sexta-feira, 29 de junho de 2012

Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity - A kind of Love In 1967-71

Sixties pop diva-turned-avant jazz singer Julie Driscoll was born June 8, 1947 in London. As a teen she oversaw the Yardbirds' fan club, and it was the group's manager and producer Giorgio Gomelsky who encouraged her to begin a performing career of her own. In 1963 she issued her debut pop single "Take Me by the Hand," two years later joining the short-lived R&B combo Steampacket alongside Rod Stewart,Long John Baldry and organist Brian Auger. After Steampacketdissolved, Driscoll signed on with the Brian Auger Trinity, scoring a Top Five UK hit in 1968 with their rendition of Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire." Dubbed "The Face" by the British music press, Driscoll's striking looks and coolly sophisticated vocals earned her flavor of the month status, and she soon left Auger for a solo career. Her debut solo album 1969 heralded a significant shift away from pop, however, enlisting members of the Soft Machine and Blossom Toes to pursue a progressive jazz direction. Also contributing to the record was pianist Keith Tippett, whose avant garde ensembles Centipede and Ovary Lodge Driscoll soon joined. She and Tippett were later married, and she took her new husband's name, also recording as Julie Tippetts. With her 1974 solo masterpiece Sunset Glow, she further explored improvisational vocal techniques in settings ranging from folk to free jazz. Two years later, Tippett joined with Maggie Nicols,Phil Minton and Brian Ely to form the experimental vocal quartet Voice, and in 1978 also collaborated with Nicols on the duo album Sweet and s'Ours. A decade later, she and Keith released Couple in Spirit, and in 1991 Tippett teamed with over a dozen instrumentalists from Britain and the former Soviet Georgia in the Mujician/Georgian Ensemble. The following year, she re-recorded "This Wheel's on Fire" as the theme to the smash BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous. AMG.listen here

Muddy Waters - The London Muddy Waters Sessions 1972

A postwar Chicago blues scene without the magnificent contributions of Muddy Waters is absolutely unimaginable. From the late '40s on, he eloquently defined the city's aggressive, swaggering, Delta-rooted sound with his declamatory vocals and piercing slide guitar attack. When he passed away in 1983, the Windy City would never quite recover.
Like many of his contemporaries on the Chicago circuit, Waters was a product of the fertile Mississippi Delta. Born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, he grew up in nearby Clarksdale on Stovall's Plantation. His idol was the powerful Son House, a Delta patriarch whose flailing slide work and intimidating intensity Waters would emulate in his own fashion.
Musicologist Alan Lomax traveled through Stovall's in August of 1941 under the auspices of the Library of Congress, in search of new talent for purposes of field recording. With the discovery of Morganfield, Lomax must have immediately known he'd stumbled across someone very special.
Setting up his portable recording rig in the Delta bluesman's house, Lomax captured for Library of Congress posterity Waters' mesmerizing rendition of "I Be's Troubled," which became his first big seller when he recut it a few years later for the Chess brothers' Aristocrat logo as "I Can't Be Satisfied." Lomax returned the next summer to record his bottleneck-wielding find more extensively, also cutting sides by the Son Simms Four (a string band that Waters belonged to).
Waters was renowned for his blues-playing prowess across the Delta, but that was about it until 1943, when he left for the bright lights of Chicago. A tiff with "the bossman" apparently also had a little something to do with his relocation plans. By the mid-'40s, Waters' slide skills were becoming a recognized entity on Chicago's south side, where he shared a stage or two with pianists Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd and guitarist Blue Smitty. Producer Lester Melrose, who still had the local recording scene pretty much sewn up in 1946, accompanied Waters into the studio to wax a date for Columbia, but the urban nature of the sides didn't electrify anyone in the label's hierarchy and remained unissued for decades.
Sunnyland Slim played a large role in launching the career of Muddy Waters. The pianist invited him to provide accompaniment for his 1947 Aristocrat session that would produce "Johnson Machine Gun." One obstacle remained beforehand: Waters had a day gig delivering Venetian blinds. But he wasn't about to let such a golden opportunity slip through his talented fingers. He informed his boss that a fictitious cousin had been murdered in an alley, so he needed a little time off to take care of business.
When Sunnyland had finished that auspicious day, Waters sang a pair of numbers, "Little Anna Mae" and "Gypsy Woman," that would become his own Aristocrat debut 78. They were rawer than the Columbia stuff, but not as inexorably down-home as "I Can't Be Satisfied" and its flip, "I Feel Like Going Home" (the latter was his first national R&B hit in 1948). With Big Crawford slapping the bass behind Waters' gruff growl and slashing slide, "I Can't Be Satisfied" was such a local sensation that even Muddy Waters himself had a hard time buying a copy down on Maxwell Street.
He assembled a band that was so tight and vicious on-stage that they were informally known as "the Headhunters"; they'd come into a bar where a band was playing, ask to sit in, and then "cut the heads" of their competitors with their superior musicianship. Little Walter, of course, would single-handily revolutionize the role of the harmonica within the Chicago blues hierarchy; Jimmy Rogers was an utterly dependable second guitarist; and Baby Face Leroy Foster could play both drums and guitar. On top of their instrumental skills, all four men could sing powerfully.
1951 found Waters climbing the R&B charts no less than four times, beginning with "Louisiana Blues," and continuing through "Long Distance Call," "Honey Bee," and "Still a Fool." Although it didn't chart, his 1950 classic "Rollin' Stone" provided a certain young British combo with a rather enduring name. Leonard Chess himself provided the incredibly unsubtle bass-drum bombs on Waters' 1952 smash "She Moves Me."
"Mad Love," his only chart bow in 1953, is noteworthy as the first hit to feature the rolling piano of Otis Spann, who would anchor the Waters aggregation for the next 16 years. By this time, Foster was long gone from the band, but Rogers remained, and Chess insisted that Walter -- by then a popular act in his own right -- make nearly every Waters session into 1958 (why break up a winning combination?). There was one downside to having such a peerless band; as the ensemble work got tighter and more urbanized, Waters' trademark slide guitar was largely absent on many of his Chess waxings.
Willie Dixon was playing an increasingly important role in Muddy Waters' success. In addition to slapping his upright bass on Waters' platters, the burly Dixon was writing one future bedrock standard after another for him: "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "Just Make Love to Me," and "I'm Ready," seminal performances all, and each blasted to the uppermost reaches of the R&B lists in 1954.
When labelmate Bo Diddley borrowed Waters' swaggering beat for his strutting "I'm a Man" in 1955, Waters turned around and did him tit for tat by reworking the tune ever so slightly as "Mannish Boy" and enjoying his own hit. "Sugar Sweet," a pile-driving rocker with Spann's 88s anchoring the proceedings, also did well that year. 1956 brought three more R&B smashes: "Trouble No More," "Forty Days & Forty Nights," and "Don't Go No Farther." But rock & roll was quickly blunting the momentum of veteran blues aces like Waters; Chess was growing more attuned to the modern sounds of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, the Moonglows, and the Flamingos. Ironically, it was Muddy Waters who had sent Berry to Chess in the first place.
After that, there was only one more chart item, 1958's typically uncompromising (and metaphorically loaded) "Close to You." But Waters' Chess output was still of uniformly stellar quality, boasting gems like "Walking Thru the Park" (as close as he was likely to come to mining a rock & roll groove) and "She's Nineteen Years Old," among the first sides to feature James Cotton's harp instead of Walter's, in 1958. That was also the year that Muddy Waters and Spann made their first sojourn to England, where his electrified guitar horrified sedate Britishers accustomed to the folksy homilies of Big Bill Broonzy. Perhaps chagrined by the response, Waters paid tribute to Broonzy with a solid LP of his material in 1959.
Cotton was apparently the bandmember who first turned Muddy on to "Got My Mojo Working," originally cut by Ann Cole in New York. Waters' 1956 cover was pleasing enough but went nowhere on the charts. But when the band launched into a supercharged version of the same tune at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, Cotton and Spann put an entirely new groove to it, making it an instant classic (fortuitously, Chess was on hand to capture the festivities on tape).
As the 1960s dawned, Muddy Waters' Chess sides were sounding a trifle tired. Oh, the novelty thumper "Tiger in Your Tank" packed a reasonably high-octane wallop, but his adaptation of Junior Wells' "Messin' with the Kid" (as "Messin' with the Man") and a less-than-timely "Muddy Waters Twist" were a long way removed indeed from the mesmerizing Delta sizzle that Waters had purveyed a decade earlier.
Overdubbing his vocal over an instrumental track by guitarist Earl Hooker, Waters laid down an uncompromising "You Shook Me" in 1962 that was a step in the right direction. Drummer Casey Jones supplied some intriguing percussive effects on another 1962 workout, "You Need Love," which Led Zeppelin liked so much that they purloined it as their own creation later on.

In the wake of the folk-blues boom, Waters reverted to an acoustic format for a fine 1964 LP, Folk Singer, that found him receiving superb backing from guitarist Buddy Guy, Dixon on bass, and drummer Clifton James. In October, he ventured overseas again as part of the Lippmann- and Rau-promoted American Folk Blues Festival, sharing the bill with Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, Big Joe Williams, and Lonnie Johnson.
The personnel of the Waters band was much more fluid during the 1960s, but he always whipped them into first-rate shape. Guitarists Pee Wee Madison, Luther "Snake Boy" Johnson, and Sammy Lawhorn; harpists Mojo Buford and George Smith; bassists Jimmy Lee Morris and Calvin "Fuzz" Jones; and drummers Francis Clay and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (along with Spann, of course) all passed through the ranks.

In 1964, Waters cut a two-sided gem for Chess, "The Same Thing"/"You Can't Lose What You Never Had," that boasted a distinct 1950s feel in its sparse, reflexive approach. Most of his subsequent Chess catalog, though, is fairly forgettable. Worst of all were two horrific attempts to make him a psychedelic icon. 1968's Electric Mud forced Waters to ape his pupils via an unintentionally hilarious cover of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together." After the Rain was no improvement the following year.
Partially salvaging this barren period in his discography was the Fathers and Sons project, also done in 1969 for Chess, which paired Muddy Waters and Spann with local youngbloods Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield in a multi-generational celebration of legitimate Chicago blues.

After a period of steady touring worldwide but little standout recording activity, Waters' studio fortunes were resuscitated by another of his legion of disciples, guitarist Johnny Winter. Signed to Blue Sky, a Columbia subsidiary, Waters found himself during the making of the first LP, Hard Again; backed by pianist Pinetop Perkins, drummer Willie Smith, and guitarist Bob Margolin from his touring band, Cotton on harp, and Winter's slam-bang guitar, Waters roared like a lion who had just awoken from a long nap.
Three subsequent Blue Sky albums continued the heartwarming back-to-the-basics campaign. In 1980, his entire combo split to form the Legendary Blues Band; needless to note, he didn't have much trouble assembling another one (new members included pianist Lovie Lee, guitarist John Primer, and harpist Mojo Buford).
By the time of his death in 1983, Waters' exalted place in the history of blues (and 20th century popular music, for that matter) was eternally assured. The Chicago blues genre that he turned upside down during the years following World War II would never recover. AMG.
listen here

The Kinks - Everybody's In Show-Biz 1972

Everybody's in Show-Biz is a double album with one record devoted to stories from the road and another devoted to songs from the road. It could be labeled "the drunkest album ever made," without a trace of hyperbole, since this is a charmingly loose, rowdy, silly record. It comes through strongest on the live record, of course, as it's filled with Ray Davies' notoriously campy vaudevellian routine (dig the impromptu "Banana Boat Song" that leads into "Skin & Bone," or the rollicking "Baby Face"). Still, the live record is just a bonus, no matter how fun it is, since the travelogue of the first record is where the heart of Everybody's in Show-Biz lies. Davies views the road as monotony -- an endless stream of identical hotels, drunken sleep, anonymous towns, and really, really bad meals (at least three songs are about food, or have food metaphors). There's no sex on the album, at all, not even on Dave Davies' contribution, "You Don't Know My Name." Some of this is quite funny -- not just Ray's trademark wit, but musical jokes like the woozy beginning of "Unreal Reality" or the unbearably tongue-in-cheek "Look a Little on the Sunnyside" -- but there's a real sense of melancholy running throughout the record, most notably on the album's one unqualified masterpiece, "Celluloid Heroes." By the time it gets there, anyone that's not a hardcore fan may have turned it off. Why? Because this album is where Ray begins indulging his eccentricities, a move that only solidified the Kinks' status as a cult act. There are enough quirks to alienate even fans of their late-'60s masterpieces, but those very things make Everybody's in Show-Biz an easy album for those cultists to hold dear to their hearts. AMG.listen here

Them - The World of Them 1970

Them forged their hard-nosed R&B sound in Belfast, Northern Ireland, moving to England in 1964 after landing a deal with Decca Records. The band's simmering sound was dominated by boiling organ riffs, lean guitars, and the tough vocals of lead singer Van Morrison, whose recordings with Them rank among the very best performances of the British Invasion. Morrison also wrote top-notch original material for the outfit, whose lineup changed numerous times over the course of their brief existence. As a hit-making act, their résumé was brief -- "Here Comes the Night" and "Baby Please Don't Go" were Top Ten hits in England, "Mystic Eyes" and "Here Comes the Night" made the Top 40 in the U.S. -- but their influence was considerable, reaching bands like the Doors, whom Them played with during a residency in Los Angeles just before Van Morrison quit the band in 1966. Their most influential song of all, the classic three-chord stormer "Gloria," was actually a B-side, although the Shadows of Knight had a hit in the U.S. with a faithful, tamer cover version.
Morrison recalled his days with Them with some bitterness, noting that the heart of the original group was torn out by image-conscious record company politics, and that sessionmen (including Jimmy Page) often played on recordings. In addition to hits, Them released a couple of fine albums and several flop singles that mixed Morrison compositions with R&B and soul covers, as well as a few songs written for them by producers like Bert Berns (who penned "Here Comes the Night"). After Morrison left the group,Them splintered into the Belfast Gypsies, who released an album that (except for the vocals) approximated Them's early records, and a psychedelic outfit that kept the name Them, releasing four LPs with little resemblance to the tough sounds of their mid-'60s heyday. AMG, Thanks to RareMp3 listen here

Tim Hardin - Tim Hardin 2 (1967)

Tim Hardin 2 is probably his best single album, on which he eschewed blues nearly entirely and forged a distinctive folk-rock voice, occasionally embellished by tasteful full arrangements. "The Lady Came from Baltimore," "Red Balloon," and especially "If I Were a Carpenter" rank among his best and most famous songs. AMG.listen here

Dr John - The Sun, Moon, & Herbs 1971

Originally intended as a triple album, The Sun, Moon & Herbs was chopped up, whittled down and re-assembled into this single-disc release, and while Dr. John never liked this version much, perhaps the single disc is testament to the "less is more" theory. The seven cuts are all quite lengthy and the spells Dr. John and his consorts weave are dark and swampy. "Black John the Conqueror" comes from old Cajun folklore which the good Dr. has modernized and given a beat. The swampy "Craney Crow" is the younger sibling of his earlier "Walk On Guilded Splinters" and has a similar effect on the listener. "Pots on Fiyo (Fils Gumbo)" combines Latin American rhythms with lots of Cajun chants and spells. The vocals are nearly incomprehensible and actually serve as another instrument in the mix. "Zu Zu Mamou" is so thick that you can almost cut the music with a knife. Here, the atmosphere takes on a whole other meaning altogether. The Sun, Moon & Herbs is best listened to on a hot, muggy night with the sound of thunder rumbling off in the distance like jungle drums. Dr. John was definitely onto something here, but just what is left up to the listener. AMG.listen here

RE-POST: Tim Buckley - Goodbye and Hello 1967

Often cited as the ultimate Tim Buckley statement, Goodbye and Hello is indeed a fabulous album, but it's merely one side of Tim Buckley's enormous talent. Recorded in the middle of 1967 (in the afterglow ofSgt. Pepper), this album is clearly inspired by Pepper's exploratory spirit. More often than not, this helps to bring Buckley's awesome musical vision home, but occasionally falters. Not that the album is overrated (it's not), it's just that it is only one side of Buckley. The finest songs on the album were written by him alone, particularly "Once I Was" and "Pleasant Street." Buoyed by Jerry Yester's excellent production, these tracks are easily among the finest example of Buckley's psychedelic/folk vision. A few tracks, namely the title cut and "No Man Can Find the War," were co-written by poet Larry Beckett. While Beckett's lyrics are undoubtedly literate and evocative, they occasionally tend to be too heavy-handed for Buckley. However, this is a minor criticism of an excellent and revolutionary album that was a quantum leap for both Tim Buckley and the audience. AMG.listen here

The Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine 1967

Unlike the majority of bubblegum bands, the Lemon Pipers' albums are actually quite good, not least because they were one of the few bubblegum bands who were a proper band with their own songwriters (although outside writer/producers did provide the two hits, the inescapable "Green Tambourine" and the actually even better "Rice Is Nice," a sweet, harp-laden depiction of a wedding day). Even the album tracks are pretty groovy, like the Cat Stevens-like character sketches "Shoeshine Boy" and "The Shoemaker of Leatherwood Square," which effectively use trippy string sections and playful harmonies. The snottier folk-rock of "Ask Me if I Care" and the far-out "Fifty Year Void," to say nothing of the nine-minute freakout "Through With You," give Green Tambourine a harder edge than most bubblegum albums, though it's still closer to, say, the Cyrkle than Cream. Seek it out, bubblegum snobs: you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised. AMG.listen here

RE-POST: The Grateful Dead - The Grateful Dead 1967

The Grateful Dead's eponymously titled debut long-player was issued in mid-March of 1967. This gave rise to one immediate impediment -- the difficulty in attempting to encapsulate/recreate the Dead's often improvised musical magic onto a single LP. Unfortunately, the sterile environs of the recording studio disregards the subtle and often not-so-subtle ebbs and zeniths that are so evident within a live experience. So, while this studio recording ultimately fails in accurately exhibiting The Grateful Dead's tremendous range, it's a valiant attempt to corral the group's hydra-headed psychedelic jug-band music on vinyl. Under the technical direction of Dave Hassinger -- who had produced the Rolling Stones as well as the Jefferson Airplane -- the Dead recorded the album in Los Angeles during a Ritalin-fuelled "long weekend" in early 1967. Rather than prepare all new material for the recording sessions, a vast majority of the disc is comprised of titles that the band had worked into their concurrent performance repertoire. This accounts for the unusually high ratio (seven:two) of folk and blues standards to original compositions. The entire group took credit for the slightly saccharine "Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)," whileJerry Garcia (guitar/vocals) is credited for the noir garage-flavored raver "Cream Puff War." Interestingly, both tracks were featured as the respective A- and B-sides of the only 45 rpm single derived from this album. The curious aggregate of cover tunes featured on the Dead's initial outing also demonstrates the band's wide-ranging musical roots and influences. These include Pigpen's greasy harp-fuelled take on Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Little School Girl" and the minstrel one-man-band folk of Jessie "the Lone Cat" Fuller's "Beat It On Down the Line." The apocalyptic Cold War folk anthem "Morning Dew" (aka "[Walk Me Out in The] Morning Dew") is likewise given a full-bodied electric workout as is the obscure jug-band stomper "Viola Lee Blues." Fittingly, the Dead would continue to play well over half of these tracks in concert for the next 27 years. [Due to the time limitations inherent within the medium, the original release included severely edited performances of "Good Morning Little School Girl," "Sitting on Top of the World," "Cream Puff War," "Morning Dew," and "New, New Minglewood Blues." These tracks were restored in 2001, when the Dead's Warner Brothers catalog was reassessed for the Golden Road (1965-1973) box set.] AMG.listen here

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Fire & Fleet & Candlelight 1967

Fire & Fleet & Candlelight was ridiculously over-eclectic, so much so that it comes as a surprise when the 14 songs have finished to find that the total length of the album is a mere 37 minutes. That doesn't mean there's not some worthy material, but the arrangements and material are all over the place. Variety is a good thing, but only when the quality is extremely consistent, and this 1967 album is erratic. "The Seeds of Brotherhood" is so in line with the kind of utopian singalong common to the folk revival that it inadvertently sounds like a parody of itself. Yet songs with orchestral arrangement by Peter Schickele are entirely different, with "Summer Boy" and "The Carousel" going into the Baroque-folk that Judy Collins was mastering during the same era. Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" and "Song to a Seagull" both predate Mitchell's release of her own versions, and "The Circle Game" sounds like Sainte-Marie's shot at making it into a hit single, with more straightforward pop/rock production than anything else she cut at the time. "Song to a Seagull," by contrast, is quite close in arrangement and vocal delivery to the treatment Mitchell gave it on her 1968 debut album. Her interpretation of the traditional "Lyke Wake Dirge" verges on the creepy; her cover of Bascom Lamar Lunsford's "Doggett's Gap" goes way back to her earliest folk roots, complete with mouth-bow; "97 Men in This Here Town Would Give a Half a Grand in Silver Just to Follow Me Down" is her fling at good-timey rock. There are yet more cuts that catch you off-guard, like the French-language pop reworking of her "Until It's Time for You to Go"; "Reynardine -- A Vampire Legend," a traditional song with only vocals and mouth-bow; and "Hey, Little Bird," whose upbeat symphonic pop vaguely foreshadows her songs for Sesame Street. Though not without its rewards, on the whole it's an unnerving record. AMG.listen here

The Beatles - Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967

With Revolverthe Beatles made the Great Leap Forward, reaching a previously unheard-of level of sophistication and fearless experimentation. Sgt. Pepper, in many ways, refines that breakthrough, as the Beatles consciously synthesized such disparate influences as psychedelia, art-song, classical music, rock & roll, and music hall, often in the course of one song. Not once does the diversity seem forced -- the genius of the record is how the vaudevillian "When I'm 64" seems like a logical extension of "Within You Without You" and how it provides a gateway to the chiming guitars of "Lovely Rita." There's no discounting the individual contributions of each member or their producer, George Martin, but the preponderance of whimsy and self-conscious art gives the impression that Paul McCartney is the leader of the Lonely Hearts Club Band. He dominates the album in terms of compositions, setting the tone for the album with his unabashed melodicism and deviously clever arrangements. In comparison, Lennon's contributions seem fewer, and a couple of them are a little slight but his major statements are stunning. "With a Little Help From My Friends" is the ideal Ringo tune, a rolling, friendly pop song that hides genuine Lennon anguish, à la "Help!"; "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" remains one of the touchstones of British psychedelia; and he's the mastermind behind the bulk of "A Day in the Life," a haunting number that skillfully blends Lennon's verse and chorus with McCartney's bridge. It's possible to argue that there are better Beatles albums, yet no album is as historically important as this. After Sgt. Pepper, there were no rules to follow -- rock and pop bands could try anything, for better or worse. Ironically, few tried to achieve the sweeping, all-encompassing embrace of music as the Beatles did here. AMG.listen here

Donovan - Fairytale 1965

Donovan's second album found the Scottish folkie in possession of his own voice, a style of earnest, occasionally mystical musings indebted neither to Woody Guthrie nor Bob Dylan. True, Fairytale's highlights -- "Sunny Goodge Street," "Jersey Thursday," and "The Summer Day Reflection Song" -- use a sense of impressionism pioneered by Dylan, but Donovan flipped Dylan's weariness on its head. His persona is the wistful hippie poet, continually moving on down the road, but never bitter about the past. The folkie "Colours," already a hit before the album's release, is also here (though without Donovan's harmonica). A few of his songs are inconsequential and tossed-off ("Oh Deed I Do," "Circus of Sour"), but a few of these ("Candy Man" especially) succeed too, thanks to Donovan's effervescent delivery. AMG.listen here

quarta-feira, 27 de junho de 2012

The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers 1968

The recording sessions for the Byrds' fifth album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, were conducted in the midst of internal turmoil that found them reduced to a duo by the time the record was completed. That wasn't evident from listening to the results, which showed the group continuing to expand the parameters of their eclecticism while retaining their hallmark guitar jangle and harmonies. With assistance from producer Gary Usher, they took more chances in the studio, enhancing the spacy quality of tracks like "Natural Harmony" and Goffin & King's "Wasn't Born to Follow" with electronic phasing. Washes of Moog synthesizer formed the eerie backdrop for "Space Odyssey," and the songs were craftily and unobtrusively linked with segues and fades. But the Byrds did not bury the essential strengths of their tunes in effects: "Goin' Back" (also written by Goffin & King) was a magnificent and melodic cover with the expected tasteful 12-string guitar runs that should have been a big hit. "Tribal Gathering" has some of the band's most effervescent harmonies; "Draft Morning" is a subtle and effective reflection of the horrors of the Vietnam War; and "Old John Robertson" looks forward to the country-rock that would soon dominate their repertoire. [The CD reissue adds six bonus tracks, including different versions of "Goin' Back" and "Draft Morning," a few instrumentals, and David Crosby's controversial "Triad"; unlisted on the sleeve is a rehearsal outtake which captures comically vitriolic arguments among the band.] AMG. listen here

Moby Grape - Grape Jam 1968

One of the best '60s San Francisco bands, Moby Grape were also one of the most versatile. Although they are most often identified with the psychedelic scene, their specialty was combining all sorts of roots music -- folk, blues, country, and classic rock & roll -- with some Summer of Love vibes and multi-layered, triple-guitar arrangements. All of those elements only truly coalesced, however, for their 1967 debut LP. Although subsequent albums had more good moments than many listeners are aware of, a combination of personal problems and bad management effectively killed off the group by the end of the 1960s.
Many San Francisco bands of the era were assembled by recent immigrants to the area, but Moby Grape had even more tenuous roots in the region than most when they formed. Matthew Katz, who managed the Jefferson Airplane in their early days, helped put together Moby Grape around Skip Spence. Spence, a legendarily colorful Canadian native whose first instrument was the guitar, had played drums in the Airplane's first lineup at the instigation of Marty Balin. Spence left the Airplane after their first album, and reverted to his natural guitarist and songwriting role for the Grape (the Airplane had already recorded some of his compositions). Guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson were recruited from the Northwest bar band the Frantics; guitarist Peter Lewis had played in Southern California surf bands like the Cornells; and bassist Bob Mosley had also played with outfits from Southern California.
The group's relative unfamiliarity with each other may have sown seeds for their future problems, but they jelled surprisingly quickly, with all five members contributing more or less equally to the songwriting on their self-titled debut (1967). Moby Grape remains their signature statement, though the folk-rock and country-rock worked better than the boogies; "Omaha," "Sittin' by the Window," "Changes," and "Lazy Me" are some of their best songs. Columbia Records, though, damaged the band's credibility with over-hype, releasing no less than five singles from the LP simultaneously. Worse, three members of the group were caught consorting with underage girls. Though charges were eventually dropped, the legal hassles, combined with an increasingly strained relationship with manager Katz, sapped the band's drive.
Moby Grape's follow-up, the double-LP Wow, was one of the most disappointing records of the '60s, in light of the high expectations fostered by the debut. The studio half of the package had much more erratic songwriting than the first recording, and the group members didn't blend their instrumental and vocal skills nearly as well. The "bonus" disc was almost a total waste, consisting of bad jams. Spence departed while the album was being recorded in New York in 1968, as a result of a famous incident in which he entered the studio with a fire axe, apparently intending to use it on Stevenson. Committed to New York's Bellevue Hospital, he did re-emerge to record a wonderful acid folk solo album at the end of 1968, but that would be his only notable post-Grape project; he struggled with mental illness until he died in 1999.
Moby Grape '69
Another unexpected blow was dealt when Mosley, despite his membership in a band that emerged from the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic scene, joined the Marine Corps at the beginning of 1969. The band did struggle on and release a couple more albums during that year, and the best tracks from these (particularly the earlier one, Moby Grape '69) proved they could still deliver the goods, though usually in a more subdued, countrified fashion than their earliest material. The group broke up at the end of the '60s, although they would periodically reunite for nearly unheard albums over the next two decades, in lineups featuring varying original members. Their problems were exacerbated by Matthew Katz, who owns the Moby Grape name, and has sometimes prevented the original members from using the name when they worked together.  AMG. listen here

The Pentangle - The Pentangle 1968

There's something exciting about the first album of a band that goes on to greatness, and The Pentangle, by the group of the same name, is no different. Here, the listener witnesses the first studio work of a band struggling to get their essence down on vinyl. Of course Bert Jansch and John Renbourn's reputations as guitarists preceded the band, but the addition of bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox gave the band an acoustic rhythm section like no other folk-rock group. Singer Jacqui McShee became the last piece of this intricate English puzzle, delivering high, expressive vocals that contrasted and merged so well with Jansch's deeper pipes. The group doesn't hold back on their first outing. On "Hear My Call" McShee offers a dreamy vocal, floating high above the bluesy guitars. The soaring vocal and firmly grounded rhythm highlight one another, creating a carefully layered sound that is present in all of Pentangle's best music. This dynamic works equally well in "Pentangling," with McShee and Jansch's voices combining light and dark shadows to concoct a strangely atmospheric harmony. The rocking and rollicking "Way Behind the Sun" is another standout, and the instrumentals "Bells" and "Waltz" are complex and lively. The album's spacious arrangements take full advantage of stereo, mixing instruments to different tracks so that the listener, for instance, can always hear Jansch's guitar on one side and Renbourn's on the other. This group, it seems, had it all. Equally comfortable with traditional songs, instrumentals, and originals, they made few missteps on their early albums. Like Fairport Convention and the Incredible String Band, Pentangle specialized in updating British Isles' folk music. The Pentangle, re-released on CD in 2001 with seven bonus tracks, is a dazzling debut and a must-have for fans of English folk-rock. AMG. listen here

terça-feira, 26 de junho de 2012

Re-post: Strawberry Alarm Clock - Wake up..It's Tomorrow 1968

For their second album, Wake Up...It's TomorrowStrawberry Alarm Clock built upon the solid writing and musicianship that inevitably carried over from the Incense and Peppermints project. In retrospect, it is baffling as to why they were relegated to the "one-hit wonders" file, as their most social and musically relevant statements had yet to be made. Stylistically, the material on this album vacillates between the lighter and pop-oriented sides such as "Tomorrow" and the stunningly agile vocal arrangements on "Pretty Song from Psych-Out" to the exceedingly ominous "Curse of the Witches" and "Nightmare of Percussion." Howard Davis -- whose spoken word narration can be heard during the latter track -- arranged some stunning vocal charts for "Soft Skies, No Lies," "Go Back, You're Going the Wrong Way," and the "future" section of the "Black Butter" trilogy. They are reminiscent of the tight harmonies incorporated by Harpers Bizarre or the retro New Vaudeville Band. Conversely, "Sitting on a Star," "They Saw the Fat One Coming" (which refers to the infiltration of Roy Freeman, a lyricist hired by the band's management), and the first two movements in the "Black Butter" trilogy reflect the group's mod garage rock roots. Here the band projects a more primal sound akin to People or the Chocolate Watchband. AMG.listen here

Free - Tons Of Sobs 1968

Although Free was never destined to scrape the same skies as Led Zeppelin, when they first burst out of the traps in 1968, close to a year ahead of Jimmy Page and company, they set the world of British blues-rock firmly on its head, a blistering combination of youth, ambition, and, despite those tender years, experience that, across the course of their debut album, did indeed lay the groundwork for all thatZeppelin would embrace. That Free and Zeppelin were cut from the same cloth is immediately apparent, even before you start comparing the versions of "The Hunter" that highlight both bands' debut albums. Where Free streaks ahead, however, is in their refusal to compromise their own vision of the blues -- even at its most commercial ("I'm a Mover" and "Worry"), Tons of Sobs has a density that makesZeppelin and the rest of the era's rocky contemporaries sound like flyweights by comparison. The 2002 remaster of the album only amplifies the fledgling Free's achievements. With remastered sound that drives the record straight back to the studio master tapes, the sheer versatility of the players, and the unbridled imagination of producer Guy Stevens, rings crystal clear. Even without their visionary seer, however, Free impresses -- three bonus tracks drawn from period BBC sessions are as loose as they are dynamic, and certainly make a case for a full Free-at-the-Beeb type collection. Of the other bonuses, two offer alternate versions of familiar album tracks, while "Guy Stevens Jam" is reprised from the Songs of Yesterday box set to further illustrate the band's improvisational abilities. As if they needed it. AMG.listen here