Friday, January 20, 2017

Leigh Stephens - 1969 - Red Weather

Leigh Stephens 
Red Weather

01. Another Dose Of Life 4:47
02. Drifting 6:41
03. Indians 4:47
04. I Grow Higher 5:39
05. Red Weather 3:14
06. If You Choose Too 5:10
07. Joannie Mann 5:05
08. Chicken Pot Pie 3:12

Bass – Leigh Stephens
Drums – Kevin Westlake, Mick Waller
Guitar – Leigh Stephens
Keyboards – Ian Stewart, Nicky Hopkins
Vocals – Eric Albronda (tracks: 1), Kevin Westlake (tracks: 1), Leigh Stephens

Rock guitarist Leigh Stephens was a founding member of the power trio Blue Cheer, a hard rock band based in San Francisco, along with bassist/vocalist Dickie Peterson and drummer Paul Whaley. The group was signed to Philips Records and released its debut album, Vincebus Eruptum, in January 1968. Containing a Top 20 revival of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues," the LP soared to number 11 in the Billboard chart. Less successful was the follow-up, Outsideinside, released in August 1968, which reached the Top 100. In late 1968, Stephens, who later described himself as the only member of Blue Cheer not to be "chemically challenged" (i.e., using drugs), was asked to leave the group after criticizing the behavior of his bandmates. He signed a solo deal with Philips and moved to Great Britain, where he recorded his debut solo album, Red Weather (February 1969). Returning to San Francisco, he formed a new band, Silver Metre, with singer Jack Reynolds on bass, keyboard player Pete Sears, and drummer Mick Waller. The band signed to National General Records and released one self-titled album, which was notable for containing three Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs, two of which, "Country Comforts" and "Now They've Found Me" (aka "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun") had not yet appeared on an Elton John album. Silver Metre broke up in November 1970, and Stephens recorded a second solo album, Cast of Thousands (1971) for the British Charisma label. He then formed a new band, Pilot, which featured Waller, guitarist Bruce Stephens (who had been a replacement member of Blue Cheer), bassist Neville Whitehead, and Martin Quittenton. They signed to RCA Victor Records and released a self-titled debut album in 1972, after which Stephens left the group. His next band was called Foxtrot and featured keyboard player George Michalski, bassist/vocalist Gary Richwine, and drummer David Beebe. They signed to Motown Records and recorded an album in 1974, but it was never released. More abortive projects followed during the '70s and into the ‘80s, but Stephens did not have another legitimate record release until 1998, when he was a member of a band called Chronic with a "K" also featuring singer/keyboardist Melissa Olsen, bassist Ron Stone, and drummer Ryan Goodpastor that released Ride the Thunder on ChroniCorp Records. In 2004, Stephens self-released his third solo album, High Strung/Low Key.

Red Weather was the first solo project from the lead guitarist of Blue Cheer. Originally released on the Phillips/Mercury label in 1969, the album immediately became a favorite on the underground music scene and established Stevens as a solo act. The music on Red Weather was dramatically different than that of Blue Cheer, with a well structured psychedelic sound like Quicksilver or the Grateful Dead rather than the sledgehammer hard rock sound of his former band. Recorded in England at the Trident Studios with the help of Nicky Hopkins on keyboards, drummer Mick Waller from the Jeff Beck Group, and Kevin Westlake from Blossom Toes, the album was hailed as a masterpiece by many British rock fans but was equally dismissed by Blue Cheer fans. The album contained eight songs that highlighted Stevens songwriting ability rather than his guitar prowess. After nearly 30 years the album was rereleased complete with the original psychedelic artwork cover.

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