TEN WHEEL DRIVE With GENYA RAVAN - Construction #1 (1969) & Brief Replies (1970)
Ten Wheel Drive was a highly influential rock/jazz group not afraid to push the envelope while exploring various musical styles. Though musicians came and went, including the original lead vocalist, by the time the fourth album was released, the records have stood the test of time, influencing the successful Bette Midler breakthrough film The Rose, inspiring women with the drive and ambition to front their own group in a once male-dominated industry, getting sold on online auction sites to be discovered by new generations of music lovers. The original lead vocalist and founding member, Genya Ravan, spoke with AMG concerning how she formed the band: "I went to see Billy Fields, he was going to manage me. He had a friend in New Jersey that befriended two guys that were writers and they were looking for someone to sing their songs. Billy asked me if I wanted to hear them, I said 'OK' since I was always looking for material, so I met with Mike Zager and Aram Schefrin at a dinky little piano studio in Times Square. They played "Polar Bear Rug" and "I Am a Want Ad" and got me interested even though I thought they sounded more like show tunes, I was also an actress, so I liked it. At this time, I had an R&B band and they came to hear me in some sleazy bar and they liked what they heard and saw. They did not have a band nor musicians in mind, I knew some good jazz players, so (we) got the musicians and started to audition and rehearse." When asked how the idea took shape, Ravan replied: "When I heard Blood, Sweat & Tears -- (the) first record with Al Kooper ( Child Is Father to the Man), my fave. I said, oh I want a horn band. It was 1969, we started to rehearse at the Bitter End, Sid Bernstein joined in the management with Billy Fields. It was a very exciting time, we played the Atlanta Pop Fest. Every great band that lived played that gig, that gig is what broke our band (and) we were an instant success." On the material, Ravan said she "seldom wrote with Ten Wheel Drive...Aram was a brilliant lyricist, Mike and Aram were easy to work with, so I wrote some, it made me feel good, because the ones I wrote turned out to be the most soulful, like "Pulse," "Tightrope." I came into my writing more during the Urban Desire and ...and I Mean It! recordings." Those were the albums that came out on 20th Century Records at the end of the '80s, apart from Ten Wheel Drive.
The group signed with Polydor when Sid Bernstein brought Jerry Schoenbaum to the band's rehearsal and to one of their gigs at the Bitter End. The vocalist noted: "Jerry flipped. Signed us immediately." There were artistic consequences to having phenoms like bassist Bill Takas and drummer Leon Rix moving on to LaBelle and Buzzy Linhart, Rix recording with Bette Midler as well. Over the span of four albums, guitarist Aram Schefrin and keyboard player Mike Zager (no relation to Zager & Evans of "In the Year 2525" fame, though because of the point in time, there was some confusion in rock circles) worked with more than a dozen and a half different players. When Ravan was asked about this, she replied: "It turned out to be good for us, fresh blood, it was creative, I love changes like that. I did not like the canning of musicians, but I was the one that had to do it. New blood is always exciting, You know how laid-back jazzers can be, they get excited for the first five minutes." The band played Carnegie Hall on Ravan's birthday and she cites the Central Park gig for WNEW when the Nightbird disc jockey Allison Steele hosted it, as well as the Atlanta Pop Festival as just two of the highlights of their brief but important career. Steele would later co-write the liner notes to Bill Levenson's 1995 16-track compilation on Polygram, The Best of Ten Wheel Drive With Genya Ravan. With all the excitement the band generated live, there was, unfortunately, no full concert performance on video or record. "One of the last gigs we did was a show at Carnegie Hall with a symphony," Ravan said. "Mike and Aram were geniuses. This was their forte -- they wrote this rock opera of "Little Big Horn" and it was brilliant, Polydor did not want to record it, I swear 'til this day, had it been recorded, Ten Wheel Drive would have gone down in history, it was one of the reasons I was disillusioned into leaving the label, it made me want to quit the business." There were no unreleased gems recorded and left in the vaults, Ravan stating that everything happened all too fast. And then she left the group she founded: "Things started to get complicated. The music was not the main thing anymore, it was too expensive to have that many people involved. We had accountants, lawyers, roadies, and of course the group, we could not tour Europe because it was to expensive to get there and stay there. I just felt like there would be no future for me with the band anymore, also some personal stuff went down, that made it awkward. It just felt like it had hit the end for me." Ravan recorded a solo album in 1972 for Columbia Records with Schefrin and Zager co-producing. They enlisted the Rascals vocalist Annie Sutton to sing on the self-titled 1974 Capitol release that featured Hall & Oates on backing vocals, but it wasn't the same. The band created essential music and has a revered place in rock history. Schefrin practices law in Rhode Island, having produced other records after the final breakup of Ten Wheel Drive; Zager does soundtrack work; and Ravan continues to record.
ROBBIE ROBERTSON - Sinematic (2019)
The Dylan sideman and Band songwriter spins a new set of stories, including some about himself. “There’ll be no revival/there’ll be no encore,” sings Robbie Robertson in a raspy voice — a voice rarely heard in The Band — on “Once Were Brothers.” It’s a sing-speaking voice here, like latter-day Leonard Cohen with less gravitas, or Robertson’s old boss Dylan with less insouciance. A narrator’s voice, in a sense, which is its basic role on Sinematic, Robertson’s first LP since his guest-packed 2011 How To Become Clairvoyant, and first since the 2012 death of estranged Band-mate Levon Helm, an album of story-songs set to the sort of diaphanous blues-rock that characterizes Robertson’s expansive film music.
The album draws inspiration in part from Robertson’s recent film score writing and recording for the much-anticipated crime epic The Irishman, directed by Martin Scorsese.
STATUS QUO - Backbone (2019)
The new album from Status Quo has divided the band’s legion of fans. The first new music since the death of founding member Rick Parfitt in 2016, Backbone marks out a new era for a band that’s already had its fair share of eras. Whether it should or shouldn’t have been released under the name of Status Quo, or recorded at all for that matter, is an argument that can be played out elsewhere – we’re not getting into it here. Backbone finds the band energised and optimistic. With two new members in Richie Malone (rhythm guitar) and Leon Cave (drums), there’s youth and vibrancy to balance out the experience of stalwarts Francis Rossi, Andy Bown and John ‘Rhino’ Edwards. It’s not all plain sailing though. A band of Status Quo’s stature and longevity faces the impossible task of sounding familiar to stalwart fans at the same time as innovating, updating and progressing. There will be purists who might never be pleased but given a fair listen it’s hard to see anyone picking too much fault with Backbone. With significant airplay already, thanks to those rock/pop crossover melodies, it’s likely this collection will add a few new fans waiting for an excuse to break out the double denim. In a modern Status Quo live set they’ll more than hold their own alongside the Frantic Four’s classics and, for more open-minded Quo fans, will represent a welcome return to form.
DANNY BRYANT - Means Of Escape (2019)
Right now, so many of our biggest and best “blues rock” stars (for want of a better phrase) are experimenting with all kinds of different styles and so forth. King King went down a classic rock route for their last one, Kris Barras just has with his, Laurence Jones, has moved away from his roots and into some different areas, Bonamassa likewise (although he does so many that you are never sure what hat he is wearing) and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s last album, although fantastic, was heavily southern rock influenced. It is telling then, that on “Means Of Escape”, Danny Bryant has remained resolutely true to himself and the music he loves. He produced this himself. From which we can deduce perhaps, that “Means Of Escape” was his vision. His deep love for blues is shot through it. And if he uses music to escape, then Danny Bryant has seldom sounded freer – or better – than this. It’s tempting to view Danny Bryant’s ‘Means Of Escape’ as a conceptual title, reflecting the view that whatever changes he’s been though in his life, it’s his chosen profession as a musician that provides him with all the focus and creativity he requires in which to direct his considerable talents. It’s also an album that works hard to strike a balance between his natural rock-blues instincts and those of an Americana balladeer. And while he doesn’t quite have the voice to stamp his own DNA on his better crafted songs, there’s no denying the veracity of his heart felt lyrics...
JANIVA MAGNESS - Change In The Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty (2019)
Janiva Magness is a Grammy Award nominated American blues, soul, and Americana singer and songwriter. The Blues Foundation named Magness the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2009, becoming only the second woman, after Koko Taylor, to be so honored. The award was presented by B.B. King himself and Bonnie Raitt. In 2014 she released her first album of all originals entitled Original which earned her the award for Song of the Year. Magness has earned seven Blues Music Awards with 26 similar nominations. USA Today stated, "Magness is a blues star."
With her new Change in the Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty, the Grammy-nominated artist is at the nexus of re-invention and tradition. The album reframes 12 songs curated from the Creedence Clearwater Revivalleader's catalog in Magness' soaring, soul-centered style. She follows a lineage of classic singers who have made albums devoted to exploring the work of a single writer within the Great American Songbook-such historic recordings as Sarah Vaughan Sings George Gershwinand Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook.
THE SMALL FACES - Here Come The Nice (2014)
In the works for years, the Small Faces 2014 box set Here Come the Nice is unapologetically one for the devoted. Spanning four discs, the first containing newly remastered Immediate mono single mixes from the original masters, the rest rounding up tracking sessions, alternate mixes, backing tracks, Italian versions, live cuts, and other assorted ephemera, the box's allure lies in its packaging and not its music. Disregard the many attractive tchotchkes added to this set – all the autographs, poster replicas, hardbound books, and photos that are indeed handsome – and concentrate on the music and the contents are, if not necessarily thin gruel, not quite robust. Compared to the Faces' Five Guys Walk Into a Bar, another box set heavy on rarities and live performances, Here Come the Nice isn't designed to convert skeptics. Five Guys told a story, but this is merely a deep dive into the recesses of the group's vaults, scrounging up everything that could possibly be of interest to the dedicated. Some of this stuff is indeed interesting; the live performances showcase a muscular group, one that hit much harder than their mod reputation would indicate, while the outtakes reveal a band with innate musicality, knowing what overdubs and mixes which would showcase the band at their best. Thing of it is, this contains the mixes that, by and large, the group rejected because they knew what was better, or it drifts into live cuts that are powerful but not definitive. In other words, a bunch of tracks for the fans who know the catalog inside out; it's for the listeners who can recognize the excised guitar tracks or the excess harmonies and mixes that pan across two speakers or consolidate into a punchy mono mix. All of it is certainly enjoyable, sometimes revealing, and the set is gorgeous, but it's one for the converted, the kind of fan who can drop a couple of hundred bucks and feel no remorse.
V.A. - Blues Caravan 2019 (2019) [CD + DVD AudioRip]
The Blues Caravan rolled again. In 2019 – just like every year since the first trek back in 2005 – you could experience a night of house-rocking live music, as three unique artists hit the stage at clubs across the US and Europe. On this CD + DVD live album you get chance to see and hear the hottest insider tips of the scene again! Ina Forsman is no stranger to anyone who’s serious about modern blues. The Finland-born belter lit up the Blues Caravan back in 2016, when we first heard her head-turning smoky vocal and the material from that year’s acclaimed self-titled debut album (dubbed “joyous” by Classic Rock). This time, Ina returns to the Caravan with the speaker-rattling soul, blues, Latin and acid-jazz flavours of her upcoming second album, Been Meaning To Tell You. “I’ll be bringing a bunch of as-yet-unheard songs,” she says, “as well as some funky hidden treasures from back in the day. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime tour, full of raw female power.” And they don’t come much more powerful than Ally Venable. Adding her modern twist to the proud heritage of Texas blues, this Lone Star State gunslinger has gathered armfuls of awards for her burn-it-down guitar style and the original songs of her recent Puppet Show release. Now, as she lights up the Blues Caravan 2019 – ably backed by the locomotive rhythm section of Roger Innis (bass) and Elijah Owings (drums) – you’ll walk in curious and leave as a convert. “I’m excited to bring my show and my Texas-influenced guitar slingin' background to this Blues Caravan,” says Ally. “When I play live, I want to connect with people and for them to let go of their troubles.” There must be something in the water in Belgrade. The Serbian capital has already given us Ruf legend Ana Popovic – and Katarina Pejak promises to make the same impact. With her soulful piano-playing, purred jazz vocal and sneak previews of the material set to appear on her forthcoming Mike Zito-produced album, this Berklee College Of Music graduate will have the crowd in her hand. “My shows provide a blend of blues, country, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll wrapped in a piano-driven sound,” says Katarina. “Between me and the other two ladies, the audience will get a 360 tour around the crossroads where blues meets with other genres.”
The concert was recorded on 15th February 2019 at Café Hahn in Koblenz!
V.A. - Johan Derksen Presents Blues Village (2016)
Johan Derksen is best known as a football expert, television personality and football analyst, but now increasingly he focused on his greatest love: the music: Country, Soul, Rock, Americana, and especially the blues. He it is the driving force behind the Holland International Blues Festival, and he has the ambition to make Grollo 'the Blues Capitol of Europe'. In his own words: "What was Woodstock for America, Grolloo should be for Europe. The album 'Johan Derksen presents Blues Village' is a personal choice of Derksen. This is not the usual suspects, but a selected collection of songs: old heroes and new talents, the trendsetter of the festival and of course some artists, who deserve more recognition.
MUNGO JERRY - Gold (2019)
Mungo Jerry are a British rock group who experienced their greatest success in the early 1970s, with a changing line-up that has always been fronted by Ray Dorset. The group's name was inspired by the poem "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer", from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The group's biggest hit was "In the Summertime". They had nine charting singles in the UK, including two number ones, and five top 20 hits in South Africa. Mungo Jerry was awarded from Melody Maker the "best new band" title in 1970. Dorset was granted three Ivor Novello Awards as a composer.
Three CD set. Mungo Jerry Gold, features all eight of the band's Top Forty '70s hits across three discs. It includes the international hit 'In The Summertime', which topped the charts in over 20 countries around the world, going on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide. The track is still regularly used and featured in TV adverts and films. The 45 tracks also include the band's second chart topper "Baby Jump", along with "Lady Rose" (#5), "You Don't Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War" (#13), "Open Up" (#21), "Alright Alright Alright" (#3), "Wild Love" (#32) and "Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black" (#13).
Stray Dog were a blues-based hard rock band formed in Texas in the early 1970s. They recorded three albums before disbanding around 1976. The band originally formed in Texas under the name "Aphrodite". They moved to Denver, Colorado, where they became very popular. They were introduced to Neville Chesters, a former road manager for Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who convinced the band to go to London where, along with a friend and a former Tour Manager Lorenzio Mazzio, he introduced Snuffy Walden to Greg Lake, who signed them to ELP's label, Manticore Records. Randy Reeder was replaced by Leslie Sampson. Lake produced three tracks on the 1973 debut self-titled album, Stray Dog, with the band producing the remainder.
In March 1973, the British music magazine, NME, reported that Stray Dog were to support ELP on their world tour, which was due to commence in Germany at the end of that month. Stray Dog's follow-up album, While You're Down There (1974), was co-produced by Austin Godsey and the band, which featured new members Tim Dulaine on second guitar and vocals, and keyboardist Luis Cabaza. The additions of Dulaine and Cabaza radically changed the band's sound from blues-based power trio to a more subdued and commercial AOR rock sound. Much of the material on While You're Down There was written and sung by Dulaine, with founder Walden's contributions being reduced. Only two tracks, "I Would" and the instrumental "Worldwinds", retained a sound and stylistic approach reminiscent of their debut. Sampson had played previously in another power trio, Road, with Noel Redding, and American guitarist Rod Richards. They produced one self-titled 1972 album on the Rare Earth label. After the demise of Stray Dog, Walden went on to write and produce the theme songs for several popular American television programs, most notably thirtysomething and The West Wing.
DAVID COVERDALE - The Early Years (2003)
David Coverdale is an English rock singer best known for his work with Whitesnake, a hard rock band he founded in 1978. Before Whitesnake, Coverdale was the lead singer of Deep Purple from 1973 to 1976, after which he established his solo career. A collaboration with Jimmy Page resulted in a 1993 album that was a commercial success. In 2016, Coverdale was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Deep Purple, giving one of the band's induction speeches. Coverdale is known in particular for his powerful blues-tinged voice.
The Early Years is a double CD compilation album released in 2003 by David Coverdale of Deep Purple and Whitesnake, not to be confused with the Whitesnake compilation album The Early Years released in 2004. It contains his first two solo releases, White Snake, and Northwinds, released in 1977 and 1978, respectively. Both albums retain the bonus tracks found on the Spitfire reissues from 2000.
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND - Fillmore West '71 (2019)
Just two months before their iconic At Fillmore East, The Allman Brothers Band were at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West for an epic weekend, as the middle act between headliners Hot Tuna and the 24-piece opener Trinidad Tripoli Street band. The cover depicts a never seen photo of Duane Allman taken at these shows, from the legendary photographer, Jim Marshall. These recordings are being issued for the first time and any time there’s an opportunity to hear more of Duane Allman and this edition of the ABB, it’s more than worth a listen. Yes, these are the same tunes on the east coast Fillmore album, perhaps a bit more ragged, as the band was shaping their sound but there’s a pulsating energy and spontaneity across these four CDs that’s very bit as good, at times better than the versions of these tunes that are burned into our collective consciousness. Gregg Allman sings with so much unbridled passion that that alone is worth the listen while, of course, Duane and Dickey added down and dirty licks. These were young cats playing freely and establishing themselves.
Compiled from reel-to-reel soundboard masters, the January 29 show that kicks it off reads like an Allman Brothers Band greatest hits from their first two studio albums, from opener “Statesboro Blues” through an 11 minute version of “Dreams” to the set-wrapping “Whipping Post.” On the next night, the standard sequence of “Statesboro Blues,” Trouble No More,” “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” and “Elizabeth Reed” was typically riveting, and then the slow simmering “Stormy Monday” was worked in, replacing “Midnight Rider.” This “You Don’t Love Me” has even more improvisational moments than the familiar one while a rollicking “Whipping Post” closes it out. The band–Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Jaimoe, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks – demonstrates palpable chemistry, a relaxed rapport with the audience, and telepathic jazz-like moments...
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