terça-feira, 23 de junho de 2020

The Electric Prunes - Underground 1967

According to Electric Prunes members Jim Lowe and Mark Tulin, producer Dave Hassinger enjoyed enough success as a result of the group's early hit singles and their subsequent debut album that he was too busy to spend much time with them as they were recording the follow up, and that was arguably a good thing for the band. While Underground didn't feature any hit singles along the lines of "I Had to Much to Dream (Last Night)," it's a significantly more consistent work than the debut, and this time out the group was allowed to write five of the disc's twelve songs, allowing their musical voice to be heard with greater clarity. As on their first LP, the Electric Prunes' strongest asset was the guitar interplay of Jim LoweKen Williams and James "Weasel" Spagnola, and while they became a bit more restrained in their use of fuzztone, wah-wah and tremolo effects, there's a unity in their attack on Underground that's impressive, and the waves of sound on "Antique Doll," "Big City" and " "Children of Rain" reveal a new level creative maturity (though they could make with a wicked, rattling fuzz on "Dr. Do-Good"). If Underground ultimately isn't as memorable as the Electric Prunes' first album, it's a matter of material -- while the outside material that dominated the debut was sometimes ill-fitting, it also gave them some stone classic tunes like "I Had Too Much to Dream" and "Get Me to the World on Time," and the band themselves didn't have quite that level of songwriting chops, while the hired hands didn't deliver the same sort of material for Underground. Still, the album shows that the Electric Prunes had the talent to grow into something more mature and imaginative than their reputation suggested, and it's all the more unfortunate that the group's identity would be stripped from them for the next album released under their name, Mass in F Minor. AMG.

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Richard Wright - Wet Dream 1978

Following the release of the 1977 album Animals and its accompanying "In the Flesh" tour, Pink Floyd went on hiatus, having become popular enough to support solo albums by bandmembers who were inclined to make them. Guitarist David Gilmour and keyboard player Richard Wright were. For his album, Wright assembled some of the backing musicians who had been accompanying Pink Floyd for years, in particular reed player Mel Collins and guitarist Snowy White. So it was no surprise that the resulting record, Wet Dream, sounded like outtakes from Pink Floyd sessions. Wright's keyboards had always been a major element in the Pink Floyd sound, and his singing and songwriting had also been a big part of the group's music, despite the increasing domination of Roger Waters. On Wet Dream, he was interested in providing typically slow, contemplative, keyboard-based arrangements and singing (on about every other tune) in a becalmed, echoey voice of marital discord and escape. Wright's conflict with Waters shortly would lead to his being dismissed from Pink Floyd (and then, bizarrely, hired back as a sideman), and in a sense his release of Wet Dream could be seen as an attempt to step out on his own. But the material, while pleasant enough, seemed more like music he might have written to work on with Pink Floyd if he still had as much input into the group as he had had back around the time of Dark Side of the Moon, rather than like an independent solo statement. It was hard to imagine anyone but Pink Floyd fans wanting to listen to such an album, and as it turned out not even enough of them cared, since the album sold poorly. AMG.

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Bubble Puppy - A Gathering Of Promises 1969

damaged visionaries as the 13th Floor Elevatorsthe Red KrayolaLost & Found, and Electric Rubayyat, the Bubble Puppy seemed by comparison to be a beacon of semisanity -- a rather typical psychedelic band of the period who seemed more interested in having a good time and cranking up the amps than in reimagining the size and shape of the inner cosmos. But that's not to say they weren't a good psychedelic band -- the band's best known tune, "Hot Smoke and Sassafras," was a charging guitar-heavy rocker that deservedly became a hit single, and its flip side, "Loney," was nearly as good. Truth to tell, those two songs are the most interesting tracks on the Bubble Puppy's first album, A Gathering of Promises, but the rest of the material is certainly more than just filler -- softer tunes such as "It's Safe to Say" and the title cut show off the band's surprisingly strong harmonies and folk-rock influences, while the interlocking guitars of Todd Potter and Rod Prince drive "Beginning," "Hurry Sundown," and the epic "I've Got to Reach You." The Bubble Puppy could write and play like seasoned pros, and with the exception of "I've Got to Reach You" they had the sense to wrap up their tunes in three or four minutes, so that this album actually manages to end before it wears out its welcome. It's not exactly a work of life-changing genius, but A Gathering of Promises is still a noticeably stronger and better crafted album than most bands of their time and place were turning out, and if it had enjoyed wider distribution (and another song or two as good as the single) who knows where they could have ended up. [The 2004 reissue tacks on monophonic single mixes of "Hot Smoke and Sassafras," "Lonely," "Hurry Sundown," and "Beginning," as well as four songs from non-LP singles; the mono mixes certainly boast a lot more punch than the often eccentric stereo versions, and "Thinkin' About Thinkin'" is a thoroughly enjoyable slice of hook-heavy guitar mauling that should have made the cut for the LP.] AMG.

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The Moving Sidewalks - Flash 1968

The sole album by the Moving Sidewalks is as fascinating as it is unremarkable. As the birthing ground for legendary blues-rock guitarist Billy Gibbons, one would expect at least a taste of what would later make ZZ Top one of the best touring and recording bands on the planet; sadly, the album offers little in the way of revelation in its 15 tracks. Admittedly, at the time of ZZ Top's 1970 debut, Gibbons' transformation from a journeyman bandleader into a boogie-blues demigod was still not fully realized, but his chops were miles away from what is heard here. Part of that lies in the fact that ZZ Top was less about psychedelia than straight blues; whatever psychedelic touches made their way onto the studio albums were largely an accessory. (They would eventually fully integrate on 1979's Deguello.) The Moving Sidewalks, on the other hand, were psychedelic rockers whose songs hinted at the blues without fully diving in. The songs show little of Gibbons' future promise, and in fact are so thoroughly mediocre (both in writing and playing) that it's amazing to think he was only a few years away from international success. "Pluto-Sept. 31st" shows a clear Hendrix influence (the two guitarists openly admired each other), and as a bonus, Akarma's reissue includes five bonus singles that are some of the strongest material on the album, especially "Need Me," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and the legendary single "99th Floor." AMG.

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Harpers Bizarre - Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre 1968

Harpers Bizarre's third album continued their mildly eccentric soft rock direction, remaining as mildly eccentric ever, but growing ever softer. In truth, this skirts adult contemporary Muzak almost as it does anything that could be considered rock music, and is rather a dark day in the annals of sunshine pop. The covers are a motley assortment of largely pre-rock standards given ornate arrangements and the group's trademark high, measured harmonies. What call there was for remakes of "Battle of New Orleans" (a real low point), Bacharach-David's "Me, Japanese Boy," "Sentimental Journey," and the Gershwins' "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" by a pop band in 1968 is questionable. Anachronism wouldn't matter so much if the results weren't so damn prissy. Ted Templeman and Dick Scoppettone's few originals are a little less objectionable, but no more memorable. The melancholy "Bye, Bye, Bye" is about the best, segueing strangely into Randy Newman's "Vine Street." Several half-minute interludes connect the tracks to give it a suite-like feel and create the impression that the work is more important than it is. Beau Brummels fans might want to note the inclusion of a so-so good-time Ron Elliott composition, "I Love You, Mama," which Elliott also arranged (as he did two other tracks). The 2001 CD on Sundazed adds two bonus tracks, the 1968 non-LP single "Small Talk" (written by Bonner-Gordon of "Happy Together" fame) and a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now." AMG.

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Alice Coltrane - Transcendence 1977

Like her other recordings from the Warner Bros. period, Transcendence, is a late album created from various musical notions Alice Coltrane was exploring, rather than conceived as a whole as her Impulse material was. These eight tracks are all based in Indian themes. As such, the instrumentation varies widely across the album, ranging from Ms. Coltrane playing her harp with a string quartet on the stunningly beautiful "Radhe-Shyam" and the title track, to her playing organ and/or Fender Rhodes piano with large groups of Indian musicians (some of whom sing), such as on "Sivaya" or "Ghana Nila." The upshot is that the vision on display here is not so much a grand musical one as it is an intensely focused spiritual one, based upon a sacred Vedic text. As such, it makes for a challenging but thoroughly engaging listen, wherein moods, modes, ambiences, and densities are offered as meditative spaces for the listener -- check out the gentle yet blessed-out joy in "Vrindavana Sanchara," a solo track where Coltrane plays harp, tamboura, wind chimes, and a tambourine. As such it sets up the title track, which is more complex and more angular, yet still somehow has no edges, where the string quartet returns and creates a series of subtle modes where tonal expressions are held against and pulled through a cadence of minor and diminished seventh articulations built upon a harmonic figure of eights. The effect leaves dissonance as mere sense impression and offers instead a vertigo effect of moving deeper and deeper into something that cannot be identified. On "Ghana Nila," Coltrane and her Indian counterparts get downright funky in chanting the names of the Lord. Using a Fender Rhodes, Coltrane creates a Southern gospel groove with Eastern modalities, and she and a chorus begin chanting in a cadence that suggests a Pentecostal Church meeting the Krishna dharma. This track -- and the others that feature this lineup -- keeps the experience of the transcendent rooted in common communal experience, as if singing and playing to God with a shimmering, funky groove for accompaniment it were the most natural thing in the world. Ever-forward, brave, and truly visionary, Transcendence is another chapter in a body of work by Ms. Coltrane that was not generally understood until the 21st century, where it received the acclaim it so richly deserved. as time passes, it may actually be instructive to a new generation of musicians and listeners -- a love supreme indeed. AMG.

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The 13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds The 13th Floor Elevators 1966

Did the 13th Floor Elevators invent psychedelic rock? Aficionados will be debating that point for decades, but if Roky Erickson and his fellow travelers into inner space weren't there first, they were certainly close to the front of the line, and there are few albums from the early stages of the psych movement that sound as distinctively trippy -- and remain as pleasing -- as the group's groundbreaking debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. In 1966, psychedelia hadn't been around long enough for its clichés to be set in stone, and Psychedelic Sounds thankfully avoids most of them; while the sensuous twists of the melodies and the charming psychobabble of the lyrics make it sound like these folks were indulging in something stronger than Pearl Beer, at this point the Elevators sounded like a smarter-than-average folk-rock band with a truly uncommon level of intensity. Roky Erickson's vocals are strong and compelling throughout, whether he's wailing like some lysergic James Brown or murmuring quietly, and Stacy Sutherland's guitar leads -- long on melodic invention without a lot of pointless heroics -- are a real treat to hear. And nobody played electric jug quite like Tommy Hall...actually, nobody played it at all besides him, but his oddball noises gave the band a truly unique sonic texture. If you want to argue that psychedelia was as much a frame of mind as a musical style, it's instructive to compare the recording of "You're Gonna Miss Me" by Erickson's earlier band, the Spades, to the version on this album -- the difference is more attitudinal than anything else, but it's enough to make all the difference in the world. (The division is even clearer between the Spades' "We Sell Soul" and the rewrite on Psychedelic Sounds, "Don't Fall Down"). The 13th Floor Elevators were trailblazers in the psychedelic rock scene, and in time they'd pay a heavy price for exploring the outer edges of musical and psychological possibility, but along the way they left behind a few fine albums, and The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators remains a potent delight. AMG.

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Dave Evans - Take A Bite Out Of Life 1976

The British guitarist Dave Evans, a real dazzler of a fingerpicking, has been recording since the early '70s. His first entirely instrumental album was released in 1974. Entitled Sad Pig Dance, it might have attracted only farmers and policemen's ball attendees, but nonetheless managed to do a great deal to set up Evans' reputation in a somewhat crowded genre. This player's compositions, particularly his harmonic frameworks, are quite different than better-known players such as John Renbourn or Bert Jansch; he sometimes sounds as if he is playing all of their guitars at once. What he is actually playing is a guitar he built himself, so any and all compliments for this unmistakably cavernous sound should go to Evans himself.
His great instrumental talents -- including techniques involving alternate tunings and percussion-like sound effects -- have continued to be an obsession among guitarists from the new age crowd to free improv noise guitar deviates; this fact tends to overshadow Evans' work as a singer/songwriter. It was in this mode that he first presented himself to the listening public on the 1971 album entitled The Words in Between. It has been correctly pointed out by several critics that those were the days when a songwriter armed with a guitar was expected to really be able to play, not just to be a strum and humbum. It was Evans' picking, not his singing, that attracted fellow guitarist and record label manager Stefan Grossman who, in the late '70s, began documenting a variety of guitarists including Evans on the Kicking Mule label. Most of Evans' best music from the '70s has been reissued. AMG.

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quarta-feira, 10 de junho de 2020

A Fleeting Glance - A Fleeting Glance 1970

Record Collector recently listed the record at £2700 stating "Only two copies of this 1970 UK private pressing are known to exist. The album harnesses heavy rock, kosmische, folk and jazz to regale the tempestuous tale of a shadowy woman from birth to death. There's even a rumored cameo performance from Billy Fury.".

One of the most astonishing British private pressing rarities, only two copies have surfaced of this 1970 concept album. Telling the story of a woman's life from her own conception to giving birth, the LP was put together by a variety of musicians at a social club, and allegedly includes an uncredited appearance by Billy Fury. Linked by narration and sound effects, the music runs the gamut from heavy space-rock jamming (including a snatch of 'Interstellar Overdrive') to folk-rock (an acoustic cover of 'Light My Fire' & a stunning version of 'Watch The Stars') avant-garde choirs, krautrock-styled interludes and even trad jazz. The result is among the trippiest albums I have ever heard, comparable only to Jumble Lane in terms of eccentricity, although the music is infinitely better, with a strong Pink Floyd spacy edge. Indeed, had Syd Barrett remained with the Floyd, one could well imagine 'Dark Side of The Moon' might have sounded thus.". DailyMotion.

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Isaac Hayes - ..To Be Continued 1970

Released in late 1970 on the heels of two chart-topping albums, Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and The Isaac Hayes Movement (also 1970), Isaac Hayes and the Bar-Kays retain their successful approach on those landmark albums for To Be Continued, another number one album. Again, the album features four songs that span far beyond traditional radio-friendly length, featuring important mood-establishing instrumental segments just as emotive and striking as Hayes' crooning. Nothing here is quite as perfect as "Walk on By," and the album feels a bit churned out, but To Be Continued no doubt has its share of highlights, the most notable being "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." The album's most epic moment opens with light strings and horns, vamping poetically for several minutes before Hayes even utters a breath; then, once the singer delivers the song's orchestral chorus, the album hits its sentimental peak -- Hayes elevating a common standard to heavenly heights once again. Elsewhere, "Our Day Will Come" features a nice concluding instrumental segment driven by a proto-hip-hop beat that proves just how ahead of his time Hayes was during his early-'70s cycle of Enterprise albums. It's tempting to slight this album when holding it up against Hayes' best albums from this same era, but a comparison such as this is unfair. Even if Ike isn't doing anything here that he didn't do on his two preceding albums -- Hot Buttered SoulThe Isaac Hayes Movement -- and isn't quite as daring as he is on his two successive albums -- Black MosesShaft -- To Be Continued still topples any Hayes album that came after 1971. It didn't top the R&B album chart for 11 weeks on accident -- this is quintessential early-'70s Isaac Hayes, and that alone makes it a classic soul album. AMG.

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Harvest Flight - One Way 1970

Albums that used the trappings of counterculture rock in service of lyrics about Jesus and Christianity weren't yet too numerous when this early example appeared in 1971. As music, it's unremarkable, dipping into a generically laid-back early-'70s California rock sound. As for the lyrical message, as is common in albums advocating faith-based beliefs, it's usually blatant, sometimes heavy-handedly and repetitiously so. Unlike some rock (and other music) motivated by Christian religion, it's unlikely anyone's going to get more than a few minutes into this without realizing that it's something of a mouthpiece for Jesus worship, particularly when the chorus of "One in the Spirit" repeats, over and over, "And they'll know we are Christians, and they'll know we are Christians, and they'll know we are Christians, by our love." Yes, we know you're Christians. How could we not after a song like that? That wouldn't be so much of a problem if the music were good, but it isn't, with its lukewarm melodies, adequate harmonized folk-rock-ish singing, and enough touches of then-contemporary rock instrumentation -- some swelling organ here, a dab of fuzz guitar there, a bit of country-rock -- to make it seem not too out of touch with what was going on in the secular world. AMG.

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Big Brother Feat. Ernie Joseph - Confusion 1970

Under his given name Ernie Orosco, frontman/singer/guitarist Joseph had previously played with a number of Santa Barbara, California-based acts including Ernie and the Emporers and Ernie's Funnys. He'd also recorded a pair of interesting late-'60s albums as a member of Giant Crab (see separate entries). Following the breakup of Giant Crab, Orosco/Joseph apparently relocated to Los Angeles, where he formed Big Brother (not to be confused with Janis Joplin's original outfit). Backed by guitarist Cory Colt, drummer Steve Dunwoodle (aka Steve D. and multi-instrumentalist brother Ruben (aka Ruben the Jet), the quartet attracted the attention of the small All American label.

Produced by Bill Holmes who'd handled production for the two earlier Giant Crab LPs, 1970's "Confusion" came as a major change in direction to anyone familiar with Orosco/Joseph's earlier pop/lite-psych moves. With all four members received writing credits, material such as 'Heart Full of Rain', 'L.L.A. (Lubricated Love Affair)' and the bluesy 'Heavy Load' offered up a set of Hendrix-styled guitar pyrotechnics.

Elsewhere, the heavily phased 'E.S.P.' (sounding like a strange reworking of The Pretty Thing's 'L.S.D.') was actually a reworking of Giant Crab's final single. Given the abundance of guitar rockers, at least to our ears, the standout track was the atypical ballad 'Wake Up In The Morning'. Sweet and sincere, its a beautiful effort. Sure, it ain't the most original LP you'll hear this year and parts of the percussion-heavy closing suite 'Gravus Delictum (Unforgiveable Sin)' drag, but the performances were enthusiastic and its an album I play on a regular basis. (Courtesy of Dan McClean, the LP also sports a great black and silver period piece cover). badcatrecords.com/

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After Tea - After Tea 1969

After Tea was a Dutch flower power band formed in the Hague in 1967 by Hans van Eijck (keyboards, guitar, vocals), U.K. native Ray Fenwick (guitar, vocals), Rob "Polle" Edward (bass, organ, vocals), and Martin Hage (drums). Their first hit was "Not Just a Flower in Your Hair," and they carried on, despite personnel changes, until the early '70s. AMG.

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terça-feira, 2 de junho de 2020

Elephant's Memory - Songs From Midnight Cowboy 1969

After original vocalist Carly Simon left Elephant's Memory for her own fame and fortune, the band recorded their self-titled Buddah debut, Elephant's Memory, with Michal Shapiro handling the female lead. That disc is not their John Lennon/Yoko Ono/David Peel Apple Records debut from 1972, which was also named after this ensemble. When two Elephant's Memory songs from the 1969 Buddah Records album appeared in the Capitol Records soundtrack to the film Midnight Cowboy, Buddah vice president Neil Bogart revamped and re-released the original LP, most likely and understandably, to cash in on the attention the band was getting from the hit film. "Old Man Willow" and "Jungle Gym at the Zoo" from the first LP appeared in Midnight Cowboy, and they show up again on side one of this disc along with a different spin on the Nilsson hit "Everybody's Talkin'." Here Michal Shapiro gives a woman's take on the classic Fred Neil composition over a poppy/folksy Wes Farrell production. There's a strange instrumental version of John Barry's theme to "Midnight Cowboy," jazzy rock with a female vocal, most likely Michal, adding a nice eerie resonance to the spirited and jumpy rendition, a far cry from the version that contained Vinny Bell's elegant guitar, the Top Ten hit for Ferrante & Teicher in 1969. The two new titles as well as the Elephant's Memory material from the movie make up side one. Side two contains seven more titles from the first LP, including the singles that were released from that disc, "Crossroads of the Stepping Stones" and "Don't Put Me on Trial," two excellent slices of '60s pop. Over 40 minutes of music graces Songs From Midnight Cowboy Plus Their Hit Singles, the two new titles plus everything from the Buddah debut minus the songs "Band of Love" and "Hot Dog Man" (which was the flip of the 45 rpm "Jungle Gym at the Zoo"). The album could have been even more interesting had their 45 rpm "Keep Free, Pts. 1 & 2" from November 1968 found its way onboard rather than the reissue of "Yogurt Song," a composition from keyboardist Richard Sussman and drummer Rick Frank which sounds like a Frank Zappa nightmare. Other than that, the album actually is quite consistent and is lots of fun. Later releases Take It to the Streets and Angels Forever don't have the pop meets psychedelia underground feel of this neo-bubblegum period piece. AMG.

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Gary Burton Quartet wirh Carla Bley - A Genuine Tong Funeral 1967

One of vibraphonist Gary Burton's most intriguing recordings, A Genuine Tong Funeral (Carla Bley's suite which musically depicts attitudes toward death) was called by its composer a "Dark Opera Without Words." Burton's classic Quartet (which also includes guitarist Larry Coryell, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bob Moses) is augmented by six notable all-stars: soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, trumpeter Mike MantlerGato Barbieri on tenor, trombonist Jimmy KnepperHoward Johnson on tuba and baritone and Bley herself on piano and organ. The music is dramatic, occasionally a little humorous, and a superb showcase for Gary Burton's vibes. AMG.

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Dick Heckstall-Smith - A Story Ended 1972

Rather than a story ended, Dick Heckstall-Smith's debut album was in some ways a continuation of the stories written by his previous bands Colosseum and the Graham Bond Organisation. For the record was recorded with the assistance of several of his past associates from those two groundbreaking British blues-rock-jazz groups, including Mark ClarkeDave GreensladeChris Farlowe, and Jon Hiseman (who both played drums and produced) of the just-disbanded Colosseum, as well as Graham BondPete Brown, who'd worked with several of the musicians who sprang from the Graham Bond Organisation crowd, co-wrote most of the songs with Heckstall-SmithChris Spedding and famed Elton John sideman Caleb Quaye contributed guitar. As often happens on solo projects stuffed with contributions by famous friends, however, the album was something of a disappointment in comparison to the leader's respectable track record. It sounds like a slightly heavier, slightly jazzier Colosseum, with songs that strain and tumble over themselves where the best Colosseum tracks had a powerful glide. Vocals were never Colosseum's strong suit, but the singing here, particularly on those tracks paced by Farlowe's blustery bellow, really drags the lyrically ambitious (and at times convoluted) material down. It might have been better to have had Pete Brown himself sing on those numbers he co-composed, as he was capable of projecting a real sense of his lyrics in spite of his vocal limitations. Instead we're left with a confused-sounding (and at times grating) set that doesn't add up to the sum of the individual talents, though in the most melodic and laid-back number ("What the Morning Was After"), you get a hint of the kind of moody songs that Brown helped craft for Jack Bruce's early solo recordings. AMG.

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