Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Various Artists - 2016 - Wake Up You! The Rise & Fall of Nigerian Rock Music 1972-1977. vol. 2

Various Artists
2016
Wake Up You! The Rise & Fall of Nigerian Rock Music 1972-1977. vol. 2 




01. Theodore Nemy – Come Back 4:07
02. The Funkees – Slipping Into Darkness 4:37
03. The Hykkers – I Want A Break Thru 3:08
04. The Hygrades – In The Jungle (Vocal) 3:20
05. Shadow Abraham with Monomono Friends – Babalawo 3:25
06. Waves – Wake Up You 4:02
07. War-Head Constriction – Shower Of Stone 3:40
08. Question Mark – Love 5.01
09. Action 13 – Set Me Free 4.01
10. Jay U Experience – Baby Rock 5:23
11. The Doves – Flying Bird 3:31
12. Kukumbas – Awa Lani Arawa 3:53
13. The Believers – Life Will Move 5:10
14. Tony Grey & the Black 7 – The Feelings 4:40
15. Ceejebs – Life In Cannan 3:10
16. The Identicals – Who Made the World 4:32




Where other Nigerian vinyl compilations have focused on various permutations of rock, funk, soul, and disco, Wake Up You! specifically covers the short-lived but influential period of Nigerian rock in the country’s post-Civil War era (after 1970). On 34 tracks across two volumes and two accompanying books, the compilation documents some of the musical, socioeconomic, and political trends that shaped Nigerian Afrorock.
The majority of both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 feature music from the height of Nigerian rock in the early ‘70s, before the scene started to decline. The decade saw Nigeria experiencing a petroleum-fueled post-war economic boom, which ushered in a renewed sense of optimism that proved a huge boon to the growth of the country’s music industry.
And yet, as the government sought to rebuild the nation, leftover wartime trauma and unresolved tensions got swept under the rug. So it’s very possible that the sense of discomfort and melancholy that had never really gotten addressed then ended up bubbling over into rock, particularly in the East, which had borne the brunt of the war as the former secessionist Republic of Biafra. The compilation reflects that reality, featuring mostly Eastern rock bands.
Despite regional differences, there was a collective desire, especially among youth, to have some kind of contemporary music they could claim as their own that was “distinctly African.” This was one of the reasons why James Brown’s soul music, with its pro-Black messaging and funky rhythms that meshed well with pre-existing West African musical traditions, had exploded in popularity during the region’s independence era. His influence continued into the next decade and beyond, as evidenced throughout Wake Up You! For instance, on Vol. 1, The Hygrades’ 1971 B-side “Keep on Moving” directly references “Cold Sweat” and has the cathartic screams to match. This desire for a homegrown music was also what helped make Fela’s self-branded Afrobeat so popular, which would soon eclipse Afrorock, even though the two weren’t initially that different. The stylistic similarities between the two are clear in their shared highlife percussion rhythms and off-kilter organ work. This can be heard across Vol. 1—on The Hygrades’ “In the Jungle (Instrumental),” The Funkees’ “Baby I Need You,” OFO the Black Company’s “Beautiful Daddy,” and many more.
On Vol. 1 opener “Never Never Let Me Down” (1973), the little-known Formulars Dance Band deliver a touching number filled with nostalgic doo-wop harmonies and lyrics steeped in heartache: “Just one thing you do not know, girl,” the lead singer croons. “And that is I need you/And one more thing you do not know, girl/And that is I love you.” By contrast, War-Head Constriction’s record “Graceful Bird” (1973) ramps up into a heavy metal track with long, snarling guitar solos and piles of distortion. According to Ikonne’s liner notes, War-Head Constriction also often played with a later iteration of the band Waves, whose psychedelic “Wake Up You” (featured on Vol. 2) b/w “Mother” (on Vol. 1) is the comp’s namesake. Vol. 1’s closing track, P.R.O.’s 1976 “Tell Me,” in turn references dub by way of delay effects, hinting at the fact that towards the end of the decade, a several schoolboy and college rock bands—including teen sensations Ofege—started shifting their heavy rock sound towards “dub and militant rockers-style reggae.” But even then, with the exception of Afrobeat and with the advent of disco, the public wanted something smoother and glossier, and Nigerian rock slipped more or less into darkness (related: Funkees’ cover of War’s “Slipping into Darkness” on Vol. 2).



In that way, Vol. 1 comes to a logical close. The album itself is very loosely chronological, though it doesn’t follow the arc of the accompanying book, which is an important part of the compilation. Vol. 1 sags a bit towards the middle of its 18 tracks, but it picks up again later on—perhaps not unlike the trajectory of Nigerian rock over the decades. Many of the narrative threads present on Vol. 1  are also those that run through Vol. 2, and certain bigger bands, such as The Hykkers, The Hygrades, and The Funkees, appear on both volumes. However, where Vol. 1 is generally more exuberant and brighter, Vol. 2 is more melancholy, reflecting some of the darker realities of the time.
Much of Vol. 2 expresses a desire for freedom and a resistance to the social and political dis-ease of post-war Nigeria. On “Life in Cannan,” Ceejebs lament the state of what could have been their promised land. Over nimble jazz keys and thick bass, lead vocalist Eyo “Crosbee” Hogan gathers his listeners around him, intoning, “Come around, people of this world/let’s get together and pray/Evil things are happening every day/Many rich are getting poor/The poor ones are dying away.” Echoing that sense of despair is The Identicals’ nearly-apocalyptic “Who Made the World,” on which they demand answers to questions they know they’ll never get, howling, “Who made the world? Who made the land? Who made the moon?” Even the love songs here ride on a sort of desperation bordering on futility: on opening number “Come Back,” band leader Theodore Nemy’s voice cracks time and time again as he begs for his “baby” to “come back.” An organ drones beneath him, sympathetic (figuratively and musically) to Nemy’s grievances.
Perhaps most clearly exemplifying the intersection of Afrorock and the politics of the time on Vol. 2 is the band Action 13, who appear on Vol. 1 as their later iteration, Aktion. On Vol. 2, their song “Set Me Free” could easily be interpreted as a protest against the band’s prison-like relationship to their then-patrons, the Nigerian military’s 13th Brigade. Many brigades of the time used bands to entertain their soldiers, boost morale, and reassure citizens, via music, that all was well. Initially, their patronage was helpful in providing a number of Eastern musicians with a living. But Action 13, like many other bands with brigade numbers affixed to their names, eventually grew frustrated, and many tried to break free to make a name for themselves independent of the military. These outside pressures, as well as labels’ jostling to sign artists with varying degrees of success, often augmented bands’ internal instabilities as well. There was a ton of back-and-forth between bands. For instance, on Vol. 2, we see Tony Grey, (former?) keyboardist of the Magnificent Zenians (Vol. 1) leading his own band, The Black 7; certain members of Afrorock pioneer Joni Haastrup’s Monomono appear here backing one Shadow Abraham; juju icon King Sunny Ade makes a surprise appearance producing The Believers’ “Life Will Move.” Trying to make sense of the bands’ relationships to each other, to regional trends, to labels, and to military involvement is like trying to make sense of a messy maze of crossed paths, dead-ends, and false starts.
But in that sense, Wake Up You!: The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock, 1972-1977 does a thorough job of conveying the angst and mutability of Nigeria’s protean post-war period. This was music that helped people, young people especially, to sort through their own identities in the wake of war, even if it was to define what they weren’t. On Vol. 1, in the chorus of their track “Scram Out,” from their 1977 album Be Nice To The People, young schoolboy rockers Question Mark sing, “I want to feel free, I want to feel happy!” Which at the end of the day, through all its ups and downs, was what the movement was about.

Various Artists - 2016 - Wake Up You! The Rise & Fall of Nigerian Rock Music 1972-1977, vol. 1

Various Artists
2016
Wake Up You! The Rise & Fall of Nigerian Rock Music 1972-1977, vol. 1 



01. Never Never Let Me Down - Formulars Dance Band
02. Keep On Moving - Hygrades
03. Everybody Likes Something Good - Ify Jerry Krusade
04. In The Jungle (Instrumental) - Hygrades
05. Onye Ije - Stranger
06. Stone The Flower - Hykker
07. Baby I Need You - Funkees
08. Mother - Waves
09. Beautiful Daddy - Ofo The Black Company
10. Graceful Bird - War-head Constriction
11. Ije Udo - Magnificent Zenians
12. Never Too Late - Apostles
13. Groove The Funk - Aktion
14. Ballad of a Sad Young Woman - Wrinkar Experience
15. I Can’t Be Satisfied - Founders
16. Float - Tirogo
17. Scream Out - Question Mark
18. Tell Me - P.R.O.



When the African vinyl-digging trend peaked five or six years ago, there was a rush, mostly among American and European collectors, to press and publish retrospective compilations. From the mid/late-‘00s onward, there was a feverish proliferation of digitized vinyl on mp3-sharing blogs, many of which featured music from West Africa. One of those blogs was the popular Comb and Razor, run by Uchenna Ikonne, who’s since become the main man behind a number of Nigeria-focused projects for labels like Soundway, Luaka Bop, and Now-Again. Since the early 2010s, what some have called the “Scramble for African Vinyl” has slowed down a bit, if in part because various collectors have rendered certain vinyl-rich areas comparatively “dry.” So it says something about Now-Again that they took the better part of a decade to properly license, credit, and release what is now Wake Up You!: The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock, 1972-1977.

Where other Nigerian vinyl compilations have focused on various permutations of rock, funk, soul, and disco, Wake Up You! specifically covers the short-lived but influential period of Nigerian rock in the country’s post-Civil War era (after 1970). On 34 tracks across two volumes and two accompanying books, the compilation documents some of the musical, socioeconomic, and political trends that shaped Nigerian Afrorock.

The majority of both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 feature music from the height of Nigerian rock in the early ‘70s, before the scene started to decline. The decade saw Nigeria experiencing a petroleum-fueled post-war economic boom, which ushered in a renewed sense of optimism that proved a huge boon to the growth of the country’s music industry. And yet, as the government sought to rebuild the nation, leftover wartime trauma and unresolved tensions got swept under the rug. So it's very possible that the sense of discomfort and melancholy that had never really gotten addressed then ended up bubbling over into rock, particularly in the East, which had borne the brunt of the war as the former secessionist Republic of Biafra. The compilation reflects that reality, featuring mostly Eastern rock bands.


Despite regional differences, there was a collective desire, especially among youth, to have some kind of contemporary music they could claim as their own that was “distinctly African." This was one of the reasons why James Brown’s soul music, with its pro-Black messaging and funky rhythms that meshed well with pre-existing West African musical traditions, had exploded in popularity during the region’s independence era. His influence continued into the next decade and beyond, as evidenced throughout Wake Up You! For instance, on Vol. 1, The Hygrades’ 1971 B-side “Keep on Moving" directly references "Cold Sweat" and has the cathartic screams to match. This desire for a homegrown music was also what helped make Fela’s self-branded Afrobeat so popular, which would soon eclipse Afrorock, even though the two weren’t initially that different. The stylistic similarities between the two are clear in their shared highlife percussion rhythms and off-kilter organ work. This can be heard across Vol. 1—on The Hygrades’ “In the Jungle (Instrumental),” The Funkees’ “Baby I Need You,” OFO the Black Company’s “Beautiful Daddy,” and many more.

On Vol. 1 opener “Never Never Let Me Down” (1973), the little-known Formulars Dance Band deliver a touching number filled with nostalgic doo-wop harmonies and lyrics steeped in heartache: “Just one thing you do not know, girl,” the lead singer croons. “And that is I need you/And one more thing you do not know, girl/And that is I love you.” By contrast, War-Head Constriction’s record "Graceful Bird" (1973) ramps up into a heavy metal track with long, snarling guitar solos and piles of distortion. According to Ikonne’s liner notes, War-Head Constriction also often played with a later iteration of the band Waves, whose psychedelic “Wake Up You” (featured on Vol. 2) b/w “Mother” (on Vol. 1) is the comp’s namesake. Vol. 1’s closing track, P.R.O.’s 1976 “Tell Me,” in turn references dub by way of delay effects, hinting at the fact that towards the end of the decade, a several schoolboy and college rock bands—including teen sensations Ofege—started shifting their heavy rock sound towards "dub and militant rockers-style reggae." But even then, with the exception of Afrobeat and with the advent of disco, the public wanted something smoother and glossier, and Nigerian rock slipped more or less into darkness (related: Funkees’ cover of War’s “Slipping into Darkness” on Vol. 2).

In that way, Vol. 1 comes to a logical close. The album itself is very loosely chronological, though it doesn’t follow the arc of the accompanying book, which is an important part of the compilation. Vol. 1 sags a bit towards the middle of its 18 tracks, but it picks up again later on—perhaps not unlike the trajectory of Nigerian rock over the decades. Many of the narrative threads present on Vol. 1  are also those that run through Vol. 2, and certain bigger bands, such as The Hykkers, The Hygrades, and The Funkees, appear on both volumes. However, where Vol. 1 is generally more exuberant and brighter, Vol. 2 is more melancholy, reflecting some of the darker realities of the time.

Much of Vol. 2 expresses a desire for freedom and a resistance to the social and political dis-ease of post-war Nigeria. On “Life in Cannan,” Ceejebs lament the state of what could have been their promised land. Over nimble jazz keys and thick bass, lead vocalist Eyo “Crosbee” Hogan gathers his listeners around him, intoning, “Come around, people of this world/let’s get together and pray/Evil things are happening every day/Many rich are getting poor/The poor ones are dying away.” Echoing that sense of despair is The Identicals’ nearly-apocalyptic “Who Made the World,” on which they demand answers to questions they know they’ll never get, howling, “Who made the world? Who made the land? Who made the moon?” Even the love songs here ride on a sort of desperation bordering on futility: on opening number “Come Back,” band leader Theodore Nemy’s voice cracks time and time again as he begs for his “baby” to “come back.” An organ drones beneath him, sympathetic (figuratively and musically) to Nemy’s grievances.

Perhaps most clearly exemplifying the intersection of Afrorock and the politics of the time on Vol. 2 is the band Action 13, who appear on Vol. 1 as their later iteration, Aktion. On Vol. 2, their song “Set Me Free” could easily be interpreted as a protest against the band’s prison-like relationship to their then-patrons, the Nigerian military’s 13th Brigade. Many brigades of the time used bands to entertain their soldiers, boost morale, and reassure citizens, via music, that all was well. Initially, their patronage was helpful in providing a number of Eastern musicians with a living. But Action 13, like many other bands with brigade numbers affixed to their names, eventually grew frustrated, and many tried to break free to make a name for themselves independent of the military. These outside pressures, as well as labels’ jostling to sign artists with varying degrees of success, often augmented bands’ internal instabilities as well. There was a ton of back-and-forth between bands. For instance, on Vol. 2, we see Tony Grey, (former?) keyboardist of the Magnificent Zenians (Vol. 1) leading his own band, The Black 7; certain members of Afrorock pioneer Joni Haastrup’s Monomono appear here backing one Shadow Abraham; juju icon King Sunny Ade makes a surprise appearance producing The Believers’ “Life Will Move.” Trying to make sense of the bands’ relationships to each other, to regional trends, to labels, and to military involvement is like trying to make sense of a messy maze of crossed paths, dead-ends, and false starts.

But in that sense, Wake Up You!: The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock, 1972-1977 does a thorough job of conveying the angst and mutability of Nigeria’s protean post-war period. This was music that helped people, young people especially, to sort through their own identities in the wake of war, even if it was to define what they weren't. On Vol. 1, in the chorus of their track “Scram Out,” from their 1977 album Be Nice To The People, young schoolboy rockers Question Mark sing, "I want to feel free, I want to feel happy!" Which at the end of the day, through all its ups and downs, was what the movement was about.



There have been several excellent Nigerian rock and psychedelic music compilations issued by fine record labels that have gone to great lengths to assemble tapes and/or rare pressings of exemplary recordings. That said, Now Again’s Wake Up You! The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock goes a step further: it attempts to tell this music’s entire story between 1972 and 1977 in the aftermath of the three-year civil war.
The music is contained inside a sleeve placed between the covers of a hardbound book with a narrative essay written by musicologist and researcher Uchenna Ikonne (who assembled Who Is William Onyeabor?). This first of two volumes offers 18 burning cuts released between 1972 and 1977. Well-known acts from the Hykkers and the Funkees to Ify Jerry Krusade, the Strangers, and others are represented — though the choices are not always obvious and add another layer to the already complex dimensions of the Afro-rock portrait already available. One example is the inclusion of “Stone the Flower,” the B-side of the Hykkers’ “God Gave His Only Son” single from 1972 — it’s wonderful, but nowhere near the best cut here. Arguably, that honor is split between Ofo the Black Company’s “Beautiful Daddy,” the B-side of their “Allah Wakbarr” single, and “Graceful Bird” by War-Head Constriction, both frantic psychedelic scorchers with screaming guitars, rumbling basslines, and tom-tom-heavy polyrhythms. For rock guitar freaks, the Apostles’ “Never Too Late” from 1976, deeply influenced by Fela Kuti’s Afro-beat, is another excellent choice. There are plenty of funky grooves here too, from the Motown inspiration of the Formulars Dance Band’s “Never Never Let Me Down” (1973) to the psychedelic soul in the Strangers’ Temptations-influenced “Onye Ije” (1972) and the wailing Farfisa and bubbling conga rave-up in “Groove the Funk” by Aktion (1975). There isn’t a dud in this bunch, even though the music is all over the rock and funk map.
This set’s ultimate achievement, however, doesn’t only lie in the recordings presented (all of which were officially licensed). Instead, it’s in the way they offer a soundtrack to Ikonne’s essay, which is exhaustively — even painstakingly — researched and vastly illustrated (truly amazing photographs), containing quotes from artists, label heads, managers, etc. It also offers an informed opinion near the end that many — particularly in the white world — may find shocking (though it’s tough to argue). On the other side, Ikonne’s narrative posits another thesis that contradicts some popular Nigerian historical thinking on just how lasting the cultural and artistic import of the period is. If you want to know what they are, buy it. Sure, you pick this set up just for the music and it would be worth it. But when music and visuals are combined, the story is so exhilarating, heartbreaking, and revelatory, it eclipses that intention. Wake Up You! The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock is essential for anyone even casually interested in the era of Afro-rock.


Podipto - 1974 - Homemade

Podipto 
1974 
Homemade




01. Livin’ In The Country – 2:12
02. When The Sun Fades Away – 2:37
03. You Say You Lost A Friend – 2:06
04. Lilac And Tumbleweed – 3:26
05. Play That Song Again – 1:57
06. Pisces Lady – 2:29
07. Northern Minnesota – 2:09
08. Sunshine Day – 2:53
09. We Had Ways Of Knowing – 2:57
10. Black Eyed Susie – 3:03
11. Got A Feelin’ – 3:13

Dan Lund – lead guitar, pedal steel, fiddle
John Collins — rhythm guitar, vocals
Ron Kelley – bass, vocals
Karen Lund – piano, vocals
Chester Ellingson – drums




"This record was made for a number of reasons; basically to get seme new stuff for people to hear and to give them a chance to hear the new band. We made it as inexpensively as we could, recording in Ron's living room for the instrumental tracks and in Chet and Clarence's house for the vocals.


Podipto - 1970 - Podipto

Podipto 
1970
Podipto




01. Morning Song 2:47
02. Mr. Robin 3:42
03. Can't Stand To Beg 3:47
04. Karen's Song 2:08
05. Mississippi Woman 4:15
06. Three Day's Runnin' 3:58
07. Love Of The One 3:52
08. Think I'm Likin' You 2:08
09. (Lola) You Ease My Achin' Heart 4:01
10. Misty Morning 2:25
11. Good Morning Blues 2:04

Bass, Vocals – Jack Sundrud
Drums – Steve Rundquist
Lead Guitar – Dan Lund
Piano, Vocals – Karen Lund
Rhythm Guitar, Vocals – John Collins



Podipto formed in Northern Minnesota in 1969. Until disbanding in 1974, Podipto was known as one of the brightest acts hailing from the Midwest, blending rock, blues and country into a unique sound that would never be forgotten by those who heard them or saw them perform. Throughout the early 1970s, Podipto toured the country, performing with acts such as Elton John, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, The Carpenters, Kenny Rogers, The Guess Who, Poco, John Sebastian and many others.

The band's unique sound was created by the blend of three vocalists—two male and one female—who traded leads and joined in harmony. Podipto could shift from feel-good dreamy 70s folk to growling twin-guitar blues on a dime, refusing to let any one genre of the time define their sound. Most of the band's original songs were written by rhythm guitarist and vocalist John Collins, and bassist Jack Sundrud. Dan Lund played electric guitar with (then wife) Karen Lund on vocals and piano. John Calder was the band's initial drummer, but after being drafted, Steve Rundquist replaced him on drums. The band had a couple of lineup changes in 1973, when Steve and Jack left the band to pursue other projects. For a short time Ron Kelley provided on vocals and bass in 1973, until Wilson Roberts joined the band. Chester Ellingson took over drums in 1973.

Podipto recorded two albums, the first in 1970 with GRT Records of Canada. Shortly after the album's release, the label faltered, leaving Podipto and its other bands with an uncertain future. Dubious of record companies, Podipto recorded its second album just as its title suggests: Homemade. The band broke up in October 1974, to the dismay of many fans who embraced their sound and messages of peace and love, good times, political awareness and relentless groove.

Ilmo Smokehouse - 1970 - Ilmo Smokehouse

Ilmo Smokehouse 
1970 
Ilmo Smokehouse





01. Devil Take My Grandma 3:25
02. Are You Happy 5:35
03. Movement 1 And 13 9:45
04. Johnny B. Goode 3:23
05. Meyer Gold 4:46
06. Have You Ever Had The Blues 6:50
07. Pine Needle Bed 2:45
08. Watch Jimmy Crash 2:32

Keith "Slink" Rand - Lead Guitar, Percussions
Freddie Tieken - Vocals, Rap Vocals, Tenor Saxophone
Gerry Gabel - Vocals, Flute, Harmonica, Piano
Dennis Tieken - Vocals, Drums
Craig Moore - Bass, Vocals




While it's not unusual for a new band to form from the ashes of other collapsing, simpatico groups, it's rare for one to emerge from the funeral pyres of two distinctly different musical units, but thus was begotten Ilmo Smokehouse. Freddie Tieken and the Rockers was the more established of Ilmo's parents, a smoking R'n'B band that had been burning up Midwestern stages since the late '50s.

With an obvious penchant for bluesy rock and soul, the band boasted one of the best horn sections in the region. In contrast, Gonn came on the scene in 1966, dragging behind them their British beat influences, following the herd into psychedelia and even space rock a few years later. Smokehouse had a ferocious live reputation, but this set did that little justice, with only "Johnny B. Good" and "Pine Needle Bed" hinting at their stage potential.

What the record does do, however, is showcase precisely why this band was born to die. The nearly seven-minute long "Have You Ever Had the Blues" is a flawless example of talking blues, a sound Freddie Tieken had perfected years before. Elsewhere, jazz and prog rock collide on "Are You Happy," while jazz, soul, and rock smack straight into each other on "Movement 1 and 13," while "Pine Needle Bed" pulls in so many directions, you expect the whole tree to splinter apart. And splinter the band quickly did, in the end, becoming three different bands. There was just too much experience and quality musicianship in the ranks, all pushing too hard for their own preferred style. For some bands, eclecticism is a badge of honor, for Ilmo it sounds more like a bone of contention.
by Jo-Ann Greene

Gracious! - 1971 - This Is...Gracious!!

Gracious! 
1971 
This Is...Gracious!!



01. Super Nova: - 24:59
 .a.Arrival of the Traveller
 .b.Blood Red Sun
 .c.Say Goodbye To Love
 .d.Prepare To Meet Thy Maker
02. C.B.S. - 7:07
03. Once on a Windy Day - 4:03
04. Blue Skies and Alibis - 4:58
05. Hold Me Down - 5:05

*Alan Cowderoy - Guitar, Vocals, Percussion
*Paul Davis - Lead Vocals, Percussion
*Martin Kitcat - Keyboards, Mellotron, Percussion,  Vocals
*Robert Lipson - Drums, Percussion
*Tim Wheatley - Bass, Vocals, Percussion




No sophomore jinx here: on their second album, Gracious truly hits its stride. The first half of the album is a four-part suite, "Super Nova." After its Floydian opening instrumental, the band launches into the bleak "Blood Red Sun"; with a dystopic narrative of environmental holocaust and its martial drumbeat, it's an ideal complement to King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man."

Strange, then, that this should lead to "Say Goodbye to Love," an effectively weepy guitar ballad of lost romance and tear-jerking harmonies. It's on the second half of the album, though, that Gracious hits escape velocity. On "C.B.S." the band shifts effortlessly from a groovy clavinet jam to a bouncing barrelhouse piano in the verse. "Blue Skies and Alibis" is a prime example of Martin Kitcat's Mellotron technique; powered along by Cowderoy's graceful guitar, smoky vocals, and a lush piano progression worthy of Joe Jackson, it's one of their most enduring tracks.

A truly undervalued gem, This Is... Gracious! sat on the shelves for two years after completion before being issued; it's a shame that it was to be last anyone heard from the band for the next two decades.
by Paul Collins

Gracious! - 1970 - Gracious!

Gracious! 
1970 
Gracious!





01. Introduction - 5:53
02. Heaven - 8:09
03. Hell - 8:33
04. Fugue in 'D' Minor - 5:05
05. The Dream - 16:58
06. Beautiful - 2:50
07. What A Lovely Rain - 2:49
08. Once On A Windy Day - 4:03


Alan Cowderoy - Guitar, Vocals
Martin Kitcat - Piano, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Vocals, Mellotron
Robert Lipson - Drums
Tim Wheatley - Bass
Paul Davis - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar




Gracious began as a schoolboy lark in 1964, when guitarist Alan Cowderoy and vocalist/drummer Paul Davis banded together to cover pop songs at school concerts. To arouse maximum ire at their Catholic school, the adopted the band name "Satan's Disciples." Over the next several years the recording lineup of the band coalesced with Cowderoy and Davis (who now only sang), former road manager Tim Wheatley on bass, Martin Kitcat on keyboards, and drummer Robert Lipson.

Renamed Gracious (or Gracious!), the band toured Germany in 1968 and then recorded a concept album about the seasons of the year, although this went unreleased. Still, their ambitions were unabated. After playing on a double bill with the newly formed King Crimson, an awestruck Kitcat immediately adopted the Mellotron as a lead instrument for the band. Kitcat and Davis were the band's composers, and Kitcat in particular lent the group its distinctive sound. He played the Mellotron as a lead instrument, much like a blues organ -- that is, with percussive single notes, rather than the grandiose chords favored by bands that used it as a faux-orchestral backdrop.

The debut of Gracious! begins with the blandly but accurately titled "Introduction." One of the album's strongest tracks, it's a Nice-like combination of menacing Moog breaks and shimmering harpsichords, and it foreshadows the band's use of both heavy prog music and ghostly lyrics tinged with Catholic dread. "Heaven" is a gorgeous minor-key ballad of stately Mellotron and chiming guitar tones, with harmonies reminiscent of late-model Zombies.

"Hell," not surprisingly, is another thing altogether: a descent into drunken declamations, clinking bottles, rowdy bar sounds, loopy piano riffs, and creepy phasing effects. In coclusion it's a fine debut, and it presaged the superb second effort that was to follow.
by Paul Collins

Damin Eih, A.L.K & Brother Clark - 1973 - Never Mind

Damin Eih, A.L.K & Brother Clark 
1973
Never Mind



01. Tourniquet 2:45
02. Sing A Different Song 4:15
03. Take Off Your Eyes 5:45
04. Soft Margins 4:59
05. Thundermice 3:47
06. Monday Morning Prayer 0:37
07. Gone 4:36
08. Marching Together 4:37
09. Kathryn At Night 1:47
10. Party Hats & Olive Spats 2:57
11. Return Naked 1:50


Vocals, Bass – Brother Clark
Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar – Damin Eih
Vocals, Percussion – A.L.K.




Psychedelia was a fortuitous intervention in the development of music technology. At the same moment as recording and amplification technologies were exponentially improving fidelity and reducing signal distortion, psychedelic rock was in the process of formalizing distortion as a method of reflecting altered states of consciousness. Guitar distortion had already been a fascination for 1950s R&B artists; think of Chuck Berry’s overdriven valve amp on “Maybelline” or Link Wray’s habit of poking holes in his speaker cones to create his signature tone. This fashion for distortion led to the development of technologies such as the Fuzztone, which paradoxically lend a measure of control to distortion, focusing and directing the stochasticity of dissonance and clipping toward musical ends. This tension between the proliferation of signal distortion and the technological means to control flows of noise is one of the many alternative historical narratives of pop music.

Seen in this way, the history of psychedelic music is no longer a narrative of human genius, the expansion of the mind resulting in the expansion of pop music’s vocabulary, but rather a highly contingent meeting of technologies: psychoactive drug states reorienting attention to the excess of recorded music (i.e. noise, inharmonics, decay, etc.), and technology responding by developing ways to produce signal distortion that can be artfully controlled. Lest we forget: LSD was the accidental invention of a Swiss chemist, and the history of guitar distortion is all about the creative misuse of gear and the use of malfunctioning or modified equipment. In other words, psychedelic music became the accidental laboratory for excess, for pushing music technology beyond its limitations in order to signify the chemically-altered consciousness in which noise, transience, and decay signify as much or more than melodies and lyrics. Someone had to be the first to turn the dial on the reverb unit all the way to “wet,” completely silencing the original signal, leaving only the feedbacked echoes.

In the realm of underground psych, this logic is intensified. Unsigned psych musicians of the first era had no choice but to turn their technological limitations into an alternate set of aesthetic values. The world of vanity-press psych is filled with home producers who pushed consumer-level technologies well beyond their breaking point, not just to evoke hallucinatory perceptual states, but also to cover over weaknesses due to substandard recording and mixing equipment. The rise of “lo-fi” as a pop aesthetic in the mid-1980s (Beat Happening, Tall Dwarfs, etc.) was already old news for rare psych enthusiasts, who had long ago embraced the shortcomings of home recording as a desirable alternative to the slick, soulless commercialism of art rock and new wave. The song “Take Off Your Eyes,” by a trio with the unwieldy name Damin Eih, A.L.K. and Brother Clark, is an excellent example of these strategies at work. The song was included on Never Mind, the first and only album by the Minneapolis group, recorded and released in a tiny private press edition in 1973.

Like the rest of the album, “Take Off Your Eyes” is marked by strange mixing, guitar and bass often cancelling each other out, and the nearly incessant cymbals far too prominent in the mix. The heavy delay on the main guitar part often results in the song seeming strangely out of sync rhythmically. At times, the drums appear to be rushing forward while other elements of the composition fall behind. Though it threatens to become annoying, the persistent ping-pong doubling effect on the vocals is an unorthodox gamble that pays off, evoking the mirroring effects of psychedelics and making other syncing problems seem intentional in context. It helps that the main vocal refrain is a bit of an earworm, and the melody is more than functional, but the appeal of “Take Off Your Eyes” is ultimately its own excess. It signifies too much. It insists on its own absurd lysergic imperative too emphatically, and yet paradoxically, it is this wide-eyed (or dilated-pupil) conviction that sells the lyric’s central conceit: “Take off your eyes/ And heading toward emptiness/ You can see everything suddenly new.”

We live in a brave new world in which the evolution of psychedelic compounds and the development of new audio technologies have become articulated together in ways that are not always apparent, such that it is hard to remember it wasn’t always the case. Terence McKenna claimed that the evolutionary leap from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens was due to the monolith-like influence of psychedelic mushrooms. The specifics of his argument don’t matter as much as his basic conjecture; that the advances of humankind are incomprehensible without a consideration of what was in the water. In this same spirit, we should be willing to consider the history of pop music in terms of a machinic evolution; the ways in which technology, with its own contingencies and trajectories, may often be a decisive factor in the (r)evolution of musical forms. Would techno be what it is today without the commercial failure of the TR-606 and TB-303, two bargain basement synth modules created as electronic accompaniments for jazz musicians? Similarly, the story of psych rock is one shaped by a series of stochastic collisions between emerging technology, psychopharmacology, culture, and the human psyche.

In 1973, three young men from Minneapolis unleashed a sonic time bomb called Never Mind. The private-press album was probably hard to find even if you were a 1973 Minnesotan, and as its legend grew in subsequent decades, it became a ridiculously rare collectors' item at the top of every serious psychedelia maven's want list. There's little background info available on the trio; the only one who has maintained any kind of public profile is Clark Dyrcz, who went on to the alt-psych outfits Code 7 and DYRC. Outside of perhaps Dyrcz, no one seems to know what became of main singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Damin Eih; legend has it that he went to India after releasing Never Mind and was never heard from again. Finally given its first legit CD reissue in 2010, the album these mysterious Minnesotans left behind truly lives up to its reputation. This is the acid folk record of every psych aficionado's dreams, a mind-altering journey that not only embodies the expansiveness of the era in which it was made, but goes well beyond. Never Mind has it all -- fuzzed-out electric guitar leads; hypnotic acoustic picking; ethereal, heavily processed vocals; space-is-the-place analog synth lines; atmospheric percussion -- with everything pressed into service to deliver an off-kilter song suite as heady and brain-bending as anything ever to emerge from the late-‘60s/early-‘70s golden age of head music. But for all its trippy appeal, part of the reason Never Mind has earned so much acclaim is that, unlike some other private-press artifacts from the same era, this is no amateurish, primitivist piece of "outsider" art -- these guys were skilled musicians who knew exactly what they were doing and how to navigate their way around the impressive number of instruments they played between them. Whether or not they were lysergically inspired at the time of the album's recording, it's clear that Never Mind sounds exactly the way it was intended to sound. The fact that this far-out masterpiece was far from accidental shouldn't detract from its legend; if anything, it should give listeners a greater appreciation for this obscure, unfortunately short-lived ensemble.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Karel Appel - 1963 - Musique Barbare

Karel Appel
1963 
Musique Barbare





01. Paysage Electronique 11 :40
02. Poème Barbare 03 :30
03. Le Cavalier Blanc 12 :45


Liner Notes – Jan Vrijman
Photography By – Ed van der Elsken
Written-By – Karel Appel

Thick gatefold cover and 30-page illustrated book attached inside the gatefold cover, some copies came with an original painting by the artist



In 1963, Dutch abstract expressionist painter Karel Appel (1921-2006), who cofounded the avant-garde Cobra movement in 1948, booked time in the Instituut voor Sonologie in the Netherlands to compose music for a documentary that cinematographer Jan Vrijman was making on Appel’s work. Originally released by Philips, this masterpiece of musique concrète is a real jewel for any record collector. Made in collaboration with Insituut member Frits Weiland, Musique Barbare is a fantastic mix of electric organ fumblings, full-on riots of distorted kettle drum, and assorted percussion-room filigrees, assembled into an extremely edit-heavy suite with significant tape- speed manipulation.


Karel Appel performs music with the Institute of Sonology on this album, though his main profession was as an avant-garde painter. Perhaps, due to the extremely abstract nature of this music, it is more apt to analyse it in the way an abstract expressionist painting would be observed, such as one by Jackson Pollock. Both Pollock's drip paintings and Musique Barbare achieve significant freedom from the traditions of their respective media; Appel performs with no rhythm (at least, no sustained rhythm), no melody, and no structure. Both artists remove the obligation to represent things of the real world, and instead focus entirely on the form of their works. So, what are the aspects and methods of form that are explored in Musique Barbare?
The first piece, Paysage Electronique, gives equality to every degree in its entire range of dynamics. Often, loud passages of noise will retreat into moments of silence, sometimes instantly and sometimes through diminuendo. It also provides a balance between textures (thick and thin) and pitches. The use of the piano isn't too dissimilar to some free jazz, and expressions of high-pitched notes are balanced out with not only the percussive sounds in the piece but the rumbling of the lower-pitched noise sections.
What follows is Poème Barbare, which appears to experiment with layering moreso than the first piece. An artist's mantra, "I do not paint, I hit" is repeated, increasing in its layering while irregular percussion lines play beneath, and the words become more alien from the original language. This allows the speech to follow the same route of abstraction that music as a whole takes on the record; the words lose their meaning when they can no longer be clearly heard, and instead become anarchic screams that retain a degree of humanity.
The final track, Le Cavalier Blanc, begins with a forgettable percussive solo which is followed by a synthesised passage of music quite different to any other movement on the album. It again works as a study of layering as atonal chords and skittish melodies overlap one another creating different timbres of dissonance. The electronic music diminishes for a moment of spoken word, and then enters a movement which combines low frequencies with thick groupings of high pitches. When the musicians play melodies or chords in this piece, each particular range of pitches is paired with corresponding characteristics: lower notes are usually slower and less layered, higher notes are very rapid and randomly arranged in dense groups, drawing parallels to the sound of the percussion.
The main difference between Musique Barbare (or any music, in fact) and an expressionist painting (or any painting, in fact) is that a piece of music is temporal; moments of composition are heard one after the other. In a painting, or any medium of static visual art, everything can be witnessed at once. Karel Appel, a painter himself, responds to this by combining sounds with common "behaviours", and with other sounds, to allow each moment of time to have a great number aspects to be heard at once (pitch, texture, dissonance, etc), in just the same way many features can be picked out from a painting, all at once.





Mushroom - 1978 - Freedom You're A Woman

Mushroom 
1978 
Freedom You're A Woman





01. Rock N' Roll Man
02. Lose Control
03. Gulf Of Mexico
04. Comin' For You
05. Juicy Mama
06. Sometimes
07. We Were Lovers
08. Freedom You're A Woman

Bass – Adam Calaci
Drums, Percussion – Joe Tomek
Guitar, Vocals – Frank Annunziata
Guitar, Vocals - Mike Falcone




Based in Brooklyn, Mushroom featured the talents of singer/guitarists Frank Annunziata and Mike Falcone, bassist Michael Calaci, and drummer Joe Tomek.  The band apparently managed to attract a local audience playing throughout the New York City club circuit and in 1978 they released a self-financed album.  Co-produced by the band and Nick Schiralli (who co-wrote most of the material), "Freedom You're a Woman" was an odd offering.  Largely penned by producer Schrialli and Annunziata, the collection actually sounded like it was recorded by two different bands.  At one end of the spectrum, tracks like the lead off  'Rock n' Roll Man', 'Comin' for You', and the Falcone-penned 'Gulf of Mexico' offered up gritty bar band rockers (the latter with some nice Allman Brothers-styled twin lead guitar). Competent, though nothing you hadn't heard before - they probably sounded a whole lot better after a couple of beers.  At the other end of the spectrum, 'Lose Control', the ballad 'Sometimes' , and 'We Were Lovers' offered up radio-ready AOR numbers that would have sounded right at home along with the likes of Southern California acts like Jay Ferguson, Journey, or Pablo Cruise.  Better than most small label projects, but most folks can probably live without it ...

The group's career seems to have come to an end in one of the odder stories I've come across.  The group was running a sound check  for an evening performance at the Mercer Arts Center located in Broadway Central Hotel when they were told to stop since the resulting vibrations were generating massive cracks throughout the structure.  The band evacuated the building, only to see it collapse, killing several people and destroying all of their equipment and  their panel truck.

Does it sound familiar? That means you say the TV series Vinyl!



Rock Group Rolls Out of Hotel Just In Time
By: Alan Caminiti

Musical vibrations from a Park Slope rock group called Mushroom may have contributed to the collapse of the 119 year old Broadway Central Hotel last Friday night, according to group members.

Mushroom, composed of Nick Schiralli, manager, 196 22nd St.; Joe Tomeck, 193 22nd St.; Tom Charboneau, 231 14th St.; Max D'Auria, 229 14th St. and three others, was preparing for its evening performace at the Mercer Arts Center, located in the hotel complex, when the collapse occurred.

"We were running a sound check of our system when we were told that it would be best if we stopped, since the vibrations were causing cracks to widen in the ceiling and walls of a nearby room," said Schiralli. "We stopped and cleared off the stage and were waiting around for a key to lock up when the whole place started to cave in.

"We went back in and tried to save our equipment, but debris was falling in huge chunks by that time, so we gave up and all seven of us tried to get out the same door at once," he said.

Group members said they had been alarmed earlier by creaking noises in their dressing room, but were told that building officials were aware of the noises. They were also instructed not to enter the next room because it was "being repaired." When they looked inside they said they saw the ceiling cracking and one of the main building arches showing.

Their dressing room was part of the 75 foot section of the building that crashed to the street in rubble, killing at least two persons and injuring 19 others, including three policemen and firemen.

"When the building first started to go," said Frank Annunziata, another band member and former Bay Ridge resident, "it just sounded like a subway was going by. Each time one passed we would feel the vibrations, so no one could really tell the difference. But then all of a sudden a water main burst and some guy came in screaming that the building was falling...

According to Schiralli, the broken water main would have made escape impossible for anyone remaining in the group's dressing room.

"It's a good thing we did the sound check when we did," said Annunziata. "If we hadn't, the vibrations from the evening performance would have definitely caused the building to fall, only then there would have been hundreds of people in attendance."

The group was to have performed in the "Blue Room" of the Center. The stage there was destroyed and the room was extensively damaged during the collapse.

"When we finally got outside after the initial cave-in, we saw that our panel truck was in danger since it was parked on Broadway in front of the Hotel," said Annunziata. "We started to run towards it when another portion of the hotel collapsed, hurling giant slabs of brick and cement on it."

Pictures of the group's demolished truck appeared in New York newspapers following the disaster.

In addition to the truck, Mushroom felt the impact of the cave-in by losing approximately $10,000 in uninsured equipment. "This puts us out of business," said Schiralli. "We have to cancel bookings."

But Mushroom members say they are simply glad to be alive and can't really complain about the outcome of the whole incident.

Bobby Lance - 1972 - Rollin' Man

Bobby Lance 
1972
Rollin' Man




01. Bar Room Sally 4:22
02. Hot Wood And Coal 8:35
03. Something Unfinished 3:22
04. She Made Me A Man 2:30
05. John The Rollin' Man 4:35
06. Last Stop Change Hands 5:08
07. You Got To Rock Your Own 4:11
08. He Played The Reals 3:38
09. A Tribute To A Woman 1:16

Bass – Dick Bunn
Drums, Percussion – Jimmy Evans
Guitar, Slide Guitar [Lead Slide Guitar] – Kenny Mims
Keyboards – Mitch Kerper
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Bob Lance




First Peace met with little success. At some point before its release, Lance had also managed to sign a songwriting contract with Motown Records. The legal wrangling between the two labels resulted in a decision that they would split the profits of Lance’s albums, and Atlantic had little interest in promoting a record in which it had only a limited financial stake. Rollin’ Man, released the following year, is far more stripped down, probably due to budgetary restrictions. Gone are the strings and horns, the Sweet Inspirations backing vocals, and Robins as his writing partner. Instead, Lance wrote all the tracks — nine on this album, shrunk down from the 11 on First Peace — and recorded them in New York with a four-piece rock band he had recruited on his own. Even the cover of his second album knocked a few superfluous letters from his name, billing him only as “B. Lance.”

Despite the cutbacks — or, more likely, because of them — the lean Rollin’ Man is the superior album, tamping down the previous album’s florid blue-eyed soulisms and focusing on a tighter rock groove. Lusty opener “Bar Room Sally” introduces Lance in a less self-serious mood; during the coda, he even provides the voice of “Sally” and kissy noises against a clattering, saloon-style piano. For all its goofiness, though, “Bar Room Sally” also sets the template for the level of songcraft throughout the album. Unlike First Peace, where even many of the stronger tracks seemed either underwritten or overly busy, epic rockers like “Something Unfinished” and “John the Rollin’ Man” are packed with hooks, but lean enough to keep them sharp and let them sink in.

Lance’s taste for grandeur hadn’t abated entirely, however, as testified by the lengthy instrumental solos on the eight-and-a-half-minute-long “Hot Wood and Coal,” and the expansive, Neil Diamondesque pop balladry of “Last Stop Change Hands” and “She Made Me a Man.” Yet the limitations of the recording process seem to have inspired Lance. While First Peace at times sounded like a songwriter’s demo tape — a song for Aretha, followed by a song for Clarence Carter — Rollin’ Man is fully committed to Lance’s personal blend of influences and interests. Ever the professional songwriter, however, there’s nothing on the album so personal or idiosyncratic that it couldn’t be covered by a band like Three Dog Night or Grand Funk Railroad. The one exception is album closer “Tribute to a Woman,” a delicate, relatively elliptical hymn that barely runs over a minute, yet contains more genuine feeling than First Peace‘s ode to ladykind, “Walkin’ on a Highway.”

Despite the fact that Lance found his groove, however, Rollin’ Man would prove to be his final album; like its predecessor, it foundered. Lance briefly continued to work as a songwriter for Atlantic, but the trouble he had caused for the label ensured his contract wasn’t renewed when it expired. The man who had worked in the music business since he was a teenager suddenly found himself locked out of the industry. Unlike many of his songwriting peers, however, Lance was lucky enough to leave behind a recorded legacy of his own. First Peace and Rollin’ Man aren’t perfect albums, but Lance’s talent shines throughout. Had he had as much of a head for legal matters and business as for songwriting and performing, it’s possible these albums wouldn’t be just cult curiosities, but the start of a fascinating career.

Bobby Lance - 1971 - First Peace

Bobby Lance 
1971 
First Peace




01. Somebody Tell Me 2:17
02. Somewhere In Between 3:41
03. One Turn You're In One Turn You're Out 4:09
04. More Than Enough Rain 5:50
05. I May Not Have Enough Time 3:08
06. It Can't Be Turned Around 2:20
07. Brother's Keeper 3:25
08. Trouble Is A Sometimes Thing 3:47
09. Cold Wind Howling In My Heart 3:35
10. Shake Down Blues 3:07
11. Walkin' On A Highway 5:05

Backing Vocals – The Sweet Inspirations
Bass – David Hood
Drums, Percussion – Roger Hawkins
Keyboards – Barry Beckett (tracks: A2, A4 to B5)
Organ – Richard Tee (tracks: A1)
Piano – George Soule (tracks: A3)
Slide Guitar, Lead Guitar – Eddie Hinton
Tenor Saxophone – Hubert Laws, King Curtis
Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone – Trevor Lawrence
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Frank W. Wess
Trombone – Garnett Brown
Trumpet – Joe Newman
Vocals, Guitar, Percussion – Bobby Lance


Recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Muscle Shoals, Alabama & at Atlantic Recording Studio, New York, N.Y.

Special thanks to: Mark Meyerson, King Curtis, Leo Edwards, Tom Dowd & the whole Atlantic Staff.



Check the liner notes of an album by an artist that doesn’t primarily write their own material, and the credits will be teeming with the names of the people responsible for penning the songs. Sometimes these names will be familiar: fellow performers, star producers, or the rare songwriter or writing team that has earned enough hits to be well-known in their own right. Much of the time, however, the names will be more obscure, listing writers who may have worked steadily for years turning out album tracks and B-sides, or recording with minor artists rather than stars. If they’re very lucky, they might even manage to punctuate their career with a hit or two.

Such is the case of Bobby Lance, a Brooklyn native who started writing songs with his older sister Fran Robins (17 years his senior) while still a teenager in the late ’50s. Most of their material was doled out to little-known doo-wop and girl group outfits, but the duo scored big when Aretha Franklin took their song “The House That Jack Built” to the Top 10 on both the pop and R&B charts in 1968. The hit granted Lance the opportunity to record two albums for Atlantic Records, 1971’s First Peace (released on the Cotillion imprint).

Lance’s debut, 1971’s First Peace, was made with the full backing of the Atlantic machine, featuring a lineup of musicians familiar to anyone who’s studied the liner notes of the label’s classic soul albums of the era. The Swampers, house band for Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, serves as Lance’s core group, while legendary saxophonist King Curtis leads the horn section, and the gospel group the Sweet Inspirations provides the backing vocals. Lance, for his part, leads with a gutsy, Southern-inflected voice of surprising range and intensity, well-suited for the soulful ballads and bluesy rockers comprising the album.

“More Than Enough Rain” is by far the best-known song on either of Lance’s LPs, due to the rumor that Duane Allman plays slide guitar on the track. (Bill Kopp’s liner notes for this reissue presents it as fact, but it’s apparently still a source of debate for avid Allman Brothers fans.) The six-minute psych-blues rocker is a bit of an outlier, however. More typical of First Peace is opening track “Somebody Tell Me,” a mid-tempo R&B groover that mixes blues boilerplate (“My mama had me on a block of wood / in an old broken-down shack”) with vaguely hippie sentiments (“everybody helps each other, yeah”).

First Peace sometimes feels weighed down with Lance’s insistence on piling on the dramatics and “soulful” signifiers, but it’s also packed with enough gems to demonstrate why he managed to be in demand by not one, but two of the most important record labels of the era. (See below.) The underwritten melody line and tired “I’m a man, you can’t hold me down” lyrics of “Somewhere in Between” are more than made up for by its thundering, desperate chorus, which singlehandedly propels the song to the top of the pack. “One Turn You’re In One Turn You’re Out” and “Trouble is a Sometimes Thing” are radio-friendly ballads that could have been R&B hits (though perhaps in cover versions), while the moody atmosphere and tense arrangement of “Shake Down Blues” lends the song a directness largely lacking from rest of the album.

Left End - 1974 - Spoiled Rotten

Left End
1974
Spoiled Rotten 




01. Loser
02. Bad Talking Lady
03. Spoiled Rotten
04. Take It In Strike
05. Sweet Lovin'
06. Every Little Thing
07. Mary-Jo
08. Talkin'
09. Whisky And Bye
10. It´s Over


*Dennis T. Menass - Vocals
*Patsy Palombo - Drums, Percussion
*Tom Figinsky - Lead Guitar
*Jim Puhalla - Rhythm Guitar
*Roy Guerrieri - Bass




The rain continued to fall on a September Friday evening in downtown Youngstown, Ohio. The thick air made the last chords of the last song ring on beyond their normal cry. It was over. The young rock group Cherry Paup had finished their last gig. Guitarist Tom Figinsky, keyboardist Fred Dolovy, bassist Rod Buckio and drummer Pat Palombo had come to the end of their four years together. They were billed as The New Teen Sensations from 1964 through 1969…from high school freshmen to now graduating high school seniors. Now, it was a time of passage…from boys to men, from the dreams of rock & roll to the challenges of the real world… from high school heroes to regular faces in the crowd.

It was during a break at the Apartment Nightclub on Youngstown’s south side in the summer of 1972 that an articulate, brash, boastful and at times vulgar gentleman walked into the group’s dressing room.  He announced himself as Steve Friedman and confidently told the group he wanted to manage them.  At first, the guys took Mr. Friedman as just another hawker that was not to be taken seriously.  But Friedman’s obvious knowledge of the music business and his arrogance were appealing to the group.  After a couple of meetings, LEFT END had a management/production contract with Steven Friedman.

The group recorded more demos and Steve began meeting with record company executives in New York City.  By October of 1972, Friedman landed the group a recording contract with Polydor Records.  The contract gave the group a lucrative recording budget that included a minimum of two singles and one album a year for five years.  LEFT END could choose any studio at which to record.  The group unanimously selected Cleveland Recording in Cleveland, Ohio.  Why?  Because that is where Grand Funk recorded its early albums with the great engineer Ken Hamann.  The group finished its winter engagements while writing and testing new material for an album.  Polydor released “Bad Talkin Lady” on its label and the single began to sell nationally.

In the late spring of 1973 LEFT END began recording their first album.  The group continued to perform during this period.  The group recorded on Monday through Thursday.   One night with a few guests on hand, someone noted the total chaos and mess at the large hotel dining table that had been created by sliding several tables together.  There were beer bottles and mixed drink glasses lying on their side surrounded by stacks of china and half-eaten desserts.  The guest said, “Boy, you guys are really spoiled rotten.”  That was it…the perfect name for LEFT END’s first album…Spoiled Rotten.  To fit the image, Dennis changed his name to Dennis T. Menass.

The Spoiled Rotten LP was released by Polydor Records in the late fall of 1973.  It went to #1 on “Album Pix” charts in the tri-state area of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia over night.

The album picked up momentum and began to sell throughout the Midwest.  LEFT END’S live performances also picked up dramatically and they began playing concert venues to “standing room only” crowds.  Steve Friedman strongly supported the group’s spoiled rotten image by equipping the group with dead frogs to throw into the crowd, ping pong ball firing canons and suckers with wrappers that boldly read “YOU SUCK!”  Below in smaller print it read LEFT END.  The group did a mock slow ballad called, “Your Mine” or “The Pimple Song” in which a large weather balloon filled with water, whipped cream, and mustard was wheeled onstage in a small red wagon.  At the end of the song Dennis T. Menass would burst the balloon and those against the front of the stage got the worst of the exploding pimple.

Battles on stage with giant gorillas and “staged” attacking fans that Dennis T. would subdue with beer bottles, whips and clubs became a standard.  The press labeled them “Big Time Wrestling Meets Heavy Rock.”  The group wore lavish “glam rock” costumes of bright silver, gold, black and red.  When in New York City, the group would head to Greenwich Village and SoHo to find the most outlandish boots, belts, and leather outfits.  Dennis T. would change outfits several times during a concert set.  Certain songs commanded a special look.  Of course, the group continued closing their shows with flash pots and pyrotechnics.  LEFT END was known for their introduction tapes that were played prior to the group appearing on stage.  These were comical thematic collections of live and taped recordings compiled by Thomas John and Jerry Starr of what was then WSRD FM Radio (The Wizard).  These intros became very popular with LEFT END fans.  The Cleveland press dubbed them, “The Monster That Ate Cleveland.”

Soon after the Spoiled Rotten album was released, Polydor released the single “Loser” from the album.  The group began performing in large concert venues with the likes of the Eagles, the J. Geils Band, Brownsville Station, the New York Dolls, Trapeze, George Clinton and the Funkadelic Parliament, and dozens of others.  LEFT END appeared in Rolling Stone, Cash Box, Billboard, Cavalier and other national magazines.  They were frequently featured in local periodicals in the tri-state area.

Polydor held a big reception for LEFT END after the group performed in concert at Cobo Arena in Detroit.   The concert was a great success.  LEFT END finished the set with the usual flash pots on stage and added a full blown fireworks display.  The crowd went crazy and literally attacked the group.  Later, at the reception for the group, Polydor executives, still buzzing from the concert, began to lay out plans for the group.  LEFT END had captured the Midwest and there was great interest from east and west coast cities.  Their plan was to take the group to Europe where it was felt that they would be an instant success and then bring them back here as “The Monster That Ate Europe.”

Group members were floating on clouds anticipating their rise to greater stardom…until communication with Polydor Records suddenly came to a halt.


The Leaves - 1966 - Hey Joe

The Leaves
1966
Hey Joe




01. Dr. Stone 2:20
02. Just A Memory 2:17
03. Get Out Of My Life Woman 2:46
04. Girl From The East 2:56
05. He Was A Friend Of Mine 3:23
06. Hey Joe! 2:48
07. Words 2:31
08. Back On The Avenue 3:05
09. War Of Distortion 2:08
10. Tobacco Road 2:09
11. Good Bye, My Lover 3:10
12. Too Many People 3:15

- John Beck - vocals
- Bobby Arlin - lead guitar
- Robert Lee Reiner - rhythm guitar
- Jim Pons - bass
- Tom "Ambrose" Ray - drums




The Leaves was an American garage band formed in California in 1964. They are best known for their version of the song "Hey Joe", which was a hit in 1966. Theirs is the earliest release of this song, which became a rock standard.

The band was founded by bass player Jim Pons and guitarist Robert Lee Reiner, who were inspired by hearing The Beatles while students at Cal State Northridge in Los Angeles. Originally called The Rockwells, they were fraternity brothers who formed a group and then taught themselves how to play. Besides Pons and Reiner, the original line-up included John Beck (vocals), Bill Rinehart (lead guitar), and Jimmy Kern (drums); in early 1965, Kern was replaced by drummer Tom Ray.

They began by playing surf and dance music at parties. Their first actual show was in the school gym with Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. In 1965 The Byrds left their residency at Ciro's on Sunset Strip after making their first hit, and The Leaves (as they were by now known) were chosen to replace them. It was there they were discovered by popular singer and actor Pat Boone, who got them their first record contract, with Mira Records.

Their first single, "Too Many People", was a local hit in Los Angeles. The Leaves released "Hey Joe" in November 1965, and dissatisfied with the sound, pulled it. They released a second version in early 1966, which flopped. Original guitarist Bill Rinehart left, and The Leaves redid the song again with a fuzztone by new guitarist Bob Arlin. This version of the song, the best of the uptempo versions, became a hit, hitting No. 1 in L.A. It debuted on both Billboard and Cash Box on May 21, 1966. It peaked at No. 31 on Billboard, while showing a humbler peak position of No. 43 on Cash Box. The song ran nine weeks on both national charts.

Their debut album Hey Joe followed. It took a run on the Billboard charts for 5 weeks, beginning on July 30, 1966, peaking at No. 127. The album did not make it onto the Cash Box charts.

The band appeared on TV shows – American Bandstand, Shivaree, Shebang – and briefly in a Hollywood film, The Cool Ones (1967). One more album, All the Good That's Happening, was released before the band broke up in 1967 when Pons left to join the pop group The Turtles; In the early 70s, Pons played bass with Frank Zappa. Arlin went on to form heavy psychedelic band The Hook and The Robert Savage Group. The band reunited in 1970 before Pons became a member of Zappa's band. The reunited lineup included Jim Pons on rhythm guitar, John Beck on lead guitar, Buddy Sklar, lead singer from The Hook and The Spencer Davis Group, Al Nichols on bass from the Turtles, and Bob "Bullet" Bailey on drums. The band did some touring and performed at local Los Angeles based nightclubs before disbanding in 1971.

A new generation of music fans discovered the band when their version of "Hey Joe" was included in the classic 1972 garage rock compilation, Nuggets. According to the Nuggets liner notes, the as yet unnamed band was hanging around a tree-shaded pool, smoking, when a newcomer gave the traditional 60s greeting, "What's happening?" "The leaves are happening", came the answer, which struck them all as a good name for a band.

One of the first L.A. folk-rock groups to spring up in the wake of the Byrds in the mid-'60s, the Leaves are most remembered for recording the first -- and one of the most successful -- rock versions of "Hey Joe," which reached the Top 40 (and was a huge California hit) in 1966. None of their other releases approached this success (although "Too Many People" was a local hit), but the group recorded a fair number of strong covers and original songs during their brief existence. More explicitly Stones and Beatles-influenced than the Byrds, they didn't project as strong an identity as competitors like the Byrds or Love, despite displaying considerable talent for harmony rockers in both the folk-rock and British Invasion styles. After cutting some singles and an album for the tiny Mira label, they moved to Capitol and disbanded after a disappointing follow-up (All the Good That's Happening, 1967) that offered less distinguished material and a more diluted sound. Leaves bassist Jim Pons went on to join the Turtles for a while in the late '60s.

Leaf Hound - 1970 - Growers of Mushroom

Leaf Hound 
1970
Growers of Mushroom





01. Freelance Fiend
02. Sad Road To The Sea
03. Drowned My Life In Fear
04. Work My Body
05. Stray
06. With A Minute To Go
07. Growers Of Mushroom
08. Stagnant Pool
09. Sawdust Caesar

10. It's Going To Get Better (bonus track, originally a German b-side)
11. Hip Shaker (bonus track, previously unissued)

Pete French - vocals
Mick Halls - lead guitar
Derek Brooks - rhythm guitar
Stuart Brooks - bass
Keith Young - drums



Leaf Hound is one of the literally dozens (seemingly hundreds?) of groups that arose from the late 60's "Progressive Blues" scene in the UK, who then went in a heavier direction as the style of the times changed in the early 1970's. Most of this particular group were formerly a more properly "bloozy" outfit called The Black Cat Bones whose sole 1970 album "Barbed Wire Sandwich" almost certainly inspired Spinal Tap's "Shark Sandwich". Leaf Hound's particular corner of the rock family tree also includes cross-references with members of such other sub-luminaries of the day as Atomic Rooster, Cactus, Foghat & Free. Later singer Pete French would audition for Deep Purple & Uriah Heep, but lose out to fellow journeymen like Dave Coverdale and John Lawton.

So knowing all this you shouldn't have too much difficulty pre-supposing what Leaf Hound is gonna sound like: succinctly in two words, "LED ZEPPELIN." Only dumber, cruder, uglier, and generally lacking any notion of subtlety (as the blatantly druggy band & album titles would suggest.) Except when they sound like The Who or Black Sabbath or Uriah Heep. Actually, the band they keep reminding me of the most is Sir Lord Baltimore -- there almost seems to be some subliminal transatlantic psychic link between these two groups, who would have been recording their debut albums at about the same time (so I don't see how one could have directly borrowed anything from the other. Unless someone can find a link between them we must assume that the times REQUIRED music like Leaf Hound & Sir Lord Baltimore, and thus it was summoned forth from all corners of the globe. Just like a whole bunch of different guys all invented radio at about the same time in different parts of the world.)

"Freelance Fiend" kicks things off in fine style with a scrungetastic Baltimoresque riff and a funky cowbell (can never get too much cowbell now can we?) French does his mushmouth macho manboy yowling bout "I'm gonna live my life like a freelance fiend / build all my castles on top of my dreams!" Mick Halls' lead guitar work throughout the album is a bit on the trebly-needly side, and he's certainly no Louis Dhambra. What makes this one is the Sabbath-like aural blending of low rhythm guitar & massive bass tones locked in on a grind-o-matic machine riff. In other words, METAL!

"Sad Road" is driven by acoustic guitar strumming over that fat-tastic bass, rocking it in the style of The Who's "The Seeker." More wah wah wangdoodle & predictable bloozoid lyrics delivered with mushmouth melisma.

"Drowned" features a grinding circular riff that keeps on going, yet more sub-Mick Box wah wah soloing, and the first uncomfortably Zeppelinish moments in French's redline blues howling which bears more than a little resemblance to Zep's "Ramble On."

"Work My Body" is an evil creepy jazz-blues type of thing, somewhere between "Planet Caravan" and The Doors. Again the guitar heroics are a bit strained and for the most part the lyrics are silly sexo rapping, but the massive coda riff with organ sounds cool (hello, Uriah Heep!) and on the whole this winds up being one of the more distinctive sounding numbers on the record.

"Stray" bears an eerie resemblance to Sir Lord B's "Woman Tamer" riff, which is to say both sound a bit like Zep's "Heartbreaker" thrown in a blender. The relentless riff only ever pauses for big bad drum fills (hello, Bill Ward!) and a brief psychjazz bridge. More early 70's metal heaven.

"With A Minute To Go" uses the acoustic guitar & rumblin bass approach again, adding some shimmery powerchords to make me think of The Who's "Naked Eye" this time -- that is until the descending riff at the end where French nicks the melody & cadence of Bob Plant's "well the wind won't blow and it really goes to show uh woah woah woah" right down to the umlauts.

The title track of the album is the goofiest thing here, a taut little 2 minute multi-sectioned pop operetta in the vein of The Who's "Happy Jack" or maybe MC5's "Human Being Lawnmower". It's also the most blatantly druggy number here, he keeps repeating "nobody could tell we were growing some mushrooms!" but with verse lyrics like "my life was a beetle that ran down the wall!" one has to wonder.

"Stagnant Pool" is some gawdamn effing METAL, in fact I can't imagine this was inspired by anything less that the previous year's smash hit single "Paranoid", as they've got the same locked-in machine grind chugga-chugga going on here. However, it's got lots more parts to it than the Sabbath song, including one riff that again is eerily similar to the climactic riff of Lord Balty's "Caesar LXXI" -- as well as another bit that sounds so much like the Jefferson Airplane you expect to hear Marty Balin's sweet tenor floating by instead of Ol' Raspy there.

"Sawdust Caesar" whoops it up and makes a fine ending to the original LP. Shambolic whiteboy lumbering funk with MORE COWBELL!!! that is just plain irresistable. Mick's guitar solo is also his looooosest playing on the record, making this track another of the highlights.

The first CD bonus track "It's Going To Get Better" is pretty useless, a piano-driven ballad that sounds like another band entirely. Reminds me of mid-70's Guess Who (not in a good way.)

"Hip Shaker" is much better though, sounding like a garage band pastiche of the Faces and Humble Pie. The bashing post-gogo boogie metal groove is happenin', so who cares that the lyrics are simple-minded "hip shaker / love maker" nonsense.

Doing research for this review* I've come across quite a few other reviews of Leaf Hound already out there in Internetland, most rife with cliches about "bludgeoning riffs" and superlatives to make you think Leaf Hound is the hottest shit you've never heard before. I dunno, on the one hand it's nothing original and not all that superlative as far as he-man guitar histrionics go -- but I must admit if you were to ask me to make a list of five albums which fit well with the phrase "bludgeoning riffs" this would probably make it. Which is to say if you can't get enough vintage 1971 proto-metal crunch, here's another platter to add to your Unsung diet. But if 70's stoner cock-rock is not your bag, save your drachmas for some other din.



Leaf Hound's music first saw release in Germany in 1971 on Telefunken (where they did a lot of touring; this self-titled "first" album was the same as "Growers of Mushroom" minus a couple tracks.) Later the same year the album was released in their UK homeland by Decca, with nine tracks as shown above (didn't make it across the pond I don't think.) The CD reissue on the See For Miles label includes the 2 bonus tracks listed above. This same label has also reissued the aforementioned "Barbed Wire Sandwich" LP -- which I'venot heard, but the album cover to that one is even more hideous than "Toe Fat"! Hard to resist! Lawd help me, I think I have a problem!


* Here's a factoid mentioned in almost every review, so I'll repeat it here as well: the band's name & most of the song titles on the album are taken from an anthology of horror stories by Herbert Van Thal.

Lava - 1973 - Tears Are Goin' Home

Lava 
1973
Tears Are Goin' Home




01. Tears Are Goin' Home (4:22)
02. Crimes Of Love (6:45)
03. Would Be Better You Run (5:19)
04. All My Love To You (4:20)
05. Mad Dog (6:01)
06. Holy Fool (5:17)
07. Piece Of Piece (10:07)


- Thomas Karrenbach / piano, organ, vocals
- Stefan Ostertag / guitar, vocals
- Jurgen Kraaz / guitars, organ and flute
- Christian Ostertag / guitars
- Archer Weaver / drums, armonica, harp, vocals
- Peter Moses / percussions




 There are many German bands from the early part of the seventies that could be described as either Heavy-Prog or Krautrock and in my experience it's been a hit and miss affair. I just never know until I can hear the whole album over time to give a proper evaluation. LAVA released this one record in 1973 and Conny Plank produced and engineered it. He also plays a guitar solo on the track "Would Be Better You Run". This is a melancholic album with a vocalist that reminds me of CAN's Malcom Moody although the drummer sings on one track and sounds nothing like that. Three of the six band members are multi-instrumentalists as well.
"Tears Are Goin' Home" opens with distorted guitars then it kicks in to an uptempo rocker with vocals sounding very much like HAWKWIND. Spoken words after 2 1/2 minutes as it settles back briefly then away we go again. "Crimes Of Love" is my favourite. The drummer sings and we get a laid back sound with a beat and floating organ. Flute before 3 minutes as that underlying power that is just below the surface bubbles up. It never bursts forth though. Amazing tune ! "Would Be Better You Run" has strummed guitar and vocals standing out. A catchy tune that is folky. "All My Love To You" is where we get a CAN vibe because of the groove and vocals. They repeat the title of this song a lot.

"(I'm Just A) Mad Dog" is where the guitarist plays bass and the bass player offers up a guitar solo. Go figure ? Intricate sounds with not much going on really until before 2 minutes when almost spoken vocals come in. It picks up after 3 minutes. CAN comes to mind with that groove and we get harmonica too. Excellent track. "Holy Fool" is a melancholic song that has strummed guitar and reserved vocals. "Pice Of Peace" is the over 10 minute closer and my second favourite. Relaxed piano to open as cymbals and bass join in. Drums follow. The electric guitar is laid back after 3 1/2 minutes as the beat, bass and piano continue. A melancholic jam. More energy 7 1/2 minutes in then it settles right down a minute later to the end.