Monday, March 23, 2015

Strapps - 1976 - Strapps


01 School Girl Funk
02 Dreaming
03 Rock Critic
04 Oh! The Night
05 Sanctuary
06 I Long To Tell You Too
07 In Your Ear
08 Suicide

Mick Underwood - drums
Noel Scott - keyboards
Joe Read - bass
Ross Stagg - vocals, guitars

Produced By Roger Glover

Mick Underwood seems to have spent a lifetime flying under the radar of fame and fortune. He was in The Outlaws with Ritchie Blackmore and later was the man who suggested Deep Purple who was in the market for a vocalist, needed to pay a visit with Ian Gillan. Not satisfied with a gig as a matchmaker, Underwood formed Quartermas a highly revered Atomic Rooster/ The Nice influenced band releasing one album in 1970 before splitting up. Dropping in and out of bands for a few years (including Peace with Paul Rodgers), Underwood formed Strapps in 1974 with their first album co-produced by Roger Glover. Strapps would release a handful of albums to moderate success in Japan, the UK and US (specifically Texas) before splitting up in 1979 when Underwood joined the Ian Gillan Band. It would appear the purple apple never fell far from the tree.

Unlike the bands later albums which dived into straight hard rock, the Strapps debut was an unusual mixture of glam and progressive rock styles. It's a strange combination with Mott The Hoople influenced vocals and Yes styled keyboard work. Lyrically it's all teenage girls ('School Girl Funk') and the 1970's rock n' roll lifestyle ('Rock Critic') and as odd as it sounds with so many diverse styles coming into play, the music has a certain enduring charm. Mott The Hoople, Silverhead and New York Dolls fans will find much to enjoy here, but it's not for everyone and hard rock fans would be better advised to check out their 'Secret Damage' and 'Prisoner Of Your Love' albums for a better taste of what Strapps were really about.

Kinky artwork by Mick Rock who was responsible for much of the early Queen visuals suits the album's sound and for the more adventurous rock listener looking for something different, Strapps debut will be money well spent. Recently reissued by Cherry Red there's nothing to hold you back!

John Du Cann - 1977 - The World's Not Big Enough

John Du Cann
The World's Not Big Enough

01. Don't Be A Dummy [03:05]
02. You Didn't Know Any Better [03:22]
03. Fashion Fantasy [02:32]
04. When I Was Old [02:33]
05. Only One Night [02:59]
06. Where's The Show! [02:24]
07. She's My Woman [02:30]
08. Throw Him In Jail [02:27]
09. Evil You, Part 1 [02:40]
10. Don't Talk [02:24]
11. Your Application Failed [02:51]
12. If I'm Makin' [02:57]
13. Street Strutter [02:21]
14. Evil You, Part 2 [02:40]
15. Hesitation [02:23]
16. Exodus (Johnny And His Epic Guitars) (Bonus Track) [02:39]
17. Moody Child (Bonus Track) [03:23]
18. Truck Stop (Bonus Track) [02:47]
19. Well Let's Go (Bonus Track) [03:55]
20. Paradise (Bonus Track) [02:46]
21. I Want To Be Alone (Bonus Track) [02:28]
22. Ode To Mai West (Bonus Track) [02:30]
23. Wise Man (Bonus Track) [02:56]
24. Ooh Be Doo (Bonus Track) [03:37]
25. Thanx For Nothing (Bonus Track) [03:58]
26. Who Cares? (Bonus Track) [02:06]
27. The Door (Bonus Track) [00:20]

John Du Cann - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Andy Bown - Keyboards
Francis Rossi - Guitar
John McCoy - Bass
Pete Kircher – Drums

During the mid-1970s, Du Cann was signed to Quarry Management, who also handled Status Quo. When Du Cann presented some demo tracks to Arista Records, it was suggested that he record them in a studio with Status Quo guitarist Francis Rossi acting as producer. A group was assembled to record the album, including bass guitarist John McCoy, who later played with Ian Gillan; Liverpool Express and Original Mirrors drummer Pete Kircher, and keyboard player Andy Bown who was also a member of Status Quo. Ex-Atomic Rooster drummer Paul Hammond also played on several tracks. The band subsequently performed concerts in London, but Arista ultimately decided not to release the album.[1]

The album was eventually released in 1992, and featured Du Cann's 1979 UK hit single "Don't Be a Dummy", which he performed on Top of the Pops. The 1999 CD version also featured a number of bonus tracks, mostly demos and rough versions of songs not featured on the original album.[2]

"She's My Woman" and "Where's the Show!" were re-recorded when Du Cann rejoined Atomic Rooster, and were released on the band's 1980 album Atomic Rooster.

Sammy - 1972 - Sammy


01. Give Me More 6:50
02. I Ain't Never Loved a Woman (The Way That I Love You) 4:47
03. Sioux-Eyed Lady 3:38
04. Boogle 1:44
05. 70 Days 4:01
06. Get Into a New Thing 4:22
07. Jo Anne 4:33
08. Boggled 1:50
09. Who Do You Really Love? 5:25
10. Lady Lover 3:44

Geoff Sharkey (vocals, guitar)
Mick Hodgekinson (vocals, keyboards)
Paul Simmons (bass, backing vocals)
Keith Gemmell (saxophone, flute)
Mick Underwood (drums, percussion)

It's doubtful many folks have ever heard the British band Sammy - I certainly hadn't which was kind of surprising given the band's impressive pedigree.   Drummer Mick Underwood was apparently the band's driving force, with the line up rounded out by a collection of rock veterans including ex-Audience horn and woodwinds player Keith Gemmell, ex-Billy J. Kramer keyboardist Mick Hodgekinson, former Ginhouse guitarist Geoff Sharkey, and ex-Roy Young Band bassist Paul Simmons.     

Signed by Philips, the band debuted with a 1972 45 'Goo Ger Woogie' b/w 'Big Lovin' Woman' (Philips catalog number 6006 227).  While the single did little commercially, it attracted enough interest and attention for Philips management to green light an album.

Co-produced by Louie Austin and Deep Purple's Jon Lord, 1973's "Sammy" offered up a competent, if slightly worn set of mid-1970s hard rock.  Largely penned by Sharkey and Simmons, lyrically and musically there wasn't a lot of originality going on here (kind of like the album cover) - Gemmell's sax adding occasional jazz-influenced runs to the band's blues and rock oriented sound.  As lead singer Sharkey wasn't bad; his raw raspy voice sounded surprisingly good on tracks like 'Give Me More', their unlikely cover of 'I Ain't Never Loved a Woman (The Way That I Love You)', and 'Get Into a New Thing'.  Imagine uriah Heep-lite with the saxes, a little more boogie and variety ('Who Do You Really Love') and you'll be in the right aural neighborhood.  The band was actually far more impressive on their isolated stabs at more-pop oriented material like 'Sioux-Eyed Lady' and 'Jo Anne'.  Elsewhere the album spun off a UK single in the form of 'Sioux-Eyed Lady' b/w '70 Days' (Philips catalog number 6006 249).  Brainless fun, it's actually not a bad effort, especially if you approach it with the right mindset.  

One LP and two 45s appears to cover the band's recording legacy.

Bullet - 1970 - The Entrance To Hell

The Entrance To Hell

01. Door Opens
02. Millionaire
03. No Witch at All
04. Taken Alive
05. The Soul That I Had
06. Entrance to Hell
07. The Orchestrator
08. Hell, Demonic Possession
09. Fortunes Told
10. Snister Minister
11. Jam (The Rock)
12. Time Gambler
13. Monster in Paradise
14. Jay Time
15. Mr Longevity
16. Door Slams
17. Jam (The Taker)

Al Shaw (vocals)
John Cann (guitar)
John Gustafson (bass)
Paul Hammond (drums)

Oh what a tangled web record companies weave, sucking every last drop out of record buyers. The history of this band isn't that convoluted but bears some clarification, not least to prevent the consumer buying the same product a number of times. This band evolved out of the ashes of the recently broken up Atomic Rooster, with Paul Hammond and John Cann (later DuCann) joining forces with ex Quatermass bassist, John Gustafson. Daemon never released an album but quickly morphed (for reasons unknown to me) into Bullet. They added a singer, Al Shore, and toured as support for Deep Purple in 1970 or 1971, when I saw them live. Bullet released one or two singles but then discovered there was another band of the same name, I believe from USA, who possibly (?) threatened legal action. They then became Hard Stuff, who released two albums.

This Daemon collection, amounting to more than a vinyl LP, is what became the Hard Stuff album "Bulletproof". Some of these tracks, for obvious reasons of time limitations, didn't make it onto either of the Hard Stuff albums. Some of the ones that did are identical and a couple have slight changes, possibly where they were re-worked without Al Shore. Some also have different track names but contain the same music. A word of warning, although it adds to the merits of buying this album if you already have the "Bulletproof" issue, is that some of the "identical" tracks to the ones that appear on "Bulletproof" are not exactly the same, however, as we have some subtly different mixes. Now, to top it all, the record companies pull out their final trick. They have released this entire album, I believe on a track for track basis, under the name Bullet and, surprise surprise, they neglect to mention this fact on the cover! Funny that! I have not heard this later issue and, therefore, cannot comment on the relative differences of audio quality.

That's the background but what about the music? Having seen them live, as stated above when they were still Bullet, I was a fan from the off. The final released version of the "Bulletproof" album has long since been a favourite album of mine and this is all that and more so it has to be a winner...doesn't it? Well yes and no (although it's not much of a "no"). Some of the tracks left off "Bulletproof" are not quite of the same high standard and do sound like out-takes. Where it does get interesting is the much longer version of "Jam: The Provider", here stretched out from two and a half minutes to over seven. It was a great track on "Bulletproof" and I always wanted it to go on longer. This is one of those times, rarer than hen's teeth, where I got my wish granted!

Hard Stuff - 1973 - Bolex Dementia

Hard Stuff
Bolex Dementia

01. Sick N’ Tired – 4:04
02. Mermany – 5:58
03. Jumpin’ Thumpin [ Ain't That Somethin' ] – 2:55
04. Dazzle Dizzy – 3:41
05. Bolex Dementia – 3:41
06. Roll A Rocket – 5:19
07. Libel – 3:58
08. Ragman – 3:01
09. Spidere Web – 4:55
10. Get Lost – 3:01

- John (Du) Cann / Guitars
- John Gustafson / Bass
- Paul Hammond / Drums

Hard Stuff’s second album isn’t as brutally heavy as their debut album, but it does still have some quite heavy guitar work. They sound a little more polished though, and they do experiment with some different styles.

There are some hard edged power chording going on but there’s also some ventures into funk and weirdness. ‘Mermany’ is strange acoustic rock that kind of grows on you after a while. ‘Libel’ has a groovy bass line layered with r&bish vocals, and ‘Bolex Dementia’ is a fuzzy conglameration of shortwave radio noises, scratchy noise samples, and a psychotic sounding guitar riff.

The album’s reigning acheivement has to be ‘Spider’s Web’. Great guitar riff, great bass playing, a bit funky but not as funky as Deep Purple’s Stormbringer. ‘Roll A Rocket’ would be the album’s ‘Speed King’. It would make for a perfect soundtrack of to a muscle car chase from an old 70s B movie.

Heavy, but not as evil as one might think, ‘Bolex Dementia’ is a solid effort that is a bit more experimental than the previous album.

Hard Stuff - 1972 - Bulletproof

Hard Stuff

01. Jay Time – 2:55
02. Sinister Minister – 3:33
03. No Witch At All – 5:40
04. Taken Alive – 3:18
05. Time Gambler – 6:14
06. Millionaire – 6:06
07. Monster In Paradise – 4:35
08. Hobo – 3:25
09. Mr. Longevity – 4:36
10. The Provider – 1:53

- John (Du) Cann / Guitars
- John Gustafson / Bass
- Paul Hammond / Drums

Often regarded as one of Deep Purple’s proteges, this heavy, but melodic early 70s power trio had a credible reputation of a hard-nosed, no-compromise, heavy-rocking act in the Purple vein, throughout their short-lived career. Paul Hammond had previously played with Atomic Rooster, as did John Du Cann; John Gustafson came from Quatermass.

Hard Stuff’s Bulletproof is considerably heavier with thick mounds of aggressive guitar chords and lightning fast leads. The music itself is very rooted in the 70s. “Hard Stuff” is to Blairwitch Project as Led Zeppelin is to Nightmare on Elm Street, with the latter being more raw, gritty, and not filtered through big production values and commercialism.

Songs on the album like the hard hitting blues fest ‘Sinister Minister’ or the heavy metal self-document ‘Time Gambler’, convey a sense of soul, strength and edginess.

Quatermass - 1970 - Quatermass


01. Entropy (1:10)
02. Black sheep in the family (3:36)
03. Post war Saturday echo (9:42)
04. Good Lord knows (2:54)
05. Up on the ground (7:08)
06. Gemini (5:54)
07. Make up your mind (8:44)
08. Laughing tackle (10:35)
09. Entropy (0:40)

Bonus tracks on REP 4620 release:
10. One blind mice (3:15)
11. Punting (7:09)

- John Gustafson / bass, vocals
- Peter Robinson / keyboards
- Mick Underwood / drums

 Quartermass is a keyboard-dominated trio of almost mythical proportions, and its sole studio album has many moments of great excitement without being consistent enough to be the long lost progressive rock masterpiece that I'd been led to believe it was. While I'm usually all for diversity, the eclecticism that informs this album comes off as truly haphazard instead of being a result of carefully thought out composition, and as such, is a weakness. Still, Peter Robinson is a player that all fans of organ-based hard rock need to hear ...
If every song was as powerful as the two longest tracks Make Up Your Mind and the instrumental Laughin' Tackle, then this would be a sure-fire winner. Make Up Your Mind is a swirling piece with some decent vocals, great energetic bass work, and after a dramatic break, some outstanding dynamic passages in which solo organ rambles are punctuated by rapid fire runs from the rhythm section before a neat occasionally discordant solo takes the piece clear away. Laughin' Tackle is another real highlight, propelled by some bubbly bass and topped off with a nice jazzy electric piano solo, potent, almost overbearing strings, and then great double tracking by Robinson on electric piano and Hammond organ (a real treat for someone like me). At some point during the song, a Mick Underwood drum solo ensues (this was 1971 after all!) and it's highlighted by some outstanding rolling.

Unfortunately those two tracks are tucked away on the latter half of the record, and it's very likely that some impatient listeners will be turned off by the uneven offerings that come before. Black Sheep Of The Family, for example, (yes, it's the same track was popularised on Rainbow's first album) is basically a pop-tinged hard rock tune, while Gemini is an incongrous mix of poppy verses and great organ playing (first a strange Gothic Procol Harum-influenced slow passage, then a lengthy high octane jam).

Another culprit is Post War, Saturday Echo which is bookended by some really enticing organ work (especially during the second stretch), but is generally a soul-sapping 9-minute blues crawl, with a nice lyrical jazzy piano solo providing respite from the tedium. I'm also not sold on Entropy (which appears twice) first as a minute-long churchy organ piece, and then an even more concise jazzy run. I don't really like the harpsichord with strings ballad Good Lord Knows either.

The Deep Purple (and Jon Lord in particular) influences are very strong on some of the organ songs and Up On The Ground is an agressive exciting piece with lots of superb organ-led excursions from Robinson (and a nice lil' bit of funk thrown in the middle) but sadly Gustafson's vocals have a rather strangled quality that prevents this from being Quartermass' definitive track.

As for the bonus tracks, One Blind Mice is a wicked rock song, with a scorching bassline, and bold organ (with a solo right out of the Lord handbook). Unfortunately, it's another cut on which Gustafson has that strangled bluesy voice and which simply doesn't work for the song. Thankfully Robinson sets things right with a solo straight out of the Lord handbook. Punting is a playful, funky jam that overstays its welcome (it's a 7 minute cut with just two segments that repeat ad nauseum!). It still manages to show that these boys had a great thing going, and could probably have done anything they wanted.

If like me, you're a sucker for hard r0ck dominated by organ (and bear in mind that Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley and Lord are two of my biggest heroes) then you will still definitely want to listen to this album. If you're not into the hallowed organ, you will not find this essential.

Pussy - 1972 - Invasion


01. The Knife
02. Feline Woman
03. Pig Mansion
04. Man of This World
05. Take Me Home
06. Riding Down the Red Flag
07. I Keep Remembering You
08. Lady Ella
09. I. F. O.
10. Moonshine
11. Feline Woman (From Original 1972 Single With Bob Cooke)
12. Ska-Child (From Original 1972 Single With Bob Cooke)
13. Pig Mansion (From 1972 Single Session, Unreleased Version With Bob Cooke)
14. A Place in the Sky (From 1973 Session With Bob Cooke)
15. Lady Ella (From 1973 Session With Bob Cooke)
16. I Keep Remembering You (From 1973 Session With Bob Cooke)

Lynden Williams (vocals)
Bob Cook (lead guitar)
Bill Hinde (guitar)
Paul Dean (bass)
Ray Sparrow (drums)

I first heard of this band in their previous incarnation as Jerusalem. They were "discovered" by Ian Gillan and that alone piqued my curiosity, being a big Purple fan at the time. I bought the former band's single and when they changed names I bought that single as well. The latter, "Feline Woman", is included here, together with the b-side "Ska Child" and these two tracks were the reason for buying this album. The Jerusalem album, which I only bought in the 90s, was a disappointment to me but was not the least bit surprising. The singles had both been rather amateurish and displayed more enthusiasm than ability and so I knew what to expect with a full album of the same.

So, I went into this purchase with a little trepidation and not that much optimism. These feelings were completely justified but I was more disappointed in this album than the earlier one. I had naively expected, at the very least, for an improvement in the band's ensemble playing and also in the song-writing department. Sadly, neither materialised! The same turgid arrangements, the same leaden guitar work and ham-fisted craftsmanship still abound but now the band sound, at times, like a poor man's T. Rex (Jeepster period). This is not remotely a good thing in my books and thus the album can only be seen something of a let-down.

Don't expect a lost gem or even a lost minor gem because it is anything but. If you like early heavy rock, played in a naive and inexpert manner, then the listener may derive some small pleasure

Jerusalem - 1972 - Jerusalem


01. Frustration 5:16
02. Hooded Eagle 8:41
03. I See The Light 3:38
04. Murderer's Lament 4:47
05. When the Wolf Sits 4:35
06. Midnight Steamer 5:39
07. Primitive Man 6:04
08. Beyond the Grave 5:31
09. She Came Like a Bat From Hell 2:47

Bob Cook (lead guitar)
Paul Dean (bass)
Bill Hinde (guitar)
Ray Sparrow (drums)
Lynden Williams (vocals)

As any collector of obscure 60's/70's hard rock will tell you, the pickings get pretty slim the further you dig. For every Captain Beyond, Death Walks Behind You, and Growers of Mushroom, there seem to be at least fifteen barely adequate, sub-par unknowns being heralded as "forgotten masterpieces" in the pages of record catalogs, and as such, collectors have learned to take heed of any record being sold that doesn't have pre-exisitng acclaim from the psych community.

But don't dismiss every no-name heavy you read about, or you just might pass up Jerusalem's sole album, an oft-slept-on heavy stomper from 1972.

This record kicks ass. The fact that it was produced by Deep Purple's Ian Gillan should have ensured it at least moderate success, but its raw, lo-fi recording quality and obsession with darkness likely turned most listeners off back in 1972. Comparisons to Purple can be expected, but Jerusalem's minor-key riffs and tortured vocals paint an altogether darker picture than anything Purple ever attempted. Indeed, the lyrics often deal with such morbid subject matter as murder,  the grim reaper, and rotting in a grave. Further adding to the uncomfortable mood is the fact that several songs staunchly refuse to settle into traditional "groovy" rhythms, instead providing an insistent, sharp-edged backdrop to the group's gloomy tales of loneliness, alienation, and death. This is certainly a unique record in a genre who's musical vocabulary relies primarily on the blues.

The album opens with one hell of a vicious one-two punch in the form of "Frustration" and "Hooded Eagle". The former is a hard-driving rocker with a riff to die for, while the latter is an uptempo dark rocker with a soaring, passionate chorus the likes of which this reviewer has yet to hear again in the underground hard rock canon. This, of course, sets a hard-to-top standard  from the get go, but the rest of the record still delivers the goods (aside from the rather boring "Beyond the Grave").

Oh, and did I mention these guys were HEAVY? Those who need convincing need only listen to the positively crushing steamroller "Primitive Man". Man, this could have been on Volume 4!