Eva Salina and Peter Stan-Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović.
Label: Vogiton Records.
Release Date: ‘30th’ March 2018.
When Serbian Roma singer Vida Pavlović took to the stage in dark, smokey, and noisy backstreet clubs, there was a respectful silence among the patrons in respect of the woman they called their Queen. Alas, it hadn’t always been that way for Vida Pavlović.
In the early days of her career, when Vida Pavlović made her way to the stage of a new venue, the audience was often full of tough, hard-living men who thought nothing of settling scores outside on the pavements. Vida Pavlović saw them smirking at her, and heard their lewd comments as she took to the stage. This changed when Vida Pavlović started to sing, and their was a respectful silence as these rough diamonds became putty in her hands. After each song, rapturous applause rung out from the audience who were almost spellbound each time Vida Pavlović sang. Sometimes, these hard-living grown men were reduced to tears by Vida Pavlović’s tender, heartfelt, haunting and emotive performances that were always powerful and poignant. A new star was born in the former Yugoslavia.
Before long, the men in the clubs in Yugoslavia, which later became Serbia referred to Vida Pavlović as their Queen. Now their was a respectful silence as she took to the stage and sang in front of her people who held her in the highest regard. Despite being a hero to many in Yugoslavia and then Serbia, sadly, Vida Pavlović wasn’t destined for international stardom.
Despite her considerable talent, and popularity Vida Pavlović wasn’t offered a lucrative recording deal by one of Europe’s major labels, and didn’t grace the stages of some of the world’s top venues. Sadly, Vida Pavlović never enjoyed a tantalising taste of commercial success and critical acclaim. Instead, Vida Pavlović had faded quietly into a dignified obscurity by 2005, and was living quietly far from the limelight she had once enjoyed. Still though, many people remembered Vida Pavlović who had won the love and respect of the Serbian people. They were shocked, when they heard of the tragic death of Vida Pavlović just before her sixtieth birthday. The Serbian people mourned the death of their former Queen who one of the legends of Balkan music who had influenced a generation of musicians.
This includes Balkan singer Eva Salina, who has been heavily influenced and inspired by many Balkan singers, and especially Vida Pavlović: “I am always hungry for new songs, especially from the incredible Roma women singers of 30-plus years ago, and hearing Vida’s grounded, total musicality simply blew my mind… I had never encountered songs that commented so plainly on women’s lives or a Roma singer who so naturally balanced masculine and feminine energies. The word ‘vida’ means ‘vision’ in Serbian, a perfectly chosen name for a singer who brought so much empathy and intuition to her songs.” This resonated with Eva Salina.
After discovering Vida Pavlović’s music, Eva Salina realised that she could identify with the music which spoke to, and for her, and many other Balkan women. “In the context of current movements toward women’s equality and agency, as I continue to dig deeper into this repertoire, I realize over and over how it’s all way more relevant than I could have anticipated. You can fill these songs to the brim with sadness, anger, frustration, and hope, and yet they are never saturated. There’s always room for more: more life, more desire, more understanding, more fire. Songs like these bring tenderness to the day-to-day reality of an unpredictable world and help temper the hardships in our own lives, and hopefully the lives of others.”
It was only later, when Eva Salina had embarked upon a career as a singer, that she began to think about recording an album of Vida Pavlović’s songs. However, this wasn’t as easy as she first thought, and resulted in Eva Salina spending many an hour on the internet trying to track down performances of songs by Vida Pavlović and other Balkan singers of her generation. Often, these searches proved fruitless and frustrating as her best efforts came to naught. Still, Eva Salina persisted, and continued to look for new songs to add to her burgeoning repertoire. Meanwhile, she continued to return to Vida Pavlović’s poignant and haunting songs which struck a nerve and resonated deeply with her. They continued to tug at her heartstrings and eventually, she decided to record an album of Vida Pavlović’s with the help of one of accordionist Peter Stan
It was six years ago when Eva Salina was still a young, up-and-coming singer first met accordionist Peter Stan in a green room. As the young singer and accordionist sat and traded songs, Eva Salina was struck by Peter Stan ability to improvise, and noticed how he could seamlessly switch between songs and styles. Soon, the pair began discussing the music that they loved, and the subject turned to Roma songs which they both were passionate about. This commonality was the start of a musical partnership that has lasted six years. During that period, Peter Stan’s accordion had provided the perfect backdrop to Eva Salina inimitable vocal style, which is equal parts singer and storyteller.
Eva Salina speaks highly and warmly about her costar on Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović. “Peter overflows with unpredictable moments, intense and quirky, but always deeply musical… Peter will never play a phrase the same way twice and often won’t remember what he played three minutes before. He’ll take a tour around multiple traditions in a single solo, but never loses himself. Accordion is his first and most fluent language.” When Eva Salina entered the studio Peter Stan would play with a fluency on Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović.
When Eva Salina and Peter Stan entered the studio, they planned to record eight of Vida Pavlović’s songs which became the album Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović. It will be released by Vogiton Records on the ‘30th’ of March 2018, and fittingly, the music on Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović is powerful and poignant and a fitting homage to the late Vida Pavlović.
By the time Eva Salina and Peter Stan began work on Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović, many still remembered Vida Pavlović’s tender, poignant and powerful performances with a fondness. It wasn’t just the men who saw Vida Pavlović sing in the clubs, but women who remembered and admired Vida Pavlović.
For many women, she was a talismanic figure, and one who they admired and were inspired and influenced by. They remembered Vida Pavlović as a strong independent women who as a singer-songwriter provided a voice for those who had none. She spoke up for the disenfranchised and downtrodden and wasn’t afraid to tackle subjects that many singer-songwriters shied away. Not Vida Pavlović who wrote in Romanés and Serbian, about domestic abuse, marginalisation, migration and poverty. Vida Pavlović’s unflinching and impassioned accounts of these subjects were powerful, poignant and often heartbreaking. Despite documenting the dark side of life, Vida Pavlović remained a dignified figure, but someone who throughout her career was passionate about her music which she hoped would make a difference to other people’s lives. Sadly, music didn’t make much difference to Vida Pavlović’s life.
During her career, Vida Pavlović’s own life wasn’t far removed to the audiences who flocked to see her sing in clubs in towns and cities. Music didn’t make Vida Pavlović rich, and she lived alongside those who came to her concerts. Sadly, after her career came to an end Vida Pavlović’s life was described by those who remember her as bleak, sad and tragic. Despite this, she still carried herself with the same dignity that she had throughout her career. That was the case right up until her sudden death in 2005.
Thirteen years later, and Eva Salina and Peter Stan will release Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović, which shines the spotlight once again on the Queen of Serbia’s music. Eva Salina enthuses about Vida Pavlović’s music, and its continued relevance today. “In the context of current movements toward women’s equality and agency, as I continue to dig deeper into this repertoire, I realize over and over how it’s all way more relevant than I could have anticipated. You can fill these songs to the brim with sadness, anger, frustration, and hope, and yet they are never saturated. There’s always room for more: more life, more desire, more understanding, more fire. Songs like these bring tenderness to the day-to-day reality of an unpredictable world and help temper the hardships in our own lives, and hopefully the lives of others.”
That is just part of Eva Salina’s story and her musical journey. “My entire musical education centered on Balkan vocal traditions, and I always particularly loved Bulgarian table songs, historical narratives recounted with precise, articulate melisma…While these songs provided tremendous technical challenge and beautiful melodies, Vida’s songs demand a different level of personal investment and interpretation. These are songs to grow into over a lifetime. The question I ask myself is this: How do I take this song beyond a show of skill and make it a vehicle to say something deep and honest? A great deal of who I am, what I have lived, and who I may be in the future is present in my singing on this album, and the same is true for Peter’s contributions. We’ve given ourselves nothing to hide behind-no production tricks, no distractions. It’s a pretty old-school record.”
Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović is also a powerful and poignant homage to Vida Pavlović where Eva Salina with the help of Peter Stan reimagine and reinvent the eight songs. There’s also an honesty to music on Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović, where Eva Salina is accompanied by understated and sometimes spartan arrangements that allow the vocal to take centre-stage.
That is the case on the impassioned and poignant album opener Pusti me da živim where a Parisian sounding accordion accompanies a tender vocal from torch singer Eva Salina. Equally powerful is E laute bašalen taj rove where Eva Salina delivers a beautiful, soul-baring vocal. It’s a similar case on Ostala je pesma moja, where the accordion sets the scene for Eva Salina’s vocal. It veers between tender to emotive and hopeful during a poignant song that Vida Pavlović hoped would live on in the future. Eva Salina ensures that that is the case
Peter Stan’s accordion gives way to Eva Salina’s vocal on Ćerma Devla čirikli as she reaches new heights combining power and passion and breathing life and meaning to the lyrics. The tempo drops on Namarma dileja as the accordion provides a rueful, wistful backdrop as Eva Salina lays bare her soul. On Aven, aven Romalen Peter Stan’s fleet fingered accordion solo again sets the scene and later fills the gaps left by Eva Salina’s heartfelt vocal. Soon, it soars powerfully above the understated arrangement as Eva Salina and Peter Stan become a musical yin and yang.
There’s an honesty to E dadeći čajori (Dema miro) where Eva Salina’s performance has been influenced and inspired by Vida Pavlović’s original version. Eva Salina tells the story behind the song: “Vida’s performances have very clear arcs, she was completely in control of the stories she told. ‘Dema miro’ is the song to sing when people are ready to feel it all, when you’re ready to help everyone let it out. The song says ‘Give me peace, because you are devouring my heart,’ and then goes on to talk about the continued realization of one’s own poverty over a lifetime. The pain in that song is elemental–no nostalgia, nothing extraneous. The lyrics say so much without many words; the emotion lies in the melody and what it unleashes in people.” It’s also a song that features a poignant and powerful performance from Eva Salina who reaches new heights.
Closing Sudbina is Ostala which features trumpeter Demiran Ćerimović, who combines with Peter Stan and together they create a ruminative sounding track allows time to reflect and remember Vida Pavlović, who was once the Queen of Serbian music.
Sadly, Vida Pavlović didn’t enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim that Cesaria Evora, Chavela Vargas and Totó La Momposin went on to enjoy internationally. However, Vida Pavlović left behind a rich musical legacy which is treasured by her fans old and new, plus a new generation of Balkan singers. This includes Eva Salina who has been a lifelong fan of Vida Pavlović, and is determined to introduce her music to a new and wider audience internationally. To do this, Eva Salina and Peter Stan recorded their new album Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović, which will be released by Vogiton Records on the ‘30th’ of March 2018.
Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović is the perfect introduction to one of the greatest Balkan singer of her generation, Vida Pavlović. Sadly, the trials and tribulations of her personal life resulted in the death of Vida Pavlović before she was sixty. This remarkable woman who provided a voice for the downtrodden and disenfranchised died way too young.
Sadly, since then, Vida Pavlović’s songs have been overlooked by many singers. That is starting to change, with the release of Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović by Eva Salina and Peter Stan which is powerful and poignant homage to the former Queen of Serbian music.
Eva Salina and Peter-Sudbina: A Portrait Of Vida Pavlović.
Nicolette Larson-All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.
Label: BGO Records.
Nowadays, far too many people are scared to follow their dream and instead, settle for second best and the drudgery of working 9-5. Sadly, it’s only much later, when it’s too late, that they realise what they gave up and what might have been. Nicolette Larson was determined that wasn’t going to happen to her and after spending three semesters at the University Of Missouri and working various dead-end jobs, left to pursue a career in music. This must have left her friends and family shaking their heads and sagely saying that it was a decision that Nicolette Larson would live to regret.
How wrong they were. Over the next few years, Nicolette Larson sang backing vocals for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Eric Anderson, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young. Later, she added harmonies on albums by Marcia Ball, Norton Buffalo and Rodney Crowell. By then, Nicolette Larson had been signed to the country division of Warner Bros, and in 1978 her debut album Nicolette was certified gold. Although 1979s In The Nick Of Time and 1980s Radioland didn’t replicate the same success as Nicolette, they were both carefully crafted albums that showcased the truly talented and versatile Nicolette Larson. She returned in 1982 with her fourth album All Dressed Up and No Place To Go, which was recently reissued and remastered by BGO Records. It was the next chapter in the Nicolette Larson story, which began thirty years earlier.
Nicolette Larson was born in Helena, Montana on July the ’17th’ 1952, and led a somewhat a nomadic existence growing up. This couldn’t be helped, as her father worked for the US Treasury, and was often transferred to other towns and cities. Sometimes, Nicolette was just starting to make friends and settling into a new school, when the Larson family were on the move again. By the time Nicolette Larson graduated high school, the Larson family were living in Kansas City, Missouri. Next stop for Nicolette Larson was the University Of Missouri.
Having enrolled at the University Of Missouri, it wan’t long before Nicolette Larson realised that student life wasn’t for her. After spending what must have been three long semesters studying at the University Of Missouri, Nicolette Larson decided to leave academia behind.
Things didn’t get much better for Nicolette Larson, over the next few weeks and months, worked a variety of dead-end jobs in Missouri. She waited tables and experienced the nine to five drudgery of working in an office. Eventually, Nicolette Larson decided to follow her dream, and pursue a career in music.
This Nicolette Larson knew wasn’t going to be easy, and was going to take time, persistence and dogged determination. It also meant that she would need to leave Missouri behind, and head to one of America’s musical cities, and eventually, settled on San Francisco, which had a thriving music scene.
That had been the case since the birth of rock ’n’ roll. Nicolette Larson’s first job in San Francisco, was in one of the city’s many record stores. In her spare time, Nicolette Larson volunteered at the Golden Gate Country Bluegrass Festival.
As Nicolette Larson watched the artists perform at the Golden Gate Country Bluegrass Festival, she became even more determined to become a singer. So much so, that she was willing to travel to Canada to make her debut opening for vocalist Eric Anderson in Vancouver, British Columbia. Buoyed by having made her professional debut as a singer, Nicolette Larson returned home, and began looking for work as a singer.
Fortunately, Hoyt Axton was looking for backing singers to join his band, Hoyt Axton and The Banana Band, who were due to open for Joan Baez on her 1975 Diamonds and Rust tour. Nicolette Larson passed the audition, and joined Hoyt Axton and The Banana Band the tour. During the tour, Nicolette Larson made a big impression on Hoyt Axton was also producing country rock band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen’s album Tales From The Ozone. He was looking for singers to add backing vocals.
Nicolette Larson and Guthrie Thomas fitted the bill, and they both made her debut on Tales From The Ozone. It was released in 1975, and was just the first of a number of artists Nicolette Larson worked with. Often though, Nicolette Larson worked with Guthrie Thomas, and other times she worked alone.
Having worked with Hoyt Axton and Guy Clark in 1976, soon word was spreading about this new backing vocalist Nicolette Larson who was working with some big name musicians. This included Billy Joe Shaver, Gary Stewart, Jesse Colin Young, Jesse Winchester Mary Kay Place and Rodney Crowell. Nicolette Larson recorded another album with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. However, in 1977 Nicolette got the opportunity to work with two of the biggest names in music.
The first was Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris who was about to record her 1977 album Luxury Liner. She brought Nicolette Larson onboard to sing backing vocals on the album. Her finest moment on the album came on Hello Stranger, where Nicolette features prominently and plays a starring role. During the recording sessions for Luxury Liner, Nicolette Larson met Linda Ronstadt and the two women became firm friends. This resulted in Nicolette getting the opportunity of a lifetime.
One day, Neil Young phoned Linda Ronstadt to ask if she could recommend a female vocalist to sing on what became his American Stars ’N’ Bars album. Little did Linda Ronstadt know, that she was the third person Neil Young had asked that question. Just like the first two, Linda Ronstadt replied “Nicolette Larson.” That made Neil Young’s mind up, and Nicolette Larson got the call to head to his ranch and cut vocals for American Stars ’N’ Bars.
Joining Nicolette Larson for the American Stars ’N’ Bars’ sessions, was Linda Ronstadt, and the pair harmonised, while Neil Young laid down the vocals and played guitar. When Stars ’N’ Bars was released, Nicolette and Linda Ronstadt were billed as The Bullets. However, only one of The Bullets would return to sing on Neil Young’s next album.
In November 1977, Neil Young was recording Comes A Time in Nashville, and Nicolette Larson was asked to join what was an all-star cast. She contributed harmonies on eight of the ten tracks on Comes A Time was released in October 1978, and played an important part in Nicolette’s future.
Before that, Nicolette Larson continued to work as a backing vocalist, and 1978 got off to a good start when Emmylou Harris’ Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town album reached number three in the US Billboard 100, and was certified gold. Meanwhile, Nicolette Larson also added harmonies to albums by Marcia Ball, Norton Buffalo and Rodney Crowell before Neil Young’s Comes A Time was released in October 1978. However, it wasn’t the most successful album Nicolette Larson featured later in 1978.
That honour fell to The Doobie Brothers’ Minute By Minute, where Nicolette Larson added harmonies on two tracks. When Minute By Minute was released on ‘1st’ December 1978 it reached number one album, was certified triple platinum and won four Grammy Awards. However, by the time Minute By Minute was released Nicolette Larson’s career had begun.
By then, Nicolette Larson had already signed to the country division of Warner Bros. This came about after she had worked with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and Neil Young. Executives at Warner Bros realising that Nicolette Larson was a talented artist with huge potential, wasted no time in signing her to their country division. They then paired Nicolette Larson with a top producer Ted Templeman.
Nicolette Larson had already worked with Ted Templeman before, on The Doobie Brothers’ album Little By Little. He was already one of the most successful producers of the late-sixties and seventies. He had worked with Van Morrison, Little Feat, The Doobie Brothers, Captain Beefheart, Montrose, The Beau Brummels and Carly Simon. Ted Templeman next assignment was producing Nicolette Larson’s debut album Nicolette.
Having signed to Warner Bros, work began on Nicolette Larson’s debut album Nicolette. The ten tracks that were chosen for the album, were all cover versions as Nicolette Larson wasn’t known as a songwriter. As a result, Nicolette Larson and Ted Templeman began choosing songs that would suit Nicolette’s voice.
This included Neil Young’s Lotta Love; Jesse Winchester’s Rhumba Girl; Sam Cooke’s You Send Me; Lauren Wood’s Can’t Get Away From You; Bill Payne’s Give a Little; Adam Mitchell’s French Waltz and Bob McDill’s Come Early Mornin’. They were joined by Bob Hillard and Burt Bacharach’s Mexican Divorce; Holland, Dozier, Holland’s Baby Don’t You Do It; Adam Louvin’s Angels Rejoiced and Glen Frey and JD Souther’sLast in Love which would close Nicolette. Before that, these Nicolette was recorded with an all-star band
When it came to recording Nicolette, a huge cast of musicians and backing vocalists were involved in the recording. This included musicians who Nicolette had previously worked with. Both Linda Ronstadt and Michael McDonald added backing vocals on Nicolette. Meanwhile, members of Little Feat and The Doobie Brothers, two the most successful bands of the seventies made guest appearances alongside bassist Klaus Voormann; guitarist Herb Pedersen, Memphis Horns’ saxophonist Andrew Love and Eddie Van Halen laid down a guitar solo on Can’t Get Away From You. Meanwhile, Ted Templeman took charge of production of Nicolette which was completed in time to be released in the autumn of 1978.
The release of Nicolette was scheduled for September the ‘29th’ 1978, but before that, critics had their say on Nicolette. The reviews of Nicolette were all positive, with Nicolette Larson’s blend of pop, rock, soul, country and folk proving popular amongst critics. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Nicolette which reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the Canadian charts. This resulted in gold discs in America and Canada. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success.
Meanwhile, Lotta Love had reached number eight on the US Billboard 100 and number one on the US Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Across the border in Canada, Lotta Love reached number four, and number one in the Adult Contemporary chart. This was the perfect start for Nicolette’s carer.
The followup to Lotta Love, Rhumba Girl reached forty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-eight on the US Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Meanwhile in Canada, Rhumba Girl reached fifteen and number four in the Adult Contemporary charts. Soon, two hits would become three.
The final single from Nicolette, Give A Little reached number nineteen in the US Billboard’s Adult Contemporary charts. That was the third hit single from Nicolette which had just been certified gold. This was the perfect start to Nicolette Larson’s solo career, and was no surprise to those who had heard her debut album.
Nicolette which featured a carefully considered selection of songs which showcase a versatile and talented singer. That was apparent from Nicolette’s folk rock take on Lotta Love, via her country-tinged cover of Rhumba Girl to the needy, soulful version of You Send Me. Can’t Get Away From You with its gospel tinged harmonies allows Nicolette to cut loose, and showcase her versatility. Mexican Divorce then becomes a wistful country ballad, before Holland, Dozier, Holland’s Baby, Don’t You Do It is totally transformed, and takes on a much more grownup, sultry sound. After this, it’s all change.
One of the most beautiful songs is Give A Little, an AOR ballad which reinforces Nicolette’s versatility. She seems equally comfortable singing AOR as she does country, folk, pop and rock. Not many artists were as versatile. Proof of this is Angels Rejoiced, with its authentic country sound, where Nicolette’s vocal takes centre-stage. French Waltz is another tender ballad, which just like Angels Rejoiced, has a slow, understated arrangement. Nicolette seamlessly switches between English and French as she delivers the lyrics. The final song on Nicolette was Last In Love, another heart-wrenching ballad where the vocal is akin to a confessional, as strings and a piano accompany her. It’s a beautiful and moving song, that whets the listener’s appetite for her sophomore album.
In The Nick Of Time.
For In The Nick Of Time, Ted Templeman returned to produce the album. Ten tracks were chosen, including Just in the Nick of Time which Nicolette cowrote with Ted Templeman and Lauren Wood. She had written Can’t Get Away from You for Nicolette, and contributed Breaking Too Many Hearts and Fallen to In The Nick Of Time. They were joined by songs from successful songwriting partnerships.
Just like Nicolette, In The Nick Of Time featured a track from Holland, Dozier, Holland, Back in My Arms. It was joined by Dancin’ Jones which Lieber and Stoller wrote with John Sembello and Ralph Dino. They were joined by Michael McDonald and B.J. Cook Foster’s Let Me Go, Love; Richard Torrance and John Haeny’s Rio de Janeiro Blue; Bobby Troup’s Daddy; Karla Bonoff’s Isn’t It Always Love and Lowell George’s Trouble. These songs would become In The Nick Of Time, where Nicolette, was once again, joined by an all-star band.
At the core of Nicolette’s band for the recording of In The Nick Of Time, once again were Little Feat’s guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Bill Payne. They were joined by The Doobie Brothers’ live drummer and percussionist Bobby LaKind. Making guest appearances were The Memphis Horns; guitarist Ronnie Montrose; keyboardist Van Dyke Parks and Michael McDonald who duetted with Nicolette on Let Me Go, Love. This glittering array of musical talent joined Nicolette and producer Ted Templeman in recording In The Nick Of Time. However, could and would it match the commercial success and critical acclaim of Nicolette?
That was never going to be easy. Nicolette had received critically acclaimed reviews, and was certified gold. Throughout Nicolette, her enthusiasm is infectious. It was as if she was determined to grasp this opportunity with both hands. That was the case, as she brought each song to life, breathing meaning into the lyrics. However, the reviews of In The Nick Of Time weren’t as positive
Partly, this was because music was changing, and so were the critics. A new breed of cynical, gunslinger critics turned their guns on any type of music that was remotely establishment sounding. This included progressive rock, classic rock and even singer-songwriters like Nicolette Larson. Many albums didn’t stand a chance, and weren’t judged on their merits. Instead, the critic’s prejudice affected their judgement, and this didn’t bode well for Nicolette Larson’s sophomore album In The Nick Of Time.
On the release of In The Nick Of Time in 1979, the album stalled at forty-seven in the US Billboard 200, and seventy-one in Canada. There were no gold discs for Nicolette Larson this time around. To add to the disappointment neither the lead single Dancin’ Jones nor the followup Back in My Arms charted. This was a huge disappointment as In The Nick Of Time was an album that deserved to fare much better?
Dancin’ Jones an uptempo dance track that comes complete with rasping horns opens In The Nick Of Time, and although it’s very different to the music on her debut album, Nicolette embraces this stylistic change and does so with aplomb. It’s a similar case on the other dance tracks. On Just In The Nick Of Time Nicolette becomes a strutting diva, before gospel-tinged harmonies accompany her soulful vocal on Breaking Too Many Hearts and Back In My Arms are soulful dance tracks as gospel-tinged harmonies accompany, Nicolette. However, this new dancefloor friendly sound tells only part of the story of In The Nick Of Time.
Michael McDonald joins Nicolette on the ballad the smooth, soulful ballad Let Me Go, Love, which is followed by Rio De Janeiro Blue where a jazz-tinged arrangement accompanies Nicolette’s heartfelt and soulful vocal The same can be said of the hopeful ballads Fallen and Isn’t It Always Love? Quite different is Daddy which takes on a jazzy, theatrical sound, and shows another side to Nicolette Larsson. Closing In The Nick Of Time was Lowell George’s Trouble, which becomes a quite beautiful, reflective ballad. Nicolette had kept one of the best until last.
In The Nick Of Time was very different album to Nicolette, and found the twenty-seven year old singer widening her musical horizons. Whether this was Nicolette Larson’s decision is another matter? There was no need for her to change direction as Nicolette had just sold over 500,000 copies. Despite that, a quartet of dance-floor friendly tracks were added to In The Nick Of Time, which featured everything from disco, jazz, soul, pop and AOR. This executives at Warner Bros hoped would be a winning formula.
While disco was still popular when In The Nick Of Time was recorded, by July 1979 it was a musical pariah by the time the album was released. The decision to reinvent Nicolette Larsson as a disco diva backfired.
The problem with In The Nick Of Time was that it wasn’t the album that Nicolette Larson’s fans expected. They didn’t want to hear dance tracks, even ones as good as those on In The Nick Of Time. Instead, they liked the ballads, soulful songs and jazz-tinged tracks on In The Nick Of Time, and wanted an entire album of similar songs. Essentially, if Nicolette Larson had released another album of AOR, country, folk, pop and rock maybe In The Nick Of Time would’ve been a more successful album? As a result, Nicolette Larson knew that she would have to reinvent herself on her third album Radioland.
Following the disappointing performance of In The Nick Of Time, work began on Radioland. Ted Templeman was retained to produce Radioland which featured nine songs from a variety of songwriters and songwriting partnerships.
This including the Andrew Kastner penned How Can We Go On and Straight From The Heart, and who teamed up with Larry John McNally and Nicolette Larson to write When You Come Around. Lauren Wood who had contributed to Nicolette Larson’s two previous albums contributed Been Gone Too Long. These songs were joined by Adam Mitchell’s Fool For Love; Lowell George’s Long Distance Love; Allen Toussaint’s Tears, Tears And More Tears; Sumner Merings’ Radioland and Annie McLoone’s Ooo-Eee. These songs became the album that could make or break Nicolette Larson’s career…Radioland.
When work began on Radioland, many of the same musicians that worked on Nicolette Larson’s first two albums were present. Little Feat’s guitarist Paul Barrere and Bill Payne who this time around, played synths. They were joined by The Doobie Brothers’ guitarist Patrick Simmons and their live drummer Bobby LaKind, who added percussion. Making a guest appearance was Linda Ronstadt who added backing vocals. Meanwhile, the rhythm section two top session players, drummer Rick Shlosser and bassist Tiran Porter, who provided Radioland’s heartbeat. Just like Nicolette’s two previous albums, Ted Templeman took charge of production. Little did he know it would be for the last time.
Reviews of Radioland were mainly positive, with critics much more impressed by the change in sound. Stylistically, it was closer to Nicolette Larson’s debut album as element of pop, rock and soul joined funk, fusion and jazz on an album where ballads and rubbed shoulders with uptempo tracks. Radioland was a return to form from Nicolette Larson.
Despite this, when Radioland was released in 1980, the album stalled at sixty-two in the US Billboard 200, and failed to chart in Canada. Sadly, it was a familiar story with the singles Ooo-Eee, When You Come Around and Radioland failing to troubled the charts. This was hugely disappointing for Nicolette and Ted Templeman. Indeed, for Ted Templeman it was the last time he worked with Nicolette Larson. His swan-song was Radioland.
Radioland opens with the title-track which comes complete with eighties synths in a track where there’s a brief nod to Teena Marie. Then on Ooo-Eee a blistering guitar ushers in Nicolette’s vocal which is accompanied by harmonies, as she delivers a vocal that’s a mixture of power, emotion and soulfulness. How Can We Go On is a wistful mid-tempo ballad which much more like the music on Nicolette. So too is When You Come Around, which is another tender, hopeful and dreamy ballad. After this, it’s all change.
Tears, Tears And More Tears is a fusion of jazz, funk and soul and features a vocal powerhouse from Nicolette, who continues to showcase her versatility. This continues on Straight From The Heart, where Nicolette delivers a tender, but impassioned and rueful vocal. Equally rueful, but sometimes hopeful is Nicolette’s vocal on Been Gone Too Long. Just like on In The Nick Of Time, Nicolette finishes with a Lowell George song, Long Distance Love. She’s kept the best until last, as she breathes new life and aided and abetted by Billy Payne on keyboards, breathes meaning into this beautiful paean. It closes what’s one of the most underrated albums of Nicolette Larson’s career which was definitely at the crossroads.
All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.
A year after the release of Radioland, Nicolette Larson began work on her all-important fourth album All Dressed Up and No Place To Go. There was a lot riding on this album, which had the potential to make or break her career.
This time though, there was no sign of Ted Templeman who had produced Nicolette Larson’s first three albums. He had stepped down, although he is given a credit as executive producer of All Dressed Up and No Place To Go. Replacing Ted Templeman was singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Andrew Gold. He was tasked with transforming Nicolette Larson’s fortunes on All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.
For All Dressed Up and No Place To Go Nicolette Larson and Andrew Gold chose ten tracks which were a mixture of cover versions and new songs. This included Nicolette Larson and Andrew Gold’s I Want You So Bad. It was joined by Andrew Gold’s Still You Linger On, Andrew Kastner’s Just Say I Love You, Lowell George’s Two Trains and Paul Barrere’s Love, Sweet, Love. They were joined by Allee Willis and Patrick Henderson’s Talk To Me; Craig Doerge, Jackson Browne and Rosemary Butler’s I’ll Fly Away (Without You); Ivor Raymonde and Mike Hawkers I Only Want To Be With You; Kathy Wakefield and Leonard Caston’s Nathan Jones and Gary Ogan and Leon Russell’s Say You Will. These tracks would become All Dressed Up and No Place To Go which was Nicolette Larson’s fourth album.
Recording took place at Sunset Sound, in Los Angeles between October 1981 and January 1982. This time around, Nicolette Larson’s band featured a rhythm section of drummer Rick Schlosser, bassist Scott Chambers and guitarist Fred Tackett. That was apart from on Want You So Bad, where drummer Michael Botts and bassist Bob Glaub and guitarist John McFee replaced the usual rhythm section.
Joining the rhythm sections were Mark Jordan who switched between organ and Fender Rhodes; Billy Payne on synths; Arno Lucas on congas, tambourine and timbales; conga player Bobby LaKind, trumpeter Lee Thornberg and saxophonist Jim Horn. Meanwhile, producer Andrew Gold also played acoustic, electric and slide guitar, piano, percussion synths and added backing vocals. Other backing vocalists included Linda Ronstadt, Valerie Carter, Julia Tillman, Maxine Willard and Wendy Waldman. They spent three months recording All Dressed Up and No Place To Go which Nicolette Larson hoped would transform her career.
Critics on hearing All Dressed Up and No Place To Go were impressed with what was slick, carefully crafted and tasteful album that played to Nicolette Larson’s strengths. This was her versatility and her ability to breath life and meaning into the lyrics of a wide variety of songs. That was the case on All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.
It opens with I’ll Fly Away [Without You] which is melodic song that veers between soulful and rocky as this hook-laden track sets the bar high for the rest of All Dressed Up and No Place To Go. This includes the carefully crafted cover of I Only Want To Be With You combines elements of pop, country and rock. The ballad Just Say I Love You with its weeping guitars is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. Nathan Jones is then reinvented and Andrew Gold doesn’t spare the hooks on this poppy track that features a sultry saxophone. So does I Want You So Bad which features a needy vocal full of longing. However, this is just part of the story.
Nicolette delivers a sassy vocal on her cover of Lowell George’s Two Trains, which gives way to a country-tinged cover of Paul Barrère’s Love, Sweet Love. Say You Will allows Nicolette to unleash a powerful, emotive vocal while harmonies accompany her on another of Andrew Gold’s slick but tasteful arrangements. Talk To Me ls a mid-tempo track where Nicolette’s vocal is full of despair and hurt as she breaths life and meaning into the lyrics. It’s a similar case on the ballad Still You Linger On, which features a soul-baring album and closes the album on a high.
Given the quality of music on All Dressed Up and No Place To Go, the albums should’ve transformed Nicolette Larson’s career. Sadly, the album stalled at seventy-five in the US Billboard 200 and ninety-five in Australia. When I Only Want To Be With You was released as the lead single it reached fifty-three in the US Billboard 100 and gave Nicolette Larson a top ten hit in the US Adult Contemporary charts when it reached number nine. This was a small crumb of comfort for Nicolette Larson, whose fourth album hadn’t reached the audience it deserved. This was a huge disappointment for Nicolette Larson and producer Andrew Gold.
For Nicolette Larson the disappointing sales of All Dressed Up and No Place To Go spelt the end of her time at Warner Bros. After four albums she left Warner Bros later in 1982, and after that, signed to MCA Records, where she released …Say When in 1984. Sadly, Nicolette Larson never ever replicated the success of her 1978 debut album Nicolette.
After the released of Nicolette in 1978, which was certified gold and featured three hit singles, it looked as if this was the start of a long and successful career for Nicolette Larson. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
The decision to combine disco with AOR, gospel, jazz, pop rock and soul on 1979s In The Nick Of Time was one which Nicolette Larson would regret. Maybe this was part of a plan to market Nicolette Larson to a much wider audience? However, when it failed to replicate the success of her debut album Nicolette, twenty-seven year old Nicolette Larson’s career was at the crossroads.
This might never have happened if whoever was advising Nicolette Larson hadn’t encouraged her to change direction musically. While it’s a slick and electric album, the excursions into dance music on In The Nick Of Time alienated part of her core audience. When this happened, it was difficult for Nicolette Larson to win her former fans back
When Nicolette Larson returned in 1980 with Radioland, some of the music was much more like that on Nicolette. However, there was still the occasional dance track on the third and final Nicolette Larson album that was produced by Ted Templeman. Lightning struck twice when Radioland failed to chart. Maybe after the commercial failure of In The Nick Of Time, producer Ted Templeman should’ve been replaced, and new blood brought in?
Andrew Gold was brought onboard for All Dressed Up and No Place To Go and was responsible for a slick and carefully crafted album were Nicolette Larson showcases her talent and versatility. Sadly, despite All Dressed Up and No Place To Go being one of the finest albums of Nicolette Larson’s career, it never enjoyed the success it deserved.
Sadly, that was the story of Nicolette Larson’s career, and a singer who had potential and talent to become one of the greatest singers of the late-seventies and early eighties never fulfilled her potential. However, the four albums that Nicolette Larson released on Warner Bros features the best music of her career. This includes her fourth album All Dressed Up and No Place To Go, which was recently reissued and remastered by BGO Records, features some of the best music of her career. Sadly, Nicolette Larson’s career was cut tragically sort.
Fifteen years after the release of All Dressed Up and No Place To Go, Nicolette Larson passed away on December the ‘16th’ 1997, aged just forty-five. That day, music lost a truly talented singer who could’ve and should’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. However, Nicolette Larson left behind a rich musical legacy, including the four albums she released on Warner Bros, including All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.
Nicolette Larson-All Dressed Up and No Place To Go.
Spencer Wiggins-The Goldwax Years LP.
Label: Kent Soul
Although Spencer Wiggins is nowadays, widely recognised by critics as one of the finest exponents of deep soul, sadly, he’s still one of soul music’s best kept secrets. Spencer Wiggins at the peak of his powers, had the ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics of a song. Sadly, talent alone didn’t guarantee commercial success and critical acclaim for Spencer Wiggins, whose singles failed to find the audience they so richly deserved. Meanwhile, James Carr and Bobby Bland who grew up in the same part of Memphis, were enjoying successful careers while he struggled to make a breakthrough first at Goldwax and then Fame. However, it’s The Goldwax Years that are celebrated on a compilation that was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. It documents The Goldwax Years when Spencer Wiggins released the best music of his career. His story began in Memphis in 1942.
Spencer Wiggins was born on January the ‘8th’ 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, and for much of the forties and fifties, the Wiggins’ family lived in Homer Street. That was where Spencer Wiggins’ love of music blossomed, which his parents encouraged in the hope that it would save their son from getting into trouble.
Both parents wanted their young family including Spencer Wiggins to embrace different types of music, and in the evening they settled down and listened to jazz, gospel and R&B on the radio. However, it was gospel music that Mrs Wiggins was particularly interested in, as she regularly sung in the choir at the New Friendship Baptist Church. Soon, she was encouraging her family to attend services on a Sunday, and succeeded in doing so.
Before long, the choir at the New Friendship Baptist Church was a family affair, with Spencer and Percy Wiggins plus their sisters all joining their mother. By then, Spencer Wiggins had been introduced to Sam Cooke, who for a while was his favourite singer.
Soon, Spencer Wiggins who was still a high school student, decided to start singing outside of the confines of the New Friendship Baptist Church. Before long, he had discovered BB King Bobby Bland and Ray Charles who Spencer Wiggins quickly became his favourite singers. By then, he had introduced songs by BB King Bobby Bland and Ray Charles into his sets. This was fitting.
Bobby Bland was one of a number of singers who grew up in the same part of Memphis as Spencer Wiggins. Others included James Carr, Homer Banks, Maurice White and of course Spencer Wiggins’ brother Percy. All of these singers would go on to enjoy different degrees of success during their career.
Meanwhile, music was a constant throughout Spencer Wiggins’ schooldays. He sung at elementary school and then at Booker T. Washington High School which produced many famous musicians. During Spencer Wiggins’ time at Booker T. Washington High School, Booker T. Jones, Carl Hampton, David Porter, Gene Miller, Homer and James Banks, The Mad Lads, Maurice White and William Bell. Many of these singers, songwriters and musicians would become part of the Memphis music scene. That was all in future.
Before that, Nat D. Williams a history teacher Booker T. Washington High School started arranging talent nights for amateur musicians in Beale Street, which was situated in downtown Memphis. For aspiring musician including Spencer Wiggins, this was an opportunity to a make a breakthrough.
It was around this time that the Wiggins family formed a new five piece gospel group, the New Rival Gospel Singers. Initially, they played at the New Friendship Baptist Church before playing in churches across Memphis. Then in 1957, the New Rival Gospel Singers made their radio debut on Bless My Bones, but never got as far as recording a single or album.
During this period, Spencer Wiggins was a member of the Booker T. Washington High School’s sixty strong Glee Club, which featured his brother Percy, David Porter and Dan Greer. Three of this group Dan Greer, Percy and Spencer Wiggins were close friends from the early fifties right through to the early sixties. However, in 1961 nineteen years old Spencer Wiggins who had been held back a year, graduated high school. Now he had to decide what to do with his life.
Spencer Wiggins had no doubt about what he wanted to do with his life,…become a singer. Not just any singer, but one who enjoyed success coast to coast. Initially, Spencer Wiggins started singing on the local Memphis club scene, where he soon became a popular draw at venues like The Flamenco Club. He worked five nights a week, and earned $9 a night, which soon rose to $15. Before long, Spencer Wiggins was sharing the bill with Al Green, and other nights, opened for Elvis Presley. For Spencer Wiggins the whole experience was a roller coaster, but one he was thoroughly enjoying.
Some nights when he finished at 2am, Spencer Wiggins headed to another venue like the WC Handy Club where he and has friends would shoot the breeze. Then as a new day dawned, Spencer Wiggins and the band wold practised for anything up to three hours. Spencer Wiggins was determined to make a career out of music, and was already making an impact in Memphis’ vibrant soul scene.
One night when Spencer Wiggins appeared at The Flamenco Club, he met Quinton Claunch the founder and owner of Goldwax Records after he had finished his set. By then, Spencer Wiggins was a regular performer in Memphis’ clubs, and it was possible that someone had told Quinton Claunch about the young soul singer Spencer Wiggins who many thought had a bright future ahead of him. So must have Quinton Claunch who offered Spencer Wiggins his first recording contract.
Soon, Spencer Wiggins was in Sam Phillips Madison Avenue studio, where he recorded his debut single for the Bandstand imprint. This was the Isaac Hayes composition Lover’s Crime which featured a hurt-filled vocal. On the B-Side was What Do You Think About My Baby an Isaac Hayes and Gene Miller song. However, when Lover’s Crime was released in April 1964, it failed to trouble the charts.
In the spring of 1965, Spencer Wiggins returned to Sam Phillips’ studio on Madison where he recorded his sophomore single Take Me Just As I Am which was written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. It features one heartfelt and emotive vocal from Spencer Wiggins whose at his most soulful performance. Considering Spencer Wiggins was just twenty-three, he shows a remarkable maturity on Take Me Just As I Am. For the B-Side, Spencer Wiggins recorded the catchy and soulful The Kind Of Woman That’s Got No Heart, which was penned by his old friend Dan Greer. When Take Me Just As I Am was released as a single, lightning struck twice and the single failed to trouble the charts.
Despite his first two singles failing commercially, Spencer Wiggins continued to play the clubs around Memphis where he was still a popular draw. If anything, his popularity was rising, so Quinton Claunch sent him to Madison to record his third single.
The song that was chosen was Old Friend (You Asked Me If I Miss Her a collaboration between Jimmy Webb and George Jackson who wrote the B-Side Walking Out On You. When Old Friend (You Asked Me If I Miss Her was released on Goldwax Records, in December 1966, it featured Spencer Wiggins’ best performance on this soul-baring slice of spine tingling deep soul. Despite oozing quality, the single failed commercially and Spencer Wiggins was no nearer that elusive hit single.
Four months later, and Spencer Wiggins returned with his fourth single Up Tight Good Woman, which was written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. It’s a song that could’ve only been recorded in Memphis in the late-sixties, as Spencer Wiggins delivers an impassioned vocal while elements of Southern Soul and Deep Soul melt into one. Tucked away on the B-Side was Anything You Do Is Alright which was penned by Quinton Claunch and Randolph V. Russell. It sees the tempo rise as Spencer Wiggins delivers an emotive vocal where he uses a much wider vocal range. Sadly, when Up Tight Good Woman was released in April 1967, it too, failed commercially and Spencer Wiggins’ search for his first hit single continued.
Another five months passed before Spencer Wiggins returned with his fifth single which the soul-baring ballad The Power Of A Woman which was penned by Quinton Claunch. He also wrote Lonely Man with Randolph V. Russell which featured on the B-Side. It’s one of the hidden gems in Spencer Wiggins’ back-catalogue and finds him breathing life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. This time around, both sides were recorded in Memphis by a band that featured some top musicians, while Quinton Claunch and Randolph V. Russell took charge of production. They were partly responsible for one of Spencer Wiggins’ finest singles, which sadly, wasn’t the success that everyone hoped. Still, Spencer Wiggins was looking for his breakthrough single.
Five months later, and Spencer Wiggins released the Quinton Claunch composition That’s How Much I Love You on Goldwax Records in February 1968. I’m A Poor Man’s Son Spencer Wiggins’ impassioned vocal bristles with emotion as horns and harmonies accompany him on a song that could’ve transformed his fortunes. Hidden away on the B-Side was the uptempo I’m A Poor Man’s Son which Quinton Claunch had written with Claude Dante. Again, both sides were recorded in Memphis, and were produced by the Quinton Claunch and Randolph V. Russell production partnership. Sadly, and despite their best efforts That’s How Much I Love You passed record buyers by.
After the commercial failure of That’s How Much I Love You, Quinton Claunch seemed in no hurry to release the followup single. Nine months passed before Spencer Wiggins released Once In A While (Is Better Than Never At All) as his seventh single for Goldwax Records. However, the single doesn’t feature on the compilation, and instead, an extended version that was only released in 2006 features. Tucked away on the B-Side was the stomping He’s Too Old which was funky, soulful and featured a much more contemporary sound. It’s a hidden gem that show another side of Spencer Wiggins, whose seventh single That’s How Much I Love You failed to find an audience in November 1968. For Spencer Wiggins this was just the latest disappointment. Surely things couldn’t get any better?
As 1969 dawned Spencer Wiggins was preparing to release a cover pf Ronnie Shannon’s I Never Loved A Woman (The Way I Love You) as a single in February 1969. On the B-Side was Quinton Claunch and Carmol Taylor’s Soul City USA. Both sides were produced by Quinton Claunch and Randolph V. Russell who hoped that I Never Loved A Woman (The Way I Love You) would give Spencer Wiggins his belated breakthrough. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and it was the end of the line for Spencer Wiggins and rest of artists at Goldwax Records.
Later in 1969, the two owners of Goldwax, Quinton Claunch and Randolph V. “Doc” Russell decided to dissolve the label. They had been unable to agree on the future direction of Goldwax Records, which drove a wedge between the pair. However, James Carr’s increasingly erratic behaviour caused by a worsening in his mental health problems was the final straw. The two friends decided to dissolve Goldwax and Spencer Wiggins and rest of artists at Goldwax Records were left without a label.
Next stop for Spencer Wiggins was Fame, where he released Love Machine in November 1969 and Double Lovin’ in July 1970. When neither single was a commercial success, Spencer Wiggins was left without a label. Adding to Spencer Wiggins’ problems was that he never employed a manager. This was a decision that would cost Spencer Wiggins dearly.
Nearly three years later, in February 1973, Spencer Wiggins released I Can’t Be Satisfied (With A Piece Of Your Love) as a single on MGM Sounds Of Memphis. However, when the single failed to find an audience this was Spencer Wiggins’ eleventh single that that had failed commercially and caused Spencer Wiggins to rethink his future.
Spencer Wiggins wasn’t making a living singing soul, and when he left MGM Sounds Of Memphis he decided to reinvent himself as a bluesman in Florida. However, his career as a bluesman was short-lived and when his band failed to turn up for a show in Memphis in 1973, Spencer Wiggins called time on his career as a bluesman. For the next two years his life headed in a different direction.
For the next couple of years, spent most of his time working in a local church, and made his swan-song as a bluesman in 1975. A year later in 1976, and Spencer Wiggins ‘found’ god, and from 1977 onwards started singing gospel music.
The same year, 1977, the Japanese label Vivid Music released an album of songs Spencer Wiggins recorded for Goldwax, Soul City USA. This includes Sweet Sixteen, My Love Is Real, I’ll Be True To You and Who’s Been Warming My Oven which made their debut on Soul City USA. It was also Spencer Wiggins’ debut album, as he had previously, only ever released singles. It was almost ironic that Spencer Wiggins’ debut album, Soul City USA was only released after her turned his back on soul and blues, and began recording gospel music. It was the end of era.
Sadly, Spencer Wiggins never enjoyed the commercial success and critical acclaim that his talent warranted. Despite that, Spencer Wiggins is nowadays, widely recognised by critics as one of the finest exponents of deep soul, but sadly, is still one of soul music’s best kept secrets. Even many soul fans haven’t heard of Spencer Wiggins, but after hearing his music once, they’re fans for life.
The best place to start is The Goldwax Years which features Spencer Wiggins at the peak of his powers as he breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics of fourteen songs. These songs are a mixture of singles, B-Sides, album cuts, unreleased songs and hidden gems from the Spencer Wiggins during The Goldwax Years. It’s a reminder of one soul music’s best kept secrets, Spencer Wiggins, who during The Goldwax Years had the potential and talent to become a giant of soul.
Spencer Wiggins-The Goldwax Years.
J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984.
Although the internet has made the world a much smaller place, and allowed record buyers to discover the delights of music from all over the world, still there are many music fans who refuse to try new types of music. It doesn’t matter whether they’re interested in avant-garde, pop, psychedelia, rock or soul still they would rather stick to the music they know best. In doing so, they miss out on a huge amount of new, exciting and groundbreaking music. Especially when it comes to jazz.
Recently, an article in well known music magazine referred to the exciting and ambitious jazz music currently being recorded and released all over Scandinavia. That has been the case for over fifty years, and since the sixties and seventies, Scandinavia, and Norway in particular, has been a hotbed for jazz. It’s given the world groundbreaking artists like Terje Rypdal, Jan Garbarek, Karin Krog, Arild Andersen and Radka Toneff to name but a few. However, Norway isn’t alone when it comes to producing pioneering jazz musicians.
It’s a similar case in Japan, where the late-sixties through to the early eighties was a crucial period for the development of modern jazz. During that period, many Japanese composers and musicians and bands released ambitious and innovative music that astounded those who heard it. This included the Koichi Matsukaze Trio, Eiji Nakayama, Takao Uematsu, Mitsuaki Katayama, Takeo Moriyama and Kiyoshi Sugimoto who feature on J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984 which was recently released by BBE. Critics and record buyers on hearing this music were amazed how far Japanese jazz had come in such a short space of time.
It was only twenty or thirty years earlier that Japanese music fans were banned from listening to jazz during the World War II. However, after Japan’s defeat and unconditional surrender in August 1945, the wartime ban on jazz was lifted.
Jazz fans were now able to hear jazz on the radio, and watch the allied forces bands play jazz in concert halls across Japan. Some of the bands featured some of the top American jazz musicians who were serving their country. Sometimes, these musicians spent time collaborating with local jazz musicians who were keen to learn from some of the names they had only heard on the radio. However, in 1952 when the allied forces left Japan, and returned home musicians like Frank Foster, Harold Lamb and Oliver Nelson had formed firm friendships with local jazzers. By then, they had played an important part in the cultural rebirth of Japan.
Left to their own devises, a new era began for Japanese musicians who were determined to make up for lost time. Musically there had been no winners after six years after war. While jazz had been banned in Japan during the war, many British and American jazz musicians had been called up and were serving their country. Many jazz musicians had spent the war in army bands where they were usually out of harm’s way. Now they had returned home, and like their Japanese counterparts were making up for lost time.
By the mid-fifties there was a jazz in Japan, during what was later referred to as the “funky period.” However, much of the jazz music being made in Japan had been influenced by American jazz and particularly the West Coast cool jazz and East Coast hard bop. Many Japanese musicians were collecting albums on Blue Note and Prestige which heavily influenced them. It would only be later that some would find their own voice.
Meanwhile, many of the top American jazz musicians no longer serving in the US Army, and had returned home. Some joined new or existing bands while some musicians put together new bands. Initially, they returned to their local circuit where they tried to pickup where they had left off. This changed a few years later.
In the late-fifties and early sixties, many of these musicians who had played in Japan during World War II were keen to return to a country where so many loved and appreciated jazz music. They made the long journey to Japan where they were reunited with some old friends.
During this period, Miles Davis, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Horace Silver all made the long journey to Japan where they received a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Whether any of these legendary musicians were aware at the time, they were playing a part in the cultural rebirth of Japan. Soon, many Japanese jazz musicians weren’t just content to copy Miles Davis, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Horace Silver sonically, but were determined copy them stylistically. Before long, Japanese jazz musicians were soon sporting the same preppy Ivy League clothes as their American counterparts.
Despite many people enjoying the visits of American jazz musicians, the Japanese authorities heard that some musicians had been arrested on drugs offences. They tightened the law as they didn’t want musicians with drug convictions visiting the new Japan and corrupting their youth. However, with the laws tightened, much fewer American jazz musicians visited Japan. Those that visited, played in packed concert halls and continue to influence Japanese jazzers.
Not all Japanese jazz musicians were inspired by their American counterparts by the mid-sixties as homegrown musicians were making their presence felt. Especially pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and saxophonist and flautist Sadao Watanabe who were among the leading lights of the vibrant Japanese jazz scene.
Toshiko Akiyoshi had been invited to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1955. However, it took a year of wrangling, diplomacy and arm twisting before Toshiko Akiyoshi was able to enrol at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1956. By then, Toshiko Akiyoshi was already making a name for herself outside of her native Japan and would enjoy a long and successful career.
Five years later, Sadao Watanabe released his eponymous debut album on King Records. The following year, 1962, Sadao Watanabe followed in Toshiko Akiyoshi’s footsteps and enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He too was on the cusp of a successful career.
Back home in Japan, many other Japanese jazz musicians were content to draw inspiration from their American counterparts, but decided to forge a new style of modern jazz befitting the new modern Japan. Leading this movement in the late-sixties was Sadao Watanabe whose music was progressive, experimental, exciting and ambitious and reflected the musical influences ad genre he had absorbed. Soon, Sadao Watanabe was influencing some of the musicians who were at the forefront of a jazz revolution.
Some of Japan’s top up-and-coming jazz musicians joined Sadao Watanabe’s band, where they learned from one of the country’s top jazzers. For these musicians this was akin to a musical apprenticeship, before they headed off to play their part in the jazz revolution that took place between the late-sixties and early eighties. It’s documented on J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984.
Opening J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984 is Earth Mother by the Koichi Matsukaze Trio featuring pianist Toshiyuki Daitoku. It’s taken from the album Earth Mother which was released in February 1978 on ALM Records. This was the much-anticipated followup At The Room 427 which was released in 1976. However, Earth Mother was a much more ambitious and innovative album, where push musical boundaries are pushed to the limits, and sometimes, almost beyond on a truly inventive, exciting and peerless example of Japanese spiritual jazz.
One of the rarest albums in the history of Japanese jazz is Tachibana Volume 1 which was released by the Tohru Aizawa Quartet in 1975. It was a private press released which was funded by hotelier Jiro Tachibana, who spared no expenses. It was recorded at a hall owned by Jiro Tachibana, who had paid for the best equipment, top musicians and a top recording engineer to record the album. They recorded five tracks, including Dead Letter which is an intense and powerful example of cascading spiritual jazz. It’s the highlights of Tachibana Volume 1 which when it was released in 1975, Jiro Tachibana used the album his business card.
In 1978, bassist and bandleader Eiji Nakayama released his debut album Aya’s Samba on the Johnny’s Disk label. On the title-track Aya’s Samba which was recorded on February the ‘2nd’ 1978, Eiji Nakayama plays a languid, mellow standup bass and is joined by a glistening Fender Rhodes and percussion. Together they samba their way through an enchanting track that is guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest day.
When jazz saxophonist Takao Uematsu released his new album Straight Ahead, on Trio Records in 1977, it opened with one of his own compositions White Fire. It features a breathtaking masterclass in fusion from this multitalented sextet who play with speed, accuracy and fluidity. In doing so, they set the bar high for the rest of Straight Ahead.
Evolution which was released by Streetnoise Records in 1984 as an ambitious genre-melting album from the Shintaro Quintet. One of the highlights of Evolution which features the swinging and strident modal jazz of the eleven minute epic A Blind Man which waltzes along as this talented five piece showcase their skills. Sadly, Evolution failed to find the audience it deserved, and the Shintaro Quintet didn’t release a sophomore album.
It was in 1979 when Johnny’s Disk released Mitsuaki Katayama’s debut album First Flight. The talented trio had recorded five tracks including Unknown Point which was the standout track. Playing an important role in the sound and success of the track Mitsuaki Katayama’s rapid fire drums which relentlessly and urgently power the arrangement along. They’re augmented by Kishio Kitahara’s fuzzy bass and Kichiro Sugino’s swinging piano. The trio throw a curveball as the track heads in the direction of a samba, before they get back on message in time for the solos, during what’s another groundbreaking track.
In 1983, Japanese thirty-eight year old jazz drummer Takeo Moriyama released his new album East Plants on the VAP label. It featured Kaze where Takeo Moriyama leads an intelligent and inventive band as they lock into a groove, and breeze along, as they showcase their considerable skills and play with freedom, fluidity and invention drawing inspiration from jazz’s past and present to make the music of tomorrow. Thirty-five years later, and this timeless track that is one of the compilation’s highlights.
Fumio Karashima opened his debut 1976 debut album Piranha, which was released in Whynot with a cover of Little Island. This is the perfect vehicle for pianist Fumio Karashima to showcase his skills as he plays with a gracefulness and flair and flamboyance. Meanwhile, his band play around him, taking carer not to overpower the bandleader on what’s one of the highlights of Piranha.
Kiyoshi Sugimoto was one of the top Japanese jazz guitarists to emerge during the seventies. A reminder of this is Live At Mingos Musico, a private pressing released on Kiva in 1973. One of the highlights is Long Neal which was written by Takao Uematsu and thematically is similar to White Fire. It’s another spellbinding example of top class fusion where Kiyoshi Sugimoto unleashes a masterclass on guitar, What better way is there to close J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984?
Regardless of whether you’re a veteran of many a previous J Jazz compilation or album, or are newcomers to Japanese jazz, then J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984 which was recently released by BBE, is a compilation that anyone with even a passing interest in the genre should be looking to add to their collection. After all, this carefully curated compilation oozes quality and features some truly talented Japanese jazzers who were around between the late-sixties and early eighties. These artists include some of the giants of Japanese jazz and other artists who never enjoyed the commercial success their talent warranted. However, they all played their part in reinvention Japanese jazz.
J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984 features nine artists who released ambitious, exiting and innovative jazz music, which pushed musical boundaries to its limits, and sometimes, almost beyond. Sadly, that music never always found the audience it deserved, and it’s only relatively recently, in the internet age when a new audience discovered the delights of Japanese jazz from this golden age which is featured on J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984.
J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984.
Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979.
Label: Pharaway Sounds.
Ever since the birth of rock ’n’ roll in the fifties, American music has influenced musicians, producers and songwriters in different parts of the world. When they heard the latest new music coming out of America, they’ve often incorporated elements of it into the music that they were making in their own country. That has certainly been the case in Britain, and in many other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America over the past sixty years. This was what happened in Spain throughout the late-seventies and early eighties.
During the late-seventies and early eighties, rumba pop and flamenco funk scene was at the peak of its popularity. However, neither of these musical genres were immune to the influence of American music, and the influence of Philly Soul, the music released by Salsoul Records and disco could be heard in rumba funk and flamenco pop productions, including those that feature on Rumbita Buena: Rumba Funk and Flamenco Pop From The 1970s Belter and Discophon Archives which was released by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records. However, that compilation only documented part of story of how American music influenced music in Spain during the seventies and early eighties.
The next part of the story is told on Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979, which was also released by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records. It’s the companion disc to Rumbita Buena: Rumba Funk and Flamenco Pop From The 1970s Belter and Discophon Archives and completes the story of American music influenced Spanish music during this crucial period in Spanish music.
Throughout the second half of the seventies, a small group of innovative songwriters, producer and musicians set about reinventing Spanish music. They played their part in modernising two traditional forms of Spanish music rumba and flamenco. However, this disco rumba and a sub genre of flamenco that must have horrified the traditionalists that were holding the genre back. When they heard flamenco boogie they reached for the smelling salts and wept at what had happened to their music. Meanwhile, a new generation who either made or embraced the music were pleased that flamenco was being dragged kicking and screaming into the seventies.
The twelve tracks on Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979 are a reminder of these days, when Philly Soul, Salsoul Records and disco transformed traditional Spanish music.
Opening Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979 is the first of two tracks from Sangre Gitana (Gypsy Blood), who released their debut album La Fiesta on the Glamour Entertainment label in 1979. It features the disco boogie of Yo Me Siento Muy Feliz (I Feel So Happy) which opens Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie. It’s a joyous and soulful example of disco boogie which features a flamenco guitar solo by Paco Capedo. However, other parts of the arrangement have been influenced by Philly Soul and the music that was released by Salsoul Records during its classic era. That was before boogie, when synths replaced lush strings and sophisticated arrangements. Nearly forty years later, and Yo Me Siento Muy Feliz still has the potential to fill many a Spanish dancefloor.
Rumba Tres feature three times on Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie, and each of the tracks was released on Barcelona based Belter Records. Their first appearance is Y No Te Quedan Lágrimas (You Don’t Have Any Tears Left which was released as a single 1979. Although disco strings feature prominently, a synth sits in the low in the mix adding a boogie influence on this memorable and oft-sampled song. Ahora Qué was the B-Side to Rumba Tres’ 1978 single Acuerdate Que Te Quiero, which is a hidden gem where rumba meets disco. The third and final contribution from Rumba Tres, is their 1978 single Ya Estoy Parao a catchy fusion of funk, disco and rumba. It’s a reminder of Rumba Tres, who were popular group during the disco era, who had no qualms about reinventing rumba.
When Los Gachós released No Te Atormentes Morena as a single on Belter Records in 1978, Estrella was tucked away on the B-Side. It’s arranged by Rumba Tres who seem to have been inspired by arrangements used on classic Philly Soul and to some extent Salsoul Records’ productions. These influences play their part in the success of this classy dance track.
In 1979, Spanish singer La Marilee released Mala (Bad) as a single on Discophon. As lush disco strings cascade and dance, La Marilee adds an impassioned vocal while breathy harmonies are added to an arrangement that marries elements of flamenco boogie and Arabian influences. The result is an irresistible and genre-melting dancefloor filler.
When Tobago released Esa Mujer as a single on Belter Records in 1979, Oye Chiquilla was tucked away on the B-Side. It’s a fusion of funk, rumba, soul and elements of the classic Salsoul Records’ sound. Together they create a slick and polished track that was too good to be consigned to a B-Side.
After the death of the dictator Franco in November 1975, Spain emerged from what had been a dark period in the country’s history. The Spanish were determined that better times were ahead, and over the next few years there was a new social and sexual openness. To celebrate this new beginning, Barracuda recorded Puedes Buscarte Un Nuevo Amor for her Exitos Del Verano album which was released on Impacto in 1976. It’s sensual, funky and sometimes slightly dubby before the lushest disco strings sweep Barracuda away on this long-lost hidden gem.
When Juan Bautista released his eponymous debut album on Belter Records in 1976, one of the album’s highlights was the closing track En Cartagena. It’s soulful, funky, dancefloor friendly as rocky guitar licks are combined with a vocal that sometimes heads in the direction of AOR. Despite that, it’s a memorable and hook-laden song that is worthy addition to Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979.
Las Deblas featured Faly and Lola Chacón who released Puedes Buscarte Un Nuevo Amor as a single on Belter Records in 1976. Hidden away on the B-Side is Tani which features an arrangement sounds as if it was recorded by The Salsoul Orchestra at Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studio in Philly. Meanwhile, Las Deblas deliver the lyrics in English and add syncopated handclaps. The result is rumba disco with a Salsoul influence.
Spanish Flamenco singer Manuel Mancheño Peña dawned the moniker El Turronero when he embarked upon a recording career. In 1979, he released the alum New Hondo which featured Yo Soy Nube Pasajera (Bamberas). It’s a captivating mixture of funk, disco strings and a vocal powerhouse which i accompanied by tender cascading harmonies. The result is a potent and heady brew that is one of Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979’s highlights.
Sangre Gitana closes Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979. with Esta Noche Te Perdí which was released in 1979. It’s the second track from the exiled Spaniards who were living in Bochum, Germany when they seamlessly fuse flamenco guitar with disco strings and a Euro Disco inspired vocal. The result is a dance track where musical genres and cultures unite and play their part in a track that is a reminder of the end of disco era.
During the three-year period that Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979 covers, a number of Spanish musicians, producers, arrangers and songwriters drew inspiration from the music that filling dancefloors in America. This included boogie, disco, Philly Soul, funk and the slick and sophisticated singles and albums being released by Salsoul Records. There’s also occasional hints of Arabian, electronica and rock during Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979, where two traditional forms Spanish music are modernised and reinvented, rumba and flamenco.
This was long overdue, and if it didn’t happen, then rumba and flamenco risked becoming irrelevant. Despite this, the traditionalists had opposed any changes from sixties onwards. Like a musical equivalent of the flat earth society, the traditionalists were determined that rumba and flamenco weren’t going to change, despite the fact that they were holding the genre back. However, they couldn’t stop this group of pioneering musicians, producers, arrangers and songwriters who were determined to make rumba and flamenco relevant once more.
Both rumba and flamenco were given a makeover with boogie, disco, funk, Philly Soul and the Salsoul Records’ sound being added to the mix. When the traditionalists heard these new, innovative and hook-laden fusions they had to reach for the smelling salts, and wept at what had happened to their music.
Meanwhile, a new generation were overjoyed at the transformation which is documented on Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979 by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records. Suddenly, a new generation of record buyers and clubbers embraced the styles of rumba and flamenco. They were overjoyed that somewhat belatedly, rumba and flamenco s being dragged kicking and screaming into the seventies where clubbers danced until dawn to these carefully crafted dancefloor fillers on Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979.
Tani Disco Rumba and Flamenco Boogie 1976-1979.
Styx-Caught In The Act Live.
Label: BGO Records.
By April 1984, the members of Styx should’ve been preparing for the release of the twelfth album of the band’s career Caught In The Act Live, which was recently reissued as a two CD set by BGO Records. However, by then, Styx had split-up citing musical differences which had divided the band over the last couple of years. It was the end of an era.
Styx also missed on something that was seen as a rite of passage for rock groups during the seventies and eighties, to release a live album. This was one thing that Styx hadn’t done, and they had achieved pretty much everything else since they released their eponymous debut album on Wooden Nickel Records in September 1972. It was the start of a glittering career for the band that was formed in the Roseland neighbourhood of Chicago in 1960.
That was where twelve-year old twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo first began making music with their neighbour, Dennis DeYoung who was fourteen. Initially, John Panozzo played drums while Chuck started off as a guitarist and Dennis DeYoung played accordion, and later became the nascent group’s vocalist. However, two of the three musicians would change instruments within a few years. Before that, the three young musicians were practising whenever they had some free time.
This practise paid off, and by 1964 the group which was now called The Tradewinds, was now a quartet. Chuck Panozzo had just returned after spending a year in a seminary. During that period, he had been replaced on guitar by Tom Nardin. However, on his return, Chuck Panozzo decided to switch to bass. The other change was that Dennis DeYoung had switched from accordion to piano and organ. After the latest change in the group’s lineup, The Tradewinds continued to play on Chicago’s live scene for the rest of 1964.
During 1965, another band The Trade Winds was enjoying commercial success nationally, and the Chicago-based The Tradewinds decided to change their name. After some thought, The Tradewinds decided to change their name to TW4 (They Were Four).
In 1966, the Panozzo brothers decided to enrol on a teacher training course at Chicago State University which was where Dennis DeYoung was a student. Still TW4 continued to play at high schools and sometimes at functions and fraternity parties. This allowed TW4 to hone and tighten their sound over the next few years.
Nearly six years after Tom Nardin had joined TW4, he left the group in 1969, and was replaced by John Curulewski a college friend of the Panozzo brothers. However, this wasn’t the end of the changes in TW4’s lineup.
A year later, in 1970, guitarist James “JY” Young, who was studying at the Illinois Institute of Technology was joined TW4. With the man who would later be given the nickname The Godfather onboard, the lineup of the group that would become Styx was complete.
In early 1972, TW4 had been booked to play a concert at St. John of the Cross Parish, in Western Springs, Illinois, which was home to the band’s newest recruit James “JY” Young. When TW4 took to the stage, they were unaware that an A&R scout from Wooden Nickel Records was in the audience that night. He liked what he saw, and after the concert made his way backstage where he met TW4. Soon, the band was being offered their first recording contract. However, there was a problem the band’s name.
The five members of TW4 began thinking of alternatives names, and various names were considered, but quickly rejected. After some thought, the band chose Styx which in Greek mythology is the river that connects earth and the underworld. With their new name, Styx began work on their debut album.
In September 1972, Styx which was produced by John Ryan and Bill Traut was released on Wooden Nickel Records. The album which married progressive and hard rock received mixed reviews and stalled just outside of the US Billboard 200 at 207. However, when Best Thing was released as a single, it reached eighty-two in the US Billboard 100 and gave Styx a minor hit single. This was something for Styx to build on.
When Styx II was released in July 1973, the John Ryan produced album was well received by critics who were won over by a carefully crafted fusion of progressive rock and hard rock. This also found favour with record buyers, and Styx II reached number twenty in the US Billboard 200. Buoyed by the success of the single Lady, which reached number six in the US Billboard 100, Styx II sold over 500,000 copies and was certified gold. This was the start of a glittering career for Styx.
The Serpent Is Rising.
Just three months after the release of Styx II, The Serpent Is Rising was released in October 1973, and can be loosely described as a concept album, which were hugely popular in 1973. However, The Serpent Is Rising which was another album were Styx flitted between and fused progressive rock and hard rock wasn’t a commercial success and crept into the US Billboard 200 at a lowly 192. Even the members of Styx have never been happy with The Serpent Is Rising, and Dennis DeYoung went as far as to say that it was: “one of the worst recorded and produced in the history of music.” It was no surprise that the members of Styx were keen to atone for The Serpent Is Rising.
Man Of Miracles.
Just over a year later, and Styx returned in November 1974 with Man Of Miracles. It was another album of progressive rock and hard rock, which was well received critics. However, Man Of Miracles stalled at 154 in the US Billboard 200, which was a disappointment to Styx.
Despite the disappointing sales Man Of Miracles, A&M Records were keen to sign Styx, who were keen to join a major label. Styx accepted A&M Records’ offer and in 1975 they became a major label band.
Meanwhile, by Bill Traut Jim Golden and Jerry Weintraub who owned Wooden Nickel Records were far from happy that their biggest signed had been poached by a major label. They immediately sued Styx for breach of contract. Things were about to get messy, and costly.
No long after Styx left Wooden Nickel Records, the label ceased trading. This was a shock to its other signings, who had watched as Styx II had been certified gold. Now Wooden Nickel Records was no more, and by 1977 the label was disbanded. The label that had launched Styx was no more.
Meanwhile, the members of Styx were in Paragon Recording Studios, in Chicago, where they were recording their major label debut, Equinox. This was the first album that the five members of Styx had produced themselves. They stuck to their tried and tested formula of progressive rock and hard rock on Equinox. It was released on the ‘1st’ of December 1975 and would reached fifty-eight in the US Billboard 200. Equinox was certified gold in America and platinum in Canada. However, before that, Styx was thrown into turmoil.
Just after the release of Equinox, guitarist John Curulewski left the band unexpectedly. This couldn’t have come at a worst time as Styx was about to head out on tour. Fortunately, Styx secured the secured the services of guitarist Tommy Shaw. He made his Styx debut on the forthcoming tour.
With John Curulewski having left Styx, Lorelei which was released as a single in 1976, was the last single to feature the original lineup of the band. It reached twenty-seven in the US Billboard 200, and have Styx their second top thirty hit single. The success of Lorelei helped sales of Equinox and in 1977 it was certified gold. By then, Styx had released two new albums.
The first of these two albums was Crystal Ball which marked the debut of Tommy Shaw, was produced by Styx and released on the ‘1st’ of October 1976. Although Styx were rocking hard on Crystal Ball, and continued further down the road marked progressive rock, Shooz was a blues rocker and Clair De Lune/Ballerina was inspired by French classical composer Claude Debussy. However, the most popular track was Crystal Ball which would become a staple of Styx’s live sets. Despite an album full of energy, excitement and poppy hooks, Crystal Ball received mixed reviews and reached just sixty-eight in the US Billboard. However, this was enough for another gold disc for Styx. Meanwhile, Crystal Ball was certified gold in Canada and Styx’s glittering career continued.
The Grand Illusion.
Just like previous albums, Styx returned to the familiar surroundings of Paragon Recording Studios, in Chicago where they recorded their seventh album The Grand Illusion. By then, Tommy Shaw was settling into his role as Styx’s lead guitarist, and had had written Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) and Man In The Wilderness for The Grand Illusion. Tommy Shaw also penned Superstars and The Grand Finale with Dennis DeYoung and James “JY” Young. These songs would play their part in the success of The Grand Illusion.
When critics heard The Grand Illusion, they discovered a genre-melting album which featured art rock, hard rock and progressive rock. Just like many progressive rock bands, there was a depth and substance to the lyrics which was missing in much of the disco, pop and soul being released in 1977. The lyrics to the songs on Grand Illusion loosely inspired by Styx’x interpretation of medieval history, while other songs were full of social comment, and reflected what the members of Styx thought of life. Styx’s carefully crafted seventh album The Grand Illusion was released to critical acclaim.
As soon as The Grand Illusion was released on July the ‘7th 1977, the album started climbing the charts and eventually reached number six in the US Billboard 200. By then, it was well on its way to selling over three million copies and being certified triple platinum. This was helped by the success of the two singles.
Come Sail Away reached number eight on the US Billboard 100 and Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) reached twenty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Meanwhile, The Grand Illusion had been certified platinum in Canada. 1977 was the most successful year of Styx’s five year recording career.
Pieces Of Eight.
The members of Styx knew that trying to replicate the success of The Grand Illusion, which had sold over three million copies, wasn’t going to be easy. However, when the five members began work on their eighth studio album Pieces Of Eight, they were determined to give it their best shot as they returned to where they had recorded every album, Paragon Recording Studios, in Chicago.
Over the next weeks and months, Styx recorded Pieces of Eight what is regarded as their second concept album. The album’s theme Dennis DeYoung explained was about: “not giving up your dreams just for the pursuit of money and material possessions.” During Pieces of Eight, Styx flitted between and fused elements of art rock, classic rock, hard rock and for the last time, progressive rock. There were also two instrumentals The Message and the album closer Aku-Aku which was one of four songs penned by Tommy Shaw. He was already playing an important part in the rise and rise of Styx.
Just like The Grand Illusion, Pieces Of Eight was well received upon its release on the ‘1st’ of September 1978 and just like its predecessor reached number six in the US Billboard 200. Pieces Of Eight featured three singles, with Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) reaching twenty-one on the US Billboard 100, Sing For The Day forty-one and Renegade sixteen. Meanwhile, Pieces Of Eight followed in the footsteps of The Grand Illusion and sold over three million copies. Across the border in Canada, Styx received their third platinum disc. By then, Styx had sold over nearly eight million albums in North America just six years.
Despite being one of the most popular American bands of the seventies, Styx decided to change things around when the time came to record their ninth album Cornerstone. This time, they eschewed the familiar surroundings of Paragon Recording Studios, in Chicago, and headed to the new Pumpkin Studios in Oak Lawn, Illinois where Styx rang the changes.
In Pumpkin Studios Styx changed direction, and moved away from the progressive rock and art rock of previous albums towards a pop rock sound. This came after Dennis DeYoung read some reviews during a British tour that were far from complimentary. On his return home, he convinced the rest of Styx to change direction and record an album of pop rock, which should also appeal to a wider audience. Proof of this was Babe, which was one of two ballads Styx recorded for Cornerstone. Little did the band know they had recorded a song that would synonymous with Styx.
With Cornerstone completed, A&M Records scheduled the release of the album for October the ’19th’ 1979. Before that critics had their say on Cornerstone. Most of the critics, apart from Rolling Stone, who seemed to have a vendetta against Styx, were won over an album that showcased a pop rock sound. That was apart from the folk-tinged Boat On The River which was later covered by a number of artists. However, Boat On The River played its part in the success of Cornerstone.
Upon its release Cornerstone started climbing the US Billboard 200 and eventually reached number two and sold over two million copies. Cornerstone was Styx’s first album to be certified double platinum, although A&M Records contend that the album has now sold in excess of three million copies. That was no surprise as Cornerstone featured Styx’s first number one single Babe. Borrowed time reached sixty-three on the US Billboard 100 and Why Me twenty-six. The final single Boat On The River topped the charts in Germany and Switzerland. Styx’s ninth album had been a responding success, and was also certified platinum in Canada and gold in Germany, as their glittering career continued apace.
Fifteen months later, Styx returned on the ‘19th’ of January 1981 with their tenth album Paradise Theatre. It had been recorded at Pumpkin Studios in Oak Lawn, Illinois and was the third concept album of Styx’s career. This time, the theme was a fictional account of the Paradise Theatre, in Chicago. Styx charted it’s opening right up to the day it closed its door and the eventual abandonment of this once proud theatre. Paradise Theatre was an album that struck a nerve with record buyers.
When Paradise Theatre was released, it was mostly to critical acclaim. However, the increasingly cynical Rolling Stone magazine was still unwilling to give credit where credit was due. This was the latest example of churlish behaviour from the magazine, as Styx released a career defining opus.
Upon its release Paradise Theatre topped the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold. Across the border, Paradise Theatre was certified platinum and silver in Britain. Styx also featured four hit singles including Nothing Ever Goes As Planned which reached fifty-four in the US Billboard 100. After that, Rockin’ The Paradise reached number eight, while Too Much Time On My Hands reached nine and The Best Of Times reached number three. By then, it was official that Paradise Theatre was the most successful album of Styx’s career.
Kilroy Was Here.
After the success of Paradise Theatre, just over two years passed before Kilroy Was Here was released on February the ’28th’ 1983. It was the third Styx album that was recorded at Pumpkin Studios in Oak Lawn, Illinois, and which was a somewhat controversial album title.
Although the album title had been inspired by a famous piece of World War II graffiti, partly the album mocked Christian fundamentalist groups and their fellow anti-rock activists. They had gotten so disproportionately powerful in parts of America, that the Arkansas Senate were forced to pass a bill requiring that if a record contained backward masking it had to be labeled as such by the manufacturer. This included albums by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Queen, the Electric Light Orchestra and even Styx, who found humour in something that had been the subject of debate since the late-sixties.
Backmasking was popularised by The Beatles, and since then, many groups and artists had used the technique to add comedic, satiric and secret messages. However, the Christian fundamentalist groups and their fellow travellers believed backmasking was used to hide satanic messages. This resulted in the members of this intellectually challenged movement burning records while forcing state and federal governments to pass legislation. Styx had watched this unfold and were determined to have their say.
To do this, they wrote what was essentially a rock opera where music is outlawed by a fascist and theocratic government and the Majority For Musical Morality (MMM). The protagonist of the story was a former rock star Robert Orin Charles Kilroy, who was played by Dennis DeYoung. He was imprisoned by the leader of the MMM played by James “JY” Young. When Robert Orin Charles Kilroy escapes from prison, he discovers a young musician Jonathan Chance, who is played by Tommy Shaw is on a mission to bring music back. This was the story that Kilroy Was Here told and when Styx toured the album.
Before that, the genre-melting Kilroy Was Here was released to mixed reviews. Many critics were unsure what to make of where elements of new wave pop rock, progressive rock and rock were combined during a rock opera with a controversial backstory. Neither did record buyers.
Although Kilroy Was Here reached number three in the US Billboard 200, it sold just over a million copies and was certified platinum. However, some within the music industry believed Kilroy Was Here sold just over 2.5 million copies. However, there is no proof of this, and the official album sales were a disappointment for the five members of Styx.
Despite the disappointing album sales, three singles had been released from Kilroy Was Here. Don’t Let It End reached number six in the US Billboard 100, High Time forty-eight and Mr. Roboto number three. Meanwhile, Kilroy Was Here was certified platinum in Canada. After eleven albums, Styx had sold over 13.5 million albums in America and over 600,000 in Canada. Eleven years after releasing Styx, the Chicago based band were one of the biggest selling bands in America.
Caught In The Act Live.
Despite their success over the last eleven years, Styx still hadn’t gotten round to releasing a live album. By the time Kilroy Was Here was released on February the ’28th’ 1983, tension in the group building over the future direction of Styx. Dennis DeYoung was in favour of introducing ballads, which James “JY” Young were dead against. Styx was a very much group divided, and that was why it was decided that they should record Caught In The Act Live.
Things had gotten so bad that the members of Styx were even considering calling it a day. The only problem was that Styx still owed A&M Records one more album. There was no way that A&M were going to free Styx from their remaining contractual obligations. However, if Styx recorded a live album, this meant that they would’ve fulfilled their contractual obligations. That was why when Styx embarked upon another gruelling tour, for two nights the tapes would be running to record Caught In The Act Live.
As Styx embarked upon another lengthy tour where the group went to coast to coast, the band, their management and A&R Records knew that there were plenty of potential venues to record a live album and concert film. Eventually, after much consideration Styx and their management decided to record the live album Caught In The Act on the ‘9th’ and ‘10th’ of April at the small, but atmospheric Saenger Theatre, in New Orleans. The venue held just 2,736 people who would be able to tell their friends and family that they were there when Styx recorded Caught In The Act Live.
When Styx’s tour bus rolled into the Big Easy, little did any of the audience realise that was due to attend the show realise that this was the end of an era. Never agin would this lineup Styx take to the stage. This was how deep the divisions in the group were.
Certainly, as the fans started arriving at the Saenger Theatre on ‘9th’ of April 1983, nobody was aware that they were about to be present when what many regard as the classic lineup of Styx made their last recording. That night, and on the ‘10th’ of April 1983, Styx’s rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist John Panozzo, bassist and vocalist Chuck Panozzo who also ‘plays’ the bass pedals. The twins were joined by Tommy Shaw who played acoustic, electric and lead guitar while adding vocals and deploying a vocoder. James “JY” Young also played electric and lead guitar, added vocals and sometimes switched to synths. Meanwhile keyboardist Dennis DeYoung added vocals on what he realised was Styx’s swan-song.
The song that opens Caught In The Act Live album was the only song not recorded in New Orleans. Instead, it was recorded in the studio and features an emotional and almost dramatic vocal. It then gives way to the rest of Caught In The Act Live which was recorded at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans.
When Styx took to the stage the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, they opened they launched into Mr. Roboto from their previous album Kilroy Was Here. It’s followed by Too Much Time on My Hands where Tommy Shaw takes charge of the lead vocal. It’s followed by Babe where Dennis DeYoung takes charge of the vocals on this beautiful ballad, which was the direction he wanted to take Styx in.
Snowblind is a powerful song about cocaine addition, where Styx replicate the highs and lows, veering between dark and moody to a much faster, harder edged sound. This roller coaster ride is followed by State Street Sadie from Paradise Theatre and Suite Madame Blue from Equinox as Styx dip into some of their greatest and most successful albums. They seem determined to give the fans what they want to hear.
Given that Paradise Theatre was Styx’s most successful album, it was no surprise that they played several songs from that album, including Rockin’ The Paradise. Dennis DeYoung takes charge of the lead vocal while Tommy Shaw unleashes the first guitar solo and James “JY” Young. The two guitarists put their differences aside for the good of the band, who have given one of their best performances.
After that, Styx play Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) one of the singles from the album Pieces Of Eight. This time, Tommy Shaw takes charge of the lead vocal and guitar, while James “JY” Young adds fills before stepping out of the shadows to deliver the final guitar solo. James “JY” Young then takes charge of lead vocal and guitar on his composition Miss America. The Godfather is in fine form and this continues as he delivers the lead vocal Don’t Let It End, while Tommy Shaw unleashes some searing guitar licks. He then switches between lead guitar and mandolin while Dennis DeYoung sings the lead vocal and plays accordion On Boat On The River.
Styx return to their 1977 album The Grand Illusion for Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) as Tommy Shaw sings the lead vocal and this time, the versatile Dennis DeYoung switches to synths. It’s a similar case on Crystal Ball while Tommy Shaw takes charge of the lead guitar and vocal on one of the first songs that he wrote as a member of Styx. Closing Caught In The Act Live was the prophetically titled Come Sail Away, where Dennis DeYoung who had been a member of the original band since he was fourteen, sings the lead vocal. After a standing ovation, Styx left the stage of Saenger Theatre.
A year later, when Caught In The Act Live was released by A&M Records the five members of Styx had already gone their separate ways. Without a band to promote Caught In The Act Live, it was no surprise when the album only reached thirty in the US Billboard 200. This time, there was no gold or platinum disc for Styx. When Music Time was released as a single, it reached forty in the US Billboard 100, and gave Styx their twentieth hit single since 1972. For Styx this was the end an era.
Although Caught In The Act Live was released after Styx split-up, by then, they were one of the most successful bands of the seventies and early eighties. One album had been certified gold in Germany and Canada plus three in America. There was also the small matter one platinum album in America, six in Canada, a double platinum album and three triple platinum albums. This was pretty good going for a band that was formed by twelve-year-old twins Chuck and John Panozzo and Dennis DeYoung who was fourteen. Twelve years later, they signed their first recording contract and over the next twelve years, went on to enjoy success beyond their wildest dreams. With the rest of Styx they became the living embodiment of the American Dream.
Sadly, after eleven years recording and touring, Styx became a band divided, and after the Kilroy Has Here tour was over the group split-up. Nothing it seems, in music lasts forever, and proof of that was Styx. Even after selling over fourteen million albums in North America alone, they were unable to set aside their musical different.
Just five years later, and Styx made a comeback, albeit the classic lineup of Chuck and John Panozzo, Dennis DeYoung, James “JY” Young and Tommy Shaw was a thing of the past. Styx’s 1990 comeback album was certified gold as was their 1997 followup album, Return To Paradise. It was Styx’s second live album and the first to feature drummer Todd Sucherman who had joined the group in 1995. A year later, founder member John Panozzo passed away in July 1996, and that day Styx lost the man who for so long had provided its heartbeat. It was the end of another era.
Since the release of Return To Paradise in 1997, Styx have continued to record and tour. They’ve released three studio albums and five live albums and they still remain a popular live draw. However, for many people Styx’s best years were between their 1972 eponymous debut album and 1984s Caught In The Act Live which was recently remastered and reissued as a two CD set by BGO Records.
Styx-Caught In The Act Live.
Charlie Rich-Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove and RCA Recordings.
Label: Ace Records.
By 1963, thirty-one year old singer, songwriter and pianist Charlie Rich found himself looking back at his career as he was about to sign for Groove, a subsidiary of RCA. Charlie Rich’s career began five years earlier when the former college football star from Colt, Arkansas, signed to Sun Records, where he was a contemporary of Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. However, Charlie Rich’s career at Sun was nearly over before it began after Sam Phillips heard a demonstration record he had recorded. Upon hearing the songs, Sam Phillips told Charlie Rich who was already a versatile musician, that his songs weren’t commercial enough and “too jazzy all thirteenths.” Sam Phillips handed Charlie Rich a pile of Jerry Lee Lewis singles and told him: “come back when you get that bad.”
When Charlie Rich returned to Sun Records and signed his first ever recording contract, it looked ominous when his first two singles flopped. However, Charlie Rich’s luck changed when he released his third single Lonely Weekend in January 1960. Although it reached just twenty-two in the US Billboard 100, Lonely Weekend sold over a million copies. Charlie Rich had struck gold after just three singles. It was the proudest moment of his career when he was presented with the first gold disc of his career. In the space of just two years, Charlie Rich had gone from being dismissed as “too jazzy” to being Phillips International’s latest million selling singer.
Buoyed by the success of Lonely Weekends Charlie Rich released his fourth single School Days four months later in May 1960, which failed commercially. It was thought that this was just a blip, and that Charlie Rich’s next single would chart. However, lightning struck twice when On My Knees was released in September 1960 and failed to find an audience. After this, Charlie Rich released another five singles between December 1960 and 1962 which all failed to chart. This resulted in Charlie Rich, who was out of luck, leaving Sun in 1963 for pastures new.
In 1963, thirty-one Charlie Rich signed to Groove, a subsidiary of RCA where producer Chet Atkins was the A&R man. He had been an admirer of Charlie Rich’s music, and the Silver Fox hoped that he would help him get his career back on track. They would spend the next two years recording and releasing seven singles and two albums 1964s Charlie Rich and 1965s That’s Rich for Groove and RCA Victor. This chapter in Charlie Rich’s career is celebrated on Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove and RCA Recordings which was recently released by Ace Records.
For Charlie Rich, signing to Groove was a fresh start, where he hoped that he could get his career back on track. By then, many within the music industry were well aware that Charlie Rich was a talented and versatile musician, but were unsure about how to market him. Was Charlie Rich a country, R&B or jazz singer? That was what Chet Atkins had to work out.
Having secured the signature of Charlie Rich, Chet Atkins was keen to get his latest signing into the studio as soon as possible. By then, Chet Atkins had been thinking about how he could transform Charlie Rich’s career? Part of the problem was Charlie Rich’s versatility. If Chet Atkins had asked him to record a country, R&B or jazz single for his debut for Groove Charlie Rich would have been able to do so. While this was a gift, it was something that would hold Charlie Rich back as producers wondered what kind of singer the Silver Fox was?
While Chet Atkins was wondering what direction Charlie Rich’s should take, he was ready to take his latest signing into the studio to record his debut single for Groove. The song that had been chosen was Benny Joy’s She Loved Everybody But Me. On The B-Side was The Grass Is Always Green which Charlie Rich had written with his wife Margaret Rich. By then, the couple had forged a successful songwriting partnership which would furnish Charlie Rich with a steady string of songs throughout his career.
Having recorded She Loved Everybody But Me, Charlie Rich’s debut single for Groove was released in August 1963. Groove had high hopes for the single, which was a spirited but rueful reading of She Loved Everybody But Me. However, when the single was released it failed to trouble the charts. For Charlie Rich history repeated itself again.
For the followup to She Loved Everybody But Me, a cover of Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man was chosen, with the Charlie Rich composition Let Me Go My Merry Way on the B-Side. It’s a jazz-tinged track with a R&B stylings, and sometimes, is reminiscent of Ray Charles. However, this hidden gem was just was playing a supporting on Charlie Rich’s second single for Groove.
While many artists have covered Big Boss Man, Charlie Rich’s cover was a cut above the majority of them, especially as he delivers the pay-off line “you ain’t so big, you’re just tall.” Despite what’s still one of the best renditions of this oft-covered Big Boss Man, the single reached 107, and just failed to enter the US Billboard 100. While this was disappointing, the sales had been encouraging, and Groove decided to send Charlie Rich into the studio to record an album.
By the time Charlie Rich began to record his debut album for Groove, producer Chet Atkins was gently steering his latest signing in the direction of country music. However, Charlie Rich would still record the occasional R&B and jazz numbers over the new two years.
For his sophomore album Charlie Rich, the Silver Fox entered the studio with Chet Atkins where he recorded eight new songs. They were a mixture of cover versions, Charlie Rich compositions and songs that he had written with various songwriting partners, including Margaret Rich. During the recording session, Charlie Rich recorded River, Stay ‘Way from My Door, Big Jack, My Mountain Dew, Ol’ Man River, The Ways Of A Woman In Love, Why, Oh Why, Rosanna and Are You Still My Baby? They were joined by Charlie Rich’s first two singles for Groove and their B-Sides, including She Loved Everybody But Me and The Grass Is Always Greener plus Big Boss Man Let Me Go My Merry Way. These twelve songs became Charlie Rich, which was released later in 1964.
Before that, Charlie Rich released his third single for Groove, Lady Love, which was one of his own compositions. It has a much more dramatic, poppy sound than previous singles. Tucked away on the B-Side was another Charlie Rich song, the beautiful hurt filled ballad Why, Oh Why. It’s another hidden gem, and was too good to be consigned to a B-Side. Sadly, very few people heard either song, when Lady Love failed commercially. Charlie Rich knew the significance of this, as this was his tenth single that had failed to chart since his million seller Lonely Weekends. He was beginning to wonder where his next hit was coming from?
Chet Atkins was wondering this too, and after some thought, decided that now was the time to move Charlie Rich further in the direction of country music. Maybe this would result in a change in fortune for the singer who just four years earlier, was enjoying a million selling single.
In April 1964,the Charlie Rich composition My Mountain Dew was released as a single on Groove. Little did anyone know that this was a landmark single, as Charlie Rich moved further in the direction of country music. Tucked away on the B-Side was The Ways Of A Woman In Love which Charlie Rich and Bill Justis had written. Many DJs and record industry insiders thought that Groove had released the wrong side of the single. The jaunty piano lead The Ways Of A Woman In Love was a much stronger song and found Charlie Rich combining country with elements of R&B on a song where the Sliver Fox almost lived the lyrics. Sadly, it was a case of what might have been as My Mountain Dew failed to find an audience and never came close to troubling the US Billboard 100.
When Charlie Rich returned with his fifth single for Groove, the song that was chosen was a cover of Ray Carter and Paul Tripp’s Nice And Easy. It’s reinvented by Charlie Rich as strings and harmonies accompany him on he delivers a heartfelt version of this oft-covered song. Hidden away on the B-Side was the Margaret Rich composition Turn Around And Face Me. It was tailor-made for Charlie Rich as he delivers an emotive vocal as strings harmonies accompany him. Sadly, very few people heard Nice And Easy never mind Turn Around And Face Me as the single failed to chart.
While Charlie Rich’s singles were failing to chart, they still sold reasonably well. This was enough for Groove to keep faith in Charlie Rich, and later in 1964 the Silver Fox moved onto the main RCA Victor label.
Charlie Rich’s first single for RCA Victor was a cover of Freddie Hart’s Too Many Teardrops, featured the Charlie Rich composition It’s All Over Now on the B-Side. Both songs were given a countrypolitan makeover. The new countrypolitan sound was proving popular amongst record buyers who were won over by arrangements that featured lush strings and harmonies. When Charlie Rich released Too Many Teardrop as his first single for RCA Victor in November 1964, he was hoping that his decision reposition himself as a countrypolitan singer would pay off. Sadly, Too Many Teardrops which was one of the best singles Charlie Rich released on Groove or RCA Victor failed to find the audience it deserved.
Despite this, RCA Victor decided to keep faith with Charlie Rich and he was sent into the studio to record his third album That’s Rich. He recorded I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore, Now Everybody Knows, Tomorrow Night, Like Someone in Love, No Room to Dance, The Big Build Up, Is Goodbye That Easy to Say, If I Knew Then What I Know Now and It Just Goes to Show (You Never Know About Love). These songs were joined by the single Too Many Teardrops and B-Sides Turn Around And Face Me and It’s All Over Now. These songs became That’s Rich which showcased Charlie Rich’s talent and versatility as he moved towards the new countrypolitan sound.
The new countrypolitan sound featured on Charlie Rich’s next single for RCA Victor, the prophetically titled There Won’t Be Anymore. It was penned by Charlie Rich and produced by Chet Atkins. On the B-Side was Gentleman Jim, which was the poignant homage to Gentleman Jim Reeves who had died in a plane crash on the ‘31st’ of July 1964. When There Won’t Be Anymore was released in March 1965, RCA Victor had high hopes for the singles which critics were calling one of Charlie Rich’s finest singles of recent years. Despite that, the single failed to chart, which was yet another blow to Charlie Rich.
Just over years had passed since Charlie Rich released his million selling single Lonely Weekends. Since then, he had released seven singles for Phillips International, five for Groove and two for RCA Victor. However, none of these fourteen singles had charted. Something had to give, and not long after the release of There Won’t Be Anymore Charlie Rich left RCA Victor and signed to Smash.
Ironically, when Charlie Rich released Mohair Sam as his debut single for Smash in July 1965 it reached twenty-one in the US Billboard 100. This was the highest chart placing of his career.
The following year, 1966, RCA Victor released Big Boss Man! a compilation of Charlie Rich’s songs, which featured an unreleased cover version of The Twelfth of Never. It was the only new song on Big Boss Man! which meant it was must have for Charlie Rich’s growing fan base.
Over the next four years, Charlie Rich’s popularity grew, and by 1970 Charlie Rich had five US Country hits and had just enjoyed a minor hit with July 12, 1939. RCA were keen to cash-in on Charlie Rich’s popularity and released She Loved Everybody But Me on RCA Camden. The new compilation feature two unreleased covers of I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter and a jazzy take on I’ve Got You Under My Skin. Despite the increase in Charlie Rich’s popularity, She Loved Everybody But Me wasn’t the commercial success that RCA had hoped.
In January 1973, Charlie Rich released a cover of Kenny O’Dell’s Behind Closed Doors as a single. The forty-year old watched as the single reached fifteen on the US Billboard 100 and topped the US Country charts. Charlie Rich won Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1974. By then, Charlie Rich was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest selling country singers of the seventies.
Eight months after the release of Behind Closed Doors, the Charlie Rich success story continued in September 1973, when he released his new single. This was The Most Beautiful Girl, which he had written with Billy Sherrill. The pair watched as the song topped the US Billboard and US Country charts. Eighteen years after he first met Sam Phillips, Charlie Rich was fulfilling the potential he had shown first at Sun and then at Groove and RCA Victor.
Executives at RCA Victor watched as the Charlie Rich success story continued apace, and in 1974 decided to release another compilation featuring music the Silver Fox recorded whilst at Groove and RCA Victor. Fortunately, there were still a number of unreleased songs in the vaults including I’m Right Behind You, Share Your Love With Me, Ten Dollars and a Clean White Shirt, Tragedy, I Don’t See Me in Your Eyes Anymore, I Need a Thing Called Love and She Called Me Baby. These songs featured one the compilation She Called Me Baby which was released in 1974. It reached eighty-four in the US Billboard 200 and ten in the US Country charts. Meanwhile, She Called Me Baby reached seventy in the Canadian charts, which added to what was already a profitable venture.
Two years later, in 1976, and RCA Victor released another compilation of Charlie Rich’s music The World Of Charlie Rich/Now Everybody Knows, which featured the words: “collectors! This album contains the original recordings. It also featured a previously unreleased track (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers. For some of Charlie Rich’s fans this was enough to add the album to their collection. This had been the intention of executives at RCA Victor who were enjoying a windfall nine years after Charlie Rich left the label.
After the release of The World Of Charlie Rich/Now Everybody Knows in 1976 many of the Silver Fox’s fans thought that RCA Victor cupboard was bare and there were no more unreleased tracks in the vaults. Forty-one years later, when Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove and RCA Recordings was being compiled One More Mountain (One More River) was discovered in the vaults. It’s lain unreleased for over fifty years, and makes a welcome debut on Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove and RCA Recordings which was recently released by Ace Records. This is the only compilation featuring the period Charlie Rich spent at Groove and RCA Victor between 1963 and 1965.
While there’s no hits on Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove and RCA Recordings, this two disc forty track compilation which features cover versions and songs penned by Charlie Rich feature the Silver Fox’s music as it evolves and latterly, moves towards the countrypolitan sound. Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove and RCA Recordings is also a reminder that Charlie Rich was a successful songwriter, and a versatile vocalist who could seamlessly switch between country, folk, pop and R&B, and sometimes combines elements of several genres during the same song. However, Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove and RCA Recordings is also carefully curated and poignant reminder of one of the true superstars of country music Charlie Rich, during what was an important and formative period of what would be a long and illustrious career.
Charlie Rich-Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove and RCA Recordings.
Rumbita Buena: Rumba Funk and Flamenco Pop From The 1970s Belter and Discophon Archives.
Label: Pharaway Sounds.
As the sixties gave way to the seventies, many within the Spanish music industry realised that the next few years were hugely important for the future of Spanish music. What these songwriters, producer and musicians realised that music in Spain had to continue to evolve and reinvent itself. Standing still wasn’t an option.
Having realised this was half the battle. Now this group of singers, songwriters, producer and musicians set about reinventing Spanish music during the seventies and early eighties. During this period, they played their part in two of the most successful musical genres which epitomised everything that was good about modern Spanish music, rumba funk and flamenco pop.
The two genres combined elements of traditional Spanish music with the best that American music in the seventies had to offer. In the seventies, this included the slick, sophistical and soulful sound of Philly Soul, which came to prominence in the early seventies and provided the soundtrack for the rest of the decade. Philly Soul’s influence could also be heard in the music being released by Salsoul Records from 1975 onwards. This was no surprise as The Salsoul Orchestra featured many of the original members of MFSB, which was Philadelphia International Records studio band, who played on many of the label’s most successful recordings. That was in the past, and now they were playing their part in the rise and rise of disco, which was also influencing rumba funk and flamenco pop producers.
Especially at labels like Belter Records and Discophon, who released some of the best Catalan rumba funk and flamenco pop during the seventies. Many of the rumba funk and flamenco pop productions released during the seventies were often heavily influenced by the sound of Philly Soul, Salsoul Records and disco. This includes many of the fourteen tracks on Rumbita Buena which was recently released by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records.
It would’ve been easy to compile a compilation which featured some of the most successful rumba funk and flamenco pop productions released during the seventies. The only problem is that many people would be familiar with these songs. A much better idea was to dig deep into the Belter and Discophon archives and find fourteen oft-overlooked dancefloor fillers that featured on singles and albums during the seventies. Many people won’t be aware of the oft-overlooked hidden gems on Rumbita Buena which is described as the real gypsy funk sound.
For newcomers to the gypsy funk sound this means a funky rhythm section, wah wah guitars, washes of swirling Hammond organ, an array of exotic percussion, stabs of brassy and soulful horns, and even occasional oriental and Latin influences. However, the stars of the show are the vocalists which range from gypsy princesses’ and teenage rumba stars to yé-yé singers and some of the many rumba pop bands who made a bid for fame and fortune during the seventies. They all feature on Rumbita Buena, which features carefully crafted rumba funk and flamenco pop.
Opening Rumbita Buena is Rumbita Tru, La, La which was the B-Side to Rumba Tres’ 1973 single on Belter Records It’s hard to believe that this irresistible and dancefloor friendly example of cinematic rumba funk was hidden away on a B-Side. However, forty-five years later and this long-lost hidden gem opens Rumbita Buena and sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation .
Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” was at the peak of her powers during the first half of the seventies. She was a flamboyant performer who combined a unique and inimitable mixture of flamenco funk, gypsy funk and rumba pop with a wild, energetic and frenzied dancing style. That was why Dolores Vargas was known as “La Terremoto” (The Earthquake) by her legions of fans. This talented and charismatic vocalist released Anana Hip as a single on the Belter Records in 1971. Tucked away on the B-Side was A La Pelota which features a driving, dramatic arrangement that veers between cinematic and funky. Playing a leading role are the brassy horns and fuzzy, funky guitar which help drives the arrangement along as backing vocalist accompany Dolores Vargas “La Terremoto” as she unleashes a vocal powerhouse.
By the time actress and singer Rosa Morena released El Perepepepe as a single on Belter Records in 1970, she was an award-winning actress and a flamenco pop icon. Hidden away on the B-Side was the irresistible and hook-laden floor filler Quiero Café (I Want Coffee). It also featured on Rosa Morena’s debut album Échale Guindas Al Pavo when it was released in 1971.
Lola Flores’ recording career began in the mid-forties and by 1974, the fifty-one year old was a successful singer, actress and flamenco dancer. She had signed to the Belter Records in the early seventies, and in 1974 released La Bomba Gitana as single. It’s an explosive rumba track which features a vocal that is a mixture of energy, enthusiasm, power and passion, while a mesmeric bass, sci-fi sound effects and bursts of horns accompany Lola Flores’ vocal masterclass.
When Barcelona born Agustín Abellán Malla embarked upon a career as a rumba singer he adopted the moniker Chango. His career started when he signed to the Barcelona based M (6) label where he released two singles. After that, Chango signed to Discophon in 1974, which was his home for the next four years. Later in 1974, Chango released Soy Como Soy, which featured the joyous and soulful rumba El Guapo on the B-Side. A year later in 1975, Chango released La Hija De Lola which featured the catchy Latin rumba-tinged Kikilibú on the B-Side. It’s another hidden gem and a reminder of Chango a talented singer and songwriter who never enjoyed the success his talent deserved.
Spanish rumba singer and guitarist Juan Castellón Jiménez was born in Madrid in 1948, and when he embarked upon a musical career dawned the alias El Noi. By 1975, the twenty-seven had released a string of singles, but nothing like the Catalan rumba Zorongo Rock. From the get-go, it’s obvious that something special is unfolding as wah wah guitars, stabs of dark, brassy horns, vibes, handclaps and array of percussion are joined by flute and a tambourine. They provide the backdrop for El Noi, on this glorious fusion of rumba, Latin and progressive funk rock which is one of the highlights of Rumbita Buena.
Very little is known of the studio band Los Candelos who also contribute two tracks to Rumbita Buena. The first is Te Estoy Amando Locamente where Los Candelos combine progressive rock with a flamenco vocals. This unlikely combination worked and featured on Rumba Caliente, the album Los Candelos released on Belter Records in 1974. The same year, 1974, Los Candelos contributed an impassioned and soulful cover of Bailen Mi Rumbita which featured on the compilation Arena Caliente (Hot Sand) which was released by Belter Records.
Although Lola Flores y Antonio González receive equal billing on Muchacho Barrigón, which was released as a single on Belter Records in 1974, it’s actually Agustín Abellán Malla, a.k.a. Chango took charge of the lead vocal. Antonio González’s only contribution is adding backing vocals, while Lola Flores enters and showcases her skills during the second verse. From there, Lola Flores and Chango feed off each other, and drive each other to greater heights on a track that fuses rumba, seventies pop and a hint of funk.
Teresiya’s genre melting El Perro de San Roque which was penned by Lauren Postigo and released on Discophon in 1973, is very different to everything that has gone before on Rumbita Buena. It fuses gypsy yé-yé pop with funk which is combined with excerpts from The Ventures’ theme to Hawaii Five-0. Add to this, a myriad of yelps, washes of Hammond organ and the harmonies which accompany the yé-yé inspired vocal. While all this is an unlikely mixture it actually works, and is a reminder of how eclectic the music being made in Spain in the early seventies was.
Although Enrique Castellón Vargas was the elder brother of Dolores was, El Príncipe Gitano was known within Spanish musical circles as the gypsy prince. He was a successful actor and singer who released a number of albums, including El Príncipe Gitano on the Belter Records in 1975. It featured Jazz Gitano (Ay Amor) which despite its title has a much more gypsy than jazz-tinged sound. Despite that, it’s a memorable reminder of EL Príncipe Gitano.
Genre-melting describes Mora Cantaora, which is a song from La Marelu’s 1981 eponymous album. This was the eighth album that La Marelu had released for Discophon, which was home to her throughout a career that spanned nine years. However, one of the highlights of her 1981 album La Marelu was Mora Cantaora where she unleashes a powerful, emotive vocal on this rumba which features an exotic mixture of Arabian, Oriental and rock.
Closing Rumbita Buena is Triniá which featured on Dolores Abril’s La Parrala EP which was released on Belter in 1970. Dolores Abril delivers a powerful, emotive vocal against an arrangement that features a tantalising fusion of elements of flamenco, funky and pop. This ensures that the compilation ends on a high,
For newcomers to rumba funk and flamenco pop, then Rumbita Buena which was recently released by Pharaway Sounds, an imprint of Guerssen Records, is the perfect starting place. It features fourteen tracks from familiar faces and new names. This includes some of the giants of the giants rumba funk and flamenco pop. They’re joined by artists who aren’t as well know, and others whose music failed to find the audience it deserved. However, the tracks by these artists are a welcome addition to Rumbita Buena, which is a lovingly curated compilation with a twist.
Unlike similar compilations, where the compiler fills the compilation with well known songs, Rumbita Buena features ft-overlooked dancefloor fillers. To find these songs, the compiler dug deep into the Belter and Discophon archives where they struck musical gold. Joining singles that had failed to find an audience were B-Sides, album tracks and songs from a compilation and an EP. These oft-overlooked dancefloor fillers and hidden gems ooze quality, but sadly, have lain in the vaults of Belter and Discophon since the seventies. Recently, they were dusted down and feature on Rumbita Buena which is the perfect introduction to rumba funk and flamenco pop, which were part of soundtrack to everyday life in Spain during the seventies and early eighties.
Rumbita Buena: Rumba Funk and Flamenco Pop From The 1970s Belter and Discophon Archives.
Elephant9-Greatest Show On Earth.
Label: Rune Grammofon.
After releasing two critically acclaimed albums with legendary Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske, a new chapter began for Elephant9 in October 2017 as they began work on their fifth studio album Greatest Show On Earth at Studio Paradiso. This was the first album that the core trio of Elephant9 had recorded since Walk The Nile in May 2009.
Walk The Nile was a game-changer of an album, that the three members of Elephant9 would never forget as it had totally transformed their nascent career. It had been released to widespread critical acclaim in March 2010 and went on to win a Spellemannprisen Award. After that, Elephant9 released two albums with Reine Fiske, 2012s Atlantis and Silver Mountain which had been released in October 2015. Two years later, Elephant9 were about to release the followup Greatest Show On Earth which was recently released by Rune Grammofon. The prophetically titled and genre-melting Greatest Show On Earth is a welcome return from Elephant9, and the latest chapter in a story that began in 2006.
That was when keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, drummer Torstein Lofthus and bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen decided to embark upon a new project. This new project they called Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus. The trio consisted of experienced and talented musicians who had a reputation for producing ambitious and innovative music. That had been the case throughout their careers, when they had worked on a variety of projects.
The elder statesman of the trio was keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, who was thirty-seven in 2006. He had been a member of a number of bands including Audun Kleive Generator X, Veslefrekk, Pocket Corner, Humcrush, Pocket Corner and the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Each of these groups had released at least one album, and so had the other groups Ståle Storløkken was involved with, Bol, Cucumber and Supersilent. It seemed Ståle Storløkken had an insatiable thirst for making music. That was also the case with drummer Torstein Lofthus.
Just like Ståle Storløkken, drummer Torstein Lofthus was a veteran of several bands. He was twenty-nine in 2006, and had previously been a member of Damp and Shining. Both of these band had released two albums, and Torstein Lofthus was no stranger to the recording studio or live scene. It was a similar case with third member of the trio bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen.
He had just turned twenty-eight in 2006, and was the youngest member of the trio. Just like the other members of the trio he was already an experienced musician. Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was already a member of Big Bang and The National Bank, who were regarded as rising stars of the Norwegian music scene. Despite this, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen was keen to join the nascent trio, and like many Norwegian musicians was a member of several bands.
That was also the case with Ståle Storløkken and Torstein Lofthus, who had spent much of their careers working on different projects and collaborating with a variety of musicians. Some of these projects enjoyed a degree of longevity, others were short-lived. When Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus began working together they had no idea that eleven years later, they would still be together and enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim. Before that, the new group had to change its name.
For much of the first year, the nascent band spent time honing their sound. When they made their first tentative steps onto the live circuit critics upon hearing Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus described the music as a mixture of fusion, progressive rock and neo-psychedelia. Before long, Storløkken/Eilertsen/Lofthus’ music was already proving popular on the live scene. However, after a year together, the band decided to change their name, and Elephant9 were born in 2007.
Just a year after the birth of Elephant9, and already the nascent band were preparing to release their much-anticipated debut album Dodovoodoo. It was due for release on the Norwegian label Rune Grammofon in May 2008. However, before that, critics had their say on Elephant9’s debut album Dodovoodoo.
Critics were impressed by Dodovoodoo and lavished praise and plaudits on Elephant9’s groundbreaking, genre-melting debut album. Some critics went as far as to forecast a big future for Elephant9, and tipped them as a band to watch.
Buoyed by the critic’s response to Dodovoodoo, the three members of Elephant9 returned to the live circuit, where they over the next few weeks and months they began to play in front of bigger audiences. Elephant9 who had only been together for two years, had come a long way in a relatively short space of time. However, before long, Elephant9’s thoughts turned
Walk The Nile.
Just over a year after the release of Dodovoodoo in March 2008, Elephant9 returned to the studio to record their much-anticipated sophomore album, Walk The Nile. Elephant9 returned to Grand Sport Studio, where they had recorded their debut album Dodovoodoo. After settling into the familiar surrounding of Grand Sport Studio, Elephant9 set about replicating one of their much vaunted live performances. They came pretty closes as they unleashed a spellbinding, genre-melting performance. Elements of fusion, jazz and rock were combined by Elephant9 at Grand Sport Studio by Elephant9 who reached new heights, on what was the most important album of their career.
Before the release of Walk The Nile, Elephant9’s eagerly awaited sophomore album won over both jazz and rock critics who championed the album When Walk The Nile was released by Rune Grammofon, it was to widespread critical acclaim.
Record buyers were also won over by Walk The Nile, and Elephant9 were on their way to becoming one of Norway’s leading bands. However, Elephant9’s career got another boost later in 2008.
After the release of Walk The Nile, Motorpsycho asked Elephant9 to open for then in Norway and in London. This meant that Elephant9’s music was being heard by a much wider audience. For a group being hailed one of the rising stars of Norway’s vibrant and thriving music scene, 2010 was suddenly getting even better. However, just as it looked like things couldn’t get even better for Elephant9 they did.
Later in 2010, the shortlist for Spellemannprisen Awards were announced, and Elephant9 found their name on the shortlist in the jazz category. The Spellemannprisen Awards which are the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award were the most prestigious in Norwegian music, and even being nominated was an achievement in itself. However, Elephant9 went one better, and won a Spellemannprisen Award. 2010 had been the most successful year of Elephant9’s four year career, but they weren’t going to rest on their laurels.
Live At The BBC.
In 2011, Elephant9 released their first live album, Live At The BBC. It was recorded in London, and released by Rune Grammofon. Live at the BBC was a tantalising taste of Elephant9 live. Seamlessly, the three master musicians switched between genres on a quartet of tracks from their first two albums. From I Cover The Mountain Top, through Dodovoodoo, Aviation and the twelve-minute album closer Habanera Rocket, Elephant9 are at their very best. This whetted record buyer’s appetite for Elephant9’s third album.
For their third studio album Atlantis, Elephant9 decided to collaborate with legendary Swedish progressive rock guitarist Reine Fiske. He had made his name with Dungen, and then had joined Reform. However, when he first collaborated with Elephant9, Reine was a member of Sylvester Schlegel’s band The Guild. With Reine Fiske onboard, Elephant9 began work on their third album Atlantis. Once the album was completed, it was scheduled for release later in 2012.
Before Rune Grammofon released Atlantis in October 2012, critics had their say on Elephant9’s third studio album. Just like their first two albums, critical acclaim accompanied the release of Atlantis. Some critics saw Reine Fiske as Elephant9’s missing link. Adding a guitarist to the lineup completed their sound, and now it was a case of onwards and upwards for Elephant9.
That proved to be the case as Elephant9 took to the stage at some of Norway’s biggest festivals after the release of Atlantis. The biggest and most prestigious festival was the Kongsberg Jazzfestival. Elephant9 also won over audiences at Union Scene, and Victoria, before rounding off 2012 with an appearance at Najonal Jazzscene.
After releasing Atlantis to critical acclaim and commercial success, critics and record buyers awaited the release of Elephant9’s fourth album. However, they were in for a long wait, as the three members of Elephant9 were busy with other musical projects. As a result, it was a case of fitting the recording of Elephant9’s fourth album Silver Mountains into Ståle Storløkken, Torstein Lofthus and Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen busy schedules.
In October 2014, Elephant9 returned to the studio where they were once again, joined by Swedish guitarist Reine Fiske. The quartet recorded four tracks penned by Elephant9 and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. These tracks became Elephant9’s fourth album Silver Mountains.
Another year passed before Rune Grammofon released Silver Mountains in October 2014. By then, critics had already hailed Sliver Mountain as the finest album of Elephant9’s career. Record buyers agreed, and the Elephant9 success story continued apace.
Greatest Show On Earth.
Two years after the release of Silver Mountains, the three members of Elephant9 returned to Studio Paradiso in October 2017, where they were about to record their fifth album Greatest Show On Earth. This time, there was no sign of Reine Fiske, who many critics thought was the final piece of the jigsaw. These critics thought that Reine Fiske’s guitar filled and completed Elephant9’s sound. However, when recording began, it was just the core trio of Elephant9 that featured on Greatest Show On Earth.
Prior to the recording session of Greatest Show On Earth, Elephant9 unpacked their impressive musical arsenal which they had put to good use on four studio albums and a live album. Keyboardist Ståle Storløkken was soon showing his versatility as he switched between Fender Rhodes, Hammond Organ, grand piano, mellotron, Minimoog and Eminent 310 string synth. This time around, Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen played electric while drummer Torstein Lofthus also added percussion. Making a guest appearance on Greatest Show On Earth was Pakka who added bells on what was a very different album from Elephant9.
As Greatest Show On Earth took shape, it became apparent that parts of six tracks were much more structured than on previous albums. However, there were still parts where a freewheeling Elephant9 could enjoy the opportunity to improvise as they drew inspiration from disparate influences and genres, including Krautrock and the Canterbury Scene. Elsewhere, on Greatest Show On Earth Elephant9 a fully focused Elephant9 fused elements of fusion, jazz and progressive rock, and seamlessly changed keys and time signatures on tracks that lasted between five and seven minutes. Eventually, Elephant9’s fifth album Greatest Show On Earth was completed later in 2017, and all that remained was for the album to be mixed and mastered.
Elephant9 mixed Greatest Show On Earth with Christian Engfelt, who had recorded the album with Marcus Forsgen. With the album mixed, Jørgen Træen mastered Greatest Show On Earth at Super Grotten in November 2017. Three months later, and Elephant9’s fifth album Greatest Show On Earth was released by Rune Grammofon.
Just the bass, subtle hissing hi-hats and soon, drums are joined by lo-fi synths to create a dark, hypnotic and cinematic backdrop. They’re soon joined by a Fender Rhodes, synth strings and bells which add to the eerie, mesmeric, cinematic sound. Later, swells of synth strings add a chilling, haunting sound during as drums provide the heartbeat and the bass meanders along and is joined by the lo-fi synth. By then, it’s as if Elephant9 have been asked to create the soundtrack to short Nordic horror movie. They succeed in doing so, as they combine disparate genres to create a spellbinding cinematic soundscape that is chilling, haunting, hypnotic and guaranteed to set the listener’s imagination racing.
Very different is Actionpack1 where the tempo rises as the rhythm section and keyboards power the rocky arrangement along. Soon, synth strings and blurts of synths are added to an arrangement that is big and bold. It veers between cinematic to rocky and sometimes, takes on sci-fi sound. Elephant9 who are in full flight then showcase their versatility as they seamlessly change time signature. By then, they’re already combined elements of rock, psychedelia, progressive rock and electronica, before heading in the direction of while a myriad of sci-fi synths beep, squeak and blurt out a seemingly secret code. They’re joining by washes of swirling Hammond organ before the arrangement reaches a crescendo. This isn’t the end and soon, Elephant9 burst into life and thunderous drums power the arrangement along as virtuoso keyboardist Ståle Storløkken picks up where he left off on before this genre-melting odyssey comes to a close after nearly seven magical minutes.
Farmer’s Secret has a stop start introduction, and it’s as if Elephant9 is toying with the listener as the Hammond organ and rhythm section combine. All the time, drums and bas power the arrangement along, before what sounds like a cathedral organ emerges from the depth of the progressive arrangement. Later, the Hammond organ replicates the sound found on many classic sixties and seventies album. By then, Ståle Storløkken is unleashing a fleet fingered masterclass and inspires the rest of Elephant9 as they reach new heights. As they do, they combine elements of classic rock, modern classical music, progressive rock, psychedelia and myriad of space age sounds. At the heart of the arrangement are Ståle Storløkken’s keyboards which play a starring role. He leaves space for the rest of Elephant9 as they power the arrangement to an uber rocky crescendo and in doing so, reach new heights on this genre-melting epic.
Stabs of keyboards sit atop Dancing With Mr. E’s progressive, cinematic arrangement as Elephant9 eschews the traditional 4/4 time signature. Just like on previous tracks, this allows Elephant9 to showcase their versatility and innovate. Elephant9’s rhythm section enjoy the opportunity to do so as they join with the Hammond organ to drive the arrangement along. By then, the arrangement has taken on a machine-like sound that is reminiscent of seventies Krautrock and progressive rock. Meanwhile, Ståle Storløkken adds bursts of cinematic synths which adds the final piece of the jigsaw. Soon, the time signature changes and a freewheeling Elephant9 in quick succession combine elements of free jazz, fusion and progressive rock. They play with freedom and fluidly and create genre-melting music that is inventive, innovative, cerebral and as the tempo increases impressive and cinematic.
Dreamy, lysergic and eerie describes Mystery Blend as the rumbling bass combines with keyboards. Sometimes, the bass takes centre-stage before the keyboards play a supporting role. However, when the Hammond organ enters, it’s initially happy to costar, before it starts to make its presence felt. It lumbers into the arrangement its dark, ominous sound swirling and swelling as the bass plays. Meanwhile, the Hammond organ is played with a degree of urgency as washes and swells add a progressive and cinematic sound. By then, drums provide the heartbeat whiles stabs, runs and swells of keyboards are added as the tempo increases and add to the drama. Elephant9 again play with a fluidity and inventiveness as they create imaginative filmic music.
As Freaks closes Greatest Show On Earth, drums pound and with the bass power the arrangement along and the Hammond organ briefly replicates the type of music heard at a carnival. Soon, though washes of cinematic synths are added and the arrangement becomes eerie, moody and dramatic. Adding to the drama is the drums before the carnival organ returns and adds to the urgency as the arrangement is powered and skips along. All three members of Elephant9 play their part and before long, Elephant9’s rhythm section is in full flight and joined by swells and swirling keyboards. Meanwhile, the arrangement veers between rocky to psychedelic, progressive and dramatic to stirring and uplifting as Elephant9 close the Greatest Show On Earth on a resounding high.
After just over a two-year wait, Elephant9 recently returned with their much-anticipated fifth album Greatest Show On Earth, which was released by Rune Grammofon. Greatest Show On Earth is their first album to feature just the core trio of Elephant9 since Walk The Nile. However, Elephant9 have come a long way since Walk The Nile.
Since then, Elephant9 have released two albums with Reine Fiske, 2012s Atlantis and 2015s Silver Mountain. The addition of guitarist Reine Fiske was seen as the missing piece of the jigsaw. However, his absence on Greatest Show On Earth certainly hasn’t left a gaping hole in Elephant9’s sound. That is far from the case. After all, not every band needs a guitarist. Elephant9 certainly don’t, as they’ve got virtuoso keyboardist Ståle Storløkken who unleashes a veritable musical arsenal that includes a Fender Rhodes, Hammond Organ, grand piano, mellotron, Minimoog and Eminent 310 string synth. This array of keyboards are perfectly capable of replacing Reine Fiske’s guitar on Elephant9’s critically acclaimed fifth album Greatest Show On Earth.
What’s noticeable about Greatest Show On Earth is that it’s a much more structured album that Elephant9’s previous albums. While much of Greatest Show On Earth was fully composed there were opportunities for a freewheeling Elephant9 to improvise. This is something that Elephant9 excel at as they fuse disparate influences including the progressive rock of Focus, King Crimson and Yes with the fusion of Miles Davis, Tony Williams Lifetime and Weather Report. However, Elephant9 fuse more to the Greatest Show On Earth than fusion and progressive rock. Elephant9 flit between and fuse avant-garde, free jazz, Krautrock, psychedelia, the Canterbury Scene and rock. Not content with fusing an array genres and influences, Elephant9 seamlessly change keys and time signatures during Greatest Show On Earth, which is another album of imaginative, inventive and innovative music where this talented trio play with a freedom and fluidity.
Throughout Greatest Show On Earth, Elephant9 throw a series of musical curveballs as the music veers between cinematic to lysergic to broody and moody to dark and dramatic to eerie and haunting to stirring and uplifting and everything in between. Always, though the music on the genre-melting odyssey that is Greatest Show On Earth is ambitious, bold, cerebral, exciting, innovative and intoxicating as is veers between cinematic to rocky. That comes as no surprise as Elephant9 features three master musicians as they return to their roots and reach new heights on a career defining opus that for the time being is the Greatest Show On Earth.
Elephant9-Greatest Show On Earth.
George Jackson-Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971.
Label: Kent Soul.
When Dean Rudland and Tony Rouce were compiling the George Jackson compilation Old Friend The Fame Recordings Volume 3, which was released in late November 2013, they believed that there was only a handful of songs that had yet to be released. This was nowhere near enough for a fourth volume of recordings from the remarkable George Jackson, who was a truly prolific songwriter, but an occasional recording artist.
During his career, George Jackson penned over 300 songs, with artists of the calibre of James Carr, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Z.Z. Hill, Candi Staton, Bettye Swann, Ann Peebles, Bobby Womack and Bob Seger recording his compositions. However, with George Jackson spending most of his time writing songs for other people, this left little time for him to pursue a recording career. As a result, George Jackson only released just one album and less than twenty singles. This wasn’t much to show for a truly talented singer-songwriter who had the potential to enjoy a long and successful career. However, George Jackson just like Sam Dees, seemed content to write songs for other artists.
It was only when Ace Records acquired the Goldwax Records and secured the licensing deals with Fame and Sound Of Memphis that it became apparent that there was much more to George Jackson’s discography than one album and less than twenty singles. Within the vaults of Goldwax Records, Fame and Sound Of Memphis there was what can only be described as a veritable feast of music baring George Jackson’s name. For connoisseurs of soul music this was a tantalising prospect.
Ace Records’ Kent Soul imprint released their first George Jackson compilation In Memphis 1972-1977 in 2009. This musical amuse bouche certainly whetted the appetite of soul fans.
Over the next four years. a triumvirate of compilations featuring songs George Jackson recorded whilst he was working at Fame were released by Kent Soul. This started with Don’t Count Me Out. The Fame Recordings Volume 1 was released two years later in 2011, with Let The Best Man Win: The Fame Recordings Volume 2 following in 2012. Just a year later in May 2013 The Fame Sessions was released on vinyl, and was an added bonus. Six months later in November 2013 came what was thought to be the third and final instalments in the series Old Friend: The Fame Recordings Volume 3. By then, it was thought that the cupboard was bare.
Despite Kent Soul having released what they believed to be the last of George Jackson’s solo recordings from his Fame years, soul fans were in for a pleasant surprise in January 2015. That was when George Jackson and Dan Greer At Goldwax was released. If all George Jackson’s Fame recordings had been released, then his Goldwax recordings were a welcome addition to his discography. However, fans of George Jackson were in for a pleasant surprise.
Just over two years later, and Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 was released by Kent Soul. It features the rest of the unissued tracks from George Jackson’s days at Fame. None of these songs have been heard before, although many people will be familiar with the cover versions. However, the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 were sung by the man who wrote them, and are a reminder of one of the greatest soul singers you’ve never heard. His story began in 1945.
George Jackson was born in March 1945, and spent the first five years of his life in Indianola, Mississippi. However, when he was five, the Jackson family decided to move to Greenville, in Washington County, where people soon realised that George Jackson was gifted musically.
From an early age, it was apparent to those around George Jackson that one day, he would embark upon a career as a singer or songwriter. He was a prodigious talent, and was already writing songs when he was just a teenager. Then when he was just eighteen, George Jackson met a famous producer.
Tis was none other than Ike Turner, who George Jackson met in 1963. Despite his Despite his youth, George Jackson found the confidence to introduce himself to Ike Turner. George Jackson told Ike Turner about his music and showed him some songs. Ike Turner was so impressed by George Jackson that he took him to New Orleans, to Cosimo Matassa’s studio. Together, they recorded Nobody Wants To Cha Cha With Me, which was then released on Ike Turner’s Prann label. While the single wasn’t a commercial success, it marked the start of George Jackson’s career.
Two years later, in 1965, George Jackson recorded Rufus Come and Get Your Dog for the Doro label. However, again, commercial success eluded George Jackson. Despite two unsuccessful singles, George Jackson was determined to make a career out of music.
Later in 1965, George Jackson released Blinkity Blink as a single for Dot Records. Just like his two previous singles, Blinkity Blink failed to trouble the charts. This was a huge disappointment, and many artists would’ve considered calling time on their career. However, George Jackson was made of stronger stuff, and there was no way that he going to give up. Deep down, he knew he had what it took to make a career out of music.
After the commercial failure of Blinkity Blink, George Jackson decided to move to Memphis which had a vibrant and successful music scene. One of the most successful labels in Memphis was Stax Records, and arriving in Memphis George Jackson secured an audition at Stax. Incredibly, Stax passed on George Jackson, just like they had on James Carr. Little did they realise that they had missed out on a prolific and talented singer and songwriter.
Next stop for George Jackson was Goldwax Records, where he cofounded The Ovations with Louis Williams. George Jackson penned and sang on their 1965 classic, It’s Wonderful To Be In Love. It reached number twenty-two in the US R&B Chart, while reaching number sixty-one in the US Billboard 100. For George Jackson, this was his first hit single after two years of trying.
Soon, George Jackson was writing for other artists on Goldwax Records’ roster, and Spencer Wiggins and James Carr were beneficiaries of his songwriting skills. George Jackson also teamed up with Dan Greer, and formed the duo George and Greer. Alas, none of the songs this talented duo recorded for Goldwax Records were ever released. This was another disappointment for George Jackson. However, things got worse for George Jackson in 1968 when The Ovations split-up and this marked the end of his time at Goldwax Records.
Having left Goldwax Records, George Jackson enjoyed a brief spell at Hi Records. He recorded a number of songs for Hi Records, but none of the songs were ever released. History was repeating itself, as this was what had happened to George and Greer at Goldwax Records. However, before long George Jackson was on the move again.
Following his spell at Hi Records, George Jackson signed to Decca and recorded a number of songs for his new label. When it came time to release them, George Jackson was billed as Bart Jackson. However, even a change of name didn’t result in a change of fortune for George Jackson, and he left Decca after failing to enjoy even a modicum of commercial success.
After Decca, George Jackson signed to Mercury and Capitol, but still commercial success eluded him. After three years of trying, George Jackson still hadn’t enjoyed a hit as a solo artist. This was hugely frustrating, as George Jackson knew he had what it took to enjoy a successful career within the music industry. All he needed was someone who could bring out the best in him. Fortunately, producer Billy Sherrill suggested George Jackson should get in touch with Rick Hall at Fame Records.
Fame Records at Muscle Shoals, was what George Jackson had spent the last few years looking form and when he arrived at the famous studio, it was like a homecoming of sorts. Straight away, he felt as if he belonged and was part of something. Buoyed by this new start, George Jackson’s career blossomed.
Soon, he was writing for some of Fame’s biggest stars. Among them were Candi Staton, Clarence Carter and Wilson Picket. George Jackson enjoyed instant success, when Clarence Carter’s Too Weak To Fight became a huge hit. It reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts. Buoyed by this success, George Jackson penned a string of hits for Fame’s artists. This included Candi Staton’s I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart (Than A Young Man’s Fool), I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’) and Never In Public. Then in 1970, George Jackson wrote what was the biggest hit single of his career so far
Originally, George had written with One Bad Apple with The Jacksons in mind. That was until The Osmonds visited Fame Studios in 1970. When they heard One Bad Apple immediately, they liked the song. They decided to record it and it gave them the first hit of their career. Not only did it reach number one in the US Billboard 200, but number six in the US R&B Charts. For any songwriter, including George Jackson, this was the ultimate accolade. However, despite writing a number one single, George Jackson hadn’t given up hope of becoming a successful singer.
Over the next couple of years, George Jackson divided his time between songwriting and singing. He continued to be a prolific and successful songwriter, but occasionally headed into the recording studio to record a new song.
As a singer, he was noted for his versatility and ability to make lyrics come to life. If lyrics needed hurt, heartache or hope or anything from despair to joy George Jackson could deliver that. Despite this, commercial success eluded him. A reminder of this is Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 which features twenty-four unreleased songs.
George Jackson wrote many songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 on his own. This included the ballad Don’t Tell Me Nothing About My Baby, where George Jackson’s delivers a vocal full of frustration at the betrayal he’s experiencing as the arrangement fuses blues, gospel and R&B. George Jackson’s vocal is full of hurt and despair on the uptempo If This Is Love, before he drop the tempo and lays bare his soul on the beautiful, rueful ballad I Wish I Was A Child Again
On Two Way Proposition George Jackson duets with Marjorie Ingram who was a young singer that he mentored. George Jackson had taught Marjorie Ingram well and she provides the perfect foil for him. Sadly, this is their only duet on the compilation.
George Jackson also wrote I Got To Stop You Road Runner, where blues and soul combine on this tale of betrayal. Very different is the ballad Your Love Is So Good where it seems that George Jackson has found happiness. However, it’s with someone else’s wife on a song that is reminiscent of Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs Jones. Keep Your Business To Yourself is a really catchy, radio friendly song that might have been the one that got away for George Jackson. Wait Till The Time Is Right is song about clandestine love where George Jackson paints pictures with the lyrics.
The rest of the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 were penned with a variety of songwriting partners, including Raymond Moore. They wrote a number of songs on the compilation including A Woman Respects A Man, the beautiful ballad A Few Precious Moments and the stomping confessional You Caught Me Red Handed. However, Raymond Moore was just one of George Jackson’s songwriting partners.
He also wrote a number of songs with Edward Harris, including I Got A Feeling which opens the compilation and features a vocal where George Jackson sings about the hurt and betrayal he’s experienced. George Jackson then delivers an emotive vocal full of frustration on What Kind Of Woman Are You? It’s another tale of betrayal and deception that George Jackson brings to life. That is the case throughout the compilation.
On his collaboration with Earl Cage, George Jackson delivers a vocal full of regret on I Slowly Killed Your Love For Me. One of George Jackson’s vocals comes on the heart-wrenching ballad Quicksand Around My Mind which he wrote with George Brown. Then George Jackson he lays bare his soul on Never In Public which he wrote with Aaron McKinley. It’s just the latest hidden gem that was recently unearthed by Kent Soul for the Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971 compilation.
It’s a welcome addiction to George Jackson’s discography and covers what was the most prolific and successful period of his career…the Fame Years. The time George Jackson spent at Fame saw him write some of the best and most successful songs of his career. However, that is only part of this three-year story.
Right up until George Jackson left Fame in 1972, he was more successful as a songwriter than singer. He wrote many hits for other artists, but his singles never troubled the charts. This must have frustrated George Jackson.
Despite his lack of commercial success, George Jackson continued to record songs during his time at Fame. Some of the songs feature on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971. Often he was backed with a full band, while other times the arrangement are understated. Still, though the music is powerful and poignant as George Jackson who was blessed a hugely, soulful, emotive, expressive and mesmeric voice, breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. Sadly, commercial success eluded George Jackson who nowadays, is better known as a songwriter than a singer.
That is a great shame as George Jackson had the talent, desire and voice to become a successful singer, but sadly that never happened. Not even at Fame, where George Jackson had access to a top producers and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. However, George Jackson spent most of his time writing songs for other artists.
That is often the case when talented songwriters who just happen to be singers, sign to a record label. Those running the label sometimes are more concerned with getting them to write songs, not record them. After all, it takes time and money to develop an artist’s career. Maybe record company executives thought that George Jackson, like other artists who were successful songwriters, would be better employed writing songs? After all, that was what George Jackson was good at. Looking back, maybe that was the case with George Jackson?
If that was the case, then George Jackson’s success as a songwriter was a double-edged sword? The more success he enjoyed, the less chance he had of becoming a successful singer. Record companies would rather George Jackson spent his time writing, rather than recording songs. This must have been frustrating for George Jackson, who wanted to be a star, not the star-maker. Sadly, that never happened, and nowadays, George Jackson is remembered primarily as a songwriter and occasional recording artist, whose musical legacy includes the songs on Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971.
George Jackson-Leavin’ The Homework Done: In The Studio With George Jackson 1969-1971.
Label: Vampi Soul.
For the vast majority of record buyers, Nelson Records won’t mean anything to them, unless they happen to be a connoisseur of library music. That, however, is unlikely, as library music is still one of music’s best kept secrets and is a musical treasure trove. However, apart form this small coterie of musical connoisseurs, very few people have heard of library music, never mind Nelson Records.
Thankfully, that has started to change over the last few years with various independent record labels releasing compilations of library music. These compilations are usually lovingly curated, and mostly, have focused on the bigger music libraries including KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Sonoton. However, recently the Vampi Soul label released a new compilation of library music, Nelson’s Pyshcout, which featured eighteen tracks from the vaults of Nelson Records which was one of the most important and innovative Italian music libraries of the seventies. This was a golden age for library music, and was when some of the greatest library music was recorded. However, the demand for library music grew in the fifties.
For many library companies, especially in Britain, the birth of television in the mid-fifties was a game-changer. No longer was classical music which had long been a staple of their businesses, as popular among their clients. As a result, some of the bigger library music companies, including Boosey and Hawkes, had decided to diversify into library music publishing. By then, there was already a huge demand for music to provide the soundtrack to radio, television and film.
Originally, library music was meant to be used by film studios or television and radio stations, and was never meant to be commercially available. The music was recorded on spec by music libraries who hired often young unknown composers, musicians and producers. This ranged from musicians who were known within publishing circles, to up-and-coming musicians who later, went onto greater things, and look back fondly at their time writing, recording and producing library music. This they now regard as part of their musical apprenticeship.
For the musicians hired to record library music, their remit was to provide companies like KPM, De Woife or Boosey and Hawkes with a steady stream of new music, which was originality referred to as production music. During some sessions, the musicians’ remit was write and record music to match themes or moods. This wasn’t easy, but after a while they were able to this seamlessly. Soon, the musicians were able to enter the audio and write and record a piece of music that matched a theme or mood for a film or television show.
Once the library music was recorded, record libraries sent out demonstration copies of their music to production companies. If the production companies liked what they heard, they would license a track or several tracks from the music libraries. That was how it was meant to work.
Often, the music that had been recorded on spec by library companies was never licensed. Since then, many of the tracks have lain unheard in the vaults of music libraries like KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy, Sonoton and Boosey Hawkes. That was no surprise, because the sixties and seventies was the golden age for library music. Competition was fierce amongst the major players who recorded a vast quantity of new music in the hope that they would license the tracks and use them in films, television or radio. It was a case of speculate to accumulate in what was a potentially hugely profitable sector.
Especially during the sixties and seventies when various film and television companies plus a number of radio stations agreed to license the music that had been created by these groups of largely anonymous composers, musicians and producers. Often the tracks that were licensed went on to provided the soundtrack to some of the biggest television programmes on British television, ranging from The Sweeney and The Professionals to cartoons like Dangermouse and current affairs to quiz shows. Many of these themes became part of the soundtrack to British life and are fondly remembered by a generation of adults. However, not everyone in Britain was a fan of library music.
This included the Musician’s Union in Britain, who banned their members from working on recording sessions of library music. Somewhat shortsightedly, the Musician’s Union thought that eventually, there would come a time when there was no need for any further recordings of library music. Their fear was that the sheer quantity of back-catalogue would mean no new recordings would be made, and their members would be without work. Soon, the record libraries had worked out a way to circumvent the band, which suited all parties.
Some record libraries would fly out composers, arrangers, musicians and producers to Holland and Belgium, where local musicians would join them for recording sessions. This meant that often, the same musicians would play on tracks for several composers. These were lucrative sessions for the musicians involved, who had the last laugh.
Incredibly, it was only in the late seventies, that the stubborn dinosaurs that ran the Musician’s Union lifted their ban on new recordings of library music. By then, the golden age of library music was at an end, the Musician’s Union ban had cost their members dearly.
Later, sample hungry hip hop producers who dug deep into the crates found albums of library music. This was the ‘inspiration’ that they were looking for, and many ‘borrowed’ samples from their newfound musical treasure. Soon, other producers, DJs and collectors went in search of these long-overlooked albums of library music. Since then, they’ve become increasingly collectable, with producers continuing to sample them, while DJs incorporating library music into their sets. There’s also a number of collectors who spend their time and money looking for, and buying albums of library music. Just like the producers and DJs, these collectors were aficionados of library music.
They’re all sure to enjoy the eighteen tracks from the vaults of the Italian record library Nelson Records, which feature on the new compilation from Vampi Soul Nelson’s Pyshcout.
The Nelson Records’ story began in Roma, in 1970, when Maurizio Majorana, Antonello Vannucchi and Roberto Podio founded a new label after they establishing the Telecinesound recording studio. That was where the New Italian Library Sound took shape.
Soon, this triumvirate of talented musicians were soon joined by guitarist Carlo Pes and together, they formed the studio group that feature on the majority of Nelson Records’ recordings, Marc 4. It took its name for from the first initial of each of the musician’s christian names, so Maurizio Majorana, Antonello Vannucchi, Roberto Podio and Carlo Pes essentially became part of Marc 4.
Having formed Marc 4, the four musicians began writing and recording new music on spec. They hoped that they could license the new tracks to film, television, radio or even advertising agencies. These tracks were recorded at the new Telecinesound recording studio, where the rhythm section of drummer Roberto Podio, bassist Maurizio Majorana and guitarist Carlo Pes were joined by Antonello Vannucchi on Hammond organ and piano. The four musicians were versatile and talented and were capable of creating the New Italian Library Sound.
To create the new the New Italian Library Sound that features on Nelson’s Pyshcout, Marc 4 fused elements of jazz, pop, rock and psychedelia. While each of the members of Marc 4 were gifted musicians, and played their part in the New Italian Library Sound it was guitarist Carlo Pes who played a leading role.
That was the case on Distorsion Mind which opens Nelson’s Pyshcout. Both Antonello Vannucchi’s Hammond organ and Carlo Pes’ guitar play leading roles. However, Carlo Pes’ blistering guitar steals the show on this groove slice of cinematic psychedelia. It’s a similar case on the lysergic sounding The Trip. However, on the eerie and haunting sounding Compression each member of Marc 4 plays their part in this cinematic hidden gem. Dirottamento is best described as psychedelic mood music that becomes dramatic as Marc 4 continue to explore variations in the psychedelic groove. They continue to do so on Beat Generation and then on Beat Morbido which is a cinematic opus full of drama and tension.
Very different is the jazz-tinged cinematic psychedelia of Leslie Love. It gives way to Indagine which is full of drama, tension and psychedelic surprises. Attesa Spasmodica sounds as if it’s been written with the horror genre in mind. It’s a similar case with Deep Bass which features rocky bursts of gothic psychedelia. Filter is a psychedelic rock workout with progressives undertones.
Although Airon has a much more understated cinematic sound, the psychedelic sound is still present. That is the case on stomping Wonder, where once again, Antonello Vannucchi’s Hammond organ and Carlo Pes’ guitar play leading roles. However, the guitar steals the show and Wonder wouldn’t be the same tracks without it. The tempo drops on Underground, which is dark, dramatic, trippy and has a cinematic sound that sets the imagination racing. Antonello Vannucchi’s Hammond organ taking centre-stage on Ray Ban which could’ve only been recorded during the seventies. It sounds as if it belong on the soundtrack to a seventies cop show or thriller and will bring back memories for people of a certain age. While there’s a “traditional” psych sound to Berkey ’70, Marc 4 aren’t afraid to experiment and improvise as this workout takes shape. Fast Bass which closes Nelson’s Pyshcout is best described as dark, moody, broody and gothic psychedelia from Marc 4.
They made Nelson Records the success story it was between 1970 and 1976. During what was a golden age for library music, Marc 4 were making history as they defined the New Italian Library Sound which was published by Nelson Records. They became one of the most important Italian music libraries of the seventies.
Nelson Records became known for recording and ambitious and innovative genre-melting music, where Marc 4 fused elements of jazz, pop, rock and psychedelia. This genre-melting music was veered between broody and moody to dark and dramatic to eerie, haunting and lysergic to rocky and trippy. Always though, the psychedelic library music that Marc 4 made was cinematic and the highest quality.
For six years, Nelson Records was one of finest purveyors of psychedelic library music in Italy. A reminder of this can be found on Nelson’s Pyshcout, which was recently released by Vampi Soul. Nelson’s Pyshcout features a tantalising taste of the library music within the vaults of Nelson Records, which is home to some of the greatest library music recorded in Italy during this golden era, where the label’s studio band Marc 4, defined the New Italian Library Sound.
Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.
Label: BBE Africa.
It’s often the case that the people who compile and curate compilations have a fascinating story to tell, and especially about how their love of music came about. That is the case with thirty-six year Lebanese DJ and crate digger Ernesto Chahoud who has compiled a new compilation for BBE Africa. This new compilation is Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers from 1970s Ethiopia which focuses on the golden age of Ethiopian music.
For Ernesto Chahoud and many aficionados of Ethiopian music they’re in no doubt that the sixties and seventies was a golden age of Ethiopian music. During that period, musicians and bands decided to experiment, and fused a variety of different influences and disparate
genres including boogaloo, funk, jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll and soul to create new, exciting and innovative music. This Ethiopian interpretation featured pentatonic scales and often stomping beat while braying horns provided the melody and accompanied impassioned vocals sung in Amharic. It was potent and heady brew and one that won over Ernesto Chahoud the first time he heard it.
This was the start of a lifelong love affair with Ethiopian music for Ernesto Chahoud, who even today spends much of his time looking for hidden gems and rarities to add to his burgeoning collection. Some of the Ethio-Soul singles Ernesto Chahoud has discovered over the years regularly feature in his now legendary DJ sets. Some of these singles are among the twenty-two tracks on Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers from 1970s Ethiopia, which instantly, transports the listener back to the golden age of Ethiopian music. However, that wasn’t where compiler Ernesto Chahoud was born and where his remarkable story took shape.
Instead, Ernesto Chahoud was born in West Beirut, in the Lebanon into a family of communist militants in May 1981. By then, the Lebanese Civil War was underway, and it lasted fifteen long years. This was a War that loomed large in Ernesto Chahoud’s young life.
With Ernesto Chahoud’s family being communist militants and his father playing an active part in the Lebanese Civil War, it was a regular occurrence for armed militia to arrive in the family home. Regularly, men and women arrive in the family and would eat and drink with Ernesto Chahoud and the rest of his family. Over the weeks, months and years, Ernesto Chahoud regularly saw handguns and machines guns in the family home. Unlike children in the West, Ernesto Chahoud grew-up playing with real guns rather than toy guns. Alas, this was only part of the story.
In the Chahoud family home, there were many books about the ideologies his parents believed in. The young Ernesto Chahoud read them in an attempt to make sense of what was going on around him. Meanwhile, Ernesto Chahoud and his family were constantly having to move house, because of threats to their lives. It was a worrying time for the Chahoud family.
To make matters worse, Ernesto Chahoud had to get use to his father disappearing for months on end. Back home, the rest of Chahoud family worried for his safety. There was always the possibility he had been kidnapped, wounded or even killed. However, it wasn’t Ernesto Chahoud’s father that was kidnapped.
Instead, it was his mother who was kidnapped in the mid-eighties by right-wing militia. For over a year, Ernesto Chahoud’s mother was kept hostage. For Ernesto Chahoud who was only a four or five, this must have a worrying time, as he didn’t know whether he would see his mother again. However, eventually Ernesto Chahoud’s mother returned home, but the dragged on.
After fifteen years, an announcement was made on the ’13th’ of October 1990 that the Lebanese Civil War was over. Sectarian groups had decided to give up their arms as a new era began. Meanwhile, Ernesto Chahoud remembers that day clearly and can picture the militia men that were in house frantically shaving of their beards, and wondering what the future held for them?
For may militia men, the war and guerrilla warfare was all they knew. It had taken over their lives, and once Lebanese Civil War was over, they had nothing to fill the void. Some former militia men couldn’t readjust to civilian life, and fell into a deep depression. This included Ernesto Chahoud’s father. Other militia men were happy that the war was over, returned to their family and found new jobs. Ironically, peace affected people in different ways.
Despite the end of Lebanese Civil War, military training was still compulsory for young men in the Lebanon. When Ernesto Chahoud turned thirteen it was time for him to undertake his military training.
By then, Ernesto Chahoud had digested the works of Marx and Lenin, and had read about October Revolution and the Soviet Union which was where the communist militia’s loyalties lay. It was also where the AK-47 that Ernesto Chahoud was handed when his military training began.
By 1994, the AK-47 was still the weapon de jour for everyone from so-called “revolutionaries” and “freedom fighters” to terrorists and armies that were sympathetic to the Soviet Union. This included the Lebanese Army, and at a time when teenagers in the West were entering high school, thirteen years old Ernesto Chahoud was learning how to use one of the most powerful automatic weapons available. It was a sad state of affairs, and teenagers in Lebanon were being robbed of a normal life.
The only thing that Ernesto Chahoud and his friends share with teenagers in the West was a love of music. However, much of the music that Ernesto Chahoud listened to consisted of revolutionary songs from Lebanon, the Soviet Union, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Syria and the Yemen. Even though he was still in his early teens, Ernesto Chahoud was embracing an eclectic selection of music. This love of music continued throughout his teenage years.
The problem that Ernesto Chahoud encountered, was that there was no music scene in the Lebanon. In this war ravaged country, there were no recording studios, music venues and music magazines. This didn’t stop Ernesto Chahoud immersing himself in music, and over the next few years he embraced numerous disparate genres, soaking new music up like a sponge.
Soon, he was a familiar face in the tape shacks that had sprung up, and Ernesto Chahoud regularly followed the tape sellers as they sold they tapes on the city streets. Eventually, when Ernesto Chahoud had some money of his own, he would buy new record, which he would listen to at home with like-minded friends. Later, they would go out to local bars, which was where Ernesto Chahoud had a eureka moment,
As Ernesto Chahoud and friends sat in a bar in Beirut, they listened to the music playing. It wasn’t the type of music they liked, and it was then that Ernesto Chahoud decided to ask the barman if he could play his records in the bar? When he said yes, this was the start of Ernesto Chahoud’s DJ career.
Soon, Ernesto Chahoud was DJ-ing in other bars and clubs, and was a familiar face as he spun an eclectic selection of music. Initially, he played sixties R&B, but soon, his musical tastes were changing and broadening. Ernesto Chahoud had embarked upon a voyage of discovery, and soon, was spinning everything from jazz, fusion and seventies funk and later, disco and rap. The eclectic selection of music that Ernesto Chahoud played, came from an unlikely source…the local flea market.
Just like in Britain and America, very people wanted to buy vinyl in Beirut, as people were buying CDs. This was good news for Ernesto Chahoud, who was able to buy large quantities of vinyl for small sums of money in the local flea market. With vinyl so cheap, Ernesto Chahoud was willing to take a chance on singles and albums he knew nothing about. However, if they looked interesting, Ernesto Chahoud would add these records to his burgeoning collection. Soon, everything from American jazz, British pop and rock and even albums by Stockhausen and Agitation Free were added to Ernesto Chahoud’s collection. After a while, Ernesto Chahoud decided to head overseas on a crate digging expedition. His destination was Ethiopia where he journey with his DJ partner JJ Whitefield.
During his first expedition to Ethiopia, Ernesto Chahoud discovered a veritable musical feast of new and exciting music from the sixties and seventies. This as Ernesto Chahoud was to discover, was the golden age of Ethiopian music. That was when Getatchew Kassa recorded Zamam Sew Labene, which was the very first Ethiopian record that Ernesto Chahoud discovered. This was the first of many Ethiopian records Ernesto Chahoud discovered over the next ten years.
Despite his best efforts, one record continued to elude Ernesto Chahoud, Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker. This was the record that Ernesto Chahoud describes as a “fever” and began his lifelong love affair with Ethiopian music, and especially Ethio-Soul. However, after ten long years, Ernesto Chahoud discovered a copy of Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker which fittingly, features on his new compilation, Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia. It’s among a compilation that feature what Ernesto Chahoud described as “stompers” and “clappers.” That is a fitting description of this wonderful music, which sometimes may have a lo-fi sound, but features emotive and impassioned performances from the not just great and good of Ethiopian music, but some of its lesser names. They all play their part in the success of Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.
The legendary Mulatu Astatke, who is one of the most influential and Ethiopian musicians opens the compilation with an instrumental “stomper”he wrote and recorded, Emnete . It was released on the B-Side of a split single that was released by Phillips Ethiopia in 1970. However, this classic instrumental that has filled many a dancefloor is nowadays better known than Tilahun Gessesse’s single Tiz Alegn Yetintu.
Alkedashim is only single that Birkineh Wurga released during his career. It was written by Getatchew Alemu and released on Phillips in 1975 band. This hidden gem features an arrangement that marries elements of funk and jazz with an impassioned and soulful vocal. The result is a powerful and moving song,
From the get-go, it sounds as if Alemayehu Eshete has been inspired by the self-styled Godfather of Funk James Brown on Chiro Adarie Negne, which was the B-Side of Afer Yemegnshale which was released by Amha Records in 1970. Chiro Adarie Negne is uber funky as Alemayehu Eshete’s vocal veers between soulful and powerful. The man known as the “Ethiopian James Brown” returns on Mekeyershin Salawke which was also released on Amha Record and was guaranteed to fill a dancefloor. Alemayehu Eshete’s third contribution is one of his own compositions Gizew Honeshyna which featured on the B-Side to Fiker Fiker Naw. It’s an explosive track that was too good to languish on the B-Side of a single.
Hirut Bekele’s Ewnetegna Feker is the track that Ernesto Chahoud spent ten years looking for. It was worth the wait to hear one of finest moments in the career of the First Lady of Ethiopian music. She’s backed by the Bodyguard band as she delivers an impassioned and emotive vocal on Ewnetegna Feker. Incredibly, it also languished on the B-Side of the single Des Yemiase which was released by Kaifa Record in 1977. Five years earlier, in 1972 Hirut Bekele released one of the most beautiful, soulful songs on the compilation, Almokerum Nebere. It’s a clapper that was released on the Amha label and features a stunning jazzy guitar solo that adds the finishing touch to one of the compilation’s highlights.
Fittingly, Tilahun Gessesse who was the most popular Ethiopian singer in the seventies features twice on the compilation. His first contribution is Aykedashim Libe which was released as a single on Phillips in 1974. He’s accompanied by the Army Band who drive this funky, rousing arrangement along as Tilahun Gessesse’s vocal veers between powerful to passionate and vampish. Tilahun Gessesse’s other contribution is Sigibgib Joroye which was also released on Phillips and features a stunning, impassioned vocal on what’s regarded as a legendary dance track.
Temelese was the one and only collaboration between two of the giants of Ethiopian music, Hirut Beqele and Alemayehu Eshete. It was released on Amha Records and is features a funky arrangement, while the legends deliver a vocal masterclass.
Bezunesh Bekele’s Aha Gedawo is a horn driven clapper, that was released as a single on Phillips in September 1972. It finds singing call and response on this beautiful, sometimes mesmeric clapper where jazz, funk and soul are fused seamlessly.
Back in the early seventies, Seifu Yohannes was regarded as one of Ethiopia’s top clappers. Proof of that is his clapper Mela Mela, which was released on Amha Record in April 1971. It was written and arranged by the Soul Ekos band who are responsible for the braying horns and thunderous drums on this irresistible and hypnotic clapper.
Funky describes the arrangement to Getatchew Kassa’s Fikrishin Eshaleyu as the rhythm section combine with punchy horns and washes of swirling Hammond organ. Meanwhile, Getatchew Kassa adds the vocal to this glorious slice Ethiopian funk.
Muluken Melesse’s career began as a twelve-year-old when he began playing singing in nightclubs. By the time the singer and drummer signed to Kaifa Records in the mid-seventies, he was regarded as one of Ethiopian’s music best and most talented vocalists. Proof of that is Alagegnhwatem which was the B-Side Tizita which was released on Kaifa Records. It’s a reminder of another of the great names in Ethiopian music during this golden era.
Closing Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia is Ene Yewodedquat which was the B-Side to Tamrat Molla’s single Ber Ambar Seberelew. It was released on Amha Records in December 1971, and although there’s a rawness to the recording, the combination of the funky arrangement and Tamrat Molla’s soulful vocal is a potent and successful one that ensures the compilation ends on a high.
For anyone with even a passing interest in Ethiopian or African music, then Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia which has just been released by BBE Africa is essential listening. It’s a loving curated compilation from thirty-six year Lebanese DJ and crate digger Ernesto Chahoud who is passionate about Ethiopian music, and especially Ethio-Soul. However, its music from the sixties and seventies, which was the golden age of Ethiopian music that Ernesto Chahoud has spent over a decade searching for.
Even today, Ernesto Chahoud spends much of free time searching for music from the golden age of Ethiopian music, which he then spins during his now legendary DJ sets. These sets feature many of the tracks Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia, which are nearly impossible to find. Some of these tracks are real rarities, and change hands for every increasing sums of money. Sadly, only crate diggers with deep pockets will be able to afford original copies of these tracks even if they can find them. However, the easiest and most economical way to own these tracks is by buying a copy of Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia. It’s a reminder of the innovative music being released during the golden age of Ethiopian music.
During that period, musicians and bands took upon themselves to experiment, and fuse a variety of different influences and disparate genres, ranging from boogaloo, funk, jazz, R&B, rock ’n’ roll and soul in an attempt to create new, exciting and innovative music. The musicians used pentatonic scales and often stomping beat or handclaps while braying horns provided the melody and accompanied impassioned and soul-baring vocals sung in Amharic. It was potent and heady brew and one that won over Ernesto Chahoud the first time he heard it, and will win over listeners when they hear Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia for the first time.
Ernesto Chahoud Presents Taitu Soul-fuelled Stompers From 1960s-1970s Ethiopia.
The Seeds-A Web Of Sound.
Label: Ace Records.
When The Seeds were formed in Los Angeles in early 1965 by Sky Saxon, Daryl Hooper, Jan Savage, Jeremy Levine and Rick Andridge nobody had any idea just how influential the nascent garage band would be. Over the next four years, The Seeds released five albums, enjoyed four hit singles and pioneered mid-sixties garage rock and acid rock. The Seeds are nowadays regarded as one of the original freakbeat bands, who also coined the term “flower power” and paved the way for punk rock a decade later. However, by 1969 The Seeds were no more, with the latest lineup of the band deciding to call time on their career. It was the end of an era for an influential and innovative band who left behind a rich musical legacy.
This include The Seeds sophomore album A Web Of Sound which was released in October 1966, and was recently released on vinyl as a two LP set by Big Beat, an imprint of Ace Records. A Web Of Sound was the followup to The Seeds which had been released just six months earlier in April 1966. The Seeds was the album which had launched the band’s career, now they hoped to build on that success with their sophomore album A Web Of Sound.
It was hard for The Seeds to believe that their musical adventure had only started a year earlier when the five young musicians founded the band in LA. The Seeds were founded in 1965 and featured charismatic vocalist Sly Saxon who was by far the most experienced member of the band.
He had been a professional musician since the late-fifties and had been releasing singles as Richie Marsh since the early sixties. Sly Saxon who came from Salt Lake City, had moved to Los Angeles to further his musical career. However, he had been treading water until he saw an advert in 1965 looking for musicians to join a new band. This Sly Saxon hoped might be the breakthrough he had been looking for. That proved to be the case, and after an audition Sly Saxon became The Seeds vocalist.
With the lineup of The Seeds finalised, the new band spent time honing their sound. Soon, though, they made their first tentative steps onto LA’s live scene where they secured regular gigs at the Los Angeles nightclub Bido Lito’s. The Seeds were a popular draw with music fans flocking to the venue to see this new band’s high octane performance. Already The Seeds were making their mark on the LA music scene.
Not long after that, The Seeds recorded what would become their debut single Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. With the recording complete, charismatic frontman Sly Saxon started trying to interest record labels in the song. Mostly, it was a case of thanks but no thanks, until he entered the offices of GNP Crescendo Records. They listened to the song and promised Sly Saxon they would get back to him. By then, he and the rest of The Seeds knew not to get their hopes up.
This time it was different, with GNP Crescendo Records getting back to Sly Saxon and telling him how much they liked the song. Not only did they like Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, but they wanted to take The Seeds back into the studio and rerecord it with Marcus Tybalt.
The Seeds agreed and headed into the studio with Marcus Tybalt, where they rerecorded Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. It was then released by Crescendo and picked up by Santa Monica based radio station KBLA. Soon, other radio stations had picked up on Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, and this future cult classic became a regional hit in Southern California. After just a few months together, already The Seeds already had a regional hit single to their name which was a dream come true for the band.
While The Seeds celebrated the success of Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, guitarist Jeremy Levine announced that he was leaving the band for personal reasons. This was a huge blow for The Seeds who looked as if they were on the verge of making a breakthrough.
With The Seeds now a quartet, they returned Los Angeles’ vibrant live scene, where people were starting to take notice of this, new up-and-coming band who had just scored a hit with Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. By then, The Seeds’ popularity was rising and they became a firm favourite of audiences across LA. They were impressed by The Seeds’ high octane, energetic performances as they showcased the new garage rock sound that they were pioneering.
Although The Seeds spent much of their time playing live, they were already working on their eponymous debut album. Frontman Sly Saxon had dawned the role of The Seeds’ songwriter-in-chief and had penned ten of the twelve tracks that featured on The Seeds. He also wrote Evil Hoodoo with Daryl Hooper and penned No Escape with Jan Savage and Jimmy Lawrence. These twelve tracks were recorded at Columbia Studios, in Hollywood.
At Columbia Studios, Sly Saxon co-produced The Seeds with Marcus Tybalt who had masterminded their debut single Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. When the recording sessions began, drummer Rick Andridge wasn’t joined in the rhythm section by vocalist Sly Saxon who it was thought played bass on The Seeds recordings. Instead, Daryl Hooper who played keyboards, organ melodica and piano, laid down the bass parts using a bass keyboard. Meanwhile, Jan Savage took charge of the bass parts on The Seeds. Eventually, The Seeds had completed their much-anticipated eponymous debut album which would be released by GNP Crescendo Records.
In April 1966, The Seeds were just about to release their eponymous debut album The Seeds. Critics on hearing The Seeds were won over by this classic-in-waiting. The Seeds featured an irresistible fusion of fuzzy guitars, bubbling Hammond organ and Sly Saxon’s vocal which seems to have been inspired by everyone from Mick Jagger to Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. When The Seeds was released, it was to plaudits and praise, and nowadays, the album is regarded as a garage rock classic. Indeed, many critics believe that The Seeds is the finest garage rock album ever released.
On its release, The Seeds sold well and reached 132 in the US Billboard 200. Meanwhile, a decision was made to reissue Pushin’ Too Hard which had been released in 1965. While it failed to chart first time round, this time, Pushin’ Too Hard reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and forty-four in Canada. Later in 1966, Can’t Seem To Make You Mine was also reissued and reached forty-one in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-three in Canada. Things were looking good for The Seeds, as their thoughts turned to their sophomore album A Web Of Sound.
A Web Of Sound.
By the time The Seeds began work on A Web Of Sound, they had been working tirelessly since early 1965. They were now a familiar face and favourite on LA’s live scene. All The Seeds hard work was paying off and they had established a reputation as one of the most innovative bands of the mid-sixties. The Seeds were known to push musical boundaries to their limits as they created music that was best described as eclectic. Despite that, many people still referred to The Seeds as a garage band. However, The Seeds added elements of acid rock, proto-punk and psychedelia to their music. Their sophomore album A Web Of Sound was going to be a very different album to The Seeds.
Just like their debut album The Seeds, Sly Saxon was songwriter-in-chief on A Web Of Sound. On Tripmaker and Rollin’ Machine, the mysterious Marcus Tybalt was credited as one of the songwriters. However, this was just an alias of Sly Saxon who wrote Mr. Farmer, I Tell Myself, Rollin’ Machine and Up In Her Room. Sly Saxon and Darryl Hooper teamed up to write Pictures and Designs, Tripmaker and A Faded Picture. The pair then wrote Just Let Go with Jan Savage. These eight tracks were recorded during July 1966.
The Seeds recorded A Web Of Sound at RCA Victor and Columbia Studios in Hollywood. The sessions started on the ‘5th’ of July 1966 with Sly Saxon using the alias Marcus Tybalt taking charge of production. This time around, drummer Rick Andridge was joined by Harvey Sharpe who was brought onboard for the A Web Of Sound. Completing the rhythm section was Jan Savage who laid down all the guitar parts. Darryl Hooper switched between celeste, organ and piano, while vocalist Sly Saxon added percussion and played piano. After twenty-four days A Web Of Sound was completed on the ‘29th’ of July 1966. It was a very different album to their debut The Seeds.
Critics on hearing A Web Of Sound, realised just how far The Seeds had come in a relatively short space of time. In just six month, their music had progressed, and it looked as if The Seeds were going to match their LA based contemporaries like The Doors and Love every step of the way. That was the case with A Web Of Sound, which was an album of two very different sides.
A Web Of Sound marked the start of a new chapter in The Seeds career, as they broadened their musical horizon on what was a much more eclectic album. The Seeds incorporated elements of acid rock, blues, garage rock, proto punk and psychedelic rock on album that was embraced by the hippies. They were won over by A Web Of Sound which they believed was an unconventional album that featured open-ended songs which appealed to their mindset. These songs eschewed the carefully plotted thoughts and didacticism of the majority of songs on the charts, and left plenty of room for interpretation. The Seeds songwriter-in-chief Sly Saxon was an unlikely hero for the hippies.
Sly Saxon and the rest of The Seeds took the hippies on a walk on the wild side during A Web Of Sound. It opened with light-hearted and almost joyous proto-psychedelia of Mr. Farmer, where washes of swirling organ helps drives the arrangement along as Sly Saxon struts his way through the song, as he revels in his role as frontman. It’s a similar case on the stomping psychedelic garage rock of Pictures and Designs. Sly Saxon unleashes a vampish vocal powerhouse as cascading keyboards reminiscent of those on Pushing Too Hard play a leading role in the sound and success of the song.
Tripmaker features a driving, gritty,, genre-melting arrangement that incorporates elements of garage rock, psychedelic rock and proto punk. That is the perfectly description of Sly Saxon’s swaggering vocal, which must have influenced a generation of punks a decade later. Here, The Seeds don’t take themselves too seriously, briefly adding sound effects to a mix that features blistering guitars, keyboards as drums that power the arrangement along. The result is a fist pumping anthem that straddles disparate genres.
Suddenly, it’s all change on I Tell Myself where a heartbroken Sly Saxon tries not to reveal his sensitive side as he spits out a bravado fuelled and emotive vocal. Meanwhile, washes of weeping guitar are added to the genre-melting arrangement which features elements of acid rock, blues, garage rock, proto-punk and psychedelia. They play their part in this heady and potent musical brew that shows another side to The Seeds’ music. It’s a similar case on A Faded Picture, where the tempo drops and Sly Saxon sounds not unlike Mick Jagger on this slow, bluesy and lysergic soul-baring song which is one of the most underrated songs The Seeds recorded.
Quite different is the jaunty Rollin’ Machine which canters along as washes of bluesy guitar give way to keyboards and washes of swirling and bubbling Hammond organ. Meanwhile, Sly Saxon delivers the lyrics to this latest open-ended song which were embraced by the hippies. Later, a searing, fuzzy guitar is added as this cinematic fusion of acid rock, blues and psychedelia takes shape and showcases just how versatile, innovative and imaginative The Seeds were by the time they released A Web Of Sound.
The second side of A Web Of Sound opened with the cinematic sounding psychedelia of Let Her Go. It finds Sly Saxon unleashing a needy, pleading vocal as the arrangement veers between mesmeric to driving. By then, Jan Savage has unleashed his fuzzy guitar which gives way to the swirling Hammond that adds a progressive sound. They play their part in an arrangement that is a perfect foil to Sly Saxon’s vocal which later, becomes an urgent, hopeful powerhouse.
Up In Her Room which closes A Web Of Sound, is a near fifteen-minute epic, with lyrics that hints at sex and drugs which were no longer taboo subjects. This after all, was the beginning of an era when free love and experimenting with drugs was seen almost regarded as de rigueur. However, during Up In Her Room The Seeds enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs and experiment musically. To do this, they deploy a bottleneck guitar, electric fuzz-bass, Fender Rhodes and tambourine which combine with the drums that provide the heartbeat. Over the next fifteen minutes, The Seed push musical boundaries to their limits and fuse disparate genres on this epic musical workout. It’s another reminder of just how versatile and innovative The Seeds were on a track that signalled the start of a new chapter in The Seeds’ story.
That however, isn’t the end of the story of Big Beat’s reissue of A Web Of Sound. On The second LP are eleven other tracks that include the single version of Mr. Farmer and the single edit of the fifteen minute opus Up In Her Room. There’s also alternate takes of Pictures and Designs, Rollin’ Machine, A Faded Picture and the mono mix of Trip Maker. Welcome additions are alternate takes of The Wind Blows Your, Dreaming Of Your Love and Out Of The Question. They’re the perfect companion to A Web Of Sound on this lovingly curated two LP set which was recently reissued by Big Beat, an imprint of Ace Records. It’s the perfect way introduce a new audience to this cult classic, A Web Of Sound.
When A Web Of Sound was released in October 1966, the album wasn’t a commercial success initially. This changed after the reissue of Pushin’ Too Hard gave The Seeds another hit single. Suddenly, record buyers started investigating The Seeds’ sophomore album A Web Of Sound which had slipped under the radar. While it sold reasonably well, A Web Of Sound was a cult album that failed to replicate The Seeds. It was only later that A Web Of Sound would be embraced by a much wider audience.
By then, critics, cultural commentators and record buyers realised that A Web Of Sound was a stepping stone for The Seeds, as their sound continued to evolve on their third album Future.
While The Seeds had pushed musical boundaries to their limits on The Seeds and A Web Of Sound, they blew these limits away on Future. The result was a mind-blowing fusion of psychedelia, garage, rock and pop that veered towards jazz and soul.Eclectic doesn’t even come close to describing Future. It’s a minor classic that is a long way from The Seeds roots as a garage band. However, listening to A Web Of Sound it’s obvious that The Seeds were in the process of changing.
Although the basis for many of the songs on A Web Of Sound is garage rock, there’s much more to the album that than. Garage rock was part of The Seeds’ recipe, as they added elements of acid rock, demonic blues, proto-punk, psychedelia. The result was a heady and potent musical brew that showcased a truly talented and versatile band who were musical pioneers. That had been the case since they released The Seeds in April 1966.
Six months later, when The Seeds released A Web Of Sound it was as if they had let their imagination run riot as they created an album of groundbreaking, inventive and innovative music. Sometimes, The Seeds fused disparate genres that under normal circumstances shouldn’t have worked together. However, The Seeds were no ordinary band, and this talented band of musical mavericks led by songwriter, producer and vocalist Sly Saxon, they recorded the cult classic Web Of Sound in less than a month.
During July 1966, musical magpies The Seeds, collect musical genres and influences which are added to their lysergic melting pot. All that is left is for The Seeds, especially producer Sly Saxon to add some secret ingredients. A Web Of Sound was then left to cook for twenty-four days and nights. When this musical melting pot was removed from the musical oven, the world were introduced to the most ambitious, eclectic and innovative album of The Seeds’ short career, A Web Of Sound. It featured songs about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll as Sly Saxon sometimes strutted his way through songs, and other times, preached to converted on A Web Of Sound which was a pioneering and unconventional album that showcased the different sides to The Seeds, who were much more than a garage band.
The Seeds-A Web Of Sound.
Label: Out-Sider Music.
After Ohio-based singer, songwriter and musician John Hurd wrote a new song Tragedy in 1971, he booked some studio time so that his band The Revised Brotherhood could record their debut single. Joining John Hurt in the studio when The Revised Brotherhood recorded Tragedy and Those Things was his friend Bill Fairbanks.
When the time came to record Tragedy, Bill Fairbanks stepped up the microphone and added backing vocals which were the perfect foil for John Hurd’s lead vocal. As the two high school students listened to the playback, they were pleased with the results. Now though, John Hurd planned to release Tragedy as a single.
This John Hurd knew was going to be easier said than done. He had two alternatives try to interest a local label in the single, or release The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single Tragedy as a private press. However, John Hurd had always planned to release Tragedy as a private press and arranged to have 100 copies pressed by the Heard label which was an imprint of Universal Language.
By the time John Hurd took delivery of the 100 copies of Tragedy, things had changed for the leader of The Revised Brotherhood. John Hurd and Bill Fairbanks had enjoyed recording Tragedy and were keen to repeat the experience. So much so, that they had decided to put together a new band and record an album together.
This new band they called The Brotherhood, which was very different to The Revised Brotherhood. For a start, it was setup more like a traditional rock band and was five piece band. The lineup featured John Hurd on bass, organ and piano and The Revised Brotherhood’s drummer Donny Hoskins. They were joined by Bill Fairbanks who played acoustic guitar, bass and piano. Soon, three became four when Bill Fairbanks recommended a talent and charismatic guitarist who would he believed would be perfect for addition to the new band, Jeff Hanson. He was a versatile guitarist who could seamlessly switch between lead and rhythm guitar. After an audition, Jeff Hanson joined The Brotherhood. By then, the lineup was almost complete and soon, the dream of making an album became reality.
The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when John Hurd met flautist MJ Coe, and invited him to jam with The Brotherhood. After the initial jam session, John Hurd asked MJ Coe to join The Brotherhood, and when he accepted the rest of the band knew that the lineup of the band was complete. Now they could begin working towards their debut album Stavia which was recently reissued by Out-Sider Music, an imprint of Guerssen Records.
With the lineup of The Brotherhood in place, John Hurd asked Bill Fairbanks and Jeff Hanson to bring any songs that they had written and might suit the band to the first rehearsal. Neither John Hurd nor The Brotherhood were wasting any time, began work on their debut album straight away. Recording an album was The Brotherhood’s raison d’être. It was why the band had been formed in April 1972, and was what The Brotherhood worked towards over the next five months.
At their next rehearsal, John Hurd brought along a couple of songs that he had been working on, Colour Line, Uncle and Meditation Part 2. These songs were work-in-progress until he showed them to Bill Fairbanks. Soon, Colour Line, Uncle and Meditation Part 2 were compete and were credited to John Hurd and Bill Fairbanks. He also contributed Back Door and Meditation Part 1, while guitarist Jeff Hanson wrote For Her Time. Meanwhile, John Hurd had written Rock and Roll Band and Cry Of Love. A decision was also taken to rerecord Tragedy which had been released in 1971 as The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single.
Over the next few weeks and months, The Brotherhood spent much of their time tightening and honing their songs and the group’s sound. The band knew that they had to have their A-Game on when they eventually entered the studio. As a result, much of their time was spent rehearsing, and occasionally The Brotherhood played live during the summer of 1972. However, they never lost sight of what brought them together recording an album.
Eventually, the time came for The Brotherhood to record the nine songs that became their debut album Stavia, which John Hurd decided should become a place that existed only in the band’s imagination. However, Stavia had a theme running through the nine songs on the album. That theme of Stavia was love, with The Brotherhood hoping that people could love and be free and pleasant to each other. This may seem idealistic in 2018, but Stavia has to be taken in context. In 1972, the Vietnam War was raging and the Civil Rights movement continued in its valiant attempt to transform the lives of African-Americans. It’s no surprise that The Brotherhood’s message on Stavia was love and the hope that people could be free and pleasant to each other.
When the time came for The Brotherhood to record Stavia, the band was more than ready to record their debut album. They had spent months tightening the song and honing their sound. Drummer Donny Hoskins was joined by Bill Fairbanks on acoustic guitar, bass, piano and vocals while John Hurd played bass, organ, piano and added vocals. Flautist MJ Coe also played acoustic guitar and added vocals. So did Jeff Hanson as he switched between lead and rhythm guitar. Soon, The Brotherhood had achieved what they had set out to do, and recorded their debut album Stavia.
With Stavia complete, the next step was for The Brotherhood to release their debut album. Just like The Revised Brotherhood’s debut single Tragedy, Stavia was released as private press. However, this time, Rite Record Productions produced around 200 copies of Stavia which nowadays, it’s an extremely rare album.
Stavia is also an album that for many a year was shrouded in mystery and had had become a mythical album. Some record collectors doubted that Stavia even existed. They’ve since been proved wrong with the recent reissue of Stavia by the Out-Sider label.
Back in September 1972 The Brotherhood achieved what they had set out to do five months earlier when they released their debut album Stavia. Sadly, that was the end of the road for The Brotherhood now that they had released their debut album. There was no followup to Stavia, and the five members of The Brotherhood went their separate ways. However, their musical legacy is Stavia.
Opening Stavia is Colour Line a song where The Brotherhood hope that one day the racism that divided American would be a thing of the past. Tight harmonies join the rhythm section, chirping guitar, washes of Hammond organ and a flute that climbs above the hopeful vocal. By then, it’s obvious that The Brotherhood is a tight, talented band as Donny Haskins drums anchor the arrangement and John Hurd’s Hammond organ and Jeff Hanson’s searing, blistering guitar licks play a starring role alongside a heartfelt and soulful vocal. Later, as The Brotherhood jam they showcase their skills, before they continue to combine social comment and hooks on this melodic and memorable thought-provoking song.
The tempo drops on the ballad Rock And Roll Band which was written by John Hurd. He takes charge of the vocal on this tale of love gone awry as a dreamy, thoughtful and dramatic acid rock arrangement unfolds around him and grabs the listener’s attention.
Soon, a swirling Hammond organ has joined the rhythm section, keyboards and chirping guitar. This is the signal for the vocal to drop out and The Brotherhood to jam. They enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs before the vocal returns and John completes the story. Meanwhile, bristling guitar licks and washes of Hammond organ accompany him before his vocal drops out again. He adds the occasional whoop or holler as he encourages the group, and especially virtuoso guitarist Jeff Hanson to even greater heights.
Washes of Hammond organ combine with flute and the drums that drive the arrangement to Back Door along. It’s a tale of betrayal where the tender, rueful vocal swings. When it drops out this leaves the coast clear for the rest of The Brotherhood who tempo. As they do, the tempo rises and falls as the arrangement becomes progressive as the swirling Hammond organ, fluttering flute and searing guitar combine with rhythm section who provide the heartbeat. Later, when the vocal returns John complete the story and The Brotherhood power the arrangement along until it reaches a thoughtful ending.
As For Her Time unfolds, Jeff Hanson’s blistering guitar is joined by the swirling and driving Hammond organ and the rhythm section who produces a stomping beat. Meanwhile, the vocal tells the tragic story a woman with nothing to live for and: “nothing for her time.” Soon, the arrangement becomes lysergic, funky and at one point references The Who. All the time, Donny Hoskins drums drive and power the arrangement along. They’re joined by keyboards, searing, scorching guitars and later washes of Hammond organ. During a lengthy instrumental passage The Brotherhood in full flight reach new heights and this is an impressive sound. When the vocal returns it completes the story and adds the finishing touch to one of Stavia’s finest moments.
Meditation Part 1 is a pain led instrumental where The Brotherhood show another side to their music. Gone is the hard rocking band of the previous track as the track gradually builds with the rhythm section and flute joining the piano. This results in a much more ruminative sounding track where The Brotherhood playing within themselves. The result is a quite beautiful sounding track that offers the opportunity for reflection.
John Hurd was inspired to write Uncle after hearing Neil Young’s Ohio. The Uncle in the song is Uncle Sam, as John deals with the subject of war and being young and having to serve your country. Lysergic keyboards and a Hammond organ are joined by the flute and guitar as the rhythm section enter and John delivers an impassioned and emotive vocal. Briefly backing vocals accompany him during a song that features a much more restrained performance from The Brotherhood. This allows the impassioned vocal to take centre-stage during thought-provoking song full of social comment.
Very different is Cry Of Love which gradually reveals its secrets and again, shows another side to The Brotherhood. Against an arrangement where washes of Hammond organ join the piano, rhythm section and flute John delivers a soul-baring vocal that is full of emotion. Meanwhile, the rest of the band take care not to overpower the vocal. That is the case when a swirling Hammond organ adds an elements of drama and joins the rhythm section and flute as this beautiful, poignant song reaches its crescendo.
Originally, Tragedy was released as a single by The Revised Brotherhood. It was revised by The Brotherhood on Stavia and features a vampish vocal by bandleader John Hurt. He’s accompanied by cooing harmonies, while the rhythm section anchor the arrangement as keyboards join a guitar and flute. Together, they play their part in progressive and sometimes funky example of acid rock that is without doubt one of the highlights of Stavia.
Meditation Part 2 which closes Stavia and is the longest song on the album. There was a reason for this as The Brotherhood wanted to leave room for a lengthy guitar solo from Jeff Hanson. The easiest way to do that was lengthen the song. It opens with a flute accompanying the subtle rhythm section, Hammond organ and tender vocal. This is the case until Jeff Hanson unleashes a blistering, Hendrix-inspired solo at 1.12. Meanwhile the tender vocal sits below the guitar and the powerhouse of a rhythm section. However, it’s Jeff Hanson that plays a starring role in the track and steals the show with a musical tour de force. It’s the perfect way to close Stavia.
When The Brotherhood released 200 copies of Stavia in September 1972 it was a proud moment, and one that they had been working towards for five months. Little did five members of The Brotherhood realise the impact that Stavia would have over the next five decades.
Nowadays, Stavia is regarded as one of the great acid rock private presses released in America during the early seventies. However, sometimes, the music heads in the direction acid folk, funk, heavy rock and in the case of vocals soul. To this musical potpourri The Brotherhood add social comment as they comment on the problems facing America in 1972. Other times, John Hurd becomes a storyteller as he delivers tales of love lost and heartbreak on Stavia which was the mythical place that The Brotherhood invented.
The recent reissue of Stavia by the Out-Sider label is the perfect opportunity to discover or rediscover one of the rarest provide presses of the early seventies. Stavia was the one and only album that that the Ohio-based Rock and Roll Band The Brotherhood released during a career that lasted just five months. Incredibly, that was long enough for The Brotherhood to released their spellbinding acid rock genre classic Stavia which features a truly talented and versatile band.
Catfish-Get Down and Live Catfish.
Label: BGO Records.
The story of Detroit-based blues rockers Catfish is a case of what might have been. This talented five piece band was formed in the late-sixties, and over the next few years opened for Black Sabbath, Bob Seger, Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent, and played at the prestigious Fillmore East. It was no surprise when Epic signed Catfish, who were regarded as a band with the potential and talent to become one of the top blues rock bands of the early seventies.
This was evident when Catfish released their debut studio album Get Down on Epic in 1970. Despite receiving plaudits and praise, commercial success eluded Get Down. Despite that, Live Catfish was released later in 1970 and featured a tantalising taste of Catfish’s live sound. Sadly, history repeated itself and Live Catfish failed to find an audience. That was the last album that Catfish released, during a recoding career that lasted less than one year. However, forty-eight years later and Catfish and Live Catfish have been rereleased by BGO Records as a two CD set, and these two albums are a reminder of one of the great lost blues rock bands of the early seventies. Their story began just a few years earlier.
That was when singer, songwriter and guitarist Catfish Hodge founded Catfish in his hometown of Detroit. This was something that Catfish Hodge had dreamt about since he was a boy.
Bobby Allen Hodge was born in Detroit in 1944, and growing up, his parents who were originally from Kentucky, introduced their son to blues, country and gospel. This was his introduction to music, which soon became his passion.
Each day, Bob Hodge listened to the various local radio stations. Then at night, when Bob Hodge was meant to be sleeping, he listened to radio stations from as far failed as Chicago and Memphis. That was how the young Bob Hodge first heard Rufus Thomas and bluesmen John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and BB King. Bob Hodge absorbed all this new music and then on a Friday, he was able to choose one record which his mother would buy at a local record shop. For the young Bob Hodge this was the highlight of his week and was what he listened to during the weekend.
By the time he was in high school, Bob Hodge’s life was already revolving around music. Much of his spare time was spent listening to the music. However, when he wasn’t listening to music, Bob Hodge was making music.
This came after Terry Kelly one of Bob Hodge’s friends from high him how to play the guitar. This was eureka moment for Bob Hodge, who suddenly, realised that he could follow in the footsteps of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, BB King and Lonnie Mack.
Terry Kelly also introduced Bob Hodge to a variety of new artists, including Lonnie Mack. His music made a big impression on Bob Hodge, and when he founded his first band in high school, a number of Lonnie Mack’s songs found their way onto the band’s setlist. However, Terry Mack wasn’t Bob Hodge’s only musical influence
By the late-sixties, Bob Hodge was absorbing the sounds of Detroit, and was a regular visitor to the Motown soul factory. Along with his friends, Bob Hodge sat in his car listening to the music emanating from the studios. Sometimes, Bob Hodge and his friends managed to sneak past the security guards and were able to watch the recording sessions. Some nights, they saw artists like
Smokey Robinson recording their latest singles or album. Before long, Bob Hodge and his friends were usually discovered by an embarrassed guard and thrown out,…until the next time. This was a regular cat and mouse game for Bob Hodge and his friends. However, having watched the recording seasons at Motown, Bob Hodge became more determined to become a professional musician.
Despite that, when Bob Hodge left high school he started work at a finance company. One of the job’s he was given was collecting money from customers who had missed a payment. This included a forgetful member of the Four Tops. Whenever he was on tour, he forgot to pay his bills and Bob Hodge had to collect the payments.
This would result in Bob Hodge having to take the forgetful Four Top or his wife to Motown, where they picked up some money to pay the bill. Naturally, seeing what was another world close up, made Bob Hodge’s mind up, now was the time to make music his career.
Bob Hodge’s first job in the music industry was as a songwriter and producer. He penned and produced Capreez’s Over You, which was released on the Detroit label Sound. That was Bob’s introduction to the music industry.
Soon, Bob Hodge was working with three up-and-coming local Detroit bands. Having hired an office, Bob Hodge started looking trying to get his clients a recording contract. One label that showed an interest in his client was Vanguard, so Bob Hodge caught the redeye to the Big Apple, and headed to see Maynard Solomon at Vanguard. Bob Hodge played him the tapes and although Maynard Solomon like what he heard, he reckoned that Vanguard weren’t quite ready for rock ’n’ roll. While this a disappointment, Bob Hodge decided to head into Greenwich Village after his meeting.
That night, Bob Hodge saw a still unsigned Jimi Hendrix playing in a Greenwich Village coffee bar. After that, Bob Hodge headed to Bleecker, and as he passed by a club that was closed, he heard music. Curiosity got the better of Bob Hodge who looked into the club, where he saw Van Morrison rehearsing. For Bob Hodge this was a eureka moment, and at last, he knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
Back home in Detroit, Bob Hodge formed a new band Wicked Religion, which eventually evolved into the blues rock band Catfish. It was founded and led by Bob Hodge who was now known as Catfish Hodge who sang and played guitar. He was joined in Catfish by drummer Jimmy Optner, bassist Ron Cooke, guitarist Mark Manko and organist Harry Phillips. With the lineup of band complete, the rise and rise of Catfish began.
Before long, Catfish had established a reputation as one of Detroit’s top live groups and were soon rubbing shoulders with the MC5 and The Stooges. Catfish’s raw blues rock sound was winning friends not just in Detroit, but much further afield. This included in the offices of Epic.
Kenny Hodges who was an executive at Epic, had heard good things about Catfish on the musical grapevine. The word in Detroit was that Catfish were one of the top bands in the city’s live music scene. Their brand of raw, but soulful blues rock was proving popular and music industry insiders in Detroit believed that Catfish had the potential and talent to become one of top blues rock bands of the early seventies. With this in mind, Epic swooped and signed Catfish. They weren’t going to risk anyone beating them to Catfish’s signature. The only problem would be, replicating Catfish’s famous live sound?
By the time Catfish signed to Epic, they were regarded as one of the top live bands in Detroit. They had already started to spread their wings and were famous for their impressive live sound. The problem was going to be harnessing and replicating Catfish’s live sound in the studio. That was why Epic brought onboard Kenny Cooper to produce Catfish’s debut album which became Get Down.
For Get Down, Catfish Hodge had dawned the role of Catfish’s songwriter-in-chief, and penned The Hawk, 300 Pound Fat Mama, Love Lights and Coffee Song. Catfish Hodge and Mark Manko teamed up to write No Place To Hide, Tradition, and Get High, Get Naked, Get Down. The pair also added lyrics to T. Carson’s Catfish which bookended this eclectic album.
When Catfish arrived at the studio, little did anyone know that this was the only time the band would record together. That day, Catfish Hodge took charge of the vocals and played guitar. He was joined by a rhythm section of drummer Jimmy Optner, bassist Ron Cooke and guitarist Mark Manko, who were augmented by organist Harry Phillips. Producing this tight and talented band was Kenny Cooper, who had been brought onboard to help Catfish replicate their live sound. However, Catfish had their own ideas about how Get Down should sound.
The members of Catfish were responsible for the arrangements on the nine tracks on Get Down. It was hard to believe that Catfish had never set foot in a studio, and as Kenny Cooper pressed record, they seamlessly flitted between and sometimes combine elements of blues, country, folk, gospel, hard rock and good time rock ’n’ roll. In doing so, Catfish showed their talent and versatility on their debut album Get Down.
That was no surprise as each member of Catfish was a talented musician who had enjoyed the opportunity to showcase their considerable talents on Get Down. Catfish boogied their way through Get Down with a smile on their face. Unlike many similar bands, Catfish didn’t take themselves to seriously on their genre-melting debut album Get Down.
Critics on hearing Get Down, were won over by the album and believed that Catfish had a big future ahead of them. However, when Get Down was released it failed to trouble the charts. This was a huge disappointment for Catfish and Epic who had backed the band.
Despite the disappointing sales of Get Down in America, Epic decided to release the album in Europe. While it wasn’t a hugely successful album, Get Down found an audience in parts of Europe. Meanwhile, Catfish’s popularity was growing in popularity in Detroit. That was where Epic decided that Catfish should record their sophomore album Live Catfish.
Hot on the heels of the release of Get Down, Catfish returned to Detroit, where they recorded what became Live Catfish at the Eastown Theatre. The decisions to record a live album made perfect sense.
The problem that executives at Epic had been faced when they signed Catfish was getting the band to replicate their live sound in the studio. Catfish and producer Kenny Cooper had done their best to replicate Catfish’s live sound on Get Down. Catfish did their best to replicate the rawness, energy and spontaneity of one of one of their live performances and came very close. However, after the release of Get Down, a decision was made that the best way to replicate the rawness, energy and spontaneity of Catfish in concert was on a live album.
It was also a much cheaper than recording a studio album, and if the album flopped, the losses would be significantly less. However, executives at Epic were hoping that Live Catfish would prove a successful album. After all, Catfish’s popularity was on the rise.
By the time Catfish arrived at the Eastown Theatre in Detroit, they had already opened for Black Sabbath, Bob Seger, Edgar Winter’s Band, Mountain and Ted Nugent. This showed just how far Catfish had come in a relatively short space of time. One of their biggest gigs was when they opened for Santana at the Fillmore East, and some say that they upstaged the headliners that night.
That is no surprise, as Catfish were winning over audiences across America with their live show. Especially when they returned home to Detroit.
When Catfish took to the stage Eastown Theatre in Detroit, the lineup of the band was very different to the one that featured on Get Down. A new rhythm section that featured drummer Jimmy Demers, bassist Dennis Cranner and guitarist Dallas Hodge, who were augmented by the original organist Harry Phillips, who was the only original member of the band apart from Catfish Hodge.
An adoring hometown crowd welcome Catfish who launched into an explosive set. It began with Catfish reinventing Holland, Dozier and Holland’s Nowhere To Run, which sets the bar high for the rest of this six song set. Catfish then unleash a raw, but sometimes soulful and high-octane cover of Money (That’s What I Want). This gives way to the blues rock of 300 Pound Fat Mama which was penned by Catfish Hodge. The tempo rises on Mississippi River, which is a blistering slice of blues rock which features Catfish at their best. There’s no stopping Catfish now, as they unleash Letter To Nixon.It’s a mixture of social comment and blues rock that features a vampish vocal from showman and bandleader Catfish Hodge. He then encourages his band to greater heights on a barnstorming cover of Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On before exiting the stage left.
After recording Live Catfish, executives at Epic realised that they had captured Catfish at their very best. Live Catfish featured a rawness, energy, spontaneity and soulfulness that were the all trademarks of Catfish’s explosive and high-octane performance. This was the album that Epic had been hoping for, and that they hoped would transform the band’s career.
When critics heard Live Catfish they too, were won over by Catfish in full flight during what was a captivating performance. It epitomised everything that was good about Catfish live. Surely, this Live Catfish was the album that transformed Catfish’s career.
Sadly, when Live Catfish was released later in 1980, the album failed commercially. History had repeated itself, when Live Catfish failed to even trouble the lower reaches of the American charts. The only small crumb of comfort was that when Live Catfish was released in Europe, it was embraced by a small but enthusiastic audience who took Catfish to their hearts. That was as good as it for Catfish.
After the release of Live Catfish, several members of Catfish joined forces with Mitch Ryder when he was forming his new band Detroit. They featured on Detroit With Mitch Ryder which was released in 1971.
By then, Catfish Hodge had embarked upon a solo career, and two years later in 1973 he moved to Washington DC. However, Catfish Hodge never forgot the years he spent leading Catfish as they became a successful live band. Sadly, the two albums Catfish released for Epic during 1970, Get Down and Live Catfish which were recently rereleased by BGO Records as a two CD set, failed to find the audience they deserved.
Nowadays, the genre melting Get Down and the explosive and high-octane Live Catfish are a reminder Catfish at the peak of their powers. Sadly, Catfish who are one of the great lost blues rock bands of the early seventies, never enjoyed the success they deserved and their story is a case of what might have been?
Catfish-Get Down and Live Catfish.
Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs-Heavy Rockin’ Steady.
While many of Byram Joseph’s classmates at junior school Sarnia, a small city in Southwestern Ontario, in Canada were interested in sport, the future Slakah The Beatchild was much more interested in music. He already had a small record collection which his parents had given him, and these had become his prized possessions.
When returned home from school, Byram Joseph would spend time listening to his collection of records. It was becoming smothering of a daily ritual as he headed up to his room and spent time flicking through his collection looking for a record he wanted to listen to. He carefully lifted it onto the turntable and put the needle on the vinyl and then sat down and listened to the music. Before long, Byram Joseph had decided that he would also like to make music.
The instrument that Byram Joseph wanted to play was the drums. At first, Byram Joseph borrowed the pots and pans from the kitchen, which became a makeshift drum set. For a while, his parents watched on as their son happily pounded away at his drum kit. Eventually, Byram Joseph’s mother decided to enrol her ten-year old son in drum lessons.
Having started with the drum lessons, Byram Joseph later learnt to play the piano and took singing lessons. All this would prove invaluable when Byram Joseph dawned the moniker Slakah The Beatchild and embarked upon a career as a professional musician.
Soon, Slakah The Beatchild was a familiar face in Toronto’s recording studios, where he spent many a night serving the equivalent of a musical apprenticeship. This stood him in good stead when his solo career began.
In 2008, Slakah The Beatchild signed to British independent record label BBE, who had agreed to release his debut album. Later, that year, BBE released Slakah The Beatchild’s critically acclaimed debut album Soul Movement Vol.1 which was also nominated for a Juno Award in his native Canada. This was the start of a successful career for Slakah The Beatchild.
Just under three years later, and Slakah The Beatchild returned with his much-anticipated sophomore album Something Forever in February 2011. It was released to the same plaudits and praise as Soul Movement Vol.1. However, by the time Slakah The Beatchild returned with his critically acclaimed third album Soul Movement Vol.2 in March 2014, he had founded a new band.
Slakah The Beatchild’s had formed his new band The Slakadeliqs in early 2012. Soon, Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs were working on their debut album The Other Side of Tomorrow. It was released in September 2012, and at the end of the year, found its way onto the long-list for the prestigious Polaris music prize in Canada. However, it was a case of close but no cigar for Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs.
Just over five years later, and Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs returned with their eagerly awaited sophomore album Heavy Rockin’ Steady which was released by BBE in February 2018.
Heavy Rockin’ Steady is captivating, eclectic and genre-melting album where Byram Joseph once again, showcases his skills as a songwriter, musician and producer. He wrote California Coastin’, In My Arms, 2nd Most and Beach, and cowrote the other six songs with various songwriting partners. These songs were recorded at Beatchild Productions in Canada.
In Byram Joseph’s studio, the multi-instrumentalist, played most of the instruments on Heavy Rockin’ Steady. That was apart from when he recorded The Good Life and Ricky Tillo was brought onboard to add the guitar parts. Then when In My Arms was recorded, Anna Atkinson played the viola and violin parts. Meanwhile, Byram Joseph was taking charge of production and later mixed Heavy Rockin’ Steady. Now Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’s Heavy Rockin’ Steady sophomore album was almost ready to release.
There was just one thing left to do master Heavy Rockin’ Steady. To do that, Mandy Parnell one of the leading mastering engineers in the world was brought onboard. This was a real coup, as Mandy Parnell is an award-winning mastering engineer with twenty-four years of experience. Mandy Parnell mastered Heavy Rockin’ Steady at her own Black Saloon Studios, in Walthamstow Village in London. Once the album was mastered, Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ sophomore album Heavy Rockin’ Steady was ready to release.
As California Coastin’ opens Heavy Rockin’ Steady, the sound of crackling vinyl and birdsong give way to a picked acoustic guitar and distant, tender scatted vocal. When it drops out a wistful rueful strings are joined by a strummed guitar, bass, beats and flute. By then, the sound of crackling vinyl, birdsong and distant vocal has returned and the track showcases a laid-back, dreamy sound. The tempo rises slightly when a chirping guitar, rhythm section combine and the track reaches a memorable ending. In doing so, this sits the bar high for the rest of the album.
Very different is Giants and Monsters where Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs throw a curveball as acoustic guitar and a banjo are joined by ethereal harmonies and create a genre-melting track. Elements of bluegrass and country music have already inspired Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs. Soon, it’s all change as a piano interjects and the Beatchild sings call and respond with The Slakadeliqs. By then, the acoustic guitar and banjo have been joined by the rhythm section, weeping guitar, percussion and handclaps Meanwhile, the Beatchild’s soulful vocal delivers lyrics that are rich in imagery as The Slakadeliqs encourage him to greater heights. In doing so, they combines elements gospel during this captivating musical roller coaster ride.
Drums set these scene for Beatchild’s vampish and charismatic vocal on The Good Life. Meanwhile, tight harmonies, handclaps, futuristic synths join the rhythm section who anchor the punchy, swinging arrangement. Beatchild seems to have embraced the role of frontman, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Later, a blistering rocky guitar cuts through the arrangement and latterly, is joined by sci-fi synths as this irresistible track reaches a crescendo.
Just a lone guitar opens Bottom Of You and is joined by the Beatchild’s emotive and urgent vocal. He’s joined by handclaps and harmonies which answer his call. The harmonies and later, drums add to the urgency before keyboards are added. Later, as the Beatchild delivers a heartfelt vocal, he sings call and response with The Slakadeliqs. Behind them, drums pound, banjo and keyboards play while the handclaps are omnipresent. They play their part in this slice of genre-melting paean which features a catchy good time sound.
Straight away, it sounds as if Your Believer (Say Goodbye) has been influenced by the Beach Boys, Electric Light Orchestra and The Beatles from post 1966. The Beatchild’s vocal is high and distant, and like the rest of the arrangement sits way back in the mix. Gradually, the rhythm section, guitars and multi-tracked vocals are brought to the front of the mix and the volume increases. Keyboards are added, and soon, are joined by pounding drums, tight harmonies, keyboards and a searing guitar. Later, sci-fi synths, chiming guitars, keyboards and cascading harmonies are added. Sometimes, instruments make a brief appearance, other times they play an important role in this carefully crafted multilayered track where sixties sunshine pop and psychedelia melt into one. It’s Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ finest moment on Heavy Rockin’ Steady.
The first of the guest artists, Justin Nozuka makes an appearance on the piano led The Only Difference. It features another carefully crafted arrangement that gradually unfolds. From just stabs of a lone piano, hip hop beats where reverb has been added are joined by a chiming guitar and later, gospel-tinged harmonies. By then, there’s a more swing in the drums and they play their part in the sound and success of this joyous and uplifting song. It’s a beautiful fusion of hip hop, Nu Soul and gospel harmonies
In My Arms is another piano led track, but this time, space-age keyboards join a lysergic filtered vocal. Meanwhile, drums drive the arrangement along, while washes and stabs of keyboards join multi-racked harmonies and a scorching, searing vocal. Adding a contrast is the viola and violin, which sweep and swirl, while the piano and drums pound. Still, the vocal is lysergic and dreamy before a sample of a baby is added as this modern-day psychedelic symphony takes shape. It’s another of the highlights of Heavy Rockin’ Steady,
Straight away, there’s a cinematic and baroque sound to 2nd Most. However, it’s The Beatles have obviously influenced Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs. They create a cascading arrangement that is like a merry-go-round as psychedelia and sixties pop combine. Harmonies, handclaps, and guitar join with the rhythm section in providing a backdrop for the Beatchild’s otherworldly, dreamy and lysergic vocal. It plays its part on one of Heavy Rockin’ Steady‘s finest moments.
The Remedy features the second guest vocalist Edda Magnason. Initially, the arrangement is understated, allowing the tender, breathy vocal to take centre-stage. It’s accompanied by harmonies and a strummed guitar. However, when the vocal drops out, the rhythm section, guitar, harmonies and weeping guitar are part of a Sg. Peppers’ inspired cascading arrangement. Later, the vocal is distant, dubby and haunting as the guitar, bass and glistening keyboards play leading roles. Together, they play their part in a spellbinding track that has been heavily inspired by sixties psychedelia.
It’s the piano then drums that play leading roles in Beach which closes Heavy Rockin’ Steady. These are the two instruments Byram Joseph first learnt to play. He’s a one man rhythm section who also plays the keyboards, rocky guitar and harpsichord. At 2.06 the instrumental pauses, adding a degree of drama. However, after this dramatic pause, the arrangement rebuilds and is driven along. Latterly, sounds assail the listener during this inventive instrumental. It closes Heavy Rockin’ Steady on a high.
After ten carefully crafted tracks lasting thirty-eight minutes, Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ eagerly awaited sophomore album Heavy Rockin’ Steady is over. Long before the final notes of Beach which closes Heavy Rockin’ Steady, it’s obvious that this is the finest album that Byram Joseph has released. Heavy Rockin’ Steady which was recently released by BBE, surpasses the quality of Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ 2012 debut album The Other Side of Tomorrow. Heavy Rockin’ Steady also surpasses the two albums that Byram Joseph has released as Slakah The Beatchild. Quite simply, Heavy Rockin’ Steady is career-defining album from Byram Joseph.
Heavy Rockin’ Steady is also a musical roller coaster where Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs flit seamlessly between and sometimes combine disparate influences and genres. Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs draw inspiration from the Beach Boys, The Beatles and Electric Light Orchestra and everything from bluegrass, country, hip hop, Nu Soul, pop, psychedelia, rock and soul. There’s also hints of ambient, avant-garde and dream pop hidden within Heavy Rockin’ Steady which is a carefully crafted and captivating album full of subtleties and sonic surprises.
Part of the success of Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ Heavy Rockin’ Steady is down to Mandy Parnell’s mastering. She is one of the top mastering engineers, and is who the great and good of music go to when they want an album mastered. Mandy Parnell shows why, on Heavy Rockin’ Steady, and is responsible for a beautifully balanced album which truly is a pleasure to listen to. Hopefully, Mandy Parnell will be BBE go-to-mastering engineer in the future, that is if her busy schedule permits.
For everyone who has patiently awaited the release of Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs’ sophomore album Heavy Rockin’ Steady, their patience has definitely been rewarded. Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs have returned with Heavy Rockin’ Steady, which is carefully crafted career-defining, genre-melting opus that sets the bar high for future albums.
Beatchild and The Slakadeliqs-Heavy Rockin’ Steady.
The Best Vinyl Releases Of 2017-Part 1..
Bettye Swann-The Money Masters.
Label: Kent Soul.
Bettye Swann had the talent and potential to become one of the greatest soul singers of her generation. A remainder why can be found on The Money Masters which covers Bettye Swann’s time at Money Records, and includes singles, B-Sides and alternate tracks. The Dance Is Over a track written when Bettye Swann was still Betty Jean Champion makes a welcome return eleven years after making its debut on The Soul Of Money Records Volume 2. Just like the rest of songs on The Money Masters, they’re a reminder of Bettye Swann at the peak of her musical powers and why she should’ve become a soul great.
Black Moon Circle-Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension
Label: Crispin Glover Records.
In mid-2015 Trondheim-based Black Moon Circle announced their intention to release three albums of Studio Jamms. Just over two years later, they returned with the final instalment in this critically acclaimed series, Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension. It’s another ambitious, genre-melting adventure into sound with Black Moon Circle, and is their hardest rocking and the finest album of their five-year career. Flowing Into The 3rd Dimension is a reminder that the future of rock is in safe hands, thanks to groups like Black Moon Circle, with their pioneering and hard rocking brand of psychedelic space rock.
Brutter-Reveal And Rise.
Label: Hubro Music.
Brothers Christian Wallumrød and Fredrik Wallumrød have both forged successful music careers since graduating from the Jazz Program at Trondheim Musikkonservatorium. Much of their time is spent working with other musicians. However, the brothers reunited to record Brutter’s sophomore album Reveal And Rise. Brutter manipulates an array of sounds whilst using sonic trickery and sleight of hands as they pose a series of questions and challenge musical norms? Brutter also let imagination run riot on Reveal and Rise, an album of anti-techno that is ambitious, cerebral, innovative, playful, witty and engaging.
Label: Bureau B.
Although Cluster released seven studio albums between 1971 and 1979, they were also a legendary live band, whose marathon concerts usually lasted six hours or more. Sadly, Cluster never released a live album during the seventies. The nearest most people got to hearing Cluster live was when they heard Live In der Fabrik, a fifteen minute epic that featured on Cluster II in 1972. Since then, Cluster have never released an album of live material from the seventies. That was until the release of Konzerte 1972-1977, which features recordings from two Cluster concerts. These recordings are a tantalising reminder of what Cluster live in the seventies sounded like. Konzerte 1972-1977 is the musical equivalent of time travel, and transports the listener back to seventies, when Cluster was in their musical prime.
Cocteau Twins-Four Calendar Cafe.
For many record buyers, one of the highlights of Record Store Day 2017 was the reissue of two Cocteau Twins’ albums, including Four Calendar Cafe. It was released in October 1993, and was the seventh album from the Cocteau Twins. Four Calendar Cafe marked a move way from the ambient sound of previous albums, towards a more poppy sound. Despite that, Liz Fraser’s inimitable, dreamy vocals were even more intelligible and added a degree of mystery to an album that also incorporated elements of ambient, avant-garde and dream pop. With its haunting sound and ethereal beauty Four Calendar Cafe, is one of the highlights of the Cocteau Twin’ eight album career.
Cocteau Twins-Milk and Kisses.
Five years after the release of Four Calendar Cafe, the Cocteau Twins returned in March 1998 with the album that was their swan-sing, Milk and Kisses. It was an album where the Cocteau Twins fused elements of ambient, avant-garde, dream pop and even rock to create music that was beautiful, dreamy, ethereal, lush and lysergic where the world suddenly seemed a better place. Sadly, Milk and Kisses was their swan-song, and brought to an end the Cocteau Twins story. However, even today their music influences and inspires a new generation of musicians.
Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults.
Thirteen years after its initial release, and Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults is still a compilation that oozes quality. It features old friends, familiar faces, new names and hidden gems. Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults was a welcome release for Record Store Day 2017 and is crammed full of quality sunshine pop and psychedelia. It was one of the best reissues released on Record Store Day 2017. However, anyone wanting a copy should get one sooner than later. Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The WEA Vaults is a limited edition, with ‘only’ 5.500 copies available. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good.
Cream Disraeli Gears
After the success of their debut album Fresh Cream in 1968, power trio Cream returned with their career-defining sophomore album Disraeli Gears. It was released to critical acclaim in November 1969 and certified platinum in the UK and America. That was no surprise given the quality of tracks like Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love, Dance The Night Away, Tales Of Brave Ulysses and We’re Going Wrong which found Cream embracing psychedelia. These tracks played their part in Disraeli Gears being hailed a classic album.
David Bowie Hunky Dory.
In December 1971, David Bowie fourth album Hunky Dory, was released to widespread critical acclaim. Hunk Dory was one of the most eclectic, ambitious and innovative albums of David Bowie’s career. It reached number three in the UK, but didn’t replicate the same success in America. That was surprising given the quality of an album that opened with Changes and featuring Oh You Pretty Thing, Life On Mars and closing with the Velvet Underground inspired Queen Bitch. David Bowie’s latest musical reinvention had resulted in one of the finest albums of his long and illustrious career, Hunky Dory which is a stonewall classic.
David Bowie-The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.
When The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released in June 1972, it was loosely described as a concept album about a fictional androgynous bisexual rock star, Ziggy Stardust, who acts as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings. The album was influenced by glam rock and the album explored themes of sexual exploration and social commentary, as well as the ambiguity surrounding David Bowie’s sexuality. After being released to critical acclaim, The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars sold 7.5 million copies and became David Bowie’s second consecutive classic album.
The Best New Vinyl Releases Of 2017 Part 2.
When November 1977, Eric Clapton released his much-anticipated fifth album Slowhand, the reviews were mostly positive. Critics were won over by an album where Slowhand’s playing was much more subtle and understated on an album where he sometimes laid bare his soul. Slowhand featured future favourites Cocaine, Wonderful Tonight and Lay Down Sally, and was certified gold in the UK and triple platinum in America. Nowadays, Slowhand is regarded as a classic album and one of Eric Clapton’s finest albums.
Gabriele Poso Presents The Languages Of Tambores (A Spiritual Journey Through The Cultural Heritage Of Drums).
Gabriele Poso Presents The Languages Of Tambores (A Spiritual Journey Through The Cultural Heritage Of Drums) is best described as the musical equivalent of Homeric odyssey. It began in Britain before master percussionist and drummer Gabriele Poso heads to Nigeria, then to his homeland of Italy, where his musical career began. From there, he heads to Columbia and Brazil, before returning to Nigeria, and heeding to America, Cuba and finally Ghana. Soon the listener is Coming Home from an unforgettable and captivating musical journey. During that journey, the music veers between beautiful and soulful to emotive and evocative and even visceral, mesmeric and lysergic. Other times, the music on Gabriele Poso’s masterful musical odyssey is irresistible, melodic, memorable and akin to a call to dance.
Girls With Guitars Take Over!
Label: Ace Records,
There aren’t many compilation series that last for four decides. That is apart from Girls With Guitars series, which has been going strong since 1989. Twenty-eight years later, came the much-anticipated instalment in this long-running and successful series made a welcome return in 2017 with Girls With Guitars Take Over! Just like previous instalments in the series, it’s quality all the way with The Clingers, The Debutantes, The Delmonas, The Tomboys, The Lady-Bugs and The Hairem among the twelve guitar totting groups who make Girls With Guitars Take Over! a welcome addition to the series.
Harry Nilsson-Nilsson Schmilsson.
Label: RCA Legacy.
When Harry Nilsson released Nilsson Schmilsson in November 1971, it featured the number one single that became synonymous with him, Without You. Jump Into The Fire and Coconut were also hits and Nilsson Schmilsson reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. This carefully crafted album of pop and rock is now regarded as a classic album, and Harry Nilsson’s finest hour.
IF Music Presents You Need This–A Journey Into Deep Jazz Vol. 2.
For the best part of four decades, Jean-Claude Thompson has been one of the leading lights of London’s vibrant music scene. He also hosts a radio show, runs a record shop and last year, complied IF Music Presents You Need This–A Journey Into Deep Jazz Vol. 2, which features eight tracks that are spread across a triple album. It features a tantalising taste of inventive and innovative deep jazz from yesteryear that will appeal to DJs and dancers, as well as newcomers and veterans of jazz compilations. They’re sure to appreciate what is a lovingly curated compilation.
IF Music Presents You Need This! An Introduction To Black Saint and Soul Note (1975 To 1985).
Two of the great European jazz labels were Black Saint and Soul Note which were founded by producer turned musical impresario Giacomo Pelliciotti who ran the labels until 1975. Over the next ten years, the labels changed hands several times. Still, both labels continued to release a groundbreaking albums from the great and good of free jazz. Proof of this is IF Music Presents You Need This! An Introduction To Black Saint and Soul Note (1975 To 1985). This 3-LP set features talented, inventive and innovative musician at the peak of their powers, as they push musical boundaries to their limits and beyond, on whats the best free jazz compilation released during 2017.
Iggy Pop-The Idiot.
When Iggy Pop released his debut solo The Idiot in March 1977, it was a stylistic departure from the former leader of The Stooges. The Idiot seemed to have been influenced by Kraftwerk, James Brown and David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy. As for the title, it had been inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot. Critics were impressed by The Idiot, which nowadays is regarded as one of his finest albums. It’s also an album that inspired many post punk, gothic and industrial artists and bands. However, with its fusion of art rock and industrial rock, The Idiot wasn’t representative of Iggy Pop’s music and he never made another album like his critically acclaimed debut.
Insane Times-21 British Psychedelic Artyfacts From The EMI Vaults.
One of the limited edition releases for Record Store Day 2017 was Insane Times-21 British Psychedelic Artyfacts From The EMI Vaults which feature contributions from old friends, familiar faces and new names. This includes Kevin Ayers, July, The Idle Race, Orange Bicycle, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Hollies, The Lemon Tree, The Parking Lot, The Koobas and The Yarbirds. There’s also more than a few hidden gems on 21 British Psychedelic Artyfacts From The EMI Vaults. It’s guaranteed to bring back memories for connoisseurs of psychedelia.
Mirwood Northern Soul.
Label: Kent Dance.
For many aficionados of Northern Soul, including DJs, dancers and collectors, Randy Wood’s Mirwood Records, which was based in Los Angeles, was, and still is, one of their go-to labels. Its discography features many favourites for DJs and dancers within the Northern Soul scene. They welcomed the release of Mirwood Northern Soul in the autumn of 2017. Here was a lovingly curated compilation that featured fourteen top dancefloor fillers that showcase Mirwood’s unique and distinctive style. However, these are no ordinary dancefloor fillers that feature on Mirwood Northern Soul. Instead, they’re best described as: “outstanding stomping soul dancers” and are still favourites on the Northern Soul scene.
Mogwai-Every Country’s Sun.
Label: Rock Action Records.
Every Country’s Sun marks the triumphant, rocky and explosive return of the Mogwai Young Team. Three years have passed since they released their eighth studio album Rave Tapes in January 2014. Over three years later, and Mogwai return with Every Country’s Sun an epic album that is poppy, joyous and uplifting and sometimes, elegiac and ethereal. Other times, the music is dark, dramatic, eerie, moody, ominous and otherworldly. Often, there’s a cinematic sound to Mogwai’s music, as they switched seamlessly between and combine musical genres and influences on Every Country’s Sun. It marks the welcome return of grand old men of Scottish music, the Mogwai Young Team who put their twenty-two years of experience on this carefully crafted opus.
The Best Vinyl Releases of 2017 Part 3.
Motörhead -What’s Worth Words.
Label: Big Beat Records.
When Motörhead released What’s Worth Words on the ‘5th’ of March 1983, critics called the album one of the greatest live albums ever release. That was no exaggeration. What’s Worth Words featured a barnstorming, speed fuelled performance from Motörhead at The Roundhouse on the ’18th’ February 1978. It’s a snapshot in time, and features the material Motörhead played during the late-seventies and early eighties. After that, these songs hardly ever featured in Motörhead’’s sets. They were in the band’s past, a reminder of which is What’s Worth Words. It features the classic lineup of Motörhead at the peak of their powers on what’s one of the finest albums of a five decade career.
Naz Nomad And The Nightmares-Give Daddy The Knife Cindy.
Label: Big Beat Records.
In 1984, Naz Nomad and The Nightmares’ album Give Daddy The Knife Cindy found its way into record shops. Records buyers who saw the album didn’t know what to make of it? At first glance, it looked like the reissue of a soundtrack to a low budget American horror film. Especially, when the album cover stated copyright 1967 American Screen Destiny Pictures. There was even a list of those who had ‘starred’ in Give Daddy The Knife Cindy. The album was beginning to look and sound like the soundtrack to a long forgotten film from 1967. There was a problem though, film critics didn’t remember the film, never mind know any of the “stars” of the film. This was a clue that everything wasn’t as it seemed. Instead, Give Daddy The Knife Cindy was an elaborate hoax by The Damned, who had the last laugh after fooling film critics and record buyers. Nowadays, Give Daddy The Knife Cindy is oft-overlooked genre-melting hidden gem from The Damned’s discography that deserves a wider audience.
Label: Chiswick Records.
Red Hot Boppers.
Anyone whose familiar with the Sun Rockabilly Legends’ Series will want to discover the delights of Red Hot Boppers which was released a limited edition of 1,000, and features ten tracks including contributions from Billy Lee Riley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Smith and Sonny Burgess. Red Hot Boppers was pressed on 10” red vinyl, and released by Sun, as part of HMV’s Exclusive Vinyl series, is the perfect rockabilly primer as it features some of the giants of rockabilly, and several stonewall genre classics.
Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal.
Label: Rune Grammofon.
To celebrate the career of Terje Rypdal and to coincide with his seventieth birthday, lifelong fan and American experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser organised the recording of Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal. It features many musicians who have been influenced by Terje Rypdal. This includes some of the great and good of Norwegian music, plus some musicians from much further afield. They reworked and reinvented tracks from Terje Rypdal’s back-catalogue, which became the double LP Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal, which is a fitting homage to a legendary musician.
Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal Volume 2.
Label: Rune Grammofon.
It turned out that there was more than enough music for the double album Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal. There were two tracks that didn’t make it onto the album, Icing and Filmore ’76, which is based on a 1978 live performance at Radiohuset Studios, in Stockholm. As Henry Kaiser and staff from Rune Grammofon listened to Icing and Filmore ’76 they realised that the tracks were too good to not to release. They became Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal Volume 2 which is a fitting accompaniment to the Sky Music: A Tribute To Terje Rypdal.
Label: ORG Music.
Six years after Sun Ra’s died on May the ’30th’ 1993, aged just seventy-nine, a new album of his music was released in 1999 Janus. This was thought to be the title of an album that Sun Ra was planning to release around 1970 or 1971. Sadly, this never came to fruition, and in 1999 Janus became a very different album. It featured tracks recorded in the studio and live between 1963 and 1970. Island In The Sun, The Invisible Shield and Janus first featured on an album released on Saturn, while the live tracks Velvet and Joy had never been released prior to the release of Janus in 1999. Since then, Janus has never been released until Record Store Day as a limited edition. This was a welcome reissue which offers another fascinating insight into one of the pioneers of free jazz.
Sun Ra And His Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra-Discipline 27-||-Vinyl.
On Record Store Day 2017, Sun Ra And His Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra’s 1973 album Discipline 27-II received its first official reissue since its released in 1973. Discipline 27-II was a mixture of music and drama, where Sun Ra And His Astro Intergalactic Infinity Arkestra married elements of avant-garde and free jazz. To do this, Sun Ra’s array of synths and keyboards were augmented by the horns and rhythm sections and a quartet of “space ethnic voices”. They were joined by Sun Ra, who added “vocal dramatising.” All this was part of an album that was variously melodic, ambitious, innovative and which also swung.
The Association-Insight Out-Vinyl.
In June 1967, The Association released their third album Insight Out, which featured the number one hit Windy and Never My Love which reached number two on the US Billboard 100. Buoyed the success of the singles Insight Out with is mixture sunshine pop and psychedelia, reached number eight in the US Billboard 200. Nowadays, Insight Out is regarded as a classic album which was The Association’s finest hour.
The Beatles-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The Beau Brummels-Triangle-Vinyl.
When The Beau Brummels released their fourth album Triangle in July 1967, it marked the debut of vocalist Sal Valentino and guitarist Ron Elliott. Critics were won over by Ron Elliott songs and even went as far as to compare Sal Valentino’s vocals to Bob Dylan’s. Despite these comparisons, Triangle stalled at 167 in the US Billboard 200, but nowadays, is regarded as a psychedelic cult classic thanks to songs like Magic Hollow.
The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music.
In 2014, compilers and DJs Mr Thing and Chris Read were among the chosen few who have been invited into the inner sanctum that is Cavendish Music’s vast London vaults. That was when they discovered the music that three years later, featured on The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music. It features a myriad of hidden gems and musical gold that makes The Library Archive-From The Vaults Of Cavendish Music the best album of library music that has been released during the last few years.
The Best Vinyl Releases Of 2017 Part 4.
The Monkees-Summer Of Love.
Even today, The Monkees divides the opinion of many critics and record buyers. Partly that is because of the perception that The Monkees were a manufactured band that was the brainchild of television executives. Despite that, The Monkees went on to enjoy a long successful career. They also released a number of psychedelic songs that feature on Summer Of Love. It features some of the finest moments of The Monkees’ dalliance with psychedelia. Sadly, The Monkees’ psychedelic side of The Monkees is oft-overlooked and makes a welcome appearance on Summer Of Love which shows another side of America’s very own fab four.
The Orchestra Soledad-Vamonos/Let’s Go!-Vinyl.
When The Orchestra Soledad released their debut album Vamonos/Let’s Go! in late-1970, they were a popular band who played to packed houses that featured not just the Latino community in Brooklyn, but the wider community. Despite their popularity locally, The Orchestra Soledad’s album Vamonos/Let’s Go! failed to find an audience. After that, Vamonos/Let’s Go! became just another musical curio that sometimes, crate diggers in New York stumbled across in record shops and local flea markets. Eventually, it became a sought after rarity that changed hands for upwards of $600. No wonder, given the irresistible, joyous, dance-floor friendly, beautiful and soulful of the Brooklyn based salsa band.
The Zodiac-Cosmic Sounds-Vinyl.
When The Zodiac’s Cosmic Sounds was released in January 1967, very few people realised the importance of this groundbreaking concept album which featured twelve tracks that were described as psychedelic mood music. It featured a myriad of exotic and electronic instruments and spoken prose that came courtesy of Cyrus Faryar. Sadly, it failed to find an audience and it was only later that record buyers and critics realised that Cosmic Sounds was a psychedelic cult classic. However, it’s a psychedelic cult classic, that: “must be played in the dark.”
Transparent Days: West Coasts Nuggets.
To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer Of Love, a two-LP set Transparent Days: West Coasts Nuggets which was compiled by Alec Palao was released. It features thirty songs, including contributions from The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, The West Coast Branch, Gerry Pond, The Tikis, Art Guy, The Mojo Men, The Association, The Truth, The Bonniwell Music Machine, The Electric Prunes and Love. These are just a few of the bands that feature on Transparent Days: West Coasts Nuggets that provided the soundtrack to the Summer Of Love. These songs on Transparent Days: West Coasts Nuggets ooze quality and are sure to bring memories come flooding back for music fans of a certain vintage.
Vanilla Fudge-Vanilla Fudge-Vinyl.
When Vanilla Fudge released their eponymous debut album at the height of the Summer Of Love in 1967, it reached number six in the US Billboard 200. This was no surprise as Vanilla Fudge was a groundbreaking album. Vanilla Fudge fused psychedelia, rock and blues rock on an album that features half-speed covers and three short original instrumental compositions. Nowadays, Vanilla Fudge s considered a classic album and one of the most innovative albums released during 1967.