NORTHERN SOUL’S CLASSIEST RARITIES VOLUME 7.

Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7.

Label: Kent Dance.

Format: CD.

Nowadays, Northern Soul compilations are two a penny and hardly a week goes by without yet another Northern Soul compilation being released. That has been the case for the last few years, and nothing has changed recently.

The compilations can be described as the good, the bad and the ugly. Sadly, many of the compilations that are released are third-rate at best. They’re nothing more than hastily compiled cash-ins where labels old and new jump on the Northern Soul bandwagon which has been rolling along for many years and shows no slowing down. 

It’s a similar case with the disco bandwagon with record companies continuing to clamber aboard ever since the latest resurgence of interest in the genre that once sucked. This has resulted in the release of countless disco compilations, including compilation of bloated remixes by DJs who have spent the last forty years playing the same set. Just like the record companies who have jumped on the disco bandwagon, the remixers rehash the same tired songs that they pass off as ‘classics.’

Sadly, the same fate has befallen many Northern Soul compilations with the same tracks being rehashed on numerous compilations. Especially many of the compilations that are advertised as: “featuring songs played at the Wigan Casino or Blackpool Mecca. With these compilation it’s a case of caveat emptor. After all, not every track played Wigan Casino or Blackpool Mecca was a classic. Far from it,  and in many cases it’s a case of: “don’t believe the hype.”

There’s several ways to separate the wheat from when the chaff when it comes to Northern Soul compilations. Who compiled the compilation is hugely important, and so is the label that released the compilation. Some labels have established a reputation for releasing quality Northern Soul compilations, while others are just jumping on the bandwagon and looking to make a quick buck. They neither care about the music nor the people that made it. However, labels like Ace Records care about Northern Soul and the about the people who made it.

That has been the case for the last three decades. Through their Kent imprint, Ace Records have been releasing Northern Soul compilations for over twenty years. Their most recent was Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7, which was released by their Kent Dance subsidiary. It has everything you could want in a Northern Soul compilation. 

That’s not surprising as Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7 was compiled by veteran compiler Ady Croasdell. He’s a man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things soulful and is steeped in the Northern Soul scene. 

Ady Croasdell has put his knowledge of Northern Soul to good use when compiling the latest addition in the series. It combines classics and collectors items with future classics, hidden gems, obscurities, rarities and unissued tracks. The result is Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7 which is a welcome addition to this long-running and critically acclaimed compilation series.

Opening the compilation is Carolyn Crawford’s Ready Or Not Here Comes Love. It was recorded for the Stevenson International label in 1971 but lay unreleased until it made its debut on a single released by Kent Records in 2019. This soulful stomper makes welcome return and is a reminder of a truly talented vocalist who is best know for her 1965 hit single on Motown My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down).

Kim Weston’s It Takes A Lotta Teardrops is one of the unreleased tracks on the compilation. It was written by  Motown staff writers Vicci Bassemore and Leon Ware who later worked with Marvin Gaye. The song was  recorded for the Stevenson International label in 1967 and makes it debut on Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7. This hook-laden hidden gem has been influenced by the Motown sound and is a dancefloor filler in waiting.

By 1968, Rocky Gil and The Bishops were signed to Huey P. Meaux’s Tear Drop label.  They had already released a single when they entered the studio to record their Soul Party album. One of the tracks they recorded for their debut album was It’s Not The End. It epitomises e everything that’s good about Northern Soul and is a tantalising taste of what’s now an incredibly rare album which was one of just three released by Tear Drop. 

Little Nicky Soul recorded You Said which was written Lucille White and Sydney Barnes who produced the single. It was released on the short-lived label Shee Records in 1964 but failed commercially. Nowadays, it’s a favourite of DJs and dancers on both the Northern Soul and rare souls scenes.

In 1968, the Night Owl label released a fifteen track compilation entitled Badger A Go Go. One of the tracks that featured was You Don’t Care which was written by Betty Moore and had recorded by The Esquires earlier in the sixtes. By 1968, they were a successful group and You Don’t Care had never been released. It features a vocal full of hurt and emotion on a track that sounds as if it’s been influenced by the Harvey Scales recordings for Cuca.

I Need Your Love  was recorded by Brothers Of Soul for Galaxy in 1969 but was never released until now. It’s a soulful hidden gem with a soul-baring vocal from frontman Fred Bridges who cowrote the song with Bobby Eaton and Richard Knight. 

I’ll Fly To Your Open Arms was written by  Jack Ashford and George Rowntree and in 1976 was covered by The Family Brick for Just Productions. However, this recording lay unreleased until 2019 when it featured on  Jack Ashford’s Just Productions. Two years later and this funky, soulful dancer with a feelgood sound makes a welcome return. 

Lee Young produced Love Is Such A Funny Thing for  John Wesley and The Four Tees which was released on Melic in 1966. It features a stunning bass line on a track that’s sure to test the stamina of even the fittest dancers. 

The tempo drops on Crazy Things which was the B-Side of Joe Douglas’ single  Something to Brag About when it was released on the Playhouse label in 1965. The vocal is wistful, emotive, heartfelt and always soulful.

Love In My Heart was recorded by Cats ‘n’ Mouse for the Antler label in 1967 but never released. It’s a tale of betrayal with of soul-baring vocal full of hurt and heartache. 

One of the best known names on the compilation is Major Lance  who contributes Girl, Come On Home. It was produced by Don Davis and was his debut single for Stax imprint Volt in 1970. It features a needy, pleading vocal on another of the hidden gems on Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7.

Closing the compilation is Under The Street Lamp by The Exits who were based in LA. It’s a beautiful and uber soulful single that was released by the Gemini label in 1967.

There aren’t many compilations are still going strong after seven volumes. By then, the compiler is usually struggling to find new material that warrants another instalment in the series. However, that isn’t the case with Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume y which literally oozes quality, It features album tracks and collectors items rubbing shoulders with future classics, hidden gems, obscurities, rarities and unissued tracks. They play their part in what’s a must-have compilation for anyone with a passing interest in Northern Soul. There’s a reason for this compiler, Ady Croasdell.

Just like previous instalments in the series, Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7 was compiled by veteran compiler Ady Croasdell. He’s a man steeped in Northern Soul, and has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of all things soulful. His knowledge of Northern Soul and all things soulful has been put to good use when compiling the latest instalment in this long-running and successful compilation series 

While other compilers are happy to rehash the same tracks for the umpteenth time, Ady Croasdell knows that there’s still mountains of soulful delights awaiting discovery and that it’s just a case of discovering them. Like a musical version of the Man From Del Monte, Ady Croasdell goes in search of hidden gems for the Northern Soul’s  Classiest Rarities series. Some of these make a welcome appearance on the seventh  instalment in the series. 

The success of Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities series is down to its compiler Ady Croasdell. He knows that in the cutthroat world of compilations that competition is fierce, so  digs deeper than other compilers of Northern Soul compilations. 

Often there’s a myriad of delights awaiting discovery within a record company’s vaults. Ady Croasdell knows that a hidden gem could be hidden in a mislabelled tape box. Within that box could be a killer track that crate-diggers spend a lifetime searching for. Ady Croasdell puts in the hard yards and spent hours, days, weeks and months searching for the twenty-four tracks that feature on Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7 which is one of the finest instalments in this long-running compilations that has long been a favourite of dancers and DJs.

Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 7.

MANONGO MUJICA AND TERJE EVENSEN-PARACAS RITUAL

Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen-Paracas Ritual.

Label: Buh Records.

Format: 2 x LP.

Manongo Mujica has been a leading light of the Peruvian avant-garde music scene since the seventies, and has met a myriad of musicians who were touring Peru. In 2003, this included Norwegian drummer, sound designer, teacher and composer Terje Evensen who was in the middle of a six week tour with Peruvian guitarist Andrés Prado. 

Some nights, the duo collaborated with local musicians. This included a concert at a club called Jazz Zone in Miraflores. That was the night that Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen first met. 

Straight away, Norwegian drummer was hugely impressed by Manongo Mujica’s energy and the music that he was making. However, he had no idea that one day they would eventually collaborate on an album.

Over the next twelve years, the two musicians had little contact. This changed when Terje Evensen returned to Lima in 2015, and he heard how Manongo Mujica was fascinated by the Paracas desert. This was enough to pique the visiting drummer’s interest. He wanted to know more about the desert peninsula located within the province of Pisco, in the Ica Region, on the Southern coast of Peru. However, he didn’t have enough time to investigate on this trip.

Two years later in 2017, Terje Evensen was about to return to and wanted to visit the Paracas desert. The only problem was he wasn’t sure how to get there. That was when he decided to phone Manongo Mujica.  He invited Terje Evensen to travel to the desert with him.

The pair stayed in a small hotel called Inti-Mar which was situated on the coast. This was their base during their time they spent in the desert and in the bay of Paracas, South of Lima, on the Peruvian coast. It was also where the pair discovered they shared much in common. This included music. They had met fourteen years earlier,  in 2003, but had never spent as much time together.

Each day began in the Inti-Mar hotel which was also a scallop farm. This meant the two musicians were able to enjoy a breakfast of fresh scallops before they journeyed deep into the desert and stayed until it got dark. 

Every day, the pair visited different parts of the Paracas desert where they made field recordings. Each and every new place they visited they discovered was unique. This included the sounds they recorded as well as the smell and atmosphere they encountered. It was a voyage of discovery.

The two men walked in a companionable silence contemplating life, music and more, basking in the beauty of the Paracas desert on what had become a personal voyage of discovery. As they crossed the arid, barren desert there was more than an air of mystery. They walked across what was remote, ancient and sacred place that commanded respect. 

For some who have journeyed deep into the desert they’ve described it as akin to a journey into the unknown. Some adventures and travellers remember the intensity of the local winds known as paracas, others the dizzying heat and some the sounds that assailed them during their journeys. Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen were especially interested in the sounds of the vast Paracas desert that measures 3350 km².

As they travelled to different parts of the desert they discovered that each part they visited had its own unique sonic fingerprint which they committed to tape. These field recordings were akin to the spirit of the Paracas desert and had been captured forevermore. The time spent eavesdropping on the landscape gave the Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen opportunity to expand their musical consciousness. It was a gift from the gods and one that they decided to share.

Like all good things, the time that Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen spent in the Paracas desert came to an end and they left the Inti-Mar hotel. However, that wasn’t an end to the time they would spend together. Some of the field recordings would be used when Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen collaborated on  an album. This was Paracas Ritual which was recently released as double album by Buh Records.

With the field recordings they had made the veteran  Peruvian avant-garde musician Manongo Mujica began to collaborate on a new album with Terje Evensen. He was an experimental musician, sound designer, composer, drummer and teacher. The pair used as inspiration for the album variety of sources and subjects.

This included the sounds that they had recorded in the desert and in the bay. They had spent days listening to them when they recorded them and afterwards. This was part of the inspiration for Paracas Ritual. So were Pauline Barberi’s photographs of the Paracas landscapes and paintings by Manongo Mujica. They had been part of a visual project and were used as a reference point and to compliment the recordings. The visual was an important inspiration for the album.

During their careers, Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen have both been interested and inspired by the worlds of synesthesia. This is the concept of listening to images and in using sounds as pictorial material. In this case, listening to the sound of the Paracas desert is also a way of listening to the visual field of the landscape, and turning it into an acoustic impression of the mind. The four lengthy soundscapes on Paracas Ritual features these impressions. 

Eclectic describes the four soundscapes that feature on the four sides of Paracas Ritual. They’re also ambitious, innovative, genre-melting and cinematic. It’s as if Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen have been asked to compose the soundtrack to a long lost Wim Wenders’ film. 

To do this, they fuse elements of ambient and avant-garde with experimental music, free improvisation, library music and modern jazz. Add to this a myriad of electronic sounds, as well as field recordings, percussive instruments and sound art. They’re part of complex musical montages that veers between atmospheric and spacious to dramatic and intense. Other times, the soundscapes become abstract and dissonant but sometimes become melodic and rhythmic. Sometimes, the soundscapes take a welcome detour in the direction of meditative percussive music allowing the listener to ruminate and reflect. However, occasionally as musical genres and languages melt into one the soundscapes venture into unknown musical territories. The terrain like parts of the Paracas desert is very different to what’s gone before. It’s a case of expect the unexpected during the sprawling soundscapes on Paracas Ritual.

It’s a groundbreaking album of genre-melting soundscapes from musical pioneers Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen who reflect and remember the time they spent in the desert capturing, listening and later, making the music on Paracas Ritual which is a captivating musical adventure that sometimes is akin to a journey into the unknown.

Manongo Mujica and Terje Evensen-Paracas Ritual.

 

 

CULT CLASSIC: THE BLUE NILE-HIGH.

Cult Classic: The Blue Nile-High.

Enigmatic, reluctant and contrarian are words that best of describe The Blue Nile. They’re the complete opposite of most bands. The Blue Nile have been described as publicity shy. That’ is an understatement. Ever since Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and Paul Joseph Moore formed The Blue Nile, they’ve been one of the most low-profile bands in musical history. It seems that when they were formed thirty-nine years ago, The Blue Nile ticked the “no publicity” box. This has proved a double-edged sword, and resulted in The Blue Nile becoming one of the most enigmatic groups ever. Their story began thirty-nine years ago. 

The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, when two friends Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell, met Paul Joseph Moore, all of whom met at Glasgow University. Before forming The Blue Nile, Buchanan and Bell were previously members of a band called Night By Night. Try as they may, a recording contract eluded them. Night By Night’s music  wasn’t deemed commercial enough. So Paul, Robert and P.J. decided to form a new band, The Blue Nile.

Once The Blue Nile were formed, they set up their own record label Peppermint Records. It was on Peppermint Records that they released their debut single, I Love This Life. This single was then picked up and rereleased on the RSO label. Unfortunately for the Blue Nile, RSO became part of the Polygram label and I Love This Life disappeared without trace. Despite this setback, The Blue Nile persisted.

Still, The Blue Nile kept writing and recording material after the merger of RSO with Polygram. Some of that material would later be found on A Walk Across the Rooftops. That was in the future.

Recording of The Blue Nile’s demos took place at Castlesound studio near Edinburgh. That’s home to the man whose often referred to as the fourth member of The Blue Nile, recording engineer Calum Malcolm. He was listening to recently recorded demos through the studio’s Linn Electronics system. It had recently had a new set of speakers fitted. So the company founder, Ivor Tiefenbrun, decided to visit Calum Malcolm to hear his thoughts on the speakers. That’s when Ivor Tiefenbrun first heard The Blue Nile. 

Calum Malcolm played Ivor Tiefenbrun a demo of Tinseltown In The Rain. Straight away, the founder of Linn was hooked. He decided to offer The Blue Nile a record contract to the label he was in the process of founding. Most bands would’ve jumped at the opportunity. Not The Blue Nile.

It took The Blue Nile nine months before they replied to Ivor Tiefenbrun’s offer. When they did, the answer was yes. The Blue Nile’s debut album A Walk Across The Rooftops would be released on Ivor Tiefenbrun’s new label Linn Reords.

A Walk Across the Rooftops.

Linn Records and The Blue Nile seemed a marriage made in musical heaven. Linn Records weren’t like a major label, pressurising The Blue Nile into making a decision and delivering an album within a certain timeframe. Instead, Linn Records allowed The Blue Nile to do what they did best, make music. From the outside, this looked as if it was working, and working well.

Years later, Paul Buchanan commented that during Linn Records didn’t operate like a record label. Mind you, he conceded that, during this period, The Blue Nile didn’t operate as a band. However, eventually, in May 1984 The Blue Nile’s debut album was released on Linn Records.

On the release of A Walk Across the Rooftops, it was released to critical acclaim. Critics described the album as a minor classic. A Walk Across the Rooftops was described as atmospheric, ethereal, evocative, soulful and soul-baring. It also featured the vocals of troubled troubadour Paul Buchanan. Despite the critical acclaim A Walk Across the Rooftops enjoyed, it wasn’t a huge commercial success, reaching just number eighty in the UK. However, since the A Walk Across the Rooftops has been recognised as a classic album. So has the followup Hats.

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Hats.

Unlike most bands, The Blue Nile weren’t in any rush to release their sophomore album Hats. There was a five year gap between A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. It was worth the wait. The Blue Nile had done it again. Hats was a classic. 

Featuring seven tracks, written by Paul Buchanan, Glasgow’s answer to Frank Sinatra He’s a tortured troubadour, whose voice sounds as if he’s lived a thousand lives. Producing Hats was a group effort, with Paul, Robert and P.J. taking charge of production duties. Guiding them, was Callum Malcolm. On the release of Hats, British and American audiences proved more discerning and appreciative of The Blue Nile’s sophomore album Hats.

On the release of Hats in the UK in 1989, it was critically acclaimed and commercial success, reaching number twelve in the UK. Then when it was released in America in 1990, audiences seemed to “get” Hats. Not only did it reach number 108 in the US Billboard 200 Charts, but The Downtown Lights reached number ten in the US Modern Rock Tracks charts. It seemed that The Blue Nile were more popular in America, than in Britain. Gradually, The Blue Nile’s music was beginning to find a wider and more appreciative album. Especially when they decided to embark upon their debut tour later in 1989.

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Although The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, and Hats was The Blue Nile’s sophomore album, the band had never toured. Partly, The Blue Nile seemed worried about replicating the sound of their first two albums. They needn’t have worried, with The Blue Nile seamlessly replicating the sonic perfection of A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats on the sold out tour. The Blue Nile’s star was in the ascendancy.

Their first ever tour had been a huge success. The Blue Nile had conquered Britain. However, The Blue Nile had also made a breakthrough in America. Hats had sold well, and their American tour had been successful. Most bands would’ve been keen to build on this and released another album before long. Not The Blue Nile.

Seven long years passed, where Blue Nile fans wondered what had become of Glasgow’s most enigmatic trio. However, they’d been busy. After Hats found its way onto American radio stations, The Blue Nile, who previously, had been one of music’s best kept secrets, were heard by a number of prestigious musicians. Among them were Robbie Robertson and Annie Lennox, Michael McDonald. After a decade struggling to get their music heard, The Blue Nile were big news. During this period, America would become like a second home to The Blue Nile, especially Paul.

Paul took to life in America, and in 1991, decided to make it his home. This just so happened to coincide with Paul’s relationship with actress Rosanna Arquette between 1991 and 1993. Hollywood starlets and Sunset Boulevard was a long way from Glasgow’s West End. In the midst of Paul’s relationship, disaster struck for The Blue Nile, they were dropped by their label.

Linn Records and Virgin decided to drop The Blue Nile. For some groups this would’ve been a disaster. Not for The Blue Nile. 

They signed a million Dollar deal with Warner Bros. While this sounded like the ideal solution for The Blue Nile, Paul made the deal without telling  P.J and Robert. He later explained that “none of the others were in town at the time.” With a new contract signed,  The Blue Nile began thinking about their third album, Peace At Last.

Peace At Last.

So the band started looking for the perfect location to record their third album. They travelled across Europe looking for the right location. This location had to be private and suit their portable recording studio. Cities were suggested, considered and rejected. Among them, were Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Venice. Being  The Blue Nile, things were never simple. Eventually, after much contemplation The Blue Nile ended up recording what became Peace At Last in three locations, Paris, Dublin and Los Angeles. For the first time, The Blue Nile recorded an album outside of their native Scotland.

For their first album for a major label, things began to change for The Blue Nile. They brought onboard drummer Nigel Thomas, a string section and a gospel choir. Peace At Last was going to be a quite different album to A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats. However, one things stayed the same, The Blue Nile continued to work with Calum Malcolm. With his help, Peace At Last was ready for release in June 1996. Before that, critics had their say.

Critics remarked upon the change of sound on Peace At Last. It had a much more understated, restrained sound. Acoustic guitars and piano play important parts. Still, The Blue Nile’s beloved synths remain. Occasionally, The Blue Nile add strings. There’s even a gospel choir on Happiness. Gone was the sound of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. Peace At Last showed a different side to The Blue Nile and their music, one that divided the opinion of critics and fans. Paul, Robert and P.J. were back, but it was a different sound. One constant was Paul’s worldweary vocal. Glasgow’s very own Frank Sinatra, Paul Buchanan plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee on songs about  love, love lost, betrayal, heartbreak, growing up and growling old. Paul was still the tortured soul, who wore his heart on his sleeve on Peace At Last.

On the release of Peace At Last, in June 1996, it reached just number thirteen and sold poorly. For The Blue Nile this was disappointing, given it was their major label debut. Worse was to come when the lead single Happiness failed to chart. The Blue Nile’s major label debut hadn’t gone to plan. Alas, Peace At Last was the only album The Blue Nile released on a major label.

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High.

Following Peace At Last, it was eight years before The Blue Nile released another album. High was released in 2004. During the last eight years, the three members of The Blue Nile had been leading separate lives.  P.J. and Robert were content  with their lives in the West End of Glasgow, while Paul had been spending his time between Glasgow and Hollywood. Now they were back and ready to record their fourth album, High. 

Once High was recorded, all that was left was for The Blue Nile to find a label to release the album. The Blue Nile had been dropped by Warner Bros. So with the completed album, The Blue Nile shopped High to various labels. Eventually, they settled on Sanctuary, which would release High in August 2004. However, before that, critics welcomed back The Blue Nille.

Eight years after the release of Peace At Last, critics remarked that High was a much more grownup album. Songs of family life and heartbreak sat side-by-side. Paul who had been suffering with illness and fatigue, seemed to have found a new lease of life. His lyrics are emotional, observational, cinematic and rich in imagery. They’re also poignant, and full hope, hurt and anguish. Meanwhile, Paul’s vocals were worldweary and knowing, while the music is emotive, ethereal and evocative. Critics love High. So did music lovers.

When High in August 2004, the album reached number ten in the UK. High proved to be The Blue Nile most successful album. This proved to be fitting.

Opening High is The Days Of Our Lives. Stabs of hypnotic, melancholy keyboards are repeated throughout the track. They provide the backdrop to Paul’s worldweary vocal. Soon, washes of synths, swathes of string and the occasional bursts of funky bass can be heard. Later, drums crack, adding to the drama, while Paul’s vocal is wistful and full of pathos. Just like he’s done so often, he makes the lyrics come alive, as he looks backwards at the past. This proves fitting, as High was their swan-song. 

I Would Never was the first released from High. It has an understated, lush arrangement. That comes courtesy of washes of crystalline synths, acoustic guitar and pulsating bass. Then there’s Paul’s vocal. Glasgow’s troubled troubadour delivers a heartfelt vocal as he assures his partner “I Would Never turn my back on.” Quite simply, this is a beautiful ballad from a grown up Blue Nile.

Broken Loves opens with Paul’s half-spoken vocal accompanied by stabs of urgent keyboards. Frustration and emotion fill his voice as it grows in power and despair. The despair is caused by a relationship that’s all but over. This results in some soul searching from Paul. He paints pictures, reminiscing about their pasts. Memories from childhood seem to trigger an outpouring of emotion. His vocal becomes needy, and he’s determined they don’t give up on their relationship. Dramatic, emotive and heartbreaking, it’s an evocative description of a relationship gone wrong. 

Just a lone acoustic guitar opens Because Of Toledo, as Paul delivers a worldweary vocal. Heartbroken and despondent, his life’s lost meaning and direction, because his relationship has ended. Again, Paul makes the lyrics come to life. They take on a cinematic quality. Soon, pictures unfold before your eyes, a heartbroken Paul sitting despondent, in the motel he sings about during this heartbreakingly beautiful breakup song.

Ethereal describes the introduction of She Saw The World. That’s before the tempo and drama increases. Driven along by drums, keyboards and washes of synths Paul delivers an urgent emotive vocal. Memories come flooding back as he reminisces about two people who drifted apart. Sadness fills his voice as he sings: “ She Saw The World and wanted it all.” Paul he remembers what he once had and lost. Oozing emotion, Paul’s lived-in, weary vocal and one of the best arrangements on High, result in one of the album’s many highlights.

Washes of synths shimmer, while a lone piano provides a contrast as High unfolds. Paul’s vocal is tender, but with a sense of resignation at the relationship that’s gone wrong. A drum machine provides the heartbeat as Paul’s vocal becomes a cathartic outpouring of emotion. Mixing power, passion and drama Paul lays bare his weary soul for all to hear.

As Soul Boy unfolds, drums crack and are matched by a pulsating bass and meandering guitar. Paul’s vocal is tender and needy. He delivers the some of the best lyrics on High. This includes: “let me be the one, there’s been no other one, trusted and true, for so long…I just want to be loved by you.” With an arrangement that’s reminiscent of vintage Blue Nile and Paul’s needy, seductive, vocal this is The Blue Nile back to their best.

Everybody Else is quite different from the previous track. It shows The Blue Nile are determined their music stays relevant. It’s an uptempo track that’s the nearest thing to a dance track The Blue Nile produced. Paul’s vocal is accompanied by swathes of sweeping strings, pounding bass and hypnotic drums. He’s plays the role troubled troubadour to perfection, as The Blue Nile demonstrate another side to their music, on a track that’s not short of poppy hooks.

Stay Close closes High and sadly, the recording career of The Blue Nile. The tempo is dropped, a drum machine, crystalline guitar and washes of synths providing a melancholy backdrop for Paul’s vocal. He’s saved the best to last. It’s as if he knew this was farewell. Digging deep, he unleashes a soul-baring Magnus Opus. His vocal is needy as he pleads, “Stay Close to me.” However, he knows though, “you’ll go your own way.” You’re drawn into this scenario, feel and share Paul’s pain and heartache. He’s not giving up though, and delivers a heartachingly beautiful vocal on this heartbreaking paean. What a way for The Blue Nile to call time on their recording career?

Although The Blue Nile only recorded four albums in a twenty year period, it’s the quality of music that matters. These four albums were almost flawless. Certainly A Walk Across The Rooftop and Hats are classics, while Peace At Last is probably the most underrated album in The Blue Nile’s back-catalogue. That brings us to High. 

Having not released an album for eight years. During that period, The Blue Nile had been living separate lives. P.J. and Robert were living in the West End of Glasgow, while Paul lived a nomadic existence, flitting between Hollywood, Europe and Glasgow. He’d been involved in some high profile relationships, and by 2004, just when everyone thought The Blue Nile were no more, they rose like a phoenix from the ashes. They didn’t even have a record deal, so agreed a deal with Sanctuary Records to release High. It proved to be the most successful album of their career.

During the time they’d been away, The Blue Nile had matured as a band. Some people said they’d grownup. What had happened was life. Having been outside the bubble that was Blue Nile, P.J. and Robert had to get on with life. The Blue Nile was on a hiatus, maybe a permanent one. As for Paul, he was leading a very different life. This gave him the material for High. 

On the nine songs that comprise High, you’re drawn into the album’s lush, atmospheric sound. Having captured your attention, The Blue Nile don’t let go. Before long, the listener has fallen in love. They fall in love with music that’s hauntingly beautiful, emotive, dramatic and pensive. Much of this is thanks to peerless vocal performances of Glasgow’s very own Frank Sinatra, Paul Buchanan. He plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee. His worldweary, emotive, heartfelt and impassioned vocal sounds as if it’s lived the lyrics he’s singing about. Lived them not just once, but several times over. Paul’s vocal adds soulfulness to an album that references Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Tim Buckley, classic soul and seventies funk. The result is a compelling, innovative album, High. 

After High, people thought that The Blue Nile would return, possibly after another lengthy break. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. The Blue Nile were no more.

At least they did things their way. Right up until the release of High, The Blue Nile were enigmatic, almost reclusive and publicity shy. The Blue Nile weren’t exactly your normal band. Not for them the rock “n” roll lifestyle favoured by other bands. In many ways, musical fashions and fads didn’t affect them. Their attitude was almost contrarian. Albums were recorded slowly and methodically as The Blue Nile strived for musical perfection. This wasn’t a group willing to jump onto a musical bandwagon in pursuit of fame, fortune or starlets. Quite the opposite. It seemed to be their way or no way in the pursuit of musical perfection. The Blue Nile achieved that perfection four times, and ended their career on a High.

Cult Classic: The Blue Nile-High.

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CULT CLASSIC: STANLEY TURRENTINE-THAT’S WHERE IT’S AT.

Cult Classic: Stanley Turrentine-That’s Where It’s At.

In September 1962, twenty-eight year old saxophonist Stanley Turrentine released That’s Where It’s At which was his fifth album for Blue Note Records.  It was his much-anticipated followup to Dearly Beloved which at the time, many critics hailed as his finest album. That’s Where It’s At had  a lot to live up to.

It was also a new chapter in the career of Stanley Turrentine as it was the first time that he had collaborated with pianist Les McCann. He composed four of the tracks on That’s Where It’s At, and was part of the quartet who recorded the album at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey on January the ’2nd’ 1962. This was the seventh solo album that Stanley Turrentine had recorded for Blue Note Records since June 1960.  He had come a long way since signing for the label.

Stanley William Turrentine was born on April the ‘5th’ 1934,  in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in a musical family in the Hill District. His father Thomas Turrentine, Sr, was a saxophonist with Al Cooper’s Savoy Sultans, while his mother played piano and Stanley’s elder brother Thomas became a professional trumpeter. He was part of his brother’s band when he recorded Comin’ Your Way in 1961 and 1962s Jubilee Shout!!! That was in the future.

When Stanley Turrentine started out, he wasn’t playing jazz. Instead, he was a member of various blues and R&B  bands. However, his main influence was  jazz tenor saxophonist, Illinois Jacquet who is remembered for his solo on Flying Home, which nowadays, is regarded as the first ever R&B saxophone solo. He wrote his name into musical history and later, so would Stanley Turrentine.

During the fifties, Stanley Turrentine was a member of Lowell Fulson and Earl Bostic’s bands.  However, when he joined  Earl Bostic’s band he was literally standing in the shadow of a giant as he replaced John Coltrane in 1953. Stanley Turrentine was also a member of pianist Tadd Dameron’s band during this period. Then in the mid-fifties  Stanley Turrentine was drafted.

During his time serving his country, Stanley Turrentine received the only formal musical training he ever had. When he left the US Army in 1959 he was a much more complete musician.

Upon leaving the military, Stanley Turrentine joined Max Roach’s band. He featured on four albums by the jazz drummer including 1959s Moon Faced and Starry Eyed, 1960s Quiet As It’s Kept and Parisian Sketches plus 1964s Long as You’re Living. However, when Stanley Turrentine wasn’t working with Max Roach he was in constant demand as a sideman.

Another album he played in during 1959 was Abbey Lincoln’s Abbey Is Blue. This was just the start of prolific period for Stanley Turrentine, who by then, had met his future wife.

As the new decade decade dawned, Stanley Turrentine married organist Shirley Scott in 1960, and the pair often played and recorded together. He accompanied his new wife on nine albums between 1961 and 1978. However, there was no sign of Shirley Scott when Stanley Turrentine recorded his debut album.

In 1960, he signed to Blue Note Records and on June the 16th recorded the six tracks with drummer Al Harewood, bassist George Tucker and pianist Horace Parlan that became Look Out! It was a recording of traditional bop which was quite different from his later bluesy, soul-jazz outings. However, his debut  was well received by critics who were impressed by the power, clarity and sweet and articulate album where Stanley Turrentine played within himself. Look Out! was a sign of what was to come from Stanley Turrentine.

Apart from recording his debut album Look Out! in 1960,  Stanley Turrentine recorded Blue Hour, a collaboration with and The Three Sounds. It was recorded on June the ‘29th’ and December ‘16th’ 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey.

That was also where hard bop and post bop pianist Horace Parlan recorded his album Speakin’ My Piece on July the ‘14th’ 1960. It was just one of a number of albums Stanley Turrentine played on during 1960. These albums were released during 1961.

As 1961 dawned, Stanley Turrentine journeyed to Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey on January the ’20th’ 1961 to record his sophomore album Comin’ Your Way. The result was a breathtaking album of soul-jazz with diversions via hard bop and balladry that had the potential to transform Stanley Turrentine’s nascent solo career and raise his profile. Despite this, executives at Blue Note Records decided to shelf the project which was belatedly released in 1987.

In its place, Up At “Minton’s”, a live album that was recorded at the famous Harlem venue, just one month after the Comin’ Your Way session was released by Blue Note Records later in 1961. The album was a success, and Up At “Minton’s” Volume 2 followed later in 1961. This allowed  executives at Blue Note Records to argue that their decision to shelf Comin’ Your Way was vindicated.

On June the ‘8th’ 1961, Stanley Turrentine returned to Van Gelder Studio to record his next solo album, Dearly Beloved. Joining him on this trio recording were his wife organist Shirley Scott and drummer Roy Brooks. It was released to critical acclaim in February 1962 and was called the finest album of his career. Nowadays, Dearly Beloved is regarded as one of the finest albums Stanley Turrentine recorded for Blue Note Records.

Just over three months later, Stanley Turrentine was making the return journey on the ‘13th’ of September 1961 to Van Gelder Studio where he would record his next solo album, ZT’s Blues. Joining his was an all-star band that featured drummer Art Taylor, bassist Paul Chambers,  guitarist Grant Green and pianist Tommy Flanagan. The band recorded seven compositions with groove meisters Stanley Turrentine and Grant Green playing a starring role. 

Despite the quality of music on  ZT’s Blues, history repeated itself when the album was shelved. This must have been hugely disappointing as here was another album that had the potential to transform Stanley Turrentine’s career. Ironically, when the album was belatedly released in 1985 it was to widespread critical acclaim. For Stanley Turrentine ZT’s Blues was the one that got away.

That’s Where It’s At.

For his next album That’s Where It’s At, Stanley Turrentine decided to collaborate with composer and pianist Les McCann. Although the two men had never collaborated before Stanley Turrentine was no stranger to collaborating on albums. He had collaborated on The Three Sounds album Blue Hour in 1960 and with Shirley Scott on his previous album Dearly Beloved which was released to plaudits and praise in June 1961.  That’s Where It’s At was the much-anticipated followup.

For That’s Where It’s At Stanley Turrentine wrote Soft Pedal Blues and his brother Tommy penned Light Blue. Les McCann composed Smile, Stacey, Pia, We’ll See Yaw’ll After While, Ya Heah and Dorene Don’t Cry, I. These six tracks became That’s Where It’s At which was recorded at Van Gelder Studio.

On January the ‘2nd’ 1962, Stanley Turrentine’s quartet travelled to Van Gelder Studio. None of the musicians who played on ZT’s Blues featured on That’s Where It’s At. Instead, the tenor saxophonist was accompanied by drummer Otis Finch who was in his wife Shirley Scott’s group. Joining him in the rhythm section was Herbie Lewis who was in Les McCann’s group. Completing the quartet’s lineup  for the recording of That’s Where It’s At was pianist Les McCann. This was one and only album the band recorded.

When That’s Where It’s At was released in September 1962 the majority of critics were won over by Stanley Turrentine’s much-anticipated fifth solo album. That came as no surprise given the quartet was firing on all cylinders to create That’s Where It’s At’s bluesy, funky and soulful and sound as they fuse bop and soul-jazz.  Playing leading roles were Stanley Turrentine and Les McCann who seemed to drive each other to greater heights throughout the album.

Stanley Turrentine’s hard blowing tenor saxophone is to the fore throughout That’s Where It’s At as Les McCann’s piano adds a bouncy swing while the rhythm section contribute slinky grooves. When all this is combined the result is a potent and heady musical brew. 

That’s Where It’s At opens with the uptempo and joyous sounding Smile, Stacey where Les McCann matches Stanley Turrentine every step of the way.  It’s one of the album’s highlights. Another is Soft Pedal Blues where the slow, moody and bluesy saxophone is to the fore and accompanied by the piano. It veers between slow and spacious to deliberate and dramatic and there’s even flamboyant flourishes  and just like the saxophone produce a late night ruminative sounding track. Initially, Pia glides along with Stanley Turrentine playing within himself and leaving space before Les McCann adds some of his slinkiest piano playing. The pair feed off each other and seem to bring out the best in each other. Later, the saxophone is played with power and control and sometimes is understated while the rhythm section add swing to this irresistible and memorable mid-tempo track.

There’s no letup on We’ll See Yaw’ll After While, Ya Heah with the saxophone and piano playing leading roles. Stanley Turrentine’s bluesy finger popping saxophone swings as he combines power and emotion. Meanwhile, Les McCann’s fingers dance up and down the piano keyboard flamboyant flourishes stealing the show and proving the perfect foil for Stanley Turrentine. From the opening bars of the bluesy sounding Dorene Don’t Cry, a beautiful, poignant and cinematic sounding track unfolds and paints  pictures of hurt, heartbreak and love gone wrong. Closing the album is Light Blue,  another slower track  where the quartet play within themselves. That includes Messrs. McCann and   Turrentine who are to the fore on what’s one of the most soulful sounding tracks on That’s Where It’s At.

After the release  of That’s Where It’s At, Stanley Turrentine spent the rest of the sixties signed to Blue Note Records and released albums of the quality of Hustlin’,  Easy Walker, The Spoiler and The Look of Love. Then as the seventies dawned, Stanley Turrentine left Blue Note Records.

In 1970 Stanley Turrentine signed to Creed Taylor’s CTI Records and changed direction musically. He recorded a series of albums of fusion including one of his finest outings Sugar which was released in 1970. However, the  following year 1971, Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott divorced after eleven years of marriage.  They never recorded another album together.

Following his divorce, Stanley Turrentine continued to record for CTI Records and released several critically acclaimed album. This included  Salt Song, Cherry with Milt Jackson and Don’t Mess with Mister T.  Then in 1974, Stanley Turrentine left CTI Records and signed for Fantasy Records. It was the end of an era.

Just like his time at Blue Note Record and CTI Records, Stanley Turrentine was prolific during his time at Fantasy Records. He released nine albums between 1974 and 1980 which encompassed a variety of styles.  These albums were orchestrated by the likes of Gene Page and featured an all-star group. Despite that, the albums received mixed reviews, with some of the negative reviews often unwarranted. The Fantasy Records’ years weren’t as successful as Stanley Turrentine’s time at Blue Note Record and CTI Records.

The time that Stanley Turrentine spent signed to Blue Note Records was his most productive and saw him release some of the best and most important albums of his career. This included That’s Where It’s At Stanley Turrentine where he collaborated with Les McCann who was a perfect foil for him throughout the album. Together, they play their part in an almost flawless and timeless album that’s bluesy, funky, soulful and swinging.

It was no surprise that when That’s Where It’s At was released in September 1962 it was well received by the majority of critics. One of the few dissenting voices was Downbeat magazine who gave the album a mixed review. That’s  ironic as nowadays, That’s Where It’s At is regarded as one of the albums that gave birth to the soul-jazz genre. One of soul-jazz’s finest practitioners was the tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and proof if any was needed are albums of the quality of  Hustlin’,  Easy Walker, The Spoiler, The Look Of Love, Comin’ Your Way as well as the cult classic That’s Where It’s At.

Cult Classic: Stanley Turrentine-That’s Where It’s At.

CULT CLASSIC: AL GREEN-GREEN IS BLUES.

Cult Classic: Al Green-Green Is Blues.

The day that Al Green met Willie Mitchell in 1969 was, without doubt, the most important day in the twenty-two year old singer’s career. His career had stalled and he someone who could get it back on track. Willie Mitchell was the man to do that and when he signed him to Hi Records mentored the young singer and become his vocal coach, songwriting partner and producer.

In October 1974, Al Green released his seventh album for Hi Records and eighth overall. This was Al Green Explores Your Mind, which gave him his fifth consecutive number one in the US R&B charts. Four of these albums had been certified gold and one platinum. Then there was the small matter of seven singles being certified gold and one platinum. By then, Al Green had sold over three million albums and over five million singles in America alone. Willie Mitchell had transformed Al Green’s career and he was one of the most successful soul singers of his generation. It was a remarkable transformation that began in 1969 with Green Is Blue.

When Willie Mitchell came across Al Green the producer, songwriter and bandleader was looking for a singer for his band who were playing a show in Texas. This was just the break that Al Green was looking for as his career had stalled.

His career began at high school when he founded Al Greene and The Creations which included Curtis Rodgers and Palmer James.  The  group would later change its name to Al Greene and The Soul Mates and by the two members would have formed a record label.

Curtis Rodgers and Palmer James formed the indie label Hot Line Music Journal and signed their friend Al Greene. The label released his debut solo album Back Up Train on March the ‘21st’ 1967 and it reached just 162 on the US Billboard 200 and thirty-seven in the US R&B charts. That was despite the title-track reaching forty-one on the US Billboard 100 and five in the US R&B charts. It was a disappointing start to Al Green’s solo career.

After this, he continued to perform with Al Greene and The Soul Mates bur commercial success continued to elude the group. Things changed for frontman Al Greene when he met Willie Mitchell.

He was looking for a singer for his band who were playing a show in Texas and decided that Al Greene fitted the bill. He joined the band for the show and it didn’t take long foe Willie Mitchell to realised what Al Greene was doing wrong.

Willie Mitchell realised thatAl Greene was trying to sing like Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Sam Cooke and Wilson Pickett rather than finding and developing his own voice. To help the young singer, Willie Mitchell became his vocal coach and helped him find his own voice. Al Greene was good pupil and a quick learner and Willie Mitchell signed him to Hi Records.

Having signed  to Hi Records Willie Mitchell convinced Al Greene to change his name to Al Green. The pair also cowrote their first song together Tomorrow’s Dream and Al Green penned “Get Back Baby. Meanwhile, Willie Mitchell and Marshall “Rock” Jones wrote What Am I Gonna Do with Myself? while Charles Chalmers and Sandra Rhodes who would add backing vocals on many Al Green albums cowrote One Woman.

The rest of the tracks on the album were cover versions and included My Girl, The Letter, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield and Billy Butler’s I Stand Accused,Carl Smith and Marion “Doc” Oliver’s Gotta Find A New World, Lennon and McCartney’s Get Back plus George and Ira Gershwin’s classic Summertime. These eleven tracks would become Green Is Blues.

Recording took place at producer Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios and featured the Hi Rhythm and Horn Sections and backing vocalists Chalmers, Rhodes and Rhodes. The result was Green Is Blues, which was a very different album to his debut.

Green Is Blues was released on April the ‘15th’ 1969 two days after Al Green’s twenty-third birthday. The majority of reviews were positive apart from the forever contrarian Rolling Stone. Surely commercial success awaited the album?

When Green Is Blues was released it reached nineteen in the US Billboard 200 and three in the US R&B charts. Meanwhile, Canada, the album reached twenty-eight bringing more success Al Green’s way. This was just the start for the Willie Mitchell and Al Green partnership.

Willie Mitchell had spotted the potential in Al Green and was able to encourage and cajole a series of performances out of him that surpassed anything he had released before. The twenty-two year old worked his way through a mixture of new material and covers of contemporary pop and R&B hits. With the help of a crack band and backing vocalists Al Green gives them a makeover on an album of blues, R&B and Southern Soul.

Al Green sets the bar high on the ballad beautiful, tender ballad One Woman. Tomorrow’s Dream his first collaboration with Willie Mitchell features a heartfelt and emotive vocal on a track that showcases the sound that would bring success Al Green’s way. There’s more than a nod to James Brown on his composition Get Back.

Of the cover versions his needy reading of Talk To Me and his soulful pleadings on My Girl are highlights of the album. So an emotive and soul-baring Southern Soul cover of I Stand Accused and an a hurt-filled version of What Am I Gonna Do With Myself. Al Green then breezes through Lennon and McCartney’s Get Back before closing Green Is Blues with a gorgeous cover of Summertime where blues and Southern Soul melt into one. It’s one the finest versions of this much-covered classic and closes the album on a high.

Al Green’s meeting with Willie Mitchell transformed the young singer’s career and Green Is Blues was a stepping stone for him and allowed him to develop his sound and style.

Green Is Blues allowed Al Green to showcase his considerable skills as he breathes new life, meaning and emotion into these contemporary pop and R&B hits. They were reinvented by Al Green and producer Willie Mitchell whose production skills which shine through on Green Is Blues which was the start of the Al Green’s Hi Records’ years.

He would go on to enjoy the most successful period of his career at Hi Records. This journey started with Green Is Blues which was tantalising taste of what was to come from Al Green and  producer Willie Mitchell.

Cult Classic: Al Green-Green Is Blues.

CLASSIC ALBUM: DEEP PURPLE-BURN.

Classic Album: Deep Purple-Burn.

When Ian Gillan and Roger Glover left Deep Purple in 1973, this left a huge void for one of the unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal. They were regarded as almost irreplaceable, and had played a huge part in Deep Purple’s rise to titans of rock. For Deep Purple and their legion of loyal fans, it was the end of an era.

Deep Purple had come a long way since they changed their name from Roundabout in 1968. However, success didn’t come overnight and it was their fourth studio album Deep Purple In Rock, released in June 1970 that transformed their fortunes. It was certified gold in Britain, America, Italy and France. This was just the start for Deep Purple.

For the next three years, commercial success and critical acclaim would be constant companions of the original lineup of Deep Purple. During that period, they were one of the hardest rocking groups of the seventies. They also established a reputation as one of the hardest living bands.

Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were crowned the: “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal.” The three groups seemed proud of their infamy, and wore it like a badge.

The “unholy trinity’s” penchant for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle was legendary. Excess and extravagance was an everyday occurrence. Similarly,  chaos and carnage was omnipresent as the “unholy trinity” toured the world. Each group seemed to determined to outdo the other. Hotel rooms were wrecked, televisions thrown out of windows  and copious amounts of drink and drugs consumed during lengthy tours.

By 1973, all wasn’t well within Deep Purple and the group needed a break. Their management pushed them to finish Who Do We Think We Are despite bad feeling and tension within the band. This led to Ian Gillan quitting the group following the second Japanese tour in the summer of 1973. Then  Roger Glover was dismissed at the insistence of Richie Blackmore. It was a huge loss, and many critics thought this could be a fatal blow for Deep Purple.

They brought onboard Glenn Hughes who had been the bassist in Trapeze, and unknown vocalist David Coverdale. The new lineup of Deep Purple began work on their eighth studio album Burn in November 1973. However, the Deep Purple story began six year years earlier.

Although Deep Purple were formed in 1968 in Hertford, the story begins in 1967. That was when ex-Searchers drummer, Chris Curtis, contacted London based businessman, Tony Edwards, with a business proposition. He wanted to create a supergroup which he would name Roundabout. The idea behind the name was that the lineup was fluid. Members would come and go, on what was akin to a musical roundabout. Tony Edwards liked the idea and brought onboard Jon Coletta and Ron Hire. They named their new venture Hire-Edwards-Coletta (HEC) Enterprises. Now with financial backing, Chris Curtis started putting together Roundabout.

The first member of Roundabout was Jon Lord, a classically trained organist. He’d previously played with The Artwoods. Guitarist Richie Blackmore, who recently, had been working as a session musician is Hamburg auditioned. He also joined Roundabout, and  so did bassist Nick Simper, whose most recent band was The Flower Pot Men. He was a friend of Richie Blackmore.

The two other members of Roundabout were also friends. Rod Evans was recruited as the lead vocalists. Previously, he was a member The Maze, and their drummer was Ian Paice. He became the final piece in the jigsaw. However, he wasn’t the first choice drummer.

Originally, Bobby Woodman was meant to be Roundabout’s drummer. He was drummer when Rod Evans auditioned as vocalist. However, Richie Blackmore had seen Nick Paice playing before, and  although he just eighteen,  knew he was a good drummer. So when Bobby Woodman headed out to buy cigarettes, Ian Paice was auctioned. Instantly, everyone realised he was a better drummer. When Bobby returned with his cigarettes he was no longer Roundabout’s drummer. However, at least Roundabout’s lineup was settled. Or so people thought.

Roundabout were kitted out with the finest equipment and lived at Deeves House in South Mimms, Hertfordshire. This was their home during March 1968. That was, until they headed out on a short tour of Denmark and Sweden. It was during this tour that Roundabout became Deep Purple.

It was Richie Blackmore that came up with the name Deep Purple. This was the name of his grandmother’s favourite song. That was the name he wrote on the blackboard, when everyone was asked to choose a new name for the nascent band. Deep Purple wasn’t the favourite though. That was Concrete God. However, the members of Roundabout decided against it. They felt the name was too harsh. So Roundabout became Deep Purple and began recording their debut album in May 1968.

Shades Of Deep Purple.

When Deep Purple entered Pye Studios, in Marble Arch, London Deep Purple in May 1968, they’d chosen ten songs for their debut album Shades Of Deep Purple. Seven songs were written by members of Deep Purple. The other three songs were cover versions. This included Joe South’s Hush, Lennon and McCartney’s Help! and Joe Roberts’ Hey Joe which is synonymous with Jimi Hendrix. These ten songs were recorded by the original version of Deep Purple. This included vocalist Rod Evans, drummer Ian Paice, bassists Nick Simper, organist Jon Lord and guitarist Richie Blackmore. Producing Shades Of Deep Purple was a friend of Richie’s, Derek Lawrence. Once Shades Of Deep Purple was recorded, it was released later in 1969

When critics heard Shades Of Deep Purple they weren’t impressed. Reviews were mostly negative. Since then, critics have rewritten history and most reviews of Shades Of Deep Purple are positive. Back in 1968, things were very different. Shades Of Deep Purple was perceived as unfocused. It was a  mix of psychedelia, progressive rock, pop rock and thanks to Richie Blackmore’s  hard rock guitar riffs. That was why many critics disliked Shades Of Deep Purple. Record buyers had different ideas about Shades Of Deep Purple,

Shades Of Deep Purple was released in July 1968 in America. It reached number twenty-four in the US Billboard 200 charts. This was no doubt helped by Hush reaching number four in the US Billboard 100 charts. Two months later, Shades Of Deep Purple reached number fourteen in Britain. For Deep Purple their debut album had been a commercial success and their lives transformed.

After the commercial success of the single Hush and Shades Of Deep Purple, Deep Purple were booked into a gruelling tour of America. Their American record company, Tetragrammaton, decided that Deep Purple should record another album. They headed into the recording studio in September 1968 to record what became The Book of Taliesyn.

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The Book of Taliesyn.

Time was against Deep Purple as there wasn’t long before their American tour was due to begin. They only had five new songs written and had to rely upon cover versions to complete The Book of Taliesyn. Neil Diamond’s Kentucky Woman, Lennon and McCartney’s We Can Work It Out and River Deep, Mountain High completed The Book of Taliesyn. It was released in America in December 1968,

Just like Shades Of Deep Purple, The Book of Taliesyn was a mixture of psychedelia and progressive rock. The only difference was it had a harder edge. Deep Purple’s trademark sound was evolving and  critics seemed to prefer The Book of Taliesyn. It received a much more favourable reception from critics. This was also the case upon  the release of The Book of Taliesyn.

Released in December 1968, The Book of Taliesyn reached number fifty-four in the US Billboard 200. Two singles were released in America. Kentucky Woman reached number thirty eight in the US Billboard 100 charts. Then River Deep, Mountain High stalled at number fifty-three in the US Billboard 100 charts. The Book of Taliesyn charted in Canada and Japan. It seemed word was spreading about Deep Purple. However, in Britain, The Book of Taliesyn failed to chart. That wasn’t the only problem Deep Purple would have.

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Deep Purple.

By 1969, Deep Purple were becoming a tight, talented band. Onstage and in the studio, they were growing and evolving. This included as songwriters. Although they’d only been together just over a year, they were a much better band. They’d released two albums and toured constantly. There was a problem though. Which direction should their music take?

Some members of Deep Purple wanted their music to take on a rawer, harder sound. This didn’t please everyone. Lead vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper were in the minority. Organist Jon Lord, guitarist Richie Blackmore and drummer Nick Paice wanted the band to change direction. With the band split, this wasn’t the best way to prepare for the recording of their third album Deep Purple.

For Deep Purple, the band were keen to turn their back on cover versions. Deep Purple only featured one cover version, Donavon’s Lalena. The eight tracks were all written by members of Deep Purple. Just like their first two albums, Deep Purple would be produced by Derek Lawrence.

Recording of Deep Purple took place during a two-month tour. Deep Purple had ensured they had some free days where they could record their third album during January and March 1969. Recording took place at the De Lane Lea Studio, London. They were familiar with the De Lane Lea Studio. Previously, Deep Purple had rerecorded The Bird Has Flown there. So, they were familiar with the room. This allowed Deep Purple to work quickly. With their reputation in America growing, Deep Purple wanted their eponymous album released as soon as possible.

As soon as Deep Purple was recorded, Deep Purple jumped on a plane and headed back to America. They rejoined the tour of the country that had claimed them as their own. There was a problem though. Tetragrammaton, Deep Purple’s American label hadn’t pressed the album. Worse than that, the label had financial problems. Within a year, they would be insolvent and filing for bankruptcy. Already, this was affecting Deep Purple. Their manager John Colleta headed home. He decided that this would save on a hotel room. Things it seemed, couldn’t get any worse for Deep Purple.

On the release of Deep Purple in June 1969, the album had a harder sound. Elements of blues, progressive rock and heavy metal combined on seven tracks. The exception was The Bird Has Flown. It veered off in the direction of classical music. Mostly, though, Deep Purple’s trademark sound was evolving. How would critics and fans respond to Deep Purple?

Given the problems with Tetragrammaton, it’s no surprise that Deep Purple wasn’t a commercial success. Tetragrammaton couldn’t afford to promote Deep Purple properly. Despite generally positive reviews from critics, Deep Purple stalled at 162 in the US Billboard 200 charts. It failed to chart in the UK on its release in November 1969. At least Deep Purple charted in Japan. Things looked up when Deep Purple was certified gold in Germany. That was the only good news Deep Purple enjoyed.

The tension that was within Deep Purple bubbled over after the release of their third album. This lead to vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper being replaced. In came vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover. Little did anyone realise that this would later be perceived as the classic lineup of Deep Purple. It was also the lineup that recorded the album that saw Deep Purple make a commercial breakthrough in Britain, with Deep Purple In Rock.

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Deep Purple In Rock.

With their new lineup, Deep Purple Mk II entered the studio for the second time. They made their recording debut on Concerto for Group and Orchestra which was a collaboration between Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. However, Deep Purple In Rock was the start of a new era in Deep Purple’s history.

Recording of Deep Purple In Rock took place at IBC, De Lane Lea and Abbey Road Studios. A total of seven songs were recorded. They were written by Deep Purple. These seven songs showcased the new Deep Purple. The music was heavier and more like what would be seen as their classic sound. This was essentially hard rock or heavy metal. It was after the success of Deep Purple In Rock that lead to Deep Purple being referred to as the third member of the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal.”

Deep Purple released Deep Purple In Rock on 3rd June 1970. This was Deep Purple’s first album to be released to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. It was the first Deep Purple album to reach the top ten in Britain. Deep Purple In Rock reached number four in Britain. In America, Deep Purple In Rock only reached number 143 in the US Billboard 200 charts. Elsewhere, Deep Purple In Rock was a huge commercial success worldwide. 

From Europe to Argentina, America and Japan, Deep Purple In Rock was a huge success. This resulted in gold discs for Deep Purple in America, Argentina, Britain, France and Holland. For Deep Purple, Deep Purple In Rock was a game-changer. Their decision to change direction musically was vindicated. Now, Deep Purple were one of the biggest bands in rock music.  Little did Deep Purple realise that they were entering the most successful period of their career.

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Fireball.

Fireball was the first of three number one albums Deep Purple would have in Britain. Belatedly, Britain had “got” Deep Purple. They were their own, and were proud of that. The hard rocking quintet’s unique brand of hard rock was winning friends and influencing people. Having toured extensively, at last Deep Purple were now part of British rock royalty. This continued with Fireball.

Given Deep Purple extensive touring schedule, albums were recorded whenever the band had downtime. Fireball was recorded during various sessions that took place between September 1970 and June 1971. Recording took place at De Lane Lea Studios and Olympic Studios, London. Other sessions took place at The Hermitage, Welcombe, North Devon. During these sessions, seven tracks were recorded. Each of the tracks were credited to the five members of Deep Purple. Unlike other bands, everyone in Deep Purple played their part in the songwriting process. That had been the case since the first album Deep Purple Mk. II had recorded, Deep Purple In Rock. Just like Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball would be a commercial success.

Most critics gave Fireball favourable reviews. There were very few dissenting voices. Apart from later, members of Deep Purple. They felt Fireball wasn’t their best album. Record buyers disagreed.

Across the world, Fireball was a huge commercial success. Fireball was released in Britain in July 1971. Record buyers in America and Europe had to wait until September 1971. By then, Fireball had reached number one in Britain and was certified gold. Two singles were released in Britain. Strange Kind of Woman reached number eight and Fireball number fifteen. This was just the start of Fireball’s success.

When Fireball was released in America it reached number thirty-two in the US Billboard 200 charts and was certified gold. In Canada Fireball reached number twenty-four. Fireball proved one of Deep Purple’s most successful albums in Japan, reaching number sixty-six. Australians were won over by Fireball, when it reached number four. Deep Purple proved popular in Israel, where they enjoyed a top ten album. However, it was in Europe that Fireball burnt brightest. 

On Fireball’s release in September 1971, it reached number one in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Fireball reached the top ten in Finland, France, Holland, Italy Norway. Despite the widespread commercial success and critical acclaim Fireball enjoyed in Europe, the only gold disc awarded was in Holland. However, Deep Purple would make up for this with their sixth album, Machine Head.

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Machine Head.

By 1972, Deep Purple had established themselves as one of the hardest working bands in music. They seemed to be constantly touring. When they weren’t touring, they were recording. As a result, Deep Purple were about release their sixth album in less than four years, Machine Head.

Unlike their five previous albums, Deep Purple didn’t head into the recording studio. Instead, they brought the recording studio to them. They were booked to stay at the Grand Hotel, in Montreux Casino, Switzerland. So that’s where they brought the Rolling Stone’s sixteen track mobile recording studio to. Between the 6th and 21st December 1971, Deep Purple were meant to record their sixth album, Machine Head. However, there was a problem.

Lead vocalist Ian Gillan had contracted hepatitis and his doctors advised him to rest. For Deep Purple, this was a disaster. The hotel rooms and mobile recording studio was booked. They’d already had to cancel their forthcoming American tour. Cancelling the recording of their sixth album would be an utter disaster. No doubt realising the gravity of the situation, and buoyed by the excitement of starting recording a new album, Deep Purple decided to head to Switzerland.

Deep Purple landed in Switzerland on 3rd December 1971. Only one further concert had to take place at Montreux Casino. That was Frank Zappa’s now infamous concert. It took place on the 4th December 1971. During Frank Zappa’s set, an over enthusiastic member of the audience fired a flare. It hit the roof, causing the Montreux Casino to go on fire. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Unfortunately, the Montreux Casino was in no fit state to double as a makeshift studio. Luckily, the Montreux Casino’s owner Claude Nobs new a theatre nearby that could be transformed into a makeshift studio. Deep Purple headed to the Pavilion where they recorded a song based on the somewhat surreal experience at the Montreux Casino. This song would become a classic, Smoke On The Water.

For what became Machine Head, Deep Purple had six songs completed. They were all credited to the five members of Deep Purple. So would the unfinished song with was provisionally titled “Title No. 1.” However, as the five members of Deep Purple spoke about the events at the Montreux Casino, bass player Roger Glover uttered the immortal words “Smoke On The Water.” A classic had been born. 

During a sixteen day period between the 6th and 21st December 1971, Deep Purple recorded their sixth album, Machine Head. The conditions weren’t ideal. The mobile recording studio was parked outside and cables run through the Pavilion. They ran along corridors and under doors. It was far from the ideal conditions to record an album. Coupled with Ian Gillan’s medical condition, it’s a wonder Deep Purple were able to even record an album, never mind a career defining album.

Machine Head was released on 25th March 1972. Reviews varied between favourable to glowing. Although reviews mattered, what counted was sales. There was no problem there. On its release, Machine Head reached number one in eight countries. This included Argentina, Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France and Yugoslavia. In Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway andSweden, Machine Head reached the top ten. Across the Atlantic, Machine Head became Deep Purple’s most successful album, when it reached number seven in the US Billboard 200 charts. Given the commercial success of Machine Head, it received a plethora of gold and platinum discs.

Having reached number one in their home country, Machine Head was certified gold in Britain. Across the English Channel, Machine Head was certified gold twice. In Argentina, Machine Head was certified platinum. However, Machine Head was most successful in America, where it was certified double-platinum. However, this wasn’t the end of the commercial success. Machine Head featured two singles.

Never Before was chosen as the lead single in Britain. Although it reached number twelve, this seemed a strange choice. After all, Smoke In The Water was a classic in waiting. It reached number four in the US Billboard 100 charts. It wasn’t until 1977 that belatedly, Smoke In The Water was released as a single, where it reached number twenty-one. How it wasn’t released as a single in 1972, remains a musical mystery. However,  having released a career defining album, Machine Head, Deep Purple headed out on their Machine Head World Tour.

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Made In Japan.

The Machine Head World Tour would be one of the most gruelling tours Deep Purple had embarked upon. It was scheduled to last the rest of 1972 and into 1973. Deep Purple were a hugely successful band. That’s why music lovers in the four corners of the globe wanted to see and hear Deep Purple. That included in Japan.

By August 1972 Deep Purple had arrived in Japan. They’d been popular in Japan for most of their career. However, Machine Head transformed Deep Purple’s fortunes. This included in Japan. On the 15th and 16th of August 1972, Deep Purple took to the stage in Osaka. Then on 17th August 1972, Deep Purple landed in Tokyo. These three concerts were recorded and became Made In Japan, which was akin to a  a heavy rock masterclass from Deep Purple.

For anyone who couldn’t make the Machine Head World Tour, Made In Japan was the perfect reminder of a legendary tour. Especially the Japanese leg. Between the 15th and 17th August 1972, Deep Purple were at their hard rocking best. 

This continued wherever they went. However, there were a lot of people who wanted a reminder of this legendary tour. For others, who for whatever reason, couldn’t get to see Deep Purple, a double album entitled Made In Japan was almost as good. It was released in Britain in December 1972 and in America in April 1973.

When critics heard Made In Japan, even the most cynical and hardbitten rock critic had to compliment Deep Purple. They were no one of the three best heavy rock bands in the word. Led Zeppelin were the best and Deep Purple and Black Sabbath fought it out for second place. So well received was Made In Japan, that it was heralded as one of the finest live albums ever. Made In Japan further reinforced Deep Purple’s reputation as one of the greatest heavy metal bands.

On its release in December 1972, Made In Japan reached number fifteen in Britain and was certified gold. Made In Japan reached number one in Austria, Germany and Canada. In Norway, Made In Japan reached number seven. Then in April 1973, Made In Japan reached number six in the US Billboard 200. For Deep Purple, this resulted in even more gold and platinum discs.

Across the word, Made In Japan was a commercial success. After being certified gold in Britain, it was then certified gold in France and platinum in America, Austria, Germany and Italy. In Argentina, Made In Japan was certified double platinum. Just four years after they first formed, Deep Purple were one of the most successful rock bands in the world. Their 1972 legendary live album,  Made In Japan, is a reminder of Deep Purple at their very best.

Following Made In Japan, commercial success and critical acclaim continued for Deep Purple. There would also be changes in lineup, breakups and reunions. However, the classic lineup of Deep Purple features on Made In Japan. The classic line up of Deep Purple bid a farewell on 1973s Who Do We Think We Are.

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When Who Do We Think We Are.

Following the critical acclaim and commercial success of Made In Japan, Deep Purple were keen to build on the momentum created by their live opus. Fortunately, Deep Purple had already recorded a new studio album. It had been recorded in Europe, during summer and autumn 1972.

The five members of Deep Purple had penned seven new songs, and they were recorded during using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. It made its war to Rome, Italy in July and part of When Who Do We Think We Are was recorded there. Then in October 1972, When Who Do We Think We Are was completed in Frankfurt in Germany. With their new studio album completed, this should’ve been a time for celebration. It wasn’t though.

Far from it. The group was slowly being ripped apart by disagreements within Deep Purple. Tensions had been high when When Who Do We Think We Are was being recorded. Things got so bad, that members of the Deep Purple weren’t speaking to each other.  This resulted in a schedule having to be drawn up, so that warring band members could record their parts separately. Somehow, though, the five members managed to record the followup to Made In Japan. The big question was, would the internal strife affect quality of music on When Who Do We Think We Are?

When critics heard When Who Do We Think We Are, there was no consensus. Critics felt the quality of music was inconsistent. That was why reviews ranged from mixed to negative. Some critics accused Deep Purple of merely “going through the motions of making an album.” This was a far cry from previous albums.

When Who Do We Think We Are was released in January 1973, it reached number four in Britain. Across the Atlantic, the album proved successful, selling 500,000 copies within the first three months. This helped When Who Do We Think We Are reach number fifteen in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in gold discs in America and France. Compared with Deep Purple’s recent  success this was seemed slightly disappointing. To make matters worse, vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover left the band after Who Do We Think We Are. Deep Purple’s career looked like it was at a crossroads.

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With Ian Gillan and Roger Glover having left Deep Purple, this left a huge void. marked the end of an era for Deep Purple. Ian Gillan and Roger Glover were almost irreplaceable. They had played a huge part in Deep Purple’s rise to titans of rock.

From Deep Purple In Rock, right through to Made In Japan, Deep Purple enjoyed critical acclaim and commercial success.  Deep Purple, and its classic lineup of  Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Roger Glover were one of the biggest bands in the free world. However, the departure of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover looked as if this spelt the end of  Deep Purple. Maybe it would be best if Deep Purple called it a day, while they were at the top. The last thing they wanted to do was besmirch their illustrious musical legacy. However, the three remaining members of Deep Purple weren’t ready to call it a day.

Instead, the two departing members of Deep Purple were soon replaced. A then unknown David Coverdale became Deep Purple’s vocalist, while Glen Hughes of Trapeze took over as bassist. They had big shoes to fill. However, with the help of the remaining members of Deep Purple, managed to do so during 1974. It was one of the busiest years of Deep Purple’s career, and saw them release Burn.

Burn. 

With the two new members of Deep Purple onboard, work began on the first album of Deep Purple Mk. III’s career. When work began on what became Burn the five members of the band  were involved. There was a problem though as Glenn Hughes had unexpired contractual obligations. This meant he couldn’t be credited on the album. Despite this, Glenn Hughes and the rest of Deep Purple cowrote five songs. The exceptions were Sail Away and Mistreated, which Richie Blackmore and David Coverdale cowrote. A200 which closed Burn, was written by Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. These songs were recorded in Montreux, in Switzerland.

Recording of Burn took place during November 1973. The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio had been hired, and made its way to Montreux. This was where the new  lineup of Deep Purple made its debut. Deep Purple Mk. III featured a rhythm section of drummer Ian Paice, bassist Glenn Hughes and guitarist Richie Blackmore. Augmenting the rhythm section, was keyboardist Jon Lord.  They provided the backdrop for new vocalist David Coverdale. He was part of a group that moved Deep Purple’s traditional sound forward. There was more of a boogie influence on Burn, which even featured elements of funk and soul. Once Burn was completed, Deep Purple would shortly showcase their new sound.

With Burn recorded, and the release scheduled for 15th February 1974. Before that, critics had their say on Deep Purple’s eighth studio album. Most of the critics were impressed with Deep Purple Mk. III’s ‘debut’ album. The hard rocking Burn set the bar high, as a hard  rocking Deep Purple kicked loose. There was no stopping them, as they incorporated elements of boogie, blues, funk and soul. Burn was an album where Deep Purple’s music began to evolve. However, how would their fans respond?

On the release of Burn on 15th February 1974, it reached number three in Britain and number nine in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in gold discs in America, Argentina, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden. Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice’s decision to continue with Deep Purple had been vindicated.

Storm had been well received by critics and was a commercial success. While it wasn’t as successful as some of their earlier albums, it was something to build on for Deep Purple Mk. III.

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Stormbringer.

Buoyed by the success of Storm, Deep Purple’s thoughts turned to their next album which became Stormbringer. Deep Purple and Martin Birch coproduced the album, which was recorded at Musicland Studios, in Munich, Germany, between August and September 1974.

When Stormbringer was released  in November 1974 there was no consensus amongst critics. Their reviews ranged from favourable to mixed although the album featured future classics like Lady Double Dealer, High Ball Shooter and the wistful ballad Soldier of Fortune. Despite the mixed reviews, the album was certified silver in Britain and gold in America and France. However,  the album sales were way down, and to make matters worse David Coverdale didn’t like the funky soulful parts of Stormbringer. 

On the ‘21st’ of June 1975, it was announced that after just two albums with Deep Purple, David Coverdale  had left the band.  He joined forces with Ronnie James Dio of Elf, and formed a new band waging they called Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The name was shortened to Rainbow after the first album. By then, it was all change with Deep Purple.

After the departure of David Coverdale, the other members of Deep Purple cast their net wide and looked at some of the biggest names in music. Everyone from Rory Gallagher, Mick Ronson, Humble Pie’s  Clem Clempson and Zal Cleminson of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Eventually, one of the quintessential British rock groups settled on American Tommy Bolin who had been a member of The James Gang between 1973 and 1974. He made his debut on Come Taste The Band.

 Come Taste The Band.

Deep Purple Mk IV began recording what became  Come Taste The Band on the ‘3rd’ of August 1975. The sessions finished on the ‘1st’ of September 1975, and after two months, Deep Purple’s tenth album was complete. 

Come Taste The Band was released on the ‘10th’ of October 1975, and Deep Purple returned to a much more traditional hard rocking sound on what was a much more commercial sounding. However,  Come Taste The Band the consistency and  quality of previous albums and was described as a weak album. 

Things didn’t improve for Deep Purple when the album stalled at forty-three on the US Billboard 200. The only small crumb of comfort was when Come Taste The Band reached number nineteen in Britain and was certified silver by November 1975. However, the sales of the album worldwide were disappointing. It was hoped that the 1976 tour would help sales.

In 1976, Deep Purple toured Come Taste The Band and things didn’t go to plan. Although Tommy Bolin was a talented guitarist, his problems with hard drugs started to affect his ability to performances. Fans didn’t realise he was in the throes of addiction and booed him because he couldn’t play solos like Ritchie Blackmore. To complicate matters, Glenn Hughes was addicted to cocaine and all this resulted in a number of poor performances. Things got so bad that the future of Deep Purple was in doubt.

Although Deep Purple Mk. IV called time on their career in the spring of 1976 the break up of the band was only announced in July 1976. By then, only Jon Lord  and Ian Paice remained from the lineup of Deep Purple that released Shades Of Deep Purple in 1968. They had been with the band  since they released their debut album Shades Of Deep Purple in 1968. Ten albums and four lineups later they were the last men standing and had been with the band through good times and bad. 

This included a five year period where the classic lineup of Deep Purple were at the peak of their powers as they released four studio albums and the live album Made In Japan. Between 1970s Deep Purple In Rock and 1975s Who Do We Think We Are, the classic line hardly put a foot wrong. Albums like Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head and Made In Japan are now regarded as classic albums and Jon Lord  and Ian Paice played their part in the sound and success of these albums, held transform Deep Purple into one of the most successful and hardest rocking British rock bands of the seventies. They were also one of the hardest living British bands.

Vying with Deep Purple for the title of Kings of seventies rock were Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Just like Deep Purple, they were hugely successful and hard rocking bands. They were also the hardest living living rock groups. This lead to them being known as the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal.” The three groups seemed proud of their infamy, and wore it like a badge.

The “unholy trinity’s” penchant for the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle was legendary. Excess and extravagance was an everyday occurrence. Similarly,  chaos and carnage was omnipresent as the “unholy trinity” toured the world. Each group seemed to determined to outdo the other. They were living the dream. This continued until the release of Who Do We Think We Are.

By the time Deep Purple began work on Who Do We Think We Are all wasn’t well within the band. Things had gotten so bad, that a schedule was drawn up that allowed band members to record on their own. Somehow, Deep Purple managed to complete Who Do We Think We Are, which was well received by critics and a commercial success. After that, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover left Deep Purple.  It was the last album the classic lineup of Deep Purple released.

The departure of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover looked as if this spelt the end of  Deep Purple. However, they continued to record and tour but were never quite the same band.

Deep Purple released just three albums after the departure of Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.  The first was Burn, which featured elements of boogie, blues, funk and soul, and was by far the best of this trio of albums. It was well received by critics and a bigger commercial success than its predecessor Who Do We Think We Are. Despite that, Burn isn’t regarded as one of Deep Purple’s classic albums. However, it’s much better  and stronger album than Stormbringer and Come Taste The Band which are both disappointing albums. Nowadays, Burn is regarded as the last great album that Deep Purple released before splitting up in July 1976. 

Just like classic albums like Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head and Made In Japan, Burn features Deep Purple at their hard rocking best. These albums have stood the test of time and so has Burn, which is the best of the rest and an essential album for anyone interested in Deep Purple’s music. 

Burn is also a reminder of the golden age of rock, when Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin the “unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal ruled the roost, and recorded and released a string of classic albums that are truly timeless and part of Britain’s rich musical legacy. 

Classic Album: Deep Purple-Burn.

CULT CLASSIC: DAWAN MUHAMMAD-DEEP STREAM.

Cult Classic: Dawan Muhammad-Deep Stream.

By 1979, jazz wasn’t as popular as it was during the fifties and early sixties. That was the golden age for jazz, and saw countless classic albums released on labels like Blue Note, Verve and Impulse! These albums sold in large quantities and were profitable for the record companies that released them. However, by the mid-sixties, jazz was no longer as popular as it had been. Musical tastes were changing and jazz like the blues had to evolve or risk becoming irrelevant.

By the time of John Coltrane’s death in 1967 rock was by far the most popular musical genre in America. A headline in Downbeat magazine warned that: “Jazz as We Know It Is Dead.” The future for jazz looked bleak.

Fortunately, fusion rode to the rescue of jazz in the late-sixties, and suddenly, there was a resurgence of interest the genre which began to grow in popularity. Some of the most important, influential and innovative fusion albums were released between 1968 to 1974. That was a golden period for fusion which was still popular right up to 1979. However, it wasn’t as popular as it once had been. Jazz was changing and so was the way albums were being released.

By 1979, many American jazz musicians had realised that they didn’t need to sign to a major labels to realise an album. There was another way. All across America small local labels had sprung up and were releasing private presses. Some of these labels were formed by an artist to release an album. That was the case with Evidence Artistic Records which was founded by Dawan Muhammad in 1979 to release his debut album Deep Stream.

Composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist Dawan Muhammad was thirty-three when he began work on Deep Stream. He composed five of the tracks on the album, and wrote the music to Deep Stream and Is That You which featured lyrics by Delores Pierce. She was part of the band that recorded Deep Stream.

Fifteen musicians and vocalist Delores Pierce joined bandleader Dawan Muhammad who played bass clarinet, flute, saxophone, Fender Rhodes, piano, chequere, congas, drums, dumbek and pandeiro on Deep Stream. He was joined by a rhythm section included drummer and percussionists Daniel Sabanovich and Prince H. Lawsha; Christopher Amberger and Stan Poplin on acoustic and electric bass plus guitarist Chris Cooper who also played violin. They were joined by Paul Nagle on Fender Rhodes and piano; Luis Raul Rivera on congas; flautist Jimmy Johnson while Oscar Williams switched between trumpet and flugelhorn. The strings came courtesy of cellists Deborah Ciremeli and Kenneth Johnson; violists Gordon Thrupp and Judith Hobbs plus violinists Philipp Kashap and Ron Paul. This was the band that accompanied Dawan Muhammad as he recorded the seven tracks that eventually became Deep Stream.

With his debut album complete, Dawan Muhammad decided to release the album as a private press via Evidence Artistic Records. He had enjoyed complete artistic freedom when he recorded Deep Stream and could oversee and micromanage every aspect of the release if he wanted. That was the upside of releasing a private press. 

The downside was that a small label like Evidence Artistic Records neither had the financial muscle nor marketing expertise required that the bigger labels had. Many of the small labels releasing private presses didn’t even have a distributor. This meant that the label owner or even the artist had to drive around town with boxes of albums trying to convince owners of record shops to stock the album. Often the best they could hope was on a sale or return basis. It was a long way from Blue Note, Verve or Impulse!

When Dawan Muhammad released Deep Stream in 1979 sadly, it passed the majority of jazz fans by. Only a few lucky record buyers heard what was a stunning and timeless album of spiritual jazz. It finds the multitalented bandleader and his extended ensemble showcasing their considerable skills and versatility. They switch between and incorporate elements of funk, fusion, hard bop, Ethio-jazz and even free jazz during this seven track set. 

Deep Stream opens with Anxiety a driving, dramatic and genre-melting jam that ebbs and flows veering between urgent and understated. Contrasts are everywhere from stabs of piano, drumrolls and bursts of shrill flugelhorn to a fluttering funky bass and shimmering Fender Rhodes. Later, the piano takes centrestage and plays a leading role before joining forces with the horns and Fender Rhodes for the remainder this captivating roller coaster journey.

As Deep Stream meanders and breezes along a deliberate piano and rhythm section accompanies Delores Pierce’s tender, heartfelt and emotive vocal. When it drops out, the piano and rhythm section stretch their legs and create a slinky arrangement that’s a reminder of jazz’s past.  Later, a flute flutters high above arrangement but it’s still the vocal that plays a starring role in the sound and success of one of the album’s highlights. It’s a similar case on the beautiful slow, string-drenched ballad Is That You where Delores Pierce make a welcome return.

Sun, Moon, Stars is an eight-minute epic that allows Dawan Muhammad and his band to stretch their legs and showcase their considerable talent. Christopher Amberger adds a walking bass while braying, sultry and scorching horns accompany pianist Paul Nagle who plays some of his finest solos during this joyous and uplifting opus that will have you reaching for the sky.

Cataclysmic Decision is quite different from what’s gone before. Thunderous drum rolls add a degree of urgency. So does the the flugelhorn which like the strings are almost dissonant. It’s as if the track is heading in the direction of free jazz. It’s a much more avant-garde and experimental sounding track that shows another side to Dawan Muhammad. 

East Wind is a much more understated and melodic track. It sashays along as braying horns, Fender Rhodes and percussion combine while the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Dawan Muhammad and his band paint pictures on this cinematic track that’s akin to a seven minutes of musical  sunshine.

Closing Deep Stream is the uber percussive Ethio-jazz of Tambu. It may be short and sweet but it ensures the album closes on a high.

It’s forty-two years since multi-instrumentalist Dawan Muhammad put together a band of talented and versatile jazz musicians to record his debut album Deep Stream. It was released as a private press later in 1979 and is stunning and timeless album of spiritual jazz where  Dawan Muhammad also takes detours via fusion, vocal jazz, funk, free jazz and Ethio-jazz during this seven track set.

Sadly, Deep Stream never found the audience it deservedPart of the problem was that Dawan Muhammad self-released the album. The advantage was that he had complete artistic freedom when he recorded Deep Stream and could oversee and micromanage every aspect of the release. Just like many artists who had released private presses before him, Dawan Muhammad would soon realise that to release and promote an album properly required resources and expertise. This was what a record company provided as well as a distribution deal. Without a distributor it wasn’t possible to get the album into record shops across America.

Many other artists had been in the same situation as Dawan Muhammad and watched as the album they had spent so much of their time writing and recording sunk without trace when it was released. This meant that the majority of jazz fans never heard Deep Stream when it was released. For the multitalented multi-instrumentalist Dawan Muhammad it was a case of what might have been.

It was only much later when jazz fans discovered Dawan Muhammad’s oft-overlooked debut album Deep Stream. By then, it was much a much-prized rarity amongst jazz fans and original copies of the album were beyond the budget of most jazz fans. Thankfully, Dawan Muhammad’s spiritual jazz cult classic was reissued in 2020 and this allowed a new generation of jazz fans to discover the delights of Deep Stream. 

Cult Classic: Dawan Muhammad-Deep Stream.

CULT CLASSIC: BOBBIE GENTRY-THE DELTA SWEETE.

Cult Classic: Bobbie Gentry-The Delta Sweete.

Less than three weeks after Bobbie Gentry released Ode To Billie Joe as a single on the ‘10th’ of July 1967 the song topped the US Billboard 100 and US Country charts. The song was penned by Bobbie Gentry and was the twenty-five year old’s debut single as a solo artist.  

Buoyed by the success of the single, Capitol Records released Bobbie Gentry’s debut album Ode To Billie Joe on August the ’21st’ 1967. It reached number one on the US Billboard 200 and US Country charts and was certified gold. This was something to celebrate.

In Houston, Mississippi, it was announced that September ’30th’ 1967 was Bobbie Gentry Day. The singer travelled home a week after Ode To Billie Joe ended its four-day run at number one. Bobby Gentry was greeted by 5,000 people, and the same day, Life magazine interviewed her for their November issue. It would feature a photograph of her standing on the Tallahatchie Bridge which Ode To Billie Joe had made famous.

A month later, Bobby Gentry returned to California where and began working on her sophomore album. This became the concept album The Delta Sweete.

For the followup to Ode To Billie Joe, Bobby Gentry decided to write a concept album which was based on modern life in the Deep South. The eight songs documented her childhood and are essentially  snapshots of both her home and church life. This includes Reunion and Sermon. For the other songs on the album, Bobby Gentry thought back to the music she heard growing up.

She remembered hearing blues and country songs  growing up in Mississippi and decided to cover four of them. This included Mose Allison’s Parchman Farm, John D. Loudermilk’s Tobacco Road, Doug Kershaw’s Louisiana Man plus Luther Dixon and Al Smith’s Okolona River Bottom Band. These songs and the eight originals were recorded during the half of 1967 and featured on The Delta Sweete.

Just like Ode To Billie Joe, The Delta Sweete was produced by Kelly Gordon and recorded at Capitol Recording Studio, in Hollywood. Accompanying Bobby Gentry were some top session musicians including members of the Wrecking Crew. Drummer Hal Blaine and percussionist Earl Palmer were joined by a horn and string section as Bobby Gentry recorded the twelve tracks over a five days in 1967.

The first session took place on July the ‘16th’ 1967 when Penduli Pendulum was recorded. Nearly three months later, Okolona River Bottom Band and Courtyard were recorded on the ‘5th’ of October by Bobby Gentry. She retrained to the studio on November the ‘4th’ and cut Big Boss Man and Parchman Farm. Just a week later, on November the ‘11th Reunion, Mornin’ Glory, Jessye’ Lisabeth and Refractions were recorded. This was Bobby Gentry’s most productive day. A month later on December the ‘12th’ she returned and laid down her vocals for Tobacco Road and Louisiana Man and her sophomore album was finished.

It was decided to call the album The Delta Sweete.The Sweete in the album title was a play on words in two ways. Where Bobbie Gentry grew up, a woman with her Southern Belle good looks would be called “sweete.” The music on the concept album was also a suite of songs. Some thought had gone into the album title and the album cover.

For the album cover, a double exposure of a black and white close up of Bobby Gentry’s face was taken by George Fields. It was then superimposed over a colour photo of her grandparent’s farm where she grew up. The result was an expressive and poignant album cover that was  perfect for the music on The Delta Sweete.

Just two months after Bobbie Gentry had finished recording The Delta Sweete, it was released on the ‘16th’ of February 1968. Critics were won over by the album the album’s swampy and folk-infused sound that was mixture of country, pop and blues. There’s also diversions via chamber pop, psychedelia, soul and the Nashville Sound on The Delta Sweete which critics thought would be a commercial success.

That was despite the lead single Okolona River Bottom Band stalling at fifty-four in the US Billboard 100 in 1967. This was a disappointment. It was hoped it was a blip and having chosen the wrong single. 

Then when The Delta Sweete was released, it stalled at just 132 on the US Billboard 200 but reached twenty-six on the US Country chart. This was a small crumb of comfort, but there was no gold disc for Bobbie Gentry’s first concept album. 

The second single Louisiana Man reached sneaked into in the US Billboard 100 at number 100 and reached seventy-two in the US Country charts. This wasn’t the success that Bobbie Gentry and executives at Capitol Records had been hoping for.

Given the success of Ode To Billie Jo, the commercial failure of The Delta Sweete surprised many people. Especially given the quality of the music on the album which showcased a talented singer, songwriter and storyteller who painted pictures with her lyrics.That was the case on Bobbie Gentry’s sophomore album.   

The Delta Sweete opens with one her eight new compositions, the swampy Southern sound of Okolona River Bottom Band. It gives way to the blues Big Boss Man which in Bobby Gentry’s hands is occasionally bawdy and tinged with innuendo. 

Reunion finds Bobby Gentry going back to her childhood as she recreates a family arguing at the dinner table. At one point, she even adds a proto rap as she paints pictures of growing up in the Deep South. Then she delivers a despairing version of the chain-gang lament Parchman Farm, which is another of the four songs she heard growing up. It fits well with the rest of the album.

Very different is the sensuous sounding Bobby Gentry composition Mornin’ Glory. It’s followed by another of her songs Sermon, which was inspired by the gospel song Run On. Somehow, she makes song sound both ominous and strangely uplifting.

Bobbie Gentry delivers a filmic cover of Mornin’ Glory, and is accompanied by strings and a Mariachi band. They play their part in song’s bittersweet and wistful sounding song. Penduli Pendulum is a lysergic sounding track while Jesse’ Lisabeth is a heartfelt and emotive folk fable that brings about a sense of apprehension. One of Bobbie Gentry’s finest compositions is Refractions, a thoughtful sounding chamber pop song about a crystal bird that is unable to land because its legs are broken.

While f Bobbie Gentry’s cover of Louisiana Man is well done, it seems to be the odd man out on this concept album. One can’t help but wonder does it deserve its place on The Delta Sweete? It closes with Courtyard a sad and thought-provoking song about a woman who feels stifled by her partner and she struggles with to cope with living with a man who makes promises he doesn’t keep. Bobby Gentry has kept one of the best until last.

Sadly, never came close to matching the success of Bobbie Gentry’s debut album The Delta Sweete. That doesn’t make it a bad album. It was well received upon its release and in many ways this concept album is oft-overlooked and under-appreciated. 

 It was a fitting followup to Ode To Billie Jo which was the most successful album of her career. When she was recording The Delta Sweete, Bobbie Gentry was given full creative control  by Capitol Records and this paid off given the quality of the album she recorded with producer Kelly Gordon. Sadly, it wasn’t a commercial success, and it was a case of what might have been for Bobbie Gentry?

When asked about the commercial failure of the album, she said: “I didn’t lose any sleep over it. I’ve never tried to second-guess public taste. If I were just a performer and not a writer, I might have felt more insecure about the whole thing.”

Bobbie Gentry’s career continued and although she released six solo albums and one with Glen Campbell, The Delta Sweete is nowadays regarded as the finest album of her career. 

The Delta Sweete was the album that got away for Bobbie Gentry. If it had matched the success of Ode To Billie Jo she could’ve gone on to become one of the most successful female singer-songwriters of the late-sixties and early seventies. 

Fifty-two years later, and The Delta Sweete is regarded as Bobbie Gentry’s finest hour. It’s an oft-overlooked timeless and cinematic concept album where Bobbie Gentry takes the listener on a journey to the Deep South and paints pictures across the suite of songs that is her Magnus Opus, The Delta Sweete.

Cult Classic: Bobbie Gentry-The Delta Sweete.

SHINTARO QUINTET-EVOLUTION.

Shintaro Quintet-Evolution.

Label: BBE Music.

Format: CD.

Ever since  the mid-fifties, many American jazz musicians journeyed to Japan where they toured and recorded albums. They were respected and treated as series  musicians, and when they recorded an album the budget was much more generous and the working conditions far better than they were used to. 

It was no surprise that between the late-sixties and early seventies, Art Blakey, Bob James, Gary Peacock, Herbie Hancock and Oliver Nelson either spent lengthy periods living in Japan or decided to live there permanently. 

During this period, other American jazz musicians journey to Europe and Scandinavia which became their home-from-home. It was the start of a new chapter in their career as jazz was evolving.

Meanwhile, many  Japanese jazz musicians decided to head to the home of jazz. This was where the music that they played and were passionate about was born, evolved and became popular. It was akin to a pilgrimage for musicians like young Japanese jazz musicians like Shintaro Nakamura who arrived in America in the mid-sixties. By 1984, the bassist had founded the Shintaro Quintet who recorded Evolution for Streetnoise Records. By then, he had worked with the great and good of jazz.

Shintaro Nakamura was born in Kobe,  in 1956, and discovered jazz music in high school. This came about when one of his classmates brought in a jazz album. For Shintaro Nakamura this was a gamechanger. 

Jazz became the soundtrack to daily life for Shintaro Nakamura. For the next three years he played the same records each day. Ella and Louis, Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet and Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet were the records that started a lifelong love affair with jazz, and especially the bass. 

In the early days, Shintaro Nakamura was captivated by Paul Chambers’ bass lines and Red Mitchell’s melodic playing. These two bassists would later influence him as he embarked upon a career as a professional jazz musician.

Having discovered in high school, Shintaro Nakamura was soon hanging out in the jazz kissa, a network of jazz coffeehouses and bars. This was akin to a musical education as he was able to hear an eclectic selection of jazz which was often played on high end stereo systems. Sometimes, he was lucky enough to hear local jazz musicians and occasionally, visiting jazzers from overseas. 

After high school, Shintaro Nakamura headed to Kinki University, where he joined the Jazz Studies Group and also learned to play the bass. By 1982, he was too busy with music and dropped out of University. 

By then, Shintaro Nakamura had realised there was a limit to the music that he could hear in Japan. He realised that to further his musical education he was going to have to travel to the home of jazz, America.

Shintaro Nakamura decided to study jazz in New York, and while he was there, he decided to write some new compositions. Having played in some jazz sessions he decided that he wanted to record the new tracks.

To do this, he needed to put together a band. By then, Shintaro Nakamura had already played alongside some well known names. This included Larry Carlton, Marcus Miller, Steve Gadd and Woody Shaw a couple of times. However, to record his debut album he handpicked a band.

The first recruit was pianist Jeff Jenkins who sounded as if he had been influenced by McCoy Tyner’s percussive blues. He was joined by American-born saxophonist Robert Kenmotsu who previously had been a member of Jack McDuff’s band. He was joined in the front line by thirty-four year old trumpeter Shunzo Ohno. Drummer Fukushi Tainaka was joined in the rhythm section by bandleader and bassist Shintaro Nakamura who engineered and produced Evolution at Hi-Five Studio, New York, on the ‘10th’ and ‘13th’ January 1984.

Before the recording sessions, the Shintaro Quintet spent just a day practising. That was all they needed. They were ready to record Evolution at Hi-Five Studio. Evolution took  just two days for the Shintaro Quintet to record. 

Evolution was an album that had been influenced by the jazz music of the late-fifties and early sixties. This was the music that Shintaro Nakamura heard growing up and had influenced him. He recorded Evolution live and there was no overdubs. Instead, the Shintaro Quintet played together and recorded straight to tape. It was an album of modal jazz that sometimes heads in the direction of hard bop, post bop and avant-garde. 

Once the recording of Evolution was complete, Shintaro Nakamura returned home to Japan where he met his friend  Hedeki Kawamura who had just founded Streetnoise Records. He was looking for albums that had been recorded in New York to release on his nascent label. Shintaro Nakamura agreed to let his friend release Evolution and the Shintaro Quintet’s debut album became Streetnoise Records’ second release.

Streetnoise Records had 1,000 copies of Evolution pressed. It featured a distinctive diagonal OBI strip across the top left hand corner of the sleeve. The album was sold in local record shops and at concerts. 

When jazz fans heard Evolution they discovered and were impressed by an album of original music that was played by the Shintaro Quintet. They were tight, talented and versatile and showcased their considerable talents during the five tracks written by bandleader and bassist Shintaro Nakamura. This included Blind Man which closed the album and was a tribute to Woody Shaw who he had played with just before recording Evolution. Sadly, he was almost blind by then and Shintaro Nakamura wrote the track as a tribute to the jazz great. It brought to a close Evolution,  the Shintaro Quintet’s J Jazz cult classic which thirty-seven years after its original release is belatedly starting to find a wide audience.

Shintaro Quintet-Evolution.

CULT CLASSIC: LOLEATTA HOLLOWAY-CRY TO ME.

Cult Classic: Loleatta Holloway-Cry To Me.

Before being transformed into a disco diva by arranger, guitarist and producer Norman Harris at Salsoul imprint Gold Mind Records, Loleatta Holloway released two albums of Southern Soul for Michael Thevis’ Aware Records. This includes her sophomore album Cry To Me, which was released in 1975.

Loleatta Holloway was born in the Windy City of Chicago, on November the ‘5th’ 1946, and just like Minnie Ripperton and Aretha Franklin her talent was noticeable from an early age. Growing up, music was always part of Loleatta Holloway’s life. 

Her first involvement with music was when she joined her mother’s gospel group. Her time with The Holloway Community Gospel Singers was akin to a musical apprenticeship. 

That was also the case for another young singer that Loleatta Holloway met whilst singing with her mother’s gospel group. This was a young Aretha Franklin who later, would influence Loleatta Holloway’s vocal style and phrasing.

In 1967, Loleatta Holloway was asked by Albertina Walker to join The Caravans, the gospel group she founded in the fifties. She agreed, and later, that year, The Famous Caravans as they were now billed, released their critically acclaimed album Help Is On The Way. Loleatta Holloway’s recording career was underway.

For the next four years, she was a member of The Caravans and on their 1969 album Think About It takes charge of the lead vocal on two tracks. However, by 1971 Loleatta Holloway was ready to embark on a new chapter in her career.

She acted in the musical revue Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope and formed and toured with her own company Loleatta Holloway and Her Review. By then, she had also met future husband and manager Floyd Smith, who arranged for Loleatta Holloway to record her first secular tracks. 

This was a cover of a Gene Chandler song Rainbow 71, which was released on the Apache label in 1971. Later, they leased to Galaxy who were able to distribute the single nationwide. However, the song failed to chart and Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio.

Her next single was Bring It On Up, originally the b-side to Sentimental Reasons. It was around this time that Michael Thevis became aware of Loleatta Holloway, and he signed for his new Atlanta based Aware label.

Now that he had signed Loleatta Holloway, Michael Thevis wasted no time recording her first single for his new label. This was Mother Of Shame, which was released in May 1973, and reached number sixty-three in the US R&B Charts. Although it was only a minor hit, Loleatta Holloway entered the studio with producer Floyd Smith to record her debut secular album. 

Loleatta.

This was Loleatta, which was recorded at the Sound Pit Studios, in Atlanta, Georgia. The album was produced by Floyd Smith who penned Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool and cowrote Only A Fool with William Johnson. Accompanying Loleatta Holloway as she recorded the ten tracks were The “Homegrown” Rhythm Section. Once the album was completed, it was released later in 1973.

By July 1973, DJs were playing Our Love which was on the B-Side of Mother Of Shame. It eventually reached forty-three in the US R&B charts and game Loleatta Holloway her second hit single.

Buoyed by the success of Our Love, Part Time Lover, Full Time Fool was released as a single. Despite being one of the strongest song on the album and an obvious choice for a single it failed to chart. This was a disappointment for Loleatta Holloway and Floyd Smith who wrote and produced the song.

There was further disappointment when Loleatta was released later in 1973 and failed to chart. That was despite the album receiving positive reviews from the critics that reviewed it. 

The album featured a series of vocal masterclasses from Loleatta Holloway who sounded as if she had lived the lyrics. She breathed life, meaning and emotion into the songs on Loleatta and was like actress in a play on the tales of love and love gone wrong. Sadly, very few people heard Loleatta when it was released in 1973 and she hoped that the followup fared better.

Cry To Me.

In the spring of 1974, Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio to record her next single.The song that had been chosen was a Sam Dees’ composition Help Me My Lord. It found Loleatta Holloway strutting her way through the track delivering a vocal powerhouse as she combines Southern Soul and gospel. 

Then Loleatta Holloway delivers a defiant vocal that is a mixture of anger and frustration on Frederick Knight’s The World Don’t Owe You Nothin’. It features a funky, soulful arrangement that is the perfect backdrop to this mini soap opera. However, despite being the stronger of the two tracks it was destined for the B-Side.

This decision came back to haunt Aware Records when  Help Me My Lord was released as a single and failed to chart. Despite this, Loleatta Holloway returned to the studio to record the rest of her sophomore album Cry To Me.

Another eight tracks were chosen for the album including Sam Dees’ I Know Where You’re Coming From and The Show Must Go On. They were join ed by David Camon’s Cry To Me; Curtis Mayfield’s Just Be True To Me; Johnny Jacobs and Ronnie Walker’s Something About The Way I Feel; A. Jerline Williams and William Johnson’s I Can’t Help Myself and Jo Armstead’s Casanova. The other track was the Loleatta Holloway composition I’ll Be Gone. These tracks were recorded at the Sound Pit Studios, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Just like Loleatta, Cry To Me was produced by Floyd Smith. Accompanying Loleatta Holloway at the Sound Pit were The “Homegrown” Rhythm Section. Just like her debut album they played an important part in the album’s sound.

This includes on the album opener Cry To Me where a piano plays slowly, guitars chime and combine with the rhythm section as Loleatta Holloway delivers a soliloquy. She’s heartbroken and sings about how her relationship is breaking up against an arrangement that is a mixture of power and drama. Strings sweep in while the rhythm section add drama and backing vocalists accompany a powerful, soul-baring vocal. It’s almost impossible not to to get caught up in the emotion and sadness of what’s one of the album’s highlights.

The Show Must Go On was written by Sam Dees who originally recorded this ballad. Loleatta Holloway delivers a hurt-filled soliloquy against Floyd Smith’s arrangement. By the time the vocal enters, the rhythm section, sweeping strings horns, gospel-tinged backing vocalists, vibes and even applause accompany a defiant, dramatic soul-baring vocal.

I Know Where You’re Coming From is a song about a relationship breakup with a twist in the tale. Loleatta Holloway delivers a soliloquy as a guitar chimes and a bass cuts through the arrangement. Meanwhile, soaring backing vocals join Loleatta Holloway as she reassures her friend: “I Know Where You’re Coming From” before singing: “why don’t you take my hand and be my man” on this timeless slice of sassy Southern Soul. 

There’s a sense of drama to the ballad Just Be True To Me. It features an arrangement where strings sweep and horns rasp as the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Meanwhile, Loleatta Holloway delivers a heartfelt and impassioned vocal that becomes needy and hopeful when she sings: “Just Be True To Me” on this beautiful ballad.

The tempo rises slightly on Something About The Way I Feel as the rhythm section, horns and vibes set the scene for an impassioned vocal. Loleatta Holloway reflects about the past and what she’s been through with her partner. She’s accompanied by backing vocalists that prove to be the perfect foil as the song swings and she gives thanks for the love she’s found, what she has and “the way I feel.” It’s a beautiful paean where the future disco diva paints pictures with the lyrics.

I’ll Be Gone is another ballad and the only song on the album written by Loleatta Holloway. She warns on this tale of love gone wrong that: “I can’t let you keep on hurting me for I’ll Be Gone.” Her vocal is bristling with emotion and hurt as the rhythm section add a degree of drama and are joined by a crystalline guitar, vibes plus sweeping and pizzicato strings. They provide the perfect backdrop as Loleatta Holloway delivers an ultimatum to her cheating, no good man.  

Dramatic describes the introduction to I Can’t Help Myself before it sets the scene for Loleatta Holloway’s vocal. There’s a degree of confusion in her voice as she’s fallen for the wrong guy. “I never thought I could  fall in love with a guy like you, although I know you could never be true, I find myself wanting to live with ‘cos I love you, I can’t help myself.” Meanwhile, backing vocals soar above the arrangement and coo, as drums pound, a guitar chimes, strings sweep and horns rasp. It’s one of the best arrangements on the album and the perfect accompaniment for the vocal.  

Stabs of horns, backing vocalists and the rhythm section combine to create a dramatic backdrop before Loleatta Holloway unleashes a powerful, emotive vocal on Casanova. She tells her parter “Casanova your playing days are over.” Meanwhile, the backing vocalists sing “it’s over, it’s over baby” as strings sweep and swirl and the drama builds during this four minute soap open. It’s one of the eight tracks recorded at the Sound Pit and is without doubt one of the highlight Cry To Me.

With the rest of the album completed, Cry To Me was scheduled for release later in 1975. Loleatta Holloway must have been hoping that it would fare better than her debut album. 

Things were looking good when Cry To Me was released as a single in January 1975 and reached sixty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and ten in the US R&B charts. 

In June 1975, I Know I Where You’re Coming From was released as a single and stalled at sixty-nine in the US R&B charts. It was a case of one step forward and two steps back for Loleatta Holloway.

She released her sophomore album Cry To Me later in 1975 and although it was well received by critics but like her debut failed to trouble the charts. The problem was this future Southern Soul classic hadn’t been promoted properly. However, this time there was a reason for the lack of promotion. 

All wasn’t well at Aware and the label was teetering on the brink. Despite this, Casanova was released as a single but failed to find the audience it deserved. Not long after this, Aware and the rest of Michael Thevis’ empire folded.

All the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records were left high and dry. 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. These artists had no idea what the future held for them. 

In the case of Loleatta Holloway she was signed to Salsoul imprint Gold Mind Records by Norman Harris. This was the start of a new chapter Loleatta Holloway who was transformed into a disco diva at her new label.

This was very different to the two albums of Southern Soul Loleatta Holloway had recorded at Aware. Sadly, neither Loleatta nor Cry To Me was a commercial success  when they were released. It was only much later that the two albums started to find a wider audience. 

Cry To Me is the best of the two albums and is almost flawless. Ironically, the weakest track on the album is the lead single Help Me My Lord. The rest of the songs on the album are tailor made for Loleatta Holloway and play to her strengths. She delivers vocals that veer between dramatic, emotive, heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring to defiant, hopeful and sassy as she struts her way through the lyrics about love and love gone wrong. Other times, the vocals are needy and hopeful as Loleatta Holloway brings the lyrics to life. Especially when accompanied by Floyd Smith’s timeless arrangements. They add to the drama and theatre of the songs on Cry To Me and are play their part in the sound and success of the album.

Sadly, Aware was the wrong label for Loleatta Holloway and the two albums weren’t promoted properly. Especially Cry To Me which was released just before Michael Thevis’ house of cards collapsed. This was a great shame and meant that very few people got to hear Cry To Me. For Loleatta Holloway it was a case of what might have been?

Forty-five years later, and Loleatta Holloway’s music is more popular than ever. Although she’s better known as a disco diva the two albums she recorded for Aware are belatedly receiving the recognition they deserves and this includes Loleatta Holloway’s Southern Soul classic  Cry To Me.

Cult Classic: Loleatta Holloway-Cry To Me.

CULT CALSSIC: TIM MAIA-RACIONAL VOLUME 2.

Cult Classic: Tim Maia-Racional Volume 2.

By 1975, Tim Maia was a changed man and had turned his back on the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that he had embraced and enjoyed since releasing his eponymous debut album in 1970. Back then, the charismatic Brazilian singer realised that he was only here for a visit and decided to live life to the fullest. He drank, took drugs and partied as he enjoyed the newfound wealth his musical career had brought him.

Despite that wealth and a lifestyle that many of his fans must have envied, Tim Maia wasn’t happy. The problem was the royalty rate that he had been paid by Polydor for his first four album. That was why he decided to found his own publishing company Seroma. This just happened to coincide with him signing to RCA Victor.

This was a new start for Tim Maia, and he began work on his next album which was going to be a double album. He wrote and recorded the instrumental parts and all that was left was for him to write the lyrics. 

Seeking inspiration for the lyrics, Tim Maia decided to visit one of his former songwriting partners Tibério Gaspar. That was where he found the book that would change his life, but sadly, not for the better. The book was Universo em Desencanto (Universe in Disenchantment) which revolved around the cult of Rational Culture. It transformed Tim Maia’s life and inspired what was to be his fifth album Racional Volumes 1 and 2, which was also the most controversial of his career. It was the latest extraordinary chapter in his life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following year, Tim Maia returned with his sophomore album Tim Maia 1971, where elements of soul and funk were combined with samba and Baião There were even hints of jazz, psychedelia and rock during what was an ambitious and innovative album of genre-melting music. It  was released to critical acclaim and like his debut was a commercial success.

Tim Maia 1971 also featured two hits singles Não Quero Dinheiro (Só Quero Amar) and Preciso Aprender a Ser Só. Having released just two albums Tim Maia’s star was in the ascendancy, and it looked as if he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest stars of Brazilian music. 

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

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

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

Over the next two years, he released two further albums, Tim Maia 1972 and Tim Maia 1973. Both were released critical acclaim and were a commercial success in Brazil. It seemed that the charismatic singer who had been christened the father of Brazilian soul music could do no wrong.

The only problem was that after the success of Tim Maia 1973, Tim Maia became unhappy at the royalty rate he was receiving from his publisher. This led to him founding his own publishing company Seroma, which coincided with Tim Maia signing to RCA Victor.

Racional Volumes 1 and 2.

RCA Victor had offered Tim Maia the opportunity to record a double album for his fifth album and he was excited by this opportunity. He, agreed to sign to RCA Victor and soon, began work on his fifth album.

Somehow, Tim Maia was still seemed able to function normally on his daily diet of drink and drugs. He and his band headed to house in a quiet part of Rio de Janeiro and spent their days smoking marijuana and experimenting with hallucinogenics as they worked on new songs. By the end of July, they already had worked out several dozen songs  and instrumental grooves followed . They stayed true to Tim Maia’s samba-soul formula.All that was left was for Tim to write the lyrics to the double album. 

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

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

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

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

That was until Tim Maia offered to buy the master tapes from RCA Victor so that he could release the album independently. RCA Victor accepted his offer which allowed them to recoup some of their money. Having bought the master tapes, Tim Maia set about releasing Racional Volume 1 in 1975.

When critics and record buyers heard the lyrics on Racional Volume 1 they struggled to understand them. They were very different to the lyrics on his four previous albums. It was hard to believe it was the same artist. Tim Maia was a changed man since joining the cult and was as if he had been brainwashed and was transformed into an excitable evangelist as he shouts: “Read the book, the only book!” throughout the album. That was apart from Rational Culture which was an epic genre-melting jam that closed the album on a high. It was a reminder of what Tim Maia was capable of.

Elsewhere it was a different story as Tim Maia combines his own inimitable brand of gospel music that’s full of sci-fi imagery with elements of blues, soul, pre-disco funk and psychedelic rock. The influence of Motown can be heard and the album heads in the direction of on Imunização Racional. The arrangements were tight and  up to Tim Maia’s usual standards as he delivered impassioned and powerful vocals. However, the problem was that Tim Maia was using his fifth album Racional Volume 1 to spread the word about the cult’s so-called philosophy.

This extended to the album cover which detailed the cult’s core beliefs. It was very different from Tim Maia’s previous albums. However, he released Racional Volume 1 on his own label Seroma.

There was a problem though. Most record shops were sure about stocking such a controversial album. However, Tim Maia managed to convince a few shops to stock copies of Racional Volume 1. Despite that, the album wasn’t a commercial success when it was released in 1975. The only track to receive any radio play was Imunização Racional (Que Beleza). Even then, it was only a minimal amount and Racional Volume 1 was the least successful album of Tim Maia’s career.  Still he as determined to release Racional Volume 2.

Racional Volume 2.

Following the release of Racional Volume 1  many of Tim Maia’s fans thought he was no longer the artist he once was. The album was very different to his first four albums and  they thought he had lost his way musically. However, the problem was his membership of the cult was affecting his judgment and also his music.

It was as if he had been brainwashed and Tim Maia was willing to publicise the cult’s so-called philosophy via his music. He wasn’t the first to do this, but very few artists had decided to dedicate two consecutive albums to a cult’s philosophy. Tim Maia was the first do this.

In 1976, he was preparing to release the rest of the music that he had originally recorded for RCA Victor as Racional Volume 2. Just like his previous album,  the lyrics were inspired by the cult’s philosophy which Tim Maia had embraced fully by 1976. He was almost unrecognisable and very different to the musical bon viveur he once was. Now he was preparing to self-release Racional Volume 2 via his own Seroma label.

He went through all the same problems as he had with Racional Volume 1 and struggled to get shops to stock his new album. Given the commercial failure of Racional Volume 1, most shops were reluctant to stock the followup. For Tim Maia this was another disappointment. Despite this, he went ahead with the release of Racional Volume 2.

When Racional Volume 2 was released in 1976  lightning struck twice when the album failed to impress the critics. Worse was to come when the album sunk without trace. Very few copies of Racional Volume 2 were sold and it was another commercial failure for Tim Maia.

Meanwhile, his fans thought that he had lost his way musically after the release of his sixth album Racional Volume 2. It was his second album that wasn’t a commercial success. There was a reason for this.

Tim Maia’s fans didn’t want to buy another album that featured lyrics about the cult’s philosophy. They preferred his usual albums lyrics which ranged from romantic to party oriented while other songs had a feelgood sound. That wasn’t the case on Racional Volume 2.

Just like his previous album, the problem with the songs were the lyrics where Tim Maia parroted the cult’s philosophy. Despite that, he delivers heartfelt vocals  while others are a mixture of power,  passion and emotion. He may have been singing about a cult’s philosophy but Tim Maia was still a talented vocalist and was improving with every album he released. His voice was clear and powerful and he seemed to be maturing as a vocalist.

Meanwhile, the arrangements marked a return to form from Tim Maia. He combined shuffling South American rhythms with soul and funk where horns play an important part in the arrangements. Sometimes, sweeping orchestrated arrangement take the songs in the direction of MPB. Other times, elements of blues, early-seventies funk and psychedelic rock can be heard on Racional Volume 2. It features some stunning arrangements that are tight and provide the perfect backdrop for Tim Maia’s vocal. Sadly, very few people heard Tim Maia’s sixth album. Maybe this was the wakeup call he needed?

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

Nowadays, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 are both regarded as cult classics, whereas in 1976 they tarnished Tim Maia’s reputation. Joining the cult was one of the worst decisions he made in what had already been an eventful life. For the two years he was part of the cult it was as if Tim Maia had been brainwashed and his music was regarded as a way to publicise the cult. He was being used and eventually  saw through this ruse in 1976.

By then, Tim Maia had spent money buying back the tapes for Racional Volumes 1 and 2 from RCA Victor and had released the two albums on his own Seroma label. It had been an expensive episode for Tim Maia and wasn’t a happy time in his life.

Tim Maia’s music changed after the release of Racional Volumes 1 and 2 and he entered what was the most prolific period of his career.  Sadly, he struggled to reach the heights of his first four albums and Tim Maia was never the same  man or musician after his dalliance with the cult of rational behaviour.

Despite this, Racional Volumes 1 and 2 are still regarded as cult classics and must have albums for anyone interested in Tim Maia’s music. However, Racional Volumes 2 is strongest of the two albums and is a reminder of the father of Brazilian soul music during what was one the strangest periods in what was an eventful, roller coaster of a life.

Having said that , Tim Maia enjoyed every minute of a life lived in the fast lane. It was as if his mantra was to live life to the full. That was just as well because Tim Maia passed away on March the ‘15th’ 1998, aged just fifty-five. 

Since his death, Tim Maia’s music has been a well-kept secret outside of his native Brazil and even many Brazilians still aren’t aware of his music. However, older record buyers still talk about the maverick singer-songwriter in hushed tones and remember the flawed genius that was Tim Maia and a singer who could’ve and should’ve been a huge star outside of his native Brazil. Sadly, something held him back and stopped Tim Maia from enjoying the widespread commercial success and critical acclaim that his music so richly deserved. 

Was it Tim Maia’s love of the rock ’n’ life style which he embraced and enjoyed with a voracious appetite? Maybe Tim Maia’s dalliance with the cult of rational behaviour had lasting effects and somehow stopped this hugely talented singer, songwriter, musician and producer from scaling the heights that he should’ve? However, he left behind a rich musical legacy including several classic albums and his cult classic Racional Volume  2.

Cult Classic: Tim Maia-Racional Volume 2.

KEITH MANSFIELD-CONTEMPO.

Keith Mansfield-Contempo.

Label: Be With Records.

Format: LP.

Nowadays, Keith Mansfield is regarded as one the doyens of library music, and original copies of his 1976 album Contempo are now highly collectable. That’s the case with many other KPM Records’ releases.

Everyone from sample-hungry hip hop producers and crate-digging DJs to film producers collect library music. They remember hearing  library music in cartoons, documentaries and quizzes as they growing up in the seventies and eighties. So will many other people who listen to a KPM Records’ releases including Contempo which was released  nearly two hundred years after the company was formed.

The Rise and Rise Of KPM.

Robert Keith founded a comp[any in 1780, to make of musical instruments, and fifty years later, in 1830, entered into a partnership with William Prowse, a music publisher. The newly formed partnership was named Keith Prowse Music (KPM), and over the next hundred years, the company grew and expanded into other areas,

By the early twentieth century, Keith Prowse Music was selling sheet music and concert tickets, but it was  the invention of the gramophone that proved to be a game-changer.

Demand for sheet music and concert tickets grew, and in 1955, Keith Prowse Music was decided to diversify, into one of the most profitable areas of music, music publishing.

One of the reasons behind the decision to diversify into music publishing, was to feed the demand for soundtracks for radio, television and film. Previously, music libraries supplied classical music, which was what was required.  By the mid-fifties, and the birth of television, the world and music were changing, and changing fast.

Four years later, in 1959, Associated Rediffusion bought another music publisher Peter Maurice and merged it with Keith Prowse Music. The newly merged company became Keith Prowse Maurice, which became known as KPM Music.

The newly named KPM Music was a much bigger player in the world music publishing. However, in the mid-sixties, a new name took the helm at KPM Music, and transformed the company into one of the biggest names in library music.

When Robin Phillips joined KPM Music in the mid-sixties, he proved to be an astute and visionary businessman. Two decisions Robin Phillips made demonstrate why. His first decision was that KPM Music should switch from the old 78 records to the LP, which made sense, as LPs were what people were buying. They were less prone to breakage, which meant less returns and more profit. LPs could contain more music, and could be released in limited editions of 1,000. The other decision he made was to hire the best young British composers and arrangers. 

Among the composers Robin Phillips hired were Keith Mansfield and Johnny Pearson, whose talent and  potential as composers he recognised.  Robin Phillips managed to hired them before they’ had established a reputation,  although they were known within music publishing circles.

Later, Robin Phillips managed to hire some of jazz musicians of the calibre of John Cameron, Syd Clark, Alan Hawkshaw and Alan Parker. Their remit was to provide him with new music, which was referred to as production music. Many of their remits was to write music which matched themes or moods, which initially, wasn’t isn’t easy, but soon, the composers were able to do so. Almost seamlessly, the composers created themes for many well known television shows and films.  

For the composers and musicians involved in writing and recording library music, they were part of what was one of the most lucrative areas of music. When EMI realised that KPM Music had one of the best and most profitable music libraries and decided to buy the company. Executives at EMI had spotted the profitability of library music and the consistency, quality and depth of KPM Music’s back catalogue. However,  not everyone within the music industry approved of library music.

Other songwriters looked down on writers of library music, and the British Musician’s Union wasn’t fan of library music. They banned their members from working on recording sessions of library music. Somewhat shortsightedly, the Musician’s Union thought that eventually, there would come a time when there was no need for any further recordings. Their fear was that the sheer quantity of back-catalogue would mean no new recordings would be made, and their members would be without work. Fortunately, KPM Records thought of a way to subvert the ban.

KPM Records would fly out composers, arrangers and musicians to Holland and Belgium, where local musicians would join them for recording sessions. This meant that often, the same musicians would play on tracks that were penned by several composers. For the musicians involved, this proved lucrative and some were reluctant to turn their back on session work for companies like KPM Records.

Still the Musician’s Union’s draconian ban continued, and it wasn’t until the late seventies that they lifted their ban on new recordings of library music. By then, the Musician’s Union realised that they were fighting a losing battle and had no option but to concede defeat.

Meanwhile, the music that was being recorded in Europe and once the ban was lifted in Britain, found its way onto albums of library music released by KPM Music. Again, KPM Music were innovators, and  released limited editions of library music. Sometimes, only 1,000 albums were released, and they were sent out to film studios, television and radio stations and advertising agencies. However, by then, interest in library music had grown. 

Although the albums of library music  were never meant to be commercially available, a coterie of musical connoisseurs had discovered KPM Music’s albums of library music and were determined to add each release to their collection. They weren’t alone.

Later, DJs and sample hungry hip hop and house producers discovered the world of library music. This was a boon for many of these producers who were musically illiterate, and could neither read music nor play an instrument. with lots of practise the musically challenged “producers” were eventually able to sample albums of library music for their latest “production” and very occasionally, this resulted in a hit single for the musical pirates. However, most of the credit should’ve gone to those who made the music that had been sampled.

This included Keith Mansfield who recorded some of the best library music was ever recorded in the UK. Especially the music they recorded for KPM which has ‘inspired’ several generations of musicians. One of the albums of library music that Keith Mansfield recorded for KPM was Contempo, which is part of the legendary KPM 1000 series.

Contempto features Keith Mansfield at his best on a cohesive and truly timeless album of library music. The music is funky, soulful, string-drenched and sometimes jazz-tinged and rocky. 

Side One.

Side one of Contempo is uber funky from the get-go. The Fix is mid-tempo track with a tough cinematic sound where funk and rock combines with jazzy horns. They play their part on a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a seventies cop show. What’s Cooking reveals a  dramatic, funky and sometimes has a lighthearted sound as it threatens to explode into life. The drama continues on the driving, funky and aggressive sounding Cut To Music. 

Man Alive is another mid-tempo funky track that sometimes heads in the direction of fusion. Sometimes it has aggressive sound and other times breezes along. Closing side one is the funk rock of Funky Footage a toe tapping track that sample hungry producers will appreciate and be inspired by.

Side Two.

String-drenched describes Breezin’ which sounds as it’s been inspired by mid-seventies disco and jazz-funk. Strings sweep and swirl and play a leading role before they’re joined by horns and keyboards. Together they coming to create a beautiful carefully crafted track that’s slick and dancefloor friendly. On Good Vibrations sweeping strings join forces with horns, pounding drums, a funky guitar and sci-fi synths.

They combine to create a mid-tempo track with a romantic sound that’s been influenced by the West Coast Sound and Blaxploitation strut.

Then Sun Goddess reveals a funky, exotic and sensual sound. Love Deluxe then teases the listener before it gradually reveals a quite beautiful dreamy sounding track where synths augment the keyboards and sultry horns. 

Closing Contempo is Snake Hips a rocky track where funky horns are deployed and augment the rhythm section on this mid-tempo slouch.

It’s all change on side two of Contempo with Keith Mansfield dropping the tempo. The music on this library record classic from 1976 veers between laidback, languid, dreamy and romantic. It’s time to lie back and light a Dunhill and pour a glass of Bells as the music becomes post-coital.

Keith Mansfield is one of the greatest purveyors of library music and Contempo which was released by KPM is a genre classic. The two sides show different side to his music. Side features crime funk while the tempo drops on the second side and the music is much more eclectic. He’s been inspired by Blaxploitation, disco, jazz-funk, fusion and the West Coast Sound. Strings, horns and Fender Rhodes are deployed by one of the doyens of library music on Contempo.

Nowadays, original copies of Contempo are rarities and very few copies come up for sale. When they do, the prices are beyond the budget of most collectors of library music. 

Luckily, Be With Record recently reissued Keith Mansfield’s library music classic Contempo. It’s just the latest reissue from the KPM 1000 series and is a reminder of the golden age of library music when artists like Keith Mansfield regularly released albums like Contempo.

Keith Mansfield-Contempo.

JOANNA LAW-RHYTHM OF YEARS

Joanna Law-Rhythm Of Years.

Label: Tangential Music.

Format: Digital Album.

London-based singer-songwriter Joanna Law’s career began when she and her brother Simon formed City Heat. The nascent group released its debut single The Raid in 1987, and this was followed by City Heat in 1988. 

The same year, Joanna Law’s vocal featured on The Funky Ginger’s house single Slaughterhouse. By then, she was already well on her way to becoming a familiar face on London’s urban music scene.

In 1989 City Heat returned with two new singles London Child in March with Rock Me (In The Cradle Of Jazz) following later that year. By then, their star was in the ascendancy.

As the nineties dawned, Joanna Law decided to embark upon a solo career. She released Love Is Not Enough as a single in 1990, and it was also licensed by the American label Easy Street Records. It featured the Free Spirit Mix which is one of the twenty-one tracks on Joanna Law’s new digital album Rhythm Of Years which has just between released by Hastings-based boutique label Tangential Music. There’s also the Extended Mix and the Ibiza Dreaming Mix of Love Is Not Enough. It’s the single that launched Joanna Law’s solo career.

Later in 1990 Joanna Law released an urban cover of The First Time (Ever I Saw Your Face) which was written by English folk singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl. It was originally released on City Beat Records and was later licensed by Easy Street Records. 

The single was produced by Simon Law and featured uber funky keyboard licks from Acid Jazz Hammond organist James Taylor. Despite being given an urban makeover there’s still a haunting sound to this classic song. There’s three versions of the song on the album. This includes the Bumpy Mix that featured on the single as well the Radio Edit and Extended Version. Little did Joanna Law realise that she had just released what many regard as a career-defining single.

In 1991, Pressure Drop released You’re Mine which featured Joanna Law and was remixed by Leftfield. It’s five minutes of progressive house which features a beautiful soul-baring vocal. Joanna Law also collaborated with Pressure Drop on the languid, dreamy and jazzy sounding After The Storm and Dreams which heads in the direction of trip hop.

By 1992, Joanna Law and her brother Simon had founded their own record label and publishing company. Law Music released a cover of Van Morrison’s Warm Love which was produced by The Funky Ginger a.k.a. Simon Law. There’s three versions of the track on Rhythm Of Years. This includes the summery sounding Breakdown Mix, the Extended Version and the Radio Edit with its soulful vocal. 

Law Music also released the Celebrate Love EP in 1992. Two of the tracks it featured were Celebrate Love and the funky and soulful sounding Peace and Satisfaction which has an early nineties urban sound. It’s jazz-tinged, funky and soulful and features a heartfelt and emotive vocal from Joanna Law. It’s a welcome addition to Rhythm Of Years.

In 1992, Joanna Law also contributed Night Rain to London Underground (A Compilation Of Independent Club/Dance Music. It was mixed and produced by the Blood Brothers 

By 2001, Joanna Law was signed to Recreation and released Song For Theo as a single. This Extended Version features on the album and so does the Radio Edit. On the B-Side was  an urban cover of Van Morrison’s Warm Love.

Among the other tracks on Rhythm Of Years is the Dr Aziz Mix of Softly which features an assured vocal from Joanna Law. Quite different is Calling All Angels which is understated and ruminative. Then Joanna Law delivers an impassioned and soulful vocal on Let Me Love You. Skin On Skin which features a soulful and sensual vocal that’s accompanied by a carefully crafted arrangement. It’s one of the highlights of the album.

When Joanna Law embarked upon a musical career it looked as if she was going to enjoy a string of hit singles. Sadly, that wasn’t to be and success has been sporadic during a a career that has spanned four decades. 

Recently, Joanna Law hasn’t released much in the way of new music. She’s been out of the public eye but still dreamt of releasing an album. This was something that she had never done. However, she wasn’t giving up on her dream. 

Eventually Joanna Law’s dream came true when she signed to Hastings-based Tangential Music. They released Rhythm Of Years on the ‘8th’ of March 2021 and this twenty-two track retrospective is a reminder of Joanna Law whose enjoyed a long and varied career.

Joanna Law-Rhythm Of Years.

 TRANSATLANTIC-THE ABSOLUTE UNIVERSE: FOREVERMORE (EXTENDED VERSION). 

Transatlantic-The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Universe).

Label: Inside Out.

Format: 2CD Set.

When multinational progressive rock supergroup Transatlantic was originally founded in 1999, it was a side project to their full-time bands. The four members were based in three countries and belonged to hugely successful bands.

In 1999, Nashville-born Neil Morse was the vocalist in LA-based progressive rock band Spock’s Beard, while Mike Portnoy from Long Beach, New York, was the drummer in Dream Theater. Joining him in the rhythm section was Middlesbrough-born bassist Pete Trewavas who had been a member of Marillion since 1982. 

Completing the lineup of Transatlantic was Swedish guitarist Roine Stolt who was a member of Kaipa between 1974 and 1979. By then, they were one of Sweden’s most successful progressive rock bands. Five years later, in 1984, Roine Stolt founded a new band The Flower Kings and by the time joined Transatlantic in 1999 they had just completed their fourth album Flower Power. 

SMTP:e.

The newly formed Transatlantic met in New York to record their debut album at Millbrook Studios during June and July of 1999. It was written and produced by the four members of the group and once the recording was completed they decided its title would be SMTP:e. This was a reference to the first initial of each member of the group’s surname and referenced the timecode used in recording studios. SMTP:e was scheduled for release in the spring of 2000.

The progressive rock supergroup released their debut album SMTP:e on the ‘31st’ of March  2000. It was released to plaudits and praise with some critics going as far as to say the album included some of the best progressive rock ever recorded. This was high praise indeed. Despite this, the album only charted in Germany where it reached sixty-six in the album charts. 

Less than a year after releasing their debut album SMTP:e, Transatlantic released their Live In America on the ‘12th’ of March 2001. This was the first of two albums the group released that year.

Bridge Across Forever. 

Transatlantic had spent January of 2001 at Dark Horse Studios, Nashville, recorded their much-anticipated sophomore album Bridge Across Forever. Just like their debut album it was written and produced by the four members of the group. 

This time around, the group made a concerted effort to ensure that each member of the group contributed equally to the album. One criticism of was that SMTP:e was that the album was dominated by the vocal style of Neal Morse. That wasn’t the case on Bridge Across Forever which once it was completed, was scheduled for autumn 2001. 

When Bridge Across Forever was released on the ‘8th’ of October 2001 it was well received by critics. Despite being another ambitious and innovative album of progressive rock it wasn’t a hugely successful album. It stalled at fifty-six in the German and ninety-eight in the French album charts. However, Transatlantic were a popular live draw.

When they toured Europe during November 2001 the group were joined by Daniel Gildenlöw of Swedish progressive rock band Pain Of Salvation. He played keyboards, guitars, percussion and added vocals when Transatlantic played live and was the unofficial fifth member of the group during what was a successful tour that lifted the group’s profile.

In October 2002, Neal Morse left Spock’s Beard saying that: “God wants me to do something else.“  He turned his back on progressive rock and turned his attention to christian music. 

Mike Portnoy announced that: This spells the end of Transatlantic as I wouldn’t possibly consider continuing it without him.”

On November the ‘4th’ 2003, Transatlantic released Live In Europe which was a reminder of the group’s last tour. It looked like it was the end of an era.

Despite that, Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy continued to collaborate in the studio and onstage. When Neil Morse played live a Transatlantic song still featured in his setlist. Maybe it wasn’t the end of the road for the progressive rock supergroup?

Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy and Ronnie Stolt were reunited on August the ‘23rd’ 2008 at the Three Rivers Prog Fest in Pittsburgh for and played We All Need Some Light and Stranger in Your Soul. Those that were in the audience wondered if the four members of Transatlantic would reunite anytime soon? 

The Whirlwind.

On April the ’16th’ 2009, it was announced that Transatlantic had reunited and begun work on a third studio album. It was written and recorded during April 2009 with the release scheduled for autumn of that year.

When the album was released in October 2009, it consisted of a single seventy-seven minute track The Whirlwind in twelve parts. Just like Transatlantic’s two previous albums it was an ambitious and groundbreaking release that was well received by critics. This augured well for the release of The Whirlwind.

On its release The Whirlwind reached forty-five in Germany, forty in the Holland and fifty-nine in the Swedish album charts. Despite the critical acclaim and the quality of their music, Transatlantic’s albums weren’t selling in vast quantities. However, they embarked upon a tour of North America and Europe in April and May 2010 in support of The Whirlwind.

Transatlantic were still a popular live band and on October the ’26th’ 2010, they released Whirld Tour 2010: Live in London. It was recording of a concert that took place at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, on May the ’21st’ 2010. Transatlantic were back after a nine year hiatus.

Nearly a year to the day after Transatlantic released their third live album, they returned with their fourth. This was More Never Is Enough: Live In Manchester and Tilburg 2010 which was released on October the ’25th’ 2011. It featured the comeback kings Transatlantic during their successful 2010 European tour. 

Kaleidoscope.

Two years tased before Transatlantic started recorded their fourth studio album Kaleidoscope in 2013. It was written, arranged and produced by the band and scheduled for release at the start of 2014.

On January the ’27’ 2014 Transatlantic released Kaleidoscope to widespread critical acclaim. It was an album that was a mixture of traditional progressive rock and neo-progressive rock. This struck a chord with record buyers and the album charted in eight countries. Kaleidoscope reached number eight in Germany, six in the Netherlands, thirteen in Switzerland, twenty-two in Finland, fifty-two in Austria, fifty-five in Sweden, seventy-seven in France and 134 in Japan. At last, Transatlantic’s music was reaching the wider audience that it so richly deserved.

Sadly, when Transatlantic toured Kaleidoscope Daniel Gildenlöw was missing. He was unwell and was replaced by Ted Leonard the vocalist and guitarist for Thought Chamber and Spock’s Beard. The new recruit took to the stage when Transatlantic recorded their fifth live album. However, before that the group won a prestigious award.   

On September the ’11th’ 2014, Kaleidoscope won Album of the Year at the third annual Progressive Music Awards. 2014 was proving to be one of the most important years in the group’s history. 

Just a month later, on October the ‘27th’ 2014, Transatlantic released their fifth live album KaLIVEoscope. It documented what was a landmark album for the multination progressive rockers whose star was in the ascendancy.

Transatlantic-The Absolute Universe: Forevermore.

Most bands would’ve been keen to build on the success of Kaleidoscope and KaLIVEoscope. However, five years passed before the four members of Transatlantic returned to the studio to begin work on their much-anticipated fifth album Transatlantic-The Absolute Universe: Forevermore.

This time, the members of Transatlantic headed to Sweden in September 2019 to begin tracking. Mike Portnoy remembers: “Over a period of 10-14 days, we mapped out the songs. Then we all went back to our home studios and did the recording. That’s the way we always do it. At one point, though, it was suggested that instead of doing what was by that time going to be a double album, we should just be content to do a single CD.” 

Roine Stolt recalls: “What happened was that everything kept expanding and expanding. Therefore we decided it made sense to make it a double album. It was Pete and Neal who then came out and said they felt this would be too long, and we should reduce it to one…But we were already recording, and it didn’t seem feasible to cut it back. There were so many pieces that each of us loved in what we were planning and didn’t want to lose. That’s when we ended up in discussions over the best way forward.”

Transatlantic decided to release to versions of the album. Mike Portnoy explains: “We’ve got two versions of this album. There is a two CD presentation, which is 90 minutes long, and a single one – that’s 60 minutes. However, the single CD is NOT merely an edited version of the double CD. They each contain alternate versions and even in some cases, new recordings. We wrote fresh lyrics and have different people singing on the single CD version tracks as compared to those on the double CD. Some of the song titles have also been changed, while others might remain the same, but compositionally what you’ll hear has been altered. You must appreciate that what we have done is unique. We revamped the songs to make the two versions different.”

 Bassist Pete Trewavas adds: “We did write some new music for the single CD, what’s more, there are also differences in the instruments used on some of the tracks across the two records.”

Mike Portnoy explains that:“This album also marks a return to the concept album for Transatlantic. Well, the idea of Transatlantic deciding to do a concept record this time around won’t shock anyone, right? What we have is essentially one giant composition, split into chapters. The storyline is about the struggles facing everyone in society today.” 

However, Roine Stolt says: “We didn’t start out with the idea of this being conceptual. The way things work with us is that we have a load of ideas, and these are developed spontaneously when we meet up. Everything happens in the moment.”

What Transatlantic’s fans will want to know is how The Absolute Universe: Forevermore compares to previous albums? They’ve been hailed as ambitious and innovative. However, Neal Morse said: “I always try not to compare albums as much as possible. It’s very difficult when you’re trying to be creative, because your natural instinct is to constantly compare. But in order to create you have to kind of step away from that. Having said that, I would say this would have more in common with The Whirlwind album than others that we’ve created.” 

Meanwhile, Pete Trewavas said: ‘The Absolute Universe’ is a momentous project.I think it is right up there with the very finest albums we’ve done. As the others have said, it compares very well to ‘The Whirlwind’, which I believe represents Transatlantic at our best. As on that album, we took our time to write and arrange everything, and that shines through. I am very excited for people to hear it.”

Just over seven years after the release of Kaleidoscope Transatlantic made a welcome return with their critically acclaimed fifth studio album, The Absolute Universe. It reached number three in German and Switzerland, four in the Netherlands, twenty-nine in Finland, thirty-two in Sweden, fifty-six in the UK and eighty-three in the UK. This meant that The Absolute Universe was Transatlantic’s most successful album.

It’s a powerful and poignant concept album full of social comment about the world’s struggles during 2020. Transatlantic combine their trademark progressive rock sound with elements of AOR and classic rock on what’s an almost flawless album. The Absolute Universe features a band at the peak of their powers on what turned out to be Transatlantic’s Magnus Opus. Ironically, it’s a very different album to the one Transatlantic intended to make. 

Originally the album was meant to be a followup to Kaleidoscope and Neal Morse had written lyrics in March 2019. However, the lyrics were rejected and it was a case of back to the drawing board.

The second set of lyrics were written by Neal Morse during December 2019 and January 2020. They were inspired by his twenties and by The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged and The Virtue of Selfishness by Russian-American author Ayn Rand, which he called “kind of the mother of Libertarianism” Later he said that when he wrote the lyrics about: “how I went down this road of selfishness basically, and then how the Lord brought me out of it and how much better it is to not be in that place.” Still the lyrics for the album weren’t complete.

In June and July 2020, a third set of lyrics were written. They were inspired by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the America and especially Nashville where Neal Morse was born and brought up.

When Roine Stolt heard the lyrics written by bassist and vocalist Pete Trewavas he said that he felt that they managed to anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic: “The idea behind The Absolute Universe started out as a broad and encompassing look at the human condition. Someone moving though their life, trying to find out who they are, where they fit in etc. This worked well as a concept to hang all the music we had on. It also allowed us to move through all the different subject matter we had lyrically…You find a lot out about people in adverse conditions. Who your friends are for example, how people cope under duress and dealing with stress. All these things get reflected on in different ways on both versions of the album.”

However, Roine Stolt felt that Neal Morse’s lyrics on The Breath of Life version tended to focus more on the consequences of the COVID-19 restrictions on people’s lives.

For anyone whose still to discover Transatlantic’s fifth studio album, The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Universe) is the best of three versions. It’s a two CD set that features eighteen tracks and finds Transatlantic combining social comment and slick progressive rock with AOR and classic rock on what turned out to be a career-defining Magnus Opus. 

Transatlantic-The Absolute Universe: Forevermore (Extended Universe).

DONALD BYRD-BYRD IN FLIGHT.

Donald Byrd-Byrd In Flight.

Label: Blue Note Records.

Format: LP.

When Donald Byrd signed to Blue Note Records in 1958, he was twenty-five and had already recorded five solo albums and had collaborated on albums with Art Farmer, Phil Woods and Gigi Gryce. 

The Detroit-born trumpeter was also in demand as a sideman and had already worked with some of the giants of jazz. This included Art Blakey, Hank Mobley, Horace Silver, Jackie McLean, jimmy Smith, John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell. Already Donald Byrd was regarded as one of jazz’s rising stars.

That was why Alfred Lion signed him to Blue Note Records. By then, Donald Byrd had already played on a number of sessions by artists signed to Blue Note Records and the label co-owner was able to witness the prodigiously talented trumpeter at close quarters. It didn’t take long before he decided to add him to the label’s impressive roster of artists.

Off To The Races.

On December ‘21st’ 1958, Donald Byrd journeyed to van Gelder Studio to record his Blue Note Records’ debut, Off To The Races. He led a sextet on an album of hard bop that was well received by critics when it was released in March 1959. 

Byrd In Hand.

Just two months later, on the ‘31st’ of May 1959 Donald Byrd returned to Van Gelder Studio and his latest sextet recorded Byrd In Hand. Five of the six compositions were new including three penned by the twenty-six year old bandleader and trumpeter. 

He was joined in the front line by tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone on what was a hard blowing album of hard bop. The talented sextet’s playing was alway creative and with their solos spirited and inventive and a fine example of hard bop. 

When Byrd In Hand was released later in 1959 to plaudits and praise. The album was regarded as one of the finest of Donald Byrd’s four year recording career. He had come a long way since making his debut with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messenger 1954 whilst studying for a master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music. 

At The Half Note Cafe.

On November the ‘11th’ 1960, Donald Byrd headed to the Half Note in Manhattan, where he was about to record a live album. He was joined by drummer Lex Humphries, bassist Laymon Jackson, pianist Duke Pearson and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. This was a new band, but very few people would realise this.

That night, the quintet were at the peak of their  powers and firing on all cylinders during a spellbinding thirteen track set. Not only was the quintet swinging hard, but they benefited from a lyricism and impeccable sense of timing that few groups possessed. Led by twenty-seven year old Donald Byrd the quintet’s playing was practiced and slick. It was lucky that the tapes were running that night and the performance was captured for posterity.

When Blue Note Records released at The Half Note Cafe in 1960, it was as two single LPs. The albums were released to critical acclaim and hailed as Donald Byrd’s finest release for Blue Note Records. His next album Byrd In Flight had a lot to live up to.

Byrd In Flight.

For Byrd In Flight, which was Donald Byrd’s fourth album for Blue Note Records he penned Ghana and Lex. Duke Pearson who nowadays is regarded as one of the architects of the Blue Note Records’ hard bop sound wrote Gate City, Bo and My Girl Shirl. The only cover on the album was Rogers and Hart’s Little Girl Blue. It was one of six albums 

Just like previous albums Donald Byrd recorded for Blue Note Records, Byrd In Flight was recorded at Van Gelder Studio. The engineer was Rudy Van Gelder and Alfred Lion took charge of the production. However, this wasn’t a one day session and the six tracks were recorded on three days between January and July 1960.

The sextet featured a rhythm section of drummer Lex Humphries, bassists Doug Watkins and Reggie Workman plus pianist Duke Pearson. They were joined by a front line of trumpeter Donald Byrd, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley. This multitalented and versatile band spent four days recording Byrd In Flight.

Gate City was recorded on January the ’17th’ 1960. Then Ghana and Lex were recorded on the ‘25th’ January 1960. Little Girl Blue, Bo and My Girl Shirl were recorded six months later on July the ‘10th’ 1960. 

With the recording of Byrd In Flight completed, the album was scheduled for release by Blue Note Records in December 196o. When critics heard Donald Byrd’s latest album of hard bop they remarked that he was maturing as a trumpeter and bandleader while his music continued to evolve. 

The journey that is Byrd In Flight opens with the celebratory sounding Ghana which conjures up images on a new nation determined to remain master of its own destiny. Donald Byrd’s flowing trumpet solo has an airy sound and is complimented by pianist Duke Pearson and Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone. His playing combines a degree of optimism with the celebratory sound that’s a feature of this opening track that was penned by bandleader Donald Byrd.

The standard Little Boy Blue is a fine example of ballideering from the twenty-eight year old trumpeter. His playing is thoughtful, considered but is also expansive, confident and strident. Meanwhile, Duke Pearson’s captures the romantic sound of this oft-covered ballad which was written by Rogers and Hammerstein.

The bluesy sounding Gate City finds Duke Pearson combining with Donald Byrd whose opening solo is unfussy but effective as he  effortlessly chooses the right notes. Then Hank Mobley takes a less is more approach to his solo while later it sounds as if pianist Duke Pearson really has the blues as he lives the music he’s playing.

Lex is a driving example of hard bop where there’s Donald Byrd plays with speed, power, passion and accuracy as he unleashes darting runs. In doing so, he displays an enviable agility. Meanwhile, Hank Mobley unleashes a breathtaking solo that careers along at breathtaking speed, while Duke Pearson playing is considered, sometimes economical yet uplifting as he joins forces with the rest of the rhythm section to ensure the track swings.

Bo is another bluesy sounding track where Jackie McLean’s playing is emotive and he compliments Donald Byrd. When his solo comes round he almost makes his trumpet talk while Duke Pearson’s playing graceful, ruminative and rootsy on this bluesy track.

Closing Byrd In Flight is the driving hard bop of My Girl Shine. It’s as Donald Byrd is determined to close the album on a high. He and Jackie McLean play with speed, power, ferocity although there’s always an expressiveness and emotiveness. Not to be outdone Duke Pearson joins the fun and more than plays his part in the sound and success of what’s one of the highlights of the album.

Just two years after signing to Blue Note Records Donald Byrd released Byrd In Flight in December 1960. By then, the trumpeter and bandleader had just turned twenty-eight and had been a professional musician since 1954. 

Byrd In Flight was his fourth album for Blue Note Records and the ninth since his career began in 1955. It’s also the finest of the seven studio albums that Donald Byrd had released. That’s no surprise as he had matured as a musician and his music had developed over the past six years. On Byrd In Flight he switched between hard bop, Afro-Cuban, blues and balladry with the help of a tight, talented and versatile all-star band. They played their part in the sound and success of Byrd In Flight which was recently reissued by Blue Note Records as part of their Tone Poet Series. This lovingly curated reissue is the perfect way to discover one Byrd In Flight which is without doubt one trumpeter and bandleader Donald Byrd’s greatest hard bop albums.

Donald Byrd-Byrd In Flight.

LEE MORGAN-THE RAJAH.

Lee Morgan-The Rajah.

Label: Blue Note Records.

Format LP.

In 1964, twenty-six year old hard bop trumpeter Lee Morgan’s career was transformed when he enjoyed a crossover hit with The Sidewinder. Instantly recognisable and incredibly catchy, it became a jazz standard and nowadays, is regarded as Lee Morgan’s best known composition.

Buoyed by the success of the single, Blue Note Records released The Sidewinder album in July 1964. It became the label’s biggest selling album and  reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 200.  In doing so, it transformed the career of the prodigiously talented Lee Morgan.

It should’ve been a time for celebration for the trumpeter who had just celebrated his twenty-sixth birthday, and  had broken sales records at Blue Note Records. However, Lee Morgan wasn’t happy when He had discovered that Chrysler was using The Sidewinder as background music on a  commercial that was being shown during the Word Series. There was a problem though. 

The car giant hadn’t asked his permission, and it was only  after he threatened to sue the company that they agreed not to show the advert again. It was a moral victory for Lee Morgan.

Little did  he know that he had just enjoyed the biggest single and the most successful album of his career. Buoyed by the success of The Sidewinder, Lee Morgan and many other artists were encouraged to try to replicate the track’s boogaloo sound. They were essentially trying find a formula for a hit single, and took this further firstly with Lee Morgan’s  future albums.

Blue Note Records wanted Lee Morgan to follow a similar formula for future albums. They decided that his future albums would open with a lengthy, funky blues and he would follow this with a number of hard bop compositions. This was dubbed as: “the Sidewinder lineage.”

This included the Andrew Hill composition The Rumproller which lent its name a new album that Lee Morgan released in mid-January 1966. Later that year, the tittle-track was released as a single. However, neither the single nor album were the commercial success that Blue Note Records had hoped.

Despite this, Lee Morgan continued to make the journey to Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where he continued to record new albums. This included The Gigolo June the ‘25th’ and July the ‘1st 1965. The recording of Cornbread followed on September the ’18th’ 1965 and Infinity on November the 16, 1965.  This brought to an end another busy year for Lee Morgan.

He recorded Delightfulee on April the ‘8th’ and May the ’27’ 1966. Five months later, he recorded Charisma on September the ‘29th’ 1966. Then just two months later, Lee Morgan recorded The Rajah on November  the ’29th’ 1966. It’s just been reissued by Blue Note Records as part of their Tone Poet Series, and was the last album Lee Morgan recorded in 1966.

For The Rajah, Lee Morgan only contributed one track, The Rajah. The rest of the tracks on the album were cover versions. This included Cal Massey’s A Pilgrim’s Funny Farm;  Walter Davis Jr’s Davisamba and Duke Pearson’s Is That So?; They were joined by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s Once In A Lifetime  and Gilbert Bécaud’s What Now, My Love? These five tracks were recorded by a quintet led by Lee Morgan.

Recording of The Rajah took place at the Van Gelder Studio on November the ‘29th’ 1966. The session was produced by Alfred Lion and Rudy Van Gelder took charge of engineering duties. He recorded a band that featured a rhythm section of drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Paul Chambers and pianist Cedar Walton. They were joined by a front line that included tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley and trumpeter Lee Morgan. It took just a day to record the five tracks that became The Rajah.

Once the album was completed, normally albums would be released within a year. However, sometimes, for no apparent reason Blue Note Records would postpone the release of an album. This was the case with The Rajah  which was shelved and never released during his lifetime. 

Sadly, Lee Morgan’s carer was cut tragically short on February the ‘19th’ 1972. That night, he was booked to play two sets at Slug’s Saloon jazz club in New York’s East Village. Between the two sets there was an altercation between Lee Morgan’s common law wife Helen Moore and the legendary hard bop trumpeter. Initially, Lady Luck was smiling on him as it wasn’t a fatal shot. However, that night, it was snowing heavily and the driving conditions were treacherous and the ambulance took so long to arrive that one of jazz’s great trumpeters bled to death. Lee Morgan was just thirty-eight.

Lee Morgan was a prodigiously talented trumpeter whose star shines the brightest on his career-defining album and hard bop classic The Sidewinder, which is a reminder of one the greatest trumpeters in the history of jazz. However, it’s just part of the rich legacy that Lee Morgan left behind.

In 1984, twelve years after Lee Morgan’s death, Blue Note Records’ discographer, writer and record producer Michael Cuscuna discovered the master tapes for The Rajah. The long-lost session was rediscovered in the Blue Note Records’ vaults and was released for the first time a year later in 1985.

Opening The Rajah is A Pilgrim’s Funny Farm which features a masterclass from Lee Morgan. There’s a clarity to his playing which veers between powerful, loud, expressive, emotive and rhythmic. He’s a versatile,  inventive and innovative trumpeter whose playing compels and captivates. Especially when augmented by musicians of the standard of Hank Mobley and Cedar Walton this example of hard bop which sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

Very different is the Eastern funk of The Rajah where Lee Morgan’s trumpet soars above the rhythm section. It’s joined by Hank Mobley’s tenor saxophone and the pair bring out the best in each other. Then they trade the choruses while Cedar Walton’s fingers dance across the piano keyboard. In doin so, the three men play a starring role in the sound and success of the track.

During Is That So? Lee Morgan’s questioning, probing and ruminative trumpet is answered by Hank Mobley’s tenor saxophone. It proves the perfect foil before they both drop out and Cedar Walton’s bittersweet piano takes centrestage. Straight away, the mood changes until the horns return. Later,  Cedar Walton makes a welcome return  and is accompanied by Paul Chambers who plucks at his bass before  the band are reunited and play as one during what’s one of the poppier tracks on the album wit is also one of its highlights.

Light and airy describes Davisamba which bursts into life  with the rhythm section and piano adding a Latin backdrop before the horns enter. The track proves to be the  perfect vehicle for Lee Morgan’s trumpet and Hank Mobley’s tenor saxophone. However, again, Cedar Walton plays in important role and is playing is assured and confident. Later, he joins forces with the horns and together they combine to create a truly memorable example of Latin jazz. 

It’s all change on the ballad What Now My Love? Lee Morgan’s rasping piano takes centrestage while flourishes from Cedar Walton’s piano fill in the spaces. Hank Mobley drizzles his sultry  tenor saxophone across the arrangement, before the arrangement is stripped bare and just the understated rhythm section and piano remain. Cedar Walton enjoys his moment in the sun before Lee Morgan unleashes a soul-baring solo on this .beautiful wistful ballad.

Closing The Rajah is Once In A Lifetime. It as a dramatic driving introduction as the piano and rhythm section lock into a groove. Soon, the horns enter and this irresistible, upbeat and joyous track unfolds. It sounds as if it has been inspired by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers and is one of the oft-overlooked hidden gems from Lee Morgan’s impressive back-catalogue.

It’s sad that The Rajah wasn’t released during Lee Morgan’s lifetime. This was one of a number of albums he recorded that were shelved and belatedly released in the eighties. He wasn’t alone.

Many artists made the journey to Van Gelder Studio to record albums with producer and Blue Note Records’ co-owner Alfred Lion. Not every album was released and often albums were postponed and projects were shelved. It was only much later when the master tapes for  these The long-lost sessions were rediscovered in the Blue Note Records’ vaults.

That was the case with The Rajah, Lee Morgan’s long-forgotten hard bop session from 1966. He was backed by a crack band on an album that was only rediscovered in the Blue Note Records’ vaults in 1984. The following year, 1985, The Rajah was belatedly released. Now thirty-six years later and Blue Note Records have reissued The Rajah as part of their Tone Poet series and this means that Lee Morgan’s hard bop cult classic can be heard on vinyl by a new audience who will be able to discover one of the greatest trumpeters of his generation at the the peak of his considerable powers.

 Lee Morgan-The Rajah.

CULT CLASSIC: LUIZ CARLOS VINHAS-O SOM PSICODELICO DE L.C.V

Cult Classic: Luiz Carlos Vinhas-O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V.

Within his native Brazil, Luiz Carlos Vinhas is remembered and regarded as one of the greatest pianists of the Bossa Nova movement. He was one of the genre’s founding fathers  and was a founder member of Bossa Três in 1961. They became one of the most important groups of the Bossa Nova era and released eight albums between 1963 and 1966.  

By 1968, Luiz Carlos Vinhas had embarked upon a solo career and released O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V.. This genre-melting cult classic has been released by the Mad About label and shows another side to Luiz Carlos Vinhas’ music.

Luiz Carlos Vinhas was born in Rio de Janeiro on May the ‘19th’ 1940. Growing up, he learnt to play the piano and by the time he was a teenager, he had already decided that he wanted to make a career out of music.

His career began when he was seventeen year old.The following year, 1958, a new musical genre was born in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Bossa Nova. By then, Luiz Carlos Vinhas was already working as a session musician and was determined to be at the forefront of this new and exciting urban musical movement.

By 1961, Bossa Nova’s popularity had grown and Luiz Carlos Vinhas had been part of the new musical movement since the beginning. However, he wanted to be more than a session musicians and cofounded Bossa Três with drummer Edison Machado and double bassist Tião Neto. This was the first ever instrumental Bossa Nova group, and they would go on to write their names into Brazilian musical history.

In the early days, Bossa Três played mostly Luiz Carlos Vinhas’ compositions. He was the nascent group’s songwriter-in-chief  when they played in the nightclubs of Beco das Garrafas, in Copacabana, where they accompanied dancers Joe Benett , Lennie Dale and Martha Botelho. However, it wasn’t long before Bossa Três got the chance to travel further afield.

With the dancers, they traveled to America after being invited to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. By then, it was one of the most popular American television shows and they were about to play in front of a huge audience. This launched their career and the group decided to stay in America.

During the next few years, Bossa Três played in New York’s jazz clubs and recorded three albums. This included their finest American album Bossa Três 3. It was also the final album he group released in America.

Although Luiz Carlos Vinhas enjoyed his time in America, he missed Brazil and decided to head home in 1963. However, the other two members of the group stayed in America.

On his return home, Luiz Carlos Vinhas started looking for new band members. Eventually, he recruited drummer Ronie Mesquita and bassist Octavio Bailly Júnior for the new lineup of Bossa Três. 

1964 was an important year for twenty-four year old Luiz Carlos Vinhas. He had signed to the Forma label and released his debut solo album Novas Estruturas. Nowadays, it’s regarded as a Bossa Nova classic and one of Luiz Carlos Vinhas’ finest releases. 

The same year, 1964, he was a member of Meirelles E Os Copa 5 when they released their debut album O Som. This future classic was followed up by O Nôvo Som in 1965. It was one of the busiest years of Luiz Carlos Vinhas’ career.

By 1965, the new lineup of Bossa Três were dividing their time between playing live and recording new albums. They released three albums during 1965 and a further two during 1966. This includes Os Reis Do Rítmo in 1966 which is regarded as Bossa Três Mk II’s finest album and is anther Bossa Nova classic. 

Later in 1966, Luiz Carlos Vinhas formed The Gemini 5 who soon, began work on their debut album. This was Gemini 5 which was released in Mexico in 1967 when the group toured the country. It was the latest chapter in the Luiz Carlos Vinhas story.

In 1968, Luiz Carlos Vinhas had signed to CBS and began work on his long-awaited sophomore album. By then, four years had passed since the release of his debut album Novas Estruturas. However, he was about to record a very different album and one that reflected the music of 1968.

By then, the psychedelic era was well underway and Luiz Carlos Vinhas had been influenced by this new genre of music. It would influence O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V.. However, the starting point for the album was his first musical love Bossa Nova. To this, Luiz Carlos Vinhas  added elements of Afro-Brazilian, tropicalia, easy listening, jazz, pop and rock. This was all part of his plan to record an ambitious album befitting the new musical era. 

For the album that eventually became O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. he wrote Tanganica and cowrote Yê-Melê and Zizê Baiô with Chico Feitosa who features on the album. Luiz Carlos Vinhas also covered some familiar tracks including Horace Silver’s Song For My Father. It was joined by Chatanooga Choo-Choo and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You which were part of two suites on the album. In total, ten tracks were recorded by Luiz Carlos Vinhas for O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. which was scheduled for release later in 1968.

Record buyers discovered an album that was quintessentially Brazilian. Luiz Carlos Vinhas combined Bossa Nova with elements of tropicalia and Afro-Brazilian with jazz, psychedelia, pop and rock. Sampling was used on O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. which featured bursts of birdsong, animal sounds, vocal riffing and onomatopoeia. It was an ambitious and innovative album that sometimes, seemed ahead of its time. 

O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. was the perfect showcase for Luiz Carlos Vinhas’ skills. It featured the deft touch that had served him so well since he made his professional debut in 1957. During the album his playing was delicate and intricate as he takes the listener on a captivating journey. 

Side One.

Joao Donato’s classic Amazonas opens the album and Luiz Carlos Vinhas forever the showman reinvents this familiar track. His fingers glide and sometimes dance across the keyboard his playing smooth and inventive as he joins forces with the horns, percussion and rhythm section to ensure that this uplifting and joyous slice of musical sunshine swings. It’s a similar case on Song For My Father where Luiz Carlos Vinhas pays homage to jazz legend Horace Silver.

Among the highlights of the album are Luiz Carlos Vinhas’ own compositions. This includes Tanganica  where birdsong and animal sounds are combined with the guitar and horns. They combine with the vocals and play a leading role in sound and success of this soulful track. Then Yê-Melê is a homage to the water goddess Yoruba where blazing horns, percussion and piano drive the arrangement along. Later, drums pound, cymbals crash and a female vocalist adds umbandista chants which add a contrast to the urgency of this genre-melting track. Zizê Baiô then sashays along as braying horns punctuate this fusion of Bossa Nova, psychedelia and lo-fi sounds. 

The tempo drops on Un Jour Christine as Luiz Carlos Vinhas is transformed into a balladeer. The arrangement is understated with a late-night jazz sound that occasionally becomes lysergic and features lo-fi sounds on what’s one of the most beautiful songs on the album. 

Side Two.

Opening the second side is the first of three short suite. It opens with remakes of the jazz standards Chatanooga Choo-Choo and Don’t Be That Way and then closes with Wilson Simonal’s Tributo A Martin Luther King. Then Luiz Carlos Vinhas and his band work their way through Pourquoi, Arrasta A Sandália, Morena, Boca De Ouro and Rosa Morena. For nearly eight minutes the band and vocalists transport the listener to Rio De Janeiro as Bossa Nova, soulful vocals and high kicking horns combine. The third suite opens with celebratory sound of Birthday Morning before giving way to the easy listening classic Can’t Take My Eyes Off You which is given a makeover as Bossa Nova, soul and jazz combine seamlessly. It’s one of the highlights of side two.

Closing O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. is O Dialogo which features Chico Feitosa on a track that includes elements of spoken word, vocal riffing and onomatopoeia. It’s without doubt one of the most innovative tracks on the album and shows that Luiz Carlos Vinhas was way ahead of his time. 

When Luiz Carlos Vinhas released O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. in 1968, this groundbreaking genre-melting album was nowhere near as successful as his debut Novas Estruturas. It may have been that the music was too adventurous and avant-garde for fans of Bossa Três and his debut album? For Luiz Carlos Vinhas this must have been hugely disappointing.

It was only much later that O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. started to find an audience when it was rediscovered by collectors and crate-digging DJs. Belatedly, Luiz Carlos Vinhas’ oft-overlooked and vastly underrated sophomore album O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. started to find an audience and fifty-three years after its release is receiving the plaudits and praise it so richly deserves.

Cult Classic: Luiz Carlos Vinhas-O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V.

CULT CLASSIC: BRAINCHILD-HEALING OF THE LUNATIC OWL.

Cult Classic: Brainchild-Healing Of The Lunatic Owl.

Progressive brass rock pioneers Brainchild were formed in Somerset in the late-sixties, and by the 1970 the septet had signed to A&M. This was perfect timing as the brass rock boom began in 1969 and continued until 1972. By then,  Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears and The Electric Flag were amongst the highest profile brass rock bands stateside. However, it wasn’t just an American phenomenon.

In Britain, a number of brass rock bands were making waves. However, Brainchild were different to the rest as they combined progressive rock and brass rock. It was impressive sight and sound as the septet took the stage and like well oiled machine worked their way through their set. As they did, the audience realised that here was a band that was a cut above the competition.

Not many bands could seamlessly switch between time signatures and combine disparate musical genres like Brainchild. They took as a starting point progressive brass rock and incorporated elements of fusion, funk, psychedelia, pop, rock and blues. Their music was quite different to the majority of the bands playing live in 1970 and it was no wonder they had been signed by A&M and were en route to the studio to record their debut album Healing Of The Lunatic Owl.

Brainchild’s detonation was Wessex Sound Studios in West London, where they were about to record their debut album with producer Lennie Wright who had been a member of The Web. 

Three of the members of the group had written the eight tracks they were about to record. Bill Edwards contributions were Autobiography and Two Bad Days, while Brian Wilshaw had penned Healing Of The Lunatic Owl, Hide From The Dawn and To “B”. Harvey Coles had also written three tracks, She’s Learning, A Time A Place and Sadness Of A Moment. These eight tracks were about to be recorded by Brainchild and would be their debut album Healing Of The Lunatic Owl.

The band’s lineup for the session included drummer Dave Muller, bassist and vocalist Harvey Coles, vocalist Bill Edwards who switched between electric and acoustic guitar plus organist and pianist Chris Jennings. Adding the brass rock sound were trumpeter Lloyd Williams, saxophonist and flautist Brian Wilshaw and trombonists Ian Goss and Pat Strachan. With Lennie Wright taking charge of production and Robin Thompson engineering the session Brainchild recorded their debut album. 

With Healing Of The Lunatic Owl completed, A&M scheduled the release of Brainchild’s debut album for later in 1970. By then, the popularity of both progressive rock and brass rock were growing. Marketing executives at A&M must have thought that this was the perfect time to release an album of progressive rock brass rock. Sadly, that wasn’t the case when Healing Of The Lunatic Owl was released the album sunk without trace. It must have been hugely disappointing for a group as talented and versatile as Brainchild. Sadly, record buyers weren’t ready for their unique take on progressive brass rock. Maybe the album was ahead of its time?

Brainchild had incorporated elements of fusion, funk, psychedelia, blues, rock, poppy hooks and theatre into progressive brass rock during Healing Of The Lunatic Owl. Lead vocalist Bill Edwards is responsible for the poppy hooks and the slight theatrical sound. There’s a lounge influence on the title-track where Brainchild combine jazz, rock and seem to have been inspired by Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears. It’s one of the highlights of the album. So is the nine minute epic A Time A Place which is Brainchild’s finest moment.

Sometimes, the album heads in the direction of psych-prog and even Krautrock which was in its infancy in 1970. Later in the album dissonant horns on To B take the album in the direction of free jazz. However, the structure of the songs are unmistakably progressive rock and seamlessly Brainchild spring a surprise with unexpected changes in time signature. Add to that the psychedelic influence and Healing Of The Lunatic Owl was an album with the past, the present and the future. 

Playing an important role is Harvey Coles’ elastic and probing bass which takes the album in the direction of progressive funk. The progressive funkateer forms a potent partnership with drummer Dave Muller in the rhythm section. Given their versatility they’re one of Brainchild’s secret weapons.   

Then there’s the horn section that take progressive rock in a new direction. Brainchild may not have been the first progressive rock to add a horn section but how many combined a trumpet, two trombones and a saxophone? They take the this impressive sounding album to the next level. 

Despite the undeniable quality of Healing Of The Lunatic Owl it is one of the many albums released in the early seventies that failed to find the audience it deserved. It was an ambitious and innovative album where Brainchild took progressive brass rock in a new direction. They were musical pioneers who rather than follow in the footsteps of others, decided to forge a new sound. Sadly, Healing Of The Lunatic Owl was ahead of its time and passed the record buying public by in 1970. 

This was hugely disappointing for Brainchild who split-up not long after releasing their debut album. Sadly, by then the dream was over for Brainchild. Healing Of The Lunatic Owl was Brainchild’s one shot at the title and for this groundbreaking group and sadly, it was a case of what might have been?

Cult Classic: Brainchild-Healing Of The Lunatic Owl.

CULT CLASSIC: EL POLEN-CHOLO (MUSICA ORIGINAL DE LE BANDA DE SONIDO).

Cult Classic: El Polen-Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido).

When El Polen was formed by brothers Juan Luis and Raul Pereira in 1969, little did anyone realise that their new band would become one of the most important and influential in the history of Peruvian music. That was until El Polen released their genre-melting debut album Cholo in 1972 where they fuse Andean music, folk and psychedelia. This new genre-melting was ambitious and groundbreaking and would influence a new generation of bands in the future. By then, El Polen had come a long way in just three short years.

The El Polen story began three years earlier in 1969 when brothers Juan Luis and Raul Pereira decided to form a new band. They had decided that their new band would head in a new direction and make music that was different to their previous band. By then, the Pereira brothers realised that Peruvian music was about to change.

By 1969, the first wave of new Peruvian  bands were combing beat music and surf sounds, which they played at Matinales, where concerts that took place on a  Sunday morning. These concerts were always popular, and so were the bands that took to the stage. However, the music was starting to sound tired and like yesterday’s sound. What Peruvian music needed was a revolution.

Juan Luis Pereira was part of the burgeoning hippy movement and realised this, he and his brother Raul formed El Polen, and set about reinventing music in the new Peru. It was a very different country since 1968, and it was an exciting time for the Pereira brothers as they started their new band.

Peru was transformed in 1968, when a nationalist government was established by Juan Velasco Alvarado. This brought to an end the oligarchic state, which had previously ruled Peru. Suddenly, many people started to migrate from the country to the city, seeking a new life in the new Peru. 

This coincided with new Andean singers and bands playing concerts in a coliseum located on the outskirts of a city. Many within the audience were those who had migrated from the country to the city, and they enjoyed the concerts that they attended.

Meanwhile, their was an upsurge of interest in Andean music, and sales of new recordings increased. The Andean sound which had first been recorded and promoted by Jose Maria Arguedas by the late-forties was growing in popularity. Soon,  new bands were being formed and Andean sound became more popular than ever and the Peruvian musical industry expanded. However, Juan Luis and Raul Pereira had their own plans for Peruvian music.

As the sixties, gave way to the seventies, Juan Luis and Raul Pereira realised that the fusion of beat music and surf sounds many bands had been playing was yesterday’s sound and no longer as popular as it had once been. It was time for Peruvian music to change. The Pereira decided to fuse the sound of today with some of the music that they had heard growing up. 

This included classical music, Peruvian waltzes and huaynos which had influenced and moulded the Pereira brothers in their formative years. So did Andean folklore music which would become part of El Polen’s sound. They were about to combine Andean music, folk psychedelia and rock, and this new genre-melting was  groundbreaking. Nobody had ever tried this before and the members of El Polen were about to become musical pioneers.

By then, the members of El Polen had been on a journey which would help them improve as musicians and spiritually. El Polen had traveled to Cusco, where they learned more about Andean instruments and musical traditions. This was they saw as part of their continuing musical education, and having gathered new knowledge, El Polen began the next part of this two-part journey.

It took El Polen to Santa Eulalia high in the mountains above Lima, where they examined their burgeoning spirituality. After this, the members of El Polen were ready to change Peruvian music forevermore.

By then, the hippy movement had exploded in popularity as Peruvian music fans embraced psychedelia and sought altered states of consciousness. With the new hippy generation enjoying and embracing the new, alternative lifestyle and psychedelic music El Polen had a captive audience.

The members of El Polen had much in common with the people who they hoped would embrace their music. They had lived in a community, and shared many of the same values and beliefs. El Polen also hoped that the new hippy generation would embrace their music.

When El Polen took to the stage, they sought to eliminate the boundaries between rock and huayno. To do this, they deployed acoustic guitars, a cello, mandolin, percussion and quenas, as they combined Andean music, folk rock and psychedelia. This proved popular, and soon, El Polen was at the forefront of a new musical movement that was blossoming in Peru. 

Given their popularity, it was only a matter of time before El Polen came to the attention of one of the Peruvian record companies. Virrey won the signature of El Polen who soon, began work on their debut album.

Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido).

For their debut album, El Polen was asked to write the soundtrack to the film Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido), which was based on the life of the famous Peruvian Soccer Player Hugo Sotil.

For Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido), El Polen wrote six new tracks, and covered Cholito Pantalion Bianco which was written by singer and songwriter Luis Abanto Morales. These seven tracks were recorded by the six members of El Polen.

As recording of Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) began, El Polen’s lineup featured guitarist Juan Luis Pereira and his brother Raul who played guitar and took charge of the vocals. They were joined by cellist Juan Sebastián Montesinos, violinist Fernando Silva, percussionist Ernesto Pinto and Carlos Martínez who played mandolin. As Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) took shape the six members of El Polen had no idea that they were about to make musical history.

Prior to the release of Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) critics had their say on El Polen’s debut album. While El Polen’s debut album was well received and hailed as an ambitious and exciting release, it was only later that critics realised the importance of Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido).

It was a game-changer of an album, and Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) proved not just to be innovative, but also influential. El Polen paved the way for other bands to fuse Andean music and rock and would influence several generations of bands and musicians.

Nowadays, Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) is regarded as a landmark album in the history of Peruvian music. That is no surprise as El Polen was the first band to fuse traditional Andean music with folk and psychedelia and rock. They were also the first group to combine traditional Andean instruments with Western instruments. 

This they do effectively from the opening bars of the near twelve-minute epic La Flora (tema De Cholo). It showcases El Polen’s considerable musical skills as they seamlessly combine disparate musical genres on what’s a  tantalising taste of a truly talented group. So too does upbeat and joyous Cholito Pantalion Bianco. 

Quite different is  the dramatic, cinematic and emotive Paisajes De Quenas which features traditional Peruvian instruments. They combine with the swirling strings as the cello and violin combine during the evocative and irresistible Valicha. 

Sitting Dreaming is genre-melting lysergic track that has obviously been influenced by Western psychedelia. There’s even a nod to The Beatles midway through the track, which is one of the highlights of Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido). Tondero is another carefully crafted, genre-melting track where elements of classical music, folk, psychedelia and rock combine as Raúl Pereira delivers soul-baring vocal. Closing El Polen’s debut album is Secuencias De Organillo Y Poliphon, which is a short track where plink plonk sounds are part of track that is both cinematic and psychedelic and close the album on a high. 

Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) was a groundbreaking album that featured genre-melting music from musical pioneers El Polen. They had spent the best part of three years honing their sound and were more than ready to record an album. 

Led by the Pereira brothers they recorded what was a landmark album where they fuse traditional Andean music with classical music, folk, psychedelia and rock. This had never been done before, and the members of El Polen were pioneers who were breaking new ground.

Soon, many bands would follow in their footsteps, during the next few years. However, nowadays, El Polen and their debut album Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) is regarded as a turning point for Peruvian music.  They had changed music forevermore and revolutionised Peruvian music in the process.

Sadly, El Polen only released one more album during the seventies, Fuera De La Ciudad in 1973, which was another innovative, landmark album. Just two years later, El Polen split-up in 1975, and  that was the last that was heard of the band for twenty-one years.

In 1996, El Polen made a comeback, and three years later, self-released their third album Signos E Instrumentos. Sadly, not long after releasing their first album in twenty-six years El Polen split-up once again.

Fifteen years later, in 2014, there was an El Polen reunion, as they rolled back the years. Sadly, that was the last that was heard from one of the most important groups in the history of modern Peruvian music.

El Polen certainly made their mark on Peruvian music during the six-year period between 1969 and 1975. This began when they released their genre-melting landmark debut album Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido) in 1972, and followed this up with another classic album Fuera De La Ciudad which are El Polen’s finest releases.

Cult Classic: El Polen-Cholo (Música Original De La Banda De Sonido).

GENE  RUSSELL-TALK TO MY LADY.

Gene Russell-Talk To My Lady.

Label: Real Gone Music.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘5th’ March 2021.

As 1973 dawned, LA-based Black Jazz Records had already released nine albums since 1971. Its first release was Gene Russell’s critically acclaimed sophomore album New Direction. However, another two years passed before the LA-born pianist returned with the followup. 

Gene Russell spent the spent the rest of 1971 and all of 1972 running the label as well recording and producing albums for the artists who had signed to Black Jazz Records. This left little time for him to write and record a new solo album. He had to sacrifice his solo career for the good of the label he cofounded in 1969.

Pianist Gene Russell and percussionist Dick Schory cofounded Black Jazz Records in Oakland, California, in 1969, and the nascent label’s raison d’être was “to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers.” This, however, was only part of their vision for their new label.

The cofounders were determined that Black Jazz Records would released an alternative to what they saw as the old school jazz that was popular at the time. They wanted to release an alternative to traditional jazz, and this included albums that featured political and spiritual influenced music. However, spiritual jazz was just part of the Black Jazz Records’ story. The label released twenty albums that included everything from free jazz and funk to soul-jazz between 1971 and 1975.

After Gene Russell’s New Direction became Black Jazz Records first release in 1971, the nascent label released  Walter Bishop Jr’s Coral Keys, Doug Carn’s Infant Eye, Rudolph Johnson’s Spring Rain, Calvin Keys’ Shawn-Neeq and Chester Thompson’s Powerhouse. It was the final release of 1971. By then, word had spread about Black Jazz Records and its musical philosophy

The cofounders were determined that as wide an audience as possible hear the albums that the label was releasing. Gene Russell decided that one way to do this was to organise a promotional tour. 

In September 1971, Gene Russell and his Ray Lawrence who was his marketing consultant toured America giving interviews to newspaper journalists and featured on radio and newspaper where they showcased Black Jazz Records and its artists. This resulted in valuable publicity for the label.

By then, other labels looked on enviously at the new label and artists were keen to sign to Black Jazz Records. This was no surprise.

Cofounder Dick Schory had founded Chicago-based Ovation Records which was a successful country and western label. It was providing funding for Black Jazz Records and distributing its releases. This gave the label a much needed helping hand and meant it had an edge on its competitors.

Having released six albums during 1971, the first album that Black Jazz Records released during 1972 was Henry Franklin’s cult classic The Skipper. This was followed by Doug Carn’s second album for the label Spirit Of The New Land, which was the most successful album the label released during 1972. The final release of the year was The Awakening’s Hear, Sense and Feel. 

While 1972 wasn’t as a busy as the previous year, the three albums that Black Jazz Records released were well received by critics and cultural commentators. The releases were also starting to find a wider audience. This was another reason why artists were keen to sign to the label.

However, it wasn’t a new signing that released Black Jazz Records’ tenth release. Instead, it was cofounder Gene Russell who returned with his second album for the label, Talk To My Lady.

Despite his busy schedule, Gene Russell had written Talk To My Lady, Get Down and Blues Suite. The other five tracks were cover versions. This included a cover of the Billy Paul classic Me and Mrs Jones which Cary Gilbert wrote with Gamble and Huff. It was joined by Donald Meyer, Elise Bretton and Sherman Edwards’ For Heaven’s Sake; Stevie Wonders’ You Are The Sunshine Of My Life; Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favorite Things plus Carl Sigman and Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now. These eight tracks became Talk To My Lady which was Gene Russell’s much-anticipated followup to New Direction.

Recording of Talk To My Lady took place at Hollywood Spectrum Studios, Los Angeles, with Gene Russell producing the album and playing Fender Rhodes and a Steinway piano. He was joined in the rhythm section by drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, bassist Henry Franklin and guitarist Calvin Keys. Eddie Gee played tambourine and Charles Weaver congas on an album that was a mixture of new material and familiar songs.

Talk To My Lady was released to critical acclaim in 1973. Critics were won over by an album that featured elements of blues,  funk, fusion, hard bop, jazz, jazz-funk and soul-jazz. Accompanied by a tight, talented and versatile band, Gene Russell switches between and fuses disparate musical genres. 

That’s apparent on the album opener and title-track Song For My Lady where elements of funk, fusion and hard bop are combined by Gene Russell and his band. Leon “Ndugu” Chancler’s drumming is complex but subtle and soon, the track swings. By then, he’s been joined by bassist Henry Franklin and the pair form a potent partnership in the rhythm section. Meanwhile, Gene Russell plays a starring role as his fly across the keyboard of Fender Rhodes which later takes on a slinky sound. He seems to have been inspired by Herbie Hancock as he adds a fusion influence to this genre-melting title-track that sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

Covering a classic like Me and Mrs Jones is never easy as the definitive version has already been recorded. Instead, it’s a case of reinventing the song and taking it in a new direction. It opens with Calvin Keys’ guitar combining with Henry Franklin’s bass. He goes on to play a starring role and combines with drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler’s who like Calvin Keys doesn’t overplay. It’s a case of less is more. Meanwhile, Gene Russell’s Fender Rhodes takes centrestage and combines power, emotion and degree of drama on this beautiful, impassioned cover of a Philly Soul classic which gets a jazzy makeover.

For Heaven’s Sake was originally recorded in 1948, and a decade later was made famous by Billie Holliday. This cover is slow and understated with drums played by brushes accompanying Henry Franklin’s bass. He plays slowly and choosing each note with care while Gene Russell plays Fender Rhodes. His playing is expressive, emotive and heartfelt on a truly beautiful cover of an oft-covered track.

Earlier in 1973, Stevie Wonder had a hit single with You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. Gene Russell’s cover starts off as a shuffle but become an upbeat and joyous  track that has a cinematic sound. It sounds as if it belongs on the soundtrack to seventies film. 

It’s all change on Blues Suite which is a ballad where Gene Russell switches to the Steinway piano. Behind him, the rhythm section provide an understated accompaniment. Drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler plays with brushes while Henry Franklin resists the temptation to overplay. This allows him to enjoy a musical masterclass from Gene Russell who jabs and stabs the keyboard playing with power and passion on this bluesy ballad.

Very different is the cover of My Favorite Things which was the title of John Coltrane’s seventh album, and the first where he played soprano saxophone. It’s as if Gene Russell wants to pay homage to one of the most innovative musicians in the history of jazz. This cover bursts into life and quickly reveals an avant-garde sound. A space bass accompanies a shimmering Fender Rhodes which heads in the direction of fusion as drums power the arrangement along. What follows is groundbreaking avant-garde cover of a Rogers and Hammerstein’s much-covered track.

If You Could See Me Now closes Talk To My Lady and is narrated by Gene Russell. The piano-led arrangement accompanies his needy, hurt-filled soliloquy. It’s a mixture of a music and theatre and shows another side to bandleader, pianist and label owner Gene Russell. 

Talk To My Lady was the much-anticipated and critically acclaimed followup to New Direction which was the first release on Black Jazz Records. Two years laters, Gene Russell made a welcome return. He was backed by a crack band of musicians  when they recorded an album where new songs sat side-by-side with cover versions of classics and familiar songs. Some of these songs were reinterpreted and were taken in a new direction. To do that, Gene Russell and his band switch between and combine elements of avant-garde, blues funk, fusion, hard bop, jazz, jazz-funk and soul-jazz on an album that he also produced. 

The result was Talk To My Lady, which is one of the greatest and most eclectic albums of Gene Russell’s long career and a reminder of a pioneering musician who in 1973 was at the peak of his powers.

 Gene Russell-Talk To My Lady.