sexta-feira, 22 de outubro de 2021

It's All Meat - It's All Meat 1970

Led by Rick McKim & Jed MacKay, It's All Meat was one of the best bands of a great rock era, the missing link between psychedelic and punk.  With Rick on drums, Jed singing lead, and songs by McKim & MacKay, the Toronto band's self-titled 1970 album on Columbia Records—heard by a fortunate few at the time—has steadily mushroomed in stature & mystique, blowing fans away with its explosive mix of headlong drive, hair-raising guitars, haunting riffs and primal abandon.

Despite the crotch-grabbing allusions (as well as nods to the Animals song of the same name), It's All Meat actually took their name from a 1960s dog food commercial extolling the virtues of its beefy chow ("100% meat, no filler!"). The Toronto five-piece were led by their chief songwriters, drummer Rick McKim and keyboardist Jed McKay, who already boasted production credits on the Underworld's much-sought-after 1968 garage gem 'Go Away'. They were managed by none other than Jack London, he of mid-sixties hitmakers Jack London and the Sparrows. And though they were often overshadowed by the more successful acts of the day, It's All Meat still managed regular gigs at Dave Defries and Jerry Rugiel's Cosmic Home club up in what was then the city's northern fringes, wowing crowds with a sound that melded the blissful with the blistering.

On their lone LP, the Toronto five-piece seem to straddle the cusp of mid and late-sixties psychedelia. At the time It's All Meat found only limited release north of the 49th on Columbia Canada, which probably explains its stratospheric price point in collectors circles. The Hallucinations CD reissue, re-mastered beautifully from a vinyl source by Bruce Ley in Toronto, comes bookended with two of the group's finest non-LP songs. The disc virtually explodes with their debut 7" from 1969, 'Feel It', a searing slab of Stooges/MC5 proto-punk, a near-total Detroit guitar blitz that is then rather naively, though effectively, punctuated with cheesy Farfisa chords. All meat indeed!

The spectre of Jim Morrison and the Doors looms larger throughout the LP proper, however, as McKay's Farfisa morphs into a more eerie backdrop to his bold operatic vocals, especially on 'Crying into the Deep Lake'. 'Roll My Own' transcends the hoary cliche of its title with a haunting Hammond organ and an ample guitar/vocal mix, recalling John Kay and Steppenwolf. 'Sunday Love' opens like early Velvets with pastoral guitar before mounting a torrid Iberian rave-up. But there's gristle to be trimmed here as well, as It's All Meat sometimes bogs down in tepid blues riffs and overwrought vocals.

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quinta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2021

Elton John - Madman Across The Water 1971

Trading the cinematic aspirations of Tumbleweed Connection for a tentative stab at prog rock, Elton John and Bernie Taupin delivered another excellent collection of songs with Madman Across the Water. Like its two predecessors, Madman Across the Water is driven by the sweeping string arrangements of Paul Buckmaster, who gives the songs here a richly dark and haunting edge. And these are songs that benefit from grandiose treatments. With most songs clocking in around five minutes, the record feels like a major work, and in many ways it is. While it's not as adventurous as Tumbleweed Connection, the overall quality of the record is very high, particularly on character sketches "Levon" and "Razor Face," as well as the melodramatic "Tiny Dancer" and the paranoid title track. Madman Across the Water begins to fall apart toward the end, but the record remains an ambitious and rewarding work, and John never attained its darkly introspective atmosphere again. AMG.

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It's A Beautiful Day - At Carnegie Hall 1972

As the title implies, this disc captures the Bay Area-based It's a Beautiful Day in concert at the venerable New York City performance Mecca Carnegie Hall. Although the band was on the road supporting their third long-player, Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime, the track list contains only "The Grand Camel Suite" from that disc. So, rather than re-treading material, Live at Carnegie Hall includes several new tunes from the band, as well as a couple of classics and well-chosen covers. As with many of the San Francisco groups to gain prominence during the late '60s and early '70s, It's a Beautiful Day is best experienced in the interactive and reciprocal atmosphere of a live performance. The band uses their ability to stretch and reshape familiar works such as "A Hot Summer Day" or their incendiary reading of "Bombay Calling" -- the latter featuring some jaw-dropping contributions from future Frank Zappa bassist Tom Fowler. His counter melodies and fluid timekeeping add a fullness and an additional dimension to the rocking version of "White Bird" and the cover of Taj Mahal's "Give Your Woman What She Wants." Fowler's own composition, "Going to Another Party," highlights the amazing ensemble work of this incarnation of It's a Beautiful Day. Particularly inspired is the frenetic violin of David LaFlamme, who gives a workout to the new track "Good Lovin'" and the extended "Hot Summer Day." It is a shame that this platter has been out of print on CD since the early '90s, as it reveals an edgier side to the band, primarily known for their one hit, "White Bird." Live at Carnegie Hall is not only more representative of the group's true nature, but also the way they deserve to be heard and remembered. AMG.

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Redbone - Wovoka 1973

Redbone was a Los Angeles-based band led by Native American Pat and Lolly Vegas, both lead singers who had previously worked under their own names, appearing in the 1965 film It's a Bikini World prior to forming Redbone, an all-Native band, at the encouragement of Jimi Hendrix. Their first success with Redbone came in 1970 with "Maggie" on Epic. "The Witch Queen of New Orleans" did somewhat better the next year, and "Come and Get Your Love" -- a single that peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 and went platinum -- gave them their greatest exposure. It would also be the band's last hit, though they continued to record and perform on an intermittent basis. In 2008, Redbone entered the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame. Six years later, "Come and Get Your Love" was introduced to a new generation when it was featured in the superhero film Guardians of the Galaxy. AMG.

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Christine Perfect - Chistine Perfect 1970

With her naturally smoky low alto vocal style and a knack for writing simple, direct, and memorable songs about the joys and pitfalls of love, Christine McVie has had a long and productive musical career while seldom insisting on being center stage. Born Christine Anne Perfect on July 12, 1943, in the small village of Bouth, the daughter of a concert violinist and a faith healer, a combination that just begs for uniqueness, McVie began playing the piano at the age of four and then found herself seriously studying the instrument at the age of 11, continuing her classical training until she was 15. That’s when she discovered rock & roll. While studying sculpture at an arts college near Birmingham for the next five years, she immersed herself in the local music scene, joining the band Sounds of Blue as a bassist. By the time McVie graduated with a teaching degree, Sounds of Blue had broken up, and she moved to London. In 1968 she reunited with two of the band’s former members, Andy Silvester and Stan Webb, in the British blues band Chicken Shack, playing piano and contributing vocals. The band released two albums, 40 Blue Fingers, Freshly Packed and Ready to Serve in 1968 and O.K. Ken? in 1969, and garnered a Top 20 hit in the U.K. with McVie’s impressive version of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” She left the band in 1969 after meeting Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie, marrying him a year later, just after the release of her first solo album, the self-titled Christine Perfect

Following the marriage, and now known as Christine McVie, she joined Fleetwood Mac as a pianist and singer and remained a member for the next 25 years, becoming a superstar in 1975 as part of the Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks version of the band. She and John McVie divorced in 1978, although both continued as members of Fleetwood Mac through the albums Tusk (1979) and Mirage (1982). She recorded and released a second solo album, simply called Christine McVie, in 1984. AMG.

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terça-feira, 19 de outubro de 2021

Spirit - Spirit 1968

Spirit's debut unveiled a band that seemed determine to out-eclecticize everybody else on the California psychedelic scene, with its melange of rock, jazz, blues, folk-rock, and even a bit of classical and Indian music. Teenaged Randy California immediately established a signature sound with his humming, sustain-heavy tone; middle-aged drummer Ed Cassidy gave the group unusual versatility; and the songs tackled unusual lyrical themes, like "Fresh Garbage" and "Mechanical World." As is often the case in such hybrids, the sum fell somewhat short of the parts; they could play more styles than almost any other group, but couldn't play (or, more crucially, write) as well as the top acts in any given one of those styles. There's some interesting stuff here, nonetheless; "Uncle Jack" shows some solid psych-pop instincts, and it sounds like Led Zeppelin lifted the opening guitar lines of "Taurus" for their own much more famous "Stairway to Heaven." AMG.

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Supertramp - Indelibly Stamped 1971

Indelibly StampedSupertramp's second album, was an improvement on their debut, although the group did have a tendency to indulge themselves in long-winded instrumental sections. AMG.

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Grinderswitch - Honest To Goodness 1974

Grinderswitch's debut album starts off well enough with the Dickey Betts-driven "Kiss the Blues Goodbye," which makes for a riveting introduction. Nothing else here really matches its tightness or excitement, and the songwriting isn't up to the standard that the group would reach over the next couple of years. There's decent playing throughout, but apart from the opener, "Homebound" is the only track off the original album that begins to demonstrate Grinderswitch's potential, Dru Lombar's soulful voice finally finding a vehicle through which he can express himself properly. That, and a live bonus track ("You're So Fine"), is more representative of this band than most of the rest of this early effort. AMG.

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The Doors - Absolutely Live 1970

This sprawling collection demonstrated that, in concert, the Doors could be an enervating as well as an elevating experience. There are no hits, but there's a lot of Morrison -- improvising, reciting poetry, sometimes singing -- not a record for the uninitiated. Recorded at concerts in 1969 and 1970, this was an era in which Jim Morrison was becoming increasingly dissolute and increasingly disinterested in the whole rock machine. During much of this set, he seems not to be taking himself or the songs too seriously, tossing flippant asides to the audience, and seeming to treat the whole exercise as a charade. As for the music, the haunting "Universal Mind" and the basic blues-rocker "Build Me a Woman" are originals that are not found on their proper albums; "Close to You" is a dull Muddy Waters cover sung by Ray Manzarek; "Who Do You Love?" is a fair cover of the Bo Diddley standard, and the controversial "The Celebration of the Lizard" is a drawn-out opus that is as much poetry recitation as music. There are also extended versions of "Soul Kitchen," "Break on Through," and "When the Music's Over" that flag considerably in comparison to the sleeker studio versions. AMG.

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The Who - Who Are You 1978

On the Who's final album with Keith Moon, their trademark honest power started to get diluted by fatigue and a sense that the group's collective vision was beginning to fade. As instrumentalists, their skills were intact. More problematic was the erratic quality of the material, which seemed torn between blustery attempts at contemporary relevance ("Sister Disco," "New Song," "Music Must Change") and bittersweet insecurity ("Love Is Coming Down"). Most problematic of all were the arrangements, heavy on the symphonic synthesizers and strings, which make the record sound cluttered and overanxious. Roger Daltrey's operatic tough-guy braggadocio in particular was beginning to sound annoying on several cuts. Yet Pete Townshend's better tunes -- "Music Must Change," "Love Is Coming Down," and the anthemic title track -- continued to explore the contradictions of aging rockers in interesting, effective ways. Whether due to Moon's death or not, it was the last reasonably interesting Who record. AMG.

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Leonard Cohen - Death Of A Ladies' Man 1977

One of the most controversial partnerships in either man's career was inaugurated the day Leonard Cohen and Phil Spector decided to make an album together. In the course of just three weeks together, the pair had written 15 new songs, described by Spector as "some great f*ckin' music." And though the recording took somewhat longer, Death of a Ladies' Man still emerged as an album that, while it certainly lives up to Spector's billing, can also be viewed as the most challenging record of both Cohen and Spector's careers. Certainly, Cohen fans were absolutely taken aback by the widescreen wash that accompanied their idol's customary tones, and many hastened to complain about the almost unbridled sexuality and brutal voyeurism that replaced Cohen's traditionally lighter touch -- as if the man who once rhymed "unmade bed" with "giving me head" was any stranger whatsoever to explicitness. It is also true that a cursory listen to the album suggests that the whole thing was simply a ragbag of crazy notions thrown into the air to see where they landed. 
Pay attention, however, and it quickly makes sense. The brawling "Memories" bowls along, an echo-laden vaudeville drinking song that invites everyone who hears it to join in with the so-perfectly timed refrain of "won't you let me see...your naked body." "Iodine," meanwhile, swings on one of Nino Tempo's most seductive rhythm arrangements, while Steve Douglas' sax squalls behind Cohen and co-singer Ronee Blakley's rambunctious duet; and anybody looking for a dance smash to sidle wholly out of left field could turn to "Don't Go Home with Your Hard-On," a number that not only captured an almost irresistible funk edge but also roped Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg into its rambunctious backing chorus. Cohen himself has never been happy with the record -- Spector's mix, he complained, stripped "the guts out of the record," but when he suggested the producer have another go, his entreaties were ignored. Finally agreeing to write the album off as "an experiment that failed" and trust that his fans would be able to pick out its "real energizing capacities," Cohen allowed it to be released as Spector left it -- and then effectively retired for the next five years. His judgment, and that most commonly passed down by rock history, has not been borne out by time. Alongside Songs of Love and HateDeath of a Ladies' Man represents the peak of Cohen's first decade or so as a recording artist, both lyrically and stylistically stepping into wholly untapped musical directions -- and certainly setting the stage for the larger-scale productions that would mark out his music following his return. It might even be his masterpiece. AMG.

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quinta-feira, 14 de outubro de 2021

Paul Bley - Improvisie 1971

If Paul Bley is a river, this album represents the sludge at the bottom, but this is meant more as the sonic translation of a visual image than as a heavy insult. Some listeners may want to unleash the latter at jazz pianist and storyteller Bley when they hear the sounds of this, an example of his brief -- but not brief enough for him or anyone else -- flirtation with the newly invented synthesizer. This is also a messy-sounding, sloppily produced live recording of this configuration in which the only piano to be heard is that of Annette Peacock, an electric one of course. Drummer Han Bennink makes more noise combined than all of Bley's drummers, past and present, placed in a room and told they are not going to be paid. The first side of this album is an improvisation created by the trio, and Bley goes into great length in his autobiography about how sometimes improvising with the synthesizer simply meant trying to figure out how to get sound out of it while the audience waited. The appeal of the recording, besides Bennink who of course plays as if he is hanging out at home in his barn, will be the vividness of the crude synthesizer sounds, even at their cheesiest. This is another area where the bad production of this record, including a battle zone-type pressing, will inhibit enjoyment. The flip side is credited to Peacock but is largely more demented noise-making. Speaking of demented, the cover photo of Bley could be a shot from a mad doctor film, and also belongs in any serious collection of musicians smoking pipes while performing. AMG.

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Procol Harum - Exotic Birds And Fruits 1974

Procol Harum's seventh studio album, Exotic Birds and Fruit, was released in April 1974. In its original LP incarnation, four songs made up side one -- "Nothing But the Truth," "Beyond the Pale," "As Strong as Samson," and "The Idol" -- all of which featured some of the band's best later work. They had retreated somewhat from the orchestral hybrid of their previous album, Grand Hotel, although "Nothing But the Truth" still boasted a string arrangement. They replaced the sweetening with extra muscle in the remaining instruments, making this one of the group's harder rocking sets. And lyricist Keith Reid, having explored elegant decay in Grand Hotel, was unusually straightforward in his social prescriptions here. True, the words still dripped with literary references to everything from Shakespeare to ancient mythology, but, as Reid declared up front, this time he was interested in "Nothing But the Truth." He expressed that truth most eloquently in "As Strong as Samson," an outright political statement, if one spoken in general terms. The song was also downcast, and composer/singer/pianist Gary Brooker gave it a lovely, wistful melody. The disillusionment was completed with the final song on the first side and its tagline, "Just another idol turned to clay." In contrast to the masterpiece that was side one, side two of the LP was uneven, containing second-echelon songs, the best of them perhaps being the most lighthearted, "Fresh Fruit," a tune that gave Brooker a chance to exercise his barrelhouse piano talents. In this CD reissue, annotator Patrick Humphries suggests that the rocker "Butterfly Boys" might have been directed at the executives at the band's label, Chrysalis Records. If so, they must have been unhappy, as Brooker cried, "Give us a break! We got the crumbs...you got the cake." The reissue adds two bonus tracks, the first being the non-LP B-side "Drunk Again" (Reid writes so much about drinking, it makes you worry about his liver), a rocker that allows Brooker to bring out his inner Jerry Lee Lewis. The second is an alternate mix of "As Strong as Samson" that is in a lower key than the master take. Since it seems to be the same take, just a bit slower (and 17 seconds longer), that may account for its being in D flat. AMG.

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Randy Holland - Cat Mind 1972

There are many different kinds of records. Some latch onto you almost immediately and either stand the test of time or else slip away as easily as they came. Randy Holland’s 1972 album Cat Mind is the other kind; those unusual and sometimes uneven records that take more than one listen to fully appreciate. Released on the independent Mother Records label, it can probably be said that Cat Mind never had a chance at real commercial success. But hell, we’re not interested in the commercial success here, we’re after good records, wherever they ended up and in whatever condition. And Cat Mind is a good record. .... more info.

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Chris Darrow - Under My Own Disguise 1974

On the appropriately titled Under My Own DisguiseChris Darrow's follow-up to 1973's Chris Darrow, the journeyman Southern California country-rocker continues to sound more like a former group member than a current solo artist. His sturdy, if undistinguished baritone is mixed down, no louder than the musical instruments, which gives the album an under-produced sound. Under My Own Disguise is not as concerned as Chris Darrow with exploring the artist's eclecticism; there are no Japanese or chamber music touches this time, just different sides of country and blues styles, for the most part. (Darrow does include a cover of the 1940s Ink Spots hit "Java Jive," another novelty nod to the distant past, as was "Hong Kong Blues" on Chris Darrow) He also plays a rag instrumental, "Live or Die Rag," and continues to display the influence of the Allman Brothers Band on "Maybe It's Just as Well." As country-rock goes, this is closer to Gram Parsons than to Poco or the Eagles, which is to say that it leans more toward country than rock. But Darrow doesn't make as much of an impression as a frontman as Parsons; he seems like a sideman on his own album. AMG.

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