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Sunday, 31 March 2019
Released in 1975
This was the second of the two albums from the unfortunately underrated G.T. Moore And The Reggae Guitars, who, for a year or so, were almost unique in their white reggae meets pub rock style. The punk meets roots reggae crossover that would sweep all before it a few years later was still a while away. They really had something, so it was a shame that it didn't ever take off for them. Their sound was convincing, too, sounding as authentic as you could expect it to be. Funnily enough, if this had been released in 1979-1980 it may have been far more successful. It is, to be honest, simply a really good album. It is less overtly reggae than their debut, exploring soul, funk, jazz and blues influences in places.
As with their excellent debut album, it is only really available as a download (for a reasonable price, anyway) and, judging by the very slight crackles that occur throughout the recording, it is a "needle drop" - taken directly from the original vinyl. There are less than on the band's debut album though.
1. A Girl's Best Friend
2. I Wouldn't Mind
3. C'est La Vie
4. Vagabond King
5. Running Down The Road
6. People (Who Kill People)
7. Otis Blue
8. Let's Breathe
9. Foreign Women
10. Reggae Reggae
"A Girl's Best Friend" has an organ-driven, Booker T & the MGs backing behind its mid-pace rock skank. Moore's voice is soulful and the lead guitar interjections are similar to those on Bob Marley's "Catch A Fire" after it had the rock guitar added. "I Wouldn't Mind" is a melodic, laid-back, quite mournful easy reggae ballad. The band have got the guitar skanks, the organ riffs and the "one drop" drums just right, something very few white reggae recordings were able to master. Think of Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er" as one of the worst examples.
"C'est La Vie" has a delicious "Pressure Drop" introductory rhythm and an incredibly catchy sound throughout. Why this was not a hit, even in 1975, when things like Paul Nicholas's "Reggae Like It Used To Be" were is a mystery to me. This is great. Imagine this sung by Toots Hibbert's gospelly growl in place of Moore's slightly lightweight voice. What a song that would be.
"Vagabond King" has a marching sort of beat and a rock vibe a bit like Traffic's material from the same period, and a killer "woh-oh" chorus refrain too. "Running Down The Road" begins with a rumbling bass line similar to that on Ace's "How Long". This number is more a piece of soulful funk rock than reggae. It has a great guitar solo in it too. "People (Who Kill People)" is a Graham Parker-ish rock reggae strut of the sort that would become popular in 1979-80. It has an infectious, rubbery bass line. "Otis Blue" is an organ-powered slow burning soul number with a message about racial tolerance and a tribute to Otis Redding at the same time.
The reggae is back with the punchy and rocky "Let's Breathe". Once more, the guitar is superb. This band could certainly play. "Foreign Women" is a bluesy number with slight slow-pace ska influences. "Reggae Reggae" is a lively, joyful skank to end this little known but impressive album.
Saturday, 30 March 2019
Released March 1973
Having released albums that fused rock firstly with blues, then soul, then jazz, Jeff Beck recruited bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice to merge rock with, well, heavier rock. He seemed to want to produce a Cream-style power trio. Heavy rock was de rigeur at the time with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple thundering and hammering their stuff to the top of the album charts. It was also quite the thing to form a "supergroup", Derek & The Dominoes style. This one only lasted for this album, plus a live album. It was a bit of a shame because they had something about them.
The sound quality on the album is also seriously good. Now on to the tracks.
1. Black Cat Moan
3. Oh To Love You
5. Sweet Sweet Surrender
6. Why Should I Care
7. Lose Myself With You
8. Livin' Alone
9. I'm So Proud
While rocking heavily, "Black Cat Moan" is also a very bluesy number, with a conventional blues chorus and guitar riffs. Carmine Appice is a solid, powerful, inventive drummer and drives the song along impressively. "Lady" has some excellent, rubbery bass runs from Bogert and some searing Beck guitar. It has a very Eric Clapton-esque, laid-back vocals that has definite echoes of Cream in it too. There are funky little bits in it too, so it is certainly not all heavy metal bombast. Far from it. There is considerable subtlety here at times. The drum "solo" bit at the end is great. I like this track a lot.
"Oh Love To You" has one of those typical heavy rock, yearning vocals and some nice guitar backing but, strangely enough, it is a bit washy-washy. The quirky guitar rescues it, though. Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" is given a serrated rock treatment, full of shedding guitar. Beck had contributed to the creation of Wonder's original. Although this is good in its heavy way, it lacks the sheer, irresistible funkiness of the original. "Sweet Sweet Surrender" has hints of Bob Dylan & The Band's "I Shall Be Released" about it. Again, it is not incredibly heavy, neither is the catchy, Status Quo-ish "Why Should I Care". As with all of the tracks, there are heavy bits in them, but they are balanced by subtler parts and singalong refrains.
"Lose Myself With You" has another of those high-ish pitched stereotypical heavy rock vocals. "Livin' Alone" is again very Status Quo-esque, with more superb bass. Curtis Mayfield's "I'm So Proud" is a grandiose and melodic ballad to end the album.
This is not as bad an album as I have seen some rock journalists accuse it of being. Not at all. There are some appealing songs on there and, obviously, some impressive guitar on every track. It's Jeff Beck. Of course there is.
Released in 1969
This was the debut album from genuine Louisiana po'boy Tony Joe White. He really did grow up in the cottonfields and the bayous, cookin' up a mess of polk salad and watching out for them gators. It is a wonderful, atmospheric mix of blues, blues rock, funk, soul, swamp rock. The sound on this latest edition is outstanding - great stereo, warm bass and clear reproduction. White has a great (forgive me) white soul voice and he knows how to tell a tale. The first half of the album are White's songs and the second half are covers, mainly of soul songs done in his swamp style. In that respect it reminds me a little of those Four Tops where the first half was classic Motown, the second made up of covers. For me, although he covers the songs very impressively, the best material is his own swamp rock fare at the album's outset.
1. Willie And Laura Mae Jones
2. Soul Francisco
3. Aspen Colorado
4. Whompt Out on You
5. Don't Steal My Love
6. Polk Salad Annie
7. Who's Making Love
8. Scratch My Back
9. Little Green Apples
10. Wichita Lineman
11. The Look Of Love
12. Georgia Pines
13. Ten More Miles To Louisiana
"Willie And Laura Mae Jones" is a sort of "Ode to Billy Joe"-style real life tale of poor country folk, referencing cottonfields and growing corn. It has a strong lyrical narrative and intoxicating backing, with some great fuzzy guitar at the end. The sound quality is excellent. "Soul Francisco" is a short but incredibly funky little number that ends far too soon. On it, White wonders about all that hippy stuff in San Francisco, a place he has never been. "Aspen Colorado" is an evocative, soulful ballad. Once again, the sound on it is crystal clear. "Whompt Out On You" is a swampy, funky and lively number with White doing his best Elvis. The vocal interplay with the drums is superb. Then the blues guitar comes in as Tony whoops it up. Great stuff.
"Don't Steal My Love" ploughs that bluesy but funky vein again - wah-wah guitar all over the place. "Polk Salad Annie" was, of course, made famous by Elvis's version. This is the original. Elvis even used the same spoken intro and mid song interjections - " a mean vicious woman...." and so on. For years I only knew and loved Elvis's version. A pity, because this is the business.
From now on, the songs are covers, no longer White originals. He now explores soul music. The soul strut of "Who's Making Love" was also covered by Johnnie Taylor on the Stax label. "Scratch My Back" is an Otis Redding song. White gives it some real funk. The moving ballad "Little Green Apples" was previously done by The Temptations. On all these numbers, White sounds so convincingly black. On "Apples" his voice shows just what a good country singer he was too. This also applies to his version of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman". Bacharach/David's "The Look Of Love" is dealt with in perfect crooning, easy-listening style too.
"Georgia Pines" is a bit cheesy in an Elvis sort of way and "Ten More Miles To Louisiana" is a jaunty piece of country pop. By the end of this album I am really missing that early swamp fever of is first half. It is a shame it sort of "sold out", just a little, as it progressed. It is still a highly listenable album all the same.
Friday, 29 March 2019
This compilation is part of Decca/Deram's nine CD series of sixties rarities. This one concentrates on the mid-sixties boom in Beatles-inspired "beat" pop. Personally, I prefer the blues-orientated ones in the series, but this one is not without its interest. It goes without saying that the sound is superb, as it is on all the releases.
1. I Love Her Still - The Poets
2. Gonna Get Me Some - The Game
3. Each And Every Day - Thee
4. Walking Thru The (Sleepy City) - The Mighty Avengers
5. It's Gonna Happen Soon - Shel Taylor
6. I'll Cry Instead - Joe Cocker
7. Third Time Lucky - The Beat Boys
8. Hurt Me If You Will - Mark Four
9. Really Gonna Shake - Sandra Barry
10. Surprise Surprise - Lulu & The Luvvers
11. Everything's Alright - The Mojos
12. Now I Know - The Beat Chics
13. I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door - The Pete Best Four
14. Don't Make Me Blue - The Warriors
15. That's What I Want - The Marauders
16. Once In A While - The Brooks
17. Lost My Girl - Rick & Sandy
18. I Was Only Playing Games - Unit 4 + 2
19. Did You Want To Run Away - Tierney's Fugitives
20. One By One - The Mockingbirds
21. Itty Bitty Pieces - The Rockin' Berries
22. Who'll Be Next In Line - The Knack
23. Keep On Dancing - Brian Poole & The Tremeloes
24. Heart Of Stone - The Hi-Numbers
25. Da Doo Ron Ron - Andrew Oldham Orchestra & Chorus
"Gonna Get Me Some" by The Game is one of the album's rockiest, solid, thumping numbers. It is less derivative than many of the others, standing strong in its own right. I really like this one. "Each And Every Day" by Thee is actually an obscure early Rolling Stones cover (their version appeared on "Metamorphosis"), as also did "Walking Thru The (Sleepy City)" which also has vague echoes of "Have I The Right" by The Honeycombs. "It's Gonna Happen Soon" by Shel Naylor (who also appears on "The Freakbeat Scene") is very Beatles-influenced. A very young Joe Cocker contributes a lively, rock 'n' roll type number in "I'll Cry Instead". Once again it is so very Beatles in its lively and melodic sound. "Third Time Lucky" by The Beat Boys uses a typical Buddy Holly guitar riff and has a Gerry & The Pacemakers vocal.
Mark Four was also on "The Freakbeat Scene". Here he delivers the impressive "Hurt Me If You Will". Sandra Barry's "Really Gonna Shake" is a really rocking slice of fun. Lulu uses her impressive voice on the rousing "Surprise Surprise", a Rolling Stones cover. The Mojo's "Everything's Alright" will be familiar with David Bowie fans as he covered it on 1973's "Pin Ups" album. "Now I Know" by The Beat Chics is a delightful piece of gospelly pop. Ex-Beatle Pete Best is on here with "I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door", which was a chart hit for Little Jimmy Osmond later in the early seventies.
"Don't Make Me Blue" by The Warriors is so incredibly early Beatles-sounding, it could almost be them. The same applies to "That's What I Want" by The Marauders, complete with "woo-woo" backing vocals. "Once In A While" by The Brooks sounds like something from "A Hard Day's Night" or "With The Beatles". "Itty Bitty Pieces" by The Rockin' Berries owes a lot to The Dave Clark Five's "Bits And Pieces". There is a lot of derivative material on this album, it has to be said.
Unit 4 + 2 are known for their hit "Concrete And Clay". Their track here, "I Was Only Playing Games" is a laid-back, melodic number with an "Eleanor Rigby"-style cello. It dates from 1969, way past the main "beat" period. The Hi-Numbers, incidentally, should not be confused with The High Numbers, forerunners of The Who. The Andrew Oldham Orchestra was indeed Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham. The Knack are not to be confused with the US new wave band from the late seventies. Their track "Who'll Be The Next In Line" is one of the album's deeper, bluesier rock/pop numbers. Listening to the fast-paced guitar and bass lines you can hear ones used by The Jam on their 1977 debut album. Brian Poole & The Tremeloes' "Keep On Dancing" showed that rock'n'roll was still important in the mid-sixties. Lots of two-way influences to be found as you listen to this interesting cornucopia of rarities.
This is another in this truly impressive series of Decca/Deram released tracks from the mid-sixties. This time it deals with the "r&b"/upbeat blues rock scene. While there are crossovers with "The R'n'B Scene", the material on here is pretty much all fast-paced, energetic rocking blues. Rhythm and blues, in fact. It only covers stuff that was released on Deram/Decca, so there is no Who, Yardbirds, Animals, Rolling Stones or Them but, among the lesser-known names, there are a few famous ones too. It goes without saying on this series that the remastered sound is 100% brilliant.
1. Curly - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
2. Key To The Highway - Eddie Boyd And His Blues Band
3. The Super-Natural - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
4. Pretty Girls Everywhere - Otis Spann
5. Blue Coat Man - Eddie Boyd And His Blues Band
6. Third Degree - Champion Jack Dupree
7. Steppin' Out - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
8. Train To Nowhere - Savoy Brown
9. Roll Me Over - Curtis Jones
10. Get On The Right Track Baby - Zoot Money's Big Roll Band
11. Night Time Is The Right Time - Alexis Korner Skiffle Group
12. Sweet Little Angel - Mae Mercer
13. Strut Around - The Graham Bond Organisation
14. Long Night - John Mayall
15. Goin' Down Slow - Davy Graham
16. Taste And Try, Before You Buy - Savoy Brown
17. Me And My Woman - Keef Hartley Band
18. Dust My Broom - Eddie Boyd And His Blues Band
19. Barrelhouse Woman - Champion Jack Dupree & His Blues Band
20. I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town - Rod Stewart
21. Double Trouble - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
22. 24 Hours - Champion Jack Dupree
23. Early In The Morning - Alexis Korner Skiffle Group
24. Let Me Love You Baby - Savoy Brown Blues Band
25. I Need Your Love - John Mayall & The Blues Breakers
"Curly" is a searing piece of guitar-driven fuzz to start off. It is an instrumental and it features some excellent guitar throughout, drums too. Great stuff. Their second track (there are six in all) on the album, "The Super-Natural" is another instrumental, this time sounding very like Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. Eddie Boyd's "Key To The Highway" is an authentic-sounding slow, piano and harmonica-backed blues. His "Blue Coat Man" is an early rock'n'roll-influenced boogie-woogie blues with some sumptuous toe-tapping drums and accompanying guitar. Jools Holland would love this.
Otis Spann's "Pretty Girls Everywhere" is a catchy and rhythmic, groovy piece of upbeat, rocking blues. Champion Jack Dupree's "Third Degree" is a genuine, slow-burning, bassy blues. John Mayall is back again, with another corking instrumental, "Steppin' Out", once more featuring that buzzy guitar. Then we get some authentic blues in "Train To Nowhere" by Savoy Brown and "Roll Me Over" from Curtis Jones.
Zoot Money's "Get On The Right Track Baby" is very jazzy and Georgie Fame-like. Mae Mercer's "Sweet Little Angel" is a storming piece of guitar and piano solid blues. There really is so much good material on here. The Graham Bond Organisation have featured on some of the other compilations in this series. They were an impressive outfit who, unfortunately, never quite made it. Here they give us the thumping "Strut Around".
The remaining John Mayall, Eddie Boyd, Champion Jack Dupree, Savoy Brown and Alexis Korner tracks are all excellent. A rarity is a young Rod Stewart's "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town".
These days, I find I am retreating more and more into the comforting blanket of music, often the blues, to keep me from going insane. This fine album is one that helps with my treatment.
Thursday, 28 March 2019
This is another in this truly impressive series of Decca/Deram released tracks from the mid-sixties. This time it deals with the "r&b"/upbeat blues rock scene. While there are crossover with "The Blues Scene", the material on here is pretty much all fast-paced, energetic rocking blues. Rhythm and blues, in fact. It only covers stuff that was released on Deram/Decca, so there is no Who, Yardbirds, Animals, Rolling Stones or Them but, among the lesser-known names, there are a few famous ones too. It goes without saying on this series that the remastered sound is 100% brilliant.
1. You're On My Mind - The Birds
2. Anytime At All - The Fairies
3. Boom Boom - Blues By Five
4. Gotta Be A Reason - Cops And Robbers
5. Don't Gimme No Lip Child - Dave Berry
6. I'll Come Running Over - Lulu
7. Long Tall Shorty - The Graham Bond Organisation
8. Keep Me Covered - The Frays
9. Louie Louie Go Home - Davie Jones with The King Bees
10. Crawling Up A Hill - John Mayall's Blues Breakers
11. Hey Little Girl - The Chasers
12. Oh Mom (Teach Me How To Uncle Willie) - Zoot Money's Big Band
13. Can't Let Her Go - Hipster Image
14. Blue Beat - The Beazers
15. Cross My Heart - The Exotics
16. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl - Rod Stewart
17. I Got My Mojo Working - Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated
18. King Lonely The Blue - The Emeralds
19. You Gotta Keep Her Under Hand - The Big Three
20. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You - The Plebs
21. Can I Get A Witness - Steve Aldo
22. Talkin' 'Bout You - The Redcaps
23. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean - Paul's Disciples
24. You Don't Love Me - The Birds
Ronnie Wood's first band, The Birds, start the album with the early Beatles meets the blues of "You're On My Mind". The Fairies' "Anytime At All" is a Rolling Stones-ish, harmonica-driven upbeat piece of blues rock. The much-covered "Boom Boom" is given a solid, bassy cover by Blues By Five. "Gotta Be A Reason" is a brooding blues from Cops And Robbers that has an Animals-esque organ backing on its chorus. "Don't Gimme Me No Lip Child" by Dave Berry is a bit of a "Can I Get A Witness" groove. The latter track appears later on the album. The same beat backs the young Lulu's throaty take on "I'll Come Running Over".
The Graham Bond Organisation and The Frays both contribute energetic blues rockers, the latter very much in an early Rolling Stones mode. A unique rarity is "Louie Louie Go Home" by Davie Jones with The King Bees. This was the first release by none another that David Bowie. It is a slightly ska-influenced bluesy shuffler. John Mayall's "Crawling Up A Hill" is not as bluesy as much of his subsequent material. Zoot Money's track is as ebullient as you would expect.
As unusual rarity is the moody, jazzy, vaguely Doors-esque "Can't Let Her Go" by Hipster Image (I didn't realise the term "hipster" was around in the sixties). "Blue Beat" by The Beazers appropriates a slight ska beat, but it is largely bluesy. Recognise the voice? Sure you do - it's Chris Farlowe. "Cross My Heart" by The Exotics has a genuine ska beat I don't know anything about the group, but I'm not sure if they were Caribbean, or a UK imitation. Now for a couple of big hitters - first up is a youthful Rod Stewart covering "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl". It was his first ever single. Then it is bluesman Alexis Korner and the harmonica-drenched cover of "I Got My Mojo Working".
The remainder of the tracks don't see a lessening of the pace - all catchy, lively numbers. Steve Aldo's cover of Marvin Gaye's "Can I Get A Witness" is nothing ground-breaking, but it is still vibrant and enjoyable. The Birds are back with "You Don't Love Me" to close this invigorating collection. As with all of these excellent albums, it is highly recommended.
First and foremost, here is the TRACK LISTING -
1. Do You Love Me- The Dave Clark Five
2. Go Now - The Moody Blues
3. I Heard It Through The Grapevine- Marvin Gaye
4. In The Midnight Hour- Wilson Pickett
5. Keep On Running- Spencer Davis Group
6. You Really Got Me - The Kinks
7. Just One Look - The Hollies
8. Monday, Monday - The Mamas & The Papas
9. All I Really Want To Do - The Byrds
10. Happy Together - The Turtles
11. Baby Come Back - The Equals
12. Wonderful World, Beautiful People - Jimmy Cliff
13. Knock On Wood - Eddie Floyd
14. I Want You - Bob Dylan
15. Baby Please Don't Go - Them
16. Everybody's Talkin' - Harry Nilsson
17. Stop! In The Name Of Love - Diana Ross & The Supremes
18. Only The Lonely - Roy Orbison
19. Save The Last Dance For Me - The Drifters
20. The Mighty Quinn - Manfred Mann
21. Hole In My Shoe - Traffic
22. I Get Around - The Beach Boys
23. The Tears Of A Clown - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
24. Spanish Harlem - Aretha Franklin
25. With A Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker
1. Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday - Stevie Wonder
2. Because - The Dave Clark Five
3. Alfie - Dionne Warwick
4. Let It Be Me - The Everly Brothers
5. Raining In My Heart - Buddy Holly
6. When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart - Cliff Richard
7. Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers
8. Half Way To Paradise - Billy Fury
9. Let The Heartaches Begin - Long John Baldry
10. Green, Green Grass Of Home - Tom Jones
11. When A Man Loves A Woman - Percy Sledge
12. Stand By Me - Ben E. King
13. (Sitting on the) Dock Of The Bay - Otis Redding
14. My Girl - The Temptations
15. Losing You - Dusty Springfield
16. Make It Easy On Yourself - The Walker Brothers
17. Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus - Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg
18. Albatross - Fleetwood Mac
19. Love Is All Around - The Troggs
20. True Love Ways - Peter & Gordon
21. Bring It On Home To Me - The Animals
22. As Usual - Brenda Lee
23. I'm Gonna Be Strong - Gene Pitney
24. What A Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
25. First Of May - The Bee Gees
Now, we all know what great tracks most of these are. Nevertheless, it is the SOUND that I wish to review here though, as it is simply the best remastering of sixties singles that I have ever heard, far better, for example that "The Best Sixties Album..." series. This collection is not quite as good as the first CD in this series (white cover) however, but it ain't half bad.
The sound is clear, warm, bassy and in great separated stereo on most tracks. I cannot emphasise enough how good the sound is on these tracks. However, I am a huge fan of bassy remasters, so if you prefer your music trebly and tinny, this is not for you.
Firstly, and most importantly, here is the track listing:-
1. 5-4-3-2-1 - Manfred Mann
2. Glad All Over - Dave Clark Five
3. My Generation - The Who
4. Dancing In The Street - Martha & The Vandellas
5. For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder
6. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me - Dusty Springfield
7. You'll Never Walk Alone - Gerry & The Pacemakers
8. Gimme Some Lovin' - The Spencer Davis Group
9. Tired Of Waiting For You - The Kinks
10. Baby Love - Diana Ross & The Supremes
11. The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore - The Walker Brothers
12. All Or Nothing - The Small Faces
13. Wild Thing - The Troggs
14. There's A Kind Of Hush
15. Carrie-Anne - The Hollies
16. The Onion Song - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
17. Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds
18. Oh Pretty Woman - Roy Orbison
19. I Got You Babe - Sonny & Cher
20. Respect - Aretha Franklin
21. My Girl - Otis Redding
22. The House Of The Rising Sun - The Animals
23. Nights In white Satin - The Moody Blues
24. Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
25. A Whiter Shade Of Pale - Procol Harum
1. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag - James Brown
2. Reach Out I'll Be There - The Four Tops
3. Walk On By - Dionne Warwick
4. Yeh, Yeh - Georgie Fame
5. Shout - Lulu
6. Bend Me, Shape Me - Amen Corner
7. Jesamine - The Casuals
8. There's Always Something There To Remind Me - Sandie Shaw
9. The Twelfth Of Never - Cliff Richard
10. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You - The Monkees
11. Blackberry Way - The Move
12. Groovin' - The Rascals
13. Catch The Wind - Donovan
14. This Old Heart Of Mine - The Isley Brothers
15. Will You Love Me Tomorrow - The Shirelles
16. Israelites - Desmond Dekker
17. You've Got Your Troubles - The Fortunes
18. Concrete And Clay - Unit Four Plus Two
19. Needles And Pins - The Searchers
20. Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa - Gene Pitney
21. I Will - Billy Fury
22. Here Comes The Night - Them
23. It's My Party - Lesley Gore
24. Melting Pot - Blue Mink
25. I've Gotta Get A Message To You - The Bee Gees
Now, we all know what great tracks most of these are, and a very good selection it is too. It is the SOUND that I wish to review here though, as it is simply the best remastering of sixties singles that I have ever heard, far better, for example that "The Best Sixties Album..." series. It contains the best remastering of Procol Harum's "A White Shade Of Pale" that I have heard thus far. Similarly "Blackberry Way", "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" and "Gimme Some Lovin'".
The sound is clear, warm, bassy and in great separated stereo on most tracks. I cannot emphasise enough how good the sound is on these tracks. However, I am a huge fan of bassy remasters, so if you prefer your music trebly and tinny, this is not for you.
Before you ask, yes, these are ALL the original recordings, which sometimes is not the case with sixties material.
What was "freakbeat"? It was a fusion of blues and original r 'n' b with hippy, psychedelic vibes around 1966-68 in the UK. Groups that dabbled in it were The Pretty Things, Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, The Move, The Small Faces, The Troggs, Them, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and some of the lesser-known acts that appear on this intriguing compilation of material released on the Decca label and its imprint, Deram. Lots of the tracks feature a swirling guitar and organ sound, lots of reverb and echoey drums. It was popular with mods, or at least the "freakier" end of mod culture, man. It was an interesting phenomenon, and, while always staying somewhat niche, its influence on many more mainstream chart singles and British pop music in general can be clearly detected.
1. Please Please Me - The Score
2. Come On Back - Paul Ritchie
3. Anymore Than I Do - The Attack
4. One Third - The Majority
5. One Fine Day - Shel Taylor
6. Unto Us - The New Breed
7. Grounded - The Syn
8. Father's Name Is Dad - The Fire
9. Understanding - The Small Faces
10. No Good Without You Baby - The Birds
11. The Third Degree - Marc Bolan
12. I'm Not Your Stepping Stone - The Flies
13. Het Gyp (Dig The Slowness)
14. I'm Leaving - Mark Four
15. Sorry She's Mine - Jimmy Winston & His Reflections
16. Wooden Spoon - The Poets
17. Just Help Me Please - The Outer Limits
18. I Am Nearly There - Denis Couldry & The Next Collection
19. I Can Take It - Blue Stars
20. Poor Little Timebreaker - Timebox
21. Run & Hide - The Fairytale
22. Taxman - Loose Ends
23. Thanks A Lot - Sea-Ders
24. Pink Dawn - Human Instinct
25. You Better Get A Hold On - The Beatstalkers
The Beatles' "Please Please Me" is given hippy-ish makeover by The Score in 1966, that, for me has echoes of Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play". It throws a completely new light on such a familiar song. "Anymore Than I Do" is a solid, drum-driven bluesy rocker from The Attack. The Majority's "One Third" is The Rolling Stones' "Get Off My Cloud" meets Manfred Mann and The Hollies.
Shel Taylor's "One Fine Day" is a big, bassy thumping number with hints of The Big Three's "Some Other Guy". "Unto Us" by The New Breed has a catchy "Tequila"-inspired rhythm with a touch of The Stones' "Poison Ivy". It also uses Bill Wyman's trademark "reverse" bass run at one point. The Syn's "Grounded" sounds like The Stranglers would ten years later. "My Father's Name Is Dad" is a Who-inspired number with cynical lyrics that display a punk-ish observational commentary that had no relation to happy sixties pop. The Small Faces ("Understanding") and Marc Bolan ("The Third Degree") are the only artists I had previously any knowledge of, although The Birds ("No Good Without You Baby") featured a young Ronnie Wood.
"I'm Leaving" by Mark Four is very Stones-influenced, with a bit of Bo Diddley rhythm and blues guitar in its extended instrumental middle part. It is a bit of an unearthed gem. "Wooden Spoon" by The Poets is another corker, too. "Just Help Me Please" by The Outer Limits slightly steals the riff from "Mony Mony" by Tommy James & The Shondells. Denis Couldry & The Next Collection's "I Am Nearly There" starts as a mysterious, slow number before breaking out into a madcap Arthur Brown-style chorus. Far out, man. "I Can Take It" by The Blue Stars is another frantic "Poison Ivy"/Don't Bring Me Down" type rocker. The second Beatles cover is a trippy cover of George Harrison's "Taxman" by Loose Ends. It is vibrant and enjoyable. Interestingly, I am sure they sing "I'm a taxman, I'm a black man.." at one point.
Another very interesting rarity is from The Sea-Ders, who were from Lebanon, apparently, and the Eastern sound on "Thanks A Lot" was an electric bouzouki type instrument. The riff sounds a lot like The Byrds' "Eight Miles High". Surely the only Lebanese band to make an impact in the UK. Human Instinct's "Pink Dawn" had a riff that I am sure Tommy Roe would use on "Dizzy" a few years later.
Look, I think you've got the idea of what this album contains by now - lots of Who-like drumming and reverb, Animals organ, Chris Farlowe meets Eric Burdon vocals, early Status Quo and Pink Floyd guitar. Rock, blues, soul, r 'n' b and psychedelia all mixed up in short, sharp two-three minute upbeat blasts. This is a most energising collection that I would recommend getting hold of in order to discover a few hidden nuggets.
This is a really interesting compilation, but an odd one in that, as someone who owns around 1200-1300 Northern Soul downloaded tracks, I was unfamiliar with nearly all of the album’s twenty-five tracks. Only one of them appears on any of my many other compliations. They were all recorded on the UK-based Decca and Deram labels, so you are not going to get any copper-bottomed soul recordings from Georgia or Tennessee, although some of the artists are American, but produced by British producers, notably Wayne Bickerton. Most of the tracks are “blue-eyed” Northern Soul, however.
Obviously, the concept of “Northern Soul” had not really taken off in 1968 (it was just beginning, but took several more years to really take off), so these records were sort of trying to get in on the act that their producers were becoming aware of. Presumably they were just trying to ape the US records that were trying to ape Motown. Whatever, they certainly did a good job as there are lots of convincing songs on here, and the sound is absolutely top notch too. Seriously so. It obviously was de rigeur around 1967-1968 for artists such as Tom Jones, Dave Berry and Amen Corner to record these beaty Northern Soul numbers as ‘b’ sides or album tracks.
1. I'll Hold You - Frankie & Johnny
2. So-Called Loving - David Essex
3. Nothing But A Heartache - The Flirtations
4. Don't Change - Fearns Brass Foundry
5. Baby You've Got It - Cyde McPhatter
6. Name It You Got It - Micky Moonshine
7. My Love - Ronnie Jones
8. Ask The Lonely - The Fantastics
9. Stop Breaking My Heart - Tom Jones
10. Billy Sunshine - Billie Davis
11. Our Love Is In The Pocket - Amen Corner
12. Whose Little Girl Are You - Danny Williams
13. Heart Trouble - Eyes Of Blue
14. Everybody Needs Love - Bobby Hanna
15. Picture Me Gone - Dave Berry
16. I Wanna Know - John E. Paul
17. The Way You Do The Things You Do - Elkie Brooks
18. I Just Made Up My Mind - Jon Gunn
19. Something Beautiful - Adrienne Poster
20. Reach Out Your Hand - Brotherhood Of Man
21. Giving Up On Love - Sonny Childe
22. My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down)
23. All The Time In The World - Stevie Kimble
24. Let The Good Times Roll - Tony Newman
25. Listen To My Heart - The Bats
“I’ll Hold You” by future blues rock vocalist Maggie Bell (“Frankie”) and “Johnny” and a young David Essex’s “So-Called Loving” both have Northern Soul-style backing, but I just can’t take them seriously as Northern recordings.
“Nothing But A Heartache” by black US female vocal trio The Flirtations is the real thing. It was written, however by Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddintgon who produced The Rubettes in the mid-seventies. “Don’t Change It” by Fearns Brass Foundry also has credible credentials. The Drifters’ Clyde McPhatter’s “Baby You’ve Got It” was also a Bickerton production.
Apparently popular at Wigan Casino was “Name It You Got It” by Micky Moonshine, which has a disco-ish wah-wah guitar backing. “My Love” by Ronnie Jones sounds like a catchy sixties pop record rather than a Northern Soul one, though. Tom Jones chips in with a mega-soulful, convincing “Stop Breaking My Heart”. “Everybody Needs Love” by Bobby Hanna is one of my favourites - this one has a true Northern sound to it.
A real unearthed gem, for me, is the supremely catchy “Billy Sunshine” by Billie Davis. “Our Love Is In The Pocket” is the one track that, of course, was familiar to me due to the JJ Barnes Northern classic. Here it is done by UK pop band Amen Corner. Danny Williams’ “Whose Little Girl Are You” has a real Northern beat to it and an authentic black vocal and brass section. “Everybody Needs Love” by Bobby Hanna is one of my favourites - a true Northern sound to it.
The one track I did know is one of my absolute favourite rarities - “I Wanna Know” by John E. Paul (credited on my other compilation as just “John Paul”). A proper Northern classic, this one. Jon Gunn sings about travelling on the underground on "I Just Made Up My Mind", a UK experience. It comes over as a swinging London pop song as opposed to a Northern Soul one. I like it though.
Whe I saw the name Adrienne Poster I thought “is that sixties Lulu look-alike actress Adrienne Posta?”. Indeed it is. A real rarity, this one. Her song is “Something Beautiful”. It is a very sixties poppy number. Also an unusual name for the Northern Soul scene is Elkie Brooks. Here she gives us a vibrant rendition of Smokey Robinson/The Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do”. Then we also have the early incarnation of The Brotherhood Of Man with the funky, gospelly soul of “Reach Out Your Hand”. This has very vague hints of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ “The Night” about it, for me.
Truly Smith’s “My Smile is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down)” is a nice rarity, but its pop ballad strains are a long way from Northern Soul, for me. The same applies for the Hollies-esque “Listen To My Heart” by The Bats.
So, in conclusion, this is an eminently listenable mix of “blue eyed” Northern Soul, a few genuine Northern cuts from black US artists and some carefree sixties British pop. For the real thing, I would recommend the four volumes of “The Northern Soul Story”, the soundtracks to “Northern Soul” and “Soul Boy” and “The in Crowd”.
Wednesday, 27 March 2019
Released February 1975
Another of the great seventies Status Quo albums, with the band at the height of their hard-riffing success. It did't ever get any better than this for them. It was a number one album.
1. Little Lady
2. Most Of The Time
3. I Saw The Light
4. Over And Done
6. Down Down
7. Broken Man
8. What To Do
9. Where I Am
10. Bye Bye Johnny
"Little Lady" is typical Quo fare - trademark riff, drums and vocal (Rick Parfitt, this time). It does have one of those parts where the riffing briefly stops and it goes quiet, before building back up again. Quo do that quite a lot. The track merges straight into the slower, Ronnie Lane-esque "Most Of The Time". After a few minutes, though, it kicks into a slow-paced Quo rock ballad. Francis Rossi does his best at times to give us a Paul Rodgers-style vocal, but his voice is too high and whiny, unfortunately. "I Saw The Light" is back to archetypal riffing. Look, I know the formula doesn't change much, but if you like it, you like it, and I do.
"Over And Done" is another fast-paced rocker, although the guitar sound is slightly lighter, despite the riff being pretty much the same. "Nightride" is a chugging rock groove, solid and industrial. Then comes "Down Down", the band's biggest hit single. It needs no introduction, really. Heads down, no nonsense Quo boogie. On the album you get the full album version, which has a delicious little bit of guitar interplay before it unfathomably fades out. "Broken Man" doesn't break much new ground, but "What To Do", despite the seventies riffs, has a feel of Quo's psychedelic sixties material about it.
"Where I Am" is a surprisingly airy, light slow number before the album ends with a rollicking cover of Chuck Berry's "Bye Bye Johnny". It ends, oddly, with a brief chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone" as sung by Liverpool fans. Not quite sure why.
There is no pretension to this album, as you would not expect there to be. It rocks, Status Quo-style from beginning to end.
Released in 1978
In the midst of punk and the roots/punk "crossover", this 1978 release was quite an unusual one. Yes, it is a Rasta devotional roots album, but it contains only four extended tracks, which differentiates it from much of other roots reggae albums of the time.
Ijahman Levi was born Trevor Sutherland in Jamaica in 1946, but moved with his parents to the United Kingdom in 1963. I was always under the impression that he lived up in Jamaica's Blue Mountains, as his music seems so authentic. The albums he released, were, however, recorded in Jamaica.
1. Jah Heavy Load
2. Jah Is No Secret
3. Zion Hut
4. I'm A Levi
The music on the album is of a melodious, easy feel, despite its Rasta message and rootsiness. There is no speaker-shaking dub rhythm, more of nice deep, rumbling bass and slowly skanking guitars. On the opening track "Jah Heavy Load" there is some rock-style lead guitar as well as an infectious rhythm and some crystal clear cymbal work. Levi's voice is surprisingly light and tuneful. He is certainly no Prince Far I or Big Youth growler. He sings as well, as opposed to "toasting" semi-spoken vocals, which was common on many contemporary roots tracks.
"Jah Is No Secret" is over ten minutes long. It once again has a catchy melody, an attractive vocal and a lively but seductive backing. Levi and his band just get into a groove and off they go - bass, lilting guitar, horns and percussion. It is very much a different approach to roots reggae. There is nothing of the prophetic warnings of much roots material. This is all about celebration and joie de vivre. Despite its devotional message, it never sounds preachy or doom-laden. About half way through the track, Levi introduces the "Rivers Of Babylon" verses into the song, as the guitar continues to skank enjoyably along. Its ten minutes positively breeze by.
"Zion Hut" is over thirteen minutes long. It has a traditional Rasta drum rhythm to it, such as found on Bob Marley & The Wailers' "Rasta Man Chant". The vocal is never grating and the effect of the track is that of a smooth balm, its subtle bass massaging your ears. This beautiful bass drives the song along effortlessly. "I'm A Levi" is shorter than the previous two tracks at a (comparatively) paltry six minutes plus! It is a lively, upbeat number and it goes without saying that the bass is superb.
This is a highly recommended, different roots reggae album.
Released in 1978
This was Third World's third studio album, and, following on from the appealing "96º In The Shade" is further demented the switch from pure, rootsy reggae to a fusion of reggae and soul. That said, there was still a solid roots vibe and message to the band's material. As always with the early Third World albums, it had a great cover.
1. One Cold Vibe (Couldn't Stop Dis Ya Boogie)
2. Cold Sweat
3. Cool Meditation
4. African Woman
5. Now That We've Found Love
6. Journey To Addis
7. Fret Not Thyself
"One Cold Vibe (Couldn't Stop Dis Ya Boogie)" begins with a little bit of prog rock-style keyboards before it kicks into an airy, breezy, crystal clear percussive easy reggae groove. Lead vocalist Bunny Rugs had a great, laid-back and melodious voice. It was perfect for this type of soulful, almost jazzy reggae. There was still a bit of Rasta message, however, spiritual matters were never far from the surface in Third World's music, but it was never hard-core roots. The rhythms, though, are incredibly intoxicating. "Cold Sweat" gets into that effortless groove that just makes you want to be in the Caribbean under the sun. The percussion is just so good. So clear and sharp. Mix that with a big, rumbling bass and you have a great sound. "Cool Meditation", as the title would suggest, ploughs the same furrow. Rugs's voice is higher-pitched on this one, but wonderfully delivered. It also features some Stevie Wonder-style harmonica, unusual for a reggae track.
"African Woman" is a slow burner with an almost funky bass line and a deep, thumping rhythm. Some lovely guitar swirls around this track. "Now That We've Found Love" was, of course, their massive "fusion" hit - combining easy skanking reggae, soul vocals and disco vibes, it appealed to a wide variety of record buyers. This wasn't surprising, it is a great track with an infectious summery feel and an instantly memorable, singalong hook.
"Journey To Addis" is a sumptuous instrumental, with some funky wah-wah guitar, killer lead guitar and big rubber band bass. This a great stuff, that bass line is superb, as indeed are the horns. UB40 surely took a lot of influence from this. "Fret Not Thyself" is the album's first true Rasta devotional, with "trust in Jah Lord..." lyrics. "Rejoice" is a socially conscious, soulful number also with Rasta sentiments to finish what was a positive, feel-good album. Recommended.
Released May 1983
This is a most underrated Ramones album, recorded at the height of a fractious atmosphere within the group. It is very much a Joey Ramone album, concentrating on the sixties pop style he loved so much. The songs are deliciously hook-laden and the guitar far more melodic than typically punk. They would evert to punk basics for the next album, "Too Tough To Die" but this one should not be overlooked. It is a joyous, energetic singalong romp.
1. Little Bit O' Soul
2. I Need Your Love
4. What'd Ya Do
5. Highest Trails Above
6. Somebody Like Me
7. Psycho Therapy
8. Time Has Come Today
9. My-My Kind Of Girl
10. In The Park
11. Time Bomb
12. Every Time I Eat Vegetable It Makes Me Thin Of You
"Little Bit O' Soul" is a catchy, cowbell rhythm-driven poppy opener, with Joey on fine vocal form. "I Need Your Love" is typical Joey Ramone. As with all this album, the production is a bit tinny, but it does not detract too much from the ebullience of the song. "Outsider" is far more Dee Dee Ramone - full of chunky punk riffs and lyrics about social detachment. "What'd Ya Do" is also archetypal 1976-78 grinding, punky Ramones. The frantic "Highest Trails Above", like the previous two tracks, gives the lie to the notion that this is not a punk album. Of course it is, it's still The Ramones.
"Somebody Like Me" has echoes of "All The Way" from "End Of The Century". "Psycho Therapy" was copper-bottomed Dee Dee and would become a live set staple for the remainder of the band's career. It has hints of "Go Mental" from "Road To Ruin" to it. "Time Has Come Today" is a solid, muscular and appealing rock number that last over four minutes! The Ramones Over four minutes? Surely not! This is one of the heaviest numbers they had done. It is a cover of a 1967 track by The Chambers Brothers. They were a "psychedelic soul" band, and this was a very "rock" number for a soul band. The Ramones played it pretty straight to the original.
"My-My Kind Of A Girl", as you may expect, is a harmonious, summery Joey romancer. "In The Park" is an upbeat poppy new-wave track. "Time Bomb" is more retro, punky Ramones. The quirkily-titled "Every Time I Eat Vegetables I Think Of You" is Joey's fun sign-off to this enjoyable, lively, vibrant album. It was already culturally out of time in 1983, however, and was probably only bought by die-hards. Even myself, who was there at the beginning, didn't buy this at the time. It would be many years before I retrospectively got hold of it.
Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Released October 1984
By 1984, punk had long since expired, new wave too, even new romanticism's make-up was running. What was around was actually not too much at all. What was needed was an antidote in the now increasingly irrelevant Ramones giving us more of the same. After a brief flirtation with slow ballads every now and again, they returned to their no-nonsense punk roots on this muscular, uncompromising album. Indeed, they certainly were too tough to die. Great cover too.
1. Mama's Boy
2. I'm Not Afraid Of Life
3. Too Tough To Die
4. Durango 95
5. Wart Hog
6. Danger Zone
7. Chasing The Night
8. Howling At The Moon (Sha-La La)
9. Daytime Dilemmas (Dangers Of Love)
10. Planet Earth 1988
12. Endless Vacation
13. No Go
The Richard Hell-ish "Mama's Boy" is a reasonable opener, while "I'm Not Afraid Of Life" has vague echoes of The Doors in Joey Ramone's vocal and also Department S's "Is Vic There". "Too Tough To Die" is a brooding, menacing rocker. "Durango 45" is a brief instrumental based around a classic punk riff, circa 1977. It leads straight into the raucous punk romp of "Wart Hog". Dee Dee Ramone is, maybe not advisedly, on vocals.
"Danger Zone" is a typical slice of Ramones thumping punk. The poppy, catchy "Chasing The Night" even has some keyboards swirling around and an infectious chorus. The best track on the album for me. Not far behind is the singalong grind of "Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)". Amazingly, on such a retrospective Ramones album, these two tracks are both over four minutes long! So too is the next one, the riffy "Daytime Dilemmas (Dangers Of Love)", which is another cracker. It has great backing vocals/guitar interplay at the end.
"Planet Earth 1988" is future shock rocker, full of stonking guitar and drums. It is another one I love. A typical Ramones intro pounds us into "Humankind", as if it is 1977 again. Just turn it up. "Endless Vacation", however, is a bit of a turkey, with sort of madcap vocals and breakneck riff that characterised what punk would turn into in the nineties. Dee Dee is on vocals once more - give us Joey back again, please. Thankfully, he returns for the bopping, energetic "No Go".
There is a convincing argument that says that this was The Ramones' last great album, and also their first since the late seventies. I wouldn't disagree with either of those statements.
Released in 2017
This was the last release of "new" studio material from the great David Bowie. Three tracks that did not appear on "Blackstar" and one that did. To be honest, they probably could have been included on "Blackstar" and added to its atmosphere.
2. No Plan
3. Killing A Little Time
4. When I Met You
The EP begins with the atmospheric, haunting, valedictory "Lazarus" from "Blackstar". Most people will be familiar with this wonderful and moving track. It is soulful, saxophone and guitar-driven, with its death-knell solemn drumbeat and its "look up here - I'm in Heaven.." now iconic opening line. "Everybody knows me now..." sings Bowie, plaintively, as the drums continue and the saxophone floats all around. It really is a heartbreaking listen. However, taking it out of context, and viewed objectively it is a damn good track. The end has a rubbery, intoxicating bass line and some cutting, stabbing guitar breaks that enhance it even more.
"No Plan" is a sombre, plaintive and sonorous song with that typical, slightly haughty and grandiose Bowie vocal. It is beautiful too. It also has a shuffling drumbeat and that "Heroes"-style deep saxophone sound that is so very evocative. The slightly angry, staccato "Killing A Little Time" is full of dense rhythms and a paranoid-sounding vocal from Bowie. It is full of tense instrumentation. It is a "grower" that needs listening to several times before it gets into your system. "When I Met You" is a more instantly appealing number that summons up the spirit of "Scary Monsters" and "Lodger", for me, anyway. It also has a feel of some of the material on "The Next Day".
I said goodbye to David Bowie at the end of my review of "Blackstar", so no more farewells are needed here. Bowie aficionados need this EP, though, to add to that album and complete the story of this remarkable, life-affirming artist.
Released in 2012
This was the second, and so far, latest album from the somewhat unique psychedelic soul/funk band from New York City. It is the more accomplished of the two, for me. As I mentioned on my review of their first album, I saw them live in 2011 in London, supporting Bryan Ferry and they were very, very good. Since then I haven't heard or read much about them, which is a shame. This is a very interesting and unusual album.
2. The Right One
3. The Written Word
4. The Unknown Faces At Father James Park
6. Form And Control
9. Winter Falls
10. All Cliches
12. The Attempt
"Following" is an impossibly catchy opener with real echoes of Tom Tom Club in its deadpan female backing vocals. The same slightly bored-sounding (or maybe cool and sexily detached) vocals continue on the spacey and futuristically funky "The Right One". Yes, there are influences of the eighties art pop of The Human League and Heaven 17, but there are "proper" drums here and and rock-ish bass sound. A track like "The Written Word" has hints of Roxy Music about it in places, with some also quite prog rock instrumental stylings in there. While the music is certainly retrospective, it also has a contemporary feel to it.
"The Unknown Faces At Father James Park" (a very early Thin Lizzy-ish title) summons up the spirit of disco-era Blondie, with the vocal sounding a lot like Debbie Harry. The quirky lyrics further the comparisons. "Shake" is another icily melodious Tom Tom Club-style track. "Form And Control" has an appealing piano intro and more ghostly vocals over a subtly rumbling bass. "Give" has an absolutely addictive synthesiser intro, very Human League. I can't help but use the word "quirky" again for the vocals. "Afterglow" is great - sort of synthy funk with some African-sounding drumming in places and also some chunky rock riffs. It is a fusion of all sorts of things. "Winter Falls" also has some rock riffage and "All Cliches" has an insistent drum, bass and guitar sound behind its airy, ethereal vocals.
"Mirrors" has a great bass line and an odd sound to it, once more it is an eclectic mix. There is even some Eastern-sounding psychedelic guitar swirling around. "The Attempt" begins like David Bowie's "Let's Dance" before moving into a sixties-style poppy tune. Lovely bass line again.
Overall, this is a beguiling album well worth seeking out. I have really enjoyed listening to it again.
Monday, 25 March 2019
Released April 1970
Coming not long after the unique, ground-breaking four-track album that was "Hot Buttered Soul", Isaac Hayes released another one. It was similarly impressive. He had really hit on something here. He was taking soul music to another level.
1. I Stand Accused
2. One Big Unhappy Family
3. I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself
"I Stand Accused" has a long, spoken intro before Hayes eventually breaks out into the song. Keen listeners will recognise some of the spoken lyrics as those used by UB40 on "Guilty" on their 1983 "Labour Of Love" album. When the song arrives, Hayes's soulful vocal lifts it so high. Beautiful stuff. Classic soul right there. You better believe it, brother.
The cynically-titled "One Big Unhappy Family" is a big, Stax-y soul number with a yearning, heart-broken vocal from Hayes. Dusty Springfield's "I Just Don't Know What To With Myself" is a dignified, soulful rendition. Again, the vocal is excellent, as, of course, is the backing from The Bar-Kays. George Harrison's "Something" is given a quirky makeover, with some nice electric violin, but a lot of the beauty of the song is lost beneath all the orchestration and backing vocals. This one doesn't quite work for me. It does end with some almost prog-rock inventive instrumentation, however, that makes it a most unusual offering. Some of these experimental covers come off better than others, it has to be said. This one sounds like a bit of a mess to me, despite is obvious ingenuity. I know that sounds bad, but there is a lack of cohesion, in my opinion.
Overall, I prefer "Hot Buttered Soul", but this is not without is good points, particularly the first two tracks.
Released November 1970
This was Isaac Hayes's fourth studio album It followed again what was now a familiar path of lengthy soul workouts over sumptuous backing provided by the immaculate Bar-Kays. It was now the thing to do for Isaac Hayes - to issue soul albums with just a few long tracks on them. It really was ground-breaking. Nobody else was doing such a thing. Even The Undisputed Truth had a few shorter tracks alongside their epic numbers.
1. Monologue: Ike's Rap 1
2. Our Day Will Come
3. The Look Of Love
4. Monologue: Ike's Mood/You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling
5. Runnin' Out Of Fools
The opener is a low-key spoken "rap", in which Isaac talks quietly over a subtle keyboard, bass, strings and drum backing. It merges into the slow grace of "Our Day Will Come". It is a slow-paced, smooth soul ballad with a deep, intense vocal. It finishes with a lovely bass-driven instrumental part. The eleven minute cover of Bacharach/David's "The Look Of Love" is just glorious. Backed with wonderful strings and horns, it is packed with classic soul atmosphere. Once more, Hayes's vocal is seriously underrated. He was rarely spoken of as a great vocalist, but he shows great versatility on all these early seventies albums The track also has a winning funky-ish instrumental break half way through, with delicious percussion, guitar and organ. Some punchy brass is joined by a funky wah-wah guitar before we get some blaxploitation soundtrack evocative parts to end with.
"Monologue: Ike's Mood/You've Lost That Loving Feeling" is a fifteen-minute masterpiece that builds up slowly with some seductive orchestration and backing vocals. It is a long time before Hayes sings. Over six minutes before he launches into the well-known opening lines of The Righteous Brothers' anthem. Hayes's delivery suits the drama of the song. "Runnin' Out Of Fools" is another slow burner with Isaac soulfully singing over a gospelly backing vocal.
Not as essential as "Hot Buttered Soul" or "Black Moses", but a ground-breaking and enjoyable album all the same.
Sunday, 24 March 2019
Released November 1971
After the extended soul grooves, often of easy listening or other soul standards, on "Hot Buttered Soul" and "...To Be Continued", and the iconic movie soundtrack "Shaft", Isaac Hayes gave us this, his first double album. Basically, it was more of the same - lengthy, seductive soulful workouts immaculately played by The Bar-Kays and topped off with Hayes's deep, but honeyed vocals. The album is full of serious soul and funk. It doesn't have the social message of Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield's material, or that of The Temptations or The Undisputed Truth, for that matter. What it has is love - big, late-night love. Without this as an inspiration, would there have been any Barry White sensual, semi-spoken "lay down on the couch, honey" numbers? Hayes wrote the book of "loverman" cliches with this. That is not to say that it is not seriously soulful, though. It is chock full of deep soul.
Regarding its cultural effect - this was a soul artist putting out a very credible, uncommercial double album. Stuff like this really provided a landmark in the development of soul/black music.
1. Never Can Say Goodbye
2. (They Long To Be) Close To You
3. Nothing Takes The Place Of You
4. Man's Temptation
5. Part-Time Love
6. Medley: Ike's Rap IV/ A Brand New Me
7. Going In Circles
8. Never Gonna Give You Up
9. Medley: Ike's Rap II/Help Me Love
10. Need To Belong To Someone
11. Good Love 6-9-9-6-9
12. Medley: Ike's Rap III/Your Love Is So Doggone
13. For The Good Times
14. I'll Never Fall In Love Again
"Never Say Goodbye" is a deep, resonant version of the upbeat song made famous by The Jackson 5 and later by Gloria Gaynor. This ain't no disco number. It is a sultry slow burner. The cover of The Carpenters' "(They Long To Be) Close To You" doesn't really work for me and, for once, the accusation that it goes on too long holds some weight. It seems to lose the beauty of the original melody somewhat. "Nothing Takes The Place Of You" is a sumptuous, deep soul ballad with an almost slow rock 'n' roll-style piano backing. "Man's Temptation" is an organ and backing vocal driven groover, with a rumbling bass line and some funky wah-wah guitar. Hayes' vocal is supremely deep and warm. The beat on this is magnificently grinding, in an insistent, bassy fashion. It is addictive soul music of the highest quality.
"Part-Time Love" is so deliciously funky. It has an almost reggae-like intro and some infectious percussion. It is another eight minute groove. This album was also notable for its three spoken "raps", which featured Hayes speaking a long, yearning intro over a subtle bass/keyboard backing before eventually launching into the song that is linked with each rap. The intros are very much in the style of the songs Barry White would specialise in just a few years later. His songs were more string orchestrated, though. Hayes's are more purely soulful in their bass, piano and drum backing. Strings are used, and brass too, but it that slow seductive bass rhythm that underpins the material.
"Going In Circles" has that distinctive orchestration and guitar interjection sound that so characterised "Walk On By" on "Hot Buttered Soul". "Never Gonna Give You Up" is not the song that Barry White would later write. Strange that they both wrote songs with similar titles and the same sentiments and ambience. It is more of a smooth soul number than a gritty, funky one, actually in the Barry White mode. "Need To Belong To Someone" is a wonderful piece of melodic but grand soul. Hayes's vocals are simply superb here. He is not always given the credit he deserves for his vocals. "Good Love 6-9-9-6-9" is an upbeat, pounding slice of soul/rock that offers a different feel to much of the album. Great guitar on it too. "For The Good Times" is the easy-listening Perry Como song, and is done in suitably crooning fashion, but with a solid soul backing. "I'll Never Fall In Love In Again" is the Bacharach-David song made famous by Bobbie Gentry and Dionne Warwick. Hayes's version is suitably evocative.
There is no doubt that this is a special album, although you only need to dip into a few tracks at a time to appreciate them as a whole sitting of the entire double album is just a little bit like eating too much sticky toffee pudding. Having said that, it does make you want to keep coming back for more.
Released September 1969
This was Isaac Hayes' second album. His first, "Presenting Isaac Hayes" had not been much of a success and, apparently, he demanded free reign from Stax Records to do what he wanted on this album. He sure did that. In 1969, albums featuring only four tracks of lengthy soul workouts were not exactly de riguer. In so many ways, this album blazed a new trail. Barry White was still four years away from doing similar material. The album showed that soul could be coal-mine deep, drawn-out, dramatic, funky and passionate. Hayes suddenly had a new persona - the cool, growling-voiced but sensuous loverman. Soul music changed with this release, not as obviously as with "What's Going On" or "Curtis" maybe in that it carried no social message, but certainly stylistically.
1. Walk On By
3. One Woman
4. By The Time I Get To Phoenix
"Walk On By" is Isaac's take on the song made famous by Dionne Warwick. This ain't nothin' like that, brother. It is a slow burning, slow building, smoocher of a groove that features, as well as Hayes' deep, late night vocal, some searing guitar. It really crashes in at the end of its twelve minutes and the only downside is the slightly disconcerting bit where the volume goes up and down and you think there is something wrong with your system.
"Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymystic" is superbly funky - full to the brim with big, fatback bass, thumping drums, clunking piano, seductive backing vocals and Isaac grunting here and there. It gets into its groove and just keeps going, marvellously. It also, clearly, qualifies as one of the longest song titles and one of the most non-sensical.
"One Woman" is a delicious slice of "come over here honey" soul. The original recording always had a scratchy bit at about 2:50 seconds. Even the remastered version I now have has not failed to eliminate this. No real matter though, when Isaac and his backing singers trade off vocal pyrotechnics as the song reaches its glorious denouement.
"By The Time We Get To Phoenix", written by Jimmy Webb, made famous by Glen Campbell, is the album's tour de force. It is over eighteen minutes long and features an extended preacher-style spoken introduction from Hayes telling us all about the song's protagonist's back story to the song. A subtle bass rumbles as Hayes narrates until over the eight and a half minute mark. At that point he soulfully and effortlessly leads into the song. The song reaches a climax with some excellent horn backing and the band gets louder and louder.
Released May 2012
After "Supernatural", "Shaman" and "All That I Am", Carlos Santana decided to ditch the duets with guest vocalists/musicians thing that had, although incredibly successful, had seen him being reduced to something of a bit-part player on his own albums. Here he gives his legendary guitar more of a central role. All but one of the thirteen tracks are instrumentals. For the most part, it is a very Latin album, with some rock riffing too, very much in line with the late seventies through to the nineties material, but without the vocals.
1. Shape Shifter
5. Angelica Faith
6. Never The Same Again
7. In The Light Of A New Day
8. Spark Of The Devine
9. Macumba In Budapest
10. Mr. Szabo
11. Eres La Luz
13. Ah, Sweet Dancer
"Shape Shifter" begins with some evocative Native American incantation, before it bursts into rocking life, full of swirling organ, pounding drums and some trademark Santana guitar. It has some heavy riffage in it too. "Dom" has a smoky keyboard backing and features some sharp guitar soloing. The rock grooves of "Nomad" are very much in the vein of some of Santana's early seventies material, with some seriously impressive guitar and organ interplay. "Metatron" is an uplifting, anthemic number with a wonderful refrain and guitar part. Carlos gives himself free reign on here. Good stuff.
"Angelica Faith" just sort of washes over you, again featuring the sort of guitar we have come to expect. Indeed the next three tracks, the chilled-out "Never The Same Again", "In The Light Of A New Day" and "Spark Of The Devine" also do just that. A bit of a change in ambience comes with the grandiose melody of "Macumba in Budapest", which merges classical strings and keyboards with some Latin percussion and also some salsa-influenced piano. There is no typical Santana guitar in this track. "Mr. Szabo" continues in this style - Latin percussion, big, rumbling bass, but this time including some delicious Spanish-style guitar. These last two tracks have been most appetising. "Eres La Luz" features some gorgeous Spanish guitar before we get some thumping drums and, for the first time, some vocals - in Spanish. It is a typical Santana Latin number such as he released a lot in the late seventies/eighties.
"Canela" has some top notch archetypal Santana guitar before it takes us into some seductive Salsa rhythms. "Ah, Sweet Dancer" is a slowie to end on, with some guitar/piano/synthesiser interplay on a peaceful, reflective number. The piano is very classically influenced. It is in fact Santana's son, Salvador, on keyboards.
While it is good to hear Santana giving it some virtuosity "wellie" on the guitar again, in comparison with the previous three albums, the album does seem just a little directionless in some ways, but then again, Santana music often was mood music and it serves you well in that respect.