PAUL KOSSOFF - The Best Of Paul Kossoff (2003)
In the early '70s, Paul Kossoff was a much-heralded young guitarist from a much-heralded young rock band called Free. In a short period of time, Kossoff and his cohorts punched out some classic rock. A brief solo career followed for the inspired axeman, but his untimely death in 1976 from a drug-related heart attack put an end to the potential that his peers and fans were looking forward to seeing fully realized. All one can do is celebrate and enjoy what this stylistically unique and utterly precocious musician left behind, and this 17-track disc, which culls Kossoff's best work from both his days with Free and as a solo performer, is an excellent way to do just that. A player who made his name with unusual phrasings, brazen fills, and an intuitive use of sustained notes and rarely going for fretboard-smoking speed Kossoff had a prototypical signature sound. His ability to do the work of two guitarists Free, for the most part, was a barebones guitar/bass/drums/singer outfit was one of his greatest strengths and, despite a good deal of studio dubbing, you can hear it in places on this album. The best cuts are definitely the eight Free tracks, which include the raunchy "The Hunter," the good-time rock-blues of "Ride on a Pony," the dramatic "Fire and Water" and "Mr. Big," and the band's all-time classic, "All Right Now." On yet another Free number, "The Stealer," Kossoff delivers one of his most searing solos, ripping arcane sounds from his Les Paul as if communicating a secret language through the instrument. The material from Kossoff's solo disc, Back Street Crawler, and the band of the same name which he subsequently assembled, is not to be sniffed at either. The songs, with the possible exceptions of "Molten Gold" and "New York New York," may not be as distinctive, but Kossoff's playing is. Throw in the fact that this album also features the singing of the inimitable Paul Rodgers (who later formed Bad Company), the stunning bass work of boy wonder Andy Fraser, and a swag of other fine musicians, and this one's vintage, baby, vintage.
V.A. - Wattstax: Music From The Wattstax Festival & Film (2007)
In 1972, Stax Records was second only to Motown as America's most successful black-owned record company, and as part of an ambitious bid to grow into a multimedia empire, the Memphis-based label had opened offices in Los Angeles and was eager to announce its presence in the community. The Watts Summer Festival was an annual celebration staged in the beleaguered Watts neighborhood of L.A., a mostly African-American community that had been scarred by race riots in the late '60s, and in 1972 Stax did something special for the occasion: it staged an all-day concert at the Los Angeles Coliseum on the final day of the Watts festival, with nearly every artist on the Stax roster appearing live on-stage and tickets priced at only a dollar. Over 110, 000 people attended the show, a camera crew was on hand to capture the proceedings for a feature film, and a mobile recording truck committed the whole show to tape. Two albums featuring material from the Wattstax festival appeared in 1972 and 1973, but both contained studio recordings along with material from the concert, and Wattstax: Music from the Wattstax Festival and Film is a three-CD set that brings together the lion's share of the previously released live material from the show along with a handful of previously unreleased performances recorded that day. This set tries to give a sense of the size, shape, and flow of the massive concert, opening with "Salvation Symphony" (a grand-scale orchestral piece written by Dale Warren, who led the big band that backed most of the performers) and an invocation by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and closing with headliner Isaac Hayes winding up the crowd with "Theme from Shaft." Along the way, the festival attempted to showcase the breadth of both the African-American musical experience and the Stax artists, touching on gospel, blues and several flavors of rhythm & blues, though the jazz acts which appeared at the show didn't make the cut for this set. While these three discs feel a bit overstuffed, there's a wealth of memorable music here and some pleasant surprises, too.
Despite the absence of Yvonne Staples, who was sick that day, the Staple Singers turn in an engaging and deeply moving set, especially on "I Like the Things About Me," and while Lee Sain, William Bell, and Eddie Floyd only get one song each, they all make the most of their time on-stage. The Emotions offer a mesmerizing take on "Peace Be Still" in a performance recorded at an L.A. storefront church. The Bar-Kays tear into a deliriously funky set with the frantic "Son of Shaft" and "I Can't Turn You Loose," and David Porter makes a rare live appearance showing he was as strong a vocalist as he was a songwriter. The Rance Allen Group's strong gospel-funk is impressive, as is the Soul Children's furious "I Don't Know What This World Is Coming To" (the latter nearly steal the show with their second number, the raucous "Hearsay"). Carla Thomas sounds like soul royalty in her five-song set, and her dad Rufus Thomas throws the party into high gear as he and his band percolate through "The Funky Chicken" and "The Breakdown." Isaac Hayes was clearly the star attraction, and the crowd goes nuts as he lays into "Theme from Shaft," and it's a shame we don't get to hear more of him, though his Wattstax set appears in full on an album of its own. As good as the music is, and most of it's very good, what's most special about this collection is the sense of optimism and hope in a society strling with the social ills of the early '70s that pervades these performances; at a time when the hope born of the Civil Rights Movement was starting to fade and cynicism was taking its place, Jesse Jackson's chant of "I am somebody," taken up by the 110,000 in attendance, sounds like a defiant cry for a better world, and that higher purpose makes this more than just another recording of classic '70s soul and funk, but a celebration of both life and music.
ATOMIC ROOSTER - 1970/73
Founded 1969 - Disbanded in 1975 - Reformed from 1980 to 1983 and again since 2016 with new formation. The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown having disintegrated after their sole album and their worldwide hit Fire (I am the god of hellfire) Vincent Crane (responsible for the music of that album) and Carl Palmer founded Atomic Rooster with Nick Graham on bass and vocals. This line-up soon disintegrated (Palmer abandoning them to join ELP), Crane contacted guitarist John DuCann formerly of psych bands The Attack and Andromeda and Paul Hammond on drums to make a seminal early Heavy Metal masterpiece "Death Walks Behind You" and then they hired Pete French, the incredible voice to make their finest album "In Hearing Of...". Most people would agree that this was the better line-up of Rooster but the mood was always stormy between Crane and DuCann so they disbanded at the release of the third album. Vincent Crane, always prone to depressions, had to start from scratch again and hired superb vocalist Chris Farlowe (ex-Colosseum) and other men to make another fine album "Made In England" and finally "Nice and Greasy". Those last album are often over-looked by progheads being categorized as funk but this is hardly the case even if the superb use of a horn section on a third of the tracks add a lot of depth to their music. Their most popular hits (they did not spit at the singles market made often reference to the devil or Satan but the general mood was not Satanist as they have been so often categorized along with Black Sabbath and Black Widow. Crane would re-form his band along the years when his health permitted it until his death in 89.
Atomic Rooster is highly recommended to everyone looking for Hammond organ-driven rock of the early 70's but to anyone looking for high-energy prog. It is responsible for some of the all-time best hard-rock albums and should figure in all collection.
ROGER GLOVER AND FRIENDS - The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper's Feast (1974) [3CD Box Set, 2018]
Deep Purple were originally signed in 1968 to Parlophone Records in the UK, before switching to EMI’s progressive imprint, Harvest, the following year. In 1971, the band’s management set up Purple Records, to release Deep Purple’s records from Machine Head onwards, but also the various side projects the band members were developing, and artists that they were discovering and respected. The label would eventually become home to debut solo releases from Jon Lord, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, as well as early releases from Michael Des Barres’ Silverhead and Ronnie James Dio’s Elf. Following expanded reissues from the resurrected Purple Records by Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, Glenn Hughes, Silverhead, Elf and Hard Stuff, Cherry Red are proud to announce the new 3 disc edition of The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast. After leaving Purple in 1973, Roger Glover was asked to compose music to the illustrated book of the same name by William Plomer and Alan Aldridge. His first major project since leaving Purple, Roger was able to enlist many top names to help him realise his vision, including Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale, then both in Deep Purple as well as Elf’s Micky Lee Soule and Ronnie James Dio. Not included on the original vinyl LP, the single ‘Little Chalk Blue’ featuring future Uriah Heep singer John Lawton is also featured on CD 1. As well as the remastered album, a second disc features nine demos and alternative mixes, plus the very rare Butterfly Ball Radio Special, a 1974 promo only release where the album’s creator and producer, Roger Glover, discusses and explains the story behind the creation of the project. The third disc is a replica of the ‘Love Is All’ EP, a huge hit single across Europe on its 1974 release, featuring Ronnie James Dio on lead vocals. Presented in a clamshell box set with booklet, individual wallets and poster, with sleeve-notes from Malcolm Dome, who has written a new essay based on interviews with Roger, plus text reproduced from the original 1974 press release.
Rubicon was a California one-hit wonder funk rock band, whose "I'm Gonna Take Care of Everything" spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978, peaking at number 28. Rubicon was formed in San Francisco by Jerry Martini, who was an original member of Sly & the Family Stone. Other members of the group included Greg Eckler (vocals, drums), Brad Gillis (guitar), Max Haskett (lead vocals, horns), Dennis Marcellino (sax, vocals), Jim Pugh (keyboards), Jack Blades (bass) and Johnny Colla (guitar). Their first album, the self-titled Rubicon, released in 1978, generated their only chart single. They released a second album in 1979, entitled America Dreams, before disbanding. Drummer Kelly Keagy was brought on as a touring drummer before the breakup. Keagy, Gillis and Blades went on to form the successful band Night Ranger. Johnny Colla would become a founding member of Huey Lewis and the News. Rubicon reformed in the early 90's as a progressive rock band with Greg Eckler (drums), Chuck Crenshaw (keyboards), J.P. Michaels (vocals, bass guitar), David Christians (vocals, lead guitar), and Randy Newhouse (acoustic guitar). This version of Rubicon produced one CD called Best of Rubicon, and a single "Whipping Boy", written by Michaels and Crenshaw.
MIKE ZITO - First Class Life (2018)
Blues-rock is a tightrope - and Mike Zito has never lost his footing. At times in his storied two-decade career, the Texas bandleader has rolled up the amps and rocked as hard as anyone. Yet his lifelong fascination with the blues has always reeled him back in. And now, having shaken the rafters with 2016's acclaimed Make Blues Not War, First Class Life finds Mike diving deep into the only genre that can do justice to his hard-won true stories of hardship and redemption. "Make Blues was pretty extreme and rocking," he reflects. "This time, I was definitely thinking more blues." First Class Life is a fitting album title from a man who remembers the hard times. "The title track is a nod to where I've come from and where I'm at," explains the songwriter whose promising early career was almost destroyed by addiction. "It's a rags-to-riches story, and it's certainly true. I grew up poor in St. Louis, and now I'm travelling the world to sing my songs. In the world of excess America, I may not look 'rich', but in my world, I most certainly am. I have a beautiful family, I'm clean and sober, and I get to play music."
MICK KOLASSA & MARK TELESCA - You Can't Do That (2018)
The songs of the Beatles have been covered by more artists of all musical genres than any songwriters, with the possible exception of Bob Dylan. Those covers, as can be expected, have been completed with various levels of success. Most of those recording artists over the years confined their tributes to single songs. Joe Cocker, for example, always seemed to excel on his Beatles covers. Cocker regularly even surpassed their masterful efforts (“She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” or “A Little Help From My Friends”), and sometimes came up a smidgen short (“Something”). Some groups did credible work over the course of entire LPs. R&B superstars Booker T & The MG’s (“McLemore Drive), country gentleman Chet Atkins (“Chet Picks The Beatles”), and jazz icon George Benson (“The Other Side Of Abby Road”) all are testaments to the breadth of an artist’s creative power and bold artistic ambition. The bluesy arrangements found on this 2018 release by Mick Kolassa & Mark Telesca entitled You Can’t Do That! is also a fine musical presentation of eleven classics from The Fab Four’s catalog that stands smartly alongside the above three examples.
JOE BONAMASSA - British Blues Explosion Live (2018)
Joe Bonamassa has been more influenced by the impact of British Blues than by any other music out there. From a young age, the musically inclined Joe fell in love with the hard-rocking, gritty and edgy sound that emanated from mid-1960’s Britain. This is especially true of the highly innovative and evocative guitar music produced by three of the field’s greatest heavyweights, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. With the deepest reverence for what these three men have accomplished and a true love of their music. Joe Bonamassa’s love of the British Blues is at the heart of his musical inspiration; and, for the first time, with this unforgettable performance he was able to give special homage to the British guitarists that inspired him, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
A Salute to the British Blues Explosion, featuring the unbelievable music of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page! Joe pays tribute to his British Blues heroes during a short but very sweet tour of Britain – 5 performances only. This show was recorded at Greenwich Music Time at The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London on July 7, 2016. The five-piece band included Michael Rhodes (Bass), Reese Wynans (Keyboards), Anton Fig (Drums) and Russ Irwin (Rhythm Guitar & Backing Vocals).
Neil Merryweather has had a most colorful and interesting career, spanning more than 40 years. The Canadian rock singer, bass player, songwriter and producer has recorded and played with a who’s who of the rock world including Dave Mason, Steve Miller, Rick James, Howard Roberts, Kal David, Randy California, Billy Joel, James Newton Howard, Charlie Musselwhite, Bruce Cockburn, Kim Fowley, Lita Ford and many more.
The first release from American heavy psych bassist. 10 tracks of psychedelic with a heavy west-coast approach, experimental at times with harpsichord, gheavy organs, cellos, and other times, more plain forward heavy psych efforts.
Merryweather's second album, Word of Mouth (released in September 1969), was a double-album of extemporaneous songs recorded in Los Angeles featuring the band jamming with numerous guests, such as Steve Miller, Barry Goldberg, Charlie Musselwhite, ex-Traffic guitarist Dave Mason, Howard Roberts and Bobby Notkoff. Although the album was reasonably successful, the group fragmented, with Neil quitting after a dispute. Neil ran into his old friend Rick James and told him if he wanted them he had a ready made band in Burt, Hall and Roth. Rick James recruited the guys and started the band Salt 'N' Pepper. Prior to the break, Merryweather turned down an offer from Stephen Stills to join Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as bass player. Neil and Stephen had jammed at Stephens house in Topanga Canyon in the past and spent a day hanging out together.
FIVE MAN ELECTRICAL BAND - Absolutely Right (1995)
Five Man Electrical Band had their roots in an Ottawa band called the Staccatos. Rading and Rick Belanger formed the Staccatos in 1963 with Dean Hagopian and Vern Craig. After a year, Hagopian departed the group and was replaced by Emmerson, who wound up sharing singing duties with Rick Belanger. The Staccatos released an independent single in 1965 and then moved to Capitol Canada, who put out "Small Town Girl" that year. "Small Town Girl," "Move to California," It's a Long Way Home," and "C'Mon Everybody" all hovered in the twenties on the Canadian charts in 1965 and 1966 but their big break happened with the 1967 hit "Half Past Midnight"; their first attempt at stateside success came that year when they recorded A Wild Pair with the Guess Who. The album sold well and "Half Past Midnight" was released as a single in the U.S., but the group was dismissed as sounding too much like the Beach Boys. Adding keyboardist Ted Gerow and leaving behind Vern Craig, the Staccatos released their second album, Five Man Electrical Band, in 1968, and renamed themselves after it the following year, partially at the sestion of Rading. They continued to record for Capitol Records, traveling to L.A. to record singles such as "It Never Rains on Maple Lane." After switching to MGM and relocating permanently to L.A., the group released several other singles that received very little chart action. One of those singles, "Hello Melinda Goodbye," featured "Signs" as its B-side, which was inspired by the proliferation of billboards on America's freeways; though it garnered some airplay in L.A., it failed to do much when it was reissued on its own.
By 1971, the group was close to splitting when their new label, Jimmy Webb and Dallas Smith's Lion Records, reissued "Signs" as a teaser for Five Man Electrical Band's full-length debut, Goodbyes & Butterflies. This time, "Signs" reached number three in the U.S. and number four in Canada, and sold more than two million copies internationally. The follow-up single, "Absolutely Right," also did well, reaching number three in Canada and the Top 20 in the U.S. However, their later albums didn't receive much attention outside of Canada; "Julianna" and "Money Back Guarantee" both reached 17 in 1972, while "I'm a Stranger in Here" made it to two that year. In 1973, after strling to get another American hit, the original Five Man Electrical Band finally packed it in; Emmerson recorded using the group's name for another two years. Subsequently, he tried his hand at running a label, Perfect Records, played with the Cooper Brothers, and began a solo career upon his return to Ottawa. The original lineup re-formed in 1986 for a benefit concert and for occasional tours of Eastern Canada. Emmerson bought the rights to the group's material and released the best-of Absolutely Right in 1995.
BOBBY BLAND - Touch Of The Blues (1967) & Spotlighting The Man (1969) 
Robert Calvin Bland (1930 – 2013), known professionally as Bobby "Blue" Bland, was an American blues singer. Bland developed a sound that mixed gospel with the blues and R&B. He was described as "among the great storytellers of blues and soul music... [who] created tempestuous arias of love, betrayal and resignation, set against roiling, dramatic orchestrations, and left the listener drained but awed." He was sometimes referred to as the "Lion of the Blues" and as the "Sinatra of the Blues". His music was also influenced by Nat King Cole. Bland was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2012. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame described him as "second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis's Beale Street blues scene".
Bland's first chart success came in 1957 with "Farther Up the Road", which reached number 1 on the R&B chart and number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was followed by a series of hits on the R&B chart, including "Little Boy Blue" (1958). He also recorded an album with Parker, Blues Consolidated, in 1958. Bland's craft was most clearly heard on a series of early-1960s releases, including "Cry Cry Cry", "I Pity the Fool" (number 1 on the R&B chart in 1961) and "Turn On Your Love Light", which became a much-covered standard by the Grateful Dead and other bands. Despite credits to the contrary often claimed by Robey, many of these classic works were written by Joe Scott. Bland also recorded a hit version of T-Bone Walker's "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad)", which was erroneously given the title of a different song, "Stormy Monday Blues". His last record to reach number 1 on the R&B chart was "That's the Way Love Is", in 1963, but he continued to produce a consistent run of R&B chart entries through the mid-1960s. He barely broke into the mainstream market; his highest-charting song on the pop chart, "Ain't Nothing You Can Do", peaked at number 20 in 1964, in the same week in which the Beatles held down the top five spots. Bland's records mostly sold on the R&B market rather than achieving crossover success. He had 23 Top Ten hits on the Billboard R&B chart. In the book Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–1995, by Joel Whitburn, Bland was ranked number 13 of the all-time top-charting artists.
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