Mar 22, 2010
The Sons of Champlin's sprawling, double-LP debut album, Loosen Up Naturally, had its launch marred by the discovery of an obscenity in the cover art that resulted in a mass recall and ruined its commercial chances. They were also beset by internal strife, and when the time came to release their second album only six months later, they chose to de-emphasize the primacy of lead singer and main songwriter Bill Champlin by shortening their name to "the Sons" and also giving that name to the record. But their music remained essentially the same, a mixture of Champlin's thoughtful lyrics and gritty singing with Terry Haggerty's inventive lead guitar work and the two-man horn section of Tim Caine and Geoffrey Palmer. As usual, there was almost too much going on in the arrangements, which gave the songs touches of folk, rock, jazz, and psychedelia, often in the same song, as a couple of the tunes extended beyond ten minutes in length, changing tempo and feel in mid-flight. Clearly, this was a band that was accustomed to using its songs as frameworks for free playing in concert, but the bandmembers still hadn't quite figured out how that worked in the studio, and their arguments about musical direction could be heard in the music itself. Champlin remained the strongest presence in the band, but his songs (all of which were credited to the Sons communally) took a backseat to the group that was playing them any way it wanted to. The results could be exhilarating, if in a somewhat anarchic way...[allmusic]
Mar 21, 2010
The third long-player from San Francisco psychedelic icons Quicksilver Messenger Service (QMS) is a direct contrast from their previous discs. Shady Grove (1969) is comprised mostly of shorter and self-contained pieces as opposed to the long and extended jams that were so prevalent on their self-titled debut (1967) and Happy Trails (1969). Ironically, the one stretched-out instrumental is courtesy of their latest acquisition — Brit recording session guru Nicky Hopkins (keyboards). Another possible reason for the shift in style as well as personnel is the conspicuous absence of Gary Duncan (guitar) — who is rumored to have been a "guest" of Bay Area law enforcement at the time. The band incorporate a number of different styles on the album. Kicking off the disc is an up-tempo rocking version of the traditional Appalachian folk song "Shady Grove." The QMS reading is highlighted by John Cipollina's trademark fluid fretwork and a familiar "Bo Diddley" backbeat — reminiscent of both "Who Do You Love" and "Mona" from the live ensemble LP Happy Trails. The slow and dark "Flute Song" is a trippy minor chord masterpiece that is augmented by the shimmering effect of Hopkins' airy piano lines which mingle throughout the light orchestration. Additionally, QMS try their hand at the same country & western-flavored sound that was making the rounds with their San Fran contemporaries the Jefferson Airplane ("The Farm") and the Grateful Dead ("Dire Wolf"). However, the down-home cowboy waltz "Word's Can't Say" never gets out of the stable, unfortunately. This somewhat uneven effort would sadly foreshadow QMS's journey from psychedelia and into a much more pop-oriented sound on their follow-up, Just for Love (1970). However, enthusiasts of those albums will find much more to revisit on Shady Grove than those who favored the first two records.[allmusic]
Mar 19, 2010
NUMBER 5, saw the guitarist still bridging the adventurous psychedelic blues of his early work with the radio-pumping classic rock that he would perfect by the middle of the decade. Producer Glyn Johns (Rolling Stones, The Who) adds some interesting sonic experimentation to the album, which adds a new dimension to Miller's music and approach, especially on songs like "Industrial Military Complex Hex."
The album opens on a mellow, somewhat countrified note that reflects the record's Nashville recording base and the presence of session hands like harmonica player Charlie McCoy and fiddler Buddy Spicher. These acoustically-based songs ("Good Morning," "I Love You," "Going to the Country"), segue into some of Miller's most underrated rockers --"Going to Mexico" and "Jackson-Kent Blues," for example. #5 would be one of the last strict blues-rock albums Miller would make before dedicating himself full-time to a successful career as an FM radio pop star.
Released in the summer of 1970, Number 5 was the fifth LP by the Steve Miller Band in just over two years. While it compares favorably to its immediate predecessor, Your Saving Grace, it is not quite up to the consistent excellence of the potent Brave New World from the previous summer. However, it does have a fair share of delights, especially the opening triumvirate of "Good Morning," "I Love You," and "Going to the Country." These selections, and all of side one, have a distinctly more rural feel than did previous recordings, due perhaps to the fact that the tracks were recorded in Nashville. Charlie McCoy contributes harmonica to several of these cuts, and Buddy Spicher plays fiddle on "Going to the Country," while Bobby Thompson adds banjo to "Tokin's." Side two is more uneven, with the lead-off mid-tempo rocker "Going to Mexico" serving as a conclusion to the first side's thematic coherence, and the closing "Never Kill Another Man" a string-laden ballad. Sandwiched between them are three experimental-sounding pieces, seasoned with sound effects, buried vocals, and semi-political themes. Although it couldn't have been predicted at the time, Number 5 represented the end of an era for Steve Miller and bandmates, and subsequent albums would sound nothing like this first batch of great recordings.[allmusic]
The Sons, who had once called themselves the Sons of Champlin and would again, broke up in March 1970 but re-formed in the fall of the year when Capitol Records reminded them they owed another album on their contract and they decided they could use the advance to pay their back taxes. Saxophonist Tim Caine could not be persuaded to return, which left a quintet without horns, eliminating what had been a major element of their sound, since the horn playing of multi-instrumentalists Bill Champlin and Geoffrey Palmer had been dependent on Caine's arrangements. But that actually simplified the sound of a band that had always been a little busy musically. The songs on Follow Your Heart tended to be shorter than those on the band's previous albums, with more focused arrangements. There was more room for Terry Haggerty's inventive guitar playing to impress the listener, notably on the title track, and Champlin's songwriting was not lost in the lengthy improvisations and digressions. (As usual, however, the songwriting was credited to the group, albeit through the pseudonym "B.B. Heavy.") But the downside of the new Sons sound was that it was more cut and dried; ironically for an album called Follow Your Heart, the music seemed to be following the bandmembers' heads. This was certainly the Sons' most immediately accessible recording, and it might have been their most commercially successful one under other circumstances. But heads were rolling at the troubled Capitol Tower in the early '70s, and anyway, this was just a contractual-obligation release. The Sons only did a handful of West Coast gigs to support it in the spring of 1971 before breaking up again, so it never really had a chance.[allmusic]
Mar 15, 2010
Formed from the ashes of bands Moonhead and Lucas Tyson, the group's high standard of musicianship was well known in their native north-east where they attracted much attention and had a devoted following. It was felt that the quintet could achieve success on a national scale, provided management handled matters properly and they got the right breaks. In 1971 they recorded their debut album "Cirkus One" at Sound Associates/Emison & Air Studios and just 1000 copies were pressed up. It is widely regarded by many collectors today as the most musically accomplished private pressing of its kind to emerge out of the UK's then burgeoning progressive music scene, influenced by KING CRIMSON and YES. When in 1975 lead vocalist Paul Robson left the group, his replacement was Alan Roadhouse (ex Halfbreed) who also played the saxophone. With Dogg on acoustic and electric guitars, Derek Miller on keyboards, John Taylor on bass and main songwriter Stu McDade providing backing vocals, drums and assorted persussions, this became the new line-up. As a result the band moved away from their early symphonic style adopting a somewhat more mainstream approach albeit maintaining a certain "Cirkus sound"
In 1977 CIRKUS made an unusual move by touring in a somewhat zany theatre production called "Future Shock". Based on the musical, an LP of the same name was released, although none of the band members wrote any of the material. The LP was issued by Shock Records and is now very rare. The music is of a whimsical and offbeat nature, a far cry from the outfit's prog-rock roots and therefore of limited appeal. A year later a CIRKUS track called "I'm On Fire" was featured on a "Battle Of The Bands" LP but this proved to be their final offering before the five went their separate ways in the early '80s.
In 1994 was released "Cirkus II The Global Cut", where only Derek Miller features from the original line-up. In 1998 the much anticipated and quite magnificent third CIRKUS album "Pantomyne" was finally unveiled. This splendid offering brought original members, and main songwriter, Stu McDade back into the fold and featured cameo performances by an array of other musicians most notably former frontman Alan Roadhouse, who played flute. Anyway "Cirkus One" remains an exquisite album of outstanding creativity much deserving its high standing in the kingdom of progressive rock.[prog archives]
Mar 4, 2010
Odessey and Oracle was recorded in 1967 after the Zombies signed to the CBS label, and was only the second album they had released since 1965. As their first LP, Begin Here, was a collection of singles, Odessey can be regarded as the only "true" Zombies album. While their first album included several cover versions, Odessey consisted entirely of original compositions by the group's two main songwriters, Rod Argent and Chris White.
The group began work on the album in June 1967. Nine of the twelve songs were recorded at EMI's Abbey Road Studios, where earlier in the year the Beatles had recorded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd recorded The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. This was the first time Abbey Road would be used for an independently produced (non-EMI) release.
In August, when Abbey Road was unavailable, the Zombies temporarily shifted base to Olympic Studios where they recorded Beechwood Park, Maybe After He's Gone and I Want Her She Wants Me. They returned to Abbey Road Studios in September. The sessions ended in November and the final two tracks to be recorded were Time Of The Season and Changes.
Argent and White mixed the album down into mono, but when they handed the master to CBS, they were informed that a stereo mix was required. The recording budget having been spent, Argent and White were forced to dip into their songwriting royalties in order to pay for the time and resources needed to create the stereo mix. Unfortunately, this was the last straw for Paul Atkinson and Colin Blunstone, who quit and effectively split up the band. The stereo mix was completed on January 1, 1968, but by then the Zombies were no more.
One major problem arose when it came time to mix This Will Be Our Year into stereo. Zombies original producer Ken Jones had dubbed live horn parts directly onto a mono mixdown. With the horns not having been recorded on the multi-track beforehand, a faked stereo mix had to be made of the mono master, and it wasn't until the 1997 Zombie Heaven boxset that it was finally given a stereo mix, albeit minus the horns. This was made possible because the Zombies owned the multi track masters, which are in the possession of Chris White.
Odessey and Oracle was released in the UK on April 19, 1968 and in the United States in June. The single "Time of the Season" became a surprise hit in early 1969, and Columbia Records (in the United States) re-released Odessey in February, with a different album cover that severely cropped the original artwork.
American CBS boss Clive Davis initially decided not to release the album. However, at the urging of staff producer Al Kooper, the U.S. CBS/Columbia Records label was eventually persuaded to release the album on their small Date Records subsidiary label. Kooper had picked up a copy of the album during a trip to London, and when he returned to America and played the album, he loved it and believed it contained three hit singles. CBS chose to release Butcher's Tale as the first single in the States, feeling the song's anti-war theme would resonate with record-buyers due to the Vietnam conflict. After its release, Time Of The Season slowly gained popularity before finally hitting big on the US charts in 1969, by which time Rod Argent and Chris White were busy with their new band, Argent...