HENRY GROSS-RELEASE/SHOW ME TO THE STAGE.

HENRY GROSS-RELEASE/SHOW ME TO THE STAGE.

In 1969, Henry Gross was the youngest person to perform at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Henry was just eighteen when he took to the stage with Sha Na Na. However, Henry Gross, whose albums Release and Show Me To The Stage were recently rereleased by Chiswick, an imprint of Ace Records, was no newcomer to music.

Henry Gross was born on 1st April 1951, in Brooklyn, New York. His mother was a music lover who encouraged Henry’s nascent career. By the time Henry was thirteen, he played at the World’s Fair with his first band. Then by the time Henry was fourteen, Henry was a familiar face in the clubs of New York. This was a tough musical apprenticeship.

One of the clubs Henry’s band played was owned by a major New York gangster. He encouraged Henry to pursue his musical career. Playing the tough, rough and ready clubs of New York meant Henry was ready for anything. However, when the summer came, Henry played to a very different audience.

When the school term ended, Henry headed to the Catskill Mountains where he played at the resort hotels. This was Henry Gross’ musical apprenticeship. 

By the time Henry graduated from high school in 1969, his music apprenticeship was complete. Henry headed to Brooklyn College, where he founded Sha Na Na. 

Sha Na Na were unique. Realising the importance of standing out from the crowd, Sha Na Na billed themselves as a group “from the streets of New York.” They wore leather jackets and gold lame. Their hair styles ranged from a pompadour to slicked back ducktails. Similarly unique were their shows. 

When Sha Na Na walked on stage they combined song and dance. Their music was a mixture of fifties rock ’n’ roll and doo wop. They simultaneously revived and sent up rock ’n’ roll. This proved a popular draw. Before long, Sha Na Na were opening for some of the biggest names in music. This included Dr. John, Grateful Dead, B.B. King, Canned Heat, Santana, Taj Mahal and The Kinks. That’s how highly Sha Na Na’s peers thought of them. For Sha Na Na, this was just the start of their rise and rise.

Later in 1969, Sha Na Na released their debut album Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay. Although it only reached number 183 in the US Billboard 200, word spread about Sha Na Na. This lead to Sha Na Na being asked to play at the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair.

The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair took place between 15th and 17th August 1969. It was advertised as “three days of peace and music.” For Sha Na Na this would launch their career. They played on the main stage. For a relatively new band, this was like hitting a home run in the World Series. However, Henry Gross didn’t see it like this.

Standing at the side of the stage, Henry watched some of the biggest names in music play. Then as Jimi Hendrix brought the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair to a close, Henry realised Sha Na Na wasn’t what he wanted to be doing. 

He thought about Sha Na Na. Here, were twelve men and women dressed as if they’d stepped out of the fifties. However, psychedelia was King. The fifties were another country. Musically, it was the past. The members of Sha Na Na were happy doing what they were doing. They were good guys Henry knew, but they weren’t taking things seriously. Henry was different. He wanted to make a living out of music. Furthermore, he was a talented singer and songwriter. So, in 1970, Henry Gross left Sha Na Na.

Having left Sha Ne Na in 1970, Henry Gross signed to ABC-Dunhill Records in 1971. While working on his eponymous debut album, Henry did some session work. One of the albums he played on was Jim Groce’s I Got A Name. It was released in 1973, and reached number two in the US Billboard 200. By then, Henry had left ABC-Dunhill Records.

Henry Gross.

Having recorded his debut album Henry Gross for ABC-Dunhill Records, it was released in 1972. Henry Gross was reasonably well received by critics. Tracks like My Sunshine and Loving You-Loving Me showcase what Henry was capable of. Some critics however, felt Henry Gross was a couple of tracks short of being a fine album. Prayer To All and You’ll Be Mine disappointed critics. Looking back, Henry Gross showed the potential that Henry had. Sadly, record buyers failed to spot that potential and  Henry Gross failed to chart. As a result, Henry was dropped by ABC-Dunhill Records. He wasn’t without a record contract long and signed to A&M in 1973.

Henry Gross.

ABC-Dunhill Records seemed to have been hasty getting rid of Henry. He wasn’t allowed to develop and mature as an artist. That takes time. Sometimes, an artist doesn’t hit his stride until his second or third album, which confusingly, was also entitled Henry Gross. It found favour amongst record critics.

On the release of Henry Gross in 1973, it was apparent that Henry was maturing as a singer and songwriter. Accompanied by a tight, talented band, Henry works his way through ten tracks. Without doubt, one of the highlights was Meet Me On The Corner. It gave Lindisfarne the biggest hit of their career. Apart from Meet Me On The Corner, Simone, The Ever Lovin’ Days and Lay Your Love Song Down showcased Henry Gross as he evolved as a singer and songwriter. So it’s no surprise that Henry Gross was released to widespread critical acclaim. Sadly, commercial success eluded Henry. 

Despite the undoubted quality of Henry Gross, the album failed to chart. For Henry, this must have proved frustrating. After all, singer-songwriters were in vogue. James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell and Carole King were enjoying critical acclaim and commercial success. Soon, so would Henry Gross.

Plug Me Into Something.

For Henry, the commercial failure of his sophomore album was disappointing. However, it made him even more determined to succeed. So, he returned him and began work on his third album, Plug Me Into Something.

Plug Me Into Something proved to be a coming of age for Henry. On it release in 1975, Plug Me Into Something was hailed a career defining album for Henry Gross. With every release, Henry seemed to mature. What many people forgot, was that when Henry release his debut album, he was only twenty-one. When he released Plug Me Into Something, he was still only twenty-four. However, he’d grown as a singer, songwriter and storyteller. That was apparent on Plug Me Into Something.

When Plug Me Into Something was released in 1975, it reached number twenty-six in the US Billboard 200 charts. Over at ABC-Dunhill Records, someone had some explaining to do. After all, it was obvious that they’d cut Henry loose too early in his career. Henry thought he was about to hit the most fruitful period of his career, starting with Release, which featured the biggest hit single of Henry’s career, Shannon. 

Release.

By the time Henry began work on his fourth album Release, which is one of the two albums to be rereleased on one CD by Chiswick, an imprint of Ace Records, he was in-demand as a session guitarist. Henry had also left A&M Records. He decided to move to Terry Cashman and Tommy West’s Lifesong Records. 

Signing to Lifesong Records must have been a culture shock for Henry. He’d previously been signed to large labels like ABC-Dunhill Records and A&M Records. At Lifesong Records, the roster was smaller and meant each artist was treated as individual. They weren’t part of the corporate machine. Co-owners Terry Cashman and Tommy West would produce Release, Henry’s Lifesong Records’ debut.

For Release, Henry penned a total of ten tracks. This included a song he wrote about the death of Carl Wilson’s red setter dog, Shannon. To onlookers, this seemed a strange subject for a song. Little did anyone know the effect Shannon would have. However, before Shannon was released as a single, it had to be recorded.

Recording of Release took place at The Record Plant, New York. Between September and November 1975, the ten tracks were recorded by a band of talented musicians accompanied Henry. He played electric and acoustic guitars and backing vocals. The rhythm section included drummers Allan Schwartzberg and Steve Gadd, bassist Warren Nichols and guitarist Hugh McCracken and Bucky Pizzarelli who played a seven-string guitar. Phil Aalberg played electric piano, piano, celeste and synths, while Larry Packer played fiddle and mandolin. Percussion came courtesy of George Devens, Steve Gadd and Tommy West. Backing vocals were added by Tommy West, Terry Cashman, Marty Nelson, Tasha Thomas and Mike Corbett. A horn and string section adding the finishing touches to Release, which was released in 1976.

When critics heard Release, they were won over by Henry’s fourth album. Release received widespread critical acclaim. Henry’s blend of pop, soft rock and A&M pop went down well with critics. Dissenting voices were very much in the minority. So, everything looked good for the release of Release.

That proved to be the case. Shannon was released as a single. The song about Carl Wilson’s red setter gave Henry Gross a huge hit single. In America Shannon reached number six in the US Billboard 100, number one in Canada and number thirty-two in the UK. Eventually, Shannon was certified gold in America alone. The sophomore album Springtime Mama, then reached number thirty-seven in the US Billboard 100. When Release was released in 1976, it reached number sixty-four in the US Billboard 200. However, there’s more to Release than two singles.

When people mention Release, they always mention the beautiful,  poignant and wistful ballad Shannon. It showcases the soulful side of Henry Gross. The keyboard driven introduction to Springtime Mama always reminds me of The Who. Then when Henry’s vocal enters, it’s the Beach Boys all the way. Partly, that’s down the the harmonies. It’s also a result of Henry’s vocal versatility. It runs through Release.

Juke Box Song explodes into life as Henry shows his rocky side. Driven along by blistering guitars, Henry and his band grab your attention. Henry seems determined to find his inner rocker. They become one during this explosive start to Release. Later, on Release, Henry returns to his rocky sound on Some Thing In Between. He and his band relish the opportunity to kick loose. Henry’s vocal is a mixture of power and sass. However, that’s just one side to Henry Gross. The variety keeps on coming.

Lincoln Road sees Henry throw a curveball. It has a laid- back reggae hue. That’s down to Hugh McCracken’s reggae tinged guitar playing. Then there’s Henry Gross balladeer.

On Overton Square Henry delivers a tender, heartfelt ballad. There’s a nod to David Gates on this beautiful paean. On One Last Time, Henry’s at his best. It’s a mid tempo ballad, featuring a needy, hopeful vocal full of longing. Someday is another understated ballad. Henry’s band provide a slow, beautiful backdrop. It allows his vocal to shine as he delivers a seductive vocal.

Moonshine Alley has Celtic and country influence. The understated arrangement sets the scene for a compelling vocal from Henry.

Pokey closes Release. It’s country rock. He’s accompanied by a rocky arrangement. It features a slide guitar and piano. They’re at the heart of the song’s success. So is Henry’s charismatic vocal. It ensures he finishes release on a high.

As I said earlier, there’s much more to Release, than the two singles Shannon and Springtime Mama. Throughout Release, Henry Gross keeps you on your toes. He’s a musical chameleon. Unlike many artists, Henry is capable of  seamlessly changing style. One minute he’s discovering his inner rocker, the next he becomes the seducer in chief. Then on Lincoln Road Henry turns his hand to reggae. Variety Henry Gross believed was the spice of life. This eclecticism works.

Quite simply, Release oozes quality. There’s no padding on Release, just quality music. That’s why Release was Henry’s most successful album. Obviously, Release was helped by the million-selling single Shannon. However, Henry Gross’ career had been building up to Release. Release saw critical acclaim and commercial success come Henry Gross’ way. It should’ve been the start of the most successful period of his career.

Show Me To The Stage.

After the commercial success and critical acclaim of Release, Henry started work on his fifth album. He wrote ten tracks. They became Show Me To The Stage. It was recorded at The Record Plant, New York.

Recording took place between October 1976 and Jaunary 1977, at The Record Plant. Some of the musicians who played on Release returned for Show Me To The Stage. The rhythm section included drummers Allan Schwartzberg and Rick Marotta, bassists Warren Nichols, Don Payne, Tony Levin and Will Lee. Henry played guitars, Phil Aalberg keyboards. Percussionists included Allan Schwartzberg, George Devens and Jimmy Maelens. Backing vocals were added by Tommy West, Terry Cashman, Marty Nelson and Henry. Once recording of Show Me To The Stage was completed, in was released in 1977.

Five years after releasing his eponymous debut album in 1972,  Henry released Show Me To The Stage. Critics regarded Show Me To The Stage as an album of two sides. Side one was something of a slow burner, cumulating in an intriguing cover of The Beatles’ Help.  It showcases the not just the production skills of Cashman and West, but their harmonies. Then on side two of Show Me To The Stage Henry can do no wrong. Hooks are in plentiful supply as side two has an uplifting and joyous with a feel-good, summery vibe. Critics forecast great things for Show Me To The Stage.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Show Me To The Stage stalled at just number 176 in the US Billboard 200. For Henry, his career had stalled. Worse still, he was back to where he was after his sophomore album. However, Show Me To The Stage is an underrated album.

Faux applause greets Henry on the title-track, Show Me The Stage. It’s a melting pot of influences. There’s AOR, West Coast Sound and rock. Sample spotters will notice a riff that’s been inspired by Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina’s 1972 hit Your Mama Don’t Dance where Henry is determined to grab the audience’s attention. He continues to do that the rocky String Of Hearts. Henry swaggers his way through the track combining blues and rock ’n’ roll. Add to that harmonies and hooks and it’s a heady brew.

On the beautiful, heartfelt ballad Painting My Love Songs there’s similarities with Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina’s Thinking of You. Having said that it’s a truly gorgeous track. That’s down to the lyrics and Henry’s tender delivery of them. Then there’s the harmonies and crystalline guitars.

Come Along sees Henry return to his rocky side. Having discovered his inner rocker, he struts his way through the track, with blistering, searing guitars for company. During the breakdown percussion and the rhythm section combine, before Henry heads kicks loose and the track heads to  its crescendo.

A cover of The Beatles’ Help closed side one of Show Me To The Stage. It’s a compelling reinvention of a classic track. He veers between transforming the song into a ballad, before heading in the direction of psychedelia, rock, wistful and later, draws inspiration from The Beach Boys. Quite simply, Henry’s take on Help is a Magical Mystery Tour,

Side Two of Show Me To The Stage won over the critics. No wonder. It oozes quality. What A Sound reminds me of Supertramp and later, The Beach Boys. There’s even a brief nod to The Beatles’ psychedelic period. The quality continues on Sometimes and Hideaway. They’re both ballads. This is what Henry does so well. He delivers the lyrics with emotion, breathing life and meaning into them. The balladry continues on Showboat. Some people have compared Henry to Seals and Croft on Showboat. There may be an element of truth. However, what you can’t deny is the quality of music. With harmonies and harmonica for company, Henry delivers a soul-searching, vocal masterclass.

Henry Gross closes  Show Me To The Stage with a quite poignant, wistful ballad, If We Tie Our Ship Together. It’s a slow burner. The song seems loathe to reveal its secrets. When it does, it’s well worth the wait. After a minute, Henry delivers a tender, thoughtful and hopeful vocal. Again, the harmonies add a Beach Boys influence. That’s down to Terry Cashman and Tommy West’s production. They’ve kept one of the best until last, ensuring you want to hear more from Henry Gross.

Show Me To The Stage is probably, the most underrated album of Henry Gross’ career. It stalled at just number 176 in the US Billboard 200. For Henry, his career seemed to be stalling. Just when he seemed to be forging a career as a successful artist, Henry Gross was back to where he was after his eponymous sophomore album. However, despite the lack of commercial success, Show Me To The Stage is an underrated album.

Listening to Show Me To The Stage it’s an eclectic album where Henry has been inspired by a variety of influences. AOR, blues, Celtic, country, pop and rock all feature on Show Me To The Stage. Henry has been influenced by The Beatles, Beach Boys, Seals and Croft, Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, The Bellamy Brothers, Brian Wison and Carole King. All these influences and more shine through as Henry veers between his inner rocker and balladeer. 

It’s delivering ballads that Henry Gross is at his best on Show Me To The Stage. The final four songs of  side two of Show Me To The Stage are ballads. They feature Henry Gross toying with your emotions. His vocals are tender, needy, hopeful and heartfelt. The lyrics come to life. Their meaning and beauty becomes apparent, as Henry delivers a series of vocal tour de forces. This is just four reasons why Show Me To The Stage is a hidden gem in Henry Gross’ back-catalogue. Partly, that’s because Show Me To The Stage has never been rereleased.

That all changed recently. Chiswick, an imprint of Ace Records rereleased Release and Show Me To The Stage on one CD. This is a welcome rerelease. After all, neither album have ever been rereleased. Their recent rerelease will allow a new generation of music lovers to discover Release, Henry Gross’ most successful album and Show Me To The Stage, his most underrated albums. Release and Show Me To The Stage will make welcome additions to any record collections.

HENRY GROSS-RELEASE/SHOW ME TO THE STAGE.

CDWIKD-104

CDWIKD-104a

THE BLUE NILE-A WALK ACROSS THE ROOFTOPS.

THE BLUE NILE-A WALK ACROSS THE ROOFTOPS.

Enigmatic, reluctant and contrarian are words that best of describe The Blue Nile’s 1984 debut album A Walk Across the Rooftops. The Blue Nile are the complete opposite of most bands. Describing the Blue Nile as publicity shy, is an understatement. Indeed, since Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and Paul Joseph Moore formed the Blue Nile, they’ve been one of the most low-profile bands in musical history. It seems that when they formed thirty-one years ago, The Blue Nile ticked the “no publicity” box. This has proved a double-edged sword, and resulted in The Blue Nile becoming one of the most enigmatic groups ever. 

Having released their debut album A Walk Across the Rooftops in 1984, only three further albums were released during the next twenty  years. Five years after A Walk Across the Rooftops came 1989s Hats. This marked the end of the original Blue Nile sound, where influences so diverse as Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Frank Sinatra united. The next time Blue Nile released an album, they turned to America for inspiration.

Seven long years passed, where Blue Nile fans wondered what had become of Glasgow’s most enigmatic trio. Then the unthinkable happened. The Blue Nile signed a million Dollar deal with Warner Bros. and along came Peace At Last, released in 1996. Gone was the sound of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats, with the American-influenced Peace At Last showing a different side to the Blue Nile and their music. Paul, Robert and P.J. were back, but it was a different sound. One constant was Paul’s worldweary vocal. He was still the tortured soul, who wore his heart on his sleeve. Opinions were divided among fans and critics. Little did we know that Peace At Last was their penultimate album.

High released in 2004, proved to be the Blue Nile’s swan-song. It was very different from their first two albums, Although soulful, High lacked the European influence of A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. Some critics unkindly called High soul for the wine bar generation. Obviously, they didn’t quite get High, or more likely, didn’t want to. Maybe they didn’t want to understand its subtleties and nuances. What they neither understood nor realized was that the Blue Nile were never a band to stand still. Instead, they’d always tried to innovate and ensure their music evolved and was reborn. Sadly, there would be no rebirth for the Blue Nile’s music. After just four albums, the Blue Nile were no more. Even when they spilt-up, the Blue Nile never told anyone. Instead, like the lover that waits for the letter that never arrives, Blue Nile fans waited for an album that was never released.

Just like that lover, all we’re left is our memories. This includes the four albums The Blue Nile released between 1984 and 2004. The first of these was A Walk Across The Rooftops, which was released in 1984. That was thirty years ago. Sadly, there’s no fanfare for what was a true classic. In the UK, there’s neither a reissue nor even an in-depth article about A Walk Across The Rooftops. That’s not the case elsewhere.

In Japan, The Blue Nile’s first three albums, A Walk Across The Rooftops, Hats and Peace At Last  are being rereleased on CD as Limited Edition Mini LPs.  They’re being released on the high-fidelity SHM-CD format by EMI. Essentially, these rereleases are the same as the 2012 reissues, albeit with even better sound quality. In the case of A Walk Across The Rooftops, the fourteen tracks on the 2012 reissue feature on one CD. However, Hats and Peace At Last are given the double album treatment. It seems somewhat strange that Walk Across The Rooftops is only a single CD. After all, Walk Across The Rooftops was the album that launched the career of the enigmatic Blue Nile. They always did things their way.

Even the story of how A Walk Across the Rooftops came about, is typical Blue Nile. Not for the Blue Nile signing to a traditional record company. First they formed their own label, then released A Walk Across the Rooftops on a label founded by a prestigious hi-fi maker to showcase their products.

The Blue Nile were formed in 1981, when two friends Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell, met Paul Joseph Moore, all of whom met at Glasgow University. Before forming the Blue Nile, Buchanan and Bell were previously members of a band called Night By Night. Try as they may, a recording contract eluded them. Night By Night’s music  wasn’t deemed commercial enough. So Paul, Robert and P.J. decided to form a new band, Blue Nile.

Once the Blue Nile were formed, they set up their own record label Peppermint Records. It was on Peppermint Records that The Blue Nile released their debut single, I Love This Life. This single was then picked up and rereleased on the RSO label. Unfortunately for the Blue Nile, RSO became part of the Polygram label and I Love This Life disappeared without trace. Despite this setback, Blue Nile persisted.

Blue Nile kept writing and recording material after the merger of RSO with Polygram. Some of that material would later be found on  A Walk Across the Rooftops. When recording engineer Calum Malcolm heard The Blue Nile’s music, he alerted Linn Electronics. At last, their luck had changed. 

Linn gave The Blue Nile money to record a song that they could use to demonstrate the quality of Linn’s top-class hi-fi products. When Linn heard the track they were so pleased, they decided to set up their own record label, which would release their debut album A Walk Across the Rooftops 1984. 

Although this allowed the band to finally release their debut album A Walk Across the Rooftops, Paul Buchanan later wondered whether Linn was the right label for the Blue Nile to sign to. He felt that Linn didn’t operate like a record label. Mind you, he conceded that, during this period, The Blue Nile weren’t like a band.

When A Walk Across the Rooftops was released in 1984, although it wasn’t quite to critical acclaim, but the reviews were at least positive. A Walk Across the Rooftops was quite different from other albums released in 1984. Since its release, A Walk Across the Rooftops has gained almost a cult status. It’s widely recognised as one of the finest British albums of the last forty years, as you’ll realise when I tell you about Disc One, which features A Walk Across the Rooftops

A Walk Across the Rooftops opens with the title-track, A Walk Across the Rooftops. Like much of the album, the tempo is slow, the sound moody and hauntingly beautiful. It’s a song about love, and being in love. Washes of Brian Eno influenced synths meander in, joined by percussion. They add drama and tension, while the slow tempo adds to the impact of the lyrics. Beautiful lush strings, the slow steady beat of a drum machine and Paul Buchanan’s worldweary vocal, become one. Soon, Paul’s vocal and the arrangement grow in power, emotion and drama. Although it’s a love song, it’s a love song with a difference. Paul sings of his love for Glasgow, name-checking the things he loves about the city. For five minutes, drama and emotion unite to create what’s quite simply a beautiful track, featuring a vocal tour de force from Glasgow’s Frank Sinatra and troubled troubadour Paul Buchanan. 

Tinseltown In the Rain is the most upbeat song on A Walk Across the Rooftops. The  funkiest of bass line, stabs of keyboards and guitars unite. When Paul’s vocal enters, he delivers some really beautiful, poetic and Glasgow-centric lyrics. They reminds me of Glasgow. Even the title puts me in mind of a rainy, winter’s night in Glasgow. People going about their business, walking hand in hand on a cold, wet winter’s night. Lovers walking hand in hand, neon lights casting their shadows over them, the buildings and the city. Strings that sweep and swirl furiously, take this track to another level. Meanwhile the slap bass drives the track along, with flourishes of keyboards for company. Together, they create a track that’s a funky, orchestral, symphonic Magnus Opus, and one that’s wonderfully Glasgow-centric.

Rags To Riches like all the tracks on A Walk Across the Rooftops is written and produced by Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell. Straight away, you realise the remastering breathes new life and meaning into the song. There’s more depth to the music. Sounds and textures shine through. So do the atmospheric sounds that open the track. Along with the mid-tempo beat, meandering waves of synths give the arrangement a somewhat industrial, Kraftwerk sound. What makes the song are the lyrics, plus Paul’s heartfelt, worldweary vocal. He’s like a modern-day minstrel or troubadour, delivering a vocal bathed in sadness, passion and pathos. As the industrial sound continues, building and growing, it becomes dramatic and even, challenging. Still, beauty and emotion shines through. Paul referencing and influenced by troubadours and crooners, lays bare his soul against a post-modernist backdrop, that’s drama personified.

Stay sees the tempo and the emotion and heartache grow. Synths, drums that crack like whips and percussion set the backdrop for Paul’s vocal. He pleads, his vocal tinged with emotion, sorrow and sadness, as sings about his crumbling relationship. Robert Bell’s thunderous, dramatic, slapped bass crackles. It’s as if it’s reflecting the electricity in Paul’s vocal. Welling up with emotion, he pleads, asks, begs, his partner to stay. He’ll change: “learn to understand you.” It’s hugely moving, emotional and soulful. You can’t help but feel and sympathize for Paul and his plight, on what’s quite simply, a Blue Nile classic. Not only is one of the highlights of A Walk Across the Rooftops, but their career.

Just a wistful, melancholy piano opens Easter Parade and accompanies Paul’s weary vocal. The tempo is slow, the sound haunting and beautiful. It’s apparently about a young man being stuck on a street whilst an Easter parade takes place around him. This evokes old and painful memories, when he attended church and learned about religion and the death of Christ. This is a sad, spiritual and incredibly moving and hauntingly beautiful song. 

Heatwave sees the Blue Nile tease and toy with you, before the newly remastered track comes alive. After meandering slowly into life, stabs of synths, percussion and then thunderous drums signal the arrival of Paul’s vocal. His vocal is filled with sadness, despair and even bitterness. Soon the arrangement loses its moody, pensive sound. Although other bands kick loose, the Blue Nile don’t. That’s not quite their thing. They nearly do though, just don’t tell anyone. Guitars and bass unite. Together with washes of synths and crunchy drums, they provide a sound where hope shines through. They also provide a backdrop for a peerless vocal from Paul. Although his vocal might be worldweary and tired, hope shines through. Textures and layers of music unfold, washing over you, drawing you in. The band play under and around Paul’s vocal, with Paul, Robert and P.J. becoming one. They unite, to create a track that’s a timeless, emotive roller-coaster that you don’t want to ever climb of.

Closing A Walk Across the Rooftops is Automobile Noise. It sees a return to the industrial sound that is heard on Rags To Riches. Again, the tempo is slow, with Brian Eno and Kraftwerk influencing the track. There’s a combination of avante-garde and more traditional sounds as the track reveals its secrets. This works, and works well. Thunderous crashes of cymbals, crispy drums and melancholy keyboards create a compelling backdrop for Paul’s vocal. He delivers some insightful lyrics about one person’s struggle to cope with life in the city. They find urban life tiring, almost soul destroying. Soon, they tire of the daily grind, they’re fed up just keeping their head above water. Gradually, they long to walk away from chasing the wealth the city promises. Sadly and tragically, it’s always just out of their reach. Of all the songs the Blue Nile wrote, the lyrics to Automobile Noise are among their most insightful and honest. Twenty-eight years after A Walk Across the Rooftops, these lyrics are just as relevant, poignant and insightful.

As if the original version of A Walk Across the Rooftops newly remastered isn’t enough of a bonus for fans of the Blue Nile, there’s also seven bonus tracks. Six of these seven tracks have previously been released, mostly on various singles released during the last thirty years. The only previously unreleased track is St. Catherine’s Day. For Blue Nile completists, this makes buying the newly remastered version of A Walk Across the Rooftops worthwhile. This is just one of fourteen reasons why every self respecting music fan should own a copy of A Walk Across the Rooftops.

So what makes A Walk Across the Rooftops such a special album? After all, it contains just seven songs and lasts just over thirty-eight minutes. Within these thirty-eight minutes, the lush, atmospheric sound draws the listener in, holding their attention. Before long, the listener has fallen in love. They fall in love with music that’s hauntingly beautiful, emotive, dramatic and pensive. Much of this is thanks to seven peerless vocal performances courtesy of Glasgow’s very own Frank Sinatra, Paul Buchanan. He plays the role of the troubled troubadour, to a tee. His worldweary, emotive, heartfelt and impassioned vocal sounds as if it’s lived the lyrics he’s singing about. Lived them not just once, but several times over. Paul’s vocal adds soulfulness to an album that references Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Tim Buckley, classic soul and seventies funk. The result is a compelling, innovative album. A Walk Across the Rooftops, was so innovative that it was way ahead of its time. Released in 1984, Blue Nile were miles ahead of other groups. They were innovators, leaders of a new wave of Scottish bands, who trailed in their wake. In many ways, A Walk Across the Rooftops is a very Scottish album, but not in a traditional way. On several of the seven songs on A Walk Across the Rooftops, the lyrics bring to mind Glasgow, its streets, its people and its secrets. For Glasgow, you could replace it with Philly, Berlin, New York or Oslo.

A Walk Across the Rooftops is also full of subtleties, secrets and nuances. Layers, textures and hidden depths await discovery.  These secrets and nuances come to life on the newly remastered version of A Walk Across the Rooftops. This crystalline new sound comes courtesy of Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and Callum Malcolm. From the moment you hear the opening bars of A Walk Across the Rooftops, you hear things that previously, had lain undiscovered. It’s not unlike an old picture that after years covered in grime, is cleaned suddenly, a new picture emerges. Similarly, the remastering process means that A Walk Across the Rooftops suddenly comes to life. It’s reenergized, becoming something the original CD never was. You’ll be astounded at the differences. Play the original version and remastered version and you’ll never reach for your much played, much loved and treasured copy of A Walk Across the Rooftops again.  

For anyone yet to discover the Blue Nile, you’ve yet to discover one of the greatest and underrated bands of the last thirty years. Although they have only made four albums in thirty years, they were four great albums. A Walk Across the Rooftops is one of the best debut albums released by a Scottish, or indeed British band. A Walk Across the Rooftops belongs in every self-respected record collection. It’s the perfect introduction to the Blue Nile, and their music. After just one listen to the seven tracks on A Walk Across the Rooftops, you’ll fall in love with the music of the Blue Nile. After that, I’d recommend Hats, which was the follow up to A Walk Across the Rooftops. It’s as good, if not better than A Walk Across the Rooftops. While  Peace At Last and High had considerably more commercial success than the first two albums, I prefer A Walk Across the Rooftops and Hats. They’re the perfect introduction to one of Scotland’s best ever bands, the Blue Nile, whose music deserved to savored and treasured. One listen to A Walk Across the Rooftops, and you’ll be smitten by The Blue Nile, and treasure their majestic music forevermore. 

THE BLUE NILE-A WALK ACROSS THE ROOFTOPS.

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END OF NEIL-ONLY SURFERS KNOW.

END OF NEIL-ONLY SURFERS KNOW.

Without doubt, one of the most talented Scottish singer-songwriters around today is End Of Neil. I’ve been following End Of Neil’s career for the past couple of years. Since I last touched base with him, a lot has happened to End Of Neil.

Neil Stewart, the man behind End Of Neil has moved to Edinburgh in an attempt to lift his profile. That seems to be working. He’s been playing higher profile venues, and has recently released his debut album Only Surfers Know. Since then, End Of Neil’s star has been in the ascendancy. Word seems to be spreading about Scotland’s best kept musical secret, End Of Neil. However, still there are people yet to discover End Of Neil. For them, I’ll tell you about End Of Neil’s career so far.

It was in 2008 that Neil Stewart adopted his End Of Neil alias. Since then, End Of Neil has been one of the hard working, prolific and talented artists in Scotland. He’s spent the last six years honing his style. It’s been time well spent.

I first came across End Of Neil a couple of years ago. When I first heard his music, I knew that here was a talented artist and decided to write about him. After all, End Of Neil’s music deserves to be heard by a much wider audience. So, I got in touch with End Of Neil.

This is what I always do with new artists. So, I asked Neil to tell me a bit about himself. I wanted to know not just about End Of Neil’s music, but Neil Stewart, and his life. What I was trying to do, was build a picture, so that I can tell his story. Often, the information I’m given, varies. It various in quality, quantity and substance. End Of Neil’s was different. It was a refreshing first.

Unlike many new musicians I come across, End Of Neil is modest, unassuming and ego free musicians. That’s really refreshing. It seems, he prefers to let his music do the talking.  End Of Neil is a hugely talented singer-songwriter. He’s also one of the most modest men in music. I discovered that when I first came across him. 

Unlike other artists, Neil provided a short, ego-free CV. Straight away, I liked Neil Stewart. Here, was a really talented, singer-songwriter, who despite his obvious talent, remained humble and modest. He helps other bands, is supportive of his local music scene and is “part a strong community of songwriters.” Neil Stewart, I realised is an anomaly in modern music, an ego-free musician. 

Based in Stirling, Scotland, End Of Neil is the alter-ego of Neil Stewart. End Of Neil was founded in 2008, and since then, has been honing their unique sound. Best described as a combination of acoustic and folk, it’s won over audiences throughout Scotland, and more recently, much further afield.

Most of End Of Neil’s music is written by Neil Stewart. He’s just the latest in a new generation of Scottish singer-songwriters. Neil’s been influenced by John Martyn, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley and Neil Young. It’s not just folk music that influences End Of Neil. Not at all. Neil says anyone “with a guitar and sense of feeling” influences him. Interestingly, this includes Nirvana. These influences are reflected in End Of Neil’s music, which has been honed through constantly touring.

After founding End Of Neil, Neil played mostly Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. His idea was, to refine his music through playing live. This is the old-fashioned way. Through playing live, an artist refines his sound and songs. Having played mostly in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh, End Of Neil started playing further afield and opening for some big names.

No longer was End Of Neil playing much further afield. Audiences at concerts and festivals were won over by End Of Neil. So too, were The Vaselines, Ken Stringfellow and Rachel Sermanni, who End Of Neil supported. This summer, End Of Neil will be supporting Simon Townsend, the brother of Who guitarist, Pete Townsend. Whilst constantly touring, End Of Neil is one of the most prolific artists I’ve come across.

It was back in September 2012, that End Of Neil’s recording career began. Escape At The Zoo and 62 were the debut tracks from an undoubtably talented artist. Best described as joyous and celebrating being young and free, Escape At The Zoo features intelligent lyrics, thought provoking lyrics, about whether human instinct can be repressed by work and social pressures and norms. 62 is an atmospheric song, one that paints pictures in your mind, while Neil’s voice is needy and emotive. Just a month after End Of Neil’s debut single, came his first E.P.

September was released by End Of Neil in October 2012. This was End Of Neil’s debut E.P. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Both Escape At The Zoo and 62 featured on September. The other three tracks were of a similar quality. End Of Neil brought Forget The Afternoon, Save My Soul and Knights In Armour to life. Neil’s lyrics are a cut above what we’ve come to expect from modern singer-songwriters. Just like the seventies singer-songwriters who’ve influenced End Of Neil, Neil delivers his songs with passion and emotion. He’s like a master storyteller, his songs painting pictures, asking question, probing and provoking your emotions. For a debut E.P. September was the perfect way to begin End Of Neil’s recording career. Just seven months later, came the followup, My Games.

Released in April 2013, My Games was End Of Neil’s sophomore E.P. It featured six new tracks from End Of Neil. My Games was a coming of age for End Of Neil. It was his best release so far. The songs were cinematic, evocative and emotive. My Games was another glimpse into the world of End Of Neil. During the six songs, End Of Neil, the troubled troubadour, introduced us to a compelling cast of characters. Their lives unfolded during the six songs. Like mini kitchen sink dramas full of betrayal, heartache, love lost and love found. Most importantly, My Games built on September, which had been the starting point for his recording career. The songs are even better, tighter and slicker. Six months later, Less was End Of Neil’s third E.P.

Less was released in October 2013 and featured another six new songs.  Again, we were introduced to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled. All of the characters are intriguing. Just like on My Game, Less saw End Of Neil introduce us to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled, some heartbroken and some frustrated or angry. All of them are intriguing. In many ways, that makes it a very Scottish collection of songs. After all, we Scots are complicated, troubled and intriguing. We certainly have stories to tell and always have. It’s in our D.N.A. So has 

End Of Neil. He’s a storyteller, poet and songwriter. His lyrics paint pictures and his characters come to life. That’s been the case on each of his E.P.s and is the case on the wonderfully named Gas Station Coffee. It featured six songs which were written and produced by End Of Neil.

For fans of End Of Neil, Christmas has come early in the shape of Gas Station Coffee. The six songs were variously heartfelt, hook-laden, emotive, joyous,poignant and melancholy. Tinged with anger, disappointment, heartbreak, hope, humour and pathos. Then there’s the stomping Heavy World and the needy, heartfelt and hopeful paean, Years In The Wilderness. Quite simply, this was  a delicious, aromatic blend of Americana, country, folk and rock. One cup isn’t enough. No. Far from it. It was a truly irresistible drink, best tasted often. Indeed, from Dry Land right through to Deception, Gas Station Coffee oozes quality. Gas Station Coffee whetted your appetite for End Of Neil’s first E.P of 2014, Headspinnin.’

This was a case of End Of Neil picking up where he left off on Headspinnin.’ It  was released as 2014 dawned. Featuring three tracks and marked a welcome return of End Of Neil the storyteller. Headspinnin’ was a tantalising taste of how End Of Neil’s music was progressing. However, it was just leading up to End Of Neil’s debut album Only Surfers Know.

Ever since the advent of the CD, artists seem to feel compelled to fill the eighty minutes. Not End Of Neil. He’s old school. Just like myself, he remembers the days of vinyl. Back then, the length of an album was restricted. It couldn’t be a sprawling album. Instead, an album featured eight to ten tracks. This meant you heard an artist’s best work. End Of Neil realises this. So, his debut album Only Surfers Know features just seven tracks. Only Surfers Know allows you to hear End Of Neil at his very best. You’ll realise that when I tell you about Only Surfers Know.

Opening Only Surfers Know is All The Way. Shakers give way to the rhythm section and punchy horns. A sultry saxophone solo gives way to Neil’s joyous vocal. He literally skips his way through the track. It has a joyful, feel good sound. Especially when layers of harmonies accompany him. They’re replaced by a swirling saxophone. As for Neil, he’s like the Pied Piper. He spreads hooks and happiness, meaning you follow in his wake.

Picked Up By The Ship has a spacious, understated arrangement. Bursts of R&B tinged horns sit above the piano, rhythm section and Neil’s trusty guitar. His vocal paints pictures as he sings about “things that land in the night.” The lyrics are cerebral, cinematic and slightly surreal. There’s an element of mystery. Having said that, can imagine the scenes unfolding before your eyes. That’s down to End Of Neil, storyteller par excellence. 

Hearing Voices bursts into life. A wistful, mellow horn joins with the rhythm section and guitar. They set the scene for Neil’s vocal. Straight away, he’s painting pictures. As he does, his vocal is full of sadness and frustration. Especially, when Neil sings: “he never loved you really…he laughs at you.” He’s saddened she can’t see through him, wants her to forget him. Neil makes the lyrics seem very real. They’re akin to a kitchen sink drama. What makes this wistful opus all the better, is the horn that dips in and out, highlighting the sadness and melancholy.

Le Etoile sees the tempo drop and the drama increase. A deliberate piano, firmly strummed guitar and the rhythm section create the backdrop for Neil. His vocal is reassuring and tender as he sings “baby it’s all right to get a move on.” As the song progresses, Neil’s voice rises in power. It’s always heartfelt and reassuring. A blazing horn, cooing harmonies and sample provide the perfect backdrop for Neil as he delivers a tender, beautiful vocal. It’s without doubt, one of the highlights of Only Surfers Know.

Just a lone guitar opens Crossed The River In My Sleep. Before long, the band sweep in. The rhythm section and later keyboards accompany Neil and his guitar. His vocal is full of despair and hurt. He’s been hurt and lays bare his soul. Despite this, he’s giving her a second chance. “Maybe this time” Neil sings. The way he sings those words, it’s as if he doesn’t quite believe them. That’s maybe why when  his vocal drops out, a blistering saxophone solo fires a warning shot across his bows. It’s as if it’s warning Neil that this could end badly. The saxophone solo is akin to a cathartic outpouring of hurt as it drifts in and out. After that, Neil plays the role of troubled troubadour to a tee on this tale of love and love gone wrong.

River Of Your Mind sees a return to End Of Neil’s more familiar sound. It’s just Neil and his trusty guitar. His vocal is pensive and thoughtful. Especially as memories come flooding back. He sings: “press escape or press rewind, down the River Of Your Mind.” Instantly, memories come flooding back. Listening to Neil, it’s obvious that not all of them are good. That’s why Neil’s singing: : “press escape or press rewind.” If only forgetting the bad times, hurt and pain were than easy.

Closing Only Surfers Know is Scream and Shout. Neil’s guitar sets the scene for his thoughtful vocal. He reflect, singing pop music stole my youth, pop music tells the truth, about the people you’re with.” Bursts of blistering guitar riffs and a Fender Rhodes provide contrasts. At the front sits Neil’s vocal and his guitar. Later, when he’s singing about music Neil delivers the lyrics: “when you Scream and Shout, you let all the demons out.” Neil delivers his lyrics with power, passion and emotion. Combined with some of his finest lyrics, which are akin to a homage to pop music, this is one of the best songs on Only Surfers Know. What a way to end End Of Neil’s debut album.

Only Surfers Know marks a slight change in style from End Of Neil. He introduces a a full band and horns. This works really well. It frames Neil’s vocals. The addition of the horns is a masterstroke. Sometimes, they reflect to emotion and passion in Neil’s vocal. They prove to be the finishing touch to a couple of songs. These songs show the different sides to End Of Neil. 

End Of Neil is variously joyous, lovelorn, heartbroken, reflective and pensive on Only Surfers Know. He delivers each song with feeling. His lyrics are cerebral and cinematic. The characters come to life before your eyes. They seem very real. That’s nothing new. On every release so far, End Of Neil has breathed life, emotion and meaning into his lyrics. However, Only Surfers Know is a coming of age from End Of Neil. 

Having served a six year musical apprenticeship, End Of Neil was more than ready to release his debut album. His apprenticeship was over End Of Neil released Headspinnin’ earlier this year. Now he’s ready to progress his career. So, End Of Neil has moved to Edinburgh and is playing larger venues. He’ll also start working on his sophomore album early next year. Hopefully, by then, End Of Neil will have been signed by a record company. After all, End Of Neil’s music is relevant and current.

In some ways, End Of Neil reminds me of King Creosote. They’re both hugely talented singer-songwriters. Both are the latest in a new generation of Scottish troubadours. King Creosote and End Of Neil are born storytellers whose raison d’être is to entertain. That’s apparent on End Of Neil’s debut album Only Surfers Know.

After six long years, End Of Neil has released his long awaited, and critically acclaimed debut album Only Surfers Know. At last, a much wider audience will be able to hear End Of Neil’s unique fusion of Americana, country, folk, rock and soul. It’s a powerful combination.

End Of Neil’s music is cerebral, intelligent, evocative, expressive, poetic and thoughtful. End Of Neil sings of hurt and heartbreak, love and loss, life and the meaning of it. Poignancy sits side-by-side with pathos. There’s a sense of melancholia, wistfulness and vulnerability in his voice. Other times irony, humour and guilt shine through. That’s apparent on Only Surfers Know as End Of Neil showcases his vocal prowess.  

During Only Surfers Know, End Of Neil showcases his lived-in, world-weary, soulful vocal. Sometimes, End Of Neil’s vocal is a cathartic unburdening. This proves powerful and emotive. It’s as if we’re seeing a glimpse of End Of Neil’s soul. We get a sense of who End Of Neil is, and what makes him tick on his debut album Only Surfers Know.

Although Only Surfers Know is End Of Neil’s debut album, he’s an experienced artist. End Of Neil has been working towards Only Surfers Know, the album which hopefully, will launch the career of Neil Stewart.

END OF NEIL-ONLY SURFERS KNOW.

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JIMMY HUGHES-STEAL AWAY.

JIMMY HUGHES-STEAL AWAY.

Fifty years ago, Jimmy Hughes released what was the first album to bare the Fame Records logo, Steal Away. It was released after the title-track, Steal Away gave Jimmy Hughes the biggest single of his career. On its release, Steal Away gradually climbed the charts. Its rise wasn’t meteoric. Instead, it was steady. Eventually, Steal Away reached number two in the Cashbox R&B chart. Then on 20th June 1964, Steal Away entered the US Billboard 100. After a slow climb, Steal Away reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 100, and spent twelve weeks in the charts. For Jimmy Hughes, this transformed his life.

Having just enjoyed a huge hit single, Jimmy Hughes had the confidence to quit his job in Robbins Rubber factory. No longer would he be Jimmy Hughes part-time singer-songwriter. Now Jimmy Hughes was following in the footsteps of his cousin Percy Sledge.

One of the first things Jimmy Hughes did when he became a professional musician, was begin work on his debut album Steal Away, which was released later in 1964. That’s nearly fifty years ago. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Steal Away’s release, Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records have recently released Jimmy Hughes’ debut album. It’s been released on 180gm heavyweight vinyl and is the latest instalment in Ace Records vinyl collection. Steal Away was Jimmy Hughes debut album. It should’ve launched a long and successful  career. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Between 1962 and 1970, Jimmy Hughes only released three albums. After that, Jimmy retired from music and withdrew from public life. Many people have wondered why? 

There’s no mystery, Jimmy simply became disillusioned with music. He felt his music wasn’t being sufficiently promoted by Volt Records’ boss Al Bell. Jimmy was also tired of touring and being away from his family for long periods of time. Eventually, Jimmy decided he’d had enough. So, he walked away from music.

After that, Jimmy took a job working for the US government making parts for nuclear power plants. His only involvement in music was singing in his church choir. Sadly, Jimmy Hughes’ music never found the success of his cousin Percy Sledge. It all looked could’ve been very different.

Jimmy Hughes was born in 19938, in Leighton, Alabama which is near Muscle Shoals. Whilst still in high school,  Jimmy joined a gospel quartet, The Singing Clouds. This proved to be Jimmy’s musical apprenticeship.

After Jimmy left high school, he got a job in the Robbins Rubber factory. Music was only a hobby back then. He worked during the night, and was a member of The Singing Clouds by night. Nobody ever expected Jimmy to embark upon a musical career. Not even Jimmy. He’d rather have been a basketball player. However, Jimmy had a change of heart in 1962.

By 1962, Jimmy had watched his cousin Percy Sledge embark upon a musical career. Maybe this inspired him? Jimmy decided to audition for 

record producer Rick Hall of Fame Records. Rick Hall was so impressed that he recorded Jimmy’s debut single I’m Qualified. This was a track Rick had co-written with Quin Ivy. I’m Qualified became Jimmy’s debut single and was released on the Philadelphia label Guyden. After the single was recorded, Jimmy returned to his day job in a rubber factory.

Two years later, Jimmy and Rick Hall’s path’s crossed again, when Jimmy returned to Rick with a ballad he’d written Steal Away. The song based on the gospel song Steal Away To Jesus, was recorded in just one take. Little did Jimmy and Rick realise it, but this one song would help define the Muscle Shoals sound that become so hugely popular and famous. 

On its release, Steal Away gradually climbed the charts. Its rise wasn’t meteoric. Instead, it was steady. Eventually, Steal Away reached number two in the Cashbox R&B chart. Then on 20th June 1964, Steal Away entered the US Billboard 100. After a slow climb, Steal Away reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and spent twelve weeks in the charts. For Jimmy Hughes, this transformed his life. He had the confidence to quit his job in Robbins Rubber Factory and began work on the followup to Steal Away, Try Me,

Jimmy entered the studio and recorded a cover of James Brown’s Try Me. It’s given a heartfelt, needy makeover by Jimmy. On its release, Try Me reached number sixty-five in the US R&B Charts. Now it was time for Jimmy Hughes to record his debut album Steal Away.

Steal Away was a mixture of new songs and cover versions. Jimmy only contributed one track, Steal Away. Cover versions included Terry Thompson’s A Shot Of Rhythm and Blues, James Brown’s Try Me, Joe South’s I’m Gonna Rise Again and T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday. Lovely Ladies was one of the first songs penned by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. Dan Penn also penned I Tried To Tell You. Other tracks included Cecil McNeeley’s There Is Something On Your Mind, Huey Meaux’s Neighbor, Neighbor, William Bruce’s I’m Getting Better and Oscar Franck’s I Want Justice. These twelve tracks became Jimmy Hughes’ debut album Steal Away.

Recording of Steal Away took place at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals. Accompanying Jimmy Hughes was the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns. They were some of the hottest and tightest musicians of that era. This included drummer Rodger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, guitarist Jimmy Johnson and keyboardist Barry Beckett. When they recorded together, they were one of the finest backing bands ever. Jimmy Hughes couldn’t have asked for a better backing band on his debut album Steal Away. It was released in late 1964.

Everyone had high hopes for Steal Away. Surely with the right combination of material, a crack backing and Jimmy breathing life, meaning and emotion into the twelve songs, Steal Away couldn’t fail? Sadly, Steal Away sunk without trace. So few copies sold that original copies of Steal Away are a real rarity. There was a good reason for Steal Away’s commercial failure.

Vee-Jay, who distributed Fame Records’ releases had financial problems. They didn’t have the funds to promote Steal Away. Not long after this, Vee-Jay became insolvent. It filed for bankruptcy. Luckily, Rick Hall had only leased Fame Records’ releases to Vee-Jay. This was a small crumb of comfort for Jimmy, who must have been wondering whether he’d have been better off working in the rubber factory. We should be grateful he didn’t remain in the Robbins Rubber factory. If he had, Jimmy would never have released Steal Away, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening side one of Steal Away is Lovely Ladies. The rhythm section and braying horns provide an irresistible, joyous backdrop for Jimmy’s vocal. It’s tender and seductive. From the get-go, Jimmy dawns the role of seducer-in-chief. Behind him, guitars jangle, horns blaze and the rhythm section provide a sultry, sometimes choppy backdrop. All the time, Jimmy’s vocal is needy and tinged with longing and loneliness.

Concern and worry fills Jimmy’s vocal on There Is Something On Your Mind. Cooing harmonies, chiming guitars, the rhythm section and rasping horns join forces. Together they combine elements of blues, R&B and soul. This is the perfect backdrop for Jimmy’s hurt-filled vocal. He lays bare his hurt and heartache for all to hear. However, try as he may, he can’t forget the woman who betrayed him.

As A Shot Of Rhythm and Blues unfolds, it takes on an early sixties sound. There’s a nod towards rock ’n’ roll, pop and even the Beach Boys. It’s very different from the two previous songs. However, it shows how versatile Jimmy and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and Muscle Shoals Horns were. They’re joined by female backing vocalists. They accompany Jimmy, and also add handclaps. Against a backdrop of whoops, hollers and whistles, Jimmy delivers a slice of hook-laden bubblegum pop.

Neighbor, Neighbor features a despairing, frustrated Jimmy. He’s fed up with his nosey neighbours. They’re always listening to what’s going  on in Jimmy’s house. So he fires a warning shot across their bows during the song.  All his frustration and anger comes to the surface. It overflows. As this happens, the rhythm section, Hammond organ and searing combine to create an arrangement that’s got Southern Soul written all over it.

Everybody Let’s Dance sees a return to a much more poppy, soulful sound. Although Jimmy’s heartbroken, after his girlfriend has left him, he’s determined the party must go. His vocal is a mixture of bravado and sadness as he sings “Everybody Let’s Dance.” All the time horns growl and the rhythm section provide a jaunty, dance-floor friendly backdrop. Against that arrangement, Jimmy sings: “I wait for tomorrow before I cry…I’ll find another woman, before the night is through.”

Steal Away closes side one of Steal Away. It’s without doubt, the highlight of side one. It has an understated arrangement. Just the piano, rhythm section and cooing harmonies accompany Jimmy’s heartfelt, hopeful vocal. His vocal oozes emotion as he sings: “your folks are sleeping, lets not waste any time, lets Steal Away.” As he sings these lyrics, the arrangement builds. Harmonies, urgent drums and Hammond organ sweep in. Jimmy’s vocal grows in power, hope and urgency, resulting in a truly beautiful soul classic.

Try Me opens side Two of Steal Away. Here, Jimmy reinvents the James Brown track. So good is his version, that he makes the song his own. There’s not yelps, hollers or whoops. Instead, Jimmy delivers an gentle, hopeful and needy vocal. The arrangement is suitably understated. Stabs of piano, a shuffling backdrop, harmonies and bursts of rasping saxophone frame Jimmy’s vocal. As a result Jimmy’s vocal and Rick Hall’s arrangement is like a meeting of minds. They’re like yin and yang, complimenting each other perfectly.

I’m Gonna Rise Again bursts into life. Rasping horns and the rhythm section join forces. Then when Jimmy’s vocal enters, he’s accompanied by harmonies. The track takes on a gospel sound. Especially when Jimmy sings: “I’m Gonna Rise Again.” This gives the track an uplifting and joyous sound. Helping Jimmy all the way are the cooing harmonies. They add to the song’s soulfulness.

Abruptly, the pan and hurt of I Tried to tell You unfolds. Urgent backing vocals accompany Jimmy’s vocal. His vocal is rueful and tinged with sadness. Especially when he sings: “I found somebody else.” He’s torn between the past, the present and the future.  He knows what he should do, but is torn. All the time, a jangly piano, chiming guitar and rhythm section combine with sweeping harmonies. The result is a soulful soap opera.

I’m Getting Better features a heartbroken Jimmy. Things are getting better for him. Hopefully, he sings: “maybe it wont be long, till all my hurt is gone.” A weeping Hammond organ joins a probing rhythm section and cooing harmonies. This is the perfect backdrop for Jimmy’s lovelorn vocal. It frames it perfectly, allowing Jimmy’s vocal to shine.

Stormy Monday Blues was written by T-Bone Walker, and is, without doubt, a stonewall classic. Oft-covered, Jimmy delivers a heartfelt, impassioned soulful vocal. Accompanying him are a jazz-tinged guitar,  rhythm section and rasping horns. They mix blues, R&B and soul. The finishing touch are the harmonies. They sweep in and compliment and highlight Jimmy’s vocal as seamlessly, he combines blues, gospel and soul.

The joyous I Want Justice closes Steal Away. It has a poppy hue that has early sixties written all over it. Handclaps, harmonies and the rhythm section combine as pop and soul combine. Later, braying horns enter as Jimmy delivers a rousing, stirring version of I Want Justice.

For Jimmy Hughes, the failure of his debut album Steal Away, was a huge blow. He knew Steal Away deserved to fare better than it did. Sadly, circumstances out-with his control put paid to Steal Away’s success. It was a case of if-only. 

If only Rick Hall of Fame Records cut a deal with another distributor, rather than Vee-Jay. After all, Vee-Jay looked like they weren’t long for this world. That proved to be the case. Vee-Jay imploded. Not long afterwards, Vee-Jay became insolvent and was filing for bankruptcy. For Jimmy Huges his career continued.

Despite the failure of his debut album Steal Away, Jimmy Hughes toured with some of the great names in soul music, including Bobby Womack and Jackie Wilson. For a relative newcomer like Jimmy, this was akin to a musical education. He would learn about stagecraft and how to command an audience. Having rubbed shoulders with the soul greats, Jimmy entered the studio again.

When Jimmy’s next few singles failed to build on the success of his first two singles, Jimmy was sidelined. Vee-Jay decided to focus on acts like The Four Seasons and The Beatles. Things weren’t looking good for Jimmy. Then his cousin Percy Sledge released a classic single, When A Man Loves A Woman,.

On the back of Jimmy’s cousin Percy Sledge’s successful classic single When A Man Loves A Woman, Rick Hall managed to get Jimmy a new deal for his label to be distributed by Atlantic. This coincided with an upturn in Jimmy’s fortunes. 

His next three singles on Fame, Neighbor, Neighbor reached number four in the US R&B Charts and sixty-five in the US R&B Charts in 1966, while I Worship the Ground You Walk On reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 100. In 1967,  Why Not Tonight reached number five in the US R&B Charts and ninety in the US Billboard 100. Jimmy’s next single It Ain’t What You Got reached number forty-three in the US Billboard 100. It was 1967 that Jimmy’s sophomore album Why Not Tonight was released. 

When Why Not Tonight was released in 1967. Just like Steal Away, commercial success eluded Jimmy Hughes. His singles were more successful than his albums. The lack of success was beginning to affect Jimmy. After Why Not Tonight, Jimmy only released one further album, Something Special.

Jimmy’s third and final album Something Special was released on Volt Records in 1969. By now, Jimmy was disillusioned, having become fed-up being away from his family on tour. What didn’t help was his belief that Al Bell, who produced his album, hadn’t promoted his album sufficiently. He felt that other acts were being promoted much better than he was. His quote was he felt like the “low man on the totem pole,” described his feelings perfectly. After that, Jimmy decided enough was enough, and he returned to “civilian life.” 

After eight years in the music business, Jimmy Hughes turned his back on music. Jimmy found a job making parts for nuclear power plants. His only involvement in music was singing in his church choir. Sadly, Jimmy Hughes’ music never found the success of his cousin Percy Sledge. However, although Jimmy Hughes career may not enjoyed the commercial success, critical acclaim or longevity of his contemporaries, he produced three hugely underrated albums. The best of this triumvirate of albums was Steal Away which was released fifty years ago.

To celebrate that anniversary, Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records have recently recently released Jimmy Hughes’ debut album Steal Away on 180gm heavyweight vinyl. It’s the latest instalment in Ace Records vinyl collection, where it joins illustrious company. That’s fitting. After all, Steal Away was an important album.

Steal Away wasn’t just Jimmy Hughes debut album. It was also the first album Rick Hall’s Fame Records released. Steal Away is also credited with defining the Southern Soul sound. So, Jimmy Hughes is a soul pioneer who is only now, receiving the critical acclaim his music deserves. Jimmy Hughes’ finest hour was, without doubt Steal Away, which showcases one of soul’s best kept secrets.

JIMMY HUGHES-STEAL AWAY.

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HADDA BROOKES-QUEEN OF THE BOOGIE AND MORE.

HADDA BROOKES-QUEEN OF THE BOOGIE AND MORE.

When Hadda Brookes released her debut single, Swingin’ the Boogie in 1945, she was billed as Queen Of The Boogie. This wasn’t hype. Far from it. Hadda Brookes was the real deal. That’s why she enjoyed the longevity that she did. 

Hadda’s career lasted over fifty years. She was rediscovered by a new generation of music lovers in the nineties. This resulted in Hadda releasing a new album in 1996, Time Was When. It was so successful that Hadda was booked to play at some of the smartest clubs in Los Angeles. Fifty-one years after the released Swingin’ the Boogie in 1945, Hadda was still Queen Of The Boogie. Even today, twelve years after Hadda died in 2002, the Queen Of The Boogie’s music is still hugely popular.

So much so, that Ace Records have released Queen Of The Boogie And More, a twenty-four track compilation of Hadda Brookes’ music. They focus on Hadda’s time at Modern Music. Eighteen of the tracks have never been released before. They’ve lain in Modern Music’s vaults for over sixty years. Belatedly, they make their debut on Queen Of The Boogie And More, which is the perfect introduction to Hadda Brookes’ music.

The Queen of the Boogie was born Hadda Hapgood on October 29, 1916, in the Boyle Heights suburb of Los Angeles. Her mother was a doctor and her father a deputy sheriff. However, it was Hadda’s grandfather Samuel Alexander Hopgood who proved to be the biggest influence on her career.

Samuel Alexander Hopgood moved from Atlanta, Georgia, to Los Angeles, where he lived with his family. He was steeped in the arts, especially theatre and opera. As Hadda grew up, Samuel introduced his her to theatre and opera. His influence rubbed of.

Growing up, Hadda listened to Italian coloratura soprano Amelita Galli-Curci and operatic tenor Enrico Caruso. This lead to Hadda studying classical music with Italian piano instructor, Florence Bruni. She trained with him for twenty years. However, when Hadda graduated high school, she headed to the University of Chicago.

Having left Los Angeles Hadda headed to the Windy City of Chicago. It was there that Hadda discovered vaudeville, black theatre and the music of Bert Williams. Hadda’s time in Chicago was like a cultural awakening. She’d broadened her cultural interests and completed her degree. Hadda had also decided to become a professional musician.

On her return to Los Angeles, in the early forties, Hadda became a professional musician.Her first booking was playing piano in the tap-dance studio owned by Hollywood choreographer, and dancer, Willie Covan. Hadda was paid ten Dollars. In return, she played a selection of popular songs. While this might not seem like the most glamorous booking, Hadda was playing to an audience of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, who Willie worked with. For Hadda, she wasn’t complaining. At last, she was making a living as a musician. She was now a married woman.

Earl “Shug” Morrison was a member of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. He was also Hadda Brookes’ husband. They married in 1941. When the team headed off on tour, so did Hadda. She would play venues in the cities the Harlem Globetrotters visited. Sadly, Hadda’s marriage didn’t last long. Sadly, Earl died of pulmonary pneumonia in 1942. Hadda and Earl had only been married a year. Never again, would Hadda marry. It seemed nobody could replace Earl. So, Hadda decided to concentrate on her career.

After Earl’s death, Hadda began honing her style. Personally, she preferred playing ballads. However, she started listening to boogie woogie pianist like Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis. For Hadda, this was a eureka moment. Instantly, she realised this was the direction her music should head. This was a hunch, but a hunch that proved right.

Jules Bihari was a Hollywood based musical entrepreneur. With his brothers, he’d formed Modern Music. They were doing their best to carve a niche into a music market that previously, had been populated by major labels. Not by the early to mid-forties. Now a number of small, ambitious, independent labels had sprung up. This included Modern Music. Every label was constantly looking for new artists. Jules found Hadda in a Hollywood music store.

At the time, Hadda was sitting playing classical music on one of the store’s pianos. Jules was mesmerised by Hadda’s talent and beauty. So, he asked her name and if she would be interested in recording for Modern Music? She agreed and the Queen Of The Boogie was born.

When Hadda’s career began, she decided to dispense with the name Hopgood. She decided to adopt the surname Brookes. That would be the name that would adorn her releases. 

From the moment they met, Jules had made it clear to Hadda the type of music he wanted her to play. He wanted people jumping out their seats and pressing the replay button on the jukebox. This was easier said than done. Not if you were the Queen Of The Boogie. Hadda’s debut single was Swingin’ The Boogie, a song that would become synonymous with Hadda Brookes.

On its release in 1945, Swingin’ The Boogie saw Hadda Brookes billed as Queen Of The Boogie. They weren’t far wrong. Swingin’ The Boogie gave Hadda a regional hit. It was so successful within the Los Angeles area, that several times, Swingin’ The Boogie had to be repressed. Swingin’ The Boogie had launched Hadda’s career. 

After that, Jules Bihari sent Hadda into the studio with a small band. Two of the singles Hadda released in 1946 were Basin Street Blues and Polonaise. Tucked away on the B-Side of Polonaise, was Polonaise Boogie. It features on Ace Records’ compilation Queen Of The Boogie And More. So does Grieg’s Concerto Boogie In A Minor. It’s another B-Side. It was the B-Side to 1946s Grieg’s Concerto In A Minor. Hadda was forging a reputation as one of the finest boogie-woogie pianist of the day. So, Jules decided to record Hadda as often as possible. 

As a result, Jules was recording more music than he could release. This was deliberate and meant that for the foreseeable future, he had recordings he could release. In total, Hadda recorded over one-hundred tracks for Modern Music. So, even if Hadda decided to leave Modern Music, Jules would be able to continue releasing singles. However, it looked unlikely Hadda would leave Modern Music. She was, after all, Jules’ girlfriend.

In 1946, Jules decided that Hadda should release her debut album. This would a first for Modern Music. The company had never before released an album. It featured just six tracks. These tracks were recorded in February and March of 1946. Hadda, as always was a perfectionist. She had the highest standards. So much so, she’d constantly record the same songs time and time again. This was the case for her debut album. 

When Hadda recorded her debut album, she recorded the same songs over and over. She was determined to get them right. Eventually, the six songs that featured on Hada’s debut album were ready. The six songs feature on Queen Of The Boogie And More. They’re  Sunset Limited, Juke Box Boogie, Night Life, Boogie In The Bandbox, Bully Wully Boogie and Down Beat Boogie. It’s not the original version of Bully Wully Boogie that features on Queen Of The Boogie And More. Instead, it’s Take 3. Given how good Take 3 is, Hadda obviously had exacting standards. That would the case throughout her career, including when she changed direction musically. 

By mid-1946, Jules decided that Hadda should change direction. Initially, Hadda recorded just instrumentals. Not any more. Now she was ready to find her voice.

So Hadda headed into the studio on and recorded That’s My Desire. On its release in 1946, it became the biggest selling single of Hadda’s career. Since then, That’s My Desire is recognised as a classic West Coast R&B single. After the success of That’s My Desire, Hadda became the First Lady of Modern Music. They recorded and released Hadda’s music in ever greater numbers.

In 1947, Modern Music Minuet In G Boogie and Humoresque Boogie. They’d later feature on a compilation released by Modern Music in 1955, A Collection Of Popular Songs-Modern Records Volume 7. It featured eight tracks. The A-Side featured Polonaise Boogie, Humoresque Boogie, Hungarian Rhapsody #2 In Boogie and Melody In F Boogie. Each of these tracks feature on Queen Of The Boogie And More. The only difference is that it’s Take 2 of Hungarian Rhapsody #2 In Boogie and Take 4 of Melody In F Boogie. These are two further examples of Hadda’s exacting standards. Another examples can be found on the B-Side. 

The B-Side of A Collection Of Popular Songs-Modern Records Volume 7  featured Hungara (Gypsy), Grieg’s Concerto Boogie, Roses Of Picardy Boogie and Minuette In ‘G’ Boogie. Only a rehearsal version of Hungara (Gypsy) features on Queen Of The Boogie And More. For most pianists, this version would be good enough. Not Hadda. It seemed she was always looking to better her previous efforts. So much so, that it was if Hadda’s career was a constant search for perfection. Maybe that’s why she was such a talented and versatile pianist. That becomes apparent on the other unreleased tracks on Queen Of The Boogie And More.

Of the other ten unreleased tracks, we hear different sides to Hadda. She’s at her bluesy best on 134 Blues, Strollin’ ‘N’ Rollin’ and 743 Blues. 134 Blues was recored in 1945, early on in Hadda’s career. Strollin’ ‘N’ Rollin’ was one of many songs written by Hadda. She recorded in 1946, just as her career was taking off. Sadly, it was never released, until now. It shows Hadda developing as an artist. So does 743 Blues, which was recorded in 1947. By then, Hadda had enjoyed several hit singles. She seems to have progressed as a pianist, and showboats her way through this wistful blues. Strollin’ ‘n’ Rollin’ is another track with a bluesy hue

On other tracks, Hadda delivers some blissful boogie-woogie. Without doubt, one of the best is Hadda’s Honky Tonk Train. Hadda delivers what’s best described as a masterclass in boogie-woogie piano. Even better is the unedited version of Schubert’s Serenade In Boogie. Here, Hadda’s accompanied by blazing horns. They’re the perfect foil for Hadda as she demonstrates why she’s the Queen Of The Boogie.

Three other tracks show different sides to Hadda. Sleepy Time Gal was recorded in 1947 and laid-back, feel good sound. Moonglow has a jazz-tinged sound. The guitar proves the perfect foil for Hadda on a track as it meanders wistfully along. Hadda’s take on Stardust is dramatic and full of flamboyant flourishes. She reinvents herself. Gone is the blues and boogie-woogie. Replacing it is a track that’s beautiful, dramatic and wistful. 

The twenty-four tracks on Ace Records’ recently released compilation Queen Of The Boogie And More, is an introduction to Hadda Brookes time at Modern Music. During her time at Modern Music, Hadda recorded well over one-hundred tracks. Some  of them feature on the three previous compilations of Hadda Brookes’ music released by Ace Records. Queen Of The Boogie And More features a mixture of familiar tracks, hidden gems and alternate cuts. They’re a compelling snapshot into the career of Hadda Brookes.

She was, without doubt, a hugely talented and versatile pianist and vocalist. That’s apparent on Queen Of The Boogie And More. Hadda was also a talented and prolific songwriter. She wrote eleven of the tracks on Queen Of The Boogie And More. What’s also apparent about Hadda, is she was a perfectionist. 

She’d record a track and then rerecord it. It wasn’t unknown for Hadda to record numerous takes. Each time, Hadda was determined to surpass her previous efforts. That’s no bad thing. Hadda took pride in her music. She was never going to settle best. That wasn’t Hadda’s style. maybe that’s why Hadda’s career lasted over fifty years.

Not many artists enjoy the longevity that Hadda Brookes enjoyed. Her career spanned over fifty years. She remained relevant throughout her career. Hadda was played in front of dignitaries, politicians and in 1959, Pope Pius XII. Later in her life, Hadda forged a new career as an actress. Music like Earl, remained her first love. Indeed, Hadda was rediscovered by a new generation of music lovers in the nineties. 

This resulted in Hadda releasing a new album in 1996, Time Was When. It was so successful that Hadda was booked to play at some of the smartest clubs in Los Angeles. Fifty-one years after the released Swingin’ the Boogie in 1945, Hadda was still Queen Of The Boogie. Even today, twelve years after she died on November 21st 2002, Hadda Brooks  is still the Queen Of The Boogie And More.

HADDA BROOKES-QUEEN OF THE BOOGIE AND MORE.

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BILLY HAWKS-THE NEW GENIUS OF THE BLUES/HEAVY SOUL!

BILLY HAWKS-THE NEW GENIUS OF THE BLUES/HEAVY SOUL!

When Bob Weinstock founded Prestige Records in 1949, he’d no idea that his nascent label would become one of the most important, influential and innovative labels in jazz music’s history. So much so, that nowadays, Prestige Records sits proudly beside Atlantic, Blue Note, Columbia, Impulse! and Verve at jazz’s top table. No wonder. Look at the artists who called Prestige Records home.

Prestige Records’ discography is akin to a whose who of jazz. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Gene Ammons, Jackie McLean, Modern Jazz Quartet, Kenny Burrell, Sonny Stitt, Coleman Hawkins, Donald Byrd and Brother Jack McDuff. They all recorded for Prestige Records and are responsible for a string of classic albums. However, not every album Prestige Records released became a classic. No. Some of Prestige Records releases are hidden gems awaiting discover.

This includes two albums that Billy Hawks released in 1967 and 1968. Billy released The New Genius Of The Blues in 1967 and Heavy Soul! in 1968. Both albums fall into the category of hidden gem. They’ve long been overdue a rerelease and deserve to be heard by a much wider audience. Ace Records realised this. They released The New Genius Of The Blues and Heavy Soul! on their BGP Records imprint. The two albums feature on one mid-price CD. This is the perfect opportunity to discover the music of Billy Hawks, whose career I’ll tell you about.

Billy Hawks was born on 3rd September 1941. He grew up in the town of Blackstone, Virginia. The Hawks’ family were a musical family. Everyone sang or played an instrument. This included Billy. 

From the age of five, he was playing the piano and singing. Music was his life. If he he’d been allowed, Billy would’ve played the piano all day. When he wasn’t playing the piano, Billy was listening to the blues. This was both Billy’s musical eduction and inspiration. One of Billy’s favourite artists was Fats Domino. He inspired Billy, who moved to Jersey when he was seventeen.

Not long after moving to Jersey, Billy Hawks decided to switch to the big burner, the Hammond organ. Billy loved the sound of the Hammond organ. So it made sense to switch to the Hammond organ. Especially since it was growing in popularity. Switching to the Hammond organ proved to be the best decision Billy ever made.

By 1961, aged just twenty, Billy Hawks joined Steve Gibson’s Red Caps. His decision to switch to the Hammond organ was vindicated. He was a member of Steve Gibson’s Red Caps until 1962.

Billy left Steve Gibson’s Red Caps in 1962 and joined joined the Modern Flamingos. For the next two years, Billy’s musical education continued as a member of the Modern Flamingos. Then in 1964, twenty-three year old Billy Hawks was ready to become a bandleader.

With manager Clifford Doubledee guiding him, Billy founded The Billy Hawks Organ Trio. They were based in Philly and featured guitarist Maynard Parker and drummer Henry Terrell. The Billy Hawks Organ Trio made their name playing along the Eastern Seaboard.

Soon, Billy was working six or seven nights a week. He played in clubs, army bases and private parties. Soon, Billy was travelling all over America. Atlantic City, Jersey, New York, Philly and Virginia Billy played them all. Billy was like a hired gun. Wherever someone was looking for an organist, he’d make his way there. He’d then entertain audiences with his unique blend of blues, gospel, jazz and soul. Audiences were won over by Billy and his three or four piece band.

Having honed their sound, for two years, Billy’s band were ready to record their debut album. He was actively looking for a record deal when he heard that Prestige Records were looking for new artists. For Billy, this was the break he’d been looking for.

Billy and his manager Clifford Doubledee made an appointment to see Prestige Records’ A&R man Cal Lampley. When the meeting took place, at first, Cal wasn’t interested. He became more interested when Billy mentioned his band. Knowing he had to rescue the situation, Billy noticed a piano sitting in Cal’s office. Billy offered to audition. Instead, he was told to submit an audition tape of The Billy Hawks Organ Trio.

Knowing that this was The Billy Hawks Organ Trio’s big chance to shine, they began work on an audition tape. They recorded several songs, then submitted the tape to Prestige Records. Luckily, founder Bob Weinstock heard the tape. He liked what he heard. Before long, Billy was signed to Prestige Records. Before long, Billy would enter the studio to record what would become The New Genius Of The Blues.

The New Genius Of The Blues.

The New Genius Of The Blues featured ten tracks. Five of these tracks tracks, Billy had written during the last two years. This included I’ll Wait For You Baby, Why Do Things Happen To Me, Let Me Love You Before You Go, Mean Woman Blues and Hawk’s Blues. Other tracks included covers of Preston Foster’s Got My Mojo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You), Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman, Willie Dixon’s I Just Want To Make Love To You and Ferdinand Washington’s Every Time It Rains. The other track was Albert Beach and Charles Trent’s I Wish You Love. These ten tracks became The New Genius Of The Blues.

Recording of The New Genius Of The Blues began on November 15th 1966. Joining Billy were drummer Henry Terrell and guitarist Joseph Jones. They were waiting for Billy when the sessions were due to start. Unfortunately for Billy, he overslept. Billy had a reputation as a somewhat laid-back person. Even the thought of recording his debut didn’t seem to excite him. Indeed, the thought of playing without an audience filled Billy with dread. He seemed to think he needed an audience to inspire him. That was far from the case. With Henry and Joseph accompanying him, Billy recorded ten tracks which was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder and produced by  Cal Lampley. They became The New Genius Of The Blues.

On it release in 1967, The New Genius Of The Blues wasn’t a commercial success. This was disappointing. It’s not a reflection on the quality of music. Billy Hawks was a seriously talented organist and vocalist. That’s apparent from the opening bars of The New Genius Of The Blues.

What better way to start The New Genius Of The Blues, than a blistering cover of Got My Mojo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You). Billy vamps his way through the track, showcasing his considerable talents as a singer and organist. He then drops the tempo on I’ll Wait For You Baby. Having blown a bluesy harmonica solo, Billy delivers a needy, hopeful and soulful vocal. All the time, his Hammond organ provides an atmospheric backdrop. 

I Got A Woman sees Billy kick loose and deliver another blistering performance. This he does against an understated, jazz-tinged backdrop. Billy’s vocal is a mixture of power and sass, as he vamps his way through a classic track, bringing new life to it. 

The tempo drops on Why Do Things Happen To Me. Slow, bluesy and moody, it features a despairing vocal from a heartbroken Billy. As the tempo increases on Let Me Love You Before You Go, the hurt and heartache is still present. A Billy heartbroken, needy Billy pleads “Let Me Love You Before You Go.” Very different is the understated and beautiful I Wish You Luck. It sees Billy change tack and deliver a tender, heartfelt vocal on one of The New Genius Of The Blues’ highlights.

On Mean Woman Blues, Billy sounds as if he was born to sing the blues. His weary vocal is a mixture of power, hurt and despair. It veers between tender to a roar. It’s akin to a cathartic outpouring of pain and hurt. Meanwhile, his band fuse a delicious brew of blues and jazz. This continues on another classic track, I Just Want To Make Love To You. It’s the perfect showcase for Billy as he plays blues harmonica and Hammond organ. 

Then Billy ups the ante. Billy delivers a sultry, sassy, vocal powerhouse, as he makes a classic track swing. 

As Every Time It Rains unfolds, Billy drops the tempo. He and his band mix their unique blend of blues and jazz. His vocal is a mixture of pain and sadness, as he makes the lyrics come to life. Closing The New Genius Of The Blues is the instrumental Hawk’s Blues. It’s the perfect showcase for Billy and his band. They enjoy stretching their kegs when the solos come around. Especially Billy, as he delivers a Hammond organ masterclass.

Despite the undoubted quality of The New Genius Of The Blues, Billy Hawks debut album almost sunk without trace. That’s a great shame. After all, Billy Hawks was a hugely talented musician and singer. He could play piano, Hammond organ and harmonica. Then there was Billy’s vocal prowess. 

Songs came to life when Billy sings them. Especially songs about love and love lost. Billy brings to life the betrayal, hurt, pain and sadness. Other times, he swaggers and strut his way through tracks, bravado and machismo oozing out of every pore. Billy Hawks it seems, had lived the lyrics he was singing. He sounded as if he’d lived through the hurt and survived the pain. Not many vocalists can do that. Billy could. So, it made sense to have Billy Hawks record his sophomore album Heavy Soul!

Heavy Soul!

After the disappointment of his debut album The New Genius Of The Blues, the pressure must have been on Billy to record a successful sophomore album. After all, if his sophomore album Heavy Soul! failed commercially, Prestige Records would most likely let Billy go. He’d be back playing live dates along the Eastern Seaboard. Billy didn’t want that to happen.

So, Billy had been busy. He’d written written seven of the nine songs on Heavy Soul! This included O’Baby (I Believe I’m Losing You), Whip It On Me, What More Can I Do, Heavy Soul,You’ve Been A Bad Girl, I Can Make It and That’s Your Bag. The other two tracks on Heavy Soul were cover versions. They were Henry Glover’s Drown In My Own Tears and Oscar Brown Jr’s I’ll Be Back. These nine tracks became Heavy Soul!

Heavy Soul! was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder’s at his studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Producing Heavy Soul! was  Cal Lampley. Accompanying Billy were drummer Henry Terrell, guitarist Maynard Parker and Buddy Terry on tenor saxophone. Once Heavy Soul! was completed, it was released in 1968.

On the release of Heavy Soul in 1968, lightning stuck twice. Heavy Soul never came close to troubling the charts. However, on closer inspection, Heavy Soul! is another hidden gem. 

O’Baby (I Believe I’m Losing You) opens Heavy Soul. It would become a club classic during the nineties, when Acid Jazz DJs rediscovered the track. It’s a hypnotic and irresistible call to dance. Billy and his band get into the groove and work their magic.

Drown In My Own Tears has a slow, spacious and moody arrangement. This is perfect for Billy. He delivers a soul-baring vocal. His vampish vocal is akin to an exorcism of hurt, pain and betrayal. The tempo increase on Whip It On Me, where Billy embarks upon another vamp. Again, the arrangement is funky, soulful and jazz-tinged as Billy heads in the direction of James Brown.

Jazz-tinged and soulful describes What More Can I Do? The arrangement supplies the jazz, while Billy’s hurt-filled, emotive vocal supplies the soul. Despairing and downhearted, he pleads his way through the lyrics.

Very different is Heavy Soul, an instrumental. It’s the perfect showcase for Billy and their band. They get an opportunity to showcase their combined talents. Then later, everyone gets their moment to shine. Billy like any good bandleader, doesn’t begrudge them this opportunity, realising that it’s for the album’s greater good.

You’ve Been A Bad Girl sees Billy move in the direction of soul, jazz and even rock, courtesy of the drums. His band lock into a groove and Billy delivers a despairing, needy vocal. He vamps his way through the tracks hoping, pleading and “you’ll come on back to me.”

I’ll Be Back has a much more soulful sound. Billy delivers an impassioned, hopeful vocal. He’s singing from the perspective of a soldier heading out to Vietnam. A braying tenor saxophone answers his call, adding to the emotion, drama and beauty of the track. This is a masterstroke and results in the definitive version of this track.

I Can Make It has a soul-jazz sound. Billy drops the tempo and sets the scene with his Hammond organ. Then when Billy’s vocal enters it’s needy, hopeful and desperate. He breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics, against a mesmeric arrangement. The soul-jazz sound continues on That’s Your Bag. As the arrangement unfolds, it breezes along. Guitarist Maynard Parker unleashes some of the best guitar lines on Heavy Soul! It’s a jazz guitar masterclass. When his guitar drops out, Billy picks up the baton. He’s inspired to greater heights. So is drummer Henry Terrell. Together they ensure that Heavy Soul! ends on a resounding high.

Sadly, Heavy Soul! proved to be Billy Hawks final album for Prestige Records. It was also the last album Billy Hawks recorded. Never again, would Billy enter a recording studio. He spent the rest of his life playing at army bases, clubs and private parties. Billy traveled all over the Eastern Seaboard. Atlantic City, Jersey, New York, Philly and Virginia were home from home for Billy and his band. They played each and every one of those cities more times than they cared to remember. Billy was like a musical hired gun. Wherever someone was looking for an organist, he’d make his way there. He’d then entertain audiences with his unique blend of blues, gospel, jazz and soul. Audiences were won over by Billy and his three or four piece band. After that, they’d leave town and do it all again. However, this is what Billy loved.

For Billy, there was no greater thrill than playing live. Recording wasn’t the same. Maybe that’s why Billy never recorded another album. He didn’t get the same buzz out of playing in a studio. Whatever the reason, the fact that Billy Hawks never recorded any more albums was a great shame. This was music’s loss. We never got to hear how Billy matured and evolved as an singer and musician. That’s true in more than one way.

Aged just forty-one, Billy Hawks died of a heart attack. Ironically, given his profession, Billy neither smoked nor drank. By then, Billy had played more live dates than most musicians twenty years his senior. Sadly, his discography features just two albums, The New Genius Of The Blues and Heavy Soul! They’ve been recently released by Ace Records on their BGP imprint. These two albums are the perfect opportunity to discover or rediscover Billy Hawks’ two albums The New Genius Of The Blues and Heavy Soul! Both The New Genius Of The Blues and Heavy Soul! are a reminder that Billy Hawks could’ve and should’ve been a contender.

BILLY HAWKS-THE NEW GENIUS OF THE BLUES/HEAVY SOUL!

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JOHN MORALES PRESENTS CLUB MOTOWN.

JOHN MORALES PRESENTS CLUB MOTOWN.

DJ and remixer John Morales, spent much of the last seven years working what he describes as his “labor or love,” John Morales Presents Club Motown. It’s a lovingly compiled double album which was recently released by UMC. John Morales Presents Club Motown  features a total of twenty tracks from Motown’s eighties’ roster. These twenty tracks are a combination of stonewall classic and hidden gems. 

Among these hidden gems are five previously unreleased M+M mixes. This includes Tata Vega’s Get It Up For Love, Diana Ross’ The Boss, Teena Marie;s I Need your Lovin,’ Thelma Houston’s Saturday Night Sunday Morning and Val Young’s If You Should Ever Be Lonely. These five tracks alone should make John Morales Presents Club Motown a must have. However, there’s more to John Morales Presents Club Motown than these five tracks. Much more. However, before I tell you about John Morales Presents Club Motown, I’ll tell you about the man behind the remixes, John Morales.

John Morales’ love of music started at an early age, working in an after-school job at a local record shop. He was only about twelve at the time, with the record shop paying him in singles. By fourteen, John formed a band, the F Band. They played gigs at local high schools, but nothing became of the F Band. However, even then, John knew that he wanted to make music a career. Then his collection of singles, which he’d started when working in the record shop lead to a career in music.

When John started DJ-ing in 1975, he played first at small clubs and bars in his native Bronx.  Then when the rollerskating craze started in the early eighties, John started working at the Bruckner Roller Dome. From there he played at other rollerskating venues, before heading into New York, where he’d DJ at various bars and clubs. Soon he was playing the Limelight, Pippins and Studio 54. With Sergio Munzibai, John opened a club, with 1018 becoming M&M. However, during that period, John had established another career which ran parallel with his DJ-ing career.

This other career was working at New York’s WBLS radio station, where Frankie Crocker, was musical director. John was responsible for the midday and weekend mixes. These mixes required John to teach himself to reedit tracks. He had to make them longer, because the records were far too short. To do this, John bought a Sony reel-to reel tape recorder. At home, he taught himself to edit tracks, splicing the tape up, rejoining it, lengthening breaks and making them much more dance-floor friendly. Remember there were no Apple Mac’s running Logic, ProTools or Ableton Live. This was an example of John was learning his craft, something many modern producers no longer do. However, John Morales, like Tom Moulton learnt his trade and next step would see John as one of the best remixers of the mid-seventies and early eighties.

Soon, John Morales and Sergio Munzibai launched one of the most fruitful and prolific remixing partnerships in dance music history. After their first remix, they decided that each of their remixes would feature the M&M name. John says his first credited remix was Inner Life’s Caught Up, although before that, he’d undertaken a number of remixes. Ironically, on Caught Up, his first credited remix, John’s name was spelt wrongly. Since then, they’ve undertaken literally hundreds of remixes, all featuring the M &M logo. Of all the remixes John’s undertaken, his Salsoul remixes are some of his best known. 

After meeting Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, John Morales became their favoured remixer for their Salsoul work. The Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael’s production team’s partnership with John Morales at Salsoul Records proved to be a fruitful one. 

It’s not just Greg and Patrick’s Salsoul recordings John remixed, he also remixed non-Salsoul acts like the Universal Robot Band. However, it was for his remixes of Greg and Patrick’s Salsoul recordings John became best known for. This saw John remix tracks by Inner Life, Logg, Aurra, Sky, Funk Deluxe and Instant Funk. Remixing such high-profile tracks helped John’s career no end. 

It helped John Morales become one of the most successful, busiest and highest profile remixers of eighties and early nineties. By 1989 John and Sergio ended their remixing partnership. Then in 1993, illness had a huge impact upon John’s career.

Sadly, John became ill in 1993, with the illness lasting a decade that meant time away from the recording studio. However, this gave him the opportunity to test learn the musical software that would soon dominate the music industry. During this period, John tested what would become Cubase for Atari Computers. In some ways, this must have given John an advantage over other producers for his return the recording studio. 

Since his return to the studio, John has been even busier than ever, remixing some of the highest profile names in dance music. He’s now spent forty years as a DJ and remixer. During that time, John has become one of the most respected DJs and remixers, respected by everyone within dance music. John has also released some of the most successful compilations over the last five years.

It was back in February 2009, that John Morales released his first compilation for BBE Music. This was John Morales-The M&M Mixes. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and reinforced John’s reputation as one of the top remixers. Two years later, John released his second volume of M&M Mixes.

John Morales The M+M Mixes Volume 2 was released on BBE Music, in March 201. It featured remixes of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Candy Staton, Sandy Babrber, Loletta Holloway and First Choice. Released to critical acclaim, everyone hoped Volume 3 would follow.

It did. Two years later, John Morales The M+M Mixes Volume 3 was released on April 2013. John had surpassed himself. Volume 3 featured twenty-four tracks spread over three CDs. There were remixes of tracks from Loleatta Holloway, The Salsoul Orchestra, John Davis and The Monster Orchestra, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Sandy Barber, Jean Carne and The Dramatics. This wasn’t the only John Morales release that day in April 2014. 

No. As an added bonus, John Morales The M+M Mixes Volume 3-Instrumentals was released at the same time. For anyone interested in disco, this was disco heaven. Critics ran out of superlatives when John Morales The M+M Mixes Volume 3 was released. However, little did anyone know, John’s labor of John Morales Presents Club Motown was nearing completion. 

Eventually, John Morales Presents Club Motown was completed earlier this year, and released on 21st July 2014. It features a who’s who of Motown’s eighties roster. The Commodores, Diana, Ross, The Temptations, Lionel Ritchie, Teena Marie, Rick James, Thelma Houston and Debarge. There’s also contributions from Dennis Edwards, Vanity, Rockwell and Tata Vega. In total, there are twenty tracks on John Morales Presents Club Motown, which I’ll tell you about.

Side One.

Opening side one of John Morales Presents Club Motown is Dennis Edwards featuring Siedah Garrett’s Don’t Look Any Further. It was released as a single by Dennis in 1984. That was the year he left The Temptations and signed to Motown as a solo artist. Don’t Look Any Further peaked at number two in the U.S. R&B charts and number one in the US Hot Dance Club Play charts. Buoyed by this success, Dennis released his debut solo album Don’t Look Any Further. It reached number two in the U.S. R&B charts. This proved to be the most successful album moment of Dennis’ solo career. The single that started kickstarted Dennis solo career was the soulful delights of Don’t Look Any Further.

Before embarking upon a solo career, Michael Lovesmith had been a songwriter. From the sixties onwards, he wrote for many artists, including  Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and The Jackson 5.. Then in 1983, Michael embarked upon a solo career. By 1985 he released his third and final album Rhymes Of Passion. It featured the single Ain’t Nothin’ Like It. Neither  Rhymes Of Passion nor Ain’t Nothin’ Like It charted. Commercial success eluded Michael. Ain’t Nothin’ Like It proved to be popular within clubs. It’s been remixed by John Morales. The Extended M+M Mix of Ain’t Nothin’ Like It is sure to result in the track finding its way into DJs record boxes once again.

The Mary Jane Girls only ever released two albums. Both albums were certified gold. No wonder. They were produced by Rick James. Their sophomore album was Only For You, which surpassed the success of their debut, reaching number five in the U.S. R&B charts. This resulted in gold disc number two. Only For You contained three hit singles. The most successful was In My House, which reached number three in the U.S. R&B charts and number one in the Billboard Dance Club Play charts. Hook-laden and dance-floor friendly, it’s no surprise that In My House was The Mary Jane Girls most successful single

When The Temptations released Reunion in 1982, it was their twenty-eighth album. The Temptations changed with the times. Standing still wasn’t an option. So, when they came to record Reunion, they decided to collaborate with one of music’s most exciting artists, Rick James. He wrote, arranged and produced Standing On The Top. On its release as a single in 1982, it reached number six in the U.S. R&B charts. When Reunion was released, it reached two in the US R&B charts. This was The Temptations most successful album in the U.S. R&B charts since 1975. One of the highlights of Reunion was  Standing On The Top, where Rick James gives The Temptations a musical makeover and ensures their music remained relevant.

On October 11th 1983, Lionel Ritchie released his sophomore album Can’t Slow Down. It would go on to become the most successful album of Lionel’s career, reaching number one in the U.S. Billboard pop and U.S. R&B charts. Can’t Slow Down sold over twenty-million copies, won a Grammy Award in 1985 and featured five hit singles. The most successful single was All Night Long (All Night), which reached number one in the U.S. Billboard 100 and U.S. R&B Charts. It also reached number five in the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play charts and was certified gold. Produced by James Anthony Carmichael and Lionel, it features Lionel at his soulful, sultriest best.

Model, actress, dancer, singer and songwriter Denise Katrina Matthews was christened Vanity by Prince, who they met in 1980. Vanity became the lead singer of Vanity 6, who enjoyed a hit with Nasty Girl in 1982. Then in 1984, Vanity signed to Motown, and her solo career began. She released her debut album Wild Animal. in 1984, Vanity returned with her sophomore album Skin On Skin in 1986, which featured Under The Influence. It was a Robbie Nevil, Tommy Faragher and Tony Haynes composition, produced by Skip Drinkwater. Released in 1986, Under The Influence reached number nine U.S. R&B and number six in the Billboard Dance Club Play charts giving Vanity her biggest hit single. It’s reinvented by John Morales on his M+M Mid-Day Mix and transformed into a mid-tempo epic.

By 1985, The Commodores were one of the most successful groups on Motown’s roster. They had signed to Motown in 1972. Since then, The Commodores had released ten studio alums and enjoyed six number one U.S. R&B singles. However, their career at Motown was almost over. Nightshift saw The Commodores bow out in style. Nightshift was released in January 15th 1985. This was their second album without Lionel Ritchie. It reached number twelve in the U.S. Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B charts. Things got even better, when the title-track reached number three in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. Written by Walter Orange, Franne Golde and producer Dennis Lambert, this was a poignant tribute to Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye two legends of soul, who died in 1984. Nightshift also proved a fitting and beautiful finale to The Commodores Motown career.

Between 1981 and 1985, DeBarge released a quartet of albums for Motown Records. DeBarge’s most successful album was their fourth album Rhythm Of The Night. Everything it seemed, had been leading up to Rhythm Of The Nightm which was released in February 1985, reaching number three in the U.S. R&B charts. This resulted in DeBarge’s first platinum disc. When Rhythm Of The Night was chosen as the lead single, it reached number two in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. DeBarge received gold disc number two. Two became three when Who’s Holding Donna Now was also certified gold. Since then, is Rhythm Of The Night has been perceived as an eighties Motown classic that’s synonymous with DeBarge.

Before signing to Motown in 1984 and releasing Candlelight Afternoon as a single, Phyllis St James had enjoyed a successful career as a songwriter, backing vocalist and percussionist. She was a twenty year veteran of the music industry. Phyllis put her solo career on hold in 1975. By 1984, she was ready to make her comeback. In 1984, Phyllis released her debut album Ain’t No Turnin’ Back on Motown. Produced by Velton Ray Bunch,it featured the single Candlelight Afternoon. Sadly, success eluded Ain’t No Turnin’ Back. Phyllis returned to songwriting and singing backing vocals. Candlelight Afternoon gave Phyllis’ a minor hit and is a reminder of her brief, but memorable solo career. It’s another hidden gem that’s a welcome addition to John Morales Presents Club Motown.

Bobby Nunn released two albums on Motown between 1982 and 1983. His 1983 sophomore album Private Party which was co-produced by Bobby and Winston Monseque. It featured Don’t Knock It (Until You Try It). Written by Bobby, he delivers one of his best vocals on Private Party. It’s a soulful, sassy, sultry, vamp, which delivered against an arrangement that’s funky and dance-floor friendly. Sadly, this is one Private Party that wasn’t a success. After leaving Motown, Bobby returned to songwriting and enjoyed a successful career. Don’t Knock It (Until You Try It) is a reminder of Bobby’s “other career.”

In 1972, Jermaine Jackson launched his solo career. His debut album Jermaine,reached number one in the U.S. R&B Charts. This was the perfect start to Jermaine’s his solo career. His next four albums, released between1973 and 1978, never came close to replicating the commercial success of Jermaine. However, as a new decade dawned, Jermaine’s career was transformed with 1980s Let’s Get Serious. Co-produced by Stevie Wonder, Let’s Get Serious became the most successful album of Jermaine’s career. It reached number six in the U.S. Billboard 200, number one in the U.S. R&B Charts and was certified gold. Then when the title-track, which Jermaine and Lee Garratt cowrote, reached number one in the U.S. R&B Charts Jermaine’s career was back in track.

Disc Two.

Not many groups enjoyed the longevity and success The Temptations enjoyed. In 1984, twenty-four years after they formed in Detroit, The Temptations were still going strong. Things were changing. They embraced musical technology on Truly For You. It was the first album to feature new member Ali-Ollie Woodson. He joined The Temptations in 1983, replacing Dennis Edwards. Ali-Ollie cowrote the most successful single The Temptations had released since 1975, Treat Her Like A Lady. It was the lead single from Truly For You and reached number two in the U.S. R&B Charts. The commercial success continued when Truly For You reached number number three in the U.S. R&B Charts. Twenty years after their debut album Meet the Temptations, The Temptations were still enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim with what’s without doubt, their finest single of the eighties.

Kennedy Gordy was a staff songwriter at  Jobete Music when he wrote and recorded Somebody’s Watching Me which featured Michael and Jermaine Jackson on backing vocals. Ray Singleton spotted the song’s potential. So did Berry Gordy, Kennedy’s father. It was then that Kennedy’s half-brother Kerry Gordy, suggested Kennedy adopt the Rockwell persona. When Somebody’s Watching Me reached was released in 1983, it reached number two in the U.S. Billboard 100 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. This resulted in a gold disc for Rockwell. Then in January 1984, Rockwell’s debut album Somebody’s Watching Me reached number five in the U.S. R&B charts, resulting in another gold disc for Rockwell. This was the most successful period of Rockwell’s three album career.

Way before Rick James found fame, fortune and later notoriety, he was the lead singer for R&B and doo wop groups. This was the early sixties. Later, Rick modeled himself on David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. So it’s fitting that Rick eventually signed to Gordy, a subsidiary of Motown Records. By 1981, Rick hit the musical equivalent of a home run in 1981, when he released his fifth album Street Songs. Released in April 1981 it  reached number three in the U.S. Billboard 200 and number one in the U.S. R&B charts. It was certified triple platinum. Then Super Freak was released as a single, reaching number sixteen in the US Billboard 100, number three in the US R&B charts and number one in the U.S Dance Club Play charts. Rick James it seemed could do no wrong. Not only had he released his most success album, but a classic track Super Freak, which will forever be his best known song.

After releasing her debut album when she was just twelve, Stacy Lattisaw met Narada Michael Walden. He guided Stacy’s career for the next six albums. They proved a successful partnership, enjoying five consecutive hit albums. Then in 1985, after I’m Not The Same Girl failed to chart, Stacy left Cotillion Records. For her seventh solo album, Stacy signed to Motown Records. Take Me All the Way was Stacy’s 1986 debut for Motown Records. Several producers worked on the album which reached number thirty-six in the U.S. R&B charts. It featured two hit singles, including Jump Into My Life. It was produced by Kashif. Released in 1987, it reached number thirteen in the U.S. R&B charts and number three in the U.S. Club Play chart. Not only was Stacy Lattisaw’s career was back on track, but Jump Into My Life would be perceived as an eighties Motown classic.

Looking back at Teena Marie’s thirteen album career, the most successful period was her time at Motown Records. She released four albums between 1979 and 1981. During that period, three of Lady T’s albums were certified gold. This includes 1980s Irons In The Fire, which featured I Need Your Lovin.  It was Teena’s third album and the first album Teena produced herself. This might have seemed a risky move. It wasn’t. Teena had learnt from Art Stewart, Rick James and Richard Rudolph. When Irons In The Fire was released in July 1980, it  reached number number nine in the U.S. R&B charts and was certified gold. The single I Need Your Lovin’ reached number nine in the U.S. R&B Charts and number two in the U.S. Dance charts. This meant Irons In The Fire was the most successful album of Teena’s career so far. As for I Need Your Lovin,’ it’s a poignant reminder of Lady T at the peak of her powers.

It was none other than George Clinton who discovered Val Young in 1977. Val became a backing vocalist for The Brides Of Funkenstein, one of the band’s in Funkadelic’s stable. She then progressed to singing backup for Roy Ayers and The Gap Band. However, it wasn’t until Val met Rick James that her solo career began in earnest. Rick introduced Val to Berry Gordy. He signed Val to Motown. Rick produced Val’s 1985 debut album Seduction, which featured three single, including If You Should Ever Be Lonely. It was produced by Fred Jenkins and Levi Ruffin Jr. and reached number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. This was Val’s most successful single. Sadly, it was Val Young’s last release for Motown. Rick James was having contractual problems with Motown, and Val’s sophomore album Private Conversations was released on Amherst Records. Never again did Val enjoy scale the same soulful heights.

Having left The Supremes in 1970, Diana Ross’ solo career began. By1978, Diana had enjoyed continued commercial success. One thing eluded her grasp in America, a gold disc. Over the Atlantic, in the UK, Diana had three gold discs. However, in America, gold discs eluded Diana. This was about to change. Ashford and Simpson, who had previously worked with Diana, set about rectifying this. They wrote and produced her 1979 album The Boss. It peaked at number fourteen in the U.S. Billboard and number ten in the U.S. R&B Charts. At last, Diana had her first American gold disc. Then when The Boss was released as a single, it reached number one in the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. Diana had just enjoyed the most successful album of her solo career, The Boss, and was on the cusp of the most successful period of her career.

Thelma Houston released her sixth solo album Ride To The Rainbow in 1978, on Tamla. Sadly, due to poor promotion, the Hal Davis produced Ride To The Rainbow failed to chart. One of the highlights of Ride To The Rainbow was the Mitchell Bottler and Norma Helms penned Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which was penned by Mitchell Bottler and Norma Helms. It gave Thelma a minor hit single, reaching number thirty-four in the US Billboard 100, number nineteen in the US R&B charts and number thirty-three in the US Dance charts. This helped Thelma reinvent herself as a disco diva. On John Morales Presents Club Motown, John totally reinvents Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, turning it into a dance-floor classic.

Multitalented describes Táta Vega. She is a singer, songwriter and actress. Táta came to prominence in the Broadway production of Hair. When she left the cast of Hair, Tata joined Pollution, who released a trio of albums. After that, Tata’s solo career began. Following the release of Táta’s 1976 Motown debut Full Speed Ahead, she followed this up with 1977s Totally Táta. Despite not receiving the critical acclaim of her previous album, Totally Táta surpassed their commercial success. The double-A sided single I Just Keep Thinking About You Baby/Get It Up For Love went on to reach the top twenty in the Billboard Dance Club Play charts. This made Totally Táta, the most successful single of Táta Vega’s nascent solo career.

For DJ and remixer John Morales, he’s spent much of the last seven years working what he describes as his “labor or love,” John Morales Presents Club Motown. It’s not all been plain sailing. Far from it. There’s been problems getting tracks licensed. So the final track listing isn’t what John envisaged. Ironically, this has worked in his favour. 

John Morales Presents Club Motown is a combination of stonewall classic and hidden gems. Classics come courtesy of The Boss, Diana Ross, the Super Freak himself, Rick James, and Lady T, Teena Marie. That’s not forgetting true Motown legends The Temptations, soul seducer in-chief Lionel Ritchie and his former band The Commodores. There’s also successful tracks from The Mary Jane Girls, Debarge, Rockwell and Stacy Lattislaw. Hidden gems come courtesy of Bobby Nunn, Thelma Houston and Michael Lovesmith. Quite simply, if you like your music soulful, funky and dance-floor friendly, then there’s something for everybody on John Morales Presents Club Motown, which is John’s first visit into the Motown vaults. Hopefully, there will be further instalments.

Especially if there’s eleven M+M Mixes on future instalments of the John Morales Presents Club Motown series. John breathes new life and meaning into the tracks from the Motown vaults. Some of the tracks have been released before. Not all. There’s previously unreleased tracks from Diana Ross, Tata Vega, Teena Marie, Thelma Houston and Val Young. They’ve never been released before. Instead, they’ve been hidden away in John Morales’ vaults. Not any more. They make their debut on John Morales Presents Club Motown, which was recently released by UMC.

John Morales Presents Club Motown is best described as a lovingly compiled double album. It features a total of twenty tracks from Motown’s eighties’ roster. These twenty tracks are a combination of stonewall classic and hidden gems. Some of the biggest names in Motown’s history make an appearance. Others played just a walk on part in Motown’s history. However, each of the twenty tracks on John Morales Presents Club Motown are a reminder of Motown as it tried to reinvent itself during the post-disco eighties. 

JOHN MORALES PRESENTS CLUB MOTOWN.

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NEW YORK DOLLS-NEW YORK DOLLS.

NEW YORK DOLLS-NEW YORK DOLLS.

No other group epitomises the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle like the New York Dolls. Drink, drugs and death touched the New York Dolls. Despite this, the Dolls continued to court controversy, with a  disaster always just a heartbeat away. Just like a game of daring do, the egged each other to fly close to the sun. This was all part of the myth that surrounds the New York Dolls. Here was another case of flawed genius. A firecracker combination of talents and personalities, they could’ve and should’ve been one of the biggest bands in musical history.  Fuelled by a diet of alcohol, pills and powders, the New York Dolls first two albums were the best they ever recorded. 

Their 1973 eponymous debut album New York Dolls, which was recently released by Universal Music, was a swaggering, strutting introduction to the New York Dolls. A year later, came their sophomore album, Too Much Too Soon. A fuelled up Dolls, courted controversy and chaos, continued to strut and swagger their way through life. On both of these albums, the New York Dolls out-rocked the opposition. Other bands, including the Rolling Stones, enviously looked on. Here was a band who were the real thing. They were living the rock ‘n’ lifestyle and living it hard. With what seemed like an appetite for destruction, somehow the New York Dolls recorded  two classic albums within the space of a year. The first of these was their debut album New York Dolls, which was recently rereleased on vinyl Scorpio Records on. It’s that classic album New York Dolls, which I’ll tell you about.

Although the New York Dolls were formed in 1971, the bands origins can be traced to 1967. That’s when Sylvain Sylvain and Billy Murcia, two school friends, started playing in a band called The Pox. Then when the lead singer left, the band split up. To make ends meet, Sylvain and Billy worked various dead end jobs. 

First of all, the pair started a clothes shop called Truth and Soul. After that, Billy worked in another clothes shop, A Different Drummer. Situated across from the New York Dolls’ hospital, rumour has it, that this is how their future band got its name. Then in 1970, after a couple of years working dead end jobs, Sylvain and Billy decided it was time they formed a new band. They’d eventually, become members of the New York Dolls. 

Formed in 1971, the New York Dolls arose, like a Phoenix from the ashes out of Actress. Four members of Actress, guitarist Johnny Thunders and Rick Rivets, drummer Billy Murcia and bassist Arthur Kane would form the backbone of the New York Dolls. Johnny Thunders was originally the lead singer, but soon decided he wasn’t cut out to be a frontman. David Johansen was. So, he joined the band and Johnny originally a bassist, was converted into a guitarist. Then when Rick Rivets quit the band, Sylvain Sylvain replaced him. Before the Dolls had made their debut they’d been through several lineups. While this isn’t unusual in a band’s early days, the Dolls lineup was constantly changing. This was essentially Mk. 1 of the New York Dolls.

Having settled with vocalist David Johansen, guitarists Johnny Thunders, bassist Arthur Kane, drummer Billy Murcia and Sylvain Sylvain on guitar, bass and piano, the Dolls were ready to make their debut. They made their live debut on Christmas Eve 1971, at one of the most unlikely music venues. This was the Endicott Hotel, a homeless centre in New York. After that, the New York Dolls got themselves a manager, Soon, word was spreading of their unique swaggering sound and style. 

Word got as far as Rod Stewart, who decided the Dolls were the perfect group to open for him in London. This looked like the perfect start to the New York Dolls’ career. Opening for Rod Stewart increased the New York Dolls profile. They were making inroads into the American and British markets. Then disaster struck. 

Not long after the Dolls opened for Rod Stewart, drummer Billy Murcia tragically drowned during their UK tour. High on drink and drugs, he passed out and accidentally drowned. This was devastating news for the Dolls. They’d lost the man who gave the group its heartbeat. Despite the loss of a key member, the show had to go on. Drummers were auditioned and eventually, Jerry Nolan was selected as Billy’s replacement. Not long after that, Mercury Records signed the New York Dolls and work began on their eponymous debut album.

For what became New York Dolls, the Dolls’ debut album, David Johansen wrote Vietnamese Baby and formed a successful partnership with Johnny Thunders. They cowrote Personality Crisis, Looking For A Kiss, Lonely Planet Boy, Bad Girl, Subway Train and Jet Boy. David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain penned Frankenstein and Trash, while David and Arthur Kane contributed Private World. The other track was a cover of Bo Diddley’s Pills. These eleven tracks became New York Dolls.

When recording of New York Dolls began at the Record Plant in April 1973, New York, Todd Rungren was chosen as producer. For many people, this was a strange choice of producer. Here, was a brash, innovative group. They were the future, with their intensity, energy and showmanship. Todd Rungren was the ghost of rock’s past. Formerly a member of Nazz, even the band didn’t seem impressed. He was used to a slicker, more sophisticated sound. The rawness and energy of the Dolls was the antithesis of everything Todd Rungren believed in. It seemed this was the case of the wrong producer for the wrong album? David Johansen disparagingly referred to Todd Rundgren as: “an expert in second rate rock ‘n’ roll.” As for Todd Rundgren’s approach to production, he mixed the album in half a day. In doing so, the edge was taken of Jerry Nolan’s drums. Did this mean that rather than trying to capture the band’s energy and intensity, part of the New York Dolls trademark sound was lost? That’s what I’ll tell you, when I tell you about New York Dolls?

Personality Crisis explodes into being, opening New York Dolls in style. Fiery, machine gun guitars, flourishes of boogie woogie piano and a driving rhythm section set the scene for David’s proto punk vocal. Raw and edgy, describes his vocal, while behind him, the Dolls manage to be both tight and sloppy simultaneously. The Dolls are better musicians than many people give them credit for. They provided the template for the Rolling Stones and Primal Scream, amongst a thousand other impersonators. An intense explosion of energy, this is timeless good time rock ‘n’ roll, what a way to introduce the Dolls.

Drawing on inspiration from Eddie Cochran, David every inch the charismatic frontman, struts his way through Looking For A Kiss. Low slung guitars trade licks, while the rhythm section provide the pulsating heartbeat. As for David, feisty, sassy and oozing an air of danger, describes his performance as proto punk, glam rock and rock ‘n’ rock unite majestically.

A gong chimes, before the New York Dolls throw launch into the rocky Vietnamese Baby, an ant-Vietnam War song. Driven along by scorching, searing guitars, drums pound and David’s vocal seems to have matured. This is much more like how he sounds on their sophomore album Too Much Too Soon. It’s as if he’s enjoying the role of frontman. There’s a swagger in his vocal. He spurs the band on. They trade glistening guitar licks, playing with a freedom and swagger, as if realising that this it what they were born to do.

Lonely Planet Boy has much more understated sound. Just guitars and thoughtful rhythm section accompany David’s whispery, theatrical vocal. Bursts of jazzy horns drift above the arrangement, as the Dolls look to the past for inspiration. Drawing inspiration from sixties R&B, jazz, pop and doo wop harmonies, we hear another side to the New York Dolls, one which I’d like to have heard more of.

Three years after New York Dolls released their debut album, and punk was born, tracks like Frankenstein provided the template for this new musical genre. You can hear where Johnny Rotten comes from. Having said that, the Dolls were ten times the musicians than the Sex Pistols ever were. They were hype, the Dolls were the real thing. Here, a snarling, angry vocal is accompanied by a raw, raucous arrangement. Key to that are the driving rhythm section and  machine gun guitars. Combined this explosion of energy, intensity and raw power, resulted in a thousand impersonators, none of which came close.

Trash is a combination of garage, grunge, proto-punk and rock. It’s as if the Dolls are hyperactive and Trash is an outpouring of energy. Like a five Duracell bunnies, the Dolls become an explosive unit. They play as if their lives depended on it. Playing with power and passion, they never miss a beat. Neither does David. His vocal is an outpouring of frustration, while cooing harmonies provide a contrast.

Bad Girl sees a no frills approach from the Dolls. It’s as if the producer just called a wrap, warts and all. This gives a taste of what the New York Dolls live were like. Jackhammer guitars join drums which aren’t so much played, but punished. Then there’s David’s vocal. He roars, as if this is cathartic. Surely, he must have been hoarse by the time he’d laid down this vocal? As for the guitars, they’re mesmeric. Chiming, soaring, searing, their crystalline sound, feedback and all, plays a huge part in the Dolls at their best.

Subway Train sees the New York Dolls play within themselves. They’re much more restrained. Rather than an explosion of energy and intensity, they produce a much more laid-back performance. David’s vocal is more restrained, but just as effective. He’s not roaring, his delivery drawling and languid. Guitars riff, scream and screech, trading licks. Like a musical shoot out between guitar gunslingers. At the end, everyone’s left standing. The Dolls swagger into the sunset, catching a Subway Train everyone needs to catch a ride on, once in their life.

Bluesy harmonica and an explosion of searing guitars open Pills, an old Bo Diddley song. It had never been played liked this before. Given the Dolls background, this should’ve been their theme tune. They seem to realize this, seamlessly mixing blues, glam rock and rock ‘n’ roll. In between blowing his blues harp, David struts his way through the lyrics. Accompanied by a wall of guitars, thunderous rhythm section and harmonies, rock ‘n’ roll’s hardest living band deliver a paean to hedonism.

A probing bass opens Private World, before the rest of the New York Dolls kick loose. Veering between gloriously sloppy and tight, the were the envy of rock ‘n’ roll rivals and pretenders. They’re in the tightest of grooves, a stomping beat, percussion and dueling guitars providing a raucous, good time backdrop. Stabs and flourishes of piano add to the good time sound. David vamps his way through the track. He revels in being the frontman for a group as good as the Dolls, who in 1973, were rock ‘n’ roll royalty.

Jet Boy closes New York Dolls. Does it close the album on a high? From the opening bars, the Dolls unleash their machine gun guitars, cooing harmonies and pounding rhythm section. Soon, rock, proto-punk and glam rock have been combined. The Dolls are at their hard rocking best. David’s struts and swaggers, while harmonies and handclaps accompany him. Then there’s the guitars, which include some of the best playing on the album. That’s saying something. Riffing, dueling and feeding off each other, the New York Dolls guitar heroes ensure that New York Dolls ends on an explosive high.

Released in 1973 on Mercury, New York Dolls divided opinion. Some critics hailed New York Dolls as a stonewall classic, others deemed it a parody of a rock album. It certainly took the world by storm, spawning a million imitators. Strangely, on its release, sales of New York Dolls were disappointing. It only reached number 167 in the US Billboard 200. Mercury had hoped that the album would be one of their big sellers of 1973. It certainly captured the attention of critics and music lovers, it was voted both the best and worst album of 1973. It seems that New York Dolls was an enigmatic album and one that divided opinion. Forty years later, history has been rewritten.

Ironically, during the forty years since its release, critics who called New York Dolls “mock rock” have changed their mind. These lisping rock critics have now changed their mind about the New York Dolls. Nowadays, New York Dolls is now perceived as a classic album. The New York Dolls fusion of glam rock, proto-punk and hard rock is perceived as innovative and ahead of the musical curve. The New York Dolls are credited as one of the founding fathers of punk rock. Since then, many groups have imitated the New York Dolls swaggering brand of good time music. Nobody comes close. No ifs, no buts. Having released a career defining album, the New York Dolls never bettered. If ever there’s a case of a band peaking to soon, this was it. 

Raw, intense and full or energy describes New York Dolls. It’s as close you’ll get to hearing what the New York Dolls sounded like live. This was a no frills album. Sleazy, sassy and raunchy, New York Dolls is lo-fi, good time music. It’s no wonder Todd Rundgren only spent half a day mixing New York Dolls. Although he was a strange choice for the Dolls, he harnesses their energy and enthusiasm. Maybe the Dolls should’ve called the album Raw Power? Apart from a few occasions where Todd Rundgren’s overdubbing goes too far, he strikes the right balance for a debut album. He doesn’t overproduce New York Dolls. Having said that, he was the wrong man for Too Much Too Soon.

That’s where Shadow Morton came in. He produced Too Much Too Soon, a much more polished album. Too Much Too Soon, the New York Dolls’ sophomore album, is an iconic, innovative album. Ironically, Too Much Too Soon almost passed unnoticed. It hardly troubled the American charts. After its release, Mercury sent the New York Dolls on an American tour. It proved chaotic and almost broke the band. On their return from the ill-fated tour, Mercury dropped the Dolls. Later in 1975, they split up, against a backdrop of rancour, drug abuse and hedonism. The hardest living party band were no more.

Despite reforming, the New York Dolls never reached the same heights. New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon are the best albums the New York Dolls ever released. Nothing else comes close to these two iconic albums, which have recently released by Scorpio Records on vinyl. These two albums, New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon provided the template for punk and spawned a thousand impersonators. Not one comes close to the New York Dolls. 

NEW YORK DOLLS-NEW YORK DOLLS.

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BOB DYLAN-STREET LEGAL.

BOB DYLAN-STREET LEGAL.

Back in 1978, Bob Dylan was abut to release Street Legal, his eighteenth album. When Street Legal was released in June 1978 it was a very different sounding album to anything he’d previously released. So much so, that it would divide the opinions of critics and fans. Unlike previous albums, he decided to record the album with a huge pop and rock band backing him. Supplementing the sound, would be female backing vocalists. 

Before he could record the album rehearsals would take place for a tour of Japan and Australia. So he set about putting together a band. Joining his band were Steven Soles, David Mansfield, Rob Stoner and Howie Wyeth, all former members of the Rolling Thunder Revue. Pianist Walter Davis Jr and percussionist Otis Smith completed the line-up. However, suddenly one member decided to leave the band. Drummer Howie Wyeth decided to leave, he’d been struggling with heroin addiction and decided not to go on tour. Auditions were held for a new drummer. Many tried out, but it was Denny Seiwell, who played with Wings briefly, who got the job. Now the band was complete, they’d head to rehearsals of Street Legal which was recently released by CBS on Blu Ray.

However, when the rehearsals began on December 30th 1977, guitarist Jessie Ed Davis was now part of the band. The backing vocalists were Katey Sagal, Franny Eisenberg and Debbie Dye Gibson. However, the line up would continue to change. In mid-January 1978, Sagal and Eisenberg were replaced by Jo Ann Harris, a professional singer and Helena Springs who was an unknown novice singer. That wasn’t the end of the changes though. Drummer Denny Seiwell and the rest of Wings were caught in possession of drugs in Sweden. When he applied for a visa for the forthcoming concerts Japan, he was denied a visa. This meant Seiwell was out, and a new drummer required. After further auditions, Ian Wallace, former King Crimson drummer got the job. By now the line up that would tour and record Street Legal was almost complete. Guitarist Billy Cross joined the line-up, as did percussionist Bobbye Hall, saxophonist Steve Douglas and keyboard player Alan Pasqua. This would be the line up that headed to Japan on tour.

When the band played in both Japan and Australia, critics and fans loved the new arrangements of Dylan’s old material. Later, a recording entitled Bob Dylan Live At Budokan would be released of the concert. During the tour, some of the band weren’t happy with the sound. This included Rob Stoner, who at the end of the tour in Australia, quit the band. This meant a new bass player was needed to record the album. Jerry Scheff replaced Stoner, and now Dylan and the band would start to record Street Legal.

Street Legal was recorded in Santa Monica, California at a recording studio and rehearsal space he called Rundown. Dylan had hired a mobile recording studio to record the sessions. It only took four days to record the nine songs Bob had written for Street Legal. Because of the short time scale, everything was rushed. Getting equipment into place was done quickly, and there very few takes of each song recorded. Don DeVito the producer knew that Bob Dylan had a tight schedule, and just had to make the best of what he had. 

When Street Legal was released, to say that critics in America disliked the album, is an understatement. However, in the UK, critics took a different view. They really liked the album and gave it positive reviews. Commercially, it reached only number eleven in the US, but reached number two in the UK album charts. In the UK, it became his biggest selling studio album. Having told you about the background to Street Legal, I’ll tell you what kind of album it is, and who were right, the American or UK music critics. 

Street Legal opens with Changing of the Guards. Straight away, the new sound is apparent. The rhythm section, guitar and keyboards accompanying Bob. As he sings the deeply literate lyrics which have religious themes, it’s like call and response between him and the backing vocalists. Their joyous voices are the perfect accompaniment for his voice. Quickly, the arrangement grows. His band play brilliantly their sound big, bold and really tight. This sound includes guitars, rhythm section, keyboards and is augmented by a saxophone, which drenches the arrangement. One member of the band who deserves credit is drummer Ian Wallace. Throughout the track his playing is perfect. To quote Rob Stoner he has “a beat like a cop.” What makes the track is the arrangement. It features Bob and a really tight band and the additional of the backing vocalists was a masterstroke. Without them, this wouldn’t be as good a track. Quite simply, this is the perfect way to start Street Legal.

It’s a combination of electric guitar and drums played really slowly the opens New Pony. The atmosphere is moody, even before Bob sings. When he does, his voice is loud and slow. Again, he’s accompanied by backing singers. Slowly, the arrangement builds, but mostly, it’s just really slow, soaring guitars and plodding drums. It’s a powerful sound, and here, Bob sometimes is almost snarling the lyrics.   Here the lyrics reference religion, with references to Lucifer, praying, ghosts and voodoo. Religion is a theme that’s a constant throughout the album, as are apocalyptic themes. Later in the track, saxophones blow, further increasing an impressive and powerful track, New Pony is very different in style to the opening track it’s just as good.

Like New Pony, No Time To Think is a slower song, one featuring lyrics which have apocalyptic themes. They portray images of society unravelling, lawlessness all around. Here, it seems Dylan was far from optimistic about the direction society was heading. An epic song begins with drums and saxophone combining, before Bob sings. Straight away, the same powerful delivery as on New Pony is present. Again, the backing singers accompany him, their voices a welcome addition. Here, Bob sings the song with passion, while behind him piano, saxophone, guitars and rhythm section play. They’re playing with the same passion as Bob, producing a fantastic rocky track, with tinges of gospel, courtesy of the backing vocalist. Alan Pasqua’s keyboard playing especially is outstanding here. Quite simply, a combination of strong, intelligent lyrics, and a great performance from Bob and his band, results in an outstanding track.

Probably the best known track on Street Legal Is Baby, Stop Crying, a track he played brilliantly the night I saw him live. From the opening dramatic bars, it’s apparent that something special is unfolding. The combination of booming drums, chiming guitars and keyboards opens that track, then Bob sings. Here, he gives one of his best vocals on the album. His voice is much clearer, it’s strong and powerful, supplemented by the backing vocalists. Their voices veer between strong and passionate to a high, soaring sound. Behind him, drummer Ian Wallace provides the track’s heartbeat, saxophones blow, guitars and keyboards play. The keyboard adds atmosphere to the track. For nearly five and half minutes, Bob Dylan and his band provide a musical masterclass, which thirty-six years on, still sounds as spectacular as it did back then. Stunning.

When Is Your Love In Vain? begins, the tempo is slower and the sound much fuller. A trumpet accompanies guitars, rhythm section and keyboards in producing a lovely rich sound. They jam for forty-five sections before Bob sings, and when he sings, his voice doesn’t seem as powerful as on previous tracks. It’s much more subtle and augmented by backing vocalists. The band seem to be overpowering him slightly. Having sad that, their playing is flawless.  During the track they really get the chance to shine, producing one of the fullest arrangements on the album. Later in the track, Bob plays his trusty harmonica, reminding us of his roots. Overall, it’s another great performance from Bob and his band. However, the lyrics caused controversy. In them, he poses a number of questions about love. On the album’s release, this song drew accusations of sexism from one reviewer. He thought the lyrics which include “can you cook and sew, make flowers grow,” were sexist in their nature, and thus offensive. Certainly, I’m uncomfortable with them, and don’t particularly like the almost servile nature of them. For me, this takes some of the shine of an otherwise good track

It’s a very different sound at the start of Senor (Tales of Yankee Power). As the song opens, there’s a slight hesitancy about the sound. Quickly, this is rectified and what is dramatic sounding song opens up. Again, Bob’s voice is different, it’s much more powerful, and clearer. Sometimes, his voice soars, accompanied by saxophones, piano and backing vocalists. Like on other tracks, Ian Wallace’s drums help lay the foundations of the track. Wallace’s drumming is dramatic. Similarly, a guitar gets in on the drama. A careful and thoughtful solo is played several times. It too, is spectacular, like the saxophone solos. By now, you realize just how good a band Bob put together. In putting this band together, he was able to find musicians who could transform his sound, and reenergise his music. Here, they did a great job, as did producer Don DeVito. Together, they helped Bob to produce another powerful track, where he delivers a truly impassioned vocal.

True Love Tends To Forget is another track that starts slowly, with just guitars and drums playing before Bob sings. Quickly, he’s joined by saxophone, keyboards and backing vocalists. Together, they combine to produce a slow powerful track, where he sings about regret, forgiveness and love. Although slow, his voice is a mixture of strength and clarity, and here, the band don’t overpower him. Instead, they compliment his voice, a combination of chiming guitars, atmospheric keyboards, steady and reliable drums and those masterful backing vocalists. The sound Bob and the band produce has a joyousness, and they really sound as if they’re enjoying themselves. I certainly enjoyed their performance and True Love Tends To Forget is one of the album’s highlights.

At the start of We Had Better Talk This Over there is a slight country feel to the track. This is down to the guitars, violin and mandolin accompanying the drums at the start of the track. After that, this influence continues throughout the track. Even the backing vocalists and piano adds to this influence. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. This is good, but quite different sounding track. The guitar and piano playing especially, is really good. However, it’s Bob’s vocal augmented by the backing vocalists who steal the show. Together, the combine masterfully, bringing the lyrics about a failed relationship to life.

Street Legal ends with Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat). Percussion opens the track, then saxophone, drums and keyboards combine before Bob sings. When he sings, the backing vocalists immediately accompany him. As always, their performance is stunning, making a good track even better. Their voices soar, as Bob sings the lead. Behind him a great arrangement is unfolding, with keyboards having the biggest influence, producing a lovely retro sound. Drums steadily play, later a saxophone joins the frae. Bob meanwhile is giving a great performance, his voice loud and confident as he sings the lyrics. By now the band have really hit their stride, and this tight band seem to have reserved a standout performance for this track. The same can be said of Bob, he seems in his glory. Towards the end a guitar solo plays, it’s loud and soars high above the rest of the arrangement. That and the backing singers, bring the track to a close. At the end, you feel ecstatic having heard such a great track to close the album. It was a track of epic proportions, a brilliant, full arrangement where everyone played a part in its success.

I’ve always loved Street Legal, it’s one of my favourite Bob Dylan albums. Since the album was released, I’ve loved it, and it’s one of Bob’s albums that I’ll return to often. His idea to use this band and the backing singers was a masterstroke. It totally transformed and reenergised his music. Many people saw Bob Dylan in a new light after Street Legal. They may not have been drawn to his earlier work, but loved this album. No wonder.

For nine songs, you’re enthralled by Bob and this great band. However, what really made this album, was Bob’s decision to use the backing vocalists. They were the perfect accompaniment for his voice and the songs. When they sang, they helped bring the song to life. During the album, they filled gaps left by Bob, and accompanied him just at the right time. Without them, it wouldn’t be as good an album. Considering that Street Legal was recorded in just four days, it’s remarkable that the album sounds so good. Much of the credit must go to producer Don DeVito for bringing the album together, and producing such a great sounding album. There are flaws on the recording which are audible, but that doesn’t matter, because this is a great album. That critics in America disliked the album so much seems strange, because what’s not to like, great songs, a great band and backing singers and of course, Bob Dylan. Thankfully, critics in the UK realized how good an album this is. They were right, and if you’ve never heard the album, go out and buy it. Even if you’re not usually a Bob Dylan fan, Street Legal will change your mind. 

BOB DYLAN-STREET LEGAL.

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JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE.

JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE.

Five years ago, in 2009, Jenny Hval and Susanna began writing to each other. A lot has happened to Jenny and Susanna since that initial exchange of letters. 

Jenny and Susanna were both singer-sonwriters. So it made sense that they collaborated. Together, they cowrote fifteen songs. They showcased these songs at their debut  performance at Ladyfest, at the Henie Onstad Art Exchange on March 8th 2009. This performance was recorded, and would become Meshes Of Voices. After the success of their debut performance, Jenny and Susanna were invited to one of the biggest events in the Nordic musical calendar.

After their critically acclaimed performance at Henie Onstad Art Exchange, Jenny and Susanna were  invited to one of the most prestigious events in the Norwegian musical calendar, the Oslo Jazz Festival. This is, without doubt, one of the most prestigious events in the Nordic musical calendar. At the Oslo Jazz Festival, Jenny and Susanna won friends and influenced people. Despite this, the recording of  the concert at at the Henie Onstad Art Exchange wasn’t released. Indeed, another five years passed before it would be released as Meshes of Voice.

Meshes Of Voice will be released on 18th August 2014, on Susanna’s label SusannaSonatta. A lot has happened since Meshes Of Voice was recorded in March 2009.

Two years later, in 2011, Norwegian singer, songwriter, guitarist and author Jenny Hval released her third album album, Viscera, on Rune Grammofon. Viscera was the first album Jenny had released under her own name. 

Previously, Jenny had recorded two albums as Rockettothesky. To Sing You Apple Trees was Rockettothesky’s 2006 debut. Two years later, Rockettothesky released Medea. It reached number twenty in the Norwegian charts. This proved to be the album that launched Jenny’s career.

When Jenny Hval released Viscera in 2011, It was to critical acclaim. Critics realised that Jenny Hval was an innovative artist. So it was no surprise Viscera was hailed one of the best albums of 2011. Uncut magazine placed Visera at number 42 on its list of the Top 50 Albums of 2011. Two years later, Jenny returned with a career defining album.

This was Jenny’s fourth album, Innocence Is Kinky. It reached number thirty-one in Norway in 2013. Not only was Innocence Is Kinky released to widespread critical acclaim, but it saw Jenny nominated for one of Norwegian music’s most prestigious award.

This was a Spellemannprisen, which is the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Jenny had been nominated for the best composer award. Despite Innocence Is Kinky being only Jenny’s sophomore album, this Norwegian woman of letters was establishing a reputation as one of Norway’s most innovative artists.

Comparisons were drawn to Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono and a pre-Sledgehammer Peter Gabriel. Great things were forecast of Jenny Hval. So she headed out on tours of Britain and America. This further reinforced Jenny Hval’s reputation as a truly innovative artist. The same can be said about Susanne Karolina Wallumrød.

Susanna was an experienced artist when she first met Jenny. She’d released two albums as Susanna and The Magical Orchestra, 2004s List Of Lights And Buoys and 2006s Melody Mountain. Then in 2007, Susanna released her first album as Susanna. This was Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos, which was released on Rune Grammofon. It featured twelve songs written by Susanna, and made a big impression. 

Released to critical acclaim, Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos caught the attention not just of record buyers, but some music industry insiders. Among them, were Will Odham. He wrote to Susanna, expressing his admiration for her voice and music. This resulted in Susanna and Will collaborating.

This happened on Susanna’s 2008 sophomore album, Flower Of Evil. On Flower Of Evil, Susanna wrote just two songs. The over twelve songs were cover versions. This included one penned by Will Odham, Joy And Jubilee. Will dawned his Bonnie Prince Billy alias and added vocals on Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak and a cover of Badfinger’s Without You. Susan gave songs by Lou Reed, Prince, Nico, Sandy Denny and Abba. For critics, this was a masterstroke. On Flower Of Evil’s release, Susanna’s star being in the ascendancy.

The following year, 2009, Susanna returned with another another album  from Susanna And The Magical Orchestra. 3 was Susanna And The Magical Orchestra’s third album. Just like her previous releases, Susanna And The Magical Orchestra’s 3 was well received. However, Susanna didn’t release another album until 2011.

By then, she’d started writing to Jenny Hval. They’d been friends for two years when Susanna began one of the busiest years of her musical life, 2011.

During 2011, Susanna released two collaboration and one solo album. The first was a collaboration with Norwegian poet Gunvor Hofmo. On Jeg Vil Hjem Til Menneskene put Gunvor’s poetry to music. This resulted in Gunvor’s poetry reaching a new audience. Then, later in 2011, Susanna collaborated with Swiss harpist Giovanna Pessi on If Grief Could Wait. 

Just like Flower Of Evil, If Grief Could Wait saw Susanna combine cover versions and her own songs. She only wrote two tracks. The other eleven tracks were cover versions. Susanna and Swiss harpist Giovanna Pessi reinterpreted songs by Henry Purcell, Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. The result was another critical acclaimed and commercial successful album. Susanna’s final album of 2011 was a solo album. 

Unlike her previous solo album, Susanna released Hangout as Susanna Wallumrød. It was released on ECM Records. Hangout was well received by critics. Susanna had managed to navigate the busiest year of her career successfully. She’d released three very different albums. Each found favour with critics and record buyers. However, there was more to come from Susanna. She was about to found her own record label.

One of the biggest events of 2011, was Susanna launching her own record label SusannaSonatta. That would be the outlet for Susanna’s future albums. Before that, Susanna released one more album on Rune Grammofon. This was Wild Dog.

Wild Dog  featured a total of ten tracks. They were written by Susanna. On Wild Dog, Susanna became a musical chameleon. Acoustic, alt rock, balladry, indie rock and pop featured on Wild Dog. Just like previous albums, Wild Dog was well received by music critics. Susanna was well on her way to becoming one of the most successful Norwegian artists.

Susanna’s previous album was a collaboration with Ensemble neoN. The Forrester was released in 2013. Not only was The Forrester released to widespread critical acclaim, but it won a Spellemannprisen, which is  Norwegian Grammy. Success came in the open category in 2013. Buoyed by this success, Susanna decided to release her collaboration with her friend Jenny Hval, Meshes Of Voice.

Meshes Of Voice was recorded on 8th March 2009 at the Henie Onstad Art Exchange. This was only Jenny Hval and Susanna’s second performance. Their performance featured fifteen tracks that Jenny and Susanna wrote. That night, Jenny Hval and Susanna were accompanied by a small, talented band.

Jenny Hval and Susanna’s band featured just two members. They were Anita Kausboll and Jo Berger Mhyer. Anita played drum, effects, noise and sung backing vocals. Jo played double bass, zither, effects and noise. Jenny played piano, autoharp and guitar. She also added effects, noise, samples and vocals. Susanna played grand piano, harmonium,  and added effects, noise, samples and vocals that night in March 2009. Since then, what became Meshes Of Voice has lain unreleased. Not anymore.

Meshes Of Voice will be released on 18th August 2014. It has a fascinating backstory. The music on Meshes of Voice was written for Ladyfest in 2009. It was inspired by Maya Deren’s 1943 surrealist film, Meshes of the Afternoon, and the gothic visions of Antoni Gaudí. On Meshes Of Voices, Jenny Hval and Susanna prove a musical yin and yang.

Listening to Jenny Hval and Susanna on Meshes Of Voices is like jumping onboard a musical and emotive roller coaster. The music veers between ethereal, haunting and beautiful to wild, discord and joyous. Jenny and Susanna toy with you. They tug at your emotions with music that’s cerebral, poetic, poignant and minimalist. Sometimes, it’s not what they say, but what they leave unsaid. They leave you wondering and thinking. It’s not often that happens in music nowadays. However, Jenny and Susanna are different.

Although their voices are very different, they prove a perfect foil for each other. Especially when they sing call and response. Sometimes, raw power and emotion is countered with ethereal beauty. Other times, it’s a meeting of minds. Always, the vocals are heartfelt, impassioned and delivers with meaning and feeling. Lyrics come to life. You’re in no doubt as to their meaning. Equally compelling are the arrangements.

Mostly, the arrangements are understated. They tinkle, shimmer, glisten and quiver. Examples of this are Droplet and Milk Pleasures. They’re atmospheric and spacious. Other times, the arrangements ooze ethereal beauty. Especially on the piano lead Black Lake and O Sun O Medusa. Both tracks remind me of Kate Bush in her prime. 

Equally beautiful is A Mirror in My Mouth, where the subtle arrangement allows the vocals to take centre-stage. Atmospheric describes the arrangement to Thirst That Resembles Me. Again, this allows the tender, heartfelt and ethereal vocals to capture your attention. This is the case throughout the rest of Meshes Of Voice.

I Have a Darkness and Running Down are very different to the rest of Meshes Of Voice. The multilayered arrangement envelops you, as the darkness descend and the track veers between dramatic and discordant. After that, Meshes Of Voices continues to spring surprises.

An understated arrangement provides a backdrop for an impassioned, dramatic and strident vocal on A Sudden Swing. Honey Dew sees the unmistakable sound of a harmonium provide the backdrop for Susanna’s vocal. She seems to dawn the role of a torch singer. Medusa sees another change of tack. It allows Jenny and Susanna to stretch their legs vocally. What follows, is another reminder that you’re listening to two of the finest Nordic voice. 

Having just written that, House of Bones reinforces these words.It’s best described as a cathartic outpouring of emotion. Pain, hurt, sadness and emotion. It’s all there, and much more. There’s no drop in quality on Dawn. It features some of the best lyrics on Meshes Of Voice. They come alive as Jenny and Susanna’s vocal become one. 

Closing Meshes Of Voice is The Black Lake Took. With an sparse, understated backdrop, there’s very little to distract you from the undisputed ethereal beauty of Jenny and Susanna. This means they close Meshes Of Voice with one of its highlights.

It’s hard to believe that an album as good as Meshes Of Voice has lain unreleased for over five years. Music as good as this deserves a much wider audience. That’s what Meshes Of Voice will be released to. After all, Jenny Hval and Susanna’s profiles are much higher than they were in 2009. 

Now, Jenny Hval and Susanna have established themselves as two of the finest Nordic voices. That’s apparent on Meshes Of Voice. It’s just the latest critically acclaimed album from Jenny Hval and Susanna have released since 2009.  

Critical acclaim has been a familiar friend for Jenny Hval and Susanna. Each of them have released critically acclaimed albums since 2009. Both Jenny and Susanna have been nominated for a Spellemannprisen, which is the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Susanna and Ensemble neon won a Spellemannprisen for their 2013 collaboration The Forrester was released in 2013. Maybe this is what inspired Susanna to release Meshes Of Voice.

Belatedly, Meshes Of Voice will be released on Susanna’s label SusannaSonatta, on 18th August 2014. Hopefully, Meshes Of Voice won’t be the last collaboration between Jenny Hval and Susanna. After all, what could be better than another collaboration between two of the most talented and successful Norwegian singer-songwriters? They’re like yin and yang on Meshes Of Voice. Their voices are made for each other. They bring out the best in each other, and drive each other to greater musical heights. That’s apparent on Meshes Of Voice, which is a tantalising taste of two of the finest Nordic vocalists Jenny Hval and Susanna as their career unfolds. Maybe, Meshes Of Voice is just the beginning, and further collaborations between Jenny Hval and Susanna will follow? 

If they do, we’ll hear a very different Jenny Hval and Susanna. They’re five years older and have a wealth of experience under their musical belts. That’s what makes a followup to Meshes Of Voice such a tantalising proposition. Let’s just hope that somehow, Jenny Hval and Susanna can find the time within their busy schedules to record the followup to the critically acclaimed Meshes Of Voice.

JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE.

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DANA GILLESPIE-CAT’S MEOW.

DANA GILLESPIE-CAT’S MEOW. 

Dana Gillespie has packed a lot of living into her sixty-five years. She’s been an actress, singer and songwriter. Her singing career began in the mid-sixties. Initially, Dana was a folk singer. Before long, Dana became a teen pop idol and  released her debut album, Foolish Seasons in1967. Since then, Dana’s musical career has continued to evolve.

During the seventies, Dana’s career moved in the direction of rock. This came about after Dana sang backing vocals on It Ain’t Easy, a track from David Bowie’s 1972 classic album, The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. David Bowie and producer Mick Ronson realised Dana was a talented singer-songwriter. So, they produced Diana’s 1973 album Weren’t Born A Man. However, Weren’t Born A Man proved to be Dana’s only dalliance with rock. After that, Dana found her real musical love, the blues. Since then, Dana has been singing the blues. Here most recent album is Cat’s Meow, which was recently released on Ace Records.

Cat’s Meow is Dana’s comeback album. She hasn’t released an album since 2010s Rest My Case. However, Dana has been busy. That’s been the story of her career.

Throughout Dana’s career, she’s been much more than a singer. She’s successfully juggled a number of careers. Dana is a successful actress, whose appeared on stage and screen. Her screen debut was the 1966 film Secrets of a Windmill Girl. Since then, Dana has appeared in a  number of films and stage-plays. 

Without doubt, Dana’s highest profile role on the stage, was in the original London production of Jesus Christ Superstar. This was back in 1973, at the Palace Theatre. She played Mary Magdalene and appeared on the Original London Cast album. As you can see, Dana Gillespie means different things to different people. She’s an actress, singer and songwriter. Most people remember Dana as a singer-songwriter. No wonder, with over forty-five albums to her name. Cat’s Meow is Dana’s latest album.

For Cat’s Meow, Dana cowrote eleven tracks. Of these eleven tracks, she cowrote eight with guitarist Jake Zaitz. This includes Cat’s Meow, Love Matters, Especially Yours, Eureka Moment, Hands Of Hope, Love Moves, It’s Alchemy and Giving Out To Everyone. Dana, Jack and Evan Jenkins penned Last Chance Saloon. They also cowrote Two-Faced Girls with Artie Zaitz. The other tracks was Running Out Of Steam, which Dana and Jeff Walker wrote. These eleven tracks became Cat’s Meow.

Cat’s Meow was recorded at DD Studios London. Dana and Jake Zaitz produced Cat’s Meow. Dana’s band included a rhythm section of drummer Evan Jenkins, bassist Jeff Walker and guitarist Jake Zaitz. Artie Zaitz plays acoustic guitar, guitar, electric piano, organ, keyboards and percussion. Mike Paice played harmonica and saxophone, while percussionist David Malin added backing vocals. Once the eleven songs were recorded, they became Cat’s Meow.

After four years away, Dana Gillespie was back. Cat’s Meow was her comeback album, was released recently to critical acclaim. Britain’s Queen of the blues was back with Cat’s Meow, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening Cat’s Meow is the title-track. As the rhythm section provide the arrangement’s heartbeat, a guitar chirps, blues harmonica blows and a saxophone rasps. The arrangement is slow, moody, bluesy and understated. It’s the perfect backdrop for Dana’s vocal. She’s totally calm as she deliver the lyrics about pride and betrayal. He thinks he’s the Cat’s Meow, but Dana isn’t impressed and lets him know that.

A plucked bass, crystalline guitar and shuffling rhythm section open Love Matters. They provide the backdrop for Diana. Accompanied by braying horns and piano, she ensures the song swings. Her vocal is a sultry and needy as her band deliver jazzy backdrop. When the solos come round, each member of the band enjoys their moment in the spotlight. They’re talented musicians who play a huge part in the tracks sound and success. 

Bursts of quivering, shivering, bluesy harmonica and a glistening guitar join the rhythm section, in setting the scene on Eternally Yours. Having set the scene for Dana, her vocal is slow, sultry and sassy. All the time,  her band create the perfect bluesy backdrop. This allows Dana to deliver one of her sultriest and finest vocals on Cat’s Meow.

As Dana delivers a tender, pensive vocal on Eureka Moment, her band create a slow, spacious arrangement. Chirping guitars, stabs of grizzled horns and the rhythm section combine. They leave plenty space within the arrangement. So does Dana. By doing so, her vocal is really effective. It’s breathy and needy as she breaths meaning and sass into the lyrics. 

A probing bass and the drums combine with Dana’s vocal on Last Chance Saloon. She’s far from happy as she sings: “I had my fill of your crazy ways…you’d better shape up or ship out, not a moment too soon, ‘cos you’re standing in the Last Chance Saloon.” Dana means what she says, as she delivers a despairing vocal. Meanwhile, her band provide a bluesy backdrop that swings. Especially when the rhythm section and bluesy harmonica combine with guitars. They’re yin to Dana’s yang.

Hands Of Hope has a tough, bluesy sound. This comes courtesy of bursts of blistering guitars, washes of Hammond organ and the rhythm section. They set the scene for Dana’s vocal. She’s fearless. The reason for this is she’s been: “Rescued by the Hands Of Hope.” Dana can’t quite believe this. So much so, that she sings; “It’s still a mystery to me,  I must confess, how you heard my S.O.S.” Bluesy, soulful and with a gospel twist, this shows the many sides of Dana Gillespie.

Love Moves has a soulful, jazz-tinged sound. The arrangement meanders along, with the rhythm section, guitars and percussion accompanying to Dana’s heartfelt, soulful vocal. Subtle bursts of saxophone interject and guitars chime. All the time, percussion marks time as Dana’s delivers some beautiful lyrics, including: “Love Moves even mountains.”

Running Out Of Steam sees a return to a much more bluesy sound. The rhythm section, guitars and washes of Hammond organ lock into a bluesy groove. They’ve set the scene for a despairing Dana, as she sings: “oh I’m running out of love… I’m running out of patience… I’m running out on you.” When her weary, despairing vocal drops out, guitarist Jake Zaitz delivers a blues guitar masterclass. This seems to spur Dana on as she breathes life and meaning into the lyrics.

Percussion and drums open It’s Alchemy. They’re joined by shimmering guitar and Dana’s sultry vocal. As guitars shimmer, the rhythm section provide an understated backdrop. Washes of Hammond organ sweep in.  Later, Jake Zaitz delivers another stunning guitar solo. This is the finishing touch, as a lovestruck Dana delivers a needy, breathy, sensual vocal.

A carefully strummed guitar and wash of Hammond organ accompany Dana on Two Faced Girls. Before long, Dana is delivering an angry, frustrated vocal. She’s frustrated at a younger woman having stolen her man. She takes her aim, and vents her spleen at those “Two Faced Girls” who “shake their hips and purse those lips, then move in for the kill.”Later, Jake Zailz delivers another stunning guitar solo as Dana and her band kick loose.

Closing Cat’s Meow is Giving Out To Everyone. It’s a slow, spacious track, where the band allow Dana’s vocal to take centre-stage. Her mid-Atlantic vocal is accompanied by gently rasping horns, keyboards and glistening guitars. Before long, Dana’s vocal is growing in power and drama. She delivers a spellbinding, soulful performance that ensures Dana closes Cat’s Meow on a high.

After four years away, Dana Gillespie makes a welcome return with Cat’s Meow, which was recently released by Ace Records. Cat’s Meow is very much a return to form from Dana. Accompanied by a tight, talented band, Dana Gillespie combines  blues, jazz and soul on Cat’s Meow. Considering Dana has made a name as a blues singer, she’s equally comfortable delivering jazz and soul. That’s no surprise. During Dana’s near fifty year career, Dana has been a musical chameleon.

Over the last fifty years, Dana has sung everything from folk, pop, rock, jazz, soul and blues. However, it was as a blues singer Dana Gillespie made her name. She’s been singing the blues for over forty years. That’s what Dana Gillespie was born to do. She breaths life and meaning into the lyrics. Hurt, heartbreak, despair, frustration and anger come to life when Dana sings. Other times, Dana’s vocals are joyous, heartfelt, impassioned, sensual and sassy. On Love Moves, Dana comes across as lovestruck. Sometimes, Dana kicks loose, strutting and swaggering her way through tracks, making them her own. One thing that we can say, is that no two songs are the same. 

That’s what music lovers have come to expect from Dana Gillespie. She’s without doubt one of the most versatile artists of the past fifty years. Dana Gillespie reinvented herself several times. Then she found the blues. That was over forty years ago. Since then, Dana Gillespie has released over forty albums. Her latest album Cat’s Meow, is a reminder of why Dana Gillespie is Britain’s blues Queen.

DANA GILLESPIE-CAT’S MEOW. 

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KING CREOSOTE-FROM SCOTLAND FROM LOVE.

KING CREOSOTE-FROM SCOTLAND FROM LOVE.

There aren’t many artists who’ve released over forty albums. Scottish singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson has. However, many people won’t have heard of Kenny Anderson. They will have heard of King Creosote.

King Creosote is just one of a number of aliases Kenny Anderson records records under. He’s been a one man music making machine since 1995. That’s when he formed his own label Fence Records. After that, there was no stopping Kenny. 

Kenny went onto record as the Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra, Khartoum Heroes, Kid Canaveral and Jokes. He also collaborates with Jon Hopkins. They record together as The Burns Unit. Another of their other collaborations proved hugely successful. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins released Diamond Mine in 2011. It resulted in them being nominated for the Mercury Prize. Since then, King Creosote’s music has been reaching a much wider audience.

Especially since King Creosote teamed up with Domino Records. They co-release some of King Creosote’s albums. This has helped to spread the word about the delights of  King Creosote far and wide.  King Creosote’s latest album is From Scotland From Love which was recently released by Domino Records.

From Scotland With Love is a the soundtrack to a documentary feature film directed by Virginia Heath. The film was commissioned as part of the Cultural Festival, which accompanied the 2014 Commonwealth Games  in Glasgow.

During the Commonwealth Games, a screening of From Scotland With Love took place on Glasgow Green. It was accompanied by live music. This was fitting. After all, Glasgow Green has been the scene of many memorable musical events. The screening of From Scotland With Love was just the latest.

As films go, From Scotland With Love is quite unusual. The seventy-five minute film features no dialogue. That’s not surprising. The documentary was created entirely from archive film material from the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Screen Archive. With no voiceover, Virginia Heath decided to add a musical backdrop. That’s where King Creosote came in.

Virginia Heath brought King Creosote onboard. “We came to Kenny because we felt he had a great storytelling ability in his lyrics. We knew that to get across some of the complexity of the sequences we wanted, we needed someone who could translate feelings and stories into song.” 

King Creosote does this wonderfully well on From Scotland With Love. He gets to the nub of the themes that run through the film. This includes love, loss, resistance and migration. There’s a reminder of how Scotland has changed when the film touches on urbanisation and emigration. many Scottish people emigrated to Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the fifties and sixties. From Scotland With Love also shows Scotland at work and play. There’s a sense of sadness too. Especially when reminders of Scotland’s past. 

Back then, shipbuilding, heavy industry and the fishing industry, were just three of Scotland’s industrial heavyweights. Not any more. Tragically, they’ve been brought to their knees. Another sense of sadness is when From Scotland With Love touches on the war. Far too many Scottish people died in battlefields around the world. From Scotland With Love is a reminder of that.

For From Scotland With Love, King Creosote wrote eleven tracks. This took place during  composing session in a studio near Loch Fyne. For King Creosote, the surrounding beauty proved inspirational. Now he was ready to record From Scotland With Love.

Recording of From Scotland With Love took place at Chem 19 Studios, Blantyre. David McAulay produced From Scotland With Love. Ex-Delgado and now seasoned producer Paul Savage, also helped on From Scotland With Love. Paul had worked with King Creosote on his 2009 album Flick the Vs and his 2013 album That Might Well Be It, Darling. The band that accompanied King Creosote were similarly experienced.

At Chem 19 Studios, King Creosote’s band included a rhythm section of drummers Paul Savage and Andy Robinson who also played percussion. Pete Macleod played bass and David McAulay played electric and acoustic guitar, keyboards, synths, banjo, mandolin, percussion and added backing vocals. Derek O’Neil played piano, keyboards and organ. Kevin Brolly of Admiral Fallow played clarinet. Two members of Meursault, violinist Kate Miguda and cellist Pete Harvey made guest appearances. Asher Zaccardelli and Emma Peebles played viola. Backing vocalists included Jenny Reeve, Grant Keir, ex-Delgado Emma Pollock, Jim Sullivan of Sparrow and The Workshop and Louise Abbot of Admiral Fallow and the Beatroute Street Singers. Quite simply, an all-star case of musicians accompanied King Creosote on From Scotland With Love. It was released on 21st July 2014.

On the release of release of From Scotland With Love on 21st July 2014, it was critically acclaimed. So was Virginia Heath’s film. When several generations of Scots saw the film it seemed to strike a chord. People from eight to eighty looked back on Scotland’s past. Poignant, heartbreaking, joyous, uplifting and funny, memories came flooding back. For King Creosote, he was winning friends and influencing people with From Scotland With Love, which I’ll tell you about.

The wistful and beautiful Something To Believe In opens From Scotland With Love. A lone accordion sets the scene for King Creosote’s needy, hopeful vocal as he longingly sings: “you promised me a feeling, Something To Believe In.” As he sings, a piano and slow, steady drums add to the sense of melancholy.

Cargill is a song the refers to the part fishing has played in Scotland’s history. Kenny’s lyrics are truly poignant. Especially the lyric: “the dread of counting home the fleet, the sudden thrill of seeing that you’re back.” Again, there’s a sense of drama and sadness in the song. That comes courtesy of pounding piano, drums and melancholy strings. Along with a female vocal, they provide the backdrop for his vocal. It’s delivered with feeling and sincerity, as he paints pictures with his lyrics.

Largs for those unfamiliar with its delights, is a affluent seaside town just twenty miles from Glasgow. It’s where generations of Glaswegians have headed for a day out, or even holiday. That’s what this song is about. Instantly, King Creosote brings back memories. The song explodes into life. Strings swirl, drums pound and clarinet provide athe galloping arrangement. It provides the backdrop for King Creosote. He sings about ice creams, broken deck chairs, sea, sun and promises of romances for some. Not for others. It’s knock backs all the way. A wistful, wiser King Creosote’s sings against an understated backdrop: “maybe kid on I’m from Largs.”

Just thoughtful keyboards open Miserable Strangers. That’s before an acoustic guitar and sweeping strings enter. It’s a truly beautiful backdrop for King Creosote’s vocal. His vocal is tinged with sadness, as he sings about being one of a generation of Scots who emigrated in the fifties and sixties. He’s standing at the quay, tears in eyes and doubts in his mind. Eventually, he decides it’s for the best. So, he puts on a brave face. Strings sweep and swirl, a choir sings and the rhythm section provide the backdrop for a soul-baring vocal. All this results in a truly beautiful, but heartbreaking songs. Without doubt, it’s a long time since I heard a more powerful song.

Just pensive strings, acoustic guitar and drums accompany King Creosote on a story with a twist in its tale. He sings about a crofter struggling to make a living out the land their father worked. King Creosote’s weary vocal brings home their struggle to make ends meet. However, it’s not all bad. He sings: “that’s when I clap eyes upon my lass, and I find I’m singing like a lark.” Quite simply, poignant and beautiful.

For One Night Only tells the story of a Scot’s couple heading out for a night on the town. They’ve saved all week and now it’s time to celebrate. Firmly strummed guitars build the drama. Then pounding drums and sweeping strings join in. Last but not least is King Creosote’s vocal. His vocal is a mixture of joy and relief. He’s worked all week and wants to celebrate. Shrewdly, his wife is pocketing the change. After all, there’s still the rest of the week to go. Handclaps accompany King Creosote during this joyous, rocky track that paints a picture of a million Friday nights in the West of Scotland.

Bluebell, Cockleshell, 123 begins with children singing and clapping their hands. It sounds like the type of traditional rhyme children used to sing when they played in the streets. It is. They’re singing about becoming a fisherman’s wife. King Creosote sings from the point of view of the view fisherman. He’s accompanied by acoustic guitar and handclaps. His vocal is a mixture bravado, pathos and sadness. It’s as if death is almost inevitable for a fisherman. Especially when he sings about being buried: “beside my only brother, my coffin shall be black.”

Strings and a shuffling beat provide the backdrop for King Creosote’s needy vocal. Later, a Hammond organ and tender harmonies sweep in. His vocal is tinged with equal amounts of sadness and hope. Sometimes King Creosote reminds me of Lloyd Cole. Always though, he’s a troubled troubadour who breaths life and meaning into lyrics. Especially here, were he croons his way through the track.

Crystal 8s is an atmospheric instrumental. The arrangement shimmers and quivers, drawing you in. After that, a wistful acoustic guitar makes its way across the arrangement as it draws to an atmospheric close.

Paupers Dough one of the most poignant songs on From Scotland With Love. It has an understated, piano lead arrangement. The lyrics are tinged with social comment. They’re about a group of brave, determined people who demanded social justice. They wanted a better life for them and their families. That’s apparent from the lyrics: “and I want better for my boy, to bury my father in dry desecrated ground.” A truly poignant song designed to make you think and be thankful, for those brave, determined people.

Closing From Scotland With Love is A Prairie Tale. It’s another instrumental. Wistful, melancholy strings tug at your heartstrings. They’re a reminder of Scotland’s rich musical heritage. The track also has a cinematic quality, which encourages your imagination to run riot. 

I can’t rate From Scotland With Love highly enough. It’s easily one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. Without doubt, From Scotland With Love will be on the list of best albums of 2014. That’s testament to a hugely talented singer-songwriter, King Creosote.

Since 1995, Kenny Anderson, a.k.a. has been a musical machine. He’s released over forty albums. From Scotland With Love has to be a coming of age musically from King Creosote. Especially given the themes that run through From Scotland With Love. This includes love, loss, resistance and migration. There’s also a reminder of how Scotland has changed because of urbanisation and emigration. From Scotland With Love deals with Scotland and work and play. Scotland has always been a country who work and play hard. This is apparent on From Scotland With Love.

King Creosote sings of holidays in Largs. That was where people from the West of Scotland went on holiday. Some still do. It’s songs like Largs that make From Scotland With Love an album that will appeal to  anyone between the age of eight and eighty. Any Scot will be able to relate to From Scotland With Love. Having said that, From Scotland With Love will appeal to much more than Scottish people.

Why? From Scotland With Love is a beautiful, joyous, melancholy, poignant, uplifting and wistful album. The music tugs at your heartstrings. Especially, when King Creosote is delivering vocals that are heartfelt, hopeful, needy, joyous and inspirational. King Creosote is the latest in a  long line of Scottish troubadours. His Magnus Opus, From Scotland With Love, marks a coming of age from Scotland’s newly crowned musical King, King Creosote.

KING CREOSOTE-FROM SCOTLAND FROM LOVE.

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ELECTRI CITY-ELEKTRONISCHE MUSIK AUS DUSSELDORF.

ELECTRI CITY-ELEKTRONISCHE MUSIK AUS DUSSELDORF. 

Some cities are synonymous with a musical genre. Mention Memphis, and it’s remembered as the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll and later, Southern Soul. Philadelphia is famous for Philly Soul and disco. Chicago is synonymous with blues and house music. New Orleans gave us Dixieland and R&B, Seattle grunge, Plainfield P-Funk, Washington Go-Go and New York hip hop and disco. Then there’s Detroit. It’s famous for techno. Over the Atlantic, Britain and Europe has given the world their fare share of musical genres.

Liverpool gave the world The Beatles and Mersey-beat. The Midlands was the birthplace of heavy metal. A decade later, Coventry spawned T-Tone. Over the English Channel, Europe has been a musical hotbed. 

One of France’s most famous musical exports was ye ye. It was born in Paris. A decade later, Euro Disco was born in Munich. Another German city, Dusseldorf, is famous for electronic pop music.

Dusseldorf in the seventies and eighties was synonymous for electronic music. Some of the best electronic music came out of Dusseldorf. This includes La Dusseldorf, Harmonia and Eno, Der Plan, Daf, Neu!, Teja, Die Krups, Rheingold and Makrosoft. These are just a few of the artists that feature on Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf. It’ll be released on 10th October 2014 by Berlin based, Groenland Records. For anyone interested in electronic music, then  Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf will be a music have. You’ll soon realise why.

Opening  Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf is La Dusseldorf’s Dusseldorf. La Dusseldorf’s was founded by Klaus Dinger after Neu! split-up in 1975. Neu! had just released Neu 75, but wasn’t a commercial success. This resulted in Neu! splitting-up. A year later, Klaus Dinger returned with his new band La Dusseldorf. It featured Hans Lampe and Thomas Dinger. They released their eponymous debut album in 1976. It was produced by Conny Plank and La Dusseldorf. On its release on Nova Records, La Dusseldorf wasn’t a commercial success. Despite this, La Dusseldorf is a vastly underrated album. Dusseldorf is proof of this. Atmospheric, moody and hypnotic describes this fusion of ambient, Krautrock and rock.

Wolfgang Reichmann’s musical career began in 1966. He was a member Kraftwerk and Neu. After that, he became a member of Düsseldorf based band called Streetmark. Then in 1977, Wolfgang embarked upon a solo career. His debut album was 1978s Wunderbar, which was released on Sky Records. One of the highlights is the title-track. It’s a mixture of ambient, experimental and electronica that has an inherent ethereal beauty.

A collaboration between two musical pioneers, Harmonia and Brian Eno was a tantalising prospect. After all, Harmonia were one of the most innovative German groups. Brian Eno was a musical legend. After leaving Roxy Music, he became a pioneer of ambient and electronic music. Harmonia and Eno collaborated on Harmonia 76’s 1997 debut album Tracks and Traces. It features the slow, mesmeric and hypnotic Luneburg Heath. Without doubt, it’s one of Harmonia and Eno’s finest hours.

Der Plan were founded in 1979 and were together until 1993. During that period, they were responsible for some truly groundbreaking music. Proof of that is Wir Werden Immer Mehr. It’s a fusion of electronica, post punk and eperimental. The song never found its way onto any of Der Plan’s albums. Instead, this hidden gem is tucked away on one of their compilations Geri Reig Und Normalette Surprise which was released in 1996. It’s an irresistible reminder of what Der Plan were capable of. 

DAF, or to gve them their full name, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft were formed in 1978. They released six albums between 1979 and 1986, before making a comeback in 2002 and releasing their seventh album Fünfzehn Neue DAF Lieder. That was DAF’s swan-song. One of the finest albums was their third album, 1981s Alles Ist Gut. It was produced by none other than Conny Plank. Alles Ist Gut’s best known track is Der Mussolini, a track that’s synonymous with DAF.

Neu!, just like Can and Kraftwerk are, without doubt, three of the most important, influential and innovative bands in German musical history. Even today, their influence can be heard in modern music. Incredibly, Neu! only released five albums. Hero is a track from album Neu! 75, which was released in 1975, on Brain Records. After that, Neu! split-up. It would be another twenty years before Neu! released Neu! 4. Neu! 75 and Hero in particular, is a poignant reminder of one of the most innovative bands at the peak of their powers. 

Teja Schmitz is a name that might not be familiar with most people. However, back in 1981Teja released Säuren Ätzen Und Zersetzen. There was no label involved. In true punk style, Teja released Säuren Ätzen Und Zersetzen, which featured Säuren.  Since 1981, the track lay undiscovered. Then in 2013, Snowboy Records released this glorious fusion of ambient, avant garde and electronica as a limited edition of 200. Now, at long last, Säuren is finding the wider audience it deserves. It’s a real find. This make me to wonder where Teja released any more music?

Die Krupps are one of those bands whose music constantly evolved. They weren’t a band who stood still. Their music ranged from noise, EBM, industrial and then during the nineties, headed in the direction of heavy metal. Back in 1982, Die Krupps released their sophomore album Volle Kraft Voraus! It featured Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn where electronica, Krautrock and post punk unite to create mesmeric, dramatic track. So good is the track, it’ll have you digging deep into Die Krupps’ discography.

Liaisons Dangereuses only released one album. That was their 1981 eponymous album, which was released on the TIS label. It features Los Niños Del Parque. The best way to describe Los Niños Del Parque is dance-floor friendly. Drum machines and synths drive this hypnotic track along. It sounds like a forerunner to techno. Later, swaggering vocals are added, as elements of post punk and synth pop combine. This works. However, even with the vocals, the track would’ve worked. Especially given the hypnotic, proto techno arrangement.

Wolfgang Flur was a member of Kraftwerk between 1973 and 1987. The Karftwerk influence shines through on I Was A Robot, which Wolfgang released as a single in 2014. It’s a truly innovative track. Elements of electronica, jazz, Kraurock and dance music melt into one, creating a truly timeless track. Without doubt, I Was A Robot is one of the highlights of  Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf.

Rheingold released three albums and several singles between 1980 and 1984. After that, nothing was heard of them until 2007. That’s when Rheingold released Electric City-Düsseldorfer Schule. It features 3Klangsdimensionen. It’s something of a slow burner. The track takes time to reveal its many delights. Understated and featuring a heartfelt, soulful vocal, the arrangement combines elements of ambient, electronica, funk and Krautrock. This proves the perfect introduction to Rheingold. one of Germany’s best kept musical secrets.

Michael Rother is a member of German musical royalty. His career began when he joined Spirit of Sound. He left Spirit of Sound in 1970 and was briefly a member of Kraftwerk. When he left Kraftwerk, so did Klaus Dinger. They formed Neu! and released a trio of albums between 1972 and 1975. Neu! split-up in 1975. Two years later, Michael released his debut album Flammende Herzen. It was released on Sky Records in 1977. One of the album’s highlights was the title-track Flammende Herzen. It’s a fusion of ambient, electronica, Krautrock and rock that has a beautiful, wistful sound.

Closing Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf is MakroSoft’s Electricity. Previously, MakroSoft has only released one album, Stereo Also Playable Mono. That was in 2006. It didn’t feature Electricity. It’s something of a hidden gem where synth pop meets social comment.

The thirteen tracks on Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf are a tantalising taste of the music that Dusseldorf gave the world. There’s so much more to the Dusseldorf music scene than these tracks. That’s why Groenland Records have to make Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf the first in a regular compilation series. Surely, more instalments in this series must follow? I hope so. After all, the influence of Dusseldorf electronic music scene can’t be understated.

Without the electronic music coming out of Dusseldorf, groups like OMD, Heaven 17 and Depeche Mode might never have existed? Their music is inextricably linked to Dusseldorf’s electronic music scene. It’s not just eighties synth groups who were influenced by Dusseldorf’s electronic music scene.

No. Several generations of bands have been influenced by German music, including the music coming out of Dusseldorf. One of the most influential bands on Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf are Neu! Along with Can and Kraftwerk, they’re perceived as the golden triumvirate of German music. Many British groups, including Primal Scream, have been hugely influenced by the golden triumvirate. So have several generations of electronic music producers. No wonder.

The music on Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf is best described as important, innovative, influential and inspiring. It resulted in artists and producers rethinking how they approached music. This is still the case. As a result, interest in German music is at an all time high.

Recently, the have been reissues of some of the most important releases in German musical history. This includes Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, Holger Czukay, Michael Rother and Conny Plank. A number of books have been written about the German music scene. 

This includes David Stubbs’ Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany. Then there’s Rüdiger Esch’s book Electri City-Electronic Music from Dusseldorf. It’s the perfect companion to Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf, which will be released on 10th October 2014, by Groenland Records. For anyone interested in electronic music, German music or the Dusseldorf music scene, then Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf is essential listening. No wonder. Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf, features some of the most important, innovative and influential music in German musical history. That’s why Electri City-Electronische Musik Aus Dusseldorf is sure to be one of the best compilations of 2014.

ELECTRI CITY-ELEKTRONISCHE MUSIK AUS DUSSELDORF.

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EDDIE “CLEANHEAD” VINSON-THE ORIGINAL CLEANHEAD.

EDDIE “CLEANHEAD” VINSON-THE ORIGINAL CLEANHEAD.

By 1970, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson was fifty-three. He was a musical veteran. His career was about to enter its fifth decade. Eddie had caught a break. 

Bob Thiele asked him to sign to his Blues Time imprint. It was a subsidiary of Flying Dutchman Productions. In 1970, Eddie released his what was seen as his comeback album, The Original Cleanhead, which was recently rereleased on CD by Ace Records. The Original Cleanhead marked a change in fortune for Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. After a few years in the doldrums, Eddie’s career was on the up again. This was just the latest chapter in the Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson story.

Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson born in Houston, Texas on 19th December 1917. His family were all musical. His father played the honky tonk piano and his grandmother was a violinist. They encouraged Eddie musically. 

Growing up, Eddie decided he wanted to play alto saxophone. So, his father bought him a saxophone and paid for music lessons. This paid off. 

By the time Eddie was in high school, he was playing in Chester Boone’s band. Not long after that, Eddie turned professional and joined Chester Boone’s band full-time. This was the start of Eddie’s musical journey.

Some time later, Chester Boone decided to head to New York. Chester’s band was taken over by Mlt Larkin. For Eddie this was a blessing in disguise. 

Milt Larkin’s band had a  secret weapon. That was the horn section. It featured Arnett Cobb, Tom Archia, Illinois Jacquet and Eddie. Before long, Mlt Larkin’s band were taking on all-comers and leaving them in their wake. Duke Ellington and Earl Hines’ bands lost out, when they took on Milt Larkin’s band. This was in part down to the horn section. As a result, Mlt Larkin’s band establishing a reputation as one of the finest bands of the swing era. They were booked to play far and wide.

No longer were Milt Larkin’s band playing just in their own area. They toured America. Sometimes, they toured with blues legend Big Bill Broonzy. For Eddie, this was a musical education. It expanded his knowledge of the blues. On these tours, Eddie took centre-stage during ballads. However, it wasn’t this that lead to him being spotted by Cootie Williams.

Eddie was singing the blues during some downtime. Cootie Williams, who was there trying to persuade  Arnett Cobb to join his band, heard Eddie singing. Eddie was asked to join the Cootie Williams Orchestra.

Eddie was with the Cootie Williams Orchestra 1942 to 1945. During that period, they recorded such tunes as Cherry Red and Is Your Or Is You Ain’t My Baby. However, by 1945 was ready to form his own band.

He formed his own band in 1945. Right up until the late forties, Eddie was a huge star. Eddie was one of the biggest names in blues music. His solo career got off to the perfect start. He signed to Mercury and released Old Maid Boogie. It reached number one. This was helped by Eddie moving from jump blues to a tougher R&B sound. Right through to the late forties and into the early fifties, Eddie could do no wrong. Then his career stalled.

The problem was, many of the new artists saw Eddie as part of music’s past. He was perceived as a remnant of the swing era. That was wrong. Eddie still had plenty to offer musically. He released his debut album Cleanhead’s Back In Town in 1957. Sadly, this didn’t seem to change people’s opinion of Eddie

What people forget was that Eddie had been around when bebop was born. played his part in the new genre’s rise. Sadly, many people had short memories. At least JulianCannonballAdderley knew Eddie still had plenty to offer.

So, JulianCannonballAdderley and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson entered the studio. The result was a collaboration between the pair, Cleanhead and Cannonball. It was released in 1961, the same year Eddie released Backdoor Blues, which featured CannonballAdderley. This undoubtedly gave Eddie’s career a boost.

After Backdoor Blues, Eddie released Cherry Red on Blues Way in 1967. It was the blues imprint of ABC Records and had been founded by Bob Thiele. Their paths would cross again.

Before that, Eddie released Wee Baby Blues on Black and Blue, in 1969, The same year, Eddie released Kidney Stew Is Fine on Delmark Records. Sadly, by then, Eddie’s career was stalling. It needed someone who could rejuvenate Eddie’s career. Who better than Bob Thiele?

He’d just signed to Bob Thiele’s Blues Time imprint. It was a subsidiary of Flying Dutchman Productions. In 1970, Eddie released his what was seen as his comeback album, The Original Cleanhead.

When Bob Thiele founded his Blues Time imprint, he started signing artists he’d worked with at Blues Way, the ABC subsidiary. Among them were Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker. So, when Eddie walked in the door, it was like a reunion. Having said their hellos, Eddie got down to business and began work on his comeback album The Original Cleanhead.

ForThe Original Cleanhead, Eddie returned to his number one single Old Maid Boogie. He’d written the song himself. He also penned I Needs To Be Be’d Wid. Eddie and Louis Zito cowrote Alimony Blues, Juice Head Baby. Jessie Mae Robinson and Eddie wrote Cleanhead Blues and Charles Taylor and Eddie penned Cleanhead Is Back. Other tracks included Joe Pass’ Pass Out and Plas Johnson and Earl Palmer’s One O’Clock Humph. These tracks became Eddie’s comeback album The Original Cleanhead.

When recording of The Original Cleanhead began, Bob Thiele had put together a talented band. The rhythm section included drummer Earl Palmer, bassist Arthur Wright and guitarists Joe Pass and David Cohen. Artie Butler played piano and organ and Plas Johnson played tenor saxophone. Eddie played alto saxophone and took charge of vocals. Once The Original Cleanhead was finished, it was released in 1970.

On the release of The Original Cleanhead, the album was well received. It also had the desired effect and rejuvenated Eddie’s career. Bob Thiele who produced The Original Cleanhead, had helped get Eddie’s career back on track. The next few years would see a change in Eddie’s fortunes. This started with The Original Cleanhead, which I’ll tell you about.

Cleanhead Blues opens The Original Cleanhead. It was originally recorded in 1946. Stabs of braying saxophone and pounding drums set the scene for Eddie’s vocal. It’s unmistakable. Once heard, you never forget Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. Here, Eddie veers between weary and sassy. Crystalline guitars, piano and the rhythm section accompany Eddie. The bass helps drive the arrangement along. Guitars are panned left and right. Meanwhile Eddie delivers a vocal powerhouse. He’s in his element. Especially as the track heads to its dramatic ending. Riffing bluesy guitar, blazing horns and pounding piano accompany him as the track reaches a crescendo.

Eddie drops the tempo on Pass Out. It has a jazzy sound. Eddie blows his alto saxophone tenderly. The rest of his band play in a similarity understated way. A jazz-tinged guitar, piano and a bass which drives the arrangement along accompany Eddie. Drums mark time and never overpower the rest of the band. When the solos come round, a chiming guitar solo sets the bar. After that, the baton passes to the tenor saxophone. Next up it’s the jazzy piano. Then it’s Eddie turn. Just like the rest of the band, his playing is understated and results in a beautiful, jazz-tinged track.

Short, sharp bursts of saxophone and the rhythm section open Alimony Blues. They set the scene for Eddie angry, frustrated and powerful vocal. He rages against the judge, while his band combine jazz and blues. Slow, bluesy and moody describes the backdrop. Soon, it begins to swing. That in part, is down to the horn. It’s at the heart of everything that’s good. Eddie is determined to have the last say, “I got the Alimony Blues, on the day she set me free.”

Cleanhead Is Back is the followup to Alimony Blues. A territorial Eddie decides to makes a return. His partner doesn’t sound too happy. Eddie is oblivious.  Against a slow, broody, bluesy backdrop, Eddie becomes the seducer in chief. Searing, crystalline, guitars, stabs of riffing bluesy horns and washes of Hammond organ accompany the rhythm section. They provide the heartbeat, as Eddie sings “I’m so sorry baby, I didn’t mean to stay away so long,” during this blues’ soap opera.

A searing, soaring guitar line open Juice Head Baby. It lasts forty-five seconds. The bass matches it every step of the way. Meanwhile, drums mark time, horns rasp and then a Hammond organ enters. All this is setting scene for Eddie gravely vocal. It’s a mixture of power and despair. His despair is caused by his “Juice Head Baby…she drinks whisky like water, and gin like lemonade.” No matter what he does, he can’t help “she’s got the juice head blues.” Behind him. Eddie’s band provide a moody, dramatic backdrop for his despairing vocal. 

Old Maid Boogie was the song that gave Eddie his only number one single. The arrangement is driven along by horns and the rhythm section. Before long, Eddie jumps onboard and delivers a sassy, swaggering vocal. Bursts of horns, washes of Hammond organ and crystalline guitar join in the fun. Then when Eddie’s vocal drops out, he’s not afraid to let his band shine. When he makes his return, it’s as if he’s been inspired, and delivers a barnstorming vocal. He then joins the rest of his band in driving the track to a blues crescendo.

As the guitar and bass wander along, bursts of blues horns punctuate the arrangement to One O’Clock Humph. Gradually, the rest of the band make their entrance. The piano, drums and hissing hi-hats join forces with the rest of the band. At the heart of the arrangement is the bass. It sets the tempo and provides the heartbeat. Especially when the solos come around. They reinforce what a tight talented band Eddie has. The guitar, piano and horns play play starring roles during this laid-back fusion of blues and jazz.

Closing The Original Cleanhead is I Needs To Be Be’d Wid. It was written especially for The Original Cleanhead and suits Eddie’s vocal perfectly. His band drop the tempo and provide a slow, moody and bluesy backdrop. The rhythm section and Hammond organ accompany Eddie’s vocal. It’s needy and full of emotion. Sometimes, it’s tinged with sadness and longing. Regardless of which, Eddie breathes life and meaning into the lyrics.

Listening back to The Original Cleanhead, it’s no surprise that the album rejuvenated Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s career. From the opening bars of Cleanhead Blues, right through to the closing notes of I Needs To Be Be’d Wid, the music oozes quality. Eddie was into his fifth decade of a musician and singer. He put all his experience to good use on The Original Cleanhead. So, it’s no surprise that The Original Cleanhead was a commercial success. It rejuvenated Eddie’s career.

Ironically, when other blues musicians were reinventing themselves, Eddie kept on what he’d been doing since the thirties. Eddie wasn’t for changing. Even if he’d wanted to. That wouldn’t be easy. After all, Eddie was known for his mixture of jump blues, swing and bebop. That was what people knew Eddie for. So, with some judicious choice of material, old and new, Bob Thiele set about attempting to rejuvenate Eddie’s career. This worked.

After The Original Cleanhead, Eddie’s career enjoyed something of an Indian Summer. He continued to record until his death in 1988. Eddie’s career had lasted over fifty years. However, one of the finest albums of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s career was The Original Cleanhead, which was recently released by Ace Records.

The recent release of The Original Cleanhead is a first. Never before has The Original Cleanhead been released on CD. That’s until now. As an added bonus, there are a trio of live tracks. This includes Cleanhead Blues, I Had A Dream and Person To Person. They’re a reminder of how talented and charismatic an artist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson was live. Along with the rest of The Original Cleanhead, this is the perfect introduction to the unmistakable sound of the one and only, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson.

EDDIE “CLEANHEAD” VINSON-THE ORIGINAL CLEANHEAD.

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NANA LOVE-DISCO DOCUMENTARY FULL OF FUNK.

NANA LOVE-DISCO DOCUMENTARY FULL OF FUNK.

Disco. Never has a musical genre caused so much controversy. It divided opinion back in the seventies. Even today, disco continues to divide opinion. That’s why disco has been described as Marmite music. People seem to either love or loathe disco. There seems to be no in between. Controversy even surrounds disco’s birth. 

What was the first disco record is disputed. Ask a hundred music critics, and they’ll give you a different answer. Some critics believe disco was born in 1971, with Barry White and Isaac Hayes pioneering the disco sound. Other critics think 1972 was the year disco was born. They point towards singles like  The O’Jays’  Love Train, Jerry Butler’s One Night Affair or Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa. Even 1972 might be too early for disco’s birth?

It could be that disco wasn’t born until 1973, when the Hues Corporation released Rock The Boat. Some critics think George McCrae’s 1974 number one single got the disco ball rolling. However, it’s thought that disco was already celebrating its first birthday by then. The first article in the music press about disco was penned by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine in September 1973. Little did Vince know, he’d just written the first article about a true musical phenomenon.

Disco was born in America. Music historians have traced disco’s roots to clubs in Philly and New York. These two cities would play an important part in a disco. Philly and New York were where many of the most successful disco records were recorded. They were also home to some of disco’s top labels, Salsoul Records, SAM Records, West End Records and Casablanca. New York was also home to some of the top clubs, including David Mancuso’s Loft and Studio 54. Although born in America, soon disco’s influence was being felt worldwide.

Around the world, dancers danced to the disco beat. Disco crossed the continents. Soon, nightclubs in Britain, Australia, Canada and Germany danced to the disco beat. Before long, disco’s influence had spread to Africa. 

Having succumbed to pulsating rhythms of funk, Africa was soon won over by disco. Swathes of lush strings, rasping horns and a pulsating beat were hard to resist. Africa was wonder over by disco. It then gave it a twist. Afro-beat and highlife were combined with disco. The music was funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly. That describes the music on Nana Love’s Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk, which will be released on BBE Music on 11th August 2014.

Nana Love’s Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk is the third instalment of BBE’s Masters We Love series. For the latest stop in BBE Music’s crate-digging adventure, they found themselves at the home of producer Reindorf Oppong. He produced Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk. It’s remembered fondly by crate-diggers, record collectors and connoisseurs of all things disco. Why? Well, Nana Love’s Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk is one of the most mysterious Afro-disco records of the late seventies.

When BBE Music met Reindorf, it transpired that he had the original master tapes to Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk. Even better, they were in good shape. Then BBE Music caught a break. They were getting the tapes restored when five previously unheard tracks were discovered. For everyone involved with the project, they couldn’t believe their luck. After all, the five tracks on the original version of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk have everything.

The five songs on the original Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk were written by Nana. So were the previously unreleased songs. Then there’s Nana’s voice. She could’ve and should’ve been a disco diva. Especially with some hugely talented musicians accompanying her. 

Recording of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk took place in London in 1978. The rhythm section features drummer Tony Martin, bassist Grek Haywood and guitarists Harry Mosco, Les Forrest and Paul Pryce. They’re joined by Humphrey Okoh-Turner on horns, percussionist Ayindi, pianist Richard Reid and Adrian Bennett on synths. Producing Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk was Reindorf Oppong. Once Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk was recorded, it was released in 1978.

Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk was a private pressing. It was released on the San Diego label, Nestor Records in 1978. Unfortunately, like many private pressings Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk wasn’t a commercial success. However, since then, Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk has become a cult record. It’s a prized possession among crate-diggers, record collectors and connoisseurs of all things disco. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk.

Opening Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk is I’m In Love, a twelve minute epic. From the get-go, the rhythm section get busy. Along with chiming guitars they provide an uber funky heartbeat. Stabs of Afro-beat horns and washes of synths sweep in. They provide the backdrop for the sweet, sultry and sassy sound of Nana Love. She struts her way through the track. Then when her vocal drops out, horns take charge. They’re joined by a tough, funky rhythm section. When Nana’s vocal returns, it’s a mixture of power and passion. Again, banks of synths unite with the rhythm section to create a tough, funky sound. In the background, a piano provides a contrast. After that, Nano returns. Harmonies answer her call as seamlessly, she and her band fuse elements of Afro-beat, disco, funk, jazz and soul.

Synths set the scene for blazing horns and the funky rhythm section on We Gonna Stay For The Party. Then comes the unmistakable sound of Nana Love. She makes the song her own. As her vocal drops out, the band take centre-stage. Their funk masterclass seems to spur Nana on. Her vocal is feisty and powerful. By then, her band are combining Afro-beat, funk, jazz and soul. Horns and the funky rhythm section unite. Banks of keyboards play their part. Later, a flute is added. When it drops  out this glorious fusion builds and builds until it reaches a majestic crescendo.

As Talking About Music unfolds, Nana literally struts her way through the lyrics. She seems to draw inspiration from Eartha Kitt, Esther Phillips and Charo. Her vocal is a mixture of sass, power and attitude. This spurs her band on. They explode into life. Bubbling synths, percussion and the rhythm section unite. Nana hollers and roars, as if encouraging her band to greater heights. This works. They lock into the tightest of grooves. A flute and synths play starring roles as Nana’s band produce a funk masterclass.

Braying horns and a pounding bass open Disco Lover. Then Nana announces “it’s disco time.” Her vocal is much more tender. It’s also needy and hopeful. As for her band, they fuse musical genres, including elements of boogie, disco, funk, highlife and jazz. Again there’s a similarity to Charo. Enveloping her vocal is a myriad of percussion, a flute, blazing horns and keyboards. Anchoring the arrangement is the rhythm section. Thunderous drums and a slapped bass. Later, Nana’s vocal veers between joyous and sensual, as she dawns the role of disco diva.

Sahara/Chains Of Love closed the original version of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk is I’m In Love. There’s a reggae feel to this laid-back, melodic tracks. As the arrangement chugs along, the rhythm section, braying horns and keyboards provide the backdrop for Nana. She unleashes a vocal full of hurt and heartbeat. Harmonies sweep in, as if trying to sooth Nana’s hurt. The finishing touch is a sultry, wistful saxophone solo. It tugs at your heartstrings, before the track heads to a wistful close. That isn’t the end of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk. There’s still the bonus tracks to come.

Although Sahara/Chains Of Love was the final track on the original version of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk is I’m In Love, there’s more to come. Five more tracks. Hang On Baby is a real find. Thunderous drums, funky bass and chiming guitars provide the backdrop for Nana’s vamp. She’s like a disco Shaman. Her raison d’être is to fill dance-floors. To do this, Nana and her band combine Afro-beat, disco, funk and soul. She hollers, shrieks and struts her way through this nine minute epic hidden gem.

There’s not drop in the quality as When The Heart Decides bursts into life. As usual, Nana encourages her band along. They burst into life, combining musical genres and influences. Elements of Afro-beat, disco, funk and soul shine through. Nana swaggers its way through the lyrics. All the time, the rhythm section, percussion and crystalline guitars provide a frenzied backdrop. Later, dusty Hammond organ sweeps in. It adds another layer to this irresistible fusion of musical genres.

Reach Out A Hand sees a drop in tempo. Sultry horns float and the rhythm section float along. They provide the backdrop for another heartfelt, soul-baring vocal from Nana. Stabs of Hammond organ drift in. Guitars reverberate, horns growl and flourishes of Hammond combine. Together, they provide the perfect backdrop for Nana’s heartbroken, soulful vocal.

Two different versions of Loving Feeling close Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk. The first version is the dance mix. It’s just under six minutes long and would’ve filled many a dance-floor. Furiously funky, incredibly soulful and dance-floor friendly, it features a musical masterclass from Nana Love and her band. The other version of Loving Feeling is a three minute instrumental version. Even without the vocal, the song works. It allows you to hear just how tight and talented Nana’s band were, as they mix a potent and heady brew of Afro-beat, funk and soul.

Thirty-six years after Nana Love released Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk on San Diego based Nestor Records, the album will be rereleased by BBE Music on 11th September 2014. Nana Love’s Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk is the third instalment of BBE’s Masters We Love series. This is the perfect addition to this series. After all, over the last thirty-six years, Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk has become a cult record. It’s a also a highly collectable record. Copies are changing hands for up to £360. That puts Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk beyond the reach of most people. Not any more.

BBE Music discovered that the producer of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk, Reindorf Oppong still had the master tapes. So, BBE Music decided to rerelease Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk. It was long overdue a rerelease. Here was an album that had never before been released on CD. With the ever increasing interest in disco, now was the time to rerelease Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk. Before that the master tapes had to be restored.

They were thirty-six years old. It was during this laborious process that the bonus tracks were released. None of the five tracks had been released before. For everyone concerned, this was an unexpected bonus. Especially when you hear the five tracks. This makes the newly released version of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk a must have for fans of Nana Love. However, it’s not just fans of Nana Love, the newly released version of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk will appeal to.

Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk isn’t just a disco album. There’s elements of Afro-beat, boogie, funk, highlife, jazz and plenty of soul. So, not only will Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk appeal to anyone who remembers the heady, decadent days of disco, but fans of Afro-beat, boogie, funk, highlife, jazz and soul. Quite simply, Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk is a delicious fusion of musical genres and influences.

There no doubt about that. One listen and you’ll realise why crate-diggers, record collectors and connoisseurs of disco are always on the look out for a copy of Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk. Quite simply, it’s a glorious fusion of Afro-beat, funk, highlife, jazz and soul. It’s a heady, hypnotic and potent brew, one that should be tasted often. So, drink deeply from the cup that’s Nana Love’s Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk and you won’t regret it. Nana Love’s Disco Documentary–Full Of Funk is an intoxicating and heady brew, and one that should be tasted often.

NANA LOVE-DISCO DOCUMENTARY FULL OF FUNK.

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L.C. COOKE-THE COMPLETE SAR RECORDINGS.

L.C. COOKE-THE COMPLETE SAR RECORDINGS.

Although Sam Cooke made his name as a singer and songwriter, he was also a successful producer. So much so, that Sam formed his own record label SAR Recordings. This made sense. He needed a vehicle for the various artists he was producing. They included some big names. Among them were The Soul Stirrers, Bobby Womack, Johnny Taylor and  The Simms Twins. Another artist Sam produced was his younger brother L.C. Cooke.

L.C. Cooke was also a singer. Despite his undoubted talent, L.C. Cooke lived in his brother’s shadow. This wasn’t anyone’s fault. Sam Cooke was a huge star. He wasn’t just one of the biggest names in soul, but music per se. So, for L.C. Cooke, it was going to be almost impossible to step out his brother’s shadow. 

The sad thing is, that like any sibling with a famous brother or sister, L.C. Cooke was always perceived as Sam’s younger brother. People overlooked that L.C. Cooke was a talented singer and songwriter. That’s apparent on L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings which was recently released by Ace Records.

L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings features eighteen tracks recorded between October 1960 and January 1964. These tracks are a reminder that the Cooke family were a talented family.

L.C. Cooke and Sam Cooke were two of the eight children Annie Mae and the Rev. Charles Cook, a baptist minister. They were born and brought up in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Growing up, L.C. Cooke and the rest of his brothers and sisters were part of the family singing group, The Singing Children. This launched the career of L.C. and Sam.

The Singing Children was just the start of L.C’s career. He then became a member of doo woo group, Johnny Keyes and the Magnificents. After that, L.C. decided to embark upon a solo career.

Having signed to Leonard Chess’ Checker Records, L.C. Cooke released Do You Remember in 1958? It was penned by L.C, but failed to chart. So did the two singles L.C. released during 1959. 

I’m Falling was released in May 1959. Written by L.C. it’s an irresistible slice of perfect pop. Five months later, L.C. released If I Could Only Hear October 1959. If I Could Only Hear shows what L.C. Cooke is capable of. He breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. L.C. does this on If I Could Only Hear. His vocal is tinged with hurt and regret, as he makes the song swing. Sometimes, L.C. sounds like his brother Sam. Despite the quality of If I Could Only Hear, commercial success continued to elude L.C. Cooke. 

L.C. left Checker Records after If I Could Only Hear failed to chart. It features on L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings. So does You Remember and I’m Falling. After leaving Checker Records, L.C. wasn’t long without a label.

Next stop for L.C. Cooke was Wand. He released just one single on Wand, Half A Man. Still L.C. couldn’t catch a break. That was until he signed to his brother Sam’s new label, SAR Records.

While some people may have accused Sam Cooke of nepotism, they didn’t realise how talented L.C. Cooke was. That was apparent when entered the studio on 2nd September 1960. He returned to the studio on 22nd September 1960. The fruits of these sessions were Magic Words and Teach Me.

Magic Words was L.C. Cooke’s SAR Records’ debut and features on L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings. It was written by his brother Sam and J.W. Alexander. It’s an uptempo fusion of soul and pop, where the hooks haven’t been spared. On the flip side, the Sam Cooke and J.W. Alexander penned ballad features a needy, heartfelt vocal. Of the two tracks, maybe Teach Me would’ve made a better single, given it oozes soulfulness ?Despite the quality of Magic Words and Teach Me, success continued to elude L.C. 

March 1961 saw L.C. release his second single on SAR Records. This was The Lover, a Sam Cooke penned song. On the flip side was Sufferin’ which L.C. wrote. Recording of the two tracks took place on 2nd September 1960 and 17th January 1961. On its release in March 1961, the single disappeared without trace. That was a great shame. It’s one of the finest moments of L.C’s career. Rasping horns and sweeping strings set the scene for L.C. Strings then sweep L.C’s sassy vocal along. He swaggers his way through the songs. When you turn over and listen to Sufferin, L.C. sounds just like his brother Sam. As for the arrangement, it sometimes reminds me of Chain Gang. Just like The Lover, Sufferin’ showcases L.C’s talent and soulfulness. Surely, success couldn’t be far away?

L.C. and Sam returned to the studio on April 1st 1962. Sam wrote and produced You’re Working Out Your Bag. It would become the B-Side to Tell Me, which L.C. wrote Both tracks were recorded at the familiar surroundings of United Recordings, Hollywood. That’s where all L.C’s songs were recorded. Tell Me is a catchy, soulful track. On the B-Side, You’re Working Out Your Bag L.C. delivers a powerhouse of a vocal. This time, he reminds of Bobby Womack. His voice has a tougher, rougher sound. It’s as if he’s determined to find his own style. Sadly, still commercial success eluded L.C.

As commercial success continued to elude L.C, his brother Sam continued to enjoy widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. He was one of the biggest names in music. Maybe some of that success would rub off?

L.C’s next single was The Wobble, another Sam Cooke track. It’s a song written for the dance-floor. Back then, songwriters and artists were looking for the new Twist. The Wobble was Sam’s shot at the title. L.C. recorded The Wobble on 15th February 1963. On the B-Side was Chalk Line. This wasn’t a new song. It had been recorded on 1st March 1962. Written by Sam and Joseph Wallace, Chalk Line sees L.C. combine pop and soul. Despite the popularity of novelty dance tracks, The Wobble didn’t become a musical phenomena. 

Put Me Down Easy was the last single L.C. Cooke released while his brother was alive. Fittingly, Sam wrote Put Me Down Easy. It’s a beautiful ballad where L.C’s vocal is needy and full sadness. He delivered the lyrics like he’d lived them. Incredibly, the song had been cut ten months earlier, on 15th February and 6th March 1963. That was the case with the B-Side, Take Me For What I Am. It was recorded at United Recording, Hollywood on 15th and 19th February 1963. It’s an uptempo fusion of soul and pop where L.C, that shows another side to L.C’s music. Sadly, despite the talent he displays, on Put Me Down Easy success passed L.C by. That’s not the end of L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings.

The rest of the tracks on L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings have never been released before. This includes a previously unreleased version of the Sam Cooke penned The Lover. It features a sassy vamp from L.C. That’s the perfect way to describe Missy Sally. Without doubt, this is one of L.C. Cooke’s finest hours. He struts his way through the track, making it his own. There’s also two versions of Sam Cooke’s Gonna Have A Good Time. They were recorded on the 7th and 21st May 1964. The first version comes to abrupt end, as L.C. fluffs his lines, amidst chatter and laughter. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. His vocal is slow, sultry and soulful and takes centre-stage, where it belongs. However, it’s not the only hidden gem on L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings.

Another hidden gem is alternate version of Put Me Down Easy. It was recorded on 15th February 1963. Sam wrote and produced the track. Another version was chosen as a single in January 1964. So, this version of Put Me Down Easy didn’t see the light of day until the release of Sam Cooke’s SAR Records Story in 1994. Belatedly, this soulful hidden gem found a wider audience. Eleven months after sam released Put Me Down Easy as a single, L.C’s life changed forever.

Sam Cooke died on December 11th 1964, at the Hacienda Motel at 9137 South Figueroa St. in Los Angeles. Details are sketchy. When the L.A.P.D. arrived at the Hacienda Motel, they are responding to reports of a shooting and kidnapping. 

What they found was Sam Cooke, lying dead, wearing  just a sports jacket and shoes. He’d been shot through the chest. The bullet had pierced Sam’s heart and he died instantly. When questioned, the Motel manager claimed she shot Sam Cooke in self-defence, after he broke into her office residence and attacked her. However, since then, mystery surrounds Sam Cooke’s death. L.C. Cooke was devastated.

He’d lost his older brother. This was the man he looked up to. Sam was L.C’s mentor and producer. He also wrote many of the songs L.C. recorded. For L.C. Cooke the death of his brother affected him personally and professionally.

L.C. Cooke had been about to start work on his debut album for SAR Recordings. It was to be a ten track album. That never happened. The final single L.C. recorded on SAR Recordings was a slow, lush and dramatic version of Do You Wanna Dance (Yea Man). That was L.C’s SAR Recordings’ swan-song.

After L.C. Cooke left SAR Recordings, his career as a singer and songwriter continued. Eventually,  L.C. Cooke became knowns as a talented and successful songwriter. However, he could just as easily have enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim as a singer. The problem was L.C. Cooke was forever in the shadow of his brother Sam. 

As a result, L.C. Cooke the singer, never received the recognition he deserved. It’s only now that do people fully appreciate just how talented L.C. Cooke was. Having a famous brother didn’t really help him. If anything, it hindered him. People always saw him as Sam’s little brother, not L.C. Cooke singer and songwriter. What didn’t help was that sometimes, L.C. and Sam sound the same. Both sounded alike and had one thing in common…they were talented singers and songwriters. That’s apparent when you listen to L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings which was recently released by Ace Records. 

L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recordings is a reminder of one of the most underrated singers in the history of soul music. He was able to sing soul, pop and blues. Seamlessly, L.C. switches between the three genres on L.C. Cooke-The Complete SAR Recording,s and shows that he’s much more than Sam’s little brother.

L.C. COOKE-THE COMPLETE SAR RECORDINGS.

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LEWIS-SMOKE, MIRRORS, HYPE AND HYPERBOLE?

LEWIS-SMOKE, MIRRORS, HYPE AND HYPERBOLE?

One of the biggest stories in music in 2014, was the mystery surrounding the man they called Lewis. It’s become an internet phenomena. Usually, I don’t bother with sensationalist stories like this. Especially, this story. It just didn’t seem right. 

Far from it. There were way too many unanswered questions. I mentioned the story in my review and moved on. 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. She 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. Growing up, Ralph’s nephew claimed, Randall lived with his Aunt Doris in Hawaii. I knew that the Doris Duke connection was  a long-shot. Other people were suspicious. Donna confirmed they were right to be suspicious. That wasn’t the end of the story Donna had to tell.

When I emailed her to thank her for her information, I happened to ask her if she’d any memories of her time with Randall Aldon Wulff? To my surprise, Donna sent me a lengthy email. In it she told me of her time with Randall Aldon Wulff.

“I  met Randall Aldon Wulff in the summer of 1975 or 1976 on the Oregon coast.  He was on a motorcycle trip and I was on a beach camping trip with my sister.  He was a Canadian,  the son of Gladys and Earl Wulff of Calgary, Alberta.  In the winter of 1976, Randy and I lived with Gladys and Earl in their home while we did painting jobs around Calgary trying to get enough money to get to Hawaii.  His mother, Gladys Wulff was a clerk in the Hudson Bay Dept store in Calgary, and his father, Earl, was a building contractor, who had recently been disabled by a stroke. I believe Randy was about 23, at the time and I was about 30 yrs old.  We went to Maui, Hawaii for about a month, ran out of money, and my father paid for our transport back to Calgary.  We soon left Calgary and moved to Victoria, BC Canada,  where we lived on St Ann Street i,n a rented house in Oak Bay. Then after 6 months to a year, we moved to a rental house on Hollywood Crescent in the Fairfield neighbourhood of Victoria.

We were constantly broke. Randy was collecting unemployment and I was unable to work legally because I was an American without a Canadian SI number.  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.  He was a good person but he was not well educated or very bright.  Unable to tolerate  our precarious financial situation any longer, I split up with him in 1977 or 1978 and he left Victoria.  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.  When I questioned him about the source of his new found wealth, he gave me vague answers about “silver futures”…the stock market, etc.  I did not believe him and think there was an illegal source of new wealth…. Later in the 80s he sent me a vinyl copy of his LP L’Amour which I have since lost and I never saw him again.”

Between that dinner and 1983, Randall Aldon Wulff became Lewis. It was a remarkable transformation.

When he swept in to town, Randall was sporting perfectly coiffured blonde hair and movie star looks. The man who called himself Lewis, lived the playboy lifestyle. Randall drove a white convertible Mercedes and booked into the Beverley Hilton. Randall dated a string of beautiful women. Models and movie stars accompanied Lewis to the smartest parties in Los Angeles. He lived the playboy lifestyle. Wine, women and song were constant companions for Randall. However, before long, the party was over.

Randall had arrived in Los Angeles with L’Amour already recorded. Not that anyone knew where L’Amour had been recorded. The sessions took place in the Fiasco Brothers Recording Studios in Vancouver. 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.

For the album cover, Randall called 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 and wrote a cheque for $250.

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 atypical eighties playboy, Randall looks 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 supposed wealthy playboy wasn’t what he seemed. It was a case of style over substance. After all, surely $250 was only loose change to an international playboy. Surely Lewis the international playboy would give a busboy that sort of money for parking his Mercedes? Lewis it seemed was financially embarrassed. The myth was unravelling. For Ed Colver this was a disaster. $250 was a lot to him.

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. Two years alter, Lewis released his sophomore album Romantic Times.

In 1985 Romantic Times was released by a Lewis Baloue. This was the latest alias adopted Randall Aldon Wulff had adopted. Lewis adopted a much lower profile. Still he sported movie star looks and enjoyed his love of the finer things in life. Romantic Times features Lewis standing nonchalantly beside a sport’s car and private jet. This was the lifestyle  Lewis always wanted. However, still success eluded Lewis. After that, most people forgot about Lewis.

Donna occasionally wondered what became of Randall? That’s only natural. They spent three years together. However, nearly thirty years later, other people began looking for Lewis.

Over the past four decades, L’Amour became something of a cult album. It was only a matter of time before a reissue label released it. This happened earlier this year when Light In The Attic Records released L’Amour. The sleeve-notes told what they believed was Lewis story and claimed to have solved it.

When Jack Jack D. Fleischer was writing the sleeve-notes to L’Amour, he he got a phone call from a friend and another long time fan of L’Amour Markus Armstrong. He was on way to solving the mystery of Lewis’ identity. 

Markus Armstrong discovered several copies of L’Amour for sale in Alberta, Canada.This was unusual, as copies of L’Amour are a rarity. So, Markus decided to start looking for Lewis’ identity in Alberta. Then Markus remembered that L’Amour was a private pressing. Usually, private pressings were recorded locally. In the case of L’Amour, it was recorded at Fiasco Brothers Recording Studios in Vancouver. So possibly, Lewis or Randall Wulff, as he called himself back in 1983, was a Canadian?

He was right. As Donna told me, Randall was a Canadian. So, Markus started looking for anyone with a similar name. He checked everywhere he could think of. This included phonebooks. It was a long-shot. Then he thought his luck had changed.

Before long, Markus was contacted by Randall Wulff’s nephew, Jeremy. He said he was able to throw some light on who Randall Wuiff was. He was the nephew of heiress of Doris Duke. She was heir to the Duke Power fortune and a legendary philanthropist. Growing up, Ralph lived with his Aunt Doris in Hawaii. However, the nom de plume Lewis, was a reference to his grandmother. At last, thirty-one years after the mystery began, Lewis had been unmasked? They were wrong. Very wrong.

Randall as we know, wasn’t related to Doris Duke. However, mixed up in he information were two clues that would help solve the story. That would take time.

After the release of L’Amour, it seemed music lovers across the world were trying to find Lewis. I had a dilemma. Donna had given me all this information, what would I do with it? Should I write an article or just forget about the whole story? There was, something strange about the whole story. It didn’t seem right. I begin to wonder if the whole story was hype to sell a record? This wouldn’t be the first time this had happened. However, Donna had one more piece of information.

Donna said “I came across the 2010 obituary of his mother, Gladys, who had remarried someone named Camden after Earl died… the Calgary newspaper obituary… listed “his surviving brothers, Gary and Larry and his sister, Maureen and significantly, Randall is not mentioned… which leads me to believe he is dead.” This was potentially, a game-changer.

When I thought about the situation I’d mixed feelings. Just because Randall wasn’t mentioned in the obituary didn’t mean he was dead. There could’ve been a family fall out? Maybe Randall was in hiding and his family were ensuring he stayed hidden? I wasn’t sure. It was a leap of faith using just an obituary to say a man had died? I wasn’t happy. Eventually, I printed what Donna’s thought had happened. Then the floodgates opened.

Everyone had their story to tell. Many people who knew the man who called himself Lewis got in touch. They each had their story to tell. 

Rumours surrounding Lewis’ newly found wealth started doing the rounds. They found their way to me. I heard stories of money made silver futures and the stock market? My sources had their doubts. Nothing can be proved though. That’s the case with so much about Lewis. 

Later, rumour has it that Lewis became allegedly addicted to Quaaludes. That’s probably just another myth. So much surrounding Lewis is smoke and mirrors. The same can be said of his religious phase.

After that, Lewis allegedly found religion. It’s even been suggested to me that he recorded an album of religious music. Lewis’ supposed involvement with religion adds to the mystery surrounding Lewis. He would certainly have made a charismatic preacher. Charisma I’m told, is something Lewis certainly didn’t lack. All the rumours didn’t ring true. It was like something from a bad B-movie.

If Lewis had done all these things, he’d have had to live several lives. He’d also have had to have the constitution of an ox. It’s no wonder some people thought the whole story was a hoax. The more stories that came to light, the more suspicious people were. Their suspicions were further raised earlier this year.

Copies of what was thought to be Lewis’ sophomore album Romantic Times had turned out. Just like everything to do with the Lewis story, nothing is straightforward.

Two versions of the story have been told to me. 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  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 was straightforward in the Lewis story.

Everyone wanted their say on Lewis. The story was all across the internet. As far as I was concerned, the whole story was becoming tedious. I was beginning to tire of the story. After all, the smoke, mirrors, hype and hyperbole were becoming more important than the music. So, I decided to close the book on Lewis. I’d said all I wanted to say on Lewis. Then there was a breakthrough.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a friend. Lewis’ whereabouts had been discovered. I’d been here before. My friend was convincing. He told me where Lewis was living and under what name. I now had a dilemma. Obviously, Lewis didn’t want to be found? Should I respect his privacy or should I print him name and location? So I decided to sleep on it. After all, it was hardly the biggest scoop in the history of journalism.

Then today when I logged on the internet, I discovered that Lewis’ whereabouts had been discovered. At last the mystery was solved. For Light In The Attic Records, they’d solved the mystery. After two and a half years they’d found Lewis. There was a but.

Lewis has asked that his location is kept secret. Light In The Attic Records have agreed to that. That’s very noble. I would’ve done so as well. After all, everyone deserves their privacy. That’s until someone who I believe is close to the story, decided to threaten me. They weren’t the brightest, as they used their own name and email address. After that, all bets were off. 

Lewis I believe, resides in Hawaii, where he lives under the alias Randy Duke. That’s the name on the recordings at Fiasco Studios, where L’Amour and Romantic Times were recorded. Len from Fiasco Studios new the truth, but kept Lewis’ secret. He kept that secret for thirty years. That’s what I call a friend. What I can’t quite understand, is why Len didn’t tell Lewis everyone was trying to find him. 

Eventually, Lewis was found alive and well. Donna will be pleased. Especially given Lewis looks so well and happy. Seemingly, he spends his time with his girlfriend and cats. The music on L’Amour and Romantic Times is his past, a past he’s no longer interested in. As L.P. Hartley said, “the past is a foreign country.” I don’t blame him.

I hope Lewis is happy and enjoys a long and healthy life. We’ll never know why he disappeared and changed his name? He’s not for telling. There must be a reason. We’ll never know. Lewis wants to stay hidden. He’s said all that he wants to say. That brings to an end one of music’s mysteries. Now that the mystery is over, everyone will await the release of Lewis’ sophomore album Romantic Times. Now people can concentrate on Lewis’ music.

Maybe now that the mystery surrounding Lewis’ whereabouts has been solved, people will remember him for his music. His debut album L’Amour is a variously beautiful, ethereal, haunting, minimalist, poignant and powerful album. Lewis sings about heartbreak, hope and hurt. He delivers lyrics like he’s lived, loved and survived them. His vocal ranges from emotive, hopeful, needy and seductive. Other times his vocal is rueful, as he sings about love lost and the woman who broke or stole his heart. L’Amour and Romantic Times are reminder of a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician who could’ve and should’ve been huge star.

LEWIS-SMOKE, MIRRORS, HYPE AND HYPERBOLE?

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LED ZEPPELIN-LED ZEPPELIN III.

LED ZEPPELIN-LED ZEPPELIN III.

By 1970, Led Zeppelin had been crowned rock royalty. They were up there with the biggest names in rock music. No wonder. Their first two albums had sold over twenty-three million copies. The new four years would be a game-changer for Led Zeppelin. 

Over the next five years, Led Zeppelin would become the biggest band in the world. Led Zeppelin’s influence would increase. They would become one of the most influential groups of the seventies. This lead to a change in Led Zeppelin. Their dress style became flamboyant and they travelled everywhere by their own private jet, The Starship. Then there was the  rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Led Zeppelin revelled in the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.

Led Zeppelin lived the rock ’n’ roll dream. Drink, drugs and debauchery was commonplace. So was destruction. The four members of Led Zeppelin weren’t averse to wrecking hotel rooms. Having trashed a room in the Tokyo Hilton, Led Zeppelin were banned from the chain for life. Hotel rooms weren’t just trashed. Television sets out of hotel windows. Another time, John Bonham rode a motorcycle the Continental Hyatt House, which Led Zeppelin nicknamed Riot House. However, when it came time to recording an album, Led Zeppelin put their game head on.

So when the time came to record Led Zeppelin III, which was recently rereleased by Atlantic Records as a double album, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant headed to rural Wales. Their destination was a remote cottage in Bron-Yr-Aur. This was where Robert Plant’s family used to holiday in the fifties. It became the place where Jimmy Page and Robert Plant came to write and unwind after tours. They did this for Led Zeppelin III.

For Led Zeppelin III, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant wrote Immigrant Song, Friends and That’s The Way. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant cowrote Celebration Day, Since I’ve Been Loving You and Bron-Y-Aur Stomp with John Paul Jones. John Bonham cowrote Out On The Tiles with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Other tracks included the Jimmy Page penned Tangerine, a cover of Gallows Pole and Hats Off to (Roy) Harper arranged by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. These ten tracks became Led Zeppelin III.

Recording of Led Zeppelin III took place at various studios in the UK and USA. This included Olympic Studios and Basing Street Studios in London. Other recording session took place at Headley Grange Manor in Hampshire. It was a rather dilapidated mansion. It benefited from a laid-back atmosphere. This was perfect for recording Led Zeppelin III.

Rather than record the album in one go, sessions took place between January and August 1970. In between, Led Zeppelin toured their eponymous debut. They were, after all, on their way to becoming one of the biggest rock bands of the first half of the seventies. The constant touring helped further hone Led Zeppelin’s sound when they entered the studio.

For the recording of Led Zeppelin III, Jimmy Page played acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitar, plus banjo and dulcimer. The rhythm section included John Paul Jones who played bass, double bass, organ, Moog synth and mandolin. John Bonham played drums and percussion. Robert Plant delivered his usual series of vocal powerhouses and played harmonica on the album that became Led Zeppelin II. It was released in October 1970.

Exactly a year had passed when Led Zeppelin III was released in October 1970. Led Zeppelin III marked a change in Led Zeppelin’s music. There was a move towards folk rock and acoustic music. This surprised critics. They gave Led Zeppelin III indifferent views. For Led Zeppelin, this was nothing new. They’d never been the critic’s choice. Instead, Led Zeppelin were hard living musical outlaws. However, Led Zeppelin III showed a different side to their music. There was a reason for this.

Every member of Led Zeppelin  played their part in the writing of Led Zeppelin III. It seemed Led Zeppelin was becoming a democracy. No longer were Jimmy Page and Robert Plant the main songwriters. John Bonham and John Paul Jones played their part in Led Zeppelin III. It was a much more eclectic album than their first two hard rocking albums. This resulted in Led Zeppelin’s music appealing to a much wider range of record buyers.

Despite this, Led Zeppelin III didn’t enjoy the same commercial success as Led Zeppelin’s first two albums. Led Zeppelin III reached number one in the UK and spent three weeks at the top of the charts. Over the Atlantic, Led Zeppelin III reached number one in the US Billboard 200, where it spent four weeks. It even reached number thirty in the US R&B charts. Across the world, Led Zeppelin III was a huge commercial success. 

In the UK, Led Zeppelin III  was certified platinum and in America, Led Zeppelin III was certified platinum six times over. Led Zeppelin III was certified triple platinum in Australia and Canada and platinum in Argentina and France. Gold discs came Led Zeppelin III’s way in Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Despite all the gold and platinum discs, Led Zeppelin III didn’t sell as many copies as Led Zeppelin’s two previous albums. Although that was disappointing

That wasn’t the end of the commercial success.

Despite Led Zeppelin’s strict no singles policy, Immigrant Song was released as a single. It peaked at number sixteen in the US Billboard 100 charts. Immigrant Song is also the song that opened Led Zeppelin III.

Opening Led Zeppelin III is Immigrant Song. Once the band are counted in, hiss envelops the arrangement. Searing guitars and rhythm section drive come out the other side. They’re responsible for pounding, driving arrangement arrangement along. Robert’s vocal is a mixture of drama and theatre as he paints pictures of vikings heading of in search of new lands. Sometimes, his vocal is becomes a distinctive wail. Immigrant Song features one of Led Zeppelin’s most famous lyrics “the hammer of the gods/will drive our ships to new lands.” There’s more to the song’s success than Robert’s vocal. The rest of Led Zeppelin add a driving, dramatic backdrop that’s not unlike the “Hammer of the Gods.”

Against a backdrop of studio chatter, Friends unfolds. An acoustic guitar is joined by percussion as the arrangement unfolds. When Robert’s vocal enters, he sings about friendship and its importance. His vocal is restrained and enveloped by strings and harmonies. It’s totally unlike what we’ve come to expect from Led Zeppelin, but shows they’re no one trick pony.

The introduction to Celebration Day is a combination of a bluesy and experimental sound. Jimmy plays his guitar at breakneck speed and a Moog synth adds a futuristic sound. Then it’s all change. Led Zeppelin unleash their unique brand of good time rock ’n’ roll. They swagger their way through the track, riffing, blistering guitars join forces with the rhythm section. The guitars are at the heart of the track. They’re tuned to a standard and then open tuning. This is a masterstroke. Adding the finishing touch is Robert’s urgent, strutting vocal. 

A crystalline guitar opens Since I’ve Been Loving You. It adds a bluesy hue. Then the rhythm section join. They lock into a groove, allowing Jimmy’s guitar to play a leading role. Later, a Hammond organ enters. Not long after that Led Zeppelin begin to stretch their legs. It looks as if they’re about to kick loose. That’s not the case. Robert’s weary vocal enters. He’s been working “seven till eleven.” His vocal is tinged with emotion. She’s been messing with his mind and he’s scared she’ll leave him. Almost spent, his vocal drops out, allowing a guitar masterclass from Jimmy to take charge. When Robert’s vocal returns, it’s a mixture of raw power, emotion and sadness as Led Zeppelin continue to seamlessly mix blues, rock and drama effortlessly.

Out On The Tiles could’ve been Led Zeppelin’s theme tune. In Britain, a night on the tiles is slang for a night on the town. This is fitting. Led Zeppelin were about to embark upon their wild years. During these years, this driving, rocky, everyman anthem could just as well be Led Zeppelin’s theme tune. 

Gallows Pole is an oft-covered traditional folk song. One of the earliest versions was by blues legend Leadbelly. Given that Led Zeppelin were huge blues fans, that’s maybe where they first heard the song. It’s a song of two parts. The first part is acoustic. Just an acoustic guitar accompanies Robert’s powerhouse of a vocal. After that, the arrangement builds and builds. Instruments are dropped in and the arrangement builds. Thundering drums, mandolin and Robert’s grizzled vocal. He struts and swaggers his way through the lyrics defiantly, breathing new life into the track.

After a false start, Tangerine gets underway. Just a strummed twelve-stringed acoustic guitar hesitantly introduces Robert’s vocal tender, hurt-filled vocal. Soon, guitars reverberate and the rhythm section provide the backdrop to what’s best described as a fusion of folk rock and country. Latterly, the country sound shines through. There’s a nod to Neil Young. Especially given the addition of the pedal steel and harmonica. This shows another side to Led Zeppelin, as they become a musical chameleon. 

That’s The Way is another acoustic guitar lead track. It’s joined by a mandolin and pedal steel. They provide a mellow backdrop to Robert’s vocal. His vocal is a mixture of hurt and dread. He’s been hurt by his cheating partner and is dreading telling her their relationship is over.  There’s even a psychedelic twist to the track. Especially with lyrics like “yesterday I saw you kissing tiny flowers, but all that lives is born to die” after that Robert becomes nihilistic when he sings: “and so I say to you nothing matters, and all you do is stand and cry.” These are some of the best lyrics on Led Zeppelin III, on a track that’s laid-back, mellow and beautiful.

Bron-Y-Aur Stomp sees another change of tack from Led Zeppelin. Just a noodling acoustic guitar and spoons combine with castanets. It’s Led Zeppelin as you’ve never heard them. Then comes the big bass drums and Robert’s vocal. His vocal is veers between restrained to raw power. handclaps, drums, acoustic guitar and percussion accompany him. John Paul Jones plays a five string fretless bass. Despite using the unlikeliest instruments, producer Jimmy Page moulds them together seamlessly.

Closing Led Zeppelin III is Hats Off To (Roy) Harper. The track is a medley of fragments of blues songs and lyrics. It’s a case of spot the blues track. One of the most recognisable is Bukka White’s Shake ‘Em, Down. Delivering the lyrics is a modern day bluesman, Robert Plant. Along with Jimmy Page’s guitar, Robert plays an important part in Led Zeppelin’s homage to blues music and a modern day folk singer. 

That however, isn’t the end of Atlantic Records recently rereleased version of Led Zeppelin III. It’s a luxuriously compiled double album. On disc two, which entitled Companion Audio, there’s alternate mixes of Immigrant Song and Celebration Day. There’s rough mixes of Since I’ve Been Loving You, Gallows Pole, That’s The Way and Jennings Farm Blues, which evolved out of Bron-Y-Aur Stomp. Other tracks include a version of Friends with no vocal and a rough mix of Key To The Highway/Trouble In Mind. Each of these tracks are a snapshot of Led Zeppelin III at an important part of their career. Led Zeppelin III marked a change in sound from Led Zeppelin.

After releasing two albums that sold twenty-three million copies, Led Zeppelin decided to move away from their tried and tested fusion of blues, folk, psychedelia and rock. This was brave. After all, Led Zeppelin had found a winning formula. Why change. The reason for that, was Led Zeppelin were musical innovators. They wanted to challenge themselves. So they changed direction.

A year after the release of their sophomore album Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III was released in October 1970. Led Zeppelin III marked a change in Led Zeppelin’s music. There was a move towards folk rock and acoustic music. There was even a country twist to Led Zeppelin III. Led Zeppelin hadn’t turned their back on blues, rock and psychedelia. As a result, Led Zeppelin III was the most eclectic album of their three album career. This surprised critics. 

Critics gave Led Zeppelin III indifferent views. For Led Zeppelin, this was nothing new. They’d never been the critic’s choice. It seemed Led Zeppelin couldn’t win as far as the critics were concerned. They disliked their first two albums. The critics believed that neither Led Zeppelin nor Led Zeppelin II offered nothing new. Now Led Zeppelin tried to move forward musically, they still felt the wrath of the critics. Robert Plant took this badly. He never spoke to the press for eighteen months. Even when Led Zeppelin released Led Zeppelin IV, he refused to talk to the critics. However, just like their first two albums, belatedly, critics revised their opinion of Led Zeppelin III.

Just like many other times, collective amnesia struck music critics. Many of the critics that panned Led Zeppelin III, wrote fawning articles praising the album. What they wrote was what many music fans already knew. Led Zeppelin III was a classic album. Since its release in 1970, music critics have been frantically backtracking. Now, when they mention Led Zeppelin III, critics make sure to call it a classic album. Belatedly, they were right. 

Originally, music fans didn’t seem to appreciate the quality of Led Zeppelin III. It didn’t sell as many copies as their first two albums. Music lovers didn’t seem to enjoy Led Zeppelin III as much as their first two albums. Having said that, it still sold by the millions. Gold and platinum discs aplenty came Led Zeppelin’s way. After Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin became the world’s biggest and most successful rock band.

By 1970, Led Zeppelin were seen as rock royalty. They were up there with the biggest names in rock music. No wonder. Their first two albums had sold over twenty-three million copies. The new four years would be a game-changer for Led Zeppelin. After Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin  had sold nearly thirty million copies. Their  lives were transformed.

Over the next five years, Led Zeppelin would become the biggest band in the world. Led Zeppelin’s influence would increase. They would become one of the most influential groups of the seventies. This lead to a change in Led Zeppelin. Their dress style became flamboyant and they travelled everywhere by their own private jet, The Starship. They indulged in the  rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Most importantly, Led Zeppelin released some of the best music of the seventies, includes Led Zeppelin III.

LED ZEPPELIN-LED ZEPPELIN III.

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THE MASQUERADERS-EVERYBODY WANNA LIVE ON.

THE MASQUERADERS-EVERYBODY WANNA LIVE ON.

Although The Masqueraders’ roots can be traced back to 1958, they never released their debut album until 1975. That was the Isaac Hayes’ produced Everybody Wanna Live On, which was recently rereleased by Ace Records. Everybody Wanna Live On was the result of a long journey for the five Masqueraders.

Their story begins back in Dallas in 1958. That’s when high school students Robert “Tex” Wrightsil and Charlie Moore decided to form their own band, The Stairs. Before long, there were a few changes in the lineup. Harold Thomas, David Sanders and Lee Jones would join The Stairs. Then in 1962, The Stairs became The Masqueraders. There was a reason for this.

The Stairs had established a reputation for being able to impersonate other groups. So, they decided that The Masqueraders was a much more fitting name. That was the name that featured on their debut single in 1963.

For their debut single, The Masqueraders decided to cover Gene Chandler’s Man’s Temptation. It was released in 1963, on Scotty McKay’s MK label, but flopped. The Masqueraders’ debut single proved an inauspicious start to their career. Little did they realise their career would last six decades. 

A further two years passed before The Masqueraders released another single. Their sophomore single was Talk About A Woman. It was released on the Soultown label. Not only did Talk About A Woman fail to chart, but there was a spelling mistake on the label. The Masqueraders were billed as The Masqaders. Despite Talk About A Woman’s commercial failure, it would be adopted by Northern Soul DJs.

Talk About A Woman become a popular and valuable single. At one point, copies of Talk About A Woman were changing hands for over £1,000. That was until one of the group found a box of Talk About A Woman. After that, the prices dropped considerably. By then, The Masqueraders’ career had moved on.

Following the release of Talk About A Woman, a DJ who was friendly with The Masqueraders advised them to move to Detroit. He believed The Masqueraders would’ve more chance of attracting the interest of record companies. Especially Stax and Motown, who were two of the biggest should labels. However, their success lead to many small labels being founded. It was to one of these labels The Masqueraders signed.

Lou Beatty had founded Le Beat Records. He heard The Masqueraders and decided they were perfect for his nascent label. The Masqueraders released six singles on Le Beat Records, including 1966s A Family Part 1 and How and One More Chance in 1967. None of The Masqueraders singles troubled the charts. Their only success was within the Detroit area, where The Masqueraders had established a reputation as one of the city’s top live bands. Despite their success as a live band, the failure of their singles resulted in three members of the The Masqueraders decided to head home to Dallas.

Tex Wrightsil, Charlie Moore and Dave Sanders had enough of Detroit. They wanted to return to Dallas. So they headed home. Lee Jones and Harold Thomas stayed in Detroit. By the end of 1967, Lee and Harold decided to head home.

On their return home, The Masqueraders could say their time in Detroit hadn’t been wasted. They’d released six singles and written a number of new songs. They’d also honed their live act. Now, The Masqueraders were a much better live act. During their time in Detroit, The Masqueraders had met a future Masquerader, Sam Hutchins. That was still to come.

Before that, The Masqueraders considered which label might suit their music best. The label they decided upon was Stax. Looking back, that was obvious. The Masqueraders weren’t a Motown group. Stax would’ve been the perfect home for The Masqueraders. Their music was suited to Stax in its sixties’ glory days. Sadly, Stax weren’t needing another male soul group. So, The Masqueraders and their manager Alvin Howard looked elsewhere.

This time, The Masqueraders caught a break. Producer Chips Moman had just opened his legendary American Studios. He was planning on  setting up his own label. It would be a one-stop shop. He’d record and release music. The Masqueraders would be one of the first groups to release a single on AGP Records. There was a problem. AGP Records wasn’t up and running.

Chip took The Masqueraders into the studio and cut a number of tracks. Having cut some masters, Chip headed to Scepter Records. He let them hear I Don’t Want Nobody To Lead Me On and Sweet Lovin’ Woman. They liked what they heard and decided to sign The Masqueraders on a short term deal. The Masqueraders released two singles on Wand, including I Don’t Want Nobody To Lead Me On in 1967 and 1968s Sweet Lovin’ Woman. Sadly, neither single even came close to troubling the charts. Things were about to change.

During their sessions at American Studios, The Masqueraders recorded a number of tracks. The majority were released on AGP Records, which was a collaboration between Chip and Bell Records. This seemed a marriage made in musical heaven. Surely, The Masqueraders fortunes would change?

Before The Masqueraders released a single on AGP Records, they released This Heart Is Haunted and On The Other Side. For some reason, it was released as Lee Jones and The Sounds Of Soul. Even the change of name didn’t improve The Masqueraders’ fortunes. Things, however, were about to improve.

Bell Records decided that rather than release I Ain’t Got To Love Nobody Else on AGP Records, it would be release on Bell with an AGP logo. This proved a masterstroke. The single reached number seven in the US R&B Charts and number fifty-seven in the US Billboard 100. At last, The Masqueraders had made a commercial breakthrough. Things got even better when later in 1968, I’m Just An Average Guy reached the top thirty in the US R&B charts. That was as good as it got for The Masqueraders at AGP Records. None of their other singles charted and the label folded. For The Masqueraders this was a huge blow. So, they returned to Dallas.

The Masqueraders were the only person who suffered when AGP Records folded. So did Sam Hutchins, another artist on the AGP Records’ roster. He’d been backed by The Masqueraders on his AGP Records’ releases. Sam’s career had stalled. Not for long. He became a member of The Masqueraders.

Lee Jones left The Masqueraders in 1970, after he became a muslim. He didn’t think he could be a musician and a muslim. So he left The Masqueraders and was replaced by Sam Hutchins. However, in 1974, Lee returned to The Masqueraders’ fold. His timing was impeccable. This was the start of the most successful period in The Masqueraders’ career.

This meant that Lee wasn’t around when The Masqueraders released two singles on their own label Stairway. The Masqueraders produced 1971s Let Me Show The World and 1972s The Truth Is Free. Neither single was a commercial success. Despite that, The Masqueraders signed to Hi Records, which was one of the most successful Southern Soul labels.

Now signed to Hi Records, The Masqueraders released two singles. This includes Wake Up Fool, which was released on Hi Records in 1974. It’s one of the finest moments of The Masqueraders’ career. Maybe that’s what brought The Masqueraders to Isaac Hayes attention?

In 1974, Stax’s finances were in a perilous state. It’s no surprise that towards the end of 1975, Stax was declared bankrupt. One of soul’s legendary labels was no more. One of Stax’s biggest success stories was Isaac Hayes. He left Stax in 1974 and joined ABC Records. As an incentive, Isaac was given his own label, Hot Buttered Soul imprint. 

Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul imprint only lasted two years and released four albums. This included two albums from Isaac Hayes and one from Dionne Warwick. The other album Hot Buttered Soul released was The Masqueraders Everybody Wanna Live On.

For Everybody Wanna Live On, the five members of The Masqueraders, Samuel Hutchins, Lee Jones, David Sanders, Harold Thomas and Robert Wrightsil wrote six tracks. They’re Please Don’t Try (To Take Me To The Sky), (Call Me) The Traveling Man, Listen, Sweet Sweetning, (My Love For You Is) Honest And True and Your Sweet Love Is A Blessing. The Masqueraders also cowrote Everybody Wanna Live On with Eula Joan Rivers. Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Baby It’s True was the other track on Everybody Wanna Live On, which was recorded in Los Angeles and Memphis

Rather than record at Everybody Wanna Live On at one studio, the recording was split between ABC Recording Studios Los Angeles and Hot Buttered Soul Recording Studio in Memphis. Isaac Hayes had put tougher some of the best session players of the day. The Movement provided the rhythm section. This includes bassist Errol Thomas, guitarists Charles “Skip” Pitts and William “Boots” Vaughn and Willie Hall and Willie Cole on drums and tambourines. Sammy Watts played acoustic guitar, Jimmy “Congalou” Thompson congas and Isaac Hayes and Duke Hall played keyboards. Strings came courtesy of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Along with The Movement, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra supplied the horns. Lester Snell orchestrated six of the eight tracks. Duke Hall orchestrated (Call Me) The Traveling Man and Listen. Isaac Hayes arranged and produced Everybody Wanna Live On. Once Everybody Wanna Live On was completed, it was released in 1975.

On the release of Everybody Wanna Live On in 1975, it spent three weeks in the US R&B charts, peaking at number fifty-seven. Baby It’s You was the lead single, but stalled at number seventy-six in the US R&B charts. (Call Me) The Travelling Man was released in 1975 and reached number thirty-two in the US R&B charts. Your Sweet Love Is A Blessing was released as a single in 1976, but failed to chart. However, seventeen years after they were founded, The Masqueraders were enjoying the commercial success and critical acclaim their music deserved. You’ll realises why, when I tell you about The Masqueraders’ debut album Everybody Wanna Live.

Everybody Wanna Live On opens with the title-track. Against a stomping, 4/4 beat The Movement combine funk, soul and disco. They unleash funky guitars and pounding drums. This proves the perfect backdrop for a grizzled, joyous lead vocal from Sam Hutchins. Meanwhile, lush strings dance, horns growl and the the rhythm section get funky. The rest of The Masqueraders add soaring harmonies. A pounding piano and stabs of French horn are added as The Masqueraders strut their way through this delicious, dance-floor friendly anthem.

Please Don’t Try sees the tempo drop and braying horns join the rhythm section and piano in providing the backdrop for The Masqueraders. Sam’s lead vocal is an impassioned outpouring of emotion. He literally begs as he sings: “Please don’t take me away to the sky.” Accompanying the lead vocal are dramatic, heartfelt harmonies. All the time, horns bray and blaze as The Movement provide the heartbeat to this soul-baring ballad.

(Call Me) The Travelling Man has a much more understated arrangement. Just a lone Fender Rhodes sets the scene for a tender, wistful vocal. It’s rueful and accompanied by a ride and acoustic guitar. That’s until equally tender harmonies sweep in. Before long, horns rasp gently, strings quiver and the Fender Rhodes meanders across the arrangement. They combine with The Masqueraders  to create a beautiful, heartbreaking ballad that’s truly timeless.

Not for the first time, there’s a Philly Soul influence on Everybody Wanna Live On. It’s apparent from Listen, which The Masqueraders penned. There’s a nod to Vince Montana Jr, Thom Bell, Norman Harris and Gamble and Huff here. That’s the case from the get-go. Literally, the track bursts into life. Blazing horns and dancing strings sweep you away, as they unite with the rhythm section. This provides the perfect backdrop for The Masqueraders, who deliver one of their best vocals. It’s an inspired performance. Almost effortlessly, The Masqueraders drive each other to greater heights as they combine soul and social comment.

Baby It’s You is a cover of a Bacharach and David song. It was originally made famous by The Shirelles. Here, The Masqueraders drop the tempo and against an understated, laid-back backdrop deliver a sultry slice of soul. The vocal is tender, emotive and devoted. All the time, lush strings sweep, horns rasp and guitars chime. All the time, drums marks the time. Gradually, the arrangement unfolds and the vocal grows in power. It becomes a cathartic outpouring of emotion and hope.

Before long, the strings are dancing and The Movement power the arrangement to Sweet Sweetning along. Atop the arrangement sits the lead vocal. It’s accompanied harmonies and later, bursts of growling horns. Later, the vocal becomes a vamp as The Masqueraders trade uber soulful licks.

(My Love For You Is) Honest And True is quite different to much of Everybody Wanna Live On. A subtle, but funky guitar, pounding piano and bass drive the arrangement along. The vocal is akin to confessional. It’s accompanied by sweeping harmonies and later, rasping horns and sweeping strings. There’s even flourishes of Fender Rhodes as the arrangement reveals its secrets. At one point, jazz-tinged horns take the track in an unexpected direction. Mostly, the focus of your attention is on The Masqueraders, who put seventeen years experience to good use.

Your Sweet Love Is A Blessing closes Everybody Wanna Live On. It’s another ballad, which The Masqueraders excel at. Just the bass, Fender Rhodes and acoustic piano accompany a heartfelt, impassioned vocal. That’s until harmonies sweep in. They’re the perfect accompaniment to the vocal. It’s a case of yin and yang. Together, they play starring roles on this beautiful, romantic ballad. This proves the perfect way to close Everybody Wanna Live On.

After seventeen years of struggling, The Masqueraders finally got the chance to fulfil their undoubted potential. They had the occasional tantalising glimpse of commercial success. Sadly, if proved fleeting. Before long, The Masqueraders were back struggling. What it needed was a producer who understood them.

Chips Moman at AGP Records came close. So did Willie Mitchell at Hi Records. The man who finally brought out The Masqueraders’ potential was Isaac Hayes. He signed The Masqueraders to his newly formed Hot Buttered Soul Records. The Masqueraders went away and penned seven tracks. They also chose to cover of Bacharach and David’s Baby It’s You. When recording of Everybody Wanna Live On began, Isaac Hayes brought onboard Lester Snell, who orchestrated six of the eight tracks. Duke Hall orchestrated (Call Me) The Traveling Man and Listen. They played a huge part in the sound and succes of Everybody Wanna Live On, which was recently released on CD by Ace Records for the first time.

It was as if Isaac Hayes template for Everybody Wanna Live On was Philly Soul. He introduced swathes of the lushest strings and rasping horns. To this he added The Movement, one of the top rhythm sessions. They featured throughout Everybody Wanna Live On, which is a mixture of beautiful, romantic ballads and joyous dance tracks. It was as if The Masqueraders knew that this was their shot at the title. 

Just like an ageing prize fighter, The Masqueraders knew that if Everybody Wanna Live On failed, then their career could be over. That was a sobering thought. So, they wrote some of the best songs of their career. Then when they entered the studio, they raised their game. The Masqueraders produced some of the best performances of their seventeen year career. They clutched victory from the jaws of defeat. Everybody Wanna Live On charted and so did two of the three singles.

After Everybody Wanna Live On, The Masqueraders’ career continued. The Masqueraders released two further albums, 1978s Love Anonymous and 1980s The Masqueraders. Of these three albums, Everybody Wanna Live On, is the finest album of The Masqueraders long career and features them at their soulful best. 

THE MASQUERADERS-EVERYBODY WANNA LIVE ON.

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BLUESIN’ BY THE BAYOU-ROUGH ’N’ TOUGH.

BLUESIN’ BY THE BAYOU-ROUGH ’N’ TOUGH.

Usually, when a compilation reaches its eighth instalment, the quality starts to suffer. Not the Bayou series. Just like a good wine, it appears to mature with age. That’s apparent from listening to the eighth instalment, Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough, which was recently released by Ace Records.

Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough sees Ian Saddler dig deeper into the J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler’s back-catalogues. Previously, they’ve provided Ian with a veritable musical feast. The good news is, there’s plenty more to come. This includes the music on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough.

Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough features a total of twenty-eight tracks. This includes seventeen previously unissued or alternate tracks. There’s contributions from blues legends like Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Slim and Lazy Lester. That’s not forgetting contributions from Vince Monroe, Morris “Big” Chenier, Wonder Boy Travis and Mad Dog Sheffield. That’s not all. There’s another eleven tracks on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough.

The other eleven tracks were released between 1953 and 1990. Many of them will be familiar to anyone with a passing interest in the blues. Blues legends like Lazy Lester, sit side-by-side with Joe Mayfield, Boozoo Chavis, Hop Wilson and Lonesome Sundown. As you can see, Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough is crammed full of what’s described as “downhome Louisiana blues with a touch of zydeco.”Choosing the highlights isn’t going to be easy. As usual, Ian Saddler has ensured that Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough is crammed full of quality music.

What better way to open Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough, that with an unreleased track from two blues legends, Lightnin’ Slim and Lazy Lester. Trip To Chicago was recorded at J.D. Miller’s studio. The track was written by Dan Hicks and Lazy Lester, under his real name Leslie Johnson. For whatever reason, Trip To Chicago was never released and remained a hidden blues gem. No wonder, with Lightnin’ Slim playing guitar and Lazy Lester blowing some blues harmonica.

That’s not the last we’ve heard from Lazy Lester. He contributes two other tracks, Sugar Coated Love and Whoa Now. Sugar Coated Love was penned by J.D. Miller, but never released. It makes a welcome debut on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough. The other track features Lazy Lester at his very best. For newcomers to his music, the Jerry West wrote Whoa Now, is the perfect introduction Lazy Lester. His swaggering vocal is accompanied by blistering bluesy guitar licks. 

Just like Lazy Lester, Lightnin’ Slim is a blues legend. So, it’s fitting he contributes two tracks. Neither the alternate version of Tired Little Fellow nor I’m Tired Of Waiting Baby have been released before. Both tracks epitomise everything that’s good about Lightnin’ Slim. There’s that weary, lived in vocal and two spellbinding performance on guitar. Tired Little Fellow was penned by Otis Hicks and Jerry West, while Jerry West wrote I’m Tired Of Waiting Baby. In Lightnin’ Slim’s hands, the lyrics come to life. He sounds as if he’s lived and survived them. Accompanied by a crack band of blues musicians, Lightnin’ Slim shows why he’ll forever be remembered as one of the greatest blues musicians ever.

Vince Monroe features twice on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough. They’re an alternate take of Change Your Ways and They Call Me Mr Calhoun. Neither track has been released before. Of the two tracks, Change Your Ways is the best. Against a slow, moody backdrop, a frustrated, despairing Vince lays bare his hurt. Adding the finishing touch is a wailing harmonica. It’s the perfect foil for Vince’s vocal.

Joe Mayfield may be a new name to many people. He recorded for J.D. Miller in 1957. The hurt-filled You’re The One I Love was the B-Side to his 1957 single I’m A Natural Born Man. At the same session, he recorded Look Out Baby. It wasn’t released until the late seventies, when it featured on a compilation released by Flyright Records. Sadly, by the Joe Mayfield’s recording career was over.

When Cornelius Green dawned the moniker Lonesome Sundown, he began a journey that saw him eventually crowned a blues great. He was born in 1931, in Donaldson, Louisiana. By 1961, Lonesome was thirty. That’s when he recorded If Anybody Ask You and the swaggering I’m Gonna Stick To You Baby which he wrote with J.D. Miller. He was accompanied by an all-star band that featured Lazy Lester on harmonica, guitarist Leroy Washington and pianist Tal Miller. Neither track was ever released. They’ve lain unreleased in the vaults. Belatedly,  Ian Saddler has discovered these hidden gems. They make a welcome debut on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough. Hopefully, after hearing these tracks, a new generation of music lovers will rediscover Lonesome Sundown’s music.

Slim Harpo’s career began in 1957, and continued until his death in 1970. During that period, Slim Harpo established a reputation as a hugely talented vocalist and harmonica player. That’s apparent on the Cornelius Green penned Bought Me A Ticket. Slim’s other contribution is like My Little Queen Bee. It was written by James Moore. a poignant reminder of a blues great.

After a veritable feast of blues music, accordionist Boozoo Chavis takes Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough in the direction of zydeco. There’s still a bluesy sound on Paper In My Shoe, which was written by Wilson Chavis and Eddie Shuler. It featured on Boozoo Chavis’ 1986 album Louisiana Zydeco Music, which was released on Louisiana Zydeco Music and was the title-track on a 1987 compilation released by Ace Records. Boozoo Chavis’ other contribution is the wonderfully broody, moody Wilson Chavis composition Got Me A Brand New Mojo Hand, where Boozoo delivers a vocal that’s worldweary and all-knowing. Behind him, his band mix a heady brew of zydeco and blues.

Za Belle is the first of two tracks from Clarence Garlow. This time, the track is credited to Clarence Garlow and His Accordion. Written by Clarence and Eddie Shuler, Za Belle was released as a single in 1953. It’s an explosion of energy. Clarence and his band drive the arrangement along. His vocal is a mixture of power and emotion. Combined with the arrangement, and it’s an irresistible and timeless slice of zydeco. It Isn’t Right was written by Clarence, but never released. That’s a great shame. This fusion of blues and zydeco literally oozes quality. There’s more of a blues influence on It Isn’t Right, which is a reminder of a seriously talented singer and songwriter. Sadly, in 1970 Clarence stopped performing. During the eighties he played the occasional concert and died in 1986, aged seventy-five.

Two tracks on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough are something of a mystery. They’re credited to Mad Dog Sheffield. However, not much is known about Charles Mad Dog Sheffield. There’s even speculation about his true identity. What’s not disputed is that Mad Dog Sheffield is a seriously talented blues player. He wrote both I Love You So and Nothing Can Keep My Love From You. Both tracks were recorded for a Goldband session, which took place between 1955 and 1957. Of the two tracks, Nothing Can Keep My Love From You is the best. I’d go further and say it’s one of the highlights of Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough. Accompanying Mad Dog Sheffield are a tight, talented band. The result is what can only be described as blues heaven. 

There aren’t many people who can master the guitar in four months. Lee Baker Jr. did. Not long after this, Lee was playing live. He was asked  to join Clifton Chenier’s band and christened Guitar Jr. For Lee he was living the dream. Here he was, making a living out of music. This was every musician’s dream. Soon, things got even better. During 1958 and 1959, Lee recorded seventeen tracks with producer J.D. Shuler. This included the stomping, swaggering Fine Fine Fine Pretty Thing and the needy, heartfelt and dramatic Love Me Baby. Incredibly, neither track was ever released. Instead, they’ve lain in J.D. Shuler’s vaults. Not any more. Belatedly, they make their debut on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough. These tracks and are a reminder of Guitar Jr, one of the most underrated and talented blues musicians.

The final tracks I’ve chosen from Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough are by harmonica player Jimmy Anderson. He contributes I Wanna Boogie and Keep On Naggin.’ I Wanna Boogie was released as a single in 1962. It was produced by J.D. Miller and released on the Wynn label. After giving Jimmy a hit in the Louisiana area, the single became a nationwide hit. Listening to I Wanna Boogie, it reminds me of Jimmy Reed. Keep On Naggin’ was Jimmy’s other contribution. Written by Jimmy Anderson and Jerry West, it wasn’t released until1988. By then, Jimmy’s career was into its third decade. Sadly, despite his undoubted talent, Jimmy hadn’t enjoyed the commercial success he deserved. So a few years later, Jimmy quit making music for playing music. He became a DJ. Thankfully, Jimmy made a welcome comeback. Still, he didn’t find commercial success in America. Over the Atlantic, Jimmy became a popular act around Europe. Just like a several generations of blues, jazz and soul musicians, Jimmy was more popular in Europe than in America.

That’s the story of Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough, which was recently released by Ace Records. This is the eighth volume in the Bayou series. Just like a good wine, the Bayou series is maturing with age. That’s down to compiler Ian Saddler, a  man who knows where the best kept musical secrets can be found.

Compiler Ian Saddler has pulled out all the stops for Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough. He’s dug deep into J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler’s vaults. He’s found what can only be described as a proverbial musical feast. It’s no exaggeration to say that Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough oozes quality. That’s down to Ian Saddler’s track selection. Ian has the ability to spot a hidden gem. There’s plenty on Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough. This includes contributions from familiar faces and new names. Blues legends like Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester and Lonesome Sundown site side-by-side with Jimmy Anderson, Mad Dog Sheffield, Vince Monroe and Joe Mayfield. The quality keeps on coming.

Compiler Ian Saddler has pulled out all the stops for Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough. He realises that when a compilation gets to volume eight, it sometimes loses its mojo. Not the Bayou series. Ian chooses each track with the utmost care. That’s why there’s no filler. Not once did my hand stray near the remote control. Instead, for just over an hour, a little corner of Scotland became Louisiana. That’s thanks to Ian Saddler and what’s the best compilation in Ace Records’ Bayou series,  Bluesin’ By The Bayou-Rough ’N’ Tough.

BLUESIN’ BY THE BAYOU-ROUGH ’N’ TOUGH.

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