Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Rockets - 1983 - Live Rockets

The Rockets
Live Rockets

01- Rollin' By The Record Machine
02- Desire
03- Can't Sleep
04- Sally Can't Dance
05- Takin' It Back
06- Open The Door To Your Heart
07- Oh Well
08- Turn Up The Radio
09- Born In Detroit

Jim McCarty - Guitar, Background Vocals
John "Bee" Badanjek - Drums, Background Vocals
David Gilbert - Lead Vocals
Donnie Backus - Keyboards, Synthesizer, Background Vocals
Bobby Neil Harrelson - Bass
Chuck Perraut - Sax
Shaun Murphy - Background Vocals
Suzi Jennings - Background Vocals
Mary Kay Lalla - Background Vocals

Recorded at the Royal Oak Music Theatre

Detroit Rock City boasts an impressive rock & roll pedigree that includes ALICE COOPER, BOB SEGER, MC5, RARE EARTH, TED NUGENT and BROWNSVILLE STATION. LIVE ROCKETS is a slam-bang grab bag of boogie classics from that region's most underrated band, whose five album career has otherwise never been legitimized by a greatest hits compilation. DAVE GILBERT's raspy, "party boy" screech is bolstered by ex-DETROIT WHEELS legends JIM MCCARTY's careening axe salvos and JOHNNY "THE BEE" BADANJEK's solid stick-work. The core band is augmented by guest sax blower CHUCK PERRAUT and a trio of soul-powered female backing vocalists...this is a made-loud-to-play-loud farewell party with equal parts class, trash, and sass. Crash 'n burn BADENJEK originals like CAN'T SLEEP, TURN UP THE MUSIC and ROLLIN' BY THE RECORD MACHINE mix seamlessly with a suitably funky cover of LOU REED's slinky SALLY CAN'T DANCE and a ballbustin' version of bloozer PETER GREEN's classic OH WELL. As one of their album titles suggested, there are NO BALLADS to get in the way of a good time. Brash, bloozey, and bawdy, once you give 'em a ride, LIVE ROCKETS is a hard platter indeed to take off your record machine

The Rockets - 1982 - Rocket Roll

The Rockets
Rocket Roll

01. Rollin' By The Record Machine 3:47
02. Rock 'N Roll Girl 3:14
03. Gonna Crash 3:08
04. (I Wanna) Testify 3:46
05. Gimme Your Love 3:17
06. Born In Detroit 3:13
07. All Night Long 3:19
08. Kid With The Heart 4:01
09. Rollin' And Tumblin' 4:30
10. Mean Streets 2:53

Bass – Bobby Neil Haralson
Drums, Backing Vocals – John "Bee" Badanjek
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Jim McCarty
Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – David Gilbert

The Rockets 1982 album Rocket Roll represents a dramatic drop-off in quality from the albums that had come before. The warm Jack Douglas production of 1981's moderately successful Back Talk is gone and is replaced by a glossy sound that pulls off the neat trick of sounding over-produced and under-played at once. The songs are forced and thin, nearly every one is an up-tempo rocker that attempts to sound exciting but it just sounds like the band is desperate. Desperation rarely makes for good AOR records, only good art, and the Rockets were AOR to the core. The lyrical concerns of the songs are pretty flimsy; the main topics being rockin', testifying, mean streets, rock & roll girls and record machines. Great topics for a group who is making exciting music but these guys were in the throes of their last gasp at making a record the "kids" might dig. They didn't dig it and the band called it a day soon after the record justifiably flopped.

The Rockets - 1981 - Back Talk

The Rockets 
Back Talk

01. Back Talk
02. Jealous
03. Lift You Up
04. Shanghaied
05. Love For Hire
06. I Can't Get Satisfied
07. Tired Of Wearing Black
08. I'll Be Your Lover
09. American Dreams
10. Lie To Me

Bass – Bobby Neil Haralson
Drums, Lead Vocals – John "Bee" Badanjek
Guitar – Dennis Robbins
Guitar – Jim McCarty
Keyboards – Donnie Backus
Lead Vocals – Dave Gilbert
Percussion – Jack Douglas

The hard-rocking Rockets from Detroit almost hit the big time with their 1979 record Rockets (Turn Up the Radio). They had two pretty solid AOR staples (in the Detroit area anyway) with their blistering cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" and the rollicking "Turn Up the Radio." However, by the time of 1981's Back Talk, the band was still trapped in the netherworld of being a perennial opening act and really struggling to survive. It shows in the music, as almost every song seems to be aping another act or trying a different sound. Mostly though they sound like a good bar band of the early '80s able to crank out good-time summer rock & roll ("Back Talk"), moody ballads ("Jealous"), blue-eyed soul ("Lift You Up," "Lie to Me"), lighter-waving ballads ("Tired of Wearing Black") and tunes to get the girls out on the dance floor ("I Can't Get Satisfied," "I'll Be Your Lover"). At times (especially when Johnny Badanjek takes over the vocals from somewhat shrill David Gilbert) they sound a lot like Huey Lewis & the News, a good-natured bunch of lifers with loads of talent and spunk. What they came up with is a decent rock record really worth re-discovering.

The Rockets - 1980 - No Ballads

The Rockets
No Ballads

01. Desire
02. Don't Hold On
03. Restless
04. Sally Can't Take
05. Takin' It Back
06. Time After Time
07. Sad Songs
08. I Want You To Love Me
09. Is It True
10. Troublemaker

Bass – Dan Keylon
Drums, Backing Vocals – John "Bee" Badanjek
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Dennis Robbins
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Jim McCarty
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Donnie Backus
Lead Vocals – Dave Gilbert
Organ – Lee Michaels

No Ballads had "Desire," the band's best, written by Rockets guitarist Dennis Robbins (now a successful Nashville songwriter) and Bee; it only dented Billboard's Top 100, but won mad radio play and should've landed the band atop the AOR heap. Buoyed by Bee's "Sad Songs," a "Sally Can't Dance" cover and an apt (and unironic) closer, Gilbert and McCarty's "Troublemaker," the album was serviceably rock-solid. 

Hard to imagine, but here was a Motor City band penning true, blue-collar, Detroit-style anthems for hard-working beer drinkers, radio and girls, a band that'd trekked across this continent countless times playing arenas supporting the biggest names in rock 'n' roll, recorded five albums on four different major labels — it was a rock 'n' roll machine that did everything … but truly succeed. 

Looking back, listening, something's dark about the Rockets, something feels doomed. Timing is everything and the end of the '70s might as well have been the end of the century, musically. Oh well.

The Rockets - 1979 - Rockets (Turn On The Radio)

The Rockets
Rockets (Turn On The Radio)

01. Can't Sleep
02. Turn Up The Radio
03. Oh Well
04. Lost Forever, Left For Dreaming
05. Long Long Gone
06. Love Me Once Again
07. Something Ain't Right
08. Lucille
09. Felle Alright

Vocals – David Gilbert
Bass – David Hood
Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – John "The Bee" Badanjek
Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals – Dennis Robbins
Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals – Jim McCarty
Organ, Clavinet – Chuck Leavell
Piano, Backing Vocals – Donnie Backus

Drummer/vocalist Johnny “Bee” Badanjek and Jim McCarty of the Wheels formed their new band in 1972, adding John Fraga on bass and Marc Marcano on keyboards. A few years later they added front man David Gilbert, who had a short run as lead vocalist on tour for Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes.

This was the lineup that landed a record deal with RSO, home of such non-Detroit rocker fare as The Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, and the Grease and Saturday Night Fever soundtracks. Eric Clapton also had a run on RSO, but for the most part the label was far from blue jeans and slide guitars.

But the Rockets weren’t. These guys played solid, blues-based rock, like their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”.
The album was recorded at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia—home of the Allman Brothers—and featured Muscle Schoals session player David Hood. Remember the line “Well Muscle Shoals has got their Swampers” from Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama?”  Hood and company are who is being name checked there.

And speaking of name checking, Rockets dedicated this album to those killed in the Lynyrd Skynrd plane crash: “This album is dedicated with love and respect to our good friends and brothers J.B. Fields, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines.”

So with all of that pedigree, what the heck happened to Rockets? Were they lost on what was essentially a disco label? Were 11 years of grinding it out enough? I don’t know, but by the end of 1983 the band was done.

For a while, at least. Since 2010 some flavor of the Rockets has still been out and about. I don’t see any current tour dates on their website, but at least they have a site, so maybe they’re still out there.

This is the kind of record that you’ll run across in your local charity shop bin, and if you do I say pick it up. These guys rocked, and now you have lots of trivia to share while you’re spinning it. You’re welcome, and happy hunting.

One of the best unheralded groups of the stops, no detours, just straight ahead Michigan magic... Turn It Up!

The Rockets - 1977 - Rockets

The Rockets

01. Lufrania 4:31
02. Juke-Box Daddy 7:53
03. Rocket Car Wash Blues 7:40
04. Feel Alright 7:10
05. Rock 'N' Roll 5:34
06. Working Man Blues 2:48
07. Thing In "D" 3:35

John "The Bee" Badanjek: vocals, drums, percussion
John Fraga: bass
Marc Marcano: keyboards
Jim McCarty: lead guitar

According to the liner notes, the album was released on Guinness Records and distributed by Dellwood Records. Its Guinness Catalogue Number is GNS 36043.

As with many of the albums released through tax-scam labels, there is no documentation beyond what appears on the album itself. Scot Blackerby in his review of the album, comments that, based on what has been uncovered about tax-scam labels and their operations, there are only two possibilities. None of the tracks on the album, with the exception of "Feel Alright", which appears in a shorter version on their 1979 album, appears on any other release. This means that the recordings used were sourced either from studio demos or from material rejected for their debut album. It is not known just when they were recorded, but based on the fact that the six tracks feature both David Gilbert and Johnny "Bee" Badanjek performing lead vocals, which is something that would only have occurred if some of the tracks had been recorded before Gilbert joined the band

I guess it shouldn't come as a major surprise, but I've never seen a Rockets discography that includes this 1977 release.  Similarly I've never seen the album discussed by any of the band members in an interview.  The fact that the cleverly titled "Rockets" was issued by the tax scam Guinness label and may have been of questionable legality probably had something to do with those omissions ...  who knows.

The Rockets started out as a post Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels/Detroit enterprise led by singer/drummer  John "The Bee" Badanjek.  The line up was rounded out by bassist John Fraga, keyboardist Marc Marcano, and former Detroit wheel lead guitarist Jim McCarty.  Their earlier successes with the Detroit Wheels were of little help when it came to scoring a recording contract and the the quartet spent several years plugging away on Michigan's club circuit.  

In 1976 the band underwent a personnel shake up that saw former Amboy Duke vocalist Steve Gilbert added to the line up (Ted Nugent had kicked him out of the band for his drinking and drugging).

Released in 1977, "Rockets" seems to have been an effort to capitalize on the strong reviews surrounding the release of the band's 1977 RCA Victor debut "Love Transfusion".  Unfortunately, as typical for a Guinness release, the liner notes provided little information on the set.  The vocals were split between Badanjek and Gilbert indicating at least some of the track were recorded post-1975 when Gilbert was added to the line up.  This is nothing but speculation on my part, but I'm guessing the material was culled from tracks the band had previously recorded when they signed with Don Davis' Tortoise label.  That, or it may have reflected outtakes from sessions for their debut album.  Another story that I've heard is that the material reflected tapes the band had financed themselves, but abandoned in a dispute with the studio owner.  The studio subsequently unloaded the master tapes on Guinness at a heavy discount.  Regardless, produced by William S. Evans, the six tracks all featured surprisingly good sound quality.  

For a throwaway collection this one was surprisingly enjoyable.  Certainly better than some of their latter studio sets with big name producers like Jack Douglas.  Love to know more about it ...

Sadly, having lived the true rock and roll lifestyle which included overdoses of drugs, wine, and women, lead singer Gilbert died of cirrhosis and liver cancer in September 2001.  He was only 49.

True to the rock and roll lifestyle, late-inning bassist Bob Neil Haralson died in a drug deal turned sour.

The Rockets - 1977 - Love Transfusion

The Rockets
Love Transfusion

01. Fast Thing In "D"etroit 2:54
02. Fell Out Of Love 4:45
03. My Heart Needs You 5:33
04. Lookin' For Love 2:55
05. I Got To Move 3:16
06. Ramona 4:25
07. Fly Little Bird 5:02
08. Love Transfusion 2:44
09. She's A Pretty One 4:21

Bass – John Fraga
Drums, Vocals – John (The Bee) Badanjek
Guitar, Vocals – Jim McCarty
Guitar, Vocals, Talkbox – Dennis Robbins
Lead Vocals – Dave Gilbert
Piano, Organ, Clavinet – Marc Marcano
Backing Vocals – Brandye

The Rockets were formed in 1972 by former Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels members Johnny "Bee" Badanjek and Jim McCarty. Vocals and drums were handled by Badanjek, McCarty was on lead guitar, John Fraga was on bass and Marc Marcano was on keyboards. Johnny Bee was the driving force and primary songwriter for the Rockets.

In the early days, The Rockets paid their dues playing gigs at venues such as The Rainbow Room in Detroit, The People's Ballroom in Ann Arbor, and The Rock 'N Roll Farm in Wayne, Michigan.

The band took on a new sound in 1976 when David Gilbert was brought in by new manager Gary Lazar, who also managed Detroit RCA Victor recording artist Dan Schafer, to take over vocals from Johnny Bee and Donnie Backus took over on keyboards. Gilbert had fronted several bands and was one of several lead singers that passed through the ranks of Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes. In 1971, he toured with them for a year and a half before forming Shadow which led to a record deal with RSO Records.

The Rockets made five studio albums that produced several minor hits, including a rocking rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well", which made the Top 40.

Always a popular group in Michigan, The Rockets had gotten some attention outside of the state, but never really got the big break to become a true national act. The first album, Love Transfusion, was released in 1977. During this period, they also opened some shows for Kiss. The album failed to produce any hits.

The 1979 self-titled release featured the hits, "Oh Well" and "Turn Up The Radio". This record also featured David Hood on bass, one of the "Swampers" from the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama. Muscle Shoals was mentioned in Lynyrd Skynyrd's southern rock anthem "Sweet Home Alabama". The album was dedicated to Skynyrd members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, who all perished in Skynyrd's infamous 1977 plane crash.

The third attempt came (with the addition of new bass player Dan Keylon) in 1980 with "No Ballads", "Desire" was a popular tune from this album. Next came the Back Talk album in '81 (with another new bass player, Bobby Haralson) and then finally Rocket Roll in 1982. "Rollin' By The Record Machine" from this release was the last hit for the band. The final release, Live Rockets, was recorded on December 26 & 29, 1982 to a sold-out house at the Royal Oak Music Theatre near Detroit. This was the first time the band recorded with back-up vocalists, Shaun Murphy and Suzy Jennings, who continued to tour with them.

The Rockets performed for their last two shows at Pine Knob near Detroit on August 28 & 29, 1983. The band splintered and the members all went their separate ways. 

The Happy Dragon Band - 1978 - The Happy Dragon Band

The Happy Dragon Band 
The Happy Dragon Band

01. 3-D Free
02. Positive People
03. In Flight
04. Long Time
05. Bowling Pin Intro
06. Lyrics Of Love
07. Disco American
08. Inside The Pyramid
09. Astro Phunk
10. 3-D Free (Electronic)

The Happy Dragon (vocals, synths, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard),
Tom Carson (vocals, guitar, keyboards),
Cicely Lonergan (vocals),
Clem Riccobono (vocals),
Gary Meisner (guitar),
Scott Strawbridge (guitar),
Brian White (guitar),
Dennis Craner (bass),
John Fraga (bass),
Mike deMartino (keyboards),
John "Bee" Badanjek (drums),
Ralph Sarafino (drums),
Mike Orzel (tambourine)

Oooh, we've got a weird one here. Seriously. But very cool we think. Didn't know what to expect from the whimsical band name and front cover artwork, but it wouldn't have been *this* anyway! The first track, "3-D, Free" starts things off pretty freaky with spacey vocal effects and a lethargic reggae beat, with heartfelt lyrics, singing lines like "I saw police shooting rats". It's reprised later at the end of the album in an even more wigged out "electronic" version. This is definitely psychedelic rock music, but also very futuristic for its time (circa 1977-1978), hinting at new wave/punk. With track two, "Positive People", things get even more Devo. And it doesn't get any more normal as it goes. Capt. Beefheart also seems to be at this party... weird weird weird. But these folks have a knack for melody amist the madness.
Having release a little noticed 1974 album for Capitol under the guise of Phantom's Divine Comedy, four years later drummer John Bdanjeck, singer/guitarist Tom Carson, bassist Dennis Craner, keyboardist Mike DeMartino and guitarist Gary Meisner reappeared as The Happy Dragon Band. Released by the small Michigan-based Fiddlers label, anyone expecting to hear another set of faux Doors-inspired psych was bound to be surprised by 1978's "The Happy Dragon Band". Whereas the earlier Phantom LP featured all-original material, here all nine tracks were penned by a Tommy Court. Whoever he was, Court was also credited with production, engineering and direction. Musically the set was a major shocker. Dropping their earlier pseudo-Doors stance, material such as "3-D Free", "In Flight" and the instrumental "Bowling Pin Intro" found the band plunging headlong into outright experimentation. Featuring extended tracks filled with synthesizers, odd sound effects and dazed vocals, the results didn't make for a particularly commercial outting. That said, the album sports a weird, hypnotizing appeal that's worth a couple of spins. Dark, heavy and disturbing, part of the aura may be explained by the liner notes.

Tom Court aka Tommy Court is 'The Happy Dragon' (stated on back of sleeve) 
This album is in memory of my friend Ritchie and my child Ritchie Joe

By the end of the 1970s, the hangover had worn off and underground psych entered a problematic phase, a second adolescence. If psychedelic rock had ever been a movement, it certainly wasn’t anymore, having undergone fragmentation and dispersal into the comparatively humorless realms of progressive rock and heavy metal. At the end of the decade, punk began to rear its ugly head, borrowing the DIY ethos of underground psych toward its own polemical ends. Though (post-)punk eventually addressed the need for music that appealed to the “higher” four circuits of human consciousness, in 1978 it was a stripped-down, primitive snarl without so much as a lysergic residue.

It is this background that makes a record like The Happy Dragon-Band — the sole album released by the eponymous Detroit band led by composer Tommy Court — such a unique case. It was recorded and released at a time in which there was barely any context for what it offered, an eclectic mashup of apocalyptic psych-folk and brain damaged groove glued together by a no-budget production with occasional side trips into abstract electronic noise. It was an idiosyncratic response to void times by a composer who was aware of the adventurous periphery of psychedelia. Captain Beefheart, Chrome, and Comus are a few of the possible reference points, and those are just the “C”s. This is not to suggest that the album is derivative. On the contrary, it is remarkably coherent and assured. That confidence of tone is especially true of the vocals, which alternate between the starry-eyed euphoria of first-wave psych and the acidic sneer of punk. Even as the band fumbles and trips over itself, the vocals carry the weird banner of The Happy Dragon-Band ever forward.

Released on the tiny Michigan-based indie Fiddlers Music, the album made very little impact and was quickly forgotten until a later generation of rare psych collectors retroactively recognized it as a lost classic. This led to a digital reissue in 2005 by bootleg label Radioactive. Due to poor research and the echo chamber quality of the internet, the record has frequently been incorrectly attributed to the Detroit group who recorded the Doors-esque album Phantom’s Divine Comedy in 1974. Listening to the two albums side-by-side should confirm the lack of even a slight similarity between the two. Phantom is derivative and staid, an avant la lettre throwback with the pedantic overtones of art rock thrown in for bad measure. The Happy Dragon-Band, for all their flaws, were startlingly original, and completely in step with the flux of their particular moment. Look no further than the album’s opening track “3-D Free,” a loping reggae jam with lyrics that evoke a bizarre apocalyptic vision: “All the buildings started to fall/ I saw police shooting rats swarming in the drains.”

Phantom - 1990 - Phantom's Divine Comedy, Part 2 - The Lost Album

Phantom's Divine Comedy, Part 2 - The Lost Album

01. Your Life; "Tales From The Wizard"
02. Queen Of Air
03. Lone Wolf
04. Storms
05. The Music Rolls On
06. Release Me
07. Sailing Away

Bass – Dennis Craner
Drums – John Bdanjeck
Guitar – Gary Meisner
Keyboards – Mike DeMartino
Vocals, Guitar – Tom Carson

Recorded in Los Angeles in the early '70s.

Originally known as Walpurgis, just think The Doors with a much heavier sound and a more polished singer and you have their first album "Phantom's Divine Comedy Part 1".

Walpurgis was the official name of the band for years and they came from Detroit. They played all over Michigan, Ohio, and Canada. They were recording their first LP in New York in 1974 under that name before the big hiatus happened, leaving no choice but let Capitol Records redo the LP, take control, and change the name to Phantom's Divine Comedy. The members of the band were John Bdanjeck, Tom Carson, Dennis Craner,Mike DeMartino, and Gary Meisner .

"The Lost Album" is supposed to have been recorded in Los Angeles and predates the official Phantom's Divine Comedy release

I find this somewhat implausible to believe that this is supposed to pre-date the classic Phantom's album, it being far too glossy and commercial. It is, of course, entirely possible that the commerciality came first and they ditched it for the psychedelic colossus that was issued in 1974 but I just can't see it. The voice is nowhere as polished as on the better known album, sounding quite rough at times. The lead guitar work has the stamp of the other album but the arrangements are very different. Being billed as a demo made me expect some half-assed, poorly realised or unfinished recordings, such as is often the case with unreleased material. Nothing could be further from the truth, this is all well recorded, slick and polished and sounds more like an unreleased second album to me. There's no doubt in my mind that all these songs are the finished article. That's the trouble, when a band existed in a cloud of doubt and rumour, it's almost impossible to get a true picture of what actually happened, who was involved and when it all took place. (nb see footnote with link)

The guitarist certainly sounds the same as before; he has a great tone and I wish he had recorded more, assuming of course that he hasn't and how the hell would we know if he had? Even though the voice has some rasping that wasn't previously present it's still a great instrument. It might be more mainstream in nature but it's by no means a middle-of-the-road sell-out, nor is it a soft rock venture that pales in comparison to it's elder brother. It stands up pretty well as a companion piece, it's simply going in a different direction.

After listening to this a few more times there are various features that I believe could point towards a later date; the melodic and forward bass presence in the mix, the sound of the synthesizer used, the more mature and refined arrangements, the slick production, the laid back style. It's not a fait accompli and honestly doesn't matter a jot. The only important question is "Do I like it or not is?" and the answer is a resounding YES.

A great addition to my collection and a welcome find, especially as I think the "other" album is one of THE greatest rock albums of all time.

Phantom - 1974 - Phantom's Divine Comedy part I

Phantom's Divine Comedy part I

01. Tales From A Wizard 5:21
02. Devil's Child 2:21
03. Calm Before The Storm 3:26
04. Half A Life 4:06
05. Spiders Will Dance (On Your Face While You Sleep) 4:11
06. Black Magic / White Magic 3:18
07. Merlin 5:24
08. Stand Beside My Fire 5:31
09. Welcome To Hell 5:12

- Phantom (aka Tom Carson) - vocals, guitar, piano
- Gary Meisner - guitar
- X (aka John Bdanjeck) - drums, percussion
- Y (aka Dennis Craner) - bass
- Z (aka Mike DeMartino) – keyboards

The use of the term 'goth' will usually be associated with the Cure or Nico. Or even Dead Can Dance.

This album will do at least as well as any other in suggesting that word (whether we're talking genre definitions, or just feel). But I'm not making a bulls-eye description of this, either. On the surface, it first presents a lot of dragon/wizard/medieval imagery; backed by a somewhat familiar early Seventies progressive rock template. And one could say that there's quite a bit of early heavy metal here as well - intended or not. And the whole thing seems to want to preserve a late Sixties hard rock/psychedelic feel; like Iron Butterfly or something.

Okay, now on to the real goodies - the album's legendary (or not so) reputation as a hoax album. I have no idea what band member Tom Carson (or was it Ted Pearson?) and/or his Detroit-area bandmates (generally believed to be a band called Walpurgis) had in mind regarding reports that the album was promoted by some as a secret project by all 4 members of the post - Morrison death Doors, or at least 3 Doors and a Stooge. But this isn't Iggy (and the singer usually sounds almost nothing like Jim Morrison. Okay, there's an exception. Check out "Black Magic/White Magic" on your favorite music sharing site. Or "Calm Before the Storm." But even then it's only in the baritone portion of the vocals on the former, and what seems like a stylistic imitation on the latter. And the music does sound Doorsy; if in their post-Morrison incarnation). 

There's no way Iggy would have been disciplined, coherent and stable enough to have weathered such a professional effort as this. Ray Manzarek himself rejected Iggy as a serious work mate for that reason. Carson's vocals do sound quite similar to the Iggster's, though, in spots. 

Phantom's Divine Comedy were sort of America's Klaatu (a Canadian band reputed to be the Beatles after their break-up). In rumor and legend, that is. The band did go to Los Angeles, and even attended a 1974 Morrison tribute show at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. There are even photos showing Carson with Iggy and Ray. And the Doors did have quite a few connections to Detroit. But only a few tracks even suggest the Doors ("Tales From a Wizard" and "Calm Before the Storm"). More songs suggest that handover point between heavy prog and early heavy metal (like early Judas Priest and not so early Sabbath. And elements of Iron Maiden).

So in that sense, more people should check this out. Even if you have no belief in some Doors connection, you will feel something oddly uncanny about the album and music; if only for the startling professionalism. It's like checking out that clip of Dark Side of the Moon lined up with The Wizard of Oz. Not necessarily convincing, but amusing and entertaining in its own way. And furthermore, there are spoken word snippets between songs that have a teaser element to them. They seem fully aware of the rampant Jim-didn't die speculation.

The album seems to alternate between the wizard/prog/metal approach, and the more earthy, sentimental later Doors style. Hell, "Calm Before the Storm" does sound like a convincing projection of what the Doors might have sounded like had Jim survived until 1974. That's where any Doors-related genius may lie here - not in the form of any perfect imitation, but rather a weirdly skillful projection of a future not realized. One might have to be familiar with the 2 post-Morrison Doors albums to perceive this, though. Or at least the L.A. Woman album.

But the lyrics of the Doorsy stuff here do not approach the standard of Morrison's - even though he himself moved away from arty poetry to a simpler prose style, anyway. And Krieger wrote many of the songs.

Are you confused by this review yet? So am I. Here's an attempted recap. There seems to be multiple vocalists on this album. One does sound a lot like Morrison. And another sounds a lot like Iggy Pop. But the majority of the vocals ultimately suggest someone else entirely - and maybe more than one person there. See, this is one of the things that confuses me about all this. And then a couple of decades later another album from this mysterious incarnation comes along, but this time it's a "lost album." Like this one isn't? And that collection is even more confusing; when it comes to trying to validate when it was recorded.

I'm even open to the idea that Ray Manzarek had some tapes with Morrison singing from an obscure demo tape or something, and gave them to members of this band, or their label (Capitol Records). It's my understanding that Elektra Records took some legal action against Capitol to prevent them from releasing this. I'm still trying to get more info on this. But again - only a few songs have that Jim or Iggy sound or vibe.

Most of these songs are almost perversely good - if you can get past all the wizard references. So if this was supposed to be somebody's idea of a joke, it's a damned fine one. Just not in quite the same manner some say it was. More people seriously need to run through these songs at least once; in any context. Make of them what you will.

Anonymity aside, this is a wonderful album, superbly realised and performed. If they'd had some decent publicity at the time, I posit that they could have been, and should have been, huge. This has to be a contender for the greatest album that no-one has heard of and is nothing short of sensational.

Hearing their second album ("The Lost Album") for the very first time recently made me re-visit this début. It's impact is still immense and it never fail to amaze me as to just how good it is. Stylistically. it is a very laid back psychedelic journey, based on Arthurian legend. This was obviously an aspect admired much by, at least, the leader of the band who called himself Arthur Pendragon. He actually turns out to have been a guy called Tom Carson. 

It has excellent musicianship, especially the guitar work and the guy sure can sing, possessing a truly fabulous tone. The very best aspect are the arrangements; the band's skill at blending the right level of light and shade and the sheer sense of grandeur cannot be overstated.

When I first heard this album, in a small independent record shop in the South of England back in around 1994/5, I claimed it was the best album I'd ever heard. Superlatives come easy when you are immediately blown away and I did temper my thoughts somewhat. It still is, however, a colossus of an achievement and still ranks in my top 20 or 30 albums. Some music gives the impression that to change a single note would be disastrous - this is one such album. Amazing!

Postscript: Just to muddy the waters further, I found this in an Amazon review for the album...

"I don't wish to get into a big arguement about this, but the Phantom was a local rocker from Oxford, MI named Ted Pearson Jr. I went to school with his brothers and sister and knew Ted his whole life. Most everyone from my generation who lived in Oxford has a copy of the Capitol 45 of "Calm Before the Storm." I saw him perform several times at local venues."

So, who knows who actually made this album. It seems that people, apparently in the know, offer conflicting "truths". Ultimately, it doesn't matter one jot now. Whoever made it is either too dead or too old to contribute any more meaningful information to the legacy that is Phantom's Divine Comedy. Let's just revel in what has been left and leave it at that.

If you think you understand 1974 music, or early heavy metal, or later psychedelic rock, or the Detroit rock scene, but aren't familiar with this - you might want to rethink that.

Caroline Peyton - 1972 - Mock Up

Caroline Peyton 
Mock Up

01. The Sky In Japan Is Always Close To You
02. Pull
03. Don Beggs
04. Between-Two
05. Tuna
06. Engram
07. Sweet Misery
08. The Hook
09. Lorel Iii
10. Gone For A Day
11. Bill Monroe

Alto Saxophone [Alto Sax], Gong, Voice – Bill Noll (tracks: 11)
Electric Guitar – Bruce Anderson (tracks: 9)
Featuring, Guitar, Voice – Caroline Peyton
Guitar, Voice, Gong, Vibraslap – Mark Bingham
Piano – Mark Gray

Been trying to find this one for a while, one of my first posts on this blog was her second album, it took a while, but finally I found me a copy!
Born out of Bloomington, Indiana’s Needmore Commune, Mock Up is the drug-damaged hippy stepsister to Joni Mitchell’s Blue. A dark orgasmic love letter between Caroline Peyton and producer Mark Bingham, the sparsely arranged album chronicles the rise and fall of their tumultuous relationship. Peyton’s operatic training complements Mark Gray’s spare piano flourishes and Bingham’s minimal strums, seeming at times to be just another instrument amidst the controlled chaos. Bird calls, laughter, soprano, falsetto…even high-pitched squeals show off Peyton’s dynamic range and control. 

Quite possibly the hippest record to ever have its cover drawn by the pressing plant’s janitor.

Lothar Siems & Walter Quintus - 1977 - Der Fuhrer

Lothar Siems & Walter Quintus 
Der Fuhrer

01. Ouvertüre - The Pact 8:02
02. Führer Wanted 2:05
03. Listen To Me 1:26
04. Here I Am 2:08
05. Magic Man 2:51
06. Look Here 2:04
07. Interview 2:54
08. Beware Of Him 2:45
09. He Can'T Be Bad 1:10
10. King Of The World 3:38
11. What A Man 2:51
12. III. Reich Theme 0:42
13. Burning Of The Books 1:24
14. Brown Clouds 3:41
15. Dying Day 4:07
16. Berlin, Berlin 3:21
17. I'm Alive 4:40
18. Every Morning 3:10
19. Stalingrad 6:22
20. Tingel Tangel 2:19
21. Stalingrad Is Lost 0:42
22. We Shall Win 3:29
23. Total War 3:19
24. The Looking-Glass 3:04
25. Nightmare 4:06
26. Wake Up 2:02
27. Führerbunker 1:12
28. Pied Piper 2:19

Lothar Siems -- vocals, guitar
Walter Quintus -- violin, bass, keyboards
Karl Allaut -- guitar
Adam Askew -- keyboards
Benny Banforf -- bass
Okko Bekker -- percussion
Ian Cussicl -- vocals (various)
Bertie Engles -- drums
Peter French -- vocals (Joseph Gobbels)
Herb Geller -- sax, flute
Jean Jacques Kravetz -- keyboards
Neil Landon -- vocals (Adolf Hitler)
Robert Lanese -- trumpet
Gisela Siems -- lyrics
Ingeborg Thomsen -- vocals (revue girl)
Marti Webb -- vocals (Eva Braun)

A Rock Opera About Der Fuhrer
New York Times, OCT. 13, 1977

Adolf Hitler seems an unlikely candidate to figure in a musical, but two young Hamburg composers have done the unthinkable and made the Nazi leader the star of their new rock opera. Fittingly entitled “Der Filhrer” and designed for eventual stage production, the work has just come out in a tworecord version, produced for the Electrola Company by the composers, Walter Quintus and Lothar Siems, two rock musicians in their late 20's.

Released at a time when neo-Nazi incidents and what appears to be a nostalgic wave of renewed interest in the Hitler era have begun to worry some German politicians, the Hitler opera clearly seeks to debunk the dictator as a drug-ridden demagogue and mass murderer.

“If anything, our work is meant as a warning to young people not to fall for extremism,” Mr. Quintus, at 28 the older of the two musicians, noted in a telephone interview. Reached in his Hamburg home, he said he and Mr. Siems had aimed the musical primarily at British and American audiences, “because we feel there is more interest there.” He said that was why the lyrics, written by Gisela Siems, the younger composer's wife, were in English and why the records were produced with a cast of British and American rock singers. “In Germany,” he said, “the Hitler theme is still under a taboo.”

The rock opera traces Hitler's and Nazi Germany's bloody history from the burning of books to the murdering of Jews and the misery and destruction of war to the ignominious end. The musical opens to the haunting, unholy sounds of an occult seance in which Hitler, Faust-like, enters into a pact with Satan. At the end, to the doomed man's scream of “There, there, over in the corner—it's he, it's he, he's come for me,” the devil returns to take his prize.

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist, figures as an evil spirit and devil's advocate; Eva Braun, Hitler's wife. as the hapless victim of misled love. One of the recurrent leitmotifs is the yearning of bored, alienated young people for a leader. In one of the early number, called “Fuhrer Wanted,” the crowd breaks into a chant of “how we want a man to lead us out of misery.” During the opera, the disaffected are shown to be mesmerized by Hitler's magic power and his pledges of “law and order” and “work and bread.” The musical ends on a pessimistic note, with a new crying out “for another leading man to tell us how to live and what to do.”

Mr. Siems, who is 27, said the warning was not meant especially for West Germany. “I don't think conditions here are ripe for extremism,” he said. “People are fairly well off and quite content.” However, an anti-Semitic scandal at the officers' training academy of West Germany's armed forces in Munich that rocked the country recently, indicated there was reason for concern. Eleven young officers were suspended from service after it was disclosed they had sung Nazi songs and symbolically burned sheets of paper inscribed with the word “Jew” during a drinking party.

More than one million Germans have gone to see a controversial movie de picting Hitler's career in the last few weeks, as West German magazines and mass-publication newspapers vie to publish new series about Hitler's life and times.

The composers said they felt the socalled “Hitler wave” was artificially engineered by the mass media. However true that may be, Mr. Quintus and Mr. Siems also can expect to profit from the trend, with 20,000 orders in from retailers for the rock album even before it was released. The recording is scheduled to come out in the United States, Britain and other Western countries this year. Rock singers featured in the recording include Neil Landon, an American, in the role of Hitler, with two British singers, Peter French and Marti Webb, as Goebbels and Eva Braun.

This is easily one of the strangest albums in my collection and it's one I was hesitant to list for fear someone might mistake me as some sort of left wing nutcase.   

So what do I know about 1977's "Der Fuhrer (Rock Opera)" ?  German musicians Lothar Siems and Walter Quintus were apparently the brains behind the double album set.  Siems and Quintus' musical partnership stretched back to the mid-1960s including stints in The Chamberlains, The Quintus Quartet, and a pair of early-1970s albums fronting the medieval/progressive influenced band Parzival.  Parzival recorded a pair of albums before calling it quits in 1973.  With that background it sure would be interesting to know how the pair (with an assist from Gisela Siems in the lyrics department), went from recording misdeal influenced tunes to this bizarre concept piece.  Self-produced, the album featured a strange Anglo-German cast including Ian Cussick, Peter French, and Neil Landon.  A 28 tracks, double album set, the plotline was pretty straightforward - tracing the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler.  Condensing  twelve years (1933-1945) into about an hour was itself a pretty impressive feat, but if you believe the hype the recording sessions were surround by lots of weirdness including master tapes picking up weird sounds.  Anyhow, billed as a rock opera, the collection was clearly written with an ear to some sort of stage production.  The songs themselves offered up a mixture of pop and rock pieces (some of the quite good), but much of the set exhibited a distinctive theater feel.  In reviewing the album it was also hard to draw a clear distinction between the music and the story plotline - 'Magic Man' was a perfect case in point.  Musically the song was amazingly catchy sounding like something 10cc might have written, but the lyric's about Hitler's early magnetism on the German psychic made for a real mismatch.  Great song, disturbing lyric ...  A good analogy was The Police song 'Every Breath You Take'.  The track was a major hit when I was in college and I had friends who simply adored the song, not realizing the lyrics detailed the thoughts of a crazed stalker..  Try to remember that when you're humming 'Magic Man' or 'What a Man!'.

Most folks won't care, but the album's also odd from a marketing standpoint.  This is just a guess on my part, but perhaps to less some of the expected flack, or in order to share project costs, the double album set was released as a partnership between Harvest and the EMI-Odeon imprint.  In fact one of the two albums carried the Harvest label while the other reflected an EMI-Odeon label.  Strange ...  Probably not a big surprise, but in spite of it's anti-war plotline, the album was greeted with widespread controversy.  

Not an album you'd want to play every day, but it was certainly different and might well appeal to Alan Parsons Project and Al Stewart fans.