CCS [Collective Consciousness Society] - 1970/73
CCS - Collective Consciousness Society - was an unlikely collaboration between blues traditionalist Alexis Korner (b. 19 April 1928, Paris, France, d. 1 January 1984, London, England; vocals/guitar), producer Mickie Most (b. Michael Peter Hayes, 20 June 1938, Aldershot, Hampshire, England, d. 30 May 2003, London, England), and arranger John Cameron (b. 1944, England). Formed in 1970, the unit revolved around Korner and long-time associate Peter Thorup (b. 14 December 1948, d. 3 August 2007; vocals), plus several of Britain’s leading jazz musicians, including Harry Beckett, Henry Lowther, Kenny Wheeler, Les Condon (trumpets), Johnnie Watson, Don Lusher (trombones), Ronnie Ross, Danny Moss (saxophones), Ray Warleigh (flute), Herbie Flowers, Spike Heatley (basses), Barry Morgan and Tony Carr (drums) and Bill Le Sage (tuned percussion). Although the exact line-up was determined by availability, the unit’s commercial, brass-laden sound remained intact over three albums. CCS enjoyed several hit singles, each of which was marked by Korner’s distinctive growl. Their version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, which served as the theme to BBC television’s Top Of The Pops, reached number 13 in 1970, and the following year they enjoyed two UK Top 10 entries with ‘Walkin’’ and ‘Tap Turns On The Water’. CCS was dissolved in 1973 when Korner and Thorup formed Snape with Boz Burrell (bass) and Ian Wallace (drums), two former members of King Crimson.
CCS was the first studio album of the British blues outfit Collective Consciousness Society, led by guitarist Alexis Korner. To avoid confusion with the group's second album with the same name, the album is often called "Whole Lotta Love", due to the inclusion of the Led Zeppelin song. In the UK, "Boom Boom" was issued as the A-side of the single, however "Whole Lotta Love" charted at number 13 on the UK Official Charts. In the US, the single charted at number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100, while the album only charted at number 197 on the Billboard 200.
CCS II was the second studio album of the British blues and jazz outfit Collective Consciousness Society, led by guitarist Alexis Korner. This album is usually called C.C.S. 2 to avoid confusion with the first, eponymous album, even though that title cannot be found anywhere on the record or sleeve. It included covers of songs by such diverse artists as Led Zeppelin and The Jackson 5. On the UK Official Chart, the album charted at number 23, while the single "Brother" charted at number 25.
The Best Band in the Land is the third and final studio album of Collective Consciousness Society. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, January to May 1973 and released in September that year. In Australia, the album was titled The Band Played the Boogie. The album includes covers of songs by The Kinks and Cream amongst others, and it is equally split with original compositions. The style continues that of their previous two albums, with heavy rock and blues songs arranged with jazz instruments. The single "The Band Played the Boogie" charted as high as number 36 on the UK Official Charts. Neither the album or single charted in the US.
LITTLE MILTON - The First 4... (1965/70)
He may not be a household name, but die-hard blues fans know Little Milton as a superb all-around electric bluesman -- a soulful singer, an evocative guitarist, an accomplished songwriter, and a skillful bandleader. He's often compared to the legendary B.B. King -- as well as Bobby "Blue" Bland -- for the way his signature style combines soul, blues, and R&B, a mixture that helped make him one of the biggest-selling bluesmen of the '60s (even if he's not as well-remembered as King). As time progressed, his music grew more and more orchestrated, with strings and horns galore. He maintained a steadily active recording career all the way from his 1953 debut on Sam Phillips' legendary Sun label, with his stunning longevity including notable stints at Chess (where he found his greatest commercial success), Stax, and Malaco. James Milton Campbell was born September 7, 1934, in the small Delta town of Inverness, MS, and grew up in Greenville. (He would later legally drop the "James" after learning of a half-brother with the same name.) His father Big Milton, a farmer, was a local blues musician, and Milton also grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry radio program. At age 12, he began playing the guitar and saved up money from odd jobs to buy his own instrument from a mail-order catalog. By 15, he was performing for pay in local clubs and bars, influenced chiefly by T-Bone Walker but also by proto-rock & roll jump blues shouters.
He made a substantial impression on other area musicians, even getting a chance to back Sonny Boy Williamson II, and caught the attention of R&B great Ike Turner, who was doubling as a talent scout for Sam Phillips at Sun. Turner introduced the still-teenaged Little Milton to Phillips, who signed him to a contract in 1953. With Turner's band backing him, Milton's Sun sides tried a little bit of everything -- he hadn't developed a signature style as of yet, but he did have a boundless youthful energy that made these early recordings some of his most exciting and rewarding. Unfortunately, none of them were hits, and Milton's association with Sun was over by the end of 1954. He set about forming his own band, which waxed one single for the small Meteor label in 1957, before picking up and moving to St. Louis in 1958. In St. Louis, Milton befriended DJ Bob Lyons, who helped him record a demo in a bid to land a deal on Mercury. The label passed, and the two set up their own label, christened Bobbin. Little Milton's Bobbin singles finally started to attract some more widespread attention, particularly "I'm a Lonely Man," which sold 60,000 copies despite being the very first release on a small label. As head of A&R, Milton brought artists like Albert King and Fontella Bass into the Bobbin fold, and with such a high roster caliber, the label soon struck a distribution arrangement with the legendary Chess Records. Milton himself switched over to the Chess subsidiary Checker in 1961, and it was there that he would settle on his trademark soul-inflected, B.B. King-influenced style. Initially a moderate success, Milton had his big breakthrough with 1965's "We're Gonna Make It," which hit number one on the R&B charts thanks to its resonance with the civil rights movement. "We're Gonna Make It" kicked off a successful string of R&B chart singles that occasionally reached the Top Ten, highlighted by "Who's Cheating Who?," "Grits Ain't Groceries," "If Walls Could Talk," "Baby I Love You," and "Feel So Bad," among others.
The death of Leonard Chess in 1969 threw his label into disarray, and Little Milton eventually left Checker in 1971 and signed with the Memphis-based soul label Stax (also the home of his former protégé Albert King). At Stax, Milton began expanding his studio sound, adding bigger horn and string sections and spotlighting his soulful vocals more than traditional blues. Further hits followed in songs like "Annie Mae's Cafe," "Little Bluebird," "That's What Love Will Make You Do," and "Walkin' the Back Streets and Cryin'," but generally not with the same magnitude of old. Stax went bankrupt in 1975, upon which point Little Milton moved to the TK/Glades label, which was better known for its funk and disco acts. His recordings there were full-blown crossover affairs, which made "Friend of Mine" a minor success, but that label soon went out of business as well. Milton spent some time in limbo; he recorded one album for MCA in 1983 called Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number, and the following year found a home with Malaco, which sustained the careers of quite a few old-school Southern soul and blues artists. During his tenure at Malaco, Milton debuted the song that would become his latter-day anthem, the bar band staple "The Blues Is Alright," which was also widely popular with European blues fans. Milton recorded frequently and steadily for Malaco, issuing 13 albums under their aegis by the end of the millennium. In 1988, he won the W.C. Handy Award for Blues Entertainer of the Year, and was also inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
PAUL GILBERT - Werewolves Of Portland (2021)
Guitar virtuoso, master composer, and all-round six-string wild man Paul Gilbert raises his game yet again on his new solo album Werewolves of Portland. Gilbert wrote and recorded Werewolves of Portland completely alone during his pandemic lockdown, performing all the instruments on his own. “It took me about six months to think of it, but it finally occurred to me that I could play all the instruments myself. I’ve always loved playing drums, and I can play bass and keyboards well enough to get the job done,” he said. His creative drive simply wouldn’t wait until it was safe to work with other musicians again so he became the band that he wasn’t able to access. The product of this approach is a supremely listenable blast of original rock music from one of the guitar community’s biggest talents. Paul Gilbert seemingly has the entire world of music under his fingers, crossing genres and creating endless possibilities for himself like it’s the most natural thing he could think to do. Werewolves of Portland is another fine chapter in his body of work and will provide fans of high-end rock guitar with years of listening pleasure.
SPARKS - The First 4... (1972/74)
One of pop's best-loved and most influential cult bands, Sparks grew out of the minds of brothers Ron and Russell Mael. The combination of Russell's formidable vocal range, Ron's impressive keyboard skills, and their vividly witty songwriting defined their music as it changed over the years -- which it did often. When they emerged in the early '70s, their theatricality fit in with the glam rock scene, with albums like 1972's A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing and 1974's Kimono My House earning them a strong following in the U.K. Just a year later, Sparks were at the forefront of the power pop movement with 1975's Indiscreet; by the end of the decade, they were electronic pop pioneers, working with Giorgio Moroder on 1979's No. 1 in Heaven. The synth pop and new wave leanings of albums like that one and 1983's In Outer Space -- which featured "Cool Places," a duet with the Go-Go's Jane Wiedlin that became one of the band's biggest hits -- evolved into the house and techno leanings of 1994's Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins, which felt timely and true to Sparks' inventive history. The Maels only grew more adventurous in the 2000s, reworking classical music in their own image on 2002's Lil' Beethoven and delivering their first musical with 2009's The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman. When they returned to pop music, they held on to that innovative spirit as they collaborated with Franz Ferdinand on 2015's FFS and commented on the issues of the day on 2020's A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip. For a band that often felt like a well-kept secret, Sparks appeared on the charts fairly frequently, with "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" (1974), "The Number One Song in Heaven" (1979), and "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'" (1994) among their most popular songs. A better measure of Sparks' success, however, is the wide range of artists they inspired: Pet Shop Boys, Nirvana, Björk, and the Smiths are among the many acts who put their own spin on the Maels' boundlessly creative approach to pop music and culture.
Sparks, originally titled Halfnelson, is the debut album by the Los Angeles rock band Sparks. The album was first released as Halfnelson, the band's original name, and reissued a year later under the group’s new name. The new version of the album featured new artwork that was simpler, displaying the group in more of a classic pose superimposed against a red brick pattern. The single to this reissue "Wonder Girl," became a minor regional hit in Alabama and appeared on the lower end of the Cashbox chart at #92. The tracks "Roger" and "Saccharin and the War" are re-recorded versions of songs from their untitled 1969 demo album, which is erroneously referred to as "The 'A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing' Demos".
A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing is the second studio album by the American rock band Sparks. It was released in 1973 and includes the single "Girl from Germany". It was the last release by the original five-member incarnation of Sparks. The album was recorded and mixed at ID Sound at La Brea and Walley Heider Studios, and produced by Thaddeus James Lowe, then Todd Rundgren's engineer and former lead singer of The Electric Prunes. Receiving mixed to positive reviews, it was originally released as an LP in 1973. The artwork was photographed by Larry DuPont and Ron Mael.
Kimono My House is the third album by rock band Sparks. The record was released in May 1974 and is considered to be their commercial breakthrough. In 1973, prior to the recording of the album, the brothers Ron and Russell Mael had accepted an offer to relocate to the United Kingdom in order to participate in the glam rock scene. The previous lineup consisting of Earle Mankey, Jim Mankey and Harley Feinstein was replaced with British musicians: Martin Gordon, Adrian Fisher and Norman "Dinky" Diamond joined the band to play bass, guitar and drums respectively. The group signed a record contract with Island Records and recorded Kimono My House in 1974. Although the Mael brothers had wanted Roy Wood to produce the album, he was unavailable, so Muff Winwood was hired instead. Winwood remained with the group to produce the follow-up album Propaganda later in 1974.
Propaganda is the fourth album by the rock group Sparks. The album followed its predecessor Kimono My House by half a year and was a successful album in the UK and US. It reached #9 on the UK Album Chart (which would remain their second highest album chart position in the UK for nearly 43 years until pushed down into third place by Hippopotamus in 2017) and #63 on the Billboard 200 (and remains their highest peak in that country). The singles "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" and "Something for the Girl with Everything", while not as successful as those from Kimono My House both reached the top twenty in the UK reaching number 13 and number 17 respectively. In France, "At Home, at Work, at Play" together with "Propaganda" was released as a single instead of "Something for the Girl with Everything". In the US, "Achoo" was released as the album's only single.
TRACY NELSON - Tracy Nelson (1974) & Sweet Soul Music (1975)
It's amazing how many good singers from the early '70s have recorded several worthy albums only to disappear from the scene forever. Tracy Nelson, from the photo on her self-titled album, gives the appearance of just a slip of a girl, but her voice defies one's eyes. From the first notes of the album, Nelson brings her deep, resonant vocals to bear on ten songs, nine of which were gleaned from her songwriting peers. She's joined in the studio by the cream of Nashville studio cats, a sparkling group of players who lay down a heavy R&B backdrop perfectly suited for her powerful set of pipes. It doesn't hurt that Bob Johnston (of Bob Dylan fame) is sitting in the production chair, nor that he lent Nelson the sexy number "Rock Me in Your Cradle." The good songs on Tracy Nelson run deep, so one needs to stick around long enough to hear the funkiest, coolest version of Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" ever to grace vinyl. If you can imagine Aretha Franklin recording with Little Feat, then you've got the idea. There's also a stone-country version of "After the Fire Is Gone" (which charted at the time) with Willie Nelson in tow. All this is to say that Tracy Nelson is a solid, soulful album.
Tracy Nelson's second post-Mother Earth album is similar to its predecessor, though with a bigger sound than anything she'd utilized before on record. Employing a six-piece band plus the Muscle Shoals Horns and with the Sweet Inspirations on backing vocals, producer Bob Johnston filled Nelson's accompaniment right to the brim across much of the record -- and it did spill over a bit on the original release, with some muddiness in the sound on the vinyl LP. Fortunately, Nelson's vocals are more than up to the task at hand, in both volume and intensity, and they are what count, and come through no matter how busy and lush her musical surroundings ever get. There's a lot of virtuoso playing to go with her performance, to be sure, and sometimes the spotlight seems more on the band than on her. But Nelson holds her own gloriously throughout, starting with the title track opener -- for a high point, look to "Lies" and the soaring "Baby I Found Out," each of which by itself would be worth the price of the album. There are also a few places, such as "Same Old Blues," where the focus leaves her for just a little too long. Still, it is unfair to criticize an album for literally being too much of a good thing, and the CD reissue avoids the modest sonic flaws that were present on the vinyl version. And in any edition, it's a powerful 40 minutes of listening.
MOTHER EARTH -1968/71
The late-'60s/early-'70s blues-rock outfit Mother Earth was led by singer Tracy Nelson and issued several somewhat underappreciated releases during their time span. Nelson was originally from Madison, WI, and it was while attending the University of Wisconsin that the singer was discovered by producer Sam Charters and was eventually signed to a recording contract with the Prestige label. 1965 saw the release of Nelson's solo debut, the folk-based Deep Are the Roots, and when it didn't exactly burn up the charts, Nelson decided to relocate to San Francisco, with the hopes of forming a more conventional rock outfit. Shortly after arriving on the West Coast, Mother Earth was formed, which led to performances at the famed Fillmore West, opening for the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Burdon. After an appearance on the soundtrack to the 1968 motion picture Revolution (which also featured the Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Steve Miller Band), Mother Earth signed with Mercury Records and issued a steady stream of releases until the early '70s. These albums included 1968's Living with the Animals 1969's Tracy Nelson Country and Make a Joyful Noise, 1970's Satisfied, 1971's Bring Me Home, 1972's Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth, and 1973's Poor Man's Paradise, before Nelson pursued a solo career. Subsequently, Nelson earned a Grammy nomination in 1974 for the track "After the Fire Is Gone" (a duet with Willie Nelson) and continued to issue solo albums until the early '80s, when she became disillusioned with the direction that popular music was going in (although she did sing backup for Neil Young for a spell in the mid-'80s, including appearing with Young at the mammoth Live Aid concert in 1985). Nelson returned to music in the '90s, beginning with 1993's In the Here and Now, continuing to issue solo recordings (and in 1998, earned another Grammy nomination for the release Sing It!, a collaboration with Marcia Ball and Irma Thomas).
Though Mother Earth is often remembered as a vehicle for Tracy Nelson, Living With the Animals is a true group effort, combining memorable vocal performances with tight R&B-derived playing with excellent guitar work from Michael Bloomfield. Side one is a showcase for Nelson's blues belting and piano, particularly on "Down So Low" and "Mother Earth." Not to be overlooked is the blues shuffle "I Did My Part" and R.P. St. John's sardonic "Living With the Animals" and "Marvel Set," which features him on lead vocals. Side two doesn't hold up quite as well, though there are stellar moments here as well, including "Cry On" and "Goodnight Nelda Grebe," with fine horn section work and excellent Nelson vocals. Written and fronted by St. John, "The Kingdom of Heaven Is Within You" is a brilliant closer; it's nocturnal, moody, and spacy and showcases beautiful muted trumpets and reeds with a gorgeous flute solo by Link Davis Jr. The album was reissued on CD by Wounded Bird in 2004.
Make a Joyful Noise is the follow-up to 1968's Living With the Animals. This time out, Mother Earth neatly divided their joint appreciations for rural and urban American music: ŕ la the thematic "City Side" and "Country Side." The City Side is an R&B workout, powered by a robust horn section and the vocals of Rev. Ron Stallings on burning soul cuts such as "Stop That Train," Tracy Nelson's killer performance on Naomi Neville's cooker "What Are You Trying to Do," and sultry read of Little Willie John's babymaker "Need Your Love So Bad." The Country Side is more subdued, adorned by steel guitars and Powell St. John's quavering vocals on "I'll Be Moving On" and the strange "The Fly." Nelson's version of Doug Sahm's "I Wanna Be Your Mama Again" is her blues-country gospel version of Hank Williams' honky tonk net "You Win Again" (with a fine fiddle solo by Johnny Gimble). Some of the guest stars on this set include Boz Scaggs, Hargus Robins, Ben Keith, D.J. Fontana, and Pete Drake. Make a Joyful Noise remains an overlooked classic from the Warner Brothers catalog that finally saw CD issue in 2004 by Wounded Bird.
By the time of Satisfied, Mother Earth had become pretty much a vehicle for Tracy Nelson plus backing band. There's just one original on this set, Nelson's "Andy Song," and the album sticks to a loose but R&B-focused groove, sometimes stretching the songs out in a fashion that probably would have been more tightly edited had such an approach not been in vogue in 1970. Nelson's vocals are consistently strong and stirring, and the material is commendably diverse, though overall it's just an okay album that could use a little more oomph. The white R&B vibe is tempered by strong streaks of gospel, New Orleans music, and even a bit of jazz, particularly on the smoother parts of "Groovy Way."
Not really deviating from a formula which was modestly successful for Mother Earth, the band takes the adage "if it ain't broke don't fix it" to heart with Bring Me Home. Staying in form with the blend of R&B, gospel, folk and soft rock, this-nine song session remains a vehicle predominantly for the group' s siren, Tracy Nelson. The band delivers constantly solid performances backing Nelson's impassioned vocals in a very complementary fashion, but really doesn't set itself apart from the majority of the group's output.
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.
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND - Down In Texas '71 (2021)
Down in Texas '71 is a live album by the Allman Brothers Band. It was recorded on September 28, 1971 at the Austin Municipal Auditorium in Austin, Texas. It was released on March 26, 2021. This recording features the original lineup of the Allman Brothers Band. Saxophonist Rudolph "Juicy" Carter sits in on six of the nine songs. The album includes a bonus track with a 13-minute interview of Berry Oakley and Duane Allman for a radio station in Houston from June 6, 1971, about three months before the concert was recorded.
In the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Wade Tatangelo wrote, "When the Allman Brothers arrived at the Austin Municipal Auditorium in Texas on Sept. 28, 1971, they were the hottest band in the country.... And while Carter's contributions are at times a bit too skronky, it's fascinating to hear how Duane Allman and Betts weave their twin guitar attacks around his often aggressive playing." On Cryptic Rock Vito Tanzi said, "Collectively one of the greatest Southern Rock bands in history, the Allman Brothers Band built a legacy that defined the genre over the course of five decades.... For all the years of great music and countless live albums, you would think another live album would be too much. Well, for the Allman Brothers Band Down in Texas '71 is simply a gift adding to a plethora of live performances captured on tape for fans to enjoy."
JOE BONAMASSA - Now Serving: Royal Tea Live From The Ryman (2021)
Last year when COVID-19 put the live touring industry on hold, guitar hero Joe Bonamassa did something unprecedented for his fans – he put together a one-night-only show at the iconic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN to be livestreamed for fans everywhere. That night he united people across 44 countries worldwide for a phenomenal live music presentation of his brand-new album “Royal Tea” before it was even released. The stellar performance includes 12 incredible live tracks, featuring the best from his latest studio release Royal Tea, Joe’s 24th #1 record on the Billboard Blues chart, which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. It also includes 3 electrifying tracks from his 20th anniversary album A New Day Now. Get your serving and relive the excitement time and time again with this once-in-a-lifetime release from one of the most celebrated Blues Rock entertainers!
THE GLITTER BAND - The Albums (2016)
The Glitter Band are a glam rock band from England, who initially worked as Gary Glitter's backing band under that name from 1973, when they then began releasing records of their own. They were unofficially known as the Glittermen on the first four hit singles by Gary Glitter from 1972 to 1973. This 56 track box set contains the first four studio albums recorded by The Glitter Band during the heyday of Glam, 1974-76. Disc 1 is the Glam Rock masterpiece 'Hey!' which spent three months in the UK National Charts, eventually peaking at No.13. It features the hit singles 'Angel Face' (UK No.8, Germany No.8, Australia No.2) and 'Just For You' (UK No.10, Germany No.35) plus a bonus non LP B-side. The second CD is the 'Rock N Roll Dudes' LP which hit No.17 in the UK in May 1975. The hit singles 'Let's Get Together Again' (UK. No.8, Germany No.19) and 'Goodbye My Love' (UK.No.2, Germany No.32) are included alongside two non LP B-sides. 'Listen To The Band' is Disc 3 and it includes the hit singles 'The Tears I Cried' (UK. No.8, Germany No.35, Australia No.5), 'Love In The Sun' (UK No.15) and 'People Like You And People Like Me' (UK No.5, Germany No.14) as well as the USA Top 100 'Makes You Blind' and the non-charting 'Alone Again'. The final CD is 1976's 'Paris Match' album which includes the singles 'Look What You've Been Missing', 'Lay Your Love On Me' and 'She Was Alright'. The album also now comes in its Glitter Band sleeve rather than The G Band one. The clam shell box also contains a 20 page booklet with detailed liner notes plus numerous pictures of singles from around the globe to get collectors updating their 'Wants Lists'.
MICHAEL BOLTON - Gold (2019)
Michael Bolotin, known professionally as Michael Bolton, is an American singer and songwriter. Bolton originally performed in the hard rock and heavy metal genres from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, both on his early solo albums and those he recorded as the frontman of the band Blackjack. He became better known for his series of pop rock ballads, recorded after a stylistic change in the late 1980s. Bolton's achievements include selling more than 75 million records, recording eight top 10 albums and two number-one singles on the Billboard charts, as well as winning six American Music Awards and two Grammy Awards.
This definitive 3CD career spanning set features 45 tracks including a remarkable 17 UK Top 40 singles. Highlights include the top ten singles ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’, ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and ‘Can I Touch You…There?’ CD1 opens with the Grammy-Award-winning UK #3 hit single ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ which became a modern pop standard around the world. CD2 features more top twenty singles including ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ as well as the song ‘Steel Bars’ which Bolton co-wrote with Bob Dylan. Another highlight is Bolton’s duet with with Suzi Benson on ‘From Now On’. CD3 includes the hit single ‘Can I Touch You… There?’ along with Bolton covering classic tracks such as ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, ‘(What A) Wonderful World’ and ‘Sexual Healing’.
PAUL WELLER - Fat Pop, Volume 1 (Limited Deluxe Ed.) 
Paul Weller is an English singer-songwriter and musician. Weller achieved fame with the punk rock/new wave/mod revival band The Jam. He had further success with the blue-eyed soul music of the Style Council (1983–1989), before establishing himself as a solo artist with his eponymous 1992 album. Paul Weller can't sit still. Even during busy times, he manages to release an album every other year, so when facing the lockdown accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, he did what comes naturally: he wrote and recorded a new album. Enter Fat Pop, Vol. 1, a bright burst of cheerful color arriving in the midst of a time of gloom. Though it doesn't sound much like either record, Fat Pop, Vol. 1 belongs to a very specific category of Weller album, the kind where the title accurately describes what lies inside (think Heavy Soul or Sonik Kicks). Fat Pop, Vol. 1 is a dense, oversaturated collection of bold hooks, easy melodies, and multicolored sonics, a record that happily blurs distinctions between genre as it hops from mood to mood. Plenty of Weller touchstones are evident. Everything from Curtis Mayfield to Traffic can be found within the contours of the set's 12 songs, familiar sounds that seem fresh due to unpredictable production juxtapositions, and a sharp decision to keep things tight and breezy. Half of the album's tracks clock in at under three minutes, a move that allows for the mellow closing numbers "In Better Time" and "Still Glides the Stream" to play a bit like a reflective coda. This pair of tunes end Fat Pop, Vol. 1 on a slightly subdued note, but that only helps to put the dynamism of the rest of the record into perspective. Weller may often be adventurous, particularly during the third act inaugurated with 2008's 22 Dreams, yet he rarely seems as loose and playful as he does here, and that sense of mischief is an unexpected and welcome gift.
CHRIS WHITLEY - Long Way Around (An Anthology 1991-2001) 
Chris Whitley was an American blues/rock singer-songwriter and guitarist. During his 25-year career he released more than a dozen albums, had two songs in the top 50 of the Billboard mainstream rock charts and received two Independent Music Awards. Whitley's sound was drawn from the traditions of blues, jazz and rock and he recorded songs by artists from many genres. During the early 1980s Whitley was busking on the streets of New York City and collaborating with musicians Marc Miller, Arto Lindsay and Michael Beinhorn. He was given a plane ticket to Ghent, Belgium in 1981, and lived there for six years, recording several albums and playing with the bands Kuruki, 2 Belgen, Nacht Und Nebel, Alan Fawn, and A Noh Rodeo. In 1988, producer Daniel Lanois heard Whitley perform at the Mondo Cane club in New York City and he helped Whitley obtain a recording contract with Columbia Records. In 1991 two of Whitley's songs charted on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts: "Big Sky Country" (number 36) and "Living with the Law" (number 28). In 2000, Whitley recorded his album Perfect Day, an album of cover songs, with Chris Wood and Billy Martin and followed up with the album Rocket House in 2001. Whitley's song "Breaking Your Fall" from the album Hotel Vast Horizon (2003) won the 3rd Annual Independent Music Awards for Folk/Singer-Songwriter Song. In 2004 he won The 4th Annual Independent Music Award for Blues/R&B Song for his composition "Her Furious Angels" from the album War Crime Blues. Whitley was an inaugural member of The Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists and collaborated with Jeff Lang on an album called Dislocation Blues in 2005.
In fall 2005, Whitley canceled his tour due to health issues. In November he was reported to be terminally ill with lung cancer and under the care of hospice. He died on November 20, 2005 in Houston, Texas at the age of 45.
BLACKJACK - Blackjack (1979) & Worlds Apart (1980)
Blackjack was an American rock band, active from 1979–1980, featuring Michael Bolton (who was performing under his real name, Michael Bolotin), Bruce Kulick, Sandy Gennaro and Jimmy Haslip. Bolton sings here in more of a rock & roll style, unlike his current material, which is more R&B or pop. The band was short-lived, released two albums, the self-titled Blackjack in 1979 and Worlds Apart in 1980, and embarked on a small US nationwide tour.
Blackjack is the eponymous debut album of the American rock band Blackjack. The album was recorded shortly after the band's formation in early 1979 at Criteria Studios in Miami and released on Polydor Records on June 18, 1979. Official music videos were recorded for the album's two singles, "Love Me Tonight" and "Without Your Love" and the album was promoted moderately by Polydor. The album was met with lukewarm reception and the band would disband in 1980 after recording a second studio album, Worlds Apart. The album was art directed by Abie Sussman and the cover artwork was designed and drawn by Gerard Huerta. The album reached #127 on the Billboard album charts in 1979, and the lead single, "Love Me Tonight", reached #62 on the Hot 100 that same year.
Worlds Apart is the second and final album of the American rock band Blackjack. The album was met with nearly total indifference, sold poorly and Blackjack disbanded shortly after its release. The album contains the song "Welcome to the World", which opens with a live audio recording clip of a baby birth. A YouTube user by the name of Chris Cassone, engineer for Blackjack's band manager Phil Lorito, wrote on YouTube that the audio clip was of the birth of his son. Cassone made the recording (March 29, 1980) of his first wife, Dale Weigel Cassone, in White Plains Hospital during the delivery. Phil Lorito and members of Blackjack frequented nearby North Lake Sound Studios where Chris was chief engineer. Chris played the newly recorded tape at a recording session visited by Blackjack and they loved it. Casey Cassone, the boy born on the recording, received album liner credit from the band. The nurse coincidentally announces after he was born, "Open your eyes. Welcome to the world."
LOVE AFFAIR - The Everlasting Love Affair (1968) & New Day (1970)
Originally formed in 1966, this London, England-based quintet comprised Steve Ellis (vocals), Morgan Fisher (b. 1 January 1950, London, England; keyboards), Rex Brayley (guitar), Mick Jackson (bass) and Maurice Bacon (drums). Although Ellis was barely 16 years old, the band performed frequently in clubs on a semi-professional basis. Fisher was briefly replaced by Lynton Guest and the following year Ellis, backed by session musicians, recorded a sparkling cover version of Robert Knight’s ‘Everlasting Love’ for CBS Records. By January 1968, the single unexpectedly hit number 1 in the UK and Love Affair became instant pop stars with Ellis’ cherubic looks gracing teen magazines throughout the nation. With Bacon’s father Sid overseeing the management, the band resisted the solicitations of more powerful entrepreneurs, yet failed to exploit their potential. Four more Top 20 hits followed, ‘Rainbow Valley’, ‘A Day Without Love’, ‘One Road’ and ‘Bringing On Back The Good Times’, but by 1969 Ellis had left to start a solo career. He recorded a few singles and the soundtrack to Loot before collaborating with Zoot Money in Ellis, who released two albums for Epic Records (1972’s Riding On The Crest Of A Slump and 1973’s ... Why Not?). Ellis later sang with Widowmaker, and in 1978 recorded a solo album (The Last Angry Man) which was briefly made available on cassette before finally being given a full release in 2000.
The remaining quartet recruited new vocalist Gus Eadon (b. Auguste Eadon; ex-Elastic Band) and began to steer the band in a more progressive direction. The second Love Affair album, released at the beginning of 1971, was credited simply to LA in an attempt to attract a more mature audience. The record was a commercial failure and six months later the band was dropped by CBS. They resigned to Parlophone Records as Love Affair but were unable to revive their fortunes. Bacon and Fisher left to form Morgan, recording 1973’s Nova Solis for RCA Records. Fisher later reappeared in Mott The Hoople and the Third Ear Band before releasing some bizarre solo material for Cherry Red Records during the 80s and launching a career in Japan. Bacon moved into music publishing and management, while Jackson worked his way up to become an important figure in the Alfa Romeo car group. A line-up of the Love Affair featuring no original members went on to issue obscure singles for Pye Records and Creole, before successively plundering the band’s name for cabaret/revivalist bookings.
BILLY F GIBBONS - Hardware (2021)
Billy F Gibbons new album ‘Hardware’ is a return to his rock-a-boogie template, but with a contemplative feel born of the band’s isolated recording environment in the Mojave desert. There’s always something consistently familiar about Billy F Gibbons. It isn’t just his cartoon character appearance, the Texas drawl, or indeed his significant crunchy guitar tones. It has more to do with the fact that as a songwriter you can always rely on him to incorporate something different into a familiar context, be it humour in a rock setting, or dabbling in faux Spanish on a Tex Mex cover. And so it is with his third solo album ‘Hardware’ – the title of which comes from the nickname given to ZZ Tops late engineer Joe Hardy – which conceptually connects Gibbons with own sense of durability. ‘Hardware’ started out as a project in search of a context. With the exception of an Augie Meyers cover, this is his first all self penned solo album.
The album was recorded in Escape Studio, which is located near Palm Springs, California and produced by Matt Sorum (Guns ‘N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, and The Cult), Mike Fiorentino, and engineer Chad Shlosser, along with Gibbons himself. Sorum also served as drummer and joined Gibbons’ band on the album. There is also a guest appearance by Larkin Poe on “Stackin’ Bones”, whom Gibbons met through Megan Lovell’s husband Tyler Bryant.
PAVLOV'S DOG - Pampered Menial (1975) & At The Sound Of The Bell (1976) [Remastered & Expanded, 2007]
Pampered Menial was the first album from Pavlov's Dog, a band produced by Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman, the duo behind Blue Oyster Cult. The seven men in this group are revealed in the gatefold holding "Horace," a dog, while three engravings from 1849 by artist Robert Vernon make up the front, back and inside cover. Those paintings are striking, and though the music, mostly written by vocalist David Surkamp, tries hard, it just isn't as captivating as the package which surrounds it. Surkamp sounds like a chick singer, something that wasn't quite in vogue yet -- Journey and the Mickey Thomas Starship wouldn't happen for another four years, not until 1979, and even Thomas' hit with the Elvin Bishop Group was a year away, male vocalists were singing in lower registers at this point. With song titles like "Theme From Subway Sue" and "Of Once And Future Kings" the identity that a Blue Oyster Cult maintained was missing here. "Subway Sue" sounding very much like the 80s version of Mott, the band after Ian Hunter took his leave. If you thought Mott's high pitched vocals were out of place and annoying, check out Surkamp's strange warbling. The band itself isn't half bad. "Episode's mellotron, courtesy of Doug Rayburn and Siegfried Carver's violin, provide more than adequate sounds. Carver's sole composition, "Preludin," comes off as one of the best tracks, perhaps because it is an instrumental version of progressive rock that Triumvirat and early Journey were exploring, But when David Surkamp's vocals kick in again on the next tune, like Pavlov's experiments, it makes the listener want to break things, including this record. "Julia" is a mediocre lyric and ok melody, just destroyed by the vocalist who composed it. If this were an instrumental group, the music would be much easier to take. The band provides elegant rock, majestic drums by Mike Safron, additional keyboards by David Hamilton augmenting Rayburn's mellotron and flute, and solid 70s production from Krugman and Pearlman. Lead guitarist Steve Scorfina co-writes a beautiful piece with vocalist Surkamp in "Late November," but its perfection is marred by the whining sounds of the frontman. It is really sad, as there seems to be much potential here, drummer Michael Safron's "Song Dance" another highly creative number. A & R man Mark Spector had some kind of ears, what he was thinking here is anyone's guess. The solid riffs, the wonderful blend of sounds, all destroyed by David Surkamp's forced vocals which sound like some experiment by Pavlov gone awry. The Mott band from Shouting & Pointing infamy should have been put on a stage with Pavlov's Dog to see which act could clear the room first. "Fast Gun" is another solid progressive tune, but without the polish of a Brad Delp or Steve Perry, it just didn't stand a chance.
Bringing Mellotron, flutes and strings to the table, this St. Louis prog band instantly stood out from the pack-even without the high, quavering vocals of David Surkamp. Here's their 1975 ABC-Dunhill debut, remastered and expanded with three live bonus cuts and David's first recording from '69.
With such a fabulous debut album, the band's second offering would naturally be under extra scrutiny. As can sometimes be the case, the often difficult 'second' album can be a let-down - not in this case. After the dazzling pyrotechnics of "Pampered Menial" this follow-up has a generally more restrained & gentler feel, with the band yet again displaying it's wonderful musicianship. The band's distinctive Prog-Rock sound is often melodic & haunting in this collection. Yet again there isn't a dud track or filler, with five of the titles being David Surkamp compositions, with the rest consisting of Surkamp/Doug Rayburn collaborations. As usual, Surkamp's distinctive high-pitch vocals are an unusual but very effective instrument used to express the emotions within the lyrics - having only recently discovered the band, I'm now fully tuned in to this guy's wavelength! Difficult to pick a fave track although I do have a soft spot for "She Came Shining", but it's quality stuff throughout. Although the pampered one remains my favourite, this is an excellent album. While enjoying a healthy following, Pavlov's Dog fully deserve to be heard by a wider audience - highly recommended!
GRATEFUL DEAD - The First 4... (1967/70)
Rock's longest, strangest trip, the Grateful Dead were the psychedelic era's most beloved musical ambassadors as well as its most enduring survivors, spreading their message of peace, love, and mind expansion across the globe throughout the better part of three decades. The object of adoration for popular music's most fervent and celebrated fan following -- the Deadheads, their numbers and devotion legendary in their own right -- they were the ultimate cult band, creating a self-styled universe all their own; for the better part of their career orbiting well outside of the mainstream, the Dead became superstars solely on their own terms, tie-dyed pied pipers whose epic, free-form live shows were rites of passage for an extended family of listeners who knew no cultural boundaries. The roots of the Grateful Dead lie with singer/songwriter Jerry Garcia, a longtime bluegrass enthusiast who began playing the guitar at age 15. Upon relocating to Palo Alto, California, in 1960, he befriended Robert Hunter, whose lyrics later graced many of Garcia's most famous melodies; in time, he also came into contact with aspiring electronic music composer Phil Lesh. By 1962, Garcia was playing banjo in a variety of local folk and bluegrass outfits, two years later forming Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions with guitarist Bob Weir and keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan; in 1965, the group was renamed the Warlocks, their lineup by then including Lesh on bass as well as Bill Kreutzmann on drums.
The Warlocks made their electric debut that July; Ken Kesey soon tapped them to become the house band at his notorious Acid Tests, a series of now-legendary public LSD parties and multimedia "happenings" mounted prior to the drug's criminalization. As 1965 drew to its close, the Warlocks rechristened themselves the Grateful Dead, the name taken from a folk tale discovered in a dictionary by Garcia; bankrolled by chemist/LSD manufacturer Owsley Stanley, the bandmembers soon moved into a communal house situated at 710 Ashbury Street in San Francisco, becoming a fixture on the local music scene and building a large fan base on the strength of their many free concerts. Signing to MGM, in 1966 the Dead also recorded their first demos; the sessions proved disastrous, and the label dropped the group a short time later. As 1967 mutated into the Summer of Love, the Dead emerged as one of the top draws on the Bay Area music scene, honing an eclectic repertoire influenced by folk, country, and the blues while regularly appearing at top local venues including the Fillmore Auditorium, the Avalon Ballroom, and the Carousel. In March of 1967 the Dead issued their self-titled Warner Bros. debut LP, a disappointing effort which failed to recapture the cosmic sprawl of their live appearances; after performing at the Monterey Pop Festival, the group expanded to a six-piece with the addition of second drummer Mickey Hart.
Their follow-up, 1968's Anthem of the Sun, fared better in documenting the free-form jam aesthetic of their concerts, but after completing 1969's Aoxomoxoa, their penchant for time-consuming studio experimentation left them over 100,000 dollars in debt to the label. The Dead's response to the situation was to bow to the demands of fans and record their first live album, 1969's Live/Dead; highlighted by a rendition of Garcia's "Dark Star" clocking in at over 23 minutes, the LP succeeded where its studio predecessors failed in capturing the true essence of the group in all of their improvisational, psychedelicized glory. It was followed by a pair of classic 1970 studio efforts, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty; recorded in homage to the group's country and folk roots, the two albums remained the cornerstone of the Dead's live repertoire for years to follow, with its most popular songs -- "Uncle John's Band," "Casey Jones," "Sugar Magnolia," and "Truckin'" among them -- becoming major favorites on FM radio...
AMERICA - The First 4... (1971/74)
The first half of the 1970s was the heyday of introspective songwriting and close-harmony singing. The band America lay at the commercial end of this movement, releasing a string of singles that earned radio play for years. The trio's debut was "A Horse with No Name," a Neil Young-derived, hallucinatory song-story that hit number one in the U.S. and became a worldwide smash. Further hits "I Need You" and "Ventura Highway" helped them win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist of 1972. A string of Top Ten singles and albums followed during the middle years of the decade ("Tin Man," "Lonely People," "Sister Golden Hair"), plus America scored a latter-day hit in 1982 with "You Can Do Magic." Vocalists/guitarists Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley met while they were still in high school in the late '60s; all three were sons of U.S. Air Force officers who were stationed in the U.K. After they completed school in 1970, they formed an acoustic folk-rock quartet called Daze in London, which was soon pared down to the trio of Bunnell, Peek, and Beckley. Adopting the name America, the group landed a contract with Jeff Dexter, a promoter for the Roundhouse concert venue. Dexter had America open for several major artists and the group soon signed with Warner Bros. By the fall of 1970, the group was recording its debut album in London, with producers Ian Samwell and Jeff Dexter.
"A Horse with No Name," America's debut single, was released at the end of 1971. In January 1972, the song -- which strongly recalled the acoustic numbers of Neil Young -- became a number three hit in the U.K. The group's self-titled debut album followed the same stylistic pattern and became a hit as well, peaking at number 14. Following their British success, America returned to North America, beginning a supporting tour for the Everly Brothers. "A Horse with No Name" was released in the U.S. that spring, where it soon became a number one single, pushing Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" off the top of the charts; America followed the single to the top of the charts. "I Need You" became another Top Ten hit that summer, and the group began work on their second album. "Ventura Highway," the first single released from this collaboration, became their third straight Top Ten hit in December of 1972. In early 1973, America won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist of 1972.
Homecoming was released in January of 1973, becoming a Top Ten hit in the U.S. and peaking at number 21 in the U.K. America's essential sound didn't change with this record; it just became more polished. However, the hits stopped coming fairly soon -- they had only one minor Top 40 hit in 1973. Hat Trick, the group's third album, was released toward the end of 1973; it failed to make it past number 28 on the American charts. Released in the late fall of 1974, Holiday was the first record the group made with producer George Martin. Holiday returned America to the top of the charts, peaking at number three and launching the hit singles "Tin Man" and "Lonely People." "Sister Golden Hair," pulled from 1975's Hearts, became their second number one single. That same year, the group released History: America's Greatest Hits, which would eventually sell over four million copies...
SLADE - The First 4... (1969/74)
Slade are an English rock band formed in Wolverhampton in 1966. They rose to prominence during the glam rock era in the early 1970s, achieving 17 consecutive top 20 hits and six number ones on the UK Singles Chart. The British Hit Singles & Albums names them the most successful British group of the 1970s based on sales of singles. They were the first act to have three singles enter the charts at number one; all six of the band's chart-toppers were penned by Noddy Holder and Jim Lea. As of 2006, total UK sales stand at 6,520,171, and their best-selling single, "Merry Xmas Everybody", has sold in excess of one million copies. According to the 1999 BBC documentary It's Slade, the band have sold over 50 million records worldwide.
Beginnings is the debut album by the British rock band Ambrose Slade, who later achieved fame as Slade. It was released on 9 May 1969, but failed to enter the charts. In the US, it was released under the title Ballzy. Later in 1975, the album was briefly re-released by Contour as Beginnings of Slade but was quickly withdrawn from sale due to copyright issues. Beginnings is a mixture of self-penned songs and cover versions including two tracks by Steppenwolf. As to confirm the diversity of the group's influences, they also cut Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes' "Journey to the Centre of Your Mind", "Ain't Got No Heart" by Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, The Moody Blues' "Fly Me High", Lennon and McCartney's "Martha My Dear" and "If This World Were Mine" by Marvin Gaye. The artwork for the album featured a photo of the band on Pouk Hill in Walsall. The band didn't enjoy the photo session due to the cold weather, which was later told in their 1970 song of the same name.
Play It Loud is the second studio album by the British rock group Slade. It was released by Polydor on 28 November 1970 but did not enter the charts. The album, produced by Chas Chandler, was the first to be released under the Slade name, as the band's 1969 debut Beginnings was released under the name Ambrose Slade. Following the lack of commercial success of their debut Beginnings, the band and their new manager Chas Chandler began considering their next career move. Having not been pleased with the debut album, Chandler thought the band would benefit from writing their own material and a change of image. He decided that the band should project a skinhead image in the effort to generate interest in the band. Both guitarist Dave Hill and bassist Jim Lea were mortified by the revised image, but the band agreed to try the idea and adopted Dr Marten boots, braces, cropped hair and aggressive "bovver boy" posturing. Coinciding with the new image, Ambrose Slade changed their name to "The Slade", which was used on their single "Wild Winds Are Blowing", released in October 1969.
Slayed? is the third studio album by the British rock group Slade. It was released on 1 November 1972 and reached No. 1 in the UK. It remained on the chart for 34 weeks and was certified Silver in early 1973. The album was also the band's most successful of the 1970s in the US, peaking at No. 69 and remaining in the charts for 26 weeks. In Australia, the album reached No. 1 and went Gold, knocking the band's live album Slade Alive! to No. 2. Slayed? was produced by Chas Chandler. Upon release, Record Mirror described the album as "all pretty stomping, insistent and bawled out stuff", adding "they deliver the goods here, alright". In the Record Mirror poll results of 1974, Slayed? was listed at No. 4 on the Top 10 list of best British albums. New Musical Express said the album was "one of the greatest rock 'n' roll releases ever".
Old New Borrowed and Blue is the fourth studio album by the British rock group Slade. It was released on 15 February 1974 and reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart. It has been certified Gold by BPI. The album was produced by Chas Chandler. For the album, Slade attempted to begin breaking away from their usual rock formula. For example, the singles "My Friend Stan" and "Everyday" were piano-led and did not have the typical "Slade" sound. In the US, the album was released by the Warner Bros. label under the title Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet, minus the tracks "My Town" and "My Friend Stan". Old New Borrowed and Blue was recorded amid various touring and promotional activities in late 1973, and also during the headline-making recovery of drummer Don Powell, who was involved in a near-fatal car crash in July, briefly throwing the band's existence into doubt. Despite his critical condition, Powell was able to make a recovery and the band soon entered the studio to record material for their new album.
THE HOLLIES - The First 4... (1964/66)
The Hollies, five-piece rock group from Manchester, England, that enjoyed many hits in the 1960s both before and after losing singer-guitarist Graham Nash to a more-celebrated partnership with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young. Like most of their contemporaries in the British beat boom, the Hollies found their earliest influences in American rhythm-and-blues artists. The Hollies are one of the few UK groups of the early 1960s, along with the Rolling Stones, that have never disbanded and continue to record and perform. In recognition of their achievements, the Hollies were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
Stay with The Hollies (American title: Here I Go Again) is the debut album by the British rock band the Hollies and was released in January 1964 on Parlophone Records. In Canada, it was released on Capitol in July 1964, with a different track listing. In the US, Imperial Records issued the album under the title Here I Go Again in June 1964 to capitalize on the moderate success of the singles "Here I Go Again" (No. 107) and "Just One Look" (No. 98). It also features covers of well-known R&B songs, not unusual for Beat groups of the day.
In The Hollies Style is the second album by the British rock band the Hollies and was released in November 1964 on Parlophone Records. It missed the official Record Retailer album chart in the United Kingdom, which at the time only had a total of 20 available spots. In Canada, it was released on Capitol in October 1965, with an altered track listing. As a result of poor sales of stereo copies of the band's debut album in the UK, In the Hollies Style was only available there in mono while stereo mixes were shipped to other markets. The stereo mix was finally released in the UK and retitled The Vintage Hollies in 1967. In 1997, British EMI put both mono and stereo versions of this album onto a single CD.
Hollies is the Hollies' third studio album for Parlophone. It is also referred to as Hollies '65 to differentiate it from the similarly titled 1974 album. It went to No. 8 in the UK album charts. Originally available in mono only, it was reissued in stereo under the title Reflection in 1969. In 1997, British EMI put both mono and stereo versions of this album onto a single CD. Of the twelve tracks on this album, only "So Lonely" was issued on 45 in Great Britain; even then, it was the B-side to the 1965 hit "Look Through Any Window", a song recorded concurrent with the rest of this album. On the original album, only five of the twelve songs are band originals, attributed at the time to the pseudonym "L. Ransford" but actually written by Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks and Graham Nash. The rest were covers. In Scandinavia "Very Last Day" and "Too Many People" were issued on 45, with the former becoming a major hit in Sweden.
Would You Believe? is the fourth UK album by the Hollies, released in 1966. The album features a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am a Rock" and Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen". Also included is the Evie Sands cover "I Can't Let Go", which became a major hit for the Hollies. This was the Hollies' last album with original bass player Eric Haydock, who took a leave of absence from the group after the American tour that followed the last recording session for the album, missing the recording session for the follow-up single "Bus Stop", and then either quit or was fired shortly after returning. Both the stereo and mono mixes of Would You Believe? were digitally remastered at Abbey Road Studios by Peter Mew in March 1998. In the UK, the remastered album was released with both mixes on one disc.
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