Friday, June 24, 2016

Super Freego - 1982 - Pourquoi Es-Tu Si Mechant

Super Freego 
Pourquoi Es-Tu Si Mechant

01.Yekto Le Kreutre (3:40)
02. Il Y A (4:26)
03. Tu Peux Crever (4:14)
04. M'en Fous (3:30)
05. Dommage Tu Avais L'age (3:52)
06. A La Folie (3:52)
07. Rock II (5:16)
08. Tentative De Courgettes (2:54)
09. Pourquoi Es-Tu Si Méchant? (4:14)

- Karaki / bass, voices
- Hervé Dupon / guitars, keyboards
- M. Skolarczyk / voices
- Rockez Melendy / drums, percussion
- Max de Pol / guitars

Recorded at Studio Vénus (Longueville) 2/3 to 18/3/1982.
"A La Folie" recorded at Studio Synthesis (Boulogne) and mixed at Studio Vénus.

Ahhh, the mythical Super Freego, one of the rarest Zeuhl albums of the 80s.  Also, as it turns out, one of the most interesting, as Super Freego mixed their Zeuhl with New Wave, winding up sounding like some strange amalgam of Magma and the B-52s.  If that sounds about as appetizing as mixing peanut butter and pickles, well, it isn't; this album is fantastic.  Zeuhl is often thought of as being really "heavy" and "serious", so it's a great pleasure to hear an album that is unquestionably Zeuhl and yet is still a lot of fun to listen to.  I can't, of course, understand the lyrics, but this album definitely earns its place through its musical virtues alone.  Highly recommended.

If you ever wondered what it would sound like if The Human League or Missing Persons were a Zeuhl influenced group, then Super Freego gives you a window into that world. Stylistically it fits in the early 80s New Wave synth pop camp. Except all these irregular rhythms combined with the familiar male/female chanting clearly point to that most unique French school of music. And it gets weirder as you go through the album, that by Side 2 it's almost purely Zeuhl. I've seen a couple of YouTube videos that demonstrate that Super Freego were a far wilder group on stage than in the studio, which gives me some hope there might be some crazy Zeuhl music sitting in a canister somewhere. The only other album that even comes close to sounding like this is Eskaton's "Fiction", though that album is far closer to pure Zeuhl than Super Freego. Maybe Foehn's "Faeria", though Super Freego are much more intense.

From Mutant Sounds:

In passingly referencing this French zeuhl unit in one of my other reviews a while back, I referred to Super Freego's music as sounding like Planet Kobaia meets Planet Claire, as pithy a capsulization of the irreverent new wave inflections they bring to this often decidedly serious (bordering of sanctified) genre as I can manage to muster. Of course, their name alone is a bit of a giveaway vis a vis their playful attitude to the Magma mothership (Magma = heat, Super Freego i.e. Super Frigidaire = cold). This has earned them something less than adoration in certain humor deprived sectors of the prog geek universe. To these po-faced folks I say Feh! Super Freego are one of the most awesome zeuhl outfits of the whole period, their seemingly chalk and cheese mixture in truth picking up on a latent thread of show-bizzy wackiness in late model Magma, which in itself is a bit of a line in the sand in zeuhl quarters. Anyone that has ever caught Magma's early 80's Bobino concert footage will know precisely what I mean by this. Super Freego seize on some of this Rocky Horror Picture Show musical revue-style schtick (specifically Retrovision's high camp) and run for the hills with it. And, as it turns out, the hills are alive with the sound of...Rock Lobster.

Babe Ruth - 1976 - Kids Stuff

Babe Ruth 
Kids Stuff

01. Oh! Dear What A Shame 4:18
02. Welcome To The Show 5:13
03. Since You Went Away 3:37
04. Standing In The Rain 4:41
05. Sweet, Sweet Surrender 3:58
06. Oh! Doctor 3:42
07. Nickelodeon 2:46
08. Keep Your Distance 4:24
09. Living A Lie 6:06

Bass – Neil Murray (tracks: A3, B1, B5,), Ray Knott
Drums – Ed Spevock
Guitar, Vocals – Bernie Marsden
Percussion – Chris Karin* (tracks: A2, A3, B2), Tony Carr (tracks: A3, B2)
Piano, Organ, Synthesizer – Steve Gurl
Producer – Steve Rowland
Synthesizer [Moog], Organ – Don Airey (tracks: B1, B5)
Vibraphone [Vibes] – Frank Riccotti* (tracks: A3, A4)

I may as well make it clear from the outset that this is easily my favourite Babe Ruth album. That will surprise and possibly disappoint many Babe Ruth fans as they mostly see it as the weakest with the main protagonists from the band departed.

A brief explanation of how I came to purchase the album in the first place may explain all however.

Those of you that are old enough to remember the good old days of 'Record Shops' will know what I'm talking about here. The poor youngsters among you will just have to curse your bad luck for being born in a time of muti-national corporations where every High street in every town is exactly the same.

You see back in the seventies and eighties, and into the nineties too just about, things were very different. Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda (Wal-mart) etc sold bread and cheese. If you wanted records you went to a record shop or in some places like Woolworths and Boots (yes Boots the Chemist) you went to the Record Department. Okay there were some National chains still like HMV but Virgin was an Independent little place, which was great for imports I seem to remember, and every town had a couple of good privately owned little record shops, some even had massive ones. The majority of these had secondhand sections too where you could dig out all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff that someone else had grown tired of. How many of you reading this (that is of course if anyone is reading this) can remember, like me, wading through the endless racks of secondhand albums in the gloriously named 'Record & Tape Exchange' in Camden and Notting Hill Gate among other places filling in gaps in the beloved collection. It may have been more time consuming but it was much more fun than downloading them from the internet like people do nowadays.

The other thing is that in those days musicians paid their dues. They made an album every year, they played in countless bands before hitting the big time. Touring up and down the country in a beat up Bedford van. So subsequently you would find albums in the secondhand racks and be surprised by the names of musicians you knew playing in bands you'd never heard of. Because they were so cheap you bought them and thats how you got to build up a proper eclectic collection rather than 50 issues of Now Thats What I Call Music and the three albums your favourite band have released in the last 10 years that a lot of people call a collection these days.

So back to 1981 then (for that is where we were about to go before i went off on that little rant !) there I am in the aforementioned Record & Tape Exchange in Camden and I pick up 'Kid's Stuff' look at the musicians credits on the back and see one Bernie Marsden. Crikey thinks the seventeen year old know all that was me, thats the guitarist out of Whitesnake I'll buy that it'll probably be good.

Well it was good, it still is good. Whenever I play it I think of afternoons spent in the secondhand record shop when I should have been studying. The smell of the cover reminds me of the shop and of carefree happy days when the only real concern you had was where to go on Saturday night. Twenty five years from now someone who is seventeen today isn't going to be able to do that with a downloaded MP3 file, but if i'm still around I'll still have all that vinyl and the memory of finding it.

This type of album wouldn't exist today, it would never have been made in the first place. The record company would have pulled the plug and no-one would have paid to make it or promote it. There were literally hundreds of great albums like this made in the seventies if you can get your hands on them. It's not brilliant, it's not revolutionary but its also not manufactured music by numbers. It is where the people involved were at the time, the ideas they had in their heads. They recorded them and put them out in the shops before they had time to tinker too much or decided they didn't think it worked. Subsequently the albums tend to be far more interesting and differ more from each other than modern day equivelants where they take three years to write an album and another year to promote it.

Short shelf lives meant it was easy to experiment. That's what this album is like ........ it is like no other i have. It certainly isn't like Whitesnake and it's never bothered me one bit.

Martin Leedham

Babe Ruth - 1975 - Stealin Home

Babe Ruth 
Stealin Home

01. It'll Happen In Time 5:33
02. Winner Takes All 3:56
03. Fascination 5:56
04. 2000 Sunsets 3:46
05. Elusive 6:40
06. Can You Feel It 4:13
07. Say No More 2:41
08. Caught At The Plate 2:54
09. Tomorrow (Joining Of The Day) 5:02

Bass – Dave Hewitt
Drums, Percussion – Ed Spevock
Keyboards – Steve Gurl
Producer – Steve Rowland
Vocals [Female] – Janita Haan*
Vocals, Guitar – Bernie Marsden

"Stealin´ Home" is the 4th full-length studio album by UK hard rock act Babe Ruth. The album was released through Capitol Records in 1975. Main composer and guitarist Alan Shacklock left the band after the third self-titled album and I was really worried how "Stealin´ Home" would sound without his contributions.

As it turns out "Stealin´ Home" isn´t stylistically that far away from it´s predecessor. "Stealin´ Home" is basically a rock/hard rock album and the music style isn´t completely unlike the music style of Wishbone Ash (without the twin guitar attack). A kind of softer hard rock style. The vocals by Jenny Haan sound like a female Geedy Lee (Rush). She is a very skilled singer with a great rock mama attitude. The only element on this album that links the music to the semi-progressive rock of the early releases is the inclusion of keyboards/synths on some tracks which gives the music a slight progressive touch, best examplified on the opening track "It´ll Happen In Time". I can appreciate most of the album but I especially enjoy the tracks that emphasize the harder rock side of the band´s sound. When they slow things down my fascination drops. A track like "Can You Fell It" with it´s reggae rhythms is where I say stop.

The sound production is enjoyable, warm and pleasant. Overall "Stealin´ Home" is a decent release by Babe Ruth even though I would listen to any of the first three studio albums before this one.

Babe Ruth - 1975 - Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth 
Babe Ruth

01. Dancer
02. Somebody's Nobody
03. A Fistful Of Dollars
04. We People Darker Than Blue
05. Jack O'Lantern
06. Private Number
07. Turquoise
08. Sad But Rich
09. The Duchess Of Orleans

Drums, Percussion – Ed Spevock
Grand Piano, Keyboards, Synthesizer [Moog] – Steve Gurl
Guitar, Bass [Fuzz] – Dave Hewitt
Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards [Mellotron], Synthesizer [Moog], Percussion, Vibraphone [Vibes] – Alan Shacklock
Vocals, Bells – Janita 'Jenny' Haan

After shipping the light-weight Amar Caballero LP, Babe Ruth sat dead-red on a hanging curve ball, sending a line-shot to the right/centerfield power alley with the release of their self-titled studio album in 1975.

Produced by Steve Rowland, the nine song Babe Ruth recording opens with the six-minute, hard rockin' "Dancer". Unlike the collection of mellow and funky cuts from Amar Caballero, Babe Ruth wasted no time gettin' back to ass kickin' action, with the Alan Shacklock penned "Dancer", which is chased by the amped-up "Somebody's Nobody". Little Janita Haan adds big vocals to the LP's second track, which breaks into a funky bass groove midway through the number. A pair of covers fill out side one, as Babe Ruth deliver a fast paced, in-you-face guitar onslaught remake of Ennico Morricone's "Fistful of Dollars", and a late night, slow blues cruise on Curtis Mayfield's "We People Darker Than Blue". Once more, "Jenny" Haan steals the spotlight with her vocal performance.

Side two of the Babe Ruth album kicks in with rapid fire riffing the drives the dirty deeds rockin' "Jack O'Lantern". Miss Haan brings a soulful singing style to the fore on the laid back cover of "Private Number", while "Torquoise", written by the Haan and bassist David Hewitt, carries a south-of-the-boarder vibe. Drummer Ed Spevock contributed the energized "Sad But Rich", and Shacklock's bluesy, five-minute ride on "The Dutchess of Oceans" brings Babe Ruth's third album to a close.

Babe Ruth - 1973 - Amar Caballero

Babe Ruth
Amar Caballero

01. Lady
02. Broken Cloud
03. Gimme Some Leg
04. Baby Pride
05. Cool Jerk
06. We Are Holding
07. Doctor Love
08. Amar Caballero (Sin Ton Ni Son)
  El Caballero De La Reina Isabella
  Hombre De La Guitana
  El Testament De 'Amelia

Bass [Fender] – Dave Hewitt
Keyboards – Chris Holmes
Percussion – Ed Spevock
Producer, Guitar – Alan Shacklock
Vocals – Jenny Haan

Flugelhorn – Ray Harris
Flute – Brian Warren
Organ – Chris Holmes
Piano [Steinway] – Dave Punshon
Saxophone [Baritone] – Bud Beadle
Saxophone [Tenor] – Steve Gregory
Trumpet – Ron Carthy
Electric Piano – Dave Punshon
Flute – Dave White, Steve Gregory,Duncan Lamont
Percussion [Mother Drum] – Gasper Lawal
Trombone – Keith Christie, Ray Premru
Trumpet – Ray Harris
Congas, Cowbell, Vocals – Angelito Perez
Trumpet – Ron Carthy
Violin – Raymond Vincent

Tracks A1 & A2: String section led by John Georgiadis.

Listening to 1974's "Amar Caballero" has always surprised me given it was recorded by a band that had a reputation as a hard rock entity.  Produced by front man Alan Shacklock, the album was crazy, all-over the musical spectrum.  Among the genres they managed to touch on - English folk-music ('Broken Cloud'), incidental film moves ('We Are Holding On'), funk (''Dr. Love''), and even jazz ('Lady').  Mind you, I like diversity as much as anyone else, but this one was simply schizophrenic.  It almost sounded like a demo tape from a band trying to showcase the fact they could function across any musical genre.  In this case the result was you were left wondering who the world they were ...  That wasn't meant as a criticism of the band's musical dexterity (particularly Dutch-born singer Janita Haan, new keyboardist Chris Holmes who replaced Dave Punshon (who'd gone off to join a religious group) and multi-instrumentalist Shacklock). but any semblance of a band 'sound' was lost across these eight tracks.

- 'Lady' opened up the album with a song that sounded like a mash-up between lite-jazz and Curtis Mayfield-styled blaxploitation soundtrack.  The clear star was Haan's crystal clear voice, followed in short order by Shacklock's wonderful jazzy lead guitar solo.   rating: *** stars
- With an ornate arrangement and heavy orchestration, 'Broken Ground' sounded like a mix of progressive and English folk moves.  Sounds weird and it certainly was, though once again Haan's fantastic voice managed to pull it off.    rating: ** stars
- With an ominous, highlight misogynist lyric 'Gimme Some Leg' shifted direction again - this time the band displaying their unique blend of hard rock, funk, and a touch of reggae.  I've always found Haan's shrill and screechy lead vocal hard to deal with, but given the song's dark, threat-of-rape lyric, maybe that was the intent.  I think the non-too-subtle message is people (particularly single women), should not hitch-hike ...    rating: *** stars
- Again showcasing Shacklock's tasty jazzy lead guitar, 'Baby Pride' found Haan and company dipping their collective feet into adult contemporary light jazz territory.   One of their prettiest melodies, underscored by the start arrangement.    rating: **** stars
- Their cover of The Capitol's 'Cool Jerk' was okay - a bit too jittery and hyperactive for my tastes, but you had to love Haan's voice and Ed Spevock's frenetic drumming.   rating: *** stars
- By this point in the album the band's wild musical twists and turns were no longer a surprise so the pretty balalaika-propelled instrumental 'We Are Holding On' really didn't sound that out of place.   Well, yeah, it actually did.  To my ears it sounded like a piece of incidental film music they' stitched into the middle of the album.  rating: ** stars
- 'Doctor Love' moved back to hard rock-meet-soul territory.  The song was actually pretty good with a cool funk baseline and a nice Shacklock lead guitar break.  On the downside, Haan resorted to her screechiest voice and the horns didn't add much to the track.   rating: *** stars
- A three part suite, 'Amar Caballero (Sin Ton Ni Son' was another effort all over the musical spectrum.
- 'El Caballero De La Reina Isabella' offered up another slice of pretty English folk music - very Fairport Convention-influenced.   rating: *** stars
- The instrumental 'Hombre De La Guitarra' showcased Shacklock's blazing guitar on a Latin percussion flavored slice of Flamenco-meets-Santana.   It wasn't rock and roll, but the song still made for one of the album's best performances.   rating: **** stars
- The closing instrumental 'El Testament De Amelia' added a Spanish flamenco to the feel , slowing things way down

Babe Ruth - 1972 - First Base

Babe Ruth 
First Base

01. Wells Fargo
02. The Runaways
03. King Kong
04. Black Dog
05. The Mexican
06. Joker
07. Wells Fargo (7 Inch Version)
08. Theme From 'For A Few Dollars More'

Bass – Dave Hewitt
Cello – Boris Rickleman, Clive Anstee, Manny Fox
Cello [Lead] – Peter Halling
Congas, Bongos, Cabasa [Kabasa] – Caspar Lawal
Drums, Percussion – Dick Powell
Electric Piano, Piano – Dave Punshon
Guitar, Vocals, Organ, Percussion – Alan Shacklock
Oboe – Harry Mier
Saxophone – Brent Carter
Vocals – Janita Haan

Formed as Shacklock (named after guitarist and main composer Alan Shacklock), Babe Ruth originated from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK, fronted by the mad female singer Janita "Jenny" Haan and featuring also Dave Hewitt on bass, Dave Punshon on keyboards and Dick Powell on drums (replacing original drummer Jeff Allen), as they headed for their debut album ''First base'' (1972, Harvest).While by no means a progressive band, their debut contained some proggy vibes, coming as a mix of Hard/Psych Rock and Jazz Rock, a bit similar to Catapilla.A couple of tracks just rock hard, but the rest of the album is characterized by some unusual sax lines, lots of electric piano and organ and lyrical weirdness, often entering the free realms of instrumental jazziness, coming in contrast with Haan's ruspy vocals.''King kong'' and ''Black dog'' especially stand out for their delicate structures, tireless jazzy solos and harder moves on guitar, even if ''The mexican'' was the hit of the band.Soft grooves, angular guitars next to psychedelic keyboards and some decent interplays throughout.The album became gold in Canada and was also praised warmly in the USA, but failed to attract the British audience.These progressive touches faded away with each of the upcoming albums, as the band was struck by several line-up changes until its dissolution in 1976.They reformed in 2005 and recorded a brand new album, while continuing to perform live after 30 years.

You're ridin' shotgun with Babe Ruth... over land, to the Rio Grande. First Base comes up short of hitting for the cycle, but the group point the thin handle Louisville Slugger at the right field wall, and subsequently goes deep on the furious album opener, "Wells Fargo", making this disc well worth the price of admission. Rounding the bases behind a killer riff, accented by a scorching sax solo and the inspired vocals of lil' Jenny Haan, Babe Ruth take a vicious swing on "Wells Fargo", as they head for the Mexican border. It's a wild six-minute and thirteen-second at bat, that results in a round-tripper. Touch 'em all! Toss back a healthy shot of tequila, and chase it with "Wells Fargo" jacked to the max. In addition to the wild album opener, the six-song First Base recording features a collection of extended cuts that are highlighed by "The Runaways" and "The Mexican". At well over five-minutes, "The Mexican" is the shortest track from Babe Ruth's debut album, which evenly distributes three songs per side.