Aug 27, 2009

ALAN HULL - PIPEDREAM (CHARISMA 1973) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Best known as the co-founder, leader, and principal songwriter of the Newcastle folk-based rock band Lindisfarne, Alan Hull also pursued a successful career as a solo performer, specializing in original songs. At one time, amid Lindisfarne's early successes, Hull was being hailed as the most innovative songwriter since Bob Dylan, and although Lindisfarne's subsequent albums didn't remotely achieve this level of promise, his solo material was consistently strong. Hailing from Newcastle, where he was born in 1945, Hull took up the guitar as a boy, and became a member of the band the Chosen Few alongside keyboard player (and future Ian Dury alumnus) Mickey Gallagher, in 1962. That band, which specialized in Tamla-Motown covers, was signed to Pye Records for a time and Hull first emerged as a songwriter of considerable promise within their ranks, generating some very strong original numbers including the single "Today Tonight and Tomorrow." Hull exited the group in 1966 and gravitated toward a more folk-oriented sound in his playing, singing, and songwriting, which brought him into a band called Downtown Faction, who eventually evolved into Lindisfarne; he supported himself one year by working as a nurse at a mental hospital, before Lindisfarne came together. As author of many of their most popular songs as well as one of their principal singers, Hull came to be regarded as the de facto leader of the group, which may have contributed to its splintering in 1973. He recorded solo albums periodically beginning with 1973's Pipedream on the Charisma label, which included the services of second-generation Lindisfarne guitarist/keyboardman Ken Craddock as well as original members Ray Jackson and Ray Laidlaw...

Aug 19, 2009

JAMES GANG - THIRDS (ABC 1971) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

The James Gang Rides Again set the stage for the group's third album to propel them to Top Ten, headliner status, but that didn't happen. The band was on its last legs, rent by dissension as Walsh became the focus of attention, and the appropriately titled Thirds reflected the conflict. Among the nine original songs, four were contributed by Walsh, two each by bass player Dale Peters and drummer Jim Fox, and one was a group composition. But it was Walsh's songs that stood out. His "Walk Away," was the first single, and it climbed into the Top 40 in at least one national chart, the group's only 45 to do that well. "Midnight Man," the follow-up single, was another Walsh tune, and it also made the charts. The Fox and Peters compositions were a step down in quality, particularly Peters'. But the problem wasn't just material, it was also musical approach. James Gang Rides Again had emphasized the band's hard rock sound, which was its strong suit. But they had never given up the idea of themselves as an eclectic unit, and Thirds was their most diverse effort yet, with pedal steel guitar, horn and string charts, and backup vocals by the Sweet Inspirations turning up on one track or another. At a time when Walsh was being hailed as a guitar hero to rank with the best rock had to offer, he was not only submerging himself in a group with inferiors, but also not playing much of the kind of lead guitar his supporters were raving about. As a result, though Thirds quickly earned a respectable chart position and eventually went gold, it was not the commercial breakthrough that might have been expected...(allmusic)

JAMES GANG - YER' ALBUM (ABC-BLUESWAY 1969) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Formed in 1967 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, the embryonic James Gang comprised Glenn Schwartz (guitar/vocals), Tom Kriss (bass/vocals) and Jim Fox (drums/vocals). Schwartz left in April 1969 to join Pacific Gas And Electric, but Joe Walsh (b. Joseph Fidler Walsh, 20 November 1947, Wichita, Kansas, USA) proved a more than competent replacement. Yer' Album blended originals with excellent interpretations of material drawn from Buffalo Springfield ("Bluebird") and the Yardbirds ("Lost Woman"). The band enjoyed the approval of Pete Townshend, who admired their mature cross-section of British and "west coast" rock.
The James Gang's debut LP, Yer' Album, was very much a first record and very much a record of its time. The heavy rock scene of the period was given to extensive jamming, and four tracks ran more than six minutes each. The group had written some material, but they were still something of a cover band, and the disc included their extended workouts on Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird" and the Yardbirds' "Lost Woman," the latter a nine-minute version complete with lengthy guitar, bass, and drum solos. But in addition to the blues rock there were also touches of pop and progressive rock, mostly from Walsh who displayed a nascent sense of melody, not to mention some of the taste for being a cutup that he would display in his solo career. Walsh's "Take a Look Around" must have made an impression on Pete Townshend during the period before the album's release when the James Gang was opening for the Who since Townshend borrowed it for the music he was writing for the abortive Lifehouse follow-up to Tommy. If "Wrapcity (i.e., Rhapsody) in English," a minute-long piano and strings interlude, seems incongruous in retrospect, recall that this was an eclectic era. But the otherwise promising "Fred," which followed, broke down into a pedestrian jazz routine, suggesting that the band was trying to cram too many influences onto one record and sometimes into one song. Nevertheless, they were talented improvisers, as the open-ended album closer, Jerry Ragavoy and Mort Shuman's "Stop," made clear. After ten minutes, Szymczyk faded the track out, but Walsh was still going strong. Yer' Album contained much to suggest that the James Gang, in particular its guitarist, had a great future, even if it was more an album of performances than compositions...(allmusic)

Aug 10, 2009

IAN MATTHEWS - IF YOU SAW THRO' MY EYES (VERTIGO 1971) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

In late 1970, shortly after his band Matthews Southern Comfort hit number one in Great Britain with its version of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," Ian Matthews decided that he needed more creative freedom and left for a solo career. The subsequent album, If You Saw Thro' My Eyes, his fourth and best release since leaving Fairport Convention in 1969, was recorded and released within the next few months. It also reunited him with former Fairport bandmates Sandy Denny, who had left the band in late 1969, and Richard Thompson, who would depart by the time of this album's release. Both would bring their distinctive personalities to the proceedings without ever overwhelming Matthews' own vision. As a bandleader and songwriter, Matthews' growth is quite evident here, guiding a stellar cast through seven excellent new originals and three well-chosen covers (also included is the a cappella "Hinge" and its instrumental reprise). Throughout, Matthews' sweet yet evocative tenor is perfect for the material, which succeeds in its blend of British and American folk, rock, and pop. Furthermore, he once again shows a keen eye for the work of others, while also proving his prowess as a first-rate interpretive singer. A pair of songs written by the late folksinger Richard Farina -- "Reno, Nevada" (resurrected from Ian's days with Fairport) and "Morgan the Pirate" -- are given fresh, inspired readings, highlighted by Thompson, Tim Renwick, and Andy Roberts' superb guitar interplay, providing a real folk-rock edge. But it's the beautiful, prayerlike title track that is the record's crowning moment. Joined simply by Denny's piano and breathtaking second vocal, along with a tasteful backwards guitar interlude by Renwick, Matthews' quiet plea for guidance is as moving and personal a song as he's ever recorded. A number of other highlights, such as "Hearts," "Southern Wind," "It Came Without Warning," and "You Couldn't Lose," make If You Saw Thro' My Eyes one of the best efforts by a Fairport alumnus...

Aug 3, 2009

JOY OF COOKING - CASTLES (CAPITOL 1972) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Joy Of Cooking were formed in Berkeley (San Francisco Bay Area) during the hippie era (1967). Their fusion sound, incorporating folk, rock, jazz, gospel and blues, had little in common with acid-rock: it heralded a new era of "creativity" and of stylistic re-evalutation.
One of the first bands led by female musicians, and one of the earliest to deal with feminist issues within popular music, the Joy Of Cooking were led by pianist Toni Brown (who had graduated in creative writing) and guitarist Terry Garthwaite (a folk-singer and an aspiring sociologist). The three-unit rhythm section, on the other hand, was entirely male. Hampered by the fact of not being the typical rock band, the Joy Of Cooking gathered a lot of critical attention but never enjoyed any commercial success. In fact, they were formed in 1967 but had to wait four years before recording an album (they were all over 30 by then). Their albums Joy Of Cooking (Capitol, jan 1971), that includes Brownsville-Mockingbird, Red Wine At Noon and Did You Go Downtown, Closer to the Ground (aug 1971), highlighted by the anthemic title-track, New Colorado Blues, Humpty-Dumpty, Pilot and The War You Left, and Castles (may 1972), with another string of soulful gems (Home Town Man, Beginning Tomorrow, Three Day Loser, Bad Luck Blues, Don't The Moon Look fat and Lonesome) displayed a sophisticated sense of melody and flexible song structures. The instrumental score crafted laid-back atmospheres that Brown's fragile contralto and Terry Garthwaite's gospel passion turned into cohesive statements of real life.
Joy of Cooking was the first rock band to have at its heart two great women as lead singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists. The subject matter is still mostly love and loss, but the emotions are adult, and not caught in the hysterics of melodrama. This is a fine album all around, from the rocking "Don't the Moon Look Fat and Lonesome" through the deeply heartfelt blues at the end. "Let Love Carry You Along" is a great anthem from that era, just as positive and uplifting now as it was then. But these are not "message" songs that are long on intellectual substance and short on musicality and rock. They are balanced, with catchy tunes, excellent arrangements, and a subtle, folk/jazz/rock ensemble executing everything very nicely. If you want songs that speak to our lives with clarity and maturity, and that you can still hum along with and stamp your feet to, and get carried away in the emotion, this is your kind of album. Joy of Cooking put out only 3 albums and didn't last long (Brown and Garthwaite split and pursued solo careers), but the legacy they left us is a fine one.

Aug 2, 2009

TRAMP - PUT A RECORD ON (SPARK 1974) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve

Tramp were a British blues band active during the late 1960s and early 1970s on an intermittent basis. This on/off activity and the loose, transient nature of the band's line-up were reflected in the group's name.
The line-up centred around the brother-sister pairing of Dave Kelly and Jo Ann Kelly, and included various members of Fleetwood Mac, plus various session musicians. The band released two albums; Tramp in 1969, and Put A Record On in 1974. All members participated in many other projects before, after and even during their time with Tramp.

Recording sessions involving musicians who do not regularly work together can be notoriously unproductive, the shelves of second hand record shops are littered with dusty remnants of what might have been a great session.
Happily 'Tramp' is a very fine exception to this rule, perhaps because although there is plenty of creative and spontaneous playing on these tracks, the songs themselves, written by Bob Hall and Dennis Cotton, are economical, witty and tightly constructed; there are no twelve minute guitar solos on this record. Every musician contributed hugely to the overall strength of performance that is obvious throughout the set. Dave and Jo-Anne Kelly are renowned for their ability as blues singers, and they tackled each song whole-heartedly, often adding new ideas whilst actually recording. Bob Hall is surely the finest boogie pianist in Britain, and has never played better than on these sessions. Bob Brunning is also a highly experienced bass player who has worked and recorded with many blues giants, forming a unit with Bob Hall which has become much in demand by impressed visiting American performers, many of whom have invited them back to the States to form a permanent band! Mick Fleetwood has been the mainstay of Fleetwood Mac for a long time, and when one listens to this exciting playing on this album, one can see why - listen to his inspired and absolutely spontaneous drum lead in during the entirely unrehearsed piano break in 'Too Late For That Now' which leads incidentally to one of the most exciting solos heard in a long while. Danny Kirwan plays crisply and economically, showing his ability, unusual among rock guitarists - to know when not to play, nevertheless turning in some pleasing solos. Dave Brooks proves just how easily he recently stole the show on some of the '73 American Blues Legends performances, and last but not least, percussionist Ian Morton adds a lot of excitement to the proceedings. Here then is a fresh and exciting album representing of more than worthwhile gathering together of some well known musical 'Tramps'.

...and TRAMP are:
Founder member of Fleetwood Mac. He played on all their hit records and is currently spending most of his time touring the U.S.A. He is an old friend of Bob Brunning who he played with in Fleetwood Mac.
Replaced Peter Green as the lead guitarist in Fleetwood Mac and previously had his own band 'Boilerhouse'. He is currently forming a new band and is touring the U.S.A. He appeared on Volume One of Tramp, replacing Peter Green as he was unavailable.
Tenor Player for Manfred Mann, currently freelancing and doing session work.
Lead guitarist and vocalist with the John Dummer Band, he has made several albums with John Dummer and also two under his own name.
Sister of Dave Kelly, she was once dubbed by Melody Maker as Queen of British Blues Singers and has made two albums under her own name. She has toured the U.S.A. and is returning for a further visit.
Bass player with Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown. He left to continue his career as a teacher, he is working with Tramp and is also a member of a band he got together with Bob Hall, The Sunflower Blues Band.
BOB HALL - Piano
Together with Bob Brunning, he has recorded and toured with a number of American Blues men. He co-wrote all the songs on the album and has made over thirty LP's with various bands including Savoy Brown.
IAN MORTON - Percussion