Archive for the Record Reviews Category

Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger #2

Posted in Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger, Record Reviews, VINYL with tags , , , , , , , on July 11, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

After the last couple of posts, It’s time for some heavier music, have to prove my Rock credentials. LUCIFER’S FRIEND is a German band, fronted by Englishman John Lawton, who went on to sing for Uriah Heep. They have a definitely Metal image, but they have real Jazz/Progressive musicianship that takes the music in very surprising directions.LF_mindexploding-frontIt’s rare that I’ve seen multiple albums from a group in the bin all at once. If they were unknown to me, I would gamble on one, and hope the others were still there if it turned out good. Frequently I’ve returned to find the other albums gone. Not this time, however, and a very good thing too- the other 3 albums turned out to be as good or better! After much deliberating and nail-biting (at Records-On-Wheels in London, where I’ve made many great delete bin finds) I decided on the most recent one, after factoring in the artwork, and that Curt Cress (Triumvirat, Passport) was the drummer. When I played the first cut, “Moonshine Rider”, a fast rip-snorter that puts me in mind of Rainbow and/or Ronnie James Dio  (Lawton’s  voice is almost identical) I knew I liked them. Halfway through the 2nd song, “Blind Boy”. with it’s huge  catchy chorus and punchy horns, I knew I wanted the other albums. “Fugitive” sealed the deal with a pulsing Funk-rock bass line  from Dieter Horns that blew me away. Flip it over, and the speeding Deep Purple-ish riffs of “Natural Born Mover” lit a fire under my ass to get back to the store for MORE!!  Thiswas Lawton’s last album with them before joining Heep, although he returned for 1981’s “Mean Machine”. Later on in 2001 he formed The Hensley Lawton Band with Heep’s keyboardist Ken. He’s now doing travel documentaries for Bulgarian TV, and performing at “Heepventions” around  Europe.   http://www.johnlawtonmusic.com/          is a Heepvention anything do to with hoarding interventions?LF_banquet-front1974’s Banquet is a puzzler of an album- the Leather Vampire cover art gives it an Ozzy aura. Their 1970 first album is the one that should have this cover, it has the stripped-down organ and guitar heavy metal doom and gloom, but this album is actually furthest stylistically from it. A thirty-piece orchestra makes this album the jazziest of their output. Guitarist Peter Hesslein, drummer Herbert Bornholdt, and keyboardist Peter Hecht played in James Last’s “Disco Dance Party” Orchestra prior to 1970; Including sax/flute soloist Herb Geller, most of the orchestra on this LP did too. The Horn and String arrangements (done by keyboardist Hecht) are extremely creative, showing long experience in working with an orchestra and knowing what it can do.  These four albums contain some of the best interaction between rock band and a large orchestra I’ve ever heard.  The American-release-only cut “Our World Is A Rock and Roll Band” has kind of a Beatles-meets-Rick Derringer style, more pop-rock than any of their other work. “Spanish Galleon” starts with a very jazzy Santana groove, but then takes off with Geller’s soprano sax solo into a pure fusion space-out. The vocal chorus returns to kick it into high gear for a smoking synth-solo fade-out. “Thus Spoke Oberon” begins  like a vocal jazz ballad, but suddenly tears into a guitar solo that really puts the orchestra through their paces. “High Flying Lady” is a straight-ahead rocker.  “Sorrow” is Chicago if they had Ritchie Blackmore trading solos with Eumir Deodato, some fantastic playing.  LF_justaRocknRollsinger-front 1973’s “I’m Just A Rock ‘n Roll Singer” -The cover art to this one is what kept me from splurging on all the LPs at once- would you buy a rock album from this man?LF_justaRocknRollsinger-back2 If he’s a Rock Star, then he must have sold his soul for fame. BUT listening to this for the review with fresh ears gave me a whole new appreciation for the musical abilities of Lucifer’s Friend.  Guitarist Peter Hesslein in particular does some very tasty playing. The boogie guitar riffs of “Groovin’ Stone” gets the LP nicely warmed up. “Closed Curtains” has a funky piano Joe Cocker drive, Lawton sounds great with the backup “Starlet” singers here. “Born On The Run” hits the ground at full stride, with Prog-ish fuzz guitar dueling with a twisting synth melody and it’s way too short! “Blind Freedom” is full of clever little progressive bits, from a leslied electric piano,  varied guitar tones, a sudden trumpet solo from Bob Lanese that downshifts into some great sax work from Herb Geller. Their mini-horn section help save side 2’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer” which suffers a bit from some cheese on Lawton’s part; “….my voice is getting wheezy, my hands are getting greasey” ?? Billingsgate-logo

And on the subject of cheese, how about that Billingsgate Records logo? I tried to find out it’s origin and/or meaning, but all I could find was that “billingsgate” is obsolete slang for ‘coarsely abusive, foul, or profane language’  and it arose from the Billingsgate Fish Market in London England, whose denizens were notorious for crude behaviour. I prefer to think it’s representative of  “kick-ass music”!!

“Lonely City Days” has a great solo from Hesslein again, perking up a kind of dull ballad. “Mary’s Breakdown” begins with a very familiar bass/conga groove that I know is on several albums by other people, but the only one I can remember at the moment is “Amar Cabarello” by Babe Ruth. Some more tasty guitar playing on this too. “Song For Louie” finishes the album with a piano ballad that drifts off into a mellotron keyboard solo space out.LF_wherethegroupies-frontAnd we finally arrive back in 1972 for their second album, recorded by legendary German producer Conny Plank. It’s the beginning of their change from hard rockers to jazz/progressive musicians (and then back again). “Burning Ships” begins the album with 12 strings and bongo leading into a synth solo a la ELP‘s “Lucky Man”.     “Prince of Darkness” definitely announces their new direction with jagged piano, heavy synthesizers and special tape effects.    “Hobo” starts with a quick drum/synth proggy intro that settles into a fast rocker with some great electric piano.  “Mother” goes through some  Gentle Giant complex sections with the keyboards and violin solo, while exploring the mental toll of divorce lyrically. “Where the Groupies Killed The Blues” doesn’t seem to be about Rock & Sex, although John O’Brien-Docker‘s abstract lyrics could be. Kinda reminds me of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band musically. “Rose On The Vine” gives Hesslein free rein to experiment with quirky riffs and odd time signatures. It gets stranger and stranger as it progresses. “Summerdream”‘ brings us back down to earth with it’s soft acoustic guitars, but then they morph into “Delerium/No Reason Or Rhyme” featuring a wonderful string quartet arrangement by Hecht that gradually picks up more orchestral instruments, drums and piano, brilliantly evoking the title emotion.LF_wherethegroupies-backNow it’s time to play Can you spot the band mascot ?                                   (hint; it’s not the banana….)

There’s several YouTube videos of these guys, I’ll leave you with one of the first of their songs that really made an impact on me. “Fugitive” from Mind Exploding, played live on German TV in 1978. Enjoy!

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“Just give me TWO MORE MINUTES!”

Posted in Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger, Record Reviews, VINYL with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

For any collector, the story behind an acquisition is important, sometimes more so than the object itself. Many tales are only interesting to fellow collectors, the anal-retentive minutiae of where and for how much.
Vinyl records have so completely dominated my life,  even when I swore NEVERMORE,  they still found a way to connect with me. Friends, family, even complete strangers have shown up at my door bearing boxes of records “Saw these and thought of you”. An alcoholic determined to ride the straight and narrow is applauded and given the wide berth he asks to get sober- not ME!! Helping my Mother’s Church clear the unsold refuse from a rummage sale- a good deed that, instead of better karma, rewarded me with lugging 3 crates of country gospel box sets home.
My boss from the traveling promotion company tells my story to a delivery person at the far end of the province, and VOILA!. The next time I see him, he hands me a Bakker’s dozen of Jimmy Swaggart albums (on JIM Records no less)."I have sinned greiviously.."But then there are the times when you have a chance to score something worthwhile, and the universe is dragging you by your heels away from the pile that you just KNOW has to have at least ONE valuable album in there……
I was doing a D.i.v.o.r.c.e. move one hot summer day with Wild Willy. Movers hate these- everyone is super tense, and sooner or later the cops show up. Or worse, they don’t, and you have keep taking things off the truck while they argue.
On this day, we got the truck loaded alright, but just as we’re about to leave, our client discovers her car won’t start. Now she’s riding with us in the truck, which does NOT make Willy happy. He’s impatient at the best of times, with a very short fuse. When we arrive at her new place after a couple hour’s drive, Willy is even more upset to find out we’ve got a three story climb up a fire escape. Luckily, the washer and dryer are going in the basement- Will starts unpacking them and our customer takes me down to show where they go. Still not good, though; it’s a stinky damp mess with a tight fit for the appliances. She gestures at a door with a filthy window and says “Sorry, I’d rather put them in there but they can’t get the door open”. I walk up to the door and peer in (beam of angelic light with heavenly choirs singing “Holy Shiiiiiit!”) This room is FILLED with records. I’m talking THOUSANDS of records, piled up to the ceiling in huge leaning stacks everywhere! She’s still talking behind me, I catch something about a radio DJ getting evicted, but my attention (like any rabid vinyl freak) is on trying to see what the covers are. Willy has to literally pull me back up into the fresh air I’m so distracted.
We get down to the unload, slogging up and down the fire escape, eager to get this over with. I have mixed feelings about hurrying too much tho’- what if the landlord shows up and I can offer to “dispose” of the records for him? Every smoke break Willy takes, I’m back down in the basement with my nose against the dirty glass, and the knob turning futilely in my fist.
The last item, big ‘ole pig of a sofa bed, and now there’s that acrid ozone smell in the air of an approaching thunderstorm. Willy pretty much drags me up the fire escape with the couch in a superhuman effort – he wants to GO! But there’s one last pin in his voodoo doll today, our client has to walk several blocks away to get our money.
She walks off into the summer haze, Willy angrily puffs a cigarette at the back of the truck, and….you know where I am.
Perhaps inspired by my partner’s herculean sofabed stunt, this time my willpower actually succeeds in getting the knob to turn…… and the door shifts a pile of albums enough that I can get my…. head…. and…. shoulders into …….the room!!
Frantically I start rummaging at random through the piles nearest, looking for Something/Anything (already have THAT Rundgren album, but I’ll take another) I’m squeezing further into the room, and there’s a real danger of being trapped now, like a vinyl avalanche. All I’m finding is AM schlock, Olivia Newton John, Lionel Ritchie, Wham, Melanie, Barry Manilow, the deeper I dig, the worse it gets, and now I can hear Willy at the stairs. Ready to admit defeat, I give the top half of a pile a shove, maybe there’s something in the middle…… crap.In the pile of crap I see....

 

 

 

 

 

B.J. Thomas, but underneath I see “Promotional Sample – Not For Sale” and I flip it over.Where do I know that name from?

“Up, Up and Away”, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and “MacArthur Park”, Jimmy Webb‘s music is universally known, even if he isn’t. His songs have been performed by; The 5th Dimension, Glen Campbell (first meeting at the studio, Ultra-Conservative Glen looked up from his guitar and told Jimmy “Get a haircut”), The Supremes, Richard Harris, Frank Sinatra, The Temptations, Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, Joe Cocker, Judy Collins, Donna Summer, Linda Ronstadt, America, Amy Grant, Dionne Warwick, John Denver, Johnny Cash, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Tom Jones, R.E.M., and Carly Simon……. and there’s two of his songs on that B.J. Thomas album!
This 1970 album is his first attempt at performing his own songs. Jimmy played piano, organ, vibes, and accordion (also Craftsman 6″ power saw, psaltry, and plumbing sound effectsFred Tackett played drums, bass, all guitars, and trumpet. A very young Tom Scott played sax in a few places. Considering the year, and only two musicians, this record has some fairly impressive arrangements and sounds. To my modern ears though, it’s pretty dated, but it’s main drawback is Webb’s  cliche religious lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_W9HLWZfOo

It was one of six albums he released that drew much critical acclaim, but didn’t chart at all.  Even George Martin producing 1977’s  El Mirage which contained the song “The Highwayman”  (later a number one hit for Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, who also used the name for their supergroup) just couldn’t give Webb a hit in his own voice. Not that he ever gave up, his credits are faaaaar too long to detail here, check out his Wikipedia link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Webb
In 2011, Webb was unanimously elected Chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, replacing Hal David who retired after ten years in that position.

And I’ve obsessed about that basement room for over ten years now too….

“CHEAPSKATE!”- Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger

Posted in Confessions of a Delete Bin Scavenger, Record Reviews, VINYL with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2014 by theEARLofSWIRL

I’ve been wanting to post about my vinyl obsession, but to do something different in the way of reviews. Over the years I’ve gambled often on unknown bands in the delete bins of record stores, and found some real gems. When a record company decides to give up on you, they delete you from the catalogue, and flog whatever’s left in the warehouse really cheap. To add injury to insult, they mark these records with holes drilled in the album cover, or a corner cut off, or even just a notch with a table saw (and yes, sometimes I’ve opened the album to find they missed with the drill)
This will be an occasional series about the anonymous or forgotten hopefuls in my collection, the bands that should’ve gone somewhere, but fate and fortune decreed otherwise.

HANSON NOW HEAR THIS! and MAGIC DRAGON

(nope, not those three, and definitely not THEMM-bop)

HANSON; Now Hear This & Magic Dragon

 

Junior Marvin (born Donald Hanson Marvin Kerr Richards Jr) I decided to do first, because he has come within a hair’s breadth of  “the big time” so often in his career. For example, as a young Jamaican emigre in London, he appeared in the BEATLES film “HELP” which led to a few TV appearances. He was in the British cast of the musical “HAIR” and can be heard on the original cast recording.  He travelled to America, and cut his teeth playing with T BONE WALKER and the IKE & TINA TURNER BAND. Returning to England, he quickly made a reputation and (as Junior Kerr) was invited to join the legendary KEEF HARTLEY BAND, famed mentor for many other British rockers. He appears on their acclaimed “Seventy Second Brave” album. After recording the follow-up “Lancashire Hustler” , he decided to try his own luck as bandleader with these two albums that I found in Port Huron’s Moondance Records for $3 apiece.They’re both on ELP’s Manticore label, and Emerson is thanked for the use of his MiniMoog on the 1st album. Label manager MARIO “The Big M” MEDIOUS signed them, produced both albums, and is paid tribute with the last cut on N.H.T.- the extended jam “Smokin’ to the Big M”.

HANSON Now Hear This inner gatefold

Even though NOW HEAR THIS has the incredible line-up of session-men extraordinaire JEAN ROUSSELL  (he really shines on this) ,  BOBBY TENCH,  CLIVE CHAMAN and REG ISADORE, I prefer MAGIC DRAGON as the better of the two. If only for irony’s sake,  because Junior played with LENNY KRAVITZ on SNL in 2001, and the 1974 M.D. album sounds just like Kravitz!!. What an ideal example of an artist born before his time. Now Hear This starts with  the Funkadelic-sloppy “Travelling Like A Gypsy” and morphs into a TRAFFIC loose jam vibe- hardly surprising because REEBOP KWAKU BAAH & CHRIS WOOD play congas and flute  on a few cuts. Junior also went on to do an album and tour with STEVIE WINWOOD. The whole album is rather laid-back, more R&B/Funk than rock, with some really tasteful playing.  One of the songs I could find on YouTube, “Rain” sounds very much like SOULIVE

Junior must not have been happy with the outcome, because when he recorded the second album, he went with then-unknown musicians. Judging from the more rehearsed and dynamic performances, they must have been playing this stuff live as his band. GLEN LeFLEUR drums, NEIL MURRAY bass,  and BROTHER JAMES on congas, with FRANK ZAPPA/JOHNNY GUITAR WATSON sideman ANDRE LEWIS (a.k.a. techno-funker MANDRE) adding clavinet & organ on some tracks. I would love to have seen this band live, their version of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” cooks with a sinuous heat! And my fave cut “Modern Day Religion” is a driving rocker that should get any audience stompin’.

Magic Dragon back cover

American Beauty Rose is the song that made me most think of Kravitz. I could easily see this being a hit for him if it was remixed and re-released today. Fortunately for you, the entire album was posted to YouTube;

On Valentine’s Day, 1977 he faced the hardest decision imaginable; invited to join BOTH STEVIE WONDER and BOB MARLEY‘s bands !! His friends  pressured him to follow his roots, and he joined the Wailers, contributing his funky rock flavor to Bob’s relaxed island groove. After Marley’s death, he formed THE ORIGINAL WAILERS to keep that music alive. He also contributed to TOOTS & the MAYTALS and BURNING SPEAR albums.

And I’ve just discovered he’s still rocking; In 2014 Junior started a new band  JUNIOR MARVIN’S FORCE ONE. A  CD  is due by July/2014. He’s tweeting about his current tour right now at @JuniorMarvin09 and his website is http://www.juniormarvin.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junior_Marvin

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