segunda-feira, 30 de janeiro de 2012

Santana - Lotus 1974

Recorded in Japan in July 1973, this massive live album, originally on three LPs and now on two compact discs, was available outside the United States in 1974 but held back from domestic release until long into the CD age. It features the same "New Santana Band" that recorded Welcome, and combines that group's jazz and spiritual influences with performances of earlier Latin rock favorites like "Oye Como Va." AMG.

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Canned Heat - Hallelujah 1969

With Bob Hite and Alan Wilson switching off on vocals, Canned Heat delivered as consistent a blues product as George Thorogood, only with more diversity and subtle musical nuances keeping the listener involved. "Same All Over" breaks no new ground, opening up the Hallelujah disc, but the enthusiasm and reverence the band has for the genre is special. Al Wilson's distinctive voice -- heard on two Top 20 hit records in 1968 -- is enhanced with his eerie whistling on "Change My Ways" and the wonderfully ragged instrumentation. The way the keys bubble up under the guitars, it would have been a natural for these guys to groove their way into a Grateful Dead-style jam band thing, but two vocalists dying within an 11-year span is a bit much for any ensemble. The name Canned Heat is so cool that it becomes the title of the third song. "Canned Heat" is a pretty accurate description of what they play, and the bluesy, slow Bob Hite vocal works wonders over the incessant Henry Vestine/Alan Wilson guitar work. Nice stuff. Jim Newsom calls "Sic 'Em Pigs" "an entertaining era-specific goof." The slide guitars herald the anti-police anthem, featuring drummer Fito de la Parra, Alan Wilson, and Henry Vestine making the pig noises, with a public service announcement for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept. thrown in for good measure. Skip Taylor's production work is just fine, a muddy blend of instrumentation making for a cohesive sound wall on "I'm Her Man" and Wilson's "Time Was." Hallelujah was the group's fourth release for Liberty Records and it is a slice of Americana by a relatively young band with a very pure grasp of the music they love. The liner notes are a tip of the hat to the people of the plains, "the midsection of America," where man finds nothing but "himself, the land, and the sun." "Do Not Enter" opens side two with experimental blues and Alan Wilson's haunting voice, something akin to pop singer Chris Montez performing a dirge. Hite's very appropriate adaptation of "Big Fat" explodes with his own harp work and the band egging him on, an ode to his being overweight -- something that no doubt did him in a decade later. "Huautla" changes directions totally, Mike Pacheco's bongos and congas adding a Latin feel to the harp-soaked instrumental. The two longest songs on the album conclude side two, a unique "Get off My Back"

with musical twists and an intensely plodding "Down in the Gutter, but Free" with everyone in the group contributing to the "songwriting" of the jam, including bassist Henry Vestine and guitarist Larry Taylor. Though there was no specific hit on Hallelujah, this enjoyable album shows Canned Heat's innovation, which would inspire groups like Duke & the Drivers down the road, fans so obsessed with the subject matter that they crossed over to the professional arena. AMG.

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Boz Scaggs - Silk Degrees 1976

Both artistically and commercially, Boz Scaggs had his greatest success with Silk Degrees. The laid-back singer hit the R&B charts in a big way with the addictive, sly "Lowdown" (which has been sampled by more than a few rappers and remains a favorite among baby-boomer soul fans) and expressed his love of smooth soul music almost as well on the appealing "What Can I Say." But Scaggs was essentially a pop/rocker, and in that area he has a considerable amount of fun on "Lido Shuffle" (another major hit single), "What Do You Want the Girl to Do," and "Jump Street." Meanwhile, "We're All Alone" and "Harbor Lights" became staples on adult contemporary radio. Though not remarkable, the ballads have more heart than most of the bland material dominating that format. AMG.

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Richard and Linda Thompson - Hokey Pokey 1975

With the release of their classic 1974 debut, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Richard and Linda Thompson set an unbelievably high standard for themselves. Although containing many of the same attributes, their follow-up, Hokey Pokey, doesn't quite reach the lofty heights of its predecessor, but then again not many records do. The Thompsons, from the opening Irish fiddle derivation of a Chuck Berry riff, through Linda's exquisite performance of "A Heart Needs a Home," to their cover of Mike Waterson's "Mole in a Hole" which closes the record, once again create a timeless amalgam of folk and rock. Recorded at the time of the Thompsons' conversion to Islam, Hokey Pokey comes across a bit lighter than Bright Lights. Songs such as the playfully suggestive title track, the jaunty "Georgie on a Spree" and the quirky tale of "Smiffy's Glass Eye" make Hokey Pokey seem downright cheery for Richard Thompson, although even at its sunniest, themes of sex, cruelty and avarice linger just below the surface. For those more accustomed to the usual straightforward doom and gloom from the Thompsons, there's the rueful "I'll Regret It All in the Morning," the sullen, traditional tone of "The Sun Never Shines on the Poor" and the mournful ballad "Never Again." Hokey Pokey is an often overlooked gem in the Thompsons' luminous catalog. AMG.

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Bernie Worrel - All the Woo in the World 1978

Parliarment/Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell's first LP is more Funkadelic than Parliarment, and with the exception of one tune, less exciting than either. The keeper is "Insurance Man for the Funk," 12 minutes and 39 seconds of pure P-Funk; it has everything: layered sounds, a toe-tapping midtempo beat, and some incredible horns. The chorus has a great hook -- "Insurance Man for the funk/Take some insurance out on your romp/You are the beneficiaryyyy"; it also has some side cracking lines like "Leroy's (Lloyd's) of London," and a great synthesizer solo by Bernie. Not to knock Bernie's rendition, which is great, but if George had cut this with Parliament or Bootsy's Rubber Band, it would have blown up. Unfortunately, nothing else here measures up to "Insurance Man"; the other selections have a weird feel to them. Bernie does most of the lead vocals, and Junie Morrison plays a significant role. You get the feeling that most of these tracks were first slotted for other artists under George Clinton's umbrella of stars. "Woo Together" features Bernie and Junie on a funk number; Morrison leads the rather dull "I'll Be Here." The concept is supposed to be something called Woo, which is not adequately explained. AMG.

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Aphrodite's Child - End Of The World 1968

The debut album of the only Greek 1960s rock band to make an international impact could have almost been the work of a foppish British psychedelic group on the cusp of turning progressive, if not for the notable foreign accent on the (entirely English-language) vocals. The use of the Mellotron in particular recalls the early psychedelic Moody Blues, as do the mild influences of classical music in the keyboards and melodies. If there's something distinct about Aphrodite's Child, it's a certain Mediterranean sentimental streak to both those melodies and the songs, which get more overtly romantic than virtually any British (or American) psychedelic band would have thought suitable. Though Aphrodite's Child stood up well to the British bands in their level of instrumental accomplishment and production, End of the World is an uneven record. The more heart-wringing numbers will be way too sappy for many listeners, some of the hard-rocking songs have overwrought soulful vocals, and there's a general awkwardness that's inevitable when bands are singing in a non-native language. But this epic melancholic grandeur also makes Aphrodite's Child stick out to some degree among second-division psychedelic acts, and their use of skin-crawling psychedelic effects, while dated, is quite imaginative (especially on the closing "Day of the Fool"). The title cut could well have been a standard European pop ballad without those effects, and is certainly the catchiest song here, if the drippiest, though it was the yet daintier "Rain and Tears" that gave them a hit in parts of Europe. The 2010 U.K. reissue on Esoteric adds useful historical liner notes and two bonus cuts from their 1968 European single "Plastics Nevermore"/"The Other People," which are a bit more pop-oriented than most of the album's material, though not to the songs' detriment. AMG.

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David Essex - Rock On 1973

With the title track instantaneously established among the defining songs of the 1970s (not to mention David Essex's own career), the singing actor's first album had a lot to live up to. So, it says much for the quality of his collaboration with producer/arranger Jeff Wayne that, from the moment "Lamplight" gets things underway, Rock On asserts itself in the most convincing manner possible -- by spinning that track off as a second worldwide hit. Neatly divided between the darkly percolating, percussive rumbles that characterized his breakthrough and the broader ballads that would ultimately ensure Essex's longevity as a performer, Rock On is a supremely confident debut, as indeed it ought to be -- with a recording career that dated back to 1965, Essex had been waiting a lifetime to make it. As he himself sings in the closing "Sept. 15th," "I've been doing a show for a long time." His roots show, as well, in sweet covers of Paul Simon's "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her" and Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman's "Turn Me Loose," while there's also a reverb-drenched stab at proving further versatility with the mock-Caribbean swagger of "Ocean Girl" (to rhyme with "I love the way you twirl," of course). Another cover, Travis Pritchett's "Tell Him No," is especially persuasive, its lyric drawing such emotion out of Essex's voice that it overcomes even the heavy effects and canyon-like echo with which his tones are normally swamped -- yes, Virginia, the boy can sing. It is the brittle sonics of the self-composed "Rock On," "Lamplight," "Streetfight," and "We All Insane" that are most memorable, however, and ensure that his early years remain the best remembered. But next time somebody suggests that all you really need of Essex is a decent greatest-hits collection, remember that the chirpy love songs and heartaching ballads of later years had to start somewhere. AMG.

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Georgie Fame - Seventh Son 1969 - Going Home 1971

While it remains Georgie Fame's closest brush with psychedelia, Seventh Son nevertheless suffers from few of the more clichéd affectations of its era. Apart from sparing use of vocal effects and some fuzzed-out bass, the record is very much of a piece with Fame's catalog as a whole, continuing his maturation from R&B-inspired amateur to jazz-influenced sophisticate. Recorded with an ace session band featuring trumpeter Les Condon, trombonist Chris Pyne, and percussionist Frank Ricotti, the session boasts an intimacy somewhere between the blues and folk-pop, even if the overall approach appropriates from sources far more varied than either source. Soul and jazz still dominate, but their absorption into the overall approach is more seamless and organic than before. Songs like "Am I Wasting My Time?" and "Ho Ho Ho" cement Fame as a storyteller as much as a singer, complete with a perfectly calibrated flair for the dramatic.
Going Home boasts a maturity and subtlety often missing from Georgie Fame's previous LPs. Its simple approach strips away some of the more gimmicky elements of his earlier efforts, emphasizing the increasingly honest soulfulness of his vocals. Keith Mansfield's thoughtful arrangements likewise eschew excess in favor of a wonderfully mellow sound that perfectly underscores Fame's natural warmth and grace. Electric piano grooves further establish the set's smoky, jazzy atmosphere. Best of all are the songs, each of them covers and impeccably chosen. Kenny Rankin's "Peaceful" proves a particularly evocative selection. AMG.

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quarta-feira, 25 de janeiro de 2012

Hoyt Axton - My Griffin In Gone 1969

Hoyt Axton was still in his first decade as a recording artist when he made this album, but it was a decade in which performing artists were certainly encouraged to think lofty thoughts. Pretension was as common on the radio in the late '60s as things would be in the '90s, hence we have an album, but sadly enough no song, on the theme of losing one's "griffin," typical Axton imagery that subtly invokes the wonder of childhood while pretending to be doing something else. He settles into some remarkable moods on the best parts of the album, communicating with such a sense of the natural that it makes the work of many other recording artists seem stilted. He can evoke the feeling of Colorado simply by mentioning the state as if in passing conversation; other singers would have to be recorded riding up and down a ski lift strumming in order to establish any equivalent sense of time and place. While his social commentary, such as "Beelzebub's Laughter," has the sting, if not the detail, of mid-period Phil Ochs, some of the songs -- such as "Way Before the Time of Towns" and "Revelations" -- ring so totally hollow, without any real sense of conviction or commitment, that the listener will be longing for one of the musicians to make a satirical raspberry. Instead it is a subdued, talented crowd doing the backup, pursuing a mood that can be quite effective when the ingredients are right -- roughly about half the time on this uneven but respectable production. Lead guitar is in the capable hands of James Burton, but this cannot be said to have been one of his most rip-roaring days in the studio. AMG.

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Alexis Korner - I Wonder Who 1967

Recorded in a mere two sessions, this had the potential to be a decent, if hardly innovative, effort. At this point, Korner's group was in one its most stripped-down phases, featuring just Alexis on guitar, Danny Thompson on bass, and Terry Cox on drums. Very shortly after this disc, Thompson and Cox would form the rhythm section of Pentangle, so these cuts are somewhat akin to hearing the bare bones of Pentangle in a much more blues/jazz-based context. The musical backing is not the problem, nor is the material, divided between Korner originals and blues standards by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Percy Mayfield, Ma Rainey, and Jelly Roll Morton. The problem is that Korner elected to sing these himself in his gruff, scraggly croak. It's not like listening to Dylan or Buffy Sainte-Marie, who take some getting used to, but have considerable, idiosyncratic talent -- Korner simply cannot, objectively speaking, sing. (His butchering of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" has to be heard to be believed.) And that makes this album downright difficult to bear, despite the fine, spare musical arrangements (the instrumental cover of Jimmy Smith's "Chicken Shack Back Home" is a major standout in this context). If Korner had the wisdom to employ even a minor-league British bluesman like, say, Duffy Power (who guested with him occasionally during this time) as his singer for these sessions, the results would have been immeasurably better. AMG.

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The Pop Group - Y 1979

Warning: This band's name is loaded with irony; there is little if anything "pop" about them. So, if you happen across any of their albums and think you're getting something that sounds like a cross between the Raspberries and the Beatles, don't say you weren't warned. Emerging in the late-'70s post-punk era, this militant gang of leftist radical politicos from Bristol, England, specialized in a funk-driven cacophony of sound that was abrasive, strident, and ultimately very exciting. Railing against Margaret Thatcher's Tory government, the state of pop music, racism, sexism, etc., the Pop Group were not the easiest band of the early post-punk era to listen to, but those who made the effort were in for an interesting melange of primitive rhythms and avant-garde guitar racket. Led by the squalling "vocals" of Mark Stewart (which were little more than chanted political slogans), the Pop Group were unabashedly and stridently radical to the point of being hectoring. But, unlike others of their ilk, the music was so challenging, joyfully noisy, and downright weird that it was easy to cut them a little slack, even when their finger-pointing and ranting became a bit much. Never intending to make a serious run at the pop charts, the Pop Group imploded after three albums, the third being a collection of outtakes and assorted ephemera. They did, however, contribute some talented people to other bands: most notably Gareth Sager, who formed the wild and woolly Rip Rig & Panic (named after a Rahsaan Roland Kirk LP), which also featured the lead vocals of a then-teenage Neneh Cherry; and the aforementioned Stewart, who went on to flourish in Adrian Sherwood's On-U stable of artists, recording with the Maffia and Tackhead. Despite its raw, inherent anti-commerciality, the Pop Group's dissonant agit-prop rock did influence a contemporary generation of political bands like Fugazi, Fun-da-Mental, and Rage Against the Machine.
Abrasive, but interesting, the Pop Group's debut is perhaps the most succinct summation of their angry and defiant approach to rock & roll. Although at times resembling the discordant funk of fellow post-punk radicals Gang of Four, the Pop Group leave rhythm behind almost as quickly as they find it, and the result is a clattering din of sound resembling an aural collage. The longish, guitar-driven track "We Are Time" is the strongest cut, establishing a solid groove that won't let go. AMG.

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Colosseum - Those Who Are About To Die Salute You 1969

Colosseum's debut album is a powerful one, unleashing each member's instrumental prowess at one point while consolidating each talent to form an explosive outpouring of progressive jazz/rock the next. Those Who Are About to Die Salute You is coated with the volatile saxophone playing of Dick Heckstall-Smith, the thunderous keyboard assault of Dave Greenslade, and the bewildering guitar craft of James Litherland. Together, Colosseum skitters and glides through brisk musical spectrums of freestyle ]jazz and British blues, sometimes held tightly in place by Greenslade's Hammond organ, while other times let loose by the brilliancy of the horn and string interplay. Each song sparks its own personality and its very own energy level, giving the band instant notoriety upon the album's release in 1969. Not only did Colosseum sound different from other jazz fusion bands of the era, but they could easily take the unconventional elements of their style and churn them into palatable and highly significant musical thoroughfares. Some of the more compelling tracks include "Walking in the Park," led by its powerful trumpet segments, and "Pretty Hard Luck," which embarks on a stylish blues excursion with colorful keyboard sections on the periphery. "Beware the Ides of March" borrows a page out of J.S. Bach's notebook and turns his classical poignancy inside out, while "Mandarin" and "Backwater Blues" are created with the perfect jazz and blues friendship in mind, representing Colosseum's fused sound spotlessly. Best of all, the album never strays from its intensity or its creativity, the very foundation that the band is built on. Their next album, Valentyne Suite, mirrors the same instrumental congruity as Those Who Are About to Die, and is equally entertaining. AMG.

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Dudu Pukwana - In the Townships 1973

This glorious, ferocious recording is one of the pinnacles of the music created by the South African expatriates who settled in England in the '60s and melded with the free jazz community therein. Leader and alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana and trumpeter Mongezi Feza were twin fountainheads of this movement and are in rare form here, both instrumentally and as composers. The pieces here are largely riff-based, but what incredibly infectious and funky riffs these are. South African music emphasized the importance of various thematic materials by how often it was repeated in a song, and these guys iterate the melodies with a vengeance. Happily, these melodies are so utterly catchy that one can wallow in them for hours, listening with giddy enjoyment as these musicians overlay and embroider them with uproarious playing, not to mention the frequent vocal exhortations and cries. Pukwana's alto has an altogether human quality, by turns heart-rending and exultant, while Feza (one of the greatest trumpeters that virtually no one has heard) has a silvery, irrepressibly witty aspect to his work that sneaks up and kills when least expected. Anchored by the incendiary rhythm team of Harry Miller and Louis Moholo, this is a band that just doesn't stop, going from one pounding, dancing song to the next, never pausing for breath, as though playing nonstop during a 72-hour township festival. Along with Moholo's Spirits Rejoice! on Ogun, that all-too-brief moment where musicians feeling the racist restrictions of South Africa found a welcome home and fertile creative soil in England is nowhere better represented. Highly recommended. AMG.

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Arthur Brown - The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown 1968

Though a bit over the top, this album was still powerful and surprisingly melodic, and managed to be quite bluesy and soulful even as the band overhauled chestnuts by James Brown and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. "Spontaneous Apple Creation" is a willfully histrionic, atonal song that gives Captain Beefheart a run for his money. Though this one-shot was not (and perhaps could not ever be) repeated, it remains an exhilaratingly reckless slice of psychedelia. This CD reissue includes both mono and stereo versions of five of the songs. Although the mono mixes lack the full-bodied power of the stereo ones, they're marked by some interesting differences, especially in the brief spoken and instrumental links between tracks.
Though a bit over the top, this album was still powerful and surprisingly melodic, and managed to be quite bluesy and soulful even as the band overhauled chestnuts by James Brown and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. "Spontaneous Apple Creation" is a willfully histrionic, atonal song that gives Captain Beefheart a run for his money. Though this one-shot was not (and perhaps could not ever be) repeated, it remains an exhilaratingly reckless slice of psychedelia. This CD reissue includes both mono and stereo versions of five of the songs. Although the mono mixes lack the full-bodied power of the stereo ones, they're marked by some interesting differences, especially in the brief spoken and instrumental links between tracks. AMG.

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segunda-feira, 23 de janeiro de 2012

Osibisa - Welcome Home 1977

Osibisa are not referred to often these days when historians look back at the evolution of world music. But they were quite prolific progenitors of the form in the 1970s, as this mid-'70s album marked their seventh LP in about five years. For listeners at the time who were unfamiliar with African popular music (and, to a large degree, for listeners of every era), Santana served as an inevitable comparison. With their fusion of African beats and funk-R&B-rock, Welcome Home could often sound like early-'70s Santana without the emphasis on psychedelic guitar, and without nearly as much blues and Latin influence as Santana had. (The Santana-like cover graphics couldn't have helped keep the comparisons at bay, either.) Yet there was quite a bit more in the way of distinctly African rhythms, often making the album sound like something of a link between Santana and the Afrobeat that would become popular in the 1980s. On occasion, the record ventured into slightly poppier territory with a languid cheer that verged on the sappy, though admittedly that approach did give them a U.K. hit with "Sunshine Day." The album nonetheless had plenty of earthier extended grooves that tilted toward more kinetically rhythmic territory, while "Kolomashe-Trad" took things closer to the source with its call-response chant-like vocals. AMG.

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Jade Warrior - Jade Warrior 1971

Jade Warrior's first album following Tony Duhig and Jon Field's emergence out of the psychedelic July captures them abandoning the best of that band's whimsical moodiness in favor of a symphonic spirituality epitomized from the outset by the soaring guitars that ecstatically slice through the opening "Traveller." Reminiscent, in places, of a less-precious successor to Quintessence and the Incredible String Band in that moods and esotericism do sometimes get the better of the band's more conventional music impulses, Jade Warrior is nevertheless a remarkable album, all the more so since its makers could readily have given the likes of Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues some serious competition in the mellifluous prog stakes. Glyn Havard's vocals themselves can sound extraordinarily Ian Anderson-ish in places, with Field's wielding of the flute and some distinctly edgy tempos only furthering that impression. Elsewhere, however, the same tools combine to induce emotions that range from trance to terror, an accomplishment that means highlights of the album are difficult to single out. Although the ten tracks are clearly delineated, the song titles are little more than passing impressions of the music's own sensations, rendering Jade Warrior one of those rare albums that is best experienced as a seamless whole. AMG.

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Paul McCartney - Ram 1971

After the breakup, Beatles fans expected major statements from the three chief songwriters in the Fab Four. John and George fulfilled those expectations -- Lennon with his lacerating, confessional John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Harrison with his triple-LP All Things Must Pass -- but Paul McCartney certainly didn't, turning toward the modest charms of McCartney, and then crediting his wife Linda as a full-fledged collaborator on its 1971 follow-up, Ram. Where McCartney was homemade, sounding deliberately ragged in parts, Ram had a fuller production yet retained that ramshackle feel, sounding as if it were recorded in a shack out back, not far from the farm where the cover photo of Paul holding the ram by the horns was taken. It's filled with songs that feel tossed off, filled with songs that are cheerfully, incessantly melodic; it turns the monumental symphonic sweep of Abbey Road into a cheeky slice of whimsy on the two-part suite "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey." All this made Ram an object of scorn and derision upon its release (and for years afterward, in fact), but in retrospect it looks like nothing so much as the first indie pop album, a record that celebrates small pleasures with big melodies, a record that's guileless and unembarrassed to be cutesy. But McCartney never was quite the sap of his reputation, and even here, on possibly his most precious record, there's some ripping rock & roll in the mock-apocalyptic goof "Monkberry Moon Delight," the joyfully noisy "Smile Away," where his feet can be smelled a mile away, and "Eat at Home," a rollicking, winking sex song. All three of these are songs filled with good humor, and their foundation in old-time rock & roll makes it easy to overlook how inventive these productions are, but on the more obviously tuneful and gentle numbers -- the ones that are more quintessentially McCartney-esque -- it's plain to see how imaginative and gorgeous the arrangements are, especially on the sad, soaring finale, "Back Seat of My Car," but even on its humble opposite, the sweet "Heart of the Country." These songs may not be self-styled major statements, but they are endearing and enduring, as is Ram itself, which seems like a more unique, exquisite pleasure with each passing year. AMG.

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May Blitz - The 2nd of May 1971

The second and final May Blitz album basically picked up where its predecessor left off, with the thunderous and foreboding "For Mad Men Only," and then bludgeoned on from there. Except, where May Blitz concentrated on weight, 2nd of May is more interested in mood and even mirth -- "25th of December 1969" would be almost jovial, if the lyrics weren't so harsh, while the balladic "Just Thinking" closes the album with the sweetest of whispers. It's a tighter disc than its predecessor. Just two of the eight songs really top five minutes, as the band learned how to cram maximum impact into minimal space, and layered the virtuosity on from there. The helter-skelter blur of "Eight Mad Grim Nits" is as electrifying a guitar workout as you're likely to hear, with the axe panning wildly while the rhythm section soars like a steeplechase behind it; while "High Beech" takes the opposite tack entirely, a psychedelic dream that builds so gently that the effect is almost boleric. "Honey Coloured Time," too, has a gentle mood that puts one in mind of labelmates Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan," as performed by the Full House era Fairport Convention. And, while a lengthy Tony Newman drum solo doesn't really repay repeat listens (well, not unless you like drum solos), still 2nd of May remains one of those albums that you will find yourself returning to again and again, while wishing May Blitz had held on long enough to cut a follow-up. AMG.

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The Modern Folk Quartet - The Modern Folk Quartet 1963

More notable for their later achievements and peripheral connections to important industry figures than for their music, the Modern Folk Quartet made commercially minded folk in the early '60s with an emphasis on group harmonies. They were not far removed from the Kingston Trio in sound, though they were mildly hipper than the most mainstream outfits like Chad Mitchell. Each of the quartet would go on to make a significant mark in music or media that had little to do with the folk revival. Jerry Yester did some production for the Association and Tim Buckley, was briefly in the Lovin' Spoonful as Zal Yanovsky's replacement, and made a fine, overlooked psychedelic pop album with his wife of the time, Judy Henske, for Frank Zappa's Straight label. Cyrus Faryar recorded for Elektra as a singer/songwriter in the early '70s, played sessions (including some for Linda Ronstadt and Fred Neil) and provided astrological narration for Zodiac's Cosmic Sounds (1967), one of the most zonked-out psychedelic concept albums ever. Henry Diltz became a top rock photographer, and Chip Douglas became a bassist and producer, most notably on some albums by the Monkees.

Get all these guys together in a room and you'd no doubt hear some great stories, but their two albums for Warner Bros. were fairly bland, clean-cut folk with no original tunes. They were a little more adventurous than the average such group: they covered material that bore the songwriting credit of Chester Powers (aka Dino Valente), did songs by Bob Dylan ("Farewell") and Phil Ochs ("The Bells"), and employed fuller arrangements than many such LPs did. Their first album was produced by Jim Dickson, who would shortly go on to manage the Byrds in their early years. After the Byrds made it big, the MFQ, like several other similar groups, modernized their sound and went into electric folk-rock, attracting the attention of Phil Spector, who was looking to modernize his sound himself. The MFQ recorded a Spector-produced, Harry Nilsson-written song, "This Could Be the Night," that was used as the theme to the rock concert film The Big TNT Show. Sadly, the song never came out, as Spector began to withdraw from the music business entirely in 1966, although it's on Spector's Back to Mono box set. the Modern Folk Quartet disbanded shortly afterwards. AMG. Thanks B.!

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Marvin Gaye - Moods Of Marvin Gaye 1966

After Marvin Gaye recorded tributes to Broadway and Nat King Cole in the previous two years, Motown fans may have had their suspicions raised by an LP titled Moods of Marvin Gaye. Yes, there are a few supper-club standards to be found here, but Gaye moves smoothly between good-time soul and adult pop. Most important are his first two R&B number ones, "I'll Be Doggone" and "Ain't That Particular," both from 1965 and both produced by Smokey Robinson. Berry Gordy's right-hand man also helmed "Take This Heart of Mine" and "One More Heartache," another pair of big R&B scores, and just as good as the better-known hits. As for the copyrights not owned by Jobete, the chestnut "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" certainly didn't need another reading, but Gaye's take on Willie Nelson's after-hours classic "Night Life" was inspired. Marvin Gaye was improving with every record, gaining in character and strength of performance, and Moods of Marvin Gaye is a radically better record than its predecessors. AMG.

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Astrud Gilberto - Look To The Rainbow 1966

The honey-toned chanteuse on the surprise Brazilian crossover hit "The Girl From Ipanema," Astrud Gilberto parlayed her previously unscheduled appearance (and professional singing debut) on the song into a lengthy career that resulted in nearly a dozen albums for Verve and a successful performing career that lasted into the '90s. Though her appearance at the studio to record "The Girl From Ipanema" was due only to her husband João, one of the most famed Brazilian artists of the century, Gilberto's singular, quavery tone and undisguised naïveté propelled the song into the charts and influenced a variety of sources in worldwide pop music.

Born in Bahia, Gilberto moved to Rio de Janeiro at an early age. She'd had no professional musical experience of any kind until 1963, the year of her visit to New York with her husband, João Gilberto, in a recording session headed by Stan Getz. Getz had already recorded several albums influenced by Brazilian rhythms, and Verve teamed him with the cream of Brazilian music, Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto, for his next album. Producer Creed Taylor wanted a few English vocals for maximum crossover potential, and as it turned out, Astrud was the only Brazilian present with any grasp of the language. After her husband laid down his Portuguese vocals for the first verse of his and Jobim's composition, "The Girl From Ipanema," Astrud provided a hesitant, heavily accented second verse in English.

Not even credited on the resulting LP, Getz/Gilberto, Astrud finally gained fame over a year later, when "The Girl From Ipanema" became a number five hit in mid-1964. The album became the best-selling jazz album up to that point, and made Gilberto a star across America. Before the end of the year, Verve capitalized on the smash with the release of Getz Au Go Go, featuring a Getz live date with Gilberto's vocals added later. Her first actual solo album, The Astrud Gilberto Album, was released in May 1965. Though it barely missed the Top 40, the LP's blend of Brazilian classics and ballad standards proving quite infectious with easy listening audiences.

Though she never returned to the pop charts in America, Verve proved to be quite understanding for Astrud Gilberto's career, pairing her with ace arranger Gil Evans for 1966's Look to the Rainbow and Brazilian organist/arranger Walter Wanderley for the dreamy A Certain Smile, a Certain Sadness, released later that year. She remained a huge pop star in Brazil for the rest of the 1960s and '70s, but gradually disappeared in America after her final album for Verve in 1969. In 1971, she released a lone album for CTI (with Stanley Turrentine) but was mostly forgotten in the U.S. until 1984, when "Girl From Ipanema" recharted in Britain on the tails of a neo-bossa craze. Gilberto gained worldwide distribution for 1987's Astrud Gilberto Plus the James Last Orchestra.

This was a beautiful bossa nova record of Astrud Gilberto's vocal stylings...All the material (32:13) here, with the exception of "Learn to Live Alone" and "Pretty Place," which were arranged by Al Cohn, were arranged by Gil Evans. With the exception of a Johnny Coles trumpet solo, the personnel was uncredited on this 1966 recording. Discographies have credited Bob Brookmeyer (valve trombone), Kenny Burrell (guitar), and Grady Tate (drums), but except for a few bars of sax, there was no solo indivdualism in this large Creed Taylor-produced orchestra. AMG.

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Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated - R&B from The Marquee 1962

Its title notwithstanding, R&B from the Marquee was not a live album, nor was it cut at the Marquee: it was actually done at Decca Records' London studio, albeit in one long day's work and effectively live-in-the-studio. It was also the place where British blues began, at least as a recording proposition. Blues played by Britons had been part of the underground music scene since the mid-'50s, and Blues Incorporated had been a going concern in one form or another, initially guitarist Alexis Korner and harpist/singer Cyril Davies (actually, maybe the first two Britons to play blues); but by this time, the group also included Dick Heckstall-Smith (tenor sax, backing vocals), Keith Scott (piano), Spike Heatley (upright bass), and Graham Burbridge (drums), with Long John Baldry handling some lead vocals. For this record, Big Jim Sullivan also sang backup, and Teddy Wadmore provides a key cameo appearance for the electric bass guitar (then a new and alien instrument in this music). The sound here is mostly out of late-'40s and early-'50s Chicago blues; in later years -- Blues Incorporated would embrace more diverse branches of the music in their performances -- and the outfit swings with a surprising degree of authenticity; they're somewhat stiffer than any actual Chicago outfit would be, but in England in 1962, this was as down-and-dirty as any homegrown outfit ever sounded. Korner's guitar leads things off with his own "Gotta Move," an instrumental that showcases the whole outfit, including a bracing duet between Davies' harmonica and Heckstall-Smith's sax: they give each give plenty of space to work around the other, here and also on Davies' own "Spooky But Nice," and it's easy to see why the two got along so well despite Davies' well-known antipathy to reed instruments and horns. Blues Incorporated was at its peak during the time this album was done, with its best and most powerful lineup, and never stronger in the vocal department -- Baldry has more flexibility, and is more a potential star (which he became) for his singing, while Davies is a pure, raw bluesman, with no concessions to pop music, and he sounds uncannily like Muddy Waters on "I Got My Brand on You." And this band swings, but it also rocks. "I Wanna Put a Tiger in Your Tank" is a forceful blues workout for its time, and when Wadmore's electric bass shows up on "Got My Mojo Working," you can hear the first recorded manifestation of what would become blues-rock in the hands of Blues Incorporated member/acolytes the Rolling Stones and the Pretty Things. Spike Heatley gets the spotlight briefly on the instrumental "Down Town," and lest anyone think that Alexis Korner is only a supporting player in his own band, nothing could be farther from the truth: his guitar, acoustic and mostly unamplified, helps drive everything here, and "Finkle's Café" and "Hoochie Coochie Man," among other tracks, give him the spotlight. AMG.

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Third Ear Band - Music of Macbeth 1972

Although they were loosely affiliated with the British progressive rock scene of the late '60s and early '70s, Third Ear Band was in some ways more of an experimental ensemble performing contemporary compositional work. For one thing, they didn't use electric instruments, or even guitars, instead employing violin, viola, oboe, cello, and hand percussion. More important, they didn't play conventional rock "songs." They featured extended instrumental pieces that often built up from a drone, or hypnotic pattern, to a dense, raga-like crescendo, somewhat in the manner of some of Terry Riley's work. Their "progressive rock" tag probably arose because they recorded for Harvest Records, Britain's leading art rock label, which was home to Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Pete Brown, Edgar Broughton, and many other progressive acts.

The group was founded by drummer Glen Sweeney, who had roots in Britain's free jazz scene, and had played with an avant-garde ensemble, the Sun Trolley. Sweeney described Third Ear's music as "electric acid raga," although the electricity was shut off shortly after they formed, when their electronic equipment was stolen. Sweeney simply molded Third Ear into an acoustic ensemble, with the addition of oboe, violin/viola, and cello. The personnel (with the exception of Sweeney) would rotate over the next few years; their early albums were produced by Andrew King, who had helped manage Pink Floyd in their early days.

Commercial success, or even widespread underground success, was never in the offing for Third Ear Band, and one gets the feeling that was not ever a consideration. Their albums were too somber and experimental for the rock audience, and in the U.S., they are still only known to a very few. Their biggest coup was getting commissioned to score and perform the soundtrack to Roman Polanski's film version of Macbeth (issued on record as Music From Macbeth). The original incarnation of Third Ear Band disbanded in the early '70s. Surprisingly, they re-formed in the late '80s, and released a few albums that boasted sounds and ambitions that were similar to those found in their early work.

Their score for Roman Polanski's Macbeth film required the group to work in a somewhat more constricted format. So instead of lengthy hypnotic drones, this album's split into 16 separate pieces, some of them quite short. It's consequently not as reflective of their highest ambitions as the Third Ear Band album, and loses a bit when placed out of context from the Shakespeare classic. It still works reasonably effectively on its own, conjuring appopriately ominous Elizabethean moods, with the surprise addition of (uncredited) female vocals on one track. AMG.

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sexta-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2012

Link Wray - Beans and Fatback 1973

Largely recorded the same time as Link Wray's self-titled 1971 comeback album, Beans and Fatback was more playful and harder-rocking set than the country- and blues-flavored album that announced Wray's return to active duty. The loopy title cut started the album on a jew's-harp-infused jug band note, and "I'm So Glad, I'm So Proud" was exactly the sort of showcase for Wray's trademark rumbling guitar that the previous album lacked. Elsewhere, songs such as "Hobo Man" and "Georgia Pines" (the latter a rewrite of Leadbelly's In the Pines") followed the roots-oriented pattern of Link Wray, but with a stronger backbone and a lot more wallop; if both albums sound like they came from a studio housed in a chicken shack on a rundown Maryland farm, Beans and Fatback seems to have been born during a Saturday night rave-up, and goes a lot father toward fusing the rowdy howl of Wray's early instrumental hits with the back-to-the-land flavor of his more personal 1971 set. If Beans and Fatback suffers in comparison to Link Wray, it's in the lack of the deeper and more emotionally resonant undercurrents that carried the 1971 album; as good as these songs are, they don't have the same impact as, say, "Fire and Brimstone" or "Take Me Home Jesus." But as a pure listening experience, Beans and Fatback is plenty satisfying, and offers more rock & roll bang for the buck than Wray's other work from this period. Virgin's original LP release of Beans and Fatback also included a free piece of dried fatback as a "bonus" -- yummy! This album also appears in full on the collection Wray's Three Track Shack. AMG.

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John & Beverley Martyn - The Road To Ruin 1970

Much more of a collaboration here than on their previous effort, John and Beverley Martyn continue on their way through the British folk-jazz of the '70s. Flowing with a subtle improvisation that incorporated a greater ethnic feeling, Road to Ruin makes for enjoyable listening indeed. Good singing and playing make this a great album to sit back and reflect upon. AMG.

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Duster Bennett - Smiling Like Im Happy 1968

One of the unsung heroes of British blues, this one-man band was a fine harmonica player and singer, a decent guitarist, and a soulful enough singer to make one overlook his distinctly unbluesy high voice. The opening "Worried Mind" -- just Duster on harp, guitar, voice, high-hat and kick drum -- is a marvelously sloppy shuffle romp that holds its own with the Fabulous Thunderbirds' work ten years hence. On other tracks Bennett is backed by three-fourths of the original Fleetwood Mac, who provide simple, effective support without stealing any limelight; solos are kept to a minimum. Originals "My Lucky Day" (with chromatic harmonica) and "Jumping at Shadows" which Mac would later cover) are absolutely outstanding, and Duster does justice to Magic Sam's "My Love Is Your Love." AMG.

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Them - Time Out! Time In For Them 1969

Them's second post-Van Morrison album, even more than their first such effort (Now & Them), grew further away from their mid-'60s style, to the point where there were few audible links to how Them sounded in the British Invasion era. And like Now & Them, it was an intermittently worthwhile but somewhat characterless record, reflecting late-'60s trends in album-oriented rock without adding much to them or innovating paths of their own. It was even more Los Angeles-psychedelia-influenced than their prior LP, taking the lead of Now & Them's strongest cut ("Square Room") to explore sitar-laden raga-rock on several songs. "Time Out for Time In" adds a nice waltz overlay to the raga-rock sound, but "Black Widow Spider" and "Just on Conception" frankly live up to the stereotypes of "oh wow!" hippie-trippy word soups from the era. So does "The Moth," but at least there some Roger McGuinn-like vocals and dreamy orchestration add spice. Other songs are competently done but nonstandout heavy soul rock, with "She Put a Hex on You" sounding right off the cutting room floor of a 1968 psychedelic dance rock club movie scene; you can just see the bandana-swathed babe from central casting gyrating as the strobe lights flash. "Waltz of the Flies," the best song, is indeed a beguiling psychedelic waltz, and Jim Armstrong's guitar work throughout is far more instrumentally accomplished than what you'll hear on many similar albums. Yet the record's not in the same league as either the Van Morrison-era Them or the better psychedelic/raga-rock endeavors of the late '60s. The 2003 Rev-Ola CD reissue adds eight bonus cuts (all taken from 45s) of value to anyone interested in the post-Van Morrison Them, including the non-LP single "Corinna"/"Dark Are the Shadows," the rare original single version of the punky "Dirty Old Man" (which is superior to the one on Now and Them), and the rare original 45 version of "Square Room" (which isn't as good as, and is much shorter than, the one on Now and Them). AMG.

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Savoy Brown - Blue Matters 1969

The third release by Kim Simmonds and company, but the first to feature the most memorable lineup of the group: Simmonds, "Lonesome" Dave Peverett, Tony "Tone" Stevens, Roger Earl, and charismatic singer Chris Youlden. This one serves up a nice mixture of blues covers and originals, with the first side devoted to studio cuts and the second a live club date recording. Certainly the standout track, indeed a signature song by the band, is the tour de force "Train to Nowhere," with its patient, insistent buildup and pounding train-whistle climax. Additionally, David Anstey's detailed, imaginative sleeve art further boosts this a notch above most other British blues efforts. AMG.

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Link Wray - Link Wray 1971

Link Wray may never get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but his contribution to the language of rockin' guitar would still be a major one, even if he had never walked into another studio after cutting "Rumble." Quite simply, Link Wray invented the power chord, the major modus operandi of modern rock guitarists. Listen to any of the tracks he recorded between that landmark instrumental in 1958 through his Swan recordings in the early '60s and you'll hear the blueprints for heavy metal, thrash, you name it. Though rock historians always like to draw a nice, clean line between the distorted electric guitar work that fuels early blues records to the late-'60s Hendrix-Clapton-Beck-Page-Townshend mob, with no stops in between, a quick spin of any of the sides Wray recorded during his golden decade punches holes in that theory right quick. If a direct line can be traced forward from a black blues musician crankin' up his amp and playing with a ton of violence and aggression to a young white guy doing a mutated form of same, the line points straight to Link Wray, no contest. Pete Townshend summed it up for more guitarists than he probably realized when he said, "He is the king; if it hadn't been for Link Wray and "'Rumble,'" I would have never picked up a guitar."

Everything that was handed down to today's current crop of headbangers from the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Who can be traced back to the guy from Dunn, NC, who started out in 1955 recording for Starday as a member of Lucky Wray & the Palomino Ranch Hands. You see, back in the early '50s, it was a different ball game altogether. Rock & roll hadn't become a national event in the United States yet, and if you were young and white and wanted to be in the music business, you had two avenues for possible career moves. You could be a pop-mush crooner like Perry Como or a hillbilly singer like the late Hank Williams, and that was about it. With country music all around him as a youth in North Carolina, the choice was obvious; Wray joined forces with his brothers Vernon and Doug, forming Lucky Wray & the Lazy Pine Wranglers, later changing the band name to the spiffier-sounding Palomino Ranch Hands. By the end of 1955, they had relocated outside of Washington, D.C., and added Shorty Horton on bass. With Link, Horton, and brothers Doug and Vernon ("Lucky," named after his gambling fortunes) handling drums and lead vocals respectively, they fell in with some local songwriters, and the results made it to vinyl as an EP on the local Kay label, with the rest of the sides being leased to Starday Records down in Texas.

But by 1958, the music had changed, and so had Wray's life. With a lung missing from a bout with tuberculosis during his stint in the Korean War, Link was advised by his doctor to let brother Vernon do all the vocalizing. So Link started stretching out more and more on the guitar, coming up with one instrumental after another. By this time, the band had sweated down to a trio, and changed its name to the Ray Men. After a brief flirtation as a teen idol -- changing his name to Ray Vernon -- the third Wray brother became the group's producer/manager. Armed with a 1953 Gibson Les Paul, a dinky Premier amp, an Elvis sneer, and a black leather jacket, Link started playing the local record hops around the D.C. area with disc jockey Milt Grant, who became his de facto manager. One night during a typical set, says Link, "They wanted me to play a stroll. I didn't know any, so I made one up. I made up "'Rumble.'"

"Rumble" was originally issued on Archie Bleyer's Cadence label back in 1958, and Bleyer was ready to pass on it when his daughter expressed excitement for the primitive instrumental, saying it reminded her of the rumble scenes in West Side Story. Bleyer renamed it (what its original title was back then, if any, is now lost to the mists of time), and "Rumble" jumped to number 16 on the national charts, despite the fact that it was banned from the radio in several markets (including New York City), becoming Wray's signature tune to this day. But despite the success and notoriety of "Rumble," it turned out to be Wray's only release on Cadence. Bleyer, under attack for putting out a record that was "promoting teenage gang warfare," wanted to clean Link and the boys up a bit, sending them down to Nashville to cut their next session with the Everly Brothers' production team calling the shots. The Wrays didn't see it that way, so they immediately struck a deal with Epic Records. Link's follow-up to "Rumble" was the pounding, uptempo "Rawhide." The Les Paul had been swapped for a Danelectro Longhorn model (with the longest neck ever manufactured on a production line guitar), its "lipstick tube" pickups making every note of Link's power chords sound like he was strumming with a tin can lid for a pick. The beat and sheer blister of it all was enough to get it up to number 23 on the national charts, and every kid who wore a black leather jacket and owned a hot rod had to have it.

But a pattern was emerging that would continue throughout much of Wray's early career; the powers that be figured that if they could tone him down and dress him up, they'd sell way more records in the bargain. What all these producers and record execs failed to realize was the simplest of truths: if Duane Eddy twanged away for white, teenage America, Link Wray played for juvenile delinquent hoods, plain and simple. By the end of 1960, Wray found himself in the mucho-confining position of recording with full orchestras, doing dreck like "Danny Boy" and "Claire de Lune." But when these gems failed to chart as well, relations with Epic came to a close, and by years' end, Link and Vern formed their own label, Rumble Records.

Rumble's three lone issues included the original version of Wray's next big hit, "Jack the Ripper." If "Rumble" sounded like gang warfare, then "Jack the Ripper" sounded like a high-speed car chase, which is exactly what it became the movie soundtrack for in the Richard Gere version of Breathless. Link's amp was recorded at the end of a hotel staircase for maximum echo effect, while he pumped riffs through it that would become the seeds of a million metal songs. After kicking up noise locally for a couple of years, it was going through another period of disc jockey spins when Swan Records of Philadelphia picked it up and got it nationwide attention. Certainly Wray was at his most prolific during his tenure with Swan, and label president Bernie Binnick gave Link and Vernon pretty much free rein to do what they wanted. Turning the family chicken coop into a crude, three-track studio, the Wray family spent the next decade recording and experimenting with sounds and styles.

At least now they could succeed -- or fail -- on their own terms. Most of these sides were leased out as one-shot deals to a zillion microscopic labels under a variety of names like the Moon Men, the Spiders, the Fender Benders, etc. What fueled this period of maximum creativity is open to debate. A lot of it had to do with the fact that Link and the boys honed their particular brand of rockin' mayhem working some of the grimiest joints on the face of the planet when these tracks were cut. When Swan label chief Binnick was questioned as to how he could issue such wild-ass material, he would smile, throw his hands up in the air and say, "What can you do with an animal like that?"

As the new decade dawned, Link Wray's sound and image were updated for the hippie marketplace. Wray's career fortunes waxed and waned throughout the '70s, a muddle of albums in a laid-back style doing little to enhance his reputation. After a stint backing '70s rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon, Wray went solo again, taking most of Gordon's band (including drummer Anton Fig) with him. But if the studio sides were a bit uneven, (Wray recorded several albums in the '80s backed by nothing more than a clumsy drum machine), he still could pack a wallop live, and his rare forays on the stages of the world spread the message that rock & roll's original wild guitar man still had plenty of gas left in the tank.

Wray married and moved to Denmark in 1980, recording the stray album for the foreign market, and throughout the 1990s he was still capable of strapping on a guitar and making it sound nastier than anyone in his sixties had a right to. And his back catalog got a lot attention in the '90s when the grunge revolution hit, with several young, hip guitarists citing Wray as an influence, and his early work continued to be reissued under various imprints. He recorded two new albums for Ace Records, Shadowman in 1997 and Barbed Wire in 2000 and toured up until his death in Copenhagen on November 5, 2005. AMG.

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The Flying Burrito Brothers - The Gilded Palace of Sin & Burrito Deluxe 1969-70

By 1969, Gram Parsons had already built the foundation of the country-rock movement through his work with the International Submarine Band and the Byrds, but his first album with the Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin, was where he revealed the full extent of his talents, and it ranks among the finest and most influential albums the genre would ever produce. As a songwriter, Parsons delivered some of his finest work on this set; "Hot Burrito No. 1" and "Hot Burrito No. 2" both blend the hurt of classic country weepers with a contemporary sense of anger, jealousy, and confusion, and "Sin City" can either be seen as a parody or a sincere meditation on a city gone mad, and it hits home in both contexts. Parsons was rarely as strong as a vocalist as he was here, and his covers of "Dark End of the Street" and "Do Right Woman" prove just how much he had been learning from R&B as well as C&W. And Parsons was fortunate enough to be working with a band who truly added to his vision, rather than simply backing him up; the distorted swoops of Sneaky Pete Kleinow's fuzztone steel guitar provides a perfect bridge between country and psychedelic rock, and Chris Hillman's strong and supportive harmony vocals blend flawlessly with Parsons' (and he also proved to be a valuable songwriting partner, collaborating on a number of great tunes with Gram). While The Gilded Palace of Sin barely registered on the pop culture radar in 1969, literally dozens of bands (the Eagles most notable among them) would find inspiration in this music and enjoy far greater success. But no one ever brought rock and country together quite like the Flying Burrito Brothers, and this album remains their greatest accomplishment.
Gram Parsons had a habit of taking over whatever band he happened to be working with, and on the first three albums on which he appeared -- the International Submarine Band's Safe at Home, the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and the Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin -- he became the focal point, regardless of the talent of his compatriots. Burrito Deluxe, the Burritos' second album, is unique in Parsons' repertoire in that it's the only album where he seems to have deliberately stepped back to make more room for others; whether this was due to Gram's disinterest in a band he was soon to leave, or if he was simply in an unusually democratic frame of mind is a matter of debate. But while it is hardly a bad album, it's not nearly as striking as The Gilded Palace of Sin. Parsons didn't deliver many noteworthy originals for this set, with "Cody, Cody" and "Older Guys" faring best but paling next to the highlights from the previous album (though he was able to wrangle the song "Wild Horses" away from his buddy Keith Richards and record it a year before the Rolling Stones' version would surface). And while the band sounds tight and they play with genuine enthusiasm, there's a certain lack of focus in these performances; the band's frontman sounds as if his thoughts are often elsewhere, and the other players can't quite compensate for him, though on tunes like "God's Own Singer" and a cover of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go," they gamely give it the old college try. Burrito Deluxe is certainly a better than average country-rock album, but coming from the band who made the genre's most strongly defining music, it's something of a disappointment. AMG.

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