Friday, 27 September 2019

The Flying Burrito Brothers

The "country rock" genre was ushered into fashion, amongst others, by Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding and The ByrdsSweetheart Of The Rodeo in 1968 and continued in May 1969 by Crosby, Stills and Nash. In February 1968, and comparatively unnoticed, was this album by ex-Sweetheart Of The Rodeo era Byrds member Gram Parsons' new group, The Flying Burrito Brothers....

The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969)

This is my favourite of that bunch of albums and has a subtle, warm-sounding ambience about it that I find most appealing. I have always had a bit of a weakness for 
The Rolling Stones' country-influence material (like Far Away Eyes) and Elvis Costello's Almost Blue. There is plenty of obvious influence on this album regarding both of those, including one actual song (Hot Burrito #1/I'm Your Toy) that Costello covered on that album.

It didn't sell well at the time, yet retrospectively it has gained considerable critical kudos and, as I said above, it has had a fair old influence. Bob Dylan, incidentally, said "boy I love them - their first record really knocked me out..." So there you go.
Christine's Tune has an early Beatles feel about it, you know, the sort of tune Ringo would have loved doing. It it carried out of its sixties feel, however, by some excellent fuzzy, buzzy rock guitar from Chris Hillman. Chris Ethridge's bass is superb on this and throughout the album - nice and full and "rubbery". Sin City is a twangy, mournful but melodic piece of country. Elvis Costello no doubt loved this and it also really reminds me of The Stones' Far Away Eyes in its vocal refrain. I am sure Parsons' vocal was the country tone that Jagger tried to imitate. Oddly, up next is a cover of Aretha Franklin's Atlantic soul classic Do Right Woman given a slow country makeover and with no gender-changes made to the lyrics. Listened to as a country song it is appealing, but compared to the original it doesn't quite stack up. Check out that lovely, sumptuous bass line, though. 

Another cover is of James Carr's Dark End Of The Street. This one is the better of the two covers, with Parsons delivering a sensitive vocal over a stately piano, bass guitar and drums backing.

My Uncle
 is a finger-picking, lively number that hides a more sombre message about getting a letter from the military draft board ("Uncle Sam"). Parsons says he's off to Vancouver. I don't blame him. Wheels is a fetching, slow country ballad enhanced by more of that buzzy guitar. 
Juanita is another one that really reminds me of The Stones. I could really imagine Mick Jagger singing this. It could have come off Beggars' Banquet.

Hot Burrito #1/I'm Your Toy was covered very nicely by Elvis Costello on Almost Blue as I'm Your Toy, but this original is sublime, with an emotional vocal, great guitar and more of that peerless bass. It is the best track on the album, for me. Also impressive are the rockier tones of Hot Burrito #2 which has slight hints of Argent's Hold Your Head Up in its riff (maybe Rod Argent had been listening to this). It is the album's most "rock" number and again features that very early seventies buzzy guitar, like The Carpenters used on Goodbye To Love.

Do You Know How It Feels returns to the steel guitar and melodic piano of more traditional country. Hippie Boy is narrated by Chris Hillman, the words spoken over a slow country melody and describes counter-culture drug-dealing experiences going wrong (as far as I can make out). Apparently it is about the 1968 Chicago riots but I struggle to get that from the lyrics, but if they said it was, then it was. Overall, I much prefer this to Sweetheart Of the Rodeo, for example, and to Dylan's Nashville Skyline too. It is one of the best examples of late sixties/early seventies country rock.

Burrito Deluxe (1970)

After an excellent, most appealing debut in 1969's The Gilded Palace Of Sin, Gram Parsons' country rock outfit returned with a more upbeat, rocking offering. Unfortunately, the group's impressive bassist Chris Ethridge had left the group, taking a great sound with him, and apparently the group were having problems coming up with material. New guitarist Bernie Leadon had this to say, retrospectively:-

"...We started getting together – Gram, Chris, and I – at the A&M lot and trying to write songs. We spent three or four months doing this. It was like pulling teeth. We knew the mechanics of writing music, but the stuff that we did were not Gram's best songs...."

Guitarist Chris Hillman added:-

"....After the brief initial burst Gram and I couldn't seem to hook up again. Burrito Deluxe was recorded without any of the feeling and the intensity of the first album...."

Reading that, you would imagine the album to be pretty poor, which it is not, it is not quite as good as the debut album. What it is, though, is far more rocking and more fun. It is not without its merits. The sound is not as good as one the first album, though, sounding just a bit "lo-fi" in places.

The album is notable in that the cover of The Rolling StonesWild Horses was the first recording of the song, a year before it appeared on Sticky Fingers. Apparently Keith Richards gave it to Parsons to record after a brief falling out, something that was unusual in that The Stones didn't make a habit of giving great songs like that away.
Lazy Days
 is a lively piece of pulsating bar-room style rock to start the album on an exciting note, with the band sounding like a country Dr. Feelgood, although country melancholia soon appears on the violin-backed mournful strains of Image Of Me. The latter is very much a continuation of the material from the first album. 
High Fashion Queen is a steel guitar-driven fast slice of typical country rock. The vibrancy carries on in a rousing, frantic cover of Bob Dylan's If You Gotta Go, Go Now. It features some excellent rocking guitar.

Man In the Fog is a Cajun-style romp powered along by some infectious accordion. Farther Along is a mid-paced, harmonious country take on a traditional gospel song. Older Guys is one I really like - a pounding thumping number, while Cody, Cody has some nice harmonies on the vocals and a very Byrds-style sound. 
God's Own Singer is a song in a more traditional lachrymose country vein. I'm sure Elvis Costello would have loved this one. Down In The Churchyard is an energetic number that rocks infectiously throughout. Then there is Wild Horses. The country nature of the song is played up to the fore on this interpretation. It would seem that Mick Jagger based his delivery of the song very much on this one. Incidentally, Leon Russell plays piano on this, and on Man In The FogTwo months after the release of the album, Parsons was fired from the band he helped to create for drunkenness and general unreliability.

Related posts :-
Gram Parsons
Pure Prairie League

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Wattstax - The Concert (1972)

Can you dig it, brothers and sisters....


Recorded live in Los Angeles on 20 of August 1972

Wattstax was a benefit concert performed on August 20, 1972, organised by Stax Records on the 7th Anniversary of the Watts riots in Los Angeles The concert took place in the Los Angeles Coliseum and tickets were $1 each, ensuring many African-Americans could attend. 112,000 duly attended. The crowd was most African-American and it was policed by African-American officers.

The music was soul, funk, blues, gospel, r 'n' b n jazz and a lot of it had a theme of conscious, aware positivity for black Americans. This compilation is the most comprehensive and includes most of the show. Some songs from previous compilations from the show do not appear, though, like Eddie Floyd's Lay Your Loving On Me, several Isaac Hayes tracks and some others. Either way, it plays like one continuous show.

There are actually three different compilations from the show, so by sourcing all three you can get all the songs covered.

The sound quality is pretty good for an outdoor 1972 live recording, as, of course, is the music. The concert took place at the height of the early seventies funk/soul era and we get a lot of it too - wah-wah guitars and horn breaks all over the place.



1. Salvation Symphony
2. Introduction - The Reverend Jesse Jackson
3. Lift Every Voice And Sing - Kim Weston
4. Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom) - The Staple Singers*
5. Are You Sure*
6. I Like The Things About Me*
7. Respect Yourself*
8. I'll Take You There*
9. Precious Lord, Take My Hand - Deborah Manning
10. Better Get A Move On - Louise McCord
11. Them Hot Pants - Lee Sain
12. Wade In TheWater - Little Sonny
13. I Forgot To Be Your Lover - William Bell
14. Explain It To Her Mama - Temprees
15. I've Been Lonely For So Long - Frederick Knight
16. Pin The Tail On The Donkey - The Newcomers
17. Knock On Wood - Eddie Floyd                                  


1. Peace Be Still - The Emotions
2. Old Time Religion - The Golden 13
3. Lying On The Truth - Rance Allen Group*
4. Up Above My Head*
5. Son Of Shaft/Feel It - The Bar-Kays*
6. In the Hole*
7. I Can't Turn You Loose*
8. Introduction - David Porter*
9. Ain't That Lovin' You (For More Reasons Than One)*
10. Can't See You When I Want To*
11. Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)*
12. Niggas - Richard Pryor*
13. Arrest/Line Up*
14. So I Can Love You - The Emotions*
15. Show Me How*                                                     


1. Open The Door To Your Heart - Little Milton
2. Backfield In Motion - Mel & Tim
3. Steal Away - Johnnie Taylor
4. Killing Floor - Albert King
5. Pick Up The Pieces - Carla Thomas*
6. I Like What You're Doing To Me*
7. B-A-B-Y*
8. Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)*
9. I Have A God Who Loves*
10. The Breakdown - Rufus Thomas*
11. Do The Funky Chicken*
12. Do The Funky Penguin*
13. I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To - The Soul Children*
14. Hearsay*
15. Theme From Shaft - Isaac Hayes                  


The Staple Singers (pictured) perform an excellent five song set, as you would expect, including I'll Take You There and Respect Yourself and Roebuck "Pops" Staples doing a rap where he praises the achievements of black people throughout history. Stevie Wonder expanded on this on his Songs In The Key Of Life album in 1976. Louise McCord's Better Get A Move On was a solid, muscular piece of wah-wah-driven soul/funk.

Lee Sain's Hot Pants is a copper-bottomed slice of seventies funk telling us all about how good hot pants looked - very early seventies. Little Sonny's blues harmonica/brass take on Ramsey Lewis's Wade In The Water is marvellous - lively, bluesy and deliciously funky. William Bell delivers a beautifully soulful I Forgot To Be A Lover. Reggae artist George Faith later covered this. The Temprees' Explain It To Her Mama is an uplifting, high-voice powered soul number. Frederick Knight provides more rousing soul and The Newcomers some Jackson 5-style lively bubblegum-ish fun. Gospel is delivered suitably inspirationally by Deborah Manning and Motown's Kim Weston.

The CD finishes with Atlantic soul legend Eddie Floyd giving us a stonking, horn-driven Knock On Wood.


The CD opens with The Emotions' nine minute gospel/soul of Peace Be Still. The vocal performances are outstanding and there is a palpable live atmosphere as you hear the crowd getting involved. For me, though, it goes on a few minutes too long, although that is a bit of a nit-pick. The Golden 13 lift everyone high up with some classic upbeat, hand-clapping gospel in Old Time Religion. The Rance Allen Group were a group I was unfamiliar with, and they provided a couple of infectious pieces of funky, soulful jazzy stuff.

The Bar-Kays (pictured) deliver some superb early seventies funk with the lengthy workout Son Of Shaft/Feel It. Their set was one of those bits in a show like this when everything comes even more alive. In The Hole is almost psychedelic rock meets Stax - far out man. Their cover of Otis Redding's I Can't Turn You Loose is cookin' hot. Stax songwriter composer David Porter contributes some punchy, typically Stax-y soul - full of rumbling bass and strident brass. His Can't See You When I Want To is incredibly drawn out, though, Isaac Hayes style. Richard Pryor brings some of his ground-breaking observational comedy to the stage for a few minutes. It is very much of its time but in 1972, its power cannot be underestimated.

The Emotions return with some sumptuous, sweet soul in So Can I Love You and Show Me How. The singers introduce themselves by name and star sign in true seventies style.


Little Milton's take on the Northern Soul classic Open The Door To Your Heart is a delight, with some great improvisation at the end, while Mel & Tim's Backfield In Motion is also really brassily appealing. I get the feeling that Southside Johnny would have loved this at the time. I love the duo's spoken bit at the song's climax too. Great stuff.

The bigger names of Stax are up next - Johnnie Taylor with the funky soul of Steal Away, legendary bluesman Albert King who gives us a searing, guitar-driven blues track in Killing Floor and Carla Thomas, who performs five songs, sounding a lot like Ronnie Spector, including her big hit B-A-B-Y before it is Rufus Thomas (pictured) time. Time to flap our wings and get all unnecessary. Yes it's The Funky Chicken. Up next is The Funky Penguin - not much different from the chicken, except I guess you shuffle as penguins can't flap their wings....

I Don't Know What The World Is Coming To from The Soul Children is a wonderful piece of uplifting, pulsating gospel/soul. So too is their Hearsay. Finally, Isaac Hayes takes to the stage. Unfortunately, you only get the one cut from him here - The Theme From Shaft. A pretty good choice, though.
I have supplemented this album by sourcing the missing tracks from elsewhere, but even without them, it is an excellent listen.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Carole King

Carole King - Tapestry (1972)

Leading the burgeoning female singer-songwriter boom in the early seventies was Carole King (already a veteran of many sixties hits, written with her ex, Gerry Goffin, and also with this album - one that could be found in the record collections of many female students throughout the seventies. It is one of the best selling albums of all time but, at the time, it was not an album my early teenage self was interested in but as many years have passed, so my tastes have matured. A nice bit of trivia for you here - King's cat on the cover was called Telemachus.
I Feel The Earth Move. Contrary to the album's well-known laid-back ambience is the opener, which is a bit of a powerful piano, bas and drums-driven bluesy rocker. It is full of excellent guitar, bar-room piano and rumbling bass. It is a rousing rock start to the album. So Far Away - reflective ballads are what the album is known for, however, and we get the first one in this attractive song. Like Bread's output from the same period, the album's rock sensibilities are greater than one may have presumed - the bass and drums on here are very slow rock in their sound and delivery. In a lot of ways this is far less of a wishy-washy bedsit album and far more of a slow, deep rock-soul one. It has surprised me over the years in that respect.

It's Too Late was album's first well-known classic is. Its deep, sumptuous backing is very, very similar to that used by Carly Simon on her No Secrets album from later in the same year. She had obviously been listening to this. It is a lovely bass-drum guitar-acoustic hook line and a similarly attractive tenor saxophone. King's vocal is beautifully melodic and ideally suited to a hot summer's afternoon.

Home Again is a slow, meaningful ballad, once more featuring that infectious bass, piano and drum backing. Billy Joel must also have listened to this a lot. It is so like some of his mid-seventies material, both lyrically and musically. There is also a bit of a slow country rock feeling to the song. 
Beautiful is a quirky number that sounds a bit like a song from a musical. The lyric is uplifting and King addresses her listener personally. The piano is again superb, she really could play. Way Over Yonder is a slow gospel-influenced number with impressive backing vocals from Merry ("Gimme Shelter") Clayton. Another good piece of saxophone is to be found on here. You've Got A Friend was a big hit for James Taylor. Most people know it by now, especially the "winter, spring, summer or fall..." refrain. It is a song that can be instantly sung along with, whether you have this album or not. Long before I had this album, I knew this song. Where You Lead is almost Stax-y in its lively, deep soulful beat. It is one of the album's best examples of its unexpectedly soulful rock. Carole certainly had far more soul than she was sometimes given credit for. Will You Love Me Tomorrow - next up is King's take on her sixties composition for The Shirelles. She does it in a much slowed-down way, turning into a piano-driven lament as opposed to the fairground-style early sixties Motown-ish rock'n'roll of the Shirelles' hit version of it. Smackwater Jack is a delicious piece of lively, bassy blues, showing King's versatility again. It shows that Carole could rock and once more goes against the cliché that this is a light, airy-fairy, acoustic laid-back album. 

In Tapestry we have a plaintive, thoughtful piano and vocal ballad that exemplifies the sort of material one may have thought the whole album was populated with. As it is, it is one of the album's few songs in this vein. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman - then there is this all-time classic. Of course, the definitive version is surely Aretha Franklin's one, but Carole King wrote it and here she sings it beautifully and with not a little soul herself. Great stuff. It has been remembered as one of the great songs of all time. The latest remaster of the album gives it a nice, warm, bassy sound for probably the first time ever.

I could link this album to a lot of artists, but I will stick with Bread here :-

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Carly Simon

Carly Simon - No Secrets (1972)

This was braless, floppy-hatted and toothily grinning beauty Carly Simon's most well-known album. The early seventies was a good time to be a female singer-songwriter - Carole King's Tapestry was everywhere, then there was Joni Mitchell and later on Janis Ian. There was also Carly Simon, who has been a bit forgotten about. This was her biggest selling album and is worth revisiting. Oh, and there was every teenage boy's dream of a cover that made this a popular album to look at in the record shop - Carly proudly and clearly braless and sporting nipples like chapel hat-pegs. Lordy.

The Right Thing To Do is one of Simon's best known songs, this was an easy-listening, laid-back AOR classic. Simon's voice is up there with that of Karen Carpenter in its beautiful tone. It was a huge hit, deservedly so, it is a truly lovely song. It has a similar instrumental backing to You're So Vain. The Carter Family is a wry, observational Carole King-Janis Ian-style song that highlights Simon's ability to write a clever, character-driven song. It is actually a meaningful song about not missing people until they are gone - from Simon's childhood neighbours (The Carter family), to her Grandma and finally an ex-boyfriend. It has a nice bit of late sixties Beatles-style bass on it too.

You're So Vain. The other "big one" was this - a sensual, confessional song from a songwriter honestly confessing that "you had me several years ago, when I was still quite naive...". This was quite strong stuff in 1972. Who was it about? Everybody said Mick Jagger. Then they said Warren Beatty. Simon actually said it was about three men, although the only one she has ever named was Beatty. Jagger, by the way, sings some backing vocals on the track. It is a superb song, both musically and lyrically.

"Your hat strategically dipped below one eye, your scarf it was apricot...". Simon has sometimes copped a bit of stick for the verbosity and possible clumsiness of lyrics like these, unfairly. Yes, it is a mouthful, but they are also pretty clever too.

His Friends Are More Than Fond Of Robin is a perplexing, plaintive song, sung in a quiet voice over a gentle piano. It is a nice song, but it sounds somewhat undercooked. In fact, both this and The Carter Family seem to have a markedly different production to the rest of the album. They sit a bit incongruously due to their more lo-fi, muffled sound. 
On We Have No Secrets the more full, solid rock sound of You're So Vain is back, however, on this one. It is an attractive, very typically early seventies number that features some excellent acoustic guitar and drum interplay. Embrace Me, You Child has an impressive vocal and some enticing orchestration. The bass on here is once again very good, played by John Lennon's mate, Klaus Voorman. The drums throughout the album are played by ex-Sly & The Family Stone drummer Andy Newmark.

Waited So Long. "Daddy, I'm no virgin..." sings Simon on this, another confessional, slightly country-ish and upbeat bluesy song. It was a song that showed Simon to be singing as a mature, confident woman. Why is that important?  Well, in 1972, it was actually pretty rare for solo female artists, amazing as though it sounds. There is a Janis Joplin style of chutzpah on this, despite its relatively laid-back ambience. It Was So Easy is a pleasing, almost folk-rock sounding number with Simon providing a most melodic and winning vocal. Night Owl is a grinding, bluesy rocker that shows that Carly could give us a gin-soaked vocal when she felt like it. It features a good saxophone solo too. When You Close Your Eyes. This short album finished with the peaceful, reflective Carole King vibe of this song. All very soothing and tranquil.

This was a most appealing album, I have to say, immaculately played and sung, with a bit of depth to the themes in the songs. It is worthy of the occasional check-out.

Want to read about Carole King's Tapestry too? Do so here :-

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Blind Faith

Blind Faith was a short-lived "supergroup" consisting of Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker from Cream and Steve Winwood from Traffic, with additional help from Rick Grech of Family....

Blind Faith (1969)

This was a short, six-track album of quality blues rock, as you would expect, that achieved notoriety for its original cover of a topless barely pubescent girl. Quite what the intention behind that was is unclear. It has since been replaced by a cover with a picture of the group on it (as shown here).

The group actually only lasted six months, yet this album was a critical success and remains highly thought of, often making "greatest albums of all time" lists. Funnily enough, although it is only forty-two minutes long, it seems much longer, probably because of the length of some of the songs.
Had To Cry Today is a chugging, Traffic-influenced mid-paced blues rock number. It features some solid bass and drums. Winwood's vocals just remind me of Traffic, unsurprisingly. This sounds very much like the sort of material that would have followed Traffic's eponymous second album. There is some excellent Clapton guitar soloing near the end. It sort of merges Traffic with Cream, which once again is no surprise. It has Traffic's soulfulness and Cream's deep power.

Can't Find My Way Home is an acoustically-driven folky song of the sort that Paul Weller or Ocean Colour Scene would do many, many years later. It is plaintively sung by Winwood. It taps in to the country-folk rock vibe of the later sixties-early seventies. 

A lot of critics didn't have much time for the group's cover of Buddy Holly's Well All Right, which I find puzzling, as I love it. It is big, bassy, upbeat and bluesy. I always enjoy listening to it. It has a great heavy bit near the end - lots of organ, piano, organ and thumping drums.

Presence Of The Lord was possibly Eric Clapton's first great self-penned song and it is certainly an impressive one although I have always felt it suffered a bit from a muffled, undercooked sound. Although this latest remaster is finally an acceptable one after many very poor masterings of the album, no amount of tweaking can make it sound any clearer. However, when Clapton's guitars soars in towards the end I guess it doesn't really matter so much. It has been better over the years in Clapton's many live performances of it. 

Sea Of Joy is an appealing, melodic track enhanced by some nice bass and organ. It is very Led Zeppelin-influenced, with Winwood doing his best Robert Plant. As with many folky blues rock songs of the period, it starts in laid-back style before getting heavier half way through. Rick Grech also contributes some superb electric violin on here. Do What You Like is a fifteen-minute monster of a track written by Ginger Baker and, although parts of it cater to that late sixties-early seventies creature, the drum solo, there are other appealing bits, particularly early on - a great rumbling bass sound, an insistent, vaguely funky rhythm and a far better sound quality than on Presence Of The Lord, for example. Although it has the obvious feel of a studio "jam" about it, it is certainly still enjoyable. Baker could drum, for sure. Take it for what it is, a child of its time, or just stop it after seven minutes!

I wouldn't say that this is one of the greatest albums of all time but it has something about it and it very representative of its era.

** There are several non-album tracks that have surfaced on the "deluxe edition". They are:-

Sleeping In The Ground is an upbeat, Clapton-driven slice of archetypal blues rock. I guess these days room would have been found for more of this material to be included on the album. It is livelier in ambience than most of the original album's songs. There bonus tracks also include a slowed-down blues version of the track, which is also impressive. Can't Find My Way Home (electric version)The acoustic number from the original is enhanced here with some buzzy Clapton guitar, to great effect as well. I think I prefer this version, actually. Something punchier about it. The guitar brings that to it. It is now a rock song as opposed to a folk-country rock song. Acoustic Jam is appealing enough, but it goes on for fifteen minutes and is only really worthy of a listen as background music while you're putting up a shelf or painting a room, let's be honest! Time Winds is a more urgent, lively feel is to be found on this organ-powered instrumental. There is some nice bass on it too.

Check out Eric Clapton's solo work here :-

Monday, 16 September 2019

Love Affair

The Love Affair were a considerably underrated rock-soul group from the late sixties that caught on to the Small Faces-Amen Corner-Spencer Davis-Traffic psychedelic rock in places but with far more of a catchy, soulful pop sensibility to their sound with a robust brass section and young singer Steve Ellis's magnificent vocals....

The Best Of Love Affair

Bringing On Back The Good Times is a horn-drenched piece of poppy soul with one of those killer late sixties choruses. 

Hush is a track that showed the group's liking for latter-era Small Faces-style psychedelia. It is full of swirling, crazy sixties organ, man, rumbling bass, buzzy guitar and general freaked-out vibe.

Then, of course, there is Everlasting Love. This song is up there in my top ten songs of all time. I was ten when it came out and I loved it and I still do. If any song sums up the sixties for me, it is this. From the introductory huge drum beat, to the throbbing bass, the massive punch of the horns and then Steve Ellis's remarkable, soulful voice. For a lad of eighteen it was a phenomenal achievement. When I hear this, I am always nine years old, playing football in the playground. It is simply wonderful.

Just check out the video of this. Everything about it screams "1968", even down to the graphics on the front of the drum. I absolutely love it. What is the girl in the bowler hat up to? Far out, man. I love the typically sixties "go-go" dancer as well. Great stuff.

A Day Without Love is in the same vein as Everlasting Love, with more sumptuous horns, another great Ellis vocal and a Northern Soul thump to the beat. This is quality sixties pop. If there was one song tailor-made for Ellis's rasping voice, it is Mike D'Abo's Handbags And Gladrags. Ellis's harpsichord-backed Stonesy take on it is easily up there with Rod StewartChris Farlowe and Kelly Jones of The Stereophonics' versions. Rainbow Valley also has some of the same horn backing and vibe of Everlasting Love. Its chorus is uplifting in that rising, dramatic way. It also has a typically hippy feel to it in its lyrics.

So Sorry has a big, bassy thump to it and some infectious congas on the backing. This has the group going a bit Blood, Sweat & Tears in the powerful, bluesy soul sound. It has a great psychedelic-ish-freakbeat guitar solo. Ellis's interpretation of Cat StevensThe First Cut Is The Deepest is one of the best ever of the song. It is freaking superb. He really is one of the great underrated British soul/rock vocalists of the period. 

The group show that they could do upbeat bluesy rock too in the impressive Let Me Know, which is very Spencer Davis in its sound. It is full of superb guitar and it goes without saying that the vocals are peerless, Ellis sounding like Robert Plant in places. The same applies to the the gritty, slow white soul of Gone Are The Songs of Yesterday. Ellis sounds very like Chris Farlowe on this one.

Baby I Know has a lot of the sound of Handbags And Gladrags to it, in both its backing and vocal. The chorus is big and catchy. There is something of Tom Jones in here too. 60 Minutes (Of Your Love) is a massive, pounding piece of Small Faces-influenced psych-ish rock. It is really good, considerably removed from the pop of Everlasting Love too.

Someone Like Me is a slow, piano and bass-backed soul ballad. It has something of Every Little Bit Hurts to it. One Road is again very Small Faces-esque and is a rhythmic, orchestrated, acoustic and melodious number. The group were moving now to that very late sixties-early seventies big soul sound. I'm Happy is a short slice of freakbeat-inspired stuff. More Small Faces influences abound, together with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, particularly in the drum sound. It is very short but contains some excellent, hazy guitar. 
Tobacco Road is one of those songs that many late sixties-early seventies groups covered. It starts very slowly before easing into some quality blues a minute or so in. Many other covers of it were much faster. This is an excellent compilation from a group who were a lot better than they were ever given credit for. It is enjoyable late sixties soul-pop-rock-soul and well worthy of a listen. The sound quality is surprisingly good too, considering its date of recording - full, bassy and in nice stereo.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Crazy Horse

After backing Neil Young so impressively on 1969's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and 1970's After The Goldrush, it was not surprising that Crazy Horse decided there was a market for their own material....

Crazy Horse (1971)

Free from the unique, reedy trilling voice of Young and from his often perplexing lyrics, they produced an album of straight ahead bluesy Americana rock. Guitarist Nils Lofgren, producer/keyboardist Jack Nitzsche and guest Ry Cooder add quality to the proceedings too. There is a Little Feat sort of feel to the album with rock, country, blues and folk styles explored.
Gone Dead Train is a powerful piece of chugging bluesy rock to open with, featuring some great guitar, both soloing and driving riffs. Danny Whitten's lead vocal is gruffly suited to this sort of rock. It is the biggest, riffiest rocker on the album. Dance Dance Dance is the only Neil Young song they cover (although "Downtown" is a Young-Whitten co-write) and is a stomping country hoedown with drummer Ralph Molina on lead vocal duties. It is propelled along by an infectious Cajun fiddle.

Look At All The Things has Whitten sounding very like Young, funnily enough. Musically it is Young-esque too in its powerful yet country rock sound. Its refrain reminds me of The Rolling StonesMoonlight Mile, which was also from 1971. This whole album sounds very 1971. Beggars Day is a heavy-ish rock number written and sung by Lofgren. It mixes a hard rock backing with some swirling, almost psychedelic sounds at times. It was later covered by Scottish rockers Nazareth on their 1975 Hair Of The Dog album. It is a robust piece of rock and one of my favourites from the album.

Rod Stewart fans, and indeed everyone, are surely familiar with Whitten's beautiful  ballad I Don't Want To Talk About It. It is simply a lovely song. Stewart really did it justice and made it his own. Danny Whitten tragically died a year after this album was released and never got to see his song become globally popular.

The catchy, upbeat folky pounder Downtown has a bluesy singalong refrain and as soon as you hear it you sort of feel you've heard it before. It reminds me a lot of The Band.

Carolay is also a very appealing song, full of uplifting harmonies and a very "Americana" ambience, like The ByrdsAmericaThe BandLittle Feat and Bread all mixed into one. It sounds as if Whitten is singing "Carol Ann" at several points. Dirty Dirty is very, very similar to a David Bowie rarity from the same year called Lightning Frightening. Bowie was going through a Neil Young phase at the time, so it is probably no coincidence that he found himself listening to this and was influenced by it. Musically, it is a thumping, regular-paced bluesy rocker, actually not very "Bowie" at all. Nobody is a most attractive, melodic and upbeat rock number (with an intro that sounds like Cream's I Feel Free) as indeed is the very Byrds-esque and harmonious I'll Get By. There are Searchers and Beatles hints in there too. The final cut is the lively New Orleans blues-ish Crow Jane Lady which features Nitzsche on lead vocals. This was a very proficient, appealing and listenable album which established Crazy Horse as a credible band in their own right. It is such a shame that Whitten died so soon after this. Incidentally, the best sound remastering to be found of this album is on Scratchy - The Complete Reprise Recordings.

Loose (1972)

This was a strange album because the Crazy Horse of their strong, rocking eponymous debut album were not really this Crazy Horse. Guitarist-songwriter Danny Whitten had departed (soon to die of a drug overdose), as had keyboard player and producer Jack Nietzsche and guest guitarists Nils Lofgren and Ry Cooder. Only bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina remained. They were joined by singer-songwriter George Whitsell, keyboardist John Blanton and guitarist Greg Leroy. So, in many ways, the albums are the products of separate groups and you can tell. For sure, this is the inferior of its predecessor, and it is far more of an America-Flying Burrito Brothers-style country rock album. It is, to an extent, just another run-of-the-mill country rock album, of which there were many in 1972, but actually it is surprisingly good one, if listened to objectively and comparisons to the debut album are refrained from. There is also a bit of upbeat rocky material on there too. I quite like it, I have to say and feel that some of the criticism the album has received over the years has been a tad unfair.

Hit And Run is a melodious, appealing mid-pace laid-back rock song. It features some good guitar throughout. Try also has a slow dignity about it, with some country-style steel guitar interjecting the harmonious vocals. Granted, the album's critics say that this is ordinary country rock, and there is a certain amount of truth in that but I find it pleasantly enjoyable, so that will do for me. In a very breezy, airy country vein is the tuneful strains of One Thing I Love. It is sort of America meets the early Eagles and the musicianship is excellent, as indeed it is throughout the album.

Move is the album's first comparatively heavier rock number with a nice big bassy thump to it. Again it sounds a bit like something from The Eagles' debut album. 
All Alone Now is an attractive-sounding, light and unthreatening country rock number. It is not unlike some of the material The Beach Boys were putting out during the same period. All The Little Things is vaguely Beatles-ish in its slow rock ballad sort of way. It morphs eventually into some absolutely killer guitar soloing that takes you by surprise, proof that this incarnation of Crazy Horse could rock out too. Fair Weather Friend is very Crosby, Stills & Nash in its feel, particularly on the vocals. It also features some fetching electric violin. You Won't Miss Me is an upbeat steel guitar and solid drums-driven country romp. Going Home is a powerfully-backed slow number that doesn't quite cut the mustard for me, I feel the vocals are too overbearing. More like it is the lively, bluesy rock of I Don't Believe It, with its searing guitar parts. Kind Of Woman is a piano and vocal dominated slow number while One Sided Love up the chunkiness considerably on a muscular, heavy riff-driven song. The oddly-titled And She Won't Even Blow Smoke In My Direction is a very brief instrumental.

Look, this certainly is no match for its forerunner and this line-up of Crazy Horse is vastly different from the previous one, but taken as a stand alone album it is not as bad as many have said it is.

Of course, Neil Young's work needs investigating too, do it here :-