Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Howard Roberts - 1966 - All-Time Great Instrumental Hits

Howard Roberts
All-Time Great Instrumental Hits

01. It Was A Very Good Year 2:37
02. Soft Winds 2:41
03. Autumn Leaves 2:33
04. Theme From "A Summer Place" 2:15
05. Mr. Lucky 2:23
06. Comin' Home Baby 2:31
07. Danke Schoen 1:55
08. Work Song 2:27
09. Desafinado 2:47
10. The "In" Crowd 2:53
11. Misty 2:26

Howard Roberts - g
Henry Cain - org
Chuck Berghofer - b
Larry Bunker - dr

Recorded in Hollywood, California, August 26, 29 & 30, 1966

Howard Roberts - 1965 - Goodies

Howard Roberts

01. Love 2:20
02. Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me) 2:25
03. Three O'Clock In The Morning 2:25
04. Girl Talk 2:49
05. Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) 2:34
06. Goodies 2:54
07. More 2:30
08. I Know A Place 2:22
09. Summer Wind 1:45
10. Chim Chim Cher-ee

Bass – Charles Berghofer* (tracks: A1 to A3, A5 to B3, B5), Max Bennett (tracks: A4, B4)
Bass Guitar – Carol Kaye (tracks: B3), John Gray (2) (tracks: A4, B4)
Drums – Frank Capp (tracks: A4, B4), Hal Blaine (tracks: B3), Larry Bunker (tracks: A5, B1, B2, B5), Shelly Manne (tracks: A1 to A3, A6)
Guitar – Donald Peake* (tracks: B3, B5), Thomas Tedesco* (tracks: B3)
Guitar [Solo] – Howard Roberts
Organ – Charles Kynard (tracks: B3, B5), Henry Cain (tracks: A1 to A3, A5 to B2), Pete Jolly (tracks: A4, B4)
Percussion – Larry Bunker (tracks: B3)
Rhythm Guitar – John Pisano (tracks: A4, B4)

Of the dozens of studio guitarists who all but lived in the jazz and pop recording studios of Los Angeles in the 1960s, Howard Roberts probably had the easiest sound. With the advent of pop-rock in 1964, Roberts earned a solid living adding the guitar to albums marketed to young adults. But it would be unfair to categorize Roberts as Easy Listening, since he was nearly always swinging and was often accompanied by an organ in the '60s, which gave his sound a funky, hip twist
Though Roberts recorded a couple of albums as a leader in the mid-1950s for Verve, he didn't come into his own until 1963, when he began recording for Capitol. By my count, Roberts recorded 10 albums under his name for the label between 1963 and 1969 that straddled jazz and pop—including swinging movie themes, British Invasion hits, transistor radio singles and even Sinatra fare. All are uniformly superb, since Roberts was a master of teasing out any song's essence and beauty. Roberts also tended to favor the lower register of his Gibson guitar, which gave his instrument's "voice" a deep, masculine sound.
As one of the most in-demand session guitarists in the 1960s, Roberts was often called in to record rock and pop. As drummer Hal Blaine [above] told me yesterday, "Howard wasn't part of the Wrecking Crew's nucleus but he was with us many times augmenting the sound. He was on lots of sessions with us, including dates produced by Phil Spector. Howard was one of the few guys who walked out of a Spector session after Spector insisted that Howard use a particular fingering on the guitar. I suspect Howard couldn't handle some punk from New York telling him how to handle a guitar."
Among my favorite Roberts recordings for Capitol is Goodies, his fourth album for that label that was recorded in 1965. On the album, Roberts was featured with a quartet, but the musician who made up that group were wide-ranging. Here are the original album's two sides (A and B) and the varied personnel accompanying Roberts

Howard Roberts - 1964 - Something's Cookin'

Howard Roberts
Something's Cookin'

01. Bluesette 2:10
02. A Hard Day's Night 2:11
03. The Lonesome Cowboy 2:40
04. Frankie And What's His Name 2:06
05. Blues In The Night 2:20
06. Cute 2:42
07. In A Mellow Tone 2:25
08. Charade 2:25
09. Maniac 2:42
10. Recado Bossa Nova 1:47
11. Something's Cookin' 2:19
12. People 2:35

Bass – Chuck Berghoffer
Drums – Earl Palmer
Guitar – Howard Roberts
Organ – Charles Kynard
Percussion – Vic Feldman
Trombone [Bass] – Ken Shroyer
Trombone – Bob Enevoldsen, Frank Rosolino,  Gilbert Falco
Trumpet – Al Porcino, Jack Sheldon, John Audino, Ray Triscari

In this album Howard introduces a new guitar by Epiphone - the "Howard Roberts Model".

On "Something's Cooking" the usual guitar-organ-bass-drums format of the other Capitol albums is enhanced by the addition of a large brass section that is made up of a who's who of Los Angeles studio stars. For that reason, "Something's Cooking" is unique in H.R.'s Capitol output. The musicianship is of the highest caliber throughout the Capitol series of albums.
~ The short duration of the tracks (all under three minutes) imposed an interesting challenge on the soloists: make your solo clear, concise, and interesting. There was no time for meandering. The soloist, especially Howard Roberts, were up to the challenge. Indeed, these albums can almost be considered a tutorial in jazz guitar playing and distilling a solo down to its essence.
~ For those looking for examples of Howard Roberts playing more traditional jazz with extended solo space, you will have to look elsewhere (his Verve and Concord recordings), but if you are looking for an enjoyable, joyful, funky ride through the 1960's you are going to enjoy "Something's Cooking".
~ Highly recommended, although dollar for dollar you may want to consider the Euphoria release that contains both "Something's Cooking" and "Goodies".

Howard Roberts - 1963 - H.R. Is A Dirty Guitar Player

Howard Roberts 
H.R. Is A Dirty Guitar Player

01. Watermelon Man 2:25
02. Smolderin' 2:48
03. Li'l Darlin' 3:07
04. Turista 2:08
05. If Ever I Would Leave You 2:58
06. One O'CLock Jump 2:48
07. Deep Fry 2:23
08. Rough Ridin' 2:24
09. Satin Doll 2:50
10. Smokin' 2:12
11. One Note Samba 2:30
12. Dirty Old Bossa Nova 2:13

Bass – Chuck Berghoffer
Drums – Earl Palmer
Guitar – Howard Roberts
Organ – Burkley Kendrix

Although Howard Roberts isn't given a lot of room to burn on these 12 airplay-length cuts -- all are three minutes or less, which was about all Capitol chose to tolerate in those days -- burn he does in this stimulating, soulful quartet session. Freely mixing recent hits ("Watermelon Man," "If Ever I Would Leave You"), big-band standards ("Satin Doll," "Li'l Darlin'"), bossa novas ("One Note Samba"), and several originals, Roberts and his silky-toned guitar are always fluid, tasty, and swinging, perhaps benefiting from the tight time limits. Last track "Dirty Old Bossa Nova" is also the best, a really insinuating swampy riff (hence the LP's title). Backing Roberts is the sharp rhythm team of Burkley Kendrix (organ), Chuck Berghofer (bass), and Earl Palmer (drums). The liner notes by plectrum co-conspirator Jack Marshall are pretty droll, featuring groan-inducing noms des plumes like the Italian actress Lynn Guini and baseball manager Pop Flies. Ooh, dat's corny....

Howard Roberts - 1963 - This Is Howard Roberts Color Him Funky

Howard Roberts
This Is Howard Roberts Color Him Funky

01. Florence Of Arabia 1:42
02. What Kinda Of Fool Am I? 2:43
03. Sack O' Woe 2:27
04. When Lights Are Low 2:37
05. Hoe Down 2:46
06. Shiny Stockings 2:17
07. Goodbye, Good Luck, I'm Gone 2:15
08. One Long Day 2:31
09. The Peeper 2:12
10. Days Of Wine And Roses 2:26
11. Down Under 2:22
12. Color Him Funky 2:19

Bass – Chuck Berghofer
Drums – Earl Palmer
Guitar – Howard Roberts
Organ – Paul Bryant

Recorded in Studio A, the Capitol Tower, Hollywood, Calif.
February 12 and 13, 1963.

Recorded with organ trio, Howard is slick and soulful. Find this one on vinyl and you'll smile and tap your foot. The organ sounds a bit dated, but it's part of the charm.

Howard Roberts - 1959 - The Velvet Groove

Howard Roberts
The Velvet Groove

01. Indian Summer 5:26
02. An Orchid For Miss Sterling 3:25
03. The Inocents 4:41
04. Lover Man 2:41
05. Serenata Burlesca 3:05
06. Easy Living 4:06
07. My Shining Hour 2:13
08. Ah Moore 2:38
09. Polka Dots And Moonbeams 3:41

Howard Roberts (guitar)
Bill Holman (tenor sax)
Pete Jolly/Marty Paich (piano)
Red Mitchell (bass)
Bob Enevoldsen (valve trombone)
Stan Levey/Alvin Stoller (drums)

Tracks were recorded in Los Angeles, CA, 1959 and October 22, 1956.

Howard Roberts - 1959 - Good Pickins

Howard Roberts
Good Pickins

01. Will You Still Be Mine 4:23
02. When The Sun Comes Out 4:15
03. All The Things You Are 2:42
04. Lover Man 4:25
05. Relaxin' At Camarillo 5:47
06. Godchild 4:45
07. Easy Living 4:05
08. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea 2:40
09. The More I See You 4:12
10. Terpsichore 4:50

Bass – Red Mitchell
Drums – Stan Levey
Guitar – Howard Roberts
Piano – Pete Jolly
Tenor Saxophone – Bill Holman

Issued in 1959, Howard Roberts' Good Pickin's was his second album for Verve as a leader. It is as straight-up a blowing date as you're likely to find, though it has wonderful harmonic invention thanks to the two arrangers on the date -- Bill Holman, who also plays tenor, and Marty Paich. The rest of the date is rounded out by pianist Pete Jolly, bassist Red Mitchell, and drummer Stan Levey. The tunes range from standards like "All the Things You Are" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" to straight-up bebop in Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo" and George Wallington's "Godchild." The lone original on the set, which closes the album, is Roberts' "Terpsichore." It is also the longest on the platter. It's a slow blues that's unimaginative but allows everyone in the band to blow. The tenor/guitar heads on these tunes work well thanks to tight, colorful arrangements that accent the sharpness in the chosen songs. The straight-up soloing works because it is reined in tightly, keeping the melodic invention at the forefront. This is a solid date and should be checked out by anyone interested in jazz guitar.

I much prefer Mr. Roberts' Verve work to his Capitol releases. On Capitol he was limited to about three minutes per song. Here, he's allowed to stretch out to five minutes, giving his sidemen time to solo. I don't know why the Amazon listing contains a bunch of question marks where the names of his band should be. They're clearly listed on the packaging. They include Pete Jolly on piano and Bill Holman on sax

Howard Roberts - 1957 - Mr. Roberts Plays Guitar

Howard Roberts 
Mr. Roberts Plays Guitar

01. Seranata Burlesca
02. I Hear A Rhapsody
03. The Innocents
04. Ah Moore
05. Indiana
06. Indian Summer
07. Jillzie
08. My Shining Hour
09. Polka Dots And Moonbeams
10. An Orchid For Miss Sterling

CD bonus tracks

11. Little Girl
12. A Ghost Of A Chance
13. Have You Met Miss Jones
14. I've Got A World On A String
15. Sweet Georgia Brown

Guitar – Howard Roberts

Bob Bertaux Bass
Bob Cooper Reeds, Sax (Tenor)
Don Davidson Reeds
Herb Geller Reeds
Pete Jolly Piano
Harry Klee Reeds
Red Mitchell Bass
Joe Morello Drums
Red Norvo Vibraphone
Alvin Stoller Drums
Ben Tucker Bass
Gerry Wiggins Piano

Roberts was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and began playing guitar at the age of 8. By the time he was 15 he was playing professionally locally.

In 1950, he moved to Los Angeles, California. With the assistance of Jack Marshall, he began working with musicians, arrangers and songwriters including Neal Hefti, Henry Mancini, Bobby Troup, Chico Hamilton, George Van Eps, and Barney Kessel. Around 1956, Bobby Troup signed him to Verve Records as a solo artist. At that time he decided to concentrate on recording, both as a solo artist and 'Wrecking Crew' session musician, a direction he would continue until the early 1970s.

Roberts played rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass, and mandolin. He was known for his heavy use of the Gibson L-5 guitar in the studio and for television and movie projects, including lead guitar on the theme from The Twilight Zone as well as acoustic and electric guitar on The Munsters, Bonanza, The Brady Bunch, Green Acres, Get Smart, Batman, Beverly Hillbillies, Andy Griffith, Peter Gunn, Johnny Quest, Gidget, Mannix, Lost in Space, Dragnet, Wild Wild West, Mission Impossible, The Odd Couple, Dick Van Dyke, I Dream of Jeannie, and the theme for the film classic Bullitt.

Artists Roberts backed include Georgie Auld, Peggy Lee (on "Fever"), Eddie Cochran ("Sittin' in the Balcony"), Bobby Day ("Rockin Robin"), Jody Reynolds ("Endless Sleep"), Shelley Fabares ("Johnny Angel"), Dean Martin ("Houston"), the Monkees, Roy Clark, Chet Atkins, and the Electric Prunes.

In 1961, Roberts designed a signature guitar which was originally produced by Epiphone. The guitar was a modified Gibson ES-175 (Epiphone is owned by Gibson and during this period Epiphone guitars were manufactured in the same factory as Gibson guitars in Kalamazoo, Michigan), with a round sound hole and a single pickup. A redesigned version was later produced by Gibson. The Howard Roberts signature was borne by two other models made by Gibson: the Howard Roberts Custom and the Howard Roberts Fusion III.

In 1963, Roberts recorded Color Him Funky and H.R. Is A Dirty Guitar Player, his first two albums after signing with Capitol. Produced by Jack Marshall, they both feature the same quartet with Roberts (guitar), Chuck Berghofer (bass), Earl Palmer (drums) and Paul Bryant alternating with Burkley Kendrix on organ. Both albums were released on a single CD under the title Dirty & Funky on Randy Bachman's label Guitarchives in 1997. In all, he recorded ten albums with Capitol before signing with ABC Records/Impulse! Records.

As a member of the 'Wrecking Crew', Roberts was a part of Phil Spector's 'Wall of Sound', playing guitar on some of the most famous songs in Pop Music history.

From the late 1960s, Roberts began to focus on teaching rather than recording. He traveled around the country giving guitar seminars, and wrote several instructional books. For some years he also wrote an acclaimed column called "Jazz Improvisation" for Guitar Player magazine. Roberts developed accelerated learning concepts and techniques, which led to the founding of Playback Music Publishing and the Guitar Institute of Technology. As a co-founder of GIT, now known as the Musicians Institute, Roberts' philosophy remains an integral part of the curriculum.

Roberts died of prostate cancer in Seattle, Washington, on June 28, 1992. His wife Patty, also active in musical education, continued in this field after his death

Howard Roberts was a very popular jazz guitarist on the cool west coast scene after he moved there in the mid-'50s. While approaching the popularity of Barney Kessel and the virtuosity of Joe Pass or Tal Farlow, Roberts was relegated to second division status, but remained a formidable and pleasing performer nonetheless. This reissue from the vaults of Verve and Intro records (officially his second effort as a leader) is structured in a manner where separate sessions from 1956 and 1957 are not programmed to be lumped together, but split up to hear the guitarist with strings, a flute, and double reed section, and help from tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper or vibraphonist Red Norvo. As a result, you hear different ensembles per track, showing a diversity of taste levels that Roberts employed. The four recordings with only strings sound tasteful and not overbearing, with bassist Red Mitchell adding exponentially to their high quality and class. "Serenata Burlesca" is surprisingly interactive, while the others are ballads, light and airy. Cooper sounds great on his three selections, witty and erudite, substantive and fluid, especially during the fleet bopper "Indiana" jousting with the pianist Pete Jolly, and in tandem with Roberts on the attractive "Jillzie." Of the two selections featuring the reed quartet, Jolly's bouncy piano informs the chamber like strings and woodwinds on the utterly delightful piece "The Innocents," and they congeal perfectly in harmonious refrains during "My Shining Hour." The cuts with Norvo are bonus tracks, and he is on four of the five even though attributed to only two. The guitar of Roberts scurries around Norvo on a great take of "Have You Met Miss Jones?," while big chords from all of the front line instruments are used for "I've Got the World on a String," and the band romps fast and furious through "Sweet Georgia Brown." There's a lone trio tune, "Little Girl," featuring the expert brushwork and effortless quick-time bop approach of drummer Joe Morello, clearly at the top of his game. This is a fine effort from Roberts, and though the bulk of these tracks is highly arranged, the bonus tracks are not. They provide insight and contrast into the kind of versatile jazz musician Howard Roberts was becoming.

Howard Roberts started his career as a recording jazzman with the first ten tunes contained in this album by Fresh Sounds. Originally it came out on Verve and it was an album full of stars in the arrangements department as in the playing roles. Bill Holman, Marty Paich, Jack Montrose, Bob Envoldsen were the arrangers while the players were Red Norvo, Pete Jolly, Bob Cooper and Alvin Stoller. What you can hear in this album are different settings, trio, quartet, quintet and string sections. The music is always interesting. Howard plays really really well in all the situations. This is a straight ahead jazz date (two different dates actually) and not an album similar to the Capitol ones that Howard recorded later on, that in my opinion are the ones that form the legacy of Mr Roberts original sounds (albums that I love so much). But this one it's really great in its own right. It shows a master at work among many other masters, ... something that does not happen anymore unfortunatly. A very good records that I suggest to all the fans of good, really good Jazz

Dust - 1972 - Hard Attack

Hard Attack

01. Pull Away/So Many Times
02. Walk In The Soft Rain
03. Thusly Spoken
04. Learning To Die
05. All In All
06. I Been Thinkin
07. Ivory
08. How Many Horses
09. Suicide
10. Entrance

Bass, Slide Guitar, Steel Guitar – Kenny Aaronson
Drums, Percussion – Marc Bell
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Richie Wise

Born in Brooklyn, New York in the late 1960’s, Dust were a pro-type Heavy Metal band made up of three musicians and a lyrist that all went on to have major careers in rock and roll.  Dust could actually be called a pre-super group as the band consisted of the two guys who went on to produce the first two Kiss albums, guitarist/vocalist Richie Wise and manager/lyricist Kenny Kerner, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Marc Bell, AKA Marky Ramone, and bassist extraordinaire Kenny Aaronson who went on to play with Bob Dylan, Sammy Hagar and Joan Jett among others.

Before they were famous, they were Dust, however, a band of kids who were, accidentally and in some ways unbeknownst to them, creating American Heavy Metal.  They only released two albums, 1971’s self-titled debut, and 1972’s Hard Attack before breaking up.  Now, both albums  have been re-released and remastered from the original analog master tapes on a single CD with a Record Store Day exclusive vinyl version released on April 20.

"We were loud and fast, and it was just unreal," recalls Wise. "Even when we played low, we were 20 times louder than everybody else. When we got our record deal, I got three Marshall stacks, Kenny Aaronson bought four Acoustic 360-watt amps, Marc bought this huge set of Ludwigs with a big 28-inch bass drum. On stage, it was just an amazing amount of exhale — not a whole lot of inhale."

The self-titled Dust album featured a song that is considered one of the first and finest examples of early American Heavy Metal in “From a Dry Camel.”  That album also contains rockers “Stone Woman,” “Chasin’ Ladies” and “Loose Goose.”  Hard Attack saw Dust write the best hard rock songs of their brief career, stepping up the musicianship, yet also performing songs outside of the Metal genre including “Thusly Spoken” and “How Many Horses.”  It is the powerhouse tunes on Hard Attach, though, that make this album so special.  “Suicide” has been a cult favorite for years while “Learning to Die” and “Pull Away/So Many Times” see Dust creating their own individual sound.  Pretty amazing considering they were all 21 years of age or younger at the time!

Marky Ramone AKA Marc Bell comments, "We were teenagers, but we were pretty developed as musicians — concerning that genre. Nobody else in Brooklyn that I knew of could do what we could do as a threesome. And we had a style. Yeah, we could all play blues and rock, but we took it further. We took it to different time changes within the songs, and people weren't doing that at that time."

Both albums sound amazing as the songs, after being remastered, literally rock harder than ever before and have had new life breathed into them.  "We tweaked it a bit," points out Aaronson. "But didn't want to stray too far from the original, because that's what people who do know it are used to. If it was up to me, I was thinking, 'I wish I could remix the whole record,' but the remastering was nice."

The final word on Dust goes to manager and lyricist Kenny Kerner, who is thrilled the band’s two albums will once again see the light of day.  "I think young kids who never heard it before will find new Metal heroes, and people who grew up with Dust will rekindle their love for this music and this band."

Dust were almost an ideal cult band: a group that were of their time but never belonged to it, yet its members became better-known later, with drummer Marc Bell becoming Marky Ramone and bassist Kenny Aaronson joining the Stories, a band the singer/guitarist produced along with Dust producer Kenny Kerner. Of course, neither 1971's Dust or its 1972 sequel Hard Attack -- both combined on this Legacy two-fer from 2013 -- sound anything like the breakneck punk of the Ramones or the Baroque pop of the Stories, nor is it quite the proto-metal of its lore. Instead, the two albums find a power trio adrift in the mythic murk of the early '70s, sometimes recalling a bit of the towering cinematic crunch of Mountain, sometimes the folk-art-blues of Jethro Tull, occasionally dipping into a bit of blooze boogie but not as often as they dabble in some of the majestic art rock muddle of early Deep Purple. They can be heavy, they can be loud, but there's too much color and too many acoustic guitars for this to be easily be pegged as metallic. Instead, it's where acid rock begins to unravel, hitting very hard before receding into faux hippieland, peppered with pseudo-profound tales, but it's always clear that Dust would rather be "Chasin' Ladies." All this makes Dust read a lot more interesting than they sound: they have these unformed ideas, unwitting allusions, and gangly gallop that are kind of intriguing on their own terms but never quite add up to more of the sum of their parts. A great cult item, in other words: listening to it, you can hear why people love it, even if when you can't fall for its charms yourself.

Dust - 1971 - Dust


01. Stone Woman 4:02
02. Chasin' Ladies 3:34
03. Goin' Easy 4:28
04. Love Me Hard 5:25
05. From A Dry Camel 9:49
06. Often Shadows Felt 5:10
07. Loose Goose 3:48

Bass, Steel Guitar, Slide Guitar [Bottleneck Guitar], Resonator Guitar [Dobro] – Kenny Aaronson
Drums – Marc Bell
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Richie Wise

The first album from Dust is interesting on many levels. The rhythm section featured drummer Marc Bell, who would later join New York punk rockers Richard Hell & the Voidoids, while bassist Kenny Aaronson would sign on with labelmate Stories on the group's third album, as Ian Lloyd moved from bass/vocals to complete frontman. The songwriting team of producer Kenny Kerner and singer/guitarist Richie Wise would go on to produce the third Stories album, making this Dust debut and its follow-up an important piece of the Stories puzzle. Wise's lead vocals on Dust were decent enough to complement his very competent guitar playing; Wise would eventually get hired as A&R man at Scotti Brothers Records. This record is not only the document of a record executive/producer as recording artist, but of musicians who would go on to do more substantial work in the industry. "Stone Woman," with its shimmering slide guitar work from Aaronson, would've fit perfectly on a Leslie West record. What Dust was all about is kind of difficult to get a handle on. A hard rock band for sure, and certainly spirited; the listener has to wonder if the group is successful when progressive, or if things might be better served by staying on the straight and narrow. "Chasin' Ladies" sports a real cool riff and pretty eerie vocal by Wise, while the one song contributed by Aaronson, "Loose Goose," becomes an endless jam. Wise emulates Greg Lake of ELP and, despite the good try, had Dust kept to the poppy influences all these musicians had in them, the group might have had a better chance at success. Kama Sutra, after all, had the Lovin' Spoonful and Sopwith Camel, artists who charted with pop music on the Top 40. For their image, Dust used a photo from the catacombs on the front cover and a camel in the desert on the back. It's an amalgam of hard rock and progressive sounds from co-producer Kerner, who would go on to produce hits for Gladys Knight and edit The Music Connection magazine. Interesting stuff worth hearing at least once.

Cactus - 2010 - Ultra Sonic Boogie 1971

Ultra Sonic Boogie 1971

01. Evil 9:55
02. The Band Introductions 0:53
03. Bro. Bill 6:28
04. Oleo 11:44
05. No Need To Worry 14:48
06. Token Chokin' 3:53
07. Big Mama Boogie (Part I) 7:36
08. Big Mama Boogie (Part II) 4:38
09. Outro 0:52

Bass, Backing Vocals – Tim Bogert
Drums, Backing Vocals – Carmine Appice
Guitar – Jim McCarty
Vocals, Harmonica – Rusty Day

Cactus were an American supergroup of sorts in the late '60s and very early '70s, although the band never had the level of commercial success its pedigree might suggest. With one of the best rhythm sections in rock, drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tim Bogert, both having recently exited Vanilla Fudge, a fine lead singer in Rusty Day, formerly of the Amboy Dukes, and a solid lead guitar player in Jim McCarty, formerly with Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Cactus were the ultimate boogie party band on steroids -- if they had ever actually taken the time to write some top-notch songs, they may well have been huge. The group recorded three albums before splintering, and this newly discovered nine-track set (nine tracks only if you count the band introduction as a track and split the 12-minute “Big Mama Boogie” into two parts, which is the case here) sort of fills in the space where a live album might have been back in the day. Ultra Sonic Boogie was recorded live in front of a small audience at Ultra Sonic Studios in Long Island for broadcast by local station WUR, and it does show this powerful band in a relaxed and playful mood. With Appice and Bogert behind him, Day could have sung a random handbill and it probably would have worked. Songs like “Big Mama Boogie” are hardly literary statements, but this set shows what a powerhouse the band was live, and Cactus weren't about statements anyway -- they were about making you boogie your brains out.

Cactus - 2007 - Fully Unleashed- The Live Gigs, Vol. 2

Fully Unleashed- The Live Gigs, Vol. 2

101. Intro / Tuning
102. Long Tall Sally
103. Parchman Farm
104. Mellow Down Easy
105. Feel So Bad
106. Walkin' Blues
107. Scrambler / One Way...Or Another
108. Oleo

201. Bro. Bill
202. Token Chokin'
203. Slow Blues (Medley)
204. Heebie Jeebies / What'd I Say
205. Evil

Carmine Appice
Jim McCarty
Rusty Day
Tim Bogert

Recorded live at Gilligan's, Buffalo, NY (06/26/71)

Considering that the original Cactus lineup only released three studio albums, none of which made much of a dent on the popular consciousness when they were released in the early '70s, there seems to be undue interest in the group's leftovers. This is the third double-disc set within three years from Rhino Handmade on the thudding blues rockers, all of them impressive sellers with the previous volume of live gigs selling out its limited-edition run. While Vol.1 collected performances from the band's early career (including a track from this set), Vol.2 reproduces a single two-hour performance from Cactus' Buffalo appearance on June 26, 1971. Originally recorded by noted engineer Eddie Kramer, the sound faithfully captures Jim McCarty's slashing guitar and Carmine Appice's thumping drums in a concert setting that highlights the band's strengths and weaknesses. Joined on this date by second guitarist Ron Leejack, who had just joined the existing four-piece but didn't last long in the lineup, the sound is fuller, louder and a bit more raucous than Cactus' usual three-piece plus vocal attack. Never the subtlest of acts, the recently expanded five-piece stretches out here, for better or worse, on nearly every track, often pushing the tunes into the excess that the group seemed to thrive on. Guitarist McCarty unleashes his inner Ritchie Blackmore on a solo opening to "Scrambler/One Way...Or Another" and he and drummer Appice were clearly the band's driving forces. Original singer Rusty Day, soon to depart along with McCarty, doesn't have a great voice, but he puts across the songs with passion, and his harp playing, while serviceable at best, adds an edgy bluesy element. The average tune is bloated to about eight minutes with "Oleo" clocking in at over 12, the closing "Evil" extended to 15 (including Appice's nightly drum solo which runs five minutes but seems to be three times as long) and the "Slow Blues (Medley)" unwinding at a third of an hour. All of this is precisely what fans want, even if the band doesn't seem to know when to stop playing. As the only entire performance from the original lineup (plus Leejack) available, it's a solid, sometimes exciting and occasionally excruciatingly overwrought performance. But for the group's cult followers, and there seem to be plenty of them, this is an accurate document of a characteristically sweaty, rip-snorting Cactus show, and presents the act doing what it did best, arguably at the peak of its career.

Cactus - 2004 - Fully Unleashed- The Live Gigs

Fully Unleashed- The Live Gigs

01. Into / Long Tall Sally 12:16
02. Bag Drag 3:10
03. Evil 16:11
04. Parchman Farm 6:21
05. Alaska 3:56
06. Oleo 11:20
07. No Need To Worry 20:18
08. Let Me Swim 5:06
09. Big Mama Boogie - Parts 1 & 2 15:31
10. Medley: (17:04)
 Heeby Jeebies
 Hound Dog
 What'd I Say
11. No Need To Worry 5:08
12. Parchman Farm 4:30
13. One Way... Or Another 9:14
14. Bro. Bill 6:12
15. Swim 4:44
16. Bad Mother Boogie 5:25
17. Our Lil Rock-N-Roll Thing 7:00
18. Bedroom Mazurka

Carmine Appice (tracks: 1-1 to 2-6)
Jim McCarty (tracks: 1-1 to 2-6)
Rusty Day (tracks: 1-1 to 2-6)
Tim Bogert (tracks: 1-1 to 2-6)

Bass, Backing Vocals – Tim Bogert (tracks: 2-7 to 2-10)
Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Carmine Appice (tracks: 2-7 to 2-10)
Guitar – Ron LeeJack (tracks: 2-5, 2-6), Werner Fritzschings (tracks: 2-7 to 2-10)
Lead Vocals – Peter French (tracks: 2-7 to 2-10)
Organ, Piano, Electric Piano – Duane Hitchings (tracks: 2-7 to 2-10)

All tracks on disc 1 and tracks 1 & 2 on disc 2:
Recorded live at Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, TN (12/19/71)
(Previously unissued)

Tracks 3 & 4 on disc 2:
From "The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies" Columbia #30805 (1971)
Recorded live at The Isle Of Wight Festival, East Afton Farm, Isle Of Wight (08/28/70)
(Previously unissued on CD)

Tracks 5 & 6 on disc 2:
Recorded live at Gilligan's, Buffalo, NY (06/27/71)
Mixed at Penguin Recording Studios, Pasadena, CA, October 2003
(Previously unissued)

Tracks 7-9 on disc 2:
From "'Ot 'N' Sweaty" Atco #SD 7011 (1972)
Recorded live at The Mar Y Sol Pop Festival, Puerto Rico (04/03/72)

Tracks 10 on disc 2:
From "Mar Y Sol" Atco #SD2-705 (1972)
Recorded live at The Mar Y Sol Pop Festival, Puerto Rico (04/03/72)
(Previously unissued on CD)

With the exception of a few numbers on assorted multi-artist collections and the trio of tunes included on 'Ot 'N' Sweaty (1972), American blues-rockers Cactus were poorly represented as a performing act until this release. Fully Unleashed: The Live Gigs (2004) is the companion volume to the similarly thorough Barely Contained: The Studio Sessions (2004). Each double-disc package is filled with not only the combo's respective four long-players, but also plenty of remarkable and previously vaulted sides. That is an understatement when considering the two-plus hours of vintage concert material from three distinct incarnations of Cactus, centering on the first lineup's final show on December 19, 1971 at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis, TN. Jim McCarty's wailing lead electric guitar introduction to "Long Tall Sally" is a precursor to the hard-and-heavy onslaught that alternately pulverizes and soars on other classic covers, such as their (dare say) definitive workout of Mose Allison's "Parchment Farm" or the 17-plus-minute oldies medley containing "Heeby Jeebies" and "Money," plus the Memphis-apropos "Hound Dog" and "What'd I Say." The original roster is additionally featured on "No Need to Worry" and another incendiary reading of "Parchment Farm" from the 1970 Isle of Wight performance. Although both were initially available on the First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies (1971) anthology, neither has been on CD before. A short-lived lineup with Ron Leejack (guitar) was captured on the title track to One Way...Or Another and "Bro. Bill" from June 27, 1971 at Gillian's in Buffalo, New York, and the remaining cuts are from the group's April 1972 appearance at the Mar y Sol Pop Festival in Puerto Rico with Werner Fritzsching (guitar) and former Atomic Rooster member Peter French (vocals). While "Swim," "Bad Mother Boogie" and "Out L'il Rock-N-Roll Thing" were incorporated into 'Ot 'N' Sweaty, "Bedroom Mazurka" can be found on the out-of-print Mar y Sol (1972) compilation.

Wow! Seeing that the tapes of the Memphis concert were finally released brings back some specific memories of that strange December night.
I thought some of you Cactus fans might enjoy a scan of my ticket (see customer images) for the original Cactus' last performance in Memphis' Auditorium Music Hall (touted to be acoustically perfect) on December 19, 1971. It was a memorable night. In the days following the concert, we found out that the band had a "falling out" and that the lead guitar (Jim McCarthy) had quit and that the live album would not likely be released. In retrospect, there may have been a lot of tension on the stage that may have contributed to the intense energy of this Memphis performance.
Fully Unleashed: The Live Gigs
Some of you with sharp eyes will probably question whether I really attended the concert since my ticket is obviously not torn in half. That segues into a rock concert almost-disaster story that I've never seen reported. My friends and I had just arrived home for our Christmas break during our first semester of college and were fired up about unwinding with a @#%$ kickin' rock concert. Cactus was just the band for the occasion. We got really good seats on the lower level about halfway back in the middle and were anxious to get in the Auditorium and get to rockin'. We arrived with the first wave of fans and were allowed into the foyer areas of the auditorium, but the doors into the Music Hall were barred, so we all stood and waited.......and waited..........and waited. Someone spread the word that since it was to be recorded for an album they were being very particular about their sound checks. Tickets were to be taken as attendees entered the Music Hall so no one was stopping the crowd from entering the foyer area and it began to get more and more crowded and packed with people and began to get extremely claustrophobic and very hot. As people continued to pack into the foyer areas outside the entry doors, we began to get squeezed together so compactly that I distinctly remember thinking that I could pick both feet up from the floor and that I would not likely move. But still we waited...and the crowd got tighter...and we waited...and it was getting scary-crowded and hard to breathe. As I began to almost panic from the ever-increasing pressure from the folks around me, there was a tremendous "boom" sound and the crowd began to surge towards a door like water breaking through a dam. We were literally swept into the lower level of the Hall by the surging crowd, but miraculously, no one fell down and got trampled. At least I was not aware of any injuries, and was personally so relieved to be out of that situation that a natural "high" set in from the adrenalin rush of escaping the danger. We found our way to our seats without ever encountering anyone to take tickets. We later learned that the force of the crowd had broken in two of the double doors leading into the arena. There was then an announcement over the PA that the concert would not be allowed to start until everyone went to their actual ticketed seats. Amazingly, it seemed like everyone immediately complied. I don't recall seeing any arguments over seats.
FINALLY Cactus took the stage and gave one of the most intense, butt-kickin' boogie-rock performances that I had ever seen. I remember thinking that I had never seen a bass player take front-and-center and tear off lead-like riffs the way Tim Bogert did on at least one of the numbers. As I recall, he was up front in a semi-crouch with his bass held almost vertically just riffing the heck out of it. I'm not sure, but that may have been the number that a very attractive girl walked slowly towards the stage down the aisle to our left and removed her halter top and clutched it over her bare chest staring dreamily at Cactus. this was NOT a common occurrence in Memphis in 1971! What a concert!

In hindsight, perhaps the long delay wasn't due to sound issues......maybe the band was deciding whether even to perform or not. The rumor was that Jim quit Cactus that night after the concert.
Forgive an old guy his youthful ramblings, but seeing these CDs kinda took me back to a most-interesting era. Hope you don't mind my sharing my memories of Cactus' "last gig". Keep on rockin'.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cactus - 1972 - 'Ot 'N' Sweaty

'Ot 'N' Sweaty

01. Swim
02. Badd Mother Boogie
03. Our Lil Rock-N-Roll Thing
04. Bad Stuff
05. Bringing Me Down
06. Bedroom Mazurka
07. Telling You
08. Underneath The Arches

Bass, Vocals [Background] – Tim Bogert
Drums, Percussion, Vocals [Background] – Carmine Appice
Guitar – Werner Fritzschings
Organ, Piano – Duane Hitchings
Vocals – Peter French
Side A (1-3)was recorded live at the Mar Y Sol Festival in Puerto Rico on April 3, 1972.

This is the last album recorded by Cactus, and the one and only official release of live material by this fabulous band. The original LP had only three live songs (Swim, Bad Mother Boogie and Our Lil' Rock'n'Roll Thing), recorded at Mar Y Sol Festival, and five others recorded in the studio. The band had passed by some changes: original members Rusty Day (lead singer) and Jim McCarty (guitar)were replaced by Pete French (vocals), Werner Fritzschings (guitar)and Duane Hitchings (keyboards), all of the fine musicians. The live portion of this album is frantic and plenty of energy, and the studio tracks are all very interesting (Bedroom Mazurka is my favourite, by the way), but Cactus were falling apart. Founder members Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice would play with Jeff Beck, and Hitchings formed The New Cactus Band, with disappointing results. But if you really like rock'n'roll, boogie and hard rock, don't miss this album, it will make you smile every time that you play it. Look for an obscure release by english label Rarity Records, because it features three bonus tracks: Bedroom Mazurka (recorded at Mar Y Sol), and No Need to Worry and Parchman farm (recorded by the original 4-piece Cactus).

Cactus - 1971 - One Way...Or Another

One Way...Or Another

01 Long Tall Sally 6:27
02 Rockout, Whenever You Feel Like 3:56
03 Rock N' Roll Children 5:40
04 Big Mama Boogie - Parts I & II 4:59
05 Feel So Bad 5:30
06 Song For Aries 3:05
07 Hometown Bust 6:38
08 One Way...Or Another 5:05

Bass – Tim Bogert
Drums – Carmine Appice
Guitar – Jim McCarty
Vocals – Rusty Day

One Way... Or Another (1971) was the second studio outing to feature the incipient incarnation of supergroup Cactus, comprised of Vanilla Fudge rhythm section Carmine Appice (drums) and Tim Bogert (bass), as well as former Amboy Dukes lead vocalist Rusty Day (vocals/mouth harp), and Jim McCarty (guitar) from Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels and the Buddy Miles Express. Even as their debut was ostensibly rawer, they retained the same amp'ed-up electric blues reminiscent of early Grand Funk Railroad and Foghat. The more polished outcome heard on their sophomore effort is undoubtedly the direct result of assistance from recording engineer extraordinaire Eddie Kramer and their upgraded digs at the recently completed Electric Lady Studios, which they inhabited shortly after the passing of the facilities' owner, Jimi Hendrix. Immediately, the proceedings are thrust into high gear with a languorous and seething interpretation of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally." While not the extended barnburner it became in concert, it gets things off to a rousing start. The lightweight up-tempo "Rockout, Whatever You Feel Like" could easily be mistaken for Jo Jo Gunne, especially in Day's vocal asides, strongly recalling Jay Ferguson and company. "Rock 'N' Roll Children" is a heavier number with McCarty unleashing rounds of impressive and impellent fretwork churning atop the simmering backbeat. Cactus do what they do best, returning to their boogie rock roots on the suitably named "Big Mama Boogie -- Parts 1 & 2." McCarty's pumping acoustic opening is perfectly augmented by some organic mouth harp courtesy of Day before launching into an explosive assault of pure, unadulterated proto- metal. The cover of Chuck Willis' "Feel So Bad" is given a sizable shakedown, yet doesn't quite seem to live up to its potential. The opposite can be said of the understated "Song for Aries." Although clocking in at just under three minutes, the instrumental is a showcase for McCarty's immorally underrated lead guitar. The long-player concludes with two full-blown centerpieces, revealing Cactus' strength as a formidable powerhouse combo on the autobiographically-inspired rave-up "Hometown Bust." Fittingly, this lineup and album come to an end on a high note with the title track "One Way...Or Another." The number is quite possibly the finest original to have been worked up by the band. The cut blazes from tip-to-tail and if the primary riff seems familiar, that may be because it was lifted almost verbatim from Jeff Beck's Beck-Ola-era tune "Rice Pudding." However in Cactus' care, it stomps with a bit more crunch and no-nonsense attitude.

Cactus - 1971 - Restrictions


01. Restrictions 6:17
02. Tokin Chokin' 3:07
03. Guiltless Glider 8:45
04. Evil 3:14
05. Alaska 3:38
06. Sweet Sixteen 3:17
07. Bag Drag 5:11
08. Mean Night In Cleveland 2:10

Bass, Backing Vocals – Tim Bogert
Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Carmine Appice
Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar – Jim McCarty
Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion – Rusty Day

Piano – Albhy Galuten (tracks: 5)
Slide Guitar – Ron LeeJack (tracks: 2)

With a mixture of members from Vanilla Fudge, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, and the Amboy Dukes, it's hard to believe that Cactus didn't really succeed in their time. Often derided for being second-rate boogie rock, the band simply did what it did, and part of the allure of the style is its sloppy, second-rate nature. This 1971 release may not see the band at their peak, but it surely showcases the occasionally thundering rhythm section of Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice. Why a song like "Token Chokin'" was never a hit and why it has yet to be embraced by the classic rock-loving public is a complete mystery. The song is some of the most heels-up, thundering, so-brainless-it's-genius rock that has ever been to tape. It's complete with big guitars, big sing-alongs, and a bass-and-drum combo that could knock out windows. Somebody needs to revive this track. Songs like "Evil" and "Sweet Little Sixteen" are all scorching guitars and long-haired riffing. It's a testament to the blues-inspired power they could surely muster up onstage. Other tracks seem to fall apart like the opener, "Restrictions," and "Guiltless Glider," which starts off thick and heavy á la Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla," but goes on for about six minutes too long.
To buffer some of the more blustery elements of the record, there are competent acoustic blues numbers like "Mean Night in Cleveland" and "Alaska," the latter an ode to said state featuring lyrics about penguins, Santa Claus, and the aurora borealis. Nobody has ever said that boogie rock is grad school material, and Cactus are certainly no exception -- they did manage to make a big, bearded racket that is both groan-inducing and a lot of fun.

Okay, so they didn't become as famous as Free or sell as many records as Led Zeppelin. There's an also-ran category in rock that was every bit as good as the giant hit makers. They just didn't have the hits. Of course, we're talking about a time when the B side of a single was often far better than the A side "hit". A time when you bought the record because there was more good music there- not just filler to support the single. Some groups like Jo Jo Gunne, The Michael Stanley Band, and many more made a good living for awhile by playing and recording very good music. Music that holds up just as well today. Cactus is among that group. Fairly well known at the time, as much for where the members came from as for who they were together, somehow they never made the leap to national hits and later classic rock airplay. But anyone with a liking for early 70's blues oriented rock will love these guys. I highly recommend it to fans of Free & Bad Company, SRV, Allman Bros. and all those bluesy groups.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cactus - 1970 - Cactus


01. Parchman Farm 3:05
02. My Lady From South Of Detroit 4:20
03. Bro. Bill 5:10
04. You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover 6:44
05. Let Me Swim 3:50
06. No Need To Worry 6:00
07. Oleo 4:49
08. Feel So Good 6:00

Bass – Tim Bogert
Drums – Carmine Appice
Guitar – Jim McCarty
Vocals, Harp – Rusty Day

Cactus may have never amounted to anything more than a half-hearted, last-minute improvised supergroup, but that don't mean their eponymous 1970 debut didn't rock like a mofo. The already quasi-legendary Vanilla Fudge rhythm section of Bogert and Appice may have provided the backbone of the band's business cards, and soulful, ex-Amboy Duke Rusty Day brought the voice, but it was arguably former Detroit Wheels guitarist Jim McCarty who was the true star in the Cactus galaxy, spraying notes and shredding solos all over album highlights such as "You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover," "Let Me Swim," and, most notably, a manic, turbocharged version of "Parchman Farm." The fact that Cactus chose to tackle this classic blues song just a year after it'd been blasted into the fuzz-distortion stratosphere by Blue Cheer betrays -- at best -- a healthy competitive spirit within the early-'70s hard rock milieu, and at worst it suggests something of a mercenary nature to Cactus' motives, but that's an issue for the surviving bandmembers to duke it out over in the retirement home. And we digress -- for the blistering closing duo of "Oleo" and "Feel So Good" (complete with bass and drum solo slots) easily certifies the Cactus LP as one of the best hard rock albums of the then brand-new decade

The New Cactus Band - 1973 - Son Of Cactus

The New Cactus Band
Son Of Cactus

01. It's Getting Better 03:50
02. I Can't Wait 03:27
03. Hook Line And Sinker 03:55
04. It's Just A Feelin' 04:11
05. Lady (Spend My Life With You) 04:28
06. Ragtime Suzy 02:47
07. Blue Gypsy Woman 03:21
08. Senseless Rebel 03:27
09. Man Is A Boy 03:29
10. Hold On To My Love 04:13
11. Daddy Ain't Gone 03:14

Duane Hitchings - keyboards, flute, vocals
Mike Pinera - guitar, vocals
Roland Robinson - bass, vocals
Jerry Norris - drums, vocals
Manuel Bertematti - drums, vocals

The New Cactus Band, led by Duane Hitchings, released one album (Son Of Cactus) and featured nobody of the original Cactus. Mike Pinera, formerly of Blues Image and Iron Butterfly, came in on guitar, along with Roland Robinson on bass and Jerry Norris on drums. The band then toured live in the Midwest and on the East Coast in mid 1973 with Captain Beyond drummer Bobby Caldwell and former Gregg Allman bass player Charlie Souza. The New Cactus Band soon disbanded. In the late '70s Rusty Day formed another version of Cactus in Orlando, where he had relocated. This version of Cactus featured Steve Dansby on guitar, Dan Keylon and later John Sauter on bass, Frankie Robbins and later Gary Moffatt on drums. Frankie Robbins' brother Dennis along with Dan Keylon also played with the Rockets and Jim McCarty. There are no known studio recordings from this era, though live recordings do circulate. On March 6, 1982, Rusty Day died from gunshots as a victim of a drug deal gone bad.

I own thousands of LPs, but this has always been a favorite. This LP was bashed by the critics, probably since it is NOT the original Cactus, ok, maybe they should have used a different name, (they evolved into Thee Image and cut 2 LPs under that name). This album DOES have Duane Hitchings (keyboards) who was on the last Cactus LP from 1972, "Ot & Sweaty", and the excellent work of guitarist Mike Pinera (of Blues Image and Iron Butterfly, Ramatam, Classic Rock All Stars), bassist Roland Robinson and Jerry Norris. Musically, it is a VERY STRONG and EXCELLENT LP. Not exactly like the original Cactus, but it certainly, without any doubt, stands on it's own, equally as great as any great LPs from the 70s. It shines throughout, and is one of Pinera's best LPs. Another lost LP, the self titled Steel, which is excellent, (if you can find a copy), from 2 years earlier, (Epic-1971), also has Hitchings, Robinson and Norris. Robinson was an overlooked bassist who passed on recently, who worked on these and LPs with Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Mar-keys, etc. Hitchings has worked with countless artists, Rod Stewart, Steve Perry, Buddy Miles, etc, and both him and Pinera worked and recorded w/ Alice Cooper. If you love 70s rock, you'll enjoy this. Thanks to the people who made this possible. A grossly under-rated classic!!!

The Fanz - 1977 - The Grand Illusion

The Fanz 
The Grand Illusion

01. What Is Real 5:35
02. Leaders Of The World 4:05
03. Dead End Street 3:45
04. Look To The Sky 4:20
05. Peace Maker 1:25
06. Jail Bait 4:30
07. Tired & Wired 3:40
08. Don't Hide It 3:25

Drums – Duffy Jackson
Guitar – Charles Michael
Keyboards – Danny Ray
Percussion – Little Kenny
Vocals – Mike Pinera

There is virtually no information to be found concerning The Fanz on the internet. All they left behind was this one album recorded in 1977. Mike Pinera, the former Blues Image guitarist as well as being a member of Iron Butterfly as they began to wane in the early seventies, is credited here with vocals as well as producing and engineering The Grand Illusion. First impressions of The Fanz is that it is mix of fuzzy blues with hints of psyche given the warm if tacky feel of a lounge act, but it's certainly an enjoyable time and a decent album despite the limitations of the recording. The songs are layered with wild solos and Pinera's vocals are put into the mix if only to beef up the songs to give them more cohesion and lose the open ended jam feel. There is nothing too deep or meaningful about the words but this is the albums strong point! It comes across just like a prototype stoner rock album, cosmic blues. "What Is Real" seems to start in the middle of a jam while somebody decided to hit the record button, it's that loose and wild with Pinera's semi coherent and ridiculous vocal lines (_"See My Love, What Is Real Now...SEE My Love..._") spewing up every now and then juxtaposed with some voice box, a nice touch and a classic seventies instrument. The drum sound is mean and tight and at first it might even come across that the drummer Duffy Jackson is a fusion freak but in fact there are two drummers here. Pinera's Blues Image were also noted for using two drummers simultaneously. Well, at least there is one drummer here while another chap, by the name of Little Kenny, is credited with percussion and he certainly loves his Chinese cymbal as he trashes the thing all over the album on a half beat kilter most of the time which can give the music, falsely, some jazz like almost esoteric like structure. The funky "Leaders Of The World" kicks in as smooth as silk and a very heavy and drifting piece of psyche with a neat chorus refrain of "_Leaders Of The World_" with a solid drum kick that punctuates every word. The verses are great and it sounds as if Mike is singing through a beacon with his nose pinched for spacey effect.

Overall The Grand Illusion is a bizarre album, slightly uneven and even erratic but it has got that something special, a chemistry that makes it work if here and there it can come across aimless. Though Pinera played guitar with most of his previous acts he only gets credited with vocals here but Charles Michael who handles the guitar parts does a competent job. There is a neat bass coming through the album especially on the hypnotic and trippy instrumental "Tired And Wired" yet none is credited, though it may well be Pinera and Michael looking after those duties, but what do I know, could even be the keyboard player but there must be a bass in the equation at some stage on the album. The playing, especially the massive guitar, on "Look To The Sky" is straight ahead blues in the vein of a Mike Bloomfield and it is one of the more straighter songs on offer and a fine lazy romp through the blues. "Peace Maker" is a one minute and twenty five second burst of drums and keyboards that might have come from a Spirit session, and in fact Spirit comes to mind on much of this album. Obviously not as refined and defined as the late Randy California's band but The Fanz do a good enough job at that cocky psyche swagger without it being a simple case for plagiarism. Maybe somebody from Florida could know a little more on this band. By all accounts this album was shifted in rather tiny quantities and remains something of an obscurity, though a reissue appeared on vinyl during the mid eighties but again in small quantities. The Grand Illusion is a decent album with plenty of variation to keep the average rock fan happy. Laced with a psyche sensibility and a penchant for sweet distorted blues and flurries of solos The Fanz are a band well worth checking out, but I don't know how this will actually happen since copies of this album are more or less non existent.

Ramatam - 1973 - In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns

In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns

01. The Land 6:22
02. Rainy Sunday Evening
03. Betty Lou 4:03
04. I Can Only Love You 5:33
05. Excerpt From Guitar Concerto #1 0:44
06. Autumn Now 3:50
07. Stars And Stripes Forever 2:15
08. Bounty On My Table 3:57
09. Downrange Party 4:53
10. Free Fall 1:00
11. Push A Little 5:20
12. Rhinoceros 3:05

April Lawton Arranger, Bass, Composer, Guitar, Harmonica, Orchestration, Organ (Hammond), Vocals
Tommy Sullivan Arranger, Bass, Composer, Guitar, Keyboards, Mini Moog, Orchestration, Piano, Saxophone, Vocals, Wind
Jimmy Walker Arranger, Composer, Percussion, Vocals

April Lawton's short rock & roll moment in the sun takes a better turn on Ramatam's second attempt, In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns. Acoustic ramblings like "Excerpt From Guitar Concerto #1," where she plays solo for 44 seconds, are more inviting than much of what was on the group's self titled debut. Since her prowess was a big part of the hype, why those introspective glimpses weren't extended is the mystery. There's also a pretty interlude, "Rainy Sunday Evening," which comes between two awful moments on side one, "Betty Lou" and "I Can Only Love You," proving the previous point. A '50s-type vocal sound slips into this morass, and these two titles display the worst elements found when "experiencing" the band's first effort, despite the fact that only lead guitarist Lawton and Tommy Sullivan remain. With another Atlantic producer, Geoffrey Haslam, taking over from Tom Dowd and heavy string sections replacing the marquee talent former bandmates Mitch Mitchell and Mike Pinera brought to the table, the album has sparks that just never take off. Instrumental portions of "I Can Only Love You" have merit decimated by a god awful vocal from Sullivan, who sings much better on "The Land" and "Autumn Now," two songs that sound like Robbie Robertson and the Band jamming with America after some gig. The heavy orchestration -- 11 strings and eight horns -- conducted by Charles Gouse, brings a certain refinement to this rock band that live and in its earlier incarnation was an all-out assault. Haslam worked with artists and projects as diverse as the Velvet Underground's Loaded, the J. Geils Band, Bette Midler's The Divine Miss M, Delbert McClinton, and others, and he brings his polish to smooth out the rough edges -- but as the late Jimmy Miller used to say (paraphrased), "a big part of it is the talent you're given to work with." When a singer doesn't have that ability to get it across, you can end up with the dilemma facing Ramatam. The strength Haslam brought to the first J. Geils album, bringing it all together and letting it play out, is less-efficient here, though this is a vast improvement over Dowd's work on Ramatam's debut. If the first edition of this ensemble was a poor-man's supergroup, this version finds good production impeded in parts by Tommy Sullivan morphing into that poor-man's Jim Dandy from Black Oak Arkansas. Imagine Dandy attempting to sing to a boogie-woogie version of Cream's music and you'll understand the dilemma. "Stars and Stripes Forever" is a pointless exercise opening side two, but it leads into the shining moment, Lawton's pretty vocal supplemented by Bruce Morgenheim's violin on a song called "Bounty on My Table." That respite is knocked off the table with "Downrange Party," where the group seems to have their Jim Dandy persona clashing with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and some horns to boot -- dreadful. The one-minute "Free Fall" by Sullivan is as enticing as some of Lawton's creative spurts, and the fact that there is some magic that escaped this project is obvious. What was needed was the removal of the grating, pointless pseudo-Southern rock, replacing it with a psychedelic jam à la Iron Butterfly -- a band a former member belonged to. A good digital editor could actually cut and paste and come up with something very special if those involved were so inclined. Then a really special moment, like the '50s send-off "Rhinoceros," would have more punch.

Ramatam - 1972 - Ramatam


01. Whiskey Place 3:23
02. Heart Song 4:57
03. Ask Brother Ask 5:04
04. What I Dream I Am 4:00
05. Wayso 3:25
06. Changing Days 3:28
07. Strange Place 6:06
08. Wild Like Wine 3:48
09. Can't Sit Still 6:02

Bass – Russ Smith
Drums – Mitch Mitchell
Guitar – Mike Pinera
Keyboards – Tom Sullivan
Lead Guitar – April Lawton
Vocals – Mike Pinera, Russ Smith, Tom Sullivan

Recorded at Criteria Studios, Miami, Florida

Ramatam was a sort of mini-supergroup, formed in the early 70's by Mike Pinera, from the Blues Image, Iron Butterfly and Mitch Mitchell, former drummer for Jimi Hendrix. They also had one other distinction, a female lead guitarist, April Lawton, a rare thing in those days. On the surface Ramatam had an impressive musical heritage which should have seen them become a major act, however, the band only stayed together for two years (releasing 2 albums) and then disbanded due to lack of popularity.
Signed by Atlantic, the band debuted with 1972's cleverly-titled "Ramatam".  Produced by Tom Dowd, the album had it's moments, but ultimately was too diverse to make much of an impression.  With stabs at blues, country-rock,  hard rock, and jazz it was simply impossible to figure out who these guys were.  Adding to the problems, horn arrangements sank several tracks, while Dowd gave the album a weird muddy sound.
The band toured all across the U.S during 1972, supporting ELP, Humble Pie and playing shows of their own.
Recalls Bob O´Neal, Ramatam´s roadie:
"I can't pinpoint the exact dates. I don't have any photos but I can definitely remember some of the cities where we did shows and who was headlining on those shows(...) I was living in Memphis, Tennessee with my friend, Steve Dabbs. We were working for a concert promoter in Memphis named Bob Kelley. His company was Mid-South Concerts(...) Ramatam was the support act on a Humble Pie show at the North Hall of Ellis Auditorium. Ramatam's tour manager was Paco Zimmer. This show was one of the first after the band formed. The band was Mitch Mitchell on drums, April Lawton on guitar, Mike Panera on guitar and Carlos Garcia on bass. I can't recall who else may have been in the band.Anyway, Steve and I knew Paco from when he had been in Memphis the year before with Cactus. He offered us jobs as roadies for the band. We accepted the offer and left with the band going to the next show, which was playing in New Orleans at a venue called The Warehouse with Humble Pie.
From there we continued doing shows all over the country for the rest of that summer.We played shows with Humble Pie, Edgar Winter and ZZ Top. I can remember playing Akron, Ohio at a stadium show at the Rubber Bowl with five acts on the show. We also played on a multi-day festival in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania. Between tour segments, the band and the crew lived in a large mansion in Huntington Harbor out on Long Island. It was a really big house with about six bedrooms. We didn't actually spend very much time there but that's where Mitch's wife, Lynn and young daughter lived(...) The band was on Atlantic Records and they were created to be a "super group" made up of stars from previously successful groups with the unique innovation of a "chick" lead guitarist. It was a flop. They didn't sell many records and the whole project dissolved rather quickly after the first few months of playing shows.
Steve and I together set up all of the band equipment. We both handled everything when loading and unloading but then he set up guitars and amps and I set up the drums and we attended to those players during the shows. I would have to say that my relationship with Mitch was a working relationship rather than a social relationship. Like everyone else in the early 70s, I had been a HUGE Jimi Hendrix Experience fan and could occasionally get Mitch to relate some stories of their touring days. I can't say that I recall any particular tales though." [extract from Mitch Mitchell's website]

Tom Dowd produced 1972's self-titled debut from Ramatam, a poor-man's Blind Faith featuring co-author of The Blues Image hit "Ride Captain Ride Mike Pinera on guitar and vocals, and Mitch Mitchell on drums. The "star" of this group was alleged to be April Lawton, a chick who had the Hendrix riffs down, to be sure, but not as creative as Robin Trower and all those other gents who carried Jimi's sound and stylings into the seventies.
An appearance by the group in Boston at the old Music Hall was pure white noise and not very memorable outside of that. The album is a bit more refined, but ultimately fails to deliver the goods.
"Whiskey Place" opens the record sounding like a brazen blend of Ten Wheel Drive meets The Jimi Hendrix Experience without a Genya Ravan or a Jimi to save the day. The horns actually clash with the guitar while the bass has a mind of its own. The production work by Dowd on the first track is totally uninspired and it certainly feels like the act was left to its own devices.

Mike Pinera and Les Sampson's "Heart Song" works much better, a jazzy vision of Traffic's brand of Brit rock meeting that of the West Coast's /Quicksilver Messenger Service.
But it's not enough - Rare Earth type macho vocals do much to implode the disc's potential totally sinking Pinera's "Ask Brother Ask".
Mitchell's great drum work is wasted on the monotony of the hook, and the musicianship gets so fragmented it sounds like Eno's Portsmouth Sinfonia without the humor. The Tommy Sullivan / April Lawton composition "What I Dream I Am", on the other hand, almost gets it done - it's pretty tune with flutes, acoustic guitar work and simple percussion from Mitch.
It fails because of vocals which just can't cut it, painful singing obliterating the disc's best chance for recognition. Was Tom Dowd out having coffee or just not interested in this whatsoever?
America could've used an answer to Steve Winwood's poppy jazz, and a Genya Ravan would have brought this experiment out of the quagmire it finds itself in with her voice and production intuition.
The blues here undefined and the tape mix far from cohesive on the other band collaboration,"Wayso". Ramatam, diffused and confused, is a tragic statement of record labels trying to make a talent rather than finding one. "Changing Days" is another decent Sullivan / Lawton easy feeling co-write with horrible vocals eradicating the core goodness of the songwriting. Mike Pinera's "Strange Place" takes the Kiss riff, from "Shout It Out Loud" and puts it in a jazz setting with vocals that sound like they are auditioning for Savoy Brown...and failing to get the gig.
By 1973 the group would be pared down to a power trio of Lawton, Sullivan and Jimmy Walker on drums.
Perhaps bassist Russ Smith, ex-Iron Butterfly Pinera and Mitch Mitchell saw the writing on the wall, but how they couldn't come up with something much, much better than this is the mystery.
There's enough combined talent here to have delivered a real gem. With this album Ramatam have re-written Euclid's axiom and turned it on its head: here the whole is less than the sum of its parts. The final track, "Can't Sit Still", sounds like producer Dowd looped his old Ornette Coleman and Allman Brothers tapes with his Black Oak Arkansas projects. And if Ramatam hadn't toured, people might've thought that's exactly what this was [Review by Joe Viglione]
Although my initial interest in this band and album was the connection with the Jimi hendrix Experience via drummer 'Mitch Mitchell', the similarity with Grand Funk (particularly the vocals) and the complex guitar work of April Lawton makes this album a worthy inclusion on my blog. Although the album cover is nothing to write home about, the music on this album is very colourful and diverse. It is a shame however that the the brass sections on this album are so badly produced, and somewhat stifle the brilliant guitar work of  Lawton on many of the tracks.