Dec 23, 2011

MANFRED MANN - FIVE FACES OF MANFRED MANN (HIS MASTER'S VOICE 1964) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 13 Bonus

The HMV years 1
The debut album by Manfred Mann holds up even better 40 years on than it did in 1964. It's also one of the longest LPs of its era, clocking in at 39 minutes, and there's not a wasted note or a song extended too far among its 14 tracks. The Manfreds never had the reputation that the Rolling Stones enjoyed, which is a shame, because The Five Faces of Manfred Mann is one of the great blues-based British invasion albums; it's a hot, rocking record that benefits from some virtuoso playing as well, and some of the best singing of its era, courtesy of Paul Jones, who blew most of his rivals out of the competition with his magnificently impassioned, soulful performance on "Untie Me," and his simmering, lusty renditions of "Smokestack Lightning" and "Bring It to Jerome." The stereo mix of the album, which never surfaced officially in England until EMI's anniversary reissue (remastered in 24-bit digital sound), holds up very nicely, with sharp separation between the channels yet -- apart from a few moments on "Untie Me" -- few moments of artificiality.[allmusic]

MANFRED MANN - MANN MADE (HIS MASTER'S VOICE 1965) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 12 bonus

The HMV years 2
The group's second British album, released just as the original lineup was entering a state of collapse with the impending departure of two key members, shows some of the changes that can happen in a year, as they move away from Chess Records' brand of blues as their baseline. Instead, Manfred Mann produce a sound that is slightly smoother and a lot more soulful. A handful of originals, mostly by Mike Vickers and Mike Hugg with one Paul Jones-authored number thrown in, are scattered amid covers of songs originally from the Temptations, the Skyliners, and T-Bone Walker. If it isn't as fierce, bold, or daringly ambitious as Manfred Mann's debut long-player, Mann Made is just as much a virtuoso effort, and a surprisingly cohesive one considering that it was released immediately after Mike Vickers and Paul Jones announced their respective departures from the band.[allmusic]

MANFRED MANN - SOUL OF MANN (HIS MASTER'S VOICE 1967) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 12 bonus

The HMV years 3
Amidst their pop/rock, blues, and folk-rock, Manfred Mann peppered their early recordings with jazzy instrumentals that faintly suggested a jazz-rock direction. Soul of Mann, never issued in the U.S., is a compilation of most of these early instrumental efforts, which originally appeared on various singles, EPs, and LPs between 1963 and 1966 (though one song, "L.S.D.," and is actually a blues-rocker with a Paul Jones vocal). Instrumentals were not the band's forte, but this collection is more interesting than you might think. No one would put Manfred Mann on the level of genuine American jazz acts like Oscar Peterson, but these cuts are executed with a surprising amount of style and wit. And Mann and his men were nothing if not eclectic, producing downright strange instrumental takes on "Satisfaction," "I Got You Babe," and "My Generation." There are straighter (but still imaginative) versions of songs by the Yardbirds and Cannonball Adderley, as well as their own originals (the bluesy stomper "Mr. Anello" is a standout). Manfred Mann fans will find this worth picking up, especially given that several of the tracks never came out in the U.S., such as the aforementioned "Mr. Anello," and all of the pop covers they did for the 1966 EP Instrumental Asylum.[allmusic]

MANFRED MANN - MANN MADE HITS (HIS MASTER'S VOICE 1966) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 13 bonus

The HMV years 4
The first greatest-hits compilation devoted to Manfred Mann's hits, Mann Made Hits was one of the great dance albums of its era and has held up about as well as those hits, which is to say, really well. Originally released in England on EMI's HMV imprint, it opens up with the cheerful, soulful pop of "Pretty Flamingo" but quickly branches into the group's more R&B-focused work ("On No, Not My Baby," "Come Tomorrow," "There's No Living Without Your Loving"), their bluesier sides ("I'm Your Kingpin"), their folk-influenced output ("John Hardy," "With God on Our Side," "If You Gotta Go, Go Now"), and their harder jazz side ("Spirit Feel"), without missing their biggest pop hits ("Do Wah Diddy Didd," "Sha La La," "5-4-3-2-1"). This is about the best original vinyl compilation there ever was on this band, and one can also see the quandary EMI was in when they issued it -- having dropped the group in the wake of Paul Jones's departure for a solo career in 1966, presuming that the band's prospects were limited (while they held on to Jones), the front cover is labeled "Manfred Mann With Paul Jones." As it turned out, they were selling the band short, as the latter enjoyed three more years of hits, but this is still a killer farewell to the Paul Jones-era, even if it has been supplanted by numerous more comprehensive compilations since.[allmusic]

Dec 4, 2011

SIGMUND SNOPEK III - VIRGINIA WOOLF (WATER STREET 1972) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 2 bonus

If the modernist novelist Virginia Woolf seems like a bizarre title subject for a rock album, it nevertheless fits the relentless peculiarity of the music on the first album from Sigmund Snopek III. Actually, this is the second album by Snopek's band the Bloomsbury People following a self-titled effort in 1970. The band plays on the entire album, but it was credited, for whatever reason, to Snopek alone. Snopek's muse and music certainly act as the impetus and grand vision for the entire project, and what an intriguingly skewed vision it is. "Virginia Woolf" is essentially one epic (novelistic, you might even say) composition broken up into song-sized portions, and even broken down further within individual songs. There is a continuity and wholeness to the entire piece, at least, that is somewhat lost when you try to listen to it as a collection of songs. The songs by themselves can occasionally sound choppy and stylistically schizophrenic -- albeit almost always riveting -- due to the ambitious amalgam. Strong intimations of rock, blues, psychedelia, and jazz mingle with classical motifs, structures, and lofty compositional techniques in a fusion that is not really rock in any conventional sense of the term (although it does often rock), but is not quite classical either. Progressive rock didn't quite exist officially at the time the album was recorded, and while Snopek's disparate composite might be seen as a prototype for that genre, it does not entirely satisfy the description the genre ultimately took on. What it can be called is avant-garde experimentation that happens to utilize recognizable pop-style melodies, rock instrumentation, and some of the deft interplay of jazz, with an ultimate freaked out, psychedelic tinge that might easily have impressed Frank Zappa had he heard the album. (That especially goes for the marching band drum solo that erupts a couple minutes into the title track.) The songs themselves essentially resist classification and don't seem to follow the authorial theme closely, but the aforementioned "Virginia Woolf," seesawing "Orange," and majestically symphonic "Blue" are standouts. Virginia Woolf is only partly successful, but it is a compelling piece of work nonetheless.[allmusic]

AFTER ALL - AFTER ALL (ATHENA 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

"Hastily put together in 1969 by a veteran quartet of Tallahassee, FL, musicians and together for only a handful of months, After All is merely a footnote in the history of late-'60s and Florida rock. Their single recorded effort, however, was a moody slice of acid-tinged progressive pop that, while perhaps not among the finest obscurities from the era, brings back the grooviness and off-the-cuff adventurousness of the decade in full color. All of the members of After All had a history playing in various rhythm & blues and jazz bands, dating back to the late '50s, performing at clubs and parties throughout the Tallahassee region. Drummer Mark Ellerbee was fresh out of Vietnam and a graduate of the Florida State School of Music when he bumped into fellow Florida State graduate and keyboardist Alan Gold, who was performing at the time in one of the area's top night club bands. With the addition of fellow scenesters bassist Bill Moon and jazz guitarist Charles Short, After All was officially born. The group envisioned creating a concept album by throwing together a variety of the era's newest styles, from acid and classical rock to structural complexity and surreal lyrics. To help with the latter, they enlisted a young local poet, Linda Hargrove, to provide the lyrics to most of the songs. The band knew a Nashville producer who was willing to record a "spec album" for them at no cost provided if they did it quickly, so they entered the studio in 1969 and recorded After All in a couple days. Following the release of the album on Athena Records, the instrumentalists returned to Florida and took up their respective careers again. Hargrove, on the other hand, remained in Nashville and carved out a fine, if under-recognized, career for herself as a country singer/songwriter and performer. ~ Stanton Swihart, All Music Guide"

JUNI & TOO MUCH - TOO MUCH (ATLANTIC 1971) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Often touted as the Japanese Black Sabbath by blowhards and those who’ve not actually heard the music, the excellently named Too Much hailed from the large city port of Kobe, where the band members grew up sucking in all kinds of western influences from the LPs and 7” singles that came in on the boats.One of the band – guitarist Junio Nakahara – had spent the late ‘60s in the blues group The Helpful Soul, whose sole LP features in this book’s Top 50 on account of its deeply inspired 10-minutes plus plodathon ‘Peace For Fools’.However, as its audience could never have perceived The Helpful Soul as anything more than another Group Sounds act, guitarist Nakahara decided to jump on the burgeoning New Rock bandwagon by forming the more appropriately named Too Much.Nakahara’s inspiration came from the TOO MUCH concert that The Helpful Soul played with the newly-formed Blues Creation, in Kyoto at the end of February 1970.The hippy phrase ‘too much’ was already utterly cliched in the West by this time, but it was iconic and easily pronounceable to Japanese.In the process, Nakahara hooked up with hard rock singer Juni Lush, changed his own name to the more substantially New Rock-sounding Tsomu Ogawa(!), and dragged high school mates Hideya Kobayashi and Masayuki Aoki along as the rhythm section.They signed a deal with Atlantic Records in the summer of 1970, and wrote a whole slew of mindless proto-metal anthems, including the excellent ‘Grease It Out’, ‘Love Is You’ and ‘Gonna Take You’.These were duly recorded and sounded mindlessly, monolithically, perfectly suited to the lowbrow audience Too Much was aiming to please.Unfortunately, the Atlantic businessmen saw in the be-afro’d Juni Lush another potential star in the mould of Flower Travellin’ Band’s Joe Yamanaka, and they pressured the band into adding several mawkishly sentimetal ballads to the debut LP in order to widen their audience.The results were disastrous. No one needed yet another version of Bobby Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’, particularly the Nipponashville abortion that Too Much delivered. Hey, but neither did they require ‘Song For My Lady’, the arduously phlegmatic 12-minute album closer which arrived replete with megastring sections, Michel LaGrande pianos, Moody Blues flute solos and nere a six-string razor in sight.Too Much was just not enough, and they split soon after the album was released...

Oct 20, 2011

THE HUMAN BEAST - VOLUME ONE (DECCA 1970) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Although it was optimistically titled Volume One, this would turn out to be the sole album by this obscure, odd, Edinburgh early heavy rock trio. The tracks are dominated by the Jimi Hendrix/Cream-influenced guitar of Gillies Buchan, which leans heavily on devious wah-wah effects. Indebted to blues-rock and early heavy metal, but not quite in either bag, the sound is somewhat skeletal even as power trios go. The ethos of the hippie era are evident even in the song titles alone: "Appearance Is Everything, Style Is a Way of Living," "Brush with the Midnight Butterfly," "Reality Presented as an Alterative," and "Naked Breakfast."
This was a short-lived heavy power trio whose album is now quite rare by some collectors. They had earlier been known as Skin. Tracks like Mystic Man, Brush With The Midnight Butterfly and Reality Presented As An Alternative typify the heavy psych genre, but the two outstanding tracks are slow and in the classic psychedelic mould; Appearance Is Everything Style Is A Way Of Living, which brings to mind US Boston band Beacon Street Union and has fine Eastern - influenced guitar work and the more acoustic than electric Maybe Someday, which had a good hypnotic melody and a certain Eastern feeling.
Sought after, and absolutely excellent heavy UK psychedelic album from 1970, alternately hypnotic and hard-driving, with intense guitar workouts in a classic psych mould; much high-caliber Eastern-influenced guitar work and cracking drums?highly recommended, although those of you who know this album will need no encouragement, historical buffs note that David McNiven from Bread, Love and Dreams contributed the few lyrics (strange as they are) on this mostly instrumental album...

THE END - INTROSPECTION (DECCA 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 2 bonus

Although never achieving the success they deserved, the End are best remembered for their Bill Wyman-produced psychedelic-pop that was a masterful mixture of swirling, dream-like numbers, and flowery, but never twee, pop. Their Introspection album is now viewed as one of the finest examples of British psychedelia. Dave Brown and Colin Giffin formed the End in 1965 following the demise of beat group the Innocents. Nicky Graham and John Horton were drafted in from Dickie Pride's backing group, the Original Topics, and the line-up was completed with former Tuxedos drummer Roger Groom. After recording at the now legendary R.G. Jones' Morden studio, successful friend Bill Wyman arranged a tour with the Rolling Stones. They also appeared with Spencer Davis on ITV television's Thank Your Lucky Stars playing "Hallelujah I Love Her So." At this time their music was very much in the club-soul/blue-eyed soul style that was sweeping England by storm. Following the tour, Roger Groom quit to be replaced by Hugh Atwooll, a former school friend of Nicky Graham. John Horton also quit, but the split was amicable as he continued to help out on their second single, "Shades of Orange." Cut by Bill Wyman, with the addition of Charlie Watts on tabla, the song was recorded during the sessions for the Rolling Stones' psychedelic foray, Their Satanic Majesties Request. "Shades of Orange" epitomizes British Psychedelia and is one of the genre's most sought after items.
Following the single's release, Gordon Smith also left and was replaced by former Mode guitarist Terry Taylor. The band then decamped to Spain, where several singles were released domestically, including "Why," a Top Five hit in April 1967. By Christmas 1968, both Colin Giffin and Hugh Attwooll had left after recording the Introspection album, and although a new drummer, Paul Francis, was enlisted, the writing was on the wall. With the arrival of another Mode refugee, Jim Henderson, the End metamorphosed into the more progressive-sounding Tucky Buzzard. Introspection was delayed for over a year due to a fallout from the Rolling Stones' bust-up with Allen Klein and was musically the type of psychedelia that had gone out of fashion by the time of its December 1969 release. The band had changed name and style, leaving this glorious album to sink without a trace.[allmusic]

CAPABILITY BROWN - FROM SCRATCH (CHARISMA 1972) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Sextet Capability Brown were quintessentially multi-instrumentalists that could whip up CSN harmonies with the slightest of ease. The first watering was when ex Moments bassist Kenny Rowe, bassist /vocalist Tony Ferguson and percussionist Joe Williams from Tony Rivers’ folky Harmony Grass joined ex Gremlins Roger Willis and ex Fuzzy Duck guitarist/lute/balalaika player Grahame White to form Capability Brown. Under the Charisma umbrella the group launched their first single “War” in 1971 followed by the 1972 debut album From Scratch. The entirety of the album was a blend of art rock projection with a shimmer of Prog tracing on tracks like “Rayge” and the concept “Sole Survivor”, song about escaping the holocaust in a time machine. From Scratch had a lot of power as in the bass thundering “No Range” with Ferguson playing some sizzling flute coupled with Climax Blues styled harmonies. Atmospheric renditions of Rare Bird’s “Beautiful Scarlet” and “Red Man” plus a severing version of Argent’s “Liar” (Russ Ballard) / “Keep Death Off The Road” with White slicing emphatically was superb in the making. (later covered by Three Dog Night) These cats were harmony kings that could fuse folk with rock in the same spaces as Gentle Giant or Hookfoot. By 1973 Capability launched Voice which opened up with Affinity’s “I Am And So Are You” written by another Charisma student Alan Hull from Lindisfarne. This album holds their greatest number “Sad Am I” with a definite nod to Marmalade, Stealers Wheel or Iveys.
Capability Brown had and still have a cult following in UK music history as a "progressive" band, ultimately based on an outstanding piece from their second album, Voice. But largely their range covered mainstream pop music, treated in an "arty", alternative fashion. The band was a six-piece in which everyone sang and played instruments. The line-up consisted of Tony Ferguson (guitar, bass), Dave Nevin (keyboards, guitar, bass), Kenny Rowe (bass, percussion), Grahame White (guitar, lute, balalaika, keyboards), Joe Williams (percussion) and Roger Willis (drums, keyboards).
Ferguson and Nevin wrote the majority of the band's material, and the band also excelled in covers of obscure material (Rare Bird's Beautiful Scarlet and Redman, Argent's Liar, Affinity's I Am And So Are You and Steely Dan's Midnight Cruiser).
Capability Brown's forte was vocalizing. Together they sounded not unlike The Association: a massed choir of voices, ranging from baritone to high clean falsettos. Their first album, From Scratch, which included Liar, was average and unexceptional. The second album Voice, released in 1973, was their claim to fame, incorporating an over-20-minute richly melodic piece called Circumstances (In Love, Past, Present, Future Meet) - a stunning piece of music incorporating keyboards, a cappela voices, synthesizers and mellotrons, solo vocals, delicate harpsichord-like acoustic guitar sections, powerful electric guitar chords and massed vocal choirs.
The band did not manage to record again after this, and in 1974 Tony, Roger and Graham were recruited by friend and Christie member Roger Flavell to join his group, Christie for a tour of South America. Thus Capability Brown was no more.[progarchives]

Sep 30, 2011

TWICE AS MUCH - OWN UP + THATS ALL (IMMEDIATE 1966 & 1968) JVC K2 mastering cardboard sleeves + 2 bonus

One of the most anonymous-sounding acts of the British Invasion, Twice as Much was the duo of Dave Skinner and Andrew Rose, harmony singers who also wrote much of their own material. Signed to the Immediate label (run by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham), the pair recorded several singles and a couple of albums between 1966 and 1968. Most of these recordings were innocuous, pleasantly forgettable pop affairs in the Peter & Gordon/Chad & Jeremy mold, with light orchestral pop/rock arrangements that sometimes employed a touch of the Baroque. They had their only British Top 40 success with a cover of the Stones' "Sitting on a Fence"; although the Stones' version was one of their best cuts from the Between the Buttons era.
Twice as Much's debut album was an odd exercise in twee pop-Baroque production, very typical of producer Andrew Oldham's ornate, sometimes over-the-top grandiosity. The LP was evenly divided between group originals and covers of hits by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Small Faces. There was also the Spector-Goffin-King composition "Is This What I Get for Loving You Baby?" and "I Have a Love," both of which, coincidentally or not, were done in the mid-'60s by another one-time Oldham client, Marianne Faithfull. The originals, interestingly, were better, though hardly great. David Skinner and Andrew Rose were pleasant, though unexceptional, harmony singers, and played out their introverted, somewhat sad pop/ballads against orchestral production with heavy debts to the mid-'60s Beach Boys and California sunshine pop. "Life Is But Nothing" would be covered to good effect by Del Shannon on another Oldham production, and "Why Can't They All Go and Leave Me Alone?," in which the introversion slides into solipsism, is a notable obscure exercise in crashing, epic symphonic pop/rock. The covers do the originals no favors, emasculating classics like "Help" and "Sha La La La La Lee" into fey pop ballads suitable for upper-class parlors. Incidentally, there's a true all-star supporting cast on this record. The session musicians include guitarists Jimmy Page, John McLaughlin, Joe Moretti, and Big Jim Sullivan; drummer Andy White; keyboardists Nicky Hopkins and Art Greenslade (the latter of whom did the arrangements), and engineer Glyn Johns.

Twice as Much never got much more than a couple of dismissive comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel (to whom there's admittedly a slight vocal resemblance, although the U.K. duo's brand of lush psych-pop owes little to the New Yorkers' folk-rock roots) and a footnote in pop history for covering a Rolling Stones song on their first Immediate single ("Sitting on a Fence," the country-tinged opener here). This is a shame, because the vocal blend of Dave Skinner and Andrew Rose is simply gorgeous, and they were a dab hand as songwriters as well. Nothing on That's All is up to the level of "Night Time Girl," the album track from the debut, Own Up, that's among the loveliest songs of the entire psych-pop era, but this album is much more consistent than the patchy debut. Soft and gentle, along the lines of Chad and Jeremy's Of Cabbages and Kings, or perhaps Curt Boettcher's work, the album includes gems like a pair of Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane rarities, "Hey Girl" and the trippy "Green Circles," a dreamy take on the Dionne Warwick classic "You'll Never Get to Heaven," and an inspired medley of the ghostly original "Life Is But Nothing," with an oddly resigned version of Bobby Freeman's "Do You Wanna Dance." That's All is second-string work to be sure, but it's certainly of interest to all sunshine pop and lite-psych fans. [allmusic]

DINO VALENTE - DINO (EPIC 1968) Jap DSD mastering cardboard sleeve + 2 bonus

A fascinating enigma of the San Francisco psychedelic scene, Valente is most famed as the author of "Get Together." This definitive '60s love-and-peace anthem was recorded on the Jefferson Airplane's first album, and taken into the Top Ten by the Youngbloods. Valente was also an original member of Quicksilver Messenger Service, although drug busts meant that he did not actually perform and record with the group for about five years, by which time they were on the downside artistically. Prior to finally hooking up with Quicksilver, he also recorded a strange but attractive folk-psychedelic album as a solo act that, until its belated reissue on CD, was a rare and legendary psychedelic cult item.
Dino Valente's sole album recalls the one issued by another San Francisco artist signed to CBS in the late '60s, Skip Spence: quirky, lyrically vague, folky yet psychedelic, and nearly devoid of commercial potential in spite of its largely pleasant (if moody) melodies and textures. Valente, however, was not as intriguing a lyricist as Spence, nor as intensely soulful a vocalist, and overall much sunnier in tone. Valente had a rather whiny voice, so it was wise to put so much echo on both his 12-string guitar (which accounts for most of the instrumentation on the record) and vocals, which both covered up some of his vocal deficiencies and added a sheath of mystery. Listening to his songs is like listening to some hippie trying to talk a vulnerable, confused, attractive girl, on the rebound from a failed romance, into taking up with him as a panacea to her problems: phrases are uttered and rejoinders offered, but one can't be sure exactly what the situation is or where it's leading. It's not the insufferable experience this description might lead you to expect, mostly because of the enticing (if similar-sounding) melancholy of the tunes.The CD reissue added two previously unreleased tracks that are similar to the rest of the album in both mood and quality.[allmusic]


Musically, there is little to delineate the fifth long-player from Quicksilver Messenger Service, What About Me, from their previous effort, Just for Love. Not surprisingly, material for both was initiated during a prolific two-month retreat to the Opaelua Lodge in Haleiwa, HI, during May and June of 1970. The quartet version of Quicksilver Messenger Service -- which had yielded the band's first two LPs -- expanded once again to include Dino Valente (aka Chester A. Powers, Chet Powers, and most notably on this album, Jesse Oris Farrow) as well as British session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins. The additional talents of Mark Naftalin (keyboards) were incorporated when Hopkins was unavailable. This began his short stint with Quicksilver Messenger Service, which lasted through their sixth LP, Quicksilver (1972). The most apparent change in Quicksilver Messenger Service's sound can be directly attributed to the return of Valente. The group has departed the long, free-flowing improvisations that prevailed on both their self-titled debut and follow-up, Happy Trails. The songs are now shorter and more notably structured, with an added emphasis on Valente's compositions. The title track, "What About Me," became an ethical and sociological anthem with challenging and direct lyrical references to the political and social instability of the early '70s. Valente, whose songwriting credits on this disc are both numerous and attributed to his Farrow persona, also comes up with some passable introspective love songs, such as "Baby Baby" and "Long Haired Lady," as well as a couple of interesting collaborations with Gary Duncan (bass/vocals). The psychedelic samba "All in My Mind" also highlights the often overlooked percussive contributions from Jose Reyes. Two of the more distinguished entries on What About Me are John Cipollina's raunchy blues instrumental "Local Color" -- replete with a driving backbeat reminiscent of their take on the Robert Johnson standard "Walkin' Blues" -- as well as Nicky Hopkins' emotive "Spindrifter." [allmusic]

JORMA KAUKONEN with TOM HOBSON - QUAH (GRUNT/RCA 1974) Remastered + 4 bonus

Quah -- Jorma Kaukonen's (guitar/vocal) solo debut effort -- was recorded and issued shortly after the dissolution of Jefferson Airplane in 1974. In contrast to the sonic indulgences of Grace Slick's Manhole or Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship's Blows Against the Empire, Kaukonen retreated back to his folk-blues roots along with vocalist Tom Hobson -- who contributes to "Blue Prelude" and "Sweet Hawaiian Sunshine" -- to create this intricate acoustic masterwork. From the highly original artwork -- courtesy of Kaukonen's then-wife Margareta -- to the stark and beautiful melodies within the grooves, Quah is unlike any other recording from the era. Much of the album's vibe is strikingly similar to the final contributions that Kaukonen made to Jefferson Airplane. The most obvious and direct correlation being "Third Week at the Chelsea," which maintains much of the same intimacy as the tracks "Genesis," "Flying Clouds," and "Song for the North Star." Likewise, his admiration for folk, blues, and gospel -- which had first surfaced on the self-titled Hot Tuna debut release -- informs the content of this disc on his cover of Rev. Gary Davis' "I Am the Light of This World" as well as the haunting traditional blues "Another Man Done Gone"and Blind Boy Blake's understatedly ribald "Police Dog Blues." Tom Hobson's inimitable vocal delivery stands apart from Kaukonen's in a somewhat theatrical manner. His take on the noir torch song "Blue Prelude" could not be more dissimilar to the practically giddy "Sweet Hawaiian Sunshine." Yet both are equally functional in the context of the rest of the album. In 1987 Relix magazine issued a very limited pressing of Quah on CD. Tragically, it was not re-pressed and remains near the top of want lists from enthusiasts eager to retire worn vinyl copies. This disc is a timeless and highly underrated statement from one of the world's premier guitarists. It is worthy -- if not quietly demanding -- of repeated listening.[allmusic]

Aug 24, 2011

HOT TUNA - DOUBLE DOSE (GRUNT/RCA 1978) JVC K2 mastering cardboard sleeve

Hot Tuna, now a quartet with the official addition of keyboardist Nick Buck, released this two-LP live album, its first concert material in seven years, and having thus summed things up, broke up as the album hit record stores. Double Dose gave a good sense of mature Hot Tuna as a vehicle for the musical interests of Jorma Kaukonen, who used the entire first side as an acoustic solo set, then included the excellent "Genesis" from his solo album Quah on side B. Elsewhere, the electrified group alternated between Kaukonen's best Hot Tuna compositions and blues and rock standards. It was produced by Felix Pappalardi (Cream, Mountain), who gave Hot Tuna its best recorded sound; even though it's a "live" record, there seems to have been a lot of studio overdubbing. ~ William Ruhlmann
Side A
"Winin' Boy Blues" (Jelly Roll Morton) – 5:57
"Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning" (Reverend Gary Davis) – 3:08
"Embryonic Journey" (Jorma Kaukonen) – 1:56
"Killing Time in the Crystal City" (Kaukonen) – 6:35
Side B
"I Wish You Would" (Billy Boy Arnold) – 4:20
"Genesis" (Kaukonen) – 4:16
"Extrication Love Song" (Kaukonen) – 4:26
"Talking 'Bout You" (Chuck Berry) – 5:34
Side C
"Funky #7" (Kaukonen, Jack Casady) – 8:49
"Serpent of Dreams" (Kaukonen) – 6:43
"Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man" (Bobby Rush, Calvin Carter) – 4:51
Side D
"I See the Light" (Kaukonen) – 5:49
"Watch the North Wind Rise" (Kaukonen) – 4:58
"Sunrise Dance with the Devil" (Kaukonen) – 5:38
"I Can't Be Satisfied" (McKinley Morganfield) – 4:58

JEFFERSON STARSHIP - SPITFIRE (GRUNT/RCA 1976) JVC K2 mastering cardboard sleeve

Spitfire was Jefferson Starship's 1976 follow-up to the chart-topping Red Octopus (1975), and it found the band in a cooperative mood. All seven bandmembers earned writing credits on at least one of the nine songs, along with eight outsiders, and even drummer John Barbata got a lead vocal on the simple rock & roll song "Big City." But the three main power centers in the group remained in place. Singer/guitarist Paul Kantner continued to turn out his lengthy, complex songs with their exhortatory, vaguely political lyrics (the five-minute "Dance with the Dragon" and the seven-minute "Song to the Sun: Ozymandias/Don't Let It Rain"). Singer Grace Slick contributed her own idiosyncratic compositions, simultaneously elliptical and passionately stated ("Hot Water" and "Switchblade"). And singer Marty Balin, whose romantic ballad "Miracles" had fueled the success of Red Octopus, wrote (or located) and sang more songs of love and pleasure ("Cruisin'," "St. Charles," "With Your Love," and "Love Lovely Love"). Weaving the three styles together were the fluid lead guitar work of Craig Chaquico and the alternating bass and keyboard playing of David Freiberg and Pete Sears. The result was an album that quickly scaled the charts, spending six consecutive weeks at number three in Billboard and going platinum. That it didn't do better on the band's considerable career momentum can be put down to the relatively disappointing nature of the material. There was no "Miracles" on the album, to begin with. Grunt Records released the more modest "With Your Love" as a single and got it into the Top 20, but the closest thing to "Miracles" was really "St. Charles," a song that certainly had some of the same elements but lacked the kind of direct emotional statement that made "Miracles" a classic. Similarly, "Dance with the Dragon" was no "Ride the Tiger" (from Dragon Fly [1974]), and while "Switchblade" was an unusually clear statement of romantic intent from Slick (whose "lyrical wordplay is...not easily accessible yet compelling and thought-provoking," as 2004 reissue annotator Jeff Tamarkin generously says of "Hot Water"), its provocative title made it an unlikely choice for an adult contemporary hit. Spitfire was more than the sum of its parts, boasting the sort of vocal interplay and instrumental virtuosity that had always been the hallmarks of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. If the band had taken more time to write and find better songs, it might have matched the sales and quality of its predecessor.[allmusic]

RENAISSANCE - PROLOGUE (SOVEREIGN/CAPITOL 1972) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

The first album by the '70s (i.e. Annie Haslam) version of Renaissance is a transitional work, rooted in more standard hard rock sounds (including psychedelia) than what followed. One can spot the difference, which may please some listeners and put others off, in the fairly heavy guitar sound of "Prologue," Rob Hendry's electric instrument playing both lead and rhythm parts prominently at various times behind Annie Haslam's soaring vocals and adjacent to John Tout's piano. "Kiev" may also startle some longtime fans, since Haslam doesn't handle the lead vocals, the male members' singing being much more prominent. The ethereal, flowingly lyrical "Sounds of the Sea" is the cut here that most resembles the music that the group became known for in the years ahead, and shows Haslam singing in the high register for which she would become famous. "Spare Some Love," with its prominent folky acoustic guitar, also anticipates material (specifically "Let It Grow" and "On The Frontier") off of the group's better known second album, Ashes Are Burning. "Bound For Infinity" marked the final creative contribution by co-founder Jim McCarty, of the '60s version of Renaissance, and is pretty enough even if it doesn't fit in anywhere with their subsequent sound. And the 11-minute epic "Rajah Khan," with its elements of raga-rock, including sitar-like passages on Hendry's electric guitars and an extended VCS 3 synthesizer solo by Francis Monkman, is a more advanced and virtuoso descendant of late '60s psychedelia. It, too, has little to do with the sound that the group subsequently adopted (although it does intersect, in the most peripheral way, with "Song of Scheherazade" and some of the other Eastern-theme works that preceded it), but the track is entertaining and does show off a startlingly different type of art-rock toward which this group could have gravitated. The sound is clean, and this version of Prologue is to be preferred over Capitol's abortive attempt to reissue it in the late 1980's as In The Beginning, which cut some of the material and had totally lackluster sound.[allmusic]