Sunday, 13 October 2019

Masterpieces Of Modern Soul - Kent Soul Compilation


  

It is a strange phenomenon, "modern soul". It is made up of seventies (mainly US) soul obscurities, but, as opposed to Northern Soul, which was all about upbeat Motown-influenced danceable pop/soul, this is more of a smoochy, smooth, "late night" soul sound, but still with a catchy beat to it. It is more upbeat than Luther Vandross or Barry White, with a bit of a Harold Melvin/Philly soul feel to it. While there are hints of Northern Soul in some of the songs, you can, after a short while, pick out a "modern" song from a "Northern" one.

This is the first in an excellent series of compilations from the much-respected Kent Soul Records label. The sound quality is superb throughout. All these songs are genuine rarities and, listening to the sheer, joyful exuberance to them, you have to wonder why. These are songs that deserved success, but unfortunately didn't get it.

TRACK LISTING

1. It's The Same Old Story - Act 1
2. Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right - Mayberry Movement
3. Shake Off That Dream - Eddie Billups & The CCCs
4. Just A Little Ugly - Gail Anderson
5. I Don't Play Games - Nightchill
6. Do You Really Love Me - Darondo
7. If That Don't Turn You On - Millie Jackson
8. If There Were No You - Natural Resources
9. Go Away - The Hesitations
10. Momma Had A Baby - Street People
11. Never Felt This Way Before - New Experience
12. Gotta Be Loved Part 2 - Herman Davis

Act 1 were a group launched in Los Angeles in 1972 by producer Rafael Gerald. They released only one album, in 1973. They had a surprise hit on the Northern Soul scene in the UK in 1975 with the funky, lively groove of Tom The Peeper. Their song on here, It's The Same Old Story is a marvellous O'Jays-style Philly-influenced piece of orchestrated, catchy soul. It has hints of Diana Ross & The Supremes' Some Things You Never Get Used To.

My favourite track on the album is the wonderful Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right by Mayberry Movement. They were a 1974 soul group based around brothers Russell and Jesse Mayberry. The song is an infectious Tavares-style number that has a real uplifting hook. It is classic mid-seventies soul and really should have been a hit. It is the sort of song that has the feel of a Northern Soul classic about it, although the sumptuous Philly soul type backing sort of slightly discounts that. I've just listened to it four times. Lordy, what a record.


Eddie Billups's deliciously groovy Shake Off That Dream has more solid Northern credentials, to be honest. It is a stonker of a track, full of irresistible hooks, deep, rumbling, rubberband bass and a great lead vocal. It has become a bit of a cult favourite among the soul cognoscenti.

Gail Anderson was around singing for quite a while, from the sixties through to the eighties and Just A Little Ugly is a muscular serving of down 'n' dirty funk with a bit of a Blaxploitation, brassy feel to it. It is a seriously high quality "rarity".

Nightchill were a mid-seventies Detroit male vocal group, and their I Don't Play Games is a slow burner of a soul/funk song. It could almost be an eighties/nineties soul song in many ways. Again, it deserved far more success than it got. It is a top notch cut.

Darondo was an interesting character from the San Francisco area with a bit of a dodgy reputation. His cut here, Do You Really Love Me, is a jazzy shuffle of Brazilian-sounding soul. The only really well-known artist is lovable sexpot Millie Jackson, who contributes the fabulously appealing and punchy If That Don't Turn You On. Millie is quality, end of. This is a great track. Try keeping still to it. No? Told you.

If There Were No You by Natural Resources is a typical piece of upbeat mid-seventies soul, (although funnily enough I think it dates from the late sixties) while Go Away by The Hesitations has a real slightly faster, almost, but not quite Northern Soul beat to it. I can find no information about the record or the group, other than that they existed from 1965-68.

Momma Had A Baby by Street People is a great track with hints of The Temptations' psychedelic soul era to it. It features some sublime funky wah-wah guitar and also some impressive shared vocals. They were another group who only released one album, in the mid-seventies. That was a real shame because this is a seriously good record. They are pictured left.

Never Felt This Way Before by New Experience is a corker of a funky groove. This record and the group are a mystery, unfortunately. How is that great records like this are so obscure?

 Herman Davis's Gotta Be Loved Part 2 dates from 1971. Strangely, it appears to be one of those "Part 2" "b"sides that basically involves fade out backing vocals as it only lasts a few minutes. Why couldn't we have had Part 1? That appears on Volume Four of this series.

As I said at the beginning, I can't believe that this stuff comes from the vaults. They were some vaults in the seventies, weren't they?

B+

Rufus



Rufusized (1974)

Rufus - Rufusized (1974)

Once you get started....

  

Released on 5th December 1974

Running time 37.06

Rufus had released on very unsuccessful debut album of funk/soul in 1973, and changed their line-up considerably for this comparative breakthrough offering the following year, so much so that they were virtually a new band. The album provided a showcase for the vocal talents of one Chaka Khan.

TRACK LISTING

1. Once You Get Started
2. Somebody's Watching You
3. Pack'd My Bags 
4. Your Smile
5. Rufusized
6. I'm A Woman (I'm A Backbone)
7. Right Is Right
8. Half Moon
9. Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me Of A Friend)
10. Stop On By                                                                   

With a few seconds of the upbeat funky brass and wah-wah-driven Once You Get Started beginning, Chaka Khan arrives with her distinctive multi-pitched vocals. Sometimes high, sometimes low, sometimes gruff and gritty, sometimes sweet and melodious - her range is most impressive. Fellow vocalist Tony Maiden provides a great contribution too and the music is top notch - ass-kicking funk of the highest quality. Just check out that throbbing, rubberband bass and those funky guitars. Rufus gained appearances on Soul Train on the back of this and you can hear why. The song's rhythm has an early disco groove that was actually quite ground-breaking. The sound is superb too - big, full, warm and bassy.

Somebody's Watching You is a cookin' piece of down 'n' dirty funk/soul - tuneful and earthy at the same time. Its influence on Michael Jackson's Off The Wall era material is clear. Pack'd My Bags is more of a straight ahead sumptuous slow soul number than a funker, despite a funky break in the middle. Your Smile is far more laid-back and sublimely soulful. The sound quality on here is outstanding and again, I can't state it enough, this is some of the best seventies soul around. Khan's vocal on this song is magnificent.


Rufusized is an early Commodores-style, organ-driven funky semi-instrumental with only occasional backing vocals, great saxophone and funky guitar as well. The solid funk of  I'm A Woman (I'm A Backbone) is a prototype I'm Every Woman and typical of the burgeoning number of strong female singers and songs that emerged in the early mid-seventies. Sisters were doing it for themselves. Right Is Right is so deliciously funky it hurts. That guitar is right on the money, man. The funk continues apace on the upbeat, frantic Half Moon, which is chock full of organ breaks, pulsating bass and fast shuffling drums.

Please Pardon Me (You Remind Me Of A Friend) is representative of a lot of the soul songs of the period with a mini-story based within its three soulful minutes. Stop On By ends this excellent album with an appealing slice of slow-burning, bassy funky soul. It was a cover of a Bobby Womack song. Overall, this album was one of the seventies' finest examples of funk-edged soul.

Below is a clip from Soul Train of Rufus performing Once You Get Started.


B+

Friday, 11 October 2019

Boz Scaggs - Fade Into Light (1996/2005)


  

Released on 19th November 1996 (Japan)
Released on 27th September 2005 (US)

Running time 54.23

For some reason, this superbly soulful, soothing album was released twice, nine years apart. Either way, it is a masterpiece of smoochy, romantic soul/AOR. Scaggs is rarely mentioned as a master of the genre, but he truly is. This appealing album is proof.

Scaggs uses many musicians on the album and the quality shines through on both their playing and the sound quality.

TRACK LISTING (US version)

1. Lowdown
2. Some Things Happen
3. Just Go
4. Love TKO
5. Fade Into Light
6. Harbor Lights
7. Lost It
8. Time
9. Sierra
10. We're All Alone
11. Simone
12. I'll Be The One                                                

Lowdown is a deliciously laid-back piece of soul/slow burning soft rock, featuring some Sade-style late night saxophone. Scaggs' vocal is appealing mellifluous and supremely soulful. Some Things Happen has an infectious, rhythmic guitar and gentle percussion intro. Once again, Scaggs is seductively attractive on his vocal and perfect for late night radio. The Lighthouse Family's vocalist had a similar voice. The backing vocals interplay with Scaggs on the chorus is sublime.

Just Go is just a wonderful, slow, romantic and sensitive number. Love TKO is a Bobby Womack song previously covered by Teddy Pendergrass which Scaggs does highly credible justice to. The soul feeling on here is peerless, as indeed is the guitar work. Fade Into Light is a classic Scaggs ballad with that distinctive We're All Alone-sounding vocal. Harbor Lights is a gentle piano-powered ballad with a real jazzy feel to it and a lovely deep stand-up bass sound. It has an excellent piano/bass/drum instrumental bit at the end.

Lost It is just beautiful - slow, romantic and sensual. Check out that heavenly organ break too. Time continues in a laid-back, vaguely Latin American acoustic guitar-driven groove. The song breaks out into a fast-paced bit of bluesy rock half way through, impressively. There is a great wah-wah guitar solo on it too. Sierra is simply delightful, airy, melodic and breezy in a very late seventies Al Stewart way. Once again, some fantastic guitar brings the track to a close.

Scaggs revisits his huge hit We're All Alone in slightly unplugged style, with just him, the piano and some subtle strings. It is simply a marvellous song and needs little further comment from me. Simone is a samba-influenced slow ballad. It is a bit Chris Rea-ish. I'll Be The One washes over you in a very laid-back, waves on the shore fashion. It utilises some contemporary r 'n' b scratching soinds on the backing, probably unnecessarily.

Stick this on as a late night album, it can't fail.

B+

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Madness - Can't Touch Us Now (2016)

Mumbo jumbo....

  

Released on 28 October 2016

Running time 58.59

Forget all that One Step Beyond nutty stuff that many expect Madness to serve up on stage, this is, like all their post-2000 work, a very mature and impressive album. As always, the group's keen eye for the minutiae of ordinary, urban (London) British life is reflected loud and clear in their clever, often dryly amusing lyrics. People mention The Kinks or maybe Ian Dury as being the masters of that sort of thing, but, for me, nobody has ever done it as well as Madness. Their intelligent and irresistibly catchy, melodic songs are often overshadowed by their "nutty" image, which is to pay their talent a true disservice.

TRACK LISTING

1. Can't Touch Us Now
2. Good Times
3. Mr. Apples
4. I Believe
5. Grandslam
6. Blackbird
7. You Are My Everything
8. Another Version Of Me
9. Mumbo Jumbo
10. Herbert
11. Don't Leave The Past Behind You
12. (Don't Let Them) Catch You Crying
13. Pam The Hawk
14. Given The Opportunity
15. Soul Denying
16. Whistle In The Dark                                      

Can't Touch Us Now starts the album in instantly recognisable Madness fashion, that clunking piano  underpinning its lively tones. Good Times has Suggs reflecting on what it may be like living on life's bottom rung. "Where did all the good times go.." he questions. Where they ever here, Suggs? I can't remember any, that's for sure. Mr Apples is a wry, observational number about a reactionary bureaucrat hiding some unsavoury secrets. I Believe has an infectious My Girl-style bass beat.

Grandslam is a solid typically Madness skank, overflowing with great guitar and organ, while Blackbird is an evocative and atmospheric song semi-sung, semi-spoken by Suggs packed full of London atmospheric, name-checking Dean Street in Soho. It has some jazz overtones about it too, referencing Ronnie Scott's and using the "vibes" keyboard instrument.


You Are My Everything has a dense, vaguely funky beat, some nice buzzy guitar and a deadpan Suggs vocal. It is a typical Madness love song, brutally honest and with no sense of self-consciousness whatsoever. Another Version Of Me is a big, brassy punchy number and Mumbo Jumbo is sort of like The Specials meeting Dexys Midnight Runners with Suggs taking shots at political hypocrisy. It quotes the line "propaganda ministers" from the group's early  Prince Buster cover, MadnessHerbert does the whole Ian Dury thing in its rhyme scheme and lyrical couplets. It is also has that Klezmer-style keyboard backing used on The Liberty Of Norton Folgate.

Don't Leave The Past Behind You has some solid brass breaks and a strong set of guitar riffs. A deep, throbbing bass introduces the late night jazzy feel of (Don't Let Them) Catch You Crying which is full of excellent saxophone and another slightly funky beat. The organ breaks are very Elvis Costello & The Attractions. This is a really good track.

Pam The Hawk is also full of London images in the sad tale of a woman who walks the streets of Soho, begging. She was a real character, known to many (including Suggs, no doubt) - Pamela Jennings (1964-2012). Suggs is so good at writing compassionate real life songs like this. The track ends with some suitably moving saxophone. Given The Opportunity is archetypal Madness and would have fitted it quite well on their early eighties albums.

Soul Denying is one of those quirky love songs Madness have always done so well. Whistle In The Dark is a theatrical number with a slow waltz-style beat.

This is yet another of Madness's intriguing, finely-crafted albums. The older they have got, the better their work has been, in many ways.

B-

Suggs



The Platinum Collection

Suggs - The Platinum Collection

I'll meet you by the underground....

 

This is a collection Madness singer/songwriter Suggs' (Graham McPherson's) solo work. While there are songs on here that are very "Madness", there are also considerable deviations into other styles. As always, Suggs' lyrics are acutely observational, evocative and often amusing. The album surprised me, however, with exactly how good it is. It really is excellent.

TRACK LISTING

1. Cecilia
2. I'm Only Sleeping
3. Camden Town
4. I Am
5. Alcohol
6. The Tune
7. Haunted
8. Off On Holiday
9. Green Eyes
10. Fortune Fish
11. So Tired
12. Straight Banana
13. Invisible Man
14. Girl
15. Our Man
16. On Drifting Sand
17. The Three Pyramids Club
18. No More Alcohol
19. Cecila (feat. Lochie Lou & Michie one)                       

Simon & Garfunkel's Cecilia blends a UB40-style brass backing with some contemporary ragga rapped vocals from Sugg's backng singers. The Beatles' I'm Only Sleeping is covered appealing, with the bass player doing a good job reproducing that rubbery McCartney bass sound. After these two covers, it is time for a typical piece of London atmosphere Suggs on the excellent Camden Town. It would fit nicely on Madness's The Liberty Of Norton Folgate album. It skanks along nicely, with some Rico-style trombone near the end. "In Camden Town, I'll meet you by the Underground." is a simple line but at the same time a spremely evocative one. It is a really good track, I have to say.

"I Am" has a big, punchy brass and bass backing and an upbeat vocal from Suggs. The bass is superbly pulsating and the whole feel of the song is lively and invigorating. It is, like much of the material, Madness-esque, of course. Alcohol is another good one, with some solid, thumping ragga/dancehall-ish rhythm but rendered different by Sugg's wry, witty lyrics. He really is a very good songwriter. "I come from a long line whose only fear is closing time.." is a clever line. The song also samples the trombone riff from Tequila. The Tune is a sort of Madness meets The Jam with that skanking brass backing again. Haunted has a rootsy bass line and samples Scotty's Draw Your Brakes at the beginning. Off On Holiday is a delightfully nostalgic little number about going down to the South Coast packed into the car, as so many of us did in the sixties and seventies. It is a very typical Suggs song.


Green Eyes is a mysterious, European-sounding slow number with some Stranglers-style keyboards and lyrics about a girl roaming around the streets of Brighton. Fortune Fish has an infectious, rhythmic shuffling beat and a deep, understated vocal. It features some excellent organ too. Its lyrics use the "me and you and a dog named Boo" from Lobo's seventies hit. So Tired is a big bassy number with some scratching sound affects and a deeply addictive beat. Lyrics about night buses, black taxis and dirty old river add to the atmosphere. I love this song. God bless you Suggs, old chap.

Straight Banana is a lively bit of slow pace ska-influenced fun with a nice skanking riff to it. Invisible Man is a very early eighties Madness-type song. It could easily be off any of the albums from that era. Girl features a Get Happy!! era Elvis Costello & The Attractions organ riff and General Levy joining in on ragga toasting. That sumptuous trombone is back too. Our Man starts with some vinyl scratchy sounds and then a 1920s jazzy beat kicks in to back another very Madness song. On Drifting Sand has a catchy pounding mid pace beat to it. The Three Pyramids Club is a shuffling, Eastern-sounding groove. It is another example of the musical diversification present on this collection. No More Alcohol revisits the previous track, Alcohol.

This is a most enjoyable collection of songs.

B

Monday, 7 October 2019

Cream - Disraeli Gears (1967)

She walks like a bearded rainbow....

  

Released on 2 November 1967

Running time 33.37

After the blues rock flavours of the debut album Fresh Cream, powerhouse trio Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were back with an offering that leant more towards the contemporary trend for "psychedelic rock". The songs are shorter, less indulgent and vocal duties are shared around, whereas before they had largely been done by Bruce.

The tile, incidentally, comes from a roadie's malapropism of a bicycle's derailleur gears, wrongly said as "Disraeli Gears". Random album titles were becoming de rigeur in the late sixties and his mistake was duly adopted.

The latest deluxe edition's stereo version is simply sonically superb. The mono version of the album is good too, nice and bassy, but the stereo is revelatory.

TRACK LISTING

1. Strange Brew
2. Sunshine Of Your Love
3. World Of Pain
4. Dance The Night Away
5. Blue Condition
6. Tales Of Brave Ulysses
7. SWLABR
8. We're Going Wrong
9. Outside Woman Blues
10. Take It Back
11. Mother's Lament                              

The opener, Strange Brew, has a delicious stereo sound and an alluring bass driving along its pleasing rhythm. Those lead guitar interjections sound razor sharp. Eric Clapton is on vocals and his voice is considerably more higher in pitch than it became over subsequent years. The song had a sort of swirling, airy hippiness to it that summed up its era perfectly. Sunshine Of Your Love is a solid, riffy Cream classic that combines a tough bluesy rock backing with once more that druggy, incense-drenched psychedelic vibe.

World Of Pain is a laid-back number that again expresses that psychedelic thing with some tasty wah-wah guitar enhancing it in a vaguely funky fashion. Interestingly, the first line sounds just like Elvis Costello on London's Brilliant Parade. (or more accurately Elvis Costello sounded like Jack Bruce). You have to say that the instrumentation throughout this album is outstanding. Ginger Baker once said that The Beatles simply could not compare as musicians to his colleagues in Cream. He was right too, there is no comparison. Dance The Night Away features some of that semi-Eastern guitar sound that had become so popular in 1967-68. Clapton and Bruce's vocals are deadpan, sonorous and mysterious. as with so much of the album's material, it would do a great job as soundtrack music for a sixties party scene in a drama. Crazy, man. You can hear the influence of tracks like this in music many years later, even today.


Blue Condition has Baker on lead vocals and, great as he was (he sadly passed away yesterday, as I write, by the way), singing was not really his forté. In comparison to the songs that had preceded it, it stands out, unfortunately as a bit of a "Ringo song".

Tales Of Brave Ulysses is a very psychedelic number with vocals that hint of seventies prog rock. It has a proggy lyrical pretension as well. That marvellous psych guitar and Baker's inspired drumming make it a great track, though. SWLABR stood for "She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow" which serves as a classic example of psychedelic nonsense. The track is a good one though - lyrically of its time but delightfully heavy in its riffage. Check out Baker's drums too. We're Going Wrong is a sleepy-paced number featuring some top-notch drumming from Baker underpinning a searing lead guitar. Again there is a drugged-up ambience that is suitably intoxicating.

A more bluesy feel returns on the muscular, chunky Outside Woman Blues which hinted at the sort of material Clapton would move on to over the next few years. His vocals and guitar are impressive throughout. A faster, more upbeat blues backs Take It Back, which has some appetising blues harmonica.

Cream unfortunately had a habit of including throwaway songs at the end of their albums and they do just that with the waste of time that is the hammy, music hall strains of Mother's Lament. Sooner they had included the excellent blues of Lawdy Mama instead. Overall, though, this was a really good album and the sound is fantastic for a 1967 recording.

B+

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Fela Kuti, Africa 70 And Ginger Baker - Live!

Let's start....

  

Recorded and released in 1971

Running time 46.50

Legendary ex-Cream and Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker died today (6th October 2019) so I was inspired to listen to this equally iconic live performance from 1971 with Nigerian Afrobeat main man Fela Kuti.

TRACK LISTING

1. Let's Start
2. Black Man's Cry
3. Ye Ye De Smell
4. Egbe Mi O (Carry Me)

BONUS TRACK

5. Ginger Baker And Tony Allen Drum Solo                    

Baker had left behind rock music for a while in 1970 and hooked up with Kuti to travel around Nigeria in a Land Rover to find out more about the intoxicating drum rhythms of the continent, particularly that of Afrobeat. The notoriously irascible, "difficult" character that was Baker must have met his match in the charismatic and enigmatic Nigerian because things seemed to go pretty well and Kuti's long-time drummer Tony Allen praised Baker for being one of the only white, Western drummers who truly "got" the unique rhythms of Afrobeat. The resulting live album has achieved considerable critical kudos over the subsequent decades, regularly making those "essential live albums" lists.

The music is, as you would expect, a collection of extended grooves where Kuti and his outstanding Africa 70 group get into a rhythm and keep it going, punctuated by occasional vocals, punchy horn breaks and often intricate, addictive guitar and keyboard parts. The first two tracks, Let's Start (check out the bass and overall superb sound on this one) and Black Man's Cry, do not feature Baker, the drumming is done by Tony Allen. Baker appears on Ye Ye De Smell and Egbe Mi O (Carry Me). Whether he is there to try and attract a Western "rock" market is probably true to an extent, but you get the impression that Kuti is genuinely enjoying having him there. He states that the former track was written with Baker in mind.

It is a bit of a surprise to me just how very rhythmic Baker is, taking the typical late sixties rock drum solo (which had almost blueprinted by Baker on Cream's Toad) concept to new levels on Ye Ye De Smell. It is certainly the most rhythmic drum solo that anyone had no doubt heard thus far. It is a masterpiece of intuitive, infectious, inspired drumming. Baker might have been many things - unnecessarily confrontation, often violent and insensitive - but his natural rhythm is never in question. Maybe John Bonham had the power and Keith Moon the energy and vigour but in many ways Baker proved here that he had it all.

The solo with Tony Allen is, at sixteen minutes, a tad lengthy, given that there are no horns or keyboards to enhance it, but the instinctive feel shown by the two drummers is mighty impressive. I have to say that is just sucks you in, though, the two of them are fantastic, let's be honest. How they keep it going for such a long time, with no apparent mistakes, is phenomenal. It isn't just two blokes bashing away, it is rhythmic drumming of the highest quality. It takes the drum solo to a higher plane (albeit there are two of them). The bit around twelve and a half minutes in is superb.

Apparently Baker came to be a drummer by accident (he preferred cycling at the time) but was persuaded to try drumming and found that he was a natural. That certainly comes across loud and clear on this excellent live album. It is certainly no wealthy white man's vanity project.

B

Friday, 4 October 2019

Thin Lizzy - Bad Reputation (1977)

Killer without a cause....

  

Released on 2 September 1977

Running time 35.50

Oblivious to punk's fires burning all around them, Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy put out another album of solid Celtic-influenced catchy but at times heavy rock with a poppy edge. Lizzy seemed to appeal to punks, however, largely due to Lynott's clenched-fist, leather-clad don't give a whatever "attitude" and their often irresistible, melodic, singalong riff-laden songs. There was no indulgent soloing or progginess about Thin Lizzy, so they rode the storm pretty well. They were hard and honest and won the respect of most, including the often cynical punks.

During the recording Guitarist Brian Robertson fell out with the rest of the band and barely appears on the album. Scott Gorham does most of the guitar work himself, but, despite the inter-band disharmony, the album flows together effectively. The trademark double guitar sound is recorded by adding Robertson's guitar parts after he had been persuaded to lay them down separately.

The album was produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie and T. Rex) and he does a great job, as always. The album packs a real heavy rock punch, but still carrying that lovable Lizzy lilt to it. The album is quite short, however, and you somehow get the impression that it was completed pretty quickly and that, at the time, they were just glad to get it over with.

TRACK LISTING

1. Soldier Of Fortune
2. Bad Reputation
3. Opium Trail
4. Southbound
5. Dancing In The Moonlight
6. Killer Without A Cause
7. Downtown Sundown
8. That Woman's Gonna Break Your Heart
9. Dear Lord                                                              

Soldier Of Fortune is similar to the material on Jailbreak - an appealing, melodic but hard-hitting lyrically heroic and Celtically romantic number. Lynott always liked to evoke the spirits of old soldiers returning from some mythical, unnamed war and the character of the soldier of fortune suited his lyrical conceits so well. It changes pace half way through and some military marching-style drums back some excellent guitar.

Bad Reputation is a dark, chugging number with a deep, atmospheric Lynott vocal. If anything, the track ends a bit too soon. The drumming from Brian Downey is rollingly outstanding. He was a true powerhouse and rarely mentioned when the lists of great rock drummers are being trotted out. Opium Trail gives a sort of romantic feeling to chasing drugs against an exhilarating rock backing. Lynott's own drug dependency at the time gives it a sorry undercurrent. Gorham's guitar work on the track is superb. Lynott liked a bit of "travelling to the mysterious East" stuff in his lyrics too - all those references to China and heroin.


Southbound is a typical mid-pace Lynott rock ballad, similar to those found on Fighting or Night Life, full of yearning, romantic but dramatic lyrics - "drifting like a drover.." and more references to the Wild West. Check out the bass on it too.

The album's big hit single was the gently infectious, slightly jazzy Dancing In The Moonlight, a track which uses some saxophone too, something unusual for Lizzy. Another fabulous bass introduces the song. I always wondered what that line about "chocolate stains on my pants" was all about, though.

I have to say that Lynott had such a knack in his songwriting, finding hooks so very easy to come by.

Killer Without A Cause is an excellent, powerful rocker with some suitably killer guitar passages while Downtown Sundown has a thumping but tuneful drum backing to its honeyed tones while That Woman's Gonna Break Your Heart has some big electric riffs merging with acoustic ones backing another vagabond vocal from Lynott. Dear Lord is full of quality heavy guitar, throbbing bass and some buzzy, spacey sound effects swirling around. Once again, the vocal is most impressive.

Some critics have nit-picked a bit between all the Lizzy albums from the seventies as to which are better than others. Not me. I like them all. This was an album of what was was so attractive about Thin Lizzy - wild, gypsy, vibrant and rocking but with a warm soul underneath and Phil Lynott's evocative vocals and songwriting always to the fore.  He has been so missed over the years.

B-

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

The Flying Burrito Brothers - Burrito Deluxe (1970)

If you gotta go, go now....

  

Released in April 1970

Running time 33.08

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 Stones' Wild 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.

TRACK LISTING

1. Lazy Days
2. Image Of Me
3. High Fashion Queen 
4. If You Gotta Go, Go Now
5. Man In The Fog
6. Farther Along
7. Older Guys
8. Cody, Cody
9. God's Own Singer
10. Down In The Churchyard
11. Wild Horses                                      

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 Fog.

Two months after the release of the album, Parsons was fired from the band he helped to create for drunkenness and general unreliability.

C+

Crazy Horse - Loose (1972)

You won't miss me....

  

Released in January 1972

Running time 40.03

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.

TRACK LISTING


1. Hit And Run
2. Try
3. One Thing I Love
4. Move
5. All Alone Now
6. All The Little Things
7. Fair Weather Friend
8. You Won't Miss Me
9. Going Home
10. I Don't Believe It
11. Kind Of Woman
12. One Sided Love
13. And She Won't Even Blow Smoke In My Direction    

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.

C+