quarta-feira, 7 de abril de 2021

Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation - Doctor Dunbar's Prescription 1970

The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation's second album was much the same as their first, offering competent late-'60s British blues, given a slightly darker cast than was usual for the style via Victor Brox's somber vocals. Like their debut, it was dominated by original material, and as on its predecessor, the compositions were rather routine blues-rock numbers, though they benefited from arrangements by highly skilled players. The best of these tracks were the ones that utilized Brox's gloomy, almost gothic organ, if only because it made them stand out more among the company of the many similar bands recording in the prime of the British blues boom. Otherwise the main fare was straightforward blues-rock that was well played, but rather average and forgettable, the most distinguished ingredient being Dunbar's hard-hitting, swinging drums. If only because it has some original songs that were better than anything on the first album ("Fugitive," "Till Your Lovin' Makes Me Blue," and "Tuesday's Blues," the last of which has some songwriting and guitar work quite similar to Peter Green's late-'60s style in those departments), it's a slightly better listen, though not up to the standards of somewhat similar groups like Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. AMG.

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Bill Withers - Naked Warm 1976

Warm wonderful soul from Bill — recorded with a bit less of the acoustic folksy sound that graced his Sussex recordings, but still with loads of excellent songwriting, and a whole bunch of great piano work in place of the missing guitar. Titles include “If I Didn’t Mean You Well”, “Close To Me”, “Naked & Warm”, “My Imagination”, and “Where You Are”.

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Carolyn Franklin - Baby Dynamite 1969

Aretha Franklin's youngest sister, Carolyn Franklin wrote some moderately successful songs for both herself and her other sister Erma. "Without Love," "Baby Baby Baby," "I Was Made for You," and "Sing It Again-Say It Again" are among the various Carolyn Franklin compositions. She was one of Aretha's background vocalists five years, and also recorded as a solo artist for RCA. Her most successful release was "It's True I Gonna Miss You," which reached #23 on the R&B charts in 1969. She died of cancer in 1988. AMG.

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Woody Shaw - Blackstone Legacy 1971

Originally a two-fer on vinyl and now on one CD, Shaw's debut as a leader is one of the first "free bop" sessions, in many ways his answer to Bitches Brew. The trumpeter's ensemble extracts dense, energetic, meaty collective sounds based in pure improvisation with a skeleton of a rhythmic framework to expound upon. Saxophonists Gary Bartz & Bennie Maupin, electric pianist George Cables, twin bassists Ron Carter and Clint Houston, and drummer Lenny White respond to Shaw's heavy direction, making for some of the most kinetic jazz heard in that period of early fusion. Shaw's bright melodicism, hard edged swing and refusal to compromise are his greatest assets. They come shining through on tuneful classics like the unstoppable "Think On Me" and stop-start gymnastics of "Boo-Ann's Grand." It represents the progressive bop aesthetic at a fever pitch. The title track is as wild and wooly as Woody could be, while "Lost & Found" is free bop at its finest. "New World" is a free funk number, quite a trend setter for its time, while "A Deed For Dolphy" shows an abstract, no-time side rarely heard from Shaw. All tunes are quite lengthy, no shorter than nine, no longer than seventeen minutes. This allows the band to develop their ideas and interact in a manner more akin to a concert setting. Bartz (alto and soprano saxophone) and Maupin (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and flute) consistently show why they are two of the best improvising jazzmen out there. As much as the music is the thing, it is the singular presence of Shaw that refracts many colors of light and dark, like a multi-hued beacon directing many ships to port. There is not a better example of this music from its inception, documented on tape, than this other worldly session that brought the trumpeter to the jazz world's attention. Furthermore, few have done it better since. Truly a landmark recording, and a pivot point in the history of post-modern music. AMG.

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Head Over Heels - Head Over Heels @ 320

A Michigan power trio whose album is powerful and inventive - one of the best hard rock albums on the label. Showcasing a line up consisting of drummer John Bredeau, singer/guitarst Paul Frank and singer/bassist Michael Urso, the band only managed to release one instantly obscure album, but what an LP! Produced by Dan Moore and Buzz Clifford, 1971's Head Over Heels is simply great. Loud, tough, yet surprisingly accessible, material such as Road Runner and In My Woman showcased the trio's knack for melodic, but crunching guitar rock. Frank and Urso had attractive voices and as we said before, they sure could generate some sound. Among the few missteps were some out of kilter harmony vocals (Question) and the bland power ballad Children Of The Mist (which was almost redeemed by Frank's nice guitar solo). Elsewhere, recorded at Detroit's Eastowne, an extended cover of Willie Dixon's Red Rooster and the Franks-penned Circles were in-concert efforts that aptly showcased the band's impressive live chops. 

Frank and Urso subsequently reappeared with the band Fresh Start. Urso was also a late-inning member of Detroit's Rare Earth (along with the Scorpion guitarist Ray Monette), playing on several of their albums in the mid-70s. Thanks To ChrisGoesRock aka dariuschrisgoes.blogspot.com

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Charles Earland - Black Drops 1970

The late '60s and early '70s were a very productive time for Charles Earland. At his best, the organist delivered five-star gems during that period, such as Black Talk and Living Black -- and at his worst, he provided decent, if unremarkable, albums like Black Drops. Although not in a class with Black Talk or Living Black, this Bob Porter-produced soul-jazz/hard bop LP is satisfying and generally enjoyable. Earland surrounds himself with mostly fellow Philadelphians, including tenor and soprano saxophonist Jimmy Heath, guitarist Maynard Parker, trombonist Clayton Pruden, and drummer Jimmy Turner -- in fact, the only non-Philadelphian on Black Drops is trumpeter Virgil Jones. Highlights of the LP range from the driving hard bop of Earland's "Buck Green" and John Coltrane's "Lazybird" to a funky workout on Sly Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" and some mellow, congenial grooving on "Don't Say Goodbye," and Burt Bacharach's "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." AMG.

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Big Black - If You're Diggin' What You're Doin' Keep on Doin' What You're Diggin' 1971

Danny Ray has gotten far more ink for his colorful name than for his importance as a fine percussionist and one of the '60s better practitioners of Afro-Cuban rhythms within the jazz context. Ray got his nickname from an older brother when he showed interest in drumming as a child. He heard the conga being used in Cuban music on a radio program while in high school, and he subsequently traveled to Florida and the Bahamas. Ray spent five years alternating between these areas. During that time he played with Lord Flea's Calypso Band in the Bahamas and with the Calypso Eddie Trio. He also worked in Miami with Jack CostanzoMoe Koffman, and the Contemporary Jazz OrchestraRay later formed a band with Jamaican trumpeter Billy Cook in Nassau and began exploring a mix of Caribbean and jazz rhythms. During the '60s he worked often with Randy Weston, as well as Ray Bryant, Johnny Barracuda, Junior Cook, and Eric Dolphy. He was featured at the Caribbean Pavilion at the 1965 World's Fair in New York City and played with Dizzy Gillespie both at the fair and that year's Newport Jazz Festival. AMG.
 

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Buddy Miles - A Message to the People 1971

In the league of funk-rock albums, A Message to the People is top-notch. Buddy Miles was easily one the better bandleaders of the early '70s, and his ability to unite a group of talented players around well-crafted songs definitely makes this one of his best albums. The gorgeous "The Way I Feel Tonight," the funky, horn-driven "Place Over There," and the lovely closing "That's the Way Life Is" all rank among Miles' best songs and performances. Add to that two superb Gregg Allman covers (especially "Midnight Rider," which is arguably even more definitive than the original), and the results are impressive. Miles even predates hip-hop by lifting the horn riff from Joe Tex's "You're Right, Ray Charles" and crafting it into a new instrumental cut called, fittingly, "Joe Tex." Only a dud cover of Percy Sledge's "Sudden Stop" is the album's lone clinker. In fact, the album is so good, it's mystifying why it barely clocks in at a meager half-hour. "That's the Way Life Is" and the clavinet-laden "The Segment" are both over just as they've barely begun. Similarly, no sooner does the cover of "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" settle into a powerful groove than it stops to segue into the next cut. Why Miles felt the need to edit the material so severely is bizarre, since the album could easily have been twice as long and still hit its mark. It's a testament to Buddy Miles' talent that, as first-rate as the album is, it will leave any listener wanting more. Still, A Message to the People is every bit a funk classic. AMG.

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sábado, 27 de março de 2021

Beast - Beast 1969

Beast was a rock group of the late '60s from Denver led by singer David Raines. It charted briefly with a self-titled album in 1969. AMG.
 

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Circus - Circus 1969

Circus produced a tightly woven jazz-rock sound, sometimes resembling Jethro Tull or Caravan, while comparisons to early King Crimson can also be assessed. Without the help of keyboards, Circus applied saxophone and flute to their impassioned but melodic brand of progressive music, with Chris Burrows' drum work coming to the forefront in nearly all of their tracks. The original Transatlantic recordings from 1969 were released in 2000 by the Castle label, combining to create Circus' debut album. With Mel Collins on sax, Circus' eight tracks are wonderfully inventive, merging the band's uplifting musical spirit with their innovative laid-back sound. Collins' sax gives their interpretation of "Norwegian Wood" a "juicy" sound, to say the least, with enough musical accessories to make it novel. "Pleasures" has Mel Collins' dad playing alto flute (which has a unique sound all its own) mixed in with some dreamy sax parts into rhythms that are both busy and delicate. Ian Jelfs' vocals aren't that becoming, proven on "Father of My Daughter" as he teams up with Collins for the singing duties, but it's Chris Burrows' Indian tabla that steals that show here. Burrows' best example of his percussive talents comes alive on "St. Thomas," partnering his drums perfectly with the woodwinds, while his conga's give "Don't Make Promises" its jazz-to-rock sway. Bass man Kirk Riddle is absolutely bewildering on Charles Mingus' "11 B.S.," displaying the band's love for improvisation while putting the electric guitar to good experimental use. Circus made a few more albums following this one, but it's here that the well-traveled Collins truly shines, capturing this relatively unknown band in their freshest stage. AMG.

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Creation Of Sunlight - Creation Of Sunlight 1968

Creation of Sunlight's sole album is a second- or third-division piece of late-'60s southern California psychedelia, although it's not unenjoyable in places. Certainly it will recall the Strawberry Alarm Clock to many seasoned psychedelic listeners, as this too has a combination of thick organ and fuzz guitar, as well as material and vocal harmonies that are a rather lighter shade than the arrangements. It really helps that the lead singing is breezier and a bit higher than that of many similar groups. The background harmonies have a fullness that smacks not just of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, but of a few other bands of their time and place, like Clear Light and (at its poppiest) the Association; the material can also bring to mind some aspects of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. And then there's that part of "Second Thoughts" where it veers off from a fairly sunny harmony number and suddenly sounds like the organ player's trying to imitate Ray Manzarek...so no, it's not the most individual of albums, even among obscure cult psychedelic ones. But even in the absence of truly fine songs, it's considerably better than the normal such derivative record of its time and place, with a likable trippy-if-safe optimism that's too heavy to be sunshine pop, though too lightweight to qualify as serious underground boldness. AMG.

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Frank Zappa - Sheik Yerbouti 1979

In order to finance his artier excursions, which increasingly required more expensive technology, Frank Zappa recorded several collections of guitar- and song-oriented material in the late '70s and early '80s, which generally concentrated on the bawdy lyrical themes many fans had come to expect and enjoy in concert. Sheik Yerbouti (two LPs, one CD) was one of the first and most successful of these albums, garnering attention for such tracks as the Grammy-nominated disco satire "Dancin' Fool," the controversial "Jewish Princess," and the equally controversial "Bobby Brown Goes Down," a song about gay S&M that became a substantial hit in European clubs. While Zappa's attitude on the latter two tracks was even more politically incorrect than usual for him, it didn't stop the album from becoming his second-highest charting ever. Social satire, leering sexual preoccupations, and tight, melodic songs dominated the rest of the record as well, as Zappa stuck to what had been commercially successful for him in the past. The "dumb entertainment" (as Zappa liked to describe this style) on Sheik Yerbouti was some of his dumbest, for better or worse, and the music was undeniably good -- easily some of his best since Apostrophe, and certainly the most accessible. Even if it sometimes drifts a bit, fans of Zappa's '70s work will find Sheik Yerbouti on nearly an equal level with Apostrophe and Over-Nite Sensation, both in terms of humor and musical quality. AMG.

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domingo, 21 de março de 2021

Betty Wright - My First Time Around 1968

Betty Wright is known most for the Top Ten pop and soul hit "Clean Up Woman" (1971) and the Grammy-winning "Where Is the Love" (1975), two of the most memorable crossover hits of the '70s. That barely indicates the breadth and depth of the lifelong Miami native's six-decade career. One of only a few singers who could be called both a powerhouse and a songbird -- she excited crowds with archetypal church-reared grit and left them spellbound by her whistle register -- Wright was also a songwriter of rare candor and additionally produced and arranged material for herself and artists she dutifully supported. Wright's Grammy-nominated recordings remarkably span 40 years, from "Clean Up Woman" to "Surrender," the latter from her final album, Betty Wright: The Movie (2011). Her work behind the scenes continued up to her death (in 2020), heard on albums by the likes of Joss StoneLil Wayne, and DJ Khaled, three of the many figures who credited her as a mentor crucial to their musical growth and navigation of the music industry. 
Born Bessie Regina Norris in Miami, Betty Wright started singing with her siblings as a toddler with the gospel group Echoes of Joy. She moved to secular music, and at the age of 13, in 1967, released her first two singles, "Good Lovin'" and "Mr. Lucky," written respectively by Johnny Pearsall and the team of Clarence Reid (later known as Blowfly) and Willie ClarkeWright then settled in with the Alston label, where one of her brothers, Milton, would also record. She scored her first big single in 1968 with the wisdom-dispensing "Girls Can't Do What the Guys Do," another Reid/Clarke composition, which peaked on the Billboard R&B chart at number 15. Atco distributed the concurrent LP, My First Time Around. After another couple charting A-sides, WrightReid, and Clarke achieved their greatest success together in 1971 with "Clean Up Woman," a number two R&B hit that also reached number six on the pop chart. The song was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, and earned a gold disc from the RIAA. 
Wright's run with Alston lasted through the '70s. The seven albums the singer released during the decade were highlighted by 1973's Hard to Stop, 1975's Danger High Voltage, and 1978's Betty Wright Live. The last of this sequence was Wright's most successful commercial LP, peaking at number six on the R&B chart. On-stage, Wright took her storytelling to another level and drew from a catalog that at that point included almost 20 charting singles, including "Where Is the Love" -- written by WrightWillie ClarkeHarry Wayne "KC" Casey, and Richard Finch -- which had won a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Song. The set's version of the intimate "Tonight Is the Night," written by Wright and Clarke, became her tenth single to dent the Top 20 of the R&B chart. By the end of the '70s, Wright's collaborative work took off with a featured role on Peter Brown's "Dance with Me," and she co-wrote and produced "All This Love That I'm Givin'" for Gwen McCrae, who she had discovered (along with George McCrae) the previous decade. Although she wasn't as prominent as a lead artist in the '80s and '90s, Wright placed another dozen singles on the R&B chart during this time. Among these were the 1981 Stevie Wonder collaboration "What Are You Going to Do with It" and the 1988 hit "No Pain, No Gain," her last Top 20 R&B entry. Her first two albums during this period were released through Epic, after which she set up her own label, Ms. B, her solo outlet on an almost exclusive basis into the early 2000s, and initiated a long-term creative partnership with songwriter, bassist, and musical director Angelo Morris. Just as notably, Wright's classics and deep cuts alike were sampled many times over, most prominently for Candyman's "Knockin' Boots" and Color Me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up." Wright also filled a number of supporting roles on dozens of albums spanning R&B, jazz, rock, Latin and French pop, and reggae. Steady activity for Wright continued in the 2000s with the solo LP Fit for a King and connections made with Erykah BaduJoss Stone, and Trick Daddy, among many others. Her profile increased again in the latter half of the decade as the Diddy-appointed vocal coach for Danity Kane, as documented on the reality series Making the Band, and featured appearances on Angie Stone's "Baby" and Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, both Grammy-nominated recordings. These were followed by Grammy nominations for "Go!" (a frank ballad about domestic abuse) and "Surrender," two songs Wright included on her last studio statement, 2011's Betty Wright: The Movie, on which she was assisted by the Roots. Before she died from cancer in 2020, she clocked studio time with fellow veterans and hopeful newcomers alike, from the O'Jays to Elise LeGrow, and appeared on number one albums by Rick RossDJ Khaled, and Lil Wayne. AMG. 

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Fifth Flight - Into Smoke Tree Village 1970

In the mid sixties, five football players from a local high school got together to Jam. The sounds blended and recorded an album for the Century label which was a late 60's early 70's Californian custom record label that pressed tens of thousands of small-run records for schools, church groups and obscure local bands. This was one of those delightful garage/psych jewels that occasionally cropped up on the label. 

With its rustic mill cover this a a garage psych album consisting mostly of covers, delivered with lashings of fuzz guitar and heavy, spooky organ. The stand-out track surely is the jaw droppingly awesome cover of Neil Young's "Sugar mountain". What you are hearing on this album are moods, transitions and feelings of the Fifth Flight.

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Geordie - Don't Be Fooled By The Name 1974

Geordie's second album, 1974's Don't Be Fooled by the Name, was a bit of a letdown after their debut, which merged the swagger of hard rock with the tuneful bombast of blue-collar glam acts typified by Slade. In some respects, Don't Be Fooled suggests Geordie were aiming for something a bit more mature and adventurous than they achieved on their debut, and they didn't entirely fail -- they reveal a tough, bluesy side on their cover of "House of the Rising Sun," a number that suits Brian Johnson's industrial-strength pipes, and the "St. James Infirmary" lift in opening cut "Goin' Down" leans toward the same direction. "Mercenary Man" boasts an undercurrent of sociopolitical commentary that wasn't normally the band's stock in trade, and "Ten Feet Tall"'s dynamics and guitar work (the latter courtesy of group leader Vic Malcolm) suggests Geordie had been studying their early Led Zeppelin albums. But even though this is a smarter and more ambitious album than the group's debut, Don't Be Fooled by the Name isn't necessarily better; the songs don't often give Johnson the chance to reveal the full power of his voice, the production (by Ellis Elias and Roberto Danova) is often too slick and gimmicky to make the most of the band's energy, and overall this just doesn't rock with the same passion as Geordie's first record. The best moments on Don't Be Fooled are impressive, and there are too many good things here for the album to fall into the "Sophomore Slump" file, but the truth is the band made a better record before, and would make better records again. AMG.

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