STEVE YOUNG-SEVEN BRIDGES ROAD: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS.

Steve Young-Seven Bridges Road: The Complete Recordings.

Ace Records.

Over the last fifty years,  there have been numerous examples of  truly talented and gifted artists music whose music  has been overlooked during their lifetime, This ranges from Nick Drake and Gram Parsons and to some extent, Tim Buckley. It’s only in death that their music started to received the attention and critical acclaim it so richly deserves. Sadly, that was also the case with Steve Young, who passed away just over a year ago, on ‘17th’ March 2016, aged just seventy-three. Sadly, very few people outside of a small coterie of musical connoisseurs were aware of Steve Young’s music. They knew one of Steve Young’s songs though.

This was Seven Bridges Road, which had been covered by everyone from Rita Coolidge, Joan Baez and Dolly Parton to The Eagles, Ian Matthews. The royalties Steve Young received from other artists covering Seven Bridges Road, allowed Steve Young to live his life on his own terms. While that is something many people would welcome, deep down Steve Young must have felt disappointed that his music didn’t find a wider audience. Hopefully, that is about to change.

Fifteen months after his death, Ace Records have released Steve Young-Seven Bridges Road: The Complete Recordings which features twenty-one tracks. This includes Steve Young’s sophomore album Seven Bridges Road, plus nine bonus tracks. This is the perfect introduction to one of music’s best kept secrets.

Steve Young was born in Newnan, Georgia on the ‘12th’ of July 1942, into a family of sharecroppers. His father who was a Native Indian, and had been a sharecropper since the age of thirteen.  Life as a sharecropper was tough, and money was tight. To make matters worse, Steve’s father was  often getting into trouble. As a result, the family were often on the move. Eventually, they settled in Gadsden, Alabama. By then, Steve knew how he wanted to make a living.

Ever since he had been a young boy, Steve had listened to music, and it made life that bit more bearable. He could see the beauty in music, especially, the Southern music, which Steve listened to. However, from an early age,  Steve Young wasn’t content to listen to music. When people asked him what he wanted to do, he told them he wanted to be a singer, songwriter and musicians. To most people, this was a pipe dream.

Things changed when Steve’s grandfather took him to  a swap meet, where he saw a warp necked Silvertone guitar. It was love at first sight. Steve tried to talk his grandfather into getting him the guitar. However, the answer was no, and a disappointed Steve returned home.

Still, he was determined to get a guitar of his own, and when he was fourteen, his mother relented and agreed to buy Steve his first guitar. She bought Steve a Gibson ES 125 thin body electric guitar. This was enough to make his dreams come true, and he hoped, follow in the footsteps of Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley at Sun Records.

By the time Steve had mastered his guitar, the folk boom had hit Birmingham, Alabama. Despite his love of Southern music, Steve started playing folk music. By his early twenties, Steve was a regular face on Birmingham music scene, and was regarded as one of the city’s rising stars. 

During gigs he played a mixture of his own songs and covers of Bob Dylan songs. Sometimes, he took to the mic and started voicing his support for the nascent civil rights movement. While this was admirable, such talk  was dangerous in Birmingham, Alabama, which was Klan country.

Some folks around Birmingham, Alabama didn’t take kindly to folk singers talking about equality and civil rights. Especially, ones like Steve, who after gigs, headed out on the town and enjoyed carousing. Sometimes, this lead to trouble, but Steve didn’t seem to care. He was determined to live life on his own terms. This included voicing his support for the civil rights movement. Fortunately, he never came to any harm, and in 1963, left Birmingham, Alabama.

This came about after Steve met Richard Lockmiller and Jim Miller, who were both folk musicians. They had signed to Capitol Records as a folk duo Richard and Jim, and were heading to Los Angeles to record their debut album. Steve joined the pair on their road trip, and in LA, played on Richard and Jim’s 1963 debut album Folk Songs and Other Songs. 

Steve’s guitar playing on Folk Songs and Other Songs, brought him to the attention of other musicians. It was a similar case when Richard and Jim played live, Steve’s playing brought him to the attention of other musicians and record buyers. One of the first musicians to discover Steve Young was Van Dyke Parks. 

From the first time he saw Steve play live, he realised that he was a cut above most musicians. Here was a versatile and talented singer and guitarist who seamlessly could switch between disparate musical genres. His live act saw Steve playing folk, blues and even a hint of Celtic music. The audience was enthralled by Steve’s vocal and virtuoso performance on guitar. Despite this, Steve spent time busking on Sunset Strip. This was only temporary.

Soon, Steve was about to go up in the world when he joined the ranks of LA’s session musicians. He also became the lead guitarist for the Steve Battin Band. After shows, Steve partied with some of the biggest names in the LA scene, including Mama Cass, Tim Hardin and Van Dyke Parks. At these parties, Steve partied hard, drinking  and taking drugs in ever-increasing greater qualities. Still, though, Steve turning up for sessions the next day and even formed a new band with two well-known names.

The Gas Company included Van Dyke Parks and a young Stephen Stills, who played rhythm guitar. However, The Gas Company was just a stepping stone for Stephen Stills en route to greater things. Meanwhile, Steve’s life was professional and personal life was changing. 

He met and married Terry Newkirk, who with Roger Tillison performed as The Gypsy Trips. Now a married man, Steve decided to take a job as a postman to make ends meet. However, he hadn’t  given up on his dream.

It was only a matter of time before Steve caught a break, and was approached by Stone Country’s manager. They were looking for a guitarist, and Steve fitted the bill. He played on their debut album. Not long after this, Steve’s dream came true when he was signed by  A&M.

This was the break he had been waiting for, and the twenty-six year old began work with producer Tommy LiPuma. Backed by a band that featured some top LA session players, plus Gram Parsons and Gene Clark. Gradually, Rock, Salt and Nails took shape, and was released in 1969. Sadly, the album passed an indifferent record buying public by. They had overlooked what’s now regarded as one of the hidden gems of the late-sixties, Rock, Salt and Nails.

After the commercial failure of Rock, Salt and Nails, Steve did a lot of soul-searching, and with a heavy heart announced that he was turning his back on music. This was something that he had never envisaged would happen. However, there was only so long anyone could struggle to make ends meet, with the hope that one day, he might make a breakthrough. Steve decided to make a fresh start and he and his wife left LA, and headed to San Francisco, where they settled in the Bay Area.

This was a new start for Steve, and was the first day of his life after music. However, by then, all Steve knew was music. He and Terry Newkirk setup a guitar shop in San Anselmo in 1970. It was the new start Steve had been looking for. That was until Andy Wickham of Reprise Records came calling.

When Steve turned his back on music, he was still under contract to A&M. Andy Wickham who had followed Steve’s career approached A&M to ask if they would be willing to release him from the contract. They agreed, and now all Andy Wickham had to do was convince Steve to sign on the dotted line. 

Given Steve was disillusioned with life as a professional musician, this was going to be easier said than done. Especially with the new guitar shop up and running. However, for Andy Wickham it was a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained. He approached Steve about signing to Reprise, and eventually, he agreed to make a comeback.

Once Steve had signed to Reprise, he was paired with Ry Cooder, who would produce his first single for the label. The song chosen for the single was Bob Dylan’s Down In The Flood, which was retitled as Crash On the Levee. On the B-Side was The White Trash Song. They’re among the nine bonus tracks on Steve Young-Seven Bridges Road: The Complete Recordings. Once the single was recorded, it was released in 1970. Despite featuring a barnstorming performance from Steve Young, and a guest appearance from guitarist Ry Cooder, the single failed to trouble the charts. History was repeating itself.

After the failure of Crash On the Levee,  a decision was made to pair Steve with a new producer. After just one single, the Steve Young and Ry Cooder partnership was over. Replacing Ry Cooder was Nashville based Paul Tannen. This was  a strange decision, given Nashville in 1970 was, and to some extent, still is, a conservative town. Steve Young with liberal politics, wasn’t going to be well received in some quarters. That proved to be the case.

Steve Young journeyed to Nashville, to meet his new producer and record his sophomore album. He was aware that Paul Tannen had penned twenty songs  and had around forty production credits to his name. This experience Steve hoped would be put to good use when he recorded his sophomore album. However, Steve was in for a surprise.

When Steve met Paul Tannen, he quickly came to the conclusion that his new producer was more of interested in music publishing than songwriting. This didn’t bode well for the future. However, Nashville had some of the best session musicians in America, and Steve hoped some of them would join him in the studio.

Before recording got underway, Steve was joined by Paul Tannen and some top session players. When they ran through the songs, some of the musicians took umbrage to the lyrics. To make matters worse, Steve’s liberal politics and outlook on life didn’t going down well with some of the band. As the session got underway, it soon became apparent that the band weren’t all on the same page. Some of the musicians couldn’t understand how to play the songs.  It wasn’t the type of music they were used to playing. By then, the decision to record in Nashville and the choice of Paul Tannen as producer wasn’t looking like the right one. Steve later, would claim that he ended up producing what later became Seven Bridges Road himself. However, it wasn’t an easy album to record.

For parts of the session, there was an undercurrent and a degree of  tension. Partly, this was because of the difficulties had understanding how to play their parts, but also because some members of some the band and Steve Young were polar opposites. Steve was a sixties child with liberal politics and views, while the band were older, and much more conservative. With his long hair, and liberal views, some of the band most likely saw Steve as a hippy from California.  He saw some of the band as rednecks, and the type of people who he had spent his life avoiding. It was the case of never the two shall meet. However, in Nashville session musicians were professionals, and the album was eventually recorded. Steve hotfooted it home to San Francisco.

When Steve Young arrived home, he brought with him what would eventually become Seven Bridges Road. He took the tapes which featured twelve songs to Andy Wickham at Reprise. They listened to the tapes, and before long, everyone in the room realised that despite the difficulties Steve had experienced recording Seven Bridges Road, it was a very special album.

That was the case from the opening song, Seven Bridges Road, which is a beautiful, haunting paean to Terry Newkirk who Steve had to leave behind in San Francisco when he travelled to Nashville to record the album. Steve who was obviously homesick and missing his wife, lays bare his soul, and sets the bar high for the rest of the album.  

During parts of Seven Bridges Road, Steve is like an actor in a series of plays. My Oklahoma is a  cinematic sounding country ballad, where, Steve delivers a worldweary and wistful vocal, as he remembers and misses the place he grew up, and left behind. The White Trash Song was recut in Nashville, is transformed, taking on new life, as Steve lives the lyrics and delivers a defiant and hurt-filled vocal about the wife that left him. I Begin to See Design is another tale of love lost, where a weeping guitar  and bluesy harmonica accompany and empathise with a heartbroken Steve. Despite its title, One Car Funeral Procession isn’t short of hooks, as country and folk collide while Steve showcases his skills as a singer and songwriter. That’s apparent on Long Way to Hollywood, anther powerful, cinematic song where backing by some of Nashville’s finest musicians and backing vocalists, Steve’s new Southern country sound continues to take shape. By the end of what side one of the original album, Steve hadn’t blotted his copybook. One great song followed hard on the heels on another.

The ballad Many Rivers, has a much more traditional country sound, and would’ve won the approval of the more conservative members of Steve band. It’s a timeless song that could’ve only been recorded in Nashville. Lonesome On’ry and Mean is a soulful ballad, where Steve’s  new Southern country sound continues to emerge. It finds Steve, the original outlaw wearing his heart on his sleeve, while backing vocalists add to the soul. They return on Come Sit By My Side, adding cooing harmonies on this dramatic, poignant and ruminative song. After that, it’s all change.

True Note finds Steve returning a to a much more traditional country sound. Then on Ragtime Blue Guitar Steve showcases his versatility and sings the blues. There’s almost defiance in his voice, as Steve rerecording in Nashville sings: “I’ve a right to sing these blues.” Fittingly,  Steve celebrates one of the spirit of a true giant of country music, Hank Williams on closes Montgomery, which In The Rain. By then, Steve’s new Southern country sound was fully formed.

While everyone at Reprise Records realised that they had heard a very special album, they had no idea how to market the album. Seven Bridges Road was very different from the country music that was being released at that time. Reprise Records were faced with the same problems as A&M when realising Steve Young’s debut album, what to do with it? The problem was, the album was way ahead of its  time.

Steve Young was a musical visionary who was the architect of a new Southern country sound. This was a forerunner of the outlaw sound, which Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson later went on to pioneer. Sadly, very few record buyers would know of the part Steve Young played in musical history.

On its release in 1972, Seven Bridges Road failed to find an audience, and before long the album couldn’t be found record shop shelves. Steve who watched his dream destroyed for the second time, for the second time, turned his back and music. 

He and Terry Newkirk sold their guitar shop and bought some land in Nashville. They built a log cabin and raised their son Jubal. The couple went on what Steve later called: “your basic vegetarian-mystical trip.” This lasted for a while, until Steve started drinking heavily. That was when Terry Newkirk packed her bags and left. Quickly, Steve’s life was unravelling. That was until Jim Terr entered the picture.

Jim Terr owned Blue Canyon Records, and thought that Seven Bridges Road was the best record ever committed to vinyl. When Steve told him the album wasn’t even in circulation, the pair started hatching a plan. 

The first part of the plan was to get Steve playing live again. He started playing around Albuquerque and then rerecorded The White Trash Song with The Last Mile Ramblers. After that, Jim Terr discussed with Steve buying the master to Seven Bridges Road from Warners, with a view to reissuing the album. Jim Terr hit Warners with a lowball offer, and they accepted. 

Before reissuing Seven Bridges Road, two changes to the track-listing were made. The newly rerecorded version of The White Trash Song replacing the Nashville  version. A cover of Merle Haggard’s I Can’t Hold Myself In Line replaced One Car Funeral Procession. Both of these songs that featured on Blue Canyon Records’ 1973 reissue of  Seven Bridges Road also feature on Seven Bridges Road: The Complete Recordings. However, although Blue Canyon Records was a small company, that didn’t have a distribution network like Warners, the reissue of Seven Bridges Road introduced Steve Young to more record buyers. Still, though, he was one of music’s best kept secrets.

Sadly, that continued to be the case with Steve Young’s next three albums finding a limited audience. His third album was Honky-Tonk Man, which was released on Mountain Railroad Records in 1975. Despite its quality, again, the album failed to find the wider audience it deserved. Despite that, the following year, RCA Victor took a chance on Steve Young, and the original outlaw released Renegade Picker in 1976. It was the same old story, with the Renegade Picker showcasing a talented singer, songwriter and musician, whose music was enjoyed by a small coterie of discerning record buyers. There was no improvement in record sales after No Place To Fall in 1978, and RCA and Steve Young parted company. 

After that, Steve Young’s spiralled out of control. He seems hellbent on destruction, and nearly drank himself to death. Eventually, he entered a clinic for homeless alcoholics in Nashville. It was during his stay in the clinic, that Steve realised that his lifestyle had come close to destroying him. He made the decision to embrace his Native Indian heritage and became a Buddhist. His new approach to life worked, and Steve managed to rebuild his life. It took time but paid off.

It wasn’t until 1981 that Steve Young returned with a new album. It was a remixed version of Seven Bridges Road, with a different track-listing. There’s a remixed version  Seven Bridges Road plus new songs like Down in the Flood, Ballad of William Sycamore, My Oklahoma, Wild Goose and Days Of 49. The reissue of Seven Bridges Road meant that the album was available for a new generation of record buyers to discover.

By then, Steve Young had released another new album To Satisfy You, which was released on Mill Records in 1981. This marked the next start in the reinvention of Steve Young. Another five years passed before Steve returned with a much more experimental album,  while Look Homeward Angel in 1986 which showcased a much more contemporary sound.  That was the last album Steve released during the eighties. 

He returned in 1990 with Long Time Rider, with Switchblades Of Love following three years later in 1993. Still, interest in Steve’s music  and his landmark album Seven Bridges Road continued to grow. Despite that, Steve didn’t release another album until Primal Young in 1999. The sixty year old had released his best album in recent. However, after that albums continued to be sporadic.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Steve released Songlines Revisited Volume One, where he revisited many of his best known songs. The White Trash Song, Montgomery In The Rain, Rock Salt and Nails and of course Seven Bridges Road were all rerecorded. Steve sold the album at his gigs when he played live. Two years later in 2007, Steve Young released the live album Stories Round The Horseshoe Bend. Sadly, it was his swan-song.

Although Steve Young continued to play until 2010, he never released another album. That was despite having around a 100 songs that he had yet to record. Sadly hey never saw the light of day, because on the ‘17th’ March 2016, aged just seventy-three, Steve Young passed away. That day, music lost one of its most talented sons. His greatest album is Seven Bridges Road a cult classic, that is celebrated on Seven Bridges Road: The Complete Recordings, which was recently released by Ace Records. It features the original and best version of Seven Bridges Road, plus nine bonus tracks. Seven Bridges Road: The Complete Recordings is the perfect introduction to Steve Young, a pioneer, musical outlaw and one on of the finest purveyors what Gram Parson called Cosmic American Music. Steve Young is also one of music’s best kept secrets, but hopefully, not for much longer.

Steve Young-Seven Bridges Road: The Complete Recordings.

REGGIE YOUNG-FOREVER YOUNG.

Reggie Young-Forever Young.

Ace Records.

There aren’t many musicians who release a new album at the age of eighty-one. However, most musicians aren’t Reggie Young, who recently released a new album Forever Young on Ace Records. This isn’t just any album though. Forever Young is Reggie Young’s long-awaited, and much-anticipated, debut album. 

In some ways though, it’s no surprise that it has taken Reggie Young so long to release his debut album. After all, he’s spent the past seven decades working with the great and good of music. This includes Elvis Presley, JJ Cale, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Neil Diamond and Dusty Springfield. They’re just a few of the musicians that Reggie Young has worked with during his long and illustrious career. His story began in  1936. 

The Reggie Young story began in Caruthersville, Missouri on December ’12th’ 1936, but he spent the first for teen years of his life in Osceola, an hour from Memphis. In his early teenage years, Reggie got a job bagging groceries. Little did he know at the time, that this would be his only job in ‘civvy’ street. The rest of his life would be spent making music. 

Things changed for Reggie Young when his family moved to Memphis in 1950 when his father Reggie Sr, got a job as a bookkeeper. For his first Christmas in Memphis, fourteen year old Reggie got his very first guitar. Now there were two guitarists in the Young household.

Reggie’s father already played Hawaiian guitar, and was a talented player, who would influence Reggie. He had already taught himself how to play lead guitar, through a scratch built amplifier a neighbour had built, when he decided to take some lessons. After one lesson which Reggie spent playing Three Blind Mice, he decided guitar lessons weren’t for him. Instead, he continued to teach himself, and knew that he could always his father, who would in some ways, would influence his playing style.

By then, Chet Atkins was the main influence on Reggie as his playing style developed. Later, his father’s playing style would influence Reggie and he would incorporate some of the  Hawaiian legato phrasing he had watched his father use. This would become one of Reggie’s trademarks. That would come later.

Having left high school, where Reggie was a couple of years ahead of Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, he embarked upon a career as a session musician. His first session was accompanying singing hairdresser Tommy Smith. That day, Reggie laid down a memorable solo on Magic Girl. This opened doors for Reggie around town.

Soon, other musicians were talking about this eighteen your old kid who had laid down the lead guitar solo during the Tommy Smith session. Reggie started accompanying Eddie Boyd at a weekly gig at the Eagle’s Nest. For Reggie, this was valuable experience as he honed his chops

In 1955, Reggie featured on  a single by Barney Burcham that was released on the Rodeo label. By then, Reggie and Jack Clement had started playing a weekly gig at the Kennedy Veteran’s Hospital For Incurables. However, Jack Clement was also a partner in Fernwood Records, and recorded a session with Reggie. The single much to Reggie’s relief was never released.

Not long after this, Reggie who was then into rock ’n’ roll, cut his debut single Rockin’ Daddy, which opened with Reggie’s  oft-copied guitar lick. The single gave Reggie a regional hit, and Elvis’ first manager Bob Neal booked him to appear on a package tour. Reggie headed out on tour with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Johnny Horton. When the tour stopped off in Nashville, Eddie Boyd cut his sophomore single and Reggie played on his first union session. By then of the day, he was $41.25 richer. However, by the end of the tour, Reggie had a new job.

During the tour, Johnny Horton and his guitarist had a disagreement, and Reggie took over the role. At the end of the tour, Reggie moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, where Johnny Horton lived and was based. While Johnny Horton wasn’t the most successful musician that Reggie would work with, he gained a wealth of experience during his time with in his band. This came to an end in 1958 when Reggie was told he was about to be drafted.

After leaving Johnny Horton’s band, Reggie headed home to Memphis awaiting the letter every young man dreaded…the draft. It never arrived and Reggie joined Bill Black’s Combo. 

The new group headed to a new studio Royal Recording which was owned by Hi Records. On the Bill Black Combo’s first session, Reggie’s guitar played an important part in the sound and success of the instrumental that would become their first single, Smokie Pt. 1. When it was released, it reached number seventeen on the US Billboard 100 and number one on the US R&B charts. By then, Reggie had been drafted.

Still, he managed to join the rest of the Bill Black Combo when they made two appearances on the Dick Clark Show. With the permission of his company commander, Reggie played a thirty-one date tour with the Bill Black Combo. After that, he joined up with the rest of his unit to undergo basic training. 

Whilst his unit were doing their basic training in Ethiopia, the royalties for Smokie Pt. 1 were mounting up. Reggie had received a co-composer’s credit for his guitar part, instead of a session fee. This was a wise move for Reggie, and by the time his eighteen months service was over, he returned to the Bill Black Combo.

They continued to enjoy a string of hit singles right up until 1964. However, in 1964 Bill Black sold the name to the Bill Black Combo, and left the group. This meant that the founder wasn’t a member of the group that opened for The Beatles on their first American tour. By then, he was the only remaining member of the Bill Black Combo. The tour with The Beatles was an eye-opener, and Reggie met The Kinks and The Yarbirds. He hit it off with Eric Clapton, who shared Reggie’s love of the blues. However, as 1964 drew to a close, Reggie knew that the times they were a changing.

In 1965, Reggie’s tour of duty with the Bill Black Combo was over. Founder member Bill Black had been ill for eighteen months, and died on October ‘21st’ 1965, aged just thirty-nine. By then, music was changing and sadly, the Bill Black Combo were seen as part of music’s past.

Rock ’n’ roll was regarded as part of music’s past. The future was rock, which was seen as music’s future. Meanwhile, Reggie decided to return to working as a session musician.

After being part of a successful band for seven years, many musicians might have regarded this as a comedown. However, for Reggie Young it was the start of a new chapter. He started playing on Hi Records’ recording studio Royal Recording in 1965. For the next two years, Reggie’s guitar could be heard on singles bearing the Hi Records’ logo. However, in 1967 Reggie was on the move.

Next stop for Reggie Young was Chips Moman’s American Sound Studios, in Memphis. He started work at American Sound Studios in 1967, and one of his earliest sessions was on James Carr’s classic Dark End Of The Street. This was the first of many hit singles that Reggie would play on at American Sound Studios. 

Before long, Chips Moman decided to put together the American Sound Studios Band a.k.a. the Memphis Boys, who were one of the best studio bands of the late-sixties and early seventies. Reggie became the lead guitarist in the lead guitarist in, the Memphis Boys who were a truly prolific band. Over the next five years, the Memphis Boys worked with the great and good of music, and played on 120 hit singles. This includes Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto. However, by 1970 Chips Moman and Reggie had fallen out, and their relationship was never the same. Not long after this, things started to change at American Sound Studios.

Chips Moman made a decision to leave Memphis, and start over in Atlanta. Despite the fresh start, it was almost inevitable that Reggie would leave the Memphis Boys, and move on to pastures new. What surprised some people was that it took until 1972.

Having packed his bags, Reggie left Atlanta, en route to Memphis. For some reason, he decided to stop at Nashville and catchup with two old friends from Muscle Shoals, David Briggs and Norbert Putnam, who owned Quadraphonic Studio. They listened as Reggie recalled his departure from American Sound Studios. When he was finished, David Briggs asked Reggie: “you wanna work some?” When Reggie answer yes, a new chapter in his career began.

Nashville became his home, and he has lived and worked there ever since. One of the first sessions he played on in Nashville, was on Dobie Gray’s Drift Away. When it was released in 1972 it reached number five on the US Billboard 100, forty-two in the US R&B charts and was certified gold. The song rejuvenated Dobie Gray’s ailing career, and in the process, introduced Reggie to Nashville.

For the majority of the time, Reggie was playing country music, and this required him to change his playing style. Reggie was by then a versatile and talented guitarist, and seamlessly adjusted to country music. However, in 1973, Reggie returned to Memphis for one special session.

Reggie Young became part of the band that featured on Elvis Presley’s Stax sessions. By then, the King was no longer the singer he had encountered during the American Studio Sessions. He was surrounded by yes men and hangers-on, who hadn’t the courage to tell Elvis that the songs he was about to record weren’t good enough. Despite this, Reggie and his band gave their all, while Elvis phoned in some of the songs. As a result, it would be forty years before Elvis At Stax was released in 2013.

After working with Elvis at Stax, Reggie returned to Nashville, where he was one of the top session players. That was why Chips Moman came calling in 1977. By then, Chips Moman, had a studio in Nashville, and wanted Reggie to play on the session for Waylon Jennings’ 1977 single Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love). Reggie agreed and seemed to have the Midas touch. When the single was released later in 1977, it gave Waylon Jennings the biggest hit of his career so far. For Reggie, it was yet another hit he had played on.

He continued to play on sessions until things changed in the late seventies. Many of the Outlaws, including Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson started to bring their touring bands to play on recording sessions. For many session musicians this meant a huge drop in income. However, Reggie decided that if you can’t beat them, join them. He joined Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s bands when they headed out on tour.

On his first tour with an Outlaw, Reggie lost was the only person who lost money. The session work he had turned down, came to more than he received for the tour. It was an expensive lesson, and one that Reggie never made again. After that, he divided his time between touring and session work.

One of the most memorable tours came in 1990, when Reggie headed out on tour with the country supergroup The Highwaymen. With a lineup that featured Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson it was one of the concert tours of 1990. So popular were The Highwaymen, that they released a studio album The Road Goes On Forever in 1994. Reggie played on the album, and five years later, became joined Waylon Jennings’ band.

Although Reggie would spent much of his time doing session work, he still found time to tour with Waylon Jennings. Reggie joined the band in 1999, and was with the band right until Waylon Jennings played his final concert in 2002. The last song they played that night, was Drift Away, which featured just Waylon Jennings and Reggie Young. Sadly, on February ’13th’ 2002, Waylon Jennings passed away aged just sixty-five. That day, Reggie lost a good friend, who he had known for a long time.

By then, Reggie was sixty-six and showing no sign of slowing down. Over the next few years, he played sessions on albums by some of the biggest names in country music. He joined Glen Campbell, Hank Williams, George Strait, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers in the studio. Still, he continued to play on hit singles and successful albums. However, as the years went by, there was still one thing that Reggie Young had to do…record a debut album.

Eventually, Reggie decided the time was right to record his debut album. Reggie wrote seven new songs, and put together a band that features some top musicians. This includes his old friend from the Memphis Boys, David Hood. He played bass on four of the seven songs that were recorded in his home studio. One of the other musicians that played on Forever Young was cellist Jenny Lynn Hollowell, who Reggie Young married in 1999. They’ve lived in Leipers Fork, in mid-Tennessee, where Reggie has a home studio. That was where Forever Young was recorded. It showcases a truly talented and versatile veteran guitarist.

Coming Home To Leipers Fork opens Forever Young, and showcases Reggie Young’s inimitable picking style as the guitar chirps and chimes. At one point, there’s even some legato phrasing that he watched his father use. There’s even a nod to Drift Away before the all-star band enter. The rhythm section lay down the heartbeat, and soon, the arrangement unfolds. A fiddle and horns are added, as the arrangement takes shape. They all play their part in the sound and success of the track. However it’s Reggie’s guitar that takes centre-stage, and says what a thousand words couldn’t. His playing is subtle, nuanced and emotive. It veers between wistful and rueful, to uplifting and joyous as the guitarist’s guitarist rolls back the years.

Memphis Grease finds Reggie Young continuing to roll back the years. A wash of Hammond organ and growling horns join the rhythm section, as Reggie lays down a glistening guitar solo. He then lets the rest of the band shine, before rejoining his guitar shimmering as it weaves across the arrangement. Meanwhile, the Hammond organ plays, horns bray and the rhythm section keep things soulful. Reggie like all good bandleaders allows his the rest of the band to shine. Especially the horns and tight rhythm section. Every time Reggie returns, he effortlessly delivers a flawless solo. Buoyed by this, the band lift their game and during this near seven minute, epic which is smooth, soulful, funky and jazz-tinged. Quite simply, it’s akin to musical sunshine that will brighten up even the dullest day.

Straight away, the rhythm section and horns lock into a slow, tight groove on Soul Love. They set the scene for Reggie’s crystalline guitar as it shimmers and glistens. Meanwhile, horns bray, while keyboards play and the rhythm section provide a slow, steady beat. Reggie plays slowly and with care, as his fingers flit up and down the fretboard. He adds effects, but remembers the maxim less is more. With his all-star band accompanying him, they create a beautiful, ruminative and sometimes wistful, but always soulful instrumental.

The tempo rises on Seagroove Place, which breezes along with Reggie’s guitar sitting atop the groove created by the rhythm section and keyboards. Reggie’s playing is jazz-tinged and soulful, as hypnotic drums, washes of warms keyboards and wistful flute flit in and out the carefully crafted arrangement. It features top class musicians at the top of their game. Especially the horns that punctuate the arrangement, as Reggie lays down some of his finest solos. His playing is jazz-tinged, soulful and effortless during this dreamy and joyous sounding track that breezes along as Reggie delivers a musical masterclass.

A flute and guitar combine as It’s About Time starts to unfold. When the rhythm section enter, this is the signal for Reggie to step forward and deliver his first solo. He puts seven decades of experience to good use, his fingers flying up and down the fretboard. Then a drum roll signals that it’s time for the flute to enjoy its moment in the sun. Reggie takes his leave, but when he returns, plays with freedom and fluidity, his guitar sparkling, glistening and shimmering. As the solo soars, it almost heads in the direction of rock. Then a synth enters and unleashes a fleet fingered solo. Again, Reggie allows his band to shine as the baton passes to the flute. Only then, does he return, and his guitar dances above the arrangement. After that, he’s happy to switching between playing with his band, and unleash effortless solos, as he continues to roll back the years and showcase his versatility.

Just the rhythm section play slowly and deliberately they create a dramatic, thoughtful backdrop to Exit 209. Soon, Reggie joins and plays slowly. His guitar shimmers, but soon, takes on a ruminative and almost wistful sound. This soon changes, as the guitar rings out and chimes, while the rhythm section and keyboards accompany him. By then, the tempo is rising and Reggie subtly uses effects, as this emotional roller coaster unfolds. Sometimes, the music is thoughtful, other times uplifting and anything in between, as Reggie and his band seamlessly flit between disparate musical genres on another of the album’s highlights.

A cello plays adding a melancholy backdrop on Jennifer, which closes Forever Young. It’s joined by Reggie’s wistful sounding guitar, while drum marks time. Meanwhile, a Hammond organ adds a reminder of Memphis’ musical past, as the rhythm section lock into groove. Sometimes, Reggie’s guitar sounds as if it’s about to weep. Later, the cello returns and adds the finishing touch. Its addition is a masterstroke during what sounds like a lament for love lost, or the one that got away? Who knows? However, it’s certainly a beautiful song that’s sure to tug at the heartstrings. Reggie Young has kept the best until last.

Reggie Young’s debut album Forever Young has been a long time coming. He’s now eighty-one, and has spent the last seven decades working as a professional musician. For most of his career, Reggie Young has been working with the great and good of music. That is no surprise, as he was one of the top guitarists in Memphis, Atlanta and for the last forty-five years, Nashville. Year after year was spent touring and recording, and as a result,  Reggie Young never found the time to record an album. Instead, he was content to be a sideman, the hired gun who helped make others sound good. That was until recently.

Somewhat belatedly, Reggie Young has decided to step out of the shadows, and release his debut album Forever Young on Ace Records. It features a band that features some top sessions player. They provide a backdrop for Reggie Young as he showcases his talent and versatility. Seamlessly he switches between and combines musical genres on Forever Young, an almost flawless album of instrumentals. The music is variously beautiful, joyous, melancholy, rueful, ruminative, uplifting and wistful. Quite simply, Forever Young is a musical and emotional roller coaster, where Reggie Young the original guitarist’s guitarist, puts his seven decades of musical experience to good use on an album of carefully, crafted, timeless music that should be cherished by music lovers everywhere. They will discover on Forever Young  musical sunshine that’s guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest day.

Reggie Young-Forever Young.

MAKING TIME: A SHEL TALMY PRODUCTION.

Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

Ace Records.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He discovered The Kinks, when their manager Robert Wace took a demo into one of music publishers on Denmark Street. When Robert Wace asked if anyone wanted to hear the demo, Shel Talmy answered in the affirmative. Having heard the demo and heard what he liked, Shel Talmy took The Kinks to Pye. Having signed to Pye, Shel Talmy produced The Kinks’ first five albums. During this period, The Kinks were one of the most successful British bands. They’re one of twenty-four groups and artists that feature on Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production, which was recently released by Ace Records.

Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production is a celebration of one of the most successful and innovative producers working in Britain between 1964 and 1970. During that period, Shel Talmy  produced The Kinks, The Who, Manfred Mann, The Creation, The Pentangle, Lee Hazelwood, Roy Harper, The Mickey Finn, The Easybeats, The Fortunes and Tim Rose. They’re among the twenty-four artists and bands that feature on Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

Opening Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production is The Creation’s 1966 debut single for Planet, Making Time.  It’s a stomping fusion of psychedelic rock and power that at times, is reminiscent of The Who. That comes as no surprise as Shel Talmy produced The Who early in their career. Making Time would later feature on The Creation’s 1967 debut album, We Are Paintermen. Sadly, a year later  after its release The Creation split-up in 1968. This cut short what was a promising career. For The Creation, it was a case of what might have been.

1966 was a year of change for Manfred Mann. Their lead singer Paul Jones was replaced by Mike D’Abo, and Manfred Mann moved to Fontana Records. That was where Manfred Mann first encountered Shel Talmy, when he became their producer. The first single he produced was a cover of Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman. While it sneaked into the top ten, the followup Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James fared much better. It showcased a much more sophisticated production style than Manfred Mann’s earlier singles. Record buyers were won over but this carefully crafted production when  Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James was released by Fontana Records, in 1966. It reached number two in Britain and thirty-two in the US Billboard 100. Since then, this pop classic is regarded as one of Manfred Mann’s finest singles, and is still  become a favourite of oldies stations worldwide.

In 1965, The Kinks released the Ray Davies’ composition Tired Of Waiting For You as a single on Pye. It reached number one in Britain, and gave them their second number one single. Across the Atlantic,  Tired Of Waiting For You reached number six on the US Billboard 100. This rueful sounding Kinks classic would later feature on The Kinks’ sophomore album Kinda Kinks which was released later in 1965.

On a visit to Britain during 1970, Lee Hazlewood recorded several songs with Shel Talmy. This included Bye Babe which was penned and produced by Shel Talmy. It wasn’t until 1997 that Bye Baby was released on the compilation Love and Other Crimes. The folksy sounding Bye Baby features a worldweary vocal from Lee Hazlewood, and is a reminder of a talented and underrated singer.

The Who would become one of the biggest British  bands of the sixties. They burst onto the scene in 1964, and in 1965 released the defiant Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere as their third single. It reached number ten in Britain, and epitomises everything that’s good about The Who. Fifty-two years later, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere is a timeless rock classic that’s one of the highlights of Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

Shel Talmy started taking an interest in folk music in 1965, and son, was producing many of the new wave of British folk artists. By 1969, this included The Pentangle, who had been signed to the Big T label. They released their third album Basket Of Light in October 1969, and it reached number five in Britain.  This was The Pentangle’s most successful album . Light Flight, which was the theme to Take Three Girls, was released as the lead single from Basket Of Light, and  reached number forty-three in Britain. The following year, 1970, Light Flight reentered the charts but stalled reached forty-five in Britain. While Basket Of Light is regarded as The Pentangle’s greatest album, Light Flight, which features an ethereal vocal from Jacqui McShee is one of the album’s highlights.

Perpetual Langley were an Irish girl group who released two singles for Planet Records. This included Surrender which was released in 1966. It’s a glorious slice of perfect pop. Partly this is because of interplay between the lead vocal and harmonies, and Shel Talmy’s  production skills. All this results is a beautiful, melodic and memorable song that’s sure to tug at the heartstrings

During November in 1967, Roy Harper was in CBS’ London studio recording material for his sophomore album Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith. It was released by CBS in 1968, and featured Ageing Raver, which features a stripped down, folk sound. It’s  Roy Harper and his guitar, as he delivers an impassioned vocal on Ageing Raver, which marked his major label debut.

Lindsay Muir’s Untamed were  a garage rock band from Worthing, in East Sussex. They signed to Planet Records and released Daddy Long Legs as their debut single in 1966. It was fusion of garage rock and blues that sounded as if it had been recorded in LA not London. Alas, the single failed to make any impression on the charts, and there was no followup. Thirty-three years later, and Lindsay Muir’s Untamed had a cult following,  and in 1999, belatedly released their debut album It’s All True!

After the demise of the Planet Records, Shel Talmy signed a production deal with Polydor. One of the bands he worked with were psychedelic rockers Wild Silk. They released (Vision In A) Plaster Sky as a single on Columbia in 1969. Hidden away on the B-Side was Toymaker a hidden psychedelic gem, which is a welcome  addition to Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

The Nashville Teens were founded in Weybridge, Surrey in 1962, and were part of the first wave of British bands to serve their musical apprenticeship in Hamburg, in Germany. This gave The Nashville Teens a good grounding for the future. They had enjoyed a degree of success in America. However, in 1967 The Nashville Teens  released I’m Coming Home on Decca in Britain. It’s an upbeat and joyous fusion of R&B and pop rock, that should’ve enjoyed more success than it did. 

The Fortunes were formed in Birmingham in 1963, and within a year had signed to Decca. They released four unsuccessful singles before enjoying a breakthrough hit single with You’ve Got Your Troubles. It reached the top ten in Britain and America. However, the one that got away for The Fortunes was Caroline which was released in 1964. Al wasn’t lost though. Radio Caroline started using the song as an unofficial theme tune. Some fifty-three years later, and Caroline  has stood the test of time, and is a welcome reminder of another musical era.

In 1969, Tim Rose entered the studio to record his third album Love, A Kind Of Hate Story. It was released by Capitol Records in 1970, and featured Jamie Sue which closed the album. It’s the perfect showcase for Tim Rose as he delivers an impassioned, soul-baring vocal.

Closing Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production is Trini Lopez’s Sinner Not A Saint. It was released by DRA Records in 1962, and is a reminder of the R&B sound of the early sixties. Soon, though, music would change with The Beatles and the release of Love Me Do.

From 1962 until 1979, Shel Talmy was one of the most successful producer in Britain. So much so, that it would take a box set to do comprehensive overview of his career. However, Ace Records’ recently released  compilation Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production is the perfect introduction to a groundbreaking producer. 

Whilst other producers stuck to tried and tested production methods, Shel Talmy was experimenting and innovating. That had been the case since he started work at Conway’s Recorders in early 1961. Since then, Shel Talmy was a blue sky thinker when it came to production. This was similar to George Martin, when he worked with The Beatles. 

Producers had to be able to think outside the box. They were hamstrung by what is now regarded as basic equipment. By being able to innovate, some producers were able to make groundbreaking recordings  with this basic equipment. This included George Martin, Phil Spector, Joe Meek, Jimmy Miller and Jack Nitzsche. To that list the name Shel Talmy can be added. He belongs in such illustrious company. 

After all, Shel Talmy wasn’t just a producer. He was a songwriter and talent spotter. However, first and foremost Shel Talmy is remembered as a pioneering producer who worked with some of the biggest names in British music. His innovative approach to production transformed many groups, and made stars of The Kinks and The Who, who went on to become two of the biggest names in British musical history. They’re just two of the hundreds of bands and artists who were produced by Shel Talmy. Twenty-four feature on Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production,  which is reminder of a pioneering producer during the most successful period of his career.

Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production.

NOTHING BUT A HOUSE PARTY: THE BIRTH OF THE PHILLY SOUND 1967-71.

Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71.

Kent Soul.

During the seventies, Philadelphia rose to become America’s soul capital. This began in 1971, when Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff founded Philadelphia International Records, which became home to some of the finest purveyors of the Philly Sound, including Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays and The Three Degrees. These groups were produced by two of the architects of the Philly Sound, Gamble and Huff. Meanwhile, another architect of the Philly Sound was producing The Delfonics, The Stylistics and The Detroit Spinners. This was Thom Bell, who along with Gamble and Huff became known as the Mighty Three. They made much of the music that defined the slick, sophisticated and innovative sound of Philly Sound. However, the Philly Sound wasn’t created by just three men.

That was for from the case. There are many arrangers, backing vocalists, musicians, producers and songwriters who played their part in the creating the Philly Sound. They’re often the forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound. This includes arranger, producer and songwriter Bobby Martin and backing vocalists the Sweethearts of Sigma. Then there’s arranger, producer, songwriter and musician Vince Montana Jr and the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, who were the go-to rhythm section during the late-sixties and seventies. They were part of MFSB, which was Philadelphia International Records’ house band between 1971 and 1976, and played on many of the label’s most successful recordings. MFSB helped to define the Philly Sound, but like Bobby Martin, Vince Montana Jr, Baker, Harris, Young and the Sweethearts of Sigma often, don’t receive the credit they deserve.

These forgotten heroes of Philly Sound are often overlooked by journalists, with the Mighty Three receiving all the credit and kudos. However, without all these arrangers, backing vocalists, musicians and producers, the Philly Sound wouldn’t have developed and transformed Philadelphia into the soul capital of America. However, this didn’t happen overnight.

Instead, the Philly Sound developed from the late-sixties right through to 1971, when Gamble and Huff formed Philadelphia International Records. This period is celebrated on Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71, which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. It features twenty-four songs that feature many of the forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound.

This includes many of the musicians that would become members of MFSB, including Baker, Harris, Young and Vince Montana Jr. They accompany the artists and bands on Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71. Several of these songs were arranged by Bobby Martin;  while all of the songs were recorded at Sigma Sound Studios, which was owned by engineer Joe Tarsia. He recorded nearly every Philly Sound single and album at his Sigma Sound Studios. However, he’s yet another of another forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound. 

All these forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound were already making their mark in the Philadelphia music scene way before the city became the soul capital of America. They were accompanying the Show Stoppers, The Delfonics, Jerry Butler, Honey and The Bees, Cliff Nobles, Barbara Mason, The Intruders, Freddie Scott, Len Barry and Peaches and Herb. They’re among the twenty-four artists who feature on Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71.

Opening Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71 is the Show Stoppers’ Ain’t Nothing But A House Party. It was penned by Del Sharh and Joseph Thomas, with Bruce Charles taking charge of production. The single was released in 1967, on the Beacon label. It’s an irresistible, dance-floor filler from the City of Brotherly Love. 

By 1967, The Delfonics had been working with Thom Bell for a year. He had produced their 1966 debut single He Don’t Really Love You. A year later, Thom Bell had written You’ve Been Untrue with lead vocalist Thom Hart. It was arranged and produced by Thom Bell, and released on the Philly based Cameo label. From the opening bars of You’ve Been Untrue, it’s obvious that this is a Thom Bell production. Little things like the French horn and the strings are a giveaway. Already, Thom Bell’s trademark sound was taking shape on this heart-wrenching ballad. It’s a tale of betrayal that features a hurt-filled vocal from William Hart.

Jerry Butler’s career had begun in 1968, and ten years later, he was working with Gamble and Huff. The three men had written Never Give You Up, which was arranged by Bobby Martin and produced by Gamble and Huff. It was released on Mercury in 1968, and reached number twenty in the US Billboard 100 and four on the US R&B charts. That was no surprise, given the quality of a single that features many future members of MFSB. This includes Vince Montana Jr, whose vibes can be heard on this soul-baring ballad from the Ice-Man, Jerry Butler.

Cliff Nobles released the explosive, horn-driven Love Is All Right on the Phil LA label in 1969. Having burst into life, a carefully crafted, dance-floor friendly song unfolds. It was penned and produced by Jesse James, and arranged by Bobby Martin. Sadly, DJs ignored Love Is All Right on its release, and preferred the B-Side The Horse. It’s the backing track to Love Is All Right and ironically, and didn’t even feature Cliff Nobles. However, nearly forty years later, and Love Is All Right is a welcome addition to Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71, and is a reminder of one of Cliff Nobles’ finest singles.

As the seventies dawned, Lou Jackson wrote Peace To You Brother with Morris Bailey Jr. It was produced by Roscoe Murphy, Jr and released on Spring Records in 1971. Peace To You Brother is a timeless anthem that features an impassioned and powerful vocal from Lou Jackson. Sadly, Peace To You Brother failed to chart, and was the one that got away for Lou Jackson, whose a truly talented singer and songwriter.

In March 1969, Brenda and The Tabulations released That’s The Price You Have To Pay on the Dionn label. It was composed by lead singer Brenda Payton with Jerry Jones one of The Tabulations. Thom Bell and Bobby Martin arranged and conducted That’s The Price You Have To Pay which was produced by Gamble and Huff. It’s a wistful and soulful ballad, which features the Philly Sound taking shape.

Moses Smith’s Keep On Striving is another song that sees the nascent Philly Sound take shape. It was penned by Moses Smith, arranged by Sam Reed and produced by Gilda Woods. Keep On Striving was released on Cotillion in 1970, and is a heartfelt and hopeful Philly Soul ballad that features the Philly Sound almost fully formed.

For Barbara Mason, the release of her final single on Jimmy Bishop’s Arctic label, You Better Stop It was the end of an era. Arctic had been her home for the last few years. However, the seventies marked the start of a new chapter in her career. She would release a string of albums and enjoying several hit singles like Bed and Board and From His Woman To You. Before that, she released her final single on Jimmy Bishop’s Arctic label, You Better Stop It. It was penned by Barbara Mason and produced by Jimmy Bishop. He’s responsible for a string-drenched arrangement, which is the perfect foil for Barbara Mason’s hurt-filled vocal.

The Intruders were the very group to give songwriting and production team Gamble and Huff a hit single with (We’ll Be) United in 1967. Two years later, in 1969, The Intruders released Old Love on the Gamble label. On the B-Side was Every Day Is A Holiday was penned and produced by Gamble and Huff. It’s a hook-laden dance-floor filler.

Following their success with Jerry Butler, Gamble and Huff were soon being asked to record labels to produce other artists. Especially artists whose career needed a boost. This was how Gamble and Huff came to write and produce Freddie Scott’s 1968 single for Shout, (You) Got What I Need. It’s a slick single with a commercial sound that should’ve appealed to DJs and record buyers. Sadly, (You) Got What I Need failed to chart, and Gamble and Huff failed to rejuvenate Freddie Scott’s career.

In October 1968, Peaches and Herb released Let’s Make A Promise on the Date label. It was written by Thom Bell, Kenneth Gamble and Mikki Farrow and arranged by Bobby Martin and Thom Bell. Taking care of production were Gamble and Huff, who don’t spare the hooks on this catchy, soulful and dance-floor friendly single.

Sometimes, a song is way too good to be consigned to a B-Side. That was the case with I’m On My Way, which was the B-Side Winfield Parker’s 1968 single for Spring, SOS (Stop Her On Sight). It had already given Edwin Starr a hit in 1966, and Winfield Parker hoped that history would repeat itself. However, he overlooked the potential of I’m On My Way. This was a Jesse James and Jimmy Bishop composition, that had been arranged by Bobby Martin and Dee Dee Gamble, with Jimmy Bishop taking charge of production. They’re responsible for an irresistible, uptempo track where Dee Dee Gamble’s backing vocals are the perfect foil to Winfield Parker’s powerful, defiant vocal.

Closing Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71 is The Ethics Standing In The Darkness. It was penned by Norman Harris  of Baker, Harris, Young and MFSB. Norman Harris and Thom Bell arranged Standing In The Darkness which was produced Selassie Productions Inc. Standing In The Darkness was released on Vent Records in 1970, and features a fully fledged Philly Sound single. It’s a tantalising taste of the music that would come out of Philly during the seventies.

Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71 documents how the Philly Sound took shape over a four-year period. The fully fledged Philly Sound was very different from the lightweight singles released on Cameo Parkway early in the seventies. By 1970, Philly Soul had come of age and its slick, sophisticated and innovative sound would transform Philadelphia into America’s soul capital. 

Suddenly, soul music was one of Philly’s biggest exports.The Philly Sound wasn’t just popular in America, and found an audience much further afield. Record buyers were won over by  Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, The O’Jays,The Three Degrees, The Delfonics, The Stylistics, The Detroit Spinners and Blue Magic, which were some of the finest purveyors of the Philly Sound. These groups were responsible for some of the best, and most successful music that came out of Philly during the seventies. Much of that music was produced by the Mighty Three of Thom Bell and Gamble and Huff. However, many other people played a part in the success of the Philly Sound. 

This includes Bobby Martin, Vince Montana Jr, Baker, Harris, Young of MFSB, the Sweethearts of Sigma and Joe Tarsia. Sadly, they often don’t receive the credit they deserve. However, they had played an important part in the Philly music scene since the late-sixties. Many of these forgotten heroes of the Philly Sound play their part in the music that features on Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71. It’s a lovingly curated compilation that is a must-have for anyone with even a passing interest in the Philly Sound. Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71 features the Philly Sound taking shape, and by the end of the compilation it was fully formed, and ready to take the world by storm. 

Nothing But A House Party: The Birth Of The Philly Sound 1967-71.

 

WHAT BECAME OF ALICE CLARK?

What Became  Of Alice Clark?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Became  Of Alice Clark?

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KONDI BAND-SALONE

Kondi Band-Salone.

Label: Strut.

The story behind the Kondi Band’s latest album Salone is a heartening one, and one that could only have happened in the internet age. Sorie Kondi is a blind street musician from Freetown, Sierra Leone . He plays the thumb piano in the streets of Freetown, and often locals and tourists stop to listen to him play. Many come away clutching copies of Sorie Kondi’s cassette albums. By then, they’ve discovered through talking to Sorie Kondi, whose a sociable, engaging and interesting man, that he has his own website. This website was where an American DJ and producer made contact with Sorie Kondi.

This was US producer, DJ Chief Boima, who also happens to be able trace his roots to Sierra Leone. One day, DJ Chief Boima came across a video of one of Sorie Kondi’s songs. DJ Chief Boima takes up the story: “Sorie Kondi is a blind musician with a will to thrive like no person I have met before…My work with him began with a YouTube link. I spotted the video for his track Without Money No Family and was struck by his beautiful vocals and socially conscious lyrics. These incredible melodies he was playing on his namesake thumb piano (kondi) sealed the deal: I immediately decided to remix it.” 

Little did DJ Chief Boima realise the effect his bootleg remix would have. Suddenly, it started to feature on DJ playlists and there was even an article in The Fader magazine. This resulted in Sorie Kondi’s manager in Freetown contacting DJ Chief Boima. The next step was to bring Sorie Kondi to America.

To do this, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to fund Sorie Kondi’s journey to America. The Kickstarter campaign proved successful, with ninety backers pledging $3,562 to the Get Sorie Kondi To South By Southwest. Soon, Sorie Kondi was on his way to America for the first time. However, this wasn’t a social visit.

Instead, Sorie Kondi was about to embark upon a five date American tour. He also found time to record some new songs that made their debut on the Kondi Band’s debut album. It’s an album where two cultures unite.

DJ Chief Boima explains: “This album forges a direct link between techno born in the black cities of the American Mid-West, where I grew up, and roots African music…Sorie Kondi may be playing an acoustic folk instrument from Sierra Leone, but he thinks about music as if he were a techno producer with the dance-friendly pulse of his cajon drum, the spiralling melody lines from the thumb piano and his incredible vocals.” Producing Salone which was released by Strut on ‘2nd’ June 2017 was DJ Chief Boima.

There’s an intricacy to DJ Chief Boima’s production style. He adds a variety of electronic sounds to the mix, which prior to that, was underrated and spacious. It consists of just Sorie Kondi’s vocal and the drum piano. This less is more sound works, so it’s important not to overload the mix. Space has to be left in the mix for Sorie Kondi’s vocal, which plays a leading role as he delivers twelve new songs.

These songs were written by Sorie Kondi, and some of them  are very personal. Especially Thank You Mama song that he dedicates to his mother, and where Sorie Kondi thanks her for loving him even though he was born blind. The anthem Without Money, No Family is a song about how even a family can be a privilege. On other songs on Salone, there is an immediacy and poignancy to the lyrics. However, the lyrics to other songs are uncompromising and tackle social problems that blight Sierra Leone. This includes the problem of child prostitution, which is dealt with on Girl Service. Then on Belle Wahalla, Sorie Kondi uses stomach pain as a metaphor for poverty, hunger, and lack of financial opportunity. Just like so many songs on Salone, it’s a powerful song from the pen of Sorie Kondi. He played a huge part in the sound and success of the Kondi Band’s debut album Salone. 

Sorie Kondi wrote the twelve songs, plays thumb piano and takes charge of the lead vocals on Salone. DJ Chief Boima, the other member of the Kondi Band, produced Salone. The Kondi Band’s much-anticipated debut album Salone is the perfect introduction to a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician… Sorie Kondi.

As Yeanoh opens Salone, the words “sorry God” reverberate before a thumb piano combines with slow, deliberate drums. They set the scene for Sorie Kondi’s heartfelt, soulful vocal. Sometimes, it briefly becomes dubby, but always it’s impassioned and soulful as it takes centre-stage. Meanwhile, DJ Chief Boima’s arrangement is understated, with percussion, drums and the thumb piano providing the backdrop for the vocal. Later, synths replace the vocal as the drums provide the heartbeat. Soon, though, Sorie Kondi returns and scats, as this carefully crafted song takes shape and sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

Straight away, Belle Wahalla sounds as if it’s been designed with the dance-floor in mind. Drums pound, a synth groans and growl, while Sorie Kondi plays thumb piano and adds the vocal. Here, he uses stomach pain as a metaphor for poverty, hunger, and lack of financial opportunity. His vocal is impassioned and full of frustration. Meanwhile, the arrangement features stabs of braying horns, crisp drums courtesy of drum machine, a sultry saxophone and a buzzing, pulsating bass synth. It’s omnipresent and at the heart of an arrangement that’s dance-floor friendly song with a social conscience. 

Thank You Mama has a much more understated introduction, with Sorie Kondi playing thumb piano and thanking his mother for loving him, even though he was born blind. Soon, washes of synths are added while drums scrabble and gallop along. Along with the synths, they play a prominent part in the arrangement, adding a degree of drama and urgency. However, it’s Sorie Kondi’s that plays a leading role as he delivers one of his most heartfelt and impassioned vocals.

On Titi Dem Too Service, thunderous drums pound and gallop along, while the thumb piano matches it every step of the way. Soon, they’re joined by another joyous, powerful and soulful vocal from Sorie Kondi. It soars high above the arrangement. Sometimes, Sorie Kondi answers his own call, while synths squeak and drums power the arrangement along. They all play their part in another carefully crafted and irresistible track.

Just a lone thumb piano opens Don Don Mi Money before drums and stabs of synths usher in Sorie Kondi’s tender, thoughtful vocal. Meanwhile, the arrangement slowly reveals its secrets. Instruments are added, but care is taken not to overpower the vocal. Instead, the arrangement frames the vocal, and compliments it as eventually, the songs reveals its subtleties and surprises.

Thogolingo Dembi Na opens with the thumb piano ushering in Sorie Kondi’s impassioned vocal. Soon, drums are added and drive the arrangement along. They’ve been mixed back in the arrangement so they don’t overpower Sorie Kondi as he adds the lead vocal and harmonies. As the drums sit further back, the thumb piano sits at the front of the mix, and at one point, enjoy their moment in the sun as Sorie Kondi plays a solo. Before long, he returns, and is accompanied by harmonies which add a spiritual sound to a song that’s soulful and thanks to the drums, dance-floor friendly.

Drums probe while the thumb piano plays and Sorie Kondi adds a soliloquy on You Wan Married? Soon, squelchy synths are added accompany Sorie Kondi’s rueful vocal. Harmonies answer Sorie Kondi’s call and are the perfect foil for the vocal. Meanwhile drums crack and synths probe and pulsate. However, the thumb piano is the only reminder of Sorie Kondi’s musical heritage. He continues to deliver one of finest, and most emotive vocals, thanks in part to the harmonies which are yin to Sorie Kondi’s yang.

As the thumb piano plays, hi-hats hiss on Geibai Gpanga Ne  Gna. Soon, Sorie Kondi is delivering his vocal, and is accompanied by harmonies. When they drop out, drums are added. The drummer adds the heartbeat, while synth pulsate as the thumb piano accompanies Sorie Kondi and the harmonies. Both are heartfelt, soulful and have a spiritual quality. Soon, a wash of synth adds a degree of tension before stabs of horns are added. So too is a bass synth, as gradually, one of the best tracks on Salone takes shapes.

Kondi Instrumental is a showcase for Sorie Kondi’s thumb piano. It’s unmistakable sound takes centre-stage as master musician showcases his considerable talents.

Without Money, No Family is another song with a message. Sorie Kondi’s message is that even a family can be a privilege. As the song unfolds, synths dance, drums crack and combines with the thumb piano as stabs of a dubby vocal flit in and out of the arrangement. Soon, a bass rumbles ominously as Sorie Kondi seems to tease the listener. Eventually, at 1.29 his vocal enters and he delivers his message.Meanwhile, the bass rumbles, synths dance with joy, drums crack and harmonies are added. Although Sorie Kondi’s vocal is slow, impassioned and soulful, the multilayered arrangement is quick, hypnotic and dance-floor friendly. It’s all part of this anthemic celebration of family life.

Straight away, two cultures unite on Thogolobea. Drums, bass and thumb piano provide a backdrop for Sorie Kondi, whose accompanied by a choir. They answer his call, as horns bray and an irresistible songs starts to unfold. By then, the mix seems almost, perfect. Anything more would be overkill. Still, stabs of a phat synths are added. Later, so are swirling, whooshing, atmospheric synths. Fortunately, they don’t upset the musical apple cart, as this was already a joyous and irresistible track without their addition.

Closing Salone is Y’alimamy, where drums pound and crack, while the thumb piano plays. They usher in Sorie Kondi’s powerful, impassioned vocal, which is accompanied by a growling bass synth. A choir accompanies Sorie Kondi and answer his call When the vocal drops out, the growling, pulsating bass synth, keyboards, drum machine and thumb piano take centre-stage. They  then accompany Sorie Kondi as the choir provides the perfect accompaniment to his vocal, which grows in power and passion. Meanwhile, synths judder, the bass synth beeps and buzzes and provides a contrast to the vocal and harmonies. So do a glacial synth and crisp drums. However, Sorie Kondi’s impassioned vocal and the heartfelt harmonies steal the show and play leading roles in the song that closes Salone.

It’s never easy to combine two the music from two disparate cultures. There is always the risk that the music of one culture will dominate the other. However, on Salone which was released their debut album Salone on Strut on ‘2nd’ June 2017, Sorie Kondi and DJ Chief Boima are equal partners. 

While DJ Chief Boima produced the album, Sorie Kondi’s vocal steals the show on the album. They’re captivating and the listener will find themselves hanging on his every word. Sorie Kondi’s vocals range from heartfelt and impassioned to joyous. Sometimes, though, his vocals are full of sadness and frustration as he deals with subjects like child prostitution and poverty. In dealing with these subjects, Sorie Kondi provides a voice for the disadvantaged, disenfranchised and victims of crime and poverty. Other songs are joyous, uplifting, hook-laden and dance-floor friendly. Anthems sit beside songs with a social message on Salone, a carefully crafted debut album that thirty years ago, wouldn’t have been made.

Back then, there was no such thing as the internet, and making music was very different. Fortunately, DJ Chief Boima and Sorie Kondi live in the internet age. It was the internet brought the Kondi band together. DJ Chief Boima came across the video to Without Money No Family on You Tube. This was the start of a friendship that lead to the formation of the Kondi Band and of the recording of their debut album Salone. It’s an internet age album, that showcases The Kondi Band, which features DJ Chief Boima and Sorie Kondi, who are from very different backgrounds. However, they bonded over their shared love of music and have created the Kondi Band’s captivating, thought-provoking and uplifting album of create genre-melting, multicultural music, Salone.

Kondi Band-Salone.

ADDICTIVE TV-ORCHESTRA OF SAMPLES.

Addictive TV-Orchestra Of Samples.

Label: K7!

Recording and producing Addictive TV’s debut album Orchestra Of Samples has been a labour of love for production duo Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler. They spent five years travelling far and wide, visiting over twenty-five  countries to record with hundreds of local musicians to create the source material for Orchestra Of Samples. These recordings were then sampled  by Addictive TV, and eventually, became part of Orchestra Of Samples which was released on the K7! label on the ‘2nd’ of June 2017. This brings to fruition a project that began seven years ago.

Back in 2010, Addictive TV set out on what was a mammoth musical journey. Even they weren’t aware of the amount of travelling it would take to gather the source material for the Orchestra Of Samples project. However, Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler were by then, used to travelling.

They had already travelled the world with Addictive TV’s live audio-visual show. It had won praise and plaudits from critics and music fans over the years. However, during a period of reflection, Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler decided to take their career in a different direction. They decided to record their debut album. It’s an album with a difference though.

Orchestra Of Samples is essentially a musical collage, which is made up of samples of music that Addictive TV recorded on their five-year journey. During that epic journey, Addictive TV formed friendships and met musicians in far-flung corners of the globe. It was a life changing experience for Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler.

The journey began in 2010, and found Addictive TV crisscrossing the globe in their search for music for their debut album. Their travels took Addictive TV to five continents, where they visited over twenty-five countries. This included Bhutan, Brazil, Britain, China, France, Israel, Mexico, Senegal, Spain and Turkey where they worked with musicians whose music features on Orchestra Of Samples.

When they arrived in each country, Addictive TV were determined to forge long-lasting friendships and working relationships with the people and musicians they met. The only way to do this, was spent some time in each country and experience the local culture. This was very different from many DJs and bands, who make flying visits to a country, and never experience the local culture beyond their hotel room.

In each country, Addictive TV made a point of getting out and meeting local people during what was the modern equivalent of a grand tour. When they arrived in Tunisia, they spent time with locals in Tunisia at the beginning of the beginning of the Arab Spring. Addictive TV heard firsthand of the Tunisian people’s concerns as the country underwent a revolution. This sparked anger and frustration as the Tunisian people feared for democracy and human rights. Then when Addictive TV arrived in Senegal to record rapper Matador, they saw the outreach and education program he was providing for local young people. All these experiences opened Addictive TV’s eyes to what was happening in each country beyond the local music scene. It was an enlightening experience.

So was working with the hundreds of musicians Addictive TV met during their five-year journey. This was an opportunity to discover common ground between musicians in different countries. Graham Daniels remembers; “we began this project with no preconceptions, just a curiosity to explore musical possibilities. It’s made me see that all music clearly has the same basic roots and building blocks from which to create.” These “building blocks” were recorded in over twenty-five countries.

Addictive TV made several hundred recordings, which featured musicians jamming and improvising. Many times, just one artist was recorded. Sometimes, though, the recordings featured a number of musicians. In Bhutan, Addictive TV recorded the Bhutanese Himalayan village choir for the title-track Orchestra Of Samples. Other artists that were recorded and feature on the album included sitar player Baluji Shrivastav, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier and Senegalese rap-star Matador. However, regardless of who or how many people Addictive TV were recording and filming, they had the freedom to record what they wanted and how they wanted.

Each artist played a variety instruments, that ranged from what would be regarded as traditional, too much more avant-garde instruments. Each artist was encouraged to improvise,and record in different keys, time signatures and styles. These recording would eventually result in the threads that would become the musical tapestry that eventually, became Orchestra Of Samples.

Having spent five years recording the music that would be sampled for Orchestra Of Samples, now Addictive TV had to chop, splice and match their treasure trove of recordings from disparate cultures together. What they were attempting to do, was create eleven musical tapestries. This was time-consuming, but was a labour of love for Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler. Eventually, Addictive TV’s musical tapestry was complete and became Orchestra Of Samples.

For Graham Daniels, Orchestra Of Samples was more than an album. “It is about bringing people together, and creating something that you didn’t know you could. Music binds us all, it’s the one language on our planet we all speak.” That is certainly the case, with musicians from as far afield as Bhutan, Brazil, Britain, France, Israel, Senegal, Spain and Turkey joining together to speak the universal language of music on the eleven tracks on Orchestra Of Samples.

Opening Orchestra Of Samples is the title-track, which features the Bhutanese Himalayan village choir. Straight away,  a myriad of disparate tradition instruments flit in and out. This ranges from a stringed instruments to percussion and drums. They set the scene for an ethereal, cooing vocal, before the heart-wrenching and soulful sound of the choir. Later, the ethereal vocal takes centre-stage as the song reaches a crescendo, and in doing so, sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

Spanish musician, Daniel Salorio plays Hang drum on Hangman, and soon, is joined by a bass as the song builds, and begins to reveal its secrets. Handclaps, drums and percussion play their part in a melodic backdrop. Soon, a sample of a tender vocal soars above the arrangement and scats as the arrangement is stripped bare. It has a crackling sound that is reminiscent of old vinyl record. This is an old trick that’s been used before, but works well. When the arrangement rebuilds, elements of dub, African music and Eastern sounds are combined to create a truly memorable and melodic dance-floor friendly track.

French cellist Agathe Issartier  features on Unity Through Music, and soon, is joined by thunderous drums and brief bursts of woodwind. As the arrangement explodes into life, an urgent rapped vocal sings of “Unity Through Music.” Meanwhile, drums drive the arrangement along adding to the drama, while the cello plays and instruments flit in and out. Later sample of speech is added, as this musical tapestry takes shape. It becomes urgent, before the arrangement is stripped bare and become dramatic and moody. As the song rebuilds, a hopeful musical anthem-in- waiting unfolds…“Unity Through Music.”

Samples of a souk and the sound of traffic give way to conversation about life in Istanbul on Eastern Baschet. It’s replaced by keyboards, drums, traditional stringed instruments and percussion as the tempo builds. Soon, they’re joined by violins that help drive the arrangement along. Suddenly, the arrangement becomes understated as a haunting vocal enters. It drops out only to reappear as the arrangement builds. By then, pounding drums, atmospheric keyboards, traditional instruments and a vocal sample combine to create an irresistible multicultural musical potpourri.

Just Kounta Dieye’s lone kora opens with Kora Borealis. His fingers fly up and down the twenty-one strings of the kora before the arrangement builds. Drums pound, cymbals crash, a synth growls and Matador lays down a rap. He’s accompanied by soulful harmonies, before the arrangement ebbs and flows. Playing leading roles in this genre-melting track are Kounta Dieye’s kora and Senegalese rapper Matador.

The sound of waves breaking on beach and children playing opens Beachcoma. This gives way to Laetitia Sadier’s heartfelt vocal, which is accompanied by slow hypnotic drums, percussion and a guitar.Later, a ruminative horn plays as the arrangement meanders along, showcasing its dreamy, atmospheric sound.

Just a fiddle opens Rapscallion, before drums enter and crack. They set the scene for hip hopper Milk, Coffee and Sugar, who adds a rapid fire rap. The combination of the fiddle and the rap may sound like unlikely bedfellows, but they work well together. So does the addition of pizzicato strings and a wistful trumpet. When the trumpet drops out, another rap in unleashed. This is the signal for the understated arrangement to build before it reaches a crescendo.

A choppy acoustic guitar plays as Sundown (That’s A Fact) unfolds. The guitar ushers in a soulful vocal, while a bass underpins the arrangement and a thoughtful flute and percussion plays. By then, the vocal is heartfelt and soulful as the arrangement flows along and a melodic song unfolds. Midway through the song, the arrangement becomes understated and spacious. Instruments flit in and out, before the arrangement gains momentum. Soon, the melodic, sunshine soul of earlier makes a welcome return. 

Vocalists Andrea Dos Santos and Theo Hakola feature on The American. It opens with a tack piano playing, which sets the scene as Andrea Dos Santos’ vocal plays a leading role. Meanwhile, drums add a brief burst of drama and are replaced by stabs of melancholy harmonica while the piano and bass play. Later, thunderous drums return and accompany an impassioned, emotive vocal. Later, when the vocal drops out, just a bluesy, wistful harmonica, moody bass and flourishes of piano remain, and close this carefully crafted track.

Who needs a guitar hero, when Sitar Hero Baluji Shrivastav is around? He unleashes a fleet-fingered solo as drums pound and join with synths that beep, buzz and squeak. Soon, the sitar is replaced by a vocal, before the baton passes to pulsating synths and a flawless sitar solo. Still drums pound and sci-fi synths accompany the Sitar Hero. By then, it’s a case of all hail the Sitar Hero, in what could very well be an unlikely club hit.

Closing Orchestra Of Samples is Herbal Haze, which has an understated introduction before Nir Yaniv adds an impassioned vocal. Soon, the arrangement bursts into life as drums pound, cymbals crash as pulsating, bubbling, growling and sci-fi synths are added. Later, a flute flutter above the arrangement and adds another contrast. So does Nir Yaniv’s vocal, which is a mixture of power and emotion as the arrangement is powered along. Fittingly, there’s even a burst of searing guitar during this alternative homage to guitar hero, Jimi Hendrix. It’s without doubt, one of the highlights of Orchestra Of Samples, which marks the debut of Addictive TV.

Orchestra Of Samples is the result of nearly seven years work for Addictive TV. They spent five years recording the music that was later sampled for Orchestra Of Samples. It was diced and spliced,  then carefully crafted together to create a tapestry of sounds. Eventually, Orchestra Of Samples was complete, and  featured music from over twenty-five countries. 

This ranges from traditional and avant-garde instruments to vocals, raps and samples of everyday life. Listen carefully and the sound of waves crashing on a beach and sound of traffic in Istanbul can be heard on Orchestra Of Samples. Each of these sounds play their part in a captivating cross-cultural project, Orchestra Of Samples which was released on the K7! label on the ‘2nd’ of June 2017. 

At last, Addictive TV have brought to fruition the Orchestra Of Samples project that began in 2010. It will introduce music fans to many talented musicians from different parts of the world. This includes one of the most talented musicians on Orchestra Of Samples, the Sitar Hero Baluji Shrivastav. He’s one of several master musicians who feature on Orchestra Of Samples. Maybe Addictive TV could do something to help their music reach the wider audience it deserves? 

Hopefully, Orchestra Of Samples will find the audience it deserves. It’s a captivating album that features a treasure trove of sounds and sonic surprises from a multicultural cast of musicians, vocalists and rappers. They may come from far-flung places and speak different languages, but share a love of music. It’s a universal language that musicians worldwide understand. A reminder of that is Orchestra Of Samples, which is an exchange of musical ideas that features musicians from five continents. These musicians join Addictive TV, and achieve Unity Through Music, on Orchestra Of Samples, which features a myriad of master musicians, including The American and a Sitar Hero, who help weave this vibrant musical tapestry.

Addictive TV-Orchestra Of Samples.

 

JANNE SCHAFFER-KATHARSIS, EARMEAL AND PRESENS.

Janne Schaffer-Katharsis, Earmeal and Presens.

BGO Records.

Most people will have heard Swedish guitarist Janne Schaffer play many times, but never have realised it. He is one of Sweden’s premier session musicians, and has played with the great and good of Swedish music. This includes Sweden’s most successful musical export, Abba. Janne Schaffer played on many of Abba’s biggest hit singles during the seventies. However, his work as a session musician, and with Abba, is just part of the Janne Schaffer story.

His is a quite remarkable story. Janne Schaffer was born in the Swedish capital Stockholm, in 1945. Growing up, Janne Schaffer was always interested in music. So much so, that he built his first guitar in the woodwork class at the local high school. This was the first of many guitars that Janne Schaffer would own.

By the early seventies, Janne Schaffer was one of the top session musicians in Sweden. He played on Abba’s debut album Ring Ring which was recorded during 1972 and 1973. This was the start of a working relationship that would last much of the seventies. However, by the time Ring Ring was released on ’26th’ March 1973, Janne Schaffer was already planning to embark upon a solo career.

When Janne Schaffer released his eponymous debut album later in 1973, it topped the Swedish charts and was certified gold. This was a dream start to Janne Schaffer’s solo career. 

Despite the success of his eponymous debut album, Janne Schaffer didn’t turn his back on session work. Janne Schaffer continued to work as a session musician throughout his solo career.

In 1974, Janne Schaffer’s eponymous debut album was released on the Vertigo label in Britain as The Chinese. Meanwhile, Janne Schaffer released his sophomore album Andra, back home in Sweden. Unfortunately, the album failed to match the commercial success of his debut album. Worse was to come when the Four Leaf label that Janne Schaffer became insolvent. This left Janne Schaffer without a record label.For Janne Schaffer this was a disaster.

Without a record company, Janne Schaffer returned to session work, and continued working with Abba. Janne Schaffer also enjoyed the opportunity to hone his jazz chops when he played on jazz trumpeter Tony Williams’ 1974 album Sleeping Bee. Janne Schaffer also worked with jazz drummer Tony Williams, on his latest project Pop Workshop, who released Song Of The Pterodactyl in 1974. Session work kept Janne Schaffer busy until he found a new record company.

It wasn’t until late 1975 that Janne Schaffer signed to CBS Records Swedish division. After a year where he was musically homeless, Janne Schaffer was going up in the world. He had signed to a major label. Janne Schaffer would three albums for CBS Records, Katharsis, Earmeal and Presens, which were recently remastered and rereleased as part of a two CD set by BGO Records. The CBS years marked the start of the next chapter in Janne Schaffer’s career. 

Katharsis.

Having signed to CBS Records, Janne Schaffer was keen to begin recording his third album, which became Katharsis. More than a year had passed since Janne Schaffer released his sophomore album Andra. It had failed to match the commercial success of his eponymous debut album. Janne Schaffer was keen to begin work on his third album as soon as possible.

He had already written the eight tracks that would become Katharsis. All Janne Schaffer had to do was put a band together, and once rehearsals had taken place, they could begin recording Katharsis. Recording began in December 1975, with Janne Schaffer co-producing Katharsis with Lars Samuelson. They were joined in the studio by some of Sweden’s top musicians, including many close friends of Janne Schaffer.  

Recording of Katharsis took place at two studios, Marcus Music and Europa Film. The sessions began in December 1975, and over the next four months eight tracks were recorded. During the recording sessions, the band were joined by a famous face, John “Rabbit” Burdock. He played the electric piano and clavinet on Bromma Struttin. Eventually, after four months, Katharsis was completed in March 1976. Now Janne Schaffer’s solo career could resume.

When Katharsis was released later in 1976, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Critics were won over by what was the most eclectic album of Janne Schaffer’s three album solo career. So was the Swedish record buying public, with Katharsis proving much more popular than its predecessor Andra. No wonder, as Katharsis showcased the considerable talents of Janne Schaffer and his all-star band as seamlessly, they switched between and combined musical genres.

That was case from the genre-melting album opener Bromma Struttin, which is a laid back fusion of funk, rock  and even disco. During his first solo Janne Schaffer deploys a Talk Box and an array of effects as he showcases his virtuoso skills. This continues on Stocking Suite, which heads in the direction of progressive rock and then fusion. Janne Schaffer and his band’s playing veers between disciplined to a much freer and fluid style. The tempo then drops on The Blue Gate where funk gives way to fusion as Janne Schaffer and later, lock into a smouldering groove on what’s one of the highlights of Katharsis. 

Janne Schaffer and his band continue to throw curveballs on Dimbaa Jullow,where they combined elements of fusion,  progressive funk and even folk during this captivating and genre-melting track. Ramsa is a cinematic, folk-tinged track that conjures up images of country living. Janne Schaffer was inspired to write Atlanta Inn 2419 after touring America in 1974, and witnessing terrible weather. It’s a slow burner, that eventually reveals its secrets, and features a guitar masterclass from Janne Schaffer. This inspires his band to even greater heights on this nine minute epic. Uber rocky describes The Red Gate, which features layers of guitar as Janne Schaffer’s band become a power trio. Closing Katharsis is the ruminative sounding Wintergreen, which is an acoustic track that invites reflection. It also shows yet another side of Janne Schaffer.

After the success of Katharis in Sweden, CBS Records decided to release the album in Britain and America. They hoped that Katharis would find an audience in both countries. Katharis was well received by critics in both countries, and received praise and plaudits from Rolling Stone magazine. For Janne Schaffer, the future looked a lot brighter than it had after he released his sophomore album Andra. Now he was signed to a major label, and his career was back on track.

Despite the success of Katharis, Janne Schaffer continued to work as a session musician. This included working with Abba, who were by then, one of the biggest pop groups in Europe. However, out of the blue, Janne Schaffer received an invitation from Columbia to play at one of the most prestigious events on the music calendar, the Montreux Jazz Festival. 

At the Montreux Jazz Festival, Janne Schaffer found himself rubbing shoulders with the great and good of jazz. This induced some legendary names from jazz’s past, including Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and Maynard Ferguson. They were joined by the next generation of fusion musicians, including George Duke, Billy Cobham, Bob James, Eric Gale and Steve Khan. Despite such illustrious company, it was Janne Schaffer that was chosen to play on Andromeda, an twenty-two minute epic that later featured on Montreux Summit Volume 1 when it was released in 1978.

Appearing at the Montreux Jazz Festival did wonders for Janne Schaffer’s career. At last he was receiving the recognition that his music deserved. It wasn’t just critics and record buyers who sat up and took notice of Janne Schaffer. So did his peers, including four members of rock royalty, who would feature on Janne Schaffer’s fourth album Earmeal.

Earmeal.

Buoyed by the success of appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Janne Schaffer was keen to begin work on his fourth album, Earmeal. He had written the nine would feature on Earmeal when the invite came to record the album in Los Angeles.

For the recording, Janne Schaffer decided to take his friend and flautist Björn J:Son Lindh to the recording sessions in LA. When an executive at CBS asked Janne Schaffer who he wanted to play the drums on Earmeal, and he chose future Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro. He was by then, one of the top West Coast session musicians, and had played on albums with Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs and Robert. Having chosen a drummer, CBS assured Janne Schaffer that the rest of the band would be in place when he arrived in LA.

That wasn’t the case. Janne Schaffer arrived to find his band comprised Jeff Porcaro and Björn J:Son. Needing some musicians to play on Earmeal, Janne Schaffer asked Joe Porcaro to recommend a bassist. He suggested his brother Mike Porcaro. Soon, a third Porcaro brother was added to the band, when keyboardist Steven Porcaro agreed to play on Earmeal. So did percussionist Joe Porcaro, the father of Jeff, Mike and Steven. The final member of the band was keyboardist Peter Robinson, Producing this tight, talented band at Larabee Sound, in LA. was Bruce Botnick, a vastly experienced producer. Before long, the majority of the album was complete. Some recording took place in Stockholm, and then Earmeal was ready for release.

When Earmeal was released in 1978, the album received the same praise and plaudits as Katharsis. It was another eclectic album, where Janne Schaffer take the listener on a musical adventure.

This began with the propulsive jazz-funk of Hot Days And Summer Nights which opens Earmeal. It gives way to Happy Feet, which  breezes along, revealing a dreamy, summer sound reminiscent of Bob James. To A Beautiful Painter is a beautiful ballad that meanders along, allowing Janne Schaffer’s glistening guitar to take centre-stage. Bromma Express is funky jam that incorporates elements of jazz, fusion and Hispanic influences where Janne Schaffer and his all-star band enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs musically.

The Shrimp is a mid-tempo track where Janne Schaffer returns to fusion, except during the bridge when the track briefly heads in the direction of disco. Next on the menu, is Shrimp A La Carte, a beautifully orchestrated track that lasts just one minute. It’s Never Too Late is an oft-sampled and uber funky track that later, heads in the direction of fusion. For the rest of the track Janne Schaffer and his band switch between funk and fusion as they showcase their considerable skills. It’s a similar case on Oriental Sign, where the tempo drops on a glorious, laid-back fusion of funk rock and Eastern influences. Closing Earmeal is Frederick’s Place a beautiful, understated and meditative track that leaves a lasting impression.

The same can be said of Earmeal, which was without doubt, one of the best albums of Janne Schaffer’s career. It was certainly the best album of the CBS years. The followup Presens, had a lot to live up to.

Presens.

Following the success of Earmeal, Janne Schaffer continued to divide his time between his solo career and his work as a session player. Eventually, the time came for Janne Schaffer to record his fifth album, and his third album for CBS Records. By then, he had written eight new songs. They would be recorded in Stockholm, not Los Angeles.

While Janne Schaffer had enjoyed recording an album in Hollywood, recording at Europa Film and Polar Sound meant that he was able to work with local musicians. This included some of those who had played on Katharsis, including keyboardist, flautist and arranger Björn J:Son Lindh drummer Malando Gassama, drummer and percussionist Per Lindvall and Stefan Brolund who played bass and double bass. Another musician who made a guest appearance on Presens, was organist John “Rabbit” Bundrick who played on Herr Allansson Pickles. A new name was bassist Christian Veltman, who also wrote Neon Dimma. With a band that featured old friends, familiar faces and new names, work began on Presens, which was produced by Janne Schaffer. 

Before the release of Presens, critics had their say on Presens. They discovered a slick album where Janne Schaffer combined elements of disco, funk, fusion, jazz, pop and rock. The music was the most commercial sounding album that Janne Schaffer had released on CBS Records.

Proof of this was the album opener Herr Allansson Pickles. It’s an irresistible, dance-floor friendly, funky rocker where Janne Schaffer unleashes some guitar wizardry above a 4/4 beat. The guitar wizardry continues on The Tongue, an other stomping, rocky track. As it bursts into life, Janne Schaffer takes centre-stage while the rhythm section lock into the groove and power the arrangement along. Very different is a beautiful, ruminative balladry of Neon-moisture. Joyous, urgent and full of energy describes Marsch Från Tornhuven, were Janne Schaffer seamlessly marries rock and folk.  

March From Refresher Course finds Janne Schaffer’s guitar plays a leading role in this dramatic, emotive and cinematic power ballad. Hooks haven’t been spared on High Pitch, which is one of the most commercial and memorable tracks on Presens. Evening At Alex is a captivating fusion of Scandinavian folk music and Eastern influences which races along at breakneck speed. Very different is the cinematic sound of Open Eyes where Janne Schaffer combines funk and fusion to create what sounds like the theme to a seventies police drama. Closing Presens is Desire, a beautiful understated and wistful sounding track that invites reflection on what’s gone before.

When Presens was released in 1980, it didn’t replicate the success of previous albums. It was the one that got away. Sadly, Presens was the last album that Janne Schaffer released for CBS Records. He left the label not long after the release of Presens, and began a new chapter in his career.

This was with the Electric Banana Band, which started life as a children’s band. However, it’s a band that united families when they attended Electric Banana Band concerts. It’s still going strong some thirty-seven years later. That was the next chapter in Janne Schaffer’s career.

This was very different to the CBS years, between 1976 and 1980, when Janne Schaffer released a trio of critically acclaimed albums Katharsis, Earmeal and Presens. They showcase one of the most talented and versatile Swedish guitarists as he seamlessly switches between and combines disparate genres. This ranges from disco to funk, fusion, to  jazz, pop or rock. Janne Schaffer is equally at home playing each of these genres, or combining elements of several in the space of the one song. That is something that not every musician is capable of. However, Janne Schaffer isn’t just any musician. He’s one of the best European guitarists of his generation.

Sadly, many people outside of Sweden won’t be familiar with Janne Schaffer’s music. However, they’ll have most likely have heard his guitar playing on many of Abba’s songs. Some eagle-eyed music fans may have noticed the Janne Schaffer’s name on the credits of album cover. Now is the opportunity to discover what Janne Schaffer is capable.

Recently, Katharsis, Earmeal and Presens, which were recently remastered and rereleased as part of a two CD set by BGO Records. They’re a reminder of Janne Schaffer at the peak of his powers, and when he was being compared to the likes of the legendary British guitarist, Jeff Beck. Janne Schaffer belongs in such illustrious company, and when he rubbed shoulders with the great and good of music, always more than held his own. Proof of that can be found on Katharsis, Earmeal and Presens, which Janne Schaffer recorded during his CBS years,

Janne Schaffer-Katharsis, Earmeal and Presens.

CLUSTER-KONZERTE 1972-1977.

Cluster-Konzerte 1972-1977.

Bureau B.

Back in the seventies, the life of a musician wasn’t an easy one. Most bands were contracted to release at least one album each calendar year. As a result, many bands would get into habit of entering the studio just after the festive period, and would spend a couple of months recording their new album. It would be released in the spring, and then the band would embark upon an extensive tour to promote the album. 

Often, the band was on the road for the remainder of the year, and had a gruelling schedule to contend with. In each city, there was a round of interviews with press, radio and television before heading to the venue to play live. Usually, concerts lasted two to three hours. This was the case night after night, week after week, and month after month. Then when the band returned home, they enjoyed a few weeks rest before the whole process started again. That was the case for many bands during the seventies. 

This included Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, who were two of the hardest working and most prolific German musicians of the seventies. They were members of Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia and recorded twelve studio albums during the seventies. Seven of these albums bore the name of Cluster, the band that Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius formed in 1971. 

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 material from the seventies. That was until recently, when the Hamburg based Bureau B label released Konzerte 1972-1977, which features recordings from two Cluster concerts. These recordings make their debut on Konzerte 1972-1977 and 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,

Cluster’s concerts in the seventies were akin to the happenings of the sixties, with the band and audience often having partaken in alcohol or illicit substances. This was enough to open the doors of perception, as Cluster took the audience on a musical voyage of discovery.

During this voyage of discovery, Cluster always played with an intuitiveness and spontaneity as they improvised. That was the case night after night. Similarly, the two members of Cluster played with a fluidity and freedom during their marathon concerts. Meanwhile, the audience were captivated by Cluster’s groundbreaking soundscapes. What they heard on albums was merely a starting point, as Cluster sought to reinvent familiar tracks. It was like a live realtime remix. Sometimes, Cluster created a new soundscape live on stage. When this happened, the audience knew that they were watching musical history being made. This was something Cluster continued to do throughout the seventies, and beyond.

Constantly, Cluster sought to reinvent their music as the seventies progressed. In the early days, the music was rough and almost brutal. Later the music evolved and veered between elegiac and ethereal to eerie. Sometimes Cluster made music that pensive and ruminative, and invited reflection. Often though, Cluster made music that was cinematic and sometimes, lysergic. They were musical chameleons whose music never stood still and aways was groundbreaking and innovative. This was quite a feat, as Cluster used what was quite basic equipment. 

Unlike other groups, like Kraftwerk, who were using  expensive, cutting edge equipment, Cluster used only the most basic equipment. They eschewed expensive synths and sequencers when they took to the stage. Similarly, they didn’t use expensive high-end amplifiers to amplify their music when they played live. There was a reason for this. Cluster was determined they weren’t going to become dependent on machines. They were a means to an end, and part of the music making process. For Cluster, the important thing was the performance and the music, not banks of gleaming, expensive keyboards, synths and sequencers. That wasn’t Cluster’s style.

Sometimes, though, the sound quality suffered because of the equipment that Cluster used. That is the case on Konzerte 1972-1977. The sound quality can’t be described as hi-fidelity. However, Cluster’s performance couldn’t be faulted. As the audience left Fabrik, in Hamburg, in 1972 and at the Festival International de La Science-Fiction, in Metz in 1977, they knew that they had witnessed a groundbreaking group at the peak of their powers. Proof of that can be found on Konzerte 1972-1977.

By the time that Cluster appeared at Fabrik, in Hamburg, in 1972, the band had already released two albums. Cluster ’71 had been released in 1971, with Cluster II following in January 1972. Both were innovative albums that would influence a new generation of musicians in the early seventies. Even today, Cluster and Cluster II continue to influence musicians. That is no surprise, as both albums are regarded as Krautrock classics.

Sci-fi sounds swoop as beeps and squeaks emerge from the soundscape that is Fabrik, Hamburg 1972. So do seemingly random sounds that buzz, beep and grind. Meanwhile the soundscape is lo-fi and shrill, as an array of futuristic sound flit in and out, as Cluster transport the listener on a lysergic voyage of discovery. It’s a case of expect the unexpected as shrill, churning, whining and grinding sounds assail the listener. Sometimes, this doesn’t make for easy listening, while other times it’s strangely melodic. Always, though, the soundscape is engaging and compelling. Especially, as futuristic, industrial, grinding and droning sounds unite and become part of this groundbreaking soundscape. It ebbs and flows, as Cluster throw curveballs, and the listener discovers sonic subtleties and surprises.

Later, the soundscape becomes understated, and it’s as if Cluster are providing the soundtrack to sci-fi movie, as the music becomes futuristic. This brings back memories of Apollo space missions, as a drone grows sails above the arrangement. By then, there’s a degree of drama as the arrangement reverberates. It then becomes understated, otherworldly, haunting and cinematic. When beeps, squeaks and cheeps emerge from the soundscape, it sounds like Cluster have discovered an alien nation during this epic, genre-melting musical adventure. It’s a groundbreaking, captivating and cinematic with Cluster fusing elements of avant-garde, electronica, experimental, industrial, Krautrock and Musique Concrete,  

Five years after their appearance at Fabrik, in Hamburg, in 1972, Cluster were invited to appear at the Festival International de La Science-Fiction, in Metz in 1977. Cluster’s music was regarded as the perfect backdrop top a festival dedicated to sci-fi. By then, Cluster’s music had evolved. 

That had been the case since Cluster released Zuckerzeit in 1974. It was a haunting and melodic album of electronic pop and Krautrock, co-produced by Michael Rother. He was responsible for the rhythmic sound that was reminiscent of Neu!, and the stronger, more defined melody. Just like their first two album, critics hailed  Zuckerzeit as a Krautrock classic.

Despite this, Cluster was put on hold while Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius collaborate with Michael Rother on a new project, Harmonia. Although it wasn’t a successful project, the band produced two classic albums, 1974s Musik von Harmonia and 1975s Deluxe. Harmonia also collaborated with Brian Eno, who had called them: “the most important band in the world.” Unfortunately, the master tapes to Tracks and Traces were mislaid and the album wasn’t released until 1997.

After Harmonia ran its course, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius recorded Cluster’s fourth album Sowiesoso. It was recorded in just two days, and was released in 1976. Sowiesoso was a much more understated and melodic album, and later, would be hailed as a Krautrock classic. However, just like many of the Krautrock bands, Cluster weren’t going to become rich men.

Their first four albums hadn’t sold in vast quantities. Especially in their native Germany, where their music was overlooked and misunderstood. Part of the problem was that Cluster’s music was way ahead of the curve, and many people didn’t understand the music. However, in Britain and France, Cluster’s music found an appreciative audience. It was ironic that Cluster were more popular abroad, than at home.

In June 1977, Cluster released their collaboration with Brian Eno. Entitled Cluster and Eno, it was a fusion of gentle melodic, Brian Eno’s ambient stylings and avant-garde. Cluster and Eno was hailed an instant classic. As Cluster prepared to play at the Festival International de La Science-Fiction, in Metz in 1977 they were regarded as one of the most important, influential and innovative of the Krautrock groups. This becomes apparent on Konzerte 1972-1977.

Straight away, there’s a futuristic sound to Festival International de La Science-Fiction, Metz 1977. Drones quiver and otherworldly sounds ascend and descend. Mostly, the drones are to the fore and add a degree of urgency, before sound flit in and out. Some are subtle and distant, while others much more noticeable. This ranges from ruminative and otherworldly, to a whirring and growling sound that resembles an aircraft. It’s joined by pensive and futuristic sounds that add to the cinematic sound. This is guaranteed to set the listener’s imagination racing. Especially when the sound of an aircraft emerges from the soundscape. 

Not long after this, the music becomes melodic, which was one of the trademarks by 1977. Meanwhile, the music drones and quivers, as if soaring high into the night sky. Before long, the music takes on an almost ethereal quality, as the journey continues. By then, it sounds as if it the aircraft is heading for a distant planet. Plink plonk strings and keyboard join with shivering, quivering, otherworldly and futuristic sounds. Gradually, the aircraft nears its destination, and as it does,  the drama builds as this cinematic opus reaches a crescendo.

For many fans of Cluster, Konzerte 1972-1977 is the album that they’ve been waiting for. They’ve always wanted to hear  live album of music that features Cluster in their seventies pomp. As the years passed by, it looked increasingly like this was never going to happen. 

The only reminder of Cluster live in the seventies was Live In der Fabrik, which featured on Cluster II. It was a tantalising taste of Cluster live in the seventies. During this period, Cluster were one at the peak of their powers and one of the leading lights of Krautrock scene. Cluster released one classic album after album after another. This started with Cluster and continued with Cluster II, Zuckerzeit, Sowiesoso and Cluster and Eno. Each of these albums were among the most important and influential released during the Krautrock era. They featured groundbreaking and genre-melting music. However, the only thing missing from Cluster’s seventies back-catalogue was a live album. That was until the recent release of Konzerte 1972-1977, which features musical pioneers Cluster at the peak of their powers, as they show why will forever deserve to dine at Krautrock’s top table.

Cluster-Konzerte 1972-1977.

 

 

THE YOUNGBLOODS-ROCK FESTIVAL, RIDE THE WIND AND GOOD AND DUSTY.

The Youngbloods-Rock Festival, Ride The Wind and Good and Dusty.

BGO Records.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, The Youngbloods had been together since 1965, and had already released three albums since they signed to RCA Victor in 1966. The albums found favour with critics, and were released to widespread critical acclaim. Despite the critical acclaim, the albums didn’t sell in vast quantities. However, when The Youngbloods rereleased their 1967 single Get Together in July 1969, it reached number five in the US Billboard 100. At last, it looked as if The Youngbloods’ luck was changing. Maybe the seventies was the start of a brave new world for The Youngbloods?

For their first album of the seventies, The Youngbloods released their first live album Rock Festival in 1970, which was recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records. It’s one of three album that feature on a two CD set. The other albums are Ride The Wind a second live album released in 1971, with Good and Dusty following later that year. It was The Youngbloods’ fourth studio album since they released their debut album in 1967. However, The Youngbloods began two years earlier, in 1965.

By then, bassist and vocalist Jesse Colin Young was twenty-four, and had already enjoyed a degree of success as a folk singer. He had already released two albums The Soul Of A City Boy in 1964, and Young Blood in 1965. However, Jesse Colin Young’s solo career was in the past. 

Things changed when Jesse Colin Young met twenty-two year old guitarist Jerry Corbitt, a former bluegrass musician. The pair decided to form a band, which they named The Youngbloods. Initially, The Youngbloods was a duo, with Jesse Colin Young playing bass and Jerry Corbitt switching between piano, harmonica and lead guitar. This initial lineup of The Youngbloods made their debut on the Canadian circuit. However, before long, Jerry Corbitt introduced Jesse Colin Young to Banana.

This was none other than Lowell Levinger, a bluegrass musicians who was born Lowell Levinger  III. However, the nineteen year old multi-instrumentalist was known within the music community Banana. Jerry Corbitt thought that Banana could flesh out The Youngbloods’ sound. Especially since Banana could play banjo, bass, guitar, mandola, mandolin and piano. Once Jesse Colin Young met Banana, he became the third and final member of the band. 

After that, things happened quickly for The Youngbloods. Having made their live debut at Gerde’s Folk City, in Greenwich Village, within a matter of The Youngbloods were the house band at the prestigious Cafe au Go Go. By then, The Youngbloods had already signed their first recording contract.

Having signed to RCA Records, The Youngbloods discovered that the record label were unsure how to market the band. At one point, RCA Records tried to market The Youngbloods as a bubblegum pop act. However, in 1966, The Youngbloods released their debut single, Rider, which failed to chart. The followup was Grizzly Bear, which reached fifty-two in the US Billboard 100. Both of these single featured on The Youngbloods’ eponymous debut album.

The Youngbloods.

Work began on The Youngbloods’ eponymous debut at RCA Victor’s Studio B in New York, in late 1966. This was the start of a new chapter in their career. By then, founder member Jesse Colin Young was regarded as the focal point of the band. He was the band’s lead singer, and later, would become the band’s songwriter-in-chief. That was still to come.

For The Youngbloods, Jesse Colin Young only penned two songs, Tears Are Falling and Foolin’ Around (The Waltz). Jerry Corbitt contributed just the one song, All Over The World. The remainder of the songs were covers of old blues and folk songs. This included Blind Willie McTell’s Statesboro Blues, Jimmy Reed’s Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby, Mississippi John Hurt’s C.C. Rider, Fred Neil’s The Other Side of This Life and Chet Powers’ Get Together. These songs were recorded at RCA Victor’s Studio B, with producer Felix Pappalardi.

Once the album was recorded, The Youngbloods was scheduled for release in January 1967. When critics heard The Youngbloods, they lavished praise and plaudits on what was primarily an album of folk rock, with excursions into the blues and pop. Ballads and rockers sat cheek by jowl on The Youngbloods, which allowed the band to showcase their talent and versatility. Critics forecasted a bright future for The Youngbloods..

When The Youngbloods was released later in January 1967, the album reached 131 in the US Billboard 200. This wasn’t bad for a band who were only formed in 1965. The Youngbloods showed what the band were capable of. So did one of the singles released later in 1967.

Six months after the release of their eponymous debut album, The Youngbloods released their cover of Chet Powers’ Get Together in July 1967. It was an anthem-in-waiting about universal brotherhood that had the potential to launch The Youngbloods’ career. Mercury Records had high hopes for Get Together, but the single stalled at a sixty-two in the US Billboard 100. This was disappointing. Get Together hadn’t reached the heights that executive at Mercury Records had hoped…yet.

Earth Music.

Having released their debut album earlier in 1967, The Youngbloods began work on their sophomore album Earth Music. Just like their eponymous debut album, Earth Music was a mixture of covers and original songs. 

Six of the songs on Earth Music was penned by members of The Youngbloods. Jesse Colin Young wrote All My Dreams Blue, Long and Tall and Wine Song. He also cowrote Sugar Babe. Jerry Corbitt penned Don’t Play Games and cowrote Dreamer’s Dream with Lowell Levinger who also wrote Fool Me. The remainder of the songs on the album were cover versions.

including Robin Remaily’s Euphoria, Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business and Tim Hardin’s oft-covered classic Reason To Believe. Again, these songs were recorded with producer Felix Pappalardi at RCA Victor’s Studio B in New York, and would become Earth Music.

Later in 1967, Earth Music was released to widespread critical acclaim. It was album that veer between folk rock to country and pop. There was even elements of jazz and psychedelia  during an album of carefully crafted songs. Especially the cover of Euphoria, the mellow sounding All My Dreams Blue, Sugar Babe, Wine Song and a captivating cover of Tim Hardin’s Reason To Believe. Critics remarked on how the group were already maturing musically. Already some critics were comparing The Youngbloods to Lovin’ Spoonful. That came as no surprise, as The Youngbloods were about to release an album of carefully crafted and compelling songs that were playful and irresistibly catchy. Surely, an album of the quality of Earth Music would take The Youngbloods to the next level?

When Earth Music was released later in 1967, the album failed to chart. Things got even worse when  was a similar case when Fool Me was released as a single and failed to chart. For The Youngbloods this rubbed salt into a very painful wound. 

Elephant Mountain.

Nearly wo years passed before The Youngbloods returned with their third album. By then, there had been a change in the band’s lineup. Jerry Corbitt had left The Youngbloods to embark upon a solo career. Eventually, The Youngbloods settled on  drummer Joe Bauer as Jerry Corbitt’s replacement. Meanwhile, Jesse Colin Young was well on his way to becoming The Youngbloods’ songwriter-in-chief.

Jesse Colin Young wrote eight of the fourteen songs on Elephant Mountain. He also wrote Double Sunlight, Turn It Over, Trillium and Black Mountain Breakdown with the other two members of The Youngbloods. Lowell Levinger wrote On Sir Francis Drake, while Rain Song (Don’t Let the Rain Bring You Down) was penned by Jerry Corbitt, producer Felix Pappalardi and Gail Collins. These songs would be recorded on the West Coast at RCA’s Music Center of the World in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

Joining The Youngbloods were some guest artists, including Jerry Corbitt, fiddle player David Lindley, vibes player Victor Feldman, trumpeter Joe Clayton and tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson. They played their part in what was another carefully crafted album, Elephant Mountain.

When Elephant Mountain was released, critics again, lavished praise on the album. Given the quality of music, this was no surprise. They ranged from jazz-tinged acoustic ballads like Sunlight and Ride The Wind to captivating and playful songs like Smug and Beautiful and the bluesy, hard rocking Sham. Two songs were very different to anything The Youngbloods had written. Darkness, Darkness dealt with subject of depression, while Quicksand was a song about suicide. However, Rain Song (Don’t Let the Rain Bring You Down) was a return to the jug band songs like Euphoria and The Wine Song. It was part of what many critics regarded as The Youngbloods’ finest album.

When Elephant Mountain was released in 1969, the album reached 118 in the US Billboard 200. This meant that Elephant Mountain was The Youngbloods’ most successful album. Despite this, the lead single Darkness, Darkness and the followup Sunlight failed to chart. However, a song from the past would transform The Youngbloods’ fortunes.

In July 1969, The Youngbloods rereleased their 1967 Get Together. It had featured on radio and television commercials by the National Conference for Christians and Jews. These adverts were a call for brotherhood. They also paved the way for The Youngbloods first million selling single, when Get Together reached number five in the US Billboard 100. This was by far, the biggest hit single of The Youngbloods’ career. Despite the success of Get Together, The Youngbloods seemed to be in no hurry to release their fourth studio album.

Rock Festival.

Instead, The Youngbloods embarked upon a lengthy American tour in the spring of 1970, which lasted well into the summer months. The plan was to record several dates on the tour, and release them as The Youngbloods’ first live album, Rock Festival

Between March and July 1970, the tapes were running during five concerts. The first was on March ’29th’ 1970 at The Family Dog, in San Francisco. Three weeks later, the concert at The Barn in Marshall, California on ‘16th’ April 1970 was recorded. Two nights later, on ‘18th’ April 1970, the tapes were running at the Santa Clara University. Then when The Youngbloods played at Provo Park in Berkeley, California on ‘19th’ May 1970. There was one final recording session on July ’21st’ 1970, at Pacific High Recording in San Francisco. At last, The Youngbloods’ fourth album was ready for release.

When The Youngbloods released Rock Festival later in 1967, it was to the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Rock Festival was another eclectic album, where The Youngbloods showcased their versatility. However, it’s a quite different album from their three studio albums. Rather than play to the audience, and win them over with some of their best known songs, The Youngbloods head in new directions. 

Before that, they open the set with Jesse Colin Young’s It’s a Lovely Day, which gives way to Faster All The Time and Prelude. It’s followed by the instrumental On Beautiful Lake Spenard, where The Youngbloods stretch their legs musically. Fiddler A Dram finds The Youngbloods rework a traditional song. It gives way to the noodling Sea Cow Boogie, before Jesse Colin Young delivers a thoughtful cover on Tim Hardin’s Misty Roses. After Interlood, The Youngbloods unleahes the bluesy Peepin’ and Hidin’, before closing the set with Ice Bag, a free jazz workout. This eclectic set proved popular not just with critics, but record buyers too.

When Rock Festival was released in 1970, it reached number eighty in the US Billboard 200. This made Rock Festival The Youngbloods’ most successful album. So much so, that a year later, The Youngbloods  decided to release a second live album, Ride The Wind.

Ride The Wind.

Most bands wouldn’t have released two consecutive live albums. However, it was a case of need’s must. The Youngbloods still hadn’t completed work on their fourth studio. They had even released The Best Of The Youngbloods as a stopgap. However, this had backfired when The Best Of The Youngbloods reached just 144 in the US Billboard 200. Given the success of Rock Festival earlier in 1970, a decision was made to release a second live album, Ride The Wind as a stopgap. That would keep their fans happy while The Youngbloods completed their new studio album.

Fortunately, The Youngbloods had recorded a number of shows over the years. This included three shows that took place in New York over three nights in November 1969. The first concert took place on ‘26th’ November, with the other concerts taking place on ’28th’ and ’29th’ November 1969. Six songs from these concerts were chosen for Ride The Wind. This included Jesse Colin Young’s Ride The Wind, Sugar Babe, Sunlight and Beautiful. They joined covers of Chester Powers’ Get Together and Fred Neil’s Dolphin on Ride The Wind.

Critics on hearing Ride The Wind, lavished praise and plaudits on The Youngbloods’ second live album. It was a very different album, and found The Youngbloods improvising and taking songs in a new direction. So much so, that some, bore very little resemblance to the original version. Ride The Wind becomes a ten minute epic, and gives way to a jaunty, playful version of Sugar Babe. Sunlight soon takes on a pastoral sound, before The Youngbloods reinvent Fred Neil’s The Dolphin, which becomes a near flawless eight minute jam. The Youngbloods stay true to the original version of their million selling anthem Get Together, before Jesse Colin Young’s vocal plays a starring role in Beautiful, which becomes a funky workout. It closes Ride The Wind, which was released later in 1970.

Despite the undoubted quality of Ride The Wind, the album stalled at 157 upon its release in 1970. This was a disappointment for The Youngbloods. However, they had just completed recording their fourth album Good and Dusty, which they hoped would get their career back on track.

Good and Dusty.

When The Youngbloods returned with Good and Dusty, it featured a new, expanded lineup of the band. Harmonica player Richard Earthquake Anderson had joined the band and made his debut on Good and Dusty.

It was an album that featured cover versions of familiar songs including Johnny Otis’ Willie and The Hand Jive, Sonny Boy Williamson II’s Pontiac Blues, When Will The Circle Be Unbroken and Lieber and Stoller’s I’m A Hog For You Baby. This time round, Jesse Colin Young had only penned two songs Drifting and Drifting and Light Shine. Recording of these songs began at Raccoon Studios B on June ‘9th’ 1971. It took just over a month for The Youngbloods to record the thirteen songs on Good and Dusty, which was completed on July ’15th’ 1971. Good and Dusty was released later in 1971.

Just like The Youngbloods’ previous albums, Good and Dusty won over critics. They were impressed by an album that looked back at America’s musical past. Covers of old blues songs and song from the fifties feature on Good and Dusty. 

This includes the feel-good sound of Stagger Lee, which opens Good and Dusty, and gives way to a soul-baring cover of Roosevelt Jamieson’s That’s How Strong My Love Is. A playful cover of Willie And The Hand Jive is followed by the beautiful ballad Circus Face. It’s one of the highlights of Good and Dusty, while Hippie From Olema No. 5 is a country-tinged song penned by Lowell Levinger. Good and Dusty is a mini jazz jam, and a tantalising taste of what the song might have become if it had been developed further. Let The Good Times Roll, is reworked, before The Youngbloods head in the direction of the blues on Drifting And Drifting and Pontiac Blues. Moonshine Is The Sunshine continues the down home sound, before a country-tinged version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken unfolds. I’m A Hog For You Baby features The Youngbloods seamlessly fusing elements of country and blues, on this underrated song. This leaves just Light Shine, a beautiful, heartfelt ballad that’s another of the highlights of Good and Dusty.

When The Youngbloods released Good and Dusty in 1971, the album stalled at a lowly 160 in the US Billboard 200. This was  a huge disappointment. Things didn’t get any better when Light Shine was released as a single. Despite being one of The Youngbloods’ best ballads, it didn’t even trouble the charts. This rubbed salt into the wound.

After the release of Good and Dusty, The Youngbloods released only one further album High On A Ridge Top. When it was released in 1972, it well received by critics, but reached just 185 in the US Billboard 200. For The Youngbloods it was a disappointing end to their career.

Not long after the release of High On A Ridge Top, The Youngbloods split-up, with each band member embarking upon a solo career. This was just three years after The Youngbloods released their million selling single Get Together.

Most bands would’ve been keen to have built upon the momentum created by Get Together, and began work on a new studio album. However, it took The Youngbloods two years to release Good and Dusty which was the followup to Elephant Mountain. 

By then, The Youngbloods had released two live albums Rock Festival and Ride The Wind. These weren’t the stopgap albums that many bands release between studio albums. Both  Rock Festival and Ride The Wind showcase just how good a live band The Youngbloods were. Especially on Ride The Wind, where The Youngbloods improvise and reinvent six songs and take them in a new and sometimes unexpected directions. They become part of what’s one of what’s an oft-overlooked and hugely underrated live album.

It’s a similar case with Good and Dusty, which was The Youngbloods’ long-awaited fourth studio album. It features  songs like That’s How Strong My Love Is, Circus Face, Good and Dusty and Light Shine which are hidden gems within The Youngbloods’ back-catalogue. These songs are a reminder of The Youngbloods who are an oft-overlooked group. 

Most people know The Youngbloods’ million selling single Get Together. However, that’s just one chapter in the story of a band that released five studio albums and two live albums. Recently, BGO Records remastered and reissued The Youngbloods’ two live albums Rock Festival and Ride The Wind plus their fourth studio album Good and Dusty as a two CD set. This is the perfect opportunity to discover the delights of The Youngbloods, whose albums were released to widespread critical acclaim between 1967 and 1972,  but sadly, never enjoyed the commercial success they so richly deserved. It’s only relatively recently that The Youngbloods’ music has started to find a wider, and much more appreciative audience. For The Youngbloods it’s a case of better late than never.

The Youngbloods-Rock Festival, Ride The Wind and Good and Dusty.

FUNCTION UNDERGROUND-THE BLACK AND AMERICAN ROCK SOUND 1969-1974.

Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

Now Again Records.

Just over a month ago, Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 was released by Now Again Records on vinyl as part of Record Store Day as a limited edition of 2,000. As a result, many people who wanted a copy of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 were left empty handed and disappointed.

Fast forward five weeks, and Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 has been released on CD by Now Again Records. Those who were left empty handed and disappointed on Record Store Day, now have a big smile on their face. Especially since a CD copy of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 is less than half the price of the vinyl edition. This leaves more money to be spent on vinyl or CDs. More importantly though, they’ve got a copy of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 which features many oft-overlooked and hard to find tracks. 

This includes 1984’s There’s A Wrinkle In Our Time, Purple Snow’s Down By The River, Jimi Macon’s Jimi’s Guitar Raps With The Bass, Blacklites’ BL Movement, LA Carnival’s Blind Man Revolution The Siesta Is Over and Black Maffia’s I Want To Take You Higher. They’re just a  few of the fourteen tracks on Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974. It according to the hype that accompanies the release: “an overlooked and important portion (sic) of rock n’ roll’s history.

During the period that compilation covers, 1969-1974, rock music was by far, the most popular musical genre. That had been the case since for some time. However, by the period between 1969 and 1974, there were a number of different sub-genres of rock, ranging from psychedelic rock, folk rock and garage rock to  progressive rock, heavy rocky and symphonic rock. Bands from each of these sub-genres were enjoying successful careers, and releasing critically acclaimed classic albums. Many young people looked on enviously.

Especially, many young musicians who were either considering forming a band, or had just formed a band, these bands were living the dream. They wanted to follow in their footsteps and enjoy a tantalising taste of fame. This was the case on both sides of the Atlantic, with members of new bands dreaming that their band would become next Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd or Yes. That was no surprise, and was nothing new. 

Music had long been a career that offered an escape from the grinding poverty that blighted many countries. That was why many young people were buying a guitar, bass or drum kit on hire purchase, in the hope that one day, they would be a member of one of the lucky bands plucked from obscurity.

These bands started off practising in basements and garages, before graduating onto the local live scene. That was where groups hoped that they would come to the attention of local A&R reps for the major record labels. For bands in Britain and America, this was the start of a journey that ultimately, they hoped, would end in fame and fortune, and of course all the trappings that the rock star life brought.

This was something that members of new bands in Britain had been dreaming of since The Beatles changed musical history with Love Me Do in 1962. Two years later, the British Invasion groups arrived on the American shores, and proceeded to change musical history. 

After that, pop and rock began to dominate the US charts, while R&B became known as soul. It was no longer as popular as R&B had once been. While some soul artists enjoyed success, it was more sporadic. The exception was the music being made by the Motown soul factory in Detroit. Motown’s releases were very different to many other soul labels. This was soul with the rough edges smoothed away, that designed to appeal to all Americans. Purists saw Motown’s music as a sanitised and formulaic version of soul. However, Motown found an audience across the racial divide.

That was the case with many other types of music, and had been in America since the British Invasion in 1964. Young Americans bonded over their shared love of music. Music was something that brought together young people from different races and backgrounds, In a country divided by race, pop and rock music was something that brought the American youth together. 

This would continue to be the case. By the late-sixties, there were many multiracial bands. Among the most successful were  the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Love which was fronted by enigmatic Arthur Lee. Both bands would create important, innovative and influential music. So too would multiracial bands like Santana, Sly and The Family Stone and War, who incorporated rock into their genre-melting sound. Rock music had crossed there racial divide.

Not everyone believed or believes this. In the liner notes, the author recalls that:  “rock n’ roll became perceived as something for the Caucasian kids.” However, perception and reality are two very different things. From the late-sixties onwards, many new rock bands were being formed in American cities. Some were multiracial bands, while others featured members of the black population. They then embarked upon a career that they hoped would end with them releasing a single or album. These bands were the lucky ones, and the ones that enjoyed a degree of success. This includes the fourteen bands on Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

1984 open Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 with There’s A Wrinkle In Our Time. It was penned by 1984 and produced by Michael Nise. There’s A Wrinkle In Our Time was released on the Pennsylvania based Round Records in 1970. It’s an irresistible fusion of rock, funk and soul, which sadly, was the only release by Round Records and 1984.

Purple Snow released Down By The River in 1969, on the short-lived Saquarius’ label. The label’s only release was Down By The River, where Purple Snow showcase their talents as they combine rock, psychedelia and soul. There’s even a hint of CSNY during Down By The River, which sadly, was the only single Purple Snow released. 

Oe of the rarest singles on the compilation is Jimi Macon’s Jimi’s Guitar Raps With the Bass. It was released around 1970, on Doin’ Our Thing Records. It finds Jimi Macon unleashing a guitar masterclass. He deploys various effects including a wah-wah pedal, as he combines funk and rock on Jimi’s Guitar Raps With the Bass. It’s one of the finest moments on Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

Creations Unlimited released Corruption Is the Thing on the Soul Kitchen label in March 1972. There’s a definite Jimi Hendrix as Creations Unlimited, who are obviously talented musicians, as they fuse elements of funk, rock, soul and social comment.

Straight away, the lead guitar on We The People’s Function Underground, which as released on Darlene Records around 1969. Function Underground’s lead guitar has also been influenced by Jimi Hendrix. However, that’s just one of a myriad of influences that play their part in Function Underground. This includes rock, psychedelia, funk and jazz, as this genre-melting jam unfolds and reveals its secrets. 

Michael Liggins and The Super Souls With Duppa Jack released Loaded Back as a single the Arizona based Mighty label, in 1969. Loaded Back was produced by Mike Lenaburg, and is quite different from previous tracks. It’s a slow burner with a slow,  spacious arrangement. Just drums accompany a flute, before a blistering rock guitar is unlashed, and the band lock into a groove. They fuse rock, jazz and funk, and create a long lost hidden gem that’s sure to appeal to sample hungry hip hop producers. 

Stone Coal White released Stone Coal White in 1970, on the Shur ’N’ Tel label. It’s a lo-fi, guitar driven fusion of rock, funk and psychedelia which features another effects laden guitar masterclass.

On Blacklites’ BL Movement, which was released on Salt City Records, it’s keyboards that take centre-stage and jam. The rest of the band play a supporting role, as rock and funk are combined by Blacklites.

In 1969, the Ebony Rhythm Band were released Soul Heart Transplant as a single on the short-lived Lamp label. On the B-Side was Drugs Ain’t Cool which was produced by Herb Miller. As the song explodes into life, and the Ebony Rhythm Band deliver their message, and combine psychedelia, garage rock and rock on what was their only single. That’s a great shame, as the Ebony Rhythm Band being a talented band.

Cisneros and Garza Group released Funky Nassau as a single on L-Z-E Records in 1969. On the B-Side was I’m A Man. It’s a hidden gem, where Cisneros and Garza Group combine elements of funk, soul, jazz and rock to create a melodic and memorable song.

In 1970, LA Carnival released Blind Man as a single on Pacific Avenue Records. It features a heartfelt, soulful and an arrangement that’s a mixture of funk and rock. Together, they create another of the highlights of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

The Revolution throw a curveball during the introduction to The Siesta Is Over. An organ that sounds as if it belongs in a church plays, before The Revolution unleash a fusion of rock, funk and soul that was released during 1970, on M&M Records. 

In 1971, The Black Conspirators released L-O-V-E as a single. On the B-Side was Just Gotta Be Free, a fusion of funk, soul  and rock. From the opening bars, it’s obvious that The Black Conspirators are talented musicians. They create a genre-melting track were funk and soul combine with blistering rocky, guitars. Together they create an uber funky, dance-floor friendly, soulful song.

Black Maffia’s I Wanna Take You Higher has never been released before, and is thought to have been recorded by the Black Maffia around 1970. It’s another fusion of funky and rock that showcases another talented band during this live jam. It’s a welcome addition to Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974, and closes the compilation.

As compilations go eclectic described Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974. This isn’t rock in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, it’s rock given a twist. Elements of funk, jazz and soul are added to the mix, on Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound. It’s a compilation that will appeal to many different music fans. 

Especially anyone whose interested in funk, jazz, soul,  rock and psychedelia. Similarly, anyone who buys compilations to discover new music, then Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 then will be of interest to them. It features fourteen rarities, ranging from singles, B-Sides and an unreleased track. There’s several hidden gems, and tracks that be of interest to sample hungry hip hop producers. Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 will appeal to a variety of people. 

This also includes those who were unable to find a copy of the vinyl edition on Record Store Day. For many people, Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 was at the top of the their Record Store Day wish-list. That was no surprise, given the quality of Now Again Records’ previous releases. However, with only 2,000 vinyl copies of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974 for sale on Record Store Day 2017, many people were left empty handed and disappointed, Not any more, given the release of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974. That disappointment has been replaced by a big smile and a CD copy of Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974, which is the latest lovingly curated release from Now Again Records.

Function Underground: The Black and Brown American Rock Sound 1969-1974.

 

LINDA PERHACS-MUSIC’S BEST KEPT SECRET.

Linda Perhacs-Music’s Best Kept Secret.

It was in 1970, that twenty-seven year old dental hygienist Linda Perhacs released Parallelograms, her debut album. Some people wondered why it had taken Linda so long? After all, she was a musical prodigy.

Linda Long was born in Mill Valley, which lies just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in 1943. By the time she was six or seven, Linda was  able to write write quite complicated compositions. She was a gifted and prodigious child. However, as is often the case with gifted children, her teachers didn’t maybe realise this. This didn’t stop Linda enrolling in the University of Southern California.

At University of Southern California, Linda majored in dental hygiene. This allowed her to work and study. Her course also allowed Linda to explore what was unfolding around her. Remember, this was the start of the counterculture explosion. San Francisco was central to this. Being around this meant Linda was exposed to a many different cultures. It was the same with art and music. For Linda, this was creatively stimulating and would change the course of her life.  

Having graduated from University of Southern California, Linda began working with periodontist. During this period, Linda immersed herself in the various philosophies that were popular. Essentially, she taught her to mediate and rid herself of negative energy. This helped her and her patients. It may also have helped Linda develop as songwriter. 

Away from work, Linda and her sculptor husband used to enjoy walking in the city’s public parks. It was during these walks that Linda was first inspired to write songs. This was something Linda hadn’t done since she and her husband moved to Topanga Canyon.

Indeed, Linda hadn’t written songs for a while. Throughout her University days, Linda hadn’t been involved in making music. However, she loved music. Topanga Canyon was full of artists and musicians. So, it was the perfect place for an aspiring singer-songwriter. With an environment that inspired her, and the sense of hope that was prevalent during the second half of the sixties, this marked the cultural blossoming of Linda Perhacs. 

What also inspired Linda was her travels. She spent time travelling up the Big Sur coastline, right through Mendocino, the Pacific Northwest and to Alaska. This was her road rip. So was a trip to Chimacum, on the Olympic Peninsula. These journeys were what inspired Linda to write songs. Linda stresses her journeys inspired her. Drugs played no part in stimulating her creativity. Her songs come from her experiences in life. 

This includes the colours, patterns and shapes that she’s seen since she was a child. Again, they’re not the result of recreational drugs. No. They’re a phenomenon that many people experience. These colours, patters and shapes inspired Linda, who soon, would be one step nearer releasing her first album.

Linda was, by now, working in the office of Beverley Hills’ periodontist. That’s where Linda met film soundtrack composer Leonard Rosenman and his wife Kay. Linda would ask them about their forthcoming projects. Then one day Leonard said to Linda “I can’t believe that clinical work is all you do?” So, Linda told them about her music and played a tape of one of her songs. These were songs she’d recorded during her travels. Leonard took the songs home to listen to them. The next day, Linda was offered a record contract.

When Linda handed Leonard the tape, she thought that Leonard was wanting to hear a glimpse of the type of music younger people were making. After all, Leonard had a lot of projects on the go. However, that didn’t stop him offering to produce Linda’s debut album. The song that made him make that offer was the Parallelograms, which would be the title-track of Linda’s debut album. Leonard referred to this track as “visual music composition.”

Leonard who’d been a composer all his life, had never been able to achieve this. Linda had.  He explained that Parallelograms was different from the other tracks. Each of the component parts were interactive to the composer as three-dimensional sound. It’s akin to sculpting with ice, where the result is essentially a type of light and dance. For Linda, this was the way she’d always written. However, now Linda was going to take this one step further and record what became Parallelograms.

Parallelograms.

Parallelograms featured eleven tracks. Linda wrote ten of them. The exception was Hey, Who Really Cares? which Linda cowrote with Oliver Nelson wrote. For the recording of Parallelograms producer Leonard Rosenman brought in an all-star cast of musicians.

When recording of Parallelograms began, Leonard Rosenman and Linda were aiming to sculpt a series of soundscapes full of textures, colours and shapes. The music Linda hoped, would be “softer and ethereal.” Accompanying her were some legendary musicians. This included Shelley Mann and Milt Jackson on percussion. The rhythm section included Reinie Press on electric bass and Fender guitar and Steve Cohn on lead and 12-string guitar. John Neufield played flute and saxophone, Leonard Rosenman electronic effects and Tommy harmonica. Brian Ingoldsby was tasked with using an electrified shower hose for horn effects. Parallelograms was no ordinary album. Instead, it proved to be a truly groundbreaking album.

Before its release in 1970, critics received an advance copy of Parallelograms. The resultant reviews realised the importance of Linda Perhacs’ debut. Here was a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician. She had discovered her musical soul-mate in producer Leonard Rosenman. He was an ambitious, innovator who wanted to push musical boundaries to their limits on album that Leonard Rosenman described as “visual music composition.” Intrigued, critics investigated Parallelograms.

They discovered a beautiful, understated and enchanting album. From the opening bars of Chimacum Rain, right through to the closing notes of Delicious, Linda Perhacs breathed life, meaning, beauty and emotion into Parallelograms. It was an absolutely captivating listen; and an album where the listener was spellbound. That’s not surprising, as Parallelograms featured hopeful, captivating, ethereal and dreamy music. Parallelograms was also an ambitious and innovative album of  genre-melting music. 

Parallelograms was  a flawless fusion of Americana, country, folk, pop, psychedelia and rock. There’s even a twist of ambient, drone pop, experimental and jazz. It was potent and heady brew; and one that should’ve launched Linda Perhacs’ career.

Sadly, when Parallelograms was released, Linda Perhacs’ psychedelic folk classic wasn’t the huge commercial success it should’ve been.  This wasn’t helped by the record company’s failure to promote Parallelograms. As a result, Linda, like so many other hugely talented artists, failed to enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim her undoubted talent deserved. So Linda returned to her job as a periodontist. 

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Meanwhile,  music industry insiders and the those that had bought Parallelograms awaited Linda Perhacs’ sophomore album. A year passed, and there was no sign of the followup to Parallelograms. Linda was still working as a dental nurse, and had settled back into her life pre-Parallelograms. Two and three years passed, and still, there was no sign of another album from Linda. Three years became five, and five became ten.  Linda had settled back into her life pre-Parallelograms. By then, fans of Linda Perhacs had all but given up hope that she would release  another album.

Nothing was heard of Parallelograms until the nineties.  By then, Parallelograms had become a cult classic which a new generation of record buyers had discovered. Interest in Parallelograms grew with each year. Somewhat belatedly, did people realise that Parallelograms was a seminal, lost classic and Linda Perhacs should’ve enjoyed a long and successful career. It was only later that Linda Perhacs realised what might have been.

It was only later in life that Linda Perhacs admitted that much as she loved music, she didn’t seem to have the drive required to make a career as a musician. She did, however, have the talent.  Linda was blessed with an abundance of talent. That had been apparent on Parallelograms, and Linda’s long-awaited comeback album. 

Having spent her career working as a dental hygienist, Linda decided to make her musical comeback. She’d spent a lifetime observing people and the world. This meant she’d a wealth of material for her not just her sophomore album, but a series of albums. However, first things first, Linda had to get round to releasing the follow to Parallelograms. This would become The Soul Of All Natural Things.

The Soul Of All Natural Things.

For The Soul Of All Natural Things, Linda wrote four tracks and cowrote the other six tracks. She penned The Soul Of All Natural Things, Intensity, Prisms of Glass and Song of the Planets. Linda and Chris Price wrote Children. They also cowrote River of God, Freely, Immunity and Song of the Planets with Fernando Perdomo. Fernando and Linda collaborated on Daybreak. These ten tracks became The Soul Of All Natural Things, which was recorded between September 2012 and April 2013.

Recording of The Soul Of All Natural Things took place at Reseda Ranch Studios, Reseda in California. The sessions took place between September 2012 and April 2013. Linda core band included Chris Price on backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, programming and effects. Fernando Perdomo contributed bass, guitars, keyboards and percussion. Julia Holter and Ramona Gonzales added vocals and keyboards. Other artists  featured on one or some of the tracks on The Soul Of All Natural Things. It was produced byChris Price, Fernando Perdomo and Linda. Once The Soul Of All Natural Things was completed, Linda’s long-awaited sophomore album was released in March 2014. After a forty-four year absence, Linda Perhacs was back.

By then, a new generation of critics were already familiar with the story of Linda Perhacs ‘ debut album Parallelograms. These critics penned critically acclaimed reviews, and hailed Linda Perhacs the comeback Queen. 

Although forty-four years have passed since Linda Perhacs released her debut album Parallelograms, she’s picked up where she left off on The Soul of All Natural Things. Accompanied by some of the best young musicians Los Angeles has to offer, they’ve played their part in a flawless fusion of classic rock, folk, pop and psychedelia. There’s even diversions via ambient, experimental, jazz and drone pop during what’s another captivating and innovative album.

Just like on Parallelograms,  Linda Perhacs proves to be a  versatile vocalist. Her vocal veers between tender and breathy to elegiac, ethereal and emotive. Sometimes, there’s a fragility and sense of confusion, frustration and melancholia in Linda’s voice. Other times, her vocal becomes impassioned, hopeful and hurt-filled. The on Immunity, Linda’s vocal is louder, stronger and full of sincerity. Just like on other tracks this allows her to breath meaning into the lyrics. Meanwhile, Linda’s accompanied by a choir of lysergic angels who add cascading harmonies, while crystalline guitars and lush strings join with the rest of Linda’s band. They play their part in the sound and success of The Soul Of All Natural Things.

The music on The Soul Of All Natural Things veers from bewitching to beautiful, to cinematic and cerebral. Other times, the music is powerful and spacious, but has an intensity. However, for much of The Soul Of All Natural Things the music is dreamy, ethereal and lysergic. That’s not unlike the album that started this tale of two albums, Parallelograms.

Both albums albums feature a truly prodigious singer, songwriter and musician, Linda Perhacs. She could and should’ve enjoyed a long and successful career. Alas, fate conspired against Linda Perhacs, when her debut album Parallelograms wasn’t promoted didn’t received sufficient promotion. As a result, Parallelograms failed commercially and Linda returned to her work as a dental nurse. The dream it seemed was over. 

It was later in her career that Linda Perhacs reflected that maybe, she hadn’t been the most driven musician. That was a great shame, as Linda Perhacs was a hugely talented singer-songwriter. That’s apparent on Parallelograms and the long-awaited and much-anticipated followup The Soul Of All Natural Things. It was released forty-four years after Parallelograms, in 2014.

By then, a lot of water had passed under the bridge since 1970 and the release of Parallelograms, but Linda hadn’t lost her mojo. Far from it. Just like Parallelograms, The Soul of All Natural Things was an album of flawless, timeless music. The Soul Of All Natural Things was a reminder, if any was needed that Linda Perhacs had the talent to become one of the leading lights of the Laurel Canyon scene. Especially if Parallelograms had been released on a major label. Thing Linda Perhacs’ career might have been very different. However, Linda Perhacs seems to be content with her life. It’s a case of no regrets.

Linda Perhacs may only have released two albums, but Parallelograms and The Soul Of All Natural Things are both flawless, cult classics. They showcase one of music’s best kept musical secrets, Linda Perhacs. She could’ve, and should’ve, enjoyed a long and successful career. Instead, Linda Perhacs’ career is a tale of two albums,  Parallelograms and The Soul Of All Natural Thing. Theseflawless cult classics, and are a reminder of Linda Perhacs whose one of music’s best kept secret.

Linda Perhacs-Music’s Best Kept Secret.

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THE CLARENCE DANIELS ORCHESTRA FEATURING OBIE JESSIE AND SANDY MILLER-HARD WORKIN’.

The Clarence Daniels Orchestra featuring Obie Jessie and Sandy Miller-Hard Workin’.

Ace Records.

By the sixties, big bands were no longer as popular as they had once been. That was no surprise as music had changed beyond recognition. Bands like The Beatles, and the British Invasion groups  in 1964 were game-changers for the big band leaders. They were in a similar boat to the blues men, and found themselves marginalised, and no longer part of  mainstream music. However, there were still venues where the big bands were welcomed with open arms.

This included the lounge bars in some of the classier hotels, and the casinos in Las Vegas and Reno. Each night, the big bands took to the stage and played in front of those who grew up listening to the same big bands. In Reno and Vegas, the audience was mainly gamblers, ranging from high rollers, to the little old ladies who had spent much of their day playing the slot machines. After the show, many of the bands tried to sell a copy of their latest album, hoping patrons would want a reminder of the evening’s music. It was a far cry when the heyday of the big bands, and when their  albums sold in vast quantities. However, things had changed since then. Even Count Basie and Duke Ellington’s albums were no selling in the same quantities as they once had. For the big bands, and the bandleaders it was a worrying time.

Still, though, some big bandleaders were taking their bands into the studios during the sixties to record albums. This included Clarence Daniels, a native of Phoenix, Arizona who started out as a bassist and singer. However, he was always destined for greater things and eventually, founded The Clarence Daniels Orchestra.

Initially, the newly founded Clarence Daniels Orchestra were a popular draw, when they played live. Over the years, Clarence Daniels brought onboard a series of guest vocalists. This included Obie Jessie and Sandy Miller, who would feature on singles and albums released by The Clarence Daniels Orchestra. Some of these recording feature on a new compilation from Ace Records, Hard Workin’ which features The Clarence Daniels Orchestra featuring Obie Jessie and Sandy Miller. Hard Workin’ features twenty tracks recorded between 1966 and 1967, and includes singles, B-Sides, album tracks and nine previously unreleased tracks. Quite simply, Hard Workin’ is a comprehensive overview of The Clarence Daniels Orchestra’s all too short recording career.

The Clarence Daniels Orchestra’s recording career began in 1966. By then, The Clarence Daniels Orchestra had signed to one of the many independent labels based on the West Coast, Affiliated 45. It was an imprint of Modern Records, which was owned by the Bihari brothers. 

They were music industry veterans, who were well versed in the ways of the music industry. The Bihari brothers had owned a number of record companies over the years, including Modern Records, plus its imprints Kent Records and Affiliated 45. These two labels would release everything The Clarence Daniels Orchestra released between 1966 and 1967. This included the trio of singles and album that The Clarence Daniels Orchestra released on Affiliated 45. 

The Clarence Daniels Orchestra featuring Sandy Miller recorded the album Do The Deal, for the Affiliated 45 label in 1966. By then, Clarence Daniels had put together a talented band. They showcase their talents on the ten tracks on Do The Deal, which was released later in 1966.

Four of the these songs feature on Hard Workin’. This includes the jazzy Do The Deal, And Then I’ll Stay which features a heartfelt and soulful vocal from Sandy Miller. Clarence Daniels then takes charge of the vocal on Baby I’m Gone and I’ll Never Let You Go, and breathes life and meaning into the lyrics. There’s also a previously unreleased version of Baby I’m Gone on Hard Workin’, which shows the songs taking shape. Among the other songs on the compilation are the three singles Clarence Daniels released for Affiliated 45. They all feature on Hard Workin’.

This includes the single that was released from Do The Deal, Baby I’m Gone. On the B-Side, was And Then I’ll Stay. The single was released in 1966, and was one of three released by Clarence Daniels that year.

The best known of the three singles was Hard Working Girl, which was released on Affiliated 45 in 1966. Hard Working Girl features twice on Hard Workin’. There’s the single version of Hard Working Girl which swings gently along, and a previously unreleased first take where the vibes play a more prominent role in rhythm. Tucked away on the B-Side of Hard Working Girl was I’ve Got My Walkin’ Papers. It’s an underrated song about someone getting their call up papers, and features a vocal that’s a mixture of machismo and trepidation. Just like Both Hard Working Girl, I’ve Got My Walkin’ Papers is a welcome additions to the Hard Workin’ compilation.

It’s a similar case with You Dig It, the third of the singles that The Clarence Daniels Orchestra released on Affiliated 45 during  1966. You Dig It allows The Clarence Daniels Orchestra  to stretch their legs and kick loose. Especially the horn section, who play a leading role in the sound and success of this instrumental. It’s one of The Clarence Daniels Orchestra finest houses during their stay at Affiliated 45 in 1966.

By 1967, The Clarence Daniels Orchestra were being billed as Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra, and had moved to another Modern Records’ imprint, Kent Records. Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra released their sophomore album Love Affair during 1967. Love Affair featured eight tracks, including Check Out Time, Hello California and What Can A Poor Boy Do? They feature on Hard Workin’ and are among the highlights of Love Affair. Especially, Check Out Time which features a much more contemporary, modal sound. Hello California, which features a vocal from Clarence Daniels, has a bluesy sound. So does What Can A Poor Boy Do? where Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra combine elements of blues and jazz. In doing so, they showcase their talent and versatility.

Despite their talent and versatility, Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra didn’t release any further albums on Kent Records. Love Affair which was released in 1967, was Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra’s one and only release for Kent Records.

Clarence Daniels spent just two years signed to the Affiliate 45 and then Kent Records. He signed on the dotted line during 1966, and departed in 1967. Sadly, it wasn’t the most successful period of his career. Since then, the Do The Deal and Love Affair albums have been oft-overlooked by record buyers. Thankfully, not any more, as there’s been a resurgence in interest in Clarence Daniels’ music. As a result, Ace Records have released a new compilation of music from The Clarence Daniels Orchestra featuring Obie Jessie and Sandy Miller, Hard Workin’. It features twenty tracks, including nine previously unreleased track. They’ll be of interest to anyone with even a passing interest in Clarence Daniels’ music.

Especially, the alternate takes of Baby I’m Gone and Hard Working Girl. There’s also six previously unreleased instrumentals. This includes the modal big band sound of Instrumental #1,the Latin jazz of Instrumental #2 and the Latin boogaloo of Instrumental # 3. Daddy’s Got A Shotgun heads in the direction of R&B, while the Orchestra’s horns play a leading role on Lonesome Shack and Cream Sherry. Sandy Miller adds the vocal on I Got To Get Ready, while Clarence Daniels takes charge of the vocal on Lonesome Shack.  It’s another of the hidden gems on Hard Workin’, which was recently released by Ace Records.

Hard Workin’ which features the talents of The Clarence Daniels Orchestra featuring Obie Jessie and Sandy Miller is a  compilation that will appeal to many people. First and foremost, fans of The Clarence Daniels Orchestra will enjoy the music on Hard Workin’. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy the vocal prowess of Obie Jessie, Sandy Miller and bandleader Clarence Daniels. He put together a truly talented orchestra, who showcase their considerable skills throughout Hard Workin’.

This includes on the three singles and the album Do The Deal, that The Clarence Daniels Orchestra released on Affiliate 45 during 1966. A year later, and now billed as Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra, the album Love Affair was released on Kent Records. Just like Do The Deal, Love Affair featured one of the most underrated big bands of the sixties. By then, big band music was no longer as popular. Realising this, Clarence Daniels took big band music in different directions, incorporating blues, Latin jazz, Latin boogaloo, modal jazz and R&B into the two albums that they released. Clarence Daniels realised that standing still wasn’t an option. If he stood, then his Orchestra risked becoming irrelevant. However, by trying to reinvent his music, Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra ensured that their career continued.

In the case of Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra, this meant heading to Vegas, where he played in casinos and the  lounges in upmarket hotels. Through constantly reinventing his music, Clarence Daniels and His Orchestra were able to continue to make a living out of music. Meanwhile, many bigs bands folded, or were reduced to playing in less salubrious establishments. However, Daniels and His Orchestra survived the change in musical fashions, and continued to release albums.  These albums are more a reminder of the night they saw one of the last remaining big bands in all its glory, while  Hard Workin’ is a reminder of The Clarence Daniels Orchestra featuring Obie Jessie and Sandy Miller at the peak of their musical powers.

The Clarence Daniels Orchestra featuring Obie Jessie and Sandy Miller-Hard Workin’.

FAZERDAZE-MORNINGSIDE.

Fazerdaze-Morningside.

Grönland Records.

Despite a population of just 3.8 million, New Zealand has always punched above its weight when it comes to music. That has been the case for the best part of fifty years. Proof of that is the roll call of artists and bands New Zealand has produced over the last five decades. This ranges from familiar faces like Split Enz, Crowded House and The Mutton Birds to Fat Freddy’s Drop, The Veils, Rhian Sheehan and The Phoenix Foundation, to relative newcomers Kimbra and Avalanche City. Recently, though, a new name can be added to this list Fazerdaze, which is the moniker of singer-songwriter Amelia Murray. Her career began as recently as 2014.

That was when Fazerdaze decided to record some of the songs she had been writing. However, she didn’t head into one of the local recording studios to record what would later, become her debut EP. Instead, Fazerdaze waited until late at night, and transformed her bedroom into a makeshift studio. In the relative calm of the late evening, Fazerdaze set up her guitar, drum machine and synths. With all her equipment setup, Fazerdaze pressed record, and began work on what she modestly refers to as “bedroom recordings.” This became a regular routine, and  eventually, Fazerdaze had recorded enough material for her eponymous debut EP.

When Fazerdaze was released later in 2014, critics discovered a carefully crafted collection of dream pop, that had been penned, performed and produced by Amelia Murray. She was responsible for a collection of optimistic, sophisticated and laid back music. There was also a degree of intimacy and warmth to Fazerdaze, which won over critics on three continents.

Initially, the Fazerdaze EP received widespread critical acclaim from critics in New Zealand, Britain and America. Soon, though, Fazerdaze was receiving praise and plaudits from critics much further afield. Among Fazerdaze’s biggest fans were the UK-based NME, and New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times. They were so impressed that they included the Fazerdaze EP in their year-end Best of 2014. For Fazerdaze, her eponymous debut EP had launched her nascent career. The next three years would be a roller coaster ride.

As 2015 dawned, Fazerdaze was keen to build on the momentum created by her eponymous debut EP. Fortunately, Fazerdaze and her band were scheduled to embark upon what was a gruelling touring schedule. Before that, Fazerdaze opened the 2015 New Zealand Silver Scroll Awards with a breathtaking cover of Marlon Williams’ Dark Child. This was the perfect start to what would be one of the most important years of Fazerdaze’s nascent career.

By then, Fazerdaze and her band had been booked to support two major New Zealand acts during their 2015 tours. This included the Unknown Mortal Orchestra, which featured musicians from Auckland, in New Zealand and Portland, Oregon. Each night, a new and much wider audience were introduced to Fazerdaze’s music. Opening for the Unknown Mortal Orchestra so early in her career was the opportunity of a lifetime for Fazerdaze. Night after night, a much wider audience were introduced to her music. This opportunity of a lifetime Fazerdaze grabbed with both hands.

After touring with the Unknown Mortal Orchestra, there was no rest for Fazerdaze. Soon, she and her band would head out on tour to support another successful New Zealand musician. This time it was Connan Mockasin, from the small beachside town of Te Awanga, that Fazerdaze was supporting. Connan Mockasin had spent the last ten years touring the world, and was now beginning to reap the rewards. For an up-and-coming artist like Fazerdaze this showed what was possible. 

Already though, Fazerdaze had already achieved a lot in a short space of time. She had released her eponymous debut EP, which received widespread critical acclaim and toured with two established acts. Not many artists achieved this so early in their career. It augured well for Fazerdaze’s future.

In 2016, Fazerdaze embarked upon what was her first British tour. She made many new friends in Britain, before heading home. Later in 2016, Fazerdaze appeared at Australia’s Bigsound music conference and at the Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal. Fazerdaze had packed a lot into the space of two years.

Especially considering she had been writing and recording her debut album Morningside, which was recently released on Grönland Records. Morningside marked the start of a new and exciting chapter in the career of Fazerdaze. 

Last To Sleep opens Morningside and sounds like a guitar driven slice of indie rock. Just a bristling guitar accompanies Amelia Murray’s vocal which sits back in the mix. At 0.46 the thunderous rhythm section enter, and power the arrangement along. They’re joined by synths that beep, squeak and buzz as the song heads in the direction of dream pop. Latterly, the arrangement builds and Amelia’s vocal is dwarfed by buzzing synths, a driving rhythm section and bristling guitars during this memorable and melodic fusion of indie rock and dream pop.

Lucky Girl bursts into life with the rhythm section and choppy guitars and shimmering, effects laden keyboards power the arrangement along. They add an urgency to the driving, choppy arrangement. Meanwhile, Amelia delivers a hopeful, dream pop vocal, as the song heads into anthem territory. Later, the arrangement becomes a wall of sound, as Fazerdaze continue to inject a degree of urgency as this fist pumping anthem unfolds.

A buzzing synth and the rhythm section combine to create the dramatic backdrop to Amelia’s dreamy and soul-baring vocal on Misread. Although the vocal is mixed back in the arrangement, it still plays a leading role and is key to the sound and success of the song. Meanwhile, drums pound as the bass and a scorching guitar solo drive the arrangement along. Later, there’s a swagger to Amelia’s vocal, before the song reaches a crescendo.  By then, it’s obvious that Misread is sure to be a festival favourite during the summer months.

Sci-fi synths give way to the rhythm section, chiming guitars and buzzing, droning synth on Little Uneasy. Together, they set the scene for Amelia’s wistful, angst-ridden, dream pop vocal. Meanwhile, the arrangement twists and turns, growing in power as it ebbs and flows, revealing its sonic secrets. They come courtesy of the rhythm section, guitar and synths. Together who create another powerhouse of an arrangement. Especially, Andrea Holmes’ drums. They provide the heartbeat, while Amelia’s guitar and vocal playing leading roles in this carefully crafted song that’s been inspired by both indie rock and classic dream pop.

Fazerdaze drop the tempo on Jennifer, which initially, features a much more understated arrangement. Mostly, it’s synths and the guitar which accompany Amelia’s dreamy, almost ethereal vocal. At 0.50 the rhythm section join the mesmeric synths and soon, cooing harmonies. By then, the understated arrangement is no more. Having said that, the rest of Fazerdaze take care not to overpower Amelia’s vocal. They realise a beautiful song that harks back to dream pop’s past is unfolding and revealing its secrets. It’s without doubt, one of the highlights of Morningside.

Straight away, it’s obvious that something special is about to unfold on Take It Slow. Guitars lock into a groove with the bass, while the drums lay down the heartbeat. Soon, the bass breaks free and ushers in Amelia’s tender, thoughtful vocal. It’s accompanied by bristling, chiming guitars and the rhythm section. Soon, though, they replace the vocal and enjoy their moment in the sun. That is until Amelia returns, and continues to deliver a tender, hopeful vocal. Later, harmonies that sit high in the carefully crafted arrangement and accompany Amelia, on a track which features Fazerdaze at their very best. For anyone who loves dream pop, this a song to cherish.

Keyboards open Shoulders and join with the rhythm section and bristling guitar. They accompany Amelia’s ethereal dream pop  vocal as the arrangement literally floats along. At 1.03 the arrangement becomes understated and briefly, allows the vocal to take centre-stage. Before long, the arrangement rebuilds, with the keyboards, rhythm section and guitar creating the perfect backdrop to Amelia’s beautiful, ethereal vocal. All too soon, though, Shoulders is over after less than three magical and memorable minutes.

Just a lone bass synth opens Friends, before shakers accompany Amelia’s tender, wistful vocal. Then a wall of searing, blistering guitars join with the rhythm section and synth. A cymbal crashes as the song slowly unfolds. Sadness and emotion fills Amelia’s vocal which is akin to a confessional. Meanwhile, drums provide the heartbeat, as a bass synth buzzes and soon, a blistering guitar is unleashed. It soars high above the vocal and dominates the arrangement. Then the baton passes to the bass, before the guitar ushers Amelia’s vocal back in, before  a buzzing bass synth enters and the song reaches a dramatic crescendo.

When Half-Figured unfolds, elements of indie rock, grunge and dream pop combine. Not for the first time, there’s even a nod to the Jesus and Mary Chain, and even Teenage Fanclub and the Cocteau Twins. Meanwhile Amelia’s vocal is mixed way back in the arrangement and is cocooned within a rocky vortex. This comes courtesy of  the rhythm section and guitars, that play slowly and deliberately. Later, a bristling guitar accompanies Amelia’s distant vocal before all too soon, Half-Figured reaches a dramatic and rocky ending after two genre-melting minutes.

Beeps and squeaks combine with a chiming guitar on Bedroom Talks, which closes Morningside. Soon, the rhythm section enter, and combines with the guitar. They play slowly before Amelia’s dreamy, sleepy, ethereal vocal enters. It’s one of her best vocal and grabs the listener’s attention. Meanwhile, the rest of the arrangement is subtle and compliments the vocal. Guitars shimmer and glisten, while the drums reverberate and cooing harmonies float above the arrangement. It seems that Fazerdaze have kept one of the best until last on Morningside.

It’s hard to believe that it’s only three years since Fazerdaze released their eponymous debut EP. Fazerdaze have come a long way since then. This includes recently releasing their much-anticipated debut album Morningside on Berlin based Grönland Records. 

Morningside is a carefully crafted album that was which was masterminded by the truly talented Amelia Murray a.k.a. Fazerdaze. She is responsible for an album of dream pop that quite simply, oozes quality. However, there’s much more to Morningside than just dream pop. There’s also elements of indie pop, indie rock, electronica and even grunge on Morningside. It’s a melodic and memorable album, where the hooks certainly haven’t been rationed. 

Several songs on Morningside head into anthem territory, and are best described anthems-in-waiting. They’re sure to become festival favourites over the summer months and  hopefully, will introduce singer, songwriter and producer Amelia Murray, a.k.a Fazerdaze to a much wider audience. After all, songs as good as those on Morningside deserve to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Especially anyone who loves dream pop. Morningside harks back to the glory day’s of dream pop, and is a reminder of the genre’s illustrious past. However, Morningside is also an album that will appeal to anyone who loves indie pop and indie rock. Quite simply, Morningside is an album that’s sure to appeal to a wide range of music fans. It’s the debut album of Fazerdaze who showcase their considerable skills during Morningside, which is the start of a new and exciting  chapter in Fazerdaze’s career.

Hopefully, Morningside is the next step in what will be a long and successful career for Fazerdaze. If they can continue to release albums of the quality of Morningside, then the future looks bright for Fazerdaze, who maybe, one day, will be added to the roll call of artists from New Zealand who have found fame across the globe?

Fazerdaze-Morningside.

THE SEXADELIC DISCO-FUNK SOUND OF…SUSANA ESTRADA.

The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada.

Espacial Discos.

Ever since 1939, the brutal Francoist regime had ruled Spain with an iron fist. This came to an end with the death of dictator Francisco Franco on ’20th’ November 1975. After Franco’s death, control of Spain passed to King Juan Carlos. By then, Spain was in a state of paralysis. It had been, during the last few months of Franco’s reign. The Spanish people hoped that things were about to change.

They hoped that after the death of Franco, that Spain’s transition to a liberal democratic state could begin. The transition began  on  ’20th’ November 1975 with the passing of Franco, and took nearly seven years until the electoral victory of the socialist PSOE party on the ‘28th’ October 1982. That seven-year period  is nowadays remembered in Spain as the ‘transition’, and marked a new beginning for the Spanish people. 

The  transition to democracy saw a liberalisation of values and social mores. Suddenly, the Spanish people were enjoying their newfound  freedom. This was something that hadn’t previously existed under the Francoist regime. Life, the Spanish people were realising, was for living. This coincided with a sexual revolution that began during the transition.

During the transition and sexual revolution, singer, model and actress and Susana Estrada represented the new Spain. She was independent and modern women, who lived her life on her terms.  Susana Estrada wanted to bring about change, and was an advocate for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom.  One of the ways she sought to bring about change was through her music. This includes the music that features on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada which will be released on the ‘19th’ June 2017, on Guerssen Records’ new label Espacial Discos. This new compilation features thirteen tracks from Susana Estrada, who was at the vanguard of change that took place during the transition in Spain.

Susana Estrada was born in the city of Gijón, in 1949. By then, Franco had ruled Spain since 1936. Growing up, Susana Estrada she watched as the Francoist regime crushed their opponents mercilessly. Many of Franco’s opponents were imprisoned,  others disappeared in mysterious circumstances and  some were murdered. For anyone who grew up in Spain the forties and fifties, life was tough. It certainly was for Susana Estrada.

By the time she was twenty-one, Susana Estrada had been married, had two children and was now divorced. She was left to bring up two children on her own. This she managed to do on the salary she received working as a librarian. However, Susana Estrada had dreams beyond working in a library. What she really wanted to do, was work as a fashion model.

Eventually, Susana Estrada left her job as a librarian, to embark upon a career as a fashion model. Initially, she worked for small, local companies, but within a year  had been accepted into Madrid’s official model school. It looked like Susana Estrada’s dream was about to come true. However, it turned out that Susana Estrada wasn’t tall enough. Even when she took to wearing fifteen centimetre heels, she wasn’t tall enough. For Susana Estrada, it looked as if her career as a model was over before it began.

It looked unlikely that Susana Estrada would ever model for magazines like Vogue or luxury clothing brands, she found her own niche within the fashion world. Susana Estrada modelled the ready-made, pret-à-porter fashion lines.  Sometimes, though, she was recruited by overseas model agencies, and occasionally found herself featuring on album cover. By 1971, Susana Estrada had gone up in the world.

She made her acting debut in El Zorro de Monterrey in 1971, which was the start of Susana Estrada’s acting career. During the second half of the seventies, Susana Estrada began to feature in a new genre of film, Destape which were erotic comedies. However, before long, Susana Estrada realised that to make a career in the movie industry “you had to pay a high price and do some things I didn’t want to do.” However, by then, Susana Estrada had embarked on a new chapter in her career.

This began in 1976, when she started acting in erotic musicals. Her debut came in 1976, in Historias del Strip-Tease which was roundly panned by critics. Despite the terrible reviews, it was a huge commercial success and turned Susana Estrada into a star. However, this came at a cost: “in the beginning, women hated me. They thought that I was lacking decorum, that I was shameless, lecherous, rude…Not all of them but the vast majority. People were not ready for this.”

After featuring in several erotic musicals, Susana Estrada became a sex counsellor in the magazine Play-Lady. At one point, she was receiving 7,000 letters a week. By then, Susana Estrada’s new role was attracting the attention of Franco’s regime. She was accused of public scandal, fined, had her passport cancelled and banned from voting for ten years. This was just the latest controversy for Susana Estrada, who was skating on thin ice. Any further controversy could see her receive further sanctions from the Franco regime. Most people would’ve kept a low profile.

Susana Estrada wasn’t most people, and was about to embark on a career as a singer. Her debut single Ya Me Voy De Tu Vida was  released on Odeon in 1978. It was written by Alejandro Jaén, who co-produced the single with Marion Bronley. They were responsible for a single that had been heavily influenced by both classic disco, and the Munich Sound, which was pioneered by Giorgio Moroder. The release of Ya Me Voy De Tu Vida marked the start of a new chapter in Susana Estrada’s career. However, she continued her career in musicals.

Between 1978 and 1980, the musicals that Susana Estrada appeared in grew in popularity. However, they became increasingly explicit. By then, Spain was undergoing a period of transition, and Susana Estrada was campaigning for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom. Still, though, some women didn’t approve of what she was doing, and felt it was demeaning. However, Susana Estrada remembers: “I fought very hard for women’s rights. I knew that through sexual liberation you obtain total freedom. This was something which men knew at first and women discovered it late.” Susana Estrada was determined to bring about change, and didn’t seem to care if she caused controversy. Her sophomore single would certainly prove controversial.

Two years after releasing her debut single, Susana Estrada returned in 1980 with her sophomore single Acaríciame, which was released on the Barcelona based Belter label. Acaríciam was written by Carlos Moncada, Félix Lapardi and Óscar Rubio, with Josep Llobell Oliver taking charge of the production. On the B-Side was Machos, which was penned by Pepe Luis Soto and produced Ramón Rodó Sellés. Both Acaríciam and Machos, which feature on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada, and are sensual sounding disco tracks. The success of Acaríciam resulted in Susana Estrada releasing her debut album, Machos.

Unlike most albums released in 1980, Machos was released by Belter,  but only on cassette. It featured songs from the musical Susana Estrada was appearing in, Machos. Nowadays, the cassette album Machos is a collector’s item, and changes hands for up to £100. Four of the eight tracks from Machos feature on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada. This includes Acaríciam and  Machos. They’re joined by  the robotic funk of Espacial and the space cosmic disco of Hagamos El Amor. Both these songs were written by the songwriting partnership of C. De Las Eras and Manuel Gas, but didn’t appear on what’s nowadays regarded as Susana Estrada’s official debut album, Amor Y Libertad.

When Susana Estrada came to record Amor Y Libertad, it featured ten songs penned by Carlos De Las Heras. They were recorded at the Belter Studio, in Barcelona, with producer by Josep Llobell Oliver. To accompany Susana Estrada, he had brought onboard Atlanta a talented and experienced funk group who were familiar faces on the local music scene. The combination of Susana Estrada, Atlanta and Josep Llobell Oliver resulted in what would eventually be regarded as a Euro Disco  and cosmic disc classic, Amor Y Libertad.

Initially, Amor Y Libertad was underrated and didn’t receive the recognition many thought it deserved. Critics didn’t seem to ‘get’ Amor Y Libertad, despite its innovative fusion of boogie, cosmic disco, funk, Italo Disco, modern soul and the Munich Sound. Maybe critics were shocked by what many regarded as provocative lyrics, sensual vocals and moans and groans? If that was the case, then songs about sexual liberation and freedom were definitely going to get critics hot under the collar. The reception that Amor Y Libertad received was hugely disappointing for everyone involved in the project.

It was only later that Amor Y Libertad began to receive the recognition it deserved. Nowadays, though,  Amor Y Libertad is regarded as a Euro Disco and cosmic disco classic, That comes as no surprise, given the quality of music on the album. Especially songs like Mi Chico Favorito, Voy Desnuda, ¡Gózame Ya!, ¡Qué Calor!, ¡Quítate El Sostén!, Un Sitio Bajo El Sol, Hagámoslo Juntos and Voy Desnuda. These songs  which all feature on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada compilation, and among the highlights of Amor Y Libertad, which somewhat belatedly, received the recognition it deserved.

Playing an important part in the sound and success of the album was Atlanta, who were produced a genre-melting, dance-floor friendly backdrop for Susana Estrada. Meanwhile Josep Llobell Oliver produced Amor Y Libertad, and took a less is more approach to production. This worked well and resulted in what eventually became a Euro Disco and cosmic disco cult classic. 

After the release of Amor Y Libertad, Susana Estrada released Mi Chico Favorito as a single later in 1981. This was Susana Estrada’s penultimate release during the eighties.

Susana Estrada’s eighties swan-song was the cassette mini album Historias Inconfesables. It was released by Star Grabaciones Originals later in 1981 and was billed as “porno-cassette.” The album featured just four songs, including two versions of Mi Chico Favorito and ¡Que Calor! (Canción). This includes X-rated versions of Mi Chico Favorito  and ¡Que Calor! Nowadays, Historias Inconfesables is a real rarity which is almost impossible to find. 

It’s a similar case with Tócame, which features on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada.  It was recorded in 2007, and is best described as Hi-Energy meets Euro Disco. This is a welcome addition to The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada, which documents the musical career of one of the most controversial figures in Spanish music, Susana Estrada.

She was the one time model who went on to enjoy a career as an actress, agony aunt and singer. Susana Estrada also fought for women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom. Sadly, her campaigning is often overshadowed by parts of her career that caused controversy.  This may not have been the case in America, Britain or other parts of Europe. However, Spain which was a conservative catholic country, which was in a period of transition from a dictatorship to democracy. Many people were unprepared for Susana Estrada, her campaigning and indeed, some of the music on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada. That was somewhat ironic.

What Susana Estrada was campaigning for was women’s rights, sexual liberation and freedom, which were things that many women in other parts of Europe, Britain and America took for granted.  Alas, in the newly democratic Spain, Susana Estrada’s campaigns caused controversy in the corridors of power. Maybe Spain’s patriarchy were scared or intimated by a strong and independent woman, who was willing to make a stand for what she believed in? Despite being fined, having her passport cancelled and losing her vote for ten years, Susana Estrada wasn’t going to be silenced. She continued to speak for all the Spanish women who had no way of making their views heard.  One way Susana Estrada was able to make her voice heard was through her music.

This includes much of the music that featured on her debut album Amor Y Libertad. Eight of the ten tracks from Amor Y Libertad feature on The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada which will be released on the ‘19th’ June 2017, on Espacial Discos, a new imprint of Guerssen Records.  The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada also features singles, B-Sides and the unreleased track Tócame. Quite simply, The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada is a truly comprehensive overview of Susana Estrada’s musical career, and is the perfect introduction to one of Spain’s Euro Disco divas.

The Sexadelic Disco-Funk Sound of…Susana Estrada.

LIGHTHOUSE-LIGHTHOUSE, SUITE FEELING AND PEACING IT ALL TOGETHER.

Lighthouse-Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together.

In 1968, Skip Prokop the former drummer and vocalist with the Canadian psychedelic rock band The Paupers, met Brooklyn born keyboardist Paul Hoffert in a New York nightclub. The men bonded over their mutual love of music. However, when they parted company at the end of the evening, they never thought that their paths would cross again.

That was until Skip Prokop boarded a flight from New York to head home to Toronto, and recognised one of his fellow passengers. It was none other than Paul Hoffert, who was studying at the University of Toronto. The two men started talking, and soon, were discussing the possibility of forming a band based around a rock rhythm section, jazz horn section, and classical string section. It this was an ambitious plan, but one that Skip Prokop and Paul Hoofers were determined to bring to fruition.

Fortunately, Skip Prokop was a familiar face within Toronto’s music scene, and knew plenty of musicians who would be interested in joining the band he planned to form with Paul Hoffert. Skip Prokop brought onboard some of his musical friends, several session musicians and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Gradually, Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert’s group was taking shape. 

Eventually, the nascent group featured thirteen musicians. The next step for the as yet unnamed band was to record a demo. Once the demo was complete, Skip Prokop sought the advice of one of his musical friends, Richie Havens. He suggested that Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert take the tape to MGM Records, who Richie Havens was currently signed to.

On hearing the demo, executives at MGM Records were hugely impressed with what they heard. So much so, that they offered the band an advance of $30,000. Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert signed on the dotted line. The band was now signed to MGM Records.

Having signed to MGM Records, the band acquired a manager within the space of two days. It was just a pity they hadn’t a manager when they signed to MGM Records.

Their new manager was Vinnie Fusco, who was an associate of Albert Grossman, who managed Bob Dylan. Vinnie Fusco was an experienced manager, who was well versed in the how the music industry worked. He decided that the MGM Records’ deal wasn’t good enough for his new client.  

Vinnie Fusco decided to pay the executives at MGM Records a visit to discuss the contract his new client had signed. By the end of the meeting they were prepared to free the band from their contractual obligations. This left them free to sign to RCA Victor.

Not before Vinnie Fusco had negotiated a lucrative recording contract for the band. This time, it wasn’t $30,000 that the band would receive, Instead, they would receive hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the contract. During that morning, Vinnie Fusco had more than proved his worth. 

Now that the band had a recording contract in place, the next step was to finalise the band’s lineup. Although the band had recorded a demo, this wasn’t the version that would make their live debut at Toronto’s Rock Pile on May ’14th’ 1969.

With the lineup of the band finalised, and having honed their sound, they were ready take to the stage at the Rick Pile. As the band prepared to take to the stage, a seventy year old man made his way to the microphone to introduce the band. Some members of the audience thought his face was familiar. It was none other that Duke  Ellington who uttered the immortal words “I’m beginning to see the Light…house.” With that, the thirteen members of the band  that would become Lighthouse took to the stage and delivered a barnstorming set. By the end of the night, very few people were taking about Duke Ellington. Instead, they were taking about Lighthouse’s live debut.

After the success of Lighthouse’s live debut, Vinnie Fusco knew that he had signed a band with a big future ahead of them. He wasted no time in taking Lighthouse into the studio to record their eponymous debut album. Lighthouse is one three albums that feature on BGO Records’ recent released two CD set. It’s joined by Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together, which covers the period between 1969 to 1970. This period starts with Lighthouse, which was written and recorded during 1969.

Lighthouse.

For Lighthouse, members of the band had written eight new songs, and covered The Byrds’ Eight Miles High and  Richie Havens’ No Opportunity. Lighthouse’s songwriter-in-chief was Skip Prokop who cowrote three songs and wrote four more. This included If There Ever Was A Time, Follow The Stars, Marsha, Marsha and Ah I Can Feel It. He and Paul Hoffert wrote Whatever Forever, while Skip Prokop Peggy Devereux wrote Life Can Be So Simple. They also wrote Mountain Man with guitarist Ralph Cole. Brenda and Paul Hoffert Never Say Goodbye contributed. These ten tracks were to be recorded at Electric Ladyland Studios, New York.

At Electric Ladyland Studios, the thirteen members of Lighthouse prepared to record their eponymous debut album. By then, the lineup included a rhythm section that featured drummer and vocalist Skip Prokop, bassist and vocalist Grant Fullerton and guitarist and vocalist Ralph Cole. They were joined by keyboardist and vibes player Paul Hoffert and percussionist and vocalist Pinky Dauvin. The horn section featured Freddy Stone and Arnie Chycoski on flugelhorn and trumpet; alto saxophonist Howard Shore and trombonist Russ Little. This left just the string section, which featured cellist Leslie Schneider and Don Whitton; violinist Ian Guenther and Don DiNovo who switched between violin and viola. Taking charge of production was Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert who was Lighthouse’s musical director. After the sessions got up and running, it soon became apparent things weren’t going to plan. Rather than waste time and money, they should head home to Toronto and record the album there.

When Lighthouse returned to Toronto, they deduced to record at Eastern Sound Studios. Suddenly, the band were in a groove and before long, had recorded the ten songs that became Lighthouse. Once it was completed, it was released later in 1969.

Before that, critics had their say on Lighthouse. It received plaudits and praise from critics who were won over by Lighthouse’s innovative genre-melting sound.  Lighthouse was a mixture of jazz, rock, classical and fusion. There’s even avant-garde, blues, chamber pop, funk, pop and psychedelia, in an album that was designed to grab the listener’s attention. 

That was the case from the explosive psych-funk of Mountain Man. With its call for freedom, it was an anthem-in-waiting. There was no letup with the carefully crafted and uplifting If There Ever Was A Time. No Opportunity Necessary was a cover of a Richie Havens’ song, while Never Say Goodbye seems to have been inspired by George Martin’s production on Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. Very different was the orchestrated folk of Follow The Stars, which features a dreamy vocal. Whatever Forever seems to have been inspired by both The Doors, before a fleet-fingered Hammond organ transforms the track, and it heads in the direction of jazz. Lighthouse then pay homage to The Byrds on their cover of Eight Miles High, while Marsha, Marsha is a beautiful, blues-tinged ballad. Ah I Can Feel It is a slow burner where pop, rock and jazz play their part in the sound and success of the song. Closing Lighthouse was  Life Can Be So Simple, where a faux classical, baroque introduction gives way to what should’ve been another genre-melting anthem as pop, rock and jazz combine.

Alas, when Lighthouse was released, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Lighthouse failed to trouble the charts. It was a similar case when If There Ever Was A Time was released as a single. Despite the disappointment caused by the failure of their debut album and single, Lighthouse began work on their sophomore album, Suite Feeling.

Suite Feeling.

By then, Lighthouse were regarded as one of the top live acts in Canada. The band was hoping that their sophomore album would introduce the band to a much wider audience.

When Lighthouse began work on what became Suite Feeling, Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert were starting to forge a successful songwriting partnership. They wrote Could You Be Concerned, Presents Of Presence, Taking A Walk, Eight Loaves Of Bread and What Sense. The pair also penned Feel So Good with Grant Fullerton, and the trio proceeded to write Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces with Ralph Cole. Just like Lighthouse, there were two cover versions on Suite Feeling, Robbie Robertson’s Chest Fever and Lennon and McCartney’s Day In The Life. These nine songs were recorded in two studios.

Some recording sessions took place at Eastern Sound Studios, in Toronto. Other sessions  took place in Los Angeles, at RCA’s Music Centre Of The World. This time around, Lighthouse’s lineup numbered fourteen. 

There had been some changes in the lineup, especially in the string and horn section. Don Whitton and Ian Guenther departed and were replaced in the string section by Paul Armin and Myron Moskalyk who played first violin. It was also all change in the horn section, with  Freddy Stone and Arnie Chycoski leaving and being replaced by Paul Adamson and Bruce Cassidy who played first trumpet. This new and expanded lineup of Lighthouse recorded Suite Feeling, which was produced by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert.

Once Suite Feeling was completed, RCA Victor scheduled the release for late 1969. Before that, critics got the opportunity to review Suite Feeling. Just like Lighthouse, it received praise and plaudits from critics, who going by Suite Feeling were forecasting a big future for Lighthouse.

Dramatic destined the introduction to The Robbie Robertson penned Chest Fever, which featured on The Band’s Music From The Big Pink. It’s a fusion of classical, Native Indian and rock music as they unleash an inventive rework of a familiar song. Quite different is the orchestrated ballad Feel So Good which has a commercial, radio friendly sound. Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces was a near eleven minute epic, where Lighthouse showcase their considerable skills and versatility as they flit between musical genres. Then when it’s time for the solos, the members of Lighthouse unleash virtuoso performances.  This closed side one, and set the bar high for the rest of Suite Feeling.

Could You Be Concerned is another carefully crafted song with a commercial sound. It finds Lighthouse successfully fusing funk and rock with classical music.  Genres melt into one on the beautiful ballad Presents Of Presence, where horns, harmonies and swathes of strings accompany a heartfelt, needy vocal. Initially, the ballad Taking A Walk is a mixture of sunshine pop and rock, before incorporating elements of avant-garde and jazz to create a captivating and memorable track with surprises aplenty in store. Lighthouse combed gospel and blues on Eight Loaves Of Bread, as they deliver their sermon on peace and positivity. By contrast,  What Sense is an impassioned protest song that sounds as if it’s been inspired by The Beatles. An imaginative cover The Day In The Life, closes Suite Feeling and finds Lighthouse reinventing a classic song and taking it in new direction.

With critics won over by Suite Feeling, it looked like their sophomore album was destined for the charts. Sadly, when Suite Feeling was released in late 1969, the album failed to chart. It was another disappointment for Lighthouse.  Despite the disappointment, Lighthouse’s thoughts soon turned to their third album Peacing It All Together.

Peacing It All Together.

Just like Suite Feeling, the Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert songwriting partnership wrote the majority of Peacing It All Together. Their songwriting partnership was flourishing. They wrote Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo, The Country Song, Sausalito, The Fiction Of Twenty-Six Million, The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo), Mr. Candleman, On My Way To L.A., Just A Little More Time, Little People and am Myoho Renge’ Kyo. Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert also wrote Let The Happiness Begin with Ralph Cole, and Every Day I Am Reminded where Beethoven receives a credit.  The only song not written Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert, was Daughters And Sons which Grant Fullerton contributed. These songs became Peacing It All Together which was recorded in the Big Apple.

Recording took place at RCA’s Studio C, in New York, where Lighthouse Mk. III recorded Peacing It All Together. Just like Suite Feeling, the lineup had changed. This time, it was there were changes to the horn and string section. First violinist Myron Moskalyk and first trumpeter  Paul Adamson departed. Returning to Lighthouse’s lineup was trumpeter Arnie Chycoski. His addition meant that Lighthouse returned to a thirteen piece band. However, it wasn’t unlucky thirteen for Lighthouse.

Peacing It All Together was a much more eclectic album, with tracks ranging from folk and pop, to jazz and orchestral rock. This won the approval of critics, who hailed Peacing It All Together as Lighthouse’s finest hour.

When Peacing It All Together was released to critical acclaim in 1970, the album charted and reached 133 in the US Billboard 200. It was third time lucky for Lighthouse, who at last, had a hit album on their hands. That was no surprise given the quality of music on the album.

Peacing It All Together opens with the two part suite, where the yoga chant Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo gives way to the sunshine pop anthem Let The Happiness Begin. Every Day I Am Reminded was inspired by Beethoven’s Pathetique piano sonata, before a soul-baring pastoral ballad unfolds. The Country Song finds Lighthouse heading in the direction of country rock, before the cinematic Sausalito documents Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert’s road trip across America after recording Suite Feeling. The Fiction Of Twenty-Six Million is memorable and melodic pop rock song which features Lighthouse in full flight. Very different is The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge’ Kyo), where further explore the yoga chant that opened the album.This captivating track closed side one.

Mr. Candleman is another carefully crafted, genre-melting song from Lighthouse, where Ralph Cole delivers a rueful vocal as he brings to the lyrics in the song. Suddenly, he sounds as if he too has lost his enthusiasm for his life. On My Way To L.A, is a joyous and anthemic slice of psychedelic rock. It gives way to Daughters and Sons, a ruminative sounding song about being brought up in the suburbs. One of the highlights of the album was Just A Little More Time, which is a hook-laden, soulful pop song. This leaves just Little People, where pay homage to hard working people. Hooks haven’t been spared, in this early seventies anthem-in-waiting. It brought to an end Peacing It All Together, which was Lighthouse’s third album.

Peacing It All Together marked the start of the rise and rise of Lighthouse. However, this wouldn’t be at RCA Victor. After the release of Peacing It All Together, Lighthouse signed to GRT, where they enjoyed the most successful period of their career. 

By then, Lighthouse had appeared at Canada’s Strawberry Fields festival in August 1970 and later that summer, starred at the Isle Of Wight Festival in Britain. The rise and rise of Lighthouse continued.

Sadly, it was without lead singer Pinky Dauvin, who left the group after the release of Peacing It All Together. By then, Lighthouse were touring 300 days a year, and when they weren’t touring they were recording. It was a gruelling schedule, and one that was taking its toll on Lighthouse.

When Lighthouse returned in 1971 with their fourth album Thoughts of Movin’ On, it featured a very different lineup of the band. Bob McBride made his debut as lead singer, and was one of four new members of Lighthouse, who were now an eleven piece band. The new lineup of Lighthouse hit the ground running, with the most successful album of the band’s four album career.

One Fine Morning was released in 1971, and reached number eighty in the US Billboard 200 in 1971, Back home in Canada,  One Fine Morning was certified gold. When it came to release a lead single, One Fine Morning was chosen and gave Lighthouse an international hit single. It also reached number two in Canada and twenty-four in the US Billboard 100. At last, Lighthouse’s music was reaching the audience it deserved.  However, it had taken four albums.

What the members of Lighthouse didn’t realise was, that they never replicate the success of  One Fine Morning in America. Their fifth album Thoughts of Movin’ On stalled at 157 in the US Billboard 200, but was certified gold in Canada. Still, things would get better for Lighthouse.

In February 1972, Lighthouse recorded Lighthouse Live! at the Carnegie Hall, in New York. Later in 1972, Lighthouse Live! was released and stalled at 178 in the US Billboard 200. Across the border in Canada, Lighthouse Live! became the first Canadian album to be certified platinum. 

Later in 1972, Lighthouse returned with their sixth studio album Sunny Days. While the album reached just 190 in the US Billboard 200, it was certified gold in Canada.  When Sunny Days was released as a single, it reached thirty-four in the US Billboard 100 and was a hit in Canada. The Lighthouse success story continued apace.

Despite being at the peak of their popularity, Paul Hoffert who was still only thirty was tiring of life on the road. He left Lighthouse, but continued in the role of executive producer. This lead to the latest change in Lighthouse’s lineup.

When Lighthouse returned to the studio to record their seventh studio album Can You Feel It, lead vocalist Bob McBride failed to turn up. Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole wanted to cancel the sessions. However, producer Jimmy Ienner was determined the session continue, and even introduced a new rule that who wrote the song, sang it. This meant that Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole sung most of the songs, apart from No More Searching, which was penned by new saxophonist Dale Hillary. Eventually,  Can You Feel It, which was the first Lighthouse album to feature multiple vocalists, was completed.

Can You Feel It was released in 1973, but failed to chart in America. In Canada, Can You Feel It sold well and the rise and rise of Lighthouse continued. Especially when Pretty Lady reached number nine in Canada and fifty-three in the US Billboard 100. For the followup Can You Feel It was released, and reached number nineteen in Canada. By then, Lighthouse were one of Canada’s most successful bands. The last four years had been a roller coaster ride for Lighthouse. 

A year later, in 1974, Lighthouse returned with their eighth studio album Good Day in 1974. By then, the lineup had changed. Skip Prokop had switched to guitar on a permanent basis, and  Billy King was drafted in as the new drummer. Still, though, Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole shared lead vocal duties. While Good Day failed to produce any hit singles, and failed to match the sales of previous albums it featured the song Wide-Eyed Lady, which quickly would become a favourite when Lighthouse played live.

Despite the disappointing sales of Good Day, Lighthouse returned to Thunder Sounds Recording Studios to begin work on their ninth album. However, by then all wasn’t well within Lighthouse. Founder member Skip Prokop quit the band, and the album was never completed. 

While Lighthouse continued to tour without Skip Prokop, the band never returned to the studio. The only album GRT released was The Best of Lighthouse in 1976. By then, Lighthouse were on their last legs, and disbanded later that year. After seven years, eight studio albums and a live album, Lighthouse called time on their career.

While Lighthouse would later reunite, they had released the best music of their career between 1969 and 1974. This included their first three albums, Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together which were recently rematered and reissued as part of a two CD set by BGO Records. These three album showcase a truly talented band, who would eventually become one Canada’s most successful bands of the early seventies. 

They were lead by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert who were Lighthouse’s songwriters-in-chief and producers. They were responsible for albums of carefully crafted albums. Especially,  Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together which were recorded during Lighthouse’s RCA Victor years. While this wasn’t the most successful period of their career, their three albums oozed quality as  Lighthouse switched seamlessly between and combined disparate musical genres.  

Lighthouse were musical master craftsmen, who deserved to reach greater heights during the RCA Victor years. Sadly, Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together never found the audience it deserved, and it was only later that these three album were discovered by a new generation of music fans. For newcomers to Lighthouse, then  Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together is the perfect introduction to one of Canada’s best bands of the late-sixties and early seventies. 

Lighthouse-Lighthouse, Suite Feeling and Peacing It All Together.

MULATU ASTATKE-MULATU OF ETHIOPIA.

Mulatu Astatke-Mulatu Of Ethiopia.

By 1972, Ethiopian multi-instrumentalist Mulatu Astatke was twenty-nine, and had already spent time studying music in London, Boston and New York. This included spells at two prestigious institutions,  London’s Trinity College of Music,  Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The time he spent there, influenced and shaped Mulatu Astatke as a musician.  This included  the two albums he released in 1966, Afro-Latin Soul, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Six years passed before Mulatu Astatke returned with his third album Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which was recently rereleased by Strut Records. It was a very different album, and was his first album of Ethio-jazz from the man who nowadays, is regarded as the genre’s founding father, Mulatu Astatke. 

He was born in the city of Jimma, in south-western Ethiopia, on ‘19th’ December 1943. Growing up, Mulatu Astatke developed a love of music, and over the next few years, learnt to play a variety of instruments. This included the vibraphone,  conga drums, percussion, keyboards and organ. Mulatu Astatke developed into a talented multi-instrumentalist. It looked as if Mulatu Astatke would embark upon a career in music. Suddenly, though, any dreams Mulatu Astatke had of embarking upon a career in music were dashed.  

In the late-fifties,Mulatu Astatke’s family sent him to Wales study engineering. That was the plan. Instead, Mulatu Astatke enrolled at Lindisfarne College near Wrexham which prepared him for his studies in London, New York and Boston.

After leaving Mulatu Astatke enrolled at Trinity College of Music, where he spent the next few years studying towards a degree in music. Having graduated, Mulatu Astatke  began collaborating with jazz singer and percussionist Frank Holder. The pair formed a fruitful partnership, and for a while, Mulatu Astatke was part of London’s jazz scene. Eventually though, Mulatu Astatke decided to head stateside, where he would continue his studies and career.

Next stop for Mulatu Astatke was Boston, and the prestigious Berklee College of Music. He became the first African student to enrol and study at Berklee College of Music. For the next few years, Mulatu Astatke studied the vibraphone and percussion. He remembers: “ I learnt the technical aspects of jazz and gained a beautiful understanding of many different types of music. That’s where I got my tools. Berklee really shook me up.” His spell at Berklee College of Music proved an important period in Mulatu Astatke’s career. So did a journey to New York.

While studying in Boston, Mulatu Astatke would often travel to New York to play gigs, and other times, to watch concerts at venues like The Cheetah, The Palladium and The Village Gate. It was during one of these journeys to the Big Apple that Mulatu Astatke met producer Gil Snapper for the first time.  “Gil was a nice and very interesting guy. He produced music and worked with all kinds of musicians.” This would eventually include Mulatu Astatke.

After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Mulatu Astatke moved to New York and continued his studies. It was during this period that Mulatu Astatke recorded two albums for Gil Snapper’s Worthy label. 

The first album was Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 which found Mulatu Astatke taking African music in a new direction. Gil Snapper describes what was at the heart of this new sound on the sleeve-notes to Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1: “he has taken the ancient five-tone scales of Asia and Africa and woven them into something unique and exciting; a mixture of three cultures, Ethiopian, Puerto Rican and American.” This new and innovative sound made its debut on Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1, which was an album of instrumentals that was released in 1966. It marked the debut of Mulatu Astatke and would influence the future direction of Ethiopian music.

Up until Mulatu Astatke released Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 in 1966, Ethiopian musicians neither used congas nor bongos on when recording popular music. This would change when musicians back home in Ethiopia heard Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 and its followup.

Later in 1966, Mulatu Astatke returned with his sophomore album, Afro-Latin Soul Volume 2. Stylistically, it was similar to his genre-melting debut album. It mostly featured instrumentals, apart from  I Faram Gami I Faram where Mulatu Astatke sings in Spanish.  Mostly, though, Mulatu Astatke’s vibes are accompanied by a piano and conga drums that ads Latin rhythms. While this was regarded as new and innovative back home in Ethiopia, some critics thought that Mulatu Astatke’s music was similar to many other Latin-jazz records released during the mid-sixties. However, by the time Mulatu Astatke returned with his third album, he would’ve founded a new musical genre.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, Mulatu Astatke’s music began to change. This was a conscious decision, and one that was necessary. Mulatu Astatke needed and wanted to develop his own sound, and one that stood out from the crowd.  

Mulatu Astatke had decided to develop the sound that had featured on Afro-Latin Soul Volume 1 and 2. To this, Mulatu Astatke decided to add elements of funk and Azmari chik-chikka rhythms to his existing sound. Gradually, this new sound began to take shape. The next step was to return to the studio, and record an album that showcased Mulatu Astatke’s new sound.

By 1972,  Mulatu Astatke had gained the necessary skills to fuse the disparate musical genres to create Ethio-jazz. It had taken time and perseverance. Now the twenty-nine year old was ready to return to the studio to record his long-awaited third album, Mulatu Of Ethiopa.

Joining Mulatu Astatke at a studio in downtown Manhattan, were producer Gil Snapper and the band that would record eventually record Mulatu Of Ethiopa. Before that, Mulatu Astatke put his multitalented band through their paces. The band featured some of the Big Apple’s top Latin session musicians and several young, up-and-coming jazz musicians. They would spend the next four weeks rehearsing, and honing Mulatu Astatke’s new sound. He remembers that:  “it took them a while to get the right feeling in the music.” Eventually, the band were ready to record what would become a landmark album, Mulatu Of Ethiopa.

When Mulatu Astatke and his band entered the studio, they recorded seven tracks that showcased his new sound. These tracks became Mulatu Of Ethiopa, where Mulatu Astatke and his band took as their starting point the Ethiopian five tonal scale. To the Pentatonic scale, Mulatu Astatke and his band added elements of jazz and Afro-American soul. This new and innovative musical fusion was christened Ethio-jazz, and Mulatu Astatke was its founding father.

The release of Mulatu Of Ethiopa was a turning point in Mulatu Astatke’s career.  After spending several years searching for his own sound, Mulatu Astatke had eventually settled on what would become his trademark sound, Ethio-jazz. It’s the sound that eventually Mulatu Astatke would become famous for.

While Mulatu Astatke released his first album of Ethio-jazz in 1972, Mulatu Of Ethiopa wasn’t a hugely successful album, it influenced a generation of Ethiopian musicians. They adopted the new Ethio-jazz sound. For the second time in his career, Mulatu Astatke was influencing Ethiopian musicians from afar. At least his fellow countrymen understood the importance of this groundbreaking album.

It was until much later that record collectors discovered Mulatu Of Ethiopa, and realised just how important, influential and innovative an album it was. Sadly, by then, Mulatu Of Ethiopa was out of print, and very few original copies of the album were still available. Occasionally, record collectors chance upon a copy of Mulatu Of Ethiopa, and picked it up in the bargain bins. Mostly though, copies of Mulatu Of Ethiopa were changing hands for large sums of money. What had once been a £200 album was changing hands for upwards of £600. This was a reflection of the importance of Mulatu Of Ethiopa, which was the first album of Ethio-jazz, from the genre’s founding father, Mulatu Astatke.

Opening the stereo mix of Mulatu Of Ethiopa is Mulatu, which straight away, showcases the new Ethio-jazz sound. It’s a fusion of the music of two countries, Ethiopia and Mulatu Astatke’s adopted home of America. Sharp stabs of braying horns leave space for the rhythm section who lock down the groove. They’re joined by a wah-wah guitar, before the sultry horns flow across arrangement. It’s joined by glistening, shimmering vibes, percussion and later, a fluttering flute. Meanwhile, the rhythm section have locked down the tightest of grooves, as the blazing horns are played with power and passion. They join the  vibes and wah-wah guitar in playing leading roles in the sound and success of Mulatu. Not only is it a beautiful,  melodic and memorable example of Ethio-jazz, but it’s funky and soulful.

Just a pensive bass and then percusion open Mascaram Setaba before a wah-wah guitar, vibes and keyboards combine.  By then, the arrangement is shuffling ruefully and cinematically along. Soon, a flute flutters high above the arrangement, as the bass provides the heartbeat. It joins with percussion,  vibes and tough sounding keyboards, and they play their part in rueful, cinematic track that shuffles along as  Mulatu Astatqe seamlessly combine elements of jazz, funk, fusion and Latin music. 

Vibes shimmer, while horns head in the direction of free jazz on Dewel. Meanwhile, the rhythm section play with the same power and urgency as the horns. After nearly a minute, a calm descends as the rhythm section locks into a groove with the keyboards and horns. Before long, the rhythm and horn sections play with urgency, while the vibes, keyboards and percussion explore the groove. They then take charge, after the arrangement has been stripped bare. It skips along, as cymbals play. Soon, the rhythm and horn section return, but still the vibes, keyboards and percussion continue to explore the groove, as the arrangement almost dances along and right through to the closing notes continues to captivate.

The rhythm section, wah-wah guitar and vibes are panned right and create a funky a backdrop on  Kulunmanqueleshi. It sounds as if it belongs on a Blaxploitation soundtrack. Soon, they’re joined by a Freddie Hubbard inspired flute and percussion are added. Later, the arrangement takes on a tougher, edgier sound. Partly, this comes courtesy of the vibes, percussion and to some extent, the wah-wah guitar. They’re play their part in what sounds like a lost track from a classic Blaxploitation soundtrack.

Slow and spacious describes the arrangement to Kasalefkut-Hulu as the rhythm section play slowly and deliberately, as the rolling bass is joined by vibes, keyboards and slow, rasping horns. Meanwhile, the drums create mesmeric beat, while the horns play a starring role, as the tempo quickens. The horns play in unison, while the rolling bass plays around the braying, ruminative horns. They play a leading role in this beautiful, emotive track that tugs at the heartstrings, as Mulatu Astatqe and his band reach new heights.

Although it’s just the rhythm section and wah-wah guitar that open Munaye, soon, the rest of the band make their presence felt. Especially the blazing, braying horns which soar above the rest of the arrangement. Their playing is powerful and inventive, as the wah-wah guitar and rhythm section create a funky backdrop.  However, it’s the horns that are stealing the show, until all of sudden, they drop out at 2.22. This allows the rhythm section and guitar to showcase their skills. Soon, though, the horns sashay in, but occasionally leave space that the drums fill. Meanwhile the wah-wah guitar ploughs a lone furrow in the name of funk, before this genre-melting track reaches a crescendo.

Chifara which closes Mulatu Of Ethiopia, is the longest track on the album. It’s just over seven minutes long, which allows Mulatu Astatqe and his band to stretch their legs. A wah-wah guitar, keyboards and pounding drums join with the probing bass and braying horns.  The horns are played slowly, but soon, with a degree of urgency. So are the keyboards, while the rhythm section provide the pulsating heartbeat. Later, a flute flutters above the arrangement as the rest of the band jam. By then, it’s obvious that the four weeks the band spent practising before recording began was time well spent. Not only does the band play with freedom and fluidity, but their playing is inventive. Especially when searing, growling horns embark on one last solo. Again, they’re at their blistering solo plays an important part in this Ethio-jazz epic.

For Mulatu Astatke, Mulatu Of Ethiopia was a game-changer of an album. At last, after years of searching for his own sound, Mulatu Astatke had discovered his own unique sound. This Mulatu Astatke called Ethio-jazz. It was a genre that influenced a generation of  Ethiopian musicians when they heard this groundbreaking album. Forty-five years later, and Mulatu Of Ethiopia continues to influence a new generation of musicians. 

Similarly, Mulatu Of Ethiopia is an album that continues to be discovered by record buyers. Sadly, it’s long been out of print and has never been officially reissued since then. That was until Strut Records reissued Mulatu Of Ethiopia on CD,  triple vinyl and digital download. The CD version features both the stereo and mono mixes of Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which offers interesting comparisons. Obviously, the stereo mix has a much wider and detailed soundstage. Then with the vinyl version of Mulatu Of Ethiopia, there’s the stereo and mono versions, plus a selection of out-takes from the sessions. This offers a fascinating insight into the recording of the original Ethio-jazz classic.

While other artists would release  Ethio-jazz classics,  Mulatu Astatke had set the bar high for those that followed in his footsteps. Their albums were compared to Mulatu Of Ethiopia, which isn’t just as Ethio-jazz classic, but a jazz classic.  It’s also an album that will appeal to anyone likes their music funky and soulful.  However, Mulatu Of Ethiopia was a career defining album for Mulatu Astatke, the founding father of  Ethio-jazz.

Mulatu Astatke-Mulatu Of Ethiopia.

FAUST-FRESH AIR.

Faust-Fresh Air.

Forty-six years ago, Faust released their critically acclaimed, groundbreaking, genre-melting eponymous debut album in 1971. The innovative and imaginative music on Faust was unlike anything else that was being released in 1971. Musically, Faust was a breath of fresh air, which was hailed as a revolutionary album that had the potential that to transform the future of rock music. However, Faust failed to find the audience that it deserved. Just like Can, Cluster and Kraftwerk, it seemed that Faust’s music was way ahead of the curve. Despite this, Faust continued to release albums of groundbreaking music, and are still doing so five decades later. However, it’s not all been plain sailing for Faust.

Far from it. In true rock ’n’ roll style, Faust have had their moments over the past forty-six years. There’s been breakups reunions and countless changes in lineup. To further complicate matters, since 2005, there’s been two different versions of Faust tour and recording.

This came about in 2005, when two of the original members of members of Faust, drummer Werner “Zappi” Diermaier and art terrorist Jean-Hervé Péron decided to form a new Faust with Olivier Manchion and Amaury Cambuzat of Ulan Bator. Each version of Faust would concentrate on different aspects of the original group.

Since 2005, the two versions of Faust have coexisted, and continued to tour and release new albums. The most recent album baring the Faust name is Fresh Air, which was released by Hamburg based Bureau B. Fresh Air was recorded by Werner “Zappi” Diermaier and Jean-Hervé Péron version of Faust.

While Werner “Zappi” Diermaier and Jean-Hervé Péron’s version of Faust started off as a quartet in 2005, it was a very different lineup that recorded Fresh Air during March and April 2016. By then, Faust were reduced to a trio, that included Werner “Zappi” Diermaier, Jean-Hervé Péron and Maxime Manac’h. The three members of Faust embarked upon an American tour, where they sought to also record their new album.

In typical Faust style, Fresh Air wasn’t going see the three members of the band head into studios during their twenty-eight day tour of America. It began in March and finished in April 2016. During the two months spent in America, Faust were looking to communicate with some of their musical friends and also, the audience. 

As the tour began in March 2016, Faust’s musical friends and members of the audience played their part in the recording Fresh Air as the tour mades its way across America. Recordings took place at A1 Nico Studio in Austin in Texas, WPNU in New Jersey and CalArts in Los Angeles. Gradually, Faust gathered material for Fresh Air. 

They recorded Barbara Manning in a live lecture, and wave-maker Ysanne Spevack as she played the viola. One night, Faust had the audience rewrite an updated versions of Marseillaise for the track Chlorophyl. For the title-track a poem that was written by a French school friend of Jean-Hervé Péron, which was translated into Polish and recited. To this, Jean-Hervé Péron adds a political reading and sobs, as if he’s been robbed of Fresh Air. By the end of the tour in April 2016, Faust had recorded plenty of material for Fresh Air.

There was still work to do before the album was ready for release. Playing an important part in the recording of Fresh Air was Jean-Hervé Péron’s now legendary database of field recordings. They would add texture to the recordings, and add nuances, subtleties and surprises. These field recordings would become part of the rich tapestry that became Fresh Air. So would the contributions of guest artists that was overdubbed on Faust’s return home to Berlin. This included Jürgen Engler of Die Krupps who appears on La Poulie. He’s one of nine guest artists who join Faust on Fresh Air. Eventually, the album was completed, and a new chapter in Faust’s forty-six year career was about to unfold with the release of Fresh Air.

Fresh Air opens with the seventeen minute title-track. Just a drone accompanies a poem, before scratchy, otherworldly strings quiver and shiver. Gradually, the strings soften and dominate the arrangement. While the poem is still audible, strings, a drone and Eastern sounds are to the fore. They grown in power, adding an element of drama as an ethereal vocal joins the multilayered soundscape. It adds a new dimension, as the drone, otherworldly strings and found sounds unite. Soon, a bell rings as the soundscape changes. The music changes from shrill and cinematic to dark, discordant and dramatic. Sometimes, it’s eerie and otherworldly as Faust fuse elements of avant-garde, experimental,Krautrock,  modern classical and Musique Concrete. Later, the ethereal vocal returns adding a contrast, as the soundscape takes on an industrial influence. By then, there’s an urgency as machine gun drums pound and accompany the spoken word vocal during the dramatic, thunderous and mesmeric arrangement. Blistering effects laden, rocky guitars join thunderous drums as the arrangement takes on a life of its own, almost overpowering the spoken word vocal. It struggles for Fresh Air as the arrangement jangles, whines and reverberates as it powers along. Meanwhile, Jean-Hervé Péron makes an impassioned plea for Fresh Air, as this groundbreaking, genre-melting epic reaches a crescendo.

Partitur is just twenty-two seconds long, but features a recording of a Barbara Manning lecture. This is no droning lecture though. Instead, it’s more like enthusiastic audience participation, which is accompanied by drums.  All too soon, though, this fascinating Faustian musical experiment is over. 

A bass is played confidently and quickly on La Pouli, before  features just a bass before a variety of sounds are being added. Meanwhile, Zappi adds a mesmeric beat, as crackling, whining and buzzing sounds accompany Faust’s rhythm section. It never misses a beat, while futuristic and sci-fi sounds are added to the soundscape. So to is Jürgen Engler’s impassioned message, which is the final piece of the musical jigsaw. Later, Faust kick out the jams, and fuse elements of Krautrock and space rock. Effects laden scorching guitars join with the rhythm section and sci-fi sounds. Although the vocal makes a brief reappearance, mostly, though, it’s the original rock ’n’ roll reengages, rocking, and rocking hard as they play with enthusiasm and invention.

For Chlorophyl, Faust had the audience rewrite the Marseillaise. The result was a hymnal about a world collapsing in disarray. Hypnotic drums and percussion set the scene for Jean-Hervé Péron’s spoken word vocal. It gives way to Barbara Manning’s vocal as the rhythm section lay down a tight, mesmeric groove and jarring, screeching and whining sounds flit in and out. So does the spoken word vocal. Meanwhile  the vocal and sultry jazz saxophone compliment each other perfectly. Especially as the drama builds, and the vocal is accompanied by sci-fi sounds. Still the saxophone rasps as the rhythm section provides a mesmeric backdrop and accompanies Jean-Hervé Péron’s impassioned spoken word vocal. Later, a myriad of beeps, bleeps and squeaks as Ulrich Krieger’s saxophone unleashes a blistering solo, as this ambitious and thought-provoking mixture of music, dialogue and social comment reaches a ruminative ending.

Closing Fresh Air is Fish, where Faust remember their turbulent teenage years. It’s another cinematic soundscape, where Faust’s rhythm section combine with growling drones and otherworldly strings. They provide the backdrop for Jean-Hervé Péron’s impassioned spoken word vocal. Later, a rueful horn plays, and heads in the direction of jazz while strings are plucked, a drones buzzes and the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. By now, Faust and friends are tugging at the heartstrings with a soundscape that’s wistful, thought-provoking and powerful. It lasts eleven minutes, which allows Faust to sculpt an emotive and innovative soundscape where Faust put forty-six years of experience to good use. They seemed to have kept the best until last on their new album Fresh Air.

A new Faust album has always been something to celebrate. Fresh Air is no different, and features sonic explorers Faust continuing to combine disparate musical genres ad the push musical boundaries to the limits. To do this, Faust enlist a few friends who help them fuse disparate musical genres. Everything from avant-garde, electronica, and experimental, to industrial, Krautrock and modern classical through to Musique Concrete, rock and space rock. The result is Fresh Air another album of groundbreaking soundscapes from Faust which is without doubt, one of their finest albums of recent years. 

For newcomers to Faust, the Fresh Air, which was recently released by Bureau B, is the perfect introduction to of one of the greatest bands of the Krautrock era. After Fresh Air, newcomers are advised to start at the beginning with, their 1971 groundbreaking classic debut album Faust. It marked the debut of a pioneering group who incredibly, were once accused of being mere dilettantes. How wrong were these misguided souls.

The truth was, that Faust were misunderstood, especially in their home country. However, in Britain and France, record buyers embraced, appreciated and understood Faust’s music. Eventually, so did German record buyers. Now forty-six years later, after Faust released their classic eponymous debut album, they’re regarded as one of Kings of Krautrock, who belong at the top table of German music, where they deserve to rub shoulders with Can, Cluster, Kraftwerk, Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream. A reminder of what that is the case is Fresh Air, which features the welcome return of sonic pioneers, Faust

Faust-Fresh Air.

THE RISE AND FALL OF A MUSICAL EMPIRE.

The Rise and Fall Of A Musical Empire.

Musical history is littered with examples of entrepreneurs who thought they could make money out of running a record company. The only problem was, they lacked the specialised skills that were required. There was a way round this, by surrounding themselves with music industry professionals. Then they were in with a fighting change of running a profitable record company. However, some entrepreneurs have an ulterior motive when they a founded record company. This included Michael Thevis.

The story began in the early seventies, when Michael Thevis was looking for a legitimate way to get his substantial fortune into the financial system. By then, Michael Thevis was  heavily involved in pornography. So much so, that he would later admit to a Louisville jury that he was: “the General Motors of pornography.” That was still to come.

In the  early seventies, Michael Thevis had a problem. He discovered that he was under investigation from the FBI. Not wanting to follow in the footsteps of Al Capone and Dutch Schultz, who were brought down by federal investigations, Michael Thevis began looking for legitimate enterprises.

Casting around looking for a legitimate business, Michael Thevis hit upon the idea of forming not one, but three record labels. This included GRC (General Recording Corporation), Aware and Hotlanta Records. These labels would become part of Michael Thevis’ nascent musical empire. 

Soon, there was a new addition to Michael Thevis’ musical empire, the Sound Pit Studio in Atlanta. It boasted some of the best equipment money could buy. Building the studio made financial sense. It saved hiring other studios, and meant artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records could record at the impressive Sound Pit Studio. When the studio wasn’t in use by Michael Thevis’ artists, it could be hired out, and bring in much needed income. However, as all this empire building continued, tongues began wagging, including Michael Thevis.

Veterans of the Atlanta music scene watched, as the state-of-the-art studio took shape. This was the most advanced studio in Atlanta. It was a similar case with the rest of Michael Thevis’ musical empire.

No expense was spared as Michael Thevis expanded his musical emprire. He added to his record labels and Act One publishing company, the Jason Management booking agency and a film company. They became part of Michael Thevis’ musical empire. He was proud of his empire, and wasn’t shy about telling people about it.

Rather than keep a low profile, Michael Thevis ran his musical empire from a lavish suite of offices in Atlanta. They were featured in Billboard in May 1974, when the magazine ran a feature on the Atlanta music industry. A bullish Michael Thevis told Billboard of his latest takeover, and his expansion plans.

Michael Thevis’ most recently acquisition was the Moonsong publishing company, which he had purchased from Bill Brandon. This became part of the GRC’s publishing division, alongside Act One, Michael Thevis’ own publishing company. To run the newly expanded publishing division, Bill Brandon joined GRC, and became the publishing manager of GRC’s R&B division. However, the acquisition of Moonsong was just part of Michael Thevis’ grand plan.

Michael Thevis told Billboard of his plans to build a brand new twenty-eight story skyscraper in Atlanta. This would be where he ran his musical empire. It would have outposts in Nashville, Houston, Los Angles, New York and London. What made Michael Thevis’ seem all the more convincing, was when he booked eight pages of advertising in Billboard’s Atlanta special.

To most people, Michael Thevis came across as a legitimate businessman, who had big plans for the future, and for Atlanta. By then, everyone seemed to buy into Michael Thevis’ grand plan. He was the local boy who had made good. It was a case of hail the conquering hero.

Incredibly, though, nobody seemed to be paying close attention to the numbers. None of Michael Thevis’ record companies were particularly successful. They were neither consistently releasing hit singles, nor successful albums. So where was all the income coming from? Was it the publishing company, recording studio, booking company or film company? Nobody it seemed, was in a hurry to find out. Given Michael Thevis past and his reputation for violence, maybe that wasn’t surprising?

Originally, Michael Thevis’ film company financed legitimate films. This included the Zhui Ming Qiang in 1973, and  Seizure,  one of Oliver Stone’s earliest films. It was released in 1974. A year later, Michael Thevis had gone up in the world, and released Poor Pretty Eddy 1975. Every film was bringing greater riches Michael Thevis’ way. However, although Michael Thevis was trying to build a legitimate business empire, he had reverted to type. 

The film company he had acquired began producing pornographic films. If any journalist had even looked into activities of Michael Thevis’ empire, it could’ve come tumbling down. This looked unlikely in early 1975.

Country singer Sammy Johns had been signed to GRC for a couple of years. In  early 1973, Sammy Johns released Chevvy Van as a single. It was reported to have sold over three million copies. Given that a GRC artist had just enjoyed such a successful single, surely the label’s finances would be on a sound footing as 1975 progressed?

While most people  would’ve thought so, the truth was that many of GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records’ releases weren’t particularly successful, and hadn’t sold in vast quantities. That was despite the labels having impressive roster an impressive roster of artists. This included Dorothy Norwood, John Edwards, Judy Green, Joe Hinton, Jimmy Lewis, Jean Battle, Bill Brandon, Floyd Smith, Sam Dees and Loleatta Holloway. The roster was like a who’s who of Southern Soul, and GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records should’ve been among the most successful  labels in the South. Instead, the losses were mounting up. Michael Thevis’ record companies weren’t particularly successful. However, they had their uses though.

Running a regional record companies offered Michael Thevis an opportunity and facility to launder dirty money. He could’ve used dirty money to buy his own companies’ releases. These phantom record sales would only exist on paper, and would have the effect of laundering the dirty money through the company’s accounts. Once the money was in the record company’s accounts, tax could be paid on the profit that had been made. This would further legitimise any dirty money the company was making. Especially, as the FBI were still watching Michael Thevis.

GRC and the rest of Michael Thevis’ musical empire all came crashing down in late 1975. Michael Thevis’ attempt to build a legitimate business empire had failed. Soon, it emerged that Michael Thevis’ musical empire was always doomed to failure. It had been for three years, ever since the FBI starting investigating his business activities.

That was when Roger Dean Underhill was involved in a routine traffic stop. An eagle-eyed traffic officer noticed a small cache of stolen guns under the passenger seat. This resulted in Roger Dean Underhill being arrested. Rather than face the consequences, Roger Dean Underhill decided to inform upon his business partner, Michael Thevis. 

This lead to the start of a three year investigation that resulted, in the arrest and subsequent conviction of Michael Thevis. For all the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records, this was the beginning of the end.

All the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records were left high and dry. It was disaster for all the artists affected by the collapse. They were left without a label and some of the artists were also owed royalties, which in some cases, was a significant sum of money. For the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records they had no idea what the future held for them. 

It was a similar case for Michael Thevis’ whose grand plans were left in tatters. It looked like the beginning of the end for GRC, the company he had spent three years building.

It wasn’t the end of GRC. Michael Thevis’ wife Veld and son Michael Jr, took over the running of GRC. For a while, it was business as usual for GRC. However, for Michael Thevis things were about to get much worse.

He was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson, and distribution of obscene materials. The man who sparked the three year investigation into Michael Thevis, even testified in court. Roger Dean Underhill  took to the stand, and the FBI’s informant testified against his former business partner. He thought this was the right thing to do.

I was a decision Roger Dean Underhill would later live to regret. In 1978, Michael Thevis managed to escape from prison. Straight away, he was placed on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list. By then, Michael Thevis and some of his ‘associates’ had placed an open contract on Roger Dean Underhill.

When the hit came, the shooter was none other than Michael Thevis. He shot and killed Roger Dean Underhill and one of his associates. Not long after the murders, Michael Thevis was arrested and taken to a high security facility. The Scarface of Porn was the convicted of the two murders. Over thirty years later, and Michael Thevis is still serving his sentence, and parole looks unlikely for the man who founded the GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records.

The Rise and Fall Of A Musical Empire.

BOBBY HATFIELD-THE OTHER BROTHER: A SOLO ANTHOLOGY 1965-1970.

Bobby Hatfield-The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970,

When twenty-two year old Bobby Hatfileld met Bill Medley in 1962, and formed The Righteous Brothers little did the pair realise that this was the start of a journey that would see the pair become one of the most successful musical partnerships of the sixties. The most successful period of The Righteous Brothers’ career was between 1963 and 1965, when they formed a formidable partnership with producer Phil Spector. 

During that period, The Righteous Brothers released eight albums and a string of hit singles on Phil Spector’s Philles Records. This included classic singles like You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling in November 1964; and Unchained Melody in July 1965. Three months later, in October 1965, The Righteous Brothers parted company with Phil Spector and signed to Verve/MGM Records.

The split with Phil Spector was acrimonious, with Phil Spector suing The Righteous Brothers. Eventually, the case was settled out of court, with The Righteous Brothers paying Phil Spector $600,000. This allowed The Righteous Brothers to embark upon a new chapter of their career at Verve/MGM Records.

While this might have seemed like a brave new world for The Righteous Brothers, there was a downside to the move to Verve/MGM Records. No longer would The Righteous Brothers be working with Phil Spector. At first, it looked as if The Righteous Brothers could manage without Phil Spector, when (You’re My) Soul and Inspiration was released in February 1966, and reached number one in the US Billboard 100. This gave The Righteous Brothers’ the first gold disc of their career. When the album Soul and Inspiration was released later in 1966, it reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. However, that as good as it got for The Righteous Brothers.

They never reached the same heights during the rest of their stay at Verve/MGM Records. By 1968, The Righteous Brothers’ best days were behind them, and singles, like their twee cover of My Darling Clementine in 1967 and Here I Am in 1968 failed to chart. Meanwhile, the three albums The Righteous Brothers’ albums released between 1967 and 1968 all struggled in the lower reaches of the US Billboard 200. Music had changed, but The Righteous Brothers hadn’t. Maybe Bill Medley realised that, when he announced he was leaving The Righteous Brothers to resume his solo career in 1968 at MGM Records. It was the end of an era for The Righteous Brothers.

After Bill Medley signed to MGM Records, Bobby Hatfileld signed to Verve Records in 1968. With both Righteous Brothers resuming their solo careers, industry insiders wondered who the winner would be? It was going to be a close run race, that lasted five years.

Bobby Hatfield’s solo career has been documented on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970, which was recently released by Ace Records. The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970 features twenty-four songs. This includes Bobby Hatfileld’s first two singles, the entire Messin’ In Muscle Shoal album and seven previously unreleased tracks. As an added bonus, there’s also three song from The Righteous Brothers, including: Unchained Melody, Ebb Flow and (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons. It’s safe to say that The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970 is the most comprehensive overview of Bobby Hatfield’s solo career. It begins in 1965.

By the time Bobby Hatfileld’s solo career resumed, Verve Records had bought The Righteous Brothers and Bobby Hatfield’s recordings from Phil Spector’s Philles Records. This meant that the only company releasing Bobby Hatfield recordings would be Verve Records. This would included some of those recorded in Los Angeles, during his first recording session for Verve Records.

On the ‘15th’ March 1968, Bobby Hatfileld entered the studio to record his first solo recording for Verve Records. Five songs were recorded, including what became Bobby Hatfield’s debut single for Verve Records. This was a cover of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s beautiful ballad Hang Ups. Among the other songs recorded were Bobby Hatfield’s rueful cover of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s See That Girl, and a soul-baring cover of Goffin and King’s So Much Love. Previously unreleased versions of both tracks feature on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. It seemed released from the shackles of The Righteous Brothers, Bobby Hatfield was embracing this new start.

Three weeks later, in early April 1968, Bobby Hatfield returned  to the studio and recorded two more songs. This included the Bobby Hatfield composition Soul Cafe, which would feature on the B-Side of Hang Ups when it was released as a single.

In May 1968, Hangs Up was released in May 1968, but failed to make any impression on the charts. This was disappointing for Bobby Hatfield and executives at Verve Records. However, two months later, and Bobby Hatfield  was back in the studio.

When Bobby Hatfield entered the studio on ‘17th’ July 1968, it proved a productive session. He managed to record three songs, but none of these songs were ever released. This includes a cover of Harry Nilsson’s Paradise. Strings, horns and harmonies   accompanying Bobby Hatfield’s impassioned vocal on this beautiful ballad. Sadly, the song was never released, and makes its debut on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970.

Just a month after recording Paradise, Bobby Hatfield returned to the studio on ’21st’ August 1968 and cut three songs. This included In My Mind, which makes its debut on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. Another of the songs Bobby Hatfield recorded was Brothers which another of his own compositions. It was a poignant song that dealt with his time as one half of The Righteous Brothers. Brothers would become Bobby Hatfield second single for Verve Records, and featured a cover of What’s The Matter Baby on the B-Side.

When Brothers was released in October 1968, it also failed to find an audience. The song never even made it into the lower reaches of the charts. Bobby Hatfield’s solo career wasn’t going to plan.

Despite this, Verve Records weren’t about to turn their back on Bobby Hatfield. They scheduled another recording session for ’23rd’ December 1968. That day, Bobby Hatfield recorded four songs, including The Wonder Of You and I’ve Got My Eyes On You. The other two songs, My Prayer and Only You two, had previously given The Platters’ hit singles. This quartet of songs were intended to feature on Bobby Hatfield’s debut solo album. However, one of these songs became Bobby Hatfield’s next single.

The song chosen was Only You, which was released in February 1969, but stalled at a lowly ninety-five on the US Billboard 100. Only You doesn’t feature on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. Neither do the next two singles Bobby Hatfield released in his search for a hit single. 

Bobby Hatfield returned to the studio in early 1969, including U Wish I Didn’t Love You So Much. It featured on the B-Side of Bobby Hatfield’s next single My Prayer, which was released in April 1969. Just like Only You, My Prayer failed to chart, and the search for a single continued. 

In July 1969, Bobby Hatfield released his fifth single for Verve Records. This was Answer Me My Love, which featured I Only Have Eyes For You on the B-Side. It was a familiar story for Bobby Hatfield when Answer Me My Love never came close to troubling the charts. Little did Bobby Hatfield know that it was the final single he would release for Verve Records.

Later in 1969, Bobby Hatfield’s career took an unexpected twist. Having dissolved his partnership with Bill Medley, Bobby Hatfield recruited Jimmy Walker of The Knickerbockers’ as his replacement. The  new lineup of The Righteous Brothers released a new album, Re-Birth which failed to even trouble the charts. It was a similar case when The Righteous Brothers released Woman, Man Needs Ya as a single. For Bobby Hatfield, this was a huge blow and he resumed his solo career.

When Bobby Hatfield resumed his solo career, Bobby Hatfield had been moved from Verve Records to MGM Records. This was as a result of MGM Records’ decision to reduce its roster, and move all pop and R&B artists to the main label, MGM Records. With the label reducing its roster, it was a worrying time for Bobby Hatfield, who after two years of trying, was still looking for his first hit single. 

Despite this, Verve Records were still planning to release Bobby Hatfield’s debut album. A decision was made to send Bobby Hatfield to Rick Hall’s Fame Studios, in Muscle Shoals to record his debut album. It was hoped that Rick Hall could transform Bobby Hatfield’s fortunes. He had a good track record, and had worked with some of the biggest names in music. Now he was tasked with transforming the fortunes of Bobby Hatfield.

Having made the journey to Fame Studios, Bobby Hatfield began working with Rick Hall and his legendary studio band. However, it was chief engineers Mickey Buckins and Sonny Limbo who produced the sessions, with Rick Hall overseeing the recording. The sessions went smoothly, and before long, Bobby Hatfield had recorded more than enough tracks for an album. 

Back at Verve Records, work began on choosing the songs for  Bobby Hatfield’s debut album. Eventually, they settled on ten tracks which  included You Left The Water Running, Let It Be, If I Asked You, The Promised Land, Shuckin’ And Jivin’, I Saw A Lark, You Get A Lot To Like, Show Me The Sunshine, The Feeling Is Right and Messin’ In Muscle Shoals. These ten tracks would become Bobby Hatfield’s debut album Messin’ In Muscle Shoals.

With the Messin’ In Muscle Shoals ready for release later in 1970, a single was chosen from the album. It was decided to release The Promised Land, with Woman Go No Soul on the B-Side. However, at the last minute, the single was cancelled, and since then, Woman Go No Soul has lain unreleased. It makes an overdue debut on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. The cancellation of The Promised Land was a huge disappointment. Despite this Messin’ In Muscle Shoals was released, but just like Bobby Hatfield’s five singles, failed to find an audience. For Bobby Hatfield it was the end of the line.

After the commercial failure of Messin’ In Muscle Shoals, Bobby Hatfield left MGM Records. It’s unclear if he was dropped, or left of his volition. It was the end of an era, which found Bobby Hatfield’s career at a crossroads.

Four years later, in 1974, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield decided to resume their career as The Righteous Brothers. While Bill Medley hadn’t enjoyed a huge amount of commercial success, he had enjoyed more success than Bobby Hatfield. That would be the case when they later resumed their solo careers. As a result, the blue-eyed soul of Bobby Hatfield music is often overlooked. 

Hopefully, that will no be the case. Ace Records recently released The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970, which is, without doubt, the most comprehensive overview of Bobby Hatfileld’s solo career. It features twenty-four songs that Bobby Hatfield recorded for Verve Records and ultimately MGM Records. This includes Bobby Hatfileld’s first two singles and the entire Messin’ In Muscle Shoal album. There’s also seven previously unreleased tracks, including several hidden gems. They’re a reminder of Bobby Hatfileld’s blue-eyed soul. As an added bonus, there’s a trio of tracks from The Righteous Brothers, including their classic Unchained Melody, Ebb Flow and (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons. They were recorded while The Righteous Brothers were signed to Phil Spector’s Philles Records, which was the most successful period of their career. 

Sadly, Bobby Hatfileld was unable to replicate the commercial success that he enjoyed with The Righteous Brothers between 1963 and 1965. Looking back, it was a case of what might have been? Maybe if Bobby Hatfileld had been signed to another label, he would’ve enjoyed the commercial success his talent deserved? 

Certainly, another label would’ve chosen different material for his third, fourth and fifth single. The songs chosen were oft-covered and familiar songs, Only You, My Prayer and Answer Me My Love and don’t feature on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970. Choosing these three familiar songs as singles was maybe Verve Records an attempt to tap into the market for nostalgia? This didn’t pay-off, as music was changing, and changing fast. Bobby Hatfield needed to change direction. This didn’t happen until he made the journey to Fame Studios, in Muscle Shoals to record his debut album Messin’ In Muscle Shoals. 

Sadly, it was another case of what might have been. By the time Messin’ In Muscle Shoals was released in 1970, MGM Records was reducing its roster. The MGM Records PR machined didn’t seem to get behind Messin’ In Muscle Shoals, and the album failed to find an audience. That marked the end of Bobby Hatfield’s time at Verve Records and MGM Records.

The Verve Records and MGM Records’ years are celebrated on The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970, which is the perfect introduction to the blue-eyed soul of Bobby Hatfield’s solo career.

Bobby Hatfield-The Other Brother: A Solo Anthology 1965-1970,