domingo, 29 de janeiro de 2023

SRC - SRC 1968

With the twin leads of Gary Quackenbush and Steve Lyman, the distinctly church-like psychedelic Hammond of Glenn Quackenbush, and the angelic (and anglophile) vocals of Scott Richardson, SRC is a distinctly acidic album unlike anything else from the Detroit scene -- there's not a single soul influence to be heard! Instead, ideas were formed from Procol Harumthe Pretty Things, and the Who, and blended with the beauty of the Left Banke. "Black Sheep," "Daystar," and "Marionette" are highlights of this distinct album of cosmic psychedelia and melodic childlike pop. It even sounds fresh today. AMG.

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Abstract Truth - Silver Trees 1970

Silver Trees was South African band Abstract Truth's second LP. It is much stronger than their debut, Totum, released earlier in the same year (1970). Totum consisted of cover songs approached in the psychedelic folk vein; Silver Trees features solely original compositions and rocks out a lot more. Abstract Truth has not entirely shed their folk skin, but here they clearly stretch out their creative muscles and crank up the energy, without losing their knack for thought-out arrangements and their psychedelic leanings (feedback, backward effects, abrupt climactic endings). From the folk-tinged opener "Pollution" to the acid rock closer "It's Alright with Me," Silver Trees covers a lot of ground, and does so convincingly. Worth a special mention are the songs "Original Man" (a poignant theological reflection), "Blue Wednesday Speaks" (with its contrasting verse and chorus), and the exploratory eight-minute title track. Saxophonist/flutist Sean Bergin (later to move to The Netherlands where he enjoyed a nice career as a creative jazz musician) shines throughout, giving nuance to the group's music as much and as competently as Ian MacDonald was doing for King Crimson's around that time. Silver Trees is not a case of "why didn't that album catch on back then?" but it has strong songwriting, enjoyable musicianship, pleasing lead vocals, and a spark of creativity. Sadly, the Shadoks label CD would have benefited from more treble, and its total lack of liner notes is frustrating. AMG.

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UFO - UFO 1 (1970)

Recorded on a shoestring budget, UFO has several challenging sonic moments. The uneven mixes and amateur performances that some listeners might find quaint or innocent could be distracting to others. In their pre-Michael Schenker days, the British band made a much more experimental noise that reflected psychedelic as well as R&B influences pitched with a dark resonance. This swirling mish-mosh barely suggests the early British metal of the group's commercial pinnacle that was still years off when they released their eponymous debut. Blue Cheer, early Black Sabbath, and maybe a little bit of the Who (mostly derived via bassist Pete Way's meandering, over-saturated basslines) all come to mind on standouts like "Boogie," "C'mon Everybody," and "Follow You Home." While ignored completely in the States as well as their British home, U F O was a bit of an international hit. "C'mon Everybody" made it to the top of the charts in Japan, which led to a tour of the country and enough career momentum to keep the records coming while the sound of (and worldwide market for) heavy metal slowly took shape. While far from being the best offering from Pete WayPhil Mogg, and company, U F O is a nice pre-metal study that reveals how the blues/psychedelic amalgam inspired would-be metal artists before pop was injected into the genre. AMG.

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Françoise Hardy - Le Premier Bonheur du Jour 1963

Françoise Hardy is a pop and fashion icon celebrated as a French national treasure. With her signature breathy alto, she was one of the earliest and most definitive French participants in the yé-yé movement (a style of pop music that initially emerged from Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal before spreading to France in the early 1960s). She is one of only a few female vocalists who could or would write and perform her own material. She offered a startling contrast to the boy's club of French pop in the early '60s, paving the way for literally thousands of women all over the globe. Known for romantically nostalgic songs and melancholy lyrics, Hardy's first single, "Tous Les Garçons et les Filles," sold over two million copies and made her a European star overnight. Outside music, Hardy also established herself as a fashion model, actress, astrologer, and author. Though she has recorded songs in several languages, it was her early French tunes -- that ranged across pop, jazz, blues, and more -- that helped to establish her as a legend. In the '70s, she reinvented herself as an artist transcending teen-friendly pop to interpret songs by everyone from Leonard Cohen to Patrick Modiano and has remained a grande dame of French popular song ever since.

Hardy was born in Paris in 1944. She and her sister were raised by a single mom who made a meager living as an accountant's assistant. Money was always in short supply. After graduating from high school, she was given a guitar by her absent father -- he had to be convinced by her mother to purchase it. As a teen, she was influenced heavily by French chanson, especially the music of Charles Trenet and Cora Vaucaire. Thanks to the pervasive reach of Radio Luxembourg, she also found inspiration in the music of English-speaking singers such as Paul Anka, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and Connie Francis. While attending the Sorbonne to study political science and Germanic languages, she answered a newspaper notice advertising for young singers. Hardy failed that first audition, but she was inspired to attend others. She auditioned a bit later for the French Vogue label and signed her first recording contract at the end of 1961. She was 17. In April of the following year, she left university and released her first record, "Oh Oh Chéri," written by Johnny Hallyday's creative team. The flipside was her own composition "Tous Les Garçons et les Filles." Riding the emergent French wave of yé-yé introduced to the country by songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, the recording was a smash, selling over two million copies. In 1963, she took fifth place (for Monaco) in the Eurovision Song Contest with "L'amour s'en Va" and was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. Soon she was on the cover of virtually every top music magazine. It was while working on a photo shoot for a magazine that Hardy would meet photographer Jean-Marie Perier, who transformed her image from a shy schoolgirl into a cultural trendsetter. He became not only her lover but also the greatest influence on her early career. Their shoot established her as a fashion icon as well as a pop star, and Perier persuaded Hardy to model. Because of her place in pop music, he was able to persuade top designers including Paco Rabanne, Chanel, and Yves Saint-Laurent to adopt her as a model. French director Roger Vadim offered her a prime role in Château en Suède; the experience only increased her national popularity, but her heart was in music, not cinema. In 1963 she sang at the L'Olympia Theatre in Paris for the first time as an opening act for yé-yé singer Richard Anthony. She stole the show. Her debut album was essentially an umbrella for her singles and sold exceptionally well, and the recording won the Prix de l'Académie Charles-Cros and Trophée de la Télévision Française awards. In 1965, she tried film again, this time Jean-Daniel Pollet's Une Balle Au Cœur. Released in February of 1966, her performance drew raves from critics and audiences alike. Hardy's reputation as a singer spread across Europe and soon she was spending time with artists ranging from the Beatles and Mick Jagger to Bob Dylan (the latter once refused to play his second set at L'Olympia until she showed up). She quickly became her country's most exportable pop star, releasing ten albums between 1962 and 1968. Perier and Hardy ended their romance in 1967, and the stress and strain of a jet-set lifestyle were beginning to take its toll. That said, she met songwriter and pop star Jacques Dutronc the same year and fell in love -- they wed in 1981. After massive whirlwind tours of Europe, she cut her sophomore outing, Ma Jeunesse Fout L'Camp, which was issued in 1968, just before the curtain fell on yé-yé in France. That same year she gave a farewell performance at London's famed Savoy and seemingly retired from the stage to concentrate on her recording career. This caused friction with her label and resulted in a court battle from which she emerged free but wary of all future business dealings. Hardy carefully considered her next step. In 1970, as a nod to her fans in Switzerland and Germany, she released the German-language Träume for United Artists. But it was a stop-gap. 1971's self-titled offering for Sonopress, written in collaboration with female Brazilian guitarist Tuca, was her first mature outing and featured the singles "Chanson d'O" and "La Question." While it didn't do well commercially, it remains the singer's favorite recording and the one that established her as an influence on later generations. She didn't care about the relatively poor sales; she considered it an artistic achievement, and history has proven her correct. 

While Hardy hasn't set any sales records with her post-millennial output, virtually all of her recordings did well enough to remain commercially viable and enhance her legend. In the aftermath of the publication and release of L'Amour Fou, the singer was absent for nearly five years. After its release, she became ill while undergoing chemo and eventually ended up in a coma for eight days. While recovering and continuing to undergo treatment, she had little to no interest in recording again -- that is until she heard the song "Sleep" by the Finnish band Poets of the Fall. She played for producer and songwriter Erick Benzi (Celine Dion), who loved it. As a response, he sent Hardy several melodies of his own, inspiring her to pen lyrics for them. French indie songwriter La Grande Sophie (Sophie Huriaux) knew she had started writing again and emailed Hardy the song "Le Large." Other composers who contributed were Pascale Daniel and Yael Naim, who gave her "You're My Home." When Hardy began recording with Benzi, the sessions went uncharacteristically smoothly, resulting in the album Personne d’Autre. Preceded by the single "Le Large"--which was also released as a video directed by François Ozon -- the full-length was released in Europe and the U.S. in April of 2018. AMG.

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Laura Lee - Women's Love Rights 1972

When Holland-Dozier-Holland broke up with Motown in 1968, two female vocalists proved crucial in putting the songwriters' newly established record labels on the map. First Freda Payne was signed to Invictus and scored a massive crossover hit with "Band of Gold" in 1970. Out of contract with Chess, Laura Lee was convinced to record for Invictus' sister label Hot Wax. The title track of 1972's Women's Love Rights made up for its average chart success with its perfectly timed manifesto and rallying cry for downtrodden women. Its outspokenness went as far as attracting the attention of one Jane Fonda who was touring the country advocating women's liberation. Their connection to Holland-Dozier-Holland aside, Lee and Payne originated from widely different backgrounds. Remarkably, Motown's Berry Gordy had tried in vain to sign jazz vocalist Payne, who had worked with Duke Ellington, while at the same time showing not much interest in the gospel stylings of Lee. The latter would go on to explore her gritty side in Muscle Shoals, in the wake of then labelmate Etta James who had just cut Tell Mama. Next to some signature Southern soul ballads, an uptempo song like "Wanted: Lover, No Experience Necessary" with hindsight foreshadowed her Hot Wax output. Partly responsible for this was songwriter William Weatherspoon, who enabled Lee to build directly on her Chess sides. He had already contributed a gem of a cheatin' song in Payne's "Love on Borrowed Time," but his mark proved more rewarding on Lee's thematically more coherent debut. Music magazine Mojo would recognize its anthem-like qualities by including "Wedlock Is a Padlock" in a Top 100 of protest songs for its May 2004 issue. In its turn, the bolshie monologue preceding the Buddy Johnson ballad "Since I Fell for You" would be acknowledged as the lyrical jump-off point for Millie Jackson, who would make candid revelations into whole concept albums. Although it spawned four Top 40 R&B chart hits, Lee would always remain more of a critics' favorite. The singer would go on to record two more albums for Holland-Dozier-Holland of which Two Sides of Laura Lee nearly matches her debut. Quite possibly it urged Chess to belatedly release part of her single sides into album form. Love More Than Pride could rightfully be perceived as the blueprint for her Hot Wax albums. AMG.

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U.K. - U.K. 1978

The debut album from amalgamated progsters John WettonBill BrufordEddie Jobson, and Allan Holdsworth has the edge over both Danger Money and Night After Night because of the synthesis of melody and rhythm that is inflicted through nearly every one of the eight tracks. While not as commercial sounding as Wetton's 1980s supergroup Asia, U.K. mustered up a progressive air by the use of intelligent keyboard and percussion interplay without sounding mainstream. Jobson's work with the electric violin and assorted synthesizers adds to an already profound astuteness carried by Wetton. Former Yes and Genesis drummer Bill Bruford is just as important behind the kit, making his presence felt on numbers like "Thirty Years" and "Nevermore." Without carrying the same rhythms or cadences through each song, U.K. implements some differentiation into their music, straying from the sometimes over-the-top musicianship that occurs with the gathering of such an elite bunch. The melodious finish of such tracks as "By the Light of Day" and "Alaska" showcases the overall fluency of each member, and shows no signs of any progressive tediousness that could have easily evolved. All three of U.K.'s albums are enjoyable, but the debut sports the most interest, since it spotlights their remarkable fit as a band for the first time. AMG.

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Hot Tuna - Hot Tuna 1969

When Hot Tuna's self-titled debut album was released in May 1970, it seemed like the perfect spin-off project for a major rock group, Jefferson Airplane's lead guitarist and bass player indulging in a genre exercise by playing a set of old folk-blues tunes in a Berkeley coffeehouse. The music seemed as far removed from the Airplane's acid rock roar as it did from commercial prospects, and thus, it allowed these sometimes overlooked bandmembers to blow off some steam musically without threatening their day jobs. In retrospect, however, it's easy to hear that something more was going on. Friends since their teens, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady had developed a musical rapport that anchored the Airplane sound but also existed independently of it, and shorn of the rock band arrangements and much of the electricity (Casady still played an electric bass), their interplay was all the more apparent. Kaukonen remained the accomplished fingerpicking stylist he had been before joining the Airplane, while Casady dispensed with the usual timekeeping duties of the bass in favor of extensive contrapuntal soloing, creating a musical conversation that was unique. It was put at the service of a batch of songs by the likes of the Reverend Gary Davis and Jelly Roll Morton with the occasional Kaukonen original thrown in, making for a distinct style. Kaukonen's wry singing showed an intense identification with the material that kept it from seeming repetitious despite the essential similarities of the tunes. (Harmonica player Will Scarlett also contributed to the mood.) The result was less an indulgence than a new direction. AMG.

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Five Day Rain - Five Day Rain (1969)

Factory/Fleur de Lys connected an early '70s UK psych monster with all the right moves. Sounds like the aforementioned bands with a dash of Ogden's period Small Faces. Great guitar work particularly on the long trippy instrumental "Rough Cut Marmalade".... Ace album.

One of the rarest UK albums; just 15 copies of this album were put out but soon after someone circulated 'white label' copies of it so beware of these. 

Graham Maitland had earlier been in Scots Of St James and Hopscotch. He was also in The Fleur de Lys in their final days. The album contained some adventurous pop compositions often with a taint of psychedelia but it was eventually put out as a private pressing in a plain white cover because no label was interested in it. Notable cuts are the 11-minute instrumental Rough Cut Marmalade, which is the album's most psychedelic offering; the catchy Sea Song and keyboard-driven Leave It At That. The CD reissue omitted Too Much Of Nothing and tampered with Marie's A Woman. Graham Maitland was later in Glencoe but the other members quit the music business.

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Frank Wright - Your Prayer 1967

For his second and final ESP date as a leader, avant-garde tenor saxophonist Frank Wright teams up with four little-known players (altoist Arthur Jones, trumpeter Jacques Coursil, bassist Steve Tintweiss, and drummer Muhammad Ali) for passionate explorations of four of his originals plus Jones' "The Lady." Rather intense at times, these emotional performances (which, unusual for an ESP date, clock in at over 50 minutes) still sound groundbreaking three decades later. One of Frank Wright's finest recordings. AMG.

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domingo, 22 de janeiro de 2023

Derek & The Dominos - Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs 1970

Wishing to escape the superstar expectations that sank Blind Faith before it was launched, Eric Clapton retreated with several sidemen from Delaney & Bonnie to record the material that would form Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. From these meager beginnings grew his greatest album. Duane Allman joined the band shortly after recording began, and his spectacular slide guitar pushed Clapton to new heights. Then again, Clapton may have gotten there without him, considering the emotional turmoil he was in during the recording. He was in hopeless, unrequited love with Pattie Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison, and that pain surges throughout Layla, especially on its epic title track. But what really makes Layla such a powerful record is that Clapton, ignoring the traditions that occasionally painted him into a corner, simply tears through these songs with burning, intense emotion. He makes standards like "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" and "Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out)" into his own, while his collaborations with Bobby Whitlock -- including "Any Day" and "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?" -- teem with passion. And, considering what a personal album Layla is, it's somewhat ironic that the lovely coda "Thorn Tree in the Garden" is a solo performance by Whitlock, and that the song sums up the entire album as well as "Layla" itself. AMG.

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The Doors - Strange Days 1967

Many of the songs on Strange Days had been written around the same time as the ones that appeared on The Doors, and with hindsight, one has the sense that the best of the batch had already been cherry-picked for the debut album. For that reason, the band's second effort isn't as consistently stunning as their debut, though overall it's a very successful continuation of the themes of their classic album. Besides the hit "Strange Days," highlights included the funky "Moonlight Drive," the eerie "You're Lost Little Girl," and the jerkily rhythmic "Love Me Two Times," which gave the band a small chart single. "My Eyes Have Seen You" and "I Can't See Your Face in My Mind" are minor but pleasing entries in the group's repertoire that share a subdued Eastern psychedelic air. The 11-minute "When the Music's Over" would often be featured as a live showstopper, yet it also illustrated their tendency to occasionally slip into drawn-out bombast. AMG.

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Janis Joplin - I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama! 1969

Janis Joplin's solo debut was a letdown at the time of release, suffering in comparison with Big Brother's Cheap Thrills from the previous year, and shifting her style toward soul-rock in a way that disappointed some fans. Removed from that context, it sounds better today, though it's still flawed. Fronting the short-lived Kozmic Blues Band, the arrangements are horn-heavy and the material soulful and bluesy. The band sounds a little stiff and although Joplin's singing is good, she would sounds more electrifying on various live versions of some of the songs. The shortage of quality original compositions -- indeed, there are only eight tracks total on the album -- didn't help either, and the cover selections were erratic, particularly the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." On the other hand, "Try" is one of her best soul outings, and the reading of Rodgers & Hart's "Little Girl Blue" is inspired. AMG.

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Steppenwolf - The Second 1968

The group's second album was virtually a re-creation of its predecessor, only slightly more sophisticated in its range of songs and the manner of playing them, and the in-house writing had improved, though the latter also became highly derivative. Steppenwolf the Second embraces everything from hard rock to psychedelia to blues, and the band is in excellent form, playing very hard and edgy, except on the deliberately lyrical, reflective "Spiritual Fantasy," a rare acoustic number for the group. Much more to the point of the group was the single "Magic Carpet Ride," the ultimate psychedelic pop dance number of the decade, and the marijuana anthem "Don't Step on the Grass, Sam," the pounding "28," and the album-opener "Faster Than the Speed of Life." Side two of the original LP was a great achievement in its own right, opening with "Magic Carpet Ride," which leads into a nonstop extended array of hard-rocking numbers, mostly in a blues idiom: "Disappointment Number (Unknown)," "Lost and Found by Trial and Error," "Hodge Podge, Strained Through a Leslie," and "Resurrection." The playing was as good as the first album, and though there's nothing quite comparable to "Born to Be Wild" here in terms of cultural impact, the level of the surrounding numbers is higher. AMG.

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Nina Simone - A Very Rare Evening 1969

An interesting collection of songs with an incredible version by Nina. Extremely hard to find, but well worth the effort.

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segunda-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2023

The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet 1968

The Stones forsook psychedelic experimentation to return to their blues roots on this celebrated album, which was immediately acclaimed as one of their landmark achievements. A strong acoustic Delta blues flavor colors much of the material, particularly "Salt of the Earth" and "No Expectations," which feature some beautiful slide guitar work. Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: "Street Fighting Man," a reflection of the political turbulence of 1968, was one of their most innovative singles, and "Sympathy for the Devil," with its fire-dancing guitar licks, leering Jagger vocals, African rhythms, and explicitly satanic lyrics, was an image-defining epic. On "Stray Cat Blues," Jagger and crew began to explore the kind of decadent sexual sleaze that they would take to the point of self-parody by the mid-'70s. At the time, though, the approach was still fresh, and the lyrical bite of most of the material ensured Beggars Banquet's place as one of the top blues-based rock records of all time. AMG.

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