BLACK MOON CIRCLE-ANDROMEDA.

BLACK MOON CIRCLE-ANDROMEDA.

Just now, Norway has one of the most vibrant music scenes in Europe. Some of the best new music I’ve heard during 2014, has come from Norwegian bands and artists. This includes Motorpsycho, Moster!, Supersilent, Moskus, 1982, Space Monkey, Bly De Blyant, Stein Urheim, Cakewalk and Krokofant. These artists are among the most talented groups and artists in the Nordic music scene. However, new names are emerging all the time. This includes Black Moon Circle. 

Black Moon Circle are a Norwegian space rock band. They were formed back in 2012, by brothers Øyvin Engan and Vemund Engan in 2012. Øyvin plays bass, guitar and takes charge of vocals. His brother Vemund is a guitarist. Both brothers used to play in the Trondheim-based punk rock band The Reilly Express. That was the past. Now, the Engan brothers are two thirds of Black Moon Circle. All they needed was a drummer.

Completing Black Moon Circle’s lineup was drummer, Per Andreas Gulbrandsen on drums. He was the final piece of the jigsaw. Now Black Moon Circle could set about honing their sound.

Gradually, Black Moon Circle’s sound began to evolve. It’s essentially a combination of lengthy jams, searing guitar riffs and a myriad of effects added to the bass and guitar. This Black Moon Circle describe as a space rock band. They’re not alone.

Black Moon Circle are just one of many Norwegian space rock bands. Earthless and Colour Haze are two other Norwegian bands, who are flying the flag for space rock. In Black Moon Circle’s case, they’ve been doing this since 2013.

That’s when Black Moon Circle recorded their eponymous, debut, mini-album, at Nautilus studios in 2013. Black Moon Circle was then released in February 2014 by Space Rock Productions, the label run by the Øresund Space Collective from Copenhagen, Denmark. However, Black Moon Circle aren’t the type of band to let the grass grow under their feet. 

No. Black Moon Circle returned to the studio in April 2014. That’s when Black Moon Circle recorded Andromeda. They worked quickly and efficiently. As a result, the five songs on Andromeda were recorded in one day. Now six months later, Andromeda will be released.

Black Moon Circle’s latest album, Andromeda, will be released by Crispin Clover Records, in cooperation with Stickman Records in October 2014. It’s available on vinyl and digital download. Andromeda, which I’ll tell you about, is the perfect introduction to Black Moon Circle.

Opening Andromeda, is The Machine On The Hill. Per Andreas Gulbrandsen’s drums set the scene for the Engan brothers. A guitar reverberates and a buzzing bass enters. Effects are unleashed. What sounds like a howling wind, accompanies Øyvin’s pensive vocal. Meanwhile, sci-fi sounds and feedback are unleashed. Then Black Moon Circle become one. Vemund and Per join Øyvin on vocals, as they showcase their unique version of space rock. It’s akin to a wall of sound. That’s not all. What follows is a glorious melange of classic rock, heavy metal, space rock, psychedelia and futuristic, sci-fi sounds. There’s even a nod to Hawkwind. For nine minutes, Black Moon Circle unleash blistering, searing guitar licks. Literally, they go toe-to-toe. They’re laden with effects, while the rest of the rhythm section become a two man powerhouse. It’s a glorious combination, and the perfect showcase for space rock pioneers Black Moon Circle, in full flight.

A pounding, thunderous rhythm section create a slow, dramatic introduction to Jack’s Cold Sweat. This is the perfect backdrop for Øyvin’s vocal. It starts off slow and moody, growing in power and presence. Per and Vemund add harmonies, as guitars soar above the arrangement, drums pound and the buzzing bass makes its presence felt. Black Moon Circle, are at their best when they kick loose. In full flight, Black Moon Circle are a tight, talented group. They kick out the jams and lock into a groove. Trading licks, the Engan brothers drive each other to greater heights. This is what music used to sound like, back in the days of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Music like this, will never die. Not with groups like Motorpsycho, Moster! and Black Moon Circle fly the flag for the golden age of rock. For that, I’m truly grateful. Music’s future is in safe hands.

Supernova has a moody, ominous sound. The arrangement unfolds in waves. Its dark sound buzzes. Drums and a crystalline guitar play. Along with Øyvin’s wistful vocal, they’re responsible for a sound that’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Effects are added to the arrangement. As a result, it frames Øyvin’s vocal. It’s the perfect foil for a vocal that’s full of sadness and melancholy. Tinged with regret and emotion, Øyvin delivers the vocal like he’s lived the lyrics. The rest of Black Moon Circle play their part in what’s without doubt  the highlight of Andromeda.

Just a lone guitar opens Dragon. Having set the scene, Øyvin’s husky, dramatic vocal enters. Soon, the rest of Black Moon Circle enter. The rhythm section provide the heartbeat, while a myriad of effects are added. A wind blows, the arrangement bubbles and futuristic, sci-fi sounds emerge from the arrangement. Mostly, though it’s Øyvin’s that grabs your attention. Everything else is playing a supporting role. Only when the vocal briefly drops out, do the rest of Black Moon Circle showcase their considerable talents. Then Black Moon Circle kick loose, and searing, howling, braying guitars join the driving, churning rhythm section on this nine minute Magnus Opus, where we hear two sides of the hugely talented Black Moon Circle.

The title-track Andromeda closes Black Moon Circle’s latest albums. It’s another epic track, lasting fifteen magnificent minutes. At the start, it’s just Øyvin’s thoughtful, powerful vocal. He’s joined by the rhythm section. Straight away, they make their presence felt. So do the searing, choppy, shimmering guitars. Always, though, they leave space for the heartfelt, dramatic vocal. When the vocal drops out, Black Moon Circle get the opportunity to stretch their legs. Slowly, and purposely, they play. Choppy guitars reverberate, a buzzy bass howls and pulsates. All the time, drums provide the heartbeat. Guitars steal the show. Howling, searing and blistering machine gun licks are unleashed, as Black Moon Circle lock into a groove. The result is a mesmeric, hypnotic and dramatic rock epic, where Black Moon Circle join the Norway’s musical elite.

Andromeda, the latest musical missive from  Norwegian space rock pioneers, Black Moon Circle is an old school album. It features five tracks lasting forty-five minutes. This is how albums used to be, back in the days of classic rock. Back then, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were kings. Albums were very different.

They weren’t sprawling, unfocused affairs featuring eighteen tracks. No. Instead, they featured between seven and ten tracks. These tracks featured on albums made of vinyl. That’s the way Black Moon Circle do things.

Black Moon Circle will release Andromeda, on Crispin Clover Records, in cooperation with Stickman Records in October 2014. It’s available on vinyl and digital download. Andromeda is the perfect introduction to Black Moon Circle, who have a huge future ahead of them.

Over five tracks, Black Moon Circle a power trio, combine elements of classic rock, psychedelia and space rock on Andromeda. Sometimes, there’s a nod to Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. That’s not all. Black Moon Circle remind me of their fellow countrymen, Motorpsycho and Moster!, two other pioneering Norwegian groups. The latest name to be added this list of Norwegian musical pioneers, are Black Moon Circle.

It’s no exaggeration to say, that Black Moon Circle, are one of the most exciting, talented and pioneering Norwegian groups. They’re flying the flag proudly for classic rock and space rock. This is the case on Black Moon Circle’s latest album Andromeda, which features a coming of age from the multitalented Norwegian power trio.

BLACK MOON CIRCLE-ANDROMEDA.

 

front-og-bakside

disco

SUPERSILENT-12.

SUPERSILENT-12.

Four long years have passed, since Supersilent released their eighth album 11 on Rune Grammofon. Since 2010, Supersilent’s fans have eagerly awaited the next chapter in the Supersilent story. At last, the wait is over. Supersilent recently released their ninth album 12, on Rune Grammofon. 12 marks a welcome return from the innovative Norwegian supergroup.

It’s no exaggeration to describe Supersilent as a supergroup. They’re made up of some of the best Norwegian musicians of their generation. 

Keyboardist Stale Storløkken is a member of Elephant9, Humcrush, BOL and Reflections In Cosmo. Stale’s also a member of Terje Rypdal’s trio Skywards. As if that’s not more than enough to be going on with, Stale works with a variety of other bands. The other members of Supersilent are just as busy.

Trumpeter Arve Henriksen has released eight solo albums. That’s not all. He’s collaborated with some of the biggest names in Nordic music. This includes Jon Balke, Trygve Seim and Christian Wallumrod. Arve Henriksen has also worked with David Sylvian. Just like his brother’s in arms, Helge Sten (a.k.a. Deathprod), is just as busy.

Previously, Helge Sten was a member of Motorpsycho. Not any more. He’s now a member of Susanna’s trio and has released three albums as Deathprod. That’s not all. Helge has worked alongside Jaga Jazzist, Nils Petter, The White Birch, Susanna and Jenny Hval. Given how busy the three members of Supersilent are, it’s incredible they’ve found time to record nine albums since 1977. 

1997 is when the Supersilent story begins. That’s when Supersilent were formed. Sound artist, musician and producer Helge Sten approacehed improvisational trio Veslefrekk. Helge wanted to form a new quartet. It, he proposed would comprise Helge and Veslefrekk. This new quartet became Supersilent. They made their debut at the prestigious Bergen Jazz Festival.

There wasn’t even time to rehearse. Instead, Supersilent took to the stage, and became one. This was the start of a musical journey that’s lasted seventeen years and nine albums.

Supersilent released their debut album 1-3 on Rune Grammofon, late in 1997. This was Rune Grammofon’s first release. Since then, the label has gone from strength to strength, and has released Supersilent’s next eight albums, including 12.

12 was recorded back in 2011, during three sessions. They took place at Deathprod’s Audio Virus LAB, Athletic Sound in Halden and the Emanuel Vigeland Museum. It’s famed for its twenty second natural reverb. The recording sessions were lengthy. Supersilent jammed, improvised, innovated and experimented. Musical boundaries were pushed to their limits, as musical genres became one. Hours and hours of music was recorded. It was then edited by Deathprod, who produced 12. It features the three members of Supersilent at their innovative best.

Supersilent don’t describe themselves as a group. They’re a collective, who do things their way. This includes never rehearsing. Neither do Supersilent discuss their music with each other. They only meet to play and record. This they explain, means every album or performance in unique. It can never be replicated. Equally unique is the music on be Supersilent’s ninth album, 12.

On 12, trumpeter Arve Henriksen, tape experimenter Helge Sten and keyboardist Stale Storløkken improvise. There’s no room for showboating. Everything is off the cuff. They feed off each other, driving each other to greater heights as they fuse avant garde free jazz, rock, electronica and modern composition. The result is a genre-melting album, 12, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening 12 is 1. A wave of moody, broody music moves towards you. It’s like an unstoppable force. For two minutes, the music veers between dramatic, melodic and haunting. There’s a nod to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, as Supersilent continue on their innovative way.

2 has a futuristic, sci-fi sound. Cinematic describes this fusion of washes of synths, sound effects and chimes. It veers between futuristic, cinematic, ethereal and discordant, as Supersilent combine avant-garde, electronic, experimental, free jazz and rock.

Cinematic and dramatic. These words describe 3. Waves of cinematic music become dramatic. Before long, the drama increases. This comes courtesy of urgent stabs of keyboards. Meanwhile, washes of sound effects assail you. Sometimes, its reminiscent of a howling gale, as Supersilent provide the soundtrack to an austere, futuristic landscape.

4 quivers, shivers and shimmers. The arrangement builds and grows, picking up where 3 left off. It’s akin to a soundtrack to a sci-fi film. Sounds assail you. They’re panned left and right, and flit in and out of your consciousness. Gradually, the music becomes moody and futuristic. It bubbles, squeaks and becomes eerie. By now, it sounds like the backdrop to the type of film Alfred Hitchcock would be making if he were alive today.

Understated, spacious, hesitant and experimental describes 5. It’s as if Supersilent are drawing inspiration from Brian Eno. Later wistful, ethereal trumpet plays softly. Haunting and beautiful, its melancholy sound is yin to the rest of the arrangement’s yang.

Searing, bristling guitars feedback on 6. The rest of the arrangement is like a merry-go-round. It’s one you don’t want to get off. Not when Supersilent lock horns. Arve unleashes his trumpet and Stale his banks of keyboards. Helge’s uses his tape recorders. He adjusts the tempo. Deliberately, the tempo fluctuates and quver. After that, this fusion of avant-garde, experimental, free-jazz and rock heads off in the most unexpected directions, reinforcing the fact that Supersilent are musical pioneers, who push musical boundaries to their breaking point.

A haunting, thoughtful trumpet solo opens 7. Bells chime in the background. This adds a poignancy. So does the wash of synths. Avant-garde, classical and experimental combine with jazz to create an ethereal, wistful and later, dramatic track.

As 8 unfolds, a myriad of musical ideas assail you. Drums pound, a trumpet sounds, soaring above the arrangement. Meanwhile, a myriad of experimental sounds make their presence felt. They all vie for your attention, as they play their part in something that’s bigger than any of the constituent parts.

9 has a post apocalyptic sound. Sparse and minimalist, sci-fi sounds descend. Gradually, the drama builds. Sounds flit in and out the arrangement. Some are understated, others dramatic and disturbing. Again, the track has a cinematic sound. Pictures unfold before your eyes. As the track ends, it sounds as if Supersilent have written the score to the next Win Wenders’ movie.

Drum play in the distance. Then lo-fi sounds sweep in as 10 reveals its secrets. Soon, elements of ambient, avant-garde, cinematic and experimental unite. Sometimes, there’s an element of darkness. It threatens to descend. The music becomes eerie experimental and chilling.  

11 picks up where 10 left off. The music veers between eerie experimental, to disturbing and chilling. It’s also innovative, cinematic and hypnotic.

The introduction to 12 is not unlike a siren going off. Short, sharp bursts assail you. In the background, a myriad of futuristic sounds play a supporting role. They’re part of what sounds like post apocalyptic soundscape.

Closing 12, is 13. Bells chime, as a futuristic, droning sounds sweep across the arrangement. Instruments are unleashed, and transformed by producer Deathprod. In his hands, they become something totally different. Here, he combines futuristic, sci-fi sounds and wistful, ethereal beauty. This reinforces that Supersilent are one of the most innovative, pioneering bands in Europe.

12 was Supersilent’s ninth album, since they formed in 1997. Since 1997, they’ve established a reputation as one of the most innovative, pioneering bands in Europe. They’ve come a long way from their debut at the Bergen Jazz Festival. 

Stale Storløkken, Arve Henriksen and Helge Sten are at the heart of Norway’s thriving music scene. They are, or have been, members of some of Norway’s most successful bands. 

This includes Motorpsycho, Elephant9, Humcrush, BOL, Reflections In Cosmo and Jaga Jazzist. That’s not all. The three members of Supersilent have worked with the great and good of Norwegian music. That’s no surprise.

The three members of Supersilent are hugely talented and versatile musicians. Supersilent are made up of three of the best Norwegian musicians of their generation. They’re capable of seamlessly, fusing musical genres, to make their unique soundscapes.

Everything from ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, free jazz, psychedelia, jazz and rock can be heard on the thirteen tracks on 12. As these disparate musical genres melt into one, it’s apparent that the music is ambitious, bold, innovative and pioneering. 12 you see, is no ordinary album.

12 is akin to an album of futuristic soundscapes. They veer between beautiful, broody, moody, chilling, cinematic, dramatic, eerie, ethereal, melancholy and wistful. Futuristic, sci-fi sounds are omnipresent on what’s like a long lost soundtrack album. All this makes 12 a truly compelling and captivating album from Norwegian musical pioneers, Supersilent, who are at the vanguard of Norway’s vibrant music scene.

SUPERSILENT-12.

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RODION G.A.-BEHIND THE CURTAIN-THE LOST ALBUM.

RODION G.A.-BEHIND THE CURTAIN-THE LOST ALBUM.

Earlier this year, I embarked upon a musical adventure. It all started just over a year ago, when I received an email. It was from Rodion Ladislau Rosca, who back in the seventies, formed Rodion G.A.  

Rodion had been surfing the net, and discovered my review of the Rodion G.A. compilation The Lost Tapes, which was released last year on Strut Records. This was the start of an exchange of emails. 

Mostly, we discussed music. Occasionally, Rodion sent me one the tracks Rodion G.A. had recorded back in the seventies. Then early this year Rodion sent another track. I replied that the tracks he had sent were good enough to release. That’s when Rodion mentioned there he had more tracks on a master tape. 

This was an exciting development. The Lost Tapes had been released to widespread critical acclaim. There was a resurgence in interest in interest in Rodion G.A’.s music. This was the perfect time for Rodion G.A. to release another album. So I replied to Rodion, saying that if there were enough tracks for an album, I knew plenty of people within the music industry who’d be willing to release them. When Rodion got back in touch, he had good news.

Rodion didn’t just have a few tracks, he had a master tape full of music. This was great news. Rodion G.A. were growing in popularity. If we could get Rodion G.A. another record deal, they would belatedly, received the recognition they so richly deserved. So, in late March, Rodion sent the master tapes to me.

The next couple of weeks, were nerve racking. I was waiting for the Rodion G.A. master tapes winding their way from Romania. They took their time. As time went by, Rodion and I were becoming nervous. Had the master tapes gone missing? Then one day, a battered envelop dropped through the letter box. Inside, were what I’d been waiting for, the Rodion G.A. master tapes. Now was time for me to listen to them.

For the next few hours, I put up the do not disturb sign. I was a man with a mission. That mission was listening to the master tapes. I was almost overwhelmed. The master tapes contained a musical feast of innovative, groundbreaking music. Listening to the music, it was hard to believe it was recorded between 1975 and 1983. Here was music that was way ahead of its time. If it had been released back then, Rodion G.A. would’ve been huge. They still could be.

Straight away, I started getting in touch with people I knew at record companies. I casually mentioned I had someone I wanted them to listen to. The first thing they said, was who? When I said Rodion G.A. that was a different matter. That was different. The opportunity to sign Rodion G.A. didn’t come along every day. They were hooked.

I sent across some of the music on the master tapes. It didn’t take long for an offer to come in. BBE Music were interested in signing Rodion G.A. A contract was drawn up, and the two parties signed the contract in May 2014. 

Now work began on what became Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which will be released by BBE Music on 20th October 2014, on CD, LP and digital download. This is the result of three months of hard work by a dedicated team of professionals. It hasn’t been easy though.

The story took a tragic twist in early July. Rodion was diagnosed with hepatitis B and C, and also hepatic cirhosis. His health was worsening. Rodion told me he hadn’t long to live. This was a huge body blow for Rodion. 

For too many years Rodion G.A.’s music had been one of music’s best kept secrets. Now when Rodion G.A.’s music was slowly being discovered by a wider audience, music was about to be robbed of one of its few remaining mavericks. I was determined that Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album would be released in Rodion’s lifetime.

So, I contacted BBE Music. Lee and Julia at BBE Music were fantastic. Just like me, they were determined to move heaven and earth to ensure Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album was released. We were going to try to do the impossible, release Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album on 20th October 2014. That might seem like plenty of time.

That’s not the case. Some record companies spent three or four months promoting an album. BBE Music had only three and a half months to release Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. There was a lot to do. This included an album cover, sleeve notes, mastering and promotion. So like a modern day A-Team, the BBE Music crew sprung into action.

One of the first things we needed was an album cover. I knew the very man. Jake Holloway, who had designed so many of BBE Music’s releases was who I wanted to do the cover. I asked for Jake and he agreed to come onboard. He knew time was tight, but assured me we could get the cover ready on time. We exchanged ideas about the design, and Jake came up with what’s a stunning album cover well within the time limit. The other thing we needed, was Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album mastered.

That took time, given the age and condition of the master tapes. Two of the best mastering engineers were brought onboard to master Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Harvey Summer mastered the fourteen tracks that make up the mainstay of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Painstakingly, he restored the songs to their former glories. It was a long and laborious job. That wasn’t the end of the mastering process.

For the vinyl copy of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, we decided to do a luxurious double album. I listened again to the master tapes, and picked eight tracks. Mostly, they’re demos, but demos that showcase a musical innovator at the peak of their powers. We needed these tracks mastered. Harvey wasn’t available. So,  Shawn Joseph mastered the eight bonus. Just like Harvey, he pulled out all the stops. While this was going on, it was all systems go.

With an album cover and Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album mastered, things were looking good. I’d also been busy. 

When Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album was submitted, I’d all the paperwork in place, including the sleeve-notes. I’d also compiled and sequenced the albums. It had been a labour of love. This was an album I really believed in. With all the pieces falling into place, the next couple of months were all about promotion. Little did we know an elephant was about to enter the room. Let’s just say this was a Christian I’d willingly throw to the lions. That’s another story, for another day. However, a story worth telling again, is the story of a musical maverick, Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

It was in Cluj, in North West Romania, on 4th April 1953 that Rodion Ladislau Rosca was born. He is half-Romanian and half-Hungarian. His mother was Hungarian, and brought Rodion up.  

Growing up, Rodion was an inquisitive and restless child. He remembers that at meal times, when he was eating, he would shake his legs and bang around with his hands. Spoons and plates becomes drumsticks and drums. For Rodion’s mother, this was a worrying time. So Rodion was sent to a psychologist. This resulted in Rodion discovering music.

The psychologist suggested that Rodion attended a musical school. This transformed Rodion’s behaviour. Before he started to play guitar Rodion was different from other children. Some people though he was unbalanced. This was far from the case. 

Instead, Rodion needed something to pour his energy into. This was music. It gave something to focus all his energy on.

By the time he was in the sixth grade, one of his classmates had a band. They met and played in a basement. Their instruments were pretty basic. All they had  were a toy drum, a guitar and a tape recorder. Rodion was fascinated by this rudimentary setup. He wanted something similar.

Back home, Rodion told his mother what about his friend’s setup. He wanted the same setup. So he embarked upon a charm offensive. Eventually, it worked. He managed to  convinced his mother to buy him a guitar. He borrowed his friend’s tape recorder and locked himself in his room with the instruments. Soon, Rodion started writing his own songs. He was only fifteen, but he knew what he wanted to do with his life. This was possible, because Rodion grew up in Romania during the open period between 1965 and 1972. 

Growing up, there was a sense of hope for a new generation of young Romanians. This came about when Nicolae Ceaușescu came to power, after the death of Gheorghiu-Dej, on 19th March 1965. 

In the beginning, Nicolae Ceaușescu was a popular leader. He challenged the authority of the U.S.S.R. and ensured that Romania had an independent foreign policy. Under his leadership, Romania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. The other thing Nicolae Ceaușescu did, was ensure there was a free press. For the young Rodion Ladislau Rosca, Romania between 1965 and 1972, was a good place to grow-up. Little did Rodion and many Romanians know, that this was one of the golden ages of Romania.

During this time, Rodion was exposed to an eclectic selection of musical influences. Each night, he listened to the music that filled the airwaves. Rodion was like a sponge, absorbing an eclectic selection of music. This included everything from rock, pop, psychedelia and jazz . While the music he heard on the radio was primarily English and American. Some of these artists headed to Romania during the open period.

This came about after Nicolae Ceaușescu was invited to the U.S.A. Although Nicolae Ceaușescu was seen as a maverick, he was seen as a friend of the U.S.A. With his easing of the censorship laws, now some of the biggest names in music headed to Romania. 

Among the luminaries of music to tour Romania were Blood, Sweat and Tears, plus jazz legends Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong. They were greeted by appreciative audiences, who until then, had only heard these artist on the radio. This included Rodion, who was about immerse himself into the city of Cluj’s music scene.

Cluj sits on the border with Hungary. Between 1965 and 1972, it had a healthy musical scene. Rodion remembers Cluj “as having a thriving and vibrant musical scene. Rodion was about to dive headlong into it.

Among Cluj’s lead bands were prog rock groups like Cromatic and the Experimental Quartet. Soon, Rodion had immersed himself in the local music scene and had established a reputation as a prolific and voracious collector of vinyl. His collecting habit was funded by is sound equipment hire business. He became the go-to-guy for anyone looking to hire PA systems for a concert or wedding. This allowed Rodion to indulge his passion for record collecting.

Soon, his reputation grew, and Rodion became known as “the King of Records.” He would go to any length to add to his beloved vinyl collection. Rodion made cross border trips to Hungary, where he stocked up on hard to find albums. Rodion also had a friend in Norway send him the latest releases. Before long, Rodion had a record collection that was unrivalled.

Rodion’s collection included the classic rock of  Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Rodion didn’t restrict himself to classic rock. He was also interested in the more progressive, electronic bands of the era, including groups from Eastern and Western Europe. This included Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. Other favourites included West Germany’s Kraftwerk, East Germany’s Karat, Romania’s Sfinx, Czechoslovakia’s Matador and Hungary’s Skorpio. These eclectic influences would influence Rodion Rosca’s musical career.

From the late sixties, it became apparent that Rodion was going to make a career out of music. To do this, he had to forge his own unique sound. Rock music dominated Romanian music during this period. However, the music Rodion would create between 1969 and 1972, was very different from rock music. 

Using reel-to-reel tape recorders and built around just vocals, guitars and drums. Starting in 1969, Rodion began recording music that was understated, sparse and simple. Sometimes, the music could be describes as improvisational, experimental and haunting. Three years later, Rodion had made tentative steps into the world of music. However, another three years would pass, before Rodion would form Rodion G.A. 

During the three years between Rodion finishing his first recordings, in 1972, and forming Rodion G.A.in 1975,  the political landscape in Romania changed drastically. For aspiring musicians, this wasn’t good news. Musicians became part of the government propaganda machine. This came about after Nicolae Ceaușescu visited China and North Korea. 

On his return from these visits, Nicolae Ceaușescu was ”inspired” to change direction politically. He came back from his visits an admirer the political and economic ideology of China and North Korea. Worryingly, he admired the cult-like figure of Kim Il Sung. Nicolae Ceaușescu wanted to implement the North Korean policy of Juche Idea. The effect this had on Romania was like turning the clock back to pre-1965.

Suddenly, the role of the Communist Party grew with Romania. This would continue. Censorship returned. Books were banned and burnt. A list of banned authors was circulated. All of a sudden, writers had a reason to be scared. So did musicians. Under the new regime, musicians would become part of the government propaganda machine. Not Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

In 1975, Rodion was working at the Heavy Machinery Manufacturing Plant. This was where he met Gicu Farcas and Adrian Caparu. They were work colleagues. At breaks and in evenings, they listened Rodion’s tapes and suggested forming a band. Originally, Rodion wanted to call the band Fort. It her felt, was a reflection of his “vision.” However, another band were called Fort. So Rodion, Gicu Farcas and Adrian Caparu became Rodion G.A. Gicu and Adrian provided the G.A. in Rodion G.A. For his part, Rodion contributed a myriad of studio equipment. 

By 1975, Rodion had amassed an eclectic selection of equipment and established a reputation as a D.I.Y. tech wizard. He created his own unique way of creating music on reel-to-reel tape recorders, using the various tape machines to multitrack. His nascent studio included several Tesia tape recorders, drum machines, phasers, flangers and fuzz pedals. Rodion’s arsenal of secret musical weapons included a toy Casio VL Tone, an East German Vermone drum machine and a Soviet made Faemi organ. Like the music Rodion G.A. were making, the equipment they were using was leftfield and eclectic. 

Although Rodion G.A. were producing music during music this period, they weren’t releasing music. After all, this was the communist era and the state dominated countries like Romania and there was only one Romanian record label. This was the state-owned Electrecord label. Musicians weren’t going to get rich. Despite this, Rodion G.A. released two tracks. 

These two tracks were recorded during Rodion G.A’s first recording session. They can be found on the Formatti Rock Volume 5 compilation. Then at a second session, five other tracks were recorded. Sadly, they were never released. However, the recording engineer allowed Rodion to record the five tracks onto his own tape machine from the studio’s main mixing desk. This allowed Rodion G.A. to use these tracks to build new tracks. Some of these new tracks were played on Romanian radio stations and reached the top of the Romanian charts. That people thought, was the extent of music Rodion G.A. recorded.

Without further recordings and more publicity and exposure, they weren’t going to achieve a higher profile. Despite this, Rodion G.A. didn’t give up. Instead, they embarked upon a series of extensive tours during the eighties.

During Rodion G.A’s tours, the band played through a custom-made P.A. Amps and speaker cabinets proudly bore the Rodion G.A. logo. This resulted in Rodion G.A. having a totally unique sound, one that bore no similarities to other Romanian groups. Best described as dense, raw, complicated and complex, veering into the realms of classical and prog rock, Rodion G.A’s music was unique and inimitable. They became a firm favourite at festivals throughout Romania, which since 1972, had become a much harsher regime, where bands had to be on their guard. 

Rodion G.A. toured Romania, playing everywhere from festivals to restaurants. Bands had to be on their guard. They never knew when the state censors would arrive at concerts. Luckily, Rodion G.A. became expert at avoiding the state censors, who were known to chastise a group for singing: “yeah, yeah, yeah.” It seemed that for a Romanian band, like Rodion G.A, trying to make a commercial breakthrough during the communist era was almost impossible. After all, they couldn’t release albums, and touring was the only way to lift their profile. However, by the early eighties, other opportunities were coming Rodion’s way.

Away from touring, Rodion contributed the soundtrack to the movie Delta Space Mission during the mid-eighties. Unfortunately, the music Rodion had provided was turned down, and Adrian Enescu was given the job. Then Rodion contributed the soundtracks to plays, ballet and gymnastics exhibitions. Despite being well received, none of these projects provided a lasting legacy for Rodion G.A. By now, the end was almost nigh for one of Romanian music’s great innovators. 

What proved to be Rodion G.A’s final concert took place at Mangalia Festival in 1987. It was around this time that Rodion’s mother had died. This resulted in Rodion walking away from music for twenty-five years. 

During the next twenty-five years, Rodion Ladislau Rosca became a mythical figure. Rumours surrounded his whereabouts. He was an elusive figure. He was distraught after the death of his beloved mother.  Rodion felt “he had been robbed of his closest friend, and the one person he could always rely upon, and trust.” Even now, his mother’s death is a void that has not been filled. Grieving and with the band he founded having split-up, Rodion withdrew from public life.

The rumours surrounding Rodion’s whereabouts refused to go away. Little did anyone know, that Rodion was traveling back and forwards to London. In London, Rodion was making a living as a labourer. His colleagues never knew of Rodion’s past. He was just “Rodion, the guy who loved music.”

Throughout those traumatic times, Rodion still loved music. It was the one constant in his life. He listened to music constantly, and was fascinated in sound. So now living back home in Cluj, it made sense for Rodion to start up a small business, doing what he knew and loved. 

Soon, Rodion was making a living repairing musical equipment and repairing speakers. So much so, that in Cluj, Rodion is known as “the speaker man.” Defiantly, Rodion would say no speaker will defeat “the speaker man.” It was whilst repairing speakers and musical equipment, Rodion was tempted back into making music.

One day, Rodion saw a Casio keyboard for sale. Every day, for a while Rodion walked past the shop selling the Casio keyboard. Then one day, Rodion took the plunge. He walked into the shop and bought the keyboard. Before long, Rodion had written and recorded a few tracks. Rodion was back. Little did he know, many people had been looking for him,

Whist Rodiion had been away from music, many people become interested in the whereabouts of Rodion. Journalists, bloggers and filmmakers were all keen to track down Rodion. One of he first to do so was Luca Sorin.

A blogger and filmmaker, Luca Sorin became interested in the mythology that surrounds Rodion. After months of researching Luca discovered a handful of tracks by Rodion and footage of their 1980 New Year’s Eve concert. He posted this online. This came to the attention of Future Nuggets. They are a collective of musicians and producers who are determined to preserve Romania’s musical heritage. A year later, Rodion G.A. made their comeback.

It was in 2012, that Rodion G.A. made their long awaited and much anticipated comeback. After twenty-five years away from music, Rodion G.A. were back. Rodion was the only original member. They received a rapturous applause, and Rodion the comeback King, was back where he belonged, making music. A year later, the comeback was complete. 

Just a year after their comeback concert, Rodian G.A, who were formed nearly four decades ago,  released a compilation of their music The Lost Tapes, which was released on Strut Records.

The Lost Tapes was released to critical acclaim in May 2013. At last, the wider world were introduced to the enigmatic genius that is Rodion Rosca. Since then, Rodion G.A. have played at a series of concerts and workshops. Berlin, Bucharest and Moscow are just three of the cities to be won over by a musical innovator and maverick, Rodion G.A. Then in April this year, another Rodion G.A. release hit the shops. 

This was none other than Rodion G.A’s soundtrack Delta Space Mission. It was released to celebrate Record Store Day. Fans worldwide were determined to get a copy of this previously unreleased musical Magnus Opus. The lucky ones weren’t disappointed. Far from it. It was a tantalising taste of a mercurial musical genius. However, there’s more to come from Rodion G.A. 

Today sees the release of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which is available as a CD, double LP and digital download. Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, features fourteen tracks which were written, recorded and produced between 1975 and 1984, by Rodion G.A. Recording took place at his home studio. For Rodion G.A., recording what became Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album was risky way to make a living.

During this period, musicians and artists were persecuted. They were perceived wrongly, as radicals. As a result, Rodion Rosca had to make music underground. He wrote and recorded the twelve tracks on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album in his basement, safe from the prying eyes of the censors. Many of the instruments that feature on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, were built by Rodion himself. After all, Rodion Ladislau Rosca is more than a musician. 

No. On some of the other tapes, were a number of other tracks. They’re a tantalising taste of a pioneering band at the peak of their power. The eight bonus tracks on the vinyl version of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album are just a sneak preview of Rodion G.A. in full flight. It’s a joy to behold. That’s what I thought when I first heard what became Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

At last, over nine months after Rodion first mentioned these tracks, Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album is on its way to finding the wider audience the music deserves. It’ll be released on BBE Music.

Belatedly, one of the most innovative Eastern European bands make their debut. They’re lead by a true musical maverick, Rodion Rosca. He’s more than a musician though. Much more. He’s an inventor, philosopher, poet and dreamer. He invented many of the instruments that feature on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Other instruments he rescued and modified. His genius extends to transforming everyday devices into musical instruments. Using these musical instruments, Rodion Rosca’s talents as a composer, philosopher, poet and writer shine through. The result was an album of innovative and groundbreaking music, Behind The Curtain. It was intended to be Rodion G.A’s debut album. Sadly, fate intervened and the album was never released.

During the Communist era, there was only one Romanian record label. This was the state-owned Electrecord label. Releasing an album on the Electrecord label wasn’t exactly going to be a profitable enterprise. Rodion wasn’t going to become a rich man. Then fate robbed Rodion of the opportunity of releasing his debut album. 

The tapes of Rodion G.A’s debut album went missing. Nobody knew where they were. Rumours surrounded their whereabouts. Had they fallen into the hands of the state censor? Other rumours were that the music had been stolen by a jealous rival musician and that he’d burnt the tapes. There was even the rumour that Rodion G.A’s debut album had been smuggled out of Romania. Over the years, rumours grew surrounding the mystery over what many people referred to as The Lost Album. Then last year, the mystery was solved.

Rodion found himself living in a cottage in rural Romania. Apart from the occasional concert, Rodion was no longer involved in music. His musical career was another country. He still had the remnants of his makeshift studio. They were now akin to museum pieces. They were a connection to his past. So were the pile of boxes and packing cases. One day, Rodion decided to start sorting through their contents. This was no easy task. It took several weeks. Towards the end of this journey through Rodion’s past, Rodion found some old reel-to-reel tapes in amongst some old photos. 

He had no idea what was on them. Fortunately, Rodion still had his beloved reel-to-reel tape recorder. With some TLC, he had the reel-to-reel tape recorder up and running. He started spending time listening to the old tapes. Some were just ideas for tracks, other recordings of rehearsals. Then Rodion hit the jackpot. 

He found the long lost album. The album that had long been lost, was now found. It had never left Rodion’s possession. All the time, it had been amongst the photos that will feature in  the sleeve-notes to Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. However, that wasn’t the end of Rodion’s discoveries. He should be commended for his foresight in signing such an innovative and groundbreaking musician, and releasing this long lost, groundbreaking album, Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

This should be a joyous time, and a cause for celebration. The music that was for so long lost, has been found and will be issued as Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album on BBE Music. Sadly, my joy is tempered, given that my good friend Rodion Ladislau Rosca is dying. Tragically, Rodion Ladislau Rosca is dying from liver cancer and Hepatitis B and C. This means that music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, could be the last Rodion G.A. album released during Rodion’s lifetime. That will not be the end of Rodion G.A. 

Rodion G.A’s music will forever live on, in the memories of music lovers everywhere. They will continue to cherish the music of a mercurial and enigmatic musical genius, Rodion Ladislau Rosca who I have been fortunate to call my friend. His parting gift to music lovers everywhere is Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which features Rodion G.A. doing what they do best, creating innovative and groundbreaking music. That’s almost an understatement.

Describing the music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album as innovative is just the start. It’s so much more that. The music is ambitious, brave, inventive, dramatic, experimental, futuristic, melancholy, groundbreaking and way ahead of its time. That’s the case from the opening bars of the genre-melting musical journey that’s Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

Literally, musical genres melt into one. Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album isn’t an album of one type of music. Far from it. It’s a journey through musical genres and influences. Everything from rock, Krautrock, electronica, psychedelia, prog rock, avant-garde, experimental and indie rock shine through. So does post punk. Mind you, when Rodion G.A. recorded much of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, the genre hadn’t been thought of. No two tracks are the same on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.

That’s apparent throughout Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. From the opening bars of Acvila Fragment, thunderous drums, lo-fi, quivering  synths and subtle hooks combine. After that, Rodion G.A. toys with you during the lost symphony that’s Charm 1 and Charm.

Contrast is aptly titled. Dark, futuristic, with a sci-fi sound, it takes on an urgent, post punk sound. Later, Contrast briefly becomes ethereal. Throughout, though, there’s a nod to Kraftwerk on this innovative musical fusion.

Cosmic Games sees washes and waves of guitar unleashed. They reverberate, quivering and shivering. After that, musical genres melt into one. Prog rock, electronica and psychedelia combine with classic rock on this dramatic opus.

Dans Macabru is an urgent synth lead track. After exploding into life, it takes on a cinematic sound. Bubbling, sci-fi synths, breaking glass and a myriad of sound effects are unleashed. Dramatic, compelling and full of secrets and surprises, it’s a like being locked inside a computer game.

Elastic has a dark, urgent sound. Ominously, the arrangement marches along. All the time, gothic synths set the scene. By the end of the track, it’s like a snapshot of life in Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Romania, where the censors were ready to pounce.

The music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album veers between broody, moody, melancholy, gothic and dramatic. Other times it veers between ethereal, austere and anthemic. Sometimes, the music is futuristic, with a sci-fi sound. Its a snapshot of a musical maverick at work.

Paradox features some spellbinding guitar playing. That’s a taste of what’s still to come. Rodion G.A. become. There’s a nod to Brian Wilson at the minute mark. Then Rodion delivers an angry, frustrated vocal. Accompanied by a thunderous rhythm section and driving, searing guitars, this is Rodion G.A. at their best, during an fist pumping anthem, where psychedelia and rock unite.

Piramide 1 and Piramide 2 is another musical movement in two parts. Synths and a drum machine combine Krautrock, electronica, psychedelia and rock. They create a compelling and dramatic musical movement.

Point Spec has a lo-fi cinematic sound. It sounds like part of the soundtrack to a sixties sci-fi sounds. As drums pound, synths similar to those on Acvila Fragment gallop along. They’ve a similar tempo and sound. Another similarity are the subtle hooks that make this an irresistible track.

Exploding into life, The Gym bristles with musical electricity. It’s as if Rodion G.A. are desperate to lay this track down. No wonder. It’s a glorious mixture of energy and futuristic, sci-fi sounds. Drums frantically drive the arrangement along. Sound effects and sirens are unleashed. You’re exhausted listening to the track. Even the breakdown doesn’t allow you to recover. Before you know it, The Gym explodes back into life, reaching a glorious crescendo.

The Train has similarities with The Gym. It too features the same futuristic, sci-fi sounds, sound effects and sirens. Add to the equation pounding drums that punish your speakers, as elements of electronica, Krautrock, prog rock and rock combine. As a result, Rodion G.A. create a track that is a reminder of Neu, Can and Kraftwerk.

Closing the CD version of  Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album is The Waterfall. Squelchy, grizzled synths churn before West meets East. There’s a West Coast sound to the guitar. It has a very familiar sound. Then banks of prog rock synths threaten to kick loose. They never quite do.  As they buzz, mesmerically, a myriad of sounds flit in and out of the arrangement. The guitar and synths play leading roles during this intriguing track.

That’s not the end of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album which was released on 20th October 2014. Not if you buy the vinyl version. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy eight bonus tracks. It’s hard to choose the highlights. However, The Doctor is a classic fist pumping anthem that you’ll never tire of. My Submarine and Opus are both well worth mentioning. So is the poignant Here I Am, a short minute long track, which closes the vinyl version of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Just like the fourteen tracks on the CD version of Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album,you’ll be hard pushed to believe that the music was recorded between 1975 and 1984. 

Mind you, Rodion G.A. were a visionary group. Lead by the enigmatic maverick, Rodion Ladislau Rosca. If Rodion G.A. had been either a British or American band, they’d have enjoyed the critical acclaim and commercial success their talent deserved. Sadly, their most productive period was during communist rule in Romania. That meant that their music never found the wider audience it so richly deserved. That’s what makes the story of Rodion G.A. almost tragic. Through no fault of their own, they were unable to enjoy the success their talent so obviously deserved. 

Maybe now and somewhat belatedly, Rodion G.A.’s music will find the audience that it so richly deserves. Gradually, Rodion G.A.’s music is growing in popularity. This started with The Lost Tapes, and then Delta Space Mission. Hopefully, Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album will transform the fortunes of Rodion G.A. They were a truly innovative group, who produced progressive, ambitious and eclectic music.

Although innovative is an overused word, Rodion G.A. were innovative group. They weren’t afraid to push musical boundaries. Rodion G.A. didn’t follow fashions or trends. Instead, they were innovators, who fused musical genres. The result was a unique, enthralling and captivating sound that was unlike anything else of its time. 

Indeed, Rodion G.A. were way ahead of their time. That’s apparent on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. Only now, thirty years after Rodion G.A. entered a recording studio for the last time, is music gradually catching up on them. However, Rodion G.A. are content to know that they were trendsetters and innovators, whose music at last, is finding the audience it deserves. 

The release of a new album, should be a joyous time, and a cause for celebration. That should be the case with Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. However, joy is tempered with sadness. One of the founding members of Rodion G.A., Rodion Ladislau Rosca, that musical maverick is dying. 

Tragically, Rodion Ladislau Rosca is dying from liver cancer and Hepatitis B and C. This means that music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, could be the last Rodion G.A. album released during Rodion’s lifetime. That will not be the end of Rodion G.A. 

Rodion G.A’s music will forever live on, in the memories of music lovers everywhere. They will continue to cherish the music of a mercurial and enigmatic musical genius, Rodion Ladislau Rosca.

His parting gift to music lovers everywhere is Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which features Rodion G.A. doing what they do best, creating innovative and groundbreaking music.

RODION G.A.-BEHIND THE CURTAIN-THE LOST ALBUM.

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ESTHER PHILLIPS-BABY I’M FOR REAL!

ESTHER PHILLIPS-BABY I’M FOR REAL!

Despite releasing eighteen albums during a career that lasted thirty-five years, most people haven’t heard Esther Phillips. That’s a great shame, because they’re as yet, unaware of one of the most talented, versatile and underrated singers of her generation. She possessed a totally unique, voice. During her career,  Esther sang blues, country, jazz, pop and soul music. She was a truly versatile vocalist, whose career recording began at an early age.

Esther’s recording career started in 1950, when aged just fifteen. That’s when she released her debut single Double Crossing Blues. It reached number one in the US R&B Charts. After that, Esther released a number of successful singles, and over a career that spanned four decades, released eighteen albums. Sadly, the story of Esther Phillips doesn’t have a happy ending. In 1984, aged just forty-eight, Esther Phillips died from liver and kidney failure, caused by drug use. That was thirty years ago. Now, gradually, a new audience are discovering the music of Esther Phillips.

That’s partly, because  many of Esther Phillips have recently been reissued. This includes Baby I’m For Real!, which was recently released by Raven Records as a double album. It features four of Esther Phillips’ classic albums From A Whisper To A Scream, Alone Again Naturally, Black-Eyed Blues and Performance. This quartet of albums were recorded during Esther’s time at Kudu/CTI. They’re among the best albums Esther recorded. For anyone yet to discover  Esther Phillips’ music, this is the perfect starting point. 

From A Whisper To A Scream was Esther Phillips’ debut album for Kudu/CTI. It was released in 1972, when Esther was thirty-seven. However, by 1972, she was almost a musical veteran. Her career began back in 1949, when Little Esther Phillip was discovered by Johnny Otis.

Esther Phillips was born Esther Mae Jones, in Galveston, Texas in December 1935. When she was growing up, her parents divorced, and she had to divide her time between her parents. As she grew up, she sung in her local church, and quickly, gained a reputation as a talented singer. Aged fourteen, her sister made her encouraged her to enter a talent contest at Johnny Otis’ Barrelhouse Club. Reluctantly, Esther agreed. That night in 1949, Johnny Otis was so impressed, he signed her to Modern Records, and she became a member of his California Rhythm and Blue Caravan, where she became Little Esther Phillips.

Quickly, her career took off, and in 1950, her debut single Double Crossing Blues, reached number one in the US R&B Charts. The follow-up, Mistrusting Blues, gave her another number one single in the US R&B Charts. Between 1950 and 1952, Little Esther had eight top ten R&B hits. By the mid-fifties, Little Esther had become addicted to drugs and having to spend time in hospital recovering. This lead to her being short of money, and she moved back into her father’s house. To make ends meet, she sang in small nightclubs around the southern states of America. It was in 1962, in Houston, that country singer, Kenny Rogers, saw Esther singing. So impressed was Rogers, that he helped her get a contract with his brother Lelan’s Lenox Record label.

By 1962, Esther had overcome her problems, and her career was relaunched as Esther Phillips. Her comeback single Release Me, produced by Bob Gans, reached number one in the R&B Charts and reached number eight in the US Billboard 100. A number of other singles were released on Lenox, before Esther signed to Atlantic Records. 

Now that she’d signed to one of the most famous record labels, this was a huge opportunity for Esther. One of the songs she released was a cover of The Beatles song And I Love Him. It reached number eleven in the R&B Charts, and this resulted in The Beatles bringing Esther over to the UK, which were she gave her first overseas concerts. It looked like Esther Phillips was on the verge of commercial success and critical acclaim.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Between 1965 and 1970, Esther released three studio albums. Esther’s Atlantic debut album was And I Love Him. Released in 1965, it failed to chart. This, many people thought was just a blip. That wasn’t the case.

A year later, in 1966, Esther released two albums Esther and The Country Side of Esther Phillips on Atlantic Records. Neither album charted. For Esther, this was a huge disappointment. However, The Country Side of Esther Phillips was the finest album of Esther’s sixteen year recording career.

The Country Side of Esther Phillips.

The Country Side of Esther Phillips was very different to Esther’s previous album. It showcased another side of her music. She was better known for singing soul and R&B. Seamlessly, Esther switched to country music on The Country Side of Esther Phillips. It sounded as if Esther was born to sing country music.

Tracks like I Really Don’t Want To Know, Be Honest With Me,  I’ve Forgotten More Than You’ll Ever Know and No Headstone On My Grave came to life in Esther’s hands. When critics heard The Country Side of Esther Phillips, it was hailed the finest of Esther’s career. However, on its release, The Country Side of Esther Phillips failed to chart. Things weren’t looking good for Esther.

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After 1966, Esther never released another studio album on Atlantic Records. As the 1960’s progressed, Esther’s earlier drug problem resurfaced, and she’d to enter rehab again. Whilst in rehab, she met Sam Fletcher which would later prove fortunate.

As she was recovering from her drug addiction, she released some singles for the Roulette label in 1969. After that, she re-signed to Atlantic, and released the live album Burnin’ which was a recording of a 1969 concert at Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper Club. 

Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.) 

Three years after she’d left Atlantic Records, Esther Phillips resigned to Atlantic Records. This was just a short stay though. Esther never entered Atlantic Records’ studio. Instead, she released a live album, Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.).

On Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.), Esther works her way through eight tracks. They’re tailor made for Esther. They showcase her versatility, and her ability to make lyrics come to life. This is apparent from the opening track, a cover of Aretha Franklin and Ted White’s Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream. She follows this up with a heartfelt, soul-baring take on Lennon and McCartney’s And I Love Him. Cry Me A River Blues is transformed, as Esther grabs the song and delivers a vocal powerhouse. There’s no stopping Esther now. Makin’ Whoopee takes on a sassy, jazz-tinged sound, as Esther swings and kicks loose. If It’s The Last Thing I Do features a wistful and pensive Esther. It’s a beautiful  version of this track. The same can be said of Esther’s take on Please Send Me Someone To Love. It sees Esther deliver a needy, hopeful vocal, as her band fuse blues and jazz. That’s the perfect way to close Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.), which was the perfect showcase for Esther Phillips. 

When Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.) was released, it was to critical acclaim and commercial success. It reached number 115 in the US Billboard 200 charts and number seven in the US R&B charts. Ironically, Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.) was Esther Phillips’ Atlantic Records’ swan-song. A new chapter in the Esther Phillips story was about to unfold.

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The following year 1970, the man who originally discovered Esther, Johnny Otis, reentered her life. Esther performed with The Johnny Otis Show at the 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival. This allowed  Esther’s music to be heard by a much wider audience. Maybe her, luck was changing?

That proved to be the case. In 1971, Esther signed to Kudu/CTI began the most successful period of her career. This started with Esther’s  Kudu/CTI debut was From A Whisper To A Scream.

From A Whisper To A Scream.

By 1971, Esther had been through several labels. She still hadn’t found a label she could call home. That was until 1971, when she signed to Kudu/CTI. Esther was hot property. Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.) showed what she was capable of. The only problem was her private life. If Esther could stay free of drugs, the sky was the limit for her.

People at Kudu/CTI realised this. They knew that Esther was capable of becoming one of the biggest names in soul, jazz and R&B. By 1971, Esther was in a good place. So, great things were expected of Esther Phillips at  Kudu/CTI. Esther began work on her Kudu/CTI debut album From A Whisper To A Scream.

Time was spent choosing songs that suited Esther, and played to her strengths, her inimitable voice. It was a voice that sounded like it lived a thousand lives. This made it perfect for songs like Gil Scott-Heron’s Home Is Where The Hatred Is, Allen Toussaint’s From A Whisper To A Scream and That’s All Right With Me. They were perfect for Esther, they sounded as if they’d been written especially for Esther. Along with six other tracks, they were recorded at  Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, by an all-star band.

Creed Taylor was brought in to produce From A Whisper To A Scream. Pee Wee Ellis arranged the tracks and conduct the band on  From A Whisper To A Scream. The band included  some of the top jazz and funk musicians of the day. This included a rhythm section of drummer Pretty Purdie, bassist Gordon Edwards and guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale. They were joined by organist and pianist Richard Tee and Dick Griffin, who was part of a horn and string section. Along with backing vocalists, they accompanied Esther on From A Whisper To A Scream. It was released in 1972.

On From A Whisper To A Scream’s release, it was critically acclaimed. Esther had picked up where she left off on  Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.). When From A Whisper To A Scream was released, it reached number 137 in the US Billboard 200 and number sixteen on the US R&B charts. Later, From A Whisper To A Scream was nominated for a Grammy Award, but Aretha Franklin won the award. Aretha too, thought Esther deserved to win and presented Esther with the award.  This was the start of one of the most successful periods of  Esther Phillips’ career.

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Alone Again, (Naturally). 

Later in 1972, buoyed by the success of From A Whisper To A Scream, Esther released Alone Again, (Naturally). This was her second album for  Kudu/CTI. Again,  Alone Again (Naturally) was produced by Creed Taylor. Again, everything was put in place for Esther. Songs that suited Esther, and a a band of top  musicians accompanied Esther.

Among the songs chosen for Alone Again, (Naturally), were Use Me, where Esther’s at her sassiest. Ballads Let Me In Your Life and I’ve Never Found A Man (To Love Me Like You Do) showcases Esther’s soulful side, allowing her to live lyrics. She sounds as if she’s experienced the loneliness and emotion she sings about. On Alone Again (Naturally), a despondent Esther unleashes a cathartic outpouring of sadness and pain. Then there’s Esther’s cover Do Right Woman, Do Right Man. She gives the song a new twist, before closing Alone Again, (Naturally) with her take on Alone Again, (Naturally). Accompanying her, are a crack band of musicians.

This includes many of the same musicians that featured on From A Whisper To A Scream. This included a drummer Pretty Purdie, bassist Gordon Edwards and guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale. Bassist Ron Carter, drummer Billy Cobham and guitarist George Benson were brought onboard. Organist and pianist Richard Tee also returned. He was joined by percussionist Ralph MacDonald and Maceo Parker, who was part of the horn section that featured on Alone Again, (Naturally). It was produced by Creed Taylor, and released later in 1972.

On its release in 1972, Alone Again, (Naturally) was well received by critics.  No wonder. The album featured some of the best musicians of the seventies. They provided the perfect backdrop for Esther. Elements of blues, funk,R&B and soul framed Esther’s vocals, on another critically acclaimed album. It was a commercial success, reaching number 177 in the US Billboard 200 charts and number fifteen in the US R&B charts. Esther Phillips’ career, it seemed, was entering a golden period.

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Black-Eyed Blues,

After releasing two albums in 1972, Esther returned in 1973, with Black-Eyed Blues. It was produced by Creed Taylor, with Pee Wee Ellis arranging and conducting Black-Eyed Blues. Just like Esther’s two previous albums, recording took place at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Black-Eyed Blues only featured six tracks. However, they were a compelling collection of tracks.

Just like her two previous albums, a lot of thought went into the tracks on Black-Eyed Blues. It featured just six tracks. This included Bill Withers’ Justified, Carolyn Plummer’s I’ve Only Known A Stranger, Carolyn Franklin’s and Leonard Feather’s You Could Have Had Me, Baby. The other two tracks were covers of Duke Ellington and Paul Webster’s I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good and Chris Stainton and Joe Cocker’s Black-Eyed Blues. These six tracks were recorded by a new band.

Unlike her two previous albums, Black-Eyed Blues featured a very different band. The rhythm section featured drummer Ian Wallace, guitarist Charlie Brown and bassists Boz and Ron Carter. Pianist Tim Hinkley and percussionist Arthur Jenkins were joined by backing vocalists plus a horn and string section. They accompanied on her third album for Kudu/CTI, Black-Eyed Blues.

When Esther released Black-Eyed Blues in 1973, it was well received by critics. They were won over by this compelling mixture of ballads and uptempo tracks. Esther was at her best laying bare her soul during wistful, heartfelt ballads. Then she kicked loose on the uptempo numbers. Accompanied by a tight, talented band, musical genres melted into one. Jazz, funk, R&B and soul combine throughout Black-Eyed Blues, which reached number seventeen in the US R&B charts. For Esther this was a disappointment.

Ever since the release of  Burnin’ (Live At Freddie Jett’s Pied Piper, L.A.), every Esther Phillips’ album entered the US Billboard 200 charts. Not Black-Eyed Blues. Despite its undoubted quality, it seemed to pass many people by. As a result, it’s one of the hidden gems in Esther Phillips’ discography. However, back in 1973, Esther must have wondered if  Black-Eyed Blues failure to enter the US Billboard 200 charts, was merely a blip, or was her luck changing?

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Performance.

After  1974s Performance failed to enter the US Billboard 200 charts, everyone at Kudu/CTI worked towards getting Esther’s career back on track. Producer Creed Taylor, along with associate producers Eugene McDaniels and Pee Wee Ellis, put together an all-star band. They would record seven songs that were chosen carefully. They were tailor made for Esther Phillips.

The seven songs on Performance were a compelling collection of tracks. Esther drops the tempo and delivers a slow, sultry, take on I Feel The Same. The title track Performance, is another slow, melancholy track. It’s also a reminder that Esther was a talented songwriter. Sadly, that’s often overlooked Esther then gets funky and sassy on Doing Our ThingEugene McDaniels’ Disposable Society is another song full of social comment. Esther nails a vocal that slow, feisty and funky. She seems to be relishing the opportunity to reflect on the way society is heading. Living Alone (We’re Gonna Make It) is a beautiful ballad, where Esther is at her melancholy, thoughtful best. Then Esther romps her way through Dr. John’s Such A Night. Living Alone (We’re Gonna Make It) heads in  the direction of gospel. Isaac Hayes and David Porter’s Can’t Trust Your Neighbour With Your Baby oozes social comment, and is a reflection of American society circa 1974. During the seven tracks on Performance, Esther releases a series of vocal masterclasses. She’s helped by an all-star band of session musicians.

This includes a rhythm section of Prety Purdie and Steve Gadd, bassists Gordon Edwards and guitarists Eric Weissberg, Jon Sholle and  Charlie Brown. They’re joined by percussionist Pee Wee Ellis, flautist Hubert Laws and pianists Bob James, Richard Tee and Richard Wyands. Patti Austin and Deniece Williams were among the backing vocalists that joined the string and horn section on Performance. It was released in 1974.

Later in 1974, Performance was released to widespread critical acclaim. Performance featured Esther at her best, as she combined ballads and uptempo tracks. Accompanied by a crack band, Performance was one of Esther’s best albums. Sadly, it stalled at just number forty-six in the US R&B charts. For Esther and everyone at Kudu/CTI, this was hugely disappointing. Performance should’ve fared much better. However, this was a sigh of  the direction Esther Phillips’ career was heading.

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After 1974s Performance, Esther Phillips released three further solo albums on Kudu/CTI. These albums all reached the top forty in the US R&B charts. They didn’t enter the US Billboard 200 charts though.

The first of these three albums was What a Diff’rence a Day Makes. Released in 1975, it reached number thirteen in the US R&B charts. On What a Diff’rence a Day Makes, Esther, like many other soul singers, toyed with disco. She enjoyed a brief dalliance with disco, becoming a strutting disco diva. This resulted in What A Difference A Day Makes, giving Esther a number one single in the disco charts in 1975.  The following year, 1976, was Esther’s final year at Kudu/CTI.

During 1976, Esther released two albums. Capricorn Princess  reached number twenty-three in the US R&B charts. For All We Know was Esther’s Kudu/CTI farewell. It stalled at just number thirty-two in  the US R&B charts. After this, Esther left Kudu/CTI and signed to Mercury Records, where she released four albums.

The first was 1977’s You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby. It was followed byAll About Esther Phillips in 1978. Her next album was Here’s Esther, Are You Ready in 1979. The final album released in Esther’s lifetime was A Good Black Is Hard To Crack in 1981. Just before Esther’s death in 1984, she’d just completed recording A Good Way To Say Goodbye which was released in 1986. 

Sadly, Esther Phillips died in August 1984 from liver and kidney failure, caused by drug use. Johnny Otis, the man who discovered Esther, conducted her funeral service, which was held in Los Angeles. Since Esther’s death, her albums has been reissued. This includes From A Whisper To A Scream, Alone Again, Naturally, Black-Eyed Blues and Performance. These four albums feature on Baby I’m For Real!, which was recently released by Raven Records. It’s the perfect introduction to one of the most underrated singers of her generation, Esther Phillips.

During a career that lasted thirty-five years, Esther Phillips’ passed most people by. Many music lovers were unaware of one of the most talented, versatile and underrated female vocalists. Esther possessed a totally unique, voice. It was able to breath life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. Whether it was blues, country, jazz, pop, soul or disco, Esther made music come alive. She was a truly versatile vocalist, whose career recording lasted thirty-five years. However, Esther’s career should’ve lasted longer. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

Esther struggled throughout her life with drug addiction. This interrupted Esther’s time at Atlantic Records. As a result,  she never had the opportunity to fulfil her potential. If things had been different, Esther Phillips could’ve and should’ve become one of the most successful singers of her generation. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Esther Phillips died thirty years ago, in 1984. She was just thirty-eight. However, Esther Phillips left behind a rich musical legacy, that includes the four albums that feature onBaby I’m For Real!

ESTHER PHILLIPS-BABY I’M FOR REAL!

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PRETTY PURDIE-SOUL IS…PRETTY PURDIE.

PRETTY PURDIE-SOUL IS…PRETTY PURDIE.

During a career that’s lasted over sixty years, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie has played alongside the great and good of music. This includes Steely Dan, the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Cat Stevens, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Hall and Oates, James Brown, Isaac Hayes and Gil Scott Heron. These artists brought onboard one of the greatest drummers of his generation. No wonder.

Famed for his timing, and the “The Purdie Shuffle,” Pretty Purdie is remembered as one of the most innovative funk drummers. However, there’s much more to Pretty Purdie’s career than his time as a session musician. Pretty Purdie was also a bandleader and a solo artist. 

As a solo artist, Pretty Purdie released over twenty albums. His debut solo album was 1967s Soul Drums.For the next five years, Pretty Purdie juggled his work as a session musician with his career as a solo artist, Despite being in constant demand by some of the biggest names in music, Pretty Purdie wasn’t for putting his solo career on the back burner. Far from it. Instead, Pretty Purdie signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions, and in 1972, signed Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, which was recently rereleased by BGP Records, an imprint of Ace Records. Soul Is…Pretty Purdie was Pretty Purdie’s third album since his career began in 1958. He’d come a long way in fourteen years,when his career began.

The Pretty Purdie story begins back in Elkton, Maryland. Bernard Lee “Pretty” Purdie was born on June 11th 1939. Like many aspiring drummers,he began by hitting cans with sticks. Then  Pretty Purdie caught a break. He overheard drummer Leonard Heywood giving a pupil lessons. This allowed Pretty Purdie to learn the fundamentals of drumming. The remainder of Pretty Purdie’s musical education came through listening to the great drummers of that era. Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, Gene Krupa, Joe Marshall and Sticks Evans would all influence Pretty Purdue’s nascent career.

Pretty Purdie’s career began in earnest in 1961, when he moved from Elkton to New York. He claimed he twenty-two, old enough to qualify for a licence to perform, However, it later came to light, that Pretty Purdie was actually born in 1941. However, with his performance licence, Pretty Purdie went looking for work. His first gig was with Buddy Lucas, who christened Pretty Purdie “Mississippi Bigfoot,” More importantly, Buddy gave Pretty Purdie a break.

After this, Barney Richmond got in touch with Pretty Purdie. He was able to get Pretty Purdie work as a session musician. This included working with James Brown, for the first time in 1965. It was the start of a fruitful relationship between the two men. However, Pretty Purdie would play with many more artists.

In 1966, Pretty Purdie played on Jack McDuff’s A Change Is Gonna Come, Freddie McCoy’s Funk Drops and Gábor Szabó’s Jazz Raga. Word had spread that Pretty Purdie was one of the best session drummers of his generation. He’d never be short of work.

That was the case in 1967. He played on Benny Golson’s Tune In, Turn In, King Curtis’ Instant Soul and Phil Upchurch’s Feeling Blue. That wasn’t all. Pretty Purdie and James Brown hooked up on Cold Sweat. This wasn’t the last time they’d work together. Similarly, Cold Sweat wasn’t the last session Pretty Purdie worked on during 1967.

Word spread as far as Nina Simone, about Pretty Purdie. She brought him onboard for her 1967 album Nina Simone Sings the Blues. It was released to widespread critical acclaim. So was Pretty Purdie’s debut album, Soul Drums.

Soul Drums.

Nine years after he moved to New York, Pretty Purdie signed to Date Records. Later in 1967, Pretty Purdie set about recording his debut album Soul Drums. For Soul Drums, Pretty Purdie brought onboard the man who gave him his break,saxophonist Buddy Lucas. He was joined by guitarist Billy Butler,tenor saxophonist Sheldon Powell, pianist Richard Tee and basist Bob Bushell, Produced by David Kapralik and Ken Williams, Soul Drums was released late in 1967, on the Date label. 

Soul Drums was released to widespread critical acclaim.Pretty Purdie’s all-star band played with an unfettered freedom. Crucial to the success of Soul Drums was a masterclass from Pretty Purdie. It would set the bar high not just for his future albums, bit for future funk drummers.

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For the next four years, Pretty Purdie concentrated on session work. He worked with some of the biggest names in music. This included James Brown, Yusef Lateef, Dizzy Gillespie, B.B. King, Al Kooper and Robert Palmer. That wasn’t all. Artists like Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Eddie Palmieri, Boogaloo Joe Jones and Charles Kynard all knew Pretty Purdie’s number. When they were looking for a drummer, they dialled Pretty Purdie. So did Aretha Franklin. Pretty Purdie played on her 1971 live album Aretha Live at Fillmore West. That wasn’t the end of Pretty Purdie’s relationship with the Filmore West. He also played on King Curtis’ 1971 album Live at Fillmore West. This was just one of twenty-nine albums Pretty Purdie played on. That’s  not counting Pretty Purdie’s solo albums.

Purdie Good.

Four years after the release of Soul Drums, Pretty Purdie signed to Prestige. By 1971, it was one of jazz’s premier labels. Pretty Purdie’s Prestige debut was Purdie Good. It was produced by Bob Porter.

When recording of Purdie Good began, Pretty Purdie had picked a mixture of originals and cover versions. Two of the cover versions were James Brown’s Cold Sweat and Fred Neil’s classic Everybody’s Talkin.’ These songs were played by a band that included bassist Gordon Edwards, guitarist Billy Nichols, pianist Harold Wheeler, trumpeter Tippy Larkin and tenor saxophonists Charlie Brown and Warren Daniels. They recorded the six songs on January 11th 1971, at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Purdie Good was finished, it was released later in 1971.

On Purdie Goods released on Prestige in 1971, it was well received. Critics commented on Pretty Purdie’s versatility. They marvelled at his ability to seamlessly play a variety of styles. This isn’t surprising.

Given how different the artists Pretty Purdie played with, over the past thirteen years, Pretty Purdie was Mr. Versatile. Jazz, funk, soul, rock, soul-jazz, A.O.R. artists,  Pretty Purdie had played with them. However, by 1971, he was part of Aretha Frankin’s band. 

Although part of Aretha’s all-star band, this didn’t mean Pretty Purdie’s solo career was on hold. Far from it. He was busier than ever, working as a session player and recording Shaft, his third album.

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Shaft.

Shaft, Pretty Purdie’s third album, was made up entirely of cover versions. This included Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, Buddy Miles’ Changes, Wilton Felder’s Way Back Home and Neal Creque’s Africa. Along with Harold Ousley’s Summer Melody and Willie Bridges’ Butterfingers, these six tracks became Shaft.

Recording of Shaft took place on 11th October 1971, at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Two of the musicians that played on Purdie Good reconvened. This included bassist Gordon Edwards, guitarist Billy Nichols and tenor saxophonist Charlie Brown. They were joined by some new faces, including electric pianist Neal Creque, Norman Pride on congas and trumpeters Danny Moore, Gerry Thomas. They played their part in a genre-melting album.

Having recorded Shaft on 11th October 1971, it wasn’t released until 1973. It was released to favourable reviews. Elements of funk, jazz, Afrobeat  and soul-jazz melted into one. The music was mellow, soulful, funky and jazz-tinged. Other times there was an intensity as Pretty Purdie and his band kicked loose. Shaft was a compelling showcase for Pretty Purdie. However, by the time Shaft was released, he was signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Prodcutions.

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Soul Is…Pretty Purdie.

After the recording of Shaft, Pretty Purdie’s time at Prestige was over. He still had his work as a session player. However, he wasn’t without a label for long. He was approached by Bob Thiele, who asked him to join his Flying Dutchman Productions. That’s what Pretty Purdie did.

Having signed for Flying Dutchman Productions, Pretty Purdie he began work on what would become Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. It featured seven songs. A medley of What’s Goin’ On penned by Reynaldo Benson, Al Cleveland and Marvin Gaye, melted into Bill Withers’ Lovely Day. Pretty Purdie cowrote four tracks. He penned Good Livin’ (Good Lovin’) with Horace Off. They cowrote Don’t Go with Richard Tee. Bob Thiele joined Pretty Purdie, Horace and Richard to write Song For Aretha. Horace also Heavy Soul Slinger.  Other tracks included Aretha Franklin’s Day Dreaming and Joe Sample’s Put It Where You Want It. These tracks became Soul Is…Pretty Purdie.

Recording of Soul Is…Pretty Purdie took place at two sessions. They took place in March and June 1972. At the two sessions, different lineups recorded the seven tracks. Some musicians played on every track. Others played a walk-on part. However, the band included a rhythm section of  bassist Paul Martinez, drummer Pretty Purdie and guitarists Billy Nichols, Cornell Dupree and Lloyd Davis. Organists Richard Tee and Paul Griffin, pianist Horace Ott and conga player Norman Pride joined tenor saxophonist Charlie Brown. He was part of a large horn and string section that featured on Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. It was released later in 1972.

On the release of Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, it was released to critical acclaim. At last, Pretty Purdie had released an album that was up there with his debut album Soul Drums. You’ll realise that, when I tell you about Soul Is…Pretty Purdie.

A medley of What’s Goin’ On and Ain’t No Sunshine opens Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. A roll of drums is the signal for the rhythm section to enter. They’re joined by horns, before the keyboards take centre-stage stage. That’s where they stay until the sultriest of saxophone solo cuts loose on Ain’t No Sunshine. Then seamlessly, the band switch into What’s Goin’ On. Washes of reverb are briefly unleashed. Mostly, though, it’s just a tight, talented band jamming their way through two soul classics.

Wistful strings cascade on Don’t Go. They’re panned left and vibes are panned left. In the middle, Pretty Purdie’s drums mark time. Then his rasping, worldweary vocal enters. It’s needy and full of hurt and hope, as he pleads. All the time, strings sweep dramatically and harmonies coo. Horns rasp and bray, guitars chime and the rhythm provide the heartbeat. However, it’s Pretty Purdie’s desperate pleas that tug at your heartstrings, as he vamps his way through this tale of heartbreak.

Straight away, Pretty Purdie’s all-stars get funky on Good Livin’ (Good Lovin’). There’s a nod to Steely Dan. The rhythm section, wah-wah guitars and growling horns supply the funk. A probing bass, Pretty Purdie’s trademark beat and keyboards panned way left are part of this uber funky jam. Blistering riffing guitars make a brief appearance, as Pretty Purdie continues to showcase his considerable talents on this career defining album.

Washes of dramatic Hammond organ, stabs of keyboards and pounding drums grab your attention. After that, Day Dreaming literally floats along. Crucial to the arrangement is the tenor saxophone. It’s pulled forward in the mix. Flourishes of keyboards are panned left and guitars panned right. Not to be outdone, flamboyant flourishes of Hammond organ can be heard. It’s as if Pretty Purdie’s all-stars are determined to surpass everything that’s gone before. Melodic and joyous, you can’t help lose yourself in a band at the top of their game.

Song For Aretha sees the tempo drop and Pretty Purdie’s drums take centre-stage. His playing is slow, his timing impeccable. Everyone plays around him. Mellow keyboards, crystalline guitars and washes of Hammond organ join the rhythm section in providing the backdrop for Pretty Purdie’s homage to Aretha. His tender, emotive vocal grows in power. He’s accompanied all the way by cooing, gospel tinged backing vocalists. Scratchy strings add a contrast, as the goal drops out. This allows the rest of the band to stretch their legs, during this eight minute homage to the Queen Of Soul.

Mellow keyboards, a pounding rhythm section join a wah-wah guitar on Put It Where You Want It sees. It wah-wahs its way across the arrangement, before a braying horn joins the fun. They toy with each other, before dropping out. This becomes a recurring theme, during another uber funky jam. Pretty Purdie encourages his band to play with an unbridled freedom, that was missing in his two Prestige albums. Although they were good, Soul Is…Pretty Purdie sees Pretty Purdie reach new heights.

Heavy Soul Slinger closes Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. So it’s fitting Pretty Purdie enjoys a moment in the sun. That’s until gradually, the rest of the band join the fray. Crystalline guitars, keyboards and bass join Pretty Purdie’s drums and hissing hi-hats. Later, it’s just Pretty Purdie. He delivers a masterclass. Round his kit he goes, showcasing his skills. After that, it’s as if he’s thrown down a gauntlet. A blazing saxophone goes toe-to-toe with Pretty Purdie. Blowing as if his life depended upon it Charlie Brown, unleashes one of the best horn solos. It’s augmented by hypnotic keyboards, while constantly, Pretty Purdie vies for your attention, on his swan-song for Flying Dutchman Productions. What a way to bow out.

Although Pretty Purdie only released just one album on  Flying Dutchman Productions, Soul Is…Pretty Purdie was a hugely important album. It was the album that saw him reach the heights of his debut album Soul Drums. 

Purdie Good and Shaft were both good albums. They were nowhere near as good as Soul Drums. It was released to critical acclaim. However, the reviews of Purdie Good and Shaft weren’t as favourable. Both albums were well received. That was as good as it got. The problem, critics said, was the choice of material. The covers chosen for Purdie Good and Shaft weren’t adventurous enough. As a result, Pretty Purdie was treading water. Not any more.

Having signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions, Pretty Purdie cowrote four songs and covered three other tracks. The cover versions were ones that allowed Pretty Purdie to challenge himself. As for the new tracks, they allowed Pretty Purdie to flourish. He delivers a series of masterclasses on the drums. That’s not all. Pretty Purdie steps from behind the drum kit, and delivers two heartbreakingly, beautiful vocals on Don’t Go and Song For Aretha. By the end of Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, Pretty Purdie’s career is back on track.

For Pretty Purdie, his brief spell at Flying Dutchman Productions proved a turning point in his career. Bob Thiele, and an all-star band brought out the best in Pretty Purdie. They brought him out of his comfort zone on Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, which was recently rereleased by BGP Records, a subsidiary of Ace Records. It’s a welcome rerelease of one of the most important albums in Pretty Purdie’s back-catalogue.

Soul Is…Pretty Purdie sees Pretty Purdie showcase his considerable talent and versatility. Not only does he scale the heights of his debut album Soul Drums, he surpasses it on Soul Is…Pretty Purdie. Without doubt, Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, which was released in 1972, was the highpoint of his fourteen years career. It’s an album that Pretty Purdie never surpassed.

Along with his 1967 debut album Soul Drums, Soul Is…Pretty Purdie is the perfect introduction to one of the greatest drummers of his generation. Pretty Purdie was famed for his timing, and the “The Purdie Shuffle.” That’s why he’s remembered s one of the most innovative funk drummers. That’s apparent when you listen to many of classic albums that Pretty Purdie played on. “The Purdie Shuffle” can also be heard on Soul Is…Pretty Purdie, which is Pretty Purdie’s finest hour.

PRETTY PURDIE-SOUL IS…PRETTY PURDIE.

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VERONIQUE VINCENT AND AKSAK MABOUL WITH THE HONEYMOON KILLERS-EX-FUTUR ALBUM.

VERONIQUE VINCENT AND AKSAK MABOUL WITH THE HONEYMOON KILLERS-EX-FUTUR ALBUM.

“It’s been a long time coming.” So said Sam Cooke. The same is also true of the recently released album from Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers. Their Ex-Futur Album was released on October 20th 2014 on Crammed Discs. However, originally, the Ex-Future Album was due to be released thirty-one years ago. 

Back in 1983, Marc Hollander had just founded a new record label, Crammed Discs. It seemed fitting that one of the first releases on Marc’s new label would be a collaboration by a band he founded. This was Aksak Maboul, which had been founded six years earlier.

It was back in 1977, that Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis founded Belgian avant-garde rock band Aksak Maboul. Marc played keyboards, reeds and percussion, while Vincent played guitar, bass guitar and keyboards. Later, keyboardist Marc Moulin joined Aksak Maboul. Later, so did percussionist and keyboardist  Chris Joris. This was the lineup that recorded Aksak Maboul’s debut album Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine.

Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine.

Work on Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine began in May 1977.  Aksak Maboul worked quickly, and recording of Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine, finished in May 1977. Mostly, this genre-defying album was the work of Marc Hollander. As a result, Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine was credited to Marc Hollander and Aksak Maboul. It was released in 1977, on the Belgian label Kamikaze. 

Upon its release, Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine was well received by critics. It was a truly adventurous and groundbreaking albums. Genres literally melted into one.  This included avant-garde, classical music, electronic free jazz, prog rock, rock and world music. There was more than a nod to Frank Zappa, minimalism and Captain Beefheart, on an album that would eventually, become a cult classic.

Since the release of Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine, critics have reappraised the album. Back in 1977, it didn’t find the audience it deserves. In the intervening thirty-seven years, it has. As a result, Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine it’s been hailed a cult classic. Everyone from cultural commentators to prog rock fans have delved deep into Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine, discovering its eclectic delights. Little did Aksak Maboul realise the effect their debut album would eventually have. Back in 1977, all Aksak Maboul were interested in doing was recording their sophomore album, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.

Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.

Towards the end of 1977, Aksak Maboul decided to start playing live. This marked the start of a new chapter in the Aksak Maboul story. Not long after this, the line up changed.

Marc Moulin and Chris Joris left Aksak Maboul. Their replacement was percussionist and keyboardist Frank Wuyts. Not long after this, cellist Denis van Hecke joined Aksak Maboul. The next addition was Michel Berckmans, who played oboe and bassoon. He left Belgian progressive band Univers Zéro. This wasn’t the end of the changes in Aksak Maboul’s lineup.

At the start of 1979, Henry Cow had just split-up. So Chris Cutler and Fred Frith were asked to join Aksak Maboul. They agreed to do so, and Aksak Maboul started work on their sophomore album, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.

This involved a trip to Switzerland. Recording of Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits took place at Sunrise Studio, Kirchberg, St. Gallen. It was here that Aksak Maboul pushed musical boundaries even further than they had before. 

The music Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits took on a new intensity and complexity. It veered towards avant-garde and experimental. Again, musical genres melted into one on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. Everything from ambient and chamber rock to punk, tangos and Turkish music.  It was a very different album from Aksak Maboul. That wasn’t the end of the differences.

Forever determined to innovate, Aksak Maboul used sampling for the first time on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. However, there was a problem. Samplers were relatively new. They were still prohibitively expensive, and way outside the budget of most groups. That wouldn’t stop Aksak Maboul making use of sampling. 

Far from it. Instead, Aksak Maboul had to improvise. This was all part of Aksak Maboul’s determination to forge their own way. They wanted to be trailblazers, rather than following in other group’s wakes. That proved to the case on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits.

When Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits was released in 1980, it was on a different label, Crammed Discs. It had been founded by Marc Hollander. One of its first releases was Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits. It was released to favourable reviews. Again, Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits was an underground album. This meant it didn’t capture the attention of a wider audience until much later. Those who did hear Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits, marvelled at a complex, compelling, eclectic and innovative genre-melting album. 

With such a wide variety of musical genres, influences and ideas sitting side-by-side on Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits, it was an album that  could just as easily not have worked. However, it did. With every listen some new subtlety or nuance shawn through. It was a compelling and beguiling album. Critics, cultural commentators and music lovers awaited Aksak Maboul’s next step. They were in for a surprise.

The Honeymoon Killers-Les Tueurs De La Lune De Miel.

“Nothing lasts forever.”The words of Bryan Ferry proved prophetic. In early 1980, Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, the two original members of Aksak Maboul left the band. They decided to join forces with Yvon Vromman, J.F Jones Jacob, and Gérald Fenerberg of  Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel. They called their new band The Honeymoon Killers.  The only thing missing was a lead singer. This is where Véronique Vincent came in. She was the final piece in musical jigsaw that was The Honeymoon Killers.

They headed out on tour in 1980 and 1981. This was important. With two bands and a vocalist becoming one, they had to hone their sound. The Honeymoon Killers were one of the pioneers of pre-recorded drum machine loops. They played drum loops on cassette. This was the starting point.  Layers of , bass, drums, t guitar, bass, drums, percussion and tinny organ sounds were combined. Atop sat vocals. Given the experimental nature of The Honeymoon Killers, it’s no surprise that some of their songs lasted nearly twenty minutes. They were determined to do things their way.

This extended to The Honeymoon Killers’ setlist. They switched seamlessly between from free jazz and French chanson, to punk and rockabilly. Each musical genre was interpreted by he Honeymoon Killers in their own unique way. During these concerts, The Honeymoon Killers found their sound. Now the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers were ready to release some new music.

Later in 1981, the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers released cover of Charles Trenet Route Nationale 7 as a single. It was a hit in France and Belgium. So The Honeymoon Killers headed into the studio, to release what was their sophomore album, Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel.

Having recorded  Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel at various studios across Europe, the album was released on Crammed Records in 1982. Reviews ranged from positive to glowing and critically acclaimed. The Honeymoon Killers’ unique and quirky brand of genre hopping music, was winning friends and influencing people.

This proved to be the case. In Belgium, France, Germany and Britain,  Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel sold relatively well. It became something of a cult album. Considering this was the first album by the new lineup of The Honeymoon Killers, it looked like they were going places. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

Never again, would The Honeymoon Killers release another album. Their only singles was 1982s Décollage. Three years later, The Honeymoon Killers. Their legacy was Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel, which is hailed as the best Belgian rock album ever. However, thirty-two years later, The Honeymoon Killers are back.

Ex-Futur Album.

Although Marc Hollander and Vincent Kenis, the two original members of Aksak Maboul left the band, the Aksak Maboul story wasn’t over. No. Aksak Maboul had began working on their their third album in 1980. For the next three, years Aksak Mobil recorded ten tracks. This wasn’t just an Aksak Maboul album. No. It was a collaboration between the great and good of Belgian progressive music. Vocalist Veronique Vincent and The Honeymoon Killers joined Aksak Maboul. Right up until 1983, this all-star cast of Belgian musicians worked on what would eventually become the Ex-Future Album. Sadly, it was never completed, and in 1983, the project ground to a halt. 

Since then, Ex-Futur Album has lain in the Crammed Discs vaults. That’s where it was recently discovered. Ex-Futur Album features ten tracks. Nine of them were penned by Marc Hollander and Veronique Vincent. The exception is a cover My Kind Of Doll. It’s one of ten tracks on the long lost Ex-Futur Album.

The Ex-Futur Album features Veronique Vincent’s vocal. She’s joined by Marc Hollander on keyboards, woodwinds, percussion and programming. Marc arranges and co-produces the album with Vincent Kenis. He plays bass, guitar and takes charge of engineering. Aksak Maboul are also joined by the rest of  The Honeymoon Killers on the recently released Ex-Futur Album, which I’ll tell you about.

Chez Les Aborigines opens Ex-Futur Album. A myriad of synths, drum machines and percussive delights provide the backdrop to Veronique Vincent’s heartfelt vocal. The arrangement envelops Veronique’s vocal. Stabs of synths, urgent percussion and  plodding drums combine, as Veronique’s vocal becomes breathy and tender. Meanwhile, elements of chanson, electro, synth pop and perfect pop combine with futuristic, sci-fi sounds. There’s even an avant-garde sound, as Aksak Maboul continue to innovate and combine musical genres.

Joyously, Afflux De Luxe bursts into life. Bold, dramatic stabs of keyboards joint drums that skip across the arrangement. The result is melodic and compelling. It’s also perfect for Veronique’s vocal. Dramatic and earnest, she powerfully delivers a compelling vocal. Behind her, bells chime. adding to the joyous sound. There’s then a dramatic surge. Synths, keyboards and drums become one. Along with Veronique, they play their part in what looks like being a dreamy pop song. Then things change. Drama and darkness combine. The music becomes gothic, progressive and rocky, while the vocal becomes a futuristic broody Gregorian chant. There’s snatches of what’s gone before, before the track heads in the direction of avant-garde. Always, though, Afflux De Luxe is compelling and melodic.

From the get-go, Je Pleure Tout Le Temps has you hooked. Synths, keyboards and drum machines create the backdrop for Veronique. She dawns the role of chanteuse. Her sultry, seductive vocal is the perfect foil for the electronic backdrop. It meanders along, while Veronique’s whispery vocal is the centre of your attention. Its ethereal beauty is at the heart of this song’s success.

Veronika Winken allows to show different side of their music. A strummed guitar joins with synths and drum machines. The guitar brings to mind Mediterranean beaches and long hot summers. The drum machines and synths add a moderne sound. This is the backdrop for Veronique’s vocal. It veers between tender and melancholy to tough and feisty. Bursts of a male vocal add to the edgy arrangement. It’s an amalgam of elements of classical, electronica, post punk and rock. They melt into one as Aksak Maboul showcase their versatility, during this long lost album.

Crisp eighties drums make their presence felt as Reveillons-Nous unfolds. Cartoon synths join the fun. So does Veronique’s vocal. She delivers a high, crystalline vocal in short sharp bursts. Meanwhile, the arrangement is a fusion of electro, proto house and pop. There’s even an element of humour and avant-garde. This is Aksak Maboul at their innovative best, producing perfect pop that puts a smile on even the most sombre face

Aksak Maboul and friends raise the stakes on I’m Always Crying. Veronique dawns the role of tortured chanteuse. Her vocal is a cathartic outpouring of hurt and heartbreak. The arrangement is big, bold and dramatic. It’s essentially a mixture of electronica and mystery. There’s even a cinematic sound, courtesy of the synths, keyboards and rhythm section. However, Aksak Maboul’s secret weapon is Veronique, who lays bare her soul for all to see.

My Kind Of Doll is the only cover version on Ex-Futur Album. It’s an uptempo, anthemic track. Veronique’s vocal is edgy and sassy, veering in the directing of post punk. So do the rest of Aksak Maboul. They combine elements of electronica, post punk and synth pop with some glorious rocky riffs. Machine gun guitar riffs go toe-to-toe with synths. Both vie for your attention.  However, it’s the guitar that wins out, during this uptempo, fist pumping, eighties anthem.

Chiming, driving guitars, reminiscent of U2 and crisp galloping drums get Luxurious Dub underway. Washes of dark, gothic synths sweep back and worth. Gradually, Luxurious Dub reveals is secrets and delights. One of the delights is Veronique’s vocal. It’s akin to a homage to Liz Fraser, formerly of the Cocteau Twins. Sadly, it just plays a walk on role. So does the slap bass. That’s when things get a little funky. Joining in the fun are crystalline guitars. Then the arrangement takes on a sense of urgency, as the rhythm section and guitars cut loose. Funk, free jazz, electronica and indie rock come together during this Luxurious Dub.

Le Troisième Personnage picks up where Luxurious Dub left off. Thunderous drums, cartoon synths and Veronique’s vocal vie for your attention. So does the bass. It packs a punch. Before long, the track becomes urgent, melodic and hypnotic. It’s also irresistibly catchy. The hooks haven’t been rationed by Aksak Maboul, during a track whose musical D.N.A. reads early eighties.

The Aboriginal Variations closes Ex-Futur Album. Straight away, its melancholy sound has you hooked. Your assailed by a myriad of synths, crispy drums and woodwind. They envelop Veronique’s vocal. It’s slow and sultry. Later, the track grows wings. It heads in unexpected directions. Avant-garde, electronica, experimental, free jazz and synth pop. It’s all here. Futuristic, sci-fi sounds emerge. Other times, the music is haunting and dramatic. Cartoon synths bubble and squeak. There’s also a Gallic sound, during this six minute musical tapestry, where Aksak Maboul showcase that they’re an ambitious and innovative group capable of producing eclectic music.

That’s not the end of the  Ex-Futur Album. No there’s three live tracks still to come. This includes versions of Reveillons-Nous, I’m Always Remixing and Mit Den Eingeborenen. They’re a reminder of just how good a live band Aksak Maboul. Suddenly, it’s 1977 all over again. The years role away. No longer are you middle aged. Instead, you’re trying to recapture your youth with the raw power that are Aksak Maboul. Then as the closing notes of Mit Den Eingeborenen play, it’s 2014 again. However, it’s not so bad. ksak Maboul have belatedly released their long forgotten third album.

Thirty-one years after Aksak Maboul  pulled the plug on the Ex-Futur Album, it makes its belated debut on Crammed Discs. Billed as Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers, their Ex-Futur Album is a reminder of what this group of innovative musicians and vocalists were capable of.

They were capable of creating ambitious, adventurous and innovative music. This is no ordinary music. Instead, it’s genre-melting music. Musical genres and influences melt into one. Everything from avant-garde, classical, chanson, dream pop, electro, electronica, experimental, free jazz, indie, post punk, prog rock and rock. Dig deeper, and other influences shine through, including synth pop and proto house. It’s as if Veronique Vincent, Aksak Maboul and The Honeymoon Killers’ musical pasts have influenced Ex-Futur Album. So it seems, has their respective record collections. Sadly, this ambitious and innovative album was neither finished nor released in 1983.

It was only on 20th October 2010, that the Ex-Futur Album was released by Crammed Discs. Somewhat belatedly, Ex-Futur Album, a  truly ambitious and innovative album will find the audience it so richly deserves. Even today, it’s obvious that if the Ex-Futur Album had been released in 1983, it would’ve been an album that was way ahead of its time. That’s no surprise. Aksak Maboul were innovators, who pushed musical boundaries to their limits.

With Veronique Vincent and The Honeymoon Killers collaborating with Aksak Maboul, this was a Belgian musical dream team. Here was a collaboration between the great and good of eighties Belgian progressive music.  A group of some of the most ambitious and pioneering musicians, were pushing musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. Then for whatever reason, the Ex-Futur Album was shelved. This groundbreaking project was lost to the world for thirty-three years. Now that the Ex-Futur Album has been released, even in its unfinished form, it’s a reminder of what Veronique Vincent and Aksak Maboul with The Honeymoon Killers are capable of, back in their  glory days.

VERONIQUE VINCENT AND AKSAK MABOUL WITH THE HONEYMOON KILLERS-EX-FUTUR ALBUM.

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JERRY LEE LEWIS-THE KNOX LEWIS SESSIONS-THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS.

JERRY LEE LEWIS-THE KNOX LEWIS SESSIONS-THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS.

Gil Scott Heron once sung that “home is where the heart is.” For Jerry Lee Lewis, home was Phillips Recording Studios, Memphis. Situated at 639 Madison Avenue, that was where the man they called “The Killer” recorded the best music of his career. Phillips Recording Studios was  Jerry Lee Lewis’ spiritual home. Part of the reason for this, was Jerry’s relationship with Sam Phillips.

Jerry Lee Lewis first met Sam Phillips in December 1956. He was just twenty-one, and a month earlier, had travelled all the way from Ferriday, Louisiana to Memphis, Tennessee. When Jerry arrived in Memphis, Sam Phillips was Florida. However, producer and engineer Jack Clement had Jerry record a version of Ray Price’s Crazy Arms and a Jerry Lee Lewis original, End of The Road. This was the start of Jerry Lee Lewis’ career at Sun Records.

A month later, Jerry made the return trip to Memphis, and started what was, the first of many, recording sessions. Jerry wasn’t just a solo artist, but a session player. He played on tracks by Billy Lee Riley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. However, a year later, in 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis made his breakthrough.

A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On was recorded in February 1957, and released as a single in May 1957. It reached number three in the US Billboard 100 charts and number one in the US R&B charts. This transformed The Killer’s career. Suddenly, he was rock ’n’ roll royalty, and rubbing shoulders with Elvis. This success continued.

Then in November 1957, Jerry released Great Balls Of Fire, which featured in the 1957 movie Jamboree. It sold one million copies within the first five days of its release. Eventually, Great Balls Of Fire sold in excess of five million copies. However, still, Jerry Lee Lewis had his critics.

America’s moral guardians chastised Jerry Lee Lewis, for lyrics they deemed crude, suggestive and had sexual undertones. His performances some commentators suggested, were lewd. Ironically, Jerry Lee Lewis wasn’t entirely comfortable with the lyrics he was singing. 

Unknown to many people, Jerry Lee Lewis was a devout Christian. His faith was important to him. When he cut songs like A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Jerry Lee Lewis had a crisis of confidence. However, music was now his career. He had made his choice back in 1956. Since then, his life had changed beyond recognition. He was hero worshipped, by the first generation of teenagers. That was, until controversy entered his life.

May 1958 will forever be etched in Jerry Lee Lewis’ memory. So will the name Ray Berry. He enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame during Jerry’s 1958 British tour. Ray Berry made a disturbing discovery. Jerry’s third wife, Myra Gale Brown, it transpired, was only thirteen when they married. Myra was Jerry’s first cousin, once removed. Straight away, Jerry Lee Lewis’ management set about firefighting the situation, but only made the situation worse.

Jerry’s management claimed that Myra was fifteen when the marriage took place. So did Jerry and Myra. This didn’t placate a horrified public. After all, a world famous rock ’n’ roller had married a minor. It was essentially, career suicide.

Soon, Jerry Lee Lewis’ British tour was cancelled. He’d only played three dates. When he got back home, Jerry Lee Lewis incurred the wrath of the American music industry. He was blacklisted from American radio, and was no longer a familiar face on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Jerry’s fans turned their back on their former idol.

Right up until 1963, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded for Sun Records. He continued to released records. They failed to sell. So Sun tried releasing Jerry’s singles as The Hawk. Radio stations quickly realised who The Hawk was, and dropped the singles from their roster. For Jerry, his career had hit the buffers.

Once, Jerry could command $10,000 per night. Not any more. He was lucky to be picking up $250 per night, in some of the less salubrious nightspots. It seemed that the party was over for Jerry Lee Lewis.

That proved not be the case. Just like many other American musicians and singers, Europe allowed Jerry the opportunity to rebuild his tattered reputation. Gradually, Jerry’s popularity grew. He found favour with British and European audiences. This resulted in Jerry Lee Lewis heading to Hamburg in 1964. 

When Jerry arrived in Hamburg, his destination was The Star Club. This was the club where a few years earlier,The Beatles learnt their trade. On 5th April 1964, Jerry accompanied by The Nashville Teens made their Star Club debut. This concert was recorded and became a legendary live album, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg.

Live at the Star Club, Hamburg.

For Jerry Lee Lewis, he found redemption that night in Hamburg. The Killer was the comeback King. He made his way through thirteen tracks. It’s a truly flawless performance, where Jerry and The Nashville Teens power their way through Down The Line, You Win Again, High School Confidential, Your Cheatin’ Heart, and Great Balls of Fire. Jerry combines raw power, passion, aggression and six years of frustration. It’s a cathartic performance, where The Killer struts his way through the set, and in the process, lays down his marker, saying I’m back. 

Released in 1964 to widespread critical acclaim, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg ,marked the Jerry Lee Lewis’ comeback. Not long after this, Jerry signed to Mercury Records.

Six years after the music industry turned its back on Jerry, one of music’s original outlaws and rabble rousers was back. What’s more, he was about to embark upon one of the most fruitful periods of his career. 

Between 1964 and 1978, Jerry was signed to Mercury Records, and released albums on the main Mercury label and their Smash Records’ imprint. This included some of the best music of his career. Rock ’n’ roll, country and gospel, Jerry showcased his talent and versatility. However, while Mercury Records was home, Jerry still missed the familiar surroundings of Phillips Recording Studios, 39 Madison Avenue, Memphis.

The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings.

That was where Jerry Lee Lewis recorded the best music of his career. Jerry knew this. Sam Phillips made this happen. During the seventies, Jerry Lee Lewis continued to return Phillips Recording Studios. The only difference was that there was another Phillips in the producer’s chair

This time, it was Knox Phillips, Sam’s son. In the late seventies, Phillips Recording Studios was a home from home for Jerry Lee Lewis. So much so, that day or night when Jerry phoned Knox, Knox made his way to the Phillips Recording Studios. No wonder. Knox knew magic was about to take place.

For the last ten years or so, Jerry’s voice had taken centre-stage on his recordings for Mercury. The piano was remained in the background, playing a supporting role. After all, this was Jerry’s country period. During this period, Jerry was on a  roll. Commercial success and critical acclaim were familiar friends. However, nothing lasts forever. 

Nobody knew this better than better. Latterly, the music Jerry was making at Mercury was neither exciting nor innovative. That seemed to be the Mercury formula. It was inoffensive music. Jerry however, didn’t do inoffensive. 

Jerry wasn’t being challenged. He still had to get his kicks. Rather than head down Route 66, Jerry headed to Phillips Recording Studios and turned the clock back.

At Phillips Recording Studios, Jerry returned to the days of A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls Of Fire. His piano took centre-stage. Jerry pounded and punished the piano. So much so, that it assailed you. Then there’s Jerry worldweary, lived-in vocals. Accompanied by legendary session drummer Jim Keltner, magic happened during these nocturnal sessions, where Jerry did things his way.

It wasn’t a case of all work and no play for Jerry. Midway through a nocturnal session, Jerry would call the session. Jerry, Knox and the band would head to downtown Memphis, and hangout at the local strip club. Having flirted with the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, Jerry and his crew returned to Phillips Recording Studios.

Back at Phillips Recording Studios, Knox would run the tapes and Jerry and the band would play some more. When the session were finished, Knox Phillips would listen back to what he’d recorded.

Knox listened to the tapes. He also let a few people hear them. They all came to one conclusion, Jerry had to release these songs. After, all this Know kept saying, was classic Jerry Lee Lewis. However, Jerry didn’t want to release these recordings. 

Over thirty years have passed since these recordings were made at Phillips Recording Studios. Now, somewhat belatedly, The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings have been released by Ace Records. At last, music lovers can hear Jerry Lee Lewis play with the reckless abandon that made him a musical legend on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings.

Opening The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings is a cover of Jim Croce’s Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. It’s a song transformed. Here, Jerry gives the song a late-night, smoky sound. It brings to mind whiskey, cigarettes, wild nights and wilder women. Slowed down, weeping guitars and the rhythm section accompany The Killer. His vocal is carefree, languid and full of character. Soon, a fiddle plays and Jerry confidently pounds his piano. All the time, Jerry oozes confidence and charisma, as he ad-libs and vamps his way through the tracks. He throws in lyrics from his classic tracks. He’s revels in the role of bandleader, directing operations from his piano stool. Meanwhile, producer Knox Phillips enjoys the show, and what a show it is, with The Killer rolling back the years.

Ragged But Right. It could well be the seven times married Killer’s theme tune. A slow, pensive piano and bluesy harmonica accompany Jerry’s rasping vocal. It’s a voice that’s lived a thousand lives. Then there’s a piano masterclass from Jerry, who sounds as if he should playing in a downtown, Nashville dive bar. Mostly though, Ragged But Right features a man at peace with himself, and enjoying what he’s doing.

Room Full Of Roses was a song Jerry heard George Morgan sing growing up. He subsequently recorded it in 1973. Layers of lush strings were added. Not here though. Mostly, it’s just a heartbroken, melancholy Jerry and his trusty piano. Occasionally, guitars weep. Later, Jerry showcases his famed piano playing skills, before delivering a soul baring vocal. Adding the finishing touch, to this reinvention of Room Full Of Roses is a pedal steel.

A medley of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode and Carol explodes into life. Jerry rolls back the years. With the help of a crack band, Jerry returns to his glory days. On Johnny B. Goode elements of rock ’n’ roll and country melt into one. Blistering guitars, pounding piano and a bass that marches the arrangement along join forces. Jerry struts his way through the lyrics. This continues on Carol. By now, his band are a tight, explosive unit. A bluesy harp joins the fun, as The Killer ad-libs his way through this glorious homage to another musical legend, Chuck Berry.

Mack Vickery’s That Kind Of Fool is another track that Jerry is revisiting. This version has a late night, understated sound. It’s just one man and his piano. Mind you that man is Jerry Lee Lewis. As he delivers the lyrics, there’s a sadness and longing in his voice. He longs for the happiness in his domestic life that he’s singing about. Sadly, that’s never happened, with The Killer marrying seven times.

Harbour Lights is a song Jerry recorded in 1976. He decided to recut the song. Driving the arrangement along are the rhythm section and Jerry’s piano. His vocal is confident, full of whoops, hollers and happiness. later, a sultry saxophone is dropped in. This seems to spur Jerry on, as he and his band reach previously unscaled heights.

Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior sees Jerry return to his spiritual side. Gone is the rabble rouser, oozing machismo and bravado. This is no surprise. Musically, Jerry has been able to seamlessly veer between blues, country, rock ’n’ roll and gospel. Here, he fuses country and gospel. For much of the track, it’s just Jerry delivering a heartfelt vocal that’s full of sincerity and hope. His piano playing is equally good. Jerry digs deep, playing with flamboyant flourishes. Meanwhile, a pedal steel and the rhythm section provide the backdrop for Jerry’s needy, pleas.

Jerry delivers another medley that consists of a joyous, piano lead take on Teresa Brewer’s 1950 hit Music! Music! Music! Jerry whoops his way through the lyrics, his throaty vocal making the lyrics come alive Seamlessly, Eddie Heywood’s 1956 hit single Canadian Sunset follows. These two tracks shouldn’t work back-to-back. However, they do. It allows Jerry to showboat. Throwing caution to the wind, flamboyant flourishes of piano are unleashed by Jerry, whose back to his best.

Lovin’ Cajun Style is always credited to producer Huey P. Meaux. However, he bought the song from songwriter Jimmy Donley. Tragically, not long after selling this swamp pop classic, Jimmy committed suicide. Jerry’s version is akin to a tribute to Jimmy. His song becomes an uptempo and joyous showcase for Jerry’s considerable talents. Backed by his crack band, Jerry swaggers his way through Lovin’ Cajun Style, paying tribute to Jimmy Donley, whose gone, but definitely not forgotten. 

Closing The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings is Jerry’s take on Beautiful Dreamer. Just like other cover versions, Jerry reinvents the song. A fiddle plays, as a worldweary Jerry plays piano and delivers a vocal that’s full of pathos and sadness. He ad-libs lyrics, as if spinning a yarn. Jerry comfortably dawns the role of storyteller, during this understated, wistful and beautiful country track.

The ten tracks on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings are a reminder of Jerry Lee Lewis’ nocturnal visits to Phillips Recording Studios, Memphis, at 639 Madison Avenue. Along with producer Knox Phillips, and a crack band of session players, magic took place. 

At Phillips Recording Studios, Jerry Lee Lewis rolled back the years, to when he vied with Elvis for the title of King of Rock ’n’ Roll. Jerry Lee Lewis could’ve run the King closer. However, that wasn’t to be.  

Ray Berry, a British journalist, following Jerry Lee Lewis’ tour, made a disturbing discovery. Jerry’s third wife, Myra Gale Brown, it transpired, was only thirteen when they married. This meant Jerry Lee Lewis had married a minor. The American public turned their back on Jerry Lee Lewis. So did the music industry. No longer did radio stations play his music. Jerry was blacklisted by American stations. Two years into Jerry’s career, it was all but over. Redemption would take six long years.

Between 1958 and 1964, Jerry Lee Lewis went from earning $10,000 a night to just $250. No longer was Jerry playing top venues. Now it was dive bars. Then Europe came calling.

Europe allowed Jerry the opportunity to rebuild his tattered reputation. Gradually, Jerry’s popularity grew. He found favour with British and European audiences. German audiences especially, appreciated Jerry Lee Lewis’ music. So, it was fitting the redemption of Jerry Lee Lewis took place in Hamburg.

5th April 1964, Jerry accompanied by The Nashville Teens made their Star Club debut. This concert was recorded and released later in 1964, as the legendary live album, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg. Jerry Lee Lewis, the comeback King was back.

By the late seventies, Jerry was enjoying the most successful period of his career. He was now a country singer, and had enjoyed a string of successful albums for Mercury Records, his new musical home. However, Jerry wasn’t happy. That’s why Jerry was making his nocturnal visits to the Phillips Recording Studios.

Night or day, Jerry knew he could phone Know Phillips. He’d make his way down to Phillips Recording Studios and Jerry and his band would play. 

These sessions were laid back affairs. Nothing was planned. Everything was off the cuff. That’s apparent on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings. Jerry ad-libs and vamps his way through ten songs. He also unleashes a series of piano masterclasses. During these ten tracks, Jerry leads from the front. He’s the bandleader, and encourages his band or crack session players to greater heights. When he jokes about making this a take, his voice is a mixture of menace and joviality. It works though. While Jerry is a hard taskmaster, he gets results. That’s apparent on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings.

Throughout The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings, The Killer and his band roll back the years. As you listen to the music, you wonder what heights Jerry Lee lewis might have reached, if things had been different? However, Jerry Lee Lewis was always a complex character. He was a walking, talking dichotomy.

He was the rabble rousing, seven times married, Christian. Jerry lived life in the fast lane. He drank, smoke and enjoyed the seedier, wilder side of life. However, on a Sunday, Jerry went to church. This is at odds with the Jerry Lee Lewis who sang A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls Of Fire

The two sides of Jerry Lee Lewis were polar opposites. This makes Jerry Lee Lewis a complex and charismatic character. That’s apparent on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings. We hear the different sides of The Killer. That means everything from fiery, fragile and fun-loving, to melancholy, menacing and spiritual. Each of these sides shine through, on The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings, which was recently released by Ace Records.

It’s a reminder of a musical legend, Jerry Lee Lewis who for over fifty years, has lived life in the fast lane, drinking, smoking, carousing and making some  timeless music. However, there’s more to Jerry Lee Lewis than wine, women, song and carousing. Since 1956, Jerry Lee Lewis has released timeless music, like that on  The Knox Lewis Sessions-The Unreleased Recordings, where The Killer  rolls back the years, and revisits past glories.

JERRY LEE LEWIS-THE KNOX LEWIS SESSIONS-THE UNRELEASED RECORDINGS.

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MOSTER!-INNER EARTH.

MOSTER!-INNER EARTH.

The best way to describe Moster, is a Norwegian supergroup. Moster were founded by Bushman’s Revenge saxophonist and bandleader Kjetil Møster in 2010. He brought onboard some of the most talented Norwegian musicians of their generation. This included Motorpsycho and Grand Central drummer Kenneth Kapstad. He was joined by two members of Elephant9, keyboardist Ståle Storløkken and bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen, whose also a member of Big Bang. They made their debut at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in 2010. Three years later, Moster released their long awaited debut album.

Moster released their debut album Edvard Lygre Møster, on Hubro Music, in March 2013. It was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics called Edvard Lygre Møster one of the best jazz albums of 2013. At the end of 2013, Edvard Lygre Møster  was hailed as one of the top 5 debut albums of 2013. It also found its way into New York City Jazz Records’ top ten jazz albums. Then when Prog Magazine published its list of the best albums of 2013, Edvard Lygre Møster was at number six. This was just the start of the Moster story. 

Eagerly, critics and music lovers awaited Moster’s next move. The next hurdle they had to overcome was their sophomore album, or what’s often referred to as “the difficult second album.” That’s not the case for Moster. They go from strength to strength. 

Moster’s sophomore album is Inner Earth, which will be released by Hubro Music on 20th October 2014. It sees a slightly different lineup of Moster, pickup where they left off on Edvard Lygre Møster.

For the recording of Inner Earth, saxophonist Kjetil Møster is joined by a rhythm section of drummer Kenneth Kapstad and bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen. A new face is Motorpsycho guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan. This was the lineup of Moster that wrote and recorded Inner Earth.

Inner Earth has six tracks. The first four songs are part of a movement entitled Descending Into This Crater. Written by Moster and recordist Jørgen Træen, this is Inner Earth’s Magnus Opus. Moster wrote Tearatorn and Underworld Risk, the other two tracks. These tracks were recorded at two sessions.

The first recording session at Super Duper Studio between January 11th and 12th 2014. A month later, Moster reconvened at Super Duper Studio on February 24th and recorded right through to the 27th February 2014. That marked the end of the recording of Inner Earth. It was then mastered at Grotten on 30th May 2014, Jørgen Træen. Since then, Kjetil Møster has had a busy summer.

Summer for most musicians, means festival time. That’s the case with Kjetil Møster. He’s spent the long hot summer touring with artists such as Röyksopp/Robyn and Lars Vaular. Now the summer is all but a distant memory, and it’s time for Moster to release their sophomore album, Inner Earth, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening Inner Earth is the first part of Descending Into This Crater, Poutanian Debate. Straight away, it takes on a dark ominous sound. Elements of free jazz and rock combine with avant garde and experimental. Moster have your attention. They’re playing is unfettered. Washes of music assail you. Scrabbling, buzzing, braying, pounding and howling describes this musical melange. So does futuristic, otherworldly and dramatic. It’s a glorious and innovative sound.

This continues on Central Sunrise. It’s another fusion of free jazz, rock, avant garde and experimental. Kjetil Møster’s grizzling, howling horn is at the heart of the arrangement. It’s aided and abetted by Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan’s guitar. His fingers flit up and down the fretboard, as he upon a voyage of exploration. He’s the perfect foil for Kjetil Møster’s saxophone. They drive each other to greater heights of innovation. Not to be outdone, drums rolls and fills are added. Later, the bass adds a contrast to the guitar. When all this is combined, the result is a cinematic, melodic and lysergic opus.

The sun hasn’t set yet though. Magma Movement continues where Central Sunrise left off. Washes and waves of music quiver and shiver. Ambient and atmospheric, it’s akin to a homage to Pink Floyd. Especially with crystalline guitars and pulsating, pounding drums. What follows is five minutes of musical perfection, where classic rock, psychedelia and prog rock unite with elements of smokey jazz. Stunning.

Mount Vesuvio closes the four part Descending Into This Crater movement. The tempo is slow, the music dramatic. That’s down to the slow, moody rhythm section, searing, riffing, scorching guitars and bursts of braying saxophone. Again, classic rock, psychedelia and prog rock unite. Add to that, elements of jazz, courtesy of the saxophone. Later, the arrangement heads in the direction of free jazz, as Moster take you on a magical mystery tour that closes their four part Magnus Opus Descending Into This Crater.

Moster aren’t a band to do things by halves. Tearatorn is a fourteen minute track. This suits their sound. It allows Moster to explore various musical genres. They toy with the listener, veering between avant garde, experimental and free jazz. Before long, jazzy licks are unleashed. The rhythm section are content to play along. Then Kjetil Møster’s saxophone signals that Moster are about to kick loose. Straight away, Moster become a tight unit. Their rhythm section unleash some glorious rock music. It’s a reminder of rock’s glory days. Hans’ wields his guitar like a magic wand, casting a spell on the listener. He’s allowed to take centre-stage, and casts up the spirit of Hendrix. Not to be outdone, Kjetil replies with a spellbinding saxophone solo. Drummer Kenneth confidently pounds the skins, as Kjetil enjoys a lengthy solo. After, that, Moster unite, and head as the track reaches a dramatic crescendo. In dong so, Moster demonstrate why they’re worthy of being referred to as a Norwegian supergroup.

Underworld Risk closes Inner Earth. A guitar scrabbles along, while mesmeric drums provide the backdrop. Brief bursts of rocky licks emerge. Then Hans’ guitar becomes coy. Not for long. It starts to show its delights. Kjetil adds bursts of blazing horns. Soon, Hans up the stakes. He showcases his virtuoso skills. Meanwhile, the rest of the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. As for Kjetil, he unleashes some machine gun riffs, courtesy of his trusty saxophone. After that, Moster unite. They’re determined to end Inner Earth on a high. They gallop along, combining free jazz, prog rock, psychedelia, and rock. There’s even a nod to Iron Maiden. However, Moster don’t run for the hills. Instead, they become a musical powerhouse, and drive Underworld Risk to its dramatic crescendo.

For some groups, sophomore albums present a problem. They’re often referred to as “the difficult second album.” That’s not the case with Inner Earth. It sees Moster surpass the efforts of Edvard Lygre Møster. This was the album that brought Moster to the attention to critics and music lovers. Inner Earth will reinforce Inner Earth’s reputation as an innovative and ambitious band, who have a big future ahead of them.

Stylistically, Inner Earth is very different from Edvard Lygre Møster. It was an album that was perceived as spontaneous, direct and fierce. Recorded live, Kjetil Møster remembers the band finding their sound on-stage. Fortunately, the show was being taped and was issued as Edvard Lygre Møster. Inner Earth which will be released by Hubro Music on 20th October 2014, is very different.

Earlier, I referred to Inner Earth as a musical journey. That’s the perfect description of Inner Earth. It’s a journey through avant garde, experimental, free jazz, jazz, prog rock, psychedelia and classic rock. Prog rock and psychedelia play prominent roles on Inner Earth. So does free jazz, on this compelling musical journey through Inner Earth.

This journey veers between slow, moody and broody, to dramatic and  ferocious. Other times, it’s dreamy,  futuristic, lysergic and otherworldly. Then sometimes, Inner Earth becomes cinematic and melodic, as slow washes of music shiver, shimmer and glimmer. Always though, Inner Earth is an ambitious and innovative, magical musical mystery tour through musical genres, with Norwegian supergroup Moster as your musical tour guides.

MOSTER!-INNER EARTH.

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MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

Earlier this year, Ace Records released Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair in June 2014. It featured fifty tracks from the Music City Vaults. Released to critical acclaim, Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair was a tantalising taste of the delights within the Music City discography. A followup, it seemed, was almost inevitable.

Ace Records haven’t wasted time. Just four months later, Ace Records recently returned to the vaults of Music City Records. This meant a trip state side. Compilers Roger Armstrong and Alec Palao headed to San Francisco and dug deep into Music City’s back-catalogue. This crate-digging expedition proved fruitful. 

Having dug deep, Roger and Alec returned with the thirty uptempo tracks that comprise Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. They’re a mixture of old favourites, classics, hidden gems and unreleased tracks, that played a part in the Music City Story.

 Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It  includes The Holidays, The Klixs, 4 Deuces, The Midnights, Gaylarks, The Holidays, 5 Rovers, The Spinners, The Marcels and The Emeralds. These groups  play their part in what’s described as “a second volume of rare doo woo delights.”  Before I pick the highlight of Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, I’ll tell you about Ray Dobard’s Music City label. 

Its origins can be traced back to 1950. That’s when Ray formed a record shop, Berkeley’s Music City in Adeline Street, San Francisco. Not long after that, Ray founded his first record label Delcro Records. This was Ray’s latest business.

Ray was born in New Orleans, on 31st August 1920. He Dobard was born into a working class family and was a born entrepreneur. This became apparent when he moved to Berkeley, California, with his wife Jeanne. His first business venture was a construction company. Soon, Ray was buying up properties. He soon had a vast property portfolio. However, like all good entrepreneurs, Ray realised the importance of having a diverse portfolio.

So in 1950, Ray decided to open a record shop, Berkeley’s Music City in Adeline Street, San Francisco. Not long after that, Ray founded his first record label Delcro Records. Three years later, with his latest business expanding his record store, now called Music City Record Store moved to new premises.

Music City Record Store’s new premises were at 1815 Alcatraz Avenue. Behind the shop, there was an empty space. Ray decided to build a small studio. This meant he could record artists, release their music on his own label and sell them in Music City Record Store. That was the plan. However, things didn’t get off to a good start.

In the early days, Ray recorded everything from jazz, jump blues and gospel in his studio. There was a problem though. The records he recorded and released weren’t selling. Then his luck changed when and R&B quartet called The Stars entered Music City Record Store to record a song midway through 1954.

The song The Stars wanted to record was Annie Pulled A Hum Bug. It  was the answer to The Midnighters’ Annie singles. Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug was a song The Stars wrote. They wrote all their own material.  Melvin Dennis was the lead singer and drummer. He was one of three soldiers from Camp Stoneman army base, thirty miles away in Pittsburgh. Artis Johnson was he other member of The Stars. He was just sixteen and in still in high school. Despite their different backgrounds, The Stars gelled musically. Immediately, Ray like The Stars and decided to take a chance on them. There was one thing he didn’t like, their name.

Ray decided that The Stars should change their name They became The Midnights. There was a problem though. The Midnights could be confused with The Midnighters. So, Ray signed an indemnity, stating that The Stars “were not to be confused with The Midnighters.” Having covered himself legally, he released Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug. 

On its release, Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug was a commercial success. Ray’s luck had changed. Following the success of Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug, Ray decided to release further vocal group singles. However, this wouldn’t include The Midnights. The Camp Stoneman army base closed. Its personnel were sent to other bases. As a result, The Midnights only released one more single, Cheating On Me. However, The Midnights played an important part in Ray’s nascent label. So did the groups on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It.

There’s a total of thirty tracks on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. Of these thirty tracks, twenty-seven have never been released before. They make their debut on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is The Holidays’ Wouldn’t Believe. Recorded on 30th July 1958, Wouldn’t Believe, which sees doo wop meet rock ’n’ roll, has never been released before. There’s also a driving cover of  John and Lonnie Foster’s Hoochi Coochi Man. It was recorded at a session on 12th April 1958. Again, it makes a welcome debut. So does an alternate take of Church Bells Will Ring. This is a later recording, which took place on 21st December 1959. Just like the two previous tracks, Church Bells Will Ring was never released on Music City. Somewhat belatedly, this trio of tracks make a welcome debut and are a reminder of another musical era.

Opening Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is The Holidays’ Wouldn’t Believe. Recorded on 30th July 1958, Wouldn’t Believe, which sees doo wop meet rock ’n’ roll, has never been released before. There’s also a driving cover of  John and Lonnie Foster’s Hoochi Coochi Man. It was recorded at a session on 12th April 1958. Again, it makes a welcome debut. So does an alternate take of Church Bells Will Ring. This is a later recording, which took place on 21st December 1959. Just like the two previous tracks, Church Bells Will Ring was never released on Music City. Somewhat belatedly, this trio of tracks make a welcome debut and are a reminder of the Music City label.

There’s a quartet of tracks from The Klixs on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. The first is It’s All Over, which The Klixs released on Music City in 1958. A soulful and catchy slice of doo wop, this whets your appetite. He-A-Woe is the first of three unreleased tracks from The Klixs. Recorded on 2nd July 1959, it’s a driving, dramatic track that surely influenced surf music. The other two unreleased tracks are Oobie Doobie Baby, an irresistible fusion of rock ’n’ roll and doo wop recorded in 1958. Two years later, The Klixs recorded Bye Bye Louie at a session on 9th August 1960. It’s a doo wop track where hurt and heartbreak shine through. These four tracks are the perfect introduction to The Klixs, one of Music City’s best kept secrets.

In late 1954, The Midnights released She Left Me as a single. This was right at the start of the Music City story. Having changed their name to The Midnights, they released Annie Pulled A Hum-Bug. It was their biggest single. However, the version on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It is an alternate take. This allows us to hear a new take on a Music City classic. Sadly, when the army base The Midnights were stationed at closed, their nascent career was all but over. A reminder of what they were capable of this is Lindy, an unreleased track recorded on 3rd May 1955. Beautiful and melancholy, it’s a reminder of a much more innocent musical era.

The Four Deuces were one of Ray Dobard’s earliest signings to the Music City label. Theirs is a case of what might have been. Although they released a couple of minor hit singles, The Dour Deuces could’ve, and should’ve, reached greater heights. That’s apparent on the five tracks they contribute. They were recorded between April 1955 and 1956. The accusing What’Cha Gonna Do? showcases The Four Deuces’ vocal prowess, literally oozing emotion. Italian Swiss Colony Wine Spot/W-P-L-J, is essentially a jingle cut in May 1955. However, it does demonstrate the Deuces’ soulful side. The Nest Is Warm (But The Goose Is Gone) is a deliciously soulful slice of doo woo from 1956. So is Down It Went aka It Went Down Easy. It’s a fusion of soulful doo wop and R&B. However, Down It Went (aka It Went Down Easy) is The Four Deuces at their best. There’s even a nod to The Drifters, as The Four Deuces at their smooth and soulful best, remind us what they were capable of.

The Gaylarks were founded in Mision High School, San Francisco. Before long, they were one of the city’s most popular and prolific groups. Their first contribution is an a cappella of Teenage Mambo. Written by Ben Richards, it was recorded in 1957, but never released. Somewhere In This World is an uptempo, hopeful slice of doo wop. Recorded in 1957, it was released in 1958, and gave The Gaylarks a local hit single. That’s not the last we’ve heard from The Gaylarks. Look Into The Darkness and Ding Dong are both alternate takes. Neither track has been released before. That’s until now. Recorded back in 1957, these tracks showcase one of Ray Dobard’s  most talented and successful signings as they showcase their unique brand of doo wop. 

My final choice from Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, is If You Really Want To Know, a previously unreleased track recorded in 1958, The Spinners. However, this isn’t The Spinners that enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim under the guidance of Thom Bell. Having said that, The Spinners don’t lack in soulfulness. They combine doo wop and soul on If You Really Want To Know, two minutes of musical magic from Music City.

Featuring thirty tracks, Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It picks up where Music City Vocal Groups-Greasy Love Songs Of Teenage Romance, Regret, Hope and Despair left off. This means classics, old friends, favourites, hidden gems, singles and rarities. Some of the tracks are real rarities.

Some of the tracks are real hidden gems. They’ve never been released before. Indeed, the majority of the tracks have never been released before. Sixteen tracks make their debut on Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It, which was recently released by Ace Records. It’s best described as a tantalising taste of the treasure trove that’s Ray Dobard’s Music City label.

This includes The Holidays, The Klixs, 4 Deuces, The Midnights, Gaylarks, The Holidays, 5 Rovers, The Spinners, The Marcels and The Emeralds. These groups  play their part in what’s described as “a second volume of rare doo woo delights.” These tracks are Uptempo, joyous, emotive, slick, soulful and full of hooks. They’re also a reminder of another musical age.

As musical ages go, it’s a musical age that was much more innocent. Then came Elvis and The Beatles. Music was transformed. The age of innocence was gone. Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll replaced doo wop. No longer did a group of guys sing on the street corner for fun. No. They sung for money, and a taste of what music had to offer. This meant sex, drink, drugs, carnage and chaos. It was a long way from the days of 4 Deuces, The Midnights and The Gaylarks. These days it seemed, were gone forever.

Not any more. Now you can remember what was a much more innocent time, courtesy of Ace Records.  They recently released Music City Vocal Groups-Rock ’N’ Roll It Mambo, Stroll It. It’s the latest chapter in the Music City story, and a reminder of a more innocent musical age.

MUSIC CITY VOCAL GROUPS-ROCK ’N’ ROLL IT, MAMBO, STROLL IT.

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AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

Having founded the Ric and Ron labels in 1958, Joe Ruffino spent the next four years, transforming them into two of New Orleans’ premier independent R&B labels. During this period, artists of the calibre of Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams, Eddie Bo and Eddie Laing released singles on the Ric and Ron labels. Many of these artists were brought to Joe by his A&R men.

This included Edgar Blanchard, Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack. They were Joe’s ears. He  trusted them to find him artists who would bring success to his labels. His three A&R men had a good track record, they’d discovered artists like Irma Thomas and Chris Kenner, before they found fame. 

They were brought to Joe Ruffino and he signed them to his Ric and Ron labels. For the first four years, many of the singles were written or produced by Joe Ruffino.  That presented a problem.

Tragedy struck for the Ruffino family in 1962. Joe died suddenly of a heart attack. He had been the driving force behind the Ric and Ron labels. His drive and determination transformed them from a successful New Orleans label, into a label that was on the verge of nationwide success.

Three singles had transformed the fortunes of Ric and Ron. Joe Jones’ You Talk Too Much started the ball rolling. It was a success across America. Then Johnny Adams’ A Losing Battle and Eddie Bo’s Check Mr. Popeye came close to making a breakthrough nationwide. Joe Ruffino’s four years of hard work had paid off. However, following his death, there was a problem.

Joe was the only member of the Ruffino family who played an active role in the running of Ric and Ron. Following his death, this presented a problem. After all who would succeed Joe? This problem wasn’t unique to the Ruffino family. Many family businesses have problems regarding succession. However, the problem of succession hit the Ric and Ron labels hard.

In 1963, Ric only released two singles. Ron didn’t release any singles. Worse was to come. Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack, Joe’s trusty lieutenants moved to Los Angeles. The men that had been Joe’s ears, headed to the West Coast. As if this wasn’t bad enough, two of Ric and Ron’s top artists left.

The first to go was Eddie Bo. He went on to record for a number of New Orleans’ labels, enjoying a successful career. Johnny Adams recorded two more singles for Ron. They were produced by Walter Quezergue, who would go on to become one of the biggest players in the New Orelans’ soul scene. After the release of Johnny Adams’ two singles, Ric and Ron shut their doors. 

After five years, Ric and Ron, the labels that Joe Ruffino gave birth to, were no more. Joe’s brother-in-law, Joe Assunto became the custodian of Ric and Ron’s master tapes. He repressed many of Ric and Ron’s most successful tracks. Then in the late seventies, Joe Assunto died. 

His daughter took over the running of Joe’s label for a while. Then she moved on to other business ventures. By the late eighties, Rounder Records reissued some of Ric and Ron’s music. That was over a quarter of a century ago. A widespread reissue program of the back-catalogue is well overdue. That’s where Ace Records comes in.

Earlier this year, Ace Records released You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1. This was a tantalising taste, of one of New Orleans’ most important, independent labels. However, there’s much more still to be heard. That includes the twenty-four tracks on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. It was recently released by Ace Records. 

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 features some of the biggest names in the Ric and Ron story. The majority of the music was released between 1960 and 1963. This includes contributions from Bobby Mitchell, Johnny Adams, Tommy Ridgely, Eddie Bo, Martha Carter, Joe Louis and Barbara Lynn, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Bobby Mitchell opens Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 Send Me Your Picture. This is one of two tracks from Bobby. It was released in 1960 on Ron. A dramatic, piano driven arrangement provides the backdrop for Bobby’s needy, hopeful vocal. Bobby’s other contribution is Mama Don’t Allow. This was the the B-Side to There’s Only One Of You. Arranged by Mac Rebenack, it’s an irresistible fusion of pop, R&B and soul.

Given that Johnny Adams played such an important part in the Ric and Ron story, it’s no surprise he features five times on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. His first contribution is Life Is Just A Struggle, the B-Side to his 1961, single on Ric, I Solemnly Promise. It features an emotive, vocal powerhouse from Johnny. There’s also an alternate take of Johnny’s 1961 single The Bells Are Ringing. It’s never been released before, and makes a welcome debut here. Another B-Side was A Losing Battle, which was the B-Side to Who’s Gonna Love You, Johhny’s 1962 single. Penned by John Dauenhauer and Mac Rebenack, despair and despondency are omnipresent in Johhny’s vocal. Showdown was also released in 1962. This was one of Johnny’s 1962 singles. Released on Ric, it features a wistful, hurt-filled vocal. The last contribution from Johnny is the previously unreleased How Come (And Why). Never before has this demo track been released. It’s best described as a hidden, soulful gem, with a nod to Sam Cooke.

There’s a trio of tracks from Tommy Ridgely on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. No wonder. He played an important part in the labels’ rise and rise. Should I Ever Love Again is the first contribution from Tommy. This was the B-Side to his 1961 single Double Eye Whammy. Released on Ric, Tommy lays bare his hurt and heartache for all to see. A year later, In The Same Old Way is the was released on Ric in 1962, and features a heartfelt vocal from one Joe Ruffino’s biggest success stories. Tommy’s final contribution is Honest I Do, the B-Side to I’ve Heard This Story Before. Written by Tommy, Honest I Do was his swan-song for Ric Records, and saw him leave on a soulful high.

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 doesn’t just feature soul men. No. It features soul sisters like Martha Carter.  She features three times. Her first contribution is I Don’t Talk Too Much, her 1960 single. It’s a tongue-in-cheek reply to a Joe Adams single. You Can If You Think You Can was the B-Side to One Man’s Woman. It’s an uptempo jewel written and arranged by Harold Battiste. For Then I’ll Believe, proved to be Martha’s final single. Penned by Eddie Bo, under his Dolores Johnson alias, Martha drops the tempo and releases a feisty, sassy vocal powerhouse. Sadly, not long after the release of Then I’ll Believe, Martha underwent a throat operation which went wrong. This left Martha unable to sing. That day, music lost a hugely talented vocalist.

Eddie Bo has to feature on any compilation of Ric Records and Ron Records. He played such an important part in the labels’ success. Ain’t It The Truth Now is his first contribution. This was the B-Side to his 1960 single Warm Daddy. Released on Ric, it’s soulful and long on hooks. Two years later, Check Mr Popeye gave Eddie a nationwide hit. This slice of R&B helped raise the profile of Joe Ruffino’s burgeoning empire. Baby I’m Wise was Eddie’s Ric Records swan-song. Just like Check Mr Popeye, it was penned by Eddie Bo, under his Dolores Johnson alias. It’s Eddie at his best. He vamps and hollers his way through this driving fusion of R&B and soul.

My final choices from Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 come courtesy of the prolific,  and sometimes, underrated Barbara Lynn. She recorded two demos for Joe Ruffino, Found My Good Thing and Question Of Love. Sadly, they were’t released until 2012. Found My Good Thing is a compelling track. Barbara gently strums a guitar, and delivers a vocal that’s equal parts hurt and hope. Question Of Love is delivered against an equally understated arrangement. That doesn’t matter, as Barbara’s accusing, angry vocal takes centre-stage. Despite these two tracks being demos, it’s apparent Barbara was destined for soul greatness.

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 picks up where You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1 left off. It goes some way to filling in the gaps in the story of Ric Records and Ron Records. There was no happy ending in this story. Just as Joe’s burgeoning empire was taking shape, he died of a heart attack.

Joe had been the driving force behind the Ric and Ron labels. His drive and determination transformed them from a successful New Orleans label, into a label that was on the verge of nationwide success. After Joe’s death, he left behind a huge void.

He was the only member of the Ruffino family who played an active role in the running of Ric and Ron. Following his death, this presented a problem. Who would succeed Joe? There was no answer to this question. None of the other members of the Ruffino family stepped up to the plate. That’s not surprising. They’d no experience of running a record label. Within a year of Joe’s death, the Ric and Ron labels were all but a  memory.

In 1963, Ric only released two singles. Ron didn’t release any singles. Worse was to come. His A&R men jumped ship. Then some of Ric and Ron’s top artists exited stage left. Joe Assunto became the custodian of Ric and Ron’s master tapes. He repressed many of Ric and Ron’s most successful tracks. Then in the late seventies, Joe Assunto died. This, to all intents and purposes was the end of the Ric and Ron story.

Despite this, people were still interested in Ric and Ron’s back-catalogue. It’s never been reissued for twenty-five years. This meant a generation of music lovers have never heard Ric and Ron’s discography. Someone had to rectify this. 

That’s where Ace Records come in. Earlier this year, Ace Records released You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1. This was a tantalising taste, of one of New Orleans’ most important, independent labels. However, there was so much more music still to be heard. That includes the twenty-four tracks on Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2. It was recently released by Ace Records. 

Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2 features some of the biggest names in the Ric and Ron story. The majority of the music was released between 1960 and 1963. This includes contributions from Bobby Mitchell, Johnny Adams, Tommy Ridgely, Eddie Bo and Martha Carter. They all played their part in transforming Ric and Ron from mom and pop labels, to labels on the verge of nationwide success. Then fate intervened.

Who knows what heights Ric and Ron might have reached? Especially with Joe Tuffino at the helm. He surrounded himself with people brought commercial success and critical acclaim to his labels. Edgar Blanchard, Harold Battiste and Malcolm “Mac” Rebenack were Joe’s ears. He trusted them to find him artists who would bring success to his labels. They had a good track record. Who knows who they might have gone on to discover if Joe had lived? 

Maybe now, Ric and Ron would’ve been one of the most important soul labels? Sadly, we’ll never know. What we do know is that Ric and Ron released a wealth of quality soul and R&B. Proof of this is Ain’t That The Truth-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 2, which along with You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1, is the perfect introduction to the Ric and Ron labels.

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 2.

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NIGHTMARES ON WAX-CAR BOOT SOUL.

NIGHTMARES ON WAX-CAR BOOT SOUL.

Have you ever thought after buying an album you know absolutely nothing about, just why you bought it? I have, many times. One of the explanations I’ve come up with, is the album cover. Imagine the scene, your in your local record store.  You need your weekly fix of music, but there seems to be nothing new that you really want. However, you need something new to listen to. You feel that you must buy something. By now, desperation is taking over. The weekend won’t be complete without buying at least one new album. Do you head for the back catalogue section, and buy something buy some overblown, bloated and pompous  1970’s rock band? No. Here’s what many people, myself included do. We look for an interesting album cover. Now sometimes, this works. Other times, the results can be disastrous.

Imagine the scene, you’ve found an album the cover has a psychedelic design, looks interesting you think, so you part with your money, and head home. On arriving home, you put the album on, and it’s the most unlistenable cross between rock and free jazz. Ouch. Often though, the results can be the opposite, and you’re attracted to an album cover, pay your money, and you’ve discovered the most brilliant album. This happened to me back in April 1999, when I discovered the Nightmares On Wax third album, Car Boot Soul. I’m glad I did, because that day, I discovered a downtempo classic, Car Boot Soul. It’s being released as a double album by Warp Records to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Nightmares On Wax.

Back in 1999, Nightmares On Wax were celebrating their tenth anniversary. They’d already released two albums, 1991s A Word Of Science (The 1st & Final Chapter) and  1995s Smokers Delight. It was a downtempo classic. Nightmares On Wax, it seemed were maturing with age. However, they weren’t prolific. Instead, a Nightmares On Wax took around four years to make. That’s not surprising.

When George was recording Car Boot Soul, he didn’t have the technology that’s available today.  DAWs like Ableton Live, Reason 8 and Pro Tools were a thing of the future. So were VSTs. Drum machines, synths, sequencers and samplers were around. The problem with samplers was that their memory was tiny. Sampling required the patience of a musical saint. However, Sampling was one of George Evelyn’s secret weapons when he made Car Boot Soul.

When George Evelyn began recording as Nightmares On Wax, he took a different approach to similar artists. He always records guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals live. Two other ingredients were required when he made the album. One was his trusty drum machine, the other was vinyl, lovely vinyl, and loads of it. George Evelyn is one of the hungriest of crate diggers, and it’s the vinyl that he discovers whilst crate digging in dark and dusty second hand shops. Flea markets are fare game, as well as back street record shops and record fairs. These places are is natural habitat and the gems found there, provide many of the samples on the album. These three things were key to the success of Car Boot Soul, a downtempo classic, which I’ll tell yopu about. 

Car Boot Soul opens with Les Nuits. Immediately, the sound you hear is symphonic, as it sweeps almost grandiosely towards you. On its arrival, you’re smitten, enthralled by its subtle beauty. Slowly, the track opens out. Crisp drums and synths enter. A keyboard meanders, the tempo is slow, and the sound becomes spacious. It’s the keyboard and drums that become the focus of your attention. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, smooth, sweet, vocals interject, making the briefest of appearance. Layer upon layer of sounds emerge over nearly six and a half majestic minutes. During that time, you’ve been fortunate to have heard one of the most beautiful downtempo tracks ever recorded.

As Morse begins, bass and keyboard combine, an effect slightly muffles the sound, a sound that, once you’ve heard it you’re hooked. Then it fades away, the music pauses. You must hear it again. Thankfully, you do. It reappears, during a track that takes its influences from jazz and funk. As the track restarts, a bass plays, keyboards and drums combine. Snatches of vocal samples can be heard. A female vocal sings, her voice sweet, yet subtle. Repetition reinforces this understated and welcome addition. A guitar plays, its laid back jazzy influence joining joyously, adding another dimension. The guitar sounds not unlike George Benson, circa Breezin.’ Then, the most angelic vocal appears. Its appearance is sudden and unexpected, yet very welcome. For the remainder of the track, it soars above the rest of the arrangement. Drum, keyboards and synths bow to its superior sound. It proves to be the icing on the cake, combining with the vocal sample to complete what is a mini masterpiece from George Evelyn.

Ethnic Majority begins with what sounds like a James Last sample. This brings to mind memories of Abigail’s Party and fondue sets. Add in a drum machine, some crisp beats, and you get the picture. Honestly, the sound is pretty pleasing. It’s catchy, infectious, and hook laden. What you’re experiencing is a trip in George Evelyn’s time machine to the seventies. Unlike much of what the seventies had to offer, this is a welcome return to a desolate decade. Its more lounge-esque than downtempo. Like the previous two tracks, Ethnic Majority has worked his magic to produce in interesting, infectiously catchy song, that reminds those of us who are old enough to remember, a distant decade, the seventies.

When Jorge begins, it brings to mind another childhood memory, crackly vinyl. Jorge begins with spacious drums, a sample of a female vocalist plays, repeating the same phrase. Both the sample, and her voice are highly effective. Her voice is high, the sample short. Listen carefully, and you can hear what sounds like crackly vinyl. That reminds me of buying vinyl, taking it home and hearing it crackle, its surface never quite perfect. A warmth can be heard in this track. Whether that’s because when we think of vinyl, we think of a warm sound emerging from our speakers. That’s the case here. For nearly two and half minutes, this glorious sound emerges from the speakers, bringing back memories of the days when vinyl was King, 

Finer begins with bass playing hesitantly, then you hear a scratch, drums crisp and loud join in. Then a female vocalist joins, her vocal sounds as if it’s hidden, just peaking out from the mix. It sounds nicely understated, and quite a contrast to the drums which, crisply and spaciously pound. The arrangement is quite sparse, just bass, drums, vocal and the occasional scratch. This arrangement suits the vocal, it allows your attention to focus on it, there’s little to distract you. Even the drums, don’t distract your attention, they proudly provide the track’s heartbeat. Overall, it’s a melodic melange of sounds, one which has it roots in US hip hop, and one that demonstrates George Evelyn’s talents as an  artist and producer.

At the start of Easejimi, all you hear are drums pounding. Sometimes, a cymbal crashes. Apart from that not much happens, until after twenty-seconds, when suddenly, a rhythm emerges, repeating, then the track bursts into life. Trumpets unite, sounding fabulously funky, behind them, this rhythm plays. By now, a funk drenched, hook laden track has appeared. Rhythms appear, and disappear. Samples enter, only to disappear. Vocals can be heard, brass plays, a hip hop influence shows itself, scratches and vocal stabs, entering the equation. The sound is big, full and you find yourself struggling to take everything in. So much is happening, so many instruments, samples and even styles of music are present. For five and a half minutes, your senses are assailed. They’re a victim of a potpourri of glorious hooks, melodies and rhythms, that leave you marveling at the imagination and talent required to create such a masterful track.

Argha Noah begins with a dull distant sound reverberating, it’s atmospheric and mysterious. A spoken word sample appears, adding to the already dark mood. After this, a bass rumbles, the sound grows. Darkness is still present, as drums hesitantly join what is now, a space age sound. Although still dark, the addition of drums, crashing cymbals and synths slightly lighten the dark and mysterious mood. The track slowly meanders along, space present in the arrangement. Drums and bass play slowly, space between the notes vital, vital to add to the mood. It’s almost like the soundtrack to a science fiction film. A keyboard plays, providing light to the overwhelming darkness. This keyboard fills out the arrangement, filling spaces, but sometimes leaving space, this has the effect of adding to the sense of mystery. At the end of the track, you feel you’ve been on a magical musical journey, a journey through space, to another place, where Argha Noah is their national anthem.

Fire In the Middle when it begins, reminds me of Jose Padilla. It’s the guitar playing on the track, which has a lovely understated quality. Accompanying the guitars, are George Evelyn’s trademark crisp and loud drums, which almost crack, such is the clarity. A bass rumbles, sounding way back in the mix, synths sweep in. Suddenly, this combination has added almost a sweetness to the sound. Like many of the tracks on Car Boot Soul, it’s catchy, so infectious, it’s nearly contagious. Evelyn has ensured the track has hooks a plenty, which draw you in, and enthrall you. It seems one of his secrets is find a catchy sample or synth line, and repeat it many times. Then it almost worms its way into your subconscious, where it lurks, reappearing when you least expect it. Like many tracks on Car Boot Soul, there is a warmth to this track. It’s the musical equivalent of a log fire. 

Survival begins brightly, melodically, with a mixture of drums, bass and keyboards playing. They’re joined by another sweet sounding female vocalist. Here, like on Finer, the vocal sits far back in the mix, sounding slightly hidden. This almost adds a touch of mystery to her. You wonder who she is? who is the owner of this beautiful voice? Similarly to Fire In the Middle, Survival is immediately catchy, hooks are everywhere. George Evelyn is a master of this type of track. Although not immediately noticeable, Survival has quite a full sound. It’s a mixture of a throbbing bass, buried deep in the mix, pounding drums, keyboards, synths and vocals. Overall, this combines beautifully, producing a summery sounding song, that your ears will never tire of hearing.

Car Boot Soul ends with Capuncap, a track that, from the start, is loud and full. Drums pound, the bass pulsates, synths sweep in, announcing their arrival, and strings emerge. It’s an impressive, almost grandiose start to the final track on the album. This sound continues majestically, then just as you’re enjoying letting the many layers of music wash over you, it pauses briefly. It’s as if it’s just allowing you to absorb the music’s power and quality. Thankfully, apart from the occasional brief pause, it’s a continuous flow of music, and Capuncap is a graceful and subtle way to end Car Boot Soul.

Every time I listen to Car Boot Soul, which is being re released as a double album by Warp Records to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Nightmares On Wax, it’s like meeting an old friend. This is an album I’ve listened to more times than I care to remember. Car Boot Soul is an album that is one I constantly return to, and one I never tire of hearing. Each time I listen to the album, I hear new things. Sounds that I’ve never heard before emerge. Subtleties and nuances reveal themselves. That’s why Car Boot Soul, is a much more complex album than you first think.

Especially considering that technology was much less evolved then, than now. Samplers and synths weren’t as good as they are now. Back then, even the computer’s role in making music was in its infancy. Discs full of samples are used now to make music, back then, all George Evelyn had was his trusted vinyl. So when you consider who difficult, and time consuming, it must have been to make this album, he should be commended.

What George Evelyn has produced is one of the finest downtempo albums ever made. That may sound like a big statement. It is, and not one I make lightly. Many other artists made similar albums, but Car Boot Soul stands head and shoulders above them. Car Boot Soul has stood the test of time, the music has a timeless quality, one that just as sounds as good in 2014,  as at did in 1999, when I  first discovered Car Boot Soul’s delights. 

NIGHTMARES ON WAX-CAR BOOT SOUL.

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BOPPIN’ BY THE BAYOU-MADE IN THE SHADE.

BOPPIN’ BY THE BAYOU-MADE IN THE SHADE.

For the last hundred years, Louisiana has been a musical hotbed. It’s given the world cajun, creole, Dixieland, swamp blues, swamp pop and zydeco. That’s not all. Many blues, country and jazz artist were born and bred in Louisiana. Despite being such a musical hotbed, Louisiana was for far too long, been overlooked by compilers.

Instead, compilers headed to Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, New York and Philly. They became favourite destinations for compilers of blues, country and soul compilations. That’s no longer the case. Some compilers dig deeper, much deeper. This includes Ian Saddler the man behind Ace Records Boppin’ In The Bayou compilation series. 

Ian was one of the first compilers to head to Louisiana. Others, realising that Louisiana is a musical treasure trove, have followed in his wake. However, Ian was a trailblazer. He’s now a familiar face in the Bayou state, having compiled nine instalments of the in Boppin’ In The Bayou compilation series. 

For the ninth instalment in Ace Records Boppin’ In The Bayou series, compiler Ian Saddler heads to South Louisiana and South East Texas. That’s where the twenty-eight tracks on the recently released Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade were recorded. 

Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade includes twenty singles and eight previously unreleased tracks. Some of the tracks date back to the late fifties, the golden age of rock ’n’ roll. This includes tracks from Gene Dunlap and The Jokers, Guitar Jeff and The Creoles, Bobby Wheeler and Coastaleers and Gene Rodrigue. These tracks are just the tip of a musical iceberg.

The other sixteen tracks were released between 1960 and 1983. There’s contributions from Joe Carl, Shelby Martin, Gene King and His Mecaton Band, Norman Wood, Pee Wee Trahan, Arnold Broussard and Erwin Babin. Then there’s unreleased tracks.

There’s a total of  eight previously unreleased tracks on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade. This includes contributions from Vorris (Shorty) Leblanc and The Sugar Bees, Pee Wee Trahan, Peto Marlow and The Rhythm Kings, Frankie Lowery and Warren Storm and The Miller House Band. Then there’s two totally intriguing tracks.

The identity of the artists who recorded Can’t Stand This Living Alone and John (Don t Love Me No More) are unknown. Can’t Stand This Living Alone was recorded in J.D. Miller’s studio. However, despite the best efforts of Ian Saddler, the identity of the singer is unknown. This is also the case with John (Don t Love Me No More). Ian has been unable to identify the band who feature on John (Don t Love Me No More). Hopefully, someone listening to Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade will recognise these hidden gems. However, there’s many more hidden gems on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Opening Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade is the first of two tracks from Gene Dunlap & Jokers, Made In The Shade. It was released on Hitt Records in 1957. Written by Gene Dunlap, this is a track that harks back to the golden age of rock ’n’ roll. It explodes into life. What follows is best described as joyous and dance-floor friendly. This proves the perfect start to Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade. Gene’s other contribution is Because I Love Her. It’s in a similar vain to Made In The Shade. Penned by Gene, it was the B-Side to the 1960 single on Hitt, What A Fool I’ve Been. Because I Love Her is a hook-laden hidden gem.

Singer and songwriter Clifford Trahan released singles as under a number of aliases. One of them was Pee Wee Trahan, who features twice on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade. His first contribution is Baby Hurry Home. It was written by Clifford and J.D. Miller.  It was released as a single in 1974, and is a fusion of country and rock ’n’ roll. Pee Wee’s other contribution is the previously unreleased Keeping All My Loving. It’s a guitar driven ballad that showcases Pee Wee’s skills as a singer and songwriter. 

Joe Carl released Too Hot To Handle in 1960. It was recorded at J.D. Miller’s studios. Accompanying Joe, were The Dukes Of Rhythms, a South Louisiana swamp pop band. They’d been formed by Joe Barry. However, Joe parted company with The Dukes. Saxophonist Harry Simmoneaux asked Joe to replace Joe Barry. He also cowrote Too Hot To Handle with Joe Carl. It sounds not unlike Too Much Monkey Business. Despite this, it’s a glorious melange of blues, R&B and rock ’n’ roll.

By 1959, Jimmy Dart was playing with Gene Dunlap and The Jokers. He was a talented singer and multi-instrumentalist. Jimmy could switch seamlessly between drums, guitar and piano. It was time for him to take centre-stage. So in 1959, as Jimmy Dart and Gene Dunlap and The Jokers, he recorded Please Don’t Doubt My Love. It’s a single that oozes quality. 

Released on the Texas based Hitt label, Please Don’t Doubt My Love failed commercially. Despite this, Jimmy went on to enjoy a long career, playing until his death in 2000.

Singer and songwriter Arnold Broussard features twice on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade. He wrote both tracks. His first contribution is Somebody Knocked At My Door. It was released on Flyright Records’ 1980 compilation Boppin’ It. Moody and bluesy, it’s a cathartic outpouring of pain and hurt. Has Anyone Seen Spider? also featured on Boppin’ It. It sees the tempo rise and Arnold fuse elements of blues, R&B and rock ’n’ roll. Irresistible, dance-floor friendly and full of hooks, Has Anyone Seen Spider? is one of the highlights of Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade. Tragically, Spider who the song is about, died in the same car crash that killed Arnold. 

Not much is known about Johnny Bass. Rumour has it, that he was a hillbilly singer from Oklahoma. He contributes Don’t So Slow, which was recorded at J.D. Miller’s studio, Crowley, Louisiana. It featured on Flyright Records’ 1980 compilation Bayou Boogie. Johnny’s other contribution, Boppin’ it, features on Flyright Records’ 1980 compilation Boppin’It. These two compilations introduced music lovers to one of Louisiana music’s best kept secrets, Johnny Bass.

From the opening bars of Mickey Galley’s My Baby s Cheatin On Me, three words came into my mind…Jerry Lee Lewis. That’s no surprise, as Mickey and Jerry are cousins. Some of Jerry’s talent and charisma have rubbed of. My Baby s Cheatin On Me was recorded during the sixties at J.D. Miller’s studio. It’s an irresistible two minute soap opera, where cheating, hurt and heartbreak are omnipresent. Sadly, My Baby s Cheatin On Me was released until 1983, when it featured on a Flyright Records’ compilation.

There can’t be a compilation of music from Louisiana without some zydeco. It comes courtesy of Vorris (Shorty) Leblanc and All The Sugar Bees. He’s a talented accordionist who made his name playing with the Venicor Brothers. By the late fifties, Vorris was the singer with Cleveland Crotcher’s Hillbilly Ramblers. He featured on their classic Midnight Blues. After that, his solo career began. Kaw Liga was a cover of a Hank Williams song, that was released on Goldband Records. This is a previously unreleased stomping track, that was recorded at J.D. Shuler’s studios. It’s a tantalising taste of zydeco from Vorris (Shorty) Leblanc and All The Sugar Bees.

Back in 1962. Norman Wood released Black Lake Boogie on Tamm. Penned by Norman Wood, there’s briefly a nod to Bill Haley and The Comet’s Rock Around The Clock. Black Lake Boogie is thought to be Norman’s only record. Norman’s wandering vocal is accompanied by a tight, talented band. They play their part in an antediluvian slice of rockabilly.

Warren Storm is another artist who features twice on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade. He’s a familiar face to veterans of the Boppin’ By The Bayou series, having featured on every instalment. No wonder. Whether it’s playing drums or singing, Warren goes down a Storm. That’s the case on his version of Clifton Chernier and Jerry West’s Hey Ma Ma. Not only does he keep a jazz-tinged beat, but delivers a needy, pleading vocal. Accompanying him are braying horns and a pounding piano. It’s a musical masterclass. This Storm hasn’t blown out. He makes a welcome return on the previously unreleased Crowley Stomp. Never has a track been so aptly titled.

The version of Frankie Lowery’s Hey Little Girl on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade has never been released before. It’s an alternate take of a single released during  Frankie’s short and sadly, unsuccessful time at Columbia. This slice of rockabilly was recorded at J.D. Miller’s studio. On its release, it never troubled the charts. Despite that, Frankie went on to enjoy a long career. That’s no surprise, given how good a voice he has.

My final choice from Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade is Paul Marvin’s Cinderella. He’s another artist who we know very little about. What we do know, is he certainly didn’t lack talent. That’s apparent on the previously unreleased Cinderella, which epitomises everything that’s good about New Orleans rock ’n’ roll.

One thing never ceases to surprise me about the music of Louisiana, its sheer variety. That’s apparent on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade. There’s everything from blues, country, jazz, R&B, rockabilly, rock ’n’ roll and zydeco. This eclecticism makes Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade a delicious musical roller coaster. Maybe a better comparison, is Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. It’s a case of “you never know what you’re gonna get.” That’s part of the fun on  as compiler Ian Saddler takes you on a journey to South Louisiana and South East Texas. 

That’s where the music on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade was recorded. Familiar faces from previous volumes of the By The Bayou series sit next to newcomers. Similarly, singles, album tracks, unreleased tracks and hidden gems rub shoulders. They’ve one thing in common, is their quality. Sometimes, that’s not all.

Many of the tracks are dance-floor friendly. That is an understatement. They’re akin to a call to dance. Resistance is impossible. All you can do is submit to the call to dance.  Much of the music on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade is also a reminder of a much more innocent musical age.

Especially with the tracks from the late fifties. This was the golden age of rock ’n’ roll. Tracks from Gene Dunlap and The Jokers, Guitar Jeff and The Creoles, Bobby Wheeler and Coastaleers and Gene Rodrigue feature on Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade. Then there’s contributions from Joe Carl, Shelby Martin, Gene King and His Mecaton Band, Norman Wood and Pee Wee Trahan. Many of these tracks are a reminder of much more innocent times. That’s also the case with some of the tracks that weren’t released until the eighties. They were recorded in the sixties, but didn’t make their musical debut until released on compilations released by Flyright Records. Now thirty years later, these same tracks will be heard by a new generation of music lovers.

This isn’t new. For the past few years, music lovers old and new, are discovering the music of Louisiana, thanks to Ace Records’ By The Bayou series. Compiled by Ian Saddler, Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade is the ninth instalment in the By The Bayou series. Just like a fine wine, By The Bayou series is maturing with age. Boppin’ By The Bayou-Made In The Shade, which was recently released by Ace Records, is the best, and most eclectic and dance-floor friendly, in the By The Bayou series. 

BOPPIN’ BY THE BAYOU-MADE IN THE SHADE.

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1970s ALGERIAN PROTO-RAI UNDERGROUND.

1970s ALGERIAN PROTO-RAI UNDERGROUND.

As the seventies dawned, Algerian music was changing. For the next ten years, Algerian music, was constantly evolving. This included Rai music. It was a controversial style of music, that originally came to prominence at the start of the twentieth century. 

Rai music Rai music was first heard in Oran, an industrial port in northwest Algeria. Influenced by Bedouin music, Rai music was mostly sung by women. They were accompanied with derbouka and bendirhythms. The finishing touch was the unique, wailing sound of the Gasba flute. Before long, Rai music’s popularity spread.

No longer was Rai music heard just in Oran. Soon, Rai music became a musical phenomenon. It was heard in the towns and villages in the Wahran area. In cafes, bars and at weddings, Rai music was the soundtrack to daily life and festivities. However, this didn’t mean Rai singers were treated like stars.

Far from it. In the early days, the Rai singers, who were referred to as sheiks, were perceived as outcasts. This continued to be the case in the thirties. 

In Rai music, the thirties was the age of the innovator This was when Sheika Rimitti, Sheika Khaldi and Djillali Ain Tedless made a breakthrough. They were true pioneers. Their lyrics were full of social comment and controversy. Nothing was off-limits. Issues weren’t skirted around. Instead, they were tackled head on. This didn’t go down well within the Algerian establishment. They accused the innovators of celebrating sex, sin, depravity and degeneracy. By doing this, this didn’t help the cause of the Rai singers. They were still seen as outcasts. However, this would soon begin to change.

Radios and records were much more commonplace. They had made their way into  more and more homes. This raised the profile of the Rai singers, whose music was beginning to change.

The stylistic changes in Rai music was as a result of people who had immigrated to Algeria. This included Egyptian, French and Spanish settlers. Their music played a part in the evolution of Rai music. Everything from flamenco, Mambo, Egyptian classical, Parisian cabaret and pop began to influence Rai music. One of the most influential and innovative artists was Blaoui Houari. He and a number of pioneering musicians ensured that never again, would Rai music be the same.

For the next few years, Algerian music veered between evolution and revolution. The Wahrani sound had changed. Arrangements changed. So did the instruments that musicians used. Then as the seventies dawned, Algerian music was forced to change.

By the early seventies, Algerian music was forced to go underground. It had too. Censors controlled what could be heard on the radio. They censored lyrics. If a song fell foul of the censor, it was banned. For Algerian musicians, they had no option but to go underground.

The Wahran seaside towns, proved a popular place for Algerian musicians looking to escape the reach of the censor. This included Belkacem Bouteldja, Cheik Benfissa, Boutaïba Sghir, Groupe El Azhar and Messaoud Bellemou. Their careers thrived during the early seventies. Espeically Messaoud Bellemou’s. His L’Orchestre Bellemou rewrote the musical rulebook.

Never before, had anyone used modern instruments or the trumpet in Wahrani music. That’s until L’Orchestre Bellemou did. This was a game-changer. Suddenly, all bets were off.

Suddenly, anything was possible in Wahrani music. Trumpets sat side-by-side with violins, synths, drums, derboukas and accordions. Elements of reggae, rock, jazz and Bollywood melted into one. Soundtracks also proved an inspiration for this new generation of innovative musicians. Then as the seventies drew to a close, Cheb Zurgui decided to experiment musically.

Cheb bought an instrument that had never been heard in Wahrani music. This was an electric guitar. To this, he added a wah wah pedal. Suddently, Wahrani music met Jimi Hendrix.  It seems remarkable that nobody had thought of this before. However, just like L’Orchestre Bellemou, this proved a game changer.

So it’s fitting that Cheb Zurgui features on 1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground, which was recently released by Sublime Frequencies. It features eight tracks from Bellemou and Benfissa, Groupe El Azhar, Boutaïba Sghir and Cheb Zergui. For newcomers to Algerian Proto-Rai, then  1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground is the perfect starting place. You’ll realise why when I tell you about 1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground.

Bellemou and Benfissa’s Li Maandouche L’Auto opens 1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground. Their first contribution is  Li Maandouche L’Auto (He, Who Doesn’t Own A Car). Bellemou Messaoud, the The Father of Raï, plays trumpet and guitarist Cheb Benfissa play their part in an irresistible fusion of influences. The starting point is Rai. Add to that elements of funk, jazz and Latin music. There’s even a nod to Afrobeat in the drums and percussion. Lah Lah Ya S’Habi is Bellemou and Benfissa’s other track. It translates as My God! My God! My Friends! It’s a fusion of drama, spirituality and frantic percussion. Punctuating the arrangement are ferocious stabs of trumpet. However, it’s a heartfelt, spiritual and soulful vocal that’s at the heart of the song’s success.

Groupe El Azhar also feature twice on 1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground. Mazal Nesker Mazal (I’m Still Getting Drunk…Still) is their first contribution. It’s sung in a call and response style, as an accordion drives the arrangement along. Stabs of horns punctuate an arrangement that’s a mixture of folk, jazz and Rai. Touedar Aakli (My Reason Is Lost), was the B-Side to Talle Tayella. It was released on the Oasis Disques. Stylistically, it’s similar to Mazal Nesker Mazal. Having said that, it’s infectiously catchy, and is akin to a call to dance.

It was in the late sixties Boutaïba Sghir’s career began. Soon, he was playing an important role in Algeria’s underground musical scene during the seventies. This included collaborating with Boussouar El Maghnaoui, Bouteldja Belkacem and Gana El Maghnaoui. So important is the role Boutaïba played in Rai music, that he’s referred to as one of the fathers of Modern Raï. A hugely talented vocalist, he breathes life, meaning and emotion into tracks like Dayha Oulabes (I’ll Marry Her Whether They Like It Or Not), Malgre Tout (Despire Everything) and El Fermlia (Nurse). His pain, determination and hurt, shine through, on these three tracks. Boutaïba Sghir would influence the next generation of musicians, including Cheb Zergui, who closes 1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground.

1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground closes with Cheb Zergui’s Ana Dellali. It’s a case of keeping the best until last. Cheb is without doubt, an innovative musician. He was the first person to use an electric guitar and wah wah pedal in Rai music. On Ana Dellali (I Cuddle Myself), Cheb evokes the spirit of Hendrix. His impassioned, heartfelt pleading vocal is accompanied by a hypnotic, funky arrangement. It showcases one Algeria’s most talented and visionary musicians.

For anyone with a passing interest in Algerian music, then 1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground is the perfect starting place. It features eight tracks, from four artists, who played a huge role in the rise and rise of Rai music, during the seventies. These eight tracks are sure to whet your appetite.

After immersing yourself in 1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground, you’ll want to hear more music from one of the most important decades in the history of modern Algerian music. There’s much more to Rai music in the seventies than these eight tracks. 1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground is just the start of this musical journey. Surely, further compilations of Rai music from the seventies must follow?  I hope so. 

Hopefully, the next compilation of Rai music Sublime Frequencies release, will last more than forty-three minutes. That’s all 1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground lasts. The journey is almost over before it begins. However, at least 1970’s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground is a truly memorable musical journey, that’s bound to appeal to music lovers with eclectic and adventurous musical tastes.

1970s ALGERIAN PROTO-RAI UNDERGROUND.

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PERU BRAVO-FUNK, SOUL AND PSYCH FROM PERU’S RADICAL DECADE.

PERU BRAVO-FUNK, SOUL AND PSYCH FROM PERU’S RADICAL DECADE.

By 1965, it wasn’t just America and Britain that were in the throes of a musical revolution. No. This was musical revolution whose tentacles reached much further afield. Word spread as far afield as Africa, Australasia, Europe and Latin America. That had been the case since The Beatles released Love Me Do in 1962. Since then, the sixties started to swing. However, in 1965, music started to change. Things got psychedelic. That meant the start of another revolution.

Gil Scott Heron once sung that The Revolution Won’t Be Televised. In Peru, in 1965, the revolution was televised. That’s when Los Saicos made their television debut. Musically, that was a game changer.

The music Los Saicos’ played on that never to be forgotten day in 1965, has variously described as a garage or garage punk. Whichever way you describe Los Saicos’ music, it was certainly revolutionary. So much so, that they sparked an underground musical revolution.

What followed, is best described has been described as “fuzz, funk and flower power.” Peruvian music was never the same. 

Throughout Peru, a generation of young people decided to form bands. They were spurred on by the music that was being imported into Peru. This included the music that was sweeping America, Britain and Europe by storm. Soon, Peru was swinging. Then it was all change. The age of the garage band arrived. This inspired a generation of aspiring Peruvian musicians.

Just like punk eleven years later, garage bands made music sound easy. All you needed were a few instruments. They didn’t need to be new. In keeping with the genre’s image, the more battered the better. So, a generation of Peruvians beg, stole and borrowed musical instruments. They learnt the rudiments of these instruments, and before long, were forming bands.

Some of these bands were more successful than others. In some cases, it was a case of here today, gone tomorrow. Impromptu jam sessions took place throughout Peru. Sometimes, though, bands stayed together long enough to record a single.

This was repeated throughout the rest of the sixties, and into the early seventies. The only thing that changed was the music. After Peru’s garage bands laid down their instruments, psychedelia became the musical flavour of the month. It was a case of flower power, peace, love and patchouli. This was the case for the next few years. However, psychedelia wasn’t the only show in town.

Throughout the late sixties, soul was popular in Peru. This isn’t surprising. Soul music was imported into Peru. It became a popular musical genre. Soon, Peru had their own soul stars. This would be the case as a new decade dawned.

As the sixties became the seventies, psychedelia was no longer as popular. The Age Of Aquarius was almost over. Soul was still popular. It continued to evolve and reinvent itself. However, in the early seventies, funk became much more popular. People were realising there was more to funk than James Brown.

Funk was thriving by the early seventies. Its popularity had grown since funk announced its arrival in the mid-sixties. Now,a new generation of funk singers and bands were releasing albums. This included Sly and The Family Stone, Funkadelic, Parliament, Fatback Band and the Ohio Players. Their music was winning friends and influencing people far and wide. This included in Peru.

Peruvians were won over by funk. They first heard funk via the records that were imported into Peru. Soon, they embraced funk. Just like they had with psychedelia and soul, it became part of their musical culture.

Just like previous musical genres, Peruvian musicians released their own funk singles. Some of these singles were one-off, never to be repeated hidden gems. Other groups enjoyed longer, more successful careers. This was how it had been for a while. 

Bands burst onto the Peruvian music scene in a blaze of glory, the released a glorious single, but are never heard of again. Meanwhile, other groups enjoy a steady rise. They enjoy successful careers. Peru was no different from America, Britain or Europe. 

The only difference is no record label has reissued the music these Peruvian psychedelic, soul and funk records. That’s until now. Tiger’s Milk Records, an imprint of Strut Records, released Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade on 6th October 2014. It features fifteen funky, soulful and psychedelic tracks, from what was one of the most traumatic times in Peruvian political history. 

Peru, during the sixties and seventies, was a country divided. It was on the cusp of cataclysmic change. Cuban communists were inspiring their Peruvian comrades. They used guerrilla tactics to try and win political power. This was a dangerous business. 

Right up until 1963, Peru was ruled by a military junta. The junta were ruthless. Dissidents risked “disappearing.” Despite this, the rebels didn’t give up. Eventually, after two elections, Peru became a democracy in June 1963. Sadly, democracy lasted five short years.

In 1968, the armed forces staged a military coup. Juan Velasco Alvaradoo took power. He ruled Peru between 1968 to 1975. His title was President of the Revolutionary Government. It was only in 1975, that democracy was re-established, when General Francisco Morales Bermúdez came to power. Throughout this turbulent decade, the music on Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade, provided a backdrop to the Peruvian revolution.

This includes tracks from Laghonia, Traffic Sound, Cacique, Thee Image, Black Sugar, Los Belkings, Jeriko and Los Comandos. These groups provided the musical backdrop as Peru struggled for democracy. Many of these singles have long been forgotten. Most of them won’t have been heard outside of Peru. That’s until now. They make their debut on Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Laghonia’s Bahia opens Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade. This is a track from their 1971 debut album Glue. It was released on the Mag label. Bahia had originally been released by Saul and Manuel Cornejo as a single. It’s best described as a glorious slice of garage beat psychedelia that’s long on hooks.

Traffic Sound is a name well be familiar to many music lovers. Their contribution is La Camita. It was written by Traffic Sound and released on the Sono Radio in 1971. It’s psychedelic, funky and features some Santana-esque guitars. There’s even a nod to The Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Add to that an irresistible Latin influence and what more can you want?

Not much is known about Cacique. Mostly, the recorded for the El Virrey label. A student band, Cacique recorded on an ad hoc basis. Their label wanted a new single, they turned up and laid down two sides. This was the case in 1972, when they recorded Cacique, a blistering fusion of funk, Latin, psychedelia, rock and drama.

The Meters recorded the original version of Cissy Strut. Then in 1969, Los Holy’s covered Cissy Strut. It was the B-Side to their single Hawaii Cinco O. Cissy Strut is transformed. Nervy, edgy drums, searing scorching guitars and washes of Hammond organ melt into one, on this fusion of funk, Latin, psychedelia and rock.

Things get soulful, sassy and funky with Thee Image’s Outasit. It was released as a single in 1969. Cooing harmonies accompany Richie Zellon’s needy, heartfelt vocal. Behind him, the arrangement is best described as psychedelic soul. It’s yin to Richie’s yang. Sadly, this hidden gem was Thee Image’s only single. They split-up, with Richie and Manuel Flores, taking different musical roads.

Black Sugar’s Cheean is an uber funky track. It’s taken from from their 1974 sophomore album Black Sugar II. Cheean literally explodes into life. What follows is a five minute fusion of funk, jazz, soul and rock. Frantic, funky, furious and innovative describes this genre melting track.

In 1971, Telegraph Avenue were one of the best bands in the Lima music scene. Their music was a marriage of psychedelic rock and Latin rhythms. Telegraph Avenue released their eponymous debut album in 1971. One of the highlights was Sungaligali, a track that’s soulful, explosive, dramatic and irresistible. 

Covering a classic is never easy. Jeriko realised that when they covered Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe in 1971. Jeriko realise that Jimi is responsible for the definitive version. So Hey Joe is given a makeover. The tempo rises and Jeriko combine hypnotic Latin rhythms with a twist of rock. What follows is a complete remake of a classic. It veers between ethereal and soulful to mesmeric and urgent.

Los Nuevos Shains had been around since 1964. This makes them one of Peru’s first underground bands. Later, the band split into The Thomas Pepper Smelter and Los Nuevos Shains. Sadly, Los Nuevos Shains only ever released one album a couple of singles. Their musical swan-song was the single that featured Pancito Caliente. Released in 1970, Latin rhythms, rock and psychedelia unite seamlessly and peerlessly. 

Given Peru was in the throws of a revolution, it’s apt that Los Comandos’ El Sermon is my final choice from Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade. El Sermon was released in 1970, before Los Comandos released their only album Moby Dick.  Psychedelic, funky and jazz tinged, El Sermon becomes a driving jam where Los Comandos showcase their versatility and talent.

Choosing the highlights of Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade wasn’t easy. After all, Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade is literally crammed full of quality music. There’s funk, soul, psychedelia and rock. Add to that Latin rhythms and jazz. This music was produced during one of the most turbulent periods in Peruvian political history.

During the period Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade covers, Peru was ruled by a military junta. Inspired by Cuban communists, Peruvian freedom fighters used guerrilla tactics to try and win political power. Eventually, they succeeded in 1975. At last, Peru was free. However, despite living under the military junta, Peru’s underground musical scene was thriving.

Peru was no different to America or Britain. New groups sprung up on a daily basis. Some groups lasted longer than others. . In some cases, it was a case of here today, gone tomorrow. Using instruments that were begged, stolen and borrowed, impromptu jam sessions took place throughout Peru. Sometimes, though, bands stayed together long enough to record a single. This included those on Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade which was released by Tiger’s Milk Records, an imprint of Strut Records on 6th October 2014. 

The fifteen groups on Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade are a tantalising taste of the music produced during Peru’s turbulent political past. However, there’s much more music from this period awaiting discovery. 

Compilers Duncan Ballantyne, Andres Tapia and Martin Morales realise this. They know their way around Peruvian music. Their previous compilation Peru Maravilloso: Vintage Latin, Tropical and Cumbia, proves this. It was released to critical acclaim back in November 2013. Nearly a year later, and Tiger’s Milk Records’ return with another genre-melting compilation of Peruvian music, Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade. However, it’s been well worth the wait.

After all, Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade is a glorious musical melting pot of influences and genres. That’s why Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade is one of the best compilations of 2014. Tiger’s Milk Records seem to concentrate on quality, rather than quantity. That’s no bad things. Too many labels churn out mediocre compilations. Not Tiger’s Milk Records. They dig deep into the treasure trove that’s Peruvian music and compil genre-melting compilations of quality music like Peru Bravo-Funk, Soul and Psych From Peru’s Radical Decade.

PERU BRAVO-FUNK, SOUL AND PSYCH FROM PERU’S RADICAL DECADE.

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VASHTI BUNYAN-HEARTLEAP.

VASHTI BUNYAN-HEARTLEAP.

For thirty-two years, Vashti Bunyan was one of music’s best kept secrets. Vashti’s music was almost unknown outside of a small, loyal coterie of music lovers. This included a new generation of folk singers, including Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. Their careers were influenced by Vashti Bunyan, and especially, her 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day. 

Five years after Vashti’s career began in 1965, she released her debut album Just Another Diamond Day. It was well received upon its released on  Phillips, in 1970. Sadly, Just Another Diamond Day failed commercially. This lead to Vashti retiring from music. She was gone, but not forgotten.

Over the next thirty-two years, gradually, Just Another Diamond Day found the audience it deserved. It was reappraised by a new generation of music lovers and critics. They realised that Just Another Diamond Day was a long lost classic. This resulted in Vashti Bunyan making a welcome return to music in 2002. The story that began in 1965, picked up where it left off in 2002.

Vashti Bunyan was just twenty when she was “discovered” by Andrew Loog Oldham. This wasn’t the direction Vashti envisaged her career heading when she left her London home and headed to the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, an art school at Oxford University. 

The dreaming spires of Oxford University weren’t for Vashti Bunyan. It was a familiar story. Vashti failed to turn up for classes. Eventually, Vashti was expelled from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. For Vashti Bunyan, this proved to be the start of a new chapter in her career.

Aged just eighteen, Vashti headed to New York. This was 1963. Bob Dylan had just released his classic album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Vashti discovered Bob Dylan’s music. The gateway to Bob Dylan’s music was his opus, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Having immersed herself in Bob Dylan’s music, Vashti realised what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. She wanted to be a musician.

So Vashti headed home to London. It was there that she encountered Andrew Loog Oldham, The Rolling Stones’ manager. He spotted Vashti’s potential and became her manager. In June 1965, Vashti Bunyan released her debut single as Vashti.

This was no ordinary single. It was a single penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind had originally been released by The Rolling Stones on 13th February 1964. Just sixteen months later, the Jagger-Richards’ penned Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind was released in June 1965 on Decca. For Vashti, this was an inauspicious debut. It failed to chart. Maybe her sophomore single would fare better?

It wasn’t until May 1966, that Vashti Bunyan released her sophomore single. This was Train Song. Produced by Peter Snell, Train Song was released on Columbia. Lightning struck twice. Train Song disappeared without trace. For Vashti, her nascent musical career seemed to have stalled. 

For the next two years, very little was heard of Vashti. Her only appearance was on The Coldest Night of the Year, a track from Twice as Much’s sophomore album That’s All. That proved to be an ironic title, as that’s all that was heard from Vashti during that period of her career.

Although Vashti released other songs for Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records, they were never released. For Vashti, this must have been disappointing. Maybe that’s why Vashti  and her then partner, Robert Lewis, decided to head off on a road trip.

This was very different to Jack Kerouac’s legendary road trip in On The Road. Vashti and Robert headed off to the Hebridean Islands by horse and cart. That was where singer- songwriter Donavan, a friend of Vashti, had planned to established a commune. This trip proved to be inspirational for Vashti.

During the road trip to the Hebridean Islands, Vashti wrote the songs that featured on her 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day. It would be produced by Joe Boyd, who Joe met at Christmas, 1968. 

It was through a mutual friend that Vashti and Joe Boyd met. When Joe saw the songs, he immediately offered Vashti the chance to record an album of her travelling songs for his Witchseason Productions. However, this didn’t happen immediately.

Just Another Diamond Day.

A year later, in 1969, Vashti returned to London to record her debut album Just Another Diamond Day, with Joe Boyd. Vashti had no band. This didn’t matter. An all-star folk band would join Vashti on Another Diamond Day. 

This included Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol from Fairport Convention. They were joined by the Incredible String Band’s Robin Williamson. The final piece of the jigsaw was string arranger, Robert Kirby. Just like Joe Boyd, Robert Kirby would go on to work with Nick Drake. Before that, they worked on Just Another Diamond Day, which was recorded at Sound Techniques Studios, in London. Just Another Diamond Day was then released in December 1970.

When Just Another Diamond Day was released in December 1970, it was well received by critics. They appreciated Vashti Bunyan’s new sound. She was now a fully fledged folk singer. This suited Vashti. Just Another Diamond Day veered between pastoral, ethereal, lush, understated, rural, melancholy, cerebral and cinematic. Sadly, when Just Another Diamond Day was released, it failed commercially. Vashti took this badly.

She retired from music after the commercial failure of Just Another Diamond Day. At first, Vashti stayed in one of The Incredible String Band’s Glen Row cottages. After that, Vashti moved to Ireland, and then settled in to Scotland. For the next thirty years, Vashti settled into family life. She had three children. As her children grew up, little did Vashti realise that somewhat belatedly, Just Another Diamond Day found the audience it so richly deserved.

Since her retirement in 1970, gradually, Another Diamond Day found the audience it deserved. It was reappraised by a new generation of music lovers and critics. Among Just Another Diamond Day’s fans, were a new generation of musicians who had been influenced by Vashti Bunyan. They realised that Just Another Diamond Day, which was reissued in 2000, was a long lost classic. Eventually, Vashti Bunyan decided to make a welcome return to music in 2002.

This started with Vashti making guest appearances on Piano Magic’s 2002 single Writers Without Homes. Two years later, Piano Magic and Vashti collaborated on the Saint Marie E.P. This was just the start of a string of guest appearances and collaborations Vashti made.

Vashti’s next collaboration was on Devendra Banhart’s 2004 album Rejoicing In The Hands. This was quite fitting. Vashti is credited as the Queen of freak folk. Devendra Banhart was one of her disciples. It was a case of two generations of freak folk collaborating. This wasn’t the last of Vashti’s collaborations.

A year later, Vashti worked with another band who were influenced by her music. This was Animal Collective. Vashti appeared on their 2005 E.P. Prospect Hunter. However, the most important release for Vashti in 2005 was her sophomore album Lookaftering.

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Lookaftering.

It had been a long time coming. Thirty-five years to be precise. However, eventually, Vashti made a very welcome return to the studio. The result was her sophomore album Lookaftering.

On Lookaftering, Vashti was joined by some of the artists she had influenced. This included Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom. A familiar face was Robert Kirby, who played such an important part in Vashti’s 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day. He played trumpet and French horn on Lookaftering, which was released on Fat Cat Records, in October 2005.

Just like when Just Another Diamond Day was released December 1970, Lookaftering was released to critical acclaim. Lookaftering was released to an appreciative audience. Understated, ethereal, cerebral, beautiful and ruminative, Lookaftering was a return to form from a reflective, philosophical Vashti. Older and wiser, Vashti Bunyan had matured with age. Surely, it wouldn’t be long before Vashti released her third album?

That’s proved not to be the case. Nine years have passed since Vashti released Lookaftering, Valerie released her third album Heartleap on Fat Cat Records. 

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Heartleap.

Heartleap features nine songs written by Vashti. She plays acoustic guitar and is accompanied by a small, talented band. 

This includes strings courtesy of Fiona Bruce, Ian Burdge and Gillian Cameron. Guitarists Garth Dickson and Andy Cabic are joined by Jo Mango on kalimba and dulcimer. Saxophonist Ian Wilson also plays recorder. Devendra Banhart, who featured on Lookaftering, makes a welcome return, adding backing vocals. These musicians played their part in the recording of Heartleap.

When Heartleap was released, critics hailed the album as a return to form from Vashti Bunyan. Thirty-five years after turning her back on music, and twelve years since she stepped back into the limelight, the Queen of Psych Folk was back, and better than ever.

Across The Water opens Heartleap. Just acoustic guitars and plucked strings accompany Vashti’s tender, wistful vocal. There’s a sense of sadness and melancholy in her vocal. That’s apparent when she sings: “every day is every day.” Later, strings tug at your heartstring, as Vashti sings: “learn to fall with the grace of it all.” This mixture of ethereal beauty and melancholy is the perfect way to open any album, never mind a long awaited comeback album like Heartleap.

Vashti’s vocal on Holy Smoke is breathy and understated. There’s an ethereal quality to her vocal. Guitars and synths accompany her. They create a mesmeric backdrop. Then sharp flourishes of strings enter. They’re joined by tender bursts of harmonies. However, what holds your attention is Vashti’s tender vocal and melancholy lyrics, including: “I’m only as lonely as I want to be.” The pastoral beauty of  Holy Smoke is a reminder of what music lost when Vashti turned her back on music in 1970.

Mother is another piano lead song. You’re drawn in by the piano. You wonder where the song is heading. Vashti almost pounds the keys. Then when her wistful vocal enters, it’s quite a contrast. Accompanied by strings, there’s a sadness in Vashti’s vocal as she remembers her mother, as she sits playing the piano and smiling. This beautiful song is a snapshot of Vashti’s younger life.

As Jellyfish unfolds, an unlikely combination of instruments accompany Vashti. A recorder is joined by synths, acoustic guitar, plucked strings and synths. They enveloped Vashti’s lilting, dreamy vocal. Adding the finishing touches are swathes of lush strings. They play their part a dreamy, lysergic song.

Some of the arrangements on Heartleap have a sparseness. That’s the case at the start of Shell. Just meandering, chiming guitars and synths combine. They’re provide the backdrop for Vashti’s heartfelt vocal When her vocal drops out, the arrangement is panned. This proves effective. It holds your attention. Never does your mind stray. Not when Vashti is veering between storyteller and philosopher. Imagery and metaphors are omnipresent as a worldweary Vashti delivers some cerebral lyrics.

Straight away, The Boy has a cinematic quality. The lyrics paint pictures in your mind’s eye. As Vashti sings, you wonder what The Boy has seen and heard. You fear for him, and his future, during what’s one of the most moving songs on Heartleap.

Gunpowder is a song about love and love lost. A rueful Vashti is accompanied by strings, acoustic guitar and synths. She’s in a reflective mood, wondering what might have been. That’s apparent when Vashti sings: “I blew my chances, and you throw the years out, with all the merry dances you led me, you led me.” 

Blue Shed features just a  lone piano accompanying Vashti. There’s a sense of longing in her voice. She longs to be alone, longs to be away from people. Deep down, she realises this is wrong. “I might be sorry, oh it might be the end of me.” Despite this, Vashti longs to be alone. This is sure to be, a song that many people will be able to relate to.

The arrangement to Here swells up. Recorders, droning synths, guitars and a dulcimer combine. Very different is Vashti’s vocal. It’s almost a whisper. This works well. You listen intently to her vocal. What you hear are some beautiful, joyous lyrics about being with someone you love.

Heartleap closes with the title-track. It’s just Vashti’s breathy vocal, accompanied  by her guitar and synths. This gives the arrangement an understated sound. Her lyrics are like a stream of consciousness. They’re also quite beautiful. As for the arrangement, there’s a brief nod to John Martyn’s Solid Air. Mostly, though it’s Vashti Bunyan, the comeback Queen, whose no longer one of music’s best kept secrets.

Unlike another inferior album released this week, Vashti Bunyan’s third album Heartleap was quietly released on Fatcat Records on 6th October 2014. There was no fuss and no hype. Vashti it seems, was content to let her music speak for itself. It does. However, Vashti I think, is being too modest. Heartleap is an album that she should be truly proud of.

Heartleap is an album that oozes quality and ethereal beauty. That’s the case from the opening bars of Across The Water, to the closing notes of Heartleap. It’s best described as dreamy, melancholy, beautiful, ethereal, haunting, cerebral and wistful. Elements of ambient, folk, jazz, freak folk and psychedelia can be heard during the ten songs on  Heartleap. They only last thirty-four minutes. However, Heartleap is thirty-four flawless minutes of music.

The potent and heady brew that is Heartleap showcases Vashti Bunyan’s considerable talents. Sadly, however, Heartleap is only Vashti Bunyan’s third album. After the commercial failure of her debut 1970 debut album Just Another Diamond Day, Vashti turned her back on music. 

It was thirty-five years until we heard from Vashti Bunyan. She released Lookaftering in 2005. Many thought Vashti was back for good. She flitted out of our lives for another nine years. Although she dabbled in music, she never released another album. That was until now. 

Now aged sixty-nine, Vashti Bunyan decided to release her long awaited third album, Heartleap. For her legion of loyal fans, this was good news. They’d lived in hope that Vashti would release another album. With each year that passed, it looked like we’d heard the last of Vashti Bunyan. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. 

Twelve years after the release of Lookaftering, Vashti Bunyan has returned with Heartleap. It’s a career defining album. Heartleap surpasses 2005s Lookaftering, and comes close to rivalling Vashti Bunyan’s lost classic Just Another Diamond Day. That’s how good an album Heartleap is. I’m not surprised about this.

Vashti Bunyan was always a hugely talented singer and songwriter. That was the case in 1970, when she released Just Another Diamond Day. Sadly, Vashti Bunyan was ahead of the musical curve. When Just Another Diamond Day failed commercially, she turned her back on music. Gradually, though, a new generation of music lovers, critics and musicians discovered Just Another Diamond Day. Belatedly, Vashti Bunyan was receiving the critical acclaim that her music so richly deserves. No longer is Vashti Bunyan one of music’s best kept secrets. Instead, Vashti Bunyan is the comeback Queen, who has just released Heartleap, an album that oozes quality and ethereal beauty.

VASHTI BUNYAN-HEARTLEAP.

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LEWIS BALOUE-ROMANTIC TIMES.

LEWIS BALOUE-ROMANTIC TIMES.

Earlier this year, music saw a ghost. The man who called himself Lewis arose from the dead. Lewis gave no explanation where he’d been or what he’d been doing. There was an element of bemusement that L’Amour, his 1983 debut album, had sparked such interest in his life and whereabouts. However, Lewis wasn’t for talking. Furthermore, he wanted his whereabouts to remain unknown. For someone who seemed to want to disappear again, Lewis was going the wrong way about it. 

Deep down, I wondered if he was revelling in the publicity? This was his fifteen minutes of fame. He’d really lucked out.

Thirty-one years ago. Lewis released an album that sunk without trace. It wasn’t the music that people remembered. No. It was his image and playboy lifestyle. This was a story full of smoke and mirrors. 

Nothing was ever as it seemed. The story began  when Randall arrived in Los Angeles in 1983. Sporting perfectly coiffured blonde hair and movie star looks, Lewis lived the playboy lifestyle. Randall drove a white convertible Mercedes and booked into the Beverley Hilton. 

Now ensconced in the  Beverley Hilton, Randall dated a string of beautiful women. Models and movie stars accompanied him to the smartest parties in Los Angeles. Randall lived the playboy lifestyle. Wine, women and song were constant companions for Randall. However, before long, the party was over.

During his time in Los Angeles, Randall had been using the alias Lewis. He told people he was a musician and that he’d just recorded his debut album, L’Amour. That at least was true. 

The recording sessions for L’Amour took place in the Fiasco Brothers Recording Studios in Vancouver, where Romantic Times was also recorded. Randall had recorded there before. After that, Randall headed to Los Angeles. That’s where he readied himself for release  Lewis’ debut album, L’Amour. Rather than using his own name, Randall used the alias Lewis. This added to the air of mystery. So did the album cover, which was shot by one of the most famous photographers in music, Ed Colver. 

He’d made his name photographing punk bands. That was the past. By 1983, Ed was expanding his musical portfolio. So when Randall called, Ed agreed to meet him in the Beverley Hilton. 

When the two met, Ed wasn’t suspicious of Randall. Why should he be? After all, Randall was living in the Beverley Hilton, driving a Mercedes convertible and had a beautiful, model girlfriend. He’d also just recorded his debut album and was looking for someone to shoot some photographs for the cover of L’Amour. That would be Ed. 

Randall agreed to pay Ed $250 for the photo shoot. Ed shot thirty different versions of the photo that agreed on the cover of L’Amour. It was a head and shoulders photo of Randall. That photo epitomises eighties fashion and attitudes. Looking like the archetypal eighties playboy. Randall looks longingly, moodily and mysteriously into the distance. However, just like everything else about Randall, this was all a facade.

When Ed went to cash the cheque for $250 it bounced. The cheque had been drawn on an account in Malibu. This was no help to Ed. So he headed to where Ed had met Randall, the Beverley Hilton. Staff at the Beverley Hilton told Ed that Randall had left. Randall, they told him, had headed to Las Vegas and then Hawaii. They didn’t have a forwarding address. For Ed this was a disaster. $250 was lot of money. So much, it took him four months to repay his bank. As security, Ed held on to the negatives to the photos for L’Amour, which was released in 1983.

L’Amour was released in 1983, on the unknown R.A.W. Records. No reviews of L’Amour exist. Just like most private pressings, L’Amour sunk without trace. That was the last Ed Colver thought he’d hear of Lewis.

Fast forward thirty-one years and L’Amour has just been rereleased by Light In The Attic Records. The Lewis story caught the imagination of the record buying public. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know what happened to Lewis. Not me.

I wasn’t interested in the smoke and mirrors of the Lewis story. It smelt suspiciously of hype. Something about the story didn’t seem right. There were too many unanswered questions. It seemed I was right.

Not long after I wrote my review, I forgot about the Lewis story.  To be honest, the story didn’t interest me. What interests me is music, not smoke, mirrors, hype and hyperbole. So, having reviewed L’Amour I forgot about the story. Then I received an email from Donna, who had dated Lewis in the seventies. Back then, he was Randall Aldon Wulff. 

Donna emailed me to tell me that Randall wasn’t related to Doris Duke, the heiress. That was part of the Lewis mythology. Previously, Randall claimed he was the nephew of heiress of Doris Duke. She was heir to the Duke Power fortune and a legendary philanthropist. I knew that the Doris Duke connection was a long-shot. Donna confirmed I was right to be suspicious.

The picture Donna painted about Randall Wulff was very different to the playboy who walked into the Beverley Hilton in 1983. Donna dated Randall for three years. During that time, “we were constantly broke… What kept us together was our mutual quest for sex, drugs and rock and roll… Randy was an attractive, sweet, artistic soul but uninterested in persuing an income through the construction trades and unable to make any money softly singing his original songs and playing his guitar.” Eventually, Unable to tolerate  our precarious financial situation any longer, I split up with him in 1977 or 1978 and he left Victoria.” That wasn’t the last Donna saw of Randall. 

Two years later, and Randall reentered Donna’s life. “I saw him again around 1980 when he returned to Victoria and called me. We met for dinner.  He was with his older brother, Larry Wulff, who had been living “up island” on Vancouver Island and they were travelling in a limousine and seemed to have lots of money.” It seemed Randall had undergone a remarkable transformation since Randall and Donna split up. That was the last time Donna heard from Randall. That’s until he released his debut album.

Not long after Lewis released his debut album, Randall reentered Donna’s life. She remembers: “later in the 80s, he sent me a vinyl copy of his LP L’Amour.” However, that was the last Donna heard from Randall Wulff.  “I never saw him again.” After that, Randall disappeared.

Nothing was heard of Randall Wulff or Lewis. It was even feared that Randall was dead. That’s what Donna believed. Others believed Randall had decided to disappear. Rumours were rife. Soon, a new industry had sprung up, with people dedicating their lives to finding Lewis. Ironically, nobody found Lewis. Instead, Lewis stepped briefly out of the shadows.

This just happened to coincide with the upcoming release of Lewis’ sophomore album Romantic Times by Light In The Attic Records. Romantic Times was released by Light In The Attic Records on 6th October 2014. However, the discovery of Romantic Times is shrouded in mystery.

Copies of what was thought to be Lewis’ sophomore album Romantic Times had turned out when Lewis stepped briefly out of the shadows. This is quite a coincidence. Indeed, what better way to promote Romantic Times, an album that originally, sunk without trace when it was released in 1985. However, just like everything to do with the Lewis story, nothing is straightforward. Two versions of how Romantic Times was discovered exist.

The first is that a Canadian record collector found a copy of Romantic Times, an album released by Lewis Baloue in 1985 and sold it to Light In The Attic Records. That sounds the most likeliest outcome. After all, dedicated crate diggers who look long and hard enough, will always have the opportunity to discover that elusive rare albums. After all, surely it’s not as easy as finding a copy of Romantic Times on Ebay?

That’s the second version of the story behind the discovery of Romantic Times. Allegedly, a copy of Romantic Times was offered for sale on eBay. To say a bidding frenzy followed is to put it mildly. The price reached $1,725. This is similar to what happened when copies of L’Amour were discovered. Nothing it seems was ever straightforward in the Lewis story. 

Since the discovery of Romantic Times, many people have expectantly awaited its release. Adding to the hype, is the release being put back several times. This lead me to wonder whether Romantic Times would live up to the hype and hyperbole? Or would L’Amour prove to be Lewis’ very brief moment in the sun? That’s what I’ll tell you.

We Danced All Night opens Romantic Times. Swells and swathes of synthetic strings add an element of theatre, before Lewis dawns the role of wistful troubadour. His vocal is half-spoken. Meanwhile, cymbals resonate and an acoustic guitar is plucked. Later, a sultry saxophone adds to the sense of melancholy as a crooning Lewis lays bare his troubled soul.

As Bon Voyage unfolds, a moody backdrop of synths provides the backdrop for Lewis. Then, Lewis dawns the role of troubled troubadour. Subtle, understated synths accompany Lewis’ needy, hopeful vocal. Longing and desperation fill his voice. He made mistakes. So did she. Only now does he realise what he’s lost. That’s why now, his vocal is filled with longing, at the love he lost and the future he could’ve had.

The arrangement to Don’t Stop It Now meanders into being. Synths provide the backdrop to Lewis needy, heartfelt vocal. They’re joined by synthetic strings. Together, they provide a backdrop to Lewis’ quivering, shimmering vocal. It’s a mixture of insecurity and sensuality as he desperately pleads “Don’t Stop It Now.”

Just like the previous tracks, the tempo to It’s A New Day is slow. Synth provide an accompaniment to Lewis’ scatted vocal. Before long, his vocal becomes breathy, needy and hurt. His heart has been broken. It’s as if his life is in pieces. His vocal is akin to a cathartic outpouring of grief, longing and hurt. 

There’s a sense of foreboding as dark synths and swathes of synthetic strings join forces on So Be In Love With You. They’re joined by Lewis’ vocal. It quivers and shivers. Emotion seems to pour from Lewis’ every pore. Meanwhile, swathes of strings cascade and a hauntingly beautiful saxophone solo plays. This is the perfect accompaniment to Lewis’ vocal on this spellbindingly beautiful track.

On Bringing You A Rose, Lewis’ shimmering vocal takes centre-stage. The synths and keyboards provide a mesmeric, minimalist backdrop. This allows Lewis to dawn the role of seducer in chief.

A wistful backdrop to Where Did My Love Go finds Lewis in a reflective mood. He’s had his heartbroken. There’s a sense of disbelief that this has happened. It’s as if he can hardly believe it. Deep down though, he knows it’s real. That’s why he’s hurting so much. His vocal is cathartic. It’s an outpouring of disbelief, hurt and regret. For the newly heartbroken, this is a song that will strike a chord with them.

As The Boats Go Away closes Romantic Times. A  plucked guitar, the occasional washes of synths and Lewis’ scatted vocal combine. The spacious arrangement meanders. You wonder where it’s heading? Briefly, it loses direction. Then it gets back on track. Mostly, it’s just Lewis’ vocal and a sparse acoustic guitar. This is a welcome change from the omnipresent eighties synths. The result is compelling and  moving.

Romantic Times finds Lewis pick up where he left off on  L’Amour. This means minimalist, understated arrangements. Mostly, it’s just synths. While they’re similar to L’Amour, sometimes, the arrangements sound dated. 

The synths sounds are very much a remnant of the eighties. Even when occasionally, strings are added, they too, have a synthetic sound. It’s just a pity Lewis didn’t try to change his sound. Maybe of course, Romantic Times was recorded at the same time as L’Amour? After all, it’s not as of the two years between album resulted in a change in Lewis’ sound. A welcome addition is the occasional saxophone or acoustic guitar that accompanies Lewis’ vocal. 

Lewis’ vocals are similar in style to those on L’Amour. My only complaint is sometimes, his trademark style becomes a mumble. Mostly, though, we’re reacquainted with the Lewis who made his debut on L’Amour.

This means emotive, hopeful, needy and seductive. Especially when Lewis sings about heartbreak, hope and hurt. He delivers lyrics like he’s lived, loved and survived them. Other times his vocal is rueful, as he sings about love lost, and the woman who broke, or stole his heart. Often, there’s a sense of melancholia, as he remembers what he’s lost. That’s the case on Romantic Times, which sounds like a lost concept album. 

That describes Romantic Times perfectly. It’s a concept album about love. Love and love lost, to heartbreak and hurt feature on Romantic Times. It showcases Lewis the troubadour and seducer in chief. However, these are roles that Lewis embraces. The result is an album for lovers and those who are newly heartbroken. 

They’ll be won over by Lewis the troubadour. So will Lewis’ fans, who will have nothing said against their elusive hero. However, if they cast a critical eye over Romantic Times, it’s a case that not everything glitters is gold.

Romantic Times is a good, but not great album. It’s not as good as L’Amour. Partly, it’s because Lewis stood still. He didn’t try and move his music on. This seems a strange decision.

In 1983, L’Amour sunk without trace. Most musicians would’ve learnt from this, and changed stylistically. Not Lewis. When he returned in 1985 with Romantic Times, Lewis delivered what’s essentially L’Amour II. The same building blocks have been used. That means washes of minimalist synths accompanying Lewis’ trademark vocal. Unsurprisingly, Romantic Times also sunk without trace. For Lewis, Romantic Times, may have been the end of the road.

I say may have. Nobody knows for sure, if Randall Wulff recorded any further albums under his Lewis persona. Lewis is a ghost. Maybe in more than one sense. After all, music is full of ghosts nowadays. If Lewis recorded further albums, unless he changed his sound, it would be a case of the law of diminishing returns. That’s apparent on Romantic Times. It’s a good, but not great album that doesn’t match its predecessor. Even the incessant hype, smoke, mirrors and mystery that surrounds Lewis, can’t transform Romantic Times into a classic.  

LEWIS BALOUE-ROMANTIC TIMES.

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THE JANET LAWSON QUINTET-THE JANET LAWSON QUINTET.

THE JANET LAWSON QUINTET-THE JANET LAWSON QUINTET.

By 1981, jazz was no longer as popular as it once been. It was a long way from the days of Bird, Trane and Miles. Fusion was still popular on both sides of the Atlantic. However, traditional jazz was at a crossroads. Bebop, hard bop and West Coast jazz were almost a reminder of another musical era. What jazz needed was someone who could revive jazz’s fortunes.

Jazz needed someone who could help transform people’s perception of jazz. For many people, jazz was the music of an older generation. Its audience was perceived as mostly middle class. The other problem was, many people didn’t understand jazz music. They couldn’t differentiate between bee bop, hard bop, free jazz and West Coast jazz. As a result, jazz passed most people by.

As the eighties dawned, a new generation of music lovers were growing up listening to pop, rock, electronica and hip hop. They were the new musical colossi. These musical genres were where the musical pound, dollar and yen were being spent. Jazz was missing out on a new generation of music lovers. However, budget conscious major record labels new they were losing the battle. 

So, major labels stopped throwing money at jazz. There was no point. The money could be better spent elsewhere. Hip hop and electronica were music’s equivalent of emerging markets. Rather than spend money on jazz, major labels would invest in these emerging markets. This, not jazz, made financial sense. However, some independent label took a different view on jazz.

One of these labels was Inner City Records. They had just signed The Janet Lawson Quintet, and their eponymous debut album was released n 1981 on Inner City. It’ll be rereleased by BBE Music on 6th October 2014. Inner City hadn’t given up on traditional jazz music. 

Far from it. Inner City believed that The Janet Lawson Quintet were capable of transforming jazz’s fortunes. The reason for this was Janet Lawson. She sounded as if she was descended from Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Others compared Janet to Anita O’Day. The reason for this was her diction,phrasing and interpretation. Janet didn’t just sing songs, she lived them. Then there was Janet’s ability to scat. 

Scatting has always divided opinion in the jazz world. Joe Simms is credited by Jelly Roll Morton as inventing scatting. However, Louis Armstrong was one of the first jazz singers to scat on record. He pioneered scatting in his 1926 version of Heebie Jeebies. Soon, other artists were employing scatting. 

Gene Greene, Al Jolson, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitgerald and Sarah Vaughan began to scat. Bessie Smith, Dinah Washington and Billie Holliday all avoided scatting. Later, scatting was used widely by the free jazz pioneers. However, always, scatting has had its critics.  Some critics saw scatting as the vocalist enjoying an opportunity to improvise. Others felt scatting destroyed the lyrics. Another criticism was that scatting was a gimmick. This didn’t stop Janet Lawson scatting.

Just like some of her contemporaries, Ursula Dudziak and Norma Winstone, Janet Lawson scatted. She did this effectively. This was neither  a gimmick nor musical showboating. Janet used scatting effectively on  The Janet Lawson Quintet.

For The Janet Lawson Quintet, six tracks were chosen. This included Carman Moore and Sam Brown’s You Promised, Fats Wallers’ Jitterbug Waltz and Blossom Dearie and Len Saltzberg’s Sunday Afternoon on side one. Side two featured Cootie Williams and Thelonius Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, Diane Snow’s So High and Bob Dorough and Fran Landesman’s Nothin’ Like You. This brought to a close The Janet Lawson Quintet. However, not BBE Music’s reissue of The Janet Lawson Quintet.

Augmenting the original version of The Janet Lawson Quintet, are The Miles Davis Session Versions of Ira and George Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessary So. There’s also versions of I Thought About You, It Never Entered My Mind and Joshua. These ten tracks feature on the reissued version of The Janet Lawson Quintet. It was recorded back in 1981.

When  recording of The Janet Lawson Quintet began, the rhythm section featured ex Lionel Hampton drummer Jimmy Madison and bassist Ratzo B. Harris. They were joined by pianist Bill O’Connell and Roger Rosenberg who played flute, baritone saxophone and soprano saxophone. The final piece of jigsaw was vocalist Janet Lawson. Along with producer Jack Perricone, they recorded The Janet Lawson Quintet. It was released later in 1981.

On the release of The Janet Lawson Quintet, jazz critics acknowledged featured the debut of one of the finest jazz vocalists of the late-seventies and early-eighties. However, The Janet Lawson Quintet didn’t reach a wider audience. The album failed to chart and sunk without trace. It would be three more years before The Janet Lawson Quintet released Dreams Can Be. Sadly, it too failed to find a wider audience. After that, Janet never released another album. She was lost to music. The Janet Lawson Quintet is a reminder of what music lost.

Opening The Janet Lawson Quintet is You Promised, a near eleven minute epic. A meandering bass, drums and flourishes of piano set the scene for Janet’s coquettish, breathy vocal. Along with the flute, it cascades above the arrangement. Soon, it takes on a much more traditional sound. It’s tinged with disappointment and sadness. Then when the tempo rises slightly, the arrangement becomes jaunty. This is the perfect showcase for Janet’s ethereal vocal. As the tempo rises and falls, she and the rest of the Quintet showcase their inconsiderable skills. Pianist Bill O’Connell and veteran drummer Jimmy Madison join forces, locking into a groove. Not to be outdone, bassist Ratzo B. Harris’ joins in. His fingers flit up and down the fretboard as he delivers a masterclass. After that, Janet and the rest of the Quintet encourage each other to greater heights.

Jitterbug Waltz is reimagined by The Janet Lawson Quintet. Janet adds a scatted vocal while the Quintet propel the arrangement along. Crucial to the arrangement are the standup bass and piano. That’s until the sultry saxophone enters. It gives way to dramatic rolls of drums. All the time, Janet is delivering a breathtaking scat. It’s a fusion of speed, power and accuracy. As if spent, her vocal drops out. This allows the rest of the Quintet to deliver a floaty slice of summery sounding jazz. Then when Janet returns, she surpasses her previous efforts as the track reaches a dramatic crescendo.

Sunday Afternoon has a similar summery sound. The arrangement literally floats into being. Just the rhythm section and flute combine before Janet scats. Soon, she’s delivering a tender, thoughtful vocal. She carefully delivers her vocal, highlighting words and phrases. In doing this, she paints pictures. These pictures unfold before your eyes. So vivid are the pictures, it’s as if you’re there. Meanwhile, the rest of the Quintet create an understated arrangement. It literally floats along, sweeping you along in its midst. That’s until it grows in power. So does Janet’s vocal. It’s a vocal tour de force that showcases her vocal versatility and dexterity.

Anyone covering a classic like ‘Round Midnight can’t win. After all, the definitive version has already been recorded. Janet knows this, and decides to give this classic a late night, smokey sound. Her band play within themselves, allowing her needy, wistful vocal to take centre-stage. She literally toys with the lyrics, bringing out their subtleties and nuances. Then Janet launches into a impassioned scat. It’s a akin to a cathartic outpouring of emotion. Later, she’s joined by a jaunty piano and the sultriest and smokiest of saxophones. It oozes emotion and is the perfect replacement for Janet’s vocal. When she returns, it’s as if a gauntlet has been thrown down by the saxophone. Janet rises to the challenge, delivering a needy, soul searching scat.

On So High, a nimble fingered acoustic bass solo is joined by The Janet Lawson Quintet in full flight. It’s an impressive sound. The rhythm section add an element of drama. They’re joined by stabs and flourishes of piano. Add to that a cascading saxophone. This is the perfect backdrop for Janet. With the Quintet cutting loose, Janet delivers one of her finest vocals. There’s a freedom in her vocal. Later, Janet starts to force her vocal. Sometimes, though, it sounds as if she’s been two ambitious. You wonder if she can hit the highest notes? She does. Constantly, she pushes herself to her limits. Janet is the vocal equivalent of a tightrope walker. There’s no net though. Not to be outdone the Quintet quick loose. They match Janet every step of the way during this blistering slice of  jazz.

Nothin’ Like You closes The Janet Lawson Quintet. It literally explodes into life. Janet’s urgent vocal is accompanied by the rhythm section and piano. Soon, the rest of the Quintet join Janet. They become one. They’re yin to Janet’s yang. Instantly, The Janet Lawson Quintet become the tightest of units. They’re the perfect foil for Janet’s emotive scat. Then when the solos come round, the Quintet take their final bow. Honourable mentions go to pianist, Bill O’Connell, and soprano saxophonist, Roger Rosenberg. Their contributions play an important part in this dramatic, urgent and joyous epic.

Although Nothin’ Like You closed the original version of The Janet Lawson Quintet, BBE Music’s reissue doesn’t end there. There’s still four tracks to enjoy. The Quintet augment the original version of The Janet Lawson Quintet with a quartet  tracks

These four tracks include The Miles Davis Sessions Versions of It Ain’t Necessary So, I Thought About You, It Never Entered My Mind and Joshua. They’re a compelling quartet that plays to The Janet Lawson Quintet’s strengths.

 It Ain’t Necessary So is reinterpreted. Rather than cover this classic, it’s totally reworked. It takes on a slinky sound as veers between a sultry vocal and a scat. I Thought About You takes on a late night, smokey sound. The beautiful, and understated, It Never Entered My Mind, sounds like a homage to Ella Fitzgerald. Joshua is an explosive, fluid slice of bop where Janet unleashes a dramatic, soul baring scat. It’s the perfect way to close BBE Music’s reissue of The Janet Lawson Quintet, as it’s a reminder of what music lost, the day Janet Lawson turned her back on music.

Sadly, The Janet Lawson Quintet only ever released one further album, after their 1981 eponymous debut. This was Dreams Can Be, which was released on Omnisound in 1984. Sadly, it wasn’t a case of Dreams Can Be.

Commercial success and critical acclaim eluded The Janet Lawson Quintet. They never recorded together again. Maybe Janet realised that the writing was on the wall for a jazz vocalist for her. Despite her undoubted talent, there was no market for her music. The same can be said about her band.

The other four members of The Janet Lawson Quintet oozed talent. Each of the four instrumentalists were masters of their art. That’s apparent on The Janet Lawson Quintet. It showcases their fluidity and versatility. Whether playing as a unit, or when they’re playing a solo, The Janet Lawson Quintet are peerless. They’re a reminder of one of the golden age’s of music. That was the problem.

Apart from a small coterie of jazz lovers who embraced The Janet Lawson Quintet’s music, the album passed most people by. Even some jazz purists cast a disapproving eye over The Janet Lawson Quintet. They preferred what they referred to as “the  real thing.” By this, they meant classic jazz. For Janet and the rest of the Quintet, the commercial failure of The Janet Lawson Quintet was a huge disappointment. Things didn’t get any better.

Three years later, in 1984, The Janet Lawson Quintet released their sophomore album Dreams Can Be. After its commercial failure, Janet Lawson, one of the most talented vocalists of the late-seventies and early-eighties, turned her back on music. This was a huge lost for jazz.

Back in 1984, jazz was at a crossroads. Only the popularity of fusion was keeping jazz alive. Its popularity had been usurped by pop, rock, electronica and hip hop. They were the new musical colossi. These musical genres were where the musical pound, dollar and yen were being spent. Jazz was missing out on a new generation of music lovers. Thankfully, thirty years later, and jazz is thriving.

This is helped no end by the thriving reissue market. Baby boomers, and a new generation of more adventurous music lovers, with much more eclectic tastes than the previous generation, have a taste for jazz. Now not a week passes without a myriad of jazz reissues. This week, on 6th October 2014, The Janet Lawson Quintet is being reissued by BBE Music.

However, this is no ordinary reissue of The Janet Lawson Quintet. It comes complete with four bonus tracks. This is a welcome addition. BBE Music’s reissue of The Janet Lawson Quintet allows a new generation of music lovers to experience a lost cult classic. Hopefully, and somewhat belatedly, The Janet Lawson Quintet will find the audience and critical acclaim it so richly deserves.

THE JANET LAWSON QUINTET-THE JANET LAWSON QUINTET.

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THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT-THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT (2 DISC TOUR EDITION).

THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT-THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT (2 DISC TOUR EDITION).

Many bands are touted as the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Mostly it’s either record company hype or wishful thinking. The Temperance Movement are different. They’re the real thing. They epitomize rock ‘n’ roll. Formed in 2011, they’ve come a long way in two years. They’ve conquered Britain, Europe and America with their unique fusion of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, country and soul. Somehow, whilst conquering much of the Western world, The Temperance Movement have found time to record and release their eponymous debut album.

What became The Temperance Movement, was recorded before the group signed to Earache Records last year. Earache Records were presented with the finished article. All that was left was to promote and release The Temperance Movement. It was released on last September 2013, and strutted its way to number twelve in the UK. Now just over a  year later, on 6th October 2014, The Temperance Movement has been rereleased as a double album.  

The forthcoming rerelease of The Temperance Movement contains the original album with a bonus disc. It containing five live tracks, selected and mixed by The Temperance Movement themselves. As an added bonus, there’s a photo booklet featuring archive shots and notes from the band themselves. For those who have yet to discover the swaggering Temperance Movement, their eponymous debut album should be a long and career, which began in 2011. 

Although The Temperance Movement were only formed in 2011, the five members of the band have a wealth of experience. Glasgow-born lead vocalist, Phil Campbell, has released a string of solo albums. This includes 2008s After The Garden, 2009s Daddy’s Table and 2010s Saviour’s Song. As for the guitarists, Paul Sayer and Luke Potashnick, Luke is a former member of Rooster and Ben’s Brother. Bassist Nick Fyffe was in Jamiroquai’s band, while Australian-born drummer Damon Wilson counts Feeder, The Waterboy’s and Ray Davies as former employers. These five experienced and talented musicians joined forces to form The Temperance Movement.

Between 2011 and September 2012, The Temperance Movement concentrated on honing their sound. Quickly, they’d established a loyal following. Whether it was pubs, clubs, concert halls or festivals, the word was out. The Temperance Movement were seen as a group with a huge future. Some pundits hailed them as the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Strangely, The Temperance Movement weren’t signed to a record label

So when the time came to release their debut E.P, The Temperance Movement released it themselves. The Pride E.P. was released on 10th September 2012 and featured five tracks. Pride, Be Lucky, Only Friend, Ain’t No Telling and Lovers and Fighters were an introduction to The Temperance Movement’s kick ass brand of blistering rock ‘n’ roll. Pride was released to critical acclaim, and lead to The Temperance Movement playing at the Royal Albert Hall.

Every year, The Sunflower Jam Super Jam takes place at the Royal Albert Hall. This charity concert raises funds for The Sunflower Jam, a cancer charity. In September 2012, just a week after the release of the Pride E.P, The Temperance Movement were the opening act at the Super Jam. They played the first two tracks from the Pride E.P. Then in November 2012, The Temperance Movement played at Futurerock in the 100 Club, in Oxford Street, London. Playing such a prestigious venue early in their career was proof that The Temperance Movement were going places. 2012 it seemed, had been a good year. 2013 would be better.

So far, during 2013, The Temperance Movement haven’t stopped working. In April and May, they headed out on a grueling British tour. Then during the summer, they became festival favourites. All the time, they were spreading the word about the The Temperance Movement. In between, tours and festivals, The Temperance Movement managed to find time to record their eponymous debut album.

The Temperance Movement features twelve tracks. This includes the five tracks from the Pride E.P. plus seven new songs. Ten of the songs are written by Phil Campbell, Paul Sayer and Luke Potashnick. The other two tracks, Lovers and Fighters and Midnight Black were penned by Phil Campbell. These twelve tracks were recorded at the Fish Factory Studios and Submarine Studios, London. Producing The Temperance Movement, are Sam Miller and The Temperance Movement. These twelve tracks became The Temperance Movement.

With their debut album recorded, The Temperance Movement signed to Earache Records earlier this summer. By then, word was the spreading about The Temperance Movement. They were now regarded as the group who could and would save rock ‘n’ roll. Many of who had heard this before, knew The Temperance Movement were different. We weren’t surprised when The Temperance Movement reached number twelve in the UK Charts. I’m sure it’ll go higher. After all, given the quality of music on The Temperance Movement, which I’ll tell you about, rock ‘n’ roll’s in safe hands.

Only Friend, a glorious fusion of blues and rock opens The Temperance Movement. Screaming, scorching guitars, pounding drums and hi-hats take the track in the direction of AC/DC. Then when Phil’s grizzled vocal, there’s a real Led Zeppelin influence. It’s as if The Temperance Movement have been weened on classic rock. They never miss a beat. Spraying guitars across the arrangement, the rhythm section lock into a tight, steady groove, while Phil’s vocal references Robert Plant, Joe Cocker and Brian Johnson.  

Ain’t No Telling doesn’t just see The Temperance Movement pick up where they left off on Only Friend. No. Things get better. The Temperance Movement kick out the jams. They become an unstoppable musical juggernaut. Jagged, crystalline guitars and a driving rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Phil Campbell’s vocal is a mixture of raw power and emotion. His powerful, impassioned pleas are heartfelt and sincere. They’re halfway between the barroom and church. His voice sounds as if it’s honed to perfection on Jack Daniels and Marlboro. Then all of a sudden, he’s a testifying preacher. This is the signal for the band to kick loose. Motoring through the gears, they produce a spellbinding performance. This proves that rock ‘n’ roll is alive and thriving, thanks to The Temperance Movement.

Pride sees a much more mellow side of The Temperance Movement. There’s a country rock sound to the track, Just acoustic guitar and meandering bass combine while Phil lays bare his weary soul. He’s loved, but lost. His Pride got in the way. Hurt and heartbreak are ever-present as Phil, accompanied by cooing harmonies, realizes what’s he’s lost.

Be Lucky sits midway between The Rolling Stones, Free, Bad Company and Primal Scream. It’s another strutting slice of classy rock. Enveloped by chugging, riffing guitars and the tightest of rhythm sections, Phil’s vocal sounds as if it belongs on a Free album. Here, he sounds not unlike Paul Rodgers. It’s hard to believe Phil comes from Glasgow. He sounds as if he was born just of Route 66. Oozing confidence and sass, he struts his way through the track, every inch the old school rock ‘n’ roll frontman.

Muted guitars open Midnight Black while Phil delivers a grizzled vocal. By now, the driving, pounding rhythm section and searing, scorching rocky guitars have become the tightest of units. Phil’s vocal is very much from the school of classic rock. He’s just the latest keeper of the flame of authentic rock ‘n’ roll. This is no one-man band. No. Everyone plays their part. Listen to the duel guitars and thunderous rhythm section. They’re every inch old school rock ‘n’ roll band, on this tale of hurt and heartache.

Chinese Lanterns sees The Temperance Movement change tack. There’s an alternative country sound to the track. Think Wilco or The Jayhawks. There’s even a touch of Gram Parsons. Weeping guitars accompany Phil, whose vocal is tinged with regret. It’s late at night, and memories come flooding back. He remembers what he’s lost. She’s moved on, but he hasn’t. Still he holds a candle for her, but realistically, he knows she’s gone and he should move on. That’s easier said than done, on this tale of love lost and a heart broken. Here, Phil paints pictures, pictures that unfold before your eyes. 

Know for Sure returns to the rockier sound. The tempo is dropped and briefly, Phil sounds like Peter Gabriel. Indeed, briefly, Know For Sure reminds me slightly of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. That’s before it’s transformed into another slice of old school rock. Their duel guitars do battle. They’re not content to unleash the same notes. They play around each other, their playing inventive and dramatic. Then there’s the thunderous rhythm section. It provides the backdrop for Phil, as he revisits his role of rock ‘n’ roll preacher. Later, screaming guitars replace his testifying vocal as struts his way through this reminder of what music once sounded like. 

Morning Riders sees The Temperance Movement toy with you. Then they unleash some of their trademark scorching guitar licks. Drummer Damon Wilson anchors the band. He provides the heartbeat, while Phil every inch the old school frontman, throws himself into the role. It’s as if this was his destiny. He’s a mixture of Slash, Robert Plant, Paul Rodgers, Brian Johnson and Chris Robinson. As he unleashes one of his best vocals, the band are spurred on to greater heights. Whether it’s playing as a unit, or during solo, this is a vintage performance. Some stunning, screaming guitar solos are unleashed. Then the band become a tight, slick unit who deliver an impassioned, dramatic fusion of blues and rock.

Lovers and Fighters sees a much more understated side of The Temperance Movement. Just an acoustic guitar accompanies Phil’s tender, husky soulful vocal. Weeping guitars add a country twist as the arrangement begins to reveal its secrets and beauty. Drums provide a pensive backdrop that matches Phil’s vocal. It too, has a melancholy sound. Not only that, but it shows a very different and quite beautiful side to The Temperance Movement’s music. Indeed, this is much more like some of Phil’s work as a solo artist.

When the drums count the band in on Take It Back, you know what’s coming next. The Temperance Movement are about to explode into action. You’re not disappointed. Machine gun drums and rhythm section join boisterous harmonies. They set the scene for Phil’s rasping vocal. Rolls of thunderous drums, searing, crystalline guitars and singalong harmonies play their part in a track whose roots are in seventies glam rock and rock ‘n’ roll. Everything from The New York Dolls, MC5, Iggy and The Stooges, went into the making of the boisterous, strutting Take It Back.

Smouldering is another country-tinged ballad. This is something Phil Campbell and the rest of The Temperance Movement do so well. His worldweary vocal sounds full of emotion and regret. Accompanying him are guitars and the rhythm section. They’ve locked into a tight groove. Their playing is sparse and effective. Rock and country becomes one, as Phil, accompanied by scatted harmonies delivers a heartfelt and heartbroken vocal opus.

Closing The Temperance Movement, is Serenity. It has understated bluesy, country sound. Just guitars accompany Phil’s tender, emotive vocal. Again, this allows us to hear a very different side to The Temperance Movement. They’ve returned to the balladry they do so well. They’re far from a one trick pony. Later, the track becomes a blistering slice of rock ‘n’ roll. Whether its ballads, loves songs or blistering rock ‘n’ roll, The Temperance Movement do it just as well. Serenity, brings all this together and showcases the multitalented The Temperance Movement at their very best.

Just two years after they formed, The Temperance Movement have played all over Britain, Europe and America. Having won over audiences throughout the Western world, The Temperance Movement released their debut E.P. in September 2012. Released to critical acclaim, The Temperance Movement spent the next year spreading the word about The Temperance Movement. Whether it was in concert halls or at festivals, The Temperance Movement gained a band of followers. No wonder. Here was the future of rock ‘n’ roll. 

The Temperance Movement are an old school rock ‘n’ roll band. They reference everyone from AC/DC, Bad Company, Free, Primal Scream, Joe Cocker, Led Zeppelin, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and The Rolling Stones. Add to that The Eagles, The Jayhawks and Wilco. Then there’s The New York Dolls, MC5, Iggy and The Stooges. All these groups have played their part in influencing The Temperance Movement, whose eponymous debut album reached number twelve in the UK. That’s just the start. There’s only one place The Temperance Movement are going…to the top.

No wonder. The Temperance Movement keep it real. Here’s an old school rock ‘n’ roll band. It sounds as if rather than nursery rhymes, The Temperance Movement were weened on classic rock ‘n’ roll. That’s worked out well. Drawing inspiration from the music of the past, The Temperance Movement have produced the music of the future. Fusing blues, country and blistering, old-school rock ‘n’ roll and soul, The Temperance Movement’s eponymous debut album is flawless. Whether it’s ballads or when they kick loose, The Temperance Movement live up to their reputation as the future of rock ‘n’ roll. 

Many bands have been touted as the savior of rock ‘n’ roll. In their hands, the future of rock ‘n’ roll has been placed. Over the years, I’ve watched the contenders come and go. Some have sunk without trace, becoming the musical equivalent of the Titanic. As for the grand old men of rock ‘n’ roll, groups like The Who and the Rolling Stones they’re yesterdays men, living off their past glories. Thankfully, rock ‘n’ roll has found its saviour. The future of rock ‘n’ roll is safe, the future of rock ‘n’ roll is The Temperance Movement. 

THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT-THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT (2 DISC TOUR EDITION).

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GEORGE HARRISON-ALL THINGS MUST PASS.

GEORGE HARRISON-ALL THINGS MUST PASS.

Following the breakup of The Beatles in 1970, John, Paul and Ringo embarked upon solo careers. Most of the attention centred around John and Paul. This suited George Harrison fine. 

George Harrison’s solo career began in November 1968, nearly two before the breakup of The Beatles. That’s when George Harrison released the soundtrack to Wonderwall Music.

Wonderwall Music.

Wonderwall Musicwas the soundtrack to Joe Massot’s film. The soundtrack was a fusion of two musical cultures. Indian classical music and rock sat side-by-side on Wonderwall. This isn’t surprising. George Harrison had been interested in Indian music since 1966. Now George had the opportunity experiment with his new musical love.

Recording of Wonderwall Music took place between November 1967 and February 1968. On Wonderwall Music, George Harrison collaborated with renowned classical pianist and orchestral arranger John Barham. He played an important part in Wonderwall Music. So did a number of Indian musicians, including of the other Mahapurush Misra, Shivkumar Sharma and Aashish Khan. However, it wasn’t just classical musicians that featured on Wonderwall Music.

Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Peter Tork featured on Wonderwall Music. So did Tony Ashton and his band The Remo Four. Once recording of Wonderwall Music was complete, it was released on The Beatles’ new  record label Apple.

Before Wonderwall Music was released, it failed to catch the attention of critics. Many didn’t even bother to review Wonderwall Music. They perceived it as “just a soundtrack.” However, since then, critics have reevaluated Wonderwall Music.  It’s now perceived as a compelling and innovative album. Indeed, Wonderwall Music is now one of the most underrated solo albums by a former Beatle. Not many people would’ve realised this in 1968.

Wonderwall Music was released in Britain on 1st November 1968, it failed to chart. A day later, Wonderwall Music was released on 2nd November 1968. It peaked at number forty-nine in the US Billboard 200. This vindicated George Harrison’s decision to release such a groundbreaking album. The followup to Wonderwall Music saw George’s music head in a much more avant garde direction.

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Electronic Sound.

Just over a year later, George Harrison released his sophomore album, Electronic Sound. It was an album of avant garde music. Electronic Sound was released on The Beatles’ short lived Zapple label in May 1969.

Zapple was an imprint of Apple. Its raison d’être was to release of avant garde music. However, Zapple didn’t last long. When Allen Klein started managing The Beatles, he closed the label down. This was one of his cost cutting measures. One of the few albums it released was Electronic Sound.

Electronic Sound was recorded during November 1968 and February 1969. The album featured just two lengthy pieces played on the Moog snyth. Under the Mersey Wall lasted nearly nineteen minutes and No Time or Space was a twenty-five minute epic. These two songs became Electronic Sound, which was released in May 1969.

Just like Wonderwall, critics weren’t interested in Electronic Sound. Reviews were few and far between. That’s not surprising. Here was an album that ahead of its time. Very few people understood what George was trying to achieve. Later, when critics revisited Electronic Sound, it was deemed as an album for completists only or those interested in pioneering electronic albums. Electronic Sound hadn’t stood the test of time. Neither was it a commercial success.

Electronic Sound was released in Britain on 9th May 1969, and failed to chart. Just over two weeks later, Electronic Sound was released in America on 25th May 1969. History repeated itself and Electronic Sound failed to chart. However, George’s luck was about to change. His third album All Things Must Pass, which was recently released by Commercial Marketing as a double album, would transform George Harrison’s career.

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All Things Must Pass.

While his first two album had been adventurous and groundbreaking, George Harrison’s third album All Things Must Pass is much more traditional. All Things Must Pass showcases George’s talent as a songwriter. 

For All Things Must Pass, George headed to the studio with eighteen tracks. Many of the songs were new songs. Some of the tracks on All Things Must Pass were written while George was a member of The Beatles. They turned down tracks like All Things Must Pass and Isn’t It A Pity. So George kept them for his solo career. Now was the time to showcase these songs on All Things Must Pass.

Sixteen of these tracks were written by George. The exceptions were I’d Have You Anytime, which George and Bob Dylan cowrote. If Not For You was the other track on All Things Must Pass. It was a cover of a Bob Dylan song. These eighteen songs were part of what became a triple album. It was recorded in three top studios and featured an all-star cast.

Recording of All Things Must Pass began on 26th May 1970 and finished in late October 1970. Three studios were used. This included Abbey Road Studios, Trident Studios and Apple Studios. During that five month period, the great and good of music played a walk on part on All Things Must Pass.

During the recording sessions for All Things Must Pass, Derek and The Dominos featured. Jim Gordon played drums, Carl Radle bass and Eric Clapton acoustic and electric guitars. Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr played drums. Billy Preston who played with both The Beatles and Rolling Stones played piano and organ. Another Beatles’ confident, Klaus Voormann, played guitar and bass. Ginger Baker of Blind Faith played drums. Dave Mason of Traffic played electric and acoustic guitars and Phil Collins of Genesis percussion. Alan White of Yes added drums. These big names were joined by some top session players.

This included Bobby Whitlock. He was formerly a member of Delaney and Bonnie, and in 1970, session musician to the stars. Bobby played piano, organ, tubular bells and harmonium. Horns came courtesy of saxophonist Bobby Keys and trumpeter and trombonist Jim Price and pedal steel Pete Drake. Playing acoustic guitar were Pete Ham, Tom Evans and Joey Molland. Pianists included Tony Ashton and Gary Brooker. Joining this crack band of session players was Beatles’ roadie Mal Evans, who played percussion. He played a small part in what would become the most successful album of George Harrison’s career, All Things Must Pass.

With All Things Must Pass completed, it was scheduled to be released on 27th October 1970. Before then, the music critics passed judgment on All Things Must Pass. There was not one dissenting voice. Critics hailed All Things Must Pass as a classic. Critical acclaim accompanied All Things Must Pass. It was, without doubt, the greatest album of George’s three album solo career. It was a coming of age for George Harrison.

It was as if George Harrison had been freed from the shackles that were The Beatles. He was being held back by the Lennon-McCartney axis. They dictated what songs featured on albums. George’s songs were rejected out of hand. He was about to have the last laugh though.

The cover of All Things Must Pass saw George Harrison surrounded by four comedic looking gnomes. They were meant to represent The Beatles. Beatles watchers saw this as George commenting on his removal from The Beatles. No longer was he a Beatle. After all these years as a Beatle, George was had his own identity back. Even better, he was about to release a classic album All Things Must Pass.

27th October 1970 was D-Day for George Harrison. That was the day All Things Must Pass was released as a triple album. The first four sides featured the main part of All Things Must Pass. It was produced by George and Phil Spector. On sides five and six, was Apple Jam. It featured five jams. The lavish triple album that was All Things Must Pass, was about to become one of the most successful solo albums by a former Beatle.

The lead single released from All Things Must Pass during 1970 was a double A-Side. This was My Sweet Lord/Isn’t It A Pity. It reached number one in America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Having sold one million copies in America, My Sweet Lord was certified gold. It was then nominated for  a Grammy Award. There was a  problem though.

Anyone familiar with Ronnie Mack’s He’s So Fine, will immediately spot similarities between the two songs. So did Bright Tunes Music. They filed a write against George’s Harrisongs Music on 10th February 1971. Nearly five years later, on 23rd February 1976, the case was settled. It was held that George Harrison “subconsciously copied” He’s So Fine. Damages totalled $1,599,987, which was deemed 75% of the North American royalties. For George, the case caused him huge problems. He became so paranoid about subconsciously copying some else’s work, that he could hardly write. However, back in 1970, that wasn’t the case.

On the release of All Things Must Pass on 27th October 1970, it reached number one in America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Holland, Norway and Sweden. All Things Must Pass also reached number four in Japan and number ten in Germany.  Given how successful All Things Must Pass was, it’s no surprise it was certified gold in Britain and Canada. In America, All Things Must Pass was certified platinum six times over. That equates to sales of six million copies of All Things Must Pass. Never again, would George Harrison reach these heights. After all, All Things Must Pass is a stonewall classic.

After the release of All Things Must Pass, no longer was George perceived as a junior partner in The Beatles. That was far from the case. He was a talented and prolific songwriter. The sixteen songs he wrote for were just the tip of a musical iceberg. For years, George had been quietly writing songs. By 1970, he had accumulated a vast body of work. Now was the time to let the record buying public hear what he was capable of on All Things Must Pass.

All Things Must Pass was George’s Magnus Opus. It’s an epic album. Lavish, epic arrangements are the perfect foil for George’s vocal. The music is both melodic and mystical. Especially when George draws inspiration from Indian music. This is part of  All Things Must Pass’ spiritual sound.

During All Things Must Pass spirituality and religion play an important part. This is apparent on My Sweet Lord. Just like other tracks on All Things Must Pass, My Sweet Lord is a mixture of rock ’n’ religion. It’s an anthemic modern day hymnal. However, there’s other influences on All Things Must Pass.

This includes The Band, Bob Dylan and of course Phil Spector. His arrangements are part of the albums lavish, grandiose sound. Phil Spector co-produced All Things Must Pass. He was yin to George’s yang. Now that George was freed from the constraints of Lennon and McCartney, Phil helped the genie escape from the bottle.

In doing so, Phil Spector helped George Harrison record an album he’d never better, All Things Must Pass. Cerebral and spiritual, beautiful, thoughtful and spiritual, the music is sometimes wistful and melancholy. Always, you’re compelled during six sides of music. There’s many highlights.

Some of the many highlights include My Sweet Lord is a stonewall classic. It’s one of the best songs from a former Beatle. A spiritual song, written in praise of the Hindu god Krishna, George calls for the abandonment of religious sectarianism. Sadly, forty-four years later, this beautiful song is just as relevant.

The thoughtful Isn’t It a Pity was written after the demise of The Beatles, George is in a reflective mood. There’s a sadness in his voice that no longer are The Beatles such close friends. On All Things Must Pass, it’s as if George has come to terms that The Beatles are no more. Considering they were a part of his life for so long, this couldn’t have been easy.

George is in an equally reflective mood on What Is Life? Written in 1969, it’s one of George Harrison’s love songs. This is something he does so well. In this song, the lyrics aren’t just about a woman, but a deity too.

Beware Of The Darkness is another spiritual song. The lyrics reflect the supposed philosophy of Radha Krishna Temple. It’s a song full of powerful imagery. This gives the track a cinematic sound and feel. Art Of Dying is another spiritual track. This time, it deals with reincarnation and the need to avoid rebirth. Closing All Things Might Pass is Hear Me Lord. Originally, George put the song forward for Let It Be. It was rejected and makes its debut on All Things Might Pass. A personal prayer in a rock gospel style, George asks for help and forgiveness from his deity. 

Apple Jam, which fills sides five and six, allows George Harrison’s all-star band to cut loose. On the longer tracks Out of the Blue, I Remember Jeep and Thanks for the Pepperoni they showcase their versatility and considerable talents. This is a fitting way to end All Things Must Pass.

Although George released nine further solo albums, he none of them match All Things Must Pass in terms of success and quality. Most of his albums were commercially successful. However, All Things Must Pass was a career defining album. Never again would George Harrison reach the same heights.

Try as he may, George always came up short. All Things Must Pass was George Harrison’s Magnus Opus. Freed from the shackles of The Beatles, George blossomed. He was no longer the quiet Beatle. George was only quiet because he never had was given opportunity to speak musically. When he did, it was a case of tokenism. The Beatles would come to regret this.

Just six months after Paul McCartney announced he was leaving The Beatles in April 1970, George Harrison released All Things Must Pass. It sold over seven million copies and reached number one in Australia, Britain, Europe and North America. Then there was the small matter of two Grammy Award nominations.

When the Grammy Award nominations came out, George was nominated twice. All Things Must Pass was nominated for for the Album of The Year Award. My Sweet Lord was also nominated for Record of the Year. For George Harrison, he’d come of age as a solo artist. 

George did it his way. This meant no bed ins or adaptations of nursery rhymes. Instead, George, one of the most respected figures in music, was joined by some of the biggest names in music. 

The track listing to All Things Must Pass reads like a who’s who of music. They recorded twenty-three songs that became All Things Must Pass, which was recently released by Commercial Marketing as a double album. All Things Must Pass became the most successful solo album released by a former Beatle. 

After the success of All Things Must Pass, none of the rest of The Beatles’ replicated this success. Forty-four years later, All Things Must Pass remains the most successful solo album released by a former Beatle. It’s no wonder that All Things Must Pass is a classic album.

Rolling Stone magazine agree. They included All Things Must Pass in their list of 500 albums of all time. It’s without doubt, an album that should feature in any self respecting record collection. All Things Must Pass was very different from George’s two previous albums. 

1968s Wonderwall and 1969s Electronic Music were much more avant garde and groundbreaking albums. However, All Things Must Pass saw George Harrison return to a much more familiar sound. The only difference was All Things Must pass marked the debut of George Harrison’s trademark slide guitar sound. Washes of slide guitar play an important part in All Things Must Pass’ sound. This sound would feature on further George Harrison albums. 

There would be another nine George Harrison albums. His final album was Brainwashed. It was released posthumously in 2002, a year after George Harrison’s death. He left behind a rich musical legacy. This includes the albums he recorded with The Beatles and the twelve solo albums he released between 1968 and 2002. George Harrison’s Magus Opus was All Things Must Pass, a stonewall classic, that’s the most successful album released by a former Beatle.

GEORGE HARRISON-ALL THINGS MUST PASS.

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RY COODER-SOUNDTRACKS.

RY COODER-SOUNDTRACKS.

It was fifty years ago that Ry Cooder’s career began. He was a member of The Rising Sons, a six piece blues band. They signed to Columbia Records in 1964. Two years later, The Rising Sons split-up. Their legacy was an album that was released twenty-eight years later. 

Rising Sons.

This was Rising Sons featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. Belatedly, it was released in 1992, on Columbia Records. It features most of the music The Rising Sons recorded. It’s a tantalising taste of an underrated band. 

After all, The Rising Sons featured two of the greatest guitarists of their generation, Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder. Despite this being the start of their careers, it’s apparent that both men were destined for greatness. The Rising Sons was the start of two illustrious careers.

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After leaving The Rising Sons, Ry Cooder joined Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. He featured on their 1967 album Safe As Milk. However, Ry left Captain Beefheart’s employ after the legendary bandleader claimed to have seen a woman in the audience metamorphosis into a goldfish. That was too much for Ry. 

Having left The Magic Band, Ry Cooder worked with some of the biggest names in music. This includes the Rolling Stones. Ry played on sessions during 1968 and 1969. His playing features on 1969s Let It Bleed and 1971s Sticky Fingers. The Rolling Stones were just one of many groups and artists Ry Cooder played alongside.

During the late sixties and seventies, Ry Cooder was a session player to the stars. He also accompanied  Randy Newman and Van Dyke Parks. Ry featured on Randy Newman’s 1970 sophomore album 12 Songs. By the time 12 songs was released, Ry Cooder had embarked upon a solo career.

Ry Cooder’s solo career can be separated into two parts. There’s his studio albums and the soundtracks he’s recorded. In total, Ry Cooder has released sixteen soundtrack albums. The first soundtrack Ry Cooder featured on was Performance.

Performance.

Performance was a 1970 film that featured Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammel. The man responsible for the soundtrack was Jack Nitzsche. He was brought onboard to produce the soundtrack. Jack also put together an all-star cast. 

Jack Nitzsche’s band included Ry Cooder, Mick Jagger, Little Feat’s guitarist Lowell George, Byrds’ bassist Gene Parsons and percussionist Russ Titelman. was brought onboard to produce the soundtrack. The final piece of the musical jigsaw was Randy Newman, who conducted the soundtrack. It was released in September 1970.

Released in September 1970, Performance soundtrack’s was released to critical acclaim. Jack Nitzsche’s all-star cast had come good. One of the cast would get a taste for soundtracks.

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This was Ry Cooder. Ten years after the release of Performance, Ry Cooder had released nine album. He was still working as a session musician. As if that wasn’t enough, Ry was about to add another string to his musical bow. Ry was about to write, record and produce his first soundtrack in 1970, The Long Riders.

The Long Riders is one of seven soundtracks that feature on the the recently released seven disc box set Soundtracks. It was released by Warner Bros. on 29th September 2014. Soundtracks features seven soundtracks released between 1980 and 1993. This starts with The Long Riders and closes with 1993s Johnny Handsome.

The Long Riders.

Unlike Performance, Ry Cooder was given the job of writing, recording and producing The Long Riders. It tells the story of James-Younger gang in the years following the American Civil War. The Long Riders was directed by Walter Hill and produced by James Keach, Stacey Keach and Tim Zinnemann. Playing starring roles were James Keach, Stacey Keach, David Guest and Randy Quaid. With such a compelling story, and an all-star cast, Ry Cooder was brought in to provide the soundtrack to The Long Riders.

Ry Cooder wrote the soundtrack to The Long Riders and brought together some of the most talented session players. This included drummer Jim Keltner, guitarist David Lindley, pianist Jim Dickinson and trombonist George Bohanon. They recorded the thirteen tracks on The Long Riders’ soundtrack. The film was released on May 16th 1980.

When The Long Riders was released, it grossed nearly sixteen million dollars. The film was well received by critics. So much so, The Long Riders was entered in the 1980 Cannes Film Festival. Just as well received was Ry Cooder’s soundtrack.

The soundtrack to The Long Riders complimented the screenplay. Ry’s decision to use an eclectic selection of instruments was hailed a masterstroke. This helped Ry provide an authentic backdrop to the screenplay. Critics realised this. 

Ry Cooder won the Best Music Award in 1980. It was award by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Despite The Long Riders being Ry’s screenplay debut, it proved a successful start to his “other” career. 

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Paris, Texas.

Four years after writing the score to The Long Riders, Ry Cooder was asked by director Wim Wenders to write the score to future cult classic, Paris Texas. 

It was written by L.M. Kit Carson and Sam Sheppard. Paris, Texas stated Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell and Hunter Carson. They play their part in a truly compelling plot.

Essentially, the story focuses on an amnesiac Travis Henderson, whose played by Harry Dean Stanton. He’s walked out of the desert to try and rekindle familial relationships. Especially, the  relationship between his brother and seven-year-old son. The other part of the plot is the attempt by Travis Henderson to find his former wife. She left her family years previously. Travis Henderson heads off in search of her. Providing the backdrop is Ry Cooder’s haunting, evocative soundtrack.

Given Paris, Texas’ much more understated sound, it’s no surprise that Ry Cooder only brought onboard guitarist David Lindley and pianist Jim Dickinson. They provided a soundtrack that’s without doubt, one of Ry Cooder’s best.

Without Ry Cooder’s soundtrack, Paris, Texas wouldn’t have been such a successful movie. It grossed $2,181,987 on its release in November 1984. Paris, Texas won  some of the most prestigious awards. This included awards at the Cannes and Sundance film festival. Just as critically acclaimed was the soundtrack to Paris, Texas.

Looking back at Ry Cooder’s back-catalogue, Paris, Texas is one of his finest albums. It’s best described as evocative, haunting, mesmeric and spacious. Paris, Texas is Ry Cooder at his very best. This was the finest soundtrack of his career. Others came close though.

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Alamo Bay.

By 1985, Ry Cooder had written five soundtracks. Alamo Bay was his latest project. It was a low budget film written by Alice Arlen. Louis Malle directed and produced Alamo Bay. It starred Ed Harris and Amy Madigan. Ed plays the part of a Vietnam War veteran who clashes with a group of Vietnamese immigrants in his Texas hometown. This may have seemed liked a good storyline, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

For Alamo Bay, Ry Cooder wrote nine tracks. To record them, he brought onboard some familiar faces. This included drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Chris Ethridge, guitarist David Lindley and pianists Jim Dickinson and Van Dyke Parks. They fused blues, country and rock over nine tracks, which were produced by Ry. When Alamo Bay was released on 3rd April 1985, the soundtrack fared better than the film.

When Alamo Bay was released, it grossed only $380,970. No wonder. Reviews of Alamo Bay weren’t positive. The New York Times referred to Alamo Bay as “manufactured ‘art” that “is an unhappy experience that never becomes illuminating.” The film had no chance. For some critics, a small crumb of comfort was Ry Cooder’s soundtrack. It made the viewing experience worthwhile.

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Blue City.

1986 was one of the busiest years of Ry Cooder’s career. He worked on two soundtracks, Blue City and Crossroads. The first of these soundtracks was Blue City.

Blue City was a film adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s novel. It was published in 1947 Thirty-nine years later, it was adapted as a film.  Michelle Manning directed Blue City. Walter Hill, who Ry had worked with before, and William Hayward produced Blue City, which is a tale of revenge.

In Blue City, a young man returns to a small Florida town seeking justice. His father has been murdered. When the police won’t help, the young man seeks revenge. He’s determined to avenge the death of his father. However, the film didn’t go down well with critics.

When the original version of Blue City was shown to an invited audience, they disliked the film so much that parts were reshot. 

Even after parts of the film were reshot, it wasn’t well received by critics. On its release on February 1985, critics disliked the film. Their reviews were poor, sometimes disparaging. So it’s no surprise, that Blue City only grossed just seven, of the ten million dollars, it cost to make. The only good thing about Blue City was the soundtrack.

The soundtrack to Blue City is one of the oft overlooked albums Ry Cooder recorded. Just like previous albums, Ry called upon many of the same musicians, including Jim Dickinson and Jim Keltner. They were joined by Miguel Cruz, David Paich and Steve Porcaro. This small, tight band recorded what’s without doubt one of the real hidden gems in Ry Cooder’s extensive discography.

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Crossroads.

If Paris, Texas was Ry Cooder’s finest hours, then Crossroads comes a very close second. The Crossroads soundtrack allows Ry Cooder to showcase his mastery of the blues guitar. He delivers a series of blues’ masterclasses on Crossroads. Just like Paris, Texas, Ry’s soundtrack is crucial to the success of Crossroads.

Crossroads is another film directed Walter Hill. John Fusco wrote the script and Mark Carline produced Crossroads. It stars Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca and Jami Gertz. The plot is loosely based around the story of Robert Johnson.

In Crossroad, Eugene Martone is a blues obsessed, classically trained guitarist. He claims to have “sold his soul to the devil at the Crossroads.” In return, he’s able to play like blues legend Robert Johnson. The other part of the plot surrounds the long lost Robert Johnson song.  and Eugene Martone’s search for it. During Crossroads, Eugene Martone’s character delivers some stunning blues. They come courtesy of Ry and another legendary guitarist, Stevie Vai.

For the recording of the Crossroads soundtrack, Ry and Stevie Vai were joined by harmonica player Sonny Terry, drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Nathan East and pianist Jim Dickinson. This all-star cast whip up a bluesy storm on Crossroads. This soundtrack was crucial to the critical acclaim, commercial success and awards that came Crossroads’ way.

On Crossroads release on 15th March 1986, the film and soundtrack were released to widespread critical acclaim. Crossroads grossed nearly six million dollars. For a low budget movie, this was good going. Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Crossroads won the Georges Delerue Prize for Best Original Music at the 1986 Flanders International Film Festival Ghent. This was fitting. 

There’s no doubt that Crossroads is one of Ry Cooder’s finest soundtrack albums. For me, it’s up there vying with Paris, Texas for the number one spot. However, Paris, Texas just shades it. Coming a very close second in Crossroads. This isn’t the end of the Soundtracks box set.

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Johnny Handsome.

Johnny Handsome saw Ry Cooder and director Walter Hill join forces again in 1989. The film was based on John Godey’s book The Three Worlds of Johnny Handsome. It was produced by Charles Roven and features Mickey Rourke, Morgan Freeman and Ellen Barkin. The plot features a double cross and revenge.

The central character is John Sedley. He has a disfigured face, and is mocked by others as Johnny Handsome. Johnny and his friend plot to commit a crime with two other people. These two others double-crossed Johnny and his friend. They’re caught and sent to jail. When Johnny gets out, he swears to get even. It was this plot that Ry Cooder had to provide the soundtrack to.

For Johnny Handsome, Ry Cooder was accompanied by just drummer and percussionist Jim Keltner and saxophonist Steve Douglas. Ry a true multi-instrumentalist, played guitar, keyboards, bass, accordion, fiddle and percussion. He also produced Johnny Handsome, which was released in September 1989.

On the release of Johnny Handsome, it wasn’t a commercial success. Johnny Handsome wasn’t well received by critics. At the box office, Johnny Handsome grossed $7,237,794. However, it cost twenty million dollars. For director Walter Hill, this was a disaster. At least Ry Cooder’s part in Johnny Handsome was a success.

Although Johnny Handsome wasn’t Ry Cooder’s most successful soundtrack album, it was well received. Critics marvelled at Ry’s ability to switch between musical genres for the various soundtracks he wrote, recorded and produced. Johnny Handsome was another example of this. It showcased one of the most talented soundtrack composers of his generation. Mind you, Johnny Handsome was Ry’s eleventh soundtrack. Number twelve came four years later in 1993. This was Trespass.

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Trespass.

Trespass saw Ry Cooder change direction musically. His music headed in the direction of experimental and avant garde jazz. His cohorts in the Tresspass project were drummer Jim Keltner and trumpeter Jon Hassell.

For Trespass, Ry and Walter Hill renewed their working relationship. Previously, they’d worked on a number of films. The success of these films varied. Trespass was very different to anything they’d worked on before.

It was written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Producing Trespass was Neil Canton. Trespass features can hardly be described as an all-star cast. The biggest names were the Emmy Award winning Bill Paxton and William Stadler. Their costars in what was described as an action crime thriller were Ice T and Ice Cube. This didn’t bode well.

When Trespass was released reviews varied. They ranged from mixed to favourable and positive. The public had the casting vote. Eventually, Trespass grossed $13,747,138. This presented a problem. Trespass cost seventeen million dollars to make. Even Ry Cooder’s groundbreaking soundtrack couldn’t save Trespass.

Ry Cooder has forever been a musical chameleon. That’s apparent throughout his soundtrack career. On Trespass, Ry brought onboard a band that featured familiar faces and new names. The familiar faces included drummer Jim Keltner and new names included trumpeter Jon Hassell. He’s a disciple of Karlheinz Stockhausen. Jon played an important part in Trespass’ sound.

When Trespass was released, it was described dark, moody, experimental and innovative. This marked a change in direction and sound for Ry Cooder. Just like the movie, Ry’s soundtrack divided the opinion of critics. Now opinions are beginning to change.

Twenty-one years after the release of Trespass, and this groundbreaking soundtrack has aged well. Its experimental, avant garde jazz sound was way ahead of its time. The other problem was that Tresspass wasn’t what people expected of Ry Cooder. Only now are people realising just how ambitious and innovative an album Trespass was. 

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It’s fitting that such a groundbreaking album like Trespass closes Ry Cooder’s Soundtracks’ box set. It showcases yet another side to Ry Cooder’s music. Since he released his 1970 eponymous debut album, Ry Cooder has been a musical chameleon. Especially, on the myriad of Soundtracks Ry Cooder has released.

Throughout the seven discs in the Soundtracks box set, which was released by Warner Bros. on 29th September 2014, Ry Cooder’s versatility is showcased. His music never stands still. It’s constantly evolving. Never does he resort to releasing the same album twice. No. He’s determined to push musical boundaries. That’s been the case throughout a career that’s spanned fifty years. 

That’s apparent on Soundtracks. There’s elements of everything from ambient, blues, country, experimental, free jazz, jazz and rock. Soundtracks is a truly eclectic collection of albums. However, these seven albums are just the tip of a musical iceberg. Ry Cooder has released many more soundtracks. There’s more than enough for a Soundtracks II. However, the albums that feature in the Soundtracks box set are some of Ry Cooder’s best work.

This includes Ry Cooder’s finest soundtrack album Paris, Texas. It played a huge part in the success of Paris, Texas. That’s the case with Crossroads. Without its award winning soundtrack, Crossroads wouldn’t be such a cult classic. Then there’s Ry’s soundtrack debut The Long Riders, the underrated Blue City and the groundbreaking Johnny Handsome. These Soundtracks are the perfect introduction to Ry Cooder’s soundtrack career.

RY COODER-SOUNDTRACKS.

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