Saturday, September 26, 2015

Major Surgery - 1977 - The First Cut

Major Surgery 
The First Cut


01. Dog And Bull Fight     8:13
02. Foul Group Practices     7:07
03. Jubileevit     5:36
04. Hoe Down Up     7:55
05. Shrimp Boats     8:35

Bass Guitar – Bruce Collcutt
Drums – Tony Marsh
Guitar – Jimmy Roche
Saxophone – Don Weller

Recorded: Virtual Earth, Swiss Cottage, London 1976.
Originally released in 1977.
Track 5 is credited on the rear cover with * as: Don't Wait For The Shrimpboat Mother - Father's Come Home With The Crabs (Full title)

From my point of view, there is a big difference between fusion and jazz rock. Fusion, as typified by bands like Return to Forever or Weather Report, is instrumental rock music played by jazz guys. It would almost seem the perfect marriage of the two genres: Virtuoso players tackling the meatier rock angst and sounds. But like any genre, there are some albums with depth and others that are pretty transparent. Jazz rock, on the other hand, is usually a jazz album with rock instrumentation sprinkled throughout. Fusion was more of a mid to late 1970s thing. Jazz rock was more typical at the turn of the 1970 decade, when the creativity of rock was capturing the imagination of jazzers tiring of the same ole, same ole. Major Surgery is a great example of jazz rock, and very much a sound out of vogue for 1977.

The AC sums up: "Jazz-rock rarity from this largely unknown unit, led by saxophonist Don Weller. He and drummer Tony Marsh would go on to become fairly well-known figures in the UK jazz scene, but of perhaps greater interest to prog fans is that the guitar here is handled by Jimmy Roche, who once played with the great East of Eden. His playing here is in a sort of jumpy, Larry Coryell-esque style that I find highly appealing. This stuff is definitely coming from the jazzier end of the jazz-rock spectrum, and being sax-fronted and lacking any sort of keyboard presence..."

Thee Image - 1975 - Inside The Triangle

Thee Image 
Inside The Triangle

01. Fly Away     6:36
02. Far Away Places     2:55
03. High Time Feeling     3:34
04. I.O.U.'S     2:32
05. All Night Long     4:15
06. Good To You     6:02
07. Alone With You     5:05
08. Rapture Of The Deep     1:45
09. Nobody Wins Till The Game Is Over     4:15

Drums, Backing Vocals – Donny Vosburgh
Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mike Pinera
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Duane Hitchings

If you’re like me Thee Image are one of those bands that you may vaguely recall the name of in a “Pete Frame Family Tree” fashion, but nothing else, let alone what they sounded like. Information on the band must be hard to come by, for a goodly proportion of the liner notes are devoted to a potted history of Thee Image’s label, ELP’s Manticore Records with scant details pertaining to the band and their brief history. What we can glean is that they were formed in Miami in 1973 by former Blues Image, Iron Butterfly and Cactus guitarist Mike Pinera – ah, a name I’ve heard of! The band play a loose stew of blues, funk, soul, pop and rock, and produce a hybrid sound somewhere between late period Traffic, Little Feat and Dr John.

The first self-titled album, released in 1974, is a collection of tightly composed good-time songs, and the band has that American sunshine vibe you would expect given their location. For Another Day is a typical upbeat rocker with a nice barrelhouse piano break at the end. This is followed by a soulful piano-led ballad, and after that a white-boy funk workout including a wonderfully sinuous guitar break from Pinera. Those three songs sum up the band, and it’s all enjoyable stuff.

The funk continues into Love Is Here, where Duane Hitchings dominates with keyboard bass and a great synth break. The final track on the debut, Show Your Love, is an atypically sprawling synth dominated rocker which closes proceedings for the first half with the most dated-sounding outing on the record. Apart from that this is an album full of old-fashioned 12-bar ballads, Stax/Motown-influenced southern R&B, all steeped in unforced Americana and is certainly a fun time.

Although the debut failed to chart, sales were encouraging enough for Manticore to fund a follow up. And so a year later the band release their second album Inside The Triangle, a looser affair, more groovy and dance orientated, with longer instrumental sections wiggling their collective ass all over the shop. The funk tends to edge out the other styles, although they’re all still there. On opener Fly Away, drummer Donny Vosburgh gets the bongos and percussion out, Rebop Kwaku Baah style. The Traffic influence is all over this second album, not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as the two groups were contemporaries and at least Thee Image are not trying to recreate a sound form 40 years before their existence…heheh…I’ll put those acid drops down now.

With less focus on the song and more on the riff, Inside The Triangle would have been more of a party record than its predecessor, but has less hooks and so is less memorable. I.O.U.’s is a belter of a funk-boogie workout that should have been longer and probably was live. Pinera’s guitar break is scorching, and it has to be said all three of the band are great players.

Jamming on into the night, Good To You recalls Man from their funky Welsh Connection period, from the very same point in time – there must have been something in the air. The band take a well deserved breather on Alone With You, a tune with a very Winwood-like vibe that might sound cheesy in these modern “seen it all” times, but I actually quite like it in a nostalgic fashion.

Inside The Triangle suffered from a lack of promotion due to ELP’s waning interest in Manticore Records, and by 1976 Thee Image were no more. Pinera moved on to become an in demand session man and producer, as well as forging a decent solo career.

This gathering together of this short-lived band’s recorded output is a nice loose thread or two from rock’s rich tapestry, and a decent addition to the collections of those of us who because of our advancing years have become rock historians by default. “Nurse, where’s me slippers?…”

Thee Image - 1975 - Thee Image

Thee Image
Thee Image

01. Good Things     2:53
02. For Another Day     4:06
03. Drift Off Endlessly     4:21
04. Love Is Here     4:04
05. So Hard To Say     3:44
06. It Happens All The Time     3:05
07. Come To You     3:01
08. Temptation     5:11
09. Show Your Love     6:39

Drums, Backing Vocals – Donny Vosburgh
Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mike Pinera
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Duane Hitchings

Thee Image were formed in 1973 by former Blues Image, Iron Butterfly and Cactus guitarist Mike Pinera and keyboard player Duane Hitchings, formerly with Buddy Miles. Pinera’s first band, Blues Image scored a US hit with the single "Ride Captain Ride” and had begun life as the house band of a Miami rock club called Thee Image. Pinera’s skill as a guitarist meant he was a much in demand musician. After a spell in a reformed line-up of the hard rock group Cactus in 1973, Pinera formed Thee Image with Duane Hitchings on keyboards and talented drummer Donny Vosburgh (who had also played with Blues Image). The band was signed to Manticore in 1974 by Mario Medius who had known Mike Pinera from his time at Atlantic Records in New York whilst he was a member of Iron Butterfly.

Thee Image recorded their self-titled debut album at Criteria studios in Miami, producing a work of polished and sophisticated rock. Although "Thee Image” failed to chart, sales were encouraging enough for Manticore to continue to support the band with the recording of their next album, "Inside the Triangle” in 1975, albeit with a release in the USA only.

Hanson - 1974 - Magic Dragon

Magic Dragon

01. Rocking Horseman     3:32
02. Modern Day Religion     3:10
03. Down Into The Magic     5:26
04. Rock Me Baby     3:55
05. Love Yer, Need You     4:59
06. Boy Meets Girl     3:05
07. American Beauty Rose     3:05
08. Looking At Tin Soldiers     3:44
09. Magic Dragon     2:58

Guitars, Vocals: Junior Hanson
Backing Vocals – Cassandra
Bass – Neil Murray
Clavinet – Andre Lewis
Congas – Brother James
Drums – Glen LeFleur
Guitar – Marlo Henderson
Organ – Andre Lewis
Vocals [Company Sergeant] – The Big "M"

For an album released on the Manticore label (home to the always over-bearing Emerson, Lake and Palmer), this 1974 release came as a pleasant surprise.  The fact that it features one of rock's true chameleons in the form of Donald Hanson Marvin Kerr Richards, Jr.(aka Junior Hanson, aka Junior Kerr, aka Junior Marvin) was simply an added bonus.

The guy's discography is a hornet's nest and I'm not going to try to untangle it here, but Hanson was apparently a post Keef Hartley band project, as well as serving as the debut of his new stage name - Junior Hanson.  The group's original line up consisted of Hanson, bassist Clive Chapman, drummer Conrad Isadore and keyboard player Jean Roussel.  The quartet survived long enough to release one LP 1973's 'Now Hear This' (which I've never heard).

Prior to recording a sophomore album, the band underwent a wholesale personnel shake up that saw namesake Hanson the only carryover.  The revised line up featured percussionist Brother James, drummer Glen LeFleur and bassist Neil Murray.

Overlooking the butt ugly cover art (nice job there Bob Defrin), "Magic Dragon" is surprisingly good Hendrix inspired guitar rock with enough psych touches to make it interesting to folks collecting that genre.  Hendrix wannabes are usually about as interesting as toenail clippings, but co-produced be namesake Junior Hanson and Mario Medious, the album gets off to a kick-ass start with the blazing 'Rocking Horseman' and seldom lets up. Virtually the entire album's worth hearing, but stand out tracks include 'Love Yer, Need You', 'Looking At Tin Soldiers' and the awesome title track. Okay, I'll add the funky 'Boy Meets Girl' to my list of favorites.  While this one's a little more pop oriented than the rest of the album, it'll appeal to all you substance abusers in the crowd.  You simply have to wonder how this one got lost.  Hanson had everything needed to be a major star - great vocals, first rate chops and you have to wonder why he was criminally overlooked.  I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact he was a black Jamaican living in the UK.  

The band apparently undertook a short US club tour in support of the album, but by the middle of 1974 were history.  Hanson subsequently metamorphosed into Junior Marvin and ended up a member of Bob Marley and the Wailers.  When Marley died in 1981, Marvin ended up fronting The Wailers for a couple of albums.

Hanson - 1973 - Now Hear This

Now Hear This

01. Traveling Like A Gypsy     6:15
02. Love Knows Everything     3:08
03. Mister Music Maker     4:27
04. Catch That Beat     3:48
05. Take You Into My Home     3:11
06. Gospel Truth     5:03
07. Rain     5:10
08. Smokin' To The Big "M"     9:53

Junior Hanson - guitar and vocals
Conrad Isidore - drums
Clive Chaman - bass
Jean Roussel - keyboards
Bobby Tench - guitar and back vocals
Godfrey McLean - drums
Jimmy Thomas - superstring and back vocals
Delisle Harper - bass
Chris Wood - flute
Rebop Kwaku Baah - percussion
Ken Cumberbatch - piano

 The band HANSON was formed in 1973 by Donald Hanson Marvin Kerr (Junior Kerr, Junior Hanson, Junior Marvin), best known as the enigmatic and dynamic lead guitarist of Bob Marley And The Wailers.

Born in Jamaica, Junior moved to London as a child, where his love of both acting and music was nurtured. He appeared in the Beatles film Help (1965), which was followed by a number of other television appearances. Meanwhile, Junior served his musical apprenticeship in America, playing with the likes of blues legend T-Bone Walker and Ike & Tina Turner. He quickly earned a reputation as an innovative and expressive blues/rock guitarist. Back in England, he played with bands such as Herbie Goins & The Nighttimers, Blue Ace Unit and White Rabbit.

In 1970 Junior landed a role in the critically acclaimed cult stage musical Hair at the Shaftsbury Theatre in London's West End - he can be heard on the Original London Cast recording, released in 1972. After contributing to albums by Gerry Lockran and Rebop Kwaku Baah, Junior was invited to join the Keef Hartley Band, who were pioneers of the burgeoning British blues/rock scene. Junior made a significant contribution as a writer, singer and lead guitarist to their acclaimed Seventy Second Brave album, and also appeared on the follow-up release, Lancashire Hustler.
In early 1973 Junior assembled the band HANSON, and they were swiftly signed to Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Manticore label by Mario "The Big M" Medious. Their debut album, Now Hear This, featured a veritable who's who of musicians from the genre, and they served up a potent fusion of funky psych-tinged blues-rock. The rich blend of talents and influences was expertly engineered by the legendary John Burns, whose previous clientele had included Jethro Tull, Genesis, Humble Pie, Spooky Tooth, King Crimson, Traffic, Mott The Hoople, Fairport Convention, Deep Purple and Marc Bolan. At the beginning of 1974 Junior disbanded the existing line-up of Hanson and assembled an entirely different group of top musicians. The result was the album Magic Dragon, an uncompromising slice of kick-ass funk-rock, which was again released on Manticore and engineered by Burns. After a short American club tour the band split up, and Junior undertook session work for the likes of Island artists Stomu Yamashta, Sandy Denny and Steve Winwood, and reggae stars Bob Marley & The Wailers, Delroy Washington, Toots & The Maytals and Rico Rodriguez. On Valentine’s Day 1977, Junior was invited to join Bob Marley & The Wailers as a full-time member, becoming an integral part of the band's international success, and thus their unparalleled, unique socio-musical legacy. His rich guitar licks, borne of so many influences and such a diverse career experience, adorn the albums Exodus, which was selected by Time magazine as their ‘Best Album Of The 20th Century, Kaya, Babylon By Bus, Survival, Uprising, Confrontation and numerous compilations. For many years after Bob's passing in 1981, Junior continued at the helm of The Wailers, writing new material and contributing lead vocals and lead guitar. During this period the band embarked upon numerous world tours and released a quartet of highly acclaimed albums; ID, Majestic Warriors, Jah Message and My Friends (Live). Junior has also remained a much-in-demand session player, working with the likes of Burning Spear, Alpha Blondy, Bunny Wailer, Israel Vibration, Culture, The Meditations, Beres Hammond, The Congos and O.A.R. Junior is currently putting the finishing touches to his long-awaited solo album Wailin' For Love, which will be released shortly.
The Hanson albums Now Hear This and Magic Dragon were criminally overlooked at the time of their release, and neither has ever appeared on CD. Junior is very keen to rectify this situation, and is currently looking to secure a deal to enable them to be heard again by the music buying public...

Jackson Heights - 1973 - Bump 'n' Grind

Jackson Heights
Bump 'n' Grind


01. I Could Be Your Orchestra
02. Spaghetti Sunshine
03. Long Necked Lady
04. Public Romance
05. Bump And Grind
06. Cumberland County
07. It's A Shame
08. Ladies In The Chorus
09. Whatever Happened To The Conversation

Brian Chatton / keyboards, vocals
Michael Giles / drums
John McBurnie / guitar, keyboards, vocals
Lee Jackson / bass, guitar, vocals


Johnny VanDerrick / violin
Ian Paice / drums
Ian Wallace / drums
Chris Laurence / bass
Bill Bell / banjo

Compact at 33 minutes, this is the most pop orientated of the three albums with lavish production values, and colourful, `baroque-pop' arrangements, and although quite what they were aiming for is hard to tell, it is fine music by anyone's standards. This really shines on a god hi-fi !

The title track is anything but the dirty pub rock that the name seems to suggest, instead being a sweeping majestic widescreen tune, with McBurnie's vocals easily recognisable as the voice of (Patrick Moraz')`Story Of I' at the fore against full string arrangements. `It's A Shame' is a beautiful divorce ballad (if there is such a thing) with a really memorable tune and perhaps Lee Jackson's best vocal, ably served by a lush arrangement once again. `Public Romance' is especially remarkable for featuring a cornucopia of keyboards including a stunning solo played on Keith Emerson's loaned Moog by Brian Chatton, and more `Melletron' (which is mis- spelt on every album as per the original sleeve notes !).

This album closed out their career and Jackson subsequently attempted to resurrect The Nice formula with Patrick Moraz in the keyboard hot seat with Refugee, only to have his hopes dashed again as Moraz did a runner for a short lived stint with Yes. The three albums on display here demonstrate that while Jackson Heights were eminently listenable, they were always going to fall between several stools. This is not to say however that with a retrospective glance and an appreciation of that melting pot that was the early seventies London music scene, there is much to appreciate here. Even albums like this which totally failed commercially offer up standards in writing, performance and production which are seldom matched today.

Jackson Heights - 1972 - Ragamuffins Fool

Jackson Heights
Ragamuffins Fool


01. Maureen
02. Oh You Beauty
03. As She Starts
04. BeBop
05. Catch A Thief
06. Ragamuffin's Fool
07. Chorale (Five Bridges Suite)
08. Chips And Chicken
09. Poor Peter
10. Bellyfull Of Water

Brian Chatton / keyboards, vocals
Michael Giles / brums
John McBurnie / guitar, keyboards, vocals
Lee Jackson / bass, guitar, vocals

Lp: Vertigo Swirl 6360 077
also released as "Jackson Heights" on Verve V6 5089 in 73 in the US

`Maureen' starts the album stridently, with a slightly tougher and more upfront vocal sound than the preceding album, although to say this was a stab at the charts would be underestimating the sophistication on offer here. There are delightful Piano and Mellotron breaks amongst Yes-like harmonies, (and in fact even a direct steal of an ending from Yours Is No Disgrace, can you spot it?). Once again, triple vocals are in evidence here and this is fine accomplished music, vocal and song-led with much to hold the interest throughout.

At times they are good enough to challenge Crosby, Stills and Nash, whom they had obviously been listening to. There is something refreshing and unpredictable about the writing, the vocals (again three way between McBurnie, Chatton, and Jackson) and the piano, mellotron and acoustic guitars once again framed by the immaculate drumming of Michael Giles.

As well as varied and inventive song based material, `Catch A Thief' is a rare jazz based piano workout and while Brian Chatton is no Keith Emerson, it works well enough. Interestingly there is also a version of Lee Jackson's `Chorale' from `Five Bridges' recorded, probably the way he wanted it to be. It's terrific, with added choral work and Mellotron strings which really flesh it out and make it special.

Overall `Ragamuffin's Fool' could be said to be a little more jovial and `good time' than it's predecessor, defining a kind of eccentric English song-writing based rock where bands pretty much did what they liked , had fun, and worried little about record company balance sheets. This music was never going to change the world, but it is entertaining enough to hold the attention throughout.

Jackson Heights - 1972 - The Fifth Avenue Bus

Jackson Heights
The Fifth Avenue Bus

01. Tramp/Dog Got Bitten
02. Autumn Brigade
03. Long Time Dying
04. Sweet Hill Tunnel
05. Laughing Gear
06. House In The Country
07. Rent A Friend
08. Luxford
09. Pastor Roger

Brian Chatton / keyboards, vocals
Michael Giles / drums
John McBurnie / guitar, keyboards, vocals
Lee Jackson / bass, guitar, vocals

Esoteric continue to surprise with their rehabilitation of more forgotten gems from rock's golden age, this time with the three Vertigo label releases from Jackson Heights, of which this is the first. (They previously made one album for Charisma, `King Progress'). Surprise is certainly the operative word here; this is music of exceptional quality.

Lee Jackson was the bassist and vocalist in celebrated classical rock pioneers The Nice, who was pretty much left high and dry when Keith Emerson had bigger ideas and formed ELP. One would assume that Jackson Heights would consist of Jackson and backing guys, so the first surprise is that the vocals are shared between three, and that this blend is one of the group's major strengths. It is also interesting to learn that on vocals and guitars is one John McBurnie who would later turn up as vocalist/co-writer on Patrick Moraz's unstoppable `Story Of I' and successor `Out In The Sun'. The core trio is completed by Brian Chatton an equally capable keyboardist/vocalist.

This trio went out on the road without a drummer, an economic necessity, as well as perhaps a desire to distance themselves from the full-on organ driven electric assault of The Nice. In the studio however it was a different story and it is an extreme pleasure to hear the mighty and unmistakable Mike Giles (King Crimson) performing on Drums throughout. For family tree fans it's a parallel Nice/King Crimson pairing to show that it wasn't all about what Emerson and Lake did next.

The first thing to remark upon about the music itself is that it is sophisticated, highly listenable and extremely well recorded. It is one of life's eternal mysteries why records recorded in 1972 sound better than they do today. Excellently constructed music, crisp acoustic guitars, beautifully recorded vocals and punchy drums make this a joy to listen to. For fans of adventurous, timeless music, this is a great listen, it is difficult to find comparisons but if you enjoy the McDonald and Giles album, this will be right up your alley. It eschews the traditional bombastic elements of the genre and concentrates on warm, immaculately arranged and played songs which rarely lose focus and sound extremely fresh today.

Jackson Heights - 1970 - King Progress

Jackson Heights 
King Progress

01. Mr. Screw
02. Since I Last Saw You
03. Sunshine Freak
04. King Progress
05. Doubting Thomas
06. Insomnia
07. Cry Of Eugene

Charlie Harcourt / guitars, keuboards
Tommy Sloane / drums, percussion
Mario Tafia / bass, guitars
Lee Jackson / vocals.

There are a few misconceptions about the group Jackson Heights, the first of which was that it was mostly Lee Jackson's group (true at first, but hardly the case later on) and that the disappearance and split of THE NICE had been an acrimonious one. Indeed, Keith Emerson regularly dropped buy gigs to cheer on the mainly acoustic trio, and Emerson and main songwriter Brian Chatton had many family-related contacts. So when the famed trio did split, Lee dropped the bass guitar and picked his acoustic guitar and started writer songs in the singer/songwriter mode. So bassist Lee Jackson left and although he was warned about his vocal limitations, his ego got the better of him (in this regard, Emerson was not dephased when he hooked up with Greg Lake in ELP) and he chose to become lead singer of a quartet that consisted of old buddies Harcourt (guitars, kb), Tommy Slone (drums, perc) and Mario Tafia (bs, guits). Named after a NYC district, the group's debut album King Progress got a release on the Charisma label (The Nice's old label), but it didn't dent the charts despite its very poppish nature. Indeed, the songs were sometimes short pop tunes like some of those early The Nice tune, and there is even a rework of Cry Of Eugene on this album.

But the group was already falling apart and Lee Jackson had to rebuild it from scratch, this time much sturdier including songwriters Brian Chatton (ex-Flaming Youth where he played with Phil Collins) and John McBurnie, thus adopting the acoustic trio mentioned in the first paragraph. For the three albums they will make, ex-Crimson man Mike Giles will play drums when asked to, but will never tour with the band, as they were very much a sort of British CS&N on most songs, while some of the group's longer tracks still maintained a high musicianship. Both Fifth Avenue Bus and Raggamuffin's Fool have pleasant but unexceptional songs; none to bring enough attention for the group to develop a loyal following outside the Uni circuit. The group tried with their last album an ill-fated concept album about bands and groupies (a dimension Lee Jackson was always very aware of) called Bump & Grind, which would prove catastrophic (both in sales and arts) and the group wouldn't survive the album very long, especially knowing that Jackson was working on his private funds into JH.

Lee Jackson had been contacted by Swiss Wizz Patrick Moraz (ex-Mainhorse) to form a band, because he had the finances and recording (Charisma) deals ready, so both contacted Brian Blinky Davison and soon Refugee was born. Alas not for long as Yes would lure away Moraz Past this point, Jackson dropped out of the music scene altogether for over two decades and concentrated on a designer/drawer career, which to this writer's knowledge didn't develop beyond the confidential level. In the late 90's, the trio reconvened and played a bunch of concerts, but no records came out to celebrate this.. Although largely forgotten about nowadays and greatly ignored back in those days, JH did manage to release four albums, which is more than many bands can say.