Sunday, April 10, 2016

Volker Kriegel - 1973 - Lift

Volker Kriegel 

01. Lift! (6:54) 
02. Three Or Two In One (6:07) 
03. Forty Colours (3:26) 
04. A Piece With A Chord From A Yorkshire Terrier (6:05) 
05. Electric Blue (8:55) 
06. The Lame Donkey (2:40) 
07. Between The Seasons (4:38) 
08. Blue Titmouse (3:55) 

Tracks 1,2,4,7,8 - Volker Krieger
Tracks 3,5,6 - Eberhardt Weber

-Volker Kriegel / electric guitar, acoustic guitar
-Stan Sulzman / soprano saxophone, flute
-Zbigniew Seifert / electric violin
-John Taylor / electric piano
-Eberhardt Weber / bass, cello, electric bass, bass guitar
-Cees See / percussion
-John Marshall / drums

This is my favourite Volker Kriegel album and it was released in 1973. In a nutshell what we get is prominant bass along with John Marshall doing his thing on the drums while sax, violin, guitar and electric piano take turns leading and also filling out the sound.This is a fantastic album !
"Lift !" is such a beautiful track with the soprano sax leading early then it picks up before the violin leads before 2 minutes.The guitar with prominant bass comes in as it settles.The violin is back 3 minutes in then the sax leads again.Violin leads one more time as the tempo speeds up at the 6 minute mark.

"Three Or Two In One" features electric piano, sax, drums and more leading the way. I love this stuff. It's laid back and we get some guitar before 2 minutes leading then the violin with bass, electric piano and cymbals stand out.The sax then replaces the violin. Incredible track !

"Forty Colours" is a slow moving track with the violin leading followed by intricate guitar.

"A Piece With A Chord From A Yorkshire Terrier" is my favourite. I like the electric piano early but it's the electric guitar that starts to solo as the bass and intricate drumming help out that blows me away. Sax replaces the guitar 3 minutes in and the electric piano is prominant too. It settles back before 4 1/2 minutes with the bass leading. Cool !

"Electric Blue" is uptempo and violin led to start.The violin is shredding 2 1/2 minutes in. Sax leads 6 1/2 minutes in as the bass, drums and electric piano also standout. Nice. Big finish on this one.

"The Lame Donkey" is a laid back and intricate guitar led track with flute. "Between The Seasons" has a relaxed sound early then the electric piano leads after a minute and the bass stands out too.Violin 2 1/2 minutes in then the guitar returns.Violin again leads 4 minutes in.

"Blue Titmouse" is uptempo and intricate and perhaps a little known fact is that the blue titmouse actually has blue tits. I kid you not. Okay I lied.

A great album with some killer German and British musicians that will please Jazz / Fusion fans in a big way.

Volker Kriegel - 1972 - Missing Link

Volker Kriegel 
Missing Link

01. Slums on Wheels (13:24)
02. The "E" Again (6:36)
03. Zanzibar (10:22)
04. Missing Link (12:03)
05. Fur Hector (5:45)
06. Remis (4:26)
07. Tarang (10:00)
08. Lastic Plemon (5:21)
09. Janellas Abertas (4:09)
10. Plonk Whenever (4:06)
11. Definitely Suspicious (5:55)
12. Finale (:10)

Tracks 1,2,4,5,6,8,10,11,12 - Volker Kriegel
Track 3 - Edu Lobo
Track 7 - Eberhard Weber
Track 9 - Caetano Veloso

-Volker Kriegel / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, octave guitar
-Albert Mangelsdorff / trombone
-Alan Skidmore / soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone
-Heinz Sauer / tenor saxophone
-John Taylor / electric piano
-Eberhardt Weber / bass
-Cees See / percussion, voice, flutes, effects
-John Marshall / drums

Volker Kriegel's follow-up to "Spectrum" is a double album and a much more dynamic affair and more to my liking. He has some of the best German and British musicians around helping him out. It's interesting that the first LP has a different lineup than the second LP. The first LP has an eight piece lineup and was recorded on the 20th & 21st of March, while the second LP featured a five piece band and was recorded on the 22nd & 23rd of March. The most well known name for me is John Marshall on drums on the first LP. Lots of pictures in the liner notes and John is as usual very serious looking.
"Slums On Wheels" has such a great sound to start as the sax joins in. Intricate guitar then takes the lead as it settles some.The sax is back then the tempo picks up before 4 1/2 minutes. A calm 6 minutes in as intricate sounds come and go. It's building before 9 minutes and electric piano joins in. Nice. Bass and percussion continue. Sax before 10 1/2 minutes. Drums only from Marshall before 12 1/2 minutes then a full sound. What a way to start !

"The "E" Again" has a good rhythm as sax and guitar do their thing. Dissonant sax before 2 1/2 minutes. Electric piano leads a minute later. Sax is back before 6 1/2 minutes to end it.

"Zanzibar" is led by the bass and drums early then the horns come in just before a minute. The guitar then leads before the horns return before 3 1/2 minutes as it picks up. Some dissonance too. A calm before 5 minutes as bass and a beat with horns lead. It kicks back in before 6 1/2 minutes. Piano leads before 8 minutes and we get some nice bass a minute later. Sax is back 10 minutes in.

"Missing Link" opens with experimental sounds that come and go including vocal expressions. The music comes in after 2 minutes and starts to build. I like the drumming here. The horns start to blast then it settles back. A calm 5 minutes in then it starts to pick up with guitar leading the way. Nice. Horns take a turn before 7 1/2 minutes with lots of dissonance too. A drum show from Marshall 9 minutes in. Great sound before 11 minutes with sax leading then guitar. Killer tune.

The second LP is a little more stripped down but excellent none the less. "Fur Hector" is uptempo and guitar led. Piano takes the lead after 3 1/2 minutes.The guitar is back leading late.

"Remis" is percussion and keyboard led early and the bass is prominant too. The guitar then joins the fray. "Tarang" has a Middle Eastern vibe to it with lots of percussion. Strummed and intricate guitar comes in at 2 1/2 minutes before the opening ethnic soundscape returns to end it.

"Lastic Plemon" is led by the drums and keys and is quite energetic. Guitar before 3 minutes. "Janellias Abertas" is an intricate and laid back track.

"Plonk Whenever" is uptempo with the bass and drums pounding while the guitar and keys play over top. Great track.

"Definitely Suspicious" is one of my favourites. It has such an uplifting mood to it and the electric piano has a lot to do with that. "Finale" is 15 seconds of mainly intricate guitar to end it.

Volker Kriegel - 1971 - Spectrum

Volker Kriegel 

01. Zoom (7:00)
02. So Long, For Now (3:55)
03. More About D (9:14)
04. Suspicious Child, Growing Up (4:00)
05. Instant Judgement (3:45)
06. Ach Kina (5:14)
07. Strings Revisited (7:20)

-Volker Kriegel / guiatr, sitar
-John Taylor / electric piano
-Peter Trunk / bass, electric bass, cello
-Cees See / percussion
-Peter Baumeister / drums, percussion

VOLKER KRIEGEL is one of Europe's pioneering Fusion guitarists. During the sixties, he
left his study of sociology and started his music career instead. In 1968 Kriegel
started playing with American vibraphonist Dave Pike and started his first jazz fusion
group, THE MILD MANIAC ORCHESTRA. In 1971 he released his debut, "Spectrum", which is
considered his finest effort and was a milestone in European fusion.
Later he played guitar on two studio albums by the electric violinist Don "Sugar Cane"
Harris, "Keep On Driving" in 1970 and "Sugar Cane's Got The Blues" in 1971. In 1972 he
released hid second solo album "Inside: Missing Link". Two years later he founded
United Jazz and Rock Ensemble, as well as releasing several quality solo albums,
including "Lift" and "Journal". The United Jazz & Rock Ensemble united many of
Europe's excellent musicians, including Kriegel on guitar, providing most of the rock
sound. He played with the band throughout their 2002 farewell tour and died of cancer
in 2003. Aside from his music career, Kriegel was a writer/illustrator. Some of his best known
works include Der Rock 'n' Roll Konig (The Rock 'n' Roll King) and Olaf dem Elch (Olaf
the Moose).

Volker was somewhat of a pioneer in Germany when it came to Fusion. An extraordinary guitarist who on this his debut has surrounded himself with some incredible musicians.Volker also plays sitar on here although there's very little of it on this 1971 release. This isn't the most dynamic album i've ever heard, in fact it's pretty straight forward a lot of the time. We get a percussionist besides the drummer adding lots of intricate sounds.
"Zoom" opens with percussion as the sitar comes in breifly. Drums, bass and electric piano follow.The guitar starts to solo tastefully over the top. Electric piano replaces the guitar 3 1/2 minutes in then the sitar returns.

"So Long, For Now" is laid back and very jazzy. "More About D" opens with some atmosphere. I like the electric piano. It does pick up before 1 1/2 minutes. Nice. Some craziness follows then the bass, drums and guitar lead.The electric piano is back. It settles before 7 minutes and the bass leads.

"Suspicious Child, Growing Up" is a cool song with intricate guitar, electric piano, bass and drums. I like this laid back tune a lot. "Instant Judgement" has some intensity to it and is more uptempo.The guitar leads early then the electric piano leads 2 minutes in.The guitar returns late to lead.

"Ach Kina" is mellow and slow paced. It does pick up some late. "Strings Revisited" has these intricate sounds that come and go. Electric piano leads 2 1/2 minutes in then it's the guitars' turn after 4 minutes. Drums and percussion take their turn after 6 minutes.

John Mayall - 1999 - Rock The Blues Tonight

John Mayall 
Rock The Blues Tonight

101. You Must Be Crazy 4:48
102. My Pretty Girl 5:48
103. Possessive Emotions 15:48
104. Crying 6:50
105. Took The Car 12:09
106. Blue Fox 3:02
107. Devil's Tricks 10:38
108. Don't Bring Me Down 7:11

201. Took The Car 8:02
202. Crying 10:42
203. Possessive Emotions 20:00
204. Won't Have To Worry 10:17
205. Rock The Blues Tonight 8:57
206. Goodtime Stomp 6:03

Bass – Larry Taylor (tracks: 1:1-1:8, 2:1-2:3), Victor Gaskin (tracks: 2:4-2:6)
Drums – 2:4-2:6*, Paul Lagos (tracks: 1:6-1:8, 2:1-2:3)
Guitar – Freddie Robinson (tracks: 2:4-2:6), Harvey Mandel (tracks: 1:1 - 1:8, 2:1-2:3)
Tenor Saxophone – Fred Clark (tracks: 2:4-2:6)
Trumpet – Blue Mitchell (tracks: 2:4-2:6)
Violin – Sugarcane Harris* (tracks: 1:4-1:8, 2:1-2:3)
Live recordings from 1970-1971 Canadian concerts

For John Mayall fans, especially those of his '70s period (good Lord, the man has had more bands than anyone except for Duke Ellington and Count Basie), this live CD from 1971 is a curious, and perhaps a treasured thing. Recorded in Canada between 1970 and 1971, these shows -- all in fine sound quality -- reveal the sheer magic of the Bluesbreakers when bassist Larry Taylor, guitarist Harvey Mandel, and drummer Paul Lagos were almost consistently in the band, and others such as violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris, drummer Keef Hartley, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, guitarist Freddy Robinson, and even Victor Gaskin were either members or guests, briefly. It was a fully fluid time of transition for Mayall, but the blues he was putting down were some of the rawest, most immediate and funky of his career. Mayall has led great bands since that time, and this is one of those arguments for checking the man's later work as well. This particular version of the Bluesbreakers never got their due at the time, though they were one of the hottest acts around musically. There is no use singling out particular tunes because everything on this two-CD set simply rocks. Get it.

John Mayall - 1976 - A Banquet In Blues

John Mayall 
A Banquet In Blues 

01. Sunshine 5:33
02. You Can't Put Me Down 3:25
03. I Got Somebody 4:04
04. Turn Me Loose 2:43
05. Seven Days Too Long 5:17
06. Table Top Girl 3:59
07. Lady 3:39
08. Fantasyland 14:17

John Mayall-vocals, harmonica, melodica, piano, guitar, vibraharp
Johnny Almond-flutes, tenor saxophones
Doug Bare-piano, organ, moog
Mike Cooley-guitar
Alex Dmochowski-bass
Larry Gales-bass
Don "Sugarcane" Harris-violin
Red Holloway-alto & tenor saxophone
Jon Mark-acoustic guitar
Roy McCurdy-drums
Blue Mitchell-trumpets
Benny Powell-trombone
Soko Richardson-drums
Jay Spell-acoustic & electric piano, clavinet, moog
Larry Taylor-bass
Rick Vito-guitar, vocals

Recorded at Total Experience Studios, Los Angeles in May 1976 (except B1 Table Top Girl recorded at Seasaint Studios, New Orleans).

John Mayall - 1975 - New Year, New Band, New Company

John Mayall 
New Year, New Band, New Company

01. Sitting On The Outside 6:01
02. Can't Get Home 4:03
03. Step In The Sun 3:13
04. To Match The Wind 4:32
05. Sweet Scorpio 3:20
06. Driving On 2:23
07. Taxman Blues 3:10
08. So Much To Do 6:25
09. My Train Time 4:42
10. Respectfully Yours 5:20

Bass [Fretless] – Larry Taylor
Drums – Soko Richardson
Electric Piano, Clavinet – Jay Spell
Guitar [Lead] – Rick Vito
Violin, Vocals – Don Harris
Vocals – Dee McKinnie
Vocals, Guitar [12 String, Slide], Harmonica – John Mayall

John Mayall - 1971 - Back To The Roots

John Mayall 
Back To The Roots

101. Prisons On The Road
102. My Children
103. Accidental Suicide
104. Groupie Girl
105. Blue Fox
106. Home Again
107. Television Eye
108. Marriage Madness
109. Looking At Tomorrow
Bonus Tracks
110. Accidental Suicide (Remix)
111. Force Of Nature (Remix)
112. Boogie Albert (Remix)
113. Television Eye (Remix)

201. Dream With Me
202. Full Speed Ahead
203. Mr. Censor Man
204. Force Of Nature
205. Boogie Albert
206. Goodbye December
207. Unanswered Questions
208. Devil's Trucks
209. Travelling
Bonus Tracks
210. Prisons On The Road (Remix)
211. Home Again (Remix)
212. Mr. Censor Man (Remix)
213. Looking At Tomorrow (Remix)

Bass – Larry Taylor
Drums – Paul Lagos
Lead Guitar – Eric Clapton
Piano, Vocals, Organ, Guitar – John Mayall
Violin – Don "Sugarcane" Harris
Drums – Keef Hartley
Lead Guitar – Harvey Mandel
Guitar: Mick Taylor
Saxophone [Tenor Saxophone] – Johnny Almond
Guitar – Jerry McGee
Bass – Steve Thompson

It's a sign of either how far downhill music has gone in 30 years, or how underrated he was as a singer in the first place, but John Mayall's voice comes off extremely well in this long-delayed CD reissue of Back to the Roots. The original double-LP set was an immediate favorite with Mayall fans, a relatively small but hardy bunch scattered around the globe — but Polydor in the U.S., apparently anticipating a lot of demand (probably owing to the presence on the album of Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor, then in the first flush of major stardom as a full-fledged member of the Rolling Stones, who had just reached the pinnacle of their careers as well), pressed far too many copies. The result was that it became a perennial in cut-out bins for years afterward. Ironically, it was that availability, at $1.99 to $3.99 in the early '70s — which did nothing for Mayall's or Polydor's respective ledger sheets — that turned Back to the Roots into the second-most-common way for prospective fans to discover the man's music (the most common was — and likely always will be — Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton). The recording at hand holds up extremely well on CD, and not only because Mayall's voice seems more appealing today than it did in 1971. At least in the U.S., the original release always seemed to suffer from cheap, noisy pressings, which detracted from the subtlety of the playing; and depend upon in, on tracks like "Accidental Suicide," which featured Clapton, Taylor, and Harvey Mandel on lead guitar (not to mention Mayall on rhythm guitar), there were lots of subtleties to appreciate. And the remastering does add some measure of richness and expressiveness to Mayall's singing that wasn't as evident in 1971 — with Johnny Almond on sax and flute and Sugarcane Harris on violin, this is practically a super-session recording. The producers have also thrown on eight of Mayall's 1988-vintage remixes from his reshaped/remastered reissue, Archives to Eighties. Those are generally cleaner and slicker, and come off here as though they were conceived with a smooth sound, if not digital playback's clarity, in mind. They're less interesting than the originals, if only because they're more calculated in what they're doing — the original sessions were spontaneous music-making, whereas this was Mayall updating a legacy 17 years or so later; but they're a welcome addition, as they now share space with the originals rather than supplanting them. The original booklet has been re-created for this CD, which also reprints Mayall's notes from Archives to Eighties, explaining the latter album's origins.

John Mayall - 1970 - USA Union

John Mayall 
USA Union

01. Nature´s Disappearing 5:50
02. You Must Be Crazy 3:55
03. Night Flyer 5:35
04. Off The Road 2:50
05. Possessive Emotions 5:20
06. Where Did My Legs Go 3:45
07. Took The Car 4:05
08. Crying 6:25
09. My Pretty Girl 4:20
10. Deep Blue Sea 5:10

Bass – Larry Taylor
Guitar – Harvey Mandel
Violin – Don Harris
Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica – John Mayall

I have a vivid memory of what struck me mostly when I 1st heard this LP around 81/82: to realize you could actually get a good groove without drums – an instrumental setting which so far I had only heard about in Classical music (ignorance is an Evil thing!)
But today I still think it was a wise move by Mayall, to use the Canned Heat’s Rhythm engine (minus the drummer, of course); the greatness of this album comes from the way the 3 musicians JM employs served so masterfully his whispered and peculiar style of singing and playing the Blues (I only know a small part of JM’s vast discography, but based on that think this is one of the most suitable environments he has ever created around him); the music perspires Boogie and swing from each and every pore and that’s not only valid for fast tempos;
Harvey Mandel’s slack strings feel and EQ’ed-out mid frequencies guitar tone, constantly springs out licks, flourishes, solos and rhythm counterpoints to Larry Taylor’s restless and swinging bass lines and the way the later trades entire soloed chorus with the band on “Off the Road” is only an upgraded and more front mixed way of what he does all over the album;
As for “Sugarcane” Harris he rightly deserves the title of King of the Blues violin; not that there’d been many doing it, but that’s also the point: his genius was to adapt the instrument technique to the plaintiff minor Blues idiom, never being reluctant in using electronic devices to heighten it (who could deny he’s a master wah-wah user?)
What about the boss? Well he’s very alright thank you, either boogie-woogie-ing the acoustic piano, sensitively but convincingly brushing his rhythm guitar, blowing his harp in a distinctive way or singing his well spirited or thoughtful lyrics, one can feel his excitement throughout, in a very well arranged and mixed work, where not a single note gets lost or is played out of context;
I can’t get tired of this…

P.S.  In these times of wide spread Eco-consciousness, it’s ironic to wonder or speculate about the echoes that warnings like the one made in “Nature’s Disappearing” , with JM’s alerts about the Environmental problems caused by Man, that “filthy creature”, could have had or not, in the generation that now commands Politics around the world

John Lee Hooker - 1974 - Free Beer And Chicken

John Lee Hooker
Free Beer And Chicken

01. Make It Funky (3:23)
02. Five Long Years (6:03)
03. 713 Blues (5:58)
04. 714 Blues (1:40)
05. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (3:33)
06. Homework (4:28)
07. Bluebird (5:25)
08. Sitting On Top Of The World (3:25)
09. (You Never Amount To Anything If You Don’t Go To) Collage (5:56)

Flute [Uncredited] – Sam Rivers (tracks: A2)
Guitar [Uncredited] – Hollywood Fats (tracks: A3, A4), Howard Roberts (tracks: A3, A4, B1), Melvin Ragin (tracks: B1)
Keyboards [Uncredited] – Clifford Coulter
Producer – Ed Michel
Violin [Uncredited] – Don "Sugarcane" Harris (tracks: A3, A4, B2, B3)
Vocals [Uncredited] – Joe Cocker (tracks: A2, B4.b, B4.c)
Vocals, Guitar – John Lee Hooker

The Hook Gets Funky with Cocker & Sugarcane
Because John Lee Hooker always trafficked in the blues, this obscure session of The Hook getting his funk on was given short shrift when first released in 1974. Personally, I like to see old guys trying different things, even if it’s just a grab at career rejuvenation and/or airplay (FM, in this case). Hooker’s done enough core blues to last a lifetime, so Free Beer And Chicken‘s funky instrumental infusion is fine by me. That said, the root DNA here is still the blues (including “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and a quirky rendition of “Sitting On Top Of The World”). These tapes (reportedly, part of a larger session) are goosed by guests – Joe Cocker, jazzer Sam Rivers and violinists Michael White & Don “Sugarcane” Harris, among others. The vibe is casually loose and it sounds like the tapes were partially edited for a continuous flow. Cocker sings “Five Long Years” and co-writes “(You’ll Never Amount To Anything If You Don’t Go To) Collage” (their spelling). You can hear Sugarcane Harris’ lead violin work on “713 Blues,” below. Excuse the abrupt finish. There’s more Hook in the archives. Free Beer And Chicken is at Amazon.

In some ways this is a typical John Lee Hooker album; in other ways it is totally unlike any other he did. Being interesting can be a curse, however, as the music itself just isn't that inspired. Of course, if these tracks were released by an unknown that might be another story, but this is John Lee Hooker. Yes, this is Hooker, fiddling around under the thumb of an ABC contract and seemingly in the hands of producer Ed Michel, whose credits and track record of good albums is not to be sneezed at. Free Beer and Chicken has the sound of a collection of tracks that were salvaged from some ambitious but never finished project involving dozens of guests. That's one thing that is typical, or at least would become typical in the last, most high-profile decade of Hooker's career. His albums from the '90s became limousine rides in which faces from People magazine would wind up sitting atop the listener's speaker box, at least symbolically. Michel predicts this trend by inviting Joe Cocker as well as several other stars whose identities were lost when the label cheaped out on including the insert after the first pressing of the album sold out. Michel also invited some of the artists he was producing for ABC's sister company, Impulse!, creating some unusual partners for Hooker, such as Sam Rivers on flute and Michael White on violin. This album is thus useful to connect vast portions of the avant-garde jazz, blues, and rock scenes in degrees of separation games, but in the case of Rivers his appearance is no big deal musically. White does crank out some good violin solos, while the burbles and mutterings of strange funk guitarists such as Wa Wa Watsou and Mel Brown are diverting, if not moving. Still, Free Beer and Chicken gets a low rating due to the presence of all the talent mentioned, as well as the genius of Hooker: With all that going for it, this should have been a much better album.

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - 1976 - Flashing Time

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris 
Flashing Time

01. The Last Mile (7:21)
02. Nesia (6:36)
03. Third Time Suspicious (6:40)
04. Flashin‘ Time (5:30)
05. Out Of Pocket (8:12)
06. The Willies (5:58)

Bass – Gunter Lenz
Drums – Todd Canedy
Keyboards – Dewey Terry
Violin – Don Harris

Recorded in Holland, 1973

Outstanding live studio recording from electric violinist, Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris. The accent here is on straight jazz/blues fusion and Harris’ elastic fiddling fits the bill. The band is Dewey Taylor (piano), Gunter Lenz (bass), Todd Canedy (drums) and pioneering European fusion guitarist, Volker Kriegel. Easily one of Sugarcane’s more appealing sets, recorded September 25-27, 1973. Zappa fans will hear some of the off-kilter blues style Harris briefly provided FZ in the late 60s. Listen to “Nesia,” below. There’s an unreleased Deluxe Edition of Sugar Cane’s Got The Blues in the archives. This one’s really obscure, and not even listed at the The All Music Guide or at Amazon.

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - 1975 - Keyzop

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris 

01. Free Zone 6:50
02. Q 5:30
03. Lila Faye 6:35
04. Feel The Pain 10:00
05. Carlsbad 5:33
06. Keyzop 5:45

Don "Sugarcane" Harris- Violin
Volker Kriegel- Guitar
Dewey Terry- Keyboards
Gunter Lenz- Bass
Todd Canedy- Drums

Harris was born and raised in Pasadena, California, and started an act called Don and Dewey with his childhood friend Dewey Terry in the mid 1950s. Although they were recorded by Art Rupe on his Specialty label, mostly utilizing the services of legendary drummer Earl Palmer, Don and Dewey didn’t have any hits. However, Harris and Terry co-authored such early rock and roll classics as “Farmer John”, “Justine”, “I’m Leaving It Up to You”, and “Big Boy Pete,” all of which became hits for other artists.
Harris was given the nickname “Sugarcane” by bandleader Johnny Otis and it was to remain with him throughout his life.
After separating from Dewey Terry in the 1960s, Harris moved almost exclusively over to the electric violin. He was to reappear as a sideman with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Frank Zappa, most recognized for his appearances on Hot Rats, and on the Mothers of Invention albums Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh. His lead vocal and blues violin solo on a cover of Little Richard’s “Directly From My Heart to You” on Weasels, and his extended solo on the lengthy “Little House I Used To Live In” on Weeny are considered highlights of those albums. Reportedly, he was rescued from a jail term by Zappa. Zappa had long admired Harris’s playing and bailed him out of prison, resurrecting his career and ushering in a long period of creativity for the forgotten violin virtuoso.

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - 1974 - Cup Full Of Dreams

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris 
Cup Full Of Dreams

01. Runnin' Away 8:00
02. Hattie's Bathtub 7:23
03. Bad Feet 5:21
04. Cup Full Of Dreams 14:24
05. Generation Of Vipers 4:15

Bass Guitar – Larry Taylor
Drums – Paul Lagos
Electric Piano, Percussion – Dewey Terry
Guitar – Randy Resnik, Unknown Artist, Victor Conte Jr.*
Violin - Don "Sugarcane" Harris

The 'mystery guest' is believed to be Harvey Mandel. A photograph of his face is on the back cover, but it is obscured by a black bar across his eyes.

While Sugar Cane's Got the Blues (MPS, 1972; Reissued Promising Music, 2008), teamed the violinist with Europeans including Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal, German keyboardist Wolfgang Dauner and British (though, with a life-changing accident looming, not for long) drummer Robert Wyatt, Cup Full of Dreams finds Don "Sugar Cane" Harris back on American turf, with a group of players that would feature, in various permutations and combinations, on his remaining MPS releases into the mid-1970s, after which he'd mysteriously disappear, until his death in 1999 at the age of 61.

Unlike Got the Blues' lengthier live workouts, Cup Full of Dreams' five tracks are—with the exception of the descending four chord, minor-keyed, 14-minute title track— considerably shorter, though they're just as much about a prescient jam band aesthetic, where Harris' relatively sketchy songs are nothing more than jumping off points for plenty of individual and collective soloing. A little more focused, avoiding some of Got the Blues' freer tendencies, they're equally rock-centric, with the fiery "Bad Feet" fading in, clearly in the midst of a jam, all thumping bass and gritty guitars, and sounding like an outtake from Frank Zappa's Hot Rats, where Sugar Cane performed on its two longest, jammiest tracks. "Generation of Vipers" also sports a backbeat-driven pulse, ending the album on a high-volume, high octane note, with Sugar Cane's strummed strings as visceral as his searing arco.

For a label that seemed particularly committed to the violin—releasing albums by other incendiary bowers including Jean-Luc Ponty, Zbigniew Seifert and Michael Urbaniak, as well as mainstreamers like Stephane Grappelli and Stuff Smith—Harris was clearly MPS' most urban player, steeped in a blues tradition that's at the core of Cup Full of Dreams. But while a rock mentality defines the entire set, there's a closer link to the mainstream on tracks like the opening "Runnin' Away," a minor-key blues that swings hard, and features an overdriven solo from guitarist Harvey Mandel (originally credited, simply, as "Mystery Guest"), delivering an early example of the two-handed tapping technique that would become de rigueur a decade later with guitarists like Stanley Jordan. The Canned Heat veteran is joined by another alum from that group, bassist Larry Taylor, who walks with aplomb alongside drummer Paul Lagos.

"Hattie's Bathtub" also swings, though more amiably, its descending four-chord pattern not unlike the title track's, and featuring a brief but equally gritty electric piano solo from Dewey Terry, a keyboardist who dates back to the 1950s with Harris, when the two performed as Don & Dewey, with the violinist on guitar.

But in a set that also includes saxophonist Richard Aplan and guitarist Randy Resnick, it's Harris who takes an album that could have been nothing more than meandering jams into the stratosphere. Seifert may have had a post-Coltrane modal fire, while Ponty was gradually moving towards a fusion direction, but Cup Full of Dreams proves Harris to be MPS' rawest, most conflagrant violinist. Hopefully Promising Music will put more of this often-overlooked violinist's MPS dates back into print.

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - 1973 - I'm On Your Case

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris 
I'm On Your Case

01. I'm On Your Case 3:00
02. Keep On Trying 3:45
03. Makes It Kinda Hard 7:30
04. I Think I've Suffered Enough 4:00
05. Midnight Walk 4:15
06. Nothing But Time 4:00
07. I'm All In 5:15
08. Dear John 4:17

Drums – Clifton "Foo-Foo" Eddie* (tracks: A3, B1), Paul Lagos
Guitar – Randy Resnick
Guitar [Lead] – James Bradshaw
Harpsichord, Piano, Bass, Percussion – Dewey Terry
Saxophone [Tenor] – Richard Aplanalp
Trumpet – Bill Sprague
Vocals [Background], Percussion – Dalrie "Sunshine" Vail, Elsie Lewis
Vocals [Lead], Violin [Amplified], Organ, Bass, Percussion, Producer – Don "Sugarcane" Harris

Violinist Sugarcane Harris recorded a series of blues LPs for the German label MPS in the early to mid-'70s, though this effort is the least interesting of the lot. Consisting of eight originals, most of which are not particularly inspired, especially with the excessive production, including a backing vocalist, Harris overdubbing organ, bass, and percussion, and Dewey Terry's bland arrangements. The extended number "Makes It Kinda Hard," with a subtle freely improvised introduction, indicates a flash of the brilliance he displayed on his best MPS album, Sugarcane's Got the Blues. But as a whole, I'm on Your Case, which is long out of print (like all of Harris' recordings for the label), should not be considered as a high-priority acquisition by his fans.

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - 1971 - Sugar Cane's Got The Blues

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris 
Sugar Cane's Got The Blues

01. Liz Pineapple Wonderful (10:31)
02. Sugar Cane’s Got The Blues (15:22)
03. Song For My Father (10:53)
04. Where’s My Sunshine (12:37)
05. It’s Not My Fault (8:14) – Unreleased Bonus Track
06. Moog Solo (2:45) – Unreleased Bonus Track
07. Been Down So Long (13:39) – Unreleased Bonus Track

Don “Sugarcane” Harris (electric violin, vocals)
Volker Kriegel (guitar)
Terje Rypdal (guitar)
Wolfgang Dauner (piano)
Neville Whitehead (bass)
Robert Wyatt (drums).

This was a real find for me. Recorded live in Berlin in 1971 at the "Violin Summit" where producer Joachim Berendt put this supergroup together to celebrate the violin in Jazz and Blues. The lineup is killer ! These are some of the most well known players in Free-Jazz and Avant-Garde Rock.Yes Sugar Cane Harris is on violin, he had played with John Mayall as well as on a number of Frank Zappa albums including "Hot Rats", "Apostrophe" and many more. He's been called the Jimi Hendrix of violin. Add former SOFT MACHINE drummer Robert Wyatt who had just left that band. Neville Whitehead on bass who had recorded with many greats including Wyatt and Tippett and was part of the ELTON DEAN QUARTET, live SOFT MACHINE and ISOTOPE. On keyboards we get Wolfgang Dauner from the great German band ET CETERA. Volker Kriegel plays most of the guitar (3 tracks) while the amazing Terje Rypdal plays on one song. It still blows me away to think of Wyatt and Rypdal on stage together in the same band. Cool stuff right here folks.The surprising thing to me was that the violin doesn't dominate the proceedings like I thought it would. Sugar Cane comes across as a humble person who realized that he was surrounded with a very talented band and therefore he didn't try to steal the show. He does add vocals and does it well.This is very much a Blues / Jazz album,or should I say Jazz / Blues (haha).
"Liz Pineapple Wonderful" opens with someone speaking in German introducing the band.The music then comes in and it's uptempo with vocals.The violin replaces the vocals after 2 1/2 minutes. Great sound. The guitar leads before 4 1/2 minutes and the drumming is very active. Nice bass too I might add. The vocals are back after 7 1/2 minutes. Big finish after 9 minutes. Sugar Cane then announces the band quickly by their last names then says "out-a-sight". He compliments the audience too.

"Sugar Cane's Got The Blues" opens with violin then piano a minute in and other sparse sounds.Vocals cry out briefly 5 1/2 minutes in. Bass to the fore then the guitar joins in as it builds with drums.Piano joins in after 8 1/2 minutes then goes solo before 10 minutes. Cool section.Violin before 11 minutes and it becomes dissonant late as he cries out one more time. Huge applause after this song and every song.

"Song For My Father" is a Horace Silver cover. This is the song Terje Rypdal plays on.You can hear all the guys playing early on in a fairly laid back manner but that will change. So much going on here. Guitar to the fore 4 1/2 minutes and Terje continues to lead until 7 1/2 minutes when the violin returns. Such an incredible track !

"Where's My Sunshine" is a Bluesy number with vocals. Catchy too. Violin or vocals mainly lead although Kriegel leads on guitar 5 1/2 minutes in then piano. When the song ends Sugar Cane says "I'd like to introduce the fellas". He seemed to be in his glory at this concert and he deserves a lot of praise. Such a talented man.

One of the greatest definers of late-1960s and early-1970s jazz was the collaboration of musicians from disparate backgrounds, a perfect example being Charlie Mariano's 1976 MPS release, Helen Twelve Trees (Promising Music/MPS, 2008), featuring ex-Mahavishnu keyboardist Jan Hammer alongside ex-Cream bassist Jack Bruce. Equally, 1972's Sugar Cane's Got the Blues—another MPS title seeing issue on CD for the first time courtesy of Promising Music's tender care—demonstrates that stylistic differences can often come together to create music that's exciting and completely unexpected.

Violinist Don "Sugar Cane" Harris seemed to burst onto the scene with two appearances on Frank Zappa's classic Hot Rats (Rykodisc, 1969), resulting in a flurry of recording activity that mysteriously died out by the mid-1970s. Got the Blues captures two electrifying performance at Berlin's Philharmonic Hall from November, 1971, a potent combination of groove and improvisational freedom that makes Harris' later disappearance from the scene (he passed away in 1999) all the more curious.

The quintet of musicians come from diverse backgrounds: from Britain, Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt and bassist Neville Whitehead, who traveled in similar circles; and from Germany, keyboardist Wolfgang Dauner and guitarist Volker Kriegel, two multi-disciplinary players comfortable across a broad spectrum of styles, one example being Kriegel's work on The Dave Pike Set's Live at the Philharmonie (Promising Music/MPS, 2008). Norwegian guitarist/ECM mainstay Terje Rypdal replaces Kreigel on Got the Blues's most purely jazz-centric track, Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," which may sport the album's most relaxed vibe, but still can't seem to restrain Harris' fiery delivery.

The balance of the disc's four extended tracks belong to Harris. "Liz Pineapple Wonderful" may at first revolve around a simple set of changes and, later, a one-chord vamp, but it grooves mightily with relentless energy. In addition to a "burning down the house" solo from Harris, he also sings on the track, as he does on the pseudo-swinging minor-keyed title track which, after another introductory two-chord vamp, turns modal and double time for individual and in tandem solos from Dauner and Kriegel before a finale with everyone in the pool for three minutes of spirited free play. Harris also sings on the funky closer, "Where's My Sunshine," another lengthy vamp that morphs into a blues, with a surprisingly authentic piano solo from Dauner.

Harris' unrelenting and passionate delivery keeps the excitement level high throughout, despite Got the Blues' largely simple and vamp-based tunes. And while Kriegel's jazz/rock tendencies are no surprise to those familiar with him, hearing the usually free jazz-centric Dauner and Whitehead kick out the jams alongside Wyatt's powerful drumming is an eye and ear-opener. In many ways, it's this very multi-disciplinary nature of this collective that allows an album this compositionally spare to be so viscerally compelling.

Harris recorded a number of other discs for MPS that will, no doubt, see first-time release on CD thanks to Promising Music. Until then, Sugar Cane's Got the Blues will serve as a fine introduction to those unfamiliar with this unsung hero of jazz/rock violin.

Pure Food and Drug Act - 1971 - Choice Cuts

Pure Food and Drug Act 
Choice Cuts

01. Introduction: Jim’s Message (1:44)
02. My Soul’s On Fire (4:13)
03. ‘Till The Day I Die (7:08)
04. Eleanor Rigby (11:49)
05. A Little Soul Food (4:04)
06. Do It Yourself (4:21)
07. Where’s My Sunshine? (8:54)
08. What Comes Around Goes Around (4:21)

Bass – Victor Conte
Drums – Paul Lagos
Lead Guitar – Harvey Mandel
Rhythm Guitar – Randy Resnick
Violin, Vocals – Don "Sugarcane" Harris

Speaking Of Don “Sugarcane” Harris…
In the wake of posting our upgraded, “faux-Deluxe Edition” of Don “Sugarcane” Harris’ Sugar Cane’s Got The Blues, we thought we’d dig up this cool, long-ignored, sole 1972 release from Pure Food And Drug Act, a transitory blues/rock outfit featuring Harris, guitarist Harvey Mandel and supporting players that would eventually move on to greener pastures with the likes of Tower Of Power, Richard Greene and John Mayall. Mostly recorded live in Seattle, Choice Cuts manages to capture the group’s unique improvisatory skills in full glory, though… it sank like a stone back in the day. Not an essential release, perhaps, but a fun one for those who miss the rock/jazz/blues experiments of the late 60s/early 70s. PFDA’s version of “Eleanor Rigby” (listen below) will give you an idea. The LP’s opening introduction is a humorous Dylan-esque live tune about Pure Food And Drug Act, Frontby a fellow musician friend. The pic above is the original 1972 artwork, but this 2002 reissue actually sports an updated (and unattractive) new cover that spotlights the individual players involved.

New Violin Summit - 1971 - Live at the Berlin Jazz Festival 1971

New Violin Summit  
Live at the Berlin Jazz Festival 1971

01. Valium
02. Got My Mojo Working
03. Nuggis
04. Horizon
05. Flipping
06. Astrorama
07. Violin Summit Nr. II

Bass – Neville Whitehead (tracks: A1 to B1, C1 to D)
Drums – Robert Wyatt (tracks: A1 to B1, C1 to D)
Guitar – Terje Rypdal
Keyboards – Wolfgang Dauner (tracks: A1 to B1, C1 to D)
Violin – Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris* (tracks: A1, A2, B2, C2, D), Jean-Luc Ponty (tracks: A1, B1 to D), Michal Urbaniak* (tracks: A1, B1, B2, D), Nipso Brantner (tracks: A1, A2, B2, D)
New Violin Summit - Live At The Berlin Jazz Festival

Recorded live at the Berlin Jazz Festival
Berlin Philharmonic Hall
November 7, 1971

This is a legendary album. Once heard the LP back in the 1980s and have been trying to find either on LP or CD. This is the only CD release out of Poland. Aside from the four great violinists the backing band is spectacular featuring Terje Rypdal, Wolfgang Dauner and Robert Wyatt. CD contains the full double LP at just under 80 minutes. Sound quality is quite good for a 1971 live recording. Not for the faint hearted, this is very intense music.

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - 1971 - Fiddler On The Rock

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris
Fiddler On The Rock

01. Eleanor Rigby 9:36
02. I'm Gonna Miss You 4:50
03. The Buzzard's Cousin 6:05
04. The Pig's Eye 6:31
05. So Alone 7:06
06. No Inspiration 4:00

07. 'Till The Day I Die 7:08
08. Little Soul Food 4:12
09. What Comes Around Goes Around 4:03
10. Eleanor Rigby 4:21
11. My Soul's On Fire 11:51

First edition comes in a gatefold cover, wears the red centerlabel showing MPS- & BASF-brand.

Track 1-6:
"Studio Recording, Villingen, Germany, February 1971".

Track 7-11 (Bonus Tracks):
"Live Concert Recording, The Fresh Air Tavern, Seattle, Washington, 1972".
(as the Pure Food And Drug Act)

Bass – Larry Taylor
Drums – Paul Lagos
Guitar – Harvey Mandel
Violin, Vocals – Don 'Sugarcane' Harris

Solid jazzfunk from Harris with a tad of bluesy soul added into the bargain. Beyond the almost hilariously funked up version of Eleanor Rigby there's no real stand out track but the solid grooves are irresistible, the rhythm sections are really high in the mix. The violin (or is it a fiddle) is frenetic and fantastic.
great funk/jazz/fusion/rock from one of the most underrated musicians of the 1960's/'70's.
loved Harris' work with Zappa, and if you dug that, you'll like this too.

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - 1970 - Sugarcane

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris 

01. I'm Unconscious 2:58
02. You're Making Me Cry 2:57
03. Take It All Off 5:17
04. A Little Soul Food 2:59
05. Don't You Think I've Paid Enough 4:55
06. Do It Yourself 2:25
07. Tears Are Made Of Dreams 4:53
08. Funk And Wagner 5:11
09. You Could've Had Me Baby 3:41
10. Yours Eternally 2:38

Don "Sugarcane" Harris: Violin and vocals.
Other personnel uncredited.
Produced by Johnny Otis. Arranged by Johnny Otis, Roger Spotts and Shuggie Otis.
Engineered by Bob "Groovus I" Breault.

For some reason, his albums on the German MPS label seem to be more readily available than this one. This one was produced by the (now recently departed) Johnny Otis, with songwriting contributions from Johnny, his son Shuggie and Harris himself. Some may be familiar with Harris's bluesy electric violin on Frank Zappa's albums from around this time, notably Hot Rats (also featuring Shuggie Otis, although not on the same tracks as Sugarcane), Weasels Ripped My Flesh (with Harris's violin and lead vocal on the Little Richard song, 'Directly From my Heart to You') and his jawdropping violin solo on side two of Burnt Weeny Sandwich. He was earlier half of the R&B duo, Don and Dewey, which no doubt was responsible for Zappa's interest in him. Neil Young has covered one of Don and Dewey's songs, 'Farmer John.'

Harris was quite prolific in the early-mid 70s, playing with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and recording several albums as leader for MPS, featuring such notable players as Harvey Mandel and Robert Wyatt. He seems to have just kinda faded away after that, although Wiki tells me that he was in a group called Tupelo Chain Sex in the 1980s. He died in 1999, hopefully somewhat enriched by the royalties from Neil Young.

All his MPS records are worth checking out, and they seem to get reissued sporadically. This one was issued on CD about a decade ago (with artwork based on the trippy Rick Griffin cartoon on the rear cover, reproduced below [click to enlarge]) but has since fallen out of print again. My copy is on a mid-70s orange Epic label, but the stampers are 1D/1D, so I assume this is pressed from the original lacquer.

The best thing about this album is the front cover, which is about as out-and-out bizarre as the opening sequence of cult director Sam Fuller's classic film The Naked Kiss. The association with Frank Zappa made audiences expect something bizarre and shocking from electric violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris; this cover photograph and the underground comics by Rick Griffin on the back cover created a tie-in with the psychedelic culture and again promoted a sense of weirdness that is basically just not there in this collection of fairly standard rhythm & blues tracks produced and arranged by Los Angeles soul scene ubermensch Johnny Otis. He had a long connection with Harris, and they were sympathetic partners, so it is not like this is some sort of production mismatch. What it is really is material that was cooked up prior to or with no connection to the newly developing stage personality of Harris, meaning the electric violin is not emphasized all that much and musically the connection with Zappa is nothing more than the vital lifeline to the California roots blues scene. While this demands a great deal of respect, these tracks are the sort of performances Otis and his henchmen could whip up without breaking a sweat while someone else prepares their dinner. While any of the tracks would work fine on a jukebox in some dive, only a few, such as the marvelously greasy "Funk and Wagner," rise to the level demanded by the serious album listener. The material is all written by either Harris or Otis in various songwriting collaborations and combinations.

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris - 1970 - Keep On Driving

Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris 
Keep On Driving

01. Keep On Driving 4:05
02. Blues On The Moon 6:53
03. Which Way Is The Bathroom ? 4:02
04. Desiree 8:40
05. Almost Broke 5:58
06. Coitus Interruptus 4:58
07. Remember The Past 10:08

Recorded at MPS-Ton-Studio, Villingen/Germany, Nov, 17 and 18, 1970

First release comes in a gatefold cover, with red centerlabel, shows MPS- and BASF-brand.

- Don 'Sugar Cane' Harris / electric violin, acoustic violin (on 1,2)
- Volker Kriegel / guitar
- John Taylor / electric piano
- Tony Oxley / drums, amplified percussion (on 2,7)

Harris was born and raised in Pasadena, California, and started an act called Don and Dewey with his childhood friend Dewey Terry in the mid 1950s. Although they were recorded by Art Rupe on his Specialty label, mostly utilizing the services of legendary drummer Earl Palmer, Don and Dewey didn't have any hits. However, Harris and Terry co-authored such early rock and roll classics as "Farmer John", "Justine", "I'm Leaving It Up to You", and "Big Boy Pete," all of which became hits for other artists.

Harris was given the nickname "Sugarcane" by bandleader Johnny Otis and it was to remain with him throughout his life.

After separating from Dewey Terry in the 1960s, Harris moved almost exclusively over to the electric violin. He was to reappear as a sideman with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Frank Zappa, most recognized for his appearances on Hot Rats, and on the Mothers of Invention albums Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh. His lead vocal and blues violin solo on a cover of Little Richard's "Directly From My Heart to You" on Weasels, and his extended solo on the lengthy "Little House I Used To Live In" on Weeny are considered highlights of those albums. Reportedly, he was rescued from a jail term by Zappa. Zappa had long admired Harris's playing and bailed him out of prison, resurrecting his career and ushering in a long period of creativity for the forgotten violin virtuoso. He played a couple of live concerts with Zappa's band in 1969.

During the early 1970s, Sugarcane fronted the Pure Food and Drug Act which included drummer Paul Lagos, guitarists Harvey Mandel and Randy Resnick, and bassist Victor Conte, who was the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO). Conte replaced Larry Taylor who was the original bass player. His first solo album (with back cover art by underground poster artist Rick Griffin) is a forgotten masterpiece of blues, jazz, classical and funk compositions, and his 1973 live album Sugarcane's Got The Blues, recorded at the Berlin Jazz Festival show an accomplished musician at the top of his game.

This studio session marked the beginning of blues violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris' association with the German record label Saba (later renamed MPS). Harris, who was nearly flat broke at the time, had to borrow one of the violins used on the date, along with a pickup for the amplified selections. Joined by electric guitarist Volker Kriegel, pianist John Taylor, and drummer Tony Oxley (all of whom are better known for their jazz credentials), the session ends up being a fusion of blues, jazz, and a bit of rock, while all of the songs are Harris' originals. The opener, "Keep On Driving," is the kind of insistent blues typically associated with Harris, though it is a bit low key, possibly due to the use of acoustic violin. The free improvisation within "Blues on the Moon" is atypical for the genre, but not Harris, who is again on the acoustic instrument. The leader's slashing attack on electric violin in the humorously titled "Which Way Is the Bathroom?" is easily the highlight of the date, recalling his best collaborations with rocker Frank Zappa, as well as the violinist's rare live recordings. He is at his most soulful in "Desiree." The brisk "Almost Broke" showcases a hot solo by Kriegel, while the funky "Coitus Interruptus" finds Harris' violin taking on an almost vocal quality, followed by Kriegel's blistering solo. The disc ends with an extended workout of "Remember the Past," a sort of blues strut that detours into wild improvisations by the quartet. This was a fine beginning for Sugarcane Harris' debut with the label, though health problems essentially ended his recording career within just a few short years.

Captain Beefheart - 1982 - Ice Cream For Crow

Captain Beefheart 
Ice Cream For Crow

01. Ice Cream For Crow (4:29)
02. The Host The Ghost The Most Holy-O (2:22)
03. Semi-Multicoloured Caucasian (4:15)
04. Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat (3:09)
05. Evening Bell (1:58)
06. Cardboard Cutout Sundown (2:35)
07. The Past Sure Is Tense (3:17)
08. Ink Mathematics (1:39)
09. The Witch Doctor Life (2:35)
10. 81' Poop Hatch (2:36)
11. The Thousandth and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole (5:36)
12. Skeleton Makes Good (2:14)

- Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) / vocals, harmonica, Soprano saxophone, chinese gongs, prop horn
- Jeff Moris Tepper / white jew, guitar, slide-guitar, steel-appendage guitar, acoustic guitar
- Gary Lucas / guitar, steel-appendage guitar, glass finger guitar, national steel dualion
- Richard Snyder / bass guitar, marimba, viola
- Cliff Martinez / drums, percussion, shake bouquet, glass washboard, metal drums

- Eric Drew Feldman / Rhodes piano, synthesized bass

By 1982, Captain Beefheart had gotten tired of the music business, and retired to pursue his painting and sculpting interests. This at a time when it seemed like the world was finally starting to catch up with him -- some high-profile appearances on Saturday Night Live and The David Letterman Show seemed to indicate that his popularity was on the rise. After the razor-sharp fury of Doc at the Radar Station, this album finds Beefheart settling into a more laid back groove. Laid back, but not happy and content. Not depressed or bitter either, just... a bit weary.

The title track opens the album with a jolt of electricity which is inviting and accessible -- the band released a promotional video clip of the song, even -- and it even sounds a bit bright and optimistic, as if the Captain still sees hope and good prospects ahead for delightful mischief. Things quickly settle back down into darker territory with "The Host the Ghost the Most Holy-O", a typically fine spoken piece with typical jagged accompaniment. The third song, "Semi-MultiColoured Caucasian", is less typical - a relatively smooth instrumental focusing on the interplay of the guitars, reminiscent of "Alice in Blunderland" from The Spotlight Kid (1972). My personal favorite Beefheart poem is next, the baffling "Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat". Strange images ("...and the rainbow baboon gobbled fifteen fish eyes with each spoon!...") collide in random fashion, with suitably unpredictable and strange backing music. Gary Lucas (guitar) contributes the lovely solo piece "Evening Bell", and side one ends with another spoken piece similar to "Garland", entitled "Cardboard Cutout Sundown". So far we have plenty of odd and weird music, not to mention wild poetry, but these pieces differ from the prior album Doc at the Radar Station in that the Captain's rage and fury seems to be taken down a few notches.

Side two picks up the pace for a couple of peppy tracks, "The Past Sure is Tense" and "Ink Mathematics", both revealing a paranoid worldview in that abstract Beefheart way. "The Witch Doctor Life" brings out Beefheart's cracking falsetto and a bit more of a melodic singing style reminiscent of the Spotlight Kid album. "81 Poop Hatch" is a spoken word piece with no musical accompaniment, spoken in a low, serious tone of voice that intones lines like "my eyes are burnt and bleeding" and "trumpet poop on the ground with peanuts, its bell was blocking an ant's vision" in the same solemn tone. This song as well as the following "Thousand and Tenth Day of the Human Totem Pole" were leftovers from the original Bat Chain Puller album (see my review of that work for details), and the latter piece is one of this album's clear highlights. Totaling nearly six minutes, the music is long- winded and trudging, climbing in a linear fashion to a climax that never comes. Beefheart's recited allegory that accompanies this music is among his most astute and vivid bits of social observation. Ending the album is a scary bit of growling in the grotesque "Skeleton Makes Good", Beefheart's last spit of venom before he bows out of the music business.

In the context of Beefheart's discography, this sits as a very comfortable, self-assured album that indicates that he was on a creative roll, even if his energy level and emotional investment were quickly falling. It was a good note to go out on, a nice cap on a very solid discography.

PS: I also have on my computer a couple of hours of unreleased Captain Beefheart studio material, demos, rehearsals and one or two BBC Sessions... if there is interest I can post those here also, dunno how much interest there is for this kinda stuff over here (I am an avid Bootleg collector myself)

Captain Beefheart - 1980 - Doc At The Radar Station

Captain Beefheart 
Doc At The Radar Station

01. Hot Head (3:23)
02. Ashtray Heart (3:25)
03. A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond (1:38)
04. Run Paint Run Run (3:40)
05. Sue Egypt (2:57)
06. Brickbats (2:40)
07. Dirty Blue Gene (3:51)
08. Best Batch Yet (5:02)
09. Telephone (1:31)
10. Flavor Bud Living (1:00)
11. Sheriff of Hong Kong (6:34)
12. Making Love to a Vampire With a Monkey on My Knee (3:11)

- Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) / vocals, harmonica, Tenor saxophone, Soprano saxophone, bass clarinet
- Eric Drew Feldman / bass guitar, synthesizer, mellotron, grand piano, electric piano
- Bruce Fowler / trombone
- John French / guitar, slide guitar, marimba, bass guitar, some drums
- Robert Williams / drums, percussion
- Jeff Moris Tepper / guitar, slide-guitar, nerve guitar

- Gary Lucas / guitar, French horn

I always knew this album was ranked up among my favorites by Beefheart, but after listening to it again several times just recently, I'm still surprised at how HARD, TOUGH and MEAN this album is. From beginning to end, from "Hot Head" to "Making Love to a Vampire With a Monkey on My Knee", this album is razor sharp, intense, and Beefheart's energy and focus are at unusually high levels. It's now clear to me that Beefheart and his Magic Band have never been better than they were on this album, and it is with much joy that I award it five stars.

Track by track, this thing smokes. "Hot Head" sets a four-note octave-hopping riff in motion, propelled by a Drumbo-like beat by superlative drummer Robert Williams. Beefheart sneers, howls, and growls seductively as the riff repeats endlessly, punctuated by ace slide playing by Jeff "Moris" Tepper.. "Hot Head" is catchy and inviting, and rocks like crazy. The second track, "Ashtray Heart", also benefits from a hard-charging rhythm (like many of the tracks; the energy level borders on punk rock at times), but interrupts this rhythm frequently to bring in really weird sections of "ensemble meltdown", and even a Mellotron! On this track, Beefheart's voice reaches new heights of insanity too -- imagine your cranky neighbor shouting so loud across the yard that his voice starts cracking and going into quasi-falsetto. Next up is the guitar/piano duet "A Carrot is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond", a very pretty, short instrumental. Then it's more cranky neighbor screaming on "Run Paint Run Run" set to a galloping rhythm, colored with odd interjections by various instruments and sudden stops and starts. "Sue Egypt" is a neat change of pace, taking out drums entirely for a guitar/spoken word duet (but again with a Mellotron interlude), and Beefheart sounds no less intense even though he takes the voice down a register or two. "Brickbats" closes side one, a leftover from the Bat Chain Puller days, and it ratchets the album up a few notches on the avant-rock ladder. Mostly recited with plodding, chaotic ensemble accompaniment, until the inevitable shriek, "BRICKBAAAAATTSS!!"

Side two opens with the absolutely exhilarating "Dirty Blue Gene". Beefheart pulls out all his voices for this rapid fire assault of rollicking guitar riffs, speedy and quick-changing drums, and free-flying slide guitar, not to mention enthusiastic call-and-response shouts with the band. If there's one track on the album that represents all that makes this album what it is, this is the one. "Best Batch Yet" is more contemplative (shoot, even Slayer is more contemplative than that last song), but it's still a mind-bending maze of tricky rhythms, instruments coming in and out, and Beefheart's usual surreal lyricism. Beefheart goes back into maniac mode for "Telephone", which has such a crazed and wacky delivery, it's almost funny. This insanity is short-lived, as the one minute piece gives way to another one minute piece, the delicate solo guitar instrumental "Flavor Bud Living", executed by part-time member John French (who in the past was Beefheart's de facto musical collaborator for many years). This turns out to just be a brief breather for the climax of the album, the 6 minute hell-storm of "Sheriff of Hong Kong", where guitars rage and weave in and out without respite or mercy, drums thunder onward, and Beefheart rants and raves without caution or conscience, locking in completely with the music and bellowing with an intensity and rage that has by now become typical of this album. The hangover that follows, the closing "Making Love to a Vampire with a Monkey on My Knee", is a surreal, spooky piece of musical drama, with recitation by Beefheart (in which he uses the "F" word a couple of times, so beware kids), And lo and behold, the Mellotron is back too (thank you, Eric Drew Feldman!). The album ends on a sinister mystery chord like you might hear at the "cliffhanger" moment of a suspenseful TV show. What's next? You wonder. Flip the puppy over and start it all over again.

There isn't a track on here that I'm not uber-enthusiastic about, and I can't say that about many (if any) other Beefheart albums. Often lumped together with the two other (fine) albums surrounding it, this album stands apart from the pack as the most hard-hitting, intense album he ever did.