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]