Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Robin Lent - 1971 - Scarecrow's Journey

Robin Lent
Scarecrow's Journey

01. Scarecrow's Journey
02. My Father Was a Sailor
03. Pushboat
04. Leaving Since You Came
05. Almitra (The Love That Became Us)
06. The Sky Has Called Us Out to Dance
07. Waiting for the Morning
08. Ocean Liner Woman
09. Sea Spray
10. Speak Softly Now

Robin Lent: guitar, harmonica, vocals, writer
Jan Hollestelle: bass
Jan Akkerman: electric guitar
Kees Kranenburg: percussion
Thijs van Leer: piano, flute

Cuban born, Robin was raised in a family that traveled regularly - living in the US, Asia, and Europe as a child.  In 1969, after dropping out of the University of California at Berkeley, Robin returned to London to play in the folk scene.  There he auditioned for the musical Hair that was to open in Holland.  He landed the part of Woof and for two years played and toured with the musical.  During this time, he picked up a contract for his first solo album, Scarecrow's Journey, which was released on the writer's label, Nepentha in the UK.  In 2006, Tull on Wildlife selected the song "Sea Spray" from Scarecrow's Journey to be part of their second 'save the planet' album. Robin toured and worked as a studio guitarist in the early 70's, then landed a deal with CBS for a group he put together with guitarist Hans Hollestelle, Robinson Cruiser.  Following this, Robin moved to France where he lives and continues to write and record.  He has put out two new releases, The Blue Man and Escale en France.

This is a classic 70's album with plenty of atmosphere and a uniqueness that of course has its influences, coming from James Taylor and Paul Simon among others. A seductive voice over simple and straight forward backings. Some brillant guitar work from Jan Ackermann and excellent flute and piano played by Tijs van Leer, two top Dutch musicians. Robin plays acoustic guitar and wrote all of the songs.

Really solid acoustic song album with warm, low male vocals and acoustic guitar, well worth checking out for Nick Drake fans who want to investigate the kindred obscurities from the era. Other than Lent's own fine accomplishment here, the album is interesting to me because the backing musicians include Jan Akkerman and Tijs van Leer of Focus, and their distinctive, beloved sound peeks through here at times, particulary on the short jammy section of "The Sky Has Called Us Out To Dance" (awesome song title!), though not to the extent I could get excited about. Okay, I'm a little excited. I'm just such a fan of early Focus. A better example of the invisible hand of Focus from the same time is The Beauty of Bojoura. This album has a mix of orchestral soft rock backing and stripped-down percussion-less songs. It could also be likened to Appaloosa, the obscure violin-laden 1969 masterpiece from the USA, at least in terms of vocal style, but certainly pales in terms of songwriting and accompaniment.

Pappo's Blues - 1978 - Pappo's Blues Volumen 7

Pappo's Blues 
Pappo's Blues Volumen 7

01. El hombre suburbano
02. El viejo
03. El jugador
04. Tema 1
05. Abordo
06. Gris y amarillo
07. Detrás de la iglesia

Pappo: Guitar, Vocals
Alejandro Medina: Bass
Darío Fernández: Drums, Percussion

"Pappo's Blues Vol. 7", released in 1978, was originally intended to be a live album, at least that was the intention of Pappo and bassist Alejandro Medina, some tapes from live shows were recorded, but the quality was so poor that they declined the idea.
Finally the LP consisted of re-recorded Pappo's Blues songs (with rawer sound), plus a couple of new tracks, namely "Detrás de la iglesia" and "El jugador", which were erroneously issued without the vocal tracks.
The old songs sound considerably stronger, heavier and dirtier than the original ones, although the production and the mix of this record is a bit strange, the final result smells like an unfinished task, which had an anticipated release.
Musically this album is quite fine, especially the new version of "El viejo" (original from 1971), including a Pappo's killer slide guitar with his Gibson Les Paul, "Tema 1", another song from the early 70s, also recorded by Luis Alberto Spinetta on his first solo album, and "Gris y amarillo", song that features hoarse vocals by Pappo.
The weird production is especially noted on the Darío Fernández drums (which is clearly revealed on the CD issue)... a fun album all in all, despite the technical imperfections and the odd details.

Pappo's Blues - 1975 - Pappo's Blues Volumen 6

Pappo's Blues 
Pappo's Blues Volumen 6

01. Slide blues
02. Abordo
03. Nervioso visitante (Parte II)
04. El escarabajo
05. Los libres pecan por ser libres

Pappo: Guitar, Vocals
Eduardo Daniel "Fanta" Beaudoux: Bass
Eduardo Garbagnati: Drums

This album contains studio-outtakes recorded in 1973/1974
The sixth volume of Pappo's Blues comes like a lazy and derelict record featuring 24 obscure minutes and 5 songs, starting with a 6-minute blues rock, "Slide blues", so simple and derivative athough completely cool in its psychedelic rock licks and monotonous monolithdom.
The second track of an album that it slides from the fingers like sand, is "Abordo" (On board), a risible instrumental with heavy guitars and lysergic aura.
"Nervioso visitante part 2", title recalled from a former album ("Triángulo"), here is rebirth as a chaotic, schizoid riff by Pappo, on a structure that sounds like the earliest Motörhead from 1975 and jam band spirit.
Perhaps this track could be deemed heavy metal for 1975, some spoken, apparently noncohesive words ("the capacity of our minds / I never saw what was happening in my life, who knows") are intertwined in the middle of the song, which ends with futuristic psych noise.
The last segment of "Volumen VI" consists of "El escarabajo" (The beetle); brief instrumental where the fingers walk on the guitar strings like a tarantula-Bach (?)
In the very end is "Los libres pecan por ser libres" (The free ones sin because they are free), intriguing piece featuring subtle electric guitar with groovy drums that encircle a philosophical Pappo's speech, which barely can be understood (the voice sounds very low, almost inaudible).
"Vol. 6" is not bad as experiment, and perhaps it's the Pappo's darkest gem ever.

Pappo's Blues - 1974 - Triángulo (Pappo's Blues Volumen 5)

Pappo's Blues 
Triángulo (Pappo's Blues Volumen 5)

01. Malas compañias
02. Nervioso visitante
03. Mirese adentro
04. Hubo distancias en un curioso baile matinal parte I
05. Hubo distancias en un curioso baile matinal parte II
06. El buzo

Pappo: Guitar, Vocals
Eduardo Daniel "Fanta" Beaudoux: Bass
Eduardo Garbagnati: Drums

Leon Gieco: Vocals on track 6
Nacho Smilari: Vocals on track 6

"Pappo's Blues Triángulo" is the entry to the strangest epoch of this guitarist's sound and style, and of the Argentina's history.
The context and environment when this "Triángulo" (aka Vol. 5) was released, was marked by politically turbulent times in Argentina, 1974, the aged president Juan Peron died, and his second wife and vice-president, Isabel Peron, assumed the presidency trying to fill some shoes which were too big for her.
The economy was quite well-managed, with a reasonable social justice, but the violent atmosphere impelled by some terrorist groups, plus the impotence of the government to control them, paved proper road for a crude military intervention a short time later, in the early 1976, regime which entitled itself as "bastion against the communist menace in the zone" (government that would last til the War of the Falklands, in 1982)... unfortunately all these military dictatorships were devised by the CIA, which makes us think that, perhaps, the worst South American Fascists were an American creation.

When this album was released Buenos Aires was a rarefied city, the social-political atmosphere was volatile and any unexpected thing could happen, there was a violent and sudden devaluation of the currency in 1975, and many people lost their savings... the final economic collapse brought a violent change in a country that would walk toward dark years.
Pappo, born Norberto Napolitano, family of Italian immigrants, modest working class, he started playing guitar when he was very young, in the mid-60s, and also some piano that his older sister taught him.
Impelled by his enthusiasm about the blues, and especially the 60s and 70s blues rock, he forged a style, simple and robust at the same time, where the psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix, and finally Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull, would configure this sum of things that Pappo was, and so he started in the artistically improbable Buenos Aires of the late 60s, briefly in a band called Los Gatos, and then, going ahead with his Pappo's Blues.
This album from the mid 70s was called "Triángulo" (because Pappo's Blues was a trio), and it's actually the first album of the band featuring a title on the cover.
The first tune "Malas compañias" is a dense hard rock with long instrumental passages that flow into "Nervioso visitante", a sombrous and creepy instrumental that starts with a little sound, and derives into the camp of the jam band and the experimental, with a solid base giving support to the Pappo's fingers, which walk over the strings like two schizoid spiders.
The side one is closed with "Mirese adentro" (Look at yourself inside), similar in structure to the first track, but shorter, and featuring a good portion of mystical lyrics:

"Come to see me, I want to show you, how it's raining in the darkness
Don't tell me what you think, I want to show you, how the community sleeps... now tell me what you think."

"Hubo distancias en un curioso baile matinal", is just a 14-minute song divided in two parts, with excellent performance by Eduardo Beaudoux & Eduardo Garbagnati on bass and drums... the song ends in spasms of exhausted Gibson Les Paul.
Towards the end is "El buzo" (The diver), weird acoustic song played with a Spanish guitar only, backed by creepy voices and laughter intertwined with incomprehensible words that barely can be heard, bringing the LP to an end with phantasmagoric mood.

"Triángulo", along with "Vol. 6", are both the cursed diamonds in the Pappo's Blues discography, but this one in particular still stands there like a dark secret, dark like the social and political context from which it emerged.

Pappo's Blues - 1973 - Pappo's Blues Volumen 4

Pappo's Blues
Pappo's Blues Volumen 4

01. Fiesta cervezal
02. Gato de la calle negra
03. Abelardo el pollo
04. Semilla de sésamo
05. Con Elvira es otra cosa
06. Sol de armónica
07. El palacio de la montaña en invierno

Pappo: Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
David, Lebon: Rhythm Guitar
Alejandro Medina: Bass
Black Amaya: Drums
Isa Portugheis: Percussion

On track 5
Carlos Alberto "Machi" Rufino: Bass
Héctor "Pomo" Lorenzo: Drums

Fourth chapter of Pappo's Blues, featuring guitarist-vocalist Pappo and his voice which brings some Hanna-Barbera's character to mind, here we have this "Vol.4", released on the last months of 1973.
The opening tune "Fiesta cervezal" (Beer party), a superfluous rock with ostinato transports the beef quickly toward "Gato de la calle negra" (Black street's cat), only track penned by Pappo and an enigmatic Tony Gibson, song framed by spectacular, blackened riff and cool drums, creating a hypnotic mood.
This one and the proto-metal "Abelardo el pollo", are the best tracks, followed by "Semilla de sesamo", a 9-minute instrumental that reaches a heavy epilogue on its last minutes.
After this sequence appears "Con Elvira es otra cosa" bringing some blues rock a la Led Zeppelin's "Living loving maid", and including twin guitars; let's add that this LP was probably the last "accessible" output from Pappo's Blues, because the next three records are quite un-approachable and obscure, so to speak.
After the long monster blues "Sol de armonica", the long play closes with an unusual acoustic instrumental, "El palacio de la montaña en invierno" (The mountain palace in winter), which is a sweet little tune with groovy drums, acoustic bass and delicate, slightly echoing chords from a meek electric guitar.
This tune is totally different to the rest of the album, and brings the end of the record in a mystic mood, from the Andes or the Himalayas maybe.

I'm not sure if originality is still important in rock music at this stage of the game but, if it is, Pappo's Blues "Volumen 4" should be taken into account.

Pappo's Blues - 1973 - Pappo's Blues Volumen 3

Pappo's Blues 
Pappo's Blues Volumen 3

01. Stratocaster boogie
02. Pájaro metálico
03. Sucio y desprolijo
04. El sur de la ciudad
05. Sandwiches de miga
06. El brujo y el tiempo
07. Trabajando en el ferrocarril
08. Caras en el parque
09. Siempre es lo mismo nena

Pappo: Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Carlos Alberto "Machi" Rufino: Bass, Vocals
Héctor "Pomo" Lorenzo: Drums

Third volume out of the seven that the delirious Pappo's Blues spaceship left recorded in the 70s for next generations to discover it.
This is the album where Pappo's Blues find the strongest influence from Jimi Hendrix, and among the highlights, the proto-metal "Sucio y desprolijo", "Pájaro metálico", the Celtic-like? "El sur de la ciudad", the delirious lyrics of "Sandwiches de miga" (according to the legend, penned by Pappo seconds before playing it live for the first time), or the esoteric "El brujo y el tiempo" (The wizard and the time) among others, sum up a tremendous psychedelic hard rock record.
The trippy & acid atmosphere are there, too, and already it can be noted from the artwork (the internal photos showing the trio, Pappo, Pomo & Machi are extraordinary).
Little to say about this, since it needs to be heard to be understood; maybe like a footnote here I can add that the opening instrumental track "Stratocaster boogie" was recorded using... a Gibson Les Paul.

Pappo's Blues - 1972 - Pappo's Blues Volumen 2

Pappo's Blues 
Pappo's Blues Volumen 2

01. El tren de las 16
02. Llegará la paz
03. Insoluble
04. Tema I
05. Desconfío
06. Pobre Juan
07. Blues de Santa Fe
08. Tumba

Pappo Napolitano: Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Black Amaya: Drums
Carlos Piñata: Bass
Luis Gambolini: Drums

The second fascicle of this adventure that -in the 70s- was called Pappo's Blues, simply entitled "Vol. 2", is a rare example of what could be deemed stoner rock in 1972, the groovy bass, the drums and the Pappo's guitar signature recreated in the past, a sound of the future.
Seeing the naive artwork is difficult to guess this half an hour contained in the record, featuring psychedelic hard rock, and the appeal of its strange sound (probably due to technical defects sometimes).
"Pappo's Blues 2" contains, in its minimal duration, some of the classics of this deceased guitarist, composer and singer, 'Tren de las 16', 'Llegará la paz', 'Insoluble', 'Tema I' (aka Hay tiempo para elegir, aka Castillo de piedra) or the melancholic blues with piano 'Desconfío' (aka Desconfío de la vida), which is one of the most beautiful blues I've ever heard.
'Solitario Juan' (aka Pobre Juan), 'Blues de Santa Fe' (aka Un blues para Santa Fe) and the great 'Cementerio' (aka Tumba), shape the side two, finally, with longer songs and some interesting lyrics, intriguing at times.

It could be said that several factors make of this little album one of the Pappo's finest LPs, capturing even today, 42 years later, the attention of the listener with its inept production, streetwise philosophy, weird riffs.

Pappo's Blues - 1971 - Pappo's Blues

Pappo's Blues 
Pappo's Blues

01. Algo Ha Cambiado   
02. El Viejo   
03. Hansen   
04. Gris Y Amarillo   
05. Adios Willy   
06. El Hombre Suburbano   
07. Especies   
08. Adonde Está La Libertad   

Pappo Napolitano: Guitar, Vocals, Piano
David Lebon: Bass
Black Amaya: Drums

Norberto Aníbal "Pappo" Napolitano (La Paternal, 10 March 1950 – Luján, 25 February 2005). Ten Years gone but not forgotten... Grande Carpo!

 Norberto Napolitano, better known as Pappo, was born on March 10th, 1950. In 1967, after playing with his teen band Los Buitres, his drummer friend Pomo introduced him to Miguel Abuelo and poet Pipo Lernoud. Pappo then joined Los Abuelos de la Nada.

A self-taught guitar player, his skill is noticeable even early in his first composition, "La estación", sung by him and recorded by Los Abuelos de la Nada after Miguel Abuelo left the group. (This song was included on the compilation LP Mandioca Underground [MLP 331] in 1969).

Pappo played piano (!) with Manal during a coast tour and later joined beat group Conexión Nro 5 for a brief period of time. Credited as Pappo's, he recorded a song ("Nunca lo sabrán") for another compilation: Pidamos peras a Mandioca (MLP 335).

In 1969, Los Gatos called him to replace Kay Galiffi. With Pappo on guitar, the pioneer beat combo turned rocker and released their best two albums. He later joined the short-lived groups Engranaje and Pistola, and played on the first two Billy Bond y La Pesada LPs. Pushed by producer Jorge Álvarez, he finally formed his own group, Pappo's Blues, with David Lebón (credited as "Davies") on bass and Black Amaya on drums.

click to enlarge click to enlarge The first Pappo's Blues album, recorded on a 2-track machine, shows a brilliant skilled rock and blues guitar player. The powerful "Algo ha cambiado", "El hombre suburbano" or the long "Adonde está la libertad" are good examples.

For Pappo's Blues Volúmen 2, Pappo is joined by Luis Gambolini and Black Amaya on drums and Carlos Piñata and Willy Verdaguer on bass, among others. This excellent second LP, "inspired" by Tommy Iommi's and Rory Gallagher's best known riffs, includes lots of Pappo's classics: "El tren de las 16", "Llegará la paz", "Blues de Santa Fe" and the beautiful blues "Desconfío". Much stronger than his first effort, the album was recorded "live in the studio" with minimum post production.

Pappo also appeared in the rock movie Rock hasta que se ponga el sol playing "El tren de las 16" and "Trabajando en el Ferrocarrill" with group La Máquina (no relation with the Charly García symphonic outfit). The soundtrack album does not include these performances.

click to enlarge Soon afterwards, Pappo recruited drummer Pomo and bassist Machi for the best remembered line-up of Pappo's Blues and recorded his best LP: Volúmen 3. This album opens with the speed instrumental "Stratocaster boogie" and includes "Pájaro metálico", the classic "Sucio y desprolijo", the enigmatic "Sándwiches de miga" and the superb blues "Siempre es lo mismo, nena". The group sounds like a real power trio and Pappo is as good as ever, establishing his reputation as great guitar player. However, influential rock magazine Pelo strongly criticised this album when released, mainly due to the poor lyrics.

Pomo and Machi left to join Invisible, Luis Alberto Spinetta's new project. Pappo –with his friends David Lebón and Black Amaya and La Pesada musicians Alejandro Medina and Isa Portugheis– recorded Pappo's Blues Volúmen 4. (Pomo and Machi played on "Con Elvira es otra cosa", also released on single [Music Hall 40022]). Another great album, Vólumen 4 includes "Fiesta cervezal" (a tribute to beer drinking), "Gato de la calle negra" and "Abelardo el pollo" (yet another example of offbeat lyrics).

click to enlarge click to enlargeHis fifth album, the only to have a name (Triángulo), was still good, but much improvised in the studio. The best moments are the great "Malas compañías", "Hubo distancias en un curioso baile matinal (parte 1)" and the psycho-folk "El buzo".

Soon after the album was released, Pappo moved to England for a two-year period. He jammed with Peter Green and got in touch with hard-rock bands. In the meantime, the record company released Volúmen 6, an LP comprising studio outtakes. Although mostly instrumental, this album is still good to me.

Pappo returned and formed Aeroblus, with Alejandro Medina on bass and Brazilian drummer Junior Castello. They recorded a hard rock album.

click to enlarge click to enlargeIn 1978, with Medina on bass and Darío Fernández on drums, Pappo released Pappo's Blues swan song: Volúmen 7, an album of new and old songs re-recorded. Also in 1978, Pappo went to Spain and played some well-acclaimed gigs; but unable to release a record there, Pappo's Blues split.

Pappo went back to Europe, and when he returned he formed the successful Riff, a heavy metal band influenced by Black Sabbath and AC/DC. Later he played on and off, to return to his rock and blues roots. He played live and recorded with B.B.King, Deacon Jones and Edgar Winter. In 1993 he had a huge success with "Mi vieja", a popular tribute to everybody's mother.

First Pappo's Blues album, the musical project of guitarist-vocalist Norberto "Pappo" Napolitano after his tenure in Los Gatos during the latest 60s, here accompanied by David Lebon (aka Davies) on bass and "Black" Amaya on drums, the perfect and typical power trio from the 60s and 70s, rocking hard without complexes.

For some reason (maybe because it was the debut) this record turned out to be the superior classic in the Pappo's discography for many people (along with "Pappo's Blues Vol. 3"), the sound is primitive and technically imperfect, including heavy wah-wah by Pappo and some moments of jam band; the solos are frenetic and the vocalizations are quite desperate every now and again, the sound of the cymbals is crude, and all the whole thing seems to have been recorded in one session, live and without any technical schtick, the sound of the drums is strange and the bass is, sometimes, excessively groovy, some spacey aural feel is not completely absent, also.

Highlights include "Algo ha cambiado", "Hansen", "Especies", "Adonde está la libertad", or the bluesy "El viejo", everything sung by the Yogi Bear-like voice of Pappo, with slightly philosophical lyrics full of streetwise advice, and his guitar that sounds like echoing his own words.

God, I love it when Pappo uses the wah pedal! It's a shame that he only uses it on two tracks here and completely forgets about it after this album. "Algo ha cambiado" (heavy wah jam!), "Especies" (Sabbath riff!), and "Adonde esta la libertad" (more wah-wah!) are the best tracks, and they put the rest of the songs on this album to shame. It almost sounds like Pappo used up so much energy on those three gems that he decided to play slow, relatively boring blues to catch his breath. And this seems to be live sessions without a trace of overdubs or any other studio effect; and that doesn't seem to be a bad thing in this case.

The album is recommendable as an inception to Pappo's Blues, and it's especially adequate for hard rock, heavy psych and 70s' proto-metal fans (Buffalo (AUS), Sir Lord Baltimore, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Lucifer's Friend, etc).