an example of Jim McPherson’s songwriting skills. On the B-Side was Vanity Fair, an underrated track influenced by The Kinks, The Beatles, pop and psychedelia. They combine on a three minute slice of pop perfection that come from the pen of Ray Davies. When the single was being recorded, the group didn’t like My Buddy Sin. They felt the addition of the harmonica spoilt the track and took the edge of the song.

On its release, in September 1966, My Buddy Sin failed to chart. It would be another five months before The Stained Glass entered the studio. 

When The Stained Glass entered the studios in February 1967, they realized what being signed to a record company entailed. RCA Victor wanted them to record songs by other songwriters. None of them were suitable. Then they hit upon We Got A Long Way To Go, which was penned by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was totally different to the type of songs the group usually recorded. During recording, effects were used to create feedback and sustain and this was very different from previous singles. There’s still a psychedelic sound as pop and rock combine on a hook-laden track which The Stained Glass hoped would be their breakthrough single.

On the release of A Long Way To Go, with Corduroy Joy on the B-Side, it didn’t result in the elusive hit single for The Stained Glass. Not long after this, with the lack of success frustrating the band, Rodger Hedge, who had founded the band was asked to leave. This marked the beginning of the end for The Stained Glass.

Their final single was Mediocre Me, with The Beatles’ inspired A Scene In-Between on the B-Side. Both were penned by Jim McPherson. Sadly, the single failed to chart nationally, but reached number six on KDON’s chart. That’s a small crumb of comfort for one of San Francisco’s most innovative and pioneering groups. Not long after Mediocre Me’s release RCA Victor didn’t renew The Stained Glass’ contract.

This proved to be a blessing in disguise. The Stained Glass signed to Capitol Records and released two critically acclaimed albums.

Their debut was Crazy Horse Roads, which was released in 1968. However, disaster struck just before the album was finished. Bob Rominger left the band. For The Strained Glass, this was a blow. Despite this, the album was completed and ready for release later in 1968. 

Despite critics lavishing praise on Crazy Horse Roads, the album failed commercially. For The Stained Glass, this was another huge disappointment. They were down, but not out and later, began work on their sophomore album.

With two replacement members, keyboardist and guitarist Lance Libby and percussionist Louie Schiavo The Stained Glass recorded their sophomore album Aurora. It was released to critical acclaim in 1969 but failed commercially. After that, The Stained Glass changed their name to Christian Rapid and spent the next three years touring. They never recorded another album. Aurora marked the end of the The Stained Glass’ story.

The story of The Stained Glass is a familiar one. They were a talented, innovative and pioneering group, but their music was way ahead of its time. That was the case with The Stained Glass, who started life as The Trolls and ended it as Christian Rapid. It was a case of what might have been?

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, The Stained Glass were ahead of their time. People neither understood, nor appreciated what they were doing and sadly, their music failed to make the impact it should’ve done. It was only years later, that people realise how innovative a group The Stained Glass were. From their early days as The Trolls, their music was ahead of the musical curve.

British Invasion groups like The Kinks, Beatles, Animals, Rolling Stones and Zombies inspired The Trolls and then The Stained Glass. The other thing that made The Trolls and The Stained Glass standout were their lyrics. 

Many of the songs were written by the enigmatic poet philosopher Jim McPherson. He too was influenced by the British Invasion groups. His lyrics are pensive, perceptive, descriptive, surreal and cryptic. Influenced by Ray Davies,  Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, Jim could’ve and should’ve been a hugely successful songwriter. Sadly, just like The Trolls and The Stained Glass, Jim McPherson’s talents went unnoticed for too long. Now a new generation have discovered the music of The Trolls and then The Stained Glass, who between 1965 and 1967, were one of San Francisco’s most innovative lost groups.

That’s why The Stained Glass’ music is such essential listening as is the case with all musical pioneers. They were true musical pioneers, who  could’ve and should’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim with their fusion of  blues, pop, psychedelia and rock. Sadly, their  take on pop-psych was way ahead of its time musically.  So much so, that record buyers failed to understand The Stained Glass’ music. However, that was only part of the problem.

Unfortunately, The Stained Glass were signed to the wrong label, RCA Victor. They tried to make them something they weren’t. On another label, The Stained Glass might have prospered and become the success story they deserved to be. Sadly, that never happened and after four years of trying to  catch lightning in a bottle, The Stained Glass called time on their career. They became Christian Rapid, who spent the next three years touring. This resulted  The Stained Glass being consigned to San Francisco’s musical history. 

Over a generation later, and The Stained Glass’ music was rediscovered by a new generation of record buyers. This  resulted in a resurgence in interest in The Stained Glass’ music. Interest in The Stained Glass has continued to grow. That’s still the case today. Nowadays, The Stained Glass’ music is being heard by a much wider, and appreciative audience who have discovered one of  San Francisco’s seminal lost groups.

The Stained Glass-The Story Behind One Of San Francisco’s Seminal Lost Groups.

CULT CLASSIC: MANUEL GOTTSCHING-INVENTIONS FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR.

Cult Classic: Manuel Göttsching-Inventions For Electric Guitar.

When Manuel Göttsching released Inventions For Electric Guitar in 1975, it was regarded as a new chapter in his career. Inventions For Electric Guitar was Manuel Göttsching’s debut solo album, and first release after releasing five albums as Ash Ra Tempel. Or was it?

Eagle eyed record buyers having bought Inventions For Electric Guitar saw atop the album cover the words Ash Ra Tempel VI in small print. This muddied the waters somewhat. What was Inventions For Electric Guitar? Was it Ash Ra Tempel’s swan-song, or Manuel Göttsching’s debut album? Record buyers were confused. 

They were under the impression that Ash Ra Tempel Starring Rosi, was the band’s fifth and final album. It had been released in 1973, and by then, Ash Ra Tempel comprised just Manuel Göttsching. He was the last man last standing.

Nearly two years had passed before Inventions For Electric Guitar was released. Manuel Göttsching composed, played all the instruments and produced Inventions For Electric Guitar. It seemed undeniable that Inventions For Electric Guitar was a solo album. What good reason could the record company have for adding Ash Ra Tempel VI to the album cover?

Manuel Göttsching was signed to Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and Gille Lettmann’s Ohr Records. They realised that Inventions For Electric Guitar was the start of a new chapter in Manuel Göttsching’s career. He was keen to embark upon a solo career and what worried Ohr Records, was that many record buyers wouldn’t recognise Manuel Göttsching. That was despite playing a huge part in five albums Ash Ra Tempel’s released between 1971 and 1973. So Ohr Records had two options.

They could release Inventions For Electric Guitar as a solo album. That seems to be the case, given the prominence of Manuel Göttsching’s name. The addition of Ash Ra Tempel VI was part of Ohr Records’ marketing campaign. Ash Ra Tempel was already a relatively well known ‘brand name’ within German music. So if record buyers didn’t recognise Manuel Göttsching’s name, there was every chance they would recognise Ash Ra Tempel, and buy the album. That was one theory.

The other was to bill Inventions For Electric Guitar as an Ash Ra Tempel album. Hence the subtitle, Ash Ra Tempel VI. By adding Manuel Göttsching name to the album cover, Ohr Records were to all intents and purposes, paving the way for Manuel Göttsching’s solo career. That was the other theory put forward when Inventions For Electric Guitar was released in 1975. Nowadays, though, it seems that theory has been disproved.

When Inventions For Electric Guitar was reissued there was no sign of the words that caused all that debate “Ash Ra Tempel VI.” They had been removed it seems, in accordance with Manuel Göttsching’s wishes. He always saw Inventions For Electric Guitar as his debut solo album. Ash Ra Tempel was in the past. Inventions For Electric Guitar was start of a new and exciting chapter for Manuel Göttsching, the solo years.

The solo years began with Inventions For Electric Guitar. Manuel Göttsching decided to return to the lengthy jams that had been a feature of Ash Ra Tempel’s first four albums. From 1971s Ash Ra Tempel through 1972s Schwingungen, Seven Up and 1973s Join Inn, lengthy jams were the order of the day. This changed on Ash Ra Tempel fifth album, Ash Ra Tempel Starring Rosi. It found Ash Ra Tempel dispense with the lengthy jams and adopt a tighter, more traditional song structure. For his debut solo album, Inventions For Electric Guitar, Manuel Göttsching decided to combine the two approaches.

When Manuel Göttsching began work on his debut solo album, Inventions For Electric Guitar he decided that composition would play a much more important role than on Ash Ra Tempel’s first four albums. Using this new approach, he wrote three pieces, Echo Waves, Quasarsphere and Pluralis. They lengthy soundscapes became Inventions For Electric Guitar. When it came to record Inventions For Electric Guitars, Manuel Göttsching deployed his ‘secret weapons’ to create his new sound.

Having decided on how to approach his debut solo album, Manuel Göttsching headed to Studio Roma, in Berlin in July 1974. That was where Manuel Göttsching would record Inventions For Electric Guitar. He took with him his electric guitar, a Hawaiian steel bar and some of his secret weapons. These were Manuel’s various effects pedals, which included a Revox A77 for echoes, a WahWah pedal, volume pedal and a Schaller Rotosound effects pedal. To record Inventions For Electric Guitar, Manuel used a four track TEAC A3340. Recording of his debut album brought out the perfectionist in Manuel Göttsching.

Throughout July and August of 1974, Manuel Göttsching recorded three lengthy improvised tracks, Echo Waves, Quasarsphere and Pluralis. Gradually, they began to take shape. However, Manuel Göttsching wasn’t willing to accept second best, so constantly honed the three soundscapes. Eventually,  after the best part of two months, Inventions For Electric Guitar was complete. Manuel Göttsching had composed, played all the instruments and produced Inventions For Electric Guitar. All that remained was for the album to be mixed.

With Inventions For Electric Guitar recorded, Studio Roma’s  recording engineer Heiner Friesz and Manuel Göttsching began mixing the album. Ohr Records didn’t just want the album mixed in stereo. Instead, they also wanted a quadraphonic mix. This invoked a journey to Dierks Studios in Cologne, where the quadro-mixing took place. Ironically, despite the time, effort and expense, quadraphonic sound never took off. That was a great shame, as Inventions For Electric Guitar was an album perfectly suited to quadraphonic sound. Inventions For Electric Guitar is also a truly timeless debut album from Manuel Göttsching.

Manuel Göttsching’s 1975 debut solo album Inventions For Electric Guitar featured three soundscapes lasting just forty-seven minutes. It was an album that was way ahead of its time, and nowadays, is regarded as a timeless, genre-melting classic where elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica, Krautrock, psychedelia and rock on Inventions For Electric Guitar are combined. The result was an inventive and innovative album. Inventions For Electric Guitar features music that’s variously beautiful, ethereal, hypnotic, lysergic melancholy, mesmeric and rocky. What’s remarkable about Inventions For Electric Guitar, is that it was recorded by just one man, Manuel Göttsching.

He became a one man band, deploying his guitars and a myriad of effects to record multilayered soundscapes. They sounded as if they had been recorded by a number of musicians and instruments. That wasn’t the case. Instead, it was the work of Manuel Göttsching, one of the most inventive and innovative musicians of his generation. Inventions For Electric Guitar might have been his debut solo album, but Manuel Göttsching had been releasing innovative music since 1971.

That was when Ash Ra Tempel released their eponymous debut album. The five albums they released between 1971 Join Inn feature groundbreaking music. For anyone interested in Krautrock, these five albums deserve a place in any self respecting music collection. So does Inventions For Electric Guitar, which marks the start of a new era for musical pioneer Manuel Göttsching. He was well on his way to becoming one of the most innovative, inventive and influential German musicians of his generation. Continually, Manuel Göttsching reinvented himself and his music.

A year later, Manuel Göttsching released a new album under the Ashra moniker. New Age Of Earth showed that Manuel Göttsching was determined not to stand still. This determination to reinvent himself musically, ensured that Manuel Göttsching’s music continued to be relevant and ahead of the musical curve.

That was the case in 1975, when Manuel Göttsching embarked upon his solo career. After two months in the studio, he released Inventions For Electric Guitar, which is a timeless cult classic from the virtuoso guitarist and musical magician, Manuel Göttsching.

Cult Classic: Manuel Göttsching-Inventions For Electric Guitar.

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CLASSIC ALBUM: ROLLING STONES-STICKY FINGERS.

Classic Album:Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers.

By 1970, The Rolling Stones were in the middle of what is now perceived as their “golden age” which  began in 1968, when the Rolling Stones released Beggars Banquet in December 1968. 

Beggars Banquet was released to widespread critical acclaim. It featured an outpouring of creativity from the Rolling Stones. The Jagger and Richards’ songwriting partnership were at the peak of their powers, penning tracks of the calibre of Sympathy For The Devil and Street Fighting Man. Sadly, Brian Jones influence on The Rolling Stones was waning and his appearances in the studio were sporadic.

Despite Brian Jones playing a lesser role in Beggars Banquet, the album was a resounding success. It reached number three in Britain, and number five in the US Billboard. This resulted in Beggars Banquet being certified gold in Britain, and platinum in America. For the Stones, this was their most successful album since Aftermath in 1966. However, a year later, they would surpass the success of Aftermath with Let It Bleed. 

Sadly, by the time that Let It Bleed was released on 5th December 1969, tragedy had struck the Rolling Stones. Founding member Brian Jones had drowned in mysterious circumstances on 3rd July 1969. For the rest of the nand this was a huge body blow as Brian Jones had been the one-time leader of the  Stones. 

Two days after Brian Jones death, shell-shocked Rolling Stones played  a free concert in London’s Hyde Park on 5th July 1969. An estimated 250,000 saw the  Rolling Stones pay tribute to Brian Jones. The group’s one-time leader’s influence may have lessened over the past couple of albums, but Brian Jones had played an important part in the rise of the  Rolling Stones. Sadly, he only featured twice on Let It Bleed, on You Got The Silver and Midnight Rambler. His musical farewell was brief one. So was the debut of a new addition to the Stones, Mick Taylor.

When Let It Bleed was released, eager eyed listeners spotted a new addition, Mick Taylor. He was Brian Jones replacement. Mick played featured on just two tracks, Country Honk and Live With Me. Just like Brian Jones’ contribution, Mick’s success was an important one in the sound and success of Let It Bleed.

On its release, Let It Bleed surpassed the success of previous Rolling Stones’ albums. It reached number one in Britain, and number three on the US Billboard 200 charts. This saw Let It Bleed certified gold in Britain, and double-platinum in America. Meanwhile, critics exhausted their supply of superlatives on songs like Gimme Shelter, Love In Vain, Midnight Rambler and You Can’t Always Get What You Want. The hard rocking Let It Bleed was considered one the Stones’ finest moments. 

The Rolling Stones had picked up where they left off on Beggars Banquet, and taken it further. In doing so, they had created the most successful album of their career. This should’ve been a time for celebration. However, as 1969 and the sixties drew to a close they didn’t feel much like celebrating. 

A day after the release of Let It Bleed, the Rolling Stones had agreed to put on a free concert at Altamont Speedway, in Northern California on 6th December 1969. What was meant to be a concert featuring the great and good of psychedelia went badly wrong. Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,  Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead were all booked to play. It was meant to be a major event in psychedelic’s musics history. After the carnage in Los Angeles, everyone hoped this would be a good news story. It wasn’t. 

As the Rolling Stones took to the stage, the concert descended into chaos. The Hell’s Angels fought with the audience, and Meredith Hunter, a black teenager, was allegedly stabbed by a member of the Hells’s Angels who were meant to be providing security at Altamont. After this, the event was cancelled. The Grateful Dead never even took to the stage. Altamont had been a disaster. There were three accidental deaths, many were injured, property was destroyed and cars stolen. As the sixties drew to a close, the events at Altamont played its part in the decline of psychedelia and a backlash against the hippie movement. 

Between the death of Brian Jones, and the chaos and carnage at the Alatmont Free Festival, the Rolling Stones didn’t feel like celebrating the success of Let It Bleed. They were castigated in the American press. Their decision to use the Hell’s Angels as security drew a huge amount of criticism. Especially when the details of Altamont became clear. Whilst firefighting criticism from politicians and America’s self appointed moral guardians, the press, it was soon business as usual for the  Stones. 

Following the success of Let It Bleed, work began on the followup, Sticky Fingers. It’s the third album the Rolling Stones’ during their “golden age.”

Just like previous albums, Sticky Fingers was mostly the work of the Jagger and Richards songwriting partnership. They cowrote Brown Sugar, Sway, Wild Horses, Can’t You Hear Me Moving, Bitch, I Got The Blues, Dead Flowers and Moonlight Mile. Jagger and Richards also cowrote Sister Morphine with Marianne Faithful. The other track chosen for Sticky Fingers, was a cover of Fred McDowell and Gary Davis’ You Gotta Move. These ten tracks were recorded by The Rolling Stones and “friends” at various studios between March 1969 and January 1971.

Most of Sticky Fingers was recorded during 1970 and 1971. However, the story starts in 1969 the Rolling Stones began recording Sister Morphine between 22nd and 31st March 1969. Further sessions took place between May and June 1969. By then, Sister Morphine was completed. Then just before Let It Bleed was released, three day session took place between 2nd and 4th December 1969, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Sheffield, Alabama. That was last session of 1969.

The first recording session of 1970 took place Olympic Studios on 17th February. Then the sessions began in earnest in March 1970, at Olympic Studios, and continued right through to May 1970. Further sessions at Olympic Studios took place between 16th and 27th July. After a three month break, The Rolling Stones returned tp Olympic Studios on 17th October 1970. Right through to 31st October, they worked on Sticky Fingers. It was nearly completed. 

Eventually, recording of Sticky Fingers was completed in January 1971. The Rolling Stones recorded in both Olympic and Trident Studios with producer Jimmy Miller.

The Sticky Fingers’ sessions had been a poignant time. It was the first recording session without Brian Jones. His replacement, Mick Taylor, played a bigger part in the recording of Sticky Fingers, playing lead, rhythm and acoustic guitar. Meanwhile, Mick Jagger sang vocals and played acoustic guitar. The Rolling Stones’ rhythm section featured drummer Charlie Watts, guitarist Keith Richards and Billy Wyman on bass and electric piano. Joining The Rolling Stones were a few of their musical friends.

Among their musical friends The Rolling Stones brought onboard were Ry Cooder on slide guitar, saxophonist Bobby Keys, percussionist Jimmy Miller, organist Billy Preston and pianists Jim Dickinson, Nicky Hopkins, Ian Stewart and Jack Nitzsche. Rocky Dzidzornu added congas and Jim Price trumpet and piano. Most of these artists only featured on one track. Often their contribution was invaluable. That was also the case with producer Jimmy Miller and engineers included Glyn Johns, Andy Johns, Chris Kimsey and Jimmy Johnson. They all played their part in sound and success of Sticky Fingers.

So did artist Andy Warhol. He was responsible for “designing” Sticky Fingers’ album sleeve. Andy Warhol was inspired by the innuendo laden title. However, the design was by Craig Braun. He shot a close up of a jeans clad male crotch. By the time it made its way onto the album sleeve, it featured a working zip and mock belt buckle. When the zip was undone, a pair of cotton briefs could be seen. They had Andy Warhol’s name stamped in gold on them. This design, like Sticky Fingers, would become a classic, and was a fitting debut for their new label.

The release of Sticky Fingers, marked a new era in The Rolling Stones’ career. It was the first album they had released on their newly founded Rolling Stones’ label. This brought to an end the Rolling Stones’ seven year association with Decca Record in Britain, and London Records in America. Despite the lengthy association between the two parties, it ended on a sour note.

After the end of relationship between The Rolling Stones and Decca and London Records, an expensive error discovered. It came to light that inadvertently, the  Rolling Stones had signed over the copyright to their sixties recordings to their former manager Alan Klein, and his company ABKCO. Having lost the copyright to their Decca and London Records’ recordings, The Rolling Stones decided to form their own label. Their first studio album of seventies, Sticky Fingers launched Rolling Stones Records.

Before Sticky Fingers was released, the  Rolling Stones held their breath as the critics had their say. Most critics heaped praise on Sticky Fingers, calling it The Rolling Stones’ finest album of their career. Tracks like Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Bitch and Moonlight Mile showed that The Rolling Stones had just created a career defining album. Not everyone agreed.

Unsurprisingly, the self appointed “Dean Of American Rock Critics” Robert Christgau didn’t agree. While others were heaping praise on Sticky Fingers, he disagreed. As 1971 drew to a close, the contrarian Christgau called Sticky Fingers the seventeenth best album of 1971. Robert Hilburn gave Sticky Fingers a backhanded compliment. While he conceded that Sticky Fingers was one of the best albums of 1971, it was “only modest by The Rolling Stones’ standards.” Lynn Van Matre also proved a past master of the backhanded compliment. She said that the  Rolling Stones were “at their raunchy best” but that the music is “hardly innovative.” She did agree that Sticky Fingers was one of the albums of 1971. Record buyers agreed.

When Sticky Fingers hit the shops on 23rd April 1971, it reached number one in Britain and in the US Billboard 200 charts. Across the world, Sticky Fingers was a huge seller, reaching the top ten in ten countries. Apart from America and Britain, Sticky Fingers reached number one in Australia, Canada, Holland, Norway, Spain, Sweden and West Germany. Sticky Fingers was certified gold in Britain and France. In America, Sticky Fingers sold three million copies and was certified triple-platinum. Forrty-four years after its release, and Sticky Fingers is perceived as a Rolling Stones’ classic.

No wonder. Sticky Fingers features the  Rolling Stones at their very best. It was as if everything had been leading up to Sticky Fingers and then, a year later, Exile On Main Street. That is the case from the opening bars of Brown Sugar, which opens Sticky Fingers.

Instantly, The Rolling Stones are turned in to a good time, rock ’n’ roll band on Brown Sugar. With Mick at the helm, they strut their way through this homage to the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. It was recorded in Muscle Shoals, where its its  tough, blues rock sound took shape. Everything falls into place. Jimmy Miller’s decision to pair Bobby Keys’ saxophone and Keith’s guitar in the breakdown is a masterstroke. He plays his part in a future Rolling Stones’ classic.

From good time, rock ’n’ roll, The Rolling Stones drop the tempo on Sway, the first of the ballads. Who wrote the song is disputed. Officially, it’s credited to Jagger and Richards. However, Mick Taylor has subsequently claimed to have written the track. He certainly plays an important part in this slow, bluesy ballad. Mick adds a bottleneck slide guitar solo, while Mick Jagger exercises demons via his vocal. Then on Wild Horses, Mick delivers one of his finest vocals. It’s best described as soul-baring, on what is easily, a Rolling Stones’ classic. 

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking sees The Rolling Stones transformed into a good time rock ’n’ roll band. In 1971, their only opposition was The Faces. Mick’s accompanied by harmonies from the rest of Stones, vamps and struts his way through the lyrics. Then at 2.43, the instrumental break begins, and The Rolling Stones stretch their legs. Rocky Dijon’s congas propels the arrangement along, before Bobby Keys unleashes a saxophone solo whilst Keith and Mick trade guitar licks. Augmenting the arrangement is Billy Preston’s organ. However, later, Mick Taylor unleashes a blistering guitar solo, as he makes his mark on The Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones first played You Gotta Move on their 1969 American tour. This inspired them to cover the song on Sticky Fingers. It’s reinvented, and transformed into a rousing, bluesy jam. Partly this reinvention is down to waves of bluesy guitar, and Mick’s drawling, mid-Atlantic vocal.

Originally, Bitch was the B-Side to Brown Sugar. However, it soon found its way on radio playlists. No wonder. It benefits from an impressive, almost overblown arrangement. Mick whose been unlucky in love, doesn’t hold back; “love is a bitch.” Behind him, big bold horns and duelling guitars fill out the arrangement. Soon, The Rolling Stones in full flow. It’s an impressive sound, and one of Sticky Fingers’ highlights. Bluesy and soulful describes I Got the Blues. Again, the  Stones drop the tempo. Mick, accompanied by growling horns, delivers a needy, soulful vocal.

The first time anyone heard Sister Morphine, was when Marianne Faithful released it as the B-Side to her 1969 single Something Better. Two years later, it’s given a makeover by the Stones and their friends. Ry Cooder plays slide guitar and Jack Nitzsche piano and organ. Against this understated arrangement Mick’s vocal is like a confessional. It’s as if he can relate to, and understand the poignant lyrics. There is also a darkness to the country-tinged Dead Flowers. Especially the line: “I’ll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon.” During the period Sticky Fingers was recorded, Keith Richards and Gram Parsons had become friends. Some people believe he inspired the song, which is one of the most underrated in the  Rolling Stones’ back-catalogue.

Closing Sticky Fingers is Moonlight Mile. It’s another ballad with country influence. Jimmy Miller is responsible for a big, bold arrangement. Strings sweep in the background, while Mick sings about how difficult it is being a rock ’n’ roll star, whose constantly in the spotlight. The way he delivers the lyrics, it’s as if he is tiring of life as a Rolling Stone.

That would never happen. Forty-four years later, and Mick Jagger is still a Rolling Stone. They went on to release a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. However, Sticky Fingers is one of the  Rolling Stones’ finest moments. 

Throughout Sticky Fingers, the  Stones are at their best and most versatile. Seamlessly, they switch between blues, rock and country. Similarly, one minute The Rolling Stones are a good time rock ’n’ roll band, the next they’re delivering soul baring ballads. That is why Sticky Fingers is a captivating, timeless album and career defining album and was the best album of their career so far. It was the third studio album of The Rolling Stones “golden era.” The final album of this period was Exile On Main Street. Somehow, it managed to surpass the quality of Sticky Fingers. That was still to come.

In 1971, the Rolling Stones were back where they belonged, at the top of the charts. They were now the biggest rock ’n’ roll band in the world, which took some doing. The last few years had taken their toll on the Stones. They had been arrested, lost Brian Jones and replaced him with Mick Taylor. Then there was the controversy surrounding Altamont. Somehow, the Rolling Stones the had survived all this, and the band was still going strong, having just released what was a career defining classic album Sticky Fingers.

Classic Album:Rolling Stones-Sticky Fingers.

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CULT CLASSIC: GANDALF-JOURNEY TO AN IMAGINARY LAND.

Cult Classic: Gandalf-Journey To An Imaginary Land.

Prior to embarking upon a musical career, and becoming  one of Austria’s most accomplished, innovative and successful musicians, Gandalf travelled extensively. That’s why the talented multi-instrumentalist never released his debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land until 1980. By then he was twenty-nine. However, soon, Gandalf would make up for lost time. He would release over thirty albums between 1980 and 2016. These albums would be heavily influenced by Gandalf’s life before music, when  he travelled extensively.

Gandalf’s travels took him all over the world, including to India. The constant travelling certainly broadened the mind of Gandalf. He also realised that music was a universal language. It was something that people in different countries and continents shared a love of. Gandalf experienced this firsthand.

As he traversed the globe, Gandalf made a living making music. He was the twenty-first Century equivalent of a travelling minstrel. It was during his travels that Gandalf realised that he wanted to make a living as a musician.

This came as no surprise to many that knew Gandalf. He had grownup in the small town of Pressbaum, in Lower Austria. That was where Heinz Strobl was born on the 4th of  December 1952. It would be much later when Heinz adopted the Gandalf moniker. Before that, Heinz proved to be a gifted and natural musician as he grew up.

That was despite having no formal musical education. Heinz could pickup an instrument and soon, was playing along to a song on the radio or a record that was playing. Soon, he could play the piano and guitar. By the time he headed off on his travels, Heinz had mastered a number of different instruments.

On his return from what was the modern equivalent of a Grand Tour, Heinz had mastered a myriad of instruments that he had discovered on his travels. This included a sitar, saz, charango, bouzuki and balaphon. They would play an important part in Heinz’s future musical career.

Initially, Heinz began playing with various rock bands during the seventies. During the seventies, progressive rock was at the peak of its popularity. Heinz was a member of a couple of progressive rock bands. This however, was all part of his musical apprenticeship. 

As the seventies gave way to the eighties, Heinz decided to reinvent himself, and adopted the moniker Gandalf. This stemmed from Heinz’s love of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Little did he realise that his new moniker would feature on over thirty albums. This included Gandalf’s debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land. It was released by WEA  and recently was rereleased by Esoteric Recordings. Journey To An Imaginary Land showcased Gandalf’s unique and inimitable style.

It began to take shape on Gandalf’s debut album Journey To An Imaginary Land. It was released by WEA in Austria during 198o. This marked the debut of Gandalf, who later described himself as a “painter of musical landscapes.”

This is quite fitting, Having written the six tracks that became Journey To An Imaginary Land, Gandalf began painting these “musical landscapes” using his has extensive musical palette. It included everything from acoustic and electric instruments to the traditional, ethnic instruments that Gandalf had discovered and collected on his travels. Included in Gandalf’s palette, were various synths and samplers. They would play an important part in not just Journey To An Imaginary Land, but Gandalf’s future albums.

With his impressive array of instruments, Gandalf began recording Journey To An Imaginary Land at Beginning Soundstudio in August 1980. He arranged, recorded and produced the album. Gandalf played each and every instrument, including the synths that play such an important part in Journey To An Imaginary Land. Once the album was recorded, Gandalf mixed his debut album. It was completed in October 1980 and then delivered to WEA, who Gandalf was signed to.

WEA scheduled the release of Journey To An Imaginary Land for late in 1980. Before that, critics received a copy of Gandalf’s debut album. 

Journey To An Imaginary Land was well received by critics, who were won over by what was hailed an innovative and progressive album. It was a fusion of eclectic musical instruments, influences and genres. When they’re combined by Gandalf, the result is a groundbreaking and genre-melting album, Journey To An Imaginary Land. It features elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, electronica and folk. When they are combined, they become part of what’s a captivating, mythical and symphonic musical journey that gradually unfolds over forty-five minutes. It’s an ambitious and accomplished album. Especially considering it was Gandalf’s debut album.

Buoyed by the reviews of Journey To An Imaginary Land, Gandalf eagerly awaited the release of his debut album. When Journey To An Imaginary Land was released later in 1980, the album failed to find an audience. Suddenly, Gandalf’s dream of making a living as a professional musician were dashed. However, after the initial disappointment, Gandalf was determined that his sophomore album would be his breakthrough album.

Departure opens Journey To An Imaginary Land. Synths replicate the sound of a rocket taking off, as it heads for a distant galaxy. It soars above the earth below, en route to its eventual destination. Banks of synths are to the fore. They buzz, shimmer and add glacial and ethereal sounds. Meanwhile, drums, bass and guitar augment the synths as the arrangement builds.Together, they add to the cinematic sound as Gandalf takes the listener on a captivating Journey To An Imaginary Land.

Just a a glacial synth and lone acoustic guitar opens Foreign Landscape. So are a prowling bass and searing guitar. It cuts through the arrangement as swell of synths envelop the arrangement. Soon, a buzzing bass synth adds an element of drama as the arrangement builds, before becoming understated. All that remains are washes of synths and that ominous beat. They’re joined by a futuristic synth as elegiac and dramatic sounds arise from the arrangement. Still, the drama continues to grow. Soon, the music veers between dramatic to understated. It became ambient, atmospheric, futuristic, otherworldly and later, dramatic. Seamlessly, sonic explorer Gandalf takes the listener on a musical journey to a  Foreign Landscape during this nine minute epic.

As The Peaceful Village unfolds, Gandalf gently strums his guitar, before washes of synths sweep in. Together, they create an ethereal, elegiac and dreamy sound. Gradually though, the arrangement begins to grow and build. Gandalf digs deep into his sonic palette and adds a bass and further layers of synths. They fill out the understated arrangement, and the tempo rises. Already Gandalf is fusing elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, rock and world music. Soon, there’s  a return to the spartan, elegiac sound. This is just a curveball. The arrangement is transformed as drums pound and join a fleet fingered futuristic synth solo. Still, the washes of ethereal synths remain as the drama builds. It seems that Gandalf has left behind The Peaceful Village and he’s about to embark upon the next part in his genre-melting cinematic Journey To An Imaginary Land.

Gusts of wind blow, as Gandalf embarks upon a March Across The Endless Plain. Already the arrangement is atmospheric, dramatic and understated. Swirling, buzzing, synths are joined by ominous drums and an acoustic guitar. It takes centre-stage. That’s until a  searing electric guitar replaces it. Still, there’s an ominous backdrop as Gandalf continues his journey. Then an almost otherworldly synth is added, before the guitar returns. Later, the arrangement is stripped bare, and all that remains are swells of elegiac synths. Gradually, the arrangement rebuilds, with the drums, guitar and synths returning. They conjure up images of sonic adventurer as he embarks upon what’s a lonely journey into the unknown, a March Across The Endless Plain.

As The Fruitful Gardens reveals its delights, an acoustic guitar and  glacial synths combine. They’re soon joined by a slow, deliberate elegiac synth. They combine to create a meandering arrangement. Later, a bass synth is added as the arrangement builds and the drama increases. It’s a well trodden path, and one used throughout the album. What differs is the addition of an urgently strummed guitar, that’s soon joined by gliding, glacial synths. They then take centre-stage as the guitar drops out. This adds to an ambient sound. Later, when the bass synth returns, it a futuristic sound to this cinematic soundscape.

Closing Journey To An Imaginary Land is Sunset At The Crystal Lake. A droning elegiac synths takes centre-stage, before chiming sounds can be heard. Soon, the elegiac synths quivers and shivers, before a bass synth is aded. Again, there’s an ambient and cinematic sound to the arrangement. The addition of the bass synths adds a sci-fi sound, and conjures up images of a spaceship en route to Sunset At The Crystal Lake. That is no surprise. Despite the  understated arrangements, they’re rich in imagery. Later, as Gandalf nears his destination, the arrangement grows. The bass synth plays a leading role. So does a crystalline synth as the Journey To An Imaginary Land ends Sunset At The Crystal Lake.

Inspired by his travels and musical past, Gandalf spent three months recording Journey To An Imaginary Land. The album was completed in October 1980, and rereleased to critical acclaim in Austria in late1980. Sadly, Journey To An Imaginary Land failed to ind the audience it deserved. This was just a minor blip.

Critical acclaim and commercial success were omnipresent from To Another Horizon onwards. Gandalf went on to release over thirty further albums between 1981 and 2016. Nowadays, Gandalf is regarded as one of Austria’s most accomplished, innovative and successful musicians. Gandalf who is a talented multi-instrumentalist, is also one of Austria’s most prolific artists. 

That came as no surprise to those who discovered the delights of Journey To An Imaginary Land upon its release. Here was an album where Gandalf takes the listener on a musical journey. The music is variously atmospheric, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, futuristic, moody and otherworldly. Alway, there’s a cinematic sound, as sonic explorer and innovator Gandalf, takes the lister on a captivating Journey To An Imaginary Land.

Cult Classic: Gandalf-Journey To An Imaginary Land.

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CULT CLASSIC: TIM MAIA-DISCO CLUB.

Cult Classic-Tim Maia-Disco Club.

By 1978, Tim Maia had released nine albums since his 1970 eponymous debut, and although some of these album had been released to critical acclaim and were a commercial success, the charismatic Brazilian singer found himself financially embarrassed. Things had been going from bad to worse over the last few years and  Tim Maia now found himself being chased by bailiffs and debt collectors on a daily basis. Tim Maia hoped that his tenth album Disco Club would sell well enough to solve all his financial problems, given disco’s popularity in Brazil. Disco Club needed to sell well as all the money that Tim Maia had earned since 1970 was long gone, spent on cars, musical instruments and the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle which Tim Maia had embraced almost defiantly. However, it hadn’t always been like this.

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 would be Disco Club, which was arranged by Lincoln Olivetti and produced by Guti Carvalho.

Now that he had signed to Warner Bros, Tim Maia was keen to begin work on Disco Club which he hoped would transform his career and finances. He wrote Acenda O Farol, Sossego, Vitória Régia Estou Contigo E Não Abro, All I Want, Se Me Lembro Faz Doer, Juras and Johnny. Tim Maia also joined forces with Hyldon to write the album opener A Fim De Voltar. It was joined by Cassiano’s Murmúrio while Arnaud Rodrigues and Piau penned Pais E Filhos. These ten tracks became Disco Club, which was recorded in two studios in Rio de Janeiro, Estudios Level and Estúdio Transamérica.

When the recording of Disco Club began, arranger and keyboardist Lincoln Olivetti and Guti Carvalho who co-produced the album with Tim Maia were joined by Argentinian conductor and arranger Miguel Cidrás. He was brought onboard to write the string arrangements to five of the tracks on Disco Club. No expense was spared and some of the top Brazilian musicians made their way to the studio to record an album that was soulful, funky and was also influenced by Tim Maia’s love of American disco. Lush strings, rasping horns and soulful backing vocalists joined percussion, keyboards and the rhythm section who added the Disco Club’s heartbeat. Gradually, a disco classic started to take shape on Tim Maia’s tenth album Disco Club. However, during the recording there was a problem.

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. After several years where Tim Maia had struggled to reach the heights of his first four albums, he was back with what proved to one of the finest albums of his career, Disco Club. 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. So much so, that Disco Club is as good as Tim Maia’s first four albums, when his star shone the brightest. These albums are 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, including  Disco Club, which was one of the highlights of his long and eventful career.

Cult Classic-Tim Maia-Disco Club.

MOGWAI-TEN RAPID (COLLECTED RECORDINGS 1996-1997).

Mogwai-Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997).

Label: Rock Action Records.

Nowadays, there aren’t many bands that stay together twenty-eight years, and release thirteen studio albums, five soundtracks and two live albums. There’s also the small matter of two remix albums and the four compilations that the Glasgow-based band Mogwai have released. The very first album that Mogwai released was the compilation Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997) which was recently reissued by Rock Action Records  for National Album Day 2019.

Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997) features nine tracks and is a reminder of Mogwai during the formative years of their career, and will keep their fans occupied until the release of the Kin soundtrack in late August 2018. Kin will be the next chapter in the Mogwai story which began in 1991.

The Mogwai story began in 1991, when Stuart Braithwaite and Dominic Aitchison first met in Scotland’s musical capital, Glasgow. Four years later, they met drummer Martin Bulloch and formed Mogwai, which film buffs will remember, is a character from the movie Gremlins. Mogwai was always meant as a temporary name, until they came up with something better. 

Later in 1995, three become four when guitarist John Cummings  joined Mogwai. Since then, John’s role in Mogwai has changed, and he’s now described as playing “guitar and laptop,” and as is regarded as the maestro when it comes to all things technical. However, not long after John Cummings joined Mogwai in 1995, the nascent band started honing their sound and making plans for the future.

In 1996, Mogwai founded their own record label Rock Action Records which would play an important part in the rise and rise of Mogwai over the next twenty-two years. So would another part of Mogwai’s nascent musical empire their Castle Of Doom Studios, which was cofounded by Mogwai and Tony Doogan in 2005. It’s situated in the West End of Glasgow, and has been a home from home for Mogwai, when they recorded new albums.  That was all still to come from Mogwai.

Before that, post rock pioneers Mogwai released their much-anticipated debut single on the ‘16th’ of March 1996. This was a double-A-side that featured Tuner and Lower, which was a limited edition of 500 that released on their new label Rock Action Records. Tuner was released to critical acclaim and the NME awarded it their single of the week award. While Tuner would later feature on Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997), Lower was omitted. However, Tuner offered a tantalising taste of Mogwai who critics were calling one of Scotland’s most exciting new bands.

In the summer of 1996, Mogwai released their sophomore single which was a rerecorded version of Angels v Aliens. It had originally been released on a split single that Mogwai and Dweeb released on Ché Trading label. However, the rerecorded version of Angels v Aliens is the definitive version of the song and became Mogwai’s second single which was released to plaudits and praise. It’s a welcome addition to Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997), and is a reminder of Mogwai as they continued to pioneer the post rock sound.

As one of music’s rising stars, Mogwai was invented to play at the Camden Crawl II, which was a free concert that took place in North London, on the ’19th’ September 1996. Members of the audience were given a free compilation CD released by the  Love Train label which featured the Mogwai track A Place For Parks. However, the first time the rest of Mogwai’s fans heard A Place For Parks was when it featured on the compilation Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997).

It was a similar case with I Am Not Batman, which was given away free to those who attended the Ten Day Weekend Festival in Glasgow, in October 1996. On the a compilation cassette Hoover Your Head was Ten Day Weekend which in the spring of 1997 featured on the Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997) compilation.

Just a few weeks after playing a starring role at the Ten Day Weekend Festival, in their home city of Glasgow, Mogwai returned on the ‘4th’ of November 1996 with their third single. Summer and Ithica 27ϕ 9 was another limited edition double-A side and only 1,500 copies were pressed by the UK label Love Train. Critics hailed the single which later featured on Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997) as a triumphant return from Mogwai. 

Buoyed by the success and critical acclaim that had accompanied their first three singles, Mogwai returned in February 1997 with  their fourth single. This was another double-A side New Paths To Helicon (Part 1) which featured New Paths To Helicon (Part 2) on the B-Side. 3,000 copies were  released on the Wurlitzer Jukebox label and featured Mogwai at their most inventive and innovative. Both sides feature on Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997) and showcase a groundbreaking band during the early part of their career.

Just two months later, on the ‘17th’ April 1997, Mogwai released the compilation Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997) on Rock Action Records. The track that closed the album was End, which was New Paths To Helicon played backwards. This was another example of Mogwai’s determination to innovate and push musical boundaries.

This is something that Mogwai have been doing ever since, and after thirteen studio albums, five soundtracks and two live albums they’ve been regarded as one of Scotland’s top bands over the past three decades. Twenty-seven years after Mogwai were formed, many critics believe that they’re now Scotland’s top band. 

That comes as no surprise, as consistently Mogwai released ambitious and groundbreaking music. Album after album, Mogwai push continue to musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes way beyond as they continue to release innovative music. This is what post rock pioneers Mogwai have been doing since they released their debut single in 1996.

The following year, Mogwai’s debut single featured on the compilation Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997), which was the first album that the band released on Rock Action Records. Twenty-three years after Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997) was origoanly released, it’s been  reissued by Rock Action Records especially for National Album Day 2019.and is a tantalising taste of post rock pioneers as the Mogwai Young Team as they embarked upon what has been a long and successful career. 

Mogwai-Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996–1997).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IKARUS-THE STORY OF KRAUTROCK’S NEARLY MEN.

Ikarus-The Story Of Krautrock’s Nearly Men.

In Greek mythology, Icarus, the son of the master craftsman Daedalus, who created the Labyrinth, met a tragic ending. Icarus and Daedalus were desperate to escape from Crete. So Daedalus constructed wings made of feathers and wax. As Icarus prepared to make his escape, Daedalus warned his son of complacency and hubris. 

Icarus shouldn’t neither fly too high, nor too low. If he flew too high, the sun would melt the wax. However, if he Icarus flew too low, the dampness of would weigh down the feathers. It seemed Icarus was between the devil and the deep blue sea.

And so it proved to be. Icarus chose to ignore his father’s wise words, and flew too close to the sun. The sun’s rays melted the wax, and Icarus fell into the sea. He became the first of many people who flew too close to the sun.

Sadly, this includes many musicians. Among them are Syd Barrett, Skip Spence and Brian Wilson. These three legendary musicians flew too close to the sun, and as a result, never quite filled their early potential. Sadly, neither did Ikarus.

They could’ve gone on to become one of the greatest German rock bands of their generation. Sadly, Ikarus’ discography consists of just one studio album Ikarus. It was released on the Plus label in 1971i. Ikarus showcased a talented, pioneering group, who many thought were destined for greatness. Their story began a few years earlier.

It was in the mid-sixties, in the musical hotbed that was Hamburg, that Ikarus were formed. Ikarus were just the latest beat group that had been formed in Hamburg. This was where The Beatles served their musical apprenticeship a few years earlier. Now a whole host of local groups wanted to follow in the Fab Four’s footsteps. 

Ikarus were no different and they spent evenings and weekends practising in various Hamburg basements. They were determined to hone their sound, before making their debut.This didn’t take long, as Ikarus featured some talented musicians.

This included classically trained keyboardist Wulf Dieter Struntz and bassist Wolfgang Kracht. His party trick was to play a violin with his gloves on. Music seemed to come easily to the members of Ikarus, and it wasn’t long until they began to play live.

By 1966, Ikarus made tentative steps onto Hamburg’s live scene. Ikarus’ earliest concerts took place in youth clubs, where they played cover versions of popular song. At first,Ikarus were called Beautique In Corporation. Soon, this was soon shortened to BIC. This found favour among the band’s audience.

Although a relatively new group, BIC quickly won over audiences. Soon, they had large and enthusiastic audience. BIC played what they wanted to hear. They weren’t above playing covers of hits by Elvis Presley and Tom Jones. This was easy on the ear of the audience. However, before long, BIC’s setlist changed.

The band members began to write their own songs. Audiences expected to hear original material. They didn’t just want to hear cover versions. This suited the members of BIC, who were classically trained musicians. Composition came easy to them.

These new songs were added to BIC’s sets. Some of these songs had a psychedelic sound. BIC’s music was evolving, as music evolved. This proved popular when BIC played live.

By then, BIC had graduated from the youth club circuit, and were by now familiar faces on the Hamburg and North German music scene. Their music was a mixture of psychedelia and rock. However, there was an element of comedy in BIC’s sets. 

Some of the members of BIC enjoyed the new generation of German vaudeville comedians. So they began to combine vaudeville comedy with their psychedelic sound. It proved a potent and successful combination.

Soon, BIC were one of the most successful Hamburg bands. They were well on their way to becoming one of the leading lights of the Hamburg scene. So when they saw an advert for the 1969 Hamburg student beat band competition, BIC decided to enter.

All of the top Hamburg bands entered. The competition was fierce. Hamburg had a thriving music scene. While the other bands were professional, BIC were still an amateur band. This didn’t matter. When BIC took to the stage, they quickly won over the judges with their psychedelic sound. Once all the bands had played, the judges conferred and the winner was announced. It was BIC, the only amateur band in the competition. They had triumphed, and won what was Hamburg’s most prestigious competition.

Having won the 1969 Hamburg student beat band competition, BIC were invited to in the 1970 Hamburg Pop and Blues festival. It took place between the 1st and 3rd of April 1970. BIC were going to rub shoulders with some of the biggest band on that early seventies. Among them, were Chicken Shack, Steampacket, Alexis Corner and Hardin and York. Despite such an illustrious lineup, it was the hometown band that won the hearts and minds of the audience. BIC had stolen the show.

After their performance at the 1970 Hamburg Pop and Blues festival, things happened quickly for BIC. A live album of BIC’s performance at the Hamburg Pop and Blues festival was released as their debut album. It was augmented by performances from Frumpy and Tomorrow’s Gift. The album sold fairly well, and it looked like BIC’s star was in the ascendancy.

Just a few months later, BIC’s lineup changed, when two new names joined the band. Now BIC was a five piece band. The new lineup of BIC was then asked to open for British band Uriah Heep on their forthcoming tour. This was the start of the rise and rise of BIC.

Not long after this, BIC acquired a manager, who was also a  concert promoter, Will Jahncke. One of his first suggestions was that BIC changed their name to Ikarus. While this seemed more in keeping with the psychedelic and progressive rock scene, BIC were a popular and successful band. However, the five members decided to change the band’s name to Ikarus.

Following the name change, Ikarus’ music changed. They were inspired to do so, by King Crimson, Yes, Colosseum and Frank Zappa. Soon, Ikarus were fusing fusion with progressive rock and experimental music. There was still a slight psychedelic sound to their music. However, the new sound didn’t please everyone.

When Ikarus played live, the audience were divided by the stylistic change. While some embraced and welcome Ikarus’ new sound, some weren’t as sure. They weren’t won over by the move towards progressive rock. Instead, they felt the lengthy songs, and changes in tempo and time signature were self-indulgent. However, critics disagreed, and continued to champion Ikarus.

With the critics championing their music, it made sense for Ikarus to record their debut album in the second half of 1971. So the five members of Ikarus made their way to the Windrose Studio, Hamburg. 

By then, the members of Ikarus had written four songs. Each of the songs were collaborations between members of the band. That was apart from The Raven Including “Theme For James Marshall.” It was an Edgar Allan Poe poem set to music written by four members of Ikarus. This became a near twelve minute epic that featured on side two of Ikarus. With the album written, the band began recording their debut album. 

At the Windrose Studio, there was a sense of anticipation.The original members of the band had spent six years playing in clubs and festivals. All this was preparation for the day that Ikarus recorded their eponymous debut album. If things went to play, Ikarus music would be heard by a much wider audience. 

The members of Ikarus realised this as they setup their equipment. By then, Ikarus’ rhythm section featured drummer Bernd Schröder, bassist Wolfgang Kracht and guitarist Manfred Schulz. Jochen Petersen played guitar, but also switched between 12-string guitar, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute and clarinet. Wulf Dieter Struntz played organ and piano. Lorenz Köhler took charge of the lead vocals on three tracks; while Manfred Schulz featured on Early Bell’s Voice. Producing Ikarus was Jochen Petersen. Eventually, Ikarus was complete. Now all that was left was to release Ikarus.

With Ikarus complete, it was scheduled for release in February 1972. Miller International had decided to release it on their Plus imprint. However, before that, critics had their say on Ikarus.

For some time, critics had championed Ikarus’ music. Their eponymous debut album was no different. Ikarus, with its combination of fusion, progressive rock and psychedelia met with the critics approval. Critically acclaimed reviews followed, and Ikarus, who were still an amateur band, looked like they had a successful album on their hands.

So it proved to be. Ikarus sold well, and soon, the band were playing sellout shows across Germany. In Hamburg, Ikarus’ home town, they were asked open for Deep Purple. It looked like Ikarus were were well on their way to becoming one of the stars of the German music scene. Those that heard Ikarus concurred.

For some time, critics had championed Ikarus’ music. Their eponymous debut album was no different. Ikarus, with its combination of fusion, progressive rock and psychedelia met with the critics approval. Critically acclaimed reviews followed, and Ikarus, who were still an amateur band, looked like they had a successful album on their hands.

Although Ikarus only featured four tracks, they ooze quality. That’s apparent from Eclipse the opening bars of Eclipse to the closing notes of Early Bell’s Voice. Ikarus take the listener on a Joycean musical journey. It features thought proving lyrics with a social conscience. Especially, on the first two tracks, Eclipse and Mesentry. Throughout Ikarus, musical genres melt into one, including everything from avant-garde and experimental music to folk rock, free jazz and fusion to Krautrock, progressive rock,  psychedelia and rock. Sometimes, musical genres melt into one resulting in a inventive and innovative genre-melting sound. There’s constant stylistic change and changes in tempo as the music constantly heads in new directions.

The music veers between impassioned, dramatic, symphonic and urgent, to emotive, theatrical and thoughtful. Sometimes, the music is pastoral and understated before becoming soulful, experimental and futuristic. Other times, the music becomes jazzy, moody, gothic, lysergic and cinematic. Constantly, Ikarus  throw curveballs and nuances, subtleties and surprise unfold. The result is music that’s inventive and innovative. Ikarus were musical pioneers. 

That was the case with the artists that have obviously influenced Ikarus. This includes King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Queen and Soft Machine. They influence Ikarus’s captivating, genre-melting, Joycean musical journey.

Sadly, Ikarus was the only album that Ikarus ever released. The Ikarus’ story is a case of unfilled potential.

On Ikarus, listeners were introduced to what could’ve been one of the most successful German bands of the seventies. Their was bang ‘on trend’. Progressive rock and fusion were both hugely popular by the mid-seventies. 

That’s when Ikarus were offered a contract by Metronome. They were the owner of the legendary Brian label. For Ikarus, this was the opportunity to dine at the top table in German rock music. Surely, this was an offer that Ikarus couldn’t and wouldn’t resist?

They did. In the mid-seventies, Ikarus were still an amateur band. Its member felt that becoming a professional band was risky. There was no guarantee that their albums would sell. As an amateur band, they had the best of both worlds. Music was a hobby, one they were good at and that they made money with.

The live circuit was lucrative. It was a good way for the members of Ikarus to augment their income. However, to become a full-time band was a step too far for some members of Ikarus, and they decided the band should split-up. It was a case of what might have been.

Listening to Ikarus nearly forty-four years after its release, and one can’t help but wonder if the members of Ikarus regret their decision? Do they ever wonder what would’ve happened if they had signed to Metronome? Maybe they would’ve gone on to enjoy the same success as Can, Guru Guru, Eloy or Birth Control. Or maybe, it would’ve been another generation before Ikarus’ music finally received the recognition it deserves. That was the case with Neu!, Harmonia and Cluster. What I do know, is that Ikarus had the talent to reach the higher echelons of German rock music. That is apparent on their eponymous debut album which is a tantalising reminder of  Ikarus, Krautrock’s nearly men who should’ve enjoyed a long and successful career. 

Ikarus-The Story Of Krautrock’s Nearly Men.

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YESTERDAY HAS GONE-THE SONGS OF TEDDY RANDAZZO.

Yesterday Has Gone-The Songs Of Teddy Randazzo.

Label: Ace Records.

The name Teddy Randazzo means different things to different people.  To some, he’s the singer who had Billboard 100 hits with 1958s Little Serenade, 1960s The Way Of A Clown and Big Wide World in 1963. He featured in  rock revues alongside Chuck Berry and LaVern Baker, and had roles in films including  Hey, Let’s Twist!, The Girl Can’t Help It, Rock, Rock, Rock and Mister Rock and Roll in the late-fifties and early sixties. However, that was just part of the Teddy Randazzo story.

He was also a talented arranger and producer who was known for arrangements that were variously elegiac, ethereal, intimate, intense and often, were dramatic with sweeping strings and featured lyrics that were emotive or ordinary people could be relate to. That was no surprise as Teddy Randazzo was one of the leading songwriters of the sixties and seventies.  He’s the latest inductee into Ace Records’ Songwriter Series, and twenty-five of his songs feature on Yesterday Has Gone-The Songs Of Teddy Randazzo, which was released recently. It’s a reminder of one a great songwriter, arranger and producer who was one of the finest of his generation.

Opening Yesterday Has Gone-The Songs Of Teddy Randazzo is I’m On The Outside (Looking In) by Little Anthony and The Imperials. It was released on DCP in 1964, and features a vulnerable vocal full of emotion. It reached  fifteen on the US Billboard 100 and eight on the US R&B charts and gave the reformed group a hit single.  Little Anthony and The Imperials’ other contribution is a cover of Yesterday Has Gone which although failed to chart, would resonate with many who heard the song.

In 1965, Tim Yuro recorded Yesterday Has Gone which was penned by Bobby Weinstein and  Teddy Randazzo, who was commissioned by Mercury to arranged the session. It features a big, bold and dramatic arrangement that is a perfect backdrop for a vocal that is emotive and powerful.

You Don’t Need A Heart was released by Teddy Randazzo as a single on DCP, in 1965. By then, he was enjoying a successful career as a songwriter and arranger, but delivers a vocal masterclass. The result was one of his finest releases for DCP.

When Tony Orlando released Think Before You Act, which was produced by Teddy Randazzo and released on Atco in 1965, he was still a solo artist. It was only later that he would become the lead singer with Dawn. However, Think Before You Act more than hints at what was to come from the twenty-one year old singer.

When Esther Phillips recorded Let Me Know When It’s Over for Atlantic in 1965, one of her backing vocalists was Tony Orlando. Teddy Randazzo arranged and produced the song, which features lush, sweeping strings and a soul-baring vocal from one of the most underrated singers of her generation Esther Phillips.

The Chairman  Of The Board recorded Rain In My Heart, which was written by Teddy Randazzo and Victoria Pike, and released on Reprise in 1968. It’s a powerful and emotive song that opened Frank SInatra’s Circles’ album, which was also released in 1968.

Jimmy Rice channels the spirit of The King on his rendition of On Or Not At All. Teddy Randazzo cowrote, conducted and arranged the song which was released on Red Bird in 1965.

Teddy Randazzo  cowrote Goin’ Out Of My Head which has been recorded by many artists over the years. This includes  Dionne Warwick. Her soulful and needy cover was produced by Bacharach and David and featured on her 1966 album Very Dionne.

In 1968, The Delfonics recorded Hurt So Bad, which Teddy Randazzo cowrote, for their La La Means I Love You album. It was arranged, conducted and produced by the legendary Thom Bell and is a tantalising taste of the Philly Soul sound.

By 1979, The Stylistics were signed to Mercury and were working with Teddy Randazzo. He cowrote, arranged and produced  Love At First Sight, which is an underrated song from the group’s impressive back-catalogue.

Closing Yesterday Has Gone-The Songs Of Teddy Randazzo is A Million To One by The Manhattans. It was written by Teddy Randazzo and Victoria Pike, and was the title-track to their 1971 album for De-Luxe. Slick and soulful, it’s a reminder of The Manhattans’ trademark sound and style that was successful during the late-sixties and seventies.  It’s also the perfect way to close this lovingly curated compilation.

There’s twenty-five tracks on Yesterday Has Gone-The Songs Of Teddy Randazzo which was recently released by Ace Records and showcase a talented singer, songwriter, arranger and producer at the peak of his powers. These songs were recorded between 1964 and 1979 when the great and good of music wanted to work with the late, great Teddy Randazzo. He wrote, arranged and produced songs for the biggest names in music during that period. 

Proof of that is Yesterday Has Gone-The Songs Of Teddy Randazzo, a lovingly curated compilation that pays homage to one of the great songwriters of his generation. He is a worthy indictee into Ace Records’ Songwriter’s Series and the compilation also showcases his talents as an arranger and producer. The arrangements are elegiac, ethereal, lush, intimate, intense and often, were dramatic and majestic with sweeping strings and lyrics that the listener can relate to. Yesterday Has Gone-The Songs Of Teddy Randazzo is another quality compilation and a welcome addition to the long-running and successful Songwriter’s Series.

Yesterday Has Gone-The Songs Of Teddy Randazzo.

CULT CLASSIC: SKEETER DAVIS-LET ME GET CLOSE TO YOU.

Cult Classic: Skeeter Davis-Let Me Get Close To You.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cult Classic: Skeeter Davis-Let Me Get Close To You.

SIDIKU BUARI-DISCO SOCCER.

Sidiku Buari-Disco Soccer.

Label: BBE Africa.

Release Date: ‘18th’ October 2019. 

There are very few people who manage to forge a career in both sport and music, but Ghanian born Sidiku Buari managed to do just this. He was a silver medallist in the 400 metres at the 1963 All-Africa Games held in Dakar, Senegal. Two years later, in 1965, Sidiku Buari was a member of the 4×400 relay team at the All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, when the Republic Of Congo won a bronze medal. 

A year after his second appearance at the All-African Games, Sidiku Buari emigrated to America in 1966, and studied music at the New York School of Music. After that, Sidiku Buari studied interior design at the La Sale University in Chicago, Illinois. By then, Sidiku Buari’s musical career was underway, but his love of sport saw him playing baseball to a reasonable standard during his three decade stay in the United States. However, while Sidiku Buari was a talented and successful athlete, he enjoyed more success as a musician.

Sidiku Buari was a prolific artist, arranger, composer and producer who during his long and  illustrious career, released in excess of twenty-five albums. 

He released his debut album Buari, on RCA in 1975. It  featured legendary jazz drummer Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie who plays a starring role on this über rare  fusion of Afrobeat, disco, funk and soul. Buari was a genre-melting album launched the career of this truly innovative artist who successfully fused African and Western music. 

This was the case four years later in 1979, when Sidiku Buari released his sophomore album Disco Soccer.  It will be reissued by BBE Africa on the ‘18th’ October 2019 on CD and vinyl. Forty years after its release, Disco Soccer receives its first official reissue. This is a welcome reissue of a  cult classic that features an all-star cast.

When Sidiku Buari was recording the eleven tracks that became Disco Soccer, he was joined by what was the creme de la creme of session musicians. This included two of the go-to horn players, The Brecker Brothers, saxophonist Michael and trumpeter Randy. They were joined by trumpeter Jon Faddis, saxophonist George Young, trombonist Barry Rogers while Christine Snyder and Valerie West played French horn. The string section featured violinists Danny Reed , Lucy Corwin, Paul Scales, Bob Rozek and  Stan Curtis plus cellist John Reed. Completing the lineup was percussionist Errol ‘Crusher’ Bennett. Together this multitalented band  combined the music heard in Accra and New York in 1979.

 Disco Soccer was released on Polydor later in 1979, and just like Sidiku Buari’s debut four years earlier, combined a myriad of disparate musical genres. The Ghanian bandleader and multi-instrumentalist backed by his all-star band, fused elements of Afrobeat, late-seventies disco, boogie, funk and soul. This was combined from the opening bars of Koko Si right through to the closing notes of  Games We Used  To Play. For forty-three majestic minutes the music veers between  slick and sharp to soulful, funky and dancefloor friendly as Disco Soccer heads in the direction of  traditional Ghanian music. 

This is Ghanian music with a difference. Listen carefully, and the sound of Southern Soul, and especially the Stax can be heard. There’s also a Motown influence on Disco Soccer as African and Western music combine to create irresistible genre-melting music.

It’s a captivating combination where one minute, the listener is enjoying what could  be the soundtrack to an evening in Studio 54, in New York,  before being transported to the Ghanian capital as they hear they other side to this cult classic, Disco Soccer. It’s an album that wasn’t a huge success upon its release, and it was only much later that it was discovered by  a wider and appreciative audience. They also discovered the album’s secret.

This was what Sidiku Buari called the Disco Soccer dance. It was: “a brand new dance-also called  The Spirit Of Sports Dance. The most important part of this dance is the footwork of the steps. Just Remember, the “Soccer ball” is the drum beat of every disco beat, as well as this new dance-so, follow the drum beat and you will find it easy to dance. Hand swinging, head shaking, body moving, slightly kicking, jumping and stepping is a part of this dance.”

Given the irresistible, genre-melting music on Sidiku Buari’s sophomore album Disco Soccer, even those lacking in coordination will soon be moving and grooving and enjoying The Spirit Of Sports Dance, and recreating the spirit of 1979, when this oft-overlooked cult classic was originally released.  

Sidiku Buari-Disco Soccer.

CULT CLASSIC: SUE BARKER-SUE BARKER.

Cult Classic: Sue Barker-Sue Barker.

Forty years ago, in 1977, Adelaide-based singer Sue Barker released what’s without doubt, one of the greatest soul-jazz albums in the history of Australian music. That album was Sue Barker, which was released on Marcus Herman’s label Crest International. The release of Sue Barker should’ve been the start of a long and glittering career. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and nine years later, Sue Barker turned her back on music in 1986. However, Since then, her one and only album Sue Barker is regarded as an Australian soul-jazz classic.

The Sue Barker story began in Sydney, when she started singing along with Guy Mitchell songs when was just two. Little did her parents realise that this would be the start of a lifelong love affair with music. 

By the time she was in primary school, Sue Barker was a regular in the school choir. When she was nine, Sue Barker decided to join a local church choir so she could join their choir. However, by then, Sue Barker was already taking an interest in spiritual matters.

In the local church, Sue Barker joined the choir and started taking trying to understand and explore the meaning of life.  This was something that was a lifelong commitment and something that at time, would offer solace to Sue Barker in time of trouble.

When Sue Barker completed primary school, her family decided to move back to Adelaide. When she returned to Adelaide, Sue Barker was initially at a loss. That was until her uncle found her a suitable church. Soon, she was playing an active role in and a church member. It was at that church, where Sue Barker’s potential was first discovered.

A church member spotted Sue Barker’s potential, and offered to give her free singing lessons. Not long after this, Sue’s father sent his daughter to the prestigious Adelaide College Of Music for extra tuition. 

Attending Adelaide College Of Music was an eye-opener for Sue Barker, and she blossomed. She was introduced to classical music by her tutors in her early teens. By then, Sue had discovered The Beatles and other Liverpool based singers and bands. This lead to Sue looking for a band needing a singer.

Each day, Sue Barker looked through the small adverts in the local papers, looking for a suitable band. One day, she found a band without a singer, and decided to audition for The Cumberlands.  This lead to Sue’s first gig, where she joined The Cumberlands on-stage for one song. That song marked the start of Sue’s career. Already, she knew that she wanted to embark on a career as a singer.

Not long after her first gig with The Cumberlands, she embarked upon a short tour of south Australian towns. This was good experience for Sue Barker. So was singing in a television talent contest, where she was the runner-up. Her appearance on the talent contest lead to further television appearances. All this was good experience for her future career.

This included when Sue Barker joined her first band. By then, her parents had returned to Sydney, and seventeen year old Sue Barker had remained in Adelaide. That was where she heard a band rehearsing on a Sunday afternoon. Upon hearing the music, Sue decided to investigate. Having made her way up the stairs, Sue asked if she could sing with the band. They agreed, and before long, Sue and the guitarist began a relationship.

Two days after her eighteenth birthday, Sue Barker and the guitarist were married. Within a year, Sue’s first child was born. She stayed at home whilst her husband played with the band. By the time Sue was twenty, she had moved to Sydney and was the mother of two children. Motherhood rather than music was what kept Sue busy. However, she missed music, and decided to return to Adelaide, so did Sue.

Back in Adelaide, Sue, her husband and two children were living close to her parents. With a support network around her, Sue Barker and her husband started putting a band together. They were helped by a booking agent, who hit on the idea of making Sue the focus of the band. This didn’t go down well with her husband, who was in Sue’s shadow. However, this was just the start of Sue Barker’s comeback.

Before long, Sue Barker was being asked to sing with some of Adelaide’s established bands. That was when Sue Barker started to take on a new stage persona, that she had modelled on Janis Joplin. She had it off pat, right down to some serious on-stage drinking. By then, Sue was rubbing shoulders with top musicians, and her star was in the ascendancy. There was even talk of international record deals. Sue Barker was one of Australia’s musical rising stars.

Not long after this, Sue Barker met her future backing band, The Onions. By then, Sue Barker was constantly busy playing live, doing session work and even testing recording equipment at various local recording studios. That wasn’t all.

Sue Barker also decided to hire an old ballroom, where she would put on her own gigs. She would charge $2 to get in, and patrons would watch local musicians jamming after they had finished in the studio. While the nights became extremely popular, but it became clear they weren’t going to make Sue rich. However, it was one of these gigs where Sue Barker was discovered.

After one of the gigs, Sue Barker was approached her and asked if she had ever thought of recording an album? By then, there were a few recording of Sue and her band testing new equipment at the various local studios. However, they hadn’t recorded any singles, never mind an album. Sue gave the stranger who was from Melbourne, one of her recordings, and never expected to hear anything.

She was wrong. One of the tapes ended up in the hands of Marcus Herman who ran the label Crest International. When he heard the recording he was impressed by Sue Barker’s feel, understanding and command of jazz, which was way beyond her years. Marcus Herman realised that Sue Barker was a special talent, and contacted her and asked if she would like to travel to Melbourne to discuss business.

When Sue Barker set out on her journey to Melbourne, to discuss her future with Marcus Herman, she wasn’t alone. She took along her two children and one of her musician friends, Graham Conlon. When they arrived in Melbourne, Sue Barker went to the meeting with Marcus Herman. 

He offered Sue Barker a three album deal, and after some discussion, she put the pen to paper. Later, Sue, like many singers and musicians claims she was naive when she signed the contract. For Sue it was never about money, and was always about the music. She just wanted to release an album that featured her own music. Having signed a three album deal in March 1976, Sue Barker began work on her debut album.

After signing the contact, Sue Barker discovered that the contract only covered her, and not her backing band The Onions. This must have been a disappointment for the band, but reluctantly, they agreed to play on Sue Barker’s eponymous debut album. The Onions weren’t on points, but instead, would be paid as session musicians when recording began.

Before that, Sue Barker started choosing songs for her debut album. She eventually, settled on the songs that would feature on the album. Or so she hoped. The songs were sent to Marcus Herman, who had to give his final approval. It wasn’t easy for Sue to get her choice of songs approved, but eventually, the ten songs that became Sue Barker were approved.

This included Eddie Holland, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier’s How Sweet It Is, Gus Kahn and Nacio Herb Brown’s You Stepped Out Of A Dream, Duke Ellington and Sidney Keith Russell’s Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me, Curtis Mayfield’s Love To The People and Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere’s Groovin’ featured on side one. Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine joined Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper’s 6345789, Jimmy Davis, Jimmy Sherman and Roger Ramirez’s Lover Man, Al Cleveland, Marvin Gaye and Renaldo Benson’s What Goin’ On and Aretha Franklin and Ted White’s Think made-up side two of Sue Barker. It was recorded in Adelaide with The Onions.

Before the recording sessions began, Graham Conlon arranged the songs that Sue Barker had chosen. Some were given a makeover, to ensure that they would suit Sue Barker, who discovered she had only three days to record the album.

Marcus Herman was covering the costs of the recording sessions, and was only willing to pay for three days at Pepper Studios, in Adelaide. This was going to be cutting it tight, but Marcus Herman adamant that Sue should be able to record the album in just three days.

Sue Barker entered the studio with The Onions in a cold day in July 1976. The Onions lineup featured a rhythm section of drummer Dean Birbeck, bassist Geoff Kluke, guitarist Graham Conlon and keyboardist Phil Cunneen. They were augmented by a horn section that featured trumpeter Fred Payne and saxophonists Bob Jeffrey and Sylvan Elhay. They accompanied Sue Barker as she laid down her eponymous debut album. 

Sue Barker opens with a soulful, horn led rendition of How Sweet It Is that sounds as if it was recorded in Memphis, not Adelaide. Then Sue Barker unleashes an impassioned vocal powerhouse, before delivering a beautiful jazz-tinged version You Stepped Out Of A Dream. This gives way to a late-night, smokey sounding take on the jazz classic Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me. Love To The People featured Sue at her most soulful, as she breaths life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. Then Groovin’ is given a jazzy makeover, with subtle horns accompanying Sue’s dreamy, heartfelt vocal as she reinvents a pop classic which closed side one of the original album.

I Heard It Through The Grapevine opened side two, and features a powerful, sassy and soulful vocal from Sue Barker. Equally sassy and sensual is 6354789, where Sue combines elements of soul and jazz as she reinvents the song and takes it in a new direction. The tempo drops on the piano led, soul-baring ballad Lover Man, as Sue delivers a beautiful, emotive reading of this of-covered song. Some songs are perfectly suited to a singer, and that is the case with What’s Goin’ On. Sue brings to life the powerful lyrics during this impassioned and poignant soul-jazz cover of a classic. Closing the album is Think, whiz is one of the album’s highlights. It features what can only be described as a vocal masterclass from Sue Barker, that closes this soul-jazz classic.

Somehow, Sue Barker and The Onions managed to complete the album in the three days that Marcus Herman had paid for. This left just the album to mixed and mastered. However, before that, Sue was in for a surprise.

Not longer after recording Sue Barker, Sue discovered that she was pregnant and expecting her third child. While Sue continued to play live, she knew that motherhood beckoned. Meanwhile, Sue was experiencing a spiritual awakening.

This was partly inspired by the birth of her third child. Soon, after the birth, Sue Barker’s thoughts turned to spirituality. Meanwhile, Crest Records were preparing for the release of Sue Barker.

The marketing manager, Donald Fraser, sent out press releases to the press, magazines, radio and television. He was determined that Sue Barker had every chance of being a success. It didn’t matter that the album would be Crest’s final release. He saw the potential in Sue Barker. 

So did Channel 9, who booked Sue Barker to appear on the Tonight Show. This was a huge break for Sue Barker, who unfortunately, she had to cancel the appearance. Despite that, Sue Barker’s concert at the Dallas Brook Hall in Melbourne was a sell-out. When the reviews were published, Sue Barker received praise and plaudits from critics and cultural commentators. The album Sue Barker, had also sold well at the concert at the Dallas Brook Hall. Things were looking good for Sue Barker.

After the success of the Dallas Brook Hall concert, Crest began planning a promotional tour to coincide with the release of Sue Barker. However, Sue’s priority was her new daughter, which frustrated Marcus Herman at Crest Records. Their relationship became difficult, and Sue Barker prioritized motherhood over the release of her eponymous debut album on Crest International. While this was admirable, it would prove costly.

When Sue Barker was released by Crest International, the album received praise, plaudits and critical acclaim. However, Sue Barker received little promotion, which was frustrating for everyone at Crest International who had worked hard on the release. They realised that Sue Barker was on the verge of a breakthrough, and have and if she had promoted the album it’s very likely that it would’ve sold well and introduced her to a much wider, and possibly, international audience. However, Sue Barker’s decision not to promote the album resulted in poor album sales.

Very few copies of Sue Barker sold, and Sue Barker’s relationship with Marcus Herman at Crest Records broke down completely. As a result, Sue Barker never made any money from her future Australian soul-jazz classic. After the release of Sue Barker, eventually, the Adelaide-based singer returned to the local circuit.

This time, Sue Barker wasn’t going to spend all her time playing live. While she continued to sing in local venues Sue didn’t mind if weeks or months passed without a gig. Sue who was a free spirit at heart, did things her way. Sometimes, when gigs dried up, promoted concerts. Sue Barker wasn’t the type of person to wait for opportunities to arise. Instead, she would go out and make things happen. As long as these promotions covered their costs, Sue was happy. It had never been about the music for Sue Barker.

Not long after this, came the news that Crest International had folded. Sue Barker had still owed the label two albums when it folded. When Crest International folded, Sue Barker realised that gone was her chance of releasing any more albums. However, given how fraught relationship with Marcus Herman was latterly, the likelihood of Sue Barker releasing two more albums seemed unlikely. Now the dream of releasing any more albums was over.

Following the demise of Crest International, Sue Barker spent a year teaching music at the Centre For Aboriginal Studies In Music. Her time spent teaching the Centre For Aboriginal Studies In Music resulted in Sue becoming interested in reggae. Her interest in reggae inspired a further spiritual awakening. However, as her spirituality began to blossom, Sue’s newfound faith was severely tested. 

Tragedy struck when Sue Barker was out walking down the street with her fifth child. A car mounted the pavement, and struck her daughter, who was so seriously injured that she spent three months in hospital. During that time, Sue started to ask herself some of life’s big questions. Her search for the meaning of life, would prove to an ongoing spiritual quest. 

Once her daughter had recovered, Sue Barker continued to pursue her interest in reggae music. She even decided to form a reggae band, which disappointed some of those who had followed Sue’s career as a jazz singer. Some of the musicians in Sue’s band were disappointed with this volte-face and left her employ. 

As a result, Sue Barker had to put together a new group of musicians. They would accompany Sue who had been booked to play at the Adelaide Jazz Club. When the patrons at the Adelaide Jazz Club heard about Sue’s Damascene conversion to reggae, they were unsure about this. However, Sue decided to continue down this new road.

Sue Barker’s career continued until 1986, when sadly, tragedy struck again. Eight months after the birth of her fifth child, her eldest child died on a Thursday. Despite this tragedy, Sue decided to sing at a gig she had been booked to play two nights later on the Saturday evening. That night, Sue says that when she sang: “she felt closer to God than I had ever before.” As Sue watched the patrons party that night, she realised that this was the end of road for her.

After a lifetime spent in and around the music industry, after the gig Sue Barker called time on her career. She suddenly felt that the entire music business was a “sham,” and didn’t want to be part of it anymore. 

When she had recorded her soul-jazz classic Sue Barker, she never received any payment. Ironically, The Onions who had originally been disappointed not to be included in the recording contract with Marcus Herman’s label Crest International, were paid as session musicians and made more out of Sue Barker than the star of the show did. It was no wonder that Sue Barker regarded the music industry as a sham. 

Nowadays, her one and only album Sue Barker, is regarded as a soul-jazz classic, and copies of the album are now extremely rare. When they do change hands, it’s for hundreds of Dollars. That comes as no surprise, given the quality of music on Sue Barker. It features one of music’s best kept secrets, Sue Barker, who if things had been different, would’ve gone to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, Lady Luck didn’t smile on Sue Barker and it was a case of what might have been.

Sue Barker only released one album during a career that spanned three decades. Her career began in the late-sixties, and it wasn’t until 1977 that Sue Barker was released on Crest International. By then, Sue Barker looked destined for greatness. However, when Sue Barker was released, her third child had just been born. Sue was reluctant to leave the child to embark upon a promotion tour. Her failure to tour Sue Barker was a costly one, and the album was commercial failure. 

Whether Sue Barker ever regrets this decision is unknown? Marcus Herman who owned Crest International certainly regretted Sue’s failure to tour her album. It resulted in the breakdown in their business relationship, and not long after this, Crest International folded. That marked the end of Sue Barker’s recording career.

She may have only recorded one album, but Sue Barker is a soul-jazz classic that definitely deserves to find a much wider audience. This long-lost soul-jazz classic should’ve transformed the career of Australian songstress Sue Barker, who sadly remained one of music’s best kept secrets.

Cult Classic: Sue Barker-Sue Barker.

CULT CLASSIC: KLAUS SCHULZE-IRRLICHT.

Cult Classic: Klaus Schulze-Irrlicht.

In 1969, Berlin’s vibrant musical scene was thriving. At the heart of Berlin’s music scene was the Zodiak Free Arts Lab. It was the cultural centre of the city. This was where some of Germany’s top bands took their tentative steps towards greatness. However, the Zodiak Free Arts Lab was also a meeting place for musicians and artists. 

Members of Can and Agitation Free rubbed shoulders with future members of Ash Ra Tempel and Neu! It was also at the Zodiak Free Arts Lab where Klaus Schulze, who was still the drummer of Psy Free, first met Edgar Froese from Tangerine Dream. Soon, Edgar Froese invited Klaus Schulze to join an early lineup of Tangerine Dream. 

Tangerine Dream.

Tangerine Dream quickly became the nearest thing that the Zodiak Free Arts Lab had to a house band. They were a familiar face, playing night after night. This was good practice for when Tangerine Dream recorded their debut album Electronic Meditation.

Electronic Meditation.

Rather than hiring one of Berlin’s recording studios, Tangerine Dream decamped to a factory that the band had rented. This allowed Tangerine Dream to set up their array of traditional instruments and custom made instruments. 

Klaus Schulze’s setup was fairly traditional, including drums, percussion and metal stick. Edgar Froese mixed traditional and  custom made instruments, bring  various guitars, piano, organ, piano, tape recorder and a variety of effects along. Conrad Schnitzer did likewise, bringing a cello, violin and an adapter. They were joined by various found instruments; including broken glass and dried peas which were shaken in a sieve were just two found sounds. The sound of burnt parchment was also used. So were backwards vocals. It was a truly innovative and inventive approach to music, which was produced by Tangerine Dream.

Once Electronic Meditation was complete, eight months passed before the Ohr label released the album in June 1970. When Electronic Meditation was released, it divided the opinion of critics. While some critics didn’t seem to ‘get’ Electronic Meditation, others realised that it was a groundbreaking, genre-melting album.  Everything from ambient, avant-garde, electronic,  experimental, free jazz, Krautrock, musique concrète and psychedelia can be heard on Electronic Meditation. Each of these influences shine through on what was a truly innovative album. Despite this, the album sold in relatively small quantities. It certainly wasn’t a huge commercial success. Just like a lot of albums  released during the Krautrock era, it was only much later that critics recognised how important albums like Electronic Meditation were. 

Despite the commercial failure of Electronic Meditation, Tangerine Dream continued. However, it would be without Klaus Schulze. He left Tangerine Dream to join a new group Ash Ra Tempel.

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Ash Ra Tempel.

Just like Tangerine Dream,  Ash Ra Tempel had frequented and played at the Zodiak Free Arts Lab. They were founded in 1970 by guitarist Manuel Göttsching, drummer bassist Hartmut Enke and Klaus Schulze. Their music was a fusion of space rock, psychedelia, Krautrock and ambient music. This sound they refined playing live, especially at the Zodiak Free Arts Lab where they were a familiar face. Over the next few months, Ash Ra Tempel’s sound evolved, and by March 1971 they were ready to record their eponymous debut album.

Recording of Ash Ra Tempel took place on 11th March 1971. By then, Ash Ra Tempel were incorporating electronics into their sound. Especially when Manuel Göttsching delivered his improvised guitar solos. He used effects in the same way as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Hazel. Meanwhile, Klaus Schulze played with a ferocity on Amboss, a twenty minute epic. Then on Traummaschine which features on side two, it’s a much more laid-back, sedate track, where drones and electronics play their part. Klaus Schulze gives a shaman-like performance as he switches bongos and adds shimmering, glistening cymbals. This was very different to Amboss. Ash Ra Tempel was definitely an album of two sides, that was the perfect showcase for Klaus’ versatility.

Just three months later, Ash Ra Tempel was released on the Ohr label in June 1971. It was only the label’s thirteenth release, Ash Ra Tempel was well received by critics, who noted that the two lengthy tracks were quite different. The first side which featured Amboss,

had a much heavier sound, while Traummaschine had a much more sedate sound. Again, the album was a fusion of disparate genres. Elements of ambient, free jazz, Krautrock, psychedelia and space rock can be heard on Ash Ra Tempel. It should’ve been an album that appealed to all types of record buyers.

That however, wasn’t to be. Instead, Ash Ra Tempel wasn’t a huge seller. It sold in relatively small quantities. This was the case with many of the Krautrock albums that were released between 1969 and 1977. By then, Klaus Schulze would be a solo artist. He decided to leave Ash Ra Tempel after their eponymous debut album and embark upon a solo career.

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Irrlicht.

Being in a band didn’t seem suit Klaus Schulze. He found that the endless discussions got in the way of the important thing, making music. He wanted to make music, not talk about it. Klaus’ approach was to let the music flow through him. Other musicians seemed to want to discuss every aspect of the music.  Meanwhile, Klaus wanted to improvise. It was frustrating, and stifling Klaus’ creativity. As a solo artist, he wouldn’t have to put up with the endless pointless discussions. That’s how in April 1972, Klaus found himself preparing to record to his debut album Irrlicht.

Having left Ash Ra Tempel, Klaus Schulze wanted to make music that was unique. He couldn’t point at an artist, and say: “that’s the type of music I want to make.” While Klaus was aware of minimalist composers Terry Riley and Steve Reich, but this wasn’t the type of music he was considering making. They did share some things in common, the concepts of repetition, phrasing and sequencing. Apart from that, Klaus was heading in a different direction.

This was perfect, as Klaus was never going to be accused of following in someone’s footsteps. Musically, he  had a blank canvas to work with. His palette of sounds were unlike other musicians. He had an amplifier that wasn’t working, an organ, a cheap microphone and a cassette recorder. The cassette recorder and microphone he used to tape the famous Freie Universitat Berlin orchestra. This recording Klaus would alter with filters. Then he would modify some of his equipment.

Klaus set about modifying the broken amplifier. He modified it, so that when he turned the volume up it caused feedback, tremolo and chirping sounds. The organ was modified by Klaus so that it no longer sounded like an organ. Along with his microphone and cassette recorder, Klaus set about recording his debut album, Irrlicht.

Recording of Irelicht took place in Berlin, during April 1972. To the studio, Klaus took his guitar, percussion and zither. They joined Klaus’ array of modified instruments. Another of Klaus’ secret weapons were recordings of the Colloquium Musica Orchestra. 

Before the recording of Irrlicht, Klaus had gone along to watch the Colloquium Musica Orchestra rehearse. As he stood and watched, he told the conductor  “I like what you are doing, but could you do something different for me for half an hour?” With that, the bemused conductor asked “what would you like to have?” Klaus responded, with: “I don’t care, just play anything. I just want the sound. I’m going to play the tape backwards.” When Klaus returned half an hour later, his tape was ready and an integral part of Irrlicht was complete. Now, it was a case of bringing everything together.

With his bruised, battered and modified equipment, Klaus got to work, and the recording studio became a place where he could experiment. Using his modified organ and amplifier, plus percussion, zither and guitar, Klaus got to work. The backdrop for what was one of the most ambitious and experimental albums of 1972, was the tape played backwards.  

Incredibly, Klaus didn’t even a synth. While other artists owned banks of expensive synths, Klaus created an album that sounds as if it’s made entirely by an array of synths. Instead, Irrlicht, with its cosmic sound and ambient drones was a synth free zone. Instead, Irrlicht was more like an album of musique concrète. Klaus manipulated tapes, adding filters, delay, echo and an array of effects. The result was a trio of cinematic tracks that sounded like the soundtrack to an early seventies sci-fi film.

The three tracks on Irrlicht were very different. Satz: Ebene the album opener, deserves to be described as an epic. Understated, stark and desolate, with a moody, broody and dramatic sound, it would’ve been the perfect backdrop for a sci-fi film. It’s the musical equivalent of shifting sands,  with ambient drones rumbling almost menacingly. Meanwhile, what sounds like elegiac strings play. Less is more, as the stripped down arrangement reveals its secrets. Later, a heavily modified gothic sounding organ adds what could easily be the backdrop to a scene in a remake of Dracula. By then, Klaus is a musical shape-shifter, as he combines disparate musical genres. This includes ambient, avant-garde, drone and musique concrète. They’re combined to create what sounds like a timeless space symphony.  It may have been recorded in 1972, but has aged like a fine wine. So has the rest of Irrlicht.

At just over five minutes, Satz: Gewitte is easily the shortest track.  Again the arrangement is understated, but chilling. The arrangement sweeps, crawls and meanders along exuding an air of menace. Especially as various found sound emerge from the arrangement. It becomes like a fire breathing dragon. Meanwhile, drones begin to make their presence felt, sweeping in and adding to the chilling  cinematic sound.

Satz Exil Sils Maria closes Irrlicht, and was recorded backwards. The track  has a dark, ruminative sound. Slowly and gradually, the arrangement begins to reveal its deepest secrets. Just like the two preceding tracks, the arrangement is understated, but captivating. Klaus’ less is more approach means the listener hangs on every note, just in case they miss a nuance or subtly. Later, the arrangement is like a vortex, discharging otherworldly sounds. They whirr, whoosh and grind, as the drone is like a siren, sending out a warning. Other times, there’s a much more melodic sound. Mostly, though, dark and ruminative describes this compelling soundscape. Just like the rest of  Irrlicht, it’s part of a timeless album that launched Klaus Schulze’s solo career.

While Irrlicht was well received by some critics, many critics failed to realise how important an influence Klaus Schulze would have on German music. He would become one of the most important and influential artists in the Berlin School. That was still to come.

Irrlicht was a synth free zone,  and owed more to musique concrète than the Berlin School. Klaus Schulze would release several classic Berlin School albums, including 1973s Cyborg, 1975s Timewind and 1976s Moondawn. However, just like many German artists of the late sixties and seventies, Klaus Schulze neither received the critical acclaim nor commercial success they deserved. 

When Ohr released Irrlicht in August 1972, it followed in the footsteps of Tangerine Dream’s Electronic Meditation and Ash Ra Tempel, and didn’t sell in vast quantities, Instead, it was more of an underground album, that was more popular in France and Britain than in Germany. It would only be much later that Germany began to realise that they had produced some of the most talented musicians of the late sixties and seventies, including Klaus Schulze.

He’s nowadays regarded as one of the pioneers of German music. His solo career began in 1972 with Irrlicht which was without doubt, one the most innovative albums of 1972. The music on Irrlicht was understated, broody, moody, dark, dramatic and gothic. It was also chilling, eerie, meditative and ruminative. Constantly, Irrlicht has a cinematic sound. It’s like a 21st Century space symphony from a true musical pioneer, Klaus Schulze. He was making tentative steps in what would be a long and illustrious solo career. It’s a career has lasted six decades and sixty albums, including Irrlicht, Klaus Schulze’s groundbreaking debut album.

Cult Classic: Klaus Schulze-Irrlicht.

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CLASSIC ALBUM: EMERSON, LAKE AND PALMER-BRAIN SALAD SURGERY.

Classic Album: Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Brain Salad Surgery.

When the time came for Emerson, Lake and Palmer to record their fourth album, Brain Salad Surgery, the trio were determined to record an album that they could replicate live. That hadn’t been the case with their their three previous albums. Something had to change and Brain Salad Surgery marked the start of a new era for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Their career career began  in 1970.

The Emerson, Lake and Palmer story begins in 1970. That was the year Emerson, Lake and Palmer was founded and they released their eponymous debut album.

Keith Emerson and Greg Lake first met at the Filimore West, in San Francisco. Both of them were at a musical crossroads. Keith was a member of The Nice, while Greg was a member of King Crimson. Nether of them felt fulfilled musically and decided to form a new band. 

This new band would feature Keith on keyboards, Greg on bass and a drummer. Their first choice for a drummer was Mitch Mitchell, who was without a band, after The Jimi Hendrix Experience split-up. They agreed to jam together and then the music press heard about this jam session. 

Rumours started doing the rounds that Jimi Hendrix was going to join this new supergroup. That put an end to the jam session which never took place. Jimi Hendrix had never been asked to join the supergroup. Mitch Mitchell meanwhile, lost interest in the project. This presented a problem. Keith and Greg still didn’t have a drummer. Then Robert Stigwood, who was then the manager of Cream, suggested Carl Palmer’s name.

Carl Palmer was another experienced musician. He had previously been a member of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and at that time, was a member of Atomic Rooster.  When  Carl was approached he was at first, reluctant to leave Atomic Rooster, which he had cofounded. However, when he spoke to Keith and Greg he realised that he could be part of something special. 

Having left Atomic Rooster, he became the third member of the newly formed supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They made their debut at The Guildhall, Plymouth, on 23rd August 1970. Then on 26th August 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer stole the show at the Isle Of Wight Festival. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer being offered a recording contract by Atlantic Records.

Ahmet Ertegün the President of Atlantic Records realised the potential in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Here was a band who wouldn’t just sell a huge amount of records, but could fill huge venues. So, not long after signing Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Ahmet Ertegün sent them into Advision Studios, London.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

At  Advision Studios, Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded ten tracks. They became Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Although this was meant to be the birth of a supergroup, the ten tracks on Emerson, Lake and Palmer came across as a series of solo pieces. However, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were a new band, who had just recorded an eclectic and innovative album.

Although many people refer to Emerson, Lake and Palmer as progressive rock band, they’re much more than that. Their music is eclectic. They draw inspiration from a variety of sources.  This includes classical, folk rock, jazz, psychedelia and rock. Some of the music is futuristic. That’s in part to Keith Emerson’s use of the Moog synth. The result was a pioneering, innovative album that would launch Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career.

When critics heard Emerson, Lake and Palmer, they hailed the album as innovative and influential. On its release  in the UK in October 1970, i Emerson, Lake and Palmer reached number four. Three months later, on New Year’s Day 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer was released in the US. It reached number eighteen in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Ahmet Ertegün, the President of Atlantic Records had been vindicated. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were on their way to becoming rock royalty.

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 Tarkus.

It was a case of striking when the iron was hot for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They returned to  Advision Studios, in London to record what became their sophomore album Tarkus. It was much more of a “band” album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were now a tight, musical unit. This was very different from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which was more like an album of solo pieces. Tarkus saw the birth of Emerson, Lake and Palmer as one of the giants of s progressive rock.

Tarkus was released in June 1971. That wasn’t originally the plan. Instead, Pictures At An Exhibition was meant to be Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s sophomore album. This was a live album which was recorded in March 1971. It saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer interpret Modest Mussorgsky’s opus Pictures At An Exhibition. it was a groundbreaking album. There was a problem though. Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s management didn’t agree. They weren’t sure that what essentially a interpretation of a classical suite was the direction Emerson, Lake and Palmer should be heading. So, Tarkus became the followup to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

On its release in June 1971, critics realised that Tarkus marked a much more united Emerson, Lake and Palmer. They were well on the way to finding their trademark sound. Gone were ballads and jazz-tinged tracks. Instead, it was prog rock all the way. Record buyers loved Tarkus. It reached number one in the UK. Over the Atlantic, Tarkus reached number nine in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Following the commercial success of Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition was released later in 1971.

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Pictures At An Exhibition.

Three months before the release of Tarkus, Emerson, Lake and Palmer arrived at Newcastle City Hall, in Newcastle, England on the 26th March 1971. They were about to record their first live album, Pictures At An Exhibition. This was no ordinary live album.

Instead, Emerson, Lake and Palmer had decided to adapt Russian classical composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. This was one of the first times classical music had been adapted by a rock band.  That night in Newcastle, just four of the original ten pieces in Mussorgsky’s suite, along with the linking Promenade were recorded, They  were performed live as one continuous piece, with new parts written by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. These new parts linked Mussorgsky’s original themes, which Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s played with enthusiasm and energy. Despite this, Pictures At An Exhibition was nearly never released.

It seemed that Pictures At An Exhibition was fated. Problems with their management meant that Pictures At An Exhibition’s release was delayed.  It wouldn’t be until November 1971 the album was released. However, at one point it looked as if Pictures At An Exhibition wouldn’t be released. Atlantic Records were reluctant to release what was essentially a classical suite as an album. This they feared, wouldn’t sell well. So the project was put on the back burner, Suddenly, it looked unlikely that Pictures At An Exhibition would be released. That was until Tarkus was certified gold in America. All of a sudden, Atlantic had a change of heart,

Rather than release Pictures At An Exhibition on the main Atlantic label, a decision was made to release the album as a budget priced album. Atlantic Records it seemed were hedging their bets. That seemed a wise move when the reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone magazine was far from impressed with Pictures At An Exhibition. Neither was the self styled Dean of American Rock Critics, Robert Christgau, Despite this, Pictures At An Exhibition sold well.

When Pictures At An Exhibition was released in November 1971, it reached number three in the UK. In America, Pictures At An Exhibition reached number ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s third consecutive gold album. A year later, three became four.

Pictures At An Exhibition was released as a budget priced album in November 1971. It reached number three in the UK. In America, Pictures At An Exhibition reached number ten in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s third consecutive gold album. A year later, three became four.

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 Trilogy.

Just like previous albums, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were determined to push musical boundaries on Trilogy, their third studio album. Just like their two previous albums, Trilogy was recorded at Advision Studios, London. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at their innovative best, recording  progressive rock, but with a twist. 

An example of this was the inclusion of Abaddon’s Bolero on Trilogy. Rather than the usual 3/4 rhythm a Bolero would have, it was turned into a march by using a 4/4 rhythm. Emerson, Lake and Palmer also pioneered the beating heart sound on Trilogy. Pink Floyd would use it to such good effect on Dark Side Of The Moon. So would Jethro Tull on A Passion Play and Queen on Queen II. This sound was first heard on Endless Enigma Part One. It came courtesy of Carl Palmer’s Ludwig Speed King bass drum pedal. Once again, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were demonstrating that they were one of the most innovative progressive rock bands. Their efforts were rewarded.

On its release in January 1972, Trilogy reached number two in the US. As usual, Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoyed more success in the US. Trilogy reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in another gold disc for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Things were about to get better for Emerson, Lake and Palmer though.

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Of the three previous studio albums Emerson, Lake and Palmer had recorded, they complex, innovative, genre-melting affairs. Emerson, Lake and Palmer embraced the latest technology in what seemed like their quest for musical perfection. They also made use of overdubbing. This made their music difficult to replicate live. The band always felt they came up short live. So Emerson, Lake and Palmer set about recording an album they could replicate accurately live. This was Brain Surgery Salad

Brian Surgery Salad.

Recording of Brian Surgery Salad took place between June and September 1973. Brain Salad Surgery was a fusion of progressive rock and classical music. This is obvious straight away. 

Emerson, Lake and Palmer adapted  William Blake and Hubert Parry’s hymn Jerusalem and then Alberto Ginastera’s Toccata. Greg Lake wrote Still…You Turn Me On and then cowrote Benny The Bouncer and Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression with Keith Emerson and Peter Sinfield, one of the founding members of King Crimson. Keith Emerson penned Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression and cowrote Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1 with Greg Lake also penned Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1. These tracks were brought to life by Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their inventive best.

On Brain Salad Surgery, Keith Emerson played Hammond organ, piano, accordion and a myriad of synths. Greg Lake took charge of vocals, acoustic, electric, and twelve-string guitars. He also played bass guitar. Carl Palmer played drums, percussion, percussion synthesizers, gongs and timpani. Greg Lake produced Brian Surgery Salad, which was released in November 1973.

When Brain Salad Surgery, was released in November 1973, it became Emerson, Lake and Palmer most successful album. It reached number two in the UK and number eleven in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in two more gold discs to add to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s collection. They were well deserved though.

There’s no doubt that Brain Salad Surgery was the finest hour of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s four album career. Brian Surgery Salad featured Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their tightest and loudest. Here was a tight, visionary band fusing progressive rock, jazz and classical music. It was an ambitious, powerhouse of an album. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers.

This was obvious from the get-go. Brian Surgery Salad begins with the reinvention of Jerusalem and Toccata. Jerusalem becomes a dramatic marriage of electronics and rock, before heading back to its religious roots. However, Emerson, Lake and Palmer can’t resist the theatre and the track becomes almost wonderfully overblown. This continues on Toccata, another dramatic fusion of rock and electronics. It’s grandiose, futuristic, dramatic and features progressive rock royalty at their visionary best. How many groups would have had the vision and bravery to open an album with a take on a hymn and then a classical piece? After that, Emerson, Lake and Palmer change tack.

Still You Turn Me On is a beautiful, heartfelt, soul-baring ballad. It’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd and shows another side to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This was absent on Trilogy and makes a welcome return on Brain Salad Surgery. 

Very different is Benny The Bouncer. It shows that Emerson, Lake and Palmer have a sense of humour. A fusion of vaudeville, pomp rock and pub rock, it teaches you to expect the unexpected as far as Emerson, Lake and Palmer are concerned.

The centrepiece of Brain Salad Surgery is Karn Evil. It’s four separate pieces that make up an prog rock epic. Originally, Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 1 and 2 were meant to be one song. The time limits of vinyl put paid to that. So, the song became two parts. 

Emerson, Lake and Palmer kick loose from the get-go. They produce a virtuoso permanence, combining drama with flamboyance to create a progressive rock powerhouse. Crucial to the song’s success are the bleak lyrics and Greg’s vocal. It’s that’s an outpouring of despair and disbelief. Then there’s a series of musical masterclasses. Keith pounds at his Hammond organ as if in frustration, while Greg Lake seems to have tapped into the spirit of Hendrix. His performance is otherworldly. So is the music. It’s sometimes futuristic, with a dramatic 21st Century sound. As for Carl Palmer, he won’t be outdone and adds a thunderous heartbeat. The result is a thirteen minute epic, that showcases Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their inventive, innovative best.

There’s another change in style on Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression. It sees Emerson, Lake and Palmer turn their back on the progressive, sci-fi rocky sound. It’s replaced by a seven minute jazz instrumental. Emerson, Lake and Palmer manage to make this work. They’re versatile and talented musicians who are just as happy playing jazz as rock. Later, they take a detour via Latin and rock music, as they showcase their versatility and undeniable talent.

Gone is the jazz of the previous track on Karn Evil 9: 2nd Impression, which loses Brain Salad Surgery. It sees a return to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s usual prog rock sound. It’s as if everything was building up to this track. Banks of synths and the distorted  bass play important parts. Their raison d’être us providing a backdrop for Greg’s powerhouse of a vocal. Again, the lyrics are bleak. He’s like a seer, whose seen the future and doesn’t like it. Dread and despair fills his vocal, at what the future holds. Effects are added to the vocal, as if someone is trying to silence Greg during a track that’s a potent mixture of drama, emotion, music and theatre. 

Brain Salad Surgery is a window into the inventive and innovative world of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Throughout Brain Salad Surgery. Emerson, Lake and Palmer take the tracks in a variety of directions. Sometimes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer bowl a series of curveballs as the track heads in a totally unexpected direction. Mind you, that’s what you expect from one of the most groundbreaking groups of the seventies, Emerson, Lake and Palmer. That’s apparent throughout Brain Salad Surgery, which sadly, marked the end of an era.

Although Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s career continued after Brain Salad Surgery. they never released as successful an album. They released five further albums. 1977s Works Volume 1 were certified gold in the UK, Canada and US. Later in 1977, Works Volume 2, was certified gold in the US. Then 1978s Love Beach was certified gold in the US and silver in the UK. Neither 1992s Black Moon nor In The Hot Seat. However,  Brain Salad Surgery. remains Emerson, Lake and Palmer enjoy biggest selling album. No wonder. 

Brain Salad Surgery demonstrates Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their innovative and groundbreaking best. Here were Emerson, Lake and Palmer at their tightest and loudest. It was as if everything had been building up to Brain Salad Surgery. So when Emerson, Lake and Palmer released Brain Salad Surgery they were  a tight, visionary band. Their fusion of  progressive rock, jazz and classical music resulted in an ambitious, powerhouse of an album, Brain Salad Surgery which features Emerson, Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their creative powers.

Classic Album: Emerson, Lake and Palmer-Brain Salad Surgery.

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CLASSIC ALBUM: YES-TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS

Classic Album: Yes Tales From Topographic Oceans

After a three month break, Yes’ 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour was due to resume on the 8th of March 1973. This was the fifth leg in what had been a gruelling world tour. The new lineup of Yes had criss-crossed the world, playing North America and then Europe. Then after a three day break between 12th and 15th of September 1972, Yes returned to North America. They played thirty-nine dates between the 15th of September and the 20th November 1972. After that, Yes had twenty-five days of rest and recuperation. Then the tour resumed again. 

The fourth leg of Yes’ 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour fourth leg featured three dates in Europe. They took place in Manchester and London between the 15th and 17th of December 1972. After that, Yes had nearly three months off. 

After a well deserved rest, Yes headed out on the Japanese leg of the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour. It consisted of just six dates. The first three concerts were due to take place in Tokyo between the 8th and 10th of March 1973, with Yes taking to the stage at three different venues. So between the 8th and 10th of March 1973, Tokyo became a home away from home for Yes.

It was during that time in Tokyo, that Jon Anderson’s thoughts turned to the band’s next album. He was looking for a theme that would run through their sixth album. One of the ideas that he was contemplating was a large scale composition. Especially after he came across a footnote in the book he was reading, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography Of A Yogi.

It was when Jon Anderson came to page eighty-three of the tome, that he came across the a lengthy footnote. This described four bodies of Hindu texts, which collectively, were known as shastras. Soon, Jon Anderson was fascinated by what discovered were compressive treatises. They dealt with all aspect of religious and social life, plus subjects like law, medicine, architecture and art. Jon Anderson read how each shastra conveyed: “profound truths under a veil of detailed symbolism.” Having read about the four shastras, Jon Anderson began to contemplate a four part album based on the four shastras.

As the Japanese leg of the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour continued, Jon Anderson continued to contemplate his idea for Yes’ sixth album. However, he wasn’t quite ready to discuss the idea with other band members. He needed time to think and work on the idea.

By the 14th of March 1973, the Japanese leg of the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour was over. Next stop was Oceanic leg of the tour. Yes would play five concerts in Australia between the 17th and 26th of March 1973. After that, Yes returned to North America for the third time, on what was the seventh leg of the tour.

Yes were booked to play eighteen dates in North America between the 4th and 22nd April 1973. It was during that leg of the tour that Jon Anderson approached songwriter and arranger Steve Howe about a four part album based on the four shastras. Straight away, he was interested in the idea.

Soon, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were spending their spare time working on the idea. After shows, they had candlelight songwriting sessions, where the two friends worked on ideas and motifs that fitted in with the album’s theme. Sometimes, it was trial and error, with someone playing a riff and the other rejecting it. Occasionally, an idea that had been rejected would later, be reused. That was the case with a guitar riff that later became part of The Ancient. Slowly, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were making progress. 

Things changed when Yes arrived in Savannah, Georgia on 20th April 1973. Yes played what was the sixteenth of eighteen concerts in the North American leg of the tour. It was the seventh and final leg of what had been an epic and successful tour. After the show in Savannah, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe retired to a hotel room for another songwriting session at 1am. This time, everything fell into place. 

Over six hours, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe wrote the lyrics and outlined the vocals and instrumentation that would by used on the album. By 7am, Yes’ sixth album had taken shape. It was another concept album. However, this was no ordinary concept album. It was an ambitious double album, Tales From Topographic Oceans. However, not everyone was enthusiastic about the album Jon Anderson and Steve Howe had written,

The next morning, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were still elated and feeling exhilarated from the success of their marathon songwriting session. They had completed writing and planning what would be their sixth album in just six hours. This they couldn’t wait to share with the rest of Yes. However, when Jon Anderson and Steve Howe told the other members of Yes about their plan for a double concept album that featured just four lengthy tracks, not everyone share their enthusiasm. 

The other members of Yes were going to take some convincing about the merits of the double concept album. Still though, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe were elated by what had been a truly magical night. Neither man had enjoyed such a fruitful songwriting session, and for the next few days felt ten feet tall. By then, Yes had completed their 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour.

Nearly nine months after the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour began, it ended on 22nd April 1973. This wasn’t meant to be the final tour date, Instead, the tour was meant to end in Acapulco, Mexico on the 1st of May 1973. Alas, the concert was cancelled and Yes arrived home early.

Given the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour had been a gruelling tour, the members of Yes were desperately needing some time off. Not for long though. Yes had an album to rehearse and record.

Refreshed after their break, the members of Yes reconvened at Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Manticore Studios in Fulham, London. For one member of Yes, they were about to make their debut on a Yes album. This was Alan White, who had replaced Bill Bruford, who had resigned just before the 1972-1973 Close To The Edge Tour began. Having played on the tour, Alan White was now preparing to make his recording debut with Yes.

As the rehearsals began, Yes practised and honed the material. There were some dissenting voices about the material Jon Anderson and Steve Howe had written. Bassist Chris Squire was worried. He realised that there was: “a lot of substance” to the four tracks, but worried that sometimes, album was too eclectic. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman was worried by the move towards avant-garde and fusion. He was wondering if he anything to contribute to the album? It seemed not all the members of Yes shared Steve Howe and Jon Anderson’s enthusiasm for the album.

After a month of rehearsing, Jon Anderson decided to head to Marrakesh with his wife for short holiday. During his stay, he honed the lyrics for the forthcoming album. Meanwhile, back in London, Chris Squire spent sixteen or seventeen hours in the studio each day on pre-production. When Jon Anderson returned home, the lyrics had taken shape. Things were looking up form Yes.

Behind the scenes, things were very different. There had been arguments about where to record the album. Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson wanted to record in the countryside. Jon Anderson took this further. He envisaged recording the album in a forest during the night. This was quickly vetoed. Steve Howe and Chris Squire wanted to record the album in London. New recruit Alan White decided discretion was the better part of valour, never voiced a preference. It was stalemate.

Meanwhile, engineer and co-producer was Eddy Offord was trying to convince Yes’ manager Brian Lane to record the album in the countryside. This he hoped, might reduce the tension and bad feeling the album had caused within the band. Alas, it was to no avail. 

Eventually, Steve Howe and Chris Squire won the day. Brian Lane decided the album should be recorded in a London. The city had many top studios. One of the best, was Morgan Studios, London. It was equipped with some of the most advanced recording equipment, This included a twenty-four track Ampex reel-to-reel recorder. For a band about to record an ambitious and complex album, this was perfect. Morgan Studios was the perfect studio for Yes. 

Yes arrived at Morgan Studios, in late summer of 1973. This time round, their rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Alan White, bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman joined lead guitarist and vocalist Jon Anderson. He was augmented by backing vocals from the rest of Yes. They were about to co-produced one of the most ambitious albums of their career with Eddy Offord. Before that, Jon Anderson and Yes’ manager Brian Lane decided to decorate the studio.

Once Yes had settled into Morgan Studios, Jon Anderson and Brian Lane decided to decorate the studio like a farmyard. Jon Anderson stuck pictures of farmyard animals to the wall and put plant and flowers around the studio. A picket fence was even added, and at one point, keyboards and amplifiers rested on a bales of hay. This seemed to unite the once divided band.

Now Yes could begin work on what was a complex and ambitious double concept album. The four tracks, The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn), The Remembering (High The Memory), The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun) and Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) ranged between eighteen and twenty-two minutes. Given the length and complexity of the four tracks, recording took five months. During that period, keyboardist became disenchanted with the way Yes’ music was heading.

Granted Yes continued further down the road marked progressive rock, but added elements of avant-garde, folk-rock, jazz and psychedelia. During the four lengthy suites, Yes take the listener on a captivating adventure across complex, multilayered, genre-melting musical landscapes which feature a myriad of  Eastern themes and sounds. The music is cerebral, ruminative and sometimes, atmospheric, beautiful and dramatic as the arrangements ebb and flow. Seamlessly, there’s changes in time signature as the one part of the suite gives way to the next. Constantly, nuances, subtitles and surprises unfold as the rich musical landscape changes. Alas, for Rick Wakeman, these changes were too much to take.

His fears came to fruition. Before the recording began, Rick Wakeman felt he had nothing to contribute. Despite this, he arrived each day and recorded his keyboard parts. For the rest of the time, Rick Wakeman headed to Morgan Studios’ bar, where passed the time drinking and playing darts. Gradually, his disenchantment grew.

Fortunately, Black Sabbath were recording Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in the other studio. Rick Wakeman began to spend time with Black Sabbath. Later, they were looking for someone to play a Minimoog part on the track Sabbra Cadabra. Rick Wakeman was happy to help out and headed to studio. Soon, he had recorded his part. Given he was helping friends, Rick Wakeman wouldn’t accept payment for playing on Sabbra Cadabra. So Black Sabbath decided to pay him in beer. It was one of the lighter moments of the recording session.

Midway through the recording Yes’ new album, all the plants had died and the picket fence and pictures had been covered in graffiti. The studio started to resemble a barn. This didn’t bother Yes. They embrace the organic nature of the surroundings. Everything was going to plan. 

Apart from Jon Anderson’s request to create a bathroom sound effect on his vocals. Yes’ lightning engineer tried to build a wooden box which was then tilled. Soon, the tiles started to fall off the box. It failed to recreate the requested bathroom sound. That was a minor blip, as the album took shape. Eventually, after five months, the unnamed album was complete. However, very nearly, Yes’ five months of hard was almost lost.

With the album complete, Eddie Offord began mixing the album. He was within a couple of days of completing the album. However, after spending much of the night mixing the album, Eddie Offord and Jon Anderson headed home. As Eddie Offord left the studio with the master tapes, he was frantically searching his pockets for his car keys. When Eddie Offord reached his car, he sat the tapes on the car roof. Having found his keys, Eddie Offord drove off forgetting the tapes were still on the roof. Meanwhile, a horrified Jon Anderson looked on.

By the time he caught up with Eddie Offord, the tapes had fallen off the roof. When Jon Anderson saw them lying on the road, he managed to stop a bus just before it ran over the tapes. Disaster was diverted.

When mixing of the album was complete, Yes took the album to their record label Atlantic Records. By then, Jon Anderson was contemplating calling the album Tales From Tobographic Oceans. Tobographic was a word than Jon Anderson claimed to have invented. However, Jon Anderson’s plans changed after he had dinner Atlantic Records’ Nesuhi Ertegun.

He pointed out Tales From Tobographic Oceans sounded similar to Tales From Topographic Oceans. When this was pointed out to Jon Anderson, he decided that was a much better title for Yes’ sixth album. 

Meanwhile, work began on the album cover. Roger Dean who had designed and illustrated previous Yes album covers was brought onboard. He surpassed his previous efforts with a classic and iconic album cover. The inspiration for the cover came from a conversation Jon Anderson and Roger Dean during a flight from London to Tokyo via Anchorage in 1973. Jon Anderson had told Roger Dean about a book he had reading which featured pictures of landscapes. With this conversation in mind, Roger Dean designed one of the greatest album covers of his career. Tales From Topographic Oceans was almost ready for release.

Before that, critics had their say on Yes’ much-anticipated sixth album, Tales From Topographic Oceans. Yes who were one of the most successful progressive rock bands, had established a reputation for producing ambitious, complex albums of multi-layered, genre-melting music. Tales From Topographic Oceans was no different. However, what was different was that it was a double concept album that was inspired by the footnotes on page eighty-three of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography Of A Yogi.

It detailed the four bodies of Hindu texts, which collectively, were known as shastras. They were compressive treatises that dealt with all aspect of religious and social life, plus subjects like law, medicine, architecture and art. Each of the four shastras inspired one of the lengthy suites on  Tales From Topographic Oceans. This was very different album from the majority of the music that critics had heard during 1973.

When the critics heard Tales From Topographic Oceans, the reviews were mixed. Some critics didn’t seem to “get” Tales From Topographic Oceans.  Words like beautiful, brilliant and sublime were used. Alas, so were disappointing, repetitive and self-indulgent. A few critics thought that album was way ahead of its time, and its importance would only be recognised later. They would be proved correct, and over the next forty-two years, history would be rewritten. Meanwhile, the jury was out on Tales From Topographic Oceans. Record buyers had the final say.

Tales From Topographic Oceans was due to be released on 7th December 1973. As the released day drew nearer, record burrs pre-ordered copies of Tales From Topographic Oceans on both sides of the Atlantic. So many copies were pre-ordered in the UK, that Tales From Topographic Oceans was certified gold before its release. When Tales From Topographic Oceans was released, it reached number one in the UK for two weeks. In America, the Tales From Topographic Oceans reached number six and was certified gold. Elsewhere, the album reached number four in Canada; nine in Japan and eight in Holland, Sweden and Norway. Against the odds, Tales From Topographic Oceans had been a commercial success. Alas, it came at a cost.

After the release of Tales From Topographic Oceans, Yes embarked upon another lengthy tour. When they returned home, a disenchanted Rick Wakeman left Yes. However, his swan-song was what’s now regarded as one of the greatest albums of the progressive rock era, Tales From Topographic Oceans. It’s a classic album, that as a few critics forecast would only be appreciated later. That proved to be case.

Tales From Topographic Oceans was a groundbreaking album that was way of ahead of its time. It was only later that people began to understand and cherish what was a ambitious, complex and innovative album. Yes took as their starting point progressive rock, but added elements of avant-garde, folk-rock, jazz and psychedelia. This was the start of what was a captivating musical adventure. 

It comprises four lengthy suites that are complex and multilayered. Genres melt into one during these musical soundscapes. They feature a myriad of  Eastern themes and sounds. The music is cerebral, ruminative and sometimes, atmospheric, beautiful and dramatic as the arrangements ebb and flow. Seamlessly, there’s changes in time signature as the one part of the suite gives way to the next. Constantly, nuances, subtitles and surprises unfold as the rich musical landscape changes, and a classic album unfolds. 

That classic album is Yes’ sixth album Tales From Topographic Oceans, which was released on December 7th 1973. Nearly forty-six years later, Tales From Topographic Oceans is a timeless classic that’s testament to the vision and imagination of Jon Anderson and also Steve Howe. 

Originally, it was Jon Anderson that came up with the concept of Tales From Topographic Oceans. However , Steve Howe came onboard at the planning stage and the with help of the other members of Yes, recorded what was a groundbreaking, timeless classic Tales From Topographic Oceans.

Classic Album: Yes Tales From Topographic Oceans

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LUMINGU PUATI (ZORRO)-MOSESE.  

Lumingu Puati (Zorro)-Mosese.

Label: BBE Africa.

Release Date: ‘11th’ October 2019.

Over the next two years, BBE Africa, an imprint of BBE Music, will release around sixty albums from the Tabansi Records vaults. This is part of their Tabansi Gold reissue series, which got underway recently, and is a reminder of what’s the most important, influential and innovative Nigerian record label of the past six decades. Proof of that is Lumingu Puati (Zorro)’s album Mosese which will be released by BBE Africa, on the ‘11th’ October 2019. It was released forty years ago in 1979, and nowadays, is one of West Africa’s best-kept rumba-soukous secrets, and is much-prized album on  Colombia’s burgeoning Champeta sound system scene. It’s a reminder of the music that Tabansi Records was releasing in its heyday.

Tabansi Records was founded in Nigeria in 1952, and filled a void when major labels like Decca and later, Philips closed the doors on their Nigerian operations. Chief Tabansi, who lent his name to what would become Nigeria’s most important label, recorded artists and then pressed the records at The United African Company’s pressing plant. After that, record vans promoted the latest releases in Nigerian villages. This was just the start for Tabansi Records.

In the sixties, The United African Company decided to concentrate on importing American and European music. With very little competition, Tabansi Records was able to concentrate on local  music, which The United African Company had turned its back on. This was a big mistake.

During the seventies, Tabansi Records was the most successful Nigerian label, and its founder  Chief Tabansi was one of the leading light’s of country’s thriving and vibrant music scene. He had invested in the company he had founded in, in Onitsha, Lagos, all these years ago, which had its own studios and pressing plant. The company was going from strength-to-strength.

One of the artists Tabansi Records signed in 1979 was the late Congolese musician Lumingu Puati (Zorro). He was a protégé of Kinshasa’s legendary sixties band leader Dr Nico and recorded just one album for his new label, Mosese.

When Mosese was released in 1979, it wasn’t a hugely successful album despite the quality of music which is consistent and dancefloor friendly from the opening bars of Dadavi Pitie to the  closing notes of the irresistible sounding Meaculpa Mawewe. The vocals veer between impassioned, heartfelt, urgent and joyous and combine with chiming, jingling, jangling guitars, brassy horns and a myriad of percussion. It’s a captivating, hidden gem of an album that oozes quality and ought to have found a much wider audience forty years ago. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

It was only much later when Mosese became popular within West Africa’s rumba-soukous scene. Meanwhile, the album becoming so popular on the Colombian  Champeta sound system scene that DJs were covering up the label or even removing it so other spinners couldn’t see what they were playing. This was similar to what used to happened on the  Northern Soul scene or what DJs running Jamaican sound system scenes do. 

Despite the best efforts of DJs, their secret was out and other DJs and record collectors wanted a copy of Mosese. The only problem was that it’s a rarity, and very few copies of the album are offered fir sale. When they do, it’s for prices beyond many collectors or DJs. Thankfully, BBE Africa is about to release Mosese, which is a hugely popular, in-demand dancefloor filler that will be reissued for the first time since its release on the ‘11th’ October 2019. This  is reminder of the truly talented  Lumingu Puati (Zorro) and his Mosese, which sadly, was the only album he released for Tabansi Records.

Lumingu Puati (Zorro)-Mosese.

AMERICAN TUNES-SONGS BY PAUL SIMON.

American Tunes-Songs By Paul Simon.

Label: Ace Records.

Ace Record’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful Songwriter Series is one of their  longest-running compilation series. It’s featured songs by such luminaries as Burt Bacharach, Harry Nilsson, Dan Penn, Serge Gainsbourg and Tony Hatch. There’s also been compilations featuring the music of some of the greatest songwriting teams in popular music. This includes Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry plus Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. They’re about to be joined by Paul Simon, who is the latest inductee into Ace Record’s Songwriter Series. 

American Tunes-Songs By Paul Simon iwas recently released by Ace Records, and features twenty-three tracks released between 1966 and 2016. There’s everything from classic soul and country to pop, psychedelia, rock and even reggae. It’s a truly eclectic compilation that features some of the biggest names in music who are joined by a mixture of familiar faces and new names.

Opening American Tunes-Songs By Paul Simon is The Hollies’ cover of I Am A Rock. It was released on their 1966 Parlophone album Would You Believe. This was just a year after Paul Simon recorded the original. The two tracks are very different, with The Hollies transforming it into something that Paul Simon never envisaged.

Homeward Bound was written by Paul Simon whilst living in the UK and feeling homesick. He wrote the song on the platform of  Widnes railway station in the North West of England.  It was later recorded by Simon and Garfunkel, and covered by Cher in 1966. This is one of over 100 covers of Homeward Bound, and is delivered with emotion and will resonate with anyone whose ever experienced a bout of homesickness.

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) was covered by Harpers Bizarre in 1967. They were a talented sunshine pop band who never reached the heights that they should’ve. One of their finest and most memorable moments was their cover The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy). It’s an anthemic track that reached thirteen on the US Billboard 100 and thirty-four in the UK, and is a welcome addition  to the compilation. 

The lead single from Simon and Garfunkel’s classic album Bridge Over Troubled Water was The Boxer.  By 1980, when The Boxer was covered by Emmylou Harris and released as a single on Warner Bros, it was regarded as a classic track.  Emmylou Harris’ beautiful reading which is full of intensity and emotion reached seven on the US Billboard 100 and six in the UK. It’s one of the highlights of American Tunes-Songs By Paul Simon and shows another side to a classic song.

Aretha Franklin released a cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water as a single on Atlantic in 1971. It’s one of the finest of the 450 covers of Bridge Over Troubled Water and features Aretha Franklin at the peak of her powers.

Peaches and Herb reinvented The Sound Of Silence, which was released as a single on Columbia in 1971. Sadly, this hidden gem failed to find an audience and  not long after this, Peaches and Herb split-up. Later in the seventies they made a comeback and enjoyed several hit singles including Reunited. 

In 1973, Mother and Child Reunion was covered by The Intruders on their Save The Children album.  It was released on the Gamble label. Taking charge of production were Gamble and Huff, and features the legendary studio band MFSB. They  provide the perfect backdrop for The Intruders as this Paul Simon classic which is given a Philly Soul makeover.

Cecilia was released as the sophomore single from the album Bridge Over Troubled Water. It was covered  by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles on their 1971 Motown album One Dozen Roses. They stay true to the original but give add a soulful twist. This shows another side to a familiar song.

When Annie Lennox recorded her album Medusa, which was released in 1995, it included Something So Right which featured Paul Simon.  He stays true to the original, and sings tenderly when joining Annie Lennox for the chorus. Together they deliver a quite beautiful  and poignant cover of Something So Right

Take Me To The Mardi Gras was recorded by soul legend Johnnie and Floyd Taylor his son, and released in 2003. They were accompanied by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section when the song was recorded in the late-nineties. It’s another hidden gem and a welcome addition to the compilation. 

Originally, Rumer recorded  Long, Long Day for her album Boys Don’t Cry, but it didn’t make iy onto the album.When the album. When Rumer released her B-Sides and Rarities album in 2011, Long, Long Day made its belated debut. It makes a welcome return on American Tunes Songs By Paul Simon and is a reminder of one Britain’s most talented female vocalists.

Closing American Tunes-Songs By Paul Simon is American Tune by Shawn Colvin. Her understated and wistful cover showcases a talented singer who breathes life and meaning into American Tune. It featured on her 2015 album Uncovered, and is the perfect way to close this lovingly curated compilation.

Paul Simon is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, and a worthy inductee into Ace Records’ Songwriter Series.  The recently released compilation American Tunes-Songs By Paul Simon, features twenty-three he wrote and either recorded with Art Garfunkel or during his solo career. Among these songs are a  number of classics which have been covered by a mixture of musical legends, familiar faces and what may be new names to some people. There’s everything from classic soul and country to Philly Soul, pop and psychedelia to rock and even reggae on American Tunes-Songs By Paul Simon who is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of popular music and this computation is a reminder why.

American Tunes-Songs By Paul Simon.

SHEL’S GIRLS-FROM THE PLANET RECORDS VAULTS. 

Shel’s Girls-From The Planet Records Vaults.

Ace Records.

During the sixties and into the early seventies, Chicago-born Shel Talmy was one of the most successful and innovative producers working in the British music industry. He had arrived in Britain from Los Angeles in 1962, as a twenty-five year old. By then, his dreams of becoming a film director had been dashed.

This had happened nine years previously, when Shel Talmy attended  a routine check-up at his ophthalmologist. That day, the sixteen year old  discovered that he had  retinitis pigmentosa. This inherited degenerative eye disease meant that Shel Shalmy would eventually lose his sight. For Shel this was a crushing blow.

Realising his dream of becoming a film direction was in tatters, Shel Talmy was forced to rethink his plans for the future. He decided to settle on the next best thing and become a record producer. Shel was determined that when the time came, he would make his dream a reality. 

By 1961,  twenty-four year old Shel Talmy was ready to embark upon a career as a record producer. Rather than knocking on the doors of LA’s recording studios, he headed to one of Los Angeles’ many music business hang outs to network with music industry insiders.

At Martoni’s, Chicago-born Shel Talmy met Phil Yeend, a British expat who owned Conway’s Recorders. The two men talked and soon, Phil Yeend, offered twenty-four year old Shel Talmy a job as an engineer. By then, Phil Yeend had assured his newest employee that he would train him as an engineer.

Shel Talmy began work at Conway’s Recorders in early 1961. During his first three days at Conway’s Recorders, Shel was shown the basics, including how to work the board. After that, he was thrown in at the deep end. 

Over the next few months, Shel Talmy spent much of his time working with members of the legendary studio band the Wrecking Crew. They were by then, seasoned veterans who had a wealth of experience, and he was able to tap into their experience. Shel Talmy also found himself working with the Beach Boys and Lou Rawls during his first year as an engineer and producer. For Shel his first year at Conway’s Recorders was a whirlwind.

Shel Talmy also found himself working with Gary Paxton, who having started out as one half of Skip and Flip, was well on his way to becoming a successful producer. Meanwhile, his friend Nic Venet was the A&R man at Capitol Records. He allowed Shel to sit in on recording sessions with Bobby Darin. Through watching these sessions Shel learnt how to run a session. This was all part of his musical apprenticeship.

Back at Conway Recorders, when  Phil Yeend and Shel Talmy weren’t working with clients, they spent time experimenting with new recording techniques. Especially working out the best way to record guitars and drums. The pair were interested in the advantages of isolating instruments during the recording sessions. This was unheard of, but eventually, would become the norm. Shel was already innovating, and would continue do so throughout his career. 

When there was some downtime at Conway Recorders,  Phil Yeend allowed Shel Talmy to try out new recording techniques. This was all part of a steep learning curve.  However, this crash course in engineering and production would stand Shel Talmy in good stead for the future.

Especially when Shel Talmy decided to spend a few months working in Britain. This visit wasn’t planned. Instead, it was a case of curiosity getting  the better of Shel. During his time working with Phil Yeend, the Englishman had told him about life in Britain and how great a country it was. Eventually, Shel decided he would like to spend some time working in Britain.

Fortunately, a friend of Shel Talmy’s who worked at Liberty Records setup a meeting with Dick Rowe at Decca Records. When Shel Talmy went into the meeting, he wasn’t lacking in confidence and went as far as playing Dick Rowe acetates of some of the records that he had worked on. British record company executives in the early sixties weren’t used to such confident interviewees. However, Dick Rowe, who was a huge fan of all things American, liked Shel Talmy and hired him on the spot. 

Just over a year later, Shel Talmy and Dick James founded a new label, Planet Records. This joint venture was the start of a new chapter in Shel Talmy’s career. 

By then, he was well on his way to enjoying the most successful chapter in his musical career. This lasted seventeen years and saw Shel Talmy become one of the most successful producers working in Britain. During this period, Shel Talmy had the Midas touch. 

He discovered The Kinks, when their manager Robert Wace took a demo into one of music publishers on Denmark Street. When Robert Wace asked if anyone wanted to hear the demo, Shel Talmy answered in the affirmative. Having heard the demo and heard what he liked, Shel Talmy took The Kinks to Pye. 

Having signed to Pye, Shel Talmy produced The Kinks’ first five albums. During this period, The Kinks along with The Who another of Shel’s signing were two of the most successful British bands. However, it wasn’t just guitar-driven rock, mod and beat that the Shel produced. His eclectic taste saw him produce a variety of other artists, including “beat chick” recordings by  the girl group Goldie and The Gingerbreads and genre classics like Colette and The Bandits’ A Ladies Man. It features on a new compilation Shel’s Girls-From The Planet Records Vaults, which was recently released by Ace Records.

There’s twenty-four tracks on Shel’s Girls-From The Planet Records Vaults including No More Love by Liz Shelley which opens the compilation. It was released on Brunswick in 1966 a year after she released her debut single Make Me Your Baby, which featured the emotive and dramatic sounding You Made Me Hurt. On its release in 1965, it failed to make any impression on the charts, and just like the unreleased track Tar and Cement showcases a singer with the potential to follow in the footsteps of Petula Clark and crossover into the mainstream. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and Liz Shelley never enjoyed the commercial success her talented deserved.

Belfast-born Perpetual Langley only recorded two singles for Planet Records, and they both feature on the compilation. Her debut was We Wanna Stay Home which features a confident vocal. On the B-Side was So Sad, an emotive sounding Samba-tinged track. For her sophomore singleAshford and Simpson’s composition Surrender was released later in 1966, and features a powerhouse of a vocal. Tucked away on the B-Side was the  dance-floor friendly Two By Two. Sadly, after just two singles Perpetual Langley’s time at Planet Records was over.

In 1966, Planet Records released Bond girl Dani Sheridan’s single Guess I’m Dumb. It was cowritten by Russ Titleman and Brian Wilson, and it’s taken in a new direction by Dani Sheridan and is highly regarded by connoisseurs of the “beat chick” genre. On the flip-side was the Jon Marks penned Songs Of Love, an underrated track that showcases a talented singer who also enjoyed a career as an actress.

Shel’s Girls-From The Planet Records Vaults includes an alternate version of Colette and The Bandits’ genre classic A Ladies Man. Other unreleased tracks worth mentioning include Plain and Fancy’s cover of Ashford and Simpson’s Surrender. This allows the listener to compared it with Perpetual Langley’s version. Then there’s Margo and The Marvelletes’ defiant version of This Heart’s Not For Sale and Grave Digger which was recorded by Unknown Beat Girls.

One of the biggest “beat chick” groups were The Orchids.They contribute their 1963 single Gonna Make Him Mine on London Records. It featured Stay At Home on the B-Side. These two cuts are regarded as their best recordings. However, a year later, in 1964, the Coventry-based trio released Oo-Chang-A-Lang, which was penned by Shel Talmy and sounds as if its production values have been influenced by Phil Spector. Just a year later, it was all over for The Orchids who were now called The Exceptions. The group spilt-up in 1965 after two years working with Shel Talmy.

He’s best known for his work with The Kinks, The Who and The Easybeats as well as many other rock, mod and beat groups. However, Shel Talmy also worked with many of the “beat chick” artists and groups doing the sixties. Some of them feature on a new compilation by Ace Records Shel’s Girls-From The Planet Records Vaults. 

It’s the latest compilation that Ace Records has released that showcases an innovative producer. Back then, producers had to be able to think outside the box. They were hamstrung by what is now regarded as basic equipment. By being able to innovate, some producers were able to make groundbreaking recordings  with this basic equipment. This included George Martin, Phil Spector, Joe Meek, Jimmy Miller and Jack Nitzsche. To that list the name Shel Talmy can be added as he belongs in such illustrious company. 

After all, Shel Talmy wasn’t just a producer. He was a songwriter and talent spotter. However, first and foremost Shel Talmy is remembered as a pioneering producer who with an eclectic selection of artists and bands. This includes the “beat chicks” that feature on Shel’s Girls-From The Planet Records Vaults.The twenty-four tracks that feature on Shel’s Girls-From The Planet Records Vault are a reminder of a pioneering producer at the peak of his powers during what proved to be the most successful period of his career.

Shel’s Girls-From The Planet Records Vaults.