Friday, September 22, 2017

The Humblebums - Open Up The Door (1970 uk, wonderful folk rock with baroque and psych shades, with Gerry Rafferty, 2006 japan remaster and expanded)

Scottish folk outfit the Humblebums aren't perhaps as well known as their two main individual members: Gerry Rafferty, who later scored hits with Stealers Wheel and as a solo artist, and Billy Connolly, who left music to become an internationally successful stand-up comedian. Connolly actually founded the group in 1965, along with guitarist Tam Harvey; both had been regulars on the Glasgow folk circuit, and Connolly had previously been playing old-time country music in a group called the Skillet Lickers.

The duo quickly became a popular attraction in Glasgow's folk clubs, particularly as Connolly honed his humorous between-song patter, which became an increasingly large part of their already whimsical act. After a few years of local celebrity, the Humblebums recorded their debut album, First Collection of Merrie Melodies, for the Transatlantic label, employing bassist Ronnie Rae to flesh out their sound; the repertoire was split between traditional folk songs and Connolly originals. 

Not long after the album's release, budding singer/songwriter Gerry Rafferty (a former member of a beat group called Fifth Column) approached the duo after one of their gigs for feedback on his original songs. He wound up being invited to join the group, officially making them a trio. Rafferty's songs soon took a prominent place in their repertoire, which led to friction with Tam Harvey; he departed around half a year into Rafferty's tenure. Toward the end of 1969, Rafferty and Connolly entered the studio together and cut the second Humblebums LP, The New Humblebums, which began to feature brass and woodwind arrangements. With Rafferty's pop instincts, the Humblebums grew more popular on the live circuit than ever, and they recorded another album in a similar vein, 1970's Open Up the Door. 

However, there was growing dissension between Rafferty and Connolly. Rafferty's material had a more serious bent than Connolly's lighthearted, dryly witty offerings, and Connolly's comedy bits were taking up a large portion of the Humblebums' stage show, to the point where Rafferty wanted him to cut the comedy altogether. Moreover, the extra session musicians who were used on Open Up the Door made it difficult for the duo to capture the feel of the record on stage. It was no surprise when the Humblebums broke up in 1971. Rafferty moved on to Stealers Wheel, best known for their hit "Stuck in the Middle With You," and later went solo, scoring a huge hit with "Baker Street." Connolly, meanwhile, realized that stand-up comedy was his true calling, and in a few short years became one of the most popular comedians not only in Scotland, but the whole U.K., with a career that's spanned decades. 
by Steve Huey
1. My Apartment (Billy Connolly) - 2:53
2. I Can't Stop Now (Gerry Rafferty) - 4:47
3. Open Up The Door (Billy Connolly) - 3:34
4. Mary Of The Mountains (Billy Connolly) - 3:08
5. All The Best People Do It (Gerry Rafferty) - 3:00
6. Steamboat Row (Gerry Rafferty) - 2:09
7. Mother (Billy Connolly) - 3:02
8. Shoeshine Boy (Gerry Rafferty) - 3:19
9. Cruisin' (Billy Connolly) - 3:24
10.Keep It To Yourself (Gerry Rafferty) - 3:19
11.Oh No (Billy Connolly) - 2:22
12.Song For Simon (Gerry Rafferty) - 2:23
13.Harry (Billy Connolly) - 3:04
14.My Singing Bird (Traditional) - 3:31
15.Half A Mile (Church Version) (Gerry Rafferty) - 4:50
16.Half A Mile (Backing Track) (Gerry Rafferty) - 3:44
17.Continental Song (Gerry Rafferty) - 3:35
18.Continental Song (Backing Track) (Gerry Rafferty) - 3:11
19.Time (Billy Connolly) - 1:29
20.Mother (Live) (Billy Connolly) - 2:42
Tracks 15 - 19  Outtakes from "Open Up The Door" sessions.
Track 20 Live BBC Radio One Session Recorded 23 February 1970

The Humblebums
*Billy Connolly  - Guitar, Vocals
*Gerry Rafferty  - Guitar, Vocals
*Terry Cox  - Drums
*Barry Dransfield  - Violin
*Bernie Holland  - Guitar

1978-79  Gerry Rafferty - City To City / Night Owl (double disc set)  

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thundermug - Strikes (1972 canada, stunning classic hard rock, 2010 remaster)

Once billed as 'the heaviest band in the world', London, Ontario's Thundermug features Joe DeAngelis on vocals, Bill Durst on guitar and vocals, Ed Pranskus on drums and Jim Corbett on bass. Writing very unusual songs with the most intense driving beat, they toured Canada and the States during the 70's. Greg Hambleton signed Thundermug in 1972 and his Axe Records released their first single "You Really Got Me" (AXE 3) followed by "Africa" (AXE 4) in 1972, from the 'Thundermug Strikes' album.

"Africa" was their most successful single and it became a cult favourite on Doug Morris' independent Big Tree label in the States. EMI licensed ‘Strikes’ in Europe and CBS released a US compilation in 1973. Their 2nd Axe album "Orbit" was recorded and released in late 1973 followed by their 3rd Axe album 'Ta-Daa' in 1974; released in the US by Mercury Records.

Bill continues to tour under his own name The Bill Durst Band and continues to write songs with Joe Deangelis. Ed records and performs under the name Izzy Bartok while both Jim and Ed tour as sidemen in various bands. 

Their first review: 
"Boy, do these guys ever strike!- with a knockout punch! They hit so hard, in fact, that a good description of them would be London's answer to Led Zeppelin. What else can you say about a group that is determined to blow a speaker each time it appears live or that has put together an album of original rockers that pound their way into your brain? " 
by Joe Matyas, London Free Press, 1972

1. Africa (Bill Durst, Joe de Angelis) - 3:19
2. Page 125 / What Would You Do / Help Father Sun (Bill Durst, Joe de Angelis) - 10:21
3. And They Danced (Bill Durst, Joe de Angelis) - 4:18
4. You Really Got Me (Ray Davies) - 2:25
5. Fortunes Umbrella (Bill Durst) - 4:48
9. Jane "J" James (Bill Durst, Joe de Angelis, Ed Pranskus, James Corbett) - 2:54
7. Will They Ever (Bill Durst, Joe de Angelis, Ed Pranskus, James Corbett) - 4:00
8. Where Am I (Bill Durst, Joe de Angelis, Ed Pranskus, James Corbett) - 4:50

*Joe de Angelis - Guitar, Vocals
*James Corbett - Bass
*Bill Durst - Guitar, Vocals
*Ed Pranskus - Drums

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ivory - Ivory (1968 us, exceptional west coast psych, 2002 remaster)

Ivory may be the finest Jefferson Airplane album not by Jefferson Airplane themselves. It is not quite a masterpiece on a par with Surrealistic Pillow, but it easily holds its own with many of the second-tier albums from the band's prime era. Ivory -- and producers Les Brown Jr. and Al Schmitt -- definitely knew how to get the most out of their relatively minimalistic setup. It would be difficult to over-praise the abilities of Kenny Thomure and Mike McCauley, who exhibit a near-telepathic partnership on their instruments, while Christine Christman's full-bodied vocals are room-filling powerful -- all that plus a really first-rate studio drummer. 

Lyrically Ivory mostly dispensed with topics of amorousness, instead concentrating on far-out, cosmic concerns ranging from the stars to such nebulous ideas of the inner dimension as "infinite realms of peace" to more era-endemic principles like freedom. This does date the album, but the music is so often such a heady, enveloping thrill that it scarcely matters. The songs are mostly strong. The opening "Silver Rains" is perhaps the album's most potent track. A bit ominous and spooky, a bit chaotic and wired, it displays just how dynamic and forceful Christman's vocals could be. Nearly as stellar is the awesome garage psych of "A Thought," complete with guitars so fuzzy you could get a buzz off them and intertwining organ and piano lines that lead into a brief but scintillating rave-up with some of the boogie funk looseness of Traffic.

The album's most beautiful moment, however, is the tender "Losin' Hold," a song with more than a slight resemblance to the give-and-take duets perfected by Marty Balin and Grace Slick. It is nearly up to the standards of the classic ballads on Surrealistic Pillow. There are a couple of dull spots during the album's second half, and Ivory wasn't really able to develop a distinctive personality of their own -- one can only bemoan the band's early demise and speculate how they might have gone on to develop -- but borrowed sound and style or not, the band's sole album stands up as menacing, tough-nosed psychedelia loaded with flashes of genuine brilliance. 
by Stanton Swihart
1. Silver Rains (Christine Christman, Kenny Thomure, Mike McAuley, Tony Christinetian) - 3:53
2. Free And Easy (Christine Christman, Kenny Thomure) - 3:45
3. Losin' Hold (Kenny Thomure) - 2:59
4. Laugh (Kenny Thomure) - 2:15
5. A Thought (Christine Christman) - 3:23
6. I Of The Garden (Christine Christman) - 3:25
7. All In My Mind (Kenny Thomure) - 3:32
8. A Light (Christine Christman, Kenny Thomure) - 2:17
9. Last Laugh (Kenny Thomure, Wark) - 2:22
10.Grey November (Christine Christman) - 4:42

The Ivory
*Michael McCauley - Keyboards, Vocals
*Christine Christman - Vocals
*Ken Thomure - Guitar, Vocals

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown (1974 canada, brilliant folk rock, audio fidelity vinyl issue)

Sundown is a fine album which weaves conventional folk and pop strands into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The polish of Lightfoot's singing has tended in the past to undermine the seriousness of his songs, inviting the listener to appreciate his records mainly as aural artifacts rather than explore their contents. But most of Sundown's 12 songs are so evocative that they prohibit such easy perusal.

Lightfoot's singing is almost crooning—a style which under-states and redeems the rhetorical and sentimental conventions intrinsic to all formal songwriting. Producer Lenny Waronker has outdone himself helping Lightfoot achieve a balance between surface and substance, by providing a varied instrumental palette, richly acoustic and adorned by some excellent string charts from Nick DeCaro.

Lightfoot's reflections are those of a mature man, capable of strong romantic and political emotions, tempered by a suave sexuality and an elegiac mysticism. "Somewhere U.S.A." is a lovely evocation of romantic complications experienced during the daze of travel. "High And Dry" also celebrates travel and uses the image of a ship and its different skippers to affirm continuities. The six-minute "Seven Island Suite" is the album's most ambitious cut, and presents an elusive apocalyptic vision. More incisive are "Sundown," an ominous assertion of sexual jealousy, and "Circle Of Steel," a protest song about the antagonisms of welfare and poverty.

The album's last and most powerful cut, "Too Late for Prayin'" is perhaps Lightfoot's finest creation. A modified hymn, somewhat reminiscent of Paul Simon's "American Tune," "Too Late" is both a prayer for our spiritual restoration and a lament for its absence. It is the work of a master craftsman whose endurance and prolificacy have yet to receive just recognition in the United States.
by Stephen Holden
1. Somewhere U.S.A. - 2:55
2. High, Dry - 2:17
3. Seven Island Suite - 6:03
4. Circle Of Steel - 2:49
5. Is There Anyone Home - 3:19
6. The Watchman's Gone - 4:20
7. Sundown - 3:37
8. Carefree Highway - 3:45
9. The List - 3:10
10.Too Late For Prayin' - 4:15
Words and Music by Gordon Lightfoot

*Gordon Lightfoot - Lead, Backing Vocals, Six, Twelve String Acoustic Guitars, Chimes, Bells, High String Guitar
*Terry Clements - Acoustic Guitar
*Nick De Caro - Accordion, Horns, Orchestration, Piano, Strings
*Jim Gordon - Percussion, Drums
*Rick Haynes - Bass Guitar
*Milt Holland - Percussion, Congas
*Gene Martynec - Moog Synthesizer
*Red Shea - Dobro, Electric, Acoustic, Classical Guitars, Slide Dobro
*Catherine Smith - Harmony Vocals
*John Stockfish - Bass Guitar
*Jack Zaza - English Horn, Recorder

more Gordon Lightfoot
1965-84  Complete Greatest Hits
1966-67  Lightfoot! / The Way I Feel
1976  Summertime Dream  

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Creation Of Sunlight - Creation Of Sunlight (1968 us, elegant trippy psych)

They started off as Sunlights Seven and recorded an LP entitled Sunstroke in 1968. This recording never got beyond the acetate stage by DCT Recorders and is a monster, monster rarity that has not been reissued. The picture of it below, taken from the book 1001 Record Collector Dreams, shows that at least 5 songs were recorded, 2 of which did not show up on their eventual LP for Windi Records. These are Sevens Theme and Judy In Disguise. The other 3 songs shown in the picture, David, Light Without Heat and In The Middle Of Happy were released on their eventual LP, but probably as re-recorded versions. 

After the Sunstroke project was scrapped, the band hooked up with Windi Records and recorded a 7" under the name of Sunlight. This 7" consisted of Colors Of Love and Sometimes A Woman and was released under catalogue number W-1001 and W-1002. The versions of these songs are different than the ones that appeard on their LP. It is possible that these versions appeared on the flip side of the Sunstroke acetate. I have read that a non-LP 45 was released by Sunlights Seven, but have never heard or read anything else about that release so I suspect that this may be the item in question.

Finally settling on the name Creation Of Sunlight, they continued recording for Windi, finally releasing their self-titled LP and one 7" later in 1968. Their self-titled album on Windi WS-1001 contains 10 songs, 8 of which are original compositions with Gary Young and Jerry Griffin doing most of the songwriting duties. Interestingly, the credits for David, which was not written by the band, differ on the 7" and the LP. The entire album is absolutely great, loaded with organ and fuzz guitar just oozing with that acid and sunshine vibe. Original copies of this LP almost never turn up for sale and when they do, expect a really nice copy to reach four figures. This is one of the (too) few rarities that can musically justify their price tag. The only vinyl reissue has been a European bootleg on the "Windi" label. This is a nice sounding and nice looking job and it too seldom comes up for sale.
by John E. Midnight
1. David (Daughrety, Prophet) - 4:18
2. Rushhour Blues (Gary Young, Jerry Griffin) - 3:27
3. Light Without Heat (Gary Young) - 3:45
4. In The Middle Of Happy (Gary Young) - 4:31
5. Hammonds Eggs (Jerry Griffin) - 4:54
6. Sometimes A Woman (G.C Prophe) - 3:20
7. Second Thoughts (Gary Young) - 3:16
8. Seven Times Infinty (Carl Estrella, Gary Young, Jerry Griffin, Steve Montague) - 3:42
9. Colors Of Love (Gary Young) - 6:05
10.The Fun Machine (Gary Young, Jerry Griffin) - 2:32

The Creation Of Sunlight
*Gary Young - Lead Vocals
*Carl Estrella - Lead Guitar
*Don Sain - Rhythm Guitar
*Steve Montague - Bass Guitar
*Jerry Griffin - Keyboards, Vocals
*Bob Morgan - Drums
*Ron Clark - Percussion, Flute, Saxophone

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pete Brown And Piblokto! - Thousands On A Raft (1970 uk, essential psych prog rock, 2009 digipak remaster)

Pete Brown is known chiefly as sometime lyricist for Cream, putting words into Jack Bruce's mouth on I Feel Free, White Room etc. After their split, he got his own outfit together, Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments, recording one album with them, A Meal You Can Shake Hands With in the Dark, before the rest of the band sacked him just before they played Hyde Park with the Stones (and, of course, King Crimson). Wasting no time, he formed Piblokto! releasing (deep breath) Things May Come & Things May Go, But the Art School Dance Goes on Forever within the year. 

Later the same year, their second and final album, Thousands on a Raft, appeared, breaking Brown's run of ridiculously lengthily-titled albums. In case you're wondering, aside from the Titanic and Concorde, the sleeve depicts several slices of beans on toast floating in a pond (not sure how they managed that), the album title apparently being cockney (non-rhyming) slang for the aforementioned culinary delicacy. Several band members had changed in the months between the two records, the fresh blood making their presence felt immediately, as opener Aeroplane Head Woman's Cream-like tones assault your speakers. 

After a piano ballad, Station Song Platform Two, the album goes completely bonkers, with the 17-minute semi-improvised Highland Song, followed on side two by If They Could Only See Me Now Parts I & II, which is almost as long. Mellotron (definitely Dave Thompson this time round) on Station Song Platform Two, with some pleasant background MkII strings.
1. Aeroplane Head Woman  (Pete Brown, Jim Mullen) - 6:44  
2. Station Song Platform Two  (Pete Brown, Jim Mullen) - 3:43  
3. Highland Song  (Jim Mullen) - 17:04
4. If They Could Only See Me (Jim Mullen) - 12:07
5. Got A Letter From A Compu  (Pete Brown, Jim Mullen) - 5:51
6. Thousands On A Raft (Pete Brown, Jim Mullen) - 7:07

*Jim Mullen - Guitar, Percussion, Bass
*Steve Glover - Bass Guitar, Percussion
*Rob Tait - Drums, Percussion
*Dave Thompson - Keyboards, Percussion, Soprano Saxophone , Mellotron
*Pete Brown - Vocals, Talking Drum, Congas

1972  Bond And Brown - Two Heads Are Better Than One (2009 remaster)

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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Elecric Toilet - In The Hands Of Karma (1970 us, impressive psych rock, 2002 issue)

When you first hear the name Electric Toilet your brain will, almost certainly, fire up a proper bell-ringing, shark-jumping alert. After all, by 1970, when this Tupelo band's album was released on the Nasco Revelations label, the hippie revolution's heavy lifting was done and giving yourself such a strikingly silly name could only add to the idea you were some newbie, face-painted arriviste. However, In The Hands Of Karma is, in fact, a fantastic record, as one listen to the album opener Within Your State Of Mind will confirm. Built on a supremely solid and utterly funky backing track, the Toilet – shall we call them that? – stretch out for a full eight minutes, allowing plenty of room for dancefloor-friendly Hammond-pumping (somewhere between a lobotomised Booker T and a youthful Charlatans) and a great ocean of skilfully manipulated feedback that weaves in and out of each instrument for a full five minutes. 

Revelations and Don't Climb Nobody Else's Ladder are far bluesier than most psychedelic bands would attempt (the latter is positively Stax-ian), while the title track is a down-tempo fringe-shaker lifted onto a whole new plane by a richly melodic Gospel chorus. Something raucous was clearly going down wherever the Toilet hung out as, even 47 years later, their mix of country-inflected, choogling blues-rock and acid-fuzz still sounds quite remarkable. As befits a gang of young men with heads bursting full of ideas, they played with the idea of death: "is there a reason why, for me to keep on living?" they sang on Goodbye My Darling (whose four-minute outro is an absolute treat in itself), "I'm ready to die…" About a fortnight after this was released (in minute quantities, an original will cost you about $400) two of the members died in a car accident and that was the end of that for The Electric Toilet and everyone who sailed in her.
by Rob Fitzpatrick

Alfred Wayne Reynolds and three other bandmembers were on their way to Searcy, Arkansas to pick up band equipment. Before reaching their destination they were involved in a autombile accident,inwhich,two of the bandmembers were killed. Alfred Wayne Reynolds was one, the other Grady Pannell...
1. In The Hands Of Karma - 4:53
2. Within Your State Of Mind - 8:05
3. Revelations - 3:58
4. Mississippi Hippy - 3:15
5. Goodbye My Darling (Betts, Davis) - 6:18
6. Dont Climb Nobody Else's Ladder - 2:52
All songs by Dave Hall except where noted

*Dave Hall - Vocals, Guitar
*Alfred Wayne Reynolds - Bass
*Grady Pannel - ?
*Jimmy Morgan - ?
*John Wigginton - ?
*Larry Nichols - ?

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Youngbloods - Good And Dusty (1971 us, beautiful folk country psych roots 'n' roll, 2003 remaster)

The cover photo of Good and Dusty album was like a picture postcard from California with an updated color snapshot of old friends. Band relocated to a small town north of San Francisco, got their own label and studio - relaxed, basic and down to earth.  The material shows the band's undying love for blues, country, R'n'B and good old Rock 'n' Roll.

The album is almost entirely covers of older material - blues ("Pontic Blues"), R&B ("Stagger Lee"), "Let the Good Times Roll", even the freaking hand jive song.  Now with new bassist Mike Kane, the band is almost roots-rock: straight versions with guitars, occasional piano and Young's sweet tenor.  

Banana avoids the electric piano, and the jazzyness of Elephant Mountain and Rock Festival only flares up in a few spots. Young has two songs, the blues of "Drifting and Drifting" and the better "Light Shine", an attempt at an uplifting anthem ("People let your light shine"). Earthquake Anderson shows up on harmonica again on a few tracks. 

Banana's contribution is the "Hippie from Olema #5", a thinly-veiled retaliatory shot aimed directly at Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee" a 1969 country smash that raked San Francisco's hippies over the Coals. The title track is a minute and a half of instrumental racket).  It all sounds fine, the session has a Saturday night roadhouse vibe that makes you feel like moseying out to the back porch for a smoking plate of ribs ans a brew.
by Jud Cost
1. Stagger Lee (Al Price, Harold Logan) - 3:15
2. That's How Strong My Love Is (Roosevelt Jamison) - 4:47
3. Willie And The Hand Jive (Johnny Otis) - 3:09
4. Circus Fire (Coral Miller) - 3:01
5. Hippie From Olema #5 (Lowell Levinger) - 2:01
6. Good And Dusty (Jesse Colin Young, Lowell Levinger, Joe Bauer, Michael Kane) - 1:29
7. Let The Good Times Roll (Leonard Lee) - 3:47
8. Drifting And Drifting (Jesse Colin Young) - 4:14
9. Pontiac Blues (Willie Sonny Boy Williamson) - 3:57
10.Moonshine Is The Sunshine (Jeffrey Cain) - 3:41
11.Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Traditional) - 3:20
12.I'm A Hog For You Baby (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 3:32
13.Light Shine (Jesse Colin Young) - 3:44

The Youngbloods
*Jesse Colin Young - Solo Voice , Guitar , Tenor Saxophone
*Banana (Lowell Levinger) - Guitars, Voice, Piano , Mandolin , Banjo
*Michael Kane - Bass , French Horn , Voice, Handset
*Joe Bauer - Battery
*Earthquake Anderson - Harmonica

1967/69  The Youngbloods / Earth Music / Elephant Mountain (plus 2014 japan blu spec issues)
1969  Elephant Mountain (Sundazed expanded and 2014 japan blu spec issue)
1970  Rock Festival (2003 Sundazed) 
1971  Beautiful! Live In San Francisco (Sundazed edition)
1972  High On A Ridge Top (Sundazed remaster)

Jesse Colin Young releases
1972  Together
1973  Song For Juli (2009 remaster)
1974  Light Shine
1976  On The Road (Japan remaster)

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Rare Earth - One World (1971 us, fascinating classic groovy rock, 2015 audiophile remaster)

One World followed almost exactly a year after Ecology, and yielded another hit single in a longtime classic, "I Just Want to Celebrate." The song peaked on the pop charts at number seven and the album broke the Top 50. 

One World is an underrated album produced by Tom Baird with a long version of "What I'd Say" by Ray Charles, and original cuts like "If I Die", a remarkable song written by Rivera since the prospect of a soldier at war (supposedly from Vietnam) about to die ... rain is falling on my head, pretty soon I might be dead, the end is here, Lord, it's plain to see, I guess my country's made a fool of me .... which could be interpreted by Crosby, Stills & Nash. 

"Any Man Can Be a Fool" rhythmic, melodic rock composition with soul influences by the bassist John Persh in which it speaks of the wise advices of his mother, or "The Seed", another great theme by Pete Rivera with funk rock, jazz rock and blues traces and a phenomenal synergy between first-rate instrumentalists and outstanding solo guitarist Ray Monette ... tell me where will it go from here .
1. What'd I Say (Ray Charles) - 7:14
2. If I Die (Pete Rivera) - 3:30
3. Seed (Pete Rivera) - 3:32
4. I Just Want To Celebrate (Dino Fekaris, Nick Zesses) - 3:37
5. Someone To Love (Gil Bridges) - 3:47
6. Any Man Can Be A Fool (John Persh) - 3:35
7. Road (Tom Baird) - 3:36
8. Under God's Light (Eddie Guzman, Ray Monette, Mark Olson) - 4:51

Rare Earth
*Gil Bridges - Woodwinds, Vocals, Percussion, Flute
*Ray Monette - Guitars, Vocals
*Mark Olson - Keyboards, Vocals
*John Persh - Bass, Vocals
*Pete Rivera - Drums, Lead Vocals, Percussion
*Ed Guzman - Conga, Percussion

1968  Dreams/Answers (2017 remaster)
1969-74 Fill Your Head (three cds box set, five studio albums plus outtakes and alternative versions)

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Monday, September 4, 2017

Graham Bond - Solid Bond (1970 uk, spectacular prog jazz psych blues rock, 2004 extra tracks remaster)

When Solid Bond was issued in 1970, it was no surprise that its cover prominently billed Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, John McLaughlin, Jon Hiseman, and Dick Heckstall-Smith in addition to the man who actually led the band who recorded the material. For the leader of the Graham Bond Organisation was, in 1970, less celebrated than any of the aforementioned musicians, particularly in the United States, where Bruce and Baker (as part of Cream), Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith (as part of Colosseum), and McLaughlin were all far more widely known than keyboardist-singer Bond himself.

Yet as serious fans of 1960s British rock know, Bond made a hugely underrated contribution to blues-rock as leader of the group in which these musicians played before moving on to more commercially successful projects. And while Solid Bond might have at first glance seemed to be a collection of leftovers issued to exploit the fame of Bond's one-time sidemen, in fact the recordings—some from 1963, when Bond was still playing jazz, and some from 1966, when he'd fully delved into an idiosyncratic mixture of blues, rock, jazz, and soul—were not just of considerable historical interest, but also of substantial musical merit.

The three tracks on Solid Bond from 1963 were likely the most hotly anticipated by 1970 rock fans owing to the presence of Bruce, Baker, and McLaughlin, yet at the same time probably not at all like what most such listeners were expecting. Recorded live at London's Klooks Kleek club, these present the Graham Bond Quartet, as the band were then known, as a rather straightforward modern jazz outfit. Bond at this point was concentrating on alto sax rather than keyboards; there were no vocals; and, despite the inclusion of a Jack Bruce number titled "Ho Ho Country Kicking Blues," there was barely a hint of the blues and R&B that would by the following year supersede jazz as the band's main influences. Bond and McLaughlin split the composing credits for "The Grass Is Greener," while the third number, "Doxy," was a cover of an oft-interpreted tune by jazz sax great Sonny Rollins.

Still, it's a valuable document of the musicians' little-known (in 1970, at any rate) straightahead jazz roots, though Bond and his group left these behind soon after McLaughlin left and saxophonist Heckstall-Smith joined in late 1963. Over the next couple years the Graham Bond Organisation, as they billed themselves, would record a couple LPs and a few singles that saw them embrace the British R&B boom wholeheartedly, albeit with a jazzier spin than most of the bands on that scene, emphasizing Bond's demonic organ and growling vocals.

The bulk of Solid Bond, however, comes from a 1966 session recorded not long after Bruce and Baker had teamed with Eric Clapton to form Cream. With Baker replaced by young jazz veteran Jon Hiseman, the group entered the studio to cut nine tracks as a keyboards-sax-drums trio. Just as much as the mid-'60s recordings by the Bruce-Baker lineup, these reveal Bond as an originator of a highly original and invigorating blues-rock-R&B-jazz fusion, though owing to unusual circumstances they wouldn't see the light of day for several years.

As Harry Shapiro reports in his 1992 biography Graham Bond: The Mighty Shadow, the material was recorded after the group were given 500 pounds to make a record by Polydor, the session for all nine tracks taking place at London's famed Olympic Studios between midnight and 6am. "Graham and Dick were both in worlds of their own," remembers Hiseman today. "I negotiated the deal and chose the studio with Eddie Kramer." An engineer most famed for working extensively with Jimi Hendrix shortly afterward, Kramer had already worked with Jon when Hiseman drummed on British jazz pianist Peter Lemer's album Local Colour.

At the time the trio entered the studio, continues Jon, "Graham was incensed at what he saw as a betrayal when Ginger forced Jack from the band and then a few months later left it to form Cream with Jack. Partly out of pique and partly because the band was always in such financial trouble, he decided to play the bass with his left hand. This gave everybody a lot of freedom and I was able to develop my two bass drum playing without muddying up the bass parts. As I remember my goal was not to make any concessions to recording (which was very usual then) and to capture the live sound of the band; to that extent I think these tracks were very representative of the live show. I was most pleased with the sound at the time and it was a magical experience for me, and was the start of my real interest in recording and producing that led to me building my own studio in the 1982."

Oddly, three of the songs ("Neighbour Neighbour," "Walkin' in the Park," and "Last Night") were re-recordings of tunes Bond had already done with the Bruce-Baker lineup on the Organisation's two mid-'60s LPs, while a fourth, "Long Legged Baby," had been cut by that band on their 1964 debut single. A fifth, "Only Sixteen" (a Bond original, not the famous Sam Cooke hit), had been in Graham's repertoire for some time, as he'd performed it on the BBC in 1965. "Contrary to popular belief there was always a shortage of material," Hiseman explains. "Graham, deep into a serious drug habit, was not very productive. Having talked up the chance to record for months he then had very little material, hence the repeats. Actually he never wrote enough to be able to weed out poor material or to give others a chance to express views. Graham was not critical at all of his own work. If he had managed to write it, it was GREAT!"

But Bond did come up with some quality new compositions that he recorded for the first time on this night. "Springtime in the City," "Can't Stand It," and especially "It's Not Goodbye" have the menacing quality unique to Graham in the British R&B/rock world, while "Green Onions" is a liberally jazzy interpretation of the classic Booker T. & the MG's instrumental. "I don't think 'copying' was part of Graham's vocabulary," observes Hiseman. "He considered himself a creative genius and tried always to surround himself with 'originals.' He was bright enough to realize that copies didn't count."

Yet while the nine tracks would have provided the foundation for a solid LP, they would stay in the vault for some time. As for the 500 pounds they'd been given by Polydor to make the record, says Hiseman, "at the time both Dick and I were convinced [Bond] spent the money on heroin. It was the band's money—not just his—and we never saw a penny from those recordings. The personnel changed at Polydor at that time, and the chap who commissioned the recording was replaced. His successor hated the whole idea of Graham's music and his flamboyant outfits. His job was to get hits for the company and Graham's was not hit music—something Graham never came to terms with."

Indeed, the Graham Bond Organisation would not release an LP while Hiseman was in the band from around mid-1966 to late 1967, when he and Heckstall-Smith departed. After playing together briefly in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, the pair soon formed a formidable blues-jazz-rock group of their own, Colosseum. Fittingly, the first track of Colosseum's debut album was a cover of Bond's "Walkin' in the Park," which Hiseman feels is Graham's best song, "his classic contribution. Colosseum nearly got it away as a single hit—nearly."

According to Harry Shapiro's biography, Solid Bond was assembled in 1970 when the 1966 tapes, together with the 1963 live recordings, were sold to Warner Brothers for 5000 pounds. "Considering they were recorded in six hours the tapes must have been raw," says Hiseman in retrospect. "But I 'produced' the sound in that I spoke to Eddie Kramer about how I wanted it to sound—very upfront—and he agreed. When we were having trouble getting an upfront sound out of Lansdowne Studios with Colosseum I remember playing these tapes to [Colosseum manager] Gerry Bron as an example of what I was looking for and he was impressed."

Sadly, Bond never found the success his celebrated sidemen enjoyed in his own post-Organisation career, ending his life by throwing himself in front of a London tube train in 1974. But Hiseman retains fond memories of his one-time bandleader, summarizing, "I had a wonderful adventure with Graham and his madness has always had a place in my heart. It was an honor that he saw something in an amateur drummer and encouraged it by persuading me to turn professional in his band. If nothing else Graham taught me how not to run a band and I've tried not to live up to his example!" 
by Richie Unterberger
1. Green Onions (Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Al Jackson, Jr., Lewis Steinberg ) - 5:15
2. Springtime In The City – 3:11
3. Can't Stand It – 5:07
4. Only Sixteen – 5:01
5. Last Night (The Mar Keys) - 3:37
6. Long Legged Baby – 3:12
7. Walkin' In The Park – 3:03
8. It's Not Goodbye – 4:58
9. Neighbour, Neighbour – 3:13
10.Ho Ho Country Kicking Blues (Jack Bruce) – 7:55
11.The Grass Is Greener (Graham Bond, John McLaughlin) – 9:30
12.Doxy (Sonny Rollins) – 11:13
13.Waltz For The Pig (Harry Butcher) – 2:27
14. Wade In The Water (John Group, Paul Getty) – 4:0
All songs by Graham Bond except where indicated
Bonus Tracks 13-14
Track 1-9 recorded at Olympic Sound Studios, 1966
Track 10-12 recorded as The Graham Bond Quartet, live at Klook's Kleek, June 1963
Track 13 released as single as The Who Orchestra in UK and Germany, 1966
Track 14 released as US-Single, 1966

*Graham Bond - Organ, Alto Saxophone, Piano, Vocals
*Jack Bruce - Bass
*Ginger Baker - Drums
*John McLaughlin - Guitar
*Jon Hiseman - Drums
*Dick Heckstall Smith - Alto, Soprano Saxophones

1962-72  Graham Bond - Live At BBC And Other Stories (2015 four discs box set)
1965  The Graham Bond Organisation - The Sound Of '65 / There's A Bond Between Us
1970  Graham Bond - Holy Magick (Vinyl issue)
1972  Bond And Brown - Two Heads Are Better Than One (2009 remaster)
Related Acts
1969  Colosseum - Those Who Are About To Die Salute You
1969  Colosseum - Valentyne Suite
1970  Colosseum - Daughter Of Time
1972  Dick Heckstall Smith - A Story Ended (2006 Japan remaster)  
1970  Philamore Lincoln - The North Wind Blew South (2010 remastered edition)

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