Friday, April 7, 2017

Keef Hartley - 1971 - Overdog

Keef Hartley Band

01. You Can Choose 5:28
02. Plain Talkin' 3:23
03. Theme Song / En Route / Theme Song - Reprise 8:05
04. Overdog 4:20
05. Roundabout 6:06
06. Imitations From Home 3:34
07. We Are All The Same 4:41

Backing Vocals – Ingrid Thomas, Joan Knighton, Valerie Charrington
Bass – Gary Thain
Drums – Jon Hiseman, Keef Hartley
Flugelhorn – Dave Caswell
Flute – Johnny Almond, Lyle Jenkins
Guitar – Gary Thain, Keef Hartley
Keyboards – Peter Dines, Mick Weaver
Tenor Saxophone – Lyle Jenkins
Trumpet – Dave Caswell
Vocals – Keef Hartley

Recorded Morgan, Oct. 5th & 13th 1970, A.I.R. Nov. 23rd 1970, Trident Jan. 17th - 19th 1971.

Say what you will, but Keef Hartley has frequently been willing to try out different genres and that willingness to stretch out was seldom as obvious as on 1971's "Overdog".   Co-produced by Hartley and Nick Slaven, anyone who bought this album expecting to hear another set of English blues-rock was probably going to be at least mildly disappointed by the collection.  And that wasn't meant as a criticism since straight-ahead hard rock tunes like the opener 'You Can Choose' and 'Plain Talkin'' were surprisingly strong and impressive.   That said, the album's not-so-secret creative weapon was Miller Anderson who in addition to writing most of the material, handled vocals, and lead guitar. I imagine longtime fans may not have been thrilled by the changes, but to my ears this was one of the band's most accomplished and enjoyable albums.   Kudos to Anderson  for pushing Hartley and company into a more commercial stance.

Overdog is heavier than the previous album and you’ll notice it right from the wah-wah guitar driven funk soul jazz opener where M.Anderson lets loose all is rocking inner animal. The tempo only increases on the Motown inspired Plain Talkin’ where Mick Weaver fattens the sound on organ, and MA solos, with a Nashville touch; A flute (Johnny Almond) driven medley of two themes follows, starting backed just by acoustic guitar, and going to a percussion heavy up-tempo jazzy jam – Jon Hiseman guests here as 2nd drummer – and MW does his Electric piano show ; the title track starts with backwards guitar, rolling floor toms, and pumping bass and is a nice funky number with a very good organ solo and a huge guitar sound.
The time speeds up in Roundabout, sax and trumpet shine, distorted rocking guitar, pure funky rock jazz over furious drumming and an almost bebop intermezzo. Imitations, written by Hartley, although nice sounding is a bit of a filler, and the countrified last track has nothing to do with what came before –nevertheless, it would sit well in a C.S.& N. album.
Two bonus tracks grace the Eclectic CD reissue – in fact the single version of roundabout, a slightly different mix, that was released on the A and B sides as part 1 and 2.
All in all a very worthy album for any Jazz Rock Soul Blues fan.

Keef Hartley - 1970 - The Time Is Near

Keef Hartley Band
The Time Is Near

01. Morning Rain
02. From The Window
03. The Time Is Near
04. You Can't Take It With You
05. Premonition
06. Another Time Another Place
07. Change

Bass – Gary Thain
Drums, Percussion – Keef Hartley
Tenor Saxophone – Jim Jewell
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Henry Lowther
Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Miller Anderson
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Dave Caswell
Piano, Organ – Stuart Wicks
Tenor Saxophone – Lyle Jenkins

Co-produced by Nick Slaven and Keef Hartley, 1970's "The Time Is Near" probably isn't the Hartley album  most folks would jump into a fire to save from their vinyl collection.  That said, it's the Keef Hartley album that's consistently grown on me over the years.  A big part of your reaction to the album is going to depend on how you feel about early-'70s horn rock.  If you liked bands like Blood, Sweat & Tear, Chase, Chicago, etc., there's a good chance you were going to enjoy Miller Anderson penned tunes like 'Morning Rain', 'The Time Is Near' and 'You Can't Take It with You'.  If you were a fan of Harltey's bluesier catalog, well then this set was likely to be problematic for you.  To be honest, Anderson provided most of the album highlights.   In addition to writing six of the seven songs, he had a great, soul-tinged voice and while he may not have been the flashiest lead guitarist out there, his work was always concise and tasteful.  Check out his work on the closer 'Change'.  Shame he wasn't given more of an opportunity to showcase his chops.

he vagaries of rock and roll means by reasons of timing, management, promotion (or lack of), connections or maybe just a lucky gig, a band is either christened on a firm foundation on which they can grow to aquire some position of respect and be accompanied by a monetary reward or fall into the unforgiving pit of neglect and obscurity. Sometimes unfairly in both instances! One of those bands who fell into a hole of neglect and subsequently obscurity (unfairly) was The Keef Hartley Band. They really had a whole lot going for them musically, starting with the dynamic drumming of Keef Hartley himself. Next, they had a talented vocalist/guitarist in Miller Anderson, who was also a very adept lyricist, writing fully six of the seven songs on this album. Along with these ingredients comes the elements that seperated them from many other bands of the era--an astoundingly good jazz horn section which put them, superficially at least, in the same category as Chicago or Blood, Sweat And Tears. However, the Hartley Band's horn section were much more jazz oriented and full of skilled soloists, including Dave Caswell on trumpet and Lyle Jenkins on tenor sax. These guys could easily have backed any straight forward jazz musician of the day (think Tubby Hayes) and held their heads high. They truly were that good.
    Songs like "Morning Rain", the splendid title track (which really should have been a hit) and  "You Can't Take It With You" are so hook laden and groove with such a distinct, original sound that once they get stuck in your head you'd swear you HAVE heard them on the radio. There is no reason in the listening why other songs made it big in 1970 and these worthy gems were brushed aside. Just the fickle finger of fate I suppose. At any rate, this makes for a great party album and you'll probably have at least one person (as I have) come up to you and ask, "just who is this?", thinking it's someone they've heard.
   As an interesting footnote, the late, one of a kind bass player Gary Thain plays on this. He of course subsequently went on to a great deal of deserved success with Uriah Heep a couple of years later, playing with them when their flame burned most brightly, starting with "Demons And Wizards" through to "Wonderworld." Typical of many rock and roll tragedies, his life ended far too soon due to a heroin addiction, in 1975. That though is another story. If you like your rock with some kickin' jazz horns pick up this fine varietal from a year that gave us an unusually high number of memorable albums. This is (in keeping with the earlier wine analogy) a suprisingly tasty vintage.

Keef Hartley - 1969 - The Battle Of North West Six

Keef Hartley Band
The Battle Of North West Six

01. The Dansette Kid / Hartley Jam For Bread 3:59
02. Don't Give Up 4:07
03. Me And My Woman 4:24
04. Hickory 2:45
05. Don't Be Afraid 4:25
06. Not Foolish, Not Wise 3:58
07. Waiting Around 2:29
08. Tadpole 7:06
09. Poor Mabel (You're Just Like Me) 3:11
10. Believe In You 5:23

Artwork – Art Wood

Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Barbara Thompson
Bass Guitar – Gary Thain
Drums, Percussion – Keef Hartley
Flute – Ray Warleigh
Guitar – Mick Taylor, Spit James
Vocals – Miller Anderson
Organ, Piano, Percussion – Mick Weaver
Tenor Saxophone – Chris Mercer, Jim Jewell
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Lynn Dobson
Trumpet – Mike Davis
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Harry Beckett
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Violin – Henry Lowther

The debut LP offered up a decent enough slice of blues-rock and to be truthful, I wasn't expecting much more from 1969's "The Battle of North West Six".  Judging by the liner notes and performance credits (former lead guitarist Spit Jones showed up on a number of the tracks),, the album seemingly featured quite a bit of material previously recorded and shelved ('The Dansette Kid Hartley Jam for Bread', 'Don't Be Afraid', and 'Not Foolish, Not Wise').   That wasn't necessarily a bad thing since the album had a far more diverse sound that the debut, including several tracks that featured commercial radio potential - check out the ballad 'Don't Give Up' and the closer 'Believe In You'.  And here's the funny thing about the album - namesake Hartley was largely relegated to the background.  Yeah, his playing was never less than professional (coupled with Gary Thain's excellent bass), but with the exception of a brief solo on 'Not Foolish, Not Wise' and a couple of brief breaks on 'Don't Give Up', there were no spotlight grabbing solos, or needless displays of exotic percussive instruments.  Kudos to Hartley for putting the spotlight on the band.

2nd album by the excellent Keef Hartley Band, one the best Blues / Rock / Jazz ensembles ever, founded by drummer Keef Hartley following his stint with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. This album was recorded shortly after the stunning debut and features most of the musicians present on that recording with the addition of some notable guests, like saxophonist / flautist Barbara Thompson, flautist Ray Warleigh, guitarist Mick Taylor and keyboardist Mick Weaver. In total 14 musicians are involved in this recording and it is definitely one of the best Blues-Rock albums ever recorded in Britain. Hartley's sensitive drumming drives the music through a set of fantastically well written and superbly arranged tunes, which are Blues based but extend often into Rock and Jazz. The guitar work is stunning, the brass arrangement just right on the money, in short heaven on earth for any Blues fan, but basically early Jazz-Rock Fusion enthusiasts will find here everything they need to make them happy. Definitely a classic of the genre and an essential piece of music if ever there was one!

Keef Hartley - 1969 - Halfbreed

Keef Hartley Band

01. Sacked 7:55
a. Hearts And Flowers
b. Confusion Theme
c. The Halfbreed
02. Born To Die 10:01
03. Sinnin' For You 5:54
04. Leavin' Trunk 5:58
05. Just To Cry 6:22
06. Too Much Thinking 5:33
07. Leave It 'Til The Morning 3:28
08. Think It Over / Too Much To Take 0:36

Miller Anderson - Vocals, Guitar
Peter Dines - Organ, Harpsichord
Spit James - Guitar
Gary Thain - Bass Guitar
Keef Hartley - Drums
Henry Lowther - Trumpet, Violin, Brass arrangements
Harry Beckett - Trumpet
Lynn Dobson - Tenor Sax, Flute
Chris Mercer - Tenor Sax

Drummer Keef Hartley replaced Aynsley Dunbar in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (about half of the United Kingdom seemingly having played for Mayall at one time or another).  After a two year stint with Mayall, Hartley was either fired, or (depending on which story you subscribe to), Mayall suggested Hartley consider starting his own band.  Either way, 1968 saw Hartley forming the cleverly-titled Keef Hartley Band.  Recruiting keyboardist Peter 'Dino' Dines, singer Owen Finnegan, guitarist Spit James (aka Ian Cruikshank) and bassist Gary Thain, the group was quickly signed by Deram.

Produced by Neil Slaven and reportedly recorded in just three days, 1969's "Healfbreed" was originally recorded with Owen Finnegan handling lead vocals, but Hartley and Deram executives were apparently unhappy with the results.  Sam Holland was briefly brought in as a replacement, but the tracks were eventually re-recorded with Miller Anderson handling vocals.  While I've never heard the Finnegan original (there's supposedly a bootleg version available), the decision to use Anderson sure seemed like the right move given the man had a voice that was literally born to sing the blues ...  So if you read some of the reviews, this one stands as one of the holy grails of 1960s English blues-rock.  I'm not sure I'd go that far in my praise.  Musically the album served to underscore Hartley's obvious devotion to the genre, though that devotion wasn't nearly as slavish as John Mayall and some of the competition.  Unlike those other acts, the ever eccentric Harley (yes he apparently really did dress up in native Indian gear), was willing to include a variety of non-blues efforts in the repertoire and that gave the album a slightly more diverse and enjoyable feel.  There was no way you were going to hear a commercial tune like 'Just To Cry' or an out-and-out rocker like their cover of B.B. King's 'Think It Over' on a John Mayall album !!!  The playing was uniformly strong, with Mayall's former horn section (Harry Beckett , Lyn Dobnson, Henry Lowther, and Chris Mercer) adding some nice support throughout the collection.

This album starts and finishes with some awkward spoken dialogue which attempts, in a clunky and embarrassing manner, to be humorous. It's not and a perfect example of where ripping and editing can be beneficial. One of the voices turns out to be none other than John Mayall!

Once the album gets going we are treated to the wonderful voice of Miller Anderson, surely one of the greatest white blues vocalists. The opening track has a great Hammond solo which is akin to a tease. Whilst the Hammond is ever present and its chops can be heard on all but one track, that's the only solo. It's a little mystifying, especially as the opening solo is very good; perhaps the organist annoyed Hartley? The bulk of the solos are handled by guitar and on that basis I don't know which of the guitarists takes the leads (see below for details) or even if they are shared. Either way, they are all very good.

There is a fair amount of brass accompaniment on the album, which can turn me off if used over-zealously. Happily, the use is just right and compliments the other rock elements. Elsewhere there is some violin

The style of the album is mainly Blues but with some Progressive elements/numbers. The exception being the song "Leave It 'Til the Morning" which is some sort of country/blues amalgam and sounds incongruous with the rest of the material. A couple of tracks - "Sinnin' for You" and "Just to Cry" are exceptional and have very memorable and catchy riffs. The latter has a feel similar to Atomic Rooster's album "In Hearing of". It is a great, laid-back number with a good Hammond backing and some nice wah-wah / echoed guitar and some trumpet - it is a  real highlight.

This incarnation of the Keef Hartley Band has the very welcome addition of Gary Thain on bass, for me one of the exemplars of the instrument; his work with Uriah Heep has almost legendary status. Here his input is typically melodic and his ability to play around the expected bass lines sow what a superb talent the guy was. The drumming of Hartley himself is always interesting. I have no real knowledge of drumming styles or techniques but this seems to me to be a cross between Jazz and Blues and he imbues the music with a lot of idiosyncratic personality, always diong the unexpected - to me at least!

The Yardbirds - 1988 - Zeppelin Presentation (50th Anniversary Edition)

The Yardbirds
Zeppelin Presentation

01. Shapes Of Things
02. Heat Full Of Soul
03. Mr. You're A Better Man Than I
04. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
05. Over, Under, Sideways, Down
06. Little Games
07. My Baby
08. I'm A Man

Bonus Tracks
09. Shapes Of Things (Live 1966 with Jeff Beck)
10. For Your Love (Live 1966 with Jeff Beck)
11. Hang On Sloopy (Live 196 with Jeff Beck)

Recorded 50 years ago today April 7, 1967, at the Radiohuset in Stockholm. Originally released by an Italian label in 1988, I have used for this post the brand new re-release by Moonchild Records because it does sound a bit better than the original one.

The CD cover does not specify the source for the last three tracks... I hope some of the visitors with more knowledge can enlight me.

Keith Relf – vocals
Chris Dreja – rhythm guitar
Paul Samwell-Smith – bass
Jim McCarty – drums
Jeff Beck – lead guitar

Keith Relf – vocals, harmonica, percussion
Jimmy Page – guitars
Chris Dreja – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jim McCarty – drums, percussion, backing vocals

The Yardbirds' performance at Stockholm’s Concert Hall in Sweden, on 4 April 1967 took place after many months of touring, during which the Yardbirds had been to the United States twice and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. March of 1967 found them briefly back home again (just long enough to record their new single “Little Games” for their upcoming album), however, in Sweden the band (now a foursome featuring Jimmy Page on guitar) did little in the way of promoting it, preferring to stick mainly to crowd pleasers like “Heart Full Of Soul”, “Shapes Of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down”. This is a high quality soundboard recording that originally aired on Swedish radio.