Apr 28, 2011
JOHNNY TILLOTSON - BEST [His First Album] (CADENCE 1962) JVC K2 HD mastering cardboard sleeve + 12 bonus
Tillotson was born April 20, 1939, in Jacksonville, FL, the son of Jack Tillotson, a country music disc jockey, and Doris Tillotson. When Tillotson was nine, he moved 40 miles to the smaller Florida town of Palatka. He got his first exposure as a singer on his father's radio station while he was still a child. His primary interest was country music, although he was inspired when he saw Elvis Presley perform in Jacksonville on May 13, 1955, just after he had turned 14. Meanwhile, his radio work led to a stint on a local TV show and even his own program. But he maintained his studies, and he was attending the University of Florida as a journalism and composition major in 1957 when he entered a national talent contest sponsored by Pet Milk. He was chosen as one of six finalists, resulting in a trip to Nashville, TN, for the final judging. He did not win the contest, but while in Nashville he came to the attention of a song publisher who was impressed by songs he had written and got a tape of them to Archie Bleyer, owner of the independent Cadence Records label, home to the Everly Brothers and Andy Williams. Bleyer signed Tillotson to a three-year contract and, in September 1958, issued his first single, combining two of the singer's own compositions, the ballad "Dreamy Eyes" and the up-tempo "Well I'm Your Man," both of which bore similarities to the sound of Buddy Holly. "Well I'm Your Man" charted first, peaking at number 87 in the Hot 100 in October, but "Dreamy Eyes" followed, topping out at number 63 in January 1959. (The simultaneously released "I'm Never Gonna Kiss You," a duet with Genevieve, a singer on the Jack Parr TV show, did not chart.)
The relative failure of "Dreamy Eyes" sent Tillotson back to college, where he received his B.A. in 1959; that August 1959 Cadence released his next single, "True True Happiness," a song in the currently popular teen pop style, complete with recitations of romantic devotion; it petered out at number 54 in September. "Why Do I Love You So," which followed in December, suggested that Tillotson had been listening closely to Ricky Nelson's 1958 hit "Poor Little Fool"; it reached number 42 in February 1960. Next, Bleyer tried having Tillotson cover a couple of old R&B hits, combining the Penguins' "Earth Angel" and Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love." Disc jockeys couldn't seem to decide which side of the single to play, and both peaked in the bottom half of the Hot 100 in May.
Tillotson broke through to success with his sixth single, the bouncy pop/rock tune "Poetry in Motion," released in September 1960. He and Bleyer had finally found an appropriate forum for his clear tenor voice, recording with a Nashville studio full of country music session stars like saxophonist Boots Randolph and pianist Floyd Cramer. "Poetry in Motion" peaked at number two in November 1960; in the U.K., it hit number one in January 1961. Instead of immediately turning to extensive personal appearances, however, on Bleyer's advice Tillotson focused primarily on his recording career, though he appeared on television and began to be featured in teen magazines. "Jimmy's Girl," his next single, responded to this teen idol image, but it stopped at number 25 in February 1961. Singing another of his own compositions, Tillotson produced "Without You," a dramatic, string-filled production in the manner of Roy Orbison; it reached number seven in September 1961. Cadence then re-released Tillotson's first single, "Dreamy Eyes," and it got to number 35 in January 1962.[allmusic]
JOHNNY TILLOTSON - IT KEEPS RIGHT ON A-HURTIN' (CADENCE 1962) JVC K2 HD mastering cardboard sleeve + 9 bonus
Tillotson recorded his most successful self-written song, "It Keeps Right on a-Hurtin'," inspired by the terminal illness of his father. The song was given an overtly country arrangement, although Tillotson, as usual, sang it with his unaccented enunciation, without a hint of a country twang. Nevertheless, it became his first country chart hit, peaking at number four, while getting to number three in the pop chart (and even making number six in the R&B chart). And it earned him his first Grammy nomination, for Best Country & Western Recording. It also went on to become a much-covered country-pop standard, recorded by Elvis Presley and by Billy Joe Royal, whose version was a Top 20 country hit in 1988, as well as, by Tillotson's count, over 100 others, among them Bobby Darin, Sonny James, Hank Locklin, Dean Martin, Boots Randolph, Conway Twitty, Slim Whitman, and the Wilburn Brothers. By the time it was peaking in the charts in the spring of 1962, Tillotson was serving a six-month stint of active duty in the Army, having enlisted in the National Guard to satisfy his military obligation. But he was given weekend furloughs to allow him to continue to record, and he used them to cut his first LP of new recordings (following the 1961 hits collection Johnny Tillotson's Best), also called It Keeps Right on a-Hurtin'. Released in June 1962, the disc, a Top Ten hit, found Tillotson covering a series of country standards, and Cadence proceeded to dole many of them out as singles over the rest of the year: a cover of Hank Locklin's "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On" made the pop and country Top 20 and the Top Ten of the easy listening chart, and a cover of Hank Williams' "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)" (backed by another Williams standard, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry") made the pop Top 40 and the easy listening Top Ten.
When Tillotson returned to recording in early 1963, his new self-written single, "Out of My Mind," was another country-style ballad, although it did not reach the country charts and peaked at number 24 on the Hot 100 in April. "You Can Never Stop Me Loving You," which followed July, was more of a pop song, and it returned Tillotson to the Top 20. (Its B-side, "Judy, Judy, Judy," which Tillotson co-wrote with Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, was featured in the singer's film debut, the B-picture Just for Fun, which opened in June.)
Although he had renewed his contract with Cadence for an additional three years in April 1961, Tillotson was released from his obligation as the label wound down in 1963; it went out of business in 1964...[allmusic]
Apr 20, 2011
Rick Price is probably the least famous member of the Move (with whom he had a stint in the late '60s and early '70s), and it comes as a surprise even to some major Move fans to learn that he recorded a solo album shortly after leaving the group. If the equally obscure LP he'd done with Mike Sheridan in 1970 (This Is to Certify That...) sometimes sounded, in a good way, like Move-lite, Talking to the Flowers was yet milder, though not at all bad. Traces of the poppiest sides of the Move and late Beatles are highly audible on this likable if low-key set, sometimes with slight country and orchestral pop tinges to the arrangements. Price doesn't have the greatest voice in the world -- you can hear why he wasn't going to displace Roy Wood, Carl Wayne, or Jeff Lynne as a primary vocalist in the Move, for instance -- but it has an acceptably pleasant tone that's not far afield from those singers' styles. His songs (some written with Mike Sheridan) are nice slices of non-saccharine, occasionally Paul McCartney-esque early-'70s British pop/rock, too, mixed with less impressive but acceptable covers of songs by Tim Hardin and Neil Diamond, as well as a version of an obscure Everly Brothers song in the title track. It all adds up to something worth hearing for Move fans.
The bonus here is an unreleased solo album Price recorded shortly after Talking to the Flowers that's similar, but less impressive and developed; and some other non-LP material from the era.
THE MAGIC SOUND OF THE "IDLE RACE","MOVE", & "E.L.O." FAMILY.
RICK PRICE & MIKE SHERIDAN - THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT... (GEMINI 1970) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve + 3 bonus
Rick Price is probably the least-known member of the Move, if only because he never really established a well-defined musical (or personal) identity of his own, as the other members did. In the latter regard, Ace Kefford can be pigeonholed (fairly or not) as a drug/acid casualty, Roy Wood as a genius, Jeff Lynne as a pop genius, Trevor Burton as a frustrated rock & roller, the late Carl Wayne as a pop/rock crooner, and Bev Bevan as one of the two or three best drummers ever to come out of Birmingham. But who, apart from some really inquisitive Move fans, really knows anything about Rick Price? His most visible work from the most widely covered part of his career, the Rick Price & Mike Sheridan collaboration referred to as This Is to Certify: Gemini Anthology, released at the start of the 1970s, seems hardly to have sold at all in its own time. And since then, he's had to stand in the shadow of the similarly named Australian vocalist.
An astonishingly good collection of the post-Move recordings of Rick Price, both solo and in his collaboration with Birmingham rock singer Mike Sheridan, originally cut for Gemini Records and released circa 1970. The music is an often appealing mix of psychedelia, pop/rock, and art rock, rather McCartney-esque at times but in the best possible way -- think of the production on "Martha My Dear" and "Your Mother Should Know," and the texture of the Move's "Beautiful Daughter" from the Shazam album and you've got the idea...is a vital addendum to the Move's history, and at least as essential listening as the first ELO album.[allmusic]
THE MAGIC SOUND OF THE "IDLE RACE","MOVE" & "E.L.O." FAMILY.
Apr 13, 2011
Immensely popular in his native Canada, singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn has found only cult success south of the border, in spite of a rich, varied body of work and considerable critical nods. He has won numerous Juno Awards and has kept the quality control on most of his albums at a high level. Cockburn's first decade of work (1970-1979) is largely literate, singer/songwriter folk-rock, often with a strong Christian tone and mystical, devotional lyrics. In 1979, Cockburn had his only major U.S. single, "Wondering Where the Lions Are," which peaked at number 21. The accompanying album, Dancing in the Dragon's Jaw, saw him augmenting his music with worldbeat rhythms, an approach he would continue over his next few albums
Bruce Cockburn's self-titled debut's blend of diversity, enthusiasm, and innocence never quite resurfaced again in his work, especially in his more clinical, politically inclined tracts of later decades. The opening number, "Going to the Country," still evokes that hippie-esque, back-to-the-earth movement as well as any song ever recorded, complete with a sly wink that keeps it fresh to this day. And since this was 1970, the album also comes equipped with some of those quaint excesses of the period; try the nasal tone poem gracing "The Bicycle Trip." "Musical Friends" remains a lively, happy-go-lucky classic with piano signature lifted from Paul McCartney's playbook; it's difficult to picture the dour Cockburn of more recent years ever having this much fun. In contrast, "Thoughts on a Rainy Afternoon" offers a trance-like, introspective atmosphere reminiscent of British folkie legend Nick Drake.[allmusic]
One of the most significant bands of the late 1960's Pentangle along with Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention defined the whole of the folk rock movement and helped to influence a whole generation of musicians and guitarists. Bert Jansch, John Renbourne and Danny Thompson had few equals and Jaquie McShee's achingly pure vocals were the perfect counterpoint to their sensational ensemble playing. "Basket of Light" was by far their most commercially successful release and still sounds as fresh and bold as it did four decades ago.
Although Sweet Child is usually cited as the group's high-water mark, Basket of Light finds them at their most progressive and exciting. Highlights of this album -- which actually reached the Top Five in the U.K. -- include the buzzing jazz dynamics of "Light Flight," their moving rendition of the traditional folk song "Once I Had a Sweetheart," their reinvention of the girl group smash "Sally Go Round the Roses," and "Springtime Promises," one of their finest original tunes...
Apr 9, 2011
A pop and standards singer during his long career, Kenny Rankin debuted in 1967 with his first album, Mind Dusters, which featured the soft rock hit "Peaceful." Over the course of the early '70s, Rankin slowly built up a following with a steady stream of records and performances that balanced originals, new songs, and standards. As the decade drew to a close, he began to return to his singer/songwriter roots, particularly on After the Roses, his 1980 debut for Atlantic Records. He continued to perform during the '80s, but he only recorded sporadically. In 1991, he recorded a pair of albums, Hiding in Myself and Because of You, for two separate labels. Three years later, he signed with Private Music and released Professional Dreamer, an album that found him concentrating on standards.
An ideal representation of the acoustic and ethereal side of the early, winsome singer/songwriter sound, this promising debut only hints at Rankin's traditional pop and world music vision. The Tin Pan Alley and ethnic roots of the music he grew up with in New York City are obscured by his alignment with the sounds of some of the artists he covers on the record, including Bob Dylan ("Mr. Tambourine Man"), Gordon Lightfoot ("Song for a Winter's Night"), and, most successfully, Fred Neil ("Dolphin"). "Cotton Candy Sandman" perfectly captures the gauzy, warm glow of mellow love that permeated the musical mood of 1967. The highlight of the album is Rankin's own composition, the inviting "Peaceful," which foreshadows his later work. While the long-out-of-print album only shows glimpses of his full abilities, it has a quaint, antiquated '60s charm and even includes liner notes from none other than Johnny Carson.[allmusic]
Apr 6, 2011
Hatfield and the North were the supergroup of England's Canterbury progressive rock scene, with bassist and vocalist Richard Sinclair from Caravan, guitarist Phil Miller from Matching Mole, keyboardist Dave Stewart from Egg, and drummer Pip Pyle from Gong and Delivery. This brilliant and inventive debut album is a cross between sophisticated, precisely executed jazz-rock and dry-humored, often surreal pop. The album consists of short pieces blended into a Zappa-like collage, providing a thematic work that bests even the most eccentric jazz-rock by bands like Soft Machine.[allmusic]
Hatfield and the North's second LP stands as a high watermark for the prog rock associated with England's Canterbury scene and, while filled with stunning musicianship, demonstrates both the strengths and some of the weaknesses of the Hatfield style. Dave Stewart on keyboards, Phil Miller on guitar, Richard Sinclair on bass and vocals, and Pip Pyle on drums (supplemented by a few guest instrumentalists and the ever-ethereal Northettes with their "la la" backing vocals) generally show an admirable sense of restraint and, like their Canterbury peers, are careful to avoid the pomposity and bombast of better-known prog rockers of the era, such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes. But the Hatfields might actually have been light to a fault, particularly whenever a segue from one of their convoluted instrumental passages into a Richard Sinclair vocal vehicle occurred. Sinclair shares a bit of Robert Wyatt's singing approach, or at least Wyatt's more whimsical side, but his polite and mellow croon, while pleasant, is less idiosyncratic and ultimately rather bland. And, don' t look for much importance from the songs' nearly empty lyrical content; perhaps this was another conscious attempt to steer clear of the pretentiousness of the typically overbearing prog rock song style, but the words leave precious little to sink the listener's teeth into. Things actually get off to a relatively strong start with "Share It," a catchy little number with Sinclair expressing some idealistic and hard-to-criticize Brit hippie sentiments. At the several other places where vocals crop up, however, it's all a bit empty-headed and self-referential. Thankfully, these songs are few and far between, but they're still rather hard to avoid; the Hatfields were masters of the segue and the most masterly demonstrations of instrumental technique wind up bleeding into some pretty dumb stuff from Sinclair's pipes. (In fairness, he isn't credited with writing all the words he wound up singing.) Nevertheless, Stewart, Miller, and Pyle all make some wonderful statements, as does Sinclair on bass for that matter. Particularly noteworthy are Miller's two short jazzy instrumentals, "Lounging There Trying" and "Underdub," which, with their sparkling electric piano work from Stewart, have a light and airy improvisational feel despite rather thorough scoring; Pyle's propulsive "Yes No Interlude" with its furious melding of Stewart's keyboards and the sax of guest Jimmy Hastings; and Stewart's 20-minute opus "Mumps." The latter is particularly impressive, with everything anyone would want from an extended-form Canterbury-style workout. The piece ebbs and flows through nimbly executed thematic passages and variations, featuring one of Stewart's most compelling themes and also one of the best fuzz organ solos that he (or Mike Ratledge or David Sinclair for that matter) ever recorded. Then, smack dab in the middle of it all, here comes Sinclair with a throwaway tune using letters of the alphabet as words; it really interrupts the flow. Everything is retrieved with a dramatic instrumental coda, though, melding spacy effects, more great organ playing from Stewart, and spectacularly executed unison lines from Miller and Hastings in crescendo before the final fade...[allmusic]
The best of Bo Hansson's albums, and one of the few progressive rock instrumental recordings that still holds up on repeated listening. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy provide the inspiration for a series of strange, other-worldly tracks that transcend their source material. Hansson's keyboard playing is quite unlike the work of such rivals as Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman, less heavy and "gothic" and more oriented toward jazz. His guitar work as is flashy and aggressive as his keyboards ("The Black Riders/Flight to the Ford" is a great showcase for both), and the backing by sax, flute, and drums creates an overall rich sonic palette.[allmusic]
The most ambitious and successful of their early albums, Horslips' most progressive creation, and maybe the most successful rock concept album ever done. The Tain is rock put into the service of epic storytelling (or is it the other way around?), based on the Irish saga Tain Bo Cuailgne ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley"), part of the Ulster Cycle of Heroic Tales. It tells of war and carnage brought about over the possession of a white bull, inspired by events estimated to have taken place around 500 B.C. This is a long way from Chuck Berry or Little Richard, but it does rock hard, and unlike a lot of progressive rock, The Tain displays considerable tension and momentum. Some listeners will detect modest similarities to Jethro Tull's work (especially on "Charolais"), but there's a lot less meandering here than there is on any Tull album, the flute playing is better, and the material moves forward in a fairly nimble fashion. It would be easy to praise John Fean's guitar, but Jim Lockhart's flute is just as impressive, Charles O'Connor's violin playing is gorgeous, and Eamonn Carr's drumming is dazzling. And the vocals are quite good too, sweet but earthy and honest, and not self-consciously profound -- these boys had ambition, but they weren't full of themselves or too given to pretensions.[allmusic]
The Seeds were an exceptional band that never achieved the success that they inspired. This album has a truly psychedelic cover with too-dark-for-pastel colors, swirling letters over eerie faces, and dynamic black and white photos on the back. If you want to see the image of Iggy Pop clothed, just look at Sky Saxon in the bottom right photo on the back cover with the screaming girl holding a flower grabbing at him. He had the image down, as well as the music. "900 Million People Daily All Making Love" sounds so much like the Doors and Jim Morrison's "When the Music's Over," one has to wonder which came first, or did they copy each other? "Mumble and Bumble" is a trippy "Alabama Song," but where Morrison is looking for the next whiskey bar, Saxon is off looking for flowers and magic mushrooms. The band has great energy which is pierced by annoying canned applause a la the Rolling Stones' Got Live If You Want It. This is a record album, not a situation comedy TV show, after all; what's the point of overdubbing an audience onto what is really good music? Sure, "No Escape" is a prelude to the closer and hit "Pushin' Too Hard" with a tip of the hat to Martha & the Vandellas, while "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" is placed nicely in mid-set, a song after the truncated "Up in Her Room." The revelation that is this "concert" album is what a great band the Seeds really were, and how Sky Saxon's vocals have a gritty edge that he held back on us in many of the studio recordings. "Gypsy Plays His Drums" has a great chug-chug guitar, nice off-key backing vocals, and a driving pulse which is present throughout the performance. If you can ignore the extraneous additions, a song like "Forest Outside Your Door" shows really how creative and influential this pioneering band was, while "Satisfy You" is Saxon's direct sexual rock to Mick Jagger's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." Sky claims he can get satisfaction, and can satisfy you at the same time. He then veers off into more familiar psychedelic territory with "Night Time Girl" which combines the sex and the psychedelia. If they taught rock & roll in school, "Raw & Alive" would have to be the textbook for image, design, and content.[allmusic]
SKY SAXON BLUES BAND - A FULL SPOON OF SEEDY BLUES (GNP CRESCENDO 1968) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve
With liner notes by Muddy Waters, a cover of Water's tune "Plain Spoken," and two titles written by Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson, the trend-conscious Sky Saxon takes his Seeds into a world far removed from punk and garage rock. This may be the only album that doesn't contain a variation of the "Pushin' Too Hard" riff, and that might not be a good thing. Six minutes and four seconds of Sky Saxon's "Cry Wolf" is too long for blues this lightweight. Saxon plays a cool harp, but his Sam the Sham-style vocals are not going to cause Buddy Guy any sleepless nights, nor would George Guy find them amusing. This is one of the great garage rock bands of all time fooling around, and that GNP Crescendo gave them so much latitude is absolutely amazing. Muddy Waters' "Plain Spoken" gets a reverent treatment, and perhaps that's all one could ask. There was a search on for Howard Tate and when he was rediscovered the reviews for his latter-day work were outstanding. This album won't have DJs and blues enthusiasts seeking out the Seeds to do a national House of Blues tour, but the funny thing is, decades after this was recorded, they might actually have earned the right to attempt working in such sacred territory. "The Gardener," at four minutes and 57 seconds, sounds as long as "Cry Wolf." Saxon gives us some cool keyboards and wailing mouth harp, but his vocals really are more suited to a Seeds/Standells/Strawberry Alarm Clock class reunion, and halfway through the track you'll have had enough. Having the intuition to cover two Luther Johnson songs, "Pretty Girl" and the up-tempo "One More Time Blues," is commendable. Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson performed with Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, and the inclusion of his material adds a legitimacy. "Creepin' About" is amusing, but would have been more so had Sky Saxon actually got Luther Johnson or Muddy Waters or Etta James to guest star on his material. They look like the Seeds on the cover, and it is just too bad they didn't borrow a few ideas from Big Brother & the Holding Company and put some psychedelia into the grooves. Marcus Tybalt totally missed the mark in producing this, but it does have some merit for reasons already mentioned.[allmusic]