Friday, December 18, 2015

Isis - 1974 - Isis


01. Waiting for the Sonrise
02. Everybody Needs a Forever
03. Servant Saviour
04. Rubber Boy
05. April Fool
06. Bitter Sweet
07. Do the Football
08. She Loves Me
09. Cocaine Elaine

Stella Bass - Bass
Ginger Bianco - Drums
Lollie Bienenfeld - Trombone
Lauren Draper - Horn, French Horn
Jeanie Fineberg - Arranger, Wind
Suzi Ghezzi - Guitar
Liberty Nydia Mata - Percussion
Caroline McDonald - Guitar, Vocals

Isis is the Egyptian goddess of fertility, represented as wearing a cow's horns and solar disk on her head, according to the World Book Dictionary, and the name was perhaps most appropriate for this '70s band, though a Latin group, a rapper, and a metal band all have released records under the same name. Those artists have nothing to do with this interesting and highly experimental project. With production by Shadow Morton the same year he produced the New York Dolls' second LP, In Too Much Too Soon, two former members of  Goldie & the Gingerbreads debut on Buddah with a self-titled eclectic jazz/rock amalgam. As Gingerbreads' lead singer Goldie Zelkowitz re-emerged as Genya Ravan, both Carol MacDonald and drummer Ginger Bianco redefined their musical vision, developing this somewhat original concept with horns, congas, bongos, and heavy emphasis on the all-girl band which Goldie & the Gingerbreads pioneered. Sporting an album cover rife with Egyptian imagery much like Yoko Ono's album from the year before, the 1973 epic Feeling the Space, Isis take it a step further, the cover photo sporting the eight women encased in silver via Jon Stevens' "metal images" which are "precise reproductions of the human form." Reproductions or no,  the band is still totally naked on the front cover under palm trees, a pyramid, and a purple sky. It was striking for the time and hinted at glam rock. Although there is barely any of that element here, perhaps some of the guitar psychedelia on "Servant Saviour" would suffice as that, resplendent in mellow versions of Black Sabbath riffs, but the style vocally and musically is very much like a less-focused Ten Wheel Drive. MacDonald emulates Genya Ravan singing, and much of the music parallels the Ten Wheel Drive sound. There are 16 naked photos of the chrome silver gals on the back cover flanked by color photos of the Sphynx. No wonder the rumor mill had David Bowie singing their praises, just as the Rolling Stones were enamored of Goldie & the Gingerbreads. "She Loves Me"  can't be any more specific; it's a bluesy ballad and one of the album's best moments. As blatant as the title is, the song comes across more subtle. Seven of the nine tunes were written by the former Gingerbreads Carol MacDonald and Ginger Bianco, and they shift gears perhaps too much for the album's own good. How prophetic. The bisexual female character on Star Trek Voyager two-and-a-half decades later would be called "7 of 9" — and as Bowie had much success with the gay theme, it should have been more of a  factor. "Cocaine Elaine" has a bluesy New Orleans feel with wonderful backing vocals, but the musical genres jump so much it  feels like a movie soundtrack. 1975's follow-up album was produced by Allen Toussaint and featured June Millington from another significant pioneering all-girl group, Fanny, but sadly, this Isis only put out two albums. — Joe Viglione

Kick-ass album of brass-rock with jazz, prog, psychedelic and funk influences. Actually, there may be more than that, this album is all over the map. That’s probably why it didn’t rate it higher, it straddles the line between eclectic and uneven too much. It’s also a bit “of its time.” Still, there’s an awful lot of talent here, these gals could really play and sing! Of note are main singer/rhythm guitarist Carole MacDonald (R.I.P.), who could really belt it out in pure Janis Joplin mode and lead guitarist Suzi Ghezzi, who may well have been the female Hendrix. The way she burns up the fretboard on some of these guitar solos is just mindblowing! The hyperactive “Waiting for the Sonrise” and the psychedelic freakout of “Servant Savior” (complete with creepy, quasi-male spoken vocals at points) are the highlights.

Formed from the ashes of the 60's girl group Goldie and the Gingerbreads, Isis was a major step forward for female rock in the early 70s. Perhaps a bit late in the game for horn rock, Isis' 1974 debut fell on the soul side of the brass rock equation. Carole MacDonald's vocals are raspy and tough in the Joplin tradition, whereas Suzi Ghezzi brings the Terry Kath-like psychedelic guitar to the proceedings. Flute, sax, trumpet, and trombone fulfill the lineup nicely. 'Waiting for the Sonrise', 'Servant Saviour', and 'April Fool' are the highlights, though many of the songs are fairly pedestrian - unfortunately just like their male counterparts in the same field of music had been prior. A good album, one that deserves respect for what they no doubt had to endure in the business



  2. Woooow, you are always great!!!!!
    i was familiar with all (i suppose) the other ISIS bands/artistis, and i owe a couple of superlative cds from the ISIS nubian rapper, and some from the ocean/instrumetal ISIS (also i saw them live and they were quite boring compared to other bands of the same genre) but somehow i missed this wonderful band.. And, btw, i love Genya Ravan and 70es female bands.....
    One question, actually two:
    Where does the picture that accompanies the files cames from?? I have seen it already somewhere else!!!! It doesn't seems part of the original cover artwork.. Or is it from the australian ISIS?? Maybe there is another missing ISIS we both have lost in the shuffle????
    Second question.. I didn't got the reference to 7 of 9.. Did Carol Macdonald was bisexual?? Something hidden in the lyrics???
    btw "it goes sans dire" that i am quite annoyed every time i read or hear a reference at the Islamic State being called "ISIS", that it's not even the traslation of their current name.. If someone wants to be "politically correct" to other religions, be it also towards the highly fascinating egyptian pantheon... These bands gave respect, expecially the nubian ones...

    Still, back on track,
    this is a fantastic band, and a really great record, and stunning musicians...
    I would like to hear more from this Suzi Ghezzi......

    Just some raw data for collectors...
    In Italy in the 70es there was a "WES & DORI GHEZZI" duo, playing a sort of typically italian easy listening/soul... Wes was the former bass player of the all black american band (but relocated in italy) AIREDALES, whose lead singer ROCKY ROBERTS was an incredible soul/funk/rnb singer in the vein of Wilson Pickett or James Brown, and had a very succesfull career in italy.. It would be great if you could find his/their records... BTW the duo split up in the 80es and DORI GHEZZI, a white blond italian singer, went to became the wife of FRANCESCO DE ANDRE', a very popular but highly respected anarchist folksinger, whose musical career cold be of interest for CCR for the last three albums, that explore ethnic/word music, instead all the others are on a very basic Leonard Cohen esque vein, with basic arrangments but really outstanding lyrics....
    Who knows if the two Ghezzi are somehow related....
    Right On, & Thank You


  3. Unlike Lilith I know nothing about this band, but I thank you for the chance to hear it!

  4. hi Drago - great blog ! re: requests, do you have anything by the all-female band "Fanny" ? I saw them on a psych compilation DVD called Born in the USA, and would like to hear more of them