Archive for the Rock Classics! Category

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: More Psychedelic Relics!

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2010 by 30daysout

This has been a busy week – we apologize for the gap in posts but we plan to ride this thing into Record Store Day tomorrow and beyond.  I had some ideas for this week’s posts scribbled on a scrap somewhere and I’ve lost it … so let’s freestyle with a couple of personal faves from the psychedelic daze.

One of my all-time favorite bands from those fuzzy days of yore is Spirit, the California rockers led by guitarist Randy California and master singer/songwriter Jay Ferguson.  Formed in 1967, Spirit was the American answer to Brit rockers Traffic (Steve Winwood) – their music encompassed rock, pop, folk, blues, classical and jazz.  Best known for their hits “Animal Zoo” and “I Got A Line On You,” as well as the classic Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), the band was certainly one of the best of their era.

In 1968, French film director Jacques Demy asked Spirit to write and record a soundtrack to his movie Model Shop.  Demy was seeking to make a film that captured the “vibe” of Los Angeles, and after seeing Spirit perform in a local club he decided they would be the perfect musical counterpoint for his movie.  In Ferguson and California, Spirit had two strong songwriters but they rarely collaborated – except on the Model Shop soundtrack.

The band’s jazz leanings come to the fore on “Eventide” and a few other songs.  In fact, most of the songs cut for the soundtrack were instrumentals, only “Green Gorilla” and “Now Or Anywhere” have vocals by Ferguson.  When the movie was finally released in 1969 it was a flop, so the soundtrack album release was scrapped.  Because Spirit cut the soundtrack between sessions for their second and third albums, there’s a bit of continuity – two outtakes from The Family That Plays Together (1968) – “Fog” and “Now or Anywhere” – turn up on the soundtrack.

And later in 1969, some material for Clear came from the unreleased soundtrack.  For example, “Model Shop II” became the title song and “Song for Lola” was used as part of “Ice”.  Nevertheless, a lot of the material here remained unheard until 2005, when Sundazed Records got their hands on a set of  long-lost master tapes and reassembled the soundtrack for a CD release.

MP3: “Now or Anywhere” by Spirit

MP3: “Eventide” by Spirit

MP3: “Song For Lola” by Spirit

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Woodshedding at Woodstock

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by 30daysout

Editor’s Note: We are expanding this feature for this week only, to help call attention to Record Store Day on Saturday.  Independent record stores are dying on the vine, go out on Saturday and show ‘em that you love them by purchasing some vinyl.

Today we travel about 1,500 miles to the hamlet of Woodstock, New York, comfortably situated in the rustic Hudson Valley north of the Big Apple.  Now this isn’t the place where the big Woodstock festival took place (that was in Bethel, about 40 miles to the northeast) – the town of Woodstock is a haven for artists, musicians and the like.  One of the town’s most famous residents is Levon Helm, best known as the drummer for the Band.

The stories are rock legend: about the Band backing Dylan as he went “electric” in the mid-1960s, how a discouraged Helm quit, how the group reunited with Dylan in Woodstock, then finally how Helm rejoined and recorded the landmark Music From Big Pink.  By 1975, Levon Helm was a big-time rock star.  He had just married a young lady he first met while working in L.A., and he moved back to bucolic Woodstock to make his permanent home. On his 20-acre homesite, Helm built a huge timber-framed barn with only wooden pegs and locally quarried bluestone.  Overlooking a bass-filled lake and shadowed by Overlook Mountain, Helm’s barn was to double as a recording studio.

The studio was nearly complete in 1975 when Helm welcomed his first client, Chicago blues great Muddy Waters.  Helm and his business partner songwriter/producer Henry Glover invited some of the A-list musicians to sit in on the sessions with Waters and his touring band.  The result was The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album, released in 1975.  Among the musicians on the album were guitarist Bob Margolin and pianist Willie “Pinetop” Perkins from Muddy’s band, blues-harp monster Paul Butterfield and hot session guitarist Fred Carter as well as Helm and Garth Hudson from the Band.

The album kicks off with “Why Are People Like That,” written by Louisiana singer/songwriter Bobby Charles (who was also living in Woodstock at the time).  Waters wrote five songs his own bad self, including “Born With Nothing” (on which Muddy plays a wicked slide guitar) and “Going Down To Main Street” (with Garth Hudson on accordion).  The accordion wasn’t known as a blues instrument (outside of  Clifton Chenier’s neighborhood, of course) but Hudson turns it into a blistering blues tool, particularly on “Caledonia,” a cover of the hot Louis Jordan tune.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Psychedelic Two-Fer!

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2010 by 30daysout

This week we’re going to double up our reviews of old records and run a few more of these features than usual, all to help promote Record Store Day, which is Saturday.  Independent record stores are dying on the vine, on this day (at least) go on out and show ’em that you love them by purchasing some vinyl.  A few of us are lucky enough to live in a place where there are a handful of record stores – the one I’m going to on Saturday (Houston’s Cactus Records) is the place where I bought many LPs back in the 1970s.

I didn’t buy either of these albums at the record store, but I dug ’em up out of my big sister’s bedroom.  She always was a dedicated follower of fashion, and once a pop group had a hit single or album she usually jumped on the bandwagon.  So in many cases she has the album that came out after the big hit … which is pretty fascinating in itself, I guess.

Like today’s entry: II X II by the Cowsills, released in 1970.  Many people consider this album to be one of the group’s finest, even though it was a so-called “experimental” album (which in those days, meant “psychedelic.”)  You know the Cowsills: they were a singing family from Rhode Island complete with Svengali/manager dad, singing mom etc., and they’re best known for a handful of pop hits including “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” (1967), “Indian Lake” (1968), “Hair” (1969) and so on.  They were the real-life inspiration for the TV series “The Partridge Family,” and they were actually going to play themselves on TV until the clan learned producers wanted to replace the singing Cowsill mom with actress Shirley Jones.

As with all pop groups, the gig got a bit old when the hits stopped comin’, and around 1969 everyone was listening to albums anyway.  Now unlike the TV Partridges, the Cowsills could actually play their own instruments.  Brothers Bill and Bob Cowsill wrote the bulk of the band’s material, which kind of fit a lightly rockin’ folk-rock groove.  When it came time to record II X II, everyone in the band felt it was time to break away from the pop image with material that was a bit more mature and introspective.  So here you go: the title song which kicks off the album, is a kind of sci-fi Utopian fantasy that puts the Noah’s Ark concept on a groovy starship going to another planet to start a new peaceful civilization, or something.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Mama Lion

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , on April 6, 2010 by 30daysout

Back in the days of 12-inch long-playing vinyl, the album cover was almost as important as the music.  Who can forget the classic photograph on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, or the iconic prism on Dark Side of the Moon?  So today let’s dig around and find an album with interesting packaging – ah, here we go … 1972’s Mama Lion (or in the U.K.,  Preserve Wildlife).

Click on image to see the "hidden" gatefold art (NSFW)

Mama Lion was the name of a group built around female singer Lynn Carey, who had ah, interesting packaging of her own.  Carey was a decent blues-rock belter in the mold of Janis Joplin, and the rest of the band was fairly adept at cranking out some rockin’ grooves.  The band included on vocals and keyboards a young James Newton Howard, who would go on to become well-known as a writer and performer of movie scores (Pretty Woman, Prince of Tides, The Dark Knight, etc.).  Bassist/singer Neil Merryweather was also in the band – he doubled as Carey’s boyfriend.

Another obvious influence was Led Zeppelin, but Mama Lion came up a little short in the songwriting department.  So the album is filled with covers with Carey’s voice running roughshod over trinkets like Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and the Motown chestnut “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.”  The originals, including “Wildcat” and “Sister Sister (She Better Than A Man)” were written by Carey/Merryweather and fit the mold of a strong, earthy woman singin’ about “her man.”  Howard turns in some fine rock piano work on “Wildcat” but his piano intro on “Mr. Invitation” shows off his classical training.

But … the cover art.  Ahem, yes – Mama Lion was perhaps best known for its notorious gatefold photo, which was revealed after you opened the “cage door” on the album’s cover.  It depicted Carey breastfeeding a lion cub, and perhaps was the best thing about this whole album.  Carey went on to front Mama Lion for at least one more album, and later in 1972 she became the Penthouse magazine Pet of the Year.   She worked in movies and TV and her voice is dubbed for one actress in the movie Beyond The Valley of the Dolls.

For listening purposes, Mama Lion is a great time capsule to the era.  For viewing purposes, the controversial cover art shows that artists wanted to get people talking (and buying music) long before Erykah Badu.

MP3: “Ain’t No Sunshine”

MP3: “Mr. Invitation”

MP3: “Wildcat”

MP3: “Can’t Find My Way Home”

MP3: “Sister, Sister (She Better Than A Man)”

YouTube: Mama Lion on German TV in 1973 doing “Candy Man”

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Little Richard

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , on March 23, 2010 by 30daysout

Still rifflin’ through the big box o’ records given to me by my sister’s boyfriend, who is also a DJ at a cool radio station.  This one was a bit of a head scratcher for me, until I put needle to vinyl.  The Rill Thing by Little Richard is from 1970, a time when many of the artists from the first rock and roll era had moved on to movies and live shows (Elvis, Chuck Berry) or just got plain psychedelic (Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters).

Little Richard had a bunch of seminal rock hits in the 1950s, then turned religious and became a preacher in the early 1960s.  But by the late 1960s he had gone back to performing in big live shows in the big “Rock and Roll Revival” craze of the era.  And he was also drinking and drugging pretty heavily – guess he’d lost Jesus at that point.

So by 1970 he signed with Warner Bros./Reprise after a three-year layoff from recording.  The resulting album, The Rill Thing, is just that – and it’s pretty good. It kicks off with the joyous “Freedom Blues,” a return to form (at least vocally) for Richard.  Presto- “Freedom Blues” cracked the Billboard Top 50 and became Richard’s first hit single in 13 years.   His scream going right into the sax solo was a refreshing reminder that the Georgia Peach was still a force to be reckoned with.

The psychedelic guitars kick in during “Greenwood, Mississippi,” which became the second single off the album.  “Dew Drop Inn” is another rocker of Little Richard’s old blueprint, and “Somebody Saw You” is one of the swamp rockers that serves as this album’s filler.  Attempting to reach the current audience, Richard wrote “The Rill Thing,” which was a 10-minute instrumental that kind of brings an otherwise fine album to a screeching halt.  It’s a horn-drenched kind of funk thing that wears out its welcome after about two minutes or so.

After that ill-advised title track, the album wobbles to a close with two covers: Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” and Paul McCartney’s “I Saw Her Standing There.”  Richard turns the former into a New Orleans-styled jaunt and blisters through the latter to at least end the album on a rockin’ note.  The Rill Thing is a return to form for an artist who’d been out of the spotlight (on record, at least) for a while.  The album failed to make a splash, and Richard cut a followup for Reprise that mirrored his traditional sound more closely – but it wasn’t nearly as good as The Rill Thing.

After a close call with death and the demise of some people close to him, Little Richard finally went back to the Lord for good in 1977.  He has maintained a pretty decent career in entertainment over the years while also fulfilling his heavenly obligations.  In recent months, he’s given a few interviews where he says he plans to retire soon.  After all, he’s 77 years old!

MP3: “Freedom Blues”

MP3: “Greenwood, Mississippi”

MP3: “Dew Drop Inn”

MP3: “Lovesick Blues”

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Runaways

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , on March 15, 2010 by 30daysout

Thought we’d give this one a spin before the mythology kicks in a few weeks from now: The Runaways, from 1976.  The movie of the same name is supposed to start soon, and needless to say, it’s going to paint the real story in big, bold colors.  The Runaways were an all-girl rock band that came out of L.A. around 1975, put together by veteran L.A. producer Kim Fowley, they were 16- and 17-year-olds who could really play their instruments.

Joan Jett was a guitarist and the main songwriter, guitar player Lita Ford, bassist Jackie Fox, drummer Sandy West and pretty blonde lead singer Cherie Currie.  Many people are saying THIS is the first real all-girl rock band – don’t believe it.  Check out Fanny, which broke up the same year the Runaways got together – actually Goldie and the Gingerbreads were the first all-female rock band to sign to a major label (1960s) and Fanny was the second (1970s).

Anyhow – The Runaways.  Like any red-blooded young American male of the era (OK, I was 20 years old), you weren’t cool if you didn’t own a copy of this album.  “Cherry Bomb,” the group’s only big hit, kicks off the album; like many of the other songs, it was written by Joan Jett and Kim Fowley.  Currie had a throaty, husky singing voice and her delivery gave the band’s music a bit of toughness that the overly polished musicianship didn’t really sell.  Probably she was a little extra pissed off when she cut the vocal for “Cherry Bomb” – apparently Jett/Fowley wrote the song about her.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Flying Burrito Brothers

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by 30daysout

Today’s album is from 1972: Last Of The Red Hot Burritos, the live fourth album by country rock pioneers the Flying Burrito Brothers.  The Burritos were formed, of course, in 1969 by former Byrds Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, along with steel guitarist “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow and bassist Chris Etheridge.  Parsons left after the second album, and he was replaced by guitarist and songwriter Bernie Leadon.  Another ex-Byrd, Michael Clarke, was recruited to keep time on drums.

By the time this album was recorded, Kleinow and Leadon had left the band (Leadon to join the fledgling Eagles), leaving Chris Hillman as the sole founding member.  In their places, Hillman recruited Al Perkins (guitar/steel guitar) and Kenny Wertz (banjo) and added guest musicians Byron Berline (fiddle) and Roger Bush (upright bass) for a 1971 tour.  This lineup toured until Hillman left the band in October, leaving the rights to the band’s name to Rick Roberts.  Once Hillman departed, A&M Records lost faith in the group and instead of allowing a Roberts-led version of the band (with no founding members) to record a new studio album, A&M released this live recording instead which fulfilled the band’s contract before they were subsequently dropped from the label.

Nevertheless, Last Of The Red Hot Burritos is a fiery farewell, and Hillman naturally shifts the focus toward more traditional country and bluegrass.   The record is evenly divided with rocked-up versions of Burrito originals and country standards and pure bluegrass like “Orange Blossom Special” and “Dixie Breakdown.”  And there’s “Don’t Fight It,” a soul standard written by Wilson Pickett/Steve Cropper but turned into a country rocker by the Burritos.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Delaney & Bonnie & Friends

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2010 by 30daysout

Today we have a great album to share:  D&B Together, from Delaney & Bonnie & Friends.  The husband-and-wife team of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett put out some great records in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  They started out on Stax Records, and you can get an idea of what these two funky white folks had to sound like to record for the likes of Stax (home to Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, etc.).

Delaney Bramlett is one of the great rock bandleaders, perhaps underrated today but certainly not when he was in his prime.  Bramlett not only had his fiercely soulful singin’ wife, but he recruited some of the greatest musicians to play backup on those Delaney & Bonnie albums.  D&B Together, from 1972, is the duo’s sixth album and man, they don’t cut records like this any more.

First, the band: Delaney, on guitar and vocals; Bonnie, vocals; drums, Jim Gordon (Derek & the Dominos); bass, Kenny Gradney (Little Feat); keyboards, Billy Preston!; keyboards and vocals, Leon Friggin’ Russell!; more bass, Carl Radle (Derek & the Dominos); more drums, Jaimoe (Allman Brothers); more keyboards, Bobby Whitlock (Derek & the Dominos); and even more bass, James Jamerson (Motown)!  Now the guitar players – Eric Clapton, Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, Dave Mason and Duane Friggin’ Allman!  Nice, eh?

The album kicks off with Mason’s “Only You Know and I Know,” which was a hit for Delaney & Bonnie.  Led by Bonnie’s soulful vocals (with backing vocals – oh I forgot those – by Merry Clayton, Rita Coolidge, Clydie King, Tina Turner and Eddie Kendricks, among others) the song establishes the easy rockin’ and intoxicating mash of soul, rock, blues and country that seemed to be so easy and unforced back in the early 1970s.  “Wade In The River of Jordan” could have been a tambourine-shaker from any white or black country church, and Delaney’s “Well Well” is another tasty slab of rockin’ soul.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Badfinger

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2010 by 30daysout

Still riffling through those records I got from my sister’s cool boyfriend, who works at an FM rock radio station.  Today we have something of interest to Beatles fans … by a group that managed to get three of the Fab Four involved with them over different points in their existence.

That’s Badfinger of course, and today’s record is Magic Christian Music, released on the Beatles’ Apple Records imprint in 1970.  Badfinger performed some of the songs in a movie, The Magic Christian, but the album isn’t an official soundtrack because the song “Something In The Air” by Thunderclap Newman that appears in the movie isn’t on the Apple label.  The real soundtrack appeared on another label, but mainly in England – so Apple put out today’s record to at least get Badfinger exposed to American audiences.

Badfinger is, of course, the British group led by singers Pete Ham and Tom Evans, who were also the group’s main songwriters.  They were called the Iveys when they were “discovered” by Mal Evans, the Beatles’ roadie and the dude who did a lot of the heavy lifting for Apple Records.  Evans signed the Iveys to a recording contract in 1968 and released a few singles to lukewarm success.  Paul McCartney was asked to write a song for the soundtrack of The Magic Christian movie, and when he did he asked the Iveys to record it.  While they were recording McCartney’s song “Come and Get It” (the session was also produced by McCartney), the group changed its name to Badfinger.

The Magic Christian was a satirical movie written by Terry Southern, also known for penning the script for Easy Rider.  It was first a novel, then the screenplay was adapted by Southern along with the film’s star Peter Sellers and two young British comedians, Graham Chapman and John Cleese (later to become famous as part of Monty Python’s Flying Circus).  Sellers played Guy Grand, an eccentric billionaire who adopts a homeless man (Ringo Starr) and together they begin playing nasty practical jokes on people.  The movie’s satiric message is that people would do just about anything for money, and each prank progressively gets wilder than the one preceding it.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Brothers Unlimited

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , on January 11, 2010 by 30daysout

My sister’s musical tastes have been changing, and I know why.  She has a new boyfriend: Chauncey, and he has a big Afro.  She confided in me because Dad won’t like the fact that she dates a black dude, but I’m cool with it.  I’m especially cool with his taste in music!

Chauncey is a disc jockey – his on-the-air name is Private Eye – and he loaned me this 8-track from his car.  It’s called Who’s For The Young, and it’s by a group called Brothers Unlimited.  It came out in 1970, and although it appears to a hip psychedelic-R&B album it’s really got a lot of nice Southern funk and soul tunes.

Brothers Unlimited was a 14-piece group from Memphis.  The group came together in 1968, with a unique live sound blending funk, soul, rock and smooth vocals.  The group was organized by John “Kousi” Harris, formerly of the group J Robinson and The Dynamics, and Memphis singer Jerry Jones.  Curtis Johnson, and brother Harold “Quake” Johnson had formerly been members of The Chips/Astors,  who recorded with Stax Records.

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