sábado, 30 de janeiro de 2021

Blonde On Blonde - Contrasts 1969

Blonde on Blonde's 1969 album is from the period when progressive rock, or more so pop, was new and fresh. Years before the likes of Emerson, Lake & PalmerYes, and Genesis made the genre a dirty word and punk evolved in order to destroy it, Blonde on Blonde were taking their pop and psychedelic roots that little bit further. Progressive, in the sense that the term was originally conceived: a new catchall name to describe the emerging form of music that arose from Sgt. Pepper, filled the Middle Earth Club, and by 1969, was increasingly getting more diverse than the quaint psychedelic form from which it was spurned. Blonde on Blonde had the then contemporary match of folky vocals (which could easily turn it up a gear into rock territory), fuzz guitar leads galore, and some interesting material, which veered from an almost cinematic version of "Eleanor Rigby" to the post-mod (think U.S. garage meets the Small Faces) snotty strut of "Conversationally Making the Grade," the archetypal heavy rock jam "Ride With Captain Max," and the slightly old-styled ballad "Goodbye." Of course, more dynamic musical interplay crept into the fold: classical-intoned aspirations, acoustic folk, ornate pop, and full-on rock. Contrasts is indeed an album that is characteristic of the music that was being bandied around the music press in 1969 as progressive, not the preposterous entity that it became. AMG.

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Hapshash And The Coloured Coat - Western Flier 1969

Hapshash & the Coloured Coat's second and final album was a much more conventional and organized affair than the relatively anarchic, free-form (read songless) structure of their debut. Because of that, some listeners might be inclined to dismiss it as a sellout of sorts. Most listeners, however, will find it far easier to bear than its predecessor, even if it does sound more like a collection of tracks by a few different bands rather than a unified work. That doesn't mean, however, that it's a psychedelic album of note. In fact, it's kind of second-rate and boring, handicapped by rambling, repetitive songs in a mild hard rock British psychedelic end-of-the-'60s style, often handicapped by artlessly strained vocals. Much of the record's filled with stormily discordant blends of rock with Cajun, old-time folk, and ragtime music that sound as if they were arranged and recorded on the spot. In better news, "Chicken Run" isn't bad doom-clouded psychedelia (other than those terrible lead vocals), with some really weird haunting female chants in the background. And you should try to get that on a compilation tape instead of laying out full dollar for this cacophonous, messy relic of the psychedelic age. AMG.

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Bunky And Jake - L.A.M.F. 1969

Andrea "Bunky" Skinner and Allan "Jake" Jacobs met in 1962 at the school of Visual Arts in New York and became part of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the era. In 1965 Jake joined the folk-rock band the Magicians, with Garry BonnerAlan Gordon, and John Townley. When that band broke up in 1967, he resumed his association with Bunky, signed with Mercury Records, and released the duo's 1968 debut album, Bunky & Jake, followed a year later by the cult classic LAMF. In 2004, the duo returned to recording with a children's album, Oo-Wee Little Children, released on their own B&J Music. AMG.

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domingo, 24 de janeiro de 2021

Neil Young - On The Beach 1974

Following the 1973 Time Fades Away tour, Neil Young wrote and recorded an Irish wake of a record called Tonight's the Night and went on the road drunkenly playing its songs to uncomprehending listeners and hostile reviewers. Reprise rejected the record, and Young went right back and made On the Beach, which shares some of the ragged style of its two predecessors. But where Time was embattled and Tonight mournful, On the Beach was savage and, ultimately, triumphant. "I'm a vampire, babe," Young sang, and he proceeded to take bites out of various subjects: threatening the lives of the stars who lived in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon ("Revolution Blues"); answering back to Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose "Sweet Home Alabama" had taken him to task for his criticisms of the South in "Southern Man" and "Alabama" ("Walk On"); and rejecting the critics ("Ambulance Blues"). But the barbs were mixed with humor and even affection, as Young seemed to be emerging from the grief and self-abuse that had plagued him for two years. But the album was so spare and under-produced, its lyrics so harrowing, that it was easy to miss Young's conclusion: he was saying goodbye to despair, not being overwhelmed by it. AMG.

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Delaney & Bonnie - Home 1969

Delaney & Bonnie's brand of soul-rock was firmly in place by the time of this 1969 album, the only one they recorded for Stax. Their following albums would gain greater exposure, but there's not much difference between this record and those subsequent efforts, except perhaps that this is more soul-oriented and less rock-oriented. That's not too surprising considering that members of Booker T. & the MG's are playing on most of the cuts, though a few were done in Hollywood with Leon Russell on keyboards and Carl Radle on bass. The material was a mixture of original songs and compositions from top Stax writers such as Steve CropperIsaac Hayes, and David Porter, though generally the songs weren't as grittily powerful or memorably hook-laden at the best stuff to come out of Stax in the late '60s. The cover of "Piece of My Heart" was bound to pass relatively unnoticed in the wake of Janis Joplin's wrenching hit cover of the song (with Big Brother & the Holding Company), and "Hard to Say Goodbye" seems like an attempt to push their sound in a slightly poppier direction, though not at all a bad one. AMG.

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Free Will - Cold Cold Morning 1969

Free Will was a legendary band from Upstate New York who formed in 1968 and signed to RCA Records in 1971 after a name change to Jukin' Bone. Led by vocalist Joe Whiting and lead guitarist Mark Doyle, the band also featured George Egosarian on the second guitar, John DeMaso on bass, and Tom Glaister on drums. This was the line-up that recorded their first album for RCA, Whiskey Woman,' although earlier members included Bill Irvin on rhythm guitar and Barry Maturevitz on bass. By the time of their second lp, Way Down East,' Tom Glaister had been replaced on drums by two drummers, Danny Coward and Kevin Shwaryk.

Both albums featured original compositions by Whiting, Doyle, and Egosarian in various combinations, and were hailed by Creem magazine as seminal classics of 70's hard rock. While signed to RCA, the band toured with ZZ Top, Freddie King, The Allman Brothers, The Kinks, John Mayall, and Three Dog Night, among others. They disbanded acrimoniously in 1973, although Doyle and Whiting went on to record several fine albums on the Blue Wave label.

That should have been the end of the story, but the band was honored at the Syracuse Area Music Awards in 1993, resulting in them playing together for the first time in 25 years. Never fond of the name that their record company gave them (and all the attendant misery that it grew to represent for them), the boys reclaimed their original name, Free Will, and gathered together every few years to do major outdoor concerts in Syracuse, even putting out a live CD, Free Will Live On Stage' that captured the band playing all of its classic material at the top of their form.

Most recently, Jukin' Bone was inducted into the SAMMY'S Hall of Fame in 2017 and have started work on their first new album of original material in 44 years. The band has also signed an exclusive licensing deal with Akarma Records in Italy for the release on high-quality vinyl and digital downloads of five albums' worth of early Free Will titles.

What transpires from this album, besides the psychedelic blues with a touch of jazz and sometimes a component of garage (for example the fantastic arrangement of River Deep, Mountain High') is the great technical preparation of the music performers. Listening to these songs today it's hard to believe that they've been recorded in 1969 and what's even more surprising, in addition to the guitar strings and the beautiful singers' voice, is that the arrangements of the songs are perfectly fused into that genre of heavy psychedelia that was all the rage in those years. Maybe Free Will was too ahead of its times. Deejay.de

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Patti Smith Group - Easter 1978

Patti Smith came back from the year-and-a-half break caused by her fall from a stage in January 1977 without having resolved the art-versus-commerce argument that had marred her second album, Radio Ethiopia. In fact, that argument was in some ways the theme of her third. Easter, produced by Bruce Springsteen associate Jimmy Iovine, was Smith's most commercial-sounding effort yet and, due to the inclusion of Springsteen's "Because the Night" (with Smith's revised lyrics), a Top Ten hit, it became her biggest seller, staying in the charts more than five months and getting into the Top 20 LPs. But Smith hadn't so much sold out as she had learned to use her poetic gifts within an album rock context. Certainly, a song that proclaimed, "Love is an angel disguised as lust/Here in our bed until the morning comes," was pushing the limits of pop radio, and on "Babelogue," Smith returned to her days of declaiming poetry on New York's Lower East Side. That rant (significantly ending, "I have not sold my soul to God") led into the provocative "Rock n Roll Nigger," a charged rocker with a chorus that went, "Outside of society/Is where I want to be." Smith made the theme from the '60s British rock movie Privilege her own and even got into the U.K. charts with it. And on songs like "25th Floor," IovineSmith, and her group were able to accommodate both the urge to rock out and the need to expound. So, Easter turned out to be the best compromise Smith achieved between her artistic and commercial aspirations. AMG.

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The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds 1966

The best Beach Boys album, and one of the best of the 1960s. The group here reached a whole new level in terms of both composition and production, layering tracks upon tracks of vocals and instruments to create a richly symphonic sound. Conventional keyboards and guitars were combined with exotic touches of orchestrated strings, bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, Theremin, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coca-Cola cans, barking dogs, and more. It wouldn't have been a classic without great songs, and this has some of the group's most stunning melodies, as well as lyrical themes which evoke both the intensity of newly born love affairs and the disappointment of failed romance (add in some general statements about loss of innocence and modern-day confusion as well). The spiritual quality of the material is enhanced by some of the most gorgeous upper-register male vocals (especially by Brian and Carl Wilson) ever heard on a rock record. "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows," "Caroline No," and "Sloop John B" (the last of which wasn't originally intended to go on the album) are the well-known hits, but equally worthy are such cuts as "You Still Believe in Me," "Don't Talk," "I Know There's an Answer," and "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times." It's often said that this is more of a Brian Wilson album than a Beach Boys recording (session musicians played most of the parts), but it should be noted that the harmonies are pure Beach Boys (and some of their best). Massively influential upon its release (although it was a relatively low seller compared to their previous LPs), it immediately vaulted the band into the top level of rock innovators among the intelligentsia, especially in Britain, where it was a much bigger hit. AMG.

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The Human Instinct - Burning Up Years 1969

 

The Human Instinct have a cult reputation as one of New Zealand's finest bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s. After hearing their debut, one's tempted to say that the cult has survived in large part because so few people have heard them. For the most part it's wanky period blues-rock, heavily Hendrix- and (to a lesser extent) Cream-influenced. The guitar work (by Billy TK) is skilled and overlong, and the seven songs -- four by non-band member Jesse Harper -- are usually ho-hum heavy rock. Harper gets the writing credit for "I Think I'll Go Back Home," but it sure sounds a heck of a lot like Neil Young's "Everybody Knows this Is Nowhere." The most interesting number is the closing title track, which gives Billy TK a chance to freak out on guitar, but even that goes on way too long. AMG.

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Ronnie Wood - Now Look 1975

Now LookRon Wood's second solo album, was a tighter affair than his debut, yet it lost none of its predecessor's off-the-cuff charm, thanks to convincing, ragged covers of Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain" and "I Got Lost When I Found You," which was written by the album's producer, Bobby Womack. AMG.

The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour 1967

The U.S. version of the soundtrack for the Beatles' ill-fated British television special embellished the six songs that were found on the British Magical Mystery Tour double EP with five other cuts from their 1967 singles. The psychedelic sound is very much in the vein of Sgt. Pepper's, and even spacier in parts (especially the sound collages of "I Am the Walrus"). Unlike Sgt. Pepper's, there's no vague overall conceptual/thematic unity to the material, which has made Magical Mystery Tour suffer slightly in comparison. Still, the music is mostly great, and "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "All You Need Is Love," and "Hello Goodbye" were all huge, glorious, and innovative singles. The ballad "The Fool on the Hill," though only a part of the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack, is also one of the most popular Beatles tunes from the era. AMG.

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George Benson - Breezin' 1976

All of a sudden, George Benson became a pop superstar with this album, thanks to its least representative track. Most of Breezin' is a softer-focused variation of Benson's R&B/jazz-flavored CTI work, his guitar as assured and fluid as ever with Claus Ogerman providing the suave orchestral backdrops and his crack then-working band (including Ronnie Foster on keyboards and sparkplug Phil Upchurch on rhythm guitar) pumping up the funk element. Yet it is the sole vocal track (his first in many years), Leon Russell's "This Masquerade" -- where George unveiled his new trademark, scatting along with a single-string guitar solo -- that reached number ten on the pop singles chart and drove the album all the way to number one on the pop (!) LP chart. The attractive title track also became a minor hit single, although Gabor Szabo's 1971 recording with composer Bobby Womack is even more fetching. In the greater scheme of Benson's career, Breezin' is really not so much a breakthrough as it is a transition album; the guitar is still the core of his identity. AMG.

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quinta-feira, 21 de janeiro de 2021

Traffic - Last Exit 1969

Since Traffic originally planned its self-titled second album as a double LP, the group had extra material left over, some of which saw release before the end of 1968 (there was a new, one-off single released in December, "Medicated Goo"/"Shanghai Noodle Factory"). In January 1969, Steve Winwood announced the group's breakup. That left Island Records, the band's label, in the lurch, since Traffic had built up a considerable following. As far as Island was concerned, it was no time to stop, and the label quickly set about assembling a new album. The non-LP B-side "Withering Tree," "Medicated Goo," and "Shanghai Noodle Factory" were pressed into service, along with "Just for You," the B-side of a solo single by on-again, off-again member Dave Mason that had been released originally in February 1968 and happened to feature the rest of the members of Traffic as sidemen; a short, previously unreleased instrumental; and two extended jams on cover songs from a 1968 live appearance at the Fillmore West. It all added up to more than half an hour of music, and that was enough to package it as the posthumous Traffic album Last Exit. Actually, Last Exit isn't bad as profit-taking products go. "Just for You" is one of Mason's elegant folk-pop songs, including attractive Indian percussion. "Medicated Goo" has proven to be one of Traffic's more memorable jam tunes, despite its nonsense lyrics, and the equally appealing "Shanghai Noodle Factory" is hard not to interpret as Winwood's explanation of the band's split. And while the cover material seems unlikely, the songs are used as platforms for the band to jam cohesively. So, Traffic's third album, though at the time of its release to be the final one, has its isolated pleasures, even if it doesn't measure up to its two predecessors. AMG.

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Johnnie Taylor - The Johnnie Taylor Philosophy Continues 1969

Johnnie Taylor Philosophy Continues shows the former Soul Stirrers' versatility, but a mediocre effort overall for Johnnie. Producer Don Davis' attempt to widen Taylor's appeal resulted in an album of watered-down Southern soul. Fans didn't expect Taylor-ized versions of "Love Is a Hurting Thing," "Who Can I Turn To," or "Games People Play," nor were they appreciated. He charted with "I Could Never Be President," but the song's appeal escapes some, even though David Ruffin redid it on his Doin' His Thing album. "Love Bones" and "It's Amazing" are the best soul offerings, but "I Had a Fight with Love" and "Separation Line" are mundane and formulaic. Taylor's rendition of Parliament's "I Wanna Testify" made an impact on the charts, and is interesting, but his voice was worthy of better. Everybody and their mama must have recorded "It's Your Thing," but none seem to be able to touch the Isleys' stomping original. AMG.

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Jimmy Curtiss - Life 1969

Singer/songwriter Jimmy Curtiss is one of the more interesting footnotes in the history of rock & roll -- the rare would-be teen idol who actually wrote his own material (and did so admirably), he later expanded his reach into psychedelia and harmony-laden folk-rock, but while the subject of a small cult following, none of his records ever made a commercial dent. Born and raised in Queens, New York, Curtiss first surfaced in 1959 as a member of the doo-wop combo the Enjays. He issued his solo debut, "Without You," on United Artists in 1961 -- the label attempted to position him as a teen crooner in the mold of Bobby Vee or Paul Anka, although original and distinctive efforts like 1962's "Five Smooth Stones" (a pop retelling of the David and Goliath story) have not surprisingly failed to make a commercial impact. Stripped of his record contract, Curtiss sold songs to Bobby Darin and Ellie Greenwich, and even worked for a time in advertising -- he returned to music full-time in 1965, assembling a doo-wop backing group dubbed the Regents and signing to Laurie Records to issue "Not for You." "The Girl From the Land of 1,000 Dances" followed later that same year, but then Curtiss again disappeared from sight -- he returned in 1967 with the bubblegum cult classic "Psychedelic Situation," a major hit in Germany that attracted little attention at home. Curtiss then signed to Decca, collaborating with producers Jerry Vance and Terry Phillips on a studio group called the Hobbits -- despite borrowing their name from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels and titling their 1967 debut Down to Middle Earththe Hobbits turned out relatively straightforward sunshine pop, and the album is much sought after by soft-psych aficionados. Only Curtiss remained from the original lineup by the time of the 1968 follow-up, Men and Doors: The Hobbits Communicate -- like its predecessor, the record didn't sell, and Decca terminated the contract. Curtiss then formed his own label and production company, both dubbed Perception; in addition to working with acts including the Lost Souls ("Artificial Rose"), the Sweet Bippies ("Love, Anyway You Want It"), and the Changing Colours ("Da-Da-Da-Da"), he also helmed an LP and three singles by the psychedelic soul act the Bag, members of which reportedly worked on the Hobbits project as well. Speaking of which, after rechristening the group the New HobbitsCurtiss released 1969's Back From Middle Earth essentially a solo effort -- later that year, he also issued an official solo LP, Life. While his own material continued to flounder commercially, Perception actually managed a few hit LPs, most notably King Harvest's 1973 effort Dancing in the Moonlight, which generated the smash title cut. However, a year later Curtiss returned to advertising, subsequently creating a television campaign for Bumble Bee brand tuna fish. According to the liner notes in the second volume of the Soft Sounds for Gentle People series, he eventually ended up in San Francisco, going solely by the initials J.C. -- his current activities and whereabouts are unknown. AMG. Thanks to Rockasteria. 

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terça-feira, 12 de janeiro de 2021

Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band - The Spotlight Kid 1972

On The Spotlight KidCaptain Beefheart took over full production duties. Rather than returning to the artistic aggro of Trout Mask/Decals days, Spotlight takes things lower and looser, with a lot of typical Beefheart fun crawling around in weird, strange ways. Consider the ominous opening cut "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby" -- it isn't just the title and Beefheart's breathy growl, but Rockette Morton's purring bass, Zoot Horn Rollo's snarling guitar, Ed Marimba's brisk fade on the cymbals again and again, and more. The overall atmosphere is definitely relaxed and fun, maybe one step up from a jam. Marimba's vibes and other percussion work -- including, of course, the marimba itself -- stand out quite a bit here as a result, perhaps, brought out from behind the drums and the more straightforward work on Clear Spot. Consider "When It Blows Its Stacks," with its unexpected breaks into more playful parts, or "Alice in Blunderland"'s admittedly more aimless approach, but vibing along well nonetheless. Sometimes things do sound maybe just a little too blasé, but Beefheart at his worst still has something more than most groups at their best. Spotlight does have one stone-cold Beefheart classic -- "Grow Fins," an understated number with fine harmonica and a brilliant lyric about getting so tired of his woman that the best option is to take to the sea and fall in love with a mermaid. Another song, though, does have an all-time great title -- "There Ain't No Santa Claus on the Evenin' Stage." Definite fun touch -- the cover photo of Beefheart looking great in a classic Nudie suit, outlined in yellow light to boot. AMG.

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Otis Redding - Love Man 1969

While Otis Redding was already one of the biggest stars in soul music when he died in a tragic plane crash in 1967, as is some times the case his star rose considerably after his passing, and this 1969 release dusted off a set of unreleased tracks Redding had cut in 1967, one of which (the title cut) went on to become a sizable chart hit. Love Man doesn't hold together quite as well as Redding's best proper albums, such as Otis Blue and Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, but it also manages to avoid sounding like a collection of out-takes and leftovers; as an album it's significantly stronger than the average R&B release of similar vintage, due to Redding's indefatigable energy and conviction as a vocalist and the ever-indomitable groove of Steve Cropper, Al Jackson, Jr., and the other members of the Stax Records studio crew. If Love Man is flawed, it's not a matter of execution so much as material; while Redding's originals are good, none are quite up to the standards of "Cigarettes and Coffee" or "My Lover's Prayer", and covers like "A Lover's Question" and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" are not ideally suited to Redding's style. But even the flawed material helps prove just how strong Redding's work was, even under less than ideal circumstances, and Love Man makes it clear he never gave less than %110 percent in the studio. AMG.

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Julius Hemphill - Coon Bid'ness 1975

This historic LP includes a 20-minute performance with altoist Julius Hemphill, trumpeter Baikida Carroll, baritonist Hamiet Bluiett, cellist Abdul Wadud and drummer Philip Wilson ("The Hard Blues") taken from the same session that resulted in Dogon A.D. In addition, there are four briefer tracks that feature Hemphill, Bluiett, Wadud, altoist Arthur Blythe, drummer Barry Altschul and the congas of Daniel Zebulon. The music throughout is quite avant-garde but differs from the high-energy jams of the 1960s due to its emphasis on building improvisations as a logical outgrowth from advanced compositions. It's well worth several listens. AMG.