Saturday, May 9, 2020

Genya Ravan - 1979 - And I Mean It!

Genya Ravan 
And I Mean It!

01. Pedal To The Metal 4:01
02. I Won't Sleep On The Wet Spot No More 4:18
03. Steve.... 3:30
04. Stubborn Kinda Girl 3:58
05. It's Me 3:35
06. Junkman 5:51
07. Love Isn't Love 3:41
08. I'm Wired, Wired, Wired 5:57
09. Roto Root Her 3:22
10. Night Owl 2:20

Drums – Bobby Chen
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Conrad Taylor
Guitar, Mandolin, Backing Vocals – Lars Hanson
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Charlie Giordano
Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion, Producer, Backing Vocals – Genya Ravan

...And I Mean It is an amalgam of girl group, new wave, blues, pop, and folk-rock by Genya Ravan. To hear her exquisite voice on "Night Owl" soaring above her own backing vocals is intense, imagine Etta James backed by the Sex Pistols doing a rock version of "Earth Angel." Of all Ravan's work, ...And I Mean It is possibly the most concise and picture-perfect statement of what the woman is musically about. A girl group pioneer who worked with Richard Perry prior to his finding the Pointer Sisters groove, there is no doubt Ravan influenced that major producer, and his work did the same for her. "Pedal to the Medal" is high-end treble rock before it came into vogue. This is the other side of Siren, the album Genya produced for Ronnie Spector, with more emphasis on a good-time rocking party. "I'm Wired, Wired, Wired" is a rock & roll anthem for people who burn the candle at both ends, while "I Won't Sleep on the Wet Spot" embodies the unbridled sexuality of this album. The music crunches while Ravan uses her voice, her production skills, and her legacy to create something far removed from her days in Ten Wheel Drive. The horns are replaced by searing guitars and Charlie Giordano's magical piano work. The sound of the keyboard and its erratic splashes really are key to "I Won't Sleep on the Wet Spot," while the guitar and bass battle it out. "Steve...," on the other hand, is Goldie & the Gingerbreads ten years after. This Ravan/Conrad Taylor composition was the 45 from the album, and it has "hit" written all over it. 20th Century just didn't have the right mechanisms in place to get some of the great music they put out on radio, such a pity as Harriet Schock, Randy Edelman, and the fake soundtrack for All This and World War II (a Beatles tribute album) contained songs that should have been big hits. What did hit off this album, on FM radio as an album track, is the brilliant duet by Ian Hunter and Ravan, the subtle and folky "Junkman." Released on Hunter's excellent Once Bitten Twice Shy CD on Legacy in 2000, the song and the performance are timeless. Ravan once said: "I was asleep with the tv on, and was saying to myself...that's my voice...that's my song...that's me! I woke up to find "Junkman" on TV in a film." The song got placed in a cable movie without the producer's knowledge! "Junkman" was a sound not heard on FM radio prior to its release, much like MTV's "unplugged" versions of songs, but it is more unplugged than most of this material -- take the rocked-out version of Motown that is the cover of Marvin Gaye's "Stubborn Kinda Girl," or the Springsteen-style blast that is "It's Me," a tune Springsteen should cover. ...And I Mean It is the work of a gifted woman making a rock & roll statement on her terms. The world has yet to realize what a truly polished diamond this album is.

Genya Ravan - 1978 - Urban Desire

Genya Ravan 
Urban Desire

01. Jerry's Pigeons 4:15
02. The Knight Ain't Long Enough 3:46
03. Do It Just For Me 3:53
04. Shot In The Heart 2:46
05. Aye Co'lorado 3:00
06. Back In My Arms Again 4:06
07. Cornered 4:10
08. The Sweetest One 2:57
09. Darling, I Need You 3:33
10. Messin Around 3:33
11. Shadowboxing 7:15

Backing Vocals – Joey "Cola" Ribaudo (tracks: A1, A2, B5)
Bass – Don Nossov, Paul Opalach (tracks: A3, A5, B2)
Drums, Percussion – Bobby Chen
Electric Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Conrad Taylor
Keyboards – Charlie Giordano
Lead Vocals, Percussion, Harmonica – Genya Ravan
Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Slide Guitar, Mandolin – Ritchie Fliegler

Genya Ravan was born in Poland in 1940 and immigrated to this country at the age of 7, with her parents and one sister (the rest her family had been killed in the Nazi Holocaust.) In the late '60s, she became the lead singer of the band Ten Wheel Drive, often sharing the bill with artists such as Blood Sweat & Tears, Frank Zappa & Janis Joplin.

This recording is the next to last in a series of solo records she made between 1972 & 1979 - and, in my opinion, it's the best of the lot.

All of the songs are well-written & Genya's sparkling performance ensures that there isn't a single dead spot on the entire album. The style is straight-ahead rock, with an R&B sensibility. There are some nice covers (Back In My Arms Again & Darling I Need You) and some really great originals (Jerry's Pigeons, The Sweetest One, Messin Around & Aye Co'lorado - with guest appearance by Lou Reed - stand out.)

The album cover might seem to indicate more of a Punk/New Wave style, but make no mistake, this is a rock album - the harmonica/slide guitar leads in Messin Around are more reminiscent of Foghat than any type of New Wave and Shadowboxing could easily be imagined as a Rolling Stones cover.

If you like powerful rock vocals, this album is definitely worth checking out.

Genya Ravan is a talented artist who has had a long career. She was lead singer for The Escorts and a founding member of the first all-female rock band although they sounded more like a pop band to me. Goldie and The Gingerbreads toured with the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and Manfred Mann. Ravan was also a founding member of Ten Wheel Drive and the first female producer. In my opinion, Urban Desire is her best effort although many fans prefer And I Mean It. Up until recently, this great album was known only by fans and music insiders. I noticed it when it came out in the late 1970s. It went out of print and did not come out on CD until 2004. In 2006, Ravan began hosting two monthly radio shows for Steven Van Zandt. Urban Desire recently became available again in CD format in a limited edition. New and good copies are hard to find except at inflated prices. As of 2013, at age 73, Genya Ravan was still performing. Urban Desire is a little known classic with a rough edge to it. It is one of the best albums I have ever heard. Don't believe me? 

Urban Desire is Genya Ravan creating music on her terms after artistically successful work with producers Richard Perry, Jimmy Miller, and Jim Price, along with the three strong albums she recorded with Ten Wheel Drive. As producer of the prototypical punk band the Dead Boys and their classic single "Sonic Reducer," Ravan was an essential part of the new wave explosion of the '70s, which was a blend of punk rock and power pop. Urban Desire is the quintessential new wave album, and though it caused a stir, it has never fully been recognized as the groundbreaking work it is. A driving cover of the Supremes hit "Back in My Arms Again" has guitarists Conrad Taylor and Ritchie Fliegler fragmenting Deep Purple's "My Woman from Tokyo" riff under Ravan's brilliant New York party atmosphere. That comes right after her duet with Lou Reed, a tune called "Aye Co'lorado," one of the album's highlights written by Ravan and keyboard player Charlie Giordano. Classic girl group vocals, blues sensibilities, and the hard edge of underground rock & roll are the ingredients that propel "Jerry's Pigeons" and "Cornered," while a John Cale signature tune, "Darling, I Need You," becomes a barroom brawl -- and that's thanks to the band assembled for this: Bobby Chen on drums, Don Nossov on bass, along with the aforementioned Fliegler, Taylor, and Giordano. Ravan's harp playing pushes "Messin Around," which keeps up the intensity -- and volume. Joe Droukas, who would author the successful "Junkman" duet with Ian Hunter on Ravan's next outing, ...And I Mean It, brings the disc to a close with his third composition on Urban Desire, a tune called "Shadowboxing." Genya gets mellow with this performance, which feels like Ten Wheel Drive meets the Rolling Stones at the "Memory Motel." A bit of a different groove from the equally profound ...And I Mean It, which was released a year later. Both recordings would make a fine combination on CD.

Goldie Zelkowitz - 1974 - Goldie Zelkowitz

Goldie Zelkowitz
Goldie Zelkowitz

01. My Oh My My Mama 4:08
02. Whipping Post 4:25
03. Get It Back 3:10
04. Hold On I'm Coming 4:22
05. Little By Little 3:33
06.. Letter 4:38
07. Breadline 3:40
08. Walkin' 2:36
09. Need Your Lovin / Peeping & Hiding 2:39

Backing Vocals – Abigail Haness, C.C. Williamson, Gwendolyn Edwards
Bass – Fred Beckmier
Drums – Kenneth (Spider) Rice
Guitar – Daniel (Kootch) Kortchmar, Ken Marco, Steve Beckmier
Harmonica – Genya Ravan
Horns – Bobby Keyes, Steve Madaio, Trevor Lawrence
Keyboards [Moog] – Gabriel Mekler, Trevor Lawrence
Organ – Gabriel Mekler, William Smith
Percussion – Mailto Correa
Piano, Clarinet – Gabriel Mekler, Larry Nash, Trevor Lawrence

Goldie Zelkowitz is the real name of rock vocalist Genya Ravan, who many remember as the explosive lead singer of the rock band Ten Wheel Drive. She first sang in a band called The Escorts whose members included the now famous music mogul Richard Perry, and then went on to form Goldie & The Gingerbreads, the first all-girl rock band in history to be signed to a major label. Goldie and The Gingerbreads toured with the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, and Manfred Mann. They reached the charts with their hit "Can't You Hear My Heart Beat" in 1965 and remained in England for two years. In 1969, Goldie changed her name to Genya Ravan and formed the successful rock band Ten Wheel Drive who enjoyed a large impressive cult following. Goldie left the band in 1971 and was signed by Clive Davis, resulting in her first solo album, simply titled Genya Ravan. Presented here is her classic 1974 album released under her real name, and the album has since become a collector’s classic. Jay Z sampled the track "Whipping Post" for his song "Oh God" 

When you hear the great blues singer Genya Ravan totally capture Gregg Allman's "Whipping Post," you realize that his melody needed a vocal that could bring the song way over the bar. Ravan's voice does just that, hits the home run while gliding through the dense production of Gabriel Mekler, the man who produced Janis Joplin's I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama. It's the combination of Mekler's guidance and Ravan's musical instincts that give immense power to this 1974 release titled after Ravan's birth name, Goldie Zelkowitz. The version of the Allman Brothers' classic is a total reinterpretation, but it is only one of ten selections that are arguably the best setting for this pioneer vocalist. "Get It Back" is funky and hip with dance rhythms that are adventurous and futuristic; the song has pull like an undertow, and the production is so polished it will amaze. Mekler was one of the most underrated producers of his day, and the Kozmic Blues album was a masterpiece overshadowed by Cheap Thrills and Pearl. It seems like Mekler had something to prove and, with co-producer Trevor Lawrence, he augments Ravan's vocal prowess, the band aiding and abetting her as she takes "Hold On I'm Coming" and makes it her own. A dazzling recording that sounds like Quicksilver Messenger Service doing Big Mama Thornton's "Ball and Chain" with drums out of Charlie Watts on "Let It Bleed" -- this makeover of the Sam & Dave hit is a monster track. "Whipping Post" was great but this "Hold On I'm Coming" just obliterates everything in its path.

While Ten Wheel Drive experimented with various styles, their former lead singer has the opportunity here to focus and to strut her stuff away from the confines of a big, big rock band, giving listeners a side of Ravan that is only hinted at on Urban Desire, one of her most popular solo albums, which arrived a few years after this. "Letter" is like a subdued "Stay With Me" from the TWD days, while "Breadline" takes the disc even deeper into the blues. "Walkin' Walkin'" is snappy, intimate dance-pop that gives good balance to an album boasting Danny Kortchmar on guitar and Bobby Keyes on horns. "Need Your Lovin'" segues into a mini-medley with "Peeping and Hiding" finding Ravan's voice in complete control, and boy can she play the harmonica. Her catalog remains one of the most unmined vaults of treasures in rock/blues history, and this album needs to be the centerpiece of a boxed-set appreciation of Genya Ravan. It is so overwhelmingly good that, with a push to the blues market, it can find a new audience for this major and underrated talent. The singer's legacy is intact at and Goldie Zelkowitz is an often overlooked chestnut in her impressive catalog, an album that needs to get serious attention from those who understand this art form and who want another album to cherish.

Genya Ravan - 1973 - They Love Me, They Love Me Not

Genya Ravan
They Love Me, They Love Me Not

01. Gotta Tell Somebody ('Bout My Baby) 2:42
02 .When You Got Trouble 3:24
03. You Got The Blue 0:43
04. Under Control 2:53
05. I'll Be With You 4:10
06. Southern Celebration 4:11
07. Missy (Mister) 3:46
08. That Cryin' Rain 4:00
09. Keep On Growing 3:52
10. Don't Press Me 3:17
11. Roll And Roll And Roll 2:24
12. Swan Blues 3:10

Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar – Jay Graydon
Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Flute – Jim Horn
Arranged By [Music] – Jim Price
Backing Vocals [Group Vocals] – Clydie King (tracks: A5, B4, B5, B6), Venetta Fields (tracks: A5, B4, B5, B6)
Bass – Bill Lincoln (2) (tracks: B3), Dave Farrell (3)
Drums – Eddie Tuduri (tracks: B3)
Drums, Percussion – Don Poncher
Electric Guitar – John Uribe
Guitar – Jerry McGee (tracks: B3), Rick Vito (tracks: B3)
Keyboards, Brass – Jim Price
Percussion – Ray Cooper
Piano, Organ – Rick Allen (3) (tracks: B3)
Tenor Saxophone – Bobby Keys

The 1973 ABC/Dunhill LP now on CD, Genya Ravan's 2nd Solo album contains some good music. It gets off to a bang with GOTTA TELL SOMEBODY [ 'BOUT MY BABY ], a horn filled fast paced rocker not unlike her TEN WHEEL DRIVE songs. Eric Clapton's KEEP ON GROWING is amazing, a perfect rock song for Genya to get a hold of. Sheryl Crow's version pales in comparison to Genya's rocking growl, and this track just grooves. MISSY [MISTER ] is really different with both soft and loud passages, like Genya with 2 different personalities. This really works to great effect and mood. SOUL CELEBRATION is another rollicking mid-tempo highlight. And THAT CRYIN' RAIN takes care of things in the ballad department on this release really nicely.

The other songs are mainly shorter songs in a rock vein with catchy choruses like UNDER CONTROL and DON'T PRESS ME. WHEN YOU GOT TROUBLE is a bluesy wailer, but more of a repeated mantra than an actual song, which would have been much better. It segueways into the very short YOU GOT THE BLUE, just really a track tagged onto the end of TROUBLE. JIMMY MILLER , noted for his work with The Rolling Stones produced a few tracks, and then JIM PRICE produced the bulk of this album. It's good to hear Genya in the mid-70's, paving the way for so many other female rockers. She may not have gotten the big notices for this album the first time around, but it's worth owning. Cover art illustrates her humor and power as a sexually experienced woman, hence the title THEY LOVE ME, THEY LOVE ME NOT.

The Japanese import is a replica of the original gatefold cover, with the lyrics & photo inside. There are also liner notes in Japanese. They really should translate it into English as well. No bonus tracks, as this was her only album for ABC/Dunhill.

Genya Ravan - 1971 - Genya Ravan

Genya Ravan 
Genya Ravan

01. What Kind Of Man Are You 3:26
02. Sit Yourself Down 2:30
03. I Hate Myself (For Loving You) 5:05
04. I'm In The Mood For Love 3:49
05. Takuta Kalaba / Turn On Your Love Lights 6:30
06. Lonely, Lonely 3:45
07. Flying 6:01
08. Every Little Bit Hurts 3:39
09. Bird On The Wire 4:49
10. I Can't Stand It 3:20

Genya Ravan - Harmonica, Percussion, Vocals
Peter Hodgson - Bass
Bian Keenan - Drums
Mitch Styles - Guitar
John Platania - Guitar
Nick Oliva - Keyboards
Bernard Williams - Percussion
Arnie Lawrence - Saxophone
James Moody - Saxophone
Michael Olatunji - African Drums

Genya Ravan is an important rock & roll personality and influential vocalist and record producer, born Genya Zelkowitz on April 19, 1945, in Lodz, Poland. Her mom later changed her name to Goldie Zelkowitz, Ravan taking her birth name back when she formed the band Ten Wheel Drive. When her parents left Poland, they went into a Russian camp. The singer kindly gave personal details of her youth to AMG on April 4, 2002: "We lost everyone. I never had an aunt or an uncle, I had two brothers, they died. I never met my grandparents, it was me and my sister and my mom and dad. They came from big families and saw all of them die. We escaped to the U.S. via a ship. We were DPs and went straight to Ellis Island."

Young Goldie Zelkowitz never knew she could sing until in her late teens "then I picked up alto sax, drums, and harmonica." In the summer of 1962, she asked to sing with the Escorts (not Felix Cavaliere's band from Syracuse University nor the '50s group or U.K. band of the same name) who were performing at the Lollipop Lounge in Brooklyn, NY. She remembers it was the summer because: "I had pants that showed my belly button, they could not get their eyes off it." Soon, she was rehearsing with the band and became the first girlfriend of Richard Perry, bass vocalist in the group and the man who would go on to produce Ringo Starr, Carly Simon, Leo Sayer, the Pointer Sisters, and so many others. The band recorded and released a few singles on Coral Records in 1962 and 1963: "Somewhere" b/w "Submarine Race Watching," "I Can't Be Free" b/w "One Hand, One Heart," and "Something Has Changed Him" b/w "Back Home Again."

After she left the Escorts, Zelkowitz formed Goldie & the Gingerbreads, an original all-female band that was only the first of many firsts for Zelkowitz. All girls in a man's music world was as daunting a task as a woman trying to become president of the United States. Petula Clark, Lulu, Cilla Black, Skeeter Davis, and Kitty Wells simply did not have a crew of women backing them up. Where the Go-Go's became a bit of a novelty years later, the people who came before that hit '80s band, Goldie & the Gingerbreads, Fanny, and later, Isis, all had a harder edge and would have done more for the cause's credibility had they had the hit singles to go along with their critical acclaim. 

Genya Ravan released an album a year starting in 1969 with Ten Wheel Drive's Construction #1 on Polydor, up to the 1974 release of Goldie Zelkowitz on Janus, but created her most popular recordings on 20th Century Fox in 1978 and 1979 when she released the self-produced ...And I Mean It / Urban Desire one-two punch. Genya Ravan, her first solo disc which Columbia released after she left Ten Wheel Drive, was the catalyst for Ravan producing herself. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the record is that it is the only one she recorded for Columbia, a place that seemed like the perfect home for a woman with so many talents. Clive Davis originally wanted Richard Perry to produce, and it wasn't the fact that he was Ravan's first boyfriend that the idea was nixed, his pop work with Carly Simon was not what this artist is about. Larry Fallon former partner of producer Jimmy Miller and the guy behind "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)"for The Looking Glass (he had also put strings on an unreleased version of "Wild Horses" for Jimmy Miller and the Rolling Stones ) was brought in. But "Brandy" was more pop than "You're So Vain" if you think about it.

To feel comfortable, Ravan asked for, and got, her original partners in Ten Wheel Drive, Aram Schefrin, and Michael Zager, and with the band Baby behind her, Goldie Zelkowitz made the first album of her career beyond Goldie & the Gingerbreads and Ten Wheel Drive. It is a pure document of her transition. This is the shift between the sounds of Ten Wheel Drive and what would follow on 1973's They Love Me, They Love Me Not and 1974's Goldie Zelkowitz. She takes Rod Stewart and the Faces superb and little recognized "Flying" and makes it her own, a tune she would continue to perform live in concert. Stephen Stills' "Sit Yourself Down" gets a total reworking, just as Gabriel Mekler would revamp Whipping Post with her in 1974, when Ten Wheel Drive was re-forming with Annie Sutton. It is an amazing thread of events, with players from both the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin filtering through her recorded work, and where this album could have been Columbia Records replacing Janis Joplin with Genya Ravan, the singer opted to take her music into a realm where Diane Schuur would feel at home, rock influenced by jazz rather than high-powered blues rock. Indeed, the final track on side one, "Takuta Kalaba," is blended into "Turn on Your Love Lights," a song Janis Joplin did with the Grateful Dead if memory serves on one of the live tapes of theirs that has circulated over the years, so there was this thread, though the result is 180 degrees from where Joplin took it. Genya Ravan did not want to fill the Janis Joplin void for Mr. Davis -- she wanted to be herself. 

Clive told her, "You are either a rock singer or you're a jazz singer, but you cannot do both," and maybe for short-term marketing he had a point, but for longevity and vision, the Larry Fallon-produced "I'm in the Mood For Love" is exquisite. Fallon had come from a jazz band with Jimmy Miller, who coincidentally produced Genya Ravan's next album for his production company, released on ABC Dunhill. James Moody's saxophone solo is thrilling, and a real touch of class. The cabaret atmosphere seguing into the African drum sound of Michael Olatunji and his "Takuta Kalaba," which was released as a single in Europe. Brilliant material which would certainly stifle the Janis Joplin comparisons. The soulful rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" was tracked long before Cohen was considered chic. Columbia released "What Kind of Man Are You" from this album on a 45 rpm with the non-LP A side of "Morning Glory," written by Michael Holmes, and produced by he and Dixon Van Winkle, making for five producers during these sessions! 

The single was the idea of Clive Davis, and it is beautiful, the style of music that Bette Midler was having success with at this point in time. Midler eventually covered Genya Ravan's "Stay With Me" for The Rose film and soundtrack, bringing things full circle. Genya Ravan is an album brimming with this creative woman's personality, talent, and amazing vocal prowess. "Morning Glory" should eventually find itself on a Sony/Legacy re-release of Genya Ravan, important music that is continuously contemporary because of the long-range vision of the artist. 

Ten Wheel Drive - 1973 - Ten Wheel Drive

Ten Wheel Drive
Ten Wheel Drive

01. Ezra 4:00
02. Why Am I So Easy To Leave 4:49
03. Just Plain Love 4:21
04. Slain Man's Widow 5:55
05. 'Bye Light Of Day 2:55
06. Monsoon Rain 3:33
07. Tap Water 4:24
08. Song To Take Out 1:08
09. I Can Still See You To Love 3:0
10. Close Up The Cheese 4:45

Backing Vocals – Ann E. Sutton, Aram Schefrin, Daryl Hall, Joey Ward, John Oates, Tom Cosgrove
Bass, Violin – Harry Max
Drums, Percussion – Barry Lazarowitz
Guitar, Vocals – Aram Schefrin
Organ, Vibraphone – Michael Zager
Piano – Don Grolnick
Reeds, Woodwind – Ed Xiques
Trombone – Gerry Chamberlain
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Dean Pratt, John Gatchell
Vocals – Ann E. Sutton

Out is Genya and in is Annie Sutton from the second formation of The Rascals, She sure is a fine singer, and it is certainly not a bad album and I do enjoy it a lot, but Annie ain't no Genya so we do miss a lot of the chutzpah that Genya Ravan brought with her. Still a nice album to play on a sunny afternoon. Interesting details both Hall and Oates do vocal duties on this one!

Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan - 1971 - Peculiar Friends

Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan 
Peculiar Friends

01. Peculiar Friends 0:19
02. The Night I Got Out Of Jail 3:44
03. Shootin' The Breeze 3:19
04. The Pickpocket 3:48
05. No Next Time 4:34
06. Love Me 5:05
07. Fourteenth Street (I Can't Get Together) 5:49
08. I Had Him Down 3:52
09. Down In The Cold 6:09

Genya Ravan - Vocals, Harp
Aram Schefrin - Guitar
Michael Zager - Keyboards
Blake Hines - Bass
David Williams - Drums
Tom Malone - Trombone
Frank Frint , Danny Stiles , Dean Pratt - Trumpet
Alan Gauvin - Reeds

A great album, with amazing vocals by Genya Ravan. Her voice sounds like a mixture of Maggie Bell, Janis Joplin, Maria Muldaur, and a myriad of others. The music here is classified as jazz fusion, but the album has many more musical influences, and covers more musical genres than you will hear on most ordinary jazz rock recordings. There is a lot of brilliant electric and brass playing. The sound of Tower Of Power is in there, as is Blood, Sweat & Tears. There is soul,  blues, R&B, psychedelic influences, and more. All the tracks were written by wonderful composers, and there are many unexpected musical twists and turns. Songs rarely take the route you expect them to. You will seldom hear an album that moves from track to track with so much musical inventiveness, innovation, and originality. Genya Ravan could very well be unfamiliar to many music fans, but she has had a huge influence in the music industry over many years. She has played with numerous bands, and with musicians like Dusty Springfield, Buddy Guy, and Steve Winwood. She sang backing vocals on the Blue Oyster Cult album, "Mirrors." The list goes on and on. This album is worh buying, as the bitrate here does not do the album justice. There is a lot going on here sonically, and you really need to hear it in the right sound quality. Genya left the band after this recording, and TWD were never the same. Her unique voice and personality was the band's anchor. 

The third and final disc on Polydor from Ten Wheel Drive before Annie Sutton would come in to take over for the irreplaceable Genya Ravan and they would move the organization to Capitol for one more go at it, this is the most sophisticated of the small but cherished output from the ever changing and evolving entity known as Ten Wheel Drive. The pity here is that they had really found their groove on Peculiar Friends.The band blends so nicely behind Ravan's unique and multi-purpose voice, changing genres while exploring the possibilities of a song like "I Had Him Down." They lift a few notes from Blood, Sweat & Tears' cover of the Laura Nyro composition, "And When I Die," but the song mutates before you can hold it down. The key word is "down," and the six-minute "Down in the Cold" rocks -- co-written by the core of the band, keyboardist Michael Zager (no relation to Zager & Evans of "25/25" fame, though many have made that mistake), guitarist Aram Schefrin, and vocalist Ravan. Drummers and bassists and horn players came and went, but the musical vision of the three main partners kept maturing, "Down in the Cold" takes Janis Joplin's drunken barroom "Turtle Blues" and speeds it up a whole lot. Ravan is in total control from the very slick "Shootin' the Breeze," which is one of the most magnificent songs they ever put on plastic, to "Fourteenth Street (I Can't Get Together)." The textures Schefrin and Zager build are the perfect complement to Ravan, and they should have kept this unit together at all costs. The title track is a mere 19 seconds of silliness while "The Night I Got Out of Jail" takes a Beatles riff and tucks it inside an Ike & Tina Turner rave-up. The nine tracks here hardly satisfy fans of early adult rock who would demand more. What they got was "No Next Time," the closest thing to a duet on this album, and a wonderful exercise in stretching the boundaries of pop. This is tough stuff that didn't lend itself to early-'70s radio, but had the potential to move the music from this time period to another, higher level. "The Pickpocket" fuses the hard rock of early Deep Purple from their keyboard heavy Tetragrammaton Days with contemporary jazz. The arrangements and performance here are top-notch, so good that the fact that there would be no more is the most disappointing aspect of Peculiar Friends.

Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan - 1970 - Brief Replies

Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan 
Brief Replies 

01. Morning Much Better
02. Brief Replies
03. Pulse
04. Come Live With Me
05. Stay With Me
06. How Long Before I'm Gone
07. Last of the Line
08. Interlude: A View of Soft

Bass, Vocals – Bob Piazza
Drums, Percussion, Vibraphone – Allen Herman
Guitar, Percussion, Vocals, Banjo – Aram Schefrin
Keyboards – Michael Zager
Saxophone, Flute – Dave Leibman
Trombone – Dennis Parisi
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – John Eckert
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Cowbell, Hamesha – Steve Satten
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, House – John Gatchell
Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion – Genya Ravan

Quoting Damon Runyon on both the back cover and inside the gate fold, Brief Replies warns "Do not sweet-talk me sweet-talker, for I am no stranger...." Music that was too literate for the time, the second album from Ten Wheel Drive emerged as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were making their exits in 1970. "Pulse" was intended to be the opening track, and it would have been a great one, but despite being listed that way on the back cover, it is actually the third band on the vinyl's first side, and is evidence that sequencing is so key. "Morning Much Better" opens the album without the sledgehammer blues of this Genya Ravan/Michael Zager funk/rock dirge. It is explosive without the Top 40 appeal of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Going further down the road of complete artistry, "Come Live With Me" pulls away from the big band sound, leaving the authors -- Genya Ravan on a wailing harp and voice alone with co-writerAram Schefrin's guitar. The thing about Ten Wheel Drive is their defiance to what was considered conventional at the time. Each song on all three of their long players, those on the 1969 debut Construction #1, and the polished gems from 1971's effort with Alice in Wonderland cartoons on the cover, Peculiar Friends (are better than no friends at all) break down barriers and stretch the formats of the day. They reached their pinnacle with a cover of the Ragavoy/Weiss masterpiece, "Stay With Me." Janis Joplin's last producer, the late Paul Rothchild -- who created many a Doors album, had Bette Midler sing in the film The Rose what Genya Ravan gave birth to here. But it is Genya's harp and dynamic and soulful performance which puts the tune over the top. The compact, radio-friendly tour-de-force is a departure from the lengthier jams like "How Long Before I'm Gone." Though they change moods enough within a tune like this before veering off into the scribblings which made Chicago Transit Authority such a labor, it was still too progressive for rock audiences that were driven by the Top 40 single. That Clive Davis could edit Ragovoy's "Piece of My Heart" on behalf of Big Brother & the Holding Company was one of the reasons Big Brother's album (and single) charted so high. When Ravan left T.W.D. for her solo outings, including one on Columbia with Davis as president, that too failed to generate the excitement a talent like Genya Ravan deserved then, as she does now. "Last of the Line" shows her chameleon like skills, and those of the band as well. She started as one of the pioneers of the girl group sound in the sixties, reinvented herself in this experimental pop/jazz unit, and went on to put out solid rock & roll solo albums in the 1980's. Had the songwriting duo of Michael Zager and Aram Schefrin continued working with Genya Ravan, we would have a body of work that would be impressive, and they would no doubt be household names. There is every indication of that here, especially on "Last of the Line," perhaps the most commercial of Zager & Schefrin's tunes. A classy hook about a ramblin' gal..."the last branch of the tree/which will die with me/I'm the last of the line." The instrumental "Interlude: A View of Soft" concludes this special album with Ravan's voice used as an instrument, as accurate as Dave Leibman's flute and sax. Powerful music that should have been stretched out over 25 or so albums.

Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan - 1969 - Construction #1

Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan
Construction #1

01. Tightrope
02. Lapidary
03. Eye of the Needle
04. Candy Man Blues
05. Ain't Gonna Happen
06. Polar Bear Rug
07. House in Central Park
08. I Am a Want Ad

Bass – Bill Takas
Drums, Cello, Percussion – Leon Rix
Flugelhorn, Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet – Peter Hyde
Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone – Louie Hoff
Flute, Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jay Silva
Guitar, Percussion – Aram Schefrin
Organ, Piano, Clarinet – Mike Zager
Trombone – Dennis Parisi
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Richard Meisterman
Vocals, Harmonica, Tambourine – Geny

Recorded at Gotham Studios, New York City.

In 1968, after the final disbandment of the all-female rock band Goldie & The Gingerbreads, Genya Ravan was looking for a new band. The same applied for Michael Zager and Aram Schefrin, two musicians and songwriters from New Jersey.

Acquainted by their managers, the three musicians who would become the nucleus of the new band had initially some hard work to do. Their origins and artistic backgrounds were very different, and, at first the music was not after Genya Ravan’s fancy. Also, she alone had some noteworthy experience in the music business.

More musicians had to be found for the rhythm and brass sections. Only people who were able to read sheet music were contracted. The one exemption from this rule was Genya Ravan.

In 1969 the band started to perform regularly and attract positive notice, and comparisons were drawn between Genya Ravan and Janis Joplin.

At the same time, the Polydor record label was forming an American division. Its new President, Jerry Schoenbaum, closed a deal with Ten Wheel Drive, and together with producer Walter Raim the band released its first album, Construction #1.

The first big concert appearance of Ten Wheel Drive was (arguably) in 1969 at the Fillmore East in New York City. Apart from the band's intense musical presence, Genya Ravan caused some excitement when she took off her transparent vest and continued the performance half naked with painted breasts and shoulders.

In the summer of the same year, Ten Wheel Drive appeared at the Atlanta Pop Festival. On this occasion Genya Ravan and Janis Joplin, who previously had often been compared, met in person for the second time. They had met initially at Steve Paul's club The Scene when Janis sat in with the band.

In 1970, Ten Wheel Drive released their second album, Brief Replies, with producer Guy Draper. Many of the brass musicians had also been replaced, meanwhile.

1971 saw Ten Wheel Drive performing at Carnegie Hall a rock opera of sorts based on the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the history of the Native North American peoples. The American Symphony Orchestra and a choir participated in the project, which had been meticulously prepared with a lot of time spent for the investigation work. But notwithstanding the provable quality of the material produced, Polydor decided against the recording of the event and was later blamed for bad judgement.

Also in 1971, the band's third album Peculiar Friends appeared, for the first time produced by Aram Schefrin and Michael Zager themselves. Genya Ravan’s decision to leave the band and start her solo career at this time, was presumably influenced by the record company’s attitude towards the Carnegie Hall concert. She was replaced by Annie Sutton of The Rascals. But even after this, Aram Schefrin and Michael Zager contributed to Genya Ravan’s first solo album.

Ten Wheel Drive left Polydor and in 1974 their fourth and last album, Ten Wheel Drive, was released by Capitol Records. It includes music which had earlier been composed by Genya Ravan and Aram Schefrin. With this record the already loose cooperation between the band musicians ended.

This exemplary recording by songwriters Aram Schefrin, Mike Zager and singer Genya Ravan was highly experimental in ways that Chicago, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Traffic and other of their contemporaries wanted to be. Imagine Ronnie Spector leaving The Ronettes to join Blood Sweat & Tears, and realize the sweet Goldie Zelkowitz from Goldie & The Gingerbreads did just that by reinventing herself here as the great Genya Ravan. The Ravan co-write Tightrope is five minutes and ten seconds of psychedelic blues/jass/funk. This is the sound Janis Joplin would refine for her Kozmic Blues experience, and while Janis Joplin and Kozmic Blues performed at Woodstock, Ten Wheel Drive were getting such a buzz they turned Woodstock down. History would, indeed, have been different had they played I Am A Want Ad at that event, but with Sid Bernstein as co-manager, and songs like Lapidary, the band had a lot going for it. Lapidary is a complete about face, Traffic's John Barleycorn with a female vocalist. Eye Of The Needle on the other hand, was an eight minute plus show stopper of horns and guitars that come in like some country's national anthem. With Genya's amazing wail at the end it becomes powerful stuff. Songwriter Louie Hoff got to arrange his Candy Man Blues, which puts Genya in a nightclub setting, the piano and flutes changing the mood dramatically. This is such an adventurous and remarkable record by such a talented crew, it is a shame they didn't record twenty or more platters. A Polydor executive made a statement that if they couldn't break Slade they weren't a real company. Polydor did, in fact, fail to launch that British supergroup in America, and one wonders if these recordings were made for another label, if oldies stations wouldn't be playing Ten Wheel Drive today. Ain't Gonna Happen is extraordinary music, a band on the prowl, and a singer that pounces every chance she gets with a voice that does all sorts of wild things. If Polar Bear Rug and House In Central Park were a bit too evolved for Top 40, their A & R man should have brought them a single. Ten Wheel Drive could, like Etta James, play to those who crave this wonderful fusion of jazz and blues with a rock edge. A Ten Wheel Drive reconstructing, bringing this music back onstage, is something that would make the world a better place.

Infra Steff's Red Devil Band - 1982 - Average Sized An Empty

Infra Steff's Red Devil Band
Average Sized An Empty

01. Tympanum Destroyer Opening 1:04
02. Cigar On My Windshield 3:18
03. Rancid Shrew 3:27
04. Average 4:25
05. Tv Roogalator Wise Up And Suck Gas 3:08
06. Muller's Garage Shuffle 1:37
07. Valley Moon Tv Theme 3:58
08. Tallien Shooz 4:16
09. Monster Mary 6:38
10. Pimples Electrique 2:25
11. Desintegrated Love Success 5:06
12. Average, Sized An' Empty 4:18

Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone – Alan Solomon
Bass Guitar – Werner Amman
Bass Trombone, Baryton – Jaap Visser
Drums – Ditschgee Gutzwiller
Grand Piano, Organ [Hammond], Clavinet – Peter Waters
Guitar – Chip Huggenberg
Lead Vocals – Benny Jaeger,  Pino Buoro
Lead Vocals, Guitar – Ron Kurz
Percussion – H. P. Voelkle
Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Piccolo Flute – Roman Weissert
Synthesizer, Composed By, Arranged By, Orchestrated By – Infra Steff
Trumpet – Theodor Jost

Contains Material From A Planned Opera/Multi Media Show Called Orchestral Snack Music Or The Legend Of The Return Of The Gas Station Desperado.

Infra Steff's Red Devil Band - 1979 - Gas Station

Infra Steff's Red Devil Band
Gas Station

01. Girls In Summer Jeans
02. Orange 9 On A Green
03. Gas Station Main Theme
04. I Wanna Go Back
05. Dentures
06. Gas Station Instrumental Variations
07. Eddie's Secret Swirl
08. Two Miles On A Brown, Part I
09. Gas Station Reprise
10. New Jersey Valley Moon Postcard
11. Two Miles On A Brown , Part II
12. Devil Theme II
13. Gas Station Vocal Variation

Recorded At – Studio Für Elektronische Musik Spoerri

Bass – Andy Beusch
Bass Trombone – Jaab Visser
Drums – Ditschgi Gutzwiller
Guitar, Bass Vocals – Ron Kurz
Guitar, Bass Vocals, Artwork – Pierre Bendel
Keyboards – Steff Signer
Lacquer Cut By – Henry Riedel
Lead Vocals – Rudi Pasadena
Marimba, Percussion – H.P. Voelkle
Other [Cubanian Special Effects] – Pedro Haldemann\
Saxophone, Clarinet – Allan Solomon
Trumpet, Mellophone – Theodor Jost

The music of this album was recorded over a period of 5 months, october 78 to february 79.

This is a Zappaesque band from Switzerland that came out with a manic album called (I ain't gonna work no more at the) Gas Station (cf. Zappa's Joe's Garage Act I, 1979), with absolutely wonderful artwork I might add, but very uneven music.  Think Dr. Dopo Jam, The Locals, etc., but with a great deal of that annoying simple fifties music that for some reason Frank loved and threw in or threw up in every album, plus the dumb fake voices that sound like the stupidest screwball sixties comedy 'screenwriting' outta Hollywood's La Brea Tarpits.  Oddly enough it was the follow up called Red Devil Band with the ridiculous boy on the cover which I just hate to look at (perhaps that's the idea), that was the superior work since the silliness was minimalized.  It's obvious there's someone in there who is able to compose great music because here and there, like on Dopojam, or later Zappa, there are symphonic or chamber passages that are quite intricately beautiful.