THE REBEL KIND: GIRLS WITH GUITARS.
It was back in 2004 that Ace Records released Girls With Guitars. Featuring twenty-four tracks, Girls With Guitars it brought back memories of the golden age of the girl group. Record buyers were reminded of the sound of The Angels, The Beattle-Ettes, The Tomboys, The Daughters Of Eve and The 2 Of Clubs. Released to critical acclaim, Girls With Guitars struck a chord with many record buyers. Many people felt a followup was inevitable and would follow a year later. It did, but fans of Girls With Guitars had to be patient.
Another five years passed before Destroy That Boy! More Girls With Guitars was released in 2009. Picking up where Girls With Guitars left off, Destroy That Boy! More Girls With Guitars featured The Debutantes, What Four, Pivots, Feminine Complex, Canada’s She Trinity and Liverpool’s The Liverbirds. They strutted their way throughout twenty-four tracks mixing sass, attitude and emotion. Destroy That Boy! More Girls With Guitars and critics wondered when the next instalment in the Girls With Guitars would be released? Little did they realise it would be another five years.
Recently, Ace Records released the long awaited and highly anticipated followup to Destroy That Boy! More Girls With Guitars, The Rebel Kind: More Girls With Guitars. It features another twenty-four tracks from Colette and The Bandits, The Girls, Dana Gillespie, Brenda Lee, Honeybeats, The Debutantes, Jackie DeShannon, Pinky Chicks and The Chantels. Just like the two previous instalments in the Girls With Guitars compilation series, Mick Patrick has compiled The Rebel Kind: More Girls With Guitars. It’s a combination of familiar faces and hidden gems, which I’ll pick the highlights of.
Colette and The Bandits open The Rebel Kind: More Girls With Guitars with A Ladies’ Man. It features a feisty, strutting vocal and machine gun guitars. You’re hooked from the open bars. Released in 1965 on Stateside, A Ladies; Man was penned by John Adkins and Bobby Buie. It was produced by none other than Shel Talmy, who worked with The Kinks and The Who. This is the definitive version of A Ladies Man. No ifs, no buts.
The Girls will be familiar faces for veterans of the Girls With Guitars’ series. Their single My Baby featured on Girls With Guitars. Chico’s Girl is their contribution The Rebel Kind: More Girls With Guitars. Dramatic, with a feisty vocal, it was written by Cynthia Weil and Barry Man. Originally, Cynthia thought this was perfect for The Crystals. They recorded the song, but it was never released. Susan Barrett then covered the song in 1963. Three years later, The Girls released Chico’s Girl in 1966, on Capitol. Their dramatic and feisty version is perceived as the best version of this song.
I’ll Let You Hold My Hand was written by Chet De Milo and Mark Wiley, and is best described as The Bootles’ homage to The Beatles’ I Wanna Hold Your Hand. This was one of 200 Beatles’ inspired tracks released in 1964. Joyous and full of slick poppy hooks, it’s one of the best of the 200 Beatles’ inspired tracks released during 1964.
Only The Debutantes feature three times on The Rebel Kind: More Girls With Guitars. The Debutantes were formed by fourteen year old Jan McClellan, after seeing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. They released a quartet of singles. This included Love Is Strange, which was written by Mickey Baker, Ellas McDaniel and Sylvia Robinson. Previously, it had been hit for Mickey and Sylvia a hit in 1957. Later, The Debutantes covered it. They also covered Albert Hamilton and Richard Morris’ Strong Foundation. It was produced by Andre Williams and released on Standout. However, Jan’s composition A New Love Today, which was released on the Lucky Eleven label in 1967, is their finest moment. It’s a fusion of pop, rock and psychedelia. Featuring a vocal full of sadness and regret, it’s a reminder why The Debutantes are remembered as one of the great girl groups of the sixties.
You Just Gotta Know My Mind shows another side to Dana Gillespie’s music. Nowadays, she best known for singing the blues. Back in 1968, Dana had just signed a new recording contract with Decca. Her first release was You Just Gotta Know My Mind. Penned by Donavon Leitch and produced by Wayne Bickerton, it’s a bright, breezy fusion of pop, rock and psychedelia. This is very different from Dana’s early folk-tinged singles and is a glorious slice of upbeat sixties pop.
Brenda Lee unleashes a vocal powerhouse on her cover of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say. Produced by Mickie Most and released in 1964, this was one of the only times Brenda recorded outside of Nashville. Her reason for recording in London was to record a single with the “British sound.” Although very different from much of Brenda’s music, it’s one of her finest moments. Sadly, it proved too rocky for her American fans.
Jackie DeShannon is another of the familiar faces on The Rebel Kind-Girls With Guitars 3. Dream Boy features a hopeful, needy vocal. It’s delivered against a rocky backdrop. Written by Jackie and produced by Charles Blackwell, it wasn’t released on Liberty until 1967. Belatedly, the world got to hear this slice of perfect pop.
The Delmonas’ Peter Gunn Locomotion is a cover of Sammy Cahn and Henri Mancini’s track. Unlike most of the tracks, this isn’t a song from the sixties. No. It featured on an E.P. released on Big Beat in 1984. Having said that, The Delmonas’ has an authentic sixties sound. For lovers of sixties girl groups, this will be a welcome reminder of another era
Some groups have all the talent in the world, but never get the chance to release an album. That’s the story of San Francisco’s The Ace Of Cups, who Jimi Hendrix was a fan of. Sadly, they never released an album until 2003s It’s Bad For You But Buy It. This was an album of rarities, demos and rehearsals. It featured Stones, which features some blistering, screaming guitar solos. Along with a pro to punk vocal, this is a heady brew from one of music’s best kept secrets The Ace Of Cups.
The Chantels’ Peruvian Wedding Song closes The Rebel Kind: Girls With Guitars 3. It was recorded in 1959, but wasn’t released until 1987. Driven along by guitars and the rhythm section this is a track that puts to bed the myth that The Chantels could sing, but not play their instruments. That’s far from the truth. They’re hugely talented musicians, who can kick out the jams with the best of them.
Although there’s been a five year wait between Destroy That Boy! More Girls With Guitars and The Rebel Kind: More Girls With Guitars it’s been well worth the wait. Compiler Mick Patrick has dug deep and come up with a combination of familiar faces and hidden gems. The twenty-four tracks ooze quality. Especially tracks from Colette and The Bandits, The Girls, Dana Gillespie, The Debutantes, Brenda Lee, Jackie DeShannon, The Ace Of Cups and The Chantels. These groups combine pop with rock and sometimes, psychedelia. It’s a potent and tantalising combination that shows another side to girl groups.
The music on The Rebel Kind: More Girls With Guitars has a much more tougher, edgier sound. This is very different to the girl groups of the early sixties. Similarly, it’s very different to the girl groups favoured by labels like Motown. This was Girl Groups With Attitude. The twenty-one artists and groups strut their way through the twenty-four songs. Feisty, full of confidence, sass, emotion and attitude, The Rebel Kind: More Girls With Guitars is a welcome addition to Ace Records’ critically acclaimed Girls With Guitars compilation series.
THE REBEL KIND: GIRLS WITH GUITARS.
ROBBIE BASHO-THE VOICE OF AN EAGLE.
There are some artists who follow trends, while others are trendsetters. Trendsetter describes Robbie Basho perfectly. His love and appreciation of various cultures, especially Indian culture, resulted in a series of albums of genre-defying music. Robbie’s raison d’être seemed to be broaden the minds of music lovers. He wanted them to open their ears to musical possibilities. That’s what he did in 1962, when he first heard Ravi Shankar.
Before hearing Ravi Shankar, Robbie had already embraced Asian culture. This began back in 1959, when the then nineteen year old Daniel Robinson Jr, bought his first guitar. Soon, Robbie immersed himself in Asian culture. So much so, that he changed his name to Robbie Basho, in honour of the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō. This was the beginning of the transformation of Daniel Robinson Jr, from student to Robbie Basho, groundbreaking musician who released a string of albums between 1965 and 1985. This included 1972s The Voice Of An Eagle, which was recently rereleased on Vanguard Masters, a subsidiary of Ace Records. It demonstrates why Robbie Basho is remembered as a groundbreaking musician. Robbie’s story began in Baltimore in 1940.
Tragically, Daniel Robinson Jr, was orphaned at an early age. He was then adopted by the Robinson family and attended school in Baltimore. At high school, he sang in the middle and high school choirs. Daniel also played the euphonium in his high school band. So, for some people, it wasn’t a surprise that Daniel Robinson Jr, would go on to enjoy a career as a musician. His career began at the University of Maryland.
Daniel headed of to the University of Maryland in 1958. It was there that he met John Fahey, Ed Denson and Max Ochs. They were all aspiring guitarists. Their interest rubbed off on Daniel. However, he didn’t have a guitar. Not until he met a sailor who’d just returned from Mexico.
Daniel was working his way through college by working in a club. One night, he met a sailor who’d just returned from Mexico. The sailer had an antique Mexican 12-string guitar. He offered to sell it to Daniel. The only problem was that he wanted $200 for it. Robbie however, bought the guitar for $200. However, buying the guitar was just the start of a new chapter in Daniel’s life.
With his new guitar, Daniel set about pushing the guitar to his limits. Daniel also immersed himself in Asian culture. So much so, that he changed his name to Robbie Basho, in honour of the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō. This was the just the first change in Robbie’s life and career.
Having started off playing country blues, with John Fahey, Ed Denson and Max Ochs, that didn’t seem to satisfy Robbie. So he dipped into bluegrass, classical, oriental and free jazz. Then came the moment that changed Daniel’s life. He heard Ravi Shankar.
Sitting in the dark, listening to Ravi Shankar, Daniel found music he could relate to. This was fortuitous. Many artists who played folk music found they weren’t able to express themselves. Having listening to Ravi, Daniel realised he could. There were a whole host of tunings he hadn’t yet discovered. Soon, Daniel was studying with Ali Akbar Khan, who was a renowned sarod virtuoso. Ali helped popularise Indian music within the West. So, did Robbie Basho.
Robbie pioneered and popularised a whole host of open and exotic tunings. He also developed his coded Doctrine of Mood and Colour For 6 and 12-String Guitar. This was all part of Robbie efforts to transform the steel-string acoustic guitar into a concert instrument. That took the best part of ten years. By then, Robbie’s recording career was well underway.
After a spell spent travelling, Robbie found himself in Berkeley. There was a thriving folk scene in Berkeley. This played its part in the revival of Takoma Records, who Robbie would release Robbie’s solo album.
This was 1965s The Seal Of The Blue Lotus. Robbie’s sophomore album was 1966s The Grail and The Lotus. These two albums were innovative and much more adventurous than much of the folk music being released back then. Robbie was determined to push musical boundaries. He succeeded, releasing The Falconer’s Arm I, The Falconer’s Arm II and Basho Sings in 1967. That year, Robbie contributed The Thousand Incarnations Of The Rose to the compilation Contemporary Guitar – Spring ’67. 1967, proved to be the most fruitful year of Robbie’s career.
It wasn’t until a new decade dawned that Robbie Basho released another album. This was 1970s Venus In Cancer, which was released on Blue Thumb Records. Robbie’s last album for Takoma Records was released in 1971. That was Song Of The Stallion. After that, Robbie signed to another prestigious label, Vanguard Records, where he released two albums.
The first of the two albums Robbie released on Vanguard Records, was The Voice Of The Eagle. It featured eight tracks penned by Robbie. He played 6 and 12-string guitar and sang led vocals. Ramnad Raghavan was a guest artist. He played the mrdangam drums, which are an Indian log drum. Producing The Voice Of The Eagle, was Jack Mothrop. Robbie dedicated The Voice Of The Eagle to the Indian American and Avatar Meher Baba an Indian spiritual master, who many people believed, was God in human form. The Voice Of The Eagle was released in 1972.
The Voice Of The Eagle found Robbie immersing himself in Native American culture. It was a truly ambitious album. However, it was totally different to other albums released during 1972. David Bowie released, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, Can Ege Bamyasi, Steely Dan Can’t Buy A Thrill, Nick Drake Pink Moon, Neu Neu and Big Star Number One Records. Looking back, The Voice Of The Eagle was very different to the music released in 1972. Sadly, The Voice Of The Eagle was a commercial failure. It passed most people by. Maybe the problem was, people didn’t understand what was one of Robbie Basho’s most ambitious albums, which I’ll now tell you about.
Opening The Voice Of The Eagle is the title-track. It’s described as a Hopi Raga. Just a deliberately strummed guitar sets the scene for Robbie’s vocal. It’s heartfelt and sincere, as like the eagle, which is the messenger of the gods, soars and quivers above the arrangement. Sometimes, it’s half-spoken, other times, akin to a Native American chant. A constant companion is Ramnad Raghavan’s mrdangam. It provides the heartbeats and adds to the drama. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the emotion and sincerity of Robbie’s vocal on this Hopi Rag.
Wounded Knee Soliloquy has a much more tradition folk sound. This might have been a better track to open the album. Just an acoustic guitar accompanying Robbie’s vocal. It veers between tender to powerful, while melancholia and sadness are ever-present as Robbie tells the story of Big Foot. The lyrics are beautiful and have a cinematic quality. Pictures and scenarios unfold. They come to life thanks to Robbie’s heartfelt rendition of the lyrics.
Blue Corn Serenade is an eleven minute epic that’s Robbie referred to as an “American Indian manifesto.” This allows Robbie to experiment. It sees a continuation of the folk influence of the previous track. Robbie’s fingers flit up and down the fretboards Seamlessly and quickly, he changes chords. You realise just how talented a guitarist he is. After four minutes of mesmeric guitar playing, a heart-wrenching vocal enters. It’s Robbie’s finest vocal. Oozing emotion, he gives thanks for the harvest. We should give thanks for a vocal and guitar playing as good as this.
Melancholy described the acoustic guitar that opens Joseph. Robbie’s deep, powerful vocal soars above the arrangement, as he tells the story of Thunder Rolling who set out on a twelve hour, epic journey. Again, Robbie brings the lyrics to life. You can imagine the journey unfolding. Especially, Thunder Rolling leading his people “across the mountains by the end of the day.” Just like other tracks, the lyrics have a cinematic quality. Similarly, Robbie becomes a storyteller who has you spellbound.
Omaha Tribal Prayer is similar to a song the Boy Scouts sing as they close their camp fire. Robbie changed the words slightly. He uses the Sioux word for god Wakantha. This also helps with the rhythmic quality of the track. It’s a return to the sound of the opening track, The Voice Of An Eagle. Ramnad Raghavan’s mrdangam accompanies Robbie’s needy vocal and acoustic guitar. His vocal is a cathartic outpouring of emotion. If you listen to the lyrics: “cross On Over, Cross On Over, The bridge twixt you and me, and a helping hand, will set you free” they could be construed as personal. Is this Robbie reaching out and trying to free the father he lost at an early age? If it is, this makes this track all the more powerful.
Bright stabs of guitar open Sweet Medicine, a wistful instrumental. Robbie’s chiming guitar is accompanied by him whistling. It quivers above his guitar. Thankfully, it doesn’t detract from his guitar playing, which is some of his finest. He mixes drama, beauty and melancholia over five minutes.
Roses And Gold is a heartfelt and beautiful love song. It shows another side of Robbie Basho. With just a tender, acoustic guitar for company Robbie’s vocal is impassioned and sincere. This is apparent when he sings “she ls my love, she ls my life.” Having shown another side to his music, one wonders how much commercial success and critical acclaim Robbie would’ve enjoyed if he’d made a career out of more traditional songs like this?
Moving Up A Ways, a drama myth, closes The Voice Of The Eagle. The song depicts the “spiritual and physical evolution from lover to higher forms of life.” After a lengthy introduction where Robbie lays down some of his finest guitar licks, his vocal enters. It’s a mixture of drama, emotion and sincerity as the lyrics take on new meaning and life.
The Voice Of An Eagle found Robbie Basho at the height of his interest in the Native American. The album is akin to Robbie paying homage to their memory. Hence this fusion of celebratory songs, chants and love songs. It was an ambitious, bold and groundbreaking project. That’s the case from the get-go. The title-track, which is a Hopi Raga, has a real left-field sound. It’s a challenging and innovative track. This shows that Robbie was determined to push music boundaries. However, it could be argued that it wasn’t the best track to open The Voice Of An Eagle which was recently rereleased on Vanguard Masters, a subsidiary of Ace Records.
Research has shown that potential record buyers only spend fifteen seconds decided whether to purchase an album. Often, they don’t get any further than the first track. That’s why it’s vital that the first track grabs the listener’s attention. So, possibly, if Wounded Knee Soliloquy had opened The Voice Of An Eagle maybe it would’ve made a bigger impression on record buyers. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
The Voice Of An Eagle either passed many people by or they didn’t understand it. Then there was the fact that music had moved on. Folk was no longer as popular. Rock was King. Whether it was Krautrock, prog rock or classic rock, rock ruled the roost. Granted soul was making inroads, but only briefly. Maybe, The Voice Of An Eagle is an album that was a couple of years too late.
Indeed, The Voice Of An Eagle has a late sixties sound to it. Back in the late-sixties, people seemed more amenable to new genres of music. It was a time when anything went. That would’ve been the time to release The Voice Of An Eagle. Sadly, The Voice Of An Eagle was released in 1972 and sank without trace. That’s a great shame, because Robbie Basho was determined to create ambitious and groundbreaking music. Ironically, given his talent as a musician, singer and songwriter, Robbie could’ve enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim.
That would’ve meant compromising what he believed in. Robbie wasn’t willing to go down the road of James Taylor and Jackson Browne. No. He was determined to release music he believed in. You can’t help but admire Robbie for sticking to his principles. That was the case throughout his twenty-year recording career. Sadly, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded Robbie Basho, who was more than a singer, songwriter and musician.
Robbie was a poet and father of American Raga. He was an innovator whose life was a spiritual quest. Life was a constant search for meaning for Robbie Basho. However, Robbie’s career was cut tragically short aged forty-six. Robbie Basho’s legacy was a string of innovative and ambitious albums, including the underrated The Voice Of An Eagle.
ROBBIE BASHO-THE VOICE OF AN EAGLE.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS-DYLAN’S GOSPEL.
For too long, backing singers have been the forgotten heroes of music. That’s been the case since the sixties. Mostly, they were largely anonymous figures. Their raison d’être was to make the stars sound good. Backing singers, like session musicians, were hired guns. Every day, the found themselves working with different artists. So they had to be versatile and able to adapt. After all, yesterday they could be singing soul, today jazz and tomorrow working on a rock album. Often, the same backing singers were called upon time and time again.
This included The Sweethearts of Sigma and The Sweet Inspirations. They were among the creme de la creme of backing vocalists. That’s why top producers had their number on speed dial. However, often, the backing singers outshone the artist they were working with. Both The Sweethearts of Sigma and The Sweet Inspirations had experienced this. So had Merry Clayton, Gloria Jones, Sherlie Matthews, Ed Wallace and Fred Willis. During the sixties, they’d all worked with songwriter and producer Lou Adler.
He’d established a reputation as one of Los Angeles’ top producers. Lou worked with the great and the good of music. Who he didn’t know, wasn’t worth knowing. When producing a session, Lou always called upon the same backing vocalists. Over the years, he’d formed a good relationship. So much so, that Lou had always wanted to make an album with the backing vocalists. Lou wanted the backing vocalists to play a starring role. The only problem was, by 1969, Lou Adler, songwriter, producer and manager was without a label. He needed a new challenge. So Lou decided now was the time to make the album with backing vocalists.
The result was Dylan’s Gospel the debut album from Brothers and Sisters, which was released by Light In The Attic Records. Brothers and Sisters featured some of the L.A’s top session players. In total, twenty-seven session singers appeared on Dylan’s Gospel. Among them are Merry Clayton, Ruby Johnson, Shirley Matthews, Clydie King, Patrice Holloway, Julia Tillman. So too did Edna Wright of The Honeycones and Gloria Jones who recorded the original version of Tainted Love in 1965. It was an all-star lineup that gathered at Sound Recorders Studios.
When the recording sessions at Sound Recorders Studios in L.A, Lou had drafted Gene Page, who arranged Dylan’s Gospel. Ten of Bob Dylan’s finest songs were chosen to be recorded by Brothers and Sisters. Accompanying Brothers and Sisters were some of L.A’s best session players. The rhythm section included bassist Jerry Scheff and drummer Gene Pello. Evelyn Freeman played organ, Gene Page piano and percussionist Joe H. Vaerga. Producing Dylan’s Gospel was Lou Adler. The Dylan’s Gospel sessions weren’t like most other sessions Lou Adler had produced.
Looking back, many who were present at the recording sessions at Sound Recorders Studios in Hollywood, remember the sessions as akin to a four-day party. The great and the good of music swung by. Carole King came to hear the Brothers and Sisters. So did Peggy Lipton and Papa John Phillips. Then there cousins, mothers, partners and friends of the Brothers and Sisters. They ate, drank and were merry. It was gospel rock ’n’ style. The sessions were like a four day party where the Brothers and Sisters transformed ten Bob Dylan tracks.
Sadly, when Dylan’s Gospel was released on Ode Records in 1969, the album passed most people by. This unique album wasn’t a commercial success. For once, Lou Adler’s Midas touch failed him. Dylan’s Gospel joined the ranks of great albums never to be heard by a wider audience. That’s until Light In The Attic Records decided to rerelease Brothers and Sisters’ Dylan’s Gospel, which I’ll tell you about.
The Times They Are A Changing opens Brothers and Sisters’ debut album Dylan’s Gospel. Just an organ and piano combine to create an authentic gospel backdrop for Merry Clayton’s vocal powerhouse. She unleashes a vocal that’s equal parts power, passion and emotion. She brings hope to the lyrics that “The Times They Are A Changing.” Meanwhile, harmonies, coo, sweep and soar while the drums add to the drama. Seamlessly, a Bob Dylan classic is transformed into a hopeful stirring gospel track.
Just a lone piano opens I Shall Be Released. It’s joined by a rumbling bass and a heartfelt soaring vocal. Backing vocalists reply to the vocal. Meanwhile a wailing Hammond organ, piano and subtle drums provide the perfect backdrop. It never overpowers the vocal or harmonies. They’re at the heart of the track’s success. The vocal is a fusion of sincerity and emotion. So much so, that the lyrics take on a new meaning. Joyous describes the swaying, soaring harmonies. They’re just the finishing touch to this reinvention of I Shall Be Released.
Edna Wright takes charge of lead vocals on Lay Lady Lay. A bubbling bass, drums played with hands and harmonies accompany Edna’s tender vocal. Soon, a piano enters as the Brothers and Sisters kick loose. Soulful and needy describes Edna’s vocal. She’s accompanied by cooing harmonies. They soar above the arrangement. Later, Edna combines gospel, soul and jazz. Kicking loose, her vocal becomes sultry and sensual, as she delivers a vocal masterclass.
Distant harmonies and a gospel tinged piano make their way towards you. Then a rousing, stirring version of Mr. Tambourine Man unfolds. The song is totally transformed. Partly that’s down to the lead vocal. It ensures the song swings. Then there’s the rousing harmonies and the tight talented band. Together, Mr. Tambourine Man becomes a stirring, rousing celebration.
All Along The Watchtower is right up there with the best songs Bob Dylan has written. Here, new life and meaning is breathed into a familiar song. Atmospheric and dramatic describes the arrangement. Just the rhythm section, stabs of piano and washes of Hammond organ accompany soaring, swaying harmonies and handclaps. The lead vocal is a combination of controlled power, emotion and passion. This inspires the rest of the Brothers and Sisters. They clap their hands, stomp their feet and unleash some of their finest harmonies as they reach new heights.
Of all the songs on Dylan’s Gospel, The Mighty Quinn is the one that really takes on new life. It really suits the gospel treatment. The Brothers and Sisters really let themselves go. They throw themselves into the song. Their rousing harmonies and handclaps are joined by a wailing Hammond organ, rhythm section and rasping horn. Then there’s Merry Clayton’s joyous and celebratory vocal, which later becomes a vamp. It takes the song to new places and results in the song Bob Dylan had always hoped for.
Ethereal harmonies open Chimes Of Freedom. They soar helpfully heavenwards. Then when they drop out, an impassioned lead vocal enters. It oozes emotion. So, does the female vocal that picks up the baton. When they join together, they’re accompanied by a gospel piano, probing bass and washes of Hammond organ. They add to the spiritual sound of a track Bob Dylan started and the Brothers and Sisters finished.
For many people, Gloria Jones’ name will be forever synonymous with Tainted Love. That’s until they’ve heard her vocal tour deb force on I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight. She kicks loose. Swaying, soaring and joyous harmonies and jangling piano accompany Gloria as she lays claim to the song, her vocal a mixture of sass and need.
Piano and drums combine as My Back Pages unfolds. A tender, wistful vocal is accompanied by rousing gospel harmonies. They coo above the arrangement, while the unmistakable sound of a Hammond organ is dropped in. Lou Adler’s timing is perfect. It adds to the emotion and is the perfect accompaniment to the Brothers and Sisters on this emotive opus.
Without doubt, Just Like A Woman is one of Bob Dylan’s finest hours. That’s why it’s a fitting way to close Dylan’s Gospel. Replacing the familiar harmonica in the introduction is a church organ. This sets the scene for the massed ranks of Brothers and Sisters. They throw themselves into the song. The twenty-seven Brothers and Sisters become one. It’s an impressive and powerful combination. I’d go as far as to say it’s emotionally overpowering. In the midst of Brothers and Sisters, someone hollers “Yes She Should” while spontaneous vamps are unleashed. It sounds as if the Brothers and Sisters are having the time of their lives while making some of the best covers of Bob Dylan songs you’ll ever hear.
That’s no exaggeration. Bob Dylan songs are some of the most covered in the history of popular music. However, Brothers and Sisters’ ten covers of Bob Dylan songs are some of the best you’ll ever hear. The ten tracks ooze emotion, meaning, joy, hope and happiness. That’s thanks to some of the finest backing vocalists of the sixties. They reinvent some of the tracks, especially The Mighty Quinn, Chimes Of Freedom and My Back Pages. These are tracks that Bob Dylan started and the Brothers and Sisters finished. They made this trio of tracks their own. Their unique brand of gospel is tailor made for these songs. That’s the case with the rest of the ten tracks on Dylan’s Gospel. The songs literally, take on new meaning in the hands of the Brothers and Sisters. As a result, the music is rousing, stirring, joyous, celebratory and emotive. It must have been some session.
Described as a four-day party, where the great and the good of music swung by. Carole King came to hear the Brothers and Sisters. So did Peggy Lipton and Papa John Phillips. So did cousins, mothers, partners and friends of the Brothers and Sisters. They ate, drank and were merry. It was gospel rock ’n’ style. The sessions were like a four day party where the Brothers and Sisters transformed ten Bob Dylan tracks. During the sessions, onlookers must have thought that Dylan’s Gospel was bound to be a commercial success.
Sadly, when Dylan’s Gospel was released on Ode Records, in 1969, it wasn’t a commercial success. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the music. It oozes quality. Maybe the problem was that Lou Adler signed the Brothers and Sisters to the wrong label. Ode Records was too small and didn’t have the funds and personnel to promote Dylan’s Gospel. A major label like Columbia Records or A&M would. If either of these labels had released Dylan’s Gospel, it would’ve been a huge commercial success and the album would’ve been hailed an innovative, modern classic. That wasn’t the case. Instead, Dylan’s Gospel hasn’t been released since 1969. Thankfully, Light Of The Attic Records released Dylan’s Gospel on 14th April 2014. Belatedly, Brothers and Sisters’ lost classic Dylan’s Gospel has been rereleased and hopefully, a new generation will hear some of the finest Bob Dylan covers ever recorded.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS-DYLAN’S GOSPEL.
JOE TURNER-THE REAL BOSS OF THE BLUES.
After enjoying a renaissance in its popularity during the early sixties, blues music was in doldrums. Soul had replaced the blues in popularity. However, many of the new breed of rock bands had been inspired by the blues. This included Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Yardbirds, The Animals and Led Zeppelin had all been inspired by blues. Despite these artists continued patronage, interest in blues music was at its lowest in a longtime. So, the late-sixties would seem a strange time to form a new blues label? However, that’s what Bob Thiele did.
For eight years, Bob ran Impulse, ABC’s jazz label. Then when the jazz revival began, Bob convinced his bosses at ABC to let him found a blues label. This was Bluesway, However, Bob left ABC’s employ after a coup d’état at Impulse. The next step for Bob was forming his own labels.
When Bob left ABC’s employ, he decided to form a new label. Through working with some of the most innovative and creative musicians in the history of jazz, Bob must have realised that often, large record companies aren’t the best environment for innovative and creative musicians. Often, these musical mavericks didn’t thrive within such an orthodox environment. Their creativity is restricted, and they’re unable to experiment and innovate like they’d like. So, Bob Thiele, created an environment where this would be possible. This was Flying Dutchman Productions and its blues subsidiary Bluestime.
Before long, Bluestime became home to many of the artists formerly signed to Bluesway. This included one of Bob Thiele’s favourite blues players, Joe Turner. The man the called The Boss Of The Blues was approaching veteran status. Now fifty-nine, he’d been signed to ABC’s blues subsidiary Bluesway. Joe Turner would become Bob’s latest signing to Bluestime, where he recorded The Real Boss Of The Blues, which Ace Records recently released. For The Real Boss Of The Blues, Joe Turner’s music was given a makeover.
Bob Thiele realised that with many artists and bands name checking blues artists who’d influence them, some of the people buying their records would decided to find out what blues music was about. There was a problem though. Blues music hadn’t really moved with the times. The music was still the same as it had been twenty-years before, when the blues went electric. Back them, this was a step too far or many blues purists. What would record buyers and fans of Joe Turner think of Bob Thiele’s decision to turn his new label Bluestime into a contemporary blues’ label?
Joe Turner had spent a lifetime playing the blues. He was born Joseph Vernon Turner Jr, in Kansas City, Missouri. When Joe was four, his father died in a train accident. From an early age, music was a constant in Joe’s life. He sang at church and later, sang on street corners. Then in 1925, fourteen year old Joe Turner quit school and inadvertently, his career began.
His first job on leaving school was a chef. He then moved on to working as a barman. During his time working in the bar, Joe gained the reputation as The Singing Barman. Soon, he and pianist Pete Johnson were making a living working in Kansas City clubs. One of the clubs was run by Piney Brown, who inspired one of Joe’s best known songs, Piney Brown Blues. During this period, Joe and boogie woogie pianist Pete Johnson were making a name for themselves.
So much so, that they headed to New York and appeared on the same bill as Benny Goodman. After that, Joe and Pete returned to Kansas City. New York weren’t quite ready for Joe and Pete. They were ahead of their time. It took until 1938, when talent scout John H. Hammond realised their potential. He asked them back to New York to play at his From Spirituals to Swing concerts. The bill featured everything from gospel, blues and swing. These concerts featured integrated audiences and helped bring jazz and blues to a wider audience. For Joe and Pete, success was just round the corner. This started with the hit single Roll ‘Em Pete.
After that, Joe became resident at the New York nightclub Cafe Society in 1939. Then in 1941, Joe took part in Duke Ellington’s revue Jump For Joy. This meant a Hollywood debut for Joe. Three years later, Joe was back in L.A. providing the vocals for Meade “Lux” Lew’s silent movies. Then two years later, Joe and Pete founded their bar The Blue Moon Club in Los Angeles. That year, he signed to National Records.
At National Records, Joe worked with Herb Abramson. Soon, Joe was enjoying hits with S.K. Blues, My Gal’s A Jockey and Around The Clock. He then duetted with blues shouter Wynonie Harris on Battle of the Blues. While the singles sold well locally, this didn’t translate to national success. However, in 1947, Joe signed to a new label that Herb Abramson co-founded with Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun…Atlantic Records.
During his time at Atlantic, Joe Turner released both blues and rock ’n’ roll. However, it was rock ’n’ roll that Joe made his name releasing. Between 1950 and e enjoyed fourteen top ten US R&B singles 1956. This included two US R&B number ones, 1953s Honey Hush and Joe’s biggest hit Shake, Rattle and Roll. This fusion of twelve-bar blues and rock ’n’ roll helped transform Joe into a huge star. It was also during this time Joe released his debut album.
Whilst at Atlantic Records that Joe Turner released his debut solo album, 1956s The Boss of the Blues. The Boss Of The Blues Sings Kansas City Jazz followed later in 1956. Soon, Joe was releasing at least one album a year. Rock and Roll followed in 1957. Then in 1958 Joe released Rockin’ The Blues. 1959 was the end of what was a golden period in Joe’s career.
After leaving Atlantic, Joe turned his back on rock ’n’ roll. No longer was popular music for him. Maybe it was a case of returning to what he loved. Unfortunately, this coincided with a downturn in Joe’s career.
For much of the sixties, Joe combined playing live with recording a series of albums. This included Joe Turner With Pete Johnson’s Orchestra’s Jumpin’ The Blues, which was released in 1962 on Arthoolie. During this period, Joe’s albums didn’t sell well. Then in 1967, Joe recorded Singing The Blues for ABC’s jazz label Bluesway. Sadly, there was no followup. By then, Bob Thiele who ran Bluesway had been ousted. He founded Bluestime, which signed Joe Turner in 1969.
The newly founded Bluestime was trying to give blues music a more contemporary sound. For too long, many people felt, the blues had stood still. It was almost resistant to change. Not any more. Bob Thiele introduced fatback drumming, bubbling bass and rocky riffing guitars. This would all feature on the eight tracks that became The Real Boss Of The Blues.
For The Real Boss Of The Blues, a combination of old favourites and new tracks were chosen. Joe covered Charles Calhoun’s Shake, Rattle and Roll, Lou Turner’s Honey Hush, Carless Love and Leroy Carr’s How Long, How Long Blues. There was also a cover of Teddy McRae and Charles Singleton’s Lonesone Train and Joe’s Corrine, Corrina. Ted Murrell’s Two Loves Have I and Len Chandler’s Plastic Man completed The Real Boss Of The Blues. These eight tracks were arranged by Gene Page, produced by Bob Thiele and featured some top blues players.
When the band entered the studio to record The Real Boss Of The Blues, Bob Thiele had put together a crack band. The rhythm section included drummer Paul Humphrey, bassist Max Bennett and guitarist Louie Shelton. Tom Scott added tenor saxophone. Joe sang lead vocals, while Bob Thiele produced The Real Boss Of The Blues, which was released in 1969.
Despite Joe Turner’s music being given a makeover, The Real Boss Of The Blues wasn’t a commercial success. It passed both critics and music lovers by. Since then, The Real Boss Of The Blues has become a real rarity among blues fans. At last, this blues rarity has been release by Joe Turner and features the blues veteran doing what he spent a lifetime doing, singing the blues. That’s what The Real Boss Of The Blues does well.
Horns blaze, guitars chime and a wandering bass combines with a piano. They set the scene for Joe’s vocal on Shake, Rattle And Roll, which opens The Real Boss Of The Blues. Straight away, the years roll back for Joe. Fifteen years to be precise, when this gave him a number one single. Joe ensures the songs swings. Stabs of horns, pounding piano and riffing guitars accompany Joe. At the heart of the arrangement’s success are the horns and Joe’s despairing vocal as he gives a classic track a modern makeover.
Straight away, there’s a melancholy sound to Lonesome Train. Accompanied by rasping horns, rumbling bass and searing, blistering guitars, blues and rock combines. Heartache and hurt fills Joe’s vocal. It’s slow and oozes emotion. Enveloping Joe’s vocal is an arrangement that’s a fusion of power, drama and sadness. This results in one of the album’s highlights from The Real Boss Of The Blues.
Corrine, Corrina bursts into life, and is driven along by a harmonica, piano and rhythm section, complete with bubbling bass. Joe grabs the song, breezes life and emotion into it. It becomes a joyous celebration where Joe and his all-star band create a blistering slice of electric blues that truly, deserves a wider audience.
Slow, moody and bluesy describes Joe’s take on How Long, How Long Blues. Just a plodding bass, crystalline guitar and stabs of piano enter, before Joe’s lived-in vocal enters. It sounds as if he’s lived and survived the lyrics. At just the right moment. Bob Thiele drops the horns in. They’re the perfect accompaniment to Joe’s needy, pleading vocal.
From the get-go, the tempo rises on Careless Love. The rhythm section take charge, driving the arrangement along. Meanwhile, Joe’s vocal is frustrated and angry. With his band lock into a tight groove, horns are unleashed. They blaze above the arrangement, and really lift the track. It’s a transformation, as the song swings. That’s still the case when a flute enters. Accompanied by the horns, Joe heads for the finishing line doing what he does best, singing the blues.
Two Loves Have I has a much more contemporary sound. That’s down to the horns. They seems to have been influenced by soul music, that was popular during 1969. Joe’s vocal reminds me of Van Morrison. Just like Van, Joe grabs the song and lives it. Meanwhile, horns bray and the rhythm section provide the heartbeat to the arrangement. With its much more contemporary sound, it’s another of the highlights of The Real Boss Of The Blues. Bob Theile, it seems, achieved what he set out to do, give the blues a musical makeover.
Honey Hush is a cover of Joe’s first number one US R&B single. That was in 1953. Here, the song takes on new life. A blues harmonica and meandering helps propel the arrangement along. The rest of the band provide the heartbeat. It’s the harmonica, Joe’s vocal and later, a blistering saxophone solo that are at the heart of the reinvention of one of Joe’s best known songs. His high kicking vocal sees Joe Turner roll back the years.
Plastic Man, an eleven minute contemporary blues track closes The Real Boss Of The Blues. A blistering bluesy harmonica and riffing guitars envelop Joe’s heartbroken vocal. The drums and pulsating bass provides the heartbeat to a track that’s slow, moody and bluesy. Riffing guitars soar above the arrangement, while bursts of boogie woogie piano add to this blues epic. It’s as if Joe and his band are enjoying the opportunity to stretch their legs musically on this glorious blues jam. Later, growling horns are unleashed, soaring above the arrangement. Just like the jazz bands Joe played in earlier in his career, everyone gets the chance to shine. There’s no passengers in this band, just top class musicians, who Joe inspires to even greater heights. This modern blues Magnus Opus proves the perfect way to close The Real Boss Of The Blues.
Bob Thiele’s decision to give blues music a makeover was as you’d expect, from a musical pioneer, an astute one. He realised that the blues had to change. It had stood still since the blues went electric. It it didn’t change, blues music risked becoming irrelevant. Should that happen, blues music could’ve ended up as just part of musical history, rather than a musical genre that evolved and continued to be relevant. The problem was, America didn’t seem to cherish the blues. Ironically, it took a group of British musicians to remind America of the importance of the blues.
Groups like John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers, Cream, The Yardbirds, The Animals, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones realised the importance of the blues. It was their inspiration. That’s why when artists like Joe Turner toured Britain, they received a hero’s welcome. They were held in a higher esteem in Britain than America. These musicians, realised, that without the blues, there would be no rock ’n’ roll. Essentially, they owed their careers to artists like Joe Turner. So British artiest were keen to promote blues legends. Sadly, many of them were eking out a living. Even with the patronage of some of the most successful groups of the sixties, Joe Turner wasn’t enjoying the popularity he once enjoyed. There was no option, the blues had to change.
Artists like Muddy Waters and B.B. King realised this. When Muddy recorded Electric Mud for Chess, he changed direction. Electric Mud was a fusion blues, rock and psychedelia. It’s one of the most groundbreaking blues albums ever. B.B. King was the most successful blues player. He’d opened for some of the biggest rock bands. This meant his music was heard by a wider audience. Joe Turner wasn’t as successful. That’s why he had to change direction.
On The Real Boss Of The Blues, Joe Turner rolls back the years. It’s a vintage performance from the blues veteran. Accompanied by an all-star band, his music is given a modern makeover. Blues, jazz and rock combines. Drawing inspiration from rock music, fatback drums, riffing guitars and a bubbling bass feature on each of the eight tracks. Then there’s the horns. They variously blaze, soar and sound sultry. Add to this some stabs of piano and even some boogie woogie and the result is Joe Turner back to his best. Producer Bob Thiele and arranger Gene Page transformed Joe. The years rolled back and suddenly, Joe was producing some of the best music he recorded since leaving Atlantic. Sadly, not many people heard the music on The Real Boss Of The Blues.
Sadly, not many people heard the second coming of Joe Turner. The Real Boss Of The Blues was back, and back to his best. However, very few people heard The Real Boss Of The Blues, which was recently rereleased by Ace Records. It wasn’t a commercial success. However, since then, a number of blues aficionados have championed The Real Boss Of The Blues, which finds Joe Turner, The Real Boss Of The Blues back to his very best.
JOE TURNER-THE REAL BOSS OF THE BLUES.
MAJOR HARRIS-MY WAY.
For a member of a successful group, it’s always a risk to leave and embark upon a solo career. Often, the success they’ve enjoyed becomes a distant memory. Conversely, the success they’ve enjoyed is often surpassed upon embarking on a solo career. Everyone will have examples when an artists decision to embark upon a solo career either worked or didn’t. By 1974, Major Harris decided to leave The Delfonics and launch a solo career. Things hadn’t quite gone to plan with The Delfonics. Major Harris had joined a group at the peak of their career, having just released their most successful album. The next three years didn’t quite turn out as he’d hoped, so Major Harris left The Delfonics and signed a contract with Atlantic Records as a solo artist. His debut solo album was My Way, released in 1975, which would feature some of Philadelphia’s finest musicians. Would My Way which will be rereleased by Rhino on 14th April 2014 mark a change in fortune for Major Harris?
Major Harris had replaced Randy Cain in The Delfonics in 1971. He was joining a successful group, who’d just released their most successful album in 1970, The Delfonics. It had reached number sixty-one in the US Billboard 200 and number four in the US R&B Charts. Soon, changes were afoot in The Delfonics’ camp. Randy Cain left and there would be changes in the producer’s chair.
Thom Bell had been The Delfonics mentor, producing their first three albums and writing many of their songs. Sadly, The Delfonics was Thom’s final album as sole producer. For Major Harris’ Delfonics debut, 1972s Tell Me This Is A Dream, Stan Watson who owned Philly Groove Records, The Delfonics label, would co-produce the album with Thom Bell.On its release it reached just number 123 in the US Billboard 200 and number fifteen in the US R&B Charts. If that was disappointing, worse was to come.
Alive and Kicking was released in 1974, and not only proved to be The Delfonics final album, but their least successful album, reaching number 205 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-four in the US R&B Charts. So with The Delfonics’ career on the slide, it’s no wonder Major Harris had decided that the time was right to launch his solo career, with a little help from his Philly friends.
For Major Harris’ debut album, Bobby “Electronic” Eli would produce eight of the nine tracks on My Way, with Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey producing After Loving You. Bobby “Electronic” Eli would also cowrite five of the tracks, three with his songwriting partner Vinnie Barrett and two with Terry Collins. Two other tracks, Each Morning I Wake Up and After Loving You were written by Melvin Steals, under the pseudonym Mystro and Lyric. The other track was a cover of My Way, which closes My Way. These nine tracks were recorded at Philly’s famous Sigma Sound Studios, with a cast of legends accompanying Major Harris.
Accompanying Major Harris were some of Philly’s best musicians, including many of M.F.S.B. who’d go on to become The Salsoul Orchestra. My Way features some of the greatest musicians of the seventies. All the greats played on My Way. The Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and were joined by bassists Bob Babbitt and Rusty Jackmon, drummer Charles Collins and guitarist Bobby “Electronic” Eli. Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey played keyboards, Vince Montana Jr, vibes, Larry Washington congas Don Renaldo and His Strings and Horns completed this cast of musical titans. Adding backing vocals were the legendary Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Evette Benton. Once the nine tracks that comprise My Way were recorded at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios, the album was set for release in 1975.
Before My Way was released in 1975, Each Morning I Wake Up was released as a single. Although it reached just number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 100, it proved popular in clubs, reaching number three in the US Disco Singles Charts and number fourteen in the US Club Play Charts. When My Way was released in 1975 it was to critical acclaim and huge commercial success. My Way reached number twenty-eight in the US Billboard 200 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts. Then after years and years of trying, Major Harris had the smash hit single he so wanted. Each Morning I Wake Up reached number five in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts. Not only did this vindicate his decision to leave The Delfonics, but surpassed the success of any of their singles. With the help of his Philly friends, Major Harris had a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album and number one single. However, what made My Way both critically acclaimed and commercially successful?
Opening Major Harris’ debut solo album is the Melvin Steals penned Each Morning I Wake Up. It’s arranged by Norman Harris and produced by Bobby “Electronic” Eli and from the opening bars, there’s only one city this song could’ve been produced in..Philly. The song literally bursts into life with bursts of blazing horns and sweeping, swirling strings combining with the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. They power the arrangement along before Major Harris unleashes a powerful vocal full of sadness, regret and drama. Adding to the drama are the Sweethearts of Sigma add tight, soaring soulful harmonies. Meanwhile, the dual guitars of Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Norman Harris provide musical contrasts. Bobby relies more on effects, while Norman’s style is jazzier, but both play important roles. Earl’s thunderous drums provide the track’s emotive heartbeat, while Don Renaldo’s strings and horns add to the overall drama, emotion and beauty of the track and are matched all the way by Major Harris’ Magnus Opus of a vocal. It’s an outstanding track and what a way to open My Way. No wonder this track gave him his first US R&B number one.
Love Won’t Let Me Wait is the first of the Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Vinnie Barrett penned tracks. The tempo drops way down, with the rhythm section, chiming guitars and rasping horns augmented by the lushest of strings. Major Harris is transformed into balladeer, delivering a needy, sensuous vocal, accompanied by cooing harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma. Norman Harris’ jazz-tinged guitar, Vince Montana Jr’s vibes and haunting horns play their part in this spacious, beautiful arrangement. They each play a part in the seductive sounding backdrop as Major Harris produces one of the best vocals of his long career. So undeniably sultry and sensual is this bedroom ballad, it should carry a government health warning, that after listening to it, two can become three.
Sweet Tomorrow opens with the unmistakable sound of Norman Harris’ chiming, jazz-tinged guitar before lush strings sweep and swirl, horns growl and Earl Young’s drums signal the arrival of Major Harris’ vocal. His vocal is heartfelt, a mixture of power and passion, while the Sweethearts of Sigma add punchy, but soulful harmonies. Meanwhile Don Renaldo’s strings dance with delight as the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Later, horns growl and rasp and harmonies cascade adding to the drama and beauty of this hook-laden track written by Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Vinnie Barrett.
Major Harris’ half-spoken vocal is accompanied by just tender harmonies, plucked strings and keyboards. With emotive strings accompanying his gravelly vocal, Major Harris lays bare his soul as Sideshow unfolds. This is a cover of Blue Magic’s track, which Bobby “Electronic” Eli cowrote with Vinnie Barrett, but given new life and meaning. The arrangement has an understated string-drenched sound, with the rhythm section adding a thoughtful heartbeat and the Sweethearts of Sigma contributing subtle harmonies. While it’s a very different version to Blue Magic’s original, it’s heartachingly beautiful and designed to tug at your heartstrings.
Closing Side One of My Way is Two Wrongs, the second Melvin Steals penned track. Here, Bobby “Electronic” Eli arranges the rhythm and Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey the strings and horns. It’s another uptempo track where horns blaze and strings dance as the rhythm section power the arrangement along. Major Harris vocal is a powerful, throaty vamp accompanied by dramatic harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma. Soon, you realize just how joyous, catchy and uplifting the track is. A mass of growling horns, cascading strings and sweeping harmonies are combined as Major Harris makes the song his own, delivering it with confidence and a real swagger. Together with some of Philly’s finest musicians, he plays his part in what’s an inspirational, uplifting and joyous song.
Side Two of My Way Opens with Loving You Is Mellow which teases you for a couple of bars before the track decides to reveal its secrets. Just plucked strings give way to Earl Young’s pounding drums before Major Harris’ swinging vocal enters. Along with his band, a glorious track unfolds. This means lush strings sweeping and swirling, horns rasping and growling, cooing harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma and a dramatic bursts from the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section. Similarly, Major Harris has reserved a stellar performance, where he joyfully gives thanks for the love he’s found. Taken together and the result is a hook-laden, irresistible track.
Just A Thing That I Do is one of the two tracks Bobby “Electronic” Eli cowrote with Terry Collins. They also cowrote Loving You Is Mellow. This is a very different track, slower and featuring an arrangement and vocal laden with emotion. Keyboards, chiming guitars and the rhythm section combine with Major Harris’ heartfelt, impassioned vocal. Swathes of strings and heartfelt harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma add to the emotion and the beauty of the track. Here, Major Harris digs deep, bringing out the subtleties and nuances of the lyrics, bringing meaning to them and highlighting their beauty and sadness.
Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey takes charge of the producer’s chair on After Loving You, which he also arranged. It’s another irresistible slice of Philly Soul, with Major Harris unleashing a power vocal full or heartbreak and hurt. The arrangement is an emotive roller-coaster, with dancing strings, growling horn and the Sweethearts of Sigma tight, soulful harmonies. Meanwhile, the Baker, Harris, Young provide the track heartbeat as the arrangement unfolds to reveal a hugely catchy sound. This is perfect for Major Harris’ soul-baring vocal. It seems whatever the emotion, Major Harris can deliver a vocal that’s believable and capable of stirring your emotion. This is one of his best vocals, and one of the best arrangements and productions.
Closing My Way is the title-track, where Major Harris delivers a vocal that’s almost a homage to The Chairman of The Board. He turns the track into a six minute epic, that stays true to Frank Sinatra’s version. With a combination of dramatic drum rolls from Earl Young, blazing horns and lush strings courtesy of Don Renaldo, Major Harris delivers an impassioned vocal. Sweeping, tight and beautiful harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma are combined with Vince Montana Jr’s vibes, Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey’s piano and Norman Harris’ thoughtful, jazzy guitar. Throughout the track, the power, drama and emotion builds. All the time the strings, gospel-tinged harmonies, horns and Earl’s drums are crucial to the sound and success. By the end of the song, you’ll be won over by the this masterful reinterpretation of an old classic from Major Harris and his band of Philly legends.
Major Harris decision to leave The Delfonics and launch his solo career was vindicated with a top thirty album and number one US R&B single. After years of struggling in bands, like The Charmers, The Teenagers and The Jarmels, Major Harris thought his luck would change with The Delfonics .While his fortunes did improve slightly during his three years with The Delfonics, he was unfortunate to join them when they’d reached their peak and were on their way down. The hits had dried up and their albums weren’t as successful as their first three. So leaving The Delfonics was something of a no-brainer. By then Major Harris had become almost an honorary Philadelphian, even though he’d been born in Richmond, Virginia. His music was synonymous with the Philly Sound. It was no surprise that the arrangers, producers, musicians and backing singers that helped make My Way such a success were all from Philly.
Each of them played their part in making My Way the success it became. From producers Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey and arranger Norman Harris, through to the all-star band that featured the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, Vince Montana Jr, Larry Washington, Don Renaldo and His Strings and Horns and the Sweethearts of Sigma. Together, they played their part in making Major Harris’ debut solo My Way a true Philly Sound classic. From the opening bars of Each Morning I Wake Up, until the closing notes of My Way, Major Harris produces a spellbinding performance on My Way. So good is each track, that just when you think you’ve heard the best track on My Way, another comes along and trumps it. Unlike most albums, there isn’t a weak track on My Way. Far from it. Each track is capable of provoking an emotion, from sadness to joy, and everything in between. One minute Major Harris tugs at your heartstrings, the next, comes up with a hook-laden and joyous track like Loving You Is Mellow. That’s why for anyone who loves the Philly Sound, then Major Harris’ My Way is an album the deserves to find its way into their collection. Standout Tracks: Each Morning I Wake Up, Love Won’t Let Me Wait, Sweet Tomorrow and Loving You Is Mellow.
MAJOR HARRIS-MY WAY.
WILSON PICKETT IN PHILADELPHIA.
By 1970, when Wilson Pickett released Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia, his recording career was eight years old. He’d released his debut single If You Need Me in 1962, and since then, had enjoyed four number one US R&B singles. The first of these was his 1965 classic In The Midnight Hour, with 634-5789 (Soulsville USA) and Land of The 1000 Dances following in 1966. Wilson’s last number one single in the US R&B charts was 1967s Funky Broadway. Since then, Wilson had enjoyed further chart success. This success was sporadic. His music was much more popular in the US R&B Charts, that the US Billboard 100. The same was the case with Wilson Pickett’s albums Indeed, his last three albums demonstrated this.
1968s The Midnight Mover reached just number ninety-one in the US Billboard 200 and number ten in the US R&B Charts.1969s Hey Jude reached number ninety-seven in the US Billboard 200 and number fifteen in the US R&B Charts. Wilson’s first album of the seventies was Right On, released in 1970. It stalled at number 197 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-six in the US R&B Charts. With music changing, and changing fast, Wilson Pickett looked like ending up being left behind and becoming yesterday’s soul man. What was needed was someone to rejuvenate his career. The men chosen to do this, were Philly-based songwriter and producers Gamble and Huff. By 1970, they were establishing a reputation as the hottest songwriting and production teams. So, they were the perfect choice to produce Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia, which was the followup to the disappointing Right On. Would the Gamble and Huff produced Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia see Wilson’s career rejuvenated?
For Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia,which will be rereleased by Rhino, on 14th April2014, Gamble and Huff would contribute the tracks, Run Joey Run, Parts 1 and 2 of Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number 9 and Ain’t No Doubt About It. Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Carl Fisher cowrote Help The Needy, while Jerry Akines, Johnny Belmon, Reginald Turner and Victor Drayton penned Come Right Here and Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You. They also wrote Bumble Bee (Sting Me) with Bunny Sigler who cowrote Days Go By with Eugene Dozier. With Bernard Broomer and Lee Phillips, Bunny and Eugene wrote International Playboy. These ten tracks became Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia, which was recorded in Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studios in Philly.
Accompanying Wilson Pickett for the recording session of Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia, were some of the members of what became M.F.S.B, Philadelphia International Records’ legendary house-band. This included the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section and guitarists Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Roland Chambers. Vince Montana Jr. played vibes, Thom Bell organ, Eugene Dozier and Lenny Pakula played piano and Thom Bell organ. Providing the horns were Sam Reed and His Horn Section, while strings came courtesy of Don Renaldo and His String Section. Arrangers included Bobby Martin, Lenny Pakula and Roland Chambers, while Gamble and Huff produced Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia, which was released in 1970. Would Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia rejuvenate Wilson Pickett’s career?
On the release of Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia in 1970, it reached number sixty-four in the US Billboard 200 and number three in the US R&B Charts. Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number 9 reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 100 and number twelve in the US R&B Charts. Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You then reached number seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the US R&B Charts in 1971. Then two years later in 1973, International Playboy reached number thirty in the US R&B Charts. Gamble and Huff hadn’t just rejuvenated Wilson Pickett’s career, but totally transformed it. In Philadelphia was his most successful album since 1967s The Sound of Wilson Pickett. However, why was Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia such a successful album? That’s what I’ll tell you, once I’ve told you about the music on Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia.
Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia opens with Run Joey Run. It was written by Gamble and Huff and arranged by Bobby Martin. Searing, riffing guitars, growling horns and a driving Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section join percussion in setting the scene for Wilson’s urgent, growling vocal. Testifying backing vocals sweep in, while Wilson delivers a powerful, vampish vocal. Delivered a dramatic backdrop where percussion, punchy horns a pounding beat unite, Southern Soul and Philly Soul become one, grabbing the listener’s attention.
Bobby “Electronic” Eli cowrote Help The Needy with Carl Fisher. This was just the start of Bobby’s songwriting career, but demonstrates what was to come. A much more understated, emotive backdrop with Norman Harris’ jazzy guitar, Vince Montana Jr’s and lush strings combining is perfect for Wilson’s hurt-filled pleas. Providing the heartbeat are Baker, Harris, Young. Soon, Wilson’s unleashing one of his best vocals, laying bare his soul. Emotion, heartbreak and desperation fill his voice, as the arrangement grows in power and drama, proving that although music was changing and changing fast, Wilson Pickett’s music was still relevant.
A flourish of piano opens Come Right Here before gradually, the arrangement reveals its hidden depths. The pensive piano proves to be a curveball. Soon, braying horns, percussion and Norman Harris’ guitar join Wilson in ensuring the song swings. His vocal is sassy and strident, with growling horns replying to his call. Fills of Hammond organ, percussion and guitar combine, while Earl Young’s drums add the track’s confident heartbeat. Catchy and delivered with a swagger, this track swings, and then some.
Norman Harris’ guitar opens Bumble Bee (Sting Me), before percussion and Baker, Harris, Young enter. When Wilson’s vocal enters, you realize the track is struggling. This isn’t his fault. The lyrics have a real bluesy influence and sound. Regardless of how much effort and passion he delivers the lyrics with, you can’t help but feel they’re lacking. Maybe it’s just they sound dated. Wilson throws himself into the song, mixing sass and showmanship. While you can’t fault his or M.F.S.B’s performance, they’re let down by the somewhat outdated lyrics.
Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You closes Side One of Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia. It’s the second track arranged by organist Lenny Pakula, and has a jaunty, uptempo arrangement. Baker, Harris, Young provide the track’s heartbea. Norman Harris’ guitar chimes, and is joined by percussion, while Ron Baker’s bass drives the arrangement along. When Wilson’s vocal enters, it’s a powerful and impassioned. Waves of Hammond organ, soaring harmonies and piano combine. Soon, Wilson and M.F.S.B. are kicking loose, resulting in a delicious slice of soul.
Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number 9 opens Side Two of Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia. Written by Gamble and Huff, there are two parts to the track. Ron Baker’s bass, percussion and chiming guitars provide a moody, broody and dramatic backdrop for Wilson’s vocal. As soul, funk and rocky guitars combine, Wilson delivers a heartbroken, emotive vamp. Against waves of a funky arrangement, Wilson struts confidently through the song. Hollers, yelps and rock-tinged guitars accompany him. Sometimes, it’s reminiscent of James Brown, as Wilson seeks to prove that there’s more to his music than soul.
Stabs of guitar and dramatic bursts of drums open Days Go By. Then it’s all change. The arrangement becomes more understated, and Wilson delivers a vocal that’s filled with despair and loneliness. Strings sweep and horns growl, while piano and drums add to the drama. By now, the arrangement has grown in power and drama, matching the emotion and despair in Wilson’s vocal, which is one of his best on Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia.
International Playboy has a real sixties sound from the get-go. Stabs of piano, swathes of strings, growling horns and piano join Baker, Harris, Young in driving the arrangement along. Strings sweep and waves of Hammond organ play their part in providing the backdrop for Wilson’s vampish, sassy vocal. His vocal grows in power, confidence and passion joining his sass. Soon, this hooky, memorable track is swinging along, with Wilson and M.F.S.B. becoming one. They’re in the groove, and play their part, in this poppy slice of soul.
Ain’t No Doubt About It closes Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia. Just Ron Baker’s broody bass and growling horns set the stage for Wilson. When his heartfelt vocal takes centre-stage, it seems he’s determined to close the album on a high. Waves of horns and Hammond organ are at the heart of the arrangement. The horns dramatically kick, while Baker, Harris, Young and searing guitars provide the backdrop as Southern Soul and jazz combine seamlessly.
Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia saw Gamble and Huff rejuvenate Wilson Pickett’s career. While Wilson Pickett’s previous albums had proved successful in the US R&B Charts, Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia proved successful in both the US Billboard 200 and US R&B Charts. Indeed, Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia spawned two top five US R&B singles. It seemed that although music had changed and changed fast in the past few years, Gamble and Huff ensure that Wilson Pickett’s music was still relevant as a new decade dawned.
Gamble and Huff didn’t attempt to reinvent Wilson Pickett as an artist. What they did, was provide Wilson with quality material that suited his style. They then brought in some of the most talented musicians and arrangers in Philly. Their arrangements featured the trademark Philly horns and strings, but in a way that suited Wilson’s Southern Soul background. While Gamble and Huff gave other artists a Philly Soul makeover, this wasn’t the case with Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia. Instead, they realized that Wilson Pickett was an artist with a relatively successful track record. What he needed was the right material, where he was accompanied by a tight, talented band. M.F.S.B. were the perfect band for Wilson Pickett. They were versatile, and able to seamlessly switch between musical genres. On Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia, they fused elements of Southern Soul, Philly Soul, funk, R&B, jazz and rock.
Most of the tracks on Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia have stood the test of time, and marked a revival in Wilson Pickett’s career. One can only speculate what would’ve happened if Gamble and Huff hadn’t produced Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia? Would Wilson Pickett’s career have stalled? As it was, Wilson Pickett’s career stalled after Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia. His next three albums, Don’t Knock My Love, Mr. Magic Man and Miz Lena’s Boy failed to match the success of Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia. This was a recurring theme for much of the seventies for Wilson Pickett. Indeed, Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia proved to be Wilson Pickett’s last great album and marked the end of era for one of the legends of soul music. Standout Tracks: Help The Needy, Come Right Here, Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You and Days Go By.
WILSON PICKETT IN PHILADELPHIA.
LET THE MUSIC PLAY: BLACK AMERICA DOES BACHARACH AND DAVID.
It was in the Brill Building in 1957, that Burt Bacharach and Hal David first met. They were both aspiring songwriters. Burt was a twenty-nine year old music graduate from Kansas. Hal was the older of the two. He was a thirty-six year old New Yorker. Despite the differences in their age and background, Bacharach and David would go on to form one of the most successful songwriting partnerships ever.
Their successful songwriting partnership started with Marty Robbins’ cover of The Story Of My Life. It reached number one in the US Country charts and number fifteen in the US Billboard 100 in late 1957. Then two months later, in February 1958, Perry Como covered Magic Moments. Reaching number four in the US Billboard 100. Over the Atlantic, Bacharach and David made history.
Perry Como’s Magic Moments and Michael Holidays’ cover of The Story Of My Life gave Bacharach and David consecutive number ones. This was the first of many records that Bacharach and David would go on to break. Their songs would be covered by some of the biggest names in music. Everyone from Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, The Beatles, The Delfonics and Isaac Hayes covered Bacharach and David. These artists brought fame, fortune and critical acclaim Bacharach and David’s way. This lasted right through to the early seventies, when the Bacharach and David partnership ended. Since then, numerous compilations have been released to celebrate the music of Bacharach and David. However, Ace Records recently released compilation Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is a refreshing alternative to previous compilations.
Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David features some of the most successful American artists cover of Bacharach and David. There’s everything from soul superstars and disco divas. This includes Dionne Warwick, Irma Thomas, Aretha Franklin, Cissy Houston. The Drifters, James Carr, Gloria Gaynor, Mavis Staples and Gladys Knight and The Pips. As compilations go, Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David literally oozes quality. That’s why it’s going to be so difficult to pick the highlights.
It seems fitting that Dionne Warwick’s cover of Make It Easy On Yourself opens Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David. When Bacharach and David penned this track, Dionne was desperate to record it. Much to her displeasure, Jerry Butler released the original version. It gave Jerry a top ten hit. However, Make It Easy On Yourself was the title-track on Dionne’s 1963 album. Her delivery is wistful, rueful and full of heartbreak and is a reminder of why Dionne was one of the finest exponents of Bacharach and David’s music.
Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen Of New Orleans is, without doubt, one of the most underrated soul singers. Proof of this is her emotive powerhouse on Long After Tonight Is All Over. This was one of two Bacharach and David songs Irma recorded in 1964. Sadly, neither song saw the light of day until 1964. Long After Tonight Is All Over is a hidden gem that features Irma in her prime.
Aretha Franklin’s version of Say A Little Prayer is the definitive version of this song about the Vietnam War. Although many artists have recorded this song, none of them come close to Aretha. Released as single in 1968, it reached number ten in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B charts. This resulted in the single being certified gold. It was taken from Aretha’s 1968 album Aretha Now. It reached number three in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B charts, resulting in another gold single for Aretha. During this period, Aretha was crowned The Queen Of Soul.
The Drifters version of In The Land Of Make Believe featured on the B-Side to Vaya Con Dios. Released in 1964 on Capitol Records, it reached number forty-three in the US Billboard 100. It was arranged by Gary Sherman, and produced by Lieber and Stoller. Johnny Moore takes charge of the lead vocal. Meanwhile the rest of The Drifters and The Sweet Inspiration add some deliciously soulful and heartfelt harmonies. Why this wasn’t chosen as the the single, seems a missed opportunity? Especially with The Drifters’ career on the slide.
Roy Hamilton’s heartfelt, hopeful and impassioned pleading vocal on Let The Music Play. It was recorded in 1966, when Roy was signed to RCA. Sadly, RCA never released the track as a single. It only came to light in 1997, when Kent released the compilation Rare, Collectable and Soulful. At last, this soulful delight was heard by a wider audience, who appreciated its beauty.
Lou Johnson’s cover of The Last One To Be Loved is produced by Bacharach and David. It epitomises what their music is about. Lush strings cascade, harmonies coo and bursts of drama interject. They’re the perfect foil for Roy’s impassioned, sometimes, dramatic vocal. Incredibly, The Last One To Be Loved was only the B-Side to Message To Martha. Sadly, the single wasn’t a commercial success. Despite this, Lou’s version of The Last One To Be Loved is definitive take on this track. It manages to surpass Dionne Warwick’s cover.
In 1970, Willie Tee had just signed to Capitol Records and was in the process of recording his debut album. One of the songs he covered was Reach Out For Me. He was laying is reputation on the life. After all, Dionne Warwick cut the ultimate version. However, Willie, with the help of producer David Axelrod, breathes new life and meaning into this track. Soulful and needy, it’s a tantalising taste of what Willie Tee was capable of.
Many artists have recorded The Look Of Love. So much so, that it’s now regarded as a standard. The song is synonymous with Dusty Springfield. It features on her Dusty In Memphis album. That was her finest hour. Nina Simone also covered The Look Of Love on her 1967 album Silk and Soul. It was released on RCA Victor after Dusty’s version. Arranged by Sammy Lowe and Danny Davis, the tempo rises, and the jazz tinged arrangement is understated. This allows Nina’s sultry vocal to shine. She delivers a vocal masterclass. One wonders if Nina’s version had been released first would Dusty’s version have been so successful?
James Carr is one of over one-hundred artists to record What The World Needs Now Is Love. Sadly, his version was never released until 2004. Recorded in 1968, just after the assassination of Martin Luther King, James transforms the track. It’s an emotive epic. Spine-tingling describes his version. From the opening bars of Quinton Church and Rudolph Russell’s production you’re truly spellbound. His vocal fuses gospel and Southern Soul. As for the arrangement, it’s a fusion of gospel, jazz, R&B and Southern Soul. The addition of rasping horns proves just the finishing touch to what’s one of the most powerful covers of this classic.
Gladys Knight and The Pips’ wistful, rueful version of One Less Bell To Answer is a track from her Motown album If I Were Your Woman. Released in 1971, this marked the end of an era. She left Motown in 1972, signing to Buddah Records. At Buddah, she didn’t have to play second fiddle to Diana Ross. As a result, Gladys’ career was transformed. She enjoyed a series of commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums. Before that, If I Were Your Woman reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200 and four in the US R&B charts. One of the album’s highlights was If I Were Your Woman, where Gladys’ rueful delivery makes the lyrics come to life.
What better way to close Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David than with Mavis Staples’ haunting cover of A House Is Not A Home. Produced by Steve Cropper, it’s a track from Mavis’ eponymous debut album. It was released on Volt in 1969. Mavis unleashes a vocal that’s equal parts hurt, heartbreak and regret. This proves a beautiful and captivating way to close this homage to Bacharach and David.
When it comes to songwriting partnerships, they don’t come much better than Bacharach and David. They’re right up there with the best. Between 1957 and the early seventies, commercial success and critical acclaim came their way. Artists were almost beating a path to their doors, so desperate were they to be the first to record Bacharach and David’s latest songs. A Bacharach and David song could launch a career. That was often the case. Bacharach and David were game-changers. Artists who previously, had struggled, had their careers transformed by Bacharach and David. Among them were Dionne Warwick. Her career was transformed with Bacharach and David’s patronage. This was the case with a whole host of artists. For other artists, looking to give their career a boost, a Bacharach and David often did the trick. That’s one reason why so many artists covered Bacharach and David.
Among them are some of the biggest names in music. Many of them feature on Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David. It features soul superstars and even Gloria Gaynor, disco diva. Mostly though, Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is just quality soul music. Love and love lost sit side-by-side with tearjerkers and celebratory songs. Then there’s songs with lyrics full of social comment, including Aretha’s classic I Say A Little Prayer. Probably the most powerful track is James Carr’s poignant transformation of What The World Needs Now Is Love. It’s truly heart-wrenching and spellbinding. James slightly changes the lyrics, to take account of the assassination of Martin Luther King. That one song is worth the price of Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David. However, there’s much more to Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David than one track.
Indeed. A total of twenty-six tracks feature on Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David. Classics, familiar faces and hidden gems sit side-by-side. Each of these tracks ooze quality and emotion. That’s why Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is one of Ace Records’ best compilations of 2014. Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is also a refreshing alternative to the usual Bacharach and David compilations that are released. Let The Music Play: Black America Does Bacharach and David is the perfect homage to of the greatest songwriters in musical history, whose music has touched the hearts of everyone.
LET THE MUSIC PLAY: BLACK AMERICA DOES BACHARACH AND DAVID.
ENNIO MORRICONE-MORRICONE HIGH-THE TRIPPIER SIDE OF MORRICONE.
Although Ennio Morricone’s name is synonymous with film soundtracks, there’s much more to his career than that. This includes over 100 classical pieces that Ennio wrote between 1946 and the late-fifties. After that, Ennio worked at RCA as an arranger. He arranged over 500 songs, and worked with everyone from Chet Baker to Paul Anka. Then as the sixties dawned, Ennio Morricone changed direction. He started penning the first of over 500 film soundtracks. This it seemed, was what Ennio was born to do.
That’s why the eight-five year old composer is remembered as without doubt, the most prolific, highest profile and best respected film composers of the twentieth century. Ennio Morricone has written over 500 soundtracks. These soundtracks cover every possible genre of film. This includes Spaghetti Westerns.
The quartet of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns Spaghetti Westerns are what many people associate Ennio Morricone with. This began in 1964 with 1964s A Fistful of Dollars, then 1965s For A Few Dollars More, 1966s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and 1968s Once Upon A Time In the West. They made Ennio Morricone a household name. However, there’s much, much more to Ennio Morricone’s career than just four Spaghetti Westerns. Much more. The story begins in 1959.
It was 1959s The Death of A Friend that was Ennio Morricone soundtrack debut. His career would span a further six decades. Never one to shirk a challenge, The Maestro wrote scores to everything from big-budget blockbusters right through to art-house films. His soundtracks have sold over fifty-million copies and he’s won awards worldwide. The music on these soundtracks is best described as eclectic. This includes psychedelia. Ennio Morricone’s psychedelic side is celebrated on Morricone High. However, with Morricone High it’s a case of caveat emptor.
When I first received the copy of Morricone High, I vaguely remembered the cover. It was the cover that caught my attention. It’s hardly a masterpiece in modern design. You don’t forget a cover like that. Far from it. It’s more like a pastiche of psychedelia. So I started digging, and discovered that Morricone High was first released back in 2005, by the same label, El Records. There’s nothing new on this version. Hence my warning of caveat emptor.
There’s nothing whatsoever different this version of Morricone High. Sadly, that means there’s still no sleeve-notes worth mentioning. The highlight of the sleeve-notes is a brief introduction by The Maestro. Apart from that, there’s some supposedly sixties psychedelic photos. Their raison d’etre seems to be to pad out the flimsy eight-page booklet. Sadly, they don’t add to the product. Looking through the booklet, it hardly comes across as a quality product. Quite the opposite. Hopefully, the music on Morricone High will more than make up for lack of sleeve-notes and pseudo psychedelic album cover.
Morricone High comprises a sixteen tracks and lasts just forty-nine minutes. The tracks featured on the soundtracks of six films. These films were released between 1968 and 1971. Each of these films were produced by European directors. Some of the films are hardly blockbusters. Indeed, many of them have been long forgotten. Often, for good reason. For many people, the highlight of the film was Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks which I’ll tell you about.
The first five tracks on Morricone High are taken from Scusi Faciamo L’amore? Excuse Me, Let’s Make Love is an Italian film, released in September 1968. It tells the story of a young man heading to Milan to his father’s funeral. Once in Milan, he decides to make a living as a gigolo. Hence the titles Excuse Me, Let’s Make Love, Between The Sheets, Take Me Now, To The Altar and Back and A Lidia. As for the five tracks, they’ve a cinematic quality. They’re a fusion of sixties pop, psychedelia, easy listening, jazz, lounge and even briefly, avant garde. The music veers between sultry, needy, melancholy, melodic, haunting, dramatic and ethereal. These tracks demonstrate what The Maestro in his prime was capable of.
Le Foto Proibite Di Una Signora Per Bene was released in 1970. It’s hardly the finest film Ennio Morricone has been asked to provide the score to. Directed by Luciano Ercoll, Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion is a tale of friendship, love, sex, and possibly, murder. Four tracks from the soundtrack feature on Morricone High. The first is Allegretto Per Signora, where sixties psychedelia and funk collide head on. Amore Come Dolore is much more subdued and mellow, growing in power and drama. Orchestral strings are deployed effectively. Le Foto Proibite Di Una Signora Per Bene features a tender, needy vocal delivered a melancholy backdrop. The shuffling, organ driven Secondo Intermezzino Pop is a much more upbeat slice of memorable pop, that like the other tracks, shows The Maestro’s talent and versatility.
Veruschka: Poetry of a Woman was a documentary about the Vera Gräfin von Lehndorff-Steinort. During her career, she’s been an actress, artist and model. Indeed, she’s seen as the original supermodel. That’s why in 1971, a documentary was made about her life. Ennio wrote the score. It featured the ethereal beauty of La Banola. Astratto 1 is very different. It’s a cinematic fusion of avant garde, experimental and free jazz. However, sometimes, it heads towards discordant. Then there’s the bass driven Le Fotographie. It seems to pick up where Astratto 1 left off. Having sailed close to the wind, Ennio creates a track that’s ambitious, bold and innovative.
Paolo Spinola directed La Donna Invisible, which was released in Italy in December 1969. Sadly, it proved not to be his finest hour. Critics weren’t won over by The Invisible Woman. The soundtrack was another matter. Scored by Ennio Morricone, two tracks from The Invisible Woman feature on Morricone High. Ritratto D’Autore veers between dramatic to beautiful, courtesy of the swathes of lush strings. La Moda has a late-sixties poppy sound. That’s before horns and strings sweep in. There’s also a strong psychedelic influence. This shows that The Maestro constantly strove to reinvent himself and his music.
Broody, moody, dramatic and haunting describes the minimalist Notte Bambole. Its cinematic sound has you on the edge of your seat. This is a track the soundtrack to La Corta Notte Delle Bambole De Vetro. The Short Night Of The Glass Dolls tells the story of an American journalist searching for his girlfriend, who suddenly, has disappeared. Released in October 1971 and directed by Aldo Lado, eerie, atmospheric and haunting describes this track.
1970 closes Morricone High. It’s a track from the soundtrack to Il Gatto A Nove Code. The Cat o’ Nine Tails was directed by Dario Argento, and released in May 1971. It’s a truly captivating track. It veers between haunting, ethereal and dramatic. Jazz, psychedelia, avant garde and experimental combine to create a captivating cinematic track.
Thankfully, the music on Morricone High makes up for the shortcomings of the sleeve-notes and album cover. The sixteen tracks features The Maestro in his prime. His music paints pictures. You can imagine the scenes unfolding before your very eyes. To do that, he combines musical genres. Everything from avant garde, easy listening, experimental, free jazz, jazz, lounge, pop, psychedelia and rock. All these influences shine through on Morricone High. This results in music that’s variously atmospheric, broody, moody, dramatic, sultry, ethereal, haunting, melancholy, melodic and psychedelic. That’s why when European film directors were looking for someone to write the soundtrack to their film, the man they called was The Maestro.
The six soundtracks that the sixteen tracks were taken from, are just six of 500 films Ennio Morricone has written the score to. These films range from art-house films to blockbusters. Another thing that differs is their quality. None of the films that the sixteen tracks were taken from, won any Oscars. Far from it. They’re low budget movies, which in some cases, have been long forgotten. That’s apart from the soundtrack. Their quality surpassed the quality of the movie. Now over forty years later, these soundtrack are highly sought after. That’s why fans of Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks welcome compilations of his music.
That’s the case here. There’s a but though. The sound quality of some of the tracks isn’t what I’d expect. Especially on the first five tracks. They were a bit crackly. That was somewhat disappointing. Maybe this was a problem with the master tapes, or that the tracks from recorded from a vinyl copy of the soundtracks? Then there’s the lack of sleeve-notes and the disappointing album cover. My final gripe is that Morricone High isn’t a new compilation. It was released back in 2005 and was dusted down again recently. There aren’t even any bonus tracks. Many people perceived this as nothing but a cynical marketing plot. However, is Morricone High an album to add to your record collection?
The answer to that is yes and no. Given the quality of music, I’d say yes. Morricone High features The Maestro in his prime. However, it’s not exactly the most psychedelic music I’ve ever heard. Trippy only describes some of the tracks. The rest are an eclectic selection. They all have a cinematic quality. What lets Morricone High down is the lack of sleeve-notes, disappointing album cover and sometimes, disappointing sound quality. Sadly, the sleeve-notes, album cover and sound quality don’t do justice to The Maestro’s music on Morricone High. At least the music reinforces why Ennio Morricone is called The Masestro.
ENNIO MORRICONE-MORRICONE HIGH-THE TRIPPIER SIDE OF MORRICONE.
There aren’t many solo artists who can claim to have been part of one of the most successful bands of all time. Brazilian singer-songwriter Rodrigo Amarante can. His debut solo album Cavalo will be released on 5th May 2014, on Mais Um Discos. He was a member of Los Hermanos. Their four albums sold millions of copies. However, Los Hermanos were put on hold in 2007. That’s when Rodrigo formed Little Joy.
Rodrigo, Binki Shapiro and The Strokes’ drummer Fabrizio Moretti had first met in 2006. That’s when they first toyed with the idea of forming a new band, one that had nothing to do with their respective bands. With Los Hermanos having been put on hold, this was the perfect time. Little Joy were born in 2007. This Brazilian American supergroup were soon signed to Rough Trade. Then in 2008, Little Joy released their eponymous debut album 2008. It was released to critical acclaim. Sadly, Little Joy proved to be their only album. Now six years later, Rodrigo Amarante is about to embark upon his solo career. This is just the latest chapter in the career of Rodrigo Amarante.
The Rodrigo Amarante story begins back September 6th 1976. That’s when Rodrigo Amarante de Castro Neves was born in Rio De Janeiro. Music seems to have been in Rodrigo’s blood. By the time he headed to University in Rio, he was already a multi-instrumentalist. That’s where he met Marcelo Camelo and Rodrigo Barba, who were founding members of Los Hermanos.
Marcelo and Rodrigo asked Rodrigo along to rehearse with Los Hermanos. Having played at several rehearsals, Rodrigo was asked to become a permanent member of Los Hermanos. He’d go on to play on their four albums.
For their first album, Los Hermanos, Rodrigo wrote the single Quem Sabe and Onze Dias. He also played traverse flute. Released in 1999, Los Hermanos was the start of the band’s rise to becoming one of Brazil’s most successful and critically acclaimed bands.
This continued with Los Hermanos’ sophomore album Bloco Do Eu Sozinho. Released in 2001, Bloco do Eu Sozinho marked Rodrigo’s coming of age as a songwriter and musician. One of Rodrigo’s best songs was A Flor, which he cowrote with Marcelo. It gave Los Hermanos one of their biggest hit singles. However, Los Hermanos’ third album would surpass everything that had gone before.
After a gap of two years, Los Hermanos returned with Ventura in 2003. During this two year break, Rodrigo seemed to have matured as a songwriter. Ventura featured some of Rodrigo’s best songs. Among them were Último Romance, O Velho E O Moço, Um Par, Do Sétimo Andar and Deixa o Verã. Critics hailed Rodrigo one of the finest songwriters of his generation. This resulted in him stepping out of the shadows. No longer was he just a sideman. Now he was a fully fledged member of Los Hermanos. Ironically, as this happened Los Hermanos’ career stalled.
When Los Hermanos returned with 4 in 2005, it wasn’t as successful as previous albums. The songs were penned by Rodrigo and Mercelo. Despite the quality of the five songs Rodrigo wrote, O Vento was the only hit single. It seemed Los Hermanos’ career was at the crossroads.
Despite this, Rodrigo won the Best Instrumentalist in the Prêmio Multishow awards in 2006. This was well deserved, given he’d played such an important role in Los Hermanos success. However, in 2007, Los Hermanos were put on hold. This resulted in a change of direction for Rodrigo.
Rodrigo decided to spend time on the Orquestra Imperial. This was a collaboration between Rodrigo, Moreno Veloso, Nina Becker, and actress Thalma de Freita. They headed to California and started writing Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon with Venezuelan singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart. That’s also where Rodrigo met Binki Shapiro and The Strokes’ drummer Fabrizio Moretti.
This was 2006. That’s when Rodrigo, Binki and Fabrizio first toyed with the idea of forming a new band. They decided it should have nothing to do with their own bands. With Los Hermanos having been put on hold, this was the perfect time. Little Joy were born in 2007. This Brazilian American supergroup were soon signed to Rough Trade. Then in 2008, Little Joy released their eponymous debut album 2008. It was released to critical acclaim. Sadly, Little Joy proved to be their only album. Since then Rodrigo’s collaborated with a number of artists.
Among them are Adam Green. Rodrigo featured on his 2010 album Minor Love. He also cowrote and arranged O Que Você Quer, a track from Marisa Monte’s 2011 album O Que Você Quer Saber De Verdade. However, during this period, Rodrigo, whose been living in Los Angeles since 2008, has been working towards his debut solo album Cavalo.
Cavalo features eleven songs. They’ve come about as a result of the six years Rodrigo’s spent living in Los Angeles. Looking back, he didn’t expect to spend so long in L.A. Rodrigo “didn’t expect to moor my boat for long.” During that time, he’s felt like an “exile,” but an exile whose been made welcome. Rodrigo has and has enjoyed his time in L.A, especially the feeling of being anonymous. That wouldn’t have been possible in Rio. Not after having been a member of such a high profile band as Los Hermanos. This has allowed Rodrigo to become an explorer or onlooker. It’s also allowed Rodrigo to almost reinvent himself. He’s even invented what he refers to as “an accomplice to which I am also the channel, the one I name Cavalo.” So Cavalo is essentially ten songs about the adventures of Rodrigo Amarante during the last six years in L.A, which I’ll now tell you about.
Nada Em Vão opens Cavalo. It has a wistful, dreamy sound. The arrangement meanders along. A muted guitar and keyboards accompany Rodrigo’s scatted vocal. Occasionally, a drum punctuates the arrangement. Mostly, it’s understated, with doo-wop harmonies, keyboards, percussion and a sultry horn escaping from the arrangement. They’re the perfect foil for Rodrigo’s heartfelt paean.
Percussion, growling horn and bass accompany Rodrigo’s vocal on Hourglass. This is a very different song. It has a much more rocky sound. Having said that, it’s a musical pot pourri. Everything from funk, soul, new wave and psychedelia influences Rodrigo. There’s even an eighties influences. Grizzled horns and the rhythm drive the arrangement along as Rodrigo draws inspiration from Don Henley and Robert Palmer. His vocal has a lazy, lysergic influence. This result is a genre-melting, psychedelic stomper full of slick poppy hooks,
Just a picked acoustic guitar and subtle percussion accompany Rodrigo’s vocal on Mom Nom. Emotion and sincerity fill his vocal, as the band plug-in. The rhythm section and chiming guitar accompany him. Meanwhile, waves of horns disappear into the distance. There’s a sixties psychedelic influence on this folk-tronic waltz which features a heart-wrenching vocal from Rodrigo.
Although just a lone guitar accompanies Rodrigo on Irene, that’s all it needs. It’s hugely effective and means you focus solely on Rodrigo’s impassioned delivery of the lyrics. His vocal is captivating. It literally oozes emotion and is spellbinding in its beauty.
Maná sees a return to the Latin rhythms that Rodrigo’s so familiar with. His guitar is panned hard left and percussion right. That leaves room for the rhythm section and Rodrigo’s joyous vocal in the middle. During this call to dance, Rodrigo reminds me of Paul Simon. However, Paul Simon has never fused Latin, funk, rock and poppy hooks. Rodrigo does and it’s truly irresistible and joyous.
A wistful piano opens Fall Asleep, setting the scene for Rodrigo’s vocal. His vocal veers between melancholy and hopeful, as he’s transformed into a troubled troubadour. Behind him, a probing bass helps the distant piano drive the arrangement along on what’s one of the most beautiful and pensive songs on Cavalo.
From the get-go, the word ambient seems the perfect description of The Ribbon. Ethereal harmonies and an acoustic guitar combine before Rodrigo’s vocal enters. It’s tender and thoughtful. Harmonies accompany him. They sweep in and eventually replace Rodrigo’s vocal. His lyrics have a poetic quality and are delivered with feeling and passion. Meanwhile, the arrangement grows in power and drama. Thankfully, it never overpowers the captivating beauty of Rodrigo’s vocal, which is one of his finest.
O Cometa has an understated introduction. Just an acoustic guitar and percussion join Rodrigo’s heartfelt vocal. Later, drums played with brushes and melancholy horns sweep in. They too are understated. So are the tender harmonies. They’re like pieces of a jigsaw and with Rodrigo’s guidance, everything seems to fall perfectly into place.
The piano is an often underrated instrument by musicians. Not on Cavalo. Here, Rodrigo uses it to toy with your emotion. It also adds to the drama of this hugely atmospheric track. Here, Rodrigo sings call and response. His vocal is forlorn and despondent, as if memories are coming flooding back to him and he’s reliving the pain and hurt again.
Cooing, ethereal harmonies and an acoustic guitar open I’m Ready. Then when the harmonies drop out, Rodrigo’s heartbroken vocal enters. It’s like a cathartic outpouring of grief and pain at the loss of his son, whose been taken away by its mother. Rodrigo sounds almost numb, as if he can’t be hurt any more. When he sings: “I’m Ready” it’s as if he’s daring her to try and make him feel worse than he already does. That I don’t think will be possible. This is the most moving songs on Cavalo.
Tardei closes Cavalo, and features Rodrigo scatting and playing his trusty acoustic guitar. His vocal is heartfelt, tender and emotive. When it drops out, ethereal harmonies sweep in. They accompany Rodrigo, and together, play their part in what’s an ethereal and beautiful way to close Cavalo.
Rodrigo Amarante’s debut solo album Cavalo is a departure from the music he’s recorded with Los Hermanos and Little Joy. It’s very different. However, Cavalo has something in common with the music of Los Hermanos and Little Joy, its quality. That’s undeniable.
Often, the arrangements are understated and feature just Rodrigo and his trusty acoustic guitar. He dawns the role of troubadour as if born for the role. Many of the arrangements are understated and spartan. That’s no bad thing. It allows Rodrigo’s vocal to take centre-stage. He delivers a series of understated, tender, heartfelt, emotive and soul-baring ballads. Sometimes, he’s also accompanied by ethereal harmonies. They prove the perfect foil for Rodrigo Amarante. However, there’s more to Cavalo than ballads.
This includes ambient, folk, funk, Latin, pop, psychedelia and rock. Two very different tracks are Hourglass and Maná. Hourglass is a psychedelic stomper, that’s full of slick poppy hooks. Mana is simply irresistible and joyous. These two tracks show a very different side of Rodrigo Amarante on Cavalo, which will be released on 5th May 2014, on Mais Um Disco. Cavalo is the long-awaited debut album from one of the giants of Brazilian music, Rodrigo Amarante.
The former member of Los Hermanos and Little Joy has come a long way in the six years he’s been living in Los Angeles. Rodrigo has discovered a new side to his music. It’s much more introspective and thoughtful. It’s as if the six years he’s spent in L.A. has resulted in inspiration for the eleven songs on Cavalo, where Rodrigo takes centre-stage. This is a role Rodrigo Amarante seems born for. He’s a storyteller who brings his lyrics to life. During each song, he sounds as if he’s lived, loved and survived the pain, hurt and heartbreak he’s singing about. So much so, that you find yourself empathizing with Rodrigo Amarante’s plight and pain. Then to life your spirits, he throws in a hook laden gem like Hourglass or Maná. This leaves you wanting more. The same can be said of Cavalo, Rodrigo Amarante’s critically acclaimed debut album, which belongs in the record collection of anyone who loves and appreciates music that’s ethereal, beautiful, wistful, heartfelt and joyous.
STIAN WESTERHUS AND PALE HORSES-MAELSTROM.
Having established a reputation as one of the finest abstract guitarists in Europe, Stian Westerhus decided to change direction. After three critically acclaimed solo albums and several collaborations, Stian decided that now was the time to go from solo artist to frontman. Not long after this, Pales Horses, an electronic rock trio was born. This saw Stian joined by keyboardist Øystein Moen and drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen. A group featuring three of Norway’s most innovative and inventive musicians was a truly captivating combination.
With their different musical backgrounds, Pale Horses set about reinventing a rock album on Maelstrom, which will be released by Rune Grammofon on 5th May 2014. Maelstrom is best described as a fusion of fluidity and improvisation. Everything from jazz, post-rock, psychedelia and rock melts into one. Then there’s Stian’s vocal. It oozes emotion. So, much so, that the lyrics come to life. That’s why Maelstrom is one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2014. It’s also why Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses have been compared to The Blue Nile, Talk Talk and Radiohead. That might seem like high praise, but Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses are three of Norway’s top musicians.
Over the last few years, Stian Westerhus has established a reputation as one of Europe’s most accomplished and innovative abstract guitar players. This has been the result of a lifetime’s work. That’s how long it’s take to hone and tame his unique sound. As a result of his dedication, Stian has been constantly in demand as a session player and producer. Then there’s three solo albums and numerous collaborations with the great and the good of Norwegian music. The story begins back in 2006.
Back then, Stian was a member of Puma, who released their debut album Isolationism in 2006. Puma’s sophomore album was the brilliantly titled Discotheque Bitpunching. It was released in 2008. Then in 2010, Puma released their final album Half Nelson Courtship, which was released on Rune Grammofon. However, this wasn’t the only album Puma released.
No. In 2009, Puma and Lasse Marhaug joined forces. Their successful collaboration was Fist Full Of Knuckles. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and was seen as a union of innovators. This isn’t the only collaboration Stian’s been involved in.
A year before the release of Fist Full Of Knuckles, Stian had collaborated with Eldbjørg Raknes and saxophonist Eirik Hegda. The result was From Frozen Feet, released in 2008. The same year, Stian collaborated with Norwegian percussionist Terje Isungset on Laden With Rain. Together with his work as a session musician, this stood Stian in good stead for his solo career.
It was 2009 that Stian’s solo career began, when he released Galore. Released on The Last Record Company, a subsidiary of Rune Grammofon, Galore was mixed, recorded and produced by Stian. His 2010 sophomore solo album, Pitch Black Star Spangled was released on Rune Grammofon and saw Stian further develop his abstract guitar style. Critically acclaimed, Stian was seen as one of Norwegian music’s leading musicians. That’s why he was constantly in-demand as a guitarist, vocalist and later, a producer.
This includes adding vocals to Bladed’s 2009 album Mangled Dreams. Then in 2010, Stian played on Jaga Jazzist’s One Armed Bandit album. Stian played everything from percussion, harp,effects, twelve-string guitar, baritone guitar and electric guitar. Then to round off 2010, Stian played on Maurhaug’s All Music At Once. 2010, had been, without doubt, the most productive year of Stian’s career
2011 saw Stian play on Ulver’s War Of The Roses album. He also played harmonium, mixed and produced Nils Petter Molvær’s Baboon Moon. For Stian, this was all good experience for his solo career, which he returned to in 2012.
The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers was Stian’s third solo album. It was released in 2012 to critical acclaim. Critics hailed this genre melting album Stian’s finest album. That wasn’t the end of 2012 for Stian. Far from it.
During 2012, Stian collborated with Bol and Snah. Billed as Bol, Westerhus, Snah, they released Numb, Number. Then Stian collaborated with Norwegian jazz vocalist Sidsel Endresen on Didymoi Dreams. This was an album that pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, and way beyond. Stian’s blistering, searing guitar licks and Sidsel’s explosive bursts of vocal were a potent partnership. Genres melted into one as Stian and Sidsel challenged musical norms. Ambitious, brave and groundbreaking describes this opus. After this, Stian decided to change direction and founded Pale Horses.
Pale Horses are an electronic rock trio, but they’re not exactly a new band. Stian, keyboardist Øystein Moen and drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen all played together in Puma. Øystein Moen also was a member of Jaga Jazzist. Stian made a guest appearance on their 2010 album One Armed Bandit.So musically, they know each other really well. The only difference is the type of music that Pale Horses will be playing. Puma’s music is best described as a fusion of experimental, jazz and post rock. That’s quite different to the music on Maelstrom.
For Maelstrom, Pale Horses penned seven tracks. They were recorded at Oslo Klang by Stian and Johnny Skallenberg. At Oslo Klang, Stian played guitars, mellotron, piano, electronics and sang lead vocals. Øystein Moen played Moog, mellotron, Prophet, Ms20, piano and electronics. Erland Dahlen played drums and percussion. Stian produced Maelstrom, which I’ll tell you about.
Don’t Say That You Care opens Maelstrom. It’s best described as melancholy, hesitant, jazz-tinged and experimental. The arrangement comprises layers of music. They assail and surround you, grabbing your attention. Variously, you focus on the sci-fi sounds, keyboards and rolls of drums. However, what proves captivating is Stian’s vocal. He’s a troubled troubadour. Despair and heartache fill his vocal, as it oozes emotion. He sounds remarkably like Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile. They’e both capable of singing songs like they’ve lived, loved and survived them. Later, as the arrangement has grown, Stian’s vocal drops out. It’s as if he’s overcome by emotion. Then when he returns, the drama builds to a dramatic crescendo and Stian’s vocal is a cathartic outpouring of emotion as he pleads: “Don’t Say That You Care.”
Thoughtful, crystaline guitars open Nights And Sleepless Days. They’re joined by futuristic sounds. Then a drum pounds and Stian’s ethereal vocal enters. Meanwhile, the arrangement is a fusion of experimental, industrial, post rock and psychedelia. At the heart of the arrangement is the vocal. It’s full of pain and hurt. As the emotion builds, the arrangement grows. Pale Horses become a power trio. Genres melt into one and this soundscape envelops Stian’s vocal. Blistering, scorching guitars and pounding rhythm section drive the arrangement along, as it pays homage to classic rock. Then having reached a dramatic crescendo, Pale Horses throw a curveball, and the darkness descends. Just a lone piano accompanies Stian’s wistful vocal. Oozing emotion and drama, Stian reminds me of Jeff Buckley in his prime during this soul-searching opus.
Straight away, Bed On Fire reminds me of Japan’s early albums. It’s the use of effects that prompts this comparison. They’re panned way left and provide an eerie, minimalistic backdrop. Then when Stian’s vocal takes centre-stage it’s dubby and distant. Soon, it becomes a heartfelt and impassioned plea. As if exhausted, his vocal drops out and Pale Horses kick loose. Stian unleashes a blistering guitar solo. The only way to describe it is flawless. Seamlessly, Stian tames and hones his guitar. Later, ethereal harmonies prove a fitting and beautiful replacement for Stian’s guitar masterclass.
Just like the previous track, On and On sees panning used effectively. It grabs your attention, before indie rock, experimental and post rock combine. Reverb is added to the guitar, while drums crack and Stian’s vocal reminds me of James Dean Bradford of The Manic Street Preachers, on their 1998 album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. It has a similar sound and quality. The lyrics come to life. It’s as if they’re personal and he’s experienced the despair and despondency. Later, swathes of guitar, mellotron, keyboards and the rhythm section combine to create a soundscape that’s the perfect backdrop for Stian’s cathartic unburdening.
Times Like These has a bouncy, space-age introduction. That doesn’t prepare your for what comes next. Pale Horses throw a curveball. Stian dawns the role of troubled troubadour. It’s as if he was born for this. His vocal is dramatic and he questions and probes. He reminds me of Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile and Chris Thompson of The Bathers. By then, Stian is living the lyrics. That’s how real his portrayal of them is. It’s hugely effective. Especially with the minimalist arrangement. Later, things change. The arrangement grows in power, matching the drama and theatre of Stian’s vocal.
Chasing Hills features needy, pleading vocal from Stian. Despair fills his vocal as he sings: “brother let me rest…let me climb to the higher ground.” These lyrics and Stian’s delivery of them are beautiful and moving. The arrangement veers between understated and dramatic. Pale Horse’s rhythm section and Stian’s blistering guitar solo are joined by ethereal harmonies. At the heart of the arrangement’s success is Stian’s guitar. This is his finest solo on the album. It soars dramatically above the arrangement. Along with Stian’s vocal, this results in an eight-minute epic.
Maelstrom closes with the title-track. Stian’s questioning, frustrated vocal is accompanied by percussion as the arrangement begins to reveal its secrets. Meanwhile, Stian’s delicate vocal glides above the airy, spacious arrangement. It meanders along, gathering pace and growing. Ethereal harmonies join percussion, searing guitars and a rumbling rhythm section. Any minute, you expect Pale Horses to gallop into the sunset. Gradually, the arrangement grows. The rhythm section, blistering guitars and keyboards power the arrangement along. Pale Horses seem determined to close Maelstrom on a high. Everyone seems to raise their game. Stian leads from the front, unleashing a scorching solo. It’s a game-changer. There’s no stopping Pale Horses as they close their debut album on a resounding high.
Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses’ debut album Maelstrom is what I’d describe as an old-school album. It features just seven stunning tracks lasting fifty-four minutes. This is very definitely a case of quality over quantity. To quote Jerry Lee Lewis, “it’s all killer, no filler.” That describes Maelstrom perfectly. So does genre-melting.
Over the seven tracks, Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses combine everything from experimental, jazz, post-rock, psychedelia and rock. Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses play with a fluidity, intricacy and accuracy, before kicking out the jams. They’re then transformed into a power trio. This brings back memories of Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Other influences include The Blue Nile, The Bathers, Talk Talk, The Manic Street Preachers and Radiohead. This is a truly eclectic mix. However, each of these influences shine through on Maelstrom. Especially, The Blue Nile influence. Sometimes, Stian sounds not unlike Paul Buchanan. Both dawn the role of troubled troubadour, and sound as if they’ve lived the lyrics they’re singing about. Other times, Stian sounds like Chris Thompson of The Bathers and on On and On James Dean Bradford of The Manic Street Preachers. However, there’s more to the success of Maelstrom than Stian Westerhus’ vocal.
Granted Stian Westerhus’ vocals are at the heart of Maelstrom’s success. So is his innovative and maverick guitar stylings. However, keyboardist Øystein Moen and drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen more than play their part in Maelstrom’s success. Just like Stian, they’re talented and inventive multi-instrumentalists. They’re all parts of a bigger picture. Without Øystein’s keyboards and Erland’s percussion parts Maelstrom wouldn’t be the same album. It’s just a case that’s it’s always the frontman who takes centre-stage. In this case it’s Stian Westerhus. Pale Horses are however, no one man band. Far from it.
Instead, Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses are an innovative, inventive and influential band. They comprise three of Norway’s top musicians. Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses debut album Maelstrom, which will be released by Rune Grammofon on 5th May 2014. It’s one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. No wonder. Maelstrom oozes quality and hopefully, will be the first in a series of groundbreaking albums from the hugely talented Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses.
STIAN WESTERHUS AND PALE HORSES-MAELSTROM.
COME SPY WITH US-THE SECRET AGENT SONGBOOK.
For many people, the fifties and sixties were the golden age of both the spy novel and film. That’s no surprise. This was the post war era. The Iron Curtain separated Eastern and Western Europe. Suspicion and paranoia were common place. Especially after the defection of Philby, Burgess and McLean. These stories inspired authors.
Soon, authors were inventing double agents. Among them were Len Deighton, John Le Carre, Graham Greene, Lesley Charteris and of course, Ian Fleming. Many of characters from these novels, leapt from the page onto the silver screen. No wonder.
The character’s lives was a potent cocktail of danger, drama and glamour. Their lives were lived on the edge. Danger was never a page or frame away. On the page and screen, secret agents like their cocktails, shaken not stirred. Life was lived in the fast lane. They fought by the Queensberry rules and the suave and debonair secret agent always got his man. All this was crammed into two hundred pages or two hours. For many an impressionable schoolboy, dreams of life as a secret agent were born. As the credits rolled, the theme tune was replayed. Often, that was the most memorable part of the film.
Indeed, often, whilst a spy film is long forgotten, the theme tune has become a minor classic. Other times, the theme tune, like the film has become a classic. An example of this is Lalo Schifrin and His Orchestra’s theme from Mission Impossible. The same can be said of Dusty Springfield’s The Look Of Love and The Challengers’ Them From Mission Impossible. Both the theme tune and film have become classics. They can also be found on Ace Records latest compilation Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook.
Released on 31st March 2014, Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook features twenty-five themes from spy films released during the fifties and sixties. For many people, this was the golden age of the spy novel and film. There’s contributions from The Walker Brothers, Astrud Gilberto, Laio Schifrin, The Supremes, Matt Monroe, Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Smith and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. With everything from pop, jazz, soul, Latin and soul jazz, Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook is a truly eclectic compilation. Quite simply, there’s something for everyone. Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook, which I’ll pick the highlight of, is sure to provoke some cinematic memories.
There’s no better way to open Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook than with John Barry and His Orchestra’s A Man Alone. John Barry’s name is synonymous with film scores. In 1965, he was asked to compose the score for the adaptation of Len Deighton’s The Ipcress File. It featured Michael Caine in one of his most famous roles, Harry Palmer. This was one of John Barry’s finest hours. It almost a definition of what the word cinematic means. Literally, it paints pictures. Evocative and full of mystery. it brings to mind a world of secret agents, danger and cloak and dagger dealings.
For anyone yet to discover The Walker Brothers’ music, Deadlier Than The Male is a tantalising taste of what they’re capable of. Quite simply, it’s a truly haunting track. It was the theme to the 1967 film The Female Of The Species. Although it wasn’t the most successful film of 1967, it featured the haunting Deadlier Than The Male. Sadly, when it was released as a single, it stalled number thirty-two in the UK. If ever a single deserved to fare better, this was it.
Probably, one of Dusty Springfield’s finest moments, was The Look Of Love. Penned by Bacharach and David, Dusty delivers the definitive version of this track. Nothing else comes close. Given its indisputable quality, it’s no surprise it reached number twenty-three in the US Billboard 100. In 1967, The Look Of Love became the theme to the latest instalment in the James Bond series, Dr. No. Written by Ian Fleming in 1953, Dr. No “starred” Sean Connery. His portrayal of James Bond wasn’t well received by critics nor fans. That’s why many people felt Dusty’s version of The Look Of Love was the highlight of the film.
Just like Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond, Dean Martin’s portrayal of Matt Helm in The Silencers strayed from author Donald Hamilton’s original books. For the author, it must have been frustrating watching his character become almost pastiche of what was originally intended. Billed as”Girls, Gags and Gadgets” The Silencers was a commercial success in 1966. Looking back, this is another case of the books surpassing the their portrayal on the silver screen. The best thing about The Silencers, was Vicki Carr’s delivery of the title-track. Her delivery of Mack David and Ernest Bernstein’s song is slow, sultry and dramatic.
Back in 1965 The Challengers were asked to provide the theme to a new television series,The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Starring Robert Vaughan and David McCallum it ran for 205 episodes over a four year period. Fifty years after the first episode hit American television screens, both the television program and The Challengers’ theme tune have become stonewall classics.
Originally, Lalo Schifrin started life as a jazz pianist. By 1968, he was forging a career writing soundtracks. His latest commission was to write theme to Mission: Impossible. Having written a dramatic score in 5/4 time, Lalo Schifrin and His Orchestra entered the studio. Little did they realize that they’d just recorded one of the most recognisable theme tunes ever. Mission: Impossible is a timeless classic, that promises drama and adventure and is instantly recognisable by several generations.
It was in 1965, that The Supremes were asked to sing the theme to Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine. It was the brainchild of American International Pictures. They decided that, having released horror and beach party movies, now was the time to jump on the spy film bandwagon. In retrospect, it maybe wasn’t their best idea. Nowadays, this would a movie that goes straight to DVD. As a result, The Supremes theme tune was the most memorable part of the movie. Penned by Guy Hemric and Gerry Styner it’s full of slick hooks and is truly irresistible.
The story of Matt Monro’s life, deserves to be turned into a film. Originally, he was a London bus driver. His breakthrough came when he became one of the BBC Show Band’s vocalists in 1956. For the next couple of years, Matt Monro became a huge star. Then just as quickly, he returned to obscurity. That wasn’t the end of Matt Monro. As the sixties dawned, his career got back on track. From 1961 right through to the seventies, Matt Monro became a superstar on both sides of the Atlantic. He sang the title-track to several films. This includes 1963s From Russia With Love, 1966s Born Free and Wednesday’s Child, which was the theme to The Quiller Memorandum in 1967. Written by John Barry and Mack David, it features a heartfelt vocal from Matt and demonstrates why he was known as “the man with the golden voice.”
Each week, Gene Barry dawned the role of Captain Amos Burke in Burke’s Law. The show ran for three seasons between 1963 and 1966. As America tuned in watch Captain Amos Burke, who just so happened to be a multi-millionaire, Wynton Kelly’s unmistakable jazz-tinged Theme From Burke’s Law played. It veers between light and airy to dramatic. With its unmistakable early sixties sound, it’s also one of the finest moments from Wynton’s 1963 album Comin’ In The Back Door.
Sarah Vaughan is remembered as one of the greatest female vocalists in the history of jazz. In 1965, she covered the theme to Peter Gunn, which was a television series that ran between 1958 and 1961. It followed the adventures of a private detective. A total of 114 episodes were aired. This was the creation of Blake Edwards, who later, would create The Pink Panther. Penned by Henry Mancini, Ray Evans and Jay Livingstone, Sarah Vaughan delivers a vocal powerhouse. This reminds you why Sarah was known as “The Divine One.”
Closing Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ Come Spy With Me. It was the opening theme to the 1967 film Come Spy With Me. Produced by Arnold Kaiser and starring Troy Donahue the film wasn’t well received by critics on its release in January 1967. Ironically, since then, the film has been lost. So, a new generation of film fans will never be able to judge the merits of Come Spy With Me. They will, however, be able to hear Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ version of the title-track, which was the B-Side to their 1967 single, The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage. Apparently, it was the highlight of the film.
For anyone whose interested in the golden age of the secret agent, then Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is a veritable treasure trove. It’s guaranteed to bring back memories of secret agents from the past. Many will be old favorites, others long forgotten. That’s been the case for me. Listening to Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is like a trip down memory lane. During that trip, we meet everyone from James Bond, Harry Palmer, Matt Helm, Captain Amos Burke and Peter Gunn. Some names are instantly recognizable. Others, well that’s not the case. After all, how many people saw Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine and Come Spy With Me? What’s instantly recognizable, is the music.
Indeed, the music on Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is like a who’s who of film music. No wonder. Among the artists on Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook are John Barry, Dusty Springfield, The Walker Brothers, Astrud Gilberto, Laio Schifrin, The Supremes, Matt Monroe, Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Smith and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Truly, Come Spy With Me-The Secret Agent Songbook is a veritable feast. The listener taken on a magical mystery tour. This musical journey through the genres includes pop, jazz and soul, right through to Latin and soul jazz. That’s why Come Spy With Us-The Secret Agent Songbook, which was recently released by Ace Records, is best described as eclectic, treasure trove of music from the golden age of the secret agent.
COME SPY WITH US-THE SECRET AGENT SONGBOOK.
SWAMP POP BY THE BAYOU.
When the first compilation of Swamp Pop was released back in the early seventies, it was a genre without a name. So, the compilation was simply called, The Other Sound Of The South. Then Bill Millar coined the term Swamp Pop. That day, a new musical genre was born. Swamp Pop is still as popular today, as back in the late-fifties, when some of the music on Swamp Pop By The Bayou was first released.
Swamp Pop By The Bayou is the latest instalment in Ian Saddler’s By The Bayou series. It was recently released on Ace Records and is the seventh compilation in the By The Bayou compilation series. There are twenty-eight tracks on Swamp Pop By The Bayou. Fourteen of the tracks were released between 1959 and 1964. This includes tracks from Vince Anthony With The Blue Notes, Jay Richards & The Blues Kings, Warren Storm, Rocket Morgan, Frankie Lowery and John Fred. Then there’s fourteen previously unreleased track. Among them, are tracks from Guitar Jeff, George, Tommy Strange, Bee Arnold and Rocket Morgan. For anyone interested in Swamp Pop, this mixture of familiar faces and hidden gems will be essental listening. I’ll tell now you why.
Ian Saddler couldn’t have picked a better track to open Swamp Pop By The Bayou than Vince Anthony With The Blue Notes’ Sneakin’ Home. It’s a glorious example of Swamp Pop. Written by Vincent Anthony Guzetta, it was released in 1959 on Hilton Records. Crucial to the track’s success are the rasping horns and Vince’s sultry vocal. This isn’t the only track from Vince Anthony With The Blue Notes. Cry Your Eyes Out is billed as Donnie Williams and The Blue Notes. However, it’s actually Vince Anthony With The Blue Notes. Released on Hilton Records in 1960, Vince’s heartbroken vocal means this track falls into the category of tearjerker.
Warren Storm has a trio of racks on Swamp Pop By The Bayou. As if that’s not enough, he plays drums on several tracks. His first contribution is Oh Oh Baby, which was released on J.D. Miller’s Rocko label in 1959. Slow, with a heartfelt, needy vocal this is the best track from the man many people refer to as the Godfather of Swamp Pop. Warren’s other contributions are This Life I Live and the heartbreaking I’m Leaving You. Neither of these tracks have been released before. However, their quality is indisputable.
Rocket Morgan has been a regular contributor to the By The Bayou series. Usually, he’s singing rockabilly. He’s equally at home singing Swamp Pop. Proof of this is Too High A Price (To Pay For Love). Released on Zynn in 1959, it features a rueful, wistful vocal from Rocket. It’s as if he’s come to his senses. Did You Leave Something Else (For Me) is a more uptempo track. Again, it was released in 1959, on Zynn. Driven along by braying horns and jangling piano, Rocket’s vocal is tinged with hurt and heartache. Walkin’ Home, a piano driven track is Rocket’s final contribution. Remarkably, given its quality, this hidden gem has never been released before. Thankfully, Ian Saddler has rectified this.
I Ain’t Had No Sleep is Frankie Lowery first contribution to Swamp Pop By The Bayou. It’s a blistering horn driven track, that epitomises what Swamp Pop’s all about. Strangely, the track has never been released before. It’s a real find. Ian Saddler has struck gold here, as it’s one of the highlights of the compilation. Infectiously catchy describes this track. There’s no let up in quality on She’s Walking Towards Me. Here, Frankie is transformed into a balladeer. Released in 1960, on Zynn, heartfelt and hopeful describes Frankie’s tender, needy vocal.
Lonely Lonely Heart is the first of two unreleased tracks from Tommy Strange. His vocal oozes emotion and heartbreak on this ballad. When his vocal drops out, it’s replaced by a crystalline guitar solo. It’s one of the finest guitar solos on Swamp Pop By The Bayou. Having set the scene for Tommy’s return, his vocal veers between hopeful and heartbroken. He sings the lyrics like he’s lived them. Tommy’s other contribution is a previously unreleased alternate version of What Am I To Do is. The original version of What Am I To Do was the B-Side to Nervous and Shakin’ All Over, which was released as a single on the Rocko label.
Charles Page released No Season On Squeezing as a single in 1961. This was one of six singles Charles released on Goldhand Records. It was produced by Eddie Shuler. He had great hopes for Charles Page. Commercial success, Eddie hoped, was just around the corner. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. That’s despite this being a hook laden slice of Swamp Pop.
The version of Doug Charles and The Boogie Kings’ You’re On My Mind on Swamp Pop By The Bayou, has never been released before. It’s an alternate version of this slow, sultry ballad. With growling horns propelling the arrangement along, Doug dawns the role of crooner. This is a role he seems to relish and delivers a beautiful, heartfelt vocal masterclass.
My final choice from Swamp Pop By The Bayou is Buck Rogers and His Jets’ Rose Marie. Its another unreleased track. Again, Ian Saddler has struck musical gold. Infectiously catchy and full of hooks, describes this alternate version of Rose Marie. It’s a track that’s guaranteed to fill any dance-floors By The Bayou.
Just like the previous six volumes of the By The Bayou compilation series, Swamp Pop By The Bayou oozes quality. So much so, that I could literally have chosen any of the twenty-eight tracks. Eventually, I settled for just fourteen tracks. They come courtesy of familiar faces and new friends.
The familiar faces include Vince Anthony With The Blue Notes, Jay Richards & The Blues Kings, Warren Storm, Rocket Morgan, Frankie Lowery and John Fred. Then there’s unreleased tracks from Guitar Jeff, George, Tommy Strange, Bee Arnold and Rocket Morgan. Among these unreleased tracks are musical gold. These hidden gems have you shaking your head and wondering why these tracks have never been released before? These timeless Swamp Pop gems mean Swamp Pop By The Bayou is essential listening for anyone interested in Swamp Pop. The same can be said of the By The Bayou series.
Swamp Pop By The Bayou, which was recently released by Ace Records, is the seventh release in the By The Bayou series. It seems that with each instalment, the quality of music gets even better. That’s down to Ian Saddler’s crate digging skills and impeccable music taste. Ian’s a man steeped in Louisiana’s rich and eclectic musical history. He knows where to find the hidden gems that have peppered the seven volumes of By The Bayou. However, Ian’s surpassed himself on Swamp Pop By The Bayou. He’s dug deeper than he’s ever dug before on Swamp Pop By The Bayou and takes the listener on a compelling, enthralling and mesmeric musical journey through Louisiana’s musical past.
SWAMP POP BY THE BAYOU.
PAUL MURPHY PRESENTS THE RETURN OF JAZZ CLUB.
It was back in 1978 that Paul Murphy first DJ-ed. He hadn’t planned to DJ that night. Far from it. He was the promoter of a club night in Ilord Essex. This was no ordinary venue. Situated above a above a funeral parlour, it was notorious as a place where local gangsters hung out. However, this was where Paul Murphy graduated from promoter to DJ.
One night, a snowstorm swept in. The two Paul had booked Bob Jones and Paul Gratue were stranded. Paul was without a DJ. So, it was a case of needs must. He stepped behind the wheels of steel and never looked back.
That night, was a coming of age for Paul Murphy. Two years later, Paul was DJ-ing full time. He’d moved to a new venue, the Horseshoe in Tottenham Court Road. His speciality was spinning rare jazz funk and fusion. Some of the records he played, he imported from America. He was digging deeper than any other DJs. As a result, his sets were peppered with ultra rare tracks. Many of the tracks he broke became classics. Then in 1982, Paul headed for pastures new.
The Electric Ballroom in Camden became home to Paul in August 1982. His sets were a steady diet of fusion, Latin and jazz. This, after all, was what the jazz dancers who headed to The Electric Ballroom demanded. After two years playing the same music every Friday, Paul felt he needed a new challenge.
Next stop for Paul was Sol Y Sombra, where he spun eclectic sets at his two nights. At the start, he played Latin and Salsa on Fridays. Then he added another night. On Monday nights, Paul tried something new. Everything from fifties and sixties hard bop, right through to soul jazz, vocalese and bossa nova could be heard. This caught the imagination of London’s hipsters.
Especially, influential style journal The Face. They got behind this burgeoning scene. So, did a new generation of musicians who’d been influenced by the music Paul played. Paul it seemed, had single handedly, invented a scene. It was no surprise when he was asked to compile a compilation of the music he spun on Monday nights at Sol Y Sombra.
Paul compiled his first volume of Jazz Club which was released in 1984. A second volume followed in 1985. There was meant to be a third volume. It never transpired. By then, music had changed and Paul’s DJ sets were changing. They were heading in the direction of R&B and rare groove. Since then, much has happened to Paul. He DJ-ed right through until the end of nineties. This included being one of the pioneers of the Acid Jazz scene. However, as a new millennia dawned, Paul realised he was burnt out. Needing to slow down, he relocated to Budapest.
Nowadays, Paul Murphy divides his time between DJ-ing, producing and compiling compilations. His latest compilation is Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club, which was recently released by BGP Records, an imprint of Ace Records. This sees Paul pay homage to the scene he single handedly built.
Digging deep into his record collection, Paul chose fifteen tracks for Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club. Among them are tracks from Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk Trio, Bennie Green, Freddie McCoy, Mose Allison and Willie Rodriguez Jazz Quartet. While many jazz lovers will have heard of these artists, they may not have heard of these tracks. There’s more than a few hidden gems on Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club, which I’ll pick the highlights of.
What better way to open Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club than with a track from a true jazz legend, Sonny Rollins. St. Thomas featured on Sonny’s 1956 album Saxophone Colossus. This describes Sonny Rollins perfectly. It’s no exaggeration to describe him was one of the most influential and innovative tenor saxophonists in jazz history. That’s why Sonny was signed to Prestige, where he released Saxophone Colossus in 1956. Penned by Sonny, St. Thomas showcases Sonny’s inimitable style on this Caribbean tinged dance classic. It’s akin to a call to dance that’s truly irresistible.
Back in 1952, the Thelonious Monk Trio headed to New York to record the album Manteca. It was released on Prestige in 1953. The lineup consisted of drummer Art Blakey, bassist Gerry Mapp and Monk on piano. This multitalented trio were joined by Latin percussionist Ray Baretto on Bye Ya. Just like so much of the music Thelonious Monk recorded, it was innovative and moved jazz in a new direction. However, like so much innovative music, it wasn’t commercially successful. That was the case here with this groundbreaking fusion of jazz and Latin.
During a spell with Lionel Hampton’s band, Arnett Cobb was crowned the “Wild Man of the Tenor Sax.” This was down to his uninhibited stomping style. That can be heard on Flying High a track from Arnett’s 1959 album Party Time. It was released on Prestige. Flying High is best described as jazz goes rock ’n’ roll. Arnett plays with power, freedom, ferocity and flexibility. His playing is inventive and unique. In his hands, the tenor saxophone takes on new life. Joe Dukes’ drums help drive the arrangement along. The result is a blistering slice of good time jazz from Arnett Cobb, one of jazz’s best kept secrets.
Bernie Green’s Hiyo Silver will strike a chord with fans of the Lone Ranger. For younger readers, The Lone Ranger was one of television’s first superheroes. Mind you, I don’t remember The Lone Ranger ever singing “we’re going to rock you tonight?” Bernie does on his homage to the mysterious masked man. Written by Bernie and Osie Johnson, it featured on Bernie’s 1955 Prestige album, Blows His Horn Hi-Fi. Straight away, Bernie throws a curveball on Hiyo Silver. He takes the song in the direction of R&B and rock ’n’ roll. What follows is dance-floor friendly fusion of R&B, rock ’n’ roll and jazz.
By the early nineties, Johnny Lytle’s music became a favourite of the UK dance scene. Especially, his ultra rare New and Groovy album. So, much so, that it had been rereleased. The Village Caller, his 1963 album, released on Riverside was very different to New and Groovy. It was a much more laid back affair. Pedro Stroller featured on The Village Caller. It’s driven along by Johnny’s vibes and Willie Rodrigeuz’s percussion. This gives the track an unmistakable early sixties sound. Evocative, cinematic and melodic, this track will have provided the soundtrack to many a cocktail party, when the sixties were about to swing.
Eddie Jefferson is thought to be the inventor of vocalese, where lyrics were added to jazz instrumentals. Here, Eddie Jefferson transforms The Horace Silver Quintet track Filthy McNasty. Penned by Horace, Eddie’s version features on his 1968 album Body and Soul. It also sees Eddie give Charlie Parker’s Body and Soul and Horace Silver’s Psychedelic Sally. Just like Filthy McNasty, new life and meaning is breathed into these tracks. So is power, drama and emotion thanks to Eddie’s vocal tour de force.
When The Billy Taylor Trio collaborated with Candido on Mambo Inn, Billy was already an experienced and highly accomplished pianist. He’d spent the last ten years building his reputation. During that period, he’d come a long way. This included a spell as the house pianist at Birdland. By 1954, he was leading his own trio. They were about to record what would become The Billy Taylor Trio With Candido. Released in 1954, one its highlights wwas Mambo Inn. Here, he reworks this classic. With the help of Candido on congas and a rhythm section of drummer Charlie Smith and bassist Earl May, The Billy Taylor Trio make this classic their own.
Willis Jackson’s Blue Gator features the sultriest of saxophones. It comes courtesy of the man himself, Willis Jackson, who penned this track. It’s the title-track from his 1960 album. Released on Prestige, it showcased an all-star band. This includes Brother Jack McDuff on Hammond organ. Waves of his Hammond and a shuffling beat augment Willis’ blistering saxophone solo. He plays as if his very life depended upon it and makes this the perfect way to close Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club. It’s very definitely a case of keeping the best until last.
Although we’ve had to wait nearly thirty years for Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club, it’s been well worth the wait. Everything they say, comes to he who waits. This includes a compilation crammed full dance-floor classics. From the opening bars of Sonny Rollins’ St. Thomas right through to Willis Jackson’s Blue Gator, it’s quality all the way. These fifteen tracks are from the fifties and sixties. Giants of jazz including Sonny Rollins,Thelonious Monk, Brother Jack McDuff, Mose Allison and Art Farmer sit happily side-by-side with hidden gems from Arnett Cobb and Bennie Green. This mixture of familiar faces and new names will appeal to two lots of people.
The most obvious are the people who spent Monday nights at Sol Y Sombra. They listened to Paul Murphy spin everything from fifties and sixties hard bop, right through to soul jazz, vocalese and bossa nova. For those ageing hipsters, this will be the equivalent to time travel. Paul Murphy’s Jazz Club will bring back memories of a time and a place. Memories of people and dancing till dawn will come flooding back. These memories will be prompted by the music on Paul Murphy’s Jazz Club. It’ll be like listening to one of Paul Murphy’s DJ sets. However, it’s not just anyone who went to Sol Y Sombra that Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club will appeal to.
No. Anyone with a passing interest in jazz will enjoy Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club, which was recently released by BGP Records, an imprint of Ace Records. It’s one of the best jazz compilations of 2014. With its mixture of familiar faces and hidden gems, Paul Murphy Presents The Return Of Jazz Club will appeal to everyone from jazzers to ageing hipsters and everything in between.
PAUL MURPHY PRESENTS THE RETURN OF JAZZ CLUB.
END OF NEIL-HEADSPINNIN’
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been documenting the rise and rise of End Of Neil, one of Scotland’s best up and coming singer songwriters. End Of Neil’s unique brand of acoustic folk has seen Neil Stewart continue to win friends and influence people. So, much so, that End Of Neil has supported The Vaselines, Ken Stringfellow and Rachel Sermanni. During this period, End Of Neil has proved to be one of the most prolific artists I’ve come across.
During 2013, End Of Neil has released a quartet of E.Ps. The first of this trio was Less, released in April 2013. Then six months later, My Games was released in October 2013. My Games was a coming of age for End Of Neil. It was his best release, with songs that 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, My Games left his ever growing fan-base wanting to hear more from End Of Neil. So End Of Neil returned with an early Christmas present, his fourth E.P. of 2013, Gas Station Coffee.
Gas Station Coffee was released on on 1st December 2013. It featured B-sides, demos and what End Of Neil refers to as “special tracks.” It’s another insight to the world of End Of Neil and kept his fans occupied until his next E.P. They didn’t have long to wait. Just a month, when his Headspinnin’ E.P. was released. This reinforced that End Of Neil was the hardest working musician in Scottish music. He’s packed a lot into the previous six years since he founded End Of Neil in 2008. He’s packed a lot into these six years. You’ll realise that when I tell you about his career so far.
When I first wrote about End Of Neil, I did what I always do when I come across a new artist, I asked him 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. When I first heard End Of Neil’s music, I got in touch with Neil Stewart, the man behind End Of Neil, and asked him to tell me about his career so far. 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 Martin, 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. It built on September, which had been the starting point for his recording career. The songs were even better, tighter and slicker. Now 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.
From the opening bars of Running Through The Louvre, you’re hooked. Jangling guitars build up the drama. They set the scene for Neil’s joyous vocal. Memories coming flooding back. Neil remembers a time and place. He was happy and carefree. That shines through on this melodic and joyful song where Neil paints pictures with his lyrics.
Just drums and guitars propel the arrangement to I Ran The Hudson along. Just like the previous track, the introduction is length. It builds up your sense of expectation. However, it’s worth the wait. Neil’s vocal is full of frustration, anger and confusion. His heart’s been broken and he doesn’t understand why. When his vocal drops out guitars and drums take charge. Then when Neil’s vocal returns, it’s apparent that writing the lyrics are a cathartic cleansing, ridding the character in the song of the hurt, anger and confusion they’re experiencing. Quite simply, it’s one of End Of Neil’s finest songs.
Closing Headspinnin’ is Midnight (You Guessed Right). It’s another relationship song. This is something Neil does so well. Listening to the lyrics, it’s as if he’s been there and experienced the hurt, heartache and pain he’s singing about. With just acoustic guitar and percussion for company this is the perfect accompaniment. Then later, harmonies sweep in. They provide the finishing touch, as if trying to reassure Neil that one day, the pain and hurt will go away.
That End Of Neil can consistently release quality music is the result of six years hard work. End Of Neil has dedicated himself to his craft. He’s now a hugely talented singer-songwriter. Long-gone are the rough edges. They’ve been smoothed away by six years of performing live. This has been time well spent. Inspired by, and following in the tradition of seventies singer-songwriters, End Of Neil brings a taste of the Laurel Canyon sound to Scotland. He’s a troubled troubadour with stories to tell. That’s the case on Headspinnin.’
The three songs on Headspinnin’ are examples what End Of Neil does so well. They’re relationship songs. End Of Neil sounds as if he’s lived, loved and survived the songs. The hurt, heartache and joy seems real, very real. That’s because End Of Neil’s lyrics paint pictures. You can imagine the scenes unfolding before your eyes. The songs have a cinematic quality. That’s what I’d describe the three songs on Headspinnin’ as compelling and enthralling. You’re introduced to a cast of characters. They’re complicated. Some of them are troubled. All of them are intriguing, interesting and compelling. These are just the latest characters End Of Neil has introduced us to. Or so I thought.
By the time I finished reviewing Headspinnin,’ End Of Neil announced he was releasing A Ship’s Tale on 1st April 2014. A Ship’s Tale is the soundtrack to the Maid Of The Loch documentary. That’s the latest addition to End Of Neil’s back-catalogue. Then there’s End Of Neil’s debut album, which is just about ready for release. For End Of Neil, this is the busiest and most important period in his career. End Of Neil is more than ready to take the next step.
End Of Neil’s musical apprenticeship is over. Indeed, it was over last year. He’s more than ready to record his debut album. Hopefully, it’ll be released before long. To quote Sam Cooke, “It’s been a long time coming.” I’m sure it’ll be well worth the wait, considering the quality of music End Of Neil has released so far.
Headspinnin’ is a another tantalising taste of what End Of Neil’s is capable of. Over the last year or so, he’s come of age and is ready to make the next step. That means releasing his debut album. That’ll allow a wider audience to hear End Of Neil’s fusion of folk, acoustic, Americana, country and rock. This is music that’s 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. Crucial to the success of Headspinnin’ is Neil’s lived-in, world-weary, soulful vocal. Sometimes, Neil’s vocal is a cathartic unburdening. This is hugely powerful and emotive. It’s as if we’re seeing a glimpse of End Of Neil’s soul, as he introduces us to a cast of new characters on Heaspinnin’ which until recently, was the latest addition to End Of Neil’s back-catalogue.
END OF NEIL-GAS STATION COFFEE
MONICA AZULL-I LIKE IT.
I Like It. That’s not just the title of Monica Axull’s new single, but what anyone whose heard the single so far, thinks of it. Monica Azull many people believe, is a star in the waiting. She looks like she’s on the cusp of a successful career. She’s come a long way in a short time and looks like fulfilling her lifelong ambition.
All Monica has ever wanted to do, was make a career as a singer and songwriter. That’s been the case since Monica arrived in England aged eight. Monica’s parents come from Uganda and Congo. They brought Monica to England as a child. That’s where Monica’s career started to take shape.
Music has been a lifelong love for Monica. So it was no surprise that Monica headed to performing arts school. She’d been writing songs from an early age. At performing arts school, the first time she sang live, she was hooked. The audience loved her music. It was intoxicating. Adrenal coursed through her veins, reaffirming what Monica already knew, she was going to make music her career.
While many people dream of making music their career. Monica Azull has turned a dream into reality. Her debut single I Like It is an example of Monica’s songwriting skills. I Like It sees Monica draw upon her own experiences. She describes how the song came about: “at the time, there was this guy that was pursuing me, I also happened to think he was cute but didn’t want to tell him how I felt towards him. I feared that a relationship would interfere with my ambitions… I’m sure every woman has their fantasies!” So, love, love lost and ambition is a heady brew for Monica Axull’s new single, I Like It.
I Like It is a fusion of R&B, Nu Soul and urban. It’s also hugely soulful, hopeful and oozes positivity. Monica’s vocal is needy, heartfelt and sultry. She’s a singer whose carrying on the tradition of Jill Scott, Erkah Badu, India Arie and Lauryn Hill. With the right people behind her and a supportive label, Monica Azuli could be the UK’s next First Lady of Nu Soul. You’ll realise that when you hear Monica Azull’s debut single I Like It, which shows that dreams can come true.
MONICA AZULL-I LIKE IT.
THE SALSOUL ORCHESTRA-UP THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.
For Salsoul Records and The Salsoul Orchestra, Up The Yellow Brick Road would prove to be the end of an era. Up The Yellow Brick Road proved to be last Salsoul Orchestra arranged, produced and featuring the sound of vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr. It also proved to the first Salsoul Orchestra mixed by the new breed of remixers who seemed to be de rigueur at Salsoul.
The Cayres decided to bring in Tom Moulton to remix Up The Yellow Brick Road which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 28th April 2014. Like some sort of disco superhero, remixers were brought in to remix entire albums. While remixers had a role, remixing individual tracks, opinion was divided over whether they should be remixing whole albums. Then there was the question of whether non-musicians, which many remixers were, should be remixing an album? Given that The Salsoul Orchestra were producing some of the best music of their career, why did the Cayres want to change things? Had they not heard of the maxim if it “isn’t broke don’t fix it.”
Behind the scenes, things were changing at Salsoul, with several musicians unsure about the role of the remixer. Vince Montana Jr, and Norman Harris were just two of them. So, for Vince, Up The Yellow Brick Road was his Salsoul finale, with him leaving Salsoul and signing to Atlantic Records. Vince leaving was just the start of changes at Salsoul. Even the classic lineup of The Salsoul Orchestra was changing. Whereas the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section had been ever-present on The Salsoul Orchestra albums, only Earl Young featured on Up The Yellow Brick Road. Indeed, the times they were a changing, but would this affect the quality of music on Up The Yellow Brick Road?
Up The Yellow Brick Road was The Salsoul Orchestra’s fifth album, but proved to be different from their previous album. Five tracks featured on Up The Yellow Brick Road were all from Broadway musicals and films. This included a cover of Move On Up the Road from the Wiz, plus medleys from West Side Story and Fiddler On the Roof. The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which in 1978, had been adapted into a film by Robert Stigwood and producer Michael Schulz was given a makeover by The Salsoul Orchestra. Closing Up The Yellow Brick Road was a cover of Evergreen, from the film A Star Is Born. These five tracks would be recorded at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios, where The Salsoul Orchestra recorded all their previous albums.
The lineup of The Salsoul Orchestra that features on Up The Yellow Brick Road, was quite different from previous albums. Whereas previous albums featured Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, only Earl Young played on Up The Yellow Brick Road. Joining Earl in the rhythm section were drummer Keith Benson, bassist Gordon Edwards and guitarists Ronnie “the Hawk” James, Bobby “Electronic” Eli and T.J. Tindall. Adding The Salsoul Orchestra’s percussive sound were Vince Montana Jr, on timpani, bells, chimes and vibes, plus Larry Washington and James Walker on congas, bongos and timbales. Carlton “Cotton” Kent played keyboards and Bill O’Brien synths and Jack Faith flute and piccolo. Violinist Don Renaldo was part of the string section and horn section that was key to the Salsoul sound. Adding backing vocals were the legendary Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Barbara Ingram and Evette Benton, who feature heavily on Up The Yellow Brick Road. Once Up The Yellow Brick Road was completed, it was scheduled for release on March 1978. By then, The Salsoul Orchestra had lost its arranger, conductor and producer.
When The Salsoul Orchestra released Up The Yellow Brick Road in March 1978, it eached number 117 in the US R&B Charts and number fifty-two in the US R&B Charts. By the time Up The Yellow Brick Road was released, Vince Montana Jr had left Salsoul Records. After a disagreement with the Cayres over royalties, Vince signed as a solo artist for Atlantic Records. So, Up The Yellow Brick Road was Vince Montana Jr’s final album as arranger, conductor and producer of the orchestra he created…The Salsoul Orchestra. However, did Vince Montana Jr’s career with The Salsoul Orchestra end on a high with Up The Yellow Brick Road?
Opening The Salsoul Orchestra’s Up The Yellow Brick Road is Move On Up the Road from The Wiz a1978 adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Earl Young’s pounding drums provide the track’s disco heartbeat before strings dance with delight, horns rasp and growl and the Sweethearts of Sigma prove the perfect foil for The Salsoul Orchestra, adding joyous, sweeping harmonies. A jazzy piano is ever-present while the growling horns punctuate the arrangement and the strings sweep and swirl. Later, Vince adds one of his trademark vibes solos, before the a horn solo takes charge. All the time the Sweethearts of Sigma add the their tight, sweet and glorious harmonies. Woodwind, flourishes of strings and the rhythm section combine, although Ron Baker’s bass playing is sadly missed. Having said that, this is an uplifting, joyous opening journey Up The Yellow Brick Road.
The West Side Story medley opens dramatically with the rhythm section, rasping horns, guitars and percussion driving the track along. Strings shiver and quiver, as the Sweethearts of Sigma’s vocals enter. They add to the drama and theatre of the track, able to change the mood and feel of each part of the medley. When their vocals drop out the horns gently rasp, while strings cascade and a myriad of percussion combines with the constant disco beat. Soon, the Sweethearts of Sigma return, their vocals heartfelt, tender and the perfect contrast to the impressive sound of The Salsoul Orchestra in full flight. Gordon Edwards bass plays an important part, helping anchor the track, before Bill O’Brien lays down a synths solo par excellence. He’s joined by the funky rhythm section, percussion and stabs of horns and Bobby “Electronic” Eli’s unmistakable guitar playing. By now Latin and funk are fused seamlessly, before the Sweethearts of Sigma add their soulful contribution. Their punchy, harmonies add to the drama as this thirteen-minute reaches its impressive crescendo, albeit with a little help from vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr, who unleashes a show stealing solo, helped along by blazing horns and dancing strings.
After unleashing an impressive wall of sound Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is reinvented by The Salsoul Orchestra and arranger and producer Vince Montana Jr. To do this the entire orchestra’s talents are utilised to recreate what is a complex piece of music. This means fusing the woodwind section, while punchy rasping horns, swirling strings and sassy, feisty and sometimes melodramatic harmonies from the Sweethearts of Sigma are combined with the rhythm section. Unlike the original, the horns, harmonies and piano add a glorious jazzy and disco twist to a familiar track, turning this slice of psychedlia into something it was never meant to be.
Fiddler On the Roof is the another show tune given the medley treatment by The Salsoul Orchestra. It’s given a pulsating disco beat by the rhythm section as elegant strings dance joyously, and are joined by a myriad of percussion and rasping, braying horns. Playing an important part in the track’s success are the Sweethearts of Sigma soulful harmonies. They vary from one part of the medley to another, ranging from heartfelt, impassioned, to dramatic, sweet and joyous. Sometimes, they drop out completely, to be replaced by the hugely impressive combination of the woodwind, horn, string and rhythm sections in full flight. Truly, it’s an impressive and dramatic sound, demonstrating why by 1978, The Salsoul Orchestra were disco’s greatest orchestra. During some parts of the medley, The Salsoul Orchestra’s woodwind section get their chance to shine, before later the lush strings take centre-stage. While, each part of the orchestra changes the mood and drama, one thing never changes, that pulsating, disco beat. As a breakdown occurs, just the percussion and shakers take-centre stage, allowing the percussive delights of The Salsoul Orchestra to shine through. Later, bursts of kettle drums, horns accompany the heartfelt harmonies of the Sweethearts of Sigma while rest of The Salsoul Orchestra reinvent Leonard Bernstein’s finest hour and in doing so, show just how talented they were and at the same time, demonstrate just how innovative an arranger and producer Vince Montana Jr truly was.
Closing Up The Yellow Brick Road is Evergreen (Love Theme From “A Star Is Born”) and sees The Salsoul Orchestra breath new life and meaning to the track. There’s a real understated Latin sound to the track. Just congas and bongos subtly combine, before Vince Montana Jr lays down a slow, spacious vibes solo. Then the Sweethearts of Sigma lay some of the most heartfelt, beautiful harmonies on How Deep Is Your Love. When Vince adds the lushest of slow strings this is a masterstroke. He then combines his vibes with percussion and congas and the Sweethearts of Sigma tender harmonies. This innovative and imaginative combination sees elements of jazz, Latin and soul resulting is an understated and subtle reworking of a familiar song that’s a mixture of beauty and elegance personified. What a way gorgeous way to close Up The Yellow Brick Road and what a way for Vince Montana Jr to close the book on his time at Salsoul Records.
Up The Yellow Brick Road proved not just to be a landmark album for The Salsoul Orchestra, but for Salsoul Records. By the time Up The Yellow Brick Road was released, The Salsoul Orchestra had lost its creator, conductor, arranger and producer Vince Montana Jr. He’d left Salsoul, after a dispute with the Cayres over royalties, and signed a contract with Atlantic Records. Ironically, neither Vince Montana Jr, nor The Salsoul Orchestra would be the same. Now Salsoul had entered the era of the “superstar remixer. However, they weren’t just remixing singles, but whole albums and soon, would be writing and producing songs. For some people, this was a step too far. While remixers had their place, many were non-musicians, who didn’t know a chromatic chord from shopping cart. Soon, many of The Salsoul Orchestra’s legendary members would either leave the label or play less important roles. Mind you, given how talented they were, they were soon gainfully employed, joining John Davis’ Monster Orchestra or writing, arranging and producing on their own. Ironically, Vince Montana Jr, never enjoyed the same success at Atlantic and his days at Philadelphia International Records and then Salsoul proved his most productive and successful.
One of Vince’s replacement was Tom Moulton, who by 1978, was at the height of his success and was one the most in-demand remixers. He’s responsible for the track’s pounding, pulsating disco beat. However, this wasn’t created by the legendary Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section, like previous Salsoul Orchestra albums. Only Earl Young played on Up The Yellow Brick Road, and only on three tracks. Keith Benson played on the two medley’s but his drumming doesn’t have the same presence, nor does bassist Gordon Edwards whose playing isn’t lacks the presence of Ron Baker’s. Similarly, Norman Harris’ jazz-tinged flourishes were absent on Up The Yellow Brick Road. Although their replacements were really talented musicians, Baker, Harris, Young were peerless and irreplaceable. Having said that, even without Baker, Harris, Young, Up The Yellow Brick Road demonstrates The Salsoul Orchestra at the creative, innovative, where they were without doubt, disco’s greatest orchestra. That’s why the period between 1975 and 1978 is the classic Salsoul era, when The Salsoul Orchestra started a journey with The Salsoul Orchestra in 1975 and which came to an end Up The Yellow Brick Road. Standout Tracks: Move On Up the Road, West Side Story, Fiddler On the Roof and Evergreen.
THE SALSOUL ORCHESTRA-UP THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.
Just seven months after Black Sabbath released their eponymous debut album in February 1970, they were back with the album that defined their career, Paranoid. It was released in September 1970 and features three Black Sabbath classics Paranoid, Iron Man and War Pigs. They’ve since become staples of Black Sabbath’s live performances. They’re also three reasons why Paranoid sold twelve-million copies. Incredibly, Black Sabbath had only been formed two years earlier.
In 1968, guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward found themselves with a band. Mythology, their previous band had just split-up. Tony and Bill decided to form a new band. So they got in touch with vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler. Ozzy had placed an advert in a local music shop saying “Ozzy Zig Needs Gig.” They were joined by slide guitarist Jimmy Phillips and saxophonist Alan Clarke. This was the birth of what would later become Black Sabbath.
At first, the new band was called The Polka Tulk Blues Band. This was shortened to Polka Tulk, and later, Earth. The band’s name wasn’t the only thing that changed. So did the lineup.
Tony Iommi became concerned that Jimmy Phillips and lan Clarke weren’t taking the band seriously. So they hatched a plan. Earth would breakup, and straight away, reform as a quartet. The quartet were still called Earth and recorded several demos. These demos were penned written by Norman Haines. Among them were The Rebel, Song For Jim and When I Came Down. It looked as if Earth were going places. Then in December 1968, another member of Earth left.
This was Tony Iommi. He left to join Jethro Tull and featured on the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus television show. He didn’t spent long as a member of Jethro Tull. No. Unhappy with the direction Jethro Tull were heading, Tony rejoined Earth. Tony’s time working alongside Ian Anderson inspired him. Now he was determined that Earth were going to become a successful band.
Before long, Earth realised that there was a problem. With another band called Earth, this was causing confusion. So, when the members of Earth noticed that a cinema near their rehearsal room was showing a rerun of Moris Bava’s horror film Black Sabbath, which starred the inimitable Boris Karloff, they were inspired to write a song.
The inspiration was seeing people queue up to watch horror film. Essentially, people were paying to be scared. This the band felt was strange. So Ozzy and Geezer penned Black Sabbath, which was inspired by writer Dennis Wheatley. The lyrics were dark and gothic. Indeed, the song was later referred to as: ”probably the most evil song ever written” by Rob Halford of Judas Priest. Having written this dark opus, Earth decided to change their name to Black Sabbath.
Black Sabbath made their debut in Workington, in Cumbria on 30th August 1969. Four months later, in November 1969, Black Sabbath signed to Phillips Records. They released their debut single Evil Woman through Vertigo Records, which was Phillips Records’ new prog rock label. After appearing on BBC radio, Black Sabbath began work on their debut album.
With producer Rodger Bain, Black Sabbath began recording their debut album. Ominously, Black Sabbath was released on 13th February 1970. It wasn’t a case of unlucky for Black Sabbath. Their debut reached number eight in the UK and number twenty-three in the US Billboard 200. Despite mixed reviews, Black Sabbath was certified gold in the UK and platinum in the US. Just two years after they formed, Black Sabbath were one of the most successful of a new generation of rock bands. Their sophomore album Paranoid would be a game-changer.
Geezer Butler wrote the lyrics to six of the eight tracks on Paranoid. The exception were Planet Caravan and Fairies Wear Boots, which Geezer and Ozzy penned. Black Sabbath wrote the music the eight tracks. These tracks would be recorded at two studios in London.
Recording of Paranoid took place in Regent Sound Studios and Island Studios, in London. Geezer played bass, Tony guitar and flute and Bill Ward drums and congas. Tom Allom played piano on Planet Caravan. Producing Paranoid was Rodger Bain, who’d produced Black Sabbath. Once Paranoid was completed, it was released in September 1970 in the UK and Europe. Paranoid wasn’t released until January 1971.
On the release of Paranoid in September 1970, it reached number one and was certified gold. Then in January 1971, Paranoid reached number twelve and was certified platinum four times over. Ironically, in the US, Paranoid wasn’t well received by critics. Just like Black Sabbath, Paranoid was slated. Black Sabbath, as you’ll realise, had the last laugh.
Opening Paranoid is War Pigs, an anti Vietnam War song. Here, Black Sabbath provide a slow, moody backdrop. The rhythm section and flourishes of searing guitar are joined by wailing sirens. They set the scene for Ozzy. His angry, frustrated vocal is the signal for Black Sabbath to become a power trio. Guitar doubles are panned left and right, balancing he mix. Meanwhile, the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. A buzzing bass, blistering guitar and pounding drums provide the backdrop for Ozzy’s strutting vocal. The result is not just one of the best anti-war songs you’ll hear, but a Black Sabbath classic.
Make that two. Paranoid is another Black Sabbath classic. From the opening bars, the track is instantly recognisable. It’s like meeting old friends. They just happen to be raucous, rabble rousers. Black Sabbath burst into life. They’re at their rockiest best. Machine gun guitars join the driving, rhythm section. Listening to Ozzy’s grizzled vocal, it’s as if he can empathise with the character in the song. It’s as if he’s experienced and suffered the paranoia he’s singing about. That, together with a blistering performance from Tony, Geezer and Bill made this a heavy metal classic.
Planet Caravan sees a change in direction from Black Sabbath. They head in the direction of psychedelia. Ozzy’s distant, lysergic vocal is full of mystery, while the arrangement meanders along, bathed in echo. The rhythm section and guitar take care never to overpower Ozzy’s vocal. Later, Tony’s guitar references Peter Green of Fleetwood Man. Understated, lysergic and psychedelic it’s another side of Black Sabbath, one I’d like to hear more of.
Iron Man sees a return to heavy metal. Drums pound relentlessly before menacingly, Ozzy announces “I am Iron Man.” From there, Black Sabbath are back doing what they do best, playing heavy metal. Tony delivers a guitar masterclass, while the rhythm section lock into a groove, becoming one. Ozzy’s vocal is a mixture of menace and raw power as he sings about a time traveller. It’s Tony that steals the show. His guitar playing is some of the best on Paranoid.
Menacing describes the introduction to Electric Funeral. That’s down to the rhythm section, Tony’s guitar playing and Ozzy’s vocal. Black Sabbath become one. The tempo is slow and sounds dark and dramatic. There’s even a nod to prog rock. Mostly, though it’s Black Sabbath’s unique brand of heavy metal. With Tony wielding his guitar like a musical wizard, Ozzy vamps his way through the track, singing about a futuristic world. He mixes menace, drama and theatre. Then later, the rhythm section want in on the act. When the baton is passed from Tony’s guitar, they enjoy their moment in the sun. They prove that Black Sabbath wasn’t just a one man band.
Hand Of Doom was written by Black Sabbath after noticing the number of American soldiers arriving in the UK. Many of them were traumatised, and resorted to taking drugs to blot out the horrors they’d witnessed. Sadly, the drugs destroy them. As a result, there’s a darkness to this song. Dark and dramatic. The arrangement meanders along, understated before exploding into life. Ozzy unleashes a vocal that brings to life the horrors these soldiers have witnessed. Anger, frustration and pain fills his vocal as the arrangement builds and grows. Soon, Black Sabbath are in full flow. That’s a joy to behold. Especially, as machine gun guitars are unleashed and Ozzy delivers one of his finest vocals on Paranoid.
Rat Salad sees Black Sabbath return to their blues’ roots. They jam, mixing blues, jazz and rock. It’s a case of sitting back and enjoying this musical masterclass. Whether playing as a unit or unleashing solos, Black Sabbath are peerless. They’re a power trio par excellence. Geezer’s bass playing, Bill’s drumming and Tony’s guitar solos play their part in delicious jam.
Closing Paranoid is Fairies Wear Boots. Blistering guitars and the rhythm section lock horns. They drive the rocky arrangement along. Bill’s around the kit, while Tony’s fingers flit up and down the fretboard. Geezer joins Bill in glueing everything together. Then having enjoyed their moment in the sun, Ozzy struts centre-stage. His grizzled, rocky vocal is the perfect accompaniment to one of the hardest rocking arrangements. It’s as if Black Sabbath are determined to lift their game one last time. This they do, closing Paranoid on blistering rocky high.
Whilst Paranoid wan’t released to the critical acclaim that accompanies many classic albums, it’s gone on to become one of the most important albums in the history of heavy metal. It redefined heavy metal. So much so, that Paranoid became the blueprint for the genre. If someone asked what heavy metal sounded like, Paranoid was the album to play them. Indeed, in the history of heavy metal, there are only two periods, B.P. and A.P. Before Paranoid and After Paranoid. Ironically, music critics panned Paranoid.
Among them was the so called doyen of critics Lester Bangs. This self styled tastemaker seemed to have a downer on Black Sabbath. Along with many American critics, they felt the album was too heavy. Then there were criticism of the aggression and satanic lyrics. Not for the first time, the critics got it wrong.
Paranoid was certified platinum four times over in the UK. It was the album that rewrote the rules of heavy metal. Now it was a case of the heavier the better when it came to heavy metal. At the forefront were Black Sabbath. Eventually, Paranoid sold twelve million copies worldwide and Black Sabbath became a musical phenomena.
Right through until 1981s Mob Rules, gold and platinum discs came Black Sabbath’s way. So did controversy. Much of it concerned Ozzy Osbourne. He parted company with the band in 1979. Sacked by the group he formed, both Ozzy and Black Sabbath survived to tell the tale. However, back in 1970, the Black Sabbath story was just beginning.
It started with Black Sabbath in February 1970 and then Paranoid in September 1970. Since then, critics have reappraised Paranoid and belatedly, realised it was actually a classic. Twelve million people could’ve told them that Paranoid was a stonewall classic. That’s why it’s fitting that Sanctuary have rereleased Paranoid.
However, a word of warning is needed. The version of Paranoid I’m reviewing is a newly released American rerelease. It was released on 1st April 2014. This isn’t actually a new version of Paranoid. The version I received is the 2009 Deluxe Edition. Disc one features the 2009 remastered version of Paranoid, while disc two features the 1974 Quadraphonic Mix. On disc three are instrumental versions of Paranoid recorded at Trident Studios, London on the 16th and 17th June 1970. Much as this is the definitive version of Paranoid, it’s somewhat galling that a five year old reissue is being passed of a a new release.
Having said all that, Paranoid is a classic album. I’d go much further than that. I’d say that Paranoid, Black Sabbath’s 1970 sophomore album was a groundbreaking release. Paranoid saw Black Sabbath rewrite the rules of heavy metal with what was the most successful and most innovative album of their long and illustrious career, Paranoid.
ELTON JOHN-GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.
Although critical acclaim and commercial success were constant companions for Elton John between 1970 and 1978, one year stood out, 1973. During 1973, Elton released two of his most successful albums. The first of these two albums was Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player which was released in January 1973. It reached number one in the UK and US Billboard 200. This resulted in Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player being certified triple platinum in America. However, this was nothing compared to the commercial success Goodbye Yellow Brick Road enjoyed. Everything it seemed had been leading to this.
The Elton John story begins in June 1969, when Elton released his debut album Empty Sky. It failed to chart in the UK, but reached number six in the US Billboard 200. Empty Sky hinted at Elton John’s potential. However, nobody was prepared for what happened next.
As the new decade dawned, Elton John was released to critical acclaim in April 1970. It reached number five in the UK and number four in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in the first gold disc of his career. Your Song became the most successful single of Elton’s career. Released in 1970, it reached number eight in the US Billboard 100. This resulted in Elton’s first platinum disc. It certainly wouldn’t be his last. Far from it.
Six months later, Elton released his second album of 1970, Tumbleweed Connection. Just like his previous album, Tumbleweed Connection won critics over. On its release in October 1970, it reached number two in the UK and number five in the US Billboard 200. Having sold a million copies, it was certified gold. Elton’s career was well underway. This success would continue in 1971.
Just like 1970, Elton released two albums. His first album of 1971 wast the soundtrack to Friends. Released in March 1971, it reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Then seven months later, Madman Across The Water, became the most successful albums of Elton’s career.
Madman Across The Water was released in November 1971. Critics hailed it one of Elton’s finest hours. It reached number forty-one on the UK and number eight in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Madman Across The Water being certified double-platinum. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success. One of the singles from Madman Across The Water, Tiny Dancer, reached number forty-one in US Billboard 100 and was certified platinum. By now Elton John was one of the most successful solo artists of the seventies.
This commercial success continued in 1972. Honky Chateau was released in May 1972. It reached number two in the UK and became Elton’s first number one in the US Billboard 200. Certified platinum, Honky Chateau saw the Elton John success story continue. Things would get even better in 1972.
During 1973, Elton released two of his most successful albums. The first of these two albums was Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player which was released in January 1973. Two of the singles added to Elton’s collection of gold and platinum discs. Crocodile Rock was released in 1972, reaching number five in the UK and gave Elton his first number one in the US Billboard 100. This resulted in another platinum disc for Elton. Then Daniel reached in number four in the UK and number two in the US Billboard 100. For Elton this resulted in another gold disc. Surely things couldn’t get any better for Elton?
It did. Nine months later, in October 1973, Elton John returned with what was his Magnus Opus, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which was recently rereleased by UMC. This was no ordinary album. Far from it. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was a double album featuring seventeen tracks. Critics hailed Goodbye Yellow Brick Road an instant classic. It surpassed the success of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, reaching number one in the UK and US Billboard 200. This became Elton’s first album to be certified platinum. Over the Atlantic, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was certified platinum eight times over. That wasn’t the end of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’s commercial success. There was the small matter of the singles.
In total, a quartet of singles were released from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting reached number seven in the UK and number twelve in the US Billboard 100. Then Goodbye Yellow Brick Road reached number six in the UK and number two in the US Billboard 100. This became Elton’s fourth single to be certified platinum. The final single was Candle In The Wind, which reached number eleven in the UK. Three years later, Bennie and The Jets was released as a single, reaching number thirty-seven in the UK and number one in the US Billboard 100. Belatedly, this gave Elton another platinum disc. However, in 1973, three hit singles, including one that was certified platinum and an album that was certified platinum eight times over, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was Elton John’s most successful album. However, for Elton John this success had been a long time coming.
For Elton, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was the result of over eleven years hard work. He’d come a long way since 1962, when aged fifteen, he played piano in pubs for £35 a week. Back then, he was Reg Dwight. He then got a job in a publishing company, running errands. During that period, he was a member of the band Bluesology.
It was in 1964, Reg Dwight and some friends formed Bluesology. They went on to become the go-to backing band for some of the biggest American soul acts of the sixties. Bluesaology backed everyone from Doris Troy, The Isley Brothers, Billy Stewart and Major Lance. Then in 1966, Bluesology became Long John Baldry’s support act. It was during that time Reg Dwight became Elton John.
This was in tribute to Elton Dean Bluesology’s saxophonist and Long John Bawldry. Little did anyone know, a musical legend had been born.
Having been a member of Bluesology, the newly christened Elton John auditioned to become the lead singer of two bands. Both would go on to enjoy successful careers. Not with Elton as lead singer though. He failed the audition. This proved a blessing in disguise.
If Elton had become the lead singer of King Crimson or Gentle Giant, he’d never have answered the advert he saw in New Musical Express. The advert was for a staff songwriter for Liberty Records. Elton got in contact with Ray Williams, who was the A&R director for Liberty Records. He hired Elton John and inadvertently, the legendary Elton John and Bernie Taupin partnership had been born.
On his first day at Liberty Records, Elton was given a pile of lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. Elton’s job was to write the music. Once he’d written the music, Elton mailed it to Bernie. Soon, the pair formed a successful partnership and in 1968, were hired by Dick James for his DJM Records.
At DJM Records, Elton John and Bernie Taupin gained a reputation as being able to write songs quickly. Give them an hour, and Elton and Bernie could come up with a song. Much of the material they wrote was AOR. They then had to try and convince artists to record these songs. For two years, Elton and Bernie spent their working days doing this. Little did they realise, they were honing their songwriting partnership.
Whilst working as staff songwriter, Elton John was still working as a session musician. One of the biggest hits he played on was The Hollies’ He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother. However, before long, Elton’s success would surpass that of The Hollies.
That was the case by October 1973, when Elton John released his Magnus Opus Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It was Elton John’s seventh album since 1969s Empty Sky. Throughout that time, the songwriting team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin were becoming the most formidable songwriting partnership in music. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was a musical coming of age for Elton and Bernie.
By 1973, Elton and Bernie had been working together since 1968. The previous five years saw Elton and Bernie grow and mature as songwriters. They knew each how each other worked, so were able to work quickly. Bernie spent just over three weeks writing the lyrics. Elton worked even quicker, spending just three days writing the music during his stay at the Pink Flamingo Hotel, Kingston, Jamaica. He was in Jamaica partly, to watch the Rolling Stones record Goat’s Head Soup. However, considering he would begin recording what became Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in Kingston, maybe Elton was checking out the studios?
Recording of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road began in Kingston, Jamaica. The working titles were variously Vodka and Tonics and Silent Movies, then Talking Pictures. Elton’s band included bassist Dee Murray, drummer and conga player Nigel Olsson and Davie Johnson who played banjo, acoustic, electric, steel and slide guitars. Ray Cooper added tambourine, David Hentschel played ARP synth and Leroy Gomez played saxophone on Social Disease. Backing vocalists included Dee Murray, Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and Kiki Dee. Elton played piano, electric piano, organ, Farfisa organ, Leslie piano and mellotron. With the band settled in Jamaica, things didn’t work out well.
The decision to record in Kingston wasn’t the best idea. There were no end of problems. First of all the sound system and studio piano were playing up. Then there was the political unrest that was sweeping Jamaica. To top it all, preparations were taking place the boxing match between Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Quickly, it became apparent that recording an album was going to be almost impossible. So Elton and his band headed to France.
Their destination was the Château d’Hérouville, an eighteenth century chateau. This was familiar surroundings for Elton. He’d recorded 1972s Honky Château and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player there. So, once Elton and his band were settled in the Château d’Hérouville, producer Gus Dudgeon manned the mixing board throughout May 1973. During that period, eighteen of the twenty-two tracks that Elton and Bernie had penned were recorded. Once recording of what became Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was finished, Elton John’s career was transformed.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was released to critical acclaim and reached number one on both sides of the Atlantic. Certified platinum in the UK and certified platinum eight times over in the US, Elton John never surpassed the commercial success of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Since then, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is seen as a classic and features on the Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 best albums of all time. Quite simply, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road deserves its place in any self-respecting record collection.
You’ll realise from the opening bars of Funeral For A Friend and Love Lies Bleeding. The two tracks are transformed into a grandiose, atmospheric and evocative rock epic lasting a mammoth eleven minutes. What were originally two separate tracks become one. Both tracks are recorded in the key of A and segue together seamlessly. Following Funeral For A Friend and Love Lies Bleeding is Elton’s heartfelt and poignant homage to Marilyn Monroe. A truly timeless track it’s a sympathetic and beautiful portrayal of an icon. Bennie and The Jets, which portrayed a fictional band, who fall for the greed, avarice and excesses of the music industry in the early seventies. This brought to an end the first side of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
It’s a case of Elton picking up where he left off on first side of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. He doesn’t disappoint with the title-track. Inspired by the Wizard Of Oz, Elton delivers one of his best vocals on the album. Tender, beautiful and melancholy, describes his vocal on this fusion of soft rock and AOR. When the singles was released, it gave Elton one of the biggest singles of his career.
Among the other highlights of side two are the cinematic and dramatic This Song Has No Title. Here, Elton paints pictures that unfold before your eyes. Grey Seal has a slightly rockier sound, while the reggae tinged Jamaica Jerk Off is very different to the rest of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Having said that, it’s not short of hooks. One of the real highlights of side two is the wistful and beautiful, I’ve Seen That Movie Too. Elton and his piano take centre-stage, where they belong, as they breath life and meaning into the lyrics.
Sweet Painted Lady, which opens side three is another beautiful ballad. Elton’s vocal is both needy and full of guilt on this poignant track. On The Ballad Of Danny Bailey (1909-1934) Elton becomes a storyteller. You’re spellbound as the story unfold. It’s dramatic and with a cinematic quality, and shows why Elton and Bernie were such a successful songwriting team. Dirty Little Girl and All The Girls Love Alice see a return to the rockier sound that Elton showcased on Grey Seal. They feature blistering performances from Elton, who storms his way through the two tracks.
Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll) sees draw inspiration from the rock ’n’ roll he grew up listening to. It’s a barnstorming performance from Elton and his tight, talented band. From there, Elton launches into the anthemic Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting). It was another of the singles from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and has become an Elton John classic. Again, Elton relishes the opportunity to kick loose and enjoys the rockier style. After this, the style changes on the wistful, piano lead Roy Rogers. Then on Social Disease, Elton fuses Americana, country, folk and pop. Closing Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is Harmony, another ballad. This is an underrated and quite beautiful song that’s often overlooked when people discuss Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John’s Magnus Opus.
The word classic is often overused word. Not in the case of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This was Elton John’s seventh album, but his first double album. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was an ambitious Magnus Opus. Featuring seventeen tracks, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road oozes quality. That’s the case from the opening bars of Funeral For A Friend and Love Lies Bleeding, right through to the closing notes of Harmony, the music is variously beautiful, melancholy, hook-laden, heartbreaking, heart-wrenching and joyous. Throughout Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton toys with your emotions during this fusion of musical genres.
Primarily, pop and rock shines through. There’s also a nod to the Laurel Canyon sound, via diversions via Americana, country, folk and even reggae. Whether it’s Elton John the balladeer, or when he kicks loose and finds his rocky side he’s equally at home. Backed by a band that includes some of the top session musicians, and produced by Gus Dudgeon, little did anyone realise they were in the process of recording one of the greatest albums in musical history.
That’s no exaggeration. Released to critical acclaim, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was hailed a classic. Since then, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has found its way into Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 best albums of all time. It deserves its place on that list. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road also deserves its place in any self-respecting record collection. For anyone yet to discover the delights of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, now is the time.
That’s where the recently released Deluxe Edition of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road comes in. It’s a double album. Disc One features a remastered version of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The sound quality is stunning. This is how remasters should sound. Then on disc two of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road there are demos, out-takes and cover versions. This includes cover versions by Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sandé, Fall Out Boy, Hunter Hayes, John Grant and the Zac Brown Band. However, the main event on disc two are the demos and out-takes. They’ll be essential listening to anyone whose interested in Elton John’s music.
There’s no doubt, that Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, belongs in any self-respecting record collection. It’s a stonewall classic. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was Elton John’s Magnus Opus. Although critical acclaim and commercial success have been constant companions during Elton John’s career, never again did he match the success of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which sold eight million copies in America alone. That’s eight million reasons why Elton John’s seventh album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is a true classic that every music lover should own.
ELTON JOHN-GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD