LOOKING GLASS - The Complete Recordings Of Looking Glass (1998)
To the outside observer, Looking Glass were one of the luckiest bands to come up during the early '70s -- and doubly so, coming out of New Jersey in 1972 with a number one hit, three years before anyone was thinking about Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, and getting radio play on the song that has carried over into the oldies and '70s nostalgia boom over the decades since. Ironically, the bandmembers were never entirely happy with either the hit or the nature of the success that it brought them, mostly because it didn't represent what Looking Glass actually sounded like. The group was founded by Brooklyn-born guitarist/singer/songwriter Elliot Lurie, bassist Pieter Sweval, and pianist Larry Gonsky, all of whom were students at New Jersey's Rutgers University. In their original late-'60s incarnation, Looking Glass were successful playing frat parties and local clubs before splitting up in the early '70s after graduation. Eventually, Lurie and Gonsky linked up again with Sweval and drummer Jeffrey Grob (who had been playing together in a band called Tracks), and Looking Glass were reborn. A hard rock outfit with a lot of virtuosity, they decided to try turning professional and shooting for a real career; even as they got lots of work at clubs up and down the East Coast, they began writing songs and heavily rehearsing the new material. Their music impressed Columbia Records president Clive Davis, who signed them to the Epic Records label, and a debut recording session for the company was scheduled.
After two failed attempts at recording (including one with guitarist Steve Cropper in Memphis), they struck gold with a producer named Bob Liftin and a Lurie original called "Brandy." They went through a lot of different versions before coming up with one that worked, with unobtrusive strings and horns dubbed on and the group harmonizing more than usual. Initially released as the B-side of "Don't It Make You Feel Good" in early 1972, "Brandy" was overlooked (along with the A-side) until Harv Moore, a disc jockey in the District of Columbia, flipped the single over and took it up as a personal cause. The record broke out in the city of Washington and spread rapidly, peaking six months after its release at the number one position. A self-titled debut album was released in the spring and was more representative of the group's sound. Although it didn't sell nearly the way the single had, it performed well enough, riding the charts for 16 weeks. Unfortunately, Looking Glass were never able to emulate "Brandy's success, and their next few singles failed to chart. It was a year later before another single, "Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne," reached the Top 40 for the group. These chart successes didn't really do as much as one might have expected for the group, however. Neither hit single sounded very much like the band did on-stage -- much more representative were fast-paced rock & roll songs like "Jenny-Lynne" and "Don't It Make You Feel Good." They were a long way from the horn and string overdubbed singles by which radio listeners knew them, and inevitably many concertgoers were disappointed in their shows, which emphasized the rock & roll songs over the catchy AM pop they'd released so successfully. Lurie, wearied over the contradictions in the group's success, left Looking Glass in 1974 and embarked on a short-lived solo career that yielded a solo album and a series of unsuccessful singles. He also played live locally in the New York-New Jersey area, including a gig with Al Kooper at New York's Bottom Line. When Clive Davis founded Arista Records in the mid-'70s after being forced out of Columbia, Lurie was signed to the new company but failed to find a hit. The other members of Looking Glass stayed together for another year, playing out their string as "Lookinglass" without a recording contract and a decreasing audience, until they called it quits in the middle of the decade. By the end of the 1970s, Lurie was no longer a performer and had moved into the motion picture business, working in music. He has supervised numerous scores, including The Last of the Mohicans, and wrote or produced the music for Night at the Roxbury, Alien 3, Mary Katherine Gallagher: Superstar, Perfect, Die Hard 2, Dying Young, and a remake of Miracle on 34th Street, among other films. Lurie and Sweval revived Looking Glass as a touring band in 2003 and hit the road with a show that included their hits, album cuts, and cover versions of rock and pop favorites from various decades.
HELLO - Complete Singles Collection (2021)
Hello were one of the more exciting bands of the mid-'70s glam explosion in the U.K., cutting some effervescent, almost giddy slabs of wax bolstered by thundering drums, heavy guitars, huge hooks, and boyish vocals. Not too many were hits, but a quick run through this collection of singles and their flip sides makes it clear that many more should have been. Starting in 1972 with the boogie glam of "You Move Me" and ending with a solo single from their drummer Jeff Allen from 1982, the collection covers a decade's worth of worthy attempts to scale the charts as tastes and sounds shifted around them. 1974's rocked-out cover of the Exciters' "Tell Him" was their biggest hit, reaching number six on the U.K. singles chart. 1975's "New York Groove'' was their other biggie; it didn't make it as far, but it has had a much longer shelf life and still sounds fresh decades later. Much of this collection does. The band were always game for anything, and their enthusiasm surges through the speakers whether they were tackling more oldies like their romp through "Bend Me Shape Me," doling out whip-smart proto-metal on "Another School Day," showing off some impressive soft rock chops on "Shine on Silver Light," dipping a sequined toe into the disco craze with 1979's "Feel This Thing," or even surfing the new wave under the name Local Boy Makes Good with 1981's "Horoscope." Along the way, there are some really fun hidden gems uncovered -- the romping "Out of Our Heads" is a frothy Small Faces-meets-Sweet rocker, "Seven Rainy Nights" is sterling AM radio pop worthy of Neil Diamond, and 1978's hard-rocking "Too Much Hesitating" could have been a hit in some alternate universe -- and there's never a moment where the band sound anything less than fun. Their discography has been served up in various manners, but this collection is the best way to chart their eventful trip through the musical landscape of the day.
AL GREEN - The Legendary Hi Records Albums, Vol.1 & 2 (2006)
Al Green was the first great soul singer of the '70s and arguably the last great Southern soul singer. With his seductive singles for Hi Records in the early '70s, Green bridged the gap between deep soul and smooth Philadelphia soul. He incorporated elements of gospel, interjecting his performances with wild moans and wails, but his records were stylish, boasting immaculate productions that rolled along with a tight beat, sexy backing vocals, and lush strings. The distinctive Hi Records sound that the vocalist and producer Willie Mitchell developed made Al Green the most popular and influential soul singer of the early '70s, influencing not only his contemporaries, but also veterans like Marvin Gaye. Green was at the peak of his popularity when he suddenly decided to join the ministry in the mid-'70s. At first, he continued to record secular material, but by the '80s, he was concentrating solely on gospel. During the late '80s and '90s, he occasionally returned to R&B, but he remained primarily a religious performer for the rest of his career. Nevertheless, Green's classic early- '70s recordings retained their power and influence throughout the decades, setting the standard for smooth soul.
In 1969, Al Green met bandleader and Hi Records vice president Willie Mitchell while on tour in Midland, Texas. Impressed with Green's voice, he signed the singer to Hi Records, and began collaborating with Al on his debut album. Released in early 1970, Green's debut album, Green Is Blues, showcased the signature sound he and Mitchell devised -- a sinewy, sexy groove highlighted by horn punctuations and string beds that let Green showcase his remarkable falsetto. While the album didn't spawn any hit singles, it was well-received and set the stage for the breakthrough success of his second album. Al Green Gets Next to You (1970) launched his first hit single, "Tired of Being Alone," which began a streak of four straight gold singles. Let's Stay Together (1972) was his first genuine hit album, climbing to number eight on the pop charts; its title track became his first number one single. I'm Still in Love With You, which followed only a few months later, was an even greater success, peaking at number four and launching the hits "Look What You Done for Me" and "I'm Still in Love With You."
By the release of 1973's Call Me, Green was known as both a hitmaker and an artist who released consistently engaging, frequently excellent, critically-acclaimed albums. His hits continued uninterrupted through the next two years, with "Call Me," "Here I Am," and "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)" all becoming Top Ten gold singles. At the height of his popularity, Green's former girlfriend, Mrs. Mary Woodson, broke into his Memphis home in October 1974 and poured boiling grits on the singer as he was bathing, inflicting second-degree burns on his back, stomach, and arm; after assaulting Green, she killed herself with his gun. Green interpreted the violent incident as a sign from God that he should enter the ministry. By 1976, he had bought a church in Memphis and had become an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle. Though he had begun to seriously pursue religion, he had not given up singing R&B and he released three other Mitchell-produced albums -- Al Green Is Love (1975), Full of Fire (1976), Have a Good Time (1976) -- after the incident. However, his albums began to sound formulaic, and his sales started to slip by the end of 1976, with disco cutting heavily into his audience.
STYX - The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings (2005)
The Complete Wooden Nickel Recordings is a 2-Disc set released by Styx in 2005. The compilation contains remastered versions of Styx's first four albums, Styx, Styx II, The Serpent Is Rising, and Man of Miracles, which were released by Wooden Nickel Records. It also includes "Unfinished Song", which was previously released as the B-side to the single "Best Thing" and on the 1980 RCA reissue of Man of Miracles (which was entitled Miracles). The four albums contained in this compilation were recorded with original singer/songwriter/guitarist John Curulewski and feature a harder, eclectic, and more progressive sound when compared to subsequent albums that included Curulewski's replacement, singer/songwriter/guitarist Tommy Shaw.
Remastered and repackaged, this is a treasure trove for die-hard Styx fanatics waiting for a proper reissue of their early works. But casual buyers best beware: this isn't the Styx that sang "Come Sail Away" or "Mr. Roboto," but a different though no less enjoyable group altogether. This two-disc set comprises their first four records under the Wooden Nickel imprint: Styx, Styx II, The Serpent Is Rising and Man of Miracles. While the arena rock anthems and compositional sensibilities are underdeveloped, the pomposity of their prog rock roots clearly shines through with the inclusion of "Fanfare for the Common Man," "Little Fugue in G" and the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. It's also a document showcasing the evolution of their flare for theatrics and storytelling, which didn't entirely put them on par with their British and Italian prog rock counterparts, but close enough for people to take notice. Aside from "Lady," there isn't much here that casual listeners will identify with, but Styx loyalists will be pleased with proper documentation of the group's formative years, something all too neglected until now.
SAM COOKE - The RCA Albums Collection (2011)
Sam Cooke is widely regarded as the first and greatest soul singer, and as one of the most important figures in modern American music. His good looks, personal charisma and golden voice made him a superstar in the 1950s, winning him an unprecedented crossover appeal. Rather than coasting on his commercial success, the multi-talented artist worked to maximize his music's capacity for personal expression and artistic growth. As lead singer of the Soul Stirrers, Cooke was already an established star on the gospel circuit in the mid-'50s, when he made a daring transition into the secular music world. That risky move paid off. Not only was he immensely popular with both black and white audiences; he also appealed to teenagers as well as their parents. But it was after his 1960 move to the RCA label that Cooke truly came into his own as an artist. At RCA, he recorded a historic series of albums that demonstrated the full range of his diverse talents, showing him to be equally at ease with raw R&B, smooth pop, gritty gospel, bluesy ballads and socially-conscious songcraft.Although he died in 1964 at the age of 33, Sam Cooke produced a remarkably accomplished body of work in his short life. This box set celebrates that rich musical legacy, collecting eight of his greatest albums, six of which have never before been released on CD in the United States. This collection charts Sam Cooke's remarkable musical evolution, and stands as a powerful testament to his timeless talent.
IF - If 1, 2, 3 & 4 (1970/72)
If was Great Britain's contribution to the jazz-rock movement begun and popularized in the late '60s/early '70s by Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Formed in 1969 by Melody Maker jazz poll winners Dave Quincy, Dick Morrissey, and Terry Smith, the band never found popular success in the United States. However, If produced several albums noteworthy for placing jazz players in a pop/rock band context and producing a true fusion of the two genres without diluting the players' improvisational skills. Unlike most of their horn-band contemporaries, If had no brass players in the band, relying solely on the saxophones of Dick Morrissey and the flute and saxophones of Dave Quincy. But what really gave If its unique sound were the vocals of J.W. Hodgkinson and the guitar of Terry Smith. Hodgkinson's vocal timbre was unusual -- smooth, flexible, and strong in the high end, sounding like no other vocalist. Smith's trebly guitar sound was also unique, combining a rocker's use of sustain with the jazz fluency of Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhardt. The original incarnation of If produced five excellent albums between 1970 and 1972, but these albums failed to find an audience. Morrissey soldiered on with the If name for two more albums with a totally different lineup and a more rock-type sound, but these, too, went nowhere. Drummer Dennis Elliott was later a member of the platinum-selling rock band Foreigner.
If's first album came out in the summer of 1970, while most horn-driven jazz-rock bands were still mimicking the successful formula employed by Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. If was different, with more of a jazz feel on both the instrumental and the vocal ends. The material on If provides plenty of room for reedmen Dave Quincy and Dick Morrissey, plus guitarist Terry Smith, to stretch out. Though not particularly deep or profound, the lyrics nonetheless express the positive, optimistic sentiments prevalent at the time. J.W. Hodgkinson's unusual tenor vocal timbre fits like a lead instrument in the mix, soaring above and within the arrangements. "What Can a Friend Say" kicks the album off in fine style, setting the parameters within which the band works throughout the rest of the disc, with the horns complementing Hodgkinson's rendering of the verses, which wrap around excellent, extended sax and guitar solos. The instrumental "What Did I Say About the Box, Jack?" showcases Morrissey's high-octane flute work and the speedy fingers of guitarist Smith. The album continues in the same consistently excellent vein, with the ballad "Dockland" providing a beautiful respite toward the end of the album.
The second If album came out within the same year as the first, and continues in the same distinctive jazz-rock vein the band worked on its debut. The playing is excellent, with the sax and flute work of Dave Quincy and Dick Morrissey carrying the group's sound to a level unmatched by other, better known contemporaries like Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. J. W. Hodkinson's unique vocals continue to sail through the music, while Terry Smith employs a deeper, grittier guitar tone than he used on the first LP. The material here is not as interesting as on the earlier release, but the soloists have plenty of space to stretch out and strut their stuff over John Mealing's organ/electric piano bed of chord changes. Jim Richardson lays down some inventive basslines and drummer Dennis Elliott keeps the band on track through various rhythmic twists and turns.
If3 continues in the same jazz-rock vein as its predecessors, with strong solo work from reedmen Dave Quincy and Dick Morrissey, and the unique fretwork of fleet-fingered guitarist Terry Smith. The material is more pop-oriented than on the band's previous releases, but it's the jazz chops of the players that place this album a notch or two above those of the other bands working this genre in the early 1970s.
If 4 is the fourth album released by the English jazz rock band If. It was first issued in 1972 and the last album to feature the original recording line-up. Capitol Records, the band's U.S. label, declined to issue this fourth album. Most of the tracks on this album were issued in the U.S. on Waterfall, in a slightly different form (and with a new line-up), by Metromedia Records. If 4 was reissued in CD by Repertoire in 2007.
BERT SOMMER - The Road To Travel (1968) & Inside (1969) & Bert Sommer (1971)
Bert Sommer (1949 – 1990) was an American folk singer, songwriter and actor. He was briefly a member of baroque pop group The Left Banke, co-writing and singing lead on the "Ivy Ivy"/"And Suddenly" single in 1967. Bert Sommer is often referred to as the lost star from Woodstock. Those who have only seen the documentary film, or heard the two sets released from the 1969 festival can be forgiven, however, if they are utterly unfamiliar with his name. Sommer was one of a tiny handful of performers who played the festival but never accrued career success, much less fame and fortune, coming out of it. At Woodstock, Sommer's performance of Simon & Garfunkel's "America" received a standing ovation. He wrote "We're All Playing In The Same Band" at and about Woodstock, and his recording peaked at #48 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 12 September 1970. Sommer also played Woof in the original Broadway production of Hair in 1969-70 (his hair is on the playbill for Hair) and "Flatbush" of Kaptain Kool and the Kongs on The Krofft Supershow in 1976. He did not reprise the role in the second season. Sommer died in Troy, New York on July 23, 1990, after a long battle with a respiratory illness. His last performance was in Troy on June 11, 1990, with his friend Johnny Rabb.
Major labels were taking all kinds of chances on untested talent in the late '60s, but although his name may have been unfamiliar to most in the industry, Bert Sommer was hardly untested. By the release of The Road to Travel, his 1968 debut, he had already written five songs for the Vagrants (founded by a pre-Mountain Leslie West, Sommer's schoolmate) and sung lead vocals on the Left Banke's single "Ivy, Ivy" through a friendship with that band's Michael Brown.
"Inside" was his second solo album, released not long after his appearance at the Woodstock festival – his performance did not make the film, although his performance of Paul Simon’s ‘America’ was hugely appreciated and this is the only track on the album not written wholly, or in part, by Bert. The album is not a normal singer/songwriter album, as it has significantly varied genres. This variety is the USP of the album, although it may have restricted the commercial impact the album had.
Bert was opening for acts like Ike & Tina Turner, Poco, The Birds, and Richie Havens. These were all around the New York area, however, Bert was still not gaining the recognition to become a headline act. Meanwhile, he had just released his 3rd album, “Bert Sommer” after being convinced by Neil Bogart to leave Artie Kornfield’s Eleuthera sub-label and sign with Buddah directly. The album contained of songs composed by Bert. Unfortunately, this album also didn’t sell well. This was having a toll on Bert, who ended up in a rehab correctional facility for a couple of years.
ORANGE WEDGE - Wedge (1972) & No One Left But Me (1974)
Orange Wedge was established around 1968 in Baltimore, Maryland. The group evolved from Greg & The Originals. Members were Greg Coulson (lead vocals), Fred Zang (rhythm guitar, vocals), and Don Cowger (bass). In 1968 they added Craig Krixer (lead guitar), Dave Burgess (keyboards) and Tom Rizzo (drums). Krixer came up with the name Orange Wedge. The rock band began playing many teen centers, and school dances. After a brief illness and hospital stay in early 1969 Coulson rejoined the band. They began playing on regular basis quickly becoming one of the top hard rock bands in Baltimore. Orange Wedge could be seen at all the local clubs in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia. Zang and Krixer left the group in 1969 and joined Black Foot Smoke. Zang played guitar and/or bass for a lot of other groups. He is still active in the music business. The group that created the records existed between 1971 and 1975. When the group decided to do there own music, guitarist Joe Farace (ex-Fabulous Monarchs, Cabbage) brought his basic ideas to the group. Coulson was responsible for the lyrics. The entire band created the arrangements. The first record entitled "Wedge" was recorded and mixed in Baltimore at Flite Three Studios in 1972. Five hundred copies were made which were distributed a few local stores, and several labels for a possible deal. The remaining records were sold out at shows when the group performed.
In 1973 Burgess left the band becoming a member of Patch. Their second album was released in 1974 titled "No one left but me" and was recorded at Sheffield Studios with special guests Mark O'Connor, and Jay Graboski of Oho. This time a thousand copies were pressed and distributed in the same way. The group performed the songs live at their shows. They were also heard on the local rock radio station. The group was never offered a contract for either release. In 1975 Joe Farace left the band. Coulson and Rizzo continued the group which finally called it a day in late 1978. Both Orange Wedge LPs have been reissued in the 2000's in the States and also have been reissued as a 2 LP German import on Little Wing.
LITTLE FEAT - Hotcakes & Outtakes (2000)
Rhino's four-disc box set Hotcakes & Outtakes treats all of Little Feat's incarnations with equal respect. This even-handed approach has advantages, even if Lowell George dominates the proceedings. How could he not? He was a musician of immense talents, shaping the band's core sound while building an impressive body of songs. This set reveals that the rest of the band, while not writers of George's ilk, still wrote their share of great songs and, best of all, their fusion of funk, blues, country, rock and jazz still sounded lively, even when they reunited a decade after his death. Yes, it was missing his unique brilliance and vision, yet the reunited Feat still carried the torch well, which this set proves. Still, the best thing about the box is the fourth disc, devoted to "Studio Artifacts," all dating from George's heyday with the band. Actually, it goes a little further than that, beginning with cuts from George and Roy Estrada's mid-'60s band the Factory and pre-Warner Bros recordings, plus a generous selection of outtakes and demos, including selections from George's solo album, Thanks I'll Eat It Here. It's a treasure trove for any Little Feat fan, filled with amazing cuts like the barn-storming "Rat Faced Dog" -- tracks so good, it's hard to believe they haven't been released before. The fourth disc is reason for any devoted fan to pick up this set, but is this worthwhile for the curious? Well, yes, since this offers a great summary of their fascinating career, even if it duplicates some songs at the expense of album tracks like "A Apolitical Blues" which really should be here. Even with that flaw, Hotcakes & Outtakes performs its job well, proving that Little Feat is an American rock & roll band like no other.
These 83 songs go a long way toward demonstrating how Little Feat evolved their hard-to-define but infectious swamp-rock, blues, and boogie sound.
BOB DYLAN & THE HAWKS - The British Judas Concerts, England, May 1966 (2012) [3 CD]
On May 16th, 1966, Bob Dylan released Blonde on Blonde, arguably the best album of his career. The next day, he would be in Manchester, England, for a concert at the Free Trade Hall, the 11th date of the European leg of his world tour. Dylan was in his lightning-rod phase, being seen as a turncoat by the folkie community aghast that he dared to rock out with an electric guitar. The primary objection, which came to a head in Manchester, was that pled-in Dylan was less legit than acoustic Dylan, less likely to provide listeners with music that spoke to them and who they were, and less communally in stride with the problems of the age. ((This battle had been playing out since Dylan had hit England. Dylan would perform a set alone onstage, armed only with his acoustic guitar, and that would go down well. But then he’d come back out with his backup band the Hawks – later, of course, to become the Band – and it would be at that point, with the acrimony increasing throughout the electric set, that a donnybrook would play out each evening.
Limited Edition 5LP+3CD+1DVD Box Set of 400 copies.
BLUES IMAGE - Blues Image (1969) + Red White & Blues Image (1970)  & Open (1970)
Blues Image was a group from Tampa, Florida that achieved a brief yet strong burst of critical acclaim and commercial success in the late 60s and early 70s. Known for mixing blues, Latin music, smooth pop, and other styles, their most successful song was the soft rock hit "Ride Captain Ride", a release from their 1970 album 'Open' that went all the way to #4 in Billboard. A well-respected band among their peers (Jimi Hendrix notably told the British press that Blues Image was one of the best up and coming bands around)...
The group was formed in Tampa, FL, in 1966 by Michael Pinera (guitar, vocals), Manuel Bertematti (percussion), and Joe Lala (drums). Malcolm Jones (bass) joined in 1966, followed in 1968 by Frank "Skip" Konte (keyboards). The band moved to New York City in 1968 and managed a club called the Image. Then they moved to Los Angeles, where they signed to Atlantic Records' Atco division in February 1969, and released their self-titled debut album. This was followed by Open (1970), which featured "Ride Captain Ride." But the Blues Image never followed their hit. Pinera left, replaced by Kent Henry (guitar) and Dennis Correll (vocals). Then the Blues Image broke up. A third album, Red White & Blues Image, was compiled from outtakes. Skip Konte joined Three Dog Night, while some other band members reformed as Manna. Pinera later was a member of Iron Butterfly, then Ramatam, and, with Bertematti, the New Cactus Band. He also formed a band called Thee Image and worked as a solo artist. Lala became a Los Angeles session player and worked with Joe Walsh and the various manifestations of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, among others.
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